Category Archives: Economy
Bud is very hard on cell phones. I think he has averaged two phones a year since we got him his first when he was 13 or 14. Since a cell phone contract is usually for about two years, Bud has had to buy replacement phones off ebay or beg hand-me-down phones off friends and family.
Last year, he lucked out and got a hand-me-down iPhone from his girlfriend. We don’t pay for data plans for either of our kids, but Bud was happy to be able to use the apps wherever he could get wifi access.
Three weeks ago, the iPhone finally gave up the ghost. The good news was that Bud was eligible for a discounted cell phone. But he wanted a smartphone (in fact, on the AT&T website there were no basic phones – only smartphones) and the only way we could get one discounted was to sign him up for a data plan. We made the rule a long time ago “no data plan unless you have a job”. So what to do?
Art was grocery shopping one day and saw the GoPhone display. We knew people who had GoPhones – it’s AT&T’s pay-as-you go cell phone service.
Here’s what it looks like out of the package:
All we had to do was pop in Bud’s old sim card and he was all set. A perfect cheap replacement until he can afford his own data plan. GoPhone even has smartphones as low as $30 which can be used with wifi and no data plan, if desired.
I received no compensation for this post nor was I given a cell phone or anything else. This was just Art’s brilliant idea which I thought you might enjoy and appreciate.
I’m not sure if the other wireless providers have pay-as-you-go phones. If you know how their program works, please leave a comment below.
This is a list of resources my family has found helpful while dealing with the problems of being unemployed and/or underemployed.
California Employment Development Department – Unemployment claim filing for California residents.
U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs – Unemployed veterans may apply for low or no cost medical care.
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development – This is an interactive list with links to local housing agencies where you can apply for housing assistance (section 8).
California Department of Health Care Services – Application for Medi-Cal or Healthy Families for California residents.
California Department of Social Services (CalFresh) – Food stamps application for California residents.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – An interactive list of community health clinics nationwide which provide sliding scale care to the uninsured.
Feeding America – An interactive list of food banks nationwide.
In addition, look for food banks and other services run by churches in your area.
I have been buying and selling items on eBay for over 13 years and in the process have fallen victim to or narrowly avoided quite a few scams. Here are some of the most prevalent eBay scams as well as some tips on how to avoid them.
One of the biggest eBay scams is selling counterfeit merchandise. Art and I used to run a professional golf shop and once a customer brought in a Taylormade driver he had bought on eBay. He wanted Art to change out the shaft because it was really whippy. Art took one look at the club and saw that it was counterfeit. The club head was the wrong shape, the graphics were obviously faked and the shaft was unknown. Our customer had paid $100 (less than 1/3 the price of a new club) for what was essentially useless.
A good way to avoid this scam is to remember this one caveat “If the price looks to good to be true, it probably is.” If a “brand-new” top-of-the-line whatever is selling for pennies compared to others, it is probably a fake. Also, look at the photos the seller has posted. If they are stock photos of the merchandise, then email them asking for more detailed photos if you are still interested.
Something You Don’t Need
The original Xbox 360 did not come with built-in wireless, but required a separate wireless adapter that was only manufactured by Microsoft. Tooling around on eBay one day looking for used ones, Bud came across a seller who promised that his product was a workaround for the adapter. Reading all the specs, it looked good so we went ahead and paid the money. What arrived was a piece of circuitry and directions that would not work with Bud’s Xbox 360 (I wish I had taken a picture at the time so you could see how ridiculous this was). We filed a complaint with eBay and also sent the seller an email and were lucky enough to get our money back, but most are not so lucky.
The best way to avoid this is to not trust anyone you don’t know with a “workaround” or “hack” or whatever they are selling.
If you receive an email from eBay telling you that something important is happening with your account, BEWARE!! Often this is an email from a scammer, who is trying to steal your user name and password.
Avoid this scam by only logging in to eBay by typing http://www.eBay.com directly into your browser. If you really have a problem with your account, there will be more information in the internal “messages” portion of your account.
Fraudulent Payment Notification
Similar to phishing, you will receive a notification from Paypal or eBay saying that you have received a payment to your account. This is either an attempt to steal your information, or an attempt buy a buyer to receive your item without actually getting payment.
