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Archive for September, 2007

Don't Believe it! (CPA Firm rant)

October 1st, 2007 at 05:31 am

Um, okay, I saw most of the big CPA firms were named in Working Mother's Top 100 Places to Work - or something - and I tried not to choke. Blech. I think 3 made the Top 10 List.

But then I just got an e-mail from my former employer - they made the list too! Double blech.

You have GOT to be kidding me.

The endless hours and slave driving of an international CPA firm in the year 2000, before talent became so hard to find and work became so much more abundant (meaning I expect it to be 10 times worse today) does not conjure ideas in my mind of somewhere I would want to work and be able to juggle any decent amount of time for my family.

You have got to be joking me.

I actually read an article on why earlier in the week - as the CPA firms are so desperate for employees - women at that - they are offering more flexibility to their workers and better maternity leave benefits, etc.

Oh, where do I begin? I could go on all day.

My last job was actually QUITE flexible. But I have always felt like everyone else was an idiot to believe that the ability to work from home and be on call 24/7 was really a benefit to them. That was my first job out of college and I grew to HATE working from home. I just hate it. The lines between home and work blur and I think back to how I was expected to work even on my vacations. There was no escaping it. IT was a long while before I was afforded the same flexibility at my current job (due to technology limitations in past years) but I still to this day hate working from home, even though it isn't nearly so invasive. I Rather drive to the office every single day than bring work home for the most part. I toyed with the idea of going in for 2 hours today. & I do really love my job. But going into the office for 2 hours is jut a whole other ball of wax than bringing my office into my home. I just rather not go there.

I also think a lot of it is very financial. As impressed as people are that we can afford for my husband to stay home in such an expensive area, I have had far more many women jealous that I could afford to take an "unpaid" maternity leave. This always struck me as utterly ridiculous since I received about 75% of my pay in disability through the state (madatory in California so every jealous woman I know was entitled to this but just could not swing more than a few weeks of reduced pay). IT just strikes me as insane fiscal irresponsibility that this is the norm. But as a result, a company will pay a few weeks maternity leave and all the women go gah-gah. IT makes me want to barf. Like that would probably be the lowest on my list. What I would really love is to be able to keep a fraction of my sick or vacation pay if I cut my hours down from 40 to 35 a week. But GOOD LUCK. I must admit the big corporations might be better at some of that but I wouldn't be sure. I would hope some of these top 100 companies offer better benefits to part-time working mothers. But yeah, 6 weeks paid time off. Big whoop. What about a little flexibility and understanding for the next 18 years (plus) of my life that I would really prefer revolves around my kids more than my jobs. The sleepless nights, the sick days, being home for the kids before and after school, etc. WAY more important than a paycheck for the first 6 weeks of their life.

I am blessed to have a job that does all this for me. Truly blessed. But as my boss retires in a few years it kind of clears the way for me to move into a nice part-time government job with great benefits down the road, as I Feel like hell will freeze over before I would be allowed a fraction of my benefits to work 5 hours less a week. Then again I Feel like I Work at the only cPA firm in the state that doesn't want to work me to death. Beggars can't be choosers...

Well, I just had to kind of say beware and don't believe everything you read. If young people are reading that and thinking that CPA firms are great family-friendly places to work, well, uh, I would heavily disagree. Leaves that whole 100 list suspect if you ask me. OF course as I think about it I think family friendly to me means something vastly different from what most women are settling for these days. Most people I guess. I never bought into that whole rat race thing. Life is too short. Wink

September Budget

September 30th, 2007 at 02:54 pm

Dang. I glanced at the budget this month and it was crazy. We spent a lot on clothes and car repair (more things we budget a certain amount annually - less of a monthly thing).

But other areas we did really bad were in Dining Out. I am not exactly sure why. I know we ate out a couple of times while we were sick - probably part of it. But dining out was $100 (vs. our $30 budget).

It's okay though because we only spent $350 on groceries. If dh goes to the store in the next couple of days it will hit our September budget (card) but I didn't get the feeling we were really short on food. Our budget is usually $500 and we have been hitting closer to $450. So $350 is amazing. So the dining is okay in that regard. I think grocery bill is down because there was a full week we were pretty much sick and couldn't eat. (Lots of toast and rice). & the kids were gone last weekend as well. (They have been eating like adults though lately - they are both in a growth spurt - most definitely).

Well I put $1k to my ROTH and $1200 to the IRS for ROTH conversions, so the cash outflow this month was just HUGE. I just felt like it was a horrid month, so was surprised to see how we did on most the budget. We did pretty good (way better than usual). Oh yes, and only $200 on gas (I budget $300 and prices have been going up like crazy). I think the whole sick in bed for a week helped with that. Sort of.

I expect October to be much the same. We have some big expenses coming up, but all of us will be gone 1 week on different "all expense paid" trips so I don't expect gas or groceries to be particularly as high as usual. Then again we have to drive to the Bay 4 times to pick up and drop each other off at the airport (or now that I think about it I think dh is flying out of Sac! Maybe not so bad - I just am not sure. But not driving to work for a week, and not driving to preschool for a week, will help offset that.

Well, I will look harder at September numbers once the credit card closes. 3 more days. The thing is we both have a full tank of gas, so I know our gas expense is set for the month.

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

The neighbor's cat is very sweet and likes to hang out in our yard, but this morning I caught a glimpse of her and pointed her out to the kids (who love to watch her and say hi). Of course I quickly realized she was playing with a dead mouse. Eeeeeeew. I am kind of revolted (particularly since the kids have had pet rats and they have pet rats at preschool). But then again I am thinking, if there are mice around, the fact that cat practically lives in our yard, is FAR less annoying. Kudos to her. I have a cat but she is declawed and therefore stays indoors (no I would NEVER do that to a cat - got her from the SPCA). So she is useless on the mouse front. The kids are fascinated. LOL. I hope they are not traumatized. Poor mouse.

Maybe I should be disturbed we have MICE. Eeeks.

Challenge Analysis

September 30th, 2007 at 01:48 pm



I finally got around to organizing my challenge money by item. Probably should have done this all along. It is interesting.

Interestingly, overtime, freelance work, credit card rewards and interest were the easiest for me AND the biggest dollars. Focus groups comes up pretty close behind, and as of next week it will be closer to the top of the list as well.

Actually, if I think about it none of the stuff on the list took a lot of effort. Maybe overtime, extra work, and writing money. I think the thing is I get so much more bang for my buck with my real job that I am a little burned out on writing. I really like if I am in the mood and I write a good article I can get some money. But I think the times I was making close to $100/month I was getting really burned out too. It is something I want to pursue in the long haul, particularly when I switch to part-time status or near retirement. In the meantime, it has been a bit much.

I also made $112 selling Cookie Lee jewelry (talk about easy money) though it wasn't a challenge item.

As far as cash gifts - anything I put into long-term savings I counted as challenge money. So we had some significant gifts that we didn't exactly save either. Mostly the gifts that were earmarked for specific things.

To date - challenge money is 12% of my income (paycheck). Total extra money this year was about 17%, but we had an extraordinary amount of gifts. Not exactly sustainable I am sure. (Either the 12% of 17%).

I wanted to quantify my progress and kind of look at what streams of income were really worthwhile. As we have met our goals for the year and are back on track I am re-evaluating. I used to never bother selling things, but this year we made $160. It is not a huge amount, but I think I will work on selling more items around the house. For one, it is something dh can do so I don't have to spend a lot of time on it. I have a pile for ebay anyway so I expect that number to go up through the end of the year.

Interest and credit card rewards we have always done, but really took it to a new level this year. I don't expect to do so good next year, as I don't want to open a bunch of new cards for rewards, or do more balance transfers beyond the ones we did already. But will be a significant interest stream through 2008 & at that point we should have almost as much cash anyway, as we do now with the balance transfers. So by the time we pay all those off we will be making some decent interest still. The credit rewards - we stand to receive $500/year with our current rewards card, and that's great.

We are saving so much money in the long run by dropping dh's broker and switching to Vanguard - I don't even know. That will turn into a huge amount of savings over the next few decades.

Well, my goal next year is to come up with $5k challenge money for retirement (dh's IRA basically). Retirement has really been on the back burner this year as I expect a large contribution from my job on 12/31 & as we needed to get our efund cash back up, etc.

But next year my focus will really shift. Retirement, retirement, retirement.

I will mostly focus on working overtime (primarily tax season) as a way to contribute to retirement. I think I would like to focus harder on getting back to a better work/life balance, and strangely, squeezing in more hours at work accomplishes that a lot more easily. I have to work so little to make so much more. Credit card rewards will be a significant contribution to that, and focus groups if we continue to get so many opportunities. The focus groups pay as well as my job on an hourly basis (sometimes better). We are mostly guaranteed a $1k cash gift that can go to his retirement as well.

I think we could pretty much max out both of our IRAs on my income, and all the challenge/extras would be gravy, if not for preschool. That is only 2 more years. I imagine by the time the kids are in public school that I will have enough raises that it will matter little. We may be able to divert the preschool money to the mortgage or something. (Or maybe should save for orthodontia and all that stuff!). As a plus, dh could work at that point without us spending so much money on care. So in the meantime my goals are not quite as lofty as I expect them to be in 2 years. There are other things that are more important to us while the kids are so young. It certainly won't be forever. But we are miles ahead all the same where we were when we first cut our income in half to be home with the kids.

So yeah, next year I won't count things like interest to my challenge. I am going to leave that to my efund. I guess only money outside my regular wage that goes to retirement, that will be my challenge. I think it will be a good motivator. Big Grin On the flip side I think I am going to be lazier next year. If we really maxed out both our IRAs that would be a 15% contribution to retirement, on top of my 10% work contribution. I want to get used to putting aside 15% for when my boss retires and I work somewhere that isn't so generous. Wink & I want to take full advantage of our tax-deferred ROTHs. But beyond that, it is way overkill on what we really need to do with our retirement. These are our lazy stay at home years. I am not going to kill myself over it. So I guess overall my challenge will look really different next year. I hope it's more relaxed and I will be far more focused on our ROTHs than anything.















Net Worth

September 29th, 2007 at 01:57 pm

Well, it was another great quarter for net worth.

Cash gifts and great stock market returns made up most of it.

Net worth is up $2500 for September.

& up $7189 for the quarter.

$1700 up cash, about equal to cash gift. Saved up some cash, but paid $1200 to the IRS and shifted $1k to retirement. So basically means I saved up $2200 this quarter and shifted it out of cash. Since I have met my efund goal I don't expect my cash to go up much the rest of the year. If my cash increases more than a few dollars I will shift more to retirement. Interest earnings I will leave in the efund though.

For the quarter, kids' investments are up $2250. Mostly gifts. I added about $150 to their accounts and the rest is cash from their birthday. Is the kids' money part of our net worth? It is in a sense, because the more they have the less we have to save for them or save for their college. For now it's too little to fret much about the logistics. Something to think about for the long haul.

Retirement is up $2300. I probably contributed around $1300 & that leaves $1k appreciation (mostly in the last month).

Oh, and we paid down our mortgage $900. Just regular payments.

