HOW DO THEY DO IT? – Marilyn Armstrong

I’ve been trying to pay off credit cards which got used to repair the house. It was a bad idea, but it seemed reasonable at the time. It wasn’t either reasonable or good as ideas go. Now, it’s payoff time.

So I got a notice today that Discover had gotten their big payment. I wanted to see if I had overpaid or had a small remaining balance. One way or the other, it would be less than $100.

I couldn’t remember my username. I didn’t know my password. After a long back and forth between me and Discover I eventually rediscovered my username and eventually, learned I didn’t have a password — I had a pin number. Which I also didn’t remember. More back and forth through email.

I won’t give them my mobile number. Sorry. Won’t do it. I don’t need to carry around anything else that can be easily hacked.

Eventually, I got it sorted out. Then, I thought I should check and see if any other of the bills had been paid, but I didn’t remember my username or passwords for any of them, either.

I spent the whole evening doing this and I’m exhausted.

How do hackers figure it out? I can’t figure it out and I created these usernames and passwords in the first place. If the creator of the username and password can’t get them straight, how do hackers figure it out?

It’s all too much for me.

ABOUT THE HOUSE – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — House

These days, when I hear the word “house” my brain flicks into “fix-me” mode.

On television commercials, people always have plenty of money to hire “pros” to fix whatever needs repair. I hope they get better service than we’ve gotten.

For the rest of us, finances get a bit thin as repairs pile up. All of those television people are more concerned about finding the time to find a contractor then they are about how much the job will cost.

They live on a different planet than I do. Because even when we were both working, we had to be careful about how much anything would cost and whether or not we could pay for it.

So here’s my wish list.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

A house in which the pipes never corrode or clog. Where the electricity doesn’t blow if you turn on the hairdryer at the same time as the microwave. Where the modem never needs rebooting and the price of electricity goes down. Where any item you ever purchase lasts forever and the price of heating oil is always low.

Where snow is moderate and melts before noon and the wind blows the dead leaves off the driveway.

Windows never sag. Mice don’t move in and try to take over. Ants don’t invade. Doors never rot. The lawn, mowed once, stays mowed and the garden, once weeded never needs a redo. Where a roof lasts for the life of the house, as do all the windows and doors.

And above all, never let the well run dry or lightning strike the pump.

THE DAY OF THE NUMBERS – Marilyn Armstrong

I’m not big on numbers, but I had to deal with them anyway. Our banks have this sneaky way of offering you “free money” that of course, isn’t free. It’s just free of interest if you pay it off within a specified amount of time. Very tempting. The secret is that no one pays them off in time or on time or within the time limits.

I thought it would be a good way to deal with some of the stuff that needed repair in the house. The hot-water heater and the broken heating unit, the sagging window, the massive infusion of mice and ants — and … well …

It all added up and suddenly it was more than I could reasonably handle. I could barely manage it, but it was hard and we’d never dig out. I couldn’t get a big enough loan to take care of the house and its needs as well as the cards, so everything else will have to wait. Hopefully, nothing will collapse or fall down while I wait for a better situation. I spent all day adding numbers and trying to figure out if this was a decent deal.

It is a decent deal. Not a great deal, but not bad, either. All of the big cards will get paid down. I’ll save a couple of hundred dollars. In six months, I can renegotiate a lower rate and a reduced payment.

Tarpit in Los Angeles

I’m not done with numbers yet. I’m still going to have to manipulate numbers to make room for this big payment that will pay for all the smaller payments. I feel like I worked for a week.

Beware anytime the banks seem to be giving you something. They are never giving away anything. They’re just luring you into a trap, sucking you down into the tar where you will die with the mammoths of old. With banks, it’s always a tarpit and you will always end up a loser.

AND THE BEAT GOES ON – Marilyn Armstrong

Falls and canceled medication and rain delays notwithstanding, there’s progress in fixing up the old place. Not as much as I would like, but definitely better and more (with a little luck!) is on the way.

Owen did a first powerwash and finally, on the 4th of July, it was the third day of no rain, so he painted (waterproof with a heavy stain) the deck.

Powerwashed deck
Wet, but clean deck!

We used basically the same color which was used on it when it was built. It’s called “redwood” and it really does look like redwood. I know this because the house in which I grew up was clad in actual redwood and it was really this color.

