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Archive for October, 2009

Lots of Updates

October 30th, 2009 at 08:27 pm

**Feeling rather caught up at work. November will be slow, but I will barely be in the office anyway. I have a lot of 3-day weeks ahead. Vacation days, holidays, continuing education, etc. I will enjoy it because end of December will get kind of crazy, and it's all downhill from there!

**I have been super duper productive, even since the family has returned home.

*Opened new CU savings account
*Baked cupcakes for school
*Donated money to school
*House is still looking pretty clean
*Mailed in a pile of rebates

Etc., etc.

**I went by the bread store again. Dh wanted rolls for a recipe, LM wanted more boring bread, and I stocked up on the good wheat bread and the SandwhichThins. We figured everything was about 50% of what we pay for at the store - plus it's MUCH better quality, to boot.

Oh, and I earned 2 free items. Will probably just get more bread, next weekend, when we start to run out. FREE!

**My netbook has gone through a bit of a metamorphasis. I exchanged it for a black one with a larger hard drive. Dh then found a deal on more memory. Since we were able to price match it, ended up costing the same as originally, just about. Maybe $10 more. But, it is now considerably more powerful than my old laptop. Though literally, just about half the size. I think that is so awesome. (Exchange was with relative - we liked each other's color better).

**Fall has definitely arrived! You'd be happy to know my house was 65 degrees this morning, and there was definitely a chill in the air. My heat challenge has begun...

**I would like to do some tree trimming and touch up painting around the house this weekend. Will see what we accomplish. It does look like the weather may co-operate.

**Financially, probably feeling a little stressed. I am nervous about what our health insurance premiums will come out to, as I read about record high increases. Ugh! We've had some pretty nasty years (40% increase was the worst). Considering we pay about $10k per year, can't say I could shoulder another 40% increase.

So, I always stress this time of year.

The last 2 years were bearable, so I feel like we have had it too good and that this year will likely be horrible. On the flip side, preschool is only about 6-7 more months, so I could shoulder a $150/month increase, easily, if I had to. Will see! (Future years, dh would have to return to work, if we had more increases like the past).

I am also not thrilled with where we will end up for the year. Don't get me wrong, we had an awesome year. But as the year progressed, I had higher and higher expectations.

I now feel like we will be lucky to end the year with $20k in the bank. (I've got a LOT of bills come due the next couple of months. Mostly prepared for - but some surprises).

*Will be $12k in the Efund (Was hoping to get to $15k. Mostly ruined by hitting a pole with my vehicle).

*I estimate we will get $8k in mid-term savings. Which isn't half bad - was like $0 at 1/1; no complaints here.

*I feel pretty happy with our current savings levels. $5k per year to mid-term savings. $5k per year to ROTHs. Probably $8 this year to my work retirement.

I am happy with retirement, and feel that it is on track.

I still feel like we have a fair amount of catching up to do on our savings. $8k is great, but I see it disappearing in a flash with work that needs to be done around the house. Not to mention that we always seemed to get creamed with a $2k-$3k emergency (last 2 years anyway. I know I should just feel lucky we had nothing like that the few years prior).

All in all, it was a pretty good year, and I can only hope that we make the same progress next year. $30k cash in the bank is still that magic number that will help me sleep better at night. & looks quite possible, for 2010.

**We are aiming for a no-spend November. Don't expect it to help the budget much, because um, we don't have much spending in our budget. But that's probably why I feel we have been spending too much. We also discussed as my laptop has been replaced, and other things taken care of around the house (and we had quite a few purchases this year) that next year should be rather low key. Dh and I had discussed buying a TV, when LM was done with school. Or at least starting to keep an eye out (could take him years to pick one out). But besides that, dh confirmed that he had nothing on his purchase horizon - he had gotten a lot of purchasing done this year. We have been thinking about a new camera for a while, but it's hardly worth a mention - we can replace our 4 megapixel with a 12 megapixel for $100-ish. & by some miracle, my spouse doens't have an electronic purchase wish list a mile long? (Don't get me wrong, if we came into money his list would be long - but for now, he is content).

So, we are going to try to pull way back Nov/Dec. We never spend any money in January - April. Too busy! That will reverse my savings angst, I am sure, given a few months.

**In other news, how about those Housewives?

Some of you know my vice is addiction to reality TV. I remember when the first "Real Housewives" aired - OC? - that they showed some statistic about the average income in the gated community they focused on. It was something like, say $300k. $500k? I don't remember. But, being in my line of work, I have exposure to much more higher-income people than the average person probably does.

So anyway, I know the average person thinks, "$500k? PRetty sweet!" Meanwhile, they portray these multi-million dollar lifestyles. I can tell you, no one in this state is going to live a lifestyle like THAT on $500k per year. Not validly anyway.

I just found that whole thing really annoying. I mean, it's the perfect Joneses scenario. TV shows always portray completely unattainable lifestyles. I guess that is nothing new. But I felt the income figure was very misleading.

So, anyway, fast forward a few years, and more and more reports come out about these people foreclosing on their homes.

Uh, yeah? Is this a surprise??? You can't afford such an extravagant lifestyle unless you have a LOT of money coming in, for eternity. The second the income stops, the whole bottom falls out. & I am sure a lot of that is happening with the economy.

I was telling my spouse about the foreclosures, and he asked me if they would portray their financial whoas in upcoming seasons. I about choked on my food, when he asked. Of course not! The whole thing is so fake. The failed ones will disappear and new/"richer" housewives will come in.

Will see!!!

Airfare Deals

October 28th, 2009 at 04:28 pm

A trip to Denver ($100+taxes - for roundtrip) looks pretty tempting about now:

http://luv.southwest.com/servlet/cc6?kOHpjQSRCBQTVlgLOlhgxPh...

Would be an opportunity for LM to meet Great-Grandma.

We had such a lovely trip last time - just BM and I.

Just concerned about visiting in the weather. I only go up to the snow on sunny/clear days. Wouldn't have a clue how to drive on ice/snow. & I can't predict the weather!

Though I could finagle a day off work, I can't afford to get snowed in, either... (Has happened before - buried under a few feet of snow).

But, I thought I'd share the deals.

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ETA: We briefly considered it, but decided we have no snow clothing/winter clothing to speak of. & we are cold whimps, and it just doesn't make much sense. Thinking we may road trip to visit Grandma next summer though. Or maybe another deal like this will materialize next summer. Will see!

Monday, Monday

October 26th, 2009 at 09:56 pm

Weekend was productive.

Cleaning progress was made, and the dryer vents were cleaned.

Though I could probably do a once over in every room - to get them all sparkling top to bottom, they probably look better than they have in years. (TIME is key here. Time is not something I've had much luxury of since having babies!). Time and motivation - not sure where the motivation materialized from. But for a quiet week to myself - it really kickstarted me. Maybe I should kick the family out of the house for a week, every year! Big Grin

Anyway, besides time, it helps to have more helping hands around (the kids). With little time and more money, I have rebeled against much "DIY" in recent years. But, I do realize my willingness to get my hands dirty has more to do with time than anything. That's my conclusion as I take on more projects I had intended to hire out. (I still rather get things done *right,* and not do things I hate with a passion - like yardwork. But I find myself taking on more, all the same, with more time).

November projects include touch up painting, and bathroom repairs (resealing tubs & sinks). Maybe some tree pruning and removal. Dh has a wall to repair. I am feeling motivated on long put off projects. But if these are done, the house will be rather beautified for it's 8th birtday.

Next year, we may make progress on the outside (fresh paint and a new fence - on our To-Do list. Though I would label us as the types to put this stuff off, in the end, what do I know? Will likely be the first in the neighborhood. A major reason we have delayed is hoping to get painter recommendations from neighbors. But everyone is too broke to maintain their house, it seems. We were also the first to put in our yard, so I guess I under-estimate ourselves in some regard. Though literally, I can't believe it if we are the first to paint our house. Just sad, since some homes are looking so shabby. Our light colored paint has held up better than a lot of the others).

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Yesterday we went to the pumpkin patch. We had Southern weather. Everyone was in their tank tops - it was WARM! It was rather surreal.

Still crazy warm weather here. Usually around now I struggle to keep the heat off. Instead, we have struggled to keep the AC off. Literally.

& yes, I Was buying fleece just a couple of weeks ago because we had a chilly night or two. Hasn't gotten much use!

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That's the long and the short of it, from my corner of the world.

I think November will be about projects around the house!

I am also considering trying to get dh on board with a no-spend November. We've just been spending too much, lately. Staying home and working on the house, may be productive. But if I could talk him into not purchasing anything for a month (besides groceries/fuel), well, I think that would be helpful. Though, certainly a challenge. I think November is a good month because we bought a lot of toys the last few months. We should be able to do it. Heck - I'd like to start this no-spend thing, tomorrow! (Speaking of time - I had too much time to shop while the family was gone. That was the downside. The busier I am, the less money I spend).

Almost got a Plasma TV

October 25th, 2009 at 06:02 pm

Crisis Averted! Big Grin

No - it wasn't a crisis. We have already decided, for various reasons, to keep our current HDTV up in our bedroom. & to replace our main TV with a HD Plasma, next year. Prices have come down so much, if nothing else.

