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Archive for December, 2006

Tax Time!

December 28th, 2006 at 01:59 pm

It's that time and I am excited. Most of the accountants I know wait until September to claim their refund - extend, extend, extend. So everyone else of course assumes the same of me. Pshaw!!! I will be filing Probably Feb. 1. (BEcause unfortunately dh's stupid broker waits until the last minute - make it March 1 probably - he is usually late with our info). Oh well, the last year to deal with him.

Today is pretty busy at work so I just snuck a little lunch break. BUT I am making headway and the kids and dh are gone tonight so when I get home I was thinking of pulling all the tax info I had. I paid all the bills - I have all the data for our deductions for 2006. Friday or Saturday, or next Tuesday I will plug in the #s to see where we are at.

Usually I am dead on federal and get $1500 back state (which really is nice though it annoys me sometime. Forced savings, but I could use it). BUT this year is unique with our ROTH IRA conversion. I offset it with some stock losses, so we'll see how all that pans out. I paid in a ton to fed already and I think all in all I will get a few hundred back from state and owe a few hundred fed. The beauty of e-file is you get all your refunds right away but the payments you can wait until 4/15. So I want to file as close to Feb. 1 as possible, get my state refund, and sock it away and earn interest on it until April 15th. Could squeeze out a month or 2 of interest. Why not...

But I guess I have a fear that I forgot something or that I messed up my calculations. So I really want to run the #s and see where we are at! & hopefully we will not owe too much...

I also look forward ot month-end/year-end, see where we are at. I think we are a little over budget this month. Credit card closes next wednesday but we are already to our budget for the month. PLUS dh drove to san jose today to pick up the kids and wants to go back this weekend for new years! YIkes! Would make it 4 trips in one month. Oh well, gas is not cheap, but we picked up the kids twice from free babysitting, babysitting doesn't get any cheaper (and safer - staying with grandma - don't trust many else to watch the kids). We haven't decided, but I am doing some freelance work saturday, dh is working on a move saturday night, then driving and partying sunday and driving monday - eeks. Not a relaxing weekend. Not helping the budget. I think I socked away more than I should have this month, but oh well, it's the only way we'll save!!! Will make it up next month. WIll get paid for all this weekend work next month.

I will just be glad when this year-end business is done at work. Knock on wood, but it all seems to be going okay. Though I will probably work late tonight. Somewhat in the hopes of escaping early tomorrow - finishing it all up by noon. I do not like doing things last minute, drives me batty, but only so much you can do with all this last-minute tax planning. I just don't want to be too down to the wire tomorrow night. So I am setting a goal for noon and we'll see where I land. Maybe then I can breathe for a week before the january craziness begins (preparing 1099s and W-2s, oh my). SO back to the grind!

What % take-home are your fixed expenses?

December 27th, 2006 at 01:12 pm

Was reading an interesting article:

http://articles.moneycentral.msn.com/SavingandDebt/LearnToBu...

& saw this blurb:

"Warren recommends people's "must have" expenses total no more than 50% of their after-tax income. (Your after-tax income is basically your take-home pay, with any non-tax deductions like 401(k) contributions and health insurance premiums added back in.)

"Must haves" typically include:

Mortgage or rent
Utilities (including phone and television)
Transportation (gas, car payment, car insurance)
Other insurance (life, health, property, disability)
Groceries
Child care
Minimum loan payments
Child support or other court-mandated payments"

So I wonder how many people actually can fit into this mold? Looking at the people I know??? Few and far between! Granted we live in a very high COL area. But still.

When dh and I both worked we both pulled in the same and we saved his check and used mine for bills. We did tend to use his for extras sometimes, but my check covered the fixed expenses. So overall we were in the rule, and I think at the rate we were saving money, if we didn't stop to have kids sure we could retire by 45 or something. Living on 50% of your income is pretty darn good if you ask me. I would fathom few people do. Kind of curious what fellow bloggers think where they are.

For now we are at a dismal 85% or so. No wonder why I feel so behind sometimes. Even if dh got a job we would still be pushing 60% or so. To some extent I don't fret too much because I have a 2nd potential source of income, and plenty of insurance in place should something happen where one of us couldn't work (Death or disability, etc.). But at the same time going through the calcs, dh would have to bring home $3k/month to get us to that 50% mark. YIkes. Then again, we live so below our means beyond the fixed expenses I guess it is not so bad. The reason we can forge ahead with 85% of our income spoken for every month.

Mortgage - 1300
Property Tax - 350
Home Insurance - 150
Utilities - 400 (water, phones, cable, electric, sewer, garbage)
Car Payment - 215 (gone soon enough!)
Car repairs/maint.-50
Gas - 300
Auto Insurance 150
Groceries 500
Health Insurance 675
Life & Dis. Insur. 60
Dental Checkups 85 (no insurance)
Loans (Other) 0
Child Care 0
-------------------------
TOTAL $4,235
OR 85%!!

The other 15% goes to gardener and preschool. LEaves $350/month for everything else, mostly living expenses not included up above.

Oh my!

Our practically brand new van will be paid off soon and our % will be 81%. That is something I guess.

& yet our house with our homeowners fees (which I probably should have added up there), tax, insurance is 32% of my gross pay, which is within the general guidelines.

As you see insurance is literally eating us out of house and home.

You can argue how fixed some of those expenses are though, that is for sure. (cable? cell phones?)

I am sitting on pins and needles waiting for my RAISE. We'll see where it puts us I guess. What it does to our %.

Right now we are saving maybe 1% of our income. But we save everything above and beyond, that comes in outside my salaried income. & it is not like there is nothing else, the little things build our savings and build us a cushion. But anyway, any % raise I get to take home will all go to saving. So that will feel good. If we could save 10% between paid-off van and a raise, I would be estatic!!!!! Boss is matching me 10%. IT is the kind of thing that would make me back off dh finding a job for another year or 2, or 3, 4, 5. IF we were putting away 20% between my profit sharing and our savings. & we are close...

Oh yeah, and I was feeling bummed how fast the christmas money went, but my short-term savings now has $1800 today - just about a full property tax installment, though it is not due until April. !!!! oh my! That feels good. We have been relying on savings for this the last few years. We really are forging ahead...

PS. I just recalculated the above based on all of our extra money for the year (gifts, bonuses from work, selling things, dh and I Side jobs - we are operating at 73% which isn't 1/2 bad. IF we did not have all these extras believe me I would not have preschool and a gardener - I Can just see the comments pouring in - LOL. But as a % of my fixed take-home pay every month, yeah 85% is a bit crazy. THat is why we do what we can to pull in a little more... & the little more apparently make sa big difference! But still curious to see how the % changes based on my income for 2007, which is yet to be determined...).





Learned something new - no 401k if you are

December 26th, 2006 at 05:23 pm

Bummer.

Had a philosophical discussion with my dad over dinner last night as for whatever reason the topic of 401ks came up and he said in the past he was unable to contribute the max because of "top heavy" rules.

I wouldn't say I am exactly completely clueless when it comes to 401k and retirement plans. I have audited them (LONG AGO) and deal with them a lot in planning for our clients. I remember auditing the top heavy rules and such, but with our clients today, most of them are doctors with lowly-compensated office staff. If they take a safe harbor plan they can put in as much as they want for themselves and give all their employees 3% of their salary (which doesn't really amount to much with so many small beans employees). So as we discussed it I did think aloud that maybe safe harbor plans were good for our clients but not in different situations. But at the same time I told my dad, that is just crazy. I am sure the laws have changed. I have no idea why you as an employee should not be allowed to contribute 20k if you like (since he is over 50). Top-heavy rules were meant for the owners and their family, nothing to do with employees who were compensated well.

So I wrapped up all my work early (a productive day!!!!) and decided to look up real quick. Lo and behold found the following article which is very recent.

http://money.cnn.com/2006/11/10/pf/expert/expert.moneymag.mo...

I guess my dad was right and I have to go tell him so - hehe. He gets paid quite well, so it is possible he will come up against this at his newer employer.

As for us, it kind of bums me out as I have been encouraging dh that when he should go back to work to find a job with a 401k. HE can contribute 15k/year then, which will be fine when he is working again - his whole check will probably go to savings and retirement for the most part. I am not too worried since odds are he will get a $30k/year job or something and he won't have to worry about top-heavy rules. But for me if I switch jobs, may be something I would come up against. & hey it would be great if both of us brought in big bucks down the road, but this is something we could run up against. I don't know. IT was just a "tax shelter" I looked forward to.

Just something else to watch out for to ensure we could use it. It just seems silly, of course employees who make more will want to contribute more. Golly gee.

So I learned something and figured I would share.

Calm after Christmas - phew.

December 26th, 2006 at 01:33 pm

I feel bad, I was saying I did not have too much sympathy for dh's 1 stitch, but since sunday he has had swelling and bruising from his vasectomy. I am worried how he is doing today - he is home with Little Monkey. He shouldn't have to lift him too much and thankfully Big Monkey is at Grandma's. HE can get pretty rambuctious and keeps us on our toes a little more anyway, so hopefully dh will get some rest and relaxation today. Little Monkey is very occupied with all his new toys.

My parents came over yesterday and did not bring any gifts for the kids. & I am HAPPY about that - LOL. Phew. We had a nice day and them they took Big Monkey home with them to deliver him to Grandma for 3 days or so. I would REALLY miss him and might not be so happy with this arrangement but I Am swamped at work and dh needs his rest. Plus I Was worried Big Monkey would get homesick after so long, but he stayed 2 nights with grandma before christmas eve and did NOT want to come home. I think he will be okay. Hopefully by Thursday he will be Grandma'd out and will decide coming home isn't so bad. & thankfully he goes back to preschool next week. It is hard on me with driving him and all but I think everyone is happier and calmer, he needs activity if nothing else. More than we can give.

I made my christmas cash deposit today. $1475. Sounds pretty sweet, eh? But it won't get far. The $1k I expected from dh's family and essentially will go to pay the estate lawyer, so I don't have to dig it out of savings. Now that is a NICE gift - though - getting that done and out of our hair. Leaves $475. $250 is from work, I am trying to set aside $200 for work clothes and $50 for my boss's gift. The $200 who knows since I already used it to pay our health insurance for january. I still don't know when our reduced coverage will take affect. If Jan.1, then I should get a full $200 refund in time to go shopping for tax season. If not, I will buy less I guess. Just wait and see. Not that I intend to spend it all anyway.

Leaves $225. Already spent $100 on bills - let's say for dh's surgery. Gosh, it is all going for MEDICAL but what else is new.

LEaves $125. Since I used dh's money from his grandpa for bills I told him we would split whatever we got from my mom in 1/2. She gave us $125. We decided $25 to savings & we will both get $50 to jumpstart our allowance funds, which we are starting anew in 2007.

All that and I only saved $25. Pathetic! I think I saved $75 this month already, which is something I guess, but I am not sure - I changed my stats on the right and deleted November - LOL. I'd have to check at home.