SO my net worth is up $23k for the year. My goal was $25k-$30k by 12/31. We are well on the way. I will find out any day what my profit sharing earned in '06 (should be decent as it was a good stock year) and I will get a $7k addition to that this 12/31. So I am looking good for the $30k goal. SWEET!

In the interim I will need to pull some money out of cash for year-end bills, and I don't really have much plan to save through the rest of the year. So we'll see. If stocks keep going up, I might make $30k. If not, I think $25k is well within my reach. I am certainly happy with that.

We have added a lot to cash and a lot to retirement this year. My goal next year is not only to increase our net worth by the same amount, but most of it should be to retirement. I don't expect to do so well on the cash gifts in 2008, but we have invested so much that investment returns should pick up a little to fill that gap. I expect to save my raise and blahdeblah. I guess we'll see. This year we had a lot of EXTRAS, but all the same we put a lot in place to make the goal easier for next year. I should really only have to save about $7k to make my goal for 2008, and already have that in my plans.

If it is a token 10%-return investment year in 2008, technically we should be earning as much, or more, than we put into retirement next year. What is cooler is being so close to the point where the retirement starts working harder than we do. Where returns should start to be more than contributions, on an annual basis. Cool! I don't expect to the stock market to be hot next year, but then again I didn't expect it to do much THIS year. Anyway, what's more important is on an average basis, a 10% return of around $7k is about what I intend to be putting in the next couple of years. We're at about breakeven and it shouldn't take long to surpass that. (On the other hand I want to up our contributions considerably. So we'll see how that all works. If we put in more it will be harder to earn that amount - but then again our balance will just grow faster).

It's kind of like how our retirement balance almost equals one year salary. But my salary keeps going up too fast to really make that goal. Boohoo, huh? LOL. Either way there is little to complain about. My cost of living is not going up with my salary and I tend to measure things in terms of expenses, since historically we spend far less than we make. Trying to get back to that. I got well more than one years' expenses in retirement. That's pretty sweet!

Focus Group

September 29th, 2007 at 01:32 pm

Well I should have $60 from a focus group next week. Big Grin

This is the first one I have been eligible for.

I think yesterday was the first day I felt normal. I will attempt aerobics today. I also have to go into work for a bit. I was originally planning to go in for my token 2 hours overtime (trying to work OT to justify this preschool thing - and now that it's paid for - well it would still be nice to have extra cash). BUT yesterday turned out crazy. I think I probably should work all day but not sure if I am prepared for that. Will put in my token 3 hours and see where I stand. I don't mind working when I plan for it. But suddenly having to work all day and thinking about all that needs to be done this weekend for my trip? Ugh.

But yeah it feels nice to feel back to "normal." That flu bug was just awful.

Here's to a healthy trip. I leave in a week!

Interesting Older Article...

September 27th, 2007 at 09:38 pm

http://www.signonsandiego.com/uniontrib/20060312/news_mz1b12...

I guess I like collecting different ideas about measuring financial progress. This one had some unique perspectives.

First part is about homes and the 28% rule. Blahblahblah. (or more like - duh. Wink )

The second part confuses me a bit:

" Savings. Farrell suggests that everyone, at every age, should save 12 percent of their income every year. In his charts and calculations, that figure doesn't change. But the amount of savings accumulated, relative to household income, does change. He expects 30-year-olds to have 10 percent of their income amassed in savings, including retirement savings and other household savings. By age 35, that should be 90 percent.

Savings amassed at 40, 50 and 60 should be 1.7 times income, 3 times income, and 8.8 times income."

For one, 10% savings seems rather low for age 30 (but at least he has the whole curve thing going, where you don't expect to be very far at 30, but should progress much further, more quickly, with time).

Secondly, 12% to savings? All household savings. That is hard for me to quantify. I put 13% of my income into short-term savings. Clearly that probably shouldn't count as it is all stuff for within the year.

But as far as household savings? We have almost a full salary saved in cash at one point or another. But everything we saved beyond retirement has been meant for other things. I am aiming 7% savings of gross income for more long-term savings, but the account should ebb and flow. In the grand scheme of things I am only saving what I am planning on using.

I have to assume this means more long-term savings. Like when our retirement is maxed we will invest outside of our retirement. The rest of our savings is good, but it has no long-term staying power. It's just meant to be used up some point down the road. (Orelse obviously it goes to retirement for the tax savings). I might include my emergency fund in the "savings" column, but that's about it. I don't really expect to grow it though - there would be no point. But at some point we should have enough money to have an investment "emergency fund" for college, early retirement, emergency, whatever. I guess for me I would consider something like that savings. But little else. Yes we had a huge amount in the bank and we put it towards our home and maternity leave and retirment and other things as we planned.

I try to shoot for a decade ahead of where we should be, so at 40 we would need to have 1.7 times our income in savings. WE are probably closer to 1.3. As far as 10% of income (the real 30 measure). Well isn't that a slam dunk? I Think we have had more than 10% since like a month after graduating college. IT's like it assumes you would not save any money until you turned 30. We probably saved most aggressively in our 20s ourselves, before life got in the way (babies and such).

OF course it also means I should shoot for 3 times income by age 40. I actually have a goal of 2 times income in retirement by age 35. 3 should be pretty easy by 40, if I make that mark. PArticularly as my goal assumes 1 income and age 35 is around the mark where working would be a profitable endeavor again (for my spouse).

As far as debt this is fairly aggressive:

"Add up the mortgage, the student loans, the credit card balances and the remaining balance on the car loan. At age 30, you'll have your highest levels of debt relative to your income, says Farrell. He pegs that number at 1.7, meaning that if you're earning $50,000 at age 30, you should be $80,000 in debt. As people age, they should reduce their debt-to-income ratio by paying down their mortgage and aggressively cutting auto and credit card debt. At age 45, debts should equal your annual salary. By retirement at age 65, those debts should be zero, he suggests. "

My debt to income ratio is more like 2.8. & I Thought we were doing darn good. Frown Which basically means my mortgage should be no more than $123k at 30. Ha! Maybe it is a good general rule of thumb, but it won't fly to far in the state of Califorina. Big Grin Oh, but believe me, we tried. We were close. Just bad market timing (trying to sell our old home post-=9/11 - lost about $100k in the deal. Our whole goal was to have a $100k mortgage when we moved here. We did try! OF course interest rates could be a factor too. We pay much less for more debt. WHich is why the $200k mortgage made little difference to us in the long haul. Was less than our old mortgage, on a monthly basis.).

By age 45 my debt should equal my salary. Hmmmm. That one would probably be easy. My mortgage is set to be $125k with no prepayments, at age 45, and we have a goal to pay it off around age 45 anyway. With inflation if we hadn't payed it down, our income should be more than our mortgage in 15 years. The potential of a 2nd income gives us much more leeway too. Probably a slam dunk.

Pay off all debts by 65? Of course. Was aiming for 45. Wink

Sounds like you can take on a little more (actually A LOT more) at 30 and still be ahead of the game even by his debt standards, for the long haul. I mean seriously, if we become lazy and don't prepay a dime, our house (only debt) will be paid off by 55. We are certainly on the right trajectory, according to this article. Oh, but the 10-year ahead thing. Hmmmm. Well on the way for the long haul (pay off 55 would be my goal then). Debt = salary at age 35? Not going to happen. Oh well. Just me? Seems awfully aggressive. Well my excuse is I lived in about any other state I would. Then again my wage would be lower. So a catch 22. I don't know how feasible that really is. Or if it even matters. Since we are well on the trajectory for 10 years ahead of schedule (maybe 20 years when it comes to debt).

Well, was another interesting perspective...













Been Lazy

September 27th, 2007 at 01:51 pm

I haven't been very posty and I guess it has been the same on the financial front. Was a little behind on bills and stuff. I think mostly since this "bug" hit I have been way off. I felt awful last night, for one. Blech - for dh and I it still comes and goes, one full week later.

I think a lot of my behindness on the bills came from stuff I had to mail. I went a good few months with the new postage rates without mailing a SINGLE item. But I gave in a bit ago and mailed a few things. I guess I am just stockpiling things since there is so little we have to mail these days (all the online bill pay and everything). So I went through yesterday.

Sent $150 off to LM's UGMA. I am doing $25/month, but the automatic investment feature is not working on his. Dh has to call Vanguard and work it out (it's in his name but he hasn't a clue - I set it up online and do all the work). We have to pick a time when we are both home during business hours to call and straighten that out.

So that included $50 gifts and 4 months of contributions - set for 2007. Now I can procrastinate on working that out for about 3 more months. Maybe 5. Wink

Renewed membership to Fairytale Town. $50. Money WELL spent. "Free entertainment" for the year so we take the kids a lot. It just takes 4 visits to recoup our cost, and we go much more than that throughout the year. (Actually it may take only 2 visits now that LM is 2 - think he pays to get in now too).

Still getting the paperwork for my $1k ROTH contribution.

Oh - I upped my life insurance. Dh and I both have $500k coverage. We only pay $500/year for the next 25 years or so (we locked it in our 20s - smooth move since it was significantly cheaper then). BUT I have been feeling like dh needs much more coverage than me. If something happened to him, little would change for us financially. I can still work. I could make GOOD money part time even if I chose to be here more for the kids. On the flip side, he just doesn't have near the options. I told him I would get this extra insurance until he begins to bring in a steady income again. It is pretty cheap through my professional associations. $100/year for $200k. I will receive a rebate on the premiums, so it will be closer to $70/year or something. We are doing well enough on money right now, though I thought about it before, now I can justify it. I think ideally dh would put the $200k in "retirement" and live off the $500k. He could stretch it a long while (certainly until the kids turned 18). As for me, the $500k from dh? I would invest it all. Our life insurance broker kept saying we would want to pay off our mortgage. Is he crazy? Um, no. No need. That $500k in the bank would do me FAR better. I'd probably downgrade the house to one I could pay cash for anyway. I could move into the house next door and do that. Hopefully it never comes to that anyway though. I feel better with dh having a little more until he gets back into the workforce. It would just be nice to know if I was gone dh would have TIME for the kids. Though in reality his parents would take care of him anyway - LOL. Not that they have a lot to give, but they take care of him way too much as is. If I was gone I imagine they would give him substantial financial support. Between that and the insurance I think they all would be just fine.

Preschool next month is ugly. Since the 1st is a Monday and the month is 31 days, that is 5 full weeks for the kids. Around $600. I had a good thought though. November is a short month AND the preschool is taking a week of unpaid vacation. Therefore that month will only be $360 (or about usual for one kid). So, PHEW is all I have to say. December we pay for like 2 weeks the kids don't even go (holiday). That kind of sucks, but whatever. It's the way it is. I used to be self-employed and I understand why it is. It just sucks to pay for like a full month when you only get 2 weeks! I think last year I was feeling a little over my head and then they ended up taking 2 months off to medical emergency. So it will be interesting to see what they do for the holidays and stuff - never been there through the holiday season. As nice as that was on the pocketbook, I am glad everyone is healthy. Wink

I also shifted some of our investments around. Got out international investments to more of a 25% allocation (was inching up closer to 30%). Shifted some things around. I will eventually sell my D&C fund in Fidelity and pick up a Fidelity fund. I just don't know what. I used to have a bond fund I was rather happy with. Thinking about it, but I am so heavy in cash and everything. Then I look at my balanced fund and it is kicking butt. So I don't want to sell that one to get into a bond fund. I try to diversify our portfolio across all our IRAs, but makes rebalancing a little tricky in a sense. We'll see I guess, with time. Will probably have to pick some Fidelity Fund. Or just be heavy in small or mid caps for a while (what I currently have). I guess I don't really see the need for another fund. I transferred so much stuff around this last year I just don't see transferring money out of Fidelity an option right now. With time it will matter little. The rest of our portfolio will grow and I can have all my Fidelity money in one Fidelity Fund (small-cap I think I have now).

