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Archive for March, 2007

$1 for a house!

March 31st, 2007 at 03:42 pm

This morning my dh asked if I knew a rucicks cube is only $1. Huh? I didn't really care, wasn't interested. He was reading the paper, figured he saw an ad and wanted to spend money as usual - LOL. Just $1 but whatever. So I was kind of annoyed - I don't know, while I am thinking "do we need a rubicks cube???"

Then he told me why he had asked. He was reading an ad for a house. It said for $1 you can buy a rubicks cube, OR get a no money down deal to purchase a house! & of course the house is WAY better than an old rubicks cube.

Wow. Well if they put it that way, maybe I should go buy some more houses!!!!

Wink

How obnoxious!

We were joking the rubicks cube was a much better deal - hehe. Well, it is!

Interestingly, the same paper had a big article yesterday about how high foreclsures are getting in certain areas of California. Go Figure.

Of course now think dh is going to go out and buy a rubicks cube anyway because he is all excited how cheap they are. Whatever, if he can really find one for $1.

$20 challenge

March 31st, 2007 at 11:55 am

$20 challenge:

$830.64 - Balance 3/15

$ 50.00 - Interest

------------------
$880.64 - Balance 4/1
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If I do nothing else my money will earn me an additional $600 or so over last year, even though I have way less, because I am earning 5%+ interest. Woohoo.

I think by June I will be earning about $60/month!

Tax Freedom Day

March 29th, 2007 at 09:52 am

http://www.taxfoundation.org/press/show/22300.html


Just an article summarizing it takes the average american 4 months (of pay) to pay their federal income tax obligation.

But I don't buy it for a second. The article is assuming your entire income is taxed at your top taxable rate, assuming the average american is in a higer bracket, and doesn't look like it is allowing ANY deductions. I am not sure where they got these figures. I got enough six-figured clients who don't pay in nearly that much.

Just wanted to say it takes me a week to pay my income taxes, and I make a really good wage.

I am a little jealous reading the article though because the reason is COL is so dang high (but lots of deductions). It's going to take me 6 months to cover mortgage, property taxes, and our health insurance. God forbid someone got sick or hurt and we had to start shelling our more money to healthcare.

I just don't really buy the hoo-ha that income taxes are so expensive. They are at historic lows. I just keep wondering what people will do when taxes get raised to cover these huge deficits. I am saving my pennies because I know I will not pay such low taxes forever. Trying not to get to used to it. I paid in a whopping 3% of my entire wage last year and got $200 back. (I had other taxable events as well to boost my income so maybe it was more like 2.5% effectove tax rate). The year before I took time off work and the government gave me $1500 or so - $1500 of the government's money (child tax credit) because I didn't make enough to owe any taxes. Sure I would gladly give it back - I will be paying that back tenfold down the road.

I think a lot of us who have hung around here are probably smart with 401ks and such and minimize taxes as well.

I am not sure if they counted social security and other payroll taxes. If so it would take me a month of gross wages to cover all of my federal and state income tax and payroll tax liabilities.

A 2nd wage is another story. A full 35% would go to taxes. & then there is the cost of working and daycare. If you did not believe me it was cheaper for my dh not to work, maybe the fact that it takes a week to pay my income taxes, maybe that will convince you. As is I get to keep 90% of my check and we don't have all the expenses and headache of a second job.

Of course if he could get a job with a 401k, that is another story. OR some good benefits so I could save this $10k+ a year we are shelling out in insurance.

I know many people assume I have a lot of tax tricks up my sleeve. But I don't. I got a big mortgage, insane health insurance (high enough to deduct much of it) and all the deductions and credits that come with kids. Sometimes I wonder if we are really that bad off living in a high COL area. All that money would go to taxes instead if we paid the mortgage and didn't have such expensive healthcare. There may be something to that...

ETA: I am at a loss how they calculate this. Total federal government revenues divided by total american income or something. Revenues from what? All revenues? a big chunk that corporations paid? I don't know. Does this include social security then? I don't know. Kind of a shock factor thing that doesn't make much sense for the average american. The average american does not fork over 1/3 of their income to the federal government. I just am not really sure how they calculates this thing is all. Was digging further trying to figure it out. But you can do your own experiment, look at how much you owed the government for the year (not how much you paid in, not how much you owed April 15th, but your total tax for the year on your tax return...) and divide it by your salary, you can get an idea how big or little it is.

Bye Bye 401k

March 28th, 2007 at 05:16 pm

I look forward to when all my retirement is set up. Well less moving around anyway.

I had a really excellent fund in my old 401k (closed to new investors) and I sold it for Dodge and Cox Intl(new offering) around January. I Was replying to an old thread why you might want to consider keeping an old 401k when the thought occured to me D&C is not a closed one, but likely will be in the future. & to date it is the star of my portfolio for 2007.

I decided it is time to take the plunge and diversify into some more mid and small cap funds. & to buy D&C directly. I had considered it with dh's IRA but found it more prudent to invest in some index funds. Since he wouldn't have a clue to do without me, probably not a bad idea. But with my money, hmmmm. I want to play a little. Plus I really like diversifying between managed funds and index funds - have a little both. So my IRA will be mostly managed, his index. Indexes are great but I don't mind paying a 1% expense ratio for some of these funds that have 20% historic returns. The indexes don't have returns like that.

I am reconsidering the Bruce Fund (Revisiting), a mid-cap fund in Fidelity (easiest to keep some there), and of course Dodge & Cox Intl. None of them but Bruce have fees nearing 1% so don't fret.

A lot of paperwork and fees which annoys me, but I swear I won't be doing this again anytime soon. This is it. Plus if I split it up it will be easy to convert into ROTHs in baby steps. I can't even do it now until this movie thing straightens out - want to see what our taxable income is and if we had a decent windfall might not qualify so have to sit and wait but will save my pennies for when the time is right - probably has to be this year or next before a 2nd income enters the picture again. If no movie money by November may do the ROTH thing. Another $1500 or so but would make us 100% ROTH meaning we could contribute to any of our funds. I can't contribute to any regular IRAs right now. Maybe a small token but won't know until I do my taxes for 2007 - frustrating.

On top of that I have been seeing a lot of favorable stuff about T Rowe and am considering a target retirement fund over there. If I can really just contribute $50/month and no fees that is probably what I Will open late this year or early next year. I can't contribute to my existing IRAs so sounds like a plan.

I am kind of like a kid in a candy store. I just want to try a bit of everything. Was just reading how target funds like that fare well and T Rowe looks like it has some excellent diversification in managed funds at low costs. I was looking at Vanguard Target retirement but it looks like our portfolio as is - mostly holds Total Stock MArket Index. No point to invest in that unless we drop the funds we already have at Vanguard. Would just be a big overlap. So I started poking around and T Rowe really caught my eye.

Well it took me 5 years but I finally closed out my old 401k. Wink

I am embarassed to admit how many funds I will be invested in when all is said and done - too many to count - $4k here and there. But we intend to invest a lot the next few years - I think we have a good solid foundation to build on. Access to Fidelity, Vanguard, T Rowe, plus a couple of the smaller gems out there.

I am excited to invest some of our e-fund in a balanced fund, down the road when we have money to spare, and invest the kids' money (when we have some).

I think I am officially addicted to mutual funds...





Rounding Dollars

March 27th, 2007 at 10:36 am

http://www.bargaineering.com/articles/dont-budget-to-the-pen...

Just came across this article and I found interesting.

Since I am an accountant, people often assume that I am a stickler for pennies, accounting to the dollar. When we go to lunch people expect me to break out the calculator, and I laugh. I rather just split the tab evenly, because saves time and all works out. Since my frineds don't try to screw me over by ordering lobster while I order a salad. Wink But even if they did I would round my portion in my head and be okay with that. No calculator here.

You may have noticed I usually talk in term of round dollars, heck, I round to the nearest $5, $10, $50 often.

If you kept your checkbook in round dollars it would all pretty much even out over time. I am probably a little too anal for this - I do enter everything to the penny in my checkbook and in Quicken. But for the most part if all my investments started rounding up to the dollar or $5 I really wouldn't care. Over time it wouldn't really skew the end result.

