Tuesday, November 30, 2010

November Recap/December Goals

November Goals
1. Finish decluttering. Um....so-so. I went through a LOT of stuff, but I definitely have more to get rid of. Also, the give away pile is sitting by the door ready to be taken to Goodwill...just waiting. And waiting.As if it'll just walk there by itself.

2.  Buy new cookware. Fail -- we did not have time to get to the Bowery Restaurant Supply together. Maybe in December.

3. Make a dermatologist appointment. Success! I made the appointment, had the mole removed, got stitches for the first time in my life, and my health insurance covered all but the co-pay. That's $50 against my $300 flex spending!

4. Start Christmas shopping.   Half pass/half fail -- see December's goals for why. 

5. Consolidate into one savings account. Almost done! ING finally allowed me to add another account after changing my name, so I can move all the money over and close the account. I'm just waiting on the interest payment to go through tonight and I'll call them tomorrow. I liked ING a lot, but our brick and mortar bank beats their interest rate by almost a full percent, and my loyalty is as flexible as interest rates right now. Someday we may be back.

December Goals
1. Cancel Christmas. My mom has forbidden me from getting her and my stepdad anything for Christmas, as she has all of my other siblings. While Peanut and I are able to afford Christmas this year, we'll abide by her wishes -- and I've suggested to my siblings that we simply exchange cards this year and save presents for years that we're all together (or ideally, for the next generation). My siblings are in various stages of graduate school/beginning their careers and should be focusing on their own lives rather than my "need" for Christmas gifts.That leaves my youngest sister (who's still a kid, and deserves a present) and just a handful of others, mostly the "chocolates and cookies" crowd.

2. Create sub-savings accounts. Now that Peanut and I are fully consolidated into one savings and one checking account, I can set up sub-savings accounts for emergency fund, student loan payoff, and sinking funds. It's so discouraging watching our student loan payments not make a dent in our debt snowball, but watching that payoff account grow will make up for it. (As a reminder, we're keeping cash on hand due to the instability of Peanut's freelance work and only paying minimums, but we're continuing to sock away what we would otherwise be snowballing against the loans. Ideally, we'll be able to pay off the entire balance before our one-year anniversary next September and we're currently on schedule for that.)

3. Really, truly finish wedding stuff. One of our registries has a "completion event" where we get 20% off anything left on our registry that we didn't get -- and we can use up our gift cards at the same time. Likewise, get that cookware from Bowery Restaurant Supply. Also, upload and share all photos, order albums and other prints, frame and hang everything, and provide reviews for the photographers.

4. Cancel Victoria's Secret credit card. I haven't used this card since I opened it six years ago, don't even have a physical card anymore, can't remember my log in, and have my maiden name on the account. I don't care enough about the part of the credit score it helps to have it open -- I'll never use it again.

5. For reals, use up my flex spending money. The end of this month is my deadline -- that's $250 I need to spend on OTC stuff.

Not-so-new monthly feature: New Year's Resolution Recap
1. Max out a Roth IRA automatically. Done!
2. Pay down at least half my student loan debt. Not going to make it due to our new strategy -- but I went from ~$19,500 to ~$12,000 which certainly isn't bad.
3. Give to charity. In progress.
4. Finish graduate school while maintaining a 3.86 GPA and turn in my thesis early. Done!
5. Read more than 100 books. Done!
6. Cultivate a more positive attitude. Doing better!
7. Take the stairs whenever possible. Oh, please.
8. Seven minutes of yoga per day. Pshaw.
9. Develop a regular posting schedule for my "real name" blog. Canceled and deleted.
10. Make less of an impact. Working on acquiring less, in order to have to reduce less.

November Spending Review

Regular day job income: $5,512.80
Misc Income: $2,201.10 (Pinecone payments, interest, refund of deposit from bakery)
Total income: $7,733.90

401(k) $295.40 pre tax (company matches that at 50%)

