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Friday, April 30, 2010

A little victory

one sausage biscuitImage via Wikipedia
Starving and late for a conference this morning, I pulled into a Burger King drivethrough. I know, I know! But those biscuit sandwiches are my weakness.

After the fourth time the voice at the end of the squawkbox asked me to repeat my order, I decided I didn't need to spend the money or the calories, and drove away.

I was on a roll. I only had a little bit of coffee roll rather than the whole Princess Leia-sized hairbun-shaped thing at the conference. I also passed up the chocolate pudding at lunch in favor of fruit. I even gave the late afternoon biscotti a pass.

I'm feeling very virtuous. But it isn't easy.
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Thursday, April 29, 2010

School lunches, healthy and cheap

Chips (BE), French fries (AE), French fried po...Image via Wikipedia
Mr. Poorhouse and I watched all of Jaime Oliver's Food Revolution episodes this week.

We saw the documentary King Corn a few months ago, and have been thinking a lot about how subsidizing corn production introduces inefficiencies in our food system, making corn syrup super cheap and attractive as an ingredient for, well, everything.

I should mention that we are by no means food purists. Our freezer has hot pockets along with frozen veggies, and we buy our share of packaged foods.

Still, I was really outraged that the lunch guidelines in place in Huntington, WV counted french fries as a vegetable! And I was shocked to see the six year olds who could not identify the commonest of vegetables. Shocked, I tell you!

The only thing about Jamie's philosophy I don't quite buy into is the danger of having your kids bring a sack lunch. He said that it is cheaper, and could be healthier, with the reforms he is promoting, for kids to have a hot meal at lunch.

Well, I can't afford for my kids to buy lunch at school. And of course we aren't eligible for subsidized lunches. We send them with a bag lunch every day. As a matter of fact, they pack their own lunches these days. Sure, we have to get on them to make sure they aren't just bringing cookies and juice.

It is kind of sad that many parents send a junk food lunch in a bag or money to buy a junk food lunch at school. What are we thinking? 

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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Braces

A female mouth with braces.Image via Wikipedia
Because we don't have enough to worry about, fate has sent us a new financial concern:  Braces for the pre-teen.

I had braces in 7th and 8th grade, but I also had a terrible overbite. Mr. Poorhouse did not have braces, and his teeth remain straight.

Twelve year old Prissy Poorhouse has very straight teeth, but a very small mouth. The dentist anticipates braces next year when her permanent teeth are almost all in.

Braces in my area apparently run $5-6K. Of course they do.

How bad a parent am I if I say, "Hey kid, your smile looks fine to me. If you want to get it fixed to perfection after you're grown, knock yourself out."?

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Amex puts Polly in the doghouse

American Express CompanyImage via Wikipedia
Having another cash flow problem.  Due to an expensive transmission repair which you can read about here if you're interested, I don't have the cash right now I thought I had to pay for the Poorhouse children's childcare this summer. I'll have it in two weeks when I next get paid. The problem is that there is only one viable option for the last few weeks of summer around here. Last year, we got closed out of the program because we registered too late, and had no child care.

(Remind me to do a rant on child care scheduling sometime. But not today. Today I rant on American Express.)

My American Express card proclaims that I've been a cardmember since 1984. Apparently that and a Diet Coke will give you a caffeine buzz for half an hour.

Two years ago, I was late on my Amex payments, along with all my other payments. I brought them current. American Express lowered my spending limit to $1000. This was a problem, because I used it mostly for business travel, which nearly always costs more than $1000. But I could kinda see their issue. They wanted to make sure they got their money.  So I stopped using the card, because it wasn't helpful to me.

About a year ago I called them and asked them to increase my spending limit. I have a job, and I can pay off my bills now. No, they said, we need at least a 6 month history of on-time bill payments. So I went back to not using it.

Fast forward to this morning, I whipped my card out of the back of my wallet and tried to use it to pay for camp for this summer. Declined. Hmm, I thought, thought I, Perhaps it's that pesky $1000 limit. I tried another transaction, this time, with only a few of the camp weeks charged. Declined.

So I went online to see my account status. Imagine my surprise to discover that my card had been cancelled!

Jason, the American name of a card services rep from India that I got on the phone, told me that they had cancelled the card in January for inactivity. Could they reinstate it?  No, because the reinstatement request was not within 3 months of cancellation. In a plot worthy of Joseph Heller, Jason suggested I apply for a new card. I did. My application was declined.

This nightmare will never ever end, will it? I'm paying off my debt. All of my bills and various payment plans are current. I have a good job. My husband is employed.  We are trying so hard, but we just can't catch a break.
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Monday, April 26, 2010

You've Got Mail--from the IRS

Those three little words used to strike fear into my heart. Not this year. My recent letter from the IRS tells me that they confiscated my $3K tax refund to pay my back taxes. Yay! No, seriously, I'm happy about that. Now I only owe $6500. Sounds like a lot, but it's way more manageable than the $20K I started with 2 years ago. With my monthly payment plan and next year's confiscation, I might be out of their dark dark woods by this time next year.

The icing on the cake is that I got a similar letter from the state department of revenue. They confiscated $550, and after one more payment on my monthly agreement, I'm free and clear of them. Woo Hoo!  Party on!
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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Transmissions are expensive

Warner T15 Transmission GearsImage by vtengr4047 via Flickr
This post has been included in the Carnival of Money Stories. Head on over to find out how other people are coping with debt and other matters financial.

You know the stereotype.  People who are in debt are that way because they are irresponsible and do things like buy expensive sports cars on credit. Right?

Right. My "expensive sports car" is a 10-year old Ford minivan. And the transmission needed to be replaced this week. $2300, thank you very much.

I got a lot of advice from people who don't know about my dire financial situation. Don't put money into the old car, they say. Suck it up and get a new car.

Not gonna happen. I still have another year to pay on our other car. The mileage on this beast is only 62.5K. We've had very few repairs so far.

So we fixed it. Sigh. BTW, in the course of the investigations this week, I learned that it is typical for Ford transmissions to go at 50K.

How'd we pay for it?  $1000 from the checking account. Guess it will be ramen for the next two weeks. $1300 on the credit card.

Yeah, I really splurge, don't I?

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