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Archive for September, 2008

Tomorrow is PURGE Day...

October 1st, 2008 at 01:19 am

I think the jewelers are having hard times. They called and my ring is ready - less than 24 hours. Almost like they had nothing else to do...

Oooooh - I am excited - but we wanted to pick it up Saturday to put it on the next credit card cycle. It will have to wait... We have spent enough this month.

Reminds me, I got another emergency room bill for January. $135. I hold my breath every time I get a bill or statement (still awaiting the ambulance bill). Anyway, I have held my breath about 100 times.

Our HMO's statements are impossible to follow (dribs and drabs for a 7-month-old-expense. Egads). But my bill did come with a note that they have taken our suggestions and revised their billing system. Hallelujah. It looked about the same though, if you ask me. Made little more sense than usual. All the bill said was "emergency services" and it looked like a familiar amount. So I double checked all our statements for the year (what a pain since they are hard to make heads or tails of). ANyway, I finally remembered they tried to bill dh $135 for some lab work last year though we were not on a HDHP last year and we had already paid.

ANYWAY, I told dh they wanted that $135 so they just billed it this way. No detail beyond "emergency services". I think it is fishy that it is the same amount.

I wouldn't put it past them.

Anyway, BM will cost us around $4k in medical and dental bills this year. Heck, it isn't even October. I will hope that is all. *sigh*

Yeah, he has another dental appointment Friday. I am hoping they are slow to bill so I can keep that money in my account another month (carding it - sometimes those don't come through right away and Friday is the cc cutoff date).

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Tomorrow some charity is coming by to pick up donations roadside, and I am prepared. I have 4 bags and a box. Woohoo!

We have just been too lazy to take it down to Goodwill. I am sold on this "leave it on the curb thing."

We will also cram my van full of large cardboard boxes to drop off in the (recycle) dumpster.

I am giddy with the large amount of purging we will accomplish in one day. Woohoo.

I have a few boxes and packing materials in the living room for ebay and such. It just occurred to me that I should move those to the garage because we have so much more room now. Woohoo.






Business as Usual Here...

September 30th, 2008 at 02:32 pm

I don't identify with the masses. Too much panic.

In the midst of the crisis is NOT the time to start hoarding cash, saving more, and changing investment strategies. Too little too late, if you ask me.

You prepare for this stuff when times are good, and then you ride it out and hope your planning was enough.

I guess that is the stage I am in.

I haven't commented much on the financial markets because of this. Business as usual here. We aren't doing anything different. ?

I did decide on a more conservative portfolio in 2006, expecting something like this. You could argue it was a pitiful attempt at market timing. (In the long run I can't say if this was wise or stupid - and just because it might have been wise this time I am not sure I will do again in the future). But it was sure better what I See the panicked masses doing.

& I won't be calling the market bottom any time soon either.

Selling last week to buy back in next week is just crazy. In my eyes, it is no better than gambling. & in the meantime you could lose the hottest day in the stock market year. You just never know. That is the one thing I understand about the stock market. When you start pulling money in and out at random based on emotions, you generally lose. I would venture even if you pull out for a couple of years and try to time the bottom, you also generally lose.

What I mostly don't understand though is if the market has been going up 25% a year for many years (thinking some of my international funds) why does the world end with one down year of 25%? There could easily be more losses. A lot more. You could argue they were way over valued. Nope, a small dip is not rock bottom, for sure.

I see some similarities to the housing market. Our house is worth a solid 20% more than we paid for it in 2001, but the world is ending because of one bad year after a few of the most awesome real estate years ever. This is not rock bottom... This is 20% profit, for me. Big Grin

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Anyway, the other interesting thing for us is we are just coming off some self-imposed tight years and so our economy has been doing REALLY well lately. (We did cut our income in half after all, in 2002. & 2007 was a very good turning point for us as far as moving forward).

I think on the flip side, there is maybe some fear that we are less ready to weather along storm because we have been in the midst of our own "storm" for a long while.

Then again, we haven't bit off more than we can chew and probably have a more solid financial plan then a lot of our peers who were flush with income these last few years. So for that I guess, we aren't feeling a lot of pinch. & maybe while we worry a bit, I don't think we have a lot to worry about.

Everything we have put forth in our financial plan is to save up when times are good, to weather when times are bad. So now is the time to just hold on and see if we have done enough preparation to weather the storm.

I'm certainly not going to go buy a new car I don't need, but I wouldn't have done that when we were flush with cash either. Wink

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As far as the market? I just have to have faith in my long-term plan (which is logical and avoids the pitfalls of fear investing).

But honestly, we just don't have that much to lose. We are young and even if our entire retirement was wiped out, I know we could recover and do well.

I am trying to make mental notes because I know next time will be harder. My first experience with this was 2001, and I was very fresh out of college. It was a wonderful learning experience. This time is about the same except I have a better game plan. So though I have considerably more money in the market, I am less worried. Before we had a lot of individual stocks and such. & it did scare me off individual stock investing. & I might learn more lessons this time around. But happy enough to learn them young while I have time to catch up and implement better investing strategies.

But yeah, rather then trying to time anything, we are averaging in our purchases, we invest twice every month and my boss deposits my profit sharing (retirement)once a year, which is also very consistent dollar cost averaging.

We're buying high, and we're buying low. Ideally it all just evens out.

We have an asset allocation that we can live with through thick and thin. Etc., etc.

Spending/Savings

September 29th, 2008 at 11:43 pm

Today was a manic monday. I prefer not to have a lot of manic mondays. Or manic days.

I imagine to myself if this is what most working parents or working moms go through. The way I hear it described, anyway. I couldn't live like this. We were just gone all Sunday and home very late, and hecticness ensued today as a result. That's my excuse anyway...

It rained all morning in the bright sun (where were the clouds?) even though it was almost 92 in the afternoon. Well, this is more like desert than anything. We don't get rain in summer, nor warm rains. But it was bizarre because it was cool and rainy in the morning but hotter than hades in the afternoon.

Looks like earthquake weather to me. But earthquake weather is not so hot. What the heck is this anyway? LOL.

Everyone kept gloating about the wonderful weather. Puh-leez. Another night of A/C. IT's almost October!

I come from 70-year-round weather. A 90 degree day is not pleasant, no matter how cool the shade. Certainly not on September 29th!! Bah!

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So yeah, I have barely had time to slow down, all day.

Spending:

$140 or so to resize my wedding ring. Because it is 2 rings that will need to be re-welded. Dh walked around the mall pricing resizes and then we got hit with this anyway (he didn't mention it was 2 rings, welded together).

Oh well. It's been 8 years and 2 pregnancies. Maybe in 10 years if I need another re-size we'll have more means. I fretted all the way home since I Was so bloated today I Was an idiot to get sized today. Of course I called dh to have him talk sense into me and he asked if he should pick up the ring and we can go another time. LOL. I told him, no, just tell me to get a grip. I thought it through and decided since size 7 rings are too small in general, and 8 is too big in general, 7.5 is probably right after all. Even if I lose or gain a few pounds. Phew.

Dh also wants to go to a NEw YEars' concert. I told him yes, for his birthday. IT means a lot to him. I think he is being too practical to buy the tickets. I am this close to just buying them. HE deserves it. He may be able to take a friend. I am not that interested and it will only be $70 as opposed to $140 if only he goes. But I'll go if he can't find someone.

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Dh made $50 on ebay today. I had forgotten about that, so phew. Will help with the ring.

We are canceling our fresh produce from the farm service. IT is $29 a delivery, and just too much. $58/month for now.

We decided our food bill was also up because BM used to eat at preschool 2 days a week. Yes, we notice that much difference! Bills been same same same, even with the economy, and lately with BM out of preschool, it's just, ugh.

We were discussing it and I told dh, "I am not sure how much is just prices in general." But we picked up the kids from Grandma and she said they ate her out of house and home. We looked at each other and said, "Oh yeah. That's some of it." We feed BM 10 more days a month - breakfast, lunch and snacks anyway. Which can be a LOT of food!!!

So we decided in light of recent things, to drop the farm service. We'll pick it up again when we have the means. We really like it. Just way too expensive for right now. Dh said he was spending more on trying to make recipes for all the veggies, etc. So we'll see how much this helps.

Sometimes you think you can afford something nice, and then you realize you really can't. Which is fine. We try to make a point to make sure most of our luxuries are not long-term contracts. So when we make these realizations, it is quite easy to cut back. Phew.

Heck, our only long-term contract is our mortgage. That is the NICEST part about not having debt. For sure. But some of our biggest luxuries are our gardener and our preschool. & tomorrow we could drop both services. It is that simple. We prefer stuff like that over homes and cars and things that just aren't so easy to get out of!

Weekend Update

September 29th, 2008 at 02:07 pm

Well, my weekend was exhausting.

Saturday was actually exhilirating because I had so much free time; no matter how hard we worked.

But Sunday we drove to San Jose in the a.m. for a family party and to pick up the kids. I am exhausted. The kids are more exhausted. I don't think Granmda gave them time to nap (a weekend quite full of activity). Kids were SO exhausted. Slept most of the way home and so I prepared for a wakeful night. BUT they are still asleep at 7am. LM did not even eat dinner since he slept through it.

Dh's relative has finalized the adoption of her third child. Why they had a celebration yesterday. Better yet, she is about 4 months along. (A fertility treatment miracle). They have easily spent $100k+ and 5 years on trying to conceive their own child. I would have told you surrogacy was their only option at this point. Modern medicine didn't seem to be enough. Before now anyway.

So we are collectively holding out breath for the next 5 months. Looks promising, but still a lot of fear there. They've been through a lot of loss these last 5 years.





Garage Bliss...

September 27th, 2008 at 11:58 pm

I told dh we should have done before/after pics. So I did the next best thing. After pics!

Actually, I talked dh into the garage work around 11am. It was going to be a HOT day and we were kind of lazy, and slow getting to it, but I peeked my head into the garage right before 11 and it was still cool, so we got to work. (My sidebar says 96 degrees right now - goodness gracious - but there was a nice breeze - we were outside a lot of the day. I never guessed it was such a hot day - yeesh).

It was really almost too hot though, so I think we lucked out that we were able to do anything.

Anyway, my dh does a good job keeping the garage organized and neat. It wasn't so bad.

But I knew we had a lot of boxes in there. & I had a plastic bag full of dirt and wood chips, that had broken and was laying on the ground in the garage. I asked dh to help me clean it up because it was too heavy. This was like 2002. For the longest time he said he needed a shovel. So he bought a nice big shovel. But fast forward to 2008 and the bag somehow still remains. (With the kids, other projects to tend to, when we get the chance).

So dh kind of asked what I envisioned getting done. I said, I don't care as long as that friggin bag of dirt is OUT of the garage. ! That was about the extent to my vision - hehe.

I guess that was my anniversary present! Hallelujah, it is gone. I think dh just spread it around the yard.

I also only saw one or 2 spiders, and NO black widows. So it was a success. I would have done most of this sooner, but was scared of the creepy crawlies.

I went through most of the boxes and swept and got all the cobwebs and such. Dh broke down large boxes and scooped dirt out of the garage.

The interesting find of the day was a petrified sandwich. Don't even ask! LOL!

Tada!


In this picture - all we have is stuff to go. Trash (that didn't fit in the trash can today), and a lot of boxes. We actually have a dumpster at work which is only for paper recycling. So I can load up the van and take all those boxes to the dumpster, and get them recycled. Phew! I may be able to walk around to the driver side of the van once all those boxes are gone. Imagine that! (For now I just enter from the passenger side).


The back is our storage stash. The bulkiest thing back there is my old childhood bed. It was a very nice bed. BUT it's gotten a little scratched up. We figure we'll put it on Craigslist for $100 and see if we can get anything. Will be nice to be rid of it. It is a zillion pieces of wood for now. Was keeping it for the kids but we ended up getting them smaller beds. It was a twin water bed and these bedrooms here are on the small side. So we got them smaller framed beds.

We have our electric mower, a ladder, a coffee table (not kid friendly) and some outside chairs stacked. There were a few boxes over there too that I think we can be rid of. Woohoo. & the kids's bikes & swim stuff. Not bad - that's really most of our storage space.


Some of the stuff in the next picture will be Craigslisted (all the strollers for one) and some of the stuff on the shelves, etc. I need to make a list or keep on top of it somehow. But some of that stuff was spilling into the car area, so it was nice to clean it up a bit and make more room. The stuff left in the middle of the garage - one is my dad's power washer we are returning - and a pool toy we are giving to MIL - our kids have outgrown and she has a pool where all the grandkids congregate.


This picture is dh's crap. He has 2 boxes and 2 framed pictures he never brought into the house. I have the feeling those are permanent fixtures. !!
There are also 2 old car stereos we are going to recycle.

I also showed this last picture because it shows our water heater. Now that I can approach it rather easily I should look up the model number. It was installed in the house in 2001, but I think it is a prime reason our gas bills are so low. Biggest gas usage is hot water and we only used 5 therms for the month of August. I love that thing! I can't tell you what kind of water heater and why it is so efficient though. ?? It has a blanket wrap...



