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Archive for May, 2009

Vacation Priorities

May 29th, 2009 at 11:31 pm

Well, I am not totally crazy. I am NOT a big vacation person, overall, because usually vacation is expensive. I am not a fan of spending a lot of money on a fleeting experience. I've said it many times, and I stand by it.

That being said, these low vacation prices are enticing.

I am a little more enticed by this Florida thing now because the airfare is so extremely reasonable (cheap).

I still REALLY want to go to Hawaii, but the discount just isn't really there. We are looking at airfare more expensive than the last time we went. I just heard a report the other day that Hawaiian hotels were offering more amenities, like use of a Wii for a week, or complimentary coffee. Sorry, that ain't going to do it for me! LOL. Regardless, we have a free room anyway. But yeah, we need more than that. They said hotels were resistant to lowering rates because it would be harder to raise them again. Fair enough, but it's just not going to sell people like us.

The Alaskan cruise post reminded me though, I have been seeing some insane deals on Alaskan cruises. I guess that's another industry that has been pretty hard hit. I was looking into it recently. (More on a whim than anything). We could drive up to Washington and set sail from there. The expensive part for us is we literally have no warm clothes. Wink

So basically, as much as I would love to go to HAwaii, we may end up doing Florida, Colorado and Alaska instead. What the heck. Big Grin

Well, we need to prioritize. But with deals like these, places like Florida and Alaska make take priority in our near future vacation plans. Which were simply "no plans" before... We really had no near term vacation plans before - but to vacation in state, go camping, do some 3-day weekends and staycations, etc. The thing is we can go to Florida or Alaska on our existing bare bones vacation budget. Well, I am in then!

I guess that's the other thing - it's not that I never want to go on vacation. I am just good with something exciting once every few years. That's plenty for me. Alaska Cruise is on our "short list" of things we would like to do, eventually, some day. The time has maybe arrived sooner than expected.

We may have to resort to drawing vacation destinations out of a hat though. Too much to decide!

2009 Update

May 29th, 2009 at 02:31 pm

Out of curiosity, I whipped up a Quicken report to see how our spending was compared to last year. Mostly because I feel like we have been spending a lot of money lately!

I guess I see the big picture now (which it is definitely good to look at and appreciate). The year has definitely been good. & the numbers show why.

Income is up $6500 over last January through May.

Most of it is salary/bonus.

Extra $500 in Ebay income, over last year. (Interestingly, this really dried up in May so no May income in this area. The economy is changing here - not so many deals on games, etc. Maybe people are realizing they can sell their own stuff on ebay instead of giving it away for pennies???).

Plus an unexpected $1k.

Expenses on the other hand, were the same as last year - no change.

Of note, we have only used half the auto fuel that we did this time last year. (Largely attributed to less driving with no more preschool in the boonies).

We've been more charitable, which surprised me. Ah, 100% to the school. That explains things.

$2500 less in childcare, with BM DONE and with LM going far less this year. (We are on a waiting list for more hours, but it is still closer and cheaper).

We've definitely been eating out more - which has been our splurge lately. & a nice one to have.

We've saved about $1k on our mortgage payment (with the refi), but spent about $1k more on "stuff." Actually, stuff and outings. Includes Little League, bowling, replacing kitchen items, GPS, tent, etc., etc.

Most every other category was about the same as last year.

Total spending for year, thus far, $25k. Right on target. Absolute spending limit is $5k per month (average). We try (have always tried) to limit our annual expenses to $50k. But medical adds $10k to the mix.

According to Quicken, I have $10k to spare ($10k income over expenses). Which is precisely how much has gone into our savings and IRAs this year.

So yes, I felt like we were splurging more, but saving even more. Yes, and yes.

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In other news, MIL is completely driving me nuts. I told her about the airfare (I'm ready to BUY) and she tells me she is not sure if they are going or not.

Gah! Seriously? All that pressure, just for a "Oh, it's very up in the air. Will decide in July."

We will see... I am super glad I bowed out though. I don't do well with "spontaneous."

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BM was invited to a birthday party in July. So he said. I thought, holy cow, we better get on the ball (July birthdays for the kids).

It turns out, when we got the invitation, it was a JUNE party. LOL. But it served its purpose to kick my butt in gear.

Dh and BM wanted to invite his whole class. & this is doable if we get invitations out before school is out.

I am not so thrilled with this idea, but frankly, who is going to come anyway? (I could be so wrong, huh...). So, whatever.

Well, let's start at the beginning. Great Grandma gave the kids $20 to spend. They were all set to go out and SPEND it. Okay, it's a gift. No issues with that. But it still felt really wrong all the same to go spend money to spend money. We were just about to go out to Target when I finally asked the kids if they would rather go buy toys, or treat us to Chuck E Cheese? They chose Chuck E Cheese. Grandma often gives them cash with a Chuck E Cheese Coupon, so I thought it was a nice compromise. They certainly don't need more toys. (99% of them bought by dh's side of the family in the first place).

So we were at Chuck E Cheese discussing the birthday situation when we decided to have the party there. The place is hell on a weekend, but quite nice on a week night. So we can do the party on his actual birthday.

Later I was perusing their website for party packages. Seriously, $13/kid. For just about NOTHING. $5 in tokens, and some pizza/soda. Who pays for this stuff? There were perks like balloons, tickets, and toys, but eh. Not much of a deal.

Instead, we can show up and have the party there, regardless. We can buy tokens for the kids ($5/pop, sure). We can bring in some balloons from the party shop next door (not even necessary) and bring our own cake, which we'd have to otherwise (or pay extra for). We can order some pizzas/drinks. They don't cost that much.

I loathe party favors. I am happy to skip them since the kids will probably buy crappy toys with their tickets. Win-win.

In the grand scheme of things, this will be an easy party. I am pleased with the idea.

I'd be happy to skip the family/home party. But I am not sure dh's family will be so accommodating. We will see. The thing about that is dh usually does most the work anyway. If they must have a party, he can deal with it. Wink

Dh did talk about doing something in San Jose actually - since our entire family is there. Now he is thinking. But in the grand scheme of things I don't quite *get* why we owe the grown ups a party. Wink

Various Updates - Stroke Update

May 27th, 2009 at 09:13 pm

We got the "bad" news that it was indeed a stroke that my father suffered. A "small" one, but a stroke all the same.

