No eating

A simple rule (actually, I believe it states eating & drinking are prohibited). Despite such a clear and unambiguous rule, there was a passenger seated behind me on the bus at 8:00 a.m. eating what sounded like potato chips. Yes I was annoyed.

Our public transit in the DC area (Metro) attempts to keep the buses & subway trains clean. It COSTS to have personnel clean the buses & subway trains.

There have been times when I’ve boarded the subway train and found shells of sunflower seeds on the floor. I’ll never forgot the time a couple boarded the subway train & then opened their carry out KFC & began eating.

Let’s keep our public transit clean (this applies also to those individuals sipping their Starbucks coffee). Obey the rules.

Others may be hungry but are obeying the rules. Please exercise restraint.

Why I avoid early bird shopping on Black Friday

Due to an experience years ago as a child. Back then, living in the DC area stores, would offer significant discounts on back to school supplies. My mother, a widow with three children, would take advantage of these sales.

I recall in particular Montgomery Ward (no longer in existence) offering discounted back to school supplies. We typically patronized the Montgomery Ward at Wheaton Plaza in Montgomery County, Maryland. One year, for reasons I cannot recall, we patronized the Montgomery Ward at Capital Plaza in Prince George’s County, Maryland.

My family and I waited outside the doors of this Montgomery Ward to open at 10:00 or 11:00 am on a Sunday morning. There were other customers waiting. The gathering crowd was a bit rowdy. A couple of minutes before the doors opened one gentleman announced, “Ladies and children, I’m here to get those school supplies, so make sure you step aside because I’m getting mine,” or words to that effect. Maybe the guy thought he was funny. I thought, what a weirdo.

A couple of minutes later the doors of the store opened and customers rushed toward the entrance. I was pushed from behind (hey, watch it). When my family and I reached the area of the store to select our school supplies, people were pushing and grabbing. My mother almost fell.

Barbarians!

Needless to say, we NEVER patronized the store at Capital Plaza again.

One should not be injured or killed shopping for discounted merchandise. But people lose common sense at these early bird Black Friday sales.

What took so long

Today President Obama announced a two year freeze on federal workers’ pay. Thank goodness, thought this freeze is about three years late (yes, something his predecessor should have implemented).

We ALL have to make sacrifices during these tough economic times. So far federal workers (for the most part) have been shielded from the downturn in the economy.

No WHINING federal workers. We (yes I’m one too but w/ a different branch) still have jobs and our salary has not been cut by 5 or 10% nor have we been furloughed.

Let’s keep things in perspective. It could be worse if we lived in Iceland, Greece, the UK or Ireland.

Saturday’s $50 Winner

After patronizing the local Farmers’ Market (supporting small businesses), a family member & I visited the World Market at Pentagon Row in Arlington, Virginia. I was there to browse only; the family member was doing the shopping.

While looking at jewelry a store employee handed me a scratch off ticket. I thanked her as I accepted the ticket. Then I thought, do I have coin? Dug deep into my purse & found one.

As I scratched I expected, at the most, to save 5% off my total purchase. To my surprise & delight, I won $50.

After doing a double take, I thought, where is the employee who gave me the ticket?

In less than a minute I found the store employee and showed her my ticket. She told me she would retrieve my prize. She returned about 2 minutes later with an envelope labeled “Saturday’s $50 Winner”. The employee told me the envelope contains a $50 gift card. She asked me to write my name & telephone number on the back of my ticket. I complied. Upon returning the ticket the employee, she congratulated me. I was still so surprised that I won. I thanked & added, what a wonderful way to begin the Christmas season.

So, now, what do I buy? Funny, I’ve patronized World Market on many occasions & found lots of things I wanted. This time, nothing in particular caught my eye.

I eventually found a bed my dog & holiday treats that he likes (3 boxes of Wet Nose’s Apple Pie). I purchased 3 items for myself. Total amount spent = $49.05.

Next time I visit World Market I’ll have $.95 to spend ūüôā

Preparing your shopping list for Black Friday, “Redefine Christmas”

Saw an advertisement in today’s Wall Street Journal.

The ad encourages Americans to reconsider the month’s long shopping compulsion beginning the day after Thanksgiving dubbed Black Friday.

Instead of buying gifts for friends and family (who probably have more than ENOUGH stuff), consider giving donations to a family member’s or friend’s favorite charity.

The motto of the campaign, Let’s Redefine Christmas.¬† By putting more Thanksgiving in it.

For more info, check out the website

http://www.redefinechristmas.org/index.php#home

Fruit Ninja

A few months ago my sister & brother-in-law gave me a gift card for my birthday to purchase an iPhone.¬†¬† Months later I don’t know how I lived without one for soooooooo long.

I have all three e-mail accounts loaded onto the iPhone.  This allows me to be much more efficient with sorting through e-mail and responding timely to the occasional e-mail I receive from  my tenant.

