Wednesday, July 22, 2015

AT&T Billing Issues with U-Verse Internet

I have been using AT&T U-verse internet for several years now, and overall the service has been pretty reliable in terms of the connection, but billing on the other hand has been a different story. I have already written about my previous issues I have had with the billing on past blogs but of course, this year brings new billing problems.

So my yearly promotional rate was coming to and end so I figured I would call up AT&T to see if I could get a new promotional rate or if they have an new deals going on. After talking with the first person and discussing the different plans, I was able to get the bill down to about the same rate as the previous year by going with a slower plan and getting a new yearly promotion. I agreed to have the plan switched and they explained how it would go into effect and the next bill would show the lowered amount.

A month goes by and I receive the new bill. Guess what? It did not show the change in plan and it did not have the promotion applied.  So I called them up again to figure out what was going on. They said that for some reason it was not applied. I had to talk with more reps at AT&T and eventually they were able to apply the change for the plan that was supposed to happen a month ago.

Meanwhile because the plan did not change when I called a month before, I ended up getting charged a much higher amount that I should have. I called a 3rd time to see if I could get a credit for this additional charge because the plan had not been changed before when I had asked. They said that because I had the higher plan that month that I was not eligible for the lower rate.

I understand they want to charge that amount because it is the rate I had, but the problem is, it was their responsibility to change the plan when I had called the first time. So I had to pay about twice as much as I should have had to pay for the last month.  Now the plan is supposedly switched to the new lower rate with a new promotion so hopefully it will be reflected in the next bill.

I would like to stay with AT&T internet but with the ongoing problems with the billing, the new Xfinity promotions are looking more and more appealing. 

Update 7-30-15: The new bill came in and there was a $25 credit applied. It was not clear exactly what the credit was for, but it looks like it is some kind of prorated amount from overpaying on the previous bill. It is nice to get this credit considering the overcharges from the previous bills. 

Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Fort Story

We as kids had a lot of fun on our block, whether we were playing sports, video games, or trading cards, we always had a good time. One summer, some new townhouses were being built on the lot next to our block. Since we were curious, we would jump the fence and play on the dirt hills and partially built houses when the builders were not there.

They happened to have a lot of spare wood and nails lying around and this got us thinking. Maybe we could use this extra wood and nails to build something of our own. We had tools so we decided to build a fort. Surprisingly, one of the kid's parents allowed us to build it in their back yard. We had the green light!

So like ants, we methodically began bringing planks of wood and 2x4's from the build site, over to our friend's back yard. All the kids on the block were involved. We were out there with our hammers, nailing wood together as we constructed our fort. It was a serious project that took several weeks of daily work to complete.

By the time we were done we had a nice sturdy structure with 3 small rooms, and a 2nd level. We even got carpet in there and a small couch! We were so proud of our accomplishment. We would hang out there and play in the fort every day.

It lasted a long time. I remember when winter came along it was still there. One day I came home from school and forgot my key, so I couldn't get in for about a hour until my mom came home. I was able to use the fort as shelter that day.

Over the months, the fort started to deteriorate. Nails were starting to stick out and it became dangerous. Also, someone must have complained about it to the police so we were instructed to take it down because we didn't have a building permit.

We took it apart and disposed of the wood. All that was left was an area of dead grass and mud in the middle of our neighbor's back yard. Eventually it grew in and all traces of the fort were gone but the memories of the fort will not be forgotten!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

2015 Womens World Cup Review and US Womens Team

Soccer has never been as popular in the US as it is around the world, but it seems to be gaining popularity as of late. I recently began to appreciate the sport with the men's World Cup last year.  It was a lot of fun to see all the different countries competing against each other in the same game. The fact that it is teams from all over the world competing together makes it more interesting than just watching a competition between teams of the same country. Even though the US did not get too far in the tournament, it was still fun to watch.

