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Archive for July, 2009

Where Do I Keep my Cash?

July 30th, 2009 at 08:44 am

The short answer is that I keep most of my cash in one account. I keep a $1k cushion in my credit union savings account - which I can withdraw or transfer (to my checking) immediately if I needed it. I keep some cash in my ROTHs (will explain below). I do keep most of it in one Online Money Market Account. For the long run I will probably invest in CDs. For now, there is really no reason to (low interest rates, etc.).

I do keep my cash readily accessible (I can write checks from my money market savings) BUT it's not something that tempts me. I don't personally need to "hide it" so I don't spend it.

I do prefer to keep at least $5k cash readily accessible, for emergency. I think my $5k is like Dave Ramsey's version of the $1k mini-emergency fund. I don't think I have ever had less than $5k cash in a savings account, in my adult life.

Right now I am all in money market cash, so to speak, because we have been "low" on cash and I haven't felt comfortable tying any of it up. As the balance grows to my goals, we will need to ladder some CDs, etc. We may even look at some bond funds - I just haven't gotten to that point yet.

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But, let me go back to the beginning. I've said before, our parents were wonderful financial mentors, but taught neither of us about investing. So WHEN we had $50k+ cash in the past, we were really stupid. IT was sitting in our low-interest savings accounts. Our worst financial mistake ever.

I also had an IRA sitting in cash. No one ever advised me to invest it. !

It was around 2006 and more difficult financial times that we decided to earn some interest on our money. Which was ironic since we had blown through most of it by then. But we opened a couple of high-yield money market accounts since then, and that is where most our savings has sat, since. (We had some CDs when we did some credit card arbitrage - CD interest rates were "high" then).

I was also going to invest my pathetic IRA cash, BUT in 2006 interest rates were higher than I had ever seen them as an adult, AND the writing was on the wall with the economy. We were knee deep in the housing bubble and it didn't look good (just as we had been knee deep in the tech bubble a few years before - we lived in the tech capital and my spouse worked in tech). The writing was on the wall so I took a gamble and converted my IRA into a ROTH and then stuck it in a 5.5% CD for 3 years. Turned out to be a good move. IT matures in 2 months and I will probably be able to invest it at much lower stock prices than I would have been able to in 2006. That's the story on that.

Anyway, as we tried to rebuild our cash reserves, from our $5k low in 2006, we didn't have a lot of money to go around. But I Received a $5k gift a couple of years back and was able to max out our ROTHs that year. I was very intent on building up our cash, but I felt comfortable with this because I knew I could access the ROTH in extreme emergency. So I actually currently have about $7k cash in my ROTH which is designated for emergency. The thing is, for me, maxing out the ROTHs right now is like putting away 23% of my gross income to retirement. Far more than we NEED to put away. But I will do it if I can access the cash in extreme emergency. I don't recommend this strategy if your retirement savings contribution is only 1% - 15% of your income, say. Or if your idea of an emergency is a car repair or a vet bill. Wink I think hell will freeze over before I actually tap my ROTH for cash, honestly. My idea of emergency is prolonged job loss or loss of home (i.e. natural disaster).

Ideally, we will probably keep $10k cash in our ROTH, of our $15k total Efund. Keep $5k accessible cash for mini-efund. So, we may max out our ROTHs this year, with that philosophy.

The ROTH cash is in that CD I mentioned, and in MMFFs. I'll be able to invest a portion of the CD though. We have more cash than I prefer in our ROTHs, simply because my prediction on the recession. (It isn't much - nothing that will make us rich. Like $10k? Wink )

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That's the long and the short of it.

The short answer is that all our money is in Money Market accounts, earning as much interest as possible. When we reach our $30k goal we will probably start shopping CDs and developing more of a long-term cash savings plan. Will probably be $10k in ROTH, $1k in Credit Union, $19k in Online Savings. Anything above that can be tied up in CDs. We will start formulating a long-term plan when we get there. I am a "one thing at a time" type gal.

Investing cash well is not an area I have a lot of experience in though. I have some learning to do. Wink

Been a Little Busy

July 29th, 2009 at 08:28 am

I'm still around, it's just been a little hectic.

The weather has been much more bearable around here. We came home Sunday reeking of garlic - think it's worn off by now.

Definitely had a spendy month, but was less expensive than I had expected. It's hard to care anyway, our savings is doing so well lately (knock on wood).

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Thinking towards long-term goals lately. I am starting to think we will hit all our "long-term" goals in 2010. Go figure! It depends, but exciting all the same.

I think we will have $30k cash in the bank by next spring. IT's kind of an arbitrary number. It's well over 6 months of "minimal" spending, so certainly an ample emergency fund. The arbitrariness is that we haven't had that much cash since we had our first child. So, um, it FEELS good.

We will be in that range next spring when LM is done with preschool. We have had a few different ideas what to do with that preschool money - $150/month. BUT, we are also saving $250/month for our medical deductible fund, and knock on wood, really haven't used it. As of next summer I would be happy to divert $250+ $150 per month, which is enough to max out our second ROTH (by the following April - meaning we can max both for 2010). I know max may increase, but just one thing at a time here. Putting away $10k per year is more than sufficient! THat's like 12% of my income, on top of the 10% we already contribute to retirement. IT's just too good a tax vehicle to pass up though.

Basically, as long as we are healthy we can max out the second ROTH.

With that, we can still continue to add about $8k per year to cash (which may cover the medical part anyway). I would like to contribute at that level until we have $40k cash. Of course, once we get there, might want to go one more year to $50k. Will see.

Which leads us to our next decision. As our cash balance grows, what do we want to do with the excess?

On one-income, I vote mortgage payoff. I am quite sure long-term investing would easily trump the effective 3.5% interest rate on our mortgage (after tax savings, etc.). BUT, for now life is simple. All our savings is in tax-deferred accounts and cash accounts. Life is very simple. To add taxable investments to the equation just makes me cringe when I think of all the work involved of managing it, and managing the taxes, etc.

Quite simply, paying off the mortgage is easy. IT keeps our taxes very simple, etc. So that is where I lean. Dh probably wants to save more for college. So we have much to discuss there.

If he returns to work it will be a very different ballgame. Our tax bracket will increase drastically. We will probably fund 401ks, HSAs, and 529s instead, to lower our tax exposure. For now, the HSAs and 529s give us no tax benefit, are not very flexible, and cost more than other savings vehicles. For now, I am not offered a 401k. But all these vehicles will save us a lot of taxes if our income increases.

If dh wanted to match his parent's contributions at $2k per year to college - for the kids - I think it's about the most I would really want to set aside. I'd rather start chipping away at the mortgage with any extra cash.

