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Archive for November, 2009

Project Complete!

November 27th, 2009 at 07:37 pm

Between Thanksgiving, my super-mini-vacays, and all this health stuff, I have not completed the bath projects.

I figured I'd get our shower up and running (haven't used in years), BUT as I finished the shower I noticed grout falling out of another seam. IT was very small, but decided I should go over that with caulk. (Went over the seam - top to bottom - tall shower).

I also had to go around the tub, where if meets the floor. I decided against ripping out the old caulk around the tub, since it is rarely used. I didn't need to finish the tub, to use the shower.

BUT, it had been so long, today I did the final shower seam, and around the tub.

It needs to dry for 24 hours (will aim for days to be extra sure). & the tub may need another layer. But by next weekend we will have our shower back! I am so excited.

There is still a lot of work to be done in the kids' bath, BUT, I am investing in some caulk remover and hope that helps.

I dread working on the kitchen sink. It's just so big around. You'd think the tub would be larger, but at least it is all straight, and not all the way around, etc. I will also have to work quickly on the sink - it will be hard to cook without it!

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We were introduced to a new game called Munchkin. It's pretty fun and we now own a couple of variations. Another birthday present for me. (Was curious who the Munchkin fans were - Big Grin )

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Got some fun/frugal things planned for tomorrow (utilizing memberships), and Sunday will be "home improvement day" as I start tackling the other bath.

Financial Round-Up

November 27th, 2009 at 10:43 am

Dh woke up with hearing loss, again, this morning. Ugh!

His appointment was Monday, but I could not make it. We postponed until Tuesday. Regretting that a bit - did not expect he would have issues since it had been 3 years in between his first and last episode. (He lost and regained most hearing, twice). We are starting to wonder if surgery will be rushed to try to preserve hearing. I am not sure how early they could possibly do the surgery. Tuesday seems a million years away.

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His family is intent on cashing out retirement to send him to the world-renowned place I mentioned. Ugh, on that.

We did discuss it and I said I could see borrowing the money, because he could return to work and pay it off in a few years' time. Could be worth it. Though, we both are leaning towards sticking close to home and sticking with what is covered. Just thinking to if we are not impressed with our covered options. Of course, the risk is that dh could become disabled, and could not ever work again. Then we are just stuck with a six figure medical bill. I just gotta hope our HMO has good options. I don't really see why they wouldn't...

Of course, MIL said she already talked with this surgeon and he would come up here. This is not anything I have read, and sounded odd to me. I had to wonder if the economy had less people cashing out their savings and left with less equity to borrow with, for this type surgery. (Everything I read was that everyone who could, went for this surgery there. Seems there would be a waiting list of sorts?). If we lived down south it is reasonable we could be referred there. But since we live up North, if we are referred "outside" our HMO, I am sure it would be somewhere up here. Which I think we would prefer anyway.

Just to say, we have gone down the "six figure medical bill" road a bit. Obviously I hope we feel extremely warm and fuzzy about our covered options. Would be a lot easier.

On the flip side, it may be more important to save money to save hearing after surgery. Though it's apparently far more cheaper to gain hearing back than to remove a tumor. More amazing technology. Who knew, that regaining lost hearing was "affordable?" In our world, much more affordable.

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2009 is not quite over yet, but my brain is in 2010. Financially.

All of our December bills will be carded and paid in January, so I guess in some regard, 2009 is about over for us, financially.

I sat down to see where we were at. Before all this mess, I wanted to stop ROTH contributions while the market was high, and tackle our cash savings goal. I also figured I would just put aside our $3k deductible at Jan. 1, and only contribute to "mid-term savings" for 2010. I have been contributing to mid-term, medical, and retirement. I just wanted to make 2010 simpler, and achieve my goal.

Of course, obviously if the market fell, ROTHs would become more of a priority.

I guess it works out to be already in this mind-set.

In the end, our medical deductible remains $3k, but our out-of-pocket was doubled to $6k. I suppose after the deductible, we are relegated to smaller co-pays. But if there is a year we will manage to get $3k in co-pays (in addition to exhausting our deductible), 2010 would be it!

Of course, I am starting to worry that dh will have surgery end of December and we will max out 2009 and 2010. I suppose we have $1500 deductible remaining for 2009, which isn't huge. But would save $1500 if we could just do it all next year.

So, anyway, I just threw $6k into the "medical fund," (on paper - I don't have separate savings accounts). I already had $1k in there, which hasn't been billed yet - but will cover most the MRI. So really, $7k in the medical fund, should cover 2010, for now.

We still have $12k emergency fund. Obviously, all this stuff falls under the realm of emergency.

The sad thing, is I only have about $1k left in mid-term savings. I built it up from $0 to $10k, in 2009. Guess I will just have to try and do the same, again for 2010.

Of course, this year, the ROTH will probably be sacrificed. We were on track to put $5k away, and even as I built up cash, I was sure I would transfer some to the ROTH at year's end. Or if the market dropped substantially, etc.

It looks more likely we will just ignore the ROTH this year. We still put 10% away to retirement, and that has ALWAYS been our "bare minimum." To face all this and still be able to put away 10% is a blessing, in my opinion.

If all goes well, I should be able to save $15k-ish this year, cash. Who knows, we may make our cash savings goal and/or put some money to the ROTH anyway. I know it is likely some of this will be diverted to daycare and more eating out/convenience.

The only other large expense on the horizon is we need a few thousand to paint our house exterior. I worry how much it will cost. & why I am not happy to see me mid-term savings dwindle to $1k for a time. (DIY is not an option - house is too large. I don't do heights!!! Would need some super-sized ladders and some bravery to boot. Plus the time to tackle the whole thing). Willing to pay more for a good job that would last a while though. Original paint job sucked.

Of course, I have always said I wouldn't touch my efund with a 10-foot pole. But this is precisely the kind of exception an efund warrants. & you know what? It feels awesome to have that $12k sitting there. Big Grin The kind of emergencies I always envisioned were job loss or major house destruction (flood, etc.). I suppose its hard to foresee every possible emergency.

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That's the long and the short of it.

Thanksgiving went amazingly well and we had a great time.

Not sure what we will do this weekend. Not much planned. Will enjoy any "peace" we can before the storm. Though it kind of sucks we pretty much have 3 days with "nothing to do" as we eagerly await dh's big doctor appointment next week.

Another Update

November 26th, 2009 at 07:22 am

I saw the SA blog and it showed what we have learned this week. I did comment on it.

http://www.savingadvice.com/blog/2009/11/26/105446_at-the-en...

Dh and I had a long talk about all this the other night. & he said all he wanted to do was take BM rock climbing. Because he had been meaning to and hadn't got around to it (indoor rock climbing, that is).

It is possible he would maybe want to travel a bit, but we feel his last flight set all this off. (Flying put some pressure on his ear). So basically, he doesn't want to fly anywhere. & I think on some level he rather just be home.

The interesting this is we concluded our lives were fulfilled and there wasn't much to do. If the important things are family, that is what we have focused on all along. We have always prioritized heavily in our life - meaning we don't tend to put off important things. Which is an awesome feeling. He actually told me his only regret would be missing seeing the kids grow up, etc. What more could you ask for, as you face mortality at such a young age? No other regrets?

There is not a high chance of death in his scenario, but it gets you thinking very seriously about your life, and death, regardless.

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I laid off the computer yesterday. Which was a good thing. Can be information overload.

Today I did some research on the hearing side of things.

Looks like hearing prognosis is good. I even found that as of the last year or 2, our HMO covers "bone attached hearing aids," which they refer to as BAHA. I am not 100% sure they would cover it if he only loses hearing in one ear, but I guess there have been a lot of advocacy groups fighting for the "right to hear." & they said his specific tumor led to more acceptance of full coverage of implanted hearing aids. It looks promising, and looks like it could be a hell of a lot more expensive and not covered, if this was just a few years ago.

