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Archive for January, 2011

Frugal Advice - Living Life

January 30th, 2011 at 08:54 am

The best financial wisdom I have picked up for over the years is that there is usually a way to have something virtually identical for much cheaper.

Just seems to be a constant recurring theme in the discourse of personal finance. A recurring theme in everyday conversation with people around me.

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Having been raised by frugal parents with a good sense of balance, *living life* frugally has always come rather easy to me.

When I think back over the years, it's funny, because dh and I have always gotten criticism for our life choices. We work too hard and are such tightwads. If I had a dollar every time someone told me to *Live Life.* So what is so funny about that? We do *Live Life* plenty. I just didn't know I had to spend more money and work less, to live life.

Of course, as teenagers and in our young 20s this was something that came up far more often. We were raised to be very responsible, always worked, and were on our own very young (me - age 18). The prevailing attitude is you should do very little in your teens and 20s because you have your whole life ahead of you to work and run the rat race. But, in the end, working hard while young has afforded us so much more opportunity to slow down and relax. & I alluded to the balance. No matter how hard I have worked, I have always taken time to *live life.*

Beyond that, when we do spend money, people tell us *life is to be lived.* Yay - you lived life! This is just the culture I suppose. But it REALLY grates on me. Spending more money on something doesn't mean anything to the joy it will bring to my life. I know this, but few people seem to understand that.

Beyond all this, having dealt with very sick loved ones in recent years, I feel like I am on a different spiritual plane lately. I've come to a far deeper understanding about that which is important in life.

Anyway, one day recently, I sat down and wrote a bucket list of sorts, when I could no longer take the "You don't live life" thing. I brainstormed the many things I had done while living life. IT just so happens most of the stuff didn't cost much money.

This is my version of the bucket list. I might have had a traditional bucket list before dh was diagnosed with a brain tumor, but I now realize the list was completely ridiculous and means little. I think it means more to look back at what I have done than to think what I haven't done will bring more meaning to my life. (& if there is something really important I haven't done, then I should do it now).

I had already shared that when dh was first diagnosed with his tumor, I told him if the prognosis was bad, we could cash out some retirement money and do whatever he wanted. Thinking to the traditional bucket list, right? & then dh said to me, "I don't want to go anywhere or buy anything. I just want more time with my family." Those words just really struck a chord with me. & that is when I threw away my first bucket list, because I Realized it wouldn't mean a thing to me at the end of my life.

For my new list - I threw in a few things I had planned in my life that fell through. Some due to money and lack of time (due to work). The list is VERY short.

Why don't I start with those?

MISSED OPPORTUNITIES: (Or, things I had planned that fell through)

**Study abroad in London
**Travel to India (with lifelong Indian friend)
**Travel through Europe for a month with friends

(I know there will be more opportunities to take the place of these).

Of course, the most important things I have done in my life:

DONE/FREE:

**LOVE
**LAUGHED
**LEARNED
**HELPED OTHERS

& while I have been "working far too hard and saving too much money to actually enjoy life" - this is what I have been doing:

DONE:

