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Archive for December, 2007

2007 was CRAZY

December 30th, 2007 at 07:29 am

Yeah, that about sums it up.

Ah yes, another year-end post.

Was just thinking, because dh and I were talking about what a crazy year it has been.

The funny thing is that last Jan. 1 I told dh that we could not buy ANYTHING. We would not buy or do anything. This year would be low key.

Then we started getting extra money and decided to do a few things. & the our parents lavished us with all these last minute vacations. It was just WEIRD. But then we were lavished with cash and we actually enjoyed much more than imagined. But all in all was a strange year. I find it even funnier because I came here saying how work is not that important to me, and we are real low key. & then work was crazy and we had a jet set lifestyle.

Which honestly made it hard for me to enjoy this year. Work was really stressful. Not my thing. It hasn't been like this for years. But re-examining our financial situation, I think I finally decided to embrace it. We could use the money. I've pretty much been on vacation the last 5 years. & so it doesn't hurt to work hard once in a while, to show my commitment. It's just the curse/bane of the industry though. Not enough people to fill the jobs. I feel I have been very unique keeping the life balance that I have been able to full-time the past 6 years. (I can think my boss too). But we just lost one too many employees this last year and I really had to step it up.

So this year was really weird. Worked a lot harder but ended up playing harder too. Well, for the long run I look to de-stress and step it down a bit. For now, what can I do. I embrace it.

But here is the craziness of 2007:

1. Dh had his movie premiere (the first "big" movie he worked on). That was pretty sweet. They had a decent offer on the movie but turned it down. Holding out for more I guess. Who knows if it will ever get anywhere now. But it was exciting. He is working on some projects starting in '08 again. Just been so busy with the kids, but now that they are in preschool, he has more time.

2. I tried to make some money off writing. I know I have been down on it in my blog, but really comes down to, I always envisioned writing a book when I was much older. I have the money-making career now, and this should allow me to pursue more hobbies when I am older. & I just couldn't make the time. I neglected my family too much. Really what it comes down to. & work got more stressful. So it's on the back burner but something I will certainly do again once work is lighter or kids are older. Which is fine. I don't find this compromising at all. I love my job. I always figured writing would be better with more age and wisdom. I actually want to go back to get a writing degree some day. I would want to practice the art more too. Take classes. Certainly not a priority today. The kids are. But this year was an adventure! That someone would pay me to write. Strengthens my resolve to write more in the future. Now is just not the time for me. Though I also keep my eyes open for writing opportunities in my field, which probably makes more sense now, for my resume and such.

3. We welcomed a new niece to the world this year.

4. Traveled to Mexico, Japan, Florida (Disney) and Vegas.

5. Took the kids to many zoos and museums and the like.

6. Bought a BIG HDTV & PS3

7. Still managed to build up our e-fund and up our net worth a good $30k (& meet all our other goals).

Yup, that was our low-key, do nothing, buy nothing year.

What the heck??? LOL. But it just turned into that kind of year.

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

2008

We're starting over. Low-key. Buy nothing. Do nothing. Let's try this again. Big Grin

Well dh's mom, well she wants to retire this year so I think she is facing reality. She said she wanted to go on a family camping trip this year. Which is ironic since we were thinking of going on the same camping trip (ourselves) but it would be kind of fun with the grandparents. Sure, why not. Then again all of our trips this last year were rather last-minute. So we'll see. I won't be surprised if I get invited to China tomorrow. But it is hard to say no to trips to mexico and Japan and such. But we have discussed saying no to anything and everything. We want to keep it low key. Camping was more our speed.

We have been planning a trip to Disneyland though. In the spring. & then camping in the summer. Only low key things for summer. & a low key fall (at home). LOL.

Anyway, dh went to the dinosaur thing with my dad and I don't know. We took him to 2 museums with us last month and he did this with BM yesterday. I guess he is getting hooked. Maybe he really enjoyed Japan. He is turning into my MIL. He told dh that he wanted to do all these trips with us in the coming years. He mentioned Grand Canyon and Yosemite and the like. The funny thing is we have talked much of the same (maybe later than he is talking) so I wonder if he comes along if we might get a bit of a free ride. Hmmmmmmmm.

But I told dh we really needed to crack down (a week or 2 ago, before this) and that if Disneyland was our priority I just didn't know if we could justify the camping trip. Not that it was terribly expensive. But it was a good $500+. We don't even have sleeping bags... So I told him maybe we should save up for supplies this year and stuff, and go next year. Or likely his parents will pay anyway. But I didn't want to over commit. Even if it seemed simple, it would cost money.

& then he comes back telling me my dad wants to take us on all these trips. It's starting to come from both sides. When did this happen?

I told dh our kids are SO lucky. So so so lucky and spoiled rotten. I think with my parents, they just want to treat us to all the things they couldn't afford when we were young. Dh's family has been the same way for a LONG while. But my parent's are totally jumping on the bandwagon. Which is just a shock to me. I guess it is a grandparent thing. These are so not the parents who raised me! LOL.

Sometimes I give up on trying to shelter the kids from being too spoiled. I really want them to appreciate what they have and I make it a point to tell them that we didn't have these things when we were kids. Over and over and over. So they get it.

But my grandpa passed on this year and left $0.5 mil to his heirs. $0.5 mil. We were all TERRIBLY shocked. They never made more than minimum wage. They didn't even have a middle school education, much less high school. It was so mind boggling. & as my parents inherited 1/4 of this, they once again resolve to enjoy their money more than hoarde it (as they do every time a relative dies, stronger each time). I keep reminding them that grandpa was only 80 and longevity runs in the family. He wanted to be able to take care of himself, nursing home or not. By dad having grown up with him thought is was just terribly sad they never enjoyed any of that money. They lived a lifestyle deep in poverty. Their entire 80 years. So my parents have more resolve to enjoy and spoil us it seems. They insist he hoarded too much. Probably. But I am just in awe he would have been able to take care of himself well into 100 if need be (was likely. They died terribly young compared to siblings and such).

I keep wondering at this rate if the kids will have to work. I think of course I want them to be hard workers and learn to take care of themselves. I don't want them to be spoiled. But if grandpa can pass on $1/2 mil, what will our more well-off grandparents pass on? What will our parents with significant real estate pass on? What will we pass on? Will our kids ever worry about money in the ways we did? I know we don't worry about money in any sense our parents did at our age. just as they never worried about money as much as their parents did? (not with the freedom to get high school diplomas and college educations). & so it snowballs.

Ever since we had kids I have fought the tide of spoiling from the grandparents. But it just keeps getting bigger. Honestly, there is no fighting it. I am starting to realize. Is it so bad grandma took them to DisneyWorld when they were 2/4 & Hawaii when they were 0/2? That grandpa will take them to Japan before they hit 8/10? All I Can do is make sure they appreciate everything they have. It's a shame that we can never go back and see where my dad grew up and where my grandparents lived in a shack for most of their days. I think it's important for them to know where they came from. Those are our roots. Money just doesn't grow on trees and it took generations to come where we are. I think that's all I can do, is tell them that continuously. Just as my parents did when I was a child.

As such, 2008 will probably be crazy or crazier yet. Our parents will have many wild plans to give us what more of what they never could before.

But I feel very blessed in a big sense. Here is to the health and freedom to enjoy the craziness. Might as well embrace it.

& if it's a really slow, low-key year, I can't say I would mind a bit. I just hope someday my kids can say the same.

Maybe there is something to just enjoying the money while it is there. I guess you never know if you will be around to enjoy it tomorrow. Which is exactly what our parents are thinking. So might as well enjoy I guess.

Then again, I didn't exactly feel deprived before. I think we have always made it a point to live somewhat in the now. Just not so extravagantly. So it is just weird for me. Being a long range planner, just nothing I want to get used to either. I know our parents mean well. But I find it funny they found it so important for us to be independent and capable and NOT spoiled. But with the grandkids, eh. Seems to have gone out the window. Then they will blame us when they turn to spoiled brats. LOL. Would figure. Isn't that the way?

Or maybe I just overthink it all.

Most of my friends think I am crazy, but I a have a lot of friends back home who immigrated here from other countries. who came from true poverty and such. We all worry about our kids getting so far from their roots and not really understanding how GOOD they have it. That even their primary education is an incredible blessing.

Maybe once you've seen it you always have a fear you can end up back there some day. So I guess I am lucky in that regard I have other friends with the same worries.

Around here, if I wonder aloud if my kids have too much, people look at me like I have a 3rd eye. I figure a place like this forum, it is more understood, at least.

Anyway, here's to 2008. Whatever it brings!

Work is Crazy

December 29th, 2007 at 02:15 pm

I am really frustrated right now. I am working on stuff I could have done weeks ago, but my clients have been really slow. I am not sure what it is. We have been so swamped, that I just let them slide too long? Perhaps...

Oh well, 12/31 is always a huge deadline, but I am afraid this is the worst year yet. By far. I remember stressing last year or 2 and it wasn't as bad as I imagined. But now I remember why I have been stressing. I have THREE clients who want to give me stuff Monday. (Monday, at 5pm? Would figure). Unless they are going to wait around until midnight for #s, not sure I can promise much but a rush. Their loss I guess. I like working under pressure as a whole, but I don't like rushing. Then mistakes are made. So I am frustrated.

On the flip side I will easily pull 20 hours OT this week. $500, whenever I get paid. I am crossing my fingers for Monday. Just not sure. I think I have $500 or so due to me for the rest of the year. I generally really only work OT in the January through april months. But this is a nice start to the season.

Maybe I should hope it doesn't get paid out until April/May. I get a raise come January 1st which should up my overtime rate. I just figure $25/hour after taxes, in round figures, for now. It might go up a dollar or to on Tuesday. Big Grin

In other news I did my taxes a few days ago. Preliminary. We owe $1000! I think it is somewhere around $1700 with AMT. Our software hasn't been updated for the patch. But take out the AMT and we're at $1k.

Yeah, I planned it down to the dollar, and look where I ended up. Haven't had time to look where I went wrong. Guess hoping this is an error. Wink I just figured, eh, will pay it april 15th anyway. But now I am wondering if I should pay in a small estimate to ensure I get under $1k balance due to the feds. We'll see. Plug it in and see if it lowers my $30 penalty. If not, it will wait until April 15th. At least I have time to scrape it together. there goes a chunk from my car/house fund. Bah.

I also re-evaluated my withholding and it looks okay. The problem I think is my ROTH IRA conversion phased out much of my medical deductions. Maybe the HSA is looking slightly better. I mean I used our advanced software and it should have figured that, but I went wrong somewhere and that is all I could figure. I had more deductions than expected everywhere else. which makes it more scary.

I am also considering upping my emergency fund to $13k from $12k. I feel that at minimum we should have $12k in accessible cash at all times. But another $1k just to kind of keep for stuff like this. Like for the $1k miscalculation of tax bill. Yikes! My dh said he thinks we need a new accountant (joking of course).

Well, we'll see. I got a couple of weeks to ponder. Before final estimates are due for 2007.

Since all of our money is in ROTHS I am glad to not go through that this year. Done done done. Was a lot of tax money in the interim. We converted about $30k over 2 years (at a tax rate of 15% though, which was sweet). I forget that is the other reason our IRA contributions were so dismal this year and last. A good $6k in taxes, plus more for losing a chunk of our medical deductions. But I figure the ROTH conversion was WELL worth it. & we're done! Now it should grow tax-free. Forever. We'll see what Congress says bout that in a decade or 2 or 3... But for now it's looking pretty good. Big Grin & I don't have to fork over a few extra thousand to the IRS next year. phew.

Oh anyway, in other news, MIL got over her threat not to take the kids (though she was the one that begged in the first place). Dh finally talked me into it, which was fine since I figured I would work much. Just did not think this much!! So he and the kids left me last night. I went to the gym. I worked. I never sleep well alone.

Dh will be back soon. They went to the "Walking With dinosaurs" show in San Jose. I just talked to them. They took BM to a Japanese restaurant afterwards (they went with my dad) and said he had a great time. I was relieved that he was enjoyed. DH finally admitted that it would have been too scary for LM. We have been arguing about this for ages. He really wanted to take him. I really didn't want to spend the money. sure he LOVES dinosaurs, but these would probably just scare him. Plus he is 2. He wouldn't remember if he liked it. So I win finally. Yeesh.

Today I went into work all morning, and I guess I should go scrounge up some lunch. With 2 nights alone with dh it is tempting to go out. But we are terribly broke. Trying not to spend anything but gas and groceries to Friday. So I think we'll just have to eat in.

I never got to making a cake for christmas but I have all the ingredients. A treat I Was thinking about. That's something!

But I will work a few more hours today before dh gets home, and much of tomorrow. I guess his mom offered to watch the kids in the end, if dh worked on some video thing for her. As long as he is productive. (She gets so annoyed when she takes the kids and we don't like clean house or something. Like of course the first thing we do in freedom is clean the house. ??? Is she crazy? LOL. But I am glad dh has a project since I am so swamped. Then again I wouldn't be surprised if he just watches movies all day).

As for Monday I will work as long as I have to. Maybe 5... OR 6... Hopefully get off sooner. I do have a deadline in none of my clients will stick around after that anyway. Will just have to get it all done.

Will relax and enjoy tuesday. & no FAMILY. Phew!!! LOL. Dh is picking up the kids Monday afternoon. MEeting 1/2 way.

