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Archive for July, 2010

Newspaper - Read the Fine print

July 31st, 2010 at 12:54 pm

Got a chance to talk to dh about the newspaper renewal.

I laid it out - past annual prices - $111, $111, $130, now $150.

I was worried dh would not be on board, but he said, "Are you crazy??? That's the newstand price!"

I suppose I had my answer, but as he ranted and raved, I told him they have to obviously see who blindly pays.

I am completely fine with buying the Sunday paper from the corner store, myself!

Which led to our next discussion. When we call to cancel, and they offer us something else, what do we do?

He told me honestly he didn't want to pay more than $100.

I grabbed the bill to hand to him, and was about to say, "Good Luck," when I noticed the fine print.

We could get the paper for $104 dollars per year, if we signed up for auto bank or credit payments.

I kind of think it is ingenious marketing. See who will blindly pay $150. BUT, have an option for the people who are going to say, "No way!!"

So, we didn't even have to call. We get the paper for $104 for the following year.

Of course, I am curious what they will charge us next year, then. Hmmmm.

& now I am going to pull out last year's statement and see if I missed this $2/week offer.

We can still prepay the whole year, which sounds good to me.

More Nickel & Diming

July 31st, 2010 at 10:24 am

**So, dh ran my swimsuit through the wash, and ruined it. Actually, I think it was the dryer. I have worn it a few times, since. I noticed that the elastic straps got messed up somehow. I don't let dh wash my clothes, and lord knows how he got ahold of my swimsuit.

I have made sure he never washes it again. Gah! (He's heard me whine enough about it!)

I notice it has holes in the undergarment part (I think those are new) and the rest of it has lost most of its elasticity. It's been wearable since it is a tankini, as long as I tuck it in. Otherwise it is just hanging on me - more like a shirt than a bathing suit.

I am annoyed because it took me a long time to find this swim top, and it suited me very well. I searched my blog. I did buy it exactly 3 years ago - for our cruise. I suppose I can treat myself to a new swim top, for HAwaii. I was thinking the bottom halfs were getting kind of tired looking (& I must have bought those years prior, since I only mentioned buying a top in my blog).

Of course, this is assuming I can even find anything, this time of year. Rolleyes

Kohls is having a big sale online, but the pickings are slim. I'll probably go try stuff and attempt to buy sight unseen if that is my only choice. At least the prices are good. Selection? Not so much.

The last one I paid good money for, but I figured I'd be keeping it a lot longer. I know 3 years isn't half bad, but it was perfectly fine before it met its fate in the wash. Looked as good as the day I bought it...

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**Dh bought a new filter for the fridge water. HE didn't tell me it was just about $50, *choke choke* It was about $45 last year, and $40 the year before. I think they recommend to change it every 6 months, and we just change it once a year.

I am totally fine with tap water - it is just easier to get water out of the door.

BUT, these prices are ridiculous. I think I will suggest to dh that we just change it every 2 years. We can also look harder for other places to buy the filter. He just bought it at Sears, where we bought the fridge. OR we could resume keeping cold tap water in a container in the fridge. The cheapest route, for sure.

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**As mentioned, I am hoping to talk dh into dropping our newspaper subscription. It has gotten so expensive.

Today, I also dropped our $6/month for green energy. We have a local/public electric company, and for $6/month all of our electricity comes from renewable resources. Not bad, right?

Our gas company is a private company and though I have looked at some of their green energy type programs, carbon offsets, etc., etc., I haven't heard much good about them.

On the flip side, have heard nothing but good things about our electric program.

That said, with everything going up, I am trying to slice where it is easiest. IT's $6 that we just don't need to be wasting at the moment.

If dh gets a job, we'll commit to the $6 again, and feel warm and fuzzy about it. For now, I feel like, "Take that!" Maybe relieved there is something easy to cut in our budget.

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But, I think this year it is all really hitting. Last year we didn't feel it so much. A lot of places were rather slow to raise prices. Work was good. We took advantage of rock bottom interest rates, and found some extra cash by refinancing. (Lowered our house payment $200/month). We ate out more than usual because of coupons galore. Even this year, we have been able to take advantage of record low prices for things like getting our house painted.

BUT, the tide is definitely turning. I did take a hit to my own compensation this year, and as things are renewing and government budgets are put in place for the new fiscal year, all of our bills seem to be on the rise. I don't remember a year like this before. Sometimes, a, b, and c will rise prices a bit, but x, y, z will lower them. It usually seems to even out. This year is just lots of economic pressure.

Though we are still getting a lot of good coupons - that said. Maybe even more than we have been. I have been getting $5 off Round Table Pizza and $10 off oil change coupons, multiple times a week. Those are usually rare treasures, even in this economy.

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In other news, my co-worker is getting her house painted for about $5k. She is the one who is refinancing. I referred my paint guy to her, and lord knows why they didn't go with him. Didn't even call him. They may have their reasons, so I didn't push it. But she was just kind of like, "We are paying for it with the refinance." The conversation was like, "We didn't shop around at all because the money is coming out of the sky."

I don't want to pick on her, because I like her, and she is probably more financially responsible than 90% of Americans out there (maybe 95%?).

BUT, I still can't get past this. It's like talking to someone and one day realizing that you aren't speaking the same language. & you didn't realize it before.

I mentioned before that she is about 15 years my senior, which is the part that is ultra mind boggling to me. In 15 years, I want my mortgage paid off! I know that may be a lofty goal, and maybe I won't quite make it. But I can't foresee anything that would make me so nonchalant about borrowing money against my house, as I approach age 50.

I suppose the important thing is that I mentioned all this to dh, and he was dumbfounded. What is important is that apparently him and I speak the same language. & it's nice to talk to someone who speaks the same language. Not, "IS it just me???"

I'll keep scratching my head as the topic of this refinance keeps coming up, but it's none of my business, I don't know the whole picture, and it doesn't affect me. & so life will move on!

This & That & When not to be Cheap

July 31st, 2010 at 07:05 am

My lazy days of summer have been replaced with crazy busy crazy. Yikes! What a week. 7/31 is a deadline at work, but its just one of those times where the stars aligned and everything went wrong. Too much client drama (divorces, fighting partners - stuff like that).

I told dh at some point, "This is worse than tax season!" But, it was only one week, and I feel like I have dug my way out. Phew. I feel a little more relaxed today.

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**Read an article in the paper about DIY security putting pressure on security firms. I can't find it online, unfortunately. I found the article kind of funny because I grew up in the land of engineers. Security IS DIY. So they were talking about DIY security stuff that we have had for decades. BUT, I do admit that the ability to unlock your front door remotely from the computer, and stuff like that, is a step up in an interesting direction. (The rest is yawn, a lot of this stuff has been around well more than 10 years???)

I also shared this because I notice random regional differences here and there. Anyone around here who cares about their finances does DIY security. I Was surprised how much stock other people (forums) put into those security monitoring firms. I think it comes down to regional differences. & I realize more and more every day, the region I come from is *Weird.* Big Grin

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**Speaking of this newspaper article, I got the newspaper subscription renewal. Dh fights to keep it every year. I pulled up Quicken real quick to see what we paid the last few years, $111, $111, $129. Now they are asking about $150. Ouch! At $111 dh told me it was worth the ads/coupons alone. I am not sure I will be so easily convinced this year. Will see!

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**I just got the notice from my credit union asking me to sign up for overdraft protection for debit card transactions. So they can charge me all sorts of fees when I go over.

Actually, I never use my debit card and I never have overdrafts. So, I will obviously NOT opt in.