I think I gained this attitute from my job, interestingly. My first job out of school was auditing and the first thing you figure out when you are auditing is what is a material amount for the financials you are auditing. If the materiality threshhold is $50,000, well you don't really give a damn if the bank statement is off $5 from what the client has. IT is not worth the effort to adjust it to make it perfect. Who cares. & so it goes.

Since I came to work for a smaller firm it actually drives me batty because one guy continually will ask me to make changes int he realm of pennies to account balances. It drives me so insane. It is so not worth $125/hour or so charged to the client to waste 5 minutes fixing an account for anything less than $1. Even $5 is pretty questionable. I find most people agree but I do have to work under some sticklers occasionally.

& this is probably why I don't save my change. I just find it an absolute ridiculous waste of time. I actually just spend my change as I go. My change is my fast food/eating out luxury money. I think Suze had some thing if you saved all your change you would save x dollars a year. Great I think, but then I Would have to take that much out of my ATM since most of my fun money comes from my change. So though I agree you can squeeze your change for all its worth and get something out of it... Putting it in a bucket and then driving to the bank to count it seems like an awful big waste of time to me. But that is me, if you want to do it great. Just sharing why you won't see me doing so. Wink

Another thing I round on is a lot of my bills. I round up my mortgage (which has its benefits) and the credit card I just round to the nearest $20 or so when I pay. I just don't like accounting for pennies. Unfortunately, for utilties, I don't want to confuse them so I pay to the penny. I don't know if it is necessary though. ??? & the big one-time bills I will pay to the penny. So my pennies can earn interest in the bank for the next few months. I guess those I hold on to. It doesn't really matter so much I guess with online bill pay and my automatic downloads to Quicken. Less effort on my part I guess.

But yes, for the most part, my conclusion is that pennies are not worth the time and effort on many levels.

I think this kind of goes with frugal philosophy. I rather chase the big savings than the little savings. Not that I wouldn't save 30 cents where I can (because believe me I do), but only if the savings is worth the time. I better either enjoy what I do to save that 30 cents or it better take no effort. OTherwise I probably just won't bother.

When I made minimum wage I probably felt differently. As you move up the wealth ladder though your attitude does change. Or it may not. But I know too many extremely wealthy individuals who are so penny-wise and pound-foolish. It drives me batty. I just don't want to end up like that. It doesn't serve one well. Probably another big part of my frugal philosophy.

Up .10%

March 27th, 2007 at 07:43 am

I was just downloading all my interest income for this month (for whatever reason my CD and my MM posts around the 25th of the month) and I noticed my GMAC bank account (most my savings) upped their interest rate 0.10%. Wooohoo!

Virtual bank - remains the same. Good thing all I have is dh's PS3 money in there - about $200. Wink

I just drained my short-term savings for property taxes. The account sits at about 0. Since I just moved around my bank accounts and GMAC is getting 5.10%, I think I will build up my short-term savings in there. I can't even remember where I had my ST savings before - LOL. Probably VB. I think I was intending to keep it there,and use GMAC for LT savings, but the interest rates are getting too good everywhere but VB... Just means more bookkeeping to keep it all straight. Oh well.

Holi 2007

March 26th, 2007 at 09:33 am

Oh gosh, this is another reason I can not imagine moving out of this area. I could never describe what it is like to live in such a melting pot and so close to so many big cities full of so much culture.

But one of my best friends is Indian and invited me to the Holi (festival of colors) at Stanford last year.

It was a Saturday and I had to work. & well I had just gotten my new van. The idea of getting covered in paint and getting my brand new pristine van covered in color did not sound fun either.

So this year she invited me again and I considered it, and I Went back and forth, and finally at the last minute another friend who said she couldn't go with me, decided she could. IT was on a Sunday this year, so finally just bit the bullet and went for it.

So we drove 2 hours to Stanford yesterday with our kids and just had an absolute BLAST.

We decided this will indeed be an annual tradition.

As for me, a big reason I did not want to go this year was that I am so stressed and busy. The idea of driving 4 hours on my day off wasn't the most appealing. & I am quite exhuasted.

But rejuvenated as well - hopefully gets me through the next few weeks of tax craziness. Was nice just to do something purely fun.

http://www.ashanet.org/stanford/

Oh yeah - and these people are not even 1/2 as colored as we all were yesterday. There was a hardly a person not covered heat to foot in mostly pink - LOL. I think we had more fun than the kids.

http://www.ashanet.org/stanford/events/holi2007/holi_pics/ho...

I even got scolded because my son seemed to have trouble telling who he should and should not throw water on (for one aiming a squirt gun at a baby's face). So on the way out he was squiritng dry people who I figured wouldn't appreciate it and when I scolded him, someone said, "hey, it's Holi!!!" LOL. I guess they had a point, if you didn't want to be covered in a mess, what are you doing there. Hehe.

The whole day I think cost me about $40. $15 for the festival (worthy cause), $10 food, and then lots of gass and bridge tolls, but luckily shared so not so bad. Was worth it indeed - used my writing money. Plus my parents treated us to a divine dinner at my favorite mexican restaurant. Not bad... & as usual kids were spoiled bu my MIL - toys, balloons, new clothes, etc.

Also, I found one more reason (to add to the list of many) that not having a working driver side window brings - makes going through a toll bridge a PITA. LOL.

I will probably go get it fixed like April 18th - I just do not have any time to spare with dragging the car to get fixed. So anyway, just one more reason April 18th can't come fast enough. Wink

Enjoying the new pages...

March 24th, 2007 at 07:56 am

I added some pages on the side - really like the feature. Particularly nice for the $20 challenge and my list of items bought new/used/free. Easier to find and update than going through old entries - woohoho.

So I did update the new/used/free list. Dh keeps buying these cheap beard trimmers that don't last long and just bought another one. I wish he would just buy something nice! & we mutilated the house phone. Kids are so rough with it we figured it had a premature death - seems like we just replaced the old one a couple of years ago. So we discussed it and decided to get something cheap until the kids are a little older. Was the answering machine/phone combo. So dh picked one up and it was pure crap. We are really limited to the type of phone with all the interference from other electronics. So dh found a nice phone with 3 handsets (so we can replace if 1 gets broke) for around $99 and another one for $109 at a completely new phone frequency. We figured we'd try the $99 one first and if didn't work, maybe try out this new frequency. Anyway, the phones are really nice. We have a 2-handset one for upstairs and I have an alarm clock/phone on the bed so we added one handset upstairs and kept 2 downstairs. Basically added one to my office and one to the theatre room. MEans we have like an actual phone for every dang room in our house - LOL. Way overkill, but will be nice when the kids break another handset that we have a couple of extras.

Well dh's mom is a teacher and we were ordering scholastic books through catalogs and warehouse sales (great deals) when his mom found out and gave us her online password to scholastic - said she has a zillion points for free books - we couldn't possibly use them all this life. So dh ordered a few books last night. & 3 video games he tells me (2 leapster games and a Game Cube game for the kids). All FREE though, just can't beat that. Added it to me free list on the side.

In other news, I had an "aha" moment. I saw the discussion of adding some emergency funds (over the minimum) to mutual funds. I had never thought of that before. I would really like to have $30k-$50k in an emergency fund, which I know to many is overkill. But I feel good having some decent cash. Though for job loss and such we need little - my industry is just insane right now - the odds I'd be out of a job for more than one day are slim to none and weathered the last recession easily, even before all this craziness. So I have been considering once we get our 3 months expenses (around $12k) in cash that we will invest a little in a balanced mutual fund. Something like Vanguard Wellesely which historically has never gone down much but has some decent returns. Odds are we won't need the money, and yet I will sleep better knowing we have liquid assets if I indeed lost a job or our house flooded away. But I won't be wasting away too much money in cash. Anyway, it's an idea. If so I would probably move over the $3k minimum (keeping 3 months in cash) and from there contribute 1/2 our savings to cash e-fund and 1/2 to mutual fund e-fund. We also need to save up money for a car but prospect is that it will be a good 10 years. So all the more reason - make it the car fund or something. Since we are in such a low tax bracket I may consider moving the mutual fund back over to cash before our income got too high with a 2nd job all the same. Oh depends on capital gain rates and all that at the time I guess. Does not have to stay there forever, but in the meantime seems like an idea.

