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Archive for August, 2009

Investing Surprises

September 1st, 2009 at 01:35 am

Just looking at my year-to-date returns. I keep track in yahoo. I enter my fund shares at the end of every year. The performance I track is everything I had invested as of 12/31 of prior year. I can track more current progress in Quicken.

My first thought is I wonder when some people who "Cashed out" at the low are going to bother to get back in. Some relatives come to mind. Not counting new money, my portfolio is up about 25% for the year. There's certainly been a lot of upside!

Secondly, one my my funds really stood out as I was perusing them today. I have a T Rowe Target Retirement fund that is up 25%. It's having a good run this year. The funny thing is the only reason I bought it was because I could invest T Rowe with a mere $50/month (& no other initial investment). Today I have almost $4k in there. I chose the Target retirement fund because it had a slew of high performing managed funds for a low expense ratio. IT hasn't always beat the market by a mile, but this year it is kicking the other Target funds' butts! Ironically, it has a more conservative mix than most the others for the same target date.

Other things of note? I have considered selling my Dodge & Cox fund because all I hear is how these funds were awesome in their hey dey, but that they are so bloated with assets that the fund is no longer very manageable.

Today, I am glad I didn't listen. Highest performing fund of ours, up 36% for the year. I am a long-term investor and wasn't ready to just sell. Though I was looking at it critically in recent months.

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Any surprises in YOUR portfolio?

Going Away, Yay!

August 31st, 2009 at 07:11 pm

All big expenses aside, I feel well with the financial universe lately.

It could be the feeling that life is short (more obvious lately as my dad faces his health problems), or it could be that we just spent a pile of money on the unexpected, and are still a mile ahead of last year. It could be that our life is kind of settling into everything we have been working for the last 15 years. I kept thinking all weekend, "This is precisely where I want to be." Mostly as I found time for things I haven't had time for in many years.

For whatever reason, I felt rather zen the last couple of days.

We already spent our vacation budget for 2009, and last night dh brought up our anniversary. We discussed much about the many getaways and weekends alone we could conjure with little money spent. Use free timeshare points for a weekend anywhere? Stay home and day trip to Tahoe or San Fancisco? Spend a weekend in Reno (usually cheap hotels can be found, maybe more than usual in this economy. One night would do it). Spend a weekend at the family cabin for free? Go camping? Possibilities endless, really. & the only way we have mostly vacationed in our life. Most our years together being broke college students or sacrificing additional income to be home with our kids.

What I told dh was that I really just wanted to go to Pismo Beach. IT is something we had both been looking forward to, and even tried to plan a couple of times, but it always falls through the cracks. It's my favorite area of the state, and yet I don't think we had ever been, since we moved up north. It's been 8 years at the least.

We have a favorite hotel there, and the timeshare points won't do. We figured it would probably be a $500 weekend between the hotel, gas, and food. The hotel is beachfront and an absolute STEAL (it's apparently been remodeled but still only $100/night. Phew! We will splurge $150/night for the ocean view). We discussed how a couple of dinners out and fast food stops on the drive would be preferred, but that we would be happy to pack some PBJ sanwhiches for lunch. Not like we have to spend a pile on eating out. The gas will be the cheapest part of the trip.

We still have to arrange babysitting, but since our annniversary is less than a month away, I am excited at this rather "spontaneous" vacation. Big Grin IF we can't make it until October it will be okay, but September is an ideal month to visit the beach.

I am just so excited to finally make this a priority!







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As an aside, I checked the hotel's website last night as we discussed the feasibility of this last-minute splurge. Today, I decided to check a few of the travel websites to make sure there were no better deals.

I almost fell over, and had to check a few sites to make sure I could believe my eyes. If we went through any other travel website, about, the room costs $350/per night, as opposed to the $150/night we found at the hotel wesbite. WOW!

A decade ago, these travel websites were little known, and you would not believe some of the steals we found on travel over the years. But these days, more and more, I find booking flights and hotels directly is the cheapest way to go. Any more, you just pay a premium for "travel sites". Funny thing is the hotel price is more what I remembered it being. Of course all the travel websites boast "low price guaranteed" with their premium quotes.

I double checked and triple checked to make sure it was the same hotel and same type room. It was!!

IT pays to do your due diligence, that is for sure.

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We also talked about our wish to go to Hawaii next year. I think that will be delayed because we have other financial goals to meet first, and all these car repairs are delaying things.

Dh and I discussed how waiting one additional year to go to Hawaii is not a big deal. I don't want to delay it for 10 years. But one more year? I can certainly wait!

We will probably be able to go on a free Alaskan cruise next year anyway. So, what the heck. The "free" part is looking rather appealing.

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In other news, I have been pondering my workout clothes.

I don't mind spending a litte bit of money on work clothes. I don't spend a ton, but clothes shopping is frustrating enough I prefer to just shop new. I consider a "nice wardrobe" as part of my job description, and something reasonable to spend my income on. Since I have settled on the same size for about 5 years, and have been buying higher quality clothing the last few years, it's something I find I spend less and less on, anyway.

"Workout clothing" is a different animal. I have some really old t-shirts and a couple of workout pants I got at Marshalls for like $10 each, ages ago.

I keep thinking one of these days I need to update my workout wardrobe a bit. But it certainly hasn't been a priority.

It has become a priority as I bike ride more. I usually try to avoid the outside as MUCH as possible in the summer. OR the winter really. My wardrobe is extremely mild and full of dark colors. I can't help but feel I need some brighter colors for safer bike rides, and will definitely need more warm and cool clothes for the seasons.

As I type this I realize I should probably just make a trip to Marshalls and/or Ross, and stock up. They tend to have pretty good deals, and plenty to choose from.

The kids' school also made it amazingly hard to buy school logo clothing in the past, but just opened an online store. I was thinking buying a couple of t-shirts and sweatshirts might be a good way to update the wotkout wardrobe a bit. The money mostly goes to a good cause. The t-shirts are rather affordable.

Speaking of all that, I am going to buy a bike helmet in September. I keep putting it off due to other purchases. Heck, I think it's time for a new seat too (I logged about 5 hours over the last 2 weekends - and a more comfortable seat is certainly high on my mind).

I guess September will be rather spendy!

Hot Weather; Beautiful Skies

August 30th, 2009 at 12:29 am



This picture was actually taken the other day, but it was like 100 degrees and I tried to fathom how it could be so hot with all the clouds (heat is common in summer; not clouds).

Picture just turned out gorgeous - camera phone and all.

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A friend told me about a bike path that was just down the street for our home. "Huh???" I said.

We checked it out. It was gated and said, "closed, no trespassing, patrol" etc., etc. But the gate wasn't locked and my friend assured me it was fine. With some caution we went through the gate and decided to check it out.

There are a couple of roads along both sides of the canal - probably for service vehicles - mostly gravel. We saw a number of people jogging and walking their dogs on the gravel. No doubt it is usually more highly traveled. It was hotter than Hades!

But not far away from the canal was this bike path. I had looked at the map online and mostly wrapped my brain around it, but was confused because we biked so much around and never saw it. BM asked where we were going. I said, "exploring!"

Anyway, it was kind of silly in the end because the path quickly turned into some open neighborhoods and ended on a busy intersection. BEsides the "entrance" by us, there really wasn't any "no trespassing" signs. It's a public park.

I just ignored it before since it's all blockaded on our end. So I am really relieved it was mentioned.

I thought it looked like the path went right past our favorite little secluded park in the middle of "homes never built land." (I've shared pictures before). & it did! It was just far enough away from the park that we couldn't see it from there.

This is the funny part. BM and I stopped by the park on our return and enjoyed some of the "hills" in the park landscape. The bike path was flat as flat can be, and though convenient, and good for some more exercise, it was pretty boring. So I told BM, "The path was really safe because there are no cars to worry about, but it was rather boring, don't you think?" HE replied something like, "Yes, cars make it more interesting."

Yes, that is what I am afraid of!!

I am pleased to have a nice, decent sized bike path to do some "training" on, right outside my door. But I am really looking forward to more weekends on the river parkway. I cringed as I described that path as "hilly," but I appreciate it's challenges a little more after finding the flat as flat can be bike path. I am afraid that is all we have close to home!

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I made it to aerobics this morning. Phew. I tried to go on Thursday, but traffic was a mess. Not sure traffic was ever so bad that I aborted my aerobics detour, midway. But that day I certainly did! It was just the worst of the worst. There were many accidents that day, plus a fatal one near my final destination (fatal accident wasn't even on the freeway). It probably would have taken hours to get there, so I'm glad that I turned around. I was bummed, because I had missed many classes due to our car situation.

Anyway, so I went to aerobics this morning (1 hour class), and then we did our bike ride. I am starting to remember why I was so skinny before I had children. !! As I resume my more active lifestyle... I am also surprised I so easily handled working out for 2 hours. I've been so bad about the gym and everything with how crazy everything has been the last month or 2.

Dh had to volunteer today so I made "breakfast for lunch." Kids were estatic.

I took a nap in the afternoon. Thank goodness I squeezed it in. I woke up feeling extremely relieved I was chipper enough to run after the kids. They have since quietly played together. It's not always so easy, these days, but I forget they don't need that constant, exhausting, supervision. I knew they would be fine while I napped, but I figured I had a long afternoon ahead of me.

Instead, they were content playing together so I did some financial chores. paid all the bills and determined that our savings accounts sit at a solid $21k, still. Phew! I transferred a chunk out to pay the van body work, and all that. Set up the few bills I had to pay for September. An hour a month mostly takes care of the bills and such.

The kids are excited about "lunch for dinner" now. They also want "dinner for breakfast," but I think I will pass on that one.

It's HOT today. When we got back from our bike ride (which seemed pretty hot for 10am) the A/C was already on. Oh boy, is that a bad sign! We've been squeaking by with only really turning it on in the evenings. I've felt rather trapped inside all afternoon. Blech!

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I am trying to enjoy the slowness of our next couple of weeks.

It occurs to me, as I pay the bills, that fall clothes shopping will be upon us soon. (Um yeah, that's probably why I have largely ignored Back-to-School shopping. Haven't tried on the kids' fall wardrobes yet. IT's only 100 degrees).

Halloween is just around the corner, and all the rest of those holidays. IT will be busy and though we aren't big spenders when it comes to the Holidays, there are always MORE expenses to contend with during that time of year.

Weekend is Here...

August 29th, 2009 at 02:12 pm

At work the last few weeks I feel like, "I am not an expert in fill-in-the-blank, I just play one on TV." I have been working on all sorts of unusual stuff. Being a "tax expert" covers some pretty wide territory. I mean, how many taxes can you think of. I am expected to be an "expert" in every tax known to man. & then some.

At some point during the week I wondered if I was really any more qualified to do anything I was working on, than my clients. I decided, yes. If nothing else, it's like tax form legalize is a foreign language and I know how to translate it. IF that's my only advantage, it's a big one. I actually had a few more advantages. But it's just been a frustrating week. Then again, it certainly hasn't been boring!

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As of right now, we are a fiber optic household. Woohoo!

My dh was funny because he had "signed up" a while ago, but had wanted to talk to a techie over there and figure out all that was involved with the install. IT fell through, and a sales guy came by again and convinced him again, recently. So I ask dh a few questions and he really doesn't know much. If we try their TV service, all the installation is free. Except last time dh was wary of all the work involved in installation and didn't really want any part of it. Today he was like, "eh." I am not sure why, and left me a little worried. He had me convinced they would be putting holes into walls or something.

Thankfully, they had a MUCH better installer than dish. The guy knew what he was doing (quite obvious), it only took a few hours (as opposed to like 10 hours for a stupid Dish), AND it turned out to be pretty painless. All of our phone jacks are still working (if we decide to switch back). In fact, we have had had no internet connection with some of our computers since switching to DSL, etc. So now, everything but the laptop is back to being hardwired together. & dh is very happy about this!

