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Archive for October, 2008

A full tank for $20?

October 30th, 2008 at 11:28 pm

I decided I would attempt to use my stupid/useless prepaid rebate card again - at the gas station.

S'posedly I can pay inside; not at the pump.

So, we'll see.

Was kind of being lazy and dragging my feet - thinking, "Maybe next week..."

BUT dh's tank is about empty and the credit card doesn't close until Tuesday. I'd like to avoid more charges this month.

I ran the math on the gas prices I saw today.

Wait a minute. $20 will fill the whole tank?

Why does that blow my mind so much????? A free tank of gas - now we're talking!!!!!

Well, it's 8 gallons for $20, but since the "no fuel" light has not come on I assume that is all I will have to fill anyway.

I can only figure some of you are nearing $1.99 - we are so slammed with gas taxes here in Cali.

October Wins...

October 30th, 2008 at 02:42 pm

I think October will win for spendy month of the year. Well, I hope it does. I don't want a spendier month!

Yeah, our months have averaged $5k/month spending, but this month looks like almost $6500. UGH. ($1500 being dental bills - is the culprit. But we had a LOT Of other stuff going on - so it is a little overwhelming as I pay all the bills).

I entered all my November bills in Quicken to get an idea where we were at. & I updated all my totals to the left.

Short-term savings is bulking up - all will pretty much go to property taxes & homeowners insurance in December (will be $3500 in then, for a short time before the account is obliterated).

We've exhausted the fund so any more car repairs this year will have to come from mid-term savings. I was up to $3k for a short time, but it dipped down with so many expenses. $2400 for now. Haven't posted interest yet, though. Will be a few bucks only; my CD has expired and my balance transfers have all been repaid.

Medical fund sits slightly negative. I obliterated it for dental bills. Any further dental/medical will also have to come out of mid-term. I think I will be lucky to have a dime left in the mid-term fund, come January 1.

Will make a more noble effort to build it up next year.

Mortgage balance dipped below $207k. $205k is the next goal of note. Then $199,999. Another 18 months for that one! Dh is holding out for when interest is less than principle. But that's like a decade - I need some more immediate things to look forward to! I am sure I can get a cheerful response from him when we dip below $200k though.

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Today is going to be one hectic day. I got some dry hack cough. Any home remedies? Ugh, it's driving me nuts. I am going to sip on tea all day, and have some hard candies. Right now slowly sipping orange juice seems to help. Keeping the throat lubricated. I guess fluids are good. I think my allergies have crossed over to virus. It's hard to tell - the symptoms if I look them up are the same for allergy. But it has taken a nasty turn. My spring allergies usually consist of little more than a runny nose, sore throat, itchy eyes. For now my sinuses are clearing, but the cough is nasty. At least my eyes have been fine. Itchy eyes are the worst.

The weather is cooling off during the day but interestingly warming up over night. So it is predicted more 70 day/50 night. As opposed to our quite odd 40 degree nights and 80 degree days. I am not sure what it means for the heat front. Loss of sun, which largely has been keeping our house warm. So though it will be pretty mild overall, the house may cool considerably. Right now with all the warm/sunny days the house is at 75 degrees at 8 am. Looks like it didn't go below 50 degrees last night.

We'll see!

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Oh yes, yesterday was a NSD but for a $3 haircut for LM, at BEauty School. Long overdue.

All the NSDs in the world haven't helped me for OCtober. Wink I guess because most our spend days were extra spendy.

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ETA: I answered my own question. Walked BM to school and considered bringing juice along. Thought I'd be miserable but the exercise and/or crisp/cool air "cured" me. The long drive in the car to preschool brought back the cough. Bah. Will take some walking breaks today if need be. Overall, much better.

I almost fell over when I saw $2.50 or so gas at the Valero. Chevron by my office - the meter for expensive gas - was a mere $2.60. Considering it was still $3.30 solid last week, at the cheaper stations, I was shocked and pleased. !! A dollar drop in a week. Now I can play along (I've been jealous of all your posts about cheap gas!)

Not much to report, I guess...

October 29th, 2008 at 11:25 pm

Seems like it's been quiet here.

Funny thing is I haven't been terribly posty either. Couldn't tell you why. I guess busy with lots of family drama. Way too much for my taste. *sigh*

BTW, I caught the best documentary I had ever seen (or the most jaw dropping and yet hysterical at the same time - better descriptor). It was "I didn't know I was pregnant," or something along those lines. Anyway, I was a miserable pregnant woman. I would argue 9 months is too long! LOL. But my jaw just dropped to see all these women who went in to the ER with cramps only to find they were in labor.

O.M.G. I could not even IMAGINE!

Yeah, I like to prepare for things. The thought of an unplanned pregnancy absolutely makes me cringe. So finding out a few minutes before the birth (or after the birth in some cases) was a little too nightmarish for me. I couldn't quite wrap my brain about it.

Those are some stories to tell though. Whew!

I kept thinking, how do you tell your family/friends/boss? OR even the baby daddy? BTW - I just had a baby? LOL.

IT was also hard for me to wrap my brain around because I only gained weight in one place (the belly) and my kids both used me as a punching bag. Yeah, it was pretty dang obvious, morning sickness aside.

I guess it just ain't so obvious for everyone. Which I wouldn't say is exactly preferable! I'll take my 9 months of discomfort. I appreciate it a little more now. Wink

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Well, car was very jittery when I started it today. I was wary but I drove it to work.

I went home at lunch just in case. Figured I didn't want to get stranded at 5:00. I couldn't re-create it, but the engine seemed rather squeaky. Maybe a belt? (I read the jitters, in park, could mean spark plugs). Either way, hopefully something simple. Decided to take it in Friday. I welcome the excuse - the brakes feel wimpy to me and dh thinks I exaggerate (hasn't noticed it). I can't help but think he doesn't notice anything though. So I am happy to get the brakes looked at too.

I'll be happy if it is just paranoia. The last thing I need is a big bill.

*sigh*

Weather here is almost 80 degrees again. IF not for the allergies from hell I'd say I was REALLY enjoying.

Of course, first rain on the season predicted tomorrow - and also rain for Halloween. Bah!

They finished the park by our house. Well, let's put it this way - they finished it MONTHS ago. BUT they removed the gates yesterday. Neighborhood kids have been playing in there for months and mine have been very patient. I feel like we are the only ones who played by the rules.

Downside is the park was REALLY crowded when we went to check it out last night. Usually it is rather empty and we get it to ourselves. But they put in basketball courts, tennis courts, and a new BIG playground. That brought the kids and teens out.

Dh and I discussed putting tennis rackets on our wish list for Christmas. Will have to take advantage!

I guess since it gets dark earlier we made it out closer to dusk. Outside no longer than 5 minutes and I got 2 horrible bug bites on my feet. Oh - these are the WORST!!! (itchy and very swollen - and itchy itchy itchy) Happened to me a while back. No more sandals I guess. You think I'd have learned...

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YEah, we may have to search the house for umbrellas. Rarely need/use them. But may need them for friday!

Halloween is easy on us this year though. Phew. Kids are doing all sorts of fun stuff at school, and we're off the hook!

IT's just kind of nice. I've mentioned before, BM is Mr. Extrovert, and the rest of us probably could hardly be more introverted. That boy just exhausts us. Since infanthood! HE just sucks our energy dry.

So, I imagined school being this huge (difficult) adjustment. But instead, it's been kind of a breath of fresh air. He's got a lot of new places to channel his energy, and we don't have to be involved 24/7. Not saying we're not involved. But we get a break from the crazy one. Even LM appreciates it, for sure. Preschool a couple of days a week was middle ground, but this is even BETTER!

I am not sure I had thought about it that much. But as my friends ran through their jam packed weekends for halloween activities and such, that's when it hit me. The kids have all this halloween stuff planned through school, and we're pretty much off the hook. We're good for Trick or Treating, but that's about it. Kids are happy and adults are happy. Win-win.

I think even LM is thriving with BM in school. He probably had no idea there could be such peace and quiet. LOL.

Weekend at the Cabin

October 27th, 2008 at 11:20 pm

I guess we went back and forth, with all the family drama, but we ended up going to the cabin after all.

Had a REALLY nice time.

We are certainly the more relaxing bunch of late. They kept commenting how much easier our kids were than the 1 & 3-year-olds they have charge of. Um, yeah? Well, LM is 3. But he is easier to watch with a 5yo than to watch with a 1yo. For sure. Plus, he is just pretty independent.

So, even though it was nice to hear how easy and pleasant our kids were all weekend, I don't think the comparison was exactly fair.

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Was surprised to see gas for $3.01 on Saturday (had hovered around $3.30 before then). But with our grocery store gas coupon we paid $2.76/gallon for the van. Was almost half of what we paid in the summer. Was NICE.

We fed 7 people at Taco Bell for about $19.99. What a load of food!

We had actually planned to hit up Apple Hill on the way up, but it was just packed. We changed our minds. The cabin is just minutes from there, so we went in the morning SUnday, before heading home. Were about the first ones there. We ate donuts and kettle corn and caramel apples, and the kids got their face painted and did pony rides. Kids had a blast. We left and laughed at the line coming in. Suckers! It was crazy. Actually, we all commented it was all so NOT worth the line. We wouldn't have waited in those lines to drive in, but we enjoyed our edge.

Sunday we had picked up breakfast at the store. $15 for fruit, granola bars, milk and fruit. We treated for that.

Grandma slipped us $40 for gas, so in the end I guess we came out ahead. As usual.

Was just a nice weekend. I would say simple and nice, but for all the spoiling of the kids at Apple Hill.

Was near Tahoe - just gorgeous - was like a spring weekend (weather wise) with a bit of fall in the air. The leaves have not turned so much yet, but we did see some pretty shades of orange.

Everyone was looking forward to snow - I think it will be a while, at this rate! IT was really warm up there, for October.

2009 IRA Limits

October 23rd, 2008 at 05:07 pm

I could have all put you out of your misery last month I guess - sorry.

& reminds me, I know a few people told me that IRA limits would be $5500 next year like I Was some idiot. I thought, "we'll see." I guess it bugs me when people think they are tax experts. Wink

Though really, I did expect them to rise too. But I knew nothing was set in stone.

IRA contribution limits remain $5k for 2009. $6k if you are over 50.

I noticed the contribution limits were strangely absent from all the IRS pension inflation numbers, so I decided to look it up with my professional research library.

The library had calculated all the index adjustments last month.

They officially calculated that IRA contributions will remain unchanged for 2009.

This is definitely official. They also correctly calculated everything the IRS just released, this week.

Anyway, the headline for the pension data said, "All but one of the many limits changed for 2009." It didn't say specifically what did not change, but I think I just figured it out.

Sorry charlies!

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Today I also got word that social security wage based increased to $106,800.

& $102k was just so easy to remember. *sigh*

(For you highly compensated folk out there... FYI.)

Spend Spend Spend

October 22nd, 2008 at 05:26 pm

Why Not???

Dh sold 2 things on Craigslist yesterday - around $100. Crazy. IT was just like everything went after days/weeks of flaky people.

Phew.

I made $50 in 2 days - just old baby stuff.

