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Archive for June, 2007

Credit Card Rewards & Money Tricks

June 30th, 2007 at 02:36 pm

I just got my new (BT) credit card statement and so was able to redeem my $50 Target gift card. Woohoo. Should receive in a few weeks. I am pretty pleased though that I received the other one before the kids' birthday - will got to presents/party. This one I will likely save for some fall clothes for them. Either that or necessities if something comes up in the meantime.

The free $125 all told is a nice bonus on top of the interest I am earning. I have only executed one $5k balance transfer thus far. I will pay off dh's credit card today so that when he gets the statement next week I can execute that balance transfer. I will ask one more time for a credit increase too. See if I can squeeze out more than $10k. I am wondering if they will only require a 2% minimum payment as well? Well I can hope!

I have barely received the cash on BT#1 and I already have a statement. It is due mid-July. I am trying to decide when to pay it. I generally just pay these when I get the bill. But part of me thinks I should hang on as long as possible. I think I will just pay it though. I decided instead of transferring the money over (for this small one anyway) I can just do a bookkeeping adjustment. Reclass the $112 from "BT" category to "efund" category. Then I don't have to move the money out and lose interest. It is just $112 LESS I have to transfer to savings for the month. I can just pay it out of the no-interest checking. Gets a little complicated, but erases the benefit of trying to hold out and pay it back closer to the due date. Probably bad news. I'll set it to pay after I receive my paycheck on the 1st every month.

More bookkeeping, but little effort for free money! Big Grin

Can I just say I want to THROTTLE dh?????? I have always hated his bank setup because he had to have a minimum $750 or something in checking and much more in savings. For this deposit he earned a whopping 0.5% on the checking or something. I always had free checking, no minimums, life was easy. Dh on the other hand had quite a few $50 overdraft fees because he would drop below the minimum on his barely-interest checking. HE would drive me nuts. I told him a million times why I hated his account and why I prefer my no-interest checking. I run the balance to 0. Any money that does not go for the current month goes straight to high-yield savings. I have on average $500 sitting in a low-yield savings along with my checking that I can transfer money to/from instantly. So I have a small cushion but the minimum balance is $1 and it probably makes more interest than his stupid checking. There are indeed many times the account sits at $1! I like the flexibility.

So he asks me again last night why our checking account does not pay interest. Like I have not explained it 1 MILLION times. I once again explained how the whole $50 overdraft fees here and there completely wiped out any benefit of the interest on the checking. Though I manage the money better and could probably avoid the fees, I would have to tie up x dollars indefinitely in a crappy low-interest checking account. No thanks dear!

Gah. My dh is smart but he is really hung up on that. LOL.

Well I am sure there are scenarios where it works, where we may even come out ahead. But I am used to running my balance to $0, enjoying low minimums (if any) and it just sounds like a headache. Not interested. Just one more thing to remember - stupid account minimum. LOL.

For example I can earn 2.8% if I pay a monthly fee of $5 and keep a $1k average balance. But I rather keep that $1k in my 5%+ money market. Thanks. Plus if I just kept $1k in there the fee would be more than the interest. This is the part dh never learned. I am not sure what will get it through his thick skull. ???

Net Worth/June Update

June 30th, 2007 at 10:56 am

Blech, I feel chewed up, swallowed, and spit out. What a week. Just seemed like a complicated week.

I wouldn't even know where to begin. But I did take one mental health day this week and have resumed coming home EVERY DAY for lunch. So far I think it is helping. I stopped due to time constraints and expensive gas, but my mental health is worth more and I also feel more productive. Well, we'll see...

IT cuts into my blog time though, significantly. I have been pretty MIA.

Net Worth

Anyway, I updated my Net Worth for June. Was just too giddy and impatient, the accountant in me.

We are up $12,300 for the quarter. Woohoo.

3% exactly.

For the year we are up $15,300 (3.75%). My goal is $25k for the whole year. Getting there...

If you take out all the equity in our home we are up 7% for the quarter/9% for the year.

Quarter:
*Cash is up $5,500
*Retirement is up $3,000
*Paid off $900 on the mortgage
Paid off $2,900 on the car

Year-to-Date:
*Cash is up $5,000
*Retirement is up $5,000
*Paid off $1,900 on the mortgage
*Paid off $3,400 on the car

Investments

We still have some pretty conservative positions. But our entire portfolio is up 7% for this year. Keeping more returns, paying less fees. Feels good...

June Budget

I assumed we would not be able to save for a 2nd month ($850 car repair & $500 vacation explains it all - usually save around $500/month).

But our june budget is insane. We drove to LA & will have 2 trips to San Jose after the weekend. With gas prices dropping and other factors we will be below budget all the same. Woohoo.

Our groceries will be way under budget. Being gone 1 week heavily contributed to that.

Dining out - $14 - Under Budget!

Misc. - $35 - some books and a trip to the San Francisco zoo (divine). (My Misc. budget is $150).

Vacation - $500

I am still a little puzzled how we had such a divine/splurgy month and still came out so ahead. Our credit card bill will be below $1200 and that is my budget - very aggressive - rarely make it. So it is the best month we ever had pretty much. Since budget crackdown. I think I made $1200 once - certainly never BELOW that. I budget by expense categories but I try to couple that with I only have enough cash every month to comfortably pay a $1200 cc bill. So I watch the bill and as it gets higher I know the extras have to scale back, etc. I keep an eye on it overall so overall amazed. Though obviously when we have a good month on the budget it is reflected in the cc bill.

The fact is looking at the numbers that we did not eat out more than once - cheap at that (outside vacation). That we curbed our driving and were very mindful of gas prices outside our big trips. That we were gone for a week. That we didn't feel like we could splurge after vacation so we didn't. The trip to the zoo was a real treat but at $30 or so. But we could do that 5 times in a month if we don't splurge on anything else.

Oh but most importantly we didn't have anything unexpected this month. woohoo! No copays, no car repairs, etc.

So I am super happy that with around $1500 in budget overages over the last couple of months that I was only short 1 month on savings - or $500.

Looks like I can transfer some money to saving for July! Big Grin I might have my ROTH IRA money saved by October at this rate. I will let you know when the day arrives and I do my conversion because I can tell you now that is when the market will go bad. LOL. I keep thinking waiting is fine since the market will probably go down a bit (& lower my conversion tax bill accordingly). Instead while I have been waiting my IRA portfolio is up almost 20%. Figures!!!!! I still have to wait for the cash to pay the tax bill, so I keep telling my friends I will let them know the day I do the conversion. Market will drop and I will have paid too much tax. Murphy's Law. Wink Then again I converted dh's IRA before all this. So PHEW. I timed one well enough...

I have to say a good chunk of our net worth doing well is our retirement investment returns. But I am hoping to get to a spot by next year that I do not rely on that for much of my net worth progress. I want to get to a point in the next year or 2 where our net worth increases $25k/year before investment returns, and that those are just gravy. & also so the bad stock years don't affect my annual goals too heavily. Getting there... This year our net worth is getting some positive hits from good luck (cash windfall and wonderful market). But setting things in motion so we don't rely on luck so much in the future. Big Grin



Moolah...

June 29th, 2007 at 05:33 am

$20 challenge:

$7,635.32 - Balance 6/18

$ 90.00 - Interest
$ 75.00 - Focus Group
$ 75.00 - Gift Cards (reward)

------------------
$7,875.32 - Balance 6/30
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Dh did a focus group last night. They only take a few people so you can get paid to show up and just leave (kind of like jury duty - but a much bigger paycheck).

So he made $75 for 2 hours - he did get called in. They paid cash. He kept $20 to replace his emergency $20 in his wallet, I took $5 since I also had no cash, and will put $50 in the bank with my paycheck next week. I might just save it, but am thinking to holding onto it in case I need babysitting next month. He is going on a big 3-day hike but no date set. Not big on planning - LOL. I may need a babysitter since it will be a busy time at work. We'll see. $50 would hardly cover it either, but it's a start. Otherwise I'd put it straight to the efund.

He filled out a form that asked questions about me too. So now 2 of us are in the focus group pool. SWEET. Hell he made more per hour than I do. I am impressed!!!

Interest ran around $90 this month. Yes I did the balance transfer but the money was only in there a few days before interest was paid for the month. Actually most of it comes from my new 5.7% c.d. It's only a 0.4% increase but gosh between that and the balance transfer for a few days made QUITE a difference. A very good month.

Oh yes and the $75 gift cards - credit card rewards. We used them for stuff we were going to buy anyway (food, laundry detergent, kids PJs, kid birthday presents). Free money.

Our credit card bill thus far looks INSANELY low for the month (knock on wood). The gift cards no doubt helped. Well just a few more days. We may come under budget. Even with some huge excesses. Lord knows how - we just haven't spent much on gas and groceries since we got back from vacation. ??? Even with ALL the driving. Gas prices going down certainly helps.

In other news I think I lost my mind. Though I am not big on putting the kids before us financially (well their college anyway - obviously we put them first today). On the other hand, I am learning about the power of compounding. I am considering dropping in $50/month into a mutual fund for them. Looks like they will get enough money from grandma to open a fund this year. If I open one I kind of want to make regular contributions, and the AIP minimum is $50. I believe per month. So I am considering it. I could easily redirect the money I was prepaying on the mortgage to this for BM this year. & next year I can start to add the money for LM too. $50 by itself is small beans. & since LM is younger I can easily wait another year to better afford his contribution.

I will consider it if I can fully fund my IRA. Dh's IRA next year will be left to windfalls and him working. Then again all I need him to scrounge up is $400/month to fund his IRA and put our retirement savings at 25% (25% of my wage anyway). It's not that big of a deal. I think though I like this idea because I can put a very small token amount to the college funds now and it should REALLY pay off with time. I estimate with a pretty conservative balanced fund that their money would be $50k/each at college. Just doing $50/month plus grandma's money. & if she eventually stops her contributions, if dh is working we can make up the $1k/year easily. So I think $100k for college (for both the kids) is a worthy & easily attainable goal. The fact is the longer we wait the more it costs us. I am coming around.

I am not a big believer in 529 plans since we didn't spend much at all on college. I don't like the penalty for not spending it on college. I am considering UTMA accounts instead. We could avoid taxes in the meantime. Which is not really my aim. Well, maybe it is. LOL. I have always been against saving a big chunk in the kids' name - entitlement issues. But whatever. Between that and their already existing 529 ($4k or so?) and any taxable investments we'll save down the road, yes this is why I never really worried about it. The kids will have so much more money for college than I could have ever even imagined having. They are truly blessed. Up until now I figured a paid off mortgage before they start college and a 2nd income would have them WELL covered. & it really would. But hell if we save now then that is less we have to save later - more we can enjoy that second income when it returns. Big Grin

Well it's a plan, for now I am looking at a budget like this:

17% Retirement (long-term)
13% short-term ("escrow" fund)
5% mid-term (car/house fund)
1.5% Kids

I think I can throw them that bone. My aim has been 15% retirement so if we made it and everything else is covered, the kids will just have to be darn spoiled...

My parents hinted they would trickle down more money (they have been getting a lot in inheritance/wealth management gifts from their parents). So it is likely we can scrounge up a full IRA contribution for dh next year as well. Part sweat, part windfall perhaps. Not counting on it but there isn't really anything else we would need the money for at this point. Well I hope it stays that way anyway!

If you told me in 2003 that I could swing this all on one income I would have never believed it. WOW. We used to save dh's money. I keep pondering the many scenarios if he goes back to work and we won't even need it for savings. Perhaps early retirement will be back on the table. Since we have had kids I figured that was out the window. Wink I try not to get too ahead of myself there. Health insurance is still a huge issue and I also need to save pennies for orthodontia and all that too. I think we will still have PLENTY of challenges ahead. But my more immediate goal of working part-time is becoming more and more realistic by the day. My goal was to support my family on part-time income by age 40. Getting there. With each raise we rely less and less on my entire income, and the market is still conducive to some big raises. So I am feeling good these days about everything financially. I really haven't for the last couple of years. So PHEW.

2007 - 3 Flat Tires

June 25th, 2007 at 09:41 pm

Well I think I had 2 in January. Not a great start to the year.

But dh had a flat today.

With all the construction you would think that would explain much (construction on all corners by our home - hotels, stores, houses, you name it). But he said looking back he knows he ran something over on the freeway this morning and saw the flat when he got home. Since my flats were chalked up to running over giant bolts on 2 different occasions, I would say Sacramento is REALLY bad on tires. I am so annoyed. Well, at least it isn't all the consttruction, thus far...

The interesting thing is that dh said he does not ever remember changing his tire, he thinks this is the first flat he has ever had on his 5-year-old car. Considering that I am a flat-tire magnet, I find that quite impressive! I've probably had 10 flats in the last 5 years myself, no matter what the car.

I haven't heard how much it set him back. If it's fixable, a few bucks. If not, maybe $20. I must say for all the flats I have had it is only this year that they were unrepairable flats. We'll get another used tire. I keep reading how never buy used tires but I don't buy it. I Can see staying away from this re-treading business, but beyond that, as with anything, go down and pop off a "used but barely used" tire off a retired car and pay 1/2 as much, maybe less. Replaced tire, or just a patch, it will barely blip the budget. When it comes time to replace all 4 then we go new. But this one at a time business, eh. Of course, considering the car is 5 years old and never a flat or new tire I am wondering if it is time for new tires. Perhaps... The used tire will be by far the nicest one!

For all my flats I have never gotten a flat from a "used" tire (knock on wood anyway).

Well I'll see what the verdict is tonight.

Dh also spent our $50 Target gift card (credit card reward) today. Loads of laundry detergent (with $5 off), some groceries (with coupons), and 2 pairs pajams for BM. Grand total around $53. The PJs were more
than I Would have spent ($13 for one pair?) but the last ones I bought didn't last long either. You get what you pay for? They are hard to find at the thrift shop where I do well with pants and shirts and jackets sometimes. But I am starting to wonder why even bother. In this weather, put them to bed in underwear... Save the money for nice winter PJs. LEaves $25 for now for birthday presents for the boys (should be plenty). & I will get another $50 gift card in a bit. Probably save up for more groceries/laundry degertent/paper towels, whatever. I am tempted to start stocking up on warmer clothes for fall/winter for BM, but the thing is lord knows what size he will be. 5 or 7? LOL. I can keep the card until I know though I guess...

