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Archive for March, 2008

Refreshing Sunday

March 31st, 2008 at 07:32 am

Ah, I feel so refreshed.

I have been so swamped in recent years with infants and all that, that I really have had little "me" time. I think in my job and with my husband's wonderful support I have found much more "me" time than most mothers I know. But it doesn't really mean much more than that I demand time for myself.

However, lately I find I have had much more time than I have been accustomed to over the last few years.

I stopped and thought really hard (I think I blogged before) about what I really wanted from life and what I wanted from this in-between stage. There is a lot I have planned for when the kids are older, like more volunteer work, and more work on other hobbies. Likewise, maybe returning to school. Maybe writing more.

For now though, none of these time consuming endeavors appeal to me. My job takes away enough time from family as is, so these were not the things I felt like persuing with more time.

I decided working again on small craft projects and getting out on more hikes with the kids, was what I really wanted.

It has been hard because we planned a nice hike a couple of weekends, ago but dh fell ill. So we rescheduled for this weekend. Sunday was my only day off.

Of course, I woke up Sunday feeling a little under the weather myself. This put me in a pretty foul mood. I decided I Wanted to try anyway, but as we drove into the wildnerness I griped that this is why we never get to do anything like this. !! There's just always something. I was frustrated that as I tried to make time for these kind of things, it wasn't exactly panning out.

The hike quickly alleviated my bad mood though and I actually felt much better after pushing through. I just knew that laying around the house was NOT going to help me. I had been so itching to get OUT of the house.

Anyway, so we ventured out near Folsom, not quite sure what to expect. I had found the hike online, and I don't think of Folsom as being particularly scenic. (There is so much more breathtaking scenery nearby). But as we approached, we marveled at the place hidden away (how would anyone know it was there otherwise? Thank you internet!) and the peacefulness. We did not see one soul the first hour of our hike.

Started along some backyards of some mansions, and a lot of road noises. I was skeptical, but soon enough peacefulness started to settle in and we went through a small "forest."

I was disappointed when we reached the half way point, or the river, and hadn't really seen any animals. ?? Besides all the birds.

Anyway, we stopped and lounged a while, and was surprised how quiet it was for such a BEAUTIFUL day. Saw 2 boats and a couple of people fishing on the banks of the river.

We turned back and took a different trail back to our car, and then I saw IT. A bird was flying overhead, and I looked up an was absolutely stunned. IT was a BALD EAGLE. Um, okay, that bird sure looked like a bald eagle. It was magnificent. I had seen one perched in a tree once in the Oregon wilderness. Just about the most beautiful animal I had ever seen. Unfortunately, with the sun glare I couldn't quite make out as much. & I didn't really know Bald Eagles were in California, so I Was skeptical if that's really what I saw. When I pointed it out to dh and the kids, the glare was too strong and they couldn't make out any features. I thought maybe I was wrong.

Of course first thing when I get home I googled bald eagles, and Folsom, and yes they are there. Though I guess it is quite a rare sighting. I felt so blessed. (& not crazy after all).

Next time I am bringing my binoculars!!

Anyway, the kids did really well. IT was a 2-hour hike (stops and all) and LM fared well, though I wouldn't put him through more, and he did trip a couple of times.

At that age we went on some very intense hikes with BM, but he is a daredevil. & I just don't think we're up to much more this year. LM is very cautious. Which is fine. Mommy and Daddy need to work up to some bigger hikes ourselves. We're getting old and out of shape. Wink

Anyway, they were kind of whiny towards the last half hour and could tell LM in particular was getting quite tired of this whole hiking thing. When all of a sudden the fishermen we had seen come by with a giant catch! They had a catfish that was certainly bigger than LM.

It was perfect timing as that really perked the kids up. They were walking fast and BM decided he wanted to try to catch up to them again. Also, LM said seeing that big fish was his favorite part of the hike.

We also did see some gorgeous butterflies.

On the way back we ran into a few hikers. & towards the end there was some picnic tables on a tremendous vista. It was so gorgeous. The sky was so blue, and just miles of rolling hills. We decided to return for a picnic in the future.



Of course, spring is the time of year to enjoy a hike like this. The hills just get brown and ugly in the summer. Well, that, and in this area it also gets hotter than HAdes.

Likewise, dh and I discussed doing small, local hikes in the spring, and venturing out to Tahoe and San Francisco, and Point Reyes, etc., in the summer months. A good way to escape the heat - for sure!!

Anyway, I returned home feeling much better, and refreshed. I am glad I forged ahead and we followed through.

I can hardly think of a better way to spend a Sunday!

Of course, after that, we had promised the kids to a trip to IHOP for their "Horton HEars a Who" special menu. I admit the commercials got ME. I thought it looked very clever and I like IHOP anyway. So we took the kids.

Let me say, this was quite a splurge for us, and we were rather disappointed. I glanced at the kids' menu and didn't see any prices. Likewise, it was a confusing menu. We don't eat out that much, but used to a few choices and clear prices. (USually says it comes with a side, a drink, a dessert, etc.)

Anyway, dh later mentioned the same thing. What's with the no prices? We weren't particularly pleased by this. Though we gathered from some of the prices on the big menu that the Horton special was probably the cheapest choice anyway. ($3.99. They listed a few of the kids' choices - not all - in the $4.99 range on the big menu).

Anyway, of course, on reason this perplexed me was there was a picture of a rather large piece of ham, a large scoop of green eggs (yes - green eggs and ham) and some smaller pancakes. I was thinking - they will serve that for $4.99????

OF course, dh pointed out the false advertising when the food came out. The ham was little itty bitty and the pancakes were much bigger. LOL. I said, well, that certainly looks like a $4.99 meal. Makes more sense.

Anyway, beyond all that the service was pretty blah.

We ordered waters and used a 15% off coupon.

Anyway, I like IHOP, but that experience left me rather bummed. Not the best.

I just got a cheeseburger. But I have to say that the ham/eggs/bacon/sausage meal was pretty tempting. I am a meat lover. I laughed when I realized it was on the lighter menu as "low carb." LOL. I mean, it didn't say it was "light" - more like the specialty menu. But I just laugh at eating all that food in an effort to lose weight or be healthy. Egads! It was tempting to me as a major meat gorging fest, indeed. But yeah, I wasn't going to fool myself that that would be good for me because it had no carbs. Yeesh.

Well, the kids did like their pancakes, but LM was having problems with their big fork. Was having problems stabbing his food with it, and it was probably a bit heavy. So when we left he said, "Restaurants are stupid. I never want to go to a restaurant again." Dh agreed. LOL.

So much for that treat. Though I guess I take pleasure knowing the kids enjoyed the hike 10 times more than a trip to IHOP. Big Grin






Frugal Saturday

March 30th, 2008 at 07:54 am

Well, not entirely.

Dh had gotten the art of $50 groceries down at the Bel Air (for 10 cents per gallon, off gas). But then they added the lucrative, spend $100, save a quarter per gallon.

Of course, Safeway has been having better deals of late (and we get smaller gas discounts there, bus discounts nonetheless). But I really prefer the BelAir gas station as far as convenience.

So I didn't have a coupon last week and was out of gas. So dh went shopping at BelAir and got the 25 cent discount, and filled up for me. That was the first time we had reached 25 cents actually. BEcause dh has so accustomed to shopping for $50.

My tank was 1/2 full yesterday, but I did my convenience store/junk run before work yesterday and occurred to me to just fill up while I was there. Dh had no plans to go shopping there and I figure with the quarter off last time I could pay full price and still be farther ahead than usual.

Of course, the gas prices were insane. Yikes! I'll pay a good $50 for my round trip to the Bay Area next week. A trip that was only $20 when we moved here. Ouch. (Well, taking the van instead of the subcompact doesn't help).

I took my lunch to work though and worked most of the day.

In the evening, dh made dinner. and the kids and I played in the backyard after dinner.

I try to avoid the outside because of my usual allergies, and because of my extreme fear of spiders (& the monster spiders that take up in our yard. Egads!!!!) & we have huge wasp problems. Anyway, we had a pest control company for a while, but we really only needed them for the wasps and the giant spiders. They quit doing wasp control so we just figured we'd do it ourselves. OF course, I don't think we did anything last year. Which did not make me inclined to hang out in the backyard with wasps and giant spiders. We tend to go to the park instead, and they spend all their time backyard exploring at preschool. (I think the poor bugs who end up in that yard - LOL. I can't tell you what BM brings home in his pocket. Worms, bugs, etc. Boys!! & though I appreciate their curiosity, I told them to be a little gentler with the bugs last night. One got its head squashed - poor little thing). I know, the gentleness is a lost cause with them. I should let them be...

Anyway, I think it was the first time I really felt I could let them roam around without watching them every second (well last time we really enjoyed the yard was when LM was 18 months??). YEah, 2 years makes a difference. Plus I can always bring out the laptop and just hang out while they play.

Anyway, what spurred our little venture outside is the kids had asked to paint outside a while back, and we never made it out for some reason. You know, the old water painting thing. Bucket of water, some paint brushed, and the kids "paint" the house and the ground. So last night I didn't feel 100% so thought the backyard would be a nice alternative from a walk to the park. Plus it's not wasp season yet. (& I didn't even see any spiders...)

Of course, I remember buying a paint brush specifically for this before LM was born. & I even found it! But the only other thing I could find was a giant paintbrush from when we painted LM's room.

Likewise, it was a little big and heavy for BM, so they fought over the smaller one.

I asked dh to pick up a cheapie brush (or 2) next time he was out. Wouldn't be surprised if you can just get one at the grocery store. Not worth the gas to go elsewhere.

So the kids had a blast. & I enjoyed not having to watch them like a hawk. They have learned pretty well the dos and dont's of outside play at preschool - they play outside so much. You know, last time the 18-month-old was probably eating dirt or something. LOL. So it's nice to move past that age where they put stuff in their mouths, etc.

Anyway, besides all this, for some reason I was thinking about one of my favorite records growing up from childhood. It was "Urban Chipmunk" - country songs from Alvin & the Chipmunks. I looked it up and saw it was out of print and asked dh if he could download the songs. So I played some of those for the kids and they LOVED it.

So I would say that makes a pretty frugal Saturday.

My $2 convenience store run wasn't very frugal BUT it's my treat for working overtime and I'd say I only had to work 5 minutes to earn $2. So, no, not frugal. But I won't sweat it. Wink

For some reason I thought "My Sharona" was on that album, but dh said that was on Chipmunk Punk. I don't remember having that one. Which is funny because I am not a country girl - I am a rocker. But something about that Urban Chipmunk. Very memorable. So we'll download some of those to CD.

I have to tell you those are 2 CDs I would gladly BUY if they were still in print.

Well, I really look forward to a relaxing Sunday. Big Grin

Just an Update

March 29th, 2008 at 12:13 pm

I'll look at my Quarter 1 Net Worth progress after all my interest posts Monday/Tuesday.

I don't expect much. (same as 12/31? loss?)

We'll see.

The credit card also closes Friday, so a little premature to start summarizing expenses. Though overall, we had a lot of "unexpected" bills this month. I felt like we were well prepared and, even more importantly, I felt we have had more wiggle room in our budget lately. This month most noteable, even with all the medical, daycare, car expenses.

Which is good.

Of course, I try not to get too excited, because this time of year we are always both busy and sick. Not a lot of going out and having fun. Certainly makes the budget easier! Big Grin We'll see how we fare in summer...

OF course, we were going to go on a 2-hour hike a couple of weekends ago, but dh fell ill. We are going to try again tomorrow. So far it looks like the weather will be okay.

We all went to the park Thursday I believe, and the weather was DIVINE. Since it has cooled off and we even ran the heat a little bit. Today is gloomy and wet. I hope tomorrow is the sunny 65-degree weather promised. We'll see... IT's hard to do much with just one free day a week, at the whim of the weather...

On the flip side, I have had TERRIBLE allergies ever since we moved here. This year - nada/nothing. ??? I mean the last 5 years were horrid in the spring. I maybe only had bouts with allergies once or twice where I grew up, and for specific reasons. So I have been pretty miserable here.

Anyway, I kept telling dh that maybe it was early, but not a thing. Usually I can't go outside on Easter because my eyes get so irritated. But I wondered aloud if it hasn't struck yet because Easter was early.

Anyway, dh just read that pollen counts were at a very high level this year. So I find that interesting. Though I wonder if it is not the pollen, but something else. There are many other allergens. So we'll see. So far so good (knock on wood). I have even questioned the sanity of getting a convertible down the road (you know, my dream) because I have to admit when I had one, I didn't use it as much up here. Weather is just too extreme (From what I Am used to anyway - used to 70s year-round) and in the spring I had to keep the top up and the windows shut with my allergies. So this gives me hope. Maybe I am acclimating!

I also told the kids I would treat them to IHOP. So we were thinking that would be good to refuel after our hike tomorrow.

Seems like we have been getting more restaurant coupons than usual (with the economy) and we will certainly take advantage! Trying to go home for lunch dates more with dh. But we have a coupon for buy one buffet/get one free - for Round Table pizza. Was going to use last week but didn't pan out. Will try next week again. We have the same coupon for a new Japanese buffet. A little further out, but I want to try it. Much cheaper at lunch, and we already pay for the kids' care anyway, during some weekdays. So trying to take advantage more.

IF we can lunch out like that for under $20/month, while the kids are in school? Indeed!!! This is the one thing I miss with the kids. We just don't have the money to eat out much. & I find great pleasure in squeezing these kind of dates in.

Likewise, every other week we can have a lunch date at home. Those are nice too. Just nice to have quiet time together. So rare!

The following weekend, MIL is taking LM for a few days, and we figured we would leave BM at daycare for a few hours on a Saturday so we could get some time out. We keep getting coupons for this drop-in care place and the kids LOVED it. So, woohoo. One free hour and will pay $7/hour for just the one, to leave for a few hours.

