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Saturday, April 16, 2011

Check your balances, save your receipts

For reasons regular readers of my blog are well aware of, I'm keeping a very close watch on my finances.  Juggling money, making sure my checking account doesn't get overdrawn, making sure money is where it should be, making sure checks are clearing.

I have insurance, for the moment, through COBRA.  This is a very expensive way of doing things, and shortly after my initial enrollment in the program I was informed that I would have to re-select my elections as part of my former company's "open enrollment."  I was informed of this seven days before the deadline, and didn't think I would have enough time to get the forms in the mail to ensure delivery in time.  So I filled out the forms, wrote out my check for the new, increased monthly bill for April, put everything in an envelope and made the long, horrible trip up to my former place of employment to drop it off in person.

A week later I got a confirmation of my new elections.  But the check that I dropped off never cleared.

I've been checking my bank account regularly to see when my Federal income tax refund shows up (it hasn't yet) and to verify which checks have cleared.  All of the checks I have written out have cleared or are in the process of clearing except my April COBRA payment.  Earlier this week I contacted my benefits department to ask about this, and they promised to look into it.  As of the follow-up call I made on Thursday they hadn't located it.  So I sent another check.  I'm hoping my COBRA won't get cancelled.

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Meanwhile, my car is due to have its state inspection by the end of this month.  I dropped my car off a while ago to have the side-view mirror replaced at the same service station where I get my annual inspections done.  The owner and chief mechanic told me that I would need to get my muffler replaced before I could pass inspection.

No problem, I figured.  I had a new muffler installed back in July of 2008 at one of those national chains that gives a "lifetime warranty": buy the muffler once, and get it replaced for just the cost of labor.

I had some problems when I had the muffler installed.  First they recorded my Toyota Tercel as an Oldsmobile.  Then they informed me that they would have also have to replace my catalytic converter - and like an idiot I let them, without insisting on getting the old one back.  (By the time I realized my error, they told me it was too late, that they had already discarded the platinum-filled component.  Riiight.)  Then I had to take the car back within two weeks because the entire system was rattling like it was about to fall off.  They resolved this by adding a bracket which reduced my ground clearance to about three inches.

I called them yesterday about getting the muffler replaced, and they told me they didn't have any record of me in their system.

I'm a little funny with receipts.  Some of them go into my pocket, where my body heat cooks the thermal paper to illegibility.  Some of them go into a Very Safe Place, to be forgotten and lost forever.  Some of them I actually stick in a useful place.  The receipt from my muffler, I convinced myself, was in a Very Safe Place: inside the rarely-used right-hand section of my medicine cabinet/bathroom mirror.  Unfortunately, when I went to check there some time ago, the receipt was nowhere to be found.  It wasn't until a few months ago that I discovered it in an unlikely spot: in a well-labeled envelope tucked under my visor next to my registration and proof of insurance.

After I spoke to the muffler shop I ran out to my car to get the receipt.  I checked it for errors.  My name was correct.  My make and model of my car were correct.  But my address was listed as my house number combined with the address of the muffler shop, and my phone number was almost my cell phone number, with one random digit changed.  I called the muffler shop back, and we used my incorrect phone number to look up the record, and bingo, there I was.  Why didn't I show up on the initial check?  Nobody knew.

The bottom line is, if I had not saved that receipt, I would not have been able to take advantage of the "lifetime warranty," because of numerous errors in the muffler shop's computer system.  So: save those scraps of paper.  You never know when you'll need them.

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