Monday, July 8, 2013

Nothing is Simple

Baby Boomers in particular, though hardly excluding others—How ya doin’ with managing your finances and household? I’m in the midst of purging mounds of paper that have been stuffed in manila folders in hanging files for years. Before marriage, this wasn’t a big deal. My life fit neatly in a rolling file cabinet, accessible with a few flicks of my fingers through the labeled tabs to find what I needed. Receipts, instruction manuals, tax documents, credit card statements, bank account statements, etc.--not a problem.

However... NOW… it’s a different story. Marriage doubled all the aforementioned stuff because Darling Husband had his stuff and a different filing system, I might add, equaling “work” for me as the household administrator. Finally, after a year or two of marriage, I got the blending and purging and balancing and filing under control… until the babies came along… BUT, Repo Man has never visited and we’ve always had heat, air conditioning, and water… except that time when I was pregnant with Girl #2 and turned on the faucet and nothing came out.

I assume having the administrator job is not an issue for some of you, but for those of us who had parents born or raised during the Great Depression who had to work very hard as adults to own a house and car, we were taught to save and file… just in case. Problem is: We have several times the amount of accounts, memberships and material things that our parents had. Gone are the days when you pulled out your ledger on pay day and wrote 4 or 5 checks for the monthly bills; which brings me to the current.

My menopausal brain is on overload!

After clearing my office/den of everything to refurnish, I refuse to bring everything back into it. Sooo… I’m working. What I have learned is that over the years, the filing was happening, but no purging. And because EVERYBODY and his mother have a web site nowadays, I can trash or recycle a lot of the paper.

You might ask, “Why not toss “all” of the paper?”

“Well, because when I need to see what my stock is doing or why my Target bill is so high, it’s easier to pull the paper from the file than to go through my password list, find the password among 100 user names and passwords, type it in, be told that something is incorrect, try it 2 more times, get told that it is now deactivated, go to one of my numerous file boxes, find the hanging file containing the specific manila folder, locate the 800  number, call the company, have a new password sent to my email inbox, go back to the web site, change the temporary password to another password (because you can’t use the old one), scratch through the old password on my password list, and write the new one down.”

I have passwords for everything from financial institutions to phone services to grocery stores to retail stores to libraries to social media to charities to medical services to eBay to utility providers to email accounts, and more. Plus, I have a list of my children’s passwords and my mother’s.

Passwords to online access can be a pain at times… but, I still like it.

Another system that has caused a slight annoyance recently is my online banking. Because of a bank merger or whatever, my bank forced us recommended that we open a new checking account and decided that we wouldn’t get a monthly statement. “Fine,” I thought, “The statement is online;” until I noticed that it doesn’t name the payee of the checks we’ve written! The only way that I can see who we wrote a check to is to individually click on a transaction on the account screen that pulls up “one” check image. All other types of transactions (debits, credits) name the payee. Hmmm…Tax time is going to be a bear as I click on each check image trying to find that check to the Red Cross. Do you think this is their way of saying, “Stop writing checks.” So now I’m back to recording the check in a “paper” check register until we use our debit card for EVERYTHING.

Online banking can be a pain at times… but, I still like it.

Got any gift cards under the junk in the kitchen junk drawer? I found a few. I blame it on my children who don’t know the value of a dollar. Anyway, thankfully, most gift cards have no expiration, however, when I went online to find the value of one of them, it was $0. Hmmm… A maintenance fee of $2.50 per month (What are they maintaining?) charged after a year of inactivity quickly wiped out one of the kids’ Christmas gifts. Nice that they have a web site for checking balances, however, a system to email the gift card holder that they are getting ready to take the money away would be nice, too.

Gift cards can be a pain at times… but I still REALLY like them.

And while on the subject of kitchen junk drawers, one of mine is actually a semi-organized coupon drawer with a space for take-out menus, one for retail store coupons, and the last for grocery store coupons. There’s nothing like an episode of Extreme Couponing to get me clipping. Too bad that I forget to take the coupons with me to the grocery store 70% of the time. I’m better with retail stores.

So maybe those new 3-D looking scan images will become more popular and I can use my recently acquired smart phone to take advantage of coupons and sales. Hmmm…

Learning new features on my smart phone can be challenging sometimes… but I like it and have grown to accept it as a potential addiction; and that someday it will eliminate the frustration of forgetting my coupons.

Today, I found out that one of our service providers did not get our payment that was paid with online Bill Pay. The woman on the phone asked if I had proof that I’d paid, to which I answered, “Only my online bill statement that I can print a portion for you.” She said, “Nope, that won’t do.” So I paid the $27 again after she assured me that they will refund me if they or I find the missing money out in cyberspace; otherwise, I’ll be calling that 800 number again. I said to her, “Nothing is simple.” She said, “That’s right.”

