D4D

Writing for the Slash and Burn crowd

Archive for the category “Finances”

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.

What’s The Plan?

And here we are, at the start of 2017. Didn’t that come round quickly?

As with previous years, I don’t really make resolutions. It’s all pretty arbitrary, the whole resolutions thing, so I usually choose to make plans from one birthday to the next, rather than the whole “January 1st is for new starts” cobblers.

This year, I’ve got some plans for 2017 as a whole though – although they’re not much different to what I’d laid out back in November.  However, in my head, I’ve laid some of these down as being “this year” instead. I don’t quite know why, but it’ll work for me.

So – what are they?  Well, in no particular order…

  • Finances
    • Add a significant amount into the savings
  • Work
    • Figure out what comes next after the current contract (I’m sure that’ll happen at some point in the coming year)
    • Learn some new stuff, because why not?
    • Launch at least one of the projects that’ve been in my head for way too long
  • Writing
    • Complete at least one of the screenplay ideas I’ve started in 2016
    • and then figure out what the hell to do with it/them
    • Complete a book idea I’ve got, and publish it (for Kindle)
  • Health
    • Lose weight (I’ve put some on over the Festering Season, and want to lose that, plus a bit more)
    • Do some training/practice walks for that walking marathon in September
    • and then complete it on the day

And really that’s it. There might be a couple of other projects along the way, but that’s the main objectives, all in one place.

Whether or not they happen, I don’t know. (Obviously, as we’re only on Day One)  But I’m going to give it a damn good go.

 

2016/17 – What’s Next? The Coming Year

As usual, following on from my posts about what’s happened over the last year, it’s time to think about – and write about – what I want to do over the coming year.

Similar to last year, I’m going to keep it fairly simple and open, rather than being too detailed. I’ve got better details in my head, but they’re not going to be written down.

The basic goals are going to be :

  1. Continue rebuilding the finances, and keep boosting the savings
  2. Exercise, improve health, lose weight
  3. Complete September’s walking marathon – ideally in under seven hours. (My target is more ambitious than that, but I’ll be happy with 7 hours)
  4. Write more. (And ideally complete/publish some)
  5. Do more of the ideas around my own business
  6. Get out less.  Ideally, some kind of middle-ground between being ultra-quiet/sensible, and the idiocy of the last year
  7. Look more at some political ideas, and see how that goes. (This one’s the random ‘maybe’ one, I don’ tknow if anything will happen with it or not)

I could go into more detail – although that’s handled more in my notebook of to-do lists and ideas – but for now this’ll cover things.

On first viewings, it should be an interesting year.

 

Replacement Card

On Friday evening, while I was out for a meal, I paid using the card for one of my Barclays accounts.  That transaction, while all went OK, had traits that felt… odd. Wrong. Or at least just Not Quite Right.

So I called the bank straight after, and cancelled the card with immediate effect. That took a bit of explanation, as “I want to cancel the card from right now, no more transactions” apparently still needs discussion, and a whole bit of scripted text from the bank about “With the card cancelled, you won’t be able to use it”. (Well yeah, that’s why I’ve cancelled the cocking thing.)  But I assume they’ve had to deal with morons in the past who’ve cancelled the card and then complained they couldn’t use it for something.

Anyway, they told me my replacement card would be sent out as soon as possible, and all that jazz – all fine, I’m just happier knowing that I’ve handled it to the best of my abilities, should that transaction have turned out to be as dodgy as it felt like it could’ve been.

When I got home last night, there was the new card.

And I can’t deny, I’m impressed with that – a card that’s been requested in the late evening (10pm-ish) on a Friday, and is delivered on the Monday? Not bad going at all.

While Barclays have their moments of driving me absolutely crackers – and that’s still going through the Financial Ombudsman, so I assume Barclays are being dicks with the Ombudsman as well – I can’t deny that some of their systems are also pretty bloody good.

[Updated to mention : Having looked back, it turns out it’s not the first time I’ve been impressed by this replacement card system]

EE’s broken payments

As I wrote yesterday, I ended up having some major issues with the cottage’s already-installed 3G Dongle through EE.