Not bad. He has been begging for a return visit. For now we are trying to utilize the place for date night once a month. Maybe more once BM graduates preschool. (Twice a month?).

But the weekend will be busy. We picked that date since I will be in the Bay Area next Sunday. So dh will meet his mom 1/2 way to drop off LM during the week, and I will pick him up Sunday. I think she has not offered to babysit so much lately due to gas. Certainly why we have not asked. IT has popped into mind, we consider the gas, and quickly change our minds... Meeting half way is a 120-mile round trip.

So this will be nice. Fitting the pick-up in with an already planned trip.

For Sunday, I am taking BM to the Holi Festival again this year. It was so fun last year and we are hooked. Great Indian Food, lots of fun, and a big mess. It's a spring celebration where everyone throws this colored powder on each other. LAst year was my first time and I took a friend. We have been looking forward to it again. Woohoo. I am not sure who had more fun, us or the kids? This year we are bringing more people, will caravan down. We'll see how it goes.

The busyness at work is REALLY winding down. It's a tad early, but I am quite stoked. Plus it is only like a month to my big summer vacation. Woohoo!

April is usually busy because I am so behind on everything (regular, non-tax work, and April/May deadlines). But I am pretty caught up and don't expect to work too much overtime in April. I think 2 more Saturdays will do it. I know my family can not wait. Working 40 hours after tax season always seems so easy. Like a calm, relaxing work schedule. So I look forward to it too, of course.

We'll see though. Anything can happen... Just don't want to get too optimistic, too soon... Big Grin

In the meantime, I am enjoying the pace. I certainly don't mind the overtime either - it will go a long way to fund our savings. I'll get a nice OT bonus in the next month or so. KEeps me going strong all these weekends...

I am SO cash poor right now too. (For my comfort level anyway). So OT bonuses and stimulus payments will go a long way to replenish our reserves. Phew.



Saved $1.81

March 29th, 2008 at 11:26 am

"You earned a credit under PG&E's 10/20 Plus Winter Gas Savings Program. You've
received a bill credit of $1.81, which is a total of 1.00% off your total PG&E gas charges from January 1
through February 29. The credit is based on your cumulative gas usage reduction of 1.00%, compared to
the average usage at this location in January and February over the last three years. Thank you for
conserving natural gas and for helping to keep costs down for all customers."

Woohoo.

Actually, I saw this promotion. It was vague. Cut costs by 10% and get a 20% discount on some bill in the spring.

Since our bills in the spring are usually like $10, it was like, eh. Plus we tend to be conservatively minded anyway. Not like we are going to cut our bill 10%.

Anyway, so I got this note in our bill. January/February are the coldest months, so they wanted to reward us for using less. All I Can say is, thank you mild winter. LOL.

Likewise, I am stoked to see they took 1% off our Jan/Feb bills. Now that's something. Since my MArch bill was a whopping $20! (What would 1% be? 20 cents?)

The original wording had made it seemed like you would get a discount on your spring bill. So that was nice. Well, it was on my spring bill, but the discount for the winter months is certainly nice.

Extra $30?

March 28th, 2008 at 12:28 pm

I got a note from Chase that if I spend $2k each month, April/May/June that they will give me a bonus $25 in cash rewards. (I round up to $30 since I usually wait to $200 to redeem an extra 25%).

Anyway, we put about $1300 on the card monthly (well, ideally - that is the budget for regular expenses) and often hit $2k during certain time of year (random one-time expenses and such). BUT I doubted it was worth $30 to try to hit in 3 months in a row. I told dh jokingly, asking if there was anything he wanted to buy. There wasn't. HE mentioned it didn't seem worth it. Well duh.

We have a few electonic purchases in mind, but end of the year is the time to buy, and prices will no doubt come down much lower than by $30, if we wait...

I did tell him that if we got the emergency room bill ( never got a bill yet!?!) that I just received word that I could card it. So maybe if we got in sometime before May, would help.

Likewise, we have our big vacation in May and $2k will be no prob.

So we pondered what we could do for June. Of course, now it looks like we may go camping and the fee is a few hundred dollars.

So may just earn another $30!!

Of course, I had kind of forgotten about this since I have not received this medical bill yet. (Phew, since gives me more time to save for it).

Anyway, I recieved my state CPA society dues notice yesterday and it was almost $500. My boss reimburses me, but I always card it for rewards. Woohoo. I'll have to look at the due date and push the payment to June if possible. But I can pay it in April if the medical bill doesn't materialize. Maybe I can push the medical payment to June.

Who knows. I think I have some other dues coming up and some other things I can prepay a bit.

I'll have to keep that in mind and juggle some things around.

Actually, we can also buy our Disney tickets in April, so that might be a wise move too. Spread out some of the costs. We can pay for everything else in May (gas, food, other activities. We won't pay lodging so not a lot of other expenses, now that I think about it).

But yeah, this will take a little strategy!

Foreclosureville

March 27th, 2008 at 01:49 pm

Real estate bargain hunting
Three lessons from a one-day tour of Foreclosureville:

http://www.marketwatch.com/news/story/day-foreclosureville-s...

Anyway, I found this article interesting. I already mentioned, but some of the real estate activity I See around me is very reminiscent of bubble behavior.

I keep hearing about bidding wars on foreclosed homes.

Well, yeah, $300k for 3000 square feet. Haven't seen these prices, here, since 2001.

So the people who have been bitter and priced out of the market for years are swooping in for their chance. They seem to be quite convinced that now is a good time to buy. Better jump before it gets too expensive.

Overall, I Don't disagree with this assessment. That it is a good time to buy. But, wow. I don't exactly see the hurry either.

I think it raises the point that there is still a very strong demand for home ownership in the area. There is a huge pool of people who can afford $300k homes who could not fathom home ownership for the last 7 years.

Likewise, the part I think I mentioned before was the people I know frothing at the investment properties. The scary thing is they are talking about buying properties they can not afford in any, way, shape or form, without rental income coming in.

You wonder if these people have been paying ANY attention the last few years.

Overall, both groups have great optimism that high prices are here to stay, and it's time to jump on the discount wagon. BEcause it has nowhere to go but up.

Where is all this optimism coming from?

I did read somewhere that prices will yo-yo for a while. I guess, that, I can agree with. It is yo-yo-ing.

IT's certainly interesting to watch from the sidelines.

What next??

I've just always found real estate fascinating. So I rather enjoy watching it all unfold.

I keep reading the locals saying they won't buy until prices settle around $100k again. I personally think they are dreaming. PEople were moving here in droves because it was much more affordable than places like the Bay Area and So Cal. But then with all the equity, the people with no ties here moved on. Cashed out and moved on.

I can almost see it happening all over again...

Anyway, what the locals don't understand is that if the average house here is $250k or so, and the average house in the Bay is $750k. Regardless of jobs, people will move here. They will retire with their Bay Area riches, or they will super commute or telecommute. For this very reason, they are absolutely dreaming if they think prices will ever hit $100k again.

OF course, I think you had to be dreaming to think the $500k prices could be sustained here. I actually would buy that more because there isn't a lot of logic, historically (& I mean long term history) to housing prices in California. They have always been something like 10 times average income. I really thought Sacramento was just becoming an arm of the Bay Area. Problem is all that fast equity run up, and people fled. So, I Don't know. If it builds gradually and slowly, I think a lot of the higher prices may be here to stay. But, then again, as the price differential narrows, the less attractive Sacramento is. IT's a pretty big catch 22. We'll never be Bay Area. But I think things have changed and I would be shocked if $100k houses return.

I could be wrong, who knows. We'll see... I haven't ruled out a significant price collapse in the Bay Area. They seem to be on REALLY shaky ground. I have menioned our relatives who do own homes - with ARMs and TWO incomes. The shaky economy has me worried for them, how they would fare if they lost their jobs, etc. Or if they could not sell before ARM resets, etc. They look strong for now, but looks like pretty shaky ground to me.

I think significant price drops there wouldn't bode well for us. IT really is the bubble that drove so many people here. When prices were high (for many many years), they didn't move here in droves. They moved here in droves when it turned into a bubble though.

But what do I know? I am just watching it all unfold.

I think the bidding wars around here are absolutely fascinating. That is for sure. Not sure I would have guessed that. Seems like PLENTY of foreclosures sitting empty. Why all the rush for a few houses? You got me there...

Car Problems...

March 27th, 2008 at 01:02 pm

Oh well, the saga of dh's little "old" car...

I took it in because it was making a sound with the wheels, but only when the air conditioner was on. Huh? I know. I even had my dad look at it, but he was of little help.

So, we take it in to the shop again.

Day 1 I didn't hear a thing and was too busy to care. When I got to work on day 2 there was a somber message on my voice mail to call the shop.

Dear god, I Was sure it was a $3k repair or something. So Somber!

No, I think he just felt bad that he did not hear my noise. They didn't write down that I had said "only when the a/c is on!!!" Doh.

So we talked and he said he really thought it was just low on freon.

OF course that could be a sign of a leak or something worse.

But he said he would turn on the a/c and listen for the noise.

So by 4pm, still no word. Still busy, but figured I should call and just arrange to pick up the car. If it was nothing obvious, I am sure it's fine. If something that needs repair, it will get more obvious.

But he beat me to it, called me around 4.

It was.....

The hub cap! LOL. The hub cap coming lose and clanking around I guess. (OF course I have to admit this was coinciding with some new engine sounds I hadn't heard, so it was more than just the hubcap.

Figures.

Of course, as we were discussing engine noises, he does tell me that the transmission mount needs replacing/fixing or whatever. YEs, dh's car rattles and hums much. Anything to quiet it down...

This is where the mechanic annoys me. He was recommended by a relative who worked there for a time and we have been loyal to him since we moved here. But the first few times I dropped off my car for a repair, he would call us in to pick up the car and would say, "Oh yeah, you need this and that done to it in the near future."

I think, well, I rather have just done it while he had the car! I guess though this is NOT the standard consumer mindset. No one can afford more than one repair at a time or something? IF I am going to go a day or 2 carless though, I rather just get all the work it needs, at once.

So I thought we had worked all that out, and he put a note in my file or something. But he starts with the, "you should get that fixed one of these days..."

So I Said, just fix it now. I mean, what is he going to bill me for anyway? Some freon and however long it took them to find the hubcap noise?

Plus, it was only $250 with all the time they spent looking for the noise.

Thank goodness it was just the hubcap!

I never said...

March 26th, 2008 at 07:47 am

But dh did NOT have mono. He is better.

Ms. PReschool does not have mono either. She picked up some bug on her mission trip to Guatemela (current diagnosis). Ugh.

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

I also felt I had to be clear about something. Yes, the CPA industry is INSANE right now. But I have had people prod me that I don't seem that busy as I say the industry is.

Well, yeah, duh. That is because I place GREAT importance on work/life balance. I am only working 45-hour-weeks right now. I don't know any other CPA in this area who works that little even during the summers. I mean this is an unheard of work schedule. This is BUSY season. I have twice as much chargeable work to do now than I usually do the rest of the year.

(Did I tell you I LOVE my job? It's a keeper).

Last year a myriad of factors merged to make it the tax season from hell, for me.

This year has been quite calm. Phew!!!!! This is more my speed. & summers tend to be rather slow paced. That's why I had my babies in the summer. I tried anyway, I understood I didn't have full control, but it was nice on my coworkers. & nice on me since I could relax and take some time off.

I am SO looking forward to a slow summer. Last year's never materialized. This summer looks about 1000 times more likely to be calm.

But yeah, I am not sure how things are across the country. But around here. I don't know any CPA who works as little as I do. Big Grin I am sure they are out there. IT's particularly difficult to find this kind of work/balance without going part time though. Of course, that is my long term goal - part-time. Just not quite there yet.

I have no desire to make oodles of money. I enjoy having a secure job that pays pretty well even for part-time or seasonal work. For the long term, that is why I got into this industry. & I LOVE the work. & though I could aim really high and make twice as much money (& get worked to death as well). Just so not "me!"

So yeah, I am personally not that busy. Doesn't mean the industry is going through a REALLY tough time right now. Which has its upsides and downsides. Pay and job security is obscene. BUT it has been a lot harder for me to keep my ideal work/life balance. Last year was a perfect example. Too stressful. Right now I probably have more responsibility than I care for. But feel like I have little choice. At least I feel this is a manageable level/pace. Until I can go to part-time or seasonal status.

Shower in the Dark

March 25th, 2008 at 11:58 am

Well, today we took dh's car into the shop for the noise. My dad really didn't have a clue when I showed it to him. Well, he guessed wheel bearings, but still not sure why the air conditioner needs to be on to make the noise. IT sounds a lot more like something with the wheels than the engine. But I Drove it this morning without the a/c and it sounded fine. Just strange. But that is what we pay the mechanic for. To figure out mysteries like these...

(Already paid him $250 this month when the engine light came on, BUT this is the car that we have had 6 years, 80k miles on it, never needed a thing but a minor repair here and there. So if it needs a big repair, I think we'll survive. IT historcially hasn't cost much of anything to keep it running).

Though, on the other hand, I have owned cars older than dirt that didn't need to go in more than once every 6 months. I think 2 visits to the repair shop in ONE month is a new record. Figures. Though leaves you wondering if they messed something up when they last had the car. IT's a family friend and he always takes good care of us, so am not too worried. I doubt that's what it is. I think it's just bad timing. But if it is, I am confident they would own up to a mistake of theirs. We'll just wait and see.

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

Anyway, this morning it struck me that there was a lot of daylight in the house. I toyed with the idea of showering in the dark, and then thought it was crazy. Then I thought better of it. How much light do you really need?

So I came out of the shower very impressed with the cost cutting measure. Dh was like, yeah, whatever, "I never turn the light on in the shower."

Not so impressed. LOL.

But yeah, that is something I Can work on I guess.