Dh has wanted our main TV to be a HDTV for over a decade, for sure. There is certainly nothing rash about a Plasma purchase. I'd say he has been pretty patient. Just that we didn't trust the one we bought in 2007 around the kids. So we put it in our bedroom "temporarily." Dh has since become aware of its "flaws." & at the same time, it won't cost much more to replace our main TV, then it would to buy a smaller HDTV for upstairs, which he had also intended. I prefer it upstairs because I am "blind" and like to watch TV before bed. I don't watch as much TV in the main room and usually have my glasses on otherwise. I see no flaws on the HDTV. Dh is pretty particular.

So, anyway. We ended up buying that TV though simply because it came on sale at about 75% off. Dh actually thought it was a misprint, and went to check it out. Came home with a giant TV!! That one is not a plasma.

I admit it looks very silly in our bedroom (all 50 inches or so), but keeps us happy. & like I said, keeps it safe from the kids!!!

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So, today started out the same. Some insane/impossible deal in a 50-inch Plasma. ($849?).

I figured it was 50/50 dh would come home with it.

In the end it was last year's model (not surprising) and didn't have some of the internet features touted with the new one. Dh decided to pass since he couldn't really find any reviews on it. (He saw a few good ones, and no bad ones, but wasn't 100% convinced, but for the savings. Losing some of the features touted, unsweetened the deal).

So, no TV today.

The only reason I share is because our non-frugal friends will never understand us. For one, they imagine we pay full price for everything, and then assume that since dh is patiently waiting for a DECADE for a deal too good to pass up, that appearance-wise, our friends tend to think we wake up and randomly decide to buy electronics. !!

I mean, last time, our friends thought we just woke up and decided to buy a $3k TV. (Well, we paid $1k, and only bought it because we had wanted on for many years and never seen such a good sale).

This purchase would have been the same. Like we just woke up and decided to spend $2k on a TV. ??? I don't think so!!

So for now, we avoid dropped jaws and whisperings behind our back. Not that we care, but just a common reaction we get to our purchases.

I didn't think much of it to point out that the vehicle we bought in 2006 was paid for in cash. (Only brought up because someone at work asked about the financing or something - the dropped jaws threw me off). Of course, with time I realized everyone thought I went out and brought a brand new vehicle. Whereas the one I bought was one-year-old and 50% of the cost of new. & everyone kept asking me if it had leather and automatic doors. Oh yes - and Stow & Go. Huh? Well, no, I couldn't have paid cash for all that!!!

Not to mention that I bought a real beater to drive while we saved up the cash for a minivan. Was a purchase 3 years in the making.

It's all kind of the same, and I know you cash-paying-frugies can relate!

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Today's shopping doings:

1 - Dh is going to try to get a price match on our netbook. Another store offered a lower price today. We won't return it though due to restocking fee - would cancel out deal. Too bad - other computer is a little better (more power) and my favorite color. But we spent so much time setting this one up already. Not sure if price match will be honored, but never hurts to ask. (Not sure since it is a slightly different model, etc.).

ETA: Price Match - scored!!!

2 - Target has board games on sale for $9. Will stock up on a few for Christmas. (Battleship, Twister, etc.)

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Frugal Backfire of the day.

To be fair, BM has been reading for many years. BUT, we bought a Jenga game for pennies at a garage sale. It was "adult jenga" but the kids couldn't particularly read, so who cares, right? (Oh - I think it was Truth or Dare Jenga!). BM has only been really reading sentences or phrases for a year - we bought this before then.

Anyway, today the kids got it out and BM started to take an interest in reading them. LOL.

I told dh to see if there was a Jenga at Target too. I think the old one will disappear now. It's completely over the kids' heads, so the whole thing was pretty funny. But yeah, time to replace it with a more kid appropriate version - like plain old Jenga!

Weekend Doings

October 25th, 2009 at 02:53 pm

**Friday night we dropped off BM at school for a "Parent's Night Out." Was a fundraiser for the 5th graders specifically, but I was impressed at the idea (seemed like an easier way to make money than last years' fundraisers). Anyway, BM REALLY wanted to go, so we said, whatever. $20 for 3 hours.

We ended up eating at home, ourselves, and taking LM to Chuck E Cheese. It was crowded as expected, but *too* bad. LM had some fun. We have tokens leftover from birthdays AND MIL brought us coupons for 40 free tokens. In the end, not too pricey of a night.

**We saw a Colombo bakery outlet on our way home Friday night. Chalk that one up to FOUR outlets in our city. (I peeked online but looks like it possibly closed quite a few years ago. I wouldn't check it out anyway because I am bakery'd out!)

**Yesterday I went to aerobics in the a.m. and got to the Entemann's Outlet when they opened. That is a good in strategy! The place was well stocked. I checked out the "free" bin and it had plain wheat bread.

There were piles of empty shelves when we went last Sunday. Yesterday they were FILLED with SanwichThins - costco sized ones at that. Wow - those things must be popular! (Those shelves cleared out quickly last weekend).

I picked up a large bag of SanwichThins, some of the donuts for the kids,& pita bread for dh. I grabbed some crackers since I knew the regular bread would be free then (Or I'd pay for the bread and then get free, something I would never use). The crackers were rather expensive, but divine.

I almost fell over when I looked at the ingredients on the bread. Wheat and flour? I mean, literally like less than 10 ingredients.

I told dh that I hope the store stays open - we are getting spoiled by the high quality food.

I slit the big bag of SanwichThins and gave them to our parents. They hadn't heard of them. Was my plan - but not sure if they would like them. Well, they did!

**I baked the rest of the cookie dough yesterday, and saladed the rest of the eggs. I ended up taking out the bacon and adding vinegar. I liked it better.

**Yesterday we had our Windows 7 party. We did the party to get a free copy of Windows 7.

We had some crazy Round Table coupons (like $5 off one pizza - we have been getting tons of those) so got some pizza. My mom slipped me some cash for the pizza anyway, so we were spoilt.

We showed off Windows 7, and my new Netbook, to the techies at the party. Spent the rest of the day chatting and playing cards.

Our parents came, so doubled as a nice day with them.

With all the bodies, my mom who is sensitive to heat, asked us to turn on the air. Not sure I would count it except that it was getting pretty darn warm (78). So we ended up turning on the air for a couple hours.

I think I can confidently say that is a record - running the AC on Oct. 24? Yeesh! Not normal!

**I asked my folks if they had a lint brush I could borrow. They said no, but I asked my dad for a lesson on cleaning the dryer vents (something I had been meaning to do). Will be my chore for today. Pretty self explanatory, but wanted to make sure I wasn't missing anything. They improvise with the vacuum cleaner, which is a good idea (long attachments). Not surprised at all that they would improvise rather than have a lint brush! But talking to them saved me some money in that area.

It's a good reminder to clean all your appliances. When our fridge gave us issue last year, turns out we just needed to clean the coils or something like that..

I may bug dh about that - that it's time to clean the fridge.

**Since we picked up a bit for the party - I'd say the whole house is clean, but for the kids' rooms and bathroom. Today we will hit those rooms. I don't have much to do but to scrub their countertops in the bath, and to scrub their teeny-tiny floor around the toilet. (The rest of the bath is carpeted - don't ask me why. We had to ask not to have carpet by the tubs. Seemed like a bad idea!) But does mean I have little to scrub. Just the little square around the toilet/tub. Dh has shower duty since I cleaned the WHOLE HOUSE while they were gone. I often ask him to clean the shower - it's just the thing I hate the most. I don't mind any other chores, so work for us...

If we accomplish that today, I could say the whole house is clean!!! Only accomplished because the fam was gone a week. & well, it will last all of 5 minutes, of course. Why I rarely make that a goal!

I even cleaned out dh's car the other day, so we are on a clean record. It needed some major vacuuming. My vehicle was detailed recently, when it was repaired, so I got off easy.

House and cars, clean!!??!!

As usual, just trying to keep up with it, going forward. Will probably fail, but will at least try. I did enjoy having little to do to get ready for this party.

& in November I would like to take some time to detail each room (clean window sills and baseboards. Touch up paint, etc. All NEEDED!). Yeah - that's my November goal.

So yes, a few chores for today, but will take it easy otherwise.

**Work is slowing down quite a bit. In November/December I have quite a lot of holidays, vacation days, and days off for education/seminars, etc. It's always a tough adjustment to go from the slow end of year to the crazy tax season. Crazy begins in late December, so I always enjoy the calm before the storm. I'll only be in the office 3-4 days a week for most of November/December. Which is fine because there isn't a lot to do!

SanwichThins - Yum!

October 23rd, 2009 at 05:08 am

Fiber optic internet has been useful. I downloaded Quicken to my new Netbook today. It turns out I needed to remember my Quicken login, and it took a while to track it down. But, phew, I did.

Anyway, I asked dh how long it would take to download (quoted something like 20 minutes DSL/10 minutes cable). Before dh could answer it was done. Um, ONE SECOND? Sweet!

