Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Cleaned Up The Blog Roll

I added a few blogs, deleted a few blogs and updated my fiscal progress. That's the best I can do on a miserable rainy day!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Sometimes You Just Have to Put It On The Table.

If you have been reading my blog, you know that I have two jobs. My weekday job that was at one time, full time and now three quarter time and my weekend job that "picks up the slack" so to speak.  I got this job just a few weeks after my hours were reduced at my full time job.  I was hired to fill in for someone who got injured and could not work. I knew then and still know now that my days are contingent upon this persons return to her old schedule. My boss also would like to keep me on at his facility since I can contribute more to his operation than turning out horses and mucking out stalls.   For the most part, I don't care who does what when I'm not at the facility, I don't oversee the other workers, I have no managerial duties so to speak. If I did, I'd of fired a couple people like last year.  I like to get to my weekend job, get settled, do my work for three days and  then go home. I have to travel to my weekend job, I like to use Thursday evenings as "me time", other than checking the schedule, I like to crash, maybe eat a pizza and drink a beer and watch cable TV for a few hours.  Such is the exciting life I lead.

Except for last weekend. I got to the facility and it was a mess.  I mean a real mess. Like a mess that should have been dealt with by the staff that was on duty that day.  Of course, the boss was away, so the mice played.  I walked into the facilities office to check messages, looked at the weekend schedule, and do a quick check of the facility.  I also noticed that a lot of the daily house keeping chores were not done and not done for umm, two to three days, the exact amount of time the boss was out of town.  Most of those chores are not difficult or time consuming and considering there was not a lot of "extra" work to be done at the facility I was wondering why the daily chores were not done.  Most of these chores revolved around the guest lounge and common areas that need to be kept clean neat and tidy all the time.  These are the "public faces" of the facility and all of us are required to make sure they look presentable.  The people who pay money to use our facility don't make a huge mess, in fact, they are pretty tidy and if the staff on duty keeps up with the chores, the public areas look more than presentable.  We had a program scheduled for the weekend and the public areas of the facility needed to be extra spiffy.

Needless to say I was not happy to find out Thursday evening that I had to spend a good two hours cleaning up these areas since I knew that I would not have the time on Friday to do so. My weekend boss was away and despite leaving him a couple phone messages, two texts and a hand written note, he did not get back to me until the middle of the week. 

I point blank told him I did not appreciate the fact that he had all this staff on duty who seemed incapable of doing the basic chores, yet somehow I managed to do all the chores and then some without the benefit of extra staff  (which I knew a head of time we would be short help) and oh yes, did I mention that the public face of his facility looked like crap? Yes, my words, looked like crap. I gave him a blow by blow description of what was NOT done that should have been done. What triggered my unusual outburst was the phone call I got (actually three phone calls) from the weekday person wanting to "touch base" about the facility.  Which in her speak means "here-are-my-excuses-for-not-doing-the-work".  The weekday person was trying to shift the blame to the other staffer. In my opinion, both of them need a sharp prod with a very sharp stick on a regular basis.  When prodded, they do more than acceptable work, when not prodded, they slack off.

My weekend boss and I have a good working relationship.  I don't bother him with the BS stuff, not my style, but this really irritated me.  Busy weekend, no extra help and a lot of unexpected work, two staffers who probably sat in the lounge watching cable or playing on the computer and got paid for it. I was not very happy to roll in to the office and then have to do someones work and not get paid for it.  I told  my boss that  consider  Thursday evenings "me time" even when I get to the facility early. It did not make me a happy camper to have to do the chores, and it made me an even unhappier camper to find out that there was extra staff on both Wednesday and Thursday. 

He did apologize and say he would talk to those people, but I really wonder if he will. He's a non confrontational type of guy and may just gloss it over.  Oh well, at least I told him my feelings on this matter and I will wait and see what happens next week. At least, he should put a little extra in the pay packet.!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Why I Love My Local Ford Dealer

I am the first to admit I love my Escape.  It's a vehicle I wanted and worked hard to get post BK.  My old car was a 1999 Saturn Station wagon that gave me many years of service and over 232,000 miles.  It started to die a very expensive death at the end of it's life and that slow decline corresponded to my BK filing.  In fact, my transmission blew up on my way back from my 341 hearing costing me the remaining $300 in my checking account and my next paycheck.  Was it fate or just the universe testing me?  I knew as soon as I could I needed to replace the Saturn that gave me many years of trouble free service.

