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AP news article + other bits-n-pieces

December 30th, 2008 at 06:00 am

The AP had an interesting article today titled "Fallout begins after dismal holiday season." It said that some experts predict we will see more stores closing than we've seen in 35 years, with "thousands of stores and whole malls" closing down. It also said analysts expect the dramatic changes in shopping behavior could linger for another 2-3 years.

About 160,000 stores will have closed this year and 200,000 more could shutter next year, said Burt P. Flickinger III, managing director of consulting firm Strategic Resource Group. That would be the industry's biggest contraction in 35 years. In March and April of next year, Flickinger expects 2,000 to 3,000 malls to shutter.

Wow.

In that vein, I am proud to say that I just got through my first Christmas EVER with NO NEW DEBT!! Now, THAT is an awesome feeling!! It's an even bigger feat when you take into consideration that I spent $533 on car repair and inspection fees on Dec. 22 ... which I also paid cash for! YAY ME!!! Smile (Of course, now I am flat broke and payday isn't until Monday ... but we should make it okay.)

On the employment front, my company's CEO sent out a statement a couple of weeks ago that merit increases for all employees (which were expected in February/March, as in past years) will be suspended in 2009. My initial reaction was "Of course, because it's my first year to be eligible for one!" (after 15 months of employment) ... but my prevailing thought is that I am SO grateful to have my job! I got a salary increase in September when I got my promotion, plus we will still receive our bonus for 2008 at the end of January, so it's not all bad news! I'm not sure yet how much the bonus will be, but hopefully enough for me to get my baby EF built back up AND have enough for a deposit and moving expenses so I can get out of the rental house I am in (which seems to be falling down around me).

In other financial news, I am back to fretting over the future of my regular child support payments ... my ex got laid off from his most recent position so he's job hunting again. I really feel for him because he's had such a run of bad luck job-wise in the past several years. The company he'd been with for 20+ years (which paid to send him back to school) eliminated his position shortly after he got his Masters degree, then he got into a franchise business which went belly-up after its first year or so and he had to declare bankruptcy. After that he worked for another company for a year or so, but it was a family-owned business and when family relations went south the company divided and he lost his job. It took him awhile to find something else, and when he did it lasted less than a year (the company decided he wasn't the right "fit" for the job -- after about 9 months!). His most recent position (which only lasted a few months) was as a landman for an energy company, but with the decline in oil prices they've had massive layoffs and my ex was among them. I hope he can find something stable very soon. Even though paying child support is at the top of the list of the bills he'll need to pay, if he doesn't have the money ... then what?? I just don't want to find out. Plus I really don't like to see him in this situation; he is a good person and a very smart man, and he would make an excellent employee for any company! Hopefully he will get some good news soon, because I know he is aggressively looking.

I went ahead and updated my CC debt total and my pie chart a couple of days early, since all the accounts have been updated for December. I paid off almost 16% of my debt in 2008 without incurring any new debt, woo-hoo!! I plan to look at the numbers in more detail over the next couple of days and set a goal for how much I want to pay off in 2009.

Really wanting to move, and a ? about auto insurance

August 25th, 2008 at 03:37 am

Yesterday we were struck with plumbing issues again, one day shy of 3 weeks since the last occurrence. I called the landlord and got his voice mail, then finally reached him after a second voice mail left one hour later. (I planned to leave one every hour, even through the night, until I reached him!) He came out and spent 3 hours here (after spending 4 hours here the last time) w/a rented "snake" (I guess that's what it's called) and we are back in business again, but for how long this time? He replaced the toilet in the kids' bathroom a couple of months ago, and it had a slight leak so he was going to put some sort of wax sealant on it, which he brought with him last night. So after he snaked the toilet in the master bathroom, he went to the kids' bathroom to put this seal thing on that toilet. Half an hour later he tells me he broke the toilet and he'll have to come back today and repair it or replace it again. He showed me what he'd done, and he'd literally BROKEN the toilet ... there is a big hole in the bottom of the tank!! I have no idea how he did that. Anyway, he was supposed to be here today at 5:00 to take care of that job, and he didn't show up ... didn't even call!! I am pretty sure the reason I will get when I do talk to him is that he forgot. That is the reason I got countless times last year when we had a huge portion of a tree lying across our back yard, dead, which he was supposed to come cut up and remove. (It was struck by lightning in June 2007 and he finally came and cut it up and hauled it off in May 2008.) I was SO fed up last night that I was ready to go sign a lease on an apartment today!! This morning, of course, I realized I really cannot pay for an apartment and moving costs right now ... unless I don't pay my rent for next month. Plus I still have a lot of stuff to get rid of before I can move. But I am SO ready to be out of here, done with all the plumbing issues, and done with that landlord!!! My daughter and I went last weekend to look at the apartments I referred to in my last post, and we really like them a lot. Last night I'm sitting on the couch (while the landlord snaked out the toilet for the umpteenth time) planning ways I could perhaps move out of here next weekend!! Realistically I know there is no way I can do that. But it will be very interesting to see how long it is before we have more plumbing issues ... I am saying two weeks, tops. And if he doesn't get back out here to replace the toilet he broke, we will not even have a back-up toilet!! I really will NOT be happy then!!

My auto insurance questions are: When do you give up collision coverage? What exactly is comprehensive, and when do you give that up? My car is 8 years old (less than 70,000 miles) but I still carry full coverage. I only do that because I'm so nervous that as soon as I drop it, I'll have an accident!! I need some of you to talk some sense into me!! HELP!!