Total Retirement savings: $443.10

Debt Repayment
Student loans $616.68

Alcohol $17.80 (I'm going to start breaking this out from my food spending -- it's all my consumption, Peanut doesn't drink)
Business expenses $2,862.06 (Peanut's new computer--deductible)
Clothing $142.30
Dance Expense $25
Electronics $10.95 (canned air)
Entertainment $6 (Peanut found video games on sale!)
Food—dining out $287.34
Food—groceries $191.10
Gifts $92.94 (flowers for my mom's birthday, plus a few great deals on generic chocolate type gifts)
Household $19.67
Hygiene/Medical $85.97 (Two co-pays for the dermatologist and one flu shot -- all reimbursable, plus some hair stuff)
Laundry $20 (MUCH better than last month!)
Rent $1,444.69
Transportation $40 (Peanut's metrocard)
Utilities $332.57 (Peanut upgraded his phone, but will get the full $100 as a rebate)
Wedding $107.85 (photo albums for parents)

Total spending: $5,686.24

Networth IQ updated (see sidebar).We're so close to a $50,000 net worth! I wonder if we can achieve that by the end of 2010?


World of Wealth says you shouldn't have a budget forever. I totally agree! I used to live strictly on the envelope system, then loosened up a bit, and now our budget is sort of like the Pirate Code -- more what you'd call "guidelines" rather than actual rules. Our savings goals are strictly adhered to, but once we cover that, whether we spend money on groceries or eating out or electronics doesn't really matter to us.
Christmas present idea roundup:
10 gifts under $10 (love that wine stopper suggestion! I'm going to use it for any white elephant parties this year)
Unclutterer's 2010 Gift Giving Guide (hint: keep it practical)

Sunday, November 28, 2010


Questions updated over at Formspring -- feel free to ask me anonymous questions there!

I've taken something of a digital sabbatical -- I've been on the computer a lot, playing video games and sorting wedding photos, but spent less time reading blogs and (obviously) posting on my own. It's been nice and now I feel like I have more to say.

Financial items of note:
* I was dumb and didn't update my bank info with my credit card last time I paid it, so the payment was supposed to come from my old checking account which is closed. I got charged a $25 fee. Oops.

* ING has confirmed my new bank account, so I can transfer all my money on Monday and close it out (yay for higher interest rates!). When that's done, all of my accounts will be streamlined and consolidated.

* I've been calling American Express (which issues my corporate card) for two months trying to get my name changed. Every two weeks I've asked for the name change form, which I'm told will arrive in three to five days. Yesterday I got two forms on the same day. *sigh* If these are the first I've requested, they took six to eight weeks to arrive, not three to five days -- and I've got at least two more showing up eventually.

* My Discover card increased my credit limit - probably from all the wedding expenses I put on it. That's nice. I doubt I'll ever need to put anything so expensive on there again, but it's nice to know that I could. I'm pretty sure they offered that extension before I paid with outdated bank information.

* Peanut and I have been spending quite a bit eating out this month. Oy vey. Our wrap up is not going to be pretty.

More soon!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

green with envy

I've been trying to ignore all the news about e-readers being the IT Christmas gift this year -- if you remember, I bought a Sony Touch less than a year ago and it cost me $260 ($299 with a $30 coupon). The same device now sells for $169.99 and will probably be further discounted with Black Friday deals. Not to mention the Kindle's only $139, and the Nook is $99.
This is the cost of being an early adopter, I guess. I was able to deduct the entire cost of the reader off my taxes last year, since I use it for work, but I didn't really notice that much of a difference in my taxes due to that deduction.
I've never really been an early adopter, and after this experience, I think I'm done.

Monday, November 22, 2010

If I Were a Boy: On Being Female in Publishing

I work in trade book publishing, an industry generally dominated by women. Some divisions are filled with more men than others -- the business office, IT, much of upper management, in particular -- but the fields people most think of when they think of a publishing house are, in my experience, predominantly made of women -- editorial, copyediting, even sales and the publisher's office. I work for a major imprint (sort of a mini-publisher) of one of the top four or five publishing houses in the country -- my boss is a woman, and her boss is a woman, and her boss is a woman. In fact, my imprint is one in my house with the best representation of men, and we have five men -- out of a team of about 30. So it's pretty different from many industries in that there are more women employees than there are men, and that there are more women in higher positions of power.

Interestingly, the publishing industry pays very little -- many entry level positions start around $28,000 (in New York City!). I can't help but wonder if these two things are related.
Yes, book publishing is like any other media industry -- thin margins, long hours, unpaid internships, and one of the first things consumers cut back on when money gets tight. But we've all heard that women ask for less money up front, women are less likely to negotiate salary when being hired, women are less likely to ask for a raise. In an industry that mostly hires young women, should it really be surprising that most entry level employees don't negotiate their starting salaries, and therefore spend the rest of their careers trying to catch up?

