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Archive for February, 2009

Charity, Mortgages & CPA PSA

February 28th, 2009 at 08:32 am

I've been listening to the radio. Occupies my brain during busy times. More productive than blogging (I know I have been quiet).

BUT, a few things...

Dave Ramsey I like more than I don't. I think if more people start out with his method they will prosper for the long run. But at some point you need other gurus and have to get over your fear of leveraging debt. Well, not that you have to, but you should if you want to be truly wealthy.

Anyway, but over time I have warmed up to him - his message is good. I mostly agree with his financial philosophy because it mostly lines up with my own.

I just get frustarted all these talks I hear about mortgage.

Okay, if we REALLY wanted to pay off our mortgage by now we probably could have. We saved most of our second income for the down payment on our home and such. IF we put off having kids, even though we live in California, we probably could have a paid off home in our early 30s.

But, where is the balance in that? Would I rather have a paid off home and still be childless today? Um, no? Should we put our entire life on hold for a paid off mortgage? Kind of ridiculous if you ask me.

Sometimes I listen and roll my eyes. "I live in California, how the hell would I pay off my home in 3 years?" I often think as I listen. But yeah, if I step back, truth is we could do it if it was a priority. It just isn't.

& people REALLY don't understand the time value of money. By the time we get to the point where we will pay off our mortgage, I don't expect it to amount to a hill of beans. We're like age 30 and our mortgage is only 10%(2 incomes) to 15% (on one income) of our gross income. I expect it to be about 5% of our income when we pay it off (probably less). That ain't going to make us financially free and rich. We will be able to save about 5% more of our income. Big whoop.

Saving 15% today would be nice, but I don't buy "Get rich quick" schemes. At what cost? Too much sacrifices now, for sure. & to retirement, etc.

If we did or didn't have a mortgage I don't think makes that much of a big deal to us. We worked hard to put a lot down, have a low fixed rate, and a modest/affordable mortgage. Literally one we could afford if we both ended up with only minimum wage job choices.

I think for me it mostly comes down to perspective. Our home costs are extraordinarily low for the area. That's good enough for me. Plenty of leverage to move ahead. & heck, that second income, when it arrives, will probably knock out the mortgage in no time. IT just doesn't have to be right now. But I think we will quite easily be mortgage free in our early 40s. Which is win-win if you ask me. Just because I am taking a breath to live my life (have children, etc.) doesn't mean I want to have a mortgage until I am 80. I don't even want to have a mortgage when I am 50. I think most people get so either/or they lose sight of middle ground. I prefer middle ground. Big Grin

I probably sound like a broken record too!

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I just have a tax preparer PSA.

Oh, it annoys me to no end the ignorance I hear in the media about taxes. I've heard some stupid things lately.

BUT I listen to this local mutual fund show every Saturday. I like the guy and I almost fell over the other day when he told a listener that they should fire their CPA because their CPA did not steer them from no-load funds.

Huh????

Okay, first of all, as a CPA I probably won't have a clue what you are invested in. Some 1099s are detailed and will list some of your investments that earn dividends, etc. Some show no detail. Most of the time I haven't a clue what my clients invest in - just what they earned.

Secondly, CPAs have NO Training in investing. I have said so much before. If not for my own personal interest in investing I would probably have no idea what a loaded mutual fund was. I certainly didn't my first few years as a CPA. I took ONE finance class in college. I don't remember anything about mutual funds (it wasn't covered).

Thirdly, CPAs should not be giving you investment advice. Huge red flag. Something we usually don't touch with a 10-foot pole. We often discourage our clients from investing in partnerships due to the often painful tax reporting, and I have had a couple of sucker clients I have advised against terrible investments like ponzi schemes. In cases where you just have to say something because it is so obviously a scam or something. But even then you do have to tread carefully. Our malpractice insurer would probably prefer we never utter a word about investments to any of our clients, ever. & fair enough, because we are not investing experts.

Now, if your tax preparer is a certified financial planner or something along those lines too, then good. But the line between the two is often blurred.

Anyway, if you think your tax preparer is evaluating your investment strategies, think again. You should probably talk to an financial planner or an investment professional if you want investment advice. Wink

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ETA: Oh boy - have I been living under a rock? I just heard about Obama's plan to "cut" the charity deduction. Didn't sound quite right to me so I did some digging to find the truth.

Um, okay, he is proposing to limit the charitable deduction so that you can only reduce taxes at the 28% rate or lower, and not taxes at the 35% rate. You can still deduct it if you are in the 35% tax bracket. It just lowers your taxes a little less than it did before. 7% less, to be precise.

I can assure you none of my clients would think twice about still giving to charity. It's still pretty much their only available large tax break, to speak of, besides funding retirement. My clients would still like the opportunity to give if every dollar reduces their tax bill by 28%. (In most cases 38% when you include the state taxes here).

Wow, don't you love political slinging? Much ado about nothing in my opinion. Perfect example of the tax ignorance I spoke of above. I think it could be a smart move actually, BUT maybe political suicide with the ignorant reactions. I wish anyone would go to the source before they freaked out though. All I see over the internet is "No more charitable deductions allowed because of Obama." & all the people outraged are the ones it doesn't affect anyway. Gotta love it!

Update

February 28th, 2009 at 06:54 am

**We haven't turned on our heat in about a week. Winter never really came here this year; I think it's over. WE have been getting rain though, which is good. IT was a pretty dry 2008.

**Tee Ball has been delayed a bit. Practice starts NEXT weekend after all. We are excited to start. They had record enrollment this year for whatever reason. I think just due to the amount of young kids in our area. Reminds me of fights with the school district in years past. "We don't build new schools until we get insanely overcrowded." So much for forward thinking. The proof is in the tee ball enrollment. I don't know what I expected but wow, there is a lot of kids & teams. THey also seem unprepared for it all - we were supposed to start practice last weekend.

So far the cost is extremely low. We'll see what else comes up. But about $100 for enrollment, uniforms, equipment, etc. Seems pretty reasonable to me!

**LM is LOVING preschool. IT seems to be a great fit for him - I am glad he is fitting in so quickly.

**Work is crazy busy (a good thing for sure) so I haven't really been reading or commenting much.

**Oh, I probably didn't mention that the foreclosure on our street sold pretty quickly. I wouldn't be surprised if it got over asking price. I'll know in about a month I guess!

**We grossed about $200 on ebay this month (probably more since I know dh sold 2 or 3 gamecubes). I have to look up the net though. Dh keeps track on his computer and I keep forgetting to look up the bottom line, to update our challenge. I am confident we netted $100+ for February though, which was our goal.

**I have a rant about short-term thinking. Maybe I have ranted about this before. Actually, short-term thinking is an epidemic. & REALLY my pet peeve.

But I mean in regards to housing. I have quite a few friends and acquaintances who did not buy property in the late 1990s in the Bay Area because they were waiting for properties to drop. (YEah, good luck! I Said that then and I say it even more now. The Bay Area is a unique beast. But 90s was in about its most affordable form - unless the bubble bursts which I guess is still possible).

These people aren't *that* annoying. But the really annoying group is the group that would NEVER buy real estate. Never, ever, ever because it's such a terrible deal. & they have made it known they think we are idiots.

So anyway, both Group A and Group B is running out and snatching up real estate right now.

Interesting!

To Group A - can't fault them for waiting. They were actually taking a more long view all along. But they are paying far more than we did for real estate. So much for waiting for prices to fall. But I have less beef with them. Just - a lot of people are getting off the fence right now. I should applaud them on their long view.

Interestingly, I have a VERY frugal single friend who wants to buy an apartment in San Francisco. Good Lord. I can not imagine. Buying a home at that price with a spouse is one thing. I think I Would be way too risk adverse to do it alone. But I am excited for her all the same. SHe'll probably do fine. & will probably be a great investment.

To Group B - Um, what happened to NEVER buying real estate and what idiots we are? They keep bragging to us how "little" *they* paid for their houses. They are idiots. One just paid a $100k premium over what we paid in 2001 for a similar sized home. Many are paying the same price for half the home. This group is really obnoxious. LOL. I guess "never" equates to "3 or 4 years." Big Grin & I completely understand not wanting to buy at the peak and thinking it was crazy. I mean, we drew the line at paying more than $300k house, anyhow, anywhere. Which completely ruled out the city we grew up in (in 1995, 2000, 2005, or 2009). So we moved. When we said we would "never" pay more for a house, we meant it. So I understand shunning home ownership in the last 8 years or so, for sure. But we're merely at 2002/2003 prices. Does this warrant loving home ownership suddenly, when you hated it with a passion years 2004 - 2008? I Don't get people.

That's my rant.

But yeah - most of this group is too dumb to realize we didn't pay near as much for our house as they think we did. Have they heard of zillow? I would say most people think we paid about $400k for our house. Few would guess were merely owe $200k. I've had quite a people tell me apologetically they could never afford a $400k house or that they can't qualify for more than a $200k mortgage. Teehee. People are funny. IT's like, "um, yes, who can at our age? Who said we did?"

Actually, it's quite interesting, and I know I have said before, that a lot of people who didn't go real estate crazy the last decade, are doing it now. I have friends snatching up rental properties and first homes thinking they have hit the gold mine! I sometimes worry the bubble will happen all over again for the people who missed the ride last time. They are all too happy to ride it this time. While prices are "low" anyway.

& I have said, I would too, if we had the means. But clearly we don't. IT would be a hedge for our children if prices got astronomical again. NOt a get rich quick scheme, for sure. But we will just have to miss this boat... Somehow I think we will do okay. Wink

Rethinking Charity

February 26th, 2009 at 01:03 pm

I watched Oprah last night - did a segment on our city - homelessness, etc. Mostly focused on California - talked about foreclosures as well, etc.

I do know a lot of people losing their homes and such, but as far as I know, none are homeless because of it. So it was eye opening. (Most of the homeless people interviewed said their family/friends didn't know).

That being said - for those who have lost their homes or are on the verge - it is obviously no walk in the park. I bristle at the comments that it's unfair if these people get help and we shouldn't pay our mortgages either.

Anyway, I have a reasonable mortgage and equity. Clearly I have nothing to complain about and clearly I don't regret paying it down. We are in such a good spot. What is their to be jealous or bitter about???

I am certainly skeptical of taxpayer's dollars to help. I think it is just prolonging the inevitable - but that is a whole other thing.

http://www.oprah.com/article/oprahshow/20090218_tows_lisa-li...

Another part of the program was super disturbing though. Many foreclosed homes left filled to the brim with stuff. Nice stuff. & it's all going straight to the landfills:

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/business/july-dec08/foreclosu...

