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Today's money-saving activities

September 2nd, 2013 at 06:28 am

Downloaded songs from Freegal.
Downloaded the Amazon Local app, but then couldn't do Audible.com $10 deal I'd read about because it's only for new customers.
Loaded new Shoprite ecoupons onto my Price Plus card.
Printed out coupons from All You magazine's website, Kimberly-Clark (at pickupthevalues.com), and pillsbury.com.
Printed out a hair salon coupon from the Citi Easy Deals credit card reward program, and also bought a Restaurant.com gift card at 90% off there.
Made a big pot of mashed potatoes to use up some potatoes. Some are in the fridge for tomorrow, some are frozen for later.
Used up some eggs by hard-boiling a couple, and using one in corn muffins, which I froze.
We are using up a slightly-outdated can of La Choy chow mein for tonight's dinner. I always keep one on hand for emergencies, and then forget about it. I only thought of it today because of this recent news story:

Text is http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/news/3060032/posts and Link is
http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/news/3060032/posts

Death in the family

February 19th, 2008 at 06:02 am

One day we got a call that my MIL had a stroke, but not to worry because it appeared to be mild. A week later we were hundreds of miles from home, attending her viewing. I can't believe everything happened so fast. She was 90, so it shouldn't have been a surprise, but it was. She was still driving til the end, and had just cooked a big dinner the night before the stroke.

Since this is a financial blog, I'll try to write about things from that perspective.

First of all, when you're in a crisis situation like this, you can't always do things the cheapest way. We took Amtrak, which probably cost a bit more than driving would have been. But we didn't want to drive that far in wintry weather, on roads we weren't familiar with. We could have gotten a AAA discount if we could have made our reservations sooner, but we didn't know the date of the viewing and funeral til after the discount deadline. I also just found out we could have gotten a discount on one return fare with a coupon code, but I didn't have time to search for codes beforehand.

I'm glad that we still had a credit card, and I hadn't closed it out as per Dave Ramsey. It was nice to be able to charge the train fare, reserve the rooms, buy DH some clothes and pay for the local obituary FAST. I had enough to do without running around, getting extra money into the account that has the debit card and waiting for the deposit to clear. OTOH, I'm glad we had some money in the Emergency Fund so we can pay the bill off right away.

It's a good idea to always have suitable clothes on hand for a funeral (or wedding), and sufficient traveling gear. We hadn't traveled in years, and had gotten rid of some crummy old luggage without replacing it. I had to run out and buy a cheap set of suitcases at the last minute. (Nope, I didn't have the time to check where they were made!) Luckily, I'd bought DH some dress shoes on sale awhile back, even though he rarely needs them. He also still had a suit that fit. But he needed a new shirt, and a coat to wear over the suit. His old bomber jacket would have just looked embarrassing. It would have been a lot less stressful if we'd had all of this stuff on hand to begin with.

My oldest BIL is executor, and when we last saw him he was having trouble even finding my MIL's social security number. He hadn't really been involved with her paperwork over the years, and lives at a distance, so he's going to have quite a job finding and making sense of things. I'm more determined than ever to arrange things so DH can manage if something happens to me. He doesn't do computers at all, so this will mean converting back to paper in a lot of ways.

Finally, and most importantly, my MIL's eulogy reminded me to spend less time on finances and more time on enjoying life. The contrast with my own mother is marked. MIL didn't end up with a fortune, but she had a lot of travel and other fun under her belt. She enjoyed trying new things when she had the chance. My own mother has been very careful about money and everything else over the years. Rather than trying new things, she's apt to wonder "why would anyone want to do that?" She's a worrier from way back. So I've been thinking about how I'd rather hear my life summed up, at the end.



My plate is full

December 9th, 2007 at 08:43 am

Since DH left his job, all heck has broken loose. Not due to him--on the contrary, if he didn't have the time and energy to help with this stuff, I don't see how I could have managed. As it is, we are both feeling pretty stressed, and at times physically shaky.

In this entry, the financial front.

Just before DH left his job, he decided to get a tooth fixed. Looking back on it, I think he wanted to look better for job interviews, but it didn't occur to me at the time. That cost $1500.