**Built our dream home
**Owned a convertible - many road trips
**Japan
**Europe (Spain, Italy, France, Moracco)
**Mexico (cruise)
**Hawaii (Oahu & Kauai)
**Las Vegas - many road trips
**New Orleans
**New York
**Boston
**Washington DC
**Oregon/Washington - road trip
**Florida
**Denver, CO
**Kansas
**Tennessee
**North Carolina
**Tahoe
**Yosemite
**Disney Land
**Disney World
**Many road trips
**Skinny Dipped
**Jumped in a lake
**Boated around Lake Tahoe
**Skiied in Utah; saw Olympic location
**Done some intense/long bike rides
**Camped on the Beach
**Seen many shooting stars
**Pet a wild baby panther
**Saved/rehabbed baby birds & released back into the wild
**Volunteered at the animal shelter
**Skiied in Tahoe (down hill & cross country)
**White water rafting in Sacramento
**Kayaked in the ocean (with the sea otters)
**Gone whale watching (twice)
**Swam/boogie boarded in the ocean
**Swam under a waterfall
**Ran (walked) the Bay to Breakers 10k
**Helped Habitat for Humanity
**zip lined in Hawaii
**Hiked all day
**Learned to salsa & tried to learn to Swing
**Snorkeled in the ocean
**Seen a musical (or 2 or 3)
**Seen some amazing concerts (most notably, Tori Amos more times than I can count, Zappa Jr., and Metallica playing with the SF symphony).
**Watched live taping of the Daily Show (year 2000)
**Performed for others (marching band, singing, choir, piano, orchestra, etc.)
**Twirled a flag in a college marching band
**Lived in more than one city
**Taught piano to the old and young
**Married a wonderful man (10 years +)
**Birthed 2 children
**Earned a College degree
**Earned my CPA license
**Found a career that I enjoy
**I've been VP of a Professional Association
**VP, Treasurer, etc. of College Academic Fraternity
**Studied Philosophy
**Studied Astronomy
**Learned to play piano, violin, flute, drums

(Interestingly, MANY travel opportunities have come from free or very cheaply from my involvement in bands and clubs. Most travel I listed was done very cheaply, staying with friends, etc.).

I haven't added a lot to my list lately. Nothing gives me greater joy than spending time with my kids. So, instead of using my time to volunteer and try new things, I find I spend a lot of time sharing some of the above experiences with my kids. I suppose we also find much more joy in the mundane, these days. Raising a child is a life experience in itself, for sure. IT should probably TOP my list.

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Given more time, there are certainly things I would still like to do.

TO DO:

**Grand Canyon/Bryce Canyon
**Alaskan Cruise
**Egypt
**London
**Australia
**Ride in a Hot Air Balloon
**Repay a $1500 scholarship received in college (pay it forward)
**Learn to sew
**Have Grandchildren (there's something I have no control over!)

What Would I Change?

January 29th, 2011 at 04:31 pm

First off, I really like the idea to have a common blog theme from time to time. Thanks Ceejay, for the idea and the topic!

I am having a hard time answering this question. (Now I wish you asked last week when I had more time to ponder! This is a good question to meditate on).

Though it's been a rough few years on the medical front, the truth is I am in a VERY good and happy spot. So much so that I am not really working towards anything in particular at the moment. I am extremely content with the status quo.

I suppose my #1 wish would be that my family and friends lived closer. My #2 wish would probably be that I did not have to live in a flood basin to live in such an amazing place. But these are not things I dwell on much since life seems to be give and take. These are things we have chosen to make other areas of our life more easy.

I think I am just in a space where life is VERY GOOD. At a different time I couldn't answer the same way. Life is full of ups and downs. I feel like I am in a little valley at the moment, catching my breath before the next mountain climb. I don't know what life has in store for me as far as my next challenges.

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To elaborate, some of the topics mentioned were home, work, relationships.

HOME - Home is our haven and we have made our home our home exactly how we want it. There is nothing I would change. (But that we were above sea level, as I mentioned. We could move, but the trade off is more traffic, etc.).

Our neighborhood, community and region is amazing. We live minutes from downtown (a big city), but we can walk to the local farms. We are surrounded by open space and nature. It's really the best of both worlds.

The weather is great, our community is like a resort, and many spectacular vacation destinations are within a relatively short drive for our home.

OF course, we moved about 100 miles from our home town, to considerably cut our living expenses and to be able to slow down (& afford much more luxury as far as our home). Ten years in - it is a move that has paid off very well for us.

WORK - Work. I suppose I wish I could work less without a huge pay cut. Don't we all? Big Grin

As far as my job, I work close to home, have a great boss, work with great people, am paid well, am definitely appreciated, hours are good, and my schedule is flexible. Oh yes, and I like my job. So, no complaints. I get a little burned out during tax season, but the hours I work are nothing compared to the industry. I get paid overtime, anyway, so welcome the opportunity to make extra money part of the year. (Though I wouldn't be happy if I had to work so much all year round). It's a good balance. A little hard work is good.

