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Archive for April, 2007

$150 spent

April 30th, 2007 at 12:11 pm

Hmmm, I think I will go back to tracking spending here/sharing more, now that I have more time.

Well, just put almost $150 on the card. Paid the diaper service. (I put everything on the card for rebate money - am due $250 in just a month or so - woohoo!!!).

& since we decided to sign up LM for toddler class this month when I looked up the # I saw the community center had the summer catalog. So I looked through and found oodles of classes for the kids. Good thing so cheap.

One thing BM has been wanting to try is MArtial Arts, and gymnastics. When he turns 4 in the summer there will be lots more options, but there is a little Toddler one, one night a week, we will give it a whirl. Will make it a hectic day, but oh well. I also saw the swim catalog and surfed the web a little as I wasn't as pleased with the community center's swim lessons last time. He's turning 4 and I think really he should know how to swim this summer. The plus side is his preschool got a pool late last summer, and worked with him, and we have a community pool. So we can work with him, and his preschool will too. But I looked up the YMCA (where I learned to swim at 4 or 5) & it was insanely expensive!!! Wow! I think the private lessons offered at our pool are cheaper, and I think it is a very important skill so maybe I will call the homeowners association and see if they are offering lessons this year or what. May be worth it. Or we will just take the cheap community center ones, watch what they are attempting to teach, and work with him I guess. We could do that. We can work with him a lot this summer, it is nice having access to a pool just down the street!

I also have pretty much avoided gym memberships and workout classes since having kids due to time and costs. Last year I was still breastfeeding (hard to get away much more than for work), spent 18 months pregnant the last few years, etc. But the aerobics class is only $2.50 a class or $30/month for 12 hours a month. So I called dh and asked if he would mind terribly if I spent 2 nights a week at aerobics, and a saturday morning too (usually let him sleep in because I am an early bird - well he can still sleep in sundays).

Anyway, he didn't really care or mind, so I signed up and start tomorrow. I have been wanting to get back into it and get in shape, but just no motivation. Shelling out the money and having to go to class 3 days a week, is the motivation I need. $2.50/class - can't beat it. Hopefully it works out!

So 1 class each for us was about $30 each - so just charged almost $150 to the card with that and diapers.

I think for BM we might try gymnastics and martial arts this summer. Most of the classes we have taken through the community center have been so excellent and affordable, I hope the martial arts is the same - he will be so excited. & he can try out the gymnastics too later in the summer. Plus we will be working on some swimming. Busy busy busy I guess. For the long run probably make him choose one or the other, but he has seen karate on t.v. and thinks it is way cool. Of course he tries to imitate crazy gymnastic moves too, sometimes worry he is going to break his neck, so that will be a good outlet too. There's a nice kid's gym down the street from my work, but it cost twice as much. & the martial arts is even worse. So we'll give the cheaper option a whirl and see how he enjoys. As long as we're paying for preschool is probably the best he will get.

Gosh, I don't remember the last time I did something so for ME! 3 days a week for me, to get in shape. Hehe - I am excited. I kind of miss just going to the gym - I love working out and am a gym girl, etc. But just hasn't been in the cards for years. So something like a cheap aerobics class makes me giddy. I have to get on my neighbor's case too. She has a dance studio in her home and offered to teach aerobics to some of us moms on the weekends. I should bug her too, to get on that. Now that would be convenient!

Bookeeping = Big Money, & other Monday rambles

April 30th, 2007 at 07:18 am

Before forget, you knew I was perusing craigslist the other day (was looking at cars - well at least dh and I both have our own downfalls - which we really do keep to a minimum - I swear - LOL). But while looking at the convertibles, and even considering going for something cheaper and lesser quality so I can buy one sooner (eh, decided against it) I started perusing rest of Craigslist and skimmed the want ads. There were a handful of adds offering $65k to bookkeepers. What in holy hell??? That's how much I made last year 5 years as a CPA - LOL. Anyway, I am looking at the ads and scratching my head. But the interesting this is most of the ads were from CPA firms, and in fact we have been looking for some experienced bookkeepers as well. We just can't find enough CPAs, and well, if we can find anyone who can do the work, as long as the CPAs oversee it, is all that matters. But with not enough interest, we are really upping the ante.

So what does my CPA license and degree buy me today? Maybe a few thousand a year for now, which is good. Definitely a lot more with time and more responsibility. But in the interim, I just have to say if you didn't go the CPA route and you enjoy bookkeeping, go check the want ads. Holy cow! You aren't doing 1/2 bad. I was just telling my mom last night about this since my sister just got her AA degree in accounting. Of course, with no experience, she won't get any of these jobs. But it is interesting. The industry is just crazy right now - and they keep saying like 1/2 of the CPAs are retiring in the next decade. I think it will be nearly impossible to strike a work/life balance in this unfortunate set of circumstances. Sure the pay and job stability is amazing, but the lack of qualified workers is pretty hard to work around all the same - my boss says this was the WORST tax season he has ever had in 30 years, and he lost a lot of clients to retirement these last few years. Of course maybe as so much of the workforce retires, it will kind of work itself out. ???

But anyway, I am not big on lots of responsibility. I would love to just drop back and be a bookkeeper. Frankly, is why I love my job. I have felt like a glorified bookkeeper - paid very well for easier work - in years past. But these days more and more responsibility pushed my way. As long as I have a CPA designation there is probably no way around that - I just have to get used to it. I expect a big raise next year thought - wow! I didn't see anyone paying my job more (in the ads) than $75k which is about what I will gross this year with my bonus. But it is kind of cool to know I could downgrade my job and not lose much income. Makes me wonder if we should demand bigger raises still in coming years. The industry has just been in overhaul, I have hardly had anything less than a 5-10% raise as is, and it doesn't seem to be slowing down - that is the crazy thing.

Well, today is the first day of "normal" in months. I am going to take BM to preschool and leave early to pick him up.

I don't plan to work past 5 all week!

I may even come home for lunch 1 day this week.

& I will sign up baby for his toddler class this month. Might as well, I can break away from work and go with him.

Ah, back to normalcy.

& if the week goes well I might even take Friday off!!! Woohoo. Still have to see how the workload and deadlines go. I have a tax appointment tomorrow too - ugh - procrastinators - LOL.

I think I am going to bite the bullet and apply for credit cards and see how it goes. I am going to apply for one with 9-month free balance transfer and $100 in gift cards and dh is going to apply for a 12-month 0% BT & $50 gift card. I am going with citi card because it seems they are the EASIEST to get a check, and they definitely have no fees, etc.

My plan is for next year for both of us to apply for Discover cards so we can do a BT to the old cards and extend it out for another year.

Then we're going to pay them off AND cancel the cards, and see what that does to our credit score. & then cool it for a while. I couldn't play that game on and on and have a ton of cards. We were originally going to just test one of our credit scores, but we decided it really didn't matter. I don't know. Last time we borrowed a lot of money, paid it off and closed it in a short time our credit shot up to the 800s so overall I am not too worried. But we'll definitely keep an eye on the score and proceed slowly. The gift cards (Target!!) will be a nice perk! I was going to let dh use one to get a game controller for the PS3 ($50?) but he just found a way to get one for free - so go dh.

The unfortunate thing is that I have to apply for the cards, get them, and make a purchase, to get the gift cards. Then will pay it off and do the BT. So no cash for a couple of months. I read the blog instructions and the fine print on the cards like 100 times to be sure, and now I am ready. How exciting! I hope we both get $5k - $10k, but who really knows... I'll let you know!

I used to think it was so awesome to be debt free, and lately I keep saying, well "I am debt free except the loan that I choose not to pay because I make more in the bank." But you know what - I am just going to say I am debt free. This does not count - LOL. I am going to borrow the money, put it in the bank, and not touch it. Or should I just start saying I have all good debt for leverage. It's funny when I joined here I was like, I don't want to be wealthy, I just want to live and retire comfortably. I guess that is still my goal, but I am sitting back and thinking about the big picture more. Where once I would not consider carrying any debt it is quite a mind-shift, and wealth-building attitude, to use low interest debt to our advantage.

I feel confident as I have never paid a credit card fee in 14 years of card ownership. Pay the bills on time, read the fine print, just doesn't seem very hard. All the same I still have a fear, what if I screw up - the fees could be nasty. So we'll see. At least we'll get some gift cards - LOL. I even told dh I was going to put the BT transfer info with our will stuff so if something happens it gets paid right away. I can just imagine our family's surprise if they found we had $20k in cc debt - what the heck??? LOL. & I will make sure dh knows when the bills are due and where the money is in case something happens to me. Maybe a little overkill, but just don't want it to bite us in the ass for ANY reason. Not even to our estate if something happens to us- wouldn't give the credit card companies the satisfaction of squeezing a dime from us for any reason. Oh yeah, I probably hesitate because of my overall disdain for them, but all the more reason to take free money from them I guess. Wink





Crazy Local News

April 29th, 2007 at 07:49 pm

Um, apparently the freeway melted and collapsed from a giant tanker truck fire. Who knew that could even happen? Luckily was 3am - sounds like so far no one was hurt?

http://www.pleasantonweekly.com/news/show_story.php?id=134

Yikes!!!!

ETA: Still say no one was hurt or killed (except truck driver who walked away from the scene - he isn't so bad off...).

Amazing.

Summer Here

April 29th, 2007 at 08:05 am

Oh yeah, it is a bad sign when you have to turn on the a/c in April. Yikes. It was a hot weekend and we waited it out, but last night it was up to 85 in the house so I turned on the ac for a bit to cool off the upstairs for the kids, before bed. Good move since I later opened the window but the neighbors were LOUD last night, and quickly closed the window - hehe. The 10-15 minutes of a/c did the trick and kept the house comfortable for the night. It's 77 in here right now and quite comfortable, as long as I don't do too much work in the house. Was over 90 outside yesterday - ick. The summers where it doesn't hit 100 degrees until July, I can deal with. But sometimes it starts hitting in May, and I am getting scared it will be one of those LONG summers. Hopefully it will cool off for a bit - I really rather have 1 more month of no a/c! The electric bill has been so nice and low!

Yesterday was REALLY nice. Dh had wanted to go to the Scottish Festival, which was quite expensive really. I told him I didn't want to be too stingy and cheap, but since we are going to Monterey next weekend... So we decided to go to the zoo and Fairytale Town which we have memberships too. & you would be proud of us. We packed up a lunch. There happens to be a pond and park between the zoo and Fairytale Town and so we decided to hit FT first, stop and eat lunch ,and maybe run by the zoo for a bit - it is very small.

Anyway, the heat was a bit much as the day progressed, but overall a very cheap and fun day. Kids had a blast.

The little FT also had a promotion where they are going to put in a "yellow brick road" and you can buy an inscribed brick for $100. Would love to to so - I think that is cool. Will have to think what we want to inscribe in it. For a good cause and all.

Anyway, for the ever present truth that less is more to kids, I had to share this. Fairytale Town has a few farm animals and slides and stuff to climb in. A fancy playground I guess. But they have this thing called the "crooked mile" which is basically a little raised path that winds round and round. So when we got there I plopped down and let BM run through it about 10 times. It might as well be a fancy roller coaster as far as he is concerned - the kids just LOVE it. Dh and I have always scratched our head on that one - who knew something so simple could be like the main attraction? LOL.

Here's a glimpse:



& then where we had our picnic lunch:



& the big duck who tried to grab my food. I was a little scared of him, but started snapping his picture and he ran off - he didn't like it - LOL. I guess he was a duck - I don't know - some big fellas.



We figured we wore out the kids real good and they would nap all afternoon and maybe even sleep well at night, but the plan backfired. They went on nap strike and were extra grumpy to boot, plus we were exhausted. Oh well. Baby had another awful night. Ugh.

We actually went to the SF zoo last year once and it was quite cheap, but the food did us in. So we are thinking about it for this year - we just need to pack up a lunch and go enjoy - the zoo even has free parking. I guess gas will be the pricey part, but is such a nice zoo. All we have to do is rein in the food costs to make it a pretty affordable excursion.







Recent Lessons Learned

April 28th, 2007 at 07:43 am

I have learned a couple of big lessons lately that are leading me to tweak my goals again.

I think I can sum them up into 2 lessons:

1 - The answer to most financial questions is: it depends. No one-size-fits-all!!!

2 - Doing something without truly thinking it through and looking at the big picture (like doing it on a gut feel) is not smart.

My gut feel used to be I wanted a lot of cash and no mortgage, etc., etc. But I was falling behind on all my financial goals by being so short-sighted about the BIG picture.