I’ve uploaded “free” apps such as Facebook, WordPress and BBC News.¬† I’ve purchased apps ranging from “Debt Snowball” to “iPiggy” from¬† “Bike Repair” to “C25K.”

A colleague at work has an iPhone.¬† During a couple of our weekly lunches he’s mentioned different games apps that he purchased.¬† As he described them, the games are silly but fun.

The discussion about those games intrigued me.¬† I finally checked out the Apps Store and scrolled through the “featured” apps.¬† One title caught my attention, Fruit Ninja.¬† (Hey, I’m a fan of ninjas and samurai.¬† Maybe I read too many comic books when I was younger.¬† ūüôā¬† But they’re cool and my interest in them sparked my interest in Japanese history and culture.)

I read the description for Fruit Ninja.¬† Seemed like a fun game.¬† And the price was right, 0.99 cents (though, hey, I was charged sales tax, so total cost was $1.05.¬† I don’t recall paying sales tax before.¬† Maybe I’ve overlooked in the past).

Anyway, once the game was loaded onto my iPhone, I tried it out.  Totally awesome game!  I am hooked.

And, what variety.¬†¬† You have a choice of games: (a) classic, (b) arcade mode and (c) zen mode.¬† Though I started with the classic game,¬† I’m more fond of the arcade mode.¬† But, what I like about the classic game is the Sensei’s Fruit Fact after the completion of each game.¬†¬† An example, “Over 1,200 varieties of watermelons are grown worldwide in 96 countries.”

If you haven’t played Fruit Ninja, I recommend it.¬† It’s fun.¬† It’s inexpensive.¬† And, if you don’t like it, it only cost you 0.99 cents or $1.05 (with the sales tax), so no regrets.

I plan to revisit the Apps Store soon for more entertaining games!

Deed NOT RECORDED

On Saturday, November 13th, the day before leaving town, I received paperwork from my credit union showing I had paid off the condo’s mortgage.¬† I had been waiting for this paperwork.¬† I didn’t review the paperwork.¬†¬† I assumed everything I needed was enclosed.¬† Plus, I was preoccupied with getting ready for my departure the following day.

After returning to town, on Friday, November 19th, I visited the Recorder of Deeds with the paperwork I received from my credit union.  The employee told me that the appropriate paperwork, a Certificate of Satisfaction, was not included among the paperwork the credit union sent me.  She told me either the credit union had not yet issued the Certificate of Satisfaction or the credit union has sent the Certificate of Satisfaction to the District Government but it has not been received.

This was weird.¬† Last May 15th, I paid off the condo’s home equity mortgage.¬† I received paperwork from my credit union.¬† I arrived at the Recorder of Deeds with the paperwork which included a Certificate of Satisfaction and that certificate was subsequently recorded and thereafter returned to me.

Speaking with this employee and another employee, I remarked,there must be records documenting whether the credit union recorded the deed.  Each employee responded, true.  Of course, neither employee made an effort to assist me further.

Luckily, while I waited in line, I noticed a series of computers and some were labeled for public use.  So I sat down in front of one of the computers and double clicked on the internet explorer icon.

What appeared was a database about land ownership in the District of Columbia.  I quickly searched for the grantor/grantee index (all those hours of genealogical research has finally paid off).  I typed my name as a grantee and six entries appeared, three regarding the house and three regarding the condo.

For the condo, the three entries are (1) a deed when I purchased the condo, (2) a Certificate of  Satisfaction from 2004 when the original mortgage was paid off because I refinanced the condo in September 2003 and (3) a Certificate of Satisfaction from 2009 for the paid off home equity loan.  Absent from the list is any reference to the loan the credit union made to me.

While at the Recorder of Deeds I called my credit union. After twenty minutes of waiting, I ended the call.  I decided to visit my local credit union.

Later that afternoon I arrived at my local credit union. I signed in and a credit union employee escorted me to the rear of the credit union.  I explained my situation, namely, I have paid off my mortgage but the credit union did not send me a Certificate of Satisfaction.  The mortgage department and loan department are not located at the local branch but at headquarters.  So the local credit union employee had to call headquarters to put me in touch with the appropriate office. Ultimately I spoke to someone who confirmed the deed was never recorded by the credit union.  She told me to keep the paperwork  showing I paid off the loan in a safe place.

I can’t believe it.¬† The credit union did not record the deed. I refinanced the mortgage seven years ago.¬† What the f%!&?

After calming myself, I recalled the credit union was on notice two years ago that the loan was not recorded.  In February 2008 I applied for a home equity loan for the condo.  At one point during the process I received a call from a credit union employee informing  me that she cannot find any record of the present mortgage for the condo.  What?  I explained, your institution lent me the money.  She responded, oh.

I assumed, when it came to light in 2008 that the deed was not recorded, the credit union would take corrective action at that point.  Apparently, it  never did.

Technically, the records of the District of Columbia show the condo was paid off in 2004.  Yet my semi-annual property taxes were paid by the credit union since later 2003.   What?  Yes,  the District of Columbia sent the semi-annual tax bill to the credit union which then paid the bill.

