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Archive for April, 2008

Eating Today/College Savings

April 30th, 2008 at 08:00 am

I wish I could share more what we have done to keep food costs down, and why we barely notice a dent in our budget with rising food prices. But, that is not my department. That is dh's. He does his job well. The better he keeps our costs down the less I care if he ever works again. But I think that is what a lot of people don't get. Though he doesn't bring in income, he has much more time to work on cutting costs. Which is the same in the end. Upping our cash flow.

Anyway, all I can share is what we are eating. I actually am very bad at eating fruits and veggies so every morning I take a small cup of apple sauce. Dh buys the giant containers of apple sauce and I pour a small amount into one of the kids' portable cup (with flat lid) to take to work. I used to drink juice in the mornings. I find this to be a healthier way to get some fruit in my system.

The kids are snacking on graham crackers before preschool. They'll eat a proper breakfast there. (Included in tuition. Which to be fair, does include a fair amount of meals).

The kids will also eat lunch and snacks there all day. I guess to keep in mind that the kids have 2 lunches a week over there, which I am sure impacts our grocery bill somewhat.

For lunch I will eat leftover burritos and rice. I find burritos to be the "perfect" leftover food. I actually requested that dh cook a good leftover meal this week since we didn't seem to have any. (Insert that I am a picky eater - we have lots of leftovers - but I also like things that are easy to pack). So he made them last night.

Dh will eat some leftovers most likely. HE doesn't eat breakfast.

I am not sure what dh has up his sleeve for dinner.

I have a couple of things of yogurt at work in case I ever get hungry. I never seem to lately.

We have some snacks at work (kind of rare - but I know I will probably have a free cookie with my apple sauce today. Big Grin )

The only other thing I can say is I am a pepsi fiend. BUT I find $1-$2 for a serving of pepsi to be quite insane. I used to keep cans at work, but I tend to over drink them. So I have taken to getting my pepsi fix in the morning. I usually just take a giant plastic cup and pour a small amount of pepsi in there (1/2 can at most) and get my fix in the morning. That way I can take it to work, and not over drink pepsi. (I keep 2 litres at work sometimes, but then I just drink too much. So this is where I am at for now).

Anyway, when I finish my pepsi then I fill up my giant cup with lots of water. Water is free at work. At home we drink tap water (mostly filtered through the fridge).

I have also in the past, reused smaller pepsi bottles and poured small portions in, so I could keep it fresh and fizzy for lunch.

That is how we keep our soda costs down.

I really like the 1/2-sized cans, but we stopped buying them because they are rather expensive. I find those to be perfect serving sizes.

I am toying with the idea of going on a soda diet to lose these few pounds. It will be REALLY hard. But part of the reason I have been losing weight is I have been so sick these last few months and I can NOT drink soda when I have a cold. It is the only time I can not stand soda. So I think the 3-4 weeks I was too sick to drink soda made a difference.

I am trying to warm up to the idea.

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In other news, I had been wanting to save up enough money to invest the kids' UGMA a little more aggressively. Right now I have $1k each (abouts) in Vanguard Star. BEcause it had a $1k minimum. But overall would prefer something more aggressive.

Anyway, I have heard a lot of good things about T Rowe Capital Appreciation. I heard it touted as a balanced fund, and when I look at it, I don't see it. But then again, it like has never had a down year (until now). It looks like the kind of aggressive thing I am looking for. A little more aggressive, but rather "safe" all the same. IT has some bonds I guess which makes it balanced. Though it is much more stock heavy than something like Star.

Anyway, I heard the idea on the radio and am considering it. When I looked up the fund it looked rather promising.

Yesterday Thriftorama was asking about education savings and I was looking up Coverdells a bit since I don't know much about them.

I am more confused than ever! LOL. Honestly, none of my clients are saving for college or ask about it. Why I haven't a clue - I just don't deal with this area of the tax code much.

I thought 529s could pay for transportation and room/board, but everything I read yesterday said no. I honestly think those were old articles because I did have a client who used their 529 for this stuff last year and I remember double checking all the rules. So I share that as a caveat to be careful what you read. The rules have changed much over the last few years. Though it leaves me feeling I have MUCH brushing up to do.

I also was reading about ESAs (Coverdells) and thought they looked pretty darn appealing. I do not like how 529s are so limited (in investment choices). ESAs are much the same, but with dollar limits. But can be used for more expenses and can be invested just about anywhere. I was just about sold until I read they expired in 2011, though it took me a while to research if that was still true.

Yes.

Most of their benefits expire anyway.

But they can be transferred into 529s.

Anyway, I also read something new that I did not know. With the Coverdells, if the oney is not used for education because your child gets a scholarship, there is no penalty. I had not realized that. That had been one of my beefs with college savings plans all alonog - what if your child got a full scholarship? I know a lot of people who have. & as my kids are rather bright, I don't think it is a false hope that they may have a paid-for education.

Anyway, so this is much of what I learned yesterday.

From what I could glimpse, and considering how little ESAs are given any credence in the investment community, I think the writing is on the wall that these will probably get phased out. Kind of a shame. I always prefer to invest in things like ROTHS where you can invest almost anywhere, as opposed to 529s and HSAs which are VERY limited.

I am leaning towards funding an ESA for the kids this year, keeping in mind if my prediciton is right we can roll it to a 529 in future years (maybe when there will be more investment choices). The minimum is $1k at T Rowe. !!!! Perfect. The kids will probably get $1k each for their birthday and that is what I am thinking for now. I already have a T Rowe account, so will be easy to add those on.

I am also considering if I will resume $50 monthly contributions for BM, once he is done with preschool. That money only has so far to go and I wanted most of it to go to ROTHs. BUT I always go back to as long as I am getting 10% retirement contributions from my boss, as long as I am saving, it matters little where it goes. It probably is more useful towards college than towards our retirement, while we have such a retirement windfall. Plus the more we get in college earlier the less we will have to save later.

I am thinking of diverting $50/month for BM, and then the same for LM when he is done with expensive preschool.

Well I have a couple of months to think on this.

Feeling Relaxed...

April 29th, 2008 at 05:32 pm

Not a lot of time online this week. !! I guess since less time working and less time online? OF course, beyond that, just in spring cleaning mode.

I cleaned up my office today and I feel SO relaxed.

OF coursed, having the time to take a breath probably has more to do with it than anything. Though cleaning up a little does calm me.

Oh yes, and my last client came in with her e-file signature today. I think this is a stellar new record - I have no clients on extensions - none that I sign for anyway. !! Woohoo!!!! Tax season is officially over for me. Though I have one for my boss that is about done, and one that I am waiting for info on. But still, no more for me to sign. & having 2 in limbo in April 30th certainly is not bad (I am sure I had way more last year, at this time).

I also got all my April 30th deadlines out, but now I have a slew of 3/31 financial statements to work through (behind with all the deadlines) as well as a couple of 12/31 and business tax returns that have not been completed. I think I will be pretty busy before my vacation.

In other news I keep reading about food and gas. To be fair, I *get* how this affects the lower class. But am I The only one sick of the middle class going on and on and on and on? Though I notice a slight increase in our food bill, it is not much at all. As far as gas, it has been inching up. It affects how often we drive to San Jose to see our family and stuff like that. But if we were going broke over a $300 monthly line item in our budget, that would be kind of sad. I probably under-estimate the benefit of us only having one commute, and a short one at that. & I admit gas prices have affected our habits. Likewise, I am trying to brace myself for the worse case scenario. (Which is probably much farther down the road).

But I keep reading about people who have doubled their food budgets. I haven't a clue what you all are doing. Ours has gone up 10% tops, to date. We just don't spend that much on food to begin with. I expect it will get worse, yes. That is why it's kind of scary when people are freaking out so much, so early.

Is it just me?

I also have to admit that part of the reason our food costs have been down is we have been shifting to more eating out. The amount in our budget has not gone up - for dining out - but with these coupons (& desparate restaurants) we have been eating out twice as much on the same budget. We are certainly taking advantage where we can.

In other news, we did run the A/C 2 days this week, already. Today was considerably cooler, so we'll see. But, ugh - the heat!! IT got to about 83 upstairs so we flipped on the air for a while before bed - to make it comfortable - the last 2 nights.

We haven't turned on the heat in well over a month. But A/C season usually does not hit until late May. Though certainly it is a fluke - today was much cooler.

Finally, the medical bills are starting to roll in from BM's ambulance ride in early February. I Received a $200 emergency room bill (mentioned before) which was nothing, but yesterday the ambulance notice arrived. $1500. !!!!!! His deductible is $1500 and we already paid around $500 in doctor visits, lab tests and with the emergency bill we already received. So... IT wasn't the bill and I expect the bill will be $1k.

I was talking to my mom when I opened the bill and she offered to pay the $1500. It REALLY stressed me out though it really shouldn't have. I was clear that our premiums were $3k lower this year and in the grand scheme of things it wasn't a biggie. I am used to paying out the nose for medical insurance/expenses.

But my mom was quite insistent and I Was in little mood to argue. Big Grin

I know you will probably never believe me but these are NOT the parents who raised me. My parents don't go handing me money for no reason. This would be the second biggest windfall I have ever received from them. (Largest windfall being a cash gift they gave me last year).

On the flip side, I have said it before, and I will say it again. This is the way parents should do things. Don't give you a dime and teach you to take care of yourself. LEarn to expect nothing from others. Then when you are old, wise and figure it out, share the wealth a little. Sounds good to me. IT has much to do with their unexpected windfalls in recent years as their elderly relatives pass on. VEry unexpected they would get anything from my father's poor family. Instead they have received well over six figures. IT just happens to coincide with me getting my financial affairs extremely in order. I think I appreciate it more than I even would have 5 years ago.

On the flip side, it makes me feel bad to an extent because if my parents decide to give me $1500 and I get $1800 from the IRS, well geez. It's easy to make progress with these sorts of windfalls. Chalk this one up to another easy year.

I'd bulk up my mid-term savings with both. I want to get it to $5k before I consider using some of that money for stuff around the house. This would get me to $4k by summer. (& since the medical bills are well covered).

We'll see. I am not going to ask or anything, but if I get a check in the mail, I won't have any qualms about cashing it.

I will admit we are spoiled by our parents.

I am proud we are where we are mostly of our own sweat. But I admit that this kind of cash infusion makes the upward climb 1000 times easier. IT also makes me think often how different our kids have it from us. Whereas our parents were intent on us learning to take care of ourselves, they seemed to have lost their minds and want to spoil us and the kids, now that we have kids. IT's kind of strange. HAlf the time I think, "who are these people?" Then I go into my own worries if our kids will be too spoiled and really get things on a level dh and I do. OTher days I think they will have ALL the opportunities in the world. If they have 2 generations ahead of them who do things right and have some money to spare. LUCKY kids - for sure. I'll try my best to make them understand how lucky they are. That's all I Can do. Our family tree was changed by our parents. No one before them had any wealth. IT's amazing to see what a difference it makes as it starts to trickle down.

Though I know anything can happen. Our parents can use all their cash up in nursing homes - who knows. But for now they seem to have some abundance and they want to share. For that we are VERY blessed.




Trying Again

April 26th, 2008 at 09:00 am

I noticed Kohl's is having a sale on shoes, and I also have a $10 off coupon. So I will go over there and give it a whirl.

The funny thing is I think I have come to prefer online shoe shopping for shoes. Because it is so hard to find shoes that fit my big/wide feet. I know, doesn't sound like it makes sense, but zappos.com has wonderful customer comments for their shoes and lots of talk how which ones run narrow, etc. So I got may last pair of walking shoes on there and they fit like a dream. If I don't have a great shoe I have a tendon or something in my leg (I don't even remember any more what it was) that gives me a lot of trouble. But my shoes fit great and have held up quite well.

Since they are holding up okay I think I will keep them for walking. BUT they are also getting tired. I would like to get some cross training shoes for aerobics and such. The walking shoes don't seem so great on the gym equipment. I wonder if the cross trainers would be preferable.

Dh thinks I am crazy to spend so much on shoes but he just doesn't understand. I really do notice a difference depending on the type of show I wear. I figure spending a chunk of change is better than being in pain and paying and unable to workout, visiting the doctor more, etc.

Anyway, so Kohls is having a big sale on shoes. I'll go check it out. I doubt they will have much in my larger size, but I will give it a try. Could be considerably cheaper than zappos. We'll see. I could theoretically get a $80 pair of shoes for $40 at Kohls, with my coupon. So that is what I will try.

Spend Spend Spend

April 25th, 2008 at 11:22 pm

Ugh.

April & December are our spendy months. April was insane. Life insurance, property taxes, $1k to IRS, on and on and on and on. Mostly prepared for most of it, though the IRS got me. Still sucks no matter how prepared.

Anyway, May and June tend to be our calm months. No bills are due.

So what do I have in store for May:

Vacation - $1500 range

Yosemite - $400 - Apparently due May (I had wanted to charge it in June for extra rewards - Bah).

Medical - $600 - I just got BM's emergency room bill. Well, part of it anyway. Due May. It's trickling in. I figure at this rate we may be getting bills for it in a year, still. I have never received a medical bill in my life, before this. Just the way my HMO is - they take care of it. We pay big premiums, we pay little out of pocket (besides co-pays anyway). Anyway, now that we switched to HDHP, they decide to send us little bills every few days. They are driving me mad. I had to sit down and stare at the thing for a good long time yesterday to make any sense of it. I finally realized it was a "physician bill" which was completely different from our almost identical looking "hospital bill." I figure one of these days we'll get the "ambulatory services" bill.

Plus they keep sending me all these statements that don't include half of what we have been in for. The paperwork is maddening. & yeah, hard to make sense of.

Good news is that BM's emergency room physician only charged $220. Though like I said, I assume more bills to come there. Maybe a hospital bill to go with that?

Dh was charge $400 for a hearing test. Egads. & I was worried about the emergency room visit?

I was rather taken aback, but dh reminded me it had been like an hour long ordeal. I then start to see - 5 minute visit with doctor isn't so bad (little $50 charges here and there for our numerous visits this year) but that yeah, a more intensive screening costs a wee bit more. At least that makes sense.

So - $600 there.

All that is suddenly $2500 in extra bills for May. Eeks.

I told dh that as I tend to be more "big picture" that I haven't been doing so well with managing cash flow. It all fits in the budget, but our cash reserves are rather on the low side until our stimulus check arrives. I think we're okay, but it really couldn't come too soon... If you look to the left, and consider my $600 medical bill (haven't adjusted yet), you see our cash reserves are pretty shot. I haven't even subtracted out vacation yet - egads. Though I have to remember all of these are charged and the cash won't be due until June. Phew. We'll probably save up $2k in the next 2 months for this kind of stuff, likewise.

But today, not a lot of room for more bills...

Yeah, we have our lovely efund, but a chunk of it is sitting in my ROTH. So doesn't help me feel great. I don't want to touch that thing for nothing.

Mostly we just have to get through June without Murphy knocking on our door. I am sure we will be fine, but I am wondering what happened to my fine planning skills. Wink

Of course, we now have a good $2k in our mid-term savings fund, which was $0 for the last 2 years or so. So that's something. We have a lot of catching up to do though.

The stimulus check will pretty much wash out our IRS bill and add a good $1k to our mid-term fund. We're making decent progress.

Just feel a little cash tight in the interim. Hopefully to feel quite cash flush come June. Which also coincides with freedom from daycare costs for BM. Woohoo. Yeah, end of June I should be feeling pretty darn good. Big Grin (That is when our stimulus is due to arrive, as well as last month of paying for 2 in preschool - will be good times).

Anyway, I hadn't updated my Quicken all week (I guess since work was so busy, I don't even know why). I just did, and was actually pleasantly surprised with our $200 Yosemite deposit and a some $500 in professional dues (most to be reimbursed) that our credit card bill looked quite reasonable. How on earth? I finally pulled up a monthly report and realized we didn't really spend much on groceries this month (maybe $250 to date?) and our gas was pretty reasonable ($200 of $300 budget to date). So left us a lot of wiggle room elsewhere. Phew...

Today I worked quite late and got way more work done than I imagined I would. I decided to take tomorrow off as a reward. I am so stoked. Tomorrow was to be my last Saturday, for the rest of the year hopefully.

I even thought I wouldn't mind going in for a couple of hours and cleaning up my office a bit. I left work at 6pm and got the last deadline (April 30th) off my desk. I was absolutely thrilled.