Just, interesting. Glad to know there are options. Of course the hearing device is $5k-ish and we could swing it. Seems surgery is usually approved - the truly expensive part. Though I am not sure why an insurer would pay for surgery but deny the device. But, whatever...

Hopefully dh will *not* lose his hearing, and will all be moot. But it is good to know he will have options to hear again, if it comes to that.

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Our final headcount is about 21 for today. We lost 2 people but then gained 4.

I made fudge and eggs in the end. (The fudge took seconds to make, it seems).

Dh did some cooking, but most of it is more of a potluck. So not a huge amount of T-Day stress here. Never is. We try to make it easy on everyone.

It's kind of cool how we all work together. Great-Grandma is the stuffing master, and Grandpa does the gravy. Grammy picks the turkey apart afterwards. Grandma makes the pies, and on and on. IT's like a well-oiled machine. Somehow I am the egg and fudge master. It's nice just to be responsible for what I am good at. Big Grin

Happy Thanksgiving!

Feeling Down

November 25th, 2009 at 07:38 am

I suppose my blog will veer off into "life with brain tumor" for a while. Particularly since we haven't told many people yet. Not until we *know* more. I've got to brain dump here!

Oh yes, and thank you so very much for your kid words and thoughts. It all does mean a lot.

Per further research, it's pretty clear that dh will have surgery within 2 months' time. Highly likely. Faces large chance of permanent hearing loss and facial paralysis (on one side).

Yesterday was hard to keep upbeat. Though I did dream it turned out to be cancer. I guess it could be HUGELY worse. At least it's not spreading and cancerous! This is what I have to think of to remain upbeat, I suppose.

Mortality rate for surgery is less than 1%. The fear comes from the permanent damage, and the intensity of it all. Brain surgery recovery will be long and difficult.

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Dh is the one you want around when someone is sick or in the hospital. He just knows what to do and say. I wish I could say the same for the rest of us. He deserves the same in return. The rest of us are not so good with the whole thing. He's already frustrated with me and his family. Boy, it's going to be a LONG few months.

Though I personally dread the hub bub of Thanksgiving, with all this going on, he looks forward to it. Hopefully his family will be comforting.

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I haven't thought too much of the logistics if he does have surgery. One thing at a time, I guess. I can't let that crash around me yet. BM would be thrilled to go to before and after school care (he is always begging to stay) and LM could live with relatives, at face value. Has its pros and cons, but probably beats thrusting him into daycare. He is not nearly as social as BM and not so into the whole daycare thing. (BM thrived with it, which is why he so wants to be in daycare even still).

The practical side of me thinks I should sign up BM for the school care, ASAP. They have drop-in care, which is expensive considering LM can't go. (Then they both cost $10/hour, as opposed to $12 for the two of them, other places). BUT, with all these doctor appointments and such, would be useful and needed. My mom mentioned neighbors for help. Neighbors are no help. All of our close friends and neighbors work full-time! Makes them rather useless in times like these. (You could argue they have evenings and weekends - but the people we know can barely function in their own lives, much less help other people out). We will have to rely on family 2 hours away, and paid care. I *so* wish Ms. Preschool was still here. I need her back!!!! I just can't fret about all this at this point - I know it will work out.

The thoughts did start to creep in my mind that it will be quite expensive with daycare considerations, and someone like me having to take care of careful meal planning and shopping. I haven't perfected that art, like dh. Though I suppose it is nice that he does not have a job to worry about, the fact is he saves us a lot of money being home, and him being out of commission will display just how expensive it will be to not have him performing his duties.

These thoughts are on the peripheral of my mind, but it's all too much to worry about at this point.

Of course, if dh had the decency to be diagnosed in the spring, I could have taken a couple of months off with state "paid family leave." As is, we can time the surgery so that I can take a few days off, but that's all I can really spare. My employer is very flexible and will work with me. BUT, we simply don't have enough staff to get the work done. BUSY season begins in just a couple of weeks. That stress is a bit much. I'd probably lose my mind thinking about it, and stressing about the whole thing, but I know our family can step in and take care of dh and the kids. Thank goodness!!!!!!!!!! I can't imagine where we would be without their support. If my boss gave me his blessing, I would be home worried about work, or just slammed beyond oblivion upon my return. Between now and May, I just can't do it all. & I need my job to pay these bills!

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Today I have to set it all aside.

I haven't done a thing to get ready for T-Day!!!!!! Thankfully, dh is taking care of most of the food. Today will have to clean house. We will probably feel less obligated to get the house sparkling. People will understand.

We have been eating out a lot this week. Dh had the meals planned, but no one felt like cooking the other night. Which threw everything off. I just noticed no one put the food away last night. Usually dh is - wasted food sitting out. Ugh. (I hope dh pulls himself together a bit!) Today we figured we'd eat out. Something cheap like Taco Bell. No room for leftovers in the fridge - it's jam packed with turkey and such.

I think today and tomorrow will be filled with distractions. I've got to think about other things. Nothing else I can really do at this point.

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I do hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving!

For us, we still have tons to be thankful for. Food, shelter, health, family, etc., etc.

The News is Pretty Terrible

November 24th, 2009 at 04:31 am

I am SO over 2009. My foundation has been rocked!

Dh went in for a MRI Friday and we knew it wasn't good. He was in there an hour (as opposed to 20 minutes). I asked if he had moved, etc. Wondered if he was just too fidgety or something. He said, no, that they had injected him with die mid-way through to look at something closer.

This put us in a tense mood. We still went away for the weekend and figured if they didn't call him to emergency before we left on Saturday, that maybe it isn't so bad.

They called him in yesterday for an appointment with his ear/nose/throat doctor - the one who ordered the MRI in the end. Neurologist didn't think the MRI was warranted. Fair enough, since his brain seemed totally fine. Even his hearing tests did not seem to warrant a brain tumor - though that seemed to be mostly what they were ruling out. This early follow up didn't sound very promising - he was supposed to go in Wednesday.

Of course, wires crossed, and before he met with his doctor, Neurosurgery called him for an appointment next week. We still had no idea what is going on, but that did NOT sound good! Should have called after he met with his doc, but they seemed eager, which was also scary.

I came home to watch the kids. I would have like to have gone with him, but it was so last minute. I am glad I didn't go - his ENT doctor is an IDIOT! She diagnosed this, sure, but her bedside manner is terrible. I am glad I wasn't there - hearing dh's rundown.

His appointment was short and he called me in an upbeat mood about 10 minutes after he was scheduled. I was relieved to be called so fast. Though, admittedly, his upbeatedness was probably just shock.

In the end, he does have a brain tumor. A large one. (1.5 inches or about 4cm)

There is a lot of good. They have said all along it is 100% benign due to his symptoms (if he had one). They still say it is 100% benign. It is a very slow growing tumor, etc., etc.

We don't know much at this point. Doctor said he is not necessarily being rushed to surgery - may try to shrink it first (radiation, drugs, etc.). Though perusing online, most people with tumors his size seemed to be RUSHED to surgery. It's overwhelming to think he may undergo brain surgery before the year is up.

But, who knows. We basically don't know much until we meet with the neurosurgeon next week.

Though I am extremely happy with our HMO, all I could think was I want the best damn neurosurgeon we can find. Talk about intense! In the end I looked up his doctor, and he looks excellent on paper. Hopefully we like him so much in person. So far, I am pleased. He performs all the tumor removals of this type, for our HMO, in Northern Cali. That sounds good to me. Plus he has been there 20 years. So many of the best doctors seem to come and go, so like I said, on paper I am pleased.