On the plus side I should receive around $500 for some side work in January and ALL of it should go to savings. I was feeling frustrated today and thinking forward how to bring in some extra money in January, and I remembered that. That will go straight to savings and I am quite pleased. Plus is the 4th month I believe that I had a full $800 for our short-term savings fund. We are loads above where we were last summer, just frustrating not to have more for Long-term savings and retirment in such a month of extra cash. But if we keep up as is, next december we should be able to set aside any christmas money, it is nice to look forward to.

Anyway, work is CRAZY but I had been crunching all morning and needed to give my brain a break. Phew.

Oh yeah, at home I have been doing dishes, laundry, cooking, watching kids, doing all the lifting, etc. the last couple of days, and work is crazy through friday/saturday. I am lucky I caught a break today. This week is more of the same since dh is still swelling and all. I am exhausted. I have NO IDEA how single parents do it. I am just exhausted. I appreciate what dh does, yes, but even moreso that we don't have to work full-time because this is how my evenings/weekend would be spent. I feel like I Can't catch a break anyway, but at least when I get home I can usually just sit down and play with the kids and not do all of the chores...

Needless to say I will be very pleased when dh is back to feeling 100%!

Oh yeah at work, just making sure all of our big clients have withheld enough money for the year, and that their corporations have paid out their earnings, just lots of time-sensitive tax planning. This week is always crunch week for me - I am lucky to get christmas off. On the plus side, I had one HUGE client that the manager left and I remember him staying here until midnight crunching numbers last year, figuring bonuses and such. I worked all day saturday just to get the books up to date through november, was behind on that for other reasons, and was dreading how much time this would take to figure bonuses, the first year I am in charge! I am looking at all these hand written shcedules scratching my head why anyone would write this all out by hand, because 1 change could take hours to fix, so I threw them in excel this morning in an hour or 2. When I get the final receipts for the week it will take me all of 1 minute to get them the bonus #s. Maybe 10-15 minutes if I Want to take my time and double and triple check my #s. Ah, I hope the rest of my clients go this smooth. I am feeling a little relief today anyway... It is amazing to me in the 5 years that I have been year how technology has sped up this entire process. We used to wait for clients to fax over or drop off records and reports, and now for many of them we can just grab their data online. It is incredible. If I wasn't so behind otherwise I think this week may be downright easy but I have quite a few clients I still need to update through november which is the time consuming part. Well, I hope my boss will be impressed with my speed.

& I gotta get back to the number crunching!

Merry Christmas!!!!!!!!!!!

December 25th, 2006 at 08:07 am

Merry Christmas everyone - hope all are having a wonderful Christmas!

We did christmas eve with dh's fam yesterday and the kids got about 20 presents. ???? IT was so totally INSANE and I was a little caught offguard. IT seemed as the grandchildren multiplied they calmed down a little last year and I expected it calmer with a 4th one in the family this year. Well apparently dh's family had a good year because they went crazy. The kids were bored after 1 or 2 gifts so I had to open the other 16 or so. I was really annoyed. Just ridiculous. I know 4 gifts (2 gifts each) were from other family members, but I have no idea which ones - what was from whom. ???? That annoys me too. I forget they also have 4-5 gifts still at grandma's house from the whole cousin gift exchange debacle. Oy vey!

The flip side to all this was that my strategy worked!!!!! We saved so much this year. All the cool toys we wanted to get we put on the wish list. No one paid attention anyway, because I have said before, everything on the wish list is up to major scrutiny, no one likes what we put so whatever. But we decided to buy 1 nice gift each for the kids (they are toddlers) and take the cash and gift cards to get everything else we had our eye on, AFTER christmas.

Anyway, we didn't get much in the way of cash or gift cards this year, but that is a-okay. After yesterday I don't think they need another toy for another year. Or 2 or 3. So because the way we approached it we hardly spent anything on the kids ourselves. AND we haven't opened gifts today yet but I am so PLEASED they each only have 1 gift to open because frankly that is all they want. They have no interest if there is a mound of presents once they open that first gift!

I told dh there needs to be some serious changes to Christmas. I feel awful not knowing what came from my niece's family or from dh's great aunt. I have no idea. I wrote out all the gifts and will call his mom and go through the list to narrow down what was not from her.

Bah, I am trying to be grateful to have too much as to not enough, and I am, but the whole thing annoys me all the same.

Us adults actually made out pretty well. Dh got a cool little travel game system worth about $250. Plus some games. I got 3 books, slippers, bathroom accessories (needed) and a toaster/toaster oven so now that everything in my kitchen is black - I love it! Plus some significant cash. Yeah we made out pretty sweet. It is nice, but I could live without too. I am sure I am forgetting something too. Piles of DVDs, etc.

BUT today should be pretty nice! My parents are coming over, probably no gifts, maybe 1 for each kid max - PHEW. Going to have pizza and fudge and just keep it low key, hang out, play with all the new toys I guess...

& Big Monkey was happy when he woke up that the Grinch had not stolen our Christmas. LOL. Wink

Hope everyone has a wonderful holiday!

Christmas Eve!!

December 24th, 2006 at 07:41 am

It's here!!!

Phew, I actually got a lot done yesterday AND plenty time to relax. I ended up working to 3:00 but I did not mind one bit. I Was siting at work thinking I LOVE my job. I lose sight of it sometimes when I Am trying to juggle the kids and all, and has been harder for me working with 2 kids, I just had no idea, the balance wasn't so precarious with just 1 child, but a little too spread thin with 2 - which means I start to feel guilty and such - something I never felt with 1 child. But going to work and not feeling any guilt because the kids were out of town anyway was just immeasurable. I Was just sitting at work thinking I do truly love my job and I Wish everyone in the world did - the world would be a much better place. Well that and I Am super blessed to love a job that pays well. That is a big plus now isn't it. & so is dh as I try and try and encourage him to live his dreams on my paycheck...

WE are about to head out and pick up the kids. Oh yes we missed them terribly but enjoyed the peace and quiet and all we were able to get done. My car is even clean on the inside which is a small miracle... LOL.

The kids will be showered with way too many gifts today, but I will try not to complain. I am truly grateful that we have excess as compared to the other way around, but it is with those less well-off in mind that I would like to really make an effort going forward to teach the kids that Christmas is about giving and not getting. It is hard with the shower of presents from dh's family, but they are too young to really understand and I let them enjoy for now. & I will be grateful for too much - that is for sure. But yes today is a day for a mound of presents for each of us. I will probably enjoy myself too. Wink

Dh just showed me his stitches and I almost had to laugh. His mom keeps saying he is milking it and she was frankly pissing me off. But when I Saw that little itty bitty stitch I did have to control myself and my sympathy has gone down a bit. I Was stitched 10 times till sunday (is that an expression?) with both kids and frankly it wasn't that bad. PArticularly the second time I guess since it was all scar tissue anyway. I admit that the reward and challenge of a brand new baby probably made it a pretty moot thing at the time. But I just have to laugh at the incision & ONE stitch that can not even be seen it is so small. I think he will be okay...

& tonight and tomorrow will be exciting with kids and santa!

+ $250 & Christmas Drama

December 23rd, 2006 at 08:28 am

Okay - I got my work bonus - $250 - woohoo!!!! I Am looking at my e-fund and oh many I Want to put it there!!!!! BUT I just sent in the paperwork to downgrade our health insurance, and it says on the form they will "let me know when the rate takes affect." Gee great. It asked when I Wanted it to take affect for my dependents so I wrote 1/1/07 all over the place. I don't want to pay a dime to the insane premiums. BUT I got the bill and it is an extra $200 or so, so the bonus check pretty much covers that. I will just pay it and hope I get a refund or premium reduction next month. At least I had the extra money to cover.

I get paid friday. Since I have the money with these last 2 checks to pay all the December bills, I will just hoarde the christmas money until I deposit my paycheck next saturday - will see where I am at then. I am expecting a big check from dh's mother and I need it to pay some bills. It is spoken for! & anything above and beyond that I don't really expect but wouldn't be surprised. So we'll see!!! & the upside is I hope this is the last check from her I Expect and count on. Frankly I did not put any money aside the last 2 months because we paid the estate lawyer. I Can look at it that she paid for that with this check - a nice Christmas gift indeed! But my goal is next December that the money will go to retirement or savings - and so that is a nice thing! I hope this is the last time we are on pins and needles form MIL's big check because we need it for everyday bills...

Yesterday was actually nice. I don't really like scents or anything but I got a lovely candle with a christmas tree scent and I love it. It was kind of funny because if it was any other scent I would have probably put it in the regift pile. The scents in those things are so strong, but I love the smell of this one, it isn't too strong, and I figure I could put it by the fake tree and pretend it is real. I did not even have to burn the candle and my office smells of christmas tree just having it sitting in here all day. I also got a lovely scarf/gloves/hat from my co-worker in our gift exchange. Just beautiful. Plus some unexpected homemade treats and some fancy chocolates from the boss. Made out pretty well - nothing to the regift pile either??? WOW!

Today sounded great and luxurious since the kids are with grandma until we pick them up tomorrow. But this is how my schedule is shaping up. Work until 1pm or so, go to the bank and the grocery store (pick up some pizzas and some stuff for Christmas). This is usually dh's job - the groceries - but he is home resting and healing. So it is the least I can do. But bah, I hate shopping. LOL. I have christmas cards to do (had wanted to get out today but oh well!!! Probably not...). I really wanted to clean my car - something I never get around to doing and I still have a trail of ants to vacuum. They invaded our house too. So I have some spraying and scrubbing to do - we put out some traps and figured we'd get out the raid once the kids were out of the house. We get them so randomly, it's been years, but they decided to invade yesterday for whatever reason. I have a used toy I need to clean and wrap for little monkey. Still have to wrap grandma's gifts too. Dh has a pile of movies and DVDs he wants me to sit down and watch. I have to cook dinner too (not huge, but just takes time). & then we have to leave like 7am tomorrow to go to Christmas Eve brunch tomorrow and pick up the kids. Figured we'd drive back at 1:00 or nap time because easiest, and then we'll be home around 3 or 4. & the weekend will be over!!! LOL. Actually, Monday should be pretty relaxing and maybe I will hold off all the DVD-watching until then... I just feel silly thinking I would have SO much time to myself and looking at my schedule. Oh well, if I had to do that all AND watch the kids I would be in big trouble so maybe I Can do everything 10 times as fast as I imagine without kinds under foot.

Oh anyway - on other funny thing. MIL was over the last 2 days helping with the kids, and last night at dinner she asks us what we got for dh's cousins new adopted baby, and their adopted teenager actually too. ??? We look at each other and say, um NOTHING. Why? LOL. & she looks all appalled and says well they are going to her house today with the kids to exchange gifts. Oh no, she better pick up something "for us." I was super annoyed so I Said look, we have been trying to get away from gift exchanging, so PLEASE do not pick up gifts on our behalf. All the while thinking when was anyone going to fill us in, we never exchange gifts, and though she has a new baby yes, I am pretty certain she did not get our boys gifts the last few Christmases. & we never get gifts for her teenage daughter. ???

