$25 Credit

So, on Wednesday I filed our business tax return using TurboTax. The Federal return is filed for free, but TurboTax charges $49.99 to file the state return. I pay it because it’s easier than figuring it out on my own. Plus, this is the last year we’re filing taxes for our business, an S-corporation. We haven’t been actively doing any real estate for a couple of years and I’m just going to report my writing income on a Schedule C from now on. We’ll be paying more in taxes, but not that much more, and I won’t have to go through the brain damage of filing quarterly paperwork and the business tax return, especially  now that we don’t have a tax accountant. Plus, my personal income will go up and be reflected on my Social Security earnings, which will increase my benefit.

Anyway, I’d paid the $49.99 on Wednesday and on Thursday I got an email from TurboTax announcing a special – free state filing until 3/16. Aggghhh! I decided to call and ask for a refund. It was a pain in the butt trying to talk to a real person and, ultimately, we determined that the email was part of a phishing scam (which I sort of suspected at the start but it looked very legit). The woman who worked with me was very nice and, for my trouble, she credited me half of the $49.99 purchase price.

Was it worth it? Yes and no. It was a pain and I was frustrated and it took around 30 minutes. So, it all depends on whether I think $50/hr is a decent return for my time. And I’d have to say, for me, yes it was.

The point I’m making is that it’s often worth making the call to get a refund. The key is to be nice. I know, from experience, that the person making $10/hr has a lot of power. 😉

p.s. I ran my Malware afterwards, just in case, because I’d clicked on a link in the email and it took me to a “destination not found” URL. I’m trying to run it every day, in fact. A lot of the email addresses of people subscribing to my blog are from rather unusual countries and I’m not sure those people are particularly interested in clipping coupons for Bed, Bath and Beyond or King Soopers – if you get my drift. And I’m getting more and more sketchy emails.

Read Those Statements – Even the Ones You Throw Away

I’ve posted about always reading the comments on your bank and credit card statements. But I guess I needed a reminder. 😉

We have one account that has very little money in it these days because we aren’t flipping houses anymore. I’d close it entirely but, years ago, I set up a 401K for the business and four times/year a $25 fee comes out. Boy do I regret setting that up because we only contributed once, I think, and the whole thing is now a mystery to me that I’m going to have to unravel.

Anyway, whenever I get statements for this account I just file or throw them away. So, I was surprised when I noticed the account, which I keep at $50, went to $45. I called to inquire and found that they are now charging $5/month to get a paper statement. The notification was in the “Important Messages” section of a previous statement, which I hadn’t read. I was surprised that they wouldn’t reverse it for me. Usually, all you have to do is ask nicely. Especially, when it’s a new type of charge like this was.

Anyway, I signed up for paperless statements and just chalked it up to not paying attention to my own advice. Serves me right!

Now I really need to do something about that stupid 401K. I need to see if I can roll it over into something else, or liquidate it. I won’t even care about paying a penalty. I’m paying $100/year to maintain it, anyway, and it’ll serve as a reminder to keep things simple.

Expiring Miles

One of our kids had some 26,000 United miles that were in danger of expiring. He no longer uses the MileagePlus card and hasn’t taken a United flight in awhile. I didn’t want to lose the miles. Nor did I want to trade them for some magazines or other unwanted item(s).

I had a number of options.

I could have purchased miles. Not!!! It’s expensive and totally unnecessary.

I could have transferred points to his account. But the minimum number to transfer is 1,000 and I just wanted to keep his points from expiring.

I decided to buy something through United’s shopping mall. I linked to Target’s website via the MileagePlus shopping site, using his MileagePlus number, where I bought some UltraSwim shampoo and conditioner for $7.99 using my Target credit card. I think it got .5 miles per dollar spent, so a total of four miles were added to his balance. But the expiration date for his miles were extended another 18 months, which was the whole point of the exercise.

I needed the shampoo and conditioner anyway. Bed, Bath and Beyond was out of them when I went last month.

Why We Still Get the Newspaper

We still get a paper every morning. The cost keeps going up, but we haven’t called it quits – yet. Jay and I like doing the puzzles. I do the Sudoku and the Crytoquip. Jay does the Word Jumble. I know you can do these online, but I like doing them while I’m making and eating my morning oatmeal.

I also clip coupons. I probably don’t use enough coupons to justify the $20/month cost. But I use enough to defray part of the cost, especially when I make a trip to Bed, Bath and Beyond.

I read much of the paper, not that I’m impressed by the writing or the bias. Seems most of the writers are in their 20s and spend more time on a witty, punny headline than making sure their readers can follow the gist of what they are trying to communicate. But, I regularly find something of interest or value in the Lifestyle section and/or the business section so that, between the coupons and puzzles and articles, I feel justified in the decision to keep getting the paper.

