Thursday, February 16, 2023

Money Mysteries

Here's some startling and thought-provoking graffiti I came across on Finchley Road on my walk to work yesterday. I don't know if this specifically targets Barclays or banking in general. I'm sure it came as a surprise to the employees who showed up at work that morning.

Speaking of financial matters, I still haven't done anything about my phone. Remember how I was thinking about getting a new one? Well, I've reconsidered, and I think I'm going to just keep plugging away with the old one for now. It still works, and it took the pictures in this post so the camera functions OK. I'm going to push it until it can't go anymore.

I think I may need to look at my phone plan, though, which is going up to an astonishing £78 per month. That seems insane. I looked at my usage and I don't come close to using the 5GB of data I'm permitted each month, not to mention the calling and texting time. I think I could cut all of that back quite a bit. The question is, would it save me money, or do I already have a minimum plan? Only Vodafone knows. More research to be done.

Part of my problem is, I can't conceive of what 5GB of data means. You could tell me that's a single web page and I'd believe it.

Even more bewildering is our utility bill, which came the other day. We pay £179 each month, which is based on estimated usage the energy company has calculated based on occasional readings of our meters. Our most recent bill shows charges of £348 for gas and £129 for electricity. (They weren't kidding when they said bills would go up this year. Thanks, Russia!) This is partially offset by a £67 monthly credit by His Majesty's Government Energy Bills Support Scheme, which I believe everyone gets to help with the higher costs. Apparently our account then roughly breaks even, which is the intent with estimated payments, but how that's possible is a complete mystery to me. We must be overpaying by quite a bit in the summer. Anyway, it's a head-scratcher, and I need to look into getting smart meters installed so we're paying only for what we use and not what the company estimates we use.

(We had an appointment to get a smart meter in 2020 but those plans got torpedoed by Covid. Must look into it again.)

I'm making myself sound like a financial idiot and I'm not, but all this stuff is so complicated. (Intentionally, I believe.) I don't know how people who have fewer financial skills than I do manage to cope.

And I still have to file our taxes with Uncle Sam this year. Argh! That's one thing I'll say about Britain's tax system -- it's much simpler. I get taxed when I get paid and that's that. I don't even have to file a return. If we had substantial income from other sources I'm sure that wouldn't be true, but we don't.

Isn't this exciting? How did I wind up talking about money? My mom used to talk about money every time I called her and it made me crazy, and now I'm doing it.

Dave bought Olga a huge treat at the vet when he went to pick up her anti-inflammatory meds. She chowed down on that thing and consumed it all. She was very happy.

Little does she know she only has one more night with us before she has to go live in a kennel (sorry, a "luxury pet hotel") for the next nine nights. Her world is about to be upended, and I feel guilty.


gz said...

We find that when travelling, a smart meter is a boon...only paying for what has been used! And no need to get someone else to read the meter for us and tell us the reading and then us phone it in...from NZ?!!(as our use was so low, the bill was lower than the banks would let them set a direct debit!)
Yes. Check with Vodafone...Pirate is with them and we have got his bill down to under £30, including overseas calls and texts....

Moving with Mitchell said...

Oh, lotsa luck with Vodaphone. Sometimes I don't think even they know. But, if they do, they certainly don’t make it easy. You're so right about the utility companies making things confusing for everyone. Those ARE steep bills. Olga looks engrossed.

Andrew said...

The good burghers of Hampstead are become rather bolshie about the environment.

You can soon chew through 5GB if you watch video clips on your phone, but otherwise it would hard to reach with just internet browsing, email, Google maps and basic app use. But I would doubt you could have a plan that is less than 5GB. Texting and calling aren't part of data use unless you command your phone to use internet and I think even then, it is only for WiFi.

So everyone including rich people receive the energy subsidy. Cut them out and the poorer could have a higher subsidy.

We receive separate bills for electricity and gas to heat hot water. They are quite easy to understand.

Rachel Phillips said...

Barclays are being targetted by Extinction Rebellion because they invest in fossil fuel companies more than any other bank. Your Vodafone bill is high and you should be able to reduce it even though you are using your smart phone as a computer through the day. I pay £13 per month and use my smart phone all the time. It is only by paying attention to contract renewals, upgrades, etc. that you keep abreast with good contract deals.

Frances said...

Have you looked at GiffGaff for your phone? I only pay £6 per month. ( we bought the phone separately about 5 years ago). I mainly use it at home for " data", therefore using the wifi, and I assume there must be wifi at school? I use Whatsapp mainly for messaging, but that doesn't cost.

crafty cat corner said...

