Le Sigh…

Last Sunday night I was on call (just like every Sunday night),  I got called in to do a case that ended up taking all of 45 minutes, tops.  Unfortunately on the way in to the parking lot at the hospital I hit a patch of black ice and slid into the curb resulting in a bent wheel, a mysterious (and unpleasant) rubbing noise with any and all forward motion and a suspicious vibration in the steering wheel (again, with any forward motion).

I limped the car back towards home and called Sean asking that he just meet me at Big O, that car wasn’t going anywhere until it was fixed.

One day and $700 later it was fixed, making last Sunday night the most expensive call shift I’ve ever worked.

Goals and Resolutions

First the goal:  I’m going to do Christmas for $1000 or less.  That’s all of Christmas, kids, cousins, in-laws, neighbors, even Sean and I.  No more than a grand.

For some of you (even some of you who have 8 kids) that may be no big deal.  maybe you do Christmas for less than that every year maybe you’re all about the handmade.  Well here in the Wonderland that’s not exactly how it’s been.  But look at us now.  It’s going to be great!  (No really, as soon as you give me some fantastic ideas it’s going to be awesome.)

And now despite the goal, here’s the resolution:  This year I’m going to say yes every time.  Every time I check out and I’m asked if I want to donate to St. Jude’s or the Children’s Miracle Network or Ned Thompson’s Money Round Up, I’m going to say yes.  If I pass a bell ringer I’m going to put some money in.  And if I don’t have any cash on the way in (because I NEVER have cash) you’d better believe that I’m going to get some so I have some on the way out.  If I read your blog and you ask me to donate to something, I’m going to donate.  I’m going to donate EVERY TIME.  Because I want to.

The sentiment may sound familiar for those of you who read my 100 coats post but here’s a quote to prove that it’s not just me who feels this way:

“I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare…If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us,… they are too small.  There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charitable expenditures exclude them.”  –C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Oh and for those of you who are looking to give away some of your hard earned cash, I know a gal who needs it (you can even get some tamales out of the deal if you’re into that kind of thing.)

PS. The quote was ripped off my brother’s blog.  (I wouldn’t want to be accused of blog plagiarism.)

And the Winner is….

Crap!  It’s me.  I won.  Dangit!

I won something on eBay and I really wish I hadn’t.  I bid on the item, that really had quite a good price, but I made the fatal, well, ok not fatal but certainly costly mistake of not checking the price for shipping first.   Upon checking the shipping cost I realized why the item was still so reasonably priced, why I was the first and ultimately only bidder.  The seller was trying to make their money not from the item itself but from charging at least five times what it will actually cost them to send it.

See, the item is a rock climbing harness (something that I probably shouldn’t be buying anyway.  I have been climbing quite a bit lately anything to get me out of the house and away from the kids and I intend to continue to do so, it’s a great full body workout and well, really fun, but you can’t climb alone and the gal I go with has a spare harness so I don’t really need my own what I really need are climbing shoes but they’re considerably more expensive.)  and the weight, or lack thereof, of a harness is an important feature, a feature that is easy to ascertain for the most part and even if one can’t find the exact specs for the harness that they were looking at on, say eBay, they could certainly find comparable harness and see that they weighed under a pound and it doesn’t take a postal employee to tell you that it doesn’t cost $15 to mail a small 15 oz item from Washington state to Utah.  Hypothetically speaking of course.

I hate it when people do this!  I think it’s immoral, they list an item for a low low price just counting on some idiot (in this case that would be me) coming along and bidding without reading the fine print.  I understand that it’s a great way to get your stuff sold and to make a little cash but at what expense really?  It’s not theft technically, but it is slight of hand (which I like as well as the next girl when it comes to magic tricks) it’s sneaky and underhanded and … wrong.  (Yes, I get that it’s my responsibility to read all the fine print before I bid, I get my responsibility in all this but … well, if you can’t see it then there’s no explaining it to you.)

As soon as I realized that the shipping cost was what it was I began hoping that I would be outbid, I thought that the chances of that were pretty good, I only bid 1 cent over the asking price after all, and people don’t win $90+ climbing harnesses for $25 right?  You already know the answer to that so we’ll move on. (The answer is no they don’t, they win $90+ climbing harnesses for $40.)  Obviously I was not outbid.

