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July 2012 - Posts - Live Like a Mensch
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Live Like a Mensch

July 2012 - Posts

  • Cash Envelopes for Dummies

     

    Photo courtesy of Carbonologist

    A friend recently emailed me to ask how J and I handle our cash envelope system, as she and her husband were considering starting that method of budgeting.  After excitedly responding with what could only be described as a novel, I realized that I really do love talking about this stuff.  So, I decided to share my enthusiasm with you.  While J and I based our envelope/budgeting system on the Dave Ramsey envelope method, we've found that our system has changed and evolved over the years into what we now use. 

    Here is the basic breakdown of how J and I use the cash envelope system.

    J and I have envelopes for anything that we regularly spend money on that it would make sense to spend cash.  (An example of it not making sense to spend cash: Dave Ramsey suggests you should spend cash on gas, but that's just silly.  Credit/debit is way easier).  Here are our categories, which have grown from the original dozen or so that Ramsey suggests:

    Activity (for entering 5Ks or other sports/fitness related stuff that isn't exactly entertainment)

    Booze

    Car Repair

    Clothes

    Cosmetics & Toiletries

    Charity

    Entertainment

    Gifts

    Groceries

    Haircuts

    Home Repair/Improvement (We also keep a savings account for this for bigger home improvement purchases/projects.  This is for when we need to buy lightbulbs or something of that nature)

    Laundry & Cleaning Supplies

    LO (to pay for daycare, which we pay daily in cash at the Y, although this will change once he starts at Montessori)

    Mad Money (Fun money for me and J to each spend as we like)

    Medical Expenses  (Again, this is for copays, prescriptions, cold medicine, etc.  Big medical bills--not that there are many--are paid via credit card and paid off from our emergency fund).

    Pets

    Restaurants

    School Supplies and Post Office

    I take out cash twice a month to fill these envelopes and spend the money accordingly.  I'm not super duper fussy about each penny coming from any particular fund (booze and groceries are often thrown together, for example), but I have a few envelopes that I never borrow from, like Car Repair (because we're basically just making that a car emergency fund) and Pets (because their food is rather expensive, and any unexpected vet bills or having to kennel the dog can wreak havoc if we don't have the fund built up).

    Generally, I try to spend cash wherever possible, but I also go over our credit card statement at least once a week and double check to see if there is anything that we have cash to pay for, and then I re-deposit the cash back into the bank to pay the credit card.  That may seem a little clunky, but it's how I have to do it to make sure I don't get myself confused.

    In addition to the cash envelopes, we also have about a dozen ING direct savings accounts to pay for larger items.  These are:

    Computer Replacement (so that when our current Mac becomes obsolete, we'll already have the money saved to replace it)

    Emergency Fund

    Furniture

    Home Repair/Improvement

    Insurance (we get a discount for paying insurance all at once, but we need to save up that amount each year)

    License and Taxes (for years, I would always be surprised when my license plates expired and I had to pay for a new registration.  No more!)

    LO's 529 (I put 3% of what I make in there until there's enough to make it worth transferring to his 529)

    New Car (we basically pay ourselves a car payment each month)

    Synagogue (membership fees for synagogues are not cheap, so we need to set aside money each month for this expense)

    Vacation

     

     

    Since for the most part these are things that we wouldn't pay for with cash and we only have to spend money about once a year or so on it, we keep this stuff in ING savings accounts so we can earn a (very very) little interest.  When we pay for something from these categories, I transfer the money over to the appropriate checking account or to pay the credit card.

    We also plan on having some part of the credit card just paid for through each paycheck--like gas or other uncategorized expenses.  That can fluctuate from month to month, and it's the only part of our system that I'd really like to get a better handle on.

    This system works for us because I'm kind of a money geek and I double check all of our accounts at least 3 or 4 times a week, if not more.  J often doesn't think to grab cash, so I will sometimes have to reimburse the credit card for things that we already had cash set aside for. 

    One of the nicest things about this program is that it basically always made me feel money secure.  Whenever an unexpected expense comes up, we know how we are going to pay for it.  We still have about the same amount of money we did before--it's just much better organized.

    I love talking budgets and I'm curious to know what other systems work for you, so please do leave a comment to tell me how you manage your finances.  You won't believe how giddy it will make me.