ETA: Oh gosh yes, the road construction is insane. Is that why - fiscal year? The road by my house is under construction as well - s'posedly for quite a few months. Doing a lot of work with all the development. But the road by my work 10 miles away is even worse. I am just sick of all the traffic and road closures.

Nice Weekend...

June 25th, 2007 at 12:10 am

*Went to pool Saturday a.m. but was closed for maintenance (bah).

Public pool but usually go in the a.m. and pretend like its ours - tends to get packed in the evenings, but quiet the rest of the time.

*Took kids to park instead & 99-cent ice cream at Rite Aid. Dh had noticed it (I didn't even know they had ice cream in there) - and the kids LOVED it.

*I took the kids to Fairytale Town & the zoo today. About 9am - noon, weather was extremely pleasant for a summer day in Sacramento AND no one else was up. Weird. Dh was really wary and I didn't expect it to be a pleasant trip, but wanted to give him some time. Kids were fine (I guess he had a bad trip a couple of weeks back and refused to take them alone again for a long while. I think he was peeved it was so easy for me, but the place was empty and kids were extremely well behaved today. I could easily see it going in the opposite direction so I lucked out. Wink But I think we ALL had a really nice morning.) Anyway it was "free" except the nachos and ice cream we bought.

*ORdered pizza in yesterday because we found another $5 off coupon at Round Table. Sweet.

*Dh went grocery shopping and spent $54. He is getting very adept at getting $50 groceries every trip, which comes with a 10 cent off per gallon gas coupon.

Gas is actually going down here (WEIRD for summer - it is settling around $2.99 - from MUCH higher - and the mild weather is nice for the A/C & electric bill - pleased with the weekend).

*Double checked BM's swimming schedule - he has class all week at 9am. In a wading pool. Nothing fancy, I am not sure how many days he can make it. As a plus he has no preschool so I was thinking I could work more hours/have an easier week with less driving him around. But the whole swimming thing complicates things. We'll see.

*Dh's focus group is at 7pm, not 7am. I had no idea. The good is it won't affect work. The bad is it affects aerobics. Bah. I am wondering if I should just give up and start again July 1. Give me a week to try had to catch up at work, and then commit to myself and all that in July. We'll see.

*I will have to scramble tonight to clean house a bit. Almost forgot that I invited me mid-west coworker over for dinner Monday. Bah. I know it is the nice thing to do. Its just exhausting and all that...

*Dh is going to have to make me a batch of homemade salsa too. MExican theme for Bunco this week - I volunteered the salsa, but dh is the master chef. I think I mention dh usually has all the ingredients on hand (leftover veggies for the week) and just has to buy peppers. We have been eating a lot of salsa. I am not a big veggie fan but I can down the salsa so it is good.

*That reminds me we had a bad week wasting food. Dh left out the canned salsa and it spoiled the night his friend was here. & I dropped our giant glass container of minced garlic, on BM's foot nonetheless. What a mess... He is okay but it is funny that our garage now REEKS of garlic (where we store the trash bins). As long as it doesn't start smelling rotten I guess... The garlic capital around here is Gilroy, you can smell it as you drive past the town, so I told dh our garage smelled like Gilroy today. Wink The container was full (new) and most of it would have been salvageable if not for the whole broken glass thing. Decided to toss it.

*Dh's cousin's adoption of an 18-month-old boy will be official this week. They did foster-to-adopt and couldn't have been easier - they have had him since the day he was born. So happy for them, they are having a big party next weekend. I hope the next one goes even 1/2 as well - they want a big family and so far unsuccessful on their own, so they plan to adopt more. They also adopted an older girl way back (long story) and they have a way of helping kids who really need it. Though they have had the boy from day 1 he was addicted to drugs and has had many issues. They are very good with it though, will probably adopt more troubled children. Incidentally I used to babysit for a single lesbian woman who adopted a crack baby. It is really sad what these little ones go through the first few years. hopefully it gets better... Being willing to adopt these babies though means an easier/cheaper process than otherwise though.

*I cut back my writing schedule a bit and it feels good. I was working on a monster article yesterday (yet unfinished) but I think I am just going to resolve to taking one day off a week - no work whatsoever. I think something I need. I usually don't mind working a little saturday and a little sunday (beats working all day saturday or something) but I think I was a little burned out too. I am realizing more vacation time is great - though I would like to lessen my work hours during the week, it is not going to happen. I will get much more rest taking large chunks of time off. So I am trying to keep that in mind going forward. As long as work is the way it is anyway. I can get out early friday but then I am just behind and have to work harder the rest of the week. In the end it is not as nice as I had hoped. I still have hope I will catch up and things will settle down a bit. Work has never been much for me at this place outside of January through April so I am just thrown for a loop.

*Financially speaking, our efund sits at $11k. I started with $5k late last year. I am rather pleased. I am shifting gears to scrounging the $1800 to do my ROTH IRA conversions. I can not add any money to any of my IRAs until I convert them. At least I can add to dh's IRAs. But I aim to save the tax money for this, this year. I did dh's IRAs last year - which was a good $1500 in tax, so it feels good to be almost done with all of them while we are still in such an insanely low tax bracket.

I will make enough interest to get my efund up to $11,500 easy by December. I only need a few hundred dollars this year then to reach my final goal. If I make the $12k efund and get the $1800 ROTH tax money, we will shift gears to retirement. OTherwise I am getting a $12k contribution from my boss this year so it isn't exactly suffering if I don't get to it. But I want retirement to be #1 come January 1st.

My goal is to start regular retirement contributions 1/1/08, but we may make it sooner... Exciting... I haven't made regular contributions since I had my 401k in 2000. & the whole dollar cost averaging thing was really good on my portfolio. That is what I want to get back to - regular contributions every month. More of a priority than an afterthought (you don't know how many years I dropped in $5k to our IRAs on April 14th just so we could get a tax break - hehe. Trying to make it priority, not last minute tax strategy. Retirement just hasn't been a priority to us before - we have been so focused on getting into a house out here and being home for the kids, so it is a mindshift). I've always had 10% contributions of my salary and thrown in a few thousand here and there, so we haven't done bad at all for our age, but my goal is to triple my current retirement balance in 5 years. & I also want to have a good $300-$500k retirement balance before we hit 40. So we have a lot of work to do!

Pictures...

June 23rd, 2007 at 02:29 am

Had to share, was talking about it earlier and just remembered:

Baby's room before we began (used to be the cat room I guess - we had an empty room when we moved in as we each took an office, and still had a room to spare):



& my "Baby Cheetah" decor:



lots of leopard print...



The wall border has a bunch of mommy & baby cheetahs and I have 3 pictures in the room (which you catch a glimpse of) with mommy and baby animals plus I have a mommy & baby monkey wood carving.

*sniff* Will miss all the mommies and babies. Of course now that I think about it maybe I can sell some of that stuff on ebay or Craigslist. That's something I guess...

The room was made rather unisex before we even knew if we were having a boy or a girl the first time, but it is a little on the girly side I guess. Plus LM has been ripping off all the wall borders. Funny since he is the tamer one usually. At least BM left the room nice for him - LOL. It was the nursery for both boys. & let me say we didn't spend a lot of money on it either - it is quite frugal. Wink

Friday Stuff

June 22nd, 2007 at 07:31 pm

TGIF!!!!

Gah, it's been a long week...

I think this week has just sucked extra bad with all sorts of strange responsibilities at work and us being sick all last weekend really sucked. We missed Wacky Water Day, a lazy day at the pool, and I missed a movie night out with the girls which is so rare anyways!!!! I have bunco next week though. Oh yes, and been feeling to sick/icky to go too aerobics since out return. Maybe next week... I get so tired of making fun plans and missing them due to sickness though - such is life with kids. It never seems to end.

On the plus side, and I almost hate to say it, LM has been sleeping REALLY well. Going down at night by himself awake, not waking us up all hours, etc. I know I so totally jinxed it too!!!! Actually I almost dread him sleeping well because we have been talking about moving him out of his crib. If he keeps sleeping well I don't want to do anything to disturb the peace though. He could stay in there I guess, what does it matter.

The baby's room is a cute "baby cheetah" them - quite unique really. I am sad because I think we are going to have to redo the room. Frown I remember how I excited I was picking out the baby cheetah theme back in late 2002 when I was first pregnant. We painted the lower half of the walls a sort of brown color and put a little border around the middle of the room, dividing the walls - top-half white/ lower-half brown. Both babies loved the cheetas and laughed and talked with them on the changing table. But LM has taken to ripping off the wall border. It looks pretty horrid around his crib and around the changing table (or changing area I should say - we didn't waste money on a changing table - just had to say - LOL - we change him on the dresser). But yesterday I Walked in and the border had been ripped off 1/2 of the wall by the crib. Lord knows what was going on in there, didn't ask dh. Actually I think it wasn't *so* bad but it was close enough to the crib that *I* peeled it off a bit more because I did not want LM playing with it - seemed a little dangerous to me. But I couldn't quite bring myself to tear it down entirely. Frown So now I am sad... I have a little frilly matching drape as we went ALL uni-sex with the kids because we planned to have more than 1 and I couldn't wait to 20 weeks along to decorate the nursery - hehe. But it is a little feminine probably for the long term.

We'll probably have to go in this summer and tear down the border and repaint. We could repaint the upper half with the brown - one solid color. But it's not really a beautiful color. I am thinking blue or something. But I don't know how that will work over the 1/2 & 1/2 wall. A few coats perhaps? No more wall border - it was just a pain to put up too. Home improvement is just not our thing, but painting at least we can do. We have some blue paint from the theatre room which I actually think would be perfect.

BM might like some colored walls too. He's just got plain plain white.

But yeah I will have to post some pictures of the nursery - just love it. Will miss it - the end of an era I guess.

The craziness never stops here though. Dh's friend came by yesterday and is staying through today I guess. There was a brand new car parked in front of the house when I got home yesterday and I was SHOCKED. His friend has been out of work for about 2 years, our age, seems content to live at home and hang out, not much job searching I can see. I mean there is no reason he should not be able to find a job. I thought he bought this brand new car and I was wondering what in the hell?????? In the morning though it was gone and I asked if he had left as I really didn't know his schedule, and dh said he was still there, sleeping in the theatre room as they had stayed up all night playing video games (Silly boys!). I Said, I hope his car didn't get stolen. LOL. Since our neighborhood has like 10 times the national average in auto theft - we just NEVER leave our cars outside. Turns out he had taken the train or something, which explains much. I have to say I am relieved he did not buy a brand new car. I was wondering what the heck - LOL.

Oh yes and in other news, hell has frozen over!!!!!!!!!! It must have because my grandma got e-mail! OMG! I am so happy for her. All our other grandparents seem open to technology and digital cameras and e-mail and all that. But my grandma is very lonely and refuses to try new technology. She doesn't want a computer. I have told her many times I could keep in better touch if she got e-mail, and I guess she finally gave in. All these years I have thought it was a shame she refused to try the internet or e-mail, how it could really be positive for her. I don't know how far she'll venture beyond e-mail but I am all excited for her. Yippee!

Oh in other news my dad is probably losing/quitting his job. Has a horrid horrid boss he can no longer stand, which says a lot because he is a pretty easy-going guy, adaptable, etc. I was kind of surprised to hear. So near retirement, but wants to work a few more years all the same, so I hope it all works out soon, that he finds a new job or things work out. Crossing my fingers for him. My dad is in an industry where jobs are very project-based and come and go. I couldn't even keep track how many jobs he has had, but he was laid off around 2003 and was out of work for a long while, as he is now in his late 50s. We worry how easy it will be to find work with his age, after that experience. BEfore this last layoff he had never been out of work more than a month or so, if that. He networks very well and has kept up his skills, etc. so finding a job overall has never been a problem for him. But the economy seems to be bouncing back in the tech industry and all that all the same so hopefully it is easier this time. My parents could so totally be fine if he never found another job, but they worry all the same, they want to feel better prepared for retirement of course. Plus if he doesn't find a job they will likely cash out their house and leave the state entirely. Frown & I don't want that!!!

Insurance Going Down...

June 21st, 2007 at 08:50 pm

Woohoo.

Was checking online banking and saw our latest car insurance bill is due next month. BUT the sweet thing is that it went down from $390 to $320, for 6 months. WOW!!!! Excited.

Then again we stil have a long ways to go. We were shocked by car insurance rates when we moved here, they about doubled. & I see why - people here are even worse drivers than in the BIG city we used to live in... I think dh was paying about $500/year when we moved, for insurance, and it about doubled. So we are down to $640/year for a much newer car (probably $600 without the comprehensive insurance) so we are getting there. No collission on that car. Mine has been running around $1100/year for full coverage so will be interesting to see in a few months - I am crossing my fingers that mine goes down too. Our premiuns were so low back home with multiple line discount, perfect driving records, loyalty (been a customer since I was 16), etc. State Farm is not in general the cheapest insurer, but for these reasons it is the best deal for us. We shop around every so often, but all the insurers have horrible rates up here in our zip code.

I was tempted to move $140 out of our short-term savings (for the next year) accordingly, but I realized I better hold tight and see how our home insurance pans out in December. Maybe that one will go up, who knows. WIll hold tight...

Here's to more decreasing bills!

Since we just got that rebate check on his car I wonder if they sent it when they were preparing the bill - reviewing premiums, etc. I won't get my car's insurance bill for another 2 months so we may have to wait a bit for mine. But I'm ready for my rebate & my lower bill too - hehe. Wink

Credit Card Debt & FICO & Everything Else

June 21st, 2007 at 01:49 pm

I guess it didn't hit me until the money got deposited into my bank, but well, I officially have credit card debt. Woohoo. LOL.

I have been noticing a lot of new bloggers too - welcome! & they are probably like what the heck is wrong with this person - happy to be in debt? Of course never really been in debt before it doesn't scare me that much. I can understand the whole not wanting to go down that road again - for ANY reason.

For me I am just making money. This will be the least profitable balance transfer as it is small and had a small fee. Was my little experiment. I will write an article on the experience eventually, when it is done I guess.

Anyway, so I will have to update my net worth schedule and constantly explain why I have credit card debt - but that's fine. I don't really consider it debt since you know the money will just sit in the bank. But how it goes.