Of course, these days, you can’t buy redwood but that was the 1950s and we weren’t aware of how much damage was being done casually by people who simply didn’t know any better.

This deck was not made of redwood. Pressed and treated hardwood would be my best guess and all things considered, it has stood up to the years reasonably well. It has also begun to come loose from the house and the northeast piece is a noticeable few inches sunk below the rest of the deck. This needs to be fixed and Owen is planning to fix it using 2X4 beams and a jack to hoist it up to the right level. With a beam under it, it should stay put for another 20 years, give or take. If we could afford it, a new deck would be nice. We can’t afford it and besides that, the deck is in surprisingly good condition for its years.

Owen wants to give it another coat. We have ordered it from Amazon because it simply isn’t available locally. I would have happily bought it from Koopman’s, but they don’t carry it. Neither does Home Depot, though they carry other products by the same manufacturer.

So Amazon it was and if it gets here by Wednesday, we will have a second coat and hopefully enough to spray the stairs and the fence too. I’m not sure the deck needs another coat, but I think the fence and stairs need at least one coat.

Deck with the new color on it. It was much redder and has sunk nicely into the wood.

Maybe we have found someone who can repair our back door, too. The problem is I really don’t want to replace the back door. It’s a Dutch door that opens on top. You can’t buy them anymore and this is a good oak door that isn’t rotting. It just needs some loving care. I suspect we’ll have to replace the screen door, but we’ll see.

Also, a bit of progress on finding help with the house. The problem is money. Our taxes went up by almost $80 a month and our heating went up by $75 a month. Prices keep going up and our income does not go up.

But we need help with the house. We aren’t getting younger or stronger and now my knee is really sore. AND we have company coming. At least a light cleaning is in order, like it or not.

Looking at the pictures of Garry and me from six years ago, I was struck by how much we’ve changed over these past six years. It was before my heart surgery and Garry’s hearing surgery. It’s not a matter of wrinkles. It’s wear and tear. Hard to explain what I mean, but the pictures say it all.

Meanwhile, one of my no longer available medications has been replaced by something that actually works better, but the other medication hasn’t been replaced because it was a holiday weekend. Hopefully, I’ll get in touch with the doctor tomorrow and we can make this work. In the meantime, I’ve been asleep a lot of the time.

That’s what happens when you take medication away from a narcoleptic!

NO SPENDTHRIFTING THIS YEAR – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Spendthrift

There was a time when “spendthrift” meant spending too much money for something that wasn’t necessary. This was when we were both working and earning good salaries. Summer vacations were when we really spent money.  Great restaurants, jewelry, clothing, hotels, airfare. We worked hard. We deserved it. We still work hard, for our age and we still deserve it.

Back deck Vineyard house. Did a lot of drinking back there. Eating. And reading. It used to have a huge rope hammock.

We did most of our summering on Martha’s Vineyard. We shared a house with a lot of other people — which made it sort of affordable. At the end of the season, everything went on sale, so I would buy all the Christmas presents in August on the Vineyard. People got interesting stuff.

Vineyard house – Originally part of the New York Yacht Club. The house where we stayed before it was restored.

Now we don’t go to the Vineyard — and we also don’t give much in the way of Christmas gifts, either. If someone really needs it, we can’t afford it. If we can afford it, they don’t need it.

Basically, these days, being a spendthrift would mean spending any money for anything unrelated to fixing the house. There’s no “fun money” lying around. Being a spendthrift was a lot more fun than being “house poor.” Although I dearly love our new bathroom, I wouldn’t object to a vacation, either.

I was a lot younger, too

I’d like to get some good graphics software for my MacBook Air, but all the good “full service” software that normally works on a Mac won’t work on this one. The MacBook Air is the lightest weight “real” computer made. It’s incredibly light. To make it so lightweight,  Mac removed a lot of stuff.  It weighs less than my more solid (older) 10-inch Kindle with its Bluetooth speaker. It also has a very small hard drive (half a gig SSD) and it feels kind of fragile. I’m very protective of it because I don’t think it would survive a serious fall onto a hard surface.