MARRIAGE - Marriages certainly have their ups and downs. This year has just been a pretty good year. With the kids in school, dh and I have far more time together than we have had since the kids were born. & we have gone through a lot lately, so the relationship front is pretty awesome at the moment.

This leaves me with nothing I would change, though on a different day my answer would be different. I'd say the past decade has been some of the most trying times of our relationship, but we've just come out the other end stronger than ever. I know there will be many more challenges down the road, so will enjoy while things are good.

RELATIONSHIPS - I am not very social, and being very close to my immediate family I sometimes feel I have little else to give to anyone. I suppose I know I should invest in other relationships for the long run, but don't feel much motivation at current. Maybe I miss working with younger people and cultivating more relationships. Through school and work over the decades I have made some amazing friends, but people grow and move on and I have had far less opportunity to form those same relationships with age. I suppose I wish I could be more patient and tolerant with people. I just find that friendship, with age, seems to take more effort than it is worth.

This is clearly the area in my life where I struggle. Of course, I know many of you are the same way. The internet attracts similar personality types.

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I probably feel a little extra Kumbaya, but what can I say. It's one of those rare times when everything seems to be going good. So I will enjoy it while it lasts!

Frustrated - Taxes

January 29th, 2011 at 01:45 pm

I decided to do my taxes today. Last year I filed around 1/31 and bypassed the State IOU mess. I got my refund within a week, probably.

Was my plan again for this year, but when I tried to e-file the state tax return, my employer's software wouldn't let me. IT seemed the problem was the kids' investment income (small beans and not taxable). I didn't even have to file this info with the Feds, but appeared maybe I had to for state. I decided to just take that off and try again. Still no go. It wouldn't take it simply because Fed wouldn't take it (they won't take my return until 2/14 because of all these last minute tax changes - many are in the same boat). Rolleyes

So I decided to paper file. After I got it all ready, I looked up the turn around time. I honestly think they greatly exaggerated to discourage paper filing, but the state website said 8 weeks to get paper filed refunds. Rolleyes

I set it back to e-file and will try again later.

What a waste of time today. I could have looked that up sooner and saved some headache. *sigh*

All that said, with all our medical bills in 2010, I knew our taxes would be lower. We had about $1500 in refunds and so we decided to add $2k to my regular IRA (the one I had opened for my work retirement rollover. I didn't have a regular IRA otherwise, so no real motivation to contribute, before). With the IRA deduction, I had estimated our refunds at about $1950 or so (to fund the IRA). Once I finalized everything, the end result was literally $1990. Thankfully, most of that is Feds, but a chunk is from the state. I don't want to deal with this IOU B.S., so will keep checking the software for updates and keep my fingers crossed.

Frugal Advice - Home Improvements

January 27th, 2011 at 06:26 pm

The best financial wisdom I have picked up for over the years is that there is usually a way to have something virtually identical for much cheaper. Or, the good things in life don't have to cost a lot of money.

Just seems to be a constant recurring theme in the discourse of personal finance. A recurring theme in everyday conversation with people around me.

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Today's Topic? Home Improvements...

Flooring, to be exact.

I suppose owning a small condo before we bought our first house was a good chance to *practice* home ownership.

The condo was remodeled to the hilt before we moved in, and so we didn't have any home improvement costs the two years that we owned it. Like, we didn't spend a penny on improvements.

That said, the carpet was a horrific white color. I am sure it would be pretty if there was no such thing as dirt. But, it became obvious pretty quickly that it wouldn't have been our first choice.

Funny enough, my cat puked all over the carpet over time, and left lovely pink splotches all over the carpet. (Pink from the food we feed her, I suppose).