Well it's an idea for now. Won't have the minimum in cash plus the $3k Vanguard minimum for another year at least. We'll re-evaluate then. Just pleased to think of something new I hadn't thought of before. It doesn't have to be so all or nothing. If I Want $100k liquid funds, doesn't have to all be cash. Hmmmm...

P.S. I decided to take Sunday off and we are going to the Bay after all. I must be crazy - but I look forward to a fun day. I am taking the kids alone so dh can get a break - hence the extra craziness. Work is really crazy until the 30th but I think the worst will be over April 15th - well I REALLY hope so. So a weekend day off just to enjoy and have fun sounds nice - will hopefully get me through the next 3 weeks.

Mortgages and Sub-Prime Whoas

March 21st, 2007 at 10:26 am

http://sacrealstats.blogspot.com/2006/11/how-can-they-afford...

I was looking up something on impound accounts and came across this blog. Caught my interest because was about my city. I read it and was not surprised by the least.

But I think this is the perfect example. Is it the lender's fault or the buyers? I don't have much sympathy for a buyer who did not read the paperwork and who bought a home for 8 times their income. Duh. But the lender is most definitely a shady bastard. & of course will likely get away with this scot free. That is just not right. The bank and the lender will get their money most likely. The buyer will be left holding the bag. Even if the bank/lender loses this one, oh well, they made enough off of all these insane loans. Not too worried about them.

Mortgage brokers work for a commission. I have a friend who is a broker but and overall is a standup guy. But he is big on undocumented loans. He has pushed the boundaries a bit since a lot of his business is small business owners, new, with no income. But he still gets the loans. HE has asked me to fudge letters saying these people have been in business 2 full tax years (Which is the rule). No way in hell I want a prt of that.

I don't think he would do anything near this shady. But all the same I would never trust a mortgage broker in the least, not even a friend. You have to protect yourself, because no one else will. When it comes down to it their livelihood depends on how many (& how big) the mortgages they sell.

Of course most of the people I know are looking at houses in the $400k range with a $60-$70k income and I think they are absolutely insane. This blog takes it to a whole new level. Then again I have an acquaintance who thinks she is rich and has arrived because they bought a McMAnsion in a gated community. She got a 2nd full-time job and still can't pay the bills. Now you have to wonder if they even went fixed or not - maybe they are paying interest only - who knows. Never even thought about that. I just find it how ironic she brags about arriving - when clear to everyone else all she has arrived into is something way over her head.

Anyway, my head is still reeling at the thought of a $4700 monthly payment. Yikes!!!!!

Doesn't look like a sub-prime loan but I have had friends who make $60k/year that were eligible for a $400k sub-prime loan (the interest rates on those are insane). It's all in the same realm - the sub-prime factor just makes it that much worse. But the undocumented loans will have similar failings for many who suffer hardship or easily got in over their head. Or more like this case even, simply major fudging of numbers to qualify for twice as much as you probably should.

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

Oh yeah - as much as I am for home ownership, I also wouldn't have considered buying a home for less than 20% down. If people had to put money down, even just 5% or something, a lot of these current problems would not be surfacing so heavily and so fast. Just saw another wise article on the subject of not getting in over your head. As much as I Am pro-home-ownership. The flip side holds just as true - don't do it until youa re ready!

http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/bus/columnists/p...

More on the Net Worth front...

March 21st, 2007 at 12:20 am

http://www.punny.org

Just came across this today. Check out the last 4 entries.

Quite interesting.

I think ever since I have been an adult they question of net worth and social class fascinates me. IT seems so obvious to me there is such a swirly curvey, fine line between what makes you upper-middle class and lower-class, and lower-middle-class and all that. I like to quantify things and so I look up salary ranges for class and sometimes by salary for the area we are even considered lower class. or lower-middle-class, where I Felt we had settled for a long time, purely based on income. Though through many other factors middle-middle or even upper-middle is more explanatory.

Then I find the people who are so "poor" and whiny are all making six-figures and it just boggles the mind. The $30k cars but can barely afford their rent. No money in the bank, not a dime saved for a rainy day. Yet upper-middle-class on that six-figure salary, for sure. Yet with taxes and daycare a lot of them take home far less than my $70k wage at the end of the day. So since I am in the lowest of low tax brackets with no daycare expenses, where does that put us? I've said a million times we'd bring home less money if dh worked. Guess that put us upper-middle. But in such a high COL Area is a $100k wage upper-middle? Or should it be?

So while many of 2-income families eye our assets and assume we are in debt up to our eyeballs or make quite a wage (neither true) I always wonder where that leaves us. No one is defined by their income. The extreme complexity of the real estate market means that my dh's cousin owns his 4-bedroom 1/2 acre lot here outright since he bought in 1999 with equity from the Bay Area. HE drives a corvette and makes I imagine not much more than $30-$40k/year - no college degree. Lower class by income, extremely upper-middle class by assets and lack of debt. Hmmmmm... IT all just makes that class gap that much more wide and strange. Hard to pinpoint.

Anyway, I found this perspective of wealth (See link) from so many important angles very interesting. Probably how I think in terms of wealth, class, net worth. & I am fascinated to see hot to quantify it all - in future articles to come.

Interesting...

March 20th, 2007 at 11:31 pm

My dh tells me oh by the way, the electric company came by and replaced the electric meter. LOL.

The bill seemed to be getting lower and lower. & then no bill for 3 months. But then I got the bill and it had exact meter readings for the last month and the first month - they estimated the middle month.

I have NO IDEA what happened. But the bill had been considerably lower for the last year since we got our new washer and dryer and so we figured that was why. But it kept getting lower. But then again we have less kids in diapers and all that - we do far less laundry, and more energy efficiently to boot.

So anyway, dh didn't ask why. They just traded it out for a new one it seems. IT will be interesting to see how it pans out. Maybe we were so good they just couldn't believe their eyes. LOL. I wish. Wink

Our bills haven't been *that* much lower so I am sure all is fine. THough it sounds like there is a chance they have been under-billing us for a while. I just don't know! I guess we'll see.

Weather here today was crazy. It had been getting considerably warm. Then cooled off suddenly (no air or heat in a couple of weeks at least - that is good). Then today we had a huge, random thunder storm. Actually, it was creepy because I had a tax client come in and they were talking about how we needed rain. I know rain had been about nil this year, same with snow in the mountains. But all the same last year was like noah's ark so I hadn't though much of it - was rather relieved. So I was thinking, hmmmm, you can't win, too much, not enough, geez. & then it just started pouring, some crazy storm for a while too. I Was annoyed too because BM and I went for a drive in the evening, sun was out big black clouds all around, NO rainbow. What is up with that? we were gyped - no rainbow - was just perfect rainbow weather.

In other news, I think I have one of my last official tax appointments Friday. Phew. I have one like on April 15th (Some guy on military duty who insists on coming in last minute the day he arrives. I told his his wife could send his info but has to make it difficult - hehe). I also have 2 clients who need to reschedule, but eh.

The even better news is that I was looking at my pile of untouched tax returns today as I gathered up some work to take home and well, there was only 1. I was shocked. Most of them I hadn't looked at yet, but we have a temp helping us, she seems good, she prepared quite a few for me. So we'll see.

I still have 9 months of work to complete in about 6 weeks. But all the same it feels good to move past that hurdle. Maybe I will have some time for my other work? Eh, won't count on it. I am hoping this means the tax returns pouring in will slow a bit and I Can stop neglecting my corporate clients so dreadfully.