So yeah - we now have VOIP for phone, fiber optic for internet, and not sure how the TV is classified. I guess they call it "digital." ?

We took the TV setup for free installation as everything (as I mentioned) but we doubt we will switch). Our 10-year-old TIVO is amazing (we are still hanging on in case we can use it again). DISH is decidedly subpar, but on an initial try, dh is not very impressed with this new setup.

Dish does have some plus sides. In the last year, they have SIGNIFICANTLY improved their DVR, and we only have one DVR for the entire house (2 TVs). Now we have 2 DVRs. & they seem even less user friendly than the Dish (if that is possible).

We will probably revert to having 2 TIVOs eventually, but it's worth having TWO of those.

In the interim, if we can't utilize our TIVO with our setup, I have to give Dish props for the "one-DVR per house" thing. It takes something even worse to appreciate what we have, I guess.

My mind is blank on the name, but the other satellite company is rolling out a HD-TIVO that is compatible with their satellite service, later this year. That's what Dh REALLY wants for our TV. Since the rollout will roughly coincide with LM being done with private preschool, I won't whine and complain too much about the cost of it all. He'll probably get his wish - next year.

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We made a few Amazon purchases the last month, and keep getting free Mp3s. It's kind of sweet. (I wasn't even aware of the promotion).

I downloaded 5 Mp3s last night. Dh was out volunteering so I figured I would give it a whirl - trying to download it all onto my Mp3 player. I actually figured it out. Woohoo.

Historically, if I want a song, I just ask dh for it. He takes care of all things music. My Mp3 is magically set up and CDs are magically burned. For the longest time we used a legal Mp3 service that were pennies were download. They were eventually shut down (something about credit card companies - I don't remember why) and so we haven't been buying so much music lately. Which is fine. We have a HUGE music library. Not much more we need! I have been getting quite a few free Mp3s, and every once in a while I order a favorite CD. That's all I need.

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Thank goodness for a mellow weekend!!!!

I literally have nothing planned for the weekend. That feels DIVINE!

We will likely hit the pool tomorrow. It will only be open a few more weeks, for summer.

Today I want to go on a bike ride close to home. We had a playdate yesterday and my friend told me about a bike path right down the street that I didn't even know about. I found another extended path I did not know about either - a short drive from here. So BM and I will go explore.

We also talked about how she often sees coyotes on said bike path. We have seen them around, but it still throws me off a bit. Coyotes? We are on the edge of the city - just empty fields all around. Shouldn't be that surprising I guess. I often feel like I am in the middle of the city - why would there be coyotes???

So yes, plenty of "free" activities to keep us occupied.

We have membership to a local park and we don't go much in the summer with all the heat. But we usually go a little more often. I may take LM there tomorrow. It's more the rest of the year that we go. But it has been a while, and that will be a pretty frugal activity as well.

We have been so spendy. It's just been an unusual summer. But I am remembering all our frugal standbys, and thankfully there are a LOT!

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I put some pictures of our recent weekend swimming and bike riding, up on Facebook. It was absolutely DIVINE. A well meaning relative asked if I had any any spare time. It just struck me as funny. Yes, I actually do have quite a lot of spare time these days. Much more than I did with wee little babies. Since when is going to the pool and bike riding a "chore?" LOL. Sure, I was in charge of the kids, but this age is just fun that they can do all this stuff.

It's just funny. I am in my element. Life is good. & someone is marveling if I have "free time." Teehee.

Phew!

August 27th, 2009 at 02:10 pm

Life resumes to "normal," I guess.

Took the car in for the AC yesterday, and assumed it may take a while. But, we already got it back!

After 10-days of being a "1 car family," we are very grateful to have 2 vehicles again.

Not sure if this is good or bad, but they couldn't find anything wrong with the AC. (Heck, it was working fine when we took it in). They drained the freon (had some moisture in it) and refilled it. It seems to be working much better.

Total cost? $100. PHEW!!!!! (I was worried this would be another $1k bill).

Of course, we will see if this fix "holds." But with summer nearing its end, if it doesn't "hold", not sure I care at this point. Either this is it, or we can survive until next spring.

Phew!

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I also was proud of myself. My parents found it important to teach me basic car maintenance. But, I don't remember getting much education on tires. I can change one, but that's about it.

So, historically, relative, friend, mechanic, says "OMG - you NEED new tires." & so we replace them.

Deciding maybe we need a better method, I have been trying to keep better track of the age of our tires.

Dh's tires are at about 50k miles so I was going to ask the mechanic's opinion. BUT, before we went over, I checked the treads myself. He had one bald tire (thing is OLD - might have been a used tire we bought a few years back - just kind of overlooked. Lord knows how old the thing is). Another tire was iffy. But the back 2 tires seemed just fine, which was actually rather surprising. But I figure this is my guess - I have NO IDEA what I am doing.

We had decided to just get the tires taken care of while we were carless all day.

So, mechanic agreed. Replaced 2 front tires and had a re-alignment. I am not sure how much life is left in the back tires. It's kind of nice we didn't have to replace 4 tires. BUT now it's just more work to keep track of it all. But I was proud of my own diagnostic. Big Grin

I should probably just check the treads at the end of every summer. Now that I am getting the hang of it.

So, yes, about $250 spent on tires and alignment.

Obviously, a very expected part of auto maintenance!

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As we know all of our auto expenses, we can come up with a game plan.

I was rather surprised we only spent $500, to date, on car maintenance. We took the van in THREE TIMES already, but I guess it was all small stuff.

$500 + $350 AC repair/Tires = $850.

We budget about $1500 per year for regular vehicle repairs and maintenance.

For now, I think I am going to pull $1k from short-term savings, towards the van's door replacement. It puts us over $1500 YTD for auto expenses, but I have some wiggle room there.

I am going to pull the other $1200 from the medical fund.

The year is not over yet. BUT, ideally we will have enough in there to cover the Dodge's computer problems (estimates at $1k) AND ideally we won't need it for medical expenses.

Doing all this, we still have a chance to make it to $10k in our mid-term savings fund this year. I haven't touched a dime of the money I saved up this year (Current balance? $9000!).

So, worst case, we can always dip into that. I am just trying my darnedest not to!

Teriyaki Sauce

August 26th, 2009 at 03:01 am

Just google "teriyaki sauce" and there are recipes galore.

I find this one to be fine. I just keep it in tupperware in the fridge - we use it often enough that I don't bother dating it or anything. I am sure one could buy a nicer container for their teriyaki sauce.

Anyway, I perused google but couldn't find my recipe so I will just share it. I just don't know where I got it or who to give credit to (oh well).

& I am sure there are BETTER recipes. After perusing the internet a bit, I think I may try some others.

1.5 cups soy sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 Tbsp Sherry (I use cooking sherry)
1 Tbsp garlic powder (I use fresh garlic)
1 tsp ginger powder

Stir until sugar dissolves.

Enjoy!

Big Expenses; Learning New Tricks

August 25th, 2009 at 06:26 pm

Um, you learn something new every day? Friend was fan shopping and learned all fans spin in 2 directions. One setting is for winter and one for summer. NEVER heard of this.

http://www.hansenwholesale.com/ceilingfans/fanfaqs.asp#ceil...

Is it just me?

Dh checked, and wouldn't you know, since our home was built in the winter, all our ceiling fans were set to "winter" mode. & heck, they work much better in SUMMER MODE (during summer). Doh!

Not sure I will bother with winter mode, during winter. But I am a little curious to test it.

May our fans be more efficient, now... (We don't use them much at all, but maybe will with the better performance).

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It will always amaze me what things we do out of habit. IT feels like there are infinite ways to become more efficient at things.

Dh was going to make some simple burritos last night and stopped by the store for the usual "burrito seasonings" packet that we have used for eternity.

He paused because the price was $2. $2?????? For a pack of spices??

Decided to improvise. We cook a lot and have ALL the spices. So he found a recipe online and whipped up his own burrito seasoning.

$2 saved!

I've actually always made my own teriyaki sauce. I don't know why. I just make a batch and keep it in the fridge. Taste better and is cheaper? I told dh he should whip up a few servings of the burrito mix, and just keep it on hand. (IT was a mix of like 10 spices). I am afraid I wouldn't have the patience for that every time I made "quick burritos." But he seemed happy with it.

I might whip up some of my own ready-made seasoning mix for the rare times I cook.

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In other news, I got my vehicle back. YAY!!!!!!!!

Today is a busy driving day, so decided to take dh's car in tomorrow.

Grand total was $2200 -- new door and all. Ouch!

I would probably just transfer $2k from savings and send a payment to the credit card, and be done. But I will hold off in case dh's AC repair is also massive.

But, yeah. Ouch! I can literally only think of a small handful of items I ever shelled out more than $2k cash for!

I literally thought about it for hours and came up with this list. The list wasn't long so I brainstormed anything I paid $1k+ for, also:

$300k (2001) Current House
$260k (1999) Condo - sold for profit 2002
$12k Minivan (2006)
$ 8k Ford Subcompact (2002)
$ 6k Mustang Convertible (1999)
$ 5k Refi (2008) **only time paid points**
$ 2k Car Repair for stupidity!
$2k Dental Expenses for BM (2008)
$2k Fridge (2001)
$2k Closing costs (about 5 times?)
$1.5k Couch Sectional (2000)
$1.5k First TV (married) (2000)
$1.5k Various Electronics (pro-camcorder & a couple of projectors over the years) (2001-2005)
$ 1k My first Car (drove for 7 years) (1992)
$ 1k Per Semester of College (1990s)
$ 1k Wedding (2000) Our portion of the tab, anyway
$ 1k Wedding Ring (2000)
$ 1k Mattress on bed (2000)
$ 1k Per Semester of Grad School (2002)
$ 1k To Bird-Proof house (2003)
$ 1k Update Landscaping (2004)
$ 1k Washer/Dryer (2005)
$ 1k Wills/Trusts (2006)
$ 1k Big Screen HDTV (2007)
$ 1k Dh's high-end editing computer (2008)

Things forgotten but added:
$ 1k Wedding Ring (2000)
$ 1k Wills/Trusts (2006)
$10k Closing costs paid in cash over the years (estimating, but we bought twice and refied 3 times with cash. Around $2k/each). Worth every penny!! Current savings - $5k per year with 3.5% lower interest rate than the first mortgage we ever had.

Since everyone is adding homes:
$260k 1300 square feet, condo
$300k 2600 square feet, house

Since they are appreciating assets, overall, I didn't really count them. Everything else 100% LOSES MONEY. But sure, I will add them.

(& boy - I admit some of these are estimates. I doubt our fridge cost a full $2k, but I remember it being closer to $2k than $1k).

(Most our furniture is used or hand-me-down; or bought at deep discount for new, or gifted to us. The sectional is the only furniture we ever spent more than $1k on. & trust me -- our house is 5 bedrooms and FULLY furnished! Our vacations tend to be under the $1k range. Don't remember every spending more. Knock on wood, but we have literally never had more than a $1k auto repair before, old cars and all. I am sure I could have forgotten if we had though. This year is proving the exception -- as both our cars face large mechanical repairs).

& well, it's no surprise my dh loves TVs and movie projectors!

I am racking my brain wondering if I forgot something! I didn't include house purchase, for various reasons.

Let's face it, we have been bombarded with "stupid expenses" the last couple of years. There's not much in return for giving $2k to the dentist for fillings, or $2k spent because I hit a pole. It just sucks.

OR should I just feel lucky we haven't had more giant, unexpected expenses???

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On the plus side, my van looks like a million bucks (gotta love body shops) AND whatever they did fixed the window too. (Power window only works intermittently).

