<< Back to all Blogs
Login or Create your own free blog
Layout:
Home > Archive: November, 2008
 

Archive for November, 2008

Financial Update

November 30th, 2008 at 08:33 am

I got my gas bill and it was only $15. I was trying to beat $22, from last November.

Well, we accomplished this, BUT the bill ended 5 days sooner this year - on the 25th - for whatever reason. So it wasn't very comparable. I think we turned on the heat on the 24th. (It was a 30-day bill, but earlier in the season by a few days. Which could make all the difference).

Then again, we didn't host Thanksgiving last year so I cringed at all the cooking, laundry, hot water, etc. was used/done on Thanksgiving. Not sure it will help my next bill.

The number to beat for December is $75.
(Just trying to improve on last year).

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

I updated my totals to the left.

I just hit $2500 again in my savings account, after posting November interest of about $25. Woohoo.

I don't expect it to hold through 12/31. We have to hire someone to fix our gutters next week.

We saved $4200 this year (close to our $5k goal) but spent $1700 on stuff around the house. My goal was to save $5k BEFORE we started catching up on stuff. But broken computers and fridges had other plans. & then I figured what the heck, and started getting caught up on stuff around the house. (Stuff like thermal drapes). So failed spectacularly on my goal, but am not too upset about it. Still moving forward.

It's kind of amazing how things work out. We haven't saved up any money for stuff around the house in years. Low priority since dh stopped working and such. & things have been okay. Nothing broke around the house when we were broke. But this year we start saving for household stuff again and next thing you know we have thousands in unexpected bills. Kind of annoying, but just glad we had the cash for it all. Looking back we had a few lucky years, so it was bound to catch up with us at some point.

My goal is $5k to this fund in 2009. I hope to still have $5k in this fund come 12/31/09. About 50% funded by overtime and interest, and 50% funded by savings. So makes our goal to spend $2500 on home repairs in 2009 (expected) and have $5k going forward. If I get a bigger raise than expected, or any windfalls, this is likely where it would all go. So I would love to make a higher goal. But $5k is rather realistic at this point.

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

I don't expect to add any more to retirement this year. So looks like we will hit 12% again. Mostly funded by employer. Goal is 14% for next year. Goal is 20% by 2010. (10% us & 10% employer). So, not hitting it too heavy in 2009. Just trying to move forward. 2010 should be an easy year to divert preschool tuition to retirement.

I'd probably rather focus more on cash savings at this point, BUT with the market so low, we want to take advantage and add more to our retirement next year.

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

Mortgage - we paid off about $3800 this last year. Next year we will pay closer to $4500. Just regular payments, but considering adding $20/month next year.

It's starting to make a dent!

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

I haven't looked at our net worth, but Quicken tells us most of our investments are down 30% - 50%. Eh. I'll look 12/31. It won't be pretty!

I depreciated our cars by $4500 this year. I figured since our net worth was in the toilet anyway... A good time to take the hit.

Depreciated dh's car by $500, to $2500. Could probably get $3k-$4k easy for it, the way gas prices have been. (It actually appreciated this year; it gets 40mpg freeway). But I figured to depreciate $500/year going forward. Fair enough. Rather aim conservative.

The gas guzzling van? Plummeted in value this year when gas prices were high. I estimated $12k last year (which is about what we paid for the thing in 2006). BUT I saw them going for $8k when we briefly considered dumping it ourselves. I am sure value has gone back up a bit, but gas prices can also shoot up again. So I figured I'd take the big depreciation hit this year. Will continue to depreciate that one about $1k/year, going forward.

Since the van is like half of my emergency fund (well, was) I tend to keep an eye on prices. So yeah, needless to say I was shocked to see it going for $8k for a time. Yeesh. A big depreciation hit for 2008, for sure.

& with gas prices rock bottom, I am currently glad we didn't dump it. Ask me again later...

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

Short-term savings...

I looked at the last year to see where things landed. We have been saving $1k/month. $12k/year.

This is for known, regular, larger expenses (or for anything that's not monthly and regular). So I already know what this adds up to for 2008 - have received all the 2008 bills by this point.

Ended up spending about $13,500 from this fund in 2008:

$4595 Property Tax
$3545 Insurance (Auto, Life, Disability, Home, etc.)
$1550 Vacation
$1225 Dentist (regular checkups)
$1200 Car Maintenance/Repairs
$1300 Misc.

We will probably receive $1k for Christmas to plump up this fund a bit for 2009. Will add $12k again. (I figure we will add another $100/month come 2010, when we have more wiggle room).

Expect property taxes to be about the same next year. (California assesses very differently than most areas - based on purchase price - not volatile market values. So no chance of a decrease next year. It's based on January 1 and values overall are still higher than our assessed value. Not like prices will decrease dramatically by January 1).

Our auto insurance continues to decrease, as well as a lot of our disability and life insurance. BUT our flood insurance is going up something like $500 next year. I think it will all about even out.

Vacation - our plans for 2009 are well within $1500.

Dentist - will go up a bit since LM is now going every 6 months.

Car Repairs - a little more this year than usual, but dh's car is getting pretty old (near 100k miles and though it has pretty much never had any repairs, it is a cheapie car and we expect a lot more upkeep in the coming years), and my car just plain sucks. Always taking it in for door locks and windows and stupid stuff like that. So I expect the same or more next year.

Misc. - where we have room to work with. We put a lot of stuff here when we were squeezed by the cost of 2 in preschool. I think our monthly budget will cover more of this stuff in 2009.

So, will contribute $1k monthly for 2009 and will consider $1100 monthly in 2010.

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

So yeah, just kind of an overall roundup for 2008.

Not a great year, but I am happy to be moving forward. Particularly in this economy.

No GPS - But a Webcam Instead...

November 29th, 2008 at 05:07 pm

I remembered the one feature I wanted on a GPS as dh went out the door today to pick one up. I wanted one that would show coordinates for hiking/geo caching and such. I reminded him as much.

When dh got to Fry's he was able to try out the display model. I don't think he had a lot of issues with it, but side by side to the Garmin, it just wasn't near as nice. He also said it was the only one there that didn't have coordinates. (& the Garmin will give you directions to coordinates. Cool!)

So he decided not to pick it up after all. He wants to wait another year for prices to drop and technology to improve. (That's how we usually buy things. We have tons of electronics, but we wait a lot longer than most people and tend to keep things forever). So it looks like we will wait a bit.

No complaints here!

For now we just borrow his mom's anyway. We have it right now.

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

In other news, his aunt is moving back to Asia soon (she lived there for decades - and though she has been lucky to be in the States for a couple of years - she is heading back out in 2009. Missionary stuff).

Dh's mom decided the perfect Christmas gift was webcams for everyone, and we should get set up on skype. We've talked about it before, like when the kids were born, but I guess dh's uncle was showing his setup off at Thanksgiving and they have been thinking of better ways to keep in touch across the globe.

So dh picked up a webcam today and has been playing with it all afternoon. IT's actually pretty cool.

It was funny to see Analise's post about skype just as I came online to post this. I have only used it once, today, but I can vouch for it. It's pretty sweet!

Anyway, no GPS as planned. But we have other nifty technology to play with.

I keep thinking back to the video phone concept of years past, and how completely cool this is in comparison.

Target for the 10th Time this month

November 29th, 2008 at 10:31 am

I feel like I have been there 10 times anyway. Yeesh.

I went to aerobics and stopped by Target on the way home. About 9am - it was nice and empty. Yay!

I needed a new/bigger helmet for BM. He is a wild child and I didn't want to go cheap. Toys R Us just had cheap stuff so I went back to Target today.

I found one all by its lonesome without a price tag. IT didn't match any other helmet brands. I looked down a few aisles to see if more helmets were stored elsewhere. I tried it in the price scanner - didn't work. It looked REALLY nice and sturdy. I figured it was more expensive - but was exactly what BM needed (he's a wanna-be stunt man).

The lady at checkout asks me how much it cost. Good question. She didn't want to get her manager. I said most of them were $19.99 but honestly no idea how much this one is. I figure maybe I'd get it for $20. Woohoo.

She finally decided to call her boss though and they were looking forever. Good lord. Finally found it. $15. On clearance. Glad I waited. Big Grin

I have no idea where it came from but it was just the quality AND the price I wanted. Woohoo.

As an aside, LM has always had a monstrosity of a head. The aged 3 helmet is a little small on him, but 5+ was a little too big (I was surprised by this actually). I figure he could have BM's old helmet because he is quite cautious and can't go very fast anyway. It's better than nothing, and probably better than "too big". Can probably buy him a bigger helmet come spring or summer.

