Thursday, March 6, 2014

FICO SCORES: The Ups and Downs

Nothing in life is simple.

When using your credit card, if you keep to under your spending limit your FICO score likes this.

When you then charge so much that you are very close to your credit spending limit, your FICO score will go down.

Why?  Read the quote below and see why no matter what you do, it is a "catch 22" situation. But what I leaned is that your FICO score keeps changing so one month it may be better than another due to your spending activities and how you are paying for them.

So one month you charge a good deal and the next month you don't owe too much.  Your score will be revised.

If asking for a credit increase is not for you, then try making a partial payment during your billing cycle to then open up your credit availability during that billing cycle's period.

Here is the quote:

  1. Proportion of balances to crdt limits is too high on bank / revolving accts  Hide details
  2. Consumers who use a high percentage of their available credit (generally known as utilization) have a higher risk of delinquency (falling behind on payments) and charge-off (loan default) over time. Lower use of available credit allows consumers who have the need to temporarily carry higher loan balances to do so, because they have available credit on their accounts. Consumers with heavier credit usage cannot absorb changes to their financial situation as easily, which can lead to higher risk over time. Keeping credit balances lower in relation to available credit will help reduce the negative impact on a credit score over time.

Credit Card Credit Limit Ceiling...How High is Yours?

Did you ever try to have your credit limit increased on your credit card?  Were you successful?  If not, here is what you need to know about credit cards and your spending limits.

Let's say you spend, on average, an amount not too close to your limit.  Let's say the reasons you don't are either because you don't need to most of the time, or if you charge a large amount, you might use up your limit and not be able to use your card again in that billing period. If the latter applies to you call your card company to request an increase.

Your card company may have a voice prompted system for this request and you do not actually speak to anyone.  In a few days you find out you were denied the increase.  The reason:  in the past year you never needed an increase because your charges never reached close to your limit. Now you have to call to actually speak to a representative in the credit area.  So you say, "If I had a higher limit, I would be able to use the credit card more often, but since I don't, I can't use the card all the time. And the response you get is, "But because you don't get close to your limit, the bank doesn't see why you need an increase."  It is a "catch 22" situation.  You can't use something you don't have.  This has nothing to do with whether you can't afford it or your credit rating not being good enough.

Now the representative says that they will do a "manual" credit line increase request. They ask you if you have a mortage and the amount and then ask for your yearly income.  They then ask if you have a minimum amount you would accept for the increase. Done.  Next thing you know, you have the increase. Granted, this is not always the case, but this is most likely what happens when you do a manual request. (I cannot promise that every credit card company functions the same way.)

Of course I am not advocating that you should spend more than you can afford. It is good to know how to go about this and what to expect if you should need an increase. Funny thing is that if you did spend close to your limit all the time, the credit card company may increase your limit without you having to ask.

Please look for my upcoming post about how all this affects your FICO score.  It will be short and sweet.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Supply Side of Your Electric Bill

It seems we spend more and more time trying to find the best price for anything and everything. And with the internet, this is not difficult to accomplish.

Same goes for the price we pay for our electricity, at least from the supply side of the equation.

Many states allow consumers to choose which company will supply the electricity although the delivery of electricity is the responsibility of your local electric company such as Con Ed, NYSEG, PSEG to name a few.

These supply companies may offer fixed or variable rates for the year.  There are some companies offering fixed prices for 24 months. Some companies have a cancellation fee if you leave the contract before the time period stated in the contract.

So many variables to say the least.

I started my search once I received a letter from my exisiting supply company letting me know that my contract is up and what my new fixed price was going to be for the coming year.  

I then set out to see what other companies were offering.  This is easy enough. Just log on to the sites listing ESCO companies in your state.  There are lists upon lists of each company showing fixed or variable pricing, length of contracts, cancellation fees, if any, and the website or phone number you can call to get more information.

