Archive for June, 2012
A few years back we installed a satellite dish at our vacation home and ordered service to DirectTV. Shortly after the installation I considered ditching our cable TV, but before cutting the cord I sent out a survey to a bunch of our repeat renters to ask their opinion.
Most of our guests told us that they only watch television when the weather is bad and they were concerned that satellite service wouldn’t work during a major storm, so we made the very strange choice to keep satellite for ourselves and for any renters who wanted to watch it, but also keep cable for the renters in case storms arise during their vacation. Our cable bill was only $20 a month, (due to a promotion), and during the off season we place our service in vacation mode, which costs $10.
Well this year something went horribly wrong when I asked the cable company to place our service in vacation mode and since we don’t watch cable we had no idea the service was out until the first renter called to complain about it.
This is where things get a little crazy. I called the cable company and asked them to place the service back into active mode. They said that wasn’t possible, because the service had been completely turned off at the pole. In other words, rather than making the change to vacation mode they turned off our service all together. I vaguely remember a customer service representative telling me that she could save us more money by making a change to our service, but I certainly didn’t remember her telling me that the savings would come from completely shutting off our access to it.
I calmly asked the customer service representative what needed to be done and he explained that someone would need to come out to the pole and turn our cable access back on. He also said that someone would need to be available at our home so that the technician could verify the change. My husband asked for clarification and we were told that the tech would just need to make sure the cable was working when the television turned on. The representative then told me he was going to sign us up for a promotional rate that would ensure we paid the least amount possible for the same level of service.
Well our vacation home is roughly 250 miles from our primary home, so there was no way we could be onsite for this change, but we informed our rental management company so they could let the technician into our home. We were told the cable was back up and running and thought nothing more about it until we drove down to North Carolina this weekend.
When we arrived our satellite receiver was on the floor, a digital cable box was on the shelf where the receiver used to reside and all of the cables were strewn about. We knew the satellite service wouldn’t work if the receiver wasn’t plugged in so my husband plugged it in, but it didn’t receive a signal.
For some very strange reason the technician cut our satellite line. We didn’t ask him to do this, we didn’t expect him to do this and to be honest we were pretty pissed off that he made this change. We also didn’t ask for digital cable. Prior to this time we had analog cable and we were perfectly fine with that. (Remember it’s just a back up so renters can watch TV on rainy days.)
In an effort to cut down on costs in the off-season we some how managed to have the cable service turned off, (turning it back on cost us $50), and my husband had to spend a day and a half restoring the cables to our satellite service. Worse yet we had to drive thirty miles out of the way to return the digital cable receiver we didn’t want and didn’t request in the first place.
Of course, if we had been onsite when the technician came out to make the change we could have informed him of the error and watched his work to ensure he didn’t cut the cable to our satellite TV, but we were 250 miles away.
I learned three very valuable lessons through all of this. First, when a customer service representative says they can save you money ask for clarification. I had absolutely no idea our service was going to be turned off at the pole rather than being placed in vacation mode. Also, when a representative says they are going to provide you with a promotional rate ask for clarification of the type of service. In our case, we were never informed that the promotional rate involved a change from analog to digital service. If we were told about that change we would have kindly said thanks-but-no-thanks to the promotional offer. Lastly, be very clear with the rental management company about the change to be made. We should have explained to them that the cable technician just needed to turn on the TV. If they understood the change being made they never would’ve allowed him to cut our satellite or install a digital cable box!
In the name of saving ourselves a couple of bucks each month we caused ourselves two days of misery. We not only had to repair the satellite service the technician purposely destroyed, but we also had to drive out of our way to return the digital cable box and pay $50 to get the service turned back on!
As we were driving down to North Carolina this weekend the check engine signal burned brightly from our dashboard. I opened the car’s manual, searched for the description of the warning and read the details to my husband. In essence, the manual said any number of things could make the light go on and the best course of action was to drive to the closet Toyota dealer for a diagnostic test.
