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Archive for January, 2007

Did my roommate just do what I think he just did?

January 9th, 2007 at 01:49 am

So for anyone who does not recall part one of the diabolical roommate saga, here is a refresher.

Last September, roommie got a shiny new AmEx Blue Cash credit card with a 15 month 0% introductory APR and $3700 credit limit. He got it specifically so that he could charge a $2000 LCD projector on it during October. His plan was to pay $200 per month while the 0% APR lasted.

Now, I had doubts that he was disciplined enough to stick to that plan, but you never know. He was very proud of the fact that he has no signficant credit card debt.

Fast forward to last week, and two clues emerged that indicate how his plan went badly awry.

Clue one. Last Thursday, we went to Costco, and I had a $14 bill. Since Costco only accepts AmEx, I usually let my roommate charge my bill on his card so that he can get the rewards, and then I pay him back via bank transfer, usually on the same day.

That day, however, he didn't want to charge my bill anymore, saying that his balance was already $3000, and he didn't want to increase it further. I was a little confused. $15 was not enough to drive him over his credit limit, so either his actual balance was much higher, or he had plans to charge more on his card later this month.

Either way, it revealed that he has not been paying off his balance.

Clue two. The next day, he tells me that he got hit with a $30 late fee for not paying his AmEx balance on time ("Late Payment Fee: Subject to applicable law, $15 on balances less than $100, $29 on balances of $100 to $1,000, and $35 on balances greater than $1,000"). I told him to call and get it taken off, but he didn't want to go through the trouble.

In a fit of curiosity, I checked out AmEx's terms and conditions for his particular card, and ran into the following (my emphasis):

"Your account is reviewed monthly and will be considered in default if minimum payments are not timely paid one time, or seriously in default if minimum payments are not timely paid two or more times, your account is overlimit three or more times, or your payment is returned by your bank or financial institution. ... The introductory APRs and any other promotional rates will terminate upon your account being considered in default or seriously in default and the applicable Default APR will apply."

And then: "The APR for defaulted and seriously defaulted accounts is determined monthly by adding 12.99% and 21.99%, respectively, to the Prime Rate."

Source.

I'm still trying to wrap my head around this. Now I'm not sure if what I THINK happened actually DID happen, but if it did, he has seriously cooked his own goose.

It would mean that he defaulted on a $3000 balance and forfeited his introductory 0% APR for whatever "Prime Rate + 12.99%" must be. And while I have no clue what the Prime Rate is, it's probably not pretty.

Can this train wreck get any worse?

I want a hybrid or an EV

January 7th, 2007 at 06:01 am

Here in the northeast, it has been a very mild winter. Temperatures have been consistently hovering in the 40's and 50's.

New York City broke the records for latest appearance of snowfall. And here in CT, except for a light flurry in the first half of December that lasted for only few hours, it has also been snowless.

Cherry blossoms are blooming in Brooklyn, because the wildlife think that it is spring.

Earlier, I placed my new cilantro plants outside on the deck for the day, where it was 61 degrees, because I was worried that it was too warm in my room, as cilantro is a cool-weather herb, and will bolt to seed when soil temperatures rise above 75 degrees.

And in the context of An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore's documentary on climate change (which I've already watched four times), all of these signs are quite, quite disturbing.

Currently, I don't drive, and I'm rather enjoying the monetary savings. The occasional hassle of having to take public transportation or carpool or walk is worth not having to pay for insurance, gas, parking, and maintenance expenses every month.

But I'm also a bit of an environmentalist, and burning one gallon of gasoline adds 19.8 lbs. of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. And if I don't absolutely HAVE to do that, then I WON'T.

I'm going to delay getting a car for as long as I can bear it. If I can hold out for a few more years, hybrids will hopefully drop in price. If electric vehicles (EVs) become widely available by then, even better. I'm willing to pay a little extra if it means lower emissions (and lower gas expenditure!).

I'm also lusting after solar panels (or hydrogen fuel cells) for generating my own electricity, and growing my own food organically.

Someday. If the world doesn't end, first.

Elder-care costs

January 3rd, 2007 at 09:16 am

An article in the New York Times caught my attention recently: Elder Care Costs Deplete Savings of a Generation.

This brings to the forefront one of my major worries concerning my parents--specifically, my mother.

Oh, it's true that she refuses to invest in the stock market for retirement, insisting that it's an unwise and risky gamble. It also doesn't help that her income is low, and unlikely to increase. On top of that, she overspends to keep up appearances and bolster her fragile pride.

But that's not all.

I also have much reason to believe that she is suffering from an undiagnosed mental illness. And since she and I have a crappy personal relationship (possibly exacerbated by aforementioned mental illness), I don't have the leverage to convince her to seek treatment.

Although her prognosis differs dramatically depending on the diagnosis and severity of the disorder, I do fear the worst. And mental illnesses are so stigmatizing and dehumanizing.

I guess that's another reason to keep chugging at the financial planning, huh?

New Year's Resolution

January 1st, 2007 at 12:24 pm

It's the new year, and there's one thing I really, really want to change about myself.

I *need* to start taking better care of my teeth. Specifically, I need to start brushing regularly before I go to bed. Frown

The problem is that I never decide to go to bed. I always just allow myself to conk out whenever I feel tired enough. And I never know when that will be.

As a student, I fell asleep all the time while studying in bed (I don't believe in desks; plus, my chair sucks and I like my bed because it is warm). Now, I find that I'm falling asleep while reading in bed.

I know a possible solution is to brush my teeth *before* I start reading in bed, but I like to snack while reading. Also, I read all the time, and I never know when I'll conk out. Sometimes, I stay awake for hours. Other times, I'm out in ten minutes.

And, of course, once I'm already nodding off, I can almost never summon the willpower to wake myself up enough to go and brush my teeth.

I am terrified of seeing a dentist, even though I know I really need to. I regularly have nightmares about my teeth falling out. I can't sleep well at night because of the guilt, although it's still not enough to get me to wake myself up. I can feel my teeth rotting (I really hope that's all in my head).

In order to motivate myself, here's my plan. I'm going to pay myself a dollar for every time I brush my teeth. It'll be my dentist avoidance tax.

God, I hope this works.

Happy New Year, everyone!