When we bought this home we bought new construction. When we went to pick out our flooring, I remember looking at the carpet and settling on an almost mauve color. Dh and I looked at each other and said, "I think that would hide any cat puke stains." It was a very neutral/pplain color, but had a hint of that pinkish color to it.

I remember picking out this marble looking linoleum for the hard floors (kitchen/bathrooms) because it had these beautiful grey streaks through it. IT was GORGEOUS, first and foremost. But, we looked at it and said, "That will hide the dirt."

I share all this because today was the TRUE TEST for this flooring. (We've lived here 10 years, by the way). Linoleum is easy to clean, and I don't think the kids have been too harsh on it (as harsh as they have been with other parts of the house, anyway).

But, they were drawing on some white paper on the floor (my idea) with a permanent black marker. It was part of some toy and I didn't think too much about it. BUT, the ink leaked through the paper (I believe). I really don't think they were drawing on the floor, but who knows.

& suddenly my *perfect looking* floor is covered in black marks and streaks.

I tried not to cry as I got out some all purpose cleaner and let it soak for a bit. I didn't notice for about 24 hours after the mess was made! As I wiped it up, it was coming up a little bit. Not 100%, but I could breathe a little sigh of relief.

As I continued at it, some of the streaks and spots turned grey. I sat back and giggled at the genius of buying this floor in the first place. I honestly couldn't tell you what is pen marks and what is natural grey streaks, any more.

Thinking through your home improvements can really keep your costs down over the years. I'd probably rather live with black spotted linoleum than replace a perfectly good floor covering. But, thankfully I don't have to make that decision today.

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All that said, I just have to add that it is also important to consider all options, and to consider the long term costs when choosing different home improvement options.

I share because I wonder how many of you are thinking why wouldn't we buy fixxers and do DIY improvements to save money? The fact is, the fixxer/DIY ROUTE makes little financial sense in the region we live in. Certainly not for the types of housing we searched out and when we bought. Doing the math, we came out ahead going different routes.

I think it's a good example to not just blindly believe that "x" is super expensive and "y" is the only frugal way to go. Over the years, with an open mind, we have found good deals in unexpected places.

Good News!

January 27th, 2011 at 07:31 am

I got the news that my thyroid nodule was benign!

Woohoo!

To celebrate, we went out for a way overly expensive dinner.

It was good though.

We took the kids, because a $5 kids menu item was cheaper than childcare.

My mom was appalled and tried to talk me into a date night with dh. I have been sitting home with dh for 2 weeks and we have a dinner out planned next week (fundraiser - no kids). I thought it was appropriate to celebrate with the whole family, anyway.

I can assure you we didn't need a *date night.*

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Reminds me, all of my friends are mourning my return to work. Especially the clueless SAHPs who think I never see my kids. Yes, I will lose that 4:00-5:00 hour with my kids. I don't think anyone will notice or care. They spend most their hours at school. Wink

Beyond that, I can not wait to get back to work. Tax season is not my favorite time of year, but beyond that, I am grateful to like my job and HAPPY to go back!

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I had already committed increased mortgage payment for January, before I got the news. I can't help but feel the timing was to be. February is a short month and so I figure if dinner put us over budget for this month that we can probably make it up in February. Mortgage payments will stay, as is. No spending money left for January (though probably plenty for groceries and gas).

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I dipped my toes in at work. I don't even know where to begin, and I know today I have the potential to be bombarded (I return full-time today - and today is when my clients expect my return - probably LOTS of phone calls).

But, for the most part, it has been much better than expected.

I also got my Continuing Ed. materials, so will either knock that out this weekend or next. Office is closed next weekend so no overtime earned this week or next, but I feel just fine. Probably for the best - a couple of more weeks before I jump in to 50-hour weeks.

At home I have been completely useless, for the most part.

I need to:

*Get taxes done this weekend
*Do my continuing Ed. at some point
*Thank you notes - I put off the whole of the last 2 weeks though I have mostly felt fine

& finally, dh really doesn't do much housework, so the house is a disaster. I haven't lifted a finger, while recovering. I probably could have done a little more.

