Coffee heat rising

These Tips will Help you to Get Your Finances Back on Track


If you feel as though your finances are in ruin, then you need to know that you are not alone. It’s not easy for you to know how you are going to find the money to pay for everything, but at the end of the day you have to make sure that you don’t panic. If you are collected in the way that you approach your debt and if you do everything you can to stay on top, then you shouldn’t have many problems to contend with.

Pay Less Interest on your Credit Card

Credit card debt is bad. It doesn’t matter whether you have debt that is left over from Christmas or whether you have booked a holiday on your card because it can easily take a long time for you to pay it down. This is especially the case if you are paying interest. If you can, you need to move it to a 0% interest card. If you want to get the biggest benefit from this, then you need to pay it down as much as you can earlier-on. If you don’t do this, then you may find that you end up struggling and that you end up in the same situation again when your payments go up again. If you want to really benefit but you are not able to take out a credit card then why not look into: When you do, you may find that you can pay off your debt and then just pay interest on your loan.

Pay More than the Bare Minimum

Another way for you to pay less interest on your credit card would be for you to try and pay off more than the basic amount every month. Minimum payments are normally set at very low levels so if you pay this off every month then you shouldn’t have a problem. That being said, if you can afford it, you have to pay more than this if you can. When you do, you will soon find that you can clear your balance with ease and that you can also come out on top with ease.

Shift your Store Card Balance

When you look at your store card, you may find that they charge a very high-interest rate. You may find that sometimes they are as high as 29%. This can really hurt your finances, so if you want to get around this then you need to try and swap your debt to a 0% card. When you do, you will be able to transfer your balance and you can also really take advantage of the savings. Again, it’s super important that you try and pay down your debt as much as possible during this time.

Pay Less for your Overdraft

Paying interest on your overdraft? If you can, you should try and switch to a current account. This won’t charge you and you may even find that you can save a considerable amount of money too. An alternative would be for you to try and use a 0% money card. This will give you the chance to move money from your credit card to your current account. If you need some help here, then it is more than possible for you to hire a financial advisor. When you do, you can trust in them to help you with anything you need, and they can also give you the advice you need with your overdraft in general. Some can even find you better deals with your credit card too, so keep that in mind if you can.


Amazon: Beware this gouge!

Wow! I just tried to order a $6 bottle of 400-i.u. vitamin D capsules from Amazon.  The cause of this craving is recent research showing vitamin D deficiency may make you more vulnerable to covid-19 (and many elderly folks do suffer vitamin D deficiency), and that adequate (not excessive!) vitamin D may have a protective effect against covid-19. But the ones I have, which I picked up some weeks ago, are 4,000 i.u., a massive overdose.

Vitamin D is not entirely benign. ODing on the stuff can lead to hypercalcemia (excess calcium in the blood), which can make you uncomfortable at best or good & sick at worst; kidney damage; heart problems or even a heart attack; brittle bones, dehydration, inflammation of the pancreas; and — ironically enough — lung damage. As I came to realize this, I decided I needed to back off from this nostrum. Studies that suggest it helps fend off the dread disease indicate that 400 i.u. is about the right dosage.

Well. I’d rather not risk my life traipsing into Sprouts for a bottle of pills. So what do I do?

Of course: order them up from Amazon!

A lot of fishy stuff is going on there (heh! no doubt because commercial vitamin D is often derived from fish oil…): some ads will not allow you to see the one- and two-star reviews (which I always check before deciding about any purchase from Amazon). Others indicate that reviews are better than they actually seem to be. Hm. And of course fish oil is akin to snake oil, so I’m trying to be careful with this.

Finally settle on one from Whole Foods. Price is just under $6 for a hundred pills. I go to order this stuff, go clickety-clickety, and up comes an invoice for $25.99!


Sprouts has it for six bucks! And a three-minute drive down to the corner market.

Y’know, folks… Vitamin D is available for free. Your body makes it in response to sunlight. Wash off the sunblock, go outdoors, and sit in the sun for 15 minutes. Et voilà! Your full dose and then some.

So I try to deep-six the order…and Amazon’s system will not let me cancel it!

