family


Last year we bought a riding mower and I have written before how the benefits of this purchase were getting a tan and escaping my children.

There may be one more benefit coming our way.

A class action lawsuit may put $75 bucks back in our pockets:

The lawsuit claims that the Defendants sold certain gasoline-powered lawn mowers and lawn mower engines with false and misleading horsepower ratings. The Defendants deny these claims and deny that they did anything wrong. The lawsuit does not concern the safety of these lawn mowers. The parties have agreed to resolve this case by settlement. (via lawnmowerclass.com)

If you bought a lawnmower (Ride-on $75 OR Walk-Behind $75) between January 1, 1994 and April 12th, 2009 you may be eligible.  So if you bought your lawn mower 16 years ago you can still file!  You just need the engine brand and ID Number (located on the engine itself).

You can file a claim online here.

Your lawnmower is included if your engine was manufactured by:
Briggs & Stratton
Honda
Kawasaki
Kohler
Tecumseh
Toro
Or, your lawnmower is included if your lawnmower was manufactured by:
Deere
EHP
Honda
Husqvarna
MTD
Sears
Toro
Brands manufactured by these companies include, but are not limited to:
Yard-Man, Cub Cadet, Honda, Bolens, Exmark, Deere, Sabre, Scotts, Toro, Yard Machines, Craftsman, Troy Bilt, Husqvarna, Poulan, Poulan PRO, Lawn-Boy, Weed Eater, White Outdoor, Snapper, Simplicity, Brute, Murray, and other brands.
These lawsuits tend to go on forever but I filed a claim anyway.  If someday down the road we get a check for $75 in the mail – BONUS!
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While in college I took mathematics courses like  – “MATH 101 – Math for Life” and “STAT 200 – Statistics for Liberal Arts Majors”. My husband on the other hand, graduated from a top 5 business school with BS in Actuarial Science. I never even had heard of that major before we met.  Even today when people ask me what my husband does I say, “Don’t ask me. I’m just a girl [tee-hee tee-hee]!”

Of course I’m trying to be a funny guy, but much like that ill-fated barbie doll, math really isn’t my strong suit.  I always assumed because I had trouble with Chi-Square tests I was doomed when it came to investing, finances and budgeting.

But Personal Finance really isn’t about math. Because even with a math-nerd husband we still found ourselves not doing the right things when it came to money.

Personal Finance, at least in its beginner stages, is about commitment, sacrifice and self-control.

When we decided we didn’t want to live paycheck to paycheck any longer and wanted to get control (FULL control) of our finances.  I researched all kinds of Personal Finance advice, read the blogs, learned all the lingo. Worked out the budget, planned for our irregular expenses. Basically, I prepared for almost a full year for the commitment we were going to make to be debt free.

It had been working out great.  We’ve been sticking to “THE PLAN”.  We no longer use credit cards.  I actually cook almost all our meals.  We have a small but growing emergency fund that we continually add to.   We gave up the Y membership, soda, name-brand coffee…

I have been waiting on the inevitable though.

And so we come to our first true test in our quest to be debt free:

The family TV broke this week.  It’s dead and it’s un-fixable.

I applaud and am in awe of those families with kids who limit TV watching to 30 minutes a day or the like.  We are not that family.   While I don’t worry for a minute that the kids watch “too much TV”  – they don’t.   I do use the TV as a crutch when I need to get something important done and having an almost 2, 3 and 4 year old under my feet is too much.  After the kids go to bed, my husband and I are *gasp* also TV junkies.  I admit it.  We don’t spend our evenings reading each other Shakespeare, we often sit slack-jawed, immersed in our favorite mindless entertainment.

In much the same way the TV was is a “crutch” so were the credit cards.   In the past we would have run out and bought a new TV AND put it on our credit card.   We had a very serious conversation (I’m not joking) discussing what to do with this dilemma.   Things like, “Will we survive without  TV?” and “After investing 5 frustrating years, will we never find out what’s really going on on LOST?!”, were said.

In the end we decided to do the grown-up responsible thing, not raid the emergency fund, and save up to buy a new TV with CASH.

In the meantime, my husband has agreed to don a smoking jacket and get a pipe.  Me and the little children will gather at his feet nightly by the fireplace, our chins resting on his knee, looking up at him with our angelic faces while he reads Dickens (my favorite!) to us…

(Full Disclosure – We do have a dinky old 19″ TV we can drag out if the above fantasy doesn’t work out.)

