Monday, January 26, 2015

Accidentally Overpaid Our Macy's Credit Card

Don't you just love it when you plan ahead with your bills and over pay them? Over the Christmas break my wife did her yearly shopping at Macy's. She bought new pants, tops, accessories and a new Michael Kors purse (black with gold for winter) and the total was around $550 so like a good husband that takes care of her bill I sent the card a $200 payment. Right before Christmas we went back to Macy's together and picked up a gift for $55 and still trying to be financially responsible I decided to send in the entire amount I thought we owed that same day. Well I totally forgot about that $200 payment I had made earlier in the month and while my math was perfect in trying to get that balance to zero, I now have a $200 credit with them:


Of course, here's the fine print about that credit on the statement:

NO PAYMENT IS REQUIRED ON YOUR REVOLVING ACCOUNT. THIS CREDIT BALANCE
CAN BE APPLIED TO FUTURE PURCHASES. HOWEVER, IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO OBTAIN A REFUND CHECK, PLEASE FEEL FREE TO CALL OUR CUSTOMER SERVICE DEPARTMENT AT THE PHONE NUMBER LISTED ON YOUR STATEMENT OR RETURN YOUR PAYMENT SLIP IN THE ENCLOSED ENVELOPE.

$200 is a lot of money to me but who wants to call customer service and fight to get a check back? Also, this Macy's card is not mine, my wife would have to call and I don't think she's made a financial call in the past 10 years. Ever since we got married I've handled all her credit cards and all her financial stuff, I would be surprised if she even knew our pin numbers so it would be a hassle to try to get this money back. As you can see on the fine print, we can spend $200 with them but we really don't need anything post Christmas so it would like wasting $200. Eventually she will go back but we got a ton of Macy's gift cards over the holidays, she got $200 and I got $80 so if we were to need something or if she wanted to shop again, we would use those gift cards. I know what you're thinking, use the gift cards now and spend the credit later but what bothers me is that I have $200 sitting around that I can't really touch, I could really use that money on my Citi card.

Have you ever overpaid your credit card? Fun stuff...

HS

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Scottrade Updates

Quick update on the Scottrade account. Below you can see how much money I have in there. Most of it is currently invested on Apple and I'm hoping all those new iPhones people are carrying around translate to a good quarter. I'm already up a little bit as of today but last week I was down at least $400! I am totally speculating and I'm willing to lose up to $1,000 if things don't work out as planned. I can always deduct the losses on next years' tax returns. Here' the latest numbers for Scottrade:


I came in with $10,000 from my Discover Savings account so $237 in profit so far is not bad. Apple will be reporting their quarterly earnings next Tuesday but the day after that Facebook is also reporting their quarterly earnings. Facebook is another stock that I follow closely and even mentioned it a while back when they first went public. If everything goes as planned I'd like to sell Apple on the 28th and then buy Facebook right away before the market closes. Of course, the only problem is I would be 'freeriding' a little bit since it takes securities 3 days to settle. I believe Facebook will also have a great quarter but if the opposite happens I may not be able to sell right away, need to check on that.

Wish me luck! 

HS

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

2015 Aramco Houston Half Marthon

Oh. My. God. I did it again! This past Sunday I ran in the 2015 Aramco Houston Half Marathon and I had a great time. This was my second half marathon and it probably won't be my last. If you have never run a half I highly recommend it, there's no better feeling in the world than crossing that finish line. This year I was perfectly fine most of the way and did not feel like I did last year. I did not get any blisters, pains and my muscles were not sore. All I can think about today is running! Since everything went smoothly I'm looking at doing runs in other cities like San Antonio, Vegas and Nashville.