Weekend Roundup

August 24th, 2009 at 04:33 pm

Weekend Successes:

*Lounged by the pool
*Went on a marvelous bike ride
*Did good deeds (volunteer work)
*Prepared LM's "student of the month" collage (was actually kind of fun).
*Prepared birthday Thank Yous (phew!)
*Changed e-mail address for what felt like 100 entities (all our financial institutions + every online account I could think of).
*YEsterday was cool enough, we didn't use AC. (I am starting to think thermal drapes do better in summer than winter. I had forgotten about those. Could be another reason why electric bill has shrunk).

Weekend Failures:

*I STILL haven't got my haircut. (Maybe tonight?)
*House still looks like a disaster.

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On some levels the week is a lot easier. Work. Crash. Repeat.

Since I am not much of an evening person, I put off as much as possible to the weekends!

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I was able to transfer BM's account to the "Target Retirement Fund" today. (Another good stock day!) Yay! I can go back to waiting for the market to fall to contribute money to stocks. Waiting for it to go up was very counter-intuitive!

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Could be another week as a 1-car family. Bah!

It's not so bad, but I will sure be happy when both cars are in full working order again. WE are definitely spoilt.

Today is not so bad - I get the car since work is the only driving destination.

Tomorrow is a bit crazy with preschool, karate and aerobics. Without 2 cars, I don't get to go to aerobics. Frown

Thoughts On Love

August 23rd, 2009 at 02:51 pm

Off-Topic blog post for the day...

The topic of love seems to come up enough on the blogs, and definitely is a hot topic among my MANY single friends.

I personally take issue to the sentiments that dh and I are just *lucky.* I could easily start listing a pile of hardships we have faced. The thing about us is we don't dwell on the bad. I think this often gives people the mistaken impression that "everything is easy" for us. I take issue when anything we have worked hard for is chalked up to luck.

BUT, by the same token, there is no doubt there is plenty of LUCK in our lives. One issue where I realize this 1000% in my life, is in our relationship. How lucky we were able to find such a compatible mate, so young. I don't mind the luck comments in that area. I fully agree.

What's the secret, then? Honestly, I have no idea. I truly think it is somewhat genetic. For me and my spouse it was literally "Love at first sight." For that, I certainly believe in the concept.

There was an instant physical attraction between us, that I am not sure we ever experienced before. We quickly found we were extremely compatible emotionally, mentally, etc. We dated only a few weeks before we started talking marriage.

The other thing is we met rather young (18/19). Neither of us was looking for a marriage mate, in the least. MAkes the whole thing more bizarre. But I truly believe that if you "look too hard" you kind of miss what is right in front of you. Though neither of us was particularly looking for a relationship at the time, that is precisely what we ended up with. We kind of felt that a relationship like that doesn't come along very often. So we better cherish it.

So, why do I think it's genetic? My parents met exactly the same way, and married around age 20. My grandparents met the same way too, and married about the same age. My family is filled with fiercely independent people who married quite young. Dh and I waited until after college to officially move in together and marry, but we were "married" for all intensive purposes, since age 18, as were those before us.

I can't help but wonder if there is a genetic propensity to sniff out mates well, or to simply "go with the flow." How many of our friends gave up good relationships because they were "too young to be tied down"? I am not quite sure what it is.

Naturally, many of my friends think I have some wonderful secret, and they bug me more about it with age. I tell them, frankly, the fish pond is getting small. At age 18 you have the whole pond to fish, but by their age (30s) most of the good ones have been taken. I don't think it leaves a lot to pick from. I think at that age you have to lower your standards a bit. & not that standards have to be low. But to all my single friends who would never marry a divorcee, nor anyone with kids, I think they are just shooting themselves in the foot. Let's face it, you can have that luxury when you are 20. Not when you are pushing 35. Probably the best fish in the pool have matured and learned a bit through marriage and children.

& if you are shopping for a mate with a "wish list" of traits - good luck. That's why I wonder if it's the "go with the flow" part of our personalities that fare better in love.

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I've also made some insights in our own relationship lately.

It really pisses me off (if you hadn't noticed) when it is stated that women like "strong men who make money." There's just something about that whole concept that rubs me the wrong way.

With time, I agree more with the underlying sentiment. I think it is the "women like x" that is very narrow. As the discussion evolved, I finally realized where dh and I fit in, with our caveman ancestors. I've taken a lot of offense over the years since I am the primary breadwinner in our relationship. & I don't see what the big deal is.

Let's put it this way. When I met dh I was dating a guy and our relationship was going nowhere fast. The guy had no ambition and it just wasn't working out. I recently ran into said guy on Facebook/MySpace. I hadn't talked to him or seen him in like 15 years. & he pretty much hadn't done a thing with his life. He was STILL going to college. He was STILL living at home with his parents.

I sensed all this when we dated - he was quite a few years older than me. Just kind of partied all day. HE was a really nice guy, there was a lot of physical attraction, and if he was a little more ambitious, I might have married him. I don't know. But the "no ambition" thing killed the relationship. He was fun to hang out with until someone better came along (my spouse)!

I met my spouse at work. I was definitely attracted to his humor and his personality more than anything. BUT, he was also promoted rapidly at work and had a lot of responsibility. I admit it - that was VERY attractive.

That is the person I was attracted to and whom I married.

Women all the time say, "I would never date/marry/love a man who didn't work." For me, obviously I am a little more open minded. But let's face it, the fact that my spouse does not "work" today is of little consequence. He is a motivated, hard working man. I know if I was disabled tomorrow, that he could step up and pay the bills. On the flip side, I couldn't see myself marrying someone who couldn't even finish college in a few years.

All in all, I admit to the sentiment. I just think it is often taken too literally. It's a shame when someone like my spouse is assumed to be "weak" for not having a job. Really, he should be looked upon as strong as having worked hard enough and saved enough to take many years off of work. That's the man I married! Wink I don't mind being the breadwinner because I know he is perfectly capable of doing the same. For that, I give in a bit.

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My parents did raise me to be fiercely independent. No doubt about it. I often think it's a shame I don't have any daughters. I would teach my daughters the same. For that, I don't "need a man." But what I need even less is a man that I have to take care of, or who is going to bring me down. They didn't raise me to "take care of other people" either. It's why my only real choice was an independent mate. Just because I am independent doesn't mean I am masculine and my spouse is feminine. IT's funny because I was never a tomboy. But my personality as an adult does intimidate men, no doubt.

I often think my spouse is an extraordinarily masculine type, to be able to handle my independence. To be able to admit that I am better at earning money and he is better with rearing children. (When we first dated I focused on college and my career, and he always talked about wanting children as soon as possible). It's not traditional, but who really cares about what everyone else thinks. In my eyes, I married an extraordinarily strong man!

Spoiled by Books

August 23rd, 2009 at 01:44 am

Our weekend wasn't all leisure - I forgot to mention - we worked a bit too.

I have no doubt mentioned our sweet Scholastic deals in the past. Teacher relatives showered us with their points (for free books). Now, since we live near a Scholastic Warehouse, and the manager has a kid at our school, we have ample opportunity to volunteer in their warehouse and earn tons of free books (& whatever else they are selling - video games, etc., etc.).

As usual they had trouble finding "volunteers" (for $20/hour pay in books). Dh volunteered the only 2 hours he possibly could, during the week. He had charge of the kids otherwise.

They kept bugging him to volunteer more, knowing he usually works many hours (when kids are in school, etc.). I felt bad about the whole thing and offered to split an all-day shift with him. Neither of us particularly minded helping a few hours, but all day was a bit much, with the way things have been. He's devoted his entire weekend and week nights, next week, to the public TV station. & being in full charge of the kids during the week is no easy job. So I am glad he was up to the half day. I didn't mind it at all.

He bought some stuff with his 2 weekday hours, and we donated our 8 hours of books, today, to the school.

That was a pretty decent dent in our "required volunteer hours" for the school year. Not that we won't help more, but have the feeling we will easily make our 30 hours with Scholastic.

Today worked out well. I had volunteered one weekend, and ended up being sick and not making it. Dh volunteered many days, and I kind of took the attitude that he had more time. Well, he did. But things change, and it was much easier to share the work.

The next Warehouse sale is right before Christmas. The last one was right before the kids' birthday. With this deal we don't need to spend any cash on their gifts any more. Works out well!

Quickie

August 22nd, 2009 at 08:40 pm

**Went for a swim. Was perfect weather and pool was even a little warmer than usual.

NO ONE was there, but what else is new. I love our pool!

**Still don't have the van. It is all done, but trim is not sticking. They said we could take it and they would order replacement. BUT, in the interim, they still had the trim on. Didn't want to drive it around if it might just fall off. *sigh* No one will be in to order the part until Monday. I have to cancel Monday AC appointment with dh's car. *double sigh*

I did get to see the van, and took a picture of it. Cleans up real nice!

**I couldn't figure out how to fold the seat down in dh's car, but experimented with the bikes. We could actually rather easily bring them in the subcompact - thank goodness!!!! I was SO bummed to cancel out bike ride tomorrow.

With the seat down - they will probably fit like a dream. BM could still fit in the back too. I love that car! It's so tiny and roomy all at once.

Dh may be able to talk me into a smaller vehicle, after all. Still considering a trade, as van is not the greatest vehicle. I have been getting used to just sliding our bikes in though. But we can adapt.

For now, van is all nice and shiny. Will give it a second chance, in the interim.

I hope we get the trim soon!

Success!

August 21st, 2009 at 08:06 pm

LM's account hit $3k yesterday, AND the stock market was up this morning. So I executed a trade, for today. Trading his Star fund for Vanguard's 2025 Retirement (He'll hit college age in 2023).

Success! I have been keeping an eye on this for 2 weeks. It's been frustrating.

This changes his stock/bond mix from 65/35 to 80/20. But also is a cheaper expense ratio, and I can put on auto pilot if I like (gets more conservative as 2025 approaches).

For now, just not enough to spread out any more (can't buy more than one fund!). I may prefer to manage it more as the balance grows.

BM is not so lucky. His account was like $5 short today. Bummer.

If August wasn't such an atrociously expensive month, I'd probably transfer $50 over to his account, and be done. I just don't feel I have a dime to spare for it. & I figure, whatever, if the market tanks, may be better to exchange it later. Will see. Maybe in October I will have $50 to spare.

We are also considering matching the kids' gifts going forward. All of their college money is pretty much funded by one grandparent. But they are retiring and we can probably match it starting 2011. (Next year is iffy - match will be easier once both kids are in school). I figure it's good to match it as there may be nothing to match, eventually, as they retire, etc. Then we can take over where they left off.

Dh and I spent pennies on our college, so though I think it's important to save up for it, I also don't feel the sheer panic that most parents do. Colleges here remain abundant and cheap, even today, where we live. (The abundance of colleges means kids won't have to go away to college, etc. Just means plenty of less expensive options).

We also have an entire second income to tap if the kids decide they are destined to be doctors or lawyers. From every angle, I Don't sweat it. BUT it will be nice to put a little aside. IT's been hard to justify until now. (Or until next year, I should say).

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Today I updated all of our savings balances through 9/30, etc. I have an idea since we don't pay most our bills (Credit card) until the following month. I think I got a handle on August bills (though admittedly, the month is not over).

& was pleased to see a $23,500+ balance in our savings.

$25k is so close I can almost taste it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

$30k is my goal. $25k is a pretty nice "we are almost there" point, though. Once we reached $30k, we wanted to splurge on a trip to Hawaii. (Well, wanted to reach a little more - did not want to drop below $30k for HAwaii trip).

With all these car repairs, not feeling optimistic on making it next year, after all. But still quite confident that Hawaii in 2011 can be the backup plan. Will see.

So I will enjoy my balance for another month. & I am pleased that even with all these car expenses coming up, that we can probably keep our cash upwards of $20k. That is a pretty nice feeling. Not a feeling we've really had since having kids.

For now the balance is broken down as:

$ 7k ROTH Efund
$ 5k Cash Efund
$ 2k Medical Fund (Deductible)
$ 9k House/Car Fund
$0.5k short-term
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$23,500 TOTAL
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One thing that helps is I just paid the last of the regular short-term expenses (auto insurance) for the year. Well, about $4k of expenses is due in December (property taxes and insurance). But that will build during the next 3 months and make my cash balance appear cheerier than it really is, in the interim.

