Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Best Laid Plans....

I'm dead to the world all snuggly in my bed at 11:45 PM last night, dreaming of pints of real ale and egg mayonnaise and cress sandwiches when my phone rings. I don't answer, but let the machine pick up thinking it has to be a wrong number. My phone has not rung past 9:30 PM in months.

Nope, it's my ride to the airport. Seems he's had a change in plans and thus my ride has changed. I will be leaving 4 hours earlier than planned to get to the airport. Which means I'll be sitting at a major New York metropolitan airport for almost 8 hours with two books and my mobile phone.

With such little notice in the travel plans, I was not able at 6:15 this am to find an alternate ride. I live about 3 hours from the major NY metropolitan airport that I am flying out of. My ride actually has a consulting assignment close to the airport and this ended up being a win win. He got someone to talk to for the ride down, I got a ride down.

I was at work by 7:00 AM to finish my last few items, called my boss at 8:15 AM told him my abbreviated day started at 7:00 AM and then I would be out the door.

Oh yeah, did I mention it's SNOWING right now......

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Posting For The Next Week or Two

I'm in the last gasp stages of getting myself set to leave. I have a ton of work dropped on my desk that has to get done TODAY and then I'm off! I'll try to post while I'm away, I'll see if I can find a "semi-private" computer to post on.

Feedburner issues?

Hum, I now have 13 subscribers? Yikes

Monday, February 23, 2009

Some Updates and General Musings

The good news of the weekend was coming home and finding the refund of the overpayment to my mortgage in my mail box. I skipped my Monday morning coffee treat and deposited that baby to my primary bank at 8:30 AM.

After a conversation with two of my UK friends, I bit the bullet and downloaded a UK map for my GPS. A couple of us are going to do a "girls only" road trip. Problem, the girls driving with me are "directionless", they don't drive that much and don't own a GPS. Since I hate getting lost and we are going to places I've never been, I bought the map and downloaded it this am. I'm not wild about spending an additional $75, but I think this will be money well spent and save the hassle of my traveling companions reading maps while I drive.

My elderly friend is buying a house. I've posted about her before. This is scary. She has a multitude of health issues, can't live alone, and has been in and out of the hospital and nursing/rehab facilities for the past few months. For a variety of reasons way to complicated to go into, she had a falling out with our mutual friend Dee with whom she was living with and decided to go out on her own. I spoke to both my elderly friend and to Dee about this. Dee and I agree, elderly friend can not live on her own and needs more hands on care. The problem is elderly friend does not see, or more than likely, does not want to see that she needs more skilled medical care. Her answer is to move out on her own. Honestly folks, I hope I don't get the phone call that elderly friend was found dead in her home (cheery Monday thought is it not?). Dee and I are not the only ones who think this way, Elderly friends other friends have commented on her health situation as well.

I can't complain too much about the drain on my account. As pointed out, I'm getting about 99% of the money back. I just wanted to get on the plane with 'cash in hand'. Not getting a check from my second job is a bit of a bummer as well. I knew that the payroll situation would be addressed by March 1st, but I'm outta here on Thursday and the barn does not do direct deposit. Ah well, it will be waiting for me when I get home and I won't blow the money on things like beer and food and cheap tacky souvenirs.

Plus I did spend money on me this past two weeks. I got my hair done at the salon, I got a 4 pack of 2G SD cards at Costco (only $28USD), I used one for my GPS map download and one for my camera (my old SD card was 512MB). I bought a new blanket to leave at the weekend job. Not only do I have a shelf in the kitchen, I have two drawers in a dresser for clothes, etc. I got queen sized lightweight down blanket. I love down duvets and can use this blanket at home come summer. The weekend job house actually keeps the heat on 65F day and night. At my house, the heat only gets to 55F! I also bought two pans (total cost $30) at Marshall’s to keep at the second job house. These pans are the not the best things on the market, but “compliment” the ones that are there and I’ll be able to do things like make a boat load of soup or stew and then pack it up to take it home for my lunches for the week. Since I’m not a DIY diva, I finally found a handyman to do a few things around the house, fix my exterior porch light that was dangerously hanging off the side of the house, fix/repair a gate and a couple other little projects that I just have not been able to get to. I’d really love it if this handyman person can give me a decent quote on my bathroom work. A vacation, a new computer AND my bathroom redone. Good lord, I’d be in pig spit heaven! Keep your fingers crossed.