Anyway, so I talked about it with dh later when MIL was gone and she wasn't butting in because she sure likes to butt in. We were both on the same page. I said if we had more money I would love to give him a gift on one hand. On the other hand, Christmas is a VERY busy time for me and this year has been downright pleasant, I had simplified so much. & even so I feel like a chicken running around without a head this weekend - there is so much to do just for the immediate family. So we kind of decided money or no money, we just didn't want to go down that road. We have given them piles and piles and piles of used clothing (some brand new/never worn even) and other baby thing - some big things as well. AND if I see somehting cute for him throughout the year I wouldn't think twice of picking it up. But I just want to take the Christmas part of the equation. The best way is not to return the favor - I can guarantee they won't get gifts next year if we don't give them ourselves.

However, today the kids are going to a gift exchange at their house, where they will get gifts and they will have none to give - LOL. I think it's kind of funny. Since we were told all of 14 hours before this event. & I wouldn't put it past MIL to buy something on her way over. If so, she can deal with it - it an be an annual tradition - she wasnts to make it complicated on herself - so be it. I want no part in it.

Ah, family. Oh don't worry, after Christmas we'll call his cousin and explain the situation and work it out. We've pretty much agreed with my family and all our friends that we don't expect anything from anyone and have taken the "obligation" out of gift giving, and I am sure we can get them on the same page. Dh's family is a little more weird where presents equate love for whatever reason, and we humor his immediate family, but hopefully we can get on the same page with his cousin. This approach is just kind of silly - our love is not measured by our Christmas gifts!

Friday Update

December 22nd, 2006 at 07:59 am

Ah, yesterday was a REALLY nice day.

Dh's surgery went well. He's doing okay. Resting up for a few days - definitely enjoying the break from the kids!

Went to work around 1 and didn't get much done. Was a little frantic. Place was falling apart and in light of last manager leaving I guess I am the "computer expert." That is what I am afraid of - if I am the "expert" then we are in trouble!!! I just told dh over the weekend thank goodness this guy had come on and was doing the computer stuff well because that was not my thing. Me and my big mouth - LOL. I also had a chat with my boss and I got the impression he was very pleased he could rely on me, that I wasn't going on maternity leave again anytime soon - LOL - and he even gave me tickets to a Pro Basketball game in January!!!! I did consider selling them for cash - briefly - but I did offer them to my mom who is the sports fan of the family and she is excited!!!! Her and I will go togetehr - we actually live down the street from the arena - so it will be a fun night - not out of my way or anything! I am not a sports fan but I went to a game when I moved here 5 years ago and it was pretty FUN. Sacramento has great spirit and the games are fun. Can't help but get a little excited no matter how little you care about sports... I forgot to look at where the seats were - was gonna look up though I imagine they are fancy. The ticket price is $230 between the 2 - I should have just sold them, huh? LOL. It's not like he never offers tickets to anyone, but I got the distinct impression it was a direct "reward" for my efforts of late so I thought that was a good sign with a raise due Jan. 1!!!

Not much today financially. Going to work, TONS to do, but not quite as stressed or rushed since I have all day tomorrow to work. I am used to this time of year being crazy and am happy to have Sunday and Monday off. But I have 2 clients to deliver cookies to today, a lot of work to do, then work gift exchange and should get a bonus. Last year was $150 so I am hoping for that at the least! So I look forward to getting a check today, will run to the bank tomorrow probably to deposit.

Reminds me 2 nights I was baking cookies and both time neighbors came by with treats. So I returned the favor to those 2 last night. We had our house on the market briefly in July because we wanted to move and had a contingency purchase with a house we fell in love with. It had been on the market for months and lowered the price by $300k or so - so we did a contingency offer, they took it, and I think 2 weeks later they had another offer. In this market we needed more time of course. Then it became available again and we decided against it. We would never afford so much land and space in California again probably in our lifetime, and it was a great neighborhood, in a completely flood-free zone which is our main point to move. But it was so big I am just not sure we could afford the upkeep. IT was really cool though - a house with an attached apartment - the house was our size - we were to rent the apartment - and it had a huge workshop in the back for music and a game room or perhaps we could rent it or convert it/finish it. So many options. It was pretty cool - but it had 5 bathrooms and 3 AC units, and an old roof nearing replacement. NEed I say more??? LOL. The upkeep would have killed us. Like I want 5 toilets to clean.

Anyway, we delivered cookies to our neighbor across the street last night and she just gushed on and on and on how happy she was we didn't move. It was pretty sweet. Kind of funny though because we have the most awesome neighbors on all sides. The odds are whoever moved in wouldn't be so bad I am sure. But that is another reason why we hesitate to move - what are the odds we would love all our neighbors so much. Well glad the feeling is mutual.









Looking Forward to 2007 & Surgery Today

December 21st, 2006 at 07:18 am

Was up early with a headache, stressed and all I guess. I usually wake up at dawn and dh stays up LATE, like ships passing in the night, but with his surgery today we laid in bed this morning and talked. We still have no idea how 2007 will be, discussing if I get a $1k raise or a $10k raise. Who knows. Stuff at work has been weird, looks like I may have a lot of responsibility and such, lost our new manager. & bad timing as busy season approaches!!!!! But for now it is a toss of the coin. I'll know in 2-3 weeks I guess. IT was fun pondering if we had big money - hehe. Dh just asked that if I got a BIG raise that I get HBO back. I said we'll see - LOL. I said it should probably come from his allowance though I Will have to throw in a buck or 2 every month for Larry David - is all I really miss so far. I did make clear that even if I got a huge raise, we are saving it all. That is when he asked for his beloved HBO - LOL. I don't want to think about it too much though - I may be lucky to get enough raise to cover the increase in our health insurance... No point in getting too excited in the meantime. Wink

So yes, today is the big snip. Send good thoughts to hubby that all goes well. IT is kind of a landmark day, after today we will no likely make any more of these:





*sigh*

OF course yesterday I delivered christmas goodies to clients yesterday and heard all sorts of horror stories. Genitals turning black (too much heavy lifting too soon) and getting pregnant because husband was too shy to get his specimen checked after to make sure all was well - LOL. if that happens here all I have to say is it was meant to be. Sometimes the powers that be have higher plans I guess. FOr now I just hope that no more are meant to be for us - hehe.

Grandma has 2 weeks off and is going to help with the kids and even take them home for a couple of days. Ah. Should be very nice and quiet. Dh will be resting and healing though and I will probably be working. But at least the kids will have some fun and we will get lots of relaxing too. WIll prove to be a nice few days. Weekends like this always sound HEAVENLY but then we just don't know what to do with ourselves and miss the kids terribly. LOL. Can't win I guess... Almost why I am glad I have so much work to do... Will take advantage and get a lot done.

Oh yeah - the pictures - we were baking cookies and Little Monkey found the sunglasses so they started dancing around in their sunglasses. Funny kids - will miss them the next few days...

Breakeven!!

December 19th, 2006 at 10:13 pm

Made my deposits today, came home and updated Quicken. Still short about $100 for december - not really concerned. But checked the mail and got a $100 christmas check from dh's grandpa. Sweet. For whatever reason everyone in his family from every side is big on cash. No complaints here!!!!! My family, not so much. Okay 1 side is totally poor. & the other side figures they have done enough raising their kids, I guess. I was just pondering why dh's family is so cash happy and mine isn't, just strange in a way. He even has a distant aunt who always sends big checks. Spoiled rotten I tell you!

Anyway, the $100 brings us to breakeven in December. Still $400 left to spend on the credit card too, and stay within budget - will be mostly groceries and gas...

Phew.

Christmas money - there may just be enough coming in the next couple of weeks to finance our wants/needs and to add some to the e-fund. Who knows. Dh wants to put his money towards PS3 - whatever. What can I say. A tight tight year we keep chanting, but a $500 game system when he already has MANY. Whatever... So much for TIGHT! He did give me grandpa's money for bills (didn't give him a choice - hehe). We'll see what we get and compromise I guess - at least he isn't hoarding all the christmas money for this - he is saving his pennies for a few months - we'll come up with a compromise. Maybe he can save 1/2 if he gives 1/2 to the e-fund. Just depends - time will tell...

I need to invest in clothes for work because I am still in in-between size hell. Last year's clothes too big, pre-pregnancy clothes too small. Tax season coming up - need some suits. I seriously have size 16 clothes way too big and 14 way too small. I have no idea if I Can even find anything! Yeah, I want to spend all my money ($200? mostly work bonus) but it is an investment for work. In the meantime my dress hasn't been so hot... I have taken business casual to a pretty casual level.

Kids will get money and we have toys in mind for them. They could probably do well without. But we justified not going crazy pre-christmas by deciding to go crazy with the christmas money for them instead. It is seriously Dec. 19th and they each have 1 toy - and I haven't been tempted to buy more. So far has worked...

On the flip side of all this, I am only $250 away from $6k in the e-fund!!!!!! We have to throw it a bone!!

It all depends how much we rake in on Christmas I guess!!!


Soda Pop Tops

December 19th, 2006 at 12:57 pm

Well, we'll see how this works out. I have mentioned before that I allow myself 1 small can of pepsi a day - 8 oz can. Dh whines and whines as he buys my 6-packs every week because they are pricey. I frankly don't give a damn because with this system I lose weight. So yay - I don't care how much it costs - I know I just drink a lot less in this form.

Lack of self control is a big part of it, but not all. I generally do not enjoy a big can of soda - it is just too much.

So over the weekend we were at my mom's and I Saw she had little tops for her soda cans - keeps them fizzy and fresh apparently. Interesting, I thought. So I questioned her about them and she said they were great, she ordered them from a catalog, etc.

So I thought aloud maybe I should try those and dh ran with it. When I got home yesterday he had 24 regular sized cans and told me each 12-pack cost as much as my little six-pack - and he was dancing with glee. Interesting since I had no tops yet, had been a passing thought. Luckily he was nice and got me one last round of small cans. HE gives me a week I guess - hehe.

So I just ordered some online. They are different than the kind my mom had, but we'll see how they work - investment will pay for itself shortly...

http://www.sodapoptops.com/order-soda-pop-tops.php

We'll see if they really truly do work and keep the fizz (I have a tendency to throw out the last portion of the soda bottle because it loses fizz towards the end - and loses all appeal if you ask me...). IF they work, I will be happy to switch though I know it will be a lot more work for me and much more of a battle to just drink my 8 oz and save the rest for later. I Will probably just have to pour it in a glass and leave it at that. I Would drink the whole can if I had it in hand. As much as I generally would not like a whole can at home, at work I will mindlessly drink whatever is in front of me. So I will start with the pour and sip rule and just have to pretend the rest of the open can is not calling to me...

We'll see how it goes. I think dh has too much hope in me. If it is a choice between pricey soda cans or a diminished waistline, I choose pricey soda cans - LOL. I have a strong feeling I may be switching back. But I will give it a whirl. I Can do it!

