Saturday, February 9, 2008

Something I Learned Today

I am sure all of us are familiar with the concept of balance transfers. However, what if you are a person who is extremely diligent in seeing to it that there are not balances on your credit card ? How can this apply to you ?

I came across a credit card related post today - 3 Steps to Take When Credit Card Companies Raise Your Rates. It got me thinking about something. I am currently in a situation where I am repaying a high interest rate loan and am looking at options to refinance it. There are many more variables to the equation and a simple yes or no might not necessarily be the answer. But in my quest to find alternate ways to repay the loan, I have been talking to various banks and trying to see what they have to offer. I have also been looking at new credit cards with 0% APR. Something that I did not look into till now was my own credit card.

I do not keep any balance on my credit card and treat it pretty much like a debit card, paying it off as soon as I use it. I am sure they look at me as a valued customer. I could use this to my advantage. I called up my company and mentioned that I was considering taking a loan. As soon as I mentioned this, they got extremely excited. They told me that the rates vary on a day to day basis but today I qualify for a 1% loan for six months and 4% loan for 12 months for an amount equal to my credit limit.

I said I would call them later. I am sure that if I had continued talking and expressed my concern in borrowing the money, they would have further reduced the interest rate.

I personally still need to decide if this is the best option for me. However, the point I wanted to make was that before you consider transferring the balances on your existing credit card onto another card with a lower rate or before taking a loan, talk to your existing credit card company and see what they have to offer. You might end up with nothing or you might strike gold. But what do you have to lose other than 10 minutes talk time.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Politeness Saves the Day ($12)

Wednesday - February 6th 2008

Not a particularly pleasant day at work. I return home in a bit of a grumpy mood. I do the habitual round to the mailbox to pick up my mail and raised an eyebrow at the letter I received from the local library. What was it? I was informed that a book I had borrowed a couple of weeks back - "Blogging for Dummies by Brad Hill" had been damaged and I owed a fine of $24. $24 !!!

My first reaction was that of infuriation. The book already had water-damage on it when I borrowed it. And now I felt I was being penalized for someone else's fault. Besides, it was selling on the internet for $10 (including shipping). Why did they want $24 ?

I immediately drove to the library. I picked up another book and went to the circulation desk. There a kind lady and a not so kind gentleman first informed me that I had a fine and then refused to let me see the damaged book. What's more, they did not even let me check out the book I wanted to borrow. Did I mention that I was fuming through all this ? I was not rude, but I sure as hell was not at my polite best. I took down the number of the library supervisor and then decided to bring up the matter with her the next day.

On my way back home I decided to go over the day's happenings in my head. Some self reflection revealed that I could definitely have handled the situation in a much more calm and informed fashion. Also, I thought about the book. Its not the best book in the world, but it certainly does hold some good tips for amateur bloggers.

Mrs.Micah works at a library and told me that bringing up the case with the supervisor could help me either reduce the fine or get rid of it altogether. Either that or I could just replace the book.

But I saw that all this would need one important ingredient from me - politeness.

Thursday - February 7th 2008

I call the supervisor around 10a.m. I try not to sound defensive and be as polite as possible. I explain my case. I guess she was initially prepared for a stormy conversation. But my calm demeanor took her by surprise. She was a nice lady and saw my point of view. I offered to replace the copy of the book and asked if I could still borrow books while I get the other copy. She agreed to this and to the fact that I could have the damaged copy for myself. She mentioned that there is no clause that states I cannot borrow books with a fine on my account. On learning that I was denied this service last evening, she apologized profusely and said this would not happen again.

I return home and buy the book for $10 on Amazon. I will have to pay $2 processing fees. But in my mind, it was a fair enough deal.

Did I want to buy a damaged copy of the book for myself ? No.
Could I have been more aggressive and gotten them to pardon the entire fine? Possibly.
But the way I see it, I saved $12 off the original $24 fine. Plus, I have a copy of the book.

Lesson learnt - Stuff happens in life sometimes and the outcome may not always be one in your favour. But the important point is to handle it with a calm head. Rudeness and anger can only make it worse.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Debt Trauma & Money Secrets

All right, not exactly trauma. But slight frustration at least.

Since New Year's, I've been diligently curbing my expenditures. I have totally cut down on entertainment expenses. And I have been dealing with it quite well.

Yet, sometimes, like today, I read articles like this and revisit my finances. They are in good shape. But the road ahead is long. And the fact that you have the resources to splurge in the short term but are purposefully curbing your expenses, though rewarding most of the times, sometimes really gets to you. Its at times like this when one really needs to be careful not to give in and run out of the door to the mall across one's house and buy that new Xbox 360 that everyone at work has been raving about and a few months later sell it at a loss (yeah, I am still trying to get over it :) ). And I am glad that this time, I did not give in. Its amazing how family and friends can take your mind off your worries for a while.

Anyways, now that that (notice that 'that that') episode is over, lets take a look at some of the finer things in life. One of which (and probably the most important) is humor.

In an era when there is a new self-help financial book out every week, why should Dave Barry be left behind? He comes out with this spoof on self help financial books called Dave Barry's Money Secrets - Like why is there a giant eyeball on the dollar.

I have always admired Barry's humor from the days of Dave' World. However, the first time I actually picked up one of his books was a few months back at the library. I had nothing better to do on a saturday afternoon and decided I should pay the library a visit. This book looked interesting, but 5 minutes into it, and I was laughing so loudly, I was given the usual polite "frown" one gets for being overtly expressive of one's emotions at the local public library.

I just wanted to introduce you to it. For a detailed review, look here. On the whole, its a good book to pick up when you are feeling down. It sincerely introduces you to the lighter side of money, revealing the truths about how you actually can become rich doing nothing. Of course, following his advice can have interesting consequences... did I mention this was a spoof ?

I would buy it, but it definitely is worth a read. But not in a library. Seriously. The middle-aged librarian's cold eyes looking at me through those horn-rimmed glasses still haunt me.

Have fun reading it and let me know if you liked it.