I will probably wait another month and then do the big $10k BT for dh - that is where the real money will be. His is 9 months and I am hoping by then I will have $10k on my other card to transfer.

We also got $75 gift cards (cc rewards) in the mail - Target. I was hoping to get them before the kids' birthdays, then unsure. But they arrived FAST! IT was actually a $50 card & a $25 card. Dh had a $5 off laundry detergent at Target if you buy $20 worth (lord knows how much that is - a few boxes? LOL - he just switched to the powder stuff which is much cheaper). So he will load up on that and granola bars (big coupons) and whatever else he sees. The $50 will probably go to birthday party stuff - gifts/decorations, I don't know... I have another $50 coming I believe - but maybe not in time.

Dh also bought me some pepsi yesterday on sale with a raincheck from before and he said he wasn't sure if it was worth it - he had LM and it took forever I guess - some new guy didn't know how to ring it up and had to try 3 times (& keep calling the manager for help). He tried to tell my dh that the CRV for 3 pepsis was $1.50 the first time. LOL. But once he got it through was 1/2 off regular price. That one he stopped by Walgreens on the way from picking up BM. Sometimes pop over there with the big coupons because it is not out of the way.

BM was sick Monday so he is going to preschool Friday instead. I just remembered as well that there is no preschool next week so I signed him up for swimming lessons (like $15 through parks and recs - I don't know but really cheap - for 5 days). OF course that was before work was crazy. We'll see. I told dh we should go the first day (he'll probably need help with LM) but if we don't make it every day, not like we shelled out big bucks or anything. I am thinking every other day is probably about my limit but we'll see. It's just at the wading pool - hopefully LM can splash around out of the way while the big kids learn, I could be unneeded. I am sick of being too busy with work to do these kinds of things though - usually doesn't matter.

I finally got the kids' E-vite out for their birthday party - phew. It will be low key this year. I asked no presents. The kids just don't need anything. They got a zillion presents for Christmas we haven't even got through and I mentioned Grandma took them clothes shopping 10 times while we were gone. I can't even ask for clothes. Dh's sister asked for a list and dh was telling me all this crap he was going to tell her. I said, seriously, tell her the kids need Winter clothes! They have so much excess but come Fall BM will have nothing to wear if he grows any more. That is what I would really like. The family will get the kids too much anyway so I just don't want anyone else to bring gifts. They will, but at least they won't feel bad going cheap. & one of my neighbors does the same so I know she will respect my no gift request!

The kids will get too many presents anyway, and we always like to do something nice for them. So they will be fine. I decided no gifts, no party favors, keep it simple. I'll probably make a box cake and we'll do some take & bake pizzas, and I really don't expect to spend much money at all. Recycling last year's theme and we already have most everything we need. IT's 4 & 2 - they won't remember a thing. This is the first year we had the preschool conundrum but I am not going to invite 10 kids I don't know. We invited just 1. Which is my friend and would have invited them anyway. Preschool will have a little party for him. This age we mostly do the family thing. Invited a handful of the kids' friends, but don't expect many to show on the holiday weekend.

I don't think I have sent out a real party invitation since the year 2000. I just LOVE evite - like the best thing since sliced bread - LOL.

In other news my credit score really dropped. Wow. I think mostly it had to do with closing my old card (erased the first 10 years of credit history - which was basically a dinky card I paid every month). It didn't bother me because we have so much history now and my credit score was so high. But wow, I was a little surprised. All I know is score was in the high 700s when we last refied or bought this house - one of those times we got a free credit report and score. Then we bought our last car and financed through the dealer for 1 month and a few months later we were house shopping. My mortgage broker friend pre-approved us and told me my credit score was 820. I was rather proud of this and figured the car really bumped us up (since we usually don't carry much credit. Our score is something like 90% mortgage really). But anyway, WAMU tells you your credit score whenever they grab it too and so I logged in the other day and saw I had a score of 750. Whoa!!!!! Still good, but trying to put my finger on it. I expect overall that it will rise as I pay off this balance transfer. The score was after I took out the card but before I did the transfer. So we'll see how it changes accordingly. I am not sure how often they will update it. I am only borrowing around $5k out of my $30k or so available credit so I don't expect the balance transfer to really affect it negatively, but the whole FICO thing is greek to me all the same. We'll see... Dh is borrowing a lot more but I am not sure he has ever cancelled a credit card. LOL. So hopefully his score is still high - he's just not as interested and though I pull up his credit report from time to time I don't know if we have seen his score since he hasn't been working - they only pulled my score for the car and for the mortgage.

In conclusion, I say it is true what they say about erasing too much credit history, but when you have a good solid few years history remaining and a really good score, you can afford to close your old cards to avoid fees. I don't regret it a bit. Just wonder if I will get back to 800 anytime soon. A more perfect score may not buy me anything but it means more room for error. Which is why this whole BT thing didn't bother me, but we'll see how it goes.

Oh yeah, well beyond the closed card I also forgot I opened 2 bank accounts, 2 credit cards (more recent for the BTs), a few brokerage accounts, etc. in the last year. I think I have been having a lot of hard credit pulls which probably doesn't help in the least. Well, going forward I expect things to settle down.

ETA: Just got first statement and WAMU is only charging 2% minimum payment. I thought the standard was 4% so I may make much more money than I realized - woohoo.

STUFF

June 20th, 2007 at 02:03 pm

Not a lot of time but a few things.

Got my balance transfer money. Took about 2 weeks from credit card to money market (should get to MM by Friday). APplied BT to Citi card, then asked for a refund. Refund arrived yesterday (right after I deposited my paycheck - figures - dh will run it to the bank for me today) and I will deposit it to my checking, and then give it a day or 2 to make sure and transfer it to MM Friday. It should get there Friday.

Which reminds me I bought my lifetime supply of deposit slips a few months back (for a few bucks - not a big purchase I will add) BUT yesterday at the bank they said, "Did anyone tell you that we no longer require deposit slips?" Um NO!!!! Good and bad I guess. I got them for mailing in checks which I would still use them for to direct the money properly, but you have seen me rant and rave about the post office enough. With my credit union right down the street, I probably won't ever use a deposit slip again. I still had to waste a piece of paper to write down the account number for dh. Best make him memorize it.

I have been in a real funk lately and I can not exactly put my finger on it. I think mostly work is killing me. Then again I have been in such a funk I have barely been working 40-hour-weeks, which doesn't help. It's like a cycle I guess. More behind, more stressed. Just unlike me though. Anyway, then returning from vacation with this whole training thing and many issues and Tuesday I was pretty much whining to dh that there was nothing I rather do less than go to work. I could barely bring myself to go. 90% of the time I LOVE going to work. I knew I was being whiny and unreasonable, but just how I felt. I was trying to think really long and hard about it. I thought, gosh I have worked so many worse stressful job situations and I just put up with it. When did I get so LAZY???? LOL. I realized I have been working in a really comfortable and slow work environment for a good 2-3 years (maybe a year or 2 to learn all the ropes and get so comfortable). Anyway, my conclusion is I have just had it really easy of late and I am not used to it. I haven't challenged myself of late and though my brain knows that a challenge is good the rest of me is just like, why can't I keep it easy? Big Grin

Anyway my son told me I had to go to work to pay the bills (my always answer to him why I go to work - to pay for the house and food on the table and cars and all that). He has a point so I went to work. & it wasn't so bad. I wish I would stop feeling like a whiny 2-year-old though. Interestingly though my discussion/whine session with dh in the morning gave me some ideas how to deal with my training job. Sometimes it just helps to TALK - it made all the difference in my day yesterday and things are going better.

Then my part-time coworker came in yesterday and I thought O.M.G. She recruited a new client and he had called me over vacation asking when (been putting it off 3 months already) when we would set up the accounting software for him, etc. I promptly forgot his phone call and when I saw he OMG. Remembered - hehe. I went home for lunch yesterday which was very pleasant BTW. I told dh when I got home, I said, you know on top of this training and aLL my regular work (which thank god no clients are complaining on how behind we are) - on top of all this I still have an audit to complete and apparently I am the only one in the office who can set up this software too. Lord knows WHY we have a new client. In general my boss does not accept them these days - we can't handle it. So BAH! Young co-worker recruits a client, he doesn't want to discourage it because it is key in most firms to bring in business. So I understand he is trying to help. But all the same there is no bringing in business here and my workload is just through the roof. The only "blessing" is I called the buy back and has computer had crashed anyway. Buys me time...

I was trying to slow down my writing a bit but I have an article BURSTING out of me today. Lord knows when I'll have time.

Oh yeah, and yesterday we went swimming finally. Was nice. MB is back to terrified of the water but okay with me. LOL. Well middle ground would be nice. Usually in the past BM and I would go down to the pool, so it was quite a caravan with all 4 of us. My bathroom got swallowed by beach towels - hehe. Work may be busy but I had a nice lunch at home and a nice swim after work, not too much to complain about overall...

Squealy babies & Annoyed with High COL

June 18th, 2007 at 11:34 pm

Blech - we are all sick here. We had some fun plans for the weekend but we were all feeling too icky. BM got some mild virus but has had a fever off and on for 4 days all the same. Called preschool this morning to find out of course that is exactly what is going around. I was starting to worry it was maybe an ear infection, but hear all the other parents took the kids in to find out it was virus. Dh and I were discussing how insane it is that people take their kids in for every sniffle. Then again after 4 days you start to worry about infection and such, but most of the people I know drag their sick kids in on day 1, which is more the reason I try to avoid the hospital (& all the germs) when it seems awfully unnecessary.

Oh well, I had a big wake up call in the matter of perspective today. The kind of day that just makes me want to pack up and MOVE. We are so desparate for employees we flew in some guy from the mid-west to train and do some work for us. For whatever reason I am in charge of all this training and I am utterly and completely exhausted after day 1. I am not cut out for this - I like to hide in my office and be anti-social mostly. Just exhausted and not helping my feeling of being so behind on ALL my work. I see lots of overtime this week, but trying to get over a stomach bug as well myself.

Anyway, mid-west guy asks me today if daycare in California is expensive. oh, $1k/month average I say. I am surprised his eyes did not pop out of his head. He didn't show much reaction but to say he thought $200/month for his 2-year-old was pricey. I said, um, is that full-time? YEs he says. O.M.G. I said well, to put it in perspective I have my son in a CHEAP place 2 days a week and it runs me $300/month.

He had also asked me before what my hubby did so after he brought up daycare I said - now you see why we don't see the point of a second income! It is definitely way magnified in an area like this I guess.

I think it was over the weekend or recently I came upon Jeffrey's post about preschool costing $6k/year somewhere (how insane that is) and I Was thinking hell, it beats daycare here by a mile. Hehe. But I see to someone like my new co-worker - yeah that $6k would be a hell of a lot of money.

So I am just sitting here like why do we live here again???? Then again I have relatives in very low cost of living areas and I just couldn't stand it - I am a big city girl. I guess that is why. But talks like this make you wonder...

Anyway, in other news, just had to say LM is SO cute. He really likes saying "boo" over and over and over again. Can get annoying, and he always demands a big reatcion, but the funny thing is he picked up the cutest craziest giggle/laugh while we were gone. All you have to do is say "boo" and he bursts out laughing this cute little laugh. Also, he likes to call his grandparents and push buttons on the phone. HE always does this, but for some reason last night my mom started pushing buttons back and he was just cracking up. Hilarious. So I called him today from work and alternated some "boos" with some pressing buttons on the phone and he just squealed with laughter. Gosh, he has been so difficult with sleeping of late, and quite the moody/temper tantrum-y boy. But a phone call of little squeals makes it all worth it. So cute! & of course even better in person...

Oh & BM has made me extra proud of late. I have always been eager for the age when they actually understand the Golden Rule. Anyway, the other day in the parking lot we passed a shiny red convertible with the top down, and BM knows mommy is saving up money for a "fun car" one of these days. So I said as a joke, "Do you think we should take that fun car for a ride???" BM got very upset with me and said that wouldn't be very nice. But it was the first time he ever seemed to get the concept. He'll be 4 in a month and I think that is the age I hear you can begin to reason with kids a little better. So phew. Just an interesting milestone, understanding when something is not yours for the taking. He really seemed to understand that we would not like it if someone took our car, and likewise we would never take anyone else's car.

On the same day though we were running errands and I had to run to the bank. We were also running to they store that has little quarter vending machines and he always gets candy with daddy i guess. So we got out his little coin jar and grabbed 2 quarters. He asked me if we could take put his money in the bank too. So cute - now that's my boy. I said no, but I pulled out his college account (courtesy of grandma mostly) and showed him his balance and told him he already had a lot of money in the bank. I showed him his name on the statement and he was quite impressed. We talked about how we don't talk about money to other people though and the funny thing is he decided this should be a big secret from daddy. When I told daddy what happened BM got all upset and said - Don't tell him how much money i have!!! LOL.

The funny thing was family gives the kids lots of money earmarked for things and since we made much less when he was born (like half as much) we would use it for diapers and preschool and however they earmarked. I told dh that going forward all cash is going into mutual funds for BM going forward and same for LM when he turns 4 too - seems fair. So I told BM that when his birthday rolled around he was going to get some cash and we could put it in the bank. He is all excited about it. I am going to open a mutual fund in his name once he rakes together $1k. We'll see how long it takes. Could get it on his birthday, may take a few years, but we'll see. I am excited he shows interest at all in the idea. Ever since we made the decision (a few months back) the kids have gotten NO cash so it is kind of funny. They usually get oodles. I hope he gets a bit for his birthday... If nothing else I'll have to give him a little cash I guess...

More Challenge Money

June 18th, 2007 at 07:07 pm

$20 challenge:

$7,549.32 - Balance 6/15

$ 86.00 - Writing Money

------------------
$7,635.32 - Balance 6/18
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Made $86 writing articles in May. woohoo.

I am starting to wonder if I may make $10k this year. I estimate $200/month with interest and writing money through year-end.

Would put me around $8,800, or just a mere $1200 away from $10k. I am starting to wonder if there is anything more I can do to get there. Looks like dh may be pulling a little bit of weight, and I am sure I can come up with a little bit more.