I've been coming to this realization slowly over time, but I finally gave into the other side of the great mortgage debate and completely change my tune. I no longer am paying an extra dime to the mortgage. I don't see the point. I decided to change my tax withholding because I was a little behind. At first I was frustrated as it significantly compromised my savings goals. & then I looked at the stupid $30 extra mortgage payment and decided I would commit that to retirement instead. Much smarter! Before I looked at it as a forced savings, a small amount I wouldn't bother with otherwise. But forced with such a huge budget change, I thought, gosh, I have been saving that $30 no prob - why not just put it to retirement instead. I can commit to save a small amount. & that is huge - a huge change in my thinking just over the last few months. Getting away from the so all or nothing thing.

We also have formulated a plan for our cash savings. We are going to keep 3 months bare minimum expenses and that is it. The rest - again to retirement - much better returns in the long run. We are losing out on so much earnings potential wanting a lot of cash in the bank.

In my new thinking I am just able to weigh everything with our goals and make decisions now. Vanguard dropped their fees so the $50/month I have been adding in a slow attempt to erase the fee of 1 fund (thought it was screwing up my allocations - and was why I was doing it slowly) - well I no longer have that need. I dropped the investment plan yesterday. By doing so we are on track to meeting our 3-month EF by December, $1k to invest, and the $1500 to do my final ROTH conversions. No more money to retirement this year, but with a $13k contribution from my job this year, just makes sense. We can go into 2008 with a full e-fund, an investment account started, all ROTHs, and can contribute heavily to the ROTHs in 2008. Woohoo.

Anyway, many circumstances have changed this month, but having the big picture in mind it was easy to make the appropriate changes and work with them.

Anyway, besides 3 months in expenses we will be adding $100/month & my overtime to savings for bigger purchases (cars and house maintenance) but should be plenty, with these interest rates anyway. We will start investing a very minimal amount in a balanced fund, since my new-car horizon is so far away. & for longer-term stuff. & then hoping to set aside about 8% to ROTHS. But of course, any unexpected windfalls will got to max those out. So I think the odds are high we can max out next year and still make decent progress on our savings. My gut wants to max out the ROTHs, but realistically, we don't need a 25% retirement contribution next year. Not at cost to all else. We'll get there in a few years. No hurry for now. Having more than enough for my own ROTH, on one income, sounds nice and dandy. But if anything extra comes along... It is reachable to fund both, all the same!

Some reasons I have changed my tune:

1 - thinking about our time horizon and how we have a 40-year plus investment horizon for investments. Longer horizon means more time to ride out the wave.

2 - Even if we take the full 30 years, the house will be paid off in our young 50s or well before retirement, no need to stress about it right now. It will be so much easier to make extra payments in a few years and will still have a significant impact - if we our making all our other goals.

3 - Our interest-rate is low and we will have the mortgage deduction (effectively making it lower) for years to come.

4 - I feel confident in the ability to earn twice as much over the long haul - 8 - 10% vs. the effective 4-5% mortgage interest rate.

5 - Yup, 8-10% because in the ROTHs it is all tax free earnings! Makes it the no-brainer.

6 - Over 90% of our net worth is in our home - we need to spread out our investments.

7 - Our mortgage is very reasonable and low-cost for the area. If I had a huge windfall I would have NO urge to pay off the house. I find small monthly payments much more manageable. I NEVER got the idea to pay off a house with life insurance, but I guess being the sole breadwinner I wouldn't - LOL. I look at life insurance as more of the retirement contributions that my dh would have made in life. Of course if something happened to him I would downsize the house anyway, may be able to pay it off in that case. On the flip side, the mortgage is quite huge at $215k. It would take a big effort to significantly pay it down early, at all costs to retirement. Instead I expect we will have the income in a few years to pay it down faster and in the end will still pay it off just as fast as originally planned. But will have lots of money in the bank, earning a nice return, to boot. Wink

8 - I still can't get past the idea that my house could flood away or we could get sued for something stupid and have it taken away, but that our retirement is so safe from creditors, bankruptcy, lawsuit, etc. I just do not feel warm and fuzzy about having a $600k asset paid off. Frankly, it scares the hell out of me to sink all our cash into the house. If it was a $200k or $300k house I would feel differently. It's all in the sheer size and weight in our overall wealth I guess.

& as far as cash:

1 - job security out the ying-yang

2 - Plenty of insurance on all fronts

3 - Plenty of 0% credit options as well as plenty of well-off family to fall back on (loans) if we hit some really horrible times like the house flooding away or major medical bills.

So though I really want to hoarde a lot of cash, we probably could hardly be in a better position to not really need it. We just have a lot of options. So we decided to stick with the 3-month expense thing. The odds I will be out of work for more than like a day are just really slim to none in this market, and my job is quite recession-proof to boot. ( I exaggerate a tad, but not really, I could go find a job in a day - it is just crazy in my field right now). Disability actually would cover all of our bills - both the short-term and long-term (disability), and we have plenty of life insurance and all that. Medical is the big unknown for now, but we have low deductibles at least. I am starting to think we should keep a little less in the bank and try to pay for the higher premiums again next year. Might just be worth it to keep the costs controlled, even if the premiums are insane. Something to consider.

Anyway, overall it is amazing to me how much my thinking has changed in just the last few months. But I think we are looking at the big picture a lot better and are maximizing our wealth.

I still can't believe car is paid and we are so on track to so many goals this year. Though the year is young and anything can happen, all the same.

All that and a HDTV!

But setting goals and being focused has sure paid off tenfold... I had the focus before, just really not any tangible goals. What the hell were we doing anyway? LOL.















Annoying Assumptions

April 28th, 2007 at 06:47 am

Hey, I went to get my car yesterday and no charge - they'll just bill me when they finish the work - how nice. I called to ask if we could cancel the part order and call around some of the dealers and at first he said yes, but called later to say it was too late. I figured we'll just replace it. But maybe a good lesson to call the dealers for a second opinion at the least, you never know. Maybe this is a common problem with a quick fix.

Anyway, reminds me how this mechanic has annoyed me in the past with annoying assumptions! He'll look at the car, fix what I bring it in for, have it all ready, and then when I pick it up he says "you need this and this done too. Bring it back later." But not knowing us better I guess made the sweeping assumption (maybe the more common choice) that we rather wait and save up the money and bring it in later. In reality I want it taken care of while I went out of my way to go carless for a day or 2. Gah. It's just my pet peeve. In some cases maybe it paid to wait. But anyway, after a few times I told him, look, I rather get it all done now. We have such a great long-standing relationship with our mechanic back home and he is very honest about what is critical and what can wait, etc. So I have been trying to get this info more out of him. But if it really can't wait more than a couple of months - please just do it now!!!! So I think he is getting it. Of course, he still hasn't 100% learned. Am I sure I really want to fix my power locks now? Um yes - it is driving me batty - I left all the doors unlocked yesterday because I completely forgot - at work - not the best area. I need my locks!

Anyway, this also happened at the hospital. We were in for dh's ear appointment after he started losing his hearing suddenly. Overall something big and major - right? But the doc looks at our chart and says, oh, I would usually send you to the PT, but looking at your high co-pay plan, oh, you are just better off waiting a few days first - it might go away. In the end that was better advice, and it did. I am glad we didn't output the money. But the assumption that we should put off some procedure because we probably don't have the money? Ugh. There it goes again. It's his hearing!!! I will pay good money to get it fixed!

Geez.

I just find it interesting the assumptions made. If we had a better plan (which by the way cost another $300/month!!!) and were wearing expensive clothes would we have had an unnecessary PT appointment? Hmmmm. It only would have saved us $25 on the co-pay but we'd be out another $3600 all year for the premiums. So yeah I would rather have that advice on the other plan - LOL. People are funny.





Monkey Karma

April 27th, 2007 at 09:50 am

Every time I see "Money Karma" it reads "Monkey Karma" to my eyes - always cracks me up.

Anyway, dh needs to fiind the money for the t.v. & well, he just got a video job - woohoo. Out of nowhere, didn't have to look or anything. Well, he did some work for a client of mine last year, and they want him to do some more - editing some old videos, transferring to DVD and putting on a continuous loop so they can play in their lobby. Will probably net $200-$300 for that, whenever they get the details worked out.

My mom also offered the same when I told her about the t.v. purchase - they have a lot of old stuff to move to DVD. But you know, it's fam, you don't want to charge them. But I am starting to think he should take up the offer. He hasn't done anything yet and won't be a priority until cash is a reward. Just the way it is. Ask how far he is along on OUR own home videos - LOL. We got a "first year" video for child #1 & that's about it. Which reminds me though he did say he wanted to devote some time to that this summer. Hopefully he can make progress on all of these things now that I am much more free!

In other news, my dh is quite happy to spend his days playing video games and watching t.v. He is a real homebody. I am pleased that is changiing (maybe he is a little stir crazy - I don't know). He wants to go to the musemum and a Scottish festival this weekend. ???? Who is this guy and where is my hubby? Hehe. Well, we'll see...

Some Thoughts & links...

April 27th, 2007 at 06:50 am

http://www.iwillteachyoutoberich.com/blog/cheap-versus-frugal

I thought this was an excellent article (on cheap vs. frugal). An old article, but got directed to this website by househopeful's blog yesterday, and enjoyed.

Anyway, part of the distinction between cheap and frugal, in this article, is that cheap people will screw people over for a few bucks and frugal people in general are a little more generous, and have more to give. I thought it was a very interesting addition to the cheap vs. frugal list. I was also thinking about it in terms of us. We used to be very generous with our money. We used to donate all of our used stuff, and be generous with gifts, etc. Anyway, in recent months we have moved to the opposite end of the spectrum. I honestly can not say this has made me very happy. & reading this article kind of nailed it on the head for me. You know, maybe we were stupid with our money before, but I have been thinking of those studies where they show money makes people more mean. LOL. I have been really grumpy lately, thinking about money too much, etc. I think middle ground is probably good. So thinking through all this, I just agree. For the most part the frugal definitions in this article describe us to a tee and I think is something more to strive towards. Anyway, I also looked at this extreme penny pinching as pretty temporary to get back on track. & as we near our goal, we'll probably do what we can to get there. But once we get there I think we really just need to chill out. I find us spending an inordinate amount of time to save a few dollars, in a few cases, which just does not make any sense to me. When we made minimum wage it made sense. It no longer makes sense. Not worth the time and stress I guess, we have the luxury to let it go. I can't say we are any happier becoming extreme penny pinchers, actually, quite the opposite.

Anyway, just kind of my thoughts of late that I haven't really formulated into a blog yet. But reading this made me ponder it a little deeper, and find the words to what I had been feeling on some level.

Oh yeah, and I am enjoying this guy's blog too:

http://www.mymoneyblog.com/archives/2007/04/our-spending-bre...

I really enjoyed the comments on this post, because the guy started getting reamed for not having the "10
% tithe" category which I moan and groan about lately myself. I have argued that for myself, giving to my friends and community and such is so much more rewarding than setting aside a cash percentage for charity. But anyway, someone really echoed my thoughts here - they thanked the guy for his blog and what a great public service it is. I guess to me it just angers me that such contributions are written off as not important. Just giving of yourself in any way, shape or form is just very important. It does not have to be with cash. I guess for me putting a percentage to tithe just, I don't know, it doesn't jive with me. & it is amazing to me to see so many in the personal finance community make such a large commitment with their income. Anyway, I don't want to start a debate or seem judgemental. If you are happy with your tithing situation so be it. I almost don't even want to go there. A very personal/touchy thing I guess. But I think it is important for people on the fence, or are unhappy with giving so much cash, well, to know that there are so many other ways to give. & in the great debate if a blog is a charitable cause, I would argue it is. Wink But seriously, try it, help a neighbor, a friend, acquaintance, and see how enjoyable that is. It does not take a pile of cash to be a giving person. Ah, quite the contrary. I guess too I like the flexibility of giving when it feels right, rather than some sort of obligation. If I had given the token 10% I could not have helped a dear friend financially last year. But when the time arose I was able to help. & I know the money went to a wonderful cause, whereas with charity it often gets fuzzy. I know devoting my time to certain charities I can see the difference it is making, where it is harder to see with the cash contributions. & so it goes, I guess my attempt to reinforce the value of giving in any way, shape or form. If you don't have the cash to give, there are other ways to be a giving person. Wink

I guess it is all a big balancing act. When you get too extreme, it just gets ugly. I think we will work on some middle ground between frugal and giving, and not cheap - LOL - in the times ahead. Still working on that right balance I guess.

Challenge Money!

