Another Reason To Check Your Bank Account Every Day

My wife was out shopping over the weekend and sent a rather alarming text message: Her debit card purchase had been declined.

This instantly sent a terror down my spine as I pictured our bank account having been drawn down to zero with someone else living the good life.

Luckily, I was able to use my Blackberry to log in to our bank’s mobile site.  It told me that our balance was right along the lines of what it should be (having looked yesterday), and I was able to look at the most recent transactions and see only one had appeared since I looked yesterday, which was for buying a pizza the night before.

In other words, absolutely nothing was out of the ordinary.

Read moreAnother Reason To Check Your Bank Account Every Day

Friday Link Roundup: January 28, 2011

Happy Friday.  This week has flown by.

It’ll be a busy weekend in the Beagle house as I’ll be getting some painting done in preparation for the new baby.  To recap, Little Boy Beagle will end up in his own big boy room, which is the current guest room, and the current guest room is moving across the hall, so both of those rooms need to be painted.  We’re also re-painting the master bathroom as the aqua color that it was just hasn’t been getting it done for us.  We’re going with a darker gray instead.

I read a lot of great personal finance articles over the past few days, but these four stood out as ones I thought my readers would be interested in.  Give them a read:

  • My Two Dollars asked a theoretical question about what you would do if you had $10,000 to spend (and you can’t invest it).  Spending fake money is always a fun pastime!
  • Len Penzo has 18 facts you might not have known about Social Security numbers.  I have always wondered when they’ll run out.  Apparently, not for awhile, but probably sooner than many think!
  • Frugal Confessions lists a bunch of ways to hide money around the house.  A lot of these are great ideas that might protect your money in the event of a robbery, but the challenges are making sure that you don’t hide them from yourself and that your money doesn’t get accidentally thrown out.
  • Miss Thrifty gives a few unique ideas on what to do with the cardboard inserts from paper towel or toilet paper rolls.  We recycle ours, but some of these ideas could just work too!

Hopefully you enjoy the great posts as much as I did and hopefully you have a great weekend!

When Investing, Do You Invest In What You Use?

There are hundreds of thousands of investment opportunities out there.  From stocks to mutual funds to ETFs to CDs to bonds and many, many other financial instruments, the opportunities are endless.

If you’re making individual investment decisions, one of the things to keep in mind when making investment decisions is the simple question: Do you invest in what you use?

mb-201101appleConsider the following:

  • If you use and love your iPad, iTouch, iPhone, and iPod, do you own any Apple stock?
  • If you use Amazon for most of your online shopping needs, talk about it to all your friends, and blog about it all the time, do you own any of it’s stock?
  • If you’ve been a faithful Netflix customer since 2003, do you have any of their stock?
  • If you just bought a Ford car in the last year or two because you love the cars and believe it’s a solid company, do you own any Ford stock?

Read moreWhen Investing, Do You Invest In What You Use?

The Power Of The Free Calendar

I have donated to my undergrad college every year since receiving my diploma in 1996.  I got a great education there, had a great time, made a lot of great friends, and in many ways, became the person I am today.  I happily give a small amount every year.

One of the things that I had grown to look forward was receiving a calendar, which was always sent out to those who had donated in the prior year.  The twelve month calendar was great for hanging at work, and featured pictures of the college, sometimes from the ‘old days’ and sometimes from how things are today.

I was a little bit disappointed when I did not receive a calendar for 2011.  Around December, when the calendar typically arrives, I got an envelope that I thought was the annual calendar.  I opened it up, ready to take it into work for the coming year, but found instead a donor appreciation report.  It was essentially a big, glossy report listing everybody who donated money.

Read moreThe Power Of The Free Calendar

How Long Is Reasonable Between Toilet Repairs?

We have three toilets in our house.  Our house was built in 1999, so they’re the more recent smaller-tank models.

When we moved into the house in 2007, we had the innards of two of the toilets replaced.  The house had been vacant for a few months, so we found that there were small leaks, most likely from seals that had been dried out from not having been used.

In 2008, I replaced the innards of the third toilet, having noticed a small leak developing.