Cleaning the garage cost some money. I hadn't realized our hand-me-down large broom had broken. I found a small/cheap broom that sufficed, but since we were going out and had to stop by Target we figured we'd check out their brooms. Dh was skeptical but I found a nice large one for $12. I will finish the job once the boxes and trash are cleared out.

We also went to Best Buy and recycled an old vacuum cleaner and my ancient (13 years I would guess?) computer.

I mentioned in an earlier blog, they take 2 items per day. When I saw the vacuum, dh said he would call and ask. It was broken and I tried to freecycle it before, to no avail. Yes, I think they take everything!

Anyway, only 2 people had come in to recycle things since dh had last gone in a couple of weeks ago. Too funny (we saw as we signed on a log sheet).

We found 2 car stereos to recycle another time. (Dh was s'posed to sell them on ebay at some point - but just worthless now).

We went out to lunch, parked centrally and walked to lunch, Best Buy and Target. Must have been crazy in this heat, huh? Well, the breeze was nice enough.

Then we came home and I cleaned the interior of both cars.

I am now collapsing inside.

The other expense I guess is I was so heat exhausted I had to flip on the air. I might have been okay otherwise.

I washed BM's shirt with bleach and most the marker came out. Clearly washable. Phew! It still has a pink tint. Maybe one more wash will do...

I think I am going to collapse for the evening now. Phew.

Oh yeah, but besides the petrified sandwhich, hmmmmm...

I threw away an old mirror that I had tried to freecycle a few times.

I will Craigslist of freecycle one or both fans we found. We just don't use them because we have ceiling fans. & a whole house fan.

We just don't use stand alone fans.

I found a jacket that needs a wash. I also found a baby blanket, my old lunch bag, and a couple of dragon figurines. (It looks like a box I packed when the house was on the market and somehow missed it).

Some old shoes and a box of toys for Goodwill.

That's about it.

My dh likes to keep the original boxes for EVERYTHING. Drives me nuts. So the interesting thing was most of the boxes we had in there was for stuff we already sold or gave away. Honestly, I think I only found 2 boxes to keep. So that makes me happy too.

I think his theory is it is easier to sell, or transport old things, when we have the original box. But if you can't find the box and you don't get the box out when you sell things, well, it kind of defeats the purpose, don't you think?

I guess we agree to disagree on that one. I can live with the 2 boxes.

(I also think some of it was he offered the boxes when he sold things but the buyers did not want them. Imagine that).

Well, now you've glimpsed my garage.

Absolutely Spoiled...

September 27th, 2008 at 03:35 pm

Ah, today is my spoiled weekend.

& I am very glad not to be SICK!!!!

(Everyone in this house has been sick. Everyone else; knock on wood).

Dh was sick Thursday and since Grandma was taking the kids for the weekend, I marveled how she always took them when we were sick. Certainly nice to have the help while we are sick, but when was the last time we got to enjoy a healthy weekend at home without the kids???

Maybe this weekend after all. Phew.

Well, the kids left with Grandma yesterday and in the evening dh and I had a date.

We went to try a Thai restaurant nearby with rave reviews. It was packed and we were lucky we got their early. Lucky to get a seat.

The dinner was nice and all but when we left I pretty much said, "Blech." LOL. Dh agreed. He thought it was just his blocked sinuses. We certainly did not see what all the hype was.

But we tried it I guess. & we can cross that one off the list. Kind of a bummer since a night out is such a rare treat.

We spent $35.

After that, we went to a movie. Dh got some free movie tickets in a trade for some video game stuff. We hadn't used them yet because all the movies suck. Just NOTHING we want to even see. Which is kind of sad - my dh is a movie buff. So he tried to talk me into the new Coen Brothers movie - "Burn After Reading." It said it was violent and I was feeling kind of "eh" about the whole thing, and I asked how long it was. "90 minutes," dh says. (I ask because I can not stay awake past 10pm. LOL). "90 minutes? Seriously?" I was so there. I am so sick of these 2.5 hour movies. They just keep getting longer and longer and longer.

& yes, this was the first good movie we have seen in the theaters this year for sure.

It was a CRACK UP! Loved it.

I don't remember the last time I laughed out loud so much at a movie.

Take note movie industry - 90 minutes is a NICE length for a movie. !!

Anyway, yeah, my dh id trying to tell me this is a comedy and it started out so dark. You are just like, where the hell is this going? But, yeah, hilarious pretty quickly. & GREAT acting.

It was rather dark too.

Bizarre maybe, more than anything.

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Today - what is on the agenda?

Trying to talk dh into helping me clear the garage a bit. & while in there, maybe I will clean the cars.

I have been uber super lazy. So of course, what will I do while the kids are gone? Clean house. But boy, it NEEDS it.

Garage, cars, hose off the house a bit. Things I have been noticing...

The bathroom needs a scrub. & the kitchen. & so it goes...

I will bug dh to get all of our strollers back on Craigslist. We gave one to a relative who gave it back so we have 3 to sell.

& yeah, dh has a volunteer shift today so I get a chunk of time to myself. I will probably clean house. What else would I do anyway? I am not accustomed to TIME. I think I would be bored if I had nothing to do. Sad but true. (Well, I may take a nap too).

Oh yes, but we are absolutely spoiled! We got $110 cash from dh's family, for our anniversary. I am sure a chunk of that represents gas money since we will drive to San Jose tomorrow. But was completely unexpected and very generous. We decided to go to dinner yesterday and maybe even lunch today ($20 total for a buffet). We want to resize my ring. & there it goes. We mostly blew it.

But it was nice. Sometimes it is nice to just blow unexpected money.

I guess you could say we blew $60 on food and the $50 or so to resize my ring was planned anyway. Now we don't have to pay for it out of our own pockets. That is NICE.

Funny thing is last night was so disappointing I told dh I wanted to go to the Japanese buffet today.

We were probably going to treat my parents' tomorrow for dinner. (As a Thank you for the Denver trip).

So we are a bit spoiled this weekend.

I also feel spoiled because often the only quiet time I get, sans kids, is if dh takes them to San Jose without me. & like clockwork, I am always immediately saddened and bored with all the QUIET. I have always been a very independent/alone type person. But the constant noise and drama of 2 children, well, I guess you get used to it. I always look forward to the quiet, and then immediately hate it.

Today is nice. Dh is here. & yes, I am putting him mostly to work. Big Grin But it is really nice. It's nice having a peaceful house and someone to share it with too.

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I paid all the bills for October (to see if we were in the black or the red) and I told dh that I would be nice and just pay for the extra preschool day, when he was sick last week.

We seemed okay. (In the black).

The extra $110 changes things as well. Might have flipped me if I had decided the other way.

But yeah, we did fine with our spending in September (we pay the cc bill in October - and what I was mostly gauging, how much I had left all the savings and October bills were taken care of; how much left to pay the cc bill).

We did good, but our short-term savings is a little on the low side. So I had life insurance and some car repairs I would have pulled from savings, but will essentially be paid by dh's business ventures instead. PHEW!

I pulled no money from savings then, except for $400 from the medical for BM's fillings.

& that was a relief.

Dang, we were skinny!

September 25th, 2008 at 02:17 pm

No wonder I need my wedding ring resized.

As we watched our wedding video last night, (I took Baselle's words for my title) I thought something very similar. More like, "Dang, we were YOUNG."

I don't remember ever looking at it and thinking I felt a million times older.

But this year I did.

Dh told me it was something about being 31. It makes you feel OLD. (He is now 32 and says 31 was the worst year). LOL.

How pathetic. How will I feel when we are 40,60,80? LOL.

The funny thing is dh said, "Oh, you look exactly the same." & I think I rather do, but for a few pregnancy pounds.

Dh looks like he has aged 20 years or something. LOL. He just looks like such a "kid" in the video. I guess it is true what they say - men just are late bloomers. I was really marveling at him more than anything, and how old some of the kids in the video had gotten over the years. My best friend's little toddler nephew is now a tall lanky 11-year-old.

I guess it really magnifies how SHORT childhood is. Maybe that is the stuff we notice more with kids now.

We were both pretty skinny too, yes. Unnaturally, crazy, young skinny.

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Sickness has overtaken our household. Blech.

BM threw up in the a.m. and missed his first field trip (yesterday). But he was chipper and better all day.

(As an aside it was a play and I figure I might take him on a weekend to see it, but it cost twice as much for non-school-kids. Not so sure after all... We already paid $10 for him. Not like I want to pay another $30. When I don't have another $30. All I can think is this stuff adds up SO quickly.... $20 here and there and everywhere. Nevermind).

I assume he will be up to school today. At least it was short.

Dh said he was really sick. I am usually pretty nice and just stay home when he is sick. BUT today I have a big meeting. BM, the wild one, is going to school. LM, the calm one, will be home. I think I will let him fend for himself. Though I may pick up BM from school, turn on a movie for him, and go back to work for a couple of hours.

LM may be able to go to preschool. In the past I have been more generous but we have had a LOT of unexpected bills. So I told dh maybe LM could go today but stay home Monday. So it won't cost more.

School makes it rather nice, though I am afraid school is from where these germs are coming from. It has been a pretty calm 6 months or so. Hallelujah. But new school, new kids, new germs, and the changing weather all mean sick sick sick. Ugh.

Anyway, since dh is useless that is all the time I have. I have to go round up the kids.

Happy Anniversary to Me...

September 24th, 2008 at 11:43 pm

In typical gender reversal fashion, dh remembered today was our anniversary, and I didn't remember at all.

Figures!

We talked about it last week, but I just hadn't looked at the calendar I guess. Lord knows when I would have noticed.

Anyway, 8 years for the hubby and I. Last year everyone teased us about the 7-year itch.

I figured we probably passed that milestone ages ago. We have been together over 13 years. We dated five years before marriage. (Dh wanted to do thing like finish college and buy a home, before we married. Whatever, I waited forever...)

It was actually pretty funny since we waited 5 years from engagement (we were only 18/19 at the time so I think a decent amount of the waiting was warranted), and we moved in together about 9 months before our wedding, when we bought the condo together.

I felt like I had been ready and waited a very long time. I had been completely on my own a long while, while dh lived at home. I think a second income, any point through college would have been nice and helpful. But to dh, living at home was easier, and I respected that.

So we moved in together December 1999 (6-7 months out of college) and dh's family started pressuring us. When IS the wedding?

Being practical, we had no interest in graduating college, buying a home, and marrying all at once. We kind of spaced it out. ONE thing at a time please. & primarily why we chose the home purchase before the wedding.

So I remember moving in December and being pounced on by dh's family. WHEN IS THE WEDDING????

I was probably working 80-hour weeks (literally) and studying for the CPA exam. So I said, "We'll start planning after the exam in May."

As such there was much drama in that 5 months since I was such a wedding staller.

Puh-leez.

We actually had a relatively simple wedding which I started planning in June, as promised. Since we decided to marry on a Sunday it was much cheaper and we didn't have to plan as far ahead. (None of our vendors were booked many Sundays).

So it just worked out really nice. & we married September.

Anyway, I chuckle to myself when I think about all the drama.

It was at a time when it was popular for people to move in with their fiances and hide it from their parents, or often just hide it from extended family.

That was the other drama. We were kind of sick of all the bullcrap. We moved in together; take it or leave it. Everyone else is doing it. Hello. At the time I had a roommate who moved in with her fiance. It was nice having a roommate in name but not in actuality. But I couldn't imagine wasting all that money for appearances. YEOUCH! They probably had a huge house payment with a $500 monthly rent to boot.

YEah, those were the days. I imagine not much has changed...

Anyway, We married at a public golf course (it was GORGEOUS - for both the outdoor wedding and the inside reception) and had many friends in the wedding industry, so most of our vendors were free or deeply discounted. To reserve the place would have been an extra $1k on a Saturday. So we just lucked out. We spent all of our money on the dress, dinner, and the flowers. IT was a $7500 wedding at most. The same wedding would have been $10k easy on a Saturday. Maybe the guests hated the Sunday wedding, but we got compliments many years after on how nice (& more importantly, relaxed) it was. My parents paid for the reception and we paid for most of the rest.

One thing we like to do is watch our wedding video every year on our anniversary.

It was free and it wasn't very good. I am okay with that. It's enough to relive the day. BUT dh is not okay with it. Now that he does professional videos. So I have to hear him gripe. LOL. I think he re-edited it a lot of it at some point too.

I can honestly say that is his only wedding regret. I have none!

The Expense of Children

September 23rd, 2008 at 11:15 pm

If you don't have children and you think the expensive part is clothing, food, and toys. Well, Teehee! That's the EASY stuff.

It's the medical and dental care, for one.

& other expenses...

Anyway, BM had another dental appointment yesterday and they filled 2 cavities. Said it may only be one, but it was 2. *sigh*

I guess it's good I have had some time to get used to it. I am less stressed about it all today.

I have 2 more rounds at the roulette wheel. (2 more quadrants with 1 OR 2 cavities each. Won't know until they drill - teeth too close together which is the whole problem in the first place).