Again, only sign in via the url or your bookmarks, never by clicking a link in an email. If the buyer has actually paid, it will be listed in your account.
It can be a lot harder to tell if merchandise you purchase on eBay is stolen. Just remember that if it is stolen, the police can confiscate it from you (depending on your jurisdiction) and you will have a hard (if not impossible) time getting your money back from the seller (who is now in prison or in hiding).
Remember ,”if the price is too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true.” Also, check the seller’s feedback and make sure they are not just an “overnight” success with thousands of positive feedbacks acquired in just a couple of months. Look for sellers who have been around for awhile. Another good reminder is to only pay via Paypal or, if a big ticket item, C.O.D. Do not pay through Western Union or other third-party websites suggested by the seller. These do not have the buyer protection that Paypal offers.
Hopefully these tips will help you avoid some of the worst eBay scams, but if not, remember that eBay has a resolution center where you can bring most of the problems you have. They are usually fairly quick (within 2 weeks) to rule and if the ruling is in your favor, you will hopefully get your money back.
Craigslist can be an easy way to buy items you really need and/or want. It can also be an easy (and free) way to sell some of that junk that’s cluttering up your house. But as with any transaction where money exchanges hands, caveat emptor (let the buyer beware). Here are some scams to look out for when shopping on Craigslist:
Rental Housing Scam
Rental agencies frequently list their available properties on Craigslist. But beware of those listings that look good to be true. Is the rent significantly less than comparable properties? While we were looking for our current rental, we found two different properties listed on Craigslist which were priced lower than similar houses and the only contact was by email. When we drove by the properties we saw “For Sale” signs on the front lawns. Contacting the “seller” returned a form email which stated that they were out of the country on business, please ignore the for sale sign which they had forgotten to have removed before they left, and that if we mailed them the attached application with a cashier’s check for the first month’s rent and security deposit then they would gladly mail us the keys. Needless to say, we did not follow through with either of these listings, except to report them to Craigslist as fraudulent.
Again, many legitimate car lots list their inventory on Craigslist, and so do many honest, hard-working individuals who just want to get the best price for their 1992 Volvo so they can finally invest in a new car. But there are also scammers out there. Unfortunately, our family found this out the hard way. But that’s a story for another day. The most important thing to remember when buying a car from an individual is that they should have a smog certificate for the car dated within the past 90 days. You should also run the Vehicle Identification Number through Carfax or similar to make sure it has a clean title and has it been in any serious accidents. Lastly, I would take a mechanically-minded person along to check for any obvious problems.
In this scam, the buyer promises event tickets, or airline tickets, but what the buyer actually gets are either forgeries or previously used tickets. Remember that airline tickets can only be used by the person whose name is printed on the face of the ticket. For event tickets, ask to see a copy of the seller’s receipt from his or her original purchase verifying that the tickets are for the date and place you were told.
The seller asks you to wire the money (via Western Union or similar) or send a personal check before they will send you the merchandise. Or the buyer wants to pay with a money order or personal check. Transactions should only be paid via cash (make sure you know how to check for counterfeit bills – see Know Your Money from the US. Secret Service for more info), cashier’s check or Paypal.
Robbery (or worse) Scam
Only meet a seller in a public place. Never enter an unknown seller’s house or allow an unknown buyer to enter your house. ‘Nuff said.
Have you ever been scammed on Craigslist or do you have any more suggestions on how to avoid being scammed? Please let me know in a comment.
We are coming up on three years post bankruptcy and I must say, I don’t miss the credit cards. Mind you, it wasn’t credit card debt that broke us – it was a failed business, but still it was nice to be able to use a card for the occasional “emergency”. Now that we’ve gone three years without one, I’m finding that saving for an emergency is a much better plan.
Looking back, I am so glad we used a local bankruptcy attorney who knew the rules for our city or county. If I can give you one piece of advice – that would be it. Use an attorney from your city or county. If you live in Oakland, look for Oakland bankruptcy lawyers, if you live in Los Angeles, well you see where I’m going with this.
We have had a few friends who tried to use a do-it-yourself service for their bankruptcy. This is basically just a service that assists you in filing the paperwork but can’t give you legal advice or be in bankruptcy court with you. One friend ended up having to hire an attorney anyway, after the bankruptcy court turned her down, partially to appeal and partially to help her sue the do-it-yourself service. Believe me this is something you don’t want to skimp on!!