I did not get to take a lot of pictures in this event since I had my GoPro recording video, so I have very few pics to share. As usual, most of the 13.1 miles have people cheering you on and that's what I love the most about this race. Here are a few pics:

Start line:

Couple of runners:


I took this picture while running, I think this is around mile 7:


Picture of me! as usual I have to hide since I share way too much info here:


What I wear and running gear:
  • Nike white running hat
  • Nike Pro Combat Hypercool Long-Sleeve Fitted shirt
  • Nike Pro Combat Core Compression shirt
  • Nike Running shorts
  • Thorlo Pads Experia running socks (2 pairs)
  • Nike Men's Zoom Pegasus 31 Running Shoe (best shoes ever made!)
  • Nike+ SportWatch GPS (to track pace per mile)
  • Oakley Flak Jacket Sunglasses
  • GoPro Hero 4 Silver (recorded most of the event while running)
I never imagined myself running half marathons at 35 years of age. I used to be fat, overweight and a smoker. While I still occasionally indulge in naughty foods, smoke the occasional cigarette and drink too much beer, all I can say is I have never felt healthier in my life at 35. My hope is that this post inspires YOU to get out there and run, do something different. Believe me, it can change your life. Running will make you happier, skinnier, and will help you sleep better (I don't snore anymore).

Running is Cheaper than Therapy!

HS




Thursday, January 15, 2015

Selling $2 Bills on eBay

I can finally say I've mastered the art of trading currency on eBay. I don't even remember what got me started on buying and selling currency but now I'm amazed at the kinds of things I can do to make money. For example a few months back I purchased four international  notes from 1960 for $14 from a seller overseas and have already re-sold two of them for $100! Patience is key when trading currency, eventually the items will sell but I've had stuff sit out there for 3 to 4 months. I still have two more of them to post but will probably only post one and wait until it sells. I still have a lot of stuff to list on eBay but I need more time, if I'm not working I'm at home doing stuff with the kids and when they go to bed all I want do is sit in the quiet and relax.

My best currency sale this week was a $2 U.S. bill from 1976. The $2 bank note is the least used piece of currency and most people don't even know that we have a $2 bill. I love going to the bank and getting 50 to 100 $2 bills and searching for rare ones to post on eBay. Since $2 bills are not used a lot, you can find a lot of older series in great condition. If you find an older $2 bill with a Star or a fancy serial number, it can fetch a nice premium on eBay. Most of the $2 bills I find usually sell for $8 to $10 and I try to keep more profit by offering free shipping and using a Forever stamp to ship. If you can find a Star note from The Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis or The Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City which are usually the rarest for the 1976 $2 series, you can easily get up to $50 or $75 if it is in new condition. Here's one I found from a different bank in not so great condition but I still managed to get $16 for it which is not bad since all it cost me was $2:


Any $2 bills I don't keep for eBay get used locally, it is fun to leave $2 bills for tips, most of the time you will get some kind of reaction from the person receiving it. One bartender locally says she saves them and never spends them which is probably why we never see $2 bills in circulation, most people keep them and never re-use them.

If you look on my blogroll you will see a site called Two Buckaroo, it is about a local New York girl that's trying to revive the $2 bill and documents the reactions she gets from people when she uses them, check it out if you have time!

HS

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Thank You Rewards Cheaper and Better

Greetings! So you already know I have a little bit of credit card debt but like I've mentioned before the good thing about charging so much on Citi are the rewards! I have  no idea how they can keep up with those kinds of programs. I'm constantly redeeming rewards from them and I don't think they've made more than $100 in interest since last January. For a while there, the cost to redeem rewards did go up, it used to take 12,000 points to get a $100 gift card and they also got rid of good stores like Target but when I redeemed back in December for my GoPro purchase, I noticed most rewards are back down to 10,000 points for $100. This morning I went ahead and got another $300 in gift cards from them and they brought back my favorite store, Target! I also need to upgrade some things at home so I got 2 Lowe's gift cards for $200. All of this cost me 30,000 points, free shipping included and also keep in mind that credit card rewards are not taxed by the IRS! Here's the latest purchase and as you can see 10,000 gets you $100:


The balance on my account is 39,000 points so when the next statement goes through I'll be able to redeemed another $100 gift card. This is how much this order cost me and the remaining balance:


Hopefully the rewards arrive safely at home. I do hate that they ship in a envelope with a giant Thank You logo rewards and something about getting a reward. I wish they would come in plain white envelopes but I've never had any issues with our mail. Now, as you know we have a problem with credit cards and by now we know we can't use them, we are not responsible people. This is probably the last of the rewards for us. I am planning on moving to a more 'cash only' system where we cut back on our credit card use. I just can't continue racking up debt and spending recklessly which happens when we use Citi. When you use cash, that purchase is done and forgotten but when you charge something that purchase shows up online and stays there.