I am sure I could have justified working (still lots of catching up to do) and we had even talked about me working one day and taking Friday off.

BUT I felt accomplished and decided it would be quite a treat to take the weekend off. Say la vive weekend work.

I love this time of year as well because working 40 hours a week suddenly feels so simple. 5-day work weeks are suddenly quite divine in comparison to 6-days. So life is good. I intend to enjoy this weekend.

I do have MUCH to catch up on around the house.

BUT dh wants to go to the Scottish Festival and I admit it sounds quite fun.

Of course, I saw 90 degrees for tomorrow.

90 degrees??!!??

I also read in the paper that last weekend there was a freeze. I think why I have been so sick this week. We went out Saturday and Sunday and I Was freezing my buns off. I thought maybe I had been jumping into spring a little too heartily.

No, it was so cold that there was a freeze and a lot of crops ruined around here. Craziness. I remember being out, being surprised it was so chilly, and then just being sick all week. I can't help but wonder if it was the cold and the wild weather fluctuations. Certainly didn't help. I didn't quite have a grasp how insanely cold it had been. Our house has stayed rather moderate in all this.

On the flip side, I think I would usually need a little more warming up to 90 degree weather. One extreme to the other. I'll probably be miserable.

But I think the Festival will be fun.

Dh had also been planning a date this weekend. Matinee movie.

So I was pleased to see room in the budget for all this, with dh's wonderful grocery shopping this month.

Oh, and I did find a hike that I wanted to go on this weekend, but not sure we'll have time. Dh rarely wants to go out, so since he wanted to go to this Scottish Festival, I figured it was fair. Maybe we can hike next weekend. Though it was short and close so hope to squeeze it in.

I was so miserable all week I completely gave up on the gym. My aerobics instructor is in Yosemite anyway. I will try again next week. I would love to work out this year without coughing up a lung. This seems an impossible feat this year. Sick sick sick, and more sick.

I am losing weight anyway. I have pinned it on 2 things. I moved offices late last year and I walk MUCH more now. I am on the complete opposite end from the kitchen and the bathroom now. & the copier and everything really. Lots of walking. I am thinking this makes a difference.

I also primarily eat home-cooked meals and eat lunch in. BUT I have been skipping my little $1 junk meals more to save up more cash for more date nights with dh. I really usually don't order much or eat that much grease, BUT I am noticing a difference. I think it is more to it than that. But when I eat less junk I seem to crave it less at home too. I just overall seem to be eating less. It could be much of just being so busy too - too busy to eat/snack/munch. Somehow I am losing weight with no effort. Go figure.

Reminds me, I have been noticing my new office is quite warm. I have one wardrobe for work - my old end of the office is FREEZING. I have been quite warm this week and I start to remember part of the reason we were always so frozen out is the other end of the office gets so hot. I just hadn't thought about it. First summer in my new office. I think I may actually need to buy somewhat of a summer work wardrobe. Imagine that. I just wear my winter clothes all summer, seriously. It is just that COLD usually, inside. Well, it's more like a fall wardrobe - as it doesn't get that cold. But summer is anything but moderate. Wink

I am thinking this will actually be nice/preferable. Though I may invest in a nice fan to help. I don't enjoy the heat, BUT walking outside into the 100 degree heat may be preferable in more summery clothes. I wouldn't know. LOL.

In other news, BM's preschool teacher had a malaria scare. She got the flu in February with us, but has never really recovered. (Though I can't say we have either).

She had been in South America awhile back so they thought maybe she had picked up something. For a while they thought maybe mono. Latest was malaria.

Anyway, she just found out it was actually "just" the flu. The nasty nasty flu.

I am so relieved that she doesn't have malaria, though I really don't know what that it entails or what the ramifications are. Just sounds nasty.

More One-Income Stuff

April 25th, 2008 at 07:54 am

Second incomes: twice the work, half the return:

http://moneycentral.msn.com/content/CollegeandFamily/Loveand...

I actually came across this article yesterday and thought it was quite EXCELLENT.

Probably all of my thoughts/experiences in a well written article. I mean seriously, I could have written it. Though maybe not so well. Wink

It was just on theme with my post yesterday so had to share.

Of course this article was in terms of families with one high wage and a low wage. BUT we found much to be true with 2 mediocre wages. Dh and I made equal wages when he decided to stay home.

So though the logistics were a little different for us, we came to much the same conclusion.

I particularly like th last paragraph:

"Also on the bright side, discovering that a second income really doesn't contribute much financially can free a spouse to learn new skills, go back to school, pursue an unprofitable dream career or launch a home-based business that may pay little during the first few years. If you're going to work for free, after all, you might as well enjoy it."

Which sums up our thinking beautifully. Dh hated his job, and he wasn't going to stay. I think financially this was much preferable to getting used to a second income that could not be sustained indefinitely.

I realize with time that I don't think we could have timed having kids any better, or that we would have ever been in a better spot to have one of us stay home with the kids.

We graduated college at age 22/23 and worked a few years, saving considerable dollars. Never lived up to the second income, as we didn't expect to have one forever.

We had our first child at 25/26. Dh just turned 32, and he has been home almost 6 years. He will probably return to the workforce, maybe go to college first to update his degree, in his 30s. Plus he already has a degree and a decent amount of experience, which is worth something. & yeah - so he returns to work at 35 or 40 - still has a good 20-30 working years left. (He actually worked 12 years before kids and is eligible for social security benefits as well - so kind of sweet timing there).

I can't imagine establishing myself in a career and working hard many years, and then trying to have kids. I think that way is a hard road, though it is now the norm. I also can not imagine having a kid much younger or before having a degree or some savings. So I think somehow we hit some sweet spot, in he middle. Took some planning, but also quite by luck.

So anyway, I don't think dh would have had the guts to really examine his career otherwise. I remember before we had kids he talked much of going back to school to get an emergency teaching credential (the state of education at the time meant desperation for teachers). I encouraged him many times to QUIT his job and pursue teaching. I told him if he was going to make a move like that, then was the time. When we were young. He just never could do it, no matter how supportive I was.

I remember he was concerned about teaching wages too and I asked him if he was out of his mind. I said, so we'll save $30k/year instead of $40k. YEah, I am really worried about it. (Not).

Anyway, so old habits die hard. Dh said something the other day about pursuing some high wage job. If he wants to because it is something he loves, then sure, I am all for it. More money is good. But his parents have it pounded into his head that you hate your job and make more money. (I find this ironic since my dad loves his job and makes more than the 2 of them combined. Obviously I prefer my parent's philosophy - do what you love). There is a lot to be said for not being miserable AND having money too. Big Grin

So anyway, he said something just the other day along those lines. I said, huh? Honestly, I prefer he make less so it doesn't all go to the IRS anyway. I think ideally he would make a smaller wage. & that fits in great because he wants to be an artist. So go for it. I wonder how many struggling artists out there wish they had a sugar momma like me. Wink & instead dh struggles and struggles with what to do.

Plus, if he is going to work full-time and make a comparable wage, hell if I'll see the point to work full-time. But when I say this out loud, we fight. He has it somewhere in his head that we need to make a ton of money, though mostly he knows better.

Well, we'll work it out. I was actually surprised the other day when he said he wanted to pursue a $70k-$80k job. I said, great, I can cut back my hours then. & I was surprised when he didn't like this. I did point out that would put us at an insane tax bracket. IF he was happy and wanted to make money, great. But that then I didn't feel as much need to myself. But I know when the time comes if we have this debate we can run the numbers.

I have no desire to live in a 2-full-time-working-parent household. BLECH. Talk about stress.

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

Of course, on the flip side, we are entering a time of great transition. Of course we have agreed it makes no sense to work with small kids and with insane daycare expenses, etc.

But the playing field is completely changing for us this year. Big Monkey starts public school in the fall. I am already paying full-time daycare in total dollars for the two to attend part-time preschool. So in theory, dh could get a full-time job and we could save his entire take-home pay, with no changes to our budget.

I have to say it is incredibly freeing.

Of course, we have no desire to put our child in full-time daycare. But I have brought up the subject, that we could put him in M/W/F and dh will be incredibly freed up all of a sudden. From having had 0 free time a year ago (well beyond nights and weekends, which are always very exhausting to both of us), suddenly dh can easily have the potential to have 3 free days a week.

Of course, on the flip side, we received BM's school calendar and there are a million days off. On one hand, I have a flexible schedule and I was prepared for some of it. But they decided this year to shorten summer by a month and take like every Friday off for the year. I looked at this calendar thinking, you have got to be flipping kidding me.

& as usual, though most of the year I could share much more in the care of kids, I have greatly reduced time and flexibility during tax season. Which is the bane of our existence for now (will be incredibly freeing in the long run as I could feasibly only work part-year, etc. But with kids it complicates things GREATLY).

So, we decided to kind of just bide our time and wait and see how things go.

I say this will be transition time for the next 5 years. Where care of the kids is still of great concern, but at least we can move pass this 24/7 care thing.

& in 5 years at least the kids won't need a babysitter every second of every day. When I think much of this becomes moot.

Dh's worked on a very promising movie project and made some great contacts, but has kind of hit a wall when it comes to selling the movie. He is quite confident he could sell it and recover the costs, but the screen writer/brainchild has already turned down a good offer, which would have recouped the costs (doh) and doesn't seem to have any true desire to sell it. Plus he moved out of the area. So dh is very frustrated. The other promising contacts he made are dropping like flies.

Anyway, don't ask me how he made these contacts. I think he did a lot of this when I was on maternity leave with LM. So I told dh the other day. I said, you know, you have 2 free days a week now. Get out and meet some new people, work on some NEW projects.

He just seems to need that push sometimes.

So he is. He really wants to work on writing his own screenplay so he can do his own movie and then have control over it. But he's kind of stuck on that. Anyway, he is considering taking screenwriting classes at the community college. He is also looking into a group that meets weekly on screenplays, though he is finding they focus much more on plays than movie scripts. However, he thinks he will give it a whirl and practice on a play.

The other funny thing is he is getting some attention for his writing abilities. He writes a lot of skits and some professional group just performed one of his skits - he won some contest. So I have been encouraging him to go that angle.

I think dh's biggest problem is he likes to live in a bubble and he doesn't want to leave that bubble. I have told him many times that I would be willing to move closer to LA so he could more seriously pursue his dreams. I brought it up again because with house prices on the slide, it may actually be doable. I have always wanted to live in San Diego, and look at those home prices slide. !!!!!

BUT he is just dead set against it. I remember back to how it is amazing I got him to move to Sacramento. He is extremely adverse to change.

So, that's his thing. He has to figure out how to make it work then. I guess there is a fair amount of work in San Francisco, and a budding local film maker scene. So it's not a lost cause. At least we don't live in the middle of nowhere.

But yeah, we will enter a time of transition. I think he will take a year or 2 to pursue his hobbies more vigilantly, now that he will have considerably more time.

I think from there he will seriously pursue going back to college, if not much comes of it. Get a major in film (update his minor) or maybe even pursue teaching. For now he doesn't seem to have much more direction than he did 6 years ago. Which worries me a bit. BUT I understand he hasn't been able to make a lot of progress with full-time charge of the kids. That I *get*

So I am hoping this is the catalyst for change...

I just want him to be happy. Which seems a very impossible goal at times. *sigh*

I am not sure what more I can do though. IT's in his hands at this point.

I am also optimistic that my income will be pretty sustaining in 3-4 years time and that I could really care less what he does at that point. Ideally. I expect to be maxing out our ROTHs and have all of our bases covered, really in about 3 years. LEss depending on more income, more thinking that I will pay for less childcare. If I paid $0 for childcare we could max out today. So I really expect overall to be in a good spot in a couple of years.

For now, life is still a little stressful on one income. But we are definitely moving into a whole new realm. & that is rather refreshing. Phew.





















Disney/House Managers/Birthdays

April 24th, 2008 at 06:43 am

http://blog.penelopetrunk.com/2008/04/10/advice-from-the-top...

I came across this post and found it very relevant to my experience. I left a comment - for now the last one on the page.

I wonder how much more money I make in my career because I have a house hubby and don't have to worry about a lot of the household crap. Probably a lot.

I think I get the best of both worlds in a sense. Because I am a woman, no one blinks when I demand more flex time to spend with my kids. When my kids were younger I would often take time off during the day to do activities with them. No one blinks at that. I think a man would, in most cases, be harder pressed to enjoy that same freedom.

Of course with promotion and responsibility I find it harder to take advantage. I find I prefer to work hard 9-5 with the least interruptions so I can enjoy my nights and weekends. So I don't necessarily take as much flex time as I did when the kids were newborn and when they were small toddlers.

On the flip side I have a tremendous advantage that FEW working moms do. I stay-at-home spouse. The benefits there are both financial and non-financial. You can't put a price tag on it. But my life is tremendously easier. I know on these boards and in real life I leave an impression of "doing way too much." The thing is I don't have a lot of responsibilities at home. & I find few people really understand how freeing that is to me.

Like yesterday I Was changing the cat litter when I realized we were completely out. It was actually around 9pm and I had just enough to cover the bottom of the box. I asked dh to run to the store in the morning and get some littler. In any other scenario I would have had to wake up a 1/2 hour earlier and run to the store and fill the cat box before work. Little stuff like that just adds up big time. There is always someone home to take care of household stuff and the mundane. Which gives me a LOT more time to focus on my career.

& yeah, people say FUNNY things to me as well. I remember I met a lady when LM was newborn and I mentioned I was returning to work in a few months. She told me I would never make it - that working would be miserable. I was like, "Excuse me? I have been a working mom for 2 years - I am sure I will be fine." Wink She didn't know I had an older son (because incidentally he was home with hubby at the time). Anyway, I told her working really wasn't a big deal because my spouse stayed home with the kids and they were very well cared for. She looked at me appalled and then told me how her husband was not fit to watch any kids and I pretty much must be insane to think my hubby could take care of this little infant. I told her again, I Wasn't worried about it, he took care of our 2-year-old quite well. But I have these conversation all the time with people. I have no idea why women delight in telling me that their husbands are helpless morons who would never lift a finger in child rearing. Gee, great for you. Sounds delightful! (Not!) LOL.

Likewise, I have to hear a lot how horrible it is that women work and can't figure out how to stay home. LOL. But yeah, the best was when LM was newborn and I would take him out to the playgroups and such. Dh and I would split up the kids so I could focus on LM's needs, and the women would just say the stupidest things not knowing I Was an experienced mom. I would think, did people say this stuff before and I just didn't know any better? I had many a women tell me they would never leave their kids with their husband. I just think that's sad... & yeah, that I would fail as a working mom. I am thinking, well someone has to pay the bills. They want me to stay home with my husband? Wink

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

I was revisiting our Disney budget and whittling it down...



Prices have come down at the amusement parks, a good $30 total since when I last looked. WOW! I will probably buy tickets online soon at these prices.

I also noted that a lot of the food places in Disney have AAA discounts. Will have to remember. I noted on my spreadsheet as a reminder.

In the past BM was so young that we avoided the characters and a lot of the hype of paying extra for character meals or waiting in line for pictures with them, etc. BUT LM is Disney crazy. So I Was looking at the character meal buffet - for dinner. Looks a tad pricey (Maybe $60 for the 4 of us - buffet dinner) but so is all the food there. We'll get 10% off and I think the kids will LOVE it. So something I think we map splurge on.

I also looked at my gas budget. I had already read about $4/gallon gas prices this summer when I cooked this up a few months ago, and my gas budget looked pretty reasonable. We will do a little research for where the cheaper places to buy gas are. Will make a HUGE dent in the budget. When I told dh he said something like, "yeah, but how will we know when we will need to fill up." LOL. Dh is such a dork. I was like, I don't think it is that difficult to plan fill ups. ??????? I think we can figure it out.

Anyway, the trip is 400 miles, straight shot down the interstate. I think we will be best to fill up early in our drive so we can make the last 4-5 hours without a fill up. Gas will be way more expensive in the middle of nowhere and in LA proper. We may look for a Safeway a couple of hours south to fill up at.

Unfortunately, we'll probably have to gas up in LA once or twice. I am not going to waste a lot of time down there searching out cheap gas.

Anyway, I asked dh when he thought we should leave - early or late - to avoid traffic hell. HE said early. I thought leaving after lunch might be nice since it is nap time anyway and the kids could sleep a bulk of the trip. We can get in after night rush hour (6 hour drive, maybe 7-8 hours with stops). Could roll in around 8pm.