Of course, reminds me much of why our electric bill is usually so low anyway. We have a lot of windows and natural light. So we don't use the lights that much. BEsides early in the morning and late at night. For now BM is the light nazi too. If I leave a light in one room for 1 minute while I go to another room to get something, 99% of the time he'll turn it off and yell to me that I left the lights on. I guess dh has trained them well. LOL. God forbid I turn on a light in the house. Dh is a little extreme in not needing light. For one, I like lots of light when I am cooking. So I Can see what I Am doing. So yeah, even then sometimes BM comes into the kitchen when there is still some daylight and switches off the light. "Mommy - you are wasting electricity." Then I say, "um, I Was using that!" LOL. I Can only hope this electricity mindfullness sticks into teenager-hood.

OF course, it would be ludicrous to use a light in our bathroom, during the day, since it is bathed in light from the windows. But we use the kids' shower which is in a room in a room. (Both rooms window-less). I found leaving both doors open allowed plenty of light to see what I needed to. THough it was pretty dim. & we'll probably move back to our own shower as the boys age. Our shower needs work, but the real truth is I hate cleaning bathrooms. So we just use the one. Only one shower/tub to clean then.

But speaking of saving energy, this is the time of year we save the most on our energy bills. On Easter it was around 75 degrees and it struck me that dh's cousin had the a/c on. I am sure he was just making it extra comfortable for the crowd. But it struck me as a little odd. But then again, his old house was on the warn side.

Then this morning, my mom told me she woke up to 60 degrees inside and it was a little chilly. I am not sure why she mentioned it (maybe because it had been warmer for a bit, and the cooled down)? But all I could think was our house has settled to a nice steady 70 degrees day and night. NO heat or a/c needed.

May can have some unbearably hot weather, but I am rather confident we won't need to turn on the heat or air for a good solid month. A/C use in May is generally pretty rare. So it will be a quiet couple of months. woohoo.



Some Financial Updates

March 24th, 2008 at 02:04 pm

Well, several financial things running through my head today that I Realized I haven't mentioned much about.

Firstly, my coworker mentioned recently something about paying individuals through online bill pay. I am not sure why, but I knew I could do this, but never thought to. She brought it up so I looked at it. I entered my gardener and the preschool's phone #s and they immediately pop up. Someone at my CU had already payed both of them, so that was that. Entered their phone # and I was set.

This will save me almost $5/year in stamps for the gardener (I had taken to mailing the checks since it was unpredicatble when I would see him).

The preschool? I usually hand it over, so just one LESS check to write every month.

I am estatic! Kind of like a duh, why didn't I think of this sooner.

My CU is happy to print out the checks AND mail them for me, all at no charge.

Be my guest!

Along with me trying my darnedest not to use cash ever again, this makes for a very cashless/checkless month.

OF course, I did write checks out of my online savings account because I knew I could write them, get them all ready, pop them in the mail closer to the due date, and they would probably clear afterwards. (IRS and property taxes - rather large). More interest for me. So though I could have transferred the money to my checking and done online bill pay, I chose not to. I'll earn a lot more interest, phew.

So still a few checks for me...

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

Also, when I first joined the site and was less organized, I found if I kept extra money in my checking, it would just get spent.

Bad news.

I have been aiming to run my balance to $0 and transfer any excess to savings, very purposefully. Sure, I can spend it, but it is a little extra step than just spending all the money in my account. Likewise, I have been saving more with this mindset. Extra to savings, not splurging.

Anyway, in the course of all this I took out most of the float in my checking account and put it in savings. IT helped me reach my efund goal sooner. Instead of paying bills when I got them I started paying them on the due date instead.

Overall, I am fine with this. BUT I find myself running my paycheck to the bank now (which I have never had to do before, I could wait days/weeks before if I wanted). IT primarily drives me nuts with them mortgage and credit cards. The due date is a little too close to paydate and it makes me nervous every single month. Always the worst case in my head, what if I don't get to the bank with my paycheck in time?

Anyway, I have never lived like this before, and likewise, I am VERY tired of it. LOL.

By the same token, I also feel like our budget is way under control. So one day I was just wishing I had a $1300 windfall and I would pop it in the bank and start paying my credit card and mortgage early again. Then I thought, well. If I could be disciplined, I could transfetr $1300 from my efund to do so, transferring it into my checking account. I think I really could be good about not touching it.

But it would completely eliminate the need to RUN to the bank every payday.

So I thought, this sounds mighty nice. I'm giving it a whirl. We'll see how it goes.

I am sure it will be fine. At some point though I am just going to have a goal to keep an extra $1500 in there or something just because. For the long term no, that is not where I Want my efund to be. & I will lose a little interest (though I guess not much these days). So we'll see... But in the short term, a piece of the efund will do the trick.

I just have to add this is EXTREMELY psychological. It has nothing to do with my budget. IT's just since I put that $1300 in my efund, it got me to my goal much faster. & I am working on other goals now. I have no desire to work on my efund right now. !! (Though this is the first place any unexpected windfall would go!!)

Likewise, I guess I can justify "borrowing it" from my efund more than I could see draining it to make life easier. BEcause them my efund would drop below the goal, and that is depressing!

However, if I was bad and I overspent what was in my checking account, well it would have come from the efund anyway. Right?

So in the end nothing has changed except I made my life a little easier and lost interest on $1300 of my efund. We'll see though.

I don't think the money in my checking account will make me any more inclined to spend it. But it could. If so, I guess the price to pay will be running to the bank every payday. But if I am more inclined to spend it there, well, yeah, that is just psychological too.

I just wanted to be clear it is one big psychological mess. LOL. Which in the ends really makes little difference. !!
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Beyond all that, I am pondering my net worth. My holy grail of net worth is this article:

http://www.emarotta.com/article.php?ID=165

If nothing else, a good starting point and a practical way of measuring progress.

The jist is between ages 40 and 60, you should save 1/2 of your annual spending every year. Well, your net worth should grow by that much every year. Which is very different than your savings I guess. Though I am a good decade younger, I have been aiming for that.

Of course, last year was a year of a windfalls and a great stock year. So the whole 50% thing was easy peasy.

This year is going to be really slow going.

I am trying to think of the givens:

$4k to mortgage (regular payments)
$8k work retirement
$4k ROTHs
$3k Savings
$2k Kids' Savings
($2k) Car Depreciation
-------
$19k Total?
-------

That's kind of the bare minimum I Expect, as long as I am working.

OF course, stock losses will likely take my net worth further down.

So I consulted the holy grail to see what the minimums were. Not sure I was pleased with them, but was rather refreshing.

BEtween age 30 & 35 my net worth only really needs to go up by 1/5 of my spending, every year?

My employers' retirement contributions and the regular mortgage payments has that down pat.

From age 35 to 39 it looks like you aim for 25% of spending every year (to increase your net worth by).

Then at 40 you get to 50%.

Well a $10k-$15k increase will mostly do the job for my true age range. I find that quite doable.

I think I can then be okay to take a little hit for bad stock years. Maybe age 30 was a little too agressive. Maybe I should commit to age 35 to start the 50% per year thing. I mean the thing is, sure, I made it last year. But just not at a sustainable level. Maybe by 35 the average of the good and bad stock years will get us there.

Of course, if I can pull the 50% thing, consistently, starting now, it will put our net worth at about $500k at age 40. I don't find that half bad at all.

Oh well, it suddenly doesn't feel so dire if we don't make our net worth goal this year. But I will still try my darnedest - that is for sure!!! My goal has been more in the $25k-$30k range. & that is certainly what I will shoot for.

To remove the whole housing volatility out of it I just valued my home at assessed value (pretty close to what we paid and far below current market rates). We'll see. I wouldn't rule out having to decrease that either. But of course hoping and optimisitc it won't come to that. The market is a big yo you right now. Low prices got close but then buyers started to move in and snatch up the low prices, and drove up prices again, so who knows. I never counted much on home equity before and I am certainly not trying to track it now. !!

Which puts our net worth at about 50% cash paid into our house and 50% retirement/savings. It's just too depressing not to count all the cash we have paid into our house. I have to count that for now. Over time, it will matter less (should be a much smaller piece of our net worth, with time!!). But yeah, all that is how I arrived at using assessed value. IT goes up something like 1.5% every year. Whereas our house went up 100% in value, and then down 40% in the last few months. Who can keep track??? What a roller coaster... I try to keep that out of all my goal tracking. IF we end up with a lot of equity, even better. But not exactly holding my breath. Wink

Nothing to Blog Today...

March 23rd, 2008 at 08:32 am

For some reason I left mondo replies on many blogs today. Nothing left to blog myself, though I now have many different financial subjects racing through my head. Lot of interesting blogs today I guess. Big Grin

I did find the most awesome website for boiling eggs last night. I learned one new trick in particular. After you cool the eggs in ice water, take them out and tap them on a hard surface, and THEN put them back in the ice water for 10 minutes.

The shells practically fell off. That last part was a new trick. Of course this website was insane in the details. Also suggested laying eggs on their sides overnight and having them room temperature before boiling, to prevent cracks. On & on. The whole cooking/colling process was longer with her directions, but did work really well. s'posedly no green either. HAven't looked inside yet.

I have found myself all week wondering how did we survive without the internet. seriously!?! It's funny sometimes my coworkers assume I grew up with internet. Um, yeah, I think internet came big when I was about 22. Maybe a decade ago. One thing I have never done is worked without internet. I could not IMAGINE!!!! But all my school years - no internet - not even college. Maybe a little. But I remember it being really clunky and not so useful in college.

Reminds me too, BM starts talking about clown fish and their symbiosis with the sea anenomes and how they protect them from the butterfly fish. HE is going on and on and on and dh and I just look at each other. So I look it up online. Lord knows where this came from but he was dead on. LOL. Likewise, dh asks me last night if the kids' had a particular easter basket. I said, lord knows, but if we told BM one was his last year, he will remember. HE remembers everything. I can't even say "anenome." Nor spell it, apparently.

I do have a rather photographic memory. But I don't remember it being prevalent when I was so young. I mean, he's 4. But he will remember the most random stuff, in detail.

Anyway, yeah, cooked the eggs last night and will devil them today. Plus my stab at very fatty wontons.

Likewise, we did dye a few eggs with the kids. We had everything on hand. At school they had written on the eggs with white crayons, to make designs. I also saw that online so we tried it. I also had the bright ideas to use markers (Washable) so the vinegar and water washed off all the ink. LOL!!!!!!! But we had dye, water and vinegar, so was a very frugal endeavor.

Well dh had gone to the store and bought eggs.

& the spread today???? Oy vey. I cringe at what you could spend hundreds of dollars on for easter. Our kids got so much candy and puzzles and toys. But we didn't really spend much - maybe $20? Too much. Lord knows what grandma will bring too. But they are having fun - that is for sure.

Guess I had something to blog after all.

Happy Easter!!!!!

Busy Weekend

March 22nd, 2008 at 02:44 pm

Today I am working.

My Saturday working schedule is relaxed. I let dh sleep in a bit. Then I stop by the convenience store and pick up a snack. I get paid overtime during tax season and figured a couple of bucks a week is an okay splurge. I just limit to my Saturdays - helps me get through the day. Likewise, I generally just work what I want to work on and take more breaks than I probably should.

IT's funny how the tendency is for my coworkers to come in at dawn and rush rush rush to get out. Since I have been wide awake at 4am, I should give it a try. But I like just to embrace and enjoy. More my style. I really don't mind working the Saturdays. That's the nice thing about loving my job. I don't have to dread it or live for the weekends or any of that - blech.

I was perplexed today because I thought all I had was the work I had been putting off (ugh!). LOL. But I remembered something I had been planning to do next week which is easy. So I did 3 tax returns and will work on that after I finish my lunch.

Not bad for a Saturday. (The individual tax returns, I actually enjoy).

I have ugly projects for next week though. We'll see. The one I have been putting off, the ones that I am waiting on info for (which will no doubt arrive all at once), and the ugly most complicated thing in the office that we usually squeak out 10/15? My boss says we need to get it out next week.

YEah, we'll see. LOL.

I've been averaging 5 hours a week overtime and I feel rather ahead of the curve.

I've always had pretty high productivity, but I have had trouble concentrating and getting anything done since my second child. PPD issues I guess (or maybe just lack of sleep, or all of the above). I have noticed a marked improvement in the last month or 2. So we'll see. IT seems like this year was a much better year anyway. Last year was just so awful (tax season and all). But I guess that could be much of it. If I am doing my work twice as fast... Well, then it might seem a little easier. Plus on top of all that I think I have gotten over a big learning curve. So everything is just coming easier this year. Phew.

Likewise, at home dh has been less needy/grumpy. Again, the good nights' rests explains much of it. But we put the kids in 2 full days a week at preschool starting JAnuary to help with tax season. I was just telling my mom, what do I know? I worried it would be much for LM, but this was the first time we put them in care for our needs more than theirs. Anyway, he has absolutely blossomed. It has been SO good for him. Funny how that works out. By the same token, he never wants to go home.

Grass is always greener. My kids thinks it's terrible they don't get to go to full-time daycare! & most of the time after a full day of daycare LM just wants to go to the gym daycare with me and play some more. (BM is eager to see daddy, but LM has been so funny. Just play play play, everyone else has cooler toys than us). SO he spends lots of time at the gym daycare though it's not really necessary. He's happy as can be.

What do I know? I thought my little baby would have a hard time with full days...

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

Anyway, I went to the Taco Bell drive thru to grab a bite and dh's car was making a weird noise. We just had a minor repair on it a couple of weeks back, AND this morning I was chatting with my mom. Knock of wood, of course,but I joked how dh's car was so "old" and by most people's standards would be time to upgrade. We joked as we tend to keep our cars 10-20 years. This is a 7-year-old-car.

OF course I jinxed the thing! LOL.

The weird thing is I have no idea what it was - thought maybe a flat since it was a noise like the tires rotating or something. No flat. Hope it's okay to drive home (not far). I'll have my dad look at it tomorrow. At least he can help me figure it out. So I don't have to call the mechanic and say it is making a noise I Can't describe in the least. I am terrible at describing that stuff. My dad will probably know what it is.