But, I have heard some banks are pretty obnoxious about asking you a zillion times. I can't help but feel their measly $3 overdraft fee is not a HUGE moneymaker for them. But, I could be wrong. They are obviously trying to spin it, calling it a "New Courtesy program," to let us overdraft and charge us lots of fees to do so. Big Grin

The overdraft thing is just not anything in my realm of understanding.

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**On a final note, it has been asked in the forums, "What would you never scrimp on, or be cheap about?"

That is a hard question for me to answer. I can be cheap with just about anything, honestly.

But, a bell has gone off in my head a few times. My answer would be LEGAL SERVICES. Realtors and estate lawyers, come to mind.

I know a lot of people don't feel the same way, but a lot of people haven't seen as many people as I have, completely screwed over, losing tens of thousands of dollars going cheap.

We've done a fair amount of house buying and selling in our young lives, and we unintentionally ended up with a M.O. of sniffing out bad realtors on the other side. Particularly, bad selling realtors. When house hunting, this has never been particularly our plan, but this is always where we end up. Good for us, but all I See is money down the drain for the sellers. They'd be better off FSBO. I've said, you'd be better off with no realtor than with a bad one. (But a good one is worth their weight in gold!)

& then there are legal fees.

The biggie that I see a lot at work, is Estate planning.

The wisdom is that if you live in California, and you own a home, then you need a living trust. I think most people are skeptical of this advice. PArticularly frugal people. They don't really understand what a living trust buys them.

As I watch the drama unfold all the time at work though, I KNOW why I need to have my estate affairs in good working order. At the least, it takes a lot of stress off my heirs. At the most, it ensures my intentions are carried out, and not unintended consequences I didn't foresee.

Anyway, I share, because this week a client sold a house. She inherited it when her mother died, about 3 years ago.

Her mother didn't want to spend $1k or so on a will and living trusts. (Actually, in this case, this was not the reason - but I will pretend it is because it is an example I see ALL the time!)

This means that they had to go through probate court, to settle the estate. They pay a percentage of assets to the probate court, for all the legal fees and such, and after 2 years, the title is changed and everything goes where it should. As the sole heir, this was a pretty cut and dried estate settlement.

MEanwhile, she had to maintain this home for about 3 years (property taxes, insurance, etc., etc.) and got to list it in a TERRIBLE market. IT took many months to sell, and the house is worth about half what it was 3 years ago. So, she may have lost $150k in that.

Of course, the lost home value if the least of it. HAving to deal with all of this for THREE years after losing her mother, has been very hard. I have seen this over and over.

For comparison? Clients with living trusts, have been able to settle all of their affairs within a couple of months, and immediately put homes up for sale.

I had a client with a net worth of over $3 million, who passed away this year. Her entire estate was settled and distributed within a few months. Many different properties, etc. The legal fees to do so were a drop in the bucket compared to how much probate would have cost.

I understand this is a regional thing, too. But all I know is I wouldn't do that to my family. I spent about $1500 to make it as easy on them as possible, by getting a proper estate plan. Money WELL spent. I think the motivating factor is not even the money. BUT, doing so will obviously save our heirs well over $1500, in the long run.

Being Spontaneous

July 28th, 2010 at 06:51 am

Trying it our for a couple of weeks anyway.

I tried to book whale watching tickets, and the system online was clunky. I probably should have just called (but the place also said be patient about calls because phone was ringing off the hook).

Their tickets were refundable at least. Never heard anything, and so after about 36 hours, I Decided to just go buy from the most expensive place. It was $10 per person more than all the others, BUT clearly had the nicest boat. I suppose the price was a huge deterrent, because none of their weekend cruises were sold out yet. (All the rest are, at this point).

So I bit the bullet this morning. Was $150 for the 4 of us (service fees, too). I will call the other place later to make sure we aren't double booked.

Actually, I am ultra excited about the trip. It's rare when we randomly drop $150 on something, but I do believe this is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and am not stressed about it at all. It's more of a frugal victory. That we can drop everything and do this last minute trip. This is WHY we live like we do.

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Of course, soon after is our Colorado trip. That is a "Drop everything to see Grandma" trip. Kind of the same thing but it will cost 10 times as much, and will probably be a little less exciting. Wink But I suppose it is along the same vein.

After which, we can resume being boring! Big Grin

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LM did end up starting the pre-K program. It has been awesome. He is teacher's pet. He is the type who immediately loves or hates anyone, and so, I hope he isn't setting high expectations for his K teachers. I hope he isn't too upset when he meets the real K teacher. They are all sweet ladies, but with him, who knows. He will find something to hate.

The other funny observation I made is that BM prefers daddy and LM seems to prefer me. I couldn't help but notice that he just seemed in love with his teacher. He likes females more. It's kind of funny. BM currently has a male teacher and is in heaven. He lucked out with him for 2 years - I don't think there is another male teacher in the entire school. I would have said that it was because dh stays home, but LM has always been more momma's boy, regardless. He also has always had a lot of girlfriends. He just prefers females. So, I think BM kind of put up with kindergarten, but I can see Kinder being an ideal little world for LM. The K teachers are so maternal with the wee little ones.

Summertime...

July 25th, 2010 at 12:22 pm

**Aaaaaaahhhhhhh... Just enjoying a nice leisurely summer weekend.

I actually worked a bit yesterday (or a lot) and didn't get home until 2 or 3. It works out, because I didn't want to use any vacation time for Denver. It's coming up, and with July 31 being a big deadline, and me taking Monday off for a seminar, I really needed to get some hours in. Though I could probably work some overtime next weekend, it's more necessary THIS weekend! I just put my time to next week, and put everything over 40 hours next week, I'll put to the following week. Vacation time off, solved.

Of course, I was pretty beat from a long work week, when I got home, but after recovering, we decided to go to the pool. Unfortunately, dh doesn't find it as relaxing as I do. But I drug him along with his book - hopefully he got a little bit of relaxation out of it. Our neighbors ended up showing up with pizza, and I sent dh home to grab some popsicles to share. Kids were in pool heaven. The unexpected free dinner was nice!

We have definitely been going to the pool more. I told the kids we could go tonight, because I know I won't have to get IN the pool with them. It makes all the difference. Usually it's just more exhausting with weaker swimmers. But, we are definitely taking advantage of the amenities this year, and enjoying the difference it makes to take strong swimmers there.

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Today, dh left me alone with the kids, and they were a little stir crazy, so I told them we could go outside before it got too hot. Ah, the weather is DIVINE. Is about 80 degrees, with a really nice, cool breeze. Our front tree has gotten big enough to provide substantial a.m. shade (this is new), and the kids ended up drawing chalk on the sidewalk (mostly) while I did some financial housekeeping on my netbook. I just sat in the garage and told them to stick to the shade, ORELSE I'd have to get out the sunblock!

The sun felt much hotter, so wasn't in the mood to walk to the park or anything. It's supposed to be a 100-degree day. We try to enjoy the cool mornings and evenings.

Absolutely nothing planned for the rest of the day, either.

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We were thinking of going to the Star Trek exhibit, but it will be around until January, and we decided to take it easy this weekend. Then the whole whale watching thing came up, so probably for the best. We will probably go sometime in the fall.

