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Archive for August, 2007

Net Worth

August 31st, 2007 at 07:31 am

Oh just paying some bills and looking at Net Worth.

It is up $2600 for the month. Don't ask me how. I have been meaning to redo my spreadsheet for some better measuring and tracking. I assume it is mostly investment gains (must of been low at the beginning of the month?). Around $1.5k of it is savings (adding a bit to retirement, $350 or so to savings, small token to kids' college, oh and $300 paid off of mortgage, $800 to Short-term savings etc., etc.). So yeah, it might go down a bit in the following months as I pay some big bills. Oh yeah, but added $500 profit sharing as well. Maybe most of that is savings (though admittedly some of it temporary).

Puts my YTD at $20k increase, so "just" $5k more to go for the year.

I will probably drain a few thousand in September - December for IRS, property tax, insurance, etc. But I will also get a $6k or so boost to my profit sharing come December (full vesting - woohoo). So might even out.

I will have to re-evaluate my goals as well. The whole $25k (or 1/2 our annual expenses) this year might work out, but we just committed LM to preschool at $200/month. Blech. It might set us back. I think we can still hit $25k in 2008. But we'll see what it does to us this year. Regardless we'll be close and I didn't really expect to make it when I set the goal. Well, we'll see!

Trains...

August 31st, 2007 at 07:09 am

Well, apparently BM's train obsession has passed on to LM.

I don't think we have ever taken the kids to Old Sacramento (historic Sacramento - it is pretty fun) & I just saw they are having historic steam engine train rides from the Railroad Museum all weekend. $16 for all 4 of us to ride a 40-minute trip. Not bad, and sounds fun. Maybe we will have to check out the museum too. There is another one about an hour away I have heard great things about - lots of kid stuff. So I don't know what this one has but, um, the train ride they will certainly enjoy. I don't think they would care about much else. Then we can walk around Old Sac and eat out or something.

LM was a little too timid for any of the rides Monday when we went to MArine World, but he wanted to ride all the trains (there were a couple). So we rode a lot of trains - LOL.

Maybe we'll try to hit that tomorrow. I will probably work Sunday (since I took Monday off) but I figured I could relax Saturday and Monday - should be nice. & will just work from home Sunday - nothing huge.

For the most part we want to stay home and avoid the crowds though. Big Grin

Hope everyone has a great weekend!

Have a great weekend!

School

August 31st, 2007 at 03:42 am

Oh I got school on the brain lately but I Was kind of laughing at the homeschooling thread. I have to agree with Devil's Advocate that those are some pretty broad generalizations about public school. No offense but I had to laugh about the public school kids hanging out in the bars. Sounds like a parenting problem, not a school problem. IT makes about as much sense as the idea that homeschooled kids have no social skills. I didn't realize school was the only place to gain social skills. From either side there is a million different way to teach your kids and I am afraid no size fits all.

But anyway, I didn't reply to the thread because I didn't want to get into it. Also living in the big city I do find things to be very different. We have public schools that are merely supplements to homeschooling. You can find just about anything you would want in a public school out here so I have little issue. It would be absurd to think that the public school system would teach my kids all they need to know though and we would just leave it at that. we are very hands on with our kids so just kind of in the middle - I see the benefits of both and we'll kind of approach it with a hybrid approach. But as with anything when it starts to get all black/white it annoys the hell out of me.

Well wasn't what I Was going to post about, but ironically I came on here to post about public school and saw that thread, and had to get that out I guess. I didn't want to get into it, but then I did anyway. Oh well...

Actually, I wanted to say i skimmed the "2-Income Trap" when I was on vacation in June and it was kind of interesting. Not what i expected at all. For one there was a lot of "the problem is not over-consumption." Since the author has done a lot of research in the area of bankruptcy and I know she has found over-consumption has little to do with bankruptcy (historically) I guess I have to think about it. There are statistics to back it up. BUT it is awfully hard to take the idea seriously when I look at the over-consumption (& debt) around me. It is just insanity and I find it 10 times worse than when i lived back in San Jose. Since housing isn't so expensive there is way way way more over-consumption. My parents argue with me that the Bay is the land of over-consumption. But the difference is most of the people there over-consuming there have the money. None of my peers were buying fancy cars, vacation homes, diamonds and such, but that all seems to be the norm up here (which I find very bizarre since there is not a lot of "wealth" up here). I mean I was telling you about a day in our friend's $2 million house. I think they are more frugal than most the people I know around here making $30k. So yeah I am smack dab in a sea of over-consumption. so I read the whole book cringing at the idea that the cars and homes and vacations weren't the ruin of 2-income families. OF course it is (from my view). most the people I know who work a 2nd job work for all that stuff. Many work just to pay for daycare and a ticket to eat out every night (even sadder).

However, she had some interesting points that with the public school system, homes where the good schools were, well they were bid up in the fierce competition. I see it. I hardly know anyone who has bought a home that wasn't based on "test scores." I find the idea absurd myself since we feel education is in our hands for one, and secondly, since when was a school only measured by its test score? BEing frugal through and through we would be more likely to find that school that didn't have the best test scores per se but had the best program that we felt fit our kids. There are plenty of wonderful schools without the "best" test scores.

Anyway, no I can't say school was our #1 choice when it came to our home. Sure we considered it a bit, but the idea is even more absurd somewhere in Sacramento where public school options abound. There are so many specialty/charter schools across the city that anyone can go to. So you would think it really wouldn't matter as much. I guess the bid is for the high test scores and the convenience of a school in your own backyard. The smart ones can see through the smoke and mirrors though and can figure out a ticket to a good school without the most expensive house. (For one they completely wrote off the option of renting to get in a good school, don't ask me why. I am not a fan of renting, but would consider it if it was a cheaper ticket to the best schools - why not?).

Anyway, moving here where housing cost like 1/3 at the time we bought in a very upscale neighborhood. To us it was cheap so why not. We were to have a school (new school as it was a new development). But with the nasty school board politics & obvious developer bribing (I wouldn't know where to begin) we were left with no school. You would think being in this area most people would happily send off their kids to private school, but that turns out to be not the case at all. Instead there was a huge public outcry. & having a lot of educators and politicians in our community, the parents decided to start our own Charter School. We have 1000 families, most of the families with kids have preschoolers and the school board is in denial why we would need a school. They seem to be looking at nothing but current enrollment, which is absurd. There could well be 1000 kids in our neighborhood alone (not to mention the eons of new construction).

Anyway, dh got really involved with it as something to do and a way to secure a spot for our kids. I think it was more something to do than anything. I am not sure I was thrilled about the idea of sending our kids to a brand new school (We don't even have a site yet in its 3rd year of operation at this point).

But you fast forward today and everyone just raves about the school. I have been asking other parents where they will send their kids (trying to guage who will be in class with my sons) and everyone keeps telling me they want to send their kids but aren't sure they can get in with the stiff waiting lists. As for us we are guaranteed spots, so phew.

I didn't realize how amazing this is though until I Was browsing school data online yesterday and I just saw the school had the highest test scores in the school district (by a mile, and it is a good district). dang.

I kind of worry how the momentum will be when my son starts school. Seems like they have new teachers, new programs, and everyone is really excited about it all. You wonder if with time things will slow down, the excitement will wear off. In the meantime I find the school will be a good match for my older son (just what he needs really - it has a rather unique approach) and we might of got ourselves a ticket to the best public school around. Who knew... The thing about charter schools is they are heavy in parent involvement. IT makes all the difference. This one being built from the ground up by the parents... The whole experience has been rather interesting.

Of course I have to admit, would a school like this pop up in a poor neighborhood? Of course not. Would the parents have the time or the resources to set something like this up? Um, no. I guess I am impressed that everyone didn't just roll over and send their kids off to private school. But all the same you can kind of see the inequality of it all. The good neighborhood will buy the good school. Back to square one. Interestingly, they have to have x amount of poorer students and they will try to get a broad demographic (which I think is great - more like the area I grew up which had a lot of diversity - I want my kids to see that - to not just go to school with a bunch of wealthy kids). But you know only a very lucky few will make it. I guess frankly in the end we bought a good education with our neighborhood.

Such is school and politics, apparently.

I have to say too though that most of the neighborhood is million dollar homes and we aren't even close to that. So on a frugal note, buy the cheap home in the nice neighborhood - it's another ticket to the good schools I guess. OF course with time these homes have been bid up exceptionally high (like a $100k premium to live in this neighborhood. Dh and I look at each other like lord knows why - it's just a neighborhood. We'd pay $100k less to move a few blocks out. We'd still have the same ticket to the same schools. It's all rather absurd I guess).

But yeah - the "2-Income Trap" - was very politic-y. I am not sure I would recommend it. There is probably some truth to it. But it's like, yeah everyone is bidding up the price of schools and education. My family has found it easy enough not to fall for that. my dad and I both have professional, very well-paying careers that cost us little in education. I expect my sons to be able to find the same. I don't buy that my kids need the expensive preschool to succeed in life (in fact I am more convinced by the day that the fancy preschool does more harm than good). Since when did you have to spend $20k-$30k for a decent set of wheels? We just never bought any of it - it makes ALL the difference. The 2-Income trap was all about this kind of stuff. People paying way more than they should for everything. & the authors failed to realize that this is all easy enough to avoid. Pushing for political policies to make things more fair instead of just saying, hey, this is all a bunch of BS. Of course not "buying" it all it has been easy enough to stay out of that trap for us.





Japan Trip is just a few weeks!?!

August 30th, 2007 at 05:20 pm

Crazy!

Well my dad keeps asking me what I want to do, but being very go with the flow (& very busy) I hadn't come up with much.

But I spent some time today surfing the web and getting ideas. For one I noticed japan was on the same longitude as our area of California and my coworker, who travels much, said she was in Japan for a long layover and traveled a bit, and found that it was very much like California. I also hear spring is the time of the cherry blossoms and so am wondering what autum will bring in Japan. If it looks just like California (the weather/plants, etc.) well that sounds a little boring. BUT I have just been looking at the most beautiful pictures of Japan in the fall. Exquisite. Looks nothing like California to me - LOL. Well I guess I will just have to see.

Oooooh - getting excited.

We will be spending most of our time with a family there so I think it will be less a touristy trip and more of a cultural trip, if you know what I mean. But we are staying in our own hotel. & doing about 4 days in Tokyo (Shibuya - looks like NYC) and 2 days in Kyoto (more historic). Oooh and riding the bullet train of course.

I also saw there was a monkey park in Kyoto - kind of at the top of my list. Big Grin

Lots of temples and shrines and views. OF course my sister wants to shop shop shop, my dad wants to hang out with the locals and see some bands (& eat) and I want to see the temples and see some of the outdoorsy stuff. I just want to get outside. If it was the proper season Mt. Fuji would be at the top of my list....