He's fine - he thought it was great fun. At least he is taking it well. I am $400 poorer for it. (Though credit card rewards and tax deductions means I get back 23% for every dollar spent. Eventually). They also gave us 10% discount since no insurance, so was more like $360. But it still will be a chunk of change.

3 down, 5 - 7 to go.

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BM got sent to the principal's office today. Wrote all over his white shirt with markers. Oy vey.

Actually they were pretty easy on him but I am at a loss.

To be fair, *I* did not buy the white shirt. MIL did. The school were the stupid ones who thought white was a good color for small kids. ???????

At a loss because he has NEVER destroyed property with a writing utensil. I guess there is a first time for everything!

Shirt will no doubt be tossed. I will be glad to see it go. Will probably take a chunk from his allowance to replace it. With a nice dark colored shirt.

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

Anyway, I will knock wood at this point but he has not lost his backpack or lunch box yet. (knock on wood furiously). I was eyeing his jacket with the weather probably cooling off soon and wondered how long until he loses it. I am starting to see little expenses adding up that I didn't think of, now that school has started.

It's every morning when I have to remind him about his backpack as we get into the car AND as he gets out of the car that I start to think about these things...

I guess if he doesn't lose everything, the plus side is plenty of hand-me-downs for LM. That is the other rule of children. 2 kids is not twice as expensive. Phew, for that.

Honestly, surprised the white shirt lasted that long! But no, not the demise I expected.

Reasons it is easier to live in a HCOLA...

September 22nd, 2008 at 08:18 pm

Yeah, I got to go back to the one-income talks again.

I noticed something else from the direction of the discussion. I notice that if you can get your housing costs down (which we have done) in a HCOLA, you can do QUITE well.

There are a number of reasons why.

Because we grew up in such an expensive area (insane, really) we were always looking for ways to cut costs down. In college I shared a house with strangers. The $400 rent for the nice big private room in the nice neighborhood was a STEAL compared to the $1k price tag on a studio apartment on the wrong side of the tracks. (The primary renter had lived there for a long time with no rent increases, and she sublet a room to me).

Since I did have a private room and largely was gone 7am - 9pm between school and work, I never really had any roommate issues. Some of them were awesome, more of them were crazy. But even when I had time off I was generally home more during the daytime hours while they were at work. I always tended to work evenings and weekends - so it just worked. The roommates I didn't care for; I rarely encountered. Of course they were all older professionals and I was just lucky they let a college kid in. So they were pretty tame. I didn't have to try to study while there were wild parties.

& no I didn't lead deprived college years. I rarely took classes in the summer and always got August off work. I would go hang out with my friends who went away to college, on the weekends. I have very fond college memories and remember plenty of fun though I always worked very hard. My spouse and I met in college and also had many fun times together. You can work hard and not be completely deprived. I could have graduated sooner, yes, but didn't see the hurry either. My 5th year was my slowest and most fond year. I will never regret slowing down that last year before "real life" began.

Another example is when we looked into buying in San Jose it was because it was far cheaper than renting. The PITI was about 50% of the rent on the same place.

Of course, the best/easiest thing we did was move somewhere cheaper. But prices have been sky high even here, in recent years. We put a lot of money down, got a low FIXED interest rate, and all that. Before prices were sky high. It helps. We maybe bought bigger than most on these forums would, but from our perspective it was just a steal, and we know we have erased the possibility of "upgrade." I don't think we will ever move again but to downgrade our home, honestly. (Perhaps, in retirement).

So what are the benefits really? I think I may have touched on these before.

First, the wages are higher. So if you can keep your housing costs down, your wage will generally be higher than elsewhere. How many of you younger folk live in a LCOLA and have a $200k mortgage? Probably a lot of you. Since I live in a HCOLA and have a $200k mortgage, then I get to keep that much more of my paycheck. Because the wages are higher. (I think most of our friends would DIE if they knew how "small" our mortgage is. The common guess is like $300k-$400k).

Likewise, if you can manage to live off of one income, that second income is GOLD. My husband has not worked in 6 years and I have no doubt he could find a $30k - $40k job in a snap. If he were to suddenly go in search of full-time work. If he pursued a career, $60k-$80k would be pretty easy in a few years time. I know few without college degrees who make less, honestly. Imagine if an income like that was pure gravy. But those kinds of incomes are a lot harder to achieve in LCOLAs. In a HCOLA, if you don't rely on the higher incomes you more easily have a lot more to save.

Vacations - well I have mentioned this before. HCOLAs tend to be very desirable areas. We actually prefer to vacation in the state, which usually means a short drive and little expense outside of lodging. Plus our family has a cabin a near Tahoe. Reno, LA, Vegas, Oregon, etc., are all rather drivable or airfare can be found pretty cheap. Beautiful camping galore in our own backyard. This year we vacationed in Yosemite and LA (Disney and such) rather cheaply. We like to vacation elsewhere, occasionally, but we can get some pretty decent vacation fixes for pennies when the budget is tight.

College - when the discussion of college comes up you all lose me. Part of it can be the private vs. public school thing. But I have realized more and more with some of the discussions that a lot of it is our state. I try to remind myself not to gripe about our high state taxes. Our colleges are STEALS. Community college is pennies, and state colleges cost nickels and dimes. The UC system is very prestigious but extremely affordable compared to the private schools they often compete with. Plus there are a handful of excellent colleges close enough that our kids could live at home (or with relatives).

Things are changing and I am trying to be mindful and prepared. I graduated 9 years ago with under a $10k college bill for 5 years (all college costs; excludes living costs which I paid for working part-time as well. I Didn't need to borrow a dime). I am realistic and know my kids won't be so lucky. Competition for the public schools is fierce and I don't know if we can really go another 15 years without raising community college fees. (My understanding is the per unit cost has not increased in decades). But, overall, we have a pretty big advantage when it comes to education. Even if public school starts to get astronomically more expensive than they have been, it will still be relatively affordable compared to the numbers I have seen thrown around in the blogs and forums. Egads!!!! & I probably care less about private school because there are so many excellent public options here.

Oh well, there are also many downsides. Gas is more expensive here. Daycare and babysitting is sure as heck more expensive here. (I guess that's one more thing we save on though - not needing daycare). A night out feels like highway robbery.

Healthcare is definitely more expensive here. But you could argue that it is a wash. I have the wage to pay for the good insurance. So maybe in the end it is not that bad. Plus I get decent tax breaks since out health expenses are such a large percent of my income. (You can itemize health/dental costs over 7.5% of your AGI, which we are WELL above).

Yup, for all these reasons I do think we have it rather easy in some regards.

State sales taxes are high but most groceries are exempt. We don't consume much so we don't pay a lot in sales taxes. (Services are tax-exempt).

Property taxes here are actually very reasonable. Because too many would lose their homes if values kept up with real estate values. (Kind of another HCOLA edge. At least in this state. I can't believe some of the property taxes in other states). As long as you don't buy too much house, you can do pretty okay.

Insurance is sky high, but we have the income to cover it I guess.

So if you ever read my blog and my HCOLA rants, and you wonder why the heck I still live here. Well I guess these are some pretty good reasons why.

I do admit if we play the game right, we end up with a fairly large edge. Big Grin

10 More Days...

September 22nd, 2008 at 02:29 pm

Just 10 more days for my fiscal month.

Expenses so far this month so far, $3950.

BM has a dental appointment today. Blech. Crossing my fingers for one filling instead of 2 (again). He has to go through this on each quadrant of his mouth. This is quadrant #2.

& of course hoping it goes as smooth this time. (He is not scared at all - enjoyed it).

Anyway, that will add $200 or $400 to our expenses. I think he has three appointments in October, just because it seemed easier since he had so many days off school.

We had some other plans for this month, but so much other stuff has popped up that I don't think there is much else.

We were invited to a family member's adoption party over the weekend so it looks like we will head off to San Jose.

Oh yes, and our anniversary is Wednesday. We don't generally do gifts, but dh wants to get my ring resized. I have not worn it for years, and he HATES that, but I plead every year to wait and see if I lose weight. Funny enough, I don't think I have lost a pound since last September. So, since I have so settled at this weight, I give in. I figure it may be the jinx I need to lose some of this baby weight. Then again, I don't think if I lost 10 pounds that it would make a difference. I'd venture a guess that I have gained 40 pounds since I was married, and the 40 pounds is why my ring does not fit! I doubt 10 pounds makes much difference, and I have no plans or desires to go back to being a stick (unrealistic anyway). I enjoy having meat on my bones. Big Grin Which is good, because the meat is here to stay - hehe.

Anyway, we will probably drive to San Jose and have to get a gift. So that should round out our expenses for the month. Maybe $300 in gas and groceries as well.

I think we will aim to have a few no-spenders otherwise. I don't think there is anything else on my purchase horizon. (Knock on wood!)

Dh will pay for my ring out of his video game profits.

We have free movie tickets and free baby sitting so we'll probably go for that for an anniversary night out.

Actually, grandma wanted to watch the kids Friday night since they will be in the area, and we just thought to ask if they would take the kids and we can pick them up in San Jose.

I told dh that if the weather is not horrid (it probably will be though - it's been so hot) that I wanted nothing more than to go through the garage a bit (while the kids were gone). There is an old bed buried in there that we need to sell/donate. & we have some cardboard to get rid of. & know we have some old crap in there. I just want to go through it a bit. But I would never do it myself - I am so scared of spiders. & dh does well with smashing the black widows. Blech. We have more black widows than I care for around the garage. It might be a good time to spray them down, if we can clear the perimiter a bit.

Oh yes, that will be fun. But just something that needs to be done.

We actually don't have a lot in our garage. We do park 2 cars in there and there isn't a lot of storage in there otherwise. But yeah, even so, there is stuff in there we don't need, for sure.

But yeah, I don't expect it to be a huge project. It's just something easier to do when the kids are not around - we don't need them around the spiders and sharp tools, etc.

Went for a Walk

September 22nd, 2008 at 01:33 am

Short & sweet since dinner is ready. (I posted a part 2, prior post, that took some time).

Anyway, for the first time since we got a new shopping center, we walked over. I needed to pick up a few things at Walgreens.

BM joined me and timed it. The long way dh suggested took 17 minutes at a brisk walk.

Our slower more tired walk was 14 minutes the way I preferred. Aha!

They have improved our park and added a new play structure for bigger kids and are now just taunting us. Looks done to me (for weeks it has) but it is still all gates up. Bah!

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

The weather has been really hot. There is a nice breeze outside but the sun was blazing and the house probably needs some AC.

Unusually hot for so late in September. All of September has been more like August really.

I was dreaming last night that we needed the heat and I was quite upset because we usually have 2-3 months of no heat or AC. The house is just so well insulated so does quite well on its own in fall and spring.

Anyway, I told dh this dream and he kind of mocked me, but he truly did not understand how relieved I was to realize it wasn't cold season yet, right on the tail of hot season. !

I am thinking though we will be lucky to make it through October with no heat. We usually get at least September and October without touching the thermostat.

Then again the entire weather system seems to have shifted by one month. July was cool, September is warm. Maybe it will work out.


Marriage & The Secret to One-Income Living...

September 20th, 2008 at 11:44 pm

Oh boy, spending too much time in the forums. Actually, some of the threads I missed while gone were fascinating. The "who has the final say in your marriage" thread was actually cracking me up. But kind of sad all the same. You know, compromise. Those with strong marriages understand. You COMPROMISE. No one gets the final say all the time. I dare say that would suck. The inference that the spouse with the larger income gets the final say, really offends me. I guess since we have a long tradition in our family of a spouse who stays home. The spouse who stays home contributes plenty to the marriage, and I can't imagine ever telling my husband he has less say because he doesn't have a paycheck. I have told him, "If you want that you can get a job." Not because I have the final say. It's my way of saying we can not afford that and if it's that important to you, you know what you need to do. I am sure he has had to put me in check in some way in the past as well. It's nice to have someone to bring you back to reality when you have a crazy idea. !!

& if you have that much to disagree on, I guess I could argue you shouldn't be married. We have disagreed on a few major things, but marriage is give and take. If we disagreed very often on major things, I think I would question our compatibility. As is, our disagreements are sometimes rather shocking because they are so few and far between. You wonder, "Where the heck did that come from?" OR, "I had no idea you felt so strongly about that."

We sometimes just agree to disagree.

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

Anyway, the other interesting thread was the "Do you NEED two incomes" thread. You have to understand that this is a pet peeve of mine because where I live I know a lot of people who make $80k-$120k and can not make ends meet. I am not talking about people on minimum wage, or people making $30k. Not even necessarily $50k (though I could support a family on that quite EASILY, personally. I have rather recently). But when you come across people all the time who can't make ends meet on a near six figure income. Oy vey! This is the group who can not distinguish wants and needs.

Anyway, I giggled at a reply (& not to pick on the poster - but yeah, made me laugh) that you can not possibly plan for things like a new washer/dryer, car repairs, or a new roof on ONE income.

& of course I think, "Why Not???"

