Half Century – Getting Older

Dad celebrated a major milestone birthday yesterday with great fanfare and a party.. Yet somehow I really don’t know how to feel. Should I feel like belong as an eligable member for AARP or do I continue to act when I hit the big 40?

I really don’t know. Fortunately for me, the milestone was overshadowed (I hope) with the 50th wedding anniversary of my in-laws. Now that is a milestone that deserves recognition!

Typically, I reflect on my birthday, my accomplishments and where I am during that day. Yesterday, when I did this, I felt a quiet sense of achievement for the first half century of my life. I’m financially stable (almost), have a wonderful family (inner circle and my extended family), and I’m somewhat healthy. Of course there is room for improvement and enhancing my quality of life, but over the past few months, I’ve done just that.

My finances are starting to stabilize (debt anyone?). This continues to be my obsession of course, but I’m taking steps to address this ongoing issue which I’ve written about in the past. I’m also¬† addressing my nagging health problems and paying attention when my body is giving me warning signs.

So when I think about my first half century of life.. I do feel good about myself. I’ve made it this far with my survival senses intact. I’ve persevered and achieved success (as I see it) and my wife and kids are my achievement. Seeing them succeed and continue to succeed, is my achievement. Yes, I’m not that wealthy financially.. but I’ve laid down the foundation for future wealth.. Only time will tell (over the next decade) if I’ve made the right decisions.

I’ve been persistent is achieving some level of a comfortable life for my family. Of course it’s never been easy to maintain this sense of persistence with the many obstacles life throws in your “road of life”, but hey who doesn’t face these?

So as I sit here writing, I’m thinking I’m doing fine. I just need to work on improving my mindset to be more optimistic and less sarcastic.. Maybe reducing the sarcasm will be a bit harder than being more optimistic.. ūüôā

I had a great day yesterday.. I felt the love of my wife and kids, and my extended family. They gave me a wonderful party and I felt truly blessed that my friends that I made when I was growing up in NYC were there to share this day with me.¬† Isn’t that what life is all about? Accepting the love your friends/family gives you and giving it back?

TTFN Dad..

Direct Buy – Are you a member?

A few weeks ago, I received a nondescript bulk mail saying this was my last chance to get a free “Microsoft computer or touchpad”. I was in jeopardy of losing out on this great deal! So instinctively I called the phone number on this mailer as I did not want to lose out on the deal of a lifetime. Everyone that knows my mantra, “If it’s free, it’s for me“.

This mailer was of course for a DirectBuy sales pitch presentation in Edison NJ.. Here’s my review of my visit..Of course your mileage may vary and all that legalese.

Today my wife and I went to a Direct Buy Showroom in Edison NJ. We were drawn in by the promise of a “voucher” for a laptop/netbook or touchpad. Of course to get this you have to endure an hour and 45 minute presentation and the gratuitous heavy sales pitch. Even after knowing of this up front, I convinced my wife to go with you to check it out. Hey¬† my wife and I had some time to kill on a Friday night and how bad could it be? BTW, those are famous last words that have haunted me in many situations in my life..

Of course even before the date of the presentation, you speak to a really nice agent, who assures you that you are not going to be pressured to buy anything.. They just want to provide a presentation.. yeah right..

Direct Buy is a catalog shopping/ordering showroom where a sales rep from DirectBuy helps you order everything for your home (Except Computers) at wholesale or “manufacturer’s prices”.¬† Sounds good right? Here’s the catch.. The Membership fee is outrageous. The membership fee is almost $6,000 for a period of 5 years and $190 for each year for years 6 – 10.

Why is the membership fee is so high?

How do you get the best value for this $6K membership?

First you get your “guide” who tells you how much you can save for about half hour and then you get the other “Peter” who¬† spends over an hour talking about DirectBuy and how much you have to be a member of this buying service by showing videos of some low-level TV starts to show how great DirectBuy is for your home purchases. During the presentation, me being the skeptic was googling on my smart phone, reviews of the DirectBuy experience.¬† I personally felt some level of brain washing going on during these videos which automatically turned me off. Many say DirectBuy is a scam, but I don’t think it is. That is if you can afford this expense in your life!

In my opinion, this is a great deal if you have major renovations in your home (Kitchen, floors, windows, furniture) over a short period of time, you can recover your 6K membership fee in the savings you get from the wholesale prices. If you are not planning on this.. you are in for sticker shock at the membership price! Membership is truly a case of “use it or lose it” with your finances.