Which means, by end of 2010 we will probably have an ample 6 months' emergency fund, will be maxing our ROTHs (for a total 22% gross to retirement), and saving 10% income to cash. May be funding college. Any windfall could go to the mortgage.

Why so much cash? I'd like $15k for catastrophic emergency (& growing), $20k to replace both cars, and about $10k for home maintenance. Those are all the minimums I Feel we need - though they can overlap a bit. If we use the emergency fund I would gladly buy an old clunker instead, etc. That adds up to about $45k, eh? We tend to hoard cash, but just haven't had the income to do so in a while. I think cash is under-rated for the most part. Has kept our life simple. Will probably keep hoarding cash until we have a years' worth take-home pay in the bank. I have no issue with this if we are maxing out our retirement vehicles. The thing about cash is we can always change our mind down the road (invest it, put a chunk to mortgage, spend it, whatever). & as long as dh is not working, and not terribly employable, I think cash is extra important. IT would be kind of moot if he were working - I wouldn't see the point of hoarding so much then. Interest rates suck now, and have most of our adulthood, but I have managed to earn 5-6% many years on our cash. That time will come again. (I have a 5.5% CD at current - it expires later this year).

All this is probably way optimistic, but the direction we are currently heading in.

The possibility of meeting all of our aggressive savings goals on one income, is very exciting. My last long-term goal of current is to pay off the mortgage by age 45. In like 12 years? I assume dh will return to work to help meet this goal. It still feels like a bit of a pipe dream otherwise. But, who knows.

Yay for the Weekend!

July 24th, 2009 at 09:36 am

Going to the Bay Area for our dental appointments, today.

We picked this weekend because we have been meaning to hit the Gilroy Garlic Festival for many years, but never seem to make it. Last year we whimped out at the last minute because we were having an expensive time of it. This year is polar opposite financially, so we will enjoy. At least I don't have thousands on unexpected bills, today. Big Grin Instead I have made all my original 2009 savings goals already - which is where the "polar opposite" thing comes in.

Tonight we will see my visiting sister, and we decided to go to Beni Hana. I am excited about that too!

Besides all the expensive outings we have planned, I do mostly look forward to just spending time with my family. After events of recent weeks and months, I think we will be extra appreciative of our time together. I look forward to a good game of cards with the fam, as much as anything!

But I admit it is nice not sweating a few splurges, either.

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Many people seem up on the economy. I read that the Sacramento housing market has leveled off, and will be one of the firsts to rebound. I am skeptical. BUT another house just sold above $300k in our neighborhood. I am extremely surprised the $300k mark has not been breached on some of these homes - there are so many in foreclosure, etc. Anyway, I don't think it is over, but I have definitely been surprised by the apparent leveling off of price. & by the still voracious demand for "large" homes priced under $300k (all bid up over $300k and sold in a flash). There are plenty of more modest and cheaper options, but it is a relief to see our neighborhood is still hot.

Maybe we will never get to lower our property taxes after all. Which isn't the worst thing. I don't mind paying more taxes if I could sell my home in a pinch.

I've heard other financial gurus say the stock market won't dive further.

Seriously? Are we that confident to call that yet?

No one has a crystal ball, but I will continue to hope for the best while preparing for the worst. OF course I hope the worst is over, just not 100% convinced!

Just a few things...

July 23rd, 2009 at 05:33 pm

Not much to report around here. Been a little quiet I guess. I have been out enjoying the nice weather! (The few days we got, anyway).

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I just paid for karate for August. I remembered that since BM turned 6 I can now officially sign him up for the class he has been going to for months. I think it used to cost $30/month for the "baby class" and then went up to $35. Wasn't sure on the "big boy" class, but it was $60. Ugh. I just have to be glad he got such a discount for so long. Technically he can go study martial arts 3 nights a week - under this $60 plan. It's a bit out of the way, and that's not going to happen! Not any time soon!

IT will be far less of an issue once LM is done with preschool. For now, though I don't mind a $30 class here and there, but $60 is rather substantial.

I rather sign him up for piano lessons, personally. But, I can teach him that for free, for now.

We skipped lesson yesterday because the weather is too nice. I could tell last lesson he hadn't practiced all week. That's how that is going. (IT would be easier if someone else taught him). But I am still intent on seeing it through - and he enjoys it, at least.

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I've been rather forgetful of late. I have to remember to submit my $50 Verizon rebate on my new phone. Only reason I got it was because it was "free." To be fair, I would have submitted it a while ago, but dh suggested I wait a while and make sure phone was okay. I have no idea what my rebate deadline is - will have to look.

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I invested the kids' birthday money as of Tuesday I think. The stock market surprised me by continuing to rally. Interesting - glad I didn't buy any HIGHER! If it rallies any more I can convert the kids over to another fund (they are so close to the $3k minimum - both of them - for any other Vanguard fund). I would like to get them in something more aggressive - since they have time.

Will see!

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Dh has been doing a lot of ebay selling, and we have a couple of things to sell on Craigslist (car seat and a trike).

IT was slow there for a spell, but things have picked up.

I have about $70 in the checking account today - not earmarked for anything (yet). All ebay money - but color that a miracle - I squeeze my checking account dry usually.

Anyway, school starts in less than 3 weeks. I expect a request any day for $$ for school supplies and field trip fees. So it will probably go fast. Besides writing a check to the school, I do not foresee any back to school shopping. I thought these stupid "uniforms" would be our financial undoing. But since my boys grow more up than out, and it's hotter than hades when school starts, he's fine with the shorts and everything. May need to stock up on warm clothes in September (his pants will no doubt be high waters by then). But all in all, it hasn't been so bad. Plenty of clothes remain for LM as well (what I always tell myself when I clothes shop - at least it's for TWO kids!)

For now, I get a break. Big Grin

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How's that for a boring post?

Cooler Weather, Phew...

July 22nd, 2009 at 01:13 pm

The weather has cooled a bit which is nice!

I told BM we could go on a bike ride tonight. If too hot I mentioned the gym. The kids had kind of been "off" on the gym daycare, but I guess a few weeks at home has made them stir crazy enough. BM is all excited about either possibility.

I had fallen off the wagon SO BAD since vacation. I've been sleeping in. & the heat does not help! Missing workouts.

Funny enough, I did go to aerobics yesterday, and since it wasn't a million degrees, I Woke up so refreshed and with so much energy this morning. No doubt a result of such a good workout! I guess it doesn't take much to get going. But the heat definitely is not helping - that is for sure. When it's super hot, it just seems to seep in somewhat - regardless of AC and all that. Well, that's my excuse!

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Summer seems to be winding up SO rapidly. BM starts school in just 3 weeks. I still can't believe it!