I still may get the Mid-Term savings (house/car fund) to $10k this year, regardless of all this. I can hope! The balance on 1/1 was something along the lines of $0.

Today I feel like it's been 3 steps forward, and one step back. I can deal with that. That is the whole point of my savings goals - to stay ahead of the curve.

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In other news, kids had clean bill of health (teeth), BUT we were officially told LM will need braces, eventually.

No surprise there!

Funny, they never mentioned for BM. There could still be hope??? (He's older!)

They got my genes and LM's mouth is clearly a mess. I've already been saving up for that, too. IT's just a little more official, I guess.

One thing I may be less prepared for is little kids orthodontia. I didn't get my braces until I Was 10. It seems these days, they start with baby teeth. Will see. I hope I can wait a few more years! But if they can start earlier and if he didn't have to have braces for like 7 years (like I did!), I guess I won't complain. I hear it is a lot easier these days. LEss painful and less ugly. Still, poor kid. It's kind of a bummer.

Convenience Wins & Wise Words

August 20th, 2009 at 04:53 pm

Thought of some wise words while commenting on my own blog:

Cutting back your lifestyle because you "have to" is nothing like cutting back because you "want to" in order to achieve a specific goal.

The two don't even compare!

How is that for some frugal wisdom?

Definitely the lesson learned in these times.

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Dh and I decided to be lazy. My van may be reasy tomorrow. Just a maybe. & we have to take his in for the AC. Well, we "choose" to. Wink Hopefully Monday.

In the midst of no cars, I told dh that his tires probably need to replaced, and though it will be no doubt more expensive with our mechanic, we should probably just have him do it, for the convenience factor.

Dh can be pretty cheap, but he can also be pretty lazy. LOL. He agreed. I am kind of relieved to get it over with.

(I knew this was on the horizon - tires have hit 50k+ miles - I am sure they are only supposed to last 50k miles - though will ask mechanic opinion if it is time to change. He is very honest).

The Ford's AC and tire repairs will be nothing. Even if it turns out to be an expensive repair on the AC. We've gone most of 8 years not putting hardly any money into it. Cost under $8k in 2002, replaced tires at 50k, replaced battery last year, and a few minor things last year. I am pretty sure we had no other repairs/maintenance but oil change, from 2002-2007. (Maybe some air filters? I don't even remember replacing, like, a belt).

On one hand, I keep thinking, "They don't make them like they used to." With many typed of things (appliances and cars and such). But then again, with the Ford, it's like, "How do they make them these days???" Seems like we were always replacing batteries and brakes and spark plugs on our older (150k+-miled) cars. We don't drive much in traffic here, which apparently is awesome for brakes. IT's all I Could figure. Maybe I drive better with age? I keep asking the mechanic if it's almost time for the brakes or what - and he looks at me like I am crazy. Says they are just fine. Though I don't expect big repairs on old cars (never really had any - knock on wood...), I do expect more maintenance for a car that has run 100k miles on mostly original parts. The battery itself lasted nearly 100k miles. WOW! & yes - I said FORD!

No complaints on the Ford issues - it's just the timing sucks.

I know factory tires suck, so we may be able to squeeze out more miles on our current tires. Will see.

For the van? Thinking of pulling all its repairs out of the medical fund. Then I don't have to touch any of our other savings. Last year we used our medical (Deductible) fund for BM's cavities. We all got a clean bill of (Teeth) health this last month, so I guess it goes to the car for this year. I can stomach the expense much easier this way - assuming we have no medical bills through 2009. Lord knows, but makes it easier in the interim.

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I didn't have much on my To Do list last weekend but to get a haircut and get Thank Yous done for the kids.

Failed on both fronts!

That is my To Do list for the weekend.

Oh yeah, may get suckered into volunteering Saturday. Will see.

I am hoping we can finally go on our bike ride this weekend, and am glad we found the free parking. It's just been so crazed and busy. Look forward to a mostly slow weekend. & really forward to a REAL bike ride!!!

I raised BM's seat as far as it could go and he can keep up with my new bike a little better. We just bought LM a bike not so long ago, because BM seemed a LONG way off from upgrading. BUT, his bike is looking so tiny. I think it's about time - might get him something a little fancier so we can do some real riding together. Maybe for Christmas!

Grass is Always Greener...

August 19th, 2009 at 02:17 pm

School is slow and unorganized this year. Received $60 request for field trip fees. I am quite sure they did not use all of last year's fees (only went on like half of the field trips originally planned!) BUT, no carryovers like they did before.

They "unofficially" asked for $25 for supplies and $10 for t-shirts. It's annoying because if you don't send the money in "just so" it will never get cashed. Even when you send it in, in a requested envelope - it takes a year to cash.

No envelope - just like a call or an e-mail message. Ugh. Sending it with the field trip fees - but separate checks to help along with the bureaucratic process. I know if I send one lump check it will ruin "the system" and never get cashed. Gotta love it!

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Someone mentioned to me new cars don't need "smog checks." Car is not "new" and we bought dh's car just as "new" and have always had it smogged.

But I finally looked it up - must be a newer rule. My 2005 van does not need a smog check for first 6 years.

Who knew something was "cheaper" by going "newer?" There's a first. Wink

I can't say I minded having to fix my van's problems. We can put it off a month or two, but I still want to fix it this year...

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Is the grass always greener on the other side? Wink

In this economy, renewed jealousy continually rears its ugly head. Of course everyone is jealous that my spouse does not work.

I think it's just a side effect of being more social. The "jealousy" was just as pronounced when the economy was booming. The more we socialize, the more we hear, "It Must Be Nice."

Even a good friend of mine asked the other day if my spouse was working or looking for work. Huh? Where did that come from? Have I ever mentioned he was looking for work?

The kicker was when another confident, well off friend, started in on the jealousy thing. Oy vey! Just didn't expect it from her. I think she is just in a bad spot right now, with her job. She is in a similar profession and has taken to telling me how lucky I am to have such great hours (as if this fell into my lap? Believe me, I know I have it good - I worked for it. & I have no idea what I will do to maintain said work schedule as my boss rapidly nears retirement). The spouse at home is just the kicker. I have a little sympathy - she switched jobs hoping to rachet back a bit, but instead the hours have been worse. I think she is just a little blindsided, and her husband has been working out of town. I think it is temporary jealousy.

It's just ironic when someone who makes 2-3 times your income voices jealousy of your slow work schedule. She could quite easily cut back her work hours and salary by six figures. But, she may have to give up the luxury cars and the multiple homes. !!!

As with most people, jealous of the leisure time, but not jealous of much else. Not jealous of the older/cheaper cars, pinching pennies, eating in most nights, etc.

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With time, dh's volunteer schedule is REALLY filling up. I guess in this economy it is harder to find volunteers - I don't know.

To those who think dh just sits around at home - I laugh. I think I prefer my work schedule!!!!! Well, I am sure I do. (I prefer working to taking care of kids and household - no doubt about it).

It is probably one of my biggest pet peeves - the whole idea that the only thing worthwhile in life is working for a paycheck. There is plenty of other important "work" in this world.

Laughing at this Scam!

August 19th, 2009 at 02:00 am

My dh told me about this, but the picture is priceless:

37-inch flat screen TV for $100 is really an oven door
http://www.insidebayarea.com/trivalleyherald/localnews/ci_13...

I noticed on the picture that a remote control was also taped to the "TV." Dh had missed that detail...

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Today dh sold our last "baby" carseat for $40. Say la vie.

If only I was so prompt (just retired it about 30 days ago - has been trying to sell for about 2 weeks) - I am still trying to sell a tricycle (never listed it yet) and some crib bedding (have tried but keep lowering my price with hopes of bites). I need to get off my butt and list some things!

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In good news, Dish removed their charge and Chase removed their double charge.

Chase had an online dispute form, and though I Was supposed to send in "documentation" that I didn't have - I guess it was a clear mistake - because they sent me a note today that they removed the charge.

Well, that was easy! (Wasn't so easy the last few times).

Reminds me, I mentioned Chase sent me a note to tell me that they increased my grace period by 5 days.

About a week ago they sent me some disclosures, in fine print, about all the negative things they did to my account. Just struck me as funny.

"LOOK AT US - WE GIVE YOU 5 MORE DAYS TO PAY YOUR BILL!!!!!!!"

"BTW, we are raising all your interest rates and fees, astronomically."

I don't know exactly what they changed - nothing that matters to me. Interest rates and such...

Let me be clear - I don't depend on my credit cards for anything. I don't trust them farther than I can throw them. I just enjoy rewards and grace periods, and the convenience, as long as they last...

Tuesday Update

August 18th, 2009 at 08:26 pm

**I stopped by Walgreens to pick up some Thank you cards on Sunday. For the kids' birthday. Got pushed way to the wayside with my dad's health and everything (his heart attack was the day after the kids' birthday party).

I figured I should maybe get on the Thank Yous, one of these days.

While there I grabbed some fiddle faddle, m&ms on sale, and a "flying disc." Went to the park twice since, with the flying disc. Minus the thank you cards it was $3. Dh looked at me like, "what the heck?" when I Returned home. I said, "$3 worth of heaven - don't start with me." It doesn't take much to make me happy. Wink

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**Dropped off van yesterday. They called today to say used door did not work out - new door would cost more in labor. Revised estimate from $2000 to $2200. Van will be out an additional day or 2. I don't care. Dh was kind of annoyed. I know what an "Estimate" means, and am maybe more sympathetic since I work in a field where it is quite impossible to estimate anything. Quite simply, we don't give estimates.

Anyway, I figured the thing will probably cost somewhere in the range of $2k - $2500 (other estimate we had). Could always come in less - but won't hold my breath!

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**Dh picked me up in no-AC car yesterday. (Reminds me, now we can't take his car in until next week - I will probably book an appointment for Monday).

Weather was 95 - wasn't near as bad as I imagined. Was a nice breeze by then. Will probably survive the week. I have a reverse commute so no doubt they were more miserable sitting in traffic on the way to pick me up. I told dh to throw some water in the freezer and keep it in the car at all times. Last thing you need is to be on a windless day, no AC, stuck in a traffic jam. Cold water is really key. Weather calls for 100-ish all week. Reminds me I should call him and remind him. I would like some ice water please - today we have a lot of driving to do.

Tomorrow is the same (appointments and such) - though Thursday and Friday I may be able to just take the car. Then again - don't want it sitting in the sun all day - may be preferable for them to drive me

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**So yeah - 3-4 days of one car is turning into 6 or 7 days, quite rapidly. Times like these is why I am quite aware we could survive with one car. And also reminded why I would not want to survive with one car. The inconvenience factor is huge. Definitely high on my list of luxuries I will pay for. I love me my car.

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**I have another subject to bring up - completely different topic.

At the end of a mortgage - does it really matter if you pay it off or keep the mortgage? My answer is no. Or, I guess I should say - it's more important to have a manageable mortgage - and not to borrow into eternity - more important than anything else.

I think it is my parent's example that is precisely why I am in no rush to completely pay off the mortgage. If I could in a few short years? sure, why not? But why tie up all those assets if it is going to take over a decade either way.

Was thinking on the subject since so many people have commented, with my dad's situation (not sure if he will ever return to work) - so many comments that they are so lucky/smart to have a paid off mortgage.

Truth is - does it really matter? Their payment was only $400/month. A VERY small fraction of their disability or SS income, and a minuscle fraction of their income before all this.

& interestingly, my parents never really prepaid a dime on their mortgage. They actually started out with a massive mortgage payment (moved somewhere extremely expensive for job opportunities, bought in 1980 or so when interest rates were double digit). So, when interest rated lowered, they refied a couple of times, and settled on a 15-year-loan.