I have never been a money person, I hate it, it is a necessary evil and since Tom died I have had so much to deal with concerning money, I can't wait until it's all sorted and I can forget about it. lol
Those meds must be working for Olga, she looked sprightly on the last video you posted of her.

Ed said...

Our family of four phones has a 5GB data plan through Verizon and only when on vacation do we ever exceed that so for two people, 5 GB should be plenty especially if you have wifi at home and work which most people do. I've always heard that 5GB is about 60 hours of surfing the web or 10 hours of streaming video.

I got my father and daughter the iPhone SE which is MUCH cheaper but still does all the basic calling, texting and picture taking. It is easier to swallow than the full fledged iPhone prices.

Yorkshire Pudding said...

You should consider changing the title of this blog to "Personal Finance Matters". I am sure you would attract more visitors that way. Poor Olga! Abandonment can be so damaging. I hope they serve live squirrels in Wormwood Scrubs canine wing.

ellen abbott said...

Marc handles all our financial stuff and when he was so seriously ill at first I was thinking omg I'm going to have to figure all that stuff out.

Yorkshire Pudding said...

I left a truly hilarious comment that would have had you splitting your sides with laughter but I think it was gobbled up by The Spam Monster.

Jeanie said...

You're like me with my cable. I've been wanting to cut it for at least eight months. And yet, I don't. Part of it is rounding up all the devices! I need to consider a new phone, too. Mine isn't bad. But the camera isn't great and it has its issues. Or maybe the issues are me. Who knows? I hate all that stuff.

Thanks for the taxes reminder. I've got to get my stuff together.

Boud said...

Back before Tracfone came into existence as a carrier, I had cellphones with other carriers and found that however I signed up for the minimum contract, They would increase the minimum, so I was still paying for much more than I used. They're crafty that way.

I only pay for my usage with Tracfone which uses my online function only when there's no ambient WiFi, when it automatically switches to it, doesn't use my paid up minutes.

They've recently included some iPhones in their range of service, so that's a possibility. I don't think it's outside the US though, doubt if a London resident could access Tracfone but you might want to check anyway.

Ms. Moon said...

I will say this about Glen- he will spend whatever time it takes to get to the root of a financial situation. He has probably saved us many thousands of dollars by simply not accepting what a bill says if he doesn't thing it's right. He certainly did not go to school to study this, it's just an innate thing in him. I read Ellen's comment and I would have been thinking the same thing.
I always say that if it weren't for Glen I'd be living in a van down by the river. And it is true.

The Bug said...

Man, I get up there on my data usage - I read, play games, listen to audiobooks, look up random stuff... It helps if I remember to keep up with the work wifi password because I seem to use my phone at work the most. (I promise it's not while I'm supposed to be working - mostly during lunch. Mostly. Ha!).

Sharon said...

You aren't alone in trying to figure bills out. I need to change my cable service and I've put it off for 3 years now. I need to just switch to internet only and kill the cable TV.
I'm lucky where I live, my electric is pretty stable and way more affordable than it was when I was living in the house.

NewRobin13 said...

We hardly ever use our cell phone. Every now and then we get a text message reminding us of appointments. We're still very much attached to our landline. Not sure why, but probably because we're old. LOL.
I think we spend a lot of money on all of our 24/7 connectivity.
I wish we lived close by to you and Dave. We would watch Olga and take her for nice long walks at the heath while you two are out of town.

Red said...

Figuring out the right utility plan to sign up with is an impossibility. They have so many tricks in their bag .

Ellen D. said...

Make a list so you can tackle all of these when you get back from Florida. Hope you have a great trip! Safe travels!

Marcia LaRue said...

Be sure to read "She Who Seeks" today ... it's all about Libraries and Librarians!!
I have always had to deal with finances ... my own and sometimes for others and I seem to do pretty well with the coins! LOL

Kelly said...

That's a fine looking treat Olga's got there. I'm glad she enjoyed it! I've been told dogs don't really have any concept of time, so maybe she won't be resentfully counting down the days until y'all return.

The Padre said...

Love That Face - Safe Travels Brother Man - Looking Forward To Following Along


Margaret said...

I wouldn't miss the complexity and stress of tax time in the U.S. My bills have gone up a lot and I'm not even sure why. My cell phone and cable bill are outrageous.

Allison said...

We are paying a usurious amount of money for internet and cable. It's because we're in the habit of turning on the TV and watching whatever is on, vs looking for something on Netflix or Amazon. Our cell phones are also crazy expensive. We're giving some thought to using T Mobile, unlimited data, text, messaging for $50 a month.