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My work week is almost over. Friday we are going to visit our folks, and my sister is in town. We are thinking of braving the Gilroy Garlic Festival. IT will be crowded, no doubt. I am not sure if we will make it or not. Friday would have been preferable, but we have dentist appointments later afternoon. We may try Sunday in an attempt to avoid the peak crowds. Dh wants garlic ice cream - he says it was good (he went many years ago). Will see!

As far as my sister? Oh boy. Her visit will be interesting. She is just an extremely difficult personality. Wish my family lucky. Wink

Feeling Refreshed!

July 21st, 2009 at 07:33 am

I have been feeling run down. It's probably more subconscious than anything, but must be everything with my folks. I thought last weekend would be just as exhausting, but it was a fun weekend, and I returned feeling refreshed. Phew!

I guess the week prior was rather emotionally exhausting.

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Dh and I have a lunch date today. The dates have fallen by the wayside with vacation and all.

We have one free hour of childcare for BM (who needs to go run with some kids anyway) and LM has preschool if we do a late lunch. The lunch dates are easier during the school year I guess (which will be here soon enough - like 3 weeks).

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I have 7 vacation days left for the year. Not sure I will use them all. BUT, talked a friend into going to the San Jose water park on a weekday. Will take a weekday off to do that. A last hoorah before school starts. I really look forward to hitting the place on a weekday. We could go to the one up here, but the kids couldn't ride anything at this one - doh. So it will be a bit of a drive for BM's friend, and I am glad they are open to it. If I was suddenly invited on a pricey day trip - I'd say "no thanks!" Wink These days, anyway. So I appreciate their flexibility.

We are also planning a camping trip for August. I don't think we will get a lot of camping time in this year. Next year we can plan ahead a little better. Last year we bought sleeping bags, this year a tent. Next year we can stock up on some cooking supplies, etc. & I think we are set. We've got a camping stove somewhere (I think it was a honeymoon gift????). I don't expect camping to be an expensive way to getaway. There are so many gorgeous public campgrounds around the state.

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The new home shoppers crack me up a bit - as many of my friends are now first time home shoppers. More than one of them has told me something like they "ONLY qualify for a $200k loan." Said as if this is some badge of shame.

Um, yeah? Our first home loan was $208k and I don't think we qualified for a penny more. IT was 1999; we were qualified for a reasonable amount considering our income. Not like the last few years. Our second home was another story - I think we could have qualified for $1 mil if we wanted to. & I am 100% literal and serious about that (would have been 10 times our income when we both worked - and yes - no doubt we could have bought a $1 mil house if that is what we so desired).

Anyway, so it's nothing new, but I continually find it ironic that people think we borrowed far more for our house. We borrowed $225k for our current home. Obviously people expect we spent a lot more. It apparently never occurs to many people that we might have put some cash down. Most people think we paid another $100k over what we did, anyway. The rest assume we bought with phantom Bay Area equity.

Anyway, I bet you a million bucks all these people whining to me about how "little they can afford" will have larger mortgage payments than we do, anyway. (Higher interest rates, etc. We just refied at $213k). Ah, the irony. It will never cease to be amazed at what people assume. The assumptions about our house are always the biggest doozies. Even some guy who didn't know me from adam (nor that I owned a home) asked me how I afforded a $2k monthly mortgage, simply because I was "young." ??? I don't know - how does one afford a $2k monthly mortgage? I wouldn't know!

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All that being said, limiting six-figured families to $200k mortgages, isn't a bad thing. You can buy plenty house here, for that price, in my opinion. I come from the place of borrowing $200k+ for my first home, and not being able to afford anything remotely single-family home. Here you could buy a slice of SFH in a good neighborhood. So I say, "You be lucky!"

Little Financial Updates

July 20th, 2009 at 06:45 pm

**The newspaper tried to bill me June through June, though I already paid for a full year through August. I mentioned a while ago.

Dh called and they said their prices went up, and so with the price change, I was only paid through June.

Seriously? Why do they think people PREPAY?

Of course, dh said they were very nice and didn't fight him on it at all. They said they would reflect our bill paid through August. Took a while, but I finally got the corrected bill today (I got an overdue notice sometime in the interim - but glad we hadn't bothered calling back yet).

We may switch to weekend paper. They stopped offering it for a while. But I have seen advertisements and they told dh we could switch back to weekends. Will prepay the year, of course. PRices rising astronomically. Dh loves his paper though. It's been hard talking him back into weekend paper only - it's all we ever wanted in the first place.

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**Today I got a notice from Chase that they are increasing my grace period from 20 days to 25 days. I could care less either way. 20? 25? What difference does it make (to me?). But isn't that nice of them? Wink

Weekend Adventures

July 20th, 2009 at 10:10 am

We took our time packing up and heading out Saturday. We had originally planned to drive separately since dh had a friend in San Jose Friday - but that didn't work out and we drove down together Saturday.

In the morning, BM and I went on a bike ride. Only bike ride #2 on my new bike, since things have been a wee bit crazy.

We checked out a park I noticed but have never been to. We drove over since it is over the freeway - the only real downside to our location. There are no lights and it is terribly unsafe. I'd ride over, cautiously, but the kids aren't ready for that. So we drove over and rode for about 10 minutes before I looked over and noticed BM did not have his helmet. Doh. It's about how my whole weekend went really. IT was just the start! We turned around and hustled back to the car and I imagined everyone thought I was a terrible parent (probably no one really noticed like I didn't - LOL).

The park was far huger than I Expected. The perimiter is paved. There is a tiny "canal" and so a bunch of bridges from the paved path, over the canal to the weedy middle of the park. Clearly unfinished. The entire middle of the park was just weeds. There was one straight path down the very center of the park.

Since our time was cut short and I was surprised by the size of the park - we drover the permiter - or as much as we could. I drove around 2.1 miles. I'd guess the whole thing is about 2.5 miles.

The thing about the ride, and my new bike, is it wasn't much of a workout. The bike is too light, etc. BUT I think this is a perfect place to work up speed, alone. Though the path is narrow and I wouldn't want to go too fast, the path borders busy streets and I would feel comfortable riding alone. It's close enough to home I could always just call home for help if I got a flat, etc. Which is my main concern about riding alone. 4 laps would be a nice 10-mile ride.

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We headed out of town around 11:00 and the traffic just sucked. We ended up stopping for lunch because we were just starved. Grabbed some fast food.

I would have been happy to get a later start, but BM had requested we go to the water park for his birthday - and we decided to brave the San Jose location on a Saturday (must be crazy - huh - we generally avoid these kinds of things on weekends and holidays!).

I talked to my mom on the drive and she insisted on giving us some money. Since we had driven up so many weekends and bought so much food for them, etc. BEfore I argued with her. This time I just said, "sure." I told her we needed cash for parking anyway and that would be nice. Wasn't sure either of us had any cash.