For all intensive purposes they started out in the craziness that has hurt so many people in recent years. I think the key is they never particularly borrowed more against the home. & they started repaying more rapidly once interest rates dropped dramatically. For all that, they aren't even the greatest example of buying well within one's means. But they never bought up, etc., which I guess is more the key here. (They even did the starter home thing - but everyone in our family has - it's really the only way to own anything decent in California - start small and buy up with equity. Start with a condo - be lucky to afford 1300sf SFH some day. On the flip side, no one in our family has bought up past age 30. Which is more to the point).

But at the end - does it matter if it was paid off or not? Not really. They paid it off when the balance hit the $20k range. The house is worth far more than what they paid - so these days they have a paid off home, but they invested enough over the years that they have far more in savings than the house is worth. I would probably argue that the savings is more useful in their situation. But in the end - it doesn't really matter. The $400/month mortgage wouldn't make or break them - even if their only future income is social security.

Probably where I get my attitude from. I just want a manageable mortgage! & I've said before, with rents so high here, the managable mortgage is a dream in comparison.

So often when the "prepay vs. invest" debate comes up, someone comes back with, "It's stupid to have a mortgage in retirement." As if there is no middle ground. Who said I was going to have a mortgage in retirement? Not in my plans. No, no one in our family has had a mortgage in retirement. Even with all the unexpected early retirement flying around both sides of our family.

If my parents could pay off their mortgage in their early 50s, I have no doubt we can pay ours off sooner. We have more income potential (between the both of us), far lower interest rates, and a much smaller mortgage (compared to income), to begin with. IT will be interesting to see how it pans out. I don't feel comfortable taking on a 15-year mortgage today. But at my age my parents were taking on a MASSIVE new 30-year mortgage. I assume a 15-year payoff is not so far off in our future. WE are on so much better footing at the same age.

If my spouse returns to work we will just pay off the mortgage because then it can be done in a few short years. That makes all the difference, to me. Being house rich and cash poor doesn't appeal to me much, overall. Will pay it off if we can be cash rich too. Wink

A frugal Victory

August 16th, 2009 at 04:08 pm

Spent the day at the Lake yesterday.

Not being a local, I was a little confused. Is this lake or river? I looked it up a little more and left more confused. We spent the day on the lake part of the river. How's that for an answer? Wink

A class on local geography could be useful. Dams, wiers, lakes, rivers, oh my. They are all inter-connected somehow. I just grew up by the ocean - that was simpler. Wink

But yeah, I think it is a section of the River that is damned off. So thus, it is a lake.

Anyway, the frugal victory? We went over there for a friend's B-day BBQ, and she tells me there is free parking just outside the paid lot. "Huh?" I had been over there before and was quite sure she was crazy. Though I had only been there once, in this particular spot, BM and I have been meaning to return for a bike ride. IT's a bit of a drive (25 miles?), but a beautiful, long, mostly flat bike path. Willing to pay $10 for the pleasure to park there.

So we arrived yesterday, and wouldn't you know it? Free parking - lot not even full at noon?

We chose to pay yesterday because I had a ton of food and such, to lug in, BUT for bike riding, the free lot is a GREAT option. That was our frugal victory.

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BM had a BLAST yesterday. HE went out on a canoe with his friend and a couple of adults. He also went swimming in the lake/river. Oh - and rode his bike around. I didn't do much but eat and relax. We were going to go on a longer bike ride, but there was an injury just one minute in - so in the end I didn't ride at all. BM and I will probably go on a ride today, closer to home, to make up for it.

BM got scratched up and no one had any napkins or anything at that point, so I broke out the first aid kit from my car. I think it's been sitting there unopened, for 16 years? So that was interesting. Made me think it wouldn't be the worst to have a first aid kit for bike rides. I usually carry a fanny pack for my keys and cell phone anyway. Some bandaids and guaze would be a good addition. Turned out to be a minor scratch, but there was plenty of blood until we determined that. !! (Not sure if BM would classify it as minor. He refused to ride for many hours after that).

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After spending like 6 hours at the lake, we went to dinner with dh's friends. As we hosted them so they could rest on their drive to Tahoe.

Oh yes - and Murphy is still here. I flipped on the air in the evening, at home, and it wouldn't switch on. It did that once to me before, and dh thought I was crazy. (It was a while ago - might have been the heat actually - last time). So dh saw for himself that I was not crazy.

Learned something new - thought we had a whole house fan, but not sure how to use it. Dh got it on and it felt okay. Later he somehow got the AC to kick on, but I am thinking now that the fan is ample for evenings (cool air outside). We will experiment with it.

I hope the AC is like last time - that it was just a fluke - we may want to get it serviced one of these days though. Maybe before next summer. Will see! (It's the thermostat it seems - but could be more).

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Murphy was nice to us too though. The only rush on my $1k computer repair on the van was so it would pass smog. I got my DMV renewal - and um - no smog due? It hasn't been smogged since 2006. Seriously? I was sure it was every 3 years. Maybe I am forgetting a smog in years past. ??? I'll have to check.

Might get a free pass. Will get it fixed, likely this year, but at least we can space it out a bit from the pricey door repair of next week (we're taking it in Monday!).

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I bought some piano music and so will get to try some of it out today. I told BM we'd go on a bike ride. Not much else planned - just need a lazy day (at home!)

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I leave you with pictures from the day:

The View


Their canoe in the distance...

Went Shopping

August 15th, 2009 at 02:10 pm

Was going to buy a bike helmet this month. May, still. But thinking of pushing it off.

Spent too much money!

Went to Kohl's last night to look for pants. My strategy is to wear like the same pants every day, because pant shopping is usually so miserable.

I noticed my most worn black pants were looking sort of tired and my employer may appreciate if I bought some new pants!

Went to Kohls and scored. I love that they don't monitor the dressing rooms and I could take in like 10 pair at a time. The whole ordeal still took an hour. My usual brand is no longer there - nor anywhere online - ????

Shoes are similar so I have taken to stocking up on shoes when I like them. Thing is my shoe size remains the same for eternity (hopefully). Clothing sizing is more iffy - less benefit to stocking up (though honestly I've been the same size for about 4 years - since having child). All it takes it to stock up on a pile of pants to jinx weight loss or weight gain, I am sure. Wink

Anyway, I found them! 2 pairs of stretchy pants at the perfect height. They looked a little odd with my flats, but I gave it a go anyway. Tried them on at home with my small heels and they looked like they had been tailored to my height and shoes. SCORE!!! $30/each - I'll wear them as long as they last. I would have bought a second black pair too, but all they had was one - thank goodness I snagged it.

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I have a favorite "Daisy Fuentes" shirt and I saw them there, full price for $36. I considered buying it anyway because I LOVE this shirt and it seems very high quality. Love the material, etc.

Anyway, I looked again and saw it was $10 off - PHEW!!!!! I am so stoked.

I also found a very cute kind of casual shrug to wear in the summer (light material to maybe wear over a tank top). It was probably $30, but it was CUTE!

My wardrobe is going to be looking much nicer come Monday - phew!

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Unfortunately, my credit card was declined. Turns out in the end dh made a $5 play station charge and Chase marked it as suspicious. So when I got home dh says to me, "You spent $125 at Kohls?" LOL. They called him while I was out.

At the store I had held my breath and pulled out my CU credit card. I had never used it so not sure what to expect. But it worked - phew. That is precisely why I have 2 cards. The last thing I needed was the inability to pay for the clothes I shopped over an hour for. !!

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Went to the grocery store to stock up on some food for BBQ today. It worked out pretty well. I stopped by another store at 5:00 and it was a MOB. I thought, "nevermind," and went over to Kohls. There was a grocery store right next to it, and the place was cleared out at about 6:45. It had obviously been hit by a mob the hour prior. WOW. But I just ran in and out.

Find? Cantaloupe at 10 cents a pound! This is the "upscale" grocery chain that none of my cheap friends shop at. They sure miss out. They are all busy wasting their money at Safeway - we hardly shop there any more it has gotten so expensive the last couple of years.

Anyway, stocked up on cantaloupe, watermelon, and chips for BBQ. Only paid about $12 so wasn't bad.

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I was perusing Quicken to see where we were for the year.

I have mentioned, dh and I get an allowance of $50/month, mostly to buy things the other wouldn't agree with. I don't keep a particularly close eye on it so laughed when I saw we were both at $400 for the year (through August). I hadn't looked all year - we obviously know our spending limits...

I am sure our "allowances" were bigger before children and may be bigger some day again, but we really can't afford to splurge more than that these days. Not that we never splurge - we just have to agree on any splurge more than $600 per year, each.

Dh bought a lot of games and movies, but also a blu ray player.

I bought a new bike, some clothes, and some piano music and CDs.

We both find having a little something to splurge is nice - doesn't have to be a lot!

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Anyway, overall, expenses for us are way down this year, over last year.

Through 8/15:

*Spent $1k less on auto repairs/gas (this will change with all our car repairs coming up!)

*$3500 less on childcare. Not only is BM out of preschool, but LM has been in preschool limbo for a while.

*Spent $1k less with smaller mortgage payments this year

All told, spent $6k less through 8/15/09 than we did through 8/15/08.

Interesting...

August 14th, 2009 at 02:05 pm

Not sure what this was about - but I was behind this vehicle on the freeway. I actually got right behind it because I was trying to figure out what the heck it all was.



It was a pickup truck piled HIGH with soda and beer cans.

Um, interesting?

More interesting - the vehicle had Oregon plates. Though I highly doubt the cans were driven from Oregon to California. But, who knows?

But yeah - not sure I have seen a pickup truck so piled high with, anything, before! Was a sight!

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I also took a lot of pictures of the kids playing in the creek behind Grandma's home:



We have a river by our house, but any river access as close as this is bordered by private homes, so it is not very accessible from our home. Kind of made me wish we lived closer to a creek. The kids were in heaven. (& flood wise, think I'd prefer a creek!)

Though since I lived over there, they have put in a man-made pond. & I think the kids almost liked the pond more than the creek. They liked picking the cat tails and using them as swords. They liked watching all the birds and fish, and climbing all over the rocks.

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It could be years before I can transfer the kids' money over - yeesh. I need their accounts to hit $3k so I can do the change, and I need an up stock market day so I know that they will still have $3k when the trade is executed the next day. I think today is a fail, with the market down.

It could be Monday. It could be next year, at this rate. I am tired of keeping a sharp eye on it.

I did a little research and decided to with with the Target Retirement funds. It's about 70/30 stocks/bonds. It's about 55% Total Stock market index, plus some international funds, and a bond fund. I looked at the LifeStrategy funds, but they were more expensive. I didn't like the underlying funds as much, either.

"Target Retirement" fund it is. I think this is the better choice.

I tried to web search some ideas for college savings (outside 529s) and didn't see much. I came across an article from some guy that said all college money should be saved in CDs.

Um, no thanks???? Literally - it was like - 18 years to college? Your only option is CASH! Boy, I thought I was conservative... Not taking that advice.

529s come with lots of fees and limits. My strategy for now is to keep the kids' accounts in UGMAs as long as they pay no taxes. We can transfer them to a 529 once we have a better idea on the college costs, etc. (or if we need to for financial aid, etc.) Though not sure I would see the point either. All that is far off in the future.

(The kids have a few thousand in a 529 already, anyway - from Grandma).

I like ESAs a LOT better. They are pretty much like any other IRA. BUT my professional understanding is they have fallen politically and future contributions are up in the air. I think 2010 is a big expiration year for current limits, so we are kind of wait and see on those. If I thought they would actually be around for a while, we would consider an ESA once we hit "taxable earnings" on the UGMAs. For now, we find the UGMAs simple - they don't make enough, now, to have any tax consequences.

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Surewest came by and talked my dh into switching over. They did already, but they never showed up!!!!! & him and I argued about it so much. This was maybe 3 months ago?

