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Archive for December, 2008

Cute News story

December 30th, 2008 at 07:08 pm

I saw this story and thought it would be appreciated here. Big Grin

http://www.sacbee.com/livinghere/story/1504931.html

Treasured finds:
You'd be amazed what you can find on a walk - a boy and his dad prove it

Eggs

December 30th, 2008 at 01:31 pm

Dh was going to get a dozen eggs for $3+, but spotted 18 eggs on sale for $1.99. Buying in bulk tends to pay off. (Milk is always 2-for-1).

Anyway, I told dh to just pick those up next time and remind me when he does. I'd eat more boiled eggs, scrambled eggs, etc. That's 11 cents and egg!

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I e-mailed the fam about Family Camp. We should think about reservations. The Sacramento one looks largely the same, though a tad more expensive. (We went to San Jose Family Camp last summer). BUT the drive is only a little over an hour from here. IT's near Tahoe. & it isn't quite as treacherous as the 3-hour drive to Yosemite. So, we will try it out. For the long run, if we like it, we may just alternate every year. Yosemite is GORGEOUS, but not sure I want to do that cliff side drive every year. !!

No free kids this year, but looks like the cost is around $500 for 4 days, so not bad. Not bad at all.

We also want to get season passes to Great America (amusement park and water park). Still leaves a chunk to spare in our $1500 vacation budget.

We are staying 2 nights in San Francisco for free in January (if dh ever gets around to getting it booked) so I am not sure if we will go over $1k on our budget this year. Will see. Could do a few more weekends away, BUT MIL will just offer the timeshare anyway.

We may be wise to buy up some camping gear with the rest - that is one thing we want to do more of. But the whole Family Camp makes it really easy and kind of spoiled us.

We also need to take more advantage of the family cabin in the Sierras. Mostly free; we could rent boats and stuff like that. Things to think about.

I see a very cheap and fulfilling year of vacation, for 2009.

There is talk of MIL taking us to Disney World in 2010. Actually, she wanted to do it this year, but the rest of the fam wanted a breather. For BM, would have been 4 years of Disney in a row. A bit much, if you ask me. But we're thinking about it for 2010. It would be largely paid for; no way I Could justify otherwise. Disneyland is closer, but dh's Grandfather lives in Orlando - which is the draw. Though I fail to see the point to visit if we are going to spend all the time at Disney. It's a catch 22. We still have two one-day tickets for Disney though. We bought 4-day park hoppers in 2000 (when we had much more money to spare) and used them over the years. That was a good investment! I failed to see the point at the time, but now on much less income, it's nice. & it's nice if we actually use them too. Otherwise, not such a great investment. Wink

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I signed the kids up for their January Karate class. Since LM has no preschool, we were going to let him give it a try.

Fee went up. $35 up from $30. Ugh! Which means, $70 for the two. I hope they enjoy! Will see how LM like it, and go from there. It is through the city and infinitely cheaper than any other Karate class I have come across. Then again, it's hardly a class worth $8.75/class if you ask me. I wonder if it is because enrollment is down. IT's more of a "fun" class than anything - not terrible technical.

I double checked and my aerobics class is still a mere $2.50/class for 2009. Phew. It's give and take I guess.

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

I thought of an interesting analogy I hadn't thought of earlier. I know the frugie crowd, and a lot of the non-frugie crowd, think we are CRAZY to spend so much on our kids preschool.

It just occurred to me the other day that the payments were like a car payment. I think the thought just flitted through my mind that we could bank the payments for our next car, when LM finishes up there.

& it got me thinking.

I am crazy to spend $300/month for 3 years. (Granted times 2, since we have 2 kids). But people telling me this think nothing of a $600/month perpetual car payment.

Huh?

It was just this interesting train of thought I had. YEah, next time one of those people bug me. I guess I could get real loud and annoying about how much they spend on their cars. Maybe that would get the point across. $300/month for 3 years is worth it for a car, but not for our well-being and the greater good of your family? YEah, whatever.

I guess I largely realized why we could afford it too. BEcause we don't have car payments. The reason being because we don't spend much on cars.

Yeah, I'll have to remember that. PReschool is such a short-lived expense, it just annoys me to no end when I get a lot of unwarranted input on the subject. & I do. A LOT.

Purge Update & Expense Update

December 29th, 2008 at 03:29 pm

I never thought I would see the day!

Dh sold his Game Cube. He doesn't give up game systems lightly. I posted a while ago he has something like 10. I think that's before he started buying them up for BM. I don't even want to know how many we have now.

BUT, since the GameCube games can be played on the Wii, he decided to let it go. He was reminiscing about it today at lunch (I know, gag. LOL). All the memories. I just smiled and nodded. I may have rolled my eyes a bit too. But as he reminisced over the memories of his GameCube I realized I was lucky he sold it.

Proceeds gone back into his buying/selling games & systems.

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

Reminds me, I have another bag set out for donation today and another charity is coming by next week. They average once a week this time of year. It's been pretty sweet.

Set out our old drapes, some toys that the kids volunteered to give up, some old belts and a fan, etc., etc., etc.

Last week I set out a bunch of Christmas stuff. Old lights (we are going to buy LEDs) and a pile of Christmas crap MIL dumped on us. & whatever Christmas stuff we don't use, that was donate-able.

We also found a pile of boxes in the closet when we got out the Christmas stuff. We finally had room to stuff it in the recycle bin. Well, some of it. Broke down the rest of the boxes for next week, hopefully.

So, still in purge mode. IT never ends.

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Got the HOA dues today. They sent some notice, a while ago, about our first dues increase ever, but it made no sense. So I wasn't sure what our dues would be!

Got the bill today. Up $8/month. Eh. I can handle that. IT's a 12% increase but we went 7 years with no increase. We actually had our dues lowered in the early days.

So, now full of knowledge, I can say our bills are going DOWN $100 come Jan. 1:

Mortgage -$200
Health Ins. + 71
Short-term disability (mandatory state tax) +20
HOA + 8
------------------------------------
Bills going down $101/month in 2009
------------------------------------

We had a lot of our bills decrease last year, for various reasons.

Preschool bill goes down $300/month, come mid-2010. So I feel on a role. Big Grin

IT certainly won't always be like this, but enjoying it while I can.

I assume I will have enough raise to cover the $99/month expense increase, so I Can save the entire mortgage decrease, but we'll see...

Pictures of My World

December 29th, 2008 at 07:38 am

Since my camera is a little on the old side, and big and bulky... (I hesitate to call a camera bought in 2002, old, but technology has improved substantially since then!). Anyway, I would love to take more pictures and work in a 52 or 360 picture project, but I find it unlikely I will take many. It's not a little discreet camera I can take with me everywhere. !

But, we did go on a bike ride and I snapped some pics I had been meaning to share.

For one, I tell people all the time I have the best of all worlds. We live in the city and the country. Big Grin It's kind of nice.

& I also wanted to show our little park oasis and the sea of empty home lots that has come to glut our city.

So, where to begin...

These pics were snapped on the corner - at the end of our street.





& I am surprised it turned out, but you can see the downtown skyscape in this picture. We are very close to downtown (just a few miles). When we moved in there were no homes in between us and downtown, so we used to have a more clear view.



& this is just looking back at our development. The border of suburbia.



There is just nothingness, farmland, rivers, etc. as you head west (or north) from there. We pretty much live on the northern/western border of suburbia and there isn't much else out there. Most of the development is east (higher land/closer to the Sierras).

Well, here is a glimpse of the sea of undeveloped home lots:





These are models that have largely been abandoned. They have a security camera and the lawns look manicured, but I have not seen a soul there in over a year. This is across a major road, so doesn't directly affect us or our home values. But is pretty close to us, yes.



Whoever bought these homes, lucked out in some sense. But gives you a sense of some of the monstrosity they were building. & yet, though I am sure they paid top dollar for a very small patch of land, they kind of lucked out and got a lot of empty space. Depends how you look at it I guess.



& this is the park we found in the sea of unbuilt communities. We love it because it is SO peaceful - never see anyone over there. It is surrounded mostly by empty home lots. We had a picnic there one day and though we could see downtown in the distance it felt like we were in the middle of nowhere because it was so peaceful. So we just LOVE it.



Anyway, my friends went to school in this area in the 90s, and having grown up in the Bay Area, we always called Sacramento, Cow Town. LOL. I think because LA, Bay Area, and the coats are so desirable, that Sacramento is considered the armpit of the state. (That is what I hear it called). But I think it gets a bum wrap. It's way cheaper, it's way less crowded, and it's rather close to both Tahoe and San Francisco. We have kind of been reserved to the fast growth, as it is exactly what happened to San Jose when we grew up there. IT was farmland in the 70s, and by the late 80s it had pretty much become an extension of San Francisco. Sacramento was kind of going in the same direction. So, we were used to it. Over crowding, disappearing of farmland, etc., etc. LOTS of people living here and working in San Francisco. That's the way of California. But, if we are lucky enough to revert back to a bit of a cow town as other areas of the state once again become somewhat affordable, that sounds good to me. Big Grin The bubble burst has its perks for us, I guess.

One more thing - we thought we were super smart to buy in the first phase of a new development. Well, we were in our situation. But, yeah, not so smart for people that bought in new developments the last few years. A lot of builders have gone bankrupt, and a lot of unfinished developments. I feel lucky now our entire neighborhood is built up. No empty lots or half finished homes. & you can't build much community if you only have a couple of neighbors. It leaves those desolate homes pretty susceptible to theft, etc.

So, Phew.

Earrings?

December 28th, 2008 at 07:56 am

Where do you frugies buy earrings? That is my questions of the day. (Particularly nickel-free earrings).

Yesterday I went to aerobics, the bank (deposit Xmas money) and to Target and Kohls. Got home around noon and pretty much slept the rest of the day. Big Grin So I'd consider it a lazy day. Though with a sprinkling of productiveness thrown in.

But shopping is something I rarely do - just no time. It is AMAZING how much free time I seem to have these days with the kids getting bigger. I could spend half the day shopping and still have 1.5 free days. IT's been a while - babies can be rather demanding!

& this is bad. It is easy to save money when you have no time to shop. Wink

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I'm getting lazy about balancing all my spreadsheets ("savings buckets") to my bank accounts. Maybe only balance to the dollar every other month any more. So I balanced it yesterday. I was actually only $1.50 off (probably some forgotten interest) and so I added it to the mid-term savings. It was a nice surprise.