Today I am just trying to decide when to go to the bank. I Was thinking thursday would be good because I should have some time. BUT I have some checks that could clear thursday, money not in the bank yet, just cutting it a bit close. So I will probably go today. THinking 2:00 take a little break and make a bank run. I just want to beat the crowd... Have a paycheck to deposit, CPA renewal reimbursement, $12 from cookie lee sales, and $70 from selling baby stuff last week. A good run... & I will breathe a little easier when the money is in and all the checks can then clear!!

All that and I am about $50 short for the month... But the good news is with the sold baby items, most of the christmas money will go straight to e-fund. WIll not have to rely on christmas to cover the $125 or so I was short originally. So the bills will be paid come christmas, and hopefully some money to the e-fund too!

It is a silly little thing, but realizing we can deposit cash has helped a lot. Our parents give us cash here and there all the time, and we use it as fun money. But no more!! From now on it goes mostly to the bank. Even if we split it 1/2 fun money and 1/2 savings, it is a large improvement. I have no idea why we are so horrible with cash, we just spend it all whenever we come across it, but this is my 2nd cash deposit and I am excited! If I start hoarding all the cash we receive from our parents and from selling things, etc., can be a significant source for our savings. I think this will be a big part of my $20 challenge. Hoarding cash!

Tuesday Update

December 19th, 2006 at 07:29 am

Now that I have settled in I think I will try the $20 challenge starting Jan. 1. Took me a while to figure what it is all about - hehe.

For now we start the countdown to dh's surgery. The big snip in just 3 days - oh I can hardly contain myself. I am not a big fan of hormones and pills and drugs and such, so for me I Am just so happy as I near the end of the journey of birth control. For me it will probably end around March - yahoo.

I don't think dh is so excited, he was never a big fan of the snip, but having 2 kids scared him into it I guess. He was dead set against it and then when #2 came, I don't think he could get in soon enough. I wasn't ready for anything so permanent but I got real with myself and realized he may never offer again - LOL. On the plus side he gets a vacation for 5 days because no heave lifting. Once he survives the surgery and see everything still works he will enjoy the following few days I Am sure.

Yesterday I got my cute black shoes in size 9w, because they didn't have 1/2 sizes. Too small. Bummer. The good is I peeked online on return policy, because it wasn't obvious, and saw free shipping and a $5 off coupon, on top of the sale which was STILL going on. So I reordered the same shoes in 10W and saved $11. I will pay a few bucks to ship back the other ones, but will come out ahead! Woohoo! I thought 9 would be fine and 10 would be too big anyway, but man those 9s were small. I underestimate how much my feet have grown in recent years I guess.

Oh well, lessoned learned. I shopped through a conduit - shop.com, and didn't check the website specifically. When I did last night the coupon and free shopping popped out at me. I could have gotten that with my first purchase too. Oh well. The Cutest shoes for $24 now. Just have to wait wait wait. Almost there...

I know that with travel - I always start with cheap tickets or something and then call or check the website directly because there is often deals if you buy direct. I should have known the same for anything when a 3rd party is involved. Will keep it in mind for the future!

For now I am just sad I have to wait another week or 2 for my shoes - hehe. Oh well!!!! Will be worth the wait...

TIVO on the cheap...

December 18th, 2006 at 12:15 pm

It kind of cracks me up when people assumed we were hoty toity because we have had TIVO for YEARS!!!!! But the thing is it didn't cost us much.

Last night I was thinking about our little TIVO setup because it is a little unique and people with money do not do what we do - LOL. I thought it was a good example of how we could have some luxuries that don't have to cost a fortune though - with a little ingenuity.

A big thing for us growing up in the Silicon Valley is we know people who work at all the big companies so we get lots of deals. For example, I had a friend work at Adobe, and we bought a lot of software from him at $20 a pop. Dh's professional video editing suite - I think it might have cost $40 (retails over $1000 easy...) Cell phones refurbished and free. PDAs at cheap discounts, etc. So we always had a lot of technology, but it is all in who you know. I always say we live twice as well on 1/2 as much, and this is a big part of why. While the frugal crowd is shunning technology we get steals on it as we do with anything...

Right now everyone we know works at google, I haven't figured out how that will help us yet, but it will eventually - LOL. Wink

My dad used to work with Philips who had teamed up with TIVO on some things so my dad got a great discount on a TIVO and then gave it to us on Christmas in 2000 or so. NO one really had TIVO then. At the time, you could pay like $15/month or so OR a lifetime subscription around $100. We waited a couple of months to make sure we really liked it (oh yes we did!!) and bought the lifetime subscription. A beautiful choice since the "lifetime subscription" is no longer offered. We haven't paid a dime on our TIVO in 6 years or so. Even if my dad hadn't of bought it "for us", we could have bought it ourselves at a pretty significant discount.

I think it was when we moved and our bedroom was right at the top of the stairs that dh got the idea to split the signal and send it up to our bedroom so we can watch it in 2 rooms. Since then the fancy 2-tuner TIVOs have come out and they do have a lot to offer. But as long as our TIVO is free we will keep it. (& I knock on wood furiously because I would hate it if it died - would be sad...). So who knows how much dh spent on the receivers and signal-sender and such (have no idea what the technical terms are). But was not much - I would guess $50 at most - and wala - TIVO in 2 rooms.

The downsides being, if the glass door is open on the entertainment center, it won't work, or sometimes there is some pretty bad interference. It is usually okay, but no TIVO upstairs while the microwave is going (Can be a little scary - the LOUD static that comes through instead). We even thought it was a really good idea to upgrade to those wireless phones upstairs with one port and 2 handsets but the frequency interfered. Dh finally figured it out and got a cheaper phone in the end, but we couldn't keep our super fancy phones - though he did find the same type in another frequency. Luckily the baby monitor has not interfered...

So yes, it is not the most top-of-the line reception, and whenever there is too much white on the screen, the reception doesn't like it for whatever reason and the frames start to roll - LOL. But for the occasions we want to watch the TIVO up in bed, it works. Try not to watch too much white, and make sure not to turn ont he microwave, and all is well...

YEah that is pretty much how stuff works around our house.

So I laugh as I sit up in bed watching a rolling screen of white, aiming the remote just right because it is extremely finicky, laughing at how hoity toity we are with our TIVO!

I know some part of us will be glad when we can upgrade because dh's parents have a 2-tuner one that they can record 2 shows at once and store like 100s of hours it seems (vs. our 30 hours?). It will be nice to upgrade one of these days. They have come a LONG way. But for now we are surviving. We are enjoying our "free" luxury for now...






Brrrrrrr...

December 18th, 2006 at 11:55 am

I spoke too soon!!!

It was quite warm the last few days and on Friday my coworker who lives up in the hills left around 4:30pm saying something about snow. ??? So I Walk outside at 5:00 and was blown away by the chill in the air - my word!!!!

It went from warm to freezing in the matter of hours it seems. 26 degrees this morning - probably a record for COLD!

Which reminds me, we were pelted by hail Saturday night which was quite fun. Mind you the biggest hail we get around here is maybe the size of a grain of rice. But this is pretty exciting stuff to us.

I am feeling way caught-up here at work and very relieved. Enough so I am going to the dollar store at lunch. I decided to maybe get some cards for the people I never talk to much and because I have a pile of professional pics of the kids I have no idea what to do with. I don't think I ever have paid a dime for professional pics, overall a waste since I take some pretty nice pics and we have nice equipment. My dad hands me down photo paper ALL the time. But grandma loves the professional pics and is so dissapointed we don't go through the effort she takes the kids often and leaves me with piles of useless pictures. I admit when they were babies I took a lot and the professional pics were silly. But getting them to sit still is quite a task these days and I Don't get to it so much. But I would try before shelling out the bucks. At the least order 1 big print and we could scan and print whatever our heart desired. IT amazes me those places can stay in business with the affordability and ease of technology today... But I digress, I figured I would get some cheap cards and send them out - in my effort to de-clutter and retain some christmas cheer to those I never speak to but who sent me cards. I figured the Dollar Store would do.

Dh also reminded me we didn't get his grandma anything. 'Tis a long story, but I know I can find her something nice at the Dollar Store too. So I will probably run out and grab a 99 cent item from Taco Bell too, for lunch, and all will be well.

I settled for 2 kinds of cookie to make tonight (both variations on chocolate chip) and plan to make 2 batches each. Start with one tonight and the other tomorrow. My son is so excited since Grandma let him use the mixer yesterday and help her bake a cake. I told him he would be my helper tonight. I have Grandma's "Best Ever Chocolate Chip Cookie" recipe which I can not resist. Has cinnamon and oats in them for a twist, but the cinnamon fills the house with the best smell... But dh found some crisco or something - I forget - in the cupboard and remembered the cookies I had needed to use that for. He said I might as well use it before it went bad - and he LOVED those cookies = like chocolate chip brownie or something. Okay then, just lots of chocolate chips!!! He was cracking me up because he was telling me that was what I used in the other recipe instead of butter, and I am thinking, are you crazy??? My cookies have BUTTER and lots of it. Whatever this crisco crap is - it scares me a little - but he insists they were good. So whatever. So he finally found the recipe we had bought it for ages ago. Don't want good food to go to waste. (If you can classify the stuff as food anyway?). I also have my super easy fudge recipe which I will make too - yum yum. I should post that one - just a few ingredients, takes a few minutes tops, and is the BEST! Pretty much butter, chocolate cocoa, powdered sugar, milk, vanilla. Microwave and stir and chill. Wala! & Oh yes - and don't forget the nuts too...

Yes if you haven't notice I really like CHOCOLATE. Plus grandma will cook us all the other types of cookies - they like to bake for days...

Since things have calmed down a bit I am ambitious in my cookies and delivering them out this week. We'll see!



Dh saved $11!

December 17th, 2006 at 05:51 am

Dh noticed the DVR he got for his dad was on sale $10 more yesterday so he went to get a refund for the difference. Plus tax came out to about $11. He braved the crowds and everything - which I am not sure I Would do - hehe.

His grandma reimbursed him $45 cash for one of the Christmas gifts we had purchased on behalf of other people. I may have $100 cash or so to deposit and get the bills paid this month - phew.

We had a marvelous, marvelous dinner last night. Quiet - with no kids. We took my parents out - dad's birthday - offered to pay - they refused. I handed my mom the personal loan payment for the month and added $20 for my dad's dinner. At least we paid for him - though he paid for us. Oh well, it works. Brought him a bag filled with pistachios and some dark chocolate from Ghiradelli. He was happy - all he needs is food!!!

Oh yes - the reason we were sans kids is we left them with the other grandma so we can sign our wills, trust, etc., etc. All DONE - oh WOW - it feels so good. Just a load off to know everyone will be taken care of as we wish if something should happen. & the medical directives which have of course been on top of our to-do list since Terri Schiavo was in the news. A little late, yes, but luckily in time. Met over by our favorite Mexican restaurant so decided to meet my parents after. It was so NICE and quiet - hehe.