April 27th, 2007 at 06:34 am

$20 challenge:

$6,863.14 - Balance 4/16

$ 62.38 - Interest for April

------------------
$6,925.52 - Balance 4/16
------------------

This is how much money I have accumulated since 1/1 by doing things a little differently. Gosh, it is amazing.

Starting to accumulate significant interest. Gosh, wait until I cash out a credit card for the interest too. Wink

Can it be? A Free Weekend?

April 26th, 2007 at 06:25 pm

Everyone around here is burned out and doesn't intend to work this weekend. But frankly, I am so behind AND I want next Friday off, I didn't mind coming if for a bit. Though I was worried it might be a long saturday of working.

Anyway, all the problems cleared away and I have been whipping out payroll stuff left and right - more caught up than I imagined I would be today. Monday is the deadline!

Basically, I don't think I have to work Saturday!!!! Oh my. I don't think I will tell dh yet (just in case something comes up). A nice surprise for him and the kids. The kids have been very patient and well, but I think they are getting pretty sick of me working long saturdays.

Anyway, honestly, I probably rather come in a bit and get a bit more caught up. I don't have to work a monster day or anything. & even if I stay home I am WAY behind in my writing for the week.

But if no one else is going to be here, why should I? I think I will just be lazy, take Saturday off. & hope I can get a lot accomplished Monday through Thursday next week.

Ah, a 5-day work-week. WHat's that????

I know next week will be a little crazy, maybe the week after with 5/15 deadlines (gosh, these deadlines NEVER end). But I am hoping to work out a schedule with more free time to do some writing during the week and some exercise and such. So the weekends can truly be enjoyed. We'll see...

Yup, property tax returns due May 7 (ugly since I am behind on some of the accounting which would have the info I need) and I have 1 audit in particular I have to square away by May 15 so I can do their non-profit tax return. Yikes. Since I have been kind of pushed more into a management role I guess there is no escaping the endless deadlines!!! In the past many would pass without me having to break a sweat.

I am still dreaming of cutting back my hours. We'll see, hopefully I will catch up significantly in May and then take a breather. I can definitely say the WORST is over for the year - phew. That's something!

Sock-It-To-Me-Cake

April 26th, 2007 at 11:56 am

I asked dh to get the ingredients for this a couple of weeks back as I was craving. Luckily he spoils me rotten because I decided I really wanted something wonderful and sweet - like this cake - last night! But forgot when I asked for ingredients that the sour cream. It probably would have been okay still except dh had used it for cooking something else in the meantime, but he ran out to the store for me. I was way too tired when it was finally ready about 9pm last night, so we ate it for breakfast - yummy. This is just the most divine & easy cake to make. Don't ask me about calories though - I'm sure there are more than you need! Wink Oh yeah - and heat in the microwave a good 10-15 seconds before serving. It is just so good served warm!

INGREDIENTS:
1 box yellow cake mix
1 cup sour cream
1/3 cup oil
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 Tbls. brown sugar
1 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup powdered sugar
2 Tbls milk
4 eggs
1/4 cup water

PREPARATION:
Take 2 Tbls. of the cake mix and mix with the cinnamon,brown sugar, and pecans; set aside. In large bowl, blend cake mix,sour cream,oil,water,eggs, and sugar. Beat on high speed for 2 minutes. Pour 2/3 of batter into greased and floured bundt pan. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mixture in the center of this and spread remaining batter evenly over this. Bake at 375 for 45 minutes.

Cool in pan for 25 minutes. Remove from pan.

To make glaze; Blend powdered sugar and milk together to make a glaze. Drizzle over cake.

Yup, newer cars are overrated

April 26th, 2007 at 09:31 am

I came to the conclusion a while ago that our very old cars were much better purchases because we could afford so much more quality.

& anyway, today I am left feeling really annoyed with our van and wondering if we sacrificed too much quality for something "newer."

I am just aggravted. I am not sure what the final bill was - should have asked - but fixed the window and the mirror. & the oil change for convenience. But the power locks is something entirely different (I figured it had been related). Though I am glad it is not an overall electrical system malfunction, the part that needs to be replaced still is about $350. Mechanic said maybe I should just take it in to the dealer, might have to anyway to program it. But the principle really gets to me, that they make cars these days that only the dealer can fix. I ain't playing the game. I discussed it with dh and he said, well, odds are the dealer will screw you over. True. Kind of my feeling. Mechanic is old friend of family, on the contrary. So we will have him try to fix it - but the part won't be in until next week. In the meantime it is such a PITA to not have power locks. I would not mind so much if there was keyed entry on the passenger side, but there isn't. & we can't really figure out how to keep the back locked, without power. Considering we live in auto theft central, I really want my door locks back!

I think the grand total when all is said and done will be $1k. Absolutely ridiculous. I have just never had such a new car before and NEVER had these kind of stupid repairs. Is it too much to ask that the power windows and power doors last more than a couple of years? Have I ever spent $1k on car repairs in one service? Probably not? My last cars were old, but they had power doors and windows that worked for decades!

Overall I guess my standards are pretty high. HAven driven a 20-year-old Toyota with little problems, and the same with our Saturn, and our cheap little Escort, I am just not pleased with the Dodge Caravan thus far.

Oh well, at least the mirror is my fault - I broke it. There is something.

Well, we'll see. Have to take it in again next week when the part arrives. & then schedule for service at the dealer too. Times like these it is just nice to have a 2nd car and a spouse who doesn't work - to chauffer me around and overall not too much nuisance to my work day.

Well here is to better car days...

I haven't completely ruled out selling it, pocketing the change, and buying my camaro instead. LOL. Or even just an older Japanese model.

ETA: Since I can't comment I will comment here - LOL. Thanks for the tip - yup - we have the 05 Grand Caravan. Very Interesting. I will have dh call around and see if we can hold off on the part in the meantime - if he can cancel the order!

& that's what I mean - what's the point of buying new if you can't afford quality? Or you don't want to spend it anyway. Oh well, I feel we are on track to buy better next time. I should just feel lucky the Ford has held up so well, it was dirt cheap! Helps offset it a bit.

5.3%

April 25th, 2007 at 11:36 am

I need to log into my online MMA more. GMAC is now paying 5.3% APR!

I've been looking at c.d.s and treasuries now that our e-fund is about at its goal, and well, don't see the point for now.

I tried to pick a bank this time around that had a longer history of good rates. So far very proactive in raising rates (from 4.97% in just a couple of months). Since high yield is not everything to me (much weight on history/security of institution, FDIC, cusomer service, etc.) I am pleased I found a decent compromise for all that I wanted in a bank. For now anyway. Yeah, the subprime whoas are something to consider, but for now I will take GMAC any day over most the fly by night online banks. I do wonder if that has anything to do with more attractive rates though - haven't been keeping a close eye on rates overall...

Carless...

April 25th, 2007 at 09:32 am

I really wanted to take my car in next week, since it is crazy this week, but I started worrying as the electric problem seems to be spreading. Fearing if it got worse if it would cost more to fix.

Who knows, but we dropped it off today. Usually when the car goes in the shop I Tend to drop off the fam, go to work, then pick them up and get the car in the evening. But I thought, this is dumb, they probably need the car more anyway, I'll just be at work. So we dropped off the car and I got dropped off at work. Plus since I usually have to leave 4:30 to pick up BM (have not done so in months), it isn't so bad if dh picks him up first and then gets me - will be closer to 5:15 or so - buys me 45 minutes at work - which is good. Anyway, crossing my fingers the diagnostic is not too bad. WIll replace the side mirror and get an oil change while it is there. Not very frugal or cheap, but it is convenient and that wins hands down - LOL. Said I'll get it back tomorrow (unless it is something REAL bad). Oh yeah, fingers crossed. Of course mechanic looked perplexed as car is so new. YEah, that is what I was thinking. "New" car, already screwed up. Bah!

So yeah it is crazy here but I have "senioritis." I am SO itching for vacation and time off I guess. I am a little bummed because I have been ITCHING to go to Monterey and do something fun with the kids, on a Friday to avoid crowds. So I was thinking weekend of 11th, but BM got invited to a birthday party he really wants to go to. I vote Monterey still - LOL - but dh and BM vote party. Bah. So my first FREE weekend we will probably be driving and all that. Though I really look forward to the idea of a 4-day-workweek next week all the same. But then again, just so behind, wanted to have a nice full week to catch up a bit after this deadline. I could postpone Monterey to the following weekend, but I am driving down the Friday after that to get my tooth filled and want to avoid 2 weekend trips in a row. Oh well, decisions decisions. Regardless, no Saturday working in May, 1 holiday, and probably 2 days off to boot. One for as filling, but I tacked it on the holiday weekend so I could still drive back home and bum around for 3 days - LOL. Monterey will probably be decided at the last minute. I just don't know if I can take next Friday off. ???

I really wanted to lose a good few pounds before the cruise, but ain't gonna happen - LOL. Then again, weather has been nice, things have been slowing down, have been resuming the afternoon 1/2 mile walk at work in the afternoon. Maybe it is only 1/4 mile, but whatever it is is better than nothing. Last year I was a lot better about walking to get the mail and walking to the park/pool in the evenings. We have started resuming that somewhat, but after this week when I resume a more normal work schedule I can commit to more walking, and add some video workouts to the mix. I think I weigh about the same as last summer when we went to HAwaii, but I was in much better shape. I just feel flabby. I still have a good 18 baby pounds to attack, but have just been so wound up in financial stuff and work. HEre's to summer. Hopefully I Can tone up a bit so I Feel less self conscious come cruise time. I actually look forward to the amenities on the boat though - I love gyms, I just don't find them worth the expense these days, especially knowing I really don't have the time. But maybe the cruise gym will motivate me. & I want to be a little more in shape so I can maybe go on a bike ride or a hike, or hit cruise gym without keeling over - LOL. It was funny Sunday but we went out shopping and such and I Was exhausted. I frankly couldn't remember the last time I did much more than sit at a desk. So it is nice to get moving. Well needed.

Today I paid off the TV and its new beautiful stand. Dh picked one out and it is absolutely gorgeous - I love it. He did good. I was wary I would hate it - LOL. Anyway, between the 2, and taxes, $1300. I paid it. I also have to transfer $500 out of savings to pay the dental bill. (planned, short0term savings, actually $75 under budget which will help for filling). & after that we are at about 1/2 our budget for the month. Lord knows how. Dh did STEALLAR on the groceries this month and driving his car more has paid off in the gas department. I have had leftovers out my ears too - just lots of leftover lunches - no sandwhiches or BK runs. At this rate (knock on wood) I think that we will have enough extra in there to pay the mechanic. ???? I have about $350 set aside for that and my filling, before this great under-budget month. I think in the end it might buy me another $200 at the least. We'll see. I know I paid one grocery charge and one gas charge on the other cards already - ahead of schedule. But still, doesn't explain how we are having such a good month. Last day of credit card cycle is Thursday, all the bills are paid, dh knows better than to spend another dime on anything other than necessity - LOL - etc. But then again anything can happen. But I am in a good mood about it all. Just hoping the car isn't so bad...

I will have to dig out old invoices and see how much my last filling cost. Hmmmmm. I had one replaced a couple of years ago. I just don't remember it being that much.