I can't tell you why we argued so much. We both think they lowered their prices. We are getting 2 months free, TV, internet, phone (VOIP). Internet is fiber optic!!!!! 6 months promotional price, then to full price.

Thing is, full price is only $15 more per month than we are paying now.

I told dh last time I was really annoyed by the whole thing, and this time I don't really care. I think the price was WAY higher before. WAY higher!!! So, interesting. $15 premium for fibre optic? What's to complain about? Before it was a decent deal in the interim and some insane price after that. Which I totally understand they may rise the price astronomically again at some point. But we will see... We are really fed up with our DSL service anyway. Not sure what other options there are.

& to ditch DISH? IS this a dream? Actually, dh has not heard great about their TV service, so we doubt we will stick with it. But free trial comes with free installation and promotional prices, so sure, we will give it a try. I can't imagine it can be worse than Dish. Wink

Anyway, before Surewest told us we had to sign a contract. Now we don't. I am thrilled about this too.

But yeah - heard great things about their phone/internet - so will be a nice change. Moving on up!

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Little financial headaches:

**Disputing double $20 charge on credit card.

**Dish replaced our DVR because it stopped working. They told dh there was no charge, but then put a $49 charge on our bill. Yeah!

Dh is busy following up on all this.

Our ATT modem went out recently and so I think we are ready to replace both ATT and Dish. But I do have the feeling this will be more expensive in the end. BUT, if the stuff works and doesn't break every 5 minutes, it will be an improvement.

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Reminds me, I signed up for ymail when we changed to ATT just one year ago. Nothing good to say about it - too many ads.

I use gmail with an alias for this blog and I LOVE it. So I am going to switch all my e-mail over to gmail. I am tired of maintaining so many e-mail addresses. Will probably phase out my yahoo and ymail accounts. Will only use Surewest as a "backup/real" address for gmail and such.

Summer Murphy

August 14th, 2009 at 12:26 am

**Murphy REALLY likes to visit us in the summer. Last year is looking preferable though - maybe $1500 all told.

WE are already up to $3k in car repairs (maybe a bit more) when dh calls me today to report his AC is not working in his car. SERIOUSLY? I know it could be something cheap to fix, and in fact he called me later to tell me he turned it off for a while and back on, and it worked for a bit. But still!!

The van is going to the shop Monday, it's s'posed to be 100 degrees - and that's our only vehicle??? I told dh it might work out - the car was so hot the other day I am not sure I could have driven it but the A/C cooled down the steering wheel rapidly. So I figure if we have to store it in the garage all day and he comes to pick me up after work, we may survive. The difficult part is driving a car on a hot, windless day, that's been sitting in the sun all day. Not much shade here. Could invest in a visor shade thing though...

I can look at the bright side - at least we are at the tail end of summer. Though September can be brutal hot. I think we will probably just take it in though, once the van is all fixed up. That's what our cash is for. But if we want to nurse our wounds a bit and put it off, sounds like it may be workable.

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As a frugal antecdote/side story, I remember I was on a local message board a few years back where I learned that the masses believe old cars cost more money (repairs) than new cars. They all said quite a few nasty things about old cars, and I always defended my old car. Anyway, so everyone had a 5-year or newer car pretty much, and I Remember one summer absolutely NO ONE on the entire message board had air conditioning except ME!!!!! My little $800, 12-year-old Saturn with 150k+ miles, yes. Never had an A/C problem with that car or any older car I owned the decade prior.

I just always thought that was pretty ironic. It was the summer of no AC.

So when dh tells me this - I say of course the AC doesn't work - now we have a newer car! Wait - the car is 8 years old. When did that happen? HEll, at 100k or so miles, it is one of the newest vehicles we have ever owned. I just don't get the feeling that they "make them like they used to" in many regards. I know more modern ACs have stricter environmental standards too.

Aw, hoping for us, it is just something simple like low on freon or something. I can hope? Reminds me, dh needs new tires too. We keep forgetting to look them over, but they have hit 50k miles of use - I am quite sure we should replace them before summer is out.

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I haven't been very bloggy. Expenses aside, just been very content. We made a lot of progress this year, and so can breathe a little.

WE had many years where money wasn't an object, and I just want to get back to it. IDeally, I think finances should be in the background. I don't want to obsess about it all the time. & my obbsession level has decreased dramatically this year. Phew.

For me, it's a bit of a balancing act. I don't want to obsess over my finances - just want to have long-term goals and keep an eye on things. BUT I love the subject, obviously, and so don't mind obsessing about the topic of finances.

Anyway, I Feel like worrying, stressing, focusing too much on finances has been my mode for a couple of years. & I would like to tone it down a bit. I have, and it's been NICE!

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Today the kids' accounts both hit the magic $3k mark. BM literally has $3k in his account - and a few cents to spare.

If the market starts off up tomorrow, I will execute trades for both of them to get into some more aggressive funds. I was just going to stick them in the Total Stock Market Index and go from there. I guess I should research a few funds before I trade. Hmmmmmm. A Target fund is also an interesting idea (since too little money to spread around much at this point). But was thinking of just going for the market index, and getting back into Star (balanced fund) next year with next year's birthday gift money, to get some more balance. Will be a while before I can spread out into more funds, but I think it's a nice start.

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I've been contemplating cash though I probably shouldn't. Not like I have much. We may get to stay above $20k, but depends what Murphy throws at us. A chunk of that is in my ROTH, as is.

But I have been considering a cutoff of when to cross over from cold hard cash to maybe some bond funds, etc. Either $30k or $40k, is what I Am thinking now. Depends. I read an article the other day about how great it is to invest in bonds vs. cash, and I wasn't very much convinced. Author bragged of returns no better than my own cash/CD returns of the last 3 years. But certainly took on more risk in bonds. So not sold there. Talked about mid-term bonds as well, which I Was also not sold on (prices fall when interest rates rise -and interest rates are so LOW). Though maybe we should just start dollar-cost-averaging into bond funds when we get to that point. Anyway, author was talking about some Vanguard funds, and I looked and the average maturity on these funds were more like 2 years. I assumed "mid-term" was a longer time frame. So yeah - I am starting to get more convinced.

Bonds just overall, scare me. I don't completely understand them. So I am wary. I am not in any individual bond funds at current, though I have some balanced funds (which have bonds and bond funds, etc.). But the bonds I had in 2000 definitely saved my portfolio in 2001-2002. I have just been wary to buy in with such low interest rates.

Well, I've got some time to study up on bond funds - that is for sure. For cash I might no need for over 5 years - I think I would be foolish not to invest a "little" more aggressively.

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I can't decide if work is slow or crazy. I think it's in the middle. The slow or crazy just depends on the day. But I feel stressed by approaching deadlines.

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This weekend isn't shaping up to be too cheap.

Dh drove LM to the Bay Area today - grandma wanted him for a few days. Gas $$$$

Dh has friends coming over this weekend who want to go out to dinner. We were invited to a BBQ and we offered to bring a lot of food. Plus it is a bit of a drive.

So it's shaping up to be a little busy and a little more pricey than the $0 we wanted to spend. That's life I guess!!!!

Here is to a really lazy, no spend, rest of August. After Sunday!

Not much going on?

August 11th, 2009 at 08:19 pm

Not much going on financially; too much going on otherwise. Maybe that best explains my absence of late.

Dh called the shop that we decied to go with and they are ordering a new door for my van. That's all I know. That, and we will be a one-car family for a few days, very soon. I can't imagine it takes long to order a door though. I assume the repairs will begin this week. For now I am trying not to drive it too much anyway - the door seems to rattle more every time I drive it.

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Back-to-school is rather uneventful here. Last year was a flurry with kindergarten and all that. This year is rather quiet. Plus, I am not sure what it is - maybe the fact they shortened summer for a month - but we haven't heard much. We haven't been asked for school supply and field trip money yet. We just found out class assigments (last year we knew a month in advance).

Dh is driving me nuts - and his mom. We were at her house over the weekend and she was telling me about ALL the sales. I told her that was nice, but we didn't need anything. She just kept going on and on and on... So yesterday dh is telling me he is picking up some shirts for BM, per his mom's advice, since there will never be sales so great again!!!! (MEanwhile, I didn't notice anything spectacular about said sales). We argued much about it yesterday - I insisted BM didn't NEED anything. So this morning I looked in his closet and held up the various sized shirts to his frame. Um, he has EIGHT shirts, they are mostly on the large side, and he prefers to wear 1 or 2 per week. I told dh very strongly how I Felt about spending money on shirts. What a waste! I think I won this one, but who knows. He also wanted to get some white shirts. Is he out of his mind? Children don't need white shirts. Hell, I Would never wear white (I am too messy!)

That was our battle of wills yesterday, but I brought up the 8-shirt thing today. To help get my point across!

Anyway, both kids could use some new shoes and last year we just bought the most cheapo backpack we could find. Main reason being we needed something "plain" - plain as can be - and it was really hard to find. When we found one for $5 we snagged it. But no surprise, it is falling apart. We now know the backpack part of the dress code is completely ignored and so anything should really be fine. I told dh not to go too cheap - I don't want to buy new backpacks every year.

The kids could probably use haircuts too, but that won't be done in time for school. Oh well!

Overall, not much back-to-school shopping. The school buys supplies in bulk and just asks for $25 per family.

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Speaking of haircuts, I try to cut mine 2-3 times a year and that is plenty. But last month I figured at about 6 months out that it was getting well past time. I was going to get my haircut some weekend, and I saw my mom and she raved about how great my hair looked (she might have even asked if I just got it cut). So I pushed it to the back of my mind. I prefer to have it shorter in summer though - so it's kind of silly to have ALL this hair in the heat.

Anyway, it works out, I got an ad for a $8 hair cut - the ad sais "put us on your to-do list." It was like the ad was made for me - LOL. YEs - that is something I need to do. So hopefully this weekend I will remember to do that. Dh will take the kids to the beauty school sometime during the week. Their hair is much easier! Do I trust them with my hair? No. BUT fact is, my coupon is cheaper anyway - and will likely be a much better cut.

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Market is frustrating me. When the kids get $3k "officially" in their accounts, I can transfer them to about any other fund at Vanguard (the $3k minimum thing). LM had $2995 in his account for a couple of days. I could probably call and ask if I could send in $5 to round it out - but online I couldn't execute it without $3k. So I am a little frustrated.

I am wary to add more money in case I do and then the market falters. Funding kids' accounts is pretty low on my priorities right now - though $5 is fine if it is a sure thing.

Anyway, in the interim it feels weird waiting for the market to rise so I can buy high. But it is what it is.

It may be a few months...

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Real estate is moving. Well, more in the BAy Area I guess. Not that it ever slowed down much there. It's still "insanely expensive" and far more expensive than when we fled about a decade ago. BUT, I got lots and lots of friends calling and e-mailing me for tax real estate advice. Yeesh. Like, it's endless. The real estate bug is going around. What amazes me how many first time homebuyers are excited to buy WAY TOO MUCH house. I often feel no one's learned a thing from all this mess!

Some of the locals ask me for advice, but none of them understand we bought down in price with the purchase of this house (we sold our condo in the Bay Area for more than this house cost) and I think most of them think our mortgage is about double what it is, from comments made. Thus, any advice I give on taking it slow, and starting smaller, is taken as a personal insult. They think I am looking down on them when in fact they are stretching far further than we did for our home. That whole thing is just irony I guess. I am giving the advice I followed myself. They think I am putting them down for suggesting a "smaller home." You can't win.

Our house cost us less than any of them pay in rent. They just haven't a clue. Appearances can be so deceiving.

Another Exhausting Weekend...

August 9th, 2009 at 03:22 pm

Exhausting but fun.

Summer vacation is over - school starts in a couple of days.

Boy, it went fast!

I think it is kind of sad the kids only get 2 months vacation. BUT I do know that dh is thrilled to send BM back to school! (I understand completely - love the kids - but he is exhausting beyond words).

