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Archive for January, 2009

Cali sent my refund!

January 28th, 2009 at 05:44 pm

Boy, am I a lucky duck!!!!

State announced for sure it wouldn't issue refunds for tax returns filed this week or later. (Can't afford to pay them right now - delayed at least 30 days - but who knows how long).

Anyway, I got my taxes filed last Monday, after the announcement. I had the feeling I would get it, but wasn't 100% sure.

Well, my check arrived today!!!!!!!!!

Woohoo!

I got $550 for my savings account...

& yes, I lowered my withholdings. Whatever California. You don't want to issue refunds? Then I will just pay you less. I overpaid because Cali is a PITA to figure out so I just told my boss to wihhold $50 a paycheck. This year I decided $30. Yeesh.

Ebay Challenge

January 27th, 2009 at 07:56 pm

Goal: NET $1200 in Ebay & Craigslist Sales for 2009

Two Sources of sales:

One: Selling items around the house; 100% profit

Two: Dh's Ebay/Craigslist business (buying and selling used video game systems, accessories, and games).

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

January
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1/15: Gross $70 Ebay - $30 profit
(video games and controllers)

1/27: Gross $90 Ebay - $45 profit
(5 video games)

1/27: Gross $40 - used game store - $40 profit

January net profits: $115

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Basically, dh bought 2 Gamecubes off Craigslist, complete with accessories and games.

Sold some of the accessories at the used gaming store. Sold a pile of games on Ebay for about $160. Sold the Gamecubes back on Craigslist (sold them with the bare minimum accessories and the crappy games. Maybe held back a couple of nice games to sell with the systems).

So far in January he retained Donkey COnga Jungle Beat, for our pleasure. (It's pretty fun too!). SO you can add one free game to our profits.

I might even transfer the money to mid-term savings. ??? We had a good month. Dh just started this a few months ago and I have mostly been using the money to pay bills (or he has been funneling it to buy himself stuff, like a used Wii). But this month, I think I may have $100 for savings, which is pretty sweet!

Today's Ebay sales closed $20 higher than predicted. Woohoo!

Back to Reality

January 27th, 2009 at 12:44 pm

I was jolted back to reality this week rather quickly.

Foreclosure 2 doors down. Asking insanely low price of $240k (for smallest home). I don't mind. Last foreclosure so close asked $300k a bit ago and sold FAST. As long as it sells fast I am happy. We don't need a row of forelcosed homes on the street. Some in the greater neighborhood have been sitting empty for YEARS. I am curious which banks own those and which ones are acting so fast. Kudos to the banks owning near MY house!

So, we'll see.

$240k is just about prices when we bought. Still $10k higher. Still have equity equity. YEah, not for long!

Also, lay offs seem to be contagious around here all of a sudden.

I don't know how it is in other regions, but Cali has been hit HARD this decade. Most of our friends and family had lay offs in 2002 with the tech bust. MANY of them had lay offs again in 2005. & of course the same people are being laid off again now (a lot of lay offs last week I guess). I mentioned before the housing bubble was not ALL about greed. I know a lot of people used their equity to get by layoff after layoff. Not sure what there plan of actions is this time. It is scary when it comes to the foreclosures. It's BAD but everyone laid off can only make it worse. Since the people who can afford their mortgages won't be able to if they are out of work for a long time.

It's pretty scary out there. Just wondering if our slice of suburbia will become a foreclosure wasteland...

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P.S. I am closing all my old credit cards and my FICO will still be over 800. How do I know? Because I always close my old credit cards (My oldest card I have only had about 3 years though I have used cards for 15+ years) and my score is just about always over 800. & if it dips down to like 790, well, I could care less. This whole fear of FICO strikes me as completely ridiculous most of the time. Fair enough if you are working on improving a low score. BUT if your score is already 780 or 800, I think you have way more important things to worry about!

What do I know? My score has mostly been 800+ for my entire adulthood.

I did obliterate my score a bit (down to 750, which is the same as 830 to most lenders BTW). Anyway, with all the balance transfers. & then I paid them off, closed the cards, and my score went right back up (to 805 as of Jan. 1).

I am not too worried about it. !

Anyway, if I read one more article or comment how I shouldn't close my old cards. Egads!!!!!














Rejuvenated

January 26th, 2009 at 01:49 pm

Well, it was awfully decadent to slip off so close to January 31, for the entire weekend.

But we did have a BLAST!

I was second guessing the wisdom of taking 2 nights away as we pulled up to our hotel in San Francisco at 9:30 pm, Friday. Since I had to work all day, was about the earliest we could swing. (Particularly since we dropped the kids off in another city). I was thinking I should have saved the timeshare points for a three-day weekend. But in the end it worked out - glad we did it.

We stayed at the same place we stayed a few years ago. I didn't realize and didn't really have great memories, but we ended up with a nice suite.

The weather was kind of blah.

We went to Ghiradelli for ice cream - it was right across the street. I actually had the idea beforehand because we used to take the 45-minute drive to SF in college, dh & I once in a blue moon very late at night, and pig out on their giant sundaes. So it we decided to relive our youth a bit.

It was a little dissapointing. For one, the place was filled with college kids so we did feel rather old. (The tourists cut out early I guess, and the college kids take over). PLUS they reduced the size of their sundaes by at least half. What the heck????? Good for the waistline I guess, but I had looked forward to an ice cream gourging. What I could barely finish in my 20s was now topped off in 5 minutes. LOL.

Saturday we lounged around and watched DVDs since it drizzled most of the morning. We were meeting good friends for lunch (who I am terrible at keeping in touch with) and they chose a nice restaurant in an old neighbohorhood where another friend had lived in college. We were already in the car when they said they may be an hour late, so we decided to visit the old neighborhood. Not sure if I took dh there much but there's these beautiful cliif side trails just about a half mile down from where we were meeting, so we went on an impromptu hike over there.

The area is called the "Cliff House" and there used to be an old arcade museum there with a lot of old fortune telling machines, player pianos and such. I couldn't find it though I Was sure it had been down by the beach. Dh thought I Was mistaken.

We eventually found out it had been moved to a big warehouse just blocks from our hotel. So we found it in the end.

http://www.museemechanique.org/

So it was definitely great fun going back to that area, and we made it to the museum too, later. Then we met my friend for lunch and drinks. We made all sorts of plans to visit the City more. I was appalled she hadn't seen my youngest since he was an infant. I had just told him I would take him on the Bay Area "subway" sometime soon, so I think we have somewhere to take it to. (He is obsessed with trains, so that will be fun to do someday).

We actually were making plans to go to a sketch comedy show in the evening and to gorge ourselves on Indian food, but the comedy club was sold out and we decided at the last minute to get some Deli Sandwhiches and to go back to the hotel. We walked to the Fisherman's Wharf and all that, but it was crowded and not much exciting there. We decided to be cheap and boring instead. Big Grin

Sunday we went for a walk around some of our old hangouts (the sun came out and it was just gorgeous that day). But we were kicked out of the hotel at 10am.

We decided to meet my parents for lunch and had some nice, quiet, no-kid time with them. My mom and I just ate sandwhiches while dh and my dad went out to some Asian buffet. So we just had a nice time.

We headed over to a cousin's birthday party at 2:00 to pick up the kids. MIL kept telling us not to come until 4:00, but we knew when the party was and we wanted our kids, so we crashed it I guess. LOL.

WE didn't quite get out until 4:30 and we're hoping to get home in time for dinner.

We got on the road and it was magnificent. One of my most fond memories is our 1st Wedding ANniversary when we took the day off work and went for a drive on the coast, paid for a really fancy lunch on the beach and watched this magnificent lightning storm (quite rare). IT was just one of those incredible days.

So as we headed east towards the hills yesterday, they were just emrald green but there were these massive storm clouds in the distance and rainbows just everywhere. We saw some lightning in the distance and thought we might get quite a show. It didn't really amount to much, but we apparently missed a massive hail storm by about minutes. WE passed a number of accidents that had just happened, and there were piles of white ice around each accident. We marveled how we were lucky we got out a little slower than we intended. We hardly saw any rain the whole drive, so it was actually quite nice. The storm seemed to be heading in the opposite direction. I don't know if I have ever seen such magnificent rainbows though.

Anyway, yeah, I feel completely rejuvenated. Nothing like a weekend of astounding beauty to just rejuvenate your soul. I forgot how beautiful San Francisco can be. & the drive home was incredible.

