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Archive for July, 2007

July Survey Totals

July 31st, 2007 at 05:40 pm

Quick recap. I'm a doctor and often get invited to do medical surveys, mostly online. I also do some non-medical ones like AOL Opinion Place. I used to pass up lots of invitations because the surveys are often long and boring, but it was like throwing away free money. A couple of months ago I decided to get serious and do every survey that I could. In June, I earned $363.

July is over now and my survey earnings for the month were $370!! I also earned a few non-monetary gifts including a couple of USB flash drives, a wireless computer mouse, a blood pressure cuff and a couple of other things.

I've also started to record each survey I do so I can match them up when the payments come in. According to my log, I've already earned $340 that I haven't collected yet, so August looks like it will be as good or better than June and July.

$2,603 transferred to my high yield account

July 29th, 2007 at 06:09 pm

It's been a few months since I had any "extra" money build up in my checking account. This was largely because I had laid out money for numerous things that I would ultimately get reimbursed for. Well, I finally got all the reimbursements and the checking account balance plumped up nicely. So last night, I transferred $2,603 from my non-interest bearing checking account to my 5.03% money market account. I figured out that just that transfer alone will earn me an extra $131.00 in interest in the next year. After we get back from vacation in a few weeks, I'll sit down and see if buying a CD might be better to lock in a higher rate for the next year to earn even more.

Transfer of funds disappeared into cyberspace

July 28th, 2007 at 05:40 pm

I posted before how I'm putting a certain amount from each paycheck toward the principal of our HEL. Last week, I made 2 transfers that totaled $1,015. I checked my account activity today and the 2 transfers did come out of my checking account. BUT they did not appear as payments to the loan account.

I called the bank and the 3rd time I got transferred, I think I got a guy who understood the problem and put in a requisition to properly allocate those funds. Right now, apparently, the money is just kind of sitting in limbo. It isn't in my checking account but isn't in my loan account either. It is floating around in cyberspace somewhere, so if you happen to see it, send it back my way.

I lost $4,300 today

July 26th, 2007 at 02:06 pm

They're just paper losses, but I decided to see how today's stock market sell-off impacted our portfolio. We lost about $4,300, or about 1.07%.

I don't plan to make any changes or sell anything. I just plan to keep everything on autopilot and continue our automatic investing plans same as always. I'm 20 years from retirement so in the grand scheme of things, today is just a little blip in a very long line.

Paying down my home equity loan

July 24th, 2007 at 08:17 am

While I'm usually not a proponent of prepaying one's mortgage, prepaying a HEL or HELOC is often a better idea because of the higher interest rate. That's the situation I find myself in. We're meeting all of our savings goals and have additional money available for something. Our Roths are fully funded for 2007 so I'm sending extra principal payments to the HEL. So far, I've been able to send in $1,015 this month. The balance started at $17,300, so this will bring in to about $16,300.

If I can keep paying $1,000/month through the end of the year, that would take it down to about $11,000.

I'll stop extra payments in January because I'll have to start Roth contributions again, which increase to $5,000 next year. Hopefully, by July, those will be done and I'll start chipping away at the HEL again. I'd love to have it paid off by end of 2008 or early 2009.

Family trip to Atlantic City today

July 21st, 2007 at 04:10 pm

The 3 of us took a drive down to AC today, after stopping to pick up our copy of Harry Potter, of course. DW and I thought there would be enough non-casino stuff to do with DD and I'd still be able to play a little while they shopped or snacked or something.

We got down about 11am and parked at Caesars. I had suggested having lunch at Bally's buffet, where DW and I have eaten before, but we got there to discover that folks under 21 aren't permitted at the buffet. Not quite sure why that is but that's the rule. We decided to eat at Pickles deli also at Bally's. Service was very good as was the food. We all enjoyed our meal.

After lunch, we walked up the boardwalk a bit and browsed in a few shops. Then we headed over to the Pier, the shopping mall across from Caesars. We wanted to show DD It's Sugar, the big candy store there. She loved it, of course, and we bought a couple of snacks for dessert.

After that, we split up. I went into the casino to play for a little while and they stayed at the mall to see the fountain show and wander the shops.

I did ok in that I left with more than I started with, but only by $12.50. I had been up more than that at some point, but slipped back down before quitting. I did get a comp for free parking, so that's worth $5 for total winnings of $17.50 for the day. Any winning is better than losing, so I'm happy with that.

I met up with them and we walked around a little more before heading for home. DD thought it was a great day, so bringing her along worked out fine. It definitely isn't a real family friendly place. Vegas has a lot more to do with kids than AC does, but for a few hours, it's fine. I wouldn't want to spend days there, though. We took DD to Vegas a couple of years ago for 5 days and we had tons to see and do and we could easily go back for 5 more days and see stuff we didn't see last time. AC just doesn't have that kind of set up.

New car starter = $486.

July 19th, 2007 at 05:14 pm

A few weeks ago, my car died. Wouldn't start. Finally had to jump start it and drove it straight to the mechanic to replace the battery. It was about 5 years old, so I figured it was about time.