In my opinion:

DirectBuy is  simply mathematics and economics. If you USE the Direct Busy service for major home purchase for a repeated period of time (5 years)  you will save money. If you don’t, you will lose money!

Of course the heavy sales tactics is in play once you finish your “presentation time”.¬† As soon as we said “NO” to our guide (“The Other Peter”).. he promptly got up without even a word and¬† opened the entrance to the showroom door for us to leave the premises.. No “have a nice day”, just opened the door and was escorting us out of the presentation.. I felt cheated and angered at the same time. Needless to say, I won’t be part of this happy place as a paying member anytime soon. We had to remind “Peter” that we were here with the Gift and he acted like he knew nothing of this.. hmm. He stormed behind the desk and reluctantly gave us the voucher for the laptop or the TouchPad..and gave us a nod and looked the other way as we left the showroom..

Now onto the process to get the “freebie”:

Even the procedure to get this freebie using the voucher is beyond belief.

Go online with your “authorization number” on a non-Secure site and activate your voucher! The site you go to is nondescript and you are not in a secure HTTPS environment!

Follow these steps exactly or you don’t get the gift and nothing is refundable:

Print out an “activation claim Form and within 5 days send it to “Electronic Claim Center”.

  • Send in the form with the voucher, proof of ID in a certified self-addressed envelope within 5 days of printing out the activation
  • Then you will get back a “certificate”¬† with which you pay an activation” fee and plus pay shipping and handling via Money Order (Right Money Order Only!)and within 2 to 4 weeks you may or may not get your laptop or your tablet.

Somehow the whole process above sounds fishy to me.. I don’t think I’ll bite on this bait… What is to prevent this company from my using to perpetuate credit fraud since now they have my license!

I gotta admit that this whole experience left me annoyed to say the least. Why would I do all of the above when I could go on-line and get a tablet for less than $100? Thanks but no thanks.. Not gonna do this..

If I ever need to have a bare home and need furnish every room and want to save hundreds of dollars on thing I absolutely need, DirectBuy will easily cover the heavy 3 or 5 year membership fee. Otherwise.. I’ll take a pass on this offer!

Oh by the way.. don’t forget the secretive nature of DirectBuy.. They constantly tell during the presentation that you are part of the secret society that knows bargains and you should not tell any retailer that you are a member of DirectBuy.. This is actually the line that was said during the video presentation and by the presenter!

What’s your experience with DirectBuy?

What I learned is that If I want an affordable discount I can still rely on my $50 membership to Costco to give me the best value bang for my buck!

  • I don’t need to increase my debt to savings ratio by going into instant debt by the membership fee nor the instant billing that occurs when you buy from this membership only club.
  • I don’t want to pay thousands of dollars in upfront membership fees if I don’t plan on having large home purchases..
  • I like to touch and feel my purchases, and not buy from a catalogue.
  • I don’t want to be a member of a secret society of shoppers that pay for the price of secrecy..

I could go on and on… but I think you get my point.

Doctor’s Office Waiting Annoyance

I don’t know how many people have this gripe, but last week, it really hit home for me.

I went to my primary care doctor for a visit and I arrived on time. As a mater of fact I arrived early.

I sat and waited and waited and waited patiently (no pun intended) for over an hour before I even went to the next phase of waiting for the doctor’s office in the examining room. Before I got to the doctor it was at least an hour and 20 minutes after my scheduled appointment. To me this was unacceptable and I mentioned this to the doctor and his staff. Of course, their answers were terse and barely sensible.

What really got to me was that the office claimed that they were implementing a new computer system and that was the cause of the delays.. but hello.. computers are supposed to make things more efficient not increase delays exponentially.

While I got under my skin was that as soon as I walked into the office.. I had to sign a form that says, that if I have an appointment and don’t show, they can charge me for the visit.. So that means, unless I have a valid reason for not showing up to wait.. I can be charge for the anticipated wait and missed visit..

Now if that is the case shouldn’t I put together a form and have them sign off on it that for every minute beyond 15 minutes (I think that is reasonable), I start billing them at my work rate? Somehow I don’t think that will fly…

The funny thing is what happened above seems to be the norm in most of the doctor’s offices these days.. Delays without apology or an attempt to give concerted effort to stay to schedule. Don’t these doctors offices know that just as their time is valuable so is the patients? Many of us, like me come during lunch hour for our appointments.

How difficult can it be to call a patient and forewarn them that the doctor is running late and they should anticipate an extended¬† wait time or reschedule.. Nah.. that’s almost too logical and patient centric.. I guess the “patient bill of rights” doesn’t apply here.