Um, so it is like 1000 times faster than DSL??? (I've downloaded some small things since the switch, but nothing like this).

I spent the evening setting up my skype account and testing it out. Quicken was a breeze to set up. Phew!!!

I never felt comfortable keeping all my financial data on my laptop so I have the data stored elsewhere. Perfect in this case, since the Netbook is so small and portable. Don't worry - I won't cart around all my financial data with it!

ETA: Dh checked the specs on my laptop, and this machine is slightly better. Hard to imagine something so small can be more powerful.

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In other news, I couldn't tell you how much these cost in the stores because mine were free. Big Grin

But, oh my, did I mention how yummy the Oroweat Sandwichthins are? & no I am not a health nut, so the health nuts can pick it apart. I grabbed them because I thought they almost looked like panini. I didn't expect them to be so good!

http://www.sandwichthins.com/

We got the multi-grain one.

I did eat one with my egg salad recipe. I think I have been eating them completely plain otherwise. Haven't even tried toasting it yet. Because they taste so good! I am sure they would be great with many food stuffs. Dh was going to whip up some hummus for the weekend - these will be perfect with it.

Bought My Netbook Today...

October 22nd, 2009 at 10:00 pm

If we had seen this first though...

http://www.bestbuy.com/site/olspage.jsp;jsessionid=895D870B0...

Just a PC, monitor, laptop, netbook, & wireless router, for $1199!

(We have monitors from the 80s/90s, and a PC - from the 90s as well - that's on its last legs. Talk about tempting!)

We did discuss the deal for quite a while today. Dh sent me the link, kind of as a joke. But he hadn't noticed the monitor was included too. He could have talked me into it. We would have returned the netbook I bought today - which would have made it a $800 deal for the rest.

BUT, not really necessary.

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Anyway, ended up with a Toshiba Netbook. ALMOST went with Asus. If the Asus was in stock, would have gone with it because it was cheaper (& prettier). BUT heard REALLY bad things about the power supply, so decided to go with the in-stock Toshiba. We went test driving them last night, and we both really liked the Toshiba in the end. Good reviews backed it up. Dh bought it today since Windows 7 rolled out today.

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I tested it out at lunch today, briefly. So far I REALLY like it.

To be honest, my laptop needs replacing. I am a laptop girl - love having the portability around the house, etc. BUT, the idea of buying another laptop has been hard to swallow.

We bought a pretty nice laptop in 2005 because dh envisioned using it more. So I am not thrilled with buying another one, just 4 years later. But it is on its last legs. Though we agreed to get a more low level laptop next round.

Anyway, I like the lower cost of the netbook. & it is fitting considering I do little more than internet on it. & the lighweight and size is pretty cool.

Talk about a bit of an impulse purchase though. VERY unlike us. All I can say is happy birthday to me. Big Grin

Truth is, I just didn't feel we had the money to spend on it right now (though laptop has been pretty bad for quite a few months). So when the money arrived, I was a little impatient.

Dh is also always hogging up the big purchases. Glad I got a turn! Big Grin

The Good/Bad - Property Taxes & Computers

October 20th, 2009 at 03:42 am

Definitely more good than bad!!!!

I read a report about local property tax assessments today. I can never remember all the dates, so saved me some homework. Was a reminder that assessment date was Jan. 1. Since we had a $325k appraisal at the time, other homes sold in that price range and that is exactly what our house assessment was, well, I didn't expect anything (assessment decrease) this year.

I was preparing to research home values on Jan. 1, 2010 and have my evidence in case the county didn't agree, next year. Hard to tell since nothing has sold less than $300k yet. BUT, some lower priced stuff sitting, etc. Who knows - was going to do my homework on Jan. 1, in case we could lower our taxes for NEXT year.

Anyway, property taxes in California - they can't go up more than 2% per year (or else no one could afford the taxes). Anyway, but they will go down to real value in a decline. Though in an uptick, they jump back to old levels. Homes are re-assessed upon sale.

Um, not sure state has ever had to reassess so many home (in decline). Definitely new territory - have read a lot of articles how this is a first. Current property tax laws not THAT old. From the 80s?

Anyway....

This is where it pays to live in a fancy neighborhood!

I almost fell over when I opened the bill (which did arrive today) and saw a $40k decrease in assessed value. Wahoo!!!!!

Makes sense when you consider the zip code as a whole. Our neighborhood can usually fetch much higher prices though.

So anyway, no complaints here!!!!!!

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What's the bad news? I use assessed value (home) to measure house value for net worth. Ugh. My net worth is going to take a large slide backward this year.

I am fine with that because I will just adjust it 12/31. & well, I think the assessed value is in line of what our house value is probably worth at this point. So I will go with it.

I know there is lots of debate if homes/cars should be valued for net worth. For me, I can't imagine not doing it. We have put almost $100k into our house, almost HALF our net worth. Of course I count that as an asset. For most of the time we have been homeowners, homes were more liquid than cars. Sell a property in a day with 100 offers? Easy. Obviously not the last few years. But it is the same with cars. Since we pay cash for them, it's not like our cash goes in a black hole. If I spent $15k on a car, it's a $15k asset, that does depreciate rapidly. But I do include these things to get a realistic net worth picture. (I do depreciate cars very rapidly, and I like the assessed value method for home, since the price does not rise rapidly that way).

This year will be a good year since we did good on net worth. I expect to break even with the backward house value slide. I can live with that.

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Anyway, $40k lower house value translates into a $400 tax break that I did not expect.

At the same time, my 4-year-old Dell laptop has been giving me a lot of grief. I have been too cheap to replace it, but it's been terribly slow this year, and the battery has been useless for about a year. (Our understanding all along was that it had a 3-year-life. Yup, that would sum it up).

I just happened to be having a gripe fest since my laptop would not do what I wanted it to do. I joked to dh we should get a new one with our tax savings.

Well, we are thinking of replacing it with a Netbook. There's some pretty decent ones in the $400 range. So we may go out and buy one this month.

I'll take a Netbook over a bigger property tax bill, any day. Big Grin

Yup, jumping on the netbook bandwagon. I just need something for internet and Quicken. Minor photo editing. Dh thinks I can do it all on a cute little Netbook. Woohoo!

Props to Intuit. I only needed to remember my credit card #, name and phone # to access my Quicken download. Phew - I of course forgot my login! So that obstacle is cleared.

Leaning towards a HP Netbook. Dh has some homework ahead of him.

Food Outlet - Score!

October 18th, 2009 at 09:53 pm

I don't think I mentioned - my parents took me to lunch last weekend, and the place was by my dad's workplace, and apparently by their "Day Old Bread Store."

So we stopped by the bread store, while in the area, and with his job in limbo they mourned the loss of the place. It is a good 20-30 minutes drive, not necessarily worth the cost savings, going forward.

It's actually an Entemanns'-Oroweat Outlet, but as we piled the donuts and bread high, for pennies, I decided to check and see what is available in our area. I mean, I have seen my dad bring home bags and bread, and I have been amazed by the low cost. But actually being there, spurred me to action. (Plus, I also realize they won't give me tons of free bread, like they have been, with his job situation. Seems like every time I am there they hand me a bag of dinner rolls, etc.).

I looked, and we also have an Entemann's-Oroweat outlet. In fact, it is right on the way to my aerobics class (though otherwise out of the way). AND it has decent hours, that would work around my aerobics class. !!

I hadn't checked it out yet, and wasn't sure of the hours, but today I took the kids out to the south side of town. I remembered the outlet had been over there, so I called dh to ask for the address. I knew it was on a major road and could find it (otherwise, wasn't prepared at all - didn't have the GPS, etc.). He told me there was none in Sacramento and we got rather frustrated with each other. (I had recalled the wrong street - it ended up being on a more convenient street).

I ended up calling my dad and having him look it up. He gave me the phone # and address. So I made sure it was open, and we drove by after our morning at the park.

It was REALLY tiny from the outside, but then I walked inside... Oh my! It was tiny, but they had so many different groceries in there. I was totally amazed. They even had my Good Earth tea that I am now addicted to.

So, I scored:

*2 boxes of tea - $5.98

*1.5 pounds sliced sourdough - $1.49

*1 bag of multi-grain/fancy wheat bread - $1.49.

*1 Box of mini-donuts (popettes) - $1.99

*2 Bags of Oroweat SandwichThins, multi-grain - FREE (& oh my gosh, these tasted far better than I expected. Yum! They won't last long - the family likes them too).

These were free because I spent $10. Easy to do with the Tea purchase.

Plus, they have a punch card system where you earn free items.

Other things available were various spices, honey, jam, tortillas, premade soups, premade mixes, etc., etc. + all the bread and donuts. Lots of junk though, which I tried not to look at.

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Anyway, if you look them up, their "store locator" isn't working. I'd just google "Entenmann's outlet," and your city or state. Or google bread outlets, etc. I couldn't find any others in our area.

For us, I wasn't so sure on all the prices of everything, what we usually pay, so I intend to take dh there sometime, and/or start stopping by there every week for bread, and whatever else we need. If we need anything, I could always call him to verify it's a good price.

