Yellow's Green

The Adventures of Money Blog.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Grumble grumble at eBay

So we're once again working on a weekend of clearing out stuff.
I had two items posted for sale on Craigslist for a week or so, but with no takers, so I decided it was time for eBay.

The thing about eBay is all the extra fees. Posting fees. Fees for extra pictures. Paypal fees, etc. If you can find a buyer on Craigslist = no fees, but a bit extra effort to make the actual exchange.

So I went through the effort of posting these two items on eBay yesterday. In the past, we've made a note that we can't accept credit card payments, but other Paypal payments were fine. The reason for this was the added fees. To accept credit card payments you must upgrade to a business account, and they charge you more.

This morning, we got an email from eBay saying our listing had been removed because it's against Paypal's terms of service to say that you'll accept Paypal bank payments, but not Paypal credit card payments. And poof, the listings are gone. Not even a saved template where you can go back and say "fine, I'll pay your extra fine to let them use credit card."

So we looked it up and here's how it works. You can't accept Paypal and say you don't accept credit card. You don't get hit with the extra fees until you're a business account. You have to be a business account to accept credit card. Once you are a business account, you pay the extra fees even if they DON'T use credit card. You can only downgrade from a business account once, and we've already used that one time.

So our new opinion: eBay Stinks! We also don't like how the bidding system is set up. We think it would be a better option for all parties involved to keep the item listed until there are no bids for a while. That way, the seller can have an idea what it will go for, and people that really want it will pay what they feel it's worth. Instead, you get it listed for a set number of days, and those who want it bid at the very last second to try to get the best deal.

Luckily, I suddenly got replies on the Craigslist postings, and have fee-free buyers for both items!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Berry Expensive

Raspberries and Blackberries are on sale at Albertson's, 2 pints for $3 according to this site.
U-pick for $____ (I couldn't find prices online. I think it's because raspberry season is past. I found $14/crate for blueberries, though.)
Buy and plant your own vines, $4.50 + work and effort to grow them from this site.
Pick raspberries from a friend's patch $0, plus time.
A friend picks and gives to you, $Obligation to return the tasty favor in some way.

We spent much time picking raspberries this month.
Then we purchased a steam juicer and made sweet raspberry juice. Fantastic during the HOT weather.
I won't tell you how much money we didn't have to spend on berries...

Blackberries will be ripe soon, and they grow wild (=free) all over this area.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Paying for College

As of today, I'm happy with my choice to start contributing to a 529 college savings plan. I've read a few posts on financial blogs lately about the topic of paying for kids college. The author of I Will Teach You To Be Rich posted his thoughts about it today. J.D. at Get Rich Slowly also posted recently. I've posted as I tried to make the choice.

The reason I'm so happy with my choice is this:
It's tax-advantages savings that I have control over. Sure, it may go to Jasper's college expenses. But maybe it won't. The good part is I can start saving today, but I don't have to decide about where the money goes yet. If we decide that our kids have to pay their own way, we'll have money set aside to use for our own future education, a possible retirement education fund.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Quick Insurance Update

So the latest news is that the *real* reason for all the insurance claim rejections is lack of an attending physician.

Erik (to the insurance company on the phone): It was a birth center, with a midwife. We've given you all their information.
Insurance: But who was the attending physician?
Erik: There wasn't one. It was with midwives.
Insurance: But who do they work under? Who do they report to?
Erik: It's a birth center. They don't report to anyone...
Insurance: You know, like every nurse is under a doctor. It's the same with midwives.
Erik: No it's not. They're an independent birth center.
I: But then who's there if something goes wrong?
Erik: The hospital, five minutes away.
I: Well, what doctor at the hospital are they under?

They just don't get it! So, for the next claim, we'll get all the info. from the midwives we can about the emergency plan (which thankfully, was not needed). Perhaps we can even find a doctor's info that could possibly have attended to any emergency situation, just to make the insurance company happy.

The thing that really gets me is that using a birth center vs. a hospital saves the insurance company money. It's so much cheaper! Oh well... the adventure continues.

He Did It!

Remember when I posted about ingenuity, and the One Red Paperclip Guy? (Kyle is his name.) He took the "bigger and better" concept - with a goal - and went all the way. He managed to trade up one red paperclip to a house, in one year. Awesome.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Insurance Trouble

It's still not over. After the last phone conversation with insurance, they've still denied every claim having anything to do with Jasper's birth. So now, we have to do a written appeal. Roar!