     

     

    Post Script

    Amazon Card Giveaway Update:

    Have you entered my giveaway yet?   I will be giving away an Amazon gift card to one lucky reader who comments on this post by noon on August 31.  (It's my son's birthday, and you get a gift!)  The randomly chosen winner will receive a gift card--and the denomination will depend on the number of miles I run between now and 8/31!  I will load $0.50 per mile on the gift card.  My goal is to run 80 miles and give away a $40 gift card.  I'll post my numbers as soon as I have some!

  • How the BlogHer Conference Made Me Lose My Frugal Street Cred

     

    I will be heading to New York City this afternoon to attend the 2012 BlogHer conference, as my sister blog, The SAHMnambulist, is a member of the BlogHer community.

    I'm going there to meet some of the fabulous and funny fellow bloggers I've come to know since I started my journey of online authorhood.  And I'm going to network and see if I can find other websites that are interested in a menschly sense of humor.  As a somewhat shy individual, I'm quaking a little bit in my Chuck Taylors.  (I figure that most of the individuals who make their living blogging are shy retiring types and the entire hotel will be full of people talking to each other via Twitter and text messaging and avoiding eye contact.  At least I hope that's how it will go).

    In any case, when I first started thinking about signing up for this particular conference, I was certain I could do it on the cheap.  I read about the conference around the first of the year.  Early bird tickets were being sold for $200 until leap day, and I was able to save up a little fun money each week between January 1 and February 29 to be able to buy the ticket for what felt like free.

    I also happen to have a good friend who is a real New York standup comedian and who lives in Astoria.  He was delighted to be able to put me up for the conference.  Right there, that saved me a good $150 per night.

    Then I completely lost my head.

    J has not been to New York City since the very early 2000s, and he and I have always expressed a wish to go to the Big Apple together.  Why not bring him and LO and make a family trip of it?  My friend had enough room for two and half guests!  The Mensch family was going to New York.

    Of course, we had to get there.  $650 of plane tickets later (which is actually a pretty good price for transporting two and half Mensches from Indianapolis to New York), and we were set.  So what if the conference just went from $200 to $850?  It was going to be an experience.

    Then, earlier this week, I started getting things in place for our journey. $25 for long term remote parking.  $80 to kennel the dog.

    All right, so we're at $955.  What's a grand or two among friends?

    But we're probably going to have to eat while we're away.  And I will have to get to and from the hotel.  Likely there will be other unexpected expenses.

    Rats.  Now we're talking pretty big bucks.

    I suppose it's all still cheaper than it could have been.  But man, I wish I could have thought about these "incidental" expenses when I was saving up my fun money for the conference.  I might have thought to set aside more of it!

    So, since there's a lot of money riding on this conference, I'm going to plan on being as outgoing as I know how to be:

    I'll put a smiley face after every tweet and text.

     

    That ought to do it.

     

     

     

     

    By the way, don't forget to enter my interactive giveaway!   I will be giving away an Amazon gift card to one lucky reader who comments on this post by noon on August 31.  The randomly chosen winner will receive a gift card--and the denomination will depend on the number of miles I run between now and 8/31!  I will load $0.50 per mile on the gift card, and my goal is to reach 80 miles and $40. I'll post my numbers soon as I have some!


  • Running Update #14: Giveaway Edition

     

    According to Wikimedia, this is a photograph of the 1896 Olympic marathon. Somehow, I thought the runners would look more official.

     

    We're wrapping up July, and my running challenge is not going well.  Not at all.

    Rather than reaching the halfway point of 250 miles by the end of June, I'm languishing at 224 miles total as we hit the last day of July.  I've run 16 miles total for the month, which means July ties with April for my lowest monthly mileage since beginning this challenge.

    Sigh.

    Mathematically, this means that I will have to run 56 miles for each of the five remaining months in the year (how is 2012 already more than half over?).

    Since 42 miles was the goal I would have had to hit each month if I had kept a slow and steady pace for the year, I'm a little worried about hitting that 56 mile marker each month.  You see, my mileage per month breaks down thusly:

    January: 27 miles

    February: 36 miles

    March: 43 miles

    April: 16 miles

    May: 61 miles

    June: 25 miles

    July: 16 miles

    You can see why I'm concerned about my ability to maintain a 56-miles-per month pace for the next five months. And man oh man, I do not want my hated charity to see my money. 

    So here's what I'm going to do.  I'm going to try to catch up.  At least a little bit.  And I'm going to need your help.

    I want to run 80 miles in August.  That will get me to 304 miles for the year, which will make the remaining 196 miles feel like a walk in the park.