There was just something so disturbing about that part. All these people left homeless and penniless. & yet houses full of computers, new furniture, and big screen TVs, it all being hauled to the DUMP! This is the legacy we leave from the last few years? A huge pile in the landfill? Is there really nothing else we can do with this stuff??? Ugh!

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Anyway, it was very powerful.

My stance on charity is I would do anything to help relatives. I'd help a friend if I can. We don't give a lot to charity because, I have said before, I am not a fan of "organizations." I'd rather help someone I know who needs it.

I also prefer to give time over money. It's more rewarding and I think often, time is more needed.

That being said, my last few posts were about how well things are going. Yes, I would rather get on our feet more before we dedicated any large sum to charity. Certainly *us* first. If we're fine, and our nuclear family is fine, I am happy to give to the community and such.

So, I Am considering donating my stimulus money this year, and our meager interest earnings, to charity this year. Homeless shelter/food banks. We can easily commit $40/month without compromising ourselves at all. I will also consider a larger 4-figure sum at the end of the year - once I make sure our cars make it through the year and we don't have any large medical bills, etc. But with the economy where it is at and so many people around here in so much need, it's a small thing but it's more than we have been doing.

I mentioned I often volunteer time, but that has been by the wayside since having children. Dh volunteers many hours and since he does not work, that seems fair enough. I largely stopped volunteering when I was miserable sick during pregnancy. I considered it a success when I got dh to volunteer so much time (he never volunteered before that point).

I am considering making volunteer work a top priority in the non tax-season. I don't want to get into it right now - I just don't have the time. But it was something I was probably going to put off a few more years, until I could do more *with* the kids. I have had a bit of a change of heart now.

Then again, I am not as convinced time is as needed, with so many people out of work. But something to look into.

Nothing spectacular, but I am definitely going to make charity more of a priority this year.

If I was single, I would also consider helping someone with a place to stay temporarily. They did a segment on Oprah about that as well. I think it was more people with homes, struggling, taking in other people to help them out. I would gladly give someone a cheap place to stay until they could get back on their feet - we have plenty of room. But dh would NEVER go for it. $40/month will be hard to talk him into! But just other ideas to consider. It's hard to enjoy a large house knowing so many people out there are homeless. *sigh*

I still haven't ruled out that we may end up helping a relative or 2. A couple of them might end up needing it. So, you know. It might not be the worst to leave our extra space open for them. Who knows what will happen.

DINK Dreaming

February 25th, 2009 at 01:32 pm

DINK, meaning dual-income, no kids

The underlying theme of my entire blog is how well we did before kids and how our life goal is to get back to that savings level. Days like this I am glad we had kids rather young. It's not like we have a large income to live up to since dh quit working so early on in his career (merely 3 years in?). If we had waited a few years we may have a smaller mortgage and bigger savings, but more income lost in the interim, etc. I think going young was the way to go.

We allowed enough time to save up that I stress when my efund is lower than 3 months' expenses and when I don't have enough cash to replace our cars, etc. IT's all relative. But once you have decent financial security, it is difficult to move backwards. I think also my biggest fear is we have been so lucky in our youth that I fear once we reach some DINK level we may just be kicked off by some outside forces; not by choice. (Job loss, natural disaster, anything).

I am reflecting on it much as we just reduced our expenses by almost $400/month by simply refinancing the house and switching preschools. Meaning, no change to our lifestyles, but wala, just about enough to fund an entire Roth!!

Anyway, the most dh ever brought home was $2500/month, so at our peak that was what we saved, in addition to 10% of my income to my 401k (about $5k). The $2500/month went to cash, where it eventually went to down payment on home, massive cash savings, cash for moderate car purchases, and a few thousand here and there into our IRAs over the years. Short-term savings (property taxes and the like), mid-term, long-term, all funded by dh's income.

So I am super excited as we near that savings level again. Though I have mentioned before, it is certainly not an apples to apples comparison.

For now we are at:

$1000/month short-term savings
$ 650/month cash savings
$ 350/month ROTHs
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$2000/month savings

Getting awfully close.

My increased retirement contributions, through my employer, and overtime, bring our savings level up by about another $500/month.

For a grand total of the magic number, $2500/month!

Of course, we have more expenses, and $2500 doesn't stretch as far as it used to. At least $3k/month is what we should aim for, to factor inflation. I guess that's the point where I don't care particularly if we have a second income while the kids are younger than teens. $3k/month to savings? - we're probably good.

We'll probably hit $2700/month once LM is done with preschool next summer.

Means merely another few thousand dollars a year in income will make a BIG difference.

WE actually just crossed over to the point where I feel like we are saving more than we "need" to in the long run. That certainly feels NICE. But we have things to catch up for. Building back up our cash savings, starting to think about college more, we will have a couple of cars to replace within the decade, AND we haven't put any money to speak of into our house since we purchased it 7 years ago - we have some work to do, etc. Beyond all that, we will err on the side of saving a bit too much cash in the interim because dh would like to go back to school to get a teaching credential or possibly upgrade his film/TV minor to a major. Whatever he does, he will probably go to school a bit to make himself more marketable. Of course we would like to pay cash (community college/state college is our aim - which is still quite affordable around here).

If the year is good we may be able to put $10k into cash this year - but you see we have a lot of competing goals. I wouldn't mind increasing the efund either.

Maybe it's eye opening to have so many of my clients coming in this year and "struggling" on one income in the $120k range. Sometimes I think we will always worry about money. We didn't so much when we were younger but I think it was due to being naive more than anything else. Ignorance can certainly be bliss.

But I do admit, aside from this whole catching up thing and trying to set aside $10k cash this year, I do feel significantly more relaxed with our current situation. No ill will towards those wil mortgage bail outs. They certainly can't feel my peace of mind and my freedom today.

It's funny though. The reason we decided we were ready for kids was when we bought our dream home in our low cost of living haven and we no longer thought we had to save $100k down for a starter home. That was precisely why we were saving so rapidly. We figured, "What do we need all this savings for anyway? Let's have kids."

Our expenses have stayed rather stagnate and my income has grown considerably over the years, which is why we are where we are at. But we do still have kids to support (orthodontics, piano lessons, college and the like) and I didn't know our medical insurance premiums pre-kids would grow by 8000% in just 3 or 4 years. I never expected we would last this long on one income and that dh would probably have to return to college to get a job.

Of course, if we expected all this, well, it wouldn't be life. Life isn't s'posed to be so easy, right?

But yeah, as we square away this whole preschool thing, it just hit me. Wait a minute, we didn't do anything but we are saving almost $400/month this year? Huh?

& I tell you, the extra overtime I can work with LM going to school by our house, instead of by my work when I used to drive him? I think preschool will just about pay for itself this year. Woohoo. Though I did play hooky yesterday to pick him up on his first day and figure since he will either arrive or leave in the noon hour (depending if he can get an a.m. class) I will have plenty of opportunity to go home at lunch (as I often do) and pick him up or drop him off once in a while. Arriving at work at 9 & having to leave at 4:45 always was such a time suck. Adding 15-minutes to a lunch once a week isn't as near of a big deal.

Car Expenses

February 25th, 2009 at 07:28 am

LM started his new preschool yesterday and did extraordinarily well. I think it is a really good fit for him. & for my pocketbook. Yay!

We took the van in yesterday. The gas pedal was sticking and I self diagnosed it as a dirty throttle body. A couple of hours and $110 poorer, the car is good as new. Chalk it up to one more problem I have NEVER had in a car. On the internet I read that it is not a common Dodge problem. Lucky me. (I have driven a couple of cars well past 150k miles that did not have problems with power doors, power locks, nor dirty throttle bodies, but whatever. Always something stupid with this van. Things that all our other cars have last 150k+ miles without issue. The van's mileage is 60k, which also makes it one of the newest cars we have ever owned).

Not sure I will ever equate new cars with "longer lasting and more reliable." Dh's $7888 Ford has 100k miles & is 8 years strong. It's given us less trouble than the Dodge and the 30k-miled Mustang I once owned. It's obvious when it comes to Saturns and Toyotas why we have had better luck going extremely used. But the cheapie Ford has treated us quite well! IT can be pretty hit and miss with cars. This is why I prefer to buy used more - let people drive them into the ground and then we can read the reviews about which ones are safer and last longer. The Ford is the only worthwhile newer car purchase we have ever made. Spending $12k on a van bought us more room, but not much else. At least I didn't mind when the 8-year-old Mustang I paid $6k for with virtually no miles needed a lot of repairs. At least they weren't superficial ones (the windows always worked) and I hadn't spent over $10k on the car in the first place. I got a significant discount simply because it was an older model - it was virtually new otherwise. & it's repairs rivaled my "about as new" minivan. Average $1k/year, which I find ludicrous.

But the most reliable and least repaired cars were my 200k-miled Toyota and my 150k-miled Saturn. I drove them for 10 years. They both cost me in the realm of $1k. A 15-year-old Toyota is looking like a pretty good purchase these days. I wonder often if they also just don't make them like they used to. The Ford will have to last 40 years to even out with the fact I paid $2000 all told for cars I drove for 10 years. $200/year = 40 years to equate to $7888 purchase price of Ford. {This is precisely why we have a relatively small mortgage for our age and region}.

The outside is shinier but that is all I Can say about our newer car purchases.

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I hadn't thought about it but this year we will also hit 10 years' home ownership. Like December 31.

Not much to report. We will be about $1k-$2k more in mortgage debt than when we started. We will have borrowed $30k to double the size of our home and to add land and a garage, etc. We will have borrowed $5k for the last refi of 4; having paid cash for second home purchase closing costs (as well as the first) & all other refis.

We will have lowered our mortgage payments from $1500 to $1100 monthly, with lower interest rates. So we pay 25% less for twice the house since we moved to a lower cost region and because interest rates have continued to drop since we first bought.

I think it is less of a milestone for us because basically we always owned. I also think that owning a condo was a good financial move, but in that regard maybe not as exciting. We will have actually owned LAND as of 8 years this December. Maybe we will celebrate 10 years of land ownership in 2011. That is far more exciting I guess. Maybe I can boast paying off 5% of our original mortgage by then. Wink I don't sweat it. When I was in college a studio apartment in 1995 cost as much to rent monthly (on the bad side of the tracks) as our current mortgage. I don't mind the progress. & We still plan to pay off by age 45 anyway, so don't take my nonchalance as a love of debt or unconcern for mortgage. I look very forward to paying that sucker off. Just, one thing at a time. Paying significantly less for our mortgage than rent is reward enough in the interim. & is the primary reason we did buy. Even in this market, our house rents for about $1800/month, minimum. Home ownership has treated us good.