I am not sure how whale watching will pan out. Between that, and the Pre-K program starting TOMORROW, we have to re-arrange all our plans with MIL. She was going to take one kid each, for about 4-5 days. Now we want to shanghai the kids in the middle of that, for this whale tour, but we will work it out. Plan A is to invite her along. Will see. Another Plan is to leave the kids with her, and sneak off to see the whales ourselves. Cheaper that way? Big Grin

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**We returned a few gifts that the kids got for their birthdays. Others, we left at Grandma's house. Was a good idea, I think.

MIL also sent down a pile of school clothing, so I will be able to take back some of what I bought. Turns out I liked the shorts she got better, and she did listen when I told her I did not need any shirts (got a bunch from Hanes, very cheap). So, I can take back the more expensive shorts that I liked less anyway. Phew!

This is a nice gift because the kids even have some pants now. All I really need is a jacket for LM (which can wait a couple of months) and maybe more pants come October. I can live with that.

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Yesterday I found time for a DIY mani/pedi. I have bright red toe nails and shiny/clear/polished nails.

Life is good!

Whales & Tax Dollars

July 24th, 2010 at 11:16 am

The city, or whoever, put a big median in the major road by our house, a while back. There was absolutely no thought put into this project. When we come out of our development, we can turn right, to the west, where there is absolutely NOTHING. OR we go left/east, to where everything is. But, it didn't occur to them to leave us space to turn left from our street. We have to go right a couple of blocks, and make a U-turn. YEah... This effectively doubles our commute to the school across the street, when we drive or bike. (Or we can go out another exit when we drive, which is less convenient, and means a drive down the speed bump road from hell).

Did I mention the school across the street? NO crosswalks!

I suppose we should feel lucky they left 2 spaces in the median to turn left into the school parking lots. Rolleyes

Anyway, at some point, they ripped out some of the median, and put in a crosswalk. A little more helpful for when we bike ride, but a bit too impractical for walking. We just jaywalk.
Since there is literally nothing to the west, there are no cars to navigate when crossing the street, so, eh.

Anyway, they just started ripping out the median by the end of our street. Could it be? We can turn LEFT again??? HALLELUJAH!

Ah, our tax dollars at work. Gotta love it.

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We may do a rather impromptu trip to Monterey, next weekend.

Whales crowd Monterey Bay to feast on krill bonanza
http://www.sacbee.com/2010/07/24/2911782/whales-crowd-monter...

Um, one 3-hour tour saw 80 whales, and almost 600 dolphins? & 8 blue whales???? (1 blue whale is a rare sight).

We actually went on a whale watching cruise once, in Washington. We didn't see any whales. No regrets though. The views were spectacular, and we saw lots of wildlife.

This just looks like an amazing "once in a lifetime opportunity." IT looks pretty guaranteed we will see some whales (Many!!). So, will see if we can squeeze it in. I just peeked and one place is sold out most of the week. But maybe we can get reservations for next weekend. If not, will have to pass up the opportunity. We have plans the following 2 weekends.

All that said, we may go down to the beach and watch them with binoculars. Will be our frugal alternative, though we may have to get there early to get parking! We can stay with our parents Saturday night and drive down to the beach really early, though. Lots of options.

But, I am liking the idea of the cruise, myself. Will see!

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Well, BM starts soccer next weekend. I suppose it will get a little busy with that.

I am still working on the piano thing. Formal lessons would be much preferable. It's too easy to slack off, and though I haven't had any issues for the most part, he was very huffy his last lesson. Lots of eye rolling and heavy sighs - that kind of thing. I see clear as day why it is a big no no to not teach your kids. But, he is still very open to it, so there is something. This is all my pocketbook has room for. (I should feel lucky this was the first "bad" lesson we had, I suppose).

I can probably get LM started, but I think one kids is my limit for now. Need to get in a better groove.

I can't help but feel the irony that the top of my list of what to do with more income is "buy piano lessons," when we really have more time for that commitment without each dh working. Figures!

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LM is never interested in doing anything, but both kids LOVED swimming lessons.

We paid $20 per lesson, I believe, for a top notch swimmer to teach at our pool.

We paid $30 per lesson for their last lessons. But our expectations were high, and their teacher blew our expectations out of the water.

The kids loved her and all that, but I got what I wanted. Better swimmers. I can't justify spending more money on that.

Dh is the one home with the kids though and he hears how much they want more swim lessons. He found someone who looks really good on paper who will come to our pool for $10 per lesson. ($15 for 2 kids at once).

I told dh that was nice, but BM starts soccer next week, and doesn't need any more swim lessons. I refuse to pay for him. That said, LM never wants to do ANYTHING. & I do not mind continuing lessons for him. We just finished preschool, and our pool is only open until Labor Day. SO, if he wants one more month of lessons, whatever.

Will see how we like the teacher. I told dh not to get his hopes up because clearly we had some top tier teachers already, and have high expectations.

Great Article, interesting talk with dh

July 21st, 2010 at 07:33 am

**We got dh's car back within a few hours of dropping it off at the mechanic. New rotors. I kind of guessed since he mentioned last time that they were iffy. No complaints, here. Our 2000+ vehicles have been AMAZING with the brakes. It could be our driving habits, here. We drive mostly freeway and not much stop and go. I was a lot rougher on my brakes when I was younger, but definitely did a lot more stop and go kind of driving, all the same. This is the first time on dh's car at 110k miles, and I am wondering when the van (@80k) will need brake work. We've always driven such old cars, before these, that the batteries and the brakes blow my mind. Both lasted 100k miles, easy peasy, on these newer vehicles.

Anyway, $300 to replace his rotors. Was our only car repair this year, thus far. With the way things had been going, I was sure it would be something in the $1k range. So, I am pleased!

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When we got home last night, I voiced to dh how frustrated I was with our savings pace, and how relieved I was that the repair was only $300. I told him I about gave up, since I have been trying to get to a $30k cash minimum, for the last 18 months or so, and how I can't seem to get past $20k, no matter what happens. I am saving $1k per month for this goal! But, far more expenses, lately.

While voicing my frustration, I told dh I was thinking of dropping the goal, and resuming retirement contributions, come 1/1. We will put a fair amount in this year (more than $0), but I would like to start 1/1 either maxing out one ROTH @ $400/month, or even better, putting away 10%. IT is critical since my employer took away our 10% retirement contributions this year. I need to start making them, myself.

(In addition, when we had no money to save, no expenses ever come up. I can't help like feel like I will be frustrated, until I put retirement first. It always seems to kind of work out).

& then I said, "The only thing that stresses me out is the vehicles. I don't see how having a payment would help, because it reduces how much I can save. I am stressed out that the van is catching up on miles, and now fear that both vehicles will need to be replaced around the same time. Maybe I should let it go and figure you will be working by the time we need a new vehicle, but it still is stressing me out, because who knows what will happen."

KEep in mind - we only pay cash for vehicles.

Dh told me, "Well, if something happens, we'll get a vehicle for a couple of thousand dollars."

I said, "Duh."

This still stresses me out, plenty.

Then the conversation got interesting. At some point or other (in the distant past), I vocalized that our second vehicle was a luxury, and dh didn't quite agree. I mean, he realized it on some level, but I think I would have quite a fight to ever settle on one vehicle.

So dh shocked the hell out of me, and says, "Look, if we find ourselves in a situation with needing to replace 2 cars, we can live with one. Heck, if one goes, we don't have to replace it right away. The kids are both in school now and we can walk or bike to anywhere we need to go, while you are at work, for the most part." The kids' school is just down the street.

I mulled on that a while, and he is right. I just needed that perspective.