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Some charity is coming for donations pickup Friday. So, just in the nick of time. I was going to just set it all out. All the strollers and such. (I tell ya, they come often. Various charities).

But I decided I will set out the old/cheap fan, my 3 old dresses that are on the cheap side and impossible to sell, and LM's outgrown clothes, unless our relative lays claim to them beforehand. We can pawn them off this weekend when we see the fam, otherwise. So the load is lightening.

It feels like it never ends though.

The garage is REALLY getting there. It's about empty. I dropped off about 10 giant boxes in the dumpster today (forgot last wednesday). We just need to sell/donate the bed. We found room for more bikes anyway - once the boxes were packed in the van. The bed will give way to lots more storage space. Space that we shouldn't use...

The rest of the house - has a ways to go.

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I wanted to go to a seminar tonight on gifted children, but was hesitating about going alone. I don't know why. Dh told me he could go with me and the kids really wanted to go to the drop-in daycare place anyway. I rolled my eyes. We cut that out of the budget entirely with all these dental bills. IT makes me sick to think about spending another dime this month.

I wish I had thought of it sooner. The neighbor girl would have watched them for $5 an hour. Or her parents, for free. I just felt bad asking so last minute. It was around 9 pm when dh talked me into the idea, last night.

So I gave in. Sure, whatever. I told dh we could do it if we just pay cash. We still don't have our rewards card replaced from the fraud anyway, so it's no good (no reward) to charge it. We made so much yesterday we decided to splurge - it will be about $25 for 2 hours care.

Anyway, I am excited though. It may be a silly date - to go to a seminar - but I think it will be good for both of us to attend. & it will be nice as a little date. & the kids will be THRILLED. IT's been a long time for them.

Next time I need to plan ahead better. I really just figured I was going to go alone. But yeah, excited by our impromptu date.

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I found a cute bike today on CL for $20. The reviews aren't great - it's a cheap mountain bike. But it beats no bike. I think it will do the job and I will keep my eye out for something better. (& it looks CUTE - so hey). Hopefully dh will pick it up for me today.

Didn't get the $40 bike - it was too good a deal and it sold fast. Bummer.

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One of our rebates on dh's computer parts came in the form of a debit card.

Boy do I HATE that thing. I tried to use it at Bed Bath Beyond and the clerk could not figure out how to split the payment. Fine enough, since I returned that stuff anyway, since.

So I figured I'd try at the gas station, but one again, DECLINED.

I Was fed up with the whole thing. So I set up an account online so I Can look at it closer. It says you can't pay at the pump. Could they not tell you that when they sent you the card?????? I was going to put this $20 in savings (thought it would be cash) so would prefer to use it for gas - some kind of "necessity."

So I will try again - supposedly I can pay inside.

I had the grand idea to send the rebate in my name. Dh keeps telling me he is positive he can use it at Target for groceries. Goodie for him, but it's a "Credit card" with my name on it. & they are pretty good about checking IDs and such. So I will try the gas station again.

I am not risking my discount again on a declined card. So it will be expensive gas to boot. But whatever, $20 in free gas.

We are expecting another stupid card rebate.

I have NEVER had problems with rebates, but I have to tell you, this is a new level of annoyance.

I am NOT a fan.

The only other thing I have considered is a $20 gift certificate at Target. It's easy and I need to get some gifts anyway. IT would equal the amount on the card. I don't see any other way to do it. (Oh yes - the card can not be used at restaurants. On and on an on... Something else they don't bother to tell you unless you register online. Gah.)



I'm In Tune with the Universe Today...

October 21st, 2008 at 08:03 pm

For whatever reason.

Sold 2 strollers - $40.

People showed up and everything!!!!!!

The ironic part is I inquired about a nice bike on Craigslist - listed for $40. Came with helmet - was like new.

Not holding my breath, but I think it's funny how $40 cash materialized today. Big Grin

Person has not gotten back to me. If I can get the bike, it's a steal. Wouldn't be surprised if it was sold already though.

I just perused CL on a whim since I was getting excited about taking BM on more rides. Fall is excellent riding weather. IT just doesn't get too cold here, and if it is not raining, we have many biking months ahead of us. !!!

I know of one bike trail in the area and can't wait to take BM. I will have to research a few more...

I'll keep my eye out on CL. Dh and I both think our old bikes may be in our parent's garages. So we may luck out. I think we may need to buy helmets - even for LM and BM. So, we'll see. Maybe our Christmas gift to ourselves this year - we'll get Christmas money probably.

(My mom just informed me helmet is law for adults in Cali. Seriously? I guess we need helmets. Otherwise I Wouldn't have even thought it for dh and I).

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Anyway, dh tried to pawn off the nice/unused umbrella stroller (was a gift) on the buyers, but as usual, no one wants it.

On a whim I called up the preschool. "Eh, they don't need a whimpy umbrella stroller. They need more double strollers," is what I thought.

Nope, she has been REALLY wanting one and almost picked one up at a garage sale last weekend. Because often she runs errands with one kid or something.

Oh, I am so glad someone can use it. I was going to donate it otherwise, which is fine. But I am so glad I thought to ask her.

& there you go - 3 strollers - gone!

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We have an old bed taking space in the garage. IT was nice at some point but it has been moved so much and is a bit scratched up. I am ready to freecycle it. Dh wants to ask $50.

We'll try I guess.

Dh just said we shouldn't get bikes until we sell the bed.

Well, um, okay, sell the bed!!!!!

He has been resistant to it. So now I have some pull I guess. The bed is really the only thing taking up any room in the garage at this point.

(I need to do another box run at work tomorrow - may be the last - big boxes to the dumpster. I am going to try to talk dh into tearing down the TV box as well. For now it is a fort but I think it has run its course).

Weekend Roundup

October 20th, 2008 at 02:39 am

**We got stood 3 times from Craigslist. BAH! I think I Was about to donate everything when someone came by today, 11:30 on the dot like they promised, and gave me $10 for a booster seat. (My faith in humanity is restored. Seriously, would it hurt anyone else to CALL?).

I mean, when the profit for all this work was $0 I was getting pretty fed up. $10 is at least something. I could use it. But seriously, next time a charity comes with a neighborhood pickup (often) I am going to set everything out. I'll take the tax deduction. Yeesh.

**Reminds me, ebayer has not paid up for the $23 I made Friday. BAH to them too.

Anyway, the writing is on the wall there - I wouldn't be able to relist in time if they don't pay - so I am getting really peeved.

Just my gut feel, since we have had so many non-payers lately. The only other thing I could figure is the guy is out of town and maybe will pay up the next couple of days. But not holding my breath. We'll see...

**We put up our new drapes this weekend. We learned that Dh, BM and I could move a grand piano. (A Few inches anyway). Never occurred to us there was no room for a ladder in there. We worked it out and hung the drapes. It took like 3 hours. Don't Ask! LOL. I will be lucky if dh ever helps me hang drapes again. Luckily I think any we would want to ever hang, have been hung. Phew.

**I had begged dh to humor me for a bit. So yeah, it was like, "please just take a few minutes to help me" which turned into all day. So for that I treated him to dinner at a newer Indian cafe by us. We waited a while but $33 later we left happy as clams. I swear, when we left, it looked like we had completely licked all our bowls and plates clean. My sandwich was huge, so I took half home, but the rest of the food was GONE. Not a drop remained.

BM kept whimpering the chicken was too spicy for him, but eating it anyway. He got over it rather quickly. It was THAT good - yes.

**I did mention, the weather was GORGEOUS. We sent the kids outside to play while we hung drapes (all day) and afterwards I just wanted to collapse and so hung outside with them for a good hour or 2 afterwards. I just collapsed outside and chatted with the neighbors. We were going to invite their kids over if we ever figured out the drapes. But it was even better, the kids just played outside. Like ALL DAY. They were all in heaven.

**Today we got stood up for our picnic; our friends were sick. We went anyway. There is a very scenic park amidst a ghost town of empty house lots and model homes. We went over there because it was where we had been planning, and drug dh along rather against his will (he's trying to work on a wedding video - we are very distracting) because I find the place rather desolate and eerie. I wasn't going without more adults.

It was just SO peaceful there. But for all the airplanes taking off from the airport (& all the city scape) I would have thought I was in the wilderess. SO peaceful. IT was great - of course we were alone. There are not a lot of people living over there. The models next to the park look closed. We were surprised as we drove past some of the other models that they were open. The whole place seems rather abandoned really. I doubt the sales are going well. I would expect more building if they were.

So, for now, it's our own little desolate playground I guess. They have a nice playground and a little lake and so on.

The playground by our house, on the other hand, is still under construction. & well, it's not quite so peaceful!

**The weather was so nice I decided to work with BM on his bike. He did extremely well. Pretty wobbly in the a.m. and by the p.m. he got braking, steering, starting, and all that stuff down pretty good. HE still needs practice, but he is one determined boy. I could tell immediately this morning that he got the balance down, but not the steering so he had trouble staying on the sidewalk. We stuck with it though, which was probably good. I let him practice in the street a little more once he got it. But his steering got pretty good since I made him practice so much on the narrow sidewalk.

Oh, I did hurt my leg because I am not s'posed to run. I ran and it hurts. !! At least he didn't need me so much after the first hour or so.

Anyway, last time we tried he did not do so well at all, it seemed he learned balance through osmosis or something. Difference between night and day today. I am glad to check one more thing off the list. This year has been a busy year in that regard - swimming, bike riding, kindergarten. All this exciting stuff.

**I found a curtain rod for my drapes for $15. Target. Even dh grumbled it was cheap. I said, "It's 10 feet up in the air. Who cares?" LOL. IT looks fine. I am proud of the buy.

I had bought a $30 drape rod at Bed Bath Beyond that I will have to return. Didn't need it. But it was my backup if the rod was pure crap.

**I returned a few clothing items that were too big for BM. Target. I found some adorable girly outfits on sale in exchange.

I usually start my Christmas shopping in October, but don't usually get this far. I think I have got most of my shopping done. I do lots of donations and such in December so will encourage dh to get his shopping done in November. We just try to spread it out.

**Anyway, besides my drape detour, you could say I mostly lazed around outside all weekend. & that was nice!

Fall Allergies

October 19th, 2008 at 05:32 pm

I can get pretty bad spring allergies but it comes and goes. I had a couple of horrid years in San Jose mixed with years with no problems (most years).

Of course, Sacramento has very high rates of asthma and allergies. Since moving here I have pretty much suffered every spring.

Anyway, I wasn't feeling well Friday and though I was coming down with a cold. I mostly rested all day.

Yesterday I felt good as new but spent a couple of hours outside. After that I couldn't stop sneezing and I woke up, not quite bad as Friday, but not great.

I just told dh, "I have allergies!" Though in spring it really affects my eyes more than anything. Thank goodness my eyes are not itchy - it's just the worst.

So I googled a bit. I can't recall ever suffering from fall allergies. Or maybe I have always chalked it up to a virus. I don't know.

It just occurred to me because the weather has been so unusually warm. I wondered if there was possibly more pollen in the air or something with the warm weather. Maybe there are some confused plants?

So I was relived to see fall allergies are fairly common in some areas.

At least I am not crazy.

I'll survive.