I transferred $200 into my ROTH MMMF (cash). From Xmas money. This puts our ROTH EFUND at precisely $7k. ($5k is in taxable cash accounts). I had been adding the interest to our savings and keeping more elaborate bookkeeping than I cared for. So, I contributed $200 to my ROTH AND got the amount to an even $7k. Thus, I am going to invest the earnings back into the ROTH, going forward. I think I need $50 to buy, so could be a while. But, that will make my life easier and my ROTH bigger.

We are earning about $20/month in cash which will keep going to the mid-term savings fund. So, still some interest growing our other savings.

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I returned 3 gifts at Target for a $40 gift card. Not bad! I was going to buy BM some clothes, but ended up getting myself a few treats. Some Christmas-y earrings, and a winter hat. & a plain black shirt. I had gotten one in purple and decided I could always use another plain black shirt for under sweaters and such. So I exchanged that one for black, in a smaller size.

(BTW - I don't think I have EVER returned a gift. I am getting stingy - hehe. I usually regift or donate, so it was just different. Mostly I don't like the hassle, but there was enough to return it was well worth it. & there was no line at Target for returns at 10am in Saturday. I was shocked, but pleased).

I got BM some pajamas, underwear, and socks as requested. In the end I spent $30 of my own cash. But I thought it worked out well.

He still needs pants. They had some that would even do for school, but NONE in his size. Yeesh. Will have to try again later. Piles of 5s and piles of 7s, but no size 6!

I then went to Kohls with my "$10 off" and came out forking over $80. It's the way it goes?

Actually, I found a light, black sweater, that I had been searching out for AGES. I thought it was $20-something for sale, but it rang up $33. I was overly optimistic I guess when looking at the prices. But something I have been searching for forever, and I actually really like the fit. So I keep it. I just wanted something to cover up a bit on some of my dresses. But nothing too heavy or warm either. I also spent about $50 on earrings.

So, the story on the earrings...

I LOVE earrings. I used to have a giant earring collection and enjoyed wearing "different" and BIG earrings when I was younger.

BUT, my dream was to get more piercings and I got my wish probably around age 16. I have 3 holes in my left ear and 2 holes in my right ear.

Well, WORST thing I ever did. Since then my ears became very sensitive to earrings, and then I was working where multiple earrings were not allowed (about 3 years in high school and college) and then I was completely broke in college and too busy to worry about earrings anyway. So I just stopped wearing them. Entirely!

Which is kind of sad.

So when I was shopping yesterday I thought, "I want some earrings."

When I sold Cookie Lee jewelry I would buy some, but in general, too heavy for me. Which is saying a lot - I like big earrings. But I just didn't mesh well with CL earrings.

So that was another obstacle to my life with earrings. As it was the only jewelry I bought for many years since it was of good quality and deeply discounted for me.

Anyway, Target really didn't have much, but had some cute Xmas-y earrings. I spent about $12 on 4 pairs.

Now, Kohls had nice earrings and they were mostly 60% off. I decided to stock up on a few basics and just start over.

I don't know what happened to most of my earrings, but I have some more modest/professional ones. I have to go through them, though my ears are so sensitive I just kind of wanted to start anew.

& I am well aware of the magic of clear nail polish!

For the long run, if I am going to get back into earrings, I need to get more frugal about it. It's one of those things I can't see buying used though. & cheap is not good for my ears.

Kohls was a good start. On sale they had some nice earrings at reasonable prices. I may run to Claire's and pick up some "sensitive" earring studs. I would like some more studs. But I can slowly accumulate larger earrings, and I don't need that many. That is the good thing!

Christmas Update

December 27th, 2008 at 07:04 am

Looking in Quicken, Christmas was about $330 spent & $300 to charity. (For us, includes a LOT of birthdays too - I just didn't bother to separate the category).

$75 KIVA G.C.s to the preschool
$15 Target G.C. to Kinder teacher
(BM made cute cards for his favorite aides/teachers)
$30 cash to gardener (figure he's hurting these days - I usually give him $20)
$30 Make-A-Wish for my mom
$100 my donations (from my bonus)
$100 dh's donations (from bonus)
$ 50 to boss's gift (rest of bonus)
---------------
$400 That's most of it.

Other $230:

$100 on dh's family (went in on concert tickets, dinner G.C., and lots of G.C.s for great-grandma - they made out well). Includes $2 for Restaurant.com gift certificate worth $25.

$22 on Hisss games (2) for relatives

$6 almond roca for dad

$10 for super heros for LM from BM (he paid half)

$20 for dh's gift (BM paid $5 of it)

$10 for candy for work gift (stuffed in cute Xmas cookie jar that I had gotten for free)

$20 on my nieces (clothes)

$20 for a Set Cubed game for my dad

$20 bike horns for the kids

& that's that.

Or, $630 total spent - $250 from bonus = $380 cash. We just spread out purchases over a few months.

Oh, and the kids got a ton of toys. Dh had a pile of stuff from Scholastic (paid for with sweat) and a lot of video games and stuff (Legos)bought used, funded from game sales. So we didn't spend much cash on them, but believe me, they had plenty.

For example, he bought this giant pile of Legos for $80, kept what he wanted (TONS) and sold the rest for $80. So they were cheap to buy for this year.

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Christmas Day turned out very nice. Phew! Just very low key. Ate well, and relaxed. Kids had a million toys to play with. They got one or two things from their great-grandma and all their aunts. My parents got them a couple of things, we got them a few things, and MIL got them each a TON of things. So, they just have toys/books/games out their ears.

It's hard to top MIL who is a gift hog (did I mention) but LM's favorite toy of the day was the LEgos. I think he played with them about 12 hours straight Christmas Day.

& my dad got this for BM:

http://www.amazon.com/Elenco-SC-300-Snap-Circuits/dp/B000068...

That was the clear winner for the year, except a couple of things dh got him at Scholastic where you build your own things. Those were probably cheaper, but all those were the BEST. I had to share this toy because it was so cool. (It's totally not my thing, but BM got the engineering gene from my dad. So they both played with that all day. LOL).

Dh got a lot of Blu-Rays and video games and books and such. He was not as spoiled as usual, but I think he is getting past it. Christmas is for the kids, not him. He even said so much at some point. (Usually his mom spoils him AND the kids).

I got some lovely ear warmers from BM and dh. It has just been WAY too cold to go outside, but with ear warmers, I may try to get some a.m. bike rides in. So LOVED them.

My mom got me a couple of nice gifts - a cute black cat kitty mug - and a monkey of course. We don't necessarily exchange gifts much these days, so was a nice surprise.

Dh's family got me a nice hair brush and a lot of clothes. They scaled back for me too I guess, which is FINE.

Some NICE clothes from Kohls and some crap from Target. I just do not buy Target anymore - too cheap. The one was cute but was too thin and flimsy and the other stuff was not my thing, so I will take those back.

BM needs clothes so I will probably exchange them for some clothes for BM. It will be a nice gift not to have to come up with the cash!!!

My mom did give me a $10 off at Kohl's thing (just one that came in her mail) so I might treat myself over there in exchange.

Dh's GrandDad sent us $110 - just using it to pay the Xmas bills.

We got the usual $1k from dh's parents. They started this at some point after we had kids, and makes ALL The difference, particularly a few years ago. I was not so sure they would give us that this year - they've had a rougher time of it. Now his dad faces a layoff (wanted to retire in a few years). BUT yeah, we did get that and I just plopped it in our short-term savings. I think we could use it next year as well. After that point, if they are still giving us that check, I think we can just consider more long-term savings.

Last year we were totally spoiled and got about $8k in cash gifts from our parents, which was quite unusual. So, if you didn't believe that was unusual. We usually get $1k for Christmas, and that was that for this year. & that was only even the last few years. We have relied on it a bit more than I would like in recent years, but glad to be moving past that. Actually, I think it was kind of crazy they gave it to us - with their current situation.

& yeah - my boss gave me the usual $250. Sometimes I use it to buy some nice work clothes, etc. This year we just donated it.

Christmas was NICE. Look forward to a relaxing weekend.

Long-Term Goal Update

December 26th, 2008 at 06:07 pm

I added my long-term goals to my sidebar. I am liking this new format - clear and concise. These are all things I have talked about at some point or another. But, yeah, now it's all in a little concise summary.

**Long-Term Goals**

[x] 15% gross to retirement
[ ] 10% gross to cash (mid-term) savings (This is more of a catch-up goal than a long-term goal. BUT the nice thing about over-saving cash is you can invest it later. As long as it is not spent on stupid things). Big Grin
[ ] Max out ROTHs
[ ] Pay mortgage off by age 45 (before kids start college)

Those goals are in the order we would like to achieve them.

The following are some things we intend to spend our cash on:

[ ] Paint Exterior of Home
[ ] Replace Fence
[ ] Replace 2001 Ford with a Prius (ideally, 2013 or later)
[ ] Purchase a used convertible in the $5k range (To replace the one I gave up when we had kids! I had bought it like new for about $6k and sold it for $3k after BM arrived. I'd love a Toyota Celica - for power and fuel efficiency - Celica was my first car and is sporty and cute as a convertible. My last one was a Mustang - cute but cheap - not going the cheap route again. & it was actually a 4-cylinder so not bad on gas, but it sucked).

& my aggressive net worth goals, that I have mentioned many times before:

Increase Net Worth by 50% of expenses, annually:

[x] 2007 +$30k
[ ] 2008 +$0
[ ] 2009

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I am caught up enough at work that I worked no overtime this week and I have the entire weekend off. YAY!!!!

I'll do a Christmas update over the weekend.

Looking at 2008 Taxes

December 26th, 2008 at 08:31 am

BTW, it amazes me how little most of the middle class really appreciates the Bush Tax Cuts. (I mean, I am NOT a fan of the tax cuts, wondering what we will have to pay in the future to make it up, BUT I have to admit has helped our bottom line immensely). But it just scares me if people think these are high income taxes... The bar has been set really low and no one really seems to notice or remember they paid much more taxes in the 1990s. & the young generation never paid any more than this.