Friday, February 20, 2009

My Bank Account Is Bleeding Money

Ugh, this trip is costing me lots of cash.  AND when I got to my weekend job today, no pay check as I had hoped. I had hoped for another partial paycheck, but the trainer is off this weekend and as told earlier, new checks will be cut next week. It's times like this I wish for direct deposit for this job. I made the offer to bring over to the UK some treats and clothes for my friends.  Last time they did not take me up on the offer, this time they did. I have laid out about $300, of which I'll get back $280 (I bought two tee-shirts as gifts).

Clothes are much less expensive here in the US than they are in the UK.  Like half the price.  I've picked up jeans, sweatshirts, a fleece jacket, and some shoes.  I've figured out the exchange rate and I'll get paid in Sterling when I'm "across the pond".  It's just a little shocking to see the money depart my account NOW.  I will use that money as my pocket cash. The upside is I'll be given cash and I won't have to pay that overseas transaction fee of 3% when I take money out of the ATM.  

I went to my bank to "buy" some Sterling and found out they no longer sell or buy non US dollars.  They directed me to the local Bank of America.  I figured out that it will be cheaper for me to just go to the currency exchange booth at the airport and get some Sterling to get me started.  BoA has some sort of a  ridiculous fee that is more than the exchange booth (or at least what the exchange booth web site has printed).

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Decisions, Decisions.....

 I am in desperate need of a new computer, preferably a laptop upgraded with a Wireless capability. My old laptop is 8+ years old. Part of my "future grand plan" is to be more of a self employed type person and work from the comfort or my home or someplace with comfy chairs, coffee, etc. The portability of a decent laptop would be a big help in my search for additional income and extra work, not to mention me being able to just even connect to the internet at home, which is hard to do with the old computer.
I also really need to do work on my bathroom. It's far older than the lap top and even I'm getting grossed out by the tile work. I have some tiles falling off the wall and my attempts at tile repair, well, suck. I am not a very good Tool Belt Diva. I may have found someone to do the worst of the tile repair (rip off the tile, replace the bad drywall, put the tiles up, I can do the grouting and sealing).
I have just enough "extra funds" to purchase a laptop that suits my needs (I've been doing a ton of on line research). I can also just stick the money in my E-fund and do nothing!

I won’t make a decision until I come back from my holiday. I just wish I could win a few grand in the lottery so I would not have to worry about this, or have been better with my E-fund this past year! Ah well… Decisions, decisions.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Payment Saga Part II

The banking saga continues...

I'm at my main bank promptly at 8:30 AM today, all documentation in hand.  My main bank tells me that the error was done on the part of the bank that holds my mortgage and I needed to go see them to get it resolved.  They tell me it's an encoding error on that banks part. They can't really help me out.  Just as I thought, but I checked with them first.

I drive 5 minutes down the road to my mortgage bank (and I also have my small Efund with debit card access with them).  I talk to the customer service rep who tries to tell me, Oh, I'm sorry about that error, but you need  to go back to your other bank.  Ah no, I'm not. I politely tell her that I've just been to bank one and they assured me that the error was done on the part of the mortgage bank. I point out my receipt with the correct amount, I point out the legal line that clearly says FIVE HUNDRED etc, not eight hundred on the copy of my check I downloaded from the bank's web site. I also tell her that while I don't have a copy of my payment coupon, it too should only reflect a payment of five hundred not eight hundred.  I tell the CSR that I one time forgot to write 10c on the legal line of my mortgage check and I was the recipeint of a phone call that said IF I did not come down to the bank by Noon, my mortgage payment would not be processed and I would be assessed a late charge of $35.  All because I forgot to write in the 10c on the legal line.  (I had dropped off my payment in the night deposit window as I was out and about before banking hours and yes, it was the last day of the grace period.). I did get a second phone call from the bank saying they "found" 10c and used that to round out my payment so I would not be assessed a late fee.

