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Archive for January, 2008

Rain rain go away...

February 1st, 2008 at 04:57 am

Yes, still sick of the rain.

The gym has been horrid. Anyway, it was super extra crowded tonight. I figured it would dwindle down a bit as we get further from Jan. 1. Anyway, for whatever reason I braved the wind and rain and went to the gym and it was PACKED. Probably the worst I've seen. It didn't occur to me until my way out that maybe there was a direct correlation to the weather. Perhaps. I only really plan to use the gym in the extremely cold and extremely hot months. I much prefer to go for a walk myself. But it is rare the weather is just this bad. It has been a COLD rain all week which is really rather ware. So stormy windy and COLD. Did I mention cold? We usually get warmer rains. Maybe it will snow. IT does on occasion (pretty rare but happens).

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Anyway, I popped in to check my Net Worth for 1/31. After about a year of this I am starting to notice a pattern. The stocks always seem to jump up the last day of the month. So it wasn't so bad. Down $500 from 12/31.

Cash is up around $250 (mostly interest). Paid $307 off the mortgage. $675 to retirement.

Which means about $1600 in stock losses.

I also have no idea how much BM lost on his 529. I get random statements. So the loss is probably a bit more.

We'll be in a place to contribute more like $1k/month to retirement, come summer. So I say bring it down!!! We just don't have that much to lose at this point. No complaints here... I think these storms will be tougher to weather (emotionally anyway) when we have more at stake. I don't really look forward to that. But for now I look forward to a chance to buy at some lower prices. Big Grin

I understand that my Net Worth goal is not very attainable at this rate. But I guess I am going for a long term average more than anything and I knew it was pretty aggressive. I am happy with the amount we put in to up our net worth this month. The stocks will work themselves out.

Even if we don't refi, we are SO CLOSE to getting our mortgage interest under $1k/month. woohoo. Just a few more months. We past the $300 principal mark not too long ago... It feels a little more substantial and reflects on our net worth. Still no prepayments here though, as long as we have 10 tax-deferred investment options (about how it feels with all the ROTHS, 529s, UGMAs, HSAs, and on and on and on...). Though if we refi we will most certainly jump on the prepayment train. I have no desire to extend our mortgage beyond the current payoff date. No desire to start my 30 years over and drag it out. Though I guess I can't promise anything. Our mortgage literally just gets cheaper with time and the opportunity to plump up all our tax deferred investments probably isn't the worst. I guess we'll just have to see.

Either way would help the net worth. I guess that is what is important. & why it helps to look at the big picture. Likewise, I really enjoy tracking our net worth. It helps me to see the big picture.




Phew!!!!! Dentist Update

January 31st, 2008 at 10:39 pm

Well, um, we tried a new dentist, which I dread dread dread. But it went REALLY well.

Took LM in (he is 2.5) for his sharky mouth. He had a blast. Which for one, says much for their setup. BM has always loved the dentist but he is weird. LOL.

Anyway, LM was much more wary but he immediately fell in love with the plastic dolphin up front. (& fish).

Of course, dh went back with him and they were gone 1.5 hours. I Was trying not to fall asleep. Likewise, BM Was hungry but I Was there to watch him. Figured, we could have gone out to eat like he had asked. Then I worried worried worried what the hell was going on. (Apparently, a lot of paperwork. Whcih is another reason it is so tedious to try new dentists, but I have had horrid experiences since we moved here, myself).

Anyway, we lucked out. I think this place is a winner. I actually walked in expecting he would need work, and heard a "everything is fine, he doesn't need anything." What music to my ears!!!!

The x-rays showed no extra permanent teeth. YAy!!!!!!!!! They were concerned about crowding (oh sounds familiar, I couldn't even tell you all the work I had done from age 5 - 18, but I thought I had a few more years to save up for all the work I envision my kids will need).

But anyway, as far as extra tooth, it's just a baby and they don't want to do anything with it. "It will work itself out." More music to my ears. I am sure we could have found a more aggressive dentist, but I think this works for us. Phew!

OF course our dentist, who I know we have it good with (the longtime forever patient discount). We paid $125/each, dh and I for our last visit. BM a little more since he had flouride.

Anyway, they did charge $250 here but it was for consultation and full x-rays, as well as flouride and cleaning. Well worth it for all the fanciness; it was a great first experience for LM. I did not ask dh what they recommended, but dh said he did not book the next appointment. They only reason we made one was for his tooth. & well, I figure he will go back there in a year. Then maybe every 6 months until he hits 5 or 6. Then he can join us at the big dentist.

Oh yes, and dh sort of asked for a discount. Not really, but he did not know I Wanted to put it on the card for rewards. He asked if they could just send a bill. (BEcause he though that I Wanted to pay later for some reason). They said no, but that they would give him a 10% discount. He seemed to think he wouldn't have gotten it otherwise. IT was the cash discount but he did use the card. Score! So in the end we paid $225. We'll earn 1.25% rewards on that too. So we'll have to remember to ask for the cash discount next time. Or make sure we have the checkbook in case they aren't so nice next time. I think it helps the girls were taking payments and they always go gah gah over a guy with a small kid. LOL. The women just eat it up.

I am just so happy today that that is his only prognosis for now. Phew!!!! HE will get plenty of work on his mouth down the raod, I am sure. I know so many people getting so much preventitive work done on baby teeth and such. I always wondered if it was really worth it. Maybe it really is? But I am glad for now it is not something for us to worry about. Big Grin

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Anyway, I don't think the kids have ever seriously asked for much, but today BM Asked for a trampoline, and whined when I said no. I told him he already had a mound of toys for Christmas. The FUNNY thing though was my first response was, "No, those cost a lot of money." So he immediately said, "Then why does Miss L have one???" LOL. At his preschool. The interesting thing is I knew Miss L was carless but apparently she is now homeless too. & BM seemed to grasp that meant she had no money. Wow. Anyway, I was asking what he meant it was hers, and he said she had moved in and it was her trampoline. "She doesn't have a house any more. She used to but now she doesn't." Well isn't that a lot of insight from a 4yo? I will have to ask my friend about that one. (HEr kid goes to the same school but since he is full-time she seems to know much more of the scoop).

All that from a kid asking for a trampoline.

Anyway, we were going to start the allowance/chore thing when he turns 5. So I talked a little about that and said that is the kind of thing he can save up for when he starts earning money.

& so it starts - the learning about money. My parents started really young with me and so we just will do the same. It worked well for us. I couldn't tell you when I started getting an allowance, but it wasn't the traditional allowance thing, so I don't want to hear how bad allowances are. It really worked for me. IT's not like we are going to hand him money for breathing. But for helping out around the house he will also get a chance to learn about how to handle money. That was always the point of allowance in our house, and I learned all about how money worked quite young. We just figured at 5 he would start Kindergarten which will be his "job" and likewise he will start helping more around the house too.

Which reminds me, Little LEague is starting up soon and they take 4yos. I think we may sign him up. IT's pretty inexpensive and he has been asking to do soccer. IT seems soccer is a fall sport and may fit our schedule better as a whole. BAseball is spring (tax season). But might as well let him try both, and go from there. We'll see. We didn't sign up yet or anything. Dh and I so do not do sports, but it has always been important to us to let our kids be who they are. I have the feeling BM will be a sports type. Too bad he got stuck with us for parents. We wouldn't have a clue. LOL. But he is SO excited about the idea -would be T-Ball for him.

& so it begins!

Kncok on wood, but LM has been sleeping so well lately (For months. Oh my, it feels so good and strange to get a full nights' sleep every night. It has been YEARS!!!). As a whole the kids are actually pretty good sleepers. I mean BM has not been a problem since he was 2. A friend was just complaining about her 5yo waking her up and I thought, "oh my!" IT's been years since sleep has been an issue with him. LM did not handle teething well at all but he seems to be done. !!!!! So I no longer identify with the idea of toddlers who don't sleep. My kids SLEEP. & it is heavenly.

Anyway, and with him going to preschool 2 days a week dh has been in such a better mood. This tax season is flying by and I think that might be part of the reason why. With a happy dh and a good night sleep it just seems to be skipping along quite well.

So we all breathed our collective sigh of relief and began to really enjoy. & now all I See is sports practice and homework in my future. Well we are trying to enjoy the peace and calm. I see a very busy future. Just seems like there is always something with kids. OF course I Am just excited to show them everything the world has to offer. I want them to emjoy being kids like I always did, but I want to expose them to the world too. I guess it is a fine line.

The other thing I would like to do about now is start teaching piano to BM. I am sure we will sign him up for lessons eventually. (The unwritten rule is never teach your own kids. & for the long term there is a reason. For the short term I am too broke to do otherwise). But I think I can get going on getting him interested and teaching basics. I taught piano for many years. Time to brush off the cowbebs and rememebr what I used to do for a living. LOL. I Always thought it was nice to have another skill to fall back on, but now trying to remember exactly how and what pace the program went, funny I Don't remember! I am sure it will come back to me...

Reminds me we need a piano tuning too. $$$







Busy busy busy

January 31st, 2008 at 03:52 pm

It's busy busy busy here. Busy at work, and busy on the home front. Just a lot of stuff going on this week.

I'll see tonight at stock close how our net worth did this month. I think we were down $500 or so as of yesterday. On the net worth front. Wasn't bad really. (My goal is $25k-$30k for the year so yes I have a long way to go. Won't be quite so easy on a bad stock year, if this continues). The budget has been VERY good this month. I think I have -$50 in my checking account unofficially BUT I think our credit card bill will be on or under budget and we may be able to pay for the windshield from the budget instead of savings. So that is all good good good. (Officially I am doing my medical saving transfer after the first to avoid a negative in my checking account. But I put everything in Quicken the date I should do it so I can see when I am falling behind. I hate all those negatives, but I think for February we are caught up. Let's just say I don't expect a negative in February. Of course, never do. Wink )

I have a CD coming due and a balance transfer coming due as well. Which is fine with the interest rates not being so hot. I thought I would be able to get another 8 months at 5.7% on the CD. I really remember that being a promotion but I don't have it anywhere in writing. I may just be crazy, and likewise, the balance transfers are no longer so lucrative. But it's still easy money and I can still get 4.5% (for now) at my bank. Anyway, I'll call the bank and ask. If no 5.7% I'll move. I don't know if they will care so much with my $10k. But they could always offer me a deal to stay. They have a good CD deal right now but only if you have direct deposit. Not much I can do since my boss does not offer DD. Bummer for me.

We are waiting on the sidelines to lock in a great refi rate. We'll see. If the lower than low rates comes by... Our broker is very gung ho since we actually have equity and good credit. I guess we are a rarity around here. The CU just wasn't going to let us sit on the sidelines and wait to see if 5% would materialize again. So this may be better - was referred by a friend. Very untrusting of the mortgage bunch, but we can save so much money with a refi!!!! So we are moving forward.

I was worried about the BTs on my credit score but the guy just LAUGHED. He said my credit score was in the 95% percentile at 730 and he didn't care basically. The payments are so little they don't matter either. Phew!!!! (I think he was shocked we were only paying $400/month on all those cards (But helps in this case). HE was like, "I thought those cards were upping their minimums." Like I Said before, squeaks our "debt payments" and mortgage under 33% so the refi is not a biggie. Phew. Since I never expected to refi this year. But the guy was really shocked with our financial situation. He said we were one in a million. Yay! Well considering he is mostly working with people desparate to fix their mortgage messes. It's all relative I guess. I got the sense he was relieved to have someone who qualified so readily for refi, and I feel he will pull for us, likewise. He had much more incentive than our CU.

So I leave you with this.
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Fair Tax

Anyway, beyond all that, switching gears. HEre are some thoughts on the Fair tax. IT always struck me as the Fair tax supporters glossed over some of the more complicated aspects of this system, plus it always struck me as very unfair to the middle class. Anyway, this is just a tax expert guy who I knew would have a very intelligent write up on the Fair tax. With all the talk about it I thought I would share. If nothing else it's a pretty practical point of view that you don't see much on the debates.

I honestly don't know if my initial reaction (cringing at the idea) is just because the complicated tax system is my livelihood. I think any change like this would be HUGE. Huge ramifications for everyone because it would so greatly change the way we do things. So I don't know if my viceral reaction is because it's bad or because I fear change. I am sure much of it is the latter. But thinking it through I see a lot of holes that the supporters aren't going to talk about or really even grasp. There are just a lot of kinks to work out, if nothing else. So just another point of view:

http://mauledagain.blogspot.com/2008_01_01_archive.html#6467...

http://mauledagain.blogspot.com/search?q=%22fair+tax%22

This is probably my favorite paragraph (below). BEcause unintended tax consequences and loopholes always pop up in local legislation when these things are not thought through. For example, California passed a law for a 1% income tax surcharge to tax returns over $1 million. They didn't really define this very well. So basically whether you are married or single, or file separate, the limit is $1 million per TAX RETURN to avoid the surtax. We had few clients who make this money, but all we had to do for the very few was file their taxes "married filing separately" to avoid the surcharge. It's just a perfect example. Completely unintended tax loophole because they just didn't write the law the way it should have been.

Here it is:

"Each of the terms in this description need to be defined. What is a common residence? Who is the spouse? Is a person a spouse if he or she abandons the residence during the year? Who qualifies as a student? How is support calculated? What constitutes incarceration? What happens if someone is not a member of the household for some portion of the year due to illness? How are kidnaped children counted? In other words, all of the complexities that afflict sections 151 and 152 of the current Internal Revenue Code would still be with us. There are special rules for hobby losses that resemble section 183, special rules for gaming activities, an exemption for intermediate sales, provisions affecting purchases by governments, rules for mixed-use property, not-for-profit organizations, and financial intermediation services. Each of these provisions includes all sorts of terms that need to be defined. For example, the need for complex definitions dealing with non-profit organizations will be no less under the Fair Tax than under the current income tax. Bottom line? The Fair Tax is nowhere near as simple as advertised. That it is presumably less complicated than the current income tax is not a noteworthy achievement. Everything is less complicated that the current income tax."

Yeah, I like that last tax line too. LOL.

Man, I am ALL FOR simpler tax system. For sure.

Stealing BA's Topic

January 29th, 2008 at 03:00 pm

I was just playing around with his cost of living calculator.

http://cgi.money.cnn.com/tools/costofliving/costofliving.html

This is the move we made, in 2001 anyway. Moving from San Jose to Sacramento to cut our cost of living. I would say we cut it significantly more than the % this shows. We sold our little condo for $300k and bought a very nice house (twice as big) for around $290k. The savings in housing was much more at the time then it is today (not sure what year this calculator pulls from).

It's not very apples to apples. I actually kept the same pay here (a slight increase in benefits) so it made this an AWESOME move. Because we so significantly cut our cost of living. But dh never found a job and we had kids. So things have been tighter in the long run.

We went from $100k to $50k, but it is a pretty comparable living. I'd say we cut our costs 50%, easy. (Housing was only really our ONLY cost back home. Felt like it. If we rented or owned, it was almost an entire income to housing). Hell if we bought a condo here we could have lived the same lifestyle on $35k-$40k perhaps.

Likewise, we couldn't imagine living 1/2 this lifestyle back home, on just one income.