I wanted it so I could process photos while we were out of town. Without hauling the big Dell which weighs like a cinderblock. As it turns out, I can’t do it anyway. Either the hard drive is too small and the application won’t fit, or it doesn’t have the right graphics processor. Everything in the machine is rather miniature. It wouldn’t make much of a difference if it weren’t for photography. Photographs use a LOT of space.

I’ve been saved from myself. Most of what I want doesn’t exist.

Left: Bonnie, Right: Gibbs

Except for the vacation. I’d really like a long vacation. But we’ve got three dogs, two of whom are getting old. I’m not comfortable leaving them for long periods of time.

Never mind. We’ll save tons of money and enjoy that new shower!

I WILL WORK FOR FOOD BUT NOT PIZZA – Marilyn Armstrong

I’ve had enough pizza. I like it, mind you, but I’ve had an awful lot of it. Especially since we discovered frozen pizza we can throw in the counter oven. DiGiorno’s sausage made with marinara sauce is my favorite. It tastes pretty good. The dogs appreciate the crusts, too.

There is a rumor, perpetuated by television shows, that bloggers earn a living. Someone in Hollywood thinks people like me make money doing this. I am depressed to admit it, but not one cent have I ever made from this site — not counting the occasional free book for review.

I don’t advertise on this site. In fact, I pay WordPress to not put their advertisements here. My dream is not to monetize my site, but be such an incredible writer that the world will shower me with money — just because I’m me. I won’t have to ask, and I will owe nothing to anybody. And I could pay the bills! Yes!

Money for nothing. It brings tears to my eyes.

Somewhere, some blogger must be making money on his or her site, but I don’t know them. I’ve been around the world, blog-wise. I have yet to see a single blogger bringing in the big bucks. A few people have tried to at least keep even by putting advertisements on their sites, but the amount of money this earns them wouldn’t add up to a good meal in a mediocre restaurant. Moreover, advertising annoys readers. Sites with spammy ads and weird pop-ups make me want to go somewhere else.

Since the Internet remains one of the last, free places on earth, that’s what I do. I go elsewhere.

I don’t do this for money. I don’t even do it in the hopes that someday it might make money.

I don’t run advertisements, have no connections to any organization who will pay me for anything. I get offers for free applications for an “honest review,” but between the lines I read “positive, glowing review.”

I turn them down. “Money for nothing” is a delightful dream and that is all it is.

If for some obscure reason, you want to buy me off? You’ll have to do a lot better than any offer I’ve yet gotten. I’m sure everyone has a price, so I probably have one too, but no one has come close to meeting it.

Please, feel free to keep trying!

Meanwhile, there will be no big money coming from this blog. Not without a humongous payoff. That life of luxury? Waiting in the wings.

ANOTHER YEAR ON A FIXED INCOME- Marilyn Armstrong

We got our taxes done.

This used to be a big deal because we got so much money back at the end of the year. Then Reagan changed everything and we got back less than half we’d gotten in the past. Now, on a fixed income, we get pretty much the same thing every year.

This year we got a little more Federal, a little less State, but the result was essentially the same as last year.

Not a big deal, but it beats out nothing. It’s the only “lump” of money we get all year and I’m hoping it’ll be enough to get the chimney fixed.

I’m still a little punchy with the upcoming fix up to the bathroom and trying to snip whatever payments I can downward so that maybe we can get through this alive. Getting out of AT&T and into US Mobile brought $40/month back into our account. I’ve got a few almost finished accounts and when they are done, we’ll have another $100 maybe?

It’s the fixed income thing.

Prices go up, but income never goes up. We haven’t had crazy inflation, yet the price of food has been slowly rising. Heating oil has risen. Trash went down a little, but taxes went up too. And somehow, our “low-end” cable package keep crawling upward. A dollar here, two dollars there, another five in that corner.

We dumped cable and got “YouTubeTV” and haven’t looked back. Of course, we still have to keep paying Charter for Wi-Fi and somehow, the price of Wi-Fi is now more than our original cable bill was. Funny how that works.

We don’t get “big hits” of income change, either positive or negative — but over time, since we’ve been on a fixed income, it has eroded by 15%, give or take maybe another 5%. That’s with low inflation, mind you. If inflation rises faster, we will be in trouble.

There is nothing to be done about it … other than winning Mega Millions of course. I suppose we should buy a ticket. Just in case.