It's kind of a shame when the weather is nice I can't stand to go outside though. The weather is GORGEOUS here and predicted to stay gorgeous for the next couple of weeks. I think I will stay mostly indoors!

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Still no heat. It's been around 80 during the day, 50 at night, and the house has settled around 76.

Weather predicted the same for the next couple of weeks. So I probably won't update much on that until we hit November.

I turned the water heater back down to our summer level. (I had turned it up because it had dropped to the 40s for a few days overnight).

Natural Gas

October 16th, 2008 at 02:36 pm

I don't recall using the heat much in the fall, if at all, so I finally looked up my bill history to be sure. For last year anyway.

I guess my memory was correct. This year October has just been so odd. It seems it has had some cooler nights but hotter days than usual. Which makes for an odd mix.

Anyway, last year our natural gas bills:

$80 - $110 - Dec/Jan/Feb

$20 - $25 - Nov/Mar/Apr

$10 - May - Oct

So basically, we didn't turn on the heat last October or November? Well, okay then? I thought maybe we had in the mornings. And maybe we did. But I get the feeling the $20 bills have more to do with turning up the hot water heater more than anything. We turn it practically to "warm" in the summer because there seems to be no shortage of hot water in summer. Thus, the many months of $10 bills. But we have to turn it up considerably this time of year to get hot water pumping out.

I already turned it up this year. Maybe I was more spartan last year. Then again, it has gotten to 40 degrees overnight. Which is getting awfully winterish for this area.

So yes, odd weather all around.

For yesterday it hit 80 degrees and closer to 50 last night so the house is settling closer to 73 degrees. & weather is expected to be largely the same for the next week. 80/50. That is quite comfortable - I don't even need my robe or slippers on today.

Yes, on our balanced payment plan we only pay $30/month for gas.

I've already mentioned that people assume we have $500 months when it comes to winter because we have a large house. People under estimate the quality of new construction. I laugh because we don't pay that much all YEAR! & yes I do know people who get those kind of bills in winter, around here.

The house does quite well as long as there is sun, which I think why we fare so well in the spring and fall. In winter there just isn't as much sun to warm up the house, so we rely on the heat more. Kind of how it works with the energy efficiency thing.

I am sure there are those of you who live on the east coast and could probably live somewhere like here and never turn on the heat. I wouldn't be surprised. BUT around here I know people who leave there house at 74 degrees 24/7. I just find it SO wasteful.

As for me, I am allergic to cold. I need at least 65 degrees during the day. The question is when will the house drop that low???????? History says December. Or late November.

I am trying to adjust and get used to maybe one less degree every year. I find that an easier adjustment. Dh likes 68 and I can deal with it most of the time. Not always. But this year I think I am going to try 67. The kids are getting older and can handle it better. We go for 60 degrees at night. Which basically means we never turn on the heat at night. I am sure we could do colder at night, but that is as cold as it gets in this house, if the sun is out or the heat is on during the day. I could probably do 50 - I just don't have to. Well, have in the past. Just don't have to in this house.

ID Theft AGAIN

October 15th, 2008 at 04:49 pm

You may recall 3 months ago there was a fraudulent charge on our old card we never use.

We just cleared that up like last week. It took about 5 calls to get the last $2 off the stupid card. How annoying, huh?

That one was an odd one because it is a card we had not used in years.

In fact, they were so obnoxious about the whole thing (gave us lots of runaround, particularly over the last $2) that I was ready to cancel the card. I told dh to just cancel the thing. I Was pretty peeved.

Well, today I am glad I didn't. It's the "backup" card that I don't think I have ever had to use. But I got gas yesterday, scanned my 25 cent coupon (25 cent per gallon) and threw it in the large (tall) trash.

Of course, my card was denied. I tried again, I figured I put in zip wrong. But it was denied. In the process I lost my 25 cent coupon. I am usually more superstitious about hanging onto it until I pump my gas, so I was pretty peeved at that point.

I dug out the old State Farm card I had threatened to cancel last month and hoped it would go through. I had absolutely no gas in the tank though I had enough cash to buy 3 gallons at least.

IT went through.

I knew dh was getting ice cream with the kids so I wondered if he had just charged at the same moment or something. I called him and he hadn't paid yet so I warned him card may be declined. HE told me he had just filled the van at the same gas station, earlier in the day anyway, so maybe it just looked suspicious that we both filled up within hours.

Well, his ice cream purchase went through fine. I figured I had entered the zip code wrong. I'd been able to just try again in the past, but who knows. IT seems we had both filled up on the same day before.

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Well, this morning Chase called. They had a $1.95 charge and a $17 charge that we did not recognize. Seemed minute overall, but for whatever reason it tripped their fraud alert. (Don't ask me why they allowed the "rare" ice cream purchase to go through but not gas at the gas station we use every week).

So they closed the cards and we will get new ones in a few days. Our tanks are full, pantry is full, and all that, so I expect we will just not buy anything until they arrive.

I am glad everything I ordered online was already shipped and charged. Phew!

Dh said we will have to notify everyone who charges our card automatically. I don't like that whole automatic charge thing and only our gym does. Funny enough, DISH does too, though we told them we did not want them to do it that way. So um, yeah, I don't think we will be giving Dish our NEW credit card #. Muahahaha to those idiots. We'll pay them what we owe them (by check) but I think we will drop them this month and hell if I am giving them my credit card # again. Just chalk it up to one more reason why I am not a Dish fan. The timing is rather sweet in that regard.

For us, this is the first time our main every day credit card has ever been breached. For that, you could call us lucky. But for me it's the 3rd time in the last year I have suffered some form of credit card fraud. I don't think I could be more careful with my info so it is REALLY frustrating. All the carefulness in the world does nothing when the keepers of your info are so NOT careful. BAH to them.

I do know the point when I jinxed myself. I was trying to talk Ms. PReschool into online bill pay and she was wary of online stuff like that. I told her I had only had my one major identity fraud BUT that had nothing to do with anything online. Nowhere online do I have stored my name, address, maiden name, birth date, and SS#. My suspicion all along has either been financial institution or government agency (IRS?) security breach. But yeah, if you breached my bank account online you couldn't find my birth date or SS#.

Anyway, so I told her I had NEVER had issues with online bill pay or online credit card purchases, and I think within the week I had that last credit card breach.

Color me jinxed...

I find it suspicious I did just do a lot of online purchases. Then again, it just may have nothing to do with it. Who knows...

Will never know because the credit card companies could care less about tracking down these criminals. Just a cost of doing business. Like this piddly $20 in charges means a hoot to them? Not. THey seem pretty unconcerned when strangers opened cards and ran up $5k bills ($5k per creditor) in my name. Just as piddly in their eyes.

Kohls BAH! - Hanes YAY!

October 15th, 2008 at 02:50 pm

I gave Kohls my e-mail for some sort of discount. I don't even remember what it was or if I even used it.

They e-mail me every friggin day. It's really annoying.

I guess I can remove myself from the list - probably will.

Since I shop so much online I also get lots of sales e-mails from the stores I frequent. I largely ignore them, but maybe take note when they have free shipping or something like that.

So yesterday I got an e-mail from Hanes. Lord knows I spent enough money this month. But I was looking for some particular under garments and found them on sale at their website a while back. So yesterday I got an e-mail about polos for sale, which BM needs for school.

They were on sale for $4.99 so I bought 4. Grandma bought him a couple of white shirts, but they have both been through much and I don't expect them to last long. Heck, I don't expect any of the shirts to last long.

I found a coupon for $1.99 shipping, so all was well. I was pleased with the purchase.

When I was at Target I bought a couple of sweat shrits, which he can wear. Hanes too. I have some stuff to return so I think I will pick up a couple of more sweathshirts. They were also in the $4.99 range - so I am rather pleased with the price of this stock up. He may possibly have more than he needs, but these will also be hand-me-downs, so more is better.

With the flood of polos, and the sweatshirts and his jacket, I don't think he really needs anything else. He doesn't really need long sleeve shirts. For all the "fancy" dress code I am relieved they allow sweat shirts. Much more practical in the cold. I am still worried he will lose his jacket, but at least since it is a "uniform" type jacket they allowed a space to write in his name. Smart!

I think I am now expecting 4 packages in the mail. Yeesh.

& yeah - NO MORE SHOPPING this month!!!!!

I have a halloween costume up for auction (ebay) that is doing well. It's up to $7 and I have 2 more days. I was going to auction another but there is such a flood of that particular costume that I saw one sell for $7 with like $5 shipping. I don't think so. I can wait until next year and post it a little earlier. I put it on Craigslist for now - but no bites. I think I am asking $15. I may lower it to $10. At least I don't have to deal with shipping. It's a NICE costume.

I have had about 6 e-mails re: strollers and it is really getting annoying. "Is it still available?" So I write back yes, or call and get voice mail. Either way, that's it. No follow up.

Bah.

Except some lady who lives like an hour away and wants to mail us a check to hold it until she is in the area. I may call her and say if she mails us cash she has a deal. Worst case is the cash doesn't arrive and we try again in a week or 2. I don't mind holding on to it for a bit. Dh pondered if this was a rue to say she mailed it, but not, and then sue us. I told him I wasn't worry about someone suing us for TWENTY DOLLARS. YEesh. I mean the court filing fee costs more than $20 I am sure?

I'll relist everything on the weekend - may have better luck.

10/15 is the Deadline

October 14th, 2008 at 06:42 pm

For your individual tax returns. But we don't have procrastinators here, do we? Wink

Actually, I an mot much of a procrastinator myself, and had all my 10/15 stuff done, when one of my clients disappeared off the face of the earth for a bit.

Well, she finally materialized to pick up her tax return today. Phew. I guess it's not MY problem if she doesn't pick it up, but she was driving me a little nuts.

10/30 is a payroll deadline but we have a couple of new employees and I feel WAY ahead of the curve - much more than the last couple of years anyway. It will be calm here until December. December is crunch time and quickly gives way to W-2 season and tax season immediately after. So my goal is to enjoy a rather calm 2 months or so.

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**Today I am spoiled, dh gassed up my van and took it through the car wash.

I guess I may return the favor since I have his car and it is almost out of gas.

We may pay close to $3/gallon with our coupons. Wow! We were paying $4 not too long ago.

**Dh was watching some special on transportation on NOVA. I had heard that a large chunk of California foreclosures were people who commuted and were hurt by transportation costs. I couldn't quite wrap my brain around this idea in the North because the outlaying areas were considerably cheaper than the city centers. (Well, except for 2005 when it was just insane everywhere). But I didn't quite *get* this. Well the show had a family who was spending $2k/month on gas with their gas guzzlers and long commutes.

Yikes! That maybe explains some of it. I guess it didn't occur to me if you were commuting over an hour that you would drive a 12mpg SUV. !!!!!!!!!!!!

(I do know a few super commuters and they all drive hybrids).

Interesting.

I can see how that $2k monthly bill could get in the way of your mortgage payments.

**Yeah, I think we are going to drop Dish and I think it is going to be expensive. But for dh's sanity I guess. Their DVR box sucks and the best anyone can say is "don't record so much." LOL. Our 10-year-old TIVO could handle much more. Anyway, we haven't even used up half the space on the thing. & I don't think we ever would. (We have a 30-hour TIVO and this is something like 2000 hours or some crazy insane thing - trust me - we have not over-extended it). IT has ISSUES!!!