It will be interesting to see how the cost savings adds up. Though it will be a fine line of not over-eating bread because it's cheap. Or stocking up on cheap donuts, etc. We will have to see.

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As an aside, I was looking for an egg salad with capers. I found this and think it might be good with all the bread I just bought:

http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/Bacon--n--Egg-Salad-Sandw...

Capers and bacon? Hard to go wrong? Looks delish.

ETA: Turned out good. Too much mayo/mustard (hard to imagine - I usually like a lot) so I will scale it down on the next batch.

(I've got all these eggs because I picked up 18 on sale for $1.99. Thing is dh had also picked up 18 for sale, and I didn't realize. I will get through them all with the cookies and egg salad, this weekend. I shared a dozen eggs with my parents, last couple of weeks when I was alone).

Dh tried a couple of recipes with capers, at my request, that were divine. But he hasn't really made any since. I am glad to see the capers last "forever." Not sure why I hadn't thought to add them to eggs before - sounds like a good combo.

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Cookies I am making:

http://www.recipezaar.com/Impossible-Peanut-Butter-Cookies-1...

We add mini-chocolate chips. So easy and good - the kids make these a lot. Just realized it had been a while.

& these chocolate chip cookies - love the cinnamon and oats - smells divine:

http://www.thriftyfun.com/tf26349473.tip.html

For the record, I am often lazy, I don't sift the flour, and I rarely dirty my mixer. Still tastes pretty darn good...

Weekend Roundup

October 18th, 2009 at 05:20 pm

Ended up turning on the AC yesterday. The humidity is just killer - today it's 90% more humidity than usual. (Assuming normal is 0%). One word - Ugh!

It's not particularly warmer than usual here (but for the humidity). But our nights have been REALLY warm. It usually drops down 30 degrees overnight, which keeps the house temp rather steady in the 70s. Just as the house starts to cool off, the sun will come up, and it all kind of equalizes.

Instead, it didn't cool off outside, house just kept getting hotter, and I had to turn on the air!!

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Dh's car ended up needing $250 in brake work. No complaints here. First brake job - 105k miles. I expected it would cost more, but just replaced the front brake pads, for the most part. Dh's car continues to be the no/low repair winner. (knock on wood). I mean, that's the most work it has ever had.

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Yesterday, I cleaned house all day, which was much more frustrating with the family around. You see why I was so motivated while they were gone. Wink

Dh was finagling with the computer, so I did more than I planned, plus did the dishes and a fair amount of cooking. I made a lot of backwards progress during the day.

For our Free copy of Windows, dh was never to get it up and running yesterday. He needs a new graphics card. Will probably spend $30. Not bad, but so much for free.

I made much more progress on the house, once I decided to send the kids outside to play. Phew.

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So yeah, I cleaned the kitchen. The kids picked up their toys, and I vacuumed the floor. They were REALLY slow and unmotivated, and out of frustration I finally remembered the whole "whatever is left on the floor goes in the trash" thing. The kids knew I meant it, and I should have told them that a while ago. Not sure why I hadn't thought of it. They finally finished picking up, and I sent them outside. I got much more done then. Big Grin

I will save the rest of the upstairs for next weekend. Just too exhausted after yesterday.

I also left dh with a list of chores. It hadn't been my intention to do most of the cleaning myself, at all.

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I boiled some eggs yesterday, and am thinking of making an egg salad. I really don't have an egg salad recipe. But I will find one.

I made the kids squirmy wormies for lunch. It's just franks & beans, but we slice up the hot dogs in thin sliced and sautee them in oil first. They curl up and look very wormy that way. But it tastes divine (was a Taste of Home recipe).

http://www.tasteofhome.com/Recipes/Squirmy-Wormy-Sandwiches

I actually double the sauce and added beans instead of doing sandwiches. BUT, served with toast and the kids ended up making sandwiches out of it. Funny, I forgot it was originally a sandwich recipe. The kids thought it was better on the toast.

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Even with the heat, it feels very fall-y here. Probably doesn't make a lot of sense, but I want to bake some cookies today. (I know, it will heat up the house).

I told the kids I would take them to the park.

Going for very frugal this weekend, that is for sure.

Since I don't have too much planned today, I hope to make progress on reading my book.

I haven't read a page since the fam returned.

Feeling Prepared, Phew...

October 17th, 2009 at 02:16 pm

The weather here is, ugh...

Big storm Tuesday.

Since then, it warmed up, but there is so much humidity in the air!!! (Our humidity is usually 0).

Skipping showers and wearing the same clothes multiple days, does not fly in this humidity. Times like this I am reminded why it's easier to conserve water when the humidity is 0. Wink OF course, it's also more necessary.

I told dh all week they brought the Florida weather with them. So today I read that our storm was California's equivalent to a hurricane. (A small hurricane, but a hurricane all the same). Also, a lot of talk about how later in the season, a storm like this could easily cause devastating flooding. So, phew...

In the end, I am worried if I will flip on the AC in the middle of OCtober. !! House is about 76 right now, but with the humidity it just feels, blech. We usually set the house to 80 in the summer. But it's the sticky heat that we aren't accustomed to.

Will see how the day goes. Hot and 76 degrees at 7am, is not good. It's not particularly warm otherwise, just humid. The days have only been in the 60s/70s.

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In my last post I mentioned the demise of the freedom card.

So, how will I survive with $500 or so less in credit cards rewards, next year?

Very well, phew.

I have spent the last few years scrounging spare dimes, to build up my emergency fund. Through credit card rewards and 0% credit card arbitrage. As higher interest rates and credit card rewards dry up, there goes a fair amount of extra income.

The good thing is we are prepared. It was really helpful to build up our emergency fund, rather quickly. But for now, we can live without.

Dh is also making at least $1200/year through his ebay buying and selling, etc. So he is kind of picking up the slack, there.

It feels good to be prepared.

Chase Freedom

October 16th, 2009 at 02:51 pm

With all this mess, and recent credit card whoas, I have anticipated reduced rewards and replaced my credit card already.

Anyway, so yes, I have a replacement card. Plus my tried and true State Farm card. 1% rewards, no fees. As is my CU card, now. I assumed perhaps better customer service at CU. Will see. I like to always have 2 cards. It is not always that we have had cash rewards. I still feel lucky to have 1% back/no fees. Wasn't always a given.

This was all in preparation, of talks of annual fees and evaporating rewards. Though what pushed me to the edge was when my State Farm card really pissed me off when it took forever to remove a fraudulent charge. Chase did the same, but the $1 charge wasn't worth losing $750 in annual rewards. But the writing has been on the wall as far as rewards.

Anyway, this is why I stay tuned in to the financial community. Heads up like this (read comments):

http://www.mymoneyblog.com/archives/2009/10/chase-freedom-cr...

Talk that Chase no longer offers $250 redemptions for $200 in points. (Phew, I JUST redeemed my $250 last month. I was nervous I might not be able to).

Someone mentioned they now charge an annual fee, but that you can call a number to decline this "upgrade." (ETA: Oh yeah, to decline any credit card changes usually means you agree to cancel the card. Be careful with this option if you need the credit line!!!)

Interestingly, I never got any such notice. I wondered if I missed an e-mail or online notice, so I perused my online account. No notices. Nothing. I can still redeem $250. I read all my online disclosures and they were unchanged.

I will keep an eye on it. But either they let me retain my original benefits, or I am closing the account.

Part of me wonders if they profile their customers a bit and realize this, and that is why they let me be. My gut says I will be getting a notice in the mail any day though. They have a lot of customers.

Glad I am prepared.

My effective interest rate on purchases has been about 3%. It will settle to 1.5%-ish if I can no longer wait to $200 to redeem $250. I guess it depends on the annual fee and how it compared to the rewards we claim above 1%. If we still come out ahead, it will be worth keeping.

I've never had a problem closing cards and retaining a high credit score. But I usually keep my cards for a long time. These days, I have only had the Chase card like 3 years? If that? I do worry a bit about short term credit hit. Not that much, but a little. (Compounded by my credit card arbitrage last year - I had opened and closed 2 cards). This is another reason why I am glad to switch to a CU card. I assume I will have it for a long while! I believe my State Farm card is 6 years, and I may revert to using that one more too. I was thinking of canceling it just last year. When they pissed me off. Maybe it will be good to hold on. Maybe using it more will be a good thing to - so they don't just cancel it. (For now it's a "backup card" that I never use).

In the past I always hated closing cards I Was intent on closing, because they would BEG you to stay. Funny enough, no begging in the year 2008! OR 2009! I closed quite a few cards. I am kind of curious if they will have any interest in keeping me as a customer. If I can haggle at all, for better rewards. (Pre-2008, I certainly could). But, I can't say I won't delight in no longer giving Chase my business, either. It's been kind of "too good to pass up." Making 3% on all my purchases??? Better than my savings accounts. But as that era passes, I am happy to drop them like a hot potato. & I will take delight in it. Big Grin

ETA: They are converting to plan vanilla 1% cash back. I just read the clarification. Not worth any fees, when I already get that everywhere else.

I knew it wouldn't be long...

October 15th, 2009 at 01:00 am

Charity pickup tomorrow. Yippee!