Oh, but I think Hiroshima would also be fascinating to see. Maybe a bit heavy. Not sure if we will have time.

Also, DisneySea. Had never heard of it, but it is next to Tokyo's "Disneyland." But DisneySea looks really different. Kind of interested, not sure if anyone else is.

So I just sent a list off to my dad and sister for scrutiny. I think if I can make it to the Monkey Park I would be happy. When else will I ever get to see/feed a bunch of "wild" monkeys.

& now I guess I have to brush up on my Japanese. I have traveled to Europe before and though the language barrier can be intimidating (sure everyone speaks english but the locals are much more nicer when you attempt their language). Well, Japanese sounds way more imitimidating than Spanish or Italian. I don't know, I grew up around a bunch of people speaking Cantonese/Indian languages/Japanese. But it is just so diferent from English/European languages. My sister is really into Japanese so she'll have to be my translator/speaker - hehe. So yeah, on one front, being among a sea of Asian people and foreign tourists, I don't think I will feel terribly out of place than a day in San Francisco (or even a day back home). But the language thing will be very different.

On the flip side dh's aunt lived in China for many years and speaks cantonese very fluently. The funny thing is she was in Guatemala for a few years and had a really difficult time with the language. She got so used to the Asian languages I guess. She kept telling us "Spanish was too hard to learn." ??? I guess it is tough to transition between the 2 because the languages are just so different. But english being my only language I am completely in awe of anyone who has mastered a second language. (Much less 3 or 4 languages).

The rich get richer...

August 29th, 2007 at 11:36 am

Well it is so true.

A good article which illustrates how if you get a little ahead of the game everything is cheaper/easier from there.

I guess I am enjoying this guy's articles too. I just get a bunch of relevant articles e-mailed to me every day from my CPA society but he had an interesting article a week or 2 ago. (I think I used to ignore these because I do not have a wsj subscription but I guess a lot of the time they are public artciles - so I should always check).

The Small Ways Wealth Begets Wealth
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB118833722444811379.html

Fako score - 780

August 29th, 2007 at 09:14 am

Experian just sent me a notice that they blocked all my info.

I thought my free trial had expired (which is stupid because basically you can't get anything free for the free trial - now I can check my experian report daily if I like - and check my fako score (is not a true FICO score). But the past score was in line with my true FICO score so overall I think it is reasonable. I've seen some weird fakos in the past (like that go up to 900??? Not in line with fICO of course).

So I checked and indeed my free trial was up. I thought they would have e-mailed me - what a bunch of annoying bastards (sorry). For one it is not free because they won't let you check your score again until after the free period. Then they don't even e-mail you to tell you your free period is up. I Was starting to get aggravated since I figured it was up today or tomorrow and had checked the website yesterday with no luck.

But today, yes, "free" credit report and fako score. I should be able to check tomorrow too if I like.

My FAKO score a few days after the ID theft was around 725 (hit anyway with my balance transfer) but today is a pretty 780. So woohoo.

The true test will be what TransUnion reports my FICO score to be through WAMU. Signing up for that card was SO worth it for the monthly FICO updates. Heck, I would recommend opening an account at WAMU just for that. (The 0% balance transfer doesn't hurt either).

But balance transfer and all my score seems to be back to normal. I am sure it will get back to 800 when we pay off these balance transfers.

Oh but this was the beautiful part of my fako score:

" Listed below are the top factors that lowered your score. They are listed in order of importance.

Credit scores are calculated based on various factors in your credit report. Currently, your credit report does not show any significant negative or derogatory information. You can be proud of the fact that you are building a good credit history, so continue with your positive credit behavior!"

Eat that.

Big Grin

Oh it's nice to get things cleared up and back to "normal."

I really believe having an excellent score to start means that this whole thing was barely a blip on the radar. (& not having lots of debt either as I could have been slammed by universal default and stuff like that).

I am just not sure if this is over yet. My info is still out there. We'll see...

& when you have a good score, close your oldest accounts, take balance transfers, blahdeblah, who cares. So my score was in the 750 range for a few weeks. It is back to normal and I still have most of the entire balance transfer outstanding. It's just dropped down enough with the $200 or so paid off that it is no longer affecting FICO negatively. With the regular payments it will only help my score. I really do think people with good scores try to overthink FICO. Pay your bills on time, don't take on more debt than you can handle, and the little stuff will not kill your score. Believe me I have done EVERYTHING wrong when it comes to FICO this last year - but I don't really care. Even the ID theft didn't slay me. IT was 685 which made me nervous, but wasn't bad all the same.

Well, I hope FICO agrees - I'll found out in a few weeks with my next WAMU statement.


Got To Get Selling

August 29th, 2007 at 07:41 am

Maybe it was good I was lazy.

We decided to sell the Pack 'N Play.

Maybe the double stroller.

Now I can do it all at once.

So I expect:

$40 Pack/Play
$30 Double stroller
$20 Exersaucer
$25 Baby Gym
--------------
$115 Total

Yeah we can probably bring in an easy $100 if we get selling. Plus I will ask way more for everything and will probably get full price offers anyway. This is just my low before I rather just donate I guess.

Dh just paid $200 for the unlimited childcare at the gym (we are just LOVING it). I figure I had the cash and we can apply Christmas money to pay for it. We just took an advance from short-term savings. But coming up with $100 would go a long way to just taking care of it.

I also have a pile for freecycle. Maybe that is something we can work on next weekend. (Or will everyone be out of town? Maybe the following weekend will be better for selling/giving away). Well, we'll see. I'll have more time to clean and list things.

We have been using the pack/play as a timeout pen for LM but he really doesn't need it anymore. Heck he is crawling out of it anyway - LOL. Time to move on.

I have some clothes to ebay too - a few new with tags. I was waiting for spring/summer and maybe it's too late... Maybe should wait again - LOL - little springy outfits. New with tags, never worn (from family who never listens to size - thankfully they have been MUCH better as clothes that fit are very appreciated). I figure rather than grumbling about death ears I'd just sell a lot of new clothes - might make a decent sum.

I can't remember the last time BM used the double stroller so it could really go - those things are so dang bulky.

The cool thing is we will probably sell everything for breakeven. I think we bought the pack/play and lord knows what we paid, but everything else we got pretty cheap off craigslist. & will be able to sell for what we paid at the least - easy.

Yeah - this is not the expensive part of having kids. Like I said, the healthcare and lost wages will kill you. Not the gear - the gear is easy to get immaculate and cheap when it is "used."

Which reminds me in that thread way back on how expensive kids were someone mentioned they only took their kid to the doctor every couple of years or something. Well, okay then, but it is not the doctors visits that are expensive - it is the INSURANCE. You think I am going to drive on these California freeways with my kids and not have health insurance? Hello! One car accident could devastate us financially even though we are all the epitome of health. (Sorry just thought of that. I should dig out that thread and mention that). I pretty much agreed with everything else - I see both sides. If we wanted to move to the boonies and cut some corners sure we could probably raise a bunch of kids if we really wanted to. But not taking your kid to the dentist and not having health insurance can be a pretty pricey endeavor in the long run. Scary. Oh I wish it were only so easy. Wink Just seems short sighted and misguided to an extent.

Heck we were lucky we did not end up in the emergency room last night. Poor LM split his lip. It was pretty nasty and I wasn't so convinced it wouldn't need stitches (though admittedly I Was over-worrying). He seems okay. But if it was any deeper it could have been a trip to the emergency room. Without insurance one trip could cost thousands easy. I think with insurance we pay $500 or something so it wouldn't have been pretty either way. They don't charge much for regular visits but stick it to you with the emergency room. But yeah, he fell and bit his lip pretty deep. He's got a swollen lip today but it seems to be healing fine. Hope it continues that way.

Sure the $500 or so would have sucked but I could hardly think of anything worse than holding him in place so they could stitch up his lip. I think he lucked out though his lip is sore today. No needles, so phew.







Tuesday Tidbits

August 28th, 2007 at 03:27 pm

*Got signed up for balanced billing - both electric and gas. Gas told me they were going to bill me $30/month. I think our electric average is around $40/month. They didn't tell me the amount up front. But we'll see. I'll miss the $10 bills, but oh well, makes budgeting easier. (& I guess that I won't miss the $100 bills!!!!!!)

*Still hadn't gotten the paperwork to switch to metered water, but I guess they called dh today to say it is still in the works. August is a bad month, but metered water in September would be nice (will save $10-$15). Maybe October - as long as we get it by the really cheap winter months. Big Grin

*Experian sent me a note that they deleted a bunch of crap from my credit report and will permanently block all of it. Woohoo. We'll see what Equifax says. Transunion was called by Citi (with me on the line) but they were the ones that had that horrid FICO score. If it doesn't bounce back up by next month I will write in for the "permanent block." Maybe should do regardless, since I swear they said they "removed stuff" (got that in writing) but nothing about a "permanent block." Maybe that has to be requested (certain states like California allows fraudulent stuff to just be permanently blocked from your report if you ask). I am also terribly confused by what the credit Bureaus do and do not share. They seem to share all the info with each other, but then others say they don't. From my experience they seem to be sharing all the info - if anything reports on one it reports on the others. I think I even read if you requested a block with one it will send on the info to the others to block as well. Well, we'll see. see if I get more confirmations or if I will have to pull more reports and send off for more block requests.

All the instructions and forms said you can only block what is showing, but I sent along the police report and they blocked everything that has shown up since I pulled the report - as much keeps trickling onto the report - so woohoo. Score one anyway for a tedious process. For one, Lowes has taken the balance off my report from day 1 but it still shows on my report (with a $0 balance). I assume this means it won't show up at all. Other places are still showing on my credit report with balances while they resolve things though I think most said they wouldn't. (Whatever...). IT should be a good month before I get anywhere near resolving all of this. Waiting for them all to officially "clear me" and take everything off my credit report. I think most quoted it as a 30-day process from when I sent in the affidavits (all signed/notarized/sent/received, so just a waiting game here on out.

*We weren't home all weekend, and yesterday was a LONG day (Marine World - went well - kids loved it). Tomorrow I am hosting a playgroup with like 10 moms and 15 kids I don't know. Oy Vey! Don't ask - long story... (Of course funny enough dh asks me what we are doing for dinner - LOL. I said - do you think we can afford to feed all these people? Play date is AFTER dinner of course. He was asking if he should pick up some pizzas...)

*Which reminds me I am SICK of pizza. We did the take/bake cheap yummy pizza thing last Monday for guests, had lots of leftovers (since dh bought 2 - told him we only needed one! Wink ). Pizza Saturday for birthday party and then we went to visit dh's friends Sunday and they pulled out the pizza menu. We just looked at each other. "Sure, sounds great." (If I never see another pizza again). Well, we did get a lot of free pizza - so hey...