& I might just roll into work late Wednesday. I need a bit of recovery. Actually I can get away with taking the next weekend off. Phew. can't say that for another 4 months after... IT's starting!!!

Dh wants to go to San Jose for his dad's birthday around the 31st. I Want to throttle him. We have been there about 10 times in the last 3 months. Our auto fuel bill is insane. I told him we can not afford to keep up this pace. We generally keep it low key during tax season. & this time of year of course is always crazy. But it has been completely out of control. Some business there every weekend. We are going to the dentist in 2 or 3 weeks, and our nephew's birthday another weekend.

He has got to be kidding me. I Was just upset. My parents had birthdays on the 15th and the 28th. No we did not go, because those were the ONLY 2 weekends in 2 months we weren't going. Who cares????? Yeesh!!!! Well, he was there for my mom's birthday yesterday, but I Wasn't. I gave her her gift on christmas.

So that is our fight of the day. He offered to compromise the nephew's birthday, but I don't think that's fair to the kids. Of course I could probably do without either birthday really... I probably won't go to either; I'll be working.

He did tell me that gas might go up to $4 come summer (predictions I guess). HE said we might as well enjoy. He may have a point. Because lord knows we aren't going anywhere near this pace at $4/gallon. Wink

We honestly have barely been over our gas budget, if at all. Our grocery stores are having gas price wars. & I always padded the gas budget because of ever rising prices. But I know we could save a hell of a lot money if we stopped driving 250 miles round-trip every weekend! So here's to tax season. Too busy for the drive.

It's tough though. The problem is kids are older and easier to travel with and he is certainly not too busy for the drive. So I am wary. I have to say it is nice that so little really separates us from substantial time with our family. But we really have to invite them up here more. maybe next time MIL gives us a chunk of cash I should just put it in the driving fund. PArt of me thinks it has been kind of nice. But mostly I look to a calmer few months ahead. It's just too much to pack up and head out every dang weekend.

But yeah, they picked the dates for Florida because they had to be there ON grandpa's birthday. They just drive me nuts with that stuff. They were really peeved I didn't go but it was a tax deadline for Pete's sake. Like they couldn't of moved the party back a few days? But anyway, worked out, I couldn't have gone to Japan if I had went. I just have to remember they drive me crazy, but it worked out. & well, if it's that important to dh.... So be it. There are much worse things he could demand. But I will still grumble when I spend that weekend alone and they run up the credit card with unnecessary fuel expenditures. LOL.

Well, enough procrastinating. Back to work for me!






Challenge money...

December 26th, 2007 at 07:13 am

$20 challenge:

$9,468.87 - Balance 12/24

$ 175.00 - December Interest
$ 60.00 - Cash to Savings

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$9,703.87 - Balance 12/26
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Well, Interest posted for GMAC today. I did a large balance transfer mid-month, so had a little more interest than usual. I have one expiring in March or April so might have a few months of over $200/month interest in the interim. Sweet! Then it will be time to pay back Balance Transfer #1. Which is fine. I don't want to really juggle 3 balance transfers. But I took this one out in anticipation of the other one ending soon enough. I have a 5.7% rate locked in at the bank through October, so I will extend these out until October at the least. I don't intend to do any balance transfers in 2009. Let our FICOs rest, cut up the cards, etc. But I would do it again in a heartbeat. EASY money. Big Grin We might try again in 2010. Since I will now have all the BTs in my name, I am just curious what it does to my FICO. & depends from there how we proceed. If it doesn't make a blip I would consider doing one BT at a time for a while. More than 1 is just more work I guess. I am being optimistic mostly that the money won't be needed so much next year (well, 2009). It has been awesome to help build back up our efund though.

My mom also handed me $60 for groceries (Christmas dinner and such). Since I am just depositing it into the bank, it's challenge money. That was easy money too. Wink

We have a carseat to sell. So might get to $10,750 by year-end. We'll see! Not much else on the horizon.

$40 richer...

December 24th, 2007 at 07:18 pm

$20 challenge:

$9,428.87 - Balance 12/21

$ 40.00 - Sold Pack N Play

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$9,468.87 - Balance 12/24
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My mom told me she would give me some money for groceries for tomorrow. So I am putting this $40 and that (probably $40 - we'll see tomorrow) into the bank.

Means I should probably hit $9500 tomorrow. With interest that will be $9650 or so at the end of the month.

I think I will be just $300 short. & we were so close. We had all this stuff come up last week that I thought we might come up with an extra $300 (between 2 different $300 opportunities). But they both fell through. What a bummer.

I am not that bummed. But $10k was a good goal. Just not so sure I'll make it. I wouldn't be surprised if I work a good 10 hours overtime next weekend and I am due some overtime anyway. Crossing my fingers if I put in a big weekend that my boss will take pity and give me some overtime 12/31. We'll see. (We just get random overtime bonuses when we work hard. Big Grin
Not strict overtime or anything since I am salaried).

Stressed!

December 24th, 2007 at 07:12 am

Thanks goodness for my Net Worth progress. Yeesh. It really helps to look at the big picture. BEcause the small picture is stressing me out. (Though the big picture looks good?)

I am just looking at the checkbook and feel in the red. I am in the red. I have no idea what my bonus will be today (probably not much) and no idea what my raise will be come Jan. 1. ??? It could make all the difference.

I have considered taking a few hundred from the emergency fund. Not much, and I could put it back soon enough. But, then I am thinking, I have to replace my windshield now. I have to get LM into the dentist (just dreading this in every way shape or form - he has an extra tooth - and I just don't want to go there with my baby. What could they possibly do that wouldn't hurt him? Frown I've been through it all and so it is hard to put him through it. But he's 2, and if there is anything preventative we could do...)

So I am just like, how in the heck are we going to pay for all this stuff? Preschool in insane right now (though it will help me to work more overtime, which is the whole point).

I just feel cash poor and it stresses me out. Drained our short-term savings for all the bills, and it will be tight until April. Interestingly, there are no bills over the summer so the short term savings grows quite large in the summer and gives us wiggle room. We will also pull BM out of preschool in the summer, in prep for kindergarten, and I will also get my overtime bonus in may or so. So come summer it will all be looking rosy.

For now, I just feel bad because we got all this Christmas money and my checking account is in the red. Bah. I feel like I failed this year because I Was going to save all that extra money. Put it to retirement or something. Instead it is al bills bills bills.

But really, the worst of all, is the idea of touching the e-fund. I just have to breathe. I Was going to start funding our car fund with my overtime. I was going to get a hefty $5k start in the Spring. So if I have to take an advance on that to repair my windshield, the world will not end. IT's the only way I can look at it. & same for LM. If he needs some work, and it can't wait. I guess, emergency.

For the long run this is not the kind of stuff efund is for. But until we build up more cash, guess it will do. I just have to remember summer will be more favorable. & this time of year is crack down for us. (Save for this preschool thing). I am way to flipping busy to do anything or buy anything. So here's to the next few months).

I think I am just disappointed because I thought I was moving past these stressed out meltdowns. Guess not!

But yeah, I just feel stressed. I couldn't do credit card debt. I think I would have a coronary. I just get this way when my money moves backwards. & I am really stressed at work. So I guess the stress is just carrying over...

A Nice Saturday

December 23rd, 2007 at 05:33 am

Well yesterday was nice. We drove to see family. We picked up Taco Bell on the way, for us and my parents, and we went to pick up my dad and check out the Childrens' Museum. I had never been - it is newer. It was GREAT!!!!!!!! BM is so into science that I am not sure he favored this one. They had some same things, but this one is newer and more polished. & completely geared to younger kids. I asked him which museum he liked more, but this was apparently a tie. MEaning he loved it, but was no greater to him than the other museum.

LM on the other hand, LOVED it. It was right up his alley. Much more so than the exploratorium. They had, for one, an ambulance and a fire truck to play in. Oh, these were big hits. They also hand sand and water play areas which were where the kids spent the most time.

Best of all, it was free. We paid $5 to park, and we had some kind of coupon. I am sure we could have found free parking if we tried too. It was downtown by where we used to work. In fact I know just where we can park free when LM is a little older and up for more walk. (we just don't do strollers).

We usually buy Sac zoo memberships every year, but I am not a big fan of the zoo. I think it is terrible, personally. We come to Happy Hollow in San Jose & the San Francisco zoo is VERY nice. Then you go to Sac. They just don't have the space. Whenever they have a roving display, I cringe. The bug one was full of dead bugs. Lately they had penguins (in the middle of our 110 degree summers) and though I hope they were properly air conditioned, they were stored in a very cramped space. I never liked the place anyway, but I didn't get any joy from their penguin display. All I could think was, "poor penguins."

Every year we get the in-laws a membership there, because they can trade with the zoos in the Bay area, but Sac was always cheaper. Anyway, I guess they stopped reciprocating (probably too many people taking the same advantage). So I bought them a Happy Hollow membership this year (San Jose zoo). BUT, um, I noticed the price looked a little cheaper. Cheaper than Sac! I guess I should have checked every year. Plus they reciprocate with a lot of the museums around here. I realize, we really need to bring LM back a few times. Will keep an eye out for deals and stuff. But the membership will help. I believe it is 1/2 price for the museum with reciprocation, but we'll have to check.

Anyway, before we were just cheap. But now I am kind of just happy to not give my money to sac zoo anyway. Dh did mention, well, could we still get in sac zoo then? I say, who cares. But I think there is some reciprocation. We just don't go enough. I could care less if I go again. Not sure why the kids care when they go to better zoos often enough.

I figure maybe next April we'll just buy a membership. Try to take advantage. No point with my busy season coming up, for now...

Unfortunately the one place that reciprocates with no one is Monterey Bay Aquarium. So expensive. But worth it I guess. Try to go once a year. But I wish we could get even a teensy weensy discount!

Anyway, for dinner yesterday we ordered in Thai with our parents. We were going to do that Christmas, but dh, very forward thinking, called to check, and they are closed this year!!! Bummer! We ordered in last Christmas. We have been looking around but looks like no one will be open. Now it's take & bake pizza for lunch, and dh will cook us dinner. Just something simple.

So we got our Thai food last night. It was DIVINE. They Bay Area has the ethic food way more covered than Sac. So it was a treat.

The kids slept like logs. So we did our job. Wink

Oh, one other thing. If I have cheap tendencies, I get them from my dad. From my parents. YEsterday as we were heading out, my mom called. I had noticed all my tired were 5 pounds low (I swore I just filled them. But then I wonder if I filled them since I got new tires, since they always seem to keep them 5 pounds lower than I like). So I stopped to fill up air. I had plenty of gas so just pulled out 2 quarters at the convenient place. So my mom calls and dh mentions something about it as I am asking him for quarters. So when we got there my parents were all upset I had paid for air. What was I thinking? LOL. I just thought it was funny. The truth is I know all the places to get free air easily in San Jose, and when we moved to Sac, it was like impossible to find. So yeah, this one place charges 50 cents, but it is flipping convenient. Keep in mind they have put in 10 gas stations closer to our house since.

I did go to the closer one and try to put air in one time. The clerk told me it was free. Okay then. Well it was of the new-fangled variety and for the life of me I could not figure the thing out. It looked kind of neat if only I could figure it out. So my family picked on me for not asking for help. They have a point, but I hate asking for help.

Anyway, I fill up our tires maybe twice a year. Eh. But I have been wasting money there for sure.

Funny how 50 cents could cause such a stir. I told dh figure out the free ones and give me a lesson and I swear I will never pay for air again. Wink

Oh yeah, and I almost totally forgot. I got a big crack on my windshield yesterday. Frown My dad said he knew a place that would fix it for $100. But dh called and they are closed to Jan. 1. Does not help. Will be on our own to figure it out. Last time I think we paid closer to $500. But I think we will shop around harder. It needs to be fixed though. Like ASAP. It just keeps growing... Dh was driving me nuts the whole ride, monitoring it. I assured him the glass was safe and it would be fine. But should be fixed all the same... I wasn't exactly worried about is shattering or anything. Dh was so funny. It's just a crack, yeesh. But, blech. More money to spend. I took it as a sign that I have no business looking at cars. I said so much to the crack since I think we were talking about my future convertible when a big rock hit the windshield. I said to the crack, fine, your point is well taken. LOL. LEss money for convertibles, more for window replacements. Yeesh!



My Shiny New Red Car...

December 22nd, 2007 at 06:49 am

Well, I wish anyway. MAde you look. Big Grin

Anyway, you all know (I have mentioned many many many times) how I bought a really immaculate/cute/perfect, used (but rarely used) Mustang convertible when I was out of college. Spent a whopping $5k or so because the car was about 10 years old. Thought it was pretty much brand new in every other respect. Only 20k miles; still had a new car smell.

But alas, I gave up my car when we had our first kid. It was paid for so that wasn't the biggie. We bought a family car for $1k. But we just couldn't see carrying 3 insurance payments. So I sold my baby. *sniff*

So in our financial progress, one of my big goals is to get a cute sporty car of the same variety.

Every once in a while I scan the $5k listings in Craigslist. I figure realistically I will wait until I can buy something a little more expensive. But who knows. I keep reading about despratate sales postings due to foreclosures though, so I have been skimming a bit. I haven't really seen much. Those people are mostly selling really nice/new cars and asking way too much anyway.

So on a whim I looked at the Bay Area Craigslist last night. I always say I don't see the deal with used cars because all of my used cars bought private party were bought in the Bay. There is just such a glut of nice used cars. The population is huge and most of them want to upgrade every few years.

I hit gold!