He will probably be put on disability. They are saying it will take 6 months to see if he recovers.

For now we are very much on "wait and see" mode. More tests, more appointments, etc. He does not return to work until Monday, from vacation. Phew. It's nice they have time for this all to sink in before they figure out their next steps, etc.

My mom is not in 100% health and I imagine we will spend many future weekends helping them out - with whatever they need help with.

They are entirely too young for this!

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In other news, our kids are completely spoiled. They are going to Disney World this fall. MAke that 4 years in a row for them (DLand, DWorld, Dland, Dworld).

MIL has been pushing and we were not interested in the least. Considering finances, time off, etc., etc.

Silly me! I really thought she had let it go, though it has been brought up many times.

Yeah, what do I know.

It came up over the weekend and she pretty much said she would help pay (she's never invited us on a trip and not paid) if dh's dad was still working in the fall. He's not expected to - he is supposed to be laid off in June - and retiring.

Anyway - I honestly think she is completely full of crap. Like she only says that so we will go this year, which is her whim, obviously.

BUT, dh does have his GRandDad there. We had been talking about going next year anyway. I've personally been sidtracked with dreams of Kuai though. We figured MIL would pay and we'd do both, regardless. We certainly couldn't do both on our own. Florida is far more expensive since it would be airfare for four, as opposed to 2. My budget does not do airfare for FOUR!!! IT would need some major revisions, that is for sure.

Anyway, she mentioned my BIL could not get the time off, as I hemmed and hawed about money and vacation time. I finally told dh later that he should take the opportunity. IF the three of them could go for "free" then they really should go. They went without me last time. & I survived. & I don't mind putting off paying for ourselves to go to Florida in the future.

My only wish this year was not to travel anywhere. So hey, everyone is happy!

I know my MIL was a little annoyed by our conversation though. We just bought our GPS and we are talking about going to Hawaii next year (airfare for TWO being our only real expense - maybe $800 total). & I assure you she was rolling her eyes when we brought up Florida was not in our budget. Well, MIL, I don't know what world you live in, but I need more than FOUR MONTHS to save up for a vacation, for FOUR, to Florida. YEesh! So yeah, that whole thing, drives me nuts. Which is kind of where our resistance came in the first place. Let's plan a trip like a year or 2 in advance, like normal people. Maybe we can pitch in a bit! I Can assure you we wouldn't have just spent $500 on toys if I thought she would "win" this whole Florida thing. !!

Dh and I have both been a little tired of these last minute trips, on some level. I am personally tired of MIL controlling all things vacation in my life. Since I don't GET much vacation time. But the fact of the matter is dh and the kids have a lot more time to spare, than I do. & I do think they should take advantage. Particularly if there is any truth to the matter that the vacation gravy train would run dry in retirement. Seems reasonable it could. So just in case, I think they better go.

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It's 97 degrees here. BLECH!

Food on the Cheap!!

May 27th, 2009 at 04:29 pm

A local blog was featured in the paper today. Excellent article and excellent blog.

It's about eating well on a small budget. LOVE it. Mostly my personal philosophy except I know hardly nothing about cooking.

I am definitely bookmarking this one.

http://www.poorgirleatswell.com/

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I've never been a fan of tofu or soy in particular. I guess with age I am less adverse to it.

I have surprisingly become a fan of soy beans, but dh was scared to deal with it. He just didn't know how to cook it, etc. I kept bugging him to buy some and I'd figure it out. Yeesh.

Alton Brown came to the rescue. We recently caught a Good Eats about soy beans. & the best way to cook them? MICROWAVE! Dh was then sold. !

We also tried this recipe - divine:

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/roasted-edamame-salad-rec...

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In other news, the weather was so HOT we finally opened up dh's "window sill herb growing kit" we got him for Christmas. I figured the warmth would be good for the little seeds.

The heat did its job. Instructions said 7-10 days for things to start growing. Um, how about 2-3 days?

The front window sill (spacious) has proved a good spot for out little herbs. If our little pots and prepackaged soil don't do the job, this may kick our butts into doing a DIY window herb project. That being said, the only problem is the cat. Hope she stays out of them... Will see!

We could try outside. I have no idea how herbs do in the heat though.

Well, for now they are growing, well and FAST! Cilantro, chives, basil, oregano and ???.

Our front window mostly faces east. Maybe a smidgen to the south/east. South or Southeast is recommended. Close enough I guess. Getting sun is not a problem!!

I'm Still Here

May 25th, 2009 at 04:41 pm

Back from "vacation" I guess.

We went to go help my parents and see how they were doing, etc. My dad has had a series of medical tests, but no results yet (not expected until Tuesday I guess). He was starting to feel a bit better late last night. As time progresses we are convinced it was probably a small stroke. He had other symptoms that have since been ruled out as drug side effects, etc., etc. Though I guess we should know more next week.

His vacation is over next Monday, and if he turned a corner, he may be able to return to work without even telling his employer. Will see. Otherwise it seems he is well covered for disability, etc., and after talking to everyone and their brother it seems the general concensus is with time, and maybe therapy, he should (shortly) be back to 100%. Though his doctor did say something like there is only 50/50 chance of full recovery. But everyone else tells us otherwise. 100%! From their personal experiences. Positive thinking is good.

His mental function is pretty amazing overall, so I felt better after spending so much time with him this weekend. Trouble communicating, yes. But otherwise he seems fine. & it certainly isn't getting him down.

He certainly can not drive. We spent the weekend doing yardwork and housework, cooking, and playing chauffer. My mom can not do a lot so I know they really appreciated the help. (The GPS came in handy with the whole chauffer thing!)

The hardest part for my dad is sitting still. We noticed he did better with rest. But like hell he will actually rest.

So that's the long and the short of it.

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I spent a couple of nights at my parent's house and I slept like a BABY. LOL. It was divine. I slept in until like 10am the other morning - I don't remember the last time I slept past 8am. I am not much a fan of sleeping in. But it is nice once in a while. Certainly would never get so much peace and quiet at home.