I realize the last few weeks have been a whirlwind, as we try to fit as much "summer" as possible, into a mere 2 months. I look forward to a few lazy weekend in August. The weekdays will be filled with school.

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BM got the teacher he wanted and it is a male teacher. We are excited about that (there are so few male teacher but he is used to his daddy being his main caregiver - I think he will like the change).

His school is now the only elementary school in the district with class sized limited to 20. Otherwise, people tend to pay big money (private school) for this opportunity. I personally do not care that much - my child will be fine either way. But I do prefer if LM could start school in a class of 20 next year. So here's to hoping I can say the same for next year. I think a smaller class size is important for such a big transition (kindergarten). I often wonder why K is lumped with the other grades. They can't keep Kinder small???? I guess it complicated things to start smaller, but the wait list for even 1st grade is huge enough to work with it.

Anyway, the reason we are the only school in the district with this distinction? Because we are a charter and can do what we want. The rest of the district has no choice. Keeping class sizes small depends on managing money well going forward. For now it's not necessarily feasible for many more years, but the wisdom is once you switch it takes many years to pare class sized back down. So we are just hoping the economy turns around sooner rather than later.

This of course brings up many politics. "It's not fair!!!!" & then all sorts of fingers pointed at us for draining district funds, etc. It gets old. The only reason a charter school was formed was because the school district was completely inept, and involved in fraud to boot. (They chose to defraud the school district rather than build our new neighborhood a school - makes a lot of sense). I'd like them to tell us where exactly they would fit our 500 students into their existing schools. They should kiss our feet. Unfortunately we have to kiss their feet to keep our charter. Gotta love politics!

This year will be an adjustment. 1st grade is only 45 minutes longer than the "all-day" kindergarten. But I believe this year BM will start getting homework, etc. It will be interesting. As a working parent I love the school situation. I literally only miss 1.5 hours of time with him, since the school day is 7 hours. I can get used to that. The hard part will be evenings filled with homework, etc. I am a morning person and I like to collapse and/or relax when I come home. Weeknights filled with homework sounds rather blah. We will see...

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What was so exhausting this weekend? We went to the water park Friday, which was a blast. The weather turned out to be okay, though we left early when it started getting pretty cold after 3 or 4. I had been worried the day would be too cold, but the clouds parted for a few hours and it was "just right" most of the day - high 70s.

Yesterday was visiting with family. I took the kids for a walk down to the creek - they had an absolute blast.

Today we are entertaining for many (family). I need to clean the house a bit. No doubt I will end the day exhausted.

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We were in the Bay Area yesterday and my next door neighbor scared the living daylights out of me. I tried to check my cell phone voice mail and it was down and giving me all sorts of weird messages. Which was frustrating me. Probably somewhat related, my phone did not tell me who had called. So I finally got through to my voice mail and the message starts, "This is Lisa, your next door neighbor..." Of course, I freaked out at that moment. I figured the house was on fire or had been burglarized. Not sure she had ever called me for anything, and I gave her all our contact info a while back, in case of emergency.

So as wild thoughts ran through my mind and the message was cutting in and out, I finally realized she was asking me some questions about the school dress code, because she was out shopping and her son is starting kindergarten this year.

LOL. Talk about relief to find at that's all she wanted.

I never got hold of her, but I think she never called me before because we usually just chat in person. She didn't see us around and so called I guess. Or realized she had my # when she was out shopping. I will have to tell her she scared the hell out of me!

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Oooooh - I just got the electric bill.

We have not done a thing. We switched to mostly CFLs earlier in the year, but we historically use so few lights in the summer - it stays light so long, etc. Anyway, haven't done a thing.

BUT our electric usage was 35% lower than last year. Since we are on budget billing and July/August are our only high electric usage months, they decided we had way overpaid, and credited us most of the month. So I got a $15 bill for July - not bad! (Total was about $88 before credits - not bad for hottest month of year).

I can't put my finger on it at all, but that the weather has been rather mild. We were gone most weekends in July, BUT we leave the air on for the cat. One weekend it had been pretty hot and it ran much, no doubt. Another weekend dh accidentally flipped it on to 78 degrees all weekend while we were gone - so it ran 24/7, no doubt, for 3 days. So I was actually worried about the bill because of that, and instead it was far lower than expected. Go figure.

I think it's more mild weather than anything. Though maybe not being around much helped a wee bit.

We usually run the AC on 78 degrees most days (downstairs only); don't run anything at night, but maybe 20 minutes to cool the upstairs for bedtime (cool nights), and usually get a couple of $120-ish bills in summer.

This month was $25 for gas and electric then (gas is only $10/month for us in the summer). Not bad!

Car Update

August 5th, 2009 at 02:34 pm



Well, I was right. The door will be replaced and doors are far cheaper than I imagined. BUT there is so much labor and materials involved in painting. Unless by some miracle we can find a used door in the same color.

You would think that even a same-colored door would be a little "off" but our mechanic said that if we could find a used door in the same color it should be fine. That being said, all he could find was a red door, and the new doors only come in one color - to be painted.

I told dh when I sent him over that if it was $2500 or less to book an appointment, and if it was more, we would discuss the insurance option.

The quote was about $2400 with a new door - though "only" $2200 with the available used door.

LEaving room for error, I think we are right at the $2500 mark! Figures...

Dh did not book the appointment because mechanic strongly encouraged we go through insurance.

I wasn't so convinced. So I spent the day talking to my financial mentors and gathering info. My feeling is he recommends that because most people expect to pay insurance for these things. We are not "most people."

My original feeling was we do not insure for this kind of stuff. We insure for "catastrophe" or things we can't afford. In insuring for the catastrophe, this kind of stuff is covered - but what are the negative consequences of making a claim on something that we could easily pay with our cash???

I talked to my dad, my financial mentor, and he pretty much said he could flip a coin on the situation. Not much help. My understanding was pretty much we could make one claim with no affect to our insurance, but I still have the nagging feeling we should save that free claim for something more significant. I can't just think about today - what about TOMORROW? What if we get 2 accidents in a short period of time, etc.?

I then did a lot of web searching and saw a Liz Pullman article that recommended against using insurance in this kind of situation.

I had considered meeting with the insurance agent - a nice enough guy - but decided he would tell me anything. I don't really trust the guy farther than I can throw him - because he is an INSURANCE agent.

I was lucky to find online multiple sources on State Farm's policy. Seems you get one free lifetime pass on damage under $750. Seriously???? What in the world would cost less than $750 to fix? Or $1750 (with $1k deductible) for that matter??? The tiny dent on my van from a hit and run a while back, was $1500 to fix.

Secondly, if you had been a customer for 9 years (raises hand) your first accident doesn't affect your premiums. But after that we are looking at 20%+ premiums on our already astronomical insurance (the zip code rating is bad here - our insurance doubled when we moved here. Zip codes can majorly affect premiums!).

The only part of me that wants to take the money and run is the one that wonders how long this little tidbit will last. What if they discontinued the "one free accident" tomorrow. Could it be likely in this economy? But that's really the only doubt I have.

Anyway, we are both quite okay with just paying the bill and leaving the insurance out of it.

Dh went to a dealer-recommended body shop down the street and they quoted a little less for a new door replacement, and offered about a 10% discount for us being new customers and because we are not using insurance. Brings the cost to about $2k. Saw a lot of glowing reviews about the place, and it is very convenient - so we will go with them. Haven't set up an appointment yet.

It will take 3-4 days to do the repair. We can survive a week without a second car. A tad inconvenient, but not a biggie.

Paying the bill won't set us back financially, at all. Which is the prime reason why we don't want to mess with the insurance.

Dh's parents gave us $1k when they traded in their car for some "cash for clunkers" program early in the year. I had kind of earmarked that cash for the Florida trip (which is at MIL's insistence - that we go to Florida this year). BUT, in the end it looks like our Florida expenses will be very few (if any). SO, we decided to treat that as our "insurance." We had a $1k deductible anyway. So $1k out of pocket, and the $1k gift will cover the rest. It's nice that trading in their car will afford us this car repair without touching other savings.

Why did they give us the $1k? Hell if I know.

My hope is this gamble will keep our insurance premiums "low" for a long time. It's more sacrificing a little now for the long-term future.

That's the long and the short of it.

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We have about $8500 in our mid-term savings, and we MAY need to spend $1k to replace the computer in the van. We are not sure yet - it could be something simpler and less expensive. But, IF it is, and we spend $2k to repair the door, we will drain our savings to $5500, which is fine.

Our total cash will still be at least $20k.

This year we are still on track to put $10k into cash savings, and we also have been putting $3k to our medical savings. So if by some miracle we don't use our medical deductible this year, we won't even have to touch any of our other savings.

This is what I mean when I say it won't set us back financially.

Now, in 2006, 2007, or even 2008 it would have been hard to justify an expense like this. But, 2009? Eh. I don't expect it will make much difference in the end. Sure I would LOVE to have more cash for other opportunities, but we will survive.

I will probably gripe while the van is in the shop all week and when I pay the bill. But after that it will be forgotten - life moves on!

Little Updates

August 2nd, 2009 at 04:21 pm

So I did a big update, on my big, bad expense. See my last post.

I didn't want to cover that one up with a new entry, but I realize I haven't blogged all week and I do have a couple of things to add.

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The fam is definitely going to Florida - and will mostly be paid for. But incidental expenses and food and the like can REALLY add up. So will see. The day that was finalized was the day I saw our cash balance start decreasing. Yeesh.

We will probably aim for a pretty low-spend August and September. BM starts school in a week and so our "summer" is mostly over anyway.

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I have a few vacation days coming up. I am taking a 3-day weekend this next week AND I had requested 2 days off for the week the family was probably going to be gone. I am going to revel in freedom. I have considered going on a mini-vacation by myself. Odds are I will probably stick to the Bay Area, but may visit with my parents and a friend, separately. I also have an ambitious goal to perhaps paint BM's room. It will depend on how I feel! It's likely I will laze around the house and do nothing. VERY likely.

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At the Garlic Festival, dh charged some tickets for some kiddie rides. He was at the booth FOREVER and I guess they were having problem with the credit card machine. He had some cash, but hell if he would use it.

Anyway, I kept telling him I was worried I was going to get five $20 charges. He said the person was trying to get the charge to go through with no tax, but it kept asking for sales tax and refusing $0. So anyway, I was relieved when I looked in Quicken and only saw one $20 charge.

Until yesterday when I updated all my accounts and saw a SECOND $20 charge.

Did I call it or what? I have honestly NEVER had a credit card discrepancy like this. I don't necessarily double check every receipt, but I try to keep tabs and am honestly amazed something like this has never happened to us before.

But it has. I figure I will write a letter to the credit card company, to have something in writing, and dh can call and follow it up.

My spouse cracks me up. I was griping what fun this would be and he said, "Oh the credit cards are usually good about these things." Is he serious???? This is the man who called both of our credit card companies about 5 times to remove a $1 fraudulent charge. In the last year. We honestly gave up on Chase because we earn so much in rewards we just let it go. When someone like my spouse calls 5 times and makes no headway, what are you going to do? Was an impossible situation. In the end they removed the charge long after we had given up. (In both instances they easily removed some large fraudulent charges but did not remove small charges associated with it).

The other card has no rewards and dh asked to cancel the card if they couldn't refund our $1. They were a little faster to act (but was like 5 calls all told). Yeesh.

Apparently I was more infuriated by our $1 debacles than dh who called them endlessly. Yeesh - that's why he does all the calling in these situations - it just drives me nuts! He doesn't even remember. !

Goodbye Hawaii Fund!

August 2nd, 2009 at 03:39 pm

I didn't really mean to post a "cliffhanger" post in my last post. I was a little depressed, true, but really, I couldn't make this post without pictures.

So, here is the scoop, complete with pictures.

The short answer is we were doing really well, had some extra money, and we were talking about Hawaii next year. BUT I was an idiot and I had a run in with a POLE! Now I need to repair my vehicle and it will obviously cost thousands.