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I almost forgot. There is talk of forcing people to cut water usage by 20% in our city. I wonder how this will be monitored/enforced/punished. What if you water usage has always been extraordinarily low?

Don't get me wrong - it's a good thing - the water waste here is INSANE. But having come from drought country, even with flat water rates we always bathed less, used clothes/towels longer before washing, only do full loads of laundry and dishes (with our water conserving appliances - full loads use less water than hand washing), watered the lawns less, and used the "mellow yellow/brown flush it down" rule. I was wondering how in the heck we would save 20% as I draw the line at bathing every 3rd day. Why should I bathe every 3rd day when so many people I know can bathe once a day and cut their shower water usage in half? Ugh. I did realize dh and I tend to be shower hogs. We could always cut to military showers. 5 minute showers may even help. I guess even we have room to cut. I don't know though. We will have to fight with the HOA over how green the lawn should be in summer. This will be a good thing in that regard! The green lawns are ridiculous and the only water usage we have to speak of is when we have to water the lawn twice a day in the summer heat to keep it green - lest we get nasty grams from the HOA - I always found that whole thing insane. The rest of the year we really use little water.

Well, this week is just a crazy busy week. So I should probably get going!

Lots of Links

February 23rd, 2009 at 01:01 pm

An interesting article about CD risk. I hadn't thought of this before:

If your bank is bought, your CD yields could be slashed
http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/money_co/2009/02/bank-cd-yie...


California is offering a massive tax break to people who buy newly constructed homes:

Home Front: Tax breaks pile up for homebuyers
http://www.sacbee.com/business/story/1639155.html

Just an interesting article on taxes in California. This does not even begin to cover it. Not the greatest article. But I get so annoyed when people say "you shouldn't pay more than "x" for a tax return. IF we broke out charges by Fed & State, the state return would cost more, for sure. It definitely costs more to get your taxes done in this state.

I think the legislature had their heads in the right place when they refused to conform to all of the massive Federal tax breaks this last decade. BUT the mess it has created? They should probably conform to most of the laws and then increase tax rates to cover the difference.

The state of California, in the interim, gives us migraines. I've heard joked that tax preparers like the complexity. Um no, we do not like the complexity. IT is complex beyond words. No one wants to be personally liable for figuring this mess out. Give us simpler tax laws, PLEASE. I actually contribute to the CPA political action committees all the time as they work hard on trying to get California to conform where it would make it simpler, etc. Like HSAs and IRA income limits. (The political committees have also been fighting AMT long before it ever became a more mainstream issue. But yeah, regular old joe blow doesn't understand all this stuff and the mess it creates. We have to deal with it every day).

Growing gap in federal, state tax laws
http://www.mercurynews.com/personalfinance/ci_11734260

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Completely off topic...

& finally, just a funny website I came across recently. It's all the recent Garfield cartoons, minus Garfield. IT's kind of funny. & sad... Clever!

http://garfieldminusgarfield.net/


Bowling

February 22nd, 2009 at 02:19 pm

When I Was a child my mom took me bowling 1-2 times a week (I remember bowling 2 leagues most of my childhood; with my mom. Summers anyway).

Anyway, I got some random though to go bowling on Friday. We took the kids today and had a blast.

In college I lived down the street from a bowling alley with $1 games on Sunday mornings. We had to get there early (it was always PACKED) but it was well worth the wait. Between that and the discount movie theater and the nickel arcade, we had plenty to keep us occupied in our broke days. Double matinees were like $2 or something. Those were the days.

So this morning I perused bowling alleys and found the only one I had ever been to in sacramento (once?) was like $36/hour for a lane. Holy cow!!!! No other bowling alleys had websites or prices online to speak of but I narrowed it down to two alleys, based on reviews about better prices. We figured once we were there we could price the sales and so forth.

Well, how about $1.50/game? Since it was sunday morning. With inflation, feels like the good old days. Plus it was not crowded. Plenty of people bowling, but half the place was empty (& it was a LARGE bowling alley).

I am so excited by this find!

I have a bowling ball and shoes (though you could argue the shoes need to go - I think they were hand-me-downs in my teens and are falling apart). But wouldn't you know shoe rentals were $4??? Serious? $3 for the kids. Dh and I will be buying bowling shoes, and we will go from there. When they cost $1 dh never bought shoes. $4 is another story. I'd even buy the kids shoes if I thought we'd go regularly.

I bowled a 108 & a 130. Dh bowled a 107 and a 132. Something like that. LOL. You could drop a few pins due to the bumpers, but they weren't as annoying as I thought they would be. I wouldn't have got more than 1 or 2 gutter balls - go figure. I bowled once since we moved here. Otherwise it's been a solid decade!

BM had never bowled and he got a 67 and something in the 70s. HE did rather well. LM had the same score as BM (tied) but gave up after 5 frames. So he snacked on chicken nuggets while we bowled a second game.

Bowling, shoes and chicken nuggets all came to $25. Once we square away the shoes we can easily make it a $10 visit; maybe $20 if we drop off LM with childcare. Or maybe dh and I can just take turns taking BM until LM gets more into it.

It was fun.

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I have a friend who does go roller skating and bowling a lot with her son so I was thinking we should try to get together with her. (My dad took me roller skating very weekend as a child).

Irony is we have shunned these activities while the kids were too small to get much from it, because with not a lot of money to spare, I didn't see the point in lavishing it on 2-year-olds and 3-year-olds.

Anyway, this friend is laid off right now, so probably so much for that plan. I said recently we always seem to zig when everyone else is zagging.

It's the same for the mom's groups. When I was working less and had babies and we had no money to speak of to spare I was frustrated by some of the more expensive activities so often chosen. I felt disrespected for wanting to save money, and never became very close to many of them. These days they are all planning cheaper activities. Funny how quickly things change. The thing is I am no longer interested in sitting around having free playdates as much. I want to go out and do the activities I did as a child.

Now everyone is lowering their prices in the economy, we are getting out more, and no one else can join us. It's just ironic on some level. It's also a little lonely! But yeah, we are used to being the odd balls.

Another One Bites the Dust

February 20th, 2009 at 06:44 am

Our favorite little greek cafe down the street is CLOSED. Waaaaaahhhhhhh...

I did think it was a chain so I looked it up. There is/was one downtown. Phew. Well, assuming that one is still open.

Funny enough, we went on a date Sunday and ate there. Who knew it would be our last meal there. Frown

It's probably one of my favorite places to eat. *sigh*

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I ran to Walgreens on the way home yesterday to pick up some pantyhose.

I thought I would peruse the Valentine's Day candy for something good. Thankfully for my waistline, all the good stuff was gone. BUT I spotted the fancy 3-D Valentines were on sale for like 80 cents. Sold! Picked up Valentines for next year.

I also perused the Easter aisle and found little Wii-remote candy dispensers. Okay, they were so cute. I could not resist. I spent $2 on one of those. They are extra funny because the candy actually pretty much shoots out - it's got bit of a spring to it. LOL. So the kids loved it.

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LM bought some Batman action figure with his Valentine's Day money from Great-Grandma.

He is definitely the spender in the family. LOL. Actually, BM love nothing more than books and video games. & we seem to have quite an abundance of those things. So he never buys anything. I think frankly at this point, LM is so into his action figures, I think that's why he spends more. I can't deduce from this that BM is a saver. He just likes video games more and dh has tons of them.

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Oh, yesterday was fun! Not!

We went to the credit union again to resolve this whole credit card thing. The credit card I wanted with a smaller bank with better customer service. Yeah...

Anyway, I had to re-apply for the credit card and was told I needed to prove my income for the amount I had already been approved for. (Just one more thing no one told me!!!!!). So I lowered my limit request so we could be done with it.

Anyway, supposedly it's all taken care of. At this point, if it's not, I give up! I applied for $10k this round instead of the $15k I was already "approved" for. Bah!

We would have had to re-apply anyway because though we have all joint accounts, dh is not a member of the CU. Don't get me started. IT makes no sense.

Of course, this whole conversation how we couldn't get a joint credit card because he wasn't a member, reminded me he opened accounts for the kids when I Wasn't there and my name was not on the accounts. SO, while we were there I did ask to get my names on the accounts and we did get that squared away. So at least I can say my time was worth it. I also had the passwords reset so we could access them online! So one chore I hadn't had on my To Do List that I should have.

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Political rant:

In 2003 the Governor of California wanted to raise the vehicle license fees by a token amount to balance the budget. He was recalled because voters rather die than pay another tax. For the last few years I would have been happy to pay more taxes.

So yesterday, in this midst of this economy, Arnold and the legislature passed a slew of tax increases, meanwhile signing in the 2008-2009 budget 8 months late.

Ugh.

They were (are?) talking about putting tax increases to the voters. I told dh, "Too little too late. Like hell I would vote for a tax increase."

Anyway, I could go on and on, but I am peeved to no end with how this is all unfolding. I probably wouldn't have minded a sales tax increase in 2003. But we put off the inevitable so long, and now we are raising taxes in a time of economic pain.

Anyway, state income taxes are going up a token amount. Sales tax is going up from 8.25% in much of the state, to 9.25%. Oh yes, and vehicle license fees are going up to.

We don't consume a lot, so for the most part it's okay. We don't pay that much sales tax to begin with (a lot of food is exempt, etc.). BUT I am making a mental note to buy my bicycle before April; before the new sales tax rates.

This will probably spur short term consumption and be marked a success, right???

But yeah, really. We replaced a governor with a balanced budget a couple of weeks late with this idiot? I am just fed up to here with our state's politics.

That's how you run a business...

February 19th, 2009 at 05:31 pm

Um, WOW!

We went to check out that preschool today and after looking at a handful of places with NO KIDS we ran into a highly profitable business woman. I assume anyway.

She has BIG shoes to fill in regards to our past preschool experience. But I think she has already exceeded them.

Very similar play-based philosophy, which is what we are looking for. But it is not a daycare. IT is actually a preschool, though in home, with all the bells and whistles of school. I don't think we care at all about the bells and whistles, but I think it will be a good transition for LM. Our kindergarten is intense.

Her market is the stay at home mom crowd. Probably the most reasonable rates we have seen (charges more per hour than our last place, BUT our last place had a $25 per day minimum for half days, so in the end this will be cheaper for half days). We'd probably have to get onto a waitlist if it wasn't for the economy. She runs 2 morning preschools (T/Th or M/W/F) and 2 afternoon preschools.

