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Billpay/savings recap, plus advice needed re: notebook computer

July 15th, 2007 at 05:32 pm

After a couple of lean, lean weeks, I am trying to be smarter with our money. Payday was Friday, and I have paid the following:
Working Assets wireless & long distance, BellSouth, Discover, Arrow pest control, Gas South, and our home equity loan.

I also renewed our Sierra Club membership and made an additional donation ($59), got my hair cut ($47), made a deposit into our ING account ($75) and paid on my Wachovia credit card to cover recent purchases ($335).

I also paid Will back $10 I had to borrow from his bank (how pathetic am I?) I still owe Michael $20, which I will pay back next time I get cash.

Still to pay before the end of the month is our life insurance ($335), newspaper subscription renewal ($113 for six months) and a medical bill ($100) for my annual in May, which went toward our deductible.

Also, I'm planning to go to the chiropractor tomorrow ($40) as well as Trader Joe's.

After all those paid bills, though, I've got $2157.82. My impulse is to slap a bunch of it on a credit card, but I'm resisting that urge lest I wind up with no money in my checking account and having to use the credit card for everyday expenses.

Now, here is an expense that I'd love some advice on. My DH has asked if he could buy a notebook computer, because he travels occasionally for work and sometimes works at home. He is not a gadget guy in the least, so I know that if he's asking for a computer, he really needs it and probably has for some time.

He doesn't need anything fancy; he won't be watching movies, playing games or downloading music or any graphics-heavy stuff like that. He needs to be able to connect to the internet to do legal research, needs to be able to check his email, and needs Microsoft Word.

There is a tax-free weekend coming up, I think the first weekend of August, so we'd love to buy one then. Or if there's some other place online that has fantastic deals on computers, we'd consider that. However, my DH says that he'd really like to look at it before buying, because he's used his partner's notebook before and he hates her style of keyboard, so we'll probably be buying it at a store like Office Depot.

I assume that if we go with an HP or Dell we'll be fine as far as quality goes, but beyond that, I don't know what we need.

Does anyone have any advice about buying one? What does it need in order to connect to the internet at home, at the office, or somewhere like a wireless hot spot?

I am completely ignorant on this matter, so what I really need is "Notebook Computers for Dummies".

Wireless phone issue....

June 27th, 2007 at 02:31 pm

..turned out to be a good thing.

DH has had a wireless phone with Cingular for almost two years. He had a Razr phone that has been unable to hold a charge for more than a day, even after replacing the battery. However, when we called a few months ago to try and get a replacement phone, Cingular told him he wasn't eligible for one until this May. That made no sense to me - what if it had been lost? Anyway, at that point we decided that in August, when his contract was up, we'd cancel his Cingular account and add a phone onto my wireless account with Working Assets. That would also save us ten dollars a month, since his service was $39.99 a month and mine is only $29.99 a month.

Well, I didn't realize it, but when Cingular got bought by, or merged with, AT&T, the bills stopped coming via email. It occurred to me the other day that I hadn't seen a bill from them lately, but I forgot about it and didn't check.

This morning the phone rang right as I was getting out of the shower, and when I looked at caller ID, it was an 800 number, which I never answer, and because I was upstairs, I didn't hear the message.

About ten minutes later, the phone rang again and it was the same number, so again I didn't answer. As soon as I listened to the first message that basically said "this is AT&T with an important message about your account", DH called and asked if I talked to them. I said no, I didn't pick up either time, and I had just heard the message. He said "they called me at work, said I owed $136 for the past three months, and if we didn't pay immediately they're cutting off the phone and we have to pay $36 to reconnect. I told the guy to call home and talk to you, and he said that if he didn't reach you he was cutting the phone off."

Since I didn't pick up, the phone was cut off. I told DH to call back, find out where to send payment, and tell them that we do NOT want the phone cut back on.

This got us out of the two remaining months on the contract! I've written out a check for the past due bills we owe, and gone ahead and ordered him a new phone & service with Working Assets that is ten dollars a month cheaper than with Cingular. He barely used his phone anyway, since the battery died so often. Also, the new phone was free, and there was no shipping or activation charge.

So, getting called about a past due bill really stressed me out, but it turned out to be in our favor.

The only drawback is that he will be without a phone when get takes the boys camping next week, but I told him he could take my phone. I'll be staying here alone, and I really won't need it.

So in contrast to all that debt...

June 20th, 2007 at 02:11 am

...what do we do to save?

Well, at the moment, our savings are pretty pitiful.

I have a savings account at ING direct that I've had for several years. When we got our tax refund this year, after we paid a few bills, paid for a few summer camps, and paid CASH for our spring break trip, I put the rest in the ING account. It earned good interest for several months, but then I had to pull almost all of it out for our city taxes ($2500) and a home repair ($420) and some living expenses.

In the past I've had automatic deposits from our checking account scheduled, but when money was tight I cancelled them. If we can ever get this withholding issue settled, I'd like to start them again.

Both of my kids also have accounts with ING each with a hundred or so dollars.

We also have a crappy money market account with our main bank. It pays next to nothing and it also costs $6 a month. The ONLY reason I keep it is because I like to transfer money out of my checking into there, so I kind of forget about it and am not tempted to spend it. If I need it transferred back, the transfer is instantaneous....if I transfer it to ING, it takes two days to make it back into my checking account. I wish there were a better alternative...hell, a mason jar under the bed would be better. I'm certainly not earning anywhere near $6 a month.

Huh. Maybe I WILL put aside cash in a mason jar and close that account. That would be like finding an extra $6 a month...

We also have three retirement accounts, two at T. Rowe Price and one with the American Bar Association. One of them is mine, leftover from a previous job. I haven't checked the balance lately - I think I'll go do that right now.

My retirement account has $9600 in it; DH's T. Rowe Price has $16,400. His is invested solely in a science and technology fund, so the balance goes up and down. At one time, around 1999, it had a balance of over 40K. Of course, most of that disappeared within a year or two of that. His ABA account has $41,599 in it. We have never made deposits into those T. Rowe Price accounts on our own; the money in it is solely from employer contributions and what they've earned. DH was required to make a yearly deposit into his ABA account when he worked at the other firm, but has not since he left. In other words, we are not actively saving for retirement at all. And DH is 51, so we really need to get a move on.

I'm glad I checked them - they're doing better than I thought.

Here's a question I hope someone can answer ...in the past when I've had opportunities to put money into our retirement funds, I've always hesitated, because I think I would feel absolutely sick if I looked at the statement and saw that it had LOST money. Is there some way to minimize this risk - transferring my money to a super-conservative fund? A CD maybe? I am such a dummy when it comes to investing, I have no idea what to do, but while I'm paralyzed with indecision, time is wasting!