His parents have a Direct TV TIVO we can HAVE. Which sounds nice, but we we can not transfer our lifetime subscription to it, so we will either have to buy one (they have been offering them on and off) or suck it up and pay the monthly TIVO fee.

Direct TV is more expensive.

& dh wants to buy a HD TIVO when they come out with Direct TV ones next year. THey have mostly been offering those with lifetime subscription deals. Essentially he wants 2 TIVOs, in the long run.

Can you say $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$?

In the meantime, dh couldn't be any grumpier. I guess we should just be glad we had our mom and pop cable so long (over 6 years). They were a STEAL and they were really good. I am afraid nothing else will compare.

It is enough for even my dh to swear off TV. HE is getting there. The cable and satellite monopolies are just hard to stomach.

We've never paid much for TIVO but they largely stopped offering lifetime subscriptions in recent years, so I guess I am glad they are offering those again, here and there. We paid something like $100 in 1999 - and used that one almost 10 years. We'd still be using it if we could stomach any of the cable companies around here. It's not compatible with satellite. Bah. But as long as we use our ancient first generaion TIVO (which was just fine - eons better than Dish's stupid DVR) then it is "free" to use. Our options are just few as far as actually using it.

Because it has the lifetime subscription we may be able to sell it (the old TIVO) for a decent amount. When we decide what we are going to do. I am glad we did not sell it yet. We may just end up with cable and keeping it. I have just heard such horrible things about Comcast. But at least we could go back to our old TIVO ways. *sigh* We don't have any other cable options for now.

Did I mention dh was grumpy? Wink

Anyway, all this craziness in the world and all I have to hear about from dh how is own little world is ruined by Comcast (who bought our old little cable company). I know, it seems kind of silly to be so upset about it really. What can I say?

More Best Buy Recycling

October 13th, 2008 at 02:44 pm

I took 2 old car stereos to Best Buy, for recycling yesterday. You can check your Best Buy, but ours takes 2 items every day (max anyway).

I combined it with my trip to Target for some clothes for BM and halloween candy. We walked between the 2. It is frustrating how there is absolutely no walking path between the shopping centers - it was not a far walk at all - but we mostly trekked through the empty parking lots and traipsed through some bushes to get over there. I was pleasantly surprised there was some sidewalk.

Brings our total to:

-2 computers (one ancient/one dead)
-vacuum cleaner (broken)
-cell phone (replaced)
-2 car stereos (ancient)

I envision one more trip for our PDAs from when we lived in Silicon Valley. (They are a decade old).

Dh tells me yesterday he wants to see if there is any resale value. Whatever, not holding my breath. If I just take them in and don't tell him he will NEVER know. Trust me. LOL. But I will let him look. I think I will just give him a deadline. If those things are still here 12/31, they are going to be recycled. !!

I have an old film camera I will probably donate.

I tossed an old broken lamp in the garbage yesterday. Dh tossed one when we cleaned the garage.

I am feeling refreshed with all this purging. !!!

I realized that fall seems to have a similar effect to me as spring. Not the same, but the change in weather has jump started me a bit.

We still have 2 fans that we never use. For now I have so much other stuff for sale (costumes and strollers) that I think I will leave them be. If I ever get through the rest of my sell list, I will consider it. It's something you can maybe see as useful, but has been sitting in our garage for almost a decade. I am inclined to take cash. Maybe earmark them for sale closer to summer. That is a good idea.

we still have to deal with my bed as well. Will sell it or freecycle it.

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Yesterday we weren't at one with nature. I think we did about 3 loads of dishes, 4 loads of laundry, and I spent a good chunk of the evening hosing off the front of the house. Ugh. It was well overdue. I should probably hose off the back of the house a bit next weekend. But the front is now nice and shiny. (I remember doing this in 2006 so it is not something I do very often - LOL).

We had cut our lawn watering in half now that the 100-degree days are over. It might even out a bit.

Then again it is forecasted to be 80 - 90 degrees all week. Yeesh. Might have to crank up the watering a tad... I thought we were done with this...

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P.S. My buy into VG Total Stock Index Friday was around $21.75/share. Almost 150 shares.

I looked back over the last 2 years since I opened the account and I have mostly paid $32-$36 per share.

Funny enough, my regular $50 monthly buy went through Friday night as well.



It's Chilly...

October 12th, 2008 at 03:01 pm

Looks like it got down to 43 degrees last night.

Impressed the house is still hovering around 70, though slightly chillier.

No heat here.

We got out blankets for the beds though.

I will break for heat when it gets much colder in the a.m. I hate showering in the cold. It's the kind of thing I may break now because it is such a shock. I can ease into colder mornings a little better, but this is a bit much, all at once. I don't care as much about the rest of the day. & we don't use heat at night. (The house would drop at most 10 degrees and that is only if it is 20-30 outside, which is rare).

We'll see. I do wonder how much we would save if I was willing to shower in the cold. I am trying to remember my pattern last year but I think I would turn on the heat when I woke up so our Master area was slightly warm by the time I shower and dressed.

We might have even turned it off during the day until I got home. Dh could live in an igloo - he doesn't care.

I usually nag him to keep the house warmer for the kids.

To be fair, if I didn't turn on the heat in the mornings, or ever, the house would probably just keep getting colder and colder. So I don't think it is the worst thing to flip it on a half hour every morning.

But I can work on setting it a degree or 2 lower.

I think the kids can live with less heat this year. They are both old enough, and they run around enough!!! We've been a little bit of extra energy hogs with wee little ones around.

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Boy, this is a weekend of spend spend spend.

I finally found some thermal drapes for the family room. We have a green colored drape right now (just some cheap things I picked up eons ago). I know red would look nice, but I saw quite a few drapes in a "silver sage" color that looked rather similar to our green. Burgundy would no doubt change the feel of the room much. Though I had bought them before and tried them. It was just a toss up and I think dh preferred the green. So at least I know it works.

Anyway, I found some drapes on JCPenny (again) yesterday, online, and tried to order them, but they wouldn't add to my cart. I was frustrated, but not too frustrated before I realized the drapes were too short anyway. (Maybe it was a sign. I was going to measure before I completed the purchase, but still, the website was aggravating me).

But then I found them. $80 (for 4 panels) for some high quality ivory colored thermal drapes. (The other colors were blech but I figured I could live with ivory).

They had great reviews for being affordable and energy saving and nice looking and all that. They were nothing fancy, but probably a step up from my current $15 panels. These were on a deep sale.

The thing is I thought I had a free shipping coupon, but I realized I didn't have a $100 order to get free shipping. So I did a last ditch search for online coupon codes and found 20% off.

I can't help but wonder if I could have saved 20% off my bigger order for the living room drapes. I think it's too late - I already used that coupon. Orelse I would consider re-ordering them and returning the first order.

Lesson learned! I was happy with free shipping and didn't even look. DOH! An expensive lesson. It's like, I know this, but I wasn't thinking. *sigh*

But yes, I am pleased. It came to just under $80 for the drapes with shipping and all. I didn't want to spend a lot of money - I just want warmer windows. So I am pleased with this.

I do still have to buy a rod for the living room. I think I will wait until I see the drapes and get a better idea what kind of rod will work.

Nope, the spending is not done.

I also did a fair amount of christmas shopping yesterday. I found a Set Cubed game (looks like Set & Scrabble combined) which was just perfect for my dad. Dh picked up a gag gift for my mom. I also saw a game called Hisss while we were out and about. We had played it at the library before and it was awesome. It's like dominoes in concept but you build snakes with cards instead (each side of each snake is a different color, and there are a few heads and tails to complete your snakes with).

Anyway, that one I figured I'd price online. It was a good call. I found it at amazon for $8.99. I bought 3. We may keep one for us and keep the other 2 for gifts. If I had more cash to spare I would have bought 10. Gifts for a long time. LOL. I just thought it was so clever and BM loved it last time we played, at library family night.

Yesterday we also did the great clothes shuffle. I now have a giant bag of goodwill stuff from LM. I pulled out the next size and some winter clothes from BM's discard pile. I then went through and filled a new plastic tub with BM discards and assessed his situation. It's not bad. I just need to buy him a couple of sweatshirts and pants for school. He seems to have casual covered. Plenty of jeans that still fit.

I was worried because he put on some 5T pants that looked like they went about to his knees, yesterday. I was preparing for a large shopping trip. But most of the stuff I found yesterday seemed quite long enough. Those were an anomaly, phew. He might need a casual sweater and a couple of long sleeved shirts, but really he mostly needs more school clothes.

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Yesterday was quite nice. We went over to the California State Railroad Museum (highly recommend if you are ever in the area). We had never been. It was as awesome as I had heard, yes. Lots of historic trains inside (the place is just huge - not a huge museum overall - but the trains are so massive and it is amazing how many they have in there) and they had a couple of train tables and a bunch of model trains running in the kids' area. Kids just played forever. LM is a train fiend so it was just awesome.

We bought our membership (we decided to drop the zoo and add this one). It was only $35 for us since the kids are free anyway. Will pay for itself in 2 trips. (We dropped the Fairytale Town membership until spring so I guess it's the only membership we have right now).

We did end up paying $6 to park all day. Not bad, but not great. I think we could probably find some free parking somewhere and will make the membership very worthwhile. A perfect day excursion for LM.

We also rode the "spook-o-motive." LM was in heaven, of course. We did well, it wasn't crowded at all and they had much more costumed characters around than I remember last year. IT was fun. I think now with our membership we will have to return for the Christmas train.

Well, besides all that, we ate lunch and window shopped.

The kids spent their money on souvenirs and such.

I was proud of BM. Before we left I asked him if he wanted to count his money to see how much he had (now that he has an allowance). He had about $20 and for whatever reason said, "I want to spend $8." I said, "well, let's bring $8 then. You don't have to spend it all." I was just impressed with no prodding he decided to save more for later than he was going to spend.

& really, he had a blast with it. He LOVED being able to decide what he could buy with his money. We were trying to make him think because he settled on kind of a stupid souvenir in the end. So as I was trying to discuss it with him he kept saying, "So, can I buy it?" I kept saying, "You can buy whatever you want. I just want you to realize that if you spend it now you won't be able to buy anything else today. OR less to spend tomorrow." You know, along those lines. But he asked me like 3 times, "So, can I buy it then?" "You can buy whatever you want if you give it some thought," was my reply.

He's not at the "thought" age, but I think it's a good step. I know some people would find all this horrible, making my 5yo buy his own toys or whatever. But that is how my parents did it. I remember going to Tower records and spending my allowance every weekend. I would save some of course, but enjoyed being able to buy whatever I wanted with my own money. So it's just kind of fun to be able to start teaching the kids more about money.

The kids also bought rubber duckies with cash from their piggy banks. Since LM does not have an allowance, dh bought him a toy, to be slightly more fair. We strongly suggested he got the toy train instead of the stupid souvenir (like his big brother). Talked him into the toy.

So both kids were happy and all was well.