We'll start in the afternoons and will be wait listed for a morning slot. Morning is more hours and more importantly, LM is crankier in the afternoon. I mean, afternoon is nap time. So we'll see how it goes.

Not only is it only $36/week, for two half days, BUT she does not charge for field trip days, holidays, vacations, etc., etc. Um, okay. Our last lady was way too nice and would always let the kids make up holidays and such. As a prior business owner I think it is quite fair to charge for these things. People will walk all over you if you let them. But she was going on and on about the things she doesn't charge for.

Considering all the empty daycares and such we had seen, we ran the numbers and figured her full preschool was easily grossing six figures. BEcause it is FULL. About 50 kids all told; 12 kids per program. It's just interesting to me.

Don't get me wrong - I have no idea when this lady ever sleeps. !! She certainly works for it.

LM really liked her and I think she just about exactly fills the shoes of Ms. PReschool, except she is like if Ms. PReschool had 10 times the energy and became less daycare based. LOL.

He was going to preschool in a very modest home and now it is in like this McMansion. I guess that will be different to.

It seems like a good fit for LM, is very close to home, and costs little. So I am VERY excited about it. HE starts next week!

I am worried how we will fit into the mix. She kept going on about all the SAHMs though we were clear I worked and dh didn't. So, hopefully he will fit in. Big Grin

(I know LM will fit in fine - hehe).

We do have to commit for the month, so this is the only difference. Our last place was no commitment. Though I think she said something about 2-weeks notice...

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I just upped my savings goal by $2k for the year because that is how much we will save with the switch. The savings will be a little less if he gets a morning slot, but we will cross that bridge when we come to it.

I am currently putting $333/month into our ROTHs. I am going to *up* that to $350 with the gas savings of this new, closer preschool. It will be nice to get a nice round figure. I also think it is very likely that we will be able to *up* this to $5k for the year. It's just not a priority as that would put our retirement at 16.25% gross. Our current goal is merely 15%. We'll surpass 15% a tad... $350/month = $4200 for the year. 15.25%.

I didn't mind the preschool thing for one more year, but with the economy and everything, it feels divine to save a little more cash in 2009. I can *up* my regular savings contributions from $250/month to $400/month, starting ASAP. Woohoo! I think it is a distinct possibility that we will hit 10% gross to cash savings goal, in 2009.

Our next goal after that is to max out our second ROTH. That goal still feels a mile away... But getting closer.

Mid-Week Update

February 18th, 2009 at 02:37 pm

Seems with the economy I could barely keep up around here. This week on the other hand seems strangely quiet. Wonder where everyone is?

**In true Monkey Mama fashion, I have obliterated my financial chores on the left, woohoo. Honestly, it was all stuff I Was putting off way too long!! & I needed dh's help with some of the things (some were his accounts he had to close). Which made it an extra hard thing to get done. But, I guess of all the put off chores, the financial ones would be my first to attempt.

I did close my WAMU card and they told me I would lose out on great benefits like free FICO scores. Doh! Time to update those scripts. But, yeah, it took a minute and they didn't beg me to stay. There was a time where a call like that would have been like 5 minutes of begging me to stay. Where you want to hang up on them but you want to make sure it is taken care of. It took me 2 minutes because their system disconnected me the first time.

Times have improved! LOL. (Though I am still jealous they begged dh to stay and not me - some other card company).

Anyway - personal goals - making headway though most are on hold for more time and better weather.

Around the house stuff? Blech. LOL. We'll get to it.

**Reminds me, Dh had to call the credit card company a million times to remove those $1 & $20 fraud charges, respectively. I mentioned in the forums how that was not worth my time and it got all crazy. I didn't say it is not worth my time to correct a mistake. But to call TEN times is not worth my time. Obviously we are taking our business elsewhere.

Though it's not worth my time, dh doesn't mind.

Anyway, my point is that whole experience (the $20 one actually) led me in search of a new credit card company. I settled on our CU as a place with better customer service.

You would think, but I am not very impressed. I detailed my annoying phone conversation over the weekend, on Saturday probably, where I learned I was approved but no one bothered to tell me I had to go into a branch to sign paperwork. (Seriously? Is it the dark ages?) Anyway, I often make deposits on my lunch break and usually there are no customers. So we go in around lunch yesterday and I tell dh to meet me to sign the paperwork. There's like 10 people in line, 2 tellers, and though we were only second in line to talk to a bank rep about the credit card, we waited for 30 minutes before giving up. I actually waited 20 minutes to make a deposit (crazy!) and then waited another 10 minutes before we decided it would take all day.

Anyway, I still have hope for a CU credit card and a more pleasant experience. Since I am working Saturdays we have to go on a lunch break another day. We thought we'd try 11:00 though.

I have NO IDEA why so many people in the bank? It was a little busy when I deposited my last paycheck. What gives??? I have never seen people in there for the most part, otherwise, before. Yesterday was particularly bad due to major lack of staff. I only saw 3 people vs. 5 the last deposit I made. I couldn't help but wonder if there were lay offs or something there.

So what do I miss about a good economy? Empty credit unions! With lots of employees! Big Grin

My mom told me that ATMs were for deposits. I told her, fair enough, but since there is usually no line I prefer to run in and make sure it gets in there accurately and immediately. But for the long run, the ATM may just become my friend.

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**With this whole preschool thing I do admit I have enjoyed the financial break. At the rate we have gone we will probably save an unexpected $300 this month. $200 at least.

So I do admit finding a new preschool is not on the top of my list. But LM is getting a little moody, and starting to admit he misses it. Dh is the same. LOL. He was rather grumpy today, so I sent him my list of preschools and told him he could follow up on them then. It's stuff like this, why doesn't he just take charge?

Well it kicked his butt, but he didn't like my list because 2 of them were based on the school calendar and out for summer. The other place seemed nice enough but she had NO KIDS currently. We don't need daycare; we need a place for him to socialize. So yeah, for now that wouldn't cut it. But seems to be another problem in this economy! Finding anywhere with other kids to play with? This is the second one we looked at that didn't really have much going on.

Anyway, so I could be insulted dh took none of my choices, but he looked through his old e-mails and saw raving recommendations about 2 years ago, from the neighborhood e-mail group, for a preschool right by our gym. Better yet, he called and they had an opening for 2 afternoons a week for $36/week. Right now we pay $70/week, for 2 full days admittedly. But basically, this was cheaper than the city program. & it came with high recommendations from a number of neighbors.

So we'll check it out tomorrow but it sounds WAY promising. If we like it we'll take what we can get. For the long run I would like to ease him into M/W/F mornings - which sounds like it may be about $70/week. In the short run we will save $160/week. In the long run we'll still save a few dollars, and a LOT of gas.

We will save an unexpected $300 this month, and I can *up* our more long-term cash savings from $250/month to $400/month immediately. In fact, I may consider maxing out my ROTH instead with this new plan. Financially, it may be best to stick with 2 days a week, at least through this year. We could always increase his preschool time as kindergarten approaches, to ease him in a bit.

I just always figured we'd be paying $300/month for the next 18 months. SO worth it for his situation. But now that is no longer a choice, so our priorities our changing a bit.

I expect to make more headway at work since I don't have to spend so much time dropping/picking up kids. I think this is a good thing financially, any way you slice it.

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**Because of all this, I don't have much to say lately. Financially, life is good. But I know that for sure, no one else wants to hear about it. Big Grin

I was feeling spectacularly well with the financial universe the other day, and I Almost posted all about it, and then I decided against it.

That being said, a forum like this is nice. None of my real life friends want to hear about it, for sure. So many are struggling right now. At least I know there are some kindred souls around here.

For us, with the refi of our home a few weeks back, and with the decrease in preschool expenditures, we are able to save about another 5% of our income, all told, this year.

We've certainy turned a corner. Moving ahead rapidly on long-term goals.

MYTH; Keep Credit Cards open to improve FICO

February 17th, 2009 at 07:27 am

Okay, I decided to close my WAMU card TODAY, so on a whim I checked one last time to see if my February FICO score had posted. I didn't expect it but figured I would check. I was closing the card because free FICO no longer offered as of March or something, but since that announcement they seem to have stopped updating the free FICO. It usually updates monthly.

I just posted I was particularly bummed because I closed a card around Jan. 1 and I was curious how this closure would affect my FICO in the short term. I knew from past experience it wouldn't amount to a hill of beans in the long run.

So imagine my surprise today to not only see my FICO score, but to see post card closure (the big no no of the FICO world!) that my score had shot up 30 points, to 825.

Um, yeah.

In fact, paying off all my balance transfers had about the same effect. My score shot up 30 points then too.

But besides that, nothing has affected my score much the last 18 months.

Quite clearly the card closure did it. I only closed about $10k of credit. My credit reports all show $20k available credit now. Will be $14k when I close this other (balance transfer) card. So it's not like I have TONS of available credit or anything. But on average we only utilize about $2k/month.

The only other thing of note is my new mortgage.

But no matter what all the gory details are, clearly I am no worse for the ware in the short term, for closing an unused credit card.

For the long run I know it doesn't matter. I always close my old credit cards (oldest one - 3 years old?) and I have pretty much always had a FICO over 800.

I always figured that whole thing was blown out of proportion, but now I know for sure it's just a myth.

Caveat: In certain circumstances it is certainly better to keep old cards open.

BUT if you have a decent credit score and you think the world will end because you close an old card, eh, get over it. That's what I say!

& I have to tell you, I was shocked to see that giant blip upwards as I was expecting one in the opposite direction.

If nothing else, just to re-iterate, no one fully understands FICO.

Simple common sense has worked for me.

Caveat: Though none of my current credit (credit card or mortgage) I have more than 5 years, I do have 15 years of credit history. I have a mortgage and 2 credit cards. My score has been in the 800s since around 2000. If you are in a similar situation don't let the credit industry bully you into keeping open unused credit cards. Trust me, they are often more problem than they are worth with the rise of ID theft and such.

My dh is a Hopeless Romantic

February 15th, 2009 at 07:57 am

We always say we aren't going to do anything for V Day or B Days or whatever, but he always does!!!!

I came home from work close to 5 and he had picked up a heart shaped pizza at Papa Murphy's. Okay, pizza is certainly the way to my heart!!!! He has also been experimenting with cheap crappy garlic bread, to my utter dismay, but last night he got the GOOD stuff. LOL.