Likewise, I put in today's wage and what it would equate to back home. Could I find a $95k job there? Easily enough. Would I move back there? Um, no. $95k would not cut it in any way shape or form. To keep our current lifestyle I really imagine we would need a good $200k. I mean for one, it would be impossible to find a house on this par for under $1 million. So what if we settled for a tiny 3-bedroom for $700k? I am quite sure $95k income wouldn't quite cut it. That would be another $400k to our mortgage. Even to rent a smaller place would double our cost of housing.

So this calculator doesn't really paint the picture how expensive it truly is. I wouldn't consider moving back home pretty much short of winning the lottery or inheriting property there (more likely). Of course we have become so accustomed to the simpler lifestyle, I don't think we would move back for anything!



The last one I threw in a comparison to Kansas, our current wage to the equivalent in Wichita Kansas. I have a lot of relatives there. I imagine I would probably be making not more than that at my current job if I moved to Kansas. But we could pay cash for a house. So it's all relative. I think we could frankly live somewhere like Kansas with a much lower income. I am not even talking about taking any equity out of our house. We have put so much cash into it as is, we can equate that to an entire house purchase. Throw in the equity, and we would semi-retire.

But we have talked about this at length and often. PArticularly the 2-3 years we had a good $300k - $400k paper equity.

We're happy where we are. We don't want to move. Sometimes there is more to life than money I guess. We are pretty attached to California. (Plus we already cut our cost of living substantially, so we are happy with that).

Likewise I haven't been in the mood to complain about the cost of living of late. I have been focusing more on all the upsides of living here. There is a reason people pay so much to live here. Big Grin



Just reminds me too when we moved here our perspective was the houses might as well be pennies. My coworkers knew we had bought a new house and they were so funny. From their perspective housing was so expensive. I remember I donated $50 to some guy for some charity or something (for hid kid's school). He's like, "I Can't take this from you. Didn't you just buy a house?" I said, "um, well, yeah but it was a lot cheaper than our old one." LOL. We had trimmed our $1800 mortgage to $1500, and here this guy wouldn't take $50 from me.

Since that day the perspectives always boggle my mind. We got in the bottom phase of this development and the model homes were still open 1-2 years after we moved in, as they were still selling the later phases. I remember our friends going down and looking at the models assuming that was what we paid for our house. IT's like, we locked in our price in June 2001, and bought in Dec. 2001. Then people would come by in 2003 and think we paid $450k for our house because that's what the models were going for. They would always make comments that we were too rich for their blood. People are just funny! It's like, you did know not only did we move in over a year ago but we locked in our price 6 months before that. Of course the entire time prices were rising like crazy. I am not sure why people wouldn't factor that. But it is just funny. (Like hell we would pay over $300k for as house, for one. LOL).

Also I was lucky my boss gave me an interview. He said us Bay Area folk we were too unrealistic with our salary expectations. As for me, I was open to a 10% pay cut. He kept my same wage and gave me an awesome profit sharing compensation plan, in the end. I figured I must have been really underpaid back home. I mean I went from an international firm to a small pop and pop in a city 1/2 as expensive. Reduced my cost of living by like 1/2, and got to keep my wage. It was insane. (Leaves me wondering what people were asking for!). I remember he told me that in my interview. He thought we were all crazy and he didn't want me to waste his time. LOL. Glad he gave me a chance.

Funnies of the Day

January 27th, 2008 at 04:21 pm

Oh just the last 2 posts on what of my favorite blogs. Funny/Sad.

http://sacrealstats.blogspot.com/

P.S. My salsa recipe is down in my last post!

P.S.S. I was just thinking I am SO SICK of this cold weather and being locked up indoors. BUT I realized winter is just about over for us. Yay!!!!! It will start warming up in a week or 2 and we might get to go enjoy some sun. I am burned out on winter... I just don't do winter well.

Salsa Recipe

January 27th, 2008 at 01:55 am

(First, the other 2 recipes are in my prior post...)

Here's the orignal:

"Val's Mexican Salsa"

3 Roma tomatoes
1/2 Onion
1 large clove of garlic
1 jalapeno pepper
1 serrano pepper (peppers to taste)
1/4 tsp salt
handful of cilantro (to taste)
lime juice (to taste)
water (to desired consistency)

Cook tomatoes & peppers in microwave for 3 minutes. (I believed this was in water in a bowl, cover with saran wrap and poke holes in the top).

After cooked you can leave the skin on or peel if you like. I believe my MIL took to boiling the veggies on the stove. (This recipe has evolved with time and I will post the simplest one last).

Take stems off peppers/tomatoes and place in blender. Blend to desired consistency.

Add:

*chopped cilantro, as desired, to blender.

*(large) chopped slices of onion.

*water (to change consistency as desired).

*lime juice (around 1 tsp)

*garlic

*salt

Blend (but not too much).

This is a recipe that you experiment with. I think this version is rather spicy (but not too spicy).

The key is to find that right balance of lime, salt and cilantro. It has taken a while for us to fine-tune.

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Here's dh's version:

Simple Hot Salsa

1 can diced tomatoes
1/2 Onion
1 large clove of garlic (or equivalent jarred/minced garlic)
1 jalapeno pepper
1 serrano pepper
1/2 habanero pepper (peppers to taste)
1/4 tsp salt
handful of cilantro (to taste)
lime juice (to taste)
water (to desired consistency)

Chop everything up a bit, toss it in the blender, and blend. Be careful not to over blend.

*This recipe uses canned tomatoes and an extra hot habanero. Plus it skips all the cooking. This is the one we eat regularly.

You should skip the habanero if you don't do *hot*. You could also remove/reduce the seeds from the other peppers to keep some of the pepper flavor and bring down the hotness.

If you want fresh tomatoes it is best to cook them a bit to soften them.

This recipe is easy to double.

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Warning: If you use the habanero wear gloves or wash your hands very well afterwards. Seriously. IT will burn your skin and you don't want to rub your eyes or anything after handling one. I think it is a bit much but dh loves his habaneros. I am sure most of you should probably just skip it.

I found this:

"Habanero peppers - To date these are the Hottest chili peppers know to man, HOT - HOT - HOT. Use extreme caution when using. Marble-shaped chili peppers, ranges in color from unripe green to full ripe red."

"Serrano Chiles - A small 1 fresh HOT pepper. The smaller they are, the more kick they have. Most often used in Pico de Gallo. Dynamite hot is an understatement for these tiny 1-inch peppers. When new on the vine, they are rich, waxy green, changing to orange and red as they mature. They also sold canned, pickled, or packed in oil. A great source of vitamin C."

Courtesy of: http://www.texmextogo.com/chilipeppersfacts.htm

I Have Recipes

January 26th, 2008 at 06:55 pm

I have recipes!

I still have to write down the salsa recipe (& pick dh's brain on it).

But for now. This is one from the newspaper that the kids even liked and was quite tasty for a bunch of rice and veggies. Not that it was the greatest ever but it was a form of veggie even picky old me could eat. Wink & was quite good for what it was.



& this recipe was DIVINE. A little spicy, very filling. I think dh doubled the recipe to fit the veggies he had but it was good and made great leftovers. I Wouldn't make it otherwise (Well for a family anyway. Was just great for leftovers). (From our 'Light & Tasty' mag).

OF course we are still receiving 2 mags by mistake so if anyone wants one, the first to reply, I will mail it your way.





http://www.lightandtasty.com

There's a lot of recipes on their website too. Oh we wouldn't eat so well without these magazines. LOVE them.

Meals

January 25th, 2008 at 03:10 pm

We have had a good meal week.

Dh has been using leftover veggies to make salsa quite often. We got the "recipe" from a hispanic friend a while back. & we LOVE salsa. So in our frugal endeavors dh has been making it much more because usually he has everything anyway in leftovers (except maybe peppers and tomatoes). & we buy the chips more in bulk when they go on sale. I am not much of a veggie eater so the more salsa is good. The more chips is not. We might have to go find some healthier chip varieties. But these are so cheap. I seem to be losing weigh regardless. ?

Anyway, last week we tried a new cauliflower soup recipe from the newspaper. It is pretty good. I am not a veggie fan, but in that form I could eat it up. It is very creamy but it just has rice and chicken broth, something like that. & a lot of veggies. I was sure it had some high fat cream in it or something, but it doesn't. We've had it twice since because it is another great leftover recipe (all the leftover veggies) and the kids LOVE it.

The paper also had an Indian Broccoli recipe. Love Inidan food; not a fan of broccoli. But it actually used shoestring broccoli and it was REALLY good. So needless to say I have been eating more veggies this week.

Finally, dh tried a new rice and meat dish. It is SO good. We usually try a lot of new recipes and a few make it to our tried and true recipe book. But it seems like it has been a while. So it was a great week for new recipes. & yes I will share them when I get a chance!

We also tried Ms. Bean's frugal greek dish and it was good. We tried that a while back and I think dh is making it again this week. I forgot what it was, but I saw the recipe sitting out so I know dh is planning on it again. IT was yummy.

I also asked dh how grocery prices were and he said besides milk he hasn't noticed much. I wonder if the big cities are a little more immune to inflation. I don't know. We just haven't seen it here. I shouldn't say immune. Maybe I should say, just slow to reflect it. We just aren't feeling much pinch here. Yet. Not where we shop.

Which reminds me, I have been trying to talk dh into astro turfing our back lawn. We both hate yardwork and such but he is really against it for whatever reason. Anyway, now that we have metered water I have brung it up again. We should re-landscape. Sure the front yard has to look just so for the association. But the backyard - who cares. We just waste a lot of water. I's be happy to get desert landscaping (it's almost desert here anyway) and save water. But anyway, he wants to grow a garden. We are thinking of dividing the lawn into maybe 1/2 garden and 1/2 play area for the kids (get the tanbark and maybe a play set). Well, it will be a step in a good direction. We'll still have to water the garden. But not near as much as the lawn.

We could maybe get a cheaper rate on our gardener as well, with one less lawn to mow.

We had a tree die also. So we are thinking of getting an apple tree to replace it. The kids are apple monsters. So that will be nice!

The apple tree, we should jump on in the spring. After windy season. But the rest, I think we will wait a year or two. Not that the garden would cost money. But ripping up the lawn a bit, might. I don't even know where to start. IT's in the "idea" stage for now.

The Real Hustle

January 25th, 2008 at 01:42 pm

I was watching some reality this last week. There is a new reality show on meter maids. You have got to be kidding me. I actually saw part of one episode and looked a little interesting. Then just got boring. Poor meter maids, stupid people. LOL. Same arguments over and over and over.

Anyway, then I saw "The Real Hustle." It was a few scam artists pulling off various scams. The first one caught my attention as a lady was sitting alone in a park with her purse sitting by her feet. I usually put my purse on the floor as well, but wrap the strap around my knee or put it between my legs. Apparently this is smart; not paranoid. They took her wallet in like a minute. But I have to say it was eye opening since I could see the same thing happening to me. Regardless how careful I was holding on. (They also stole a cell phone from a guy who had it sitting right in front of him. Tricky!)

So it sucked me in. But then it just got really stupid. I thought, "Who falls for this stuff?" It was tricky but I didn't see the lure in the other 2 scams. One was that monty game on the street where they get people to bet loads of money then and there, on a card game. Just screams scam. Regardless, I wouldn't gamble $60 or so on the street. Maybe $2. LOL. But it was a well planned trick that got a lot of people to drop a lot of $20s pretty quickly. Amazing.

& then of course the stupidest where a guy walks into a cafe on his cell and loudly talks about the antique plate at the market around the corner selling for $60 when it is really worth $800. Not that I would think it was a scam. But I can't honestly see getting excited and running to buy the $60 plate. PArticularly not being much of an antique seller. LOL. Of course they made $9,000 off that scam in the course of ONE Day! Which means pretty much means that just about everyone that overheard that conversation ran to grab the worthless plate for $60. YIKES!

This is all very relative to personal finance. The dear friends I have that struggle the most financially, are the ones who are the most gullible and least financially savvy. They have fallen for all the scams in the book. They can never give up the hope of winning money or getting something free (usually these are scams that cost them in the end). They spend so much time AND money chasing these "get rich quick" schemes. All they really had to do was buckle down and get a financial plan. It's much simpler and less heart breaking in the long run.

Anyway, the SA blog covered this topic today and I so it spurred me to write on it.

I am very thankful my parents taught me from a young age to spot a scam. I learned that "you don't get something for nothing" when I was probably 8 or 10. & that is the time to teach your kids. When they don't have any money to lose. LOL. So they don't learn the hard way when they are older and do have money to lose.

& watching the Real Hustle I think will probably open my eyes to some scams I hadn't heard of. I don't think my knowledge and wariness makes me immune from scams. I wish! However, the bulk of the scams that you run across daily are usually simple and quite obvious to the skeptical. I mean, if I had a penny for every time I won a "free vacation" or a "large sum of money". I had a lot of friends recently "win a free computer" and handed over their credit card for the shipping which cost hundreds of dollars. Also, the penny stocks, I know people who can't pay their bill but buy the penny stocks they get sold in the obviously spammy e-mails. (Not thinking why would people give you this insider info for free? & the basic rule - never pay ANYTHING for a prize. Don't give your credit card #!)

I also saw this article on the topic. Another good, relevant one (and mentioned "The Real Hustle" too).

http://www.wisebread.com/street-m arket-scams-dont-believe-...

Up $5

January 20th, 2008 at 05:17 pm

Dh won $5 in poker yesterday. Yay. (Well like I Said he is usually up). So I can't say I was surprised. Wink

I am enjoying the peace and quiet until him and the kids get home.

I am lazy and only working 5 hours today. That puts me to 40 hours for the week. Eh. This week was just long.

You know I really didn't work that much overtime last year and I realize my boss didn't chastise me at all. I think pretty much whatever I want to do, the boss doesn't care. As long as I don't quit.

This is a pretty sweet spot to be in.
-----------------------------------------

I just got my updated FICO score from WAMU. I have been nervous with my large borrowed to credit ratio (whatever its called) on my latest balance transfer. It went from around 770 to 730.

I am borrowing about $17k of my $25 credit limit. (About 70% plus whatever is showing outstanding on my monthly paid-off card).

Eh. I think I will survive. Only 6 more months until one of them is paid. If 730 is the worst it gets, maybe I will borrow more. It's tempting!

(I actually expected it to be worse).

Likewise, we reported like $200 interest on our tax return in 2006 & it looks like we made a good $1k in 2007. Of course the beauty of shifting so much of our efund to our ROTHs is now we don't even have to pay taxes on all of our interest. Sweet! I expect to hit around $2k this year though on all our cash and balance transfers, taxable or not.

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

Kind of depressing - another round of desparate craigslist postings.

http://sacrealstats.blogspot.com/2008/01/craigslist-trolling...

It's like a car wreck; just can't avert my eyes.

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

More to the whole ID Theft thing. What if the institutions that got your data from ID thieves then lose your data? Sounds like a vicous cycle.

Data lost on 650,000 credit card holders
http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-data18jan18-ap,1,61879...

It's just maddening to me all the mailing lists I am on (sent to "loyal customer") because of all the accounts the ID thieves opened in my name. Not worth the effort to call and yell at them to stop sending me crap. It's just annoying. But now the same companies are losing data the same way I think mine was compromised in the first place. Lost computer. Blah.

Can I write them and tell them since I never wanted to do business with them in the first place, I would prefer that they wipe my data off their computers? Do I have that right? I get the feeling no. As I find it extremely tacky they would send so much crap to ID theft victims. I mean they look at this opportunity to try to win me as a customer by sending me card offers and all sales ads. I think, are they out of their minds? Well, it seems to be working for them. But I think it is extremely tacky and annoying.