It was very eye opening for me, because the only thing I am REALLY struggling with, on this one income thing, is replacing the cars at the level we have gotten used to. Both our cars were purchased in the $10k range. They are great and fine and will last a long time. But, saving the replacement cost has been daunting on one income. We are doing good on savings at the moment, but dh bought his vehicle in 2002, and most the last 8 years we haven't saved a dime for another car. I am still catching up for some lost savings years.

Of course, all that said, the $30k goal is probably more about the economy than anything. Emergency fund for unemployment. But, taking the car out of the equation, makes me feel a little lighter, all the same. So, phew.

I have been wondering how we can continue to maintain 2 vehicles on one income while maybe I should have realized it would be easier to give one up to prolong our one-income status. It feels like a "duh," moment. Dh would only give it up if the car died, though. Or needed an extraordinarily expensive repair.

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In other news, I read a good article in Money Magazine:

7 Secrets of Super Savers

http://money.cnn.com/galleries/2010/moneymag/1007/gallery.su...

Of course, the website article had 8 secrets!

This article was so good, I am going to make copies of the magazine version.

I have noticed MANY times over the years that people have been jealous of our income/lifestyle, and found that they might make double our income. Happens ALL the time.

A friend recently told me that she had no idea how "people do it." The 1-income thing, which she is working very hard towards.

I read this article, and it sums it up pretty well. I am thinking, next time someone asks me that question. I will have to hand them this article? There is no one thing - it is a sum many differences in lifestyle and money management.

Nothing I haven't already said in this blog, probably.

Of note, "The simple act of tracking what you spend can help you spot places to cut."

I have never been very big on the budget. I don't set a budget for every spending category and track it every month. What I do do, is track my spending in Quicken. I know where every penny goes, and every single month I review it to spot problems, early on. It could be as simple as, "Dang, we really spent a lot on groceries last month. We will have to rein that in this month." I really just eyeball it, and if something is amiss, we can fix it immediately. I do try to stress to people, that you don't have to obsess over the numbers. You really just need to know where you stand!

The article also toted automatic savings. This is the one thing that I did not do before, and I have found has been very beneficial with a tighter budget. I save $2200 every month. It is a bill like all the rest, to me. I have to live on what's left after all the bills are paid, and that $2200 is transferred to savings. We save far more with this attitude. With much bigger incomes, we were used to saving "whatever was leftover," which may be 50% of our income. IT wasn't a bad thing. On one income, we find that nothing much is ever leftover unless we pay ourselves first.

Anyway, I am sure many SA bloggers will identify with this article!

Nickel & Dimed & Other Stuff

July 20th, 2010 at 01:01 pm

Just got the "water" bill. In general, it went up about 10%. It is really water/sewer/garabage/whatever. We have a city and a county bill. They equate to about $112/month now (up from $100). Maybe more, since I haven't got the county bill yet, for July 1 (new fiscal year). Ouch!

Metered water is optional here. Our city has a terrible reputation for wasting water. Only about $5 of the bill was for summer watering. Only $15 was the metered portion that I can control. (I averaged $10/month before watering season). Not much I can do about most of the rest of the $100.

Gotta love it!

It just figured, since I was just tallying up everything:

$9/month Netflix
$9/month LM's new allowance (up from $0).
$9/month Cable increase

We lost our cable promotional rate, this month, apparently. I looked over the bill, and we still get a substantial promotion for internet, for a few more months. So, by 2011, will be full rates. Ouch. Overall, seems to be worth it. Went from "bottom of the barrel" cable and internet to "top of the line." The sad thing, is we get like $100 if we refer people to Surewest. BUT, the 4-5 people I know we could talk into it (our more techie friends) all live in the Bay Area. & Surewest, for some logical reason I am sure, does not provide service there. But, I think they really should! The second they do, I know I can earn a pretty penny in referrals.

All these increases are being financed by the fact that I am saving $150/month on preschool expenses. Though, I was hoping to save most of it. But, that does justify the Netflix and cable increases, for us. I am just not enjoying everything else seeming to go up in $9 increments. It ALL adds up.

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Well, in other news, took dh's car in for squealy brakes. I am crossing my finger for it to be "nothing." Interestingly, they were squealing like crazy, and then stopped squealing. So, who knows. We have just been too busy/lazy to take it in. BUT, he wanted to go on a long drive with the kids later this week, to visit family. SO, told him I wanted to get the brakes looked at first. The only reason we had put it off was because they stopped squealing before we got around to taking it in. But we hadn't been driving the car much, either. I don't like messing with brakes.

Real Estate Update

July 18th, 2010 at 08:52 am

Another frugal day.

Yesterday we swam (LM is getting so much better in the pool. Will be 3 days in a row, today, but the practice has been awesome for him. He's got one more lesson).

We went to a free event at the museum. They had an awesome/hilarious magician. Was a great night.

Today we have friends over for pizza (take and bake from the grocery store - they have the best tasting/very low priced pizzas). Heading to the pool again.

I Was going to work, but dh talked me out of it. It's been a little busy, but I did remember that if I work next weekend it will be easier to apply it to my Denver vacation (I don't want to use any vacation time). So, I put off the inevitable, one more week.


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I haven't had much in the way of real estate updates, because, nothing is going on. Hardly anything is for sale. Just lots of empty homes that the banks have been too busy to foreclose or to try and sell. Kind of a mess.

BUT, there was some recent activity.

A single story home sold for $257k. Another for $235k. A 2-story home sold for $276k.

Most of these were short sales that have been sale for like a year or more.

This is good news. We owe just over $200k on our home, so we still seem to be in good above water territory. It is hard to tell when absolutely nothing is selling.

Anything priced $199k has sold in a flash, in recent years (bidding wars, even), but with all these short sales, the banks ask way more than market value. They haven't learned much. They've got homes sitting for months/years when they could have unloaded for about the same price by just asking for less to begin with. Gotta love it.

(To be fair, most of the $199k prices had been foreclosed homes - some of the banks act like they really do want to sell - and they sell FAST. When they ask $199k, they might get $230k because then there is a frenzy. I find that psychology so fascinating. Most people ask too much and don't get anywhere).

ETA: A few homes went up for sale recently. They are all "upgraded to the hilt" variety and ALL are short sales. The bank seems to be coming around to short sales - I don't think we have really had many before now. They are starting to see the light that a short sale may be easier/better than a foreclosure?

MP3 Update/Other Updates

July 17th, 2010 at 11:45 am

**SO, I thought dh was doubling the storage size of my MP3 player. (It's the exact same model as my old one, otherwise - looks the same).

It arrived in the mail a few days ago, and yesterday I purchased a few MP3s that I had been meaning to buy. I was looking it over real close to see if there was any distinguishing difference between the two (my old one now belongs to LM). When I noticed that it is actually 16GB as opposed to my old 4GB. No way! I didn't realize - I and am even more pleased with the purchase now. So far, I only filled up 5GB. Big Grin Dh transferred everything over for me yesterday while I took the kids swimming. I am sure I can fill up 8MB quite easily. I will be more likely to store pictures, podcasts, and audio books on it with the extra space though. Yay!

I am super excited since I have kind of let go of a lot of music not having the proper equipment to listen to it, etc., etc., etc. For quite a time, CDs had priced me out of music entirely (during college when I had no disposable income to speak of). Now, I have everything on my MP3 player that I would ever want to listen to.

**Today, I transferred $1020 each into the kids' college savings funds. Birthday gift money. Spoiled rotten, yes.

**I also went to Target this morning, to pick up a few groceries. They do have a "produce" section of sorts, but it is also pre-packaged. I can't see doing a ton of grocery shopping there - but I perused the aisles for sales. Ground beef was $1.99/pound, which wasn't bad at all.