I try to get “Help” to find out how to cancel an order in mid-process and get nothing but useless bots. In-fukkin-furiating!

It looks like Amazon is going to charge this rip-off to my AMEX card.

So I call American Express, get a very fine CSR on the phone (this would be why we use AMEX…), and explain the predicament. She says it doesn’t look like Amazon has put a charge through yet.

Well, say I, I can’t see a way to cancel the order.

She says, Just crash out of it. If that doesn’t work, then we won’t honor the charge on this end.

It appears that she was right: it did work. After closing out of Amazon and logging back in, I don’t see the order. So I assume that closing out of an order before completing it cancels it and disappears it.

This is the first time I’ve experienced anything like what appeared to be deliberate gouging at Amazon. Whether it was coming from the merchant or from Amazon, I dunno. But it’s good to know that it can happen,.

Caveat emptor!

Budgeting: Back to the Envelope Method

And, for a change: back to Funny about Money’s long-defunct theme: personal finance. You’ll recall, those of you who are Dave Ramsey fans, that one strategy for keeping yourself on budget is called the “envelope method.” In that scheme, you cash out a month’s worth of dollars and fill a separate envelope with the amount designated for each budget item. So, $200 for groceries in one envelope; $100 for gasoline in another, $30 for dog food…and so on, ad ditzy nauseam.

Well, some of us have neither the patience for that kind of ditz nor the stomach for putting an entire month’s worth of funding at risk of being heisted by some enterprising burglar or dropped unnoticed on the pavement. I use credit cards and electronic payment to minimize loss from theft and incompetence.

Conveniently, though, if you happen to bank at a credit union, you have an easy route to create electronic “envelopes.” My CU allows members to add any number of savings accounts. So right now, for example, I have one to collect the constant dustfall of tiny checks from Medicare and the Medigap insuror — whenever a couple hundred bucks accrues, I fork it over to the Mayo. And one for emergency savings. And one to hold enough to cover income tax, accounting bills, property tax, homeowner’s insurance, Medigap insurance, and car insurance, all set aside at the beginning of my personal “fiscal” year, when I have to take an RMD from my 401(k).

This allows you to earmark and set aside specific amounts for specific purposes, placing them where they’re unlikely to get diddled away in day-to-day spending.

Now we have this question: in the absence of a desirable Visa credit card, how — really — am I going to continue to shop at Costco? I haven’t cut up the credit card or closed the account — it’s never a good idea to close a credit account in good standing — but because I don’t do business with outfits that treat me like sh!t, I will never use the card again.

I do have a debit card. But for a variety of reasons, I prefer not to use it. For one thing, there’s not a chance on God’s Green Earth I’m gonna put the thing in a gas station pump — certainly not at the Costco where I shop, which is flanked to the south and the west by dangerous slums and a park that has been taken over by bums. But I do prefer to buy Costco gas, because it’s the cheapest deal in the city. And there’s always an attendant — invariably a large, imposing male — standing around that Costco gas station, so I don’t feel so much at risk as I do at the rip-off QTs within reasonable driving distance of the ‘hood.

So. Here’s my plan:

Create a new savings account to hold money budgeted to spend at Costco. That would be an entire year’s worth of money budgeted for Costco ventures: shopping and gasoline, combined. So let’s say on average I spend, maybe…what? $340 on food, clothing, household goods, dog treats, personal products, impulse buys, and gasoline. When the 2019 RMD comes in — which will be about in September — I set aside $4,080 (= $340 x 12 months) in this account.

Then I trot in to Costco and buy a cash card for the amount I imagine I’ll spend at Costco, both inside the store and at the pumps, over a month. That would be around $340. That is what I carry to the store to make purchases. Each month I pay for it out of the Costco Envelope savings account.

I spend no more than that in any given month. Run out of money: quit shopping at Costco. How hard is that?

If money is left over at the end of the month, the next month’s cash card is loaded with accordingly fewer dollars. So, say, in March I spend $250, leaving $90 unspent; the April card has $340 − $90 on it: $250. Thus whenever I spend less than $340 over a month, the overage stays in the bank account.