It's great to work in an industry dominated by women, where I'm surrounded by great women to look up to and I can truly aspire towards positions of power. In general, it's an industry that welcomes having a family and working from home (most actual editing is done there anyway), and at least in my experience has been very understanding about people needing time off for maternity leave, children's schedules, and even provides day care on site. But I can't help but wonder what it would do for general pay levels if more men were coming into the industry on an entry level basis. Would they be negotiating for better starting salaries, therefore raising the norm for all employees?

According to PayScale, I am making right about the average for my position -- but I also know that my predecessor was making 50% more than I am now. She had about five years more experience than I do, so ideally my raises each year will put me on pace to earn that much in another four years or so (I have been in the publishing industry for four years, but my current position only one). I know that a former colleague with my same job title definitely did negotiate for his salary AND for his subsequent raises -- and while I don't know what he ended up making, I know that to live in the neighborhood he did, he must have been making twice what I am now. So I know that it works.

When I was offered my first job with this company, I negotiated my salary. I didn't do a terrific job of it, I guess -- I accepted a whopping $500 more annually than I was originally offered. I was desperate to get my foot in the door, and I was still getting a small raise from my previous job. From where I sit now, I know that that is the top end of the salary range for that job title. It just didn't occur to me to ask for a slightly better title for the same job. That slightly better title would have given me about $4,000 more -- something I got after less than a year, but still. Had I asked for it up front, maybe I would have gotten another $2,000, and each raise and salary-based bonus after that would have had just a little more oomph. Would a guy in that position have done so? I suspect the answer is yes.

I love my job. I love books, and I love book people, and while I'd only do the reading part for free, I'm generally happy with my job and how I'm compensated. I know my supervisors value my work, and they've shown it at every review and year-end bonus period. I worry sometimes that my tendency as a woman to not negotiate and not directly ask for a raise are keeping me from money I could be earning. It doesn't bother me enough to spur me to action, which is perhaps the problem with working in such a female-dominated industry in general -- of the 80% of the workforce that's female, probably 75% are content to accept what is given and not ask for more, thus ensuring we all get less than we could.

"If I were a Boy" Carnival

This post is part of a series of bloggers sharing their candid experiences or observations about women in the workplace which is not at all meant to be a male-bashing expedition whatsoever.

Please head over to these other wonderful bloggers and read about their experiences.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Shutterfly holiday cards

I heard from our other wedding photographer that we should be receiving her disk of photos this weekend -- they're almost here! I basically wanted the wedding in order to have photos to show our eventual kids, so I'm so excited that this final holdover from the wedding festivities is almost in my mailbox.

I've been thinking about what to do with them, since we didn't buy a print package, just the rights to the photos. The obvious answer: holiday photo cards! My Christmas card list basically just doubled, with the addition of Peanut's family, and what better way to say happy holidays than with a picture to remind people of the wonderful day they shared with us, or to give people who weren't able to make it a glimpse of what it looked like. I always send Christmas cards, but my life is not quite interesting enough to warrant a Christmas newsletter. I think a photo card of our first Christmas as a baby family is perfect.

I'll be ordering from Shutterfly -- they have cards but also photo gifts -- the keepsake box is a particular favorite of mine, as is the puzzle. They also have regular photo ordering services (and you can pick photos up at Walgreens, Target, and CVS!!) which is perfect for sharing them with everyone else who wants to order photos as well.

Full disclosure: this is a submission for the 50 free holiday card promotion from Shutterfly, but I will be using Shutterfly for my wedding photo orders.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Wedding stuff

Got one CD of photos in -- one more to go! It's hard to tell the overall picture at this point since we have a random half of the pictures. Did I mention on here that our photographer team has split up since our wedding and apparently aren't talking to each other anymore? So I've been speaking to them separately, as they each had different sets of photos.

Anyway, I got one CD and no complaints, and then I found a Groupon deal for today for a $50 deal at Mixbooks photobook printing site for only $15. I've been collecting all sorts of deals and coupon codes for this, since our deal with our photographers was only for CDs with a non-commercial license for printing. So I'm on my way to having a complete set of wedding pictures by Christmas.

I'm also hoping to get 50 free holiday cards from Shutterfly -- watch for a review if I get it!

