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Archive for November, 2006

Electric Company Frustrations

November 30th, 2006 at 12:48 pm

UGH!

I received my electric bill, the last in my 6 month cycle (I'm on budget billing). I pay $147/month for electric. My actual usage before now was $6.07 over what I had been billed, and my current month actual usage was for $140.xx. So I'm right at $147/month.

Imagine my surprise when I saw that starting next month, my new monthly total would be raised to $158.xx! That's an extra $121/yr!

So I called customer service and got the most unhelpful, I-can-only-read-the-script-they-give-me rep!

Me: Hi. I just received my latest bill and noticed that my monthly amount was increasing from $147 to $158. I'm not really sure why, considering that my actual usage was right around $147.

Her: Well, usage isn't the only determining factor. Gas prices normally increase in the winter.

Me: I'm not talking about gas, I only get my electric from you.

Her: Oh, yeah, electric prices usually go down in the winter and up in the summer.

Me: Well, have you announced new rate increases yet? Because an increase of $121/year seems like a lot to me.

Her: It's not for a whole year. We reset budget billing every 6 months, so this new rate is only for the next 6 months.

Me: Well, if it's only for the next 6 months, then I'd definitely expect it to go down now, while electric rates are decreasing, then maybe go up in 6 months, right before summer, when you expect them to increase.

Her: The 3 factors that go into budget billing are usage, rate increases, and expected temperature.

Me: (Smoke coming out of my ears about now) Right. So if my usage is stable, and electric rates are expected to decrease, then the only thing causing this increase is a change in expected temperature? Again, I can see this affecting gas bills alot more than electric.

Maybe I can speak to a supervisor to find out exactly what's driving this change?

Her: I'll have somebody take a look at it.

Me: Great. Can I have her name?

Her: Well, it's not really a person. The rates are figured out automatically by the computer. Somebody will have to review the account and see if it can be reset back to the $147.

Me: So who can I expect to hear back from.

Her: Me. My name is Christy.

Me: Well thanks, Christy. Looking forward to hearing from you.

(Hang up the phone...curse to myself for about 5 minutes, then decide to vent my frustration on this blog)

ETA: The rep called me back to say that she spoke with someone in Accounting, and they're going to keep it at $147. Makes me wonder how many people don't call and complain...

Sold a book, mailed some rebates

November 29th, 2006 at 02:21 pm

So what's new in my little world of finance...

I sold a book at half.com. The topic was how to be an executor for an estate. I bought it a few years back for $.10 from our library, and I made $2.50 on the sale. I'll be the executor for my father's estate, so I thought it might come in handy, until my dad proceeded to tape record step-by-step instructions on how to take care of everything. (He's a bit eccentric, or a control freak, maybe a bit of both)! So the book was expendable.

I mailed out a bunch of rebates today, and have one more to go that I need to get out before this weekend. Then the cycle starts all over again. I never really got into rebates before a few months ago but, man, it's unbelievable the deals that are out there. In some cases I'm getting a few bucks back on things I definitely would have bought anyway, so that's cool. In other cases, there are Free After Rebate (or close to it with coupons) that have allowed me to try new things and/or build up my stockpile of stuff.

I can't remember the last time I paid for toothbrushes, toothpaste, mouthwash, deoderant, most shampoo (hubby's brand loyal), hair spray, deoderant, feminine products. Amazing, and I'm not even that good at it, relative to some of the people out there. One of my goals between now and the end of the year is to figure out the best way to track it all...I've been struggling with that one for a while.

Watched the Grinch last night - another classic. It's on Broadway through January, but I haven't heard any reviews yet. (B'way shows have gotten SO unbelievably expensive, with tickets regularly topping $100 each. Even with the two-fers, it's still a lot of money).

Watched a Charlie Brown Christmas

November 27th, 2006 at 07:27 pm

I had a pretty productive day! I mailed invitations for a Christmas open house. It's 3 weeks away, and I'll plan the menu once I figure out how many are coming. I also wrote out thank you cards from DS's birthday party, and will mail them out tomorrow when I get more stamps.