I hung up the phone and told dh that it was good I didn't go to the bank yet because I was getting another check. This sentence sunk in and I yelled a couple of profanities. "Crap! I FORGOT to go to the bank!" LOL. I was going to do that Saturday. I actually stopped by the bank Friday, saw the line out the door, and changed my mind. Saturday would be fine if I remembered. WE also both were annoyed we forgot the GPS since we probably could have found a traffic detour (needed GPS and power cord for this) and I then muttered I could use it to find a CU branch on the way. I called my parents instead and had them look up various CU branches. WE had apparently passed quite a few on our drive but there weren't any on our second leg. Figured.

Wouldn't you know the next day I Realized the GPS had been in my purse all along. !!! No power cord, but I could have looked up CUs on the way, myself. Might have been able to figure something out.

I usually keep $1k in my savings account, connected to my checking account, for these kinds of things. & thankfully it was enough. BUT we just transferred all that money into a trust account and I didn't think any overdraft would be covered by that account since it is now a separate account.

I lucked out, and was able to make an instant online transfer when I got to my parents' house. Phew. The credit card was set to pay Monday. I told dh those EFTs go through like 12:01 a.m. the day of. I had to get the money there BEFORE Monday.

I am usually not so air-headed and am pretty stubborn about not keeping much cushion in my account. But these things do happen! The $1k cushion was ample. Most of my second paycheck, on the 16th, goes to bills that pay on the 31st, which is why I usually don't sweat it. I just needed a few hundred to cover the credit card. The only bill I pay far ahead of the due date! It was too late to cancel the online payment though - which was the other thing.

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We went to the water park in San Jose, and I found it to be far nicer than ours. I think we did well enough considering the crowds. They had far more play areas for the little kids, AND we even talked LM into riding on some water slides. A miracle!

I still don't quite *get* the whole thing. MANY of the very same slides. They are very strict on height at our local water park and though BM could barely slide by on their height stick, they gave us the third degree if he could swim, etc. They made it sound like it was VERY dangerous, etc., etc. We had to ride with him on everything, of course.

In San Jose? Same rides, different story. Even LM could ride alone on many of the rides if he had wanted to. IT's like, "huh?" Except BM did get downgraded to a life vest in the wave pool. They didn't think he was quite 48 inches (he isn't). Whereas he got on all the rides in Sacramento (48-inch minimum). So it's kind of funny really. All backwards!

I am so proud of LM - he braved the water slides and had fun. BM Went down quite a few rides alone (they didn't have the flexibility of 2-person tubes on many of the rides - like they do in Sac). It made me nervous, I think only because they struck the fear in us at the Sac location. LOL. He was totally fine and certainly a fine enough swimmer at this point. The height limit seemed to coincide with water height more than anything. None of the rides he went on alone ended in deep pools.

I will probably take a day day off before school starts, so we can really enjoy that location without all the crowds next time. Though it wasn't too terrible. But it would be fun to go spend a few hours there with no lines.

The parking was cheaper there too. Our grand plan was to get a ride since it is down the street from the in-law's home. BUT we realized with no watch and no cell phone it wasn't terribly feasible to plan a pickup time. We may invest in water proof watches down the road, though somehow we didn't lose each other in all the crowd (some miracle). IT's hard to remember life before cell phones!

Anyway, two visits put us ahead of single passes, with our season pass. Plus I think it was more fun since I already paid for those last month. We will squeeze out at least one more visit, if not more. Think is we could just pop by for a couple of hours, any time. Tempting for next weekend...

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Sunday, the kids had their family party and they swam all day. LM showed off his new swimming skills.

We got home around 6 last night and oh my! We tend to leave the air on 85 degrees for the cat. We have dual thermostats in our split level, BUT one of the vents is at the top of the stairs and blows cold air into our bedroom where the second thermostat is. Basically, before kids, the downstairs air was all we needed to cool the living areas and our bedroom at the top of the stairs. But we use the upstairs thermostat for the kids' bedrooms. The house was 85 when we got home and obviously the air had been working hard. BUT I was shocked to see it was 90 upstairs. I can't imagine how hot it would have been up there without all the cold air blowing right into the thermostat anyway. YEesh. OF course the cat was lounging in a sun spot upstairs. She preferred the 90 degrees, after all that. I still play it cautious.

We worked the thermostat hard. IT was still in the 80s after about 3 hours when the kids went to bed - yeesh.

Most of summer we get away running the air only after dinner and until bedtime. But I can only imagine how hot it must have been while we were gone. Only gone one night.

The weather is going to be about 100 all week - blech. IT's the worst when it doesn't cool as much at night. We are used to cool nights at least...

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Florida, FLorida, Florida.

The background here is we were thinking of being open to going NEXT year. Dh's grandfather lives there. But dh's family REALLY wants to go THIS Year and they wouldn't let up until we gave in. So fine, we give in. We tell MIL if we go this year we can't help financially. She says if we go next year she can't help financially. Because she really wants to entice us this year. So whatever, I give up. Though this means I can't go, for the most part. (Which is why *I* rather go next year - for one).

That's the long and the short of it. We have some D-World tickets still from our honeymoon in 2000 - we will use them up this trip. Free airfare, free hotel. May pay for a day at Gatorland. Would like to spend time with family. But MIL wants to go to like every theme park near Orlando. I have no idea when she thinks they will spend time with family. THEN, SIL informs me yesterday she wants us each to pay $150 ($50 per person) for some special ticketed event at D-World. Is she for real? LOL. I looked it up today and it looks like these things were "Very popular in 2007 but have been canceled for 2009, due to economy." PHEW! If there was any consideration for our wishes and planning, sure we wouldn't be such cheapskates. But planning 3-4 months for a trip - sorry I don't have $150 here and there to throw around. Maybe if I could save for another year, please. We were figuring 2 days at Disney, and a day at Gatorland would suffice. LEaves 2 days to travel and like 2 days with family. Dh's family is just crazy. The kids will be 6, 5, 4, & 2. They don't need to go to Sea World and Universal - and all that! There will be other trips to Florida. When the kids can appreciate more and we should have more cash flow too.

I could have worse problems, but I will be really annoyed if we have to dip too much into savings for this trip that neither dh nor I is particularly interested in rushing. I'm going to be annoyed about it until it is over. No matter how you slice it, it will cost $$$$. The kids and dh (& MIL) just went to Florida in 2007. Not like they haven't been recently. I JUST remembered SIL missed that trip (new baby). At least her - I can understand her impatience.

I am thinking of taking a couple of days off while the fam is gone. The quiet in the house always amazes and bores me. It is so weird any more. (Before kids I'd be happy to not see a sole for a week). BUT I will try to embrace the peace and quiet. I think it will be nice to have a mini-vacation to myself. Big Grin If it is that miserable, I can make plans with friends, visit my parents, etc.

