Thursday, January 31, 2008

Update on spam text messaging!

Related to this post here: Spam Text Messages

T-Mobile hit with class action lawsuit over unwanted text message charges

Perhaps the tide is about to change!

If you're a T-Mobile customer, it might be too late to get in on the lawsuit, but keep an eye out for news on this--and eventually watch your bills for a little pamphlet in 4-pt font telling you that you might be entitled to a billing credit or something if the plaintiffs win the case.

Friday, January 18, 2008

News articles like this are the reason that I began skulking around the personal finance blogosphere and eventually began wanting to write my own.

I can't make heads or tails of this.

Clearly, the reBATE is different from a reFUND, but I'm not clear in exactly what way. I understand that a reFUND is basically the government sending you back money that you paid above and beyond what you owed (sort of like getting change at a store). I understand that a tax credit is a one time thing that you have to earn, like an earned income credit, credit for interest paid on student loans or mortgages and things like that. And it seems like credits apply no matter what, so if I were still in school instead of working full time and didn't even make enough to PAY taxes, I would still get something back.

But what's a reBATE? Is it just a one-time thing where they eliminate a bracket (if I follow the article correctly) for a certain period of time so that people automatically get money back that they might not otherwise? Am I really going to be getting something back this year? I typically break about even or have to pay a small amount because of my freelance income, which is the way I prefer it.

But man, right now, I could use some extra money. However, I won't be doing what the government wants me to do with it (spend, preferably purchasing debt, to spur the economy) but restocking my emergency fund--it's going to be taking an ugly hit in the next few weeks, and I'll be focusing on building it back up.

To sum up, I hope someone with greater understanding of what this means for me as a taxpayer. And also, it scares me a little that I do my own taxes and still don't understand a lot of this.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Get out of junk mail free!

Opting out of junk mail via the Direct Mail Association's website is now free. You still have to enter a credit card number for identity verification, but they'll no longer charge you the $1 fee.

Granted, it was only $1, but still. Free is cheaper!

See the article here and direct link here.

Emergency Cash...Different From Emergency Fund

There's a fascinating discussion going on in the comments over at Five Cent Nickel regarding whether you do/should keep cash in the house in case of emergencies. Not long term emergencies such as losing your job, but short-term emergencies like natural disasters, terrorist attacks, or other situations in which relying on a debit card or bank to access your emergency fund (or credit cards) wouldn't be possible.

The topic of what I'd do in the event of something happening here in New York has come up rather frequently for some reason lately, but this was something I hadn't really thought about. I promised my grandparents that if I was given an evacuation order that I didn't particularly think was necessary (think Katrina and the people who waited too long), I would still pay attention and I would leave the area, and if it turned out to be a false alarm, my grandfather would repay me what I'd spent (which is not necessary, but he clearly wanted my promise that I'd hightail it, so I agreed). I figured I'd be fine since I have access to emergency funds through debit and credit--but what if something happened where I couldn't access that money for days or even weeks?

This isn't something I've given a lot of thought to. I've been robbed before, so I don't like to keep valuables or cash lying around. But I do use an envelope system for most daily expenses, so end up having cash on hand (in an unexpected place, but which would probably be found if someone went looking for it) for most of the month. This did me good when I locked myself out of my apartment about a year ago and had to pay a locksmith $50 when he let me back in the place. I guess I could have run down to the corner bodega and withdrawn money from the ATM but frankly, I was so happy that I could just hand him the cash, and close and lock the door to stew in my a) embarrassment at locking myself out (with my laundry, no less) and b) apprehension at how easy it was for him to pop the lock into my place.

So, for now, if the emergency happens soon after payday, I'd probably be fine. I'd have cash on hand for food, a night at a hotel or hostel, change of clothing/necessities if I needed to buy them, perhaps transportation out of the city. If it happened in the days before payday, though, I'd be pretty well screwed.

Is this worth taking out some of my emergency fund and keeping it at home? I'm starting to think it well might be. However, I need to carefully consider the amount and the hiding place for it, since I can't afford to lose an unreimbursable sum to possible fire or theft.

1. I'm thinking $200-300 would be about right. It's just me, and I'm inexpensive to feed and clothe. That sum would also cover a couple nights at several hostels/YMCAs that I know (or more likely I'd head to a friend's place). At the worst, it would cover a last minute plane ticket to one of several places where I have family. And if I lost all of it to theft or fire, I'd be irritated...but it's not an amount that would break me. Truthfully, I'm fairly thrifty but I've still managed to blow that much in one outing on clothing or fun stuff from birthday or gift money, so I know I can stand to lose it.
2. The hiding place is tricky. All the places I'm coming up with are likely places that someone accustomed to ransacking an apartment would look. Plus, I'd keep the money in small bills for ease of use, but that does make the stack a little more difficult to hide. Probably I'd split it up into two or three locations. Some ideas: between pages of a book (which I'd have to be careful to never lend out!), in a jar of rice in the cupboard (my grandmother swears by this), bottom of a box of feminine hygiene products, filed into a random file in the filing cabinet, in the pocket of a pair of jeans I never wear, etc.

Hmm. I think I'll add this to my list of things to do AFTER I move.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Season of change

Readers, never take anything for granted. Some family issues popped up around the holidays which are unrelated to my financial life (except that I may be traveling a bit more frequently to visit certain relatives) which have kept my mind occupied and made me unable to contribute much to this blog, or, truthfully, to my life in general. Perhaps I'll write about it when I can.

In the meantime, I was included in the Carnival of Financial Goals #2 over at BeingFrugal--go check it out!

Hopefully I'll be able to start generating some more regular content in the upcoming weeks. I'd really like to actually be a productive member of the personal finance blogosphere--it was a goal I'd started wanting to achieve almost a year ago. It just seems like things keep getting in my way and preventing me from paying attention to anything that's not right in front of me, which is an exhausting way to live, and sure doesn't leave much time for anything extra.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

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