Monthly Archives: March 2012

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Sure, it’s almost April already but it’s not too late to list out my spending for the month of February so here goes!

$922.22 : Day Care
$694.02 : Dentist
$498.72 : Mortgage
$422.99 : Business Expenses
$314.60 : Gasoline
$273.30 : Framed Photos
$225.38 : Auto Insurance
$204.08 : Natural Gas
$157.45 : Clothing Rack
$151.60 : Electricity
$143.18 : Cable/Internet
$140.00 : Cash
$118.89 : Water/Sewer
$76.77 : Clothing
$59.15 : Birthday Presents for Henrik
$40.08 : Life Insurance
$31.47 : Finance Charges
$26.53 : Oil Change
$11.65 : Hat for Duncan
$7.39 : Air Filters for Furnace
$4.95 : ATM Fees

That adds up to $4524.42.

That’s more than I would have liked but the upside is that over $1100 of it went towards unusual expenses (highlighted in red).

And speaking to those, the dentist expense is due to the fact that I dropped dental insurance last year.

Financially, it was still a good move but every now and then, I’m going to get socked right in the mouth with a big bill.

The framed photos were because, though it’s been nearly two years since our major renovation was completed, the walls are still bare. It was time to start changing that with nicely framed photos.

And the clothing rack… Do I have to explain that one?

Sigh…

No, it’s not for my wife’s extensive wardrobe. It’s for my hockey jerseys.

See, my thought is that by having *all* of them in plain sight (instead of hidden away in bins in the attic), I’ll hold back on purchasing new ones. So far, so good…

Oh, and I just thought I’d mention it but this post marks the third year of posting my spending each month. Hat tip to Debt Destroyer who used to contribute over on the Happy Rock for getting me in this groove.

It has saved me money.

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So, after a lot of questioning myself, I finally decided to cash the insurance check from Geico that resulted from my accident on leap day.

Just after doing so, I went online and mail-ordered the replacement parts that I thought I needed — a couple of special clips for the bumper trim piece that snapped off, a new light, and even decided on buying some new windshield wipers since they’ve been in need of replacement for probably 6 months now.

Grand total was $90.38.

So this morning, my sidekick and I put on our mechanic hats (figuratively) and got our hands dirty (for real).

Twenty minutes later, this is how things looked.

No, it’s not perfect.

The bumper is still cracked but for $1610 in my pocket, I’ll take it!

And I even got “free” wipers outta the deal!

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True, it’s not the right time of year to use a football reference but, of late, most of the news I’ve heard is about Tim Tebow and Peyton Manning — two football players.

So, with that, I’d like to announce that I’ve officially entered the red zone where I step up my debt repayment pace tenfold.

Simply put, I’ll be debt free (besides the mortgage) again in a matter of weeks.

Yes, weeks.

Total combined balance is now just under $2500.

Flashback to May of 2011, less than one year ago, and it was $28k.

I’m so thankful that I never get down on myself regarding my finances for very long even when things are clearly bleak.

Can you say $30k in high interest debt?

Ouch. That might be worthy of a stronger adjective than “bleak”.

Anyway, and I realize this is a couple thousand dollars premature, having endured it all over the past year and a half or so, I’m pretty comfortable in proclaiming that I’ve mastered yo-yo debt levels while keeping a level head.

Is there a merit badge for that?

I’m not saying that that’s a good thing but, really, having done it now twice in a relatively short time period (all within the time period that this blog covers), I’m super confident that I can pretty much dig myself out of anything.

Kitchen renovation… you’re officially on the radar screen.

Hopefully this time, though, I won’t dig myself so deep!

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March 2012 Net WorthFebruary has traditionally been a “wild card” month around here.

It’s usually because I’ve normally done my tax return in February but not this year — I sill haven’t found the time to sit down and do my taxes so this year, well, February’s just another month…

Lotsa red over there but the 401k bailed me out…

Cash:
Not much movement here. I spent pretty freely this month and I think it shows.

Savings:
Yep, I spent so freely that I had to take some from my savings. Actually, it was dentist bill but, still, I’m not proud of it.

Gov’t Bonds:
Woo-hoo! Three clams!