Got the first of many Christmas gifts delivered to the house. (I LOVE internet shopping!). Now I have to find a place to hide them, as the kids pretty much have full run of the place and have already discovered my first two places. The trunk of the car is looking pretty appealing...

Received a $10 rebate and a $3 check to apply toward my cell phone bill. Also, I got information in the mail about a class action suit against Verizon Wireless. If I sign up for a 2-year extension (which I would do anyway), I get a $30 credit on my bill. So that's cool.

One of our Christmas traditions is to watch a Christmas show/cartoon each night. Tonight it was A Charlie Brown Christmas. It's such a classic...I get so moved when Linus does his speech...best holiday show by far!

Black Friday shopping

November 25th, 2006 at 08:13 am

I went out yesterday morning. Learned my lesson from last year, when I got to Kohls at 5:50am (they opened at 5:30) and there were already 40 people on line! So this year, I stayed local.

1st stop: CVS. Bought a Schick Women's Power razor 8.99-$2 coupon, with $8 in Extra Care Bucks (their reward program) coming back to me. Also got DS a portable CD player for Christmas for $8.88.

2nd stop: Staples. They were MOBBED, and sold out of everything in their sale ad (at 8:45 am!). Luckily, I only needed to get a desk calendar for dad, and a 6-outlet surge protector, far. Spent about $9, and will have $3.50 coming back to me.

3rd stop: Eckerd. Bought hubby a Gillette Fusion power razor for his stocking ($2.99 after mir). Also bought us a new cordless telephone, as ours is on the outs.

4th stop: Walgreens. Love this store...what didn't I get? Tide 50oz detergent 2/$4-$1 coupon. Leggs pantyhose 2/$4. Bought 6-$4 coupon = 6 pair for $8. Schick Quattro power razor $8.99-$7 coupons, $8.99 coming back to me after rebate. Revlon mascara $5.99-$2 coupons, $5 coming back to me. 8 votive candles for $.10 each, and wrapping paper, b2g1 free.

Final stop: Drug Fair. They were having triple coupons up to $.99, no limit. I got 2 tubes Aquafresh toothpaste, 3 colgate toothbrushes, and a package of CremeSavers candy, all free. Also bought a package of Snuggle fabric softener $4.99-$1.50 coupons, with a try me free offer to boot. Finally, bought 2 big clear storage bins for DD's doll stuff.

I was back home by 11:00. Not too shabby.

It's beautiful this weekend - sunny and in the mid-50s, so we're getting all of our outdoor decorating done. We're putting up our (fake) tree tonight, and I'm going to sit by the fire and fill out my rebate forms... Wahoo!

Happy Thanksgiving

November 22nd, 2006 at 07:23 am

It's so easy to lose sight of all we have to be thankful for, when we're mired in the day-to-day. Thanks everyone, for reading my blog and commenting, and have a great holiday!

I'm working from home today and off on Friday. I'm going into school for DD's Thanksgiving party, then to the library, and to get the kids haircuts. Thursday will be at hubby's cousin's house, then my dad's on Friday.

This weekend, we'll start decorating for Christmas! (As an aside, one of the local radio stations started playing 24 hour Christmas music 2 weeks ago! I like the music as much as anyone, but on November 15? Come on...)

I've done a great job making progress on my Christmas shopping. Ordered a bunch of stuff from American Girl (free shipping), and from Amazon (using discounted gift cards). I still have more things to get, but at least I know what I'm getting, so I'm ahead of the game and not at all stressed. I need to dig out my Christmas cards and get started on them, and send out Thank You cards from DS's birthday party.

I updated my October budget, and need to get caught up with November so I can see what kind of progress I've made in 2006. No doubt it will be some good, some bad. I did just receive my auto insurance renewal, and it was around $3,075. I have to look up last year's policy, because I could have sworn it was closer to $3,200. That would make my day!