Going through a bankruptcy was one of the toughest times of our lives, but it was such a relief when it was over and we are so glad we did it. If you are in a desperate financial situation, a bankruptcy could help you too. Talk to your attorney to find out what your options are.
This is a sponsored post for Lincoln Law, however, all the points and
views are my own.
Well here we are in our new house. Things didn’t go quite as smoothly as we would have liked, but it all worked out.
Our escrow was due to close on May 30th. On May 29th we found out that our bank had again delayed the process so our agent was able to convince the buyers to have a firm close of June 7th. We were told we needed to be out of the house by midnight June 5th, the agents would do an “empty walkthrough” on June 6th and escrow would close on the 7th. So far, so good, except that we still didn’t know when we would be able to move into the new house. Art started driving by the house once a day just to check on the previous tenant’s progress in moving out.
On May 30th the new house failed the housing inspection, but the agent said we could come in and sign the lease on June 1st and everything would be fixed by then. We went in on Friday, the 1st, signed the lease and found out the house had failed the inspection again. The agent gave us the garage door remote and said we could start moving boxes into the garage until the inspection passed on Monday.
Saturday was the day we had scheduled for Bud’s graduation party. Friday afternoon I frantically emailed, called, and texted everyone on the guest list, letting them know that we were having the party at the old house. I know some family members thought I was insane for planning a graduation party in the middle of a move, but in a way it was a goodbye party for the old house as well. We took about four hours out of our packing and moving to celebrate Bud’s achievement and then went back over to the new house to work.
By Monday afternoon we had filled up the garage plus all available closets, but still had no news about the inspection. About 4:45 p.m. Art found out the inspector was off until Wednesday (the day after we were supposed to be out of the old house). The rental agent gave us the keys and told us to go ahead and move into the house and the inspector would have to work around us. We had no choice, so we went with it.
We worked until about 10 p.m. Monday and then until midnight Tuesday but still weren’t finished. Art called our real estate agent and told him we would be done by Wednesday afternoon. We didn’t get to bed until after 3 a.m. on Tuesday because we had to make a path to the bed, clear it and make it so we could sleep in it. We then woke up at 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday so I could go to work and Art and his parents could keep moving. Bud and Boo helped as they could. By Wednesday evening the move was over, but Art and his dad still had to go back on Thursday morning early to the old house to make a dump run of old boards, etc. that had accumulated over the years. We were very lucky to have everything done an hour or so before escrow closed.
So it was a whirlwind week and now we are unpacking and since everything was moved so quickly, trying to find stuff. For example, all the Christmas decorations are on shelves within easy reach, but half the kitchen dishes are stacked in the third row, in a corner, behind a garbage can and some chairs. Oh well, the washer and dryer are now hooked up, all the food is put away., we have cooked here, and we get our phone, Internet and TV back tomorrow. Best of all, the giant weight that sat on my shoulders for the past four months is finally gone. Now to plan the housewarming party…
For those of you who’ve been wondering – here’s a housing update for the Morris Family:
- Our current house is due to close escrow on Wednesday, May 30th (maybe a day or two later due to the holiday).
- We have finally found a rental house and should be able to move in by the first week in June.
Not sure if we’re going to have any overlap or not, but God has provided thus far, so we are not worrying.
And now an important book announcement:
After Sunday, June 3rd, the Peace and Quiet series will no longer be available on the blog. That’s because starting Monday, June 4th, it will be available for purchase as a short story for Amazon Kindle!! Once I get it published in Kindle format I will try to make it available for other formats as well.
Thank you all for your support;
I am soon to be homeless. That does not mean I don’t have hopes and dreams and feelings just like you.
If I walk into your office to ask for help, please know that it took me hours of crying and praying and discussion before I could finally get the courage to set up the appointment, let alone walk in. Please don’t treat me like just another number, or worse, like I am a criminal just because I am asking for your help.
If you see me in line at the food bank, don’t assume that I’m lazy. I am currently working three jobs, while still trying to hold together a marriage and co-parent two children, both of whom have emotional problems.