Well there aren’t any Toyota dealers down here and we knew a mechanic could perform the same test, so we continued to make our way down south and stopped by a local shop this morning.
A very friendly mechanic popped into the driver’s seat of our car, pulled out a small screen, hooked up a wire or two, turned the key, clicked on some buttons and then reported that he could not find anything wrong with our vehicle. He informed us, (just as the manual said), that a lose gas cap can cause the warning light to go on and with that he stepped out of the car and collected $40.
That’s right in roughly three minutes the mechanic collected $40 and told us that there was nothing wrong with our vehicle. Not a bad gig for him, but there are a million other things I would have rather done with that money.
I was so shocked by how quickly the diagnosis was made that I wondered what it would cost for me to buy one of the devices he used to troubleshoot the problem. According to Consumer Reports
If you want to diagnose the malfunction yourself, you can buy a scan tool at most auto parts stores. Prices range from about $40 to several hundred, depending on the model and the features. The tools come with instructions on how to hook them up and decipher the codes. But unless you have a good knowledge of automotive diagnostics, you’re probably better off taking the vehicle to a professional. Some automotive parts stores will read and interpret the code for you without charge.
Next time around I’ll try an auto parts store before going to the mechanic. If they won’t do it for free I would consider buying the device and trying to diagnose the problem myself. (Anyone ever bought or tried one of these?)
I’ll also try to tighten the gas gap. According to the same article from Consumer Reports a simple tightening might resolve the issue, although it may take several trips before the light resets.
I’m not sure that the light in my 1999 Toyota Camry would’ve reset without a mechanic, but it would’ve been nice to try this fix before spending $40.
I will say that I am happy we didn’t just keep driving with the light on. I’d hate to have a problem that strands us on the side of the road with an eight month old in hot summer heat. We will make a 280+ mile trip home next weekend and it was worth it to spend $40 for simple peace of mind.
Since our son arrived gift giving for grandparents has gotten a whole lot easier. I’ve been making customized tote bags and using them as gift bags for a variety of items. I like to provide consumable gifts whenever possible so I filled one tote bag full of movie related items like gourmet popcorn and decadent candy and filled another with items for an Italian dinner complete with bread, sauce, dipping oil and pasta. The recipients can eat all of the products and keep the bags to tote their groceries.
Here are two new deals for free/inexpensive tote bags:
- Buy a Custom Grocery Tote from York Photo for $1.00 and receive 40 free prints just for registering. Use code YORKTOTEAD.
- Order 6 Products free from Vistaprint. Choose from business cards, stamps, t-shirts, sticky notes, flip books and tote bags. The products are FREE, just pay for shipping and processing. Design a flipbook of all of your photos to keep your memories close at hand and/or create a customized tote bag.
This is a guest post from Suzan Bekiroglu.
For many students with federal student loans, consolidation can be a great way to save money on both the amount of the interest rate and on the monthly payment. However, few students really understand how the consolidation process works or how it can benefit them.
Federal loan consolidation is a process in which a bank takes a former student’s direct loans and bundles them together as a single loan with one payment. This new loan can have a lower interest rate than the previous loans, and a longer payment term if desired.
Loan consolidation is a great way to get some relief on student loan payments. Many recent graduates feel trapped by the high amount of debt they have taken on. A typical graduate has nearly $24,000 in student loans for a Bachelor’s degree. In this harsh job market, many of these former students are considered to be underemployed; that is, they are working part-time and/or below their skill level. This means that many students are not making enough money to meet the minimum obligation on their student loans.
To make matters worse, many people do not discover until it is too late that they cannot discharge their student loans in a bankruptcy. Unlike practically every other type of debt, a person who cannot pay their student loans has no way of legally getting rid of them. This means a borrower has to find some way to make their payments or risk having their wages, tax refunds, and even their Social Security checks garnished. Student loans are a great way for a former student to lower their debt burden without running the risk of legal trouble
Fortunately, there is currently a special federal consolidation offer to help struggling borrowers. Anyone considering this option, however, should act quickly. June 30th is the deadline for this special program that will allow borrowers to lower their interest rate. Through this consolidation program, a borrower will be able to stabilize their interest rate and their monthly payment. By going through direct loan consolidation, a borrower will be able to know what their monthly payment will be until the end of the life of his or her loan. Knowing that your payment will not rise is crucial to being able to pay back student loans.