Upon winning I did send an email to the seller asking if they’d be willing to come down on the shipping but I’m not holding out a lot of hope and as I told them, if they won’t come down I’ll go ahead and pay in full since I did bid and not paying what I promised to pay is also not exactly right (I might have mentioned this before here or here or anyway) but either way I am the owner of two new climbing harnesses.

Did I forget to mention that just after I bid on the harness on eBay I found a brand new harness at REI.com for $30 with free shipping and (either thinking that I would surely be outbid or forgetting altogether about the harness I was in the process of buying on eBay (it was 2 in the morning, my thought processes were not exactly linear) or some kind of combination of the two) I bought it?  Whoops.

Hey, anyone want to go climbing with me?  I’ll supply the harness.

What Drives My Road Rage

I’m a pretty calm driver, not much given to road rage or maddened careening and cutting off of my fellow drivers.  (My episodes of road rage mostly culminate in a shouted “you are a MORON!” and the occasional hand signal (unless you’re my mother in which case I never resort to hand signals, I don’t even know what that means).

Actually, in the interest of full disclosure (and so that this post makes some sense) I should point out that I’m not particularly prone to road rage directed at other drivers.  The radio on the other hand, well that’s another matter entirely.

I’ve mentioned my annoyance at certain radio commercials before but there’s a new one that drives me up the wall.  It’s a debt consolidation  commercial as the majority of the really offensive commercials are (followed closely by diet commercials and then those for used car dealerships) and the thing that gets me is the reasoning, laid out step by step as if it’s the most logical thing in the world and it’s a wonder that I didn’t come up with it on my own.  It goes something like this: 1. the credit card companies have been “sticking it to you” (that’s a quote) for long enough.  2. Now the government is bailing them out 3. so you shouldn’t have to pay them.

In his book On Writing Stephen King said something to the effect of, no writer should ever say “I just can’t express it in words” because we’re writers and that’s what we do, express things in words (so if you find that you can express it in dance, I guess it’s time to switch careers).  I think Steve’s a pretty smart guy, and he certainly knows his craft so I’m not going to disagree with him.  But I am going to continue to call myself a writer (of sorts) while professing that I don’t think I can express how much the above line of reasoning irritates me.

Let’s take it apart shall we?

1. The credit card companies have been “sticking it to you” for long enough.  Exactly how are the credit card companies “sticking it to you?”  You got a contract, it was your responsibility to read said contract (I know that none of us really does but whose fault is that?) you signed said contract therefore you are obligated to abide by said contract.  I’ve gotten, skimmed and signed my fair share of these contracts and without exception the deal is something like this, well lend you money and you ‘ll have to pay it back with interest.  The amount of interest varies as do some of the penalties but well, that’s the deal.  Now I’m not the champion of the credit card companies, in fact I think that the entire money lending industry is evil and immoral. (Except what you do Chris, you are in the only decent sector of the whole evil thing and even your sector has been run by a lot of immoral folk more interested in making money than helping their customers for the majority of … well forever.)   But the morality (or lack thereof) aside, they are pretty straight forward in what they do and what they expect.

Now, I’ve been on the wrong side of credit card penalties.  A few years ago I missed two credit card payments to two different credit cards.  (I had written them in my checkbook, I had entered them on the spreadsheet I just hadn’t actually sent the payments.)  As soon as I realized my mistake, and make no mistake about it, it was MY mistake, I called both companies to see if they would waive my penalties (they’ll do that sometimes).  Company A.  said, “no problem, we’ll take that late fee right off and have a nice day.”  Company B said “we’ll take off part of the late fee but it’s still going to cost you about $30.  The amount owing to that particular company was only about $12 if I remember correctly (which I probably don’t) so I wasn’t too happy about that but well, I signed the contract, I made the mistake, so I put on my big girl panties and paid the bill (and then promptly closed the account) all the while vilifying company B and praising company A.  Until I got my next bill in which credit card A, the card with, up until that point, the lowest interest rate of any of my cards, and saw that my little bitty interest had suddenly gone from something like 9% to 32.5%.  I wasn’t happy about it.  The rate was too high, the bill was more than I could pay and I ended up refininacing my house because of it, but not once did I suppose that the credit card company was at fault.  They weren’t sticking it to me, they were running a business.  Is there anyone out there that views credit card companies as anything other than sharks?  I doubt it.  So here’s a tip, swim with the sharks and you’ll occasionally get bit(ten).