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If you didn’t get a chance to read Ninja’s post yesterday at “Punch Debt in the Face”, you should.

He tells a great story about the letter he wrote to himself, prompted by a high school teacher, that would be sent to himself to read six months later .  He admits while he didn’t take it that seriously at the time, it’s a great time for a proper re-do.

What would you say to your future-self?  He asked for some company in his mission:  Read his initial post and add your letter too.  This one goes out to: “FUTURE SELF” sahmCFO.

Dear sahmCFO plus 10 years,

You have been married for 15 years.   You have lamented to each other many times over the past three years how much you “miss” each other.  “With the kids so young,” you both have said, “once they are a little older we will have more “just us” time.”  Well now that they are, I hope you guys are living it up, and are back out in the big wide world.   Traveling, enjoying new places, experiencing everything and keeping open-minds (even if you do have to bring them with you sometimes).  He is so patient with you, I hope you have cut him some slack by now.  And if you are still leaving your old coffee cups on your bedside table, you’re a jerk. It really is the only thing he complains about.

You have 3 teenagers/almost teenager now.  How’s that working out?   They may be all hormonal and “too cool” to want to hang around you much anymore but remember this…They asked you to read them “Someday” by Alison McGhee again today.  They love when I read them that book.  All three of them sit in a little circle around me, they don’t fight, or scream “so-and-so is touching me!”.  They just study my face and listen to my voice.  It’s not story they care about,  it’s your feelings for them, on full display they seek.  They hear my voice crack at certain parts and scoot closer.  They watch my cheek intently for when the tear does fall and squeeze me a little bit.  I fight through it, relish it actually, finish, and they say happily, “AGAIN!”   Don’t you doubt for a second that you “didn’t show them enough” how much you love them.  They see it , they glowed in it, they know.

Today (well 10 years ago really), you worry about your debt, but 3 months ago you decided it was really time to take your family finances seriously.  You made a plan and then, a commitment.   I don’t think you are a millionaire by now, but if you have a credit card and use it you better pay it off in full every month.  Do you still stay up at night sometimes worrying about money?  You better not.  You’re an “older woman” now, you need your sleep…

Love,

“young” sahmCFO

I also have been accepted into my first Carnival (Thanks for the encouragement Out of Debt…Again!). Please head over to: “M is for Money” to check out the latest “Carnival of Money Stories”!
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I usually don’t answer phone calls with “Unavailable” on the caller ID or numbers I don’t recognize.  I am on the Do-Not-Call list, but somehow some telemarketers still get through and I prefer to just ignore them.  Last week the phone rang with a number I didn’t recognize, but it was a number with my area code.  Thinking it may be a friend who had a new cell phone or parent from my child’s class I answered:

Me: “Hello?”

Caller(in an urgent voice): “Is this the “sahmCFO family” that lives on “Saving Money Lane?””

Me (concerned and nervous – did something happen to someone I know and love?): “Yes, yes it is.”

Caller: “Do you know a “Mr. Debtor” who lives on your street?”

Me (relieved and suspicious that this isn’t a call about somebody’s welfare but a fishing for info call): “Umm, No I don’t think so.”

Caller: “Well, I was just speaking with him regarding something extremely important but we got disconnected and I really need to speak with him.  Do you know him?”

At this point in the call I am seething mad.  My 3-year-old and 4-year-old were at preschool at the time of this call and my heart had skipped many beats in the first few seconds of that call, thinking something had happened at school, and that this was a legitimate call – not a fishing expedition.

Me: “WHO IS THIS!”

Caller:  “My name is “Jerk-Face” calling from “Scumbag Collections” and we are trying to reach your neighbor regarding an important business matter.”

Me: “I don’t know him, please don’t call again.”

In 2006, when my husband and I made the transition from 2 incomes to 1 income we had a rough six months, we endured endless but legitimate calls from our credit card companies.  We paid our bills late sometimes, and the phone calls would start at 8am and go on until 8pm.  I was home with an 11 month old and a newborn and it was one of the most stressful times of my life.  We have not paid a bill late in 4 years and I cannot tell you how nice it is to be able to answer the phone again with no fear.

Until now.

It’s called a “Block Party”.

What Is A Block Party?

The collection agency or debt collector will call three or four or five of your neighbors and tell each of them that an urgent message must be given to you. “Can you please go over to his house and see if he is home?” or “Is he OK-he hasn’t called me back.” or “Can you leave a note on her door?” or “When you see him in the yard go over and tell him to call me immediately” or some similar statement. Usually the debt collector will refuse to tell the neighbor the reason for the call – “Sir, I’m not allowed to say as this involves an urgent private issue”. This only arouses the suspicion and curiosity of your neighbors.