Anyway, I found this neat tool where you can look at the tax brackets from 2000 through 2008:

http://www.moneychimp.com/features/tax_brackets.htm

Look at 2000 vs. 2008

Don't forget generous child tax credits and capital gains rates, etc., etc., etc.

People have a short memory. & yeah, it is certainly harder to raise taxes. The future will be interesting.

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

Anyway, doing tax planning for many clients I decided I should peek where we are at for the year.

& I have been asked many times IRL and around here what kind of tax voodoo I do to get our taxes so low. No voodoo. I am just not a huge fan of the income tax on a second income. The voodoo is living on one income. The kids and the house help too. We primarily invest in our ROTHs - so no taxable investments. It's all quite simple. I get the impression my friends think I am into questionable tax loopholes or something. Wink

Our taxes look as so:

$77,000 Income (+2k over last year)
1,000 Interest (assume Same last year)
--------
78,000 AGI
-14,000 Exemptions (4 x $3500)
- 3,500 Medical ($9300 total, 3500 > 7.5% AGI)
- 4,500 Property Taxes
- 2,000 State income taxes
-12,000 Mortgage Interest
- 750 Charity
---------
41,250 Taxable Income
10% & 15% taxes applied
---------
$ 5,400 Total Tax before credits
- 2,000 Child Tax Credits (2)
--------
$ 3,400 Total Tax

We paid in $3300, so I think we did well.

Some items of note. 25% tax bracket does not kick in until about $65k of taxable income. SO, I could earn about $100k before we would start hitting the 25% tax bracket. (OR dh could earn $20k).

So um, yeah. We are well within the 15% tax bracket, for now.

Last 2 years we converted about $30k into ROTHs, so this year was calm and easy. But we wanted to convert them while we could at 15%.

Can't say what 2009 will have in store for us.

Anyway, my taxes also showed a $500 refund from the state. So, in the end looks like we'll come out ahead. I know the state is really into unnecessary withholding, to balance the books this year, so they must love us. But state is tricky and I just pay in a flat $100/month.

For 2009, assuming tax law remains the same. (Probably not a good assumption, but all I have to work with for now). Our mortgage interest will go down about $2k, with our refi. At the 15% tax bracket, this will up our taxes by about $300. For now, I think I will just leave my withholding as is. As long as we pay in 100% of last year's taxes, we will not be penalized if we owe. & our savings is getting on a better track. So I rather just owe. & anyway, it offsets the amount I expect back from the state. So it works out. Still rather breakeven.

BTW, I will file my taxes in January. Yes. I wait until 31st just to make sure I don't miss a 1099. But, for the most part, ready to file and get my state refund once January rolls around. I'll pay the IRS on April 14th. Big Grin

Merry Christmas to Me

December 24th, 2008 at 01:39 pm

Got the call that loan funded.

Big Grin

4.875% Baby.

In the knick of time too. For us, the one shaky item was our equity. I am not sure we could have gotten an appraisal for 25%+ equity if we waited a couple of more weeks. Seriously. & around here (Cali) you need 25% equity to get the best rates.

This is my Christmas present to me.

Entire $200/month savings is going to our ROTHs.

Prepay the mortgage? At 4.875%? Are you crazy? Wink

I've said before, but my mortgage motto is to pay it off early, but not in lieu of retirement or funding tax-advantaged accounts. I fall squarely in the middle. Paying off the mortgage early is important to me. But so is investing and liquidity. Though sometimes I struggle with it, I think I am pretty happy to let the mortgage pre-payments go for a bit. When you can easily beat the rate with investing. In Cash. (Maybe not right now, but I imagine in the future, yes). Just, WOW!

I often compare our financial situation to our parents. Who have done quite well.

When they were our age they were buying their forever home and they had a 12% interest rate on about $100k. Factor inflation, and 4.875% on $200k just seems phenomenal. I think we are on a good track. I asked my dad out of curiosity and he said the lowest interest rate they ever had was 7%, on their mortgage. (They paid off their home a few years back - around age 50).

{I mean, think about it - they had the same house payment (as ours now) in the early 1980s!!!!!!!!!!! They have a more modest home than us, but it's the HCOL thing where they live).

Kind of interesting. It remains to be seen what kind of advantage we will gain from this, over them, in the long run. If any. It's not exactly apples to oranges. But I guess our parents are kind of our base, and we have a number of legs up on them, it seems.

P.S. I am recommending my mortgage broker to everyone. We closed in less than 2 weeks! Easy peasy. (Plus he held open our app for a year, until we were able to get 5% or lower). & I swear to you, I have never been in a loan signing before where I didn't have to tell them, "I don't want impounds!" You say it 100 times, but it always pops up at the loan signing. Maybe a small thing, but yeah, I like the guy. Though he's not perfect. He wants us to buy rental real estate. LOL. But you know, take what you can get. I told him to call me if we can get a 15-year loan for 3%. Big Grin I've said it before, but yeesh, this has to be our last refi ever. I am not fond of them!

IT's Been a Little Busy

December 24th, 2008 at 08:47 am

But not too bad...

I think I might not have to work this weekend after all. This is CRUNCH Time for us, but with technology, every year seems to get a little easier. We also have a very good new employee now. Here's to hoping he sticks around! Last year I remember working a lot on the weekend or 2 around Christmas. This year, just more caught up. Phew!

Next week will be CRAZY though. I will probably have to work until 5:00 on 12/31 (deadline/last minute stuff), but we have a concert to go to in San Francisco (2+ hour drive on a good day) and our babysitters are in San Jose (2 hours away from here; less than 1 hour from SF). Which was a fine plan. The problem is we have to drive over the Bay Bridge, to get to the City from here, and the span of the bridge takes an hour in traffic. So we usually prefer to drive up from San Jose anyway. It's more pleasant. So why the plan was fine. I've driven to SF from SJ on New Years many occassions - really not so bad. BUT, since I have to work, dh may meet his mom half way and we will have to brave the bridge. Lord knows how/when we will get the kids back. I dread the whole thing. IF I had the day off and could nap in the afternoon, it would be fine. But I think it might take 4 hours to drive there and not sure I can stay awake past 10pm. Wink

I think we are seeing Primus and Zappa Jr. I don't even know. It's a dh thing.

At least I can probably nap in the car. During the LONG drive.

& dh just informed me he wanted to get there at 8:00. Yeah, good luck darling!

We'll be at the whim of my clients. Lord knows they all want to be out by 3, so here's to hoping I can get out at 3 too. !!!!

Something fun shouldn't be so stressful. Wink

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

Sunday we did go to San Jose and did the family gift exchange.

Most of the family has toned it down A LOT. IT was probably a more modest year than past years. BUT grandma of course, got the kids a bajillion presents.

I mentioned briefly the drama of her inviting herself over for Christmas. I remembered then (Sunday) that she had done the same last year AND brought more gifts on Christmas Day. I wish I had remembered. Next year if she must invite herself over (she will) I think it is fair to say she can come if she brings NO gifts. It's ridiculous and also she is such a gift hog that dh and I, or my parents, can never get them anything. We have a few things for them for Christmas, but what does it matter of MIL invites herself over with a fresh bag of gifts??? Gift hog - spoils the fun for everyone else.

I expected it would be more toned down with their financial situation, but what do I know. I know better. There was going to be no toning down. Of course.

& get this? Lots of very nice gifts for the kids. Like 8 gifts each. BUT she then bought a ton of dollar store gifts to round it out. Like 8 gifts each wasn't enough. ????????????????????????? We have a few things to donate because they were things we already owned (From the Dollar Store).

I realized it was a quantity more than a quality thing. SO yes, nice she toned it down. But yeah, could have done without the dollar store gifts. We have told her a million times we'd prefer the kids not get a bajillion presents. You see how it has worked out.

Anyway, all in all, it was slightly toned down. So I guess I just have to be grateful for that.

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

Today I am working a short day. Since I am feeling caught up. Yay!!!!!

Tomorrow we have the morning to ourselves. My parents are coming over for lunch (pizza) and dh's parents are coming over in the afternoon. He is making soup and salad for dinner. I am making fudge and cake.

Just looking forward to a relaxing day with the fam.

I cleaned up the house a wee bit last night (like scrubbed the guest toilet) but that's it. It's been crazy and I told dh I Was not cleaning the house for his mom today and tomorrow. My parents could care less. So, she can invite herself over, I just don't want to hear about the house. Some of us are busy. The toilet is gleaming. What else do you want? Big Grin

So yeah, it will be a short day at work, and tomorrow should be nice. I guess I will be making a cake and fudge, but yummy yummy yum!

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

In regards to my last post, I am adding up the numbers and I can not believe it. Our savings is getting back to our DINK savings level. Our immediate pre-kid savings level.

How the heck did that happen?

Oh, it's not exactly apples to oranges. Our income is lower, but so are our taxes. Our expenses are WAY higher. (This is just all savings, even short-term, but we NEED a lot more short-term savings). We have way more medical/dental expenses, for one.

& our immediate pre-kid years were not our BEST savings years. Dh was on reduced work schedule, we weren't doing our token 10% to retirement because I had no retirement plan when I started this job.

& inflation would probably up the ball a few hundred dollars a month.

BUT, it is what it is. We are getting pretty darn close to DINK savings level. That is something to celebrate!

IT looks like a pretty decent goal will be met for 2009 though. 15% gross income to retirement. We have ALWAYS put away about 12%. Even as DINKs. So, I am pretty excited about this. All possible due to refi. Thank you low interest rates!!!!!!!! IT's interesting to exceed something on a DINK financial level.

& even our token 12% was not much at all the last few years - we had some pretty low income years. So a lot of years we put away $5k. Hopefully, this year will be $12k. Though our expenses are largely the same as they ever were. It's kind of sweet how that works out. Our standard of living has not increased that much, but if we continue to save 15% gross, no matter what the raise, it can add up pretty quickly.

I think going forward, 15% to retirement will be our goal, until we get our cash savings up to snuff. My roundabout goal is 10% gross to cash savings. I think we will make that goal in 2010. I think I may add this to my side bar so I don't forget!

ETA: Yeah - I put all my goals on the side bar. I removed my separate Goal page link. I think I like this format - simple and clear.

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Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! & all that jazz...

Crazy Weekend

December 21st, 2008 at 08:22 am

It's a crazy weekend.

Today we are doing the christmas thing with dh's family.