But dh says he wants to leave early; at 10 :00. LOL. I laugh because he missed the point. I don't want to roll into LA at 5pm. Is he crazy?

Anyway, but this is where dh had a good idea. I worry that food is the most expensive part of the trip. Food prices always SHOCK me when we travel since we usually feed our entire family on $400/month wit careful grocery shopping and planning. So I just assumed $100/day at worst. I am sure we will spend less some days. But they days we are in Disneyland park? Easily $100/day.

So dh said we should pack a picnic lunch and stop and have a picninc mid way and let the kids run off some steam.

Excellent idea!

I think with this we will keep food costs down considerably on day 1.

Then we can stop for a leisurely dinner somewhere and wait out the traffic, if we hit it bad.

I also like the idea of not having to wake up at dawn and rush rush rush. 10am sounds like a much better vacation-y time to leave. Big Grin

So yeah, we are saving around $100/month for vacation AND I will get $250 cash rewards in May to pay for our vacation. So overall we have a budget around $1500.

OF course, this does not consider that we will not buy groceries, commute to work, or use much home electricity for a good week. Which kind of offsets the costs. The $1500 must stretch for our camping trip too.

I completely forgot in July I am paying pretty much nil for childcare, so that childcare savings will fund the rest of our camping trip.

Dh and I could always swing a trip to Disney on a few hundred dollars. IT is amazing how much the cost explodes when you consider adding kids (& taking more time; feeding more mouths, paying for more admissions, etc., etc.). We are extremely lucky we have a free room though.

Gas prices don't help either, BUT the transportation will be the cheapest part of our trip. I can't really complain. We're taking the car that gets close to 40mpg.

Anyway, we are going on a weekday because I HATE lines. I worked at an amusement park many years and only went on off hours (perk with the job I guess). & so I have little patience for lines. They are probably good for the kids' character, but mommy is way too impatient. Thank goodness for the invention of fast trak and such.

Anyway, so I told dh I wanted to go for 2 days (have never been to Disney more than one day - always rushed trips). My dream is to take our time and spend 2 full days - Tuesday & Wednesday in May - days I know will not be so crowded. Last time I believe we went in a Saturday in September, and it really wasn't that bad until after dinner. IT was bizarre. But we had left for dinner and we came back the place was a complete mad house. I mean I never expected a Saturday day to be so pleasant.

So I expect a VERY good experience. Don't expect too much in the way of crowds...

My experience when I worked at Six Flags was middle of the week was always dead. Middle of the week when school is in session? Even better. Which is also why we are going. Last year before school schedules dictate our vacation. Blech.

------------------------------------
Beyond all that, kids' birthday is coming up in July.

I don't know, I am kind of birthday partied out. I am thinking of just making it a family affair. We usually don't do much for their birthdays, but this year I feel like doing less than much.

They are turning 3 & 5.

I wonder if just having a small family affair is preferable because BM starts public school in the fall and then that probably takes birthday parties to a whole new level.

Then again, since they have summer birthdays, I wonder how the whole birthday party thing will work. We'll never feel obligated to invite the whole class! Maybe they will always feel gyped in that regard.

His birthday also coincides with his last week at preschool. It may be nice to have a big party and invite all the preschool kids. Kind of a last hoorah.

So yeah, it will be one or the other. There is a bounce house place that I took him to a few years ago - and they opened up one by our home. I know he would LOVE a birthday party there and this is the first year I would consider something of that nature. That he can actually enjoy and may even remember.

Either that or we'll just have a small family party. He has 2 new cousins so it could be pretty fun if all the cousins came. I guess I have to keep in mind the baby cousins would not enjoy the bounce place either. Ugh. Maybe we'll have 2 parties in that case. The more I think about it the more complicated it gets.

Well, staying home and eating pizza sounds pretty good with all the babies. More of what we usually do...

The other problem with their birthday is it is hotter than hades, so no outdoor activities. No matter what day the party falls on it will be guaranteed to be 110 degrees. I have that knack of picking the hottest day of the year, but hard to avoid mid-July. I remember giving birth on the hottest days of the year too. Which makes the whole birthday thing kind of a bummer. I would LOVE to just set up kiddie pools and let the kids splash int he backyard, but yeah, we'd all DIE probably. LOL. So limits birthday party options...

I guess I probably won't give it much more though until after our Disney trip though. One thing at a time. I just saw the thread in the forums and started thinking about it.

I chalk this a benefit of big house. We always just have the parties here, and plenty of room. Wink But the kids are getting older and getting to the age where they probably could use something a little more exciting, once in a while.

They are still at the age where they will share their formal party.

BM will probably get his own party next year. As he'll probably have more school friends that aren't shared with LM. For now they have all the same friends, and not even family would drive up here twice - so shared it is. Logistically that is the only way it works. Until they have their own friends... But for now, makes it easy on me. One party every year.

Their birthdays are like 5 days apart...

Color Me Confused, FICO

April 23rd, 2008 at 01:52 pm

I posted just a couple of weeks ago that my FICO had dropped to 701 in late March (though I did not see until mid April). I was really concerned shome shady activity was going on though my credit monitoring says no. Still waiting for my credit report in the mail since I can't access it online after the ID theft. Well great, this is NOT helping me.

So on a whim I remembered my score usually posting around the 20th, (I get it free from WAMU) and so I peeked earlier this week.

Wouldn't you know, my score was 750. ???

HUH?

You know, when they say FICO is a mystery, well, they mean it.

Likewise, I am pleased that all my balance transfers are not completely sabtoging my score after all.

I pay one back in about 6 weeks. After that I don't expect much in FICO problems. Phew.

My score had pretty much hovered in the 750 range since I signed up for my WAMU card, except it dropped down to 685 one month with the whole ID theft mess.

Likewise, my bad credit to limit ratio has really done little to my score. My score is actually steadily rising (quite slowly). Though the whole 701 thing is weird. Which made it that much more of an anomally. IT has been pretty steady for the last 9 months with the exception of the ID theft. So the whole thing is just weird.

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

In related news, mortgage rates hovered around 5.5% (I was waiting for 5.25%) much of last week, and then shot up.

At this point I don't really expect we will refi. Though I still am all pre-approved with 2 companies, so we'll see. They'll call me if it gets to 5%-5.25% for a rate lock. I don't know how long this pre-approval will last. So far, apparently, indefinitely. I know they are happy to have people apply for a refi, that actually have any equity. They WANT our business. They will just be hard pressed to beat our current situation - which is GOOD.

I think odds are looking pretty slim on the refi front. Our broker last projected it may be a good time around April 15th. Which was when it was low, yes. Just not enough.

I guess I am stuck with 5.75%.

(Yeah, not THAT sad about it).

I honestly have no desire to go through the refi process again, so am rather relieved. We have refied about 4 times already in our young lives, seriously. Don't ask, it's a long story. A lot had to do with owning 2 homes for a time, etc. But our first loan was over 8%, we refied to a 15-year for a time. We could not ignore it when rates dropped another full percentage when I was on maternity leave with my first.

So it was kind of nice to dream of knocking another chunk off of our mortgage payment, but we'll survive. Our payment is a good $200/month cheaper than our first mortgage on our little condo. Slightly bigger loan; MUCH lower interest rate. Little to complain about...

We still would consider refi-ing down to a 15-year loan in a couple of years, when the kids are out of preschool. If rates are good. Though our 30-year rate may be preferable in 2-3 years time. Who knows???????

Well, it was fun to dream about, but likewise, no big loss here.

No - Freefall not slowing down

April 23rd, 2008 at 08:13 am

BA asked me if it was slowing down - the foreclosures here.

Then I saw this article.

The answer is clearly - no. Still crazy here.

http://www.sacbee.com/103/story/882978.html

Looks like a pretty bad year or 2 left for subprime resets.

& then I recently blogged that an "original" neighbor who bought his house in the $250k range in 2001, just lost his home. Which is the beginning of an ugly trend. All the homes that sold for $600k in our immediate neighborhood have foreclosed. But now the people that got in the ground level here? That's the next wave? The prime borrowers who used their homes as ATMs. I have hardly talked to anyone in our age range who is not in this boat.

As for us, we are still fine. My older co-workers and relatives skirt around the issue. I can tell they all assume we are in WAY over our heads. My spouse doesn't work, we have a nice house, and we're young. We obviously are in way over our heads. Wink It's probably a pretty safe conclusion for the area. They will just never understand how dirt cheap our house was to us. The alternative was a $500k mortgage for a complete piece of crap, back home. Not sweating the $200k mortgage. Though I wouldn't be surprised if the value of our home dips below what we paid at some point. We paid almost $300k, but have paid $90 off our mortgage. A little over 20% down, and then just steadily paying down our 30-year mortgage since. Plus paid cash for some improvements when we first moved in. We've never borrowed a dime against our house, so this is the difference apparently between us and everyone else. Putting money down in the first place also makes all the difference.

I know you oldies already know all this, but had to throw in for newer readers. Who may wonder where we fit in, in all this.

I keep reading how the growing trend is to walk away from homes here. Well duh! Put 0% down and the your mortgage payment goes up astronomically. What do you really have to lose? I can't honestly hold these people morally responsible for their mortgages. The banks completely screwed them over, what do they owe them?

I have cringed whenever I have seen advice to put little down on a home, and I guess this is really the true side affect. People just walk away. In the end that doesn't really help anyone. But I don't see the morality in making someone who makes $50k a year pay a $4k/month house payment for a house worth half what they paid. It's just craziness. Of course they are walking away. I would have to say they would be insane to stick it out. Wouldn't make any sense.

Of course, you could argue why they bought these homes in the first place then. Like you couldn't see this coming.

Well, you got me there.

So yeah, it's ugly here.

The Answer to ALL of your problems...

April 22nd, 2008 at 11:59 am

A BIGGER HOUSE.

LOL.

Keep in mind we are in the middle of forclosure central and I don't think very many people around here really used their brains when purchasing the houses they are in.

Anyway, I have a mortgage broker friend who sends cute little blurbs in the mail at least once a month; maybe moe often. Usually cute little stories and moral tales and such. Just to keep in him top of mind, and somehow links them into saving money or buying a home, etc.

Anyway, I Was quite surprised when I picked up my mail today at work and started reading his latest postcard. I thought it was a joke at first. (I find myself thinking this often when I listen to commercials - yeesh. I think it's a paradoy or a joke and then I realize it is a REAL commercial. Who takes this stuff seriously? Apparently many).

Anyway, so yeah.

"Dissapointed by your Tax Return? A Bigger House could save you More!"

"...Not only do you get a nicer house, but you also get a bigger tax write-off..."

"More expensive Houses appreciate faster..."

Um, okay. Well, for one, I am not opposed to the bigger house thing. We actually bought a bigger home because we thought it was a better investment. & it has been a much better investment than we had imagined (for various reasons). So I can't see the logic as 1000% flawed.

BUT...

Buying a bigger house for a bigger tax write-off is the most insane thing I have ever heard. Spend $12000 to save $3k. THat's what it probably amounts to. (HEck, at our tax rate we would spend $12k and only save $2k).

OF course, "if you buy a $300k house instead of a $200k house, it will appreciate $500/month faster."

So in the end you'll be breakeven cash flow wise.

That's the logic.

Ugh.

I don't think taking stock of the market right now and considering a "move up" is the worst idea. But the logic in this advertisement is deeply flawed. Wink

Likewise, I know few who aren't already in WAY over their heads, so I know few who are really in any decent financial shape to move up to a bigger house. I guess makes the whole thing more crazy. "Can't afford the house you're in? Buy a bigger one!!!" Might as well be the point of this advertisement, when you consider the audience.





Kids are 7 cents richer...

April 21st, 2008 at 07:33 am

Oh yeah, I totally forgot. A good blog post.

YEsterday when we got out of the car, at Walgreens, LM found a penny. He was QUITE proud of this find and proudly carried it through the store and on the ride home until he could put it in his piggy bank. He is only 2 but he knew where to put it. Wink Of course if he asked to spend it I am not sure it would have gone far - hehe.

Anyway, BM of course was jealous. But BM ALWAYS finds change on the ground and puts it in his piggy bank. No doubt why LM was so excited to do such a big boy thing.

Anyway, we then stopped by MErvyns because I wanted to pick up those sports sandals, and the customer service was pretty horrid. Dh was quite snippy with the kids as we waited in line (I think they were fine) but I decided to take them for a walk. BM had been so jealous at Walgreens I told him to keep a sharp eye out at the checkout counter, for change on the ground. So we decided to walk around all the cash registers looking for coins (yes it was a LONG wait). We didn't see any, but as we were walking back to find dh, BM suddenly dived onto the ground and under a clothing display. I started to bark at him to get off the freaking floor, when he came back up with a penny. NO IDEA how he spotted it, it looked way under a low platform. LOL. So I was actually quite impressed.

Of course I told them to keep their eyes open if they wanted to find more change, but I think this lesson was lost on them.

We were sitting at eating at the buffet when LM dropped his fork on the floor. He looked down and suddenly noticed a nickel sitting on his chair. So he holds up a nickel. Dh was off getting some buffet food. But I just had to laugh. I told the kids they were certainly having a lucky day. LM kept saying he found a penny and I kept trying to explain it was like 5 pennies, but was lost on him. Might as well have been a quarter though - he was SO excited by this find.

Dh came back and eventually we remembered to tell him about the find on LM's chair. He winked at me and whispered he put it there. I said, what, did you find it or something? HE said yeah, it was on the floor behind the chair.

So yeah, he wasn't keeping his eyes open like we had practiced, but was still a treat for him.

I actually am not a fan of saving change and generally don't find much change. BUT I have no qualms about picking up change when I see it. Yes, even a penny. IT doesn't take any effort to bend down and pick up a penny. & I usually just hand it to the kids anyway - who just get SO excited by these small money finds.

But yeah, my eyes have certainly been opened as I think there is rarely a day that BM doesn't find a coin on the ground. (Often in the garage and no doubt from dh's pocket. LOL).

But I thought finding 7 cents was quite impressive. Wink LM is 6 cents richer and that's quite a boost to his net worth.

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

Anyway, yeah, dh has been feeling fine but work up yesterday with no voice. This made him very snippy. It's actually rather strange.

I have been feeling the allergies a bit more and woke up today with a sore throat and some congestion. I am not pleased. I have to assume it is allergies, but I just don't know. I could not possibly be sick again and this week is insane at work. If I have to take a sick day I will no doubt work all weekend. I woke up early and am sitting up, so we'll see. Feeling better as I sit up. Will just try to make it through the day - too much to do. I never have any qualms about taking sick days at work, but this is getting on the verge of ridiculous. So I am just hoping it is allergies and I can work through it. I also won't be surprised if I completely lose my voice. Ugh!

I had wanted to clean the house yesterday and didn't get very far. IT may help the germ factory to clean a bit. If only I could feel well enough long enough to get anything done around the house. A viscous cycle...

Another one bit the dust?

April 20th, 2008 at 07:27 pm

well, didn't spend so much money today after all.

The Big 5 was a bust and I think we'll keep an eye out (the sleeping bags on sale were of very cheap quality - I just didn't like them. Also, no shoes in my size).

Oh but I did buy a pair of sports sandals, since I don't find I can walk very far with a pair of flip flops. I have an old leg injury and if I don't have proper foot support, I pay for it. I am skeptical but the shoes were only $16 on sale. I probably spend a good $10 on cheap flip flops anyway. So we'll see. Love the shoes.

Since I have a difficult shoe size I may just pay a premium and order the same walking/workout shoes again - -online. They have been perfect. (I bought from zappos.com I believe which have pretty good reviews about how shoes tend to run - wide or narrow and stuff - and found it a great way to buy online. First time was the charm). I have no patience to run to 100 stores with the luck a shoe is on sale in my size. No way.

Oh yeah, we didn't get to lunch until almost 2 and the place was jam packed. This is one reason we had stopped eating out in this neighborhood. Many of the restaurants have really died down with the economy, but we walked into the new Japanese buffet today and it was a COMPLETE madhouse. We stuck it out but the prices were a little more expensive on the weekend and the food wasn't so good. Hell, I was impressed they had as much food as they did. Complete mad house. We probably ate around 2:30 and it was starting to clear out. At least we had decent service at that point.

I'd say the place was a hit. Everyone kept pulling up to the restaurant and looking at the crowds and saying, "But it's so good. I think we should wait."

