Financial Home Life Rants

Happy Halloween

October 31st is the time of year where everybody takes leave of their senses, dresses up in various costumes and then goes around the neighbourhood demanding candy with menaces.

Yes, it’s Halloween.

We were invited to a neighbour’s party and we all dressed up. I managed to get a Grim Reaper outfit from somewhere and made my face up to look deathly pale ( no change there you might cry ). At the appointed hour, we all arrived at the door and I found out that it was a kids’ party where most of the parents were in civvies and I looked a right eejit.

Halloween itself was an interesting night. Sam took the girls trick-or-treating with some friends and they all went to the rich part of town where people decorate their houses and distribute big handfuls of candy. The whole city seemed to have descended on one street and, by the sounds of it, it was a real melee.

Rachel and Joanna came back with buckets full of sweets, desperate to eat them all at once. We’re rationing them so they won’t be finished until Christmas 2006.

My evening was such that I wasn’t allowed to sit down on the sofa with a cup of tea without the doorbell ringing and either some cute four year-olds dressed as giraffes or Dracula holding out pumpkin-shaped buckets or a group of teenagers in black eye shadow and lipstick holding out a pillow case. Luckily, we ran out of candy and I had to turn off the porch light. After that, nobody bothered us and I got to drink my tea 🙂

This week, we went to see BofA to talk about a car loan. Last week, we applied to borrow some money for cars because I’m paying a ridiculous amount of money to rent a car monthly. We mistakenly thought that, although the interest rates were not as competitive, the fact that we had an account with the bank, they have a relationship with Barclays in the UK and we spoke directly to the person who set up our account in the first place, it would hold us in good stead.

Not so.

The person who set up our account is the Branch Manager. She has the title Vice President but this means absolutely nothing. She is not able to make lending decisions on her own, she has to refer them to the loans department. The first thing that the loans department did was to credit check us :-S We were rejected because of the usual story, i.e. no credit history. Usual frustrations, usual banging of heads on walls.

I ended up speaking with my CEO. Our CFO has contacts with a credit union and arranged for me to speak to the Branch Manager there. She sounded encouraging saying that lending to overseas visitors is something that they have done before. It’s likely that this means we will part company with BofA so we can bank with the credit union but I’m sure that neither BofA or I will be shedding any tears over that. We have our fingers crossed that we can work this through.

It seems that it’s not just us who are having financial difficulties. The school keeps sending begging letters to the parents for donations of $25 to $40 per child for art material or reading material or to be able to pay for someone to come and read the children stories. The financing of schools is a big topic and Californian schools are not well funded which is why they keep tapping the parents for cash. The problem we have is that the PTA stated that the membership fee ( which equates to $100 per child per family ) is to assist the school for funding certain projects. One such project is called Art In Action where the children get to learn about different art forms. According to the PTA accounts, $8000 has been spent on this project. However, at least in Rachel’s class, the volunteer parents are teaching the lesson. For free. This week, it was Sam’s turn to teach the lesson. She had to explain about cave paintings in Lascaux and discuss the techniques being used. Excuse me ? Sam is well-versed in a multitude of skills but I don’t remember going to her graduation ceremony at Art college. The teacher was sat at the back of the class. How is it possible to spend $8000 if you get someone to teach for free ? I don’t believe that they spent $8000 on wax crayons.

This weekend, it hit home about how far we are from the UK. My best friend got married and we weren’t able to attend. So, a big congratulations to Neil and Carron. We managed to speak with them the day before and the day after and it all went well. We’re just waiting for the pictures of the day.

And in other news, I obtained minor celebrity on the BBC News website at

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