Debby said...

Remember that some 'me time' will make you and Dave better dog parents. Don't feel guilty.

I'd be curious how much everyone else's monthly cell phone bill is I have a pay as you go plan, and pay $35 a month, but I was under the impression that cell phone bills were much higher. Does that 78pounds include your phone payment?

Catalyst said...

Financial affairs are confusing, there's no denying it. I just say, don't pay it, let 'em find me.

Ok, I was just kidding.

sparklingmerlot said...

I am sure Olga will enjoy her relaxing stay at the pet resort and she will be thrilled to see you when you get back. I was a way for 8 nights and my lot ignored me when I came home. Ungrateful beasts.
Energy bills and phone bills are crazy. Everything is so expensive these days, it's depressing.

jenny_o said...

I sympathize with you. Some phone bills can be just about incomprehensible. Good luck with it.

I had to get an actual phone plan after the hurricane last fall, because the landline was out for the 12 days of the power outage and I blew through over $100 in two days on my pay as you go phone, calling the insurance company, etc. and often being on hold (gah!). Just the other day I noticed a $13 charge for .0029 MB of data. I think I remember hitting the internet button by mistake and immediately switching out of it again, because I just use my phone as a ... phone. Lesson learned :)

Hope you're still feeling well and your travel goes off without a hitch!

River said...

Estimated bills are a nightmare! and a rip-off. Get a meter installed and make sure the Russians aren't tapping into your lines at the same time.

Steve Reed said...

GZ: I think I just need to call them and work something out. Heartening news that you've managed to do something similar for Pirate.

Mitchell: Well, they have such a bewildering array of plans and options I'm not surprised they don't understand them all!

Andrew: Yeah, see, I never watch videos on my phone. Wouldn't even think to do it, actually. I'm actually not sure rich people get the subsidy, but middle income people like us certainly do.

Rachel: THANKS for the information about Extinction Rebellion! That explains it. Yes, I know these phone contracts have to be looked at every so often and for us it's definitely time. (Mine is just now increasing -- I've been paying about £45 a month, which is still too high.)

Frances: I haven't looked at Giff Gaff, but like you, I also use the phone via a WiFi connection much of the time.

Briony: I hate it too, but as you said, it's a necessary evil. It's hard when a spouse dies and all that sort of thing has to be taken on by the surviving spouse. Sorry. :(

Ed: OK, that's good to know, about what 5GB of data can do.

Ellen: I guess it's a good wake-up call to get familiar with all that stuff, as unpleasant as it may be.

YP: Don't worry, I found it! I hope they hire squirrels to cavort in the exercise yard.

Jeanie: I have a feeling a lot of people spend money they're not even aware of on long-term memberships and services that they no longer use.

Boud: I will look, but I haven't heard of Tracfone here. A pay-for-what-you-use plan like that would be ideal for me, since I don't use my phone much.

Ms Moon: I have that impulse but at the same time I can be a procrastinator, so I think, "Oh, I'll look more closely at that next week" and then never do it. (Or do it months later.)

Bug: Hey, we all have down time at our desks! I'm not judging!

Sharon: We've never had cable, but we don't watch our TV at all, either. We just stream things nowadays.

Robin: Talking on a landline seems so quaint to me now! Apparently a lot of young people don't talk on the phone at all. They'd rather text.

Red: It really is such a racket, even with government regulations supposedly keeping them in line!

Ellen D: Yes! That's kind of what I'm doing. Though it's a mental list. :)

Marcia: I looked at "She Who Seeks" and that WAS a fun post! I like the idea that I'm a general in the war against misinformation. :)

Kelly: Yeah, I've heard that too, but how do we know? I do think she lives very much in the moment, though.

Padre: I will miss that face for a whole week! :(

Margaret: Well, I still have to file US taxes, so I don't miss the complexity either, unfortunately! (Any US citizen has to file, even if they live outside the country.)

Allison: I think like Rachel said we all have to look at the plans now and then and make changes. The companies try to coerce us to change through pricing so we'll sign a new contract.

Debby: Absence makes the heart grow fonder, right? No, my phone is already paid for, so that £78 is just for service. It's insane.

Catalyst: Well, sometimes that's not a bad way to look at things! But maybe not when you're buying essential services like power and water. :)

Caro: We've been through that too. I think when they get home again after time away it takes them a little while to settle in and feel normal again.

Jenny-O: OK, that's ridiculous, that they would charge you $13 for just hitting the button! Can you call them and talk them out of that?!

River: Yeah, the Russians always add an element of concern to every household transaction!