Posts belonging to Category Finances

Beware of Phone Bill Scam (JumPage Solutions)

Note: JumPage Solutions also goes by the names: INC21 Communications, Metro YP,, INC21.COM,, Netopus and

Our eagle-eyed church treasurer noticed an additional charge of $39.95 (plus $2.00 state tax) tacked on to the end of our most recent phone bill. The new monthly web charge was billed on behalf of a company called JumPage Solutions. I did some quick research and found that this is a company that has been reported to the Better Business Bureau for the practice of “cramming.”

The FCC defines cramming as:

the practice of placing unauthorized, misleading, or deceptive charges on your telephone bill. Crammers rely on confusing telephone bills in an attempt to trick consumers into paying for services they did not authorize or receive, or that cost more than the consumer was led to believe.

The company first calls your church or business to verify your contact information. They may offer you a free service — which later converts to a paid service without your knowledge or consent. The charge then shows up as an additional item on your regular phone bill. If you do not notice it, you will end up paying for a service that you never authorized or requested.

I called our phone company (Verizon) and asked the customer service representative how Verizon could bill me for another company’s services without even checking with me first. She said all accounts are set up that way unless you tell them otherwise. I told her, “Then I am telling you otherwise.” She agreed to reverse the charges and change our church account to protect from future cramming. I then called JumPage and reported my complaint to them. I also filed a complaint with the San Francisco Better Business Bureau.

Action Points for Churches and Small Businesses:

  1. Check your phone bills for additional charges that should not be there. If there are unfamiliar charges, call your phone company immediately to have them removed.
  2. Tell your phone company you do not want outside providers using your phone bill for third-party billing.
  3. Beware of Yellow Pages representatives calling to verify your information or offering you free services, especially when they ask if you are the authorized person to make changes on the account.
  4. You can report any violations to the Better Business Bureau or the FCC.

You can learn more about JumPage and “cramming” at these two links:

Have you had problems with “cramming” on your phone bill? Share about it in the comments.

The New 5 Dollar Bill (Fun)

The New Five Dollar ($5) Bill | Good for One Gallon of Gas

Click here for more Fun posts.
Related post: New Illinois State License Plate (Fun)

Less Than Ten Percent Tithe

Oh, the irony: Less than ten percent of adults in the United States tithe. The latest report from the Barna Group focuses on Trends in Tithing and Donating. Here are some of the results:

In 2007, the research revealed that just 5% of adults tithed. Not surprisingly, some population groups were more likely than others to have given away at least ten percent of their income. Among the most generous segments were evangelicals (24% of whom tithed); conservatives (12%); people who had prayed, read the Bible and attended a church service during the past week (12%); charismatic or Pentecostal Christians (11%); and registered Republicans (10%).

Interestingly, Christians gave the most of any one group of donors, and evangelical Christians gave the most of any Christian group.

Christians tend to be the most generous group of donors. An examination of the three dominant subgroups within the Christian community showed that evangelicals, the 7% of the population who are most committed to the Christian faith, donated a mean of $4260 to all non-profit entities in 2007. Non-evangelical born again Christians, who represent another 37% of the public, donated a mean of $1581. The other 42% of the Christian population, who are aligned with a Christian church but are not born again, donated a mean of $865. Overall, the three segments of the Christian community averaged donations of $1426.

The Mortgage Crisis Explained in a Picture

Mortgage Crisis Explained

                        “For Sale” – Price reduced to actual value

Bizarre British Tax Law

It is tax time here in the United States. So, for all of you who are trying to figure out your taxes for the year, here is a truly bizarre British tax law that is still on the books in the UK.

It is illegal not to tell the tax man anything you do not want him to know, but legal not to tell him information you do not mind him knowing.

How’s that again? And you thought the United States tax laws were confusing!

Note: Click here for other strange laws still on the books in Great Britain, including the following:

  • It is illegal to die in the Houses of Parliament.
  • It could be regarded an act of treason to place a postage stamp bearing the British king or queen’s image upside-down.
  • Eating mince pies on Christmas Day is banned. (!)
  • The head of any dead whale found on the British coast automatically becomes the property of the King, and the tail of the Queen.
  • It is illegal to enter the Houses of Parliament wearing a suit of armour.

13 Most Overlooked Tax Deductions

It’s tax time! Check out this list of the 13 Most Overlooked Tax Deductions at Yahoo! Finance.

Tax time is a dangerous time. It’s all too easy to miss a trick and overpay Uncle Sam. (If you turned 65 in 2007, don’t forget you deserve a bigger standard deduction than younger folks.)

Years ago, the head of the IRS told Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine that he figured millions of taxpayers overpaid their taxes every year by overlooking just one of the money-savers listed below. Claim them if you deserve them … and cut your tax bill to the bone.

  • State sales taxes
  • College tuition
  • Out-of-pocket charitable contributions
  • Child care credit
  • Refinancing points
  • Reinvested dividends
  • Jury pay paid to employer
  • … and more!

HT: Get Rich Slowly

How Much Does It Cost to Raise Children?

Someone once said, “We don’t raise kids anymore. We finance them!” So just how expensive is it to raise a child in the U.S. nowadays? MoneyCentral has an interesting table showing the costs of raising children from birth to age 17/18.