2. Now the government is bailing them out. Now I’m not really in favor of bailouts of any kind, but well, you’ve got a company that you promised to pay later so that you could have that new pair of jeans now so they paid the store that had the jeans and you took them home but when it came time to actually pay for the jeans you, well not YOU necessarily but a lot of people, refused to pay.  That leaves the company out of that cash and without the jeans.  I think they deserve one or the other and I wonder how most consumers would feel about having their lattes repossessed?

3. So you shouldn’t have to pay them. What? Please someone tell me how this makes sense!  Other people didn’t pay causing the company to nearly go bankrupt, resulting in a government bailout because the government’s not going to let one of its country’s major industries (and make no mistake, Credit is one of the county’s major industries) implode, so now, even though you had been paying up until now, you shouldn’t have to any more.  Gaaaaa!!!!!!

Can we please stop being victims and take a little, just a tiny bit of responsibility for our actions?!

I’m not trying to condemn those who get themselves into credit trouble, as I mentioned before, I’ve been there.  Nor am I saying that it’s somehow wrong to try to work out a deal with your credit card companies to get your rates lowered, maybe come up with a new, lower one time pay-off amount, I’ve done that too, and I took the credit hit for it.  But I never once thought that it was the credit company’s fault.  The fault, well, I suddenly find myself wanting to quote Shakespeare.

A Movie, a Book, and an Announcement

I’m not pregnant.

Let’s just get that out out of the way right now, because apparently that’s the only news a married Mormon woman in her 20s or 30s can have, but that’s not my news.

Moving on.

I watched “the Pursuit of Happyness” last night.  It wasn’t my first time through but I found that I was bothered by the same thing this time that bothered me on my first watching (That isn’t always the case you know, sometimes those things don’t bother you the second time through or sometimes you realize that you missed something the first time or…) first of all, it’s one of the more depressing movies ever made.  A single father with his kid spending the night on the floor of the subway bathroom, give me a break!  But that’s not my real problem with the movie.  The thing is, he doesn’t spend the movie pursuing happiness, or even happyness, he spends the movie pursuing money.

Now I get that while we all know that money doesn’t buy happiness it does actually contribute greatly to it when you’re to the living in the bathroom in the subway station kind of poverty.  But well, they wouldn’t have been living in the bathroom in the subway station if he’d have g gotten a job.  I’m pretty sure that McDonalds was hiring, even in the 80s.

Of course then we couldn’t have all the touchy feely follow your dreams lessons that we get from the movie, never mind that it would be a really crappy boring movie, but a lot of me thinks that when you have a kid to feed and clothe and protect from pedophiles, maybe your dreams aren’t quite as important as all that.

Anyway, what I’m saying is that he meets this guy who drives a nice car and that’s all he knows about him.  He doesn’t know if he’s happy, he doesn’t know if his wife just left him because he was sleeping with his secretary, he doesn’t know if he’s contemplating suicide (rich people do you know) all he knows is that he drives a nice car.  So he puts himself and his son through hell so that he can too.  Doesn’t that make you all warm and fuzzy?

Speaking of money-

I recently finished reading “How To Debt-Proof Your Marriage” by Mary Hunt.  I loved loved loved it for the first three quarters of the book.

The first third of the book is really a lot more about marriage than it is about money and while it wasn’t information that I particularly needed (a lot of her suggestions were things that I was already doing (Dangit, I’m a good wife!)) it was pretty good and she made some really good points.  (Why is it that we’re more comfortable talking about anything, ANYTHING in our society than we are money?) Seriously, sex v. money, which would you rather discuss?

After the marriage advice she started talking about how to manage your money.

First- Give away 10%. Oo, I like this.  It sounds sort of… familiar.  Now she’s not Mormon, the book was written from a non-denominational point of view (if I had to guess, I’d say some sort of protestant, not quite praise Jesus enough to be baptist, maybe episcopalian)  but she does say that the first 10% belongs to the Lord and so you ought to give it back, not necessarily to a church but to some sort of charity or worthwhile cause.  I can get behind that, I thought, go on.