Now isn't this one a beauty??? $4k. $4k cash. Hell, I could afford that now.

It's a Toyota Celica with 155k miles. Perfect since this is pure weekend/fun car thing. I don't care about the miles. & I have owned 2 cars with tons of miles that lasted ages. So I am not scared.

I know, I have had my eye on the 2000 Camaro, for about the last decade. But when looking through the cars I am particular. Do we need another gas guzzler? Not really. My convertible could double as a commuter car. Mustangs may be a bit better, but I think they are cheap. I had one. It needed far too much upkeep for a newer car. BUT my first car was a Toyota Celica. The gas mileage was awesome and it drove another good 7 years (lots of miles) after I bought it with 150k+ miles. So I think very favorably of the Celicas. I think it would just be perfect. I wouldn't be scared to go very used and they look very sporty these days. & one of the rare sports cars to get decent gas mileage.

Anyway, this one is a 1992. I think it is splendid!

Anyway, I type in "Celica convertible" in Bay Area craigslist and 10 pop up. I am lucky to ever find one in Sacramento. so I am so excited. I know when the time comes, where I will probably by. I can always go send my dad to check it out for me. He's better at that stuff anyway.

There's actually a much newer/cheaper one. & a pretty black one.

So I am just drooling.

& dh is very annoyed with me. LOL. He has every right to be. We did just by the van a couple of years back.

Well, now is not the time. We are still back to square one. I could perhaps justify the car. But not the insurance at this point. Not that they would be much on an older car. But the insurance premiums are just nasty up here in Sacramento. With our "perfect" driving records we already pay a good $2k/year. I am afraid we would pay at minimum $800/year for a 3rd car. & we are just not there. Still back at square one.

But I can justify it sooner rather than later. We are saving up cash for our next cars. & if I buy a 2nd car, I won't need another car for a long, long time, ideally. So I think I would take an advance from the car fund. The sticky thing is dh's car doesn't have collision insurance and we really need to build up money for him too. Though he would be extremely happy with a $8k car if his car was ruined well before we intend to upgrade. (Or even buying a replacement at $2k or so until we are ready. The car itself is worth way too little to bother insuring. Though it should have a good 5 years+ left in it, easy).

I don't think we could justify it until the kids are out of preschool. Both. But by then we should have a good $15k in the car fund. I could even save the money from preschool for a few months before we divert it to retirement, to save up some extra cash for a car.

Well, it's kind of sad to wait 3 more years. That will be a good 8 years, no fun car. That's just sad. LOL. I'll survive though.

I probably need the 3 years to work on dh. He is not happy with me. Wink If it wasn't for the minivan I would have a lot of leverage. Stupid minivan. Frown LOL.

We have spent so little on our cars over the years that it just isn't a really big deal. But the insurance, yeah, that's the kicker. Of course repairs and such. But if it gets bad, I'd just sell the thing. As then it wouldn't be worth it. I don't expect much with a Toyota. Insurance is really the worst though. I could drive a car like that for $400/year in the Bay. That is the sad thing. Stupid crazy sacramento drivers, jacking up our insurance like crazy.

Anyway, it is fun to have a dream though. One of these days...

Just give me a few years, I will be showing off a shiny red or black car. Truth is I Want to enjoy a fun car while I am still young. Yeesh. Youth is so wasted on the young.

But yeah, I think dh was hoping I would outgrow this stage. That years without my convertible would make me forget. Fat chance!!!!! I literally waited until BM was 3 months old before I gave up my last one. I was in such denial. Hey dh was staying home, why would I need to give up my convertible. I would never put the kids in there. But then you know, reality sets in. Just not practical. Finances set in. I eventually gave in. But absence just makes the heart grow fonder. LOL.

No, I am going to be driving fun cars well into my old age. These days money is too tight to justify much else, but I aspire to be like Ima Saver when it comes to cars. & since my dh doesn't like cars, more car money for me. LOL. (Though admittedly, he will spend as much on electronics. But at least it is always fair; feels fair to us. We both have our luxuries).

$22 richer...

December 21st, 2007 at 07:57 pm

$20 challenge:

$9,406.87 - Balance 11/26

$ 22.00 - Sold Toy

------------------
$9,428.87 - Balance 12/21
------------------

We sold one toy today. $22.

This one I tried to sell last year and I got all annoyed when someone asked for it for $20 "because money was tight." Whatever.

But then I regretted my annoyance.

I mean if they wanted to haggle, that was fine. I didn't care. I just thought that was a cheap card to play. Of course money is tight... When you have an infant!

Anyway, then I had no other offers and I Felt rather stupid. Then I was lazy. I posted it a couple of time no bites.

Dh listed it this week at $25. Lady would pay full price but we didn't have change, so we took $22.

Not bad!

My house is feeling lighter by the minute. It was a big, bulky thing. So, phew.

Reminds me, we tend to go through the toys every winter and summer, and prune. We haven't done it yet. But best to do that before the slew of Christmas toys. Maybe tonight. Make another Goodwill pile...

Christmas Update

December 21st, 2007 at 01:28 pm

YEah, I know I have said that I am very relaxed, and long past done preparing for the holidays. I chalk it up to just not playing the game; not buying into all the hype...

But there was something I didn't admit. My spouse stays home and he has done tons to prepare for the holiday. Which really lessens my load greatly. I had him pick up some gifts during the weekdays. He is busy trying to sell some things online for extra cash. IT has been so busy at work I have been having him gas up my car (I just take his when mine gets empty, etc.). HE ran 4 bags top Goodwill for me yesterday (HAllelujah - tax deduction). Lord knows when I would have found time.

It's like having a Christmas Elf doing a lot of my work for me. Wink

Anyway, I read and hear too much about a lifestyle like ours being deprived. Pinching pennies so a spouse can stay home is deprived. I think back to my depression-era grandparents and I would hardly call our life deprived. I wouldn't dare even think it. But when you look past the things, it is so much more than things. Does it really matter if you have the latest and greatest stuff, if you can just slow down and take it easy? I'd rather take it easy any day. Wink

So that is another piece of my relaxing holiday that I just haven't given much credit to. My dh rocks! Big Grin

You can see why we are trying so hard to not ever rely on a 2nd income again. At all. In no way, shape or form. BEcause really, this is the life. We don't want to both work as long as we have kids who need us. Really what it comes down to. When the kids are grown... We may both work full-time. It's just such a different ballgame with small kids. I feel like we work 10 times as hard sometime, even though only one of us is getting a paycheck. Who wants another full-time job on top of that? (Oh I am sure plenty of people do. It's just not us).

I think dh is excited too because with the kids going off to school he can have more time to pursue some of his hobbies. I know he is somewhat jealous I get to go to work (because I enjoy it so much) and interact with adults every day. But he'll get his time soon enough. & I think he deserves that break. (Plus I know the kids will keep him plenty busy for many years to come; in various ways).






Retirement Contribution History

December 21st, 2007 at 07:24 am

I was fixing up all my spreadsheets for 1/1. My file got corrupted and I lost a lot of my 2007 data. But that's okay. I had a recent enough backup that I didn't have to do much. I am starting over 1/1 on much anyway.

Anyway, I Was glancing at our retirement for the year. & it looks pathetic. It was really a pathetic retirement year. There is more to the story, but firstly I wanted to share because I see lots of talk about fear of the market in the forums. For the young people starting out.

So here it is:



The amazing this is this is how much we have amassed all the years when we had MUCH bigger priorities than retirement. When we were saving $50k for our house. When we were simplifying our income and lifestyle to have kids. Yet we still made decent progress without a lot of effort.

Well, we graduated college in 1999 and I was eligible for a 401k in 2000. I contributed 10% of my income for about 18 months before I left that job. Most of my money was put in 2001. (& latter 1/2 of 2000). It has been far been my best investment. A co-worker helped me pick 3 mutual funds, for a mix of 15% bonds and 85% stocks. I never thought about it since. But the monthly contributions helped lessen the blow when the market "Crashed." & I returned 12-30% each year, the years following. (I recently moved this money to managed funds, which muted my returns this year).

On top of that we shoveled some money into IRAs. $4500 in 2000 when we made good money. The rest are IRA contributions we made over the years. Skipping the years I took maternity leave and we just didn't have the income.

So dissapointingly, 2007 was our worse retirement year since my last 2 maternity leaves. BUT we got our efund back up to snuff. So that is why.

I also vest in my employer plan this year, which I have mostly ignored to date (as I wasn't much vested before). It is a 10% annual contribution and interestingly the balance is about $33k. So makes our retirement exactly 1/2 controlled by us and 1/2 in my employer-controlled plan. But is also why we didn't sweat retirement this year. I received in essence a $10k contribution with my vesting this year. Big Grin

But that graph just reminds me, slow and steady wins the race.

Our returns were really muted after 2001 because most of dh's IRAs were in a broker who had us in very volatile/risky/expensive investments. He never had much in returns. My IRA was in cash (like 1%). Don't ask why.

We moved everything around last year. My cash now earns almost 6%. & dh is in a bunch of indexes so he has had an awesome return (no fees). My portfolio is a little more experimental and I bought one fund very high, late in the year. So my IRA shows a slight loss for the year. I'm still learning. I like mutual funds and studying them and picking them and playing with them. But the antecdotal evidence in our case is that the indexes kick butt. Little effort, small fees, good returns. Even when you invest a good chunk at the peak...

Which is probably, why, interestingly, I primarily want to invest in dh's IRA and my Target Retirement fund, going forward. It's the simplest and most effective way. I have smaller dollars in my experimental funds. But I don't aim to make those a large part of my portfolio, or to add more. As far as the indexes, we aim to do more dollar cost averaging going forward. We haven't done that since my 401k. We usually just add a chunk every April 15th to save some taxes. Wink But I am currently putting $50/month into a Target Retirement fund and aim to put another $300/month to dh's indexes, come fall. It is my feeling that our investments performed the best when we added a little every month.

The only flaw in my old 401k was I had no exposure to international. Dh has a lazy fund portfolio - Vanguard Star, Vanguard Int'l & Vanguard Total Stock. His portfolio is up 10% for the year. It seems to be working quite well though. I kept his portfolio simple, in case anything every happened to me. & we tend to contribute more to his IRA overall since I have my own employer plan.

As far as my employer plan, I was really disgusted with the returns. But I thought twice about this. My boss does not contribute my contribution until September of the following year (tax deadline). When I look at my balances again, and consider that the money does not get there until the following September. It is actually earning a good 10% annually. So I feel better about that. Phew!!!!!! I look forward to controlling that down the road. But sometimes it is nice to know I have a more conservative portfolio managed by someone else, in case I really screw up or something. Hehe. But yeah, if I quit Jan. 1, the money is mine. Though my boss generally does not contribute it to the last minute. Hey, beggars can't be choosers. Wink

I highly doubt we will make it this year. But my goal overall is once the kids are out of preschool, is to contribute 10% of our income as well. On top of that just save our raises, until we max out. Right now the $10k IRA max, for the 2 of us, is about 15% of my income. So yeah, in 2010, 2011, 2012. I expect to contribute much more than we have been historically. We'll see...

I think the other interesting thing in our case was that we had so much cash saved up when we went down to one income, that our retirement contributions were not really affected until we had our second child. (Our income was halved but we were still contributing in the $5k range annually). But that is when we started living up to our income a little more. & retirement was just never a priority to us. It was a tax savings thing. So it is a different mindset for us now. If that is what we can accomplish without thinking much about it. What can we accomplish with retirement at top of mind? I think that's the exciting thing.

So I share because of that. But don't freak out because the stock market goes down one day. You need to look at that big picture!

I actually made an effort to keep a large cash portion in early 2006 because I thought the market was going to tank. Instead it was our best year bar none (cash and all). So what do I know? Wink But gee am I glad I kept a good chunk in stocks too. That's certainly another lesson I can share. I am not buying the 100% stock portfolio anytime soon. But too much cash can be even worse... I am learning.

ETA: As of today I am up 4.83% for the year. One day can make a BIG difference!!!!

This & That

December 20th, 2007 at 02:43 pm

I know Paulette doesn't want to read this, but what a BEAUTIFUL day here. I just found I Was in very high spirits today. It is sunny and the sky is a bright blue (with billowing white clouds in the distance - over the Sierras). What a treat for December. IT will be almost 60 today.

I feel less homesick this year. For sure. Has been very much like mild Bay Area weather. (Without the Bay area prices - win-win!). Well, I'll enjoy it while it lasts. I keep hoping in a few years the weather whimp in me will stop pining for "perfect" weather. It's hard to give up once you get used to that.

Um, our Craigslist listings are not faring so well. I assume it is the time of year. Will try again in January.

Of course the powers that be want me to hit $10k, though I don't think I care that much. Dh got a call for some video work. HE quoted $100, though he then realized they wanted it BEFORE Christmas, and he would probably have to drive down to San jose to borrow some of the equipment. The stuff isn't in a format we can decipher with our own. So makes it tough with the deadline. Anyway, he revised his estimate to $300 but I think it was too much for them. I said who else is going to get that done in 5 days anyway. They may still want to get it done after Christmas. So he may make an easy $100. But if they change their minds, $300 would be a perfect top to my challenge. Wink

I heard the stupidest commercial on the radio today. I heare these commercials here and there and my first thought is always that it's just a joke. I mean, they can't be serious. It was a commercial for the local mall. All about how much it sucks to shop for your old aunt when really you just want to buy yourself a new Coach purse. So if you go to the mall, you can do all your shopping at once. Get the icky stuff out of the way so you can do what you really want to do - shop for yourself!!!!! This was a Chrismtas commercial. BARF!

