A series of raises

The base price my husband and I pay for internet and phone service hasn’t changed in the last 2 years, but my Frontier bill has been slowly raising. In April 2012, my bill totaled $65, and stayed within a dollar of that the next 16 months.  But before I knew it my bill was just shy of $69. I had to look at the details to figure out why my bill increased by 5% in the last 8 months.

Frontier BillsWhat I Paid for Internet & Phone Service

The Carrier Cost Recovery Surcharge increased by 50 cents on April 1 and the taxes went up by $.22 as well.  What is this surcharge?  It’s a fee charged by Frontier on their long distance plan to “recover various costs, including administration costs for the Universal Service Fund for Telecommunications Relay service, regulatory filing expenses and compliance items.”  In other words, it’s a way for Frontier to increase their charges even though I’ve got a locked in rate.

Another big jump was in the December 2013 bill, when the Gross Revenue Surcharge and NY State Sales Tax went from $1.55 to $2.69 (+74%) without any explanation on my bill.   This was after my bill jumped $1.22 in September.  Unfortunately I don’t have the details to see what changed.

So while my rate hasn’t changed my bill continues to rise.  Fees and surcharges are ways for businesses and the government to get more of your money without advertising an increase in rates or taxes.  While I can’t do anything about these charges I want to be aware of these unadvertised price increases so I can catch changes that might be within my own control.


Disconnect and refresh

For me the bad winter weather was a blessing in disguise.  I holed up for long periods compared to the past two mild winters.  I took the opportunity to spend time doing things I don’t always have the time to do. Or I should say, I don’t make the time to do.

After dinner, I get my stuff ready for the next day, packing clothing or lunches, and get settled into comfortable clothes.  Then I settle down to read email, watch some TV and surf the internet, and before you know it I’ve spent my entire evening with the electronics in my life.  I know that once I get into this mode I won’t do anything else for the rest of the night, so sometimes I try to delay sitting down.

With the extra time spent at home, I made a conscious effort to avoid the TV, my laptop and Kindle Fire.  I spent a lot of time reading (17 books to date this year: 7 audiobooks, 1 ebook & 9 physical books) and have even had time to sit down at my piano and play for an hour here or there (I was actually only able to really get to my piano about 6 months ago-that’s a story for another day) or sit down for a quick song once in a while. I’ve done a lot more cooking and baking.  My current favorite recipe is Ina Garten’s Raspberry Crumble Bars, which has been a hit with everyone’s who has tried it.  My co-workers love it when I bring goodies to work to share.  And I’ve spent full days with friends scrap-booking and catching up.

Time spent “off the grid” has refreshed and rejuvenated me.  I’m thankful for the extra time to do things I enjoy and need to make it a point to continue to do so.

How do you make sure your life isn’t completely consumed by the devices in your life?

14 and counting

As readers of my blog know I am a dedicated blood donor.  I am following in the footsteps of my mom who continues to donate today.  A few years ago I issued a challenge on my blog to try to motivate new people to donate.  Unfortunately the challenge was an epic fail, but I would still like to motivate people to consider donating.

This past Friday I reached the 14 gallon mark, or 112 pints. I’m proud of reaching that mark, but still have a long way to go to catch up to my mom.  Consider the following:

  • One pint of blood can save 3 lives
  • Five million US patients need blood every year
  • Less than 38% of the population is eligible to give blood
  • Blood cannot be manufactured, it can only be collected from donors

These are some of the best reasons to consider donating.  See the American Red Cross site for more facts about blood and the donation process. You can schedule an appointment right on their website.  I was able to donate my latest pint in the parking lot of my local Family Video store; it can’t get any more convenient than that (well actually having them come to your workplace is the most convenient). Consider becoming a hero.

Be a Hero. Donate today.


Save the dates

Western New Yorkers make the most of the warmer weather to celebrate life.  There are so many events that go on there’s no way to go to every event but every year I try to make it to some new event for a change of pace.  I’m already starting to hear about upcoming events I’d like to attend and offer for your consideration.

Here’s a calendar of entertaining options to get you out and about, many are free and most are reasonably priced.  Almost all involve music and eating, two of my favorite things.  If you live in Buffalo consider hopping on the thruway to Rochester, it’s only an hour away. Likewise for you Rochesterians.

