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Archive for October, 2011

At my condo complex, I am a member of the Board.  I don’t do all that much other than attend meetings and respond to a handful of emails.  However, a few months ago the other members made me the parking police.

We don’t have a lot of rules at our place, but once in a while I have to go around and enforce the rules.  They range as follows:

  • You can’t park in the lot and have a flat tire.  The rationale behind this is that they don’t want people dumping their extra cars in the parking lot.

  • Your registration must be up-to-date.

  • No back-in parking permitted.

I try to be reasonable, but that last one sees the most violators. Indeed, just today, I saw one such person.  This person backed in the parking space right next to the sign that has all the parking rules.  It says plainly, in clear text, that no back in parking is permitted.  Yet he parked right next to the sign that says that!

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I did the only thing I could do – I wrote him up a ticket and put it under his windshield wiper. 

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This past week, I took the step of automating the payment on my American Express credit card.  After a year and a half of doing this manually, I have now automated my entire expenses:

  • My utilities to Puget Sound Energy are paid automatically through their website.
  • My car insurance is charged to my credit card automatically.

  • My cell phone bill is charged to my credit card automatically.

  • Netflix bills me automatically.

  • Through Bill Payment at the bank, my Internet is paid automatically each month.

  • Through Bill Payment at the bank, my mortgage is paid automatically each month.

  • Through Bill Payment at the bank, my Homeowner Association dues are paid automatically each month.

  • Like most people, I have auto-deductions to my 401(k) each month taken off my paycheck.

For the longest time, I resisted doing automatic payment on any of my bills.  I paid some of it online and the rest by check, but after a while I figured “Hey, why not automate the payment of all recurring bills?  I’m just going to pay it anyway.”  That, and a couple of times I would forget to pay a bill and get a notice saying “You dope, pay your bills!”

I added everything to do it without my intervention except for my credit card.  I still wanted to do that manually.  But I took the step this week of doing it because I review my spending regularly, either through Mint or through the Amex website.  I give the spending a quick review and then proceed to okay it.

There’s a chance now that I might have a bad payment on my card that I wouldn’t catch now.  But my theory is that if Amex (or any of these services) had bad payment systems, they would show up everywhere and plenty of other people would be complaining.  In other words, a popular service has probably got the important bugs worked out.

When I finally finished this off, I boasted to the wife “Everything’s automated now!”  She wasn’t really all that impressed; then again, she is like how I was before and pays everything online (mostly) but doesn’t want to automate (on the other hand, I can’t even convince her to deposit money in her bank account through an ATM; using a human teller isn’t required).

The best part of doing this automatically is that I don’t have to remember to pay everything, I just need to review my spending periodically.  And I review it all the time these days, so there’s little concern to me that something bad is happening.

The only thing I wish I could do automatically is trade stocks.  I switched back to my lazy portfolio, and I wish there was a way I could deposit money into my account each month and then when the spare cash reaches a certain amount, buy xx shares of one stock, yy shares of another, and so forth.  I can’t do that yet which is unfortunate.

But at least everything else is on autopilot.

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In a few hours, I am heading down to the dentist’s office to get a wisdom tooth removed.

Not wisdom teeth, a wisdom tooth.  Just one.

Why just one, you ask?  Well, in December 1998, I had two wisdom teeth pulled from the left hand side of my mouth.  In December 1999, I had three wisdom teeth pulled from the right hand side of my mouth.  While they were doing the removal of the two on the right, they discovered that I had a third one on the right hand side.  They told me it was a rare case, like one in a thousand people.

Over the years, a third wisdom tooth then popped up on my left side.  It wasn’t originally pulled back in 1998.  I don’t recall when it was, maybe in the mid-2000’s.  It wasn’t bothering me so I left it.  But I knew that I always had to get it done.  That day for getting it done is today.

I looked into this online and extra teeth – in general – are called supernumerary teeth.  The condition itself is rare and most people get them in their front teeth.  To have extra wisdom teeth is the rarest of the rare condition.

Wow, lucky me.

When all is said and done, I’ll have had six wisdom teeth pulled.

Guess that means I’m having ice cream tonight.

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Weird conversation

To give you an idea of the types of weird conversations my wife and I sometimes have, here’s a snippet from a recent one.

Wife: I have a big bug bite on my butt.  Want to see?

Me: No.

Wife: (Tone indicating a combination of surprise that I would say that, and disappointment) Fine.

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… but so far in 2011 I have made $666 in dividends from my stocks that I currently hold.

I am not making that up.

Ha, ha, ha, you know what?  I just thought of something funny.  Wouldn’t it be a hoot if I gave a bunch of donations to a church, and at the end of the year it totaled $666?

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While on the one hand the Occupy Wall Street movement has merit, the other day I came across the blog The Other 53%.  This is a spoof of the Occupy Wall Street movement’s rally phrase “the other 99%” (that are not rich and powerful unlike the ones who benefited from the crisis).

The Other 53% refers to the fact that only 53% of Americans pay income tax.  The rest of the 47% don’t make enough income or get enough tax breaks to not have to pay anything.  This blog contains stories of Americans who had a tough time in life but worked hard and eventually moved their way up.  They are working hard even today and are paying their taxes, being productive members of society. 

The Other 53% sees the Occupy Wall Street movement as a bunch of whiners and complainers.  Yes, times are tough, they say, but so what?  Times were tough for them, too.  And they still are!  But rather than do nothing useful or constructive about it, the Other 53% are out there taking action to better themselves.  While Occupy Wall Street protestors consume resources (the 47%), the taxpayers (53%) are supporting them.  The 53% don’t like how they have to work hard for their money while the protestors are asking for handouts.  Accurate or not, that is the 53%’ers view of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Both sides have some merit.

There are nuances to each side.  The Occupy Wall Street movement’s claim is that they are getting a raw deal.  It’s not fair a certain class of people get to operate according to a different set of rules stacked in their favor.  Things should be more equal.  The 53%’ers reply that it is not the government’s job to take from taxpayers and give to you survive, it is the government’s job to ensure that you can make a living.  And you can still go out and make a living but at a lower standard of living than you might want… just like the rest of us taxpayers!

For myself, my actions align with the 53%’ers (at least for now).  If the protestors want to object to the power and influence of the financial sector, that’s fine.  But joining in protests is not my thing.  I prefer to live my own life, take control of it and attempt to better myself.  Yes, I got screwed and I am taking a huge hit on my house and it will probably never recover (same with the wife’s condo).  But on the other hand, thank goodness both of us bought less home than we could afford way back in the day.  That saved us both from being foreclosed on. 

And if I had to, we could always scale back our lifestyle and simplify.  Or I could get a second job.  Or something.  I only have so much energy to spend and taking part in protests (a) sucks up my time I would rather spend elsewhere, and (b) I am creative enough to earn a little bit of extra money on the side.  Protesting might cathartic relief, but actually doing stuff gets more stuff done.

After all, one day I’ll be dead.  Then it won’t matter anyhow.

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