I mean, you know I haven't had the best month or 2. We just replaced a $800 computer, are facing $1500-$2k in completely unexpected dental bills, and just had a $270 fridge repair.

But we had the cash to cover all things.

Why? Why did we have the cash to cover all these things?

Well, for one, these are not all surprises, and we save up for them.

But more importantly, we are not scared to buy USED things.

If my washer and dryer died tomorrow (the ones we bought in 2005 on ONE income - brand new). Well, it would be a little unexpected. So what would we do with such an early appliance death?

We would pop on Craigslist and pick up a used washer/dryer in a heartbeat. $100 easy if we were willing to go really used. Like our first washer and dryer we had for 3 years for $100. The dryer was fine when the washer died but it seemed like a good time to just go new. We could have spent $50 for another ancient washer that may have lasted a few years...

Since BM's recent dental bills were so entirely unexpected, we pulled from our future large expense fund. If we had too many of these "emergencies" we would go out and buy a VERY used car next round, instead of buying something newer and fancier.

It is this willingness to buy used that makes our budget VERY flexible. In the past buying used was the only way we could survive. We don't have very much new furniture in our house, and we have mostly had old appliances.

With time and raises and better means we find that we tend to go for the new stuff (& hope it lasts forever). But if we have to replace something unusually early, we will go *used* in the interim.

For now we are aiming to save about $5k/year for our next cars and for home maintenance. But if by some bad chance we have to use all that money for other things, or more for home repairs, then, well, we will just go buy a really used car the next time we need a car.

Rather than pay retail for our toys (the kids and all of dh's games he must have), we tend to buy them used.

If we needed some furniture we would go used. The old hand-me-downs and used furniture is just dandy though - it's not even on my radar as far as upgrading. (I guess particularly not with kids who like to destroy things).

There is a wealth of stuff out there that people bought and realized they couldn't keep, and turned around and sold the next day. "Used" does not necessarily mean used at all. What it really means is you can get brand new, or like new stuff, for a fraction of the price.

If you ask me, the difference between people who do not understand how to live on less income, and those who do quite well on one income, the difference I usually see is a willingness to buy used things or more to the point, just a willingness to think outside the box a bit.

I have a lot of broke friends who make good money and buy a brand new car every 3 years, like clock work. They just don't realize how much money they are losing on cars. If they truly understood they would do things very different. But their eyes glaze over when you bring it up. These are the people, from my experience, who whine the most that living on less is impossible. Well, yeah, of course it is if you buy TWO brand new car every 3 years!!!

Anyway, if you truly can not live on less money, don't take any offense to my ranting and raving. I have no issues with that. All I can say there is a lot of people out there who give the rest of you (in true dire straits) a bad name. I have no doubt many people can not survive on less income. So to them this whole thing is kind of moot.

I have mentioned many times, my dad came from a very poor upbringing. I have seen true poverty firsthand. When I think how my grandparents lived their ENTIRE lives and people with nice homes and cars whine that they are broke, it just gets old. I just think, "You have got to be kidding me."

Even my MIL is very jealous that my mother never worked. She said to my parents' one day, "I have ALWAYS had to work." Like, poor me. "I had to work to pay for all the vacations and private school (grade school and college)."

Yes, she seriously said that to my father who grew up dirt poor!!!

My parents and I just looked at each other and roll our eyes. My parents could never afford vacation (before I was maybe 16?). No one in my family has ever attended a private school. Pfffft.

What do you say to something so ignorant? All you can do is roll your eyes...

Somehow I survived with all the deprivation though. Wink I actually grew up very middle class and had PLENTY. But yeah, when I compare my upbringing to the standard middle class lifestyle today, all I see is a lot of excess.

We have some of the same excess. We have plenty of excess. But I could just never imagine whining about my lot. I have never had to worry about food or shelter. I've always had plenty for that, and that's all that really matters. I also know I could support my family on a significantly lower income. I feel blessed I do not have to. But it is rather financially freeing to know I could, all the same. A lot of our lifestyle is just gravy, and I am fully aware of that, for sure.

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

Oh yeah - I have already mentioned the other little known secret many times. When you have a lower income you have WAY lower taxes.

I seriously know MANY people who pull in six figures (2-incomes) who net less than we do after all their taxes. It can make that much difference. Granted, a lot of them get big tax refunds. But suggesting they give up large tax refunds to them means giving up their only source of savings. So yeah, that is kind of insane too. But how it seems to go...

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

P.S. TOTALLY another topic but my investments that I did not check in Quicken all week, were up $100 when I downloaded stock prices today.

I am up $100 and world feels like it is ending. (I don't think your net worth generally increases in a depression. Oh yeah - but I forget the government is footing the bill here. UGH).

Oh boy...

Back from Denver...

September 20th, 2008 at 05:08 pm

I'm Back!

Actually, I don't think I could have asked for a more pleasant trip. It went very smoothly.

Flights were great, the weather was beautiful, my grandma was feeling well the day we visited her, BM was perfect and we ate well and caught up with a lot of people.

I actually met my deceased aunt's parents, who were very nice. It was interesting because the aunt was never very nice but I guess her parents were. So I don't think I had heard much about them or realized they were still friends. When they left, my grandma apologized for the husband for being so boring. LOL. I guess he is a talker, but I actually enjoyed chatting with him. He had some interesting stories to tell - they are all in their 80s.

I don't get a lot of history from my family since I was never close with my grandparents. So I just found it interesting to hear all the stories (some again).

As such, I was very pleased with how the whole thing went. BM really took to my Grandma and she seemed to take to him. I know he would either be an angel or he would be bouncing off the walls. There isn't much in between with him. But for whatever reason he was calm, and did QUITE well. As such, I enjoyed the compliments (I got many). I enjoyed because all I could think was on a bad day the opposite would be what a terrible mom I was. LOL. I've had both. It just depends on the day.

So yes, I was so grateful, I don't think most days he would have sat still for 12 hours. Not that he sat still the entire time, but he did good.

Anyway, I was also a twinge jealous. My other grandmother was just a nasty woman who wanted nothing to do with me until about her 80s. Suddenly she kind of warmed up, but by then it was really too late. My maternal grandma was not nasty, but has always been rather stand-offish. I do have to admit that I was a little jealous to see how well she did with BM. She has also certainly come around with age.

I just can't help but think how lucky BM is that he has had so much time with so many great-grandparents who care for him so much. Dh's grandma we see regularly, and he met dh's grandfather on one occasion. This grandma is the only living grandparent of mine. But BM also sees both of his grandparents all the time and they all adore him. I will always appreciate how lucky he is; he will probably never realize.

I also saw an aunt and a cousin from Kansas. My aunt came to spend some time with my dad since it was a lot closer for her. & oh, BM LOVED her as well. They had lots of fun.

We met one of my cousins for dinner one night. She is working in Denver for now. It is interesting because our family is just so varied. A lot of them just in the backwoods and uneducated (my dad comes from a very large/poor family). But his one sister has the 4 brightest/most educated kids you would ever meet. IT was interesting because I have always thought of this one cousin as a "kid" but she is something like 25 now. Funny enough her brother is a lawyer and wishes to be a farmer. He is trying to save up the money so he can farm for the rest of his life. (That's how my family is I guess, the lawyers just want to be farmers). Anyway, so the cousin I met with is also a lawyer, but just not happy. She is thinking of going into teaching. Anyway, she just said she was saving up all her money so she can take some time off to get a teaching credential, or whatever. We were joking how everyone in her family paid all that money for law school to not even use it. We joked if it had been worth it. I can't say I know if she has school debts between her 3 degrees. But she seemed on top of it.

Just nice, nice people though. Though I never spent much if any time with my extended family I have to admit I always feel comfortable with them. There is just something about family.

Because my family is so frugal, and my grandma is not getting around so well, she just provided lunch and dinner for us. I started to think I would not spend a dime on the entire trip! But I took my parents and aunt out to breakfast on our last day. (We met my cousin for dinner, yes, but we had already eaten and my dad and aunt INSISTED on paying).

Breakfast was all of $20. I told dh when I got home that we owe my parents a NICE meal next time they visit. They paid our $400 airfare and $120 room - 2 nights. I have to say that we could have afforded the trip. I could honestly see repeating that trip on our own sometimes. Not that we could afford to all 4 fly, but the airfare was very reasonable for two.

Oh I am just SO HAPPY my grandma got to meet her great-grandchild (one of 2). Will have to arrange for LM to meet her one of these days. She kept saying she felt bad for our time and expense. Pfffft, it was really nothing. I can see taking LM back next year on my own. Times like this you reason we should have taken more time and expense over the years. I hadn't seen her in 10 years.

My parents are driving back. I will rest easier when they arrive home. It's a shame my mom just hates flying. They spent more on gas than we did on airfare. But they did seem to enjoy themselves!

Getting on a Jet Plane...

September 17th, 2008 at 09:32 pm

I am actually getting ready to go to Colorado.

This week has been a bit crazy.

Monday we met a friend at Chuck E Cheese in the evening (& spent too much. The trip was night & day from our last frugal venture there - oh well).

Anyway, it made for a long day. BM had karate before that (back to his old class - it is now at a workable time for our schedule).

Wouldn't you know, the kid he sits next to in his K class was in his karate class - many miles away. Small world. & he had a little brother and his DAD with him as well - so it sounded like dh and him chatted about much.

BM has a new best friend.

We heard some interesting stuff about the school/teacher. It's all in who you know I guess. Gotta get in the rumor mill. So you know what is going on.

Actually, dh and I are not very social, and I talked a friend into taking her child to BM's preschool, and she always was way more into the rumor mill than I was. She is just very chatty so hears more. It is nice to get all that insight. If we didn't socialize with the chatty people, we wouldn't have a clue I guess.

Anyway, last night I went to aerobics after work and then packed.

So the week has pretty much flown by.

I am leaving in a couple of minutes to pick up BM from school and head out to the airport.

I hope the stock market does not crash while I am away. Reading posts and talking to people it seems like there is a lot of panic out there. If only people realized if they would stop panicking and let things be, all would be fine. Maybe not perfect - but panic will not help ANYONE.

Kind of my thoughts.

I actually talked to my dad Monday who was in Colorado and he asked me nonchalantly how the market did after we discussed some of the news. "Are you serious?" I asked. He asked like he didn't expect much exciting. I said, "Down 500!" But yeah, clearly my dad is not panicking.

Dh's family is another story. They ALL - cousins, aunts/uncles, grandparents, have all their money with Merrill. MIL did not want to talk about it (& I don't expect that in itself affects much). But she did just "Retire" as of June and I think she is a bit panicked.

I worry about them because their ML broker is a piece of work. They may have had more in financials than they should have. Well, they probably did.

It will be interesting to chat more with his family in coming months. I am not sure they are aware we jumped ship long ago. Dh just doesn't want to talk about it. I think they are all paying too much for too little. So yeah, I don't know if he told them we left Merrill a couple of years ago.

Some of the kids' college money is with Merrill. Interesting to see what happens with that. In their 529 plans. Maybe B of A will keep those intact. Who knows... I would welcome the chance to move them to something better. (Since 2006 MIL has let us invest the money where we please - not with an overpriced brokerage - for sure).

Well, gotta run. See ya!

Back to Square One

September 16th, 2008 at 05:00 pm

I probably mentioned this recently, but as of right now our mortgage balance is $207,999.

What is interesting about this is that the first mortgage we ever took out was for $208k.

So yeah, pretty much, 9 years later, and where are we but back to where we started?

It's even less exciting considering we paid off a solid $8 in less than 2 years, on our first mortgage since it was a 15-year-loan. Way higher interest, but way shorter term. It paid off. Was life before kids... I should look up the lowest balance we got to and be set to have a celebration once we dip below it. But it's kind of sad it will take almost 9 years to get there, all the same. We'll have lived in this house 9 years before we get to the mortgage balance we started with? Blech.

On the flip side, we live in a way better neighborhood, our interest rate is lower, we have twice the house, we have a yard and a garage and a laundry room, and many things we didn't before. All this was for $40k more than we paid for our first condo. (The house itself, "as is" was actually the exact same price as we paid for our condo but we put about $20k into structural upgrades, $10k into interior upgrades, and $10k into landscaping).

We paid $20k cash down on that extra $40k, and we financed $20k of it, let's say. As of today we have paid all of that extra off.

In a way you can say all of the excess we got with this house is officially paid off. & that is pretty sweet. What a steal it was! (Having done the lower-cost-of-living move).

But the aggressive/conservative side of me is kind of miffed right now, all the same. I've been a homeowner for 9 years and owe no less on my home than the day I first bought. Not much to brag about there. !!

Well, even though we do have a 30-year amortization, we are paying off $4k/year, since we are getting further into the loan. So I guess from this point we are paying it off as fast as we were when it was a 15 year loan, in a sense. $8k paid over the next 2 years (just as the first 2 years in our condo), easy, and from there we should progress. Our goal is to pay this mortgage off in 20 years, shaving off 10 years, and we have thus far made little effort to accelerate it. The kids have slowed us down a bit. But it is still VERY in the cards. The mortgage has gotten cheap with time. We pay the same (or less really) than we did 9 years ago, considering inflation and lower interest rates which shaved $200/month off our original loan.