We have a very small pile of gifts. 4 small boxes for all the cousins. We are going to come home with LOADS of stuff. Mixed feelings on that. Every year MIL says she is going to calm down. Every year she doesn't. !!

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

Yesterday I worked a good chunk of the day. It's busy, yes, but more because I took SO MUCH time off work last week. Between refi and school activities and such. I feel much better; caught up.

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

Depends on my raise (if I even get one!) but I am taking a cue from Baselle and thinking for now I may do $333/month ROTH and $333/month cash savings.

Which would make a devil # combined, like Baselle's 401k contributions. Wink

That would be my old ROTH contribution plus $200 savings from the new mortgage payment, and $33 thrown in for good measure.

That would also be another $133 to cash savings - assuming I can squeeze that out of my raise.

Our State disability insurance (essentially a tax) is going up a but this year and our health insurance went up $71/month, BUT I am assuming a $100/month after-tax raise - after all that stuff.

The extra $33 + $33 I am assuming we can squeeze with the lower gas prices. may be too aggressive, but it's a start. At least through April - I can fund $1300 or so and apply it to 2008 ROTH contributions. If gas prices rise, we can re-evaluate later.

The nice thing is I definitely have a "raise" with the new mortgage and will definitely have a "raise" next year once LM completes preschool. It's kind of sweet.

Anyway, probably a little aggressive, but I set it up anyway. I know I can swing the ROTH $333 with the new mortgage payment so just set it up and figured I'd give it a go. Cash savings? We'll see! I updated my goals and everything in my sidebar to reflect this and the refi.

The $333 essentially puts our percent of retirement contributions at 15%. & will probably be our course until we get our cash savings up to snuff. So next year our entire increase in cash flow will go to cash savings, until we get more caught up. Seems reasonable. Then we can inch up retirement savings after that, and eventually mortgage prepayments, once we max out our ROTHs. Kind of the plan!

I was kind of in awe of the numbers as I played with them. When dh and I both worked and we made closer to six figures, we just saved his entire check. Immediately before kids there were cutbacks at his work so we were depositing $2k-$2500/month. We had so much disposable income we had no need to track everything so closely. We always had cash for all the bills, for an occasional car purchase, or to max out an IRA.

So I am looking at our savings goals for 2009. $1k/month short-term savings. $333/month ROTH. $333/month Cash savings. $250/month Medical savings.

Have we done it? Just over $1900/month cash savings? On LESS income? & more mouths to feed? What the heck??????

It doesn't stretch near as far. The $1k/month is just for non-regular expenses and it goes much faster than it did before kids. Same with the medical. It will likely be spent on medical bills.

But it was interesting as I expect another $300/month next year when LM starts public school. That will be a solid $2200/month to savings. Maybe $2300 if I get a nominal raise. The whole thing is mind boggling to me.

Fact is though, before kids we had more income and less expenses. So we have a ways to go to reach that comfort level. & you can certainly factor inflation over the last 6 years. But I salivate the closer we get, every year.

I certainly wish we can just save $2k/month and be financially secure, but it doesn't seem to cut it these days!

P.S. The refi technically closes Tuesday. Fingers crossed!

Six Degrees of Separation

December 20th, 2008 at 07:42 pm

Dh's family just got back into town and asked if we had heard about the double murder in our neighborhood. Wouldn't necessarily have heard, I don't always follow the local news very carefully, but fellow blogger Tripods68 had posted about it earlier:

http://tripods68.savingadvice.com/2008/12/10/i-cant-believe-...

Anyway, dh's cousin bought his current house from them(the victims) around 1999. So he knew them. How bizarre. They arrested the son a few days ago for the murder. Dh's cousin had met the son as well. I guess they had helped him with some stuff around the house, and said they were VERY nice, and he had kept in touch with them, etc.

Very sad!

& what a small world we live in sometimes. I mean the population around here is well over 1 million. So I was very shocked to hear that dh's cousin knew them. Small world indeed.

Just an Update

December 19th, 2008 at 07:03 pm

I opened a new ymail (yahoo e-mail) account when our cable got eaten up by Comcast. We weren't sure if we were going to stick with DSL - and still aren't sure. So, I have a yahoo address I primarily use, and our new att accounts. & work. & my psuedo gmail I use here. & this ymail that, I don't know, has the least important stuff. I didn't want to give my yahoo account to everyone because it is awfully similar to my psuedo one and I didn't want people spying on me online. Hehe.

Anyway, dh has been using my ebay account because I had more feedback - so when we started selling more - he just used my account.

He sold a bunch of stuff this week - I think sold Tuesday and he shipped everything out wednesday, first thing. Obviously you figure people want stuff before Christmas.

So on a whim I checked my ymail e-mail today and I got a pile of angry/grumpy ebay e-mails. I guess I hadn't checked it in a while.

I didn't realize that when you marked items as "shipped" that the buyer does not see. (& how stupid is that anyway? I like ebay's interface less and less every day). So, we are newbies sellers. We didn't know.

& anyway, for the last 50 items or so we sold, I think our stuff arrived before anyone thought to ask if we had shipped. So we just had no idea. NEVER been an issue.

So some people had e-mailed asking about their stuff. & when we didn't check our e-mail or answer, IMMEDIATELY, some started threatening to cancel their payment. (Can you do that???)

Anyway, so that was exciting. I researched the issue a bit and told dh that they can't see when he marked the items as shipped. So maybe if he sells anything next December, well, it's good to keep in mind. The rest of the year, I can't see bothering with separate notification. What a pain.

So I called him and yeah, told him to check the ebay messages, and calm them down a bit.

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

In other news, I had gotten one present each for my parents, (birthdays this month), and was feeling a little guilty I didn't have a second present for Christmas. But I was also kind of not seeing the point in getting more. It's the kind of thing where if I had a great gift idea, I'd do it. BUT not so sure I wanted to get them more "stuff" out of obligation.

I hadn't quite made a decision on that, but tonight dh asked me if I remembered we had gifts for my parents already.

I had TOTALLY forgotten!!!!! Problem solved. They are GREAT gifts too.

Yeah, that is why I shop early. Because I can think clearer. Problem is remembering.

On a related note, I was looking in my purse today, in my sea of crap, and just kind of laughing to myself. What would the SA-ers say if they could see my purse. I know, even in person, I Come across very anal. But for the most part, I'm not. I think it's kind of like being a savant. In some areas of my life I am SUPER crazy organized. & in the rest, yeah, probably couldn't be more of a slob. Wink

So if you think I am organized? I can't even remember I already bought gifts for the parents. Yeesh.

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

Yesterday, for the heck of it, I took BM shopping. I usually wake up at 5am and crash around 1pm. I am MORNING person all the way. So by the time I get home from work? I am whipped. But I had some energy and decided we better take the opportunity to buy dh's gift. BM has an allowance now, and bought me a B-Day and an Xmas gift. So it occurred to me he needs to get something for dh!

So, we went to Rite Aid (I had seen some ads for some other things I needed) and we stumbled upon the perfect gift. Figured we'd just get something/anything, but they everything was marked 50% off and they had a little set for growing herbs. Came with pots/soil/seeds, etc.

That was it. Totally something I knew dh would enjoy. It could be CRAP. But maybe will give us a start. We can always retry and reuse the pots if it doesn't work the first time.

I just can't quite decide where would be a good place to put them. Probably why we haven't grown anything inside before. Our kitchen window pretty much gets no sun. *sigh* We'll figure something out. Since we got draped up in the front room, I think we can set them in the window sill there, and just pull up the blinds a bit. But we'd still have our privacy.

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

We had a nice week. Yesterday we had a free car look over from the mechanic. He told us the engine on our 100k-mile car was immaculate. Of course, we just took the van in for a noise or something that turned out to be nothing. This time dh's car had some sort of leak. He thinks it is just water condensation because fluid levels were all fine and engine was "immaculate." Well, okay then. Was nice after taking the time he refused to charge us. I think he took pity on us. 2 "nothings" in a row. So, that was a nice surprise.

& Ms. Preschool offered to watch LM for free today for a couple of hours, for our loan signing. (Almost like, begged. She was going to miss him so much the next 6 weeks).

So, it's been a good week in that regard. Good karma comes around sometimes! Big Grin

Pinch me

December 19th, 2008 at 07:23 am

Signing for my new $1100/month mortgage today! Big Grin Even if we don't prepay a dime, ever, will be paid off by age 61. I am in heaven. I couldn't find a studio apartment that cheap when I was in college in the early 1990s. So just kind of a perspective thing. & it's a little CRAZY.

I actually was surprised with the kind of lack of mortgage refi experience on the forums and blogs. I saw a lot of questions and general "not knowing what to do."

SO, I was going to post on that a little bit. Share my knowledge of mortgages and what to look out for. & could be helpful since mortgage rates were only the lowest they have ever been, on record, yesterday. Holy Cow!

I meandered into the forums and the posters seemed to have no clue. I saw some comment about all the hype of Fed cutting rates. & waiting for 4.5% interest rates. What are y'all waiting for? I saw 4.75% with no points, yesterday.

Interestingly, 15-year rates were about the same. So the dealings are only good for 30-year loans.

Oh, I know you are waiting for 4.5%, some of you. Yeah, good luck with that. I like sure things. Wink

Well, I am glad to be done. We did a refi in a popular time that ended up taking FOUR MONTHS. & it was the time we were pulling out the down payment for our current home - so it took about three months too long. I was just worried in the mad rush that it may not go so fast.

Anyway, so though we paid a little more for this one, the one week refi was WELL worth it. I will be referring this mortgage guy to my friends, for sure. He was really great. He kind of read my mind. I didn't have to FIGHT for the no impounds, and all that, like we usually do. He sensed I was extremely conservative and kind of just knew what I wanted so I didn't have to fight for anything. Perfect example, thought we rolled the loan costs in, I didn't want to finance the interest for December. He asked me if I wanted to pay cash for that. Who does that? Boy, he had me figured out. So we will go with a check for about $900 today to cover December interest. & we paid $350 to the appraiser, so we kind of just paid our usual $1300 and didn't finance that part. Phew.

Anyway, I wanted to do a post on mortgages and refis, BUT I have to get to work so I am going to go. I hope I will have time to do it today or tomorrow.

I guess it would be more helpful if I could post more timely. But it's BUSY here! Hehe.