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

We had discussed getting a GPS this year (we haven't given each other gifts in a couple of years and figured that would be our gift). But as the end of the year approaches we both haven't been as thrilled with the idea. Figured we'd go giftless again. (I was actually surprised because it was all dh could talk about all summer).

Anyway, he saw a good deal today and is running out to pick it up.

It's not Garmin as we had originally planned, but dh has read all the reviews and wants to get it anyway. We can at least try it out and return it if we don't like it.

So, about $100 for that.

Yeah, we expect a lot of birthday and christmas cash this month. Phew. It's been a little spendy...

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

I did decide to skip Karate for December. It's only 3 weeks anyway and it had been rather spendy. The thought crossed my mind and dh did not mind skipping it. So, phew.

WE did find a hole in a gutter on the house (probably bird related - no trees, but lots of birds). We will look into getting the gutters cleared and that part repaired next week. We don't have a ladder near tall enough and just not something we will attempt. I looked around the rest of the house and didn't see anything else obvious. I hope it's just limited to that one area. I assume birds, but who knows what happened there.

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

I went for a drive after Target today. We were experimenting with some of the back roads, looking for a path to the river that was reasonable enough for the kids. As I expected, it doesn't really exist. On one hand, I drove about 5 miles around and did not see ONE car. It was almost 10am. So it is desolate enough that the kids could probably ride. Perhaps. Then again, the big ditches on the side of the road (and really nowhere for a bike) wasn't thrilling to me.

Then, when I got to the river I was surprised that it was all private property. I hadn't really thought of that. Boy did I see a LOT of for sale signs too.

Anyway, so much for a nice river ride from our house. I saw a public park about 4 miles out and it looks more like a beach than a park with trails anyway.

So, not the river ride I had envisioned, but was definitely beautiful. Very peaceful, and the fall trees were pretty.

But we certainly have a LOT of exploring to do in our neighborhood, regardless. It's been kind of fun. We're minutes from the city, in the suburbs, but surrounded by completely open space. I've often said we have the best of all worlds. For the long run we always assumed it would be built up and we'd just end up in the middle of the suburbs. & that is probably true. In the long, long run. Some of our neighbors (behind us?) paid a premium to keep the open space behind them. We always thought that was complete BS. Yeah, right. Sure, you paid a few thousand dollars and they will never build behind you? Who dreamed up that scam? But with the real estate market now? We'll have this open space for a while. So it is definitely fun for bike riding and exploring.

On the flip side, am bummed we have little access to any public river paths. Bummer!

The last 24 hours

November 27th, 2008 at 07:53 am

Cleaned 3 Bathrooms (mostly toilets) - since we have 20 guests (or I guess 20, including us - I should clarify) I figured I should make the upstairs bathrooms presentable (not sure one bath will cut it).

Did what felt like 20 loads of laundry - including bed sheets because I had been meaning to...

Prepped the dining room/somehow found 20 chairs/seats

Cleaned cat litter box

Dusted piano and stairs

Vacuumed entire downstairs/vacuumed bathroom floors and scrubbed those a bit (at least those are small)

Cleared kitchen and wiped it down, cleared dining nook table and wiped it down - more vacuuming after that

I didn't put a lot of effort into any one job because it's all going to be messy again once the day is over. So I figure I will repeat this exercise Friday but actually maybe some more deep cleaning then.

It took me an hour in traffic to pick up LM from preschool. UGH. I should have picked him up at 2 instead of 5.

I actually had a movie date with dh but he took the freeway (at 2) and we got stuck. We have free movie tickets. We turned around and decided we would pay for babysitting later. Missed our chance. BM has been gone all week but Grandma is bringing him home today.

So yeah, that should have been my clue to go get LM. Preschool is by my work and I usually have more of a reverse commute. So I had to drive with the commute and the holiday traffic made it maddening.

Took LM to Michael's. They had $1 calendars so I picked up a couple for the kids (like full-size calendars!). I bought a frame for 50% off. It is NICE. I found a poster I bought like a decade ago and was keeping my eye out for a frame. This was the only one I could find that was not CHEAP. But it only cost $12 since it was 1/2 off.

This morning I made 2 batches of fudge (easy recipe) and I am working on deviled eggs right now (boiling/cooling while I type).

I also spent the day storing ice (pouring from ice maker into baggies) in case we decide to use the cooler for drinks. Just a LOT of little stuff like that all day - yesterday.

Dh cleaned up his crap a bit - so that was good. He is in charge of most of the cooking and grocery shopping, etc. so he did his fair share. He spent $100 at the store Tuesday, including $10 for a 20-pound turkey. Not bad! If it was me I would have picked up a second one for the food shelter. Great price. He is not very charitable though.

We aren't providing all the food. But PLENTY. So I was impressed he came in about $100. He said he wasn't sure he would get to the $100 level for our 25-cent gas discount. But he did (just barely) and filled up his car for $1.70/gallon or about $15 for the entire tank. Crazy! One day we're paying $3.50, the next we're paying $1.70?

Anyway, I probably wouldn't have done so much yesterday but Tuesday I was both lazy and had a MASSIVE headache all day. So I actually slept most of the day. & LM was more demanding than I expected, so we did a lot together. Monday afternoon dh and I spent time together, so I left all the work for the last minute. Glad I had all day and kind of glad we didn't go to the movie after all. Maybe tomorrow... 007.

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

MUCH to be thankful for this holiday season.

Primarily thankful for our health, since it seems our extended family has had a really hard time of it lately. Glad that our little nuclear family is very healthy. Very thankful for that.

Also, thankful for our financial situation, since so many people are facing hard times.

Thankful for my wonderful kids, wonderful hubby, wonderful parents, etc.

& Thankful we will get to share a feast with so much of our family today.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today is Paint Day

November 24th, 2008 at 07:45 am

So I shouldn't be online. But then again LM is sleeping and I am up at dawn, as per usual. Not like I am going to start painting his room now. Hehe.

We did most of the masking yesterday except for the bottom baseboard (we got tired out. Not a good sign for today. LOL. Actually, our problem more was we started late and it was past LM's bedtime when we stopped. But we did get a good start).

Took inventory and we had rollers, one large brush, plenty of tape.

Missing: a pan for the paint/rollers. Dh was VERY perplexed by this. I said obviously we threw it away (for a good reason). If it's not with the paint stuff, it's not here.

We also had no other paint brushes - we had given them to the kids to play with and they were completely unusable.

Ooooh, but I found a giant box of unopened painter's plastic. Lord knows where THAT came from. LOL. We usually use cheap garbage bags or something. We must have bought at one point - never even opened it.

So dh ran out and got a pan for the rollers and some smaller brushes for some of the edges and stuff. HE spent $16. (I also requested a putty knife and some hardware for the front drapes - while he was at Home Depot). He ended up getting a nice pan that we can reuse (keeping in mind he did not want to buy a cheap one and just throw it away).

I am not sure how much of the $16 was directly paint supplies, but add $2 for paint, I'll say the cost will be no more than $18.

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

I've got the posters for LM's room but his new drapes have not arrived yet. Hoping they arrive before Thanksgiving so we can get it all put together by then. Drapes and posters will make this closer to a $100 project. But still, not bad for a complete room makeover, eh? & the thermal drapes should be REALLY nice. His bed is right under the window and I think this will warm it up a bit.

Ooooh, It's Toasty in here

November 23rd, 2008 at 08:37 am

Because I turned on the heat!

It's been so mild that last time by the time the house hit 63 inside, it was already starting to warm up. So we stuck it out (a day or a morning or whatever). So, I am proud we have been a little less anxious to turn on the heat. The kids are also getting older and I worry less about freezing them out.

But lord, reading some of the heat posts I am glad to be in California! For sure. I love my some heat a little too much. But it won't cost me an arm and a leg, so I am happy. Big Grin

Anyway, today is freezing (65 downstairs and 63 upstairs) and the extreme warm weather has ended so I didn't see it warming up much on its own.

So I flipped on the heat today. & it feels good!

(I think the thing is it is hard to justify keeping it colder in the house than outside. So 63 is my freezing point. It will probably be warmer outside today).

I am still being more conservative than usual. I flipped it on to 68 degrees upstairs - took 15 minutes to warm up. & just flipped it on downstairs. Well, it just turned off actually. Took about 5 minutes to get to 68. Usually we start with the morning heat only. So my next personal goal is not to turn the heat on otherwise.

I could have maybe made it To Dec. 1, but I am going to be home all week. Blech. I'd rather have some heat. That's my other excuse. Wink

My other personal goal is just to have lower gas bills than last year. The number to beat is $20 for November. I am pretty confident we have it in the bag, simply because it has been so warm this month. (& another reason why I rather just be comfortable. To tun the heat 20 minutes a day apparently doesn't cost very much!). To beat last December I will have to stay under $75 in December. I think we have been keeping the house enough cooler than usual that it will be easy to beat $75. Though, of course depends on the weather Gods.