Since having kids, I feel like we are getting back to square one on a lot of things financially. It's kind of silly to get back to the mortgage, retirement savings pace, savings in the bank, etc. we had at 25. But that's what we are working towards. We had way more income and way less responsibilities when we were 25. Still a long ways to go to get anywhere near back to that, really...

But yeah, we seem to be getting there in many regards. Slowly, but surely.

Purging

September 15th, 2008 at 08:00 pm

Just a tip – Best Buy takes old electronics for recycling and disposal. 2 items per day (you can bring 2 items every day if you like).

Dh will drop off his old cell phone (just replaced) and his broken computer. He pulled out a few parts but mostly didn’t see the point of keeping the rest. Just obsolete really.

We have actually NEVER taken a computer to the “trash heap? – isn’t that funny??? This was our NEWEST computer until it died last month. We just had a lengthy discussion on how they just don’t make things like they used to. WE have much older computers we still have up and running (for the kids, etc.).

Anyway, my old computer (from the college years – I graduated a decade ago) – dh was holding onto to use as some kind of server. He told me, this whole thing (the ease of Best Buy for recycling) will probably get him to just let it go. Where it may have been reasonable 3-5 years ago to make it a server, it is just so obsolete at this point. He will pull out the hard drive though – we want to wipe it clean – not sure how. Perhaps a project for dh. (Not sure we can boot the computer so I guess something dh will look into – for now will just hold onto it).

I told dh to ask if they take PDAs and car stereos. Stuff we were going to sell but never did. All incredibly obsolete.

Funny, PDAs were a way in life with silicon valley (particularly with our traveling jobs) but we haven’t used them since we moved here 7 years ago. I think the window to sell has long gone.

I found our old film camera – will donate.

I am thrilled to purge some of this stuff.


We’ve kept on top of it from the getgo, but I realize we need to get organized in order to control the flow of paper from the school. Egads!

For now it is a pile on the kitchen counter of stuff we need to keep. I have been going through on the weekends tossing everything useless or past its prime. Welcome to Bureaucracy I guess… LOTS of paper.

For one, we need to volunteer 30 hours a year to keep our spot in the school. Not imagining it will be a problem, but I had printed out the worksheet to keep track and had not logged any time. I filled it in yesterday and put it up on the fridge. In plain sight to keep track of; hopefully won’t lose.

Most of the stuff BM brought home, I tossed when he wasn’t looking (just work he has done – it will be endless). Recycled anyway…

Lots of newsletters and info, but most of it obsolete once time has past.

Then there is the handbook that I couldn’t find when BM was sick and I was looking for school procedure. I found it, but I haven’t got a spot for it yet.

As well as the packet from the teacher about the school year.

So I am thinking of getting some kind of binder/folder with at least 2 sections – permanent reference – and current information we can toss as we go. Maybe another section for volunteer stuff/tracking.

I pulled a few things (School work/art work, etc.) to keep for posterity and found a large plastic bin to put them in. Will do for now, though I have the feeling I will have to go pare it down at the end of the year or something.

I knew I had an extra one laying around. There was a bin full of diaper covers. All of them – I tossed the diapers in a goodwill bag and had a memory box for BM. Wala. I can probably throw some of his preschool stuff in there as well.

Oh yes – I also found a lot of disposable diapers yesterday. I had been holding off – the whole law of Murphy. Give the diapers away, and suddenly they will be needed!

Anyway, I gave in and lugged a giant box full of diapers to preschool today. She thanked me profusely, and said “those are expensive!? No kidding. LM just trained like over night – 24/7. There is no way we would have had so many diapers if we had any warning there. But yeah – I held on about 2 months – and it’s just time. He hasn’t even wet his bed in 2 months. One day he wanted his diapers 24/7, the next he didn’t want them at all. No complaints, really!

Now for Murphy to work it’s ugly magic, huh?

Best of all I knew I could ask for some back in a pinch – hehe.


Saturday Update

September 13th, 2008 at 06:38 pm

Geez, seems to be a lot going on. Not personally. But just in the forums/blogs. Plus hurricanes, politics, and all that kind of stuff.

Not much going on in my "boring" little corner. I guess why I haven't been so bloggy. (& yes, glad to report it is boring!!)

--Dh made an Indian feast the other day. More recipes from his class - an interesting potato salad and a cilantro/peanut chutney. Rice and beets. Dh braved naan though they didn't cover it in his class - was good and the kids devoured it all in seconds. Yeesh. Bread monsters.

As an aside, "cilantro" is one of LM's favorite words, and he says it quite well. LOL. It's just a funny thing. (He just turned 3).

--Last night we went out for frozen yogurt. We found an okay place in our neighborhood, but with a coupon we had we were all able to get our yogurt piled high with toppings, $4 total. (Coupon just happened to come in the mail yesterday - $5 off at any store in the shopping center - and we had been planning to go out for $1 ice cream - this was even better).

--Mentioned briefly but someone I met and just started to hit it off with in 2004, moved up North. Just sold house (offer anyway), will probably take away a profit, and is moving back in a couple of weeks. Will probably buy here now that it is affordable. Kind of a cool change of things. I am excited!! Moving an hour out, but I can see getting together, we have since had younger children too. Will have to get together once they get settled.

Reminds me there are a few houses on our street for sale. 1 foreclosure, 1 that is not.

Another house closer to us on the street had moving trucks but no news on that front. I saw reference to a listing online but never saw it listed. Dh saw people moving in. I wonder if it sold fast (& why it would). Time will tell. Could just be rented or something. Just no info for now.

Oh the first one in foreclosure - police activity the other day. House has NEVER been kept up on the outside - in 7 years. IT just occurred to me it could be a pot house. I keep reading about them but not sure why thought never crossed my mind. They just trash those houses and fill them to the brim with pot plants - the pictures are just crazy.

-- Well, getting ready for our Colorado trip. Kinda sorta. Not much to it. My parents left today (& since they got a late start we are meeting for lunch - yippee!). They have BM's carseat. (Driving).

All we need to do is throw a couple of changes of clothes in our backpacks, print our boarding passes online and drive the 2 minutes to the airport, for our 2-hour flight. We should have it rather easy. No a lot to bring/do/prepare. (Which is strange to say since travel by air has largely been a PITA in recent years. Since we are leaving mid-day on a Wednesday I don't even expect the usual security backups - the line has been BAD in the past for weekend trips).

Our parents will pick us up at the airport in Denver and will drop us off again on their way home Friday. Denver will be another story - such a big airport.

We'll have 36 hours to catch up with a few relatives and such. Will be a whirlwind for sure, but glad there is not much to prepare. LOVE that I don't have to lug a carseat.

--I am working today so I can take half the week off, (and keep the rest of my vacation intact for November & December time off). DH is volunteering much of the evening.

I don't think we have any plans tomorrow. Recover I guess. Enjoy. Sleep. Rest. I don't want to do anything.

Tax-y Blog Today

September 11th, 2008 at 07:48 pm

Lots of interesting stuff on the tax front:

Federal Taxes

Just got a summary on some of the little less known tax changes in the American Housing Rescue/Foreclosure Prevention Act.

1 - $7500 tax credit for "first time home buyers." You've heard of it.

The "credit" (loan, really) phases out between incomes of $75k-$95k singles and $150k-$170k marrieds.

Not very exciting for most of you. But I hadn't heard that. For Sacramento means little. From my friends back home asking me about it - they won't qualify. HCOL comes with high wages.

2 - Temporary property tax deduction for non-itemizers.

What in holy hell? Benefits so few, for one year only. What a waste of taxpayers dollars MAKING this one. Whatevah.

Enjoy it if you can. $500 tax deduction is single; $1000 if married (max anyway) if you pay property taxes but do not itemize.

3 - Beginning 1/1/09, tax laws change on converting rentals to primary residences. The good thing is it is not really retroactive.

Before, if you had a rental for many years and converted it to a primary residence for simply 2 years, you could completely exclude the gain if it fell under the usual exclusions for primary residences ($250k single/$500k MFJ).

New rule is complicated. You can only exclude gain for portion of time you used it as a primary residence, in comparison to how long you owned the property. So at face value if you rented it 20 years and lived in it 2 years, you can only exclude 2/22 (9%) of the gain.

It's not retroactive though and I honestly don't understand the whole thing. I have an example here that someone who moved into a home on 1/1/10, and lived in it 2 years, would only have one unqualified year (2009 - when law starts). So though they owned the home 7 years, they would only have to pay tax on 1/7 of the gain, for the one year they rented it out under new law.

Likewise, I am not sure at face value how this law coincides with the prior one. Not sure if you still have to live in the place 2 of the past 5 years before selling. It looks like those rules still stand as well, but these trump them a bit.

(This one will take a while to wrap my brain around - complicated).

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

California can't agree on a budget and all Arnold can do is offer to raise taxes by some insane figure. (Increase already high sales taxes by over 10%, or increase top tax brackets by 1-3%. They were already increased 1% a couple of years ago. HELLO. The rich are FLEEING. IT doesn't seem to be helping revenues, for sure. Basic economic theory. Particularly when you can move a few hours away and pay NO state income taxes - more than one nearby state offers this enticing perk).

Anyway, I got a lovely, really useful e-mail yesterday (not).

"WARNING: The state legislature may:
Add (another) 1% surcharge to income over $1 million;
Institute 10% and 11% tax rates;
Eliminate certain credits;
Conform to some federal provisions or not;
Eliminate NOL carryovers into 2008;
Plus others we don't yet know about.
"

This is our starting point for year-end tax planning.

UGH!

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I just got an interesting article on our profession, in the state.

**Foreclosures - California doesn't really conform to Federal tax laws anymore, which is a complete nightmare. So this is a big issue - such a heavily foreclosured state and the state government has not decided if it will conform to the Federal relief laws.

Another ugh.

Reports are that 2 types of foreclosure heavy in the state:

1 - People who purchased homes in affordable cities but had long commutes. Foreclosing due to gas costs. (Interesting).

2 - People who bought in the bubbles (expected).

Just interesting observations from the trenches.

I have to admit I can not believe how much some people paid to live in the middle of nowhere and commute. "Affordable" is debatable. Not sure if anyone has bought affordable housing in this state for a while.

My boss just said he didn't expect any of our clients to foreclose. I wouldn't be so sure. Most of his long-time clients are financially savvy, but we have a few *winners.* I can think of a few who may be struggling (the younger ones, for sure, which are more under my charge). IT will be an interesting tax season. (Of course none would bother to give us a heads up - this is the kind of stuff you find out right about April 15th - which of your clients have lost their homes. We're always the last to know).

Anyway profession has lots of concerns over more aggressive preparer penalties in areas where it is really impossible to comply. (If clients don't tell us they make money on the side, why are we being penalized. Are we auditors?)

Profession is reporting that business is booming, we are "recession-proof" as usual.

But issues are:

1 - Business is up, but collections are more difficult

2 - More clients likely to evade taxes (work under the table) or not file tax returns at all (& as mentioned, concerns about overly zealous preparer penalties).

3 - Concerns how to keep clients but not prepare questionable returns. (Conflict of interest here, it seems). The basics to this is we are less likely to venture into gray areas, due to own personal concerns. BUT our clients are pushing the envelope more - so we are just more at odds.

My own observation is that we have been so slammed with work that we have had the luxury of firing bad clients at will and holding on to the really on-the-ball/honest types. So I don't expect to find the same issues in our office this year. But I am sure a few will rear their ugly heads. I appreciate the decades my boss has put into this practice, and the kind of clients we have. Particularly reading these points.

Just kind of an interesting report from the tax trenches.

Fighting Every Step of the Way

September 11th, 2008 at 02:40 pm

State Farm Visa (back up card - 1% cash back) called to say their was strange activity on the card 2 months ago. They confirmed it was fraudulent and sent me new cards. I asked if there was anything I needed to do to dispute the charges. "Taken care of," they said.

So I got a bill.

So I called and they told me that they couldn't dispute the charges before because they hadn't "cleared." Whatevah.

So they sent me a form that was like due yesterday to dispute the charges. I filled it out, faxed and mailed it, rolling my eyes at their stupid due date.

I got a letter it was cleared and didn't think much of it, but "Glad that's over."

So today I get a bill for $1.50.

"Why?", you ask?

Because the fraudulent charge was some kind of international charge with a $1.50 "international transaction fee."

Needless to say, I listed the actual charge AND the FEE in my dispute, but I didn't notice they only removed the charge.

I have lost patience with the whole thing. I handed it to dh as though the principle is annoying, I can't handle it anymore. I HATE dealing with this stuff and fighting is not my thing. The cost/benefit accountant in me can't waste the time to fight $1.50.

Oh, BAD for the credit card company. I griped and gave it to dh to open a can of whoop-ass. I told him to CANCEL the card if this isn't taken care of ASAP. They will rue the day they crossed dh. Just how he is - he gets all bent out of shape.