So that's it for now. Have a great holiday everyone!

You think you know a person...

November 16th, 2006 at 08:41 pm

It's funny to read the lists and see how close my impressions of everyone were...Here's mine:

1. I'm a follower, not a leader. Hence my decision to wait until all of you posted your list before I posted mine.
2. I use ... alot.
3. Jane Eyre is my favorite book. The first time I read it (in high school), I stayed up until 4am to finish it.
4. Ferris Bueller is my favorite movie ever. I know the entire thing by heart!
5. I'm the youngest of ten, hubby's an only child. (Opposites attract).
6. I'm 100% Irish and hubby's 100% Italian. (Opposites attract).
7. My brother (5 years older than I am) hated me growing up. We fought like cats and dogs. Now we vacation together every year.
8. I used to run varsity track and cross country in high school (before I discovered beer!)
9. I have a really varied taste in music. My favorites are Tom Petty, Jimmy Buffett, and Bob Seger.
10. Both of my kids have the same name as my previous bosses at work, though I didn't really plan it that way.
11. When I'm not dressed up for work, I'm home in sweatpants, a T-shirt, and my hair in a ponytail.
12. The only makeup I own is lipstick, and I never wear it.
13. My middle name is Rita. I have no idea why.
14. I curse more than I should.
15. My big talent in 4th grade was gargling songs with water.
16. My nickname in college was Chuckie, because I looked like the character from the horror movie, with red hair and freckles!
17. My parents were 44 and 46 when I was born.
18. I'm totally organized at work and totally disorganized at home.
19. My oldest sister had twin boys on my 1st birthday.
20. I hate greeting cards and wrapping paper. Two of the biggest wastes of money ever (imho).
21. I never saw the Godfather, or Star Wars.
22. I love all puzzles. Sudoko, Kakuro, and crosswords are my favorite.
23. I'm great at math and english, horrible at science, history, and languages.
24. Hubby's a chemist. I have absolutely no idea what he does.
25. I have no artistic talent whatsoever.
26. We're big Dallas Cowboy fans. Went to Dallas on our honeymoon on the way to Hawaii to see the Cowboys play the Giants on Monday Night Football.
27. Went back on our 1st anniversary, and were next to another couple who were there on their honeymoon.
28. I think New Years Eve is the most overrated holiday ever. I've only had one stellar one in 36 years!
29. I love sports and hate shopping. I tell hubby that's why I'm such a catch!
30. I'm pretty cynical.
31. Love Connection with Chuck Wollery was my favorite show in college.
32. I love to cook gourmet meals and eat them with a glass of wine (or two)!
33. I love watching David Letterman and I met Jay Leno 20 years ago (before he was big).
33. I think I'm pretty fun.

I've really gotten a kick out of reading everyone's lists!

Gift Cards

November 15th, 2006 at 04:24 pm

2 updates on my last post...Went to the site where I get my discounted gift cards. Amazon, CC, and a whole bunch of others were out of stock, and they no longer sell Target, Home Depot, and Lowes. Yikes...Went to fatwallet.com, and it seems like the contract with those 3 companies may have expired. Went back on the site later in the day and Amazon and CC were available, so I jumped at it while I had the chance. Hopefully it will go smoothly...

It made me a bit more cautious about checking into the site mentioned by StressLess. They sell discounted gas cards, which are also being discontinued on the site I go to. So I need to do some research to make sure that everything is ok there.

I've been lazy about tracking my expenses lately. I usually get this way at the end of the year...I figure I'll start with a clean slate in January, and that will excuse my total disregard for numbers in November and December. I'll try for my own sake to overcome this.

(Have you ever noticed that I go ... alot? I don't know why, but it's really annoying!)

Phone Cards

November 13th, 2006 at 06:55 pm

My goal through the end of the year is to use up various calling cards I've acquired. I just received $30 calling cards from IDT as a result of a class action settlement, and probably have another 30 minutes or so on other cards. My plan is to use them as needed during the day, so I don't eat up my cell phone minutes. There's definitely an opportunity for savings here...I never think when I call someone - I just pick up the phone.