Since we were going to help my parents and were worried, I didn't exactly look at the long weekend as a "vacation." But it ended up that way. We just had a really nice, simple weekend. My dad and I took the kids for a walk to the creek by their house the other day. The kids spent most of the time in Grandma's pool and on my parent's tire swing. We didn't really do much else. I expected it to be a hard weekend and came back amazingly refreshed.

We decided to come home last night since everything seemed well under control. I wouldn't be surprised if we spend many weekends there though in May/June.

I told dh I had the maybe the first twinges of regret ever for not being closer. BUT that didn't really last very long. Dh and I discussed much how if we lived closer we just wouldn't necessarily have the TIME to help them out. We would both be working, for sure. It's such a catch 22. In the grand scheme of things we can help plenty - the distance is not long. I appreciate that we are close enough to help substantially. Dh has all the time in the world to help them, if nothing else. The distance is give and take.

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Of course, the weekend wasn't all "good." We went swimming yesterday for a long while and it was a bit chilly so we spent a good chunk of the time in the hot tub. We have noticed BM is a little sensitive to pool chemicals. He gets bumps on his elbows and knees which seemed to worsen over the weekend but get better with bathing. (It doesn't seem to matter which pool - so generically figure it is the chlorine).

So we spent a chunk of time in the hot tub/pool and I made sure to rinse him off real good when we got out, hoping to lessen his skin irritation.

Well we got home rather late last night and when he undressed for bed we realized he was pretty much covered head to toe in a pretty bad rash. Ugh. We called the doctor and stocked up on Benadryl. I think it's safe to say he won't be hot tubbing again for a long time. Though we are not quite sure what is going on, the hot tub is easy enough to avoid. He's fine; just itchy. & red.

We actually had a fun BBQ to go to today, but not sure we will be up to it. It wouldn't be the worst to have a day to laze around the house.

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Completely off topic, but dh and I were having a discussion about healthcare on our drive home last night. We were talking about healthcare costs and obesity, etc. I had told dh many times that most of the SAHMs I know did not cook. At all. That fast food seems just as much a way of life for 1-income families as it does for 2-income families, around here.

I don't think dh believed me, but it has come up a few times. I truly appreciate all his home cooking and the good examples he sets for our kids (which they would NOT get from me - I was raised in a horrible environment as far as food). Our kids will eat anything - their experience is completely opposite of mine and I am very appreciative they haven't taken to my bad eating habits.

& what dh feels is the "bare minimum" or what is expected of him, he doesn't realize is a truly huge gift in our society. I told him the "bare mininum" is frozen meals or meals out as far as I was concerned. In this day and age. To him, the bare minimum is a home cooked meal every night. IT's his "job" in his eyes.

So anyway, as we were discussing it he said he was starting to believe me. I guess the women at tee ball were talking about how they never cook, etc., the other day. & I guess dh had to bite his tongue. He was thinking, "Pffft. It's not that hard and certainly not that time consuming." Clearly eating well (healthy home cooked meals) is a priority for him.

I told him I appreciated him biting his tongue. Something he is not usually good at. But yeah, I could just see him telling a bunch of women that "cooking is not that hard." LOL. He could really get himself into some trouble. Wink

*sigh*

May 20th, 2009 at 12:39 am

I need some positive thoughts for my family.

Last week was a little dramatic as my dad thought of quitting his job. They had decided, prior, to stay in the pricey Bay Area and to retire there they will have to work longer. Well, my dad will. He will be working until the bitter end regardless. He LIKES working. Probably where I get it from. Wink

Anyway drama at work, and unsure if the place will survive anyway, thinking of quitting for sanity and maybe a little pre-emptive too. Of course, this means a large possibility that they may just retire and move (like, anywhere - because anywhere would be cheaper). Though they aren't sold on Sacramento (summer heat & lack of engineering jobs) I guess I can work on them. At least housing prices are rock bottom.

So I Was both a little bummed and worried about all this. My dad had a 2-week vacation coming up and was basically going to "sleep on it." I know they will be fine. But you know how it goes.

Fast forward to Monday. I am home sick and feel like hell. I am trying to REST but dh wakes me up to tell me my dad is in the emergency room.

Details are vague, but in the end it seems he suffered a "mini-stroke."

That was the original diagnosis. They sent him home and he has a slew of tests and doctor appointments. They sent him home after CAT Scan showed no signs of stroke.

I started out panicked because my mom hands the phone to him and I realize talking to him how dire the situation is.

Things calmed down when they sent him home.

This morning he had an appointment and no one called me. I started calling around noon but phone is busy all afternoon. I finally talk to my dad around 3pm, who sounds horrible and I can barely understand what he is saying. I talked to my mom who tells me he sounds worse. Yeah, no kidding.

So of course this got me MORE worried.

I guess the unofficial diagnosis is TIA (mini-stroke - which means 30% more likely to suffer a stroke). However, dh told me from his internet reading that a TIA is when the symptoms last less than 24 hours. So it worries me it's been longer and he sounds worse.

He has some appointment to ultrasound some artery tomorrow (to check for blockage) and a MRI later in the week.

I guess once we got more info yesterday we thought, this sucks but we will get through it. Today I guess it is sinking in how serious this all may be. He can not speak very well and can not write either. No one has assured us the damage is not permanent.

His mother had PArkinson's so they are evaluating him for that. He also has an appointment with a neurologist.

I watch that show Medical Diagnosis way too much. Where it sometimes takes YEARS to diagnose these things. I only hope we can have more answers sooner.

My dad is only 57...

He's one of those who has 9 lives. If anyone can beat this thing, whatever it is, he can do it. I think it's the only reason I am not falling apart right now. We weren't going to go see them until Thursday, since I wasn't feeling well enough to travel yesterday, and things had settled down. Now I am not so sure.

Anyway, my family has had a rough few days. Some positive thoughts would be appreciated.

Bought a GPS

May 17th, 2009 at 03:00 pm

It's been spendy!

This is a purchase we have been looking at for about 2 years. No rush. We had decided to buy one for Christmas, but dh wasn't impressed with prices, etc. I don't remember precisely why we passed up the purchase. Just felt it wasn't time.

So yesterday he saw an ad for a decent deal and looked into it. We ended up finding it at Wal mart for about $190. We were originally looking at some of the $100 ones, but they didn't really have the features we wanted. Which I think is why we decided to wait. Instead, this one has way more features than we were even considering.