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In other news, dh went in for a much needed oil change (I just noticed he never went in June like I had requested). So we were coupon-less but felt we couldn't wait at this point. (We change our oil every 6 months - which is fine if you DO IT!) Dh felt bad we had no coupon and so when he got to jiffy lube he asked if they had any discounts. They gave him $5 off. Never hurts to ask!

We just try to change both cars every May & November. They are kind of slow months and we have the time.

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That about sums up my busy weekend! I've got a short week at work and then we are beating the heat. My sister is visiting from North Carolina this week. We are planning of attempting to go to the Garlic Festival this weekend, but not sure how bad it will be. I hear it gets pretty darn crowded. We were thinking of trying Sunday morning in the hopes it won't be too crowded. Or we may brave Saturday. I don't know. We planned our dentist appointment around the Garlic Festival weekend - since out dentist is in the Bay Area. Just turns out my sister will be visiting too. I will be glad to get out of town though. The heat here is, blech.

You don't BUY plastic bags?!?

July 17th, 2009 at 11:14 am

Only a forum like this could appreciate my phone conversation yesterday. I was called about a focus group on consumer products -- one that paid $85. I knew I wouldn't get in because I don't shop. I don't feel like lying and prefer dh do these things anyway (he usually does) since he has more time. Though if I qualified, I sure would take it! So of course lady asks me if I do the majority of shopping. I say, "No. My husband does." Clearly she is desperate to find people, as they usually are. So she says -- "you mean you share 50/50." I say, "No. I never do any grocery shopping." I'm already out of the running but she is desperate. So she asks me what kind of plasic trash bags we buy. I answer that we don't buy any. At this point she is completely off script and getting frustrated with me. "What do you use if you don't use plastic bags?" I don't know what we use -- nothing disposable. I should have said we buy no disposable products (to speak of anyway) BUT instead I said, "We don't buy plastic products," because I am getting frustrated too. So she asks me if we us paper bags. I say, "Sure." She says I don't qualify, but thanks.

For the record, we don't use paper bags -- LOL. I just wanted the conversation to end. Now if this was my dh he would have some witty remark. I just give up.
That is how I really and completely confused some young lady yesterday -- she probably thought I was playing with her or something.

The funny thing is we stopped using plastic grocery bags, but we still seem to have plastic out our ears. We still take plastic bags from other stores -- not always, but sometimes. & I get a giant trash-sized plastic bag on my doorstep once every week or 2 (for donations). & beyond all that, we just don't generate that much trash to begin with. I could fill a giant trash bag once every 3 months or something.

So what do we use? Whatever we can scrounge up! It's never hard to scrounge up plastic.

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LM has his last swim lesson today and he is swimming like a fish! BM has been taking lessons as a refresher -- he is swimming like a pro!

A few people have looked at me like I am crazy or rich to have my kids in "private lessons." Yes, I spent $100 on 4 hours of lessons (for each kid). LM couldn't float, tread, or anything -- now he can jump in and swim across the whole pool. Money well spent if you ask me. If this particular teacher comes back next year I might sign up both kids one more time -- at least LM. If not, they are done. City lessons would have been more costly and time consuming for similar results. (Because they'd need to take quite a few group lessons). BM has been working on freestyle/breathing, backstroke, and diving. He only took 2 hours of lessons last year.

Anyway, you can't win. But I assure you this was a frugal move in the end. (Plus we didn't have to DRIVE anywhere for lessons).

Having a child who can swim so well in such a short time? Priceless!

(I really only signed up BM For 2 weeks so he could take long lessons if LM Refused. So I am pleased LM went "all in" -- wasn't expected. But more lessons were good for BM, regardless).
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When it rains it pours. I have been trying not to count on the "usual" windfalls, but a bunch of them have come through this week. The latest is the kids got their "usual" $1k each from Grandma.

I should have posted this earlier. Dh got the check Sunday and I told dh, "The stock market will rally all week because I won't bother going to the bank until Friday or Saturday." Did I call it or what? I'll probably buy Monday -- expect market to peak then and dive the next day -- how it always goes.

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Oh yes -- escrow thread in the forums...
Reminded me of my pet peeve. A few of my friends (local) have complained of skyrocketing payroll taxes. HELLO?!? Payroll taxes do not skyrocket here -- they can not rise more than 2% per year. I assume they mean their escrow increased. It's just driving me nuts. Yes -- all our taxes are going up. Stop complaining about the ones that aren't! Wink {If it's the 2% they complain about -- they are worse off than I thought!}

I am not a fan of escrow -- and this is just one more reason why. Most people with escrow have no clue what they are paying for taxes, insurance, etc. IT's just one more excuse for not understanding any of this stuff.
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One more thing -- divorce, divorce, divorce. It's rampant among our friends. I don't even think it's the economy. I know a couple of people staying together for economic reasons -- more common in these times. The divorcing couples really want out -- regardless of financial ruin and upside down assets, etc.

Just about anyone I talk to any more -- "By the way, I'm getting divorced." None of them have said anything about their marriages, prior. So the first few times I was rather shocked. Now I am just like, "You too?" NO schock any more.
Leaves most of our friends single or divorced. Kind of strange. I think most of them would say they "rushed into things" or "didn't think it through." They did all marry rather young. On some level, I think it's a sign of the times. More people are waiting longer to tie the knot -- many people feel they have missed out by not waiting.

I personally don't identify in the least -- I met my spouse at 18. Of course, though we met young, we are certainly not the types to rush into anything. We waited 5 years to marry, and 3 more years to have children. People often made fun of us, for being engaged for so long, etc. Just one more way we are weird I guess. Apparently, a dying breed as well.
So is it just my little bubble or what? Yeesh. Mid-to-late-30s must be a common divorcing age.

Lots of Updates

July 13th, 2009 at 01:06 pm

**My dad is doing extraordinarily well - has not looked so good since his stroke. So yes, having a heart attack is terrible. BUT I almost feel better than I have about his health, in months. I came home almost less worried about him than I was before.

HE was released from the hospital yesterday. We came home shortly after - phew.

We have more answers about everything, but still a lot of questions.

My dad will definitely slow down and take some time off work (I believe he has disability for 4 more months, and this may add on to it anyway). My parents are concerned about their health insurance situation - more than anything. He just got on COBRA (I didn't realize he had switched over) and that only lasts 3 years. (I know - lucky they get 3 years - more generous in California). That aside, they could probably retire rather easily.

We talked a lot about just taking one day at a time. They were quoted $30k per year for private insurance BEFORE all of this (stroke & heart attack). COBRA paperwork had not gone through so they paid $3k for prescriptions yesterday. Yikes! Wait until they get the hospital bill, I guess. That should be sorted out though - they have good/affordable insurance for 3 years at least.

