Saturday, January 31, 2009

We Have A Schedule for A Reason

I'm at my weekend job and for the most part as I have blogged before, it's going well.  The trainer I work for is out of town this weekend and we are not expecting any major snow storms, no extreme cold, it's turning out to be a quiet weekend! 

Except for one thing.  We had a client drop off a horse last night. The horse is coming in for two weeks of training. There are set hours for pick up and delivery of animals.  The barn has a schedule, we are expected to stick to it as are the clients.  My boss is out of town but did call me to let me know that a client would be dropping off a horse just outside of working hours.  Fine, not a problem, I've checked in animals before.  The client called and I asked her to call when she was about 10 minutes away from the barn.  This would give me time to get from the house, to the barn and to turn on some lights.  I was assured that she would arrive no later than 6:45 PM. Since the other staff would  be  gone for the day, I would do the check in. I had a stall all ready and check in paperwork had been faxed to the office (vet records, emergency contact information).  All that needed to be done was to walk the horse off the trailer,  give it a check to make sure it traveled OK, put on a blanket for the night, put it in the stall, give it a carrot and a pat and turn off the barn lights. 

Seven o'clock came and went, no client.  Silly me, I forgot to get her phone number! The client calls at 8 PM saying "she got a late start" and would be there by 8:00/8:15 at the latest.  It would have been nice if she had called. I put my dinner on hold and did not eat until almost 8:45 by the time I got the animal in, settled and the owner sent back on it's way. The owner wanted to "hang out" for a while to make sure the horse was "OK". I said that the barn was closed, that I had to get back to the house and that the horse would be fine. I all but dragged this owner out of the barn. I hate it when the owners get "separation anxiety".  The owner also called at 7:30 AM to check up on the horse.  Thank goodness one of the weekend staff picked up the phone and said it was fine. 

 6:45 AM came way too early this am.  By 8:45 PM most nights at the barn, I'm getting ready to put on my jammies and get to bed. Yeah, I'm whining, but the reason the facility has set hours is so that the staff gets a proper break.  I did my first formal complaint to my boss and said it's one thing to take a late arrival, it's another to have to baby sit an owner way past my working hours who arrives almost two hours late with nary a phone call. 

2:22 AM

I woke up in the middle of the night and looked at the clock. It was 2:22 AM- freaky!

Just an odd random thought this morning!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Tell All Tuesday on Thursday

I've been dealing with an upturn in work at work (a good thing!) and yesterdays dump of snow and ice in New England. Don't you just love winter?

I wanted to do a mini follow up to my Sunday post before I do PartIV of my Bankrupt Street saga.

When I reread the post, I don't think I made it clear that prior to the BK I had stopped using my credit cards, except for a some instances that I had to (plane tickets for work travel, car rentals, hotels). I was doing some travel related to my now defunct part time business and needed to use the credit cards, car rentals with a debit card are doable, but not easy.

Probably one of the most frustrating aspects of the whole situation prior to the Bankruptcy was that I had been making measurable, but slow progress in my debt reduction. I paid my bills on time, used cash 98% of the time, tried not to incur any additional debt. I did not take my credit cards and go on wild shopping sprees, take fancy expensive trips, buy expensive designer clothes with the intent of going bankrupt and evading my debt responsibilities. I used them for things like clothes shopping, gas, the Home Depot, what most of us would consider everyday purchases. When I realized (about 2.5 to 3 years prior to the BK) that my income was not increasing, I made the decision to go to a cash only basis, except for those instances where I needed to use credit. I tried to use my Am Ex since I had to pay that card off at the end of the month in full, but I do admit that I did use my credit cards for things like the travel, car rentals and yes, the odd occasional voyage to Macy's.

And as I wrote in the post, when things started to go south and the Universal Default kicked in, my balances sky rocketed because of the additional interest that got piled on. Then life got interesting as I like to say.