Anyway, what we gather is though the tumor is benign, it is a bit of a misnomer, because it can cause so many problems as it grows. & brain surgery is no easy fix. It is possible he will lose hearing in one ear - facial paralysis is another concern. The good thing is I didn't really see any other mention of any side affects, from surgery, etc. Though it would certainly suck to lose hearing in one ear, I am glad that more important brain functions seem to be preserved with this type of brain tumor. Heck, hearing technology is so advanced - who knows if "loss of hearing" means much in this day and age.

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It's a lot to digest. I am glad they called him in Monday so we had a few days to digest it, before Thanksgiving.

I do know we will have all the support we need from our crazy family. 4 of them are coming up Tuesday to watch the kids, so I can go to his appointment with the neurosurgeon. Overkill? Perhaps. But, gotta love family. I am not worried about what we will do if dh is out of commission for a while. Family will be there.

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I have always been particular about our health plan (Employer offered plans have always been crappy and expensive). This pickiness hopefully pays off. This is why I am PICKY!

I don't know if dh is insurable any longer. We have private insurance, and so as long as our HMO stays afloat, and we can afford the bills, insurance coverage is there. None of this switching jobs/losing coverage business.

Of course, I couldn't sleep and woke up around 3am. It occurred to me in all this mess that I never got our new premiums for 2010. I must have a rogue e-mail setup for the notification. I logged in and sure enough, the info has been there about a week.

All I can say, is Ugh! Our premiums are going up 20%. $100 per month increase.

Health insurance has been a nightmare for us the last decade. With the introductions of HDHPs, we had a calm couple of years, and is precisely why we had a couple of good financial years, recently.

All along I felt our HDHP was a little "too good to be true." That they were phasing it in to higher deductibles, etc.

I called it! It looks like our deductible will remain at $3k. BUT our out-of-pocket is increasing to $6k.

I've read through everything a million times in the past and I told dh I felt I understood our health plan. This will really put it to the test. I guess if all we pay is $6k for brain surgery, I shouldn't complain. I always feel wary that maybe I am missing something. Who trusts these insurers???

Anyway, not that we have used our deductible any given year. BUT, obviously we are heading to an expensive 2010. Which means we could end up paying $14k next year - for premiums and deductibles/out-of-pocket. But what else is new? We are used to double-digit increases, and large raises being eaten up by health insurance. I've got to find another $5k for next year. (There goes our ROTH? At face value, not sure where else I could cut $5k - is a pretty hefty sum).

I had wanted to hoarde cash next year, to get to our long-term cash goals, etc. Guess I will be hoarding it for medical expenses instead.

This is why I feel like we have been spinning our wheels the last few years. For everyone who has put me down for being too stingy, it's time like these I feel we haven't been stingy enough! Does no one else have these large $$ surprises??? What others call "stingy," I call "keeping afloat!"

Oh, anyway, lower deductible plans all cost about twice as much, and I am not sure dh could switch plans at this point, with his newfound pre-existing condition. Still seems like we have the best option available.

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I actually had a client whose young spouse (close in age) had a brain tumor. Looking back, I always assumed it was cancer, and I really think it was, from the way they talked.

Talk about intense! He's been on disability a couple of years, at least. He was not well enough to watch their children.

Though they were well insured, at some point there was a mix up and they were sent over $1 million in bills. !!!! They felt very blessed to have such good insurance. They were on the hook for very few dollars.

I try to remind myself this is precisely why we pay for such catastrophic insurance. I need to keep my perspective in these times. $14k per year is a bargain compared to how financially devastated we could be right now, without health insurance.

Holiday Update +Turkeys

November 19th, 2009 at 06:18 pm

**Dh went shopping for T-day today. My mom slipped me $40, and he spent about $40. It's potluck-y, so not like we needed to spend much. We may feed 25 people. We will have more food than we could ever eat. Dh's family does the holidays BIG! (Since we moved to cheaper lands, we are the only ones with a big enough home to host everyone. But we also like not having to travel for the Holiday - so we always host. We travel for the rest of the holidays/year, plenty).

Our contribution was $10 for a bit of gourmet cheese. Dh has this rasberry/brie thing he likes to do, but never enough people to really make it for. Of course, he didn't remember paying $10 for it before, but it was some top of the line sort of cheese. I told him if that is all we are providing financially, fancy cheese it is! (So he spent $50, total, but I had to point out the cheese - holy cow).

I am sure I will pick up bread at the bread outlet and dh said he still had to get sodas. There may be more - but the bulk is ready. I am actually due free bread, which may be enough.

I'll be making deviled eggs and cake. That's all I remember, for now. Dh does more of the cooking since it is his thing - though the grandmas do the turkey and all the classic T-day fare.

At this stage in the game, this time of year, I am always most grateful we have another year to all be together. This year will be meaningful since my dad has gone through so much medically this year. The kids are lucky to have so many loving, healthy, alive, grandparents and great-grandparents. We are lucky too!

Anyway, my job is to pretty the house, but it's mostly been done. So I think this year will be easy. I think it will be more work to clean up after. I have a few days off for that.

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**Christmas is throwing me for a loop. It's been a spendy year and Christmas has become quite low-key for us. So I figure I really don't have anything to buy so why even sweat it?

I was reading blogs about donations, and remembering, "Oh yeah!" I usually do a few donations. I forgot I had replaced donations for gifts, for a few people.

Today at work we did a drawing for the Christmas exchange, and then for the new person, discussed all the gifting we do, etc. We usually pitch in for something nice for the boss. & I am usually pretty generous - since I feel well paid - I don't mind getting the boss something NICE.

Then there are teachers and stuff.

I think it's time to break out the old "Christmas budget" and remind myself how expensive Christmas really is. Big Grin Silly me, I thought I wouldn't spend anything?

The biggest piece of the "budget" is that we usually give my Christmas bonus to charity. We already advanced that to BM's school this year. They really could use it, and they don't make it easy to contribute. With the last fundraiser I just wrote a check. It's not much to speak of, overall, so can foot the bill even if the bonus doesn't materialize. BUT, it is usually 50%+ of our Christmas spending. With that out of the way I just didn't think there would be much else. Another reason I had written it off as "done."

I'll break out the old Christmas budget and see how much we will be hurting after all... My guess is about $250. Mostly donations and gift cards. I really don't have anything physical to buy.

Will see!

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Not great pics (I was going to get closer but another co-worker came by and scared the turkeys off when she rounded the corner!). But, the turkeys...





One of these days I will get a close-up of the Turkeys! They like to hang around the office in spring and fall. They can be quite loud too (more loud in the spring - mating season and all). Just across the road is the creek where they live. Otherwise it's just very "city," so kind of odd.

& a beautiful picture from a bike ride with my dad, while the fam was in Florida:



Heat & Banks

November 19th, 2009 at 12:47 pm

I'm officially out of the heat challenge - a week earlier than last year.

I am not dissapointed at all - it's all the weather's fault. Big Grin

In fact, I was starting to wonder if I was getting hormonal, because the cold hasn't particularly bothered me. This morning it was 61 inside, and I didn't even flip it on.

BUT, dh whimped out a few days ago. I didn't even know until I came home to the heat on, and asked why he had turned it on (usually I cave first - even if he is home all day!). Anyway, said he had turned it on a couple of times, because he was COLD. I hadn't even known - doh! So I am out as of the 15th. (We are not in the "run the heat all day" stage - that will be winter. HE had only flipped it on for a bit, so I didn't know).

Anyway, along those lines, it was flipping cold today!!!! Down to almost 30 (farenheit) overnight - which is as cold as it gets, here. Brrrr. The only difference between now and winter is we still have gorgeous sunny days. So I am proud of myself, that I didn't even turn on the heat this morning.