My goal as it stands for next year is to put $400/month into IRAs. I am not sure if this will be feasible, but I am thinking $200/month to my T Rowe fund (well diversified Target Retirement fund - just started AIPs so am building it up to a decent level). & then $100/month to Vanguard Total Stock Index and $100/month to the Int'l Index (dhs Vanguard IRA). That would keep us a good 25% in international.

The small-cap and mid-cap funds are in my IRAs. I think with any windfalls I get will be a good time to consider contributing to those, just to keep them in line with my allocation goals. Something to evaluate at least annually.

Outside of my 401k that I had maybe one year, we have never made regular investment contributions. So it is nice to get back to that. We are putting away $100/month as is right now. It's small, but it's better than nothing. For sure. I think this is a major step to managing our wealth better. I may only be able to invest $200/month next year. But that's okay. We start small and inch up. I don't have to save up to buy a house. I don't have to save up for my next maternity leave. It's a REALLY good place to be. It's nice to be 30 and think, the only thing we really need to save for at this point, is retirement. I guess college and all that, but that is SO far away. Easy Peasy. Wink It's a mind shift, after working towards so many very BIG short-term goals.

Of course retirement is a BIG long-term goal. Kind of scary. I think our whole adult life we have averaged 10% contributions, and that will continue regardless if we contribute a dime (due to my current job). BUT we are trying to make retirement more top of mind. My goal is to make 15% contributions (max out our ROTHS) in the next few years. Saving raises... Working overtime... Saving windfalls to retirement... Challenge money... We have met all our other financial goals, so next year challenge money can ALL go to retirement. Sweet. We may just have a chance to contribute the max $10k next year. (Just sounds so daunting).

We are getting close to having one year salary saved in retirement. Maybe next year.

September Interest

September 26th, 2007 at 07:43 pm

$20 challenge:

$8,504.87 - Balance 9/22

$ 152.00 - Interest

------------------
$8,656.87 - Balance 9/30
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Well I don't expect it to be SO good next month. Interest rates are falling and balance transfer is being paid - even if little by little. So this is probably the peak.

$80 from my GMAC account, around $25 from CalFirst (CD) and around $45 for my local credit union CD. September Interest.

Not bad! Talk about passive income. There was a discussion on one of my favorite personal finance blogs about how passive passive income really is. In this case, quite passive. Sure I had to shop around a little and get some great rates. But for the next year or so I am pretty set with these rates. Easy money. Big Grin

In other news, we haven't turned on the air inside all month. The weather has been perfect as it was a tad cold, but then warm, and as it fluctuates outside our house has settled on a nice 75 degrees. Sweet.

Oh yes, and someone has expressed interest in our "ugly" chair. Haven't given up hope yet.

At work I am working on some ugly project - some guy who inherited millions right before his death and we are trying to figure out the tax reporting on the elaborate "tax shelter" his lawyer came up with or something. Tedious and difficult and crazy. If not for this and my vacation I would probably be feeling pretty caught up. We hired a new person and our distant employee is working out rather well. I am shifting 2 more clients to him and think I might actually start to feel caught up. Right around the time I go on vacation. Figures. No last minute craziness here with the 9/15 & 10/15 deadlines though, so that's good. They'll have to figure out this estate mess thing while I am gone anyway. Didn't plan it that way, but works out. Wink Since all the tax returns are due 10/15. & I'll be in JAPAN!

I think I have been in a real funk because of work this last year (just crazier than I ever imagined it would be) so with things settling down it feels like a load off. & with the kids away at school 2 days a week I think dh has been in a much better mood. Lm has been sleeping so well in his bed too (knock on wood on that one. I won't breathe a sigh of relief until he gets his final molars - he sleeps so poorly with the teething).

I haven't hit the gym though since we got sick. I still feel kind of off but I think I will attempt aerobics tomorrow. We'll see... Blech...

I'm in 2 Wills too...

September 24th, 2007 at 08:38 pm

Sorry, all this will ralk reminded me.

Both our parents this year updated their wills. I believe dh is not the executor of his parent's will and I am now executor of my parent's will.

I was going to say lord knows why we are "it" but I guess the whole accountant thing plays into it. (My parents actually had a friend who was a CPA chosen as their exector for the last 3 decades or so). So I guess it begins. I deal with a lot of that stuff at work - very elderly clients. It is a weird shift to think that now friends and family will be looking to me to help with all the administration financially and all when they are gone. I hope it is many more decades before it matters...

We also had an interesting discussion about pooling money (or keeping gifts/inheritances separate). A discussion with my mom. Will have to remember to share later since short on time.

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I had some thought last week to pay the IRS with a check from my money market cash account. That was sweet. I Think I popped it in the mail last monday and it has yet to clear my account. They post interest tomorrow too.

On the flip side I would have lost at least 2 weeks interest between transferring the money out well before the 15th, making sure I had enough time, blahblahblah. I earned like $2 mor ein interest this way. Big Grin Maybe more if they keep taking their sweet time. (Though then you start to worry if it got lost in the mail. I try to avoid the mail lately because of terribly slow mail. But if I got the postmark it doesn't matter. So um, maybe this is a really good strategy in conjuction with slow mail. Now that I think about it!)

New Tires

September 22nd, 2007 at 02:00 am

Got new tires on the van today. Spent around $500 with tires, oil change, break check and such. I had budgeted $600/year for car repairs/maintenance. In past years we really haven't spent much so seemed fair, but gosh we have blown it out of the water this year. Around $1500 I think this year - just insanity. I know too we could have saved money on a lot of this with more time and effort on our part. So something to think about. Well, hopefully next year will be less costly! How to pay for it? I'll throw it on the card and hope some extra money pops up. I am thinking of not putting $300 to the efund next month. Will probably put it to the tires instead. I have $200 coming to me for Cookie Lee sales. So wala. Am only about $500 away from my efund goal and figure I will get there regardless. So it kind of sucks, but in the long run not much to complain about.

Well this weekend is our anniversary and grandma was going to take the kids. However, dh and I got "the bug." It was some nasty thing with a 10-day incubation that all the kids at preschool got at once. IT was lovely and I was worried it may ruin my Japan trip (like if we all got it one at a time, 10 days apart). LM has been rather resilient, but last night dh and I started to get very sick. As luck would have it, his parents were in the area. They were going to go to their cabin an hour away, go gambling tomorrow, and pick up the kids on their way home (so we could have a free weekend for our anniversary).

Instead I started puking and dh wasn't feeling well so he asked if they would maybe take them for the night and we could send them to preschool tomorrow, not to ruin their plans. Anyway, they just took the kids home with them, so I feel bad. But I could not imagine caring for the little ones with us both puking all night. So anyway, it was nasty. I am just starting to feel better, but as it was with all the kids, they felt better one day and then relapsed for one day. So I am wary. Trying to rehydrate the body, but not push it. We have piles and piles of leftovers in the fridge, all completely inedible with these stomachs. Bummer.

So happy anniversary to us! It's been 7 years. (We've been together like 12 years). Oh I am just so grateful the kids aren't here and we could rest and recover.

Dh's parents are crazy generous and his grandma gave us $40 cash. His parents will probably give us some too. We were thinking of splurging it. dh saw they were doing some charity dinner/wine thing down the street for $35/person. We were thinking that may be a nice use of our time/money to celebrate, but frankly I am scared to eat anything at this point. So we'll probably put the $40 towards the tires and whatever else we get - and the $65 (challenge money). So it's not so bad.

Oh which reminds me. I feel REALLY bad but there is some distant family member who always sends the kids a lot of cash. Like $50 or $100 - though I really have no idea who she is. Anyway, I wrote down she sent the kids $5 each for their b-day and thought it was a little unusual (so little), but whatever. Sent her a thank-you. I think the same day (but after it had gone out in the mail) I found an envelope with the address of a different relative of the same name - where I had noted her $5 gifts to the kids. How embarassing - I sent a thank you to the WRONG person. We just figured, whatever. She would be confused, but at least we realized (& I was able to send a thank-you off to the right person).

So anyway, $50 arrived in the mail yesterday for the kids. I guess she felt bad (or maybe she had just genuinely forgotten their birthdays). I feel really bad, I did not want to guilt her into sending money. I joked with dh that this was a good tactic to raise college money for the kids. Send thank you notes to the wrong people. Of course I thanked her for $10 and she sent $50. I'll send her a 2nd thank you with an explanation.

Well, hopefully we'll feel better tomorrow and will enjoy this kidless time. At least I won't feel so tempted to do stuff around the house. Just trying to take it easy.

Challenge $ - Sold Items

September 22nd, 2007 at 01:42 am

$20 challenge:

$8,439.87 - Balance 9/6

$ 65.00 - Sale of baby items

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$8,504.87 - Balance 9/22
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Oh it was a little slow going (compared to past experiences) but we sold the crib for full asking price. Woohoo! Got $50 for the crib and dh also sold the exersaucer for $15 when the lady showed up. I had meant to clean it up and list it later, but now I don't have to. How cool is that? Way to go dh. He got $15. I think we paid $15 or $20 for it used. About how it goes with a lot of the baby stuff. Sell it for what you paid - not much to complain about.

I have another play gym thing which has gotten no bites. I turned down $20 for it last year. Stupid me. I'll have to relist again. I think I listed $25. Will just list $20. This is one of those stupid things that costs like $60. Usually I don't spend that much unless I can sell it for as much. So it is frustrating me. Just not sure why the ancient, dirty exersaucer goes like that, but the really nice one sits.

ID Theft Update

September 22nd, 2007 at 01:35 am

I got my second clearance from the mail - Macy's. 2 down and 5 to go. (Really like 2 more to go since Sears cleared me which was under Citibank with 3 other cards. Lord knows what is taking the other 3 so long. But if Citi admits that card is fradulent, then the rest should follow).

VEry slow going. It's been about 60 days.

I also got my true FICO score update and it is up to 757 from 685 last month. MUCH better. Most of the false stuff has been removed from my credit report (though 1 is now showing up on Experian). I am just waiting to get confirmation that I am released from all responsibility and then will have to pull my reports again and, hopefully 1 final time, ask to remove all the false stuff.

That credit score is with my balance transfer. I imagine it will shoot back to the 800s once I pay it off. In the meantime I said a million times I am not worried about the BTs when it comes to my credit score. It's nice to see my feelings about it were spot on. I figured even if it dropped low it would be quite temporary. But it looks like overall it has affected my score little.