The Obama administration is offering this loan consolidation program only to people who qualify. Letters to all students who qualify for the program were sent in January of 2012. If you think that you may qualify and did not receive a letter, you can find out more information through your loan servicer and through the Federal Student Aid website.
If you are currently facing the possibility of not being able to pay your student loans, consolidation may be a good option for you. Be sure to research this option carefully, however, since borrowers are only allowed to consolidate their direct loans once. Consolidation is an important decision that can help you to become more financially independent and get your student loans finally paid off.
Ms. Bekiroglu is a published author, freelance writer and editorial consultant for secureloanconsolidation.com. After receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of South Florida, she faced the mounting obstacle of paying over $24,000 back in student loan debt. Determined to eliminate the debt, she became knowledgeable about money management. She seeks to educate others with tips on managing student loans and other kinds of debt, as well as in general personal finance and money saving tips.
Thankfully my eight month old son is an even tempered baby. He’s been happy and relaxed since the day of his birth. When I take him out with me he smiles and coos and even strangers remark on his calm and easy going personality. I feel unbelievably blessed to have him in my life.
With such an easy and thankfully healthy baby I know I shouldn’t complain, but at eight months his sleeping patterns seem worse than ever. Some nights he wakes only once or twice, but lately he’s been waking anywhere from three to six times and then waking tired between 5:00 and 5:30 am.
He’s NEVER been a good sleeper, but after eight months of sleeping for only a few hours at a time I am feeling quite exhausted. I recently got a cold and took nearly a week and a half to recover. I know sleeping only two to three hours at a time isn’t good for the body and I’m ready for longer stretches of sleep on a consistent basis.
My son is off the charts in terms of mobile activity and development. By seven months he could crawl (including up steps), pull himself to a standing position, give kisses, eat finger foods by himself and cruise. Most babies initially learn to stand by pulling up on furniture, but our little one can use anything to stand including walls and doors and if you hold his hands he can now take quite a few steps without tiring or falling.
Some people tell me babies don’t sleep well when they are learning new skills. I’d love to blame the problem on that, but I’m afraid our son just can’t seem to fall asleep on his own. I bought used copies of four leading baby books and tried nearly all the techniques, (other than cry it out), without any success. Most nights a 10 second pat puts him back to sleep, but that still means I need to wake up. walk over to the crib and pat him two or three times a night, plus wake once to feed him.
I’m considering buying a sleep package from one of these baby sites that promises to teach your child to sleep better. You email them the specific sleep patterns of your child and they create a customized plan. It seems crazy that I’m even considering this, but I’m feeling desperate to come up with a solution to this problem!
Ahhhh, nothing like waking up, walking down the hall and smelling the glorious stench of raw sewage. That’s exactly how I spent the first few minutes of my morning. My house was built in the early 1950s and the drains for the shower can be accessed through a panel in our hallway. As I walked past that little door this morning I was inundated with the oh so pleasant smell of garbage and sewage water.
So, what’s a girl to do but call the plumber and hope for an easy and not too expensive solution. Before calling the plumbers I noticed that the room beneath that bathroom had some water damage in the ceiling. Hooray, hooray we’ll fix the bathroom issue and then fix the damaged plaster.
The plumbers came out about an hour later and explained that a rickety old toilet may be the culprit. They pulled the toilet back from the floor and showed me how all of the parts in my 50 year old toilet had rusted out. They further explained that the toilet was barely holding onto the floor and that the hole to the sewage line was exposed whenever the toilet shifted about on the one screw that seemed to keep it bolted in place.