401k:
There’s a guy at work (a longtime co-worker) who mentioned a couple of weeks ago that he’d just recently topped the $500 mark in his 401k. In response, when I told him that I’d just recently eclipsed the $130000 mark, I’m pretty certain that he didn’t believe me.

I drove my BMW to work the next day just to subtly rub it in. I still don’t think he noticed. Maybe tomorrow I’ll drive it again and park next to him…

Home:
We had some trees taken down by a landscape service to the tune of roughly $2100. Coincidence?

Auto 1, Auto 2, and Auto 3:
Poor auto number three…

Credit Cards:
Not nearly enough of a drop here. As I said, I spent pretty freely in February but I’ve got that out of my system and the balances are all lined up to drop quickly again.

For the year, I’ve knocked out over $2500 so I’m still making decent progress…

Auto Loans and Other Loans:
Nothing to report.

Mortgage:
Just another minimum payment.

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So you may have heard that I have a $1701 check written out to me from Geico that’s causing me lots of grief lately.

Three weeks ago now, I was rear ended by a dunderheaded lummox and it destroyed a tail light and did some cosmetic damage to the rear bumper of my 2004 Land Rover.

Now, what I keep telling myself to do is to sign the check over to the local auto body place and have them take care of everything and give me a brand new looking car in a few days…

That would make me smile.

But I’ve also got dollar signs in my eyes…

See, this is an 8-year old vehicle. Sure, the mileage is low (60k), but it’s still an 8-year old car.

The Kelly Blue Book value is somewhere between $5k and $6k which, in reality, means I’d only get maybe $4k for it in a trade-in whether the bumper is damaged or not.

That said, it drives like a charm and it’s not ready to be traded in. Simply put, even with a damaged bumper, I still think it has plenty of life left.

Let’s say I’m fortunate enough to get another 40k miles out of it…

Now we’re theoretically talking about a 10+ year old vehicle with 100k miles on it.

Does relatively minor cosmetic damage have much of an impact on the trade-in value of a car at the end of its lifespan?

Probably not…

So, with that in mind, would it be financially wise to dump $1700 worth of cosmetic repairs into it?

In this instance, I think my mind is all but made up…

I foresee a considerable drop in my credit card balance in the near future… or a super wicked awesome first birthday party for Henrik… courtesy of Geico.

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PIAC Post Extension
For the record, I own this car free and clear. No lienholders in the mix to coddle so please save me the ethics lecture. I don’t like it either but apparently this is how the system works.

I’m also about 80% sure I can replace and repair the tail light myself for under $100.

For an additional $7 (to buy the special plastic clips), I can re-attach the bumper trim piece too…

A $107 repair job is “good enough”.

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Since I was rear-ended on Leap Day 2012, I’ve been a lot more aware of the happenings going on behind me.

It isn’t that I haven’t always peaked in the rearview mirror, it’s just that I’ve been doing it a lot more often lately.

Yeah, there’s some anxiety there.

Now, I’m totally aware that “driving” in general has become a lot more dangerous over the past 20 years (I’ve been driving since 1992) — I see the level of safety declining everyday.

Red lights are meaningless to some.

The shoulder is apparently an additional travel lane on the on the highway.

If you want to turn left, it’s okay to block crossing traffic to make it happen. Totally acceptable.

U-turns? In traffic? No problem. Just do it.

And there are signal lights? Really, what are those even for?

With all of that around me, I’m concerned enough but, of late, I’m really terrified out there.
My commute is less than 6 miles — and that includes to-and-from.

Six miles.

Every single day since that accident I’ve had at least one person in the car directly behind me totally “in the zone”.

A cell phone is the usual culprit — and I’m convinced that’s why I was hit — but it’s the freakin’ text messagers that really scare the crap out of me.

The talkers aren’t paying attention and, yeah, that’s a hazard, but it’s the texters who aren’t paying attention or even looking at where they’re headed that are the real problem.

Now, since the accident, I finally upgraded my el-cheapo cell phone to one with the full keyboard. For those that care, it’s a Samsung M575. Seven bucks per month, baby…

Anyway, once the battery charged, I sent my first text message on it to my wife from the comfort of the couch and it was clear — there is no way I could have done that from behind the wheel of a moving car. No way.