Though of course I would love them to move closer, I don't think that is happening any time soon. More of a last resort thing if medical insurance costs tons the last few years before medicare. Odds are my dad will take some time off and work to full retirement in the end. Will see. They are lucky they have the option to sell such a huge asset though (their house - worth many times over what they paid for it). They could move just about anywhere and pay less for housing, in comparison.

I don't see them moving anytime soon - they have plenty else to worry about.

On the flip side, they live so below their means that both disability, and later, social security, are PLENTY for them to live on. & they have plenty saved up for this healthcare mess. I think really they will be fine.

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**The weekend 'twas expensive.

$40 gas (so many trips to hospital)
$50 food (feeding many people)
$35 books (for my dad)
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$125 for Emergency weekend - could be worse

I didn't know books were so freaking expensive! I found a $5 bargain book and dh was looking for something specific that wasn't on sale. Yeesh. Usually we just go to the library, sometimes buying off Amazon.

My mom kept on insisting on giving me money. I just didn't want any part of it - though I wouldn't be surprised if she sends me a check. But I think we will be fine. They have bigger financial issues and I refused to take a dime.

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**I think we are jinxed to be anti-social. LOL. We actually had a fair amount of plans this weekend. Rather unlike us. But now my conversations have reverted to the same old - "Can I pencil you in next year sometime?" So much for being social and spontaneous. We tried!

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**Kids birthday party was a sucess. Party Package at Chuck E Cheese would have been over $200. We spent about $100 for everything, in comparison. Not bad.

$30 tokens (about 12 kids in the end)
$50 Food/drinks (brought our own drinks)
$20 balloons/misc.
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$100

The expensive part was definitely their pizza. We got tokens massively on sale - so that wasn't so bad. We have tons left over too.

Even better - the annoying family party (as I call it - because it is just dh's family - and it annoys me - LOL) - that one has been canceled. Will save us of $$$$$$$. Woohoo. MIL insisted on having a party at her house instead next weekend. Though I will likely want to visit my parents then, I didn't want to commit to anything. & lord knows I Was not hosting a party next weekend, after all this. Dh and I settled on a compromise. We will probably drive down separately. The extra tank of gas will be far cheaper than feeding his huge family. Phew. His family can have their party - and I get a break. Big Grin & truth is they are glad not to all have to drive up to our house anyway.

Dh has a friend visiting from out of town during the week so they will drive down a day or 2 before me. If my parents need anything, dh is good for it. So I think it works out well. I may spend the entire weekend down there, but glad I don't "have to." We had a plans down there for the following weekend - so it's all been a bit much.

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**Dh's dad got a job - woohoo. He is trying to stay on 2 more years for better retirement benefits. So he was luckily able to transfer, in the end.

Because of this, FLORIDA is on.

I had mixed feelings about it, but all this seals the deal. I won't be going, at all. I don't expect there to be any issues and I can't sit around at home in case "something happens." But I really didn't want to go in the first place. Decided I rather stick close to home and store up vacation time. Sounds like a bummer, but I am personally just glad I no longer have to decide if I am going, how many days I Would go, etc., etc. I Was incredibly indecisive about the whole thing, before.

That entire thing is another story for another day. Dh and the kids will have fun, I am sure - like last time.

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**Almost forgot the BEST news. I got confirmation today that my boss gave me a 10% retirement contribution for 2008. Yay!

It's good on many levels. (It means he had profit to give - which is a good sign).

The bad news, is I got my report of stock losses in the profit sharing plan, for 2008. I knew this would affect my net worth - there is a huge information lag with the plan. So - I lost just about as much as my boss put in. It was a 25% loss - really not half bad. Could have been worse - about what I expected.

Later I will have to update my net worth for this ugliness. Which reminds me, next year I should just estimate. It's probably better to adjust an estimate. Not sure why I didn't think of that before. Probably because I had no idea where I would stand. But I probably could have guessed a 30% loss, quite easily. Next time I will just estimate what the stock market does, as a whole. Would have been a lot closer than the $0 loss I recorded in Quicken, for 2008 - while I Was just sitting and waiitng.

My Dad, Again

July 11th, 2009 at 10:49 am

Well, my dad had a heart attack.

It's a long story but he is doing amazingly well.

We have no history of heart disease, heart attack, or stroke for that matter, in my family. On the contrary, particularly my dad's side of the family - they tend to live into their 100s with no health problems.

So, I think in every way shape and form we have been entirely unprepared for all of this. He is not even 60!

Life tends to be funny that way. I spend so much time worrying about my mom and sister's mortality, as they both have serious health and mental issues. & here is the rock of the family, facing so many unfamiliar (to us) medical problems. That's life!

I know in the heat of the moment my dad said "maybe I should retire." I know he is thinking maybe he won't live to 100 like he always expected. I am trying to talk them into moving closer to us. They could sell their home and buy one for a fraction of the selling price, closer to us. They probably have the means to retire now, if they move.

One thing at a time I guess, but I am putting that bug in their ear.

I am not very worried about my dad today. He is doing really well and trying to bust out of the hospital. The problem with him is getting him to slow down. Maybe this will get him to slow down a bit. (Up until yesterday he has been arguing that he wants to go back to work - though he is clearly not ready). On the flip side, I think now that they have cleaned out his artery, he hasn't felt this good in a long time. We may have to tie him down or something. Wink

His heart couldn't have been more healthy - they checked it thoroughly after his stroke, etc. But he does have buildup in his arteries, etc., not diagnosed until yesterday. They are optimistic his heart is still very healthy since he got to the hospital and was treated so quickly. As active and healthy as he tends to be, he has atrocious eating habits. Funny enough, the stroke has really affected his eating habits for the better (affected some part of the brain relating to taste, etc.). It's good because he needs to really work on that.

Anyway, with all this mess, pleased to report he is doing well.

1999 vs. 2009 (Budget)

July 9th, 2009 at 08:35 am

Really funny, but I ran into some old files on my computer.

I have said many times I am not much of a "budgeter." Not a strict one anyway. But, whenever life changes I tend to run up a budget to see where we are at and what our course of action should be. Thus, I am not terribly surprised that I found an old budget from 1999 (when I graduated college) and one from 2003 (when my first child was born).

In fact, I MUST have a budget from when dh and I first combined our finances - I will have to hunt it down (I am curious now). That's certainly the only time I remember making one, pre-2006.

Anyway, I only started using Quicken in 2006, and so I find anything prior to that is more of a guess - or reliance on scattered paper records, etc. SO, it was really interesting finding some old budgets. I decided to put them side by side (& will be interesting to add on in future years). I think it's interesting some of our expenses (like healthcare) have exploded, while others have stayed the same for a decade (landline?).