(Oh - I just saw the weather - it was 37 degrees last night. That's winter weather - no wonder I am so chilly. I guess that is my breaking point. Whatever the thermostat says, it is just extra chilly today. The coldest morning, by far).

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

Well, in other news, dh got a Wii Fit.

It's pretty fun. Problem is we were all fighting over it.

I liked the yoga and the strength training. The balance games were also fun (what the kids did). BUT I thought the aerobics was kind of stupid. For one you are supposed to run in place (I didn't even get my heart rate up - I couldn't quite figure out how to run in place and make it very worthwhile - I decided to run in circles around the room - which is really boring). They also had a step aerobics thing, but it was boring and again, VERY slow and easy. So yeah, not so impressed on the aerobics. But I guess I have enough aerobic outlets (aerobics and gym and such). The strength training was another story. It was kind of intense. The yoga was neat as well.

My dh likes to stay up until 1am most of the time, but he fell asleep downstairs, last night. I figured because one of the kids was up and woke me up around 1am. So when dh came to bed around 2 it woke me up. I asked if he had fallen asleep, and he said yeah. It was the yoga. That made me giggle because we took a yoga class in college and he fell asleep a couple of times. LOL. I was picturing him falling asleep on the Wii balance board thing. Hehe. But he said, no, he just got so relaxed doing yoga that he fell asleep shortly after while watching TV. I think that is so funny! Well, typical dh. I think we need a "no yoga at night" rule for him. We have a nice system - he takes the kids before 1 or something and I take them after 1. Not that it matters so much these days (they are rarely up at night). BUT for those nights when something is up, we both get a few hours of uninterrupted sleep, at least. I wasn't very pleased to be up last night with LM, when dh wasn't even in bed, that is for sure.

Well, we'll try not to get too attached. Dh may want to sell sometime in December. People go crazy and pay huge amounts for this stuff in December. So we aren't too attached. Then again, dh had never seen a used Wii fit on sale, certainly not for so little, so I am not sure he wants to let it go. We may keep it but sell the Wii and be Wii-less for a month or so. We'll see how the market is.

I think I will be sticking with the gym and my aerobics class, BUT may work on the strength training/yoga.

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

Oh yes, I almost forgot. I de-cluttered a bit in the Master closet. It's not really horrible in there (it's a huge closet but we keep it relatively un-cluttered).

So, somehow I found an hour, escaped the kids, and worked on it. I found things I had looked for before, but couldn't find. (Kind of weird and spooky since they were just there - I swear I looked through all those boxes before).

Oh yeah, and dh wasn't kidding. He spent something like $50 on used Legos, which seemed a bit much. (Christmas for the kids). But he kept mentioning he had to go through and sell some of it because it was too much.

Now I see! 3 boxes FILLED to the brim with Legos. LOL. Yeah, it's a bit much. I think he could turn around and sell most of it for $50, and just keep the good stuff. Hehe. I understand this purchase a little better now.

Anyway, this is what I came up with, with my hour purge:

*1 GIANT bag full of trash. An old/thrashed pillow, some old/thrashed shoes, bags of old under garments and panty hose and stuff (no idea why I was keeping it?), a pile of music tapes, etc., etc.

*For goodwill - a pile of belts from when I was in high school I assume. It is laughable how SMALL they are. My waist is probably a size like 10 or something and I used to be a size 0. I couldn't even get these belts half way around my body. I thought I struck gold, and then when I tried them on it was like, well, nevermind!!!! I also found a small fan, a baby gift, and 4 CD storage containers (rather large). & a walkman! Goodwill, Goodwill, Goodwill.

Beyond that, just kind of moved things around a bit to make more room.

There are still some doozies in that closet. I figure if I go through it once a year maybe we'll get there some day. For now, it's manageable and I am happy.

I would like to probably donate my wedding dress (I've seen the billions for sale on Criagslist so I rather just donate it to someone who could use it). But yeah, I no longer see the point in keeping it. & that is one BIG box in there.

I also have a 100-CD player/changer thing. & some OLD roller blades. That stuff is all up on the shelves so I am happy to leave it for now, with a mental note to take them down and take care of those, maybe in the next year. We've been in such a crazy purge mode I feel okay slowing down the pace a bit. I guess I was feeling accomplished so I didn't want to take it all down and feel back to square one. !!

I often wonder if we will ever be "done"
purging. Dh also rather try to sell some of this stuff. "Be my guest," I say. For me, I'd rather just be rid of so much of it. So we may try to sell the CD storage, but am not going to put a lot of time and effort to it - for sure. Next Goodwill pickup and all that stuff will be gone. Yay!

I also just found a lot of interesting odds and ends...

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

Well, today we are meeting some family for lunch. & I guess we are going to be busy paint prepping.

We paid $1.76 for gas yesterday in the van. !!!!!!! Woohoo!





It's been a Few Days...

November 22nd, 2008 at 08:11 am

So a lot to update I guess...

**Dh rounded up the kids' change and some change I found (in a moving box no less) and all our change actually, and took it to Coinstar for an Amazon gift certificate. About $16.

I'd say that is about 10 years of coin savings for us. LOL. Actually, I've said before many times, I don't *get* the whole change saving thing because I rather keep the cash I don't need in my bank, earning interest. But that's just me.

The kids are another story. Whenever anyone drops change near them, they dive for it. & then the change droppers just let them keep it. They insist. They find a lot of quarters this way. (Yes, they have an edge us adults don't have). They also find a LOT of dimes on the ground. My eye sight is just not that good. LOL. So about $6 of it was their change and $10 was mine. But I no longer deal in cash so in the future it will all be theirs.

(I did used to collect change, and that is why I found the $10 in a box!).

**Dh made another $100 on Ebay. Our "non-payer" DID pay when she got paid Friday. I was skeptical and dh was trusting. He wins this time.

Dh wanted $50 for his selling/buying, so I will probably get to keep about $50, if the last person ever pays.

**I was called for a focus group, they interviewed me like 15 minutes, and I didn't make it. I tried Pinecone, I tried MySurvey. No one wants my demographic. !! (It doesn't help that I don't shop much). Dh gets an average of 4 focus groups a year. I get 0. I was bummed though because this one looked promising. For an easy $65. Oh well!

**I spent too much money. I bought some posters for the kids' rooms. Online. With shipping I spent almost $50. I felt bad, but oh well. LM's room is really coming together.

**How could I forget? I am on Vacation. Yay! Work was so slow the last couple of days, I left early yesterday.

This was bad. I was craving cookies, so I picked up cookies on the way to get BM for school. For dinner I talked dh into pizza. Though we did do the store bought on which is really cheap on Fridays. So at least that is something.

Anyway, after BM came home, we went on a nice bike ride and we did the smaller puzzle I bought last weekend. We finished it in an hour or so, BUT it was fun. What they did was half the puzzle was bigger sized pieces and half the puzzle was little pieces. Dh did the little side, I had to do the bigger side with the kids. LOL. LM did really well though. So after Thanksgiving we will break out the adult puzzle and see if they can get a little more into it.

Anyway, it AMAZED me how much time I had when I got home a little after 2:00. No idea. I guess I usually miss the daylight too.

(The extra cool thing when I have time off is that dh is always home too. I mean, we are pretty independent. BUT if I am sick I got someone to take care of me. & if I get bored on vacation, I have someone to talk to. Hehe. & right now I have someone to help me get the house in to shape!).

**I also got a couple of books at the library.

One is a funny little fiction book about a premature retirement (I will share more after I read it - like the title - I think the author is Rothman?). & a book on the history of words and saying. I just eat that stuff up.

Flipping through, one of the first words I came across was "bankruptcy." Seems appropriate. This one is funny! In Roman times bankers set up at benches/tables in the town square. They functioned much like modern banks. If they went under though, and could not pay back their deposits, the law allowed the depositors to take the banker's body in pieces in proportion to his owed debts. (LOVELY). In the Middle Ages it became customary for depositors to break the tables/benches of the "bankrupt" bankers, to signify they were no longer in business. "Bankrupt" simply means "broken bench." Over time it became the term used for businesses who became insolvent.

Anyway, yeah, besides my giant to-do list, I have some reading and crafts to do, lest I get bored with all my time off.

**Sunday night we will prep LM's room for painting and we intend to paint it Monday while he is at school all day. I think it is possible we can finish before noon. I don't expect it will take long to paint, nor that we will do more than one coat. Phew. We may need to buy a second paint brush and some masking tape. We'll see. We have to take inventory.