My next post about Bankrupt Street-How I am slowly getting off Bankrupt Street. The lessons I have had to re-learn, and what I've learned (and am still learning) about myself through this whole process, and how I've survived my first year post discharge.

Have a sunny day all!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Tell All Tuesday on Sunday-Bankrupt Street-How I Got There Part III

Here is the part III of how I became Bankrupt and it's not pretty!  In previous posts, you read about my personal history and my relationship with money.  In this post I'll elaborate a bit what led me to finally filing the Bankruptcy.

I previously posted about the Universal Default clause that oh so many credit card companies have as part of their Consumer agreement.  I can truthfully say, that the Universal Default is the most consumer unfriendly fiscal invention ever created.  

One of my fiscal issues was my slowly depleting savings account.  Part of the joy of home ownership is being responsible for the repairs and maintenance on the home itself.  I knew my house had some issues, but my home inspection did not turn up any major projects that needed doing.  Enter my insurance company.  First they wanted me to get a new roof.  Why? The roof I had was fine, about 12 years old and fine.  The insurance company said their inspection deemed the roof old and past it's shelf life.  Five quotes and four roofing contractors telling me the roof had at least another 5 years left in it,  I had the roof redone.  Two years later, the insurance company wanted me to paint my house.  Yes, I did have some peeling paint, but it was not that bad, in fact, I had put new siding on one part of the house and was slowly planning on working my way around the house, new siding and new windows.  Painting seemed to me to be a waste of someones time and my money, but the same deal, if I did not paint, I would be cancelled. So I got the house painted.  (and got a new insurance company after the fact too). All that came out of my small savings account and I did not replenish that savings account. 

Being underemployed played a big part in my fiscal downfall. I had a reduced salary and reduced benefits. I had to pick up part of the cost of my medical insurance, which later came back to bite me.  I also agreed to a new salary structure (and did not get it in writing-BIG MISTAKE) which eventually did not pan out.

As I stated earlier, I stopped using my credit cards.  I had 5 credit cards. Yup 5.  I was close to being maxed out on two, had plenty of credit on 2 of them and one was an AmEx. I would use the Am Ex because I had to pay it off each month.  I could not give up the plastic entirely, but I was managing. I still spent money, I just used my debit card. I was paying my bills and still "having a life". 

In 2005 I hit a streak of really bad luck and as I say, even with good research and carefully sought out advice, I started having huge money issues and the Universal Default started to rear it's ugly head. In no particular order the following things happened. My job, job description and pay scale changed, I tried to start a new part time business with someone, I made some bad investments with part of my retirement account, I started going through some relationship issues, and I just made some bad, bad decisions with my money. This is where I really wish I had found the world of Personal Finance and PF bloggers.  At this point, I may have been able to salvage myself.  May have been.

The Universal Default started to kick in a couple months after one of my car payments went missing in the mail. I got a late notice from the loan company, checked my bank account, saw the check never cleared and sent off a new check. No ding yet. A few months later I just totally forgot to pay my car loan. Nobodies fault but my own.  Paid the current and past due and had the 30 day late charge.  A few months later I open my credit credit card and was stunned to see the minimum amount due was like double what it had been the month before.  My first thought was 'Damm the payment did not make it", but I looked on the statement and yes, the payment had made it with room to spare, but my interest rate had been increased.  Up until this point I never had a late payment to my credit cards. I paid on line so that the payment hit the day before the due date or mailed it so that it arrived before the due date. I was not using my credit cards-How could this happen to me?  I called the company and the slightly apologetic lady told me that one reason my interest rate went up was because of my late payments.  To which I replied-"What late payments?" I'm looking at the past 18 months of statements and not one late payment.  

This is when she told me that the company could and did, exercise it's option to raise my interest rate because of my payment history with another lender.  Universal Default.  Guess what, I had no recourse to this Universal Default clause either.