And lastly, check out the guy who wrote a bunch of letters to companies asking for free products -- and what he got! So neat. People write to me at work all the time asking for free books. I love how organized he was with his spreadsheets. I love spreadsheets!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Weekend update

This article at RowdyKittens reminds me of a random toddler who greeted us with a huge smile and a wave while we walked to brunch with some friends yesterday. So cute!
This morning I went to the doctor -- and I got stitches for the first time in my life! This is the appointment I made to use up some flex spending dollars -- I wound up getting a mole removed and sent in for a biopsy. I don't expect anything to turn up, but the mole had been bothering me and now it's gone (and so is $25 of my flex spending money, yay!). I have another appointment next week to remove the stitches and do a full-body skin cancer screening, and might have a copay for the lab tests. I don't think I've successfully used up $300 with these appointments, but I did take care of something that needed to get done and maybe spent around a third of the money that needs to be spent.
I also got a flu shot last week, but it turns out my health insurance covers that 100%. I have really good health insurance -- which I'm not keeping for next year. I looked at the open enrollment details that my coworkers were complaining about, and the premiums are almost doubling, from $57 to $98 per pay period. Peanut and I just can't justify that -- we have enough in savings to semi self-insure by dropping to the lowest tier health insurance, which has a $1,500 annual deductible and covers 75% after that up to $4,000 max out of pocket per person. My annual physical remains covered at 100% and my prescription coverage doesn't change, so it would only come into play for unusual illnesses or an accident. We'll be saving $40 a month by dropping down to this plan, and it doesn't seem like we'll really be losing anything.
I may not contribute to the flexible spending account next year. All annual checkups (doctor and dentist) are covered at 100%. OTC medications will no longer be covered thanks to the new healthcare plan. I don't anticipate needing additional dental work. My birth control prescriptions come in under the $100 minimum contribution, and I'm not sure we could spend enough to actually save anything. I'll be calling my dentist to get his opinion before I make my final decision (and to see if there's anything I can get done in 2010) but I think we'll be skipping this option this year.
When Peanut and I meet with the certified financial planner this week, I'll be asking about life insurance -- my company provides a policy equal to my annual salary for no cost, but I wonder if that's enough, and what our other options are. I've never really looked into this before -- I've never had someone else's financial life tied up in mine, and Debt Ninja's recent post got me thinking about that. Any other married people care to weigh in?
When I make my final 2011 open enrollment decisions and lock them in, I'll post an update on how things will lok!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Growing up

Paranoid Asteroid, Fabulously Broke, and Give Me Back My Five Bucks are talking about how they all feel out of place and out of touch with people just slightly younger than them or even their own age. They don't get the shows (Jersey Shore) or the music (Justin Beiber) or living paycheck to paycheck and they're busy worrying about 401(k) contributions and care more about getting enough sleep than staying out on the town. These things make them feel insecure, awkward, and strangely juvenile.

To which I say: welcome to adulthood! Just in the last year or so I realized: grown-ups played a huge joke on us when we were kids. They seemed to have everything figured out all the time, and it turns out they totally didn't! My mom -- even my grandma -- doesn't feel like an adult yet. They still don't know what they want to be when they grow up. They worried about things like retirement and paying bills because if they didn't, no one else was going to. When I was a kid, I thought 23 was SO OLD. Seriously. I thought if I wasn't married by 23, it would be totally over for me, who would want such a hag after the age of *gasp* 24??!?!?!

Turns out I got married just six months before I leave my twenties behind forever, and I still feel like a kid who shouldn't be allowed to dress herself in the morning. I've been on my own for almost a decade and I've got more street smarts than my own mother. I can manage money and stand up for myself and define my life however I want, and with that comes the insecurity of being allowed to manage money and stand up for myself and define my life however I want.

So basically, PF pals, we're all doing exactly okay. We'll probably feel this wonder at being out of touch with the "youth of today" for the rest of our lives. We'll might always feel like at any moment someone will "catch" us playing at grown-ups and send us back to study hall. And that's exactly how it's supposed to be. All the other adults feel that way too, so we're doing it just right.

