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Archive for August, 2011

First Mortgage Payment Made!

August 31st, 2011 at 08:24 pm

I am relieved. I mailed my payment on August 22, all the way to New Jersey, unknowing of an impending storm on the eastern seaboard. I did not want to be late with my first payment. With the previous mortgage processor, I was given to understand that I had until the fifth of the month to make a payment in full, and then until the fifteenth before having to make a late payment surcharge.

So I am 0.55% closer to paying off my mortgage!

I see that the notices of trustee sales posted on the county records site are for properties behind in payments by nine to eleven months. Many of these properties are "underwater", even from four years ago. Three years ago one had to miss five consecutive payments to get the notice of trustee sale.

Apparently picking blueberries is a popular activity: I didn't see lots of pickers, but the boys were eager to go with me for more berry picking, and an acquaintance was envious that I was out getting bitten by mosquitoes.

What was nice about visiting the farm the second day was not getting arrested. I was behind a uniformed and armed police officer, who was buying his blueberries (he did not pick them) and the cashier asked me if I wanted to pick, and I said loudly "you have my driver's license. I came to get it back, but before I do I will borrow two buckets for picking." So it was gratifying to be completely ignored by the officer for driving to the farm without a license. The officer was ignoring us completely, all about the blueberries.

The blueberries taste great in a pie. This was the first blueberry pie I made with from-scratch pastry. It was late in the evening and my spouse and I had more interesting things to do than to experiment with lattice-tops, so we did the standard two full-crust pie sheets.
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My husband received a call from a debt collection firm. We've had the telephone number for three years so I am thinking some cutesy fraudster gave a "made-up" phone number while applying for credit, and opted not to pay. The debt collection person called to speak to my husband, which is more baffling as we are in no way affiliated with the cutesy fraudster and my husband hasn't given out the phone number to many people.

Blueberries on My Budget

August 30th, 2011 at 01:09 am

I took my son and his friend for a serendipitous blueberry-picking outing. We were there for only 90 minutes, and managed only $3.60 worth of fruit, which included some blackberries. The organic blueberries were $1.50/lb. I also bought some lemons, corn, an onion and some lacinato kale. I could sense the antioxidant aura, I tell you.

We would have picked more but my son whacked himself in the nose sharply with a stick, leading to a nosebleed. I gave him some bad advice, the advice I was given on my first nosebleed, then when he decided to throw up and walk dizzily I went to the car for the first-aid kit, which fortuitously contains a book of injury treatment. All that was needed was an antiseptic wipe, and five minutes later he was back at the bushes as if nothing had happened.

The farm has my driver's license, so I have to go back tomorrow to claim it. I will also try for more blueberry picking: I was the tallest picker out there, so I helped myself to the bounties of organic berries 2.5 metres aboveground.

Angelic Possession On Wheels

August 28th, 2011 at 01:44 am

En route to the library before the weeklong furlough, and to the coin shop to get a guesstimate on some rings left to me by my mom and stepgrandmother, I found a newly issued credit card, unsigned, belonging to "IOA" (initials to shield identity). When I returned from my jaunt I looked up IOA's address courtesy of an onlne state voter registration database and online county records. He was the only IOA in the county, so that made it easy.

I considered returning the card to the bank: the safest thing to do, but they might cancel it and send him a new one. I considered handing it to the place of worship I cleverly worked out IOA went to. But the stalker-way was the fastest, and I wouldn't have to rely on a middleperson's honesty. I changed into something less roadrashy, and took the bike, card and explanatory note ("I didn't use this, but as I didn't see you drop this I can't say nobody else used it -- please check with your bank for any suspicious activity or charges!") to his residence.

I left it with someone I am guessing to be his sister, AFTER asking if "IOA" lived there: considering what she wore when she answered the door, my guess as to how he managed to lose his card in my neighbourhood was well-founded. I did not tell her what it was, only that it was his and I found it and returned it.

I need more practice with the scooter: where I went had steep hills and sharp curves. I did manage to switch out faceshields, something I was too feeble to do with my last helmet.

I'm going to try saving $10/day. With the mortgage reduced by $3.58/day, suspiciously the cost of an 8 oz. latte with tax and tip!, I have only $6.42 left to go.

friday I'm in (the) black

August 26th, 2011 at 05:00 pm

The application session timeout occurs between the timestamp of opening the entry_add.php page and clicking the "Save and Publish" button. This happened three times. I wasn't aware I dawdled that much. I wonder if I'd forgotten about the application session duration parameter or if it were added during my long siesta.