I just wonder what planet most of the world is on.

& anyway you couldn't pay me to go to the mall, or anywhere NEAR the mall, this week. Ick ick ick.

Well, in other news, Congress passed another one-year AMT fix today. MEans I Won't have to pay a $100 surcharge (AMT) on my ROTH conversion. I can't remember if I counted that in my calculations for 2007, but I don't think I did. I last calculated months ago. I didn't dream it would go up to the last minute or that I would have to pay any AMT. So hey, until next year... But this year was just, scary. Talk about down to the wire. I Am relieved I can now go lower some tax estimates for most of my clients. Phew. The upper middle class that just gets slammed the most. A lot of them will save a big chunk of change this year.

Anyway, as for my prior example, which was not our situation. But would be if dh got a $25k/year job.... In that example regular tax was $7,000 & AMT was $9,000. So we'd pay the $9,000 (higher amount) under old law.

With this change, our regular tax is still $7,000, but AMT would only be $3,600. So we'd have to pay the higher one - regular tax of $7,000. But see how suddenly AMT practically drops off the radar. Phew. Until 2008. Until next week I guess... Lord knows, I could get a large raise and worry about AMT.

I was considering doing regular IRA contributions in 2008 & 2009, and converting them later. (Assuming more income down the road, but could get more into retirement now with the tax savings). Anyway, with all these AMT worries, not sure it will be worth it. Just one more kink in the equation...





Do Your Wills

December 19th, 2007 at 07:21 am

Well I have a love of reality TV. Don't ask me why. IT's my vice I guess. Hehe.

But I was watching "Real Housewives of Orange county" last night. There is always something interesting related to personal finance though; on the show. Seems to be.

BUT there is one family on the show that used to be insanely rich and then lost most of it. The parents divorced. I guess growing up the dad told his kids that they would never have to work. Then, he remarried, and suddenly died with no will. His wife apparently got everything.

One of the kids was very bitter. Who could blame her. I think she is 20; she was going to be taken care of, and now she has nothing.

The other one sucked it up and was working and taking care of herself. I think she was a little misguided as she sais, "I don't care if I have to work 4 jobs; I will maintain this lifestyle." But I have to hand it to her, she sucked it up and did what she had to do for herself. She will probably fare much better.

It just struck me as sad though. Very, very very sad. A simple will and who knows, maybe they never would have had to work again.

Sure they are spoiled kids and all that. But their dad really let them down. I can just imagine how we would feel knowing his wife didn't give them a dime. Obviously was not his wishes.

Well, if you remarry and you want your kids to see a dime. You better get your will done. ASAP. That is my PSA for the day.

As for them, in the long run. What doesn't kill them will make them stronger. It will make them stronger/nicer/better people. In the meantime it will be a hard road though. I am sure. But yeah. More along the lines of not counting on inheritances... Dangerous ground for many reasons.

$10k?

December 17th, 2007 at 07:54 am

We have about $400 items for sale on Craigslist right now.

One big item and a few smaller things.

BUT it just occurred to me that, um, that this may push us to $10k on the challenge.

Wasn't even my thinking. Just in de-clutter mode!!!!

Woohoo.

Well, we'll see. Between that and interest. I might have to save some christmas money to make up the difference. We'll see. For now, money saved, goes to challenge. (gifts and such). I wasn't really planning to save anything though. We'll see. I'll save $50 to get to challenge though.

I actually will probably deposit the $400 or so craigslist money into my ROTH. I need $1100 to buy into another fund. I have everything else covered/planned. But we'll see. Depends ultimately on Christmas money. I am afraid I am depending on some big checks. Trying to keep in mind, who knows, they could not materialize.

If I can put $400 in my ROTH, I might take a $700 advance on short-term savings so I can buy into a mutual fund. We'll see. I can't justify advancing the whole $1100. But if I can whittle it down...

We'll see!

De-clutter Time

December 16th, 2007 at 05:32 pm

I went through the Christmas stuff, and had a bag for goodwill. I actually did not throw away as much as I thought I would. Not as much trash. But then in the closet I found a bunch of wedding stuff. So Goodwilled some. Kept some. One of these days I am just going to sell my dress. I wish I had just rented one. Yeesh.

I mean really, what am I going to do with it?

Dh got motivated with my de-clutter frenzy. & was putting some stuff on craigslist. I am burned out on pinching pennies, and pretty much don't see the point any longer. I had a pile for ebay that I have ignored for months. Put it in the Goodwill pile. Just too lazy for much else. The old me is back. Work is getting busy, I get paid overtime, and that is where my energies should lie. So I don't really have any ebay plans for now. If I could do a little at a time, is fine. But I have piles to get through for now.

I had 2 bags of clothes anyway, that I collected months ago. So dh is going to take in before the 31st. Tax deduction!

Then when I was gathering some things for Craigslist upstairs, I found some more goodwill and sell items. So that's the 4th bag.

I also hung up some pictures around the house that we took down 18 months ago when our home was on the market. Yeesh.

So I feel very accomplished today.

Also, the downstairs closet is quite empty now. & I am impressed with the bedroom closet. It is huge, but I cleaned it out real good in a very pregnant frenzy, when I was on maternity leave with my first. That whole "nesting" thing. I was looking around and the closet is still rather neat and organized. Me, not so much. So 4 years later, I am impressed. Maybe we are winning over the clutter.

Dh's room is another story. One of these days I just have to force him to go through stuff. He's got packed boxes from when we moved here 6 years ago. But I know I am lucky. He takes after his dad a tad, but not too much. They have a garage full of stuff. & probably an attic. Dh just has a room. It's his space I guess. Whatever.

I still have stuff to go through. Old sentimental things. Lots of old tapes and CDs and such. I was planning to ebay some. I should just freecycle it. Something to be said for being rid of the crap.

The funny thing is I had so many piles of gifts for re-gifting. I goodwilled a ton and left some for white Elephant next year. Probably no point though. Lord knows where all the stuff came from. I didn't remember most of it.

In my closet though I found these really pretty picture frames I ordered for the boys; spells out their names. I have not used them because it will be a project to fit pictures into the letter shapes. But I figured BM is 4 and his name is 4 letters. I can get working on his. Can do a picture for each year of his life.

LM - well, his name is 9 letters. Let's wait a few years on that one. LOL.

But I did pull them out and will make that a project. We'll see... Kind of a fun find. I don't need to buy more stuff, that is for sure...

This & That

December 16th, 2007 at 07:54 am

I can't remember what I last said, but Christmas is coming around $700.

I think I am done. Really done. It's actually kind of late for me. But I finished up some wrapping last night.

We spent around $250 on our parents/grandparent. We usually don't do much or spend much on them, but they were awfully generous this year. So we got a zoo membership for MIL to take the kids whenever (she loves it). & a personalized calendar of grandkids. Sent the calendar to great-grandma too. & got her a g.c. to get her hair/nails done. I was going to do donations in their names this year, but MIL did not want it. & G-Grandma said she wasn't going to give us gifts this year because she felt she couldn't afford it. Usually she piles it on, so I had no idea. We decided to get her something nice. IT's her little luxury. I think she will appreciate more. If she is worried about money and such.

We took my dad to the Exploratorium and also got him a ticket to the "Walking with Dinosaurs." He loves that stuff and is going with the kids. & bought him some candy.

Bought my mom that home-made blanket and did a donation in her name.

As far as donations, we did about $250. At least 1/2 were gifts, "in honor" of others. In lieu of gifts. (Oh I also did this for my mom since her birthday is this month). Everyone in our family pretty much has a birthday this month too, so why our spending is a bit on the higher side. My birthday is in December and so I am mindful not to gyp anyone. LOL. Orelse one gift would have done for my parents, or dh's parents. Etc., etc. At least all our kids and nieces are summer. Phew.

Giving $70 cash to my boss and to my gardener. I always turn around and give a decent chunk back to my boss, from my bonus. He takes good care of me. I might get $100 from him and I'll give him 1/2. I probably appreciate him more than about anyone though, so I enjoy giving something back.

Spent around $100 on the kids (one nice gift each, some cheap stocking stuffers). & $30 on the nieces. I actually spent $50 on them and had a $20 off coupon. I think I did well. Was the first year shopping for 2 nieces.

That left $40 for thank-you cards, a potluck, and 2 gift exchanges. We spent $8 on a veggie tray, and yes I know we could have made one much cheaper. But it was a hectic weekend and I didn't plan ahead. Oh well.

We don't do Christmas cards. We probably should. Just too much work. But you know, with time, you get that bigger trail of friends you barely keep in touch with, and I do LOVE getting their cards. Sometimes, in January I sent off pictures and updates to the people we got cards from. I figure maybe every other year, and I did that last year. (The funny thing is I have a lot of older friends. None of my friends under say 35/40 have ever sent us a Christmas card. I think it's a generational thing. We got e-mail for the rest, huh).

Oh, I might need to buy a gift for my "nephew." He's dh's cousin's child. We don't exchange. (No way. We don't want any more Christmas obligations). BUT alas, he is also a December birthday. So I'll probably buy him a gift. But it's not part of the Christmas budget I guess. He's rather new. Still figuring that one out. I think he is too little to care and one birthday gift will do. We might add him to the Christmas list down the road.

But say $200 in November, $300 in December, $200 in January. We just spread it out and pay cash as we go. It's so much simpler that way. It's coming out to something like this.

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

Well, this time of year is busy busy busy at work. I am not sure I will get next weekend off. Depends. So I figured I'd better enjoy today. I worked much of yesterday, but today should be relaxing.

We were thinking of taking the kids to the train museum and riding the "Polar Express." The sacramento version anyway. But we went to a museum last weekend, and am going to one next weekend. & we decided we better just lay low. Have a quiet weekend. Phew. Next 2 weekends are filled with family gatherings and such. (& work...).

Gas is also dropping considerably AND our local grocery store is now offering 25 cent per gallon discounts. (Usually 10 cents/15 cents). We have 2 stores with gas stations, apparently in a price war. Phew. Since we have to drive to San Jose THREE more times this month. We drove about as much last month and were in the gas budget. So we'll see. There's hope. I just pad the budget for the peak months and to keep room for gas appreciation. But it's nice that it may cost a little less. We'll see what prices do around the holidays I guess. I will regardless, be glad, when January rolls around, and the driving slows. Then again, we are planning a trip to Tahoe and San Jose in January. Figures. But beats the 5 long drives of December. Yeesh. But yeah, during tax season, I am not keen on the weekend drives, since I tend to work Saturdays. So we'll lay low for a few months. We are going in January for a dentist appointment actually. Otherwise, would not bother. But coincides with grandpa's birthday so we can kill two birds with one stone there.

Anyway, so last night we ordered in some Greek Food. (Divine!) & we went to look at Christmas lights. It's kind of sad since the most awesome house light show ever is gone. I was trying to tell dh that it just isn't the same, once you see something so grand. HE says to me, "Yeah, it's like going from Blu-Ray to VHS." LOL. That is my husband for you. But yeah, probably says it well.

BUT we do have a really neat neighborhood around where a few blocks are just lit up. Every house participates and they light up the sidewalks and everything. We went last year, but I think LM will appreciate it more this year. We sill have to hit that one. Would have last night, but the kids didn't nap and would have fallen asleep on the longer drive. We just drove around the local neighborhoods last night.

Well, last night the kids helped me wrap up the last presents. All done! Oh, and I told them we would have some hot chocolate. But forgot. We'll have to do that tonight.

Beyond that, we have been firming up our plans for Christmas Day. We'll spend it with our parents, here at home. Let the kids wake up and open gifts. Then my parents will come over. We figure we'd to Take & Bake pizzas (they are divine, and CHEAP) for lunch. & play cards or something. & then dh's parents are trying to move in on our day. LOL. We are celebrating with them over the weekend. Yeesh. But we said they could come over, but they had to respect our time first. So they'll come over for dinner. I was thinking of ordering Thai food. We did last year, on a whim, and they were open. I am thinking that is a nice tradition. It will be kind of fun to have the whole gang. But I look forward to quieter time with my parents too. Best of both worlds I guess. I just find it somewhat annoying since long ago my parents claimed Christmas and they claimed Christmas Eve (or weekend prior since I have to work Christmas Eve, which makes the drive impossible). Anyway, my parents would not dream of moving in on their day. But they want their cake and eat it too. Oh well, it's family, what do you do. You love them but they drive you crazy sometime. Wink I guess if they get too annoying over the years I can start inviting my parents over christmas Eve. LOL. But I think for this year, we have a good compromise.

So yeah, I am busy with work. But that's just the way it is. I am used to it, and always plan ahead best I can. All the same, the next 2 weeks should be pretty enjoyable. Such a magical time with the kids. I think they are enjoying...


AMT example

December 15th, 2007 at 06:31 am

See my last entry for Part I on this topic.

I wanted to illustrate an example how AMT is affecting the middle class. The example below is our taxes pretty much, assuming my husband got a $25k/year job. We're not in AMT, yet, with my income. But a second income, no matter how small, would push us into AMT territory.