These all happen to be one-income years (1999, 2003, 2009). Dh was working in 1999, but we weren't living together or combining finances, etc. We got married and all that in 2000.

INCOME:

Obviously, my income has done quite well. Interestingly, my taxes have not gone up much over the years. Lots of tax breaks with the kids and the whole one-income thing. The mortgage helps too. I have never withheld more tax than I needed to!

EXPENSES:

Medical: Obviously, my medical insurance premiums look horrific. They are, but I am covering 4 people now, as opposed to one in 1999.

Dental/Disability: I now pay those privately, and save for those through "short-term savings." Dental cost way more, with 4 of us. Disability - I probably pay double that, these days.

Rent: This one is interesting. I rented a room in a nice home in a decent neighborhood, for about 5 years, through college. This is one expense I did not see increasing just because I graduated college. If I was single, would have stayed there a few more years, easily. Anyway, I have no doubt said, many times, that owning is cheaper than renting where I come from. Looking at this sheet, you wonder, "how?" Um, I had a room for one person. 2 wouldn't have been allowed. More importantly, it was a sublease from a renter who had been there MANY years. Our rent was rarely raised. The entire 3-bedroom house cost about $1600/month to rent and was a complete steal. (I had the most modest room and paid slightly less than 1/3. There was nothing modest about this room BTW - LOL - it was huge). Basically, I don't think it would have been possible for us to rent an apartment for as much - certainly not one with room for kids. So, my rent was cheap - but it wasn't very feasible to find cheap rent once we married - and we were always thinking ahead to when we had kids. BAsically, at marriage we were done renting with other people to keep costs down.

Mortgage: We have refied that down over the years. 8%+ down to 4.875%.

HOA: I was surprised to see our HOA fees used to be higher. I had completely forgotten. Dh reminded me that we used to pay more because few houses had been built when we moved in - they lowered it as people moved in, etc.

(The HOA on our old condo has gone from $250 to $400, monthly, in just a few years. So I daresay we have been lucky here).

Auto gas - I find my 2003 budget figure interesting. I used to drive home for lunch every single day. Gas was considerably cheaper in both 1999 and 2003. Am I driving more now? Not in the least!! Though my current budget figure is more forward thinking/inflation including. I rarely spend $300 on gas any given month. But, no doubt the expense has gone up.

Food - we have added a few mouths to feed.

Clothes - was always my big splurge

Gym - I used to get a good deal on 24 hour Fitness, through my work. These days we pay about the same for dh and I to go to the discount/no-frills gym. I didn't feel we could afford a gym when we had BM, but I guess I would have considered it if I knew there were such cheap options.

Landline - Back to old $25 now that dh let me drop call waiting. (I always had my own landline - for internet).

Cell - I had a cell (& internet) in 1999, but my parents paid for it. My dad had aol from way back, and I had an account many years. I just dialed up, of course. I don't remember when or why they got me a cell phone. I am sure I got my own plan sometime not too long after graduating college.

We've been able to lower our costs since, by adding our parents to our family plan, and sharing the costs.

Utilities - they have gone way up. No biggie renting with the roommates - they were never home. I was home even less - so our utilities were low. Plus we split them. Water was very cheap in San Jose - I was shocked at our water bills when we moved up here. !!

Cable - the first luxury we added when we married. I am surprised cost has stagnated. Seems like we have been paying more lately. But I think dh had HBO when BM was born. That probably explains it.

Gardener - a luxury we added in 2005 - LOVE it.

Preschool - a luxury we added in 2006, and which will entirely disappear in just one year. That will be divine.

Expenses Reimbursed - At my first job out of college, I made this budget before I got heavily into it. Truth is I spent a LOT more on driving and on eating out (part of the job) but was reimbursed handsomely for most of it. So I had a "reimbursed" category. I did spend a lot more on gas and food that first year or 2, but since it was reimbursed, guess it doesn't really matter. I was able to stretch my paycheck a lot further with all the extra money.

Car - I bought a $6k car around the time I graduated college, and paid it off in a few months. (My 20-year-old car had the decency to die 2-3 months out of college - phew). So it was one expense I kept very low. The auto reimbursements were quite high compared to my actual auto costs. Helped to bulk up my savings.

Savings - I was really surprised I seemed to take care in calculating semi-annual expenses in my 1999 budget. Shouldn't be surprised - I lived on a shoestring so long - no doubt I needed that planning. That pretty much sums up most of my college living expenses, etc., when I made far less money.

Obviously, my savings in 1999 was far simpler. (I was also surprised I had a 401k category - I wasn't able to contribute until mid-2000. Planning ahead I guess).

I have since simplified, since we have so many items to save for (property taxes, insurance, vacation, dental checkups, car repairs, and many other irregular expenses). I just put $1k per month away, for all that now. This is an area where a lot of our expenses have gone up, post-kids. We have lots more insurance, etc., than we did in 1999 or 2003.

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The whole point of sharing is to illustrate how much easier it was to live below my means immediately post-college, than it has been since having children, etc. To the YOUNG people.

I was NOT deprived in 1999 - I had tons more savings and disposable income than I do today. Big Grin

I traveled a fair amount back then. It was just so cheap alone (You know, stay with friends, split hotel room) that it hardly warranted a mention in the budget. The thing I Struggle with these days is how so many things seem to cost times 4 (with 4 of us).

People all the time assume living so tightly in my youth sucked. The thing is, it paid off so quickly. The truth is I just wasn't much into material things. My life was very rich with people and experiences. The $6k car I bought was an immaculate, cute, convertible. Those were some fun times. Big Grin "Deprived" is not the word I think of when I think back to my early 20s.

(It was easier back then because everyone else was young and broke too - not a lot of financial pressure! PArticularly with the exorbinant rents - none of my friends had much disposable income).

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Going forward? We've been trying to limit our regular monthly expenditures to the realm of $4000/month (indefinitely). We no doubt increased our expenses over the years, with mortgage and kids, but we don't really have any new "luxury" expenses on the horizon. Happy with where we are at. We are also pleased with our insurance coverages, etc., for the long haul. So basically, outside rising costs /inflation for our current expenses, we don't expect to add much to the expense column. (This holds true even if dh lands a high paying job - we'd just save it and pay off the mortgage. We'd be willing to help more with college. Boring stuff like that).

It helps that our biggest expense, the mortgage, is not going up. On the contrary, it has gone down with time, literally (refis) and inflation-wise.

It will be interesting to check back in 6 years and to see where we are at.

Paid a Late Fee

July 8th, 2009 at 11:39 am

Not much to report. Getting back into the swing of things - enjoying the extreme slowness at work before 7/31 deadline work rolls in.

Over the weekend we got an automated phone call from Dish asking us to pay our bill.