Oh yeah, in other news, the fam may go to Florida in October. Another all-expense paid trip. Spoiled spoiled. As it turns out, dh told his mom about the windfall from my parents, which I was not happy about. So great, he didn't say how much, but his mom guessed upwards of $20k (I guess assuming the free gifting thing). So I was REALLY annoyed with dh. His parents are really generous, and nosy. None of their business, and I can just see then getting on our case about our finances if they think we just received $20k and are still budget like we are broke -LOL. (Oh yeah - and the TV to boot does not HELP!). So we had been discussing Florida next year to visit his grandfather, at an age the kids could enjoy Disney World. But he brought it up one day and his mom got on a kick they need to go throw a big 80th birthday party for GrandDad. Great, that is nice and all, but not in our budget in the LEAST. & it just came so out of left field. Why not until we brought it up we were planning a trip? I don't know. So I was really resisting. For one, it is a big deadline at work and they wanted to go for 6 work days. I guess I am just mean, but dh's sister has a baby due that month. I don't see why we just can't wait until next year - so they can go - and we have more time to plan, etc. I mean I need more than 6 months please to plan for a trip for 4 to Florida. Pricey! I don't care if we all crowd in Grandpa's house - the flight will still cost an arm and a leg - LOL. So anyway, I Was resisting because I figured MIL gravy train was out in light of recent events, and also because I refuse to use 6 days vacation - I already got my vacation planned for the year. So I pretty much told dh if he wanted to go AND his mom would pay, fine. I didn't want to be the 80th birthday scrooge. I kind of just wanted him to leave the baby too - but part of the thing is they have never met him. So anyway, in the end it all works out because dh's mom said if I didn't go, they could all share a timeshare condo ("free") and she had 4 free airline tickets anyway. (baby can take a lap). So trip is paid! To boot, we have Disney World tickets from 2000, our honeymoon, we bought a 4-day pass and I hurt my necj - don't ask - LOL. I think we only used 1 day. ?? So dh and BM basically have 3 days of park hopper tickets to use, and frankly I Am glad to be rid of them. Right now they are just sitting in our safe saying we need to fly to Florida to use them - LOL. So they will probably fly to Florida and all that and leave me, but I Am okay with it. The tickets though are just the icing on the cake - FREE trip. LOL. Of course, I know better. A few hundred dollars probably in eating out and expenses and such. But oh well, sure beats flight and hotel for 4 for a week - my word. I am also kind of annoyed because they just have to be there on the day of his birthday. I just don't get it. if they postponed it a little bit I could have flown out for the weekend or something, but has to be the weekend I have to work - just a big deadline - there is hardly a way around it. I just don't get the draw of the exact day. If someone wants to throw me a big bash the week before or after my birthday, okay with me! But I am not really feeling the trip all the same. HEck I might get a week all to myself at home. Crazy! I wouldn't know what to do with myself. & well if I we don't have to save our pennies for a Florida trip next year, what a load off for me. Phew. I think this could work out nice.

Pie Charts

April 24th, 2007 at 09:57 am

http://money.cnn.com/galleries/2007/pf/0702/gallery.median_i...

I don't know why, but looking at this article made me want to make a pie chart of my own - LOL. I play with percentages a lot, but never thought to put in chart form. I played with excel and figured it out pretty quickly (learned how in college, haven't done a pie chart since I believe - LOL).

Anyway, I cam up with this.



I think it's perty. Some things to note, housing includes the gardener and other maintenance. Not all fixed expenses. Haven't had the gardener long and would be the first thing to go if needed. I am impressed with the auto percentage - gas, insurane and budgeted maintenance on 2 cars. No payments (as of last week!). I laughed at the thread in the forums about the 8yo car with 85k miles. I think dh's car is 6yo with 65k miles and I figure it has a decade left in it, easily. I still consider it brand new, but I guess for me it is pretty new. But though we don't plan to replace either car soon, most of our 4% savings (and interest it earns) is earmarked for future car purchses, so you could consider our car % at 10% or so (7% + 3% - most of savings).

It surprised me what a chunk our taxes are since we pay so little in income taxes these days, but most of it is social security/payroll taxes (about 8%). I put the property taxes (& insurance & HOA and all that) with the house.

"Other" is all of our other insurances, gifts, donations, medical co-pays (can get pricey), subscriptions, clothing, our allowance (I should have put that in - it's about 1.4% of all expenses for our own splurges). We rarely have enough for ALL this stuff, but I based this graph on my wage alone. Making extra money on the side helps us to find money for all this stuff which we could otherwise live without I guess. Well, ideally we like to divide extra money between the "extras" and adding more to savings.

I didn't have the time to pretty up this one as much, but decided to do a graph about where we were at when we had our first child.



It's interesting how different it looks. Housing was a big chunk, but less than we thought it would ever be growing up where we did. I notice over time as our health insurance skyrockets, we shift a lot that was our mortgage % to taxes and health insurance. I expect our taxes to get pretty ugly in the future.

Today we have A LOT more for both savings and retirement. I think that is why when my dh first stopped working we looked at it as very temporary. These days I feel more and more we can do it for the long haul. I never expected to get such large raises in such a short amount of time, so we have definitely upped our lifestlyle and tried to enjoy a little as well.

I figured I would share. It is too often that people will look at someone and say, oh they had it easy. I think I get that a lot more since we have suddenly found a lot more financial comfort. Bigger wage, sudden influx from our parents, etc. But this was not what our situation is when we first made the 1-income leap. It was pretty dang tight. There were many years we never considered having cable or a gardener or the like. But with time I guess things change. I just hope all of us can say the same. With time we should all find more comfort in our life, by taking care of our finances. Slow and steady wins the race!

Of course I miss these days (DINK = double income no kids), but saving heavily when we could, really paid off. Wink



Of course I'll take the kids, and added financial strain, any day...

ETA: Oh yeah - sorry I can't seem to reply to my own blog from my work computer - lord knows why. So though I tried to comment on the comments I couldn't. Please forgive me - I'll try again from home (keep forgetting).

$20 Challenge

April 23rd, 2007 at 02:04 pm

I don't have anything to add. But I just had to say it has been kind of dry over here. & I just wanted to say I am excited as my busy season draws to a close and I can get cracking on Craigslist and ebay and all that. I plan to be adding a lot to my challenge in the next few months. Wink

I don't really mind losing momentum the beginning of the year because my overtime bonus is usually my biggest windfall for the year. So I haven't done a lot of little things but I got a big check for my hard work. But now I can focus on pinching pennies a little more. I am definitely ready for some spring cleaning!

Another good thing is working so much means I just don't get out much. Well, good and bad. I am trying to figure out how to work lunch back in the budget so I can see my friends once in a while. Luckily they don't mind that I prefer Taco BEll. Wink I think I am going to start tending to meet my friends for simply a soda or something - I can eat before I meet up with them. It is a new strategy in staying social without spending a lot of money. Lunch time is frankly the only time usually I can keep up with them so I am not keen on dropping friends when I can just alter my habits a bit. Just in recent months I have been using that eat out money elsewhere I guess - who knows where it's been. I have just been trying not to go to the ATM but only have had $2 in my wallet for the last couple of weeks. Guess I usually go to the ATM more... But it's been nice in a sense not having to. But man I feel like I have been living under a rock too.

More Pics

April 23rd, 2007 at 06:27 am

I am enjoying seeing the blogs come to life with so many pictures.

WE decided to go for a walk last night and I decided against dragging along the camera, but when I stepped outside I Saw this, so ran back in for it.

Picture #4


If you look really closely, the lower right-hand corner of the clouds has a faint rainbow.

& then the sunset progressed.







For the area, not the most spectacular sky or sunset. It gets really beautiful in the evening as a rule. & the sky has just been so beautiful with a brilliant blue and puffy white clouds in recent weeks as well. But overall a pretty nice evening. We stayed out for an hour and the rain cloud seemed to shift south, stayed clear of us - phew. I got some well-needed exercise. Have to enjoy before it starts getting hotter than Hades... But even so we are lucky to be near so many water ways, it tends to cool off in the evenings with a breeze, but not always. Yup, definitely enjoying mild weather.

In other news, I think we are going to give it a test with the $10k credit card debt, 0%, to earn interest in the bank. I think we just felt uncomfortable borrowing more money than we had. No particular reason, it is just a lot of money to mess with if something goes wrong. What? I don't know really. But the original $20k seems a bit much. I think I will try to get $12k, so even as I pay down the minimums, the $10k will earn interest. Dh has been firmly against investing our e-fund at all as is, but now he is like, maybe we should invest a bit. Is he crazy? LOL. We can take the money we earn from it and invest it - fine. Sometime I just don't know. Why look over a 5% "sure thing"? But anyway, we already expect to earn $500 this year from our rewards card, and now maybe $500 from this little ploy. I think after we give it a try we will try for another Citi Card and see if we can get another balance transfer. I have no idea how much they will give us, but I am sure they won't blink at $10k with our credit score. I think we will open one in my name and one in dh's name just so it won't really hit either of our credit scores very hard. Frankly, in our situation, I think it will help. Anyway, I think I am a little weirded out by the idea so we'll test it and get our little $50 gift card (woohoo). & if I don't regret it and just pay it back in a couple of months - LOL - we might try to borrow a little more. Free money here we come. Wink We have been pondering it, and I just don't feel comfortable opening a lot of cards just for promos and how it could mess with your credit score. But if we can open 1 each, play the game, and close the cards without much of a blip to our credit score, then I am in!! Which I am sure we can. I just am not sure we can do this indefinitely. So I don't want to get too used to it. But all the same I feel quite pleased at the idea of making $1k off the credit cards in 1 year. Doubling our current returns. Well, maybe even tripling if we can get 2 cards at $10k. We'll see!

Not only does CitiBank have no fees and all that, and the gift card promo, etc. BUT the best part to me is just being able to get a check deposited directly to my money market account. I still do not trust the credit card companies enough to send a big negative balance to them I guess.

If you told me a year ago I would apply for $10 cc debt, I would have thought you were insane. Wink Oh yeah - this is going to add to my challenge money - woohoo.

Oh anyway, here is the blog where I got the idea (below). I considered it carefully because I do not necessarily agree some of this bloggers' money-making ideas. For one, I can't see myself applying for a zillion cards just for free money and promos. It has got to affect your FICO signifcantly. But we'll see. I was also reading his step-by-step guide to investing in Treasuries, which was very useful and interesting, I do have to say. But just left me not seeing the point because I can make more in my money market with a lot less effort. But I will keep in mind for when times change. So I had to look at this cc idea a little more critically, and I still think it is good as long as you don't overdue it. So while I recommend the blog overall, I wouldn't do everything the guy suggests myself. Wink I guess a reminder to consider things very carefully when it comes to finance.

ETA: Oh, to give the guy credit he seems pretty on top of the credit score thing - I just saw more of his replies on the subject). I guess the risk is not my thing - LOL.

Yes - for Citi the fees look like they are waived on most of the promo deals for most cards right now. But I will definitely let you know how it goes - will keep you updated.

http://www.mymoneyblog.com/how-to-make-money-from-0-apr-bala...

T.V. Update

April 20th, 2007 at 11:32 am

Well you might want to skim my last post/rant to get up to speed. But this is where I admit I can be a little jekyl and hyde - LOL.

I called my mom and gave her the spiel. & she was like, righ on sista - what is wrong with your hubby? & then after ranting and raving for a bit I said, you know, I hate to admit it but I am kind of excited. Dh kind of sold me on the HDTV a long time ago and I have been wanting one. It is not ALL him. So I kind of admit that and our conversation was so funny. From "what a doofus" and "what is he thinking???", to us being kind of excited. My mom said, yeah, she can't wait to see it - LOL. & then she said, "you know, I know you will enjoy too, just take the money we gave you to buy it and don't worry about it. Would you like a loan even?" So from what a bum - to offering a loan. LOL. I said no. But it was kind of funny. I even admitted to dh I wasn't all that upset - as long as he makes an effort to pay for it on his own accord. I know he could bring in some money if he tried. For one he still has an old projector to sell. Is all I really ask. Maybe this is the kick in the pants that he needs. But I didn't let on that much either - he needs to know I Am serious - we can't just do this all the time. I can pretend he is really in the doghouse for a while. He is in a sense. These t.v.s are coming down in price - other sales will pop up - he could have waited, honestly.

AH, you see he has wrapped me under his spell. I actually just have rolled my eyes at his precious t.v. through the years, but a few years back (2003?) his uncle got a big fancy HDTV and I was awed. The first time I really *got* any level what is so special about an HDTV. I think it was then he sold me. Thought back then he wanted to spend $10k on a HDTV and we compromised with the projector which is twice as large as the biggest t.v. & cost 1/4 as much. So has been our compromise through the years.

Anyway, we had been talking about buying a $700 or so t.v. for upstairs - a more modest t.v. - dh has been manipulating me because I am blind and we have tiny old t.v. up there - so he has been pushing the angle of getting a nice, much bigger HDTV up there, one I can see and read without my glasses. & the t.v. signals are all converting to HD in a couple of years anyway, so he was selling me. We were considering it with Christmas money, keeping an eye out on a deal for this particular t.v. - he already had one picked out. So in the end just $300 more for the perfect main t.v. Not the worst. He did offer to sell the old one and I said no way - we should move it upstairs so I can see the t.v. in bed. Then we just won't have to upgrade that one. Makes more sense. The other t.v. is his baby and he made a really good purchase he is still pleased with - only thing wrong is it is NOT HDTV. LOL. It was the first big purchase we ever made together. Well, after our first home. & well it cost about $1500 - so much more than this HDTV which is about twice as big - too funny once I think of it that way. That in the end his first HDTV costs less than that baby.

Of course downstairs renders our old entertainment center null and void. So we still have to work it out. & I have a fear it won't be too long before there are talks of upgrading our free TIVO to HD. Which is another reason why we have passed so long on uphrading the main t.v. to HD - in no hurry to upgrade our TIVO since it is free in the interim - and is mostly how we watch t.v. - through the TIVO.