*Made a big deposit at the bank. My mom reimbursed me for all the airline tickets (like $3k) and I had kids' birthday money (transferring to Vanguard in the next month). I had been waiting until I needed it and was ready to transfer so it didn't just get spent... I mean I was going to transfer it regardless, but now I can just transfer the actual checks once they deposit. I was starting Automatic Imvestments for the kids in September. & then I had dh's focus group money - deposited the cash like a good girl.

*Dh was inspired by my dad to attempt pest control on his own. Woohoo. We tried in the past and he just wasn't helping me, lord knows I don't have the time. We found a cheap service for a while (who would only come when we needed it - thank you) but they gave up on wasps (too many injured employees and that is our only real problem, though I have seen more spiders than I have cared to this last year inside the house. We are lucky the house is air tight enough few get in though). I haven't balanced my disgust for chemical pest control with my disdain for spiders. It's irrational I know, but I just can't stand the things. Anyway, some guy came around with some insane quotes last week and dh wanted to sign up. I asked him to call around. We need someone to come once or twice at the beginnign of wasp season and that is about it. We don't need to pay $60 each and every month (nor do I want to spray that much as we try to be somewhat environmentally conscious). But after a year if no spraying something needs to give - indeed. So when we were talking to my dad over the weekend about frugalness or something dh got inspired to give it a whirl himself. We'll see. I just don't want him to get stung. But yeah my dad has always done the pest spraying for our home growing up. So he had some tips.

Which reminds me our guests from Canada came to the door and said, "You get tarantulas here???" Yeah, just want the arachnophobe wants to hear. They were going on and on about our BUGS which I found rather ironic. I know I wouldn't last a minute in the south myself. Maybe we should move north! IT wasn't a tarantula - just a really big spider. The thought will give me nightmares though. But yeah told them they hasn't seen nothing until they go spend a summer day in North Carloina - hehe.

*We decided my van needs new tires. Still 2 originals (2 blew but ran over bolts both times - not much you can do). I told dh I thought the used ones looked worn but he convinced me they weren't. We're pulling out the penny and I think he was guaging the wrong areas of the tire. So over the weekend his dad mentioned my tires looked pretty worn. (Van has about 45k miles on it and I am sure the 2 are original tires - probably crappy factory ones at that). So I asked my dad to check since he is the car expert. In true frugal fashion he tells me front tires are pretty iffy (should replace) but the back ones have 6 months. If he were me he'd wait 6 months on the back ones. But get the tires that last 60k miles. I am thinking if I am taking my car in and getting tires, and they are going to last 60k miles, might as well get 'er done. But that's my dad. We usually just have our mechanic guy do it (he advises us but we haven't taken the cars in much since we have 2 newer cars). So I asked my dad where he recommended and he recommended someone down the street from them in San Jose. He said he would call and get me a quote. Sounds good - next time we drive down - my dad will help me get a deal.

That being said I don't think our mechanic charged particularly much for the 2 or 3 times he replaced all my tires (I have gone through a lot of cars lately) so I will probably call him for a quote too. If they are that "iffy" on the front rather just get them done - can take them in tomorrow if I wanted.

Not a biggie, but then dh tells me he doesn't think his tires have ever been changed. I vaguely remember they have been but I couldn't remember when. The car has well over 70k miles. I figure he is insane. I haven't pulled out the paperwork yet (hardly been home) but at lunch I remembered to look at his tires. Clearly new. Probably replaced in the last year or 2, but the car is never driven. I was pleased to glance at his tired and see they obviously don't need replaced too - phew. I mean if they did - what are you going to do - we'll replace them - we have the cash. Safety first. But he was freaking me out. I'll pull out the paperwork and see when we got those tires...

Always something...

*Yesterday we spent $110 at Marine World (Discovery Kingdom or whatever - just changed the name). I was wrong. Our tickets were $30/each. & parking was $15. (Are they serious?) Of course if you looked at the prices the day without discount would have cost us something like $200 (tickets only - not even parking). Who pays that????????? Everyone we saw had a coupon of course. But they day was PERFECT - just dead as could be - not a lot of people. We did good! Kids had a blast. Spent $35 on food for the grand total of $110. Of course we were lazy and tired and had a $5 Taco Bell meal on the way home and stopped by Rite Aid for some 99-cent ice cream so made it a $118 day I guess.

I also made the observation that the more fit people had the fancier strollers yesterday - for the toddlers and preschoolers. IT strikes me as odd. I guess BM has never been a stroller fan (too much energy) and in the last few months LM has pretty much been done with his (pretty much after he had been walking just a few months). When we took them to SF zoo a few months back I was amazed how well LM but at the end of the night we had to carry him out and about killed us (he is a good 30 pounds). But yesterday we brought the stroller "in case" but left it in the car. Didn't need it in the least. Since we are more in shape carrying him at the end of the day exhaustion point was just a piece of cake. & I am just happy one less thing we have to pack next time. I have read that people are keeping their kids in strollers way too long (part of the whole obesity thing) and yesterday I really noticed it. I just think it was extremely ironic that the most fit people had the biggest strollers - LOL. Dh said it was a status symbol thing. I don't know - maybe. As for us, every time we have to pack (or more importantly, every time I have to REMEMBER ) one less thing, we do the happy dance of joy. I think we are about done with strollers... I say woohoo!

*THough I have been a little stressed lately about money (when am I not?) I am feeling rather at one with the financial universe all the same. Life is good. I left work early last week to hang out with BM at preschool "because he wanted me to." Sure, what the heck. Took yesterday off. Going to Japan in a few weeks. Dh and the kids are going to Florida as well in OCtober. Our savings is going in a positive direction for the first time since kids and one-income and all that. Life is good. What is there really to complain about. I already blogged that while everyone is "Going Back to School" we are enjoying the kids. Maybe it is because the kids are at a good age too. Moving past diapers and bottles (& strollers) and sleepless nights, it's kind of an enjoyable time. Easier to slow down and enjoy their innocence a little bit more without the complete exhaustion that comes with babies and newborns.

I've even been feeling less like working part-time is really going to be my goal. I want more time with the kids now - like it matters when they are in school all day anyway. Which means I might make an effort to work less the next year or 2 and then ramp it up when the kids are in school and give up on the whole part-time thing. Maybe... I mean if dh returns to work it will be an entirely different beast. But if he is not working, kids in school, my work schedule isn't so bad. I can compile my vacation and take a month off every summer and be home with the kids then if I like. I could come home every afternoon and work while they do homework. At least we can all be home together though - though we will all have our own work to do. It's an idea. I think I would probably be better off doing that and going for more unpaid time than the goal of part-time. I would just lose way too much. If I can vie for more unpaid time insetad, I wouldn't lose all my benefits and perks. Frankly, I don't really mind working full-time. I have had a time of it since LM was born. I think I have felt like I have been missing a lot more with the kids. But with LM sleeping better and getting to the gym and all that I have just been feeling so much better. Work has been going so much better. A good night sleep does make all the difference - it really does. I think with sleep and getting more fit and a clearer brain I am focusing more on how good we have it lately and so feel little need to complain and am rather happy where things are. I have just been on a bitch fest when it has come to work these last few months and I think just the stress and exhaustion. But things are going a lot better. Work is still crazy, but handling it better.

August Interest

August 28th, 2007 at 08:00 am

$20 challenge:

$8,268.32 - Balance 8/23

$ 150.00 - August Interest

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$8,418.32 - Balance 8/31
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I got most of my interest from my MM paid Monday (25th for whatever reason). The CDs are easy enough to calculate - so $150 for August. Not bad. With the 2 balance transfers paid for a full month, this is the best month. Will go down as balances are paid down. Also, I have to send off $1k to the IRS which will lower my September interest.

September & October will probably be decent, but will be draining around $4k in November and December for property taxes and insurances. For now I have a big chunk of short-term savings in the MM earning big interest.

Well it is nice while it lasts!

Not sure I have ever made easier money. Wink

I FINALLY got my Cookie Lee catalog today so will make some sales this week. Well I can't add it to the challenge, but it will help.

Yay and Nay

August 25th, 2007 at 11:08 am

I just got my haircut - woohoo. I chopped off a good 8 inches or so I am sure. I prefer more shoulder-length hair but somehow it was 1/2-way down my back (heck I don't know if it has ever been longer). That being said I just chopped it in January - I swear my hair grows faster with age.

But anyway - I had a $9.99 coupon for Great Clips. I was able to walk in and see my favorite stylist with no wait. My beauty regime pretty much is a cheap haircut twice a year. I don't see the point of much else. I have given up on Super Cuts - too many bad haircuts (maybe didn't help that is where I went during my short hair stage - I decided I could no longer afford short hair since a stylist is way too expensive and would have to cut every few weeks, etc.). Great Clips can be hit and miss but I have had much better luck. I got this salon quality stylist though who can work magic on my hair with a quick cut (fast too). So I lucked out today. In and out in about 15 minutes - no wait - perfect haircut. Maybe a pound or 2 lighter - LOL.

Most all the beauty stuff I just don't buy into. I actually get a lot of compliments on my hair, and having the years I dyed and permed and styled, I have to say not doing all that stuff to your hair makes for some nice healthy hair. I wouldn't touch it with a blow dryer either. If I hadn't of wanted a cut I didn't really need one, which is why it had been so long, my hair was looking really nice even with the length. She is just that good.

Oh but anyway - my coupon was for like $5 off so I have a $5 tip. Might had been a bit excessive but I am thrilled to get such a good quality cut for $10. I'll probably get a cut in February again, before tax season. Not a big part of the budget.

In other news I am an idiot. Wanted to take BM to Gilroy Gardens Monday - took a day off - special day just for us. When I last looked it seemed they were open weekdays through August so I made a mental note to plan a trip when we could go on a weekday. (But since the weather is more like here was pushing it off all the same - didn't want to go on a 100-degree day).

I just popped online to buy tickets and last operating weekday for the year was last Friday. Frown I messed up.

I am not sure if I can really justify taking off work if we don't do something like that. I am swamped. But I have some insane coupon for MArine World. Something like $20/each and kids free if we go on a weekday. It's open Monday. We might stay in town and do that instead.

We were going to drive 2 separate cars to San Jose tomorrow since BM and I were going to stay overnight and dh/LM weren't. Now it just doesn't matter. We figure we will save a good $20 or so in gas - Marine World will actually be a cheaper trip in the end.

Gilroy Gardens will have to wait to next year when LM can enjoy too. We'll survive. I am not going on a crowded weekend - you couldn't pay me. Wink That one is a catch 22 because it is for smaller kids though. They'll outgrow it soon enough. We'll have to go early in the summer.