My car has also been making minor noises. USually the kind of thing I run it in for (keep on top of it). But I needed an oil change and they always push all this stuff I don't need. I asked dh to take it in and if they said anything about belts or fans it was fine for them to fix. Just convenient, was my guess on the noises. OF course this time they find nothing wrong. What good are they??? (jiffy lube).

Of course dh's car takes precedence once again. I know my fan is giving out and I should take it in before it gets hotter than Hades. But one thing at a time!

Tonight we will decorate eggs with the kids. I was tempted to skip it (they already decorated at preschool). But, eh, dh really wants to. I said maybe we'd do 4 tonight.

Tomorrow morning I am making deviled eggs. I just didn't want to make them, dye them, and then have to peel the shells later. Ugh. So I'll probably cook 4 tonight and another dozen tomorrow. But I LOVE deviled eggs and like any excuse to whip them up.

I also picked out a rather complex recipe from our cooking mags - some kind of fried wontons that are very high in calories - something like jalapenos, cream cheese, in wonton wrappers. Oh my. Of course it said it was like 60 calories per wonton? !! I decided to make them for Easter since they probably don't reheat well, and the last thing I need to do is eat them all.

Will be an experiment. We'll see how it goes.

What I would really like to learn how to make is steamed gyozas. IF these aren't half bad I may give it a whirl. We'll see how this goes. IT was in the "Easy cooking" book, so you know.

Going to dh's cousin's house, nearby, for Easter. IT will be slim with all the sickies and personal drama. I am not sure if any of the kids' cousins will be there! Frown

Oh yeah, and everyone else has to work. Yeesh. Hey, I can swing the day off, why is everyone else working? Big Grin

Tomorrow is s'posed to BEAUTIFUL Though and the kids will be spoiled by the adults. & there will be all that food for 1/2 the usual crowd. I think it will be pretty nice.

We live in the same city as dh's cousin but this is about all we see him - every Easter. Kind of pathetic. But we LOVE that he hosts and we don't have to host OR drive all the way to the Bay Area. Yay!

If I find a minute I should also take a stab at my parent's tax return... We'll see...



Housing Point of View

March 21st, 2008 at 07:13 am

http://www.freemoneyfinance.com/2008/03/live-like-a-new.html

Good article, primarily for those who live in more expensive areas though. I know the whole expensive thing really skews my point of view on rents.

But the last line of the article says, "the joy of paying a 2008 price in 2028 dollars"

I am personally enjoying the joy of 1999 prices in 2008 dollars. LOL. I mean we've owned a little over 8 years and the monetary advantage is phenomenal.

I have often said we have friends come over and are a little intimidated by our house. They are completely clueless that our mortgage payment is the same as theirs, for twice the space, or the same as their rents in their crappy apartments. Just clueless.

You can drop the hints, but they just don't "get" it.

OF course this is precisely why we bought so young. To control our housing prices. Which were frankly, insane.

Our mortgage is $1300 monthly and we may get it down to $1200 this year with a refi and lower interest rates.

Plus I guess lowering interest rates has been the other big thing for us. I have mentioned before our first mortgage, in 1999, was about the same but our payments were $1500. Our payments for this house used to be $1500. When we both worked we had a $1800 monthly mortgage for a time as we had a 15-year loan. So to go down to $1300 was like getting a "rent decrease" which of course is quite RARE. & we might be able to pull it off once again.

Anyway, the reason I shared was because I thought it was a very well written article that kind of showed my point of view.

Anyway, reminds me, as far as the refi front. We are in line with a broker (recommended by a friend) who will call us to lock in 5% if it ever materializes. Likewise, my credit union said they wouldn't keep our application on file for more than 30 days, and seemed less willing to work for us (and more expensive anyway). Well, they called me yesterday and said rates were coming down, and they wanted to lock me in. (It's been more than 30 days - for sure!) OF course, not near where I needed to be, but nice to see they came down a bit again. So it's just on the back burner. This other guy obviously wants our business and will call us if he can lock us in. Even 5.25% would be an improvement. Not counting on it, but if it materializes, we're all set to jump.

I had kind of given up in the interim, so was excited when the CU called. In the meantime we paid a good grand off of our mortgage since we started the process. Just with regular payments. The more we pay off the lower our payments will be if this materializes. Woohoo.

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

As far as the great mortgage debate, as with anything, I am very in the MIDDLE. Call me the Middle Monkey. LOL.

I just wanted to be clear, that personally I would rather fund my retirement than prepay the mortgage right now (though I may throw an extra $30/month at the mortgage rather than have it sit in my checking account and get spent. The small dollars I do think can really add up).

The reason is being young and having the tax deferred advantage, I really think retirement is the best bet for my money.

Of course, being young, I expect more income down the road. & so, once the retirement is maxed? Any excess is going to the mortgage. When it comes to having more money than I really need, and the mortgage, I rather just pay off the mortgage. It is certainly the easier solution than figuring out how to invest any excess, and worrying about taxes.

Likewise, our long term strategy is very middle of the road. On one income, max out retirement and then pay down the mortgage ($300/month max - if that), then on to taxable investments.

With a second income? We would save up cash for a year or 2 (maybe invest) because the second income can come or go. Then we would divide the income, after year 1 or 2, to mortgage and taxable investments. split 50/50. That's our plan for now. No clear winner so we figured we'd do both. We maybe even split it 33/33/33 Fun/mortgage/invest. But we just figured we'd save a bit first, then split, and then go from there...

We'd prefer to use the windfalls/second income to pay off the mortgage so that we could live on a much lower salary. Sure, you could invest, but the taxes get complicated, and investing is just not a sure thing.

No right answer here, just my own thought process. My very middle of the road thought process. Kind of the best of all. (Why not do it ALL?) I mean I would really love a well funded retirement and a paid off mortgage by 45. Not either/or. Just going for both.

More Doctors

March 20th, 2008 at 02:05 pm

Dh went in for a throat swab today. Miraculously it was "free."

Huh?

He was really fighting going, but I was just worried. It's been about a week, and something is unusual. Doesn't look like the mild virus the kids had.

Anyway, took a swab to rule out strep. We'll see tomorrow.

If it's not, then he will make a doctor's appointment. We are starting to think he has the dreaded mono.

My mom mentioned it, and we were just like, um, yeah, hadn't thought it but that is very much like what he has.

Likewise, on a whim I called preschool this morning to see if any of the kids had had strep.

Of course, no but she tells me pink eye is going around and she had told some mom a virus had been going around and to bring her kids in with their goopy eyes(because my kids had something like pink eye that wasn't pink eye). Well, guess what, it was pink eye! Ugh. I guess she felt bad. Color me guilty. Now everyone was exposed...

Well, we still have the eye drops we bought and never used. So looks like we may need them. Figures.

OF course, I brought up the mono thing and said but I had not heard of it going around at all.

Um, well, Ms. PReschool said she thinks SHE has it. Except she had thought the same thing (hadn't been going around) BUT she has been feeling down and out for months and has a doctor's appointment today actually.

When she said she was too tired to babysit, she really meant it. I didn't realize she was still dragging so much.

So it will be interesting to see her results. Surprised they had not tested her blood yet, but she said she had been resistant to the idea; thought it was absurd.

Which makes the whole mono thing look more possible all of a sudden.

Likewise I hear it is quite mild in children. MAybe it's just been going around. (Of course don't ask me how you can watch kids for 20 years and never get it - hehe).

Um, if it wasn't for the whole eye thing I'd wonder if they had it mildly (they had sore throats recently, but it came with this whole pink-eye-like thing).

It's probably just some virus. IT could be strep. But I am scared if it is mono.

Shouldn't be huge, but I had the worst case of mono when I was 17. I literally thought I was going to die. Dh looks rather confident, but my brain races to the worst scenario. IF he has it anything like me we'll need full-time daycare AND a nurse. We'll see...

He says, "oh, this is mild." I laughed. I Said, yeah your first week was like my first week. Then I was bed ridden for weeks/months.

I almost hope it's what it is in a sick way because at least I am immune. (Though very mild on poor dh please!!!!)

& like I want to get strep? Ugh.

Oh well, I hope it's not strep and it isn't anything. That would be even better.

We are all so sick of the doctors office though. Big Grin

I'll keep you updated...

My Rant

March 20th, 2008 at 08:14 am

Oh, I almost forgot.

I was listening to the radio and the DJ mentioned he had gone to a BBQ/party over the weekend and it had turned into a business networking thing.

He said one guy put his card out on the counter and started talking about his business, and by the end of the night he had like 10 business cards.

He was like, what the foo??? HE came to relax, not to talk business. Or be sold stuff.

Oh, I cringed because I know the feeling.

A lot of the moms groups I have been in have turned into home show networking things. All the moms are selling something. It gets so OLD. Likewise, I never buy anything, but always watch amazed at all the money changing hands. Who can afford all this stuff??????????? You name it, someone sells it. & I find a lot of people feel obligated to buy out of friendship.

Screw that! I'd be broke if I played that game.

At least I know who my true friends are too...

Anyway, I didn't go Trick OR Treating this year since the fam was in Florida without me. BUT the year before when we went out it was the same thing. We ran into TWO neighbors who were passing out business cards.

On Halloween??????

So TACKY!

I wonder how it was last year. Maybe should be glad I missed it.

I was like, I didn't get the memo that Halloween night was network night. Apparently more than one person had that idea.

Plus I have mentioned that I got sick of people at Library story time and Toddler Time art the community center, cramming catalogs down my throat. Blech!

At least working I don't have to deal with it much.

I admit, I am a home seller. But I never ask anyone. I put my catalog out at work (easy enough to be ignored) and I make most of my sales by people asking me about the jewelry I wear. So I get extra disgusted when people are so rude and tacky. I start to feel like a walking dollar sign. I know you can politely make known your business and just leave at that. Maybe I am lucky I can wear my wares. Means a lot less hussle.

Of course, on the radio the DJ mentioned that if you have to try THAT hard you are probably floundering.

Amen!

Likewise, with the economy these days? Ugh. It's getting worse. I have people that only call me up or e-mail me to try to recruit me or sell me their crap. HAven't talked to them in ages. So tacky and transparent.

I can only hope they all go out of business in this economy. Teehee.

(Believe me, they aren't making any money. Certainly not with all the crap they have to buy from their friends to get them to buy their crap. I think everyone would be happier if they just gave up. LOL).

Anyway, the reason I got into this game was just because I love the product and wanted to buy it on discount. So why I am one of THOSE. LOL. But I find wearing it sells just enough to get me to my minimums and allow me to buy a big chunk of jewelry every year, at half the price, with no money from my pocket. I probably would have quit a couple of years ago but I keep making my minimums with no effort. So I am staying on for now. Until I have to shell out another dime, then I'll be out.

This year may be a little slow. I can tell home sales are down from the desparation of my acquaintances. Ugh.



More Sicky...

March 19th, 2008 at 07:02 am

Well, dh wasn't feeling so hot yesterday (STILL). I looked in his throat, concerned if maybe he has gotten strep or something. Didn't look very strepy, but who knows. The kids had a mild virus and it seems more like what he has. But it has been a good 5 days of him laying around the house (including yesterday anyway).

I insisted on taking LM to preschool, and I don't think he was too thrilled. But I didn't want him watching TV all day. BM can hold his own, and he can watch TV all day. But I think it is a bit much for LM (he is only 2.5) though dh argued that he is better at occupying himself and playing quietly. True. But he also needs a lot more help getting dressed, going potty, eating, etc. At least BM would need little attention all day, and would be fine if dh fell asleep for a time, etc.

So I called the preschool and she had a spot. Phew!!!! Not always a given. I knew not to bother asking if she had 2 spots; likewise, I wasn't going to pay an extra $70 for the day, for 2.

But I thought this was a good compromise. Dh just looked miserable.

He was very resistant though and I know why. He had to take BM in for a blood draw and shots the other day. I don't remember why it came up but I think he was asking if I could help with the kids - watch LM or something. I had a tax appointment at the same time so was of little help. Anyway, I am trying to remember because I think he brought it up, not I. But I said, well, want to take him to preschool? He said, no, too far and expensive. I told him to take him to the drop-in childcare place. Mind you I didn't exactly see why he couldn't just take both kids, but we had a little extra cash and I was in a good mood. He said he didn't think LM would do good there alone. Wanted to warm him up to the place more before he tried that.

So anyway, whatever, he obviously had no interest in the help available to him and so I figured he'd survive.

Then later, like really late at night, he was like whining again and saying we hadn't resolved anything. I Said, well, I gave you these options and you shot them down. Now you want to take him to preschool? It's too late to call.

It was like I talked him into it and he talked me out of it. & I thought it had been resolved. LOL. At this point I think the whole thing is ridiculous and he is annoyed I don't understand his plight.

So I said, fine, let's start all over. These are your options. You work them out. You deal with it. I am OUT.

Of course, for good measure, I did add that they money he was going to waste on daycare was our babysitting money and would interfere with date night. At that point he thought I was playing dirty. I made clear that this was not a threat. That I thought this was rather obvious. I didn't exactly have an extra $35 laying around. We have been trying to get more into a date night groove. But we spend SO MUCH on preschool. An extra day completely obliterates the babysitting fund. That's a good 3 hours of babysitting.

So he took LM along, and guess what?, it wasn't so bad. (YEesh).

Anyway, so I think he was appalled when I mentioned the idea yesterday. He's not giving up date night for NOTHING. Of course, yesterday felt of much more necessity. I knew LM and dh would both be better for it. Yes, the babysitting fund is obliterated, but I think we'll survive. Sometimes the kids just have to come first. If I have to pay for date night out of my allowance, whatever. We'll work it out. (shhhh, don't tell him that. LOL). I was just going to be concerned about them all day, otherwise, and worried I would get called home if he started to feel worse, etc.