So yes, even with the annoyances, I’m all for the new advances in technology, though I don’t know what effect it’s having on our brains.  My 80 year old mother is even on board, albeit with her own learning curve going on. Last month, she was on facebook responding to a dead person with a little pleasantry.

“Gotta check those dates Mom.”

How do YOU feel about all the technology?


joeh said...

Don't even get me started on passwords!

Hilary said...

Well you had me up until Facebook. I love it all except FB which I find far too invasive. I do just about everything online. I fear will be in big trouble the day the Internet dies...

But I like it too. :)

pianomom said...

I enjoyed that! I'm currently purging and simplifying my life, including schedules. Thanks for the thoughts.

Mari said...

We've just been cleaning out some of our old paperwork too. It's amazing how much of it we've accumulated!
As for passwords - they drive me crazy. I have to have them for work as well, and lately they've been making us change them every few months. My brain is too old for that!

Jenny said...

I love gift cards, too.

I'm always surprised that my daughter and daughter-in-law let theirs expire.

I want to say, "Just give them to me! Don't waste them!"

I may do that after Christmas this year.

We have wayyyy to many papers.

And thank heavens I keep passwords both on my computer in a protected file and in my physical address book under the letter 'P'!

Happy Tuesday!

Barb said...

Anita, I think technology is great - I'd never go back to those paper days! I rarely write a check anymore - all is done with the plastic! However, the passwords are a bug. And I've heard you should change them frequently so they don't get hacked. Who could remember?? I've started a "secret" system of recording them, hoping nobody ever figures it out. I even read now on a Kindle - it's a new world for all of us! PS I never give gift cards - always cash - no maintenance fees.

MissKris said...

Hahahahaha! This reminded me of when we moved. THAT'S when I did all my paper purging. In a dark corner of the basement, I had boxes and bags and tubs filled to the brim that had been gathering dust and moldering for 28 years. There was no way in the world I was going to attempt to shred it all or go thru it all. I figured it'd been there so long it was obsolete anyway. So...I found out that Office Max would do it for a cost, of course, but well worth it. If I remember right, they do it by the pound. I took it all in. I had two grocery carts stacked higher than my head. The employees mouths opened in awe. 96 POUNDS!!!! I bet it took them all day, haha! And since moving to Michigan, I will never let it pile up like that again. I have one container for tax purposes/records tucked under the basement stairs. I am SO into the online version of everything.

Shelly said...

A to the men!!! I so identified with all of this, and had to chuckle at your mom at the end. That is something my mom would do.

Anya said...

Oh, Anita, my life is a disorganized wreck! It bothers me, yes, but by the end of the day I'm too tired to think about organization... Maybe when the babies are older? (haha, I can almost hear you say :)
Passwords, files, closets, you name it..... I know my life would be simpler if everything was orderly, but it's just getting there that feels so out of reach. :)

Unknown said...

I am guilty of all of the above. I have bags of receipts with a stapled year on the outside....just in case I may need to find a receipt from 2007. I just can't bear to toss it in the trash.

Your mom is adorable.

Linda Hensley said...

I'm still happily living in the dark ages. I write checks, keep a record in the attached booklet, and stick a stamp on the envelope. I figure I'm doing my bit to keep the post office alive. I have to do everything electronically at work though and it all seems to work fine -- most of the time :)

Abby said...

I like to think that important stuff is available electronically if I ever "need" it, and then just figure I'll cross that bridge when it gets here. If I can remember my passwords... But I still have a dumb phone. Just don't feel the need for a smart one.

HA! Your mom.

Cathy said...

Hello Anita
Like many others here I cringe at the thought of 'sorting paperwork' - Get a paper bill (just in case) and pay online recording rec. no on the bill. Keep for a couple of years and then realise you didn't even look at them during that time - but we are loath to toss the minute they are paid.
I thought I had it under control till I was a bit under the weather and didn't 'file' just 'tossed into a heap' and then discovered the heap when I went to a fairly unused drawer.
Nice to see you and for your thoughts - glad I made you laugh.
Take care

Karen (formerly kcinnova) said...

I'm still drowning in paperwork. I ought to let my husband take over, since he tosses papers left and right. His papers make it to the shredder and the recycling bin... my papers make it to a box to file later. Guess who has things under control? Not me!

RAnn said...

We went for online banking in a big way when we changed banks. However, it hasn't changed my filing habits, only the location. Bills used to sit on the desk, now they sit on the table next to the computer. Once I've paid them,they get thrown away. I kept some stuff for a while,but I realized I never looked at it, so I started to wonder why we kept it. I've gotten to the point that I don't keep bank or investment statements, or much of anything. As far as taxes, we don't itemize, but if we did, most of our donations go to our church which sends us a thank you yearly at tax time. I'd just keep the other stuff if we itemized, but then I'd probably pay the Red Cross etc through electronic bill pay and they'd be on that list.