If I commit to working an extra 2 hours/week for the rest of the year I can pull it in overtime. Something to consider... I had really wanted to cut back my hours, but it is too busy anyway. I can certianly see the bright side of more money though. (For one year anyway...)

I can't believe I pulled an extra $3600 so far this year with just a little more sweat and some new ideas, better control of money, etc. I say $3600 because $4k of my challenge was just pure windfall. But a windfall that normally would have gone to bills. It would have gone to property taxes or something, but since that was already paid... Big Grin

But seriously, if I can pull in $10k by year-end, it would mean windfall aside I found on average an extra $500/month. That would be a whole IRA contribution & a half! Not bad...

Car Dealers/Tips

June 18th, 2007 at 02:30 pm

Oh before I get into cars, I had to say the weird thing about Mexico was they had a huge tourist trade for medicine. I mean I am sure you hear about it, but mixed in with the shops for sombreros and churros were tons of "pharmacies" with people in white lab coats pushing antibiotics & viagra! You hear about it, you understand it, but it was a little weird all the same.

Anyway, switching gears... I read an article that something like 60% of car loans are over 5 years (61 months?) and 20% are over 6 years. & car loan go up to 8 years (oy vey). So anyway, the car dealers are hurting because people with these huge loans can no longer trade up as soon as they used to. The average car payment 10-20 years ago was $400/month and it still is $400/month today, though the average person is taking almost twice as long to pay it off. Wow! I thought that was interesting. Trying to remember statistics off the top of my head so apologize if I screwed them up. But you certainly get the gist. I laughed out loud when I read it though, they shoot themselves in the foot though, the car dealerships, for the long haul. Reads much like the subprime mortgage stuff. Just short-term thinking.

Anyway I read that and then I talked to my parents yesterday. My mom told me that they had went car shopping. They had come into some money and my mom has been eager to upgrade, so my dad took her shopping over the weekend. Maybe it is from my parents I get my intense disdain from car dealers - but I guess they had a particularly horrible experience. For one they tried to talk them into a trade-in and offered $500 for my mom's insanely nice car. I just about fell off the couch when he told me. $500??????????? I told my mom that was what I got for my old Saturn from a dealer and I think she was extra insulted - LOL. She's got some fancy fully loaded top of the line sports car with less than 100k miles. So anyways, I mean the dealer wants to buy it for $500 and sell it for $10k I am sure. They wouldn't sell a car like that for less than $8k.

Anyway, I guess the dealer just lied and lied about all the features (that obviously weren't there) and when they went to discuss price on a car, they said the best they could offer was $32k. The thing was, the sticker on the car said $31k. LOL. It was at that point I guess they walked out. But that is what I got from my dad - a healthy distrust for a scam. Which basically means I would not go near a car dealer.

Anyway, after having paid cash for cars for many hears and having such horrid experiences at dealers that I personally refused to buy from them (continuing to buy from private parties while for some dumb reason dh always bought crappy cars for too much at dealers). Anyway, I warmed up a little when dh bought his last car. It was a "1 at this price" car they just wanted to get rid of but was really low priced and perfect for us so I warm up to the idea. So when we bought the van we went that route AND we also wanted to finance a little. However, being very naive in that regard when they said 8% was the best rate they offer and that I had to put less than 50% down and finance it for at LEAST 5 years, it was just like, whatever. Because agreeing to all this they agreed to lower the price on a "1 at this price" car. I had never seen anything like it. I paid it off the following month and got a better loan. Wink Being so anti-debt and never seeing anything like it, I decided next time I had to walk into a dang dealer, I was going to finance. The only caveat is read ALL The fine print and make sure there is no pre-payment penalty. BEcause lord knows they will tell you anything, but don't believe it - you have to READ the contract. In our case it worked out. I think there was a minor finance charge for paying less than 3 months or something that they didn't even bother to charge me in the end. But would have been worth paying another $50 for the money we saved all the same.

Anyway, this is the conclusion I came to from our experience. The difference they treated us when we decided to finance was the difference between the night and day when in the past when we offered to pay cash for the same priced car they would pretty much refuse to sell to us.

It is mind boggling and I came to the obvious conclusion that they make much more money from financing.

So anyway, my dad told me he read an article over the weekend that historically car dealerships get to skim 13% off the top on car sales, but these days they only get to keep 3%! They make all of their money from financing, oh yes, and servicing. So my father and I were discussing that. That is one thing I will never get is car warranties, I guess because my parents always showed me what a bad deal they were. You have to take the car in for expensive unnecessary service in order to keep your warranty. Having never had a warranty on a car I have owned, I will just never buy it. I have too many friends who had MAJOR problems that, guess what, weren't covered by warranty - because they were mechanical or something. A warranty may be good if you get stuck with a real lemon, which I guess happens. But really, what are the odds. Anyway, it is the one scam that I see the frugal people fall far overall - willing to pay an extra 25% to buy a brand new car with a warranty! It makes me cringe.

But I digress. My dad said they had been intending to pay cash, and he was wondering if he should say he was going to finance, and then change his mind at the very last minute. I told him frankly, from my experience they would rather not have the sale. They'd probably say fine - deal's off. I told him I really recommend financing for a month and paying it off. I think it bugs him and he will refuse to play the game. But for me it's like, if I am going to save 5-10% off the price of the car because I agree to finance, well then okay. & I really found that the salesman really didn't give a crap that we intended to pay it off right away - as we told him he would. I get the feeling the salesmen get a deal for selling financing, not on how long we use it. & so I find it silly not to use it to my own advantage. Plus financing that car for 1 month bumped my credit score into the 800s - an interesting side effect! Wink

Oh, as far as my parents, they decided they did not want a new car after all. They aren't up to the challenge... Hehe. I think like me they much prefer to buy private party, but once you start talking $15k+ it gets a lot more iffy. It's a lot of cash to risk on a private party deal. So I guess they feel resigned to the dealerships, but they just don't want to deal with it. I encouraged them to try out the financing, my dad is good at the fine print thing, but they just don't want to play the game.

I guess I find it REALLY interesting that my experience and feelings were quantified in the article my dad saw. I will definitely play the game next time we buy a car.

Mortgages...

June 18th, 2007 at 01:10 am

I don't think our mortgage history will reas like the average person's at all, hehe, but just had to share. Our mortgage balance will drop below $212k in the next month or 2. I was trying to remember what our very first mortgage was, thinking it was about $210k. So I was thinking, gosh we are almost where we started. Of course in the course of a year almost we paid it down to $200k because we made so much money back then, (double income, no kids). So really I won't get too excited until we drop below $200k. That will be a true milestone. It's almost frustrating that 7 years later we are barely back to square one (will be more like 8 or 9 years when we get there). I guess you get kind of spoiled with a 15-year mortgage, and going back to a 30-year later seems awfully slow going! But we are about to the point where our interest is less than $1k/month - and that is pretty sweet.

Anyway, since I could not remember off the top of my head I decided to grab my old escrow statements and see. It is kind of funny we have only owned 2 properties but just PILES of escrow statements because we refied our first place twice, and then this one once, plus 1 sale of the old property, saw was a lot to go through.

Our first home cost $259,950 to be exact. I think the asking price was $260k and that was what we offered - on our 3-bedroom condo in San Jose. Nothing grand, just one of the most expensive areas in the nation. The whole $500k fixxer-upper-house thing was not our thing, so we went condo instead. & well I think we were approved for $280k, so not sure we could have afforded much more. Apparently we put $56 cash down (including closing costs) and took a loan of $207,950 - a little lower than I remembered. Wow, that was just a scary thing, tying up all our cash and income - we were making $60k at the time combined, if that. But right after we closed we both got huge raises and that is why we were able to save so much early on. & well at the time (higher interest rates - we paid around 8%) our mortgage was $1500 but rent on the same apartment was $2500/month. We mostly felt like we had no choice.

Interestingly, the entire time we owned our condo, condos in the area were appreciating faster than houses in the area. Just too dang expensive. We thought for a while we may ride the equity wave up to a house, but even with the edge it became clear after a couple of years that we just were not willing to settle to have to pay almost $300k to live in an apartment and do the SAHP thing. So we decided to move.

Anyway, in the interim with our raises we refied to a 15-year loan and a much lower interest rate so we had a $1800 payment for a while. Maybe a year and how we paid off down to $200k so fast.

When we moved we had a grand plan to sell our condo for $350k, buy our new home (twice as big - with yard and garage and all that) for $260k, and so basically we were going to drop our mortgage down to about $100k. It was our plan - we could live on $40k easily and start having kids.

So we put our condo up on the market like 9/10/01 and of course 9/11 happened and the market tanked. We spent a little more on upgrades than we intended and so on and so on, but in the end we were so far ahead with the move, we went with it even though we could not even sell our old house. We refied once again and pulled out a good $25k for the down payment on our new home. We had saved up lots of cash to cover the difference. So there was refi #2. Lord knows what the payment was or how much we borrowed, but we had two $300k homes basically 80% financed for a good 4 months. It was fine with our income, but kind of scary all the same. Rents were insane still at that time and we probably could have rented the condo for $3k/month, which was our backup plan. Could have been very profitable (the condo is worth $450k today) but just not our thing - we never had any desire to do the landlord thing.

Anyway, we refied through a friend and 3 weeks turned into 3 months. We were NOT pleased, but it all worked out because the refi ended and we were able to put the condo back on the market the very week things seemed to turn around. (we had to borrow the cash from my parents in the interim for the down payment on the new home). Sold in a day for multiple offers. I actually heavily disagreed with how low our realtor wanted to put our home up and I think we compromised. Was a good lesson to me to hold my ground when I "know" - I watched the market in our area like a hawk, and the whole selling in one day thing kind of annoyed me as we could have asked a few thousand more. Oh well, live and learn, we were just glad to sell...

Our new home was 2 hours away, but twice as big, and my new job actually paid better (when all conventional wisdom said I would have to take a 10% pay cut - but I got a 10% raise instead - in benefits and such).

So we paid $287k for our new home, which was absolutely our dream home. We were only 23 or so at this time. Put around $57k down, and also paid cash for some landscape upgrades - probably paid a grand total of $295k. It always struck me though because dh and I are VERY particular when it comes to housing, but the 2 homes we ever bought were both priced $260k "as is." That's our number I guess. For the longest time we said we would never ever pay more than $300k for a home, but we never had much equity before either. These days we would pay a lot more - maybe twice as much - to make a lateral move and keep our same mortgage. But I think $230k is most definitely about our mortgage limit, which is pretty low for California. We pretty much refused to play the game. A $500k mortgage never seemed worth the stress, no matte what benefits it could bring (being closer to the beach and to family??? Eh, not worth it). Well we ended up paying more than the $260k on this house but we got a whirlpool and granite countertops and all that stuff. We actually were pretty frugal in our upgrades, a big chunk was converting part of the garage to dh's beloved theatre room, but we had a lot of custom fixes done around the house - which pretty much spoiled us - nothing like buying a house and tweaking it to just how you want it.

Anyway, so the mortgage on our twice as big, and 10 times as fancy, house, was $1500 - back to square one. With the whole 2 house thing we went back to a 30-year mortgage.

In the meantime interest rates were still falling but I was so sick of buying/selling/refi, I just didn't even want to touch it with a ten-foot pole. Again, maybe my resistance paid. Finally a month before my first son was due I gave in and we refied down to a lower interest rate and a $1300/month payment. Just about the lowest interest rates ever got.

Anyway, I think it is quite ironic that our first condo was originally a $1500 mortgage and now we pay only $1300 though we owe much more...

So we have paid our way down from $230k to about $212k over the last 5.5 years. Not bad, as we are starting to make real progress.

So anyway, when I get annoyed about how excessive our house must be or how big our mortgage may seem to others, you see why. We have bought ourselves such a simple lifestyle by moving to a cheaper area. We may have more but it cost a hell of a lot less. In fact when we moved, even our insurance was cheaper, property taxes were the same, etc. These days not so much as things are just as crazy here today as what we tried to get away from. Blah. But I feel so blessed we just jumped in when we were young. You don't know how many people told us we were crazy to buy at the "peak" in 1999 & absolutely crazy to pay almost $300k for a house in Sacramento in 2001. A house that was worth $500k in 2003 and $650k briefly in 2005.

We've looked at what we could buy in San Jose these days with our equity, and it just ain't much. A fixxer-upper, 3 bedrooms if we are lucky, and the joy of doubling our property taxes to $8k/year. (Not to mention insuring such an expensive home). IT just will never happen.

I think luck and timing has paid a huge part in our success. But the thing is we could just dwell on the fact that we didn't end up with the $100k mortgage we had planned. That is too bad. But a lot seemed to go right for us all the same. Not much to complain about here. I always find it ironic when people from the area are jealous of are home and assume we are "rich." 9 times out of 10 they are paying more to rent an apartment or for a mortgage on a house 1/2 the size. It's always a little weird. Like people don't remember you could buy a decent house in Sacramento for $100k just a decade ago. Dh's cousin bought a 4-bedroom home here on 1/2 acre around 1999. It is just insane - the same house costs 4 times as much today. If we hadn't of moved when we did we certainly wouldn't have had it so good. Sure we put a lot of cash down on our home and saved up a lot of cash while we were young. But I know plenty of people buying the same houses today with 0% down. No, it was buying early on that was really key for us.

So we have upgraded our house and downgraded our payment over the years. & that I must say is pretty sweet.

Sometimes I think if we weren't so blinded with our buying power, maybe we would have just settled down with a much more modest home. But most of the time I think, eh, you only live once. IT would be one thing if we were mortgage to our eyeballs for a house like this, but frankly it was way less than we ever expected to pay on a monthly basis for a home no matter how modest, no matter if we just rented an apartment. So I guess that makes all the difference. We could have, but I don't think we have done 1/2 bad regardless. I look forward to the next decade as my income grows and our mortgage shrinks in proportion to inflation. I like looking at my budget and knowing that is one expense that will not increase with time - phew! In fact it is almost like it is a shrinking expense as less goes to interest every year. woohoo.