No Back to School -phew

August 25th, 2007 at 07:21 am

I have come to the conclusion that my kids are at the best age.

Maybe not the cheapest age with preschool and diapers and needed a parent to watch them 24/7, etc.

But beyond that, a pretty good age.

When I went to lunch Tuesday there were a couple of screaming babies and younger ones.

Baby screamed all through lunch though.

I don't really miss those times - LOL.

Everyone else is scrambling with back to school. I have some friends who are pretty low key and refuse to put their kids in any activities (fine with me - they don't have my kids though - LOL). & think we lean towards the overscheduling side. Not at all. Drop the kids off a couple of days a week so we can get a break and they can play and get messy. & karate is a whopping 1/2 hour a week. The kids have about 5 full days a week and 6 nights a week with NOTHING scheduled. I think for the most part though my work can get busy, we lead a rather carefree life. At least the kids and hubby do...

& that all ends when school starts! LOL. Then suddenly the kids will be at school a good chunk of every day and will have homework and projects. Dh will be expected to work a bit more, etc.

It has been hitting me more lately, we really need to enjoy while we have the time. & the kids are just at a fun age. LM is talking up a storm too. Which is fun! & cute.

BM never really had much of a Terrible 2 stage because he could always communicate so well. LM is much more shy and moody (takes after me) and I figured we would be in trouble, but suddenly he can talk in full and complete sentences (though he just turned 2) and he seems to be following the way of his brother. I read somewhere the terrible 2s comes with frustration as the brain moves ahead with how much the kids at that age can usually communicate. I in turn feel extremely blessed and see that being able to communicate really makes ALL the difference at that age. I can't say BM ever really had a tantrum, and LM has been a tantrum boy since birth (we look at him like where did that come from? So much he picks up from his brother but that was all him). But those have completely disappeared with his ability to communicate.

Don't get me wrong, the kids go through phases. Though both seem to be in a pleasant phase lately, so phew. But the worst for both thus far was pre-2.

Of course last night, dh put BM's drink in the dishwasher and he flipped out and started screaming and crying. I told him to calm down and ask for a new cup - it really is that simple. God forbid daddy wants to do the dishes. YEah, they have their moments, regardless... Still need that reminder to use their words once in a while though most of the time they don't have a problem - hehe.

Also, I am trying to figure out in my head how much easier life will really be once the kids are out of preschool. We've capped out at about $300/week (per kid anyway) and don't see spending more. But once school starts how much will we spend on supplies, uniforms? Extra-curriculars and music lessons (stuff that school no longer provides)? I'd love to pop the money in for a spousal IRA starting in 2009 or so, but I don't know if it's realistic.

Then again dh would not need to pay daycare to work so maybe it will all be moot. The spousal IRA should be in the bag by then.

Who knows. We are already slipping backwards with this LM preschool thing. "It's just one year." But I am already stressed out about it. If it means I can slide the money over to an IRA starting next September though, I don't care. I just wonder if it will really work out that way.

Or maybe I will get a big raise and it won't matter.

I seem to get myself in trouble when I plan too ahead in the future, so I am wary. I Am sure I am forgetting something...

Then again this is our last carefree, & working is too expensive to make sense year. I should probably just relax and enjoy.

Better Enjoy it While it Lasts

August 24th, 2007 at 07:04 am

Dh being in the marketing field told me this focus group had issues how they were recruiting people. He says usually they should be calling random samples, not advertising all the money and getting just a certain group. (For one handing out flyers so we tell our friends/family but that would skew to a certain segment of the population).

But he had a flyer for a woman's "taste test." I figured they hadn't called so I probably didn't qualify so what the heck. So I did. Oh I qualified, they set up a time (why do they do that? and THEN they ask more questions to make sure. Do I eat soup often or occassionally (once a month?). I say occassionally - I don't remember the last time I ate soup. So the guy says, well, to qualify you have to ear soup 2-3 times a week or more. Are you sure you don't eat soup that much?

Is he kidding me? I just said once a month. Whatever - $30 for 30 minutes down the drain. He starts telling me about a great wine focus group for $60. I say sure but I don't drink wine very much, what is the qualification? Drink wine 2-3 times a week at least. Didn't I just say I don't drink wine very much? LOL.

They are new and obviously VERY desparate to feel some spots. I told dh and he was peeved. He said hopefully when they go out of business they will sell their mailing list to another marketing company. Hehe. He said seriously, no one would hire them if they knew how they were recruiting people. It was obvious to me all I had to do was change my mind and I could have gone. I almost felt pressured to. But like I know anything about wine. I am not that desparate for the money. I imagine many are though.

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

I also finally made it to Kohls and spent about $60. With my $10 off coupon I got a really nice purse (finally - been looking for months). Got it for around $15 I'd say - not bad.

Then I bought 3 shirts fro $40. Don't ask. LOL. Actually, REALLY cute though.

Oh, and a $3 shirt for my niece.

The sales racks weren't bad - a lot of $4 - $7 stuff in the kids' department which isn't bad (how much it usually is at the thrift shop anyway). & a lot of adult stuff in the $10 range. I can usually find some really good deals, but didn't have the touch, nor the time yesterday. But I got a couple of cute tops for $12 and one for about $20. That one I thought was on sale more but just kept it - figured I'd be extra picky on it when I tried it on at home. It was the cutest/most perfect top. I think I have to lose a few more pounds to do it justice, but maybe it will motivate me. Have to keep it. I don't think I would have picked it up otherwise, but meant to be I guess.

They also had a ton of "sales price given at register" signs. This one was in a rack of stuff full of 50% off items so I thought it would be closer to $15 or something, and with the sale price given at register, I expected more. Oh well. For the most part I thought I don't want to buy anything if I don't know what the price is. What kind of sales tactic is that? Do people really enjoy that? It just screams to me, the sale is too crappy that you wouldn't buy it if we told you the sales price - LOL. Yeah about how it went with that one shirt. But it got me anyway.

What I really need to do is go get a haircut now. It's been about 8-9 months. Maybe tonight - have a coupon that expires tomorrow.

Today I have a boring seminar in a beautiful setting. But it will be hard to enjoy in the 100 degree heat. Blech. & with the boring seminar - LOL. Will get out early at least and we are going to the gym tonight.

Weekend will be a whirlwind. Parties, get togethers, amusement park, family, etc. Will be fun. I don't return to work until Tuesday but brought home hours of work. Maybe sneak a little in tonight or Monday. Have to get something done, but intend to enjoy the weekend for the most part.

Another Focus Group

August 23rd, 2007 at 11:38 am

$20 challenge:

$8,208.32 - Balance 7/31

$ 60.00 - Focus Group

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$8,268.32 - Balance 8/23
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Dh did a focus group on music last night. It was a little shorter than the last one and paid $60.

But he netted $135 in just 25 days.

Not bad, not bad at all...

They called me and invited my daughter and I to one for $35. Since I don't have a daughter, didn't work out, but I forwarded it to my friend who has daughters in the age range. Her and her husband work many many jobs and I knew she would appreciate the easy money. Not sure why I didn't mention to her sooner (duh moment).

Dh obviously fits the demographic and the kids help too (kids were invited to one already - just happened BM was out of town with grandma). I have yet to make it to one, but if dh and I could average one a month that would be a pretty sweet income stream. Another $1k-$2k/year with little effort?

Probably won't last forever as they get more of a database going, but they keep calling dh up for these $200 focus groups he does not qualify for in the Bay. (Disqualified by zip code). So for whatever reason he is wanted.

I am not in a favorable demographic apparently. Or one that is too saturated I guess...

Which reminds me I think I am out on surveys. I realize I feel like I have done 100 surveys for NFO and am just hitting the $5 mark. I can't even cash out until I make $10. I decided I am out. I just don't have the time for these. I haven't found it to be as easy as it seems... I could spend that time writing articles instead... Or working overtime taking home $25/hour. So I'm out... (I also applied for Pinecone and they didn't want me. It probably does not help that I rarely shop so why I am not good survey material).


ETA: I would probably have some cookie lee money too but I yet to receive the catalog that came out about 11 days ago. ?????????????????????? I am peeved. To hell with MLMs. LOL. Just weird - I will cash in soon enough though. Well, if I ever get the stinkin' catalog. I got 2 people wanting to order though if it ever arrives. Though it's not challenge money. But it's money. Big Grin






Financial Radio and prepaying mortgage...

August 22nd, 2007 at 07:26 am

What financial shows do you listen to on the radio? Just curious.

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Dave Ramsey is kind of interesting, but getting boring. Just been streaming him on the internet since I recognize him when I search the radio listings. But I need some new stuff to listen to. I am sick of screaming at the radio - "Don't do it!" He was telling someone to pay the government taxes instead of funding a SEP because they didn't have enough money to save. (But give it to the government? Is he crazy? Saving money you don't have beats giving it to the IRS).

Yesterday was interesting though. some guy called in and at 40 had a paid off house. I guess his payment had been $1500 or something. So Dave says, round up to $1800 and invest that monthly for 30 years and he'd have $6 million.

I rolled my eyes.

I popped the numbers in a calculator - he was assuming a 12% rate of return. Also, there is a BIG difference between $1500 and $1800 per month. So he was REALLY exaggerating. (He was saying, oh let's just round up a bit...)

10% I would say is fair and that would be $4 mil in this case. 8% is likely and is only $2.5 mil. Sure, either way is great. But there is a BIG difference between 2 & 4 & 6 million all the same. Plus without the rounding up it makes an even bigger difference. Haven't even gotten to inflation...

I guess this is why I always find the great mortgage debate weird - because we are so young. Granted we won't pay off our house by 40 most likely, but in general we have a goal to pay it off by 45. So no, in our poorest years I don't want to pay down the mortgage like crazy, but doesn't mean I can't pay it off by 45 and have a few million by retirement.

I guess I want the best of all worlds. & it is possible. So I think Dave makes a point and I somewhat agree. We want to save our mortgage payment for a good 20 years before we retire (none of this "house payment into our 50s" business). But he REALLY exaggerates all the same. We pretty much have a plan to set $2k/month aside starting in the next few years when dh returns to work. My goal is not to be filthy rich, just to lead a comfortable life. If we lived in Kansas or NC we wouldn't need nearly so much, but then again we wouldn't make nearly as much.

I am starting to think the odds are we will "over save" and have it quite cushy, but so much can happen between here and there. I don't think it's a given at all that we'll be filthy rich or have all that money, even if we plan to be saving well enough for it.