The fix $300 to $400. My suggestion to go ahead and replace the ancient commode another $600 after parts and labor. $900 later I am now the proud owner of a newly installed toilet. The plumbers took their money and happily offered to return if any other problems arose.
Well I’m afraid to say I just wondered upstairs and noticed that the stink of sewage is not dissipating. I now wonder if the toilet was not causing the water damage or stench in my home after all. Let’s hope another call to the plumbers is not required tomorrow.
Last week my beautiful baby boy reached the eight month mark. I can’t believe how fast time has flown since his arrival. I have taken thousands and thousands of pictures since his birth. In the first few weeks I snapped shots every day. As the weeks went on I started pulling out the camera at least three times and more recently I pared down my photography sessions to roughly two times a week.
Luckily my husband and I are super organized folks. Every few days my husband edits the photographs I take. He searches through hundreds of photos and pares down to only the best shots. While we start with roughly one to two hundred we ultimately end up with the best fifteen to thirty for that day.
He categorizes them by date and event and stores backups so we won’t ever lose them. We post the photos online so friends and family can see them, but I wanted to further pare down the photos and create an album of the first eight months of our little guy’s life.
Even with all of our organization it still took me a couple of days to search out and select the very best shots. I narrowed it down to roughly 149 photos in the first four months and 279 for months 5 through 8.
There are nearly twice as many photos in the second four months because I never picked up a camera before my son was born and in the past eight months my shot selection has greatly improved. Plus, as my son becomes more active the photographs have become interesting. In those first couple of months most of the photos are taken with my son laying down.
I had two Groupons to Photobook America that were set to expire on the day my son turned eight months, so I decided to separate out the photos into two albums. The first months 1 – 4 the second months 5 – 8.
It made me so happy to look through all of the photographs and remember each of those precious moments with him. Unfortunately, I realized that I didn’t include all of the photos I intended to in the first book. I copied the images over to a directory and it seems they were moved to a sub-directory without my realizing. After looking at so many pictures I simply didn’t realize they were missing until it was too late.
That’s a bummer because some of the early images in the hospital won’t be included in the book. Along with a particularly adorable set of photos that were taken just before Christmas time.
I learned two valuable lessons in all of this. First, if I intend to make another album, (which I do), then I need to select favorites every month. It took days to select all of the pictures I wanted and it will be much faster to complete this process as soon as my husband edits them rather than trying to take on this task all at once.
Second I should not wait until the last minute to take on a task like this. I literally waited until the very day my Groupon was set to expire to complete the album. This was due in part to the fact that I was sick a week up to the expiration date, but in my rushed state I missed photographs I wanted to include. Had I provided more time for myself I could’ve created the album then taken a day or two to review it and make certain that it was just the way I wanted it to be.
Of course, we have those photographs in other places, but it’s a bummer to work so hard on something and then feel it’s slightly less than I wanted it to be.
I can’t wait for the photo albums to arrive. I purchased them from Photobook America and the vouchers cost only $35 for $115 worth of photo keepsake books.
I don’t want to plug Photobook America until I see the results, but I will say that I was very impressed with their software. I was able to perform a lot of cropping and editing within the layout screens.
I’ll provide an update once the photo albums arrive. After all this work I sure hope they look amazing!
If you’re interested in purchasing a Groupon to Photobook America click the image below, sign up and search for deals in Cincinatti. There are only a few hours left to purchase, so if you’re interested you should hurry. I just purchased another Groupon so I can create one last photo album, (months 9 – 12), of my son’s first year!
I belong to just about every rewards program out there. If you name it I’ve probably signed up for it at some point in time. If you don’t believe me just take a glance at my key chain. You’ll find a plethora of reward cards to grocery stores, restaurants, drug stores, candy shops and even one for a local garden center.
If I’m going to spend money somewhere I might as well be rewarded for it. It’s the same reason I use a cash rewards credit card for 99% of my purchases.
The trouble with all of these programs is that you have to spend money to earn coupons, cash or store credit. Well today I found a program that actually rewards you for saving money.