Oh well, I might have to write some letters. Not that I expect much action, but might help the junk mail levels. I have the feeling they can't just erase all my personal data after investigating it. But it would be nice.

You can't win.

Saturday Bits & Pieces

January 20th, 2008 at 02:43 am

Yeesh. On that $1600 family tax rebate thing? Insane. I already get to keep like 90% of my paycheck and now I get to keep even more when you consider the rebate.

Yeah I am on the side (the one I don't see so much here) that I am SO WAY undertaxed. The government wants to subsidize my mortgage and my kids. Which means to some pretty measly income tax bills for us this last decade.

I don't think this would push us to a year where we were paid by the government instead of taxed, but it will be close, and we have had a couple of those.

I would never mortgage my future like this though, so it peeves me to no end. I'd gladly send back my last 5 years of child tax credits for some more responsible government spending. GLADLY.

Likewise, what we could do as concerned citizens is write our representatives and GRIPE. They need to know this is not just a free re-election card. Many of us are not happy as they expected we would be.

Anyway, I am extra peeved as already I said we pay zilch in taxes BUT the government is pushing AMT down our throats (the tax for the insanely rich). They don't have enough money to fix AMT but they can send every family a $1600 check? Sounds like it's just a more popular thing to do. (Well and just a one-year thing). It's just, crazy...

What am I going to do with my $1600? Unfortunately I owe the Feds about $1100 on a ROTH conversion. Some bad miscalculation I haven't figured out yet. But yeah, I am just going to send it back. Might be my "get out of jail free" card. If not for that I would invest it in a fund called "Future Taxes." I would save it for when I start having to pay AMT or we get a responsible government who starts taxing enough to pay all the bills. Just stuff like that. That is all I really could do, save it for future taxes. That is the only thing I could do that would give me any peace of mind.

If I have to send $1100 to the IRS? I don't know. I don't know if I will bother saving the rest. It might round out my vacation fund pretty well. I am just weird like that. Hand me $1600 and I will pop it in savings. Hand me $499 and I will probably just spend it. Eh. It would actually help a lot. LM orthondontics, is nothing else. Vacation. Work we need to do around the house.

Then again if money feels tight now, wait until we have to pay income taxes again. I almost forget what it is like.

Better save it.

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

Anyway, today was a very nice day.

The weather seemed a little chilly but it was nice and sunny for our drive to San Jose. Oh, I am so done. I think that was a good 7-8 drives in 2-3 months. I am out. I am not going anywhere for 4 more months. & that sounds divine!

Of course today was gorgeous and I actually enjoyed the long drive. Go figure. But I am happy to see our gas bill go down.

Dh is going to San Jose one more time this month. Then I think we will rest our cars for our So Cal drive in May. Well, I hope so anyway.

Dh made out well. He got $75 in gift cards for movies and such so he didn't want me o add any money to his allowance. So no gift after all. Zilch/nada for him. He also go a movie and a book from his grandma.

My mom gave him $50 and his GrandDad gave him $20. I am just depositing those for bills. Well needed. Bummer.

On the flip side, so far, January is not near as scary as I thought it would be with the whole preschool thing. We are holding our own. It may not be the financial ruin for 6 months, that I imagined. (Oh sure I exaggerate). But overall, end of year is very spendy and this time of year is usually pretty slow for us. Less driving, less getting out, more income. win win win. IT seems to be working out. (knock on wood). Of course I was stressed until I remembered dh was getting birthday cash. But oh yes February is always an easy month too since it is a short month. Yeah, things are going well.

Anyway, today we went to lunch and treated. MIL dug up a $25 G.C. so we ended up paying about $80. It wasn't bad. Was a GREAT lunch. I had a really pleasant day with MIL too. I don't remember the last time I had. LOL. I think she is over the holidays. Oh, well, until next November or so. Blah. I almost forgot why I could even stand her. But like I said, today was SO pleasant. Phew.

We actually had such a nice lunch. With MIL and my parents too.

The kids went to the zoo afterwards and I went home to work. Dh called to say the zoo will be closed for about 18 months for renovations. Frown What a bummer! Oh the kids love it there and we have a membership. They said they would honor the remaining months we were owed upon reopening. I wonder if they knew this why they just didn't sell a 1/2 year membership or whatever. Well they close in July so we will get our money's worth before then, for sure.

I tackled my taxes again. Since I got a bunch of 1099s and my W-2. Oh, blech, nothing has changed. Still owe $1100 has mentioned. I need to dig up my estimates and figure what I did wrong. I still don't know where my error was. But my withholding still looks okay, so that is what matters I guess. Should be more breakeven next year, all else equal. No more ROTH conversions. Yay!!!!!!!

Anyway, I dollar cost averaged my gas. LOL. I was in a terrible hurry yesterday on my drive to san jose and stopped at an expensive place. It was $3.25/gallon. I was dissapointed to hear dh paid $3.03 at our regular place with discount. It was a mile away (maybe less) but I was rushed. So I got 5 gallons. I forgot to fill up and popped on the freeway after lunch. Traffic was horrid. (For the big city living funny to admit I don't do traffic. Just hate it. Little patience for it. I spend my life avoiding it). Anyway, gas light came on rather soon, no doubt with all the traffic which reduces the van to a paltry 15mpg. I stopped and filled up 5 gallons to get home, $3.30. *cringe* Of course a mere 15 miles later was my usual gas stop and $3.15. Figured. (I thought I was much further out). I could have just waited 15 miles. But oh well.

I got home and still had a good couple of miles. I figured I would wait to empty to refill, though it was still only $3.03 here. We drag out our discounts by using them primarily in the van (bigger gas tank) and only filling when empty. So maybe I will fill up tomorrow after work.

I am just so spoiled by that gas station. It is hard to suck it up and pay another 25 cents - 30 cents on the road like that.

Dh called me on the way home to remind me we had no bread. So I went to the store. It feels so foreign to me. I just never go grocery shopping. & rightly so. I bought bread, pepsi, cookies and chicken nuggets. I love to eat a little too much. I figured I would treat myself to some nuggets and treats since I would eat alone. Spent around $10.

Yes this is why I am forbidden from the grocery shopping. Which is fine by me. Actually I was terribly sick when pregnant with my first and dh wasn't working so he started getting big on home cooked meals and all the shopping and cooking. It has just evolved that way. Which pretty much means I never have to go to the store. I am calling dh and asking him where the bread and the soda and the cookies are and everything so I don't have to waste time looking around. Otherwise I just feel lost. Phew.

So yes that is my long entry for the day. Big Grin

I do not know how much work I will get done tonight. But I am working most of tomorrow and most of next weekend. Busy busy busy busy. I just feel behind.

I can't believe it is the 19th though. Seriously? This tax season will be over in a blink. So what is the big deal anyway? LOL. It's like 1/4 over. I just can't believe how fast 2008 seems to be flying!

Spent $420

January 19th, 2008 at 04:06 pm

$420 at the dentist.

For the 3 of us.

Not bad.

I just made our next appointments. We only went once last year. It seems we were going every 7 or 8 months by the time we found appointments to fit in our schedule. Anyway, so I locked in a good Friday appointment in July. Will go back in December then - make it 3 this year. I can't do the long drive during tax season - just too much. IT was too much this weekend!

Oh and the pediatric dentist called back right before I wrote them off. Dooms day is the 31st. LOL. We'll find out what they say about Mr. sharky - LM. *sigh* I am scared of both the cost and the treatment (poor LM).

Well it was nice we all had a clean bill of health. No cavities. Yay. We usually don't but I did last time. So I Was nervous!

Oh yes and LM was JEALOUS he did not get to go in with us. So he is excited about his special appointment now. Well that is something. Last time I mentioned it he said he did NOT want to go to the dentist. We'll see how he feels on the big day. It could go either way.

Oh yes, dentist money is accounted for in our "short-term savings." So nothing to sweat there. I put it on the card and earned about $5 in rewards too. Big Grin

No Gifts Here

January 18th, 2008 at 03:18 pm

Dh and I don't really exchange gifts any more.

It's more of a one-income thing than a gift thing. We rather save up our pennies for vacation and stuff like that than buy each other more crap.

I don't know, we have been doing this more consciously in the last couple of years.

Anyway, the guy in MyMoneyBlog said so much about him and his wife. No gifts for Christmas. & the response to his blog was kind of nasty. Like the world will end if you don't join in the consumerism for christmas, for your spouse.

I have to say we are QUITE happy with this arrangement.

For one, I think the joy of gift getting has gone out the window with the one-income thing. It is hard for my spouse to pick up a gift without me noticing (I pay all the bills and look at the cards daily, etc.). Plus, though my dh is a great gift giver, it is annoying that my paycheck goes to these gifts. Maybe I would have rather gotten something else. I don't know. IT just isn't the same. I imagine when money isn't as tight, it won't matter. I might appreciate some gifts. But for now, I appreciate not having to pay for them more. Big Grin That is what it REALLY comes down to. Dh is on the same page. For him it probably helps his parents spoil him rotten. He rather we save our pennies for TVs and the like than more junk on his birthday.

Of course one thing nice I always do is take the kids out and give dh a free day. See, it's not like you have to do something materialistic to be nice. There is nothing he would rather have more than that.

This year I am not sure I can swing it or that it will cut it. He had THREE days with no kids this week. LOL. & I am working all weekend and ha has plans (& babysitters).

So I don't know.

I will probably give him $25 to his allowance to go buy some Blu-Ray movies. Then he can pick out what he really wants. There is probably nothing he wants more.

I also agreed I wouldn't nag him for trading the carseat for the PSP. LOL. That's his gift too. I could use the cash and the budget is about $110 over right now for January. I was planning on getting in the range of $100 for the carseat to cover that. So that is also a pretty nice gift.

He'll give me his birthday money to cover the cash shortfall. I didn't spend my birthday money on anything but bills, so seems fair.

He is skeptical but his mom gave ME $100 this year (kind of rare). I said if I got $100 I get the feeling you will get $100. His grandparents will each give him $50 too. I might put some to retirement. Oh I am not counting on it all 1000%, but I think odds are good he will get some decent cash.

I was hoping we could just add these to our allowances, but just didn't pan out this year. There is a fairness factor there. Usually his parents and grandparents rain cash on him and I get zilch. So who knows. Then again now his family is giving me cash. So it might be more fair in a year. ?? We'll see. We always play it by ear. It helps our birthdays are back to back. It helps with the fairness card. Of course, we are also pretty happy to forego gifts and cash and all that right before/after Christmas. Since we get plenty for that too.

Anyway, for the weekend we are going to San Jose tomorrow for a dental appointment. We are going to have lunch with our parents (I may treat, or my parents; we'll fight it out). I wanted to treat with my raise. But I expected it to be more. So if they insist - will take the offer.

Olive Garden. Can't remember the last time I went!! Ages...

Then dh has a poker game. He took $40 cash for that. Since it is his birthday weekend, I hope that means good luck. He actually usually comes out ahead. But I think last time he came home with $0, or only 1/2 or something. We'll see.

His mom is babysitting so I can work all weekend. Phew. Well I hope to work most Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning. Then enjoy the rest of the day with the fam.

Oh and we are going to try a new pizza place Sunday night. So it will be a bit of a spendy weekend. Dentist, gas, 2 meals out. A good $700/$800 weekend? (Mostly Dentist!)

BM is going to the dentist with us.

I left a message for a recommended pediatric dentist for LM. They never called back. It took me ALL this time to get the nerve and they can't even call back. I take it as a sign to look elsewhere. LOL. I know technology is not fail safe, but I am terribly annoyed. I always look at these things as signs.

Bah.

Man I just hate dentists. Very bad experiences. Not looking forward to this on so many levels. Back to the drawing board for LM. He really needs to be seen. My dentist won't touch him with a ten-foot pole because he is a "baby." Which is fair. He gripes about BM but he was excellent and the hygenist insisted we just bring him in. This will be his second visit and he did excellent last time. He actually LOVES the dentist. (Who is this kid? LOL.) Anyway. I think my dentist said he sees 6 or 7yos and at this point BM can pass for that age. He did very well. But still looking for a pediatric dentist for LM.

Rough Budget

January 17th, 2008 at 06:47 pm

It is super super crazy at work. BUT I wanted to go to aerobics tonight. I usually tend to go home at lunch on aerobic days. Then I can grab my stuff at lunch (since mornings seem so rushed) and I can feel less guilty getting home at 7:30pm (if I can see the kids for lunch).

Well, today the kids are at preschool. Both of them - all day! (BTW, LM is loving it. If we left him there all week and picked him up Friday I don't think he'd care. LOL. & I thought it might be a rough adjustment? I have been taking him to the gym daycare in the evening after a full day at daycare because he wants to go play some more. Well, okay then. He is getting accustomed to other toys and the company of lots of kids I guess).

Anyway, kids are gone, so I have a lunch date with dh.

This is kind of nice. We should start doing this. Well, the problem is I usually have to leave early to pick up the kids. Which rules out a long lunch. But tonight dh is picking them up since aerobics is closer to my work. Kids got to go to preschool today since Monday is a holiday. She always lets them come in another day when their day falls on a holiday, which is just awesome.

So dh and I get lunch date. I think I will make a deal that once a week we should have a lunch date if he will pick up or drop off the kids. That is one thing we would like more of, more "Date" time, but the babysitting expense is horrendous. But if we're paying for it anyway, might as well enjoy. Big Grin

For today just going home for some leftovers. But I Don't remember the last time dh or I had any time for each other. Kind of sad. So it will be nice.

I am also working on my budget with my raise. Will look something like this:

+2,690 (1st)
-50 retirement
-450 short-term savings
-1,318 mortgage
-630 preschool
-200 utilities/gardener

+2,690 (16th)
-50 retirement
-450 short-term savings
-1,300 credit card (all other expenses)
-728 Health Insurance
-200 utilities

Leaves $0.

Ideally...

We'll see...

I realistically expect $5k/year in interest and overtime to fund more long-term savings.

& I have a 10% contribution to retirement (employer) regardless of how much I physically put away.

Preschool drops to $315/month come august. (Did I mention that yet? Big Grin )

Which means I hope my budget to look more like this by the end of the year. & this would be pretty sweet:

+2,690 (1st)
-150 retirement
-500 short-term savings
-1,318 mortgage
-315 preschool
-200 utilities/gardener

+2,690 (16th)
-150 retirement
-500 short-term savings
-1,300 credit card (all other expenses)
-728 Health Insurance
-200 utilities

I am still lucky to take home almost 90% of my paycheck. Taxes are just nil with the kids, mortgage, etc.

This is one reason I am in savings mode. Certainly don't expect this to last forever. I feel blessed it was this way for us during our one-income years. Then again we will probably have to pay it back tenfold down the road. Which is exactly why we don't borrow money in the first place (as a rule). The whole thing makes me nervous for the long run.




Miscellaneous

January 14th, 2008 at 02:54 pm

Man, I am whipped.

I did all my Thank-You cards yesterday. I should be thankful there were so many, but I wasn't. LOL. Seemed like an all day project.