Regular Tax:

100,000 Income
(13,600) 4 personal exemptions
(12,000) Mortgage Interest
( 4,000) Property Taxes
( 3,000) State Income Taxes
( 2,500) Medical expenses over 7.5% AGI
--------
64,900 Taxable Income
--------
9,073 Tax (mostly 15% tax rate)
(2,000) Child Tax credit
--------
7,073 Net Tax
--------
--------

Our real income tax liability is around $3k on $75k income. I admit that is insanely low. But as you can see we do not have a lot of wealthy tax shelters. LOL. We have kids, high mortgage, high state taxes, and high medical expenses. Which lead to a decent amount of tax shelters, yes. But not the kind of tax shelters AMT was meant for.

Oh, we barely bumped up to the 25% tax rate here. $300 of the tax was 25% tax rate. The rest of the tax was 10%/15% tax rates.

Let's now look at what our real tax would be in this situation, since we would pay AMT.

AMT:

100,000 Income
(13,600) 4 personal exemptions
(12,000) Mortgage Interest
( 4,000) Property Taxes
( 3,000) State Income Taxes
( 2,500) Medical expenses over 7.5% AGI
--------
64,900 Taxable Income (Regular Tax)
--------
13,600 Add back exemptions
4,000 Add back property taxes
3,000 Add back state income taxes
2,500 Adjust medical expenses (10% AGI)
--------
88,000
(45,000) AMT Exemption
--------
43,000 Taxable Income (AMT)
x 26% Flat rate
--------
11,180 Tax
(2,000) Child Tax Credit
--------
9,180 Net Tax
--------
--------

That's a tax increase of $2,100.

The only tax deduction we would get to keep is our home mortgage deduction. (Well thank goodness for that!) No personal exemptions, no state taxes, no medical expenses. You get the point. But yeah, we get to keep the child tax credit! Helps the blow from losing all of our exemptions...

You could argue that our AMT tax would be similar to the pre-2000 tax structure. It might even be a little lower still, honestly. But that's not really the point. The point is, then, why do we have an insanely archaic and complicated tax system??? Drop the AMT and revert to old tax rates then. Or even new rates. MUCH simpler. & you also see that if you pay a lot of state taxes and you have more than 2 kids, how you will get a decent tax break under the regular tax, and how you will be severely penalized under AMT. The gap between the 2 just widen in these cases. Not exactly any rhyme or reason.

So yeah, just an example of how it works.

Here's an interesting opinion piece on the subject:

http://www.boston.com/news/globe/editorial_opinion/oped/arti...

Oh you would think us tax preparers would love charging more for these complicated tax returns. Considering the insane shortage of CPAs in this country? Think again. Who can figure this stuff out? It takes more time. It pisses off our clients. There is no upside here. Believe me, the tax code is way complicated enough as is to keep us in business, without the stinking AMT. Wink

AMT - Smoke and Mirrors

December 15th, 2007 at 05:42 am

Oh, I had a couple of interested comments on my AMT rant and so I figured I'd do a post. You've probably seen all the articles and know a little bit about it. ??? But I'll try to explain a lot what I don't see in the articles.

Yes AMT (Alternative Minimum Tax) was a tax made in the late 60s to circumvent the wealthy from taking tax shelters. IT was never indexed for inflation and has been hitting the upper middle class hard for many years. IT's making it's way down to the middle middle class. (Soon enough the lower middle class). It would affect millions more people but every year, or at least the last decade, they push a "quick one-year fix" through Congress so it doesn't hit the middle middle too much. OR else people would start screaming.

Congress has not done away with AMT because it brings in so many revenues. I have read in 2008 that AMT revenues will be higher than regular tax revenues, to the government. (Considering no quick fix). There are varying statistics out there. But everyone can agree that AMT makes a large part of the federal budget.

If you don't think it could affect you:

"Under current law, AMT coverage will skyrocket. By 2010, the AMT will affect 33 million taxpayers—about one-third of all tax returns—up from 1 million in 1999. This would make the AMT almost as common as the mortgage interest deduction is today. The AMT will be the de facto tax system for households with income between $100,000 and $500,000, 93 percent of whom will face the tax. It will encroach dramatically on the middle class, affecting 37 percent of households with income between $50,000 and $75,000 and 73 percent of households with income between $75,000 and $100,000 (compared to less than 3 percent for each group in 2002)."

From: http://www.brookings.edu/opinions/2004/0121federalbudget_bur...

I mentioned in my last rant that AMT was is all smoke and mirrors. Well, it makes the Bush cuts all smoke and mirrors. The reason is that with AMT, you calculate regular tax, and you calculate tax under the AMT system. & then you pay the HIGHER tax. A big reason so many people are getting pushed into AMT is because of the Bush cuts. Their taxes have been lowered so much that AMT is of course the higher tax, and they are paying that instead. So the middle class taxpayers who love the tax cuts, are rather misguided. Only to be blindsided by this "stealth tax" soon enough.

The regular tax system is based on a tired tax system. Your first x amount of dollars are taxed at 10%, then 15%, then 25%. The AMT on the other hand, is a higher flat tax. So though little of your income would be subject to AMT, it would all be taxed at a high flat rate, and more than likely would be more than your regular tax would have been pre-Bush. So you think you get these wonderful tax cuts, and the stealth tax moves in. AMT wouldn't be such an issue otherwise. Though it would be eventually with inflation...

Anyway, that is why we are squarely in the 15% tax bracket and brushing up against AMT. It's a weird juxtaposition. But our regular tax would be more than AMT if not for all the tax cuts. & then we wouldn't be in AMT. So it's just weird that way.

Likewise, with the tax cuts, the government is pulling in less regular tax anyway. So they are becoming more dependent on AMT. It's a really vicious cycle.

Beyond all that, the system is unfavorable to states like CA & NY. I'll add NJ to the list. (There are probably more states largely affected, but these just come to mind). The reason is twofold. First, these states have an extremely HCOL. So incomes are higher to reflect that. Higher income means more AMT. (Though the higher income means squat compared to cheaper areas of the country. But these states have always had that disadvantage in the federal tax code to an extent). Most of our clients have been in AMT for the last 5 years. Income $200k-$500k. That is clearly upper middle for the area. Not upper class by a long shot. I am sure in many states $200k would be more upper class. So it is all relative. But the other side of the problem is high state taxes. These states have high income taxes and high property taxes. & AMT completely disallows the deduction for state taxes. So it really leaves people in these states screwed. Under AMT, if you make a mere $100k, the government does not care that you paid $9k income taxes and $10k property taxes. No state tax deduction. Double tax.

Oh one more thing, if you make more than $500k you won't get hit by AMT. If you are squarely upper class, then no AMT. If nothing else, the point is that AMT is no longer affecting the truly wealthy in the least. For the many wealthy people in this country making over $500k income, their tax shelters are not covered by AMT any longer. They get to keep their tax shelters while the middle class is losing their state tax deductions.

That's the long and the short of it.

In my next entry I'll do a quick tax calc to illustrate the AMT.

Oh, one more thing. Off the top of my head, one thing that is not affected by AMT if retirement plan contributions. So a good tax strategy to avoid AMT is to put what you can into retirement. 401ks in particular.





When are your property taxes due?

December 14th, 2007 at 08:08 pm

I was just curious.

Ours are generally due April 10 & Dec. 10. They have some earlier due dates (lord knows when) but you can pay these dates without penalty. Of course, these are the dates everyone pays. (Cali).

We got a reprieve to 12/31 because they screwed up and had to lower our bill. Fine with me!

But anyway, I was just thinking, who picked these dates???? I am sure April 10 is fine with tax refunds and all that.

But Dec. 10? Christmas time? Seems everyone I know is hurting with christmas bills and property taxes. whine whine whine.

We saved all year for property taxes and don't spend much on christmas so no whining here. Just got me thinking to why the government picked these dates. ??? & why does it seem like ALL my bills are due this month anyway. Well, I know why they didn't pick January. Most people are too broke to pay their taxes then, I Am sure. Figured they get their money in right before Christmas?

New Moms - the 'Push Present' & AMT Rant

December 14th, 2007 at 10:08 am

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,99962,00.html

This is not the story our paper had. (I mentioned in an earlier post, so you already know how I feel - hehe). But it had the gist of it.

I loved this line in particular:

""It was a peer build-up with all the other ladies talking about this," said Owen. "It became, 'What did you get?' so obviously something had to be done.""

Well, obviously. *rollseyes*

Is this the most important aspect of personal finance? Ignoring peer pressure? Sure makes life easier. PRobably should be at the top. I read a line like that and just think, "you have got to be kidding me." Much as I did not have to have a fancy engagement or wessing ring, I don't need a fancy push present to be happy. Somehow I have survived...

I think the other thing that bugged me about the whole idea is that when we had both kids was a time of great financial sacrifice. There wasn't income coming in, so we could be home with them. So the idea of going back to work the next day to afford diamonds, or putting them on a credit card, just sounds ludicrous to me. Most of the upper middle class
people I know around here (IRL) had a financial setback with their children. IF diamonds make them happy, so be it. But why are they whining incessantly about their bills? Just more "entitlement" for stuff most of us can't truly afford...

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

Well, I haven't been around much. It is crunch time at work. I think this is worse than tax season. All this number crunching has to be done by 12/31, and there is no extension.

Mostly tax planning, paying out profits from corporations, etc. BUT this whole AMT thing is NOT helping.

What every taxpayer needs to know is that by not making up AMT revenues elsewhere, that Congress is clearly saying they rather stick it to the middle class than find a viable solution. Seriously, it's maddening. IT's extra maddening to me because states like California are so seriously weighted against with AMT. (NY & CA come to mind).

Yes, my family will get hit by AMT this year. Barely. But will get hit, is there is no fix. Because you know we are of the richest variety trying to evade our taxes. (That's who the tax was originally aimed for).

The ironic thing is we'll pay AMT tax, BUT we'll also ge a $2k child tax credit. How friggin ridiculous is that? We're in the 15% tax bracket otherwise. (We are still squarely 15% even with a $15k ROTH conversion this year!) Make up your stinking mind. Are we insanely rich or do we need government handouts? Apparently a little of both? I'd vote neither. But I guess that's the thing. They can't fund the handouts without the AMT. So a lot of us get both. We get to fund our own handouts. Oh, we'll be paying them for years to come. Which is why, frankly, I could do without. It's been extremely helpful these one-income years. But I know the big picture is we'll pay this back tenfold down the road. Well, someone will.

But yeah, it's all smoke and mirrors. What it comes down to. Like anyone can make any sense of it all. I barely can any more, and I Am paid to make sense of it.

All I Can see is the CPA community out here has been screaming about this for years. (Think ISOs for one). & it seems to fall on death ears. I get the feeling no one cars until it starts hitting the people making $50k. There will be a lot of screaming then. But places like CA & NY will be paying way more than their fair share long before that happens.

I am fairly certain that there will be a quick fix this year so the homeowners/families making $75k in Cali won't get blindsided. But lord knows they are taking their sweet time.

It's just so maddening. IT is making our job very hard in the interim. & IRS is talking about delayed refunds and all that too. As for us, we aren't expecting one. But a lot of our clients are. We may not even be able to file anything until February. Craziness.

I wasn't intending to rant about AMT but it is hard not to mention it. It is driving me nuts I guess. Clients with these huge tax bills that we didn't expect, and we can't assure them 1000% it will go away by 12/31. THough probably will... But who knows.












Goals

December 12th, 2007 at 04:39 pm

I've pretty much slam dunked my goals for 2007! Yay!!!!!!!

& so I updated my goals for 2008.

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

I had categorized everything short-term, mid-term, long-term. Mid-term meaning 2008 and beyond, but I had other things to tackle first.

So I took out all the mid-term stuff. It's just the short-term and the long-term goals now. Big Grin

Oh yes, but here are my accomplishments for 2007. Which I will comment more on after year-end. If nothing else, for Net Worth, I Want to see the final value 12/31. Before I recap how I got there. I project a $30k Net worth increase at 12/31. Give or take a couple thousand, depending on the market...

Short-Term:

Short-Term Savings
Goal: $800/month - for annual big bills
(Cur: $800/month)
DONE!

Emergency Fund
Goal: $12,000 by 12/31/07
(Bal: $12,000 as of 9/30/07)
DONE!

Kids/College
Goal: Start fund for kids (college/home/whatever)
(Bal. $2,300)
DONE!

ROTH IRA Conversions
Goal: Final ROTH Conversion - 2007
(Need $1500 for taxes on conversion)
DONE!

Net Worth
Goal: Increase Net Worth by $25k-$30k Annually
(Actual Increase: $25,000 as of 9/30/07)
DONE!

I already had a rambly entry that touched on this, but this is the short and clear version.

It Never Hurts to Ask...

December 12th, 2007 at 12:59 pm

I was just thinking today how funny it has been, trading things around with the family lately.

My mom and I always do this. We mention we need something, and the other one has it.

Anyway, recently we traded a rice cooker and a cooking pan. Dh thought the pan was too big and didn't want to handwash, and her rice cooker was too big for her. So we traded.

She was telling me just 2 days ago she had stocked up at Costco, out of paper towels and all this. I told her the big pile of paper towels she gave us way back were mostly in the garage. We didn't really use them and she could have them back. (We're much more environmentally mindful when it comes to paper goods). So we might keep a few, to last a year or 2 or 3, and give the rest back.

I was also telling my mom about my exchange gifts, wondering if I should give the Asian set to my sister. I also mentioned offhand the pretty ornament frames I Got. My mom had seen some at Cosctco and was "tempted." I Said they are all hers. How funny. The same day she spotted those, I was getting them as a gift.