As things change (and they will) I may reevaluate. In all likelihood, the paper will quit me!

Trader Joe’s Greeting Cards

I’ve only recently starting shopping at Trader Joe’s. One opened near our house a year or so ago. I do the bulk of my shopping at King Soopers, but Trader Joe’s is great for snacks and appetizers if you’re having a party. And, unlike King Soopers, they carry shaved brussels sprouts.

They also carry awesome greeting cards. For 99¢. The selection is really good, as is the quality of the cards. They’re individually wrapped in cellophane. I like them better than Party City’s (plus it’s much more convenient). And did I mention that they’re 99¢? 😉

I want to start being more thoughtful and celebratory. I’m not big on celebrating stuff and would like to change that. I’m not talking about making a big deal out of everything. But sending a card to friends and family on their birthdays would be a nice touch. And sending candy and/or a small gift to the kids for occasions would really be appreciated. We always had really good, if not expensive, birthday parties for them when they were little – with lots of kids, and a theme, and activities, and a home baked cake, etc. So it’s not like they’re going to look back at not have wonderful birthday memories. But, I’d like to be more warm and fuzzy than I am with them now that they’re adults.

I’m hoping that between Trader Joe’s cards and the incredible convenience of Amazon Prime, I should be able to up my game noticeably.

An Interesting List

I’m semi-retired. I have a small part time job. I write children’s books. I cook and shop and go to yoga and do the taxes and swim and read and dozens of other things. I keep busy enough.

My husband works full time. Plus lots of overtime. He maintains the house and yard and hunts and fishes, among other things. He is beyond busy.

But, we’re planning to downsize in the next year or so. I’m the one pushing it, but I’m also the one fretting about it. I’m worried about what’s going to happen as we get older, once Jay retires. I saw my Dad sort of melt away after he retired. He didn’t have any hobbies of his own. He sort of just followed my Mom around the house until his dementia became too much to handle. And I see my Mom’s world reduced to not many activities. Lots of reading and TV and bridge and card games. She’s happy. And I know that it’s foolish for a 57-year-old to scrutinize the activities of an 80-year-old. Who am I to know what it’s like to be 80?!

However, it does weigh on me. I have a propensity to be lazy. I would prefer not to have my kids alarmed by my lack of interests. And, so, I keep a list of interests. A list of things I like to do or want to do. A list to remind me, when I’m bored, of things to do. A list to keep me from shedding all my petals. Weird? What can I say. I’m a list keeper. I’m the spreadsheet queen.

Here’s my list:

  • Doing stuff with/for kids/grandkids (assuming we have some)
  • Babysitting
  • Job and/or volunteering
  • Maintaining and decorating home/patio/yard/garden
  • Xmas decorating, letter, shopping
  • HOA, if we’re in one
  • Writing
  • Reading
  • Blogging/writing website
  • Book club (I joined one a couple of years ago)
  • Bible studies (I’m in two of these)
  • Swimming
  • Yoga
  • Walking/hiking/biking
  • Bird watching? (not sure about this one, but I love birds)
  • Snow shoeing and/or skiing? (these depend on my knees)
  • Golf (took lessons last year and plan to play at least once/week this summer)
  • Exercises (for knees)
  • Bridge (just signed up for lessons in April and May)
  • Movies
  • TV
  • Cooking
  • Going out to eat
  • Entertaining
  • Visiting with friends
  • Following politics
  • Keeping things organized
  • Financial planning/taxes
  • Saving money/coupons/gift cards
  • Real estate
  • Managing rentals
  • Estate sales/Craigslist
  • Health and style – doctors, massages, hair appts, clothes
  • Museums/art/concerts/plays
  • Games (Sudoku, Spider Solitaire, jigsaw puzzles)
  • SSPRD trips/outings (SSPRD is the parks and rec organization I work for)
  • Shopping
  • Exploring Denver and taking advantage of local events, attractions
  • Road Trips/travel/visitors
  • Trips and trip planning

When you look at everything written down, I doubt I’ll ever be bored!

Fuel Points at King Soopers

At the bottom of every King Soopers receipt there’s instructions on how to go online and provide feedback. Once a week you can earn 50 fuel points. I’ve never bothered, until recently. I was so annoyed that, once again, the store I often go to didn’t have any quart size regular half and half in either Land ‘o Lakes or Mountain Dairy. I’m not even being brand loyal. They had tons of fat free half and half (an oxymoron) but not a single regular. Oh – and they had more than a dozen fat free ones in the clearance refrigerator, marked down from $2.99 to $.50.

It happens regularly that they have no regular half and half. It’s so irritating. And I’ve mentioned it numerous times to the guy in the dairy section, who apparently could care less.

So, I went online and filled out the survey explaining how I really didn’t care how much money that store was losing because they stocked tons of an item that, clearly, no one buys, while missing out on selling an item that people must want because it’s always sold out. It’s not rocket science!