So, many problems are presented. But hopefully dh will get a job to pay for all this crap. & I have to admit I am kind of excited we now have a 50 inch HDTV. It is pretty sweet. I have been surfing the web and they generally run $1600-$3k so I kind of see dh's angle on the deal. Believe me he has been waiting years for a deal like this. & to have the windfall to pay for it. It isn't all bad. I guess.

Oh yeah my only other concern is that it is rear-projection as well. So I was asking if that meant it had bulbs that burn out with time, like his projector does. Yes, the bulb should last 10k hours. He cracked me up though becuase he said he thinks it will help him watch less t.v. Yeah right, who is he fooling?????? Whatever!

Anyway, the kids are ALL excited. My eldest keeps telling me that daddy bought a GIGANTIC t.v. LOL. He thinks it is pretty cool. All I have to say to that is I apologize in advance to my sons' future wives. Wink

My hubby is killing me over here...

April 20th, 2007 at 08:50 am

Okay, he has only done something SO stupid once in our marriage.

Anyway, irony is I was teasing him about his stupid PS3 and how he just had to have it and wouldn't spend a dime otherwise all year, but well he has spent a few dimes otherwise - LOL. So I already blogged, that I am sure he could do it, he doesn't usually buy much at all. BUT at the same time, how long until the next best thing? He got super aggravated with me for teasing him...

Well anyway, it was 2000 when we were getting ready to move into our big house, and saving our pennies for a down payment, wondering if we would be able to sell our old home, etc., when he went out and bought a $2500 projector. We had only been married a little over a year but I thought we were seeing pretty eye to eye. But honestly, I don't even think he asked me. It was like, BTW I ordered a projector. BEcause it was a deal TOO GOOD TO PASS UP!!! He was sure it was a typo and he didn't really think it would go through or something (ordered online). Yeah, I Was livid. Anyway, back then we really had more money than we knew what to do with. So as annoying as it was. Mostly the principle that he made a $2500 purchase without telling me. Whatever. Believe me he has done nothing like that anywhere close since.

But this morning I Was laying in bed. I had gotten up and done my "How To" post at 4am because I couldn't sleep. & then I tried to go back to bed (felt pretty wide awake) around 6 because had gotten no sleep the night before (baby had a horrid night). I figured I really needed sleep. Well, I did. Dh came and tried to wake me at 7am, and I said no way. So he woke me up again later and I was pretending to sleep - I just did not want to wake up - LOL. But oh yeah - he had a way to wake me up. HE says, "How much do you love me?" Oh lord, I am thinking. I am awake now. So I open one eye to show I am awake. "What now!?!" So he proceeds to tell me there is a HDTV on sale at Fry's for $1k and he HAS to have it because there has never been such a deal on such a t.v. Being a realist I am just like, no way in hell. In 2 years we can buy something twice as good for 1/2 as much. But then he keeps insisting that no - this t.v. is such a good deal, we will never find a t.v. anywhere on par for this cheap ever - not even in 2 years. I am just rolling my eyes at him. But clearly something in his being has to have this t.v. and I do love him. So I told him pretty clearly he could buy his precious t.v. but he has to get a job to pay for it because my wage simply can't support it. I told him, he was killing me, on top of my job and overtime I was bringing money on the side. & I Was frankly tired of doing all this not to get ahead but just buy him more crap. When was the last time he brought in a dime?

So he runs off to the t.v. store and I am just annoyed right now. Then of course he starts saying we need a new entertainment center and blahblahblah. IT never ends!!! My god!

You know if he would get a job it wouldn't be as big a deal. HEck, I would like it if he would. If he would keep it to fund our retirement a little too. But today I am just really skeptical if he will come through. He insists if he buys it he should be able to sell it at a profit if we change our minds. So whatever. I know the odds are slim he would give it up. But the clock is ticking on the best deal ever had, so it is buy now, think later.

& you have to understand projector #1 was to curb his appetite for HD? IT has, but so did projector #2 which is barely 2 years old!!!

I am just extra annoyed because we just paid off the car. I just wrote the check. Could this have come up a week earlier? We just came into a lot of money. But why does he get to spend it all and I am left to square one, worrying about how to fund our retirement?

Mostly I think this means that preschool is entirely out the window for the little one. I had set aside about $1k for that, to give dh a little break. But uh uh. HE doesn't deserve it. I am sorry that LM can not go hang out with his brother and all one day a week, but apparently a t.v. is more important than anything. Gah.

I only hope and pray it is such a good deal there that there are no more left when he gets there. So he doesn't have to work a job all summer to pay for a t.v. when he couldn't even get a job to pad our retirement a little.

Apparently he has the 7-year itch. 7 years since he pulled this crap. Anyway, I know I have been very, oh ,we always see eye to eye and discuss things. I think this is just a little bit much because he just got his stupid very expensive PS3 too. It is just too much right now. He is driving me absolutely insane! Thank god he doesn't always pull crap like this. But well, he is wearing on my last nerve.

The thing about us is that through college I lived on my own and footed most the bill. He didn't work any less hard - he was always working many jobs, but he stayed at home and had no bills, so had completely 100% disposable income. & he really got to keep up a lot of that lifestyle when we first married. But frankly, he just doesn't *get* that he has to choose. That is what it comes down to. We agreed to live on 1 income and have a more relaxed lifestyle. But suddenly the rules are changed. Suddenly he wants to spend his nights and weekends working so he can keep up this lifestyle. & though I would feel better if he would just get a job. IT aggravates me all the same. Sometimes I wonder if he could really live through tight times. He is frugal, he works hard, he never buys with debt, etc. But he is not getting that though cash is in the bank, it is not there to spend! Sometimes I am amazed he did not come out a bigger spoiled brat the way his parents handed him so much, and times like these I see that he has - he is a big spoiled brat. Wink He got a lot of the work ethic, be frugal, buy cash, etc. But mix that in with a little spoiled and there you have it. A guy I can live with on a tight budget 90% of the time, but who every once in a while, his brain goes entirely out the window. Seriously this is the guy who nagged me about eating out at Taco Bell last weekend when we could pack a lunch and I told him not to start with me, if I wanted to spend $10 at Taco Bell for a family meal I darn well was going to - LOL. I was annoyed he as nagging me baout a small splurge when he had just bought his PS3.

So I don't know, could I have said no? Well, I did try to say no. We'll see how it turns out.



How To Buy a Used Car

April 20th, 2007 at 05:27 am

When shopping for a used car you can take two very different routes. In my younger years with much less cash I always bought used from a private party. But you can also find some pretty good deals at the dealer as well.

When shopping for a used car you could start with your newspaper, or better yet try something like Craigslist. Don't limit yourself to your immediate area if you travel often or have family in areas a little farther out. Increase your options.

Secondly, you need to come up with a list of questions to ask about the car. Some things that are important:

1 - Condition of Car
2 - Does it have a salvaged title?
3- How many miles are on the car?
4 - What are the features on the car (sound system, type of engine, power doors and locks?, etc.)

This is usually my preliminary list. It is impossible to tell if a used car listing is a good deal until you gleam this information. If the deal still looks good after these questions are asked, then make an appointment to see the car and do a test drive.

Two notes. I would never buy a salvaged car. The reason though is in this area there are plenty to choose from at very low prices that have no dings in the title. Just keep in mind even if you are willing to buy salvage, how will it affect the resale? If you have no other options you might find a steal. But I don't know much about salvaged titles than that I personally steer clear.

Secondly, in California a car has to pass Smog inspection before it can trade hands. Other states may have similar rules. In California that is one of the first questions I ask - if a car has been smog checked recently. If not, it's okay, as long as the seller takes responsibility to get it done. & then before the car trades hands I Would personally get it smog checked again myself. It is easy to fake a passing and one of my worst car buying experiences involved a fake smog check. But it was our follow up that helped us to decide that we didn't want to do business with his character. Never buy a car from someone once you find trickery is involved. I made this a simple rule in the future to help not to fall for a bad car deal.

Anyway, what kind of car should you look for? When going used there are two very different angles you can go. You can buy a really old Toyota, Saturn, Honda with a lot of miles and get a really nice car in the $1k-$3k range. The two best cars I ever owned were a Toyota with well over 150k miles (lasted 7 years with very minimal repairs) and a Saturn with about the same amount of miles (this one I used as an interim car when I wasn't ready to shell out the big bucks on a large family car, which was a long-term goal, but when I finally realized convertible and new baby don't mix). Those are the car brands I lean towards due to longevity and relative lack of repairs. When you can buy a $1k car for a few years and sell it for $500, never having spent more than a couple hundred of years on a repair, you have it made. These cars are of the safest and most reliable. Plus, if you do get a bad deal, you aren't out too much money.

On other end of the spectrum you can find a car that is a lot newer. A particular steal I always look for is a car that is an older make, but a car that has been mostly garaged and has few miles. I bought a 1992 Ford Mustang convertible in 1999. It had been driven so little it still had a new car smell and as absolutely immaculate. At $5k you can't find a much better deal for an all but brand-new car.

Once you pick out a car that sounds good on paper, make that appointment and test drive it. For the convertible I took it through the car wash to test for leaks. I generally found car sellers were fine with you taking the car for long test drives and visits to your mechanic. Any seller who isn't is one I would not deal with.

If the car drives well, check the car inside and out with an eagle eye. Always check the oil and fluid levels. Look for obvious signs that the car has not been maintained. I generally have found over the years that people that maintain their engines also keep their cars immaculate. The more immaculate the car inside and out, the better you can assume it has been well taken care of. I have looked at cars that had little (very old) oil but the car was trashed anyway. The two really seem to go hand in hand. But if you come across someone who is a neat freak but not big on maintenance, a quick look under the hood will give you some clues. Also, check the body very carefully. Body damage is often obvious if you just look closer. Always ask if the car has been in any accidents too. This is a huge area to consider and to have your mechanic look at (hopefully one who specializes in body work).

Of course the next step is to ask how many owners the car has had and if the seller has repair and maintenance records. & ask if you could take the car to a trusted mechanic (or something like AAA) to have a once over from a car professional. I have never had anyone say no to this.

Generally, from there, if the car is good I would negotiate a price, dependent on outcome from my mechanic's check. Just keep in mind that people selling cars are usually asking too much. Before you look at the car you should look up the blue book value (www.kbb.com) and see what a good price is dependent on the information you have. In years past a general rule of thumb was an average between wholesale and retail, but these days kbb.com also shares private party values, which is where you want to look. The general rule of negotiation is they start high, you bid low, and a compromise is made. However, not all car sellers are negotiators. I have had many people tell me what the least amount of money they would accept was (well below blue book or asking price). If someone tells you that, jump on it. In the end though, ask a price that is reasonable, but keep in mind that if there are 50 cars for the same make and model and year listed in the paper that the seller has to be pretty desperate. Adjust downward a bit if you get the feeling the car has been sitting a long while. & if you just can't agree, walk away. Either it isn't worth it or you may just be able to call a bluff. For a rarer car of course, you may have to offer a little more. My general experience is sellers like to act like they have buyers lined up and the reality is they don't. Living in the big city myself, there are just way too many used cars to go around.

The final step once you agree on price (& after the mechanic check) is to exchange money and transfer title. In California you can not sell a car without a "pink slip." So make sure they have the proper title and documentation and are able to sell their car. Go as far as to check their ID, that it matches the title. You can never be too careful when buying used. Whenever we have bought a used car we have always written up a small contract with the purchase price and had the seller and buyer sign. Doesn't have to be anything fancy. But just something in writing to defend yourself. A written contract is better proof than an oral contract if a dispute arises from the sale. I find it best to do an initial contract, and probably redo it if you have to further negotiations after a mechanic check. Regular repair and maintenance is not a reason to walk away from a deal, but you can have the seller pay for the work, or adjust the price downward. After my bad smog check experience I usually rather bargain on the price and let my trusted mechanic do any work that may be needed.

There you have it, a used car on the cheap. Our family has bought so many used cars using this method and have been blessed with many great deals, so I generally don't have the fear of buying used that most do. But of course, by being slow, careful and methodical you can weed out most of the bad deals pretty easily. I think the biggest rule of thumb is just never rush into anything. When a seller is rushing you, something is wrong. Don't fall for it. There are plenty of other fish in the sea.