Oh, and I didn't realize that all their freezers are energy efficient. The lights turn on as you walk by. I was there the other day and thought, "Their lights aren't working," There was probably a lot of people around and they were just flashing on and off. At 9am saturday I was the only one there. I quickly realized the aisles lit up for me as I walked down them. Too funny!

I did scored the cutest lingerie for $4 on clearance. I am very pleased with myself about that.

**I reserved a rental car for Denver.

If I use Hotwire, I found a deal for $150 for a week in Hawaii. About what I paid for 3 days in Denver.

I have had terrible experiences with these kind of sites, and dh asked me to please not go off airport. BUT, I told him we would save $300-ish and I can't justify spending all that money on a car rental. I'd rather give it a go. If we have car rental hassles, we can work them out. It's just us 2, and we have a whole week there. (No kids to entertain if we have to wait 5 hours for our car). SO, I think we will just go for it. (He doesn't mind doing the off airport hassle to save that kind of money!). I am writing the first day off for "travel hassle" because of it. We really can't afford a car rental otherwise, and really it's the only big expense I want for this trip. We want to be able to drive around the island and see the sights, go hiking wherever, visit different beaches, etc. We probably don't have much budget to do much else.

What's the worse that can happen? They don't honor our reservation? (reading the reviews will scare you). So we pay full price when we get there. I think it is worth the risk. I do admit I am just being cheap though, and might regret it. Will see!

Kinder in a week? Yikes!

July 16th, 2010 at 05:57 pm

LM got invited to a pre-kindergarten program (seems rather last minute - just invited - starts in a week, etc.).

I welcome the opportunity to ease him in a bit. All day Kindergarten was a big adjustment for my extrovert/brain child, and LM is much more reserved and wary about this whole Kindergarten thing.

So, he was invited to a 2-week program for $100, at the school. I am SO there. Assuming they get enough interest.

On the flip side, this means, he "starts Kinder" in a week. It is every day for 3 hours, until school starts (just 2 weeks after that).

O.M.G.

If it's not "real kindergarten," will I cry on the first day? Probably. Big Grin

This is all happening too fast. But, I know this would be really beneficial to help ease him in. His first 3 weeks would only be 3-4 hours a day then. Phew!

I am excited for the opportunity but freaking out a bit!

Weekend Plans

July 16th, 2010 at 07:04 am

Today is going to be HOT!

We hit 100F a couple of times, but it hasn't been bad at all. It has cooled off rapidly overnight. IF we run the air just before going to bed, and can make it through the night without breaking a sweat, I have no complaints.

BUT, at 6am I can I already feel the heat permeating the house. We have been so spoilt this year. This is usually how most of July/August feels. Welcome to summer!

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With all the heat - we will be doing some swimming I am sure. In the mornings and the evenings.

We were going to go to the family cabin for the weekend, but that kind of fell through. I Was exhausted thinking about it, so am relieved.

The train museum is putting on a big event this Saturday and it is free to members, so we will probably go to that tomorrow.

I will probably take the kids swimming tonight. I hear LM is doing amazing in the pool. BM is working on diving and the back stroke. She's got LM jumping in the pool, floating on his back to catch a breath, turning over, and swimming to the side of the pool. (Similar to some method they teach babies so they know what to do if they fall in the pool). I have got to see this. Just a week or 2 ago he has no fear, but just sunk when he jumped in.

The kids have one more lesson left. Then it will be practice practice practice. I'd prefer not to pay for any more lessons, so don't want LM to forget what he learned, this time. Big Grin

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Our space museum (that I only recently knew existed) has an awesome Star Trek exhibit at the moment. They have original sets and stuff like that.

SO, I am hoping we make it to the exhibit the following weekend. LM is free due to his age, BM got a free pass from school, and it will be about $30 total for dh and I. The kids love Star Trek and are all excited about that.

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Our Denver trip is FAST approaching. I still need to reserve a rental car. Ugh!

Target Credit - 5% Off

July 15th, 2010 at 04:07 pm

Target offers 5% back on purchases

http://blogs.consumerreports.org/money/2010/06/target-offers...

Considering that our local Target now has a full grocery section, and we have been utilizing it a bit, this is a department store card that probably makes sense for us. (I also do a fair amount of shopping there - household items and most of the kids' clothing). I suppose I will apply! 5% is pretty darn good. If we spend $50/month at target, we would save $2.50/month. All for just getting a Target card.

My general credit strategy is to utilize one card for rewards, and keep a backup. We have always avoided specific department store type cards, though I know we opened a Sears card 2-3 times for big purchases (instant discount - pay off and close the card immediately). That is just how we do things - we have always both had 800-ish FICO scores. I prefer the simplicity of only managing a couple of cards, AND, the only reason we even utilize credit cards in the first place is for the rewards.

So, my strategy would be to take advantage, as long as possible, though I'd close the card once the 5% went away (as good rewards always do go away, eventually). For now, our Chase Freedom is 3% on everything, so this would be better, for Target specific purchases.

Of course, right now I have 3 credit cards because I have been waiting for Chase to stop their rewards program (they have cut off a lot of people). The second they get to me, I am closing it. I have already opened a credit union card to replace it. In the interim, we may become a 4-card family. (Dh and I share all our credit cards - applied for jointly).

10 Years ago Today

July 15th, 2010 at 06:38 am

Nothing terribly exciting to report about 10 years ago today.

I just saw the question posed in another blog.

"How is your debt today, compared to exactly 10 years ago?"

Exactly 10 years ago, I had been a homeowner for about 6 months, and we were planning our wedding.

Debt? $208k to mortgage. That's it.

Today? $208k to mortgage. That's it.

So, debt wise, not much has changed. Big Grin

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However, in 2000, we had just bought our condo. Our PITI was $2100/month. It was a steal compared to renting.

Our original mortgage was $208k, and I am sure we weren't paying much to principal.

Fast forward 10 years, and I am not thrilled to still owe $208k on our mortgage. But we do own a very nice home, in comparison. With lower interest rates, and less HOA fees, our PITI runs about $1600/month now, for over twice the house (+ land, etc.). I might have said $1700 before, but our property taxes have been decreasing with the economy and all.

In 2000 we drove much older vehicles. We sure didn't own much stuff. & we didn't really have very many assets to our name. So, all in all, I think we have made some improvement in 10 years. As we should.

By the end of the year we should be back to about $206k on our mortgage, which was where we were when we last refied. We will be somewhat breakeven, I suppose. Going forward I look to making more forward progress. We had paid our first mortgage down to about $200k before we bought our second home. SO, psychologically I really look forward to breaking the $200k barrier - down to $199,999. Big Grin

When we could refi in our first home we took on a 15 year loan at $1800/month. We were both working. If we could pull that off today, $800/month would be interest, and $1k per month would be principal. So I am starting to think that would be a good 2-income goal for mortgage paydown. I remember paying down the loan what felt like lightning fast with that 15 year amortization. But it was a pretty big payment - I would never tie us to that commitment again. Ah, to be young and naive. Extra principal payments for us, this time around.
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So, where was your debt, 10 years ago compared to now???

Just An Update

July 14th, 2010 at 08:17 am

Not a whole lot going - same old same old.

This week is amply full with birthday parties and such. Probably will go to the cabin this weekend (should check the weather though).

I promised BM I would take him roller skating (a chance to try out my new skates). My parents gave me $30 to buy him skates (birthday) but I haven't picked them out yet.