Yeah, you would even think that BM would be jealous that we bought LM a toy. But you know what? He could care less. He had so much fun taking his cash to the register I don't think he even noticed that we bought LM a toy.
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Well, today I am going to run by Target (I do have a couple of $5 off coupons) and maybe drop off those old car stereos for recycle at Best Buy.

I have to get listing on ebay and Craigslist.

The rest of the day I am fine with vegging. Phew.

New Drapes

October 11th, 2008 at 01:34 pm

Well, it only took 7 years...

My parents "gave" me their grand piano when we moved into our large home (around the same time my sister moved to the east coast). They didn't use it, they weren't going to ship it to my sister (we looked into shipping my old upright to her - EXPENSIVE - more than it cost anyway). So I won. I still consider it my parent's piano anyway. When I mentioned in some forum thread I had no significant assets besides cars, the thought did cross my mind, and it quickly flitted out. Eh, it's not mine - I would certainly never sell it.

Anyway, we have a very large window in the living room. All the windows had blinds installed by the builder before we moved in, but there is a crescent shaped window over the main window, which has no blinds. From day one I had worried about sunlight damaging the piano. Thing is we should have taken care of that when we were both working - doh.

I priced long drapes that would just cover all the windowage - and back then I couldn't find much. I remember finding drapes in the $250 range or thinking we would have to order custom draper. So I put it on the back burner. Just couldn't quite squeeze in the budget. Or maybe I just couldn't stomach the price.

As we started our mid-term savings fund back up this year that is one of the first things I had in mind, but I wanted to get some decent cash in there for more pressing things first.

We've been here almost 7 years. Luckily the dual paned windows seem to have not taken their toll on the piano, but still, for the long run, I am sure it is better off completely out of the sunlight. We also looked into getting treatment for that window and such. It's just not a priority at all. Don't ask me why - it really should be. It's not even MY piano.

So yesterday I was perusing thermal drapes for the family room (where we spend most of our time). I was a little frustrated because I think I found decent drapes, but the color I wanted was out of stock. This may take a while.

But I saw JCPenny was having a giant drape sale and had a lot of insulated drapes. So I was perusing their website.

& then I saw them. My jaw dropped - $70 (50% off) for the most perfect drapes for the living room. They were for floor-to-ceiling drapes. I thought, "maybe those will fit." The window is not floor-to-ceiling, but our ceilings are 10-foot-high. They would be if we had 8-foot ceilings.

I already had the tape measure out so gave it a measure.

The window in there is actually 4 windows separated by a sliver of wall. 2 of the drape panels were long enough and wide enough to cover the entire windows, but the 2 drapes together would not be wide enough to meet in the middle. Some wall would show in the middle.

I am not sure how I felt about that. I told dh, "you know, it just might look stupid." My bubble burst a bit.

Of course, dh, the wise one, said, "Why don't you get 3 panels?"

Hmmmm. Because it would cost almost $250!!!! For drapes!!!!!

We decided to go for it because they are easy to return in store. We are going to hope 2 works, but we'll have 3 just in case. & if they look hideous in person - yeah - I am going to be very particular for this large of a purchase, for sure.

I still struggled with this purchase though. I told dh, "you know I have been thinking about this for almost 7 years. This is hardly rash. But I don't think now is necessarily the time to buy $250 drapes."

So dh was very sweet. He asked me about my allowance, if I had updated our balances lately. I pretty much said no, hadn't updated because I hadn't bought anything in a while - neither has he. I am sure I have $250 in my allowance to spare. The thought hadn't crossed my mind. I mean, probably because they are a household item. But I will probably deduct whatever we spend over $100 or so from my allowance because they are completely unnecessary (we could find something cheaper to do the job). So anyway, I Was actually thankful he brought up the allowance angle - suddenly it made a little more sense as a purchase.

& so, there I was shopping for thermal drapes, and I ended up with luxurious black and gold drapes (not thermal) for the living room.

So there you have it, I will post pictures when I get them up!!!!!

I am excited!

(People would pay $500 for these things? Full price? Yeesh. The picture actually showed 3 panels).

Nope, could not afford to drape the whole house. Most of our drapes are home made. & most of our windows are drape-less.

Well, I am still drape shopping for the family room - for the thermals. These windows are weird sized too. *sigh* Maybe I'll find the perfect drapes in another 7 years or something.

But yeah - I saw a lot more affordable things to cover our large windows, that I hadn't seen before. That is nice - I guess so many people have been buying these monstrosity of houses the last 5 years or so. We have a lot of issue with this house. We love it, but it did go against our frugal nature to buy a house with so many odd shaped windows. Just not a lot of practicality in this house, in a lot of ways. Though the sad thing was we bought it because it was just about the most practical new house we could find. But far from perfect, for sure. I mean, if this is as good as it gets. Pfffft.

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Speaking of the house, the weather has cooled considerably (40s overnight). It's getting on the verge of winterish. Ugh. I mean, it doesn't get below 30 here. Usually anyway.

House has settled at 71 degrees.

I think I have to go searching for slippers. My feet are cold. & we have to start dragging out the warmer clothes now that the inside of the house dropped below 80 degrees.

But no heat yet.

My hope for the thermal drapes is to significantly decrease heat usage, actually. There is a lot of the time the the thermostats says 68 but there is just more of a chill in the air. So I am hoping the drapes help take care of the chill.

Taco Bell Weirdness

October 10th, 2008 at 08:01 pm

Man, it's quiet around here.

I guess why I am more bloggy. Kind of staying tuned for all the financial news, but not a lot going on in the blogs. But I feel rather distracted. Online more than I should be today.

DOW, 8500. Interesting. I am still curious to see my buy in price on the VG Stock Market Index.

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I went to Taco Bell for lunch. The plan was to run through the drive thru and have a lightning fast lunch.

I even drove dh's car today with this in mind (my driver side window doesn't work - don't ask - POC car).

But when I pulled up the line was out the wazoo.

Because of my broken window I often just run inside to a fast food place and hardly ever see a person. So I was disappointed to walk in and be third in line.

Not a biggie, but when I walked out, there were literally 10 people in line. It was CRAZY! & the drive thru was way longer than usual as well.

The strangeness continues.

Since I don't like to carry cash and deal with cash, I mostly pay everything with my credit card, to rack up points. Even Taco Bell? Yes.

I usually feel rather alone in this endeavor. I mean, sure, they offer it because people do use it and tend to spend more. But for me, I charged my 80 cent taco. I don't think I have ever seen anyone else use their charge card at any fast food place.

Anyway, the 3 people in front of me all paid by card (fair enough, could have been debit, but I don't think they were. Don't you need a pin to used a debit cars? I don't know, I don't have one). & then, the person behind me whipped out their card.

Whoa, weird!

I just walked out thinking to myself, "This is a sign of the economy. A crowded Taco Bell with only credit paying customers."

Or I could have just read too much into it - but it was kind of odd to me.

I had to wait like a 15 minutes for my lunch. Yeesh. So much for fast!

I was glad I didn't idle my car in that line though - I think I saved some gas.

I'm In

October 10th, 2008 at 05:04 pm

I just moved $3k cash into the market.

IT was money I have in a CD to plow back into the market at a later time (cash from 2006 - I could smell this coming and my gut told me not to invest it).

Anyway, today the gut says, "INVEST!!!!!" It was whispering this to me yesterday and I thought, "Eh, too much trouble."

But today my gut is screaming at me.

IT's extremely complicated, but since my catastrophic efund (about half of it anyway) is sitting in MMMFs (Cash) in our ROTHs, I was able to execute a buy this mornings. VG Total Stock Index, wherever it lands at the end of the day. (No lower price since I have been an investing adult, just about. I don't expect much from the market today. The DOW is not going to jump to 12k anyway).

Now, after this buy, a chunk of my efund is sitting in a CD elsewhere (ROTH), but I don't have to break it right now. Essentially, that's what I did. I still have my efund - it is now in a CD that matures next year.

The IRS rules are so convoluted though, if I do need it due to emergency, I will have to roll it over to my Fidelity account, and then withdraw it, to be tax free. Which could take weeks. Simply because the CD is a rollover and I can not take it out tax-free. But my ROTH at Fidelity has enough direct contributions to withdraw tax-free monies from.

Gotta love it...

I am okay with this. I am happy I do not have to break the dang CD right now.

Just a whole lot of tax complicated shuffling...

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Because of my gut I Was more 75/25 stock/cash before all this mess and today I Am at about 80/20 which is pretty much my comfort level. All I really did was rebalance. I would have waited it out a bit otherwise. Well, I don't know, I may have rebalanced anyway today, with all these lows. Selling off some bonds and cash...

What a rebalance it was!

$3k may not seem much, but it's all I got. I am not compromising my efund as a whole, or my long-term investment plan. & anyway, $3k is a decent chunk of my portfolio. So it is a lot to me. A good opportunity. I would consider buying in another $1k if things get lower.

The annoying thing about mutual funds is I won't know my price until around 3pm here (west coast). I guess the plus side is I don't have to wait so long, being on the west coast.

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

I also dropped my VG MMMF to below the initial minimum ($3k). Does it matter? A lot of my funds have dropped below minimums due to the market. Most of them are no fees. (Like Vanguard - no fees for electronic statements - a while since I read all that fine print). So I don't know what that means. I've never dropped below for selling a chunk. I have just about $1k left. I may invest it too. We'll see...

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P.S. Not attempting to time the bottom. I have a 30-year+ investment horizon and this is simply a great deal...

P.S.S. My efund is now $5k liquid cash, $4k ROTH MMMFs, and $3k ROTH CD. There is another $3k in that CD which makes up a cash part of my actual retirement portfolio (sans efund monies). Oy vey. I haven't decided how to keep track of all this... It's getting too complicated for my tastes. I guess it's all moot when the CD matures. One more year.



Mundane Friday

October 10th, 2008 at 01:54 pm

Considering a big purchase. Thermal drapes.

Last year I felt too broke. I think this year is worse! Broke with medical bills.

But yeah, the thermostat will say 70 degrees but there will be a chill in the family room where we spend most of our time. Because the entire wall against the couch/chair is pretty much window. Excellent double paned windows that keep the house pretty comfortable, but still can't erase that slight chill in the air. (& yes, I am an extreme whimp - allergic to cold).

So I will probably need to spend around $100 on 2 sets of drapes for the 2 windows.

On the flip side, I don't expect to use the heat as much if we take care of that problem area. So I think I should just bite the bullet!

Our bed is farther from the window in our bedroom and it just has a very heavy drape material (home made drapes) so I don't have any issue up there. Plus when I am in bed there is lots of body heat and blankets!

The kids' have their beds under the windows and they don't have drapes anyway (BM has some paper thing variety - BM has none). So I think we will test out the drapes downstairs and maybe before winter, if we like them, we will purchase some for the kids. At least BM. I have no idea what we are going to do with LM's room. It was the nursery and it needs a revamp. Should probably not buy drapes until we know what we are going to do in there.

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

Yesterday I canceled our farm organic produce delivery. They asked why. I Said, "I can't afford it right now." They were understanding and surprised we were paid up-to-date. Said it's a common thing these days (canceling. not paying. both). Not surprised.

School picture time is here! Dh wanted to buy the class picture which was $11. That was the cheapest package. The next cheapest package was $14. It has like 8 wallets or something. So that is what we got.