So I will ship those off and be happy to de-clutter a bit. Big Grin

Then a couple of weekends ago dh's mom asked if we happened to have a spare TV laying around. Probably asked since we upgraded a while ago. Well, of course. Grandma-in-law needed one with a sleep function. & that we had. IT was hard to let go though. I bought the TV for little when I first moved out on my own (13 years ago). An 18-incher I guess. But it still worked fine (though it was in no way shape or form up to dh's standards. IT worked for me. Wink ). Anyway, but just funny she needed a TV and we had one to spare.

I know a lot of the stuff from our house came from the same kind of things. Chairs for our dining table. (Mentioned to a co-worker that my roommate had left a table but no chairs. I don't remember why, but she sold me the table for $5 or something, and I Was too broke for chairs. My co-worker brought me some very nice chairs that she had wanted to dump).

I have a few things from my boss, when he de-clutters.

& tons of hand-me-downs from family. But these aren't always "old" stuff. Sometimes very nice stuff that is no longer needed/wanted.

I was thinking at some point that the free handouts don't seem to come up so much with age and more financial stability. But I Think the truth is that we just no longer ask. I bet if we asked as much today as we used to, we would find a lot more.

It just never hurts to keep your ears open.

I will just never understand furnishing an entire house with new furniture either. BEtween family, friends, co-workers, etc., there seems to be plenty to go around. For stuff we had to buy, we always bought very used when we first started out. It really makes ALL the difference. These days I almost prefer that stuff. You get the feeling they just don't make things like they used to. Not at all!

Somewhere on the bottom of my future wish list, I have "new furniture." IT always gets pushed to the bottom. The funny thing is the thing I want to replace the very most is the only piece of furniture that WE bought brand stinking new. Our sectional couch. Dh talked me into something I find hedously ugly these days. I figure a nice couch and maybe a new dining set for the kitchen nook, when the kids are a little older. Replace the free chairs and $5 table. Mostly because the chairs are clothe and thrashed from the kids. Otherwise I would see no need.

The first place I will probably look is Craigslist too. Kind of why we wanted a van, so we could more easily buy used furniture. Just hard to justify since we don't "need" anything lately. I am not sure we'll by anything until the kids are 18. Out of the house or something. Then maybe we can enjoy nice stuff. Wink Seems like a waste with 2 rambuctious boys. LOL. I mean at the least they got to get past the potty training stage and all that.






Christmas Christmas Christmas

December 12th, 2007 at 07:26 am

Well, before I get into Christmas... Dh was reading a newspaper article yesterday about how the trend is to give women nice gifts for giving birth. Women want diamond earrings, when they give birth, dammit! The way he approached it though was, "Did you want a gift for giving birth?" I was like, "um, well, no. Wasn't our new baby the most precious gift we have ever received???" Wondered what the heck he was getting at. So he read off a little of the article. Said most moms want diamonds. *choke* I don't know, you have got to be kidding me. We've ruined Christmas with materialism, so why not move on to the most sacred of all things? Like seriously? It just struck me as so odd. The 2 days I gave birth were the 2 best days of my life, bar none. I am not sure how any material thing could even come close to matching that joy. As such, a personal/nice gift for myself would be farthest from my mind. It wouldn't be very appreciated. So the whole thing strikes me as bizarre. I haven't read the article and can't find it online, but hopefully this will remind me to dig it out. I have got to read this.

I guess in particular, when I think of having my kids, I think of giving up a lot for something greater. So the last thing that comes to mind is what *I* want, when I think of my children's first moments. What you want goes out the window at that moment pretty much. Wink

---------------------------------------
Anyway, here's my christmas budget. Most the spending is done:



My mom sent me $200 (for Christmas, not sure why so early). But hey. I decided to put a chunk to charity since the money was so unexpected.

In-law gifts are a little lower than planned because she refused to take a donation in her name. & we went in with SIL for all the gifts.

We did a little extra for them and my dad though, overall, since we were so spoiled this year. They just get annoyed when we try to do to much. The way with parents though. I find it so bizarre with my parents because they have always made a point not to spoil me. So this year they spoiled me, about 30 years worth, and they freak out when I try to buy them something. I should just get used to it I guess. But it's weird. With MIL I am used to this.

Oh, I was only going to spend $2 on stocking stuffers. I have piles of free books and games and stuff from Scholastic... But I saw these cute piggie banks (searched them out). I think I paid almost $20. But BM has his money in a bowl and LM in a bottle "piggy bank" we got last year. They both need more proper piggie banks. Though they have pretty ceramic ones that they are too young to touch. LOL. These are just plastic see-though - more their speed. (Did I pay $20? I can't remember. Will have to see. Probably $10 to ship or something. Figures). Anyway, perfect Santa gift.

We've also been talking about starting an allowance for BM when he turns 5, come summer. He better enjoy these next few months, because carefree childhood is over soon enough. school and chores. Wink I know he goes to preschool now, but that's just play time. Play play play. But I think things will get very different come kindergarten. Homework and schedules and all that! & chores & allowances... (& yeah, don't get caught up in the term "allowance." Just doing it how we were raised and it worked very well for us to teach us about money). I am trying to figure out how much is truly reasonable to pay a 5-year-old and if I should start an IRA for him. I think I will wait until he is old enough to sign his name if nothing else. LOL. something to look into. IT would have to be a savings account, small amounts to start. would he need to sign for a rollover once he built enough for a mutual fund? Hmmmm. Things to look into.

Oh well. For Christmas we did quite fine on the budget. We really spread out the costs over 4 months or so. Always makes it quite simple. & went over, quite on purpose, with the unexpected cash gift. I was glad to put a decent amount to donations.

I also wanted to do Toys for Tots with the kids or something. Something else we may add in. Just not organized enough. But I should think about that this weekend. BM actually seemed interested. LM is much more empathetic so I think he will enjoy, though too young to understand much at all about it.

Oh I just LOVE this blanket I got at my friend's boutique. She is making one for my mom now. Around $35. Said her price was going up to $40. I may get 2 blankets for the kids. Maybe next year. I think $70 for 2 blankets is plenty for now.

I am not much of a collector, but I think you could call me a blanket collector. At this rate anyway. So many family members make quilts and knit blankets. I just LOVE them. The kids have oodles but they are outgrowing them. So a couple of larger fleece throws will be nice for them next year. Call me addicted...

Crap & Clutter

December 10th, 2007 at 01:21 pm

We went to the office christmas party yesterday with our 2 white elephant gifts. (REcycled from prior years. I don't know like I feel like we have so many since I always take back the gifts I got last time). The rule is one per person (not per family). So we took our giant inflatable santa and our ugly tomato ceramic vase/pot (lord knows what it is). LOL.

We had to leave "Early" since the party was dragging on quite late and we had to get the kids to bed. My mom came to help but she can't keep up with them so well, and did not expect to be gone as long as we were. However, my co-worker came late due to other difficulties and had not had time to stop by home for his gifts.

I said he could have mine!!! He insisted he would bring me 2 gifts tomorrow. "No thanks", I said. LOL.

Anyway, he didn't listen and I had 2 gifts sitting on my desk this morning. But this was quite an upgrade. Some REALLY pretty snowflake ornaments. They are frames too so you can put pictures inside. Cute. Not necessarily needed (I have low tolerance for "Crap.") But very pretty. Might just put them on the tree.

I also got an Asian Dinner set. Just seemed appropriate. Not sure I will ever really use it. But it is pretty and I do like it. Now I just need to learn to make miso soup and sushi to serve with it. Wink

So anyway, now that was quite an upgrade. Big Grin IT's all probably about as useful. But at the least, I could regift. (Actually I Was just thinking my sister would LOVE the Asian set. Hmmmm.....)

Dh pulled out the tree yesterday and I cleaned up a bit. I have been on some horrendously lazy trajectory and the house has barely been cleaned in ages. I am not much for house cleaning, but this is below evebn my standards. So the weekend was pretty busy as is. YEsterday was filled with cleaning, tree decorating, and then the party.

Anyway, we had so much "junk" with all the Christmas stuff. I think I will just make 3 piles in the middle of the dining room. Trash. (Well that I could put out in the trash - LOL). Goodwill. Ebay. I think I will lean a lot more towards Goodwill and trash pile. Oh, and a freecycle pile. We just have to get through it. I have a few piles for ebay, but I care less and less with time. Will be just nice to get rid of some of this stuff. So if I leave the piles in the middle of the walkway maybe it will force me into action!

I figure tax season won't make life any easier, so will try to see what I can wade through this month. Feels like there is always something.

You don't even have to BUY the crap. You can beg people not to buy the crap for you... IT just piles up. Lord knows where it all comes from. Most of the stuff in the Christmas pile, we did not buy. In the least. ??? I haven't a clue where most of it came from. I think the Christmas pile is so bad because I do feel bad a lot of the time getting rid of gifts. Not always. But sometimes. & that is probably most of the problem. (& what I felt guilty to toss last year, I can't even remember where it came from now!!)

I need a better system to de-clutter.

I am usually pretty good at re-gifting and stuff, and donating things right after the holidays. But I think I always keep a few things for later. For regifting. For white elephant exchanges. I just need to get rid of it all and be confident there will be plenty more to come. Wink I don't need to keep any of that stuff. It always seems to work out.

Anyway, for the most part I have some old really cheap christmas decorations from my poor college days. I think I was sentimentally attached. Then I forgot about them. We haven't been home the last 3 weekends so our trash can is filled to the brim. But once the trash goes out Friday I am going to start filling it up. I guess I can get it all ready to go. Trash!!! Lord knows why I have this stuff! LOL. No one else would want it. Believe me... Just worthless trash. I am also sure to have a hefty pile for freecycle. The crap Goodwill wouldn't take anyway. But of no one wants it, will just have to suck it up and trash it. That is also my problem. Just guilt when it comes to throwing things in the garbage. {That is why freecycle is my savior. I have given away so much stuff that would have had to gone to trash otherwise}.

We also have an old phone and rice cooker we weren't sure what to do with. Not really functional but didn't seem like landfill material. Well, Goodwill, in our area, is now taking appliances and stuff (for disposal/recycle). Score!

What a Weekend...

December 9th, 2007 at 07:26 am

Yeesh. I am exhausted.

*I had a tax class Friday. IT was depressing. Life isn't fair. Plain and simple. Learn it now.

*I watched Maxed Out last night. Much the same conclusion. I know we know all sorts of people irresponsible with money. But the credit card and mortgage industries are very shady and pay little for all the people they victimize. The truly poor and uneducated. Almost makes me want to shred up my credit cards. (Oh yes and the other unfair part - FICO. How one little mistake on their end is hard to clear up because they just don't care, etc., etc. It's just a very unfair system in that regard. The story they did share was of a woman who had been taken to court to prove she wasn't DEAD. There was a mixup, really it was her daughter who had died. Like she hadn't been through enough.)

They also had the suicide stories here, which everyone should know is very common when it comes to debt. But these were 2 college kids, in the movie. One had $12k debt. It struck me as so sad. Like obviously with such loving parents they could have gotten some help and worked themselves out. & yet they couldn't see past the $12k debt. The only solution was suicide. Very sad.

More life isn't fair.

On to lighter notes:

*We went to San Francisco yesterday to the Exploratorium (science museum). Kids LOVED it. Both of them actually really enjoyed it. (Surprised the 2yo got so much from it). Went with my dad and he had a blast. I was never much into science and so my dad is excited at least his grandkids are. BM loves to watch Mythbusters and do science experiments at home with daddy. So he already has that love of science. Of course I think I was a little bored. The highlight of my day was the fish phone. (Didn't catch the science part?) IT was a phone hooked up to an aquarium with a fish. That was more my speed. LM thought it was pretty funny too. The fish "talks" to you. When we went upstairs they had some more real fish and LM looked at me and said, "Where's the phone?" LOL. I wonder if he will ask me that every time we see fish now. Wants to talk to the fish.

YEs, I am easily amused. No, but really, the Exploratorium is pretty cool. There was much more truly science stuff that actually interested me. They do a good job. There's just only so much science I can take. Wink

Anyway, we paid for grandpa to get in as part of his birthday gift. So it was around $50 for all of us. (Would have been $35 just us). We also spent $30 on food, easily.

We then stopped for dinner on the way home last night out of exhaustion and hunger. Knew we didn't have much at home. Dh really wanted to go cheap - Taco Bell - but I had eaten two $1 meals last week, at TB, since we didn't have any leftovers, and I was lazy. IT didn't sound appealing in the least. We actually settled on a diner. Which is rare. Particularly since my parents took us out to eat the night before. But it was $20 for the 4 of us so it wasn't horrendous. I think we spent $100 then yesterday ($50 food/$50 admission) and about $50 gas. Took the van because we had a TV to deliver to grandma (she was looking for one to borrow and we had a spare). & also because we were going to drive grandpa to San Francisco. Car seats make life so complicated.

*Grandma has free tickets to the children's science museum in San Jose, which expire 12/31, so we're going there in a couple of weeks.

*We're also going back for the Walking with Dinosaurs show on the 28th or so AND also nephew's birthday on New Years Eve. At least we can take dh's car which gets very great gas mileage (35mpg easy, freeway).

*We've settled on vacations for next year. (Mind you last December I think we had NO vacation plans and the year was very crazy). But we are thinking Disneyland for Spring, Yosemite for summer, and that's that. I think dh and I are exhausted from this year's travels. Plus these will both by FAMILY vacations. I really look forward to that. Wouldn't be surprised if we got a weekend or 2 or 3 away, sans kids, but we can probably get free stays and make it really low key.