I am setting out 7 bags in the a.m.

That was easy!

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Today, dh rescued a kitten. When talking to him, I of course said, "Awwwwww, I want to keep it!!!" Funny thing is he didn't resist too much. So I said, "Why do I get the feeling you are somehow open to the idea?" My cat-hating dh!?! Anyway, he said that he knew if he didn't get it out of the house by 5pm, that it would never leave. (If I saw it when I got home). LOL. So, I guess he is just open to reality.

I guess he REALLY loves me.

He did let me have a cat in the first place. We rescued an older declawed cat, which has REALLY spoiled him. She is really extremely well behaved, etc. He doesn't know how good we have it. But anyway, I have been a little spoiled to. The thought of a crazed kitten running around, I know is not my thing. But what sealed the deal was when I started thinking about costs of taking on a kitten. Phew. I don't remember the last time I took my cat to the vet, etc. & along the same lines, I didn't need to expose my cat to anything. She is a sheltered indoor cat and doesn't need much. BUT, bringing in another cat is another story. We have adopted kittens with deadly diseases, etc., when I Was a kid. So thinking about the best interests of my current cat, etc.

All this and I didn't even see it though! & all this ran through my head.

Anyway, dh lucked out. When he called, the first thing I did say was to give it a warm towel and take it to the shelter. Realistically I didn't really want a kitten. BUT, on the way home he passed a neighbor who fosters baby kittens. He stopped to chat with her hoping she may offer to take it. Of course she did. Phew! Though I don't think a baby kitten would take long to adopt out at a shelter. But she said it was only about 6 weeks, if that. Poor baby kitty!

I am proud of my dh for saving that kitty. If not for me, doubt he would have. He hates cats, what can I say? Easy enough to think someone else will take care of it...

On a side note, our cat always sleeps between us, and I would assume she just loves us both and likes the body heat. Wouldn't you know, the whole time dh was gone, she didn't sleep with me? She slept at the end of the bed, on dh's side, like she was waiting for him to come to return. I think she just gets a lot more attention from him any more. I, on the other hand, am insulted!

Weather Changes

October 14th, 2009 at 04:13 pm

Yes, I do think the storm is over. Phew. Was pretty nasty.

Still warm. House is at 71. No heat needed. No sun, but it also didn't get any colder over night. So house temp has stayed rather steady. Usually it warms up a bit during the day and drops back to 70 in the colder nights. Major reason why is extreme energy efficiency in the house. Our parents & friends have been running their heat for weeks, in their older homes.

Yesterday I turned up the hot water heater a bit. I put a black mark where we had it set for summer. We average 6 Therms a month in the summer. I can't remember where I set it for winter, or fall, so I think I will mark the winter level once we find it again. Summer is marked. We go in between for spring and fall.

Chalk that one up to energy efficiency too. Funny thing is we LOVE our HOT showers. I think between the insulation and the hot garage, it just doesn't have to work very hard in summer. Plus, in summer we are probably happy with "lukewarm."

I also turned off the outside irrigation ahead of the storm. Seemed a good time to reset everything for our more wet fall/winter. In summer we were told to conserve water for drought, but both the HOA and the city were clear that unnatural emerald green lawns were still expected. But that we could only water every other day.

Talk about conflicting messages!

I decided to stick to my watering 2 times a day schedule, and stick to the days the city allowed. If they wanted to bother us we would ask them how to make our lawn look nicer not being able to water every day in 100+ temps.

(Our city is known for being huge water wasters. Our long term goal is to do desert landscaping in the backyard. Not allowed in the front yard, of course).

Anyway, the summer was a tad mild, which maybe helped. But the watering schedule really did well. The lawn stayed pretty green, and we used a lot less water than usual. Phew. We've only been watering 2 times a day for a couple of years. IT seems like a good strategy - and is allowed. WE are limited to 20 minutes a day or something.

Last fall I wrote down our fall/winter watering schedule, which was a huge help. I lowered the watering times and switched everything to water only one time a day. Kept it at 3 days a week or whatever it was for summer. I made sure to write down where everything was at for summer. I should have done all this sooner. I can never remember how we watered last year or where the hot water was set, etc. Hopefully this makes life easier.

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I ran by the store this morning and stocked up on tea. Good Earth Original - sweet and spicy. The one I mentioned yesterday.

Thankfully my friend told me to look in the Health Food aisle. Wasn't sure what that meant, but I found it easily enough.

I actually got the last 2 boxes - is a popular one.

Amazon cost 60 cents more per box, to buy in bulk. I may shop around a bit if I don't get sick of it. But looks like grocery store wins - will ask dh to keep an eye out for it on sale.

For soda - I had settled back onto the small cans (12 ounces?). More expensive, but I drink so much less that way. I've come full circle. Dh had talked me out of them because they were more expensive! I picked up some six-packs at Target for about $2.50 or so. "Ugh," I thought. So while at the store I checked just in case they were on sale. Full price there was more like $3.50. Suddenly $2.50 didn't seem so bad. I will keep an eye out. Though I do hope to wean off a bit with the tea as a replacement. A much cheaper habit, that is for sure.

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We will probably get dh's brakes checked this week. Not sure what to expect since at 100k+ miles they have never had any brake work done. BUT, we have had them checked many times. Always fine and dandy. (FORD, by the way. You don't have to spend a fortune to get a decent car. My pet peeve of late).

They felt *off* to me last week and so I talked dh into it, though he thinks I am crazy. Better safe than sorry. (I've lost my brakes before - he hasn't).

Interestingly, my brakes were grinding this morning. I think it is just from the rain/storm. They were fine once I got on my way. BUT, I was thinking it just figures. Our cars have settled on the same repair schedule. Though mine (DODGE) is at 70k miles. But obviously 70k miles isn't bad either, for no brake work. I can't complain if they both need brake work. Or new brakes altogether.

I think our driving habits are very different up here. Neither of us particularly drives in stop and go. No brake work since moving up here, though I always had brake work done in the Bay Area. Much more often!

I was going through our auto records a while back. As much as my car has pissed me off with it's issues, I realized my vehicle has had no mechanical issues (knock on wood). What it has had is a lot of electrical/computer issues. It makes me realize our tendency to buy stripped down/less featured models in our younger more broke years really paid off. When I smashed my van door the first thing I thought was, "Thank goodness that is not an electric door." Because of course everyone else I know has an electric door. My annoyance at the very idea ended up being more logical than I realized. All those fancy features just add up to one more thing that can break. I knew that, but as I now own a nicer vehicle with more features, I really feel the pain in the pocketbook.

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In financial news, Fidelity sent me a notice that they will start to charge low balance fees for funds under $2k.

I have a few funds I wanted to add a little to while the stock market it low. But it would really throw off my stock market allocation! So I haven't.

Anyway, if I contribute my November ROTH contribution to Fidelity, I will save $12. I guess that is good motivation to top that one off.

I rather the market go lower before I feel enticed to add to the others. Like other bloggers have mentioned, I expect the market to dip again too. Either that or I at least wanted to evaluate my cash position in December. Will see.

Dark & Stormy, Indeed

October 14th, 2009 at 01:31 am

The house has warmed up because the storm has brought warmer nights. BUT, it was crazy outside today. IT seemed windier by our house, where there are many downed trees. I stopped by the store on the way home and could barely open the car door it was so windy. Yeesh! Just didn't seem quite so bad by my work, though the parking lot was littered with branches and there was standing water all along the roads.
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Looks like the fam spent a whopping $150 in Florida. I think I can jive with that. Not bad for a week at Disney. On the other side of the country. Big Grin The $150 is pretty much just food. I should look up how much they spent last time. Probably about the same.

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I had some idea to replace my Pepsi habit with other habits. Like smoothies in summer and tea in winter.

Hasn't panned out so well. I fell off the wagon when my mom gave me a case of Dr. Pepper. My sister had left it when she visited. Dh told her no and I took it. Dh was wise!!!

Literally, that is when I fell off the soda wagon. I am back to a small amount every day, but I had quit rather cold turkey. *sigh* At least it's at a manageable level now.

Anyway, a friend gave me some of the most awesome tea. Some sort of sweet & spicy. Was naturally very sweet. I remember my idea to replace my soda habit. So, I will probably stock up on this tea. Much more healthy, anyway. This is the perfect thing to do it with.

I forget the brand, but will share later.

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With the weather turning colder, and the family returning, I went through all the kids' clothes. I didn't spend a lot of time on it. I think LM still fits most his clothes from last year. If not, I Can pull out larger sizes from the closet.

School starting SO EARLY was interesting. I know dh bought the kids shoes. Might have stocked up on socks and such. But too warm to think about fall clothing.

Anyway, so going through BM's closet, he had outgrown most his pants, yes. But MIL had bought him 3 pairs that fit (for school). Were way too big before, but now was glad to have them. He also had plenty of jeans that fit.