We went to a wedding out of town yesterday and tried it out. It is AWESOME! LOVE it! We have been borrowing dh's parents' GPS for more and more trips and have become increasingly reliant on it. It really makes travel so much easier! Some of the added features are that it tells you speed limit (incorrectly at times though) and has a lot of traffic data. It correctly predicted a traffic slowdown due to construction, on our way home. It also has bike and pedestrian modes, which we haven't explored. It if actually has like bike trails on it I will be in pure heaven.

It also tells you all the nearest police stations, gas stations, hospitals, etc. I am sure the older one does too, but it wasn't so obvious/easy to find all of this data.

It's a Garmin and was very similar to dh's parents' GPS, so we didn't have to spend any time figuring it out. Though I enjoyed playing with it on the long car ride. IT even chastised me for using it while the car was moving. Hey, I was a passenger! LOL.

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I've decided I know the perfect place for frugal people to get married/have receptions, in California anyway. If they want something truly elegant, go for a public golf course!

We had our wedding and reception at a public golf course in San Jose. IT was A+.

Cinnabar Hills Golf Club:



Not sure if we had ever been to another golf course wedding or reception, until last night. I was JEALOUS! Why hadn't we heard of THIS place?

Picture does not do it justice. The views were just incredible!!!! I know, I know, we didn't do half bad. But if I saw this place I would have picked it.

Boundary Oak Golf Course in Walnut Creek, CA



Which reminds me, we haven't been back there since our wedding. We will have to go back for an anniversary lunch next year for our 10-year. The though just never occurred to us before. But suddenly the idea seems so simple and exciting.

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I also have an interesting article to share:

"Summer Vacation: What Should Isaac Do?"

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124252957050027380.html?mod=...

I shared because I have been reading these father/son articles for a while and find them interesting.

I also thought this was a particularly interesting topic.

I think I'd sum it up to, "It depends on the Person." Though considering the economy, if my kids were graduating high school today, I would have them strongly consider summer jobs. Simply because I think if they had a job it would be harder to find another one down the road, etc. I think it's a fair lesson in these times to not give up a job! I think in these times we have to ask, do we really have the luxury to not work and put vacation ahead of reality?

That being said, I am extremely practical and I come from an extremely practical family. If I said I was traipsing off to Europe the summer after high school, my parents would have thought I had lost my mind. Wink

Of course, delving further into it, though my college experience was not exactly easy, looking back I am amazed at the balance I was able to achieve. I know often this debate comes up (working in school, etc.) and it becomes very black and white. If you had to support yourself at all you become in debt and miserable and you miss out on everything. & many people who had a positive experience on their own feel that having a free ride and not working when possible means a lifetime of irresponsibility. Obviously the truth is somewhere in the middle. Everyone's experience is unique.

As for me, I worked all through college out of necessity. However, I always took the summers off. I never took summer classes and I even got a full month off work every summer. I met my spouse in college and we dated. I would drive to visit my friends who went away to college, most of my weekends. I look back on college VERY fondly. I remember a lot of leisure and fun times. Sure, I probably never worked harder in my life, but I made sure to have plenty of balance, for my sanity.

I even planned a month long trip to Europe during my month off one summer, but my friend ditched me because she wanted to spend the whole summer there. She felt sorry for me and my responsibilities (rent, tuition, etc.)

Looking back I don't even regret it. Most of my friends have traveled Europe extensively, and though I have been to Europe, I admit I haven't had quite the same experience. That being said, I have learned over the years I am of the more practical side and I am not sure I would have particularly enjoyed the trip. I feel personally it was for the best, for me.

Since most of my good friends do have major wanderlust (probably as a result of having little responsibilities and deep pocketbooks to dig, in college) I have thought about it much as we age. A lot of the same friends seem to have a fair amount of discontent in their lives. I know in our college years I was the "boring one" who had to work and had a serious relationship. But when you fast forward a decade I can't describe the joy that my children have brought to my life. I feel I have been on my own completely exciting adventure. I guess I personally feel being practical and "boring" has paid off in the long run. But it could maybe be summed up as easily as "balance is important."

Experiences are also relative. Compared to my parents' college experience I had much more leisure and freedom. So I was never going to sit and cry I didn't have money in pocket and entire summers free to do whatever the hell I wanted. I was blessed to have food, shelter, education, and leisure, to boot. I always felt extremely blessed for what I did have.

& I have also been blessed with plenty of travel opportunity in adulthood.

So the practical side of me says Isaac should work. Of course! That being said, he needs to find balance in his life. & he has to find it in the way that makes HIM happy.

This is largely why I stray from planning my childrens' life down to every detail. I could end up suggesting completely different paths in college, for each of them, based on their personalities. I always cringe when people say that, "My child has to do x, y, z, because that's what I wish I did." Or because, "That's what I did." I try not to have a lot of preconceived notions. Probably easier said than done, but I do try!

Bought a Tent

May 15th, 2009 at 06:24 pm

It's been a while since I have made a "big purchase." You know that dh makes plenty - hehe. But he does all the research and shopping, when it comes to anything electronic.

For whatever reason, I am the tent buyer.

The tent process has been rather long. We have been searching reviews on the tents we see in the sales ads, and haven't come up with much. The quality of most of these isn't great and we rather spend a little more for something that will last.

Overwhelmed with all of the choices online, I found a recommendation for a few tents and narrowed it down to one. The price was $115 new though could easily find on sale for $95. I think we kind of aimed for $100 after looking around a bit. Meaning we didn't want anything much cheaper. $200 was probably our upper limit.

So today I was perusing all the tents on sale in the ads before I finally made our final purchase. (We had put it off to May and then just got busy).

While online I saw a tents @ Overstock ad. I have shopped Overstock in the past though seem to have less luck with it any more. But I hadn't looked at all so I thought I would peek.

I immediately came across "the one." I just loved the tent and it had nothing but glowing reviews. Price was on sale for $199.99.

Overwhelmed with all the tent options this is the first one that really "stood out."

I looked @ Amazon and saw it had free shipping (possibly no sales tax) for athe tent at $189. I wasn't surprised that Amazon had a much better deal than Overstock (considering shipping and all). Has been my experience lately.

I was looking up further reviews on the tent though and came across the tent at REI for $159. It was funny because I came across it quite by accident. & shipping was free if we were willing to pick it up at the nearby store. win-win.