Friday, November 12, 2010

How to apologize

Not like this: "We're sorry we got caught -- wow, the Internet is mean to us!" (via Gawker)
But like this: "We goofed -- have a refund AND a free future cruise" (via The Consumerist)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

random PF updates from Casa Moneybags

* Open enrollment is here! I need to sit down and take a look at the damage -- I overheard some coworkers talking about how our part of the premiums have gone up, so I'm prepared for a surprise.
* Peanut spent $2,500 on the fanciest computer I've ever seen in my life. He needs it for his freelance work and it's tax-deduction but wowza. It cost twice as much as my car.
* My wedding dress donation is now costing me bank fees. I sent a check from my personal account along with my dress to cover the costs of cleaning and processing, and six weeks later they still haven't cashed it. I transferred my direct deposit over to our joint checking account shortly after we got married (because I didn't think it would take a non-profit six weeks to cash a check!), and now my personal acount bank is charging me $12 a MONTH for not having direct deposit. I've contacted the foundation several times to make sure that a) they received the package and b) that they plan to cash the check soon. I can't close the account because I KNOW that there's an outstanding check, so I'm stuck paying $12 a month until the foundation gets their act together. Grrrr.
* Next week, Peanut and I are attending a personal finance seminar hosted by a CFP in our neighborhood. It's designed to go over things like how much insurance you need, how to make sure you've got the right withholdings on your taxes, estate planning, and saving for retirement vs. kids' college. I'm sure he's trying to drum up new business, but hey -- Peanut and I were looking for someone to talk to about these very things as well as taxes for his freelance work. Kismet!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Chores by gender

Cate's recent post over at Liberal Simplicity got me thinking about how Peanut and I divide up chores. It's not strictly on a gender basis, but more along the lines of who likes what. Here's a breakdown:

Peanut's chores
* Cooking
* Floors
* Growing stuff
* Grocery shopping
* Systems administrator
* Co-Chief Financial Officer

My chores
* Washing dishes
* General bathroom/kitchen
* Straightening
* Dusting
* Laundry
* Grouter and caulker of things that need to be grouted and caulked
* Customer service dealer-wither
* Co-Chief Financial Officer

This is a little simplistic -- sometimes I go to the grocery store, and Peanut doesn't need to do as much straightening because he usually puts stuff away as soon as he's done using it and doesn't leave it scattered about. Also, sometimes I cook and sometimes he does dishes. In fact, I have been shirking my dish-doing duty lately as he's at home all day working freelance and I'm out in the corporate world and somehow that seemed fair (but it's not). I do a little more of the scrubby-clean work because I get tweaked out by dirt earlier than Peanut does.

I'm interested to see how our future chores break down along gender lines.We don't have a car or a yard at this point. I've taken an automechanics class and love working on cars. I had to mow my parents' 2 acre yard as a kid, but I don't like it as a chore. I'm not really sure about his preferences for those outdoor chores that we don't currently have.

How do you divide up chores with the people you live with, whether they're a roommate or a significant other?

Flex spending

Help me spend my flex spending!
I signed up to have $900 withheld from my paycheck for 2010 for my flexible spending account. I anticipated some dental work (yet another root canal and crown) plus my standard copays for regular office visits and prescriptions.
Well, it turns out this whole flossing thing works, and I didn't need the dental work after all. Due to my Life Event in September, I was able to cancel the flex spending contributions for the rest of the year, but that means that I put away $712.50 into this use-it-or-lose-it pre-tax account, and I really only needed about $200 of flex spending money.
What do I do now?
I have stocked up twice on every OTC medication I can think of using before it expires (after this year, OTC medication will no longer be covered, so it's nice to be able to stock up, but on the other hand, medications have an expiration date so there's no point going too crazy). I've stocked up on things like band-aids, Ace wraps, and other non-medication supplies. I spent more than $100 each time. I've purchased sunscreen. I've made two visits to the dentist. I've made my annual visit to my doctor, and have purchased all the birth control I'll need until next year.
I still have $300 to spend. In less than two months.  !!!!
I made an appointment with a dermatologist to have a mole removed, so that will use up $25 for the copay. I am pretty sure the procedure itself will be covered in full. But how else do I spend this money? I do not want it to just be absorbed by whoever gets it if I don't use it -- it's MY money and I worked for it. The thing that makes this so sticky is that the rules (laws, even) are very clear about what the money can be used for, including WHO it came be used for (IE, it has to be used for me and my dependents -- I can't just go buy a bunch of OTC medications and give them away).
Has anyone had a similar situation? How did you use up extra flex spending money?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Clothes shopping