I managed to pick up some extra hours at work, which covers our COBRA insurance almost exactly. My boss knows I'm ready to go full time and get benefits, and she'd like to give it to me, but it's not in the budget right now.

Still, the cheapest COBRA option (keeping the high deductible insurance and the HSA account) is $645 a month and it's kind of painful to pay. It's more than our mortgage! And we still have to find money to put into the HSA.

We had to start paying on life insurance for DH, because the only policy he had was at work. $94 a quarter.

In October, our dog had a swelling on her cheek that we thought might be a tumor. It was relatively good news--an abscessed tooth that needed to be removed. The vet visits, surgery and medicine totalled $605.

One of the little additions on our house had a much older roof than the main part, and it started to leak once in a while. It kept getting worse and in November we decided we'd better get it replaced before snow season started. Even I could see it was beyond repair, unless we just wanted to lay a tarp over it for the winter! $1125.

We rarely have flea problems, but our dog and cat both got them recently. I didn't have the stuff on hand, so I ordered it online for the best price I could find--just under $100.

It was our balance month for natural gas, and we owed $48 extra. We needed a new faucet cartridge, $22. DH worked on hedges at DMom's house, sliced the extension cord. New cord, $25. MIL needed her phone card re-upped due to a family emergency, $25. We've been very involved with DMom and MIL lately, which has made it harder to do things the cheap way. We've been indulging in some fast food and I'm just happy to get out shopping when I can, let alone following sales and using coupons.

Amazingly, we are still afloat financially so far. I had to charge a few things only because the emergency money I had to spend wasn't in the account with the debit card. As soon as I pay that bill, we'll be debt-free again except for the mortgage.

Oh, and all that subprime mortgage news that's been coming out has made me very, very nervous about our ARM, due to adjust in 3 years. So I set up an automatic extra payment to principal for $50 a month--don't know how much it will help in the long run, but it makes me feel better.

Next time, the family crises. (Oh, joy!)





Credit cards aren't cool, and cash isn't old-fashioned

August 14th, 2007 at 07:23 am

Found an study from the Federal Reserve about payment preferences, and it was really surprising to me. Scroll down to Table 7, and check it out.

http://www.federalreserve.gov/pubs/feds/2006/200617/

It looks like the highest users of credit cards are senior citizens, age 65+.

The highest users of cash are 18-24 year olds.

So if you want to be trendy and youthful, use cash. Don't mind being in the company of old farts? Then go ahead and use credit! (I say this as an old fart who'd rather be youthful and trendy!)




Getting sloppy, sliding back

May 31st, 2007 at 07:10 am

Yikes, it didn't take long.

I stopped doing my 4-week reports here after February. Thought I didn't need them anymore, and was tired of the tedious work involved.

I stopped recording what I was spending out of Cash, figured I'd just chalk it all up to Everyday Expenses.

Life's been getting busier, and I started using the Discover card when I wasn't sure exactly how much was in checking. Rather than stopping to check, I charged things rather than risk having a debit purchase turned down. (Also I was lured by the cash-back rewards.)

Gas prices have gone up, and I haven't revised the rest of my budget to make up for it.

I've been buying special foods for myself to help with The Diet--but honestly, many of them have been luxury items I could do without and still eat healthily.

So, now I've got $135 on Discover from overspending on groceries that I can't just pay off. It's either pay it off over the next 3 weeks, or just don't eat this week! I know it's a tiny balance, but it's a Red Flag, for sure.

When will I ever learn?


Telephone Day

April 15th, 2007 at 05:15 pm

Finally programmed the One Suite access number into speed dial. Our old AT&T phone card raised their rates, so I switched. But since I didn't have the One Suite number memorized, I was making in-state toll calls on our regular long distance carrier and generating a bill of about $2.50 a month. While the $15 I'd already paid to One Suite sat there unused.

Bought more minutes for my mother's MCI phone card, using my Discover card. She doesn't have credit or debit cards, so I use mine and she pays me back.

I also ordered a Virgin Mobile phone for her, as she finally decided a cell would be a good idea for emergencies. When it arrives, I'll be activating it online and setting up automatic billing through of of our cards, too.

I'd really like to stop using credit cards altogether, but I don't feel like I can front all of my mother's purchases out of cash yet. Hopefully sometime soon I'll have enough extra sitting in checking accounts so I can use debit cards for her stuff instead.