The table … shows the estimated annual costs of raising a child, based on a survey by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The table shows costs based on a family with two children on a per-child basis. The data comes from the Consumer Expenditure Survey by the U.S. Department of Labor, conducted from 1990-92. The figures have been updated to 2001 dollars using the Consumer Price Index.

The table breaks the figures down into age groups so you can see how much you are spending at the different stages of your child’s life. It also breaks it down into categories for you, so you can see how much you are spending on housing, food, transportation, clothing, health, child care/education, and miscellaneous expenses.

Let’s see, after adjusting the figures for having three or more kids, according to this table each of my children will cost me about $131,254.20 to raise for a grand total of $393,762.60. (Almost $70,000 of that is for food alone!) And that doesn’t even include college! But you know what? They are worth every penny — or dollar!

“Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.” (Psalm 127:3-5)

8/3/2009 update: “A family earning less than $56,870 per year can expect to spend a total of $159,870 (in 2008 dollars) on a child from birth through high school. Similarly, parents with an income between $56,870 and $98,470 can expect to spend $221,190; and a family earning more than $98,470 can expect to spend $366,660. In 1960, a middle-income family could have expected to spend $25,230 ($183,509 in 2008 dollars) to raise a child through age seventeen.” (USDA News Release)

HT: Semper Reformanda

Britney Spears’ Budget

(or, “How to live on only $737,000 a month”)

So, do you think you could you live on $737,000 a month? That is Britney Spears’ monthly allowance, and this is how she does it according to court papers released Thursday in her custody dispute with Kevin Federline.

Britney’s Monthly Budget:

  • $102,000 on entertainment
  •   $49,267 on mortgages
  •   $20,000 in spousal support
  •   $16,000 on clothes
  •   $15,000 in child support
  •     $4,758 on dining out
  •         $500 to charity
  •             $0 on savings
  •             $0 on investments
  •             $0 on education

Hmmm, that still leaves $529,475 unaccounted for. Perhaps that’s just miscellaneous spending money?

(HT: Don Surber)

Save 50% of Your Salary

Michael Mihalik advises you to save 50% of your salary in his book, Debt is Slavery: and 9 Other Things I Wish My Dad Had Taught Me About Money.

Have you ever asked yourself how people who immigrate to the United States can come here, get a low-paying job, and open their own business five years later? How can they do that, making around minimum wage, when you can’t, making more than minimum wage? They save. They save 50 percent or more of their salary. They don’t go into debt, they work hard and make other sacrifices.

I’m pretty sure I could save 50% of my salary if I just doubled my income! 🙂

HT: Get Rich Slowly

Wendell Berry on Buying Local Food

I posted a poem by Wendell Berry recently, so I was interested to read this interview with Berry in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. In the interview Berry talks about the difference between a total economy, in which people “pay for everything; they are total consumers,” and a local economy, in which people “take back a certain amount of economic initiative and do things for themselves.” He then applies this concept especially to sustainable agriculture and the purchase of food.

There is a movement toward the local economy. And it’s coming about as a response to people’s understanding of the costs to the world of an economy based entirely on long-distance transportation. They say that the average distance that food travels from the field to the dinner plate is 1,500 miles. And this has a cost in fuel depletion and pollution. It’s a part of the permanent drawdown of necessary resources that are the basis of an industrial economy.

I found this article interesting, especially the reminder that much of our food travels hundreds if not thousands of miles from the field to the dinner table. We live in an area with lots of local agriculture and enjoy this time of the year tremendously. Last night for supper we ate freshly picked corn from a local farm and our salad items were grown locally as well. There is something just so good about fresh vegetables from the local market.

How about you? Do you take advantage of locally grown food when you can?

HT: Fire and Knowledge

Forever Stamps Make Bad Investments

Forever Stamp Thinking of buying up lots of forever stamps as an investment for the future? Think again. Slate Magazine published this May 17th article revealing why forever stamps make for a bad long-term investment.

The postal rate climbed 2 cents on Monday, about a month after the United States Postal Service introduced its new “forever” stamp. As of last week, the USPS had sold more than $82 million worth of the forever stamps, which lock in the 41-cent rate for eternity. One man in Pennsylvania walked into a post office and made an $8,000 investment on his own. Should we all be stocking up?

Absolutely not. Since 1971, postal rates have increased more slowly than the actual inflation rate, as measured by the U.S. Consumer Price Index. So, despite the numerous rate hikes over the last 36 years, stamps have actually been getting cheaper. The 20-cent stamp from 1981, for instance, would be equivalent to 45 cents in today’s dollars—which makes today’s rate 10 percent cheaper than it was 26 years ago. Should this historical pattern hold, you’d be paying more for today’s forever stamps than you would for any stamp in the future, no matter how high the rate goes.

The article goes on to explain why this pattern must hold for the future:

In December, President Bush signed the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, which ensures that future price increases will be kept below an inflation-based ceiling. In other words, postage hikes will never surpass inflation—and the forever stamp will never become a good investment.

In case you are wondering, the USPS announced the introduction of the forever stamp less than two months after Bush signed the new act into law. And apparently, the USPS is not the first postal agency to cash in on the benefits of forever stamps. Canada introduced them last November, joining a number of other countries including Finland, Israel, the United Kingdom, Belgium, France, Norway, Monaco, and Sweden.

The best time to buy forever stamps is just before an announced rate increase, but not long before.

Phyllis Diller on How to Double Your Money

“You know the best way to double your money? Fold it and put it in your pocket.” (Phyllis Diller)