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Bank Rewards: Read The Fine Print

I’ve long been a fan of my credit card’s cash back system, so when my dad started touting his bank’s rewards program, he piqued my curiosity. Then, just a week later, I got an email from my bank advertising the very same rewards program. It felt like a sign from above, urging me to learn more about it. So I did.

The bank rewards its account holders for doing business with it, everything from automatic online bill payments to cashing a check at the ATM. Since I do all of these things on a routine basis, it sounded like an easy way for me to put a little extra money back in my pocket – my bank’s rewards calculator showed that just by following my usual banking habits, I’d nab about $50 in cash back each year. Not bad for doing something I already do.

So I signed up for the program, excited to start earning my cash back rewards. Then I logged on to my online banking account, and saw a $40 annual fee for the program.

I’d read all the fine print for the rewards program, so I was baffled as to why I was charged the annual fee, which would wipe away the majority of my cash back – and basically make my participation in the program worthless.

I called my bank’s 1-800 number, and was transferred from person to person, trying to get an answer to my question: why had I been charged the $40 annual fee, when I was pretty sure my upgraded checking account qualified to have the charge waived. When I finally spoke to a (knowledgeable) human, they gave me the answer: a few months back, the balance on my checking account had temporarily dipped below the minimum threshold required to maintain the upgraded account, so my bank automatically switched me to a standard account. They also didn’t change me back to the upgraded account once my balance was restored to the acceptable level (we were only below that so-called threshold for about 72 hours, over a holiday weekend). They’d notified me electronically, via my online banking account, due to my contact preferences. However, I’d never seen the message (I’m pretty bad about reading the messages that land in my online banking inbox, as they almost always are promoting some service I don’t need).

Long story short, the bank was in the right – I no longer qualified for the waived fee on the bank’s rewards program. I asked the bank to refund me the $40 fee and unenroll me from the program, which they did. Although I would have netted about $10, over the course of the year, I figured I had other ways to make that $40 “grow,” so to speak.

So the moral of my tale… whenever enrolling in a program that affects your finances, be sure to read ALL the fine print, and know exactly what you’re getting into!

Article publié pour la première fois le 06/11/2014

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Hubs Let’s Me Handle The Money

I was reading this article at Christian PF today and it occurred to me that I’ve never really talked about how Husband and I manage our finances.  Really, I just assumed that you knew, seeing as how we are practically like family now. 

It’s really the thing to do in the personal finance blogging world, because, after all, who wants to read financial advice from a lady who can’t even balance a checkbook.  Yes, I could straight up lie to you, tell you I made millions in futures, commodities and other equally obtuse investments. 

I’m not gonna lie.  I’m basically Abraham Lincoln sans the beard right now.

 

The Basics 

We are a single-income family of two, have one debt – a military loan with basically a 0% interest rate (so, no real reason to pay it off early), no house, soon-to-be no cars, Roth IRA’s, 401k’s, and a few other vanilla investments.  

We are boring. 

 

What We Think We Do Well

Minimize Crap Buying – This is something that two anal-retentive, clutter-hating people are bound to do well.  Our favorite tool for crap-minimization has been our separate “allowance” accounts; they make us think more about small purchases and put a cap on the amount of junk we could actually buy, even if we wanted to. 

Pay Off Credit Cards Completely Every Month – I’m aware that anyone who knows anything about money management knows that this is a very basic rule.  Well, we follow this rule very well and I want a gold star for it.  

Maximizing Our Investment Contributions – Hubs contributes the full 5% that the Air Force matches to his Thrift Savings Plan (401k) and, when I had a job, I did too – free money!  We also max our Roth IRA contributions every year (we’ve only been married a year and a half, but it’s a good start). 

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Article publié pour la première fois le 04/11/2010

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Boredom & Spending

As the old saying goes: Familiarity breeds contempt (of people).  There is, however, a lesser known variation of this famous phrase (lesser known because I just made it up, feel free to spread it around):  Familiarity breeds boredom (of stuff).   

Boredom can have many negative side effects: dizziness, weight gain, whining, grumpiness, and, perhaps most disturbingly, unnecessary spending! 

Don’t get me wrong, change is good, I’m a huge fan of change.  Why, I change my underpants almost daily (joke, just a joke people).  Sometimes, however, boredom can lead to discontentment which can lead to the urge/desire/need to change EVERYTHING.   

Most likely, everything does not need to be changed (unless there is shag carpet involved).  Often times, something “new” doesn’t even need to be purchased.  When you can’t get no satisfaction, looking around and working with what you already have may actually turn out to be more rewarding and fulfilling than going on a shopping spree. 

What if instead you:

Rearranged – your desk, your living room, your bookshelves.

Purged – I’m always amazed by how different a room looks when stuff is taken out of it. 

Cleansed – just as your car drives smoother after the car wash, your house will run more efficiently when it’s clean.

Or Changed Something…

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Article publié pour la première fois le 14/09/2010

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I was reading over at WebMD today and stumbled across this article about caregiving. I noticed it specifically because it mentioned burnout in the article title. As a blogger who used to work a full time job, has a family and kids, I can completely understand burnout.

