Sunday, November 28, 2010

Hello world!

I went on inadvertent hiatus though the summer, while I intermittantly food blogged and readjusted to the tech beat's 27/7 news cycle. Today, to cap my four-day weekend (ok, technically, nine-day weekend. The spouse and I decamped to Las Vegas for T-Day, where I also food blogged-- there's a reason's auto-budget feature tags "Restaurants" as my biggest monthly expense, easily dusting Shopping, Clothing and Entertainment. "Groceries" is a close second), I tackled the giant stack of "paperwork needing doing" that had accumulated on my desk. Most of which was financial.

Over the course of two hours, I ...

-Filled out forms that will hopefully qualify the spouse for an extended life insurance policy. Typically, we've each carried just what our employers spring for, which is generally one or two times our annual salary.

But now, we have a mortgage. Which is scary large. His open enrollment ended a month before mine, and I didn't speak up in time about having him up his insurance. But I had the option of adding coverage on him to mine. To cover us each for an amount about equal to about 70% of what we owe on the mortgage cost me about $11 a month. I decided to spring for it; now let's see if he passes the underwriting. He had surgery for a deviated septum three years ago, and has a monthly drug prescription -- which means I had to check "yes" on an annoying number of "do you have any physical condition that indicates you are mortal and could eventually die!?!?1?" boxes on the insurance form.

-Mailed a defunct Metrocard off to the MTA in hopes of a replacement. Just days after one of my writers had his constant-refilled card journey to the Transmit Museum in the Sky, mine demagnetized. I have no idea what caused it, and in almost a decade of buying Metrocards, this is the first time it's happened.

I checked with a gate agent who confirmed, yep, demagnetized. "Call the customer service number on the back of the card," she instructed. Problem: This all happened as I was headed out of town for the week.

I finally got a chance to call, and was instructed to mail the card in. Now, online accounts suggest that if you paid for the card with a credit card (I did), the customer service line can refund you the remaining days. Bzzzt. I called twice, and was instructed both times to mail it in. I finally did today; we'll see how that goes.

-Mailed in a prescription. I'm still really pissed off about the monopolistic PBM practices that are killing neighborhood drugstores. But it would currently cost me $1,080 a year to fill our recurring monthly 'script locally, because my drug plan slaps a huge co-pay on things not filled through their mail-order. Doing Medco mail-order costs $260 a year. We cratered.

-Downgraded my Netflix plan. I mostly use the streaming these days, so with my current 3-DVD plan set to soon jump to $20 a month, I took the opportunity to swap to the 1-DVD, $9.99/month plan.

-And finally, I poured a stiff drink and eyeballed my Verizon bill. Remember way back in May, when I blogged about opting for Verizon's $89.99/month Triple Play and having no confidence whatsoever that the bill would be correct? The bill wasn't correct. Our first bill was $203.96. The next was $115.98. And the next was $148.59. Then $128.36.

Every single month, the day after the bill arrived, I called Verizon customer service. Every single month, the agent went "wow, that's weird!," applied some seemingly random credit amount to get my bill back into sane territory, and assured me the problem was fixed. And every month, when the next bill arrived, it was for some random amount. Waterloo came in September, when a bill for $346.18 arrived.

Eventually, after many phone calls, we zeroed in on the problem: Verizon had never turned off my old address in its system. I was being charged for two different plans at two different addresses, even though they were showing as one, and interacting in totally random ways.

This month, my bill finally seems to have just the right set of charges and taxes. My $89.99 plan actually costs $126.10 with taxes and surcharges, which is around what I expected.

I just ran the numbers, and when you average out the grand total of what I've paid vs the number of months I've been in the new place, it comes out to a $12.56/month overcharge so far. But I'm too defeated to fight with Verizon for a refund. I'm just crossing my fingers my $126 bill is here to stay.

So that's the State of My Financial Life. And I'm back to blogging just in time for the holidays, when all attempts at budgeting will inevitably be blown to smithereens!