Never again, on a weekend. !!

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

Anyway, in real estate news I have no qualms about the long term. The short term I am not so sure about.

I have read a couple of articles that said prices in Sac had dropped to $100k. HUH? So I perused the MLS the other day.

Most of the people who live out here live in the surrounding suburbs. There is not a lot of good property in the city itself. But since we do actually live in Sacramento I was looking at the MLS there, probably where the cheapest houses would be. I didn't see anything in the $100k range except for condos and townhouses. Sure, they are homes, but in this area they are highly undesirable. We started in a condo back home and they appreciated faster than homes for a time, since houses were so unaffordable. Out here whenever I mention starting small in a condo, people look at me like I have a third eye. I know few who would consider it. Likewise, there were plenty of homes with 0.01 acres available for $200k. But that is about in the realm of townhouse anyway. I didn't see much below $200k but manufactured homes and attached homes.

Nothing I would invest in, personally.

So I take the national publications with a grain of salt. Yes, house prices have dropped 25% - 40%. YES! But affordable housing? Not so much. IT had been insanely unaffordable before the drop. Now just slightly unaffordable. I can't tell you where it will be tomorrow. I don't expect any decent homes in the $100k range. But I guess we'll see!

Anyway, when perusing I actually saw our neighborhood had the least amount of homes for sale and the highest prices. Go us. I have always said that my home was not looked at as an investment per se. But if I am going to shell out $200k-$300k on something, well um, it better be something that holds its value. So I certainly look at it as an investment in that sense. I don't think we thought how our house would fare in the short term in this kind of economy. But I am pleased overall with our neighborhood.

There are areas of Sac with hundreds of homes for sale priced under $200k. So yeah, there are some pretty hurting areas. I am pleased not to live in one of those areas right now. I can't say we'll sit so pretty through this whole mess though. who knows.

Likewise, I didn't think any of the comparable homes in our neighborhood were sitting on the market at all (snatched up fast after bank owned). BUT I noticed one for sale the other day. I just looked it up and it is still sitting for sale. Then again the bank is on crack - they are asking $450k after it has sit for 130 days? ???? They've been selling in minutes if priced $350k-$400k.

So I Was surprised to see one sitting. I just hadn't noticed - I think it had been pending sale because I wrote it off as sold way back. & I just noticed the sign again recently.

Likewise, we have an AWESOME neighbor who has apparently moved. We noticed he moved out and I looked up the house out of curiosity to see what he was asking for it; if it were for sale. I didn't see it listed anywhere. I looked a couple of weeks ago when he packed up and left.

I just typed in his address and nothing popped up BUT when I type in our street and "for sale" into google a house on our street, same size, pops up as foreclosed/bank owned. 7 days ago.

The satellite picture of his house (no address). I was just FLOORED.

Asking price $321k - it's the smallest model. These smaller houses have not been selling at all in recent years. Could sit on the market for years, like some of the others. I guess we'll see... I think banks have a pretty short time limit they can own real estate though.

He was the nicest guy you ever met and one of the originals who got in at the ground level.

He paid $245k for the house in 2001. Lord knows where he went wrong from there. I found that to be very sad news. A good guy, but something apparently went very wrong for him.

well, we will really miss having him as a neighbor. He used to be a football player and was just a big teddy bear. I appreciated having almost a personal body guard in the neighborhood. He looked out for us unlike any neighbor we have ever had. & the kind of dude no one would want to mess with. So I always felt very safe knowing he had our back. He was the one who organized the neighborhood watch and instead of calling the police when he saw suspicous people would just go outside and stare them down. Worked pretty well...

He also kept meticulous care of his yard. now it is covered in long grass and weeds. MAkes me sad every time I go outside. Frown

Considering he didn't try to list the house and they are asking $321k, I have to say at face value it looks like another house=ATM story. Yikes!

Likewise, if more of our neighbors face this kind of hot water, it won't bode well for us. So far only the people who bought at the peak (very few) were foreclosed. So it's trickling down. IT will be very apparent who has been living beyond their means, with time. IT could get real ugly from here...

I guess this makes it interesting because it is the first neighbor (in our section of the neighborhood - 1000 homes - maybe 7 sections) - this is the first one to foreclose who bought before the last couple of years. But this will probably be the next wave. People who had affordable houses but borrowed against them a bit too much. !!!! This is just #1 for us...







Spending Money Like Water...

April 20th, 2008 at 08:32 am

No, not really. But feels like it.

I noticed yesterday my deoderant was empty. Dh usually stocks up on sale (as with everything) but they stopped making my particular type and he kept buying the wrong stuff. Which is annoying as all get out for 2 reasons. Firstly because I was happy with it but now it's gone. Secondly, because the things I have dh get now I have to go to the store and get. Gah!

Same with my razors and toothpaste. Which is most of my personal regime. Why does everything have to change? Why do I have to choose from 200 types of Crest Toothpaste, but the kind I have loyally bought for the last 3 decades they suddenly don't make.

So I am VERY frustrated with all the manufacturers.

Anyway, I found a coupon for my preferred brand of deoderant and popped over to Walgreens just a couple of months ago, and all they had of my brand and type was a small container. I contemplated because I had bought another brand for sale, and it costs almost the same for a bigger size. Well as I tried to do the math in my head anyway it seemed like both were the same per ounce. I just used the coupon and took the small - looked like a slightly better deal.

So Wednesday or Thursday I ran out. I have a backup of crappy deoderant (one that dh bought) and I keep one at work. So I figured I would freshen up at work and check out the coupons this weekend.

All that and there are no deoderant coupons in the paper. Figures. LOL.

But I have also been putting off razor shopping. I have been also using the same brand forever and they stopped manufacturing my exact type. Now they have all these fancier more expensive razors that I frankly don't think work a s well. So I will go do some careful razor shopping today. I am peeved. I have coupons for a bunch of fancy varieties, but I don't even care - I am going to look for simple looking razors. That actually work. !!

My toothpaste, we figured they changed the name and kind of figured it out, BUT dh got some the other day and tasted weird. I swore he had gotten the wrong thing, and then I realized it was the usual. They had changed something. Blech. I think he got fresh mint gel and I usually get cool mint, but who can keep it all straight. I can't imagine there would be a difference, but yeah, I noticed it. It tastes really off to me.

& yes, I am a very particular person. So dh is sick of my bitchin' and I have to go do my own shopping now.

Life used to be much simpler. Why has it gotten so complicated?

Anyway, I have been thinking I need to replace my tennis shoes. They seem to be holding up okay, but they are getting tired, and I need really good foot support. The shoes are quite old, and wear my feet a bit on the treadmill. So I think it's time for an upgrade.

So a tennis shoe ad caught my eye. I am quite happy to spend the money on a good pair or work out/walking shoes that I can wear for a few years. BUT I saw some of the nicer shoes on Sale for $20 at Big 5 Sporting Goods. It didn't even occur to me at first that I should peruse the rest of the adds. All the camping gear was 50% - 75% off today, so we may go check it out. I had been dreading that we need sleeping bags and flashlights and stuff, but looks like they had some pretty nice sleepingbags in the $10-$15 range, on sale. Yeah, I am sold. Dh said he had 2 sleeping bags but I just thinking ick and disgusting (he doesn't necessarily take great care of his stuff). So I saw a cute black sleeping bag and I think that is what I will get. Out of my allowance. The kids need some as well. They don't need anything fancy as we aren't doing winter camping or anything.

Of course I also came across some sports sandals which I had never really thought of. I suffer greatly with bad shoes and would never consider walking anywhere without my tennies. But I saw some sports sandals on sale and I may try them out.

Reminds me, last night we went for a long walk in the evening. We actually had a really nice night as my life has revolved around work so much lately, and was nice to just have an afternoon and evening with the kids. We all had a blast. We drug dh on a walk, but it was good for him. At one time I knew how long that walk was but I really haven't a clue. Maybe a mile? Walked half way around the lake to another playground. Kids delight in seeing people walking their dogs, and having a change in pace since we go to the other park almost every day.

I am quite behind on housework. I had considered going to the gym today, but I think I will focus on housework instead. I have no idea how far I'll get. But should be a good workout as well.

Last night I Was craving Japanese buffet (knew that place was BAD) and I told dh and then told him to talk me out of it. I said we had kind of a spendy month and may be a bit irresponsible. Especially since we were also making our date plans for next weekend. (We decided on the movies, and daycare).

Anyway, to talk me out of it I guess he told me dinner was expensive. Good point. We have a 10% off coupon and he actually liked the idea of going for lunch because BM has been eating us out of house and home - clearly a big growth spurt. He said BM would be around $2.50 and he could probably eat 3 adult-sized meals. We decided this is probably a good plan. He has devoured all of the snacks in our house. So it will be an expensive grocery month. LOL. We did the math and decided if we didn't order any drinks that it would only be $20 with coupon, so we decided it wasn't so bad. If BM could fill his bottomless stomach, could be good too.

I feel like in years past we sacrificed much like movies out and eating out. I guess now we are figuring out how to work them back to the budget. I never would have suggested movies for a date night. All I think is $$$$$$$$$$. But dh took the kids to a matinee a few weeks back and it was only like $14 for the 3 of them. I was kind of surprised. So I decided I really would enjoy a movie for date night. Except date night will be date day. But it works.

I guess it helps to make a little more money too, but yeah, it's nice to fit some of this stuff back into the budget. This was all the stuff we dropped when we had kids. With time we have slowly been adding some of it back in. & it's nice to have some of those luxuries back.

Of course our life has totally changed finding this drop-in daycare place. We now experience some measure of freedom we haven't had in a good 5 years. We can now actually go to the movies on a whim and stuff like that. Very nice! & having both the kids in preschool allows us some measure of freedom during the week to enjoy.

I realize the expensive part of kids I never *got* before was everything we do do when we go out is now multiplied by 2 (the cost. As we pay for 4 instead of 2). So having the freedom to do things without the kids, like when they are in school anyway, is quite nice.

But yeah, it's frustrating that all the fun things I did as a single gal now cost 4 times as much. I can't afford the simple thing I enjoyed as a totally broke college student. It's kind of ironic. But I mostly feel like a ditz for not thinking about this before I had kids. You don't realize in the early years because they get to tag along everywhere free. Well, we are taking advantage this year. LM will get into Disneyland free and his entire camping trip (& 4 days of meals) are free. So we are taking advantage. Last hoorah of FREE. Then he turns 3 and free is over. But he is actually old enough to enjoy at this point, so we figured we'd go "free crazy" right before he turns 3. Big Grin

& taking a bottomless pit to a $2.50 buffet? I guess it works out in some regards.



Not Much to Report

April 19th, 2008 at 03:16 pm

I actually went to aerobics class today - it had been ages.

I still feel stressed at work, a bit, so came in today.

We'll see how this week goes. If I had all month to work on this stuff instead of like 10 days, would have been preferable. Wink So just a little busy. Plus I am just so ready for vacation.

An Art Museum had some free toddler art program today. I had put it on the calendar ages ago, wistfully thinking I may be free. Well, maybe next time.

Last weekend was very hectic with the whole wedding thing, so we decided to take it easy this weekend. No plans.

Next weekend I have a hike in mind - if it doesn't get too warm.

I also found a hike along the beach in Santa Cruz. The closest becah to our parent's house anyway. We have never taken the kids over there, but was my favorite spot as a child. I saw some nice/interesting hikes along the beach.

Kind of limited as we keep it easy for the kids. But yeah, I Wanted to go to an Art & Wine Festival there in May. So maybe we will pack up and head over there for the weekend, and spend the day at the beach.

When I was young I would boogie board in that water but I think I Would absolutely DIE if I put my feet in. The temperature is like 60 degrees. Oh, to be young again. Yes, no wet suit. Young and crazy.

Which is fine, because the kids don't need to get into that water. Not the calmest waters.

I also need to do some planning for our So Cal trip. We are spending 2 days at Disney and one day at Lego Land if we feel up to it. We left a free day to relax. We were considering going to the beach or going on a hike. I think it would be divine to go lounge on a warm beach. Thinking San Diego. Oh yes, but also considered breaking up the drive with a hiking stop. I just have to research and see if it makes sense.

I was researching hikes online, the other day and saw this gorgeous valley of poppies (I guess they are in full bloom currently). I had originally thought it was Northern California, and then realized it was somewhere way south. I wonder if the poppies will still be blooming in a few weeks. IT looked amazing. I also know there is some Sequoia Forest somewhere down south. So we have to figure what to do.

After 2-3 days walking around amusement parks I am thinking the beach may be preferable though.

Well, we'll keep our options open!

So yeah, I am busy working hard, and dreaming of all the things I Want to do when things settle down. Big Grin Which luckily should be VERY soon. Once we pass April 30th. Ah, I am going to have to have a celebration!

Oh yes, and if I hit the gym tomorrow, I will really be on a roll.

I was actually surprised how well I fared in class today. I have been trying to walk a bit and it does help. I am never quite as sedentary in the spring/summer months as I get in the winter. So here's to that. I would like to lose a few pounds this summer and get some muscle tone back now that tax season and sick season is over... So yeah, that entails more than a few walks here and there. Trying to get back into it.

I guess I have a roundabout goal to lose a good 8 pounds (or whatever it takes to get back to a size 12. If I lost no weight but toned up, could be close). The goal weight is just where I was before I had LM. BUT I Wasn't fit at all at that time so I am thinking a fit 148 or 146 may be the same as an untoned 142. But for now I am not sure where I will be happy, so 142 is the goal in my head.

I figure I have all summer and it is a possibility.

But weight loss and eating well and all of that is so NOT my strong point. Debt diets are easy. Real diets not so much. I know, and funny how the principles are so much the same. IT's just my own personality. Money = easy. Diet not so much.

BUT if I actually make it, well, the gym has been really great in helping me to maintain in the winter months (& probably in the super hot summer months as well). So it has served its purpose. Money WELL spent. A tax season with no weight gain? Incredible. I think I have lost a couple of pounds actually.

So ideally, in my head, I want to lose baby weight this summer. LM baby weight.

& maybe next summer I will work on BM baby weight. I got 8 pounds from each of them. It's just where my body has settled. So I don't know, my body may be very resistant to weight loss. But we'll see. I'll certainly try.

I have no interest in rapid weight loss though. I like working out, I want to be more fit. We'll see what happens. But I am a big believer if you lose it to fast, it doesn't stick. So 8 pounds over an entire summer? What is that - half pund a week? That I Can strive for.


I Married my Mom

April 18th, 2008 at 07:49 am

I was just perusing the stay home vs. work thread (which was actually quite cordial - imagine that) and I had some insight to share.

I am fiercely independent, so it may actually surprise you to know that my mother was a SAHM. Of course, this is probably why dh and I value having a parent home. We felt very blessed growing up that we both had our moms home with us. Dh's mom worked part-time much of his youth, but my mom has not worked since I was born.

Anyway, so when I read comments that women work because they want to be strong role models for their daughters, I kind of cringe. You don't have to work to be a strong role model for your daughter.

Likewise, since I do tend to be fiercely independent, I thought it might surprised some of you to know I Was raised by a full-time, permanent SAHM. & no I haven't rebelled against that at all. I think it was a good thing. I just know it's not for me.

I have always had far more in common with my dad, and likewise, emulate him much more. Probably why I followed in his footsteps more than my mom's. It just feel more comfortable or *right* to me.

My parents were the types who had me doing chores and cooking at a very young age. Not because they considered me a slave, but because they wanted me to know how to take care of myself. It is very striking the way most people raise their kids these days - the idea that if you give them chores you are just using your kids. Huh? How are they going to learn how to sustain themselves? I will never make apologies for my 5yo or 8yo or 12yo knowing how to take care of themselves.

So my parents have always approached everything as me being able to take care of myself. I have no doubt they would treat me no different, in that regard, if I was male or female. When I turned 16 I learned how to change the oil and the tires on my car. As anyone should really know.

Though my mom never had any desire to work she always made it clear that she was strong because she had a degree. That she could take care of us if she needed to.

These days I look back and wonder how capable she would have been, to take care of us if something had happened. But growing up the message was clear - you have to take care of yourself because no one else will. Just because my dad worked didn't mean my mom completely relied on him.

Anyway, with time as I step back and look at my life I find it funny how much dh has married his mother. I hate to say it since we butt heads so much, but I think much of the reason why is because we are both so alike. I realize it more and more every day.