If you really want to buy a car at a dealership, I have actually found a way to save a significant amount of money going that route as well. We have found that in the spring, the car dealerships are big on clearing out old models to make way for the new. I am quite wary of car dealers myself after having many bad experiences walking into a car dealership wanting to pay cash for a modest used car and being run out because I could not get talked into buying much more than I could afford. Dealers would seriously rather not take your business than let you pay $10k cash for a car, often times. But my husband has always been pro-dealer (while I have much disdain) so in the spring of 2001 we were car shopping, and ran out of many dealers with our cash, when we came across a dealership trying to unload all of their old Ford Escorts. The car was absolutely made for my husband, one year old, and had a "1 at this price" listing in the paper for $7999. Where we had been willing to spend $10k on a more used cars, we jumped on the deal. We have never had such a new car and the car has yet to have a repair nearly 6 years later (knock on wood). Being skeptical I would still see this as a fluke, but we tried the same angle at a different dealer last spring. We had a particular minivan in mind and kept an eye in the paper, and around spring of last year it was clear the dealerships were clearing them out for the newer models. So we went in, had about 5 identical models to choose from - "5 at this price deals" - and to top it off we were able to negotiate a tad on the price. Nothing to write home about, but if you have ever asked about those cars you know the dealers always say, "oh, this is the LOWEST we can possibly go - we're losing money!!!" The truth is they want those babies off their lot to clear room for the new ones. You would think there would be mad rushes for such deals, but there really isn't for most used makes and models. So with time my husband has taught me that you can find a good deal at a dealership. Both these cars were well under warranty and had little in miles. I also had a couple of friends I have talked to since who did the same for brand new cars, just waiting for the ones from the last year that never sold, then the price came down significantly. & that is for a brand new car! As for our used car purchases, they were prior rentals, which I hear good and bad about. For us they have been great cars, and I like knowing that the cars were well maintained by the car rental companies. I guess time will tell if the car renters were perhaps too rough on the cars initially.

Finally, some reason why I like buying used cars, and think they are safer and better overall than going new:

1 - Everyone I know personally who had a "lemon" had a brand new car. I like letting a car be driven a while and the kinks worked out. Going used you are less likely to shell out a lot of money for a car that is bad off the assembly line.

2 - Back to #1 - most warranties are over-rated. I hear too many stories about things not covered (when it comes to a lemon) and an expensive repair and maintenance schedule to keep up the warranty. I've never regretted not having a warranty, and have saved a lot of money not paying big bucks for "new" and "warranty." Having a trusted mechanic keep up our cars is a much better dealer than going to a dealer for regular maintenance as well.

3 - The more used a car is the more information is available. I personally wouldn't buy a car that hasn't regularly lasted 200k+ miles on the road. A car has to be a couple of years old before you can get a feel from the super-commuters how well the car holds up with time. The longer you wait, the more information you gleam.

4 - I always find it ironic when people tell me used cars are not safe. I always wait for extensive crash testing data before buying a used car. I am very particular on this. There just is not a lot of info on a brand new car, but with time more info emerges about the quality and safety of the particular make, model and year.

5 - Insurance is less expensive, and if the car is cheap enough you may find you won't even need collision insurance.

6 - You worry a lot less about dents and dings, and auto theft, when you drive a 15-year-old car you paid $1k for.

7 - It's a lot easier to avoid debt and save up the cash to pay for very used cars.

Hopefully I have knocked down some of the usual myths about buying used cars. I can never wrap my brain around the idea that my friends will regularly spend $20k+ on a new car every few years while turning up their nose at the idea of how expensive a used car can be with repairs and maintenance. Of course, at the end of the day it bothers me little. The less people buy used cars, the better deals to be found for those who do. I always say that not driving new cars has afforded us a much more grand lifestyle than we could afford otherwise. Now that we are 30 and have built up some significant assets we felt maybe we were ready for some newer cars, but frankly, I just find them overrated. I wouldn't be surprised if the resort to a really used car for our next car. Better yet, maybe we just won't have to upgrade for another 20 years.

More Kid Frugie Tips

April 19th, 2007 at 06:07 pm

Just a quick tip for today. It has been pretty crazy at work. I only have 1 or 2 clients in - out of 15 or so - got to get all their payroll tax returns by the 30th. Usually we try to look at some at a more monthly basis, but no way the first of the year. Looking at the workload and how little I have accomplished (one week left) I am thinking next week is going to be horrid. Ack!!!!

Anyway, one thing we have been doing a lot is partaking of all the library programs for the kids. Kids have been having a blast. They have game night once a month, as well as story time once a week, with arts and crafts after. This week we got there about 1/2 hour late but the BM is a little young for most the games - but he has to go for the treats - LOL - little piggie. But anyway, we got there way late which was perfect - games for about 20 minutes and then she read to the kids for about 1/2 hour. Then got some books. BM's little slic of heaven for free. Which reminds me, I come upon the summer conundrum. I usually do a lot of volunteer work and have been on a long hiatus lately with kid stuff. I had found the perfect opportunity - animal wildlife rehabilitation - very seasonal around my work. But since the kids I am a lot more wary of all the diseases and all that - I just can't bring myself to expose myself to the animals. & far less time anwyay. So one thing I had considered was the library. I just don't want to be bored, since I am in an office all day. I want to do something completely different when I volunteer. I like to keep it interesting. So I don't know. Saw the library need volunteers for 1 event, but is next weekend and I'll be working. So I will just have to keep an eye out for stuff like that down the road. & figured the kids have been so spoiled by storytime, time to show some monetary support as well. But I will have to meditate on that in the coming weeks. I think my family might just disown me if I get too wrapped up in anything, so I may just bow out this year from committing to too much. But I am antsy as it has been a few years since I have done much volunteer work.

Anyone who knows me knows I have a habit of spreading myself way too thin. Since having kids though I have really slowed down. But in the back of my head I am counting the days until they don't need me as much I guess and I can spread myself thin again. I think my dh is about completely opposite. I was just pondering this the other day though and I think it is good - LOL. I kick his butt a little bit and he gets me to slow down. Since he is slow and just stays out of my way - works out for the best. Wink

Anyway, another tip though is my coworker said that Home Depot has little project workshops for kids 1 Saturday per month. She said she takes her 3yo-nephew and he really enjoys. Technically the age should be 5-12 or somethiing, but is totally free. So I will have to look at it. My kid is just about 4 but can easily pass for 5 - LOL. Guess they aren't too picky anyway. Might as well check it out 1 weekend and see if he enjoys.

http://www.homedepot.com/prel80/HDUS/EN_US/diy_main/pg_diy.j...

So much for quick I guess - LOL.

Weird month

April 17th, 2007 at 01:11 pm

I just asked dh if he was going to the grocery store today. He must be!!!

Looking at the credit card bill, the month is 1/2 over and only $150 is charged to groceries. We usually budget $500 and have been landing closer to $450. Of course all it takes is a monster trip to get us up to $250 by mid-month or something, but he acted like he had no need to go.

Gas is insane and we just drove home for the weekend, and yet only $108 gas spent for the month thus far, of our $300 budget. We both have full tanks.

Weird.

To our credit we have been driving the Escort a lot more - we even got all crammed into it for the long drive because gas was so scary. Yes, I have probably said before, in theory the minivan was to make these drives more comfortable. But the insane gas prices of late mean we rather cram like sardines in the little compact car. They don't make them much smaller than the Escort. But the gas prices finally reached a point hubby stopped nagging me when I drive his car instead - I just find it pretty ridiculous to commute in the van - him to cart the kinds in the compact. But you know, it's the way it is. His car is his baby, he likes small cars. So we are stupid like that - LOL. But he is giving in to reality once in a while, and the savings is paying off I guess!

Anyway, I am just in awe because I made a $150 Target run over the weekend and we are like $150 under budget for mid-month. I don't want to get too excited, anything can happen. But wow. Wondering if dh had a great grocery shopping month or if he is going to buy a ton at the end of the month. We'll see.

But yes, it was quite divine. I didn't even finish my shopping. But I have this neverending list of stuff to replace, we just have so much OLD stuff, like the hand-me-downs I got at 17 when I first moved out, etc. Still using them 13 years later? We cleaned out the kitchen a couple of years back and got nice stuff. Went through the pillows and bed sheets and such after that. This month I have been hitting my allowance hard, but well needed. I have a backpack from college which is basically falling apart. Time to replace. Just replaced my wallet - no idea how OLD it is - falling apart though. Stuff like that.
IT does seem to never end though. Oh yes the cute diaper bag I had is ripped to shreds. IT was a cheapie - so I picked up a cute bag at Target too. I still need to go back and find a peoper backpack and replace my purse that is falling apart. Was thinking of perusing MArshalls - they have cute purses.

The kids had a windfall too. I got the big one a couple of more summer outfits, some sandals for summer, new swin trunks in his bigger size, etc. I usually hit the thrift shop for $3-$5/pop - a really good used Kids' clothing store, usually lots of stuff with tags. But you know, Target has brand new stuff for $3-$5 a pop as well. I figured what the heck. Oh yes and a couple of summer night clothes too. & underwear - long overdue. Kid has been growing like a weed. I think he is pretty set. Luckily with the sandles the wide width isn't as necessary. Told dh maybe we would just get him regular sizes until fall, buy some wide-width shoes. So hard to find.

Anyway, I also bought a makeup bag and a new nail clipper set (to replace my ancient hand-me-downs). I got all this stuff strewn around the house, new tags and all, haven't had time to enjoy. Will work on it in the following weeks though. I think I will be on a spring cleaning kick. Got piles in the living room to try to sell and donate. God forbid dh take the reins on some of those - yeesh. But will glad I should have time to go through soon. Out with the old, and in with some new. Hopefully just not too much new!


It's Tax Day!!!

April 17th, 2007 at 12:31 pm

This morning none of our e-files would go through. Luckily the traffic jam cleared long enough for me to sneak 2 tax returns in. I was nominated for the task, lord knows why. But when I tried to call customer support they said all the myriads of weird error messages were all due to the traffic jam. Figured.

Anyway, so just 2 tax returns our office filed today. Hopefully not more!

Was just thinking that the mad rush for last-minute e-file could be just as bad as the post office rush in a sense. Especially as more and more people turn to e-file. Will the government give you leeway if your dial-up doesn't stand a chance? LOL.

Well hopefuly you all did your tax retuens already. I think I Am the opposite of a procrastinator. Whatever that makes me. So I would NEVER understand waiting until today to get your taxes done. Granted, there is only so much some people can do. I know we were sending out partnership K-1s up to last week - those people will no doubt have to file pretty last minute. Which reminds me, I Would never invest in a partnership for that reason - hehe. Would drive me batty to have to wait.

Oh yes, and the other thing is I got a couple of e-mails from friends who no doubt just steer clear of me this time of year - hehe. E-mails with talks of relaxing and celebrating. I wish! The next couple of weeks here are going to be BRUTAL. Payroll tax deadline April 30th, also personal propery taxe returns which we do for many clients. Plus a pile of tax returns on extension that people still want.

No relaxing yet. But soon enough...

Overtime Paid - woohoo

April 16th, 2007 at 11:42 am

$20 challenge:

$4,963.14 - Balance 4/9

$1,900.00 - Overtime Bonus (after big bad tax)

------------------
$6,863.14 - Balance 4/16
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I just blogged about this in a prior entry and occured to me to add it to the challenge. All my extra working for tax season - sweat and tears - is paid off with an unexpected early bonus payment. Going straight to pay off the $2500 balance on my car. I am once again debt-free besides the mortgage. Woohoo. I'll take $500 or so from savings just so I can pay it off tomorrow. Will replenish the savings on the 1st. I am a happy girl.

Bonus was actually $2500 before taxes. I lucked out big time because I had asked my boss to only withhold $50/check for state. & so he did not adjust it for the bonus. Which is awesome because my state is always overpaid but I was worried if I was too aggressive on my allowances for Fed. Not with this check (withheld about $400 Fed even though all year-to-date only withheld $200 or so before this check). I think Fed will be okay and I am glad no more state was withheld - no need. Yes with our mortgage, insane health insurance, and kids our income tax rate is nil. But I did play it a tad aggressive by 1 or 2 allowances so the excess bonus withholding helps. I think I played it pretty well. I had in mind all along the bonus checks withhold way too much. I know it wasn't too nasty, but I usually get to keep 90% of my gross pay, so nasty enough for me - LOL. But with advanced planning on the withholding, get to keep it the rest of the year I guess. I just hadn't thought about the state tax - that the boss would just leave it at $50 - that was grand!

Just an update

April 14th, 2007 at 08:18 am

*Forgot to mention work has been so crazy we skipped Toddler class this month - runs $32/month. I didn't really have the time to meet the fam and keep an eye on the big Monkey. So we skipped it. Save $32.
Will probably resume May - December. I think we will keep it on top of preschool until then. Who knows when he will start preschool anyway - said they might have an opening around his birthday which would work, but no hurry either. Will keep his little fun time in the meantime. IT's been good for him.