I've been doing very well about not doing a lot of clothes shopping lately. Now that I'm wearing some of my winter clothes, though, it's rather painfully obvious that I need to--some of my warmer things are rather worn out, and not appropriate for work anymore.
Needs to be replaced
-Big warm black turtleneck sweater. It's started to pill something awful, and it also seems to have shrunk so it's kind of too short to wear with any of my work pants.
-V-neck sweaters. One's got a hole in it, the other's just worn out.
-2 3/4 length cardigans. I got them at a cheap place for any amazing price, and it shows. Missing buttons, pilling, ugh.
-Black pointy-toe heels. I noticed yesterday that they're cracked and scuffed in a way that's not likely to be repairable.
-Black knee-high boots. I just had a whole discussion on boots a year ago, about how much I would spend -- I said $200 but then I went and bought a $60 pair, and low and behold, they've got a hole in them and let in water only a year later. Grrrr.
Other things I want to get
-Work pants. I have the hardest time finding pants that fit where I want them to, are long enough, and don't make me look pregnant. I have one pair of black pants that are perfect, and I love them and I've had them for so long I'm worried they'll wear out before I find another pair I love as much. They're an off-brand and I don't remember where I found them and I haven't found anything by googling! Three more pairs of work pants (black, grey, and khaki or patterned) would serve me well.
-Long sleeve cardigans. All my cardigans are 3/4 sleeve, and my office is too cold in winter for that.
-T-shirts for layering. My t-shirts are all looking kind of grungy and old. And they are old. I don't want to tell you how old, but if they were a sibling, they'd have an interesting personality by now.
-Tights to wear under winter dresses and skirts.
-Winter dresses.
-Sweaters in general.
Things I do not need
-Underwear or bras
-Shoes other than what's mentioned
-Tank tops
I have a bad habit of being a little too cheap when it comes to clothing. I try to shop at H&M or NY&Co, but I also end up at off-brand New York City stores where cardigans are like 2 for $10 and I'm so excited except then they only last for a season before they look really bad. I want to avoid that this time around. And darn it, NYC has reinstated the clothing tax.
I've signed up again for deal emails from NY&Co, H&M, and JC Penney. I also feel like I should step it up a notch, like J. Crew and Ann Taylor, but I'm afraid my money won't go as far there. Maybe there will be some good sales for Black Friday coming up. If you had my shopping list and $500, where would you go?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Maxing out 401(k) contributions

Peanut and I had a fun little exercise yesterday, seeing what it would take for me to max out my 401(k) contributions. While I'd be contributing $1375 per month (to hit the $16,500 limit for 2011), my take-home income would only go down about $800 -- that's $575 going straight to retirement instead of taxes!
We are already each maxing out a Roth IRA each year, but because he's just starting a freelance business, my 401(k) is really our only option for pre-tax retirement savings (we'll look into SEP accounts and other freelance options later, once his income levels out). However, because he's just starting a freelance business, there's no way I'm tying up our only reliable source of income like that. I'll leave it for now at the 6% I'm contributing, which my company matches. Maybe when he gets a long-term contract, I'll up my contributions temporarily, but I think until our loans are paid off, that's a goal that will have to wait. Still, it'll be fun to aim towards that!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Guest post over at Mystery Shop Maven

I have a guest post today over at Mystery Shop Maven: My Life as a Mystery Shopper. I talk a little about how I got into mystery shopping, what it was like when I shopped the most, and why I cut back so much this year. There are lots of benefits of mystery shopping, so if you're interested, you should check out Mystery Shop Maven -- it's full of great information to help you get started.


I just found out that New York State still has not processed my name change for my voter's registration back when I got my new driver's license a month ago.
This means I am likely ineligible to vote this evening like I was planning to. I can bring my old passport with holes punched in it, my marriage certificate, and my new photo ID, but I wonder if that will be enough. I've had bad experiences with them before, even when I had all my paperwork in order and they didn't have theirs right. I'll probably give it a try anyway, but it's frustrating.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Oh, Evil Internet Corporation. I hate you.