Of course, dh and I have had our own struggles. It wasn't until we had kids and he stayed home a few years that I start to realize I totally and completely married my mother. LOL. I thought I was s'posed to marry my father. You know, you marry someone like your father. But since I am much more like my father, I guess I married someone much more like my mother.

Anyway, just some insights into my own upbringing.

I find it awfully funny that dh and I have been together a good 13 years, and only now we see how we so totally married our mothers. You don't think about this when you date or marry someone. I guess having kids brings out our parents in us. Wink

But yeah. I just had to share because it's kind of funny.

& well to say, if you are a strong woman, a job doesn't identify you as being strong. It will come across whether you work or not.



Checked My Withholding

April 17th, 2008 at 07:49 am

I double checked my withholding yesterday since I got my bonus.

I think we are claiming 12 allowances, I haven't changed it in a while. (Will probably have to start paring it down as we pay down our mortgage and get our medical costs a little more in control).

Anyway, I owed $1200 for last year - IRS. We did a ROTH conversion, and my attempts to see where I went wrong have failed. I can not find the papers where I figured our estimated taxes. However, I think I just pulled the ROTH numbers out of my head at the time and under-estimated them. Duh. It's all I could figure. As when I did my tax return the ROTHS were more than I remembered.

But yes, we took advantage and converted all our IRAs into ROTHS over the last 2 years, while we were in insanely low tax brackets.

Anyway, so with my bonus (which I rely on for much of my Federal withholding - or likewise, withhold a lot less the rest of the year because of the pesky bonus taxes).

I figured I am withholding $125 Fed every paycheck and the bonus withholding was $500.

It puts my total Federal income tax withholding at $3500 for the entire year.

If we don't have any medical expenses and have a lean charitable giving year, and if we have $1k in interest income, then this is rather breakeven for us. $3500 will be my taxes for the year. & this is a pretty aggressive guess. I am sure we will have plenty of deductions.

I withhold $50 every paycheck for state. Our state tax will be around $1k. So that is pretty breakeven too.

So I am happy where we are at. If we set up a HSA or if we have any medical expenses beyond our certain dental checkups, then our taxes will be slightly lower. But it's all pretty much in the realm of breakeven.

& that makes me pretty pleased that I don't have to rachet down my allowances.

I think that next time I get a big raise I will rachet down my allowances by 1. It's probably due and coming in the next couple of years (that I should up my withholding a tad). We have just been lowering and lowering our withholding the last few years as taxes have been very favorable to us. But I knew some day we'd have to go back in the other direction. Wink I think we have started reach a tipping point, as my wages increase too.

I can't think beyond this year because I wouldn't be surprised if the entire tax code is turned on its head next presidency. We enjoy some pretty insanely low taxes thanks to the Bush tax cuts. But I also know this can't last forever. I just don't take our current situation for granted. I don't expect it to last very long. Nor should it last very long. Though it has been an immeasurable help during our one-income years. I still can't help but feel I will have to pay this back tenfold down the road - all the breaks we have gotten the last few years. One look at the national debt keeps me thinking that.

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

In other news, we got approved for Family Camp on our second choice of dates. So we are going to Yosemite in mid-June. Yay!!! We are going with both of our parents so it should be fun. I paid for my dad to go. The least I could do after he took me to Japan. Wink Well, my mom doesn't do camping so she won't come along. Which is probably for the best, we'll have more fun. Big Grin I love my mom, but she doesn't travel well.

I think we will stay at camp 3 days and enjoy the leisure. But will probably trek into Yosemite proper one day and try out a easy hike for LM. We are staying 3 nights.

We have to figure out how far the drive is. Dh swears he's done it in a day and it's only 2 hours. (No way - I know it's farther). I thought it was more like 5 hours. I am starting to think it is in between. Maybe 3 hours?

I think, well, why don't we go up there more often then? It is something we want to do. It will be good to see how the kids do, and to introduce them to camping. I look forward to not having to cook or pitch a tent though. Everything is provided. Camping for lazy city people. Wink

We even got electricity in our tent which I don't know if it is necessary. I got it more in mind for dh and all his toys. BUT he actually said he wasn't planning on bringing any. Blow me over with a feather. (Thought he'd bring his PSP and DS2, and all that crap - if nothing else - to entertain the kids). So I am pleased that he can put all that aside for out nature trek.

(I just looked it up. 3.5 hour drive. 180 miles. Lots of windy roads so I will go with the 3.5 hour estimate).

Funny how dh and I were both way off - LOL. But it is a pretty manageable drive. Yes, we might just survive without all of our electronics. Wink

I really look forward to showing the kids the night sky in Yosemite. My second career choice would have been astronomer. So I have been excited to go spend a night away from the city lights. Rare treat for me... The most amazing thing about camping for me, is the shooting stars and the chance to glimpse the milky way. The kids will love it!

Sushi Buffet

April 16th, 2008 at 03:16 pm

Boy, am I STUFFED.

Dh and I decided to do lunch date today. With LM pretty much out of diapers (Cash freed up) and the kids in care 2 days a week anyway, dh and I decided to do 2 lunch dates a month. Taking full advantage...

We went to Round table Buffet 2 weeks ago and it was $10 for the 2 of us (maybe $9).

Today we decided to try a new Japanese buffet.

I wasn't expecting much. Sure, I love Japanese food, but I can also be particular.

But anyway, this place was BAD news. It was SO good.

Then again, our bill was only $14 after coupon. (One lunch buffet full price, the 2nd half off).

It really wasn't bad for the insane amount of food.

Buffets, though I admit we don't frequent them much, tend to overcharge the kids, or not charge them at all. I was shocked when a local buffet place didn't charge for BM one time. He can eat as well as any adult. But this place actually had a clear child's menu. 80 cents per year of age. IT actually sounds pretty fair. BM would be almost full price, but LM would only be a couple of dollars. So we decided to take the kids sometime. They would love it.

The place was very big and had inari sushi (which I came to like in Japan, but don't really see much). They also had some chinese food, and just a HUGE selection. Lots of sushi as well. Good sushi.

We had a little hole in the wall JApanese restaurant, growing up, where I learned to love gyozas. But I have to tell you we have never found food on that par ever. So this wasn't quite the same, as it never is. BUT the gyozas and the sauces were pretty close. So I am happy. Dh could eat all the sushi he wanted. I could eat all the inari and gyoza I wanted. So yeah, bad news. It's been a while since we enjoyed eating out so much.

Well, work here is crazy for the next few weeks until my vacation. The 15th is over yes. But I have payroll tax returns, property tax returns, and first quarter financial statements out my ears. I am REALLY looking forward to my vacation - for sure.

Things will calm down in June... We'll be all caught up and have nothing to do but regular quarterly work for a while. Phew.

I really don't have that many people on tax extension. That is the awesome thing. I don't think my entire summer will be filled with catch up work, like last year. But, we'll see. I hesitate to feel relaxed. IT's always bad news. Wink

Well I am certainly not relaxed now. Payroll deadline is the 30th. Personal property returns are due around then too. Not a lot of work, I just have SO MANY. I just have a lot to do before our vacation in May...

Overtime Bonus

April 16th, 2008 at 03:00 pm

2008 $20 challenge:

$ 645.00 - 4/1

$1,500.00 - Overtime
15.00 - Rebate/Cash
------------------
$2,160.00 - Balance 4/16
------------------

Well, I got my "overtime" bonus for the past year. It really wasn't much - I expected more. But that's the thing about bonuses - you take what you can get. Big Grin

Since this last tax season was like 1/10 as stressful as last year, I think I can live. (I am thinking about the 9 months before that though which were hell).

I am adding the entire amount to the mid-term fund, as planned. If I add $15 (my $10 rebate plus $5 of the cash sitting in my checking account) than my mid-term fund will hit $2k even. So that's what I am going for.

Dh was going to deposit my check for me today, and I will transfer the money over to savings tomorrow, first thing.

Earn me some interest!

So, phew. Considering I just paid out about $4k in bills, I am relieved to get some cash inflow this month. I worried I may not get it until May.

I expect $800 from the IRS in June and we are still adding interest to this (around $75/month).

I am thinking of diverting BM's preschool tuition to this fund through the end of the year. We can hit retirement in 2009.

Ideally we would have the following at year-end then:

$12k Emergency Fund
3k Medical Fund
5k Mid-Term Fund
-----
$20k Cash

Enough in the mid-term fund to replace dh's car if something happened, and to do some minor work around the house.

Until then, I am afraid I am still a tad stressed. IT's nice the emergency fund would cover such "forseeable" things. But it's not what I have the efund for. So it isn't very pleasing to me to think I could always tap my efund and then have to just build it back up. Then it's just a neverending treadmill.

$20k is some magic number to me. Before kids we always had a decent amount of cash to fall back on. At least $20k. It's a psychological thing... We moved backwards a few years, then forward. It will feel good to make progress from where we were at age 25. We're still not quite there. In limbo land with this whole kid/one-income thing. But it's so close I can taste it - forward momentum - true forward momentum...

Well, on 1/1 my mid-term fund was a big fat -0-. So $2k is sounding pretty sweet about now. I must admit. Just a long ways to go...













Me, Disciplined?

April 14th, 2008 at 01:22 pm

I was just thinking in terms of the discussion the other day about all the choices/temptations in the city.

I must seem ultra disciplined to not be all tempted by everything out there.

The truth is that, sure, I am disciplined to a large extent. But anyone who thinks I am "perfect" all of the time? LOL.

I just had to share because I went shopping at Target yesterday and spent about $120.

I walked in with a few things in mind and walked out with 10 times as many things.

Of course, this is about how ALL my shopping trips go.

The thing is, I just don't shop much. When I do, I know how much I can spend. (I don't sepnd more than I have cash to spend anyway) & a lot of the times I even buy more knowing I will return much later. Just too hard to decide them. Buy now; return later.

But all that and I Still get sucked in by PLENTY of crap that I don't need.

So yeah, it was actually a pretty typical shopping trip for me.

IT started with the Dollar Aisle. I spent $3 on stuff I didn't need because "it was only $1." That dang dollar aisle ALWAYS gets me. Though it is great for frugal gifts and stuff. & small pleasures I guess.

I also spent $8 on 2 monkey plates and 2 monkey cups. Okay, I Can NOT resist the monkeys!!!!

I put down the chili pepper serving plate (but it was so cheap and cute!!!!!) and some wodden bird that would be so cute in my bathroom. My head is like, "what the hell are you doing? Why do you need a bird for the bathroom? Doesn't even go with anything." I think that one was disturbing to me because I was like - "I have to have this." & I can't really explain why.

So I put it down and talked myself out of it.

I didn't even look at all the monkey stuff. But I couldn't resist at $2/pop. I averted my eyes before I spent $20+ on monkeys. I Seriously just did not look at it all. The plates/cups were a nice treat; plenty monkey for me.

I had gone in to get some water shoes, and to be fair my kids have square feet and are impossible to shop for. So spent around $35 on 2 pairs of good quality shoes that actually fit them. Will be good for camping (how I justified). Not the kind of thing worth shopping 20 stores for, nor could I buy sight unseen online. I think in a few years flip flops will be dandy, BUT they tend to run and fall much. They need something more sturdier for now.

So that was the bulk of it.

Then I got a new wardrobe for BM. Which meant a couple of pairs of sandals and some new t-shirts. He's only grown UP so his shorts from last summer all fit still. Phew.

I used to only shop thrift for him. But I don't even bother any more, with Target now down the street. The convenince factor can not be beat. I can usually buy new clothes at thrift prices there. YEsterday I made out with a couple of shirts for $1.99/each. I don't find Target quality stellar (I wouldn't buy clothes for myself there. I have in the past and decided I prefer clothes that last more than a season, before falling apart). But as rough as the kids are on clothes, works for them. Enough quality for them to both wear and then to pass on to their cousin. So I don't really bother with the thrift thing anymore. Target always has a slew of new clothes at $4/pop. YEsterday I actually avoided the cheapie aisle and went for the higher quality stuff on clearance. MAde out better than I thought I would (I Was surprised when those couple of items rang up under $2).

I love warm weather seasons though because the sandals are more forgiving on their wide feet. I usually spend a lot more money on wide shoes for them when it comes to fall/winter. But they can do okay with regular sandals. My feet are much the same way. If the shoes have give I am fine. All my work shoes are wide size though.

I perused napkins while we were there and was not happy. I didn't like the quality and looked longlingly at the wash clothes and dish towels. I think what I really want is cheap dish towels. I don't like the material they use in cloth napkins.

I mentioned this to dh that maybe I would just buy some dish towels, or wash clothes, for napkin purposes in the kitchen. He reminded me how he had already said we should buy some dish towels and cut them up into more napkin sizes. I had written it off before, but he is right. Probably what we will do.

I think it will be cheaper too. But nicer. They aren't for show. I want something I Can actually wipe my hands with - something more absorbent.

I also did remember to check the home improvement aisle and scored big. 5-paintbrush set for $2.99. Perfect for the kids' water play.

It was HOT yesterday so the kids tried on their new shoes and ran in the sprinklers and painted the sidewalk with water. They had a BLAST. I admit, it was so hot I ran with them for a bit. It was REALLY refreshing.

Dh wasn't feeling so hot and so I picked up a take and bake pizza on the way home too. I scored sliced sourdough bread with cheese/garlic crust. Divine!!! Expensive, but divine. I had asked dh to pick me up the sliced sourdough a while back and he hadn't know what I Was talking about. HE brought home a big thing of unsliced sourdough, which was quite yummy, but not quite the same. So I showed him the packaging and said, "you ever see this on sale?? Buy in bulk!" LOL. Now he knows. IT was almost $5 full price, so yeah. A little luxury...

The pizza would have been $5 if we planned ahead - we usually buy it on sale Fridays - for when we have people over and such. But the $8 pizza was still a good deal.

So it was kind of a simple day. But I had fun shopping, and eating my expensive bread too. Yummy!!!

But yeah, the hot weather made it very apparent that BM needed some new clothes. NEeded some summery shoes and some t-shirts that didn't look a size or 2 too small. I actually did fairly well with him, since he didn't need much. Kids are both in same boat. BM was wearing cloth diapers last year - bulky. So though he did grow much, most of his shorts/pants from last year still fit now that he no longer wears bulky diapers.

I went through and pulled out their clothes that didn't fit, and all the winter stuff I knew wouldn't fit next year. Felt good to purge.

One good thing I did do was resist the urge to buy clothe for LM. He doesn't need any and regardless how you feel about hand-me-downs he gets no short end of the stick. Dh's family is notorious for buying clothes too small. So BM has lots of new-with tage/never work hand-me-downs. He's got plenty. (Plus I have to say I grew up with hand-me-downs and LOVED them. They were new to me. LM feels much the same way. HE LOVES it when I pull out BM's old clothes. The ones I sometimes think are really tired are worn are ALWAYS his favorites. Funny how that goes).

BUT I think since BM has moved up to the Boy section that I didn't see any clothes in LM's size and so wasn't tempted. I wasn't even sure of his size anyway - was the other thing. LOL. I usually get more tempted to buy them a couple of matching outfits. So yeah, made out good that way. No unecessary clothing purchases. Phew... Well this may last a year or 2 until LM joins BM in the boys' section. It was lighter on my pocketbook!

Summer's Here...

April 13th, 2008 at 08:06 am

UGH!!!!

It was just about 90 degrees yesterday.

I am bare foot and wearing a light shirt. It's around 73 in the house. Just feels weird. Early April? Summer weather? We get this in May. But early April, kind of weird.

I mailed off my check to the IRS yesterday. Say la vive.

Yesterday was actually a relaxing day. I went in to work a couple of hours and then came home to watch the kids. Dad's cousin is getting married; dh is doing their wedding video. Pro bono work I guess. They don't have any money (both on disability right now - and sweetest people you ever met). He has been trying to strike a delicate balance there as he doesn't want to do a full blown professional video (retails more like $2k-$3k) as it is a lot of work. But he was willing to do a one-camera shoot and do some nice things for them for free. I mean he's not going to charge for materials or anything. But yeah I guess talking to the bride she wanted all this stuff that he is delicately trying to tell her does not come with the free shoot. (If nothing else, he's not editing down 2 camera angles and no one to hold the second camera for free - no one who knows what they are doing anyway. But I think the editing is the part he just isn't going to do). Plus he's been sick and he spent a good 10 hours there yesterday. Ugh. In the 90 degree heat - yes. Guy deserves a medal. But of course, who could have predicted this weather???