*Just paid the life insurance. Cash was in the bank. woohoo. The property taxes and IRS payment and all that stuff just cleared the bank as well - what a chunk of change.

*We are finally making it to the dentist today. BM has his first dental appointment. I have the money in the bank for this too. I think. I hope. No cavities please. Hope he takes it well, he is really scared but we keep trying to tell him how cool and fun he is. I don't think it will be so bad, said he might just be able to look in his mouth. But he has a cool camera that he puts in your mouth and you can see your teeth on this screen - magnified, I know BM will love that part. Well I hope. I realized we have not been to the dentist in AGES. HAve been trying to set up this appointment for months. My teeth really need a cleaning. So we'll see. My friend also gave me a glowing review for a local dentist. I've had one before that turned out to be a scammy dentist so I am very wary, but we'll see. We need a local dentist. But for today I am taking the day off work. It is so crazy we are just pretty much going to the dentist (quite a drive) and back today. I will work tomorrow. No time to really stay and enjoy the fam. It is raining today too - ick. Driving in the rain...

*Reminds me, at work I got my last extension out yesterday, so hopefully Monday and Tuesday won't be very rushed. I did wait for the very last minute to see if I could make it to this dentist appointment - wasn't sure I could. I noticed everyone at work was kind of treating Friday as the big deadline (as I had) so it was really winding down. But no rest for now, lots and lots of other work to catch up on and the impending 4/30 payroll tax deadline. Hence me going in Sunday for sure. & I still have people who want their taxes. Just nice to remove the 4/17 deadline and breathe a little - on all the extended returns. Even if I get them all out next week.

*Just paid all the bills. I don't even know how much money wormed its way in and out of my checkbook this month. A LOT. Was a little behind and just not sure where I stood. So I paid everything (I think) for the month, paid dh's PS3 bill which was $700 - or $30 less than expected. When all is said and done I have $200 or so sitting in my checking. I usually run it to 0 and I Wanted a small cushion with this extra money. So better than I expected when dh told me he spent $700 instead of $500. Still left a little. Oh yes, other reason is my mom sent me $100 for doing her taxes though I told her not to. I think I will just leave it in checking in case I missed something - not saving it therefore not adding it to the challenge. Some bill or other will come up I am sure. Oh yeah - I forgot I wanted to use that to fix my car. Indeed. IT will be spent and back to square one. But with a lot more in savings at least. I actually don't mind dh's allowance is way negative because I rarely have the ability to fund it anyway - it has been so tight. It is more a running balance in theory than actuality. So he has a negative $400 balance today that will be 8 months reprieve from funding. I have $25 or something that I might run through once things slow down = I have a few things to pick up at the store - just been too busy. So it is actually good - with negative balances, paid and gone, no need to replenish our funds for a while - hehe. I use it more of a guideline of play money we have than anything - since we tend to use it I don't do much with it. But in recent months dh was building it up for his PS3 and I had it all in one account to itself. That creates a conundrum since the minimum is $100. So in the meantime I have to do some fancy bookkeeping as I spread out our short-term savings to that account to cover minimums and I usually keep a little with my checking to have immediately accessible cash, and when the balance gets large (as it will the next couple of months with no big bills due) I keep a chunk with the emergency fund for the higher interest rate. It is usually much simpler than this, but oh well. Just more tracking.

*Since I paid all the bills for the month, got all the deposits (I think) I was plugging our numbers in my net worth spreadsheet. Oh yes, and because our investments had such a good week. Doesn't exactly mean a ton at one space in time, but suddenly our net worth is up about $10k for the year. Woohoo. First 1/2 of year should be quite grand is I expect another $2500 increase to the net worth next month with my bonus check - whether I pay the car or save it, will bump up the good old net worth.

*Oh yeah, I dug out dh's credit card info so I could pay off the PS3. SIgned up online to access the account, then linked it to my checking and paid it electronically. So in the future any bills will be delivered to my checking account. Though there shouldn't be any more. Anyway, when I signed up a 2nd mystery credit card account appeared. Dh thinks it is his very first card (with Chase too) that is in his dad's name too or something. I guess he thought his dad closed it. I guess not. I think since it is in his name he can close, but will have to check with his dad. I just closed my old ancient card and not a blip to the all but perfect credit score so I say close it. His score is the same as mine. At this stage in the game all I Can figure is our mortgage is 99% of our score - nothing else we do seems to matter. Either that or the years of paying on time speaks for itself. But well, that was an interesting find. I thought we scoured our credit reports but maybe not his as much as mine. The other interesting thing is the last time I saw these bills none of the were Chase. BAnk One & something else, but apparently Chase is taking over. So today we have 3 cards with Chase - who knew. Well, hopefully only 2 soon enough. I just have a thing about old opened cards that sit unused - don't like it. We both keep one for backup. But beyond that don't see the need to carry unused cards. Leaves 3 cards between us (2 joint), and that has been just fine.

Anyway, I am really happy to pay off all 3 cards this month. I like simplicity and why we use only the one card. Kind of a weird month for the credit cards, that I accidentally charged one thing to my backup card and dh had to resort to his backup card. So I just paid them off and that is good - was about $80 in gas and groceries I would have paid off next month otherwise, so that might help the cushion in the checkbook too. I just don't like it when my system gets all messed up. Glad to get those cards paid and out of my mind. Until something else comes up - another denied card or another tired reach for the wrong card - hehe. I have never done that before - so weird.






Tax Answers

April 13th, 2007 at 06:57 am

Wow - you must be all on the ball - not many questions - hehe.

But I got 2 easy ones to answer:

"Okay, how about this? I made approximately $400 last year from independent work. I kept absolutely no record of expenses because I thought that I didn't have to file if the amount was under $600 (how wrong I was). Problem is this, if I leave this amount out, I can file 1040EZ, but put it in and well, schelude C and stuff... I was thinking of filing 1040EZ and umm... submit change next year. Total income is less than $12,000. Think the IRS will audit me?"

No the IRS will probably not audit you - if you did not receive a 1099. I hesitate to say it, but such a piddly amount to worry about really. Technically it should be reported in 2006 though. Frankly though if I had a client in your situation I wouldn't even push it. Just know there is a possibility if you were audited (& it was even found) you could have interest and penalties. Why I would ignore it? because time and cost benefit becomes a consideration. If you do report it in 2007 and you are audited down the road that will be something good for you. They may adjust your 2006 return to show an underpayment and 2007 to show an overpayment (or you may have to amend it yourself), but it would mostly be a wash then, and with such small amounts I hate to say it in such a public forum, but uh yeah, I wouldn't sweat it. Wink I am VERY anti-tax-evasion but sometimes there are just more considerations like is it worth the effort to pay that extra few dollars taxes 100% correct. Not always so.

"pretty cheap jewelry Says:
April 12th, 2007 at 09:14 am

I am my grandma's power of attorney (she's 97 and alzheimer's-type dementia, can't even sign her name).

I did her taxes via paper and snail mail.

My question is would you recommend switching to efile, such as taxact.com? I am hoping this is the last year I have to do them. However, I said that last year too."

Yes, I just recently (this month) did a little review on Tax Cut where I did my parents tax return. E-file is great when you are doing someone else's taxes. Plus if her return is simple enough, IRS offers free-file. Details here:

http://www.pfadvice.com/2007/03/14/irs-free-file-the-key-is-...

But yes, definitely go for it.

Okay I need some help

April 11th, 2007 at 10:54 pm

I don't know if I am taxed out or what but I have such a mental block this week when it comes to writing. I have a million ideas, just not a lot of time to flesh them out. So I think I should do a tax quickie, but I am so overwhelmed with tax issues I wouldn't even know where to begin. Roths, IRAs, clients who can't pay, estate planning gymnastics, etc. Everything I come across at works seems fodder for an article, but then I keep second guessing wonder what average people are really worried about days before April 15th.

So what are your burning last minute tax questions? Need some ideas. & you know even if I don't write about it or whatever if you have a burning last minute tax question I can try to pull together a post to address some of your questions. As long as they aren't too many and complex. Wink

Of course frankly I do hope you all got your taxes done long ago and you have no burning questions. (But I know better).

Misc. Stuff

April 11th, 2007 at 02:06 pm

No I don't really have much time but I am taking a lunch break.

The good is that most of my stuff is done or extended. I don't feel very behind. The bad is everyone is so busy at the top that my boss gave me something I don't understand in the least. Hope I don't screw it up too much - LOL. Might take all week to mull through as for now it is I come up with something, someone corrects it, I fix, it might take all week. Of course, I Won't feel too bad, the reason he gave it to me is it is so complex he doesn't have time to figure it out. He just has faith in me figuring out or something, I don't know. Whenever I get through this ugly thing I will be feeling a lot better. Of course I have the annoying last-minute clients, one of whome doesn't have the money to pay the IRS and 2 that dropped off the face of the earth. They are annoying me but not very time consuming, their problems I guess. The ones that don't care bug me because I got everyone else on extension. I don't do things last minute. But I hold on hope that they will have some say to their situation before the last minute extension out of desparation. One of them had a spouse with a brain tumor going in for brain surgery so I have been worried and hope all is okay for them. IT is not like her to just disappear and not care that April 15th is around the corner. I know, it's been one of those years, everyone seemed to have bad news this year, going through tough times.

Well, other items to note:

*Finally upgraded our Verizon plan. We have some old ancient plan they haven't even offered in ages, but I asked dh to call and ask if we couild upgrade BUT keep our peak minutes ending at 8pm as it stands now. We decide we would give it a whirl and maybe upgrade ages ago because the new plan is twice as many peak minutes, plus free to any verizon cell, and will only cost $5/month more with my Cookie Lee discount. So he FINALLY called yesterday. They wouldn't budge on 8:00, but whatever. We generally don't call anyone between 8 & 9 anyway because it is kid bedtime. Now I just have to get my paperwork in for it is only $5/per month more instead of $15 more (full price). Anyway, the 8:00 and the cheapness have held us in for years, but they had been getting obnoxious, maybe we were the only ones left on the old plan - LOL. They were so obnoxious they called dh asking him to switch 15 minutes after he did - because they kept calling us and asking us to upgrade. So he is like, "well, I already did!" It makes you want to not upgrade to spite them - hehe. but having 700 peak minutes between us instead of 300 is pretty sweet, I must admit.

*kids clothes - BM is growing like a weed and I had been meaning to run and get him some summer clothes. Well, procrastination pays. MIL and GIL usually get him some clothes (more him, less for baby since they bought so much that never even fit BM - they never listen to me when it comes to size - but with the second one on the way, a boy at that, we just kept all the clothes for him). Anyway, piles of new clothes have been deposited here and there and I hadn't really noticed until I cleaned up for Easter and found about an entire wardrobe for BM. Okay, to me 4 or 5 outfits is a wardrobe, we do laundry every other day for the diapers anyway. BUT then dh's aunt came by with 2 outfits for each kid. So um, yeah, I don't think I have to buy any clothes! BM needs underwear and socks though, more money for that. I am actually thinking of splurging on the insanely expensive wide size shoes now since I don't have to really buy him anything else for summer. Hopefully there will be more wide-feet options when he grows a little bigger. My baby is in a 5T wardrobe - gah. Everyone keeps asking me what grade he is in. HE is only 3! But this latest growth spurt was intense. I guess I figured he would slow down a bit by now. Um, no.

*Toys - MIL delivered our pile of free Scholastic books and video games sunday as well. But I was proud because they did not bring candy. I was shocked because they did not bring cash for the kids (figures since I just started saving all their money for them - now it's not there?). But they did bring lots of toys. & dh bought a couple of games - Cooties and Connect 4. I have to update my 2007 purchase list. But 1/2 way between Birthday and Christmas and not much in the way of purchases for the kids this year. In fact the toys they have been getting have been a bit much, seems to me, maybe with me being in purge mode. To date I have kind of made every other birthday a no gift affair and I am feeling like 2007 will eb a no-gift year. But we'll see. They certainly do not need gifts from everyone and their brother, that is for sure. Not after the insanity of Christmas. There are probably still toys in the closet untouched from Christmas. But I haven't been spnding money on toys - that is the good. Not that I usually do anyway...