For me, burnout comes at the absolute worst time – when I’m doing well. When I’m working a lot more than I should apparently, when I have too many plates spinning up top, that’s when burnout strikes and everything comes tumbling down. So it seems does this happen in the caregiving relationship. Reading on in the article though, I can understand why this would happen to a caregiver, even more so than a full time blogger 🙂

In the caregiver relationship there is a certain lack of control there. The one being cared for, there’s no telling what will happen to them, that’s why they’re being cared for in the first place. So as the caregiver, there can be overwhelming feelings of (quoting the article here:)

  • Role confusion
  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Lack of control
  • Unreasonable demands
  • And other factors

Personally, I’ve witnessed caregiving relationships and while I never really thought about burnout in those situations, I can attest to all the above feelings. I wasn’t even the one giving care and I felt many of the above feelings as well as exhaustion from what both people had to endure.

Just as with any other burnout situation there are ways to combat the feelings that cause burnout, ways to keep make the situation better and continue caring where it is needed, the first of which is to recognize the situation. Recognizing the feelings of burnout, the feelings that lead up to burnout, can help you address the situation before it becomes a real problem.

Some other suggestions from the article include finding someone you trust that you can talk to about the feelings you are having; a friend or coworker familiar with the situation or even a therapist if you think that’s necessary.

One of the best things I picked up from the article about preventing burnout and not just that of a caregiver relationship but really of any situation is to be realistic. Specific to caregiving, “be realistic about your loved one’s disease.” That can help far more than some of the other tips in the article and in the relationship I was a witness to, that’s exactly what helped their relationship endure.

I found some great information on Genworth.com about long term care insurance that could help as well before a situation gets bad.

Article publié pour la première fois le 19/02/2013

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Getting Debt Help

If you’re in debt, you could feel like you’re drowning and you don’t quite know what to do.  It could also feel like you are all alone.  However, that is never the case, and there are options if you need to get debt help.  Many possible options are free, but if you need serious help, you could always pay a financial advisor or other counselor for advice.

Get a Partner

One of the first things you can do if you feel like you’re drowning in debt is to get a partner.  This should be your spouse, but it could also be a close friend or family member.  The most important thing to remember is that you shouldn’t go about dealing with your debts alone.

First, a partner will help you make more rational decisions, especially when it comes to difficult choices like selling assets or possibly letting things go into foreclosure or repossession.

Second, a partner can help you be accountable to your spending, saving, and debt repayment goals.  Depending on why you are in debt, this can be especially value added, since a good friend could help you avoid shopping.   A good friend can also be a person to lean on to share your feelings about the debt, and going through the process of getting out.

Get Professional Help

If you want to turn to professional help, you do have several options, both free and paid.  Many cities, states, and even the federal government now offer free debt counseling to qualified individuals.  Many of these programs will also help you negotiate with your lenders to modify your terms and help you pay off your debt faster.

You can also use a paid professional –  either a paid debt counselor or a paid financial advisor.  A debt counselor will help you with dealing with your creditors, and can help you put a plan into place to repay your debts.

A financial advisor could be beneficial to look at your overall financial picture and see what is right to do given your entire financial situation.

Article publié pour la première fois le 22/04/2012

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How to Play Gin, aka Adult GoFish

When Husband and I are sitting around watching the boob tube we like to play Gin.  It’s easy, it get’s us talking, and it’s fun to kick Husband’s butt at something.  Oh, and it’s free.


Now, some people can be pretty religious about the rules of the game.  We are not those people, so feel free to get creative.  Go here to see some more official, more boring guidance.


Your Objective: Obtain 3 cards that “match” and 4 cards that “match.”  That’s 7 cards mathematicians.

A “match” can be:

3 or 4 of the same card – 3 Kings, for example. 


3 or 4 cards that are the same suit and in order – 9, 10, Jack, Queen of spades, for example.


Let’s get playing!


1. Shuffle; if you didn’t know this already, you must not play cards very often.  Never fear, you’ll get the hang of it.


2. The dealer deals the first person to his left 8 cards and everyone else 7 cards.  In the pictures, the dealer is on the bottom.


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3. The person with 8 cards goes first.  Look at your hand and figure out what your best “matches” look like.  Pick the card that is the least likely to match anything else in your hand and lay it down, face up in the middle.


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4.  Now the next player (the dealer in this case) has the option to pick up the Queen of clubs if it would “match” their hand, or to take a chance and draw from the top of the pile.  If you like the card you draw, keep it, if not, lay it down face up.  You don’t have to change your hand every round, but you can only have 7 cards in your hand at one time.


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5. The other player now get’s the same option of picking up what the dealer layed down, or drawing from the pile.  In this case the other player drew the 7 of diamonds and discarded the 6 of clubs.  Now, they have a set of 3. 


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6. Keep on pluggin’ until one of you has a set of 3 and a set of 4.  The winner lays their last card face down in an act of total domination.


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Article publié pour la première fois le 23/06/2010

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