Which brings us to the 2015 Women's World Cup. Historically the women's US team has done well in this tournament and this year is no different as they have been doing great!  I have been watching the games this year, not only the US games but other teams as well. I find the women's World Cup to be just as much fun to watch as the men's World Cup. The US team has a lot of great players and personalities which makes them easy to cheer for.

Yesterday they played the number 1 ranked German team.  It was a great game with a lot of dramatic moments. It was a close match but the US team managed to pull off a 2-0 win to move on to the final game! They play the winner of Japan / England who are playing today in the semi finals.  Here are some highlights from the match:

The final game will take place this Sunday at 7pm eastern on Fox. I will be watching and I highly recommend everyone check it out as it should be a good game and the US team has the opportunity to win the World Cup!

Update 7-5-15: Congratulations US Women's Team World Cup Champions! 

Monday, June 22, 2015

Sleep On It - Tip For Making Wise Decisions

Any time you are thinking about making a decision that may have any significant impact on yourself or others, it is always a good idea to "sleep on it" or wait on your decision until the next day. This is a good idea in most cases because it gives you a little time to process it and makes sure you do not make an impulsive decision.

Often when you are in the moment, you may feel very strongly about something and you feel very passionate about it and want to go through with it right away. While this is ok and you may be able to get some good ideas together, you may end up making a rash decision that you will regret later.

A good example is if you are going to send an important email to someone. It might be for work or personal and you might have a strong opinion on something that you want to express to another person. Often a message like this can cause issues between people especially if they have a different opinion.

If you hold off on sending it and wait until the next day, often you will find the next day you feel differently and might not even want to send the message anymore. The next day, you will be in a fresh state of mind and will not be caught up in the heat of things so you are able to take more of an outsiders perspective and make a better decision.

Of course there are times when even after you sleep on something, you still feel the same way the next day. In this case, it reinforces your decision or thoughts so you know you are on the right track and not just making an impulsive decision.

Next time you are thinking about doing something spur of the moment that may have a big effect on yourself or someone else, be sure to give it a little time to make sure it is the right decision.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Estimated Taxes and Penalty Fees - Quarterly Payments on Income Taxes

I am very good about income taxes and each year I file my taxes well before the deadline. Usually it is a long process but you just have to take it step by step and make sure everything is correct and complete. Over the years I have never had any issues, except for recently when I received a notice for a Late Estimated Payment Penalty.

When I saw this, I was confused and figured it must be an error because I know I filled the taxes well before the deadline. So I called them up and talked with one of the reps who checked on it. She explained that since I had owed over $500 on the previous years taxes, that I was expected to pay the income tax in quarterly payments throughout the year.

This was the first I had heard about this. Up until this point, I had never been in the situation that required taxes to be paid ahead of time throughout the year. I learned that if you are self employed and do not have taxes withheld during the year by an employer, you are required to pay the estimated amount 4 times throughout the year.

The rep recommended that I write to the Department of Revenue to ask for an elimination of the penalty due to the fact that I had no idea about this policy until I received the notice of late penalty. So I wrote to them and sent in the payment just in case they would not excuse it. I am currently waiting to see what happens and will update this entry with the results.

I don't mind paying the estimated income tax payments throughout the year, but I think they need to make it more clear or let you know ahead of time if you are required to do this rather than sending you a late fee 6 months later. I also wonder why they expect people to submit payment 4 times a year, but they only give refunds once a year. It does not seem fair in this case.

Anyway so I took the time to set up the online payments for state as well as federal income tax. It definitely took some research just to figure out how to set it up to make the payments. I got the state set up and enrolled for the federal which takes longer to verify.

It is more inconvenient now to have to keep track of 8 extra payments throughout the year but at least when the April tax date comes around things should be pretty even with the estimated payments already submitted.

Anyone else get this Late Estimated Payment Fee unexpectedly? Should people who are self employed have to pay income taxed throughout the year? Feel free to share any comments below.