I did one last look at biz rate and also checked REI coupon codes. This was by far the best deal - it didn't even pop up on any price searches.

I am pleased. With taxes and everything the total was closer to $170. But the full price of the tent was around $220, so I am happy with the price. I think for another $50 or so we got much higher quality than we were originally aiming for. Which we were definitely open to spending a little more for.

It should be ready to pick up next week. Woohoo.

It's literally the only tent we have looked at in our price range that didn't have one negative thing said about it. So I am pretty optimistic about it.



When it arrives we will be doing some backyard camping (nice if it does arrive before next weekend - it is estimated to). & we will be taking it camping in June. I think this year is just a "backyard camping" year, but if it works out we intend to use it more.

Since I don't expect to use up our vacation budget this year, it comes from there. We have the cash, of course!

Technology Update

May 15th, 2009 at 12:14 am

We haven't pursued our internet switch much further because dh had a lot of technical questions and they were going to schedule someone knowledgable to call him or come out or something.

Anyway, he hadn't heard anything in a while, dug out the sales guy's card, and found the associate's phone # was disconnected. So he needs to call Surewest again and find someone else to get the ball rolling. No wonder no one ever followed up!

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In the meantime, the other day dh told me he wanted to hook up Boxee for his dad. Basically, make him the Boxee guniea pig. He was telling me a bit about it and of course it went over my head. Something about a computer for watching T.V.

Today I went home for lunch and we crossed paths briefly. He showed me all the Hulu programming we could stream on Boxee. I think he wants to try it for his dad first (the whole guniea pig thing, but he also thinks it would fit his needs well). So I asked, "Does this mean we can get rid of our cable?" He actually said... MAYBE.

Woohoo!

At this point he said the only downside he could see was we would lose Discovery channel. Which he is hesitant about. So I told him, "You want to pay $60+/month for Discovery channel???" I think we will survive.

Anyway, I looked it up since yeah I had no idea what it was, overall:

http://www.businessweek.com/technology/content/may2009/tc200...

It isn't HD and of course dh is not happy about that. BUT I think we both hate the whole cable/satellite business enough that he is excited about another alternative. Even if it isn't quite up to his standards yet. (He watches all sorts of HD programming through the computer/projector setup, which is another reason he will probably be more willing to live with some non-HD programming. He'll get his HD fix regardless).

& heck, maybe we can put off that HDTV purchase for a while then...

I don't think we are dropping cable any time soon, but it looks like we are heading in a good direction. I told him it's up to him. The cable is for him. I watch more T.V. than I should, and I could certainly do with less. Big Grin At this point I never dreamed dh could ever live without cable, so him even talking about it has me very happy.

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In addition to all this, dh noticed a problem with the TV when he was setting up the Blu Ray Player. He thought it was maybe the Blu Ray, or he was imagining it, but some parts looked too dark or something. (I can guarantee I would never notice anything!). Anyway, he did a web search and came across a lawsuit regarding our T.V. IT was for the problem he noticed and we had until end of June for a free repair. Go figure! In the nick of time I guess.

They are sending someone out to fix the t.v. next week. Phew! I am glad he found it in time. Though I may have never noticed, I know it would have driven him nuts.

Vacation Update

May 14th, 2009 at 02:38 pm

Most people (more in real life) would assume I obsess about money too much and I never have any fun. (How can you have fun if you don't spend money??? OF course WE know there are other ways to have fun...)

So this post proves the contrary. Wink

It is probably true that it is easier to spend money with a credit card. I may even be guilty. BUT my issue with cash is I just have no idea where it goes. I don't have the patience to write down every purchase. As such, by putting everything on the credit card, all I have to do is push a couple of buttons on my computer to see how much we spend this weekend. I think most people think I spend hours on this stuff when I only spend minutes. I really don't spend a lot of TIME on it. I did go back into Quicken and try to categorize the cash I did remember spending over the weekend

Anyway, our spending for the weekend:



The only other money spent was about $20 on gas for a tank to get there and back. (Took the gas sipper, of course).

Not bad, for quite a nice mini-vacation, in my opinion.

The kids ate free at Denny's, we had a $8 coupon for the Aquarium, and we had a couple of free dinners. Not sure how that would make us deprived though, pinching just a few pennies (er, dollars)...

& here are pictures from Point Lobos. The Aquarium was pretty fun, but we took more pictures at the beach.

Views and wildlife:











That last one was a seal.

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& basically it will cost us $20 gas and $10 parking (which we could skip if willing to walk more) if we ever want to go to Point Lobos again. It's an affordable luxury.

Reminds me, our plans to go to Kaui next year are starting to take shape. Dh asked his mom if we could use the timeshare next year and she got SO excited when she realized it was our 10-year anniversary. When he mentioned it, at first she was kind of like, "What are you talking about? Married 10 years?" I guess time flies! She got so excited I wouldn't be surprised if she ends up covering our airfare or something. Not planning on it, just wouldn't be surprised. We are definitely going. She will see to it. LOL. I was literally like, "It doesn't have to be 2010." & she was like, "OMG, it has to be 2010!" I think she felt bad she didn't realize we were nearing this milestone.

Now I just have to stay married another year. I think we are up to it. Wink

My plan for now is just to keep an eye on airfare. Will jump if we see a screaming deal. We have a good year+ to look! & we have to narrow down a date...

I am super excited about this trip! It will basically be the first big trip we can really afford (mostly on our own - we've always had the free timeshare usage) since having kids. That is something to be excited about!

We want to go to Pismo Beach without the kids this year, as well. We will probably trim that trip down a bit to save some $$ for Hawaii. I think we will still go though. Probably less days and cheaper hotels. Nothing set in stone yet.

Photograph Saga Continued...

May 12th, 2009 at 04:07 pm

We returned the photographs to the school and they boomeranged back.

!!!

It just keeps getting better!

I think they are going in the shredder.

Literally, BM's teacher is new to the school. I can only assume that she has never come across this sales tactic (she is young - though she has taight a few years before). BM said he handed them back to her and she told him to take them home. LOL.

I am just laughing because it keeps getting better. It's better laughing than banging my head against the wall!