All I know is I have no tax appointments for 2 days. Oh my, I might get some uninterrupted work done!!!!! Mine are mostly done, but there are still quite a few clients pouring through the office and I will still get asked to help on many of theirs. so not out of the woods yet. I hope by 4/1 to not have any open tax returns. Actually this year has been a nightmare because all my "simple" clients have come in with super complex things. IT has been driving me batty, why I am miles behind. BUT on the plus side usually I have tons of tons of tax returns with outstanding items or questions. Knock on wood but there is absolutely none of that. Everything that is done is done or out. That feels good. I hate having a bunch of stuff in limbo. I think I have 1 new client in limbo and they will be easy to extend if they don't get me their stuff soon. IT could just be that I am getting more experienced - that I don't let them walk out with unfinished business. Could just be luck - I don't know.

Passport Whoas

March 20th, 2007 at 12:51 pm

I am officially overwhelmed - Yeesh.

This week hasn't started off so hot. YEsterday was just BRUTAL at work. Today is noon and I haven't gotten much done. I am spent. It's only Tuesday.

I really wanted to go to a festival thing this weekend in the Bay but just too exhausted and feel too broke. I am perpetually short $200 and will shore it up with my May overtime bonus, but in the meantime all the gas, lunch out, plus $15 just seems like a bad idea.

Then again I Am wondering if a drive and an adventure will life my spirits. Get the hell out of here for a day - LOL. My friend said she couldn't go and just changed her mind, so I am thinking about it. Will be fun if I don't have ro drag the kids alone. I wanted to take the kids and give dh a break, but where does that leave me, just more stressed... But if she goes she can share gas. It is just $15. IT ain't gonna make or break me. Our gas bill is nil this month because we have been too busy to leave the house except for work.

Anyway, going ona cruise in June (can not get here fast enough!!!) and I like to do things way early. So I printed out my passport renewal thing like in December - it is sitting under a stack in my office at work. For whatever reason I had this urge out of nowhere to dig it out and get it taken care of. We leave in like 12 weeks. I plan way too much for everything, so just probably the fear of cutting it close at 12 weeks. I know the passport office - slow as molasses. So this weekend my mom calls me and asks if I sent it in yet - tells me all over the news the passport offices are all backed up - takes 10 weeks to renew instead of the usual 4. OMG! Ironic it was nagging at me and I had grabbed it so I told dh that was it - would get it out in the mail Monday.

Only 1 thing lies between me and my completed passport application - photos. I had considered just doing it myself but reading all the fine print I Was a little wary. Which is smart because my dad just told me yesterday his friend is a professional photographer of sorts and had his passport photos rejected twice. Yikes! I was reading fine print about it being able to withstand 200+ degrees and I just had no clue what kind of photo papaer we had - if it was resilient enough. But dh, trying to be helpful, gives me an add for free passport photos at Rite Aid. Sounds dandy except the ad comes to our house but is not valid anywhere in the city as far as I Can tell. Whatever. $7.99 then - sounds good to me. I remember paying much more last time.

So yesterday during my BUSY crazy day I run out at lunch to Rite Aid - nearest one like 20 minutes away. & they don't have the right equipment. Bah. I was an idiot - should have had them call - but they sent me to another one close by. Go in and they didn't have the right paper. I Was just so pissed.

So I planned to leave work super early to get to the one by our house before it closed. Didn't make it. Wasted enough time yesterday as is. Work got in the way.

So today I will try Walgreens. Wish me luck. I did call and the photo department said call in an hour - they were busy. LOL. Oy vey. Why do I get the feeling Walgreens ain't any better. I think last time I went to a 1-hour photo place and spent $15-$20. Like 12 years ago. Um yeah, money WELL spent. I just don't have TIME for this crap. Trying Walgreens, if it fails will hit Rite Aid by my house. If that fails, I don't know. I will go pay more to get this taken care of - for sure.

Well wish me luck I can get it out in the mail today.

I got my passport in 1995 it looks like when I went to Europe. I was 18! Funny, I thought I remembered going in 1997 or so. But not sure why I got my passport any sooner. Hmmmm. Actually reminds me I was to go with a friend before who flaked on me and I was pissed because I was young and free - she wanted to postpone - I couldn't take 2 months off work the following year - I had an apartment. I wonder if I had gotten it then in hopes of the trip that never materialized. But another opportunity had arisen and I did get to go to Spain, France & Italy a year or 2 later.

This time we're just going to So Cal with a brieft stint in MExico, but the thought of being in another country without a passport doesn't appeal to me even if it is only MExico and a passport is not rquired for a cruise. Figured I'd just renew it while it is easy.

Well, easier. LOL. Not so easy all the same. Bah.

I am glad I still have 12 weeks or so - for sure.

Actually I think the 10-week thing is for new passports. Hopefully renewals go a little bit faster. I don't want it to arrive a few days before my trip - I will be freakig out...

But yeah - if you need a passport - get it NOW.

ETA: Walgreens was awesome - Got it. Phew. I couldn't make it to the post office though - LOL - that is another issue. Hopefully tonight...



LOL - Cute Story

March 17th, 2007 at 02:24 pm

The City- A Funny Short Story
A businessman walks into a bank in San Francisco and asks for the loan officer. He says he is going to Europe on business for two weeks and needs to borrow $5,000. The bank officer says the bank will need some kind of security for such a loan.
So the businessman hands over the keys to a Rolls Royce parked on the street in front of the bank. Everything checks out, and the bank agrees to accept the car as collateral for the loan. An employee drives the Rolls into the bank's underground garage and parks it there.

Two weeks later, the businessman returns, repays the $5,000 and the interest, which comes to $15.41.

The loan officer says, "We are very happy to have had your business, and this transaction has worked out very nicely, but we are a little puzzled.

While you were away, we checked you out and found that you are a multimillionaire. What puzzles us is why would you bother to borrow $5,000?"

The businessman replied, "Where else in San Francisco can I park my car for two weeks for 15 bucks?"

Insane Birthday Parties

March 16th, 2007 at 07:50 pm

http://www.time.com/time/arts/article/0,8599,1581036,00.html

Interesting read - anyone with kids, particularly in California I am sure, has seen this.

I was just pondering this because I guess a big giant bouncy house is the norm for the 1-4 year old set. I do not get it in the LEAST!!! Sure the boys love going to all these fancy parties with bouncy houses and food galore. But it is just insanity. & the gifts too.

I simply do not play along. In fact, most of the time I specifically ask for no gifts. It has just gotten so out of control. I remember one of my first posts here I Was asking for frugal birthday gift ideas and a few people said I should be more worried about saving up money for my kids' birthdays. Look, the are 1 & 3 - why should I Save up a lot of money to throw a party???? Some favors form ebay and some snacks and pizza just about cover it. Betty Crocker cake or cupcakes make them pleased as punch. & the kids have had some really nice parties. Simple, but nice. The worst is feeding the crowd, and often we just serve appetizers to avoid that.

It's sad that so many people feel so strapped and yet do play along. I guess personally I just don't get it. Was thinking about it because kids just went to yet another super fancy party, and was just invited to one with a bouncy house for a 1 year old. ????? OF course the 1-year-old parties are ALWAYS the fanciest. I am not even sure if we even had one for 1 - LOL.

Often the thought crosses my mind, if this is for 1, um, how do you top this when they are 4, 5, 6... I guess the article alludes to what happens...

Hey my niece got a pony for her birthday - pony rides. YEesh. Just remembered that one - she turned 2.

Gas!!!!

March 15th, 2007 at 12:43 pm

I guess since I put dh on preschool duty so I could work more, I haven't needed gas so much. I finally went today and about fainted - OMG. $3.05/gallon for unleaded. Last time I filled up I thought it was $2.60 or something Yikes!

What a shocker.

A little bummed because my friend invites me to this festival in the Bay Area every year and it is always a saturday during tax season - no way. But this year I think I can make it. However, I have second thoughs looking at the gas pump today. blech. If we could take the BART, all the better, but this is somewhere in the southwest side of the Bay where public transport is much more scarce and expensive. Bummer.

Well, we'll see... I might just have to work anyway. Kind of looking forward to freedom, freedom from work, soon enough, only to be holed up in home because gas is so pricey... Figures. Gas this price in March scares the heck out of me. What will summer bring? Around here public transportation is for the most part prhobitively expensive. But if it gets worse in the summer, I will certainly evaluate once again...