So, I ended up spending $25 for 2 pairs of pants at Kohls. Not the best deal ever, but I had a $10 off coupon. Dh mentioned that we look there. I started to say no, but remembered I had a return. So we found these pants on sale, and ran with it. We also stopped by Target where I grabbed a couple of things off the $4 rack for LM. Like to buy him something new once in a blue moon. Was remembering why I stopped shopping thrift - because I could get those and get use through 2 kids. But BM has outgrown those. Not I just buy those so LM has something new and cute, that I picked out. I got the kids some warm winter hats and mittens. AND, we perused the pants and found nothing on sale. Nothing really he could wear to school. Good call dh, good call. Kohls was the way to go. (& can you believe it? - all I bought was those pants!)

I stocked up on $4 sweatshirts at Hanes, last month, which he can wear to school, so he is totally set. HAsn't outgrown his jacket, or anything like that. Was an easy year!

If nothing else, I find with school starting extra early, Back to School shopping was WAY spread out. It was too hot to shop for fall clothing just a couple of weeks ago, even. Wasn't in the mood anyway.

As an aside, my boys do not fear cold. So when we went shopping I was bundled up in closed-toed shoes and a sweater. BM was wearing flip flops and shorts. LOL. I am sure we got some looks. But we were both comfortable. I was probably a little over dressed, and he a little under dressed. Ah, my crazy boys.

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I am completely exhausted since the fam has returned. Not near as productive! They exhaust me.

But they have been nice and have kept the house clean. My dining room still looks sparkling - they all unpacked the day they got home, etc. I wish I could say I have been so good. Big Grin

Free Windows 7

October 10th, 2009 at 01:21 am

Have any of you geeks out there heard about the Windows 7 launch party? Host your own Windows 7 party, and get a free copy of Windows 7?

Of course, my dh signed up. I keep forgetting to mention, but doesn't look too late.

http://houseparty.com/windows7

You know, all those annoying MLM sales parties you are invited to? Here's a way to get them back. Wink Muahahaha.

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I don't expect to be very bloggy the next few days.

Tonight I am cleaning carpets and that's about all on my list.

Tomorrow, my family returns.

& well, work is a little crazed. Not normally a really busy time of year, but procrastination syndrome is rampant this year. I've got clients who won't return my calls - their taxes are due Thursday - Hello!!!!

Anyway, tomorrow my family returns REALLY late. Sunday will be back to my usual chaos.

Not sure if I am ready. But I know I will be happy to see them, all the same! Back to chaos! Good chaos, at least.

Week Sum Up

October 9th, 2009 at 05:10 am

Weather Update: Man, it's warmed up.

I mentioned I went shopping crazy. Well, I walked into Target and all the workout clothing was on sale. Fleece sweats $6.49 or something like that. It's been cold, my hubby (heat for bed) is out of town, and there is fleece for $6. I am sold. I went *way* off my shopping list!

Anyway, so back to the weather. It was in the 100s just like 10 days ago. & then I heard on the weather with the record cold temps, the ski slopes at Tahoe are opening record early - this weekend. What happened to the record hot temps? & then I bundled up in my fleece, and woke up sweating. Today the house warmed up and I am back in my summer PJs. Weather can't make up it's mind. Wonder how that whole snow/ski thing is going to pan out. Unless I am unaware of an approaching cold front. Wink It was only COLD for a couple of days.

Back to Target. I know, I know. Maybe I have been too harsh on Target. I have been boycotting their adult clothes, though for the kids I don't care. They are rough on the clothes, but they don't wear them long enough to matter. The stuff is cheaper than thrift - I buy all the kids' clothes there and at Hanes any more. But *I* want to buy something I can wear every days for years, if I like. & I have been noticing that anything I buy at Target doesn't pass muster. So I stopped buying clothes there. & have been spending a lot less on clothes in the end.

So when I saw the $6 fleece, I thought about it. I wondered if I wanted to spend $6 on something that might just fall apart. BUT, it turned out to be Hanes fleece. So I was sold. I guess maybe I should peruse Target sales a little more - they do have other brands. I wouldn't buy anything Target specific though, personally. But it was a good experience to remember there are other brands there. Some good ones.

& this is why I ended up getting some warmer/brighter workout clothing, for winter bike riding, at Target. Was a popular brand I saw in all the stores. Figured what the heck. Sales were good. Though still no luck with pants.

Fleece was cheap, and workout clothing I have been looking for, for a while. They hit my $10 price point - yay! Now I just hope the stuff lasts.

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I got distracted, but I got the final closet pictures. My biggest project of the week, perhaps.









I still have to go through a few things with dh.

Dh is always hiding kids' presents on top of that black dresser, under blankets and such. I had a novel idea to just move the stuff inside the dresser. Duh.

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Status:

**Master Bath is sparking, Master Closet and bedroom remain clean.

**Dining Room is still immaculate (no one to mess it up - hehe).

**Living Room is filled with about 8 Goodwill Bags

**Carpets have not been washed yet (maybe tomorrow or Saturday)

**Dishes clean, and new table clothe to brighten dining nook. (Not a lot of choices so I went white. Said machine washable. Will see! I have enjoyed it for the week anyway).

I did decide to not mess with the rest of the family room/kitchen. I'll let the fam recover this weekend, but they can help me clean it up another weekend. I don't need to clean the entire house by myself.

The same attitude about the kids' bathroom and rooms. Will be a team effort sometime after their return.

**The fridge is FULL of food. I used another 2-for-1 BK coupon today when my lunch plans changed (was going to come home and eat through leftovers). & I have lunch plans for tomorrow. We will be eating leftovers Sunday and Monday. But maybe it will go fast when the fam returns. Anyway, it was stupid to get 2 sandwiches when I am going out tomorrow. I had forgotten. I will have my second sandwich for dinner, since it won't last very long. My parents are taking me out for fondue Saturday, and well, the fridge will remain full as it is until the voracious eaters return.

I've barely eaten a sandwhich all week - I even have a loaf of bread left.

I bet the family will look forward to all the leftovers. Bet they miss the home cooking. The have been eating out all week.

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Today I jumped on the productive train again.

Worked all day, did dishes and laundry. Cooked a simple dinner. Went shopping for some more work pants (had to exchange - bought wrong size. I did try on other things, but luckily nothing fit well. I stuck to my exchange. IT always amazes me when I walk into a store 2 days later and it is filled with new stuff. EVIL). Finished up the last touches on the closet, made the kids' beds, put away clean sheets, lugged goodwill bags downstairs. Put out trash (trash got taken today, and I already filled our trash container back up).

Phew!

Caught up on internet, and still time to read.

Today was my last crazy busy day. I am going to unwind my last couple of days of "freedom." Only things left on my "To Do List" are to clean carpets, and pick up my family from the airport!

Busy, busy, busy

October 8th, 2009 at 05:25 am

I've been keeping pretty darn busy.

Updated Quicken. Hadn't paid attention to the stock market this week. Yeesh. Hot hot hot.

My retirement and savings is doing well. Checking, not so much. I have no idea what kind of spending dh will be doing this week. The trip is "paid for," but you know how that goes. Food adds up and so on. I see about $100 of charges on the card thus far. Will see when all is said and done. Will come from savings, since there is nowhere else for it to come from.

There is family drama, of course. I think dh is going a little batty. I am extra glad I sat this one out. Big Grin Though no doubt the financial side will drive me batty. I don't enjoy being forced into a trip I don't want to go on, or being stuck with bills to appease my MIL. I would GLADLY pay our own way if I had any time to prepare. We had talked about going next year, before all this. Before MIL stomped her feet and demanded we all go this year. Anyway, all I can think of is the serenity prayer. & glad they went without me this year, anyway. Guess it will be MUCH cheaper in the end. & better for my sanity.

I think part of the thing is they are ALL sharing a hotel room (suite) too. I would just go nuts, personally. We all went to Hawaii, but we all had our own rooms on different floors, and our own cars, etc. Well, we had less kids to drive around, so no one was stranded if one person took one car. Sounds like the car situation is driving dh nuts.

Though I did have a nice chat with dh tonight. He broke away from the pack to spend some time with his grandfather. The reason is he is working on personal documentaries for our parents. (Would for the grandparents, but with all their friends and relatives mostly passed, it's not as easy. With my dad's sudden health whoas, he decided to get started on our parents' videos. As their friends have been starting to pass on, etc. Time is a ticking).

Anyway, I had a nice chat with dh on his apparently "long" drive over. & a nice chat on his way back to the hotel. Though he did some filming, in the end he just had a nice time with his East Coast relatives. Said they chatted for hours. I think he appreciated the break from the rest of his immediate family too. The rest of his family seems to have little interest in spending time with their relatives. Which I guess was REALLY pissing dh off today. Because if nothing else, he has some videos to do. So I think in the end he got something special out of the trip. Something special that the rest might miss!

I guess it's the bane of living in Florida. Remind me not to retire in a touristy spot like that, if I ever want quality time with my family. Wink

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Anyway, in other news, I went shopping and spent too much money. Too much retail therapy!

I feel like we should just hole up inside the rest of October and November. & not spend any money. I think it's doable.