Second- Save 10%. She says that we should have saved somewhere in a fairly liquid account, enough money to live on for 3 (it should be 6) months.  This one’s a little harder for me.  It’s advice I’ve heard millions of times (including in the sealing room just before I was married (and from a really rich guy, no less))  and it’s even advice that I follow.  Sort of.  Unfortunately, the money that I save for two months inevitably goes to covering the power bill in the third month.  Still, hearing it again and seeing her put a number on it (she says $10,000 although the book was a bit dated and I don’t think that is very reflective of 3 months income for most families today) helped me to rededicate myself to this idea and resolve that I WILL DO IT!

Third- Bills. You’re supposed to compile all your bills.  Regular monthly bills like water and power are easy, irregular bills like car repairs and home improvement expenses are harder.  Monthly bills should be reduced if possible but then paid as usual.  A separate bank account should be opened for irregular bills (she calls it a freedom account and while that’s fairly descriptive, I also think it’s pretty lame so I’m going to call it … something cool) and then money should be regularly deposited into that account for those things.  Figure out how much you spent on car repairs last year, add a few dollars (your car is another year older after all) and divide by 12.  That’s how much you should put aside for car repairs.  The same goes for clothing, gifts, Christmas, whatever.  Ingenious.

Yes, I know it’s obvious but some of us need it spelled out in a little different way.  Shut up.

There’s also a plan in there for paying down debt, pay exactly what you’re paying now on all cards regardless of how the minimum payment go down and once you have one paid off apply that amount to the next card and so on, you’ve heard it before.  It’s a good plan.

This is the point where the book sort of fell apart for me.  Part of it, of course, is that I had unrealistic desires.  What I wanted, what I think everybody who picks up a book like this wants, is for her to give me some magic formula for spending less money without my actually having to, you know, spend less money.  Instead she talks about reducing spending.  WHAT?! I’ve got to say, at this point I was not much of a fan of Ms. Hunt’s.

Luckily I stuck with her long enough to read that we should not over-pay our taxes.

Again, this is something that I’ve heard countless times before.  And I flatly ignored it.  I viewed income tax as my involuntary savings plan.  And it worked, sort of.  Every year when I do the taxes we get money back.  A lot of money back. and that money nearly always goes to paying off a credit card that we had to use because we had to have the car fixed a month earlier.  (Maybe I should have mentioned up-front that we really don’t carry much debt, it’s just the unexpected car problems or plumbing bill that isn’t a part of our normal spending that we end up putting on credit cards. And we usually pay it off within a few months.)  She also made a big point throughout the book of telling you that you do not need to make more money, you just need to live within your means.  Whatever?!

The final chapter is called something like “finding money you didn’t know you had” but it really should be called “just don’t read this chapter because it will turn you off to my whole system because here I’m going to teach you how to be really cheap which involves a lot of self deprivation which obviously you’re not a fan of or you wouldn’t be in so much debt in the first place, stupid”.

No really, it’s comprised of some, I’m sure, great money saving techniques but to anyone who actually needs the book to get out of serious debt it’s going to be a tough pill to swallow.  It includes things like, scour the grocery ads every week and buy only the stuff on sale. (Who has time to really study that stuff and then go to three stores?) She devotes a paragraph or two to getting cheap internet (dial-up what?  Not a chance, you saw what happened to me when I needed a cord, can you even imagine what I would do if I needed a phone line?)  She talks about spending less on groceries, spending less on cleaning supplies, spending less on your car … by getting rid of it, or, buying a used domestic car (used, I can get behind, domestic not so much (she argues that domestic cars are cheaper to repair.  She may be right but for my money my Honda or Toyota requires fewer repairs than her Dodge.)(said the girl who drives a Mazda.)) be patient, save the money first, go without, crazy stuff like that.

In all honesty I think that the last chapter in the book was a mistake on her part.  It’s all good advice but a little, no a lot, distasteful to someone unused to focusing on saving, and maybe slightly offensive (not a good idea to tell people that they’re crazy/stupid to want to buy a brand new car) and it’s liable to kill any remaining desire the possibly newly financially responsible person has to actually be financially responsible.  It almost did that for me.