Of course all the while I am just trying to avoid missing any work. It is just so hectic and a terrible time to be sick or be home caring for sick people.

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Of course after all that and dh's family came over in the evening with their corned beef/cabbage dinner. They just came up for about 2 hours, but we ate our dinner with some beer and had a good time. One day late on the St. Patty's celebration.

Dh seemed to feel a lot better. Hadn't seen him upright in days. So we'll see how that translates today.

MIL brought some pants for BM. I was thinking, does he need pants? When it occured to me that his elementary school-to-be has a dress code. I told her that I would have to forward her the dress code. She was like, "oh certainly. These pants are fine of course?" JEans? Um, no. No complaints because they will be great hand-me-downs for LM. But I realized she buys the kids so much clothes, I should get her a copy of the dress code. Will be a load off me. The clothes she buys are always very helpful, and if she buys within the school dress code once in a while, even better. Big Grin

Anyway, the pants are nice, and will probably be more useful to LM. But yeah, it is spring here and HOT weather is on the horizon. It's probably going to be time to do some shopping soon. Need to get BM some bigger clothes (since he has grown MUCH since last spring/summer) and have to dig out the hand-me-downs for LM. We try to go through all the clothes twice a year. It's probably time to make another run to Goodwill with the clothes LM has outgrown in the last 6 months... Then pull out all the bigger clothes he can use for the next 6 months or so. His top drawers are filled with clothes he can wear and the bottom drawers are the next size up/next season. We got the giant dresser because it was good for a changing station as well. But it works well with our hand-me-down system. Just worked out that way. BM's dresser is much smaller but all it has is the clothes he wears now. Since he is by far the first "baby" in the family and has no hand-me-downs, well it works. The fam buys him so much clothes too, so clothes are just not a large expense for the kids. Phew!! But they grow so FAST - it is just a lot of work to sort through and keep a step ahead!

The Weekend & Other Ramblings

March 18th, 2008 at 08:04 am

I am looking at the credit card and am so confused. I feel like we have spent spent spent but it looks like we could have money to spare this month.

Huh?

LOL.

It's just, weird.

Our budget is considerably relaxed, this year, or we are just adjusting well. (I mean the budget #s haven't changed. Just feels like we have more).

I've already said it 2 or 3 times. But yeesh.

Of course the one thing killing our budget end of last year was all the trips to see family (like every weekend for 2 or 3 months). That's a fine line. We have talked a few times about going to see my nieces or this or that. Which is far more important than money. But gas prices have been getting SO ugly. It's hard to justify during busy tax season anyway, but we have to think seriously about our driving come summer.

Likewise, I asked dh why his mom had not offered to take a kid in a while (she usually begs). I was about to say call and offer her a grandkid for a few days (please!!). Then we started talking about the logistics. The gas. Even if we just met 1/2 way as we have been tending to do.

I said, nevermind. That's one expensive babysitter when you factor the 120-mile distance. LOL. By the same token I imagine it's why she hasn't offered.

Well, this weekend wasn't so hot. Dh wasn't feeling well. While I was at work Saturday he took the kids to the movies. I didn't even ask because I didn't want to know (the cost). But I saw on the card today it was only $14. I forgot LM was free. IT wasn't so bad.

LM did good, sat through the movie and all. Getting to a better movie age. They saw the Dr. Seuss movie.

When I came home dh wasn't doing so hot so I went to the store to pick up some things and made sloppy joes for dinner.

Sunday I had a lot planned, but started feeling like I was coming down with something. (Never amounted to much, so I am thinking it is the dreaded allergies. If so, certainly milder than usual. That's the only good I can say about that. My allergies are just TERRIBLE here - though never really suffered back home).

Every year I look so forward to spring and then I quickly wish it was OVER. LOL. Just still not used to it.

Anyway, Sunday I took the kids to the doctor to get BM's TB test read. He's all certified for school.

We then went to Fairytale Town (a cute little glorified park we have membership too). We hadn't been since fall (just too cold/wet) but we generally go every week or 2 in the milder seasons. I was surprised when we got there to see how PACKED it was. They had easter egg hunts every hour which the kids really enjoyed (lord knows why. Too many people; not enough eggs. LOL). But they loved it and LM got a little bunny "pencil topper" - pretty much what it looks like. He hasn't let it out of his sight since then. HE is in love with his bunny. BM got some jelly beans which he quickly devoured.

I had packed a lunch but could not resist the nachos. Got a nacho and a soda and we all shared each other's food. I am not sure I would have if I had remembered how expensive it was. The day cost $4 for my nachos/soda. Yikes.

In the evening I just heated up hot dogs for the kids. & did the laundry and dishes and all that stuff. Ugh, exhausted!!!!!!

At work the topic often comes up who has time to do anything like shop, cook, run errands... I always say I don't need time for that. That's what my house hubby is for. Listening to them talk I feel like I have the most free time of anyone. (I mean I look at time with my kids as fun time mostly). Likewise, they all say they shouldn't complain because I have small kids and must have it the worst. (Meanwhile dh takes care of most of the household "work" so I don't have to worry about much).

Of course the same people are always constantly asking when he is returning to work. They just don't get it in the least. I don't want to give up my house hubby for nothing! Big Grin They always look at me like I have a third eye when I say, well, no plans for him to return to work. Not sure if he ever will...

Just not a priority over here. Nor a necessity.

I think mostly they are sick of hearing how I am not miserable like the rest of them. LOL.

Anyway, yesterday dh was still ill, but the kids went to preschool. After I picked them up we went by the store and picked up some chips and chili for my famous "chili, chips and cheese." The kids renamed it to "silly chips and cheese" last night.

I took pitty on dh and cooked the beef stroganoff he was going to attempt. (A new one in our cook book). He looked awful. As I chopped onions I told him I must really love him (oh my poor eyes - I just can't stand onions). But it didn't turn out half bad, and was rather simple. I'll have to scan the recipe and share.

Even with my horrid cooking skills, it was edible. LOL.

I think dh will draw the line at letting me serve dinner tonight though. I was not raised on fruits & veggies and wouldn't have a clue where to start. So my meals did lack well roundedness. Though I did serve the kids grapes with their hotdogs (they asked. LOL).

So dh is chomping at the bit to cook some real dinners and get us back on track. Hehe.

Oh anyway, we were going to go on a decent hike Sunday, but that fell through with the sickies. I guess we'll try weekend after next. Now I remember why we never do anything like that. Seems like there is always something!!!

Oh, and all that talk about gas. Dh's mom is IRish and she is coming up to cook us corned beef and cabbage tonight, late St. PAtty's dinner. (They are going up to their cabin 1 hour away because they got a large electric bill so think the heat was left on or something). So they will be driving by and know dh loves his St. PAtricks Day dinner. Spoiled guy. Plus all his family is coming up Sunday for Easter, at his cousin's house. Usually we do most of the driving, so this is nice for a change.

How much to save, Indeed...

March 18th, 2008 at 07:30 am

I saw Lilyc's post on the subject and found the link interesting. Sure there are MANY different ways to figure out how much you should save for retirement. BUT what struck me as interesting was the idea that this model is successful 90% of the time? Hmmm...

http://bankrate.com/brm/news/boomerbucks/20070411_retirement...

Using their table, we should be saving around 11% gross to retirement. (Which we are).

Of course, I came across this the other day as well:

The Easiest Retirement Calculator Ever
http://www.fool.com/personal-finance/retirement/2008/03/13/t...

The interesting thing is using this calculator I do come up with $5 mil for retirement, which is what I have come up with more complicated determinations.

Keeping in mind that I am young (lots of inflation there) AND that I have way too many unknowns at this point.

Will 11% get me there? Hmmmmm. If I work to full retirement age (like 65?). I guess, perhaps.

At first glance I found the first table a little too lowball, but as I run the numbers, it actually is rather in line with my $5 mil goal.

I was pondering as well since a comment was left in my blog that I was probably further along than I though. I thought, oh no, no no no. I am farther behind than I should be.

But the reasons I feel this way are many:

1) I want to max out my retirement while young. So if I am disabled in my 40s, hopefully I have a good start to my retirement. (I always prepare for the worst).

Likewise I want to put more away while my industry is red hot. The pendulum swings both ways.

Finally, I want to put as much in while I can. Because a 2nd income down the road could keep us from putting money in tax-deferred accounts (could raise our income above the tax limits). So we take advantage best we can now, with low taxes and little worry about being over the threshholds.

2) I want to retire early. I would probably love to work well into my 70s or 80s (I am one of those). But in my 40s I want to get to the point where I don't have to work full-time and in my 50s/60s I want to be at that point where I don't HAVE TO work.

As such, I have to cram as much into my retirement in my 30s, because I expect to not necessarily have the income in my 40s to heavily fund it. I want most of it to be funded sooner rather than later.

So, with all these thoughts in mind, 11% seems little lowball. I am aiming for 15% and can easily see getting up to 20% in a few years (with a roundabout goal of 25% max on one income and maybe more with 2 incomes).

That's my goal for the next decade and then maybe we will re-evaluate. Well, that's the thing too. The more we put in now, the less we have to later. That whole power of compounding thing.

Oh, and the other reason (duh) for my worry over our retirement is that it is mostly funded by my employer right now. Which is great, but I want to be sure I can put away the 15% from my own money if my job situation changes. I totally forgot that when I first posted this. But is a big reason why I am concerned about filling it up more rapidly right now, since I am not putting much in myself.

Well, it's nice to hear I have good odds to making my retirement goals. Big Grin



Purchases To Date

March 17th, 2008 at 07:46 am

http://monkeymama.savingadvice.com/newusedfree-2008.html

Dh and I both allow each other $50/month to spend on whatever. No strings, no guilt, no questions asked. IT's incredibly freeing.

I think it is important to have that. Something just to not care or worry about. Even better when you are married and there are some things you just don't understand why your spouse buys!!!

Anyway, on my sidebar I have a page called "New/Used/Free 2008" where I just try to keep a compilation of what comes into the house and what goes out of the house. It is rather motivating for me to keep things flowing out. (We have some piles of stuff to sell and do need to go through and donate some older toys, etc.)

So I just updated the list for March.

I have a few totally unnecessary items, but those are my guilt-free allowance stuff. As dh has his as well (sure you will be able to figure out whose is whose.

This year dh has been spending a LOT on the kids. We are working through it. Well, it is not a lot of money and not breaking the budget. But it is driving me nuts in efforts to purge. So yeah - all the kids stuff is dh. (Except Elmo which I explained recently. LOL). & I think dh might cool it. (He also said he would return some of the Easter crap since he bought a race track for the kids last week).

I don't include groceries and consumable things. Just the other stuff, that stays around FOREVER. Big Grin

Challenge Update

March 17th, 2008 at 07:26 am

2008 $20 challenge:

$ 150.00 - 2/10

$ 100.00 - March ROTH Contributions
$ 280.00 - Jan/Feb Interest on Cash
$ 65.00 - Focus Group (to medical)
$ 80.00 - Discount on cell bill (to medical)
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$ 675.00 - Balance 3/20
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Well, I do get paid today so will fund the ROTH $50 from this check (as I do every check).

Of course, I blogged the other day that I have some competing important goals, and they are retirement and mid-term savings (for things like next cars and house maintenance).

Likewise, all of our extra money this month has been going to our corresponding medical bills, which increases our savings in the end (since we have not been pulling doctor visits and prescriptions from our medical fund. Once the fund hits $3k - same as our deductible - we will ideally have an extra $250 some months, to invest). So not touching it helps our savings grow for the long run.

So I am adding all this to the challenge. It is a little more motivating. Plus I really think all of our extra money this year will go to the mid-term fund. The balance is currently $385. It has a ways to go... Goal to fund it to $5k by 12/31.

& only then will we put anything extra to retirement. So wanted to revamp my challenge. Sticking with retirement will be kind of boring, not much to show this year. Though we also decided to aim for a minimum 5% of income to ROTHs, come summer. But putting much more focus on saving up more cash, in the meantime.

Adding these all to the challenge is slightly more motivating. & more fun anyway.

Last year I came awfully close to $10k. This year, hoping for around $5k mid-term and $2500 to retirement. So I guess I am aiming for $7500???

Unfortunately a good chunk of the stimulus won't count, because I am using it for my $1k IRS bill.

Otherwise that could have been a nice sold $2k for the mid-term fund.

Oh well!!

Splurged...

March 15th, 2008 at 03:53 pm

I splurged today!

Well, not really.

I went out to Taco BEll for lunch. They were out of beef. (You have got to be kidding me). Settled for a bean burrito (was flustered at first).

Wasn't sure if they took credit cards, but for whatever reason I had a pile of change. (I usually spend it, but didn't have that many quarters, and so the pennies and nickels were mounting. Since they were meatless and VERY slow I had plenty of time to dig out $1.28 in coins.

I also went over to the Dollar store (Was pleased they took the card too). I am on a mission to not carry cash anymore. Just tired of cash! Always have been, but these days it is more and more likely to never need cash.

Anyway, it was over in the vicinity of Taco Bell and I have been wanting to pick up some clothe napkins. Don't ask me why I haven't sooner. Cloth napkins are so "us", and yet something we have never done.

I mean our napkin supply comes from the fast food places. We don't buy napkins. But I figured we could also replace paper towels, with napkins. Well, and stop using so much paper as a whole.

Anyway, it's time we bought some REAL napkins!

I was perusing napkins online last week and they all seemed terrible expensive and fancy. Or just UGLY. OR all of the above. I realized I Am particular about napkins. LOL. Ugly or $5/pop? Is that my only choice?

OF course my favorite color is black, but thinking I don't want black napkins that fade to a dull black or grey. So leaves me rather stumped. I didn't want the bright colors ruining the other stuff in the laundry.

Who knew napkins were so complicated?

I think I Could settle for a nice off white though. Boring, but works. At least it wouldn't be ugly...

Anyway, so I thought I'd run by the dollar store.