It's been a little jekyl and hyde. I feel like I am spending more than I should. That we are spending more than we should. Though we saved more money than we have in years. But I don't think the savings excuses the spending. Was okay for summer, but I could go for a no-spend quarter about now. We will work on keeping October and November rather low-spend. I think it will be easier with the weather turning colder. With work getting busier, etc., etc. It seems we can go the entire tax season without spending a dime sometimes.

Anyway, truthfully, most of the purchases I made were rather pent up - stuff I "needed" or had wanted for a long time. Saw some good deals. I hope I scratched the shopping itch good. This time of year it is easy to put things on Christmas lists. Dh's family demands lists. I will start obliging. It does make it easy not to spend much at the end of the year. Our Christmas shopping list is small. I think it will be a record low this year. Dh already has free gifts galore for the kids (Scholastic buys and such - video games scores in dh's business of buying and selling, etc.). SIL no longer wants to exchange gifts (cousins). I don't think we are exchanging gifts with anyone in particular this year. I don't remember the last time we bought each other gifts. It will definitely be a record low year for us.

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Today I didn't get much done. I talked on the phone all night and internet-ed. Warmed up the laptop so I could update Quicken. Next thing I know it is past my bedtime. Too tired to read. Yeesh. I actually was awake enough to read the last few nights. Apparently I am WAY more well rested than usual. It's usually hard for me to stay awake much past 8pm. But tonight, no reading for me. Too tired. My day caught up with me.

The work day actually went pretty fast. I am just amazed how quickly the evening went. I was much more productive being anti-social! Working always exhausts me a bit more. More than cleaning house all day, apparently.

Getting a Slow Start Today

October 6th, 2009 at 03:38 pm

I think my "vacation" has fared well.

I got a lot done yesterday. But I ALSO had time to read, to watch a fair amount of TV (got caught up on Medium - love that show though it's hokey often times). & I took a nice nap!!!!

I ran all my errands in the morning and did most the housework after 5pm. I've had more energy than usual. Maybe all the restful sleep and endless free time. But it's dangerous. A day in front of the TV and napping can zap my energy pretty fast. So I am proud I didn't waste the day away.

I have way too much food!!!! I know they boys eat far more than I. But it is readily apparent as I look in the fridge. I have barely made a dent. What was dh thinking? He was thinking he was cooking for a bottomless pit, like our sons.

I wouldn't be surprised if I lose weight this week. BEcause I have been too busy to eat. AND because I have been working so hard it has decreased my appetite. The more I work out, the less hungry I am usually.

IT could have easily gone the other way. I am an emotional eater and could have easily eaten tons of junk while I miss the family. So I am rather surprised with myself, thus far.

Anyway, my parents are going to visit me and help me eat through this food. Phew! I am starting to worry if some of it will go to waste. I guess I will take down whatever is left, to my parents, this weekend when I pick up the fam. There's a plan, since it is hard to judge what I will eat the rest of the week.

But basically, I can't fit one more thing into the fridge!!!!! I bought some eggs on sale yesterday, since I love hard boiled eggs. I could barely fit them in the fridge - yeesh.

Anyway, to revisit my list yesterday:

1 - Kohls - shop with my $10 "coupon"
*2 - Groceries (just a few items, like, we are out of cereal and PEPSI!)
*3 - Best Buy for recycle
*4 - Crown books for a treat

*5 - Vacuum closet/finish tidying up
6 - Arrange CDs (ones to keep)
*7 - Wash bed sheets
*8 - Clean up bedroom - dust/vacuum
*9 - Clean Master Bath - make it sparkle
10 - Maybe start some carpet washing in the p.m. This can certainly wait
*11 - Clean toilets - as everything else is getting so clean, I am noticing the toilets haven't been cleaned in a while

12 - Update Quicken / Look at Sep. expenses

* - Complete!!!

I need to go to Best Buy again today - more recycling.

I skipped Kohls because I forgot my coupon. Noticed when I got there, but I was only traveling to one shopping center, like a mile away, for all my stops. No biggie.

Carpet washing and Quicken are easily doable on a work day.

SO, I feel rather accomplished.

I also renewed my car's license and my driver's license, online.

TODAY

Not much planned. Will take it easy and enjoy houseguests.

Before they arrive I would like to clean the kitchen a bit. I don't expect it to take long. Famous last words... & I will run to Best Buy, Target and Kohls.

Will see. I got a slow start today. I am annoyed that everything opens at 8am, but Best Buy not until 10? I was annoyed, but since I still haven't showered or dressed, I guess it will work out. My parents won't get here until noon.

One funny thing - I never make the bed. Never see the point. I hate having my feet covered up and so kick the covers off all the time. & though dh blames all the blanket whoas on me, I think he is a little guilty.

So last night, it was chilly, and I bundled up in bed, and left my feet in after I had made the bed all pretty, etc. I woke up, got out of bed, and looked at it. It hardly looked like anyone slept in it! It took me about 1 second to make the bed. To straighten the covers. I thought to myself, "This is why people make the bed." LOL. I would too, if I always slept so still.

Just another Manic Monday

October 5th, 2009 at 04:09 pm

Brrrrrr. I woke up to a chill. Last week it was over 100 degrees. This morning I wake up to 45-degree weather. What the heck? We RARELY get below-40 weather here. IT feels like summer one day, and like winter the next. Last "fall" was like this. I am not used to such extreme weather changes. I usually have more time to adjust to the cold. No doubt it is time to dig out the warmer clothes.

Fall weather always leaves me feeling very "spring cleany." I think the thing is in the spring I am just bursting to get outside. But in the fall, suddenly you are holed up inside. & then you see all the projects you have been putting off while enjoying all the nice weather for many months. This year in particular, since we have rarely been home all summer and really let the house go. It seems natural to work on the house, now that I rather be inside!

IT also seems everyone has been sick. A quick perusal of Facebook anyway, shows all the locals with sick kids and such. I am glad I am on "quarantine" (spending my days pretty alone and holed up) and that the kids have a holiday from school this week. Though since the hell of preschool (about 365 days of all of us being sick), no one in my house seems to really get sick any more. A year of preschool apparently gives both kids and their parents, immunity of steel. But I don't want to jinx it either.

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Well, I did it! The closet is pretty complete - as of last night. I didn't even stay up late.

The thing is, it is full of cracked eggs so to speak. While the "cake is baking." Pictures will be later!

I have a pile for donation. It's not particularly large. Interestingly, the closet was already way more cleaned out than I expected.

I found 2 items that would probably take hours to go through. Some photos, and some arts and crafts. The progress I made was to donate the un-started crafting kits. Woohoo. The rest, I just couldn't look at. Another day or time. & I do remember distinctly going through ALL the pictures at one time or another. Let's face it, I have room to store a box of photos. So those are my 2 boxes of crap in my closet. Gotta leave something for later!

I got a pile of CDs for dh to sell for me. Giving away some frames, a lamp, some weights, and some gifts. I always felt obligated to keep gifts. I don't see the point any more. There is stuff that has been buried in my closet for years because I felt I had to keep it. Gifts that were not re-gifting material. That is very freeing, to let those go.

The interesting find was some 1st birthday party decorations from my eldest's first birthday, about 5 years ago? Some of it was donateable. The rest should have been trashed 5 years ago. That's a byproduct of my not wanting to throw things away. But thankfully, a rare byproduct.

In the end, the closet stores our: clothing, mementos/yearbooks, important records, 1 box of crafts, 1 box of photos, my wedding dress (which I plan to donate actually), piles of piano music, some frames, all our camping gear, some sports/workout gear, & pillows and blankets. I think that's about it?

I need to go through a couple of items with dh. We have a 100-disk CD player. I think he wanted to sell. I couldn't get it down myself - was on a top shelf. Dh has a secret stash of future gifts for the kids in there too. But I do need to run through with him on a few items.

I feel very proud and accomplished to harness any kind of simplicity. As with everything, simplicity is relative. Compared to just about anyone we know, we live very simple as far as accumulation of stuff. Even my kids know if they want a new toy they need to sell or donate an old one.

No doubt it is obvious from my pictures that we can achieve greater simplicity, though. I feel like it is a never-ending work in progress. But yes, I have spent many years trying to break free of my stuff. It sometimes doesn't show because my spouse likes stuff more than I care for. I think with age I personally just lean more towards "useful stuff."

I accumulated a lot of useless stuff in my younger years. So it's taken a while to plow through it all.
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Today's To Do List:

1 - Kohls - shop with my $10 "coupon"
2 - Groceries (just a few items, like, we are out of cereal and PEPSI!)
3 - Best Buy for recycle
4 - Crown books for a treat

5 - Vacuum closet/finish tidying up
6 - Arrange CDs (ones to keep)
7 - Wash bed sheets
8 - Clean up bedroom - dust/vacuum
9 - Clean Master Bath - make it sparkle
10 - Maybe start some carpet washing in the p.m. This can certainly wait
11 - Clean toilets - as everything else is getting so clean, I am noticing the toilets haven't been cleaned in a while

12 - Update Quicken / Look at Sep. expenses

DONATIONS - I am waiting for someone to offer to pick up everything. 'Tis the season - the stuff will be gone soon. We usually get plastic bags left on our doorstep every couple of weeks, with a request to set out donations. I just don't have one now, but probably don't need much patience before one will arrive.