To say that things snowballed is to put it mildly.  If you are reading this, then you have lived my story.  One credit card after another started increasing not only the interest rate, but one bank also upped the minimum due.  It was a double whammy.  Where I was making slow and steady progress in paying down the debt , I now could barely keep up with the payments.  Instead of seeing my amount owed decrease each month, it stayed pretty constant, only dropping literally a few dollars like 2 or 3.  Calls to have the percentage rate dropped fell on deaf ears, and one card holder also then decreased the credit limit as well.  They did this since I was not using the card (duh-I'm paying it off!) and my repayment history with other lenders was not good. I was denied even the chance of playing the balance transfer game. 

So here I am, with a non existent savings account, credit card payments that were manageable now through the roof, a change in my job pay scale (which in hindsight was STUPID, STUPID, STUPID), a several bad fiscal decisions, topped off by me having personal issues that just totally crapped out my year. I felt like someone had put a hex on me for 2005,  I really did.  

2006 did not start of much better, in fact, it got worse.  I was relying on promised bonuses to help with the credit card crunch I was in.  Because of the new job description and a change in the company (ie my boss did not want to pay out the new bonuses when he realized how much was going to employees and not him), our bonus structure got changed and guess what? I did not get the bonus I had been anticipating.  Talk about being screwed.... but let's face it, I did not plan well and relied far to much on that supposed bonus. 

In mid 2006 I switched jobs to a new company (the one I work for now), better pay, closer to home, but my credit situation was not improving. In fact, it was still spiraling out of control. I started missing payments on my credit cards, I spent money  I should have put towards my credit cards, I honored some personal obligations that cost me more money, I just made bad decisions.  To stop the hemorrhaging I took money out of my 401K, early withdrawal penalty be dammed.  It helped somewhat but did not stop the problem.  I still could not get out of my own way to improve my situation. No matter what I did, things just got worse. 

At this point, I had paid off my car loan, had put my student loan in deferment (again), and was trying to see if I could reverse the damage done.  Quite simply, I could not. I was paying more in debt repayments that I was taking in income.  My part time business partnership went no where and cost me money, I was having health issues that I had to cover payments out of pocket because of my high deductible plan (about $3,500 worth of bills, my deductible was $5,000). I had some minor car repairs to my old car, but it all added up.  

I started to do even more stupid things. I was ignoring the phone calls and letters from the credit card companies that may have been able to put me on a more reasonable repayment plan.  I did not seek out help. I just got totally overwhelmed.  One credit card company did "catch up" with me and I did set up a repayment plan, reduced interest rate, I got to pick the payment date, etc.  

What stuck out in my mind was the comment from the representative setting up the repayment schedule.  "Ms. B, you have been a customer of this bank for 10 years and never a late payment. In fact, up until this past year, you have been a great customer"  what happened?  All I could respond was that Life took a bad turn and I just never got back on the right street."    

After this conversation, I got up the belated courage to try and contact the other companies to see if I could work out a similar repayment plan.  No such luck.  I was a "day late and more than a dollar short". 

What eventually drove me to the Bankruptcy was being slapped with a judgement by one of the credit card companies. I was being taken to court for my credit card debt.  I was already napping on my couch when the Marshall came to my door to hand me the summons, but that put me to bed at 6:30 PM not to get out of bed until 8:00 AM the next day. I felt totally shattered that day, just shattered, run over and out of ideas as to what to do. 

I called my attorney to ask about what they hell I was supposed to do with this summons. He referred me to his partner who specialized in debt collection and bankruptcies and strongly suggested I make an appointment to see his Partner.   With great reluctance I made the appointment and brought all my documents as requested by his paralegal.  He reviewed my documents and said I was a candidate for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. I asked why not Chapter 13?  In my mind, I had collected these debts and I should repay them. If my creditors did not accept my plan for repayment, they would accept the courts and I could repay my debts. 

My attorney said the success rate of C13's was far less than C7's. In fact, C13's were harder to get than C7's, or so said he. We talked about me and my situation.  He gave me a bunch of paperwork to read and told me to think about it over the weekend and to call back on Monday.