So at any given time, the Costco cash card never has more than a month’s budget on it. If I don’t spend the entire budgeted amount, then whatever is not diddled away stays in that savings account.

I figure at the end of the year, anything that’s left can be transferred to the Emergency Savings account, and the Costco Budget account can start over from zero at the start of the new “fiscal year.”

When you know there’s an upper limit on what you can spend, you find yourself feeling a lot more cautious about your spending.

Therein lies the threat of Costco, the Mother of All Impulse Buy Hells. When the budget is open-ended — in your mind you think you have plenty to live on (which you do, if you don’t run amok) — you go “oh, it’s only $20…no problem, I can afford that.” And you could, if you just didn’t keep doing it over and over…

But if you’re thinking, “Helles Belles, I’ve only got x number of dollars to spend today,” then you realize the $20 doo-dad is not a life-or-death purchase. The beauty of the Envelope Method is that it sets a limit on what you’re willing to diddle away.

So, what started out as an annoyance — yet another stupid faceless bureaucratic hassle — may work out to my advantage. Not so much to Costco’s advantage, but certainly to mine: by getting the Costco spending under control, this new, enforced budgeting strategy will let me stay within the annual RMD for another year or two, despite soaring health insurance and property tax rates.

After that, it’s anyone’s guess. I may have to think more seriously about moving out of the country, to some venue where I can stay in the middle class on the retirement income. But we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it…

How Can You Improve Your Credit Score?

When your credit score isn’t where you want it to be, there are a couple of things that you can do about it. It is possible to repair bad credit, but it takes time. While there is no quick fix to repairing a damaged credit score, it is entirely possible to set up a credit management plan. Fly-by-night promises of repairing a credit score should be avoided. The best way to manage your credit is by behaving in a responsible fashion. Even before you can improve your score, it’s important to know what your credit score is.

This is your point of departure: check your credit reports at each of the three credit reporting agencies.

In the US, Federal law states that you are entitled to one free credit report from each agency per year. The three credit agencies include Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. Once you know what your credit score is, you can take the necessary steps to correct it. When you have your credit report in hand, you should go through it with a fine-tooth comb to pick up on any anomalies, or inaccuracies. If you spot anything that is incorrect, report it immediately.

Making payments in a timely fashion is the first step toward repairing credit. Credit scores are calculated by adding up a number of factors. These include the percentage of available credit used (the lower the better), your payment history (consistent payments are best), the amount of new accounts you have opened up (the fewer the better), different types of credit available to you, and the length of your credit history (the longer the better).

Of all the factors that determine a credit score, your payment history is the most important. If you have a history of delinquency, start to make regular payments to avoid collections agencies from reporting you. Your FICO score will increase over time when you make regular payments. Many folks are unaware that they can contact creditors to work out more favourable repayment terms if it becomes difficult pay off a credit card. Credit counseling services will not adversely affect your credit score.

Should you open more accounts to improve your credit score or close unused accounts? When calculating credit scores, everything is done with ratios. Some people think that if you open additional lines of credit, you can increase your credit score by having a lower credit usage ratio. This could work against you. Much the same is true of closing unused lines of credit. FICO scores are carefully calculated, and intentional manipulation of ratios by opening/closing accounts will not always have the desired result.

The best way to manage debt is to pay it off. It is unwise to open multiple accounts at the same time, in the hopes of increasing your available lines of credit and boosting your credit score. Remember that the average age of your accounts will drop if you open multiple new accounts. This will cause your credit score to drop too.

Summary: Repairing Your Credit Score

Good credit scores allow you to enjoy favorable credit terms. Lenders often only consider one number when they are deciding about advancing a loan to you, and that’s your credit score. There are many advantages to a strong credit score, including lower interest rates, a high credit limit, being considered for top-paying positions, and being granted credit facilities for a mortgage or an automobile.

Since your credit score is comprised of five unique elements, it’s imperative to take the time to optimize each aspect of your credit score. You can check your credit score at any time, and it’s not much different to the credit scores that lenders will see when they run a search on you. Many banks and credit card companies offer complimentary credit reports to clients.

