D4D

Writing for the Slash and Burn crowd

Archive for the category “Finances”

Expensive

For a number of reasons, the last month has been idiotically expensive.  Some of it has been voluntary, some of it has been necessary. All of it has added up.

In the last month or so, it’s included…

  • Four new tyres for the car (Necessary, as all four were getting close to their wear limits)
  • MOT for the car (Necessary!) – thankfully, it only needed two new bulbs, so the MOT itself wasn’t all that expensive
  • Car Insurance – (Necessary, but also Voluntary – I paid the entire lot at once, rather than monthly, which saved about £60)
  • Tickets to see a band called The The in London next year (Entirely voluntary, of course)
  • Tickets to see Macbeth at the RSC in Stratford-on-Avon next year (Also entirely voluntary)
  • Tickets to see Titus Andronicus at the Barbican in London early next year (Voluntary)
  • New walking boots (Necessary, considering the damage I sustained from the broken old ones)

And that doesn’t include all the usual stuff.

So yeah, fairly expensive. It’s all still within my budgets and limits, and the majority will be paid off this month – but all the same, it’ll be nice if I can have a quieter October and November, with less outgoings!

Five Years A Bankrupt

It’s five years today since I declared myself bankrupt. As of today, I’m in the final year of it being on my record – and who knows what’ll happen from there.

It’s been a tough process, and it’s not one I’d recommend to anyone else – if nothing else, I’m pretty sure that most people going through it would also end up losing a lot more than I did – but for me, it’s worked out for the best.

I’m sure I’ll have more thoughts along the way, and will end up writing another post for a year’s time, when it’s finally all done and dusted.

Something New – Quick Update

Last week, I wrote about starting off with getting a new card from Monzo, and how things had gone so far.  At the time, I was waiting for the card to arrive, so I could connect it to the account and so on.

The card actually arrived on Saturday, rather than the expected/predicted Friday, but I can live with that.  Even out of usual business hours etc., it was a simple case of opening the phone app, doing the linking process, and it was immediately sorted with the top-up I’d put on it.

I’ve used it for some payments over the last few days, and so far I’m really impressed. It’s all been painless, and the updates and notifications come through to the app so fast you can’t really believe it’s been that quick.

As I said last time, I’ll write more about the entire thing in a month or so – but right now, yeah, I’m actually impressed with Monzo. Let’s hope things stay that way.

Something New

Over the last week or so, I’ve been trying something new (well, new-ish) in the financial sector – Monzo.

I’ve been aware of a few of this type of “new banking” start-ups of late, but Monzo interested me when I read this article that talked about how closely it kept track of payments, and their whole customer service set-up.   In my own experience with banks, it’s customer service that is their greatest weakness, so I’m interested in how other ‘non high-street’ new financial organisations address it.

At the moment it’s “only” a pre-paid credit card option, driven entirely through a smartphone app – but they’ve got their banking licence, and are aiming to be starting a current account as well, again all driven through smartphone apps.

So far, the experience has been pretty good. (Note – for purposes of this, I used my iPhone – I can’t say anything at all about the Android version) I got the app through the App Store, and went through the initial stages.  Basically, just a name and date-of-birth for verification purposes, and then they order your card.

This took some time – but the expectations were managed all the way through, showing the queue of applicants, where I was in that queue, how many people were before me, and how many after.   Now, my cynicism kicks in slightly here, as I noticed that the number of applicants always stayed around the 25,000 mark, so it *could* just be a steady flow of incoming customers, or it *could* be all smoke-and-mirrors guff to make me think they know what they’re up to.

It took about four days to get to the top of the queue (I could’ve jumped places if I’d promoted Monzo on social media, but frankly, fuck off) and once that happened, I got a notification to say so.  This was where the identity stuff came in, and needed address details, plus an in-app photo of driving licence for proof-of-address, and a 5-second video to prove I’m real.

I’ve done an initial top-up (of a completely manageable amount – if the entire thing turns out to be a scam, I won’t be screwed) and the card has been sent to my home address. It’s due to arrive today, at which point I’ll have to connect it to the app – slightly annoying, as surely they know all the necessary details already – and then it should be ready to go.

I’ll write more about it in a month or so, once I’ve used it and seen how I feel about the entire thing.  So far, though, it’s been an interesting and positive experience – I hope it continues to be so!

Capital Issues

A couple of months ago, I got a letter from one of my credit cards (well, from the company behind one of my credit cards, to be pedantic/accurate) telling me they wanted to upgrade my credit limit, and if I wanted to accept, drop them a line.

I was OK with that, so I confirmed the upgrade, and it got applied to my account two and a half months ago. (That’s relevant in a minute)

This weekend, I got a text message confirming that my upgrade was being processed. Then on Monday I got a letter, also confirming the same thing.

Now, one of the main things you’re always told by card companies is to get in touch with them if you start getting unexpected letters from them, and particularly when it’s either replacement cards, or stuff about credit limits.   Additionally, with my own credit history I’m more aware of these things.

I gave the card company a call yesterday, and it did not go well.