Interesting. I had gotten an e-mail notice a couple of weeks prior and ignored it because I usually pay all the online bills (credit card utilities - cell, landline, dish, city) around the 10th of the month. So I just thought it was the regular bill and didn't look at it closer.

So I logged on and saw a $130 bill or so - knew that wasn't good.

I FORGOT to pay last month.

I dug deeper and saw a $5 late charge. Great! I guess we are lucky they didn't disconnect us. Big Grin I hear some of the utilities have been rather brutal lately.

I checked Quicken and sure enough, no June payment. Interesting.

Not sure why I forgot - doubt I will forget again.

On a whim I checked the city bill and hadn't paid that one either. Guess my brain was on vacation mode. The City one is understandable - I just switched that one over to credit card payments recently. Dish - lord knows what happened there. The city one still had time - so no late fees there.

When I Was on maternity leave my disability check was so random, I often paid a lot of my bills a few days late. (I had $$ in savings, but what a pain!). No one seemed to care. The only vendor who ever cared was Verizon - I know not to pay that bill a day late (same with the credit cards of course). Mortgage even gives us 15 days grace period, which I have taken much advantage of in years past. I was going to chalk Dish up to being a stickler (or maybe it's the economy) but realized that I had never paid a bill like a whole month late before. So I am not sure if Dish is a stickler or if it's just my extreme lateness. I guess it doesn't matter - don't plan to pay late again - for any reason. Big Grin

It kind of works out - boy that would have messed up our budget last month - we were down to the penny. Not sure it was worth the $5 though!

Questions Answered

July 6th, 2009 at 10:39 am

I had a few questions on my last few posts. So here are some answers:

#1 - The bike I got at Wal Mart was a Schwinn Aluminum Comp

http://www.walmart.com/catalog/allReviews.do?product_id=1066...

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#2 - More questions on family camp.

Both of the family camps we tried were owned by cities we have lived in.

You do NOT have to live in that city to attend camp. You just pay a premium if you are not a resident. (Sacramento camp was a tad more expensive, so San Jose cost us about the same as non-residents. MEaning, non-resident fees can be pretty reasonable).

So, I would look and see what your city offers (google the name of your city + "family camp" or "camp."

We are from San Jose and they happen to own land right by Yosemite. Even though the facilities weren't as nice as Sacramento's, they were nice enough, and you just can't beat the location. I highly recommend it if you live in or near California.

http://www.sanjoseca.gov/prns/familycamp.asp

Camp Sacramento is the one we went to this year. Their camp is near South Lake Tahoe.

http://www.cityofsacramento.org/parksandrecreation/campsac/

I am sure there are also private "family camps" - I would assume the city ones are more affordable.

I searched a few other cities and found San Francisco also has a campground near Yosemite. Maybe it's more of a NOrthern California thing - I typed in a few So Cal cities and couldn't find anything...

Back From Tahoe

July 5th, 2009 at 09:16 am

& we had a blast!

This was our cabin (there were 3 rooms and we had 2 of them - with our parents)


This was really the only river access at camp, which was a bummer (San Jose camp had river running right through camp and way more swimming holes, etc.) This turned out to be the only thing we liked less than San Jose camp though - Sac wins in all other areas...


Some hiking views




Our excursion to South Lake Tahoe


A little bit of snow still left








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Things we liked better about San Jose Camp:

Location. Couldn't beat the campground itself AND we were right on the edge of Yosemite.

Also, kind of missed sleeping more in the outdoors (the tent cabins weren't 100% shelter - more fresh air)

Things we liked better about Sacramento Camp:

*Actual cabins - I didn't even see one bug inside. Big Grin LEss bug bites - warmer at night.

*HOT showers - their showers were so much cleaner and hotter

*Playground for the kids

*SO MANY kids activities - the kids made a lot of friends and BM was able to be rather independent

*I think the food was slightly better

*Lake Tahoe is considerably warmer than the rivers around Yosemite. So better swimming, though it was a bit of a drive. We guessed water was closer to 65-70 degrees at the lake, whereas rivers run temps in the low 50s.

*I almost forgot - the weather!!!! IT was about 75 during the day and 55 at night. At the beach it probably hit 80 - which was just perfect. Could have gone all week without a sweater, but it never got hot either. DIVINE!

*We didn't need our parents so much since the kids could go off and do their own things while we did ours. This will be a bigger benefit when both kids are older. & they definitely enjoyed doing kid things while we did grown up things. BM did archery, went on a hike, etc. LM did some arts and crafts, some games, and went bug catching, etc. We all did tie-dye shirts. The adults went on quite a few hikes (sometimes with the kids).

Though we liked the location slightly less, it wasn't half bad. Obviously we had some pretty awesome views.

The cabins and facilities were comfortable enough that we are strongly considering a full week next year. (I couldn't last more than 3 nights on a cot in a tent cabin, alternately - that was pretty much my limit last year).

I am quite sure we will return to San Jose camp someday - it was so beautiful - but I think we will most likely become Camp Sac regulars.

The half week ran about $500, and a full week runs about $1k. LM will be out of preschool next year though and we will be able to save a little more to our vacation fund.

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Yesterday was a little bit crazed. We got home in the morning, but came home to guests visiting from the mid-west. We cleaned up and did laundry while trying to be nice hosts too. My dad had a vertigo spell and went to emergency (he is fine - we were worried he was having another stroke, etc. But was just vertigo - a complication from his stroke apparently).

So half the fam headed to emergency and clearly my relatives wanted to eat in. So I ran to the store and grabbed some food for a double batch of burritos. Picked up some watermelon on sale. Had a rather impromptu meal, but was good!

The emergency room here never particularly seems to be full, and that held true as they got in and out rather fast and were able to join us for dinner.

Lots of dishes, etc.

My mom slipped me $60 for food which was nice - I think we spent $80 between that and ordering in sandwiches for lunch. & well, we now have a TON of leftovers.

We watched the neighbors set off a few fireworks, and collapsed in bed pretty early. They left early since they had a 2-hour drive.

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Which reminds me, I think we spent $10 at camp. Parking at the beach was $7. We spent maybe $3 on ice cream and sodas. It is mostly all-inclusive, which was nice.

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Today I don't want to do much - I am so exhausted from yesterday! At least all the laundry is clean. Phew. We were so filthy when we got home yesterday. Ah, but we had FUN!

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The kids' party is this week. Thankfully, not much planning involved. I'll make cupcakes the night before and pick up balloons at the party store next door to Chuck E Cheeses, on the way over there.

Dh already bought 250 tokens on sale (a couple of trips with coupons).

For the "family party" at our house, we have been collecting Round Table Pizza coupons. We have got a lot of large coupons lately.

It is certainly easier to keep costs down in this economy. Coupons are more abundant than usual.