Called on the Carpet: January 30th Financial Goals Checkup

Uh oh. It’s January 30th and I am waaaaaaaaay behind schedule for the year.

PaidTwice over at I’ve Paid For This Twice Already wrote a post checking in on her 2008 financial goals, then asked me and two others how we were doing with ours. I’d entered a really great carnival with my post It’s About the Money, Honey where I outlined my financial goals for 2008. PaidTwice wants to know how I’m doing.

The answer is not great. I got waylaid for much of December with my son getting very sick, and then I had to deal with my own version of InfectionsRUs. Then vacation, and, and…

All of which is really irrelevant, because the real reason I’m behind is that I’ve got a serious case of the “I just don’t wanna!”s. I’ve always just had a loose budget in my head, and since we have no debt and considerable savings on a single, modest income, I’ve been doing okay so far.

But I could do better. Much better.

So, here it is. The good, the bad, and the ugly.

1. Draw up an actual budget by January 5, 2008. I’ve finally done one. Late. Very late. Okay, today. After I saw PaidTwice’s post. I’m sure it will need tweaking, but at least it’s done. Honestly, I’m abhorring the whole process, and the thought of entering my receipts has me, on January 30th, looking for just about any distraction. Still, I will persevere. Tomorrow. Hey, American Idol is on! Grade: C-

2. Install the Peachtree Accounting program (bought for $120 and then got a $140 rebate, thank you very much) by January 5, 2008. Um, yeah. Not done. It’s sitting here right by my computer. I’ve decided to wait on this and just start small, with simple software, so as not to overwhelm me even more than I already am. My new target date for this is July 1, 2008, but I may put it off longer, depending on how things go. Grade: Incomplete

3. Review all of our IRAs and other retirement and savings accounts by March 31, 2008. Well, finally one I’m not late on. As I get my tax info together I’ll get this stuff together, and make an appointment with…someone…to go over all this stuff. Grade: Incomplete

4. Pay ourselves first. Find at least $100 per month to put into our non-401k savings, and $20 per month to put into our son’s savings account per month. I have enough left in checking this month to do both things. Yahoo! Grade: A- (saving a full A for saving more than the goal amount)

5. Learn about the stock market. Read at least one book per quarter, and at least one online article per week. I haven’t read a book yet (suggestions, anyone?), but I have been reading lots of financial articles, and even a few on the market. Blech. Grade: B

6. Enter the stock market by the end of the year. Not a thing done yet. Grade: Incomplete

So, that’s one A-, a B, a C- and three incompletes.

Not a stellar start, but a start it is.

Sometimes one needs to get called on the carpet to get back on track. So, thanks PaidTwice. I take back all the things I said to my computer screen when I read your post. 😉


Auto Insurance 101: Part 3 ~ What to Do With The Quotes Now That You Have Them

The following information is not advice, it’s just my thoughts and opinions. I’m just a girl on the web, not currently licensed in insurance or anything else in any state. You should absolutely seek the counsel of an insurance agent licensed in your state before taking any action at all. Coverages and programs discussed may or may not be available in your state.

This is the third installment of a series of articles about Auto Insurance. You may want to read Auto Insurance 101: Part 1 ~ Before We Shop Let’s Understand What We Have and Auto Insurance 101: Part 2 ~ 10 Tips for Shopping Smart before reading this article.

Okay. You understand what you have and you’ve shopped smart. Now it’s decision time.

Here are some things to consider as you look at the quotes.

1. These are only quotes. The insurance company is under no obligation to give you the rate quoted if you aren’t eligible for it, even if you get a binder of coverage. If the agent made an error, or if you forgot to tell them something that would affect the rate, the policy could be canceled or you could be offered a policy at a higher rate.

2. Make a decision well in advance of your own policy cancellation. If you’re switching companies get the new policy written as soon as possible. Most companies will allow you to do the policy 30 days in advance of your current policy’s expiration and have it be effective on the expiration date. That gives them and you 30 days to decide if you really, really like each other.