I will point out that the number five I had written out was a bit loopy and maybe at a quick glance it looked like an 8, but I do know that tellers are supposed to process the Legal Line and not the number line. I do also know from a former employee of that bank that the encoding is done by the teller and that someone should or would audit the tellers work.  This was not a computer glitch, it was a teller mistake that should have been caught. The extra $300 was credited to my mortgage account, someone had to  manually input that $300.  I paid my mortgage five days early this month,  lots of time to do an audit.

My mortgage bank offers me the option of  keeping the over payment to credit my account. I tell the CSR that is not an option and I want my $300 back.  I'm then told  the bank will process a check for the difference and I should get it in 3-5 business days.  I tell the CSR you take payment out the very next day and now I have to wait a week for my reimbursement? What about a EFT to my other bank?  I may have to start looking for another bank to hold my mortgage. Her reply- "I hear there are great rates out there".   Not let me see what I can do to speed up the process, Not I am sorry that our bank made an error, nothing.  I did call back and ask for the branch manager, much to my surprise I find out the branch manager was the CSR that assisted me this morning.  Honestly, I was not all that thrilled with her service or her handling of my account. I did speak to her again and tell her that I was not happy with the encoding error or the way the bank.

Hum, my mortgage bank used to be a nice local bank and it got gobbled up by a larger regional bank. I have a philosophy that I try not to bank at an insitution that has more than 9 branches. My mortgage bank has far more than 9 branches.  I am less than impressed with this bank. I'll see if that check makes it to my mailbox this week or by Monday.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Why It Pays To Double Check Your Bank Account

I had one unhappy surprise this am. I logged onto my bank account to check the status of my income tax return (yeah it made it) only to see this bizarre amount for a check deduction. Like I had no recollection of ever writing a check in that amount nor did I have a record of a pending payment that might have gotten sent in early. I clicked on the check image only to discover that somehow my mortgage check had increased by $300. Yup, $300. My mortgage for my small space is $550. I saw a deduction in my account for $850. My hand writing is not that bad and it's my understanding that bank tellers use the handwritten line as the actual amount to be paid out.

The dollar amount written out is correctly and clearly, somehow there has been a teller or bank error. I have a copy of my mortgage payment receipt, a copy of the check front and back and a copy of the online statement. I'm not really happy about a $300 error. Not happy at all. No where on my payment receipt does it indicate an overpayment of $300. That $300 is earmarked for something else, not my mortgage at this point in time!

Take my word on it, I'll be at the bank's door first thing tomorrow to get this straightened out....

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Hey It's A Job!

As I posted previously, my weekend job paycheck has been delayed.  I did get some partial payment with the promise that I would be paid in full by the beginning of March. Just as I had expected! Just in time for my vacation.  Since I don't have direct deposit, the money will be waiting for me when I get back.  The book keeping situation is just about fixed.  The trainers wife took a few days off from work and sorted through the books.  No money missing, just someone who slacked off and got shoddy.  Oh well, it is working itself out.

Probably my biggest complaint with the weekend job is the food situation. I am not reimburse for food like I was with the other job. In fact, I find myself falling into the bad habit of buying my meals.  I have to remember to either stop at the grocery store and pick up food or remember to pack leftovers from home.  I do have an alloted shelf in the food cupboard and no one eats the things I leave in the fridge, but it's just not my home kitchen if you know what I mean. I stay in a "real' house on the grounds complete with a kitchen that has pretty much the basics in terms of pots, pans and cooking utensils.