Basically, it’s either not been used for a while, or the previous people ran the account into the ground – there’s absolutely no credit or data available on it.  That’s OK, you can connect to EE still and add a credit.  Or at least you should be able to.

Basically, the device is set up so that it can still connect to ee.co.uk , and that doesn’t come out of the data allowance. All’s well and good. But. Ah, but.

The thing is, when it comes to processing payments, the processing isn’t all done on ee.co.uk.  It also goes off to get the 3D secure (also known as “Verified by Visa” or “Mastercard [something]“) from the relevant bank.  Only that’s from a different (and thus not-allowed) domain outside of EE, and because there’s no data allowance, the connection is refused, and the credit transaction fails.

All you get to see on screen is “An error occurred” with “Try again”.  Which is… unhelpful.

What’s more unhelpful is that EE’s transaction system has pre-authorised the amount you’ve topped up by. So the funds are then locked by your bank. They’ll be released when the transaction doesn’t complete – but it can take two to three working weeks for that to happen, because banks are paranoid and slow and shit.  And EE are just shit, because their failed transaction doesn’t release those funds.

Even better, you can’t then offer feedback or contact EE. Because – yes! – all the online feedback is done through a third party, and goes off to a different domain.

So you’re basically left with no data, no top-up, locked funds, and no way to contact EE to tell them so.

Even worse, I suspect it’s only because I’m a techie that I understand it this much – for Joe Public it’d just be “it’s broken, and EE are shit”.  (Which isn’t something I could argue with either, but at least I can understand why it’s broken!)  It’s a simple scenario, but one I’m willing to bet they’ve never tested, going on the assumption that people would top up before they ran out completely, etc. etc.

I’ve written to them to explain the same situation, so it’ll be interesting to see what they come back with (if anything)

An Expensive Week – finale

Collecting the new (to me) Kia Ceed yesterday, it made me think again about how much things have changed over the last few years. Back when I had to get the Saab, I was mid-bankruptcy, and the available funds were super-tight.  I got lucky with the Saab – very lucky, in fact – and in some ways I needed to get that lucky.

This time round, while things haven’t been perfect, I’ve been able to do much better. I’ve moved a fixed amount from savings to bank account, and worked within that larger-but-not-huge budget to get the Kia. I could’ve taken out more, but didn’t want to drain the savings entirely. I could’ve spent more from the budget, not bothered with the maintenance/parts warranty. I didn’t want to, but I could’ve done. I had options.

I hope that the Kia will last me a couple of years. I’ll spend that time rebuilding savings and so on, and hopefully be in a better place again when it comes times to replace it. By then I should be OK to look at sorting out a finance agreement, rather than paying outright, which will be another step in the rebuilding process.

A lot has changed in the three-and-a-half years I’ve had the Saab. A lot more will change during the expected lifetime of the new one. And that’s nothing but good.

An Expensive Week

As usual when things go quiet round here, it’s been a busy week – and an expensive one.  If this is the aftermath of holidays, I’m going to have reservations about taking them again.

While I was away, the Saab was (again) in the garage, getting a winter service, as well as checking out a couple of weird issues that only occur when it’s been standing for a couple of days (and thus are hard to get to happen once you’ve driven the sodding thing to the garage)  I’d hired a car to do the driving for the holiday, which was an expected expense.

On Tuesday, I dropped off the car at the hire company, collected the Saab from the garage, and drove into town to work for the rest of the day. All fine. When I drove it home afterwards though, the oil light came on, and the engine started sounding unwell. Bugger. With no back-up plan, it meant I had to sort out getting the car recovered back to the Saab garage, then collecting a new hire car, and doing it all in time to collect friends I was taking to a charity quiz night.  So, no pressure.

As it happened, it all worked out – the recovery wagon turned up earlier than expected, we got to the garage, and the car-hire guys met me there, to take me to the hire place, so I could collect the car and then collect everyone. Pretty stressful all round, and a lot of juggling and keeping people informed of what was happening, but it all came together.

By the end of it, we even came second on the quiz!

It’s made for an expensive post-holiday week though.  Paying for a new hire car, and whatever work the car needs etc. etc.  Oh, and then of course my Fitbit decided to fall apart as well – because why not, when everything else is doing the same?

Just one of those weeks.

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