Quick quick: activated new credit cards. Looked at another credit card, useless as it is American Express and has very few benefits, and saw that it is five months away from expiry and still has the "call this number to activate your card" sticker on it.

I don't understand how card issuers cut benefits and advantages and then wonder why people aren't using their cards. Sure, deny people incentives to give you transaction fees, see how that winning policy contributes to your revenue stream.

I felt frustrated because every time I made a full payment on our VISA, the outstanding balance showed to be $900+. I checked the payment history, as I'm two days before the deadline, and I've paid $300+ beyond the statement balance, so no finance charges. For the past eleven weeks we have had a triple-digit balance, but never incurred finance charges at any point in the year. If you pay the statement balance in full before the deadline, it's possible to do this. I am desirous to cut the VISA balance down to zero. It may take weeks before this happens, perhaps months. We lived on our credit cards while inbetween escrow cheques, using them to pay for big unexpected expenses.

Borrowed Jean Chatzky's Pay it Down. Apportioned the 10% from the paycheque into the home equity line of credit and savings. Will buy precious metals shortly, like in a half-hour.

I don't feel sorry for Bank of America

August 21st, 2011 at 05:30 pm

Bank of America sold its global credit card business to Toronto Dominion. Bank of America's mortgage subsidiaries are embroiled in lawsuits by state Attorneys General.

NASDAQ.com - Too Big To Fail: Is Bank of America on Deathwat...

AMERICAblog: The increasing Bank of America Deathwatch

Its stock has fallen nearly 50% this year—the worst decline for any big bank in the U.S. or Europe.

I only wish the deadpool I am in with my friend allowed for corporate entities: I'd love to put Bank of America on my 2012 list.

Should I feel sorry for a bank who altered my grandfathered Versateller account so I could be charged fees? Or for a bank who made my husband go in person THREE TIMES to supposedly close his account, then, when he thought his account had been closed, charged him with a low-balance fee? Why should people be charged after they go through the motions of closing their account? If you're a Bank of America representative maybe you could share this reasoning with us consumer riffraff.

Should my heart break for a bank that bought out my original credit card company and shortened the grace period, upped the transaction fee from 3% to 4%, instituted arbitration, hiked the potential default rate to 26.74 points beyond the prevailing prime lending rate? Balance and usage have nothing to do with it: I haven't used the card since 2004.

Florida Homeowners Foreclose on Bank of America

Should I feel sorry for a bank who attempted to foreclose on my uncle's Florida house which he's owned for 18 years because the bank messed up Countrywide paperwork? Or for a bank that doesn't process payments to Wikileaks? Should I weep tears for a bank that attempts to sell properties from under owners who have paid their mortgages in full, and is being sued for illegal foreclosures? This is the bank that makes legal US citizens and residents jump through Patriot Act hoops, but awards credit cards to illegal immigrants.

I'm not going to go into politics: it's obvious who gave this bank bailout money, and that the bank needs restructuring. Maybe a Bank of America or government apologist can explain why restructuring didn't happen in 2008, and if they think the bank used the TARP funds wisely.

update: well some apologist hailing from Bank of America's Jonestown, Guyana branch was here, paid no doubt to do damage control, which means candy floss spin and a complete disregard for the indisputable facts I posted here, and deliberate ignorance of my questions "why should my husband have to go in three times to close one account", "did the bank use TARP funds wisely", "why did restructuring not happen in 2008." See what suckers' Bank of America account fees pay for? It sure isn't documentation quality control.

I didn't choose to be with Bank of America. I didn't know in 1996 that my bank SeaFirst was going to be bought by Bank of America; nor did I know in 2000 that in 2006 my credit card company would be sold to Bank of America.

Yves Smith of the Naked Capitalism announced two weeks ago she was initiating a "Deathwatch" on Bank of America. As we are weeks away from the third quarter of 2011, five years after many 5/1 Adjustable Rate and otherwise subprime mortgages were sold in the frothiest of markets the "stated docs" era, or five-year interest-only mortgagees get payment adjustments, and some retail banking customers wake up and head over to their credit unions, it'll be interesting to see how Bank of America comes up with capital to meet its lawsuit payments, and payments to its own creditors. I tell you this, they won't make money directly through me.

In Mr. Moynihan's most candid remarks yet about the troubled mortgage business, he told the 6,000 listeners who Mr. Berkowitz said were on the call: "Obviously, there aren't many days when I get up and think positively about the Countrywide transaction in 2008."
- Mish's Global Economic Analysis

Attorney General Brown Announces Landmark $8.68 Billion Sett...