Needless to say.  I decided on a new to me car from a dealer instead of temporary clunker since my past experience with clunkers was not good.  I've had the Escape for two years now and it's chugging along.  I take it in for oil changes approximately every 5,000 miles.  I've been taking it to one of the two local Ford dealerships for the past 10 months. I was going to a local oil change shop that was increasingly trying to sell you additional services and fluid changes.  The service department  at the new dealership has been great, does more than the 21 point inspection of the vehicle during the oil change and does it for less than $35.  The other Ford dealership seemed to be only interested in making a buck. Each time I would take the car in for an oil change (they offered a $25 oil change) I would get a laundry list of much needed repairs.  What drove me over the edge was taking the Escape in for an ABS sensor repair (Estimated cost $400 if new parts were needed) and getting an estimate for $1200 worth of "work".  Plus the snotty attitude of the mechanic and the patronizing attitude of the service manager when I said No was annoying. I guess they saw a female with a car and saw $$$$ signs.

The other Ford Dealership that I now go to is much more straight up and honest.  Instead of insisting on all these services, they check and re-check during the oil change and talk to you like a person and not a bank account. This oil change was no exception. I had the service and instead of insisting on the full 80,000  mile service, they told me that all looked good and would recommend a radiator flush and fill sometime in the next few months.  They said all looked good and probably would be fine, but it did not hurt to do the flush and fill later this spring. I'll plan and budget that for in the upcoming couple months.  When the Escape had some problems this past fall, I logged onto a Ford Escape Forum researched the site and found what looked like my problem with my Escape.  When I went to the dealership, I told them what I was feeling/hearing in the car, what I found on the forum and left the Escape for the diagnostic test.  The service manager listened to me and what I found.  He thought maybe the back end of the Escape was shot, but he also looked up on same forum my problem and low and behold, instead of a new back end, all I needed was a repair of a frozen joint of some sort.  He did not assume my Escape needed a new back end,  He did not dismiss my input, he thought it might a bad rear end on the Escape, but  he was open to looking at the forum and also looking at my Escape with my eyes. He told me my type repair was the first he had done on an Escape at his shop and he was glad I told him about the Forum.  The repair was under $200 (including the oil change) and this dealership now has my business as long as I have my Escape.  This dealership is in the business of repairing cars and maintaining good customer relationships no matter your age or gender.

I did treat the car to a spring cleaning on Saturday inside and out.  My car has been freshly serviced and freshly washed. Good way to start the spring!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Things That Make Me Laugh

I pulled my credit reports and scores this week to do my annual check. My FICO score is about the same as it was last year, not great at 635, but at least it has not gone down. I had hoped it would go up a bit more, like at least to 650. My Advantage score is 785, what ever that means and supposedly am a Prime candidate, what ever that means. I'm getting ready to process an application for an FHA loan to get some money for some much needed work on my house. I thought this would be a good time to double check my file before it gets pulled by a lender so I can clean up any discrepancies.

I did have to laugh at a couple items that were listed on the report as an "explanation" for my low scores.

Your report shows one or more bankruptcy filings. Bankruptcies can remain on file for up to 10 years, depending on the chapter filed, and have a negative impact on your credit score. Ah Duh, I filed Bankruptcy, I expect to find this on the report!

• The average loan amount across open, recently reported real estate accounts, such as a mortgage, is too low. Having low loan amounts has a negative impact on your credit score. Too Low? I mean my mortgage was small to begin with, I did not buy a McMansion!

I did find one discrepancy, which was an account I had in collections was discharged in the BK filing. It is still listed as active in two of the three credit agencies and not on the third. I'm filing a paper dispute as I hear they work better than an electronic one. I have no idea if this is true or not, but I thought, hey, it's only two stamps. I even cleaned up some personal information, employers names spelled wrong, corrected some start dates, eliminated some old duplicate mailing addresses.

I've said this before. Even with the Bankruptcy, it's better to have correct negative information than incorrect negative information on the account.

When was the last time you looked at your credit reports?

Friday, March 19, 2010

Why I Have A Costco Membership

I have been a member of Costco, (then Price Club) since 1992. When I first joined, you had to show proof of belonging to a qualifying organization. In my case, I worked in a school district so I was allowed to become a Costco member. My then boyfriend had to be added to my account as an extra card holder since he worked for a small company that was not on the Price Club list. It cost $35 a year to be a member and my renewal this year was $50. In 18 years the dues have gone up $15 and I have NO complaints about that. I do believe that I do save the cost of the membership with my shopping at Costco over the year.

When I lived in Northern Virginia and the Costco opened at Pentagon City, it was like MAGIC. It sold beer and wine, had a great selection of items and and best of all, was close to my home, actually on my way to and from home. I would stop there at least 3x a week.

When I moved back to New England, Costco became a destination shop. The closest one to home is 20 miles away. I would have to plan my shopping trips. For someone who dislikes the grocery store experience, Costco has been a sanity saver. I have my list of items I can buy in bulk. Depending on the time of day, I can be in and out of Costco in less than 30 minutes. I do my best to avoid the store on the weekends-way too many people and screaming children.