For me I guess it's at the point where it annoys the hell out of me, but I can't see wasting any more of my TIME on the manner. But yeah, hell if I will pay it. Dh will take care of it - hehe.

I guess if I didn't have my dh I would be calling to cancel the card unless they removed the charge immediately. Which I guess is basically what I asked dh to do - I have just had enough.

I don't know if it is much of a threat since we are "deadbeats" who pay our card monthly and have never paid a fee. (& these days don't even use the card for purchases. We keep it as a backup because Chase is idiotic and likes to deny charges as suspicious, at random. I don't think we could be more predictable really - LOL. Likewise, dh's backup card is a card he hadn't used in like 5 years, with Chase, but they let him buy a $1k TV with that one when they denied it on our every day card. That makes a lot of sense? & yeah try calling the credit card company to work it out when you are buying concert tix. You can't buy good seats when your card denies you up front and you don't have a back up. They really have a knack for being a PITA).

Yeah, loving the credit card companies. Too bad I hate dealing in cash so much.

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

Along the same lines, we switched to Dish when our cable company folded, and dh told them we did NOT want automatic payments. But they took the first payment as an automatic payment from our card. We haven't taken care of that one, but I got a bill they were going to charge our card again on Sept. 2 or something.

I just realized they never did. ????????

It can never be simple, eh? I have to go dig that bill out and see if they actually respected our wishes - maybe I just assumed they would take it again. Maybe just the rule for first payment.

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

That's the minutia of life lately.

I can NOT believe it is the 10th already. (Well, 11th?).

!!!

Where did this month go?

BM is good as new today (as predicted). Will go to school.

Dh tells me they played a lot of video games and watched a lot of TV and so he did good resting (hard to get him to settle down when he is sick). BUT when he was outside with the tow truck driver, for a bit, when he came back in BM was running back and forth across the house as fast as he could. LOL. He had set his timer and was trying to run as FAST as he could. Typical BM. He gets like a caged animal when he is sick. He just had to let it out!

Well, dh tried his best. You can't watch him every second. Gah.

Anyway, I canceled our Chuck E Cheese date for the week and no more debating if we should go to the Wednesday Farmers Market. (Which saves $$$$$$$$$).

We are going to Colorado for a couple of days next week and I may work the next 2 Saturdays to make up some time.

SO, it seems overall it will be easy to stay low-spendy for the next 2 weeks. Too sick/too busy to do anything fun - hehe.

We'll see.

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

ETA: Wouldn't you know, paid Dish on 8/15. Just forgot. I guess the first due date was an odd date and I Was surprised when it didn't clear around the 2nd of the month again.

Phew. Well, we still have to straighten it out. I don't like the automatic payment thing - its hard to correct errors and keep on top of it - I didn't even remember it was paid (though I obviously knew at one point; but quickly forgot).

I Admit It - I Pay for Convenience

September 10th, 2008 at 08:49 pm

I think a lot of what I am willing to pay for in life is for convenience. Everything else we can scrimp on. Wink

I think this is my true financial philosophy...

Anyway, called AAA around noon since I had a meeting and was useless if dh needed help in the morning.

Took them forever of course.

But it was just the battery (we weren't sure) and they replaced it for $120.

I am sure we could have done it ourselves for cheaper, but dh called me to ask my opinion (I am more the car one anyway - I know - so many reversed roles).

I said, "how long will it last?" He said he didn't know (typical dh). I said "whatever, if it gets the car up and running now, and the guy is there, just PAY the guy."

It was through AAA and he was able to charge it. So that was nice.

Small enough to even fit in the budget I guess.

So, um, 2 batteries in a couple of months - LUCKY us.

Dh's battery was about EIGHT years old and we probably should have kept on it. This one was about 3 years old - factory battery - what can I say. Everything factory on the van SUCKS. !!!

HEck, the Ford was the original one as far as we knew - lasted 90k miles - not bad. SO between the 2, I feel okay.

In the end this one is warranted for 3 years and semi-warranted up to 6 years. SO all in all, it's okay. Just to get 'er done!

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

We attempted to jump the van Monday night but failed miserably. Oh well. Why we didn't think it would be so easy.

I have to admit I am glad it was so easy.

I was griping to dh as we hooked up jumper cables how in this day and age people are so freaking scared to jump themselves. A monkey could do it. But I guess we didn't do so well - LOL. I think the terminals were too corroded and I hope the guy cleaned them a bit. If not, a project for us I guess.

UGH!!!!

September 10th, 2008 at 03:02 pm

Well, last night was great.

I think the school is insane. I am just overwhelmed from what they told us what the kids will be doing all year.

It's like, more is better. (Who says?). Why do Kindergarteners need 10 field trips? Why do they need 50 different cirriculums? I am trying to wrap my brain around it all.

On the flip side, teacher said most of the kids were already advanced, which is great for BM (so he is not bored).

She gave us sight words to work on the kids - I think about 20 lists. I laughed to myself when I saw them. I gave BM the page of the first 10 lists out of curiosity and he knew all but a very few words by sight. This will be tedious. (We have to sign off one list at a time. I guess I can ask the teacher to skip 1-10 - she can see for herself).

On one hand, they do tend to expect a lot from the kids. On the other hand, most of the parents said their kids weren't eating their lunch. (Not a problem with our HUNGRY boy). & they were theorizing the kids just didn't know how to feed themselves. LOL. I had to LAUGH at that as well - they need help "getting set up." So they are s'poosed to be learning all this stuff, but they can't feed themselves. Oy vey. It's just strange to me. (Since I had a newborn sister I remember making my own lunch in Kindergarten, on many occassions. Seriously. Kids will do what you expect of them). Another friend was telling me at her school there was a lot of potty accidents since the kids weren't reminded like they were in daycare or preschool, I guess. I try to remember the last time I reminded my 5-year-old to go potty. Like 2 years ago. I mean, I understand other kids train much later. But you see the overall tendency for people to baby their children. Their may be one or two late bloomers, but really how common should it be that kids are wetting their pants every day? ??? ???

Another interesting tidbit - they said kids coming through more and more have terrible fine motor skills. Not good at coloring/drawing/cutting/pasting.

Kind of interesting. I would wonder if our kids would have an edge because their preschool is so old-school. Instead of those hideous premade projects, they are encouraged to be creative and create their own art. I would assume that helps (it is more a traditional 1970s preschool. The modern preschools were frightening to me - no creativity if nothing else). BUT our kids also prefer TV, computers, video games to other forms of entertainment. So I could see easily my kids being on the low end for that. They don't spend a lot of time using their hands, for sure. We don't do a lot of coloring with them at home. That could be a part of it as well. I don't know, not much individual feedback yet.

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

Anyway, we paid the neighbor $10 and the kids had a blast. She actually wouldn't accept it but I insisted as at least a token that we weren't taking advantage. I told her I was open to informally exchanging the kids any time - they had fun. But she made our life immensely easier for one night and I insisted she take it for that.

Neighbors are VERY nice and actually the wife went to the same high school as dh - funny enough. The father's parents live down the street from dh's parents as well, they are from San Jose. Just a small world. !!!!

But we get wrapped up in our own little lives and aren't very social. I think we are very different people, BUT we invited them over for the kids' birthday and I realized just how SWEET they are. Nice, nice, nice and the kids are our common ground, if nothing else. We need to get together more. She said her boy has few friends (since their daughter is so much older - is their main focus as far as friends). So we'll work on it - work on being social.

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

So why did I title this post, "UGH!!!!!"

Because BM woke up with croup.

A little deja vu here. It was around February that he went to bed completely fine one night, and the next morning he woke up and could barely breathe. I ended up calling 9-1-1, was so panicked.

The diagnosis? Croup? They kept asking a lot of questions how long he had been sick. Hello, he went to bed healthy and waking up looking like he was DYING. OMG.

Today was a little better. I heard some hacking and thought one of the kids was throwing up. I followed the noise to BM's room and was devastated to hear that croup noise. IT just came on in a flash, like last time. I guess the good is maybe it will leave in a flash too (like last time).

Certainly NOT as bad as last time. *Phew* & I know not to panic this time. (I think; it's hard).

But last time they told us he was getting too old. & he had never really had it before (maybe once).

So the whole thing is very odd and has me worried.

I can just tell it is going to be a long week.

& then I am worried how TONIGHT will be. They say the second night is worse. Last time he was drugged up on steroids - I am not sure we see the point this round. But I will probably have a worrisome night if he is still sick tonight.

PLUS I have to go to work and leave dh carless today. Though croup does some to be worse at night. I just feel uncomfortable if he does struggle like last time.

*sigh*

So, just, Ugh!

Dh was going to get the van towed today while the kids were at school. Regardless, he is carless.

What a week!

An Affordable Baby Sitter!!!

September 9th, 2008 at 02:51 pm

Dh and I have had this discussion, and I think the day has arrived. We say, you know, before you know it, we won't even need a babysitter!

No, THAT day hasn't arrived. But one close to it.

I know teenagers are the great, cheap babysitter. But I am wary. Not with my little LM. I am a little protective of him yet. Though I feel better at least now that he can talk clearly and tell me if his babysitter is an idiot. Wink

BUT we also are just really lacking teenagers around here. I have friends with teens who live 20 miles away who have offered - but their houses are not really child friendly and the logistics are a PITA.

Most of our neighbors are retired or are just really young families. Not a lot in between. Our next door neighbor at one point told me she would love to babysit - she worked with children. But then she moved...

Anyway, fast forward to tomorrow. It is Back-to-School-Nite and we have been discussing it. We both want to go, but the babysitting for the drop-in place is $12/hour. AND we expect it to be a little crowded for the evening - the place is popular with the locals. We even got a referral for a babysitter but we figured the same. She has got to be BOOKED tomorrow night. Hehe. The good ones always are backed up - we are the last ones to know. & then we go around if we want a "stranger" in our house. & all that. Why we will pay a premium for the drop-in place. The kids LOVE it. & most adult sitters cost the same anyway. (in the $10-$12/hour range for 2 kids). I am not sure I feel a ton of comfort with the teen sitters - particularly ones I do not know from Adam. So if I have to pay that much for an adult, we rather just go the the drop-in place with all the activity and fun.

So dh remembers over the weekend that our next door neighbors, on the other side, mentioned offhand their daughter is getting into the babysitting business. They mentioned this in July, as an offer really.

You know, when we moved in, she must have been 5. LOL. So I just think of her as a KID. Thought never crossed my mind.

Now she is about 11.

Dh went over and talked to them yesterday. Since they have a 4yo child, their house is FUN. They said we could drop the kids off and she will be in charge of them. IT will only be a couple of hours and not much to it - they will be fed. LM is potty trained. They usually are well-behaved. They will play for 2 hours and be happy as clams.

I was looking up what to offer (dh the dork didn't even discuss payment, or anything important really - LOL). I see $3/hour for pre-teens, as a standard for the area, and about $4-$5 for pre-teens with CPR training. Considering the parents will be there as well I think we will just offer $5 an hour, for the 2 kids. Open to negotiation.

At $5/hour, somewhere where we know they will be WELL taken care of, I think we might actually get out a bit more. & how CONVENIENT.

Kudos to the rather last minute-ness of it all. I think I am in heaven.

I am just beside myself that we can both go to back-to-school night and it won't cost us $25+. YAY!

Murphy's Still Here...

September 9th, 2008 at 01:08 am

Today was BM's first day back at Karate - already paid.

But he didn't make it. The van wouldn't start.

!!!!!

I have no idea what we'll do. Could be the battery but I don't think so. I am thinking we will wait until Wednesday - dh can call AAA and have it towed to the mechanic if need be, while the kids are at school.

BAH!

The window isn't working either - maybe we'll get that fixed too. The mechanic said he just lubed it up last time, but we don't have the tools to get in there. It's just intermittent, along with the door locks. Crappy new car. I miss my 20-year-old Toyota. I don't think I EVER had a reliability issue with that car - nor with my old Saturn. NEW is not better, simply for being new. I'd swear off all American cars, but I do admit dh's Ford makes up for it. Thank goodness for that car. I would say it even trumps our older prior Toyota/Honda/Saturn. (I realize Saturn is American, but it is of the quality of a foreign car manufacturer if you ask me - hehe).

But AAA can be rather nice. Most of the tow truck drivers we have met were amateur mechanics and can be rather helpful. If it is just the battery they can give dh a jump and he can go buy a new battery and replace it himself. They'll be able to advise him. & if not, they can tow to the mechanic. Sounds like dh's Wednesday will be busy though.

I was going to ask dh to take the kids to school tomorrow so I can go to work early. So much for that...

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

Back-to-School Night is tomorrow. I REALLY want to go but am not sure we can really justify the $20-$30 babysitting. I think I may stay home with the kids, while dh goes. Or we can flip for it. *sigh*

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

Dh is making my favorite citrus chicken recipe (it has been a while so I requested the other day).

& Sweet & Sour Bok Choy:

http://www.cooks.com/rec/doc/0,1950,149174-248198,00.html

Had to find something for the bok choy we got with our CSA produce delivery. Not something we usually eat. (I'll have to report how it turns out).