So, where does this leave me?¬† Honestly, I don’t know.¬† I plan to consult someone tomorrow.¬† Funny, the same problem exists for the house – the credit union never recorded the deed when I refinanced in September 2005.

Meanwhile, since the credit union never recorded the deed for the condo, I believe I am AT LEAST entitled to a refund of the amount (plus interest) I paid back in 2003 for the recording fees.

GONE GRAZING

The Money Heifer will be away next week.  Will return Monday, November 22nd.

And The Money Heifer pledges to be more consistent (easier for readers to follow) by posting Monday thru Thursday.

Which Membership Provides the Better Discount?

For those on Facebook РI apologize but you are receiving this for the 2nd time.  Initially placed this post on the wrong blog.

Last Saturday evening I realized I had not reserved a rental car for an upcoming trip. I am a member of USAA and I receive up to 25% discount with Avis or Hertz.

I logged onto the Avis website and looked for a vehicle that met my needs and obtained a quote. I then logged onto the Hertz website and repeated the process. These quotes did not include the up to 25% discount for a USAA member.

I then realized I had overlooked that I am also a member of AAA.  With this membership I can obtain discounts renting from Hertz. So, two memberships provide discounts with Hertz. But which one provides the better discount?

The back of my AAA card lists the discount code. I entered this info on the Hertz website and then obtained a quote for the vehicle that met my needs. My problem was I didn’t have a comparable code for my USAA membership thus I could not determine if this membership provided a better discount. I didn’t want to call on a Saturday evening because I wasn’t sure if the call would be answered by someone outside the United States.

Sunday morning, about 11:00 a.m., I decided to visit Union Station, the location where I intended to pick up the rental car. Extremely disappointed to learn that the Hertz employee could not assist me. He directed me to the website to make a reservation (I could not make a reservation at the pick up/drop off site). I explained to him that I was attempting to compare discounts, didn’t have the code for one of the memberships and thus logging onto the web wasn’t the answer. I asked for the toll

Monday morning I called that Hertz toll-free number. The employee who answered my call found that the AAA membership provided the greater discount versus USAA. Needless to say, I reserved the car with my AAA membership.

Remember, it pays to comparison shop. And it pays to be persistent.

Tackling $1 trillion-plus budget deficit

Read today on NPR.com an article by The Associated Press entitled Deficit Panel Leaders’ Plan Would Cut Social Security.¬† According to the article the leaders of the bipartisan commission, Chairman Erskine Bowles (Democrat) and former Sen. Alan Simpson (Republican) released their proposal to control the burgeoning deficit.

Among the bold proposals are (a) reducing the annual cost-of-living increases in Social Security, (b) establishing a tough target to curb the growth of Medicare, (c) eliminating popular tax breaks such as the mortgage interest deduction, (d) cutting farm subsidies, (e) cutting foreign aid and (f) cutting the Pentagon’s budget.

The reactions of individuals from the two political parties were not unexpected.

“This is not a proposal I could support,” said Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL).¬† “On Medicare and Social Security in particular, there are proposals that I could not support.”

“It’s a very provocative proposal,”¬† said GOP Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas.¬† “Some of it I like.¬† Some of it disturbs me.¬† And some of it I’ve got to study.”

Wow, what a surprise.¬† The Democratic politician¬†disapproves of cuts to Social Security and Medicare.¬† And, though not specifically identified, one can comfortably presume the Republican politician is opposed to cutting the Pentagon’s budget, foreign aid to certain countries, and probably farm subsidies.

These proposals will go NOWHERE with such attitudes. 

Austerity measures?¬† Not here in the United States.¬† There’s a special interest group or lobby for each program.¬† And our politicans cannot and will not compromise even if their lives depended on it.

I disagree with The Associated Press’s label of bold proposal.¬†

These programs selected by Bowles and Simpson for reduction or elimination are NOT new.  For example, former President George W. Bush appointed a commission concerning our tax code.  The Commission recommended eliminating the mortgage interest deduction.

Don’t think such a proposal would ever see the light of day?¬† Think again.¬†In 1986 the tax code eliminated the then popular credit card interest deduction (that’s right, one could deduct credit card interest on your federal taxes).

Although the mortgage interest deduction is indeed popular and has a huge lobby, in the form of the National Realtors Association, the elimination of this deduction will eventually occur (if not within the next 5 years, maybe the next ten years).¬† That’s why I’m a big advocate of getting rid of all debt, including mortgage debt, ASAP.¬†

Our politicans Рboth from the left and the right Рmust act and be ADULTS.  All of the programs MUST BE on the table and all MUST BE  sliced in some fashion. 

We Americans must learn to develop that “stiff upper lip” like England.¬†

But do our politicans¬†have the intestinal fortitude to tackel¬†the $1 trillion defecit?¬† I’ll let you answer that question.

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