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Archive for August, 2011

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The other day, I was reading how Wells Fargo, my bank, was planning on charging a monthly fee of $3 for using debit cards to make a purchase.  This is not to withdraw money from another bank’s ATM, but simply the act of making a purchase.  Go out to dinner and pay with your debit card?  If you do it only once, that’s $3.   It is not per transaction, thankfully.

Starting in October in five states, Wells Fargo & Co. will charge customers $3 per month if they use a debit card to make purchases. Customers can avoid the fee if they don’t use their card or by signing up for certain checking accounts.

Source: Detroit News

Wells Fargo doesn’t say anywhere on their site that they are planning to do this, and as of yet I haven’t received any notifications in the mail.  Yet this really annoys me.  I refuse to pay this outrageous fee, even though it is $36/year and I waste way more money than that on plenty of other purchases.  Why should I have to pay for access to my own money?

Luckily, I have plenty of other banks accounts.  The only reason I use Wells Fargo is because my mortgage is with them.  Since I am not planning on taking out a loan any time soon, I could just close all of my accounts with them, saying “See you.  Thanks for pulling a Netflix!” (Netflix is raising its rates by 60% and admitted in a blog post that they were going to anger customers but didn’t care).

But whereas with Netflix I don’t have any equivalent options to stream TV and movies, with Wells Fargo, I do.  There are other banks that don’t pull stunts like this.  The only inconvenience is that Wells Fargo has ATMs everywhere while my credit union does not and if I ever wanted to withdraw cash, I’d have to do it ahead of time instead of the assurance I need that I can find a Wells Fargo just about anywhere in the United States.

The alternative to using debit cards is to use credit cards, specifically my American Express, or to use cash.  The problem with Amex is that not every place takes it.  The problem with using cash is that it is a hassle to track in my spending reports.  This leaves me with various options:

  1. Stay with Wells Fargo and absorb the $3 per month.  This is the least attractive option on principle, but still is convenient.  I can withdraw money from ATMs but can never use the card to pay a merchant.  The solution is to bury the card deep in my wallet so I never accidentally use it, move over my primary account to another bank and then set up automatic bill payments to pay my mortgage.
  2. Dump Wells Fargo and switch to using cash.  As discussing above, I could do this but I’m still stuck with a Wells Fargo account for my mortgage, and I don’t like paying with cash because of the inconvenience (difficult to track and I have to carry around loose change).

  3. Dump Wells Fargo and switch to using credit cards.  As above, not every place takes Amex, but if I pay with Amex more I get points (which I use, contrary to what Dave Ramsey says) and I have always paid off the balance every month anyhow (plus I can automate that bill payment).  In the few times I can’t use Amex, I just use my other debit card.  The drawback is that I can’t use ATMs anywhere but have to be very opportunistic.  I’m also stuck with the Wells Fargo mortgage.

On the other hand, it may not even matter because I might have an account that doesn’t have these charges and I have a high enough minimum balance.  But don’t make me pay for accessing my own money.  There are plenty of other options out there.

Including using cash.

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This post is dedicated to my friend Shaun Warkentin.  While I don’t know if he’s ever done this, I know for a fact that he has wanted to.

Have you ever been at a traffic light wanting to turn right and been stuck behind a line of cars?  We all have.  But lo and behold, just off to the right, there is a parking lot that you could cut through.  Rather than waiting for the light to turn red, why not cut through the parking lot of the convenience store or gas station, save yourself 30-60 seconds and continue on your merry way?

Don’t do it.

Why not?  Because it’s illegal.  One day several months ago, I allegedly did that very thing.  Yet seconds after I pulled into traffic into the perpendicular road, a set of flashing lights lit up behind me.  I pulled over and as it turned out,  I was cited for allegedly cutting through a private parking lot in order to avoid a traffic signal and was given a ticket for committing that infraction.

Great.

Luckily, through work, I have a pre-paid legal plan that I pay for every month.  One of the deals is that each year, you get to have a lawyer challenge one traffic violation “for free” (the premium covers it and you don’t have to pay anything extra).   I looked up a traffic lawyer, gave him my case information, and then he went to court for me.  That was all I had to do.

The result?  The traffic ticket was dismissed.  It didn’t go on my record or anything.  It’s clean as a whistle (other than the one accident I had 3+ years ago which was my fault).

Still, I learned my lesson.  Every time I have the chance to stop waiting so long at the lights, I resist the temptation to cut through a parking lot.  It’s not worth the cost.

Even though I still won.

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Now that the marriage of myself to my beta wife is coming up soon, a certain question is coming up.  All of you who are married recently or have a certain condition know what I mean.

When are you having kids?