3. Don’t tell your old company you’re not renewing until after the new policy has been issued as quoted. That way if there is a problem you can continue with your current policy and the only things you’re out is your time and aggravation. If your old company does not give a grace period make sure you don’t have a lapse in coverage.

4. Longevity counts. The longer you are with a company the more favorably they’ll look upon you, and that translates into savings. Some companies will “forgive” (not raise your rate or cancel you) for a first accident if you’ve been with them X number of years. Some will reconsider cancellations for multiple claims. I’m not suggesting you stay with your original company if you’re going to save a considerable amount of money, but decide for yourself how much of a savings is worth losing the benefits of longevity.

5. This isn’t a one shot deal. Even if you can’t save a bundle this time, try again in six months, or a year, or when it’s been three years since your last accident or ticket. Just like medical checkups keep you abreast of your physical health, insurance checkups should be a part of your financial health plan.

Another thing.  I did speak in Auto Insurance 101: Part 2 ~ 10 Tips for Shopping Smart about how rates are cyclical.  I wanted to bring it up again because I cannot tell you how many times people would cancel policies with us to go to another insurer, only to come back six months later because the company had raised their rates significantly.  They didn’t always qualify for the rate they had enjoyed with us before.  Now you can’t plan for everything, but this again is another reason you have to decide the magic number that makes a switch worth the risk.  To you.

Even if you change nothing, you know more than you did. That’s almost always a good thing.

Good luck!

If you liked this article check out the rest of the Auto Insurance 101 Series, and check out ways to Stretch Your Dollar.

Auto Insurance 101: Part 2 ~ 10 Tips for Shopping Smart

The following information is not advice, it’s just my thoughts and opinions. I’m just a girl on the web, not currently licensed in insurance or anything else in any state. You should absolutely seek the counsel of an insurance agent licensed in your state before taking any action at all. Coverages and programs discussed may or may not be available in your state.

This is the second installment of a series of articles about Auto Insurance. You may want to read Auto Insurance 101: Part 1 ~ Before We Shop Let’s Understand What We Have before reading this article.

Now that you’ve read Auto Insurance 101: Part 1 ~ Before We Shop Let’s Understand What We Have and have spoken to or met with your insurance agent, you’re almost ready to shop.

Before you get on the phone or start surfing the web, here are some important things to remember when shopping for auto insurance:

1. Know who you’re talking to. Ask the agent you’re speaking with about their qualifications and experience. How long have they been selling insurance, and how long have they been licensed? What types of insurance are they licensed to sell? In all my years as an insurance agent no one ever asked me this, and it just shocks me. I will always ask this question of insurance agents, doctors, attorneys, etc. You want someone who knows what they’re talking about, don’t you? It takes at least a few years to become familiar enough with just about any vocation to be able to understand nuances, and to see the bigger picture of how one decision affects another. Don’t be embarrassed to ask to speak to someone with more experience.

2. Compare apples to apples, as closely as possible. This is probably the most important thing to remember. Spending our time calling around without getting the same quote for the same coverages will not help us make an accurate comparison, so it’s a massive waste of time. Sometimes companies may offer slight variations in the same type of coverage. Company A may offer Car Rental coverage of 80% of the daily rental up to $500 while company B offers $25 a day up to $400. Another example: in Florida insurers are required to waive the deductible for windshield replacement for those who carry Comprehensive coverage. My company extended the deductible waiver to any glass breakage (side windows, mirrors) while other companies did not. Make sure to ask about and note these differences.

3. They’re likely going to check your credit. No matter your feelings on the validity of the actuarial process, most insurers will factor in your credit rating when quoting insurance. People with better credit will get the batter rates, period. Another reason for fiscal responsibility. Be prepared to give your social security number, and try not to take it out on the agent. They don’t make the rules. Also know that while an insurance inquiry doesn’t have the same effect on your credit rating as a credit inquiry, it is still an inquiry. If it didn’t affect your credit rating at all, they would have told us to tell you that it had no effect. They didn’t.