I would love to just do BM's room to and get 'er done. His room is boring but doesn't look like hell though. Dh is NOT going for it. I should feel lucky I talked him into the room that needs it. I guess if LM's room is very labor intensive I will appreciate the wait. & if not, I won't see the big deal to just do it some weekend or something. (Trying to be positive). Though most of me would love to just get it ALL done while we have the paint supplies out!

**Thanksgiving - we are having like 20 people over. Yeesh.

I hadn't given it much thought. Dh is in charge of the menu and groceries and such. But of course I will help out. So we need to sit down and discuss it, at some point.

It will be one of those years EVERYONE is coming, so it should be fun. Kids are real excited.

I just don't mind it much. The family helps a lot with the cooking. & well, we are messy enough. The mess doesn't scare me. Hehe. Really, I just LOVE not having to go anywhere on this holiday. & I have the time off to prepare (but not that it really matters - I don't have much prepping to do really. I've got dh!).

Health Insurance up 15%

November 21st, 2008 at 11:48 am

But what else is new, eh???

It's actually, not SO bad...

Our premiums are going up from $478/month to $549/month. ($71 month increase).

Deductible remains at $3k.

& we actually get prescription benefits (we had none last year). It's something, I guess.

We've had WAY worse years, so this I can handle. As awful as it sounds, I can handle it.

If we're lucky we can squeak by only paying $6588 in premiums all year (really not bad for private insurance for 4, in an area like this - far cheaper, and better might I add, than any benefits my boss offers). AND our max out-of-pocket is $9588 if we use our deductible.

So yeah, overall, this HDHP thing is still easier to swallow, then our old plan. Our old plan is over $1k/month and has a bunch of additional "out-of-pockets" anyway. I don't actually *get* that plan in the least. For the "cash poor" I guess. (Though you end up paying more in the end? & who can afford those premiums? I've read all the fine print and it's all lost on me. There must be some catch I am missing. The only difference I can see is I may pay $3k for a emergency room visit or a hospital stay, but that sure beats paying almost double the premiums, or another $5k a year. at least with the deductible there is a slim chance we pay $0 for the year outside our lower premiums).

Thank GOODNESS for these HDHP and HSA plans. They will save our bacon.

Anyway, I am very zen with this. I expect a $100/month raise at the very least. So I am happy. & anything above that goes in my pocket (which I do expect more). Yay!

& next year LM finished up preschool, and I can take whatever my health plan throws at me. So I can relax for 2 years... IT's just year by year here, and now I can relax. Phew.

I Wasn't going to look until after my birthday, but they sent me an e-mail to me. I didn't expect the new premiums until next week. & well, once I got the e-mail, of course I had to look! Glad it didn't stress me out too much. I Was going to wait because I didn't want to ruin my vacation.

All This Talk of Goals...

November 20th, 2008 at 07:37 am

Not much to report here.

I just realized that dh and I have not had even a weekend away ALL YEAR. What is up with that? Actually, I hadn't even noticed. Things have been so relaxed. Kids are getting much easier, so I don't need the break so much. But I thought about it because dh has been so grumpy about all I want to get done on my week off. It's so rare I get time off AT HOME, that I want to take advantage. I am sure we can squeeze in plenty of together time. Not like I plan to "work" 24/7. But I thought about it and realized it had been a while. So I suggested yesterday we get away for one of our birthdays (both coming up). San Francisco or Monterey since we don't have to drive very far for either. (Both rather equidistant from San Jose anyway, where we would drop off the kids. I just don't want to drive any further though usually I would be the first to suggest Pismo Beach or something like that. But 3 hours drive - plus 2 hours to San Jose - doesn't sound terribly appealing).

Anyway, I think we will make a goal to get away a little more next year. We will likely get free night stays in nice hotels, so it is not a very expensive goal. But a nice one to have!

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

As far as 2009 goals, I haven't thought much of them and probably won't for a while. I need more info. In particular, waiting for our health insurance premiums (which usually make or break us) and waiting for my raise Jan. 1. Until I know what I am making and what my expenses are, it is hard to set financial goals.

But not like I haven't thought about it. I have 2 large competing goals. The mid-term fund and the ROTHs. I wanted to double our ROTH contributions, and I will if I have enough raise. But we also have some serious catching up to do on our mid-term savings. If my raise is small I am thinking of forgetting the ROTHs and bulking up the mid-term fund. I know I will be likely able to max one ROTH the next year (2010) once LM is out of preschool, and I get a generous retirement contribution at work, so though I really WANT to add more to retirement, it's a bit premature to make it a priority right now. Also, if we put a lot to mid-term savings to bulk it up, I can divert more of that income/savings to the ROTHs once we catch up a bit.

So, what we do exactly, depends on more information. I could see getting a very minimal raise and a huge health insurance increase. In that case, not sure what we will do.

If I got a large raise (not completely out of the cards) we could improve our savings dramatically. Maybe I could fund both goals and consider others.

Reality will probably be somewhere in the middle.

So, we'll see!

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

A new goal is taking shape for me. I would like to get a nice bike and do some longer bike rides. Maybe join a local bike club or something.

We also need to get BM a larger bike and hand down his bike to LM. The kids need helmets and such. BM needs a new one and LM has a huge head - they could probably both wear the same size - so yeah - they both need helmets.

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

My other goals are just things around the house. The primary reason to bulk up our mid-term fund, is for stuff around the house. For the more long-term (hoping to put off a couple of more years?) I am thinking a new fence and an outside paint job. For the short term, we need to replace light bulbs, have sinks sealed, have some tile repaired and sealed, and we also have a crack on the house to seal up and fix. Oh, and some tree trimming we were going to talk to our gardener about. (We also want to plant a fruit tree in the winter. In California winter is fruit season. Dh talked to a nursery last spring and they said come back in February - that is tree planting time).

So all these little things. I don't think any of the things I want to do this next year is terribly expensive, but it all does add up.

Anyway, I didn't feel we were in a financial position to really consider these things like the last few years, so it feels really good to get close to crossing things off our list. The solution for our tile problems is not to use our shower. Which isn't the worst (having only one shower in the house to clean). But it will be nice to get everything back in working order.

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

The weather warmed up, but is cooling off again. Not sure we can make it to December with no heat.

If nothing else, wondering about Thanksgiving.

With ALL the body heat (like 25 bodies?) and all the cooking, I would say maybe we could do without heat. BUT if it gets really chilly we may want to turn on the heat for our guests. So I have the feeling Turkey Day may be the first heat day of the year.

Then again, I will be home all week and I am a whimp. So, with the cold, I may have a harder time. Maybe I'll break before Turkey Day.

Dh has Good Debt Collection Skills

November 18th, 2008 at 07:35 am

LOL.

We had a non-payer on Ebay. What else is new. In the past it was things like a kid using his parent's account, or an international ebayer who didn't understand why we would charge more to ship to Europe (doh - our listing clearly said US only and we were trying to be nice). Anyway, I guess ebay has a separate place to indicate you don't want international ebayers bidding on US only auctions. Why would this be a SEAPARATE setting? I found all those buyer settings, but I have to say they wouldn't have helped in any of our situations but the international one. So I am not that impressed.

When the kid used his parent's account he was avoiding us and heck if I was just going to clear the non-payer. But it wasn't going to be resolved for a million years until he told ebay he wasn't going to pay. SO dh CALLED him. I am not exactly sure how, but you can look up your buyer's phone #.

So he called and the guy was caught a little offguard. LOL. He said he didn't have the money and it was his parent's account or something. I don't remember the details, but he hung up or something and dh called back and left a message to please clear it with ebay so we could resell our item.

& the guy DID. He responded to Ebay he couldn't pay and we were FREE!

So we had another non-payer. Dh called them yesterday. I guess this person was also very thrown off that we had her phone #. So dh caught her a little offguard as well.

She said that she had e-mailed me that she was going to pay me when she got her paycheck Friday.

Yeah, whatevah. Never received a message or an e-mail, so I am rather wary of this excuse.

But I have to say I am proud of dh. He is a good collector. I don't know. Never would have thought to CALL. !

Also, I think all these non-payers are kind of a sign of the times. I've been really annoyed at Ebay's new policies, but I admit is probably a combo of that AND the current economic client.

But it still leaves me in a dilemma. What do I do? Can't leave negative feedback, so you can't warn other sellers that this person may take 2 weeks to pay?

?????

I don't understand Ebay's new system at all. I think I will just leave no feedback. BUT if money does not show up Friday, we'll file a complaint, for sure. For now, will be nice and give her a few days.

Feeling One with the Universe Today

November 15th, 2008 at 09:42 am

I noticed when I went to aerobics this morning that there were 2 garage sales within a block. I wondered if it was the "annual community garage sale" though I hadn't seen any signs.

Looked it up when I got home. Looked like just a coincidence. No other garage sales around...