Now they are just being Evil

June 17th, 2007 at 03:16 pm

Um, well, now that MIL is out for the summer (teacher) and she is semi-retired - doing some part-time work for her last year or something - but not her regular 15-hour/day teaching (so it usually seems). So the Research Group called up dh again yesterday and asked if he could do an all day gig for $200 in San Jose. Um, considering we have ample free babysitting available, for $200 I think we can swing it. Wink

So first they tell you the details and ask a few questions if you are interested. Of course the first question is, "Are you a Santa Clara County resident?" Um, no, he has told them a MILLION times - no!!!!! So he was pretty upset about them taunting him like that. Gah. But you know since everyone and their brother has moved from there to Sacramento I wonder if that is why they have that one Sacramento option open. Maybe more opportunities in the future. They also told him there was another one coming up in Concord (about 1/2 way in between) that he may qualify for. So we'll see. I have just bugging him to help a little - another $100-$200/month. It's all going to retirement, if he starts to get more of these. Pretty sweet. The prospect of $275 in one month (between the taunting and the other one he is doing this week) would have been pretty DARN sweet. Hopefully there is more to come...

Vacation Roundup

June 16th, 2007 at 04:53 pm

Well, we had much fun on our cruise. The cruise was "free" but I estimate that we spent around $450. I did write everything down as I tend to on vacation just add things up in my head and forget a lot. So instead I wrote everything down and rounded up. We had $200 excess to spend, plus $140 from fam, which means we probably spent $110 from our budget which wasn't bad at all. & we certainly splurged and enjoyed!!!!

Our room tab was about $160 which was sadly $80 tips and $80 drinks. Both of which we probably could have cut way down. (To future cruisers). The had an option to prepay the tips (& save a few dollars on the total) so we just did that right away. It didn't even occur to us until the last night as we distributed them that we WAY overpaid. They had a recommended amount per day but for one we had skipped one formal dinner. On the drive home I asked dh, um, weren't those tips s'posed to be for breakfast, lunch and dinner??? We only ever are dinner in the dining room so we realized we probably way overpaid...

I actually also for some dumb reason thought the unlimited soda was $6, but it was $6/day. I didn't realize until after I purchased it. So not worth it. I bought 3 bar drinks though insanely expensive were YUMMY and we also ordered champagne in one night - so mostly the champagne and soda was 1/2 our bill. What we didn't realize was room service was free (the food). Well duh. Man that whole cruise thing is NICE! I was not a big fan of the dining room but dh liked it for whatever reason. Plenty of buffet and other options, which we did for lunch and breakfast. Plus we ate lunch off the boat twice.

Anyway, so that is my advice to future cruisers. Really analyze those tips and only pay what you need to. We felt obligated to $40/each, plus all the tips they charge on every thing you purchase. I don't know why we didn't really think about it until later, but now I see why they push the big tip pre-payment thing which was most of our problem.

Anyway, we lucked out and had 4 straight days of sun (apparently some record) and just had a great time. I didn't get seasick at all so phew. I had dramamine out my ears but barely used it. The boat was so big I guess.

Catalina Island was nice. We went on a little semi-submarine ride which was pretty fun. Through the cruise ship was $37/person or something but we were thinking of doing the $15 glass-bottom boat tour just on our own time, if we felt like it. So we got off the cruise ship and headed over and decided the submarine thing looked more fun. We had all this money from grandma to spend anyway. I thought that the prices were actually more expensive than the cruise ship (& what I saw on the internet - by a couple of dollars) like they had just increased prices or something, but they only charged us $15 for the whole thing. We were like, huh? Oh - it was on special for the day. So the suckers on the cruise ship were paying almost $80 for a little boat ride that cost us $15! Too funny. I assume overall this is a common practice (though this one wasn't advertised well) as to draw in people who wouldn't pay the big bucks otherwise. We found the same thing in Ensenada. We hadn't really wanted to do any of the tours. Well I didn't, and though dh was interested he didn't want to spend 5 hours. So we took the shuttle into town just to check it out and they were offering 2-hour tours that were like $15/each as opposed to $50+/each through the cruise. We said sure, what the heck. So that was actually pretty nice.

Both times we got off the boat we splurged on some big lunches. Lord knows why, not like we didn't have enough food on the boat. I guess we had some hope of finding some authentic Mexican food too, but it just wasn't going to happen in Mexico - we probably couldn't have eaten anywhere more American than we ended up but it wasn't too pricey.

But yes, on the boat we would generally wake up, eat a BIG breakfast, nap until noon, do some sight-seeing, get in back to sunbathe/nap a couple of hours before dinner, go to dining room, go see some shows (some good comedians and stuff) and then go eat again - LOL. That is pretty much the schedule I got accustomed to for a week. It was pretty sweet...

So yeah,

$160 charged to our room - drinks/tips
$ 50 parking
$ 10 souvenirs for kids (shirts)**
$ 45 Tours
$ 70 Lunches
$ 6 Buses

I don't know - I am missing $100 for now. I'll add it up later. Oh we also stopped to eat a big meal on the drive in and lots of gas and stuff but I am not sure I added that in the $450. That could make the trip a good $500+ easy. Took the compact car for the 6 hour drive each way but gas was like $3.70 in LA - eeks. I'll have to itemize later - this is just off the top of my head.

**Dh is really big into souvenirs and I pretty much hate them. He was big into it for the kids so we decided on something useful like shirts - one each. BUT the funny thing is when we got home grandma had like bought them whole new wardrobes or something. We could have done without I guess...

Grandma also bought a lot of toys, like there wasn't enough to entertain them here as is. Wink Oy vey.

Anyway, that pretty much sums up our trip. It was really nice, fun, relaxing, but I am REALLY glad to be home too! Big Grin

Oh yeah, and customs was just hell. I don't know what the hell they are doing over there but we got off the boat and it took almost an hour to get through customs. They weren't checking bags or anything, just taking their damn sweet time as it was analyzing everyone and then when we get through of course we get carted off to some area to get checked out because they are looking for some guy with the same name as my husband's. They annoyed me too because they said I was clear but they took my ID and birth certificate back with his passport and all I could figure is they cleared him because he was traveling with me and they could clearly see he was the P.N. he claimed to be, not this P.N. they are looking for. But I Was just really annoyed, okay, I'm clear, so give me back MY I.D.!!!! It was really annoying though. I am all for increased security but I mean come on, what are do they doing????? We were just eager to get home so were not happy at the hour or so delay. IT took an hour to wait 7th in line and to be harassed. Especially since it didn't really appear they were doing much but harassing random people like us. They didn't do anything. They made us sit in a room for a while, asked dh the same stupid questions they had already asked him (where he lived?), and let him go. Dumb. All I could hope is in the meantime they were doing some background check or verifying something with their computers because from the outside it didn't look like they did anything but harass him. Which is absolutely ridiculous - not a common name and he has lived in the same place his whole dang life. That is my rant for the week though... Everything else was great - just a horrid end to the vacation. But we still made it home around 5pm Friday and so we were pleased!

It is SO good to be back!




This weekend

June 16th, 2007 at 04:20 pm

Oy vey - kids were spoiled rotten all week. As were we I guess. It is time to get back to reality!!!!

Today we are going do run some errands and do some father's day shopping. Going to buy dh a Blu-ray disk. Well duh. He gave me a list of movies he wanted. My usual lazy self would say, knock yourself out - here's $50. Or order online. But I didn't really think ahead and felt obligated to put a little effort into it anyway. So we'll go shopping today and surprise him with whichever movie I can find.

There is a cute little place in town for the kids called Fairytale Town. A few farm animals and playgrounds and stuff. Kind of dinky but the kids LOVE it! Anyway, once a year they pour water into all the little waterways (for whatever reason are usually dry) and they call it Wacky Water Day. Best thing for us is that we have a membership so it is "free". I swear last year we missed it and then they did a second one for some reason (it's usually one shot a year) and the day happened to be like 110 degrees. We decided to go regardless, probably crazy, and I have to tell you that there is nowhere else I would rather be on such a hot day. The water was freezing and there was lots of shade, and BM had an absolute BLAST!!!! So on a whim I looked it up, just remembering that wonderful day, and they are doing 3 days this year! I hope to make them all. Especially nice since we returned from our trip to 100-degree weather. Ick! We have been getting used to nice 80 degree days with ocean breezes, so it has been quite a shock to return - blah... Anyway - the first one is tomorrow. I would love to take the kids and give dh a break but I think it might be a bit much to take both kids alone. I might drag him along. I think he would enjoy it anyway. He was cautious with the heat and I said - oh no - there is nowhere you rather be if it is HOT! IT was just so refreshing last time.

We'll probably also enjoy the pool this weekend. Usually it annoys me it doesn't open until Memorial Day, but I guess it has been a little more mild this year, as we haven't even thought to go yet. We have one a couple of blocks down we can walk to, part of the homeowners association. Oh yes, but this is my son. He is learning swimming at his preschool. & well Wednesday he fell off the little raft and I guess he sunk to the bottom, and then instinct kicked in and he "swam" up to the top. The pool is shallow enough that he could have just jumped his way up if you ask me. But my kid is a crazy daredevil who knows no fear. So he fights his way to the surface, sputters and chokes, and immediately exclaims, "I surprised myself! I didn't know I could swim under water!" So this is the story we hear when we get home. He is ALL excited and wants to go to the pool and show us he can swim under water. Mind you, as brave as he usually is and little fear he shows, he usually freaks out completely at the idea of putting his face under water. So I was rather impressed with this breakthrough. But I turn to dh and say, "seriously, who almost drowns and gets EXCITED about it???" Oy vey. Only my little daredevil. He really freaks me out. We had a little talk yesterday about how we only swim with grown-ups around and such, because he just took off upstairs and said "I am going to go swim under water." I have no idea what he had in mind (bath tub?) but we had to have a little talk about that. Gah. I can just see him diving in some body of water somewhere now that his fear is gone. Well it will be interesting to see his new swimming skills. Wink Another one that is hard to do 2 kids to 1 adult. I guess dh and I got used to splitting the kids up - we always do our own thing. But now LM is old enough to do all these big kids things too. I guess I am just not used to it so sounds daunting. Wink But BM and I are going father's day shopping, they are going grocery shopping, and then we're gonna meet at the pool. LM has been VERY insistent that he wants to go grocery shopping for whatever reason - LOL. Hoping to enjoy the weekend - not much going on. Mostly keeping cool...







Challenge Money

June 16th, 2007 at 03:56 pm

$20 challenge:

$7,330.02 - Balance 6/10

$ 54.30 - State Farm Rebate
$ 15.00 - cash found on the ground
$ 150.00 - gift for trip

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$7,549.32 - Balance 6/15
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I got lots of cash I am depositing in the bank. & my state farm refund - woohoo. It's sweet that this refund is for the compact car with no collission so I wonder if my rebate will be bigger for the van! We'll see... (Not that we don't pay PLENTY in insurance anyway...)

In-laws gave us $140 for our trip (not to mention free babysitting for a week and the cruise - spoiled as usual). We had $10 cash leftover as well from the $200 cash I withdrew from the ATM so just adding it back in. Since we didn't spend it all!

I'm Back & It's Raining Money...

June 16th, 2007 at 03:29 am

Phew, and what a week it was. Mostly I ate, slept, and got some sun! Wink & ate & ate & ate... My word...

No time to post much but just wanted to say hi and I feel really behind! Catching up to do - lord knows when...

Dh found $15 on the ground today and we finally got a State Farm check - $55!!! & to top it off like the second we walked in the door dh got called in for a focus group in the area for $75 for 2 hours. Um, we'll take it! I told him it is absolutely raining money today. Ask me the last time I found more than a penny on the ground - LOL - but I am not very observant. I am mostly impressed by that find, though I feel awfully bad about it. Not much we could do about it, but I feel horrible someone dropped $15 - they could have needed it a lot more than us... But I guess I'll take it all the same - I am warming up to it. Wink

Anyway, they keep calling dh for surveys and focus groups back home and he keeps telling them over and over he lives in Sacramento now and can not do them. For $75 honestly it would be worth the drive, but not the babysitting. But today they offered him one in Sacramento. I hope that means more in the future. Easy money. I can rearrange work for a couple of hours for that!

Well I have oodles to post later. Hope everyone is well...

Credit Card Arbitrage progress...

June 10th, 2007 at 12:26 am

Saw the $5500 credit sitting in my Citi Account so I requested a refund. Seems slow going but I have most my cash in a 5.70% CD in the meantime. Hoping I get the cash when we get back form vacation. So I Can have a little more liquid cash. & get it out of lala land and into my account earning some INTEREST which is the whole point!

Freecycle is dead this weekend - no replies for my stuff. Bummer. My e-mail has been working on and off so I wonder if there is a problem. I may repost when we get back, maybe use a different e-mail to make sure.

But while checking my e-mail I noticed that dh's new card had a new statement. Checked the rewards and it is good to go with $75 in gift card rewards. Woohoo. I have earned enough for $50, so will put ALL the cards away. ($125 total - in addition to the interest we intend to earn). I didn't even activate the WAMU one as it was a straight balance transfer.

Hmmm, since I got my rewards and can pay the bill today I guess maybe I will do that and then do the balance transfer when we return. Wow!!! I am going to hold off on mine until I can talk them into a higher limit. So maybe a few months since I am a new customer. I will call one of these days and plead my case.

Interestingly as I Set up my WAMU payments and stuff, noticed they have FICO score monitoring, alert you when it dips or falls, etc. Honestly all I see is that these BTs will help our score, with the exception of utiliziation. We will start out around 30-40% but will drop down soon enough with the 4% minimum payments. We have pretty high limits on our regular cards (all paid off monthly). But we can see what WAMU thinks about our FICO score in the meantime. Found that one interesting.

I paid all the bills for the month. I just have to write 1 check for preschool - but usually just pay her after the first - but post it to the prior month - part of prior month's budget. Just try to buy float like that with all my bills.

I just noticed that I have not used 1 stamp since the new rates. I usually mail my deposits but I shrunk the float in my account, and we got a new branch down the street for our bank - very convenient. (Plus I have mailed deposits in for well over a decade with nary a problem - but this last year the US mail has REALLY gone downhill - deposits disappearing for a time whereas it ALWAYS got there in one day - part of the reason I finally switched to a more local bank - something I never had before. Deposit time was taking 2-3 days all of a sudden instead of 1. IT's been better locally, but still iffy with the mail - so I am converting to actually visiting my bank these days - it is not so bad I guess). Plus I have dh run in my deposits sometimes which helps me a lot. I have been hand delivering big deposits for the immediate credit and feeling more safe about it overall. I have mailed plenty of big deposits in the past, but I didn't really have a choice when I have always lived a good hour or 2 from my little one-branch credit union. So I am becoming an in-person banking convert I guess... Maybe this is the end of stamps! Well, nearly anyway.