I took the paperwork home and did not look at it for two days.  I was in denial about the whole surreal process, I really was.  Bankruptcy was a dirty word.  Only slimy people filed bankruptcy, the negative connotations were all swirling around in my head. People are going to read about me in the paper!  Me Bankrupt? I could just not fathom it all.   I spent a lot of time that weekend feeling  terrible and detached from myself.   I reread all the papers given to me and I did some internet research.  I went to bed one night still unsure of what to do.

I woke up the next morning and my decision was made, I would start the Bankruptcy process.  I was feeling beat up and I was tired. I called the law office and made a follow up appointment to start the paperwork. As they say, the rest is history, I became Bankrupt Betty that day.

Part IV- I'm Bankrupt Now What and how I'm getting off of Bankruptcy Street.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Meal Planning

Ugh! I'm at job number 3 and I've just done some of my weekly shopping. Food prices here are a good 5% more than back "at home". I have two bags of groceries in the car, mainly pantry staples, some treats (and that's what upped the grocery bill).   I have to set aside one week night as my shopping night. I'm just used to the stores near my house. I'm not a big fan of grocery shopping anyway and wandering aimlessly around a store is not the way I wish to spend my daily break.

That being said, I've planned out a weeks worth of meals. I'm taking a page from Ugly Debty and using up some things in the cupboards and some things not getting any better in the freezer. 

I have the fixings for the following meals (which will make leftovers for lunch)

Black beans and rice.
Mushroom Bourguignon-a la smitten kitchen.
Chicken thighs to be roasted, toasted or made into curry.
Lentil or split pea soup with some leftover ham.
Pasta Sauce-either Creamy Vodka or Puntanesca.

I have all the ingredients save for about $5 worth of things I'll need to buy (more mushrooms some cardamon pods for a curry, a few more olives). 

I have to get better about pre-planning my meals for this weekend job.  I have access to a kitchen, but the condiments are limited as are the cooking pots and pans. I do have a crockpot, a bunch of frying pans, some baking pans and two small sauce pans.  What I've been doing is packing most of my leftovers for my meals with a sandwich from the gourmet one day for lunch or a small pizza for dinner.  Last week I made re fried bean soup (from a year of Crockpotting), this week, I'm making a potato and artichoke heart tortilla from Smitten Kitchen.  There is a jar of artichoke hearts here that I was told I can use.  Plus the barn chickens have supplied us with lots of eggs this week. 

I've been using the excuse that my schedule is all off kilter to fall off the menu planning bandwagon.  I just have to do a little creative planning to make it work. 

Friday, January 23, 2009

People First Part II

$530 later, I have a ticket to the UK.   I should say the flight itself was $387, the rest is taxes, fees, surcharges, etc. AND since I'm not flying British Airways or first class, I have to also budget out for  checked baggage.  I'll have one carry on (a small wheelie case), my "personal item" (an oversized handbag) and one large checked bag.  I'm using space bags to shrink wrap my clothes so I can use just one checked bag.

I called my one friend with the ill husband and told her to book me space on her couch. She sounded thrilled and delighted that I will be able to come over. I expressed concern about staying at her home if her husband was not up to company and she said not to worry.  I know she means it.

I'm feeling a lot better about going. Like others have commented, sometimes you have to go. I am lucky that I can make this work out for me.  I know I also need a vacation and while I won't be a tourist per se, I have booked two nights at a B & B so I can have some "me time" and do a little sightseeing.  The travel agenda is slowly coming together. I've been researching rental cars (it will cost me almost the same amount in train and bus travel as it will to rent a car, plus I will have the freedom of not being tied to the Brit Rail train schedule!) I know gas is very expensive, but again, I'll budget accordingly.

I am grateful I have friends in the UK that I can stay with.  Plus the dollar is getting stronger against the pound, so I'll get more bang for the buck as they say.