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I saw a pile of turkeys this morning and tried to snap some pics. Will share later. (Don't they know they should be hiding this time of year???)

They emerge in large groups, in the spring and fall. No doubt they came out to soak up some sun? After such a chilly night?

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There was an interesting question a while back - if switching banks for every promotion was worthwhile. Balance that against a post about changing a bank for the first time in one's life.

To all that - it depends. Depends on how desparate you are and your preference. I would say switching banks every 90 days for free money is well worth it if you are pretty broke.

I've personally found that I am changing banks every year or 2, on average (online savings types). I've only switched my checking once in my life, and don't plan to move that around unless I have to. Finally sucked it up and got a more local bank once the mail got slow. (I had ALWAYS mailed my deposits prior - and was never an issue until 2006-ish). But, the local CU we ended up is larger, more local, and has proven to be a good change. I am very pleased. I had never lived so close to my CU before... Never in the same city even - now I could walk if I Wanted to. But really the best perk is a better infrastructure since they are a little larger. The online bill pay at my old CU sucked, for one. The proximity doesn't really matter to me so much. Though it's nice as long as the mail sucks and I don't have direct deposit.

That pretty much sums it up for me.

I wouldn't blame anyone for jumping from promotion to promotion, though. I just don't feel it's personally worth the effort, today. But I Wouldn't leave my money in a low-interest account for a long time either. Always keeping an eye out for something better... & I try to pick places that have historically high rates, because I really don't want to jump every 5 minutes.

Tales of the GPS

November 18th, 2009 at 09:40 am

My time has been filled up and busy, but a break from real life leaves me feeling pretty refreshed. Big Grin

My folks visited Sunday and stayed quite late actually. I went to bed quite a few hours later than usual!

Monday night I drove to visit them and stayed up too late again!

Woke up at dawn to get to South San Francisco by 8. Tried to stay awake for a so-so seminar. I went to an excellent one last week, so my expectations were probably too high. What a snore!

Drove into the city and glad I Was prepared for rain. IT didn't rain much at all (phew) but rained a good bit while I had an hour to wait for my friend.

I plopped my GPS in my pocket and set it to "pedestrian mode" so I wouldn't get horribly lost. Though I felt uncomfortable looking lost and touristy, so didn't touch it. (My friend later commented it would be mistaken for an iPhone - quite normal - but I didn't want to get mugged either). LEst you think I am paranoid in the city - no. I don't make it a habit to walk alone at night, and not with expensive gadgets - I live in a fairly large city myself!

Was in Union Square, and so headed to Macy's/Cheesecake Factory for some dryness and a restroom. I was sure Macy's would have one, but the Cheesecake Factory is on the top level - gorgeous view. & I was kind of curious to see how crowded it was. I've never been there with less than a 2-3 hour wait - and I knew no one would notice if I popped in the bathroom. Big Grin

It was hopping and had quite a few people waiting, but didn't look like the 2-3 hours wait of years past.

I walked around the immense building for a while and browsed insanely expensive clothing.

That was it for the rain - and I was prepared in a rain jacket. Phew.

With the weather and ambiance, the area struck me very much like NYC. I've never really equated the two cities. Was in a very NYC-like section of town.

My friend escaped from work and we ate appetizers at a little Indonesian restaurant - Yum! & talked for hours. I left the city feeling rather refreshed!

Wasn't too expensive.

Gas - $20? (Took the gas sipper - good for city parking too).
$ 6 Lunch
$16 Dinner
$ 9 PArking (a Steal!)
$ 4 Bridge Toll
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$55

In the end - really only $29 to visit my friend - gas would have paid otherwise, with the seminar and all. I could have just had dinner with my folks and gone home a different route with no bridges, and no parking expenses, otherwise.

Was well worth it!

& I have tentative plans to visit her again in a couple of weeks. LM and I are going into the city, regardless. I promised him an adventure. (& a train ride - am taking him down to the Bay Area during my next Friday seminar).

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Tales of the GPS...

It got interesting when I left. The GPS wanted me to turn on a billion streets to get to the freeway (I assumed), which struck me as odd. I gave up and stayed on the major street I Was on. I *knew* there was a freeway connection there, and in fact saw it as I passed it. I thought it was odd the GPS ignored it, but I think I was a bit turned around, and so kept going. GPS said "Go 1 mile" or something, so I figured I could catch the freeway up ahead.

After driving a while I ended up on some dark, deserted streets and realized I wasn't quite sure where I Was. I wasn't thrilled with this, but knew the freeway couldn't be too far. I started listening to the GPS and making all these turns.

As I drove through some unsavory neighborhoods I started to get more frustrated. What the heck is going on? Where am I???

I realized as I entered some sort of "expressway" with no place to stop, what the problem was. It dawned on me the GPS was in "pedestrian mode" and was avoiding the freeway! I guess it thought I wanted to WALK the 90 miles home?

I pulled over the first place I could - which was a dark neighborhood. Of course I couldn't figure out how to change it back, and was worried about getting mugged.

I finally figured it out, and went on my merry way. Except I was in a very confusing area and drove through the same intersection 2-3 more times before I finally found the freeway. Like I came to a fork in the road and ended up going the wrong way (I decided to go right when I should have gone left). The GPS was no help in that area - the intersection was confusing when I approached it from a different street - so round and round I went.

I can laugh about it now because I eventually got home safe! Took me 2 hours to drive home - ugh!

Next time I think I will remember to switch the mode!

All in all, it was my frist time using the GPS alone (on such a large drive anyway) and I was pleased with it. I just had the luck to have the mode issues and to figure it out in a very confusing area. Usually dh and I read the directions to each other. So, overall, problems aside, I Was quite pleased with it, and I Think it opens up a bit of a new world for me. I am VERY directionally challenged. & the GPS makes me open to trying new things. I probably learned not to overly rely on it and check my brain out when using it though. Big Grin

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I am only in the office a couple of days this week, and then to Tahoe for the weekend. What an exhausting week this is turning out to be! But, I am enjoying it.

Dh has his MRI Friday. I think the distractions are helpful. The weekend should help get our mind off of it as we await results.

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In other interesting news, an "America's Most Wanted" fugitive was found in the area I live.

That's just the sort of the media attention we need! (NOT!) We had a murder a few weeks ago - and all sorts of exaggerated reports about crime and gangs in the area, has been spread by the media. I find it very frustrating. (Was first murder of the year - it's freaking November - the population is large - murders are expected, and are usually domestic anyway - someone you know). Most my friends think I am a poor sap who lives in denial in "the ghetto." Which is completely absurd.

Now our neighborhood harbors fugitives! I can hear it now...

Anyway, I actually do enjoy watching AMW and always think to myself that I would never run across anyone featured on that show. I know the point of the show is that we all do run across these people. BUT, it's hard to stomach that you could be working or living next to an insane psycopath!

Um, maybe I will pay closer attention? Yikes!

Just an Update

November 16th, 2009 at 04:53 pm

**Made progress on the grocery bill mystery. (Bill was quite large last 2 months).

Um, dh went to Safeway because he had a coupon/promotion to spend $50 and get $10 off Kohls. I told him, "No Thanks" since I can't walk into Kohls and just spend $10. It's the "no spend month!" But he said he needed some pants. Well, okay then. Glad he could use it. (Ended up paying $7 for new jeans - which wasn't bad!).

He did go to Safeway and griped about it well afterwards - how expensive it has gotten. He still felt it was worth the coupon - but was reminded why we rarely shop there any more.