The result is you begin to get calls and visits from your neighbors. They tell you that you need to call “Mr. Jones” or whoever the collector is and, of course, they want to know what is this about. When this happens, the effect on you is exactly what the debt collector wanted – fear and embarrassment.

Back to my disturbing phone call…

I DO know my neighbor.  He is the best neighbor I’ve ever had.  He is a 75 years old gracious man, with a wife in ill-health who he takes loving care of, who teaches me how to fix and maintain my tractor.  He invites my kids over to feed his fish in his KOI pond.  He is always willing to lend me any tool for any job I need.   He helped my brother remove a dead-deer carcass from the undercarriage of his car (don’t ask:)).  He is one of the “good ones” and there is no way I’m ratting him out or embarrassing him.

I know for a fact he owns his house free and clear.  We sometimes get his mail by mistake and I have seen MANY elite credit card offers in there.   He lives a very simple life, so this may just be a bill that slipped through the cracks.

It doesn’t matter why the collection company is calling, it is NONE OF MY BUSINESS! I am not a secretary for collection companies and I refuse to endanger the good relationship I have with him over this sleazy call.

To top it off, this was not the ONLY call from a collection company I received last week.  There were two other calls from debt collectors both looking for someone with the same last name as us.  Calling here in hopes we know the debtor.  And Yes, we also know this debtor they are looking for –  it is a family member. But again, I am not a secretary and I know the financial situation of this particular family member.  It is not good.  They have fallen on hard times and are trying to keep food on the table.  I’m not ratting them out either.

I am VERY ANNOYED THOUGH!  We pay our bills on time but still must endure numerous collection calls. This is ridiculous, but apparently NOT illegal. The collection companies also seem to be “caller ID spoofing“, so you assume the call is local and are more likely to answer.

Be aware.  Even if you pay ALL your bills on time you still may get “Collection Calls!”  Tell them to not call again.  But “Block Parties” and “Family Fishing” expeditions are the new thing.

You should be in the clear though if every person you are related to, has the same last name as you, lives in your vicinity or works with you pays every bill on time….

Otherwise you may be invited to the “PARTY”.

(If you are being harassed by collection companies you may want to read the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (via FTC.gov) and know your rights.)

UPDATE:

This is the phone number who called me about me neighbors debt:

(954)538-7533

UNITED COLLECTION BUREAU, INC

I did a little research to get their “real number” – Apparently I’m not the only one getting these types of calls…

I do plan on calling the FTC (filed online – reference number: 25959253) and my AG’s office to file a complaint.

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It was 5 years ago today we were married in Iceland.

The ceremony was short and sweet.  The “reception” was unplanned and nontraditional, but we wouldn’t have done it any other way.

Maybe not the most beautiful setting but it got the job done.

Maybe not the most beautiful setting but it got the job done.

They said some stuff in Icelandic and we said "I Do"

We had a few drinks at the ICEBAR...

Me and this guy sang you our "wedding song", "Nothing Else Matters" by Metallica

Happy Anniversary - I love you.

Happy Anniversary. I Love You.

In honor of my anniversary I’m sharing the love.

Here are some of my favorite YAKEZIE posts of the week:

Little House in the Valley shows you the Mathematical Method – “Borrow and Payback” that we used to teach our children but no longer do.  Other countries do though!  Could this help explain why the United States is so behind in MATH and in DEBT? You may never look at simple subtraction the same way again.

151 Days Off asks “Is Travelling Worth your Money?” I guess you can see from above how I feel about travel.  I’ll use any excuse to travel.  My divorce is planned for Bora Bora. (kidding)

Want to show off how smart you are and feed the hungry at the same time for free?  It’s simple, painless, no registration required.  Check out Cool to be Frugal – Expand Your Knowledge and Feed the Hungry.

Simple in France wants to know “What do Gain by Living Simply?”. She also details some of the sacrifices she needed to make to gain the “simple” life.  Is it worth it in the end?

Your kick in the butt for the week: “Hope WILL NOT get you out of Debt” by Deliver Away Debt. If you’ve been crossing your fingers that it will all work out for you, you better read this post.

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IRS – I take back all the nice things I recently said about you…YOU STINK!

Or it’s probably congress who stinks, I’m not sure who, but basically whoever is responsible for IRS Publication 15 (Circular E – Supplemental Wages) THEY stink.  This rule is going to cost us over $300 of our own hard-earned money.