A blue moon ago I had the great luck to take a "flying visit" to the UK.  Someone had paid for my ticket, I had animal sitters, I had spare time off and I booked a quick flight to the UK for a former co-worker and friends engagement party.  It was one of those trips where everything fell into place.  I got to park my car at a relatives house for free (they lived 15 minutes from the airport). I got to the ticket counter and I got upgraded to Business Class, plus use of the Business Class pre and post flight lounge.  I was given a discount coupon for the duty free shop, I got to my destination, I was given a  rental car upgrade and my hotel room was upgraded as well.  It was a sweet trip as they say.   Lets all keep our fingers crossed and hope the universe will be that kind to me again!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

People First, Then Money, Then Things

This is a Suze Orman motto. Right now I am putting it in play. I have just managed to adapt to my new crazy work schedule and have managed to figure out a new bill paying routine. Life is getting better!

I am taking a page from Suze Orman and putting people first. I have some friends who live in the UK. I've not been to see them since late 2006. We e-mail and talk on the phone, but it's just not the same. One of my friends has been ill this past year and just became very ill. So ill that he has been in hospital for two weeks. As of now, the doctors don't know what is wrong; they just can't seem to find what is making my friend so sick. I spoke to his wife the other day and she is very worried, so much so that they are going private with their medical instead of staying in the National Health Service.

I got off the phone and thought about them and some of my other friends, both here in the US and in the UK. I have several freinds that are substantially older than I am. It seems right now they are all getting sick and ill and this greatly distresses me. Honestly, I've been so wrapped up in me that I feel like I've neglected them and have not touched based, so to speak. I went to bed on Monday with a heavy heart. I woke up on Tuesday and watched the Obama Inauguration and decided a trip to the UK was in order.

I am in desperate need of a new computer (a thing) and do need to replace my gutters and renovate my sorely outdated and in need of repair bathroom (money and things) and I want to keep funding my E-fund (money). I picked out a week, did my fare research and booked my flight last night. I can stay with friends for most of my trip and I'm figuring out the rest of my itinerary, if I need a hotel or a car or if I can do this by public transportation and bumming rides and couches off of people.

The new practical personal finance person in me says "Oh, you really should not do this trip! You know, planes, trains, automobiles and the various and assorted miscelleanous expesnes that crop up can really stretch the budget. I also have to get animal sitters for my animals as well-:).

But my friend is very ill and I really feel a strong need to go over and see him and his wife (plus a couple other friends as well). I'm hoping that this illness will pass. I'm hoping he will be up and running around by the time I come over.  I hope for many things. The new lap top will wait, the gutters suffice for now and maybe I'll really become a Tool Belt Diva to fix my own bathroom. I'll WILL find a way to make this work
People first, the bathroom and computer can wait.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

History Made

Pipe Burst Update

I ran over to the neighbors last night to see the damage.  Imagine my shock when I found out the frozen pipe was actually running behind the electric baseboard heater.  Had the heat been on, even low, the plumber said the pipe would not have frozen and burst.  The repair was fairly straight forward, rip out a huge section of wall and then fix the pipes.  Plumber bill was $250 for the repair, excluding the work to repair the wall.


Monday, January 19, 2009

Surviving The Cold Snap by Not Being Penny Wise and Pound Foolish

We had a wicked cold spell here in New England, maybe not as bad as like North Dakota, but when I woke up on Saturday it was -4F, it got to a high of 12F where I work on the weekends. Oh can you say BRRRRR. The barn was a balmy 45F, a combination of the animals and the heat. I felt like I was in Bali.

I was worried about my own little house. I had my pipes freeze one year, thawed in time, thank goodness. I started the "heating process" for this past weekend early, like Thursday AM. I turned on all the electric baseboard heat (and watched the meter spin wildly), turned all the cold water faucets to a steady drip, and opened the cabinet doors so the heat could reach the pipes under the sink. I also asked my lovely neighbor to check the taps each day for me, left and crossed my fingers. I came home to a toasty warm house (63F) and running water. Normally when I leave for the weekend, I turn the heat down to around 45 or 50, its' been chilly when I've come home. I crank the gas fireplace for a quick warm up. Thank you universe for protecting my pipes this past weekend.