Reminds me, now when I eat veggies I taste this awful chemical taste. I can't tell if I am imagining it or if I am just noticing it more in comparison to the fresh/organic/direct from farm fruits and veggies we have been eating. I noticed it in a spinach salad we had the other day, and some baby carrots we were eating at MIL's. BLECH.

ETA: The bok choy recipe was really good. YUM!

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

ETA:

Sacramento Philharmonic is having a kids' concert (actually 2, sponsored by Target). Kids are free, adults are $10/each. We are THERE. I am so excited about this. LM, our little maestro, will be in HEAVEN. Show is November. One in May as well (we can probably swing both if he enjoys the November one).

Six years and going...

September 6th, 2008 at 01:36 pm

It's that time of year where I reflect on the last few years, as we come up on the anniversary since my spouse last worked.

As of the end of September it will have been SIX years.

So that means six years of one-income living for us.

Honestly, from our perspective it is not that HUGE of a milestone, especially considering my pay raises through the years and such.

But in this society it is a huge milestone. Usually when I mention my spouse does not work, he is offered a job. That's how it goes. Our society does not seem to understand that for some of us, there is more to life than "work." That a paying job is not the be-all-end-all. (There is plenty of other important work in this world).

Anyway, we have zoomed ahead so far from where we started I thought it was important to share where we started. & for newer readers and such.

We always saved most of dh's wages. Early on it was the down payment on our home. Once we moved to cheaper lands and bought or dream home for pennies, then we looked at our pile of cash. Since we were teens it had been "save every penny for a house," because we lived in such a frighteningly expensive area. Then, when we were about 25 we simply gave up. The whole thing seemed rather ridiculous - working into our 90s just to pay a mortgage. So we moved somewhere considerably cheaper. We had been saving our pennies to upgrade from our $250k condo to a $600k (piece of crap) house. Saving for the 20% down.

After the move, we were both working and that cash was piling up. We kind of looked at that cash like, "what next?" Suddenly the one thing we thought we would save forever for, was off the table.

Talk about freeing!

Of course, many people around here might have thought to pay off our $200k+ mortgage. But, eh. From our perspective we had slashed our housing expenses considerably, for the rest of our life. The mortgage was nothing to us. I think we were exhausted from putting so much cash into our home, and ready to move on to bigger and better things. Our mortgage payment was a fraction of rents, where we were from. Our mortgage, at the time, just was barely a blip on our financial radar.

For us, we moved to the next item on our list - children.

We had only lived here a few months before we decided we were ready. There really wasn't much discussion about it. Everything we did in our young lives was in preparation for children some day, and when we were on stable financial ground we both just knew - we were ready. IT was literally like, "I think we are ready." "Ok." Kind of funny how we both agreed in an instant, but you see we were planning all along for this.

Anyway, I wouldn't say the reason we always lived off of one income was because we wanted children. The reason we always lived on one income was because it seemed fiscally dangerous to rely on 2 incomes to pay the bills. But the future thoughts of children, made us a little more committed to keeping our expenses down; knowing we wanted one of us to be home with the kids.

I wish I could say, today, that we we were coming up on 5 years of one-income living, but no sooner did we conceive our first child, dh was laid off from his job. This is why, at this point, it has been six years, though our eldest child just turned 5.

When we first made the leap and threw our birth control out of the window I was making $50k/year and taking home $3400 monthly. This easily covered all of our bills. Dh was taking home on average $2500/month and we were saving it. Our original plan was to save that for another 9 months. Plans are nice, but times like these is where I learned to hope for the best while preparing for the worst. Wink I guess he did receive unemployment for a while. So it wasn't a total loss...

I was lucky. The day I told my boss that I was pregnant, he gave me a 10% raise. (He decided it was a good time to tell me the news). I also figured that our income taxes would be about $0 with the decrease of income and the birth of our child. So I was able to lower my tax withholdings by about $400/month. Between that and my raise, we were taking home $4k monthly, when BM was born. I was pretty much taking home what I had been grossing when we decided to take the leap.

This was an awesome start to our one-income leap. I had not expected any raises really.

When we first went down to one-income we had $30k cash in the bank. We had actually preferred to get this to $50k by dh working at least 9 more months. We were relying on our savings to cover some of the bills, and pregnancy seemed like a risky proposition, particularly with the pregnant one being the sole bread-winner. So, we actually weren't really pleased where our savings ended up. Dh looked for work most of the 9 months in order to bulk that up more; it was just a terrible time for the economy (2002). He never did find another job.

As such, we always looked at the one-income thing as rather temporary. If we were lucky, we could swing it until the kids entered school. We'd be happy with the first 2-3 years if it was all we could swing.

So, when we first went down to one income, we weren't really saving a ton. Don't get me wrong, I was saving for my maternity leaves and all that, and we rarely tapped our cash savings. BUT retirement had left the table. Dh's money had always funded retirement and we felt okay to let that go for a few years. We had a good start. (I always respected people who didn't want to take that kind of financial leap to be home with their kids. Sometimes I am surprised we did - as fiscally conservative as we tend to be).

We were also very lucky that the kids were so close together. If we had our wish, we wanted them 2 years apart. Of course, didn't expect to be so lucky in the least. As much as we REALLY planned our children, we were always very aware that our plans were subject to a higher blessing. So when our second child arrived exactly 2 years later, I felt like we were doing something right. Both the kids were born in summer when it was slow at work and I could take months off. It all just seemed to go as planned.

I also continued to get 10% raises every year. So things started to get easier.

Of course, during this time, our brains went out the window. I remember at times as this anniversary passed, thinking, "Phew. Maybe we will make it one more year." But instead of saving my raises once we had our second child, we started to spend it. I think honestly we were just tired of living on a shoestring. We had done it many many many many years, and we let loose a little bit. Which was fine. But I think also we figured we saved so much of dh's money before kids, and would save so much after the kids, what was the harm in taking a break?

I don't know if there was much harm inflicted, but in 2006 we started to look at things differently. We had our 2 kids, and it was time to look at our next goals. My pay was increasing astronomically. For the first time, as we looked to our future plans and considered our next steps, now that we had the 2 children we wanted, it occurred to us that we may find the same financial security we used to, before kids, on ONE income. Imagine that. It had never really been a realistic goal in the beginning so the thought hadn't crossed our minds. But looking at my pay raises, it was something to consider.

So we decided to pretend/assume like dh would NEVER work again, and get our financial house in order.

It was around then that I joined pfadvice and this is where I am today. (Coming up on 2 years here).

Looking back on the last 6 years...

The pluses:

*My gross pay has increased 50% since BM was first conceived. My take-home has increased 60%.

*Our net worth has continually climbed all this time. From the $100k range to the $200k range. So we are chugging along. We'll be ages 31/32 by year-end.

*I never imagined we would afford things like preschool, on my income alone.

*The Bush tax cuts extraordinarily reward young couples with large mortgages and kids. There are many years we paid no income taxes, some years the government paid us to have kids (refundable child tax credits) and today only about 8% of my gross goes to income taxes (both federal and state). I am not a fan of the Bush cuts and know we will pay this back tenfold down the road, but the timing was VERY helpful for our one-income years.

The negatives:

*Our health insurance went from $100 monthly to cover just myself to $750 monthly, this year, to cover the fam. One year our health premiums went up 40%. (When we turned 30 - ugh).

Sometimes it feels futile. All the planning and preparing to get where we are just to be slammed by insane health costs. This is honestly the first (one-income) year it hasn't given me great stress. We had a small premium increase for 2008. It was nice to get a break from this monster. Many of my large raises have been eaten up by healthcare expenses. But then you just have to be grateful for the large raises to cover them...

*I had a lot of unpaid time off during the 2 years I had my children. So those were some large income hits as well.

*We can't cover dh for disability. I think this is the greatest injustice I have come across for one-income families. Just because my spouse takes a few years off of work does not mean it would not be of great financial consequence to us if he were to become permanently disabled.

I have the feeling coverage is hard to come by because it is such a likely scenario (disability is far more common than death for people our age).

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

This year is interesting though because we have passed a few milestones that have increased our current standing greatly.

*As of 12/31/07 I completely vested in my employer's retirement plan. It is completely funded by my employer and 10% of my pay is deposited every year. Suddenly the years we ignored retirement don't really matter. I have always had 10% set aside! (I just didn't rely on that at all before vesting. But now that we can rely on it, it is a huge leap for our financial standing).

*My spouse has never had a problem making money on the side, but with sleepless kids and the stress and strain of infants and babies and all that comes with that, we have largely given up relying on even a small side income. BUT this year is different. I notice a change in myself now that I consistently get a good nights' sleep, and the kids need less constant care. & I certainly notice a change in dh (the primary caregiver to the children). HE is making money this year. & it makes all the difference. He has not made this kind of money since 2002. Though he was unemployed the 9 months before BM was born, he made in the realm of $3k doing video work and such, since he had nothing else to do really. I look forward to getting back to that. $3k is a lot of money and we can use it. I can foresee him pulling that kind of cash in for 2009.

*Childcare is WAY less of a consideration for us going forward. LM just turned 3 AND BM just started public school. Any care the kids need I can pretty much fund from my income, at this point, which makes dh working another job is for the first time, rather feasible. Without doing insane things like working opposite schedules. (Something we have preferred to avoid all these years).

At one point it would have cost $2k/month for care for the kids. Today LM full-time where he is at would run $600 and BM's care would be very minimal, after school. (& I could probably work from home and watch him anyway. He needs less constant supervision). But even minimal care for holidays and such, I could certainly swing from my income.

So this year is an interesting turning point, for ALL of these reasons.

I feel like we are largely on track financially, actually. Last year we replenished our emergency fund and this year we started saving up $5k, annually, cash for future purchases. Something else we largely stopped since having kids.

All else being equal, we are in a good spot. Moving forward I feel like we have our bases covered and our savings is on a good pace. We are contributing $100/month to our retirement, in addition to my 10%. (Last year was only $50/month and I hope to double it to $200/month, in 2009).

This year we will put aside $5k for future expenses.

The kids are nearing $10k in their college funds. (ENTIRELY funded by relatives, BUT it's one less thing for us to worry about).

& life is good.

BUT we still have a lot of catching up to do. We should have much more than $3k in the bank, and a lot of unexpected items have popped up this year, making it harder to make our $5k goal by year-end.

(Sure we have the emergency fund but to us that is a catastrophe fund. So we need a lot more other cash savings to keep it a catastrophe fund, as planned).

Reminds me, I would prefer to grow the emergency fund a bit as well, from $12k to $15k.

So, for now, I think our long-term financial success depends on building up our cash fund. I feel like we have about 5 years of missed savings to catch up. Because that is really what it comes down to. We haven't saved much the last few years and we feel the pinch in that regard.

So that is the long and the short of it all.

Looking ahead is good. We have little plan but to save all of my future raises. We are happy with our lifestyle where it is at. For now we know it is "slow and steady" for us. Which is an adjustment because we are used to saving "fast and furiously." We've never really saved any other way. So this is very weird and new to both dh and I.

So we are adjusting to the slow and steady concept, and hoping our health insurance allows us a little left over after future raises.

I know I have a $300/month "raise" coming in 2010 when LM graduates preschool and goes to public school. So we are counting on that to bulk up our cash and/or retirement.

I will probably have my own raises from work as well (3 more raises by then).

When we run the numbers, sometimes I think it is possible to max out our IRAs and stay on track with all of our other financial goals, by the time LM starts 1st grade.

It's kind of ironic, to wait all those years for dh to return to work, and then as we approach it to kind of think, nevermind. There's no need.

If we can max out our IRAs? (On top of my 10% retirement contributions from work?) & meet our other financial goals? (Saving enough to avoid any debt?). There really would be little point in dh working. If he wanted to work, all I can envision is paying down the mortgage very rapidly and/or starting an early retirement savings fund (taxable investments). Maybe cut our health insurance expenses, with benefits.

& it is exciting to think, if he does work, that we could go back to our fast and furious savings. It would all be gravy.

But I think it's even better to think that we could possibly set aside 25% of my gross to retirement and continue to avoid debt, on my income alone. That would be quite a milestone, and yet it is starting to feel within reach.

Some Updates

September 6th, 2008 at 01:14 pm

*Preschool is up in the air. We have decided to send LM one day a week on a trial run, if Ms. Preschool leaves for a few weeks or months, and she told us we would switch to a pay-as-we-go system, meaning we wouldn't pay for holidays in December, which REALLY helps.

So we may save in the range of $500 this year if she goes, but she told me yesterday in an e-mail, "If I go." So doesn't seem very set in stone.

*Our A/C seems to be working just fine. I had a horrible thought if it was just the thermostat that there could be issues with the heat as well.

Likewise, it is 104 degrees today - s'posed to be. !! So I am glad it seems to be working. (So much for the thought that it wouldn't be needed in September!). Hottest day of this year, September 6? Ugh. I can't make sense of the weather at all. Loved the mild summer; not thrilled with the record breaking September. We'll see how bad it gets...