I guess I find the whole thing a little misleading as a whole. All Dave really needs to say is "put that money side and you are set for retirement." Maybe he can only sell people when he convinces them they will be filthy rich. Maybe they will be... Who knows... I can't disagree with his underlying principles though. It is certainly awesome to be rid of a $1500 house payment at age 40 - nothing to complain about there. I guess I just don't get the exaggerating. Does he really have to convince you having another $20k/year to savings is awesome? Isn't that obvious?

Well give me some radio ideas and I will have something else to talk about besides Dave - LOL.

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In other news I decided a week or 2 ago that I was sick of the human race. Money is not a problem for me. Family, love, it has all always come easy. But my achilles heel is friendship. Mostly I expect too much from people, and don't have a lot to give since family is so important to me. & friendship is too so I know I don't have the time to be a proper friend, which makes it hard on me as well. So I pretty much decided last week to screw it, the kids will be in school soon enough and will be making their own friends, I am just bowing out of the playgroup scene. Had enough. Suddenly a bunch of friendships I have been trying to cultivate for years and stuff I had laid the groundwork for in the past are all popping up to the surfact this week. Just bizarre. It's like the powers that be are telling me - look - all in the past is for naught - and I need to be out meeting people and getting our of my own little bubble. I also just met the most interesting person yesterday, and an old friend I had not talked to in ages just e-mailed me to tell me she had moved in my neighborhood and wanted to get together.

For a while there all my friends were moving away too. Inevitable I meet someone I really like, and they move across the country. It's an ongoing joke whenever I hit it off with someone, dh asks when they are moving and how far. I guess I find it frustrating. So my friend visited from Canada and we just had a blast. I decided yeah they all move away but they still enrich my life in some way.

I also got together with a friend over the weekend. She has been a breath of fresh air to me since we moved to Sacramento since overall I find most people "crazy" but with 3 kids and a move across town it has been hard to get together. It was extremely bizarre to meet up and find we are much in the same place today - our lives are very parallel. When we met we were in very different places, except we both had a kid the same age. Funny how life does that.

I guess I shouldn't give up on the human race just yet...

The hardest for me is the politics and it gets thick in the mommy crowd. I'll take office politics any day - LOL. I find it easy enough to just not play the game when it comes to the office. When you refuse to play the game in the women crowd you get left in the dust. But I guess this week is a reminder I have met a few gems. Maybe when it comes to the office I just don't care if I get left in the dust. LOL. I don't know.


Free Issue - Light & Tasty

August 22nd, 2007 at 06:39 am

I have a free issue sitting here (somehow we started receiving 2 subscriptions. We have to straighten it out).

But in the meantime it is just sitting here. If anyone would like it, just let me know. I can reply to your comment by e-mail and get your address.

If you have not heard of it, it is a recipe magazine. We used "Quick Cooking" when we transitioned to home cooking, and we cook from these mags all the time. We eventually started getting Light & Tasty too for more healthy fare.

I have shared some of the recipes before on this blog.

Well whoever replies first I'll send it off to.

Spendy Week

August 21st, 2007 at 07:54 am

Oh, this week is turning out to be spendy. Got a friend in town from Canada whom I am meeting for lunch today. The girls wanted to meet at Macaroni Grill. I probably wouldn't mind popping in and just ordering a soda since I will be short on time too, but we'll see.

I was lazy and splurged on a $4 meal at McDs yesterday, before all this came about. Figured. Money is just going to be so tight through the end of the year with LM starting preschool too. We talked to MIL and she is big on BM going more days in preparation for Kinder. We don't really agree or see the point. For one considering, the preschool is so play based I am not sure how going more will help him prepare. IT will just make it harder to tear him away, if you ask me. So she wants to pay for something more academic. Yeah, whatever... We don't see the point, but even more funny, dh is getting very upset about him starting Kinder next year and does not want him to be busy every day of the week. It's cute. I think he is going to have a hard time of it when he goes off to school.

Yeah everyone in my moms' group is going on about teary first days of Kinder and how hard it is on the MOMs. I look on amused as my son won't shed a tear (he didn't even shed a tear when he was left the first time ever at preschool) and I will probably be okay, but my husband will be shedding the tears. IT will be really hard on him. It's not harder on the mom, it's harder on the parent who spends all that time with them before they go off to school. I still can't believe how fast it is coming up for us - one more year...

& yeah though I wasn't home with him I shed a few tears when he went to preschool. Wink I think that was the tough adjustment for me. Knowing he was in someone else's care and had to be more independent. Maybe I am kidding myself and will be bawling like a baby when he starts school - who knows.

So anyway, MIL's offer doesn't stand for LM, but he has been having a blast and a spot opened up so we are just going for it. Will only cost us another $400 through the end of the year. It really isn't much and isn't going to make or break us, but means stuff like eating out is just not in the budget at all any more. Through the end of the year anyway.

& then I ran into my friend yesterday and it is her birthday sometime this week (I had forgotten - I could have sworn it was October - LOL). So I will probably treat her out somewhere next week. Oh well. I don't want to be a cheap bastard so I figured I would do that though she owes me $10 (not even sure if she remembers).

It's all little stuff and we'll survive.

Dh is in a foul mood this week. We generally tend to buy services with companies and stick with them forever. For example, we paid our lifetime subscription to TIVO around 2000 and they still honor it though lord knows they want us to upgrade and start paying a monthly fee. Verizon we were on their old plan for AGES. We had free calls after 8pm and were paying a lot less for only 300 minutes/month, etc. We just upgraded a few months back but we were on that plan since 1999 easy. They completely honored our original contract as long as we were customers, though they haven't offered it with new contracts for years.

BUT for Blockbuster online rental, whatever it is called, we got in at a very cheap price with a bunch of extras that they no longer offer. I don't even think we have had the service more than a year or 2 and they are dropping it. We were paying $19/month for the biggest package (I thought) and dh had unlimited free game rentals as as well as extra in-store coupons every month. IT was a pretty sweet deal.

No more.

We'll be shopping around or dropping it altogether. We have SAVED so much money with all the free game rentals and everything. So dh is rather miffed. We may consider dropping it and getting back HBO or something. But that doesn't solve the game problem...

Also, yesterday it was announced that Microsoft paid off PAramount a huge amount of money so that Paramount will issue all their movies only in HD format. Blu Ray was leading by a mile and dh was confident they would win out in the format wars (which is why he wanted the PS3 so bad - to have the Blu Ray). Now it looks like Microsoft will sink a low blow to keep the wars going. Wow. Dh is peeved. He's an early adopter when it comes to this stuff so it just knocks everything on its head and he is not happy. He wanted to upgrade our DVD player to HD next year. (Which isn't a biggie since our DVD player is 10-years-old - the whole early thing. Our 2nd DVD player is the PS2...).

As for me I don't mind that he has to wait while things shake out... (Or that it's smart to wait anyway). But shhhh don't tell him. On the flip side I have to hear him rant and rave about the whole thing for a long while...

So that is what is going on in this house.

Oh yeah - I also landed a flight to Japan for $800. It is strange to me that prices were dropping as the date approaches, but we had to lock them in. It seems a lot more real. We are staying for 5 whole days (forgot we lose a day on the flight in). Now we just have to decide what we are going to do there. It is just in a few weeks!!!!! Just crazy...

In unspendy news we met some friends at the public park to play in the water feature Sunday (kids had a blast - a park I had heard of but never been to) and last night we bought a $5 take & bake pizza and invited my Canadian friend over. She brought some salad and we went to the park to shoot rockets. So been worming in some cheap fun too... IT was really good for me. If BM runs around at preschool all day and then goes to karate and runs 100 laps afterwards he can be a very calm, pleasant child. Oh he can anyway but the last evening playgroup we hosted ended in an ugly working mom vs. SAHM debate when one snooty SAHM thought our boys (& a friend's boys) were too wild for her taste. The obvious reason was because we work - of course. Were they wound up at 8pm at night? Yes. Too wild? Remains to be seen. They are young boys. Ironically we went to a playgroup the following night where it was marveled at how well behaved my kids were. But BM does get riled up in our own house more and I realized I have not hosted a play date since. How utterly ridiculous. I can't believe I let her get to me like that. I think we'll try and do more evening play dates. Though I am curious if he can be so calm without such a rigorous day - LOL. I guess we'll see. He just has more energy than one person should... If nothing else it was nice to have a "friend" over without my "parenting" being attacked though, regardless of the kids. Wink

Negotiating...

August 20th, 2007 at 03:24 pm

"Negotiating 101
Think you're a great negotiator? Chances are you do. And you're probably wrong. That means you're likely to overpay when buying a house, a car or items at a swap meet."
http://www.mercurynews.com/personalfinance/ci_6663234

An interesting article. I don't think I am a great negotiator by any means, but it amazes me how little most people I know don't even try to negotiate anything. I am a bit of a negotiator as my dad is an excellent negoitator and has taught me a bit with time. For the most part most of my negotiating was accidental. Walking away from a horrible deal or just walking away, period, it has amazed me over the years what I have been offered. Ironically most of it not much of what I wanted, but it has given me trmendous insight into the whole negotiation process:

1 - My first job out of college I chose from multiple offers at the job I wanted most. When I called to turn down one offer they kept offering me more. For my first green job it never occured to me I had any bargaining power. I will always remember that. IT pretty much never hurts to ask. Too bad I didn't want the job no mattter what - I took far lesser pay but think I had a better experience. (Plus the job I took was paying overtime which I had no idea would be so HUGE - may have come out ahead anyway. The point there is more to a job and benefits than base pay!).

2 - We walked into a timeshare presentation and when it was clear we weren't interested they tried to entice us with a 50% price drop off the bat. Were never going to buy because figured the thing in reality had a negative value, but you know people in the room were snapping time shares up at full price and our hesitation could have bought it at 1/2 price easy if we had really been interested. I am kind of curious how low they will go on our little trip in December - I hear they are asking (and people are paying) $50k. I wouldn't take the thing (for free) myself, but curious all the same how desparate they are.

3 - When we hired our gardener we were discussing prices and I saw him take this "negotiating stance." Stroking his chin, pausing to think once he did not like my original price. I had never thought that price was negotiable but I caught the "cues" and was easily able to talk him down from his first price offer. (The fact that he asked me what I would pay was probably a good cue too now that I think about it - doh). IT was just something I hadn't even thought of before we were in the situation. I also have a relative who married a Filipino man and my MIL goes on and on and on how he gets discounts on everything. I try to keep that in mind whenever we have anyone come out to our house for any work. Usually price is negotiable but few ask. Watch and learn from the masters (for him it is just a cultural thing. But the only thing he really does that others don't do is simply ask...).