Well, this one had crap. They had a few really rough cheapie napkins in ugly colors. Not much. Wasn't going to fly with me.

However the store sucked me in and I walked around for a while looking at stuff.

& then I saw hair supplies and struck gold. I mean I am sure I have never paid much for my hair clips, but they all fall apart anyway. So I figured I'd pick some up. Figured they couldn't be of any cheaper quality than I Was used to. Got 6 hair clips and a slew of hair bands for a buck. (I think BM lost most of the last of my hair bands since he had taken to pony tails in his short hair - don't ask. LOL. So I figured a pile of new ones would be nice. Mine were all lost or broken).

& then on the way out I saw some large plastic tumblers with coke logos. Could do without the coke logo (I am personally a pepsi girl. LOL). But beggars can't be choosers. I used them in the bath and the kids ones were getting kind of grimy and looked like they may fall apart anyway. some had broken as well. These actually looked nice quality for dollar store. We'll see. (I had forbid dh from buying plastic cups from there because he bought some small ones for the kids and they all kept cracking). Sometimes it's just hit or miss there.

Mental note to wash them once in a while. The bath isn't exactly clean. Maybe these will last longer.

But yeah, these looked better. 2 for the bath, 2 for the kitchen.

& so I spent a whopping $4, on all that. $4.30 with tax. Plus I earned another dime in cash rewards.

Plus I got a decent amount of retail therapy. Nothing to complain about! Big Grin

The sad thing is it took me a while to find the dang Dollar Store because I hadn't been there in so long. I usually hit it for party supplies and Christmas stuff. But I don't think I did this past Christmas. It had just been a while. Took me a while to remember what street it was on. IT was the 3rd one I tried. Doh!

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Well, I am going to revamp my Challenge when I have time.

I was doing the retirement thing, because that has been my focus. IT has been slow going.

But I have all this extra money this month and I wanted to put it to the challenge! (But not to retirement).

I decided besides retirement, I also want to include the following in the challenge:

**Medical expenses that we don't have to pull from the medical fund

BEcause... The extra money we have there will go to retirement eventually. If I don't pull anything out of the medical fund this year? Well then I'll have $250/month to add to retirement next year. IT all depends if we get sick or not. Or injured or whatever. But every money saved here eventually goes to savings/retirement. So I think it should count/is still motivating.

**Mid-Term Savings - this really lacks way more than our retirement, right now. & it's really stressing me out. Likewise, if it grows too big, it will likely get diverted to retirement, with time.

So we will focus more on this too.

The challenge was very motivating for me last year and I want to get back into it more.

Woohoo.

So I'll update my totals with the new ruls later, maybe this weekend...

I have to say we are having a good year and we are finding the extras and everything even without the "reward" of the challenge. We just got used to it after the last 18 months or so. BUT I still think it will be more fun, the more we add to the challenge. So I Want to get back into it a little more.

Interesting Local Article Today

March 14th, 2008 at 02:04 pm

Folks on the edge pinched by rising prices
http://www.sacbee.com/finance/story/785026.html

This article struck me for many reasons.

Firstly, it was a great "whoa is us" about the following:

*Less driving
*No new clothes
*POSTPONING remodels
*Dumping gas guzzlers
*Less dining out
*More walking
*Budget EVERYTHING
*Less cable

Oh, the Humanity!!!!!!!

Wink

I know, another one of those...

Of course, this was a lot better than the last article I saw like this. I mean, this time they talked about the seniors on fixed income and the increasing unemployment in the region. You know, the real problems. So that part I "get" somewhat, and I See that there is pain.

But I can't help but think about all the people who were over indulging with money they didn't really have or couldn't expect to hold up (home equity and inflated paychecks with the strong housing industry, etc.)

Whereas when I read the list of what everyone is giving up in this great time of pain, I think, "You have got to be kidding me." These are things we have always been conscious about, our entire adult lives, whether we were living on $10k or $100k. IT doesn't sound like THAT MUCH To give up. !?!

Likewise, we haven't really been feeling much pinch personally. & I wanted to share why.

For one, we try to avoid over-splurging on luxuries as we build up our savings, pay our debts, and build our careers, etc. I mean, trust me, I think we have plenty of luxury. But there is no way we could afford most of the things on that list above, all at once, together. & beyond that the only thing I saw on the list above that we truly have in excess is cable. Most of our luxuries follow what make us happy not what the JOneses expect of us. Which makes it quite easier to do without the rest.

Two, well yeah, we do budget EVERYTHING to extent. I mean how do you just budget some things and not others? LOL. (Sorry, that line cracked me up. Now we have to budget EVERYTHING!!!)

Three, the secret here is that our budget includes future planning. I am not guaranteed a raise every year, nor do I have a crystal ball about how much our expenses will change year to year. I have been burned bad on medical expenses, and so try to keep that front of mind.

I budget around $100/month more for groceries than we generally use, and same for gas. This is precisely why. So when things start to get ugly, we don't notice a thing. Maybe a little less to savings or splurging when the prices do rise, (what I do with the underages), but the basics are WELL covered.

Four... Along the same lines. We have quite a fair amount of fat we could trim from our budget, with little pain, if prices were to keep rising astronically and/or my pay went down. I mean, sure, no one wants to give up their luxuries. But I think knowing I Could pay all my bills and cover the basics, and even have a little to spare. I think in hard times I could give up the luxury quite easily, in order for that feeling of security and comfort.

Frankly, I wish I was more prepared for a long layoff and such. I Feel pretty confident where I am at, but I am one who likes to prepare for the worst. So I am working on it. Certainly not prepared for the worst. OF course, not sure if we ever will be. Wink

But overall, I think we are in a good spot.

I guess the simplest is we never got used to living beyond our means in the first place. & that we have a little wiggle room and flexibility in our budget. That really makes ALL the difference.

I mean, in this region, the norm in the coming years is going to be figuring out how to survive on wages, and unemployment, when used to living extravagantly off equity and fleeting bonuses. All the while, while prices of the basics are rising. YEah, that is going to hurt. Ouch!!

That almost sounds like my world the last 5 years while our income was slashed in half and our medical insurance skyrocketed our of control. Now we are gaining traction and I am not sure I identify with all the mess... You know, our gas and groceries up $50/month or something. But somehow we'll muddle through... HArdly feels like something worth panicking about anyway.

Practice Makes Perfect...

March 13th, 2008 at 06:49 am

Well, and a raise helps too. LOL.

I just had to say, knock on wood, everything is going so smoothly this year.

I think even I can take more credit than the raise, because a lot of our expenses have risen this year. Much more than my raise.

Anyway, I feel like the budget is a work in progress, and has gotten considerably easier with time.

So I just had to share. Keep with it, it does get easier.

Likewise, I don't think about it too much. Historically we have set up a budget when life changes, but we kind of fine tune things and buckle down, and then we mostly keep it in our heads. It works for us. I just don't think there has been ever been a time we had fallen so behind. So this round has taken considerable work. But I feel after a good 12 months that it has gotten considerably easier.

That's pretty much all I have been doing, and have been getting looser with time. Yet as we get looser our spending has gotten better. I know how much we have to spend on x, y, z. I don't spend a lot of time beating myself up if I was a penny over, or keeping track of each line item if I am under month to month. I just don't think overall it's good to spend a lot of time with this stuff. I guess I much prefer the "automatic" philosophy. I think your finances should really just be in the background. Not that you don't care for it and nurture it, but I don't see the point of thinking about it 24/7 either. Though I admit I spend way more time on it anyway because the whole thing is a hobby of mine. If I didn't like this stuff? Well I wouldn't be blogging here, for sure. Wink

When discussing the benefits of HSAs, and 529s and ROTHs with dh he said the other day, "You make things so complicated." I had to laugh. I said, "No. The IRS does!!!" I just thought that was extra funny because I try to keep our budget and savings plans rather simplistic. I am sure they are complicated in an accountant sort of way, but likewise I am a very big picture person. I am not going to have 20 savings categories, I am just going to make sure we save enough for our long-term goals and our short-term goals. I am not going to count every penny either. The beauty I find with having cash is the flexibility it brings. If our priorities change and we want to go on a big vacation next year, we have the flexibility to say we will buy a much more modest car the next go round. I prefer that to saving x for cars and y for vacations and having 20 different things to save for.

So, I told dh I was actually quite simple. But he doesn't buy it. Of course I want to maximize the tax-deferred savings options, to our advantage. Which does make it complicated. But man, all that wasn't my idea - the government has made it all so complicated!!

Anyway, our finances are moving much more to the background and I think I am 10 times happier for it. This is the part I like to get across; that when dh and I both worked, and we just saved his income? We hardly thought about money, or worried about it, and didn't really need to. Well, my goal is to get back to that. Like I said, we will nurture and care for our finances. But they should be like a nice houseplant, not like an infant who needs 24/7 care. Big Grin

Financial security can be quite relaxing!!!

I know personally we set the bar very high when we were younger. So I know a lot of people would read this blog and think, "gosh, that looks financially secure to me." But it's all relative I guess. I don't think we'll really "relax" until we get back to where we were a few years ago. But being so close I can taste it? The difference in how I feel is remarkable. I think my blog will take a much more relaxed tone as we get back to that bar. & as long as we can keep moving forward.

Which reminds me of something else I was thinking about the other day. Dh & I were raised quite frugally so a lot of what we do on a daily basis to save money is really just second nature to us. So I just had to add if you are new to this then maybe it will be a long while before a lot of it fades to the background. I have a good 20 years + practice, for the most part. But just another example of how practice makes perfect. If you stick with it? It does get easier with time.

& just to be clear we probably still do spend a lot of time on money saving endeavors. We just don't really think about it much. & that is the nice part.

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

P.S. I saw this blog post a while back and thought it was really excellent:

http://www.freemoneyfinance.com/2008/03/how-to-be-wealt.html

There were quite a few things I have seen that I have not had time to post, and then forgotten where I saw them, etc. But this one was a standout.

I think this part was the most eye opening:

"Invest Second Salary:

I strongly recommend waiting six years before having children. By doing so, both husband and wife can work full-time. Choose to live on one salary and invest the entire other salary. In six years you will have $261,737 and a couple of choices.

You could choose to have a perpetual income of $39,261 created from the interest and dividends so you can stay home and raise your own children. What a blessing that would be for your family-and the nation!

Another choice would be to keep the interest invested and compounding and in 14 short years (20 years total), your investment."

Everything else in the article WE have personally done. & we even did the suggestion above to a small extent. But we put all that money into a house and a cash cushion. (Maybe $80k or so over 3 years working, before kids...)

If I had seen this article before kids? OR really thought about it? I think we would have paid off our house before kids, OR followed this advice.

However, on the flip side, I have no regrets today. Even doing this for one or two years can make such a difference. There is a lot to be said for having kids while young. So I had to throw out the other side as well.

Also, for when I hear the arguments against quitting a career, etc. Well, it's a lot easier to quit in the beginning and start over, than to build up a career and then leave for a decade, and then try to get back to it. I keep thinking dh might go back to school and/or start his career over at 35 or so. ????? HE didn't like his job anyway... A lot of people don't start a career until much later in life. I think we hardly feel worse for the ware. He'll still have a good 30 years to build a career and catch more money on the back end. IF we did the 6 year thing we would have just prolonged his misery at his old job. Likewise I wouldn't have had so much flexibility while the kids were so young. These days I just have so much responsibility at work. But it's easier to handle as the kids age.

Today if I could go back in time and save dh's salary for 6 years? I never would. I prefer where we are today. Though it sounds SO appealing. But my kids are everything to me. I wouldn't have these particular, awesome kids if I waited 6 years!!!! But saving it for about 3 years was key to getting us where we are today. So there is a lot of middle ground... Well, and there are always trade-offs.







$65 Richer

March 13th, 2008 at 05:47 am

Dh had a focus group yesterday. $65 for a little over an hour. Yippee. It was the first one this year.

He also had a hearing test (and it went well - his hearing has improved). The charge was $55 - so it will mostly go to that. A wash. But I am optimistic that I won't have to pull any money from the medical fund for all these doctor appointments. Knock on wood anyway, we'll see what the rest of the month brings.

BTW, still no bill on BM's emergency trip. Figures.

Oh yeah, and he has to go in for a blood test and such Friday, for school. I think we pay $10 for blood tests. But I don't know what all they have for him - if he has to see the doc or what. Could be another $75...

Last night BM's eyes got really red. We were worried if we could take him to daycare yesterday with dh's hour-long hearing test and my tax appointments. Ugh. Of course these things happen the rare times we both have plans.

But he woke up good as new. I figured he probably had the same thing LM did, but wasn't quite sure at first. But relieved when he woke up since in the 2 hours between the development of red eye and when I went to pickup LM from daycare, he also looked good as new. I remember looking at him like, huh? I never would have noticed anything.

It's just a weird thing.

Even if it was viral I was not sure the preschool would want him. So was relieved when he woke up good as new.

It's some weird bug though. Earache (or sinus pain anyway), sore throat, red eyes for a couple of hours, and some eye discharge, and that's about all we could figure. No fever or anything. LM just did not vocalize the sinus pain or sore throat, though thinking back it seemed like he didn't eat much the days around his red eye incident.

Anyway, dh has been volunteering much at the TV station, and it seems like the shifts have been getting rather long. So when he went out last night and said it should only take an hour, I must say I was rather confused. I was thinking TV station for whatever reason.

Then he came home with a wad of cash. Aha! I had totally forgotten. So what a nice surprise for me. Big Grin

Oh, I keep forgetting to mention... I read an article last week or so that people walking away from their houses is just a huge problem in California. Like, why make the payments if the house has gone down so much in value? They rather just walk away and start fresh.

Anyway, I read that thinking, gosh, this would never happen if people actually had to put money down on their house. This is just another side effect of this whole mess.