My lovely neighbors were not so lucky. They had one pipe freeze and another burst. Luckily, it happened while one of them was home and they were able to turn off the water to the house and locate the broken pipe. They had a pipe freeze a couple years ago and had a feeling it was in the same area. It was. They have a plumber coming over today to assess the damage.

I talked to lovely neighbors wife last night (she came over to take a shower) and to thank her for checking on my house. I asked what temperature she had the heat on at her house when the pipe froze/burst. She shocked me by saying that they had turned off the electric heat to the house and were relying on the wood stove for heat. I was stunned to say the least. They turned off the heat. The wood stove is on the opposite side of the house from almost all the plumbing. They have an open floor plan of a kitchen~dining room ~living room. The wood stove is in the living room. The laundry/mud room, just off the kitchen, was an addition to the house is on concrete piers and has sort of an open space underneath it. They also had the door to the laundry-mud room closed (too drafty) during the cold snap. This is also where the water pipes come in and converge. The pipes between the laundry-mud room and the kitchen froze. I know that money is becoming an issue with them and believe me I know how expensive running electric baseboard heat is. BUT the vicious cold spell was only supposed to last a couple days. I made the decision to run the heat to avoid such as issue as frozen/burst pipes. I know I'll see a spike in my electric bill, but my plumber runs $85 an hour just to show up, I don't think I spent $85 in electric this past weekend.

I really feel for my lovely neighbors. I know they are having a bunch of issues, one of them money. This repair is not going to be cheap by any standard, even with them doing a fair amount of the non plumbing work themselves. By having the electric heat on would it have avoided the frozen pipe issue, maybe, maybe, maybe not. But I think yes, it might, the mudroom would have been warm, the kitchen warm, the pipe that burst was in the wall between the two rooms. Sigh. I do feel sorry for them in this case. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Guest Post -Debt Settlement

The following is a guest post from Tricia Wagner a writer at Destroy Debt

Debt Settlement: Things You Need To Know Before Enrolling

Recently I read that Americans' debt is shrinking for the first time ever. This is partially due to the fact that lenders are upping the requirements for people to acquire and use credit. This is good for people for the following reasons. First people are forced to take a hard look at how they are spending their money and rein in their spending during these difficult economic times. Second, people who are in denial about their debt are forced to face the reality of their financial situation and develop a plan to eradicate it once and for all. There are several methods to eliminate debt including debt settlement which is gaining in popularity.

Understanding debt settlement.

Debt settlement is a process in which a company negotiates with a credit card company to settle your account for a lump sum amount less than what you owe. This is a useful way to reduce the amount you have to pay by up to 50%, however in order for the credit card company to “deal” you have to be delinquent with your accounts which of course has a negative affect on your credit. If you have a significant amount ($10,000 or higher) of credit card debt and find you are unable to make the minimum payments, debt settlement may be an option to avoid filing for bankruptcy. Conversely if you have any reasonable way to continue repayment on your credit card accounts you would likely want to consider a process less damaging to your credit.

What is the ideal length of the program?

Before you sign on with a company to represent you in this process you should find out the length of time it will take to settle the debts. It is not advisable to be in a debt settlement program that is longer than 3 years. Remember in order to make a lump sum settlement payment you are putting money aside versus paying your credit card payments. While you are not paying, the credit card companies are pursuing you either themselves or through a debt collector. Since going to court can get costly in most cases the creditors will prefer to settle the accounts, however if they feel they have exhausted all methods of debt collection they do have the right to sue you for unpaid debt. Therefore the shorter the program the better.

Factors that may affect negotiating a successful settlement.

Negotiating a settlement can get tricky, here are a few things that may affect the likelihood of your creditors settling.

• Proving a financial hardship will go a long way toward a successful settlement. If you can prove you were unable to make your payments due to loss of employment, medical issues or some other hardship you will make out better than someone who simply didn't manage their credit wisely.

