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Archive for October, 2007

Earthquake...

October 31st, 2007 at 04:29 am

Well there was a "moderate" earthquake today, centered just a few miles from my parent's home. They said they were on the road and when they got home there were doors flown open and a lot of stuff strewn around. So in the grand scheme of things probably one of the bigger earthquakes we've had. But so far not much report of damage. (IT was a 5.6? Loma Prieta was 6.9).

They heard some people in Sacramento felt it. I Was sitting on the couch eating dinner at the time - didn't feel a thing.

& how bizarre another earthquake in October - World Series Time. Earthquake season I guess.

Well, I am going to San Jose Thursday. & so I Said, glad I missed it. Wink Then I flipped on the news here and they were saying there was a 30% chance of another earthquake around the same magnitude in the next week and 10% chance of one even bigger. I have never hears statistics like that before (certainly don't recall). Maybe I'll stay home - LOL. Like I Want to be there when the "big one" hits.

Nah, I am not too worried. I grew up in earthquake country. For the most part they are relatively harmless. & I am not driving over any bridges or the like this week either. Which was the worst of Loma Prieta when the Bay Bridge collapsed.

I am just glad everyone is okay.

P.S. In the meantime on Sacramento news they are asking for pictures. ??? Um yeah, we all have lots of pictures of the "big quake" 120 miles away. ? Just strikes me as odd - LOL. Can I send a picture of the fallen shampoo bottles from my parents shower? Exciting stuff...

Another Lowered Bill...

October 30th, 2007 at 02:15 am

2007 has been VERY good to me. Our water bill has gone down, our car insurance went down. Our cable is going down. On and on and on. Not to mention all the stuff we worked on getting down (all the stuff mentioned above just went down with no action on our part!!!).

Anyway, add home insurance to the list!!! Just got the bill and it went down $200 over last year. I expected much more. (Obviously this was billed before all the wild fire claims and such too. State Farm sent a letter how they lowered premiums to better reflect claims. Yes, we should brace ourselves for NEXT year. Can't say they'll say the same after a year like this in California).

But anyway, not only that but the premium would be lowered additional $100 if we would take a deductible of $2k.

Um, $2k? Like the same deductible I have on my car that is worth 1/50 as much or something? Okay then. Big Grin I think we can swing it. Wink

So I am happy that while I expected my bill to be inflated, it went down $300.

The other thing is we finally got around to raising our coverage last year to reflect increased construction costs (they had about doubled in 5 years). Anyway, last year was about the peak. With the reduced premiums I will just ride it out for now. But I think it is another strategy I can try next year to lower the premiums (particularly if they rise). In this economy construction costs have to be going down. Well, you would think. We'll see next year...

We got our mortgage locked in, and property taxes are controlled pretty darn well out here (orelse no one could afford to live out here if they reflected home values). BUT insurance has been another thing.

The irony is we still pay less to insure 2600 square feet than we used to insure a 1300 sf condo in the Bay. (Just covered the inside of the condo as the outside - walls and roof and all - were insured by the association). So it is hard to get too upset about any of our housing costs having come from that insanity. Certainly not the worst deal - but I am glad for a break.

Guess What I Saw???????

October 30th, 2007 at 12:09 am

http://www.teslamotors.com/

I saw one on the road (& it was fast!!!)

BEing in the land of Hummers and Escalades and the like I don't know if I should be surprised this is the first one I Saw (not a lot of rich folk around here caring much for the environment) or if I should be surprised this is the first one I saw. We actually followed it out of my neighborhood - we have a lot of extrmeely well off neighbors. So overall surprised I haven't seen more. I've never seen one in the Bay Area either (where the company is based - I thought). I Would expect to see more there - I'll keep my eyes open as I will be in the Bay much in the following months.

My dad told me he thought it was a $65k version. But I looked it up online and it is of the $100k variety. Not sure a cheaper version exists??

My first thought in my dad's confusion was why didn't Ima Saver get one of those??? Wink But sounds like they are still pretty pricey... (I can't imagine paying 6 figures for a car!!!!!).

Yes, my parents visited and took me to lunch yesterday. Then I made them watch Suze - "Can I Afford It?" I think they thought I Was crazy, and then they actually LOVED it. Before getting my finances in gear we always talk personal finance, and seems even moreso these days. I knew they would get a kick out of that segment. They actually watched the whole second 1/2 of the show and enjoyed it. My mom asked when it was on.

My dad also gave me the highest compliment. HE said he doesn't know anyone (probably my age) that has done better with money. Big Grin I take that with a grain of salt. For one, HE hasn't looked at my financial records so it's just off face value and talk. Secondly, I know a few people who have done better, my age and all. Thirdly, he works with a bunch of people who own million dollar homes, send their kids to private school and buy new cars every year. They have the money to do all that in the most expensive area of the States. Maybe he is impressed my pacheck is like 1/4 and we probably have more to show for it in the end (retirement and savings). But I know he is always talking about the craziness of some of his young coworkers. They make good money, but I am sure in those shoes I Would be keenly aware that it is not given that good money will always be there. Since I obviously would not choose that same lifestyle, I guess that makes my parents proud. Not sure why they are surprised, I am more or less like them. Except much more financial support from them and dh's parents than they ever got. IT gives us quite a leg up. Oh yeah and the whole moving somewhere cheaper thing (As opposed to them moving somewhere insanely expensive when they were starting out). YEah, it makes a big difference.

So, it's nice to get high praise from my dad, but at the same time I don't need a big head. LOL.

On the flip side I am on a low-spend week. I could probably mostly do no-spend if I really wanted to. But I just need to make it through the week on less than $10 or something. Which I think I Can swing. I got 3 gassed cars in the driveway (Well only 2 I guess as of today). I had a $1 lunch out today with a friend. & I will be stuck at seminar Friday for lunch as well. I know I could bring a sandwhich or something. But, eh. The bad thing is that it is by Old Sac and I would LOVE to do some Christmas shopping while I am over there. I am not sure if my parking is paid by seminar or not, but if so I should take advantage. Wink But probably not since it was a rough month. Dh and I need to sit down and discuss Christmas too. Seems impossible to find five minutes to discuss it. SHould call him from work or something - conference call. LOL. But yes, I Would love to get some milk bread and pepsi at the store. (Yes I NEED my pepsi. LOL). I think I Can swing all that for under - um - well make it $15? I have cash. No cards this week. The card is insane. Lord knows what dh is running up on it in Florida. So I am hedging against that. But though I am a little lazy on the food (I could go no spend if I REALLY wanted to) I have an elaborate gas plan. I don't want to buy any gas until SUnday. & I plan to drive 300 miles Thursday... Will be tight.

Good & Bad

October 28th, 2007 at 04:41 pm

Some things I forgot to mention last week when I Was stressed with money outflow was that BM had a potty accident in bed (extremely rare) and dh melted the mattress pad in the dryer (gah). He felt really bad but I Was annoyed. I am sure it was a good $20-$30 - fancy waterproof whatever... So will have to replace that... Haven't yet. Not even sure if it is necessary to get such a waterproof one. I should just be grateful it didn't ruin the dryer or anything like that.

On the PLUS side, went to change dh's oil and there was an angry customer making a fuss. The oil change place was embarrased and insisted on giving me a $10 discount for witnessing that. I'll take it! Big Grin

I also was going through the November numbers because I know October credit card bill is ugly (& one more week to go). I was stressed as I saw a big fat negative, when I finally realized I had shelled out $250 to AAA and Life Insurance. I decided to pull those from short-term savings. Since that was the plan all along. It just flew under my radar until I looked harder. It was a good $150 lower than usual preschool month and it was freaking me out how we could be in the red for November. Gah. Looking rather breakeven. Not sure how December will pan out. I think dh and I Will have to consider any Christmas money carefully. We tend to deposit it for our respective allowances, but we have already spent some money we intended to replace with Christmas money. SO I wouldn't be surprised if most our Christmas money goes to replenish our short-term savings. Dh is just getting out of the red, so we'll see how he feels about that. LOL. He spent his entire years' allowance pretty much on his PS3. I know he is antsy to buy some Blu-Ray movies to watch on it now. OF course his family is big on wish lists so he can ask for all the movies he wants and will probably be fine to funnel the cash to the household.

I also HAVE TO remember to pay the mortgage by December 31. I have gotten in the habit of waiting for the grace period and paying after the first (ever since dh took my "slush" to buy his beloved TV). Anyway, I was thinking today I have to remember orelse it will screw me up tax-wise. I was pondering when I would get my final paycheck and realized 12/31. Wondered if the bank would even be open once I got my check and all that. Then I Realized I am a dummy. I can just transfer some money from savings on the 30th or something, pay the mortgage, and transfer it back when I get my paychek deposited. Phew. (& now that I think about it I will probably have plenty of Christmas money to cover an extra mortgage payment in december).

Anyway, so yeah, it is official, I have an extra $200k coverage on my life. I feel better about that. Will keep just until both kids are in school or dh is working or something. We'll play it by ear. But overall look at it as rather temporary. But gives me further peace of mind.



Good News All Around

October 28th, 2007 at 12:54 am

Well this is a dumb story:

http://www.sacbee.com/103/story/454330.html

"Once Housing Turns, Recovery could be Fast."

Oh I am only too aware of this. I have mentioned many times here, we put up our condo like the day before 9/11 and ended up in 2-house hell for quite a few months. But our refi of the condo (to pull out the down payment for our home) happened to end right before the first weekend of recovery. After months of low asking prices and nothing, we raised the price a bit and sold in a day with competing offers. We had to take it off the market 3 months for the refi and the timing couldn't have been better when we put it back up. Oh yeah, that's the real estate market I know. So um yeah, in California, when things turn, they turn fast. You could get left in the dust.