    Unfortunately, completing 80 miles will be challenging since the first week of August I will be at the BlogHer conference in New York City (more on that tomorrow).  But even without that first week,  I have four full weeks to run 80 miles.  Once I've done that, my monthly mileage requirement shrinks down to a more manageable 49 miles per month.

    Here's where you come it.  Like before, I'm going to ask for your encouragement.  And for every mile I run, I'll again load $0.50 on an Amazon gift card.  You could potentially win a $40 gift card to everyone's favorite online retailer.

    To enter (and encourage!), leave a comment on this post.  I will pick a winner at noon on August 31, which also happens to be my son's second birthday.  I'll be celebrating by sending a gift card to you!

    Help me reach 80 miles in the month of August, Obi Wan.  You're my only hope!

  • Stupid Is As Stupid Does

     

    Photo courtesy of Thomas R Machnitzki.  And yes, that is a box of chocolates.

     

    Well, don't I feel sheepish.

    I wrote on Friday about the mysterious case of the missing $50.  I had pulled it from our cash envelopes to pay back our credit card, left it on the arm of a chair, and then lost track of it.

    While I hadn't exactly torn the house apart looking for it, I did check all of the usual places where I would usually place such a stash, as well as the area around that particular chair.

    Well, Friday afternoon I whipped out my wallet to find some quarters, when I noticed a couple of twenties and a ten that I have no memory of seeing in my wallet in the multiple times that I have used it in the last week, not to mention when I checked the wallet last weekend to see where the missing $50 could have gotten to.

    As I mentioned on my Friday post, the surest way to never see the money again is if I put it somewhere intelligent.  The only reason I did see it again was the fact that this intelligent spot where I put the money also happened to be the place where it belonged.

    Clearly, I'm on a roll here.  For my next trick, I'm going to walk into a glass door after running over my own foot with the car.

  • The Stupid Tax Strikes Again

     

    Photo courtesy of marya from San Luis Obispo

     

    As I've mentioned before, J and I use the cash envelope system for many of our regular expenses.  Sometimes, however, we need to use our credit card to pay for something for which we have already set aside cash.

    No problem.  Going to the bank is one of this mensch's favorite errands.  About once a week, I go through our cash envelopes and set aside the cash I need to deposit in order to pay back our credit card.  (I recognize that this is not necessarily the most efficient system--I could hold onto the cash until the next time we get money out of the bank for our envelopes--but it's what works for me, because I have a really hard time not compartmentalizing). 

    Once I have the cash in hand, I then skip off to the bank, a whistle on my lips and joy in my heart.  (I exaggerate slightly, but I really do like going to do my banking.)

    This past weekend, however, something prevented me from going to the bank with cash in hand.  I remember counting out $50 and leaving it on the arm of the Morris chair in our living room.

    When I next thought about the cash, it was no longer on the chair arm.

    There are about four distinct possibilities as to what has happened to the cash:

    1.  Someone walked into our house and took the money.  Considering the fact that our computer, television, DVD player, and CASH ENVELOPES were unmolested, this seems less than likely.

    2.  A certain young man who will remain nameless may have absconded with the money.  Not to spend, mind you.  Just because he feels that all things that are placed in any particular area of the house should be re-placed elsewhere under his direction.  For example, just this morning this unnamed young man felt very strongly that our shabbat candlesticks should be resting comfortably just above the vegetable crisper drawer in our refrigerator.  While the young man is very definite in his opinions as to where things belong, those opinions do not necessarily follow any kind of rational or logical adult thoughts.  We may eventually come across two twenties and a ten lodged into an errant sock or hanging from a wall sconce.

    3.  The ceiling fan, which is never not on this summer, may have blown the cash under a piece of furniture.  Though I have spent some time retreiving some Hot Wheels and sippy cups from underneath various articles of furniture in our home, I have not done any specific subterranean searching for the missing cash.

    4.  I may have placed the money someplace intelligent and simply don't remember.  If this is what happened, of course, that means that the money will never be seen or heard from again.

    While paying the stupid tax is never fun, this particular incarnation of it is really irking me.  Cash shouldn't just go missing.  You should at least have a memory of spending it, even if you were not able to enjoy the fruits of your purchase.

    And I was really looking forward to going to the bank!

  • Phoning It In

     

    "I'm afraid I won't be in to work today.  I've come down with a terrible case of retro virus."