The house is coming along really well. Great since I Was lazy and got off to a late start. Feeling pretty pleased, tomorrow will be packing day.

Excited as vacation gets closer!

How long is a long time?

June 8th, 2007 at 10:03 pm

I escaped work around 1:00 today - woohoo.

Got all I had wanted to get done. It will be crazed when I return, but I enjoy having a job I can forget while I am away. Of course I already had one call but that's pretty rare. Guess figured I was game since I took off early. LOL.

I told BM's preschool teacher I may pick him up early (thinking if I left at 3 or something because it is pretty out of the way from home). But in the end I got out early and I also made last minute playdate plans - long overdue - so will pick him up tonight and take him to McDs afterwards. Less for him as he sees his friend twice a week at preschool, but I have only had lunch with my friend I think once all year and I figured though time was tight to just bite the bullet. I invited her like Monday and forgot and she just got back to me - figures. But glad she could make it. What the heck. So I was driving home when Ms. preschool called and I was a little worried. Granted, figured she wondered if I'd be early, but it always worries you to get a call at an off time - I figured all the kids would be napping by then. Well she just called to pretty much beg me not to pick him up early - LOL. Told her not to worry. They were camping out since the play room is under construction - adding a second loft - and she thought BM would be disappointed if I showed up early. Well a free day and she insists on keeping him - sure. Be my guest.

So I moved around my schedule. Going to the bank and the store before I pick him up (Got my Chase rebate - FAST!!!!). & then taking him to McDs. Figured I would catch up on my writing in the meantime. Oh yeah and I have an empty enough tank I promised BM we could go through the carwash - you know free/discounted when you buy the gas - so figure I'd fill up the car and clean it, and park it in the garage so it is all shiny and ready to go when we get back from vacation.

Dh also made a Goodwill and another book store run today. Woohoo - less clutter. I posted the recliner and a bag of plastic hangers on freecycle. We'll see.

Progress...

But mostly I am stoked because look at me - I'm on vacation!!!! Woohoo. I'll probably be 10 times more excited when I catch up around the house though. Wink Trying to space things out so it is not too crazed. But who am I kidding. Sunday will be CRAZED. Monday we'll hope in the car and just drive away from life for a few days though - I couldn't be more excited. It is nice to have a license to just get the hell away for a bit - LOL.

I'd probably be picking up or something but LM Will be napping until I leave so I am resigned to quiet activities for now. Which is fine. Figure I could whip out my articles and get those off my plate.

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Anyway, enough about me.

I was watching Suze last weekend and someone called on the "Can I Afford It?" segment about how they had been waiting SOOOOO LONG... for a sound system or something. & when she asked how long, they said, "6 months." I just was like, what, are you frigging kidding me? Oh yeah, 6 months.

Anyway, I wrote an article for pfadvice pretty recently about why it pays to have patience when shopping. Patience means being able to save up the cash, to buy quality, to get a better deal, and to ensure you REALLY want it. Anyway, dh and I will generally wait YEARS for things. So the whole think kind of struck me as odd. I was just thinking, yeesh, get a grip. 6 months is not a long time.

I was also listening to Dave Ramsey since I get his show on around noon I started listening just this week. The guy kind of bugs me. I think he is great for getting out of debt, but overall his anti-debt stance at any cost kind of bugs me. On the other hand if debt is an addiction, for many maybe that is the way it has to be. But as far as making financial sense, the debt is ALWAYS bad scenario doesn't jive with me, and I am about as anti-debt as they come overall. But anyway, some of his advice was pretty horrid if you ask me. Like paying debt instead of funding a SEP IRA that would save something like $10k in taxes. Um, well you don't get the SEP AND you can't pay the debt if you just fork that money to the government instead, might as well do the SEP. So stuff like that annoyed me. But yesterday he was going on and on about the mentality of the rich. & it was much the same thing. Have patience now so you can have more later. Whatever he was going on and on about I was thinking, amen. Of course, if that's all it takes to be rich, I guess. To me it feels like that's what it takes to survive. Hehe. I should be REALLY rich by now then. Well we don't do half bad, but I am always worried about the worst, and we certainly can't face any hardship that comes our way. I don't really expect to be a zillionaire. He makes it sound a little too easy I guess.

So I don't know. If I have to wait for a year or 2 or 3 for a purchase and I still want it, then great. Then I must REALLY want it. But 6 months, eh. Let me tell you, I REALLY want to buy a convertible, but until the cash is in the bank and retirement all funded, etc., etc. I can wait. The world won't end. It might take a decade, but I can live with that.

I also think dh and I are pretty darn good at figuring out much lesser things to enjoy in the interim as we wait for bigger purchases. It's a balance. I really don't see the point of complete deprivation either. But you know if we bought all the big things we wanted when we first wanted them there wouldn't be much to enjoy in life. Allowing a certain big luxury once every few years - well that is pretty sweet.

So I guess my point is part of financial freedom is when you can find the patience. & when you realize 6 months is NOT a long time to wait for something. Wink

& I am curious what most people consider a long time to wait for a purchase?

To me I would honestly say a decade. A year or 2 to wait for something is pretty standard around here. Maybe 5 years is starting to get long. I think I learned that one from my parents though. Dh got a little more spoiled and he has a lot more problems with the waiting thing. I mean he did wait a good decade for his beloved HDTV, but then again sometimes he just can not wait for things. & you know, poor baby, couldn't get the $10k HDTV in 1997 so he just got a movie theatre room in 2001 instead. LOL. But it was a hell of a lot cheaper and tided him over another 5 years for his HDTV, all the same. We both have been wanting a dual-tuner TIVO for quite a while but it's not in the budget, that one may just wait a decade too. Oh well. That's how we flow. I went without a laptop about 4 years when I quit my last job. I missed it from day 1. But 4 years later I got one again. Big Grin Dh and I never had cable until we got married at 24. I always cringe at the anti-cable crowd. Sure, I certainly did not have cable as a poor college student, but once we made six figures we figured we could afford a little cable. If I cut off the cable dh would refuse to stay home with the kids now - LOL. But I figured we waited so long for it, what difference does it make now. Dammit I waited a long time for it! LOL. I LOVE me my gardener but I did not break down and hire one until I got a ginormous raise, and after hating yard work with a passion for about 4 years. Just a few examples of waiting...

Guess I am super poor - hehe

June 8th, 2007 at 02:17 pm

*snort*

I was just working on an article and reading some comments on another blog about ROTHs and it cracked me up that the concensus is you have to be dirt poor to be in the 15% tax bracket.

Well call me dirt poor then. Wink

Actually I think we are good for about $100k in wages easy before we have to start worrying about the next tax bracket. But you know. I don't know. I can't blame people for not understanding the system. IT's complicated. I feel blessed more and more every day that I am in the tax field so I can make some sense of the mess, but even so it seems to make less sense with time.

Bah.

OF course usually when I tell people I Am in the 15% bracket they assume I am doing some tax tricks, voodoo, tax loopholes. I think people particularly around here would be surprised how many of them are themselves in the 15% bracket and just don't know it.

My voodoo and tricks is simply a mortgage and a couple of kids. Oh yeah, private health insurance sure knocks a chunk off our tax bill too. I wouldn't exactly recommend any of these strategies to save a few bucks in taxes though. $200k mortgage, $700/month just to insure a healthy family, raising 2 kids isn't exactly a cheap endeavor. But I have always felt blessed with our timing as having kids and living on one-income coincided with some pretty heavy tax breaks to help us along. Part of the reason I really wanted to get our financial act together with the 1-income thing is I knew this gravy train would not last forever. I imagine right around when our IRAs get maxed out that we will have to start shifting a big chunk over to incomes taxes. Something has got to give. In the meantime with the Bush tax cuts and a couple of kids, I get to keep 90% of my paycheck. If dh got a job maybe we'd keep 15% - after payroll taxes and all - even if he pushed us to about six figures. That is pretty sweet. Yeah this certainly won't last forever. I kind of dread getting back to reality. Then again I have always said I would rather pay more taxes now then pay the price later. Which is where the dread comes in. GEtting accustomed to insanely low income taxes while knowing in my gut that taxes will have to significantly rise one of these days to pay off the deficit, to balance the budget, etc.

I think it's more common out here with bigger mortgages. My mortgage & property taxes is a $15k write-off right there, for now. $5k or so health insurance, some state income taxes (higher in Cali as well though I certainly don't pay much), and then all the exemptions and kiddie tax credits, and so it goes. But a lot of the income tax rates and stuff revert back to old law in 2010 and I am just trying brace myself.

In the meantime I watch Suze and people who make a good $20k more are often taking home as much or less than I. I have to keep reminding myself that this will not last. I honestly am not even sure if it will be worth dh working down the road if he has to fork over HALF of his income to the government in taxes (when the marriage penalty returns and such). Eh. I guess time will tell...

In the meantime I do have a few single, childless clients who rent, and man, they pay the tax man big time... Taxes are fickle.

Anyway, I am going to work today and hoping to break out around noon. I was there until 7pm last night doing work for other people who are on vacation this week. I would turn the tides but they'll still be out next week too and no one else can do my work, I am just that good I guess. LOL. But I missed aerobics because of it - not sure if it is even worth going tomorrow... I still have 4 prepaid classes - should just hit it hard when I get back probably.

Anyway, one of my tasks today is to straighten out a huge mess so I may have to work until 7pm - LOL. But we'll see.

BM gets a free day at preschool today since his regular day fell on a holiday. They are nice like that, and if I can escape work will be good to have more freedom to do some housework.

My expectations of all I want to get done before the trip are diminishing greatly. We will have 4 family members staying here. The plus - and huge pluses - is not dragging the kids way out of the way and down to their house. HUGE plus. & not having to make pet-sitting arrangements and pack up the kids and all that stuff, or worry about security, etc. Many many many pluses. The downside is I really wanted to clean up the house with 4 people staying here. Today I would be embarrased so I have a ways to go. About all I got through last week was mopping the floors, which is something I never do BTW. I do so much spot cleaning with kids and pet, you know how it goes. Oh but the truth is I will think, I need to mop the floors. But first I have to mop the counters, vacuum, etc., and by then I am exhausted and NEVER mop the floors. So last weekend all I did was mop the floors. For whatever reason it was a huge chore (well it came with lots of vacuuming - can't avoid that first). & that is about my progress. Dh is to clear the kitchen today so I can scrub it when I get home (& re-vacuum) - that and the downstairs bath which is pretty clean anyway as we have had lots of guests lately. The living room and dining room will remain a dumping ground for all things freecycle/goodwill/ebay. No progress and no time! They'll just have to survive. I figures maybe tomorrow I could clean up the upstairs baths (some heavier scrubbing) and then Sunday would be left for shopping and packing.

Doable.

I will really need a vacation by the time it arrives.

But yeah, grandma, great-grandma, grandma's twin sister and also grandpa will be here. The kids will be spoiled and probably not miss us much. LEaving BM is really no biggie at this point, but LM is still pretty little overall - harder to leave him for a whole week. The most we have left them is 2 nights!!!! But I know he'll be fine all the same... We will miss them terribly I am sure. But I think we will enjoy plenty all the same. Wink

$40 Book Credit/Clothes

June 7th, 2007 at 01:43 pm

Dh took all the crummy books no one else wanted over to the used book store by the preschool yesterday. He picked up BM so I could work late and shop - phew.

Anyway, I found out about the store recently because a woman in my mom's group owns it. We stopped by last year and they had 2 super-sized fat cats which the kids love, but a pretty small store, more expensive than others & the buyback credit wasn't very good.

But we've been weaning through our books and frankly just want to get rid of them. Dh has taken them to the other bookstores a couple of times, just trying. Every time they take a few more, but he seemed to hit a wall. So he took them to this other place and they took them ALL and he got a $40 credit. Pretty sweet! The downside is you can only use credit towards 1/2 your purchases and we have an endless supply of free books from Scholastic. So it isn't the greatest deal ever, but I am sure glad to be rid of 2 boxes of books. Woohoo. I guess if dh or I need any books we can peruse there but we usually just use the library really.

Dh also scored $4 cash at our regular used book store and about $10 store credit there which I think he used already on some grown up books, maybe a couple of kids books.

I on the other hand was anti-frugal last night. I Spent about 2 hours & $200 at Mervyns. It was rather depressing. Everything looks like potato sack on me but I do have to remind myself even when I was a size 0 everything looked like a potato sack on me. So really I just can't win. But I have been creeping up in weight a little and maybe needed the wake up call.

I finally found a swim suit top. I actually found one that was just perfect but then realized it was missing a strap. Bah. The removable straps. I guess I could have just gotten it. But I settled on a nice modest top that will go well with the bottom halfs I have. The only swimsuits as a whole I would consider wearing were in the womens' sections and on sepcial 1/2 off from $68. I was really tempted but the the 2 that looked really good and cute were just either one size too big or too small. The other ones I tried just were hideous and I felt like an old grandma - hehe. They had a lot of size 12/14s mixed in with the 20+ size womens and all those big women kept coming over and giving me weird looks like what was I doing there. I am just thinking, if only you knew. In my everyday clothes (& I do love black) I can pass off as a size 6 or 8 but once I strip down I could only fit in the size 14 swimsuit. & the rest of the store was filled with bikinis - I don't think so. LOL. I can't believe 99% of women wear bikinis - I mean seriously does anyone who had children and didn't have plastic surgery wear a bikini? I don't foresee it in my future even if I got back down to size 0. I got some serious excess skin and am not going under the knife for something so vain. As long as I don't have to wear a bikini I am cool with it. Wink But I don't know. If women were really just embracing their bodies and baring all I would really be all for it, it would be refreshing, but I don't see it happening. So I ponder why the womens section is 99% teeny-tiny bikini... Of course 1/2 the people I know are having tummy tucks so that would probably explain it! It's insane around here.