Anyway, I did enjoy the morning. I'll give you that. Then I worked all afternoon. Then at 5:00 I did paperwork for various things (rebates, contests) and all the Thank-Yous. I still have to dig out addresses for most of them. I just don't keep addresses. I am terrible that way. As organized as I am. Of course I have a lot memorized which is my thing. & phone #s are in the cell phone. I just never really saved addresses anywhere. Maybe I should make that my goal. Need to look some up on the web and call our moms for the rest. Isn't that terrible? LOL. I guess with the internet age I don't need addresses for any other reason.

Then dinner and gave the kids a bath. & then pretty much crashed. I fell asleep at 9 which is even a little early for me. But I did sleep well...

This week will be no better. On go go go mode.

Then again January is about 1/2 over, which means tax season is about 1/8 over. It will FLY! At this rate it will be over in a blink. That's the upside I guess. This time of year always fly with the hecticness and then I can slow down and enjoy the rest of the year. Big Grin

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

Well, I cleaned up Quicken a bit yesterday. I added a category for gym/fitness. & differentiating 2007/2008 IRA contributions. Stuff like that.

I also looked long and hard at "miscellaneous." For budgeting purposes I don't want to spend a lot of time breaking down every little category. There is a time tradeoff there.

For example, on groceries. Everything we buy at the grocery store I just put in groceries. I know all we buy is groceries, personal care products, cat food/cat litter, etc. Everything we buy at the grocery store though is pretty basic. The basic needs.

For a while I was breaking out how much we spent on milk, bread, meat, etc. Just out of curiosity. But that, like the price book, was just way too impractical and time consuming. Just not my thing. So I am happy to leave groceries as is. There isn't any fat to cut there anyway, so why bother. (Not now that dh lowered our bills like 20%). !!

Miscellaneous is much the same. I don't want to budget every item to the penny. Plus I like some flexibility. So I always had a round $150/month in my head towards miscellaneous. Usually for stuff like going to the zoo, to concerts, small car repairs, excess medical expenses, or whatever. If it was a slow month and nothing came up, we'd enjoy it. But if we had car repairs and too many trips to the doctor, we would apply it for that stuff and splurge less. Same when we just needed stuff around the house.

I decided this is still very fine for budgeting purposes. I really like this part of the budget because it is so flexible. Just makes it easier.

But when it came to year-end and comparisons to prior year, lord know what that big blob of miscellaneous was. LOL.

So I looked at it closer and broke it down to about 10 sub categories. Might matter less to me throughout the year, but at year-end it will be nice for the big picture, to know how much we spent on this and that.

I already had categories for dh, me, and the kids. So will leave those. (For birthday presents and just misc. things that don't fit anywhere else).

I then added the following categories:

**Household (just stuff around the house. I put the thank you cards here. From last year I saw stuff like mattress pads, beard trimmers, table clothe, towels, etc.)

**Electronics

**Furniture

**Entertainment (I have a separate category for our blockbuster online service, but it is outside of the misc. budget. All the rest of our entertainment out goes to misc. So figured I'd add it here too).

**Family Activities (This is what we used misc. the most for, anyway)

**Books/CDs/Software

**Holidays (easter egg decorating, halloween costumes, anything and everything holiday. Except I have a separate category for Christmas, already, as that is the pricier holiday).

Anyway, looking at last year, that was the best way to break down the misc. items. So we'll see how that goes. It's a work in progress... I think I will appreciate this for year to year comparisons. & seeing where our money really went. I am just going to reclass last years' numbers, monthly, as we go along. So that I will have useful comparative reports throughout the year.

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

Yesterday I was perusing the paper and found a $1 off coupon for my deoderant. So I think I will pick some up. I am particular about my shampoo and deoderant, though particular about little else.

I also saw $1 off for Cover girl. I could kick myself for not looking through those before buying make up last week. I mentioned I only buy like once every 5 years. So I just have to put that somewhere in my brain for next time.

Dh is usually good with the coupons, and stocking up on the regulars on sale. But these are the things he didn't think of. Too girly. LOL. So I have to remember to peruse the adds and stock up when I see coupons.

P.S. We sign up Big Money for kindergarten tomorrow. !!!!!! I think I am going to cry. Frown It doesn't help that a relative said that now he will be an adult in a blink. Once they start school it is over... (Not what I want to hear).

Well I still have Little Monkey. For now... He's still a little snuggle bug. I will really miss this age/stage when it passes.

I never even wanted kids and now I think I am a baby addict. LOL. Figures. Well maybe I will have grandchildren someday. I know I don't want more kids. I really don't. But there is a lot I will miss about the baby/toddler age.

I guess good thing for nieces and nephews!!!



COOL Decorating Idea...

January 13th, 2008 at 09:39 pm

How's this for frugal?

http://homokaasu.org/rasterbator/gallery/i/10229.jpg

If you click on the link above you will see a print out on the floor, of a baby. It's a bunch of sheets of paper put together to put together a big poster actually.

At the party yesterday we saw one of those. So cool. So this morning I played around with it. I came up with a picture for each of my Monkeys. I just happened to have 2 framed posters sitting in the closet. Just poster-sized, cheap black frames. So I uploaded my recent favorite Christmas picture of LM and printed it out. It came out really good.

BM and I chose a picture for his room.

They are framed; I haven't put it up yet. If you can live with the white lines, it wasn't that hard. I wasn't going to bother slicing the pages down to chop the borders, though we do have a paper cutter. I figure that would just be too complicated for me. I don't do good with putting things together. But this was rather simple and fun.

Anyway, I didn't figure it out yet but it looks like you can do the same for top quality prints. It's just free on their website. Look at some of these!

http://homokaasu.org/rasterbator/gallery/i/10668.jpg

We have to fix up LM's room and I saw that one. Is giving me IDEAS. (Oh yes I know that one would be tough to implement. But looks more fun than painting anyway. Big Grin )

http://homokaasu.org/rasterbator/gallery/i/8884.jpg

http://homokaasu.org/rasterbator/gallery/i/10311.jpg

Well here is the website to give it a whirl:

http://homokaasu.org/rasterbator/

I can just see my house being covered in art in no time. LOL. But I was also thinking it might be a nice gift to put together one of my dad's photos on one of his walls some day. Sneak over there and put it up as a giant poster or something.

So much you can do...



Yesterday was Fun

January 13th, 2008 at 03:29 pm

We had a good day interesting. Yes, another drive to San Jose. But this time was well worth it. I figured it would cost about $300 to replace my windshield just going with the flow. But my dad, cheapie that he is, pointed out a real cheap place by his house. Swears by them. Except they were closed for a good week after the windshield cracked.

So we went by yesterday while in town and it was a whopping $150. Big Grin

Will just come out of the monthly budget. Not a biggie. & I was stressed about it!

I am so happy to get that fixed and to pay so little.

Of course on the way home we hit something on the freeway! It was one of those lawn mower bags. It was not good. I think the odds are good my car is okay. But it got lodged underneath the car. We pulled over and dh finagled it for a bit. But he is the smart one. He said, "why don't you back up?" Then it popped right out. The car seemed fine and we got home late. Today I'll look under it and make sure there is no obvious damage. All I could think is we just fixed the dang thing.

Well we did our good deed for the day. We got it off the road. At least no one else hit it. I told dh I preferred to hit it with the van than the subcompact. So as long as the car is okay...

Anyway, I have been realizing lately that there are a large number of benefits to being in the land of expensive. They keep popping up this last week or 2 or 3 and I am feeling less annoyed about the disadvantages of late. I think in a forum like this, seeing so many people live in more reasonable places, it is easy to start getting annoyed about all the downsides, and lose sight of the upside.

Cheap auto glass is one. Big Grin


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Well, we went to a fancy birthday party in San Jose yesterday. IT wasn't terribly fancy. It was actually rather low key, but they did have entertainment and about 30 guests (for a 2yo). The nice thing is all the guests had small kids and didn't last long. So us and the family stayed a little longer. The kids just had a BLAST. They have such a fun house.

This is dh's cousin. I am sure they would be easily labeled as the Joneses. But they are not. I don't know anyone our peer who has such a nice home in the area (who can afford it) and I would guess that they have the smallest mortgage. She started with a tiny condo, then a townhouse, then this home. I know she paid something in the $500-$600k range in a very similar neighborhood to when dh's sister paid $800k. The thing is his sister has 1200 square feet if lucky. This house has a nice backyard, & is a very tiny 3-bedroom. But it has an add-on so a family room and a master added on to it. They have some pretty decent square footage as a result. & I know most of that was bought with equity. They are just smart buyers. (I mean the house is a zillion years old, but that's what you get for 1/2 mil in the Bay Area).

Their house is filled to the brim with electronics and fancy things. But I mean, they wouldn't buy anything they couldn't pay cash for and I know she had saved a crazy amount down on the first condo she bought. They are just savers who make a lot of money. They don't have the crazy mortgages the rest of our peers do so they can enjoy those big incomes that much more. Of course I think they are crazy, LOL, because they both still work full-time, opposite schedules. But it seems to work for them. & if it works for them, so be it.

The thing that struck me about the party is most of the parents were OLD.

Anyway, around here in Sacramento, I know a LOT of young moms. Which is not very much the norm in the Bay Area. BEcause it is just too expensive! So up here it was always striking to me how many young parents were. Of course, on the flip side, know a lot of parents in their late 30s, early 40s. But they all look very young.

So yesterday, this party, I see a lot of older people. I figured it was just the different culture. These people can't afford to have kids until much later. I don't know if that was an accurate conclusion, but all I Could figure. None of these people would pass for 20s/30s. So I was pondering.

Anyway, one interesting conversation we had was that dh's aunt teaches for a community college. She was asking a lot of questions of BM because he is quite the brain. (YEs I have bragged about him before). So she was asking me if he knew combinations of 10. (5/5, 6/4, 7/3, etc.). Well, um, of course. She said, "If I asked him if there were 27 people in a room and 7 more people came in, how many would there be?" would he know the answer? I think, yes, of course. He's been on this math kick and he LOVES combination of #s. & adding and subtracting all that.

Anyway, she was asking because she teaches the lowest level math in community college (pre-algebra) and she has for a while. But she says the people coming through can not do BASIC math. We were discussing that and dh's family was kind of concluding that more dumb people are going to college. LOL. I chimed in and said we couldn't find any CPAs who could do basic problem solving skills. I think it is more of an age thing. The young people coming through are just not properly educated. I feel so blessed to be educated and to know that I will ensure my kids are educated. But apparently not everyone has that same leg up. I mean I am in the middle when it comes to home schooling. I am not going to homeschool my kids 24/7. Not my thing. I want them to open their horizons. I had so many wonderful teachers and experiences through the years; so much more than my parents could have given me. BUT just because I send them off to school doesn't mean I am going to put the responsibility 1000% on the school. Come on. I can't fathom why anyone would. But then you get college grads who can't do basic arithmetic. Yikes!!!!!!!!!!! Apparently a lot of parents aren't paying any attention. &/or don't have the skills to teach their kids. IT's just a sad state of society I think. Since when was education such a low priority. *sigh*

But I never really thought about the 2 before, but someone mentioned that no wonder people couldn't figure our basic personal finance. If they can't do basic arithmetic. I had never really thought about it, but I think it is a good point. They young particularly, seem to have a big disadvantage in that regard.

I also know a lot of it is because people rely so much on computers, somehow they miss the basics. But there isn't a lot you can do without the basics. Which is the frustration we find in our field. People just don't "get it" because they don't have the basic skills. You can't be a CPA if you don't understand algebra... For one. But we get these college grads who don't understand BASIC algebra... It seems to be the norm. We don't even really interview recent college grads any more.

I find that quite scary. So talking to dh's aunt was quite interesting. She said for her it was just the last few years things have changed, much as we have found at my work.

Anyway, we just drove home last night so it ended up being a long day. But the kids had a BLAST. Which is why we went; for them. & I am glad I got to sleep in my own bed and get some stuff done at home today. Phew.

A short one

January 12th, 2008 at 06:23 pm

I forgot to add that I got 3 free meals this week, which was nice in the hecticness.

A coworker took me to lunch Wednesday and my boss brought in lunch Thursday (which is quite rare. Was leftovers from a dinner party). Between the 2 I had plenty for lunch Friday. Which was great because I went in Wednesday thinking I would buy lunch; was in a rush. (& yes usually I can grab leftovers in a rush. Was just an extra rush for various reasons).

Heck, I might be able to stretch those leftovers a few more days. LOL.

But my lunch out was a nice meal & a 1/2. & the leftovers from the boss's lunch was a nice supplement to that. Which is the fair thing about eating out - usually have leftovers and stretch them out a day or 2 or 3.

Of course, that was a lot of calories for me. I usually have a simple lunch. So we'll see how that goes. Big Grin IT was free, but not so sure it was worth it. Oh, good food. Too good...

Good food is fine once in a while, but I tend to eat good a little too often... Wink

Things are going well Here

January 12th, 2008 at 03:44 pm

It's busy, but it's a good busy.

I hit the gym 4 times this week. A record. LOL. But I am feeling motivated...

I don't feel too behind at work; though it is quite crazy.

There's a positive correlation there. Praying I can keep this up through tax season. Helps with the stress and helps me be more productive. So though the gym takes time, I think it is saving me time in the ends. Know what I mean? Trying to keep that in mind as work gets crazier by the second.

I have yet to get my review or raise, between lost electricity and then my boss was sick. I just figure I should know when I get my paycheck at this point. LOL. I give up. Dh called me yesterday. He said, "come on, you should know by now." Considering all the craziness I was just giving my boss some space. But I had to break the news with the boss out sick, um no, I wasn't going to figure out anything.

I expect anywhere from 3% - 10% raise. & so yeah, it would be nice to know. So I can work on my 2008 budget. Big Grin

Dh executed the carseat/PSP trade yesterday. He is happy.

The applications for kindergarten will be ready Monday. O.M.G. THAT is so surreal.

I keep hearing it is so horrible to wake up kids early and was watching some family on tv wake up at dawn to get their kids ready? Where does everyone live? I just LOL at the idea of waking up my kids. They are usually up at 6am-7am anyway. Just the way they are. Take after me I guess. (Funny enough they are late birds TOO. Their bedtime is 9 which all my friends think is insane. But if I put them down at 7 they'll wake up at 3. You know?).

His preschool teacher was telling me about some weird schedules she has come across where kids sleep around their parents schedule. I can't remember, but telling me one really odd schedule. She said, "well, it works." I think it came up because she babysat our kids a few times, and I didn't even care if they were in their PJs at 8pm. So I was telling her how for the longest time BM's bedtime was 10pm. It took a long time to get them down to 9pm. Phew. But yeah, I went back to work at 6 weeks with BM and all he did was SLEEP. I quickly decided the whole SAHM vs. WM debate was completely ridiculous. As he kind of worked his waking schedule around me anyway.

Then LM came along. He never sleeps. I have always had a harder time working with him, likewise. I miss so many awake hours with him. Just never had that whole thing with BM.

Which is also why I wake up at dawn to get some quiet time. Wink Since the kids are up so dang late.

Anyway, this is just crucial for us to get it squared away. The school has 61 openings for K. & 4 for 4th grade. & that is IT!!!!

It is a charter school, and for us, we are founding parents. We put in x amount of hours to get the school started. So we are in. But of course I worry too much. I have a fear what if I screw up the application or something. I just have to get my kid IN. The rest should be easy.

But it is just mind boggling for me. My BABY is starting school.