4. Financial strength counts. Their fiscal responsibility counts, not just yours. A good balance sheet not only reassures you that they will be able to make claims, it also suggests that the company is managed well. Personally, I’d only go with a company rated A or better by a rating company such as AM Best.

5. Reputation counts, too. If a company has a bad reputation for either claims or customer service, don’t bother getting a quote. That’s just a headache waiting to happen. That said, no insurance company has only happy insureds. People get angry when their claims don’t get paid, even if the insurer is completely justified in not paying it. That’s another reason it’s so important to know your coverage.

6. Consider the advantages and disadvantages of the different ways you can buy insurance.

  • Captive Agents – sell policies for (usually) only one company, and usually a major insurer (State Farm, Allstate, etc.)
  • Local Insurance Brokers – sell policies for many different companies, some larger, some smaller (Progressive (also sells direct), Integon_
  • Direct Insurers – sell directly to the consumer (Geico, etc.)
  • Internet Brokers – gather your information and get quotes from several insurers at once, without having to speak to anyone (Insweb, etc.) Some captive agents’ companies and direct insurers also allow you to get quotes online.

Personally, I want an agent. I want someone I can go see if there’s a problem, and someone who can go to bat for me, if need be. Agents want to keep you happy. They only make money if you stay with them and pay the premiums. Often times an agent can get a claim paid, or get a cancellation rescinded. Last month my mother got a cancellation notice from her insurer, as she’d had 2 claims in a year. I called her agent and they were able to call the underwriter and get her another chance. Direct insurers can be great, but it’s hard to create a relationship with them. They are just a voice on the phone. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get a quote from them, but it’s something to keep in mind.

I’m going to do an entire article on the pros and cons of each of these, so look for it soon!

7. Know if the insurer is a stock company or a mutual company. Unlike a stock company, a mutual insurance company does not offer shares of stock on public exchanges. Rather, it is operated and maintained for the benefit of its members, or policyowners. All policyowners have the right to vote for the Company’s Board of Directors and to receive a fair share of the dividends declared by the Board each year. In a stock company, by contrast, any dividends are paid first to shareholders, and only after to policyholders. Not a huge deal, but having stockholders sure can affect a company’s policy decisions. And it’s always better to know than not to know.

7. Rates are cyclical. Even assuming nothing changes in your driving or claim record, rates go up and down. That’s because rates are also affected by what all insureds are doing, not just you. Insurance is all about sharing the risk, so if there’s lots of claims in your area you may see a spike in rates. And if they have a good year you may see the savings via rate reductions or dividends. I’ve gotten dividends on my auto policy many times from my mutual insurer.

8. Don’t assume that the big, “preferred” companies will have the more expensive policies. And don’t assume that the smaller ones do. You may be surprised.

9. If they won’t sell you the policy you want, call another agent. Some agents set “agency minimums”, setting a policy that they won’t sell any auto policy that doesn’t  have, for example, at least 100/300/100 liability limits. Whether they can/should or cannot/should not do this is a matter for someone else to debate. If you want lower limits than what they’re willing to write, ask if that’s an agency policy or a company policy. Or just call another agent.

10. Two quotes from different agents from the same company for the same coverages with the same deductibles should always be exactly the same. To the penny. If it’s not then something is wrong. Perhaps one person has mis-classified how you use the vehicle, perhaps they rated you in the wrong territory. You need to find out what.

Also, if you have a child that will be driving in the next few years you may want to get some quotes for adding them to the policy when the time comes. Few people are really prepared for the sticker shock of adding a teen driver to the policy. Sure, the rates will change, but it gives you an idea. The more time you have to prepare the better.