We usually do DL cheap, which is easier without kids. We kind of throw in the towel and figure we'll do a full week or something. It won't be our typical vacation. But I still figure we'll drive and probably get a free room. So it won't be TOO bad.

*We also want to try to hit the snow this January. It's hard because snow season coincides with tax season. I was pretty admandant they couldn't go the snow without me for BM's first time. I am not sure I care so much with LM, but will try to go. Then they can go to their heart's desire without me. LOL. It's just a 2-hour drive, we have a cabin 1/2 way to stay if we want, AND the cabin is filled with old snow clothes/sleds from generations past so it is not an activity that costs much money (not more than gas really). So the kids are in for a treat. We haven't gone since I was pregnant with LM - about 3 years. BM was 18 months?

*Christmas... I think we are pretty set. I bought the mos luxurious blanket at that boutique Thursday. She is making a "cat" blanket for my mom. (I am keeping the first one!) It will be around $30 but I know she will LOVE it. I also have to do her donation - probably $25. Also need gift for one gift exchange. Buying some jewelry. I figured I would probably buy $25 for myself and dh wanted a $25 or so movie. We weren't going to gift each other but told him maybe these would be our gifts to each other. I can't order jewlery and pay the shipping without getting something for myself too. An advance on my Christmas money really. My boss gave me some Ghiradhelli chocolate which I also passed onto my dad for his birthday. We paid for his Dinosaur ticket for Christmas so he is all set.

I need to chip in $25 or so for Grandma's gift. This is up in the air. I asked MIL to pick up a gift certificate for her - we settled on her hair/nail place. It's her small luxury. BUT dh is all concerned she'll feel bad because we asked her not to get us anything. (Mind you she probably handed us $200-$300 throughout the year, if not more). Um, I think she just has to accept the gift and suck it up. Yeesh. Why does gift giving have to be so complicated????? We do not exchange gifts with hardly anyone, but if money is tight for her, it is the least we could do. So usually I am griping at the people that demand gifts, and now probably the only one person we REALLY want to give a gift too, well they don't want us to. I think if nothing else I am annoyed with the whole you have to give a gift to buy a gift. Literal reciprocation. It is annoying. What happened to giving because you WANT to give??? (Or since when did $300 cash throughout the year get totally forgotten and it would be unfair for us to buy a $30 gift?)

We'll see. I told dh his mom was fine with it and she would know best. But we'll double check. Heck, she doesn't have to even know it is from us. Wink Probably the angle we can go for - Secret Santa or just say it is from MIL. Whatever...

*We have our one and only Christmas party today. This one is White elephant gift exchange and I have all sorts of crap from prior years. see what we can get rid of this year. Hehe. (& wonder what we'll get stuck with in exchange. Always excited to get rid of hideous things, and then 1/2 the time you end up with something worse!!!)

*Oh yeah! Dh has the magic touch. He got rid of ugly chair. (A very old/tired recliner that we used in the nursery for the babies). I joked people weren't too desparate if they wouldn't take our chair. It worked fine for us; come on. But he listed it since he wanted to make room for the Christmas Tree and he got about 5 bites. WOW. & best of all, it is gone...









All Your Worth - Savings

December 9th, 2007 at 06:31 am

Okay, so I read this chapter Friday or something. (When did I Read it?). Maybe Thursday night. But it clarified a bit.

On the 20% savings it breaks down as follows:

10% Retirement
5% Prepay Mortgage
5% Future Dreams

Oh, if only it were that simple!

For one, 10% retirement seems a bit on the low side to me. Then again if they are saying 10% now, 15% later when mortgage is paid. Then, well, I guess that might make sense. But this was 10% of take-home pay, which makes it even skimpier).

5% future dreams? I guess. I think this is probably good. But I think there should be caveat in there that it also helps cushion your emergency fund, for the unforeseen stuff of life. This is the way I look at my life. Of course I want to save oodles of money for earlier retirement and future dreams. Reality is, something will probably come up. Life would have to go really well for a long time to cash in. But I don't know, maybe it keeps you going to have a dream. But for the most part seems the dreams of your life should come from the wants/needs section. The 30% wants. Why not save some of that for your dreams?

I also did not see any mention of the importance of saving for bigger purchases in this book. That since you are switching to a cash lifestyle, you need to start putting away for your next car, etc. (If this was mentioned I did not see it!). When you look closer at the dreams savings I think that is what it is amounting to. (Cars, college, weddings, etc. - these were examples in the dream section). I just think that the authors do a bit of a disservice painting this savings as "dream savings" when it is most likely going to pay cash for cars, repairs around the house, and orthodontia for your kids. You aren't suddenly going to be paying cash for vacations to Aruba if you save 5% for "dreams" and the rest for retirement. Sure, it will make life easier than it was, if you were in financial hot water. But this part of the book angles a little too much to "get rich quick scheme." You'll never have a money problem again! If you believe that, well, you have bought all the glitz of the book.

But I am glad the savings part was clarified. I was confused on that part in the first few chapters. 20% savings for what? Now I know...



Egads!

December 6th, 2007 at 02:00 pm

I usually watch the market (housing) like a hawk but have paid little attention lately.

For one, there is less for sale than usual anyway (in our neighborhood).

So I was poking around zillow today and was rather shocked at how things are settled.

Our neighborhood has been so WEIRD. For one, big homes saw little trouble for a LONG time. Still plenty of move-up buyers, though obviously the writing has been on the wall a long time as the small homes have sat and sat, for about 2 years now. I am not even sure if any have sold. Some have been sitting for well over a year.

We had our home briefly on the market in mid '06. We would have taken $499k (wanted to make a lateral move in the area). There were 3 houses for sale for $600k. I thought they were absolutely insane and we priced around $525k at what seemed reasonable at the time. All 3 houses sold for $600k. 2 of them in less than 3 months. No houses sold for less.

Obviously that wasn't sustainable, but it was interesting all the same.

So I mentioned earlier our neighbor had to move for health reasons very quickly and wanted to sell fast. They took $490k in about a week and fled. I figured that would bring prices down, but no real signs of desparation in our neighborhood. Not a bigger price drop on the horizon. (wasn't $110k overnight enough?)

& then I saw on zillow today the bigger homes that have been sitting a while now with short sale signs and all that - well one of them I have noticed for a long while anyway - it is priced at $399k! Wow! & not a nibble. There is another one priced around $425k.

So it pretty much breaks down to this:

December 2006 - $600k price - sold easy (full price at that).

December 2007 - $399k price - sitting

33%+ price drop in the blink of an eye!

I have said a million times those people asking $600k were crazy idiots. What the hell do I know? They sure squeaked out in the knick of time. What luck!

So anyway, though most of me is not terribly surprised. I am still a little amazed. When the heck did this happen?

What happened is clear though. The last sellers in 2006 were not desparate in the least. One of them held out a year to get $600k. They were also rather "greedy." I am not sure most people in their right mind would care that much to have to get $600k. Or maybe there was some looming desparation there. I just don't know what their thinking was at all. I am just surprised it worked for them.

On the flip side, all we have is desparate sellers today. Thankfully not too many in our neighborhood. Yet. But enough... All it takes really is one.

WE locked in the base price of our house in mid-2001. $260k. The big ones were going for $270k. (Lots more space but we didn't like the layout, orelse we would have grabbed one of those - sure for $10k extra for a few hundred square feet!)

I know they were well into the $400k range by December 2002.

At $399k I swear we are back to June-2002. (& these are the big models).

I just didn't expect it to happen so fast. I am starting to think things will get a lot worse than I imagined.

As for us, I am not too concerned. There was lots of concern if we were getting in over our heads buying a $260k house in Sacramento in 2001. From the locals mostly. WHo did not fully understand that the alternative was 1/2 the house for twice the money in the Bay. I always said back then, I don't care if the house depreciates to 0. I just wanted to live somewhere that didn't cost an arm and a leg. & we were blessed to find that and still stay in the state and be close to family, etc.

PRetty much how I Still feel today.

It helps to have a reasonable mortgage and to have paid 30% down already. I just assumed we would never be upside down in this house though. I assumed that until about today. It is starting to get UGLY!

Wow, the tide turns fast.

I still feel pretty good though. My house's appreciation might amount to a hill of beans tomorrow BUT the houses we could not afford in 2001 in San Jose are holding strong at $800k+ today (from $500k in 2000). I'll take this any day. Appreciation was a nice side benefit I never expected. Sacramento had never appreciated like that before, and who knows if it ever will again. I know a lot of people who got out at the right time and made bank. We decided we didn't want to get out though, and I am just as happy with that decision today.

But in the meantime, yeah. I think I will just switched to assessed value for net worth purposes. I am not sure how long that will even be enough at this rate though. I have the house at $450k in Quicken which felt rather conservative like a week ago. $325k or so assessed. (I'll have to double check!) That's what I will go with for 2008.

We paid about $300k (in 2001) with all the upgrades & landscaping, and owe $210k today. So we've paid off a chunk, for sure.

I also was not holding my breath in the least that we could fight our property taxes anytime soon. Wow, at this rate our assessed value could possibly go down next year. That's crazy.

I still feel like this is only the tip of the iceberg so I am trying to brace myself now. The possibility of us being upside down on our house just did not cross my mind. Impossible. We bought before all this mess... I don't know. Not sure it will happen, but it suddenly looks a lot more plausible...

It was kind of nice to be blissfully unaware...

I think this is where my juxtaposition on house ownership lies though. 90% of me just does not care. In the least. Maybe more than 90% doesn't care. My house is my house. I think the only reason I have ever looked at my house like an investment, at all, is because how expensive houses are out here. HEll if I going to put $100k into a house and not make sure to increase the odds of keeping that $100k. Hell if I am going to sell my house for $600k and throw that money down the drain by not doing my homework on my next house purchase, etc., etc. But at the end of the day my house is really little more than a house to me.

I can't say I will lose any sleep over any of this. Just a bit of a shock factor today.

Outside my own little bubble though, this is certainly a wake up call to how bad it is getting out there .. Just, wow...

All Your Worth

December 6th, 2007 at 09:13 am

I made more progress on this book.

I liked the chapter on "wants" though I think it could have been more useful. Yes, it is important to spend money on wants. & on wants that you really want, not what other people want or what you think you should want. I think that is one thing that bugs me sometimes in the blogs/forums. Lots of crticisms of other people's "wants." If you are in the budget, who cares. If you are following the 50/30/20 plan, want whatever you want in that 30%. IT shouldn't be up to criticism. Everyone has very different wants.

I would have probably took it a step forward, in the book, and talked more about priorities. Make a list of what you think you want and then prioritize. When you realize you can afford a few things at the very top, the rest of the list seems to matter less.

I'm not personally on a mission to ALWAYS save more and more and more. I just want to be in balance. So I think this book is good in that regard. I am on a savings binge because we are out of balance. But if squeeze my wants too much, I'll just fall on my face or be miserable. No one wants that.

That's what strikes me as so wrong with Dave Ramsey. I really as a whole think he is a great motivator and very helpful to many. But I cringe when I listen to his show, people on rice and beans and working 3 jobs for a few years as they pay down their debts. Once they make that GREAT accomplishment you think they would relax and enjoy, even if for just a bit. Instead they all go on paying down their mortgage like a fiend. I think the overall concept is great; much how we live. But I think a lot of the wants are taken out of the equation. I often wonder how long until these people crash and burn. Seems to me if you pay off a mountain of debt and you can pay your bills and save, you should be able to enjoy a little.

Of course I could cut all the joy out of my life and pay off our mortgage in a decade. I just have no desire whatsoever to do that. I like to enjoy life too. Is the world going to end because I pay my mortgage at 50 instead of 40? No, but if I pay it off ay 40 I might just not enjoy a whole decade of my life at all. We'd tell the "kids, you know what, forget raising you, we have a mortgage to pay insanely early..." That just sucks. I Didn't have kids just to leave them in daycare and pay the mortgage before 40. IT just doesn't make any financial sense anyway when you look at the big picture. All that money is far better off going to retirement and compounding.

Balance!

Anyway, I think in the want section was the section on credit cards and paying cash. All I Can say, is different strokes for different folks. Gets very Ramsey-esque. I can assure you that I have never paid a dime to the credit card companies and that I don't stress out with a pencil and calculator every day or week as I use my card. Quicken tallies it for me and I always know exactly where I stand. Credit cards are VERY convenient. We've never gotten into trouble with them in the least. IT is very possible to use credit cards for a sound financial plan. So I disagree strongly with this section. I agree they CAN BE trouble, but having used cards for 16 years (& only getting more rewards with time) I don't have much to complain about. One look at those interest rates gurantees that I Would never spend a dime more than I had in cash. {To me it is the same as not overdrawing a checking account. IT really can be that simple}.

That's my credit card rant. If you can't handle the cards, then by all means, switch to cash. But it doesn't mean they don't have their place in wealth building.

Oh yeah, there was a long list of stuff not to waste your money on too. Stuff I learned from my parents (I mentioned before very blessed in that regard). Stuff you should have, like disability insurance & life insurance & wills (blessed blessed blessed).

The next chapter was all about debt and getting out. I completely skipped it. Never been there; so nothing to learn.

That was as far as I got. I peeked at the next chapter and it was also very Ramsey-esque. I wonder what came first. OR where this paradigm comes from.