No matter what, our kids would go to public school. We are public school people, and in this area there are just SO MANY options. For one, there are so many charter schools. & this one has been faring very well. IT started when we did not have a school due to some major BS and politics. The school board did not buy the land it intended to when it was cheap. Then it whined the land was too expensive (while they were making some backroom dealer with another developer to buy land that was questionable if it was even usuable).

Just crap like that.

Of course our charter school does not have a space yet. Conveniently they are down the street for now. I can't help but wonder if lowering prices will help us get a solid school site. Maybe while one of my kids are there...

This is where buying "small" in a fancy neighborhood paid off. Anyone can do this. But we have a lot of wealthy neighbors, resources, and parents who don't work full-time. So we banded together to form our own school. I have blogged about this before. You would obviously never see this in the inner city. So though technically it is a public school and anyone can do this. It is kind of eye opening what can really get done in a wealthier area. Dh and I used to joke when we moved here that we were living with the rich people. They will divert the airplanes and fight off the Big Box stores and will have the deep pockets to do whatever they want. We would joke, but it is kind of eerie that all this is more true than we ever imagined. So that is my vote for buying in a wealthy neighborhood. I mean we have a nice house, but we are outside the gated part and it cost pennies compared to some of the mansions around here. So we did the whole buy small in a nice neighborhood thing. Of course back home we would be lucky to own a shack. So it is all relative. We might have gone a little gung ho with our buying power here. But the benefits are clear. I am not sure I we will ever regret spending a little more than we had to. HAving more peace of mind for the kids' public schools and all that. Just a BIG benefit to moving somewhere more affordable.

Anyway, school starts at 8:30 for K-5 and it is a 5-minute walk. Or a 1-minute drive. So I don't expect much. I usually drag the kids out of the house 7:30-8 for preschool anyway. & that schedule is pretty easy. Of course with K, I guess there will be projects to gather and homework and all that. For preschool we just throw on their clothes and go. It's not very schooly. So I am sure we are in for quite an adjustment overall.

Actually, K is 8:30 - 2:45. So though BM is used to a 8-hour day at preschool. That is only twice a week. AND they nap a good 2 hours of it. I have the feeling, knowing him, he will come home and crash every afternoon.

But yeah, I guess it is a good 9 months away. But I think our lives will change much. As far as the public school, lord knows it is cheaper than going private. But I am trying to be mindful of all the little costs. For one, uniforms. I am not happy about the uniform thing. Like I want a second set of clothes for school? How frugal is that? Not very. Though they push it for the "poor kids." I think do the poor people a favor and don't make them buy more clothes!

I mean come on, I went to public school, my parents shopped at KMart. & kids picked on me. Somehow I survived. I just don't believe in the least if we were wearing uniforms anything would change. Kids pick on kids. If they can't pick on their clothes, they find something else.

I just don't buy it. & like I believe that the "poor" will be camoflauged by their uniforms. You have got to be kidding me. ?? But this is all for them apparently...

Pictures? I always hear people whine about the pictures. Personally, I don't see what I would buy them. I already posted about that...

Field trips? We'll see.

Supplies? Yes, we have to send a check in once a year for supplies and such.

There are probably a lot of expenses I haven't even though of. Which is why I am trying not to get too giddy about diverting all of the preschool expenses to our retirement. I know better... We'll have some school expenses... Maybe many...

Anyway, in other news, my CD expires in a few weeks as well. I will have to re-evaluate it as I moved so much cash to my ROTH. This would tie up some balance transfer cash until it was due back. Which is probably fine. But I was happy to put it in CDs when I had other cash to fall back on. So I do have to ponder that one a bit. I think only the last 3 months I would have 1/2 the balance transfer tied up. I think I can live with that, but I have to check all the dates.

Also, when I purchased the CD, it was a promotion where it would renew at the higher rate (5.7%) one time. Well, um, yes I want to renew at 5.7%! But I can not find that anywhere. I think, gosh darn, I don't see that on the certificate! So I will call and make sure I am not crazy. I am sure it is fine, but part of me is wondering if they just say that and hope you forget. LOL.

If I can't renew at that rate I may just take on a 3-month CD.

We'll just see.

Well, weekend plans. I'll work. Wasn't intending to, but with the impromptu vacation last weekend due to no electricity...

We're getting my windshield replaced.

We're going to a birthday party. (Apparently a very fancy one for a 2yo. We'll see. Sounds a little crazy, but the kids will certainly enjoy).

The house is actually clean. I have been really productive. So besides working I just don't have a lot to do. Kind of caught up on stuff. Well, I have a pile of thank-you cards to do. I am sure I will find something to keep me occupied. Wink But mostly looking forward to spending some time with the kids.

Implementing Plan & A Trade

January 11th, 2008 at 03:51 pm

Well it is almost official. Waiting for the cash to appear in my checking today, and then transferring the money over to our retirement plans.

So will be officially maxed out for 2007.

I think it's cool that we could probably employ the same strategy for 2008. & max out again. We'll see.

By 2009 I would hope we were well into maxing out anyway.

So though the money is just as much efund as retirement right now, I am mostly keeping it separate in my mind.

But if I get to leave it in there...

Puts me at exactly one years' salary in retirement vehicles.

My plan to have double that in 4 years is looking a little more likely now as well. Big Grin

I think when I started to freak out we had $5k in savings. When I joined this site and tried to get our butts back in gear. After having a spendy couple of years.

The way I look at it I now have a good $5k in efund still sitting in my bank in cash.

BUT I also have almost $2k in other cash and should have $10k in other cash come summer. So in the grand scheme of things I am still oodles above where we started. As such, I am really optimistic this retirement efund thing will stay in retirement. Certainly no worse off in the interim. It feels the same with $5k cash. But I have to remember we had NO other cash before. & that was way too outside of our comfort level. This is a little different...

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In other news, dh was to sell the carseat for retirement monies. (Or more likely monthly expenses since I am a tad short for the month).

Somehow, now he is trading it for a PSP. LOL. Don't even ask. It wasn't him. They offered. How did they know? I said I thought it was fishy that they would KNOW that that is just the kind of trade he would love.

He's all excited. Now he wants to buy a memory card, (and probably games though he has credit at the used store). & he wants to pay a small one-time fee to TIVO for some feature. (Download shows? Play games remotely? Both? I am not sure).

He also wants to buy a new surround sound receiver. His new thing. HE bought surround sound like a decade ago when he lived at home. That's part of our theater system that just didn't cost much (none of it really did) since we just put a lot of "old" stuff in there. Probably fair. He is saving up his allowance pennies for ALL this stuff.

I told him once we drop preschool we can talk too about upping our allowances a bit. Then he can buy more of this crap with his allowance and stop stressing me out all the time. For now it's just $50/month and he really stretches it out pretty well. $100/month would be nicer! Big Grin Maybe next year...

This stuff is fine, but he also wants a HD TIVO (or 2) and a new computer. The stressful part.

The bigger allowances we can justify, the better this stuff will go.

Anyway, I have a really nice crib bedding set to sell. Around $300 brand new (& yes, probably what I paid. I was a little crazy). Apparently I am not the only one. I saw all this stuff listed on Craigslist for $75-$200. So, I figure I start $100 and see. Don't expect that much. But who knows??????

Maybe I will make some decent cash this month after all.

I have a lava lamp to sell. They are only going for $10. But will probably be worth it. I lied, my price limit is not $20. I guess in a more desperate month it is worth selling smaller items.

But I am doubtful any of this will go to retirement.

Then again, I am pleased overall dh worked out a good trade. He said he had his eye on a new $200 PSP anyway. Not sure he would have bought one anytime soon, as he has been talking about other stuff. But I only expected $75 for the carseat, and now he gets the PSP with no cash. So oh well. He even agreed to deduct $75 from his allowance likewise. I don't think I will. But maybe I should. Hmmmmm.

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Oh yeah, and he told me last night we could sell the van for a fun car. LOL. I am not so sold. I said you know that would be a 3-car average for me. (Sold the convertible for kids - bought before kids were even on the horizon. Bought a really old Saturn for interim but was a great car and drove 3 years. Then got the van, which was the end goal). Anyway, with gas prices, we just rarely drive the van. Dh had a point. If I sell this one after 2 years, we're not any different than our friends/neighbors who upgrade every 2-3 years anyway. LOL.

He has a point. No one would probably blink an eye.

I feel we made a dumb decision, we should stick with it. Plus, well, I like the van. I told dh I wasn't sold on dropping it. I really want 3 cars. & am willing to wait. Love having the van and the subcompact. Best of both worlds. We already shelled out the money, why give it up.

But I did tell dh that was vey dangerous. To offer that to me. I might have the van sold at the end of the day. LOL.

This is where going used is nice. We didn't lose much in appreciation in 2 years. We could probably sell for a good $12k ($10k if we are ultra conservative).

I could buy a pretty nice car in the $8k range and have plenty to spare. We could fund our IRA in 2008 easy peasy then. Big Grin

But I also like having the van as a nice secondary emergency fund. Sure we don't need such a nice car. We never have. But likewise we could enjoy it now and sell it in a heartbeat, if need be.

Oh, don't tempt me.!!!

I think I will resist the urge.

The funniest thing of all is we replaced the windshield on the saturn shortly before we decided to sell it.

I told dh, well with the cracked windshield on the van, maybe that's the sign. Time to sell. Wink

But yeah, as tempting as it is. I can't justify a non-kid-friendly car for a second car. Which is why I dropped my convertible in the first place. !! We could have kept it, but dropping to one income and upping our insurance just didn't make sense at the time. It makes a little more sense now, but not much. I think I have a few more years...

Plus the weather is terrible here. In the spring it may be harder to resist! Wink

More Odds & Ends

January 10th, 2008 at 02:39 pm

I haven't implemented "Project ROTH Efund" yet.

I am thinking it is likely that I will put $10k in there by end 2009. Then keep $5k of the efund out of the ROTH. But, who knows... I am only adding money to the challenge, the money that goes to retirement stocks. Not counting the cash...

Dh is gaga over Blu-Ray. He bought 7 movies this month already. Cost? $60. Not terrible. It's all his allowance money. I can't say a word about it. Wink But I can't complain about the deals he has been getting. He just goes a little too gaga over deals. LOL. But it's in his allowance. I may think he is crazy but I can't say a word. I finally got to watch the last 1/2 of Ratatouille last night. (took the kids last July 4 and LM got a little antsy mid-way). Yes, it did look better on our TV than it did in the theaters. Yes, indeed. Dh will just never get that I don't care! LOL. "& this is important, why?" Oh, gotta love him.

The good thing with the kids in preschool is he has more time for his projects. For now he has a backlog of stuff for personal and family with friends. With time maybe he will get to some money making. Big Grin OF course the more he works the more he talks new computer. We were talking computers. I thought his editing computer was the newest, but he said it wasn't. We have a computer downstairs which is apparently the newest. HE said, "remember" my parents paid for it?" Huh? I don't remember.

Sometimes I wonder if we would live 1/2 the lifestyle we did without his parents. & how do I forget this stuff??? It's so much that I can't even keep straight.

I am not too stressed about the prospect of a new computer though. Because he is a good shopper, probably won't cost that much, and will up his money making abilities. He now has so much more time. Kids in school and also being older and a little more self sufficient.

We do have 5 computers, but that is another story. He was saving one for a server or something. Maybe if he upgrades I can talk him into chucking that one. I think it's the one I had from college (a good decade ago, plus). It hasn't been used in like 3 years. I might of had it in high school. Can you say obsolete? LOL. Not sure it could be used for anything these days. But someone was telling me they could not believe people with more than one computer (not knowing we were a computer household. LOL). We get a lot of hand-me-downs, and we saved the old ones with the kids in mind. Anyway, every time dh gets a fancy computer, mine gets a little more fancy. We may just make my old computer the "kid" computer. But yeah, dh needs the fanciness for the work he does, and with the hand-me-down system, we all get an upgrade every time that he does. Fine for us. I just want internet and Word/Excel! We don't have a printer on each computer (the computers are all networked, though we have 2 printers) and I am not sure if we have ever bought a new monitor. Still the ones we had as kids. Thus, owning a lot of computers is not a pricey endeavor. We haven't upgraded in 3 years, at least, so it's not like we upgrade every year or anything. Dh's computer upstairs for editing? Probably 5 years old. Probably time for a major upgrade. He uses a lot of processing and all that.

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Oh yes and the power came back on at work!!!!! I probably should work all weekend. & will work a decent chunk. But I think I can make the trek to my nephew's birthday after all. Phew. I had been looking forward to it. & unfortunately will work before and after. Making it a very short trip too.


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Dh is all gaga about hybrid cars and solar. Expensive expensive. I think if we go back to 2 incomes we will put our money where our mouth is. For now, makes little sense. Plus I expect costs to come down with time. But dh is certainly an early adopter. Though he usually waits a reasonable period.

But interestingly there is a new company that will try to offer solar panel rentals.

http://renu.citizenre.com/index.php

It looks like a pretty interesting concept. I also found a good article on it, I will have to link later. I am a little skeptical, but not going to write them off yet. They will produce their own solar panels (to get costs down) and be the go-between between the utility companies. Selling excess power back I guess (it's all over my head - may get that wrong). For a mere $500 security deposit and a contract to pay them for the solar power at a rate set for the life of the contract.

Their website predicts we would save $5k over 25 years. This is with the big assumption that utility rates continue to rise well into the next 25 years. (who knows).

Obviously not doing it for the savings! But I can stomach this a little more than shelling out the $25k-$40k to BUY solar and save $5/month on the electric bill. Wink The $500 deposit is no sweat off our backs to use renewable energy. Regardless of the politics and greenhouse debate, it just makes sense. Of course it is preferable to use renewable energy.

Short of this we will wait a long while for costs to come down.

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Being a moderate person I feel very offended by internet comments this week. LOL. Eh, not so offended. I don't take it personally or care that much. But I do roll my eyes and I do share to educate people.

You know my pet peeve with "people with big houses have insane electric bills" and all that crap. Overlooking the energy efficiency and the fact it doesn't really take much to heat our cool our home.

But you have heard that gripe many times. Not trying to be bitter or annoyed. Just to educate! Be careful what you assume. If nothing else, that is what you should take away from this. Be careful what you assume!

Anyway, do I live in a cave because I use cloth napkins and cloth diapers? Are you kidding me? (& wash out plastic bags? LOL). All stuff like that. I just don't know when trying to conserve a little bit became so negative. Not sure what the deal is. If this is a cave, then so be it. It is a pretty luxurious cave. Wink

I think mostly people are wary of what they don't know. You don't know how many people I tried to explain the diaper service to, who could never say much more than, "I could never do that!" What, it's exactly like using a disposable except instead of setting them out in the trash, you set them out on your doorstop and get fresh diapers delivered to your door every week. I mean come on, it is EASIER than disposables. But people just hear cloth and their brains turn off. "Cloth is scary." LOL. I think it's along those lines. Fear of the unknown. I mean seriously, I thought I might be able to convert people. Instead they all assumed, no matter how much I tried to explain, that we slaved away over dirty diapers. ???? & they all act like they are in totally in awe of this. People boggle my mind. LOL.

On the completely opposite end of the spectrum. On some of the solar discussion I saw criticism that Americans just have wrong priorities. Maybe. But someone was comparing granite countertops, high-end TVs, and SUVs as being proof that Americans have the money and spend it well. They just don't want solar.