This also means our trip to So Cal will no doubt be in dh's little Escort again. Well, I won't knock it, nice to have a car that gets 40mpg. But it is kind of ridiculous to get the van for big trips, and be too cost averse to use it. Should have held out for a hybrid or something. I Feel like an idiot using it as a commuter car with these prices. Dh is adverse to me driving his car but I think he better get over it - fast! His adversity means every mile I drive costs twice as much and I am the one that drives every day to work. Grrr...

The Automatic Millionaire

March 14th, 2007 at 08:43 am

An Interesting Read...

I went to the library to pick up an investment book and saw this one as well. IT sounded familiar (from discussions here probably) and so I picked it up. I am really not a big fan of PF advice books, frankly I find them a little boring. I Was raised with these principles, they are drilled into my head, so I have really balked at reading them. Even though I love the subject, just too boring, and a little too much, "yeah? & this isn't obvious to everyone???" LOL.

But this book was a little different because it was really short and sweet! I started skimming it last night, to see if I should even bother, and ended up reading most of it in an hour. I skimmed a lot that did not apply to me in the least (paying off debt). & stuff like that - skimmed through the super obvious stuff, but read a good chunk of the book word for word in an hour. I was pretty surprised. So I think I will put this on one of my top recommendation book for friends. IT is easy to read and I think that is important when trying to spread this knowledge to other people.

But I had quite a few thoughts on it - had to share.

The Automatic Millionaire is not about budgets, making more money, anything like that. IT is a simple, "get rich quick fix" I guess. The principles I can agree with but for me it is just 1 piece of the puzzle. But looking at most of the people I know deep in debt, not doing well financially, I think this book could change their life dramatically. So for that I could give it 5 stars.

It pretty much describes dh and I's philosophy when we made a lot of money. Pay yourself first. Or taking it another step - save your raises. I have said quite a few times here we both made about $10k in school and both made $30k right out. & we saved the difference. Sure we had more options, a hell of a lot more money in the bank, but 1 year out of school I did not see the need to triple our lifestyle. HEck maybe we both spent an extra $1k/year - that's a 10% raise - good as gold. & so we saved over 1/2 our paychecks until we got into a house and got married, then we saved closer to 1/2. As long as we saved dh's income, and we both got raises every year - our revenue and savings increased every year. I think this is on a big level what the Automatic millionaire is about. Don't spend all your money. Bank your raises. Sure we could have easily started living up to a six figure lifestyle, sure wouldn't get us far though!!!

Start early, pay yourself first, bank your raises, wala.

On a practical side. I don't know. I always found cutting the big expenses far more useful to our budget. Today it's like we have been saving our raises, we have lived so lean. My medical expenses are going up 40% per year. I am not sure how this helps me TODAY. I don't waste $5 here and there to save. BUT I have plenty of bigger expenses I can cut. Before we went down to 1 income the best way we saved money was not buying newer cars. But then we had tons more money for other fun things. So this book may be about small, little things, but it leaves out the point that cutting out bigger things can be a bigger impact.

The book also bugged me because there was not much talk of a rainy day. Save $3k/year for life and you'll be rich. Well, yeah great, but what if you get laid off for a couple of years???? On the flip side, I really feel more comfortable financially with a lot of cash - even "for when the aliens invade" or something - he says. HE said - if 5 years of cash in the bank makes you comfortable - so be it. The whole point of the book is that you are comfortable financially. Something to think about. I think there was not much talk of a rainy day because many people with no savings reading this book will be far more prepared following the advice. HE did talk of emergency funds too.

Debt-free home ownership. I have been defending my decision not to pay it down too fast or make that a priority - but his method of making 1 extra payment a year I can jive with. I don't see the point right now when we are in a worse financial situation and our retirement and cash needs care. But you bet the second dh gets a job and our retirement is fully funded, that I will be back to the extra payments a year. It's small beans. It just a matter of priority. IF he said make an extra payment every month I'd be more wary. But I totally jive with his philosophy.

Oh i so totally disagree you should buy a house on 100% financing. I think you need the discipline to save a down payment before you are ready for homeownership, personally. Maybe that advice flies when the market is good, but no so wise today...

Automatic Millionaires don't do consumer debt - for sure - check that one off.

I think the book drew me in because it was our financial philosophy overall. But all the same a little overly simplified. If you save 20-25% of your money you will be rich or super rich. I don't know, that's my goal, but I don't expect to be super rich. I just want money for a rainy day and to retire in my 60s is all. Wink There are so many what-if factors in between. Frankly I Feel this is the minimum we should do to get there - to best prepared for all the un-knowns. But all the same anyone who knows me knows I am usually pretty over-prepared for anything. My motto is shoot high and hope for the best I guess.

I get surprised the more we go through life and people who appear to have much less make twice as much, I so totally agree with the philosophy that you don't have to deprive yourself of good and fun things in life to make these goals. We have a little bit more wealth to flash around perhaps, but that is where I find budgeting and buying used comes in, and trying to make more money, so we can have it all I guess. But by following the principles in this book we keep twice as much as so many people who make a lot more- that is the fascinating thing I realize more and more with age. & this book makes clear - I have seen the truth in it over and over. It's not what you make, but what you keep!!!

I am looking at our 20%-25% rate thinking, does this make us super rich??? I don't know, depends if it can be sustained I guess. Wink

It impresses on me the fact to drop $2-$3k in the retirement fund - how beneficial it is - it doesn't have to be so all or nothing - still drilling that in my head. I want to make the full IRA contribution and feel like a failure if I Can't or something - I have to get over that - for sure.

The end of the book really annoyed me though - recommending 10% tithing to charity???? Seems a bit much. I agree with the underlying principle, the more you give, the happier you probably are and the more you receive in life (more important, non-material things, sure). But all the same, I am not sure you should commit to 10% of your income unless you have a lot to give. I have been watching too much Suze lately (take care of yourself before you give) and know too many people who give more than they have way to their own detriment. For us, we made a personal vow to give less money and give more of our time to charity when we went down to 1-income and had a lot less to give. I am a giving person and I know the importance, but giving 10% my cash to charity i don't really think is going to do me any good at this point. Plus frankly, I Think giving cash is the easy way out - I have always found it far more rewarding to give of my time, and maybe a little cash to boot. So yeah I kind of see what he is getting at, but overall not the best advice I feel. I am perfectly happy to give my time and maybe 1% of my income if I am feeling extra generous. Plus giving of my material goods cleanses us and helps others as well - but doesn't cost a dime all the same.

Anyway, overall I Think it is a great book. If you look at it as a "get rich quick" promise I think you may be disappointed in 30 years when you are not as rich as the book makes it out you will be. Especially if life happens along the way. But certainly some very good, simple, easy points to a strong financial foundation.

Oh yeah - and of course he is really into automatic transfers, savings, deposits. So you don't have to think about it!!!! Sure, it's good, but I think I like finances too much and am a little bit of a control freak. I worry what if my deposit didn't clear in time and I can't cancel an automatic transfer in time. But that's just me. I prefer to do it all myself. But I have the discipline - it isn't a biggie for me. IT's probably one of the biggest points of the book, but one that I just don't rally care to do I guess. But I can see how it can help others, indeed. When we have a little more cushion in the bank I think I Will set up some automatic stuff. I just don't want an overdraft if something is automatic and goes wrong!!!! But something I have been thinking of anyway. It would be nice to have direct deposit - would help - but I don't... I think I need an automatic retirement fund savings. Regular savings, not a prob, I diligently transfer the money every month no matter WHAT! But retirement - it is harder to let go - LOL. So I see the benefit. I need to set it up automatically just to do it... The best/easiest money ever saved was my 401k contributions - for sure!!!!





Gas (Heat) bill

March 12th, 2007 at 01:55 pm

Got the bill for Feb. & it was about $60. Woohoo.

The weather looks like it will settle at 70-80 degrees the next week or 2. Beautiful!!!! The weather is just awesome and it means no heat or air for a while. The house will just hold steady - it doesn't really warm up until it starts getting into the high 90s or 100s. & the weather here is always nice because it cools down overnight. The house will settle right at 70 for a while - no gas here- woohoo.