Waaaaaahhhhh!!!!!!



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Here is the long version, in true Monkey Mama Fashion.

First, in the forums there were discussions about how many accidents teens get into and if they need new cars. I pointed out that I had never particularly been in an accident and didn't know many who had. BUT when I was 16, 17, 18, I had a few run-ins with poles and such. Even my DH had a run-in with a pole at age 16 (he is a marvelous driver). Thus, I think a bit of a clunker is appropriate at that age.

I figured I outgrew that. It is true that my brain is mathematical, but not very mechanical. & it's iffy if I should operate heavy machinery - LOL. BUT I have been able to avoid stationary objects, and moving objects at that, for about 15 years. So I figured those days were over and I could drive nicer cars.

Yeah, right!

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So it's a pole, get over it. Is that what you say?

The thing that REALLY pisses me off is this freaking van. The computer probably needs to be replaced and it will probably cost $1k. I was really pissed about this for a time. (It's only a 2005 with 60k miles - most every other car I ever owned was bought with 150k+ miles and never needed expensive repairs. So this is my perspective).

I did gain new perspective when I whined to a friend and she bragged about how she doesn't have car repairs because she brought a brand new $35k minivan.

Seriously? It was like the slap in the face I needed. We paid $12k for the van. So it needs a $1k repair. So it may be the most expensive car repair I ever had - in like 15 years. I got over it quickly. !! I think our van, all repairs included over the course of its life, will cost less in the end, than $35k! Geez.

In the interim there was this whole cash for clunkers thing and we discussed it. The sticking point for me was that it could be a good deal overall to trade in the van for a new Toyota subcompact. We could find one in the $12k range, we would drive it 20 years if we could, it would get better gas mileage, etc. BUT the sticking point is I don't want a second subcompact. We don't need a VAN, but we "need" something a little bigger than dh's car. So we have been going round and round. The thing about CARS is we didn't have to fix it. It's all moot anyway - though I have probably NEVER gotten better than 18mpg on the van, it's rated as getting better mileage and it doesn't qualify anyway. Which makes the whole thing moot - no more discussion there.

We've also talked about trading it in for some boring granny car. We could maybe profit on the deal, and still keep the size. Would make more sense than buying a new car. I've found many deals, the cars are just so UGLY. LOL. I am not terribly picky, but geez. I even researched other years on the Dodge Caravan - maybe we should just trade for an older/better year. I know so many people with older ones who LOVE them, but I can't find any decent overall reviews on any year in the last decade. 2005 maybe isn't even the worst (imagine that!)

So we have been in talks about getting rid of the van anyway, I am kind of annoyed by the thing, and now I go and do this. If it was a beloved car I would just fix it and shut up about it. !

I know your next question is if we have insurance. YEs, we have collision insurance on the minivan. IT's worth more than $5k, which is my general collision rule of thumb. Plus it's so new, I'd probably keep insurance a couple of more years, even though it's value is rapidly plummeting to the $5k range.

BUT, I have said many times, I insure for catastrophe. I honestly can not see using my insurance for this mishap. It was my fault 100% and would only increase my premiums, etc. Maybe my thoughts are misguided here. But I have the max deductible possible, and we easily have the cash to take care of it. So I don't intend to deal with the insurance. I don't have much experience with insurance. I just know our premiums are rock bottom because we've never had any tickets, accidents, or claims. So why mess with it? Obviously if I had a larger repair or "catastrophe" - I would prefer to save the insurance for that.

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So, that's the long and the short of it. I think it could be good that the damage is limited to the door. Not that it would be easy or cheap to replace the door, but I honestly think that is all that needs to be done. That's the silver lining.

We will take it to our mechanic (he has a body shop) Monday for a quote and will also take it down to the dealer for a quote, sometime this week. Mostly because we have been putting off the $1k computer repair and we need to take it to the dealer for that anyway. I am pretty anti-dealer, but sometimes in these situations they can offer cost savings over an independent shop. So we will see what our options are.

& I will cross my fingers that the van settles down and doesn't give us more grief for a while. (& that I can go another 15 years without hitting an object -please?)

Truth is the only problem we have ever had is with the computer - so maybe this would fix things. Is certainly cheaper than buying a new car, for the short run. Trading it in for a better, similarly priced, used vehicle is still a strong possibility, but it has to be fixed to do that! & if we put all this money into it, we will want to stick it out for a while.

I keep telling myself we have had such awesome experiences with our VERY used cars, that I just need to get over it. We are lucky this is the most expensive repair (the computer replacement) that we have ever had. Though I truly consider the wisdom of keeping a vehicle that cost so much to upkeep.

& if I have to get in an accident, a 5mph collision with a pole is probably preferred. No other cars, people, and no injuries were involved. Phew!

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I had a car before that got rear ended more times than I can count. Usually when I wasn't even in the car. We fixed it a couple of times, and then I gave up. I stopped fixing the thing - it was jinxed. I've driven around less than stellar cars.

If the damage was minor enough I'd probably let it go. (The van got hit in a parking lot like the week after we got it and we never fixed it - terribly minor - barely noticeable - but about $1500 to fix). So I also had to point out I would be the first to let it go if it was minor damage. But I did some pretty serious damage to the door. I was shocked when I looked it over that the door still functions 100% (still slides open, locks, etc.). BUT yeah, I hit it enough that the van is no longer sealed, etc. Air was blowing through and no doubt water will in the rain. Which kind of sucks because the van is covered in mud - but no car wash for it until it is fixed! LOL.

But yeah - I guess I can't decide much until I know the cost. My personal guess is it will be in the $2k range to replace the door. If it's much more, we may consider going the insurance route. I don't know. We have lots to figure out this week.

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We easily have $3k or so for car repairs, so that's okay. I told dh maybe we will spend our anniversary on a beach in California instead. We can still do something "nice." But I will mourn the loss of that money ("opportunity").

Other than that, we have the cash, and we will move on. This is precisely the kind of thing SAVINGS is for. & it's not even coming out of our emergency fund. This is not an emergency; these things happen all the time. This would come out of our "new car" fund (mid-term savings) since we have no plans to replace our cars in the near future.

I told dh we need a "July and August sucks" saving fund. We need to save about $3k per year for that. Wink Last year we spent about as much on repairs around the house and mostly on BM's cavities. Thing was the dental expenses were tax-deductible, so this is worse on some level. No tax deduction for car repairs!

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P.S. I can't imagine how frustrating a situation like this is for people who owe substantial amounts on their vehicles. Paying cash for cars makes things like these a mere bump in the road, really. (I had to find the motivational, no-debt angle).

July was Good; August BAD

August 2nd, 2009 at 02:42 am

I was paying all the bills (for August) and all that jazz. Read some posts/blogs, and thought maybe I should update my net worth.

The good news? Net worth is about $220k. I think this is most definitely, officially, the highest it has ever been. (Referring to backwards slide of 2008!)

This also puts is up about $24k for the year, and pretty much at our annual goal. Still at the whim of the market, and murphy, and everything else. Will see if we can hold on until year-end.

Oh yes, MURPHY!

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August has not started out well. I am too depressed to post about my stupid, avoidable, big expense, at right this moment. But I will soon enough - like this weekend.

Of course, I remembered we had the same kind of setback last year in July - with all of BM's presumably avoidable cavities. Yeah!

To top it off, I was updating our excel savings sheets and everything and was feeling a little better (looking at our mid-term savings - cash to be used for stupid expense - balance was higher than I remembered). But was reminded looking at all that, that August was our Murphy month last year too. July was cavities to the tune of $2k-$3k, but August was quite a few major expenses as well.

So what is it with summer? Ugh!

I know a lot of my real life friends think we are a little crazy, kind of no-fun saving fuddy duddies who just want to be rich or something. Honestly, my goal has never been to be rich; just to be comfortable. For that we seem to succeed. If not for the ambitious saving goals we could easily drown in all the "unexpected" in life. But instead, we shrug it off and move on. THAT is financial freedom.

We will shrug off our August setback and move on. But I will gripe a bit along the way. Wink

So I am allowing myself one last happy, "Yay for 2009" post, and then I will whine about upcoming expenses on a later post... *sigh*

A Relaxing Saturday...

August 1st, 2009 at 08:25 pm

Imagine that?

I pretty much have no plans all weekend. Phew!

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Last night we went to a minor league baseball game. I thought of Gamecock! Big Grin

I was stupid though. We were invited by the new Ms. Preschool, as a "cheap family outing." I hadn't really thought much about it. $20 for 4 tickets; $1 hot dogs and ice cream. Sure, not bad.

I checked on their website and saw we could bring in bottled water (you never know) and was pleased to see we could bring juice boxes - all of which we have laying around. My mom gave me a case of bottled water she "won" or something, and we have juice left over from birthday festivities.

SO, this was good, but it occurred to me around then we would have to pay for parking.

Dh and I mostly ate at home. $8 to park. $6 on hot dogs and ice cream, plus $6 on nachos and soda. So in the end we spent $20 at the park and $20 for tickets. Not horrid. But not the cheap I initially imagined!

Oh yes - and they had bouncy houses and all that racket too. Ugh. Somehow we averted them. I told BM at some point he could use his allowance money for that, but I think dh just tried to distract him from it - and keep him busy with food and stuff.

Kids barely paid attention to the game and so we left close to end of 8th inning. I know they have fireworks sometimes, and wasn't sure about last night. BUT not sure LM would like fireworks anyway and wasn't opposed to beating the crowd. So I don't even know if we won! Big Grin

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I got a $10 off coupon for Kohls - it came in the mail. I don't even bother trying any more. I can't get out of there under $50!

So yeah, I actually passed up a few coupons, and another one arrived for this weekend. Sure, what the heck. I could use some shirts.

I started out well. I found a dress on sale for $20. I considered it $10 with the coupon. Hard to beat! A nice touch since I have a client coming in next week and need to dress up a bit. I try to buy one dress a year or so and just build the wardrobe with time. & well, I hadn't bought one this year. IT was also long which meant I could get away with knee-hi hose underneath. Score!

My next purchase was the polar opposite. Probably the only item in the store NOT on sale. Ugh. It was a $40 button up sweater. But I have been searching for something like this FOREVER. Geez louise. I LOVED it and it fit really well. I can see wearing it every day in the winter. Not literally; well maybe. So I splurged. It will go nice with the dress as well, BUT probably too hot next week. My boss turned down the air a tad so I haven't been wearing my sweaters to work (I usually tend to in the summer)!

I found a really NICE shirt for $10 that was not in my size. Bummer. I may go back later and try to fish it out. I would also pay full price for that one if I could get my size.

While there I checked out the pillows. We don't have any for guests, and mine has a hole in it and is probably atrocious anyway. I can't wash it with a hole and it's well past its time.

I scored with $3 pillows. I grabbed those for guests and grabbed a couple of $5 pillows that were clearly marked as machine washable. They had all sorts of luxury pillows marked down really low - and I Was completely overwhelmed by selection. Ugh. But I really just wanted a simple pillow. I guess I have 2 varieties to try, will choose one, and will be happy to have pillows around for guests.

I also keep forgetting sales tax went up, since I personally rarely buy anything at all (dh does most the grocery shopping, etc.). So I spent about $70. At least my 1-2 year long quest for a decent, "boring" sweater is over. Yeesh. They've had plenty before but the options were always "cheap" or "really funky looking." & I mean shopping anywhere for a sweater. So I am pleased with my find, albeit expensive. Before I would never buy clothes that cost more than say, $20. I am trying to get out of that and get more quality. It seems to be working. I seem to be spending way less on clothes in the end. Big Grin

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Well, if I am motivated I will be listing some thing on craigslist and freecycle, and will clean the house a bit. Haven't spent any time at home in AGES.

But I may be lazy and may just lounge in the pool, go for a bike ride, and take some naps. Will see!