We ended up spending about $170 for the weekend. Not bad, if you ask me. Big Grin

$45 parking (2 nights), $20 gas for the car (drove about 350 miles; took the gas sipper), about $25 eating in (breakfast, snacks, deli), and about $80 on eating out, drinks, ice cream. About $60 of that was lunch and ice cream. We ate some fast food with the kids on the drive down. My dad treated for the lunch buffet. I treated my mom to sandwhiches though.

My frugal move was to bring my own soda.

Well, it's back to reality for me. I got some pics I will share later.

BUSY

January 23rd, 2009 at 02:03 pm

I am still alive.

It is just busy.

I was trying to time our weekend away, Bay Area dentist visit, and our weekend off from work (for carpet cleaning) all at the same time. Instead they ended up 3 different weekends. I should have been more insistent about pulling BM out of school early this Friday. This is crazy. We're s'posed to be working all these hours and I get 3 weekends off instead.

So I worked really hard to justify it this week, and well, I guess it has paid off. I finished all my W-2s (8 days ahead of schedule thank you) and made a pretty good dent in the 1099s. I could have gone to the dentist next Friday and drove back Saturday a.m. to work, but I think I won't have to. I may work Sunday instead as a compromise. But glad to be mostly done with the deadline stuff.

Plenty more deadlines on the horizon thought! 2/15, 3/15, and of course 4/15!

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The weather looks sucky (wet and gloomy) for our weekend getaway, but I guess we will survive. It will still be nice to get away.

Dh called to ask if they had a DVD player. Score. He had downloaded season 2 of Big Love. Not that we have HBO he suggested if it was too rainy we could watch some of that and he would record season 3 on the DVR.

It feels like it's been years since we watched that. I'm like, "They are only on Season 3?" Not as behind as I thought.

I LOVED Six Feet Under & Curb Your Enthusiasm but I am not like dh. He has to see everything the second it airs. Or he will just die. I have patience. So I have just been watching them all on DVD as they come out, etc. So if I get hooked on some new shows, I won't sweat it. Dh is another story though. Wink

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Not much else to report. I have struggled with putting in the hours my boss really wants me to work the last few years. Since 2002. He seems okay with it, but he also rewards well financially for lots of overtime. So, I don't know what it is. Getting more sleep, hormones settling down, all of the above, but I feel like I can take on the world. I am going to work hard on extra hours this tax season. The hours I've pulled this week I have not been able to do since pregnancy and kids. They are just so exhausting. In another life I worked non-stop. Not that I wanted to work like that forever. But it's been frustrating to go from that to this. BUT things are looking up.

Even with the fam I don't mind kicking it up a notch for tax season. It's only a few months of the year. Makes the rest of the year feel like easy street really.

Anyway, my main online time is in the a.m. before work, so I will have to work on a new schedule. This week I mostly skipped it (blogging at all). Plus with it so busy I just haven't had much to say!

DIE Call Waiting, DIE

January 20th, 2009 at 09:16 am

Well, it only took 8 years of marriage, 9 years of living together, but I *WIN*

LOL.

(& it cracks me up some of the responses in my last post).

I posted yesterday I was reviewing the phone bill and decided to drop long distance. & since dh had talked about HBO Recently, I thought maybe I could talk him into dropping the ridiculous $6/month charge for call waiting.

I wasn't optimistic. At all.

So, I called him and the second I said the words "call waiting" he started to go off. BEcause we have had this fight quite a few times. & he likes to argue anyway.

But he said something about how we HAVE to have it, blahdeblah.

& seriously, all I said was, "But we have our cell phones. If anyone NEEDS to reach us they have our cell phones."

& he stopped his little tirade and just said, "YEah. You are right. We haven't had this discussion since we've had cell phones, have we?"

LOL.

So I didn't even have to offer HBO - I could have talked him into it.

Woohoo.

Boy, that was too easy. Should have done this a few years ago.

I mentioned the HBO anyway. I was surprised when told me he only wanted it about 3 months for a particular show.

Since it was his birthday and we hadn't gotten him a thing, I figured 3 months of HBO was a fair enough present.

So now everybody is happy. Big Grin

It's a wash with the HBO, but when he drops it again, we will be saving about $16/month.

We just slashed our land line bill in half. From about $30 to $15 monthly. We had discussed a lot lately dropping it, but it's a little luxury we like to keep. We only use our cell phones for emergency and calling family (long distance) for the most part. We don't want to use our cell phones for EVERYTHING. Plus, if we did, we would need a more expensive plan with more minutes. So I think this is a pretty good compromise.

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P.S. If you want to know why I HATE call waiting more than anything. My dh INSISTS we have it so people can get through. Anyway, I can't tell you how many times HE has ignored me when I was trying to get through, and he was talking to someone else. Seriously. "Oh it was an important call." "Oh, it was my grandfater long distance." Blahblahblah. God forbid I ignore the call waiting. But he seems to ignore it an awful lot for being so "call waiting holier than thou." I mean that is just the final nail in the coffin for me. If he would walk the walk as much as he talked the talk, then it wouldn't be so aggravating.

The cell phones have call waiting of course, but it's not quite the same. It's not a separate charge. & if I Want to ignore call waiting on my phone, that's my problem. He has his own phone. So the issue doesn't come up much. It's not like he misses calls because I ignore my call waiting. So, phew. May we never argue about call waiting again. Wink

Lots of stuff

January 19th, 2009 at 10:43 am

Boy, when I don't update very much, well, I have a lot to chat about...

**I was paying the phone bill and it seemed high. I looked at the bill closer (it's usually the same every month) and thought long distance was the culprit. $10? What did it do? Double?

Looked closer, and long distance was same as prior month, but flat service rate (& taxes) had gone up about $5.

Um, I think we will drop the long distance. We haven't used it since we upgraded our phone plan. I didn't realize how expensive it had gotten. We've been sharing minutes with my parents for a few months at this point. We have plenty minutes. We can call each other for free (which is our main long distance usually) AND we have been using skype more.

The other thing that peeves me about my bill is $6 for call waiting. I HATE call waiting. I think it is very rude; I never use it. But dh wins this one. He hates people who don't have call waiting more than I hate call waiting. If that is possible. Well, I wasn't going to end our union over call waiting, I'll put it that way. LOL. We both feel strongly about our call waiting stances. But it's flipping $6. I think that is crazy. I am going to broach the subject. He had asked something about HBO recently and I said "No way!!!" BUT I would be willing to get HBO if we could drop the long distance AND call waiting. I'll put the offer on the table. I don't expect him to bite. But I rather pay $15/month for HBO than $6/month for call waiting. Big Grin IT's worth some negotiating.

I think dh loves call waiting more than HBO, but I could be wrong.

& oh yes, we pay $1/month for an unlisted # even though it pops up all over the internet now. It's like, nevermind. More wasted money. So much for unlisted. Gah!

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**I filed my taxes. I would have done it sooner, but for various reasons, couldn't do it until today. The state has said refunds will be delayed 30 days at minumum. I am expecting $600 for our savings (mostly state, if I ever get it). I tried to at least be first in line? Big Grin W-2, itemized expenses (all detailed in Quicken). We have no taxable accounts but some savings accounts. It was all very simple. I didn't spend more than an hour on it all.

ETA: State just announced filers before Feb. 1 will get refund ASAP. Woohoo!!!! BUT status subject to change. Won't hold my breath...

**I closed my Virtual Bank accounts. I had a token $100 in there thinking I may use the account for some savings bucket, one of these days. Interest rate was not horrid. I noticed it just dropped down to 1% interest rate (from like 2.5%?). Nevermind. Decided to bail.

BUT this was my first high yield online savings account. Ah, the memories. I will miss ya.

I really don't like jumping around accounts too much (what a headache). I am still mostly loyal to GMAC. They may not have the highest rate at any one point in time, but they have a good track record. Slow to lower rates; first to raise them, overall.

Now that my vbank account is closed, I will be open to testing out another high yield bank though. I think 2 is my limit at once. Flagstar bank caught my eye because they have our new mortgage, but it looked like merely promotional/temporary rates. I'll sit and watch for a while.