I’m getting off topic…

Okay, so back to the aftermath of the accident on Leap Day…

So, since I was in an accident, I did what I “thought” you were supposed to do when you’re in an accident — I called my insurance company.

(Yes, I now realize that this was an incredibly stupid thing to do when you’re not at fault but it turned out kinda of interesting… Read on…)

I asked lots of questions while filing my claim with Allstate and made it clear that I wasn’t at fault, I had an police accident report, and even a witness, blah, blah, blah…

It was implied that Geico — the other guy’s insurance company — would re-imburse Allstate on the claim.

Sounded feasable to me since I just wanted my car to get fixed.

Allstate scheduled me with an adjuster to take a look at the car and “issue a check” so, the day after the accident, I took the car to one of Allstate’s drive-up claim offices which just so happens to be an auto shop. Go figure.

The dude, nice enough guy, comes out, checks out the damage, takes a few pictures and then starts googling “Land Rover Bumper”.

Seriously?

I was a little taken aback, you know, thinking they’d have some sort of master “parts” database for that sort of thing.

Being the nerd that I am, you know I’d already googled the cost of a new bumper — yeah, around $900.

So, the adjuster guy isn’t quite as savvy on the internet as I am and he can’t find the “correct” bumper so he makes an executive decision and “chooses” a knock off bumper made in Taiwan.

Now, I’m not against using generic parts, not for one second, but if that bumper doesn’t look the same (with the words “Land Rover” embossed across the length of it), well, that’s not good enough.

I said as much too.

I mean, you don’t see people removing logos from their BMWs, Cadillacs, and Mercedes?

No, you don’t.

It’s just the Mitsubishi and pimped out Honda crowd that try to make their car appear as something else…

Anyway, he talked up some lifetime Allstate guarantee of somesort for junk aftermarket parts and put the cost down as $250.

Say what?

Yeah, $250 for a new bumper cover.

And a $50 repair on the muffler. No, really, a fifty dollar repair to the muffler.

Can I get a show of hands of people who’ve ever had anything done at a Meinieke for fifty clams?

All told, his guesstimation of the damage was $1011. Take out my $500 deductable and I was presented with a check for $511.

But, oh no, there was a printing error. He printed the check wrong so he had to void it. In the end, I left the office having been told that I’d have to wait for Allstate to correct it and mail it to me.

Whatever.

I drove home…kind of in a funk. Had I just gotten screwed? Again?

It didn’t sit right.

I mean, I’m not a car expert but I paid $1200 out-of-pocket for that front bumber repair last summer and that damage was far far less than this.

And why was I paying $500? I was the one that got hit — the adjuster and my claim rep only briefly mentioned getting re-imbursed by the other guy’s insurance company, as in Allstate would get re-imbursed but I wouldn’t.

Not happy about it but not sure what to do, my wife took over (she’s better at being mean), and cancelled the claim with Allstate before the check even arrived — it took like 4 business days to show up.

It’ll still show up as a claim on my record though — and my premium could go up — so, in a way, I did get screwed.

For anyone out there that’s been hit by someone else — don’t *EVER* call your own insurance company even though there are places all over the internet (and in your policy) that say you should.

So then I called Geico — the other guy’s insurance company.

It felt weird calling in to file a claim with a company that you’re not even a customer with. I mean, the first question they ask is what your policy number is…

You can’t help but expect them to take a different tone the second you way, “Um, I don’t have one…” but the fellow on the other end of the line was as pleasant as could be.

That said, I could’ve done without the “I’m sorry to hear you were in an accident, was everyone alright?” No matter how you slice it, it never comes across as sincere from a total stranger over the phone.

I know he was just reading a script on the computer screen in front of him but, c’mon…

Anyway, he was able to look everything up based on the other guy’s policy number (which I had from the police accident report) and, without even having to go through the 40-questions game about nwhat occured, he flat out said that Geico had admitted fault.

(In short, the other driver had already filed a claim cause his car was really messed up.)

Wow, that was easy.

So from there I had to schedule an appointment at one of Geico’s drive in locations which, again, was at an auto body.