Today we don't have much planned. I have to get work in where I can. Just woke up at Grandma's house, plugged in the laptop, wireless card is working fine and all set up but took me 10 minutes to find an outlet to plug in the dying battery - LOL. Phew. Gotta go get some work done. I have the morning but will see other grandma for lunch and then a 2-hour drive. Maybe will work in the evening too.

I need to clean the house for guests next week and bake cookies for clients. But I have NO IDEA when this will be accomplished. I think dh is busy Monday & Tuesday night so maybe the kids can help me bake in the evening. Cleaning house - who knows when. ??????? I did clean the kitchen/family room yesterday because dh never does and here are just CRUMBS everywhere. I spotted an ant and so decided to vacuum and scrub. Dh was annoyed as we were to leave town, but it will be nice to return to a clean house. A little futile because come tonight it will be back to square one I know.

It turns out the ant problem was in the van anyway. I forgot I had a bag of empty soda cans to recycle from the christmas party Dec. 2 - 2 weekends ago?????? As dh goes to load up the van - he found a mound of ants. I didn't see the lovely spectacle but will no doubt get to clean it up when we get home. I have been chauffering a colony of ants about town I guess - LOL!!!! Disgusting! But it was a frugal thing for us since we decided to let the van air out over the weekend (after a good spray) and took the compact car down which gets twice as good gas mileage. Alls well that ends well...

Oh yeah, we had a Manager who delivered See's candies to clients, most likely on his own dime every year. He was a pretty gruff guy, I will never forget when a client/friend told me he showed up and she thought "oh no - what did I do wrong????" LOL. & he was there with a christmas card and Sees candy. Well he is gone now and it just occured to me a day or 2 ago to fill his shoes but we are so BROKE this month. So I decided to bake cookies. Unfortunately work is too busy so I may just hit up my one friend with the cookies. But there are 4-5 clients I would really love to bring them to. That I don't get to see enough. We'll see... Since they are all the ladies I really enjoy i would be hard to pop in and out and not stay and chat and get behind on work - LOL. But it is a goal I guess. Get all my work done so I can spend 1/2 day delivering Christmas cheer...

My 3yo keeps asking every day if it is Christmas yet!!!! Ah, it's the first year he is really aware, and boy is he ready!

Free $0.70 but +$225 bill

December 16th, 2006 at 07:21 am

This is super cool. I have been reading about all these discount groceries and being able to double up coupons and such. Unfortunately around here none of this is allowed. No stores will double up coupons and there are none of the big discounters in our area. Bummer. so we mostly shop Bel Air. sounds fancy but they have recently revamped to be low cost leaders and they are for the most part.

But yesterday dh really scored at Safeway, they had a special a couple of weeks back where you bought 2 bags of chips (which is about the only junk we get, we would buy regardless) and get a free jar of cheese dipping sauce. THey had it again yesterday but the cheese sauce also had a $0.69 coupon. The cost was $3 so they gave him a $3 discount plus $0.69 for the coupon. Hey it is as close to a double coupon as we'll get any time soon - I thought that was COOL!!! They paid us $0.69 to take their cheese - hehe.

Oh, I must be in heaven - he also bought 3 pounds of pistachios!!!!!!! Yum! They were on sale - two 1.5 lb bags for $10 (vs. 1 for $10) and so he grabbed them. We have pistachios out our years and his total grocery bill which included MANY things was $75. $25 for pistachios and laundry detergent. So another week of eating at $50 overall. I am starting to get optimistic that this may be a good month. Only $200 on groceries to-date this month and we are going to be eating out a lot this week - on grandma. She is coming to watch the kids for dh's surgery (the big snip) this week so will probably pay for some take-out. Which is good since my cook won't be up to cooking. This weekend we are visiting grandma so a weekend of free food and such. So maybe we can do it. I would love 1 month of a $400 grocery bill no matter how much we have to cheat and have our way paid by grandma - hehe. Lately the more we try to cut it back the higher it gets - but dh has been really stocking up on things for sale, and it looks like it may pay off this month.

The bad is I just got my HMO bill for January - about $900. I Called last week to switch to a cheaper plan ($675/month) and they were to send me the forms. I just realized when I got the bill - never got the forms! Bah. Have to call again. I really don't want to pay this even for 1 month - just ridiculous. If I have to it will be $1k this month with dh's surgery. Not a pretty month for a house full of healthy people. Hopefully I can get this squared away before the 31st and the bill is due.

If not, my bills will no longer be AHEAD. Oh well, nice while it lasted. Can pay the preschool in January I guess. THey don't have a due date - I just like to pay it ahead for the month though she doesn't care how I pay it. If I have to pay the increased HMO amount this month, hopefully I Will get a refund next month and get it squared away.



I think all bills are officially AHEAD!!

December 15th, 2006 at 11:13 am

I like to pay my bills when I get them, vs. when due. Creates a positive float I guess, because I know from my maternity leave days and other tight times that I can pay most of our bills late and no one would care. Exeptions being cell phone, mortgage & credit cards. Oh yeah - they care a lot - hehe. But even so, I generally pay those long before due - so still a lot of "float" if something happened and we were out income.

So today I called to put the diaper service bill on my credit card. That one they ask you to pay ahead for 4 weeks. I am usually lazy and pay at the end of the month - no one cares. So I called today and they said I was paid through Monday. So close to the next bill I thought, gosh, should just pay 2 months! I thought about it, and the reason I have been waiting to pay is because I usually get the bill around the 20th and I decide to push off to the next credit card cycle.

So as I hesitated to double up this month when I Could just call back after the 1st, but I quickly changed my mind. This is silly. If I pay it now, then next time I can pay it the day I get the bill! No more of this "waiting for the next c.c. cycle" stuff. Which in the end I put it off, then forget, and then pay a month late. They have never charged a late fees so I figure they don't really care. But it is still nice to pay when they say is due I guess. Wink

I think this squares me away and that officially in 2007 I will be paying all my bills when received - that is nice.

The next step I would really like to get to is to "prepay" my c.c. every month. I probably wouldn't give it to the c.c. company, but just set it aside the first of the month to pay the bill. Until then we are kind of operating on credit to month to month. I say we aren't because we pay it in full every month. But in a way we are putting off 1 month paying for all of our purchases...

I go back and forth on this because because I get paid on the 1st for the prior month, which pays the c.c. bill for the prior month. So it is mostly cash basis. I Earn the money as I spend it though I don't get it or pay it until the 1st...

But the more I can prepay the more "float" I have too. Which is a good thing.

Well when we build up cash a little more, a goal for 2007 I guess...

None of this really matters in the long-run I guess. BUT we have been deep into juggling the bills before. It is nice to be far on the opposite side of juggling bills, not waiting to be able to pay them and such... IT's just been a way of life in recent years but I am glad to move past! I don't think doubling up the diaper bill this month will amount to a hill of beans. & that feels good!

It is going to mess up my pretty monthly reports, but I will survive - hehe. The bookkeeper in me does not like doubled up payments. Bah!

Zillow.com & The ruse of Appearance

December 15th, 2006 at 09:35 am

This is an interesting exercise.

3 houses - zillow.com

What do you think about the person who owns the first place? The 2nd? The 3rd?







What do these 3 homes all have in common???? They all were purchased for about $290k, in recent years.

The first one was our condo we bought for in 1999 - $260k. The second is our current home - it is actually not accurate - our house is bigger than the stats- but it cost $290k in 2001. The third is a friend who paid $300k for a house in 2004.

#1 - If we lived in San Jose the appearance would be I guess we couldn't even afford a house. It may even appear we were renters. (Talking about appearances people coming to our front door). From a zillow perspective, must be rich, eh? A condo worth $450k? Must be a luxury condo? (Hardly - LOL).

#2 - The appearance is pretty much we are rich when people come to our front door. OR if you glance at zillow. (Or maybe mortgaged to our eyeballs). The truth is we got in early enough we didn't have to pay that much... The truth is we made a LATERAL move from a condo with no yard or garage, in a so-so neighborhood, to a pretty nice, luxurious house.

**Keep in mind when we bought both of these properties the "sky was falling" - a lot of people waiting for the market to crash...

#3 - Our friends with these starter homes are paying more than we did for our house. PLUS our interest rate is probably lower to boot. The local impression is probably that are lucky they own a house. Must be upper-middle-class. An appearance from someone outside of the area would be very different though.

I hardly know anyone on 2-incomes renting or owning a house more than 2-3 bedrooms, so that is why I consider a 1300 sf house large overall in the "small house" discussions. 900-square feet 2-bedrooms are the norm here...

Appearances are so deceiving.

On zillow.com you can actually see what people paid, most of the time. But even so gives you no inkling about if they could truly afford their house, how much was mortgaged and such... How much help did they get from relatives? I have a lot of friends right now getting into houses through inheritance here (3 in the last year).

But there you have it - 3 homes bought for about the same price in the last few years.

I just find it extremely interesting because I am always meeting new people and they often are initmidated when they see our house. As I get to know them, 9 times out of 10 they are paying a lot more than us to rent or mortgage a much more modest house. It is all so relative I guess. I grew up thinking we would never afford more than a condo, if that. So I think people are generally surprised how down-to-earth we are. But I guess that is the problem with assumptions and judements. They often amount to squat. Especially in such a volatile housing market...

(I actually hadn't looked up our old condo in a long while and almost fell over to see it was up past $450k. WOW!!!!! We left SJ refusing to pay $500k+ for a starter home. Ridiculous! Now you would lucky to get in a condo for that much I guess...)

Thanks TinapBeana!!!!!!!!

December 14th, 2006 at 03:03 pm

Thanks to TinapBeana I figured out how to do this:



It's the only thing I had on my computer besides wide loan amortizations (that wouldn't fit on the screen). I started a price book but have since decided it is too time consuming. But hey - now you get a glimpse into our grocery bill.

Okay now - I just saw your fancy blog today - what is the code so that you can click on it to see the full size????? That is the next trick I want to learn - hehe.

Ooooh, this is fun though. I may repost my social security spreadsheet - it was time consuming to type and hard to follow. Same with my christmas budget and such. I guess I Can go back and edit those posts...


Wills & Christmas Trees

December 14th, 2006 at 07:01 am

This month so far has been a strange one. We actually sign our wills, trust, and other docs saturday. I am SO excited to get this done. Our lawyer up and went to Sydney at the last minute and just got back, so we waited. Of course it was not until last night I finally got around to reading all the docs and making sure they were all good. Frankly most of it makes no sense to me, and I did a lot of skimming. But I trust her and looks like the basics we wanted were taken care of.