If you run into me at the movies or a restaurant, don’t assume I am wasting money and no wonder I’m poor. I have become the queen of coupons, special deals and promoting. I could be mystery shopping or doing a review for a sponsor.
Believe it or not, I have a life, a very satisfying one, that has nothing to do with being poor, or nearly homeless. I have friends and family whom I love and enjoy spending time with. I have a career I am proud of and sometimes I want to pinch myself for how lucky I am. Being poor is just one small part of me. It does not make me less of a person.
Many of my readers know that our family has been through a bit of a rough spot over the past few years (see A Business Lost, Head Sense vs. Heart Sense). One of the things I have learned during this difficult time is that if God presents an opportunity I should take it. A couple of weeks ago, that opportunity presented itself.
My Aunt Carol called out of the blue. We live in the same town, and see each other on Facebook regularly, but hardly ever talk on the phone. She told me that a reporter from our local paper had interviewed her for a story about rental prices in the Napa Valley and how hard it is to get into a rental if you have a Section 8 housing certificate. Aunt Carol has a full-time job with Child Start and is a mom to three adult daughters, adopted mom to one preschooler and foster mom of three boys, all under the age of five. She is saint, let me tell you. Anyway, she said that while she was talking to the reporter, she “felt a burden on her heart” to talk about our family. The reporter expressed an interest in talking to us so Aunt Carol was calling to give me the reporter’s phone number.
Now it was obvious to me that this was a sign from God, but being the attention-phobic person that I am I was still leery of “going public” with our problem. I know, I know, I’ve talked about it on the blog, but I have a readership of 200 on a good day and the local paper has a readership in the tens of thousands. I hope you’ll understand my trepidation. So I passed the phone number to Art.
The reporter, Jennifer, was so taken with her interview with Art, that she got permission from her editor to run a full story on us on the front page of the paper on Palm Sunday. (You can go here to read the whole story.) The point was not to make a big deal about us, but to put a face on a problem that is happening all over our country – families who used to be middle class that have been catapulted into poverty as a result of the current economic situation.
I didn’t know what to expect once the story ran – wasn’t sure how people would react. Of course there were a few who accused us of being “lazy” and “begging”. One even asked if we had paid the paper to run a front page story about us. (Seriously?) But 98% of the reaction was positive. We have been so overwhelmed by the outpouring of good wishes and support from complete strangers as well as good friends. Our problem is not one that can be solved overnight, but just having it out in the open and knowing we’re not alone has made it so much easier to bear.
When we moved into this house in 1993, we never dreamed of the “joys” that come with an older house. Built in 1952, with a flat roof and a slab foundation, the houses in our neighborhood were slapped up quickly to accommodate those flush with money after WWII ended. They were never intended to last. Old house = old pipes = plumbing problems.
We’d lived here less than 5 years before it happened. The laundry sink backed up. Not too big a deal. Except that the laundry sink, garage sink, kitchen sink and back bathroom shower are all connected. For the first day we tried using drain cleaner, but that didn’t really help. Then Art bailed all the water out of the garage sink and snaked out the cleanout under it. That worked for a little while, but after the first load of laundry we were backed up again. So I got the bright idea to try to snake out the cleanout under the laundry sink while Art was at the gym. I put a bucket under it to catch the excess water, then poured the water into the back toilet, but I accidentally flushed the plug for the cleanout. Which, of course, made the back toilet unusable until Art could take it apart and get the plug out.
After that we decided it would probably be a good idea to call a plumber (you think?). The next day when the plumbing professional arrived, I explained to him the steps we had already taken. I give the man a lot of credit for never even cracking a smile. He asked me if we had a cleanout in the backyard. I wasn’t positive of the exact location, but I took him out to the back patio. Fortunately, he found the cleanout easily and brought in a giant electric snake. It ran for 5 minutes or so and I could see the black goo in the garage sink slowly receding.
Once the drain was clear, the plumber plugged the sink and filled it near the top with water. Then he reached in and pulled out the plug. “Come look at this,” he called me with a big smile plastered across his face. I walked over to the sink and peered inside. “Look at that vortex!!” he crowed. Love that plumber!!
I am participating in a blogger campaign by Bucks2Blog and was
compensated. However, the views and opinions are my own.