Anyway, walked across the street and took LM. Didn't expect toys (no kids) but took him anyway. You never know. He scored a beanie baby for 50 cents.

I struck gold! There were 2 gallons of blue/green paint sitting there. LM likes green and I was leaning towards blue for his room. (We are painting next weekend!) When I saw the color it was PERFECT.

I asked how old it was and how much for it. She said $1/gallon. Not even a year old. I went home to chat with dh. He said he didn't like the idea, and I decided to buy it anyway. LOL. Well, I convinced him.

Anyway, I went back to pay for it. She told me it cost $30/gallon (it was Ralph Lauren paint). Yeesh.

I am hoping it is just dark enough to cover the brown that covers half of the room. I am going to do a test spot to see what I think. If nothing else we have leftover white, to go over the brown, and then the blue should cover that up well enough.

Anyway, dh said the WORST thing about painting is picking the color. All I have to say is, "Problem Solved."

I am not quite sure how it will look. But you can't beat $2. I am confident 2 gallons is enough for the room.

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

Anyway, we went to the other garage sale and they gave LM a little toy he picked out. I would have given them some change if I had any. But they were pretty much giving away all the toys. How nice!

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

My little secret is out. I drive about 10 miles - YES 10 miles - to my aerobics class.

(I don't *get* people who never venture out their neighborhood for anything. All the time people ask me why I drive so far. Because it's the best? As most things I drive outside my neighborhood for are?)

Anyway, $2.50 per hour class. Offered 3 days a week (I am lucky to make 2 days - I hit the gym on days when I have less time, and when the weather is nice there is walking and bike riding, so not my only exercise).

The aerobics class is through the community center. (The one in my neighborhood offers a $7.50 class, I have never been. $2.50 is too good a price I guess).

1/2 hour aerobics, then 1/2 hour arms, legs, tummies, stretching, yoga. I LOVE it because we spend so long on the stretching/yoga and I am REALLY inflexible. I also have a leg injury which needs lots of stretching not to cause me pain. So yeah, couldn't ask for anything better or cheaper.

& the class is largely empty. Sometimes 4-5 people. I guess maybe that is average.

But I have noticing it getting a little more crowded.

& usually no one much shows up Saturday. But today we had like TEN people.

I couldn't help but wonder if it was the economy or what - people looking for cheaper alternatives. I don't know.

Happy for the teacher (she really should charge more) BUT it's getting a little crowded for our tiny room!

HOA Dues

November 14th, 2008 at 06:49 am

Well, I looked and it looks like our health insurance will release 2009 numbers in the next 2 weeks.

I cringe at the thought. Some years have been as bad as 40% increase. So, yeah, the health insurance will make or break the budget next year (as usual). I won't get my 2009 compensation until January. So if it goes up astronomically then I am just in limbo until I find out if I got enough raise to cover it.

Fun fun!

Of course, I will be on vacation when it comes out and my birthday is beginning of December. I told dh I couldn't bare to look during vacation (could ruin it) so I will look after my birthday. !! (Lord knows if I can contain myself, but I will try).

Ugh. Just HATE this time of year.

I also have to read all the fine print. For this year the $3k family deductible/HSA plan was by far the BEST. Least out of pocket, most coverage, one of the cheapest premiums.

It's almost too good to be true. So I wonder if they are trying to get everyone on that plan and then change the rules around or something. So I will be reading a lot of fine print in the meantime. Making sure this is still the best plan...

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

I also got the HOA 2009 operating budget.

The amazing thing is our HOA fees have never gone up. In fact, they have gone DOWN! We bought in 2001, and the fees went down on one occasion.

Anyway, fast forward to our heavily foreclosed neighborhood in 2008. Dh & I had discussed it. We knew it was coming. We knew we'd have to start shouldering the burden for all the unpaid dues.

So, they are certainly going up. I just have NO IDEA how much. They said monthly we will pay $97, at an increase of $11/month.

Huh?

We pay $69 now.

So lord knows what that means. It wasn't very clear. They broke out the costs by type and there were 3 that added up to $97. But I think maybe they just had a typo with the increases per month, by type. I guess I will probably get the bill end of December - when we will know for sure. I'll hope it only goes up $11/month. vs. almost $30/month (or almost 50% increase). Something just didn't quite add up.

Anyway, yeah, they sent a letter how they had tried so hard to keep dues low and they just couldn't do it anymore with so many houses sitting in foreclosure and unable to collect dues. It's just crazy.

I would say, once things settle down it could be a long time before they raise dues again. BUT who knows when things will settle down.

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

I saw a giant "$10/hour; hiring today; In& Out Burger" sign by the corner of my house the other day. Minimum wage here is $8. I made a mental note that $10/hour wasn't bad, but it was a strange place for a sign. (Not a lot of traffic but the higher end homes over here. Beyond that all we got is farm land. Just one development, a school, and a lot of empty space).

But, I don't know. They could have targeted school traffic, or figured our foreclosing neihgbors maybe needed a $10/hour job. (Don't think it will cut it for their mortgages though!!!)

Anyway, Jeffrey posted in the forums that 500 PEOPLE showed up for 50 In & Out positions in West Sacramento. Holy Cow!!!!!!! It never occurred to me there would be a huge line for those jobs!!

Kind of scary. To know the locals are so desperate for $10/hour jobs.

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

Well, not much planned for the weekend. I have to finish the carpet cleaning. It's been kind of an exhausting week, so put it on the back burner.

& my parents are coming for a visit. Yippee!!!!

Will do some light house keeping in prep for Thanksgiving. Simple like clear the formal dining room and clean the bathrooms.

We can clean up the kitchen a bit next week. I am not going to go overboard.

I am taking the week of Thanksgiving off work. As usual. We are shipping off BM to grandma's house for a few days. I have mixed feelings about this, but I admit it will be WAY more relaxing with him gone. LM is mostly easy. BM is so high energy. Too much, even for me. I am high energy, but old. LOL.

Anyway, we are going to work on LM's room. Which is primarily why we wanted BM out of our hair. (LM actually has school that week so he will be out of our hair too). His room is a mess. I will have to show some before and after pictures. Dh and I have gone round and round on it. The lower half of the wall is brown, and there was a border dividing the white top and brown bottom. Border has been ripped off in places. It is long overdue to fix it up a bit. Make it look decent anyway.

We have painting supplies AND the original white paint. I think we should just go over the brown with a coat or 2 of our "free" white and see what we get. If nothing else, we can test a spot and see how it looks. Right?????? Dh is very uncooperative. I'd rather paint half the room with the white we already have, rather than paint half the room with white or primer and THEN have to paint the entire room another color. Dh doesn't want to do anything, so you'd think he'd be on board, but he is just difficult.

Yeah, this weekend I might drag out the paint and do a test spot. We won't know what we will do until we see how it looks.

Of course if we have all the walls taped off and the paint supplies out, might as well go out and paint it a solid color.

Anyway, this weekend, dh is also s'posed to go over some light fixture issues with my dad, who is much more electrically inclined.

It will be nice if we get some of those fixed. The light in the bathroom upstairs strobes. The one downstairs isn't much better.

& all this means by end of November we may have new drapes, clean carpet, fixed light fixtures (& we have a few bulbs to replace as well), have cleaned up LM's room and remove the baby theme. We also cleaned out the garage and the living room (it had a lot of boxes and such - as well as a giant TV box we just tossed). So, the house is looking up a bit.

Credit Card Drama

November 13th, 2008 at 12:49 pm

I had a fraudulent charge on my State Farm Credit card this summer. They caught it and called me. They told me it was taken care of. Then it wasn't. Dh had to call them like 5 times to remove a $1.50 portion of the charge in the end. Geez Louise!

So here we go again. You know my Chase card was compromised recently.

They never reversed the charges and since I don't get a paper statement, and I used the card all the time, lord knows if I would have noticed. BUT when I reviewed October expenses I saw I had posted the fraudulent charges to "ID theft." I thought to myself - "they never reversed those - Did they!"

I am convinced now this is a general credit card policy. Tell customers you'll reverse it, don't, and see who notices it. Then leave $2 or so and see if anyone notices. !!! Ugh.

So dh called yesterday and they said they reversed it. I didn't have a statement and he didn't know otherwise.

Wow, the SAME runaround!

I told him to cancel the darn State Farm card (he didn't) but Chase I am sticking with. They pay me $500+ a year to use their card. I am not threatening to leave. I could see eating the $20 if I had to. So it's a different game.

But anyway, I printed out my statement and all the activity since said statement, e-mailed it over to dh - and sicked him on Chase again. (Um, NOTHING had been reversed according to my statements. HELLO!)

BAH!

At this rate, it may be resolved in January. If we're lucky.