But her ideas kept rattling around in my head.  (There’s not much more in there after all.)  Until I put together the fact that I get a lot of my own money back when I do the taxes (enough that in theory we could have had an extra $750/ month last year) and if I had all that money all year then the credit card to buy the tires would not have been necessary.

So I think we’re going to try it.

Hey, speaking of making more money, even though I was assured I didn’t need to, I keep looking at my three little boys and thinking that before too long they’re going to be three teenaged boys and somebody’s going to have to feed them.  So, I’m going back to school.

Ayudame Por Favor

Hey, I need some info about church courts.  It’s for a book I’m writing, nothing to worry about.  Anyway, if you know anything about how this stuff works and would be willing to help a girl out let me know in the comments or you can email me a h.alisonwonderland@gmail.com

Thanks for your support.

And for you who are selfish and unwilling to help me in my time of need can’t help me I’ll leave you with the annoying things I heard on the radio this morning in no particular order.

Commercials.

1. Announcer: Are you drowning in debt?  Are you unable to make the payments on your house? your car? or your credit cards? It’s not your fault!

Me: Um, yes, YES IT IS!

(No offence intended to those in debt.  Despite multiple warnings and exhortations to the contrary I am in debt myself (Although I  am perfectly able to make the payments.  So far.)  but I am also fully aware that it is MY OWN DARN FAULT!!!!)

2. Announcer: The average person gained 15 lbs over the holidays.

Me: 15 lbs?  No stinkin’ way.  The average person who stopped by your weight loss center?  Sure.  But there is now way that the average person went up 3 dress sizes over the course of November and December.  And that ‘s just the average.  I only gaind 2 or 3 if any ( I don’t own a scale and if I did I wouldn’t use it) so to make up for me there’s someone out there who gained 28?  Nope.  Flat out, not true.

3. Announcer: ARE YOU DRIVING A CAR YOU DON’T LOVE?  ARE THE PAYMENTS HIGHER THAN YOU’D LIKE?  HERE AT PICK YOUR USED CAR DEALERSHIP WE CAN GET YOU INTO THE CAR OF YOUR DREAMS REGARDLESS OF YOU CREDIT HISTORY!

Me: I get that you’re just trying to make a living here, and I can respect that.  And while I may not like your methods or the fact that you prey on those who are perpetually irrespnsible with their money (see above note about my debt), I can get past that too.  But really WILL YOU JUST STOP YELLING AT ME?!!!

More Virtual Randomosity

I’m thinking about pinching the Infantile Delinquent this morning just to see if he could possibly whine any more.  I’d be surprised.

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A conversation with the neighbor kid:

Neighbor Kid: “I didn’t ever went there.”

The Pea: “You didn’t ever go there.”

The Princess: “You need to learn your grammar.”

Probably both rude things to say but I still couldn’t have been prouder.

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Remember this post?  Oh and this one?  About how the elementary school is teaching my kids to buy on credit.

Well, I have this friend who we’ll call Keidi (hi Heidi) who got a bill from her daughter’s private school the other day.  For $181.00.  A HUNDRED AND EIGHTY ONE DOLLARS!!!!!!!!  It seems that Keidi’s six year old has chosen to not eat the lunch lovinly provided by her mother every day, all year.  And the school didn’t bother to let Keidi know until now.

The $1.40 that I owe periodically for my kids is one thing but there’s no way I would pay $200 that my child’s elementary school let my six year old charge.  NO WAY!!!!

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I met Cheryl and Annette the other day.

I invited them over for book club.  We read one of Annette’s books and she was our featured guest (and I wanted to meet Cheryl so I used that as an excuse) both ladies were absolutely delightful.

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One of my neighbors had a yard sale yesterday and I saw, as I drove home from church, that they had a big old table for sale.  I really want that table (since I’ve ruined my own) but I made the better choice and didn’t shop on the Sabbath.  All I’m saying is that I expect some blessings for that (like maybe them still having the table.  And the dressers they had out there. For really cheap.)

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Happy Monday Everyone!

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