The skating rink does not take credit cards, which is a PITA. This WAY messes up my budget - but will figure it out. Helps to not rent skates, in addition to admission.

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We'll probably become a "2 movie rental service" household. No surprise really, considering movies are dh's passion.

We have been going round and round on that one, but though we could certainly live with less disks from BB, we would only save $3/month to give up unlimited in-store exchanges and free game rentals every month (grandfathered). Maybe $6/month if we go for their more bare bones. For now, we will just keep it. It's too good to give up for the long run.

We decided another perk with Netflix is we can stream it at his parent's house (when we stay there or the kids are there, etc.). We tried that out this past week. In fact, we can pause a movie at home, and pick up where we left off, at his folks' house. It's pretty cool. (I think they are streaming it through their Wii).

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In other dh news, he already has a loose job offer at the TV station. Holy cow! I was pondering that maybe the timing is good. He has just been letting people know at his volunteer positions that he will have a lot more time come fall. A higher up at the TV station would like to hire him. Just not sure if it will work out (funding, timing). I don't want to get too excited, but sounds promising. Dh feels rather "eh" about the whole thing. It would be his dream job, to work for the public TV station, but they are laying off so many people. For whatever reason, they just started hiring more volunteers though. They usually don't really do that. So I am crossing my fingers. (All I could figure in this economy is with the slew of resumes that it was easier to stick with people they knew - who have a good work ethic, etc.). Keeping my fingers crossed. It wasn't really our wish to jump headfirst into employment the second LM started school, but we wouldn't say no to something like this! The commute is nothing, the job mentioned would be very part time.

Of course, dh hasn't worked on any movies or anything since Ms. PReschool moved. He has had way LESS free time the last 18 months. But, an opportunity has arisen, and he is working on a short film at the moment.

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On my free day Sunday, I watched Precious, and Slumgod Millionaire. I also finished reading the Golden Compass series. I figured I would have WEIRD dreams that night. Story overload!

I am trying to take a breath before I dive in to the giant book series dh insists that I read. But, it's the obvious next choice. Time to dive in!

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ETA: Oh yeah - got a heads up about another focus group company in town. Dh and I signed up the other day - no calls yet. The one we usually go with has been calling like crazy, though we haven't qualifed for anything lately (primariy because of doing too many recent focus groups).

Whooped!

July 11th, 2010 at 07:50 am

MIL took the kids for a couple of days. I am relieved, I am whooped after their parties yesterday. I need a day to recover. I think I am going to find a shady spot and take a nap by the pool today. Maybe read over there. Never really been much over there without the kids, but it sounds DIVINE.

Killed 2 or 3 birds with one stone. So, I guess that's it. Maybe worth it, but I just wanted to collapse last night when everyone left.

Their party was a BLAST! I told dh - "Maybe in another 5 years." It's funny because we are known for the most low key/smaller parties. Since it was the 2 kids and a lot of people brought siblings, there were 21 kids, and everyone kept commenting how BIG the party was. If you figure 10 per kid, it wasn't huge, but it was a pretty big turnout for the middle of summer.

The facility created a CD - I hadn't realized they try to gouge you $20 for it. I said no thanks (& I meant it 100%, we had tons of video and pictures from the day). My MIL was appalled and bought it before they shredded it. Whatevah. I didn't really want support that type of gouging, so wasn't thrilled. IT was something they slapped together in 5 minutes, I would guess. Rolleyes

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The weather is still on the mild side. All our Bay Area relatives (think "70 degrees year round") were quite whiny during our 100 degree day yesterday. They kept asking us how we possibly survive. Dh and i were like, "Don't go outside," and "There's this thing called A/C." I just think it's funny how dramatic people get. I keep telling my mom (who doesn't do well in heat) that she'd probably like it BETTER here because everyone cranks the A/C up super crazy high. It's always 100 outside and 60 inside, if you walk into any store (or home, for that matter). BAck home, when it randomly got over 90, you just had to sweat. As such, I think we experience less heat, here. I don't even really have much of a summer wardrobe. For work, it's sweaters year round (A/C!).

I just found the whining funny. The weather has been DIVINE. It has generally been 55 degrees in the a.m., 100 degrees in the afternoon. YEsterday when we went outside at 8pm it felt like it was 75 degrees with a nice breeze. Aaaaaawwwwwww... So I just stay inside from noon to 6:00 or something. Eh. The reward is a mortgage 1/3 the size - the penalty isn't as bad as you would imagine. Wink

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Anyway, all in all, birthday insanity is over. Phew! BM's birthday is this week - not much going on. Dh has some books and video games for him. Will be low key.

If I am good, I will take care of the thank you cards and get them all done today (while the insanity is fresh and I can still decipher somewhat what came from who).

I've got a book to finish, 2 movies (rental) I never have time to watch (one dh has had for over a year - LOL), and I do have to do some financial chores. But, I think I am going to mostly lay down and take it easy. If I work a couple of hours on financial chores and invitations, I can laze around for about 12 hours. Big Grin

This is like the polar opposite of yesterday. Phew!

Birthday Birthday Birthday

July 9th, 2010 at 02:28 pm

No, I do not understand why so many 6 year olds are walking around with brand new/small gaming systems. How many times have we been out and someone is looking for the $100 game system that their child just lost? OUCH!

That said, dh collects game systems. We have more DSs and GameBoy type things than I could possibly count. At least 4 of the GameBoy things, because then you can play 4-player games, of course!

So, dh lets the kids run around with these things (still not sure I would, I suppose) and all the while, I am still wondering what the heck these parents are thinking. The difference is ours are mostly free. Big Grin

That is my intro, because LM is spoiled ROTTEN this year. Ah, the year of FIVE.

Dh was in charge of gifts because he had all the free stuff he collected from Scholastic and Craigslist/Amazon/Ebay buying/selling. I didn't think much of it. I am sure dh told me what he was thinking somewhere along the line, but seeing it all piled together was a bit much.

SO,

LM gets:

DS (used)
3 DS Games (one new from Scholastic/2 used)
A pile of books (Scholastic)

& a board game from BM.

OF course, Grandma also intends to spoil him rotten, and they have the kids' party tomorrow too. When they were younger I said, "no gifts please" on any party invitations. I wish I still could, but the kids don't quite agree. (No one ever respected the no gift thing, anyway. Like, I must not have really meant it!).

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I guess it is official that he has outgrown the Leapster. I suppose I should ask dh if he intends to sell that one now. We have one zillion games - I don't know where they come from, just that my paycheck hasn't been touched for them.

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Of course, that is not all. When we bought his bed and nightstand, dh got him a clock radio (with a CD player). He keeps asking for songs, songs and more songs, so dh tells me he thinks it is time for a MP3 player. (He's burned him a handful of CDs, in the interim). I suggested he at least wait until Christmas. That he should just give him mine though (same as BM's) because I would like a bigger one. I told him I really like mine, but wouldn't mind doubling the size of it. This was a good reason to make my wish come true!

Of course, that particular MP3 player has been on sale, and dh could not resist. It hasn't arrived yet (the new one) but I told LM today that he was getting one of his own.

The Mp3 player is not free, but the fact that it is a hand-me-down makes it kind of free.

So, LM is spoiled rotten though we didn't really spend a dime on him!

& so I live in a dichotomy where I would find it absurd to buy all this stuff new, but shrug my shoulders when it is all mostly "free."

Oh, dh also had a free movie pass (not sure from where) so they went to the matinee today.