Anyway, he hadn't got a chance to watch Battlestar Gallactica (oh the humanity) so I immediately told him my gift to him was he could go watch it right after dinner and I would try my best to corral the kids. (They are so used to daddy being around it his hard for them to leave him alone when he is home, at all). It was then he informed me the kids had been crazed all day, and there was nothing he probably wanted more (a break from them) but they were actually little angels for me, phew. I think my work schedule was probably getting to them a bit. Though I did see a hint of wild crazy behavior. LOL. But mostly they were fine. I don't think dh could have been happier. I think he hadn't got a chance yet because I was sick the last few evenings. Usually it's like torture to ask him to wait a day or 2 to watch it.

So I guess you can say we are easy to please. Big Grin

I don't Agree with Suze...

February 15th, 2009 at 07:50 am

Not that I have to agree with everything.

But I got around to watching an older episode last night where she said it was terrible to use plastic around your kids and they will never learn how to manage their money if you do.

Whatevah!

I tried to think back how my parents paid for things. I thought they always used checks or ATM cards. Credit cards as times changed. I don't particularly remember them paying things with cash. I honestly don't remember how they paid for things though, because it simply does not matter!!!!

It doesn't matter how they paid for anything because that is not how I learned about money...

I learned from having an allowance and from having to manage it. I learned from getting a checking account when I was a teen and a credit card when I got my first "real" job and paycheck. I learned firsthand to spend less than I Earned and to pay my card off every month. Of course I learned these because that is what my parents did and that is what they told me to do.

So, no, I don't plan to stop paying all my bills online, mostly while the kids are asleep, and carrying pretty much just plastic in my purse.

I admit it is important for kids to deal with cash. As much as I hate carrying any cash, the kids do carry their cash when we go out. When they shop they have to figure what they can afford and pay with their own money. That is most certainly important. But they are only 3 & 5. They have to learn at a basic level. But I can assure you just because we pull out the plastic, does not mean they will not understand money.

Now, if we only used plastic and we NEVER talked to them about money or taught them anything. Okay, yeah, that is asking for TROUBLE, obviously.

As they get older I am sure they will ask more questions about how we pay our bills and we will most certainly share. For now they use cash, we don't, and it works...

I mean most of their money is sitting in a piggy bank where they can physically see it. They have some money in the bank but they are too young to appreciate how that works at this point. Kids do need to physically see and handle their own money to grasp how it works. I think Suze and I both agree there.

Economic Update

February 14th, 2009 at 02:02 pm

A question was posed in the forums - "How many do you know laid off?"

It's a hard question to answer. I am not sure how open most laid off people are. There's probably some I am not aware of. It seems also to me Cali was hit extra hard in the recent decade, but maybe slower to be hit this round? I am sure we will be hit plenty. For one, the state government is really slow to let people go this round. It's kind of absurd with our budget crisis. Is my memory failing me or it seems like they were quick to cut jobs before Arnold. (2002 comes to mind). I don't know. Not saying either is right or wrong, but when the city's biggest employer hasn't let go of anyone, well, then most people I know are still gainfully employed!

3 people came to mind - a good friend's husband (high tech), a client's hudband (MBA at a giant corporation) and another techy friend who was laid off a while ago but already found another job.

That's all that came to mind though dh's dad worked for a local government and is likely going to be axed, my dad's firm is a start up that depends on venture capital (who knows where that is going - though I think he said they actually got funding for another year) and then all our MBA friends at giant corporations and all our high tech friends. Yeah, pretty much ALL their jobs are on the line.

So it's not like it is all roses here.

I did just find out my uncle was laid off (another state) so that makes it a solid 3 I guess. He's one of those who is always jobless though - no idea what he does.

The economic report from my first 3 tax clients was all sunshine and roses though. But will see as the year progresses and I meet with more of my clients. (Frankly, 2 of them were retired so not like they were worried about jobs!)

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In other news, I briefly mentioned a foreclosure 2 doors down from us. IT was priced $240k, which was extremely aggressive if you ask me.

I was looking forward to a quick, discreet sale. Unlike some in the area that have sat bank owned for YEARS.

However, they did put a giant "bank owned" sign on the property. "Ugh," is all I Could think. So much for discreet.

$240k seemed like an odd price. Kind of on the low side. So I was nosy to see if I could look up the foreclosure data yet.

Well, yes indeed. House was bought in 2006 for $485k.

Bank chose a $240k price because that is how much the loan foreclosed for.

I was actually surprised the foreclosed amount was that low. Did not know these neighbors, but only noticed recently they were driving two $30k cars (maybe more expensive?). They were just very flashy, expensive looking cars. Next thing you know they are moving out with a foreclosure sign on their lawn.

Obviously I know nothing of their story but it seems they somehow sunk $245k into the house? Didn't even attempt a short sale? I don't know. A similar house sold not THAT long ago for almost $300k.

Nothing makes much sense in this market though.

Aw, but the beauty is this. When I looked it up today I saw the asking price has been lowered to $212k.

Okay, I am relieved to see the bank is motivated. Not holding out for exactly what they are owed. Because I now realize that is precisely where they started.

But $212k? Ugh. Boy I hope that house sells fast! For our sake.

For reference, this is the smallest home in our neighborhood, about 1800 square feet. They were selling for maybe $230k or $240k when we bought, mid-2001. So $240k didn't scare me terribly. But $212k is getting into pretty low territory. It's just to that point where everyone in the neighborhood paid more for their house than what they are worth today, it that is the going price. That's kind of scary.

I personally think it will sell fast. But what do I know? I e-mailed it to a friend at $240k and that's how I found out her spouse was laid off. They were house hunting. I think they would die to know they could own this house for $212k. But without a job, they ain't buying. Maybe that is precisely why prices are sinking so rapidly...

But yeah this is the friend who "ashamedly" told me they were "only approved for $200k." I think they $200k buys a pretty sweet house in this market. But the way she said it was so funny to me. Most people think we have a $400k mortgage or something. $200k sounds pretty good to me - I never felt comfortable borrowing much more than that!

I am not worried about our mortgage, but I am keenly aware at a certain price point and/or unemployment rate, our neighborhood could spiral downwards into foreclosure central, pretty rapidly. We prefer to have living, breathing neighbors! IT's kind of frightening. But probably a little early to panic.

& literally when we bought, the difference between 1800sf and 3000 sf was literally $20k or $30k dollars. (It's kind of my pet peeve that so many people thinks big houses cost twice as much in every way shaper or form. I think they don't cost twice as much in ANY way shape or form. LOL). But, um, our neighbors just bought a 3000sf-er (renting their 1800sf home) for $375k!!!!! & if this one sells for $212k? Ugh. What a price differential!!!! I guess it's good for us. The big ones are selling. Just when you think it can't get weirder. I guess today the big house does cost twice as much. You got me there!

I will just have to keep you all updated.

BTW - If we had a better savings rate or more cash, I tell you, I'd be tempted to buy some rental real estate right now. TEMPTING. This house will be a good investment for someone (for the LONG run). We're just not in a buying position right now. At all! Low prices change my tune a bit on the whole rental thing though. If I had the cash, I would consider it.

One-Day Weekend Here

February 14th, 2009 at 10:13 am

Which is totally fine. It's just rainy and icky here. I always take a 3-day weekend or two in May to make up for it. Just too much work to do. But since I like working, it doesn't bother me a bit. I particularly like working weekends because it's so peaceful and so few interruptions. When I start getting sick of it (usually when the weather gets NICE), the busy season will be over anwyay.

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I don't have many thoughts on the stimulus. I am waiting for it to be signed into law (don't think it has been?) and then let the experts dissect it. All the commentary on it before there was even an agreement bugs the HELL out of me. A lot of wasted effort arguing the merits of things that probably won't even come to be anyway.

I notice the news reports a lot of misinformation. It's like playing telephone once the bloggers gets their hands on the info. So just be careful what you read. I have read too many conficting things about the latest agreement (formal news reports) to make much of the commentary seriously.

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The kids had a clean bill of health at the dentist. What a sigh of relief - you don't even know.

Phew!

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My Credit Union- wonderful customer service, no fees, many branches, no complaints here. BUT their loan departments SUCK. LOL.

I had applied for a credit card and never heard anything. I mean, I called and they couldn't do anything with the fraud alert on my credit reports. So when they called to verify that I was really me, they said they would get back to me. The fraud alert apparently screwed up the flow of things.

Granted I lost sight of it, but today I decided to call. I couldn't have been denied, could I have? It's been like a month. (Plus I worried if they sent me cards in the mail and someone else got them or something).

So I Called and they said I was approved but my application had expired because I "didn't do anything. " It was a frutsrating conversation because they were like "You didn't do anything." & I am like, "What was I supposed to do?"

Yikes!

So literally the guy was like, "Okay, I extended your application." & was like about to hang up. So I am like, "Um, okay - so what am I supposed to do next???" "Go into the branch and sign paperwork," was the answer. Um, I can guarantee no one said anything about that before. Last I heard was, "We'll get back to you." Not - "Go into a branch to sign paperwork." I Was under the impression it was all online as any other card I have ever applied for.

But whatever, I have to go deposit my paycheck this week anyway.

I asked for the max $15k credit limit and I got it. Woohoo. I was starting to worried I was denied or something!

Their mortgage department was about as annoying. Anyway, I went to them due to my disgust with Chase. Not convinced at this point that this will be any better...

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Along the same lines, we are almost done closing all our balance transfer cards. Mine was a piece of cake. Dh had a blip because they told him he had some rewards available or something and they had to transfer them to his account. (Utter BS, by the way). So I was jealous they wanted to keep his account open but not mine. LOL. I assured dh I was well aware of the awards system and it didn't work like that. We had redeemed all our rewards. So he waited a week or 2 for the phantom rewards to appear, they didn't, and he finally called back to close the account.

I could check that little chore off my To Do list, but I was keeping my last WAMU BT card open for the free FICO score. Chase (took over WAMU) announced they stopped the free FICO but it would last until March.

Um, not. I can still see my past scores but they usually update it monthly and haven't updated it in like 45 days. SO I am going to cancel the card. I have been waiting and hoping, but oh well. Time to kill that card too.

The timing is extraordinarily sucky. I have never had a negative impact on my credit from closing unused cards. So, since I just closed one I was extremely curious what the short term result would be on my FICO. I expected maybe it would maybe drop 5-20 points and maybe that was it. I don't know. I knew it would bounce back quickly. So my score may drop to 780 for a month or 2 or 3. I coud care less. But I Was curious if it would even drop at all...

Basically, now I will never know!

But it will be nice to close the card, for sure.