A few days ago.. I had to go to a local hospital for some tests.. and believe it or not.. there was a sign posted that “if you are waiting for more than 20 minutes, please speak to the desk”. At least that’s somewhat patient centric.

I’ve heard that some people have been sending bills TO The doctors for the delays, with some level of success.. what do you think?

What’s the longest you have waited in a doctor’s office? for me the hour and 20 minutes continues to be the number to beat.

Gift Cards

As we start the Holiday season, I know many of my readers search for gifts that won’t break their budget. How about gift cards?

I liked this site where you can find out of about discounted gift cards. Of course my normal advice is buyer beware. There are many details on Gift cards (expiration, usage, etc.. ) you have to watch out for.

At Gift Card Granny you can buy discounted gift cards and it’s worth the visit if you want to save some money!

I also put this link on my side links for Coupons and steals

uggs and Spam

It’s a good thing I moderate my comments.. otherwise, all my comments would be about Uggs.. Where to buy, why they are great..

Don’t worry the spammer is now being reported to WordPress.. maybe that’ll¬† discourage.. Probably not…

Gas Money

Updated on 02/13/12: I figured that I’d go back to this topic since we had another implosion on this issue at my home today. Of course the conversation ended the same way as always.. Everybody stomping off in their respective spaces and being furious.

What is the right balance? Should a Dad just bite the bullet and accept the fact that his almost 20-year-old just doesn’t get it?

Maybe I am wrong. I should just accept the fact that until the “circle of life” comes around and bites someone in the a*%, they just will not get it. Getting a part-time job for a few hours a week is pretty un-reasonable (As working at McDonalds, is a step down in the social status).¬† Yes even as I sit here in front of my computer screen, I realize that me being a staunch supporter of the work ethic and responsibility is truly unreasonable.

For now, I’ll just continue to provide full and absolute maintenance and caring of the car and P will continue to use it to her benefit.. of course until it breaks down and Dad has to get it fixed.

When I sit back, I think I am being pretty logical to expect today’s x/y generation child to behave in this manner¬† Things just are given without actually earning it.

The words still reverberate in my mind when she was 13 and I first bought my “New Car”: “Dad, thanks for buying the car. Of course you know,¬† this car will be mine when I turn 18”. Hmm. I should have seen things for what they were at that time. Almost a sense of deja vu, but into the future. I even offered my “other car” my Oddessy but no way, that care was way “uncool” for a teenager to drive. Gosh, when I was growing up, if my dad would have offered me his Dodge Dart for Free, I’d have done the happy song.¬† But as the kids say today: “That was then, this is now. We just cannot be seen in an un-cool car Dad!”.

Oh well, tomorrow the brakes, then soon after the tires… After all Dad’s Taxi (My old Highlander” is no longer my tax)i, but something that I watch coming in and out of the driveway.

Am I being unreasonable? Let me know what you think..

 

*****Original post is below.

Last night I had an extensive and animated conversation with my older daughter about gas money. Specifically whose responsibility is it to pay for Gas for the car SHE drives to and from college and to drive her BFF’s around in. Needless to say.. Dad was the bad cop because he insisted on that his daughter pay for gas since he paid all the other expenses related to the car..

What do you think? If Dad pays for everything (maintenance, insurance, registration) isn’t it fair to ask the her of the car to pay for Gas? Especially when the driver does have a job which can pay for gas? Yes she doesn’t make a lot of money.. but as I remember, when I was growing up (in the ancient 70’s), I financed my car including all maintenance! Yes that 1972 Plymouth Duster should could eat up gas!

Of course many people can say “That was then, this is now Dad”, but as part of a parents responsibility is to teach their children fiscal responsibility and being able to properly determine which are fixed expenses (gas, utilities, RENT) and which are discretionary (Gifts and entertainment).

Don’t get me wrong.. my daughter is a great kid, but when it comes to money..the buck stops there. Literally!

See when she was unemployed, I paid all the expenses for my car which she uses. Now that she has some income coming in, I felt it’s time we had some equality with expense sharing.. Again, Dad is the bad cop for even asking for this!

What do you think? Am I being unreasonable? I won’t ask this question in my household in near future as my daughter now has gotten her gas funding from her… Mom..

iPhone 4S – Do I need it?

Yesterday Apple, Inc. unveiled after 16 months between iPhone releases the iPhone 4S.

