Diary of a Network Geek

The trials and tribulations of a Certified Novell Engineer who's been stranded in Houston, Texas.

6/19/2020

Money Management

Filed under: Better Living Through Technology,Life Goals,Marginalia and Notes from the Editor — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

I always seem to have more expenses than money.

The other day I was working from home and my wife came to get me in a little bit of a panic. There was a considerable amount of standing water in our back yard and right at the edge of our house. Definitely, not a good sign. She was sure we had a leak and I started to hyperventilate. If you’re a homeowner, you know that problems seem to come in roughly $5000 increments and from the size of the puddle in the yard, this was looking like about a $15,000 problem, at least. Like I said, definitely, not a good sign. Luckily, after calming down and checking the neighbor’s yard, it turned out that they’d just left their hose on over night and the water had run from their driveway to yard. It was gone by the end of the day.
But, that really got me thinking about money. I know that most Americans can’t handle a $400 emergency, much less a $15000 emergency. No one really ever taught me to manage money. I’ve had to learn on my own, which is why I carried so much debt for so long. The irony is that along the way, I started keeping track of everything with Quicken. I used to be able to connect to all my various accounts and reconcile everything easily. They’ve made that a paid service now, and I’m not quite willing to pay for that.
I did see Thursday, that you can now “Track Your Spending with Microsoft’s New ‘Money’ Template for Excel“, which sounds great, until you realize that you have to pay a monthly premium for that, too. And, it’s only good if you have a personal or family subscription to Office 365. My corporate license won’t give me access to the template. The good news is there’s a free alternative that does everything but directly link your bank accounts. You can download it from Vertex 42, The Guide to Excel in Everything, at Free Money Management Template. You’ll have to manually enter and reconcile your accounts, but, for most of us, that’s not that many accounts. And, this is free. No monthly fees. They even have a version for LibreOffice, if you scroll down a bit. In fact, they have quite a collection of free templates.

And, when you get a handle on all your money, if you have any left over, you might consider donating to causes that support a United States of America that is truly free and equal for all of her citizens, like the ACLU or the NAACP Legal Defense Fund or some other civil rights cause that scratches your political itch. Not everyone may be willing to risk their life or incarceration to protest injustice, but a monetary donation can help support those people who are fighting that fight.
Or, if you still can’t afford a straight donation, we can support more minority businesses. There’s a great list of resources for Black freelancers at Freelancers Union that include lists of Black businesses we can support.

And, of course, we can continue to educate ourselves, because it is OUR responsibility to educate ourselves as to the condition of our fellow citizens, not theirs. If you’re not sure where to start, this list from the Chicago Public Library can help. We can read books from lists like that and continue to educate ourselves because this is an issue that we can’t ignore any more, no matter who you are or what you do for a living.

Yes, I’ve posted that last bit a couple times already. With everything going on lately, I thought it bore repeating. Next month, I may highlight some other minority causes. I’d say I’d take suggestions, but I’m afraid of some of the suggestions I might get. The internet isn’t the friendly place it was when I started my blogs!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

11/2/2018

Payment Plans for Flying

Filed under: Better Living Through Technology,Fun — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:05 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

Plan ahead and pay in installments.

Air travel is expensive. There’s just no way around it. In fact, when I had over $50k of credit card debt a few years ago, a lot of that was related to air travel. Before I moved down to Houston from Chicago in 1998, I spent way too much money flying down to see my now ex-wife. And, yes, I’d still say it was too much money to spend even if she weren’t my ex-wife. That debt was crushing.
But, even though I’m remarried, my family is still mostly in Illinois, which means I still need to fly. So far, I’ve managed to do it without going back into consumer debt, but I’m not sure that I’ll be able to keep that up forever. Maybe, though, with the help of Airfordable, we may be able to swing it. Now, full disclosure, at the time of this post, I haven’t actually used the service yet, so all reports about it are anecdotal. What they do is let you buy a ticket well in advance of your flight and then make regular installments until it’s paid off before you actually fly. Obviously, one advantage of this is that you get your ticket price locked in, because, let’s face it, airfare rarely drops in price. And, yes, there is a service fee for doing this, but it’s considerably less than paying all that interest at 15% or more on a credit card. Also, it lets you be sure you have a flight booked for, say, holiday travel, before you may have the money for the entire ticket.

So, let me know, faithful readers, have you used this service or one like it? How did it work for you?
And come back next week for more travel-related posts!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

9/22/2017

Money from Equifax

Filed under: Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Horse which is around lunchtime or 1:10 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

Your credit information has likely been stolen.

As you’ve probably read in the news, or heard on telly, Equifax, one of the three largest U.S. credit bureaus, was hacked earlier this month, exposing over 143 million American’s personal information. And, trust me, no matter how bad it sounds, it is most assuredly worse than you think. What’s more, it seems like this breach was strictly due to negligence on the part of one of their system administrators, who didn’t keep up to date with patches on some of their backend software, leaving them vulnerable to the attack. But, unless you’re a professional geek like me, you probably don’t care about that. Rather, what you care about is what to do next.

Luckily, Consumer Reports has some suggestions on how to respond to the breach of your personal data, and they’re pretty good suggestions. Thankfully, since my wife and I recently refinanced our house to get out of most of our consumer debt, I have some credit monitoring already in place. If you don’t though, now is a good time to get that going. And, as always, it’s best to keep a close eye on your credit reports and bank accounts regularly. Breach or no breach, that’s just a good habit to get into these days. Identity theft is big business in the digital underworld. It’s unfortunately a “growth business”.