Still no electric bill. ??? I have to call - just hasn't been a priority. Going on 3 months, no bill... It's pennies this time of year, but the air might come on soon, who knows with the weather these days - it could be 100 next week for all I know. I know I owe about $40-$60 on 3 months, but once a/c season kicks in I want my bill every month please... Dh is all worried they may turn off the electricity but I haven't seen HIM volunteer to call. Gah, sometimes I feel like I do everything. I don't, but getting him to help with stuff like this is pretty darn impossible. I have an online account and they simply have not billed me. But probably best to call just in case - guess you never know.

Pizza out my ears! & stupid time change!

March 11th, 2007 at 10:28 am

Okay, there is no one who loves daylight savings more than me and I have to say I Am thrilled it is prolonged this year. For me it means I can work a long day, come home, and still have a nice walk to the park with the kids. Before the weather is not hotter than hades - LOL. & even in the summer means after work I have time to change and get everyone ready and we spend the evening at the pool. So I likey.

But this whole time change thing - what a MESS!!!! Our work computers are all screwed up - our appointments are all showing up an hour off. Talk about confusing. Oh it has been fixed with some software patch. But this morning I came down and the VCR time hadn't changed like it usually does. I looked at it and thought, well the thing is about 15 years old. It certainly doesn't know daylight savings time has shifted - LOL. We couldn't even find the remote control to change the time. I guess time is the only purpose of this VCR. But it is driving me batty. Told dh just to unplug the dang thing for a few weeks.

& then the worst is TIVO. What are they smoking over there? Dh said they usually change the time, but decided to instead change the schedule (just like our calendar at work). So now everything that was set up as a manual recording based on time and day is all off 1 hour. Which is a lot. Um, so why are all these companies screwing with everything, why don't they just change the TIME? I am sure there is some reason, but gosh it is really aggravating. Dh said he will call and complain. Not sure if it will matter. So we have to rest everything now and reset it again in a few weeks? & then do this exercise in the fall again??????? YIKES! & I am still not really sure on the logic behind this all.

Plus, can we really afford to lose 1 hour during tax season??? LOL. Not really!!! It is just pure craziness over here. I am working 7-day-weeks, just unheard of. & now we lose an hour. Yikes!

Anyway, yesterday was interesting. My parents came to visit. I worked until about 3:00 & then met the fam over at my dad's cousin's house. He has a bunch of family over here that I don't know - they are so tight-knit and we are so busy we just never get together with them otherwise - unless the parents initiate it. But very very nice family. So we went to show off the kids and hang. But dh was quite smart. I hadn't really thought far ahead and he had a grand plan to save gas. We were going to take 3 cars over there which would have been ridiculous. So dh tells me to take his car to work, and he can drive them in the van. Then he can come by my work and switch cars so I can go pick them up afterwards - they had a birthday party to go to. It worked out rather well, I was just smack dab in the middle at work and we cut it down to 1.5-2 cars from 3 I guess. LOL.

So dh and BM went to this birthday party at our neighbors' and afterwards he calls me to say that he got some pizza. I Am thinking it can't be near enough - we were going to order some - I am sure my parents would treat. & I keep asking if it is enough and he is very vague, oh I think it will be. He is aggravating me, but whatever, we can order more. So when we finally get home he has like a lifetime supply of pizza or something - OMG! LOL. He said it was only about 1/4 of what had remained and the pizza box did not even fit through the door - LOL. Had to turn it on its side to fit or something. Too funny!

We had plenty of pizza - I guess he was teasing me. We have TOO MUCH pizza. I guess they tried "Rico's" or something like that and they did not believe when they said a pizza feeds 12. So that is my advice to you - when Ricos says 1 pizza = 12 people - take their word for it. LOL. For us it worked out cool because we got free pizza and plenty of leftovers.

Dh was also driving me nuts because he tells me today oh yeah some lady was asking all bout me and the kids and knew all our names but he has no idea who. She's mexican BTW. Huh? LOL. I met this one woman by the pool who had the cutest little girl and there was a little love thing between her and BM - 2 summers ago. So I assume it is her but dh dos not even remember if she has a girl or a boy. I am not sure she ever met LM or knew his name though - I Was very pregnant when we met. Then dh says no, there were only 3 girls and he knew their moms. & this lady had been to our house. I am so confused at this point. Whatever, he is such a dork. Some phantom mystery woman who knows me. LOL. I think I know who now but still not too sure. I am just more annoyed because the person I think it is is one he runs into all the time, and she usually notices he hasn't a clue and tells him her name. LOL. So I a m more annoyed it has to be here and he can't remember in the least. she's tan sure, mexican, not in the least. LOL. The funny thing was he told me he ran into someone in the store the other day who was just talking and talking to him and asking about the kids and he had no clue either. Poor guy - hehe.

THe only other stupid thing over here is I slept about 9:30-2:00am and was just WIDE AWAKE. So I got up and just blogged and surfed the web and wasted time. It felt really nice to get a chunk of time. I Went back to bed around 5am as my eyes got heavy. I am an idiot - LOL. Figures the 1 night the kids sleep well I can't sleep. I think my body was so pleased to sleep so well those few hours it just wanted up,. but then it started remembering all the hours I have to make up for - hehe. Well I slept an hour after that and now I have a ton of work to do...

It is s'posed to be in the 80s today and the kids usually sleep until 5:00 (nap) so I am excited that we will have some daylight tonight to enjoy - will help me get through these last few weeks of craziness - to get out and see some sun...

Not much exciting otherwise. Had to run to the store yesterday (a rare occasion) and had to get peanut butter eggs when I Saw them. Candy galore!!

& I just paid $77 to the DMV for dh's car registration. Oh plus $30 or so he paid for smog check. Exciting stuff...

Free/Frugie Stuff for Kids

March 10th, 2007 at 07:19 am

Well, this post has been forming in my brain a few days and I have something really cool to add so I finally got to it - with pictures and all.

Les you doubt stay-at home-parents get a little stir crazy at times:



Dh says it was BM's idea, but well, I knew he was a little genius, but I think he had a little help from daddy - LOL.

But this is my free stuff for kids #1 - milk carton blocks (juice too I guess - I see some oranges in the picture). You just take 2 1/2 gallon cartons, cut off the tops, let them air out and dry first please (LOL) and then put them together to form a block. I was wary when dh started the tedious, long-time task of making blocks when BM was almost 2, but about 18 months later he has quite the block collection. & he sure LOVES them. The sweetest thing is he just started giving some to his little brother - figure he needed some too. Another thing he likes to do is build a wall in his doorway with those. Well the uses are endless...

#2 - Well, it was free to us. A relative is teacher and passes off her endless bottomless pit of presents every holiday season. & this is one we weren't really thrilled to get. But whatever. IT was a little bulb that grows into a huge flower. Finally after ignoring it a month or 2, dh got it out and started watering it. The thing has grown so FAST and BIG you see - the kids love coming down every morning and measuring it - too see how far it grew over night - often an inch or 2. I don't know why we were so anti-flower at first. Has been great fun. & it is beautiful.



#3: Science experiments. When my older son was 2 dh got 2 science books they started going through. Granted my 2yo is a lot more like a 4-5yo but definitely can not go wrong at 3 or 4 with these.

Book- Everything Kids' Science experiment book

Book - Science Play (for 2-5 yos)

This makes "science experiment" one of my child's first words. He LOVES the stuff and can't get enough.

So I will share our favorite #1 experiment. Balloon Rocket! You need tape, a balloon (or a few), a straw (courtesy of taco bell I believe - LOL), and a long string. You can put the string anywhere but we tied one end to the top of the stairs and one end to a chair downstairs -makes it really fun. But you can just put it anywhere at an angle or even straight across a room.

Run the string through the straw first before you tie it up. Then blow up a balloon and tape it to the straw, while holding the neck of the balloon closed (a little tricky). Then let go of the balloon and you have a little rocket. That one is so cool - the kids would play with that for hours... They love shooting the balloon up to the top of the stairs!