I’ve found that the best approach seems to be to replace the entire guts of the toilet rather than fool around with trying to identify the specific part that is causing the leak.  The cost for doing the entire toilet is around $22 and I figure it’s worth replacing everything because if you try to replace one specific part, you’re not only taking the chance that you get the right part the first time, you’re also taking the chance that, even if you fix it, that another piece of the mechanism won’t fail.

Read moreHow Long Is Reasonable Between Toilet Repairs?

Good News From The Gas Company

I was really nervous about our gas bill.  The period for the last bill (early/mid-December to early/mid January) was cold.  We had a lot of days where it didn’t get above 20 and the nighttime temperatures were in single digits.  The furnace clicked on and off at a pretty rapid rate.

Still, I was hopeful that the bill wouldn’t be too high because, prior to the heating season, I discovered and repaired a leak around the fan in our master bedroom that had been whisking air into the attic at what had to be a pretty alarming rate, since the leak was occurring at the highest point in our home.  I know that the fix worked because our bedroom, which had been noticeably colder in the winter in years past, was now a more comfortable temperature.

Read moreGood News From The Gas Company

How Can 62 Students Fit In A Classroom?

The Detroit Public School system is one of the worst in the country.  It has horrible dropout rates, low test scores, and has been plagued with corruption for years and years.  The poor school system is one of the many things that gives the city of Detroit (and the surrounding region) a terrible reputation.

For years, many leaders have pledged to turn things around and improve the system.  Instead, it’s never happened.  There is optimism in the leadership trio of Robert Bobb (the emergency financial manager for the district), Dave Bing (the recently elected mayor of Detroit) and Rick Snyder (the newly elected governor of Michigan, who has said that a healthy Michigan *has* to include a healthy Detroit, including schools).

Read moreHow Can 62 Students Fit In A Classroom?

Price Increase Alert: Costco / Kirkland Baby Formula

At one of our recent trips to Costco, we passed by the baby formula section.  We were big fans of the Kirkland formula during Little Boy Beagle’s formula needing days.

(Side note: To those who will point out that breast feeding is the best and cheapest option: We know.  We tried.  Eventually, formula became the necessary option.)

mb-201101babyhandHaving looked around and settled on the Costco / Kirkland brand, both the price and the packaging were etched into my memory.

So, while walking around the section, a new method of packaging jumped out at me as I passed by.

Uh-oh.

Anytime a package changes, I immediately jump to the conclusion that the company packaging the product in question is changing something in some way to present a price increase, most often by giving less product at a price that works out to a higher unit price.

Once again, I was right.

Read morePrice Increase Alert: Costco / Kirkland Baby Formula

2010 Review of Annual Spending Categories

Last year, I presented an outline of some of our annual recurring expenses, and looked how we did for the previous year.  I thought that was a cool thing so here’s our 2010 numbers compared to prior years.

There are a grouping of expenses that occur on a regular basis.  I have attempted to group these together and ‘level’ the cost of these expenses, similar to how many utility companies will try to get you on a single payment for the year.  In my case though, I do this for about a dozen or so different things, and then make a single contribution towards this ‘leveled fund’ that covers the expenses.

Here are the expenses (rounded to the nearest dollar):

Netflix (Video Rentals)

2008: $113
2009: $85
2010: $63

Read more2010 Review of Annual Spending Categories

Restaurants and Debit Cards

Maybe someone with experience or knowledge of the restaurant industry can help me understand a minor point on how debit cards are handled.

This arises from a situation on New Year’s Eve.  My wife and I went out to a restaurant to eat.  We’ve been there a time or two in the past, but not for a long time.

The meal was wonderful, and as we usually do when we eat out, we paid using my debit card.  As is also usual, I signed for the tip to be added on.

What I’ve noticed happens at most restaurants when I do this is that for the first day or two, the transaction shows up in my register as a pre-authorization and is usually for only the amount of the check.  This makes sense as I’m guessing that the restaurant swipes the card before bringing it back to the table where tip can be handled.  Typically, when the transaction clears after a day or two and appears as a Posted Transaction, the full amount including tip shows up.

Read moreRestaurants and Debit Cards