**I was good and I called a handyman. The good and bad thing about us is we are very cautious. We very rarely make snap decisions. If something needs to be done around the house, we wait. If it's not urgent anyway. As a result, though we had PLENTY of cash in the bank to do everything I want to get done, back in 2005 when some of these things came up, we really hesitated. I am not quick to call it a fault of ours. We have learned over the years that by putting off purchases and such, we often realize we can live without. So it's kind of like, let's wait a year or 2 or 3. The impact on our finances is astounding. BUT at the same time, we probably put off stuff we shouldn't. That is true.

Anyway, we have some issues with our gutters and I didn't want to drag my feet on it. I draw the line at anything that can cause further damage if not fixed ASAP.

Researched and found a very highly recommended handyman. Turns out he could work on all the jobs we need help with right now. I asked him to come out to fix the gutters and give us quotes on the rest. We'd see how we like him.

AND, he never showed up.

I was astounded. 1 - because he was billed as SO reliable. 2 - because Craigslist is filled with desperate pleas for work. I assumed the laborers would be less flaky than usual.

Boy was I wrong. With all that I heard I gave the guy the benefit of the doubt, and called to try to reschedule. For all I know he was incapacitated or something. But he never returned my call.

I give up!

As I perused Craigslist printing out ads for dh to follow up on (I don't have time for this!!!!!) I saw this handyman guy busy posting ads on the day he stood us up. What the heck????

I don't *get* people!!!!!!!!!!!! Too busy looking for work to do the work that is given???

Since today is dh's birthday I will leave it be, but the rest of the week he has some work to do. I've spent enough time as is trying to search out someone reliable. Ugh. I give the job to him!

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**Dh's birthday is today. His mom brought lasagna and pie yesterday. & took us out for Benihana's. I had NEVER been. We had a blast.

Dh's aunt came along. She is moving to China for 3 years to do missionary work and such (she already lived there many years - I didn't meet her for a long time or see her much when we first dated. But we have gotten used to having her around more lately -kids are very close with her).

So it was our "good bye" to her as well.

They asked a couple of times if we would bring the kids to China. What a loaded question. Of course; would be awesome. Um, not sure if that is in the budget!!!!!! Ask me in 3 years. I have the feeling all 4 of us will not go, no. Maybe dh and the kids. I did just go to Japan after all. It's just one of those things where paying for 4 people is so mind boggling. I know MIL would love to take the kids, but they are young enough, I don't think so! I am sure negotiations on that will ensue in the upcoming years. The kids will be very blessed if they are able to go. In the long run MIL will probably take dh and the kids. But then there is the fairness to his sister. & yeah - I just don't know.

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On a frugal note, I am meeting dh for lunch at our favorite buffet. He gets a FREE meal on his birthday.

We also have only spent about $40 on gas for the cars, all month. What the heck? We were hard pressed to stay within $300 some months last year. This month will be $100 easy, even with 2.5 trips to the Bay Area & one trip to the snow. Craziness. We may eke out some extra savings.

2009 Budget

January 18th, 2009 at 08:03 am

Every time my pay changes I look at the flow of bills and see if I need to move anything around. I also evaluate all of our savings contributions, etc.

So I came up with a rough new budget.

Because we pay so many of our bills on our credit card (just about everything we can), I don't have a lot going on in my checking account. This is pretty much how it goes:

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+ 2757 (first of month)

-1400 Credit Card (groceries, gas, utilities, misc.)
- 300 Other/Utilities (Gardener, HOA, water, sewer, gas, electric)
- 500 Short-Term Savings
- 333 ROTH

+ 2757 (mid month)

- 550 Medical Insurance
-1100 Mortgage
- 300 Preschool
- 500 Short-Term Savings
- 500 Long-Term Savings

Of course, if anything else is due in any given month, we pay it from savings (insurance and taxes, etc.). Or any small cash amount that we can not throw on the card. Comes from savings.

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I found the way I had it set up before, I had too much stuff piling up and due at the beginning of the month.

I decided the simplest thing to do was to begin to prepay the preschool payment at the end of the month. This is fair enough. I used to pretty much do this anyway, but had gotten into the habit of paying it with my paycheck on the first. But often I can't pay until like the 5th then. Which is fine, since I prepay the whole month (not required) there have been no complaints. But I think it will be simpler to just pay it on the 31st, going forward. I may have to pull a little out of savings for the first month, which is fine.

I have a built in "emergency fund" in my checking account. The credit card is not due until the end of the month and the mortgage is not due until the middle of the following month. But I just pay them all ahead of time, for simplicity. If I ever needed cash in an emergency that is an easy $1100, by delaying those payments to the due dates.

Anyway, I have been paying paying the credit card around the 20th, which is cutting it a little close for me. Never had a problem (knock on wood) but I look forward to re-arranging some things and paying that on the 1st again. As a result, I won't have to RUN to the bank when I get my paycheck. Phew. I prefer to not care so much about payday.

I can't put anything else on the card. (Mortgage, preschool, most utilities, etc.) Everything else that I can, I do. For rewards, of course. & simplicity though - it's just very convenient.

I was funding the ROTHs evenly every paycheck, but I am loading up one of our ROTHS for 2008 right now (the only one that will let me apply automatic savings to last year), and so figured once a month is fine. It probably makes sense with the current incarnation to switch to once a month contributions, indefinitely.

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This is the extent of my budgeting. We keep the card expenditures at $1400/month. (It will be more when we charge medical fees or dental bills, auto repairs, etc. These are all things we pay from savings).

So if the card is more or the utilities come out to more, it gives us pause. & we re-evaluate.

& of course we take all of our one-time expenses, add them up for the year, and divide by 12, to make sure we save ample amounts.

That is about the extent of my "budget." I re-evaluate it once a year. More often if we get out of whack. I don't like to spend inordinate amounts of time and effort on it. I don't like thinking about it every day. Kind of a PITA if you ask me. Our savings were very much on "auto pilot" when we both worked, our budget was strict, and we saved plenty. Never thought much about it. That is my end goal. Evaluating every month or quarter or year is fine. Every day is too much for me. As much as I love numbers I don't like to obsess over a budget, for sure. I was far happier when I didn't have to obsess so much, and I am getting there, slowly but surely. I think this year is going to be way more relaxed. Phew!

Of course, I mention we budget around $500/month for groceries and $300 for gas. Kind of rules of thumbs (actually, more like maximums). BUT if we have a cheap month elsewhere we don't mind going over a bit. We worry more about the totals than any one particular category too much. Definitely prefer that flexibility.

Just a little peek into my method of madness...

Savings Rates for 2009

January 17th, 2009 at 07:23 am

Just a quickie. Now that I have my compensation, I am figuring our savings rate for 2009.

I am not a fan of the "rules of thumb." They mean nothing to us in our situation. Since we pay cash for everything, we need a fair amount of savings. Since we don't have medical benefits, we need a fair amount of savings. Etc., etc.

But here goes:

Retirement - 15%
(5% ROTHs & 10% Employer)

Cash Savings - 4%
(9% when LM is done with preschool, 2010)

Medical Savings - 4%

Short-term Savings - 15%
(To be used within the year)

As such, 28% of my paycheck goes directly to savings, every month. 33% when we are done with preschool (Phew!)

Another 10% is added to my retirement account (more like a 401k than anything) annually.

(I don't necessarily consider the short-term savings as "savings." So take that out and the percentages are a more meaningful 13%/18%).

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This is probably ample, but we have 2 things at play.

1 - We rely too much on employer retirement plan. Given. Then again, I don't have medical benefits. The two are about equal, so I expect some day I can get similar pay and better medical benefits. & it's really moot if dh returns back to work, benefits or not.

But in the interim, our goal is to get to 10% into our ROTHs. We will have enough cash to do so when LM is done with preschool in 2010, so I am happy enough with that. We will probably divert that cash to other savings, BUT if I lost my retirement benefit, 10% minimum to ROTHS would be our goal. In the meantime we have some pretty big contributions to retirement while we are young, which means we could cut back more later if need be. With the plan to move forward again, of course.

2 - We have some catching up to do. Our savings rate was $0 for a few years when we had kids. Very planned. But though I feel we are in a pretty good spot, we still have some catching up to do!

& it just depends on Murphy really. We didn't need much of our medical deductible last year, BUT we used up all of that savings for unexpected dental bills in the end.

If we don't use our medical deductible this year, we can ideally shift that cash into our ROTH or into more long-term savings. That all depends on how lucky we are in 2009 though. Not exactly holding my breath. Wink

IT's Warm Here

January 15th, 2009 at 07:15 am

We had a record breaking 74-degree day Tuesday. The weather has been GORGEOUS.