I was thinking what the “S” stands for.. could it be “sucker” or “scam”? I think it’s a bit of both. I think it stands for “Siri” for the must have feature of “voice activated commands”. ooh.. Since I can’t type straight.. now I show how bad my grammar is as I learn a whole set of voice activated commands!

I think the only winner of this release of the next generation of the iPhone series is Sprint (#1) and Verizon (#2).¬† Why? Now it’s a 3 way game between AT&T, Verizon and Sprint for the same customers.. Unlimited data issue anyone?

Physically, there is no change in the way the iPhone 4S appears.. Price is standard $199 and $299 for 16 and 32 GB respectively. Battery life is better (hopefully), and it has a faster processor with a better camera. And I forgot the introduction of the main feature voice activated commands (SIRI)..

I still don’t see myself getting this latest gadget.. I’m pretty happy with my 3GS which still works fine after a few years on the T network.

I love my 3GS.. It basically does what I want it to do.. Make phone calls and play “Angry Birds”.

In my household, I know that there will be at least one teenager that has pleaded/conned/convinced her Dad that she HAS to “pre-order” the 4GS on the VZ (“can you hear me now”)¬† network.¬† Of course last year.. the same child couldn’t live without her BBM on her precious Blackberry. So I’m taking this with a grain of salt.

I personally use both the 3GS for personal and business, and the iPhone 4 is hands down the winner here. Yet I still ask.. Do I really need the iPhone 4GS?

So I am going to ask you.. Are you buying the iPhone 4S to replace your iPhone 4 which I’m sure many of you are still under contract for??

Vegas – A trip not meant to be

Yesterday (Friday), my wife and I planned a weekend getaway on the spur of the moment to Vegas.. Of course any spur of the moment plans usually lead to failure (to launch), and this plan was no different. Our plan to partake some fun in Vegas was just not meant to be this weekend. So Sin City still awaits our future visit.

My wife works for the airlines and she had a couple of passes to fly to Vegas on¬† out of JFK airport in NYC.. So we packed our weekend get away bags (in record time) and headed towards the airport, with the knowledge that there WERE available seats for “standby passengers”. Needless to say the things went wrong one after another.. and here we are back in NJ after two trips to JFK with us being no closer to Vegas than seeing the departing flight numbers at the terminal.

There was some good news failed takeoff: We were educated and impressed with JFK airport and the way to get to/from and between terminals at JFK.

The comedic tragedy of events unfolded like this:

  • We made sure our kids were taken care of . The older one agreed to take care of the younger one after she had her semi-sleep over dates with her BFF’s from middle school.
  • We took off for NYC on schedule and on-time! Our first issue was where to park the car since our family member in NYC had plans… Thankfully this first disaster was a blessing in disguise. My Sis-in-law had other plans, so she couldn’t drive us, so we were on our own and had to figure out how/where to long-term park our car.¬† Instead of wasting hundreds of $ in sin-city, we were fortunate to spend most of our money in the parking lot where we spent $36 for 2 days of parking when in reality we only parked for a maximum of 2 hours!

  • First Attempt to take off: We get the airport in time, park the car, and get on the free train shuttle to the¬† Terminal. When we get to the terminal (Terminal 5), we quickly realized the¬† the walk from the train to the terminal is at least a mile away! So we schlep to the counter at the terminal and we are told that there is “slim to no chance” of us using our tickets on the flight. Not a problem! Experienced “non-rev” passengers, just wave this off and either pray for cancellations at the gate, or just wait for the next flight.
    • I gotta admit the¬† Terminal at JFK is impressive and the staff at the counters were very reasonable and helpful! This was one of the rays of sunshine on this cloudy and cold trip…
    • Since this was the last flight of the day, we rolled our listing to the next morning flight at 7:45 with our hopeful sin-city thoughts.. again this was just wishful thinking of course.. We went back to the long-term lot, paid the $18 for the privilege of parking for 1 hour and. We had a nice dinner and went to mother-in-Law’s house to crash for the night. Gotta tell you my in-law’s are the greatest when it comes to taking care of u! Bet you didn’t see that coming!
    • Next morning we rolled out at 5:30 AM for our sojourn into more disappointment.
  • Second Effort to Take off (Next Day):We now are experts at JFK parking, so we park our car in Long term and go through security and head to the gate with positive vibes that maybe we will be on this flight and have our weekend get away after all! Not..
    • We get to the gate, and of course we find out that this flight has about 15 seats, but since we are a “courtesy freebie”, we will have to wait till all the “paying passengers”¬† are loaded on.. That should have been the first warning sign that we headed for more disappointment. For me, I ignored this signs with unabashed optimism since I’ve become a seasoned “non-rev” flyer during this summer!
    • We got some food for our 6 hour flight and me being irrationally exuberant asked the cashier to ‘throw away the receipt”. Big mistake which cost me another $20 as the rules are “no receipt – no refund!”.
    • I called up hotels.com and ensured we had a nice 3 star hotel lined up in Vegas. Of course, going with my instinct, I decided to NOT make a financial commitment and reserve the hotel.. Best decision I made over the past 24 hours!
    • Fast Forward.. All the paying passengers load and we are left waiting.. the agent says 4 or 5 people have not shown up, so we may be on the flight! Oh happy days and euphoria rises inside me.. This lasted about 4 minutes.
    • Just as the agent is about to call us, who strolls in but the two couples from their morning coffee break.. And you can guess the end of this story. By this time by euphoria quickly reverted into anger/disappointment and just plain exhaustion!
    • We had spent the last 24 hours going back and forth to JFK so we can have a nice quick getaway to sin-city.. was not meant to be..
    • I went to return the unopened food to the place where I bought it and of course couldn’t get the refund.. I have to say the counter woman, really was amazing! She¬† went through the stacks of discarded receipts trying to find the receipt¬† I had asked her to throw away! No luck here! The lines were quickly backing up for other passengers, so I just gave up and another $20 gone..