We did have the option to buy nothing. So that is nice. What I read around here about some of the school pictures - yeesh. With all the technology we have and all the amateur photographers we know (friends and fam) pictures are just not something we need to spend money on. I think having a class picture will be nice. A few wallets for $3, whatever.

Dh is doing a product test for a month, for $125. Some kind of soap.

I just deposited $100 into my account from ebay. I am using it to replenish my short-term savings a bit. (Dh sold a pile of games - he made $50 last week too).

I can't say if it is all profit, but he let me keep it. He is holding on to a Wii and hoping to make a killing come Christmas.

So the extra money flow is good.

My last balance transfer was officially paid back today. Phew. I guess I am no longer in credit card debt. Though in my mind I never considered it credit card debt. I mean, I would just forget it was there. & the cash was a wash against the debt. But yeah, until things settle down a bit I won't be doing any balance transfers.

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Dh bought BM a $20 costume. I was pulling out last years' costume to sell to make it a wash.

Wouldn't you know, I found 4 costumes. 2 Nemo costumes from last year, Winnie the Pooh (from when BM was 2) and a monkey costume (from when BM was 1).

I was surprised all the costumes fit LM.

I decided to keep the larger Nemo one since it is nice and has a few years in it.

To be fair, I offered to donate a couple of them to a lady who never showed up to pick them up. I posted them for sale and someone requested if I would donate them. I said, "sure." She never showed up. Now I have 4 costumes. LOL.

Selling the suckers!

I tried to talk LM into the monkey costume, but that is too babyish for him. He will be "Super Nemo" instead. Happy enough as long as he can pretend Nemo is a super hero. HE really took to the Pooh costume and it is also a little large, so we will keep it around. He may wear either come Halloween.

I have a high quality nemo one to sell now (may get $30) and a monkey. No idea what we'll get for that one. It's cute and in great shape, but not as fancy as the Nemo.

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

Weekend is here!

Well, I know I will be drape shopping (online) and ebay selling. I also have a ton of stuff to unload off craigslist. If not, it will go in the donation pile.

We need to go through the old clothes and pull out winter clothes. Donate the stuff LM has outgrown. I just set out 5 boxes for donation, we may have a couple more for next time.

Maybe will go clothes shopping for BM (likely online. I perused Target a couple of weeks ago but didn't seem to have the boring uniform type clothes in stock, which he needs). I guess I may go by Target and bulk up on a few jeans and warm shirts for the weekends and such. He can wear jeans on Friday, phew. I don't even bother with the thrift store anymore - Target is so cheap and seems to hold up. I rarely pay more than $5 for an item of clothing for BM. For things LM will get to wear too. The convenience wins me over. I just hate shopping. I hate driving around to the thrifts to pay $3-$4 anyway. When you consider gas savings Target probably wins anyway.

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This month we wanted to go to the train museum. This weekend might be good while it is still pleasant weather.

I am starting to think we can also do a hike in October - weather has just been SO NICE.

It dropped into the 40s last night.

2 weeks ago was 100 degrees. Right now it is 48 degrees. It's a little extreme for my taste. I prefer to ease into fall a bit more. But the weather has been absolutely beautiful and I guess little to complain about.

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Dish sucks. We are going to drop Dish. When is the question. Dh called them about a couple of issues which for one they did not understand in the least. Worse, he has been hung up 4 times in the last week. FOUR times. We figure it has to be their system. Their sales people can not ALL be that rude. Can they? Either way, unacceptable. We only switched to Dish because our little local cable company got bought out by Comcast. We haven't been in cable hell with the rest of the world. This just sucks.

We would quit except dh has heard Comcast is way worse and he wants to switch to Direct TV WHEN THEY GET TIVO next year. We realize we are quite loyal to TIVO and all these other DVRs suck. So anyway, our parents have Direct TV with no complaints and their DVR does look a little better. Dh wants to hold out until they offer TIVO. It's in the works for now. Our TIVO is not compatible with either Dish or DirectTV. I am kind of glad we kept it for now. We may suck it up and switch to Comcast for a few months if this continues.

Dh called again and asked to talk to the retention department but they said no pretty much. Nothing they can do. ????? They gave us $20 off for this month and dh is content with this for this month. But he literally threatened to leave, quite seriously, and they were kind of like, "so?" Which, yeah, pretty much seals the deal. It may be a few months, but we are not happy at all and not sticking around for this crappy service.

I could probably live without both Dish and cable, but don't even go there. My dh lives for his TV. LOL. So we have to find something. Though I have to say even he is not against boycotting the entire system. It may come to that. Man, is he a grump though when he doesn't have his TV working "just so." It will be nice if we ever move past this. At this point I don't even care how much it cost. I mean, within reason anyway. If we have to pay $20/month more for DirectTv and dh blood pressures lowers, then at this point, it will be worth it.

We try really hard not to deal with giant corporations and stuff. Stick with the mom and pops. So this is just frustrating. We want our mom and pop cable back, for sure!!!!!

Great article on Investing

October 9th, 2008 at 09:37 pm

Switching to Cash May Feel Safe, but Risks Remain
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/09/business/yourmoney/09money...

Most interestingly, and something I was already well aware of:

"From 1963 to 2004, the index of American stocks he tested gained 10.84 percent annually in a geometric average, which avoided overstating the true performance. For people who missed the 90 biggest-gaining days in that period, however, the annual return fell to just 3.2 percent. Less than 1 percent of the trading days accounted for 96 percent of the market gains. "

"Selling now and moving to cash could mean guaranteeing a lower standard of living for the rest of your life, because you’d be locking in your losses. "

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I mentioned earlier that dh's parents took ALL their money out of stocks Monday.

I deleted the post because it had a lot of personal info. But I did want to share.

But yeah, this is why I Cringe for them.

They told dh they will buy back in when things are better. Yeouch.

Adding to the Gloom

October 9th, 2008 at 06:55 pm

PG's blog about her Boulevard of Broken Dreams made me think I should do my own.

However, while I was looking up photos of our wasteland of empty retail spaces and unfinished (& barely started) housing developments, I also decided to check out the real estate prices in our neighborhood.

Bad Move. Eeks!!!!!

It's official. & just like that, real estate values have fallen below to what we paid back in 2001.

Wow!!!!!

I really didn't think it would happen.

What is scarier is that at this point it is spiraling downwards in such a viscous cycle.

As for us? Eh. We still have a solid $50k-$100k equity. Payments are still quite reasonable on our income. Even more important, we bought here because it was so considerably cheaper than where we come from. So while there may be panic in the streets I still feel better off where we are at - even if we have some pains to go through in the interim.

But it is scaring the hell out of me. Rates of foreclosures are already very high. This pretty much means few in our neighborhood can refi now. We bought the low of the low. Unless more people put a lot of cash down, I don't know. Somehow I doubt it! No more refi-ing. More lost jobs in the horizon. Which equals more foreclosures. And so it goes...

I worry how devastating this all could be for our neighborhood. We've been hanging on, but it's taken a wilder turn.

I still stand by it would be crazy for home values to fall to the $100k level again, in the area, for the long run. But I am starting to see that in the interim, it may come to fruition.

Maybe it's kind of sad because now everything we did right was for naught. We could have still been in our condo, sold it for $400k today, and swoop in an buy some $100k house in a year or something. Man! IF only I had my crystal ball!

I have also been rolling my eyes because a lot of VERY anti-owning friends and acquaintances have been jumping on the house purchase band wagon. THat just really annoys me. I was stupid to pay $300k for a house but suddenly you are running to spend $350k on the same house? They were clear how stupid they thought we were. So I find it ironic. Renting is only good until you change your mind I guess. (I guess they are worse off than us now. For today anyway).

Anyway, I guess we are still better off than if we had rented all these years. I mean heck, find me a house like ours we can rent for under $1k per month and stay in forever if we like. I guess I still am happy with our lot.

But I must admit today I am bummed to enter negative equity territory.

My net worth is also due for a serious adjustment. I had been using assessed value as a fair measure, but always said I would drop it lower if house prices went lower, because we would lose ground. (But I was not adjusting upward for such a volatile housing market). My net worth just went down a good $40k or so from assessed value. It's depressing. Now we aren't losing equity. WE are losing the cash we put into the house.

I am sure it will turn around in the long haul, don't get me wrong there.

I do feel lucky for one thing today. I feel lucky our development was completely built. Construction started in 2001 and finished in 2006 or so. I would always say we had advantage to get in the ground floor. Pffft, guess it doesn't matter any more.

Anyway, a lot of developments in the area with a handful of completed houses, a handful of unfinished houses, and a huge mess of empty house lots. Some people are living in those developments. UGH! How scary is that. I am relieved that we are at least not in that situation today. At least our neighborhood is whole.

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

Anyway, yeah - that house I Saw:

Bought $310k in 2002
Sold $580k in 2006
Foreclosed for $445k in 2007 (I assume this means they had actually put like 25% down - yeesh)

SOLD $279k by bank 2008

Our house is slightly smaller and price we paid to builder was $285k in 2001. We put some cash into landscaping and such and I am a rounder so in my mind we paid $300k. & clearly we have dropped below that - maybe to $250k territory.

A lot of houses still asking upwards of $300k, but also clearly sitting empty. One like our model just dropped its $370k price (bank owned) to $310k. You're thinking, "why not $299k and just get it over with?" Yeesh. So this one sale could be an anomally (it has sat bank-owned for over a year while many others sold) but who knows any more. The number of foreclosures are increasing and I think it is clear there will be more $2xxk sales.

Savings

October 8th, 2008 at 02:49 pm

There was a lot of talk of savings in the forums that I had been meaning to expand on.

For us, all of this was moot when we made a lot more income (both working). We saved the second wage in cash and trickled it into our ROTHs, and into our house, over the years. We always had enough cash for cars and for property taxes and the like.

I would probably have a more solid/aggressive investment plan next time around. Our loose plan if dh returns to work is to save up his salary for an entire year, cash, to bulk up a hefty emergency fund. & as a hedge if he decided to stop working again, or whatever. From that point on we would do 1/2 investing and 1/2 to mortgage. We assume all our tax-deferred options would be covered by my salary anyway. We could flip a coin which we rather do, so it's both. 50/50. To be re-evaluated with time.

Anyway, when money is flowing in way above your expenses, all that is easy. (To us anyway). We were never big budgeters or anything when we both worked. We just knew our limits.

But with money more tight (on one income) I find we have to do a lot more planning.

Our savings plans has various layers. If the bottom layer fails, the rest of the layers will collapse. It is something we have been working up to with time, and I feel will be pretty solid by the time dh is in a position to return to work. When we won't need it any more. Figures, huh?

*Layer 1 - Short-Term Savings*

The first layer is our short-term savings. For me, this covers every expense within the year that is not a monthly or semi-monthly bill.

We are currently saving $1k/month to this fund (up from $800). I think we are getting there.

This fund covers all of our insurances and property taxes (the bulk of it). It also covers vacation, regular dental checkups, car repairs, subscriptions, Christmas, vehicle license fees, etc. I am sure I am forgetting some things.

If this is not funded, we need to pull money from more long-term savings, to pay current bills. Not Good!