SaveUp.com is a free rewards program designed to help people save money and get out of debt. After you sign up you’ll receive free SaveUp credits every time you add money to your savings accounts or pay off your credit cards.
Those SaveUp credits can then be used to win cool prizes ranging from $100 gift cards to a $2,000,000 jackpot. According to the SaveUp website:
Unlike other rewards programs that require you to spend large sums of money to earn points, or lock you in to specific financial products with annual fees, SaveUp is a free rewards program that connects to your existing accounts. SaveUp rewards you for increasing your savings and reducing your debt in almost any bank in the US with the chance to win great prizes like vacations, cars and cash.
SaveUp is providing all One Frugal Girl readers with an extra 100 SaveUp credits just for signing up via this link. So go ahead and sign up, but PLEASE leave me a comment if you win any cool prizes. I hope one of my readers wins and wins BIG!
Long before the summer started I bought my son a very expensive swimsuit from Gymboree. I couldn’t wait to introduce my little one to the water for the very first time and I guess I wanted to dress him in something special for that occasion. I’m not sure why I thought that, but nonetheless that thinking led me to search the Internet and ultimately purchase an adorable little swim outfit that cost $35.
Now let me just say that $35 was the reduced price. My mom purchased a few outfits for my son around Christmas time and received $25 in Gymbucks that could be used towards a future order. Had it not been for that coupon the total would have exceeded $60! Yes you read that correctly. At full price the rash guard, swim trunks and little bucket hat cost nearly $60. $60 for a swim outfit that my little one will wear for a limited time this summer.
I convinced myself to make the purchase because I had my mom’s coupon in hand and I’d won a gift card for $25 to Gymboree a long time back, so the cost after shipping was just over $16.
Of course as the summer season rolled around I found an adorable swim outfit on sale at Macy’s for only $8 and received a number of rash guards and swim trunks as hand-me-downs. Although I plan to take my baby to the pool and ocean quite a bit I have more than enough swim wear for him and decided to return the Gymboree purchase.
Well I hit the jackpot at the Gymboree store. For the same price that I paid for three little swim related items I bought three long sleeved onesies (one with matching pants), two pairs of pajamas, two summer hats, a sweatshirt and a pair of overalls.
All but one item cost less than $4.50 and four were as low as $1.59. I am actually thinking about returning the overalls, which cost one-third of the overall total. They were $9.99 and while they are certainly cute I just received a brand new khaki pair of OshKosh brand overalls from a former coworker that are the exact same size as the ones I purchased.
I feel so much better about spending the money on ten items then I did on the original three. Especially since the other three items would only have been worn while swimming.
I hope when I return the overalls next week that I can find a bunch more items at rock bottom prices. Since I’ll have store credit from the return I might as well see what I can find! At these prices if my son can’t wear whatever I find I might just give them away as gifts. A lot of babies have been born to friends of ours in the past six months!
My husband and I get a lot of packages in the mail on a weekly basis. As crazy as it sounds I bet we receive a package in the mail at least every three or four days. We buy a lot of things on the Internet. Everything from diapers and groceries, to repair parts and even tires, which means boxes are arriving at our house quite often these days.
Since we travel a lot between our home in Maryland and our home in North Carolina it’s nice to know when a package is scheduled to arrive. With UPS My Choice we receive notification emails whenever a package is on it’s way. The email provides tracking information along with the expected delivery date and time.
Now whenever we get an email we can call our in-laws and ask them to keep an eye out for packages at our front door. We actually had a problem with criminals following UPS trucks in our neighborhood and stealing boxes off of people’s steps, so having this service is vital for us. We let our in-laws know when an item is expected and can call them the minute it arrives. We no longer have to fear criminals stealing our packages and we can ensure the packages are kept out of the rain.
If you’re interested in this service just sign up for free at UPS My Choice. It’s nice to know when the products we order will be delivered. Sometimes I wait until the last minute to buy things and it’s nice to know whether or not the next shipment will arrive in time!
Note: This post contains sponsored links.