How Trying to Save $100 Cost Me $500

My husband was offered a job in Arizona, 1,750 miles from where we current live in Chicago, Illinois.  Because neither of us had been to Arizona before, we wanted to visit before we committed to living there.  Time was of the essence, and booking a last minute flight for the two of us was expensive, so we decided to drive.

We also decided to rent a car for the trip to save wear and tear on our car and pay less in gas (our family car is a minivan, so a small sedan would use much less gas).

Being frugal, I decided not to buy the rental car company’s insurance.  I had called my auto insurance company, and they assured me that my coverage would cover any damage to a rental car.

By not buying the rental company’s car insurance, I saved $100, or so I thought.

I was wrong.

Traveling Long Distances in Desolate Areas

100 cost me 500I was proud of my penny pinching ways until our first night on the road.  We were driving along a desolate stretch in Oklahoma; it was dark, and we were ready to stop for the night.  A semi was in front of us and swerved at the last minute.  We had no time to wonder why; a deer carcass was straight in our path.  Even though my husband swerved, he still hit it.  We felt the thump under our car and feared the worst.

When we got to the hotel, we didn’t see any damage to the bumper, so we thought we had lucked out.

That thought soon faded when we were driving through Texas the next day and heard something clicking against the tire.  A piece of the interior bumper was hanging down and hitting the tire.  We pushed it back in and thought all was well until we hit the brakes in Santa Fe and felt resistance on the tire.  Yep, the piece had fallen down again.

Long story short, in Arizona, we traded out the vehicle for a different one and had to pay a $500 deposit for the repair.

Street Sweeper Causes Havoc

On the way back home, in our new rental vehicle, we ran into a street sweeper on the highway in New Mexico.  (Seriously?  I have never seen a street sweeper sweeping the highway!)

As we passed the street sweeper, what seemed like a million pebbles pelted our windshield.  I think my husband and I cursed in unison when we heard a particularly nasty hit on the windshield and saw a chip in the windshield, right in the middle of the driver’s side.

Car rental number two, and another injury to the car.

Sigh.  Suddenly my decision to try to save $100 by not getting the rental company’s car insurance didn’t seem like such a good idea.

Luckily, when we turned in the second car, we weren’t charged for the damage to the windshield.  (Any dent or scratch smaller than the size of a quarter, the rental car company let’s slide.)

Still, my desire to save $100, ended up costing me $500!

Stay tuned for part two, where I’ll explain in more detail why rental car companies’ insurance isn’t the waste of money we all think.


The Argument for Freezing Credit: Is Your Social Security Number Easily Found on the Web?

You’ve likely heard about the recent security breaches at popular stores like Target, Neiman Marcus and Michael’s.  While it’s bad enough that so many customers’ security was compromised, what’s even worse is the reports that these customers’ personal and credit information often ends up on a large database to be bought by criminals for as little as $40.

You might imagine some shady database that is hard to find unless you’re a criminal.

Unfortunately, the truth is that your personal information is surprisingly easy to find on the web.

Hiding in Plain Sight on the Internet

Freezing CreditMy husband and I are searching for a house.  Like any diligent buyer, I searched the Internet for the address of the house we’re interested in.  (I did this just to make sure it had not been the scene of a murder or crime or meth bust.  Every perspective home buyer does this, right?)

While I didn’t turn up anything amiss with the home, I was shocked when I happened upon a site that touted itself as a reverse social security number look up.  The address I was searching was there, complete with the owner’s social security number.  In fact, every social security number that was listed had either the number holder’s full name or address.

Scary stuff!

You Can’t Control What Happens to Your Personal Information

The simple truth is, no matter how cautious you are about not sharing your social security number or making sure to shred all documents containing your personal information, you can’t control all aspects of that information.

If you’re living a normal life and using a credit card or debit card, you might be the victim of a company’s security breach (even though you did everything right to protect your identity).  Your own information could very well end up on the web even if you’re diligent about not having a web footprint.