Today I have a few hours off in the middle of the day-a rare treat!  I'm baking a couple sweet potatoes and a couple chicken thighs to have as my Sunday Lunch.  I'll have a nice lunch and when I get home tonight, maybe I'll have some soup or scramble up a couple eggs.

I am not thrilled with my primary job still not putting me back to full time hours.  The trade off is they still do pay for their portion of my health insurance and I will get some vacation time, but I'm still on a reduced schedule.  I had hoped that by this time, I could be looking at a regular schedule.

The Downside to My Weekend Job

1) It's not that close to home, so I am traveling a bit each weekend.
2) I am gone from home two to three nights on the weekends, my weekend social life has changed.
3) I sometimes don't leave the facility at all until it's time for me to pack  up and go home.
4) I miss sleeping in! I'm up and working by 7:15 AM.  I like having a day where I can lounge around in my PJ's-not happening right now.
5) Despite being here for almost three months, I'm not that familiar with the surrounding towns.  I need to make a greater effort so I can find a way to incorporate my weekend shopping and not have to give up a week night.

What I do really like about this weekend job.

1) The people I work for and work with are all very nice. We "fit" well together.
2) I get use of a house with washer/dryer/cable TV-which means I get all my laundry done and I get my cable fix on the weekends.
3) My poochies can all come with me and I don't have to find animal sitters.
4) The pay is not bad, not tremendous, but not bad.
5) I get a sense of great satisfaction seeing a job well done. There are tangible results to my work here.

On the days I do have some time off in the middle of the day, I'm trying to plan it so I get out and about and off the property. It's pretty easy to crash on the couch and watch cable.  I'm trying to go out, find the local stores, do some of my errands (food shopping less perishables, errands, etc) while I'm here.  I do miss having a day to "do nothing",  a 'day off' has become a rare and precious thing.  I did speak to the trainer and once I come back in March I did tell him that to keep me sane, I would need to adjust my schedule a tiny bit. I do need a day at home every few weeks where I can sleep in, where I can cook something up in my oven, where I do the little chores around the house that I'm not getting to after work.    I'd rather have the peace of mind knowing I've gotten my To Do list under control (my To Do lists are notorious for having lots of little things on them).  As long as I schedule this into my weekends, he is good with me being "off" a day.

BUT I am grateful that I still have both this part time and my full time job.  Vacation is in 10 days counting.   I called my friend in the UK, her husband is getting better, not great, but better, and they are still both delighted that I am coming over.  I am very glad that I made the decision to take the trip (cost be dammed).  People are far more important than money!

Hope you all are having a great weekend.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


Seems the three major credit bureaus are going to make it dammed near impossible for the average consumer to get their FICO score. Single Ma at Fabulous Financials reported the other day that Experian was not going to allow consumers to purchase their own score. You can click here to read her post.   There was also an article in the New York Times On Line about the same, you can click here to read that article.

I decided to hop on it and got copies of my credit report and I paid for the scores as well before my chance to get the Experian score went bye-bye.

Hum.... Experian is already using a formula called Vantage Score to give consumers a credit score.  I had hoped to get my Fico score from Experian, but no go. I got a FICO score from Equifax, Transunion I think gave me a Vantage Score as well. I'm going to log back into TransUnion and double check that. I can re-view that report for up to 30 days.

Last year I pulled two of my three credit reports to check the information on them. I may have filed bankruptcy, but even the bad and negative information should be correct information.  If you are post BK and your attorney has not pulled your report, I strongly recommend you pull the reports and make sure all your debt information is correct. 

My scores ended up being

Equifax: 660 (old Fico System)
Transunion: 733 (not clear, probably new Vantage System)
Experian: 758 (new Vantage System)

My FICO score last year from Equifax was 638 or 658 from Transunion was 651. A bit of an improvement, but not tons.  I had hoped that with my prompt payment on my car loan, new to me credit card, mortgage and student loan that I might eek up to the 670's.  I still have a ton of negative information on the reports from the  BK as well as the BK.

