Monthly Archives: August 2011

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Springfield Punx version of BatmanFor me, it’s to go with my first instinct and to do it quickly.

Right now, my top priority is my credit card debt.

I’ve got a lot of it again and it’s weighing me down.

Anyway, a long overdue invoice came in on Friday.

As it was for something I billed back in October of 2010, I wasn’t really counting on ever receiving payment anymore but since it was a $6k bill, well, I hadn’t forgotton about it either.

My first reaction to seeing the check was, “Wow — I can’t believe they actually paid… FINALLY.”

And then I started to think about how perhaps I’d just sold those I-Bonds for nothing.

But then I thought about how much of a dent I could put in my credit card balances on top of all of the money from the I-bond sell-off.

Holy 5-figures, Batman!

But I did nothing.

Instead, I sat around and waited for Hurricane Irene to arrive… and started to think about all to cool stuff I could afford to buy…

And just as I was about to buy something stupid online this afternoon, I kicked it into reverse and instead scheduled a $6000 credit card payment for tomorrow.

Woo-hoo!

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Open LetterDear Ronald,
Since the launch of your recent Smurf Happy Meal promotion, my family has visited McDonald’s restaurants in Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut on ten occasions in search of a Smurf happy meal toy for our toddler aged children.

This specific promotion is what lead us to choose McDonald’s over other eateries and, as a result, spend well in excess of $100 with your company.

From these ten visits, though, only once has the location actually had a Smurf toy in stock to include in our Happy Meal.

Once.

One out of ten visits — a location in Pennsylvania being the “winner”.

That isn’t acceptable.

Problem is, we don’t want any more Return of the Jedi finger skateboards or leftover Disney movie promotions from over a year ago.

There are Smurfs adorning your windows, drive-thru menus, and Happy Meal boxes — but no toys. What gives?

I won’t even go into the quality of the food or service at a couple of the locations we visited.

Okay, I will.

Your Bethel, Connecticut location needs an entirely new staff.

You might actually want to consider bulldozing the entire building and just start over.

Yeah, it’s that bad.

Annoyed,
Brainy

Oh, and if it’s not too much to ask — please bring back your Chicken Fajitas. I miss them.

It only took an entire year but, finally, this afternoon, I submitted the paperwork to stop contributing to my 401k.

No, no, it’s not due to the recent ups-and-downs on the market and any sort of economic uncertainly.

And I know that I’m not following my own advice by making this move.

But you know what?

I’ve got more credit card debt than I’m comfortable with and I’ve been dancing around that fact for too long.

Fourteen months ago it was a zero balance. Since then, I’d been tap dancing around $25k — and now the finance charges are starting to kick in.

My first manoeuvre was to sell the I-Bonds.

Hitting the pause button on the 401k is the second.

My debts will most certainly fall now.

They’d better.

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Intro paragraph?

Not this month!

  • $2700.03 : Tax Collector
  • $922.22 : Day Care
  • $821.87 : Hockey Jerseys
  • $498.72 : Mortgage
  • $282.37 : Gas
  • $281.81 : AutoZone (Car Batteries)
  • $239.45 : Auto Insurance
  • $196.78 : Finance Charges
  • $180.00 : Cash
  • $172.92 : DVD Player for Car
  • $168.31 : Electricity
  • $127.80 : Cable/Internet
  • $90.00 : Department of Motor Vehicles
  • $84.29 : Business Expenses
  • $53.16 : Cars 2 Video Game
  • $41.51 : Natural Gas
  • $38.76 : Clothing

That adds up to $6900.

For the record, I don’t make $6900 in a month.

That’s why this is very bad.

Starting to make a little sense why I’m not ecstatic with my net worth increase, eh?

Property tax is thankfully only a twice per year thing. I’m done until December now.

Day care is what it is — worth it.

That was a last hurrah for the hockey jerseys. It was right at the start of July too — feels like the distant past now. I’ve been more disciplined. I swear.

The gas number seems high but, then again, the Land Rover only gets like 11 miles per gallon and drinks the expensive gas.

The AutoZone trip was very out of character but gained me two more sets of wheels. Totally worth it.

Finance charges make me angry. I’m better than that and I don’t expect them to creep much higher than this before starting to plummet.