Notice how there is a presumption within the question.  It’s not “Do you plan to?  And if so, when?” it’s “Since you are clearly going to, when do you plan to start?”

The question is phrased in various ways and not nearly that direct.  It’s statements like “So, are you guys planning on having kids, even though you’re not yet married and have other things to sort out?” with a smiley nod.  Or “If you want to have kids, you need to get started soon” (since I am 32 and the BW is 29).

I always knew that the question was coming, and others have talked about it, but I couldn’t relate to it until it actually started happening.  The fact is that if we divide up our life into phases, the phase that the both of us have planned is between now and the end of September, and to a lesser extent the end of the December, and that phase includes getting married, taking a trip to New Zealand, and moving all of the BW’s stuff from her place to my place and figuring out a plan to either sell her place (preferable) or rent it out (more likely).  Beyond that is up in the air.

Don’t worry, if we’re going to have kids, rest assured you will all find out on Facebook.

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As the wedding between myself and my beta wife approaches, there are a couple of questions that come up frequently:

  1. How’s the wedding planning coming?

    This has not been a major issue.  We have slowly but surely plowed along and taken care of all of the big things.  Both us us will be glad when it is done, though, and both of us want to get this story going.

    All I can say is that I am glad we didn’t stretch out this engagement to many more months.  That would not work for me or my beta wife.  Seriously, how do people drag this out for months or even years?

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  2. Are you getting nervous?

    The answer right now is no.  I don’t think I’ll get nervous until either the week before, or possibly even the day of (I don’t get nervous before magic shows until right before I go on, but 20 seconds after I start it goes away).

    This is something I am looking forward to, and don’t want to back out of, and I think any feelings I have are a combination of anxiety, excitement… and maybe some nervousness if I really focus on it.

    But overall I am feeling pretty good.

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My beta wife and I were picking up some bubble tea recently and we were discussing the fact that she had to go to work, while I was going to go down to the restaurant where we are holding our reception and pay for the rest of it (I had put down a deposit and second deposit).

BW: What are you going to do today?

Me: I’m going to head down to the restaurant and pay for the rest of the reception.

BW: Did you remember the form that shows our reservation?

Me: No, I forgot it at home.  But they should have a copy there.

BW: Hmmm (using a tone that implies this is a total disaster).

(seconds later, no other conversation occurred during this limited time frame)

Me: I guess I could go home and get it.

BW: You don’t have time; it’s no big deal, they’ll probably have a copy there.

Me: That’s what I just said!

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Several years ago I made a decision to cut back on eating a lot of sugar.  I did this because:

  • It has no nutritional value.
  • It is bad for your teeth.

Now, I eat it sometimes.  Occasionally I have some chocolate or candy.  But I try to watch what I have and consume it once in a while instead of several times per day.

The problem is that my stomach developed an intolerance to high doses of sugar.  When I eat something really sweet*, such as a milkshake from Tech City Bowling, my stomach protests by becoming nauseous either later that night or the next day (my stomach protests lots of things; I think it might be an unemployed university student).

I somehow forget this all the time.  For instance, last night I was a my beta wife’s aunt’s (?) place.  They were celebrating one of the girl’s birthdays.  While there, they had some cake from the Cheesecake Factory.  What did I do?  I had a piece of cheesecake and it was really good!  I ate the whole thing!  I decided to have a small piece of a second cake but I didn’t have much, it was too chocolately for me.

I thought that was that.

Unfortunately, I got to work the next day and at around 10 am, I started to feel nauseous.  My stomach was woozy and I wondered whether I would be able to go all day without exhuming its contents, if you know what I mean.  But only an hour or two earlier, I felt absolutely fine.  Even now as I type this, a few hours later, I feel pretty good.

But for a few hours I did not feel good.  My stomach was protesting and I thought to myself “Why do I feel this way? Oh, yes, the cheesecake.”

How do I know it was the cheesecake? I don’t know.  But there are many times when I have a very sugary snack and later that night or the next day I am paying for it.  And each time, I think back to my memory and ponder “What did I eat?” and frequently the common thread is a dessert that is rich in either sugar or milk or a combination of the two.  Cheesecake fits that.

And I do this often.  I can never seem to remember that if I eat that stuff, I will pay for it.  I remembered once and was proud of myself.  But yet I always forget for the next time.  I keep thinking that it must be a coincidence but it usually isn’t (there are times I have eaten other foods that have made me violently ill but were not sugary; I tell you, my stomach is a hippie liberal that protests everything).

I need to carry around a card with me that says “Don’t eat the super sugar, you will pay for it later on!”  Maybe that would fix me.


* Sugary drinks like Pepsi and Coke are fine.

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