My mom couldn't take the heat and visited with us much of the day. Actually she was s'posed to watch the kids so I could work. But then she didn't want our germs. But then it was hotter than Hades and she came over anyway. so made for a nice relaxing day. I Was worried we'd have to turn on the A/C for her comfort, but the ceiling fan was fine for most of the day.

I am going to go into work for a bit today, but more to get a head start on April 30th deadlines, and make up for my missed sick day(s). Not that I Feel any real immediate pressure. Busy, yes, The rest of the month will FLY. Not particularly stressed. Phew...

I am thinking ahead to May and how quickly our Disney vacation is approaching. Woohoo.

We also have our 4 days/3 nights almost squared away for Yosemite - maybe late June.

I am dividing one week of vacation between that and Thanksgiving week.

So leaves me one more week of vacation for the year. I am kind of pondering. Considering divvying it up 3 hours a week for 13 weeks of summer. Cutting out early fridays. It's rather tempting...

Then again, we had talked about going to North Carolina to visit my sister. I would take a long weekend to do so, but may need a couple of days.

A few 3-day weekend is always nice too.

Likewise, I have toyed with the idea of taking a week of in late summer just to laze around the house.

I think my most fondest memories of recent years is my second maternity leave. Was dh and I both home with the kids a good 5 months or so. Very special times. Sure we were busy with the baby, yes. But it was a really nice time. You know the first time I was miserable while pregnant and we had no idea what we were doing, and the return to work was way too soon. But BM was so lucky that second time. He had just turned 2 and he got all that special time with us. It was a much more calm & relaxed affair, and I had an extra 12 weeks off that time (California's paid family leave). Which was really just more bonding time, but very precious.

So yeah, a week sounds QUITE paltry in comparison. But a week to laze around the house sounds rather nice.

On the flip side I can see us taking it much easier next year. Maybe a week for camping and 2 weeks to laze around the house. Well, perhaps...

Those kind of lazy vacations home are hard to plan. Our parents want to take us so many places. Which is very appreciated, but leaves me longing for some quiet down time. 3 weeks vacation is nice, but not enough I guess. This is only my second year of 3-weeks of vacation, but it barely feels like enough. Funny enough.

Well, this year is an improvement. Our Disney vacation will be rather relaxed. & camping sounds pretty nice too. More our style.

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

Anyway, in other news, my FICO score is BAD. Actually I don't really have a pulse if it is bad or good, but I just saw it dropped from around 760 to 700. Egads! (IT dropped to 685 briefly with my ID theft. So this is pretty bad to me).

Anyway, my credit monitoring service has not reported any activity. WAMU send me my score for free so how I saw.

I tried to order my Transunion report to see for myself what was going on. BUT with my ID theft I can't see that one online (Gah!). So I will have to order it by mail. I will. Just annoyed I can't see it now. They're trying to help, but the problem is time is of the essence when it comes to ID theft. !!

I took out a large balance transfer in December and was rather surprised it had little affect on my score. I know my utilization ratio is bad.

I also applied for a refi in late January.

In late February my score was fine. Apparently last month it dropped like a rock. I have to figure it is the Balance Transfer. Or maybe that coupled with the hard credit pull. But certainly there is a lag there, if that is the case. Which is all I could figure. No inquiries or new credit - that's what my triple monitoring says.

But I will check directly with TU to be sure. Huge red flag.

I would say no biggie (particularly after I check my report with that particular Bureau) BUT then I remember we are trying to refi.

!!

700 probably isn't horrid. But I am tempted to just pay back my balance transfer that was due in June anyway. We are trying to save $100-$200/month on our mortgage. Screw the balance transfer.

Then again, if this does ruin our refi possibilities, well, oh well. It is what it is. Our mortgage rate is not bad.

But yeah, I don't think I mentioned, my credit union is suddenly courting me. They wouldn't let me sit on the sidelines and wait for a rate so I went elsewhere. They told me my application would expire in 30 days. 60 days later they called me about trying to lock me in. "Interesting," I thought. Seems they changed their tune.

Someone called me and offered a 0.25% discount rate if I acted by April 15th.

I can't say I took the deadline very seriously, at this point.

Rates have been hovering to the point where we could get 5.5%. For quite a few days. It is only worth it to refi for 5.25% or less. So close, but not there. Only 2 days before my deadline... I wouldn't be surprised if they offered the same deal again though.

So yeah, I don't know. Meanwhile, my CU has called me 100 times and my other broker I haven't heard hide nor hare from. Of course, my CU keeps trying to sell me rates higher than I already have. LOL. But they just seem very desperate all of a sudden. I really wouldn't mind going with them though. So I am rather pleased with the turn of events. & I respect that since rates aren't where we need to be to jump that the other guy hasn't bothered us.

I wouldn't be surprised if we don't refi either. But rates have been so incredibly volatile, you literally have hours to lock in the good rates when they appear. So if they appear again, even for a short while, we're all ready to grab them.

I hope my score doesn't screw it up. Wink

For the long run, my old balance transfer is due in July; we will pay it in June. I think that will help my score considerably, and in the grand scheme of things I can survive with a 700 score in the meantime.

But these are all the gory details...

My gut tells me it's my bad utilization ratio, and there is a lag. But this stuff makes me extremely nervous. You can hardly be too vigilant.

Less Planning; More Expenses

April 11th, 2008 at 11:09 pm

Well I have been rather absent online because dh got the bug. I mean I wrote a lengthy post this morning, yes. But then it's almost 11pm and only other time I have had online all day. Blasphame! So I feel rather one sided today. OR lately. A wee bit busy at work?

In some news, we booked our camping trip for June. Yay! I guess more about that later.

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

I just had to say I have been anti-frugal these last few days, in light of not being prepared for sick hubby. But my frugal tendencies still show.

Dh was sick Thursday (luckily was fine until later afternoon since it is worst daycare day. He was also s'posed to go to a wedding rehearsal but didn't make it - for video. It's a non paying job - relative. So oh well. I think he'll be okay for the wedding - lucky for them).

Anyway, so I came home and the weather was nice. Decided to take the kids out to BK for dinner. Like I had thought about dinner... Bummer as the play structure was closed. A neighbor had told us about a new park so we drove by on the way home to check it out. BUT it was amid a few model homes and rather deserted. I told the kids I didn't think it was a safe place to play. I just didn't feel comfortable there since it was rather in the middle of nowhere.

Anyway, we went to the park down the street but it was rather deserted there as well. Just strange for such a nice day. We didn't stay long. So much for letting the kids run around...

Oh yeah - and the kids had meals while I had a $1 meal. All in all, didn't cost much.

This morning dh was really not feeling well and preschool had no spots (weird for a Friday). So much for that plan.

We picked out the longest movie in DVD format (too bad Ratatouille is on Blu-Ray since it is the longest kid movie I have ever seen - LOL. First one that popped into mind). So yeah, this morning I fed the kids, and dressed them, and put on a long movie, and went off to work. Dh and I debated if 2 short movies would be better. But they were pretty much bouncing off the walls otherwise and about to kill each other. I mused that I could at least work from home later and let them run around the backyard like banshees if they preferred.

At this point I am exhausted. I have NO IDEA how single moms do it. I now realize why everyone tells me my kids give me so much exercise and why I must be so "skinny." LOL. Usually dh does all the hard work.

As I rush off to work super late I notice dh's car has no gas because he has been too sick to go anywhere. More bad planning. I do remember the gas station by my work which mysteriously closed, was open again a few days ago. Phew. I just rode it out - lord knows how long the gas light had been on. Dh usually refills way earlier.

MAde it only to find $3.89 gas. Egads!

The frugal side of me only got 3 gallons. I think 3.5 as I thought about the wedding Saturday - I figured dh could fill up on the way home.

Of course on the way home I spotted $3.69 at the Safeway gas and we may even have a 10 cent off per gallon coupon. I tell you those grocery wars are awesome, and we have been enjoying. But usually takes great care and planning to hit the biggest discounts.

I left work kind of bored around noon and came home and fed the kids and took them to the drop-in childcare chain place. They might as well have been going to Disneyland they were SO excited. I questioned this wisdom of my decision since I figured the morning would be crowded and dh would feel better. BUT then again it was nap time and I was dragging them somewhere with a LOT of activity. Too late to turn back.

I dropped them off and worried much about them all the way to work. Sure they LOVE the place and that is what is important on a big level. But yeah, usually my kids are with dh or at preschool which is like our second family. Plus preschool has a 4 to 1 ratio; not 12 to 1. Okay for date night; not so sure good for 5 hours. So yeah, I worried a bit more than I ever would about them. Likewise, I worried much more about LM who seemed to get knocked around a bit by the older kids. Then again, he is VERY used to it. He told me the worst part of the day was when I came to pick him up. So yeah, they had fun.

The frugie in me had a coupon so it cost me $40 instead of $50 for almost 5 hours of care. Pretty sweet. Preschool would have been $50 for a half day.

The kids were SO exhausted when I picked them up and this erupted into fights of "NO - I am NOT TIRED" whenever the idea was mentioned the rest of the night. But we did put them to bed a good hour early. I guess it was okay. Tired = banshees so it was a trying evening though. LOL.

I came home and made the kids pasta and hot dogs. No planning, but the pantry and freezer had plenty of crap to whip up. You probably get the idea that I can't cook worth crap, but the truth is I only cook when it's last minute and unexpected. LOL. Plus dh is SO into the healthy rounded meals, and I generally am not, that I enjoy giving the kids a treat once in a while. Can't be perfect all the time. Sometimes you just got to let your hair down and eat some food that is not so good for you. Wink But yeah I can cook and I enjoy doing it once in a while. But what you see is not my best work. Wink

At least dh helped put the kids to bed. I think last night too. He's a lot better - he has the same 24 hour thing so I have no doubt he'll be fine tomorrow.

Oh yeah, but I forgot the part where I went back to work around 1:00 and there was a pile a mile high of last minute tax returns. Huh? I was only gone an hour. Most of it wasn't a big deal - people who I knew didn't owe and I put on extension ages ago, just knowing them. I just found it funny that they all showed up the 1 hour I left to take care of the kids.

Boss asked me to look over something today (well he asked me days ago but I was waiting for someone else to finish). I wasn't optimistic but I worked on my parent's tax return while I waited. PHEW! I had wanted to get it out last week, but then we had all been sick.

Anyway, she got it to me right about 6 when I HAD to get the kids; could not leave them more than 5 hours. So all that and as soon as the kids went to sleep I worked for a couple of hours.

Blech.

What a day.

Of course as I sit and type I hear a kid coughing quite a lot in the other room. Oy vey. Sounds like some major germies.

I felt pretty crappy today anyway but I have fingered it as allergies. I think they arrived. Bummer...

Anyway, yeah, next month is a short month for preschool so we had an extra $70 to spend on daycare. So that wasn't really a big deal today. I mean, yeah, I had maybe looked forward to applying that to our camping trip or putting it into an IRA or something. I should know never even to think that. That dang Murphy!


Big Bad Taxes

April 11th, 2008 at 08:29 am

Well, I have made clear that our taxes have been pretty low since we have had kids. Of course, I ran across an old post on the forums when I was searching for some old forgotten topic where someone had assumed I was playing a game with the IRS. I had just never seen that reply before, and it was quite ancient to reply too...

I have to say, no games. Which I have said before. But I Wanted to clarify. I am a W-2 employee. I withhold plenty. On average I owe $0 and get a refund of $0 for tax day. I usually run pretty breakeven. (Owe a few hundred fed, get a few hundred back from state. How it usually goes).

So yes I wanted to illustrate again how living on one income we get to keep a big chunk of our paycheck. & why a second income doesn't always sound terribly lucrative.

Of course, this whole topic reminds me there should be much more tax education in schools. MUCH more. I think people could make much more informed financial decisions if they understood the tax ramifications.

Why am I the only one figuring out that it is not worth 2 incomes and $100k income because the people I know pulling this take homes less money than us at the end of the day? $20k/year daycare? An extra $10k in taxes? Plus all the working expenses. I know a lot of people who make a lot more money than us but have a much more pinched cash flow due to just the basics of working like taxes, daycare, and fuel for commuting. Doesn't even get into the convenience factor (for example, how much money we save with a spouse to cook every day and take care of much of the household, etc). & I AM talking about miserable people who endlessly complain about how they "have to" work. (Not the people who are happy to work; that's another story). I try to educate them and I have helped some. But the rest I think, well, they just think I am crazy. Big Grin

On the flip side, I look forward to my spouse working some day and maybe maxing out a couple of 401ks. That would make sense. We could put $30k more every year into retirement and pay little more than payroll taxes. So I know taxes will factor heavily into our future working decisions.

But yeah, but why do few people take all this into consideration? BEcause they just don't understand it. & who could blame them for not understanding it? The tax code is insane. But a basic education would help...

Likewise, I saw a comment the other day about average taxable income and tax brackets, and I thought to myself, "what does that have to do with anything?" I really find LITTLE relation between actual income and taxable income. There are a lot of deductions and all that out there. Which I guess my tax return will show. We are in an awfully low tax bracket. I wouldn't consider our income low in the least.

Reminds me, I still have to formulate a post on the taxing of retirees. They don't have any deductions. They don't get much in the way of tax breaks. So their taxable income will often be much higher for much less income than their working counterparts. But I do have to get to that post one of these days. I think the tax code has shifted so much with time, that the idea of lower taxes in retirement was probably once true, but is now greatly a phallacy. I have had more insight into why this year than in past years (but I see it clearly with my highly taxed retiree clients. Another post for another day).

Anyway, I have to say this year is probably our highest tax year since having kids. I did have a ROTH conversion I pulled it out of my tax return for this illustration. Because it just really skewed things. So forgetting that, this is what we had:

$75,000 Gross Wages
-23,000 Itemized Deductions***
-14,000 Exemptions (4)
--------
38,000 Taxable Income
x Tax Rate 10%/15%
--------
5,000 Tax
(2,000) Child Tax Credit (2)
--------
3,000 Net Tax
--------

***Itemized Deductions:
$ 3,000 Medical (mostly insurance)
6,000 State Taxes (mostly property tax)
13,000 Mortgage Interest
1,000 Charity
--------
$23,000 Total Itemized
--------

3,000 Net Tax/ 75,000 Income = 4% effective tax rate.

Thus, I only have to withhold 4% of my income to break even.

For state I withhold 2%.

Payroll taxes? withhold 8.5% (includes California taxes).

So 14.5% of my income is withheld for various taxes. More payroll taxes than anything else.

I have been saying for a while I get to keep 90% of my paycheck. But it looks like our income is inching up a bit and we are paying more. So I guess I should revise that to 85%. But I still don't find 85% half bad. Wink

So I take home almost $65k/year. How much do you have to gross to take home that much? (I often see people say they have to gross low six figures to take home $65k. I think, egads!).

Likewise, we don't have any taxed investing income or stuff like that (well not much anyway) because we primarily invest in IRAs and other tax-deferred investments.

Anyway, yeah, the kids are 5 & 3 this year and this is our worst tax year since having them. We had a couple of $0 income tax years (one year the government paid us - refundable child tax credit when we had our second child). Having a much lower income at the time, taking significant maternity leave, and having non-taxable income sources like unemployment and disability, have made a large difference. We took the retirement tax credit those 2 years as well.

Likewise, when it does come to a second income some day, some things we keep in mind to keep our taxes on the low side are contributing heavily to 401ks, as mentioned. A second income is also when things like HSAs and 529s will suddenly become VERY valuable to us. Whatever we can shelter from taxes... But yes, all VERY on the up and up. As you see there is no elaborate tax strategies here. Wink

But yeah, hell if I am going to withhold more taxes than I need to. Some people seem scared by all that withholding stuff as well. But again, a little more education would go a long way in that regard.

I guess what I should do it pull out our 2001/2002 tax returns and see how much we were paying. Probably a hell of a lot more, before kids. I am sure...







$10 rebate

April 9th, 2008 at 08:27 am

Dh bought a blu-ray disk with a $10 rebate.

I applied for the rebate a couple of weeks ago and it already arrived. (Disney?). Kudos to Disney - fastest rebate I ever got. You know, we constantly apply for rebates and have never had problems (knock on wood). But 6-10 weeks is usually the wait...