Also, large returns here have been sustained for many decades. So all very viable. Not sure it is the end of the line for California...

BUT this article is insane. It's kind of like, "get ready, because things are going to go back to the bubble any day now. Yippee!"

I say, eh, give it a good 5 years at the least. Yeesh! Just seems to be jumping the gun a bit. I didn't read the 60 comments yet on the article but will probably be good reading. Will probably add my own too.

I am at a loss what all the freakout is really. I am trying to think - we have been here a good 6 years. Our house would sell EASY for a good 50% more than we paid. That is still a good solid 7% return per year. If you bought earlier you'd have a good solid 10% per year return. So basically only people who bought in the last couple of years are screwed. ???? & the economy is crumbling? Oh yeah, all the ARMs and borrowed equity. Like you couldn't see that would end ugly. Just plain, bad short-term thinking. I kind of wish we lived in a bubble so when the house of cards came tumbling we wouldn't be affected, but I always knew that would be a pipe dream. Well I did talk a few people out of ARMs (& yes they are very thankful today). I did what I could...

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In other news, just wanted to say, I got contact on 6 of the 7 cards (ID Theft) that everything is resolved. Got it all in writing. I'll give the last card another week and then call and see what is going on. Luckily that card is only $900 or so. The smallest of the bunch. Maybe why they are dragging their feet a bit. I actually got 5 of them this last week, and one before my trip. One more to go.

I have to say that it wasn't so bad to clean it up. IT would be even better to see justice served one of these days, but won't hold my breath. Well, it has been exactly 3 months. I will probably wait until January and then double check all my credit reports. They said give it 6 weeks. My FICO is in the 770 range as of today. (Balance transfers and all. sick of hearing how that will ruin your credit score. You just have to know how to play the game!!)

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P.S. I have seen this blog before (Very interesting). This last week he posted that 1/3 of the homes currently for sale in this area are foreclosures and short sales. Eeks! The newspaper is a mess of these statistics, as well as "things will be better tomorrow" articles. Guess it's covering all bases. Wink

http://sacrealstats.blogspot.com/

Score!

October 26th, 2007 at 11:55 pm

I got a SW e-mail about low fares of $50 one-way and unfortunately Las Vegas was not on the list. HAve been keeping my eye out.

Anyway, I must have missed one though (maybe while I Was gone?) because as I perused the fares I noticed I could get $50 each way from Oakland. Started to consider it. USually rule out Oakland as you can get decent enough fair at one of the other 3 airports around. & I try to avoid Oakland (BAD area). BUT then I saw round trip from San Jose was $125 each after taxes. Not bad! Was about my limit, just the fare I have been waiting for.

The bad is the returning flight was at 6am or something but since we were going to drive a good 10 hours or so, anyway, I reasoned we would have to be up at DAWN regardless. But this way we could get home MANY hours earlier. I know our babysitters will appreciate.

I hesitated to purchase though because I at least wanted to run it past dh and check my dates. I am pretty certain these are it, but I need to go home and make sure. LOL. I got thrown off by the wrong dates a while back. I want to triple check.

I am pleased though. I believe the time share people were to pay some of the travel anyway. We'll see. Driving will be a good $125 easy. But all the wear and tear and such to factor too. Doubling that for the convenience of flying is pretty sweet. We can pretty much leave any time we want Thursday the day we go. Then return at dawn.

I checked Sacramento as well figuring the cost of gas for a drive down to san jose (& the potential to pay parking though I Am sure we can get a ride). Anyway, nothing under $200 each, or so, from Sacto.

It is probably the best secret we have to getting low fares. We live in proximity to 4 major airports. One of them will always have a deal. & thankfully Oakland isn't always the best deal. HEck, it rarely is. Phew.

Well we'll still have to drive 2 hours to the airport, but what a load off!

Hopefully I Can purchase them tonight. HAve to check on things first...

If I put this on my card I will get a $250 rebate available in a week (credit card). I didn't really think we'd spend enough this month to redeem it this month. Thought I would get in December. What do I know? Gosh, I should just buy those tickets. I know how they will be paid for!!!

P.S. Got the tix! Woohoo!

Interest for October

October 26th, 2007 at 03:34 pm

$20 challenge:

$8,776.87 - Balance 10/5

$ 145.00 - Interest

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$8,921.87 - Balance 10/25
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I think $9500 will be "easy" for this challenge as the year wraps up. I am still at a loss how to get to $10k. Some focus groups would be nice right about now. Big Grin

It will have to be overtime I am guessing. Or pray for some nice cash gifts to deposit into retirement. Not counting on that at all as we have had such a fruitful year when it comes to gifts. I am not so motivated to pile on hours though when this is the REAL calm before the storm. & it is actually CALM at work. Has not been so all year. around Dec. 1 it will get harried though... I might pull some overtime in December without compromising a lazy November - there's hope...

I also glanced in Quicken and though it was a very expensive month, somehow our inflow still tops outflow by a good $1k. On a cash flow basis I feel we are in the red, but a lot is automatically going to retirement, and interest is good, so we are forging ahead regardless.

I can not wait until 2008 when we start to contribute $5k/year to our car/house fund. It will also supplement our emergency fund. (Meaning the more emergencies we have the less car we can buy. IDeally we would love to both by $20k cars next round, but won't count on it. We could settle on $1k if we had to). Anyway, for now my efund is funded but it taunts me because I wouldn't touch that thing with a 10-foot pole. I need some slush. The $5k next year will go a long ways to slush. Phew. As much progress as we made this year, we have a ways to go before I relax more...

Expensive Month...

October 25th, 2007 at 01:55 pm

Gah, If it's not one thing it's another.

Feeling a little stressed this month. Will be one out of control credit card bill. Just too much going on. The fam all got haircuts and changed the oil on dh's car. All little but just adds up on top of the whole Dinosaur, Japan, Florida thing. Also paid the final diaper service bill which was $100. I am just working working working to offset what I can with overtime.

Plus yesterday my car window got stuck AGAIN. Last time it was the same time as the electrical system kaput (on the doors). But it was s'posedly unrelated. Just needed "grease." We'll see. So I am not happy. That on such a new automobile the window can not work. This is BS. I am leaning towards a REALLY used car again every day. The money we have sunk in this auto in comparison, is insane. I budgeted like $600 for the year for repairs on both cars because having always driven very used cars we never spent much on repairs. Sounds weird? Is the truth. So I am annoyed that this car is such a piece of crap in that regard. I have no idea how to grease up the door but will ask my dad to look at it or hubby when he returns. If it's not a simple fix I'll take it back to the mechanic to make right. We were trying to diagnose the electrical system last time so maybe greasing it up is an easy solution.

It's annoying too. It's something so unnecessary BUT it drives me absolutely insane. It will drive me insane until it is fixed. Yet it's hard to justify throwing money at if it comes to that.

Plus the garbage disposal broke on me last night. I thought I was going to have to call a plumber - I figured - great. IT's "everything break" day. I just happened to be running the disposal when the dishwasher spouted a bunch of water up and then I think when it sucked back down it sucked down chunks of food into the pipe. I talked to dh in Florida and just mentioned how we should never run the disposal again while the dishwasher was on. Was obviously the problem as we have never had a problem in 6 years. It seemed obvious to me what happened. But he was all, "It can't be that. That's stupid." I say, bite me. He can fix it next time then. LOL. But I am not touching the thing with the dishwasher on again.

I thought I was going to have to take off the disposal and clean it out. Actually, first I got out the Draino and it said right on it you could use on disposals. But since it didn't seem to be working I went online where it said NEVER USE DRAINO. Gee thanks. So I am scooping out drano and sucking it out with a turkey baster. At a last ditch attempt I took apart the piped under the sink and scraped out all the potato. & I prayed. & I put it back together. & it was all good as new. Phew. I was impressed. I am NOT good with my hands at all. So if I can fix a plumbing problem like that - ANYONE can!!!! There was a U-joint at the bottom which I hope helped contain all the food, and it did. Good as new. Phew.

So yeah - lesson learned. Disposal clog - do not use draino. To be fair, the clog was not in the diposal, but I wasn't sure. Just lucky I had a double sink and the other side was working fine so I was scooping everything onto that side. I figured how bad could it be if that side is working.

Phew.

Though the draino didn't work I imagine it gave the disposal a good cleaning too. LOL.

Oh one more thing. On the money saving side I think we are going to pull BM out of karate for the rest of the year. Is $30/month. They changed the time (& day) & it is just not working. So that is a load off to. We'll revisit next year. As pricey as this month is, all our expenses seem to be going down. It helps!

It is also quite warm here for late October. LOVING the weather. No heat yet... Heck we are closer to turning on the air than the heat. But the house has been holding between 70 & 80 the last 6 weeks or so. (Mostly around 70 but this week is a little warmer).

Spend Spend Spend

October 23rd, 2007 at 03:05 pm

Oh, this month just looks ugly and I am not sure how November/December will be any better with Thanksgiving/Christmas/Vegas...

I am not proud to say we will probably save no long-term savings through December.

Than again, we knew this and planned it this way. Just feels like a step backwards though we are eons ahead. It's mental! (The reason we jived is because we invested the preschool money - hence we spend more now - AND I get a huge retirement contribution in December. But it still annoys me when our budget is so tight, all the same...)

I am trying to work as much OT as possible with the fam gone though. Will help. Just lord knows when I'll see the check!