The rule is regarding the tax treatment of bonus checks.  My husband receives a once a year bonus check in March.  According to the above rule,  this check is taxed at a mandatory 25%.

As I’ve stated before our effective tax rate is a ridiculous 1.26%.  I know, I don’t have a lot of room to complain with a tax rate like that, but we have deductible mortgage interest and property taxes, deductible student loan interest, crazy “city wage tax” and state taxes, three kids and are squarely middle class so it’s not like we are doing any creative accounting. ( I don’t even bother with our meager charity deductions because I feel I little guilty about this.)

I changed the w4 withholdings to 15 exemptions this year to no avail!  The paychecks don’t have a penny of Federal Taxes withheld and we will still get close to $3000 refunded.  The IRS will hold 23.74% of that bonus check in their coffers from March 2010 until we get it back in the form of a tax refund in MARCH of 2011.

In the meantime we will pay interest on credit cards with rates as high as 24.5%.  In the past I didn’t care, I loved that BIG REFUND.  But now that we are serious about no debt, and have a plan in place to get rid of it all, I’m a little miffed.  Each time I make a “Debt snowball” payment (or “debt avalanche” payment to be more precise)  I choke a little when I see how much of it goes to the interest and not the principal.   That chuck of our money we have to wait a year for would really speed up the process and save us money in interest or go to beefing up the emergency fund which would earn interest for us.

Do you think I can invoice the government for all the accumulated interest we will pay over this year?  I mean I don’t expect them to pay interest on tax refunds when most people who CHOOSE to CAN avoid them –  but what if  the IRS won’t ALLOW you avoid a refund?

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This is a story of the troubles that ensue when you live paycheck to paycheck and your paycheck is late.

My husband has been at the same job for 15 years and has without fail, been paid on time via direct deposit.  Paid on time and in full every 15th and last day of the month for the past 15 YEARS!   And even-though, with all my technophobia (my budget is still on paper), I have had such faith in the timely paycheck deposits that I automated ALL of our payments, bills, investments.  The mortgage is automated for the 1st and most of the rest of the bills (car insurance, car, electric, phone, credit cards…) are all set up to be paid on the 15th.

This was all going along swimmingly, until this Monday, March the 15th.

I had a feeling something was amiss on Saturday when the paycheck wasn’t listed in “pending”  on the banks website.  If payday falls on a Monday it ALWAYS has been deposited after midnight on Friday night, although it won’t actually “clear” until Monday.  I really felt uncomfortable on Sunday morning when it still wasn’t there.  I stayed up Sunday night into the wee hours of Monday morning because the knot in my stomach was getting larger by the minute and was hoping against hope it was going to go in there.

I had 16 scheduled payments automated to come out of that checking account on Monday the 15th.

I freaked, it wasn’t there Monday morning by 7am.  I scrambled to every website where a payment was scheduled to be made, canceling the payment, hoping it would cancel this late in the game.   Trying to remember 16 logins and passwords and clumsily navigating websites I hadn’t visited in months.  One website was “Experiencing Technical Difficulties” – “Try Back Later”, *sigh*.  I was picturing an endless, disgusting cascade of bounced checks. 16 Bounced checks would = $576 in NSF Fees!!! I eventually figured out how to, and did cancel all the payments.

I called the bank.  “No, we see no incoming deposits”.  CRAP, the Ides of March got us.

As a SAHM, I say all the time, “I work, I just don’t get paid.”  Apparently now, my husband does too.

He gets to work Monday morning, with the office all abuzz and comes to find, “a glitch with the payroll company and the problem will be resolved and deposits will be made by end of business.”  And it was, at around 3pm the deposit went in the bank.  Magically, it bypassed “pending deposits” and went straight to “available balance.”  He was paid in full and on time (it was the 15th).

Now I had to login back in to 16 different websites and redo the payments.

The bills and payments were in no danger of being late, but I liked paying them early and the money left over on the 16th was “uncommitted money”.  Our milk money, if you will.   I never doubted it would be more than 2 days or so that he would get paid, but the drama of having A LOT of money set to come out of an account where there was NO MONEY was too much stress to bear.

I’ve UN-automated all our payments.  No more “scheduling payments” or “automated bill pay”.  We’re going old school.  Well, I’m not going to write actual paper checks or anything that crazy, but I will pay each bill individually after I make sure the paycheck is in the bank.

We can’t afford to take the chance…

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