Anyway, that was just last weekend, so I was surprised to see another Safeway "grocery" purchase when I downloaded our credit cards into Quicken today. After all that griping? Why would he go back??? I looked closer and thought it could be a gas purchase. So I pulled up last month, and by some miracle, dh never got gas. Well - that solves that! Safeway fuel used to be labeled, "Safeway Fuel" and would go to "auto expense." I guess they are no longer differentiating Safeway gas and grocery. Lord knows how long this has been going on and how screwed up my Quicken is. Interestingly, as long as my gas and groceries don't top $800/month, I don't really care. So if any 2 categories have to be comingled - those will do.

All I can do is ask dh to keep me updated on his gas purchases, or make assumptions going forward. Will be easier to catch those now that I know...

Solves a bit of a mystery?

Though the one Safeway purchase last month hardly made a dent - groceries were still large! But it may explain the month prior to that.

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I got an e-mail that my new CU account is set up.

I noticed my online bank raised rates the last couple of days. Still, not enough.

Not too thrilled with the CU not calling me. It's the first institution that I have banked with that has not followed up on the fraud alert on my credit bureau accounts. Though I did mention that they asked for a lot of private info. I guess they assume if I have my drivers license and social security card, that I am me? Doesn't make me feel warm and fuzzy.

I'll get money transferred around by December, probably.

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I've got some super-mini-vacations coming up. Will barely be in the office the next few weeks.

Work is slow and it's like "summer break" for me. December begins the insanity!

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I made progress on the baths, etc., at home. One sink repaired, and our shower is almost in full working order. Will probably err with caution and let the new caulk dry all week.

As of next weekend, we can resume using that shower, and I can work on the repairs on the kids' bath. I don't think it will take as long. I have one more sink to recaulk, as well as the large kitchen sink. I am dreading that one. It's easier to remove grout than caulk, that is my conclusion!

In fact, in less used areas I am skipping old caulk removal. I give up!

Ideally I did an awesome job that will last forever. Realistically, I put off hiring someone for a couple of years. Big Grin

Being Adventurous & Productive

November 13th, 2009 at 12:51 pm

**Today I had a seminar but it turned out to be right down the street from my office. So I dropped off my lunch in the fridge and drove over for lunch. Answered some calls and e-mails, and time to spare. Will probably stop by on my way home to grab my leftovers - but that's about it. Seminar days I get out early. I can wave neener neener to my co-workers.

**I am not quite crazy enough to go to a seminar in San Francisco (though maybe I should ask if I could crash with a friend some time). South SF is a doable commute from my folks house so I signed up for a seminar there. IT was the only place I could take a specific class. PArking may possible be free?

It just occured to me with my GPS I should suck it up and go see my "best friend" who I never see. To be fair, I don't know if she has EVER visited me in Sacramento. BUT, in theory we should meet up in the Bay Area whenever we should - the public transport between cities sucks and we both visit our parents often enough.

We saw her in January and had a GREAT time. I e-mailed her on a whim and she is open to meeting in the evening. With the GPS, I will brave the city driving. I've done it before while young and stupid. The GPS gives me the guts to try again. Big Grin {Really, I've driven there a billion times. It's just been a long while since I have ventured there alone}.

So today's seminar was extraordinarily cheap. Next week will be pricey with lunch, dinner, parking, Bridge tolls, etc. But well worth it to reconnect with an old friend. The 2 should even out?

**We have a weekend arranged at the cabin with a friend. Probably won't be the cheapest weekend ever (spendy friend, for one). But, I think it will be quite fun!

**Dh may take the kids out of town this weekend - his parents need help with some stuff. In theory, I should be able to make good progress on house projects. So it may work out. (Noting our auto gas bill will be large this month!!! SF, San Jose (x2), Tahoe, oh my!)

**Dh got a follow up appointment for his MRI. We will know the results the day before Thanksgiving. We were worried we might not find out until after the holidays. Phew! Turns out a friend knew someone who went through something similar - was just a "polyp" in his sinus - very easy to remove. I guess the possibilities are multiplying. Nice to know what else it could be.

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I guess November is shaping up to be a little exciting!

& thing is, really, no time or money to do any of this stuff with wee little ones, the last few years. Like, next week I am just ditching the fam for a couple of days. & I have money to splurge on a couple of meals out! Who cares about the parking - I haven't seen my friend since January! It all feels rather luxurious to me...

New Tax Credit & Price Match

November 12th, 2009 at 08:10 am

I guess I will always find it ironic that nonsense spreads through the forums like wildfire (i.e. The Dems want to take away your 401ks!). & yet a lot of real and true tax law passes rather quietly. Maybe it's ingenious on the part of politicians - "Look over there!" so you don't see what they are really doing?

I am just surprised I have seen no mention of this, anywhere online where I frequent financial conversations.

Home Buyer Credit Extension
http://www.fox4kc.com/business/wdaf-finance-extensions-11090...

Could be interesting to those thinking of down-sizing? The credit is now available to those who already own homes. Though I haven't read all the details, I didn't see anything about requiring a bigger home for the credit, though apparently the thinking is to spur move-up buyers. Wonder if it will spur move-down buyers even more.

I was just looking up details at a client's request, though I heard this passed on Monday?

There you have it. With so much downsizing talk, I thought many would find this interesting.

As for me? I ain't moving anywhere. A $6500 credit hardly accounts for the cost of selling or moving in our real estate market. Our downsize timeline is for when the kids are grown, anyway. We "upsized" as much as we ever plan to, in our 20s.

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Dh asked Amazon for a $10 price match on a recent purchase. No biggie, right?

BUT, he called them (usually an e-mail will suffice - their customer service is really good) to ask for $5 off on a new purchase. Though the deal was going around, most retailers charge more for the item.

Amazon said sure, and gave him a flat $16 credit instead of $10. He even said, "Well, $15 would be fine!" They said, "I'll give you $16."

Um, how awesome is that? $16 was enough to cover the item, and then some. In this case, no purchase was necessary though.

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Reminds me, I am pretty sure we met our Ebay challenge for the year. I wanted to net $100/month in Ebay/Craigslist sales.

Dh tracks all that and I don't know the details, but he has been giving me approximately $75/month.

This does not account for things he has bought with his sales income (like game systems and games galore - even gave one to a friend recently). HE also sells a pile of stuff for credit at a Used Music/Game store.

As our finances improve, I will consider earmarking those deposits for college or retirement savings. HEck, once kids are in school, there is much more profit potential, with more time to chase deals.

It's hit and miss. Some months there were no sales to be made. Other months brought in hundreds of dollars. It hasn't been a steady monthly income. Obviously, December is usually our best month. Still time to make $1200 cold hard cash for 2009.

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Saw another interesting article on 529s:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142405274870440240457452...

I haven't particularly seen the benefits of a 529 in our low tax bracket. But it's rare that I ever seen a negative thought about a 529 plan! (I still think they are probably the best bet for anyone saving a LOT for college or anyone more upper-middle to wealthy. That's just not our demographic at the moment). The article does point out the inflexibility and issues of 529 plans.

Not Much Going On...

November 10th, 2009 at 05:55 pm

**Well, dh is set up for a MRI after all. We have been told that his symptoms are not in line with a stroke or a brain tumor, but they want to dot their i's and cross their t's. Basically, his other doctor does not agree with not doing further testing.

Which is fine. Financially, we won't get the bill for months or years anyway. (Is there a statute on medical bills? Drives me a little mad how slow they can be to bill...)

Though makes 2009 extraordinarily ugly as far as Murphy goes. But HDHP is far more affordable than old plan, and this isn't anything I am going to sweat. Medical emergencies are no time to sweat - plenty of cash in the bank.

Unfortunately, have to wait 2 weeks, and who knows when we will get any results, with the holidays. I think we both feel a bit anxious in the interim.

So, yes, something is going on, but that's about it!

**Otherwise, it's rather quiet.

November is filled with slow days at work, and days off for continuing education seminars.