Even with earning 5% cash back on gas--I just want to get out of the habit. Every week when I get gas, it just reinforces the habit of using the card. All of a sudden, I just want out!

At least today I did switch billing for our long-distance from Discover to one of our debit cards.



4-week report

December 31st, 2006 at 12:15 pm

Boring, I know, but reporting here keeps me honest! For four weeks ending 12/16:

Everyday Expenses are staying pretty stable, despite the craziness of the holidays. It came to $554.76, only about $10 over where I like it to be. And, of course it was due to an organizational problem, sigh... I was watching the budget as I shopped through the month, but I'd forgotten to record a trip to Pathmark in Quicken so it looked like I'd spent less than I had. Oh well, not a disaster.

I had the credit card completely paid off, then I paid for the gym membership with the Discover card on 12/16. But it's paid for now, plus I have a weird $1 credit balance because of a mysterious trial offer refund. Smile

Savings for emergencies stood at $458 in the Emergency Fund, and $570 in the Health Savings Account.

I'm going to keep reporting every 4 weeks, even though the debt is paid off now--I can use it to track savings goals.

A tip for heavy debit/credit card users

December 30th, 2006 at 05:53 am

Take a look at the backs of your cards--are they getting worn? Can you still see the 3-digit security code on the back, that follows your account numbers? If so, write it down somewhere, and if not, call and request a replacement card soon. You don't want to be stuck like I was this week.

I've been using one debit card so much, the numbers are completely rubbed off. I didn't even notice til I tried to use it to buy phone minutes this week, and they needed those security numbers. I only need them once in a blue moon, so I don't have them memorized. I called my bank to ask what they were, and they couldn't tell me--for security reasons. All they could do was send me a new card, which will take about a week to arrive. Grrr!

I suppose at least it's a good sign that the card getting the heavy workout is a debit, and not a credit card. Wink




Closed 4 accounts this past week :)

December 14th, 2006 at 11:35 am

One Sharebuilder account is closed, plus HSBC, the Chase Sonycard, and Kohl's. Despite all the reasons for keeping multiple credit card accounts open a few blog entries back, I just don't want the hassle--or the temptation of too many open accounts.

I've been reading Dave Ramsey lately, who says no credit cards, ever. However, I tried that before, and was burned*. So I'm opting for "moderation in all things" and at least reducing the number of accounts I have open. It feels good! Smile

(*There was some kind of business I needed to do, and they wouldn't take a debit card. I had to quick apply online for any old card I could find, that would give me an account number to use right away. Not the best way to choose a card.)



Making up credit card rules for myself

December 4th, 2006 at 07:47 am

I just looked over the old credit card transactions in Quicken, to see exactly we've been charging since I started here, May of 2005. Unfortunately, I don't have a record of how we built up a balance of $4185 by that point! But it does give me an idea of how much I can cut down on cc usage, and hopefully keep out of trouble better.

Two big reasons for using the cc's have gone away. First, Citi's rewards were cut back. Second, the Dealpass gift card programs seem to be going kaput. Somewhere I read that they only took credit cards, not debit cards, and I never wanted to take the chance.

So the good reasons I have left for using them occasionally are:

Discover pays back 5% on car-related expenses.

If I'm doing trial offers, it helps to have extra cc account numbers to use.

If I'm buying something electronic that might fail, the Sony card doubles the warranty.

Sometimes there's a special discount you can only get if you use a specific card. I've taken advantage of this with Kohl's, Mastercard and Discover.

DMom doesn't like credit or debit cards, and doesn't want one of her own. But she's perfectly happy to have me order things for her online with my cards! If buying something like her computer would leave me strapped until she reimburses me, it seems reasonable to put it on a cc.

If I'm buying something from an unfamiliar place, and think I might have trouble with the order. I've been happy with the way Citi handles chargebacks (have done it twice.)

Then there's always the possibility of a new-account bonus offer that you don't get until after your first purchase.

Virtually everything else (95%) that I've used cc's for lately could have been handled with debit cards or checks, so long as enough money was in our checking accounts. And except for some car repair emergencies, if there wasn't money sitting there I shouldn't have bought the stuff anyway!