It felt good to get it off my chest. And I got the 50 fuel points. I didn’t really expect to hear anything back but, yesterday, I got a response. And an extra 100 fuel points!

Now, if it causes someone to look into (and resolve) their inventory problems in the dairy section, it’ll really have been worth the trouble!

Buying Gift Cards at Grocery Store with my American Express Blue Cash Preferred Card

I get 6% cash back on grocery store purchases with my American Express Blue Cash Preferred Card (on the first $6,000). Note that it’s grocery store purchases, not “groceries”. There’s little to no chance that we’ll hit the $6K ceiling in purchases, so I’m more than happy to buy gift cards at my local King Soopers. Especially since we’ve got four weddings, four bridal showers and one baby shower already on the calendar! And there could be more…

So far, everyone has been registered at Crate & Barrel, BBB, Target and/or Amazon. I’m not buying Target gift cards at the moment. I have a Target credit card that gets me 5% off and I’ve got a credit balance from Christmas shopping/returns. Also, I can buy Target gift cards online for around a 7% discount right now. Since I get an additional 2% cash back from using my Citi Double Cashback card, it’s unlikely I’d ever buy Target gift cards at King Soopers.

Amazon and Crate & Barrel are a different story, however. It’s difficult to find decent discount gift cards for either place. So, I always buy them at King Soopers with my American Express Blue Cash Preferred card and get the 6% cash back. I often get double fuel points, too. In fact, next time we need gas we’ll probably have 1000 points and will get the maximum $1 off per gallon. I’ll send Jay since his F150 tank is a lot bigger than my Elantra’s.

Keep it Simple

So, Jay and I went to the Colorado Home and Garden show a couple of Sundays ago. We’d gotten a coupon for “free entry for two” from our realtor and didn’t have anything planned that day. Between finding a free parking spot (street parking is free downtown on Sundays), walking, exploring, doing the show, and grabbing a drink and appetizer afterwards we killed an entire afternoon.

And we had a ton of fun, in the meantime.

Who knew there were so many hot tub companies! There was free candy everywhere. I was good and only had one (or two) pieces. I was looking for Dots, but didn’t find any. We tried out the $7,000 massage chairs/pods. Ouch! And, help, I’m trapped! We also tried out the $299 massage pads which were pretty awesome. Didn’t buy them, even though they only had two left! 😉

I got my ring cleaned. So sparkly!

We did buy two items. After all, it was Valentine’s Day that week. We got a grater that worked miraculously. In fact, we got two for the price of one! Turns out that the one the very effective demonstrator was using was probably an entirely different “version”. Plus, it turns out, that it takes longer to put the EZtwist together than it does to finish the job using my old, simple grater. What a surprise! I’m going to Goodwill them.

I’m hoping The Best Hummingbird Feeder Ever that Jay got IS just that. I actually think it’ll be great. The guy selling them was a surly old dude. He knew everything about hummingbirds, but his sales pitch was almost non-existent. Which sort of made us want to buy it! Plus, the company was founded by a couple – one American (him) and one Canadian (her) – just like us.

Bed, Bath and Beyond Trip

I went to Bed, Bath and Beyond (BBB) yesterday. We are going to (yet) another wedding and the couple is registered there. I have learned from experience not to wait too long to buy gifts as all the good ones will be taken and you’ll be left getting spatulas and measuring cups.

I could have ordered the gifts online and had them delivered for free. But BBB is across the street from Crate and Barrel and I had to pick up a gift for a bridal shower this coming weekend (different wedding). Also, when I buy stuff at BBB I want to use discount gift cards and the coupons that I save from flyers. Yesterday, I didn’t have any BBB discount gift cards on hand so I stopped at King Soopers and bought one there using my American Express Preferred card, getting both 6% cashback AND double fuel points.

In addition, I used two 20% off coupons. So, my purchases came to $36.78 instead of $45.98. And BBB offers free gift wrapping!

While waiting for the gifts to be wrapped, I shopped for Tresemmé conditioner, O’Keefes Foot Cream and Ceravé cream. I had coupons for all of them. The Ceravé cream was regularly $12.99 each. The Tresemmé conditioner $4.99. And the O’Keefe’s $6.99. I bought three of the Ceravé creams using three $3 off coupons. I bought two of the Tresemmé conditioners using a buy two, get one of them free (up to $5.99) coupon. I bought one foot cream using one $1 off coupon. I used three of BBB’s $5 off a purchase of $15 coupons.

The total regular cost of all the items, pretax, would have been $55.94. But once all the coupons were applied (and she was instructed to give me the whole $5.99 for the Tresemmé, even though it only cost $4.99 – I wouldn’t expect this every time) my total came to $24.95. (pretax).