Tag Archives: broke

But Wait, There’s More!

9 Feb

I blame Alice.

Because of her, I spent 30 minutes explaining basic economic theory to an AT&T rep this morning, and only got $10 for my time.

You see, Alice chewed the power cable to the wireless access point last night, effectively taking down the main cable receiver and TV just an hour before the midseason premiere of The Walking Dead. That’s an executable offense in some households. Luckily for her, I have the first world excess of having two receivers and DVRs, so I didn’t miss a minute of last night’s *SPOILER REDACTED*.

Don't let those furry ears fool you. She's malicious.

Look at that furry little face. There’s not a hint of remorse in those soulless black-rimmed eyes.

So this morning, I logged onto my Uverse account to request a new wireless access point so I can rewatch *SPOILER REDACTED* and various other slightly horrifying shows from the part of the apartment where the heat actually works. (This is an actual issue that I whine about a lot on Facebook, so I’ll spare you all the repeat. Just know that, while aesthetically charming, part of my apartment has 3 exterior walls and no heat.) 

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Although, watching The Walking Dead in a dark room made entirely out of brick walls with only a fleece blanket for warmth is an experience I cannot put a price on.

As with most days when I open up the internet, I got a bit sidetracked. This time, it was by my monthly bill, which had gone up $4 unexpectedly. $4 may not seem like a fight worth having with a company, but longtime readers know that I plan my budget down to the last dollar every month. I know where every cent goes, and nothing frustrates me more than when someone takes more cents than I allotted them. Uverse does this quite often, but they’ve been getting away with it because my health insurance company was being even more greedy.

But that health insurance plan was cancelled on December 31st. Which means I have the time for Uverse now. So instead of calling the support number, I called the billing department.

The representative quickly confirmed that the price for TV and internet had gone up, and that these were the new monthly costs. My explanation that there had been no notice given about the increase (which by contract should have come 60 days ago) was met with a genuine apology and a $10 bill credit for this month. 10 minutes in, and everything was going well.

But these calls never end well. At least not for me.

The rep then asked if I’d like to explore options for lowering my monthly bill. Like any sane person, I said yes. After all, I’d already gotten $10 off them this month with surprisingly little effort. Why not press my luck?

Little-known fact- AT&T legally adopted all villainous game show cartoons in the late 80s. They now work in the billing department.

Little-known fact- AT&T legally adopted all villainous game show cartoons in the late 80s. They now work in the billing department.

The sales rep then launched into a detailed explanation of just how upgrading my services could save me money each month. He threw out phrases like, “3 months free!,” “No fees until just prior to the promotion’s expiration!” and “Think of the savings!” His enthusiasm was almost contagious. I found myself starting to imagine a life with faster internet and more on-demand movies that I’d never actually watch. I ran potential bundle discount scenarios in my head, trying to determine how much and for how long I’d save by upgrading.

And then he used the magic letters: HBO.

I’ve always wondered what it would be like to watch Game of Thrones legally. Suddenly, the opportunity was right in front of me. I could join the hundreds of people who actually subscribe to the channel, and leave behind the millions who just use their friends’ logins or torrent sites. I could be one of the elite.

With a rush of anticipation, I asked the question. “How much would my bill be each month?”

“Absolutely not a cent more than you’re paying now!” he gleefully replied.

And just like that, the spell was broken.

“Wait, you mean there’s no benefit to upgrading?” I asked.

“Oh no, there are so many benefits! Faster internet, more channels, more movies! it’s a much better experience!” he said.

“But there’s no financial benefit?” I repeated.

The rep seemed to sense that he was losing me. “There is. You’ll get upgraded experiences for no additional cost. It’s a savings of over $100 each month.”

“But my bill, which I called you about because it was too high, will remain at the current level.” I reminded him.

“But think of the enhanced speeds and channels.” the rep said, a note of pleading creeping into his voice. He could see his commission slowly slipping away.

“For 3 months. And then we’ll be having this same chat over unexpected fee increases again. It’ll end with me demanding to be downgraded and you offering me more billing credits. It’s not a good value to either of us if I’m just delaying unhappiness for 3 months. I’d rather stick with what I have now.” I said.

There was a short pause on the other end of the line. “Well Ms. Anderson,” said the rep who’d been calling me Katherine up to this point, “I certainly respect your decision to remain with your current un-upgraded services.”