But yeah, I'll do that post, and since the refi will be done, you won't have to hear about it any more. I am a wee bit excited and all I can think about really. !!

Christmas & Refi

December 18th, 2008 at 07:52 am

Latest news is we may sign tomorrow. Would have been today, but new flood disclosure to sign today with the new flood maps. (New as of last week).

Probably saved some time since I sent them my flood insurance info though they didn't ask. I noted it was now mandatory and they may need the proof of insurance. Wink

The timing is SWEET. I am surprised the house appraised as much as it did. Give it a few weeks, not so sure it would. Dangerously close to less than 20% equity, with some of the lower sales prices in recent months. So, for some reason our stars have aligned.

We are lowering our interest almost a full percent, which is kind of our refinance guage. If we can lower it a point? Probably worth it. But since it has been 6 years, I think we are seeing more cost savings because of how much we paid off the last 5 years. I ran some 4.5% and 4.25% amortizations after seeing all these crazy low rates in the news. For us, it really makes little difference. So I will be happy we jumped when we did, and won't sweat another 0.5%. (& if rates keep sinking I wouldn't rule out another refi. I just highly doubt it will happen). In the meantime, holding out for 4.5% could have meant loss of too much equity in the meantime. So I am happy as a clam!

I have no doubt the refi is on hyper speed lest home values drop more. Someone with equity? Get 'er done before things change!

But I could easily see being in a position, in this market, with not enough equity to refi. I heard in Cali it was pretty difficult to get anything more than 75% loan to value ratio, these days. We have 65% today. May be 100% tomorrow. Who knows!

Well, what a Christmas present, to save $200/month! We may sign on anniversary of owning our home 7 years. Funny how that worked out.

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

Well, I don't do Christmas! Hehe. I do Christmas, but I don't do crazy Christmas. Everyone is running around like a chicken with their head cut off, and in making small talk people asking me if I am ready for Christmas seem shocked when I say, "Yes." Hell, if they asked me last month I would have said yes. Wink

Dh is very proud of himself. He bought some used Legos (like TONS) for $80 a while back, and he finally went through them, kept the ones he liked, and sold the rest yesterday. For $80. He had like 10 calls when he listed them. He probably could have turned a profit. So the kids get a pile of legos, for free essentially.

Dh ended up keeping $160 from Scholastic. A bit of a hog if you ask me, but whatever. (Gave $160 to the school). So he spent it all and we got piles of free books and games, etc., for the kids. Some for gifts for other people, etc. He is very pleased with this. He did work 8 hours, at Scholastic, to earn this. So took some sweat.

Kids also got some video games and stuff that dh pretty much got for free by buying and selling things.

So really, not much money spent on them. I was going to go to the Dollar Store for stocking stuffers, but seems we got it covered.

I got them bike horns for their stockings already. Dh wants to get some nuts as well.

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

This weekend we are doing the family gift exchange thing. So I have some stuff to wrap up Saturday. But otherwise, so busy with work, I don't have time to deal with Christmas. What it comes down to, I guess. One reason why I try to be done way early. I don't need anything on my plate the next 2 weeks. Work is plenty!

Christmas Day we will have our parents over. Take & Bake pizzas for lunch and dh is making some soup for dinner. Very low key.

We probably would have just had leftovers for dinner, but MIL invited herself over and now we have to come up with more food. Don't even ask - I can't go there. My mantra is we are blessed to have our parents alive and well this Christmas. It will get my through. But the whole situation is very aggravating otherwise. I am just hoping she doesn't ruin Christmas, again, like last year. (It never occurred to me she would try again and that dh would let her. Ugh! Though to be fair, not sure dh had much choice. For now it's, let's give it a chance - she has no one else for Christmas. I just figured either it will go well or she will dig her own hole. Either way I guess. Hoping it goes well though. Wouldn't be an issue if she had been civil and sane last year. Too much to ask?)

I can't wrap my brain around what she used to do for Christmas every year and why she now insists on butting in on us and making it difficult. I have no idea the answer to that - it was just never an issue before. She was all bitter last year because we weren't keen on changing up our tradition. God Forbid we have our own life and plans. But she is determined I guess.

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

Dh & I had our lunch date yesterday. Yay!

We had our first parent/teacher conference after lunch and BM did exceedingly well. Yay! They did have report cards and his was ALL good. & I tell you, his teacher can be picky. So, it was pretty impressive. Nothing bad to say. So we took BM out for frozen yogurt in the evening.

Kind of crazy, the weather went from unusually warm, to unusually cold. So has been very wintery here. & I am a little grumpy about that. Grumpy that it is too cold to go outside. (Too cold for me anyway).

Well, kids are out of school next 2 weeks. So it will be interesting. It's actually kind of nice not to have to drive them to school and stuff. I will be busy at work. Busy busy busy. So it kind of works out, but dh is in for a busy few weeks. LM does not return to daycare/preschool until February!

P.S. I paid $1.47/gallon for gas today. Woohoo!

Annual Cost of House

December 16th, 2008 at 06:48 am

When we bought our first home I calculated the cost of the PITI, figuring the tax savings.

I haven't calculated it recently, and was curious with our new lower mortgage payment. Plus, there had been some questions on this lately. So I thought I would look at it again, here.

So, let's see.

Cost before tax savings:

Mortgage: $13,524 ($10k interest plus $3,524 principal payment = $13,524)
HOA: 828
Insurance: $1250
Prop Tax/Bonds: $4500
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TOTAL $20,102, or $1,675/month
------------------------------

So, at face value, this is what we shell out. We could rent out the house next door for as much but it is only half the size.

But, we also have another advantage. Tax Savings! The tax savings was HUGE when we first bought in 1999. Over the years though, the benefit has decreased because the standard deduction has increased (renters can get the standard deduction) and because we have lowered our interest payment over the years.

We would be in the 15% tax bracket with or without out house, so will assume 15% tax rate either way. Some people will find more benefit from a house payment because it may drop them to a lower tax bracket.

So our tax benefit will mostly hinge on how much we can deduct above the standard deduction.

Our non-house itemized deductions are as follows:

Medical $5000
State Income Taxes $1200
Charity $500
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Total Deductions = $6700 without house
We would get to take $10,900 standard deduction in this case

Our itemized deductions with home, is as follows:

Medical $5000
State Income Taxes $1200
Charity $500
Property Taxes $4500
Mortgage Insurance $10000 (not the entire mortgage payment, just the interest portion. You can multiply your mortgage balance by the interest rate to get an idea what the interest portion will be for the year)
---------------------------------
Total Deductions = $21,200 with house

21,200 Itemized Deductions
-11,900 Standard Deduction
---------------------------
9,300 Tax deductions due to home ownership

9,300
x 0.15 (15% tax rate)
------
$1,395 savings
------

So above, I Calculated home ownership cost us $20,102 per year. Subtract $1395 in tax savings, and it really cost us $18,707/year. Or $1558 per month.

If we were in the 25% tax bracket, home ownership would save us almost $200/month in taxes. So you can see what a difference it can make. Any tax savings, for us, is muted by our low tax bracket.

Anyway, my caveat is, if your income is high, this calculation may or may not work. There are other tax nuances, and at higher incomes you start to lose your itemized deductions. So this is just the basic idea, but can vary greatly depending on your own circumstances.

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Anyway, you could argue our tax savings wouldn't even cover home maintenance, so the true cost of our home is even higher. Perhaps.

But yeah, pretty much over the years, our tax savings has dwindled (ironically, primarily due to lower taxes, in general).

BUT, our first home was very different.

Interest on our first home was $17k/year. Property taxes were $4k. Our tax rate was 28% because we both worked, and because tax rates were much higher then. Standard deduction was $7200.

We probably paid around $4k in state income taxes as well. No medical expenses.

So,

$4k state income taxes
$4k property taxes
$17k mortgage interest
----------------------
$25k itemized deductions (first home)
-7,200 standard deduction
----------------------
$17,800 Deductions due to home
x 0.28 (28% tax bracket)
----------------------
$4,984 savings, or $415/month

Since it was a condo our maintenance expenses were VERY minimal. Since we only lived there 2 years, we had none.

So the place costs us about $2100/month with our HOA fees (high to cover external maintenance). We saved $415/month, in taxes. Net cost was $1685/month for a unit that rented for about $3k/month. It was a no brainer.

You could argue our deductions lowered us into the 15% tax bracket as well. Tax savings could have been greater. (They probably did early on when we only made $60k/year. We made $100k when we sold).

But you see, over the years, the tax advantage of owning our home has really dwindled...

& if you wonder why we moved, yeah, it cost $3k to rent a 3-bedroom apartment on the iffy side of town. Why we chose to buy for about half the monthly cost, and eventually to just move somewhere cheaper. Big Grin

Productive Saturday

December 14th, 2008 at 09:06 am

Lazy Sunday?

YEsterday, went to aerobics, and then work for a few hours. More to make a full 40-hour week; a little bit to reduce my stress level a bit.

I actually LOVE this Saturday schedule. I enjoy the quite at work, and am in such a good mood after aerobics. So I get a lot done and enjoy some quiet time in my week. (No co-workers, no clients, no family. It's my sanctuary I guess). Everyone thinks I am so dedicated and deprived, and it's my favorite part of the week. My rule is only work I want to do on Saturdays - that helps too.

Kudos to impressing boss who was there. (He won't be impressed once he sees my 40 hour time card - LOL). I always notice that making a night or weekend appearance earns kudos. No one notices if you were missing in the morning or part of the week. Teehee. But my boss will with the timecard, yes.

Came home and we decorated the Christmas tree.

We decided not to use the LEDs for whatever reason. Well, dh did. I think we will pick some up after Christmas though - see if we can get some discounted ones for next year.

So yeah, dh returned those and got some jeans for BM and a gift card for BM's teacher. Those were on my to do list. So that was nice!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

BM grew a few inches overnight. Yeesh. I figured only another couple of weeks of school. Will have to evaluate his pant situation during the break - will need to buy more. (In August the size 6 were HUGE - MIL bought them - I was wondering what she was thinking. Well, um, now I see what she was thinking. LOL. They fit perfect now. Grateful to have some nice school pants that fit).

Dh rented some video game - Wario Ware Smooth Moves. It's a good game if you want to get ADD. O.M.G. But yeah, we played with that a bit. I don't think that was a good one for the kids. But, certainly weird.