As an update to my child support situation with my ex, he did receive his severance the day after I posted and I was able to deposit the child support check. Now it's due again this week (Wed.) and I'm on pins and needles wondering if I'm going to receive it. I went ahead and kept the $400 from my EF to have on hand and readily available as long as the child support is in limbo, so my EF in ING is down. Frown

The kids both start school tomorrow ... my daughter in 8th grade and my son as a college freshman! My daughter and I went to see my son on Friday because I wanted to see his dorm and just know where he's going to be living for the next school year (my ex moved him there a few days prior). He seems to have really settled in well and has made a bunch of new friends, so I am thankful for that. Now if we can just get our living situation here at home ironed out as well, life will be more pleasant all around!

BIG Income Cut Approaching

May 17th, 2008 at 08:47 pm

My son graduates from high school in 3 weeks. According to the terms of my divorce decree, that is the point at which my child support will decrease. That means this is the last month I will get the amount of child support I have been used to receiving for 9 years ... $1,319. Beginning next month, I will be receiving $795, or a decrease of around 40%. Since I have only just begun to get a grip on my financial situation this year, I have not planned for this event. I'm starting to feel some fear!

I did get my car air conditioning problem repaired, although it might just be a temporary fix. I went with the mechanic who gave me the third opinion on the problem, because he actually took the time to LOOK for the real problem, his estimate was reasonable, and he actually seemed to be leveling with me honestly. The first mechanic told me to take the car to a dealership because he thought there was a problem with the car's computer and he did not have the proper equipment to diagnose/repair it. (I heard "computer" and equated that to $$$.) The second mechanic told me I needed a new evaporator core, which would necessitate removing the entire dash of the car, which would mean a charge of over $900 in labor alone! I decided to get a third opinion because the first two were different, and I couldn't see spending my entire baby EF only to find the evaporator core or computer was not the problem to begin with! The third mechanic, after spending a LOT of time looking, found a wire that wasn't connecting to the compressor, or to something else connected to the compressor. He also added freon because it was low. Why do I say this might be a temporary fix? Because I might have a leak somewhere in the system, since the freon level was low ... it might be a slooooow leak, or I might find myself back in the shop in a couple of weeks with no A/C again. So far, so good (it's been just over a week), so I am hopeful that IF I do have a leak, it will be one of those slooooow ones.

It just seems like it's always something, you know? At least I had my stimulus money this time, so I was able to use that for my repair bill and I didn't have to dip in to my baby EF!

Car repairs, and a bad habit crept back in!

April 27th, 2008 at 11:58 pm

I haven't posted since the end of March, and now it's almost the end of April and time to tally up how much (or, more to the point, how little) I've paid down my credit cards! I still read the blogs here almost every day, but I just don't seem to have much to post on a daily basis.

The bad habit I refer to in the title of this entry is not writing down what I spend each day. I did great for the first 3.5 months of the year, but I looked at my expense notebook earlier and noticed it's been two weeks since I wrote anything down! Shame on me! I've had to do quite a bit of spending in that two weeks, too; mainly for clothes. I officially reached my goal weight today at my Weight Watchers weigh-in, and I have had to buy some new clothes for myself (still have more I need to buy also, but that will have to happen slowly). I also had to buy some new clothes for my 18-year-old son; not only did he need some shorts and T-shirts for summer, but he needed some khaki slacks and dress shirts for the national DECA competition he's participating in right now in Atlanta.

I've also had to shell out some cash (from my emergency fund) for repairs to my son's car, and am going to need to shell out a LOT more in the very near future to get the air conditioner in my car fixed. I'm putting that off as long as I can, but it's amazing I've gone almost 3 weeks without A/C at this time of year here in North Texas! We even got a cool front last night, so it's been quite pleasant driving my car today. It helps that I park in a large parking garage at work, so I don't have to get into a HOT car at the end of the day, and my drive home is only about 8 miles. In the morning it hasn't been an issue. I don't normally go out at lunch since I bring my lunch pretty much every day. But there's no way I'm going without A/C through the 100+ degree temps we get here quite regularly every summer! When the A/C first stopped working (it blows hot air) I hoped I just needed some freon, so I took it to the place I take it for oil changes. The mechanic there checked it out and told me he thought it was a computer issue and I'd need to take it to a GM dealership. (Sounds very expensive!) A week later I decided to drop it off at a garage across the street from my office; they get a lot of business from people that work where I do, so they told me they wouldn't charge me a diagnostic fee ... what did I have to lose? Well, the mechanic there told me I'd need a new evaporator core (I think?) and gave me an estimate of almost $1300 ... OUCH!! After they told me that, they took $100 off the estimate, so it's now ONLY $1200. Still more than I want to spend and pretty much wipes out my emergency fund!! Having gotten two different diagnoses of the problem doesn't bring me great comfort, either ... so now I'm looking to get a third opinion! I absolutely despise dealing with car issues.

The deal with my son's car is even more frustrating. My ex-husband and I are going to be taking the mechanics that worked on my son's car to small claims court in the very near future. I have to get all the paperwork done and filed, since the car is in my name (my old car), and then we'll get a court date. Hopefully we (me, my son, and my ex) will get some of the thousands of dollars we've poured into that car back!

The good news is that I've gotten a $10 gift card from MyPoints, so I put $10 into my challenge for that. I also got a $10 award check from Opinion Outpost, which went into the challenge. There have also been some grocery savings I added, so my total to date is $172.07. I need to update the amounts in my sidebar now! Smile