The good thing: we kept track of every person we spoke with, what they said, and fought the hard battle to get everything in writing. If we hadn't done this, we'd be a lost cause. For now, we can keep fighting with our heads up.

Morals of the story:
Births are expensive. Save your money, and expect it to cost you more than "they" say it will. If you even think of non-trad births (we used a birthing center with midwives instead of a hospital) expect them to really fight you. (Our benefits say in-network midwives are covered 100%, and then don't include ANY midwives in the entire state of Oregon in their network.)
Get EVERYTHING pre-authorized by insurance IN WRITING. Even if you do (and we did) they may still try to stick you for things they said they would cover. (In our case, the cost of the entire birth.)
Use your benefits person at work. The insurance company may treat you better if there's threat over losing your entire company's business. Your benefits person should also know the right people to talk to for getting results.
Don't be afraid to go to the insurance commissioner. We couldn't do this effectively because our insurance company is not based in the same state as our service, so we'll unfortunately have to go to a federal level with this (read, less likely to get positive results).

Loan Trouble

There's a great reason to have a good buffer in any of your withdrawal accounts.
I keep a $200 buffer in our checking account, to cover any forgotten about or mistaken withdrawals. I chose $200 because we have $150 set up to auto-withdraw for our IRAs every four weeks, and $25 for the 529 plan once a month.

I had my student loan payments set up for auto-withdrawal once a month as well, but I've been paying them online instead, so that I can pay more than the monthly minimum. Last month, I noticed the option to change due dates. I thought it would be a good idea to change the due date to the 1st of the month, like most of our other bills.

When I was going over our money last week, I was confused for a while that we had some missing money, until I figured out that the loan auto-transfer had taken place, even though I'd already paid that month's bill online. With that on top of accidentally taking our weekly cash out of checking instead of savings, I was grateful for the buffer. No overdraft fees!

To my surprise, the auto-deduct happened again this week! Last week, it was on the old due date, this week, it was on the new one. Thankfully, there was still enough in the buffer.

The only question I have now is on the interest my loan is charging me. They charged almost the same amount of interest on both deductions - even though there were only a few days between them. That doesn't make sense to me. If they're charging an annual percentage rate, one month and a few days worth of interest should be different dollar amounts, no?

The Point

I've been thinking about blogging and blogs in general lately.

First, I was thinking, what's the point?
Well, with our other blog, it's easy. It's simply an online scrapbook of our lives. Simple. Doesn't matter if anyone else reads it, or comments (although we love comments), it's mostly an excellent way to keep a digital notebook of our lives.

But this one has a different point. It's meant to share what we learn, and chronicle our adventures in the financial world. But what's the point of sharing when you have a readership of two? Why read this blog when there are so many other excellent money related blogs out there? "Well Amber," the two readers reply, "It's because we know you."

So I've been thinking about what makes a quality blog. What keeps me reading the blogs I read, besides just ones of people I know? Here are some of those things:
*They look pretty. Yeah, I'm going to end up reading them from an RSS or atom feed anyway, but when they look nice, it just gives the impression that they put more thought into the whole thing. I don't think this blog looks pretty at all, and I sure would like to change that. Maybe I could at least use more pictures.
*They are useful. Parenthacks is full of great ideas. Get Rich Slowly is full of great advice. But who am I to advise? But, as the popular [not] Nelson Mandella quote responds, "Who am I not to?" So, as I have advice about money related things, even if I'm not following them completely, I should share, yes? Erik and I are frugal enough without even thinking about it, that I should share what I notice may be helpful to others. Like expounding on the virtues of Baking Soda!
*They are often entertaining. See PunnyMoney, for example. Trouble is, a lot of the best financial advice isn't. Buy and hold - for a long time. Budget. Once you're set up - there's not really much exciting business to talk about. But as this is about our adventures, I'll try.
*They're not too personal. Well, too bad. This one is gonna be personal. But, to be useful to people, I'll try to find the lesson in our personal adventures so they'll be worthwhile. For example, if you want your rent deposit back from a lazy landlord, threaten them with court in writing - and if you research, you can make the threat really scary for them by saying things like "The law (ORS 90.300) says that I am entitled to twice the amount wrongfully withheld."