I don't know what my score was pre the Bankruptcy, probably down in the low 500's-yikes.  I'll probably pay for the scores again in the fall.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Tell All Tuesday-Bankrupt Street~The Next Installment

This has been one of the hardest installments to write.  Moving forward and moving on from Bankruptcy requires a few things. Going bankrupt is not a decision taken lightly, you live with the consequences for 7-10 years. It's part of your "permanent record". 

Part of my journey through bankrutpcy is really facing the situations that lead me into fiscal hell.  Some were in my control, some where not.  I have to take ownership of the situations that were in my control.  I've written and re-written this post a number of times, not liking any version. But here it goes.

I had a lot of mixed messages about money as a child.  The mixed message theme continued into my 20's. Not being exceptional adept at math, I was always told that it really did not matter as things like money, budgets, etc would probably be handled by my future husband. (I'm not joking, this was a common mantra in my family to the female members, money was handled by fathers, husbands, uncles, brothers and nephews).  I pretty much bought into this philosphy mainly because I did not know any better! 

It was easy when I settled into a "permanent relationship" to allow my live in boyfriend to handle our joint finances.  Remember, I was not "good" at math, numbers and figures. Plus he wanted to be the finance manager in our relationship and it was easier to let him do that (remember I can be such a doormat at times, this was one of those times).  Despite getting a job that helped me to develop good budgeting and fiscal skills, I never made the transition in my personal life to take those skills to apply them to myself and my situation. I "kept the peace" in my relationship and allowed the boyfriend to be the money manager.  I should have had the backbone by the time I was in my 20's to take better control of my own fiscal life, I did not.

After moving back to the Northeast, I made some bad fiscal decisions even with good advice and research, many of my decisions just ended up costing me thousands, literally thousands of dollars. 

I became underemployed, I did not adequately plan for home repairs and maintenance, I got and used multiple credit cards,  I never understood the concept of Universal Default until it was too late.

I never took advantage of my own research skills to learn about Personal finance, budgets, and money management.

I had heard about Personal Finance. I had heard the Dave Ramsey show one day driving down from Maine. I remember thinking, wow, this may be a good thing to look into.  I never did. I had a Suze Orman book, read it cover to cover, but never really put her methods to work in my life. The closest I came was writing down what I owed to whom and sort of making a budget. This was when I pretty much gave up my credit cards, but never aggressively purused a debt reduction plan. I opted for the ultra slow re-payment plan.

Things I could have done better to maybe change my life.

I could have gotten a new job that at least paid what I had previously made prior to becoming underemployed, or at least matched my old benefits package (full health, retirement, better vacation benefits). I made the decision not to really pursue a better paying job until it was way too late for some of the dumbest reasons I won't even write down here.  Take my word on it, they were dumb reasons.

I could have aggresively cut back on my spending, but I did not. I was able to pay my bills and play a bit.  In hindsight, I should have paid more and played less.  That realization hit me far too late in the game.

Instead of surfing the internet for fun, I could have surfed the internet for information and advice on Personal Finance.

I could have found a way to find a part time second job, instead, I opted for sleeping in on the weekends.

You get the picture.

By the time I started my slide into fiscal hell, I was back pedaling to save my fiscal arse.  My life that was sort of going along started to fall apart for the reasons outlined in previous posts.  By the time I tried to "save myself" it was way too late.  Second jobs were hard to come by, I did not understand the concept of Universal Default until it caused my credit card interest rates to sky rocket (Then I learned ALL I ever wanted to know and then some).  I ended up in situations that kept going bad.  Yikes is all I can say.

In order for me to move forward (and for any one in my situation to move forward), I had to take a good hard look at my situation and realize that I have to take responsibility for my past actions.  I had to own up to what I did to myself. I had to realize that my Bankruptcy was caused in part by my own actions and partly by circumstances out of my control.