     

    As a work-at-homer, I regularly experience a productivity dilemma that those who work in more traditional employment may not feel.  That is, I feel as though I should be eminently productive every moment that LO is at daycare or napping.  Time spent surfing the internet (those burning etiquette questions answered by Miss Manners aren't going to read themselves!) or otherwise procrastinating is time that I will have to make up elsewhere.  Sometimes, the pressure to produce becomes too much and I sit down in a corner with a beloved book and ignore my pile of to do lists.  I refer to this as mensch system failure.

    Clearly, this is not the most efficient method for conducting my freelancing work.

    The other problem with the mensch system failure (which occurs about once every two to three weeks) is that I spend an ample amount of time berating myself for it.  Because I haven't wasted nearly enough time by simply shutting down.  I need to feel bad about, too.  (I'm nothing if not an efficient feeler of guilt).

    But I had a startling realization the other day.  I was at the doctor's office for a routine visit when I noticed that one of the receptionists was cutting out designs in some patterned paper.  She seemed to be one of the many scrapbookers one hears about.  (One is generally in awe of anyone who actually puts pictures in albums, let alone decorates them, as one tends to leave pictures in shoe boxes and envelopes all over one's house, just as G-d intended).  The receptionist spent several minutes on her scrapbooking, and put the hobby work aside when a phone rang or a patient needed her attention.

    And, just like that, the light bulb went off.  When you work outside the home, you often have down time!

    Of course, I have worked other jobs--far more than I care to count, to be honest.  So I know that some jobs leave you with not much to do in between busy times, and that some jobs are consistent stress from the moment you arrive to the moment you leave.  But pretty much all jobs that require your presence at another location do have some leeway for phoning it in.  Even teaching, the job that required the most engagement on my part, meant that I could suddenly decide one day that it was going to be a silent reading day because Ms. Birken had a headache.  (Not that I did that more than a couple of times in my four years of teaching, mind you.  But I could).

    With this realization in mind, I've decided to be a little more forgiving of myself.  I may only work part time from home, but all that time is active.  Sometimes, my brain goes on strike and I need a little down time.  Since no writer has yet figured out how to phone it in (with the possible of Stephen King's novel From a Buick 8--you know I love you Mr. King, but that book was awful), I need to plan in some system failure time to my work time.

    Now, I just need to pick up a hobby like scrapbooking, and I'll be all set.

  • Student Loan Nitty Gritty

     

     

    Pictured: My alma mater, and that place where I got my Master's degree.  (With apologies to the Buckeyes who have fonder memories than I do).

    Also pictured: What $38,000 in student loans look like.

     

    I have talked once or twice before about how badly I would like to pay off my student loan.  As I get closer to my goal, I find myself thinking about crazy schemes (like, I don't know, selling my hair...) in order to get there faster.  Nearly all of the cash that I gleaned from cleaning out my guest room was duly sent off to Mohela in the hopes that I will speed up that happy day when I will no longer have to deal with them.  And yet, I still remain a good 14 to 15 months away from my goal.  That's awfully soon in geological time, but it still feels ridiculously far away to this impatient mensch.

    What I need to remember is how far I've come.  I graduated from Kenyon College in 2001 with $18,000 in student loan debt.  I was on a ten-year payback schedule, which means I would be done right now if I had not gone to OSU for my Master's of Education degree in 2006 and paid the entire tab with student loans.  As it was, I entered OSU with about $12,000 worth of debt in 2005, and left it a year later owing about 32 grand.  (I say "about" because I was loathe to look at the actual numbers at the time.)

    Here I am six years later, and I have less than $8,000 to go.  Even if I were to scale back my monthly payment by half, I could still be done in three years--with a year to spare on my as-of-2006 ten-year schedule.

    I know that my hurry mystifies many of the people close to me.  I only pay 4.5% on my student loan, so it's not as if I will be made poor by interest.  The "extra" money that I send to my loan could be used to bulk up my retirement savings, which are not nearly as hefty as I'd like.  I'm still four years away from the time when I would be done paying if I consistently sent the minimum from day one--even though I had to put my loans on forebearance for 10 months last year while we attempted to sell our house in Columbus.  Clearly, I don't rationally need to hurry.

    But having that loan over my head is uncomfortable to me.  I hate that about half of the money I bring in through my writing is already earmarked to a bank.  I can't wait for the day when my earnings are free to be used wherever they are needed, instead of budgeted around a fixed payment.  I look forward to the feeling of freedom I will get when I know I no longer have to worry about the vagaries of the student loan industry.  And ultimately, I hate the feeling of leaving something partially done.  Once I have made my final payment, I can cross this concern off my list and move on to other things.