Is that quite a To Do List? The funny thing is I absolutely hate tackling one big project. I have been procrastinating on the closet for ages, for one. But I thrive on a lot of little tasks. So I am excited to accomplish much today.

I also tend to be overly optimistic, so we will see! Big Grin

Tomorrow I am planning a relaxing day. I know I can tidy up the kitchen in a short time, before my parents arrive if they visit. & I know I have the rest of the working week to accomplish smaller tasks and to work on the carpets.

I think the house will be pretty immaculate when the boys come home. Too bad it won't last long. Wink It's more rewarding to clean with the "tornadoes" out of the house. That is for sure!!!

Closet Progress...

October 5th, 2009 at 12:56 am

I am testing the limits of how many photos that SA will let me upload and store. Big Grin

I prefer to use my cell phone so I don't have to edit them down though.

Well, I am taking a break for dinner. My back hurts and this step took longer than I thought it would. Not sure why. Not sure why I didn't realize it would take so long. Big Grin This was just the "surface cleaning." What I really want to do is dig through everything in the closet, and do a round of freecycling, etc.

It shouldn't be too bad, I have been through the closet in more recent times. BUT, I find I often need a little bit of time to let things go. Maybe a few runs through the closet. So though it is manageable, I know I can toss more stuff!

Anyway, there's a floor!







I took all my clothes off the lower half of the closet. I've got 2 sides of the closet - dh gets one. Hell, I don't think he ever wears the clothes he has hanging up. Was from when he was working.

I am embarrassed at how many clothes I ended up donating. & what is with all the hangers?? A bag of hangers too. So yeah, 2 bags of clothes, and about a 1/2 bag full of plastic/cheapie hangers. I think these days the stores I shop are less stingy with hangers. All I Could figure.

I did go through all my clothes - those in drawers in my bedroom as well.

A lot of the stuff I haven't worn in MANY years. Thing is I swept through the closet a few times, pretty aggressively, in the last couple of years. But there was still a lot of pruning to do.

One example is a robe that I love and is fine. But it is bulky and I never wear it since I bought a new one (a cute monkey one, of course). Into the pile it went!

I got rid of a lot of stuff that was pretty worn out, that never really fit well, or that I really like but had shrunken, etc. I could maybe fit into them again, but it hardly seems worth keeping any more. I tossed a lot of low quality clothing. A LOT I have been finding I spend a lot less on clothes now that I focus on better quality. & don't get me wrong, I still primarily shop Kohls and places like that. I don't shop higher end stores. BUT, I will probably never buy adult clothes at Target again. Nor anything on those shelves of $10 clothing at Kohls/Mervyns. They just fall apart too quickly.

I have much better luck with clothing quality at Marshalls and Ross.

Now my clothes fit better and they don't shrink as much, etc., etc.

It's this realization that made me realize the crappy stuff will always be crappy. Time to let it go!

I also let go of some shoes. I guess their problem is discomfort. So I never wear them. But I might *need* them sometime. Old thinking, anyway. Some of those I have had for over a decade too.

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I found a good spot for my clothes drying hanger thingy-do. It's usually kind of in the way, but I found I could fit it just about against the wall, in the center of the back. I think that actually will work out pretty well.

Anyway, the entire left side of the closet is just dandy.

The middle/back has a few things on the shelves. Nothing much.

The whole right side of the closet is a nightmare. Lord knows what is over there.

We shall see! I'd love to at least get my trash/donate/sell piles by tonight. Sometimes while cleaning the house there is a whole messy stage in between. Anyway, my house is filling with bags, that is for sure. At least it is contained, and ready to be shipped out.

I'm probably optimistic, but will see.

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I didn't work "too hard." I got sucked into a movie while I was eating lunch. I had a fair amount of down time!

I am also thinking I am going to slow way down M/T/W. I was thinking of inviting my folks up because it would force me to scrub the gust bath and clean up the kitchen and living area a bit. Followed by a nice relaxing day anyway. So that might be a good strategy. Tomorrow I will at least have to leave the house so I don't go crazy.

The Annual Update

October 1st, 2009 at 04:35 pm

It's time for the annual update. We have officially hit 7 years on one income. Woohoo!

This was my update last year. Long but historical:

http://monkeymama.savingadvice.com/2008/09/06/six-years-and-...

Every year this anniversary carries less bravado. IT's less novelty and more "way of life," any more.

Plus, in less than a year, both kids will be in school for 6 hours a day. Working a job without never seeing each other and/or paying an arm and a leg for daycare will no longer be the obstacles to more income. IT will be like crossing the finish line!!!

The future brings many unknowns, so I am very glad that this is the case. I will feel much financial relief when dh is readily employable again.

I was discussing the FREE health insurance we just barely don't qualify for, for the kids, to dh. I mentioned how 2 $35k incomes hardly seemed a fair comparison to one $70k income and a choice for a spouse not to work. The two and black and white almost in comparison. Dh said, "Why? What difference does it make?" I said, "Um, because you could double our income very quicly, by returning to the workforce?" Duh!

Of course, I said many times, even in good times, dh has not been considered employable material. He applied for a slew of minimum wage jobs in 2005 and wasn't even considered for most. Which has been one big black cloud over what we thought was a very temporary situation. I can't imagine how the job market would treat him today!!!

SO I Wanted to post about 2 things. Where we were and where we are. & what dh's future plans are as we face both kids in school VERY soon. (I can't believe how fast this school year is flying by. I often catch myself saying, "Can you believe LM will be a Kindergartener, like tomorrow???" BEcause that is how it feels all of a sudden).

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I'll try to keep this part short. We are just trying to get back to our savings level at age 25, sad to say!!!

I took home $3400 per month. Dh took home $2500/month and we saved it all. That was 2002, when I first became pregnant.

We had about $30k cash in the bank.

I always put 10% of my pay to retirement. We usually put about 5k, or 10% of dh's pay, to IRAs.

In the grand scheme of things we were probably saving $20k per year, cash. Most of that ended up as a down payment on our current home. The rest to our modest cars, paid for with cash.

Since having kids we have moved backward, and are just trying to get back to this starting point.

This year was very fruitful. We refied our mortgage and now save $200/month on our mortgage payments. I VERY sad that our preschool closed, and that LM is stuck with only about 4 hours a week in schooling this year, but it has saved us TONS this year. We've kind of sped up the benefits I expected to see next year when done with preschool, etc. But it has made the year more trying in non-financial ways.

Today I take home $5500 per month. (Still short $400/month from our 2-income days).

Of course, this year dh had a banner year and will probably take home $1200 from ebay. Which is REALLY nice, I must say!

I save 10% of my pay to retirement.

This year, for the first time ever, we are funding our IRAs with current income. I have funded some with savings and gifts in recent years. This year we will hit $5k, from income, which is amazing.

$22k cash in the bank. GEtting there. Still in "catch up" mode.

We're saving about $5k per year to cash, which is ample going forward. We need to speed this up a bit until we "catch up." Then the excess will probably go to max out a second ROTH. It will be 2010 or 2011 when we are able to do so again, regularly, from income. Well, we have never put more than $5k to our IRAs, so that will be a first, and an improvement. & this year, already, we have exceeded our old retirement savings pace. Which is a nice milestone!

With the house in a very manageable state, retirement is really our priority going forward.

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Dh's plans? The world is his oyster, and as always, he struggles with direction.

However, he is bummed he can not really volunteer in the school this year since he has LM almost every minute of every day.

Next year he would like to volunteer a lot more at the school (which could possibly lead to low paying/flexible job opportunities). Though he'd do it regardless.

He has a minor in TV/film, which is really his "dream." He still feels he should probably update his education and that he should shoot for something higher paying. I don't particularly agree. I wish he would just follow his dream already!!!!

BUT, with the economy and all, and Kinder being such a transition year, he has talked about volunteering a lot more at the public TV station during the week. For now, he gives MANY weekends, and has many contacts there. But he wants to be very high profile and hope that it will help him get a job there eventually, when he is ready for full-time work.

I think he would LOVE working there, and it's very convenient. & I think a busy volunteer schedule would be good use of his newfound free time. Though if he told me he wanted a year to just do nothing, I wouldn't blame him. He has worked HARD the last 8 years.

In the meantime, one reason I Want to go heavy in cash is in case he returns to University. I don't think he will consider that until LM is settled in 1st grade. But better save those pennies just in case. We have a lot of public colleges in the area, so there will be many "affordable" oppurtunities. As the first time around, we have no desire to borrow for college. With any luck, we won't have to. Phew! IT's the kind of thing we are not sure we really want to invest in until the economy turns around. But dh needs any leg up he can.

I would hope that a return to school and/or a slew or volunteer work for his resume, will improve his odds of future employment. If the gap in his resume turned off minimum wage employers, I am not sure it will fare him well in his industries of choice.

Another idea would be do some temp work, etc. Which he will have TIME for. That would be for money only though. Really, a last resort. Though I guess worthwhile for skills and a foot in the door.

All things considered, we are easily looking at 2-3 more years on one income. But this year is nice as more options loom.