Some people file bankruptcy due to medical reasons, some people file bankruptcy because of job loss, some people file bankruptcy because their business goes bad, some people file bankruptcy because they are a one income family and the one income dries up, the reasons for filing bankruptcy are many.

BUT in order to bounce back from bankruptcy once you have to face up and own up to the reasons that caused your bankruptcy filing. You have to take ownership of your past actions, especially the ones that were in your control.  Honestly, you don't want to repeat them do you now?

It's taken me a long time to really get to and past this point.  No one really likes to admit how they have failed.   My failure(s) lead to me filing bankruptcy. There I said it. My failures helped to lead me to bankruptcy.  Now it's time to move on.

The next installment.

You've filed the bankruptcy, the discharge is in the mail, now what?

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

It's always something, isn't it? I'm getting excited about my trip to see friends. I'm also counting on the income from my second job to help "pay" for part of the trip and to help me budget for it. I did some figure juggling last week and it looked like I could swing this trip by creative budgeting of my two jobs and only a slight dip into my income tax refund. I'd like to NOT use my tax refund unless I really have to and pop ALL of it into my E Fund. The tax refund is my "back up funding" for the trip. Except that I may not be getting a pay check until I leave for the trip or while I'm away.

Seems the person at the barn who is supposed to help with the book keeping upped, quit and never updated the payroll log or the Accounts Payable books. The books are in a bit of mess, deposits credited to wrong accounts, checks not written, invoices not sent out, and bills stacking up. I get paid once a month and was expecting a check last week. I did not get it and the staff that gets paid twice a month all said their checks were incorrect; some paid far too much, some not at all. I feel like its Deja Vu all over again.

At my primary job we had a similar thing happen, but just with our petty cash account. That time I was the one who had to go back into 16 months of checking account statements and reconcile the reports. No money was missing, just lazy book keeping and me spending a lot of time re-organizing the reports in Quicken at one third the price of our office CPA firm.

The person at the barn who was supposed to be the part time "office manager" seemed to have some sort of a breakdown/meltdown. The trainer I work for had an "attack" so to speak. I can't blame him, but you know, it's not my responsibility to do this work and I'm a little annoyed that my pay is going to be delayed up to two weeks, especially since I only get paid once a month. My boss did call a staff meeting to tell the staff that the payroll cycle would be "out of sync" for a week or two (more like two), but all hours would be properly credited and paid out. He asked that we be patient, he apologized for the errors on staff pay, he explained that the mix up was temporary, the barn was not going broke, he just need to get the book keeping on track and this issue would not be repeated.

His wife is actually very good at this sort of thing and has agreed to take a few vacation days to help sort this out. In fact, she used to do the billing until she got a job in the private sector to take advantage of perks like employer paid health care and a 401K. The biggest problem is many of the clients have not been billed for services rendered for two months. This means two months of bills will be going out with an apologetic letter for the late billing while still essentially asking for prompt payment. It means the trainer and his wife have been making phone calls asking for duplicate invoices and payment histories to make sure that their vendors have been paid properly and explaining that their book keeper quit without updating the files.

I can see where he is coming from, before he can pay staff and vendors, you need cash in hand. I don't have first hand knowledge of the barns cash flow, but probably if they were to pay all the invoices and payroll, it would dramatically decrease. I do know that they do have cash, but they want to make sure they have enough cash in the account.

Sigh, this is supposed to be a temporary glitch, but I really would have liked to have had the cash in hand this week. I wanted to put the money in my acccount and be able to board the plane with a free and clear mind. I'm hoping I get it next week. Two steps forward, one step back.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Vacation Costs~People First

I sat down last night after dinner and mapped out my vacation costs

Plane ticket: $525
Car Rentals: $240
Hotel costs  $100
Extra Bag Fees: $75
Gas: $150
Meals: $150
Misc: $100
Planned spending: $200

Grand Total: $1,540

I'm flying an airline that will charge me for my non carry on bags. I budgeted $75 because I think I'll need to pack an extra bag for the trip home.
I'm staying at a hotel for two nights (includes breakfast) and I've budgeted a bit extra for the hotel.

