Not ready for Christmas

No cards mailed (will address a few tonight). One gift purchased for nephew (need to wrap; adults don’t exchange gifts). Don’t know yet what I will bake and/or cook for Christmas dinner.

Christmas had snuck up on me. Haven’t been in the malls shopping or making purchases online.

Wasn’t in the mood for Christmas music until a few days ago.

No stress buying and wrapping gifts. Not dreading receiving credit card bill in
January.

Don’t forget the reason
for the season
.

The Money Heifer shall “be grazing” til the beginning of January 2012.

Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year!

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Excessive shipping costs

Today I called to order one item from In the Company of Dogs (after unsuccessful attempt of ordering online this morning).

The cost of the item – $60. The shipping rate – about $9. When I was told there is no guarantee the package would arrive before Christmas, I inquired about other options.

The sales representative told me about two other options: UPS at $13 or rush/express delivery at $5 in addition to standard shipping rate. I wasn’t sure if I heard that correctly. I asked, did you say UPS at $13 plus standard shipping rate of $9? The sales representative responded yes. I replied, that’s outrageous!

I asked about the rush/express shipping. The sales representative explained the merchandise is guaranteed to be moved out of the warehouse in one day. Okay. The sales representative explained, still not a guarantee to arrive before Christmas. Well, I elected that option.

$22 shipping for a $60 item. Just outrageous. (BTW, item I ordered is not a Christmas gift).

Saving $$ on gasoline & helping the environment

Sunday morning, after church, I visited a locally owned natural foods store called M.O.M. (My Organic Market). I noticed upon arrival that a lady was having her tires checked.

After selecting and purchasing items, I walked out the store. An employee asked me, did they tell you about getting your tires checked? I replied no. He then told me this is a free service M.O.M. is providing to customers this week. I replied, why not.

I pulled my car to the spot in front of the store and he checked the pressure of each of my tires. It turned out that both front tire were slightly deflated so he inflated them.

We chatted as he checked my tires. He explained M.O.M. provides this service twice a year: summer and winter. He reminded me that with properly inflated tires I will save money on gasoline and help the environment. And I got a free tire pressure gauge too.

I knew tips were not allowed so I offered a donation for hot chocolate because it was rather chilly but he declined.

Don’t forget to check your tires’ pressure.

Remember – preventive maintenance does save you money.

Year end gift: personal check or cashier’s check?

In my post yesterday I blogged about the amount of the year end gift for the newspaper carrier. Having resolved that matter, the next issue is the manner of payment: personal check or cashier’s check?

Several years ago I would not have hesitated to pay with a personal check. But there is so much information on the personal check. No, I’m not talking about my address (he knows where I live). And, no, my telephone number is not listed on the check. (And some people used to have their social security number pre-printed on their checks. Yes, this actually occurred. I was stationed with the USAF overseas. One had to write one’s SSN when writing checks. I know people who had the SSN pre-printed on
their checks. What an innocent time. Those days are no more!).

My concern – my checking account number and the bank’s routing number are printed on the check. Way too much info for someone who may not have the best of intentions.

I write checks in limited circumstances: my church, charitable organizations and Medical providers. A yearly gift to a newspaper carrier (in fact the 1st one to this particular carrier), isn’t worth the risk.

So, tomorrow morning I will stop by the credit union and get a $40 cashier’s check. My credit union allows members to obtain one cashier’s check per day with no fee assessed.

Did I mention, I really like my credit union 🙂

How much of a year end gift?

Friday morning I saw my newspaper carrier. He was delivering the paper later than usual so I had the opportunity to chat with him for a few seconds. After he departed I opened up the plastic bag containing The Wall Street Journal. Inside was a holiday card and an envelope addressed to the carrier.

Funny, I had been thinking about this lately. How much of a tip do I give the newspaper carrier? Is there an expectation that the gift should be more generous since I subscribe to The Wall Street Journal, versus The Washington
Times
or The Washington Post?

Later that morning, after arriving at work, I asked my boss, a fellow subscriber of The Wall Street Journal about tipping the newspaper carrier. I told him I was considering $40 or $50. My boss replied, that’s really generous, maybe too much. So, I inquired, how much do you give? He responded, about $30.

I then remarked, I know there are not that many people in my area subscribing to The Wall Street Journal. My boss jokingly agreed – that carrier is spending extra on gasoline to deliver your paper. He does deserve extra.