But yeah I think the swimsuit shopping was better than dress shopping. They all looked like sacks and I started having memories back to being a kid and dress shopping. I just don't do dresses I guess. I found a dress that was so-so and I Was about to get it and just wait and pull off the tags until I was sure I was going to wear it, when I finally found the most perfect dress. It actually fit well, looked good, and the best part is it was professional looking so I can wear it for work too. win-win-win. So I have something a little dressy for the cruise .

So for $200 I got:

2 swimsuit tops (taking one back)
3 nice work shirts (taking 2 back)
1 Dress
3 cheap shirts from the $9.99 shelves
2 tank tops for summer (cute!)

Since none of my summer clothes seem to fit - so it goes.

I was actually really bummed that 1 of the work shirts I got looked hideous (I get so sick of trying on pants usually that I just take all the tops to try on at home because they usually fit). So anyway, had a large shirt for work that was just beautiful and loved it but it was a little tight. Thinking of keeping it because if I lose a few pounds it should fit well. I don't want to take it back. Frown Stupid sizes running small. Ridiculous.

So yeah as much as I love clothes this is why I only go ever so often. The whole process can be frustrating.

I have a pile to return this week, or maybe when we get back. So all in all I will return around $50 at least.

Mostly I am just happy that I now have a swimsuit option that I think is cute and nice and not too granny-like. Wink Woohoo.

I got all checked in online for our cruise, made some lists, did some shopping. Today I need to figure out what books I want from the library. I still need some ideas of some light non-financial books. Which reminds me that I still have 1 or 2 unread books from the sisterhood pants series. I really like it for some mindless summer reading so will have to pack those. THinking of picking up a couple of Money magazines and crossword books and such. But dh said if I sent him a list he'll run to the library for me too so I have to think. Getting close...

Mervyn's Sale

June 6th, 2007 at 11:57 pm

I wanted to go swimsuit shopping before my trip in the neverending search (well I don't put a lot of time/effort into it - LOL) for the perfect swimsuit.

So on a whim I pull up the website today just to see if they have any products online. I have been REALLY pleased with MErvyn's clothes of late as my body is all weird. I have no idea why my overweight friends rave about Old Navy when I can't find anything over a size 10. Target is out - there clothes just suck - I longer put up with the quality. MArshalls/Ross is great but once you hit size 12 - good luck.

But last summer I went to Mervyns and fell in love. I hadn't been in a while - I guess with the convenience of Kohls. But everything seems to fit better and be a little cheaper at MErvyns. Though I have been preferring Kohls for quality - but it's not that far off.

So anyway, I pull up MErvyn's ad for my area and they are having a huge one day sale today only. Wow - what are the odds??? Plus on their sales ads they show really cute modest swim tops. Now you are talking!!!!!!!! The one I have now is like the best I can do but it is not the most flattering. I like the skorts as my lower 1/2 is the less flattering part, but the tops that go with those are always so unflattering. Like I said the suit I have is fine, but the top wouldn't be my first choice either. The thing is I am not that heavy. But my current swimsuit top has a very unflattering cut for my figure and it seems to squeeze out fat I didn't know I had because just too tight I guess - hehe. I just get fed up with swim suit shopping... IT shouldn't be that hard. I am not that big!!!!!! The good news is if I can find a nice modest top it will do. I have a couple of bottoms that I like.

So I am feeling a little optimistic. Wish me luck.

& while I am there oh I will have to scan the summer clothes and work clothes and all that too. IT never feels like I have enough. Wink But I have some allowance to burn through - woohoo.

Debt

June 6th, 2007 at 03:02 pm

All I can say about Debt pretty much is Don't Do It!!!! Though with time my perspective has changed, and I learn more and more with time how debt can be used to my advantage (as opposed to the "never touch debt" rule). But I think it is important to start with the "no debt" rule when you are young.

It's petty much how I was raised, debt was just never an option. IT is always amazing to me the difference in my thinking compared to other friends/acquaintances deep in debt. The thing is when you don't consider debt an option, you find other options. I am more likely to consider working overtime or even working a second job temporarily to cover a shortfall whereas our friends deep in debt often feel like more debt is their only option.

When other parents talk about teaching their kids about debt, I think of just telling them it is never an option. Of course I was a pretty obedient child and it worked with me, and I understand the importance of making sure kids understand why debt is bad. But for me my parents got me a credit card with a $500 limit when I was 16 as a way to teach me about credit. & then they told me that I could put charges on it to build up my credit, but I had to pay it off every month. I never really knew you could do anything different so that is what I did. Of course my parents were big on me working, having a checking account as a pre-teen, etc., so none of this stuff was mysterious when I was out on my own.

My parents also handed out a couple of 0% loans to me as I grew older which helped immensely. $1500 for my first car which I worked all summer just to pay them back. But the experience was invaluable.

So when it came time to the real world pretty much debt was never an option. No one in my family ever borrowed money for cars, in general, so I didn't even realize that most people financed cars. Once I had my first car my parents taught me to save up cash for my next one. I've broken the rule a little as I did finance 2 more of my cars (the third one we downgraded to and paid cash for) but I paid them both off within a year, at 0% - 3%. I was always earning more money in the bank and puts my grand total of consumer interest rate paid over my life probably around $100-$200.

This anti-debt stance was so ingrained in me that if we lived anywhere else in the country I honestly think we would have paid cash for a home, or at least put significantly down more than 20%. Our first home was a condo though and it cost almost $300k. Saving cash wasn't exactly feasible in the area we lived and we wanted to buy in and ride the equity wave. So we made a debt exception for our first home, but a few years later and a few hundred thousand richer on paper I'd say it was the best move we ever made. When we moved out of the area we actually planned to buy our dream home with a $100k mortgage. Of course the market tanked right then (9/11) and we are lucky we only have a $200k mortgage today. But I do have to say we were so close to being mortgage free I could almost taste it. If we had really had a $100k mortgage we would have paid that sucker down fast. But since things didn't work out and interest rates are so low we have also learned to embrace debt and leverage in this situation. Our investments earn much more than we pay in interest so it is the only way I can really stomach it, well that and all the equity. IT just makes a mortgage such a different animal than other kinds of debt as I feel it will buy us much wealth over the long haul.

I always say that avoiding debt has saved us so much money in interest. But the money saved is so much beyond finance charges. The money saved is in the fact that when you have to save the cash first you don't consider buying the extravagant things that you really can't afford. I still scratch my head at while people don't think twice about their car payments. The money most my friends are putting to their cars we first put to a home and now to our IRAs. Our finances can be all equal but that small difference between us and the average american will save us hundreds of thousands of dollars over our lifetime.

Of course once you are debt free and rid yourself from the ball of chains of debt, don't knock it's ability to help you. We went shopping last year for a car and went to the dealer with a '1 at this price' ad. Having shopped in the past with cash and having very unpleasant experiences, the difference was night and day when we told them we intended to finance this auto. They even negotiated on the price a bit which just about shocked me. This was a completely different shopping experience. The thing was I was able to secure a 3% loan elsewhere, but we went and took the dealer financing just because we figured it would be easy. & then I would pay off the loan right away. You have to read all the fine print in this case, and I was a little wary but it did work out. But the decision to finance the car was just a convenience decision. I had no idea it would turn the usual pushy/annoyed salesmen (annoyed we would always refuse to buy more than we could afford), well it turned them into butter. I decided then and there I would most definitely finance my car with my next purchase (and pay it off the following day. Wink ) It's a game but I think this was the first inkling I ever saw that debt can be used to your advantage. As I try to erase the layers of "debt is bad" from by brain.

I look at my mortgage now and it is still quite hefty. Though on the flip side we have a far nicer home and a far smaller mortgage than most anyone our age around here. Our anti-debt stance has made us unwilling to consider a risky ARM or put less than 20% down, etc., which has made all the difference. But I am starting to look at how much we can put in our retirement and invest if we stall our efforts to pay down the mortgage too fast. Quite frankly the interest is insanely low and I even have a CD paying more than the interest rate in my mortgage today, so it goes. We could really put all our effort to paying off our mortgage today, but it wouldn't be very productive, it would put us way behind on our aggressive retirement goals. The thing is I am sure we will pay off our mortgage early. Barring the unforeseen it is a pretty done deal. But in the meantime we have to look at the opportunity cost of prepaying our mortgage TODAY and it just doesn't make any sense. If my hubby got a job tomorrow I could easily see paying down the mortgage rapidly though. It's all relative.

So with time my thinking on debt has really changed. Right now I am in the middle of setting up a credit card arbitrage, borrowing at 0% to earn interest in the bank. I am surprised at some of the "debt is bad" crowd who would never consider using debt in a fashion that would profit them greatly. In fact, my credit card purchases earn me a 3% return throughout the year. I just think it would be quite silly of me to give up all this extra money and benefits in the name of "debt being bad." & so my feelings change and evolve with time.

So basically I can some up my post into 2 points:

1 - First, you have to not consider debt an option. Ever!

2 - Once you got #1 ingrained in your brain then you can realize that debt can be used to your advantage in some cases. & you would be silly not to take advantage. Wink

Those are my two rules in debt. I wouldn't recommend overall #2 to anyone who relies on debt though. Then it can be a recipe for disaster. You really have to really and truly realize that you don't need debt to move on and learn how to use it to your advantage. But once you can do that it sure makes life a lot easier.

Which reminds me why Dave Ramsey is so great if you are getting out of debt, but I find his advice absolutely horrible as far as efficiently building wealth. But it's like Dave Ramey is step #1 and then once you truly get it you should be ready to move on and really start building some wealth.

Challenge Money...

June 6th, 2007 at 02:30 pm

$20 challenge:

$7,070.02 - Balance 5/26

$ 250.00 - Credit Card Rewards
$ 10.00 - change found

------------------
$7,330.02 - Balance 5/26
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Finally got my 200 points from Chase which I redeemed for $250. Woohoo!!! Should receive the check in a few days. I am just going to deposit it into my e-fund when it arrives. I didn't think I'd have room to save this month and it turns out I will. I may have to juggle things around a bit and am unsure how it will affect next month - since we have vacation and birthdays on the card this month to pay next month. But I was really surprised I should have cash to spare at the end of the month so figured I would just pop it in the bank. Brings my efund to $10,750. $1250 to go!!!!! 2 full months saving and some interest should put me there pretty darn soon - woohoo.

Oh I also added the change I found when I unpacked boxes. Using it as spending money ($1 lunches) - will get me through the rest of the month easy and save a trip to the ATM.

BTW I am earning about a 3% return on all of my purchases. We probably average $1500 on the card each month and are earning $500/year in rewards so it is about a 3% return. Pretty sweet. Love it.

Spoiled Kids

June 6th, 2007 at 02:13 pm

One of my big pet peeves is spoiled children and I really try not to spoil my children. But I just realized I guess it is all relative.

I was watching live T.V, last night because dh was hogging up the TIVO recording shows all night (nothing I wanted to watch). So when BM came downstairs this morning he looked at the t.v. remote all confused and asked, "is this the live t.v. remote?" I realized then and there that BM doesn't really even understand the concept of live t.v. Last night he kept telling me to rewind things or pause, and I said I couldn't because it was live t.v. - hehe.

So I guess inadvertently we have completely and utterly spoiled the kids when it comes to t.v.


May #s/Efund maxed

June 4th, 2007 at 02:28 pm

It's funny but we have made our exact efund goal with all of our cash accounts. Exactly $12k. How bizarre. I just noticed as I was adding some interest. About $1k of it is really just short-term savings, but I am putting away far more into that then spending until December, since property taxes and insurance and all that all comes due in December - a hefty $4k or so. So anyway, the point being, nothing bad happening, I think we will stay up above $12k the rest of the year. By the time December rolls around and we drain our short-term savings, we should have a good solid $12k in the efund. So basically, we've pretty much made it. Woohoo!!!!

The money I transferred from GMAC showed up in my account this morning. Wow - fast! I am thinking on it. If I put all the money I want to (& transferred) into a CD it leaves about $1800 cash in my accounts. But I expect to receive $6k balance transfer cash any day. So in the grand scheme of things it isn't so bad, but in the meantime I am tying up most our cash. Eeeks. We'll have more balance transfers though to build up cash for the next few months. It might even simplify bookkeeping a bit as most of the interest I will be earning will be from the BTs then - our savings interest we can track separately in the CD. Hmmm... Might be easier to get an idea how much mony the BTs are really generating - with less calculating anyway. Well I haven't committed yet, but will do so today. The thing is our parents are always good for a short-term 0% loan, so it isn't a huge biggie. But then again I don't want to come crawling to them either if we tie up too much cash. Wink

& here's our expenses for the month. It's ugly. I already posted all about it though - but find it easy to share my Quicken snapshots:



Auto is a little high/groceries low - pretty much a wash. Already explained over on the dining - definitely enjoyed this month. Education was for a bunch of classes. Don't foresee paying that much going forward. Medical included $130 for my filling last week. Misc - some stuff for around the house, dh rock climbing, etc. Subscription to beloved cooking mag (think I got 2 years though - was on discount). & vacation was all of our expenses for our Monterey trip - funded by my writing monies.

So yeah we splurged and enjoyed but we still saved more than we spent, so that is something. Here's to some cheaper months though - generally try to keep our spending around $4800 and have been trying to save $450/month. Did not happen in May. But not going to beat myself up over one bad month either. Sometimes you just got to splurge.

& there is about $800/month fat we could easily trim in case of lost job so how I get to $4k/month expenses, or $12k as 3 whole months expenses. It feels so good to have that though! Big Grin Of course with time I would like to edge that up to our true expenses. But on the other hand if I lost my job tomorrow I think the gardener and preschool and stuff would go, regardless how much cash we had. Just can't justify those kinds of things with no income... So overall maybe $4k is right on... We lived on $4k easy peasy when I was on maternity leave last and we weren't driving anywhere and such. So kind of my thinking for now, plus $4k/month = $50k/year which makes it really easy in terms of thinking in terms of expenses. Since my goal is to increase our net worth by 1/2 our expenses for the year, makes it an easy $25k/year or on average $2k/month. So yeah, that is going to be my set basic spending/expenses in terms of financial goals, for a while. I think once we make all of our goals I will up it to $5k/month though & $30k net-worth-annual-increase goal. It's a little too much to bite off today, but would be rather conservative. MEans once I meet my e-fund goal I will need to add another $3k to stay at 3 months expenses, but one thing at a time. $5k/month would be a pretty darn good living for us. In the end I think $15k would be an awesome efund, but that will take a lot longer, and smaller goals make it easier to ahieve progress AND feel accomplishment. Not that $12k was exactly small - I really didn't think I would make it this far this year - but have so far had a pretty darn good year!