4 - Furniture. We just refuse to buy furniture where price isn't neogitable. An interesting thing we had a while ago though was we were buying some furniture for the kids at our favorite discount warehouse and they were having a going out of business sale. they had these beautiful theatre chairs that were knocked way down from "retail" but still looked awfully pricey for our blood. But when I saw them I just had to have them - would be perfect for our barren theatre room. We were negotiating and not very happy with the results, especially when we saw a tear in the fabric that they seemed unwilling to budge on. I whispered to dh, "call his bluff - walk away." The thing is we had come to a stand still and the deal was bad. The product was flawed and at this 60% discount or whatever they were still asking a good grand. But if he was willing to come down more we would buy. HE said no, so we walked away. As we were about to walk out the door he came over and offered a $100 further discount. We said how about $300, and he said okay. That simple. It's just a big game. A big simple game. If he hadn't of given in it was way too pricey for us and we could live without (or maybe found something nice/used later) so wasn't like the be all/end all for us (which is they KEY for negotiation). Obviously they wanted to get rid of the thing and few would pay that much for a flawed piece of furniture. You just have to use common sense. They were probably counting on some big dough with the pretty shiny leather (which cerainly caught my eye) but I had the feeling one too many people had pointed out the flaws (and why it still sit in the mostly barren wherehouse).

5 - I have seen some really bad negotiating when it has come to private party car shopping and Craigslist exchanges. I always overprice my items expecting haggle, but only 1/3 (if that) ever ask. You don't know how many car sellers have told me how low they would accept for their car from the getgo. Like REALLY low prices way below asking. No point in asking for more if you are going to show all your cards at once.

I have to say I don't think we have ever walked away from anything without a better deal to be had somewhere else. I think the best rule in negotiation is there will always be something else out there. Or maybe the rule should be, the more desparate the seller, the more options you know you have... Wink But once you understand that it is a lot harder to get taken.

Too optimisitc I guess

August 20th, 2007 at 06:59 am

I just got am e-mail from WAMU that my credit score has dropped to 670. !!!

I am frustrated as I have signed up for the credit monitoring and I am hopeful that it will alert me to new accounts and stuff, but I don't show 5 false accounts showing up like WAMU does. Ugh. Plus I logged in to the credit monitoring today and 2 of the cards are showing up balances and all.

It is just frustrating. It will get cleared up in the long run, but lord knows when.

I am extra frustrated as I actually expected it to be up because 2 of the Credit Bureaus wrote me to say they had removed all the false inquiries, and I asked the third too (they were probably already in the process). They had also blocked the false accounts that were showing (I have to wait until the others show to block them though?).

& yet WAMU says it is reporting 5 credit cards I do not own and 7 inquiries (most not mine).

It's just FRUSTRATING. What else can I do?

I am still concerned about my Balance Transfer 0% rate. I was reading up and don't see anything that you credit score has anything to do with universal default. But lord knows why these are showing up on my credit report and what is to stop them to report them as unpaid or late, etc. until this is resolved? Well great, you won't do that but you will obliterate my credit score anyway.

I am also peeved with "Citi ID Theft Solutions." They are idiots all around. Not very helpful. The reason they need a whole ID theft department is because they perpetuate the fraud by letting people borrow $5k-$8k in other states and pay little attention to fishy activity. Under the non-city cards (2 of them) only $1 was stolen. All the theft happened with Citi for the most part. & they are idiots. (I just found out they had not closed 1 card they told me was taken care of). !!!! Luckily this is not the one obliterating my score as it was a small balance... But I had to call and sit on hold again with them another hour. They had told me oh I don't have to worry about it - they'll take care of it...

I am just peeved all around. If it's all taken care of, why is my score down over 100 points? Hardly taken care of...

I will probably pull all my credit reports in 2 weeks and send complaints off to the Bureaus again. Fun fun.

Crazy Week

August 19th, 2007 at 04:17 pm

Just had to say if I am not around much, it is a crazy week. I think I paid all the bills for the month and it is kind of slow here on out. Until I see where the credit card lands on the 3rd. Then I'll do the big bad net worth thing - see where we land. Anything can happen. I think since so little of our net worth growth this year is in stocks it doesn't affect my goals too much.

But yeah we have what feels like a million things planned this week. It has been rather slow around here, phew. But this week is crazy. Not a lot of money stuff. We may be providing dinner here tomorrow (which won't be a biggie) and I am taking BM to a kiddie amusement park next Monday, but I set aside the cash a couple of months ago. Not a lot of costly stuff planned this month, but the unplanned stuff is what gets you. Wink

Dh and I are also both driving to San Jose next weekend so the gas thing isn't good... I was excited my niece's birthday party landed on Sunday as BM and I were going to be there anyway. But dh has other plans over the weekend and doesn't want to stay until Monday so we are driving separate. Figures. But we have been doing good on gas so shouldn't really affect the budget.

I also just realized that the next 3 weeks are 4-day work weeks for me. Could be good I guess but I have way too much to do. I really wanted to take a week day off and had made that a priority for BM, but hadn't really thought that the following weekend was Labor Day Weekend. I'll probably just work that Saturday to make up the time and get a little more caught up. I just am happy to have a day off when there aren't a lot of crowds. Holidays off become less appealing with time. We don't have any plans Labor Day Weekend but the thought just occurred to me that is the last weekend our pool is open too. Lord don't ask me why, it will be warm well through September here. We will have to go take advantage the next couple of weeks while we can.

Where the heck did summer go???

Oh I have Friday off for a seminar. I don't think I mentioned among my boring and usual stuff I snuck in a mutual fund seminar, paid for by my boss and all. Wasn't sure if he'd go for it, but he didn't seem to care. Big Grin That one, and most the rest, are not until November though. My Friday seminar will be a yawn. They make us take the same class over and over every year for our license. I think it would be more beneficial to broaden our horizons, but I guess that is asking too much. Instead I have to spend x hours every year becoming a fraud expert and audit expert though neither apply to my particular job. *yawn* If I hadn't already of taken this class 10 times I would be more interested.

I also realize if I put these plane tickets on my card we should get another $250 cash back from Chase around October. (We just got $250 in June). How sweet. I will set that money aside for vacation money. We'll need it. All these "free" trips are great but none of them will be free. So the timing will good on that. A little extra cash to help.

For Japan we are staying for 6 days and traveling for 2 days. Woohoo. Sounded much better than the original 4 days as we try to work around my sister's schedule. She agreed to take another day off work and catch some red-eyes as she is meeting us from the east coast. So we'll see...

Saving Cash

August 19th, 2007 at 07:08 am

I just don't use cash.

I think I have said a few times that I don't use cash much and therefore don't really get a lot of the cash/coin savings. It may make more sense if you use a lot of cash and probably is somewhat psychological. But I always say I find it easier just not to take the money out of the bank in the first place so there is little cash out of the bank to save.

I was just curious after looking at LuckyRobin's Post and peeked in my Quicken. I was curious just how much cash we had used this year.

It's hard to say because we receive a lot of cash (focus groups, other income, parental gifts - they like to give us cash here and there all the time).

But from the ATM we have only taken out $350 the entire year (including the $60 I just pulled and should last us through September easy).

Comes out to an average of $39/month or $20 each to dh and I monthly. I can tell you exactly where my money goes. $10/month to eating out (exact change - I can squeeze two $1 meals a week) and $10/month generally to Bunco - or maybe a lunch out with the girls other months.

Lord knows where dh puts his money. I probably tend to spend a little more since most months I do bunco and a couple of lunches out with the girls. But I have been sticking to meeting for sodas lately and not been spending much. Dh rarely spends his cash for the most part.

The interesting thing is I have deposited around $600 cash in the bank this year and I have been pretty good about tracking it. If my mom gives me a $20 to reimburse us for something I have generally been putting it in Quicken (as a plus and a minus) just so I can track where all our money goes. Something I had never done in the past. But we mostly don't deal with cash and there is not a lot there. I have saved almost twice as much cash as we have spent this year.

For us this is really where the savings comes in. We used to consider all this cash just extra and would enjoy it on extras. I still feel somewhat that way on some of this money. But for the most part the new general rule is, unless it is going to save us a trip to the ATM anyway, all cash we get goes to the bank. We may earmark it to something fun but I guess we are trying to track everything more and stray even less from the cash. The less we use cash in general the more we know where all our money is going (just try to put it all through Quicken for a snapshot).

If I think about it - bunco and a split lunch is about the only places we NEED cash. Maybe the occasional toll and parking fees as well (Which I find more for work than dh would use).

Which means we have saved $600 this year, thus far, that we usually wouldn't.

So I guess that is how it works for this mostly cashless household.

Heck I put the kids $5 birthday cash in their investment accounts too.

So yes, it is a mindset to saving cash and I see the benefit.

I just will never get taking more cash out than I am going to use, putting it back in, and getting excited about savings. LOL.

Oooooh - to my credit I pulled out $100 this year for on hand emergency cash so that means we have only pulled $250 in cash this year for spending. Wow. Averaging $28/month. That's probably all me. Poor dh. LOL. Then again he just uses his card for everything so no biggie.

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In other news dh has utterly confused me. He LOVES music more than nothing else (Well except movies) and he talked about getting a smaller more portable MP3 player for the gym. He was going to go cheap. I told him just to get something nice. I mean cheap is like $40 but nice is $100. What difference does it really make if the nice one last twice as long? So then he told me he didn't want to buy a MP3 player because he didn't want to be "in debt" with his allowance. I know some of you are wary of my dh but he really and truly is extremely anti-debt and would never buy something he couldn't pay cash for. So much that this thinking carries over to his allowance - LOL. Which I find funny. As long as he doesn't spend more than his annual allotment, I could really care less. It's more just to give us a guideline what we can spend, the cash is there.

So we were at the gym the other day and I could not believe he did not have an MP3 player. He can't go to sleep without listening to music. HE can hardly breathe without listening to music, but here he is in the gym listening to the crappy gym music. My god!

I should have figured he would cave. He finally bought one. He is all pissed because it cost $10 more than if he just bought it originally when he was looking. But oh well. I think it was $120 with tax, and used the rest of the Target gift card.

All I have is like 70 cents on my Target gift card. Well, it was fun while it lasted (Credit card rewards).

But yeah it's the kind of purchase I don't mind. & now he'll stop using MY MP3 player. It would be one thing if we could share but I generally go to the gym straight from work so it is easier this way, since I generally just carry all my gym stuff around with me. Since his is fancier I might be borrowing his a little more often though. Wink

Of course dh is very good on keeping on top of sales so he says he will probably return this one as he keeps an eye for an internet sale. We'll see. He'll probably shave off $10 eventually.


Scary Statistics

August 18th, 2007 at 06:28 am

I have to agree with some of the other sentiments that all the mortgage is hype is getting kind of old (particularly in the area where I live). I have to go back to dh and I sitting around and talking about it for years, so I guess we are kind of bored by the topic. Though we realize this will have a pretty broad impact on the economy as a whole (& am a little frightened by that. you can't just ignore it...).