The DVD player for the car (for vacation) was a good purchase. When he grew tired of looking out the window, Duncan watched Cars and The Incredibles over and over and over. Best of all, it came with two screens so once Henrik is a bit older, they’ll both be able to watch whatever they’d like.

Another fly in the ointment is the video game purchase. Sure, I *could* say it was for Duncan but it was probably more for me. First video game purchase in years (if you don’t include the upright Punch-Out arcade game that I bought — and still don’t regret.).

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Money HoardingComing this Fall on the PIAC network…

So I suppose having hoarding tendancies could be considered a good thing when money is one of the things you hoard.

As my finances clearly show, my “condition” isn’t too bad. If I were totally insane, I’d be swimming in cash like Scrooge McDuck.

But I do have some “investments” that aren’t really performing (and never will) that I’m reluctant to let go of — even when I fully understand the money could (and should) be more wisely used elsewhere.

I’m talking about the I-Bonds.

Sure, my bonds are earning over 4% right now — a lot more than most — but I don’t own enough of them for that high earnings rate to amount to much of anything.

On the flip side, though, I’m carrying almost $25k in credit card debt. And as of last month, nearly half of it is at what I’d consider an obscene interest rate.

One could fund the other.

A few weeks ago, I took a baby step and sold off around $1200 of the bonds to help pay for the auto repairs and a family vacation that we took.

It felt…okay, I guess.

I’m kinda sad cause I really wanted to hit the $10k mark for some reason and now that seems a bit out of reach.

But it’s time to cut the cord.

Frankly, I was never terribly fond of the TreasuryDirect website with its early 1990’s interface and ridiculous login procedure.

There gone.

I’m sellin’ ’em.

Okay, most of ’em.

(You can’t expect me to part with *all* of them so suddenly!?)

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Henry FordI couldn’t help but chuckle at Grant’s recent comment regarding my issues with the Land Rover.

He said, “Shoulda bought a Ford.”

It’s a tongue-in-cheek reference to a comment that I made on his site back in 2009 where we were both kicking ourselves for not buying a ton of Ford stock back when it was on the brink of worthlessness.

Re-thinking back to that time, and imagining if I had pulled the trigger on buying into Ford like I’d wanted to, what would I have done with it since?

Would have I have wisely sold it for a tidy profit before this most predictable downward trend of the past few weeks?

Or would I still have it in my portfolio?

Well, I’ll tell you… I’d still have it.

Since there’s nothing on television worth watching on Sunday or Monday nights, for the past few weeks I’ve found myself wathing those hoarding shows on A&E and TLC.

Personally, I much prefer the TLC variation of the show. It’s far less confrontational.

Anyway, from watching these shows, I think I’ve somewhat confirmed something that I’ve long suspected anyway.

I have hoarding tendancies.

No, no, I’m not *anything* like the people on the show but I do have a thing for collecting and accumulating things (cough, hockey jerseys, cough, cough) and then being reluctant to ever part with them.

Remember that $30k worth of photography equipment? Yeah, I should have sold the stuff that I no longer used back then for a tidy sum.

A Canon 10D, Canon 1D, and a Canon 1D Mark II aren’t worth nearly as much now — and I’m *still* not using them and have no plans to either.

Still, I’d have a hard time parting with them.

And that’s exactly what would’ve happened with the Ford stock.

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Bail Bondsman ConceptEvery now and then I come up with a great idea — like bail bondsman trucks modeled after ice cream trucks except that they instead play Johnny Cash music to lure “customers” in.

I’m not going to apologize — that’s a top notch idea. And I thought of it.

Pure awesome-ness.

I can totally picture (and hear) one parked out front of every courthouse in the land.

They’d be a taxi cab yellow colour with black and white graphics — impossible to miss even without the Folsom Prison Blues playing.

It’s a shame that I’m too timid to ever consider that line of work.

Anyway, having jumped a few cars recently and even replaced a few batteries, I can’t help but wonder why this century old technology hasn’t been updated much at all.

Car Battery or Lunch Box?Sure, the batteries are encased in plastic and have little handles that make them look like wicked heavy lunch boxes but besides that, little has changed over the past 100 years.