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I got a $150 refund from my disability insurance premium. I paid in about $300 and got back $150. Not a bad deal! IT's for pretty ample disability insurance. It's cheap because it is through my professional association. But more importantly it's also a good program. They have more money than they know what to do with so we always get large refunds. Funny thing is I thought they were going to try to lower premiums and decrease refunds in 2008, but it was a banner refund year.

More interestingly, I got a notice that they will offer 20-year and 30-year term life insurance policies, starting later this year. Could be interesting. Though I am wary if we will be able to improve on our current policies.

We got our current 30-year term life insurance policies in our 20s. As a result of our youth and high health rating, the policies we have right now are cheaper than anything else we could get today. So I am not expecting to be able to lower our costs. But who knows.

I also have a small annually renewing policy with my professional association (I call it the supplemental SAHD policy - enough for dh to go back to school and/or not work for many years while the kids are young. I could survive without his policy so I felt like he needed a little extra in turn - he'd need mine. This is the "get back on his feet" policy).

Anyway, I may be able to turn that into something more affordable or bigger with their new policies. We'll just have to run the numbers and see.

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Anyway, I could save my $150, but I think I am applying it to my bike purchase. I also got my IRS refund. $50 and horribly slow compared to the state. Go figure! I pretty much have the money for my bike. & I won't have to dig into savings. I am excited!!!!

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Reminds me, we may shop some of the PResident's Day sales this weekend for a new bed for LM. He is outgrowing his toddler bed rapidly. We could maybe get $50 for it on Criagslist - about what we paid for the whole thing (on Craigslist)!

We want to get him a really nice twin mattress (one that he can use forever). BM has my old childhood forever mattress. It is a nice one. So we have not bought a mattress for the kids before. But we want to get him something nice. Maybe a bed too if we see a good deal. The bed itself can wait though. We had wanted to spread out the purchases a bit.

We bought BM a forever bed already. Too bad dh's family only bought him cheap crap. LOL. Orelse we would maybe not need to buy a mattress. We don't buy much new, but the kids' furniture we buy in the hopes to last well into adulthood. Not that it needed to be new to last that long. But I guess it is kind of our one exception.

I have a nice bed from childhood, but it was a waterbed and it is HUGE. We decided to give it away due to the small bedrooms. I guess that is the downside of buying "forever furniture." It's hard to know what will be best in 20 years.

These days they make the houses much BIGGER but the bedrooms are WAY smaller! Who knew!

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Dh and I are going on a date tomorrow. IT's not a V-Day thing. Just happens to coincide. But since I am working today and we wanted to go to the movies this weekend, we decided on tomorrow. Probably lunch and a movie. Woohoo.

That being said, I guess it is nice to reflect on V-Day about all the love I am blessed to have in my life. My spouse, for sure. Not exactly sure why I met him so young (We met when I was 18 and I Wasn't interested in a serious relationship, marriage, kids or any of that when we met). But you meet that right person and you know you just know you want to be with them forever. I don't know if I was lucky to meet the "one" or if I was luckier to realize it. Stuff I ponder much as my single friends struggle. I sometimes wonder how much was luck or just being open to settling down or simply realizing when I had it good! I can't say I know the answer. My parents met at 18/19 too.

Of course, then there are our parents who are the most wonderful supportive parents ever. They have their faults, but don't we all. I think we'd be hard pressed to do better.

& then there are my kids, the most amazing love I have ever felt in my life.

For all that I do feel very blessed on Valentine's Day.

Just an Update

February 13th, 2009 at 08:14 am

I can't tell if I have allergies or a cold. Feels more like allergies, but LM has had a bit of a fever with his runny nose. So I don't know!

So I have been miserable, just trying to survive. Haven't worked out in like a week either. Just not up to it. Lucky I could work, though I can't say I have been terribly productive. Ugh, I have so much to do!

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I met an old college/work friend for lunch the other day. She moved here recently. Anyway, we met at Olive Garden. I was looking forward to it because I love OG but hadn't been in AGES!!!!!! Largely because the place is so packed it is miserable to go. I looked forward to a less packed OG but realized something was wrong when I pulled in and there was nowhere to park. At 11:50AM. Yeah.

Anyway, needless to say, OG was more crowded than I had ever seen it at lunch. What in the world? Most of the places by our house have been shutting down and such. The restaurant crowd has really thinned. But apparently certain areas seem to be still thriving!

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So yeah, I now have a bike buddy. All I need is a bike.

I feel like such a dork. I mentioned before, but I used to love riding my bike from my parent's house and to all the surrounding hills, in my youth. We moved here, it was flat, and I was sad. I didn't bring my bike. (Always stored at my parent's house). I figured there was no point riding.

So I have been bike riding more with BM and we have been having a blast. It's been so long that a flat short ride feels like great fun.

Anyway, so on a whim I asked if my friend (at OG) biked (I knew she ran) and it turns out she is an avid biker with no one to bike with.

Which scares me a little, but maybe she will whip me into shape. LOL.

Of course she is making all these plans, and I am like, "whoa I need a bike first."

It will also be interesting because our income levels are very different. She doesn't understand why I just don't get a $800 road bike. Um, because I am just starting back into the sport? LOL. But they both work high level jobs and I see this could be interesting. It's been a while since I spent much time with anyone who was doing well financially. I know people who make as much, but are struggling. I am meeting one for lunch today, we often meet at Taco Bell. So, you know, it's just different. I can afford Taco Bell far more often than OG for a lunch date.

Anyway yeah, a bike is one thing, but all the accessories that come with it are endless. So I think I have my work cut out for me, aiming to make it a frugal hobby as possible.

Also, there was a big article in the paper yesterday about what a bike riding mecca Sacramento is and it showcased a couple of local bike clubs. It was like a sign. I think all in all something like a bike club may be more my thing due to the flexibility, but hopefully I can get my friend to join as well.

I am a dork for writing off the bike mecca when we moved here. I will of course miss being able to ride from my house to some gentle rolling hills, but there are plenty of hills if I am willing to drive a bit. Not what I am used to, but I guess we could do worse.

I am also going to bug my friend in San Francisco to get a bike and see if we can meet up a bit in between for some rides. She was my riding buddy in San Jose.

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Today the kids' have dental appointments. If they both have a clean bill of dental health I think we may go out to dinner to celebrate. Don't ask me why I chose Friday the 13th!

Since BM just had like 10 fillings I am not so worried about him. I doubt 10 more cavities have popped up in the meantime. But LM has not been in a year and I am wary if he ends up like his brother. So I will be holding my breath a bit today!

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Financially, I don't know. With our refi and all the financial strife around us, I feel like we are doing extraordinarily well. I am not obsessing much these days, and blogging much less as a result.

By the same token most days I have no idea how we will afford piano lessons for the kids, afford college, or how I will afford all my bike dreams. Big Grin You know, it just depends on the day. For now I am happy to be contributing significantly to our retirement and other savings. So I feel like I can relax for a bit I guess.

Now that we have some savings (above our emergency fund) we are also working on some stuff around the house. We've got a few things to take care of, which are keeping us busy too.

& well, work is crazy busy, and I am working on a nice overtime bonus. Big Grin So yeah, I've been a little extra busy. But also less money obsessed lately. Which is a GOOD thing.

Spent a pretty penny on light bulbs...

February 11th, 2009 at 10:29 am

Okay, I totally LIED. No, I am just a dork. It wasn't inentional.

Our home, we purchased new as an energy star home. Since the lightbulbs never burned out (most going on 7 years strong) and our electric bill was always so low, I assumed we had all CFLs. I said so much in this blog.

Dh only recently pointed out to me that we don't have CFLs. Doh!

When we first moved in, before kids, we did not use like half the house. So this can explain SOME of the light bulb life. But not really. Only 3 of 6 kitchen lights had burned out. (We have used the kitchen lights about every day for just over 7 years).

Anyway, an outside light, a garage light, and a couple of family room lights burned out, so dh replaced them with CFLs in the last year. This is when he imformed me of the truth.

3 kitchen lights had burned out, and 3 were still going so strong. Plenty of light left. But I suggested we go ahead and replace those with CFLs. We decided to keep the other bulbs (probably with little life left) to eventually replace the dining room lights that we never use. They may last forever at this rate, I don't know.

He ended up getting the lights at Home Depot. They are recessed lights and he got the "soft light" CFLs.

OMG. They are SO BRIGHT. It could be that we have 6 instead of 3 working bulbs now, too. Funny thing is he accidentally got some that are much smaller. They look fine and our PLENTY bright. So we just went with it.

I love all the light in the kitchen now!

I also talked dh into replacing the bathroom lights (the kids' bathroom which is used more - has EIGHT bulbs) and since we did like the kitchen lights, he went back out and bought 6 more of the same lights to replace all the hallway lights. Those probably didn't have much life left either - as we use them so much. We will give the old bulbs away. The bathroom ones may have a lot of life since that bathroom we never used until the kids were much older.

Dh also replaced the one already flourescent light fixture over the kids' shower. Phew. I haven't showered with light in AGES. He was really pissing me off not taking care of it. I am happy now, but I also see how dirty the shower is. LOL. But I guess that's what got this whole lightbulb binge going.

Um yeah, I Expect WAY lower electric bills for this investment. We shall see! If we do notice a substantial improvement we will probably do another lightbulb binge. That was 22 bulbs. We still have about 40 left inside. Don't even ask. 4-bulb fixtures in every bedroom left (5 rooms). A fixture in our closet (I assume the same - it's a big closet). 8 bulbs in our bathroom. 8 bulbs in the entry way and formal dining room. Dh replaced a burned out light outside. We have more to replace outside, eventually.

If our bill is lower (since we replaced all the highly used bulbs) then it will be worth it. If not, I think we'll pass until they burn out. Could be a while...

The packaging says "Last 4 times as long as standard bulbs." Dh is like, "How long do these last????" I pointed out to him our current bulbs were anything but standard bulbs. Standard bulbs do not last 7+ years usually. I had to burst his bubble that these probably won't last 30 years... Of course, I wish!

Dh also invested in an extended light bulb changer. We have one stray light above the stairs, about 20 feet up, that we thought we could never reach. Now we can, but it made it a much simpler task to change so many bulbs. So I think that was a good investments. (The recessed lighting in particular - it was easy to reach with this thing).

For whatever reason we have ONE room in the house with no ceiling lights. Go figure. Cheap stupid builder. LOL. But this was a cost saver buying new construction. We never had to buy any lamps. But for our living room. & it really sucks compared to the lighting in the rest of the house. So I don't know know why they skimped on that. Seems they could have done ONE more room.

Anyway, that was our investment and project for the weekend.

I can't say I noticed much difference in our bill from the few CFLs that dh installed prior. But I expect to notice a bigger difference with the mass bulb change.