But, none of those are the links I’m really intent on sharing with you this week. No, this week, the very important link I have for you is via Boing Boing and it’s a chatbot that will help you sue Equifax for your loss of privacy and personal data. It’s not available for all states yet, just the ones that have class-action lawsuits filed already, but I’m sure more states will be “piling on”, as we used to say in Chicago, in the coming months. Also, the app is being hit pretty hard, as you can imagine with almost 45% of all U.S. Citizens potentially being effected by this breach. There are a lot of people that might be trying to use this chatbot!

So, hang in there and good luck! And, come back next week for something a little lighter to take your mind off the financial trouble of almost half the U.S.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.

5/6/2009

Review: You’re Not Fooling Anyone When You Bring Your Laptop To A Coffee Shop

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Art,Review,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:20 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

So, last week I finished You’re Not Fooling Anyone When You Bring Your Laptop To A Coffee Shop by John Scalzi.

I’ve been a frustrated writer since I can remember.
I’ve read more books on writing than most people even realize have been published! But, this book was different. Most writing books focus on the techniques of writing, dispensing all sorts of marginally useful advice, but Scalzi has some different advice for hopeful writers. He talks mainly about the nitty gritty that the other books leave out. For one thing, he talks about giving up the idea that one should only write “art” pieces. He talks about approaching writing like any other job. It makes sense, really, when you think about it. I mean, if you want to make a living at writing, then you have to write regularly, just like you’d work at any other job. You work regularly to get paid regularly.

Mostly, the advice is hard-nosed and drawn from his own years as a full-time, professional writer. Also, the sections are drawn from his blog, the Whatever and many are answers to questions from readers of that blog. Granted, he’s edited many of the original blog entries for the book, but I honestly don’t care that it’s mostly duplicated material I could get from the web. I find reading it from a book, an actual, bound book, far easier than trying to chase it all down on his blog. It was well worth the price.

I can’t recommend this book to most of my readers, but if you’re an aspiring writer and are tired of reading the same well-worn advice about how to write, You’re Not Fooling Anyone When You Bring Your Laptop To A Coffee Shop may be just the book you’ve been looking for. It won’t tell you much about how to write, but it will give you invaluable advice about the writing life and how to make a living at it.


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"A day hemmed in prayer is less likely to unravel."

11/14/2008

Earning Power Vs. Freedom

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Bavarian Death Cake of Love,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Life Goals,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:46 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Right, I need to keep this all in mind.

So, as my regular readers know, I’m technically back in the dating world. I say that, “technically”, because, honestly, I haven’t been trying very hard at it. I’m still really recovering from chemo and trying to get my life back on track, which, rightly or wrongly, I feel I need to do before I’ll be ready to date. Naturally, for me, part of straightening out my life revolves around money, or the lack thereof.
See, back when I was out of work for a year, to keep the house and my erstwhile family together, I took a rather substantial pay cut. Now, I’ll grant you, I also didn’t work as hard, or as long, which was fine at the time, since I actually liked spending time with my family, especially my step-daughter. I liked being dad, even if I was one of two and only his “stunt double” most of the time. But, the thing is, I made a trade-off. I decided it was better to not have quite as much money so that I could have more quality time with friends and family. Only, sometime between that decision and now, during the divorce or chemo most likely, I lost sight of that. Until I read this article on MSN about dating a woman who makes more than you.

Sure, the average female lawyer or doctor earns vastly more than I do, but she also has to slave away for 80- or 100-hour weeks, whereas I can achieve my modest income with just a few hours of writing a day. Often, the result is that I’m desirous of her attention, while she’s envious of my ability to kick back on a lazy summer weekday afternoon and do absolutely nothing.

Wow.
I read that and re-read it. Then, it occurred to me just how unhappy I really was when I was “doing well” financially. I was so miserable and grouchy and stressed and … Well, let’s just say I wasn’t any fun to be around anyway, so I might as well have been at work where at least I might do some good.

The only thing is, with medical bills stacking up, I really started feeling the pressure and getting stressed and grouchy and miserable all over again. So, I really need to enjoy that I don’t work every weekend any more, or eleven-hour days. And, I need to not waste that time suckling at the glass teat, either. Geez, I have so many books to read that they’re piling up! Not to mention all the stuff I have to write.

Heh, maybe God really was doing me a favor when He forcibly slowed my life down and curtailed a lot of my spending.


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"It pays to be obvious, especially if you have a reputation for subtlety."
   --Issac Asimov

5/8/2008

Make Money While You Sleep!

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Fun Work,Geek Work,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:13 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

I have a dream.

I want to make money, without selling, day and night.
Basically, I dream of what everyone who’s ever done any freelance programming or creative work of any kind dreams of doing. I want to have a product, or automated service, that people pay for and that I don’t have to keep after all the time. Originally, I thought I might manage that with a couple of really killer books, but, at the rate I’m going, that’s a long way off, at best. Then, I thought I’d found it with the plugins I’d written for WordPress, but, alas, it was not to be. It still might happen with some really good themes for WordPress, but, honestly, I doubt it.
But, if you dream of that, too, then check out Creating Passive Income for Freelancers over at FreelanceSwitch. And, for a larger, less specific look, see The Global Microbrand.
This is my dream.


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