Friday, July 26, 2013

Fiscal Fitness and Automatic Bill-Pay

When I moved into my first apartment in college, I happily took on the role of bill-payer.  The phone bill was my favorite part, as I hi-lighted calls made in different colors by roommate and calculated the appropriate taxes and fees on the long distance charges.  (Yes, I was--and still am--a huge nerd).  Something about figuring the bills was extra-pleasing to the control-freak within, and I suspect that monthly opportunity to "be green" probably balanced out college stress a little bit.  

Fast forward a bit.  J bought the MP before we got married, so he set up all the utilities.  Everything was on different payment schedules and over time, practically all of our bills have been set up on automatic bill-pay.  These automatic withdrawals are awesome in so many ways--no late fees, no running to the post office for stamps, etc.)  This week, though, I discovered a way in which the automatic bill-pay is anything but awesome!

July/August is the month I typically call our cable company to see if we can save money.  On Wednesday, I did that as usual ("Incentive" rates typically last 12 months so calling yearly keeps us paying about $15-20 less for our service than the average customer).  Then, in a wonderfully warm-fuzzy flash-back to my college-aged bill-paying self, I decided to check out our other bills.  No change to the phone bill (we're one of the lucky few accounts with an unlimited data plan and trying to pay less for minutes would mean paying much more for data); no change to electric or water; but OH! What a change to our garbage collection!!

Here's the scoop.  Back in 2005, the garbage collection service was set up to bill quarterly.  Then sometime after that, the account was set up on automatic bill-pay.  The in 2009 our company was bought by another company.  Then in 2010 or '11, our account actually migrated to the new company's billing system.  Sometime (seriously, we've no idea when, and neither does the new company), we started being billed (and paying) monthly.  Except, when this change happened the only thing that changed was the frequency, not the amount. Now, if this was some huge bill, we probably would have noticed, but it wasn't and we didn't.  

The thing is, those small amounts add up.  Since we don't know when the change happened, we can't guess how much we overpaid.  It's sickening to think about, really. The good news is that it is fixed now--we won't be paying for garbage collection for the rest of the year and we'll be saving about $250 over the course of the year moving forward at the correct rate.  

So here's the lesson of the day:  Automatic Bill-Pay is not a 'set it and forget it' method for getting fiscally fit.  Check your accounts periodically!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Around the point

Shock and amazement, I'm actually writing a non-baby post!  The last few (four?) months have been a bit of a blur, but we've actually been getting a few things accomplished around the MP, too!  Today seemed like as good a time as any to take a look back at our goals for 2013 and see how we're doing at the half-way point.

Inside the house:
  • Get the library all put together Done!  Thanks to help from J's dad, the cabinet doors were installed the morning of March 9th (aka, less than twelve hours before Little Miss made her arrival!).  My mom did a huge amount of organizing in there as well, both before and after the doors were installed, and she rocked Kate while we sorted and placed books in the built-ins!  The room is quite workable now, and we are really pleased with it!
  • Clear the pool table out of the family room and create kid-world:  So the pool table is cleared off (that mostly because we moved the books to the library shelves where they belonged), but we haven't Craiglisted it yet.  Luckily, the little one isn't really demanding her own place space yet.
  • Create a nursery: Sort of.  I mean, we have a lovely room filled with furniture for baby all tucked away and waiting for her.  So...yeah, I guess I could mark that one off.  Except.  I've not put much thought into finishing the mural.  And I've not worked on my lighting concerns.  And Miss Kate has been sleeping in our room and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. So.  Work to be done there.
  • Maybe do a little work to the living room (like tear down a wall!): Hahahaha!

Outside the house:
New deck! Yaaayyyy!

Move the storage building to a less in-the-way spot in the yard:  Not yet.  But really, we should get on that...
Planting bed out front:  See comment about the storage building...
New mailbox:  Yes!  This was another nesting project that we were sure would send me into labor (it didn't.).  Many thanks to Mom and J for putting up with me on this project!  Oh, but we totally want to redo it.  Be warned.

Our word for 2013:  Patience  Hmmm...  I think the fact that I'd completely forgotten this was our word for the year doesn't say too much for it.  I think we did a great job of patiently waiting for Miss Kate's arrival, even pressuring the OB to be patient with us and allow her to come in her own time.  J was an amazingly patient husband getting me through those last couple months and really through the first couple, too.  I think we've both become less patient with each other as time has passed.  We start to settle into routine, then something (my going out of town, Kate changing her sleep schedule, etc) changes things up and we struggle to adjust to yet another new 'normal'.  We are working on it, though, and this check-in is a good time to remind ourselves and regroup.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Four Months!

Happy July, everyone!  Our little four-month-old had a busy month--she's learning to grasp, practicing sitting and standing with some assistance, talking (a. lot.), and perhaps cutest of all:

She's found her feet!!  Seriously, I had no idea that this discovery would be as darling as it is!  Kate's personality reveals itself to us every day.  She is very independent, and I suspect we have years of "I can do it myself" ahead of us!  She prefers to hold a bottle herself, though she did give in and let Daddy help this weekend when she wanted to eat and play with those toes at the same time!

Kate's four-month doctor appointment is scheduled for later today, so I'll be back with official measurements then! In the mean time, enjoy this collage of her monthly pics--

Top left = 1 month; Top right = 2 months; Bottom left = 3 months; Bottom right = 4 months