Today is s'posed to be about 70 as well.

Funny thing is I am volunteering outside this morning and it is in the 30s, so I am going to bundle up real good, and then come home and change into some lighter clothes before I go to work.

I heard a joke the other day. Some joke about a guy in Colorado, who is from California. He is wearing shorts and flip flops and comes upon a bunch of locals bundled up on a sunny but cold day. The locals ask him why he is dressed like that and isn't he cold? He says, "Where I come from the sun works." LOL. Yeah, that about sums it up. It's been in the 30s over night but it will heat up well into the 70s, given some sun. & having family from Colorado, yeah, the atmosphere is just very different there. So I really *get* that joke.

Anyway, since winter is like half way over and all we have had is sun for a week, I am thinking this winter will be a breeze. The weather was just on my mind seeing all the posts about freezing, cold, and 30 below. Ugh!

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I am joining the "Ebay Challenge." My goal is actually to NET $100/month income. We grossed $70 ebay already, but I am not sure how much of that is profit. I will figure it out by end of month.

This weekend I need to work on some Craigslist sales, since the last 2 weeks of the month are shaping up to be pretty busy. If anything around the house is going to get sold, has got to be in the next week.

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Work is crazy. I have a distinct hatred of 1099s. Bah.

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My house is full of icky sickies. Dh and BM have 2 different viruses right now. LM generally doesn't get anything, but he just has a perpetual runny nose. So he may be fine (knock on wood). I guess me being at work insulates me from the germs a bit. It is bad enough to try to avoid one virus, but now I am trying to evade 2. I don't think my odds are very good. *sigh*

I took a bit of a vacation Tuesday to watch the kids, but it didn't go so well. Weather was beautiful, enjoyed the walk to pick up BM. Turned out he had his worst day at school ever, lucky me. Of course, I quickly saw why because he was in a mood. I figured he wasn't feeling well, and he was throwing up soon enough. I thought we would take the nice day to go to the park, and would just enjoy the rare break during busy season, but didn't quite turn out like that!

My parents were also going to visit Saturday but now they won't since my mom is so susceptible to germs. *sigh*

2008 was actually a pretty good year on the sick front. We had that nasty flu early in the year but that was about it. The 2-3 years prior were marked by constant illness. I was relieved that it was true - BM has not picked up anything particularly nasty at school - he's already gotten everything imaginable at preschool. Phew. Maybe we have paid our sick dues for a while. That is what I was thinking anyway. But 2009 is not off to a great start!

Vacation Plans Shaping Up

January 12th, 2009 at 03:09 pm

Well, it is only January, but 2009 is shaping up much more to be my style. We already said no to a free vacation to Florida. I just want a CALM year. I an NOT a vacation person. I don't want to go on long trips every year. I just don't enjoy them, overall.

I think last year was a step in the right direction. Hopefully this year will pan out. We already told MIL we did not want to go on such a big trip this year. I should probably tell my dad the same. They are into last minute trips lately, as they near retirement and all.

What we did do was book our camping trip this summer, and one weekend away.

Our "vacation" plan is this:

One weekend in San Francisco (mostly free with timeshare)

One weekend in Monterey (Spring or fall? Mostly free with timeshare)

Family Mini-Camp near Tahoe (3 nights) $580 - includes food, lodging and activities

Season passes to amusement park and water park in Bay Area - $275 (free parking)

More weekends at the family cabin (snow weekends, Tahoe weekends, lake weekends in the summer, etc.) FREE

Not to mention, our neighborhood pool opens in May and will be open through September. This is where we spend much of our leisure time in the summers.

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In years past I have had friends pity us because our vacation budget was the first to go when we had small kids. Um, somehow I think we will survive. Obviously we have a lot of free perks, but I overall enjoy having a lot of 3-day weekends and stuff like that. I really look forward to a relaxing year.

In fact, this is the first year since my maternity leaves that I am planning time off without going anywhere. Not THAT is a vacation. (I think it's somewhat of an accountant thing. Most of my co-workers never really go anywhere for vacation. We just like the opportunity to lounge around at home). I'm swinging 2 weeks at home with my vacation time this year. So I am pretty happy. Big Grin I guess to me there is no place like home. But I see plenty of fun & excitement in my year as well.

Taxes, Check

January 12th, 2009 at 11:51 am

A busy but productive weekend.

I usually do my taxes pretty early (like Dec. 31 if possible) because work gets so hectic. So I rather do my own before I get bogged down in everyone else's taxes.

But anyway, I also read state of Cali may issue IOUs for tax refunds, so I figure maybe I should get mine in before that happens.

Was surprised to get $50 back from the Feds; thought we would owe a bit. I had kind of over estimated some income and under-estimated some expenses. So, phew.

State - $550 back.

$600 - all to savings, of course.

I can't e-file until Jan. 16th though, with the software I have. So I will probably file this weekend then.

I usually play Federal as breakeven as I can and go for a state refund because the state if just so complicated. My boss said I could just do a flat amount per paycheck so I chose $50, which was about half of what the state calculated at 15 exemptions or whatever. So I was just happy to WAY lower my withholding, even if it was still a bit much.

BUT, fast forward to 2009, and the state is big on withholding unnecessary amounts to raise revenue now. Plus, if they can't honor their debts, well, I don't want to pay in too much.

So I think I will from my withholding from $1200/year to $700/year.

I will wait to see what my compensation is, to be sure. This will help offset $240 annual state disability tax raise. The rest of the difference will go into savings. I'll work out the details when I know my compensation for 2009.

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I also upgraded Quicken over the weekend. That is just not something I want to mess with - I Want a supported version - and my support ends mid-year 2009.

Anyway, got an offer to download it for $39.99, directly from Quicken. I was sold. I had been planning to pick it up from Costco at that price.

The new version has some great improvements and will save me some time.

I am pretty convinced I save way more over the years than I would ever spend on Quicken (buying every 3 years). I think this is my personal best move when it comes to improving my personal finances. It does depend what you are looking for. I haven't tried the budget features because I am not much of a budget person. The accountant in me does enjoy the pile of electronic data though. & tracking (& organizing) every dime.

My one pet peeve with my old version was I could not remove old accounts from the side bars and stuff and still have them show up in "Net Worth" reports. IF there was a way, I couldn't figure it out. BUT now I Can. VERY easily. I may switch to Quicken to tracking Net Worth going forward, which is awesome and will save time too.

What Did I Tell Ya?

January 10th, 2009 at 11:22 am

I mentioned in Analise's blog - everything is going out of business here.

Restaurant.com e-mailed me today to say that our favorite Thai place went out of business. Bummer!

I paid a whopping $2(?) for that gift certificate, so I think we would have been okay. BUT, they said I could exchange it for another one.

I had no idea they had that kind of guarantee. I am waiting for the confirmation to pick out a new restaurant.

Maybe we should used them sooner rather than later, lest we have to exchange them 10 times. *sigh*

ETA: Ended up going with an Ethiopian Restaurant. Something different...

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I applied for a new credit card with my CU.

Chase was too slow. They have yet to send us an affidavit and dh called them AGAIN this week. They said they couldn't fax it over and gave him more runaround. ANYWAY, I downloaded our card charges for the week, today, into Quicken. Lo and behold, they credited our account for both Fraudulent charges. Hallelujah. Only took a few months...

Anyway, I still feel like, what the hell? Why couldn't they have just told him they'd remove them then. ??????????

Too bad for them - I already applied for my new card. We're out.

My new plan is to not use the card, just to piss them off. They can close it when they tire of us not using it, in a couple of years. Which means I may close one of my other cards. I don't like having more than 2 cards open.

I may have a change of heart too. I am just too steamed to give them my business right now. Taking a break.

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I opened another savings account which pays 0.5% more interest than my money market/checking account. But I am keeping the MM because I really like it. Having checks would not have been a criteria of mine, but I have gotten spoiled by the account. None of this transferring funds business. (The new higher interest account is at the same bank so I can transfer funds instantly and write a check - now you are talking. Both account earn good interest overall).

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Met with our insurance agent yesterday. Nothing changed. I think our house was covered for something like $200k replacement when we bought, and we revised that to almost $400k in 2006, because constructions costs had gotten SO expensive in the boom.