Well hopefully in the next month I can close this chapter in my life. No more "ID Theft" updates would be nice. Big Grin

My Ugly Chair - Hehe

September 19th, 2007 at 07:25 pm

I don't think I have been terribly busy, but I have been using my online time for craigslisting/freecycling. So haven't gotten on here.

IT's not going well either. We have some old recliner my mom might have even used when my sister was a baby. Well at one time it was a very nice chair. It still is comfy, just ugly as hell (Worn, dirty, torn, etc.). & I am sad I can not give it away. 2 separate mentions on freecycle and nothing. Not even anyone asking to see it! & so I tried free section of Craigslist. This morning I had an e-mail and excited maybe someone wanted it, all it said was, "ugly chair." Well, gee thanks. I went between annoyance at someone could be so rude (I am emotionally attached to this chair - wah) to kind of, duh, I didn't say it was beautiful. Has the guy looked at the other free stuff? I have seen some pretty hideous furniture. Didn't think this was so bad. LOL. But um yeah, thanks for stating the obvious. Hehe.

I did get rid of a few things - baby blankets, old bibs (the ones I couldn't sell) and a pile of hangers (like a giant bag). So I have had a little success on the purging, but not much. I have about 5 bags for goodwill too. So maybe this weekend... (Mostly baby clothes - some adult clothes and shoes from my grandma).

I am also shocked no one is interested in our crib, though there were a million listings. Just few were asking for so little and the crib is very nice. Oh well, you win some and you lose some. I am tempted to hold out and try the crib another week. Just never had such bad luck - must be the time of year or something. But if not I will happily donate it. The crib can be used. The chair may have to go to the dump. Bummer!

In other news, I sent off $1200 to the IRS. The good news is I only need to pay $300 to the state to ve even steven for the year. ($8 to fed and $8 from state, doesn't get much more even than that!). & also my withholding is a tad on the high side so I might adjust it down a notch next year. Woohoo. With all the ROTH conversions and balance transfer interest I am just leaving it as is through January. I will be happy to adjust it down 1 or 2 though for next year.

So yay - I thought I was going to have to shell out another $600 - $800 to the IRS in January. $300 to state instead is MARVELOUS! I am also making overtime, so financially things seem good.

On the flip side I spent $100 at Target yesterday. Kid clothes. Most necessary. Couldn't resist. (A lot of the prices rival the thrift store and since Target is so convenient I have been shopping there much more for the kids. I can easily work the overtime to pay all that versus the time it would take to scout the thrift shops. Reverting back to laziness I guess).

& Our trips are coming up fast.

& I feel so broke. I have $100 coming out of my checking every month for investments, $300 for balance transfers, and $225 or so for LM's preschool tuition. I was "trying" to set aside $450/month to savings. & though I mostly succeeded, with this $625 outflow - all automatic - I am feeling really broke.

Dh wants to go out to dinner for our anniversary and my friends want to go out and on and on and I feel like I don't have a dollar to spare.

I am working hard on the overtime and hopefully all the preschool tuition for LM for the year will be reimbursed around December or JAnuary. No guarantees - my boss just pays it whenever he feels like it (if it feels like it though he mentioned to me the other day he would pay me overtime if I would work more - hint hint hint...). So my goal is to do that, to get efund to $12k, and to not sink in the meantime. We'll see. October I will know where we are at. IF we have to drive to Vegas with a cooler stocked with food and not leave our room - LOL. OR if we can splurge a tad there. Either way we will enjoy. The tough part for us will not be splurging on the food in Vegas, but we can go pretty cheap otherwise, and have a good time. But if I get enough overtime and we don't have to spend a dime on our trips, we may be able to spurge on some nice food. On the other hand, our parents are taking us to far off lands, we can help them a bit. Just don't want to be cheap with them - they have done a lot for us this year.

Of course I was sure I might pocket $60 this week with the crib and a few other big items. But so far, pretty blah. Which is bumming me out too. Could really use it. (No focus group calls lately either!!)

So that's the long and the short of it here...

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Um, I can't believe I leave for Japan in like 2 weeks. Haven't done a thing... Big Grin I guess little to prepare since I already got my passport earlier and since it is just me there is not a lot of preparation with packing up kids and arranging house sitting, but I don't know, feels like I should be doing something. LOL. Our "host family" will be planning our activities. I guess I should just sit back and relax. This is how we should really always vacation - little planning. I am hoping to fit all my luggage in one big duffel bag (I bought earlier in the year for travel). Oh, we'll see... Not optimisitc. I am an over-packer though I get better with the years. But yes, would be nice to fit it all in one bag.

One thing I probably should think about is phone calls. I will want to call my family. Haven't figured that out yet (a frugal way?). I can look at my cell phone but the roaming is probably insane. Will have to see about my AT&T card if there is any benefits with it. Perhaps?

One Year

September 16th, 2007 at 03:24 pm

Well, cool. I just realized I have been blogging here one entire year.

Before joining this site I thought because we had money we had done very well. But we weren't really looking at the big picture. & frankly we had little money left.

My husband lost his job and I became pregnant in October 2002. We had $30k in the bank (cash) and had always lived on my income alone. Nothing much changed. We decided he would stay home for a few years with the kids. As long as we could swing it. We had plenty of money to hold us over. We just didn't really have much plans to save, but at 25 we were WELL ahead of the pack and knew we would have plenty of time to catch up.

We really had a lot of luck. Though I work for a small employer he kept my job open for me during 2 maternity leaves (no obligation under the law, beyond the initial 6 weeks disability - I took much more time). I can't say we never saved. We saved big for my maternity leaves. & with disability I don't remember touching much of our other savings during those times. So we didn't do all bad.

But I was lucky both kids came rather close together (we had hoped, but didn't exactly count on it). So dh's time home would not have to be prolonged as it would have if there was more space between them.

In the meantime my job went through some insane times. My pay went up 10% every year because there became such a shortage of CPAs. A lifestyle we planned hard to live on $40k suddenly didn't matter any more. My pay almost doubled in a few short years. So we started to enjoy more. We looked at bigger houses (never bought). We hired a gardener and put our son in preschool. Dh upgraded some video equipment. Our health insurance went from $100/month to $800/month in the course of 2 kids and 3 years. We didn't really think about savings because "dh would save his paycheck when he returned to work." If he did we would be no further behind in the long run. IT really wasn't the worst plan.

I freaked out though when we took our last $15k in the bank and bought a car. We financed $5k so we could keep $5k in the bank. It was a scary place to be. I knew we had not wasted all our cash (much had gone to retirement and good stuff. The car wasn't a horrid purchase), but with a newborn, we had a ways before dh was to return to work. Started worrying about saving again.

So I found this site and in the last year I have learned so much and changed our thinking so much about how we save our money.

This year I have came up with/saved $8500 I wouldn't have otherwise by managing our money better and looking for more opportunities to make money. (Focus groups, rewards, higher interest rates, freelance work; a lot of stuff that was little effort). [see my challenge posts].

I completely revamped my investments and am paying less fees and getting better returns.

I think the other thing that woke me up is when we mostly drained our cash we decided that dh needed to get some part-time work. But it was very hard in coming. For whatever reason. Discrimination at his stay-at-home status (very apparent) versus being over-qualified for kind of min. wages that would have fit his schedule, we kind of realizes we may be in this for the long haul. We never really wanted him to go back to work full-time in the near future. But part-time work was really hard to come by when we needed it. So we kind of realized maybe we need to rethink things. This is where I am most happy with my time here. We have restructured our budget and everything and are on track to not only pay all the bills on my check but save $5k/year for household/next car purchases as well as 15% of my pay (on top of my boss's 10% match).

If you told me one year ago that we would have decided dh would probably stay home forever and I could pull all this off on one check, gardener, preschool and all, I would not have believed it.

So basically I have loved my time here. I have learned a lot. I think we were on a decent path already, but we had lots of pitfalls to work around. Now we are on a MUCH smoother path.

I think the biggest things I have learned are to maximize my assets (make them work for me) and also to find extra money where we can. That extra $8500 this year has gone a long way to make thing possible. It's not "all" my wage. But finding a little extra to prevent the need of a second W-2 job is pretty sweet. We had never seen the point of working 2 full-time jobs, but we also weren't really utilizing the fact that we could come up with another few hundred dollars a month without working 40-hour weeks.

I know almost 1/2 my challenge is a big check my parents gave us. But last year I would have used it to pay the bills. The property taxes, the insurance. Maybe the daycare. This year it is all sitting in an untouchable efund. & that is huge. Just a huge example of how far we have come along. I am hoping to put all that extra in my retirement going froward and when dh does bring a wage, extras like that will go to investments and/or mortgage.

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Along the same lines I was just looking in Quicken (some nice comparison reports I never really looked at) and our grocery expenses are down 20% this year. I can't say we have really done much but eat smarter. The foods we buy haven't changed; our diet hasn't changed. We do eat very well. We have spent $3900 to-date this year and last year we were at $4900. WOW! Dh has been working hard to get the costs down. Just trying to think in terms of what we already have on hand, and clipping more coupons. Stocking up on things on sale. The difference is amazing. We have always pre-planned menus and shopped with a list. (Note: our "grocery" category includes all household goods/tioletries. I just lump it all in because we don't buy much in the way of non-food items). I am sure we could spend much less if we did the beans and rice thing, but no need for that!

Dining out is $500 to-date vs. $1k last year. Not the kind of thing we spent a ton on, but has gone down with our groceries too. Big Grin

We've also been doing well with our gas expenditures. Our gas is about the same as last year but we have been driving a lot more (but a lot smarter. Driving the compact car more and consolidating trips). This stuff has made a huge difference too. More left over for other stuff.

US Bank - Why Not???

September 15th, 2007 at 11:31 pm

Oh my, I just heard the most horrid commercial.

It was like, why not go on a 5-figure vacation? Why not buy a luxury car? Why not put in that pool and spa and remodel? You DESERVE it.

I was 1/2-listening thinking it was some mock thing. Then I realized it was a real commercial. US Bank - just use the equity in your home to enjoy all these things now. Woohoo.

I can't believe they are still pushing these commercials in light of the recent state of home loans. Does anyone still think it's a good idea to borrow equity for a bunch of luxuries they don't need? Perhaps.

Just crazy.

Phew

September 15th, 2007 at 02:09 pm

Well I hesitate to say it or jinx it but LM was in a much better mood yesterday. When he woke up from his nap he just called for daddy and last night he didn't get up once. When I woke up around 5 I went to peek on him, I Was worried I hadn't heard anything. He was sound asleep. I think he did sleep better on his own mattress. Dh also took off the bed sheets/blankets - thought they were weird for him. But it is starting to get cooler so it will be blanket time soon enough. Just doesn't like it all tucked in at the bottom I guess.

Or maybe he will be a terror. In prior months when he wasn't sleeping well I wondered if moving him would help - to the big bed. Who knows. Time will tell. So far he has been sleeping better than in his crib, in a way.

Another important thing... Dh moved some toys into his room and he got SO excited. We have a few toys in BM's room, but they mostly play downstairs. So dh made a big deal that as a big boy he gets toys in his room too and I think that is a lot of what calmed him down yesterday. He was SO excited. We also just weaned him off the bottle so I realize maybe it's all just a bit much for him right now.