Okay, you’re almost ready. Before you begin, make sure you have your Declarations Page (which lists all of your current coverages) in front of you. Also have the quotes for different coverage and deductible options that you may have gotten from your current insurer, and any notes you may have taken while speaking with your agent.

Once you’ve got all the quotes, check out Auto Insurance 101: Part 3 ~ What to Do With The Quotes Now That You Have Them, to be published tomorrow. And good luck!

If you liked this article check out the rest of the Auto Insurance 101 Series, and check out ways to Stretch Your Dollar.

I Posted to Craigslist, and the Police Showed Up

The police came to our house today, as the result of a Craigslist post.

Unlike the obvious Rhodes Scholar who advertised for a hitman to kill her lover’s wife, our visit was innocuous.

The officer’s wife had contacted me about some shelves I had listed for sale, and like a good and dutiful husband he came to pick them up.

Nice as he was, he let my three-year-old sit in the back of the police car, hopefully for the one and only time in his life.

Better yet, I sold the shelves for what I paid for them four years ago, so I got to use them for free.

Pre-Cleaning for the Cleaning Lady

My father has bestowed upon me a lovely gift.

He is out of town this week, so he’s sending the girl who cleans his house to come clean mine.

Happy dance time! Can you see the smile from where you are? Can you?

I don’t have a cleaning girl of my own. On one salary it’s hard enough to pay for groceries. And gas. So when the laundry needs to be done and the floors need to be washed and the carpet needs vacuuming, I’m the girl.

I hate cleaning more than just about anyone, but I loooove having a clean house. So I keep the house relatively clean, and every now and again I get industrious and do a good, deep clean. And every once in a great while, when I have a few extra dollars from Craigslist sales or birthday money, I will hire someone to come in and clean for me. I’d much rather have someone clean my toilets for one day than enjoy a year’s worth of bath gels.

It’s been quite awhile since the last time that happened. My father had offered her services to me one other time, but I was enjoying InfectionsRUs and had to pass. It was a sad, sad time.

Tomorrow is the big day. I’m very excited. And I am suppressing my very strong urge to pre-clean for the cleaning lady. I am trying not to care that my son missed the toilet today, and that there’s a thick layer of dust on my bedroom furniture because we’ve had the windows open to enjoy the cooler weather this week.

Of course I’m going to make the bed. That’s not her job, at least to me. And I’ll finish up the laundry. I want her doing the hard, dirty stuff – I’ll take the easy stuff. I wonder if she’ll clean the grout in my tile floors…

Because she’s coming here on Thursday, too.

Sweet bliss.

I’m going to let her do what she’s being paid to do. And enjoy the reprieve…

But you all know I’m going to clean up the pee tonight, right?

Tonight I Ran Away From Home

I got really angry earlier this evening. Disproportionately angry. Could-feel-the-blood-coursing-through-my-veins angry.

My husband and I had a small spat. As I was expressing my displeasure (not nearly as civilly as that phrase suggests) I could feel my anger build – and even as it was happening I knew the anger was disproportionate to his (as I perceived it) transgression.

I walked into the other room, and my three-year-old started whining. And whining. And then he wasn’t listening. The very last thing that I needed to be dealing with, angry as I was. I sent him up to his father, and I sat here. And I seethed. For a long time. Very unusual for me – my anger usually abates very quickly.

A friend suggested that I get out of the house. That friend lives a thousand miles away, so I called up a local friend that I hadn’t talked to in about 8 months and made plans to get together with her. I spoke to my husband and he was pretty supportive (he knows how rare it is that I react as I did), though he did request I be home by ten. I was noncommittal.

So my friend and I went and played Bingo, and then went out for a drink. It was good to get out, and Bingo is always fun (though I always think I should do my hair in a beehive and bring kewpie dolls as good luck charms).