You could hear the barely-concealed heartache in his voice. This guy was good.

You could hear the heartbreak in his words.

“It’s ok that you broke my heart. I’ll just get some tape on my way home. Alone. On foot. Because I can’t afford a car anymore.”

But it takes more than 12 free weeks of HBO to sway my cold financial-oriented heart. It’s a TV package, not electro-shock therapy for a rabbit with uncontrollable chewing urges. Although as I learned last night, I can probably get that for free around here.

Which reminds me. I still need to call tech support.

Fire Engine Red

26 Jan

Tonight, as I stood in the 39-degree evening wearing only pajamas and a bathrobe, watching smoke pour out of the next building and taking stock of the pocketful of items I’d grabbed on my way out admist the alarms and strobe lights, I found myself deeply frustrated that I hadn’t grabbed my Walker Stalker Con Disability Services binder.

Not that I was woefully underdressed. Not that I’d spent 10 valuable minutes chasing two panicked rabbits around the apartment while visions of smoke and flames filled my imagination. Not even that I’d left my external hard drive with my entire digital life on it sitting on the desk. No, I regretted not grabbing that blue binder.

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My life in page protector form

This is what Con life has done to me. However, it did give me an opportunity for another awkwardly empowering moment.

Continue reading

Well, That Was Fast

7 Jan

I didn’t think my plan would be put to the test so quickly. To embrace the awkwardly empowering moments of life this year seemed like a grand goal last week. You know, when it was still a theory.

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Someday I will learn to quit challenging fate. Luckily for you all, today isn’t that day.

I’ve spent the last three days trying to arrange last minute flights due to a last minute locale change for a business trip (the good news- it’s not Tampa anymore. The bad news- it’s the other side of the country now.), and it’s been an exercise in patience.

Actually, I take that back. It’s been a marathon in patience. Perhaps even a biathlon where one event is a marathon in patience and the other is any event that will distract me from trying to telekinetically explode a sales rep’s head over the phone.

kill you with my brain

Yes, that’s a good metaphor.  Let’s go with that.

Anyway, during the course of this mental athletic event, even more complications arose, to the point that my booking the flights was no longer feasible. We shall henceforth refer to this as The Awkward Event.

In order to resolve this The Awkward Event, I needed to call someone and ask for something that I haven’t asked for in several years, and in fact, make it a point to avoid asking anyone to do.

I had to ask someone to pay for me.

Longtime readers will know that I have serious issues with having other people pay for things for me. There’s a whole post on this in the archives if you’re curious, but let’s just say that I haven’t made much progress on this front since 2012. For whatever reason, having someone pay for me inspires a lot of guilt, like I’ve failed somehow. There’s all kinds of theories behind this, and I know that it’s ridiculous, but that’s beside the point here. The point is that I hate very few things more than having to ask someone to pay for something for me, and that’s exactly what I had to do today.

Once I realized that The Awkward Event was happening, I stared at my computer for a long moment. Then I stared at my phone for a longer moment. Then I stared at the computer again for an even longer moment. Finally, I forced myself to focus, and I ended up staring at the rabbits for at least 20 minutes.

They stared back. And then demanded treats. Because rabbits don't find requests for assistance to be awkward.

They stared back. And then demanded treats. Because rabbits don’t find requests for assistance to be awkward.

When I couldn’t avoid it any longer, I picked up the phone and made the call. I explained the situation, I made the request, and then I took a deep breath and I waited for the response. And you know what?

It wasn’t awkward at all. My request was considered, it was approved, the The Awkward Event was resolved, and everyone went on their merry way. Honestly, I spent longer on hold this morning than the entire conversation took, and I certainly didn’t want to telekinetically explode anyone’s head afterwards.

The takeaway here is that there’s a lot of empowerment in asking for what you need. It takes courage (and possibly countless hours of therapy), and yes it can be awkward, especially when it involves money. But it can also be a huge relief to at least own up to the need, and I’m glad I did. I’m even gladder that it worked out in my favor, but that’s a different post.

Handling Instructions

2 Mar

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As I sit in my apartment on the eve of yet another out-of-state trip, doing what seems like endless loads of laundry but is really only three, I find myself contemplating a world where people come with the same sort of handling instructions as clothes.