Dh talked me into the Walking With the Dinosaurs thing. It looks REALLY cool but I saw no point to take a 2yo. We compromised - said he should get the best seats for him & BM vs. crummy seats for all of us. (No doubt LM would be a little terrified and too young to know what he is missing anyway if he would have enjoyed). But I had wanted to do something nice for my dad and I asked if he was interested. Yes. So we spent about $250. $80 or so is a gift for my dad. (Another gift down). However, dh talked his mom into paying for BM (Christmas present) so in the end it isn't too bad.

But we'll be around $200 over budget with Japan expenses and I would guess more with Florida. We'll see!

I also just paid $100 to diaper service. Last payment! Will send back all the diapers today. With LM picky at night with clothe, going 2 days to preschool (disposables) and them being so busy (out of the house) he has only been using about 10 clothes a week. He has been holding everything in though he generally still hates the potty. So anyway, dh brought this up a while ago and I am loathe to fill the landfill with diapers. BUT the fact is we are anyway with all the exceptions we can't really use the clothe. So, um, he has a point. Will save $53/month going forward. Phew!!!!! Of course will pay more for disposables but I doubt it would top another $10/month. Good move overall. Net $43 saved monthly? BM pretty much NEVER wore disposables and LM rarely did for 2 years. I did my duty I guess.

It will be nice to get rid of the stinky diaper pail. Wink

Now if only he would get potty trained already - would really help with preschool expenses. Probably won't potty train until BM goes to K. Would figure. It's nice to know one day in the near future we will have another significant expense cut though. Yay!

Just wanted to mention also some reasons our grocery bill is down. Less diapers for one (it seems he is using much less). Milk is way down. We were buying 3 kinds of milk for the 4 of us and now we have been making an effort to buy bulk on sale (now that both kids are on 2% - phew). Dh started picking up cat litter in bags as opposed to plastic jugs - said it cost 1/2 as much. That's the latest. Stuff like that has been REALLY whittling down our bill. That is all big stuff I guess. As I said many times I just lump all of our household stuff in the "grocery" category because we really don't spend much on that stuff. I don't wear makeup, we don't spend a lot on household cleaners. IT's just all in one category - easy for me. I throw "out of the ordinary" stuff in "misc." to keep better track of though. But certain things like soap, diapers, cat litter I always put in the grocery category. Since yeah we mostly just get at the grocery store.

In other news I received a $10 rebate. Woohoo. IT was for a free after rebate thing (kids' computer games I think???). But it's not challenge money. I have always been a rebate lover!

That's what is going on here.

For Vegas I put up a $120 deposit and I believe our gas will be paid for, so I told dh we will just have to limit our expenses to $120. Sunk cost. Will off set our expenses when it is refunded. I think we can jive with that. What we really want is some nice meals and that is about it. We can enjoy Vegas pretty frugally otherwise. But every day I do keep telling him this trip is getting more frugal by the minute. (If he wants Dinosaurs means less spending money in Vegas!)

I know some people around here think we are crazy to drive, but we are drivers. Sure there may be some benefits to flying, but the fact is we do not have the money. Makes the decision pretty easy. LOL. No money in the budget so driving it is. We'll save around $300 driving. $300 that we do not have to spend. The choice is drive or not go. I guess in this credit card nation few people "get" that. The irony is we probably have far more in the bank that those who turn their nose up at driving. That is how it goes. I would like to keep it that way! (Having money in the bank...)

Oh yes - one more thing. We always host Thanksgiving but it looks like this year is going to be an easy year. Phew. Only our parents it looks like. As the rest of dh's family have other plans. I think last year we had something like 15 people. As fun as it was, it will be nice to have a simpler Thanksgiving. I actually doubt we will spend much on it. So that is a relief as well.

Well I have to start thinking about Christmas. We already started buying but haven't set the budget yet. Maybe I will work on that tonight... I like to spend like $100 in October, $100 in November & $200 in December. I think we already spent $100 and so seem to be on that track already.





Why Not to Pay ATM Fees

October 21st, 2007 at 02:26 pm

http://www.thestreet.com/s/if-time-is-money-use-the-closest-...

Oh, I have lots of time on my hands today and decided to see what Cliff has been up to. He is the nephew of Jim Kramer(?) and has written some "interesting" articles lately about how you don't need an emergency fund (because that is what your parents are for) and how savings in your 20s makes no sense. So morbid curiosity got the better of me. I wondered what kind of bad advice he was doling out these days!

He actually had a couple of articles that made sense. But then that one popped out. It was pretty much a 4-page rant about why paying the $2 ATM fee is worth the convenience and how all personal finance writers are idiots for being anti-ATM fee. (Because we rather drive out of our way or something). His example how it was like a 1-minute walk to the fee-ATM vs. the 10-minute walk to his bank.

Um, he misses the point COMPLETELY. I for one don't have to pay a fee for ATM whether I go to my credit union right around the corner (part of the reason I chose it - for the convenience) or if I go to a different CU by my work. Or when I visit my parents or go across the country I can go to any CU. NO FEE. The whole point is don't pay fees you don't have to. Convenience is not part of the equation of all. It is easy enough for those of us in big cities to pick banks that are convenient and charge no fees. (Yes he lives in the BIG city). So it would be stupid to waste all your money on fees that you don't have to pay. That is the point we make. Yeesh.

Well I don't want to pick on the guy but I just kind of skimmed through the article thinking, boy, this guy doesn't get the point.

Along the same lines it is really quite easy enough to not pay money for:

Bank fees
Insterest
Overdraft Fees

etc., etc. Why pay stuff when you don't need to?

In his prior article, which was better, he was actually saying how it makes more sense not to pay for things that you can easily get discounted or free. Well, that is exactly the point with ATM fees.

I mean otherwise I could jive with the article. Is it worth it to go way out of your way to save $2 here and there? In many cases, not. But when it is oodles more convenient to avoid that fee, then the whole point is lost on me. I've probably saved thousands over the years avoiding fees like that. & it took little effort.

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BTW I posted quite a few pictures of my trip as well. Will have to look at my past 2 entries. Big Grin

"Free" Rice Cooker

October 19th, 2007 at 08:08 pm

Gosh, I have been in SUCH a good mood lately. Back to my old self. I don't know if it is more the vacation, work settling down a tad, hormones, or what. But I'll take it. Big Grin

I am also trying to arrange a day off to spend more time with my niece next week, while the fam is gone anyway. I knew this weekend would be a bit early but I think she is terrified as everyone returns to work and life next week and she will be home alone with 2. Poor thing, I haven't a clue what that is like. It's bizarre how many benefits there are to a husband who stays home. For one, I never had to be alone with a newborn, or 2 wee ones, until we were all well adjusted. Neither of us had to. She had askes me much about the adjustment for BM and it was probably minimal. If nothing else it was hard for him to be used to being home and then going off to work when my leave was over. But little changed in his world as I went from being busy at work to being busy with baby. But we had special time all the same. LM won't get that since I am not planning any more maternity leaves - EVER. Hehe. YEs I am staying AWAY from the water around here - for sure.

I am sure it goes much in the same way that historically extended families lived together and took more care of each other. I guess we had that in a sense - for a few months anyway.

But anyway, I know I came here last year exclaiming my love for my job and I have been rather grumbly lately. But things are getting better. My workload is lessening dramatically as we are outsourcing more to another state. & well I have LOTS of time off these coming months. I figure I may take a day off to see my niece, but likewise since the fam will be gone I can make up the time working late or working a weekend. Matters little since I will mostly be bored. But times like these I really LOVE my job. Just flexibility to come and go as long as I get the job done. Ten times easier than normal without the fam to take care of. Well, when my SIL first mentioned it I thought, I can't take one more day off. But then I thought about it and figured it would be a nice distraction while I am alone.

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Anyway, a long time ago I bought a bunch of kitchen stuff online (3 years ago?) and I bought an electric skillet that was too big for the dishwasher. I could probably care less (but I don't cook every day either). Dh had a cow and I ended up just giving it to my mom. It was really nice and she loves it. Well, what goes around, comes around. I was telling her about my functional christmas wishlist and all about how dh and his family hates it. But pretty much they can bite me. IT's maddening all the stipulations they have on gifts, yet they insist and insist and insist though around December every year I usually beg them not to give me gifts. Forget about it. But that just opens up more worms. Egads. But anyway, it's just this weird Christmas drama thing, and the best solution I have found is to ask for stuff I need. Or would never buy otherwise. Though I aim more for need. Just puts a load off when I don't have to squeeze x and y into the budget somehow. They think I am crazy but it makes me happy. Maybe stuff a little more on the "I should buy list" but it's not a true need so it will never get bought. Something along those lines. For now I have bathe towels and a rice cooker on there. I have them, they work. But they aren't doing so well either. As I mentioned my list offhand the other day, my mom exclaimed she had a rice cooker that she had no idea what to do with. So I guess that was a fair trade, skillet for a rice cooker? Big Grin

Anyway I picked it up yesterday and it is NICE. Very fancy. Much nicer than ours. I frankly think we will throw ours out. The pan is scratched up and the it continually unplugs itself. It's frankly annoying. I don't even have the heart to freecycle it, and I have freecycled some nasty stuff - LOL. But we have a bad habit of holding onto things if they work. I guess we are pretty cheap in that regard. Well this will be a nice upgrade.

The other funny thing is I was thinking of buying a pumpkin scented candle last year and never did. I have no idea how it came up in conversation but my mom has one to spare too. Funny how stuff like that works out.

OF course though it sounds nice, I have to work harder on my list now!!!! Bah. I thought I Was making progress on that chore. Hehe.

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I just saw today that IRS announced that 401k contribution limit will be $15,500 again for 2008. Take note.

I already knew as well that IRAs will be $5k in 2008.

I think catchup contributions are still $5k for 401ks and $1k for IRAS (if you are over 50). Not 100% though.