If you want to play this credit card rewards game be very careful- you will end up with debt, I am living proof right here :( but getting $300 dollars back from them is a good feeling :)

HS

Monday, January 12, 2015

Trading Apple Again

Stocks prices are going down this morning due to oil dropping below $48 per barrel so I thought today would be a good day to get back in to the market. This morning I bought 90 shares of Apple at $110.03 per share. Apple will be reporting quarterly earning on January 27 so I'm hoping this thing goes to $116 per share and then I'll sell. I'm happy if I make $300 to $400 but $500 would be nice. A lot of my friends and people at work are buying then new iPhone 6, even I paid full price for one for my wife. This is the current price for Apple:


Speaking of oil, I filled up my gas tank this morning for $20.11! Prices continue to drop locally which hopefully means more money for people to buy Apple stuff. Wish me luck and buy a new iPhone or a Mac :)

HS

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

His and Hers Savings Accounts? Help!

So by now you know I have close to $6,000 in credit card debt but you may also recall I have money in savings! There's close to $22,000 sitting in my Discover bank account. I am probably going to use the proceeds from my father in law's life insurance policy ($5,000) to pay off our credit card debt and hopefully learn my lesson not to charge so much and be done with that debt. I had also mentioned that he had a small pension and I got more information on that. His pension was not much, it was only $305 dollars per month for 20 years starting December 2005. He chose a 20 year payment benefit with option to continue payments to his beneficiaries upon death. His pension has around 10 years left so it will be split with my wife and her brother 50% of that $305. That means she will get $152 dollars for the next 10 years but this money will be taxed so I expect the actual amount to be morel like $125 after withholding. Wife hasn't said much about this money so my plan is just to save it for her. We may move some of that money over time to the 529 college savings that I totally forgot about and haven't contributed any money to or checked in a while.

I need this money to go straight in to our Discover Savings account or we will spend it. I was in the account online today trying to find the routing number and as I was filling out the forms, it turns out that my wife is not a joint owner in that account! If you read back on this blog, the Discover savings account was created through an E-Trade savings account I created a few years back when I got some stupid idea that I needed another emergency fund. When the economy crashed and the housing bubble burst E-Trade decided they no longer wanted to be in the online savings business so they sold the account to Discover bank. At that time I was in a lot of debt with Discover and got the bright idea to get some of my money back from them through their bank interest, hence why I have money with them and have made close to $200 back.

I called today to add the wife to my account and they said they would  need to mail paperwork and that it would take 2 to 3 weeks (wth). I don't have 2-3 weeks to wait for the paper work to process so the light bulb went off in my head. Why not create her own Discover Savings account? The idea actually came to me from a promotion they sent on the mail offering a $50 if you open a new account:


You need to deposit $5,000 to get that $50 bonus which I can easily do and then she can have her own account. I will probably do $10,000 for her and $10,000 for me and then try to grow both accounts? If anything crazy happens she has access to her money and I have mine and we can both be beneficiaries on each others accounts and get access to the funds if either one of us dies. I don't know if this is a good idea or not but I need her name on a savings account quick!!

What do you think? What would you do?? 

HS

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Look Who's Up!

UGH! Our Citi Thank You credit card debt is out of control again! They holidays left me with a ton of debt. Below you can see the latest balance and if you can think of a better title for this post, please let me know. The balance shot way up over the holidays. I had to buy tons of people $100 gifts, like I've said before I hate buying stuff but people buy for us so we really don't have a choice. Here's the latest balance:


That's right, the balance is $5,686 I'm glad 2014 is over but here I am in 2015 with 5K worth of debt. What I hate most about this debt is that I can't save money, I will spend the next few months paying down this balance but here's the icing on the cake. Over the past 2 months I've made close to $7,500 in payments back to this card!! OUR SPENDING IS THE PROBLEM!!! Here is the payment history since November 2014:


I should not be in this much credit card debt! I'm a little bit angry about it but I have no one to blame but me and the wife. We see it, we like it, we buy it. We want to do something and we do it. We have no self control. We can drop $500 dollars at a department store like we are celebrities. I never really think about the financial implications of my actions because I'm constantly sending money back to this card so in my mind I'm thinking, sure I can afford that since I'm making payments. Somehow my thinking doesn't work, as you can see here I am with $5,000 worth of debt.