So, now I’m home, mellowed a bit on my 1/2 glass of wine (it really doesn’t take much alcohol to get me buzzed), and am not wanting to poke my husband in the eye any more. Good thing he had no comment about my 11:45 arrival…

And another thing – I am soooooooo glad I’m not single anymore. Listening to my friend talk about her dating stuff, looking around at the obviously single people in that bar…ugh. I enjoyed being single, but the dating scene was always very stressful for me. It’s good to know I’m home. In more ways than one.

The Most Disgusting Post Ever

I don’t mind bugs. Spiders, beetles, grasshoppers – none send me running from the room, or puts me in that classic female position of calling for the nearest man to rescue me.

Except for roaches. Specifically those of the Palmetto Bug (no link, if you want to see you’ll have to look it up yourself!) variety. I grew up in New Jersey, where roaches are of normal size, about 3/4 of an inch to an inch long. Disgusting and gross, sure, but they don’t elicit the same visceral response that Palmetto Bugs do.

Then I moved to Florida, where G-d apparently decided to cater to all of the senior citizens and make the roaches Large Print. Seriously, they’re huge. Between 2 and 4 inches. Not only that, they can fly.

Yes. Like the creepy flying monkeys in The Wizard of Oz. And nearly as big.

Imagine sitting at a table and a three inch cockroach alights onto the table next to you.

They seriously send me into a state that nothing else I’ve ever seen can. My heart races, I get nauseous, and feel the need to immediately flee from the room. The house. The state.

You think you’re disgusted reading about this? Imagine having to see one, live and in person. And if you try to kill them you need a hammer, or at least hammer strength. G-d decided he should give them body armor, apparently.

Did I mention they’re not afraid of the light? You don’t even get the opportunity to pretend you didn’t see it because if you walk into a room and turn on the light you find yourself in the middle of a staredown.

When I’m alone and encounter one, I manage to get ahold of myself and do what needs to be done. I have been known to chip paint I’ve hit them so hard, because the only thing that freaks me out more than encountering one is letting one escape. I’ll let your own imaginations take you where I dare not let mine… I shudder in disgusted aftershocks for at least an hour afterwards.

Thankfully in the six years I’ve been in my home I’ve only encountered four. Husband sprays occasionally, and that seems to keep them at bay.

Tonight my son and I encountered one in our kitchen. It was huge. At least three inches. It’s the second one this week, and it’s likely due to all of the rain we’ve been getting. When I saw the first one I freaked, then handled it. I certainly couldn’t ask my son to (though I really, really look forward to the day when I can).

So, when I saw tonight’s roach I immediately let out a yelp and then yelled to Husband, “There’s a roach in the kitchen! That’s the second one this week!!!” He replied, “So? Kill it.”

Before the words were even completely out of his mouth I yelled, “You’re home! YOU do it!”

Doesn’t he understand that killing bugs is his job when he’s home? To me there are many benefits to being married, and this is one of them. I’ll handle certain things when you’re not home, but when you are, dear Husband, you do it.

Do it he did.

It was thirty minutes ago, and I’m still having aftershocks.


I love being married.

Today I Stole a Camera and Found a Treasure

Well, I really borrowed it, sort of.

Since my stepmother passed away last year my Dad has been having a hard time. He immediately asked my sisters and I to go through her clothes and jewelry in their room, and get them out of the house as soon as possible. So, we spent the first few days after her funeral doing that for him. It wasn’t easy, but we really wanted to do whatever we could to ease his pain. The rest of her things – books, knicknacks, and a houseful of other treasures and, frankly, junk, was left as it was. Not much has changed in the six months since. Really, there’s no rush.

Today I was at his house, and he was looking for his casino Player’s Club cards, as he’s off to Las Vegas next week. He isn’t sure where she kept the cards, so I helped him look in some of the most likely places.

I ran across her camera. She has a really cute little Canon Power Shot. She’d asked me to go with her to choose it, which was unusual because we didn’t get along much of the time, and in the thirty-five years I’d known her she had never before asked my advice on pretty much anything.