I also received a letter in the mail about a class action suit against Verizon Wireles. I need to read the details, but at first glance it looks like a $15 credit on my cell phone bill when it settles. Every little bit helps.

I took a quick glance at the Leisure Plus program that StressLess mentioned. I agree with her that I'm not sure that it's worth it...You can save a max of $180 on gas cards, but there's a $90 yearly fee, so you really only save $90, and I don't think there are many other aspects of the program I'd take advantage of. Still...$90 is $90. I'll have to consider this further.

Not much further along on the Christmas front. I do need to order some discounted gift cards to use at Amazon and Circuit City, so I'll be doing that this week.

Plumbing Progress

November 8th, 2006 at 03:56 pm

The contractor came today to fix my kitchen sink, which broke last Tuesday night. I've never been so happy to do dishes! Having to cart them from the kitchen to the bathroom and back has NOT been fun!

The kids are off tomorrow and Friday. I'm working tomorrow, so the kids are going to grandma's. On Friday we're taking the day off to go to lunch and the planetarium with my sister and nephew. The kids LOVE the planetarium, so it should be a great day...

I overestimated my dependent care for the year, so I'm going to lose some $ in my flexible spending account. The amount was already set when I switched departments (and hours) at work. Because I was going from one p/t job to another, I couldn't switch the amounts mid-year. Depending on how much I use the aftercare at school through the end of the year, it could be as much as $500. I'm trying not to stress too much, because $250 of my contributions are paid by hubby's company, and the tax break I'm getting on what I have used more than makes up for it, but still...

On the flip side, I'm excited about my health care FSA for next year. I increased the amount based on this year's usage. Now that otc medicines are eligible for reimbursements, I can double dip by submitting them to my FSA (and thus paying for them pre-tax). Pretty cool...

So that's about it here...we're in a lull, thank goodness!

Anniversary Weekend...

November 4th, 2006 at 03:00 pm

My anniversary is tomorrow - 12 years! To celebrate, kids are sleeping over at grandmas and we're going to a PTO fundraising dinner. Tomorrow, we're bringing the kids home and hanging around the house all day.

It's been COLD here - high in the mid-40s today, same tomorrow. I'm hoping hubby will light a fire tomorrow. First one of the fall. The chimney guy cleaned it out on Tuesday so it's ready to go!

DS's birthday is Monday (6!). We'll go to Grandma's for dinner so we can celebrate together. I still need to go shopping for his gifts. I know what to get, just need to get to the store.

Speaking of gifts, it's time I turn my attention to Christmas. I had the kids' pictures taken on Thursday and got them back today. (Talk about fast service - what a pleasant experience this was)! I think I have Christmas cards that I bought after Christmas last year, so I can begin writing them out at my leisure so they're ready to go Dec. 1.

I'm getting to be a Scrooge about Christmas cards. Aside from a few people that I'd really like to touch base with, why bother sending a card to someone just because I've done it every other year? There are so many people on the list that I only communicate with through Christmas cards (and vice versa), and I don't know that I'm really brightening their day by sending a message of good cheer. I'll have to ponder that one (more likely, see how many cards I have leftover lol!).

I also need to take a look at my gift list. DD's is easy, because she wants everything under the sun. DS is harder, because he's a pretty content kid, and I usually use up all of my ideas for him for his birthday. I'll need to think about hubby, too. I'm pretty good about writing ideas down during the year, just need to check back and see what I have.

As for the others, again, I'm going to cut down where I can. It just gets crazy. On the flip side, I always "adopt" a few kids through a program at work, and I feel awesome about that, because these kids would have nothing if not for the volunteers who take them. The kids are old enough to get involved with that, too this year.

Sorry for the long, rambling message. Haven't had a chance to post frequently, so I figured I'd have a brain dump and get it all out now...