I made some hot dog spaghetti dinner - another new recipe. It was a lot like my beanies/weanies except it used tomato sauce instead of ketchup. Other ingredients largely the same. Well, included veggies. Anyway, it wasn't the greatest, but thought I could experiment with the beanies/weanies next time. Ketchup taste better, yes, but this wasn't half bad and it was considerably healthier.

After that we went out to look at Christmas lights. It's supposed to rain and get cold, so we took advantage while it was clear. Temp was in the 30s, I was not happy with that. Brrrrrrrrrr... But we survived...

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

Another charity is coming by for a pickup next week. I purged a lot of Christmas stuff. HAd a lot of Christmas lights that we will never use. Some ornaments. A lot of white elephant gifts. I decided to purge them all. There will always be more!

Oh yeah, and MIL dropped off a ton of crap. HEr old cast offs, thought might be nice for the teachers. (She's a teacher, she told us a million times teachers only want gift cards. LOL). But if it helps her... A lot of the stuff was just crap. I threw it all in the donation pile!

I found my christmas tree scented candle. Ahhhh. We have the fake tree up, but the candle gives us true Christmas ambience.

Dh also found quite a few empty boxes in the closet.

So yeah, still making de-cluttering progress.

We have some toys to try to sell on Craigslist.

Dh and I are also working on a puzzle. It's addicting.

I don't have much to do with Christmas. Since it's such a busy time at work, we keep it simple.

I ordered some bike horns online for the kids (from Santa). I bought some almond roca for my dad. I didn't realize it was on sale either - so was a nice surprise.

Oh, I found a beautiful Christmas cookie jar that is perfect for my work gift exchange. If I am ambitious it will come with homemade cookies. (If not, maybe store bought ones). Saved some money there. Is a nice gift. That was a MIL cast off as well. I was going to donate it, but it was larger and more fragile, so I found the perfect place for it!

In other news, signed up BM for Tee Ball (as mentioned) and renewed my CPA license. Sent in the check anyway.

For today, Sunday, not much planned. Taking it easy!

Beer Sausage & FICO & Little League

December 13th, 2008 at 10:21 am

We had the BEST dinner yesterday.

I will have to post a link to the recipe once it becomes public. (OR I could type it up later). Got it from our Taste of Home mag.

Anyway, essentially, boiled sausage in beer. Sliced it up and fried it in butter. Layered somehow in a casserole dish with sauerkraut, tater tots, and cheese sauce.

Anyway, could do without the tater tot/cheese part.

But the sausage was DIVINE!

I am a pretty picky eater and not very fond of new foods, so I Was kind of, eh. & then I tasted that sausage - had died and gone to heaven!

Just so completely unexpected that it would be THAT good.

The kids preferred the taters so maybe it works for us. LOL. They can have that; we'll eat the meat!

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The refi is moving along.

Dh and I pretty much run a 800 FICO with all 3 credit bureaus. (Got the reports back from the lender). Had some 790/810 scores.

I've been seeing lots of FICO posts. So I have to say again, as usual, length of time is not EVERYTHING with your FICO. If you have a good score, and a mortgage, I wouldn't sweat old credit card closures.

We do everything wrong FICO-wise. IT doesn't matter.

In 2003 we opened a new card and had closed all our old ones (going back to 1993). We opened another card in 2006. We opened some more in 2007 for our balance transfers, but will close those this year.

Sure, we have a few years history now, but our FICOs were still in the 800s in 2005. The credit cards seem to amount to a hill of beans, compared to our timely paid mortgage. & even then, none of our individual mortgages had been held very long, at that point. 2 years max?

Anyway, last 2 years we opened up a bunch of credit cards, in both our names, and maxed them out. For the 0% balance transfers. Paid them back and within 2-3 months our score was back to 800. (Down to 760, at worst?)

Even with my ID theft ($30k charged and maxed out in a day; numerous inquiries), my score never dropped below 700.

I think once you build some solid credit, it takes a LOT to sabotage it.

My personal experience. I think it's ridiculous how scared people **in our situation** get to close old cards. Just close them already! They're just a liability. My recent ID theft experiences make it so that I prefer to have less outstanding accounts to keep an eye on.

& if you WANT to keep open those old/unused cars, well, I guess you better get charging. That's another story...

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Just signed up BM for Tee Ball. This will be interesting! Dh and I are NOT sports people. BM clearly is. HE is, like, coordinated and stuff. HE did not get these traits from us. From other generations I guess. Wink

As such, I have no idea what we are getting into. We can charge $125 next month. Starts March. We have to buy some uniform stuff too. Seems reasonable enough.

I would say that I don't think LM is going to be into sports. BUT, since he has to do everything BM does... Who knows.

& so it begins!

Economy Related???

December 12th, 2008 at 02:36 pm

We tried to eat out but the restaurant we chose was closed for insect/rodent infestation.

Not surprised - the place is kind of a mess. But we love it so much. At what cost? Makes you think.

So yeah - that in itself - NOT surprising. It's not the first time.

I know - WHY do we eat there?

So we went over to TGIF after heated discussion.

That's fine, but they were under warning for food violations too.

What's up with that??? IT was on the same street.

Is it more risky to eat out when the economy is down?

Favorite appetizer - no longer offered.

The kids' menus were crappily photocopied on white paper.

I was SHOCKED the parking lot was PACKED. Must have been for other reasons. (Other neighboring buildings???????). The place actually was pretty empty, for lunch. More what I expected.

But I got in a good walk because there was nowhere to park.

Well, we had a nice lunch in the end. Was just interesting.

2 Lunch Dates

December 12th, 2008 at 11:05 am

Work was completely crazy and the thought of the next 3 weeks was flipping me out. Crazy Busy!!!!

So I went home and told dh I wanted a lunch date. Today!!!! Kids invited.

So yeah, will have a lunch date. I sometimes go home for little lunch dates, but thought it would be nice to just go out.

Anyway, when I got home, found that teacher conference was scheduled perfect so we could meet for lunch and then go straight there. It was our only hope for a private lunch date. & I had given up. Yay! Now I have 2 lunch dates.

We don't have time to drop off BM anywhere so I guess he is invited to conference. (No time since it starts right after school!). Which is fine. We were going to be polite and arrange care. Now we will save our pennies.

So yeah, that will be interesting. School has been a much easier adjustment than I envisioned. Will see what teach has to say.

We also got our first fundraising thing from the school. Dh was griping how he doesn't like institutions that beg for money. I told him to get over it. It's for some event in February. It's the first time we have been solicited for a dime. I told him all my friends had 10 fundraisers already, so yeah, we have it easy.

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

Our home was appraised today. Dh is really grumpy about this whole refi thing. We have had some bad experiences. Anyway, I called and he was in a good mood. I assumed he had forgotten about the appraiser or something. LOL. Instead he says, "I really liked that guy. He was nice."

LOL. Um okay. They guy had to be one hell of a nice guy to get dh out of his anti-refinance funk. Color me confused. But glad I didn't have to hear about it.

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Dh has been REALLY super busy. His volunteer duties for the year will be over next Wednesday. Thanks Goodness!!!!!! Looks like a tornado hit the house. My Honey Do list has been neglected. But I can't blame him. HE volunteered like 50 hours total, over the last 2 weeks.

He also is getting the ball rolling on 2 film projects.

Dh moves at a snail's pace. I am afraid the timing is not good. Getting busy just as the kids get a bunch of time off school? & tax season starts? Oh well, he will have to figure it out. (He didn't really do anything the last few months when things were REALLY slow).

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Since dh was free last night and I was feeling healthy, I should have gone to aerobics.

Instead I just REALLY wanted to go home and eat a bag of chips.

I gave in. I think I missed dh too much though. I felt much better once I got home. I'd barely seen him the last 2 weeks.

I may go to the gym tonight to make it up.

Aerobics tomorrow. I need it all more with the increased stress level at work.

As always this time of year, I have no idea how to cram all that work into the last 2-3 weeks of the year. Somehow we always do it. But I always freak out about now. It's overwhelming.

Refi Update

December 12th, 2008 at 07:43 am

Sure, if we waited a day we could have got .0125% less or something.

Eh.

You have to understand, we were waiting for a rate of 5% for about a year. & we beat our target. Of course we jumped!

So no regrets here. Actually, still super excited!

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Along the same lines, yes we have started over our mortgage like FIVE times. Yes. But our very first interest rate was 8.25%. So we went from 8, to 7, 6, and now below 5%. We've lowered our interest rate by 3.4%!!!!!

The ironic thing is if we keep paying our last mortgage amount ($1300/month) we will pay off the mortgage in 2030. Which is precisely 31 years from when we bought our very first home anyway. So what, we take one more year and we pay almost half the interest?

Anyway, home loan amortizations can be very complicated. I have analyzed it every which way.

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We have never paid points on a mortgage, or financed closing costs. We've never added to our loan in any refi. It's been almost 6 years since we last refied.

This one is different. This will be our last refi. EVER! (I know, totally what we said last time!) But I really think so this time.

We are going to finance the $3k points & $2k closing costs. We will pay $1300 cash towards interest and the appraisal (I draw the line at financing the financing). But that would have been our mortgage payment for the month. So we will only increase our loan by $5k.

If we did this every time we refinances, might not be the greatest deal, but I regret not paying points last time (rates were similar) and just being done with it all. Kind of an expensive lesson.

Though having waited, we will get a rate lower than 5%. So maybe it is for the best this way.

So I am comfortable with adding to the loan, because I believe this is the one and only time. & We just don't have the liquidity we used to, to pay cash for the closing costs...

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BTW, if rates dropped any lower than this, we would refi to a 15-year-loan. Probably. I think I can pretty confidently say we will never refi 30 years again.

But never say never, huh?

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As an intro to this section, we live in the state of California. We will be itemizing our deductions for a LONG time. We could itemize without the mortgage! Biggest itemized item? STATE taxes. Very high.

Anyway, so, considering the tax savings, the effective rate on our mortgage is going from 4.6% to 3.9%. If my spouse worked and our tax rate went up, the effective interest rate would be closer to 3% (because we would save more taxes - saving in higher tax rates).

Anyway, my savings accounts are paying more than that, even in this economy.

So, yeah, I am going to be much more open to leveraging that debt, with this new low interest rate.