Water Bill

March 9th, 2007 at 12:36 pm

I've been meaning to dig out my water bill for a while and finally did. I know someone asked way back something about a piece of the bill - I don't remember.

All I know is when we moved from the Bay Area to Sacramento the bill was just insane. & it annoys me it is not metered (though maybe that would be worse).

So here goes - we pay monthly:

Water - flat fee - $28
Storm Drainage - flat fee - $15
Garbage (smallest can) - $10
Recycle (largest can) - $3
Lawn/Garden (one-size can) - $7
Street Sweeping - $1
Sewer - $30

Grand total - $94/month

I used to rent a similar size house in San Jose with roommates and our water and garbage bill was just pennies. Well it was in the mid-1990s. I guess things change too... SO moving here was a bit of a shock.

We have the biggest freaking recycle bin and they only pick it up every other week - we just fill it to the brim. The nice thing is we never fill our trash. If I hear one more person tell me they HAVE to have a huge garbage can because they have kids. Whatever, they don't HAVE to do anything. We even throw some diapers in there since LM insists on disposables for sleeping - but the can is never anywhere near full. I Will be happy when the city takes recycling even more seriously though. They really need to come by every week. Though I guess with the kids drinking milk like fiends - it's gallons of milk and all that that fills the recycle bin. Maybe that will settle down as they get older. We were just talking about starting to recycle cans and stuff - go get paid for them I mean. We just don't drink that much soda or anything, but might free a little space in the recycle bin.

Oh I know what fills it up - newspapers. It is my pet peeve dh will not cancel the newspaper. What a waste of paper. HE is attached to his coupons, which is fine, but now they insist on delivering it 5 days a week and NO LESS. IT just aggravates me since most of it goes straight to the recycle bin - not even looked at... I told him I would go out and buy it on the weekends but it does cost about the same in the end. But I would feel better about not killing all the trees...

Anyway, sewer, garbage, storm drainage, street sweeping, oh my. LOL. The city is moving to metered water so we'll see if that helps at all. IF nothing else we will have more control over our costs. THough I know we were paying well more than we ever used in years past. Figures now we have a yard to water and 4 people in the house, now they want to meter it. Bah. LOL. But I think it is good all the same. Good for water conservation. I Still haven't got used to the difference from where we moved from. The signs on the restaurants - "we will not serve water unless you ask" to here where there is no metering and no one really cares. BAck home had a lot of drought issues, I guess there is just more water up here so no one is worried about conserving - I don't know... Who knew 2 hours could make such a huge difference. IF we knew sacramento had more water than they knew what to do with we would have asked them to send some our way. Wink

Moms - want to be interviewed for article?

March 7th, 2007 at 08:33 am

Well I posted this in the forums and no bites.

This is the message I got, from the finance writer at momseasychair.com:

"My next article is entitled “Finance at Your Fingertips.” We will be pointing readers to online resources that help them manage their accounts, investments etc. (I’m thinking online banking, bill pay, paying taxes online, taking out loans online, getting advice and tips via blogs etc) I would like to include a real-world example of a woman and mom who is making the most of online resources like this (or is headed in that direction). Do you know anyone who would be interested in doing an interview with me?"

Anyone interested, PM me, respond here, let me know somehow! Wink

Backstory on the movie...

March 6th, 2007 at 11:07 am

But go see my last post first. Big Grin

My hubby is a big videophile/movie hog. LOL. In college he got a minor in tv/radio. Wanted to major in it but his parents are not into "like what you do, be good at what you do" philosophy I was raised with. So pushed him hard to get a business degree - went with marketing - which in the end could be good for his career actually. Not the worst, but I Think he'd be happier too if he just went for what he knew he wanted to do. He is very creative. We don't live in LA but SF is close enough and has plenty of job opportunities. We could always move - I would move there for his career...

He also really wanted to be a teacher - maybe teach the stuff - he has been eyeing our new high school which has a huge video department - I am sure his dream job would be teaching in that department. I really encouraged him first out of school to quit his miserable job (customer service/marketing) and get an emergency teaching credential (at the least) and give it a try - they were handing them out to anyone out of desparation. But he just never had the guts.

I can't remember how he got into videos but he really wanted a fancy video camera after he lost his job and I was pregnant so he started doing wedding videos to pay for it. He did an excellent job, multi-camera shoots, etc., really fancy - $2k valued videos he charged a few hundred for, then $1k as he got more experience. It just never went far and I think once he earned the camera and equipment he wasn't as interested. Bridezillas and all that - too stressful - didn't want the stress of messing up the Big Day. Loved the work, just not an area he was particularly interested in. The idea of films and the ability to reshoot sounded much more appealing and less stressful.

So for whatever reason he noticed there were a lot of small time films being shot in the area. He volunteered through Craigslist to be a cameraman on a shoot. Oh yeah, he also has been volunteering at the public tv station and has met a few people in the industry too. HE did the one job and met another guy he helped him with his movie. Then through him met the director/screenwriter of this film. He absolutely LOVED editing videos and I think is his forte, but in the meantime he has noticed a niche for marketing videos, so the direction he has headed. Plenty of film makers and films, but no one has any marketing skills or time - amazed how many movies just sit on shelves in people's basements - can't imagine going to the effort and not following through. He found this really up his alley and the kind of thing he could charge a decent commission if he actually sold a movie.

So anyway, since he did not have necessarily the time he volunteered on this last movie to help market it. Over time by just being responsible and motivated and being there they have relied on him for much more. They let go of their paid editor and he took over. So if nothing else this is an awesome notch on his resume.

Frankly if he could make even a few thousand a year making movies I think I would be happy. This last outfit he is with has been pretty promising, they have some real talent and some motivation and some contacts, etc. If they can sell one movie I think it is only up from there.

When he can go back to work full-time I am not surprised if he will find some kind of job in tv or radio, maybe to pay the bills, movies on the side. Depends how successful he is. They are right now forming a production company to do films, wedding videos, music videos and such. Music videos was another angle he was trying to break into. He now has the tools and support, and the group did do 1 music video actually, but he didn't get to work on that because he was busy editing the movie! The timing I think is perfect though because he has a little more time, kids can go to preschool, but we are not at the point yet where we NEED more income. He has some time to test the waters for a bit... Editing and post-production has been a lot more easy to fit in his schedule too - watch the kids during the day - edits nights and weekends. IT could turn into a viable/flexible career for when the kids are in school.

In short, I don't think if he wasn't a SAHD he would have ever pursued this career, though it is truly what he wanted. I am excited as the kids get older and he has more opportunities to do more work - he is so happy - in his element! He is that much closer to putting together his own movie. We got to get working on a script though. But he has the crew and the contacts so we'll see. He has tons and tons of movie ideas floating in his head. I am trying to help him take it to the next level - he just needs a script to get started!

What a Day...

March 5th, 2007 at 10:55 pm

Not much financial, but I am absolutely giddy and there are only so many people I can call at 11pm to share my joy - teehee.

Today started absolutely awful. Trying to work out the logistics of babysitting and all that. Kind of dreading work. It has just been too much lately. I know the big picture it is just another couple of months and it will slow down. But this is the first time in a long time I have just not wanted to go to work - dreading it in a way.

I was on my way home and called my mom, who was at my house to watch the kids. But while we were talking someone called and started to leave a message on the answering machine. I Was talking to my mom on a cell phone and she could not pick up the house phone in time. All of a sudden I hear a little girl saying something about a baby and a sister. So I absolutely started screaming - OMG - my SIL is pregnant. I just told dh like 3 days ago I Expected news any day now. Just CREEPY. Okay so we have been wishing for a while, but seriously, I was like, come on, it is tIME. LOL. I am so so so so excited. We couldn't eally make heads or tales of the message, but it was very obvious to me. Big Grin Dh called his sister to confirm - October baby!!!