For example, in NYS try this website:

Usually the contract takes about 2 months to get in place and most likely your new company will take over after a meter read date.  Most companies can't let you start anytime you choose so beware of any cancellation fees you may have on your current contract.  Paperwork is filed with your local electric company to let them know you changed supply companies.  Then you will get a letter stating that you have changed your supply company, or that you are continuing with your current one, and the letter will give you the start date of your new service.

You will also receive a letter from your new supply company. 

All very organized.

My first action was to take care of my house and I signed up with NYSEG Heating Solutions through  Apparently Direct Energy either owns or took over NYSEG Heating Solutions. It also represents Gateway Energy. When I mentioned that I needed to also change the supplier for the barn, I was connected to the person in Commerical accounts.

I had an extremely buttoned up representative from handling Commercial accounts.  (Since the barn is unoccupied, my electric company considers it Commercial and the rates are different from Residential. Maybe I need some horses!)

There was an issue as far as when my current contract ended and when I could begin with a new company to avoid any cancellation fees and the representative, her name is Sandy, made sure that my contract started past the time my old one ended. She even checked my Residential account to assure me that I would be OK with the start date. We went over everything carefully to make sure I was clear on contract and procedure.

Sandy's professionalism surpassed almost every representative I deal with on a daily basis.  She gave me her number so that I could reach her if I had some any questions. And guess what? She was there when I called!

The next time you get your electric bill, check to see who supplies your electricity and what you are paying per KW hour and then see if you can find a better price.

And don't forget to see what your cancellation policy is before you commit to a new company. You don't want to lose money before you can start saving.

Sunday, October 20, 2013


For all those who know me, I cook by experimenting, not always using recipes.  I enjoy it but I am never sure if what I prepare will come out decently. Sometimes I need help.

Aside from all the cookbooks around, I have in my possession a wonderful book entitled, "Brillant Food Tips and Cooking Tricks" by David Joachim.

Not only does it contain over 900 recipes, but it has "5,000 ingenious kitchen hints, secrets, shortcuts and solutions."

This book is one of the few in my kitchen which is opened all the time.  So much better than searching Google for all the answers on different sites while greasy hands are all over your keyboard or screen.  All you need to know is in one book and who cares if the pages get a little dirty?

When you first open the book and look at the inside cover, the chart of Common Cooking Measures and Equivalents will be worth the price of the book. Then there is the Guide to Pan Sizes. This is followed by Common Temperatures and Conversions and Container Size Equivalents.

Turn to the back inside cover and find "Emergency Substitutions."  It reads, "if you're out of this...use this..."  You just might save yourself an extra trip to the supermarket.

The book structure is in alphabetical order. You don't even have to go to the index, just open to the letter of the subject you want to know about and there it is.

Do you want to learn how to extract pulp from fresh corn kernels, learn about mushrooms, how to choose oysters, how to butterfly a pork loin or how to cook "en papillote?"  Read this book and find out.

All you need to know under one hardcover book.  

The edition I have was published in 2001 and I have not found a newer version on Amazon so this must be it.

Check it out on and see if this book needs to be part of your kitchen. My kitchen can't live without it.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Your Cell Phone's Share Plan...GB Gone Wild

I finally had to leave my old "pay for minutes" phone plan.  I put off making the change fearing that the new "Share" plan would cost me more. As of this writing, I am spending a little less each month.  At least for now.  The experiment is just beginning.

There are 4 phones on my plan.  It goes without saying that some of us on the plan use more GB than others, like me...I don't do much with my phone other than call, text and clear out emails.  

But for those out there who use their phones for everything, I thought that I would find out what uses the most GB and how to control your data usage. 

Each cell phone company refers to their new plans differently, but it all boils down to data usage now.  Calls and texts are unlimited. Texting seems to be fast, easy and the texts go through even if you don't have a great signal for a call. So I text a good deal.

Starting with emails, each time you receive an email you are using data, even if it is a minor amount.  Each time you open the email, you use additional data. And if the email has photos or attachments, more data is used.