Just, wow!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Likewise, it really struck me when a fellow blogger said she told her dentist she had a 3-year plan to save up for a down payment on a home, and her dentist thought this was quite an impressive long-term plan. IT's like, what, people don't save for down payments anymore????? Has it historically taken a very short time period to save up for one? With housing prices these days, is it that unfathomable that it could take TIME to save up for a house?????? Coming from the land of expensive I know we were quite rare to save up our 20% so quickly. But, I mean, we knew housing was insanely expensive and it was our priority. IT really wasn't difficult in the least. (From my perspective anyway). But I could easily see being in a position where it would have taken us many years. Though we had a desire to get in the market quick, we wouldn't have bothered if we couldn't do it "right." That is why we moved somewhere where we could afford to do it right.

Anyway, so these days I keep reading these articles about people who couldn't possibly have saved a down payment (not even 1%) but took on $2k-$3k monthly mortgages. My jaw just drops when I read those. If you can't save a DIME, then how in the hell do you think you can afford those mortgage payments? IT just doesn't make any sense.

It is very frustrating to me because when we bought it was more expensive to rent our condo than to buy it. Which was where a lot of our urgency came from. We didn't want to spend too much time spinning our wheels, or worse, falling behind.

But rents have fallen while prices have skyrocketed. There is actually a considerable opportunity to rent and save, and has been for man years. Yet the attitude is just so weird. "I can't save up $50k down by tomorrow so why bother trying. The $36k in annual mortgage payments? Well I think we can do that..."

All the while I think what a dream it would have been to have the luxury to rent AND save up more money first.

What are these people thinking????

I'd be curious to hear from the older crowd how long they saved for a down payment?

It only really took us a year to do it, BUT we had put so much in place to get there. Technically, I could say 5 years. We saved a chunk that final year, but dh was saving steadily through college, and that was where a good chunk of our down payment came from. Then we just saved the difference when we both went from $10k salaries to $30k salaries out of college. We only had to do that one year, and then we were homeowners. So we kind of hyper-saved to get there, but frankly found it the easiest way to do it. We were used to living on pennies and so we found it quite easy to do it that way. I mean it wasn't a big deal to delay gratification for one more flipping year. (Plus if I took another $50 to splurge out of every paycheck it felt like quite the windfall!!! It didn't take much to improve on our college standard of living. Another $1k/year was a 10% raise, etc. AND I no longer had college expenses so, yeah, it was easy). We had to come up with $50k down on our condo. So yup, a good 5 years or so for us...

Target Return Policy - Never Hurts to Ask

March 12th, 2008 at 12:34 pm

I figured I'd make this a new post because it is interesting.

I mentioned, in a prior blog, that my dh knew that Target took returns without receipts, and that he tried to return an old game we had gotten in 2004 (from Toys R US actually). & they took it.

I got a comment on my blog that this was nearly impossible - Target has terrible return policies.

Likewise, as I did a web search for Target return policies all I saw was a slew of websites about how HORRID Target's return policy was. (We aren't big on returns so I didn't really know or care. I mean we usually have recipts and return things within the week if we don't like it, etc. Not big on playing the return game, so this knowledge had completely alluded me).

So I commented that I would have to ask dh how he knew about this policy. I really had no idea. (& to clarify what the policy was. I read somewhere online that they take returns under $25 with no receipt. Not sure if it was recent or accurate. But it did ring a bell for me).

So I asked dh. The story was that he had some extra Blu-Ray disks and was wondering, in January, if he could return them to Target. (There was no receipt). So he called and asked Target. They actually said they would take the movies with no receipt if they were under $20. That they allow 2 returns per year with no receipts, for under $20.

To be clear, this was probably for store credit; not cash. (This could be where some of the confusion is?). That's same as cash to me, as much as we shop Target. Big Grin

So I thought, "Aha!" This is good fodder to remind everyone why it never hurts to ask for things!

Anyway, in the movie case, Target had them priced at $25 and would not take them. Dh was willing to use up his "2 returns" for the year for $40, but they wouldn't bend. They were over $20 so they wouldn't take them.

In the end he got $40 or more from Best Buy instead. I am not sure why he singled out Target except it's close and maybe they charged more for the movies... I don't know. Best Buy is certainly a bit of a drive.

So anyway, when we found this 4-year-old board game with the old design, he figured he'd try their policy, on a whim. Probably the convenience factor.

Likewise, they sell the game for $20, but were willing to give him $14 store credit on this particular game. Lord knows why $14. But I knew it was the easiest and best deal we'd get.

So that is the full scoop...

Also, the whole thing reminded me that dh bought his PS3 at Target, and that they dropped the price by $100 exactly 91 days after he had bought it. We obviously knew the 90-day policy, but figured it never hurts to ask. He said he just asked politely for a price match though he knew he was one day late, and they gave him $100 credit. That was about it.

So you know, return policies are not always completely set in stone!!

I guess this is also a good reminder to keep those receipts. Dh always keeps every receipt on bigger purchases because he regularly watches the ads and price matches thing. I say most of the time he buys something big it goes on sale within months. Murphy's Law, but not when you have the receipt. Big Grin

I guess I keep receipts too, but I just don't shop that much.

Kindergarten Blues

March 12th, 2008 at 05:41 am

& so it begins...

The school had sent us paperwork that was very conflicting. We HAVE TO turn in this health assessment form next week, though elsewhere on the form it said it was only required for 1st graders. ???

I guess a few parents called to clarify or something because they sent a letter to clarify that it is not required for K. But they want it anyway. But they don't need it until our children turn 5. Huh?

Likewise, they sent an "oral assessment" form which says much the same. It's "mandtory" by May of Kindergarten year (next May) BUT they want it before school starts. But you can just x the "opt out" option.

Oy vey.

Anyway, the deadline made me nervous as we wait for his doc to complete this form. So now all that stress for nothing. There are 200 kids coveting my child's spot, and I just want everything squared away.

So of course I would send dh with the application today, and my opt out, now that they have changed their mind and allowed that we can turn it in without the health assessment. But it's at work where I made copies. So maybe he will turn it in tomorrow...

Then it will be official!! Oh my.

The other surprising thing is that they sent a calendar and school starts mid-August. I was rather surprised, but school also ends mid June. Holy cow. I looked up their old calendar, and indeed they had historically started after Labor Day.

Why 2 more weeks? They are taking off 15 days throughout the year for curriculum development. Obviously people had been complaining because they had all over their website how wonderful this is for the teachers (& likewise the kids) and on and on and on.

Wow...

I just look at the calendar flabbergasted. It hardly matters to us, since dh is home. But I really have NO IDEA how working parents do it.

I count 35 non-holiday school days off throughout the year.

I keep assuming if dh did want to work or go to school or whatever, that my schedule would be quite flexible. It is quite flexible.

BUT I am not sure I could really maintain a full-time status and be home all these days off and such.

So it's just a little mind boggling to me.

Likewise, I don't want to leave my kids at the school daycare full-time. I have no idea what middle ground there is. (I feel like back to square one since full-time preschool was always in abundance, but part-time, anything worthwhile or substantial anyway, was so hard to find. Seems like the choices were mostly 2 hours a week or 40 hours a week. What about the parents who want something in the middle?)

Oh well, worries for a later time. Indeed. Glad this is not stuff I have to figure out now.

Likewise, I look at the calendar and can NOT believe he starts K in just 5 months. Wow.

We had just decided to pull him out of preschool in August so he had a nice month off. Dh just really wanted to enjoy the time with him before he goes off to school. (Of course now I see he won't really be off at school THAT much. LOL).

Anyway, so now we are thinking pulling him out mid-July. Since the preschool was going to be closed the middle week, he will only be going 3 days in July. Will save $200 in July, and $315 in August. Wow.

I think we will use that money for the kids' birthday and for school uniforms (ugh, my pet peeve. S'posedly for the poor, but I am peeved to fit a second wardrobe in the budget. I think, yeah, this is REALLY helping the poor. ???????). I mean at least I could respect it if they said it was for school safety and keeping track of the kids, etc. That I get. But this is not the angle they push for. It just bugs dh and I on so many levels...

So anyway, them pushing the start date early affords me some extra cash to buy some school uniforms. I usually hit Target or the thrift shops for cheap clothes, but not sure if I Want to bother with the specific clothes I need to look for. (Ugh!). Likewise, if I spend a little more, at least I know LM can wear the hand-me-downs. (Though the kids grow so fast even the cheap clothes have lasted them both just fine).

Oh well, it will be a summer project. Should start looking out for sales on bigger sizes...

So yeah, it all comes down to that I only have to slam my budget with 2 in preschool, for 3 more months! Plus, it has been going quite well, and May is a short month (8 preschool days instead of 9). So I think I will survive. I am very pleased that it was not near as hard as I thought it would be. Was a good beginning to the year. (Likewise it shouldn't be that hard to divert it all to savings come August).

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

In other news, I dug out some old stuffed animals because I wanted to show the kids I had a stuffed pooky (GArfield pooky). Was reading a Garfield book and said, I had a pooky and was telling them the story when I lost it on the school bus but found it again eventually. Since I went to so much trouble to find it, BM asks me if I still have it. & frankly, I thought I did! So I went to see. Anyway, for whatever reason there was a pile of nicer/newer toys in the bag - along with the old ratty stuffed animals I could never toss. I assume it was the stuff I couldn't bear to toss. A lot of personalized items were in the bag (maybe just didn't know what to do with them).

Anyway, so I pulled out this personalized Elmo doll that says BM's name. We had gotten it for him around 18 months or something, maybe age 2, and though he adored it, he outgrew it at some point. Or bored with it anyway.

So BM saw it and he just fell in love. He has been carrying it all around the house and sleeping with it. & he is just fascinated that Elmo TALKS to him.

Anyway, this doesn't really seem to bother the LM. BUT the first day I found it I thought, I should get one for LM. He just will not understand why Elmo only talks to BM.

So I wondered if they still made them.

I pop online and couldn't find the exact doll (we ordered it to be personalized).

But I found Elmo "Know your Name" or something like that. This one you program it yourself and can program favorite foods, and friends' names and family names and all this stuff.

Plus I saw it for 25% off and free shipping, so for $30 I ordered one at amazon.

It was probably a little unnecessary. & then of course I start to wonder if BM will be confused or upset why LM's Elmo is SO fancy. LOL.

So I realize I should just give up. Why even bother. !!

But overall I don't really buy the kids toys, so it was a nice little splurge. Grandma buys them so much crap we generally don't need to buy them anything. But it is fun to buy them something once in a while...

Likewise, dh has been going a little overboard with Easter. He clearly has not learned a thing. I said, "I hope you know your mom and your grandma are also buying them a slew of toys and candy." Which is why I could care less to partake in the Easter shopping. I understand the joy and all, and not much money was spent. But it's just all the crap filling the house. I find the best bet is to let everyone else buy the crap, because they insist, and then there is no point for us to. & well I can't believe dh hasn't figured this out yet either.

Dh found $14!

March 10th, 2008 at 04:38 pm

I was looking for a game or puzzle or something and pulled out a few from the closet for ebay or Craigslist.

The main one being Cranium. Someone gave it to me for Chsristmas in 2004, and fankly I hate the game.

Dh got annoyed at me when he saw there was a receipt taped to the bottom. !!!!!

I had to admit that I might have known it was there, but kept it around for friends who love the game. Of course, nice as that gesture was, the game has never been opened.

Dh said Target had a good return policy and he would try to take it there. He cased it out first and said the new boxes look very different and who knows if they would take it.

For whatever reason, he tried today and they gave hime $14.

Not bad...

It retails $20. I think we would be hard pressed to find $14 for it otherwise, much less with so LITTLE effort. So I am really rather pleased with this find.

Dh used the money for Easter stuff and some groceries at Target.

Anyway, he was really peeved at me when he saw the receipt. But he couldn't be peeved for long. I had actually found some nice shirts in a box (from EARLIER than 2004 - indeed). No doubt from his mom, which she buys him clothes every year that he never wears. They looked nice and simple and so I hung them up in the closet. When he saw them he asked where the hell did they come from and he never intended to wear them.

I don't think I brought up the receipt to him, though it did peeve me. Not sure why he didn't just return them then.

So when he brought it up I told him there was a good $30 or more in unreturned goods in his closet. so yeah, be careful who you point that finger at.

I think we will be double checking each other's tossed aside gifts going forward. LOL.

I also redeemed my BK coupon today. Got an entire chicken sandwhich value meal for $2.50 (saved $3.65 since the sandwhich was free). Not bad!

I saved 1/2 the sandwhich for tomorrow. Was WAY too much food. But will stretch out nicely to 2 lunches with a yogurt from home and some water from the tap.

Oh, one final thing. Dh called to redeem our free month from Verizon (by signing up for a year contract). Anyway, I don't remember the last time I called Verizon. I never call them. I leave that stuff to dh. He has called many times to turn on roaming if we went on vacation (to the east coast and such). He was the one who called to change our plan last year. HE totally changed our plan to a new one and signed a one-year contract.

So he calls today and they say they won't even talk to him because he is not on the account.

Go figure.

LOL.

So now I have to waste my time calling them. Bah. I knew we went through this ages ago but I thought we had gotten that squared away, ages ago. Figures.

Doctors, Doctors, & More Doctors...

March 8th, 2008 at 10:21 pm

BM told me yesterday his ear hurt and I told him we'd keep an eye on it. He is 1000% otherwise and has only had one ear infection - we he started preschool. The germs. Well, the germs and all the water play.

Anyway, I noticed tonight though BM seems to have some pretty decent hearing loss. IT took me a while to realize. Likewise, I called dh to tell him and he felt bad. He said he noticed BM was NOT listening well today at all. He thought he was just misbehaving or in a mood. But hearing my thoughts and putting 2 and 2 together, he said he noticed a little bit that his hearing seemed off.

Plus when I asked, well yeah, his ear had hurt earlier today too.

Another trip to the doc!

Yeesh. Will try to get in tomorrow.