Anyway, my mid-term savings balance is $485. I considered transferring the $10 over to the mid-term savings, plus $5, for an even $500.

Heck I'd put that $10 to my IRA if I could. Too small to deposit... Though I guess I could add it to my next auto transfer, but that's just a pain.

Anyway, I also realized I was coming out ahead with this. Dh buys all his blu-ray movies out of his allowance. But I am sure I counted the whole cost. The rebate is a bonus. Gets him to spend less though he justified it only with the great rebate. Well, I just realized this anyway. But I am not adding it back to his allowance. It's gravy.

The only other thing is I am running a $75 or so surplus in the checking account. We'll see how April goes. We don't pay cash for much, but want to get the carpets cleaned. For all the rooms I estimate $75. I think I will deposit this $10 and leave it there until we get the carpets cleaned. Maybe this will kick my butt. I have been thinking about it for a while and pulled out the business card for the wonderful guy we hired in 2006. BUT I haven't called yet...

So yeah - might need it for the carpet cleaning. We'll see. If not, maybe to savings... Want to wait and see how much the carpets cost first.

We don't wear shoes in the house and generally haven't found much need for carpet cleaning. (Plus though our house is large not all the rooms are utilized all the time). BUT the family room is completely thrashed. Would have preferred to wait unil LM is fully potty trained. But it's kind of embarrasing. A couple of hallways could use it. Plus the upstairs bathroom (don't ask me whose bright idea it was to carpet the sink area? Ugh), upstairs hallway (old potty accidents) and the kids' rooms. Dh's idea. Not sure the kids' rooms really need it, but whatever. All that and might as well go over our room to.

We paid $40 before for most of the downstairs. I remember I paid the guy $50 because I thought it was terribly cheap for all he did. So I don't expect it to be much more to add 2 rooms, but we'll see.

It's sposedly likie eco friendly stuff too, but lord if I really buy that. But we haven't cleaned the carpet much with small kids, because of the chemical concerns.

Well if we do get them cleaned, next week I would hope, I think we will institute a no drink rule in the downstairs living areas. Most of the carpet stains are juice from LM's sippy cups. HEck, we should probably outlaw sippy cups. He'll be 3 soon.

I realize when he's potty trained we may need to re-shampoo the carpet. But that's okay. I just don't think it could wait (which means, yeah it's bad. Cleanliness is not usually a main concern of mine).

My parents are the type who would do their own carpets. Spend an entire Saturday shampooing the carpet. Ugh. I didn't get all the frugal genes. I'll go work 1-3 hours on a Saturday to pay the carpet guy. Much preferred. Just how I roll. Big Grin I value my time and appreciate having the wage to afford it.

Hoarding and Nice Treats...

April 8th, 2008 at 05:23 pm

Oh yeah, I went off on my sick rant and forgot what I was going to post. Doh.

I was watching Oprah like a couple of weeks back. IT was a repeat but O.M.G.!!

It was about a couple who had pretty much filled every room in their 3000 square foot house from top to bottom with STUFF. IT was the most insane thing I had ever seen. So they helped this family clean up their house. IT was just mind boggling. & you know, talked about the psychological reasons and how to change, etc, etc.

http://www2.oprah.com/foodhome/home/repair/slide/20071115/re...

So yeah, I found a link.

Anyway, I keep thinking everything is relative, and here is a perfect example. Suddenly my house is looking pretty empty and airy. Big Grin I mean, I just have been concerned about not bringing in more than we ship out. But yeah, we really don't have that much stuff. Looking at this house I can REALLY appreciate the simplicity we have in our own home. Most of our rooms just have a couple of big pieces of furniture, and our closets are not near utilized to capacity. We keep the garage clear for our cars. & that sounds quite simplistic in comparison.

(Oh yeah - their 3 or 4 car garage was also filled to the brim).

We probably have more space than we need but that never has given us license to fill it up. We bought this house with kids in mind and 2 rooms sat empty for years. We filled the extra living space with hand-me-downs. I wasn't going to go spend thousands on furniture just because we had twice the space very suddenly. We knew we would grow into it. That was the point. Just much more simpler and economical than moving up later. For us, in our stuation anyway.

Anyway, we aren't the neatest and sometimes things stack up on our 2 dining tables.

But yeah, I don't see that bothering me ever again. IT's about where all the junk piles. & it really looks quite like nothing to me now. After seeing that.

I do admit I have a pile of boxes under our piano - was thinking for ebay and stuff - but Craigslist has been better for most of the stuff we have been selling. I guess we should go through our boxes - recycle most of them. Wonder if that is a fire hazard. SHould we not store piles of cardboard boxes under/around our most expensive posession? PRobably not. It's the only other clutter that comes to mind.

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

Anyway, work has been quite nice. Some payroll company dropped us all of a nice box of treats. & then an investment brokerage is treating us to lunch on Monday. How nice!

Hehe, something like a treat so we don't have to go out to lunch or something. On the 14th. Lord knows if we are knee deep in deadlines lunch won't be on our minds. (Or a quick bite at the desk will do). But yeah, I don't expect Monday to be that hectic, and pizza will certainly be nice. Free lunch always is! I feel absolutely spoiled. (YEah food is definitely the way to MY heart! So I am definitely enjoying.)







Update

April 8th, 2008 at 02:43 pm

Well in my last couple of posts I explained much of our current goals and all that, and how we are going about things. But the nice thing is it has mostly settled into the background. I guess one reason I have been less bloggy. But I think the whole "money settling into the background" thing is good. Historically that is how we do things. Don't see the point in obsessing over it.

But I guess I could blog more about the little daily things that we do frugally, etc.

Anyway, you may also think I have been MIA because that pesky 4/15 deadline is looming overhead.

Truthfully, I haven't been at work in 3 days. We have been SICK. Ugh. I know, poor BM. HE got the stomach bug that has been going around. I got it Sunday night. We had actually had a LOT of plans over the weekend; all ruined.

But lucky for us it was just a 24 hour thing.

Yes, BM has had everything under the sun this year but unlike past years, he bounces back SO FAST. IT has had little in the way of intereference with his days at school and the like. That is the part that is different.

Meanwhile, all weekend, all I could think was, I give up. I don't know how much more I can take of this. Does it get any better? BEtween the 4 of us someone ALWAYS seems to be sick. Whenever we make plans they are sure to be ruined by sickness. I think that is the only thing I miss about childless life right now. Being able to plan for fun things. & not being sick ALL the time. Gah.

BM started preschool about 2 years ago and the first year he was pretty sick. They told me it was the first year; first year is the worst. They were right. But I thought things would be much better now. They are in a sense. On the other hand, LM has not had anything this year. He never gets sick. But he always has the perpetual runny nose and congestion. HE seems more sickly as a whole. But he doesn't get any of the crap BM gets. Dh is usually never sick and now he gets everything (I hear because he is home and closer to the germs). & then yeah, I actually experienced a year or 2 of relative immunity, but now it's getting me.

& then BM gets everything under the sun, but he won't sit still while he is sick, and he bounces back within the day. Even his last bout of croupe, where we rushed him to emergency. He was like good as new the next day. Nothing gets him down. That's a relief for me I guess. It's hard when your babies are sick. I guess him immune system has great strength after all that.

They say if you get all this out pre-k, it gets easier when they go to school. I Can only hope they have that advantage when they hit public school. That they aren't out sick every other week... I am skeptical lately if it will make much difference. I Don't even know where they pick up half of what they pick up. The only go to school 2 days a week and half the time none of the kids there have what they get. So, huh? Playground? Grocery carts? Where do they get all these germs? I roll my eyes at the moms with their anti-bacterial wipes (the ones that go crazy with them). But maybe I should take note. Maybe I Should get anti-bacterial crazy.

So anyway, yeah, life with sick kids. I am over it...

Work... Work isn't so bad though. Dh is video taping a wedding for a relative Saturday so I don't even know if I will work this weekend. We'll see... A short bit Saturday though, but watching the kids most of the day. I guess if I have to I will work Sunday. Just not sure if it will be necessary. I don't like procrastinating and I do not like doing things last minute. All my clients are done or on extension. My boss and manager aren't so lucky (just too mcuh workload) so I am helping them out. But beyond that, not feeling too much stress.

But April 30th is a big deadline for our regular work, so I will probably have plenty of opportunity to earn some overtime through April. Still working Saturdays probably. No party here until May 1 anyway. BUT I Can not believe it is already April 8th. That tax season just FLEW by. Wow! I look forward to putting aside the frantic once-a-year work and working on the more calm, regular stuff. At least it won't be so stressful after the 15th. It's all just easier stuff. So I do look forward to that!





Savings Buckets, Part 2

April 5th, 2008 at 09:53 am

Well, in my last post, I shared how I keep track of all of my savings buckets, in excel. But I ran out of time to post visuals.

So, here is my running total for my Short-Term savings account. Kind of sad, but it generally has a decent balance most of the year and we drain it in April and December. It's not just property tax time, but when all our bills seem to come due.

& I didn't expect the IRS bill at all, which really puts me in the red for April.

& to clarify, I am adding $450 every paycheck, for now. But upping that to $500 come summer.



Likewise, I add up all the funds as such. I just came up with this spreadsheet though, to reconcile to my actual cash balances. Wouldn't you know it, I was only $2 off. So not bad (better than I expected). I will probably try this method going forward.

I figured it is probably not terribly prudent to share all the balances I have at each of my financial institutions (down to the penny). So I blacked out all the names. I have 2 online savings accounts, a local savings account, and a CD with that same bank (the famed 5.7% CD I have through the end of the year).

Likewise, I have 2 balance transfers I am still earning interest off of.



Of course, since most of that is in a CD, and I don't have a lot of liquid cash, the 7% CD offer from Patelco CU is rather tempting, but hard to justify for now. I probably have more that I would like tied up in my CD as is. I guess 5.7% isn't half bad though.

On the flip side, my overtime bonus is due soon. I think $5k is about my comfort level. The bare minimum I prefer to have in liquid cash at all times. But I expect to be there within the end of the month, with my bonus.

OF course, how lucky is it that the one year I have a 4-figure IRS bill is the one year the IRS wants to send me $1800. I call that lucky. Big Grin I would have much preferred to plump up my other savings, etc. But yeah, it saves my bacon.

Finally, I keep my emergency fund spread out in a few different places. So keeping track of that as well:



My goal is to let the interest in my ROTH cash account (ROTH EFUND) accrue to $7k cash. Then it will be easy to keep $5k cash for the rest of my efund.

Likewise, once my ROTH cash hits $7k, I will divert the interest on it to my retirement "bucket." Will invest it.

I have $1350 of my efund in my checking account to pay bills earlier (less running to the bank on payday). But down the road I will probably use my mid-term fund for that. It's not a great place for an efund, though I am not particularly concerned about it either. I have no desire to drain my efund, no matter where it is.

Savings Buckets

April 4th, 2008 at 08:10 am

I just wanted to discuss my method of saving for different things (different buckets).

I don't think I have the easiest or the best method. But just wanted to share for anyone curious. & to clarify for any blog readers.

Of course, I try to keep a minimal amount of accounts/savings goals. It would drive me nuts to save for like 10 little things. I don't see the point of being so exact. (Much of my philosophy comes from being an accountant. Simpler is good, and being exact is often a waste of time. As long as I am close!). Likewise, I track everything in excel and I probably find it quite simple in an accountant kind of way. I am sure this may be a bit complex for non-accountants. But to me, it just makes sense.

I guess the first thing I have done is defined my savings buckets. Instead of cars, vacations, insurance, and specific things, I divide my savings buckets as follows:

*Short-Term Savings
*Mid-Term Savings
*Long-Term Savings
*Retirement
*Medical Savings
*Emergency Fund

Short-Term Savings

I started this fund last year and added up all of my insurances and property taxes, and divided by 12. I actually came up with a whopping $800/month (rounded up a bit) and found after a full year that it was quite sufficient. I pulled money out for some smaller things throughout the year.

So this year I am adding $1k/month to this fund. It's a work in progress, but I feel like I am about there (with getting this figured out). I am tending to pay all one-time bills, no matter how big or small, out of this account. This year I added subscriptions and auto registartion, etc. Just little stuff like that - I had plenty of room in the $800/month. The additional $200/month is for vacations, car repairs, and christmas expenses, etc. All the stuff I reasonably expect to spend in the year, but that come generally only once or twice a year. In my head I am thinking, approximately $500 for christmas, $1k for vacation, etc. I don't track each expense much beyond that. We always do vacation and christmas budgets though. So we know we aren't going to suddenly spend way too much this year and blow our savings out of the water.

This fund needs to be $1k on January 1 to fund all of the early year expenses. So if I have any money left at 12/31, over $1k, I will transfer it to retirement or other savings (the excess). Last year was year 1 with this method, and we drained the account to $0 come Christmas. So we took $1k christmas cash to give it a kickstart for 2008. (I'd prefer not to do it, but it's our backup plan. It works).

Mid-Term Savings

We have always paid cash for our cars. However, we have historically not paid much for our cars OR we had a hefty second income to pay for them.

Likewise, we have never spent a lot on house repairs/appliances, etc. Certainly not since we have been on one income. Part of our goals was to buy a newer home that needed little work, so we could save for maintenance in the long run. I know this is not a fool-proof plan. But we have been in this house 6 years and have put hardly any money into it. So I would say it has paid off for us.

Anyway, without the second income we were used to, and wads of cash, we had to come up with a plan. So we are trying to save up $5k/year towards our next car purchase and for things like house maintenance, painting the exterior, replacing appliances down the road, etc. I'd say ideally 50% of this is car fund and 50% of this is house fund. IT may have more to it in the future (other expenses/goals), and ideally we'll add more as well. But we keep this money liquid, in cash, and it's a start for us.

We are funding it right now with interest earned off of our emergency fund and other cash. We are also funding it with overtime and windfalls. Overtime and interest equates to about $5k/year, so where we started.


Long-Term Savings

We don't have any money in our long-term savings right now. I think mostly this is money we save that can not be put in an official tax-deferred retirement account. Any money we save beyond official retirement, we have discussed using for college, for early retirement, for enjoying more (nicer vacations? nicer toys?) and/or a contra-mortgage account. We think about how if dh returns to work we will be able to save way more than our retirement plans allow, and where this account comes in. Likewise, with future raises and all that, it's still quite a possibility on one income.

But for now, it's just a dream. Big Grin

Retirement

Retirement is an easy bucket to keep track of. For now it is 50% in ROTHs and 50% in my employer's plan. But it's all our tax-deferred, aggressively invested investments.

We try to invest a minimum percentage of income, and consider windfalls for maxing out.

Medical Savings

I know, I know. I don't want a lot of buckets. But we switched to a HDHP this year, and our premiums lowered by $250/month in exchange for a $3k deductible. $250 x 12 = $3k, so we have been saving the difference to fund the cash on hand to cover our deductible. In an IDEAL world we will get this to $3k and just tack it on to our emergency fund. If we get to that point, we will divert the $250/month savings elsewhere. Retirement or mid-term...

We are only 4 months into this health plan, and I think we have spent all the deductible we have saved. So this medical savings may be around for a while. I dream of diverting some of that money and saving it. Maybe getting ahead.

Reality is we'll probably spend our deductible every year.

Emergency Fund

I almost forgot the emergency fund. Which is good. I don't really consider it part of our liquid savings, and don't think much about it.

The emergency fund is 3 months of expenses saved up in cash. I actually keep some of it in a ROTH. We always keep a minimum of $5k in the liquid cash account. The rest is in the ROTH, for now. When we have more money, sure we'll keep all of our emergency fund in cash. For now, I couldn't give up the 2007 IRA contribution, so we diverted it to a ROTH. That part of the emergency fund is like out of work for months or house is destroyed, kind of emergency fund. Those are really the emergencies we consider. Likewise, we find the odds extremely slim we would touch it. (My job is quite recession proof & I could hardly see any reason to be out of work more than a day with the current CPA shortage). So why we came up with just 3 months expenses, and why a lot of it is in our ROTH (in cash of course). Likewise, in tough time, a 0% loan from our parents (or low interest rate) is a pretty viable option. It's a big reason why I am not big on oodles of cash right now. Our family has decently deep pockets.

Oh, and I do have to add we have adequate disability and life insurance, etc.