Anyway, our medical fund is along the same lines. Same kind of category. Our deductible is $3k annually and we will likely hit it every year. So we save $250/month for this as well.

As such, this is our first savings priority.

*Layer 2 - Mid-Term Savings*

Our goal is to add $5k annually to our mid-term savings fund. Temporarily we may raise this to $7500 because we have catching up to do. If we had done this all along, we would have maybe $30k in this fund today. (Have not had a lot of expenses lately, since moving here). So yeah, I feel we need to make up for some lost time, but in the long haul, $5k annually should suffice. (We have $3k today and might need it for dental expenses).

I primarily look at this as our new car and house maintenance fund. Other uses would be larger car repairs and stuff like orthodontic expenses. Just larger expenses that are farther in the future.

You could also call it our anti-debt fund. I think this is the kind of stuff the masses put on credit cards and HELOCs, and we just have no desire to do that.

Our one-income strategy was to buy a newer house that should need little work. That has paid off. We have put very little money into this house since we moved in 7 years ago. (Maybe $1500 for some bird proofing??? A new washer and dryer?) We also paid cash for a couple of cars since, so we saved up a lot before we had kids which carried us through a bit.

But for the long run, we will have a lot of house maintenance expenses (some we should be considering now - like painting and replacing the fence).

This fund would also cover furniture and appliances and all that as well. Stuff we just don't spend a lot on, overall.

*Layer 3 - Retirement*

This is the long-term stuff.

For now we are putting 12% to retirement.

We have actually averaged 12% over the last decade or so, amazingly.

My goal is to get retirement up to 15% on one income. With my employer match this could potentially be 25%. But I don't expect to have that extra 10% for the long haul.

15% of my gross right now just happens to be $10k. So maxing our ROTHs is my roundabout goal over the next couple of years.

Anyway, if all my other savings accounts are on track, the less likely I will need to divert retirement savings to bills, or to pull retirement money out to get out of a bind. So it is just another layer in my plan. It goes much better when all the other layers are taken care of.

*Layer 4 - Emergency*

I am not sure where to put my emergency fund in the layers.

I consider this catastrophic savings as we generally have enough savings for smaller emergencies, as is.

I guess the emergency fund would mean we wouldn't have to raid our other savings layers if we did face a large hardship. Ideally anyway.

I have 3 months living expenses in cash & I also could sell our second vehicle for another 3 months expenses (a no brainer if we faced catastrophe - the second auto would go). We also with time should have a fair amount in the mid-term savings fund to divert in case of emergency.

So this is some of my thinking with our emergency fund.

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Anyway, for now it is a work in progress. But we're getting there. I think once LM is out of preschool we will largely be there. (Can fund the second ROTH at that point, by diverting preschool monies).

I think largely, with the shift to one income, mid-term expenses were largely ignored in our household. This was okay because we had a huge efund going into this (trying to prepare for long periods of bed rest, potential medical bills, or a longer period of time between children, etc., none of which came to be). So we ended shifting a lot of that efund to retirement and mid-term expenses in the end.

The rest of our savings has been rather on track. I would have preferred to put more into retirement, as time progresses. But our health/dental expenses have increased by about $10k per year. So it's just kind of crazy.

On the flip side, a decade of 12% contributions are a pretty solid foundation for a 30-year-old's retirement. I do not feel behind in the least. Could have done better, but I think I will survive. It should only be up from here.

Spending 9/30

October 8th, 2008 at 01:49 pm

*Spending*

Earlier in the year, I looked at my first 6 months of the year and compared our spending to last year. There wasn't much to note (that I remember). Kind of on the same track.

So I decided to compare this year-to-date, through 9/30, to last years. To see if there is anything else to note.

Not really. Total expenses last year for the first 3 quarters, was $45,000.

This year? $47k.

The difference? Easy peasy. 2nd child in preschool - $2k.

We've dropped the childcare expense (BM is out of preschool) back down to a reasonable level.

Auto - we spent $160 more on fuel. But $70 less on insurance and $300 less on repairs.

Groceries, we spent $235 more this year, so far. I'd argue the increase could be attributed to us having to feed BM more (no more meals provided by preschool). But diapers were in this category and we have stopped buying diapers, as of July. There are a lot of little nuances here.

Medical/Dental, we have only spent $250 more this year. This is a tough one. We have had an extraordinary amount of dental expenses. But we also switched to a HDHP plan that is very slow to bill. Our deductible is just about maxed but I have only been billed maybe $1k of $3k this year. So far! In the end I think this will even out with our childcare expenses. (I don't necessarily expect to spend more money this year than last year, as a total, because we will spend less on daycare).

As of June we were pretty even at $30k expenses for the year, both this year and last. I was confident that $5k/month funded our expenses and luxuries, and that $4k would cover a more basic lifestyle in our current home. (Why I base my emergency fund on $4k/monthly. I could cut out $500/month with the lift of a finger - no more preschool or gardener - and I assume if I lost my job or something we could cut another $500 expenses. The easiest thing to cut would be commuting gas and stuff like that. we could trim our groceries and cable, etc. Which I would immediately do if I lost my job). We were actually rather surprised how low our bills dropped when I was on maternity leave, so this is pretty realistic. When you know you are broke, it is easy to spend less. & work is more expensive that you realize!

I think last year, preschool brought up the expenses at end of year. This year, all of the medical and dental bills will. So yeah, it might end up pretty much the same.

This year it's dental work; next year will be something else. There will always be something. But it seems to fit in with our $60k spending goal ($5k/month max).

I make it; he spends it?

October 7th, 2008 at 01:30 pm

Well, you all know that I work and my spouse raises the kids.

You also know that he loves himself some electronics.

What may not come across, even in in my blog, is that I don't think my dh could be more frugal or conservative. Electronics are like cars. If you buy used or wait for an older model, you can get a pretty significant discount. My dh pretty much buys NOTHING else. & I mean nothing. & he would save $50/month for 5 years to afford some electronic gadget if he had to. (He did wait almost 10 years to buy his beloved HDTV after all. It cost 10% of, and was of much higher quality, than the first one he badgered me to buy in 1999).

Anyway, gamecock's last post made me think. I realized that I think people look at us and think I make the money and my spouse spends the money.

I would not necessarily realize this except my own dad told me this the other day. LOL!

We were all out to dinner (when we treated my parents a couple of weekends ago) when my dad mentioned something or other about how he knew I was pretty anti-debt, and he had raised my well, but what about my spouse? Something along the lines of he likes debt or something.

I started choking on my food.

"Dad! Dh does not even like my 0% credit card arbitrage. *I* am the debtor in this family."

It was so funny to learn that was someone's impression because my spouse could not be more anti-debt. The only reason we have a mortgage is because he is more anti-rent than anti-debt.

So now I learn I guess. I've always got the impression that people who don't really know us think we are in debt up to our eyeballs, simply because dh stays home and we live rather well. I guess my impression was not that way off. Somehow my parents thought maybe we were in debt with my dh's spending habits or something.

Teehee.

It's just so funny because the truth couldn't be further from that impression. & yeah, I thought my parents knew us a little better.

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Anyway, yeah, my dh is the extreme anti-debtor. He might as well be Dave Ramsey.

He is also very anti-rent.

I have joked with him in the past that some of us have to live in the real world though. My dh has never been in a position to do anything but bank his entire paycheck. Yeah, not exactly real world. So, he is a little extreme even for my tastes.

His parents bought his first car. His parents paid for his college and let him live rent-free. Don't get me wrong, he has always worked very hard, but he has never had much in expenses. So as a teen and in college he worked and saved a ton. Then he married me and we banked his paycheck. So I would say he has never been in the real world, and it shows. He is an extreme saver, but I worry if he would have a clue how to budget. (Kind of a strange result).

As such, he would never take on a dime of debt. Which is noble enough. I know plenty in his situation who did not work, or who did not save a dime, and did go into debt. So I have no problems with his philosophy. I am rather anti-debt myself.

But my take is more of the "real world anti-debt" philosophy.

My parents did not buy me my first car and since I needed my car to get to work, I would say I had little choice but to finance my first car. It was "only" $1500, but it might as well have been $100k when I was 16.

I think this is probably where I come up with my personal one-year debt rule with cars. (Only buy something I could pay off within the year). I did have a lot of friends buy $20k new cars (& a lot of them wrecked their new cars). I figure I was young and a terrible driver (for lack of experience). The old clunker would do. I didn't want to start out life deep in debt. I drove it for 7 years.

So I understand it was a situation hard to do without debt. But I did pay off that car within the year.

My dh never would rent, but I was able to live in the most expensive city in the country for $400/month for a private room in a nice home. It would have made no sense for me to buy during my broke college years. So I am a fan for renting in the right circumstance. (I also house sat for 6 months before I rented). Dh had a free place to stay and all that but my parents had no desire to support me beyond 18 and frankly I couldn't live with them anyway. Love them; can't live with them.

I was lucky to get through college with no hardships, and was able to completely avoid college debt. But I do not sum it all up to luck. I chose a well paying career with a very cheap degree. There was a lot of thought put into my path. & no, I will never understand racking up $100k in debt for a job that pays $25k/year. People have seem to lost their minds when it comes to this area. & a lot of people have told me I am unrealistic to be so anti-debt. Well, no. My dad paid his way through college with no debt, and he really couldn't have been more poor. I managed to do the same. If you think it through and it is important to you (or you have no other choice like someone like my dad) well, you figure our a way.

I could very easily see an instance though where I would have resorted to debt. & I really wouldn't have a problem with that, because it would have been a small debt in comparison to my post-college income. I would have paid it off quickly.

But yeah, while most people believe it can't be done I was thinking "debt is not an option." I think you can sum a lot of it up to simply how you think.

Anyway, I have borrowed for more cars since my first, because my first car completely died just a month or so out of college. I probably could not have been in a worse financial position asset-wise. No debts, but no assets either. But I was starting to receive a decent income, so I borrowed $5k for a significantly nicer car, and paid it off within 6 months.

I paid cash for a car later on (downgraded to a older/safer car when I had BM - it only cost $1k and I sold my old car for $3k).

The last vehicle I bought was after we had both kids. I financed a small portion and paid it off within a year, though we could have paid cash. I did not want to drain the efund for a car. We bought the $1k car in the interim until we felt comfortable to buy the van. I drove that $1k car for 3 years. It was fine when we sold it for $500. We just wanted a bigger auto with the 2 kids and planned well enough for it. We didn't rush into it though we had the cash before LM. We wanted to wait and make sure the pregnancy went well and he was healthy, etc. Then we felt okay to spend the cash.

My dh on the other hand, bought his last car when we both worked. He paid cash for a pretty new car and so nothing in his mind has changed over the years. I have certainly had the worse luck (my car dying when I couldn't have been more broke. But willing to take on the debt because I had the income. If I had been still in college I would have gone for another clunker for much cheaper).

& then there is the mortgage. But these are the only things I have financed.

So there you have it. Dh is Mr. Extreme Anti-Debt and I am more "I live in the real world" Anti-Debt.

We bought a lot of really used furniture and appliances over the years. (As an aside how we have avoided consumer debt).