Dh and I will have a fight today about what toys to move. I want to move some big stuff upstairs; he doesn't. He put some small cars in his room (choking hazards). I said, why do you think all the big chunky baby toys are in BM's room? Because we moved them in there when he was 2 - still need to baby proof even if he usually doesn't put stuff in his mouth. Gah. Well, we'll duke it out today.

Anyway, with the changing weather should also go through the clothes; see where we stand. Probably need to buy shoes and warm pajams for BM this weekend - a start. & dig out the bins of BM's old stuff for LM. Will probably get him new shoes too though.

Oh I listed a few things on Craigslist and Freecycle. So we'll see. I have some bags for Goodwill so maybe will pack them in dh's car and send him next week. Will be nice to make way through all this stuff.

Last week I was motivated and set out a pile of stuff for ebay, but haven't gotten to it yet. Maybe I will make progress this weekend.

I also decided I will paint LM's room while they fam is in Florida. Maybe BM's too. Don't want to be too ambitious, and it will be busy at work. But best time to be done really. We painted the lower 1/2 of the wall brown and put up a border, but he's ripped a lot of it off and we just need to start over...

P.S. I worked 3 hours today moving offices. Will be around $75 after tax. Probably get in December. My running overtime balance is in the $350 range. Whenever I get it, it will be sweet... Big Grin

Crib for Sale

September 14th, 2007 at 01:59 pm

I told my mom the other day we were going to move LM our of his crib soon. Just been dragging our feet. I could tell she thought I was crazy. I just said, "you don't know how many people I know whose babies/toddlers fell out of their crib." We have the setup and rather do the transition before he gets hurt. & we had moved BM before 2 to make way for LM, so this seems "late" to us.

Anyway, yesterday was hell. BM was sick. Something nasty going through preschool that everyone got. & then LM was in a mood again. I am this close to taking him to the doctor; I am just concerned how he has been so upset ever since his last shot. I can see a lot of regular 2yo phases but they have been so suddenly amplified this last week or so.

Anyway, to not help matters, he climbed out of his crib yesterday at naptime. We already have the toddler crib in his room so dh put him in the bed and put up the gate we used with BM for a good year or so until he was potty trained and needed roam of the house. There is a big difference between a 2yo & a 3yo though. So LM climbs over the gate (quietly enough dh didn't even notice) and walks downstairs. Just flipped him out. He already wasn't in a good mood but just became a battle of the wills. We keep him contained downstairs with a big gate. If he really wanted to he could take it down, but we leave it up just as, "you need to stay in this room." So yesterday he was intent on knocking that one down too. Oh my. So when I came home he screamed and screamed and screamed. Through dinner he wouldn't eat and screamed and screamed and screamed. With much effort he finally calmed sown and ate. Then he was happy as a clam ( can you say manic depressive? Gah!).

Anyway, we were freaking out what to do about the bed situation. This weekend we may look for an alarm or something so we can know when he opens his door or something. Last night was okay. We left up the little gate and put another one just past it. (Another variation I have heard is to put 2 gates on top of each other, but that's complicated and doesn't stop real climbers). So anyway, he could get into dh's office or the bathroom (through 2 doors) and he could knock down that gate if he really wanted, but I figured if nothing else that would wake us up. Last night worked out well. He climbed over his gate and went straight to the other one but just stopped to scream. I think in the dark he had no idea how to knock it over - or he just freaked out (this gate is much taller). Either way, whatever. It worked for last night. I am still keen for an alarm or something more long-term. We also have those doorknob things we should set up. (For now we have all lever knobs upstairs. My parents gave me their old round knobs and we were going to switch them out but never saw the need I guess in the long term. Now I think round knobs with childproofing would be great for the bathroom. Or at least the roundknobs since LM hasn't figured them out yet, but so BM can use the bathroom).

BM is a huge climber and very bright but he never really got out of bed or tried to climb over his gate. Just really bizarre. I would pin LM as more obedient, less adventurous, and less of a monkey. But yeesh. Either I pinned him wrong or we should have just moved him sooner when he was too young too question the authority of the gate. LOL. Think that may be a lot to do with it.

Dh said he'll break down the crib today and I'll put it on Craigslist this weekend. What a milestone - no more cribs! I think we paid $100-$200. It's cute and all but has some chipped paint. I might score a decent $50 with the mattress and all.

I got the crib new at Wal Mart or something. The toddler bed I got used from a friend for $20 way back. Dh has a point that we should keep the nice mattress we got for the bed and put the crappier mattress in the crib. Never would have thought about it, but good point. Well make the transition easier for LM too if he gets to keep the same mattress.

Well he slept pretty good last night and only tried to get up once. We'll see. A pretty decent first night in the land of big boy bed and freedom.

The only reason we got a toddler bed was BM was so little when we moved him. Though soon after I regretted it. We could have just put the twin mattress we had on the floor. But now it's good because we have a bed for LM. BM still falls out of his bed so much (rail and all) I am not keen on a "real" bed for LM for a long while. We'll probably buy a mattress next year and go bed shopping the following year or something. Hoping BM will outgrow his rail by then.

So yeah last night I was frantically trying to baby proof LM's room. Luckily not much in there. Then I figured I should scour the bathroom.

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I lost another pound and I have been not eating well at all. I swear it is the loss of birth control. My doctor said I was crazy and it couldn't be but I gained a lot of weight very suddenly with it. One week out and the results are amazing. I can't describe it other than I feel like I have been extremely bloated for 2 years and the bloat is going away. Almost 3 pounds in 1 week. I still hit the gym 3 times a week but no dieting on the eating end. In fact I ate out 3 times this week which is unusual, so I have been eating worse/more than usual.

My mood has improved tenfold too. I was really preparing myself for the fact that the weight wouldn't magically drop off and that I have to consider that it is really the postpartum hormones and all that, which I have had a time with since baby #2. But yeah this is why I was so intent on dropping birth control. It has really been up in the air for me - how much is postpartum hormones and how much is BC?

Well, time will tell more. But getting my old metabolism back would be pretty sweet. Big Grin & being less moody too. So far BC is looking pretty guilty, and I am so glad to be done with it.



Crazy CA Housing

September 12th, 2007 at 11:33 pm

Oh first, dh did call Chase and they moved the payment to the correct card, date an all. Not that it mattered, but nice to know for future reference... Phew.

Yes, today has gone a tad better.

But was reading this article:

More of Americans' income going to housing
http://www.mercurynews.com/realestatenews/ci_6869425

Interesting portion:

"It's not an accident that the states that are leading in foreclosures - including California, Nevada and Florida - are also on top of the list for the proportion of mortgage borrowers paying more than 30 percent of their income on housing," Fellowes said. "Take away the four top states, and there's actually a decrease in foreclosures."

In California, where the median home price rose to $535,750 (compared with a national median of $185,200), more than half of both homeowners and renters lived in housing not considered affordable.

In Santa Clara County, the median household income was about $80,000 in 2006, according to census data released last month. The county's median resale home price in July was $805,500, according to DataQuick Information Systems.

The California Building Industry Association, in a report released last month, said despite the housing slump, California houses remained the most unaffordable in the nation. Twenty-two percent of California homeowners and 27 percent of renters spent more than half their income on housing last year, the census data shows.

These consumers are extremely vulnerable to any change in their income or expenses, including increases in their adjustable mortgage rates, said Eric Belsky, executive director of the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. The states with the highest shares of mortgage-holders paying at least 30 percent of their incomes for housing - California (51.8 percent), Nevada (46 percent), Hawaii (46 percent), New Jersey (45 percent) and Florida (45 percent) - all are among the leaders in housing foreclosures."

Which probably sums up a few things from my perspective:

1 - $300k for a really nice house was an awesome deal for us. We might be bumping up around 30% total expenses for our house but we have no other debt, and this is only on one income. When we both work it is more like 20%. Unheard of for the area as a whole. So I know to many across the country sounds high, but to us is a great deal.

2 - Why I don't get the whole renting is cheaper/better thing. The renters for the most part aren't really better off here. Which is a unique phenomenen.

3 - We left the Bay when the median home price was in the $500k range. That $800k is just insanity. I have no idea how that is being sustained. $500k was insanity, but sustainable. $800k is due to a lot of creative financing.

4 - I am curious how the percent of income thing has fluctuated through the years. My parents did it - their loan was at 17% or something god awful; over 50% of their income. Prices may be high, but interest rates are low. Just interesting how not much has really changed in decades for that pareticular area. Anyway, with the 1000% return it paid off for them. Too much risk for me. We may inherit a lot of real estate on our part. (Nothing fancy, but a good mil easy. On the flip side our parents have a lot of assets to see them through nursing homes and medical care and all that. They took the risk early on and have so many options now. IT's nice for us on one hand. On the other hand they are likely to move to live a cheaper lifestyle. Frown ).

Oh well, mostly some interesting statistics.

P.S. Why on earth are so many people paying SO much to live in Nevada????????

The Dork of Epic Proportions

September 12th, 2007 at 05:14 pm

Oh maybe a bit dramatic, but today is not off to a good start.

I paid $3200 on my card for Japan expenses and childcare last week. Thankfully not due until the 20th or something, but it throws me off a bit to have such a large/outside budget amount outstanding so just paid it when my mom reimbursed me for the Japan portion. Then my credit card balance looks normal. & it doesn't look like I have an extra $3k to spend in my checking - hehe. No temptation.

It didn't clear the credit card right away (though it did the bank). I have been busy all week, but was checking all my balances today and still hadn't cleared. I Was thinking, oh lord, where the heck did it go? Just figured I'd have to call and straighten it out. Got sent off to space or something.

Then I remembered I have 2 Chase cards and am always worried about paying the wrong one in Bill Pay. Bingo. Paid the wrong card.

The only reason I have that stupid card in there is Chase denied dh's PS3 purchase so he pulled out the old car he hadn't used in 5 years and they accepted that charge. Still not happy about that. Glad his charge went through, but wondering why Chase would deny our regular card but not that one. ??? Unless they figured the odds were slim someone stole both cards. ? But anyway, so now my Bill Pay is all screwed up. But I keep it in there because if he does use that card ever for any reason I'll get an online bill. I'll have to rename it if I Can in the "bill pay" screen.

Anyway then I Was freaking out because I Could not find a statement for his stupid acocunt we never use. I know I have it somewhere with the login info I set up, but lord knows where it is. So I am frustrated. Mostly because I am pretty organized and have no idea where this can be. I finally realized (doh) dh has the card in his wallet. So I asked him to call and have them apply the $3200 from his old card to our newew/regular card. I will try to follow up with a letter tonight too. Get it squared away.

The reason I Tell all this is no matter how organized and on the ball you are, mistakes happen. It's why it is good to #1, pay your bill early to avoid problems. & #2, to have an emergency fund. If we don't get this straightened out on showing on the card by Friday, I will just send a check off from my money market account. Then we can worry about the refund, but at least I won't incur any interest. I Certainly have the cash, easily accessible, to cover this mess in the meantime, while it is straightened out. I don't expect it to be straightened out by the 20th when it is due, since it is dh's card and he has to call. But we'll see. I am not happy about losing interest if I have to dig so much out of the efund, but we'll survive.