• Your recent account activity will play a role in whether or not your creditor wants to settle. If you recently made a very large purchase and then stop paying on your account, it may appear that you never intended to pay in the first place.

• If you have filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy in the past 7 years a creditor may be less likely to settle. After all settlement is generally the last stop before bankruptcy and if you are unable to file....they may decide settling is not in their best interest.

Personally I am neither for nor against debt settlement. It seems to be a legitimate way for a person experiencing a financial hardship to avoid filing bankruptcy while repaying a portion of their debt. On the other hand there are a lot of “ifs” involved and it would seem that if a settlement is handled poorly you may find yourself owing more in the end. I think anyone considering this option should be diligent in researching the company they intend to work with and make sure there is no other way to reduce your debt before proceeding.

Trisha Wagner is a freelance writer for, a debt community featuring debt forums. Trisha writes regularly on the topics of getting out of debt and personal finance.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Bankrupt Street, How I Got There--Tell All Tuesday Revisited

Last month when I had a mini meltdown over an unkind comment on job number 3, one of my readers asked me to post how I became bankrupt. This week I will!. I have links to two posts done last year that explain a bit about me, my background, and my fiscal education. I'll post at the end of the week the third installment of how I ended up on Bankrupt Street. I've not edited them other than to increase the font size. I will warn you a head of time, I rambled on a bit.

Click here for Part I on my story.

Click here for Part II of my story.

Why I am putting out to my readers my story? Well, it's because I don't think my story and my fall into Bankruptcy is much different that what has happened and is happening to many folks. I did not plan to go bankrupt at any point in my life. Heck, at this point in my life, I expected to be at a totally different place than I am now, both personally and professionally. The fact of the matter is I'm not in that place. What has to happen is for me to put a lot of things behind me, move forward with my life and "bounce back". One reason I started this blog was to have a place to ramble on about my BK and the process (which I have done) and another reason is to let folks know that with time, effort and energy, you can bounce back from bankruptcy. I'm doing it and I want others to know it can be done!

NTSC Vs. ATSC and my TV

While not quite personal finance related, I am having a bit of a situation. Last year, my holiday present to myself was a new LCD flat screen HDTV. I was lucky enough to get a ton of gift cards and with a little budgeting; I bought a new 26 inch LCD TV that replaced my little 12 inch color TV. I made sure that I got a TV with an HD receiver. The description on the company web site, the box and the instruction manual all say that the TV is able to receive both NTSC and ATSC signals (analog and digital).

Imagine my surprise last night when my local station was running a digital broadcast test. I got the dreaded message that my TV is getting that particular message screen because it is not digital ready! WTF? I pulled out the owner’s manual and sure enough, my TV is supposed to be digital ready. So what gives here?

I had gotten a coupon for a converter box and had purchased said converter box a few months back, why I have no idea, I supposedly had an HD ready TV! I figured I'd be nice and put it on freecycle and give it to someone. I hooked it up to my TV and hooked up my antenna to the box. I tried scanning for channels and got the same dammed 5 ones I already have (I don't have cable), which is less than the usual 8 (one is very fuzzy though) I can get with the regular NTSC signal. I don't see any of the new and improved HD local  channels that are supposedly being broadcast. Do I see an improvement in my picture quality with the box-nope, if anything, I see a decrease in quality.

I'm not a happy camper to say the least. I will have to do some research and probably have to hook up/rehook up boxes and DVD players to figure this out. This is my TV watching season and I'm not happy about spending all this time trying to get even a signal period!

Are you ready for the switch?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

This Is Why They Pay Me The Big Bucks....

Well, not really, but today is just one of those days.  Here in New England, we are having a snow storm. Not a huge one, about 7 inches fell last night and into this AM.  Sort of typical by New England standards. I am at my barn sitting job-hence forth known as job number 3.  Previous weekends have been fairly uneventful.  The chores have become routine, the staff that comes in does there work, my oversight has been minimal, my "hands on" all depends on who is around to do work and how many animals need care.  I sometimes have a stretch of several free hours where I am not needed.  This is not the case today.