But all the same I read some interesting things yesterday.

1 - Countrywide says they could have never seen this coming. ???????? Countrywide has only 30% of its loans as "traditional fixed rate mortgages." Are they serious? If they couldn't see this coming than they have serious issues. What they couldn't see coming was that they would be the ones left holding the bag.

2 - I saw some very interesting in-depth article that was explaining why Europe was so impacted by all this. I skimmed through it and didn't really figure out the whole Europe part but it left me thinking how crazy our world has become that the idiots in California can so horribly effect the economy in Europe. I feel the need to study global events more.

In the same article they were talking a little about the subprime events and was reading that so many of these loans were defaulting in the first through 3rd months that whoever was buying these mortgages stopped buying them. First, put a 3-month waiting period (to weed out the obvious defaults) and then eventually stopped buying. So this is how places like Countrywide, who intended to pass the buck, got left holding the bag. Common sense - all of it - but I didn't realize so many of these loans were defaulting in the first 3 months. WOW!!!! The mortgage companies were lucky to pass off most of the ARMs. Those will reset and start defaulting as well (most of them. I don't know anyone who has an ARM and has a plan other than to refinance or move - which both look unlikely lately). I also hardly know anyone that doesn't have an ARM, out here.

3 - I had read that this october around $4 billion in ARMs are going to reset - the most ARMs to reset ever in history.

I thought this was a very scary statistic and wasn't holding my breath on the economy going into much of a recovery mode in the near future. Feels like the beginning of a long slide if you ask me.

But I did read yesterday that most of the subprime loans and ARMs were taken out in 2004 & 2005. Makes sense as that was when property values were at a heightened frenzy out here. Which means 2009-2010 are going to be ugly years for the most common 5-year ARMs, as all of those reset.

I am reading predictions that the market won't bottom out until 2012, and frankly that makes sense. I've been reading the paper for months wondering what the hell they are smoking in press land, oh yeah this is just a little dip. I am thinking, um, hardly any ARMs have reset yet - I think it is going to get much worse. & it seems like it will have a snowball effect - more reset ARMS - unable to sell - more foreclosures - dropping home values... I just didn't really have any idea when or what the time frame was. I think I have a better idea. From now until 2012 or so is going to be REALLY ugly most likely.

I mentioned before that this area was particularly hit by the dot com bust as we were living in Silicon Valley at the time and that is where most of it occured. Pretty much everyone we know lost a job in the 2001 - 2004 era. I mean it is about how it felt. Everyone we know was affected. I am not sure dh would have agreed to stay home but his high-tech employer made the choice for him. & with the stocks since then everyone is so cautious - what goes up must come down...

It is more of the same here. It will affect here more than almost anywhere else. I am not sure why the same people can look at the dot com bust and realize there was some insane bubble (in hindsight) and not realize that it is just that with housing too - an insane bubble.

Yeah, what a shock!

It was probably a lot harder to see though because housing had already appreciated 1000% in the prior 20 years in the area. But I think the whole ARM thing made it terribly obvious that people were buying more than they could afford. People have been buying homes with 50%-75% of their income out here for decades. IT's a way of life. But when you do that with an uncertain payment like an ARM? You can pretty much figure out what is going to happen. You don't have a lot of wiggle room when you are already tying up most of your income in your mortgage. So the writing on the wall was rather obvious as a whole.

In Sacramento we were actually looking at buying investment property in 2005. I remember the realtor we were working with handed us some pamphlet with a graph. Since obviously the realtor wanted us to buy I think it was s'posed to be a sales tool. But it showed a graph of the home purchase cycle over the last few decades or something and it was up/down/up/down in a nice little pretty curve and skyrocketed off the chart from the last down cycle (90s) well into 2005. Off the charts! All I can imagine is realtors were handing this out as look - you have to buy - the graph is going off the charts! One look at that and it freaked me out. We decided right away it made little sense to buy. For Sacramento homes had never appreciated like that, and though I knew that with tele-commuting and Bay Area transplants Sacramento could have a long way to go, it just made little financial sense to buy property in 2005.

I think about 2 months later the market tanked.

I also found some charts online about San Diego but the same can apply here. Housing prices had grown on average from 5-6 times household income (more the norm in recent years since it is a pricey area) to something like the average home price was 12 times the average household income in 2005.

Does it really take rocket science to figure out that can't be sustained over the long-term?

I still keep going back to that 0-3 month default thing though. The lenders were getting so out of control that they were giving these loans to people who didn't have enough cash to make the first payment. Just... Wow...

Milk

August 18th, 2007 at 05:09 am

I was amazed at our grocery budget last month but I forgot one important thing.

Kids are all on the same milk now (No more whole milk since LM turned 2) which makes it much easier to buy milk on sale (We can now buy 2 gallons of the same milk every time for the discount).

Plus the kids just naturally drink less milk with time.

I think it probably explains A LOT. Once we are done with diapers I imagine we will save $70 or so a month. ($50 diaper service and around $20 paper diapers).

Plus once he starts to get near potty training we will probably switch to pull ups which are much cheaper anyway.

Oh that will be NICE to be done with diapers.

& then one out of preschool next year?

Oh yeah I will do the happy dance with Paulette when I no longer have to pay a zillion dollars just to leave the kids somewhere for a few hours. Even with not relying on daycare it will just make all the difference when the kids start school. Means it won't be cost prohibitive for dh to get a job. Now that will be so nice...

Yeah, there is still hope for more budget busting in the next year or so.

Focus Group

August 17th, 2007 at 09:45 am

Praying for a Focus Group - and it has arrived.

Dh has a $60 focus group next week - woohoo.

I hate to jinx it but word is the movie he worked on may be selling too(he gets a commission). We discuss using the money for video upgrades for future projects (some days I get the feeling this means we will make little on any video work ever - LOL. But I have to admit he doesn't have much time now and he has always worked to pay for that crap so whatever. I can probably talk him into putting 50% or so into retirement. We'll see, guess no point discussing until we know what it is AND it arrives but we are assuming $2k now. (If it is more than $20k though it is totally going to screw up my ROTH conversions. I guess there could be worse things. But for the most part I highly doubt it. Maybe I should hope my ROTH conversion gets screwed up - hehe).

So things are looking up.

On the flip side, I feel a little like BA. I feel like we have been doing really well and suddenly we are starting to slip backwards. Like we can feel we can afford more. But can we really? I am not sure yet.

Then again it is the 17th and the only thing we really splurged on all month is a $20 play and a meal at Subway.

I can sit home and not spend money until the cows come home but the big stuff will always get me. Big Grin

Looks like we will just put LM in preschool 2 days a week. Money money. Temporary. But then I wonder when the "temporary" will end. We have been in a "temporary" state since 2002.

We went to that play and it was just awesome. They put on quite a production. I think they have 5 casts. I have no idea how they do it. They even work around my tax season (no plays in winter/early spring). They must have a CPA in charge in there somewhere - LOL. The play was darling and the cast was like 50-60 kids. I kid you not. I was just amazed at how well it was done - how do they organize all those kids?

Means we will shell out $100 for BM to take classes in the fall and be in the fall play. I don't think it will be a big deal. There may be a minimal costume fee and pizza fee, and the place is a bit of a drive. But for the most part it is not much. We have knocked our gas bill on its butt lately so we have some wiggle room.

Oh yeah, I will probably have to take a couple of unpaid days off for Japan too. Which matters little since the trip will cost me little. But it will cost me something as will dh's Florida trip. I feel like I am putting too much off to - "oh - we'll get Christmas money for it." I haven't locked in the efund yet because my goal is still $12k by 12/31. I think we'll still make it. But more precarious as more and more comes up. Then again I just need to work more overtime... Not that hard...

On the plus side I am feeling a little more caught up at work. My office looks less like a disaster area. But I hesitate to say that too...

Not to worry - still PLENTY overtime to be had!




Property Taxes hehe (& crazy statistics from home)

August 16th, 2007 at 12:11 pm

To the discussion about propetry taxes - why not pay your bill in dollars and coins? Hehe.

http://www.webcpa.com/article.cfm?articleid=25092

I know the property tax discussion was hot and figured that article would be appreciated.

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ETA: On another note, for a "debate" on another blog I Was just looking up some statistics on income and housing in San Jose (where I am from).

I think I have said a few times that our parents' home have garnered a 1000%+ return since the 80s.

I just saw it in writing. 936% rise in average home prices in San Jose from 1976 - 2001. Wow.

The median household income in 2000 was about $75k. THat's the median. 1/2 the households make more. 1/2 less.

CNN reports median income of $85k in 2005.

But what do I care, I don't have to live there any more (thank goodness!!!).

Considering the strong appreciation since the 70s though I am really curious where the market as a whole goes. I don't think it is set in stone that places like San Jose will drop like a rock. (Though don't ask me how much has appreciated since 2001 - like 60%?. A lot of those gains may be erased, but would still be the land of insanely expensive).

My dad has a point - little has changed since 1980. He was just telling me like 75% of their income went to mortgage because interest rates were insane (15%+?) - in the early 80s. So today interest rates are in the 6% range but as a percentage of income little has changed when it comes to mortgages in the area.

The Bay Area is just such an unusual beast. Time will tell I guess...

I guess why I am interested too is because the economy here is GREATLY affected by the Bay. If the Bay home prices drop like a rock, millions of people won't be relocating to Sacramento any more. So I guess in a way it all matters to me.

Then again things settling down here wouldn't really be the worst. IT's still craziness here.

But yeah, just going over that 1000% price increase in my head over the last 20 years or so. I keep reading articles about people (in California nonetheless) who have been renters for 20 years and made the "right" choice. I just cringe. I will never see it that way. But maybe now you understand a little why. There are probably many areas in the country that renting makes sense. Out here it historically has made little sense. I mean for example, housing prices have gone up 1000% in 20 years, and I am sure rents have gone up more. In that time frame (2001 at the peak of that statistic) it cost more to rent than to buy. So you buy a house for $50k in 1976 or you rent. Fast forward to today, you have to pay $36k/year (or probably more) to rent that same house. You can settle for a really crummy no-bedroom apartment for $12000/year. If you owned your house is paid off and your property taxes are a few hundred dollars a year (another factor that property taxes don't rise crazy on you out here - with current law anyway - I admit things can change). Plus you have a $1 million asset to fall back on if you need it. Since this is such a long-term trend (not just in recent years with the appreciation) renting in the area never really made any sense to me, except with roommates to save a ton of dough, through college and to save for a down payment on a home. Even then dh thought I was crazy and just lived at home and saved most his money. He had a point but there is more to life than money for me - LOL. I mean I could have stayed home and saved up a lot of money but sacrificed my independence. & heck, my parents would have kicked me out anyway - hehe.