NOT Impressed - School Photographers

May 11th, 2009 at 10:03 pm

Gotta love this.

I am sure for many of you this is not new.

Our school did spring pictures and we did not order any. So we get a package of pictures of our son, and a bill for $50. Oh, that or return them if you don't want them.

SERIOUSLY???

Okay, dh puts up with little crap and usually I am like, whatever. But this just REALLY pissed me off.

We discussed complaning to the school and shredding the pictures. Like hell I Would take my time to return them and play their little game.

Anyway, this happened right before we left Friday so we were griping to our parents (one who is a teacher) and they were like, "Oh no - you HAVE to return them. It's standard practice." Seriously? I was completely floored that this is "standard practice."

Against our better judgement we just returned them today. So the company can shred them. Gee, great. Knowing that just about every photograph company does this changes things a bit, I guess. The thought hadn't crossed my mind. (Though I assure you I wouldn't lose any sleep if they didn't get returned for any reason).

Then out of curiosity I did some poking around online. I came across this discussion, which I think summed it up pretty well:

http://www.twopeasinabucket.com/mb.asp?cmd=display&thread_id...

Isn't amazing how many people FALL for this? Who feel guilty and send money for things they never ordered (because they lost it, etc.)? Can you imagine what kind of world this would be if this were really a LEGAL practice? If all businesses this this?? IT's not LEGAL!

We will still complain.

I kind of regret sending them back. I assume they will just get shredded though. Now that I think about it why do I want pictures of my kids out there, etc.???

& it amazes me that people believe they are morally obligated to pay for pictures they did not order.

You have a moral obligation not to "steal" the photos - like scanning them and returning them - for sure.

But paying for an unsolicited service? I don't think so.

I had to share because it saddens me how many people fall for this stuff. Ugh! IF they really want the pictures, is one thing. But paying out of guilt for something you didn't order? They really do prey on uninformed consumers.

BTW, the pictures were crappy!

If they want to send proofs and an order form, that would be fine with me. But this is just really crappy if you ask me.

I thought you had to watch out for credit card companies and used car salesmen. I guess I'll add school photographers to the list.

Back From Vacation / Energy Usage

May 11th, 2009 at 08:20 pm

No one's left the house in months it seems. For any length of time. (Well, some of us - but not all of us at once).

So this weekend, we went away, and I tracked the energy usage of the house while we were away. For about 54 hours.

The result was: 8 Kwh per day.

The most I can think of is the DVRs and the fridge. I noticed when we returned the baby monitor was on. But it's hard to live without and a pain to turn off. Next time I will have to remember to turn it off and pin down the energy usage there though.

I also got the electric bill for the last 30 days or so. Our bill was again 10% lower than last year (thinks to the CFLs mostly). It was interesting because we had a hot streak and used the AC a bit. Though not much, apparently.

Our average daily use for April was 15 Kwh per day.

I don't know if our 8 Kwh baseline is good or bad. It doesn't sound great for no one being home and nothing going on. Then again, using only twice as much electricity when people are always home, and all the cooking, laundry, computing, and TV watching that goes on, etc., isn't half bad. April is a low electricity usage month, overall. The longer days mean less light usage too, I am sure.

BTW, it's 85 degreed here today. Ugh!

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

Well, I blogged last week or so I needed to get more active to lose a few pounds. Every spring I try to get a little more active from the busy/uninviting winter, I guess.

I think I did extraordinarily well the last 10 days. Honestly, most of the days I did no activity I was worried about pushing it/injury. So I threw in some days of rest. Phew. OF note, I sipped aerobics Thursday (bad I guess) and I stopped home to change and was going to drive over to the park so I wouldn't be late for BM's game. At the last minute I decided I could at least walk. He wasn't expecting me anyway, so what was a few minutes late? Anyway, I walked home faster than dh could pack up the kids and drive home - teehee.

Current Month Tally:

May 1 - None (rest day)
May 2 - 1 hour aerobics/yoga/strength train
+clean house +walk (to school) +lots of exertion (set up for festival and on feet for a long time)
May 3 - None

May 4 - None
May 5 - 1 hour aerobics/yoga/strength train
May 6 - 30 min. power walk (gym)
May 7 - Walk to park for game
May 8 - 30 min. aerobic activity @ gym / Rode bikes to school
May 9 - Walked all Day
May 10 - Walked/paddle boat/2 hour hike @ beach

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Mother's Day was Divine.

I received:

*1 can of pringles
*A day off work
*monkey cup
*home made heart pin
*downloaded CD (new band I like)
*Weekend in Monterey/Carmel
*A sunburn

Actually, we had the BEST weekend.

Friday I took LM to "Fairytale Town" (glorified park). I needed to get the paperwork for the June campout there. I took LM to a puppet show - something I never had done. I kind of wanted a special day with him, and I made clear this was something I had never even done with BM. He had a blast.

Once LM got out of school we drove to San Jose and stayed with Grandma. My parents were invited over for a BBQ. Yum!

Saturday we woke up pretty early and got the Monterey Bay Aquarium before it opened. IT was AWESOME! I had really wanted to pull BM out of school Friday and avoid the crowds. But dh talked me out of this for whatever reason. Being practically first in line was pretty special. It was a while before it got too crowded.

Around lunch I told dh all the people with kids would get tired out and maybe it would thin out a bit. IT was crowded, but not horrible. OF course, I looked at our kids and wondered if they were nearing the end of their ropes. BM was a little cranky. I Was too, but I just needed some food and advil - hehe.

Anyway, the kids got their second wind and we actually stayed until closing. Usually we make it such a rush of a day trip - it was just really nice.

We went to Ghiradhelli for ice cream after and noted the place (the whole area) was pretty quiet for a Saturday. Though maybe it was a bit early. Dh's favorite hot sauce place was empty / shut down. *sigh*

So yeah, the Aquarium was pretty packed, but the rest of the area seemed a little slower than usual.

We stayed at our "suite" at Motel 6 and it was pretty nice. Far larger than we expected. There were 20 rooms and we were informed that was the only suite on the premises (not surprised - how many times do you see suites advertised at Motel 6). Funny thing is the room cost the same as all the others anyway... But was nice with the kids and all.

Dh actually lugged his "not working well" DVD player so we could watch a movie. We may do that again sometime - worked out well in the end.