IRonically, dh just got an appointment for a follow up hearing test. He had vertigo about a year ago and had some hearing loss. They wanted to follow up in a year. So they just made an appointment for him.

& as far as LM, he clearly does not have pink eye. Just a false alarm. At least we didn't have to pay for a doctor visit - that just worked out. So I am glad we chose not to go with the antibiotics. Not needed.

He's good as new and his mood has improved VASTLY!!!! (Knock on wood). Oh, just being under the weather brought out his nasty side. Likewise, I had been quite worried something more was wrong. But it has seemed to dissipated rather quickly, as he also feels better. Phew.

So yeah, will be shelling out some money for doctors' visits this month. Feels never ending lately... Like something every week.

I have personally been feeling good as new since Monday. I actually felt rather bad over the weekend, and then just woke up monday good as new. But man, it took a while to get past that flu bug. Bah.
--------------------------------------

Today I wrote out $3500 in checks. *choke* $1200 to the IRS and $2300 for property taxes. I got it all ready to go but will mail them in April.

It occured to me that I had heard that stamps were going up. Phew, in May. So I got them all ready to go - will pop in the mail in a month.

But anyway, I think we should have just gotten forever stamps. I have a whole sheet of stamps since we just don't really use them any more. I will have to put a big note on the sheet to add a cent with every stamp. How annoying! Like I will remember next year when I am still using the same sheet.

Yeah, next time? Forever stamps.

I also found out today that tonight is Daylight savings. Huh????? I was rather thrown off by this. I had no idea, and was a little confused. But I was glad someone had told me. LOL.

Then later I brought it up to dh. Oh, he was not happy! He hates it as it is, but TIVO has had a horrid time with this time change thing. They couldn't figure out how to change the time last time, for the longest time (like days). So our TIVO was all screwed up. It had been programmed for regular daylight savings, not this new extended version.

So as dh started on his anti-Daylight Savings tirade, I realized why I had no clue. I forgot it came early this year.

This actually made me VERY happy. I love the early daylight savings. I LOVE it when it stays light out rather late. For now the kids and I have plenty of daylight to get out of the house after I get home from work. In the summer we spend the evenings at the pool. & getting an extra couple of months to do so is just divine if you ask me.

Dh is not pleased, but I told him to just be happy for me. Big Grin

He said why don't I just work from 7am-4pm in the summers.

He has a point, that would be much easier. Well, Daylight Savings wasn't my idea.

Anyway, it just feels like the lazy hazy days of summer have arrived early with this early time change.

I just wish I had a little more warning that I would lose an hour this weekend.



This is Where it Gets Tricky

March 8th, 2008 at 11:51 am

Knock on wood, but we have been doing remarkably well with our budget.

I have also been listening to too much Dave Ramsey.

I had been long planning to divert $215/month come summer, from preschool, to IRAs. Then assuming an extra $100/month each year for raises, and another good $300 monthly come 2010, when LM graduates preschool.

This would get us to ROTH max in 2010. $10k/year...

However, it has also been bugging me that we were a tad behind on our mid-term savings. We have some catching up to do.

Anyway, so I had a talk with dh about it. We have a bad habit of me making too many financial decisions, though I usually keep him abreast. It works for us. But not necessarily the best. So since I was struggling with what to do, we had a chat.

I was thinking maybe we should bulk up our cash savings a bit more and then work on retirement.

I also started thinking maybe we should only focus on 15% to retirement, before focusing on maxing out. There really is such thing as saving TOO MUCH for retirement. I worry if we will suffer in other ways. My goal is to never borrow another dime again, for one. Likewise, we need some more cash cushion to achieve this. Anyway, I have been listening to too much Dave Ramsey and started thinking about this. Since he recommends 15% to retirement, then college and mortgage (though I mostly don't agree with that plan).

Anyway, dh and I found some middle ground.

I was concerned because we have NEVER made retirement a priority. I have been trying, but it seems like there is always somthing. IT's kind of harsh to put it that way, because I don't think there is anything better we could have done financially than made it a priority to buy a home while it was really inexpensive. (Likewise, not wasting money on rents for much of our 20s/30s).

So I feel that was a good move to help us in retirement. We plan to have a paid off house in our mid 40s. Most of our peers have $500k mortgages/ARMs likewise. (Or just insane rents). So I am really pleased in the spot we are in and how we have kept our housing costs considerably down. (Keeping in mind this is just how it is in the area).

But it seemed like we put a LOT of effort to getting into a house with 20% down. A LOT of effort to being home with the kids. & the last 2 years was just a LOT of effort to build back up our cash savings.

We have always had 10% of my pay going to retirement, and usually thrown a few thousand into the IRAs every year. But it's always been an afterthought, or a tax savings strategy. OR just something we're s'posed to do...

Not a lot of thought to retirement.

So I found myself thinking I didn't want to put more to retirement this year (than the 12% we already are). That I really wanted to build up some more cash.

But I worry if this is how I will always feel. Seems like there is always, well, "let's do this first, then we'll hit retirement hard!"

So I discussed with dh and feel we came up with a good solid plan.

Dh agreed with my fears and felt with the efund in cash that I am way too focused on cash. & that we need to change our mindset about retirement. Just put it a priority.

I argue that we need some cash savings on top of the efund though. That I don't want to touch it.

The middle ground we came up with is to contribute 5% of my salary to retirement, as a goal starting in August when BM is done with preschool. On top of my employer's 10%, will put us at a good 15% contribution rate. I Am going to consciously set aside 5% of every raise and bonus as well. (As my boss will set aside 10%).

We'll go with that for this year. Next year we will put away 5% of my raise.

The year after that we will raise our contribution to 6%. & raise it 1% a year until we max out. (Or perhaps more if we feel it is feasible, like the year LM is done with preschool we can up it an extra couple of percentages). But it sets a minimum goal if other things come up.

So basically, all that cash is going to retirement, and we are making it a priority. We agreed to make it a priority to always put 15% minimum to retirement, going forward.

It's kind of what we have been averaging the last decade anyway, but the difference is we now have the commitment. If we had made this commitments sooner, we could be contributing much more today. That I certainly feel.

This also means if my job situation changes, we will have to come up with 15%. Which we should be able to do.

For now we are taking advantage of my boss's "match" and bulking up our cash savings. For the long-term we have no plans to rely on his 10%. But in the interim we will certainly use to our advantage. IT will allow us to freedom to bulk up our cash a bit.

We also set a limit for our cash savings, at $30k. That would be a good solid 3-month emergency and medical fund. & would be a good $15k liquid cash, in addition, for our next car purchase. Likewise, if I Was out of work for 6 months with no income? We could forego the nice car next time around. So it would be a good, solid emergency fund.

Anything above that we will start to invest. Starting with a balanced fund.

Likewise, as long as we are hitting 15% to retirement, any windfalls will go to bulk up our cash to the $30k level.

At that point our focus will shift more to retirement, though I would like to fund a good $3k/year or so to taxable investments for my future car and stuff around the house, etc. I mostly plan to fund that from my overtime though, and our situation should lend us to also be able to max out our ROTHs starting in late 2010.

So overall, our goals are the same. We are just kind of prioritizing them, and also fine tuning some things.

We still won't give the mortgage a second thought until our retirement is maxed out. But any windfalls/extras is pretty much earmarket to retirement up to the max, and then the mortgage. It's exciting for me to think of paying down the mortgage faster. We hit it so hard up front, and it will be nice to get to that again. We haven't been able to justify extra money to the mortgage since we have been down on one income. So it's nice to see it once again on the horizon. In the distance anyway...

Anyway, mostly with what I have been struggling with lately, is just how to best maximizie our financial situation. There are probably 100 different ways we could approach things that would be just dandy. I find the sheer amount of options to be mind boggling. So that's why I say this is where it gets tricky!!!!!

Dh and I have always been very careful with our money and mostly savvy savers. BUT we have never really planned for much beyond the next 5 years or so. Seems like coming out of college we had so many short-term goals. & that would be my biggest regret, not thinking more big picture. IF we had, we would be maxing out our IRAs today and have little money whoas. But anyway, I really look forward to this next stage in our lives, thinking more about the big picture and planning forward for it.

So that is our plan for now. VERY subject to change....









Just Tidbits

March 8th, 2008 at 11:00 am

I had a new client come through this last week.

She owed about $400 between Fed & state. I told her she gets the gold medal for breakeven taxes. We should have a contest. LOL. It seems like most of my clients have WAY overpaid/underpaid this last year. Yeesh.

It's frustrating to see the ones with situations who are struggling but are unwilling to change their withholdings. (The family who went down to one income due to illness or the many people who came through with 2 houses, trying to sell one). Likewise, more frustrating are the clients who make big financial decisions and don't think to run it across their tax profesional. Then they are surprised when they owe $5k. I had a client lose her ROTH contribution because she sold a large chunk of stock and pushed her AGI too high. Someone else took $30k in retirement distributions, and they were surprised they owed. (Had not withheld anything). Etc., etc.

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In other news, CNN had an article on Top 10 foreclosure cities and sacramento was ranked #1. I've seen it at #2 or #3, but not #1 before. Yikes.

OF course #2 was Vegas. Gee, the hot climates are suffering.

That's the thing about Sacramento though. Our home had run up a good 125% at the peak (from when we bought in early 2002 - to the peak in late 2005).

Most of the people I met in the area either moved here from more expensive lands and then moved on to ORegon/Nevada with all that home equity. OR they felt priced out of home ownership and moved to Oregon/Nevada to buy a home. But the first group really were key in running up prices. PArticularly since they either already had equity from more expensive areas, or like us, just found the prices to be dirt cheap in comparison. (Whereas from the locals' perspective it was getting quite expensive in 2001/2002).

Since we enjoy the area so much, I really thought high prices were around to stay, for the most part. & still I think a decent amount of home appreciation is around to stay permanently. (I know too many people longing for $100k houses again, like you could get a decade ago, but I think that's a pipe dream).

But I guess we are unique. It seems like not very many people are tied to the area. Seems like most of the transplants have moved on.

Sacramento has historically been the cheapest area of Cali to live in, and it still is by a mile. I will just never get it. All I can figure is the combo of the weather (very hot in the summer whereas most of the state is rather mild year-round) and also the jobs. The jobs just aren't here. I admit most of the people who came through here the last few years didn't have jobs here. So it was a no brainer to take their insane equity and go to where the jobs were in more affordable states. A majority of the people I have met here had jobs in the Bay Area.

That's really all I Could figure. I saw Stockton (very nearby) has been hitting #1 in foreclosures for a while. But I think, who would want to live there??? & how come no one wants to live in Sac??

IT is a really weird dynamic because there is so much money and jobs in the Bay Area that there are many less nice areas between here and the Bay that have insane house prices and are thriving. Likewise, if you are in Sac and you want to move out to the country, or further out from the hub, it just gets more expensive. Very counter-intuitive. But the reason why is very clear. The further you get from here, the closer you are to a bigger metro hub.

Likewise, Sacramento seems to have location down pat, but it is the least desirable area of the state. I mean 1-2 hours drive to the snow and beautiful lake tahoe. Just over an hour to San Fancisco and the beach. A days' drive from the bauty of Northern Cali, Washington & ORegon. OR likewise, just a few hours to Disneyland/So Cal. Houses are cheap and I have an awesome job. The area itself is very beautiful (as it has been historically much less metro - it is called the city of trees). Likewise, this is our haven. I REALLY miss the 70 degree year-round weather back home. I grew up quite spoiled. But it's not worth the insane cost of housing for that one benefit. IT's really all I miss. So it still boggles my mind somewhat that this is undesirable land. But it really all comes down to the jobs I guess.

Anyway, it's not terribly shocking that home values plunged 20% last year (on average - some areas even more). It was quite obvious the high prices couldn't be sustained for the long haul. I mean, still leaves us with a good $100k equity over our purchase price. Though we've lost $250k in the course of a year. So yeah. The fact that so few really bought at the peak and so many are in trouble is just really mind boggling. Clearly the true problem in the home equity ATM mindset. Indeed.

Likewise, it's funny, but we are working with a mortgage broker highly recommended by a friend. I like him okay, and I think he will be able to help us refi, but he is REALLY into rental real estate. I told him a couple of times we weren't interested in the least. But he is really gung ho and just sent a general newlsetter about how he is going to buy and wants to help his clients get in the market. But since then I keep talking to other people who want to snatch some up with these "low" prices. IT's not just him.

Likewise, all my friends who have been priced out the last few years are excited at the chance to buy a home.

So, they are circling. Likewise, a foreclosure went in our neighborhood for $350k but afterwards one went from $400k.

I read somewhere it will yo yo for a while. Indeed.

It seems like not a lot of lessons have been learned from what I See of the people wanting to buy right now. I mean I met this broker guy once and told him we weren't comfortable with a 15-year mortgage right now, though we may be in a year or 2. We went over all of our finances for loan qualification.

Anyway, so he is trying to get me to buy rental real estate. He seemed really reasonable until he got on this kick.

No thanks, I do NOT need a seond mortgage right now. Frankly, it's the last thing I need. & even if I Was interested, I'd wait it out a bit longer. Indeed. But yeah, I liked him until that. He seemed very reasonable until I clearly saw that he sees no downside to buying a house, for rental, that one could not afford without the rental payment. Not my idea of a good financial move.

But it's just an indicator that cycle may just begin anew. Everyone who didn't get screwed over the first time didn't learn a thing. They are chomping at the bit to jump into the mess. Yikes!! Like they think they have the secret weapon. If nothing else I was bothered that this rental plan depended heavily on renters. Shaky financial ground indeed. I don't even have a dime to put down on a house anyway. Not one worth owning anyway...

So yeah, I watch very interested as all this plays out. I am at a loss to what's next... I can guess another year of losses though as subprime ARMs reset like crazy this next year. & is primarily what makes up the high prices in this area - lots of suprime ARMs that drove up housing prices.

I guess we are officially at ground zero though, according to CNN.














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