My wife and I huddled/argued and decided that we were being told not to go to Vegas so we better just give up! So we did.¬† We went to my sis-in-law’s house¬† (I of course caught up on my lost sleep with along 6 hour nap) and off we were back home to NJ !

See I’m not the spur of the moment kind of person and everyone that knows Dad’s taxi can attest to that. I’m a planner and a very minimal risk taker. For the first time I decided to throw my gut instinct away and go for it.. Big mistake..

What I learned (for the umpteenth time):

  • If you fly stand by, you are at the mercy of people not showing up and you getting on.
  • If you fly stand by, fly on an airline that will give you favorable status on the stand-by line. My wife works for ******, so we should have flown on *****. Being stranded in Chicago, is much better than never getting off the ground!
  • Always keep all receipts! Refer back to the food fiasco..
  • If you fly stand by to hot locations (Vegas!), never ever fly on Fri-Sat.. You are setting yourself up for guaranteed failure, as millions of people fly on weekend sin city..
  • Plan, Plan, Plan all contingencies!
  • JFK Airport’s internal mode of tram’s is very impressive and reliable.. I’d never hesitate to park in long-term with the masses and take the train to the terminal.. Of course make sure you have your walking shoes!
  • If you fly stand-by.. always take your vitamins and pray for seats!

This past summer, I traveled quite  bit (Texas 4 times!), and was bumped once in St. Louis.. but never had to go home empty-handed!

Oh well at least I got myself a souvenir US Open 2011 T-shirt at a 25% break at the terminal! Yes! that’s the silver lining to this adventure I was looking for! I also got my aerobic exercise of daily 2 mile walks with my trips from the tram to the terminal at JFK!

Maybe, I’ll try next weekend for a Vegas Getaway.. I guess I just don’t learn do I? Have you ever flown stand by?

Blogging Hiatus

Normally, I try to blog at least once a week, but for the past few week it’s been totally crazy.. I just came back from Dallas from an employee resource group conference.

I tell you Dallas just continues to amaze me at the size of the malls and the number and variety of restaurants that are available in almost any neighborhood and mall. I found a little strip mall which had 10+ small restaurants in Addison, Texas that were all different (Mexican, Italian, Tex-Mex, Grill, etc..)

Another thing is the size of these malls, the sizes are just huge, I guess when they say “Things are bigger in Texas” they must have meant the shopping malls!

The more I go to Texas, the more I realize, I don’t think I could live there. It’s just different. Yes there is diversity, but just the general mood of the city is different. I’ll go into that more in other postings.

Anyway, Dad’s taxi is back in operation and has to hit the road to drop off the younger one to school. I’ll post more later.

Almost forgot to add that the amount of spam that I continue to get on this blog is mind boggling.. People don’t leave comments (that’s ok), but I was gone for 2¬† weeks and I had over 30 SPAM comments.. How many pairs of UGGS shoes can a person buy?

TTYL for now!

CouponGreat-Coupons

Another nice site for coupons: Coupon Great

What I liked about this site is the clean layout and it’s ability to aggregate the discounts retail and on-line. You can also get printable deals! You will find the link also on the sidebar under Coupons. Enjoy..

Dad