So, as I was looking for those cards I found myself with the camera in my hand. And I noticed there were pictures on it. Without asking my Dad I took it. Not to keep – it will be back where I found it before he returns from his trip. Still unusual, though, because I ask him before I move or take anything.

I took it so I could upload the pictures. I wanted to see what the images were. If there were any great shots of the two of them I’d have it framed. That’s what I thought.

There were only twenty-five, and most of them was from their last trip to London. The last few, though, were from Father’s Day, just three weeks before she died. We’d celebrated it at my brother’s house, and there were some cute pictures of the kids.

There was also one very unusual picture in there. One of she and I, each with an arm around the other.

Except for perhaps my wedding and my Bat Mitzvah (and I’m not even sure about those), I think it’s the only one there is. In thirty five years.

So there will be a photo framed. Just not the one I thought.

Win a Date with Drew and You Too Can Disappear!

Drew Peterson’s wife Stacey disappeared in late October and hasn’t been seen since. The court of public opinion, right or wrong, has already decided that he killed her. As an ex-police officer, he’s a good candidate for the almost-perfect crime.

Most of America has been appalled by his behavior – hamming it up for the cameras, making jokes and exhibiting all kinds of horribly inappropriate behavior. Even if he were not responsible for her disappearance, she is the mother of his children and she is missing. A little decorum, please. And consideration for your children, for goodness sake!

He hasn’t been in the news recently, and then today he was.

Apparently, he and his attorney suggested to a Chicago Deejay that Drew appear on his program for a “Win a Date With Drew” promotion. Excuse me while I vomit.

Really, could he be any more arrogant?

Thankfully the station put the kebash to the idea.

But you know the worst part? There would have been women who participated. In fact, I’m willing to bet he gets at least some love letters. Heck, lots of men on Death Row are married to women they’ve never touched (lucky for the woman), who have convinced themselves of the man’s innocence in a misguided attempt to find the love they never got from their daddies, or something.

Women can be so stupid. It’s so embarrassing.

Creative Carnivals Make for Lots of Link Love

I’m really having a good time with all of the carnivals, and am especially impressed by how creative some of the hosts are getting.

Case in point, Plonkee over at Plonkee Money gets the creativity award this week. As part of the Carnival of Money Stories, she cleverly weaved most of the entries, including my article on Counting Eggs and Chickens and Christmas Bonuses, into a bedtime story. Really, bravo!

Also check out the Festival of Frugality over at On Financial Success. I’m thrilled they included my article Auto Insurance 101: Part 1 ~ Before We Shop Let’s Understand What We Have. There are lots of other great articles, too. I’m really looking forward to writing more insurance articles, now that I’ve gotten started…

Politics has been on my mind quite a bit lately, and all of my political articles are…rant-y. I was happy to see my post Hey Legislators! Let’s make a Minimum 24-hour Jail Stay Mandatory accepted to the Carnival of Political Punditry at I’m a Pundit, too. I voted today, but since I am not affiliated with any party I wasn’t permitted to vote in the primaries. There was an important property tax relief amendment on the ballot, so I showed up and did my civic duty. It will, hopefully, help my house sell…

Another carnival accepted a political post from me. She Blogs, over at Sex and the South, included my article Politics is a Big Pile of Moose Poopy. That’s a cool carnival where all of the submissions are from women bloggers, and the subject matter really runs the gamut.

Women also rule at the Moms’ Blogging Carnival, hosted by Angelawd. My article Gross and Not-So-Gross Ways to Save Water, and Money was included. I really appreciate all of the great feedback I’ve gotten on that article!

The Carnival of Homeowners at Homeowners Insurance Lowdown included my article Foreclosure Affects New Buyers, Old Buyers and You, and had lots of other articles about the subprime mortgage crisis and real estate, most of which made me want to cry. My home has lost 30% of it’s value in a year and a half.

Excuse me while I go cry some more…

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