Dh's folks visited last weekend; mine this weekend. Trying to work a weekend in the Sierras (at the family cabin), perhaps the following weekend. Then we host Thanksgiving, as usual.

The seminars could be spendy with parking and meals out. But most of the rest is going to be pretty darn cheap. Thanksgiving is a potluck of sorts, and we always have more free turkeys than we know what to do with.

**I set out quite a few bags for charity I while back, and later I found I forgot 2 of them. I also have some more fragile items to pack up.

I forgot one charity pickup in between, but just got notice of another one in the next week. Will feel good to clear out the rest of that clutter.

**I earned 2 free items at the Oroweat store, with my punch card. Will try to pick up 2 free loaves of bread this week. That may be it for this week's bread purchase.

**Still working on getting an account set up at Alliant CU. Their interest rate is still 2%. Ally's has dropped to 1.55% in the interim. Good time to move - I can see the writing on the wall that GMAC/Ally will most likely drop their old MM accounts with checking option. I'll keep a token amount in there since their rates have been historically higher, but looks like Alliant will be a better place for most of our cash, for now. Application is processing.

Ironically, I had to send all sorts of personal info to them because of my ID theft. I told dh that I have to reveal more personal info than usual because of the ID theft. IT just feels so wrong. I had to mail off a copy of my SS card, for one. Ugh! It's just the way it is...

**I get the sense that people (like the Dave Ramsey and extreme anti-debt crowd) mistake my nonchalance about credit cards as cockiness. As I am told over and over that using credit cards will end up biting me in the ass.

Hmmmm, thing is I use credit cards on my terms. & if I had to drop them all tomorrow, not sure I'd particularly care. It's not that I don't think my rewards will dry up or that I will get charged annual fees. It's that I don't care and have no problem dropping them like hot potatoes if that is the better choice. Anyone else frustrated by this distinction?

Stupid me for arbitraging 0% loans into 6% FDIC-insured cash returns, averaging $750/year in cash rewards, and for using my excellent FICO score for rock bottom mortgage rates and favorable insurance rates. How could I be so stupid??? Big Grin

Since I've played this game for about 14 years, I Am not terribly worried about it. & I am certainly not opposed to paying everything with cash if it is the better option. It just isn't, yet...

Consequences of Having Cash - Prioritizing

November 8th, 2009 at 03:18 pm

The consequence of possibly getting our cash in order within a year, is that when you have cash it is easier to spend it.

In theory anyway. Dh and I are not the greatest examples as we can be a bit of cash hoarders. But by the same token, I do feel like we are about to explode with purchases we haven't been able to justify since having kids.

I am not sure how the 2 sides will balance out, so better safe than sorry.

It is also always good to sit down and talk about this stuff with a spouse. Sometimes you have no idea they were thinking it was a good idea to make a huge purchase in a year or 2.

So, what does this say about us? The only *new* purchases we have on the horizon (things we don't already own):

Bed/Mattress for LM (NEED)
Security/Screen Door
Trip to Hawaii
Play Structure (for kids)
Ping Pong Table
Pool Table

The trip to Hawaii materialized this year as a potential reward for making it this long without dh working, as our finances improve. Also goes will with the whole 10-year-wedding-anniversary thing. Though we are starting to think we should make it an 11-year trip. I feel no pressing need to have to go ASAP.

That is a rather new thing, and the rest centers around our home. Because, well, we are home bodies!

Here's most of the rest of the list. ** Denotes replacing things we already own. Some need to be replaced; others we want to replace with newer and/or better:

**HDTV
**New Computer Monitors (20-ish years old - the both of them).
**Digital Camera (6 years old - pennies to replace with something 4 times better)
**Replace Fence
**Outdoor Furniture
**Replace Sectional Couch (I just hate it)
**Adobe Suite (Software)
**HD Camcorder
**Redo Bathroom Tiles
**Replace Garage Door Opener (Quieter)

Though I am often impressed how little our material wish list is (new items we don't already own), other times I see how overwhelming it can be to maintain a fair amount of material items. IT probably doesn't help that so much that we own was hand-me-down or free. OF course, the irony, if I think about it, is that most of the stuff we want to replace, WE BOUGHT NEW in the first place. Oy vey. No explanation for that! Big Grin

I keep thinking of more things for the list. I will have to update this post eventually. I'm probably forgetting quite a lot.

There will always be a list. I am quite sure some of these purchases will never be made. Not all of them are financially justifiable - & some are more necessary than others.

I am hoping that having a real, solid, written down list (that isn't merely in our heads) will help us to better manage them financially. This is definitely a new thing!

Various Updates...

November 8th, 2009 at 10:16 am

**Financial Update: Dh was surprisingly on board with hoarding cash for 2010. We both know if the market dips that we will be snatching up cheap stock though. I guess in the end it's rather win-win. Either we get in a strong cash position, or we buy more cheap stocks, in 2010.

**Another amazing TV purchase deal has been spotted by my dh. He didn't bring it up as though he wanted to buy it - more just at amazement at lower and lower HD prices.

Dh could have maybe talked me into it before our cash account started to reverse directions. Instead, I told him that these deals were starting to become rather common and I was pretty sure he would find an amazing TV deal between now and January. We discussed our cash position and decided to wait another year, as originally planned, no matter what. Will see if dh can stick to his guns. I can't say how it will pan out. I won't sweat getting a steal on a planned purchase, by jumping a bit early. Cash allows that luxury. BUT, I am getting the feeling the same deals will be had next year too. & I rather wait.

**I finished demolition in the bathroom and believe that next weekend I will be able to get our bathroom in full working order.

Will see!

I have second guessed myself much, like if I have ruined the bath and if we will need a professional after all. If I felt I had the means, I would hire someone to completely redo our baths. This is just a bandaid for now. No complaints about our home builder at all, but for the standard baths. We upgraded just about everything else. If I had known the crappy job they'd do on the standard baths, we would have upgraded those too and saved some money and headaches. The upgrades were mere pennies compared to ripping out and starting over.

Anyway, I am hoping my hard work will delay impending repairs for a few more years.

Once the bath is working I can do the much more minor repairs in the kids' bath. I know that one is an easier, longer lasting bandaid at least. But the use of our private shower would be nice too!

**In other news, my dad has been officially laid off from his job, post-stroke. He tried to return to work many months ago, and his employer clearly was trying to get him to quit in the meantime. Very frustrating, but paperwork has been signed as of last week. Officially laid off. His stroke was in May, and I believe he tried to return to work in September. Maybe they have only been dancing around it for 2 months, but it feels like it has been forever!!!!

With employers like these, who needs enemies? They treated him terribly. The worst was they fought him every step of the way - messing with stock options, COBRA, and everything in the process. Changing the rules as they went along. FINALLY, they hired a lawyer. The stress was the last thing he needed, but hell if he would quit and let them win, either. He wanted his job back!!!! Now he is eligible for unemployment, when his disability payments expire.

He's been job hunting best one can while still employed. Self survival - he would have quit if he found a job.

We are wary. His brain function is not quite 100%. Returning to his old job would have been far easier to test the extent of his disability. Now he will have to test his performance at a new job - which is rather scary.

Of course, the flip side is that he may never find another job.

My extremely financially prepared parents have been extremely zen of late. Initially they were hit with panic as my dad's employment evaporated before them. Not sure if he will ever work again - how scary! As prepared as they were, this wasn't exactly in the plans.

I think time and even moreso, facing their mortality, has changed their tune a bit. I really can't explain it. I am glad they aren't stressing though - I don't think they need to. Social security is only 40% or so of their income - and would pay all their bills at their prior lifestyle level, which was plenty nice. The reward for living well below one's means. Not to mention being amply insured, and having hit the poverbial lottery with their personal residence. That's a heck of a lot of insurance in itself. I am glad they have relaxed - I am sure they will be fine.