For now though, the efund is doing double duty until we can build up our mid-term fund now. If we had a large expense tomorrow when it came to the car or house, we would have to dip in the efund. But with time we are getting past that. Likewise, with time, we will put more in our efund. For now, it's at the bare minimum I feel it needs to be, and I feel we have bigger fish to fry.

& so that explains all of our different savings buckets.

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

Now, how do I track all these? Well the retirement fund is self-explanatory - those are all in their own accounts.

For the rest, I track them in excel.

I have a spreadsheet for the short-term savings. I add in my $500 every paycheck (for $1k/month) and then deduct all the short-term expenses out, as they come due.

Ideally I keep this in the low-interest savings linked to my checking account up to the first $1k, and then if it starts to accumulate, I transfer additional amounts to my online savings (higher interest).

For the emergency fund, mid-term and medical savings, I just track it all on one spreadsheet. I don't know why, just how it evolved. They are all more long-term savings, and I don't want to track 5 different spreadsheets.

But I just enter all the additions, interest every month, windfalls added, and $250 monthly medical contribution, minus any medical expenses. Then I subtotal each fund on the side, and make sure it equals the ending balance on my register.

As far as reconciling all my accounts, every month I just add up all my cash savings in my spreadsheets and make sure it equals all my cash savings accounts. IT it is close, wala. Once or twice a year I adjust it to my actual cash balance. (Will generally get off with small interest amounts that I don't track - like the 8 cents a month I earn on one small savings account).

& that's about it. It works for me, because I am pretty vigilant about reporting everything on my spreadsheet as I enter it in Quicken. So I have to say it is pretty rare when I miss something. Likewise, this method could be a nightmare to reconcile otherwise. But for me I don't spend a lot of time on it.

Likewise, I do use Quicken to track all of my finances.

Since I have a lot of buckets I am saving for monthly, and pulling money out of monthly, I do not make a transfer for each and every item. Money market accounts only allow you so many transfers a month, and I am afraid I would be way beyond.

So I enter everything in Quicken separately. $500/month to short-term savings with each paycheck. $250 to medical on the last day of each month. I actually have the balance transfers thrown in to complicate things. So I pull the money from savings to pay down the balance transfers (separate entry). & then I enter the reimbursements I need from the medical fund and the short-term savings, for these bills as they come due. All of this was a good 8 entries for MArch, for example.

Instead of doing 8 transfers, I try to date them all around mid-month and end-of month. I add up all the mid-month transfers, and figure out the net - if I need to pull money from savings, or transfer some in. Whatever the net is, is the transfer I do to/from my savings account.

I do the same thing at the end of the month.

Wala.

I like this method too because if I did forget to enter something in excel, I guess it wouldn't be too bad to reconcile. I try to record everything in Quicken as a separate item. Likewise, all my Quicken reports are in great detail. It is pretty easy to reconcile everything in Quicken as well. I imagine if I was reconciling my cash accounts by hand, that this could drive me nuts. But reconciling is usually just a click of the button (or 2 or 3).

I also have all of my regular savings transfers set up in Quicken. They pop up every month, so I won't forget them. I actually generally go through the first of every month and pay all the bills, enter all my paychecks for the month, and enter all the regular savings/retirement transfers (pay myself first). So though it may seem like a lot to remember, there isn't a lot to remember. Quicken remembers for me. I chose $1k/month for my short-term savings because it was easy, more than any other reason. I mean it covers everything, but I rounded up considerably for easiness.

This way, it is kind of a complex system, but it is actually pretty simple in execution.

However, as an accountant, I have to say a plain old paper/pencil system doesn't cut it for me. I like the advancedness (is that a word?) of something like Quicken, coupled with its ease of use. & that is certainly the accountant in me. I want to easily manipulate all my data and generate reports any which way with the click of a button. & I appreciate the time savings of an electronic system. Since most of my entries every month are recurring, it really doesn't take more than a few minutes to pay all my bills every month and track them in Quicken.

Anyway, this is a long entry, so I will share snapshots of my excel sheets, in my next post.

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

I just had to add too, we used to be great savers, but we had no method to our savings. I think a lot of it was we were saving for either very specific things (down payment on a home) or very unknown things, like a cash cushion for life on one income and with maternity leaves.

Likewise, in the past we had a lot of cash and savings, but didn't use it as efficiently as we should have. Not a lot of long-term planning - beyond the tomorrow. IF we had, I really think we would have much more cash remaining today.

So, I just had to add this method has made life tremendously easier. Every dollar has a name, and it makes budgeting easier. There is also a bigger, more long-term, complete picture to all of our savings. & well, that makes a lot more sense.

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

ETA: I just had to add that I have heard of Quicken Virtual subaccounts and I personally find them WAY too complicated.

Likewise, I saw this post which did give me an idea:

http://www.thesimpledollar.com/2007/07/17/several-funds-one-...

I think this was makes way more sense. I have to rework my spreadsheet, but makes sense. I actually do this on my investment accounts already. So I Can track contributions and performance separately (dh's and mine) but also look at the "big picture" total.

Duh, why didn't I think of that for my cash accounts?

Professional

April 3rd, 2008 at 01:06 pm

I just had to share while I Was thinking about it.

I was preparing a lengthy tax return for my boss. A "rich" client that my boss always gives me to do all the grunt work on. So when he gave it to me I Was reading all the piles of correspondence for the year, trying to get a feel of what was new for 2007.

Anyway, they moved to another state, and purchases a home before selling their old home. They talked to their 2 investment brokers (with whom they each have lots of money - maybe millions. I'd assume around a million dollars with each one). They wanted to structure the stock sales in the best way possible (tax-wise) for the cash purchase of their home.

OR course, investment guy #1 says, get a mortgage for the tax write-off. Of course you don't want to sell any stocks!

Investment guy #2 was evern better. Same spiel, but why not pay for half of it with a mortgage, and half with a margin loan against their investment account.

Oy vey.

So they send this off to my boss and asks his opinion. HE says, are you crazy? You want to pay $40k/year interest in order to save $20k in taxes? (Something like that). HE says, sell the dang stocks, and pay cash.

IT probably took much restraint to not say, why are you paying these people? They obviously don't have their best interest in mind. But I think for us it is a fine line. We don't give investment advice, and stay away from that whole thing with a 10-foot pole.

Anyway, on the radio this morning there was a similar conversation. How so many "professionals" were advising people to do the ARMs and 0 downs, and all that. People think if a professional tell them to do something, it's okay. & this is where much of this mess stems from. Likewise, most of the professionals giving this advice, took it themselves, and got in a lot of hot water. (Story after story of laid off mortgage brokers with way too much house, in the paper). OF course, the few that didn't follow their own advice, but dished it, well they made a lot of money off the whole thing.

& clearly, the investment advisor doesn't want you to take any of your money out and "invest" elsewhere.

I guess you have to consider who is giving your advice. What is their expertise really? & more importantly, what's in it for them?

Eeks!

I had a client last year who wanted to invest in trust deeds and I Actually talked them out of that. IT was a friend and she was scaring the crap out of me. I even consulted with my boss on that one, and we were okay to tell her, no way! Well, I mentioned all the risks anyway, and talked some sense into her. So they decided to invest in real estate and pulled out $200k out of their home. Then they decided in the meanwhile they didn't want to, so just put it in stocks. (Someone advised them to do so - an investment broker of course!!). Anyway, they panicked and paid the money back eventually (after taking some serious losses). Now they just have a monster mortgage payment that they can't afford.

I mentioned gingerly that they may want to refi, since rates have come down, but they are so burned they don't want to go there again. Really gullible though. I just cringe to see what they do next. They expected if they just paid it back, that their payment would go down, I guess.

It's just such a mess. But they had "professional" advice for most of their actions. All I Can hope is they learned something.

Busy Busy Busy

April 3rd, 2008 at 07:51 am

Yeah, work is a little busy, but it isn't horrid.

But I hadn't been very posty, and I doubt I will be this week.

LM is going to see grandma Friday so dh and I could have some time. We were going to take a date night Saturday (arrange babysitting for BM).

But we decided to go to a Cirque show. Dh thought it was Cirque du Soleil. The price was cheap, and I pondered that. (Plus since when was dh into Cirque du Soleil???? LOL). But he was all excited to take BM.

I was shocked because he has been very grumpy about needing more alone time with me. So we make all these arrangements, and it turns into date night with BM? If it makes him happy.

Anyway, he handed me an article about it, so I looked closer and saw it wasn't Cirque de Soleil. It was Cirque Dreams - though the same kind of thing. But much more affordable.

I refuse to take the kids to BArnum & Bailey's (they way they treat their animals) and so I said, sure, whatever. It is very circus-y and I know BM will LOVE it. So he can't say we never took him to the circus!

I have to work most of Saturday and the show is in the evening. We may try to squeeze in a date in between, but I don't know. A hectic day.

Then we are going to the Bay Area for a festival Sunday. It will be all day. After which I have to pick up LM, to bring him home. Just a lot of running around...

There is nothing relaxing about this weekend. But it should be fun!

So yeah, just a long week...

Oh, I did go to the gym yesterday. I went once after being sick in February and was having trouble working out (low lung capacity still). So I gave up for a while. Then it's just been SO busy. But LM loves the daycare over there, so I took him last night for a treat. (I know, he was at school all day and nothing he rather do than go hang out in another daycare - he just loves everyone else's toys so much more than our own. LOL).

But anyway, I had a good workout and was in much better shape than I would have guessed. I would love to go to aerobics again, but I was scared to go without being in a little better shape. I think Saturday is too crazy to go to aerobics class, but maybe I will start it up again after April 15th...

The drive is a bit far, but the class is only $2.50 when I show up. I still have $15 credit anyway... Though there is a $7 aerobics class down the street. I have to break out the calculator and figure the gas savings. May be worth it in the long run. I think this is what has burned me out on the other class. I can swing Saturdays, but the traffic is pretty tedious on the weeknights... Though I notice it is WAY worse in the winter months. This is why I have barely been since October. I started the class last May and the traffic situation wasn't nearly so bad the first few months. So I will give it a whirl for the summer...

March Totals

April 2nd, 2008 at 07:04 am

I read something this week about how people are really bad budgeting month to month, but were generally good at budgeting on an annual basis. Just interesting, as I tend to be more big picture, and look at things at more of an annual level. The month to month doesn't really matter so much to me. I mean I am not going to get caught up in the fact that I had a LOT of expenses in April, and my short-term savings account is negative right now. Mostly well known and planned for... In April my summary will be UGLY as I will have expended $4k in one-time bills. But that's okay. May/June tend to be pretty low expense months, by contrast...

IT helps me to look at the big picture.

Reminds me I read a comment before about not having "typical months." I agree - I never have a typical month. But we do tend to have typical years. Which I guess is a perfect example of what the article tried to say. (Likewise, if we had a large emergency, we would likely cut back on other expenses for the rest of the year, etc. Our budget is very flexible, and I think that is another reason. If you have some expensive months early in the year, I think people tend to reign in more later in the year then, etc.)

Anyway, without further ado - here's March (just one small slice of my year):



Allowance - $0 - I just noticed dh and I didn't spend any of our discretionary money this month. Weird. LOL.

Auto - $650 repairs/maintenance & $200 fuel (was a good month for us - no long trips - phew). Car repairs paid from short-term savings.

Childcare - an extra $100 this month. LM went to school one day when dh was sick. & we also registered for a drop-in childcare and tried it out. Which was an AWESOME splurge - to get a date out. We are committed to one date a month (even if we can only afford the childcare, and stay home. It's not the going out, but the childcare which is SO nice).

I just sent off the preschool payment for April, and only 2 full months (of 2) to go. I tell you, I am thrilled.

Dining - $20 my lunches out for the month. $10 was a lunch date dh and I had Monday actually. WE are going to start up twice a month. Oh - and almost $30 on our sushi date. We splurged on a trip to McDs to get the kids out of the house early in the month. So it was a more spendy than usual month in this regard, but this is going to go up with our effort to enjoy more. Lunch dates if nothing else - $20/month for 2 lunch dates are not bad. This week we had buffet at Round Table - it was a pretty good deal - 2 for $10 (and sodas).

We dropped the cloth diaper service which was $50/month and kind of find we have some room in the budget. & I think dining/dates is the area we feel most deprived. So where we decided to put that money.

& with the economy we have coupons out our ears (particularly lunch which is why we are trying to take advantage when kids are in school anyway). This is a perfect example when things go bad for everyone else, the frugal prevail. I just feel like life is better/easier lately. Big Grin

Entertainment - monthly blockbuster

Groceries - pretty average month - includes a lot of household stuff

Household - gardener - I still LOVE our gardener.

Medical - insurance premiums and around $200 in prescriptions/appointments/medical tests

Misc - some toys, some easter stuff, some household items from the dollar store. A trip to the movies. & $130 for a show. (We usually budget $150 here, but we were way under on the gas budget and we had extra income to pay for the show).

Personal Care - I got a haircut (rare, indeed)

Utilities - down because I had a free month on my cell phone ($80 off), and the water company did not bill water. They said they were ready to meter water late last year, but they don't seem very prepared for me. Took forever to get set up, and then last month they didn't even bill me for water? We'll see... They generally bill every other month and had been for a short while. Just not on my bill the last 2 months. Strange.

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*As you see, we deposited $100 to our ROTHs. (1.5% income)

*Earned $625 in work retirement plan. (10% income)

*We added $250 to our medical fund and pulled out $130 for doctor visits. We still have not received a bill from the ambulance/emergency room early in the year. ??? But I now have the cash to cover it... (I think!)

*Added $100 interest to our mid-term savings fund.

*Paid off one balance transfer, leaving 2 (which is why we are earning so much interest - all the balance transfers). Interest will go down next month.

*Saved $900 for short-term bills (& this account was drained, and then some, for April, already).

I think that about covers it...

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

I went through and paid all the April bills. I am waiting for the water bill (the one that always comes rather late - will come on the 15th and be due the 20th - just how it seems to be. Drives me nuts). Also, waiting on the final credit card #. I think we might hit $2k this month. Which doesn't help me - we get a bonus if we hit $2k each of the next 3 months. Who knew March would be such a spendy month...

But card closes tomorrow and we have no plans to spend anything until Friday. We'll see...

April cash flow looks good. We want to get the carpets cleaned and I have some cash in the bank for that - as well as for a trip to the ATM for our outing next weekend.

(I still can't believe we splurged so much last month and it was all well within budget. Was a nice month).

















Challenge - Moving Backwards

April 2nd, 2008 at 06:50 am

2008 $20 challenge:

$ 675.00 - 3/20

$ 100.00 - March Interest
$ -130.00 - From Medical Fund
------------------
$ 645.00 - Balance 4/1
------------------

I moved backwards on my challenge money.

Has anyone else ever subtracted money before?

What happened was I was confident in paying $150 or so of medical bills out of the budget. We had some extra money last month - so I put it to the challenge and paid the medical bills, leaving our medical fund intact.

However, dh and I bought show tickets on a whim. For next weekend. It was pretty spontaneous for us.

Anyway, the tickets came to about $130, and when I worked the April budget we were around $100 short. (Paying the march credit card - was a little more than I had expected). I started to worry maybe we shouldn't have made this purchase - maybe I had been too optimistic. Then I remembered we also had a lot of medical bills in March. So I subtracted $130 from the medical fund (for 2 doctor visits), and into my checking account. Worked pretty well.

Oh well, it was nice to think that extra money would go to our savings. But it is nice to splurge once in a while too. Big Grin

We did earn $100 interest for March. This is the last month, for a while, that I expect three-figure interest.

We paid off dh's balance transfer very early in March (around the 10th?) so his $10k was not deposited very long. But we did get some decent interest on that I am sure, in March.

Still have the 5.7% CD which accounts for about half of our interest.

I still have $15k in balance transfers.

We have the CD, some online savings, and also some money market funds. The savings and MM - rates all went down.

& I already added our ROTH contributions to the challenge.

So that's all I have. A decrease...

I have to pay off the $5k balance transfer in a couple of months. That one is coming up fast too (was like a year???).

The other one is in the CD and that one is good as gold. It kind of replaces dh's $10k, though the 2 overlapped for a short time.

That one is due end of year (around when my awesome rate expires). So I am glad to have another good interest year - REALLY helps the savings. I added the $100 interest to our mid-term fund. Getting awfully close to $500. (Though I expect to add about $3k in the summer months with my bonus and with IRS rebates, etc.). But I am relying heavily on the interest to get to my goal of $5k by 12/31.


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