I will definitely be changing my priorities a bit.

Also, fixed mortgages get "cheaper" with time (inflation). We have not experienced that so much because I make as much money today as we did combined when we got our first mortgage in 1999. & our expenses have way skyrocketed (health insurance primarily). So, we haven't necessarily experienced that in the last decade, but with lower interest rates, our mortgage payment has literally gone down - by $400/month - over the years.

Because I expect my income to go up from here, and our mortgage to shrink in terms of inflation, going forward, I am not big for any pre-payments right now. Another reason we are shifting our priorities a bit.

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So all that being said, I will not be very gung ho on the mortgage, certainly not the next 3 years. If ever. But I still want to have it paid at 45. I am thinking we will focus more on investing though, and trying to beat that 3% - 4% return. We may shift our goal to have the investments to pay it off by age 45. I don't know. This REALLY changes things.

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I think this refi will allow us to max out one ROTH next year. We have not put in upwards of $2k - $3k of our income into an IRA since before kids. (We have from savings or gifts; not from income). So this is a pretty big goal for us, and one I am excited to meet with this refi.

We really need some more liquidity, and it is kind of a conundrum. Look at those low stock prices!! But with the economy - I wish we had more liquidity!!

I *think* we will focus on the ROTH and snatching up cheap stocks this year.

I know we will have another $3k easy in 2010, from income, once LM is done with preschool. So I think we feel comfortable sticking with about $5k in cash/taxable savings next year, and aiming for more like $8k the following year, when LM is done with school. I think we can put it off for 18 months or so, and be okay. We do have an emergency fund in the interim, and all that.

So kind of what we are thinking. We'll see!

Excited to snatch up more stocks. Will put our retirement contribution closer to 17% (of gross income) - and - what a year to make a leap in contributions! With stocks so in the toilet. Buying cheap!

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Besides all that, work is CRAZY!!!!!!

More on that later I guess...

How about 4.875%?

December 10th, 2008 at 02:22 pm

Just locked in a refi.

O.M.G.

Today has been a little melodrama.

Short version:

Tried to clock in 5% or less, at 1 point, all year.

We've paid enough off the loan this year ($4k - just regular payments) that 5.25% was starting to look attractive. Certainly 5.125%

Anyway, mortgage broker call and we discussed things.

He told me today he could lock in 4.875% with 75% loan to value ratio and 1.5 points. For various reasons this was actually a pretty freaking good deal. I had pulled a number out of the air though for appraised value (who knows in this market!?!?!?!?!) and so we decided no, then I told him to just let me know when he has a house value. As I ate lunch I started to think I Was crazy not to do it. To even cash out the money.

But I hesitated for a few reasons. Dropping home values. A general aversion to borrowing. We could have paid it right back, but then wouldn't give us the $200/month savings we were aiming for.

So anyway, just as I Was convincing myself to work on my dh tonight, and dreaming of what to do with borrowed money (pay for next car, max out ROTHs, plump up cash???????) the mortgage guy called me back.

House appraisal estimate $325k. (I had pulled $300k out of the air). Sure, sounds good, but how long will it last. Actually, glad it gives us some wiggle room. (Then again, what I Was afraid of. Not borrowing $250k!)

Anyway, not only that, but there had been a rate drop.

So I locked in 4.875%. No cash out - just to pay off our existing loan. NO more having to borrow MORE for the better rate.

Whee!!!!

Did I pay too many points? Will rates go down to 4.5% after all?

Who cares? My mortgage payment is going down $200/month.

We could resume old payments and pay off 3 years ahead of schedule. (3 years ahead of current mortgage payoff).

I ain't sitting around for 4.5% to materialize. No way!

Anyway, last time was s'posed to be the last time (2003, 5.75%). But history keeps beating itself.

It's surreal. Our very first loan in 1999 was $1500/month, 8.25%, borrowed $208k. (For a condo half the size).

Since we're financing all the costs, will be about $212k loan, 4.875%, $1100/month payments.

Pinch me!

Where I grew up you could not rent a studio apartment for $1100/month. In 1995. I have died and gone to heaven. Big Grin

Anyway, send me good vibes. I do not want anything to screw this up!!!!!!!

Saved $300, Phew...

December 9th, 2008 at 01:05 pm

**Yesterday was COLD. & today too. Um yeah, winter has arrived here.

Ignorance is bliss. I didn't have one second for the computer yesterday and had not realized it was in the 20s the night before that. I had no idea.

Because of that and because dh was home alone with no heat all day (he's just weird) the temp in the house dropped to 60 degrees last night. Brrrr. We don't turn on the heat at night and that's about as low as it gets inside the house. So I Call that winter weather. But since last night was warmer, I don't know if it would have gotten so cold, but for the 24 hours+ with no heat. (Well yesterday was quite chilly - I guess that had a lot to do with it).

Brrrrrrrr...

**Saved $300? Why yes. Ms. Preschool was going to be gone for a month or 2 or 3 and then that never materialized. But she just told me she is taking January off to deal with the family stuff she mentioned before. I guess decided to tack it on to Christmas break. We could send LM, someone will be there, but I welcome the chance to save some money. So he'll get 6 weeks off. Fine by us.

I've mentioned before but we try not to enter into long-term contracts for anything. For the preschool we have no contract. I pre-pay monthly for budget ease, but I guess for the most part it is week-to-week. (Most parents pay weekly - she finds me very odd. Well, it would drive me nuts to worry about weekly payments. How annoying. Plus, personally I would find it harder to have the money available if I just didn't pay it first thing. You know, pay the fixed expenses, see how much is left for the variable stuff. I just find it much easier to do it that way).

But anyway, if something happened and we wanted to drop the whole thing next week, we could. Well, little breaks like this are nice. Phew. The $300, of course, will go to savings.

Dh has also been wanting to add LM to the karate class, so he can try it out in January. We would have to switch days to add him otherwise, so I think this will be a good trial run. Karate is $30 and would have maybe been spent otherwise.

We can drop him off at a place for $7/hour so dh can keep his school volunteer duties. Could be around $30 for the month. I think it would be good for both of them but dh may not go for it. His loss. We'll see how he feels after a few weeks of no break from the kids. !! We'll still save a chunk, regardless of all this stuff. & I look forward to that!

**Christmas Lights - these were not a part of our budget, but a bulb went out on our tree lights and dh could not find an extra bulb. So he bought some LEDs. I think it will be a good investment for the long run. Will cut down on the Christmas tree electricity usage considerably.

**I feel like I have a working spouse this month and am totally exhausted. This is for the birds. Well, yeah, it would be another thing if there was extra money. But there isn't, so it this REALLY stinks. Hehe.

Actually, overall it hasn't been SO bad. The #1 thing is I have not been able to stick with my usual exercise routine. Which does NOT help with the extra stress. So, I am not happy about this. Last week was trying.

This week isn't much better. BUT with this whole preschool thing, I told dh we needed to have a date this week. We had been doing lunch dates while the kids were at school, and for whatever reason had fallen by the wayside. Probably because it's been BUSY.

I said how about this Wednesday, just because work is getting crazier and it may be hard for me next week.

He remembered later he had a lunch meeting already (this is "work" in a sense - just nonpaid). Monday he is volunteering 10-2 and Wednesday BM gets out of school early. We may be able to swing an early lunch Wednesday, but that's when school conferences are and I already wanted to take some time off for that. So if we could do lunch, pick up BM, and go to the conference that would work. But we'll probably get a crappy conference time and next week might as well be tax season for me. If I want to go to the conference, not sure how lunch will fit in. Will try I guess.

So now I am just bummed. Since when could we not swing a lunch date? Since when did it take so much planning? Yeesh.

Well, it's certainly full speed ahead into tax season.

**Oh yeah, did a double take the other day when I rode past neighbor's house. They had told us they moved 2 doors down. I realized that was why something didn't feel right when I saw their car 2 driveways sooner than expected. LOL. So was glad we heard this news before the move. IT could have confused me for a while.

But I am not sure I mentioned, some house sold for $270k or so in our neighborhood and that freaked me out about (no one in our entire neighborhood paid less than that, and that is kind of scary as far as the future of foreclosures go - if everyone who put $0 down/paid nothing is suddenly upside down).

BUT this house they purchased for $375k. $100k more for the same house!

SO, um, yeah, the prices are pretty volatile. For now, the $270k seems a bit of an anomaly. Though I wouldn't hold my breath that it stays that way. IT still is not good.

Anyway, nothing else has been selling. But everything that has sold this year (except for anomaly) has been WAY over the assessed value of our home. So yeah, prices are dropping like a rock, but no, our property taxes are not going down next year. I had to clarify because I did have my one freakout post a while back, but prices since have been rather high. (Asking prices still VERY high - and some of them still get some nibbles). So yeah, talk about a roller coaster!

Some Updates

December 7th, 2008 at 09:48 am

I've been under the weather, so offline mostly.

What's been happening?

**I felt better Friday but woke up feeling pretty bad yesterday. I had to cancel my volunteer shift at Scholastic Warehouse. They specifically said "Do NOT send a replacement" but dh called and they were kind of like, "if you want to come in." So he went. He said he was glad he did - they NEEDED help. So I felt really bad, but then again he would have been home with kid duty - not like he had big plans or anything. But he pretty much woke up, went, and came home closer to 6:00, exhausted.

I was extra glad I didn't go. I wouldn't have been up to it. I made a mental note not to sign up for all day, next time.

Because dh went we will still earn 16 hours if he can pull his shifts, so we will still have a lot for the school, and some for ourselves.

**Dh got our new webcam - Logitech 9000 - and we aren't particularly impressed with it. Not as great as it was touted. Dh thinks it might be better with faster internet, but not worth it for now. We'll see. Just an FYI if anyone took my advice. (I think my advice was run out and grab it while it was on sale - so may be too late to warn).

It's a fine webcam, but we didn't notice much improvement on the other one we had tried. So not worth the extra $$.

**Got the PERFECT gift for preschool. KIVA gift certificates. I am not sure if Ms. Preschool has heard of them, but it is so totally and completely her speed. So I got her a $50 G.C. & a $25 G.C. for her assistant. They will LOVE it.

We paid the gardener an extra $30 for December. I usually give him $20, but threw in a little extra with the economy. I figure he has got to be hurting.