Until now…

(insert fanfare here)

Okay, so before I spill out my ga-zillion dollar idea for free here, you’re going to have to read a few more single sentence paragraphs…

How many people have used jumper cables before? I’m guessing that most people have tried it once or twice.

I’m also going to guess that at least once or twice, sparks flew. The scary kind of sparks. The kind that make you think, “Jeez, how did I not get electrocuted?”

Plain and simple, car batteries are dangerous.

That’s why terrorists in movies use them to torture people. Seriously.

Stick with me here…

A show of hands of how many people have plugged their mouse into the back of their computer?

I’m guessing, since this is on the internet, that everyone has done that before. And if your computer is only a few years old, chances are, the mouse connection is a USB connection.

Those are powered, you know.

Didja see sparks? Didja almost get electrocuted?

Of course not.

See where I’m going with this?

Now I realize that the juice that makes the little red light on your mouse light up dwarfs the power to start a car — they’re barely comparable.

9-volt BatteryBut what about that 9-volt battery in your smoke detector?

You know, those batteries with the snaps that’ve been around since the 1950’s?

Again, two different levels of power…

But why is it that replacing a car battery is more like wiring a brand new GCFI outlet in your kitchen (with the electricity on) than replacing the battery in your smoke detector?

It doesn’t have to be.

It doesn’t need to be.

Car batteries should be like 9-volt batteries not like sticking two forks into a live outlet.

They should snap or click into some sort of connection inside the car — maybe just using their weight and gravity to “click” into place.

Maybe even make them like giant Atari cartridges with a bunch of USB style connections on the bottom.

We have the technology, for sure.

It’s changing the mindset of the auto industry that stands in the way.

For that same reason (the mindset thing), I only get 11 miles per gallon…

Spider FridgeNo, silly, not to cut down on your electricity usage…

A few months ago, MoneyBeagle wrote about clearing out the spiders from his gas grill.

Don’t worry, this isn’t about spiders in or on my fridge.

But his advice couldn’t have come at a better time for us.

We don’t use a gas grill — opting for the old school charcoal method instead — but I was having an issue with another food related appliance at exactly the same time.

The fridge.

My ice cream wasn’t as cold as it should have been. My house-brand grape soda was luke warm.

We’d seen this before.

I’m on my fourth refrigerator since I moved into this house 9 years ago so I was kinda shrugging my shoulders and thinking, well, the streak continues…

(I’ve always thought it was a wiring issue in the house that kills the fridge but haven’t bothered to have it checked out because I’m always of the mindset that we’ll get the entire kitchen totally re-done before this fridge dies…)

Anyway, with the daycare bills crushing my finances and all of the auto trouble, and did I mention that I had to buy a new computer too yet?

Well, anyway, purchasing a new refrigerator would just add insult to injury.

Like I said yesterday, when I pretended to be an auto mechanic, this time I put on my appliance repair man hat.

First attempt was just to jack the coldness setting up in both the freezer and the fridge.

Sometimes it’s as simple as that but after a few hours, well, things were only getting warmer.

It was at this point that I remembered the reading about the spiders in the grill…

Maybe I just needed to clean out that plastic vent/grill thing at the bottom of the door. I know that when I clean the air filter on the lawn mower that it runs better. Maybe it’s just too dusty for the fridge to do its thing.

After a few more hours, I thought the coldness factor was a little better but still far from where it should be.

Somewhat stumped, I decided to dial the coldness dials back to their original position.

But I couldn’t.

They wouldn’t move.

While trying with all of my might to turn one of the knobs, I pushed on the back wall of the inside of the refrigerator for more leverage and heard the sound of cracking ice.

Well, duh?

The knobs were now frozen into place.

After pushing on the back wall here and there I concluded that there was probably so much ice built-up back there that the vent opening that cools the fridge from the freezer was probably totally blocked.

So I pulled the whole thing away from the wall, unplugged the beast, left the doors wide open, grabbed a hair dryer, and some towels.

After an hour or so of hair dryer action (the first action the hair dryer has seen in at least a decade), we loaded the fridge back up and plugged it in.

My ice cream is hard as a rock now; just the way I like it.

And sometimes, the Tang on the top shelf of the fridge even gets a little slushy. Mmmmm…Tang slushie…

Thanks MoneyBeag!

Your spiders saved me a fortune!

Can You Dig It?

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