Think about it. How much easier would social relationships be if you could just flip over someone’s tag and see how best to keep them from unraveling? A peek at the back of their shirt, and you’d know if this person is your new BFF or your mortal enemy.

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See “machine wash cold” on a tag, and you know that you have a sturdy person. They’re made from a durable fabric in a bold color and can handle life’s spins and bounces with ease.

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The ones who require warmer waters are those whose colors may run easily or who absorb stains a bit deeper. They need a bit more attention to come out clean, but they’re often the ones that we hold the closest to ourselves.

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You see “dry clean only,” and you know you’re dealing with high quality and probably high maintenance. But you also know that if properly cared for, the fabulousness will last forever.

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If you’re anything like me, the hand wash only crowd makes you nervous. These are the most fragile of the bunch- the most prone to falling apart, and the ones we want to protect the most. We wear them like the others, but then we fret over their storage. We spray them with Febreze to avoid having to decide how to wash them, for fear of doing the wrong thing and ruining them.

But these aren’t just soft- they’re the gentlest among us. The handmade-with-love ones, the treasured ones, the ones that are worth the effort it takes to care for, and the ones that can shine the brightest.

Just like with any good wardrobe, I have a mix of all these people in my life. But as I thought about what their tags would say, I started wondering what my own would read. Could I handle a tumble dryer, or would I need to be hung up? Would I need to be separated, or could I hold onto my colors in any temperature water? I’m not fancy enough to be dry clean only, but I’m not a lost sock either.

Ultimately, I think I’m a machine wash warm & tumble dry. I’m pretty secure in who I am, and I can handle the spins of life (vertigo pun intended), but sometimes I need a little extra care. And if today’s laundry adventure was any indication, there should probably be a notation to check my pockets for forgotten items, too.

While I go Google how to remove melted chapstick from jeans, I leave you with this: what would your tag read? How are you best handled by other people?

No One Tell The Student Loan Company

1 Feb

I logged into to my student loan account page this morning, prepared to do battle. I had my paychecks from January, my carefully planned out February budget, and I was ready to present my meager $200 offering to the interest gods.

Then I noticed something strange. My loan balance wasn’t what I expected it to be. On January 6th, it had been $73,333.05. I had paid $200, which I expected to just about cover the monthly interest.

Today, my balance is $69,140.73. I have no idea where the extra $4k credit came from, but for the love of interest forgiveness, no one tell the student loan company about this.

In other financial news, I’m almost done paying off a credit card bill. I’ve been working on this balance for about a year now, ever since the Great Tax Miscalculation of 2013 (still bitter about this one.) I expect to pay the last bit off next month. It’ll never have a $0 balance, as I use the card for business travel as well as personal use, but at least it won’t be my own spending driving up the balance.

After that’s done, I get to move on to paying off a medical bill. This one stemmed from my vertigo testing in the second half of 2013, and it has been a pain in the you-know-where to deal with. My insurance company and the billing department can’t agree on who owes what, and I’ve had very tense calls with both. If they can’t sort themselves out by March (& find the $167 in payments they lost track of), they’re going to hate me even more than they do now, because I’ll have that much more time to sit on the phone with them, reading them back the terms of their contracts.

If there’s one piece of advice I can offer, it’s always read the entire contract. You never know when you’ll need to close a loophole into a noose to get someone to honor the terms.

Once these two bills are gone, I’ll be back on track with paying off my student loans. However, if this $4k mystery credit stands, I’ll only be $1100 off my goal for all of 2014.

Seriously, no one tell the student loan company.

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7 Books Til Christmas

12 Dec

Ah, Christmas time. The month of the year when it is not only acceptable but encouraged to eat as much delicious junk food as possible. This tradition used to bring me a lot of joy. Now, as a gluten-free person, it brings me a lot of terror. Homemade Christmas cookies are a minefield of potential allergens, while the non-gluten-free assure me that, “it’s ok to cheat a little. It’s the Holidays, after all.”

My only salvation is the advent calendar, especially the cheap ones they sell at department stores for a few bucks. Made with some obscure chocolate brand from a land where they’ve never heard of wheat, barley, or rye, these slim cardboard boxes come embossed with my favorite design in the world- a gold circle with the letters GF inside. Certified Gluten-Free. It takes a lot of self-control to limit myself to a socially acceptable number of calendars for one person (it’s still 5, right?) when the fear of reaction has been removed.