The plan- pay this balance down ASAP. We have a little bit of money coming back to us and I know I've said this before but we need to control our spending. I may have to take some drastic steps and completely stop using our credit cards (no more rewards). I need to come up with a way for us to have some play money but once that's gone no more spending, wait until next payday. The problem with using this credit card for everything is we really don't need to wait, we just charge and pretend we can pay later.

Crazy I know and believe me, you will never meet another financial blogging couple who can spend like us LOL

$5,686! Really?!

HS

Monday, January 5, 2015

Best Words I Heard Yesterday!

My daughter came up to me yesterday and said "Daddy, daddy, I need to pee! hurry hurry" and so I took her, sat her on the toilet and she used the bathroom like a big girl! I have been waiting for this moment to happen for the past 3 months or so? As of this morning she's 2 years 9 months 24 days or or 33 months 24 days. We had been trying for a while and nothing was working but I guess she was just not ready.

What does this mean for me? No more diapers, except of course for nighttime but at least I won't be spending $36 on a box of diapers at Costco! Next up on the list of things to end is formula, the baby is 8 months old now and going through a container a week. Each container costs $29.99 at Costco so I'm spending well over $100 a month to feed him and that's not counting all the solid foods and snacks.

Having kids is very expensive!!

HS

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

December 2014 Updates

Howdy! Not a whole lot going on in our lives right now. The wife and I are both on vacation which means we are very busy with the kids. Both kids got diarrhea over the holidays and on day 10 of it we took them to the doctor and he said it will pass and not worry, of course I'm sure I'll get a nice bill for that. December will also go down at the month in which my father in law passed away. He was 64 years old and had a lot of health complications. I feel bad for my wife since every Christmas from here on she will be reminded of his death. We picked up part of the costs of his cremation and other expenses but most of that will be reimbursed through life insurance. He had a policy for $5,000 for wife and $5,000 for her brother, that should help to bring down some numbers. He also had a pension with survivor benefits and my understanding is they will also split that for the next 10 years. If I see any money I will send it straight to savings and pretend we never got it.

Christmas: We had a total of 4 gatherings with family and friends so by December 26 we we're all exhausted. It was way too much celebrating and as usual we drank way too much. The kids got way too many gifts and I could tell my daughter was overwhelmed, she even lost interest opening gifts. The baby was good and ripped a few presents and then tried to eat the wrapping. Wife and I got a lot of stuff we didn't like or need so we took most of it back for store credit. As usual, we spent probably close to $1000 on stuff for other people and the kids. I am glad the holidays are over, now I can look forward to 2015. One way we did save money this year was to send our Christmas card on Facebook. I created this very fancy card online and sent it to everyone, here's our little ones:


I forgot to include our Golden Retriever in the picture but here you can see she also got a Christmas toy:


The best part of Christmas of course was my ME gift, I went ahead and picked up a GoPro HERO4 Silver camera bundle at Best Buy, most of the purchase was free thanks to our Citi card but I did end up spending $86 out of pocket, here's the bundle I got:


I will probably use this until the summer and then put it on eBay. I think I can make some money out of it and get my $86 back. Wife is already tired of time lapse videos of trips to the grocery or the beach.

That's really all the updates I have for now. I have the Houston Half Marathon coming up in a few weeks so I need to pick up my running a bit. I don't think I can handle 13.1 miles after all the stuff I ate over the holidays. Be on the lookout for 2015 since I'm hoping that is the year we quit drinking, spend less and grow up LOL Don't I say that every year?

HS