Super Bummed!

February 10th, 2009 at 01:32 pm

Kind of in a tailspin here.

The preschool is closing. Moving to a faraway state. Moving to cheaper lands.

I can't help but find it ironic that everyone we have come to love here ends up leaving due to the high cost of living. The irony is we moved here for the low cost of living.

It's all relative!

But yeah, dh and I seem to have those rare jobs that translate into jobs anywhere. I think that is our edge here. Our pay didn't suffer with the move; not at all. But for the people leaving, they just don't have the job opportunities.

Anyway, the whole thing leaves me feeling rather frustrated. My dh and I never moved as children. We moved here to build a very stable life for our kids. As stable as we could. Then everyone we come to love moves away. I've known my best friend since I Was like 5. I am not sure my kids will get the same kind of friendships, with everyone moving so much. *sigh*

& then you wonder why the heck no one leaves expensive land (where we come from). Most of our friends are still there! But it's where the jobs are. Few seem to care about the insane cost of living.

Just a lot at play, I guess!

Anyway, we are kind of devastated. & now we are in preschool limbo.

Honestly, I'd be happy to put LM in somewhere insanely cheap (city preschool) for the next 18 months or so, and leave it at that. Dh has been immeasurably spoiled. Anything like what we are used to will be out of our price range anywhere else. Plus the only reason we have him in full days is because it is out by my work, to save on the gas. So I put the seeds in dh's head today that maybe he won't get so much of a break for the next 18 months. But maybe we could really save some money. & he does start school in 18 months.

We have much to discuss.

I think overall this could be good for my job. I spend so much time driving kids and such. We will save on gas. I will have more time for work, 9-5 anyway. So it's not all bad. But we would have been done with preschool soon enough anyway. *sigh*

I am SO glad now we put LM in so early though. It was more to help me last tax season (to give dh a break and to keep his grump level down so I could work more). But if not I am not sure he would have had much time with Ms. Preschool. He was blessed to have a little over a year. He has grown much in that environment.

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We did go to look at a daycare behind our house today. One we could walk to. There were no kids over 2 and it was $45/day. Ugh. (We pay $35/day now). We've got our work cut out for us.

& wherever we end up, has some pretty big shoes to fill!

The good thing is last we shopped, BM was only 2 and few would take him part-time. Why we ended up so far away from home. So, being about 4 and of proper preschool age, I think there will be a lot more part-time, and affordable, choices. Phew.

A Productive Saturday...

February 8th, 2009 at 08:58 am

We had the weekend off work since Saturday was a cleaning/prep day for clients. Carpets cleaned and such.

I could have worked anyway, BUT I worked last Sunday. & as much as I can work from home it's never as productive. Always missing something, don't have my 10-key, etc., etc., etc. Ideally I will get a couple of hours of work done today. But otherwise, happy to take a long, deep breathe before the next 3 months of 6-day weeks.

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Yesterday my parents visited.

My dad spent a chunk of the day helping dh fix his old bike up and diagnosing an electric problem. I think we decided long ago the strobing lights in the bathroom need to be replaced. But for whatever reason dh refused to replace them. He is driving me NUTS. Forgive me for wanting LIGHT in the bathroom. So this has been a long going issue. Believe me, I have threatened to buy light bulbs, but then dh says he will take care of it. Round and round we go.

So anyway, my dad said we needed new light bulbs. Doh. & he doesn't understand our other problem, but it's workable. So, dh said he would buy light bulbs today. Lord help him if he doesn't. Big Grin

I didn't put that whole thing on my To Do list for 2009 because I thought it would have been done by now!

Let there be light in the shower today! Maybe it will be scary - we have been showering in the dark so long. LOL.

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My co-worker makes these beautiful fleece blankets and sells them pretty much at cost. I bought a beautiful full size one for my mom and a Thomas Train one for LM. We picked them up yesterday. While there I spotted the most PERFECT one for my sister. So I ended up spending $120 on 3 blankets.

Oh, they are definitely my weakness!!!!!!!

But it does remind me of my frugal nature. I had told her what I had in mind but that I had wanted to spread them out. I resisted telling her anything for BM because I did not want to buy 3 blankets at once (which I did do!). Anyway, so BM was rather jealous. I told him that he would have to wait his turn, and in fact I would love nothing more than a full-size blanket myself (I have just a lap one - the first one I bought). I told him I knew we both had the patience to wait.

Anyway, the thing about being frugal or living below your means is that if there is something you really want, you learn to put it off.

I know plenty of parents who would never do what I did. Oh it's so unfair. Well life isn't fair. BM wants a blanket, he can wait until I can truly afford one. LM was just way easier to shop for, truth be told.

So BM and I will wait for ours. Thinking next fall. So hopefully we can have them by next winter!

Of course, funny enough, when my dad left yesterday he mentioned he wanted one too. LOL. Oy vey. & then dh!!!!! He said he was joking and he could share. But that he really likes the one we have but for it being small, like a lap blanket.

I see many blankets in our future. But yeah, not going to spend $300 on blankets today. Phew.

Yeah, my dad is going to have to wait a couple of months, at least. Might as well save pennies for when the weather turns cold once again. Spring is already in the air here.

I'll post pics later though - they are gorgeous. & so WARM and COZY! Can't remember life before them. My mom always knitted a lot of blankets so those are second best. We have a few knitted blankets around, but I think they have fallen out of favor a bit. Both kinds are very durable and warm.

I know it's relatively mild here but we don't turn on the heat at night and we don't pile our beds with blankets. One of those will do, on top of a summer bed and one other blanket. Obviously we don't live up north though!

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Anyway, the day went fast. We went on a long drive to my co-worker's. We had a nice lunch. & we blinked and it was over.

In the morning we did pick up the house a bit. We are not neat by ANY means. LOL. But I think we have been de-cluttering so much, and a little more time and organization lately, and the 3 or 4 weekends away left our house in total disarray.

Yesterday dh put away the Christmas stuff and I cleared some of the piling clutter downstairs. I had been feeling stressed and disorganized and I think that was partly why.

I think we have no weekend plans for a long time. Phew. To be gone so much does become stressful.

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I am pleased to say I have a big long day of nothing to do today. Woohoo!

Passed a Savings Milestone

February 6th, 2009 at 01:08 pm

Well, my goal was to save $6k this year, in more mid range savings (more long term, but not retirement).

I already surpassed $1k - woohoo. I was counting on overtime and stuff like that to fund much of it since I am only saving $250/month from my regular paycheck.

BUT I did get my state tax refund and I also just transferred over $300 to savings since we are in preschool limbo. So it's a good start!

If we were able to save at this level all along, that would be one thing. But we took a savings break for a few years with this whole one income thing. We only made half as much a couple of years in there; half what we are making this year. Difference is night and day. I feel like my stress level will decrease a notch when we hit $20k cash savings again. So close I can taste it. (Probably around $17k today? efund + ST + MT + MEdical savings)) Though honestly, $20k in 2000, pre-kids, was a whole other ballgame. It won't stretch nearly as far. So the sigh of relief when we make it will be very short lived. We live in a much more expensive world now (health insurance for the entire fam, orthodntist and dental expenses, on and on and on).

Anyway, we just re-insituted the mid-term savings fund last year. We have a ways to go.

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Dh finally agreed to take LM to the drop-in childcare place today. Phew. They have both been grumpy. Some reason dh thinks it is more for his sake than LM's. Puh-leez. LM needed some play time and a break from daddy I think. LOL. But anyway, those expenses can be carded and paid off next month. Woohoo.

Not sure how things will pan out in the long run, but for now, drop-in care will do. Same budget - $70/week. Buys about 9 hours, with no meals. More pricey, but not horrid.

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I got our natural gas bill and it was down $20 or about 20% over last year. What gives?

Weather has been very mild and gas rates also went down. I don't think I can take too much credit here! But it's nice.

Winter lasted like a minute here. What the heck? I usually hate winter. This was a piece of cake.

We actually got some rain this week which also warmed up the outside a bit. WHen I woke up yesterday the house was 66 (It was 68 when I went to bed). Today was 65. January is usually our coldest month; temp usually drops to 60 inside, over night. We are fast forwarding into warmer weather. No doubt on track for a low gas bill in february too.

PG&E also has some new feature where you can look at your gas usage by day. There are many days we show NO gas usage. Too little to register anyway. Weekends are worse - I turn up the heat more than the ice boys, do more laundry, bathe the kids more, etc., etc. But I have said many times, dh and I do not skimp on hot showers. I wish I knew what kind of hot water heater we have. IT just looks standard. I Can't help but wonder if our meter is broken. Then again, you can hear it fire up when someone takes a shower. Doesn't seem to use much gas most of the day otherwise. ??? I don't remember being sold an "on demand" water heater but it seems to function like one in many regards. It has an insulation blanket so I can't see what the heck the brand or model is. IT's just a giant mystery. If I knew what the heck it was I would tell you all to buy one!!! We only pay $10/month MAX for gas most of the year. I'd consider us hot water hogs when it comes to showers, though we are pretty conservative otherwise. (We wear are clothes more than once, don't wash much in hot water, etc., etc.)

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The snow in the mountains is calling to me. Weather was predicted snowy in Tahoe Saturday and clear and warm Sunday, so we were considering a snow trip. But today all I see is snow AND rain for the entire weekend, as of today. Blech. Will postpone for another time. Will have to keep an eye out for a nice sunny day. Not making that trek in snowy or icy weather, for sure.

Was also excited because I had the entire weekend off work. But I have plenty to do!

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My parents are visiting tomorrow so we may hit some bike shops up here. I may buy a bike. Big Grin So excited!!!!!!!!!!!!

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I had 2 tax clients and they both seemed to be doing just fine. Banner years, really.

Then again, a few have canceled due to layoffs and such. & granted, these were the FIRST people. The early birds who tend to get the worm.

Anyway, it will be interesting to see how tax season progresses.

Out of curiosity when I was preparing 1099s I added up receipts for the clients I work on (what my boss bills). For reference, my Corporate clients paid about $300k (very loosely) in 2008. Individual tax returns - my specific clients - about $15k.

Our individual clients are a necessary evil - not money makers - and I think we are kind of glad to see them thin out a bit. This year will definitely be thinner. IT just gets to be too much work because you are doing taxes for the owners of these corps, then you take on their kids, and then their grandkids, and all their neighbors. & ugh. We have pretty much stopped taking any new clients for many years, but we don't say no to referrals, and then you end up spending a lot of time on people who should be using Turbo Tax or H&R.