Here's a rather bizarre situation that might be stressing me out more than it's worth.
Back at the end of June, I noticed that the promotional rate on our internet service had run out, nearly doubling our monthly bill. I called and said this was unacceptable, and was able to get another promotional rate applied to our account for another 12 months.
Here's something to know about New York City apartment buildings: some of them contract with a cable/telecom company, so tenants have no choice about who to use for service. It's Evil Corporation or nothing. My building is one of those. I can't threaten to switch to another company, so my leverage is almost nill.
Now, I was pleased that Evil Company agreed to lower our monthly bill again (since technically they didn't have to) and wasn't too upset when they seemed to have double charged me in July, since I could see how giving me this promotional rate would wind up resetting my due date, effectively making me pay the bill twice in the same month.
Only it didn't really work out that way. When I was billed again only a few weeks later, I took a close look at the bill, and discovered that they weren't actually double-billing me -- they'd just extended the payment period, so instead of paying for the one month of service coming up, I am paying for two months of service coming up. (For example, my October bill covers December -- because I paid an extra month back in July.) So, now I'm paying them early rather than having the money in my account earning me interest. That's rather annoying.
So I've called. I've chatted online. I've spoken with supervisors. I've been told that this is a problem they're aware of and they'll fix it. I've been told that the dates would be corrected on my account, and I'll get a bill for $0.00 one month. I've been told that I'll get a refund of one payment, and the dates will stay the same. Exactly none of this has come to pass, and I have no leverage whatsoever other than cancelling my internet service (and then fighting with them to keep it on through the time I've atually paid for it.) And also, cancelling internet isn't something I actually want to explore! I asked them could I just skip a payment and they'd figure it out, and they said no -- if I skip, they'll cancel service and send me to collections - even though I've already paid in advance for service!
So my options are to keep fighting with them about it, or to just make a note to myself to watch the bills when we plan to move so that I don't pay for service when we're no longer living there. I'm organized enough to be able to remember this, but I kind of feel like they should just FIX it.
What would you do in this situation?

October Recap/November Goals

October Goals
1. Wrap up elements of getting married. Mostly done! I'm waiting on new health insurance cards, a deposit refund from the bakery, and the  professional photos from the photographers. Also still getting used to saying and writing a new name.
2. Develop married budget and savings sub-accounts. Coming along!

3. Catch up at work. Done!

4. Get my diploma. Done!

5. Declutter and stock up. In progress! I've done a lot of decluttering, and our pantry, fridge and freezer are now well stocked again, as this month's grocery budget can attest. 

November Goals
1. Finish decluttering. I have a list of the chests, closets, and cabinets in our apartment that still need to be cleaned out, and I'd like to go through all of them and donate all giveaway items to Goodwill by the end of the month. 

2.  Buy new cookware. The only thing we're still missing from our registry is cookware, because a few weeks ago I heard of the Bowery Restaurant Supply company, from which we can buy restaurant-grade cookware at 1/10th the price of any housewares store (see this article about stocking an ENTIRE kitchen for $200!). It seems that they're only open during the week, though, so it's a little tricky to get down there. 

3. Make a dermatologist appointment. I have a mole that's acting kind of funny, and when I had my free skin cancer screening at work a few months ago the doctor advised me to come in and have it removed (it's already been biopsied, and is nothing to worry about, just annoying). I need to make that appointment by the end of the year in order to use 2010 flex spending!

4. Start Christmas shopping.   This year is a Christmas-spent-here year, so I'll have to mail all my Christmas gifts to friends and family. Incentive to get it done early! I've already started keeping my eyes open for things people might like.

5. Consolidate into one savings account. I had to wait 30 days after changing my name and email with ING before they'll let me do anything else, like add a new bank account. We found a pretty decent interest rate at a brick-and-mortar bank, so I'd like to consolidate our two ING accounts and my "regular" savings account and start earning some moolah!

Not-so-new monthly feature: New Year's Resolution Recap
1. Max out a Roth IRA automatically. Done!
2. Pay down at least half my student loan debt. I've paid $7,647 towards a $19,568 debt.
3. Give to charity. In progress.
4. Finish graduate school while maintaining a 3.86 GPA and turn in my thesis early. Done!
5. Read more than 100 books. Done!
6. Cultivate a more positive attitude. Doing better!
7. Take the stairs whenever possible. Oh, please.
8. Seven minutes of yoga per day. Pshaw.
9. Develop a regular posting schedule for my "real name" blog. Canceled and deleted.
10. Make less of an impact. Working on acquiring less, in order to have to reduce less.