BTW, like last time, one of the charges happens to be $1.95. So anyway, how much you wanna bet they reverse the $18 charge and leave that one? How much you wanna bet? It must be in the rule book.

I am not one to chase pennies, but when it comes to greedy credit card companies, and a spouse with free time, you BET I will chase it.

Picture Mayhem & Other Ramblings

November 12th, 2008 at 07:28 am

I was offered a wonderful deal by a "friend" to get 20 Christmas cards done for $99. (Regular value $250!!!). I was actually annoyed because I was mass spammed. Gee, thanks but no thanks.

This is one area the market is over saturated. I know about 10 SAHM-turned-photographers - and they all do a wonderful job. They are all great. But I figure in this economy they probably aren't doing so hot. (& they probably aren't). All I figure is people mortgaged their houses for photos. I have a few friends who do like quarterly sittings and pay a few hundred each time. (It's INSANE). I haven't done one because I can't stomach the prices. My dad has a professional quality camera and we get much the same for free anyway.

I don't know. A few hundred dollars for photos? Maybe once every 10 years. Maybe if my spouse were working - once every 10 years.

It's some Joneses thing I don't *get*

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

Weather is s'posed to be record breaking this next week, 70 - 80 degrees. It is looking good for the house front. If the outside does not dip below 40 over night, and it stays below 80 outside during the day, the house is just in the comfort zone. It's hovering between 68-70 this last week, inside the house. So, not even tempted to turn on the heat. It has certainly been warmer than usual.

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

Today I am taking the TV box (from last spring) to the dumpster at work. (It will be recycled). I got dh to load it in the van yesterday. It's the LAST of the boxes. For now...

Dh went to Best Buy yesterday and did not drop off our PDAs for recycle. Bah to him. I may have to run there this weekend myself. (He had some gift cards from last Christmas to use up, there). But after the PDAs I think we have pretty much purged the old electronic stuff from the house. Thank You Best Buy!!!!! (We dropped off about 10 items there, all told).

Since I went clothes shopping last week I went through my closet. I found 16 tops to donate. (Egads). There's plenty more I should probably just toss. I am not much of a pack rat, except when it comes to clothes. Clothes I have outgrown due to pregnancy? I will wear again someday!!!! It's a frugal thing - why be rid of perfectly good clothes (I certainly have the space - half our monstrosity closet is not even used). It seems every sweep though I am able to let go of more. I let go of some old college sweatshirts with college logos and such. I hadn't worn them in a decade - it was time to LET GO. & a few shirts on the small side - I give up. If nothing else I can say I am getting rid of more clothes than I am bringing in. The tide has turned...

We also went through the kids' toys and got rid of very few. In prep for the Christmas avalanche. But between the shirts and the few toys, I have a nice big bag for charity. & a charity is driving by for pickups this week! I am getting addicted to this. So easy. I think they are coming by more than usual with the holidays. Will be 3rd time in last few weeks, for me. Just set it out on the curb and be rid of it all...

I have about $40 in items for Craigslist to sell. All baby nursery stuff. It's been rather hit and miss. One of these days...

This week I am volunteering for the bank program at school. I didn't want to organize the thing, but I am helping out. I think I probably found my niche.

Just an Update

November 11th, 2008 at 11:56 am

Dh earned his keep. He received $125 focus group check yesterday and made about $20 on ebay. Just enough to pay for my ring resize, which he really wanted to do. So, works out.

HE made some Craigslist sales as well.

I actually had extra cash in the checking so will give him the $20 from ebay to plow back into his game selling.

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

I usually pay most the bills around the 1st every month but I had quite a few to take care of this week:

*Phone bills (put on credit card)

*Dish (credit card - dh told them not to take auto payments, but they did. But with the card theft they were at our mercy. Dh called them and told them to stop the auto payments and they listened this time. But now it's kind of a pain to pay them. We won't have them long anyway. DirectTV by next year I am sure)

*AAA (put on card - $130)

*School Lunch (credit card - figured $45 would cover the rest of the year. First $20 is almost gone. BM Eats at school once a week. I enjoy the break!)

*Oh, I paid one credit card (backup card) online and wary if it will go through. I tried to pay regular card (both had new #s due to recent thefts and replacements). But that one was not cooperating. I may have to mail in a check or something. Feels like russian roulette with how BAD our mail service is. So I hope I can get the online bill pay set back up soon.

*I wrote a check (something I rarely do) for Reader's Digest. I think it is our only subscription besides the paper. Our cooking mags are a gift subscription from great grandma and the kids get Highlights from their aunt. I could have set it up online, but in this case, the check was easier.

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

*Dh's car needs an oil change. I reminded him this morning. He said he got a $8 off coupon yesterday. Good timing! (The other ones had expired and I realized we past 6 months. I had my oil changed Oct. 31).

*We signed up to volunteer 16 hours for the Scholastic Warehouse sale. I got suckered into an 8-hour shift. Ugh!

It's sweet since dh's mom (teacher) retired. WE always had tons of free Scholastic products (she had more than she could ever use and chose to give them to us for whatever reason). Anyway, for 16 hours we will earn $320 in Scholastic vouchers. Most will go to school of course, but we may keep $20 for our own purchases.

I have volunteered for multiple opportunities but no one seems to want my help. So I was pleased I was able to volunteer for SOMETHING. Dh has run into similar troubles even with his wide open schedule. The school seems to have more help than it needs. I assume either the Kindergarten parents are extra eager or the volunteering machine lacks organization. Since they are always asking for help. I think, a little of both. Happy to get in some hours. After this we will only need 4 more hours to earn our keep for the year. (Charter school; required 30 hours a year, per family).

*LM told me our neighbors had a BIGGER house than ours! LOL! I don't remember noticing that kind of stuff when I Was young. At all.

His 3-year-old opinion is that a bigger house would be better.

Our house is about twice the size of the one dh grew up in, and about 30% bigger than the one I grew up in. I always worried the kids would end up spoiled. Here we go...

I would tell him that house would have been our first choice and well within our reach ($10k premium for another room or so) but that the layout is atrocious and the appearance of monstrosity is more due to non-energy efficient & space wasting vaulted ceilings throughout the lower level. But yeah, he wouldn't understand. Wink

In fact, we settled for one vaulted ceiling in the formal dining room, because I think it was the least amount of vaulted ceiling we could find in new construction. (One of many horrible trends in the 2000-era; along with giant kitchens, closets and master bedrooms). My long-term dream is to replace the upper level with a giant bonus room - or more appropriately a bonus loft. I don't know how feasible it will be. But I would be happy to banish the vaulted ceiling from our home. They put enough windows up there that I think if we could get a floor and a railing, it would suffice. Shouldn't be THAT expensive, eh???? Then maybe we could reach all the windows and lights. Imagine that!

The 3yo wants to keep up with the Joneses. Ugh! I don't think the 5yo has ever had any Joneses inklings. None that he has shared...

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

For reference: This is my kitchen (though mine doesn't have so much open space on the right side. Right countertop is much closer to island. We have less cabinet space and room, as such. But otherwise, virtually identical). I'd call it "big" but not "giant." Definitely, practical. Island is quite large and yet within reach of stove, fridge, dishwasher and sink. You don't have to walk a mile between these things...



LM also informed me at lunch, when I told dh about his Jonesing, that we should trade houses so the neighbors could live in our "little house." Hehe!

Spendy Saturday

November 9th, 2008 at 08:08 am

Yesterday was more crazy than I cared for.

We had 2 parties to attend at the same time and I wanted to go to both. I also put 70 miles on the car because one was so far away. I drove to unfamiliar land to drop off the kids at the drop-in childcare place (was a GREAT experience - they also have branches in San Jose where our family lives so I think we could utilize much. To-date we had only used the one by our house), met dh at the party, then left early to take the kids to a party at Chuck E Cheese. So I had to backtrack to pick them up and it was just pure chaos. I couldn't live like that every day - I'd go nuts. WAY too much driving.

I hadn't though much about it beforehand (for the best) but Chuck E Cheese was a COMPLETE mess. I lasted about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Since we arrived so late for the party it wasn't a big deal we only lasted that long. Just crowded and chaotic. LM was pretty upset when we left and I had to drag him out the door. BM seemed to understand a little better. I kept their tokens and tickets and told them we could come back on a weeknight. Monday for all I care. I just wanted the hell out. On the weeknights the place is the complete opposite - EMPTY. If nothing else, LM could play in the play structure then. I wouldn't let him in with all the big, rowdy kids. (BM could hold his own).

Lord help me if they get invited to a party over there again. I guess it would be dh's turn...

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

Anyway, in other news, we still haven't cleaned our carpet. I would say before kids it is not something we did. (Well, our condo had white carpet for some godawful reason and we did clean that one a couple of times). But since kids we seemed to average every 2 years (maybe should do it every year).