I’ve decided to give him $40.

They’re at it again

Standard & Poor is threatening to lower the credit rating for most of the countries in the “eurozone” because of the ongoing crisis in Europe. One of the two countries excluded from
S&P’s threatened action is Greece (it is already bad there. I guess even S&P realizes there’s not much it can do to Greece).

I’ve said it before and I will say it again: never forgot the role of the credit rating agencies during the events leading up to the financial crisis of 2008.

S&P, and its cohorts gave triple A rating to the CDOs that firms like Lehman Brothers sold to investors.

S&P – if you had done your job before the financial crisis of 2008, I would respect what you have to say about the “eurozone.” But since you didn’t do your job then, your opinion means nothing now!

2.5 – 3 hour wait to have a nail removed from a tire

On Saturday morning I had multiple errands. The last stop – a visit with the veterinarian for my dog’s injection. Walking back to the car, I noticed something silver like on my tire. I stooped down and realized it was nail embedded in the tire. Just great.

There used to be a Merchants Tire & Auto Center about a mile north of the veterinarian’s office but I didn’t know where the center is now located. So I called my mom, who knew (in Greenbelt past the NASA Goddard) & decided to drive to that location.

I arrived about 15 minutes later and explained my situation to the employee. He told me no one could provide service without me waiting 2.5 to 3 hours. Just to have a nail removed from my tire? I noted I had a dog in the car. He replied, you can walk him. Okay, that wasn’t going to work. So I asked, could you at least look at my tire?

He accompanied me outside and checked the nail in the tire. The Merchants employee remarked, it is borderline. What, I said? He explained, based on the location, I may have to purchase a new tire. Great.

I then asked, I can’t hang with the dog for 2.5 to 3 hours. Do you think I can drive on the tire? He believed so. I inquired further, so what is a good time to return. He could not say ( not sure how many other customers like me will walk in). May I make an appointment for this afternoon? He responded appointments must be made 24 hours in advance.

I decided it was best to go home, drop off the dog and return to Merchants with a book.

Just as I was ready to pull off, my mom called inquiring about my status. I explained the lengthy wait and my decision to go home first. My mom mentioned a local mechanic, Paul, at K&J Autos, used to have Saturday hours but no more. But occasionally, he’s there on Saturdays.

Driving home I figured, what’s the harm in driving by the shop to see if Paul is around? He’s open! Within 15 minutes of arriving Paul removed the nail. I noticed another tire looked low. His nephew agreed and added air. I told Paul’s nephew – you guys are my angels.

Cost for nail removal service = $6.36. Tip given to Paul $5.00.

I still had my Saturday. Wouldn’t waste my time sitting for three hours at Merchants. 🙂

$2.21 to $9.82 now $19.13

These are the extra amounts of principal payment I have made monthly during the past few years.

In 2009 I was paying a certain amount of money each month on my 1st trust.  About October 2009 I received an escrow analysis from my credit union.  Based on that analysis, my monthly payment would be reduced, by a whopping $2.21.  Not much.  Well, I wanted to start paying down the 2nd trust (and at the time all extra $$$ was applied to paying off the condo mortgage).  I decided to making a principal payment of $2.21 each month after paying the monthly payment for the 2nd trust.  So the grand total extra principal reduction to my 2nd trust (from December 2009 to November 2010) was $26.52.

About October 2010 [after I had paid off my condo] I received an escrow analysis from my credit union.  With the ongoing poor housing market, home values were still flat or falling and my property taxes were reduced.  Based on the original amount I paid in 2009, the difference starting December 2010 would be $9.82 per month.  Still chump change.  But I stuck to my guns of applying this extra money to my 2nd trust.  So the grand total extra principal reduction to the 2nd trust (from December 2010 to November 2011) was $117.84.

This October I received another escrow analysis from my credit union.  The monthly mortgage payment for the 1st trust dropped against (versus the original monthly payment in 2009).  The difference now is $19.13.  I am now in auto mode – apply all extra money to 2nd trust.  I  made my first such payment today.  It’s nice to have a significant principal payment (significant compared to $2.21).  If I stay on course, by November 2012, the grand total extra principal reduction to the 2nd trust will be $229.56.

Slow but steady.  The snowball (extra principal payment) gets bigger and bigger.  And, the 2nd trust will be paid off early (even if it’s just 3 or 4 years early).