If she hadn't gone away for a month we could have taken care of this in our 20s - I Was proud. I don't know anyone in their 20s that has a family trust. We are not worth much on paper, but our life insurance and house would make our kids millionaires. (Shhhh don't tell them) so we felt it was time - well past time. Plus we got our medical directives & power of attorney taken care of as well. Anyway so much for 20s, but made it the first couple of weeks of 30 - still something. I am learning my most responsible of friends in their late 30s and early 40s don't have life insurance or wills to appoint guardians. *shudders* I am giving my lawyer's name to everyone, indeed. I feel like we have dragged our feet for years. It just is not at the top of most people's lists I guess. I mean we have a 3yo and we are finally getting to this step? Seems late to me.

Oh yes, but why strange, we have just been surrounded by death this last month. My family lost a friend suddenly, that James Kim saga weighed on me heavily (since he was a young dad with a young family I guess). My grandpa doesn't have long to live. Even going for a walk on the weekend, we crossed the path of a dead pigeon which my son was very concerned about. It has been kind of depressing. But all the more reason to get this stuff in order.

In other news we FINALLY got our christmas tree up yesterday. The kids love it. My 3yo kept sating - "It's Christmas Eve!!!!"
LOL. No no - has a ways to go.

MIL sent his preschool teacher $100. MIL can be a PITA, but is extremely generous all the same - was very sweet of her. Preschool teacher called her to say thanks and said she misses my son so much - can't wait to get back. Ah, just a couple of more weeks. HE has been handling it well - trying to get him together with his friend from there around once a week which helps. Overall he has handled the change and upset pretty well. But I know he is eager to get back.

This month has been pretty tight. I usually have a little money in the slush fund easily accessible. But it rests at $5 today. All the bills paid, some sitting in the corner, waiting a week or so to mail. I usually mail my deposits, but I think I Will go to the bank Monday. Mail is so slow this time of year and I need the money right away. I did want to also deposit my cash profits from selling things this week, but dh took a $20 because he had no cash, and frankly all I have is $2. I think I will just hold onto it. We'll see what kind of cash we amass at Christmas - I Can make a deposit then. ME going to the bank to make deposits - just weird. I still need about $125 to breakeven for the month. But I know we'll find it. The worst is I Will pay some bills after the first of the month instead of before. But with Christmas we should get some cash so no biggie. For now it is tight. I am still getting used to my savings being inaccessible for a couple of days - was never like this before. But I think it is good - harder to touch. We usually have more slush and I have a lot of leeway since I pay the bills received, not when due. I just did not realize we had NO cash, and so it is good we sold some things. Though frankly I think we could survive with no cash. We don't use it for much - even the fast food places take credit these days.

Oh well, come my Dec. 31 paycheck we will be in the green. Soon enough.

I called my HMO last week to change to a less pricey plan, but still have not received the paperwork. will give it a couple of days I guess. I don't even want to think if that is not switched by 12/31. Then I would be another $200 or so under budget. Don't want to think about it. Paying $900 for health insurance premiums is NOT an option. It is just insane. E-fund will certainly not make it to $6k this year if that is the case... Hoping this goes through. I should probably call and make sure they mailed the forms...

Edited: Just sold a double stroller for $15. Sweet! We bought this REALLY nice stroller for $20 used. I offered it to my mom's group $15 - figured I'd post it $25 on craigslist if no one wanted it. It is pretty worn and my group can be a little snobby so didn't expect much. SHould have asked $20 - doh. Oh well - I got more than I expected for other items. I am putting up the kids' playgym/tunnel thing that I got for $10 up on Craigslist too. Dh agreed ot help me go through the toys when Big Monkey goes off to Grandma's next week too. See if we can get some stuff sold before Christmas, while he is gone...

Yes, we have 4 strollers and I think we only bought 1 new. It was really nice with the 2 kids to try a couple of different kinds before settling on one - imagine paying 100s and not liking it!!! We got this $20 stroller while we waited for the coveted Sit& Stand stroller to show up used - was a long while - had ot be patient. I am sure we will get back whatever we paid on that one when we are ready. But should last us a while longer. This is why buying used is so nice, and then selling it. Generally we can get what we paid and so we essentially "Rented" our baby items for free. Can't beat that!

Up $60 & IRS Rant

December 13th, 2006 at 10:55 am

Oh Gosh - bad bad. I popped on the forums and got sucked in. Guess it was an active day or 2.

Well I have wasted enough time on here.

I am up $60 today - whoo. Got full asking price on jumperoo and high chair. & both those big, bulky items are out of my hair.

Looking to sell about another $45 in the coming month. Plus the play wall - just lowered the price to $35 so we'll see.

Work is CRAZY!!!!!! The end of the year is the worst. I wouldn't even know where to begin.

But I have said it before, I could NEVER work for the IRS. Or the government probably, though all the benefits are enticing. But OMG!!!!

I get an IRS letter yesterday, regarding client, who is a whole nother story and every end of quarter deposits payroll taxes to the wrong quarter. She deposited last 9/30 deposit on 10/2, but applied it to last quarter. I get a notice about weekly from IRS saying she didn't even designate a quarter. Driving me BATTY! But the IRS just compounds the issue. They say they are missing say a $5k payment, accrue peanlties and interest, and send a bill. But if you read the very bottom of the bill it says "we have received a $5k payment and credited your account. We will send you a notice with details in 3-4 weeks."

Are you serious?????? OMG!!!!! So the notice says pay now to avoid further penalties, but we may or may not have applied it after all? Oy vey.

I get this a lot on indivudual tax returns. They say we changed your tax bill and you owe us, but we'll send the details as to why later. But usually that comes within a week or 2. This 3-4 week thing is insane.

Now even though it is super crazy, I have to follow up with the IRS and figure exactly where we stand on this because I have no idea...

Our tax dollars at work...

I apologize to the IRS because I am not sure they can penalize my client for not having a clue and this client generates a lot of headaches. BUT come on. Stop sending 2 notices weeks apart to say 1 thing. Who thought this one up? LOL. Desperate for revenues I guess...

Interesting Private College Article & New Tax Laws

December 12th, 2006 at 11:17 am

Just read this article - VERY interesting. Ah, and yet my entire education cost me a whopping $12k or so - books and all - phew. I have been looking at around $8k for grad school. So the figures in this article are a little shocking to me. Wink But interesting all the same.

"In Tuition Game, Popularity Rises With Price"...

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/12/education/12tuition.html?r...

& summary of some new tax laws just enacted:

Tuition deduction.

The tax deduction for qualified higher education expenses is extended through 2007. The deduction allows taxpayers to deduct up to $4,000 (depending on their income) of higher education expenses in lieu of claiming the Hope or Lifetime Learning tax credits. The deduction is taken “above-the-line,” meaning that it may be claimed by all individual taxpayers regardless of whether they itemize their deductions.


State and local general sales taxes.

The tax break allowing individual taxpayers to elect to take an itemized deduction for state and local general sales taxes in lieu of the itemized deduction permitted for state and local income taxes is extended through 2007. Taxpayers have two options for determining deductible sales tax: (i) actual sales tax paid if receipts are maintained for IRS verification or (ii) approximate sales tax paid as estimated in tables provided by the Secretary of the Treasury plus sales tax on certain additional items (such as a boat or car) that may be added to the table amount.

**Just read an article that the changes were not made in time to hit the 2007 tax forms. Interesting. IRS is reprinting forms and revising publications - our tax dollars at work.**

Deduction for certain expenses of elementary and secondary school teachers.

The tax break permitting elementary and secondary school teachers and certain other school professionals to deduct up to $250 of out-of-pocket costs incurred to purchase books, supplies and other classroom equipment is extended through 2007. The deduction is available to all individual taxpayers regardless of whether they itemize their deductions.

**that will solve our teachers problems...**

Tax credit for first-time homebuyers in the District of Columbia.

The tax break allowing first-time homebuyers in D.C. to claim a tax credit of up to $5,000 on the purchase price of the home is extended through 2007.

**I had a client get this a couple of years back. Pretty sweet. housing is more insane there than around here - which says a lot.**

Premiums for mortgage insurance.

A new itemized deduction for the cost of premiums for mortgage insurance on a qualified personal residence is established. The deduction is phased-out ratably by 10% for each $1,000 by which the taxpayer's adjusted gross income exceeds $100,000. The new deduction applies for 2007 only.


2007 Goals (& Beyond)

December 12th, 2006 at 07:15 am

I am not sure if I typed out my goals so here goes. Keeping here for future tweaking.

**Save $10k in cash. Achieve this by saving $35/month+raise(raise is still unknown), saving budget underages, saving extra income, earning interest, saving cash gifts, and saving bonuses. If we have a really good year (little unforeseen on the expense side) I think we can maybe pull it off, but I am definitely aiming HIGH.
(If it is a good year will reconsider allocating some to ROTHs by April 2008. I like the hindsight 20/20 aspect of this aim. Regardless of us, retirement gets a $13k+ bump so it takes a backseat in 2007. If I can save this money, going forward I know I Can save our full ROTH contributions every year. It is a small piece of a bigger goal).

**Actively manage investments. 10%+ returns, but depends on market.

**Resist the urge to prepay mortgage. This is just silly until ROTHs are fully funded and savings is where I want it. Remind myself if not for prepayment would have more cash today. Still have YEARS to prepay it and meet early payoff goal. & this is NOT the year.

**Resist the urge to prepay personal loan. Silly silly silly. I extended my goal for payoff to December 2007. The balance should be $1k or so then. Once I pay it off I can save $250/month. For now I can only save $35. You see why I want to pay it off. *sigh* I know I know, leave it alone, let the interest compound on my savings!!

**Set up allowance system for dh and I. will open new high-yield savings for this.

**I also set a monetary goal to have $150k in our retirement by age 35. Or in 5 years. I know this is a pretty lofty goal, but I knew $100k would be too easy and so I rather aim high and fall short, than aim low. Plus I think it is just entirely possible...

------------------------------------

In other news, looks like we sold the jumperoo for $35. We'll see if they show today. woohoo. I knew as I posted these for more than I expected to get, that a lot of people would not haggle. BUT it still amazes me. I am not the finest haggler myself, but believe me, I am buying something easy to find used off of Craigslist, I am haggling it down.

& I do know the basic rules. Never tell someone your lowest price. Or haggle the price because you can't afford it even though you "know it is worth more." THat was the e-mail I got on the playwall. lOL. Well if you know it is worth more, whatever, I am not a charity case - hehe. I Would have respected his haggling a little more if he hadn't of thrown the sentence "I know it is worth more."

Unfortunately me e-mail is not working right now so I don't know where I stand with that guy either or the status on my freecycle. LAdy never arranged pickup, so I offered to someone else. Funny thing is this was for "charity" - for a needy family. The few times I have tried to give things away for charity through craigslist and freecycle, the people didn't follow through. I guess when it is for personal gain they are quick, and when not they really drag their feet. So this is the 2nd time ever I didn't have someone show up right away, 2nd time for a needy family. So I offered to someone else. Hopefully it will be gone today!!!!