Okay, the SUV thing may make sense. I don't get SUVs and they probably cost in the $25k-$40k range that solar panels do. But even with the SUV at least it has a more immediate/tangible benefit with that than solar. You aren't really paying $40k for the SUV. You are paying the premium over what a car would cost, for the SUV. So even that I can see some flaw with.

But um, TVs and granite countertops? Are you kidding me? I am a proud owner of both. The granite cost us maybe $2k-$3k over what the tile would have, but since we like will never have to replace it, that is why we bought it. We bought for the quality. IT wasn't an expensive purchase, and no I did not finance it over 30 years!!!!!! We paid little since we picked it out with the construction. I wasn't going to take the "free" crap the builder offered, for sure. (We did take the free crap upstairs and we do regret it. Will have to rip it out and start over - probably should have in year 2 or 3. But saving our pennies to do it right). But going new construction it was far cheaper, than buying the same house used, which was our frugal angle to buy a lot of nice stuff for less.

As far as the TV, more the same. I mean that's just luxury. But um we bought the TV because it cost $1k. & because dh is a huge videophile.

We're not buying the solar because it cost $40k!

Hello! & the comparison here is what? I wouldn't spend in the realm of $40k for ANYTHING.

People are just funny.

So that is my convoluted piece on being frugal is okay, and so is buying nice stuff. Which is why we try to be frugal so we can buy nice stuff. Wink

If you want to whine about people having $40k to blow, whine about things that cost in the realm of $40k. I mean paving the floors and walls with granite. Maybe... Is that what he meant? Wink Buying 5 TVs every year? Or was it simply the sum of it all, SUV + TV + granite = solar panels? LOL.

I know, I think too much...

But I guess that is my pet peeve. It is easy to say "anyone who buys "x" is wasteful." & anyone who does "y" might as well live in a cave." & obviously any time you say those, you are going to offend someone. So just think before you speak. IS that really true? Or is it little more than stereotype?





Wednesday Wonderings...

January 9th, 2008 at 03:49 pm

Well, dh's car just hit 77,777. Is that lucky or what? LOL.

Since most of our cars we bought with far more miles to start, I never thought I would get terribly excited about the whole 100k thing. But this was also the newest car we ever bought. We bought it with around 15k miles. So anyway, it is 6 years old. I can't believe how much we put on it. It probably went years with little driving (when he had our babies). But the last year or so we have used it a lot. It gets such good gas mileage (average 35mpg on the freeway) that whoever is driving farthest gets it for the day. Which pretty much means it will be the main car driven going forward. Dh no longer has to drive the kids out to preschool. The van is good for trips down the street. I mean we will once again take the compact to LA. Not worth paying almost twice the gas. We just really did not think that purchase through very well. We knew it would get a lot worse gas mileage, but yeesh.

So yeah, we are putting a lot of miles on that car.

It's like super car though. (knock on wood). I saw the disdain for 2000 Ford Focuses on the board. But this is a 2001 Ford Escort. LOVE it. If it died tomorrow, who cares. $7888 to drive a car for 6 years with no repairs. Big Grin Wouldn't have been one of our best car deals if it died tomorrow. (I paid $1500 for a car I drove 7 years). But I wouldn't have a complaint.

We will have to take it in, in April, for another look over. Before our drive to LA. We keep taking it in. Come one, SOMETHING must need replacing. Spark plugs? Belt? Anything? Brakes? I mean, it is a Ford after all.

It's a little super car. We have always had very old cars that need small work every few months. So it is weird to take the car in and say, um, does it need anything? Just never had to do that before. Usually it's, "the car needs something so check it over while you have it." I can't even say so much on the new van. We have been taking that on average every 6 months for something. (usually something stupid, but the mechanic checks it over every 6 months then). So no, never had a car that we went a year and went, "wait a minute, we haven't taken it in for a year. We should get a look over." We like to keep our cars well maintained so we can keep them "forever." So his car boggles my mind. LOL. We spent the most on it to have our mechanic tell us it doesn't need anything. So it goes. So we figure at this rate we will take it in April or May, before our LA trip.

We take it in for oil changes too so it gets looked over a couple of times a year. I just don't trust those people worth squat. But sometimes they find something real to fix. We always get a second opinion. I don't even think they have ever drummed up anything for dh's car, other than an air filter replacement. So even they can't find anything. LOL.

Reminds me, for LA, it looks like we will probably get to use dh's family's timeshare for a free room.

It also appears they are going to Australia this year. O.M.G. I guess lucky to say we weren't invited. We were going to say no to anything and everything this year. Australia would have been hard to say no to. I don't think we could! But I think that is super cool for them. Wow! We would have gone on our honeymoon, but it was the 2000 Olympics there and the airfare was INSANE. We had a free room anywhere in the world and we had a lot of money so we decided Australia. Really, looking back, should have gone. We had the money. Sometimes we are too cheap for our own good. Wink Looking back knowing what I know now, I would do it. Now if we ever go we will likely have to pay for 4, or wait until the kids are grown. Missed opportunity. But as such, it's kind of in the back of my mind. Continents I haven't seen - Australia & Africa.

Well we have a relative there. So they are excited to go. I am relieved in a sense to kind of calm things down on the vacation front. Let them go and tell us all about it. If it is that great, they will probably take us some time. We can hope for that. Sometime down the road when we have more money to enjoy it a little more!

But yes, if we get free room... I am still not sure we will do much more than Disneyland for 2 days as originally planned. We'll just see how our cash flow is. We can add San Diego on our own dime more lat minute if need be.

The D-Land trip, if it was free room, would be $500 for gas and the park. Maybe $100 or more on food. We could budget $600 pretty darn easily though. So that is probably what we will do. I don't think we can justify spending more this year.

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As far as the ROTH efund thing. Still thinking about it.

I have about $1k cash sitting in my ROTH anyway. (Was waiting to have more money to buy a fund). I am thinking of leaving that there as part of my efund, and diverting $1k cash to T Rowe. So I can get the minimum in my ROTH there and not "have to" contribute every month.

Then I can add $4k to dh's ROTH - in cash. & add almost $2k to my ROTH cash. & max out our IRAs for '07.

That would put $7k cash in our ROTHs. Tax sheltered efund is what it would really be. If our liquid cash goes up though, we could easily convert that to mutual funds then.

I liked the idea of diverting some to T Rowe since I already had cash anyway.

I still project adding $50/month to that in 2008 and $50/month to dh's ROTH. Stock mutual funds.

Then I will have another $300/month come September or so. I foresee being able to max out $5k by next April 15th. (Though will likely be $2500 to mine and $2500 to dh's. I just look at as our retirement as one and diversify likewise. So sometimes add more to one than the other).

I think that is a pretty good spot to be in.

I am not going to sweat the second $5k this year. For '08 anyway.

This will be around 17% gross income to retirement in 2008 then. When you include my profit sharing. So nothing to sneeze at.

As for the challenge, I will keep it as is. I Was going to make it retitrement retirement retirement.

Since I will view my ROTH cash as an efund, I am not counting that for the challenge. Would be cheating quite a bit. Wink

Will still go with it. I think part of me wants to focus on building up more cash. Leaving the challenge as retirement monies will give me extra incentive to throw our retirement funds a few extra bones. Otherwise I will likely neglect it.

Who knows, we might max our ROTHs out for 2008 too. Wouldn't that be awesome??? Way too early to say... I like the flexibility of waiting until well after year-end and seeing how we feel. IT means by NEXT April 15th (2009) who knows, we may find a way to max out again. Odds are good.

But I really want to get $5k for 2008 and start contributing the $415 or so a month to get there. Then inch it up until we max out. My goal is to max out by 2010. so when LM starts public school I can tell dh, work if you want, but we don't really need it. Kind of our long range goal. If we can start putting away $5k/year, that is pretty awesome. I am happy with that. We'll easily hit the second $5k once LM is out of preschool. (knock on wood anyway).

Regardless it is a hell of a lot more than we have done the last 5 years. But I like slow and steady... That's why I am going from $50/month to $100/month right now. & then divert preschool tuition to get to $415/month. Then next year maybe I can add $50-$100/month. Then the same the following year. Then we will free up $300/month at the end of 2010 when LM is out of preschool. Then we'll be 32 and maxing out our ROTHs. & then some. & that is how you do it...












Taking Risks...

January 8th, 2008 at 06:01 pm

I am not a big risk taker. But I guess one thing I have learned lately is how taking very small financial risks can pay off. I don't even know if "risk" is the right word. Maybe just stepping out of my comfort zone.

I really thought long and hard before I jumped in and did the credit card balance transfers. To earn interest. It was hard for me to get past the idea that this was "risky." Though I knew in my heart it wasn't terribly risky.

Anyway, so I have been doing the same thing with this emergency fund/ROTH thing. Something has been holding me back.

I know ideally that now that we have a decent cash efund, that if we were able to add to it, that I would just do so in a ROTH.

But I wasn't really willing to commit the initial cash funds - any of them to a ROTH.

Anyway, for whatever reason I was thinking long and hard about it today. & was thinking of diverting our next $5k cash into a ROTH.

Of course I discussed it with dh and he is devil's advocate. If this is o great, why don't we just move the $7k or so to max out '07? Why don't we just do it now?

So we talked long and hard about it and I think he has a point. What is holding me back?

Anyway, so no firm decision yet, but I think we are going to max out our 2007 IRAs with cash.

I wouldn't advocate this (like balance transfer interest) to most people. But here are the reasons it makes sense for us.

1. This is $7k that we would not put into our retirement otherwise. Our retirement was up almost $20k last year (contributions) so we made it a point to build cash instead. We made a conscious decision not to fund our ROTHs. This would put our contributions to more like $25k for 2007. Obviously more than we need to contribute.

2. Our emergency fund is for EXTREME emergencies. We figure the odds are rather good (we would hope) that we would never touch that money.

3. We would still have a good $5k cash emergency fund in taxable accounts, on hand. (Of the "untouchable" variety).

4. We would still have other cash on hand.

5. Back to #1. If we got some major windfall tomorrow. All we do is shift the cash in our ROTHs to stocks and we can save the cash outside the ROTH then. So it just gives us more flexibility.

6. Back to #3 & #4. It doesn't really matter if it took some time to pull cash from our ROTHS, in extreme emergency. We have lots of other options in the interim. & plenty of more short-term cash for more immediate cash emergencies. This is why we were quite happy with 3 months living expenses in cash to begin with (6 seemed overkill for us).

7. I keep a sharp eye on the tax law so I will know if things change. For now there is no penalty or tax to pull out cash that I put into my ROTH. But I know this can change any time.

At worst, at some point we'll have to pull out money we never intended to put into retirement in the first place.

At best, we don't need it, we build up more emergency cash, and eventually we convert all our ROTH cash to stocks. To grow tax-free forever. Or we keep it as extra cash for peace of mind to grow tax free forever. Either way doesn't sound so bad.

Am I missing anything?

Well, I am still pondering. But I think dh had a point. What is holding me back? Just the general concept that you don't mix retirement and emergency funds.

Sometimes it makes more financial sense to step outside of your comfort zone a little bit.

I learned that lesson with the balance transfers, and am willing to try again.

I can't see doing balance transfers forever (or even beyond 2008). I can't see using my ROTH as part emergency fund forever. But tighter times call for more creative measures. Wink

P.S. Since there is always mass confusion on this topic...

"Distributions from a Roth IRA are qualified and thus tax free if they are made after the five (5) year holding period AND for any of the following reasons:
**you are 59 or older;
**your are disabled;
**you use the distribution to pay for up to $10,000 of qualifying first time home buyer expenses; or
**your are the beneficiary receiving distributions following the death of the Roth IRA account owner.

Regardless of the five (5) year tax rule if Roth IRA distributions do not exceed contributions they are not taxable."

Odds & Ends

January 8th, 2008 at 03:02 pm

Well, it appears we still don't have electricity at work. Still!!

May be another day off...

Which means I will probably work all weekend.

All I keep thinking is thank goodness this was not the week prior!!! Or late in January (W-2s and payroll filings due). The timing is okay. For every day off now though, one less day off later.

I am thinking of lugging in my laptop and seeing if I can find a wireless internet connection. (We're right next to a hotel, maybe I could even talk to them if need be, but I am not sure if they have power).

We have plenty of windows and light and then at least I will have my files. So I may be able to get some work done. Maybe not much though.

I also have a tad I can do from home. I can get a few hours in today. But not much more than that.

So after like 2.5 days off and maybe today, I will probably have to work all weekend to catch up. Here's to overtime.

(Someone outside working on it said it could be 7 days. Oh my!!!!) There are a lot of homes in the area that are still out as well. Craziness.

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Well, I will enjoy the impromptu vacation best I can. One thing I may do today is clean the cars. Nothing huge, but clean out the junk and vacuum. For one, dh's car has baby toys in it. LOL. I have been meaning to do this for a while. I swept through our bedroom yesterday and did lots of laundry. The downstairs is still pretty decent from when we had holiday guests. So leaves the cars. If the power is out tomorrow I will make dh go through the garage with me while the kids are at preschool. Wink

I kind of giggle when everyone goes on and on about big houses being more to clean. My kitchen is a little bigger and I have an extra 1/2 bath. But the 1/2 bath is not much to clean, nor is the extra counter space in the kitchen. The kids' rooms don't need much and I don't touch dh's 2 rooms. So, eh, I just don't clean much. I didn't before and I don't now. I don't find it is a big time buster. I don't even have maid on my wish list. I have a weird thing about maids. I just don't mind cleaning up that much either.

I must admit the master bath is a little overwhelming, but we don't use anything but the sinks and toilet. So it isn't much in the end. We just used the kids' showers. We started this long ago when we had concern of a leak. It appears it was a false alarm, but I like only having one shower to clean. You don't use it, you don't need to clean it. Wink

But get a few days off work, and the house is a little more organized and more sparkly than usual! The kids are at an easy age right now. I remember BM was getting to this age, and then we had another. But they can play together and occupy themselves. Oh, it is divine! As such, I Was getting a lot done around the house anyway. Big Grin

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Yesterday I had a seminar and skipped their food. Just wasn't in the mood to sit with strangers and eat crappy food. I went to Round Table. I forgot how pricey their lunches were. Spent like $8. Oh well, it was certainly a treat.

I went there on a seminar a few months back and I remember they seemed annoyed I did not order the buffet, after informing me the buffet was like $9. Um, no thanks!!! So yesterday was same thing. "What? You don't want the buffet???" She looked really annoyed too. I am thinking if you don't want people ordering from the LUNCH menu, then maybe you should toss the lunch menu. Rude rude rude. It will be a long while before I go to RT for lunch again. I should have just done Taco Bell. Would have been a lot less calories.

I told dh it must be inflation or something. I met a friend for lunch and Sizzler was a good $10 or something. Since when was lunch so expensive?

Since I never eat out much besides dollar menus and Taco Bell, I guess.

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Oh, the most annoying thing about my seminar, which the average joe blow would never know. But is that California has stopped conforming to Federal tax laws.

Annoying annoying annoying. The sticking point for me has been HSAs. I am almost sold on trying one, but the nonconformity is just so flipping annoying. It means it wouldn't be deductible for state, the interest/earnings would be taxable for state. (Which we are in the 5% tax bracket for state & 15% for fed. It makes a substantial difference in our taxes as our state percentage is not that much lower).

Of course you would want to keep track of your basis in the case the tax law did change down the road (lord I hope).