Now if only I had a 401(k). Wink

Thursday Ramblings

October 18th, 2007 at 08:43 pm

Oh I believe I found the other quote I read earlier this month - or it was much like this:

"Many in the next generation of workers will be so debt-burdened (by student loans) they will have to delay home purchases, limit vacations, even eat out less to pay loans off on time, financial experts fear."

I guess growing up in the land of expensive all the things mentioned sound like pretty much the norm. Do I know anyone who bought a house without these "sacrifices"? Not really.

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In other news, I figured when the fam was gone would be a good time to paint the kids' room. One room needs it bad (as we judt did a bad paint job on 1/2 the wall and slapped on the wall border). LM has aggressively peeled off said wall border over time and so the room really needs some paint. But while we are at it we could probably paint BM's room too.

Though we have painted many rooms in the house ourselves we have vaulted ceilings in the main entryway/dining area, so we hired someone to paint that room (maybe $700 or so - money WELL spent. Very professional, unlike our own work).

Anyway, I had mentioned I would paint while the fam was gone, but the idea leaves me exhausted. Especially as I try to cram in years of projects that can only be done with no kids around. Wink

Anyway, I think it is a testament to how things change with time. I read around here so much, "what a waste to pay for "x", or I would NEVER pay that much for "y." The funny thing is I would say much the same when I was younger. Even when we made piles more income. BEcause we were young and starting out and not a lot to show for it. These days, my bones are getting slightly more achy and they money comes easier - in a sense.

So I was thinking maybe I should just hire that painter again - doubt it would be more than a few hundred dollars for the 2 little rooms and I could just go to work and earn the overtime to pay for it. Win-win. I would MUCH rather work than paint!

I even considered surprising dh, but called today just to run it past him. He wasn't too thrilled, but then said what I didn't expect. He said he will paint - he had been planning to do it himself anyway, but I volunteered. I guess we could shuttle the kids off to grandma's for a few days sometime (she is always begging) and he can paint. Or we could do one room at a time and let them share a room as things air out. Either way, if he will do it, it is very workable. Saves me time - phew!!! I don't mind helping either. But the thought of doing 2 rooms AGAIN - ALONE - doesn't sound very appealing. We'll make a project of it - before tax season I hope.

I will still work oodles of overtime because I have much to catch up on here and rarely get the opportunity to work past 5 without feeling a twinge of guilt for not being home with the kids. Can put the overtime to retirement in that case. It probably makes much more sense to do it ourselves. I think dh has tackled 2 rooms himself too so it would be fair if we shared these 2 rooms - hehe. Just whoever has the time when the kids are away gets to paint it seems - over the years.

Not much else to report. I looked at our spending thus far for the month and interestingly our gas bill is huge (no surprise with all the driving out of town. Should decrease through the end of the month a bit though). & our grocery bill was nil. Extra strange since the kids both wanted a sandwhich after dinner and at preschool they said LM was going to eat them out of house and home - LOL. He has been really hungry. Both kids really. BM already grew a good 2-3 inches since July but there is a lot more in him. He may just hit 46 inches before Florida - meaning he could go on almost any ride at Disney World. Dang. (HE just turned 4!). He could easily pass for 6 or 7.

But yeah, I was gone a week and I assume while they are all gone I can budget a good $50 for food - will be PLENTY. The thing is on the flip side I will be bored and probably go out a bit more - maybe drive home to see family and friends for a couple of days. I guess we'll see... Family means lots of free food, but I might want to go out too.

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Oh yes, we started our Christmas shopping.

I saw a cute kitty purse for my niece (school fundraiser - co-worker) and could not resist. Then it occured to me I have another one to shop for this year.

I haven't got the Christmas budget out yet but I expect it will be much the same as last year. I think I pared it down to $200-$300 and that will be fine. I think as long as the kids are in preschool we will be cutting it down. The exception being maybe nice gifts for our parents who both gave us much cash and fancy vacations this year.

I had dh pick up a $20 GC for the new baby and I have a white outfit that his mom knitted - will pass it along - it is really more girly than masculine anyway - but I no longer have a need for it! I picked up some very nice books at the dollar store for my older niece - a while back - so she will get something too. Oh how I have come to love the dollar store.

BM has a birthday to go to soon as well. Will have to get thinking on that one...

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Oh, one final thing, I should have put this to the top though!

I belong to a local message board that has fizzled out with time, but though it has fizzled it seems everyone returns to share in the joy of their latest purchase. Just recently quite a few people that had not been around in ages had to show off pictures of their new cars. Of their new house. Their latest vacation to exotic lands. It just strikes me as very odd. I guess this is like normal socially.

On the flip side the other day my mom called me "simple." I think many people would be offended by that, but I embrace it. I knew exactly what she meant though. I though, yeah, I like that! I am too simple to be such a "show off" I guess. My material possessions, as many as I enjoy, they just don't mean that much to me overall. In this day and age it seems to be hard to find people on that same level though. Just people not wrapped up so much in appearances and the JOneses and all that stuff. But that is why I enjoy this forum!









Goal Made...

October 17th, 2007 at 08:00 pm

Well, as of today my net worth looks like it will be up around $33k for the year. My goal was originally $25k and then I adjusted it to more like $25k-$30k. More like my goal is $30k and should be for the long-term, but wasn't sure I would make it this year.

Woohoo.

It is probably best in a good stock year that I would overshoot a bit, as I am sure it will be much harder to reach in a bad year. I guess I am going for an annual average more than anything. & why I Was happy with the range.

The year is young. I don't want to get too ecited yet. Anything can happen, right? But regardless of the stock market it looks like we will meet our goal.

I read that your net worth should increase by 1/2 of your living expenses annually, by the time you hit 40. Being an over-achiever I was trying to hit that at 30. We'll see how sustainable it is. I figure we could live on $50k pretty easy but we have been living on closer to $60k, so kind of went with the $25k-$30k range, accordingly (being 1/2 of what we live on).

It is a lot tougher these days as most of this comes from savings and paying down the mortgage. In a few years time a lot bigger chunk of this will come from investment returns. This year alone we are looking at around $5k in returns, which certainly helps. But that should grow substantially in the coming years, all the same... I look forward to the point where more comes from investments than income and debt payments. Big Grin But I got a long ways to go...

I really like using this way to track progress. I may have to tweak it a bit with time as the stock market fluctuates. But our problem has never been saving. Our problem is we invested terribly in our 20s. Trying to make up for lost time. Being able to achieve this goal is a sign that we are much more on track with HOW we manage our money. I have since learned saving is only 1/2. Maybe only 1/4. As it does little good to have an IRA that has not grown int he last decade. As we would never make this net worth goal if we were not managing our money better with higher interest rates on our cash and lowering the fees on our investments, etc.

Feeling a sigh of relief

October 17th, 2007 at 07:33 pm

Well I Was seriously in the hole last month (new tires and all) and feeling down but then I was looking at November and looks like we will probably have quite a suprplus. For one my income was at around $1k over expenses for this month it appears (we'll see what surprises lay ahead though...). & then I Feel silly for getting all stressed out about it. By next year we should have enough of a cash cushion that stuff like this matters little. But in the meantime when expenses are more than income, I do tend to freak out, even though it is an explainable event and I have plenty of cash.

On the flip side, I got the property tax bill and it was like, "eh." Already have the cash so not sweating it at all. IT's been about a good year I have been saving diligently for bigger expenses and sure makes life easier.

Of course the bill is up around $300 or so over last year. Yeesh. Overall we have it good in Cali. But still. Everyone is talking about challenging the bills and lowering them. Considering we bought at the bottom, not the peak, it doesn't make much difference for us. But the people who bought in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006. Yes, indeed.

Our house is appraised a good $150k less than it would sell for today. That is the good, they can only raise it so much. But I am starting to see how "so much" can add up pretty quickly over time. But in the grand scheme of things, property taxes are very fair here. We also pay a lot of bonds that will start to fall off with time. (Much time!). But when the mortgage is paid a lot of those will be gone too. Phew.

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Articles:

Protecting Your Assets in Case You Find Yourself in Court http://online.wsj.com/article/SB119257410938461156.html?mod=...

I was actually researching this a bit ago and was surprised how little asset protection there is in California. (Particularly as housing values are so high). I did see overall retirement is protected up to $1 mil. Which being married means probably $2 mil for us. For now that is great as we try to funnel all our excess to retirement. But for the long term, it means little. Though I guess I hope that figure would rise with inflation. As my retirement target is more like $5 mil, it makes it more scary. Chalk it up as another reason to flee the state I guess.

Anyway, I don't think we are at the point yet we need an umbrella policy (though maybe we are). But probably the next thing we will look into. Seem to have everything else covered. I would imagine if dh got a job it would be the first thing we would do - as I would expect our assets to increase rapidly at that point. For now as we aren't paying extra on the mortgage (one more reason not to really) or building taxable accounts... But it is something I will start researching in the meantime. Don't really know much about umbrella policies. When you hear about skyrocketing health costs and I look at what our auto insurance would cover in an accident, it makes you think twice. More is probably good. This is a pretty litigous state with lots of people. ANother few hundred a year for extra peace of mind sounds like a small price to pay. But I would like to know more.

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CALIFORNIA
The cost of keeping up
California families must earn far more than the minimum wage and in some cases as much or more than the median hourly income just to keep up with the bare-bones expenses of living, a report released Tuesday said.
http://www.sacbee.com/111/story/436684.html

This is just an interesting aside about how expensive it is to live in California. I would keep in mind that this article was posted by Sacramento Bee & since Sac is the cheapest area to live in the whole state, maybe does not ring true - and why some of the comments were so, "what the heck?" On the flip side, $72k wouldn't really cover much of a living at all back where I am from in the Bay Area. So um, yeah. Unfortunately I can't read the images on the side - some graphs comparing Sacto to the rest of the state...