Sad to say but I almost completely forgot about BM's teacher. LOL. I was so wrapped up in last year's Christmas budget, I forgot I had new items to add. I am thinking G.C. to Target. BUT I wonder about how obliged we are to get gifts for other teachers. Of course, we could always bake cookies, etc. There is P.E., Spanish and Art teachers to consider as well. I have to think on it.

**In other news, I am ecstatic that we are skipping the Christmas festivities this year at work. We usually have a nice gift exchange on Christmas Eve, and will still do that. But no more Christmas party outside of the office. I think everyone is happy with this. You know, just one more thing to worry about. We are a small office so it is never very exciting anyway.

**I expect a $250 Christmas bonus. I usually allocate $50 towards the boss's big gift. If the other $200 materializes this year (quite confident it will) I will donate the $200. I did last year, among all my favorite charities. Dh is not one for charity, but I asked him this year if he wanted any say. To make it more fair. So I think we both will take $100. (He said he had some things in mind. I am rubbing off on the guy, a bit).

I usually give to Red Cross & a charity that does free oral surgeries in 3rd countries. (I was born with club feet AND had many jaw/oral surgeries and I appreciate greatly my quality of life vs. how it could have been if I had could not have corrected all my deformities). So that is VERY important to me. But I am thinking of replacing the Red Cross with the local food bank this year. They seem to be really struggling. So, maybe $50 to both.

http://www.hirschesmiles.org/

**So yeah, I do need to shop for the work gift exchange, but I don't have much else to shop for - the rest was done before December. I have a few more donations for relatives, etc.

We'll see how the month goes. Dh just filled up the van for $20. !! It's crazy. (Paid $1.50/gallon the other day for gas. I mean we had the MOST expensive gas prices for a time. & I do think like $1 of that is taxes. It's crazy). So I am hoping to have a little extra cash at the end of the month to add to the charity pile. We'll see how the month goes. We might make it with these gas prices - might shave a couple hundred off the budget.

I am also thinking of squeezing the health insurance increase out of the lowered gas prices and just saving my entire raise come January. We'll see. Maybe have 2 budgets - one for when gas is down, and one for when it is high. I don't know. I don't expect this to stick, but I know I can save a bit more, with prices this low. Another angle is to make more mortgage pre-payments when prices are low. We'll figure something out.

Goals for 2009

December 3rd, 2008 at 01:28 pm

I really like the 'goals in the sidebar' thing, so I decided to give it a whirl. I still have my long-term goals on a separate page under 'Goals'.

Plus, a lot of things flit through my mind and then I forget about them. This blog is becoming like my life organizer.

Financial is easy.

At minimum, want to put $5k to savings this year. Contribute $200/month, add interest, and the rest will be covered by credit card rewards and overtime.

ROTHS - $2500. I wanted to double our contributions to $200/month this year. We can scrounge up $100 to round up to $2500 for the year. (May not seem like much but it is double 2008 and quadruple our 2007 contributions. Slow and steady...)

Mortgage - I want to increase prepayments from $10 to $30, monthly.

Umbrella insurance review - had been meaning to get together with insurance broker after he sent me a note mid-year. So, something to work on in 2009. WE also WAY upped our home insurance coverage in 2006? with skyrocketing build costs. So I want to discuss with him replacement cost again. Wondering if it went down, though I want to be cautious and not lower it too much. If it's a significant decrease though... I just want to discuss further.

Close balance transfer credit cards. Just a chore I have been dreading. My personal experience is you have to talk to 10 people in "retention" and then they offer to give you the moon. Even for cards I NEVER use. They hold out to hope that you will cave and run up huge balances, I guess. But yeah, my personal policy is to close unused cards. This is particularly important to me with my recent bouts of ID theft. These are not cards I pay attention to and I may not notice fraudulent charges, etc. Better to close them. So I have closed a lot of cards before. I will report the outcome. (I look forward to a "we thought you'd never ask, it's taken care of" experience).

I think my mortgage is the biggest piece of my FICO pie. Whatever I do with the credit cards doesn't seem to make a difference to my FICO.

I usually sick dh on annoying customer service calls, but since the cards are only in my name, these are all on me.

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As far as the house... We made a lot of progress this year, but much more to go.

Fix Gutter - probably 2008. We just noticed a hole.

Have Trees Trimmed - been meaning to talk to the gardener - the trees are growing and some are pushing on the fence. Certainly before spring.

Plant Fruit Tree - this is dh's idea. We were told by the local nursery that February was the time to plant (tail end of winter I guess). I think we decided on a small apple tree. (I forget the name - but you know - the small ones. We don't want a GIANT tree).

Fix Tile/Sealing - long overdue. Some sealing repairs on some of the sinks. All of the tubs/showers. & the tile in the showers needs some repair (well, the grout. Sealing more than anything. We want to pay someone to do it right. I am not a fan of DIY). IT is so bad in the Master Bath that we have not used that shower in years. I doubt it will cost that much - just was more luxury than need before. (since we could just use the other shower). But I am ready to get it taken care of.

Clear junk from Master Closet - since we have done so much clearing out for 2008, I am making this my 2009 goal. I have a few odds and ends in there to get rid of.

Buy Mattress/Bedding for LM - maybe by summer. Will buy him a bed in 2010. Just spreading out the costs.

Paint BMs room - an idea. I think it would be a nice/frugal enough thing to do. Aim for next fall.

Price Stucco Repair - something we have put off a while - we believe it is cosmetic only (a crack). BUT I am curious to price it this year. We will paint so soon it may make more sense to do when we paint the exterior (2010?). I noticed a lot of painters offer repairs as well.

Price Security Screen Door - Our HOA is very picky but some of our neighbors have been getting them recently. I Think it would be awesome for security, and also for summer nights. The days get hot but the nights are very cool - so can save on AC costs downstairs with a screened front door. Get a breeze going throughout the house...

On a whim I priced some online today and they don't look that expensive. My dad could help us install it. BUT we have an extra large door. Any time we buy anything for the house it is always "custom order." So maybe we will price them this year and see when we can swing it. IT could be VERY expensive with the unique size. *sigh* Will also talk to the neighbors, see where they got their's.

With the foreclosures up, crime has been increasing, so I would consider buying this year and re-arranging priorities.

Along the same lines, we have put off other security upgrades that I think we should reconsider doing sooner rather than later. It's just not a safe time with the economy. Our city has been hit really hard.

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I don't have any other particular goals. We want to get BM into some organized sports. I want to bike ride more and read more. But nothing very large and exciting.

I think my goal is to take it easy. I am easily one who "does too much" and the kids really seem to allow me the luxury to step back a little. So I enjoy not having very many personal goals. & I am pretty happy where things are at!

Oh, I do want to make an effort to call my mom more with the webcam - maybe we can set up weekly scrabble dates or something. I have been trying to get our favorite card game set up online and if I can find the software I was thinking a nice christmas gift. We can even get my sister in on it (she lives on the east coast). Technology is just SO amazing... But yeah, we used to do scrabble once in a blue moon. We'll take what we can find online...

I also remember we seemed to get no weekends away this year - so I will add these to my goals.

Which reminds me of our vacation goals. Family camp again (maybe try the Sacramento one in Tahoe). Dh wants to go to the snow at least once. We need to take more advantage of the family cabin as well. AND we wanted to get season passes to the amusement park by where we grew up. It's where we spent our childhoods, and met too. They have a new waterpark. Parking is included in the season pass. We will get a LOT of use of passes. Kids are getting old enough to enjoy.

Me Spoiled...

December 3rd, 2008 at 07:32 am

I was quite spoiled on my birthday.



How cute is it? I know dh didn't pick it out for it's cute-ness, so why I was extra surprised. Because it is both functional and cute - hehe.

Actually, this gift was from his family. But he did the researching/picking out.

I believe I got my first MP3 player last year, and I never particularly liked it. Not very user friendly. So, yeah, it left much to be desired.

I am LOVING this one.

I can also put pictures of the kids, and TV shows on it. So it is pretty nifty.

It has built-in speakers which aren't half bad either.

What else?

Dinner at Chessecake Factory, on dh's parents and grandma. The waiter was excellent so we left a pretty hefty tip. So spent the entire $70 cash they had given us. But well worth it. I think I was extra impressed because all I heard was horror stories when it opened 3 years ago (3 years?). I think it has died down a bit. I don't remember the last time I went to a restaurant in that area at night without an hour long wait. & so we expected little and probably had about the best service we have had in a long while. We left impressed. Though not somewhere we will eat very often. We love the one in San Francisco and had been there many times, but the first time for the Sacramento one. It's not quite the same. The SF one is on top of a building. It's more fun.

Though I don't remember when I've ever been to a Cheesecake Factory with no wait. So that was nice! (We usually wait HOURS).

Oh - I also got creamcheese pie (essentially cheesecake) from Marie Callendar's. I had asked for that long before I made dinner choice. Dh asked me if that meant no CK at CK Factory. I asked him if he was crazy. LOL. But in the end we decided we could get CK there later and the MC pie was enough. (After dinner, I Was too full anyway).

The preschool called and sang Happy Birthday to me, which was the cutest thing ever. LOVED it. All the 3-year-olds...

My sister sent me a CD.

BM & dh got me a water bottle for my bike.

& my parents told me they intend to buy me a bike in the $200 range - or contribute that much towards a bike.

Um yeah, did I say I felt spoiled?

So, it was a VERY nice day.

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This week is crazy. Crazy crazy crazy.

I started an exercise log on the side because December is going to be rather trying. I needed extra motivation. So far has not helped. LOL. My prime workout time is after work, but dh has things every evening this week, and I am volunteering all day Saturday. So I won't be able to go to aerobics even once (I am very bummed about this) and I thought about taking the kids to the gym last night, but once I got home and sat down, that was it. I Was done. I can go there straight from work, but I am not an evening person at all and it's all downhill from 6pm on. (More like 3pm on).

Which means I probably need to shift focus to the a.m. The a.m. is fine. Since I am an early bird. It's just usually when I get other stuff done. But will have to shift morning priorities for a while.

So, I don't know. I can try again tonight. Gym. Or something in the morning...

I hate winter. I realize it isn't even the cold. It's the DARK. ANy other time we'd go for a walk. But it's dark. & dangerous. & we have to improvise. Blah!