Fast forward and the past week or so, I had a few times when I got in and turned the key and nothing happened. Turned it again and it started right up. That got much worse yesterday and when it took 3 or 4 tries to get it started and today when the last couple of times I wasn't sure it was going to start at all.

Needless to say, I was back to the shop for what I figured would be a new starter. I'm not much of a car guy, but I know the basics and it turned out I was right. Fortunately, I had nowhere I needed to be and they were able to do the work right away and had the part in stock. About 45 minutes and $486.00 later, I was on my way.

The only thing I'm kind of wondering now is if it was actually the battery causing the problem a few weeks ago or if it was the starter beginning to fail. Doesn't really matter at this point, and the battery was 5 years old, so probably would have needed replacing soon anyway.

I love getting reimbursed for spending

July 18th, 2007 at 12:52 pm

There is nothing better (ok, maybe there are some things better) than getting reimbursed for money I've spent and pretty much forgotten about.

Yesterday, my boss gave me a check for $580 to reimburse me for my state license renewal. I paid it a couple of months ago and submitted the receipt. So my finances all reflected that money already spent. Getting it back is like a little bonus. Plus, I had charged it to my rewards card so it amounts to free points.

Same thing happened with our NYC trip last weekend. The theater tickets were a gift from my mother, but I had paid for them a few months ago also with my rewards card. She gave us a check on Sunday to reimburse for that, so another little bonus. She also has traditionally given us some money each summer toward DD's camp tuition. We never expect it or count on it, but we certainly appreciate it when she does so. The check she gave us Sunday included some money toward camp also.

So it's been a good week for "extra" money.

Credit report and FICO score

July 17th, 2007 at 05:59 am

I pulled my Experian credit report last night. I actually hadn't checked my report for a year so I was overdue. Everything was in order on my report except for my one credit card. The report gave my current balance, which was correct, but said the credit limit on the card was $0. Of course, that makes it look like I've overdrawn the account.

My FICO score was 794 which is very good. In the comment field, though, it says the amount owed on my credit cards is too high.

Not that it really matters with a score that high, but I did send in a dispute form for them to correct the credit limit on that card which is actually $32,500, not $0.

Back from New York - trip report

July 15th, 2007 at 03:46 pm

We're back from our anniversary weekend in NYC. We had a very nice time. We actually started our celebrating early. DD got invited out Friday night for a movie and a sleepover so DW and I went out to dinner at a nice French place nearby.

Saturday morning, we drove up to NYC and got there about 11am. The show was at 2pm so we had some time to wander and have lunch. We ate at Mama Sbarro's, one of our casual favorites. They have a by-the-pound Italian buffet. After lunch, we stopped at a candy store to buy some snacks for the theater as we don't believe in paying $4/box for candy that is under $1 outside.

We saw "Avenue Q" which is a riot. Very, very funny show. If you ever get the chance, it is worth every penny. As long as you are not the type to be easily offended by sex, bad language or politically incorrect humor.

After the show, we talk a walk up to the World of Disney store on 5th Ave. They renovated a year or so ago and we hadn't been there since. From there, we headed back to the car and went to the hotel.

We stayed at the Renaissance Meadowlands which was just a few miles from the LIncoln Tunnel. It is a very nice place and we had a free night certificate from the Marriott credit card. When I checked in, I got an envelope with a card saying I was the Silver Rewards member of the day and got a free breakfast coupon, so that was a nice treat.

After we relaxed a little, we got a restaurant directory from the front desk and decided to eat at P.F. Chang's. DW had been there once but I never had. It was very good and quite reasonably priced. We got back to the room, showered, watched some tv and went to bed (it was after midnight by then).

Today, we had breakfast. I gave the waiter my coupon and he was surprised that I only had one. I explained that was all they gave me. He said he'd take care of it and he somehow came up with a 2nd one, so breakfast was totally free (though I did give him a nice tip).

On the way home, we stopped at the Jackson Premium Outlets to walk around a bit. We didn't really buy much, just a couple of little things and grabbed a bit to eat.

So all in all, a very nice weekend.

Happy Anniversary to Me!

July 12th, 2007 at 05:36 am

Today is our 15th wedding anniversary! We are celebrating this weekend by going to NYC. We are seeing "Avenue Q" Saturday afternoon and staying overnight at the Renaissance Hotel in the Meadowlands. We'll also do lunch and dinner in the city and spend some time wandering mid-town. We actually haven't been up there for a while so it will be nice to visit.

The best part is that most of the trip is a gift. My mom bought the theater tickets and is giving us some spending money. DW's mom also gave us a small cash gift which can go toward meals.

For the hotel stay, we used the "free" night certificate we get each year from our Marriott Visa. I put free in quotes because the card has a $65 annual fee, but the certificate more than makes up for that. A night at this hotel would normally be at least $180 + tax, so getting it for $65 total is a steal.

Surveys galore

July 11th, 2007 at 04:26 pm

I posted my survey total for June and committed to doing all the surveys that come my way. I know it is only the 11th of the month but I can't wait to see my total this month. Assuming payments come in promptly, I should earn more than last month.