I bakes chocolate chip muffins and dh will make his favorite dinner.

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Just got 2 more RSVPs. Lord help me! We are at 20 kids. Any more will bust my budget. Crossing my fingers that only 20 kids show up this weekend. Yeesh. (I didn't put a RSVP deadline - kind of my fault I suppose. But we are within 24 hours of party - kind of rude if you ask me. Well - learned my lesson!).

On the flip side, family party is insanely cheap. Picked up some salad fixings, a melon, and some lunch meat (already had most of the condiments and compliments). I am running by the bread store after aerobics to get a few loaves of bread. They average about $1 - $2, even for the really high end stuff. We found a way to feed 20 people for $20 or so? That's good, because the kid party will be expensive at $10 per head over 15! (Though in the end, not too bad - I get to kill 2 birds with one stone - or 2 birthdays with one big party, so to speak).

The kids have like 3 other birthday parties this week, and there are 3 other family birthdays next week, besides BM. Thus, my blog title.

July was a wash...

July 8th, 2010 at 09:18 am

I had a chance to sit down and see where I Was, financially.

I transfer $2200 to savings the first half of every month, but I hadn't sat down and decided how much I needed to pull out of savings. The $2200 includes $1200 for short-term (within the year/very expected) expenses.

Wouldn't you know, I needed to pull $2200 from savings. No transfer this month; was a wash.

Sounds worse than it is. Included a little over $1100 in airfare. I knew that would hurt. (+ swim lessons, auto insurance, dh's present, etc., etc.)

But it's paid and done. TV, house paint, airfare, medical bills, check. All paid in cash. Now maybe I can actually move forward on some cash savings goals...

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I am not very happy with the extreme last minute RSVPs rolling in for the kids party. Blech. I am still crossing my fingers that there are some no-shows, so I don't have to pay the $10 per child extra.

A week before, I had the perfect 15 RSVPs that I had room for. Then I got 3 more yesterday. Rolleyes

In other news, everything is so hectic because of the "family party." I made the party simple as pie, and now we have to feed and entertain dh's family. OF course, we just did it all the same day. Because they live out of town, and some would want to go to the kid party, too.

Minor annoyances. I will get over them. I will gripe a bit, though I know in the end we will have fun. Even before the events of this year, I have been a little better about putting aside all they annoyances and just being grateful we still have all of our family. It's easier to stay on the mindset, with all the health problems of the past year. It isn't easy, and it isn't all fun, but a birthday party full of parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, and GREAT-grandparents is a TREASURE. So though I have been a little gripey with all that needs to be done this week, deep down I don't really mind so much.

Symbolically, Saturday is the 1-year-anniverary of my dad's heart attack. So, we have a lot to celebrate (with him still being alive!).

Thankfully, dh is handling most of the shopping/cooking. We were going to get pizza, but dh remembered that we would have pizza at the kids' party. Pizza is the go to food. What else could we possibly serve 20 people? We decided on sandwiches.

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Speaking of birthdays. IT's birthday party central around here. Two of BM's best friends also have July birthdays. So he has two parties the week after his. One of them is cute - it is a party for 2 kids with the same (unusual) name. It's probably a good idea to team up with some of them, next year. It's been birthday birthday birthday, lately.

Feeling Spendy...

July 7th, 2010 at 10:25 am

**My expectations were high since we had such a good swim instructor for the kids past years. Well, phew! These lessons are a lot more expensive and out of the way, BUT well worth it. They have GREAT teachers and the kids loved it. (I don't know why - teacher seemed all business, but they loved her - she's got some hidden charm I suppose). After one lesson, both kids are where they left off last year.

The nice thing is that it is an indoor pool. I may consider getting LM a set of lessons next spring. To refresh him before summer starts. Though really, this year may be the last year he really needs it. BM is very comfortable in the water, so he is working on swimming technique. He could also work on diving. He can stay very buoyant, but is not very good at diving down to the bottom of the pool.

It's funny because we had a private swim teacher come to our community pool the last 3 years or so. (We MISS her!). If you go down to the pool, the kids of all ages swim like little fish. She was a VERY good teacher. Good with the little ones.

Outside of our own community, everyone is just in awe of my kids' swimming skills. We were at a pool party the other day and everyone was shocked we let BM in the big pool without us. We were keeping an eye on him, but wasn't too worried about him. Was just thinking about it because dh and the kids and ran into one of LM's many girlfriends, at the pool yesterday, and dh was telling me she was a really good swimmer. She's 4. At first I Was surprised. & then I thought, well, yeah, all the neighborhood kids are pretty good swimmers.

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I did some more school shopping. Stocked up on shorts, and got LM a backpack. I suppose he is ready.

Will have to buy some pants in September, I suppose.

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I am behind on my financial chores. This week is kind of crazy busy. I suppose Sunday I will have to look at my June totals. MIL is taking the kids for a couple of days.

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I am still always amazed at the bad wrap that TV gets. I don't quite understand why reading is good/TV bad. If you could describe my family in one word, it would be, MODERATION. We like our TV and our video games. Thing is we probably lean heavily towards educational, anyway. But it always puzzles me when TV is painted as the evil of the world, TV watchers being overweight couch potatoes. It's laughable because we are probably the most active people we know.

ANYWAY, I feel behind. I am behind on household chores and financial chores and everything. BEcause I have been reading. I finished book 2 of the Golden Compass series, over the weekend, and started Book 3. Half way through.

I was musing how it is socially acceptable to neglect everything for a book, but the very few hours of TV watching I do is so often poo pooed. Rolleyes

I am not sure I am ready to jump into the 3000-4000 page Game of Thrones. I am not sure I have the time to get sucked into that!

4th was a BLAST

July 5th, 2010 at 09:09 am

Literally.

Street behind us held a block party.

There was too much food and way too many fireworks. We did bring a small side dish, but I don't think it even got noticed in the feast.

We only learned recently that a neighbor catty corner/behind us, is a pyromaniac of sorts. Mythbuster-ish? Ignorance is bliss?

Needless to say, we had quite a show. Surprised no one called the police or anything (giant fireballs in the air???).

I could relax a little bit because it wasn't my street. Fireworks, small lots, and bone dry grass, seems a little insane if you ask me. But where we grew up, fireworks were VERY illegal. I never even saw any sparklers or anything as a kid. So I am probably a bit of an extra party pooper.

As such, my instinct was to tell the kids, "hell no" when they asked to play with sparklers and such. I did lighten up and they got a talking to about being careful. Thankfully the 4th is only one day a year. Rolleyes

Ironically, though I still think all the fireworks are insane, with such small streets and dry grass and everything, everyone was mostly sticking to the legal variety. Even the pyro family.

Of course, that was too boring. Someone came along with some monster fireworks, and someone else had to top that. Was the most spectacular "home" fireworks I ever saw. I told dh, "I could enjoy this because they weren't shooting them towards MY house." Not that the "house behind ours" is much better.

Anyway, I was excited when this party was mentioned, because it brought back memories of our annual 4th block party, as a child. This topped it by a mile though. They blocked off the street and the kids ran with water guns and water balloons up and down the street all afternoon, and went up and down with various wheeled toys, without any cars to worry about. The kids just had so much fun.

Back to School Shopping

July 4th, 2010 at 05:12 pm

A big year I suppose, with another one entering grade school.

I picked up a lunch box at Walgreens the other day. Same one that BM has - I like the size for our tupperware, and it has been holding up well. $10.