"The wage-earner in a family of four with only one working parent would need to make considerably more, $24.22 an hour (or $50k/year)."

I assume the $72k/year figure includes taxes and daycare and such. As well as costs of 2 people working. I always said it was much cheaper not to have 2 incomes, in a sense, while the kids were small anyway. This study shows a $20k/year difference if only one parent works. Interesting.

Well, just wanted to share as I know many people here, and many friends and relatives in other states think we make gobs of money. Sure, we make gobs but it sure doesn't stretch very far. As for us, we live pretty well on the $72k figure. BUT I know so many people around here who freak about the idea of living on less than $100k annually. So it's all interesting. (OF course the interesting part of that is they usually pay considerably more for taxes and daycare and makes us rather even keel with the amount of disposable income we have, even making a good $25k less).

I say $50k/year would easily cover all of our living expenses and we have a very nice home. But all the same we would be hard pressed to live the same lifestyle in today's dollars - renting or owning - either way. We paid a decent amount for a home 6 years ago and it makes all the difference. If not, we'd be moving out of state. All there is to it. Just not interested in shelling out 10 times our income for a dinky house! OR around here maybe 4 times our income these days. Maybe... But glad we don't have to. We do appreciate being able to stay close to our families. I think we would have much tougher decisions to make if we were a few years younger, just starting out. When you are not sure you can pull it off even in the cheapest area of the state, it is a sad state of how bad it has gotten here.

As such, for the older generations who have been in their homes a while these figures probably don't ring very true. For people just starting out, they will need much more though.

It also just occured to me the other day as we look at different ways to reign in our healthcare costs, that our only solution may just be to move. The interesting thing is I could probably keep my pay and benefits if we moved. But we could probably pay cash for a similar house AND slash our healthcare premiums considerably. We worked so hard to reign in our housing costs over the years, I never imagines our healthcare would rival our housing costs in just a decade or so. But being out here it is far worse than it is in other areas of the country. *sigh*

P.S. I looked closer as they had the actual study and the expenses were about in line with whay we pay BUT they allocated $700/month to food for a family of 4 plus around $60 for household supplies and personal care. I think we have all that summed up under $500/month and have been hitting more like $450/month lately. Gosh, it makes all the difference.

In most of California the current median home price is 6 times the current median household income. Places like LA & SF were more like 10 times. Santa Clara where I grew up - median home $700k. Median income $80k. $700k does not buy much there these days - for sure. I mean $700k is either a nice condo or a tiny house that needs a lot of fixing.












Article Roundup

October 16th, 2007 at 07:51 pm

Oh well it is very busy here.

Speaking of all this baby business, my niece was born yesterday!!!! She waited for my return. But that kind of sucks because it would have been easier to meet her this weekend when I Was in the Bay Area anyway. Planning to go down some evening (sneak out a little early) and drive back in the morning. A Lovely 2 hours but I can't justify MORE time off work. Dh used to work in the Bay though and I did it often. No traffic- a pleasant reverse commute at least. So I may be gone/busy most the week. Plus the fam is preparing for their Florida trip. Feels like a whirlwind over here.

I also got along so well with my sister (how bizarre) and no doubt part of it is her husband is shipped off to the Middle East (military) I was thinking about planning a visit to see her in NC. The airfare is rather cheap. If she could drive and let me stay with her, it might be a nice distraction for her. IT really wouldn't cost me much. But then I think to my vacation situation. I don't know. Maybe I could swing a red-eye on a Thursday and return on a Monday or something... Heck I should consider it while the fam is gone anwyay. Why not just make things CRAZIER? Wink But yes, that relationship was in the toilet and seems to be somewhat on the mend...

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Well some articles I skimmed through from when I Was gone. These caught my eye:

Tax Cuts Increased Income, but Hardly Equally
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/12/business/12tax.html

Lawmaker targets mortgage tax break for larger homes
http://www.mercurynews.com/realestatenews/ci_7150187

Well, um, you know how I feel about this one - hehe. There may be some merits here to these arguments. But overall I roll my eyes. I personally don't live any further out from the center of town than the older areas (actually live closer) and I tire of hearing about our McMansions ruining the environment. OF course my house is not on par with these so not much to worry about. But I tire of hearing people with regular $500 electric/gas bills complaining about what energy hogs our big/new homes are. Get a grip. They are starting to install solar on many new homes which I think is AWESOME. Anyway, my house is 10 times more energy efficient than most older homes. Tired of hearing it. We will likely move out further and buy a larger home sometime down the road, but we'll probably pay cash so I guess I shouldn't fret. I just roll my eyes at the idea that anyone who wants a big house should be punished I guess, since there seems to be many misconceptions in that area. Plus it doesn't really make sense in an area like California. Of course there is SPRAWL - there are MILLIONS of people living here. We have to sprawl. I guess the idea that people with bigger houses commute more doesn't really mean much in an area like this, so the article annoyed me.

Few lenders are willing to make mortgage modifications, survey says http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/10/11/...

I found this interesting because Suze and Dave keep telling people that their mortgage lenders will work with them, BUT they keep calling and saying they are NOT working with them. Here's the disconnect. I think the lenders are in some big denial stage, for sure. Obviously it is in their better interest to work with those that can handle modifications to their loans (rather than go into foreclosure or short sale). But, um, yeah. They are in DENIAL at this point. I think it may get easier on people who foreclose down the line. For now, the lenders aren't budging. They are taking the foreclosure route first. Just kind of interesting.

FINALLY, I read this article in RD last night.

http://www.rd.com/content/what-to-do-when-foreclosure-hits/

Not particularly interesting BUT it was the second time I read something along these lines:

"Those with adjustable rate mortgages who want to keep their homes—the majority of the ones being squeezed—will have to make big sacrifices: no new cars or computers, and fewer vacations and meals out (and forget extras like an upgrade to a flat-panel TV). "

Um, they are JOKING, right? These are the big sacrifices???? I Read an article that mentioned something very similar a few weeks back. Gosh, I don't remember, but it mentioned something like these "big sacrifices" and I rolled my eyes.

Like the endless callers to Suze and Dave I keep hearing are really concerned about not being able to buy a new car or a plasma TV. Their mortgages are adjusting to more than their entire income. Now that is quite a sacrifice! I think a lot of these people are worried how they are going to FEED their families. Where they will find shelter...

Secondly, I guess if "less vacation", "Eating out less", & driving older cars are big sacrifices, then we live in absolute depravity. Wink I had no idea!

Blech. People need to get a grip.

I don't know, I grew up very well, very middle class. I didn't grow up with vacations, new cars and eating out. Somehow I survived. Little to complain about. I think that the middle class has really changed. I do know plenty of people who would think that those are HUGE sacrifices. For sure. I think this may lead to a lot of the mortgage mess - the blur between wants and needs. But, yeah, I think people being forclosed on have bigger worries all the same. Kind of an insulting statement. & a sad statement about our society I guess. I should send that little quote off to my depression-era grandma and see what she has to say. Yeesh.

Retirement Update (& a crow)

October 15th, 2007 at 07:51 pm

I actually do have the crow picture my dad sent me. IT is very high resolution and when I edited it down it got all blocky. Bummer. I will have to get dh's help when I edit more of the pics down for later. But you get the idea - we just saw these big crows in the park (Tokyo's equivalent to Central Park I guess - Yoyogi park - right by our hotel). & I love crows. I used to nurse baby birds back to health - the crows were my favorite.



& yes I promise to share more pictures later. I'll share mine sometime this week & throw in some of my dads' pics when I get them.

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Well I got my profit sharing plan update for 2006. I was feeling down on it because earnings were very minimal in 2005. However, I got away with a 10% return for 2006 - so will have to update my net worth upwards $1500. Big Grin Not bad! Considering fees and everything, a 10% return is stellar for a retirement plan. (One I have NO control over...)

Anyway, if I keep my job through the end of the year, I should have $32k as of 12/31. Today I stand about $25k - only 80% vested. So I will add my $1500 tonight in Quicken (or 80% of it anyway) and will have another $6k adjustment on 12/31 to show full vesting. That is awesome.

Since I moved some money around I also updated my excel spreadsheet where I track my investment allocations. I updated all my investments today, and though it is a very high/peak # with the market right now, our retirement sits at $34.5k (IRAs).

I knew the 2 retirement vehicles would be neck & neck around 12/31. But have put more into IRAs than I Expected this year, so the IRAs inch ahead. (I won't know my profit sharings current earnings until next October either. Though I could assume it is doing well I am sure. Possibly another $2k earned already for 2007 that I am unaware of).

That will put our retirement at about 95% of our income as of 12/31. (I'll be 31). Not bad.

We should hit 100% next year. Will get another $8k from the boss I imagine (I imagine I Will work much more overtime if nothing else - probably a small raise too - which will inch up my contribution which is based on a percent of my income). & at minimum want to get $5k in our IRAs. Goal is $5k-$10k anyway. I don't expect much more than $5k unless our parents feel extremely generous 2 years in a row. Any windfalls will probably go to retirement. But I am not expecting anything like that. I think $5k will be tight for us, and if I get a sizable raise we can aim for more. (I don't even know what our health insurance status will be. I am feeling optimistic but lord knows why, it could easily eat my raise as it has been for many years).