Earlier this week, New England had a mini ice storm. Not as bad as the storm that hit in December, but just enough to turn three exterior exercise paddocks into hockey rinks.  And you don't put horses out that cost many thousands of dollars onto hockey rinks.  Tendons can bow, legs can break, handlers can slip and fall and break hips.

One of the weekend staff is out sick with the flu, the other weekend staffer had a "snow emergency" (which I think is another phrase for hangover-I hear a lot of alcohol was consumed while watching the Bruins play hockey). It's me and 19 horses that need to be fed, watered, turned out into the indoor arena so they can get a stretch of their legs, stalls cleaned, buckets cleaned, aisles swept, laundry done.  Oh.. doing it all alone today-it's just 11 am and my back hurts.   I am on my morning break, the Advil and a good strong cup of tea are calling me. I am already looking forward to my own warm and comfy bed and I've not even made my lunch yet.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

It Arrived In My Account, It Left My Account…

I got a holiday bonus. I was surprised and pleased by the amount and I was expecting it at the end of December. I got it, but it was in the form of additional pay, not straight bonus and was less than expected (after taxes). Sigh

I really should not look a gift horse in the mouth, but I had hoped for a separate check. I had made plans to allocate the funds based on the full amount, not the post tax amount. I ended up paying for ½ of my homeowners insurance, I overpaid on my electric bill, and I spent a little more at IKEA than I had anticipated, and I bought my Christmas present to myself (a new glorious feather bed and a ring from I had also forgotten that I had a bill to pay for my web hosting for my “personal” web site. I have a good deal with Lunarpages, but I had not planned to pay for the hosting now. I somehow had made the notation that the hosting was due in June, my domain name is due in June, the two have different dates and somehow, I have them as both being due at June. By the time my check writing was done, not that much was left over.

Ah well, I may not have as much as I would have liked to dump into my Efund, but I am paid and current on all my bills as of January 5th. Plus the featherbed is due to arrive any day now….

Sunday, January 4, 2009

A Good Start to The New Year

I've had a good couple days to start the new year. Which is a good thing! I had a great New Year's Eve party with my neighbors (despite the bitter bitter cold New England Temps). I slept in a bit the next morning, but still got up early to take part in an old New Year's Tradition.

When I lived in the Washington DC area, I used to have a New Year's eve/day routine. For some reason, my then boyfriend would take off to visit friends and family from after Boxing until the 2nd or 3rd of January. I'd be on my own. I'd make Hopping John on New Years Eve to eat on New Years Day. It's an old tradition in the American South that if you ate Hopping John (which is a blacked eyed peas and rice dish), you would have good luck in the upcoming year. New Years Day, I'd get up, watch some TV, clean my house and then make a drive to IKEA to pick up a couple items and have the Swedish Meatball lunch.

Shopping at IKEA on New Years Day is always interesting. Lots of slightly stressed parents, lots of cranky kids, lots of many things. I usually breeze in there with my list of items, check out some things that I saw in the catalog, grab my lunch and head home.

I went a bit over my $30 limit at IKEA, but I did not spend it on anything not needed. I got a nice glass shelf for my bathroom, 2 pillow covers for the pillows I'm using as couch cushions on my love seat (the pillows are an unusual size and I was having a hard time finding covers I liked that were not $40 each), a new hanging lamp for over my kitchen stove,a wicker basket in a size I really needed for an upcoming project and a couple miscellaneous items. I also checked out the new beds they have and drooled over a couple of the metal/iron framed ones. I'd like to get a new bed this year and the two styles I saw where less than $200 for the frames. Maybe not this month, but I will see how I can re-work my budget come March. It's given me an incentive to save additional funds. I can be sooo materialistic at times.

I did make it home in time to get the car unpacked, eat my Hopping John and take a nice nap while watching the Rose Bowl. It was a good way to start my New Year!