Update 6-22-15: So they didn't waste any time cashing the check I sent them in case they would not excuse the late penalty.  I'm not too pleased about that. Hopefully they at least respond to the letter and give an explanation as why it was not excused. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Be Careful With Internet Jobs and Start Up Companies

A few years back I found a website where you could earn money by answering questions. People would post questions and assign a dollar amount to them. Then others would submit answers and the person who gave the best answer would be awarded the money for that question. It was a fun way to earn a little money online.

Shortly after, the site began to develop another completely different idea which was basically a Wikipedia but with more images, videos, links etc. To develop this site, they asked the community to write articles and put together content for it. They picked out the popular subjects and paid people to write up articles for these topics. Users would be paid a fixed amount to write the page and then they would earn a percentage of the ad income generated from that page as long as they were the manager of that page and kept it in good shape.

Quickly everyone figured out which kind of pages made the most money and everyone scrambled to pick them up and claim them as their own. I was in on this whole project early on so I was able to get many good pages and continue to accumulate high earning pages.

Within about a year I was making some good money and it was pretty much passive income because once you had the pages, there was not much you had to do to keep them updated. The community was thriving and everyone was seeing a lot of earnings.

Then after about a year, we got some bad news. The company decided they were going to stop paying the percentage of the earnings to the people who wrote and managed the pages. This was very controversial because in the contract it was explained that once you wrote a page and managed it, you would be given a percentage of the earnings throughout the lifetime of that page.

So all of us who had written these pages expecting continued income were completely thrown for a loop. We went from making a lot of passive income each month to making nothing. The company said they were going to discontinue the profit sharing model and instead pay an up front flat fee for articles written. That would have been ok if they honored the previous agreement up to that point but they did not.

This caused an uproar and most people who were loyal to the website picked up and left. There was even a pending lawsuit in the works for how the site did not honor the agreement it said it would for the writers but ultimately nothing materialized out of it.

Shortly after that, Google made some big changes to their search engine to try to weed out sites which were kind of spammy which the site had kind of become with articles that were just written in order to make money from ads. The site took a big hit from this and their page rankings dropped as a result.

I moved onto another writing website which was ok for a while but nowhere near as good. It is a shame things did not work out, but this is a common occurrence with internet companies when money is involved. Circumstances can change overnight so you have to be careful not to get too invested in just one project or company.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Briefcase on CBS Review

A new show called The Briefcase aired Wednesday this week. It is a reality show where 2 struggling families are each presented with a briefcase containing $100,000. They have 72 hours to decided if they will keep all the money for themselves, give it all to the other family or split it up some way between them. What is interesting is neither family knows the other was also presented a briefcase with the money and is in the same situation deciding what they will do with the money.

Over the course of 3 days they learn more about the other families and what they are going though. They even visit the home of the other family to see how they live. It is a huge decision the families have to make and there are a lot of reasons pulling them back and forth on whether they should keep the money for themselves or give it to the other family in need.

After watching the first episode, I found it to be enjoyable and full of emotion as the families try to do the right thing. It makes you ponder what you would do if you were in the same situation as them. The first instinct might be to keep the money because you don't know the other family's situation but as you learn that they are also in need, you don't want to be greedy especially if they could use the money more.

I won't spoil the end result but is sure will be interesting to see how all the episodes pan out. For example what if one family decides to keep it all while the other family decides to give it all. Then one family would get $200,000 while the other would get $0. I can imagine that might cause a little drama at the end if something like that were to happen!

If I were in the situation, I might split the money and keep $50,000 and give the other $50,000 away. It seems like it would be the most fair thing to do in a situation like that. Of course you never know if there would be some kind of twist with a show like this. For example, what if at the end of the show, the producers said something like, because you choose to give it all to the other family, you are rewarded with twice as much? This show does not do this, but you could easily see them working in a twist like that.

What would you do if you were presented with $100,000 and given the choice of keeping it all for yourself or sharing it with another family in need?