First of all, the person I spoke to seemed to think she was working in a different department, and her first question was “What are you going to offer us?”  (I’m assuming she’s usually in debt recovery or something, or dealing with people who are going to say they’re in the shit)

I explained that I had concerns about my credit limit, because…

“Your credit limit is £[x]. Anything else?”
“Yes, I’ve got concerns about the security of my account. As you’ve shown no interest in even listening, let along caring, I’d now like to speak to your manager, please.”
*Huge sigh* “I’ll just look at your account activity”
“No, I’m not happy with you doing that. I’d like to speak to your manager, please. And the sigh is not helping things.”
*Pause, and then another huge sigh* “I’ll see what I can do, but I need to check your ID and activity”
“No, I’m not happy with you doing that. I’d like to speak to your manager, now, please”
“I’ll see whether I can find someone”

I did eventually get to speak to a manager, who sorted out that there *had* been a problem in the card company’s processes, but there was no evidence that the account was compromised. I also left a complaint about the first person, because their attitude sucked so hugely.

I don’t expect anything else to come of it, but it’s all reported and dealt with, and I’m happy with how things stand, so at least it’s had a fairly positive outcome.

Footwear Fails

For the last twenty-odd years now, I’ve been a pretty loyal wearer of Cat Boots. I’ve always found them to be comfortable – although the quality has gone down significantly over the years, but the price has always remained the same, so I understand why/how that’s happened – and to have a decent build quality that generally lasts me well in comparison to other boots.

However, back in March I bought two pairs from the online shop for Cat boots. All went well – and thankfully I paid by credit card – and I started wearing one of the pairs. All well and good.

However, last week, I started getting blisters on one foot while wearing the boots.  That’s less than three month’s wear, and that’s totally not acceptable. I know I can be tough on boots – I walk a lot, as has been mentioned before – but they haven’t even been worn every day of that time.  So I’m working on the fact that they’re not fit for sale.

I’ve been back in touch with Cat Boots, and returning the boots to Cat this week. We’ll see what they have to say about them.

Mind you, if Cat don’t come back to me satisfactorily, I’ve also still got Section 75 to fall back on – and I’ve already checked with the card company, and got all the documentation and photos I need – so I can go that route instead. Either way, it’ll work out fine from my perspective. Probably less so from Cat’s perspective, but well, we’ll see.

On Being A Cretin

With life taking several turns over the last year, I’d given up a bit on going to the gym.  OK, I’d given up on it a lot. So I’d put my membership on hiatus, paying a small maintenance fee rather than the full monthly amount. (Because while I’m definitely an idiot, as will be shown shortly, I’m not a complete idiot)   It meant I wouldn’t have to pay a re-joining fee etc., and could reactivate things really easily once I was back to being in the mood for it.

Last month, I decided I wanted to get back to going.  Again, a number of reasons, but mainly just realising I wanted to do more, as well as some preparation for my idiot event in September – of which more later.

So I went to the PureGym website, logged in, and reactivated my membership.  Oddly, I had to pay a joining fee again, but I thought I’d just not read the terms and conditions properly, and it’s not a huge amount, so there we go. The proper payment comes out of my bank about a week later, and all good. Job done, I’m going back to the gym from June 1st.

Come June 1st, I look at my bank account, and there’s that maintenance charge again.  Weird.  Maybe it’s connected to that billing cock-up where I paid a joining fee.

So I call PureGym, to try and find what’s going on.  They tell me that the Direct Debit reference I’ve given them isn’t connecting to any of their records, so they’ll need more information from the bank, to know where that DD started, where it’s going etc.   Annoying, but indicative that a significant cock-up has occurred.

I ring the bank, and speak to someone there.  Let’s cancel that under the DD guarantee, here’s the details, it’s a Direct Debit for The Gym…   And a light goes on in my head.   I’m a cretin.

For whatever reason, I’ve got “PureGym” in my head as the one I’m going to. (And it’s one I was a member of, in two different locations)  Only that’s not the one I’m using. I’m using “The Gym”, and that’s where the maintenance payment’s come from. So I’ve re-joined a gym I don’t want, and not restarted the membership of the gym I do want.   For fuck’s sake.

The lady at the bank (having laughed) reinstated the DD for the Gym, and re-paid the money to them that’d gone out that day.  Then I went back to PureGym, explained that I’m a complete idiot, what had happened, and asked if it was possible to get my money and joining fee back from them.  No problem if not, we’d class it as an idiot tax, but if possible it’d be great.

And they did. It’s not a standard thing, but I’d not used the gym, it was still on the first full day of “membership”, and – I suspect most importantly – I’d admitted it was entirely my fault, and that I’m a moron.  (It also made them laugh, which is fine)

All told, I got lucky in many ways.  I’m lucky that (in general) my bank are pretty good on this stuff. I’m lucky that both gyms in question are month-to-month ones rather than contracts. I’m lucky that the people in both cases were nice, and obviously far more used to people shouting and swearing, and making out it’s all Their fault.

I’ve not lost anything (except some self-respect) and it’s all worked out.   But man alive, do I feel like an absolute cretin.

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