I mean as far as expenses go, $3k simply covers our fixed monthly expenses - mortgage & health insurance mostly, and then property taxes and all of our other insurances. Leaves $1k/month for everything else - utilities, groceries, car expenses, etc. So though $4k sounds like a lot, it's all relative. We could also move just about anywhere and cut out most of our mortgage/insurance expenses, which is always a sweet option. But $4k/month is really squeaking by with our fixed expenses. On the other hand, $5k just makes all the difference. MEans preschool, gardener, retirement, savings, etc. Maybe $4500/month would be a good compromise as basic living expenses. Would leave some wiggle room. Well, somewhere in there. I could probably dig revising my efund goal up to $13,500 once we hit $12k. I guess overall my conservative side is still popping out wanting to save more cash. The rest of me thinks we need to put a lot more efforts to investing going forward.

ETA: Oh, I just set up my CD. Woohoo. I had no intention of, and don't really recommend overall, tying up most of one's savings in a CD. But the timing with the balance transfers is just uncanny. IT just works out perfect. I have been sitting around waiting for my bank to offer a great promo rate and the timing really couldn't be better. Anyway, guaranteeing a 5.7% APR for $10k, or about 1/2, of the balance transfers makes it pretty darn worthwhile. Until now there was of course risk of falling interest rates and such.

Weekend Update/Birthdays & Haircuts

June 3rd, 2007 at 02:59 pm

I wrote 2.5 articles yesterday - woohoho. Just means I need to whip out one more before our cruise. (Well, 1.5). I was thinking of maybe taking the week off, but I feel caught up.

HAd a very nice day with parents. They took us to Mimi's which is a divine little place, but I think they pared down the menu. I remember going and the menu was like 10 pages long, and impossible to decide. Yesterday was kind of a small menu. What happened?

Dh made meatball sandwiches for dinner - one recipe I haven't shared yet - should post it. Divine!

Showed them the Little Miss SUnshine while I worked, and they loved it.

By the time they left I just collapsed exhausted. Oh yeah, we went to the park and grandpa snapped off a ton of pictures with his fancy camera. I'll share when I get some. Another reason why we don't really do the professional picture thing. Grandpa gets plenty of fancy shots and the ability to print any size.

But that does remind me the kids do need a haircut and also we will probably take them to Sears or something for a few pictures. IT has been a long time. Hmmm, I am remembering now that grandma took them for pictures with their cousin last summer in their matching outfits. It feels like it has been longer...

I cut both kids hair the first 2 years, but I am officially out. Ugh. My goal is just to chop it as short as possible and then let it grow for 6 months, but BM has monster hair. It's not very long as a whole, but the top just grows so thick and sticks straight up. LOL. & I butchered LM's hair last time so I figure just like with BM it is time to go pro. Sames me much time and hassle and saves them embarrasment.

Now that I think about it I wanted a haircut before the cruise too - has definitely been a few months for me. Maybe we'll all get haircuts next weekend.

Anyway, thinking about all this stuff as their birthdays rapidly approach. I cleaned out the cupboards a short while ago and noticed we have a ton of "Cars" plates and napkins still, from last year. I was kind of thinking of just making it a Cars birthday - would be easy. So anyway, we were discussing it and I asked the kids what kind of birthday they wanted. BM said he wanted CARS again. Well, sounds good to me. We settled on the weekend after July 4 & I am taking most the week off - so phew.

I told dh we better get out invites before our trip. Like it is sneaking up on us! Anyway, this will be nothing big. We are still so overwhelmed from Christmas that I really don't have much of anything in mind to buy the kids. Dh wanted to get a couple of things so whatever - fine with me - he can do presents. Will send out evites. Will make a box cake. Will invite family and a few friends. Wala. Asking for no gifts too. So a very simple party. I may buy a few party supplies/favors on ebay and will definitely go get balloons the day of - that is our special thing. & BM is old enough this year to maybe go along and pick some out! Big Grin Overall I don't really expect to spend much money on the whole affair. I'd be surprised if we spent $100, gifts and all.

Last year we got Round Table Pizzas and my mom paid for it. I told dh we should compromise. We love the raley's pizzas so much but was not sure how to keep them all warm (only can bake 1 at a time). So I told him maybe we should just order like 2 big RT pizzas and then get a couple of the $5 pizzas, when cut the cost down significantly. I am sure Grandma would be glad to pay, but rather not put her out either.

Which reminds me, I am sick of useless party favors so I am trying to think of a useful party favor for small kids. I'd rather buy them all McDs gift certificates or something, and maybe the parents would appreciate. Better than little useless toys. Any ideas appreciated...

Anyway, dh was nice and ran my paycheck to the bank yesterday. I transfered $800 to short-term savings. If nothing else I am well on par with that. No big bills due until August I believe... So will have about $3k in there before the next bill is due. Will help my net worth in the interim, but not the long-term. I called my bank and there is no maximum on the 5.70% CD But I can't set it up until my money is in the bank. So anyway, I transferred it over and hope it will be there Mon/Tues and I can get the CD set up.

I also updated my pages. I have all these goals that keep getting revised, so found it easier just to lay it all out. I can revise it as things change then:

http://monkeymama.savingadvice.com/goals.html

Today I have to get some significant work in, and I also have to clean the ENTIRE house. LOL. Oh well, I feel a little motivated. I had wanted to take Friday off to kind of catch up, but work is so hectic. So I figured if I have to work my ass off from now until next weekend, it doesn't seem so bad with vacation on the horizon. Regardless of money I kind of wanted to enjoy some excursions and see some sights at the places I have never been (Mexico) but dh and I decided that frankly we really want to just do NOTHING. & that is a lot cheaper. I think I can go for it. I also have to hit the library before we go - need some good reading... Have any good book suggestions? LEt me know. Staying away from financial ones, just some good old lazy books... Wink

Soon enough we have to pack and register all that.

OMG I just realized I don't have my passport yet. EEKS!!!!!!!!!!! But I have my original birth certificate and I guess it will do. Well wasn't that a waste of money. Oh, I've got a few more days but don't feel very optimistic. Of course the cruise papers I have now say an old passport is fine. Well if I had known sooner...

In other news our ice maker has been broken for about 2 years. We survive but we FINALLY asked my dad to look at it. He looked at it, fiddled with the switch, and said it looked fine to him. Today we have a bucket full of self-made ice. LOL. Go figure. It works. We are all excited. Kind of thing not really worth ANY money to fix since we can make our own ice and we can still dispense our ice from the fridge door. But it is cool to have it working again all the same - woohoo! & believe me we have done the same fiddling numerous times. Guess my dad had the magic touch!













The Secret of Success

June 2nd, 2007 at 02:02 pm

The Secret of Success is really simple at face value, but sometimes it is really hard to implement. I am one of those people who truly believe you can be successful of your own true will. Too often people like to write off success to luck, and I take it very personally. I know too many people who are successful because they worked extremely hard. There have been studies done on what makes people "lucky" and it is actually in people's habits that tend to make people lucky in general. I definitely can say I have noticed these same traits in the successful people around me. So what do you need to be successful?

1. Worry about Yourself, Not Everyone Else

I notice over and over people who are constantly comparing themselves to others and worried about what everyone else has, will never be happy. They will also not be successful because they will be too busy worrying about other people and/or putting their time and resources to impressing their "friends." Imagine if you took all that energy and channeled it into yourself; into what you want and what you want to be. IT makes all the difference. Sure, I compare myself to others at time, as I am always looking for a measure of my progress, and where I am at, etc. But it is not the be-all, end-all for me. I could really care less if my next door neighbor has a fancier car or if my friend is going on a fancier vacation. The reason I Could care less is because I live my life the way I want to lead it, in a way that makes me happy. It means I have no need to worry about everyone else and what they think. I realized very young everyone else wasn't going to make me happy. Only I can do that for myself. On the flip side, I will compare myself to successful people and look at my habits and see what they are doing differently, and what I need to do to achieve that success. Again, it's not the be-all, end-all. That kind of comparison can help you. But for the most part it is better not to worry about everyone else. As soon as you wish you were someone else, you aren't going to be successful. Striving to be as successful as someone else, now that I Can go for. But you still want to be "you." You don't want to be that person. I guess the true key is being happy with yourself. Everything else kind of follows from that.

2. Be Positive

Always try to be optimistic. For the pessimist, when things don't go their way, it's the end of the world. Or at the least it is a very difficult event. For the optimist, it means either it wasn't meant to be, or a better opportunity will present itself later. Case in point, you get fired or don't get the job you applied for. The pessimist gets discouraged much more easily and equates the job difficulties with their own abilities. An optimist will assume that it just wasn't meant to be, that something better is out there. An optimist can usually turn anyway situation into their advantage. Another key to being an optimist is always to imagine how things could be worse. When you imagine things as how they can be worse it is easier to see how a bad situation isn't so dire.

3. Always look for Opportunities

Most people miss opportunities because they are too busy looking for something else. Successful people see what is there rather than just what they're looking for. For example, in business, my husband is interested in video work and becoming a film maker. He could be hellbent on becoming a film maker and get that tunnel vision as he tried to get into the industry, which is a hard way to get in. But he also has marketing experience, and started noticing that a lot of the local film makers need a lot of marketing help. HE is starting to find a little niche for himself that he hadn't even thought of before. But I think this is a prime example. Unsuccessful people tend to get too caught up in exactly what they want and disappointment when they don't get it. Successful people tend to keep their options open and remain flexible. Sometimes success comes where they didn't expect it, but being open to slightly different routes makes all the difference. Successful people are also usually more willing to try different things, which means more opportunities as well.

Another way to look at it is that sometimes it is more about the journey than the destination.


4. NEVER say "I can't."

The second you say "I can't" to something, then you might as well forget about it. The next time you come up against an obstacle and start to say "I can't," change your thinking. Start to think "I can." I See too often people think they can't do something (I am talking simple things here) and just get stuck in a rut. It really is true for the most part that anything is possible if you think it is possible. The successful people that I know rarely say, "I can't" but the friends that I have that are struggling with the basics of life say "I can't" way too much. They are unwilling to try new things, to learn, to push themselves, or to even just work a little harder.

5. Don't Complain about Things you can Change

I am not much of a complainer and if I see something that can easily be fixed, I find it far more useful to fix it than to whine incessantly about it. I have a really silly story to share though that brings this point home though. I started a new job a few years back and the microwave in the kitchen was really slow and ancient. I remember it took like 10 minutes to heat up my soup. The funny thing is I remember thinking man, it was really bad, but it wasn't until a few lunches of hearing everyone complain incessantly about the microwave that I had finally had enough. I figured a new microwave was $50 or something and I would be willing to shell it out personally for a quicker lunch. But I just went up to my boss and asked him if we could get a new microwave. The next day we had a new microwave. I had even asked a co-worker if this would be taboo because I figured the only reason no one else had mentioned it was because it was like a taboo thing and the boss was known to be attached to the microwave or something. Anyway, I thought gosh, maybe I am just a dumb newbie here, but this is ridiculous. I don't think I ever told anyone else I had been key in the new microwave, but I was certainly glad when the whining stopped. Over the years a few other incidents have happened though where a simple conversation with the boss would clear things up. One thing I see too often lately is fear and stress over unreplied e-mails, when again a simple face-to-face conversation would clear it up. E-mails get accidentally deleted or overlooked. IF you are that worried about it, pick up the phone or go chat with the person to make sure they got your e-mail. It really is that simple!

Once you can make the little changes it is easier to see how you can make bigger changes. & I guess what I notice is successful people are more likely to find a solution and move on, and also be willing to accept that which they can not change. I think most people though have problems with this and create more obstacles in their life than their needs to be, wasting too much time on what can not be chaged, and worrying too much about stuff that doesn't matter (like slow microwaves).

6. Talk to Other People

#3 was about looking for opportunities. The truth is that the more people you know and talk to, the more opportunities will present themselves. If you have ever gone to a networking seminar you have seen this point hit home. Next time you are on an airplane strike up a conversation with your fellow passengers. Time and time again business contacts are made in places you don't expect. Keep in touch with your old college buddies and your ex-co-workers. The more branches of contacts you can keep, the more opportunities you will find in life. IT is amazing the opportunities you miss by not talking to people. One example for me is a neighbor who I had met on a few occasions, who I never told that I was a CPA. My work just never came up in conversation. A few months later, she actually called me at my office as she had been referred to me by a mutual friend. It wasn't until we started talking until we both realized who the other was. How silly that a third party had to inform her that I was a CPA.

I have also seen it recommended to break routines in order to meet more people. Shop at different stores, take different routes. The more people you come across, the more opportunities you will have.

7. Keep True to Your Word

I remember when I started my first job out of college my dad said something to me like 90% of success on the job is just showing up. I didn't think much about it at the time, but he brought it up again recently, asking me if wasn't he right. I thought back to how I was probably most appreciated by all my employers because I showed up on time every day. That's it. To me this has always been a simple concept. If I agreed to do something, I will do it. If I Can't keep my end of the bargain, I won't do it. To me what is obvious, I notice with time is really rare in people. It is rare that people will finish a task that they commit to, that they will show up for work on time every day, that they will meet all their deadlines, etc. If you can just commit to keeping your word, you will notice a huge difference in your life.

It is amazing to me how sometimes the simple little things can make all the difference. Of course as a whole, if you are not used to leading a successful lifestyle, it can be hard to implement. But you can take it one baby step at a time. Start by honoring all of your commitments (even if it means taking less commitments) and thinking more positively. You will notice changes in your life. From there start networking and keeping your eyes peeled for opportunities. Think hard before you say no to any opportunity that presents itself. Maybe most importantly, remember to stop saying, "I can't" in situations where you can and should. I guess that goes along with the positive thinking.

I think I can sum all of this up by simply saying don't get too wrapped up where you are (and where your peers are), but instead start focusing on where you want to go and how you are going to get there. Keeping all of these points in mind will get you there.


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