I don't record surveys when I do them - only when the payment comes, but I'm sure I must have done at least a dozen so far. I've already received $60 but I'm sure I've earned over $200, probably closer to $300.

I wouldn't be surprised if by month's end I hit $400 which would be great. Heck, even $200 is great. If I could do that every month it would be enough to cover our annual Disney World trip.

I'll post my total at the end of the month. I just felt like sharing midway.

Good trip to new casino

July 8th, 2007 at 01:33 pm

DW wasn't feeling well today and just wanted to hang out at home. We did that until after lunch but I was kind of antsy and wanted to get out somewhere. I decided to take a ride to see the new Harrah's casino in Chester, PA, just outside of Philadelphia. I looked it up online and saw it is only 25 miles from our house. I also confirmed that they recently installed video blackjack, as I have no interest in throwing my money away on slot machines.

Sure enough, it was just over 24 miles and took 28 minutes door to door to get there. They have free parking which is nice as parking in Atlantic City is at least $5 (more if you don't belong to the casino's players club).

What is NOT nice is that there is no smoking ban here. Now that we are spoiled by smoke-free gambling in Atlantic City, stepping back into a smoke-filled casino was rough. I certainly won't be coming back with DW as she is far more sensitive to the smoke than I am.

Anyway, except for the smoking, it is a nice place. There are a ton of slot machines of every type in every denomination. There are also a great many video poker machines. The lower level has daily horse race simulcasting and live harness racing 4 days/week from July through December.

What I went for, though, was the video blackjack "tables". They are set up like live tables with 5 seats in semi-circle but instead of a dealer, there is a video screen with video of a real person. A 2nd video screen serves as the table top. The dealer appears to deal to each player and play proceeds as it would at a live table.

I got a seat at one table and started with $40. I played for about 20 minutes until a new player sat down next to me and lit up a cigarette. After the next hand, I was up to $80 and figured that was a good point to quit and get away from the smoke for a while.

I got a drink (they have free self-serve soda machines around the casino) and checked out the rest of the property, the restaurants and the simulcasting area.

After a while, I went back and got a seat at blackjack again where nobody was smoking. I started with $100 and just played a short time until I was at $140. At that point, I didn't want to press my luck so I cashed out.

Bottom line, I won $80 for the day! Other than having to hop right in the shower when I got home because I reeked from smoke, it was a good trip. I'm sure I'll go back sometime. One perk is that we are members of Harrah's Total Rewards club so if we ever can't get to Atlantic City for a while, I can shoot over there to keep our reward points active. You need to earn at least 1 point every 3 months to keep points from expiring. So just one more option (though it would be a much better option if they would ban the smoking).

DW's First Paycheck

July 5th, 2007 at 03:17 pm

DW got her first paycheck from the new job today. It only covered the orientation day she did last week due to when the pay period ended. Also, it was issued before the 401K enrollment got processed so a minimal amount went to the 401K but not as much as it will be in the future. Still, it is the first time either of us have had a job where the employer kicked in matching funds toward retirement so that was pretty exciting. Even though it was less than $2.00, it was $2.00 we didn't have before.

She is starting to feel a little more comfortable on the job. She actually was doing the data entry herself today which is really the only way to learn that kind of stuff. Watching someone else do it isn't the same as actually doing it.

DW's First Day at New Job

July 2nd, 2007 at 06:33 pm

Technically, last Monday was her first day as she went for a general orientation with about 40 other new hires, but today she actually reported for her actual job. She will be doing surgical scheduling for a multi-campus hospital system.

She was hired on a per diem basis. Today, since she had training to do, she worked 10-4 but will typically do 10-2 a few days a week, at least for the summer (due to DD's schedule). That may change once school is in session.

She said today went well. The other women in the office all seem nice. And the work doesn't seem terribly difficult. She just needs to get fully trained on the computer system and other office procedures.

So far, so good. She works 10-2 tomorrow. They're closed Wednesday for the 4th. Since she still has training to do, she offered to do 10-4 again on Thursday as I'm off early enough to pick up DD from camp. We initially thought this would be 2 days/week but at least for now, it looks like it may be 3-4 days. DW isn't thrilled about that part as she doesn't really want to work 4 days/week. We'll see how it goes. The fact that the boss (a friend of ours) is willing to pretty much let DW set her own hours is a huge plus. Not too many jobs around with that kind of flexibility.

June Survey Total

July 1st, 2007 at 08:09 am

I get invited regularly to do online medical surveys (I'm a physician). These pay well, though sometimes they are incredibly boring and tedious to do. I always go through phases where I just don't bother doing them, but then I regret it as it is basically throwing away free money.

I've been back on track lately, doing all that come my way.

For June, I received payment for 6 surveys (one or two might have actually been done in May). The total for the 6 payments was $363.00!

Why I ever pass these up I don't know. I've already done a couple of others that I haven't gotten paid for yet, including a $75 survey a few minutes ago. I just have to keep on doing them, no matter how boring they get.