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

The next day we made it to Dennis the MEnace Park (always want to go, but never have the time). They had a little lake with paddle boats so we did that.

We headed over to Point Lobos after that. I am not sure I really had heard of the place, but Analise mentioned it in her blog and we decided to check it out. Okay, we are in LOVE with the place. Best thing is it is a wonderful day trip for us so I am sure we will be back again.

On the way there we stopped in Carmel for lunch. We did a lot of aimless walking because we found a terrible map and weren't paying attention. Along the way we spotted our neighbors though. It was hilarious - what a small world. (We were only 3 hours from home). We finally found a "reasonable" and cute little restaurant. In the end the tab was pretty high, but the food was just divine. & they handed me a HUGE chocolate covered strawberry on the way out - for Mother's Day. VEry nice.

Then we went to Point Lobos and started out a little frustrated with the parking situation. We quickly got over it. We went for a nice walk and we spotted so much wildlife. Lots of little rabbits, and we even spotted deer on the beach. (I had no idea there would be deer on the beach. I heard dh say something about a "deer" and pointing to the ocean and wondered what the heck he was babbling about). I did at some point say it would be a miracle if BM made it home in one piece, but other than that, we had a great afternoon there. He just has NO FEAR. Lots of running and jumping along the cliffs. YEah... I have no idea where "Mr. No Fear" came from - just completely opposite from the rest of us.

Dh had wanted to go to the beach/state park in the a.m. because of thoughts of sun burn. The rest of us don't particularly burn but dh is very fair and prone to burning. So basically it never would have occured to me to bring sunblock. I said we should be fine, we would just go to the store on the way and get some. Sounded like a good idea. Well, since I don't burn much, I totally forgot. Not sure what happened to dh. We are all sporting nice RED faces today. LOL. The funny thing is LM is probably the most "fair looking" of all of us. But he didn't particularly burn. Those are my genes. The kids overall were fine. But dh didn't fare so well, and I am not so sure I have ever been so burned myself. Live and learn...

On the way home we stopped in San Jose for dinner, with Grandma. IT was just really a nice way to break up the drive.

I think dh at some point estimated our weekend at $350. (Of course, I forgot, I recived $50 cash).

We got a couple of free dinners though and yeah, I think we did good. I told dh this reminded me precisely of what got so many people in such a financial mess with the bubble. We had friends who would drop $500 every weekend on stuff like this. We even approcahed it rather frugally. $350 was fine for a weekend - no doubt. But once a week or once a month - living like that - we'd be broke too!

Oh well - I will share the true cost - and some pictures - later!

Lentil Soup

May 6th, 2009 at 02:37 am

I've mentioned before my family is a huge Alton Brown fan. (The kids totally LOVE his show, Good Eats).

The cool thing about Alton Brown is also that he would appeal to any frugalite (he makes beef jerky with fans and air filters - teehee - and does not recommend a lot of kitchen items that can't be multi-purposed).

That being said, he uses a lot of kitchen utensils we don't own (he is a professional)! So I am surprised it has taken this long, but dh just bought a stick blender.

Of course, the recipe that sold him was this one:

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/lentil-soup-r...

It's simmering on the stove right now. I'll tell you what we think later.

The piles of 5 star reviews look promising though.

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

ETA: YUM!

Motel 6

May 5th, 2009 at 02:22 pm

I was actually going to go for the beachfront, but the price went up (harder to get beach room - having procrastinated a day and trying to book a room for this weekend!)

It worked out for the best. I found a Motel 6, more central location, for about $80. It had better reviews than just about any hotel I looked at in the $100 range, anyway. It's even got a separate room for the kids. So, I am pleased.

I told dh we should go back and stay at that beach hotel another time. It would be a nice place to stay when we had more leisure! In fact, we are planning a trip to San Luis Obispo/Pismo BEach this summer so it may be nice to stay in Monterey one night, on our way down, to break up the drive a bit. Either that or I will keep it in mind for my birthday. It's a great weekend getaway since we would probably drop the kids off in San Jose, with Grandma, and it's only an hours drive from there.

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

Anyway, I am looking forward to our mini vacation this weekend. Big Grin

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

Not much else to report.

I enjoy seeing our net worth edge up. Though I really don't think the worst is over with the stock market. Enjoy it while we can I guess.

Work is a little crazy. Just still in "catch up" mode. I do envision it being a little slow late into summer and into fall. Or I could just be crazy. But for now there is so much stuff to catch up on!

I've spent the last few years doing 40-hour weeks. I am not quite sure if I can swing it the next couple of months. It's too busy. *sigh* I know, I should just be thrilled to have a job and to be BUSY!

I'd rather buy STUFF

May 4th, 2009 at 08:29 pm

**I got my gas bill and was surprised how low it was. I have been commenting on many other blogs to not compare energy usage dollar to dollar. Dig deeper and actually look at the usage. Our gas charge, per therm, dropped significantly this year. I noticed when comparing winter bills to last year.

So I looked closer at our current bill and saw that we had the exact same gas usage as last April. We just paid $15 for 15 therms this year, as opposed to the $22 we paid last year. That's a 30% decrease in the cost of natual gas!

I guess it's not suprising considering how high fuel costs were last year, in general.

Our summer bills tend to be in the realm of $10. Maybe they will be $7/month this summer??? Will see!

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

**We decided to spend $250 of our diverted vacation fund on a new Blu Ray player. (Leaves $350 to spare). That one is a long story, but our entertianment center is jinxed. Nevermind most of our electronics are more than a decade old. Every item we move in there goes kaput. Dh put his old DVD player in there (bought 1996?) and it went kaput. He put it in there because the PS2 (in the same location) stopped playing DVDs properly. The CD player (circa 1990?) also went kaput.

He now wants to move the newer/nicer DVD player in there (Was bought for movie theater room, but replaced by PS3), but I am not so sure. I think the entertainment center is jinxed. I know our stuff is old, but we have a lot of older electronics. & why is it all going at once??? Can't help but wonder if there is more to it! Not sure I want to jinx one of the nicer pieces of equipment we own.

Anyway, it's a long story but I don't mind. I know a lot of friends and family just roll their eyes when dh buys more equipment. BUT, he buys stuff at a good mix of low cost and high quality, and literally keeps it forever. In the end such a small portion of our income goes to this stuff, and it really is the ONLY thing he buys. Literally.