Anyway, I am ashamed to say we haven't yet (I talked about this in June) BUT I did also put it on my LONG honey do list for dh. Though he hasn't gotten done, and I am peeved, he has gotten almost everything else done. So I admit I have been rather demanding. For his snail pace anyway...

BUT I have come to a realization lately. I have said before. We're not lazy after all! I just could not imagine finding the time to do a lot of things around the house in recent years. But this year we are kicking butt! The difference is the kids. We don't have a lot of family real close to help with the kids. & so there is only so much we could do when they were really little. We kept babysitting help for a vacations and night outs. Not for home projects - blech!!!

But things change. They are getting older and more independent, and we find we have a LOT more time to take care of things around the house. Daycare not even needed.

So anyway, zetta recommended a lightweight, easy carpet cleaner and I said No Thanks! NO WAY I was going to do it myself. That was June.

But here we are in October, it's not done, and I have nothing but free weekends ahead of me. So my mind has changed, and changing dynamics are why.

I popped by Target and picked up the recommended device. I see mixed reviews so I won't hold my breath. Our carpet is pretty bad. BUT it is also high quality/scotch guard, all that. I don't expect it would take that much work to bring up the spots.

We have one large room that needs work. & I think I will no longer allow the kids to eat or drink in here. Once we clean it - that's it. I don't want to do it again. The rest of the house is fine. We don't wear shoes and we are gentle on the carpet. In here it's just spilled food and drinks everywhere. The rest of the house has a few spots, but this thing is good at spot cleaning.

With this device we may also be better at spot cleaning when spills happen, etc.

I am going to test an area of the carpet this morning, and if I am happy enough with it I will do the downstairs room once the kids go to bed. They'll be gone all day tomorrow so will have overnight and all day to dry and be safe from dirty little feet.

I am not sure how much we will save since it is so rare we clean carpets, but maybe we will be more apt to keep them up a little better. $75 for the device ($5 off coupon) and $10 for a bottle of cleaning solution.

Anyway, so we went to Target on the way home yesterday to pick it up.

While we were there we also picked up some food. We passed the grocery aisle and so I stopped for cookies (something uber healthy dh would never buy). Kids saw marshmallows and I saw generic rick crispies so I let them get the marshmallows. I never made rice crispy treats with them. They will love it.

I also picked up some chocolate chip muffin mix. So I think we will bake a bit today.

Dh called me on the way to checkout to ask if we could get cereal because it is cheaper at Target than the Safeway generic at Safeway. I told him I was one step ahead and had Target generic which was even cheaper. So we picked up some more generic cereal at his request.

Well, wish me luck with the carpets. I am waiting to try it out to see if I recommend it.

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

Oh yeah - I almost forgot - I filled up the van for $35 yesterday!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

$2.12/gallon.

Holy cow!

I had a 25-cent-off per gallon coupon - Bel Air. That is the only way I fill the van anymore - with quarter off coupons. (Saves $4 a fill up since it is 16 gallons). But we had put $75 into the van at some point. $35 I can handle.

Our strategy to not go bankrupt over gas was to drive the 40mpg car as much as possible. (The van gets a mere 20mpg). So, if we kept with our current driving habits our gas bill would be considerably LOW. We have also been driving to San Jose less. The van had also been banished from road trips.

I told dh that I would start taking the van now, more often, with gas at $2/gallon (about). It's a nice strategy but we have been putting a LOT of miles on the old car. & I really don't want to replace it any time soon. So I think we'll give it a bit of a break for a while... I also remember why I didn't mind driving the van to San Jose once in a while. Those days have returned. Phew.

So yeah, we both filled up on gas yesterday and it was a spendy day!

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

I just remembered I hadn't posted in a few days.

I went to Mervyns and it really sucked. Everything was 30% off. BUT everything was full price. I'd say it was more expensive than usual. (I went Friday during the day and it was PACKED too - unexpected).

No returns. I bought a sweater which ended up being a little small. (I never try on shirts because they usually fit - I was a little peeved). I can wear it if I wear nothing under it - the arms are small. Which isn't helpful in a sweater. (Not usually a problem of mine - I wouldn't say I have big arms!)

Pants are another story. I got a great pair of jeans for $20. I am waiting for deeper sales and I may pick up a pair in the next size higher and lower. Jeans are my nemesis, but I walked in and picked up a pair that fit on the first try (a miracle!!!). I'd stock up on a couple if the price got lower. It's why I am mostly bummed about the bankruptcy. They always have plentiful pants (shorts/skirts) in my size that actually fit. Reasonably priced too. Can't say the same for anywhere else.

I also went by Kohls and used my $10 off coupon. I got 3 tops for $30 there. Not bad! LOVE them too.

I think I have done my shopping for the month...

Vacation-y Month

November 7th, 2008 at 07:37 am

November is a vacation-y month.

I certainly have plenty to do but this week has been rather fluffy at work. I had a seminar and today we are going to go through old files at work.

Of course, sounds boring as heck. I'd rather do my regular work! Big Grin

But it is brainless and low-stress I guess. I can handle it for a day.

I also have vacation later this month.

I am also extraordinarily caught up at work - more than in years. We have a wonderful new employee (makes 2 good staff) which helps. I was behind from the years when we had no staff.

Things have seemed to take a turn for the better. It's interesting to have room to breathe. Phew.

But yeah, it won't last long. I am just really enjoying the CALM.

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

This week was a crazy low-spend week. $100 on groceries, and that's it.

Don't ask me why. I just downloaded the credit card expenses and realized all we spent since Monday was groceries.

It will all change today!

I have a $10 off Kohls card and I almost forgot about the MErvyns clearance sale. I hope to hit both today. I need a shrug or something for a dress. I hit some thrift shops this weekend and did not score. I think they are pretty picked over in this economy. I also only have one pair of jeans I generally wear. So I will maybe pick some up at Mervyns if the price is okay. Jeans are my nemesis I guess. But I can usually find something at Mervyns and better stock up if they won't be around any more!!!

I'll also keep an eye out for kids' clothes - christmas gifts for all the cousins. We agreed many moons ago the grandmas have the toys covered. What we really NEED is clothes. So I'll keep an eye out on Clearance items. What I am thinking of more with the $10 Kohls card.

I also need to pick up a couple of gift cards at Target - a cousin birthday and a friend birthday this weekend.

Tomorrow we have an anniversary party to go to. I will probably go for 2 hours and drop off the kids. Dh is taking a simple video as a gift. I wouldn't be surprised if he was reimbursed a token amount for his work. But at this point he had finished all his other projects and this one is from the goodness of his heart.

The party coincides with a kid party at Chuck E Cheese - the kids' best friend. So I will probably take the kids - albeit a little late.

So tomorrow is nice and crazy!

Dh is doing a product test for the focus group place and will pick up $125 Monday for his efforts. (Not bad!) They invited me to take a survey about the product (it's soap) for $25. If the neighbors can watch the kids for an hour? I'm there. If we have to pay $13/hour for daycare it won't really be worth it.

I had originally written it off, but thought better of it later. We can get babysitting for $5/hour. I doubt it will take more than an hour. An extra $20 or so would be pretty sweet! For maybe an hour of time?

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

House has been as low as 65 degrees, but still not a ton of chill in the air.

So it's 65 degrees I can handle.

Today is about 68 and it feels chillier to me. The thermostat does not tell the WHOLE story. But the days are s'posed to be warmer today and tomorrow. SO I don't expect to turn on the heat this weekend. But I am getting close to the breaking point for sure (for the morning showers if nothing else. I am remembering why we only had a $20 bill last November - probably only used heat briefly in the mornings).

& for $20 it's a luxury worth having, if you ask me. Wink I am only saving $5 by suffering (for the whole month). NOT worth it if you ask me. (The hot water alone cost about $15; so I figure we only spent $5 on heat last November).

So yeah, I am getting close to breaking in the morning, but still trying to adjust down a degree in the evenings. For the long run...

Bikes & Drapes

November 3rd, 2008 at 07:21 am

It's too early to tell, but I feel like the thermal drapes are making a difference in the family room. My problem with that area is the thermostat is kind of in the middle of the house and we spend a lot of time by the windows. Sure, they are dual-paned, but they can still be a little chilly and drafty. I mean, if you touch the wall, it is COLD.

So though the thermostat may say 68 it would feel 65 where I spend most of my time (by the large windows).

So my hope with the thermal drapes was to eliminate that chill so we can lower the thermostat a bit this year. Or so I would stop turning it up to 70. & believe me, I would be bundled up to the nth degree before I would turn up the heat.

Mostly, I am a cold whimp.

But, it's chilled rather considerably, it's 70 in the house this morning, and it feels rather warm to me.