    Even though it's not rational, I know I'm going to continue to think about and pay ahead on my student loan.  I'll continue to scheme to find more money to send away.  I want that loan dead!

    And then, my college experience will become what it should be: happy memories of half-recalled lectures, and dozens of scribbled notebooks and binders I won't let my mother throw out because I "might need them someday!"

     

    Photo of Ascension Hall at Kenyon College courtesy of Austin Godber.

    Photo of Ohio Stadium at THE Ohio State University courtesy of Wallyg.

  • Frugal Grocery Tips That Never Work For Me

     

    Photo courtesy of Abrahami, who apparently really likes apples.  (Seriously, click the link if you don't believe me).

    Pundits, financial bloggers, and coupon-clippers are all talking about how the price of food is likely to go up soon due to the hot drought conditions we've been experiencing here in America's farmland this summer.  As an Indianan (Indianite?), I am very disheartened to drive by fields of shriveled up corn and desiccated soy beans, and the feeling of a coming shortage is very real here.  So of course, I'm always glad to see tips about how to save money at the grocery when the inevitable inflation hits.

    Unfortunately, experience has shown that the usual tips for grocery savings are completely wasted on one such as myself.  I can't decide if I'm like the rest of the world, or if everyone else is frugally skipping along, using these tips to excellent effect.  Here are some of the ones that have backfired for me in the past:

    1.  Don't purchase individually packed crackers, chips, etc.  Buy in bulk and make your own snack size baggies. The day after I purchase the family size package of Wheat Thins that my son and I are both addicted to, I find myself licking salt off the bottom of the cracker bag while scratching my belly and wondering why the heck a good half of my grocery budget is going to crackers.  It's worse if I bag up 16 crackers per ziploc (because I do know the theoretical serving size, even if I don't ever eat that portion).  Then, I tear through ziploc bag after ziploc bag of crackers, and have thence dirtied 20-some baggies which I will either have to rinse out to use again, or throw away and feel a terrible twinge in my Must Save The Environment lobe, not to mention my frugal cortex.

    2.  Coupons! I know that the TLC show has glamorized the coupon craze, and I'm sure there are people who are able to make this work.  But when I was trying to use coupons, I'd buy over-processed food that I didn't really want because I had a coupon for it.  Or they'd be sold out of something, and I'd need to get a rain check (which I had naively assumed for nearly 30 years was just an expression used when you couldn't make it to a friend's house for dinner), and that would necessitate a return trip to the store which generally meant I'd buy something else.

    3.  Buy seasonally.  Okay, I basically do this.  You won't see me shelling out $7 for an ounce of raspberries in February.  But darn it, I need apples year round, and some veggies are called for in recipes that I make at the wrong time of year.  Are you telling me I should substitute something for the jicama my recipe calls for?  Because I'm not entirely sure what jicama is, let alone what would make an appropriate substitute!

    4.  Don't shop while parenting.  I have no idea who is offering this advice.  Clearly someone either without kids, or who has convenient access to a boarding school. Shopping with kids is one of the "unsung joys" of parenting.

    LO is not yet at the age where he is asking for certain foods (although he has been known to grab a package of applesauce or a box of Wheat Thins off the shelf and hug it to his chest like a long lost friend), but he still can slow down/upspend a grocery trip.  Watch what mama throws in the cart willy-nilly when it's clear that Mount Saint Whiny is about to blow.

    5.  Compare unit costs.  This is one area where I excel. I even bring a calculator with me often times when I am grocery shopping.  The problem lies in the fact that I am making a complicated analysis of nutrition vs. cost. And no one has yet come up with a standard metric for determining just how cheap the soup has to be for it to be worth double your daily recommended sodium and fat.  Add to this the fact that supermarkets, those crafty devils, can make it REALLY tough to figure out the unit cost when something is on sale.

    6.  Don't shop from eye-level.  I have a hard enough time finding what I want in the store--now I gotta bend over or stand on tiptoe?

  • Something Worth Doing is Worth Doing Poorly

     

    Photo courtesy of ACupOfCoffee

    We've all heard the old adage about the necessity of doing something well if said something is worth doing at all.  And for the most part I agree with it--particularly after having spent four years teaching (that is, attempting to teach) teenagers how to organize their thoughts into a coherent essay.  (When I once went through the necessary aspects of formatting with one of my not-particularly-high-achieving 14-year-olds, he shook his head and lamented "You mean it's gotta be perfect?!!!")  So I certainly feel that any endeavor worth undertaking ought to get one's best effort.  If only to keep America's (heck, the world's) teachers from turning to drink.