Agent tells me costs have not dropped. Or so little it would make no difference.

I was skeptical. I didn't expect a huge drop on one hand. On the other hand, the industry has been so shaken, you can't tell me costs aren't dropping, or going to drop anyway. Something to research on my own a little I guess. We were kind of at an impasse there. Though I'd frankly rather be over insured. But certainly not WAY over insured. I'll keep my ear to the ground as far as construction costs.

I also had gotten it in my head that our deductibles were $1500 on our cars. They are only $1k. I have no idea where that figure came from.

We have comprehensive coverage on dh's car because it is so cheap and car theft is so prevalent in our neighborhood. I am on the fence about that one. I think we'll keep it for now, but as our cash grows, we will probably drop it. His car was near worthless until gas prices spiked in the summer. (Which made it more valuable and more rife for theft). So, what otherwise would be a no brainer has become rather complicated. More cash in the bank will make it rather a moot point though.

It also looks like we both drove about 10k miles last year. Go figure. Don't ask me how. It was the long trips. My commute is not long and I was shocked to see those #s. I know we drove about 1k miles to Disney and Yosemite. But yeah, that's only 1k. What the heck?

Actually, I think I figured it out. We had begun meeting dh's mom half way for exchanging kids. So if she takes the kids once a month, that is about 250 miles per month. (In the end it is the same as driving to/from San Jose once, just breaks it up a bit). Anyway, yes, we drove to San Jose a LOT less in 2008. But we drove half way a LOT more. THat's probably it.

It will be interesting to see how much our auto expenses drop when LM is done with preschool. It is a little out of the way. As is karate class. As they get older there are more activities and such closer to home. & BM simply walks to school. Quite a difference from driving the kids to preschool out past my work.

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Today I am working. I went to aerobics but will probably have to give up Saturdays for tax season. IF I go to work at 7 I can be done at 1-3. I didn't get here until 9 today though. Not thrilled with that, but will only be a few months.

Working Saturdays for 4 months.

Dh finally booked our weekend in San Francisco (so I will squeeze some time off). The suite averages $150/night. We are staying 2 nights for free (MIL's time share). We will have to pay $40+ to park though. We're staying near the wharf. It's got to be the most touristy area, but I love it for whatever reason. Love those noisy sea lions. I know we will eat well. I am not sure what else we will do. Planning to meet up with some friends for dinner one night. Another friend can get us into the newly re-opened Natural History museum for free. BUT I think we want some alone time too. So, we'll see. It would be nice to check it out and see if it is something the kid's speed. & nice to see someone I only get together with every year or 2. But, I don't want to muck up our alone weekend with all these other dates.

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Oh yeah, more stuff. Dh is proud he went to Safeway and spent $15. Full price was $35. HE saved about 60%. 2 manufacturer coupons, and some sales.

We bought some boots in another county in our quest for snow boots. Never really found anything worthwhile, and didn't need them, so dh returned them. I just noticed the return at Payless was more than we paid, by like a quarter! I mentioned to dh and he said it was probably the difference in sales tax rates. Good point!

Can we run a scam there? Start buying things in Placer and returning them in Sacramento? (Reminds me how shocked I am sometimes in the Bay Area because their sales tax is 0.5% higher. I notice it when I do a fast food run for the usual. We should start doing all our returns in San Jose).

Anyway, I am not sure if Wal Mart was smart enough to figure that one out. I will have to look again tonight. I'll let you know. I have the feeling it was just Payless...

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Entertaining my brain while I work:

http://www.mutualfundshow.com/shows/index.asp

IT's a local mutual fund guy, but a pretty good show. I'll need to find other podcasts and such once I burn through the recent ones.

Tales of the Lost Bible

January 9th, 2009 at 06:25 pm

Well, work has been a wee bit crazy.

New employee is nice, but not so nice for the 1/31 crunch (W-2s, 1099s and such). He needs to be learned. So I think things will be a bit crazy in January, but that Feb - April will be a little calmer than last year. Also, as expected, losing a few of our individual tax clients. Which is actually good. We don't want them. Kind of losing the trouble makers anyway, which is always nice. Wink We are more business accountants who do the individual returns for business owners to be nice. But then they refer their relatives and friends, and next thing you know we are doing a million individual tax returns. So, this year could be good. Though I am sure losing too many clients isn't great either... But I certainly expected it.

In other news, first real life foreclosure (outside neighborhood). Acquaintance has hinted for a long while they would lose their home. Well, it's official. The kicker is guess how much they paid for their little slice of suburbia? $100k in like 1998. Yeah. (Reminds me, dh's cousin got hurt at work and is also worried about it - he paid about $100k too). Yeah, ask me how sorry I am about people who can't afford $100k houses. This is California after all. I can't see past my jealousy that if I was like 3 years older I could have a $0 mortgage instead of a $200k mortgage. Wink But yeah - that's the extent of it. Actually, I don't envy their situation (today) at all. It's just sad.

BUT anyway. The first person did pay $100k for their house. BUT they borrowed upwards of $200k against it. Yeah. That explains that one. So they are in their 40s, with 4 kids, and moving in with relatives.

Our friends who paid $600k for houses worth $300k today? They are still hanging on. Don't ask me how.

There will definitely be more foreclosure tales to come.

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In other news, BM and I went for a bike ride the other day and he found a laptop bag. I kind of thought, "Ooooh - that's a nice bag" as we have been meaning to buy one. BUT at the same time, I watch too much reality crime TV. Wondered if I should even touch it. Could be evidence.

In the end, I touched it. It was actually a bag with a Bible in it.

The scenario became clear to me at that point. Probably stolen from a parked car; tossed aside when it was found only to be a Bible.

A surname was in the bible but I had no luck tracking anyone in the white pages. There were also 2 church programs, so I tried contacting both churches. They don't seem that interested. I feel bad; no idea what to do with it. I will keep trying for a bit. Reminds me, I should ask around the neighborhood. Can't help but feel it was stolen/lost from our neighborhood.

Anyway, around the same day we found that, I was watching a reality crime thing. Lady was shot to death in her office building for a laptop bag. What was in it? Books! This is my PSA. Laptop bags may not be the best place to store non-valuable items. What a sad world we live in. Maybe I don't want a laptop bag after all. Those things are dangerous. Maybe we just need an unassuming backpack...

Anyway, still determined to find rightful owner. I have more I can do.

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BTW, VERY sorry for the many who have been losing jobs lately. Reading the blogs it appears pretty brutal out there.

$20 Challenge & Thoughts on 2008

January 7th, 2009 at 12:28 pm

I'm cleaning some things up on my blog.

I am out of the $20 challenge. It just did not motivate me at all in 2008, and so I guess I am no longer in.

I think the thing for me was it really motivated me to scrounge up change when we weren't saving much. BUT we are saving a lot more and I am reverting to the "pay yourself first" philosophy much more. I could track that, but it's kind of boring. I don't need the motivation of a challenge either. Believe me, I pay myself first. Nothing will change that.

Likewise, I already posted this in 2007, but I felt I spent too much time and energy chasing pennies. Though I Certainly have gotten some better habits and have embraced some cost savings and other sources of income, I just don't care to spend the time to track it all any more. I guess it's one thing to chase pennies. It's another thing to spend more time tracking the pennies saved. Ugh.

In addition, dh is carrying most of the load here. He is the one who clips coupons, who shops smarter for groceries, and who makes money on the side from ebay and such. As usual, I feel my time is much better spent at my job, where I am paid quite well, even for overtime. So as he picks up some slack, I am happy to focus more on my job. I am far better off chasing a 1% raise than spending an inordinate amount of time to save a few hundred dollars.

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I'm keeping an exercise log on the side to kind of motivate me. If I can squeeze 3 days a week of moderate exercise during tax season/winter, I am good. The rest of the year it isn't such a challenge.

A am also re-attempting the "New/Used/Free" thing. I think it would be fascinating to track what was brought into our house, and purged, throughout the year. Every year I try, but it gets way too overwhelming. For example, dh went shopping yesterday, so I already have stuff to add. & as usual, tracking what we buy is not the hard part. Tracking what we receive is another story. I know our family means well, but somehow we are a dumping ground for unwanted crap. I have been really good lately about setting it out for donation. BUT I think the charities have been coming around way more than usual due to the Holidays. Averaging once a week pickup. Doesn't get any easier than that. MIL left us a pile of crap, and we set it out on the front porch for donation. However, we gave SIL a toy that she asked to have. & then she sent it back. Guess we could donate it, but we want to sell it. So, stuff like that is just never ending. (& BTW - when we give you something - we don't want it back!!!!!!! I guess she was being polite, but we have been in such a purge mode, both dh and I were extremely annoyed. LOL. Glad it wasn't just me - I think he was more peeved than I Was).