Oh yes, but haggling. We haggle almost everything. It is amazing how much you can save if you just ask. The worst is they say no. But even then, walking away from things, you will be amazed how low people will go sometimes. Though I overall do not recommend walking away unless you really want to walk away - hehe.
For example, as we walked out of a timeshare presentation with our free goodies, the salesman bowing to the floor and grabbing our knees so we don't walk out (okay exaggerating, but just a tad) they lowered the price on this timeshare from $15k to $5k. Frankly I wouldn't have bought it for a pennie. But just proved to me how worthless those things were. So we were at a liquidation sale for furniture and saw these beautiful leather theatre chairs. & score because they had some imperfections. The guy will not budge on price for nothing. This is a frigging liquidation sale with a flawed product. So we just walked away. There was no way we would pay that much. OF course he groveled as we start to walk out and lowered the price. & we talked him down even more. Try it sometime. Wink But even ordering some electronic equipment online dh always calls and haggles the price. HE can usually at least get free shipping. We have never paid asking price on a car or a piece of furniture. & rarely for a service. Next time you get a quote on something, ask if you can pay less. Haggle haggle haggle. most of these people are EXPECTING you to haggle so they price high. Take advantage and give it a try...

On the flip side, I just sold 2 items for full price without a haggle. I didn't ask more than they were worth, just more than I expected to get. & I got full price, that is pretty nice for me I guess.













Some Articles...

December 11th, 2006 at 01:46 pm

Apparently I have been too blabby, but I have been meaning to update my links. I have NONE. I keep thinking of some to add. Maybe posting it here will motivate me - must add links.

I should also post articles more often as well. I see some interesting ones every day - never post.

Here you go:

An eye-opener about 401ks. Don't panic, but consider the facts. I love my Profit Sharing Plan, but frankly I have no control over it, it faces the same risks. Luckily my boss is a stand up guy, and well there isn't much more I can do than NOT count on that money 1000%... & at least that isn't my money, though I take a pay cut for the benefit so maybe it is in a way...

http://www.latimes.com/business/investing/la-fi-retire10dec1...

& scary one about option payment mortgages. I question the statistics. Seriously, 1 in 3 people in California took these kinds of loans in 2006? Eeks!!!! Just when you think it couldn't get worse and the ARMs would absolutely ruin the economy. The found something worse...

http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-option11dec11,0,678928...



FREE Furniture on Parade

December 10th, 2006 at 07:43 am

Thought of an interesting idea for a post. Show off all the stuff in my home that I paid nothing for.

Hmmm, where to start. As I started taking pics I kept finding more than I realized.

Well, let's start this. I am in the process of freecycling this beauty. My boss cleared out some old office furniture and this is how I obtained this. I was annoyed because he had these little short, simple 2-shelf bookshelves as well, which I Thought would be GREAT in my closet for shoes and clothes. BUT he accidentally threw the 2 I had reserved in the junk pile. I am still bummed about that 5 years later - hehe.



These beauties I got from my friend's parents when they sold their second home:


HEre are the hand-me-down china cabinet and dining table (with 3 leaves - this is fully expanded from Thanksgiving). We didn't want these. We had wanted a pool table in that spot when we moved. We took them begrudgingly but they have served us well.





Grandma also gave us her ANCIENT washer/dryer (bought in 1980 or so) because she moved to a retirement community as we prepared for our move. These weren't completely free - we had to buy storage for a while though. But we just replaced them last year. Frankly I liked hers better though they were energy hogs I guess.

Oh, nothing fancy, but this table my mom bought for me when I moved out on my own at 18. Just a cheap Target thing but I think it is still super cute in the living room.



My sister moved across country and was about to throw this in the dumpster. ??? WHat the heck? It is NICE. I Swear she was raised by invisible wolves or something - how someone in my family could turn out so wasteful. She threw out a perfectly nice car last year - I told her I would have bought it!!!!!!



Picked up the table below from an old roommate who left it. When the roommate left we had no chairs and my co-worker at the time gave me her BEAUTIFUL chairs - said she didn't want them anymore anyway. Oh yeah - the table has a leaf too which is super awesome - I think it is fully expanded here since it fits the chairs best but I love we can shrink it down since it is in a small spot.



This recliner in the kids room. My mom bought this chair in early 1980s I believe. The thing is THRASHED but throw a couple of blankets over it and good as new. I will be freecycling in the near future but was awesome for the baby years. Lots of nighttime rocking - it is next to the crib.



Oh yeah - these beauties are from the 70s I would guess. We have a super humongous closet. Since no one else sees it I put all the ugly stuff in here for more storage space. But these have served us very well - lovely cinderblock/wood plank shelving. I also have a 70s styled (very bright) toy box I Store old sweaters in up there.



This one looks much nicer in photo. This is an ancient bureau handed down through the family for years. I think it belonged to my mom's aunt originally or something. I know I got it red and has since been painted blue and then black - hehe.


Just a file cab I think my dad gave me:


Oh - this is just the desk I had as a child. It is REALLY nice. I threw it in for the buy quality aspect of frugalness. This thing looks brand new and is 15 years old at the least.



How about this baby?


LOL. If you have read my blog you know that dh's parents REALLY spoil us. I can't say we would have it so good today necessarily if they didn't. But my parents on the other hand - no way. IF I get $100 for christmas I would consider myself extremely lucky. My parents could not afford this beauty until I Was in my teens - my sister and I played piano, as did my dad. I always assumed they would keep it. But my sister moved cross-country and I moved to a big house around the same time. We had started negotiations for me to buy it since I was closer, and we had some major disagreements - LOL. I Remember telling my dad forget it, I Could find a better deal elsewhere. (I could - he wasn't cutting me ANY slack). Plus I still had a long way to save my pennies. BUT my mom softened up my dad and they gave it to us for Christmas that year if we would pay to move it and give them my upright. A good trade. Wink So I know it doesn't count - but a nice story.

I think pretty much all the bedroom furniture in our house (us and kids) and our patio furnitue was bought new by dh's grandma & his parents. I Can't really brag in the frugalness in that, that is dh's family spoiling.

I noticed as I Was taking pics though that all of our stereo equipment throughout the house was stuff that we bought in the 80s/90s as well - nice stuff. Good quality and no need to upgrade...

But because of all this the only thing we have really paid for in our house is some cheap desk furniture, a cheap entertainment center, all the mattresses in our house, and a really nice sectional couch & TV both bought new. Oh yes, we have a nice sofa we bought pretty cheap brand new, and nice theatre chairs we got a steal on, and dh's fancy projector. But considering this is all we have paid over the years to furnish a large house, not bad. Most of our money has gone to the theatre room. HAving compact cars we have been overall hesitant to buy used in the past - large pieces. We are good discount furniture shoppers. BUT this is part of the reason we got a van. I saw a lot more used furniture options in our future. Plus easier to get free stuff too - if you can pick it up yourself!!!! Down the road when the kids are less harsh on our stuff I want to get some nicer pieces - but will be keeping an eye out from garage sales and stuff. I rather spend my money elsewhere for the most part. Wink

I just noticed another thing - a coat rack my boss passed one to me as well. It is this big, fancy, garish, brass thing, but it is covered with coats so that is why I forgot it - LOL - you can't really see anything but the pretty base. We just were donning coats for a walk in the rain and remembered that one. I am sure I Could go on all day if I kept looking...

Craigslist take - 3????

December 9th, 2006 at 07:34 am

I have tried posting on Craigslist before and have never sold a thing. For the most part I usually find a friend who I Will give the item or sell to in the meantime. & I often do craigslist in conjuction with freecycle, where someone comes by for a freecycle item and I get all crazy generous and hand them everything I am trying to sell. Or maybe not even generous, just glad to be rid of stuff. When I didn't really feel like I needed the money.

Today I feel like I need the money!!!

So I finally got around to posting 3 items on Craigslist. & 1 item on freecycle - an old musty bookshelf thing. I keep thinking I will refinish it, and for now it stores piano music. In the meantime it is really ugly and I just want it gone - LOL. I will NEVER refinish it - I Am getting real with myself. So I add a nice piano music cabinet to my endless list of wants until it makes it up to a higher priority. For now I have some other options. I can store the piano music I never have time to play upstairs if need be. Hehe. Though I really should keep an eye out for a nice cabinet, I bet I Can talk my parents into it for next Christmas or birthday or something. If not, it ain't that important. Bathroom repairs and pediatric dentists top my list for now - for when I have money!!

Oh anyway, so wish me luck - hehe. I posted about $125 worth of items. I aim high and hope I can squeeze at least $20 each. But I Am in no hurry, I may initially hold out for a higher price. IF things go like the past I Don't expect much interest though. I did buy a Fisher Price PlayWall upwards of $50 and they were IMPOSSIBLE to find used. So I am selling it and listed it at $40. That one I am most hopeful on because like my baby carrier, they are impossible to find used, I Can probably fetch a nice price.

I listed the jumperoo but I saw 10 on there already, so I may hold out a while until after the Christmas crazies - usually I only see 1 or 2 listed.

& a highchair. I don't know - it is the only thing not in top notch condition. I hope to get $20. Maybe $15. With a new cover it would be gorgeous though - just the cover is worn.

I have no idea how some of these things have held up so well. Most of the kids stuff hasn't - LOL.

I have an exersaucer and a pack n play to sell in coming months. The last 3 years I have given away more baby things than I Could even imagine - mostly to family. I am on the fence how appreciative they really are about how much we invested as the first child bearers in our family's generation. At this point they have enough, and I am mostly giving away things the second baby has used and I didn't give away already. In the meantime family bought some of their own stuff for once - hehe. From here to eternity all the clothes will probably go to family. But it is really nice to get some cash back for a few items that we shelled out some bigger dollars for. Phew. Once we go through this round I don't foresee much in the future. Maybe a crib and a toddler bed down the road.... Who knows...

What dh and I really need to do is go through the kids toys and books and PURGE. For resale or donation. We went through the stuff in July and I Was hesitant to give up much though the kids are spoiled far more rotten than I Care to admit. Today I Am looking at a few toys with little interest from the kids and I Am ready to purge. I will also ask Big Monkey if he will be willing to give up a toy for Christmas donation. I Am not sure if anyone really takes used toys this time of year, but I will try. I want to take this year to get him on the giving side of christmas. HE may not go for it at all - but I will try. HE's 3. Wink If he won't give a toy, maybe we will go buy a toy with his christmas money, and donate it. I Can maybe get him to do that. I am not sure if he is at a age that is willing to give up ANY toys. But we'll see. Regardless od his willingness, a few will disappear. Wink Making room for the christmas barrage - phew.

The books are insane too because the kids love to read (Well mostly be read to though the 3yo does love to read too admittedly - a reading genius). & dh frequents the scholastic sales and the used book stores. AND since his mom is a teacher and has a million+ Scholastic points it seems, we just order endless free books lately. The pile of books are hard to pare down because the kids love them all so much. We'll see what we can do though... We haven't even ordered any in a while at least, we have a full collection, but I know if dh sells a pile he will want to buy more - hehe - the store credits are far better than cash. We'll see how it pans out I guess. We could start a library, I Swear. We go to the library too, but the kids get so attached to their books, and are a little rough with them too. For now the free Scholastic books are pretty sweet. As they age we will push the library thing more. There is only so much space for books around here - hehe.