My dad is a workaholic. Lord willing, he will work many more years - he doesn't want to retire. But I think he is also accepting the possibility of retirement a little better now.

**In terms of our own health, dh and I have been noticing a lot more patterns in LM and are starting to feel that the asthma diagnosis is probably more than just a passing guess. We have suddenly noticed how exercise and allergens send off his coughing fits. I am sure we will have more doctor appointments as we explore exactly what all this means.

**Dh's general doctor called him after talking to the neurologist. I figured that was kind of done, but she sent dh for a hearing test. He one done as recently as last year, as they followed up from his last spell of hearing loss. The hearing tech (for lack of a better word) was very informative. Mentioned brain tumor actually. Said, the hearing loss was not characteristic with a tumor (it had returned to his "normal" of a year ago - but still had some strange characteristics noted a year ago). The tech or whoever he met with said they would refer him back to his ear/nose/throat doctor and would not be surprised if that doctor recommended a MRI to be on the safe side.

I could flip a coin. We have the cash and I certainly don't mind being on the safe side. So we will see if we hear any more on that. If not, I am confident that it is not warranted.


Health Update

November 4th, 2009 at 08:11 am

Dh seems to be fine, so phew.

His first doctor appointment didn't go so well. Doctor mentioned the word, "Stroke," though she really didn't have a clue. At that point it flipped me out a bit, considering my dad had a stroke this year, etc. I thought maybe I had been in complete denial. (Looking back, I think it just didn't seem to be that at all, so I logically ruled it out). But at the point I did think maybe I was in denial. She was stumped and actually called a neurologist at the hospital. He just said, "I'd need to see him." Since they weren't really sure if it was something serious at that point, they got him an appointment right away.

We went over to the big hospital, and I told dh I knew for a fact he was getting into a neurologist faster than my dad did, who had a much more major stroke. Didn't know if this was good or bad. But good to get answers.

In the end, no answers, but I did like the neurologist. He said his brain looked completely healthy, from initial examination, and he thinks it is just an inner ear thing, set off by a virus. Dh tends to get vertigo and hearing loss with colds, etc.

My pet peeve, you know, is making important decisions based on finances. Too often a doctor or nurse has muttered, "I would do this, but it's expensive, and I assume you can't afford it." Not said in those exact words, but pretty much. One nurse said, "Oh I see you have this plan and can't afford it." HUH???? I will afford anything for my health. It's just a bit of my pet peeve when it comes to car repairs and health visits.

ANYWAY, I didn't like the way this was going. Doctor said he could do further testing, "but it's expensive." This guy really wanted to piss me off, didn't he? We are talking about a loved one's brain! Who cares how much it cost for a flipping test?

But he did redeem himself. He made clear that he was confident that dh's brain was fine, and that he didn't want to put him through that at this point - not enough symptoms to justify it all. At least this is logical. (Next steps would be blood testing and MRI).

If dh does have further episodes, etc., then it is possible he will get an MRI. For now, everything seems fine, and the virus thing seems logical.

The neurologist was very "it's up to you," as was everyone else we talked to. They seemed a little sympathetic that his symptoms were a little freaky. I think it was like, "If you want a MRI.." "If you want drugs, if you want another appointment, whatever you need."

In the end he is better and we decided to drop it.

So I am relieved to say he seems fine. If his ear bothers him again we may pursue more of an ear specialist, but it's hard to do much at this point, now that he is 100% again.

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I've not felt very well - but could just be stress. A billion germs seem to be flying round. We all seem to have a *touch of* everything, if that makes sense. Work is terribly slow, and by some miracle I barely used any sick days this year. So I am glad I can stay home and rest. (With the kids in preschool dh and I were constantly sick, but that seems to have passed. Phew!!! Last year wasn't so bad, but I had a nasty flu that knock me out almost 2 weeks. I will be proud to end this year with only a handful of sick days - assuming that is possible. Shouldn't get ahead of myself I guess, but we usually all get hit harder in the spring - more stress I guess with tax season and everything. Right now everything seems to be mild as we have low stress otherwise).

Pay Those Bills Late

November 3rd, 2009 at 06:39 am

What is one secret to squeezing out more savings? Pay your bills "late!"

Actually, the deal is, someone in the forums was asking about a budget problem and not getting paid for 30 days or something. They were concerned about their mortgage payment. If they were that tight for money, I figured they probably already knew their mortgage had a grace period. I didn't want to state the obvious, but brought it up.

The reply was something like, "I could never pay the mortgage late!" Like I suggested something pretty terrible.

Oy vey!

Anyway, I think it's a good tip and it got me thinking, so I had to share.

(I mean, come one MM blog followers - do I delight in paying my bills late? LOL).

Most mortgages (check with yours) allow a 15-day grace period. Meaning, you can pay your mortgage 15 days "late" with no negative consequences. I have always kept this in the back of my mind - it would be the first action in case of emergency - I would pay the mortgage ve after the 1st instead of before the 1st.

& yes, I have paid my mortgage "late" MANY times. I know for a fact that there is no negative consequences.

After that discussion I was thinking about it. Well, my $2150 property tax bill was due Sunday. But no penalty is assessed until December 10th. I mean come on, the REAL due date is December 10. I don't know anyone financially savvy who pays their tax bill in November, unless they just like to pay their bills super early. By waiting for December 1, I will earn $4 in interest. $4!!!!! If you collect pennies, why wouldn't you pay your bills on their real due dates???

So, anyway. I don't know if there are any other bills I habitually pay "late." Probably not. Everything else should really probably be paid on time, to avoid penalties and issues. & credit cards? The earlier the better.

Thing is, most people don't realize their mortgage company can be rather lenient compared to other types of companies.

I googled a bit to see how standard a 15-day mortgage grace period is, and it looks pretty standard. Late payment is not reported until 30 days.

If it were me, and I had no income for a month, and no savings, I would just pay the mortgage late. Even if over 15 days - take the penalty, and call it a day. Beats racking up credit card debt or a loan. If it doesn't affect your credit score, since you paid in 30 days, why not? I still think it seems like the easiest solution, given the scenario. But hey, what do I know???

Anyway, why have I often paid my mortgage "late?" To avoid touching my savings (generally in times of higher interest) for a simple, temporary cash flow issue. I find it easier than juggling all my savings around. I've had a years worth of savings in the bank, and paid the mortgage "late" so I wouldn't have to jiggle money around.

Obviously I take my mortgage very seriously. I wouldn't recommend paying it late, habitually, beyond using it as a money management tool.

I guess the other thing is being an accountant, I view the "due date" as merely a suggestion. I get the feeling that some people view it as a moral obligation. Believe me, as long as said company gets paid and doesn't have to send you a late notice, it's all good!

Asthma

November 2nd, 2009 at 08:13 pm

LM was unofficially diagnosed with asthma today.

I am $150 poorer, but glad that the nebulizer is quite affordable! Phew! (We didn't have prescription coverage for a time, and I think that now we do?)

Um, doc says he does not have swine flu, and probably did not have it in the first place.

Though he has always been a little wheezy when sick (& believe me we have asked the doc about it) and prone to what we thought was allergies, the asthma showed itself in coughing fits. They have been coming on and off quite suddenly, but last night was pretty terrible. So we sent him off to the doc today.

Our city has extremely high rates of asthma and allergies, so not surprising in the least.

I am even starting to think back on some of BM's "croup" episodes and wonder if he could have asthma as well. There was a time for about a year that he would get that awful croup cough out of nowhere, be terribly ill, and it would just go away. The doc kept saying he would outgrow that horrible cough any day. (I think he has, but knock on wood). Something to consider if it does come on again. It is just occurring to me that BM is also known for sudden crazy coughing.