Best Busker Contest – May 1 – Rochester – listen to street performers and vote for your favorite, local bars and restaurants feature specials – FREE

Lilac FestivalMay 9-18 – Rochester

Rochester Contemporary Art Center 6×6 Show – Works on display June 7 – July 20 – all works are sold for $20 as a fundraiser for the art center – my daughter is submitting this oil and ink piece – $1 (free for members)

Painting Kendra did for the 6x6 show in April 2014Allentown Art Festival – June 14-15 – Buffalo

Artpark Tuesday in the Park and Wednesday concerts – June through August – Lewiston – acts like Boston, Hall & Oates, Sublime, Widespread Panic have been announced so far – advance purchase tickets run $7-12

Party in the Park – Thursdays June through August – Rochester – performers are TBA

Cornhill Arts Festival - July 12-13 – Rochester

Buffalo Garden Walk – July 26-27 – Buffalo – it’s amazing what people do with their backyards and gardens in the city of Buffalo – the banner picture on my blog was taken in the backyard of a Buffalo house – FREE

Finger Lakes Riesling Festival – August 9-10 – Canandaigua

Wingfest – August 30-31 – Buffalo – this is the only event listed that I’ve never been to

Memorial Art Gallery Clothesline Festival - September 6-7 – Rochester

Rochester Fringe Festival - September – 18-27 – Rochester

What are your favorite warm weather events in western NY?


Renew or drop?

I’ve been a Democrat and Chronicle subscriber for as long as I can remember.  These days I only receive the Saturday and Sunday papers because I don’t have the time to read more than that.

In the fall, the paper expanded their coverage by including content from sister publication USA Today and increasing the level of state news.  Around the same time the D&C launched a digital version of the paper.  With their Kindle app I can download the full paper for off-line reading.  I don’t do it a lot, but I like the capability.

Last week I received a letter from the paper informing me the price of my weekend subscription was being increased from $13/month to $17.80/month, a 37% increase.  My husband and I have been debating whether or not we want to keep our subscription.

I enjoy reading the paper, both print and digital.  If I drop my subscription I could just buy the Sunday paper at the store for $3 ($12/month). It comes down to whether or not I’m willing to pay an extra $6/month ($72 per year) for the convenience of having the paper delivered to my door on the weekends and having access to the digital version.  I also realize that if others think like me, it could be the demise of the newspaper, which I would hate to see.

My husband doesn’t really care for the paper and is voting to drop it.  I’m not convinced yet.  Should I renew or drop?

Necessity or luxury?

I was out with some ex co-workers a few weeks ago when some of them started ragging on Herb because he didn’t own a cellphone. The conversation took a turn before I got a chance to defend Herb’s position.

Herb is a super smart software engineer who I’m sure has no problem with the technology of cellphones.  Herb is also semi-retired, spending a lot of time at home.  Herb’s position is that if someone needs to get a hold of him and he’s not home, they can leave a message and he’ll return their call when he can. I’m with Herb.

Remember years ago when cell phones were heavier and featureless (you could make a call and that’s about it) and expensive to own?  Remember when only the adults in the family owned a cellphone and maybe they owned one to share in case of emergencies?  Remember when you were growing up and cellphones didn’t even exist?   How did we ever survive without them?  <shaking head>

Just because the technology exists doesn’t mean you have to use it. My cousin Kathy, who’s a nurse and a few years older than me, has never owned a computer and just last year bought a cellphone she can text with.  She uses a computer at work but doesn’t feel she has the time to spend on a computer.  Good for her.  I know that once I get on my computer for the night I usually don’t get off until it’s time to go to bed so I delay getting on in order to spend my time more productively.

Since when did owning a cellphone become a necessity instead of a luxury? Just because some people can’t live without their cellphones doesn’t mean everyone needs to have one.

Living on the edge

My sister Andrea is a veterinary technician who works in a small animal hospital.  Business at the hospital has been weak the last few years so her hours have been cut, putting her in a precarious position.   When she first started at the hospital she worked about 38 hours per week,  but when things slowed down last year, they reduced that to 35.  Now she is only working 32 hours.  That’s like getting a 16% pay cut.

She likes working at this hospital since it is only 2 miles from where she lives, she can bring her dog to work and she is one of only two employees to have health care.  She took a bit of a pay cut to work with a doctor she likes, closer to home and for the guarantee of healthcare coverage.

This year she has to pay a premium for the first time in 25+ years. The doctor told my sister how much she’d be contributing to the cost and let Andrea decide on healthcare plan.  Andrea had to balance between higher premiums with lower deductibles or lower premiums with higher deductibles.  My sister chose based on the fact she has had some health issues in the past which might require follow up.

My sister is not happy about her reduced hours. As a woman who lives on the salary of a vet tech, in her own house with her pets,  she lives pretty frugally.  She knows that if she looks elsewhere she will be driving further and may not get health care or more hours or get along with the people who work there.  For now she’s taking the chance business will pick up and she’ll be able to get back to working more.  She’s in a precarious position with no good answers.