Anyway, yeah, I have my New/Used/Free page on the side as well. Will see how long I can keep up.

Citi Beat us to the Punch!

January 7th, 2009 at 07:56 am

Oooh, it happened to us to. I pulled out the Citi BT card of my hubbies and handed it to him yesterday. Told him it would take a minute to close. Don't think he got around to it. (He spent the day having it out with Chase actually. Yeah, I think it's pretty official we are going to leave. They couldn't possibly fax an affidavit over. They have to mail it over. S'posedly this is their 4th attempt. Yeah, sure! Not holding my breath).

Anyway, got the mail and a note from Citi that they lowered the credit line on that card from something like $11k to $2k.

Dh does have a Citi card that he does use as a backup card, so I told him he may want to make a purchase on it if he wants to keep it. Though I don't think we really care if they lower the limit.

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Yesterday I made dental appointments, an appointment with our insurance agent, and called around for a handyman. Haven't got anywhere on the last one, but the rain has let up and we need our gutters looked at. A couple of spots are leaking.

I was REALLY annoyed because we were going to San Francisco in a couple of weekends and dh has yet to make the reservation. He is just annoying me to no end. It was for him, so I told him. "FINE" the other day. If he doesn't want a weekend away. I don't want to hear any whining how we never get away.

Anyway, may work out for the best. We had dental appointments in Bay Area that weekend, but he thought I meant the weekend before. When I corrected him he was pissed off because BM has school. I think my plan was to change the appointment once I got the school calendar, but I never did. The appointments are VERY hard to come by. So I rolled my eyes and told him leaving school a couple of hours early one day was not the end of the world. But I called yesterday to make sure. I was right, I knew the date, but we were able to switch it to a Friday where kids had no school. Phew. So, appointments are still in January, and now I am rather relieved dh did not book the time share yet. We will go to the dentist in San Jose, drop off the kids, and drive up to San Francisco for the weekend. If dh ever books it anyway...

Anyway, yes, I am feeling accomplished.

2008 vs. 2007

January 4th, 2009 at 08:38 am

Expenses anyway...



Allowances: We did better with our allowance this year. Technically we both get $50/month, or $600/year. I think dh did a lot better because he got so much used stuff and used profits from his buying/selling to buy his toys. But I toned it down a bit as well.

Auto:

Auto fuel was down $400. With gas prices we were way more mindful. Also, the van gets 20mpg and the subcompact gets 40mpg. We simply drove the subcompact more. I have been driving the van more the last couple of months to give that car a break. But yeah, was surprised we did spend less on gas. This does not count how many times dh's family slipped us cash for cash either - so we fared pretty well this year in this category. We spent $2800 on fuel.

Insurance was down $70. We spent $1500. (Liability insurance is really expensive in our zip code - terrible drivers).

Auto registration was about $250. Down $33 from last year.

Auto service went down $3. LOL. I guess we are consistent. We spent $1584. I put AAA here - $130. $667 on the 2005 van. It needed a new battery and a new windshield. Problems with the door locks and the window (as usual), and a diagnosis of a check engine light (was nothing). Also, 2 oil changes. Leaves $787 for the 2001 Ford. 2 oil changes, replace PVC pipe, replaced motor mounts, and a new battery. Oh yes, and replaced some brake lights. The Ford has almost 100k miles and has pretty much never needed a thing but new tires. So it was an "expensive" year for that car, but a long one coming. (Last year we paid so much because we had so many superficial problems with the van. Last year we only spent $150 to maintain the Ford).

Bank Charges: I was mortified to have a $3 overdraft charge. My Bad. LOL. I think it's a first.

Childcare: Well this was pricey! We spent about $400 on babysitting in 2008. About $400 more than in 2007. Was a bit of a splurge for us. The rest was preschool for both children. BM attended through mid-July so was a little longer than 2007, that both of them attended.

Diapers: last year's # was amount we spent on the cloth diaper service. (We used cloth but set them out once a week to be cleaned). This year we probably purchased disposables through mid-year. But something we haven't bought in many months. Hopefully, never again. Phew!

Dining: We splurged on this a bit more this year. One thing, dh and I have been having much more lunch dates and sate nights. So this is where we loosened up for 2008.

Education: This went up a bit as we paid for more school supplies and stuff for Kindergarten. Dh also took an Indian cooking class.

Entertainment: Blockbuster Online

Gifts: Guess we were more generous this year. Actually, I put my dad's fees for Family Camp here - we treated.

Groceries: They went up about $500. Since BM was done with preschool we had to buy a lot more food for him. (He was fed 3 days a week before, and he eats a LOT). We also tried a CSA service (organic produce delivered to our door from a local farm) for about 3 months. We just found it to be too expensive to justify for now. A goal of ours is to get a bike basket and do more produce shopping at the farms a couple of miles from our house. So you know, we could make a bike trip of it, and stock up while supporting the TRULY local farmers.

Household: About $1k for the gardener. We also spent about $250 to repair our fridge, and spent a fair amount on thermal drapes throughout the house. We bought a rice cooker and a broom. We also bought a carpet shampooer.

Insurance:

Disability $155 (down 30%)
Home/Flood $1273
Life Insurance $586 ($1.2 Mil coverage)

Medical:

Medical was interesting. We switched to a HDHP and were able to save $250/month, while taking on a $3k deductible. This limited our out-of-pocket to $3k though. Under our old plan we could have been on the hook for more.

Last year we paid over $8200 on medical premiums/co-pays and $565 at the dentist.

This year we spent $6972 on medical premiums and deductibles (including an ambulance trip to the emergency room), and $3300 at the dentist. LM had a consultation for mouth issues and BM had a pile of cavities. Both kids are also going every 6 months for checkups/cleaning now.

Misc: Guess we are consistent. Dh spent $800 or so on his new computer. One of our newer computers, the motherboard blew and it was not salvageable. We don't remember the last time a computer of ours expired before its time. We just donated some old computers from the 90s for example.

This category included swim lessons for the kids, movies, 2 shows/concerts, camping supplies, outings with the kids (zoos, museums, etc.), school pictures, re-size of my wedding ring, new workout shoes for me, etc., etc.

Personal care: This is just haircuts. We are low maintenance. The kids are old enough to handle beauty school so we saved a bundle. When they were younger we took them to Cool Cuts. It was just so much easier.

Taxes: Just property taxes

Utilities:

Water - our bill went down $17. They raised rates but we were offered metered water for the first time. I really expected to save more with the metering. But $17 is $17! Water was $1095.

We paid a little more for gas/electric because 2008 was our first full year on budget billing. All in all I think we spend less (had lower bills in 2008). But we have prepaid balances on both accounts. I wish they would just take our annual expenses and divide by 12. But they refigure every 3 months and end up way over-billing some parts of the year. It bugs me because we are so consistent and we did this to smooth out the bills. Though they are smoother than usual. Our gas bills run $10 in the summer and $100 in the winter. Now they bill us $20 - $40. So it is better. But I wish they would just bill $30/month all year, and be done with it. Gas/Electric was $1460.

Cable & phone is hard to separate. Our cheap cable company provided our internet and cable service. BUT they got bought out by Comcast. We switched to Dish which is a little more expensive, and DSL through our phone company. So I used to classify internet under cable, and now under "phone." So it is a little confusing. We are definitely paying more.

However, we used to pay about $80/month for cell phones, and now we pay $55. Mid-year our parents added on to our plan and now we all share our minutes.

All in all phone/cable was $60 cheaper than the prior year. (Oh yeah, we got a lot of discounts from Dish because of the TERRIBLE customer service. Dh has gotten them to lower our bills a few times. That helps). Cable and Television was $2200. For Land line, 2 cell phones, Dish, & DSL.

Vacation: This is the first year since kids we put vacation in our budget. We had room for the first time. We were aiming for $1500. We went to D-Land for a week and did Family Camp. This also included a minimal amount for our trip to Denver.

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In the end we spent $1800 more in 2008 than in 2007.