Now that we have built up some decent assets and income, no, I do not expect to ever take on debt again. We are also kind of straying from the very used purchases. It is a little Ramsey-esque. Standard of living just improves with time and stability. But if we had to take on debt, due to hardship or anything like that, I would just be careful about it. Dh simply thinks this would never happen.

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Anyway, yeah, you should have seen how insulted dh was by this impression. Completely and totally insulted. !!!

So yeah, I have to wonder how many friends are thinking, "poor Monkey Mama." How I slave away to support dh's expensive tastes.

(Truth is I love my job and dh takes care of the household so I have a fair amount of leisure. Dh does not run up debt, at all. No complaints here).

The only truth to that impression is dh is used to having a fair amount of disposable income. As such, I think he puts a lot of his purchases in front of saving more for retirement and stuff like that. I often joke I wish he had the same passion for his ROTH as his electronics. But yeah, he would never buy any of this stuff if it involved DEBT. So that is the funny part, that someone so close would even think that. I think some people do pick up on his priorities though. They are the priorities of the spoiled. One who is used to spending a very small amount of income on electronics and banking huge amounts in the bank.

& I am sure people who did not know us at all would think perhaps he is taking advantage of me. (Particularly people who do not understand how much work it is to run a household. I have no interest in all that work, so it works well for us).

& fact is, most of our financial stability comes from when he worked. So things are just not as they appear all the time.

The A/C is OFF...

October 6th, 2008 at 02:56 pm

The weather prediction is 80 degrees day/50 degrees night, for the next week.

The house has been around 75 in the mornings and 80 in the evenings. (Still warmed up from the hot weather, I expect it to drop down a bit to more comfortable temps).

I am crossing my fingers the AC is off for good.

I also turned up the hot water heater a bit, in anticipation of cooler weather. Particularly since it is cooler in the morning when we shower.

We also adjusted the lawn watering system since it FINALLY dropped below 90-100 degree weather. I cut the water in half and turned off one day of watering. (I was running it every day when it was 100 degrees. But now 3 days a week. & I turned it off for a couple of days when it rained).

I think I will get the electric bill today or tomorrow. I expect it to be way bigger than last year with all this HOT weather. We'll see...

Chocolate Chip Cookies...

October 4th, 2008 at 11:47 pm

The weather is nice, the kids are playing outside, and since it is the first day since summer, that felt at all fall-like, it seemed like a good idea to make cookies.

Dh has this very simple PB cookie recipe he does with the kids, often. (PB and sugar? Maybe some flour?). So they seemed disappointed I was going for chocolate chips instead of peanut butter. But I think they will get over it.

LOVE this recipe.

http://www.bigoven.com/38002-Best-Ever-Chocolate-Chip-Cookie...

A Frugal & Productive Weekend

October 4th, 2008 at 04:46 pm

I went to aerobics and filled my tires on the way home. The air has gotten significantly colder, and it was long overdue. We filled dh's tires last weekend. We stick with 35 psi. Better gas mileage and the tires tend to last longer (a little over-filled). We have done this forever per the recommendation of a good mechanic back home.

When I got home I filled up the trash with more garage junk. The kids helped me sweep a bit with our new broom.

The trash is filled up again - but should be done next round.

Dh took BM to Home Depot for one of their free kids' projects. A little more for older kids but he LOVES it.

LM & I are going to Fairytale Town. (A glorified park with a few farm animals). Our membership expires this month but we never seem to make it in the fall or winter. So I figured we would get our use this month and let it expire. Maybe renew in the spring. Being cheap since it has been kind of crazy.

Tomorrow there is a free symphony event for the kids. LM is SO excited. He is music boy.

So I can't say I planned it all this way, but is turning into a pretty frugal weekend.

Dh picked up my wedding ring last night. We lucked out. The credit card closed early. I figure maybe we could squeak it by with a night purchase, but no prob. A ton of stuff I expected on the card did not come through. October is extra spendy as a result.

I closed my CD (matured today) and tried to redeem my $250 Chase rewards. The rewards I earned this cycle were not showing so I will try again Monday. I will also pay off the final 0% balance transfer on Monday. So yeah, good bye almost 6% on money that isn't even mine. Now I am left with 3% on my pitiful bank balances. Wink

But yes, I feel quite productive!

Oh yes, the rain came last night (& the HOT weather went away). Dh had promised BM ice cream so we went over to Thrifty - they have awesome ice cream for 99 cents. It was raining and they didn't seem to expect anyone to come in for ice cream. It was actually pretty fun. We just brought it home to eat because there was no where really to eat it but in the rain. But it was a fun adventure.

The house is 78 degrees. It is nice as we enter comfortable realm.

With true fall weather arriving (albeit a few weeks late) I think it is also time to go through the kids drawers and pull out the warm clothes. Phooey. BM might need new clothes. Hadn't even thought about it, it has just been so hot. We'll pull out last years clothes; I don't expect they will fit! Might have to make a Target and/or thrift store run for him.

P.S. Oh yeah - BM had 2 fillings yesterday. Ugh. They think there is only one on the other side. PHEW. 3 appointments down, 2 to go. That one we can push off paying another month as well since it didn't hit the card. Yippee! But yeah, we will card 6 cavities, maybe even 7, this month. $1200-$1400. I will be glad when that is over. BM still LOVES the dentist. He keeps getting thse giant blow up toys. LOL. He is going to have like 6 when we are done. Geez. Our house looks like a carnival for now.

It's the Principle...

October 2nd, 2008 at 02:47 pm

I saw Fern's post about seeing how long before we turn on the heat.

Then I came home and the AC was on. (It's been in the 90s here. I am not sure what it was yesterday, but close to 90). This is officially CRAZY Weather.

It looked cool (cloudy) in the evening though, I hadn't been outside though. So I told dh to open a window. I just assumed it was cooler out.

I flipped OFF the AC, and no window was needed.

Anyway, thermostat said it was 81 degrees upstairs when I went to bed, but I figured it would cool off faster than usual. It is October after all. (In summer, and THIS september, we flip on the air before bed, for maybe 1/2 hour, to cool off the upstairs).

I woke up at 1am sweltering!!!!!

I wrestled with myself, in my mind. I am generally not very cheap when it comes to comfort. If I wake up hot, I flip on the air for a bit and turn it off when it cools back down. Not a biggie.

But, it's OCTOBER!!!!!!! We generally don't turn on the A/C in September. Certainly not OCTOBER!!!

I sweated it out. It was the principle. Stupid as it may be, it was 100% the principle of it all!

I was pretty close to breaking though, but I eventually fell asleep.

It's 7am and it is 80 degrees downstairs. Probably still 81 upstairs.

81 can be comfortable enough at bed time, but it obviously got hotter as the night progressed. I expected to wake up this morning a little chilly, but it was HOT instead.

Which pretty much proves it did not cool down last night much, outside. UGH!!!!

Yeah, looks like we won't need heat for a while.

I already told you I had a real and true nightmare that we went straight from this weather to cold winter weather. We usually get some in between.

A strange year, for sure.

FREE FICO

October 2nd, 2008 at 02:12 pm

Check out your free FICO score from Equifax:

http://www.mymoneyblog.com/archives/2008/10/free-fico-credit...

My score - 768 (Matches my Transunion FICO which I get free from WAMU)

Dh - 808

This is the first that I confirmed that dh crossed the 800 threshhold. I get my score free all the time, but don't know if I have ever seen his. Last we pre-approved for a home, I was told my score was higher and in the 800s.

So I know I had crossed 800 in 2006, but not sure if I have been there since.

We both took on some BTs and dh's was paid back quite a few months ago.

Mine is till outstanding - thus my score is still a little lower than usual. But somehow I think I will survive. Wink

You can see the $25k credit arbitrage (divided between the 2 of us) has had little long term effect on our scores.

& have I mentioned before that I always close all my old cards when I no longer use them? One less card for ID thieves, if you ask me. My caveat is since we had had a mortgage for so long (almost 9 years) that the length of our credit card history no longer really matters. I personally only have an official "5 years" of credit card history though I have had credit cards since I was 16 (so for 15 years). I've closed all the ones I had in high school and college. I've gotten better rewards cards since.

I share because I still have a rather excellent credit score. I do everything "wrong," I've never been too concerned about it, and yeah, I would do it all wrong again. Big Grin Don't freak out too much about your FICO. If you are trying to bring up a lower score, only then is when all of this stuff really matters. When you need every point you can get!!!

But yeah, at the end of the day, 768 or 808, there really is no difference.

Anyway, take advantage of the free offer!

To the Moms - Slow Down...

October 2nd, 2008 at 01:56 pm

I watched Oprah last night, and sort of regretted it.

It was about a mom who had left her daughter in the car all day, in the summer, and who of course didn't make it.

My heart SUNK when I watched it. It was really hard to watch.

This happened to a friend of a friend, in 2006 I believe. Before that time I don't know if I would have thought much but, "How on earth could you do that?????"

But at the time this happened to the friend of the friend, it was VERY unsettling. I had a 9-month-old and was completely sleep deprived. We had just started taking BM to preschool. IT was a completely new routine and there were days I forgot he was even in the car. I remember for weeks and months after this tragedy thinking, "He was so quiet. I am glad I was awake enough to remember to take him to school."

When I heard this happened, it was unsettling because I knew the exact same thing could happen to me, quite easily.

For me, it was the sleep deprivation more than anything. & these days, though I am more well rested, I am grateful LM is very loud in the car. He talks non-stop. He wouldn't be forgotten. Phew!

Anyway, the interesting thing on Oprah was the woman did come on the show to get the message out - that this can happen to you.

But not in the way expected.

The sleep deprivation was mentioned off-hand towards the end of the show.

What they were really focusing was just on women who did too much. Their brains were too full of to-do lists, they had taken so much on, and they felt such a strong need to be perfect, that they were putting their children at risk.

The show became more about how overwhelmed women (moms)as a whole are feeling.

So really the message of the show was slow down and ask for help.

& I have blogged quite a few times about that, in a sense. You don't have to be super woman and you don't have to do everything. I have blogged many times how I know a LOT of women returning to work this year. Most of them are doing too much. For various reasons their husbands aren't helping. (Some don't have husbands, some of them work out of town most of the time, some of the husbands are just a$$e$). But a lot of them have been coming to me on advice how to juggle it all. Because I am the experienced WORKING mom, and I seem to have it together, I guess.

Honey, the reason I seem to have it together is because I don't do half the stuff that you do!!!!!! I mean, that's what I have to say most of the time. It's kind of like, "Hello. Do you remember my husband? The one who stays home? Do you think I let him play video games all day and I run the entire household?" I honestly have to figure that's what they think. YEah, sure, since when do men help with the domestics?

I guess it gets under my skin. That I have a full-time-at-home spouse, and women still ask me how I have to make dinner, bathe the children, blahdeblahdeblah after work is over. How do I manage doctor appointments?, and on and on and on...

Are they serious?

So in the past I have kind of said to the young women, you know, you don't have to give up yourself to have children. Demand the help you respect and reserve. & just don't take on too much.

But I had to share. I think this is an important message. Disasters happen when you try to do too much. So slow down and take care of yourself and your children.

& give them extra hugs today. Life is short.


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