This year, I have no advent calendar of chocolate. Instead, my advent calendar is decidedly less edible (at least in a conventional sense). This year, my advent calendar is made of books.

As most of you may know, I have a very bad habit of buying more books than I can read, leaving me with an ever-growing To Be Read pile. As some of you may know, this has expanded from a pile to an entire bookcase. The population usually hovers around 36, with new books being added as soon as one or two disappear. Right now, it is at a record low of 25 books. With the coming of Christmas, the shelf is only guaranteed to grow more.

So, I’ve decided enough is enough. The Tsundoku (a wonderful word meaning the act of buying a book and leaving it unread) bookcase must be vanquished, or at least partially vanquished. There are nine cubbies on the shelf. 5 of them currently hold books. My goal is to get it down to 3 cubbies by Christmas, for a total of 18 books or less left on the shelf. This means reading 7 books in 13 days.

Side note- this is a decidedly more fun goal than paying off student loans. Why didn’t I buy 60,000 books instead of going to grad school? I’d very happily spend ten years paying off that debt.

The list of books to be read by Christmas is below. You can also follow my progress on GoodReads, which is a great site for readers if you’re not familiar with it. My username is Kaedance. Look for the “Advent Calendar” shelf. Then feel free to look at the “to-read” shelf and laugh at my inability to stop buying books.

To Be Read By Christmas:

Alice In The Country Of Hearts, Volume 1 by QuinRose & Soumei Hoshino
The Chocolate Thief by Laura Florand
Vacations From Hell by Libba Bray, Cassandra Clare, Claudia Gray, Maureen Johnson, and Sarah Mlynowski
Pet Robots by Scott Christian Sava, Diego Jourdan, and Villagran Studios
Peter & Max by Bill Willingham
Megatokyo Volume 1 by Fred Gallagher & Rodney Caston
Eclipse One, edited by Jonathan Strahan

Three of these are novels, three are graphic novels, and one is a collection of short stories. All of them have been on my shelf for more than 6 months, and some of them have been there for over 18 months. Hopefully, they’ll all soon be promoted to one of the “read” bookcases.

With that, I’m off to read. I mean, I’m off to work. And then read. No reading books at work. I’ve never tested it, but I feel it’s probably discouraged in favor of reading spreadsheets and reports.

Gotta make money so I can buy more books.

Starting Over

4 Dec

Well, it finally happened.  They found me.

The graduate student loan company.

My Income-Based Repayment plan for my Master’s degree came due in November.  This meant I had to drag out my 2012 tax information and reapply. (Boy are there some bad memories associated with that pile of paperwork. The HR company that handles my paychecks made a clerical error that led to a $4,000 tax bill.  I’m still not over this.  I actually Googled how much a kidney sells for these days.)

The good news is that I made more in 2012 than I did in 2011.  The bad news is that the loan company took that as a sign that I could start sending them money. $158 each month, to be exact.

So, after a year off of student loan payments, I’m back on the treadmill of never-ending interest.  My current loan balance is $73,296.75.  My initial loan amount was for $60,000.  We’re not here to get into the bad financial decisions that led to that initial amount, but yeah.  2009 wasn’t my best financial year.

Fun fact- students pursuing a degree in a medical field are allowed to borrow over the legal student loan limit.  Funner fact- students can override the legal student loan limit with one click on an online survey. One click. By a 22 year old kid. Suddenly the student loan crisis makes a lot more sense, huh?

Anyway, my goal is to pay off these loans by the end of 2020. (My current balance is 6 times higher than my undergrad balance, therefore I get 6 extra years.) There’s also a failsafe built into this plan- since my loans were issued after 2007, any remaining balance can be forgiven after 120 consecutive minimum payments. If I don’t make it by 2020, at least I know the loans will be gone by 2024.

Rather than go all out like I did in 2011, I’ve decided to set yearly goals. After all, this repayment is going to be a marathon, not a 12-month sprint. So, for my goal for 2014 will be to get the balance under $68,000.  For those that hate math, that means a monthly payment of $458 per month, for a total of $5,493.87 to be paid by the end of 2014.

You guys ready to dive back into the agnst-inducing world of student loan monthly payments?  The posts will be just as weird as 2011, and on a more regular schedule than 2012.  Beyond that, I make no promises.

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