    However, there is a dark underside to the old adage.  That being, that if you can't do something well, you might as well not do it at all.

    Take for example, the making of one's bed.

    I am a bit of sheets/linens junkie.  When The Company Store catalog arrives in the mail, all members of this household recognize that they are taking their lives in their hands if they misplace it or use it for wrapping/cushioning/etc prior to my opportunity to peruse the beautiful sheets and comforters while attempting to control the drool pooling on my lips.

    As such, I truly believe there are few things in this world finer than a well-made bed.

    However, in order to make a bed just so, with the hospital corners tucked in perfectly, the blanket hanging at perfect angles on three sides and the pillows fluffed to their finest, I need at least 10 to 15 minutes.  No one has that kind of time in the morning, so for many years, I would just leave the bed unmade, because I didn't have time to do it right.

    The problem was that I would wince every time I saw the crumpled sheets and the quilt in disarray.  But I assumed that I would feel a similar sense of disorder if I didn't make the bed "correctly."

    I couldn't have been more wrong.  Just pulling the comforter up over the pillows is enough to make me feel like the bed is put together and not lying there naked in the middle of my bedroom.  It's such a comfort to go through one's day knowing that there is not wanton bed nudity going on in one's home.  You walk taller and feel more in charge of things.  My bed-making perfectionism was getting in the way of my feeling like I was in control.

    Perfectionism rears its ugly head in many aspects of my life, often convincing me that I just shouldn't bother.  For example, when I have to count down when I run, I get angry at myself that I'm not running the "right way," forgetting that whatever I need to do to motivate myself to run is probably a good thing.  When looking at the floor (or the soles of our socks), I figure it's not worth cleaning up the accumulated filth found there unless I can move all the furniture and do a truly thorough job.  When contemplating new writing opportunities, I wonder if I can possibly do a good enough job to make it worth my while to apply.

    Clearly, this is not what the original adage was trying to convey.  I let the idea of the perfect get in the way of the done.

    So, I plan to live by a new adage: something worth doing is worth doing poorly.  Haphazard bed-making, sub-par floor cleaning, number-centric mile-running, and Just-Get-It-Done writing will be the order of the day for me.  No more perfection paralysis.

    I just hope my former students won't hold this against me!

  • Beware Magazine Subscriptions With Their Wee Beady Eyes

     

    J and I have quite the magazine habit.  Time, Wired, Rolling Stone, Popular Mechanics, untold numbers of old house and car magazines, Fitness, Women's Health, Newsweek, and others fill our mailbox at a rate of 37 magazines per mail delivery (mpmd).

    Unfortunately, the downside of receiving so many magazines is that you have to deal with the subscription departments of these magazines.  It used to be, back in the bad old days before internet banking, that you would receive a notice that your subscription was about to lapse, and you would be invited to send them the once-in-a-lifetime, lower-than-the-newstand-price via check.  Now, since you ordered your magazines on the internet, and the subscription department has held onto your credit card information, you're subscription is renewed automatically as a courtesy that you neither want nor have asked for.

    This happened most recently (because it happens ALL THE TIME) with Time and Popular Mechanics.  I logged onto my credit card in order to do some regular weeding and maintenance, when I discovered the "courtesy" renewal.  To the tune of $89 ($51 for Time and $38 for PM).  With fire in my belly, I called the customer service line, navigated through seven or eight levels of automated menus, and finally reached a real person.  She tried to offer me the same magazine subscriptions for lower prices.  I told her that I just wanted the subscriptions gone.  She offered even lower prices.  I explained that I might have been interested in continuing to read these magazines, but the automatic renewal had left a bad taste in my mouth.  The customer service rep finally understood that she would not be able to keep me as a customer and told me the charges would be reversed within a few days.

    Today, I logged onto my credit card (the APR needed a little watering) to discover that the charges had indeed been reversed--but not entirely.  We were refunded $49 for Time and $34 for Popular Mechanics.

    After throwing a few chairs to relieve my frustration, I found myself deciding that six bucks wasn't worth the aggravation of another phone call.

    Which is exactly the plan of these subscription schemes.

    Has anyone else found it this difficult to shake a magazine subscription?  Because I'm feeling like collections agents and the mafia could learn a little something from these guys.

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