But yes, & I can really be an idiot sometimes, hehe. It was a good wakeup call for me because ever since we bought that stupid TV I have way less checking float than I would like and I have been paying the bill much closer to the due date than I like. This could have really screwed me up if it was a regular bill, so I will be more careful.

Anyway, so far everything about today has been crappy. This is the least of it. Here's to a better rest of the day...

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$50 cleared my bank to my IRA & $50 to BM's UGMA so this whole automatic investing thing is getting off to a good start. Vanguard is giving me problems on LM's UGMA so I printed off a voucher for $100 for the year - will just mail a check next month or something. That's another one - all in dh's name so he will have to call to straighten out our issues and so I keep putting it off. But it's so little it matters little. Just was looking forward to the automatic part and the income averaging. So we'll see. I was curious what the minimum was and in these particular funds they can deposit as little as $100, so that is good. Can probably just make extra Christmas deposits for them when they get christmas money (if they don't get $100 we'll probably just add to whatever they get to make it $100. Our fam is not big on cash gifts overall. But they will probably get something).

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P.S. I forgot, someone at aerobics told me I Was "getting skinny." & I have lost 4 pounds. It has been VERY slow going but as long as I make progress I do not mind. Slow is good. But I mean 4 pounds might be generous. 4 pounds from maybe my peak. maybe a good 2 pounds since I have been going to aerobics (4 months?). So a little too slow, but better than nothing. BUT I dropped my birth control last week and lost a pound pretty quickly. VERY interesting. So we'll see. Since most of this 20 pounds I had gained was post-birth control. I had lost all the baby weight on my second child and then put on a load afterwards. I always thought it could be the birth control since it coincided (& it came on FAST), but I also had some hormone issues and you know nothing seems the same after having children. But I am getting optimistic that maybe a lot of this weight will start to drop off. My nicest work pants are getting too big. A catch 22. I have to lose a lot of weight to fit most the stuff in my closet. Wink

I lost all this weight last year but my metabolism is just so shot. So I am having hopes that maybe my body is returning a little more to normal and it will be easier to keep off this time. (On the flip side I feel like I have been working harder and the fat has been very stubborn this time). The true test for me beyond losing the weight (which I know I Can do - it's not much) will be to keep it off during tax season. I am feeling optimistic I am creating a workout schedule I can stick with. But we'll see.

I wish this came so easy to me as finances, honestly. The principles should be the same, but I have serious food issues. If it wasn't for my husband I would be extremely overweight. He keeps me honest and eating good; cooks healthy meals, etc. But there is only so much he can do when I am off at work. I just grew up being able to eat whatever I want/whenever I want and I am thankful my husband has taught our kids such wonderful eating habits. He made some casserole with no veggies last night and I Was chowing down and both kids refused to eat it. So bizarre!!!!! IT was just such an usual meal to them. They love their fruits/veggies and have to eat what we make for dinner, or at least try it (once, twice, 3 times). Rules I have never lived with. I just eat with my emotions. So I have been thinking a lot it just takes a little self control like with finances, but it is just so completely different to me. Thankfully I have a husband who enjoys cooking and has wonderful/healthy eating habits.

Not feeling very Bloggy

September 12th, 2007 at 02:17 pm

Just BUSY I guess.

I am kind of bummed because I am picking up and moving offices this weekend. I am not sure I could move further, wish I had a cart with wheels. (Oh the office isn't that big as a whole but I am moving to the opposite end). But I won't be right by the kitchen and bathroom now, bah. Then again maybe I will get more exercise...

Anyway, my boss came in a few weeks ago and said, "would you like so and so's old office?" Like this was a great development. I am like, um, no. LOL. One of the older ladies said women are nesters, and I thought, I guess so. I know I have been in this office at least 2 years. Maybe longer. (3?4? I don't even know). But I have one of the nicer desks. A huge wraparound desk that his filled to the brim with papers. So my boss offering me a desk like 1/5 the size wasn't too appealing. Plus the room is pink - blech. He then mentioned that the problem with my office was it was too cramped for clients. Hmmmm, I hadn't thought about it but he had a point. Since I am doing a lot of the work the big old manager did I asked why I just couldn't take his office. He looked hesitant, but said, if I wanted it I could take it. I did a little walk through the office and decided the office was way too masculine (& big at that) and wondered if the masculine part was his hesitation. They are very big on decor and matching and all this stuff. But he had very recently made clear he is not looking to hire any more management, so I figure why not take the fancy office. Maybe he wants to keep his options open. Then I took a walk down the hall and decided I really liked the end office. It has the same desk but is a little more roomy. I know it had some roofing problems or something in the past, but they said it is okay now; mine if I please. There is the original building I am in now and the fancy "new" wing and I will get to move down there. It is much more roomier and nicer chairs for clients so should work out. But I think I will miss my own office. It's kind of a curse or a bane because right at the front I hear all that is going on and all the office gossip and such. Then again I close my door so much to block out all the noise. Maybe it will be more peaceful/quiet down there.

It's been so busy I couldn't justify moving yet, but decided just to do it this weekend. Get paid overtime to move offices; what the heck?

In other news I got the bill for dh's BT. Still only charging 1.5% of the balance. I thought since last month it had only been outstanding part of the month they just took average daily balance or something. But no, only charging 1.5% of entire amount for minimum payments. Not bad!!!! I thought the credit cards were required to start charging 4% of balance at minimum. Hmmmm, who knows when I guess. Buys me time to make more interest.

I have to follow up with WAMU too. I am frustrated that Sears has sent me a letter that it has cleared up my ID theft thing, but no one else has. Bah. I guess technically they can't report all the cards to the credit bureaus in the meantime, but they all are... So I need to make sure I don't face any universal default issues with WAMU. Was just going to send them a letter to cover my butt. But yeah, I expect more of them to come through in the next couple of weeks - releasing me from responsibility, officially.

In other news, BM's karate class got changed. Bummer. I love classes through the city because they are so darn cheap, but inevitably they never last very long. We had the BEST music class that just went all the hell when the teacher moved to an expensive studio (we would have paid, but the time was awful & we had such issues with the studio we refuse to go back now). & now this. Of course I am kind of annoyed with dh on this one. He had to take him at 4:30 yesterday and the world might as well have ended. YEs, like it is so easy to rush from work and run the kid to karate like I have been for months. But it makes him happy. So yeah, he was really indecisive yesterday if he could continue to take him, but he didn't really have a reason other than it was "hard." So I was just annoyed with him. So he can't have a hectic day one day a week for BM? I think I am just annoyed because he has no idea how rushed my M/Ws are at work since I have to be on kid pick up and drop off duty. My days are short and I have to cram an extra hour of work in a shorter day somehow. Yes, naps were ruined, dinner was delayed. But the world will not end.

Anyway, BM has many interests and most recently has been wanting to do soccer, so I did approach it Monday when I found out about the time/day change that this may be a good opportunity to try a different class, like soccer! But he REALLY wants his karate. We might have to look into other options I guess. Too bad none are as cheap. & he just LOVED the class too. Figures.

In other news, Northern California has been plagued by wildfires this last week or so and so the sky has been a hazy brownish color for the last week. Blech. I woke up last Tuesday and when I looked outside I thought, "it looks like LA." Just a haze of air pollution. You couldn't smell the smoke which is the first thing I thought but wasn't quite sure. Until later in the day when I returned to work and stepped out and was choking on the smell of smoke. Was horrid. It has died down a bit, but not much sunshine.

On the plus side it seems to be keeping the temps down a tad. Otherwise it would be insanely hot for September.

Well, it's much better, but the sky is a bit hazy still. I guess it isn't any better back home in San Jose - another BIG fire down there too. We usually don't get near the wildfires Southern California does. I don't think either of these fires are threatening any homes. Just making for interesting air quality.

Bills/IRS/Credit Rewards

September 9th, 2007 at 02:48 pm

We got the water bill and as if to taunt us the water portion was the usual flat $30 but the metered water would have been $20. YEs we asked to switch to metered because they said we could, but now they are stalling. It is REALLY annoying. I figured whatever, August is our worst month, but we actually didn't use very much water. Way less than last August (lord knows why. Maybe less laundry, since less diapers). So now I am just aggravated. Bring on the metered water already. I want to start saving my $10-$20/month. Could really use it!

I also got the DMV renewal and for the first time ever they did not charge a fee to put it on our credit card or to pay electronically. So I put it on the card. Cool! BEtter yet, my new registration arrived a couple of days later. IT significantly sped up the whole process. Never having newer cars the $144 bill was a bit of a shock, but no smog check needed, so phew. Could have been another $50 easy.

I am set to get another $250 rebate from Chase in the next few months. The more on the card the sooner it will arrive. Big Grin But I need 200 points to redeem for $250. My last bill with the Japan airline tickets gave me 65 points. Not bad, not bad. By Christmas I will have another $250. I am thinking of just making $250 my Christmas budget. About what we did last year. & we'll definitely make it by December.

Have my estimate due to the IRS for ROTH conversions and I figured I would transfer the money to my checking account. Then I remembered my GMAC account has checks! Haven't used any, but the idea is sweet. I can pay directly from the account and earn interest until the day the check is cashed. I like it. The only other big bill I really foresee is the property taxes, but that will be sweet to pay that one directly too. A good $2k+ when that is due. If the government wants to drag it's feet on cashing, then more interest for me.





Relaxing Weekend

September 9th, 2007 at 02:27 pm

Good Weekend. On Friday, we went to the free movie in the park thing. It was really nice. It was ALL free (with taxpayer dollars I suppose). Popcorn, rootbeer floats, movie, etc. They have 3 more we'll try to check out in the following weeks.

Yesterday I was feeling domestic so I made eggs, pancakes, bacon, and chocolate milk. don't remember the last time I did anything like that and kids had a blast. They helped me cook. I have to say it is so true moms have eyes on the back of their heads. The kids wanted to stand on chairs and help/watch and I was a little nervous when they wanted to watch the stove and the griddle, but I was keeping a sharp eye on LM and they seemed fine. I sent BM to wash his hands which got covered with egg and I popped my head out of the room and was watching him/helping him with something when I decided I really should keep a better eye on LM. As I turned to look at him his arm was just starting to reach for the griddle. So I grabbed his arm/stopped him and I think he just jumped out of his skin. He thought I Was preoccupied (which I was). I said, "might as well learn now. Mommy has eye on the back of her head." LOL. Just funny how that instinct kicks in sometime. Though you could argue it was inevitable (curiosity). I can't say him getting burned would be the worst thing (because you bet he would NEVER do that again). He just has to take my word it's hot and I am glad he didn't get burned because blech, no one likes to get burned.

Anyway, kids are really good helpers. BM is very proficient at cracking eggs. Guess he has been practicing with daddy. LM helped me with pouring.