Anyway, last year I remember that being the one big pain, but this year they said Cali did not conform to one new thing this year. So we have a thick book of all the differences. It is just pure insanity. For one, kiddie tax rules. It's still age 14 for Cali. Not the new rules. Just means a lot of different record keeping since you pay tax for federal but not state. Or you save taxes on fed but not state. So you have to track the basis. But who does that? So no one does. So what's the point of not conforming? Then people don't track their basis and blindly pay taxes on things twice. Way to go California. Is this how they balance the budget? How complicated must it be for them to figure all this out as well???

My first thought was maybe Cali was smart putting it's foot down on endless tax breaks. We need revenue. As annoying as it is, maybe there is something smart about it. But the instructors' political slant was Republicans would not pass any of these through because they RAISED revenues. You have got to be kidding me. "We didn't do the same Fed tax increases to SAVE you money. But look at the bookeeping nightmare mess we left you. You figure it out." I mean come one, for our clients, fine, they have us. I don't think most people hire CPAs or have a clue about any of this.

Likewise, the Dems hate the HSAs because it cut taxes? I don't know. They have said before that HSAs will not conform anytime soon. So it is frustrating. I was hoping for a glimmer of hope this year, but didn't get it. All we got was a bigger nightmare. Something like we have not conformed to any of the Federal tax changes in 2 to 3 years.

O.M.G.

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Financially things are rather ho hum.

I went through Quicken and added some new categories. For one I separated out our insurance premiums in case we do decide to go for HSA. All of our medical expenses would then be deductible for state. But then none for fed if we do the HSA. But I have to track how much I can reimburse from the HSA annually if we set it up. We can't reimburse the premiums, so set that up as a separate category.

We are having an okay month. The weird thing for us is we budget our expenses as a whole monthly, and that is what I track. But since we put so much on the card, it affects the following month as well. When we pay it. So I felt like we had a big credit card month for december and was stressed. But as of today I got all the bills paid in January and looks pretty breakeven. Not bad.

I think I am short $250. I should have set aside $250 for medical on 12/31 (reduced premiums) but didn't. But I realized I just have to. Before I would have HAD TO pay the bill. There is no excuse. I was kind of thinking, who cares if I start 1/31 instead. So I put that in Quicken as a $500 transfer 1/31. Leaves me short $250 on 1/31. I will take it from short-term savings if I have to. I am pleased it was such a breakeven month otherwise. How did that happen? I just wrote a $630 check to preschool and it about killed me. LOL. But maybe I can do this a few more months... (I might even get a huge raise and will have no problem finding the $250. We also still have stuff to sell).

Which reminds me, yesterday I learned that in Cali, if you sell more than one or 2 things on ebay for a few hundred dollars, or you regularly sell your household "junk", you have to have a sellers' permit. You have got to be kidding me. I am kind of glad we just opted out of much ebay selling. I don't know how much the permit is and all that, but yeesh. (I was thinking glad we only sold 2 big things last year).

Of course, who would know this???

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Anyway, I have no idea what my financial goals are for '08. Too much in the air.

I think odds are we can put a good $5k in a HSA (probably use most of it but will be a nice tax break). I am trying to think if we save up decent cash how much we should put in there though. How much to IRAs? How much to 529s? It's awesome to have so many tax-deferred options, but it is mind boggling.

& how much just to cash? Or should we start diverting much of our cash to ROTHS? Then we could easily max out.

I just don't know.

There isn't much I could decide until I know my raise. !!!! With the power out I doubt I will find out today.

So I am trying not to think too much. I won't know how much we can really put in an HSA until we see if we use our deductible this year. It will be a while. Though if we use it all I know we can fund it and reimburse ourselves the entire thing, but get the tax deduction. (Then I'm sold).

I think mostly we want to focus on building up more cash this year. It's just interesting that we have so many options. Build up the HSA? Build up cash in ROTHs for emergency? Just build up our taxable cash?

I am mostly thinking of contributing no more than $5k to ROTHs this year (with the exception if we move another $5k cash over of our efund).

That would put as at a 17% contribution rate with our profit sharing.

I still feel very cash poor, and so am thinking of putting as much as we can to savings this year. I am starting to think that makes more sense.

I am not even sure if it makes much since to contribute anything to retirement (more than the 10% I get anyway). As long as we are saving the money and not spending it.

I just know me. When will it ever be enough? $15 cash? $20k cash? $30k cash? I like cash too much. Wink

The year is long and so we'll see. The nice thing is when it comes to HSAs and ROTHS, we have a good 15 months to decide. Big Grin

One thing I am thinking of, since we had a dismal IRA year this year, is moving $5k to cash before april 15th. I was planning to save $5k for car purchases this year. This way we could keep our efund savings intact and start storing it in the ROTHs. If we never touch it... Then we can convert it to the stocks down the road when we aren't so cash poor. It is a very tempting strategy. I could do the same in 08 & 09 and get a good $15k cash in there for emergency. The cool thing is we could still contribute 17% to our income (to stocks and such) so it feels very win-win. We still wouldn't touch the $12k cash in taxable accounts either, this way. So win-win-win. I could only see using that ROTH cash if I lost my job or something. & I wouldn't contribute that 2nd $5k otherwise. Which means we would lose the tax shelter if we don't take advantage with our cash.

& the interest would be tax free!

I need to really read up the rules on ROTH withdrawals to be sure. There are some ins and outs. Though overall I have heard this strategy much and makes sense.

If we can do that and add 17% of our income to our retirement (stocks), it really makes sense. I am very concerned that if dh goes back to work we will be lacking tax shelters, so whatever we can get in now is good. My other motivation. & why I expect we could convert all that cash to stock within a few years. Likely... Might as well get it in there while we can.

Oh, I had considered putting some money in regular IRAs for tax savings this year. I learned yesterday cali does not conform. So though our traditional IRA would be deductible for Feds it might not be for state.

Forget it. Since we paid so much tax in recent years to convert to ROTHs, we'll just stick with it. I am happy to be done with all those conversions anyway.

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This week will be a little pricey. Have to replace my windshield and get LM into the dentist. See what the prognosis is on his shark teeth.

so we'll see how that goes. Can put those on the card to worry about February. (I will have a good $400 in the car fund by then so I am okay with that. Dental expenses come from short-term savings, so I think I have both covered anyway). We'll see.






Blech

January 7th, 2008 at 03:14 pm

I have complained that one some local forums everyone loves to post pictures of their houses and cars and whatever. It makes me want to barf.

Anyway, maybe I wasn't paying attention years past, or maybe everyone is fighting harder to look like they're on top with this subprime mess (which is particularly horrible here).

Now everyone is posting pictures of the holiday excess!

"Look - I have 4 kids and I spent $1k on each of them!!!"

Are they serious?

Who cares?

On the flip side, someone posted pictures of all the presents under the tree for one small kid. I almost fell over. Remember when our kids got 20+ gifts each from grandma (so it seems). I guess I could be proud to say our tree for 4 kids and 7 adults was far smaller than this. YEESH!!!!!!!!

I mean, just imagine an entire room filled to the brim with presents!

I am going to roll my eyes next time one of these people tell me they are broke. As they always do.

You have got to be kidding me.

I don't know, it seems the longer I hang out a place like pfadvice, the more the behavior of those around me disgusts me. I always found it tacky and stupid. But my tolerance is wearing thin.

I am proud to say that my measure as a person does not come from the THINGS that I buy. Shoot me if I ever post a picture of anything and say "look at what I bought!!!!!! Look at me! Look at what I can afford!"

Likewise, I was worried that my kids are spoiled? Well they are, but this level of spoiling is just absurd.... What kind of kids are we raising???

Maybe for this day and age and location we are doing okay. But doesn't really make me feel any better. They still have way more crap than they should.

Anyway, my point is mostly that pfadvice is a breath of fresh air. Phew!!!!

Went shopping...

January 6th, 2008 at 11:32 pm

Well today I went shopping.

I went to work in the a.m. and the electricity was still out. Dh had driven by the area last night and saw a lot of lights on. So I tried, even though answering system did not pick up when I called.

I wondered if maybe the circuit breaker needed to be turned on or something, but not my prob.

The paper did say many people were out of power and would be through Monday perhaps. I really wanted to get some work done this weekend. Likewise, I just took the time off to enjoy and get some stuff done around the house.

Lucky for me, I have seminar tomorrow. I wonder if some of my coworkers got/will get some paid time off with all this? I wouldn't have minded having Monday off! Wink

But likewise, I am kind of glad I do have a seminar and won't be sitting around waiting for power.

This is the only class I go to that provides food. The food is terrible and a big sit down lunch thing. I am thinking of skipping it. Not terribly frugal but if my boss has to tend to office I am not sitting through lunch alone. Blah. I'll go spend $5 down the street.

The plus side is tomorrow is the kids' first day of both all-day preschool. & my seminar is down the street. It is perfect, and the start to some gas savings. Since dh will not have to drive all the way out there to pick up LM at lunch. We'll see how he does anyway. He has stayed all day at times. I don't know if it will be a bit much for him (2 full days a week), but I am sure he will be fine. Will put a load off our shoulders... Will make the tax season a little easier. & really once considering gas savings and all it isn't hardly anything more than we have been paying anyway.

BM was complaining about his shoes so I took him for some new shoes. Went to Payless, but did not have much in the way of wide sizes. Bummer. But found something acceptable. Almost $20, but oh well. I browsed the professional shoes and they had plenty in my wide size (Score) but nothing I liked. Figures. Think I will try Sears again this year. I bought some nice shoes last year and they are holding up okay, but the flats are getting kind of worn. Could go for another pair before tax season and clients and all that.

I also have $50 for Kohls - figure a dress or suit or 2 for the tax season would be nice.

While out we went to Wal Mart since it was there. (I wouldn't go there otherwise. I don't have so much issues with its Corporate practices since I personally find it more the scapegoat for similar stores. Like Target is really that much better? Come on. BUT the store always seems dirty, a lot of the merchandise is crap, and this particular parking lot is horrid. So I try to stay the hell away. LOL).

We went in because I remembered I needed Thank You cards for the Christmas gifts. Should work on those today.

I did find some cards. I also looked for some underwear for LM, but did not find anything his size.

I then ended up spending $50. But felt accomplished.

I picked up a frame for a picture I got for Christmas. I figured I'd look. But I saw the most gorgeous frame for $13. I know I probably could have found something decent at the Dollar Store. But I am pleased with what I got.

The kids have wanted slippers but I haven't seen the point with growing feet. However they had 2 rather nice pairs of $3/each. So got them slippers.

My mom has the most amazing candle - hazlenut cream - it smells DIVINE. I walked past them and it was $10 for a set of 5 candles. I grabbed them. I am keeping one for myself and gifting the rest to some friends. Just because. As I said, they are divine. Couldn't resist.

Finally, we passed the makeup aisle. I don't really wear makeup but the occasional eyeliner and lip gloss. I have this wonderful Covergirl stuff that is just a light shine/color. I bought 3 colors just AGES ago. I have no idea how old the stuff was and the other day I was thinking the one really probably is expired. & yet I have hardly used it, sad to say. But I love the stuff. So I looked while we were in the aisle anyway, just walked by Cover Girl on our way out. They still made them (yay!!!) so I grabbed my favorite and a new color to try. $7 for the 2. Will last me another 5 years +. I'll try to use them a little more. I am just too dang lazy. (Or more like who cares).

Here's to not going into a store again for MONTHs. I really hate shopping. & yet sometimes I love it too much. Hehe. Why I just stay away. It seems like I can never just go in for what I go in for. But all stuff I had been meaning to get, so I feel accomplished.

Interesting Tidbits...

January 5th, 2008 at 07:02 pm

Well...

Yes I did post enough today. But I went to work and the electricity was still out (should have called - doh). Not even confident it will be back on tomorrow at this rate.

Though I am glad I made the decision to flee yesterday. Right away.

I picked up a file I regretted not having (luckily lots of sky lights in the office, and a sunny day, and all that, so I could even see my way to find a flashlight. Never would have found the file without the light though (though a cell phone is good for light when you are flashlight-less. Of course I didn't think of it at the time. Double doh).

I decided to take the day off. I can work in the wee hours tomorrow morning and head off to the office to clear some stuff off my desk if the electricity comes back. Otherwise - O.M.G. I have So MUCH to do!

Just cramming more to next week. Bah.

Another reason people pay so much to live here. So we don't have to deal with weather like this. The last 2 years though, I don't know...

Anyway, the fam was heading out to shop so I decided to be productive. I printed out most of my online statements. I really never do, and have switched to much electronic over the last year. I figured I better print out stuff for my records. I am considering keeping an electronic copy as well. Don't know if it is overkill, but paper copies only go so far. Particularly in a disaster (top of mind with weather like this).

So I made much progress. I found it easier to print some Quicken registers than the stupid banks that only had monthly statement options. Bah. (Thank you Vanguard for having YTD reports, easy to find and print. Yay!)

So while at it I decided to print a year-to-date register, all inclusive register from Quicken. I glimpsed a little more from these reports than the comparisons I already shared.

For example, all our dining out was McDonalds, Greek, Togo's, Indian, Round Table, Mongolian BBQ, Taco Bell, Sizzler and a few random places. We only went to Cali Pizza Kitchen once all year? Bummer. We've been doing less sit down dining for the budget (not that we did much before).

We did get a new Sizzler which we love, but rarely go to. Very pricey (particularly lunch - very pricey).

We only went out to the movies twice it appears. Which is good since dh insisted he needed a home theater and he does watch a good 3-5 movies weekly (if not more). HE takes advantage of the home setup, for sure. I wouldn't be surprised if it was cheaper than going to 5 movies a week. Actually, I Am quite sure it is.

But the utilities are what I find interesting, since I did not look at the breakdown by category before.

Cable/Internet $958
Gas/Electric $1123
Telephone $1335 (yes we love our telephones!!!)
Water/Sewer/Garbage $1113 (Flat rate)

Yes, we spent just about the same exact dollars on gas/electric as water/sewer/garbage.

& so when I complain about expensive water I mean it. (the lion's share is sewer and water).

With our switch to metered I expect water to go down a good $200 this year. Perhaps more... Woohoo for that. Sewer is still flat $30/month.

Our cable will go down by $120 "just because." (We actually get more channels now too).

Anyway, someone was telling me the other day her friends with a bigger house around here has $450 monthly gas/electric bills in the winter. She was asking us wasn't our bill insane? I said I paid $80 last month, and really, I don't think she believed me. LOL. I don't know what the hell these people are doing. ????? I am tired of people assuming we have $400+ energy bills. O.M.G.

I am not sure I could have a $450 bill if I tried... Yeesh.

Vacation and Raises

January 5th, 2008 at 01:40 pm

Well, all that Disney talk on the boards, and lots of free time yesterday, I started working up a budget for Disneyland.

Gosh, when you have to pay for your own room (which we haven't in AGES) and pay for 2 adults and a kid, well, it starts to add up pretty fast.

We had our dream wish list and we started to cut it down fast.

I came up with about $1500 for a full week in So Cal and maybe $700 for a 3-night trip to just Disneyland. That is before searching out discounts and frugalizing it, but just kind of looking at May room rates and park admission prices, etc.

Dh said $1500 for a week (for 4)wasn't bad. For one we won't have airfare. He probably has a point, but I said, "are you out of your mind?"