Banner image of the day: DepositPhotos, © ivelin

Computers, Cox, & Credit Cards: Never a Dull Moment

March 14, 2015, 5:50 p.m. So my computers are offline, once and for all. I’m writing this in Wyrd, planning to cut and paste into WordPress tomorrow morning, when I expect to get online at my favorite coffee shop.

Been having some strange connectivity problem for the past few days, some affecting the phone line and some the usual up-and-down connection that characterizes lovely Cox.

Cox is a hell of a lot better than Qwest. But…uhm…that ain’t sayin’ much. Smoke signals would’ve been better than Qwest. One thing you have to give to Cox is that they have decent customer service.

At any rate, the wireless connection went irretrievably down this afternoon. So I have no blog. No email. No endlessly entertaining news and “news” sites. No online games. No baroque Facebook time suck. No clients…

The horror!

Cox allows as to how the problem is on their end, and they’re sending a tech over tomorrow afternoon to install a bunch of new equipment and make the thing work. Whether this will disable the new robocall blocker remains to be seen. If it does, then it’s good-bye to Cox; I’ll have to go over to Ooma, which will save me a shitload of money and inflict a shitload of hassle.

The weird thing about being stuck offline…is the horror.

I feel utterly at sea without the email and without access to the Internet to inform the editing projects.

Fortunately, the book I’m working on now is a work of fiction. So I don’t have to look up every third reference, factoid, circumstance, or stylistic quirk. For most of the editorial work I do, though, an Internet connection is not an option.

So the whole “no email, no Internet” angst is kind of irrational, at least for the time being. As a practical matter, chances are I’ll get more done and enjoy life more without the preoccupation that has become an occupation. Maybe I’ll even take the dogs for a walk this evening!

This evening I was supposed to go to a meeting, but I’m still too sick to go anywhere. Especially not to a two- or three-hour jawfest.

Probably will be too sick to go to choir tomorrow night, and probably will be too sick to go to the Thursday meeting. But just now there’s no way to send my apologies to any of the worthies who expect me to show up.

As dawn cracked this morning, I was going to write a Spring has Sprung sort of post, featuring a passel of flower images from the yard. Not so much, though.

Neither computer would read the camera’s memory chip. As it developed, I was able to access the images on the large computer, which accepts a cable connection to the camera. Copied the images to a flash drive. So that was not a connectivity problem but a memory chip problem.

I did not want to do battle with computers this morning! Got up at 6 a.m.; by 8 a.m. all I wanted to do was go back to bed and take a nap.

Fed the dogs; ate some more leftover soup; watered the plants. The weather has been in the 90s, so the potted plants need to be watered every day and the stuff in the ground needs watering about once every three days.

Brushed down the pool. To my surprise, the mustard algae was not back!

That would be because the pool was brushed yesterday. It occurred to me that pushing the pool brush up and down the walls amounts to a good way to get some much-needed mild exercise – I’ve been spending way, way, way too much time parked in front of a damn computer.

Running the nylon brush up and down the walls again, I reflected that when I first moved into the house, I was so tickled with the pool that I used to clean it and test it and adjust its chemicals every day. Now it’s lucky if it gets cleaned and tested once a month.

When did I take to neglecting this marvelous puddle? It’s obviously an asset to the house: make that a$$et. What’s with letting it go to pot??

No answer to that one. But pretty obviously the wall moss is the outcome. Sweep it down once a day: get some mild upper-body exercise and preserve a $20,000 lifestyle blandishment.

Read about 20 pages of the client’s novel – really a first read, a fast line-edit. The MS is only about 130 pages; at 20 pages a day, I can get through it in a week. Since I set a two-week deadline, this will leave another week to go over the whole thing more carefully, think about it, and offer some advice of the writing-coach variety.

By about 2:00 p.m. the wireless connection was down. It being about six hours past my naptime, I decided to shut down both terminals, disconnect the modem and the router, leave them disconnected, and go back to bed. Surely after an hour or two, the system would reset itself.

No. Not so much.

After a restless and generally miserable attempt at napping, I reconnected the peripherals and rebooted and…couldn’t get online at all.

Oh god.