Today, I did some shopping at Hanes.com. Cheapest place I can find all the school shirts/sweatshirts. We do the polo shirts (school dress code), sweathshirts for winter (thankfully those are allowed) and a jacket. I bought 8 shirts and 5 sweatshirts in the next size up, keeping in mind I want them to last for 2 kids. They don't really need so much, but the small size had lasted BM for 2 grades. Moving on to medium for him.

They averaged about $5 per shirt, shipping tax and everything. Phew!

I found a jacket for $24.99 at Sears. I can't find any free shipping codes or anything, so may send dh to look in person. I got a similar jacket for BM, and looks like he may get 3-4 years out of it. (Probably bought on the large side!)

Will need a backpack, and then will have to consider the pants/shorts situation. Probably can hand down BM's and buy bigger stuff for him. He still has shorts from 2 years ago...

Getting there.

Anyway, I like the easy online shopping. The rest won't be so easy. Pants and shorts will need to be tried on. I suppose I should peruse backpacks online.

Breakfast for Four

July 3rd, 2010 at 10:26 am

Eggs: 15 cents
Potatoes: $1
Smoothie ingredients: $1?

Breakfast $2.15?

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Of course, I did use all of this for breakfast (more than the bigger/stand alone/easy to price items):

2 eggs (dh/BM not into the eggs)
sprinkling of cheddar cheese, some milk
salt, pepper

3 potatoes
paprika, garlic, salt pepper

plain yogurt
1/2 can frozen juice
bit of apple juice
frozen strawberries

We had a nice feast today - scrambled eggs, fried potato wedges, and smoothies. YUM!

I only share, because we too often hear that "eating healthy is SO expensive." I won't win an award for healthy eating, but it is hard to get much simpler/cheaper than this. It doesn't get much more basic than eggs and potatoes. My smoothies have the processed juice (sometimes) but sure beats plain juice or soft drinks, or whatever else the average american drinks every day. We are mostly big water drinkers. We did have tap water with our smoothies.

On the eating out end of the spectrum, the kids are actually now free at IHOP, indefinitely. (You just have to ask, when they bring you the bill). Home made it much cheaper, much healthier, and WAY tastier though. Big Grin

Swim Lessons

July 2nd, 2010 at 08:58 am

Okay, kids are signed up.

Phew. Got 10% off for signing up 2 kids. A nice surprise. (Doh - didn't think about sibling discount).

They will both have lessons over a period of 3 weeks. With the economy, was able to sign them up last minute. Another perk I suppose. A selfish one, anyway.

It's not very convenient, and will cost us far more in gas than the old swim lessons that we could walk to, but oh well! Gives them something to do.

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I finished my first book of the year. IT took me just under 2 weeks. Think I read about 4 hours at camp, and then some over the weekend. It had been really busy, so I didn't get any reading in this week. Last night everyone was kind of doing their own thing, so I decided to read the last 50 pages.

My goal was to read 12 books this year, so I am well on track, even with my late start.

Dh is talking me into the Game of Thrones. It is a huge commitment (over 3000 pages for the first 3 books?). But I am realizing it may be possible to knock it out before the end of the year. In which case I will count pages over number of books, as far as reaching my goal. Big Grin 5000 pages read or something like that, seems fair.

But, first things first.

I will read the other 2 books in the Golden Compass series. (Just finished the first).

I want to read A Wrinkle in Time (have started once or twice but haven't made it through - just wanted to re-read it, haven't since I was a child).

& THEN, I might begin the Game of Thrones.

I haven't started it because I didn't want to commit to that. Dh (& everyone) says I won't be able to put it down. I was thinking maybe next year, but dh has been working on me, trying to get me to start sooner...

I didn't plan to just stick to one genre of reading for the year, but oh well. FANTASY. It's what we got laying around the house.

Oh, I also need to finish a non-fiction book I have been reading on and off all year. It is good - I should aim to wrap that up this weekend. "Survival of the Sickest." VERY interesting read.

"In this insightful book Dr. Sharon Moalem demonstrates how conditions that are considered unhealthy (such as hemochromatosis, diabetes, and high cholesterol), or even deadly in extreme cases, might actually put their carriers at an advantage in combating other life-threatening illnesses. For example, he explains that hemochromatosis, a disease that, if left untreated, will kill you, may have actually been a defense against the deadliest pandemic in history--the bubonic plague during the 14th century. It turns out that this genetic mutation, which continues to be passed down through generations, actually helped spare many lives at one point."

The Economy

July 1st, 2010 at 04:20 pm

The economy seems to ebb and flow a bit.

All I know is,

**I have about five $5-off Round Table Pizza coupons. Usually those are gems. I am swimming in them, at current.

**Jiffy Lube. I've never seen so many $10-off coupons. I keep collecting them because they expire quickly. Dh's car will need to get an oil change by end of July.

**A few people I know have bought GREAT cars in the $4k price range recently. From DEALERS.

**I keep forgetting to mention, but the last handful of times I drove from the Bay Area to Sacramento, I have passed very few semis on the 4-lane stretch on the interstate. I can't tell you how many times I set my cruise control to 70/75 and drove the last hour without passing more than 3 or 4 large trucks. It's WEIRD. Usually it is just truck truck trucks. I couldn't help but wonder if the decline in truck driving was due to the economy.

I mentioned to dh once and he told me it must have been the time I was driving. Rolleyes I have driven that stretch all days and times. Usually it's a little more treacherous, navigating the mix of slow trucks and speedsters. But, lately I have just cruised most the way home in the slow lane.

Just, random observations...

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ETA: Just heard a Marie Callendar's location is closing. Frown I never eat there - but there goes the memories.

July!

July 1st, 2010 at 04:05 pm

Hard to believe it is July already!

In July we celebrate both our kids' birthdays. It also marks 15 years since I began dating my dh.

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**Birthday party RSVPs up to 15. Mind you, we invited about 50 kids and hoped for about 15. Phew... About 10 more days, but I can live with that. We can squeak in 25 if we pay "per child" over 15. Seems best, since I know people won't show. There are always the flakes... Crossing my fingers that 15-20 is the magic number that shows up. Any more will cost a big premium.

**LM's graduation was a bit over the top. Ah, but it was SO CUTE!

I never much got into the whole thing. I don't think any one of us did. We all missed Ms. Preschool WAY too much. She was one in a million. I suppose all of our hearts were too broken to dive in head first into this new preschool. The hours were weird so I was the most removed. I never much went to the preschool. LM attended for 18 months.

People all talk about this preschool in about the same esteem as the old one. But, we feel rather "eh" about it. We will probably feel the same letdown when BM finishes with his current grade school teacher. It's hard to go up from the BEST - they have been so blessed. If this had been our only preschool, I am sure we would be in love.

SO, last night was quite an event. The sang a lot of songs, showed off their preschool learned skills (some we didn't know he had learned???). They did quite a production, ending in gown wearing and "diploma" handing. The kind of thing I'd probably roll my eyes at, but we all had fun, so we just went with the flow. LM, in particular. He could have easily been a sour puss, but he was so excited to stand on the stage with his girlfirend for the evening. (Phew!)

His teacher had like 20 graduating kids, and made them each these big, huge scrapbooks. Holy cow. (She actually did 2 ceremonies - so the one we went to had about 10 kids).

I think I made a good call. Out of nowhere, I just had the urge to get flowers. I know a lot of teachers, and they usually just give away their abundance of never-ending gifts. Gift cards and cash get boring after a while. So, flowers popped into my head. Something to enjoy but "disposable," all the same. The flowers went over very well.

& so ends a chapter...