My visit to Costco yesterday was a bit pricey $132 in the warehouse-this included my yearly renewal and a new pair of sneakers that I wanted, but did not need right now, $55 in the optical department for new lenses (needed) and $32 at the gas pump. I saved about 30% on the cost of my contacts (I've checked out 1800 contacts and other vendors), the gas is always 10c-15c per gallon cheaper than most local gas stations, and I'm well stocked up on garbage bags.

Even though I have limited storage space, I still shop at Costco for my paper goods (tissues, TP, paper towels), rice, cereal,juices, soda water, cleaning supplies, laundry detergent, contacts, gas, et al. I know if I read all the circulars I could probably find the better deals at the chain stores, but honestly, I don't do that sort of shopping. I would lose my freaking mind if I had to spend my time going from Wal Mart to K-Mart to Target to Costco to Stop and Shop to Shaws all in the name of saving a few dollars on the basics. I find shopping to be a neccessary evil most of the time and if I can get my purchases at a reasonable price and fast, I do.

What I don't buy at Costco are most of the frozen pre-prepared foods. While having a huge box of frozen pizzas may be tempting for those days that I don't feel like cooking, the listed fat grams on most boxes alone are enough to make me run to a cardiologist. I prefer non frozen chicken breast over frozen chicken breast pieces. I make my own burgers from ground beef, I don't use pre-made patties and as much as I like peas, having a 5 pound bag of frozen peas in the freezer would pretty much take up all my freezer space. I can see if people have families that these items can be a time saver and even a money saver. I'd rather pop a frozen pizza in the oven for $5 than get the same size in take out for $10.

What can make Costco a waste a money is if you don't shop wisely. If you have a small family, or like me are single, sometimes these bulk items can go to waste. I happen to love salads and will eat a whole bag of salad mix in a few days. Even if I miss a day or two and the tail end gets a bit mushy, the cost of the salad from Costco is still less than half for half the amount at the grocery store. BUT if you are not a salad eater, only use the product for one meal and then let the rest of it rot, you are better off buying a bag of lettuce at the grocery store. Not everyone needs a 3 lb jar of mayo, you will probably be better off getting your mayo from your local grocery store.

Plus you can't beat the $1.50 for the hot dog and soda as a great quick lunch or snack...:)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Contest at Fabulously Broke

Yes, you can win one of 4 $25 gift cards at one of my favorite blogs-Fabulously Broke in the City. Click here to go to that post. She has a fab site full of great information as well! Please check out the site and enter the contest!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Chair is Ready!

I got a call this morning. My chair has been repaired! Yeah.  The total cost was $205.32.  Worth it I think.  I am looking forward to sitting back in my chair.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Finally A Mystery Shop I Can Do!

I've been a mystery shopper for a couple years.  The problem is when you live in the sticks, there are not too many decent shops.  There is one, however, for a  vet clinic.  I shopped it last year and I will shop it agin.  The pet in question needs an exam and I need to save some $$$. The shop will pay for the cost of the visit. I've booked the shop and am pleased it is a "useful" shop. 

Friday, March 12, 2010

Putting the Squeeze on The Weekend Boss

I got my current part-time weekend job just after I lost my full time hours at work.  When the Gods close a window, they open a door.  I knew that my job was to "temporary" until the person I replaced could come back to work.  I never expected almost 18 months later, to still have this insane schedule, but I do.  My weekend boss and I get along and like I keep telling him, if it works for you, it works for me.

My co-worker is out again this winter for extensive surgery and unable to do her work. Good for me, not good for her.  She is supposed to be out of commission until at least May, if not later.  Not wanting a repeat of last year where I was given like no notice that my co-worker was coming back, I've started to ask my weekend boss if he has spoken to said co-worker.  He probably was in contact with her last year and did not want me to know when she was coming back. Even though I knew my job was "at will", I was still caught a bit flat footed, especially when I asked for some notice, which I thought was only fair.

I will keep asking him until I get an answer.  He has asked if I still want to work at the facility, which I do want to do.  As I've told him before, I really just need to know what the schedule is so I can make plans to cover my needs.  So lets see what he comes up with.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

It's The Same Song Again

People who have been reading my blog know that my lovely neighbors are going through a very hard time with their kids and their money.  It's not getting any better.

Eldest Daughter works a seasonal job and took her winter vacation to out to California to see her boyfriend.  Eldest Daughter also spent all her "fun money" and most of the money she had put aside for her new apartment.  Eldest Daughter is now living back at home since the Youngest Daughter has moved to the other side of the state, still not employed, still not in school. Eldest daughter will be starting her seasonal job later this month and is looking at yet another college to go to, which would make #3 in 4 years.  Her parents keep taking out loans for Eldest Daughter who has still not decided what she wants to major in or do with her life. That's a lot of money spent on classes/credits that are not transferrable-this is when a student loan is a waste of money.