Anyway, for retirement in 35 years, even just the $5k to IRAs will put us on an okay path. (That whole starting early thing. Big Grin ). OF course I want to get to a point where we max out our IRAs. Pretty much our next goal. That would be $10k next year. Aiming for $5k, and hoping to inch it up over the next 3 years or something. Just retirement, retirement, retirement going forward. If nothing else in 3 years we will no longer be paying $4k/year to preschool so should be very doable. & I don't really see the need to do more than the $10k. Would be 15% of our income. But as long as it is doable, reasonably, we will max out our IRAs for tax reasons. So, we'll see...



I'm Back!

October 15th, 2007 at 02:20 pm

Oh my, I am in such a fog. I had a horrible time sleeping on the plane (impossible) and was about to kill dh when he arrived in SF to pick me up in the compact car. What the heck was he thinking? It was actually 10 times more comfortable than the plan though, so not so bad. Big Grin

But I took a short nap in the afternoon (had arrived 9am) and was able to sleep rather well all night. I think I will be okay. It was nice to have a day to recover. I just said "I am here, but not really. I'll be here tomorrow" to the fam, which was about how it was. I was awake but not really most of the day - hehe. It is so bizarre to travel across so many time zones and in the course of the day be in a totally different land.

Anyway, the trip was WONDERFUL. Had a blast. I can not even tell you how many miles I have traveled this last week. Many many many miles.

My dad said that he probably spent $2k/person on this trip. We kept encouraging his friend's family to visit the US sometime, but I see why they haven't. It can get rather pricey rather quickly.

It was very good to come home and see the kids.

& now they are gearing up for their Florida trip - how crazy!

Well if I have time later I will share a little of my trip - and pictures.

I took maybe 50 pictures - if that. But my dad probably took 2000-3000.

I told him on the flight home that I think he could make money off some of his pictures. He has fancy camera and he caught the most wonderful picture of this big crow in Tokyo - I asked for a blown up copy for my wall. It was just magnificent. He said if I Wanted to set it up he would check it out. I think he may give me a cut of the profits - I have heard of some of those websites where you make money from photos. So I will look into it.

But yes, it was quite an experience. Things with my sister went about 1000 times better than I would have imagined. & I have to say I usually don't travel very well, but this time not a prob. I felt 100% most of the time and the time change was not noticeable at all - we just all assimilated right away so it was a nice trip.

I have to admit it was kind of nice to have a vacation from the fam too. I didn't miss them near as much as I thought I would. LOL. It's just nice to escape once in a while I guess. It is really good to be home all the same. But now THAT is a vacation. Big Grin

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On return home I found that many of expenses are going down.

LM is very picky with diapers so is probably more in disposables these days than clothe. He has never worn clothe at night. He would wake too frequently. But dh asked me to go down in diapers and I saw price had gone up so it would be more expensive to get 20 diapers a week than the 40 we have now. So we just left. But he is making much progress with potty training (no where near done - but wetting far less often) and dh said they have only been using 10/week. So I admit we should probably just drop the clothe. We went through this with BM. This is a horrible time to drop clothe since it helps in the training, but frankly, he barely uses them anyway. So will save $53/month on diaper service. The diaper covers I do have are pretty much in shreds so will probably throw them out. No point to replace since we were so close to the end. I may have a few decent ones to freecycle but probably not much of sellable quality.

So maybe + $20/month more disposables, but -$53/month on clothe. A wonderful savings. & soon enough no more diapers at all!!!!

Our cable company is also changing its rates and now is offering substantial discount to have both internet and cable (which we do). It appears they will add HBO to our current package as well. When we had HBO we paid over $100. Now we pay about $80 with no premium channels and it is going down to like $60 and giving us HBO. Strange. We'll see! OF course we ready to drop them because of major e-mail issues, which they finally seems to have resolved. We have been shopping around. But this may be an incentive to stick with it.

& I already mentioned our water will be going sown as we switch to metered water. That is taking FOREVER but should take effect by January.

Oh yes, and MIL gave me $60 cash for the trip to treat for a dinner, so it covered my little shortfall for the month.

I don't think I spent more than $200 on the trip myself, but we'll see. (including the $60 dinner). Paid for one lunch, one dinner, $80 on phone calls home (well worth it). A few souvenirs (very few) and some water/food. My dad insisted on covering most of it. I think I only took $20/$30 and though the far less places took credit than I expected he ended up covering all the food/water, etc. so I didn't spend much on that. Not bad for a week in Japan!!!

More later... Much to catch up on at home and work!

I'm off to Asia!

October 6th, 2007 at 02:23 pm

Well, I am off... Pretty much packed. Figure I will run a few errands in the morning, meet the fam for lunch and spend the day - and drive to SFO for our flight tomorrow.

Excited!!!

My sister is here from NC as well. I am thinking of how I have to drive home after our 12 hour flight. & everyone wants to take a one-hour detour so we can just all pile in the van - but then we have 3 very different households to disperse too. But I know I can last 3 hours in the car. Oh what we do in the name of conservation. My poor sister is hopping onto a 2-leg flight to NC upon her return. I just think, thank goodness I am not her!!! (she has an hour drive from the airport as well, to her home). But yes, she is here. I hope we don't kill each other. LOL. I think it might be a decent trip, just us without our SOs or kids. She is so sickingly attached to her spouses (her ex before and now here new hubby) that I think it will be nice to get away from that. She is no doubt annoyed how much I am distracted by kids too.

So we'll see... Her husband actually got deployed a while back. If nothing else I can be a little more sensitive to her current plight. I could not imagine.

I am going to miss my family TERRIBLY. But I imagine the time will go fast. I am not too worried about dh. His parents have monday off and will visit. My mom tuesday. Then W/F they have preschool and Thursday they were invited to the pumpkin farm. Dh could have a break at the gym too if he liked. Then I will be back the following weekend. They have a busy week so it won't be too hard on them. Same for me - I am sure the time will FLY.

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In financial news, my FINAL ROTH conversion is complete. WOOHOO!!!!! I predict that the stock market will commence to plunge. IT was waiting for me to convert all my ROTHs at high levels so I could pay more taxes. Figures. Just watch...

I paid all the bills for October and was short about $25. Blech. BEfore that I was short more but I transferred $50 I had in one savings and $25 from another. Down to minimums. I will be so upset if I have to touch the e-fund. Frown I think next month will be better. We'll see. I need to come up with $25 and I have lots to sell. I am thinking ebay when I return. I have until the 31st. (Or I can take an "advance" from efund I can repay with my paycheck). I just don't want to go down that road and it annoys me October is entirely unpredictable and Vegas is looking more like a cheapie trip by the minute. Bummer.



It Pays to be unencumbered...

October 5th, 2007 at 05:07 pm

I got some e-mail from Southwest about great deals the time of our Vegas trip. The "great deal" was $200 RT - per person. Whatever.

But on a whim I thought I Would check out cheaptickets.com again - see if anything has changed. (We mostly plan to drive since it will be less than $100 for the gas). & we like road trips.

Anyway, a RT flight with taxes and all was $117. I Was impressed as I remember flying $50 one way or something as the best Vegas deal I ever found, so this wasn't too far off. I got all excited and told dh that I think we should just fly. Might cost us another $100-$150, but save us about 20 driving hours or something. That I can hang with. This is from San Jose but we could park at my parents' house and cut 8 hours off our intended drive.

I THEN realized I had the wrong date. If we returned on Saturday we could get plane tickets for 1/2 anything I've seen anywhere else. But we were staying to Sunday. Even staying to Monday wasn't as good a deal. I would consider Monday... But we have to Stay to Sunday to get our free stuff and everything, and I can't change the date to take Wednesday off. (Though maybe if we could change our reservation to Wed. - Sat. that could work if we took a Wed. night flight BUT we have babysitters Thurs & Fri. Alas).

Oh well. Now I remember why I traveled so much why I Was younger. The deals to be had are when you don't have to be back at work Monday, or plan around babysitters. & yeah, it only gets worse next year once the kids are in school. Then there is planning around the school year. Though since dh's mom is retiring this year a trip like this would matter little. She could stay and watch the kids while we party. Big Grin We are SO lucky in that regard.

But yeah, looks like driving...

Focus Group Money

October 5th, 2007 at 03:01 pm

$20 challenge:

$8,656.87 - Balance 9/30

$ 120.00 - Focus Groups

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$8,776.87 - Balance 10/5
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Woohoo.

Here's to more focus groups!!!!

ETA: I will get my next $250 cash credit reward probably right around Christmas. Sweet. $9k will be easy for the challenge, maybe even $9.5k. I am going to have to hustle for that last $500!!!!!!

Financial Ratios

October 5th, 2007 at 02:22 pm

http://www.bankrate.com/brm/news/retirement/20071003_persona...

I posted an older article recently; the same points and topic. But this was an updated article at bankrate.com this week.

I am still stuck on this part:

"At age 30, one should ideally have a savings-to-income ratio of 0.1, or 10 percent, and a debt-to-income ratio no greater than 1.7, or 1.7 times your income. Translated into dollar amounts, this means that a 30-year-old with a household income of, say, $50,000 should have $5,000 in savings and an overall debt no greater than $85,000."

Seems extreme to me, and I am not a debt lover by any means.

Of course his reply in this article is as follows:

"People might find that the recommended debt levels are not achievable given the average cost of housing -- this is one reason why many cannot afford to sufficiently save for retirement," says Farrell. "As financial advisers, there is little we can do about the cost of housing, but we can help our clients understand how housing costs may affect financial security."

True I guess, but living where housing has always been insane, you have to suck it up. I tend to notice that people back home are much more fugal (out of having little other choice in order to afford the roof over their head). BEcause of that lifestyle, people can easily afford much more. Of course dh and I drew the line twice at having a mortgage no more than 4 times our income. & we drew the line FAR lower than most people around here. To someone in say Kansas, we are crazy (yes I have many relatives there who think we are crazy. Big Grin ). But it's all relative I guess. Out here we are cheapskates. LOL. But I have never felt we were stretching it to have such a big mortgage.