After that we went down to the pool. Usually closes Labor Day which peeves me but I swore they had increased the weeks/months this year. I couldn't remember to when though and can't find anything on it. Since it was hot yesterday we figured we'd check it out. It was empty but our key worked. Wasn't quite sure, but when we got to the pool it was certainly heated. (Usually you can hardly tell, they don't heat it much). A few more people appeared eventually. I guess it is still open. Through September I guess. There would be no point once October hits.

Oh, then we went to the gym and got a good workout. I missed aerobics but I only have 1 more paid-for class. Am so broke so glad I could put off another week. I'll owe $30 next Saturday for a new card (it is only $2.50/class so not bad at all). I can probably stretch that $30 out for the rest of the year - it will get so hectic with our trips, Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc. I LOVE the class but not sure how much I can keep up once tax season hits. It's a bit of a drive. They gym is close and convenient but a little more boring. We do SO much stretching at aerobics which is really good for me. I injure easily otherwise. But I have to just work on doing some of the routines/stretching from home. I should be able to do that.

Today we're going to that family reunion thing, so the kids will have fun.

I was thinking about food as everyone was mentioning their food bills in that one thread. I just remembered 2 days a week BM eats at preschool - he gets 2 snacks and lunch so eats most his food for the day there. Then dinner at home. LM will be in the same boat soon enough. I wonder if that will help our grocery bill a tad. I don't expect much difference since lunch here tends to be PBJ. But we'll see. I always consider the gas and other costs when it comes to preschool but had forgotten that we will save a little on food. Hardly enough, but every little bit helps.

Which reminds me yesterday when I was cooking I thought, "we need bacon!" I had seen a 2 for 1 add on the ready bacon you just pop in the microwave to warm up. I think dh usually gets generic (more a rare treat) but I sent him to pick some up - just down the street at our new Walgreens. They were Oscar Mayer and they were divine. Much better than the generic. But 2 things of bacon for $3 (30 strips?). Not bad.

P.S. If you want some good/cute kids' music, check out Laurie Berkner. Kids love her Buzz Buzz c.d. but I have been introducing it to LM more lately and he is just LOVING it. A little more sophisticated than the usual kids' music and very cute.

Utility Balanced Billing & AMT Rant

September 8th, 2007 at 02:24 pm

Got my electric & gas bills. Signed up online for balanced billing a couple of weeks back and already in effect. Bills will be $90/month between the 2. About $35 gas & $55 electric. $6 of our electric bill is a voluntary "green energy" charge. But I was looking at the bill and we also pay bout $15 in taxes and $5/month "service charge." I was worried maybe that was for the balanced billing, but it's not just always been there.

Anyway, my electric bill would have been $106 but I only have to pay $55 this month. Sweet. But I am pleased it was down overall from last month. It has been HOT... September/October/November should be months of little a/c use and we will probably pay more than the monthly usage bills would have been.

Um, since we have turned way down the water heater our gas bill would have been $7. They don't charge fees and the taxes are pennies. But we paid $36. I think that will adjust down next quarter. Though we will turn the water heater back up in the next month or 2 I am sure (maybe not so much though).

Either way it made a high electric month a much easier month. I like it.

I can still feel some of the joy of getting a "$7 bill." I think that's a record!

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In other news I was popping my estimated tax position into my work software yesterday trying to figure out if my ROTH conversion tax estimate still stands. my portfolio has gone down and haven't done one yet. Because I do have an estimate for that due 9/15. Was getting it ready. Anyway, popped my #s in and $100 in AMT popped up. What the foo???????? I then remembered that it is already September and Congress has not done the AMT quick fix for 2007 yet. WOW! I Am sure they will, but they are certainly dragging.

For those of you who have no idea what AMT, it is a tax that was meant for the wealthy to avoid certain tax breaks. It was put together in the 60s and has never been indexed for inflation. It hits coastal states like CAli and NY hard because it completely disallows all state and local tax deductions (which are very high in these states. High property values mean high property taxes and high state and local income taxes means lots of taxes in that regard as well. Why these states are hit the most. Oh yes and higher wages because of higher COL. People rely on these tax breaks to afford their insane mortgages. Plus they aren't exactly "breaks."). BAsically they are predicting if this is not fixed almost everyone with kids and a $75k income will be hit in the next few years. IF you live in Kansas, "so what?" you think. But you can hardly live out here without that kind of income. & also, for those who don't care, just wait until it hits everyone making $30k. If no one does anything about it, it will. Wealth used to be measured in millions. Now it is $75k a few decades later. Gah. Just a couple of more decades before everyone pays AMT.

Of course the reason Congress has done nothing is they have no tax revenues with the current tax code (10%/15% tax rates for most people), but they sure get a lot with AMT. Makes the whole Bush Tax cuts a joke, for many.

In the meantime, we are squarely in the 15% tax bracket. I could do a $20k ROTH conversion and still be squarely in the 15% tax bracket. & yet I am also in AMT. Make up your mind Congress. Am I rich or poor? Blech!!!!

$100 AMT. You got to be frigging kidding me.

What are my crazy wealthy tax breaks? I lose all of our personal exemptions (4 exemptions, around $13k total). & I lose our state tax deduction. $4k property taxes & $600 or so state taxes. (We don't make enough to pay the big nasty state taxes. They are big and nasty - up to 10%). I still get to keep my $2k child tax credits (between the 2 kids). YEah, makes a lot of sense. Well thank goodness for that.

For us it isn't so bad. I know too many people in the Bay with $10k property taxes and who make more (obviously to afford the million dollar modest crappy homes) and so pay tons in state income taxes. All disallowed. For one, it is not going to help the ARM disaster for these people to be hit by AMT. But they will be the ones hit the hardest. Congress will make a quick fix this year and next, and then blame the whole AMT mess on the next president or something, though it has been an annoyance for years for the tax profession. This is why I pay money to my our political action committees. To get crap like this fixed. Most of the populace is blissfully unaware how ugly AMT is. They'll complain soon enough. I am guessing in 3-4 years there will be some public outrage.

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BM is $75 richer today. I set up automatic investments - $50 every other month (easiest for me since if I do it with each kid it is a steady $50/month. Vanguard does not take $25 contributions). I also had $25 of his birthday money left - I figured I would just deposit it with this.

Kids' college - automatic. BM will be $75 richer than his brother for 1 month. Next month is LM's turn. Then the whole $50/month thing. Of course they may have a deposit for Christmas. Hmmm. Hadn't thought about that. Yeah, they are doing well. I am glad I decided to throw then the $25/month bone. It's little enough not to make much difference but it can grow to a lot of money in the long haul. I have never been good at small savings, so it is an experiment. I feel so all or nothing. I still don't want to hit our retirement hard (though I am doing $50/month for now) until our efund is back up. It's like I can only do one thing at a time. But I know this $50/month to the kids and the $50 I currently have going to retirement make a big difference in the long run.

Free Weekend

September 7th, 2007 at 02:20 pm

Tonight the city is offering free movie in the park. Cool! We'll go with the kids tonight. I am not sure if we'll stay for much of the movie, but we'll check it out. They said the festivities start at 6 and since it doesn't get dark until 8 or later, well I doubt we'll stay for a whole movie. But we'll check it out.

Which reminds me next week we get a free band and fireworks. We went last year and was really fun. I am not sure if we will go though. Maybe one of us will take BM. LM just does not like fireworks. Who could blame him? LOL. I find them scary sometimes as an adult. Oh he certainly got my scaredy cat genes.

This weekend there is an extended family reunion thingy about a 1/2 hour north of us. My dad's family is all from Kansas but his aunt moved out to Sacramento eons ago. Must have been in the 40s or 50s or something. My dad's father had like 20 brothers and sisters and of course my dad's aunt had like 10 kids. So we have a LOT of family here. (Another aunt moved to DC and never had any kids. Talk about extremes - hehe).

Anyway, the family is so large I don't know the half of them, but every once in a while we get together with a few of my dads' cousins. Very nice people. IT always amazes me how family is so "family." I never knew much of my extended family but whenever we get together it feels like sometimes we have just known each other forever. So this weekend we are going to that. In the past they had a potluck or went camping. But this time it is just a day thing and it is catered so everyone can relax. Going to some lake with hiking trails and paddle boats and fishing and everything. I think the kids will have a blast and if it is as close as my dad says, well, we'll definitely have to check out the hiking trails. We really want to hit a lot more trails next year as LM gets more steady on his feet. There is just so much around. & this is one more place I never heard of...

But yeah, last time we went to one of these BM was just a baby. This time maybe he will form some friendships with some of his "cousins ten times removed." Lord knows what they are really called, but it feels something like that. LOL.

Challenge Money

September 7th, 2007 at 12:11 am

$20 challenge:

$8,418.32 - Balance 8/31

$ 21.55 - Writing Money

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$8,439.87 - Balance 9/6
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Got August writing money. It was my second piddly month. However, $20 is $20. No complaints here. Big Grin

I think I could probably swing $20 this month. But it seems I have completely lost my momentum.

I have been hoping for more Focus Groups but dh turned down 1 in Modesto this week. Bummer. I think it would have been worth it. Then again I am kind of glad I don't have to rush home and be alone all evening. No pain no gain though. I am apparently nnot focus group or survey material. They just never call me.

Oh, I got my Cookie Lee order in today. I just bought 1 pair of earrings and a necklace (on the cheaper end) with all this sales money. After that I will walk away with $65 if I give a nice discount to my coworker.

While I was online I checked my balance for the year. After today that is $662 in sales. That is SWEET because I need to sell $600 to stay a consultant (Which I stay on for all the discounts). So I am set and haven't even done my Christmas selling. Not bad...

I only spent $15 for my earring/necklace set. IT is rare that I walk away with any profits - just usually buy up jewelry so I had much self control. I am not sure if I have ever made a sale without buying something though. Too tempting. But I have been selling for a while so is like my only side income where that I don't add to the challenge. I probably should because I am not sure if I ever made a profit before. But it's okay.

Puts mea bout $1500 from my $10k goal on the challenge. I have been trying to work up some overtime and earlier felt confident that with overtime I would hit it. However, now I am not so sure. With all these vacations coming up. I just caught up all my time from my day off last week. & it's been a hard week. LM is in this "mommy don't go to work stage." Both kids have gone through it here and there and rarely lasts long. But during the stage it sucks. I Can't bring myself to work overtime when my 2-year-old tells me I Am a "poo poo butt" (gets that from the big kids) and he doesn't love me. THat is what he told me at lunch. OF course he couldn't feign "hate" very long. HE kept intermixing that with lots of hugs and "I love yous." But he is very mad I have to go to work this week. With BM I tell him that the house, cars, food, just EVERYTHING is paid for by my wage and that is why I Work. I know some days he is not happy I have to go to work, but he understands for the most part. LM is just not quite at that age of understanding yet.

Oh yes, which reminds me yesterday was an expensive day. 2 doctor appointments at $100. Though our appointments were 1 hour apart we got out at the same time. I was in and out in about 10 minutes and with the 5-minute drive from work I suggested we go to lunch. (Dh and LM got out pretty quick for a shot visit - usually takes hours). So we decided to pop over to the mall for lunch. California Pizza Kitchen. Divine. Used to eat there in college all the time with my high school buddies who went to school up here. Of course they put one in San Jose the year we moved up here. Figures. But it has just been ages. & LM rarely gets us all to himself, so though we spent $35 on lunch, it was nice. IT was $5 over our monthly dining out budget. What a boring rest of the month - hehe.