Consider Freezing Your Credit

My friend recently had her identity stolen.  She found out fairly quickly–within 3 days, but by then the thief had already charged over $20,000.  She’s spent hours trying to clear her name while also caring for her 5 young children during the day.  I can’t imagine the stress she’s under right now.

Truth is, that could happen to any of us, especially when our personal information is so freely available on the web.

If you want to protect your name, identity, and credit score, the best way to do so is to freeze your credit.

First, to clear up a misconception, if you freeze your credit, the credit lines you already have open will not be affected.  You can use your credit as normal with no inconvenience.

However, freezing credit does have a few inconveniences.  If you want to open a new line of credit or even apply for a new apartment, for instance, you’ll need to thaw your credit.  Depending on the state you live in, this can cost anywhere from $2 to $10.  Initially freezing your credit also costs about $10 per credit bureau.

My husband and I have had our credit frozen since 2009 when we had our eBay account hacked and $1,000 was purchased over night.  I plan to keep our credit frozen for the rest of our lifetimes, thawing only when needed (like we did a few weeks ago to pre-qualify for a home loan), especially now that I know social security numbers and other personal information are so easy to find on the web.

Have you frozen your credit?  If not, would you consider doing so?

(Editors note: Freezing your credit is the best way to stop a lot of this stuff from happening.  It’s what many of the services like LifeLock (not recommended) really do. Alternatively, there are ID theft protection services like Credit Karma that you can use that will monitor your credit and credit score without the freeze, or in coordination with a freeze.)

The Power of Facebook When Planning a Cross Country Move

Are you on Facebook?  Most everyone seems to be.  After all, Facebook is a great place to catch up with old friends, share photos of your kids (and see friends’ family photos), and even look up what old flames are doing now.

However, have you ever used Facebook as a tool to help facilitate a move?

Remember that cross country move my husband and I considered but didn’t think would actually happen?  Well, it’s going to happen.

This summer, we’ll be moving nearly 2,000 miles from Illinois to Arizona.

In the midst of all of our planning, I’ve been amazed at how Facebook has helped me to both sell stuff and learn about the new city we’re moving to.

Selling Junk Stuff

Cross Country MoveI love dressing my kids in Gymboree clothes that I buy for a steal when they’re on sale and I have a coupon.  A few years ago, I had good luck selling them on eBay after the kids had outgrown them, but now, the market is saturated.  After eBay and PayPal fees, selling there is really not worth my time.

I found that there are several Gymboree groups on Facebook.  Since I have about three years of my daughters’ outgrown clothes to sell, this was a great find.  The first week I listed clothes on the Facebook groups, I earned over $200!  I still have about half of the clothes to sell.  Thanks, Facebook for giving me cash and reducing the “stuff” I’ll have to move.

Making Connections to the New City

Many Facebook groups let you ask off topic questions, so on one of the homeschooling Facebook groups I belong to, I asked an off topic question about the city we’re planning to move to.  Two women who live there responded and told me I could send them private messages about my questions about the area.

These women went above and beyond in answering every question I had.  In fact, one of the women, Donna, invited me to visit her when we took a preliminary trip to Arizona before my husband signed his contract.  We talked with her for over an hour at her house, and she gave us great information about things to do in the city, what she likes and dislikes, etc.

When we make our final move there, she’ll also be an excellent resource as we search for new doctors, dentists, car repair shops, etc.  Plus, it’s nice to have someone that we already know once we get in town.

How to Make Your Own Connections on Facebook

Have you harnessed the power of Facebook?  Doing so is easy.  If you haven’t done so yet, you may want to join some Facebook groups for activities and hobbies you’re interested in.  Finding one group initially is hardest.  Then, once you find a group you like, you’ll see on your sidebar other similar groups that you can join.

Many towns have Facebook pages or swap pages where you can sell and buy items from members in your local community.  Other groups like the Gymboree ones focus on people who like to buy and sell particular brands of clothes.

If you need to move or just to declutter your house, Facebook can be a great resource.

Do you use Facebook for more than just the basic social connection with friends and family?  If so, how?


Original photo credit: Gordon Joly on Flickr