Arizona Sues Bank of America

Illinois Attorney General Sues Countrywide

Nevada Attorney General Sues Bank of America

Annual daytrip thumbing through Complete Tightwad Gazette

August 14th, 2011 at 04:59 pm

For lengthy excursions up and down (I can't go too far west: four miles drops me into the Puget Sound!) and sometimes east, I bring the colossal Complete Tightwad Gazette to see how I can save $200-$400 a month.

I went to Costco for the first time since May. We ate down our pantry staples during our fiscal crisis and now I have to replenish the distilled water for our emergency kits and peanut butter. I will say that it feels really good to once again have a full freezer, and to be able to have enough meat for the next three weeks.

Did I learn how to save $200-$400 a month? No, but I learned how to save $100 a year. Baking one batch of bread a year and drying clothes without a dryer. I also learned that with some creative deprivation we could save close to $1000 a month, which I would apportion to paying down the home equity line of credit and buying silver, eventually upgrading to buying one half-ounce of gold. I have some gold already, and it is a comfort to me to see my net worth rise while I make lists on what to subsist on in the pantry. I have sold only a mangled mess of a gold chain my mom bequeathed me, and I didn't have that appraised, but it netted me $740 so that was nifty.

We have auto insurance plus a serpentine belt issue to pay for this month, so debt repayment is slow-going. The silver lining is that everyone in my debt group has gone backward: I'm the only one in my group who's maintaining some accountability and preparation right now. I bought a roof for the house, as the roof was probably put on during the Carter administration if not the Truman, and rougher windstorms had blown the shingles off.

Yesterday was our seventeenth wedding anniversary. We celebrated on Friday with a nice dinner out and some improv theater with a theme near and dear to my spouse's heart: sci-fi B-movies where aerosol-haloed women and crewcut Anglo-Saxon men battle monstrosities that would make Orkin men demand danger pay. On our actual anniversary my boy and man went to play Pokèmon, the joy of that being formal introduction to another Pokèmon dad who is a National Book Award winner. We shook hands and he said he'd seen me a few times inside the store, and I said my book club was reading one of his books (truth). "Oh really?" he smiled. Then my family went to the http://www.skagitriverranch.com to buy some organic meat and excellent eggs. I will eventually buy bulk orders when the refund cheque arrives. Although Skagit River Ranch sells at local farmers' markets, I rarely have a meal plan for meats, and my bags fill fast with vegetables, and you know, those meats are not cheap! I will be eating more lamb and less pork. I have some recommendations for preparation of organ meats as well.

Anyway, even as the emergency fund is whittled down by home and auto repairs, we are reminded in now our eighteenth year of marriage that our simplest pleasures: New York Times Friday and Saturday crosswords, reading library books in bed, local walks, regional hikes, podcasts and massages are indeed some of the best.

We bought a Turkish coffee set and bakeware to replace our Mulroney-era baking pans and sheets. Planned spending today include replacement watch battery, and wardrobe adjustment/renewal for the young'un, and some sweaters/skirts to accommodate my new size.

Another thing we did was drop Sprint's family plan in favour of Virgin Mobile's $25/month for 300 minutes. we used two hours this past month, and we get unlimited web, which is cool when one's looking for fee-free ATMs in an unfamiliar area.

refinanced at last

August 2nd, 2011 at 06:28 pm

Painful last week of July. By painful I mean reducing meal portions because the freezer didn't have any protein in it and interrupted sleep due to hunger, check bounced, and scrounging coins around the house to put gas in the car.

At least we had vegetables, and the cats didn't nip at our ankles.

Why so bad? We scrounged $1649.55 of escrow deposit money for our new mortgage. We finally ditched our mortgagor of twelve years in favour of our preferred credit union, who lured us with a fee-free (no application fee and no appraisal fee, but conveyance fee, documentation fees: whyn't call it "fee-reduced" and be honest?) mortgage for twelve years at 3.75%. First payment is September, and we have three pay periods until then. Also the escrow balance of the old mortgage will come back to us.

For the bean-counters out there: "reduced" time period (the qualification to secure the 12-year means having fewer than 12 years left on the old mortgage, which if we had not prepaid by ten payments we would not have qualified for), reduced interest by an estimated $8700, reduced rate by 25%, and reduced interest&principal payment by 10%.

I thought I was going to blow wads o' dough @ Costco hours after the money came into the account but we've been visiting the closer discount groceries.

July was expensive: painted boy's room, framed a Matisse print, moto insurance, swimming lessons - chess membership, and caved into getting a RotoRooter dude over. After twelve years of managing a congested drain by ourselves. Now I know how to keep the drain decongested, and with us it requires more than baking soda, vinegar and hot water once a month.