For now, it's just a guess and doctor wants us to let her know if the nebulizer helps, and if we find we are using it often, etc. Then we can go from there.

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Poor LM though. He had such a rough night last night and nothing would help his cough. At least we have another tool for the next coughing fit.

& of course, by the time we got in to the docs' today, he was good as new. Thankfully she heard a wheeze. Otherwise not sure the doctor visit would have been as productive.

Chores, Chores, Chores

November 1st, 2009 at 05:07 pm

"Productivity" must be in the air. It is definitely a fall thing.

**Counted kids' money today, and BM has a $50 deposit. It is so funny how crammed full his piggy bank was with $1 bills. Mental note: check his piggy bank more often.

For now, BM is the saver (he is like dh: likes his electronics, but hell if he would spend a dime on anything else. Seems totally disinterested in fads. Though, since dh gets so many games and books for free, he is content).

LM is more imaginative and could play with lint all day, but he also likes collecting little characters. He has been the spendy one. That being said, Grandma spoils him a bit, and as spendy as he is, he still had about $40 in his piggy bank. Go figure. (He doesn't get an allowance yet, so BM has much more dough).

**Dh and I discussed no-spend November. Well, I think it will be "low-spend November." We've spent our money for the year, pretty much. (Keep in mind - all our November bills are already paid, etc. Anything in December will mostly be charged, and paid in January).

Today I reconciled all our "savings buckets" accounts - spreadsheets - through the end of the year. In the end, I don't think we will have to touch any other savings (barring Murphy or unforeseen), but on the flip side I am upset that I have no money to add to the efund. Maybe next year!

We will end rather breakeven in short-term savings, and with $0 in the medical savings. $20k-ish in more long-term savings/efund.

I think short term savings needs a $150/month boost. That is where preschool money will divert to, mid-2010.

(Drats - and I forgot to account for possible $1k car repair. Might have to touch savings, after all. Won't beat myself up over it since short-term savings covered $2k body work on the van this year. I'll be lucky to have barely touched our "true savings," otherwise.).

**I've finished most of my goals for the year, but have completely ignored all my "house goals."

Until the month of October anyway.

This weekend I:

*Touched Up Paint
*Trimmed Trees (never done before)
*starting demolition on bathroom repairs.

Last one sounds fancy, but I am mostly just removing grout, old caulk, and cleaning for re-caulking.

The nice thing is I have all the time in the world for bath projects. I have quite a few areas to work on. Our bathroom has not been used for years, and so I will take my time on it. Once it is in working order, we can start work on the other bath. The perk to having 2 full baths. (My bath will be the most tedious - the only one with grout to remove. The reason being that it was falling out all over the place. I got all the easy stuff on Friday, and the rest will be a chore. Just where the tile meets the bottom of the shower. I have read that it should be caulked - where different materials meet - so that is what I will do. I read builders are bad about this detail, but it hasn't affected our other 2 tubs. I am just going to caulk over the other 2 tubs since the grout has held up. Phew!).

The only other frustration this weekend is that the door paint, which we had never opened or used, was all "curdled." We went by the paint store today, but it was closed. Doh! Builder gave us small 1/2 gallons of touch up paint, and wrote down the paint #s. Hopefully it will be easy to replace (though I am not terribly sure that it's the right paint to begin with?).

So all I was able to touch up was the walls, but they do look like a million bucks.

In the end, might have to pick a new color for 2 doors, and completely repaint them. Worst case, anyway.

Anyway, I was starting to think I might not hit any house goals this year. No idea where this motivation has come from, but I will take it!

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Enjoy it while you can. I don't plan to make "house repair" a hobby. I have actually been a pretty terrible procrastinator on this. Like, I rather not use the shower, than fix it!

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Dh earned his keep. He did minor garage door repair, changed air filters, and promised to repair a hole in the wall (from doorknob - pesky kids loosened the door stopper). Him and the kids helped me with the trees, too. Dh did the grunt work.

Oh yeah - I figured I'd attempt to remove our small, dead tree. It seemed wobbly, so I gave it a good kick. Well, that was all it needed! Dh ended up having to saw it up into smaller pieces. It was just too dry/brittle. But I was able to get all the live tree branches trimmed. Borrowed saw came in handy!

I also drug dh along on a home repair shopping trip. Though I ended up buying most of it online (cheaper).

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One thing to add: I puzzled over our grocery bill this month, since it was quite high, for 2 months in a row. & um, family was gone for ONE WEEK? I thought this month would even out since dh had stocked up on so much before their trip in October. (To be fair - I gave a fair amount of food away because dh cooked more like for 2-3, than for one).

Anyway, I swear the kids have asked for a snack about 100 times today!!!!! I think I can see the culprits! They usually do not eat light in the least, but I think keeping them well fed will be challenging for a while. They get this way with growth spurts. I can not imagine what it will be like to have 2 teenaged boys!!! With their metabolisms? Oy vey!! Glad I have time to save up for that - may need a second income. Or a Costco membership. Wink

Holy Cow - Halloween

November 1st, 2009 at 07:48 am

We bought a small bowl of candy, and expected to have tons leftover. Our neighborhood can be hit and miss, but usually no one Trick or Treats much. Sometimes we are lucky to get 5 people, though we have had maybe one year (in 8?) that was crowded. Since we border a gated community, we figure, most people hit the "rich people in the gates" rather than bother with us.

Anyway, so we took the kids out with their neighbor friends, and holy cow, TONS of people out. The weather was divine! It was maybe 60-65 degrees. We were sweating in our jackets.

Funny enough, since hardly anyone seemed to be home in our neighborhood, at some point my neighbor asked if anyone remembered the gate code. I drew a blank though we need it to use the pool, and we had been there a billion times this summer. A guy handing out candy yelled out, "It ain't all that. I was just there - those houses are so spread out you have to walk farther. The pickings are better here." We've never sampled the bounty because, well, the kids don't need MORE CANDY. Was happy to stick to our slightly more modest neighborhood.

My one pet peeve of the evening was the number of people who left their outside lights on, but didn't answer the door. You know, usually there are one or 2, so whatever. But this year? It seems like half the houses. Which was frustrating since so few people were home to begin with.

We got home, and the kids skyped their grandparents and great-grandparents. I figured as things were winding down and we got our first Trick or Treaters, I was handing out handfuls. Then, about 20 kids came to the door - and well, I had about 20 pieces of candy left. Dh and the kids finished their skype and were like, "What the heck happened to the candy?????" LOL.

I turned off the light while we inspected the kids' candy. We always pick out all the crappy stuff and hand it back out.

We went through it, and we were shocked by the bounty. Quite a few large candy bars, and for a new record, there was not even one item we wanted to throw back. I personally like chocolate, and that is mostly what they had. But seriously? Nothing weird and/or cheap in the bunch? ??

I thought the whole thing was rather insane. The economy has hit our city VERY hard. I told dh, "Remember when we used to be happy with a small piece of candy?" At some point someone only handed the kids one piece of candy, and they exclaimed, "They only gave us one!" & we are like, "yeah? Be grateful?"

This halloween just left me scratching my head. A lot less people seemed to participate this year, in handing out candy. But the few that participated, went BIG. & all I saw was new, store bought costumes on the streets. Makes you think, "what economy whoas?" By the same token, it just shocks me at what HAlloween has become. The more/bigger, the better?

In the end - I think we ended up with 3 times the candy we started with, and we only went to a handful of houses, really. Holy cow!

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For us? Spent a few bucks on candy. LM wore a costume from 2007, and BM's dracula costume was all of $10.

But yeah, just had to share because, well, the end result was completely unexpected. I do thing the bigger turnout can be attributed to the nice weather. But, who knows. No logic for the biggest halloween bounty of all time.