He had been toying with the idea of buying another PS3 for a blu ray player. So I am relieved with patience he found something in a more reasonable price range.

We could buy a cheapo DVD player to get through a year or 2. But I am pleased his first DVD player lasted until we made the switch to Blu Ray. It's been a good 12/13 years. We decided we didn't want to add to the electronic landfill since we were pretty much ready to move on anyway.

We've also been talking about buying a second HDTV next year. Will see. Dh is chomping at the bit and may pick one up if he sees half the deal we got on our last one. But overall we agreed to start keeping an eye on sales, etc., when LM is out of preschool. IT will be our "we are free from preschool" treat I guess.

**We had also been discussing going to Monterey and actually staying there a night as opposed to our usual "day trip." So we decided to go for it.

This is where I clearly realized, I rather buy STUFF. LOL. We like buying stuff. We can keep it forever. We can get continued use from stuff. We don't hoarde a lot of stuff, and our stuff doesn't define us. But I do notice the frugal crowd goes more fore experiences than stuff. I guess we are just odd. But hey, what else is new.

Stuff can be returned. Stuff can be sold.

Spending money on an experience is not extremely appealing to me. If nothing else, if I Spend a decent chunk on an experience, my expectations are pretty high. & it's more likely than I will be dissapointed. If my vacation sucks I can't sell it or return it. !!

So I am trying to book a hotel. The prices really aren't that bad. We are looking at $100 for any Motel 6 type place. But it's Monterey. That's for all of us, including taxes, etc. IT was cheaper than I expected.

BUT, we can stay on the beach for about $160. !!!!

I agonized over it for a while and I asked dh what he thought. He was no help. HE said it was Mother's Day - I should buy the beachfront night if that's what I wanted.

I expected him to talk me out of this nonsense.

I went to bed leaning toward the beach room but figuring I'd sleep on it.

Today I am leaning towards the boring room miles from the beach. LOL.

The beach room is a good deal and the place was recommended by multiple friends.

But, I don't know if it's really worth an extra $60. Ugh.

I usually don't identify with the struggles over purchasing stuff. But here I am being just as ridiculous over a hotel room. Guess I am guilty of not wanting to part with my cash.

I think the other part of it is we are so unaccustomed to spending any money on vacation. Literally. Any more we always get a free room stay through the in-law's timeshare. So I thought splurging on one hotel night would be easy, considering all the free hotel stays we get. Instead, I cringe at the thought of spending so much on something that is usually free. I know, I am weird!

In comparison, we are going spend 2-3 nights in 2 more expensive hotels in the summer. But one I have been to many times and I LOVE the place. The other one we have been planning to go to for years. It's just different. I know those are worth the money.

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

I just had to laugh at myself though. We were checking the hours at the aquarium and I peeked at the prices. I actually originally did not want to even go to the aquarium "because it is so expensive." Dh talked me into it when we realized the kids hadn't been in a long time. Whatever. It's kind of our "spring is here and we want to do lots of fun stuff" kickoff trip. We can go.

So I peeked at the prices online, and they weren't half bad. I guess it's been a while. With younger kids it was harder to justify. Today? I would hardly call it expensive. Funny how quickly one's perception changes.

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

LM is sick so I am kind of holding off on the hotel decision. Will probably book it last minute. It figures if we lock ourself into a pricey room and someone else gets sick. Kind of why I Am leaning towards a boring hotel room right now. Not sure if we will all be well enough to even go. *sigh*

Better Luck has returned

May 2nd, 2009 at 08:54 pm

We had been so flush with cash, etc. this year I was bummed when the tide turned a couple of weeks ago. It seemed like money out, out, out all of a sudden. Not that I could complain. When it rains it pours - but it goes both ways. I figured the tide would turn for a while...

But it turned back the other way. I got paid Friday along with a couple of reimbursement checks. Not that exciting, but we took the car in and it seems it is nothing. Mechanic said he could replace part and maybe engine light would stop coming on (for $200) but that he'd have to order it anyway so it was up to me - call him next time the light comes on and he can order it.

Will see...

So we got off easy yesterday.

I had him change the oil while he had the van (more pricey - but worth the "convenience" to cross that off the list - he had the van all day anyway).

I told dh he needed to get his oil changed too (when I realized it was May - we change them every 6 months. Our last mechanic got us on this schedule. It's fine if you don't procrastinate or forget. & I guess depends on your auto and driving habits - my caveat. We mostly do freeway driving -neither of us sits in traffic - so less oil changes are fine in that case).

Anyway, dh told me when he got home he found an oil change coupon in the paper. I think that was the first sign that things were turning around.

Later his mom called me to ask some questions re: our family camp trip for this summer. Turns out she had paid for us (we expected to shell out $600 - the biggest piece of our vacation budget for the year). Um, okay? I was stunned. (I guess since last year she actually let us pay! Wink )

I know, on some level it's not surprising. But to me it was so out of left field. For now I am letting the money sit. We had been thinking of spending a night in monterey with the kids and a few nights in san Luis Obispo later in the summer. Though I don't think we will need this $600 for that.

Oh yeah - we will pay for my dad's camping fees. Almost $230 since he is not a resident. So only really leaves about $350 to spare. But I think we will just plan not to touch it - and use it next year towards Hawaii. May cover airfare for one. Makes Hawaii seem more likely. Woohoo! I think we will just leave it and see. Our $1500 vacation fund this year was mostly going to go to camping, and then a couple of weekend trips around the state. & season passes to an amusement park. Wasn't even sure if we would use it up anyway. Will think about it, but mostly I think the money will remain untouched in our savings account. We can think about it at the end of the year. (Assuming no catastrophe comes along).

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

All the net worth posts reminded me, my net worth was up almost $11k as of 4/30. Go figure! I don't think it means much in terms of where we will be 12/31. But it's nice to see such a nice upward tick. Big Grin

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ETA: We cleaned house today and dh thinks I threw away his oil change coupon. (I didn't see it and I searched the recycle bin - I looked at every single item - I think he's crazy. I didn't see it. I told him if it was where he said it was, I didn't see it and it's not in the recycle bin).

I hope that's not a sign! Wink

Figures...