EDITED: While I typed away, I got an offer for my freecycle bookshelf thing. Woohoo. Will probably pick up today. Doesn't get much easier than that!!!! I LOVE it. BEst part the furniture is for a family who owns pretty much nothing. As I read the e-mail I remembered that I have some silverware and kitchen items I was saving for my sister who probably doesn't need it. So I am going to purge a lot with this pickup I Think. Phew. Should all be gone by tomorrow!!

New Shoes - Take 2

December 8th, 2006 at 02:02 pm

Aha, updated December and I See part of the problem. I forgot the gardener and the $20 extra I intended to tip him for Christmas I guess. So $100 short before bonus, probably pretty breakeven with bonus. If I get around to selling those baby items I will put all of that money in the e-fund then.

I just went shoe shopping - phew. Kind of funny and roundabout, but I was looking for a Starbucks mug, or nice mug for co-worker for gift exchange. I Am not very creative and probably about the 3rd year in a row of drawing a man (though no men work here - gah) and getting them starbucks giftcard and a mug. LOL. They are all starbucks fiends... But I was perusing ebay for a deal and I Saw the FUNNIEST thing. A heated travel mug that you can plug into your car lighter OR a USB computer input. LOL. Perfect!!!!! I found one eventually at shop.com for $25. The original store would not let me buy it because my order was only 19.99 before shipping. Whatever. But through shop.com, no problem, I bought it through them from that original store. I then perused their shoes and found the cUTEST little black boots. About as close to my beloved shoes as I will get - black and in a WIDE SIZE. Hallelujah. I then found the cutest grey tennies for about $30. So I got about 2 of the same styled shoes for $30 each, shipping was much cheaper. & both in wide size. We'll give it a whirl. One of them did not have 1/2 sizes so I took a risk getting a 9W. We'll see. The width might make up for the 0.5.

I also saw the cutest Doc Martens. THey still make those? I think if I get Christmas money, and these shoes end up being subpar, I may get some. I got a pair when I Was 16 or something and I just tossed them a couple of years back because my feet grew in pregnancy. Seriously I must have worn those things every day for years. Maybe I just threw them away because they were thrashed. I don't know. But I Remember them being tight in recent years. I Wish I remembered what size I had before. I am thinking of ordering some. IF I can wear them 10 years+, $90 won't scare me. But I saw them after I found these perfect shoes so I figure I would give the cheap ones a try first. If not, Doc Martens here I Come.

Oh yeah!!!! & my purse is falling apart - bummer. I am pretty sure I bought it a little over a year ago and it looks FANTASTIC. Not shown much wear or tear. But today I noticed the handles are pulling apart from the purse - does not look pretty. I think for christmas I am getting a new purse. Bummer because I am not ready. I hate purse shopping - blech. I will ask my mom if she thinks she can mend it first. I Swear I save hundreds if not thousands over my "poor" friends who buy a new handbag every week. In turn they think I Am pretty deprived, but I don't feel deprived. LOL. Don't even ask me about diaper bags - I use the free ones from the hospital. We did buy a couple for different purposes, but the hospital ones win hands down - they are nice. I have friends who went gaga over those $250 dipaer bags. I Can't even imagine. I bought a $20 knockoff but it fell apart after 2 years. Oh well, I Am almost done with diaper bags. If I have to buy 2 knockoffs for my diaper career, I Saved $210 in the end. $225 if you count sales tax. It's stuff like this how we really saving money. Trying to limit what we buy to what we "need" and not replacing them until there is no hope.



Feeling Decadent Today

December 7th, 2006 at 09:27 am

I am going all out on a big pizza lunch today. Feeling decadent I guess.

I haven't been updating my cash stash because I haven't been eating out, nor using cash, at all. It has been an amazing month or so.

In the past I have been too lazy to prepare a lunch, or bored by it. Last year I was having some big hormone/weight issues so I got on track with bringing lunch in more, but usually go out at least once a week - even if just for a $1 menu item.

But the last few weeks I haven't even done that. So decided to treat myself to pizza today. The funny thing is I haven't really missed it. Today I Am craving some grease so I will oblige.

I love this website so much - helps me stay on track - how ever much I disagree with other people and am stubborn about some of my choices. I really enjoy seeing other points of view - even if they are frugal on the verge of insane - hehe. I like balance and I Try to balance the 2 the best I Can - frugalness while still enjoying life, being comfortable, etc.

To come here and have everyone question every one of my purchases is a little refreshing. Seriously. I like it. KEeps me challenged. I have questioned some things about myself, changed some things, and held firm to things I think are money well spent. But that's okay. IT beats everyone telling me how pathetic I am that I don't spend a lot of money on brand names, beauty, new cars. How I must be SO deprived, my life not worth living - LOL. Or on the flip side I am doing so well, I should stop working so hard. Even my parents have alluded to that and they should know better.

Anyway, I guess in life no one has ever particularly challenged me financially. & I like a good challenge! Wink

I am also having a little insight into why my parents can raise me so well to take care of myself financially, and then so thoroughly drop the ball when it comes to investing and such. From a convo with my dad on my birthday, he pretty much admitted to me they didn't have anything when he turned 30. BArely a month's pay saved. They were sinking all of their money into a house in the Bay Area which was a huge risk. (It was paid off 25 years later and worth $1 mil today - a relatively modest home in a so-so area. I think the risk paid off). I remember they met with a financial planner in my teens, in their 40s, and were behind. Coming from a very poor family and moving to such an insanely expensive area put them in a completely opposite situation of us today. I am not sure you would hardly meet 2 more frugal people. & because of that they quickly caught up and are doing fine. But they failed to teach me about investing and saving heavily for retirement while young. They probably figured they caught up and so can I. Or that as a CPA I must have our affairs well taken care of. I don't know. But I guess I gleam a little insight into why. It is interesting. I think overall they are good parents and want to butt out of my adult life. But they could have taught me about investing as a teen, etc. One thing I see I want to different with my kids.

I gleamed some insight as to why, over lunch a few weeks back, my dad poo-pooed the power of compounding. I think he doesn't realize how further he would be ahead if he had been able to put more to retirement sooner. THen again, he put the money to a house that has returned around 1000% on price paid, maybe 3000% on cash payment down. & in his time there were a lot more generous pensions and such. Social security and such. Our world is so different I guess. But I have more insight why my parents have been supportive of us putting savings in the backseat for a few years. From their view we are a mile ahead than they were at our age. The thing is we have a mile further to go in many ways. I guess I am glad I figured it out on my own. A little slow but I am only 30. No more savings taking a backseat just because we are trying to get by on 1-income. What a lame excuse - hehe.

2 mortgage Payments

December 6th, 2006 at 11:13 pm

I made 2 mortgage payments this month - phew. No - didn't prepay a dime. I just had been planning to make 13 payments this year since I got out of whack last year and was paying after the first of the month. Got back on track - paid before, but then I got lazy - since there is no penalty until after the 6th or so I figured what the heck. I have been paying on the 6th - simply to keep my money longer.

Anyway, I just realized as my mortgage payment cleared today that I needed to make another one before the 30th - I had planned on it for tax. Phew. Glad I remembered. It is the sort of plan that sounds good, but then I forget to execute the plan because I get so used to paying the mortgage on a certain day - hehe. Just set it up to be paid on the 29th - phew. I only paid 11 payments last year, and this year 13, we are back to normal now. 12 per year is good.

I am thinking of upping my tax exemptions to 16 or so. I think I calculated 14 but I always get a huge state refund. There seems to be no way around it (like $1500). I don't really mind - it isn't the worst to get something back, since I keep most of it and plan the federal pretty good down to the penny - hehe. But I am thinking of claiming an extra exemption or 2 and earning some interest on that money. Would help. Especially now that I Am more on track and can handle a small amount due. I have no idea why California is so difficult. Basically I never owe any money and I get a full refund every year. Can't claim exempt for state unless you can for federal, so I suffer. You think the 14 exemptions would be a clue, but California's withholding tables are whacked.

Since ds is out of preschool this month I was a little relieved since it is a VERY busy month at work. This last year has been nothing but sickness around here - all those preschool germs. BUT we went to a kiddie Christmas party Saturday and Tuesday I woke up with a slight sore throat and feeling a little blah. When I got home, kids were full on snotty nose and all. IT was then that it occured to me - Christmas Party!! Those little stinky germs!! I guess we should just barricade ourselves in the house - would be easier.

So far feeling better today, which is a miracle since I have been so stressed at work. Stress usually does me in. OF course I Should be resting up, but feel wide awake. Big monkey seemed quite fine too. Little monkey is really snotty and has a cough - poor thing. He is usually pretty tough but this one has hit him hardest by far. Dh is okay, I Want him to stay well for surgery on the 21st. IT is coming up fast!




Sold the wii - & thoughts on missing Man

December 6th, 2006 at 06:59 am

Sold the Wii for about $460 with shipping and all, made around $120 profit when all is said and done. phew - takes a load off.

I wanted to list some of our baby items from craigslist but was not feeling so well yesterday. Hopefully by the weekend, I need to scrub the things down and make them shiny so we get more money for them!! Wink

I got my shoes and they are the cutest shoes ever and I LOVE them, but Land's End apparently makes their shoes super-narrow. They do not fit. Bummer. I am sending them back today. I am sad because I lOVED those shoes. The search for a wide casual pair of shoes continues...

For the most part I am in a daze and could care less about any of this. Dh told me over the weekend that he was REALLY sad because James Kim from Tech TV, and his family, had been missing for over a week. We discussed that they were probably long gone, but how the worst part was not knowing. TO find out that Monday that his wife and young kids were saved. The story is incredible - their car was stranded in the snow in the ORegon mountains. They were all able to stay alive for a week in their car. After one week, on Saturdday, he set out to find help and has not been seen since. Yesterday I Watched the news reports all day and was sad when they called off the ground search for the night around 4pm, they felt they were getting very close - following his tracks and such. THey will resume today with the light of the sun. But each night passing looks less and less promising.

Dh and I discussed it and we figured no matter his fate, as long as the kids made it, that was the saddest part of it all. A 7 month and 4yo. We really took it to heart because our kids are close to that age. I Said if it was me I Would just be glad the rest of my family was saved. BUT there is still hope and I really pray they find him today - alive and well. To him, he may have just wanted his family saved. TO his family, if he does not make it, I Can not even imagine. I imagine I Would feel guilty being saved and him not making it as he tried to find help. & the poor kids to lose their dad. THough they are lucky to be alive, it is pretty bittersweet today, I imagine. THe worst part is still the not knowing I am sure. FOr now there is hope. I really pray they find him today, and that he is still alive and well...

A story like this really makes you stop and appreciate all that you have.

http://www.king5.com/topstories/stories/NW_120606ORBmissingf...




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