Watching videos on You Tube for example definitely uses data.  Movies, for sure. Your phone as a GPS.  Checking FourSquare, Facebook or for searching the Web. The list is endless.

For those of you who never delete emails, the more you keep on the phone, the more data you use each time you turn on your phone.  Deleting emails from your computer is an easy way to get rid of them on your phone. Afterwards, you refresh your emails on your phone and they are gone.  Less data to be used.

To make better use of data, I started to "unsubscribe" to all those emails sent to me which I never opened anyway.  Do I really need to know everything about every company's sale, or the zillions of "coupon" discounts on every service known to mankind?

It takes some getting used to because on the old plans you paid for call minutes and may have had an unlimited data package, as I did. What I hope to accomplish is to keep with the 6GB plan, but if things don't go according to plan, I can upgrade to the next offered GB amount.  My cell phone company will send texts letting me know if I am getting close to reaching my 6GB max.  They warn me at 75% and then at 90%.  This way I can upgrade to the next amount in my billing period for less than I would pay if I went over my limit. 

Use less data and you might have some extra money for something else, like a new case for your phone.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Wines By The "Tasting" Glass

How can you learn enough about wine to enjoy what you drink without feeling that you need to become a sommelier?

I say, "Go to wine tastings!"

My husband and I do this every other weekend (and even more often if the opportunity arises).

Some wine shops offer a simple tasting - just a few bottles poured by someone working in the store - while others have a wine distributor come with a larger variety of bottles to pour.  

Usually the person pouring the wine will give you a detailed account of each wine, and while you are tasting what they pour you can ask questions.  Any question at all, so you don't need to worry about being shy or embarrassed.  Not everyone knows about every wine.

Is it a full-bodied wine, does it have aromas of blackberry, what fruit am I tasting, does it have legs, when can you drink it, what grapes are in it, can it be put away for a few years, how is this vintage compared to last year, describe the area where the grapes were grown... are just a few questions you might ask. There are many others, and the more you ask and the answers you get will assist in your learning.

You may find that the price point of wines does not always reflect the quality of the wine.  And taste varies from person to person.  It is not always a given that my husband and I will agree on a wine.  Our method is that what we buy will most always be what we both enjoy, with a deviation every now and then.

Wine tastings are fun and very social.  You are tasting wines with other people and you can compare notes or just start a conversation about anything and before you know it, you are exchanging phone numbers.

The world of wine is enormous and there is never a shortage of wines to taste. We are still learning about grapes we never tasted or at least never tasted in combinations with other grapes.

You can call your local wine shop and ask about tastings.  Even the big box wine stores offer tastings.

So go to a wine tasting or two and see what you discover about wine.  You just may find yourself attending more and more.

I would recommend two of my favorite wine shops to start if you are in the Westchester area: and  You can also get on their mailing list for upcoming wine tastings and special offers.

Sunday, September 15, 2013


Just found out how to save some time.  A new app called "Aisle411" is now a touch away on your smartphone.

Sounds like a great idea, but for now the retailers are limited.  We need to get our favorite stores to sign up and begin to make our shopping experience easier as well as a little fun.

Here is what it can do:

1.  SHOPPING LIST-create, organize and share multiple shopping lists from your phone.

2.  SEARCH-quickly find the location for what you need inside stores.

3.  RECIPES-search over 130,000 recipes to add to your shopping list and cookbook.

4.  NAVIGATE-find the fastest route through your store in select markets.

Right now the only stores I shop in which use this app are Walgreens and Home Depot, where I spend too much time walking up and down aisles asking employees where everything is. Hopefully with this app I can get out of the store quickly and get home faster, giving my dogs less time to wreak havoc in the house.

Check it out:

  • Shopping List: Create, organize and share multiple shopping lists from your phone
  • Recipes: Search over 130,000 recipes to add to your shopping list and cookbook
  • Search: Quickly find the location for what you need inside stores
  • Navigate: Find the fastest route through your store inselect markets

Download the app for free!