*$1k emergency fund
*pay debts
*6 month emergency fund
*retirement
*mortgage

Sounds a little familiar?

Well I'll read more on that this weekend perhaps. They said 5% of your take-home should go to mortgage prepayments. I just don't think I am going to follow that advice either. Wink & to be clear, I am all for prepaying the mortgage, in a way that makes sense, and flows with the big picture. Which is probably mostly what bugs me about standard financial advice. It might work for "most people", but loses all the nuances of what is also different about every person financially. I think I disagree with about every piece of advice out there to an extent, and am better off for it.

Which is why it is good to come to a place like this and think about things and learn from others. Realize there is more than one way to do things.

So yeah, the book started good, then it got all Dave Ramsey. Which is fine since my only real gripe with Dave is lack of balance. & this book adds balance to the mix.

Well I will read the chapter more in detail to see what it says. I'm almost through the bulk of the book. See what I think on the savings chapter... It's probably the chapter that inerests me the most.

Big Spend Day

December 5th, 2007 at 10:35 pm

What a Day.

I paid a pile of bills.

There were a few things in the back of my mind that needed to be paid, and I totally forgot to bring a check for preschool today. For one I have hardly been home all month so I feel all in a tizzy. (Unusual to drop the ball).

But I did call for my insurance amount due (also lost that bill - also very unusual). My agent said I could just mail it over there, and gave me the reduced amount with the new deductible.

I am also going to a friend's boutique tomorrow. Figure I might find something nice for my mom and should put a blank check in my purse. BUT could not find a check. Then I remember why I have not paid anything. Ran through all my checks and super lazy. I finally pulled out the new box I bought like a YEAR ago when I was "about to run out." Since then I just don't write many checks!

So I had to dig those out.

Checks:
Preschool $600
IRS $300 (Final Roth conversion taxes)
Insurance $900
Property Taxes $2300
Gardener $100
MIL $60 for Christmas

Paid Online:
Health Ins. $500
Credit Card $1750
Mortgage $1300

Nothing like writing out $4200 in checks to make you feel stressed financially. Or $7800 with the online stuff. Yeesh.

These were all due in December, and on top of all the little regular stuff I already paid.

Anyway, as I went to update our short-term savings in excel, the file went kaput. I swear since having children I have this eery 6th sense and I just asked dh last week to back up some of that stuff to CD. Of course he hadn't. Bah. I did find a July backup, but was disappointed I had nothing more recent. Then again the only thing that is really screwy is my allocation to efund and short-term savings (glad at times like these I don't keep a pile of subaccounts. Just too lazy really. But it's mostly in my head).

So most of my historic data is in there and some of the little details are lost, but who cares. I backed everything important up while I was at it.

Anyway, I knew we were even $12k in efund, give or take a few. & short-term savings is easy enough to start over 1/1. I think I started with $1k last year and did just fine. So I added up all our cash in Quicken and subtracted all the balance transfers still due back. I was just about smack dab at $12k. I expected to have a little more in short-term savings. Then again, I paid all the monster bills. So I am "lucky" I guess I had just enough. I am expecting $1k for Christmas to kick start next year. Disappointed that I need it. But I'll survive.

With the last big balance transfer I have so much in savings that I just transferred over $1300 to pay the mortgage before the end of the month (usually wait to the 5th - grace period). Anyway, need the tax deduction, since I just started doing that this year. I just realized I would only pay 11 months otherwise, and would screw up my tax planning. So that is squared away too. Will repay savings with my paycheck on the 1st.

I also wrote out the big checks due on the 31st from savings. So the interest can keep earning until the last minute. That makes it really easy. It's all ready to go and I will pop in the mail after Christmas.

Anyway, after that exercise I felt really stressed. I couldn't really put my finger on why and that is when I told dh that paying out so much money at once is stressful. Regardless if it is all saved. It still takes a lot out of you to fork over so much money I guess. For me I usually just pay the bills as they come in. Saving it all up to pay at once is not my style I guess. I don't want to do that again for a while. Wink

I also continually remind myself only 9 more months of this whole preschool thing (2 in preschool which is insane). I am sitting here wonder why I even need to put a dime into retirement on top of my given 10% anyway. I should just let it go until preschool days are over in September.

I also voiced some of that to dh. I told him I know we had wanted to put our birthday/christmas money to our respective allowances, but I think we should just put it to bills this year. At least most of it. We'll see. & I reminded him we have no money to spare until September. Just none. I don't want to hear about anything about anything until then.

We were discussing that though because I thought well, school probably does start in August. So how many months do we pay for 2? 8? 7? Dh seems keen in pulling BM out in July so they can have some extra time together before school takes much of his time. IT is an idea, particularly since he could always drop in with LM once in a while, but then we don't have to commit to the whole 2 days a week thing.

So I'll just have to take a deep breath. Just 6 more months. I've said it before, but I certainly would never commit to this kind of expense if it weren't so temporary. So I am counting down the days until I can divert that money to savings. Indeed! & if I am going to stress for 6 months, then what's the point. I just need to get over it. The decision was made, it's what we want, we'll make it work. My frugal self is hyperventilating though. Wink

So yeah, that's all the crazy financial stuff running through my head.

In other news, tomorrow I have a class all day and will spend the night with my parents. This weekend we are also going to the Exploratorium in San Francisco (really cool science museum). With the kids. Funny enough, they are having some chef building some kind of Arctic landscape with desserts or something. The woman looked awfully familiar. Turns out the last few times I visited my parents we watched these really neat challenges on the food network where they build these elaborate cakes and such. I recognized this woman from one of the challenges. I am so excited to see her work in person. How cool is that? Not what I was expecting or why we were going, but certainly a bonus.


Tahiti Village Timeshare

December 5th, 2007 at 06:57 am

Well, we survived our 2nd timeshare presentation. Hehe. & the reward was much bigger this time (3 nights hotel stay - only thing we got of value - vs. the $50 we got last time).

Last time I don't remember the place but the original price was $15k and they quickly dropped it to $5k when it was obvious we had no interest. That was about 7 years ago; I don't remember any other details. Not much to sell. We thought the idea of a timeshare in Vegas was just stupid. Place wasn't very memorable.

This time we visited the famed Tahiti Village.

They started out with people spinning a wheel and popping a balloon to win prizes (fabulous hotel stays in far away lands. All I could think was how much are those airline tickets? LOL. It always struck me that the hotel is always the CHEAPEST part of any vacation. Big whoop).

Then they had a video where everyone hooted and hollered at all the old Vegas strip hotels being demolished. (Woo, exciting... ???) and how the average room on the strip has gone from $50 to $400 a night or something. (*snort* - certainly not everyone pays that - yeesh).

At some point we took a tour of the grounds and a room, and they took us to the wall of fame where we could ooh and aaah over all the celebrities they had HIRED to promote the place. (Not sure the point of that exercise).

I guess this all was all s'posed to get us jazzed up and ready to buy!!!!

I have to hand it to them. This presentation was eons beyond the last. For one, the place is actually nice. Real nice. It is in the middle of nowhere, but they assured us the strip will come to them (& at the same time they were saying there was no more expansion allowed on the strip currently and why the strip is such PRIME real estate). I guess they figured everyone was too dumb to put 2 and 2 together. So strip is really prime, but they aren't? LOL. You can't have it both ways. It's prime because they can't come to you? But they'll come to you. It will expand and expand until it reaches Tahiti Village!!!

Anyway, they also really pushed that every one of their sales representatives was a real estate agent and that they were selling us real estate on the strip that would make us rich. I have to say it was a good sales tactic.

Of course knowing what I know about time shares, I just rolled my eyes. They jist of their presentation was that you own an actual piece of real estate and that Vegas land is worth $3 million or so an acre. & it's rising fast. & you better catch the wave. The rolling of the eyes comes from the knowledge that you can not GIVE those timeshares away. ANyone who thinks they will get their original investment back is dreaming.

The other essential part of their sales push was that Vegas is the best timeshare location and you can trade anywhere. I also don't buy that for a second. That was the one part that hit me as moronic on our last tour. Who in hell would buy a timeshare in Vegas? You obviously go to stay on the strip; to stay in the casinos/fancy hotels. & it is not hard to find a good deal on a nice room. So where is all this demand coming from?????

Plus Vegas is fun to visit once in a while. It's not somewhere to vacation 2 weeks of the year - which is what they were selling. 2 weeks! Hawaii is where you want to go vacation 2 weeks a year! Come on.

But they assured us that their Hawaii timeshares sold out in 8 years and Vegas is selling out in record time (Phase 1 sold in 6 months or something). It has beaten their wildest dreams!!! I don't believe a word they say for one. But if this is true, then people in Vegas are just stupider. Is all I could imagine. LOL.

Of course, they save the prices for last.

Oh, you will love this.

I already knew it was like $50k. So wasn't surprised. But otherwise I might have just fainted on the spot.

For the ever popular New Years Week (their first sell) the price was around $55k. At a 17% interest rate over 10 years or something (they don't bother checking your credit - just charge everyone a crazy rate). The payment was about $1200/month.

I was STUNNED. I mean that is about our mortgage and we know we live in the land of expensive. I can't imagine the average person would want to buy a timeshare that cost more than our mortgage? The only qualification is an income of $50k. & they want you to spend 1/3 of that on a timeshare!?! Oh my...

If nothing else I was surprised they didn't spread out the time, get those payments lower, and suck more people in with low payments. I think that was the angle they went with on our last timeshare. Then again they are selling out in record time!!!! Guess they figured charge 5 times as much and see who bites.

The regular priced one was around $750/month (still crazy). Oh, price tag was $48k. I think these were for 2 weeks a year, but lord knows, very confusing.

They just rushed through this part because it was clear we weren't going to buy. Got the hard sell guy to come let us go. He just dropped the price to $10k or so for once week every other year or something. We weren't interested and they let us go.

They actually kept us about exactly the same 2 hours they said they would. I Was disappointed it looked like some people escaped before we did though.

& so that was it, we survived.

Oh, as far as the hard sell. I honestly am not sure if there is any angle that would work for us. When you can see through all the smoke and mirrors there is little they can do. But I had to laugh because I did read that they tried really nasty things like telling you that you don't love your kids if you don't buy a timeshare. Anyway, grasping at straws, our "realtor" did start to go that angle, but didn't try very hard since we obviously weren't buying a drop of it. I wish I remembered exactly what he said, but like we OWE it to our kids to get them a timeshare and travel.

Whatever.

As for me, my travel background? My parents moved to the land of insanely expensive and MILEs from their family when I was first born. We drove to the mid-west once every 2-3 years when we can scrape the money to get there. To see family. Those were our vacations.

I went to Hawaii with my school band in high school and to Disneyland a few times with bands. My parents did take me to DL once too when I Was like 8. IT is the only "family vacation" I remember. It was very special because it was such a rare experience. I never knew what I Was "missing" so what did I care.

When I Was in college I was really broke but I would drive 2-3 hours many weekends to hang out with my friends who went to various colleges. We would drive to San Francisco, Santa Barbara, LA, Sacramento, Tahoe, Vegas, etc. and enjoy the cheapest of cheapest weekend vacations staying with friends. IT was FUN. I think that is why I really enjoy mini vacations. From my broke college days. Something that my parents did little of, that I enjoy exploring the state a little more. There is so much to see and do. But as such, I don't have any real wishes for travel. IT probably also really helps living in such a melting pot. As far as exploring different cultures and all that; there is so much in my own backyard anyway.

So when they did ask us how important vacation was to us on a scale of 1-10, my gut reaction was to put a 1. Seriously. Who cares. I can drive to monterey or Tahoe this weekend and enjoy a really nice time with a free place to stay. I don't need to go on big vacations. Dh comes from a vacation family, and even he put "3." Because it is so far down our list financially right now. Staying home with the kids is much higher on his list these days.

The other question was, "what were your last 3 vacations and how much did they cost?" I forgot our cruise but I had to giggle as I filled it out. Japan, Florida, Hawaii. All less than $500 (some $0). Big Grin

I think the presenter got annoyed with us at this point. Like why were we wasting his time. (Um yeah, why were your sales people BEGGING us to come????) He said OBVIOUSLY vacations were VERY important to us. Because we didn't say no to all these FREE trips. *Whatever* LOL. I would be very happy not to go on a big vacation for a LONG time myself.

So that part was kind of annoying. Annoyed as he was, got us off the hook though. They couldn't find a sales angle for us, so spoiled and all. & seeing as my kids have been to Disneyland, Hawaii, Tahoe and Florida, all before the tender age of 4. I am not too worried about them. I think they will be okay that we didn't spend $50k + 17% interest on a timeshare. IT would have had to come out of their college money.... Wink If they want to whine about their deprived vacation youth, I am SO not the one to whine too. Hehe. (& yes lord knows they will not remember any of these trips, which is much why I would have never taken them on our own dime).

Is it just me or is it just sound crazy how much they push the family angle on VEGAS timeshare?. Of course I am really skeptical how tradeable those really are. Of course I dream of taking my kids to Vegas for two weeks of year - NOT!!!! LOL. Their whole push was you could trade anywhere. I wonder how many people who bought out of guilt for their kids are stuck taking their kids to Vegas 2 weeks of every year. Well, they "owe it to them!!!" {Poor kids!}

I know, it's just the guilt factor.

Anyway, so that was that. We survived...














Lookie Here

December 4th, 2007 at 07:35 am

I started reading All Your Worth and my post about it is not showing up. So go read my last entry. Big Grin


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