If the day could not get any better, the reason my mom was babysitting was because dh's big movie premiere was tonight. So we escaped and got to mingle with friends. The 1000-seat theatre was, astonishingly, practically filled. The movie was good. Not good, excellent. I was really really really pleasantly surprised. It is one of the best movies I have seen in a long while. I really think this darn thing will sell. I have dollar signs in my eyes tonight. Regardless, who care, it is friggin good. There is a lot more where that came from. The audience really liked it. The guy dh has been trying to sell himself to as an editor was there to see his finished project - can only be good for him. IT was about 100 times better than I ever expected.

Then I Came home and hugged my kids extra super tight.

What a day!

I don't think tomorrow can top this. Got to ride this high for a while... & I want dh to get to work on selling this movie - now there is something financial... He gets a decent cut, so come on, let's make some money!! IF this is the first try, they have some promise for the future, for sure...

Tax Refund Finally Arrived

March 4th, 2007 at 06:26 am

I know last year we filed around the same time and it arrived in a week. Well this year I filed Feb.11 and the refund (state) was approved the 14th. & so it arrives yesterday - gah!

The mail has been so BAD around here, I wanted to look at the postmark but there was none - electronic I guess. Who knows where it has been. IT was mailed from this city so no need to take so long - came well after the state said it would arrive.

This mail thing all started with my work mail years ago. I never send anything from work unless I don't mind it getting lost for a month or 2. Like a magazine subscription renewal or a survey or something I'll toss it in - hehe. BUT in the end it did turn up there was a mail theft ring going through our post office, and I wonder if that was tied to slower mail. In the end they took some of our clients checks (clients paying my boss) and erased them and re-filled them in. So a few of our clients had check fraud, eventually traced it to our post office. I haven't tried the mail since all that - just don't trust it. But maybe it is better without the whole theft ring thing.

So I we have lived here years and for the first 4 years I kept my old bank back home. I had never stepped foot in it and no point - I mail my deposits (I don't know - just don't like ATM machines - creature of habit I guess). People usually look at me like I am quite weird if I mention this but in 15 years or so of mailing checks (sometimes weekly when I Was self-employed) no I never had a problem - they always arrived the next day - maybe 2 days once in a blue moon. But last year about things started taking 3-4 days. I finally got fed up and took the long awaited step of switching banks.

In the meantime, mail in the city has been very grand but anything sent outside of the city seems to take a good 10 days minimum. Not everything, but certainly enough to notice. You don't know how many angry ebay buyers I have had, I just beg them to check the postmark and it is always when I say. Plus some things I had bought took AGES. Other checks and bills, more rare, but often enough, disappear for 30 days.

So yes I have been complaining much about the mail lately, and this is why.

My last deposit did not arrive at my bank saturday - 2 days from mailing. Ack! So I guess the slowness has hit the city. The good thing is I was sick a couple of weeks back and we have a new chain of our bank down the street, so I had dh deliver my deposit for me that day - I had needed the money right away or something. I just can not get to the bank, I hate the ATM, I think I am just going to have dh start making deposits for me. At least while it is so busy.

Luckily with online bill pay I have little need to mail much these days. I just don't know what is going on with the mail. IF less people are using it, income is down, if that is it. Or has mail theft hit our local post office too? Gosh, you have to wonder - who knows.

That's my mail rant for the day - grrrrrr.

P.S. My whopping $200 is going to pay medical bills this month. It was like $900 but I owe the IRS $700 - so net $200. Just paying the IRS this week.

Go Fly a Kite... (& evils of debt)

March 3rd, 2007 at 07:34 am

The other day I saw some neighbors flying a home-made kite. Interesting. Was made out of construction paper and did seem to fly. For whatever reason they were flying it in the street though - ??? - I mean this is tract housing - there is no room - lord knows why - LOL.

But I thought that would be a project the kids would love - will have to peruse the net for some kite-making websites.

& beyond that I figured I would mention because last year dh spotted some kite on sale at Walgreens or something like that for $1 and picked it up for the kids. Let me tell you, was that $1 well spent!!!!!!! It was so cheap little tin foil thing with some cartoon characters - no idea what ones. LOL. But the kids didn't really care what was on it or how fancy it was - just enjoyed going down to the park and flying it around.

Reminds me we need to dig it out and see if it will last another season.

The weather has been kind of wishy washy over here too, but it is a beautiful clear day today - maybe a good day to fly a kite! We always seem to have plenty of wind too...

Oh yes - and Laura's newest article was pretty interesting...

http://finance.yahoo.com/expert/article/moneyhappy/25516

I am pretty much a in the "self responsibility" mentality, but as I Say over and over I don't think this gives the credit card companies the right to take advantage of people when down (As they are really good at doing) and also it disgusts me how entrenched in controlling legislature the credit companies and mortgage companies are. & this article points it out. I think it alluded to my path with this disgust. I used to look at people in debt as 100% responsible. But over time I See how over and over people are taken advantage of. How too many people without debt problems turn the other cheek because they don't understand what is really going on, on a bigger level. IT is easy to look down on people with big debt problems and assume they just spent too much money on cars and vacations. But this is not very factual for the most part.

This is why I feel financial literacy is so important. The more we are as people are educated, the more we can protect ourselves from all of the financial predators out there. I could spend my time fighting shady car dealerships, shady dentists, shady loan practices, or shady credit card practices. (Even shady CPAs!! Threw that one in for good measure - because there are shady dealers in all trades). But there are not enough hours in the day. There will always be someone out there wanting to bilk you out of your hard-earned money. The best you can do is educate yourself about your personal finances, know how to spot a scam or a bad deal, learn how to make smart choices. That's the best way I see to win this "fight."

Tired Ramblings & Lottery Winners

March 1st, 2007 at 11:34 am

I have found all this writing has really kept me from my blog, but that is okay. Feels good to be productive. I really thrive on variety in my life so crazy as things are right now I have a variety of everything. It has also amazed me how fine-tuning my knowledge of personal finance and thinking more in-depth about tax issues helps my career as well - pretty win-win.

We actually ate out yesterday because was just so overwhelmed with stress and work and everything. I just wanted to eat out - told dh I didn't care how much it was out of our budget. Tax season is crazy and I will be paid accordingly, eventually. Convenience and my eating to calm my nerves prevails. (eating still equals comfort to me - it always will...) I told dh I hope April is a little better - it might be.... March is the worst month yet.

I also slept on the floor for 3 hours last night, as did dh. Ugh. I Was so miffed when dh came to bed at 2am, but turns out he fell asleep on the floor of baby's room - LOL. So I let him sleep in longer than I should have. I had to go in there at 3am - I just conked out and woke up at 6am with some pains. Getting too old for this. As awful as it is, it has been MUCH worse so we will survive. At least all we have to do is go in there and lay on the floor and baby will conk right out. Then you just debate in your head if you rather sleep on the floor or risk being awaken again an hour later. It's a tossup... Last night the floor sounded appealing until I woke up...

In other news, saw on t.v. a really interesting special on lottery winners and the bad luck that follows them. Oh yeah, chalk this one up to making your own luck - indeed. Just profiling lottery winners who squandered their money - a lot ending up in jail - a lot of money spent on drugs. They also profiled some people who won the lottery and did quite well with their life - was nice to see it isn't all doom and gloom. The point of the special = money won't buy you happiness. For sure. I was never really that excited about the lottery. I guess I am just too grounded. I know the odds are slim to none. & if I won $1 million, give the government 1/2, leaves me a decent addition to my retirement. Oh sure I would enjoy some but I don't think it would solve all of my whoas either. Winning millions, I always figured it would create more problems than anything. A lot of lottery winners in the special had problems with friends and family who wanted a piece of the money. Or were just crushed with requests for help from the average population. I imagine all that would be tough to handle. Seems a lot easier to invest your way to millions and just keep quiet about it - shhhhhh... But it was an interesting special. There was a t.v. show on briefly last year called Windfall which tackled the topic - a drama about a bunch of friends who won the lottery. IT could have been done much better I guess but the topic I thought was fascinating. I guess no one wants to see how winning the lottery doesn't solve all your whoas - hehe.

Challenge Money

March 1st, 2007 at 07:33 am

$20 challenge:

$778.50 - Balance 2/4

$51.89 - Interest

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$830.39 - Balance 3/1
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