Annoyingly, the closest one was a bit of a hike from home and their available timeslots were less than convenient but I took a wicked long lunch one day at work and drove it out there.

For maximum effect, just before I got there, I pulled the tail light out so it looked like it was hanging by a wire.

(Post accident, it was hanging by a wire but it was easy to snap the smashed light enclosure back into place.)

This guy came out, looked at the car, took the same types of pictures that the Allstate guy did and then started looking up the parts.

His system didn’t have the rear bumper cover listed but when he looked it up (I didn’t see if he was just using google too), he said, “Man, that cover will be tough to find…” and then came to the value of $950.

Yeah, that’s more like it, I thought…

And he said the muffler was just fine — the bumper cover just wasn’t where it’s supposed to be so it’s now almost touching the muffler. Looking at it myself, I totally agree.

In the end, I was presented with a check for $1701 from Geico.

So, Allstate was going to give me $511 to take to an autobody shop to pay for the repairs and Geico was going to give me $1701.

Now I realize it’s all a matter of opinion and that either insurance company would deal with the autobody directly on the “realized” cost of the total repair but, c’mon…

That’s a $1200 difference.

Omitting the deductible, it’s still not even close.

Not even close.

So now I’m not even sure what to think…

Does Allstate suck? Are they cheap? Or is Geico that awesome? I just don’t know…

What I have learned though is that if I’m ever in another accident where it’s undoubtedly not my fault… I’m NOT calling my own insurance company.

That is the WRONG thing to do.

I know, I know, it seems obvious but snoop around on the internet a bit — it says that it’s in your best interest to call your own insurance company and I’ve come to learn that that’s completely wrong when the accident is clearly not your fault.

So now we need to decide on how to procede…

I want to get it fixed because I’ve never been the type to “benefit” from being a victim or drive a junked out car but…the damage is strictly cosmetic. It stills drive like a charm.

And let’s be honest, a $1700 payment to the credit card company is pretty enticing…

It’s almost got me thinking that Geico may have had a formula in place when they came to that $1701 number — make it less than what the actual repairs we’ll be on the hook for but high enough that the non-customer will just cash it instead.

If that’s the case, well, they hit the mark.

I’m on the fence.

And I don’t like it.

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One of the seldom mentioned perks of switching our phone service to Magic Jack that I can’t help but acknowlege and appreciate is that we NEVER recieve unsolicited phone calls anymore.

Sure, we had to change our number — which no one really likes to do — but the people that need it have it and the people that don’t, well, they don’t.

Until recently.

Over the last few nights we’ve received calls from various 877- and 800- phone numbers during what I like to call the dining hours.

You know, when all less-than-reputable telemarketing firms schedule their calls…

I usually Google “unknowns” as the phone continues to ring and, so far, none have matched anything that I might expect to be getting a call from…

My wife finally answered one last night and the person on the other end asked for a “Steve”…

Yep, pretty much what I expected…

Someone, presumably named Steve, put our phone number down somewhere and now that it’s on some list that’s being marketed all over the place…

Somehow I think this might be the tip of the iceberg…

Boo.

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So, just a couple of days ago I wrote about how the Land Rover hasn’t had any “incidents” for about six months

Well, yesterday, we had a little bit of snow, I was at a stop light, fourth or fifth in line, looked in my rear view and saw a Chevy Impala closing in fast.

He wasn’t sliding, no, this wasn’t weather related.

He just wasn’t paying attention.

SMASH!

My first thought was, “Damn… I really like this car…”

When I got out of the car, I was surprised to see how little damage was done to my car.

Back bumber is a little messed up and one of the parking lights encased in the bumber was totally smashed and hanging by a couple of wires.

The Impala didn’t fare as well and, yes, that makes me smile.

His headlight was smashed with glass and mirror crap everywhere, the grill came off, and the hood was crinkled up all the way back to the windshield.

Ha-ha.

While it sucks to be me…it REALLY sucks to be that dude.

The police came, and another motorist (the person behind the dude that hit me) even stuck around to give a statement. I wish that’d happened in my last fender-bender where I was wrongfully hosed.

Anyway, I’ll keep everyone posted on how the insurance claim goes…

Can You Dig It?

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