*On Ebay we were beyond peeved with things of late. Dh actually called our latest non-payer and the guy hung up on him. BUT he called back and left him a message. I am SO proud of dh. We usually kind of even each other out - he goes postal and I let people walk over me too much - and we kind of meet in the middle. He said he left a VERY nice message and just to told him we could not resell the item until he answered our dispute and to please answer it. & you know what, the guy did. I was proud dh didn't go postal on him - never have seen such restraint from him. Hehe. So, the guy answered that he didn't have the money and we got our FV refund and dh relisted the item.

OF course, the guy had a bunch of complaints on his feedback about non-payment. & since ebay had been rather useless to us all week, we just started to gripe how that guy could STILL have an account. No sooner than that and it was removed. At least they did SOMETHING with one of these idiots.

It gets better though. When dh relisted he saw a note simply that "Charging more than $4 shipping is no longer allowed for items in this category." Meaning the game category. {As of OCtober 1}.

Are they flipping kidding? I just don't know what that means. We usually charge $5 and really we have been eating more of the handling costs because we prefer priority mail and it usually is about $5. We should probably charge $6 or more for packaging and gas and everything.

& have you tried to ship regular mail lately? IT is HORRID. I have had thing take 4 weeks.

Priority mail - usually there in ONE day - for a very small premium.

So just kind of left us speechless. What the foo. I mean seriously, if people don't want to pay the shipping the don't have to buy. I assured dh there was probably some allowance for faster shipping options, but yeah, if we are forced to offer cheaper options, I don't know. I can't deal with people screaming at me where there item is and getting negative feedback simply because the post office regular service SUCKs. Been there, done that.

Thanks ebay, like you weren't annoying enough as is.

We'll just have to wait and see what all that is about. Their message was very vague. All I could think was it could very well cost more than $4 to ship a game. Does this include handling? What about international buyers? What's the workaround in all of these scenarios?

I've had not one complaint about our shipping costs, but MANY compliments on the fast shipping. Because I think most people do use regular shipping, and we don't really charge much more than most sellers, for priority mail.

Morons.

Life Insurance

September 5th, 2008 at 02:27 pm

I just paid my life insurance premiums. I paid $85 for $200k coverage. I usually get back lots of money at the end of the year. (Dividends on the policy). I can't say how much since I get some back on my disability as well - they are both through my professional association.

Anyway, dh and I both have $500k coverage we locked in our 20s which is in the same price range, (since we were so young - so we got quite a discount) but I just bought the extra $200k recently for peace of mind. I figured dh would need more money than I, if something happened to one of us, to maybe update his schooling and get more solid footing. & I figured $200k would do.

The $500k from him? I mostly consider it lost savings/retirement since he has many working years left, even if he doesn't work now. Of course early on I thought more of childcare, but truth be told I could pay all the bills quite easily if something were to happen to him. It buys me freedom to work less and still have a hefty retirement fund. (The last thing I would do is pay off my mortgage if something happened to my spouse - just makes little sense to me - though I could see down sizing and attempting to pay cash for a smaller home). But yeah, tying up all that liquidity would not be my first choice if something were to happen. Particularly I guess since I know I could pay all the bills, regardless if I had a spouse.

For that reason, I felt we were really pushed into more insurance than we needed, largely in the name of paying off our mortgage. But with time and inflation, I appreciate it. We need it less with time, but there is also more inflation with time. So it kind of evens out. I also think when we bought the $500k insurance policies we were a lot more idealistic - thinking of the bare bone necessities for survival, and less about the long-term. So I am happy with where we are at. I understand policies have gone down in price, but a new policy for us in our 30s would generally cost more than our old policy purchased in our 20s at the PEAK of health. I was actually pregnant when we got that insurance and I Was wary. I was convinced they were going to stick me with higher premiums. Your body gets all out of whack with pregnancy. & anyway, I was wary but our agent said just do the medical tests and see how it pans out - should be fine. We got the highest health rating (meaning, cheapest policy) and he actually told us few do. So the trick is, if you need it, or think you will need it, lock in that insurance in your 20s. !!!

I had some minimal insurance through my professional association, when I had BM, but yeah we waited until we were 27 or so and pregnant with LM to get really adequate insurance.

Anyway, I share all this because AAA sent me their offer for their GREAT life insurance rates. I thought it was interesting since it just happened to be time for me to renew my $200k. So I looked at it. $200/year for $200k insurance?

Eh, I think I will pass. Sounds like a terrible deal. Wink

$85 sounds much better, and it may end up being $50 in the end, once I get refund checks. They disburse the excess monies back to us, every year, after they do their actuarial magic.

Small price to pay for extra peace of mind.

Coupons & Priorities

September 5th, 2008 at 02:18 pm

We don't really get much chance to take advantage of mass coupons because we shop so much generic. I read Maismom's blog with interest (all her amazing coupon deals) since she is local. But most the time I don't find it terribly helpful to me since we don't buy that kind of stuff.

BUT dh made a killing at target yesterday and he was very proud. Nothing on the level of the coupon masters. But good for us. Big Grin

He scored 4 packages of poptarts for $3. That wasn't half bad. They were the big packages, so 48 poptarts for $3. Big Grin

They were on sale for $2.25 each, he had a $1 manufacturer coupon, and a $5 off Target since he spent $50.

He also stocked up on Tide and Pantene shampoo for me. I laughed when I saw the 3 shampoos - I joked they would last 3 years. Honestly I probably go through one bottle every 6 months. But I don't spend much of anything on my beauty regime, so yes, Pantene is my splurge. At $9 for an easy year's supply (probably 18 months really), I would hardly call it a splurge anyway. Wink I am very frugal with my shampoo - only wash every other day and you really need little more than a pinch - it lather sup so much. I actually ran out of shampoo and was using dh's Pert and I realized I needed to use a lot more with each washing. Just an interesting observation. So is Pert more frugal? Not so sure.

Dh also stocked up on laundry detergent and granola bars, and earned another $5 off for his next trip (I think that was from the poptarts, why he applied yesterday's $5 coupon to the poptarts specifically).

I need to buy some shoes and have a $5 coupon for payless. Will try to run by there this weekend.

I am sure dh will save the $5 off target coupon for groceries another time.

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

Trying to be extra frugal this month to scrounge up extra cash for the dentist and such.

So we are looking at the month and trying to plan it out. We usually don't really do that. We kind of do things as they come along and by the last weekend of the month maybe we don't do anything because we have hit our budget earlier on.

So we were talking about all the stuff we wanted to do, much we put off from last month, and I decided we need to prioritize.

Will have to sit down and do that before the weekend.

Things we want to do:

*Meeting BM's friend at Chuck E Cheese. I have coupons.

*I wanted to take the kids to a park I frequented as a child and rent paddle boats. It was what we did when I Was a kid and my parents were broke. Wouldn't you know - $12 for paddle boat for 1/2 hour? Yeesh. We can skip the boats but still visit the park I guess.

*One trip to San Jose - to see fam - that is decided (we may pay $30 gas but we'll get lots of free meals - it kind of evens out).

*Train museum - we have been wanting to go to the train museum and get membership. It's relatively cheap. We had planned to replace our zoo membership with train membership. If we don't get to it this month, October is good - they have Halloween train rides and such.

*Hiking - we kind of want to do some hikes with the nicer weather. There's gas and usually parking fees.

*San Francisco - I don't think we will get to this in September, but we have been putting off this trip all year. Just popped into my head because weather-wise it is a good month.

*Davis Farmers Market, while the weather is nice. The priceyness is in the gas. We would probably pack a dinner and buy some food there, picnic, and enjoy all the free entertainment. To be more frugal we could not buy anything at all. But it is a good 20 mile drive and a decent gas outflow.

I am sure I am forgetting something.

We are leaning towards the park and the trains, and I think that might have to do it for this month. Perhaps Farmers Market on the cheap, if we can squeeze it in. They have live bands and a water feature to play in - kids LOVE it.

Oh yeah, and Chuck E Cheese is a given. I would probably skip eating there though. Blech. LOL. So I don't expect to spend more than a few dollars there.

San Francisco - the weather would be lovely but not sure where we would squeeze it in - kind of a busy month. & anyway, that would be PRICEY - going to tourist territory.

What I need to do is look up the costs of the train museum membership because I just don't remember. Everything else hinges on that I guess.

Oh yeah, I just remember the kids wanted to go to the drop-in care place. We skipped it for August, with all the expenses, but dh has free movie tickets so we will probably oblige. Will be in the $30 range - babysitting- for our date.

Yeah - we have to prioritize and estimate.

-------------------------------
Update:

I came up with the following - it still looks rather spendy when you add it all up:

Chuck E Cheese - $10
San Jose - $30 gas - $10 food savings? = $20
Kids babysitting for free movie - $35
Lake Elizabeth no paddle boats this time pack picnic - $0
Farmers Market GAS/Food $25 (MAYBE)
Train Museum - $16 one visit/$35 one year membership + parking
------------------------------------

TOTAL $125+ ("entertainment/Misc" for September)

Dh and I discussed a date dinner in San Jose with the free babysitting, but I realized that will fit easily enough in our "dining out" budget.

I do have to remember that I may be eating out for 48 hours (perhaps expensive airport fare) with our Colorado trip. Likewise, we may treat our parents, or even more family, to dinner. After all, they are paying for our ENTIRE trip. So something else to consider in the budget I guess. We could/should drop $100 on the fam. I am just wondering how under budget we will really be this month, when all is said and done.

Then again, we kind of want to rush and do all this while we can. Winter will not be filled with activities - it is much more spent indoors. The farmers' market, the train rides, the pleasant lake weather - they all end with September...

Then again, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas (& birthdays galore) have their share of expenses...

The Focus Group Jinx

September 4th, 2008 at 01:11 am

We have certainly had our fair share of focus groups in the past year, but it seems like 99% of the time they call we can't go. It seems every time they call in BM for a group he is staying with grandma or something.

There is a Bay Area place that calls dh occasionally but it is always when he is out of town or something. Those seem to be our 2 jinxes anyway.

So dh tells me today he got called in for the 18th. HE says it was $75 and gas will probably be $25, but we need the cash! Sounded good to me. But when he told me the date I said, "You'll need to factor childcare in the cost." He looked at me like I was crazy. "I told you, it's in the evening." I said, "Yes, but I will be in Colorado."

Hehe.

I told him to ask his mom to meet him for dinner and take LM for a while or something. He could at least ask anyway. OF course if he treats for dinner then, would he have any cash left?

Looking grim.

Sorry I had to burst his bubble. I think I better put my little trip on the Calendar. How quickly we forget...

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

$97 in ebay sales today. YAY!

The credit card closes tomorrow and I can see if I can put any of that back into savings. Phew. I think I pulled out $750 for the new computer and I may be able to put $100 back with this last batch of ebay sales.

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

Dh did some Christmas shopping today. I think he is insane. $50 on piles of old legos. LOL. But he said he would sell the stuff he doesn't want.

I don't know if we will get the kids much else.

The grandparents have that corner WELL covered. & we have piles of free books and games from Scholastic as well. So, yeah, I think that covers them. Phew.

We generally don't spend much on ourselves or the kids. I don't know where it all goes. We'll have to break out the Christmas budget. Going lean this year. But getting this out of the way helps. Dh just used his cash business profits to buy the legos - doesn't really affect my bottom line.

This whole second income thing is kind of nice, no matter how paltry it may be...

Decisions...

September 3rd, 2008 at 09:15 pm

Could be good, could be bad. I don't know.

Ms. Preschool is going out of town for a few weeks or a few months.

They aren't closing up shop. Her husband will take 4 full-time kids, and my part-time LM if we want.

Last time we weren't given the option. Wink When BM was going she had surgery and they closed up a couple of months. Which I guess made it easier - we had no choice but to quit for a while.

IT was nice to save up some cash, though I remember it being HARD on BM.

But this time is different. We were invited to stay.

I am really thinking this is a good opportunity to pull him out for a few months and save some $$$$$$. We could REALLY use it.

But it also just sucks.

In one sense, I don't think LM will miss it as much. HE LOVES it and does well enough, but he is also content to play alone 24/7.

Then again, I may underestimate how hard it will be for him at home without his brother 5 days a week. IT will certainly be new territory.

I guess the plus is nothing is set in stone. The part-time spot is ours and if we don't want it no one will take it. So I guess we could always change our mind.

I am leaning towards the opportunity to save some money. The cost will be my hubby- he may go crazy. Wink

We even discussed spending $100/month on drop-in care as a compromise (around 4 hours a week. On a per-hour basis it is twice as expensive as the daycare). & dh said oh he would feel guilty. I just had to laugh. HELLO. I Was mostly thinking about it more for LM than him. THough I knew he would appreciate the break. I See how much thought he has given to how this will affect LM!

But $100/month vs. $300/month, and considerably LESS gas... IT's tempting. Or we could even go for $0 and no gas...

We'll have to think about it and sleep on it.

She told me she would leave in OCtober which makes it an easier decision. Holidays are coming up. IT's a good time to pull him out for a while.

Gosh, I hope she is back for tax season!


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