*I was kind of suprised our auto gas bill was so low last month, with prices and all, but whatever. Just thought we had been extra good, when I got a 3rd credit card statement for the month. I guess on 3/15 I pulled out the wrong card - didn't even notice. Bah. So I checked and I indeed had not bought gas on my regular card between 3/7 & 3/25. So this 3/15 charge lookes pretty dang reaosnable - yup - it was me. LOL. I wasn't so sure at first. & that must have been the worst gas day too because it was $51 - yikes. Why I thought it was an error at first. I will have to go back to Quicken and see if I am still under budget with that. Bummer, was too good to be true. So I have 3 cc bills to pay this month. That sucks too - LOL. This card had rewards but I am not sure if I can redeem 5 cents.

As tax season draws to a close I am dreaming about vacation and feeling pretty good. IT has been a crazy few months but the rest of the year looks good. I have 2 holidays in May. One is a floating holiday from february that I can take anytime but tax season. HAven't decided when but will take a Friday off for a trip to monterey and to see family. Plus there is a regular holiday.

June I have a week off, as well as taking 3 days off the week of thanksgiving, it's always my de-stresser before craziness begins - plus it's a neat trick to take off 3 days for vacation and get the whole week off with the holidays. My old job I always took a week or 2 at Christmas but here I am lucky to get a day off, and with less vacation time, I compromise with Thanksgiving.

But I have a whole extra week this year. So with all that leaves me about 50 hours vacation time. I know dh wants me to hold on and see if he needs me watching the kids so he can work on a movie shoot or what. But I am pulling for leaving early every friday june through september. I don't think my boss will mind. Will beat taking a whole week off, I think. We'll see. I just want to wait and see how May is. If it settles down a bit. Summers are usually slower, but we are really short-staffed.

But all in all I plan to work a hell of a lot less these next few months. The difference is night and day. woohoo. With this kind of schedule I think I can deal. I want to shift to part-time eventually but working 37-hour weeks in the summer and all the vacation and holidays and whatever just feels a breeze compared to this crazy tax season. Plus I have been taking time during the week to see the family here and there. I told dh if I could drive his gas saver I would come home again for lunch more often. I used to every day and I did a couple of times this last week and it was so nice to see the fam early in the day and fresh as opposed to all grumpy at night - LOL. Decided I really missed it, such a quick drive. I will do more of that in the summer, even if the gas sucks. Can't put a price on more time for family I guess. I worked so little these last few years that this tax season has been tough for me. But the big light is at the end of the tunnel - phew. Nice to get back to that taking some time off. Oh well, just a few more weeks before I get there.

I guess when I am stressed I am wordy. I don't expect anyone to read these monster posts - hehe. But you know I know I always say I haven't had to work too much and put a huge value on time. But I say this as we have been scrimping and saving and probably working harder than we ever had since the kids. So I am just brimming with excitement to slow things down and get some time off. For a while I thought working harder to ctach back up was worthwhile. But for the long term, eh, my goal is still to work as little as possible. Wink Maybe I am just lazy. More to the point I just wish I had more time with my kids. & I will, soon enough.

P.S. I forgot to mention we had a lovely easter at dh's cousins' home. He is local. & with all his pets and big yard and toys the kids always have a BLAST - wish we did more holidays there since it cuts out the long drive for us! He is the poster child for frugality as he owns his home about outright (bought at the right time - when you could still buy a decent house for $100k - he has like 1/3 acre+ for that price too). Anyway, no college degree but does just fine and drives a Corvette. Or drove I should say. Traded it in for a Prius. Could knock me over with a feather. LOL. That is the shocking news for the day. Actually his entire family had hybrids so don't know what took him so long - probably the Corvette drove him to it. But yeah his parents had the Honda Insight & his sister bought a Prius - absolutely ages ago - like the first years they came out. I am not sure why no one else in our family has yet to get a hybrid. I just know we feel too broke for now and the Escort at 40mpg isn't 1/2 bad. But they got him - hehe. Anyway, he is no longer such an impressive example of frugality without the fancy car, but the Prius isn't exactly cheap either. Or maybe he truly couldn't afford it so he is a better example now - who knows. But I know I mentioned a few times he doesn't make a huge wage and has done quite well even in such a pricey area.






Tax Cut Online & other tax stuff

April 10th, 2007 at 06:15 am

I did my parent's tax return on tax cut online. & e-filed them. They are wary of online stuff but I didn't even ask them - LOL. I figure they will have no choice in a few years, but they didn't seem to mind. Like most of our older clients at work they were sold when they saw just how easy it was. We have only done e-file at work the last 2-3 years (mostly because California forced us to) and so I Was wary of trying it on my own, but knowing the process a little better I gave it a try.

The things I did not like about Tax Cut though was that it would not show me the tax forms until the very very end. You have to start the filing process first and I Was wary filing forms I hadn't even seen. Yikes!!!! I finally got to see and print the forms and double check everything. But I did not see any way to override amounts directly from the form, as you can on the downloadable version.

On the plus side, I did not need to override anything, it was a little easier to input. Usually those tax softwares drive me nuts because they are written for people who don't know anything about taxes, and make it very hard when you know things to jump around, skip the crap you don't want, override things, etc. Oh yeah, more of the same, but it was a little easier. I didn't have problems making adjustments on the state forms like I usually do. So the whole process was a lot quicker and easier than usual. Prepared and filed in just a couple of hours. Saved me a lot of time not having to print out filing copies and such. Hey, saved paper too!!!

Oh - but I am not sure I would recommend it to joe blow average. IT asked me a couple of things I knew but I didn't think most people would. SDI was impossible to input. I figured it out because I knew. I think anyone in CA might have lost up to a $635 deduction because they either put it in wrong or gave up and didn't realize it is a state tax deduction. That was a huge flaw. For me I put in the number but it made me put in the wages subject to the tax (not on the form and not on most W-2s) so knowing the tax rate I divided the tax by the rate to figure out the taxable wage. I knew it was some weird number I Would have to look otherwise because only the first $89k or so is taxable. Very bizarre and clunky. I tried to breeze past because who freaking cares, but it would not let me move on without entering a number. Plus the software should be able to know based on the other W-2 inputs what it was. But I guess this is where our professional software beats it by a mile - it has all the state stuff in there and linked to the federal return. HEre it didn't know the state's rules and info and this is the result.

My mom insisted she is going to send me a $50 check for the filing, I insisted no. She insisted yes. Gives me $50 for my savings since I definitely have the money for it.

My MIL want on our cruise last month and dh talked to her about it - I guess absolutely everything on the boat is free except for soda. & alcohol. LOL. Dh was telling me yesterday because I am the soda fiend. Maybe $500 for the trip is a bit much. Will give us some wiggle room if my bonus isn't what I thought it was, to pay off the car. We weren't really going to do any big excursions or anything and all the food on the boat will be free for us. Woohoo. I am relieved, even with the money, hopefully it won't cost too much. Though I am sure we will find many expenses.

The one thing is dh has suddenly turned into souvenir man. We never waste our money on souvenirs on vacations and such. & now he keeps saying, well we have to get the kids souvenirs. They are 1 & 3. I think they could care less!!! LOL. But that's me. He wouldn't spend more than a few bucks anyway but I just don't know where this mind shift came in. He would be the one telling me in years past that buying any kind of trinket or souvenir is such a waste. Now suddenly they are a necessity because we have kids. When they are a little older, sure, I see getting them a little treat after leaving them for a whole week. But at this age they will just be glad for mommy and daddy to be home, no treats expected.

Was just reading an article how CPAs can be a lot like social workers. I heavily disagreed when this topic came up before. At least most of the year I can lock myself up in my office and hardly talk to a soul - LOL. I would not have what it takes emotionally to deal as a nurse or a social worker or some of these professions. But this year was very interesting. I did meet with about 30 clients and I do really see where this comes into play. I had the sweetest clients come in last week, but the wife did cry the entire hour and tell me her life story of whoas. In past years I would have found it extremely ackward, but I guess with time I adjust. When I look back at it this year, yes, there was so much more discussed than money and finances, I Was a bit of a therapist. Lord help my clients. LOL. They seemed please, probably because I am a good listener. That kind of stuff bugs me because I don't have the answers. I can give them tax answers. But I can't tell them why it is so hard and why they deserve to deal with sick and dying parents, etc. But maybe it's good to not have the answers, clients seem to just want to talk, just someone to listen to. I also had an elderly client come in and we wrapped up his taxes pretty fast. I Was eyeing his tax return wondering why in the heck my boss charged him so much in years past. & then he sat and talked another hour. & then talked to the receptionists another hour before leaving. Just a lonely guy. & after spending hours with him to do a simple tax return you see why he is charged so much - for taking so much of our time. So it was interesting. I have a very elderly co-worker who pays all of the bills and helps look out for another very elderly lady. Her kids are like vultures waiting for they money (the not much that she has anyway). & she is always protecting her but the drama that whole thing produces, I hear her getting into many heated discussions with her family all the time. Now she is a social worker for that family in a HUGE sense. That's not really the stuff I intended to sign up for with this job. But it is there.

Oh yeah - on the cc - that is a Chase thing. The funniest thing. Dh's old credit card, that we never use because they were always freezing it for stupid reasons (I think it was Bank One before but obviously carried it's overzealous ways to Chase). They froze a $500 purchase on a card we use every day - for gas and groceries and EVERYTHING. So dh pulled out an old chase card he had not used in YEARS and ran through a $500 purchase.

Not a blink.

What the foo????? Gah! I was just telling dh that is why come hell or high water I close all my old cards. I have too much fear in cc theft and that is the kind of thing that could easily be overlooked. Frankly if I got a statement in the mail I would have figured it was junk with the piles of credit card offers. It just really bugs me. I pulled out an ancient statement from 2002 and I will see if I can pay it now while I am thinking about it. But yeah, I heard dh wrong the first time. The reason they froze the card was because we usually mostly have little purchases so a bigger purchase was a red flag. & so it goes why we hated this card before. BEcause every time you want to spend more than a couple of hundred dollars you have to call the credit company and beg for mercy. As you are trying to get out of the door - it is that much more annoying now that we have kids to juggle in the process.

& hell they didn't freeze the card the 2 times we purchased cars with them. Are they crazy? They didn't want to check on an $8k charge? Maybe they figure that the auto dealer is looking you over left and right and up and down and harder to fool them, I don't know. But what the foo is all I can say. Can you tell I am aggravated? LOL.

Oooooooh, nifty... (+ more links)

April 7th, 2007 at 08:18 am

Well I gave it a whirl. Like the red, not so much the pink, but seems to be the best color match. I don't know what I am doing.

Anyway, other good links today.

#1:

http://www.freemoneyfinance.com/2006/08/the_10_best_mon.html

Is it the same old, same old, I don't know, but a good list to live by.

Of course instead of get out of debt I find it much easier to not get into debt in the first place. Wink But I know for many it is too late so reads good advice.

& again with the giving. But I found a better article on the subject - more in line with my feelings. 3% I can swing, would consider a worthy goal. Wink

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

Which reminds me, in my family the women are the givers and the men never give money to charity - think it is a waste. So I was thinking about Suze and women and money - and well - she has a point. Then again I don't advocate not giving anything to charity. I guess I am middle of the road on the subject. & through time my dh has encouraged me not to give money we really didn't have to give (in our opinions) and I have got him to be a little more giving to the community in non-financial ways. Because there is still no way in hell he would give up a dime. I think today he would for a cause he really felt behind. Maybe. But nowhere near 3%. Wink

ETA: Oh yeah I bought an egg coloring packet for 50 cents or something the other day because I was at the drug store anyway - was a while back. Anyway, opened it last night and it had 2 shrinkwrapped packages inside. Thought it was a little odd and looked at the box. Opened one and starting counting. dippers and colors and stickers and such. Yup I got 2 for the price of one - a mistake - LOL. Nifty that it was all shrinkwrapped. I threw it in the cupboard for next year. Now the trick is not to forget about it. BM had a blast coloring eggs last night. Plus he dropped the darkest egg on the floor and when I looked at it this morning it looked so cool - the crack looked like a spider web - geometric and all that - we all thought it was pretty cool. Will probably attempt deviled eggs tomorrow, you know with all my spare time and all. Wink Anyway, I spent a few bucks on candy and treats. Last year was like the first big easter and I got baskets and plastic eggs and all that. Initial investment, I am pleased this year is so cheap. We are providing chips and salsa for easter dinner tomorrow. Dh gets the chips on sale and will make his homemade salsa. Last time he made it with leftovers and said he spent less than a buck on peppers or something. So we have been eating a lot of salsa - very frugal. We eat so much peppers, garlic, onions, cilantro, mexicany stuff - we always have the leftovers. Add the canned tomatoes - we're not tomato fans. But for whatever reason I could live off them in salsa form - hehe.


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