On the money saving front the one concert we try to go to every year is the day before dh gets back from Florida. I don't want to go without him. (It's outdoors and I need someone to keep me warm). So though I probably could go I won't. $130 or so saved. We don't have the money anyway so I can't say I am too upset. Maybe next year! But of course they had a good lineup. Last year they had perfect weather (unheard of!). This year they have a great lineup. Next year will probably suck. Blech.

1 Credit Card Resolved & Other Financial Ramblings

September 5th, 2007 at 02:47 pm

& 6 to go?

I got mail from Macy's and they said give me 60 days for them to "investigate." Blech. I think they told me that 60 days ago...

But then I got a letter from Sears. ID Theft resolved. Card closed for good. Off my report. Out of my name. Woohoo.

Sears is under Citi along with 3 other cards so I hope that means all of those are pretty much taken care of.

Of the other 3, at least none of them were bigger balances. Well Lowes was big but I haven't heard anything from them in ages. I'll have to check the paperwork, I get the feeling maybe that one was squared away too. I don't really care if they rid me of responsibility from the card with $0 balance (mush as it shouldn't be any sweat off their back to just let it go) so I am least worried about that one. Mostly leaves Macy's which was the smallest balance at $900 or so...

Oh yeah I got a Macy's statement as well (in the meantime while they take 60 days to figure out it obviously wasn't me). But with this one they were nice enough to not have a minimum payment (like Zales). No payments for a while I guess? What is more disturbing - that you could get $25k credit so easy, or that you can get $25k credit so easy and you don't pay any payments for x months? Yeesh. I think since it is California and I filed a police report that the Credit Bureaus would block the info from my report even if the credit company recorded non-payments in the interim. So that is nice. The credit bureaus seemed to block this info easily enough without the "investigations being complete." But for the most part it looks like it will all be cleared up before any payments would be due (knock on wood).

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In other news yesterday I read something like 85% people pay more payroll taxes than income taxes. WOW! I actually looked at the site referenced and only found a 45% figure (which is still big). The Tax Policy Institute or something. I thin with the 85% figure they were trying to say that workers really shoulder the employer portion of social security by taking lesser wages so their employers could pay it. There is probably much truth to that. Must be the way accountants think since I think that about everything. You take from here it has to come from somewhere...

We are most certainly in this percentage though - our social security taxes are double our income taxes. & I am sure there are many in that situation. I think sometimes when people complain about the taxes coming from their checks they don't realize exactly what is coming out of their checks.

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I almost fell over listening to Dave Ramsey yesterday. For one he was annoying me because he was going on and on how only idiots even mention pets in their wills (well it was an older podcast). I was thinking about scfr's post about making arrangements for your pets - just make sure they are cared for, etc. I don't think it is an idiotic thing at all. Not everyone who thinks of their pets leaves billions to their pets (well most wouldn't obviously - hehe). Then he was screaming at all us morons for having credit cards for ease of use. I just rolled my eyes. Some lady called all appalled that a financial advisor at her kids' school recommended getting cards and paying them every month to build credit. Of course he freaked out. But he doesn't get that people need a credit score. I know those people who never had a card in their life and couldn't buy a house. Couldn't finance a car when things went bad. It really doesn't help average joe blow to be so adverse to the idea of a card. Sure why not pay inflated insurance premiums just because you have no credit. (Doesn't sound very smart). Then again maybe we should be fighting the system. Anyone who can get through life with no credit, well they can't be doing that bad, can they? I guess it could be an indicator of both extremes. But it seems like it could be relatively easy enough to be audited or something as an alternative to prove credit-worthiness. If you feel that strongly about the credit industry, I agree there probably should be some other alternatives to major credit risk. It's a mess. This 3 Credit Bureau is just driving me insane with this ID theft thing. Why the hell are there 3 Bureaus?????? Makes life 3 times harder for me. So to an extent I am for fighting the system. But in the meantime I don't find it that hard to just play along.

Anyway, I went on a tangent. I almost fell over when Dave said that the value of your cars should be no more than 50% of you annual gross income. I almost choked. Thought I heard wrong. So I looked it up. & yes that is what he recommends. Of course since he recommends paying cash I guess mostly we are on the same page. But 50% just seems awfully generous. (We've spent most of our lives well under 10%. & with 2 "new" cars today we are squarely at 25% and looking at no new cars for like a decade - so it will shrink back to our 10%
average soon enough).

I thought wow this is generous coming from Dave. I wonder what most financial gurus recommend. Just out of curiosity. So I looked and I saw the recommendation that car payments should be no more than 15% - 20% of your take-home pay, on a monthly basis. For one, what financial guru bases car affordibility based on payments? Blech. But 20%. Are they serious???????? I assure you this included no expenses but the car payments. I reread the articles looking for clues - they must be talking insurance, license and all. But no, this was just payments.

So that puts us at $750-$1k monthly car payment we could afford? Are they insane? No way. We maybe put away $400/month on average towards our next car purchases (2). & I have to say we have never had this kind of money for a car before. This is like as good as it gets for us. I could never see spending more. When we made six figures we bought an $8 car. We just don't get the whole car thing. It's a VERY nice car by the way. Small, but nice.

But it's ironic. I have been wanting to buy a $5k 3rd car. We couldn't justify keeping our convertible when we had our first child (insurance and all) but I feel we are getting much closer to buying another very nice, used convertible. By Dave's standards I could afford a $18k car I guess. I mean, heck, I do have the cash. Wink

It's funny because we were watching a show the other day where a husband gave a really nice convertible to his wife on her 40th birthday. I was telling dh, hint hint hint. What a nice birthday present. I said how about at 35? LOL.

Nah, I am going to wait until I can pay cash for a nice $5k car. & fully fund our retirement. Maybe in 5 years. PErhaps. It's harder right now with dh's car being so reliable and worthless at the same time. No collission insurance. I can't really justify spending the cash for a car if his car could be totaled tomorrow and we could need it for that. Then again I would have a car for him to drive. HE would just hate it and we would prefer it be a car that the kids don't ride in for now. So it will be a few years...

But yeah, I realize these are maximums. But they just seem insane to me. Of course the sad thing is that most people I know would find these "rules" rather restrictive. I guess it's some middle ground to give a wake up call to people really buying more than they can afford, but throwing a bone to those who want new cars every few years. We could buy some 2 really nice cars on credit with $1k monthly payments. For sure. I am so glad we put all that money to our house instead though. Phew.






Escrow Fund looks okay

September 2nd, 2007 at 12:18 am

Well just had to say I jumped it with the Net Worth. It was up an additional $250 after Friday's stock market close. Not that it means much for the long haul, but always nice to end the month on a nice note like that.

I was listening to Dave Ramsey Friday (some older podcasts from the last 2 weeks) and it was really depressing. Lots of people just at the end of the rope. A little off from the usual. IT also seems a lot of layoffs in the air. & yet the economy seems to be chugging along all the same. Extra scary since it seems like the beginning of something big and prolonged. We'll see. I won't continue listening to Dave Ramsey if it is so depressing though. What a bummer. It's just, sad, to listen to.

I guess it is in the fall that we get a lot of one-time bills. Got car registration, newspaper subscription, zoo membership renewal, etc., etc. I finally got off my butt and went through Quicken for the last year and eyed all the unusual 1-time expenses that I really haven't particularly squeezed in the budget. I only came up with about $500/year. (I really expected it to be worse). I have been putting $800/month away as a kind of escrow fund for bigger things, but all of our auto insurance went down at least $500/year - I think more. So I can breathe a sigh of relief on that. I will continue to do $800/month but tap it for all of the little things as well. It makes things easier. It also means I can still budget $100/month to savings, $50/kids and $400/month retirement like I have been planning. Wasn't sure if I'd have to shift some to "Escrow" or come up with another plan for another $50-$100/month. So just getting to the point where we really don't need much else but to hit retirement hard.

I still feel like we are setting the stage to be doing well, but just not quite there yet. It's all relative, just a bit out of our comfort zone until we can hit retirement more heavily. I don't think it is something we have ever done, but always seems to be something. (Sure we have always done the 10% but for the long haul it is just not enough). For now figuring out preschool and trying to get our efund to an acceptable level, before we hit retirement hard - moving above the 10% crawl. It's one thing to be stressed out that we aren't hitting retirement as hard as we would like. It's another thing to think that we don't have to worry about buying a house or starting an emergency fund or paying off debts like so may of our peers. But I see too much room for improvement to sit back and happy. We already did that and it didn't do much for us. Wink

Preschool is stressing me out a bit as it is official that LM starts next week. However, honestly, I just wrote a check for $480 for September. It isn't so bad. We were paying just over $400/month for BM when I joined pfadvice, but I restructured it to save gas money and preschool money - been paying more like $300 lately. September is a shorter month too. But if I look at it that way we aren't that far behind where we started. Just temporary. Plus I no longer have the car payment which I was juggling at the time. I am sure I will get a raise to cover LM's portion soon enough anyway. But if not, we'll survive.

While I was looking through Quicken I saw some car repair payments and decided to dig out dh's car records and check on the tire situation. As organized as I usually am I have no repair bills in there (just a bunch of oil change recipts). Given that I know the car has hardly ever needed a repair, doesn't sound so bad but Quicken shows we spent $186 last fall. I remember we took it in to get it checked out before our Disneyland trip and I remember being shocked that nothing needed replacing/repairing. BUT all the same we spent $185. I Am sure those were new tires. So I will definitely call to get a quote for them on tires and compare to what my dad comes up with. If it's in the $200 range, the convenience of just going there and letting them do it would be great. Dh has a little car with little tires so mine will probably be pricier. I would also consider longer warranties since the car is newer and I plan to keep them forever. (However, with all the flat tires and endless construction, maybe I should just go with 40k mile tires. They might all get obliterated anyway...). Anyway, I still have hope I will find that dang receipt. But looking at dh's tires it seems obvious they are rather new. Well, I haven't given up hope of finding it - just not where I expected. I guess I can ask our mechanic to check his records so I can be sure.

Oh yeah it is really HOT (well over 100) so we decided to stay home all weekend. Forget the trains. It is just awful out there. We went to the pool twice today (could walk but didn't because didn't want to fry). & I told the kids we could go Sunday and Monday. We really rarely go because it just gets hectic. Dh would never take them - lord knows why - I wish he would work on their swimming more. They have all day but he is just not a swimming guy. My days and weekends and nights are so filled. But not much planned this weekend so decided to enjoy. I love going early in the morning. No need for sunblock and the place was deserted. Just very nice and peaceful - just a handful of people swimming laps. If there were any shade I'd probably go plop by the pool and read or spend more time floating on a raft with a drink pretending like I was at a resort. Hehe. But tonight wasn't so bad either - everyone must be out of town. I guess that is the other reason we never go - turns into a madhouse once everyone gets off work during the week. The only saving grace is our kids tend to stay up late and it it so hot we can swim until 8 or 9 sometimes. It thins out and we can sometimes enjoy.