My meals, miscellaneous and planned spending total $450, but it all depends on where I end up staying for most of my trip. I usually try to go out for at least drinks in the Pub with some friends and pick up a couple rounds. I also like to go to the Tesco or Safeway and pick up snacks for myself, some bags of snacks, some sweets, some bottled water I keep in the car, saves me from hitting an overpriced vending machine. I have my rental car which will come with a full tank of gas and I know I will have to refill it at least once. I just don't know how much traveling I will end up doing. I usually get to my destination and park the car in a friends garage and get chauffeured around. As my friend Catherine says, your hire car may be nicer than my car, but no bloody American is going to chauffer me around town! Even though I'm comfortable driving in the UK, my UK friends prefer to drive!

I've already paid for my ticket (using part of my holiday bonus for that) and I have $250 in my ING Travel fund. The rest of the cost of the trip will be paid for partly by my tax refund, partly by my cutting my expenses in other areas, like not getting my bathroom retiled this year unless I really become a Toolbelt Diva.

I did send an e-mail off last night to my friend in the UK with the ill husband and she replied she is so delighted that I am coming, both she and her husband are looking forward to my visit. I'm putting it out to the universe to some how help me come up with the extra funds. Wish me luck!

Taxes Are Done, Shopping List Made

I finished my taxes last night. Thank goodness! I did print out a copy and will look them over this evening to make sure I did not forget something, despite Turbo Taxes, error checking program.  If it all "looks good", I'll transmit them tonight after supper.  The way it stands now, I will get back a refund of about $850 between state and federal. 

I'll probably apportion out most of the refund to my E-fund, use part of it for a pre-trip hair cut and part of it to offset the cost of my vacation. 

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

A Pretty Compelling Reason to Get My Taxes Done Sooner, Rather Than Later

From Dimple Divine Domain-if you E-file your taxes and are due a refund, the refund schedule.If I get on the stick and get my taxes done in the next few days, IF I am due a refund, I will have it by the time I board my plane.

24 days and counting!

Transmitted ; Accepted (by 11:00 am) between... Direct Deposit Sent* Paper Check Mailed*

Jan 16 and Jan 22, 2009 Jan 30, 2009 Feb 6, 2009

Jan 22 and Jan 29, 2009 Feb 6, 2009 Feb 13, 2009

Jan 29 and Feb 5, 2009 Feb 13, 2009 Feb 20, 2009

Feb 5 and Feb 12, 2009 Feb 20, 2009 Feb 27, 2009

Feb 12 and Feb 19, 2009 Feb 27, 2009 Mar 6, 2009

Feb 19 and Feb 26, 2009 Mar 6, 2009 Mar 13, 2009

Feb 26 and Mar 5, 2009 Mar 13, 2009 Mar 20, 2009

Slowly Starting My Taxes

My last 1099-misc came in the mail yesterday, so I started in putting the basics into Turbo Tax.  I'm using a different computer than the one I used last year, no importation of last years data to this year! 

I do have to give myself a pat on the back for spending the time this past year semi-organizing my reciepts. I at least have reciepts sorted out by category and by part time job.  I know from past experience not all my reciepts are tax deductible, but I know many are true part time business expenses. I will go through my file box where I'm keeping the reciepts and get it "up to date" tonight.  I am also grateful that I had the foresight to get a tracking system in place NOW for this years business expenses to make next years taxes a little less daunting.

My goal is to get most of the tax information done over the next two nights, head off to the weekend job, come back and hopefully finish and file the return.  I'm also hoping for a substantial refund. Right now with no deductions listed, I owe about $550 to the Federal Government. Last year I had to turn back to my BK Trustee all but $300 of my state and federal income tax refund. I'd like to be able to use part of this years refund to go towards my trip and toward my E Fund.  We shall see how it all pans out!