I admit the house we may never tap financially (not part of our financial plan) but I just can't imagine being a renter and not having that safety net (asset), all the same. & if nothing else it means our family builds wealth. I just realized the other day that odds are my better off grandparents' will have a decent home to pass on to my parents (if nothing else) and odds are looking like our parents will have their homes to pass on ($2 mil between the 2 little modest homes today), and this is mostly how wealth will accumulate in our family. Plus where we are compared to where are parents were at 30 - there is no comparison. We will have more opportunity to build up cash wealth in our lives. But owning property just speeds up the process, maybe more for our kids than us, but that's okay. Sounds good to me. It's nice to know if something happened to us today the means are there for them to be well cared for.

I know I have to keep in mind my perspective is extremely unique. Few can probably say the same. I have to remember the rent vs. buy is not always so cut and dry (particularly in this direction). But why I myself will always lean towards the "buying builds wealth" mentality.

Oh yeah this proves 0% financing is idiocy (NOT)

August 16th, 2007 at 09:07 am

Ironic.

I was just listening to all the gloom and doom on the radio today and shrugging it off.

I guess I sit extra pretty because the whole subprime/ARM thing was scaring the crap out of me last fall and some economic experts were starting to speak out about the tumble that the economy would take. Like I said before, being out in California maybe it is a lot easier to see the writing on the wall. I hardly know anyone who isn't over their head in debt - subprimes/ARMs/houses uses as ATMs, etc.

So I locked in some CDs in the last year at some really decent rates, and while I wondered if I got out of the market too soon, those fears are somewhat erased today (plus I am still squarely in the market where it counts - long-term retirement).

But anyway, so today with all the fear and doom and gloom I Was kind of just shrugging my shoulders and thinking to myself that we are in a good spot. We refused to play the debt game, didn't see the point, thought long-term, and today we have little worries. I was even thinking if this was 2001 when we first bought our home and had no market equity (or became upside down), I have to say we felt the same. For one we put 20% cash down. We found a way to lower our cost of living considerably and were just stoked by that. I ran around saying back then I didn't care if our hosue plummeted to a value of $0 - the move made our life SO MUCH easier. So I don't think we would have little care of this is 2001. & far less care with a good $300k+ equity still left today. I find it hard to believe our house will plummet below the $200k or so we owe on it. Very hard to believe. & even if it does, our mortgage is far cheaper than rent in the area (though I guess that could change if markets plummeted). But either way you slice it we took on a mortgage we were very comfortable with, and we are miles ahead of renting. I have no whoas today.

I am also lucky to have a rather recession proof job. I want to be realistic and know anything can happen. But the tech crash hit California hard and I was one of the few left standing. Since our business is mostly healthcare and 75% CPAs are in the process of retiring (I can work in any industry really) I have little worries. IT's a good place to be.

& most importantly we don't RELY on debt for anything. Our mortgage may be an exception, but it is a strange exception that makes life way more affordable for us than otherwise. & for now it has a long way to go before we could possibly be upside down, so I don't feel much "reliance" on it.

OF course I popped on free money finance today (always something interesting over there) http://www.freemoneyfinance.com/

& the guy had a pretty similar post. I think he feels the same as me pretty much except he had to take a "Dave ramsey" stab and say: "6. Why are the "keep your debt and invest instead" advocates silent lately? And those who thought zero-interest loans and all the other wicked forms of debt are pretty quiet too. What happened to their boldness? :-)"

Hehe. Whatever.

I replied that I Was not an idiot and did not put my 0% financing proceeds in the market and though I choose to invest rather than prepay my mortgage, I am in for the long haul, so this matters little.

Frankly I have been thinking with markets down we may have more opportunity to buy at a discount. Being in for the long haul it always feels better to invest when markets are down as opposed to up.

I am not at the point where I have enough invested to pay off my mortgage if need be, but I am just starting. I should be there in a few years. Over the long run I expect the market to fare much better.

We'll see.

I am happier to have cash and investments to fall back on in tough times than a paid off house. For sure. Our monthly mortgage is pretty small beans (we could both work minimum wage and stay afloat) but the entire $200k balance is a little overwhleming for us. Hell maybe dh could go to work and we could neglect our retirement and get that sucker paid in our 30s, but what's the point? So we could lose everything in a flood? So we could never see our kids? I guess like I have said with so much equity and such insane housing prices out here, diversifying outside of our house feels pretty key to financial security. I just can't put all my eggs in one basket, and investing will buy us much greater financial security over the long haul. I want to live life now and my mortgage seems a small price to pay to enjoy the time I am here (which may be short, you never know).

I also saw an interesting point in one of my debates in a blog the other day that you save the most money when you buy a house, not when you sell. I guess that is pretty much how I feel. We bought low and inflation makes our payment easier with time.

A few of our neighbors on the other hand paid upwards of $600k on their homes. Who knows if they even had any cash to put down. Don't compare them to me - there is no comparison. You can't just lump everyone who has a mortgage into the debt happy category. They've been upside down about since they bought. Ouch. We have a LONG way to go before we would feel a pinch. When dh and I were married we pretty much drew the line at a $200k mortgage, even when we made six figures. Because we never wanted to rely on that big income. Few around here drew that line and most are in trouble.

No comparison...

I guess the point of this long blab is yes, it is good to be debt free overall and to prepare financially. I was just thinking about it today... But I have a LONG ways to go to eat crow over my "using debt for good like 0% returns and investing for the long term instead of prepaying my mortgage" stance. Wink Still don't see why I can't use debt for good... It's all in how you play the game.

$10 Off Kohls

August 16th, 2007 at 07:19 am

Since I still have a hefty gift card for Target, I looked a couple of times at purses (to replace mine that was falling apart since about 9 months ago). I thought the other day, I'll just have to check out Kohls.

No sooner than I thought that, a $10 gift card arrived in the mail from Kohls. No catch, just have to use it in the next 10 days or something. Dh and I marveled at what genius marketing that is. Usually those things have a $50 purchase minimum and you think "whatever." On the other hand, can anyone walk into Kohls and spend just $10? LOL. Maybe some, but few. Wink

It help offsets their slightly higher prices if nothing else. Hopefully I can find something I like.

I also should run by Marshalls. I keep forgetting to check their first for things. Marshalls, Ross, whatever.

I peeked a little on ebay but I can't buy a purse without checking it out in person - too picky.

Anyway, the timing is good, as of 9/1 I will have a $40 balance in my allowance account. It's been negative since June so it works out. I won't spend $40 on a purse but I might buy a couple of tops while I am there.

Oh, which reminds me, still haven't gotten my Cookie Lee catalog(s) - BAH - but they are getting more advanced every year and posted it online for us consultants. Oh dear lord - Cookie Lee - temptation is thy name.

It will take a good deal of self control not to spend any of my profits. But I do have the idea to buy a few items for Christmas. Since dh's family is so insistent on buying me tons of gifts. They get all annoyed when it is not varied (various items) but whatever. Will buy some for dh to give me for Christmas, birthday and some for his family too. I can have my cake and eat it too - hehe. If they all buy me one jewelry set - it is a nice start. & it will be cheap for them as will only cost them wholesale price. I am not sure on dh, but we'll see. I now have to think good and hard about 1-3 sets I want the MOST!!!!

The good is it is another great catalog that will sell with little effort. I'll be making money this month.


Maybe I have the touch...

August 15th, 2007 at 11:49 am

$650 RT to Tokyo - United.

Non-stop.

O.M.G.

Of course the catch is the fees/taxes are like $250.

I almost fell over when I saw the $650.

Sale ends today.

I mean it's not my money but the fees and taxes seem worthy of a big airline and a non-stop flight.

We'll see...

Maybe able to do better, but the way I usually get discounts is buy WAY in advance so nice to see some decent prices so close to the date...

Savers' Credit (but why bother...)

August 15th, 2007 at 10:11 am

http://www.irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=172969,00.html

IRS has a good article on Savers' credit (good reminder...)

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

I just had an epithany about how when this credit has been mentioned in the past (here, forums, real life discussions) as the genral concensus is usually, "no one can make that little and save" or something like that. (Well I have managed to and I wouldn't consider a $45k income, "little." Wink

I was just thinking about that as I hesitated to post it, in terms of the recent reaming I got for making $30k out of school in the most expensive area out of the country. How combined with our measly $30k wages, dh and I made more than the average american household, just out of school. (Even though you can't buy a home for less than 1/2 mil and few understand how freaking daunting that is even with a six figure income. Was never able to reconcile those home prices to financially sound living; that is why we moved.).

So, um you can't have it both ways. $60k is insanely rich but $45k is insanely poor.

Which is it? LOL.

I guess I just right now realized the duality of it all, and the fact that you just can't win. Wink

It also could be an apples to oranges comparison. $45k is a household average and the credit for singles is much less (can't have income more than $25k for single filers). So the single filers have to be a lot poorer than the married filers to qualify. Though in both situations often there is just one wage earner. On the flip side $60k probably sounds like a darn decent wage to most young single people, though it isn't that hard to attain with two wages. So maybe that is where the juxtaposition comes from. I have always said life was financially easier having a partner...

I think most of the time we are all comparing apples to oranges though, everyone's situation has its own nuances.

Contrarian View

August 14th, 2007 at 07:21 am

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB118687812752495256.html

Kind of an interesting article.

I see the point.

Can you have too big an efund? Hell yeah. I guess I have seen the other side on that one too. You can have too much.

Savings is savings, that is what is important.

I have to have the caveat that I really don't think you can save too much. Well, you probably can, but rather unlikely. LOL. But you can have way too much in liquid funds not working for you (especially when interest rates are like 2%). Been there, done that.

I laugh at the idea of being a risk taker because I am trying to maximize my returns and rather max out my IRAs than keep 6 or 12 months liquid cash in my e-fund. I guess that is the ironic thing because I am SO not a risk taker. But the odds I would ever need that 6 months cash? Pretty slim. So I am going to max out my IRAs, and if that slim chance comes, at least my butt is covered. It's savings, I can use it, the world would not end.

The odds are I'll come out ahead. That's what is important. IT's an odds game.

So I read his article with interest. He has a point.

Tokyo

August 14th, 2007 at 06:32 am

Well, I am going to Tokyo but don't ask me where yet!

My dad put me in charge of airfare - lord knows why - I'll see what I can scrounge up this weekend.

& to the comments on my blog - it's good to hear the weather will be nice. My dad was scaring me how beautiful it was in the spring and how he didn't know about October. Early enough in October too, so not that far from summer I guess...

Big Grin


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