There are many reasons why and many factors not considered in this "1.7" ratio:

1 - Interest Rates (very low these days which means you can borrow more for less).

2 - Income Tax Rates (& of course income tax deductions which means the mortgage we pay is not nearly so high once you consider the tax breaks for said mortgage).

I keep reading about how few people get real tax breaks for their mortgage. Um, in Cali pretty much every does. Wink

Also, our income tax rates have been extremely low this entire decade. More disposable income for the mortgage. MUCH more.

3 - 2-income versus 1-income status. 4 times might have been high, but was not including 2 incomes. We never relied on that. On the flip side we could get our ratio down to a solid 2 if dh got a job but I am not sure we would be any better off financially. We would have work expenses, daycare (VERY expensive out here) and our tax benefits would go down considerably. We would be slammed by AMT for one. Could we be better able to afford our mortgage in that case? Not sure it would make much difference. Not to mention that would not help our stress levels and medical expenses are bad enough as is. Wink But seriously.

4 - It really depends on the type of debt. I think it is expected young people will have more high-interest debt. If all you have is a mortgage with a low rate, I imagine you can afford more.

As evidence by the fact that all the other ratios mentioned would be very easy to surpass in our case.

10% income saved by age 30? How about 100%?

Pay off your mortgage by 65? We were planning 45. Even if we never prepaid a dime we'd be debt free by 55. No plans to take on any MORE debt this lifetime.

& so on...

Of course, he does mention the 28% house expenses to income ratio (or did in the last article). I think that is probably much more relevant. We've pretty much always been in that range, and that was always more our measure of affordability than the dollar amount of our loan. (Though for long term thinking I don't think the ratio is bad. We try to keep in mind that if we were ever forced to move there is no guarantee we would get such a good interest rate again, and we are trying to up our savings considerably in anticipation of higher income tax rates, etc. Just because it is good now doesn't mean you should assume it always will be - for sure).

I also heavily agree the ratio should go down with time. The age we expect to pay off our DREAM home is the age many people like to upgrade their home, etc.

Anyway, this article goes on about starting young and the power of compounding as well. Good for the young people.

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

P.S. BM is watching TV and just told me we HAVE TO get a TV in our car. I guess he has never noticed those on the road before, but just saw a commercial. He is amazed that people would have TV in their cars and think that would be cool. He looks like a kid on Christmas Day - what a find!!!! Dh and I aren't going for it. Sorry buddy. LOL. Darn commercials...




Gym

October 5th, 2007 at 01:41 pm

I know my friends are confused because for many years I said the gym was way too expensive. & well, it was. But um, now we pay less than $30/month for us, locked in for life. & with $400 down we never have to pay for the childcare again either. I am sure for the average gym user this is not the greatest deal (the down part) but we are pretty committed).

Anyway, I met someone who lived by the gym and told her oh we were over there a lot since we just joined the gym. Obviously it is a discount gym but it had everything we need. She wrinkled up her nose a bit and said she was waiting for the new "CA Fitness." My take on that is it is 10 times expensive and 20 times as crowded. Blech. But tell me how you feel why don't you?

The funniest thing though is we live in such a hoity toity neighborhood and dh has run into some of our neighbors there. I was starting to wonder if we should keep our membership to ourselves. We're not the only ones happy for a deal I guess.

Anyway, so yes they are building a new Cali Fitness and we keep getting e-mails from neighbors about the great deals!!! Something like $130/month for 2 adults and $35/month for the kids - probably $35/each (lots of classes and activities - adults and kids). Holy Hell. For a crowded facility doesn't sound very appealing. I have heard people say they don't leave their kids because it gets so jam packed. Dh and I discussed that something like that may be feasible when we both work and the kids are much older. I am not keen to leave my kids there today. IT sounds like overall the kids' program may be reasonable, but they really do stick it to the adult prices then (duh). & yeah, maybe by the time the kids are like 10 the hype will have died down. Wink

So yeah when I Read over and over in like the forums - the gym is a waste. It's like, well yeah, most gyms are very pricey. & people tend to flock to them like cows to slaughter or something... But you know $30/month for "free" daycare and our health, I don't think that is much to spend at all. IT's all relative. They daycare is DIVINE!!!!

Last night was SO nice because dh had a focus group so I came home, picked up the kids, and headed to the gym. I also got a compliment how GREAT they were with the babies (no doubt largely due to preschool and all the babies there). They got to play with a 1 & 3yo while I worked out. Phew. First time back to the gym since that stupid stomach bug. I hope to hit aerobics tomorrow morning but not holding my breath. When I went to aerobics last saturday I was surprised how STRONG I was after a week or 2 of not much. I felt the same way today. Phew. It's just a constant battle to make the time. I figure when the kids are gone I will hit the gym every day. Gear up for the holidays. Big Grin

I am also not sure what this trip will due to my waistline. Probably much more active than a week at work - lots of walking and such. So that part will be good. I also tend to be a picky eater so we'll see. Maybe I just won't eat much. I will probably tend towards eating less than pigging out. I guess we'll see. I don't look forward to starving, for one. I'll try. Of course traveling with the ULTRA picky eater and the junk food dad, I don't know. I may gain 10 pounds. (Whenever I travel with my parents we get mounds of junk food. Where I learned my bad habits). Since my sister will no doubt refuse to eat anything I am sure we will stock on some more edible items. I am not that convinced I will mind the food at all though. I just won't be eating a lot of weird looking fish. LOL. Or raw fish. I'll give anything a try though.

I lost a couple of pounds but dh lost 10!!!!!!!!!! Men! HE just told me and I was stunned. Gah. He has just been hitting the gym a couple of times a week, not much else.

Same thing when we first went down to one incomes he started cooking every night. We ate out a lot before that time. He was already a stick and he lost a ton of weight then too. Not fair. LOL. His family is all on the extremely thin side - very high metabolisms. I generally enjoy having more meat on my bones (I was a stick long enough in my youth to know the downsides) but yeesh. I am jealous how easy it is for him to lose weight. Generally for me the eating or the working out means I stop gaining weight, but I am not sure I have ever lost weight so effortlessly.

Today was a Good day

October 4th, 2007 at 05:36 am

Well, it was sad I barely saw the kids, but overall just felt it was a good day. Big Grin

Gearing up for vacation!!!! For one...

I also had a focus group tonight and it was kind of fun. Big Grin It was a focus group for the City and was interesting. For one it sounds like they wanted a lot of resident input. Our little city has had a lot of growing pains. So we all had a lot on our minds. IT was a little long and started to drag at the end though.

$60 cash!!!!!

I went hoping they'd hand me cash and tell me to leave. Hehe. But I Walked in and hardly saw any women. Crap. I knew I was stuck. But it was kinda fun. Though I Was kind of hoping I'd just get some cash and i could hit the gym instead. Wink

Dh is going to one tomorrow for $60 so I'll add that to my challenge money tomorrow. I don't want to add his now and jinx it, and am too lazy overall.

I forgot the cute story about BM yesterday too. He is on this shorts kick - totally in denial that fall is here. Every day is a battle to put on some pants, or a jacket or something. So he tells me in the car a couple of days back that when he is a grown up he will wear shorts EVERY DAY. I told him that was nice, but if he gets a job, as he most likely will, that he will probably need to wear pants to work. I tried to think of some jobs where you could wear shorts and UPS came to mind. So I told him maybe he could deliver packages and wear shorts. Whenever he wanted!!!! & then I mentioned mailmen can wear shorts too. Doesn't that sounds like a fun job?

Anyway, at his doctor appointment the doctor asked what he wanted to be when he grew up and he immediately exclaimed, "mailman!" I just started cracking up. Not to crush his dreams or anything but I immediately realized why he said that. Well it's nice to know he listens to me. Wink

Today LM went to preschool all day. Frown I think it was hard on dh. He called me in the morning and asked if we could afford to put him all day next week. I thought, um, why? Like he would be that helpless without me. But I wasn't thinking. I drop the kids off in the a.m. since it is "sort of" by my work (though a bit further out). Dh picks up LM at lunch and I pick up BM on the way home. Well, since I will be gone, dh would have to drive around 30 miles round trip 3 times each day. A bit much! The thought hadn't even crossed my mind. When he pointed out why, I thought the extra $10/day probably would be saved in gas - hehe.

Anyway, I said, well don't you have the same problem today? I could not do morning, lunch or dinner pickup today. I just hadn't thought that through at all - this whole LM preschool thing is still rather new. So I immediately called over and asked if he could just stay. What the heck. HE did marvelous. LOVED it. He has been so upset to leave early lately that I am afraid he will be very spoiled with this. It's a catch 22 because mostly we stay to let him nap (& pay $10 for that privelege!), which he does at home anyway. But certainly more convenient...

I hated to say it but since he did so well today, I mentioned we should really just put him full days during tax season. This whole driving thing really is a bit much. He has got BM, he is happy, we know he is in good hands. IT's paid for too. We can swing that extra $50/month or so the net cost would be after gas savings.

Dh was really sad about it. HE was just not interested. I Was kind of surprised. I am like, "2 free days during tax season, doesn't it sound heavenly???" & the truth is I will need him to pick up the kids anyway. 2 round trips a day on his part is just crazy really.