How are you doing on your returns?

Monday, February 2, 2009

Trip Planning Update-The Collision Damage Waiver

It's 25 days and counting for my vacation. I've been researching car rentals. They have ranged from the ridiculous of +$300 USD (less the mandatory Collison Damage Waiver or CDW) to $242 inclusive of the CDW.

The Collision Damage Waiver is just that, a policy you take out when you rent a car and it covers collisions and damages. In the USA for USA and Canadian Rentals, many times your personal car insurance will cover a rental vehicle and if you book and pay with a credit card, your credit card offers this protection.
Guess what, your coverage is NOT valid in the UK.  Some car rental companies are making it mandatory for you to purchase their CDW for the amazing fee of $24USD per day. I averaged out the cost on the three sites I've been trolling for car rentals. It used to be you could Opt Out of the CDW, which I did many a times on my travels in the UK. I did find one site where the rental fee was reasonable for the sized car I wanted. If I could convince my office to enroll the office American Express card in the premium car rental protection program, it would only cost me $24.99,  I could opt out of the CDW and the cost would be just at $200 for the week. I am an authorized user on our office AE, they may go for it, they may not.

I read further on the web site. The one reasonable rental place also reserved the right to charge an additional $7USD per day even with the CDW coverage by AE. So, I enroll in the program, bring proof of coverage and I am still charged an additional fee. I contacted the agency to ask WHY and the response was less than satisfactory. Pretty much, they do it because they can.
I did find a site that gave me a quote that was all inclusive of the CDW, taxes, fees, and surcharges. It's a national company. The caveat was that I had to pre-pay for the rental and still let my credit card be charged a refundable deposit at the time of pick up. Oh did I mention, that even if you pay with a major credit card, they (all the agencies I looked at) want to reserve the right to charge your major credit card or debit card a hold of the equivalent of $1,000 to $1,500 USD. I don't have a credit card with a spare $1,000 USD on it. My one credit card has a limit of $500.
I'll probably do the following. I will probably reserve and pay for the car that is $242 inclusive of all fees and charges and use the AE as the primary card to "hold" the rental deposit. Car rentals have changed since I last booked a hire car in the UK! It still ends up being the same if not cheaper for me to rent a car than to do my traveling via Brit Rail and the Bus.  Past experience has lead me to really read the fine print on each car rental web site, download the rental policies and keep a copy with me when I go to get the car. I also download the rental policies the day I leave in case of any "changes".  I've seen it happen far too many times where the slightly jet lagged traveler is brow beaten into all sorts of un needed extras, like the CDW and other additions. By having this information at hand, I've more than once saved myself wads of cash at the counter,  quoting their own policies that I was following. and very politely let the folks know this consumer comes prepared to do battle with the rental car companies.

25 days and counting!

Keeping Track of Expenses for the LLC

I posted sometime in the fall that I have made myself into an LLC for the purpose of my assorted part time jobs that are primarily paid to me in cash so I can write off some legit business expenses. 

I was wandering around in Staples over the weekend and got a very nice expense tracking book.  I should join the 21st century and really use a program like Quick Books, but I don't.  I'm a bit of a Luddite when it comes to upgrading myself to new technologies.

I had an envelope full of reciepts screaming out for attention.  I sat down, sorted them out by date and sorted out the expenses by weekend. I filled in all the little colums, calculated milage and I am up to date!  I know I could input this information into Quick Books,  let it export to Turbo Tax next year, spit out nice reports, and save me the "chore" of hand calculating these figures next tax season, but I did not.  Perhaps in the future if my grand plan of going to more self employment investing in and using Quick Books may be worth the time and money.

It's the little things that I am relearning and redoing that are making a big difference in my life. When I was in fiscal hell, I did not track as many expenses as I should have, I had overwhelmed myself and it probably cost me at tax time. Keeping track of my business expense for the various part time jobs is one thing I am re-learning to do.