Anyway, I share because I said many times before taxes are not our bread and butter. Corporate taxes, yes. Individuals? Not so much... The numbers paint an interesting picture, huh?

I honestly think if we lost all those people we would do a happy dance. Those numbers were eye opening, even to me. You know, the rest of the work is very annual. But, individuals, you just got to cram them in Feb. & March. For an extra 5% revenue? Blech.

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Note: Reasons you may get a W-2 that does not reflect an employer funded HSA. Because employer fails to tell their accountant. O.M.G.

HSAs are a NIGHTMARE in Cali. I am reconciling client's December's bank statement and they have all these payments to a HSA plan for their employees. We did their W-2s like 4 weeks ago. Shoot me now.

They're a nightmare because Cali does not recognize HSAs and so it will be considered taxable compensation for Cali. It gives me a headache just thinking about it.

Real Quick

February 5th, 2009 at 01:01 pm

BUSY HERE.

I have no idea how single parents do it. & 2-working families either. IT's not a slight to the working ones; just don't have a clue how you DO IT! LOL.

I am exhausted over here.

A weekend home and not working will be nice (carpet cleaning at the office - woohoo) but then again we may go to the snow.

Anyway,

**Preschool Shopping. Ms. Preschool is s'posed to call me when she returns. I called today and her hubby said again, "She'll e-mail me." Whatever that means. On one hand, last time they took time off with BM it was the end of the world. LM is very different. He could care less. Last month has spoiled me so I am shopping local preschools. Problem is they all cost 10 times as much, or only offer a fraction of the hours for our budget. We'll see! But cutting the commute may be nice either way. Cutting the price too may be okay. Considering keeping one day a week here if she ever returns. But I am realizing how draining it all is for me 2 days a week since it's by my work, and far from home.

**Ran into an old college friend on Facebook who lives in Sacto too. I think I heard through the grapevine at some point that she moved here, when I Was knee deep in babies. She is a fitness nut and has some bikes in her photos. I am excited since I Wanted to get back into biking soon. I may have found a biking buddy???? We'll see! I am at a point where I have more time to reconnect with people, so you know, why I never seeked her out before. Plus I have been finding more and more people. I don't have a million friends on facebook. I am one of those who always prefers to have a very few close friends. So finding them is very neat!

**Dh got called in for a $65 focus group, and I for $85. Well I got a message. It's not a sure thing for me. But I have been feeling like money has been abundant lately, and yeah, this is just one more abundance thing.

I have to run!

Not My Day, Financially or Otherwise

February 1st, 2009 at 03:49 pm

I did a sum up of the last few days in my last post.

But I had to share my bad spend day today.

I work in a pretty horrible area really and so if I come in on the weekends I prefer not to leave the building until the end of the day. Particularly Sunday because I thought I would be alone.

(But I wasn't - yay)!

Anyway, made a quick sandwhich in the morning and figured I'd grab a soda and chips at the gas station across the street. It's my "weekend working" splurge - I usually grab some soda and a high-calorie snack. I figured it would complement my sandwhich.

Anyway, ran to the store, bought some soda and chips, and drove over to work. Somewhere along the way I realized my sandwhich seemed to be missing AND the car was awfully low on gas.

I called dh to ask if he noticed the gas light come on yesterday on the drive home. He said no because *I* was the one driving. *Doh* I hadn't noticed, but my powers of observation are pretty shoddy. LOL. So I am wondering if it has been on for 50 miles or if it just turned on. I think it had just turned on.

Anyway, I also whined I forgot my sandwhich and he said he would bring it. But the whole thing seemed kind of silly. So I ran back to the gas station a couple of hours later, for a frozen dinner. (At least those prices aren't bad).

Anyway, I decided to just grab 3 gallons of gas at the Chevron. Last I saw gas was $2/gallon (at the ARCO anyway) so I figured $6 would be well enough so I wouldn't have to fill up again until Wednesday.

I peaked at the sign while I was paying and saw $2.13, so seemed well enough. Until I got out to the pump and saw it was $2.23. "What the heck?" I peeked around the corner at the price sign again and saw it had been divided into cash or credit. Ugh. Though all I Could see was the cash side from the inside of the mini mart. I don't like carrying cash and any other time I would have charged it anyway. We usually don't pay near as much as Chevron prices anyway. BUT it was just $6. If I had noticed at all I would have paid cash.

So anyway, today ended up a little spendy!

Just an Update

February 1st, 2009 at 12:31 pm

Much going on...

**Dentist appointment Friday in Bay Area. Clean bill of health. (I wasn't nervous about our appointment, but am crossing my fingers for the kids in February). BM has horrible baby teeth (very cavity prone). Anyway, I worry if LM took after BM. I have never been cavity (or problem) prone. Dh - not as an adult. Paying thousands in dental bills (fillings) was nothing I planned for because nothing from my personal frame of reference. So I am holding my breath a bit, hoping for some improvement since the last visit. & hopiung LM fares better as he nears the same age.

I am more worried from a health perspective, but yeah, the financial stress would follow if he was still getting more cavities!

**We also had our first 2009 doctor visit. It went exceptionally well though.

Anyway, for one, our HMO is coming under fire for not getting people in fast enough and stupid stuff like that. I read the newspaper articles and I am thinking, "Do they have the right HMO? Huh? Since when is it hard to get in? For ANYTHING?!?" But anyway, this is probably not the BEST example. Because this is about the most serious thing we have called the Doctor about in a long time. But we dropped off LM with Grandma Tuesday night and she called to say she was concerned he was urinating every 15 minutes. We didn't know what she was talking about and figured she was exaggerating. Plus he gets in these phases. Figured it was the stress of staying with MIL or something. Don't get me wrong, he was in great hands, but she can be a little crazy all the same.

Anyway, we saw him Friday after our appointments and he was running to the bathroom every 10 minutes. Egads.

So Saturday morning we called the doctor at 8am and we got in at 10am. I was very confused though. I figured this must be something really bad that he is being rushed to the doctor. I felt horrible that it had been 4 days before anyone called the doctor. I mean, MIL didn't exactly make clear how worrisome his behavior was. & anyway, I figured they'd send us to the lab first. So why are we going to the doctor?

Well, we went in and they did lab tests in the office. It took about 2 minutes. I guess it's been a while since I went in for any lab tests. Holy Cow! This is the way to do it! Doc came in and said they had screened him for kidney infection or diabetes and he was negative on both (sigh of relief). So he tries to tell us it is "potty training." I remember I wasn't concerned because he had done that during potty training, BUT that was AGES ago. It was different when we saw it firsthand, you know. So I wasn't very pleased with the results at that point. OF course, the doctor said he would examine him anyway, and in the end it turns out his privates were just iritated. Now, that makes sense. Just gave us some cream, instructions to keep the area extra dry, and sent us on our way.

Wonderful experience. Plus, it's not the first time we have had to rush to the Doctor in San Jose. So makes it all the better.

Anyway, when we returned to Grandma's house she said, "$20 well spent." Ugh. It was more like $200, but yes, VERY well spent, thanks! ($20, I wish! LOL).

The funny thing was he was getting better anyway Saturday. I mean, he way toned it down. So, it was kind of moot. I think it was clearing up on its own. If we had driven down Saturday to pick him up I think we would have chalked it up to crazy MIL or something. Like, what is she talking about?

**I went bike shopping with my dad yesterday and am eyeing a $400 bike. Will see... If nothing else, I have narrowed down what I want to look for in a bike.

I looked at a very sleek top notch (by my standards) bike for about $440 at quite a hoity toity place in San Jose. (Actually the lower price range of the bike I wanted). I made a mental note to actually buy my bike in Sacramento. I may be able to get something a little cheaper since Sacramento is not the playground of the rich as much as the Bay Area is.

I found something similar for about $380 at another shop. It wasn't quite as sleek looking, but had about all the same features. & was the most comfortable thing I have ever sat on. Ever. LOL. I also preferred it in the sense as I think the other one would be a larger theft target. I don't want to get mugged for my bike, for sure. (& yeah - it was about $60 cheaper).

Which leads me to another conundrum. I think in the end I may buy 2 bikes. One for around the neighborhood, and one I may actually keep inside the house and only use on longer rides. If I buy this bike, I would just have to be extra careful with it.

Then again, $400 for a bike that should last a good 20 years and is so high end, is not bad. Technology has gone a long way since I last avidly biked.

But then again, it's only worthwhile if the thing doesn't get stolen. & you know, we generally try not to draw attention to our larger purchases. But a bike is harder to hide.

Anyway, before yesterday I wasn't quite sure what I wanted. So now I know. If I end up with a $400 bike, I will probably take a year to save up for it and shop around.

I am also going to look around for a hitch so BM can ride on the back. Either something that can connect his bike when he gets tired or in more dangerous conditions, or an actual wheel, pedals, handlebars thing that attaches to the back. It might be expensive to get something safe. & certainly no rush. But yeah, biking can be a pretty expensive hobby. For now, I just want a bike. & we will go from there. No hurry, at all. Time is something that seems to get more abundant with time. So during tax season there is no rush. When the heck would I ride? But as the kids get older, something I Want to get back into. So, certainly no rush here. But I am really excited all the same. The thing was a beauty! I decided to go with a hybrid. It weighs a whopping 27 pounds. I mean, the thing just weighs nothing.

I did largely decide yesterday I would like to go brand new with the bike. For various reasons. Though I will still keep an eye on the classifieds now that I have a better idea what I want! Certainly not the worst plan to go used until I know for sure I will get back into biking. But it's hard to get back into it without an approproate bike, etc.

I am still extremely dissapointed we don't have the foothills in our backyard, here, but I will make do. I realize that flat riding isn't the worst. & if I can get a bike I can take it with me to San Jose (we go enough). & once in a while
I can take a half hour drive out to more hilly rides. I am warming up to it as I have been having so much fun with my crappy $20 Craigslist bike.

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Anyway, I don't remember the last time I wanted to buy something over $100. BUT dh told me there is nothing on his buying horizon this year (nothing large, and there usually is - all the time). So, it just might work out. My turn to be extravagant for a change.

Yes, it does feel a little odd to be looking at these bikes when the economy is in the toilet. But what can I say. We didn't over-spend the last decade, so it's not really much of a biggie to us. In the end our consumption is about where it has always been anyway. At a pretty sustainable level.

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Today I am just working and taking a deep breath before next week. Finished all my W-2s and 1099s well ahead of schedule, BUT there is individual tax returns to begin and Corporate tax returns and all sorts of stuff to do on top of the regular workload. So yes, I do feel a little stressed!