I can sum up the culprits as having 2 in preschool a chunk of the year (non longer an issue) and large dental bills.

We did spend a lot on fixing up stuff around the house; long overdue.

Everything else was rather consistent.

Roundabout goal is to limit spending to $60k annually. Much more feasible for 2009; certainly 2010 when LM is done with preschool. We also lowered expenses by $2400 annually, with our refi.

I did net about $66k this year. I did not include any income or payroll taxes in this analysis.

We had about $3k in other income. $1k interest, $500 credit card rebates, $1500 in ebay sales, rebates and focus groups.

We received that $1800 tax rebate, but we also owed the IRS a chunk for 2007 so was kind of a wash.

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We also doubled our ROTH contributions in 2008, from $50/month to $100/month.

We started the year with $0 in our mid-term savings fund, and ended the year with about $2k. I had wanted to save $5k. We saved about $4200, but had a lot of unexpected expenses during the year, which drained the account to about $2k.

Not our most spectacular savings year ever, but may just be our best year since having kids. Wink

All in all, a pretty good year.

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ETA: I notice something large missing from my snapshot. For whatever reason, I usually include mortgage principle payments in my monthly expense snapshot, but I can not get them to show up here. What the heck? That's another $4k!!!! Am I blind?

Well, not as near $60k in expenses as I thought then. But that is my goal and I still see it as very feasible. I have to go figure this out now. It's driving me batty. MAkes you think, "What else is missing?"

A Financial Look Back

January 3rd, 2009 at 08:35 am

Well, I updated my net worth in my last post:



However, though I have discussed more of our history here and I have a "How We got Here" category, I haven't been good about having any resource for new or occasional readers.

I feel like my blog has been considerably more organized lately, but that is one are where I have lacked. Likewise, I have often thought it would be more interesting to share how we got here, than where we are now. Which I am sure there are a lot of questions about that in general.

So, don't know why it never occurred to me before, but yesterday I was suddenly excited to piece together about 10 years of net worth history. There is a lot of estimating involved, though I actually had bank accounts and stuff, and I keep meticulous track of our retirement, so most of the assets are pretty exact. I guessed more on home and auto values, and mortgage balances, etc. I know I was in the ballpark which is all that really matters.

It's interesting too because I look back at things I often find that memory and reality do not jive. Wink So it was a good exercise to look some things up.

& this is what I came up with:



**1998**

I have said often that I graduated college with a net worth of $0. I'd be lucky to have a few hundred dollars in checking and the car I drove was probably worth $100. Wink

BUT, one thing my memory failed me was how generous my grandparents had been. My grandfather passed right before I began college, and my grandmother gave my sister and I $20k each at the time. I got such a chip on my shoulder that I "did it all myself" in college that I forgot about most of that money. If you asked me I would have said it was $10k and I didn't touch it. BUT I came across some financial records lately that showed it was $20k. I honestly did not remember at all. I spent most of $10k of it my first 2 years of college when I was making less money. By 3rd year I was making about $10k/year and didn't touch the rest of it until we bought our home. It's kind of mind boggling to me. Money was so tight back then, why on the heck didn't I touch it? I was crazy. LOL. I would have never guessed I was so frugal back then. But yeah, it's just interesting. It basically helped me move out on my own before I really had the income or means. Which saved my sanity. Thank Goodness!

Also, dh worked since he was 15 and pretty much saved every dime. He made as much as me in college but he had no bills. So I estimated we left 1998 with about $30k in cash. My $10k and he had saved up about $20k by then. Maybe more.

This is where people annoy me about my dh's situation. So what he hasn't worked in 6 years? There is NO WAY we would have had it so good in our 20s if dh hadn't of saved every dime he ever made pretty much. I mean when he worked, he always saved 90%+. ALWAYS. It's why he can afford some time off. Wink

**1999**

1999 we graduated college and tripled our wage. ($10k to $30k, each). We saved our $20k raise each for 6 months and had the cash to put down on our condo.

My 20-year-old Toyota died about the same time I started my job. I bought a "like new" Mustang for about $5k. I borrowed the money from my parents at 0% and paid it back before year end probably. That is one where I had to guess. So, our car value went up a tad. I would have kept driving my old clunker if it had more life, but the engine blew. My job required about 30k miles a year anyway, so it was hard on that car. Dh had to replace his first car in college so he was driving a car worth about $1k then.

The car thing is also where we saved considerable money. Those old cars never had much in car repairs. Not more than a few hundred dollars a year.

Also, going to public college in California was VERY cheap in the 1990s. My entire education cost about $10k, books and all. His parents paid for his. I worked and paid as I went. We had no college debt.

**2000**

In 2000 we saved most of dh's wage. We both ended up making closer to $40k that year. Dh invested much in tech stocks. We started to put away money for retirement, etc.

**2001**

2001 was interesting. We decided to move to cheaper lands. But our timing was bad. The plan was to sell the condo for $100k profit, BUT we put it on the market right around 9/11. We literally expected it to sell in a day with multiple offers, as real estate had been insane for MANY years. BUT in the end we couldn't sell it for even what we bought it for.

We went through with the purchase of our new home in December 2001. We almost didn't, but we decided to go through with it. I can't say owning 2 homes is something I would ever do again. But we lucked out.

We left the year with a pile of debt. We were honest on our loans and I think they were both no doc loans. They didn't blink at lending us $500k when we made maybe $100k. (One job was 100+ miles from our new house. Dh had to sign some form that he could work from home or something, to get the loan). Just a sign of the times.

In the end we did buy a house, twice the size of our condo, complete with yard and garage, and luxury throughout, for the same price we bought and sold our condo for. So it was a good move. Pretty much could never afford an actual house back home.

By year end we were both making $50k. I quit my job mid December for the move and had a job lined up here for Jan. 1. I expected a 10%+ pay cut with the move, but with benefits I actually made a little more here, to boot.

We had saved a lot of cash in 2002, but sunk it into the house. We borrowed a chunk from our condo too, for the down payment on the house.

**2002**

In April 2002 we sold the condo. Phew! I know many people assume we made the move just for equity. Well, we didn't end up with any! House sold for about $300k and after fees and costs we got about $275k. We had paid $260k. We made a small profit, but we also maintained/owned 2 homes for 4 months. I consider it rather breakeven.

But we were able to buy TWICE the house with that money. It was less about equity; more about the lower cost of living.

Dh looked for a job up here but never found one. He wanted to move from marketing into advertising but most of the firms around here had government contracts and were hurting in 2000.

Since we were still saving his entire wage but we no longer had to save massive amounts of cash for a house (as we had to back home) we felt pretty good and decided we were ready for kids. So we started trying to conceive. I became pregnant in October 2002 and dh was laid off from his job back home in November. We had really counted on saving his wage for another 9 months, so it was kind of a blow to us. We are extremely fiscally conservative!!!

Oh yes, dh's old car was on its last legs in 2002 so we bought a newer car when we sold the condo. We bought a 2001 Ford with 15k miles for $7888. Best car deal we ever got. The car is awesome.

The stock market was not nice during this time frame.

**2003**

In 2003, BM was born. I took about 12 weeks off work, partially subsidized by disability insurance (short-term, mandatory in Cali actually).

I waited until the bitter end, but BM was born in July and it was around September and my return to work that dh finally convinced me that my Mustang convertible was NOT going to work with the baby. So I sold it for $3k and bought an old Saturn with tons of miles for $800. We wanted to get a minivan eventually, but just didn't feel ready. We wanted more kids and wanted to be prepared if I was ever to be put on bedrest as the sole breadwinner, etc.

**2004**

Not much went on in 2004. I became pregnant with our second child.

During these years we shifted a lot of cash to our IRAs (2003, 2004, 2005). So our cash was going down a bit but our retirement went up.

**2005**

2005 was the end of our "carefree" years.

LM was born and with the new "Family Leave Act" in Cali, I was able to take 12 weeks off after he was born. I took off about 4 months with him. I received about $800/week for 16 weeks (disability/family leave), so we didn't have to touch savings too much.

I remember this being one of the most special times in our lives. Having a second child was a considerably easier adjustment, AND I didn't have to rush back to work 8 weeks post partum. Of course, fact is I had gone back to work 8 weeks PP with my first and I never saw it as a big deal. It was an easy transition since my job was so close and so low stress. BM slept most of the time I was at work, and it just worked for us.