Probably too early to tell. I guess I'll see how I feel in December. But so far, I am pleased.

I would really like to get Thermal drapes for the kids' rooms - their beds are under the windows. I think it would just be more comfortable for them. Maybe this year - maybe will save for next year.

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

Went on a nice bike ride with BM yesterday.

I am in HEAVEN! Didn't realize it would be so fun.

I also realized I am VERY particular about my bike and will probably go new and rather high-end in the end. Will start saving my pennies. Which is fine because there is like nothing else I want. It's nice to have something I want, for a change.

Anyway, my dad is an avid bike rider and in San Jose I could ride from my parent's house to the top of a hill nearby and just fly down that thing and coast all the way home. What a RUSH. IT was not an easy hill by any means, but the combination of work and reward was amazing. I'd equate it to surfing. It is just that fun. & a much easier/cheaper hobby. Big Grin But it was totally the same rush (having done both).

But when we moved to Sacramento I just saw a lot of flat lands and largely gave up on the biking. Sure I could drive half hour to some decent rides, and for the long run that may be what I have to do. But I didn't know anyone hear to ride with, and we quickly got side tracked with babies and all that stuff.

But as I rode the cheap crappy bike I got off CL yesterday I told dh that it was worth it. It was worth the $20 to have that thing to ride with BM, even if for one weekend. We had so much fun. I realized maybe the flat lands weren't so bad, I still had love for bike riding.

Anyway, my old bike was top of the line and had a VERY cushy seat and fancy handle bars. These handle bars were driving me nuts. I was used to the 2 levels so you can grip however you want, and change position from time to time.

So I am starting my list of what I want in a bike. I'll keep my eye on CL for something I want, but am thinking I will probably go new.

Of course, if I go new bike and think of the kinds of rides I want to do, no one else in my family will be able to keep up, so I am considering looking into some bike clubs around here.

& I am excited!!!

Since having kids I guess I am slowly adding leisure back to my life, and that is nice. Last year I started working out more regularly, joining the gym and going to aerobics. Those are really my hobbies and I have LOVED to have more *me* time in that regard - stuff that is good for me as well.

But I find I am continually gaining more leisure, so yeah, bike riding is one place I want to direct that time and energy too. It's a double positive because it is a healthy endeavor as well.

& the kids can totally join in, in the long run. In the meantime I can explore the city a bit. There is certainly no lack of bike paths here, for sure.

On the flip side, I don't think I will be using my bike much for errands and such. We are kind of isolated on one side of the freeway and though it would be nice to utilize a bike for errands, they freeway overpass is not safe in the least. For the long run they may put in lights and bike lanes, and it may improve. But for now I would venture that way to civilization.

The good is I think we can find a path to downtown, on our side of the freeway, and I am stoked about that. We have a lot of exploring to do.

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

Oh yes, the Sacramento Symphony put on a family concert yesterday. Kids were free and I was $10. (We also went to a free concert for another local symphony a few weeks ago which was just awesome).

I called it. LM was in HEAVEN. BM I was not going to take but since it was downtown and dh's compact car has a slow leak in a tire, he dropped us off (far cheaper than parking and all that). & when we got there BM jumped out and said he wanted to go after all. Since he was free, whatever. Anyway, he was completely bored and LM (who is only 3) LOVED it. He just has music in his soul.

They did a great job though. Can't wait for the next concert in the spring!

& heck, when was the last time I could see the symphony for $10?

The other side of October

November 3rd, 2008 at 06:57 am

I usually summarize all my expenses/savings together, but ran out of time yesterday.

So we spent a whole lot of money. What else did we do in October?

*Saved $1k to short-term savings

*Saved $200 to mid-term savings

*Saved $250 to medical savings & added $250 credit card rebate also

*Earned $26 interest (to mid-term fund). Good bye Balance Transfers; this amount decreased much as a result

*Deposited $100 to ROTH

*Earned $625 in work retirement plan

--------

*Pulled $1500 from medical fund for dental and medical bills.

Our deductible could push our medical fund to -$1500 or so, for 2008 expenses. But I figured it was a lot easier to stomach paying all those dental bills out of there, for now. Will tap mid-term savings later, if we have to. IF we ever get BM's ambulance bill, etc.

I guess there is always a slight chance we won't use our deductible next year and we can recover then. Who knows...

*I subtracted $150 from short-term savings for car registration. I did not pull any money out for other things (like life insurance) because fund is depleted for year. Will have to shift to the mid-term fund through 12/31. Need short-term for property taxes and home insurances (will be about $4k due in December).

We have been slowly adding more to this fund every year and are contributing another $100/month over Jan. 1, so I am happy where this fund is for the long run. I think $1k/month is the sweet spot, for now. But a bit behind, since we did not contribute this much when both kids were still in preschool.

Adds up to about $9k for all of our insurances and prop taxes, and about $2k for car repairs and vacation, and maybe $1k for misc. things throughout the year (like Christmas & subscriptions & vehicle registration, etc.).

*Pulled $550 for new drapes and Dec. 31 concert tickets, from mid-term savings. May need to pull a little more out for car service (would have been short-term otherwise) if it hits the card for October.

*Dh earned $125 at a focus group to pay for my ring resize.

& that's October for you. We took care of a lot of stuff. But November we hope will be low key. No "plans" for any bigger purchases or anything from savings.

Truth is though we have a lot of stuff that have been on the back burner for a while, and as our mid-term fund builds up, we are using some of it. I had preferred to wait until the balance was $5k to start touching it, but with all these dental bills and everything... I kind of give up. Maybe we should take care of some things and start over 1/1. Mid-term fund can easily be gone by then. But it is nice to get some stuff done around the house, etc.







$20 Challenge

November 3rd, 2008 at 06:39 am

I just haven't been hot on the challenge lately, and it shows!

Haven't updated in a while?

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

2008 $20 challenge:

$3,689.00 - 8/1

300.00 - ROTH Contributions - Sep - Nov
180.00 - Interest - Aug - Oct
620.00 - Deposits to savings Aug - Nov
300.00 - Rebates
------------------
$5,089.00 - Balance 11/1
------------------

Last year my challenge was every extra penny found and this year I tried to reward my savings more. Everything in the challenge went straight to savings. But for whatever reason, isn't motivating me as much.

Anyway, interestingly, I was tallying up my "extra income" this year, outside 9-5 work, and came up with almost $6k.

For the long run, that's awesome. A way to fund my dh's IRA.

For the short term, I am not even completely funding my own IRA. All of this has gone to savings, but we have some catching up to do still... But yeah, once we catch up a bit, I guess I could say I have found a way to fund another IRA. It's interesting. & mostly stuff that doesn't take a lot of time and effort. The ebay sales take time and effort, for sure, but not a lot for someone who doesn't work a day job. A couple of hours a week (if that) for another few thousand a year? We're There!

Halloween Update

November 1st, 2008 at 06:00 pm

Dh was festive and made JAck-O-Lantern Sloppy Joe Pie last night.

& it was GOOD! Not sure the kids liked so much, but was an interesting mix of sweet and spicy.

http://www.recipegoldmine.com/hallmainH/jack-o-lantern-slopp...

Actually - that's a picture - but this is the EXACT recipe we used (from Taste of Home):

http://www.recipezaar.com/322164

Used ground beef instead of sausage - and whatever small difference between the 2.

It rained, and I think with that and all the foreclosures, Halloween was quite slow. Very few people out. I'd be surprised if we went to more than 10-15 houses but the kids got PILES of candy. People gave handfuls since it was so slow. I'd be surprised if we got 10-15 Trick or Treaters once we got home, but we gave away tons of candy as well.

Still have TONS left - mostly what the kids got.

BM was spiderman and we saw a lot of them (like 5? LOL. 5 out of 10 kids we saw?). LM wore an old WInnie the Pooh costume I got off ebay and BM wore 2 years ago. We used a pillowcase for a cape since he wanted to be Super Winnie the Pooh, but quickly grew tired of it.

The "rain" was little more than sprinkles. But it scared everyone off.

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

I thought I would work on my bike today (clean some of the rust, lube the chain, fill the tires with air) but it just rained ALL day.

Dh had reminded me of a park with a nice long path nearby.

Maybe tomorrow...

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

The family medical drama front is not good. Not at all.

*sigh*

More family members seem to be catching the "serious medical condition" flu.

I wish I had the vaccine, and I also am very worried about our parents and their siblings who are under so much stress right now. Can not be good for their health either.

We've got 3 of our peers in serious condition right now (one is not life threatening but is in risk of paralysis?), and just got word a great-uncle is having heart problems and not expected to make it.

Anyway, not sure what's up with the 20-somethings all being so ill, but the older uncle was VERY sudden as well.

IT just keeps getting better!