Back and forth with Cox. Long, long story short, a technician is supposed to show up between three and five tomorrow afternoon and install a whole new set-up. I’m being told Cox is upgrading its equipment. The new stuff is supposed to be installed inside the house (oh, good: MORE junk to clutter up the desktop, MORE junk for me to dust!), supposedly free of cost to me except that I have to pay for backup batteries.


Meanwhile…oh, yes, meanwhile

Yesterday while I was enjoying a particularly miserable run-around in search of groceries that I never did manage to get, I stuck my AMEX card in a pocket that also held a metal doodad. Metal doodad scratched the fancy fucking “chip,” and it wouldn’t work at the Safeway. And that is why, among several other goddamn reasons, I wasn’t able to get the Kleenex and the cough medicine and the vinegar and the ClearCare and the cream despite stumbling around not one, not two, but three goddamn grocery stores.

Don’t ask.

So AMEX was supposed to have a new card delivered by FedEx today.

While yesterday’s antics were in progress, I was so sick I wasn’t thinking even vaguely clearly. Today I realized I hadn’t told them they HAVE to mark the package with a note that the address is on my street, not on the street just north of me that has the same name. Called AMEX this morning to see if a message could be sent belatedly; was told the package hadn’t even been delivered to FedEx but couldn’t get the dumb bunny on the end of the line to understand what I was talking about.

Later this afternoon I called again and reached someone who seemed to have some IQ points. She said the problem is that FedEx was pretty much rendered inert by the storm on the East Coast. They still hadn’t picked up the package.

So, could we PLEASE add a “NOT MY CRAZY NEIGHBOR’S ADDRESS” clue to the package?

Videlicet, my Amazon address is set up to read…

My Name
1234 North Erewhon Drive
Please NOT Lane!
Phoenix, AZ 85123

She at least was able to understand what I was talking about, but she allowed as to how adding NOT LANE to the address was impossible. Which is reasonable, but annoying.

But, she assured me, don’t worry (be happy!): you don’t have to be home because they’ll just leave the package there.

THAT’S THE POINT, I said. If the guy leaves the package at My Crazy Neighbor’s house, it will never be seen again!

They just don’t get it. When you explain this to someone else, they don’t want to believe that these people steal everything that is mistakenly delivered to their house. Most middle-class Americans, I guess, just don’t want to think bad things about other folks.

Oh well. If the card doesn’t show up tomorrow, I’ll call and cancel the AMEX account. I do have a Visa card, which is accepted in more places anyway.

To make everything perfect, the damn Nest thermostat runs on the wireless. No wireless connection: no air conditioning. It’s supposed to be 95 tomorrow!

Fortunately, I don’t normally turn on the AC until temps are in the low hundreds. But…what if this had happened in July? My house would be unlivable.

Enough with that damn thing! As soon as this dust settles, the AC guy is going to be invited to replace it with a NONprogrammable, NONwireless thermostat.

First thing tomorrow morning, I’m headed over to the Little Guy’s coffee house, where I can get a decent cup of café Americano and a free connection to the Internet. Post this thing there, then check the email, and then go on my way for an otherwise Disconnected day.

What??? A Budget Miracle?

   questionmarkgreenWhat on EARTH? December’s AMEX bill came in: $348.36.

Since I charge almost everything on AMEX and normally budget $1100 for all costs other than utility bills (and now, the damn car payments), this is a little startling.

Okay, it no longer includes the Costco bills…those are charged on Visa now. But lo! Here’s the Visa bill. $151.69???????

Total: About $500?


What the heck?

Well, the $285 that I spent to replace the two pairs of shoes that fell apart was racked up a day after the December billing cycle closed. And I got a smokin’ deal on my son’s Christmas present by buying it from Amazon on Black Friday. The gift is included on the bill, though. And even if you added $285 to the amount due, it would still come to only $785. By the time you add in all the other bills — the power bill, the insurance bills, the phone and wireless bills, the water bill, the cost of gifts for some friends, the $35 I spent at Yarnell for the hand-crafted crosses, total expenditures for this month come to less than $1500.

Have I been in a coma all month?

Or have I made some sort of bizarre math error?

Probably the latter.
But for the nonce, ain’t it grand?