LM was another story. I returned to work in October and he refused to take a bottle. I started to fall apart. I asked my boss if I could work part-time for a bit and was mortified when I burst into tears in his office.

I realized about that time I had PPD. The many months at home I had no idea because I couldn't have had it more easy or been more relaxed. The cool thing about having a SAHD is that I never had to care for a new baby alone.

I had an inkling something was amiss because I started to have panic attacks in traffic. It was odd, but it never occured to me that was a sign of PPD. So I returned to work, and the slight stress of going to a job I love pretty much sent me over the edge. There were signs much earlier on but I just had no idea.

I also gained new respect for women with PPD. Most of the women I know were often misdiagnosed and most of them had crappy husbands and no help. I think, of course watching a new baby with no help is depressing. Doh! But it was so much more than that. I couldn't have had a more supportive boss or a more supportive husband, and I pretty much couldn't function.

I do share because I had a lot of pre-conceived notions about PPD, and it wasn't at all what I would have thought it was. For one, it was a time in my life that I could have hardly been happier. I was okay as long as I was at home, had no responsibilities but a good baby, and didn't have to go anywhere or do anything. Which is pretty unrealistic for most people to achieve.

Part-time worked out okay. I was pretty stubborn and breastfeeding and so had no interest in talking to my doctor. The last thing I wanted to be was drugged up in my state. No, I don't recommend taking my course of action.

Since I was only working part time, and that pay was WAY less than disability, dh started to look for jobs. Even just seasonal things for Christmas, etc. It was a very hard time because it was then we realized the jobs we scooped up in college were not available to SAHDs who had not worked in a while. It was maddening that he couldn't even get a minimum wage job. & he faced a lot of blatant discrimination. So it was just a very frustrating time.

**2006**

In 2006 we just sucked it up. We knew we had to tighten our belts and move on. I returned to work full-time Jan. 1 and it worked out. I would say I was only half there at work for about 2 years though. I was lucky that my full speed at work was like 2 employees so my half speed was still good enough that my boss was patient with me. IT's our only saving grace for that time. I am very thankful to this day to how understanding my boss has been these last few years.

In 2006 we also went ahead and bought that minivan. Nothing was wrong with my old clunker. I think it is a decision we regret a bit. Probably a little premature, but packing those 2 carseats in the subcompact was driving us nuts. (Though the infant seat was only used 6 months and yeah, looking back, we could have stuck it out).

We had some tech stocks that had done terrible and we just sold those and paid cash for the van. Financed a little because it was a low interest rate and we didn't want to spend all our cash.

2006 was also when I joined SavingAdvice. I realized if dh couldn't find a job, we were screwed. It was just always our backup plan and it was very disheartening when it was kind of ripped out from under us.

Him staying home was always a very temporary consideration. The biggest change since being here is we start to realize that maybe we could live on one income and do well, indefinitely. IT's kind of a mind shift for us. I think ideally we assume dh has many working years left ahead of him (when the children are older). BUT it's much more comforting to not have to rely on that second income. Ever again.

Anyway, 2007 was a really good year for us because we got some cash gifts and I vested in my retirement plan at work. So we had some nice windfalls in 2007. In 2008 we just saved more, and we hope to save even more in 2009.







It's Time for Spring!

January 2nd, 2009 at 02:13 pm

Egads.

Well, I am getting a good start to my more personal/travel goals. We haven't taken the kid(s) to the snow since 2004. LM has never seen snow. We talk about it, but we never go. I think mostly we are not a fan driving near snow. We're not as bad as the Southern Californians who freak out when it comes to a light rain. But yeah, we aren't much better. We don't do snow. Hehe.

I've actually been keeping an eye on the weather a bit because November would have been a better time than any, but the weather has not cooperated much. We usually end up going in the spring anyway, which is nicer. Lots of snow, but not a lot of cold...

But yeah, with the craziness at work of late, I hadn't looked.

But one of dh's relatives is coming up to the cabin this weekend (& ties in with another goal of ours - to make more use of the family cabin in the Sierras). They invited the kids to go up and to play in the snow too.

I am not sure how it will pan out, they were going to drive up today or tonight and there is a small storm today. BUT because of the storm they predict lower snow levels at about the the cabin. SO that would be perfect. As long as the roads are cleared when we drive up tomorrow. But then we can just meet there and the kids could play in the yard. They will be in heaven!!! OR at least we won't have to drive too far to find white stuff. The cabin is only an hour from us; Tahoe 2 hours.

So what does this have to do with spring? Well, we went to the cabin a couple of months ago and we inventoried the snow clothes (mostly from the 70s) and there was no snow boots in LM's size. So, I knew I Would have to run out and get some snow boots for him. & Maybe I'd get him a whole snow outfit just because there was going to be 3 other small kids there about the same size and not sure we had enough. We just buy stuff and grow the arsenal as the family multiplies.

So I ran to Target at lunch. Seemed like a good idea. I had seen snow suits there and everything.

WRONG-O. I should have turned around and left the second I got there. I walked in and there were bikinis on display.

What the heck????

The pile of snow clothing that was there like last week, was completely gone.

I wandered over to the shoes and though there were two entire rows labeled, "boots," there was only 2 pair of adult snow boots there. What the heck?

They are clearing winter inventory out for spring already? Huh?

I was just very confused.

I did spot a couple of pairs of gloves hidden in a clearance rack, so I did grab those. Figured we couldn't have too many gloves. But yeah, will just buy boots on our way out tomorrow. In snow country. Yeesh.

It's just extra mind boggling to me because we had rather warm weather up until maybe 3 weeks ago. I don't know, I don't usually shop for winter stuff. There is usually no need. So I don't know the winter clothing cycle.

But yes, I am excited to go to the snow this weekend. Yippee.

As for me, I dug out my winter coat when we went to look at Xmas lights on a particularly cold night. It was a snow parka I bought in Utah, at the outlets, in 2000 or so. I was marveling at what a good buy that was. For the rare snow trip. It's a very nice coat. I'd be surprised if I spent more than $30 on it.

I can borrow boots from the cabin.

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In other news, I worked on my investments today and it looks like we were down about 25% for the year. Investment down 25%, but we contributed about as much as we lost. That is certainly an important piece of the net worth pie.

I've been kind of heavy in cash (before I bought up some at the "bottom" - meaning the lowest I have ever seen stocks) and we were kind of heavy in international. But as of 1/1 we are kind of at a good mix, so we will resume contributing about 20% to cash/bonds, 25% International, and the rest domestic stocks, in 2009.

I entered all our balances in yahoo today. As of 1/1. I usually do that every year just to eyeball performance. Performance without regard to current year contributions anyway. I think Yahoo showed us down 40%. I was relieved it was only 25%. The difference was largely due to stocks we bought in November with our cash reserves.

In other news, GMAC Bank started a new online savings product, but I received a letter initially that there was a $500 minimum. Their MM account offers free checks and no minimum, and I have grown rather attached to it. The letter was on offer to convert to their new "online savings" which offer 0.5% more interest. I decided to pass. Particularly since it was so all or nothing, and the new account seemed kind of crappy with the minimum, etc. I don't have a ton of cash and didn't want to deal with the minimum.

Well, I just noticed they removed all the minimums on all their savings accounts. SO I wanted to open one up and use it for savings, but keep using the MM one for check writing. The alternative is to transfer money over to my checking a few days before big bills are due, which is fine. But I have gotten used to the checks and have gotten spoiled. Now I think I will have my cake and eat it too.

I tried to open the account online yesterday but I couldn't remember the login I set up for dh and it wouldn't let me open a joint account without that. Bah. I will have to call and straighten it out.

I like GMAC because their rates overall seem to be competitive. If nothing else, they really drag their feet on lowering rates. I don't like changing banks every 5 minutes.

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Oh - one final thing. I got notice that our house recorded, with the refi. They sent us a notice that they could file homestead for us for $50, plus the fee of a notary.

What a rip. In California, Homestead is automatic. Don't fall for it!

I understand there are some situations when you should file for protection. Mostly if you have more than one home. So you clarify which home should be homesteaded.

BEsides, it doesn't cost $50 if you just do it on your own. Wink

Just another example of where education/knowledge pays. I wonder how many people just blindly pay it. In this case it was fishy to me. It looked like a bill. Like, "You owe us $50." So I looked at it more closely, and tossed it after that.