As a young single chick I did a lot of traveling around. You know, you stay with friends and you used the student discounts. Take away all those free bonuses and start to multiply it by 2 or 3 and 4 and it is amazing to me how expensive vacation is. !!!!!

I mean Disneyland is one of our cheap staples. We'd drive up, stay at a cheap hotel, enjoy the day, and drive home.

So this is why this vacation will be SO nice. We decided for D-Land we would take a good solid 3 nights. 2 full days to drive (it's a good 6 hours each way). 2 days to go to the park. Sounds absolutely divine!!!! If we can pull it off for $500-$700, so be it. Not bad.

Incidentally, part of the reason we are going this year is LM is free AND he REALLY enjoyed Disney World (which I didn't expect at this age).

So dh and I did wonder aloud how much cheaper the whole week long/add San Diego thing really is without a 4th head to pay for. I really wanted to check out LegoLand down there which is $200 admission just for the 3 of us. Imagine when we have to pay for LM too.

So we did discuss that we should try to do the whole week thing while it is cheaper.

This is like our last hoorah before BM starts school. We wanted to take one last vacation without school schedules to work around. & we chose DL when I was jealous at all I missed when they were in Florida. I didn't expect LM to do much but be too scared to go on anything and too little to enjoy. What do I know? LOL.

Anyway, it all depends on my raise. It kicked in Jan. 1 but I STILL do not know what it is. I probably would have found out Friday if not for the horrid weather. Instead I find out Tuesday at the earliest.

Oh and there is that pesky $1k or so in taxes I will owe April 15th. So yeah, I think we are just doing Disneyland. BUT it will be a pretty nice/luxurious vacation for us. It will be nice not to have to rush.

If I get a huge raise and work more overtime than expected, we can talk about making a week of it. We'll see. It will be a "play by ear" thing.

We figured we'll drive down on a Monday night and go to the park Tues/Wed. I HATE crowds. You couldn't drag me there on a busy day. So like I said we have to enjoy without school schedules. One last year of complete freedom!

& I realize for all I gripe about high cost of living, there is a lot of good to it. We can drive to some pretty nice vacations rather easily, which saves much on the vacation front. I mean a day to Monterey or Tahoe we can stay with family, and we have so many day trips around here to enjoy. Or a days' drive to Vegas, Oregon Coast, or San Diego. Etc. We have it really good in that regard. I think in the grand scheme of things we can vacation pretty well for little money. & so this is maybe one reason people pay so much to live here.

Dh keeps telling me people go to vacation to get away and he likes to make home his oasis. He wants to stay home and enjoy 350 days+ of the year rather than only enjoy one week every year. I think he has a point. Just kind of along those lines too.

We're not big vacation people as a whole, so the whole thing is just a shocker to me!

Might as well stick with the free vacations. I don't think I fully grasped how much money we were saving on those trips. !!!!!! I mean I know how much my dad spent on Japan for me and it wasn't $1500! Of course taking all 4 of us would have put that trip to $5k+.

& then MIL gets all her free room and flights from her miles and timeshare points. But I am sure she shells out a lot to get that.

We still might luck out with a free room on this trip. We'll see. Dh didn't want to ask, but last time we had to pay a cancellation fee because she insisted she had a room for us. I told him, just ask so we can avoid the cancel fees later. Plus it was a REALLY nice hotel. I could go for saving $300 and staying at a really nice hotel. Wink

P.S. the weather has calmed down here much. It is SO quiet.

More Crazy Weather

January 4th, 2008 at 10:46 pm

I wasn't sure if it was worth risking life and limb to go to work today. It probably wasn't. I could have flipped a coin. In fact I was shocked when I got to work and everyone was there. Even my 75-year-old coworker who drives in from the country. Is she out of her mind???

Anyway, we lost power for 15 minutes pre-lunch, while power was out all morning at home.

Power came back on but flickered on and off all day. I finally decided if it went out again I Was just going home.

Good decision. It went out shortly after 1:00, and I jumped out of my skin when it sounded like a transfomer blew. I took a few minutes to backup some work on the internet for home and then fled. My coworkers were all standing around. Not sure what they were waiting for. I have been in that position twice and the power was out for about 8 hours both times. I figured 8 hours +++ in this weather. I take it as a sign.

It's time like these I feel like everyone else is a sheep. Like I said I was pretty darn close to not coming into work anyway. Certainly not if I wasn't swamped. But you hear a horrible noise like that, and lose all power, and everyone stands around in the dark waiting for direction. I just didn't see the point... (I think it's my youth. Impatient youth. All my coworkers are 20 years + my senior). I mean seriously, I did talk to ONE client today and I couldn't fax or e-mail her because their power was out. Many of us were coming in Saturday anyway. Why were we wasting our time in the dark?

I thought it was a good time to leave, but it was a scary ride home as well. More trucks and crazy drivers and TONS of rain. In the morning I had been relieved to see few cars and no big rigs. Not so lucky on the way home. Though their was news of big rigs toppling over everywhere. IT was mostly WIND today.

Of course I had good intentions and brought work home. (As the only reason I went in is we are SWAMPED. I already had 40 hours before I went in today - for the week).

But I am not getting far. Yes I have the laptop, but if the power goes out again, so will my internet. Something I didn't think of. Which I need for my work. I also could not access my work computer from home, with the power off there. We have the backups but not sure how long they would last, so just shut it down.

Decided to call it a day and relax. I give up. Will make it a long day tomorrow. Probably in the office.

Just swamped. But I have a seminar Monday AND I also have plans the next 2 weekends, and one Friday. So just have to do what I can. Also this time of year I know to work when healthy. !!

Which is the nice thing about this year so far. The overtime has been much easier to get in with kids who sleep (knock on wood much) and so on. The OT has been hard with wee little ones in recent years. But this year I already got in a good 10 hours OT and it took little effort. Like I said, I had 40 hours today before I even showed up.

So hoping this year is a little easier on me. Though I always hesitate to say when LM sleeps well, because that is the big jinx. He still has his nights. Nothing like his brother. BM takes after me. I can sleep any time, any how, any where. As such I get really grumpy when I don't get my sleep. LOL. I know I am a wound up person, but at night I just turn it off. I always felt blessed that way. & kids really threw me for a loop. IT's not so easy anymore.

Oh well, blahblahblah. IT was trash day and so when I left this morning there was TRASH everywhere. We rarely take ours out because it takes us a month to fill ours (if that). Imagine when we don't even have diapers! So I am glad to say our trash is not all over the yard and street. But everyone else's sure is.

I guess it was also Christmas tree pickup time. When I got home there was still trash everywhere. But some blown down fences and some toppled trees. & christmas trees EVERYWHERE.

I feel blessed we weathered the storm okay. & a christmas tree didn't blow through a window or anything. Yeesh.

But that is the nice thing about living in a newer development. Sure we will gripe about the lack of mature foliage most of the year. But times like these I was just relieved not to worry about trees or power lines crashing down on our house. Of course, the downed fences aren't fun, but probably much easier to deal with. I did see a few snapped trees. Poor things...

But yeah, this is about as stormy as it gets here. Today will be a day to remember. Even crazier yet how far the storms reached. My parents sounded like they had a similar day. I worried more about them surrounded by so many trees though. So far they seem okay.

But that's my day. Crazy day.

Stormy! & Gas Savings

January 4th, 2008 at 02:07 pm

"Today: Windy with rain, heavy at times. High 56F. Winds S at 25 to 40 mph. Rainfall expected to exceed 2 inches. Winds could occasionally gust over 50 mph."

& then I saw:

"LOCAL GUSTS TO 75 MPH ARE POSSIBLE IN THE MORNING"

O.M.G.

IT is really windy here. & rain is rather "rare" anyway. So might as well be a blizzard for here. I don't look forward to the drive today. I haven't been driving the van since it is garaged with the cracked windshield. But I saw my life flash before my eyes twice this week driving dh's little compact. I don't know if the big trucks just look more menacing after driving the big van so much, but they scare the crap out of me. I almost got ran over by a giant camper on Wednesday. I don't like to be tailgated, but in the teeny tiny compact, yeah, my life flashes before my eyes the way some people drive.

So on a day like this I think I prefer the van. Maybe the little Escort which is very low will barely feel the wind. Or maybe the wind will just blow it clear off the road since it is so little. LOL. I am not sure if wind and rain is good for my windshield though. *sigh* Probably should just take the compact.

We were talking about going up to the snow this weekend. Then dh and I both saw there was a big storm for the weekend. Figures. Blizzard conditions in the Sierras. Think we'll stay home.

This year started rather mild. We always find it hard to get to the snow in tax season, but never make the effort in November/December when we should. Anyway, I remember the first (only) time we took BM was May. IT was a weird year and tons of snow well into May. At this rate I told dh we could just go in May. LOL. The cold started late and this is the first storm of note for the fall/winter.

Yes we also drove through a snow storm in June one year. We were driving home from Reno on a beautiful weekend and all of a sudden it started snowing. Heavily. Luckily our friend had 4-wheel drive. We eventually got out and had a snow ball fight. What the heck, who can say they have had a snowball fight in June? We were all just stunned. Where the heck did that come from? Didn't think to check the weather reports in June.

So yeah, here's to April or May. It makes me nervous really to try in winter anyway. I like the snow on a nice sunny day myself. Big Grin

Dh's family has a cabin about an hour out from here and they have all their snow gear from generations past. So we go up there, bundle up and head up to Tahoe which is a good hour from there. Of course if it snows down to the cabin, as it often does, we don't have to go far to find snow. But we generally do like to go up in better weather conditions and drive up to Tahoe. It is very pretty.

Dh is not into skiing but I like it a fair amount. Too many ski injuries in the family though. I think it would be fun to take the kids though. For now no one will go with me. But with age it does sound less appealing. Risking life and limb. Of course the same can be said for sledding. LOL. Not quite so fun when you are old and big than when you are young and small. Wink

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

Well, our gas bill was $80. Down 20% from last year. I think it has just been milder. IT has seemed terribly cold for days. But then it was well into the 60s for a couple of days. I went out at lunch and was sweltering. What a beautiful few days.

Dh did remind me last year was extremely cold (we had a few days of freezes which was quite rare).

But anyway, something like for every 1% we lower our bill in Jan. & Feb., we save 1% on a future bill. Lower bill 10%, save 20%.

It's not entirely clear, but I don't think there is much motivation there for us. Our non-winter bill rusn $10-$20 average. (November was $20 and that had some winter in it). Anyway, so if we save 1% or 20% on that? Big whoop! LOL. But we'll see.

Anyway, one reason our bill went down is we turned down the water heater in summer. I turned it up come winter and though it wasn't quite as scalding as I prefer, it was quite comfortable. With our new metered water I figure might as well not make it TOO comfortable. But to be clear I thought it was just fine. Also trying to be mindful of child safety. I never saw the point of turning down the water heater with kids who couldn't even crawl or reach a faucet. BUT these days, yeah, they can get into anything. So turning down the water heater as we were told 5years ago when I gave birth.

I guess dh has been miserable though and he complained. I told him the point was not to make him miserable. Yeesh. Not worth freezing to save $5. So I turned it up 1/2 way between where it was before and where we had it now. We're still tweaking it. But when we figure it out we'll get the sharpie out and mark the dial so we'll have the winter setting and the summer setting. We cut our summer bills in half. ($20 to $10).

So anyway, our $80 bill was rather low. I am not sure how much was because of the water heater. We'll see how our January bill fares...

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In other news, LM is day 2 into potty training! Yay!

We're really lazy in this regard. Know too many people who tried too hard at 18 months and were still trying well into age 4.

Dh and I kind of didn't see the point of training a kid who still needs so much help. & we hate those little potties. Ugh. Too much work and doesn't help when you want to leave the house.

Even though MIL told me a million times she trained HER kids by 2, we were pretty lazy with BM. We had a new baby at 2 and I heard too much about regression. But he was always very interested in the potty. At 3 he started to do #2 in the potty and we just told him, that's it. No more diapers. That's it. We were just very relaxed about it and didn't make a big deal about it for YEARS. As such, my friends with her 4yo asks me how we do it since they still have so many accidents. What do I say? We really didn't do anything. Which is the point. He took the lead.

So MIL has been going on and on about this again and we figure diapers are just easier. I said I rather wait until 3 again. That was easy! Though LM shows less tolerance for being wet and dirty, and he wants to be like his brother, he is also way more timid. Thus uninterested in the big potty. but somehow MIL got him pretty trained at her house (well with lots of candy for one) so dh decided to work on it this week.

Still lots of work since we have to remind him and help him onto the big potty every few hours. But he is officially out of diapers most of the day.

Good for the pocket book!

We'll see. I am not very optimistic. But we'll see. He seems to be doing really well.

I can't believe it has been 5 years in diapers in this house. (& yes I know lots of people do it much longer. LOL).

But the end is so near I can taste it.

Since we switched out of clothe and dropped the diaper service, it really doesn't cost very much. The diapers. I mean we change them so rarely anyway I Would be surprised if we spend more than $10/month. Dh just buys the giant bag of generics for $10 every month or so. MAybe $12. But it will certainly be nice to drop them, regardless. In more ways than one! I never liked the disposables (environmentally). But LM has always been very particular and wouldn't wear clothe at night, etc. So we'll see. The less disposables we have to use, the better I will feel environmentally... & he is getting big enough to do all the work himself. Here's to that!!!!

He'll be 3 in summer. & the other thing that REALLY motivated BM was going to preschool and seeing the older kids. He started preschool when he was just about 3. & so LM might be getting a little motivation from that end too.

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

In other news I am feeling good. I stressed way too much about money last year. I think after reviewing our progress from 2007, on our spending, I feel like a load has been taken off my shoulders.

I still roll my eyes at the people who poo poo any luxury in life. That anyone would pay for preschool!!!! For me it means I will have a 7% contribution to my IRA, from 0.8% come September. & certainly I could do 7% tomorrow if I lost my profit sharing. Then priorities would change. I find the luxuries the easiest to enjoy, and the easiest to drop when needed. The interesting thing for us is that many of our luxuries are NOT long-term expenses. I always looked at preschool and our gardener, and the like, as very temporary. & when we save up the money to buy fancy electronic equipment, it is usually a one-time purchase. Not like there are payments. In tough times we have plenty to get us through (or maybe even to sell). In good times we enjoy.

1/2 my emergency fund today is my car. Efund is $12k. But if I lost my job and our efund was draining fast, I'd sell the car in a heartbeat. Another good $12k.

That is the nice thing about the extras. Don't get used to them. Don't make them "needs." But we have to much nice stuff we bought well before kids that we still enjoy. & plenty of other stuff that we enjoy now in times of abundance, but would drop in a heartbeat to make ends meet.

So anyway, our spending is down and we are trying best to save every raise and windfall.

As such I feel more relaxed. 2007 was year of financial. 2008 will be year of something else. Yay!

I actually took some time this morning and last to work on some scrapbooking. I do digital scrapbooking, but am eons behind. Ever since we switched to digital pictures, we print out few. But I arrange my favorites on little pages and print them out. & I find it MUCH cheaper than traditional scrapping. The software cost $30 eons ago, and my dad sends us free photo paper all the time. (He is really into photography and just sends us the leftovers as he is always upgrading). So it is a pretty cheap hobby. So for 2008 I hope to get a little more caught up. I had the most adorable pictures from Christmas and am working on that. I will share some of my layouts when I am done.


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