Youngest Daughter has moved to be with her boyfriend, and eventually will enroll is some sort of school.  The last conversation I had with my neighbor about Youngest Daughter was that she was trying to find some sort of a job, but could not meet certain job requirements (like a drug test). Youngest daughter barely fulfilled her court ordered community service before she moved to the other side of the state, does come home once or twice a week and yup, is living off her parents.

My neighbors are very nice people.  They are struggling, but seem to be unable to put spending boundaries on their kids. They are supporting both these girls who don't seem to really give a darn about the fact that their parents are paying mortgages late, have maxed out credit cards and payment plans with the electric company. 

I can understand that my neighbor wants to help her kids, but when is enough enough?  My neighbor is really struggling, complaining about life in general, yet is unable to stick to her resolution to make her kids learn how to support themselves or take some responsibility for their actions. 

I can be sympathetic to a point.  I am less sympathetic when I hear the same story over and over.  No is such a simple easy word NO.  No, I won't pay the deposit on your apartment, No I won't pay for your gas to come and see me and then have you spend all day at your friends house, no I won't buy all that organic food that you always say you want, then never eat.  No I won't take out another tuition loan until you are settled in school....

I just see a crash coming really soon

Monday, March 8, 2010

Good Weekend Off!

I took a long weekend off from both my weekday and weekend job. I was feeling a little cranky, had some work to do around the house and honestly, just wanted some ME time.  I spend two and a half days lounging around the house, watching TV, playing on facebook, organizing files on my computer, cooking, cleaning, and doing my taxes.  I had four days of blissful free time.

I was very surprised to see that I am getting back more money from the State than I thought and a small Federal refund.  I was only hoping to NOT have to pay any taxes this year.  My second job and it's expenses get sorted under a schedule C and when it was all done and dusted, my expenses just barely exceeded my income.  A few other non reimbursed work  expenses added to my deductions and I get back some moola.  Good!  Yeah! and the money is going towards my severely depleted e fund. 

I will say it was nice to hang out at home with no obligations to my time.  I know with my weekend job and my hobbies, I have very few days that are not "spoken for".  Depending on what happens with my co-worker at my weekend job, I'll have to plan another weekend off. This was good for my soul. 

How was your weekend!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Credit Card Limit Increased!

My credit card payment is due this week, I faithfully log on to the site on the last day of each month, review my transactions (gas, the odd purchase), make sure nothing looks unusual and set up an on line payment. Imagine my surprise when I logged on last night and saw that Orchard Bank had increased my credit line. I now have a credit limit of $700 instead of $500. I guess faithfully paying off my balance each month and early had it's rewards. I was tickled to death when I got a the card in late 2008!

Good news for me! This old dog did learn a new trick-or in my case, relearned the old good habits.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Worth Getting Fixed? Yup Not All Furniture is Disposable

I have a  chair that was a "freebie" to me. It has to be about 25 or 30 yrs old, maybe more and covered in a green velvet fabric.  Friends of mine gave it to me when they were cleaning out the house of an aged relative. I think the official name of the chair style is a "ladies chair". I actually keep it in the kitchen area, tucked next to a small bookshelf that holds a reading lamp.  I love sitting in it first thing in the AM with a cup of tea or coffee, the sunlight streams in my east facing kitchen window, or after a full day at work, it's a good place to sit with a glass of something to unwind. The pets, who have taken over my bed and my couch, don't "take over" my chair. Oddly, the people who gave me the chair told me their aged relative used to do the same thing, except that the chair was located in a small side parlour at the aged relatives house. I think it was fate that brought the chair to me.

 It is was very comfy, until the bottom fell out.  Actually, it was partially my fault, well- ALL my fault.  I used it as a step stool one too many times and the bottom fell out. The webbing holding the springs gave way. Chunky chicks should not use furniture as step stools, especially since I own a step stool that is all of 4 feet away.

I called around, got some names and found a local place that fixes chairs and does upholstery.  I am not good at that kind of DIY.  I took the chair in and I was quoted a price of $175 to fix the webbing, re-tie the springs together and replace the old cushioning that has spilled out.  At first I was a bit taken a back and gave half a thought to chucking the chair. UNTIL the next sentence out of the owners mouth was-"If you want to throw out the chair, I'll take it".  Which to me means it's worth fixing.   The chair as they say, Has Good Bones." 

The owner told me exactly what he would need to do to repair the chair, told me it would take about 10 days and asked for a deposit. I gave him the deposit and I'm looking forward in getting back my chair with a much improved seat. I wish I had the money to get the chair recovered, it would have been another $175 to $200 depending on the fabric. But the fabric on the chair is in good condition and I don't mind the green color.   I'd like to think I'm keeping the chair out of  the local landfill, I'm helping a local merchant (who by the looks of the workshop is really good at what he does) and I'll get back my comfy chair and keep the memory alive of a departed aged relative.