Anyway, I think he is warming up to it a bit. All else being equal, LM is still quite young. But, well, he just loves his time there, which speaks volumes. I think it is harder on us than him. I am not sure if it is hard on him at all. Wink

Dh surpised me. He is very busy working on home movies, family video projects (GRandDad's 80th birthday stuff for one) and movie stuff. But he said if the kids did do that he would look into more regular volunteering at the TV station. HE already puts a ton of hours in on the weekends and weeknights, but he said he wants more face time during the week so maybe he will be in a better situation to shift to employee status when the time comes. I think it is a good idea. He said the pay is probably crap, and I say, "who cares???" He has a friend who works there, and they have taken to calling him when people flake. His schedule is pretty open and we live very close to the station. So he has swooped in to save the day many times with the no-shows lately. I'd say he is probably already in good, but something to occupy him and maybe even get him a bit of experience. They used to let volunteers do a lot more on the production side, and lately not so much. So I am not sure how rewarding the whole thing really is. But I think he is enjoying getting some of his life back all the same.

I know I gripe my gripes here a lot, but the fact is I love to go to work and get lots of free time to pursue my own interests. As my work is full of all my interests. Dh just doesn't get that very much. But he is slowly easing into it more. Which means he's happier. & I am happier. & everyone is happier. It is GOOD. I don't think he will really have much int he way of work opportunities until he can swing full time, and I think that won't be for another 2 or 3 years. But it's a step in the right direction I guess. If he could find a paying job a few hours a week that would be grand too, but there really doesn't seem to be much out there. So this might just be the next best thing.

Spendy Day

October 3rd, 2007 at 02:00 pm

Yesterday BM had his checkup and shots so that was $50...

I went with them so we decided to go for lunch afterwards. We went out to Mongolian BBQ (like $12 for the 4 of us since they don't charge the kids though they probably should!!! BM ate more than I).

I probably would have skipped it because I feel broke and because shots took FOREVER but it turns out dh and I both have a focus group this week - $60 each. What the heck - a $12 meal. The remaining $100 or so will go in the bank. Hell, that paycheck is more than my overtime rate would be. So - easy easy money.

My dad e-mailed me our Japan itinerary. How exciting! I was originally worried about the time change, but these days I wonder why. I think I am so sleep deprived that I could sleep anytime and anywhere. We went to NC like a year ago to visit my sister and I remember I slept like 2 days and 2 nights straight. LOL. Anyway, my goal is to sleep as much as possible on the plane (we leave around noon). Since I often sleep the afternoon away I don't expect it to be hard. I just don't want to be awake and uncomfortable. 12 hours later we arrive in Japan at 5pm. I figure I can be awake enough to get to the hotel. Maybe dinner. But then knowing me I could conk out for another 8 hours or so. & then be on track for a day of sightseeing.

I have no idea how I will swing it on the way home. Will be much harder to change back.

In college my husband used to work nights on the weekends. So he would go to school during the days and then flip his schedule every weekend. I thought he was going or die an early death or something. (Lord knows why he never just took night classes). But um, yeah. That will be my inspiration. It can be done. LOL.

Oh well, I have NO IDEA how I am going to get all ready for the trip. I know I don't have much to do, but time is short. Our weeknights are clogged with focus groups, and I had plans Friday night, though we leave Saturday morning! Not sure what I was thinking. I am rethinking Friday night plans. For one I invited my friend over and the house is a DISASTER, but packing seems more important at this point. Maybe we'll meet up at McDs or something - let the kids play. We were actually going to go to the "movie in the park" thing but I worry it will be too cold and late since I have much to do. We'll see!





SO Interesting! (To me...)

October 2nd, 2007 at 03:10 pm

I saw I had a pile of our old savings account statements and I thought I would really like to look through and see exactly where all our money went. Since I have joined here I say - oh it went to cars and IRAs and mostly our house of course. But it did dry up rather quick - where did it all go?

I thought - I want to find out. I woke up early this morning and decided to tackle it.

It was REALLY interesting. I started out a little dissapointed in ourselves as though we saved 80% of dh's paycheck, I saw $2k after $2k credit card bills (far more than we spend today and these days we put all our utilities and everything on card. I try to budget $1200/month on card).

I actually felt like maybe we weren't so great with our money before. Or maybe we aren't doing so bad now?

Then we sold our old home and deposited some cash. We didn't really make much off the home, but we paid a lot of cash to our second home, and therefore got some of our down payment back to cover that when we finally sold our own home.

We then pretty much did not touch the money for many man years. I didn't touch it through 2 maternity leaves (as the sole breadwinner). The transition to one income (even periods of no income) was absolutely seamless. I was impressed. I thought I remembered pulling much more money out for big one-time bills. But we never did!

Then we had our second son, and we went crazy. We spent like $25k in the course of a few months. Bizarre. I can't explain it.

I'll show some excel spreadsheets later. I feel better piecing exactly where our money went through the years.

I think you can also explain it that like 6 or 7 years of extreme frugality gets to you and you just snap or something. Throw in a big raise and you feel like you can spend far more than you should. Interesting. It is good to be back on the right track. Wink

Just an Update

October 1st, 2007 at 07:23 pm

Preparing for my trip a bit. (Though not much really to do).

I got all my ROTH stuff in the mail. What a LOAD off. Here's to a good few years of contributing a little here and there. No more of this application, transferring, ROTH conversion blahblahblah. This stuff has eaten up a lot of my cash, along with estate planning and stuff. So it is good for my overall cash flow to move past this. (But is certainly great to be on the ball with all this).

I went through and paid most my bills for October. Easy since most everything is fixed. Paid all the credit cards and everything time sensitive so it won't be a worry. (Well, set it to pay while I am gone).

I also went shopping. I only had ONE pair of jeans that fit. Since I generally work 5 days a week, what does it matter. But figured I would like a second pair for my trip. So I can wear one and wash another.

I probably spent more than I should have. But I have a couple of shirts to return.

My budget looks dismal this month. I feel like when we feel like we are doing good we spend way too much. I paid all the bills and spent most of the $1k cushion in my checking. I think mostly the $500+ to tires and the fact it was a BIG preschool month ($600). I think, oh it will even out next month as I only pay $300 next month (& she already offered to take the kids a few extra days since they will miss so much between our vacation, their vacation and holidays. Certainly will get our money's worth). But then I wonder how much we'll really spend on all these trips and then I remember thanksgiving and christmas are coming up. Pricey holidays. I put $200 in the bank and earned $100 Cookie LEe and all that and I Really thought that would help offset the tires as well.

Then again I Can't get TOO down on myself. We have been investing a lot.

On the flip side I expect a slew of cash come Christmas. I just will be dissapointed if it all goes to bills.

I am also second guessing putting the $25/month to kids' college. As long as we have this 2 in preschool thing I think it is something we should forego. I already mostly made 2007 contributions. I am thinking of suspending "college" contributions in 2008 and then just starting them again when BM graduates into Kinder - next September. Then again with the whole preschool paid for thing I feel somewhat obligated to just make it work.

I am aiming to put $400/month to retirement next year and $200/month in addition once BM starts kindergarten (diverted from preschool). All I Would need is a $200/month raise in 2009 to feasibly be on the path to maxing out our IRAs. Very feasible. I should probably take my own advice and go with that. Retirement before college. I think on the flip side I figure we would want to allocate some of that preschool money to extra-cirriculars and orthodontia and the like. Then again we will have the efund in place for the dental side of things, and maybe the extra-cirriculars could wait until they are both in public school. Would only be another couple of years before another $300/month is freed up.

I honestly feel like by the time the kids are both in school that we will see little point in dh vying for full-time employment. Or any employment.

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Oh yes, we took the kids to Fairytale Town yesterday as it was the last weekend before our membership expired. I already renewd it but had been wanting to take the kids for weeks and had been too busy.

For one we ran into a neighbor which was just bizarre. In a city of like 1 million how do we always run into our neighbors???

Anyway, dh recalled there was some event (Which sometimes they charge members for) so we decided if so we would just go across the street to the zoo (We have membership there as well - often hitting both up on a lazy summer day. THough I mostly loathe our zoo - it sucks and always seem to see some pretty horrid conditions for some of the animals. Just night and day from some of the beautiful/spacious Bay Area zoos). Anyway, to our surprise admission was completely FREE and it wasn't particularly crowded. They had a bunch of costumed characters and the kids had a BLAST. They had a bunch of wonderful Childrens' authors there to read their books and sign autographs, etc. For example, BM's favorite book of all time is "The Best Mouse Cookie" and I guess the author lives in San FRancisco. The kids were totally bored by her, unfortunately (end of a long day). Will keep my eye out for next year and bring some books to be signed! There is also a local kids' music performer who performs at bookstores free on a monthly basis and BM was never paricularly interested. LM was LOVING her and so I told dh he should try to catch some of her free things which are always so abundant in the area. Something to mix it up a bit with all the free storytimes they try to hit during the week. They also had bands, a magician, and some other entertainment. The kids don't need all that to have a good time there, but was certainly a nice surprise.

Dh annoyed me though because I bought a kids' meal and some nachos for around $7. I was just starving as was LM, so we chowed down while BM and dh played. Dh came over and said he wanted to leave because food was so expensive. Couldn't exactly argue as he was talking about taco BEll or something on the way home. Doesn't really get cheaper than than. So instead we stop at this deli and I am thinking to myself, is this really cheaper? But whatever. So $14 later we had 3 sandwhiches, 3 waters, a milk and a cookie. I asked dh as we left how much it had been (I didn't realize). HE said $14. LOL. I am like, um, and that was cheaper? HE said of course not; he just didn't realize how pricey the place was. We should have just walked out. Oh well. The kids had fun. Oh, just something to tease him about. Since he kept going on and on about my spendthrift nacho ways. I told him to shut up and take it out of my allowance - gah. Yes I am a nacho fiend. I actually ended up with a kids' meal though along with that because it was much more bang for the buck and we were rather hungry. HEy, I know what I Am doing sometimes!