I could feel more overwhelmed, but am gratetful that I do not have to work next weekend!

Mortgage Update

January 26th, 2011 at 02:28 pm

My raise barely covered our health insurance increase (if it even did), but this year we get some tax breaks compared to last year.

So, we decided to put $50/month extra to the mortgage.

I didn't for January since my raise was only in effect for half the month.

However, dh has had a good ebay/amazon/craigslist month and so we should get a $50 deposit around 1/31 (from amazon). I was also going to add a $20 gift he got to the 2/28 payment. With the new found money I canceled the initial mortgage payment and will pay it directly on the mortgage bank's website to make sure the principal gets applied correctly. +$70 for January. Looks like I will have even more for February (more expected sales).

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I haven't been big on the mortgage pre-payments. So, what has changed? Well, being able to max out retirement is one (that was our primary goal - mortgage paydown being secondary).

We also borrowed money (closing costs) to refinance the last time, so we feel an extra priority to pay those costs down. We've never borrowed a penny against our home, otherwise (even through many other purchases/refis. We usually pay cash for closing costs).

Then there is the psychology of breaking the $200k barrier. Not only is it a big fat six figure number, but we had paid our first mortgage down to almost $200k in 2001, before we moved. Logically I know our community is very high end, and we have a real house, a garage, a yard, and over twice the space, for a mere $30k more in loans. But, by the same token, we paid our first condo down very quickly (we both worked) and it's a bummer that in 10 years all we have accomplished is nothing on the mortgage balance. Back to where we started... This wasn't exactly what we had planned, anyway. I suppose that is the part that bothers me. Making no forward progress on that debt in 10 years, was not part of the plan. We have more and we work far less, but expected to make more forward progress all the same.

That said, paying down the mortgage is still not a huge priority. If we came into some extra money, we'd consider paying down a small chunk to make up for lost time. Mostly our plan is to resume our old $1300, $1500, or $1800/month payments, once dh returned to work. How much would depend on his income. Last we both worked, we were able to swing $1800/month for a 15-year mortgage (higher interest rates than at current). I think $1800/month would be very reasonable with 1.5 or 2 incomes. I make much more money now than I did in 2001. Our current payment is $1100 - we refied from $1500 to $1100 over the years, with dropping interest rates. We are sticking with the 30-year as long as the interest rates are this low. I don't want to fret over a $1800/month payment in case of a lay off or something like that. I certainly can't afford that on my income alone. But when we are both working, we will gladly pay the extra principal.

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ETA: I received a $20 rebate today for my Visa. I get 1% cash back on this visa - only used for vendors who do not accept my AmEx (3% cash back on that one). The Visa rebate is just deposited to my checking account automatically, every January.

So, I Was able to keep the 2/28 mortgage payment @ an extra $70 as well.

Talk about timing! I took out the $20 I moved up to January, and another $20 *magically* appeared in my account. Too funny! So I added $20 back to the 2/28 mortgage payment. This was in Quicken. I will actually make the payment closer to the due date - see what else turns up.

Frugal Advice - Exercise

January 25th, 2011 at 09:56 am

The best financial wisdom I have picked up for over the years is that there is usually a way to have something virtually identical for much cheaper.

Just seems to be a constant recurring theme in the discourse of personal finance. A recurring theme in everyday conversation with people around me.

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One topic that often comes up is exercise.

Since having kids and having a desk job, I don't have the most lean and mean body that I used to in my youth (when I Was far more active and had youth on my side).

That said, I spend a lot of time and energy to keep fit. If nothing else, exercise helps me to deal with stress, and to easily maintain my weight. To stay healthy, too. I suppose those would be the three primary reasons that I exercise.

In everyday conversation it often comes up how keeping fit costs too much money.

I think back to the one and only time I lost weight. I have always been very thin and had a very fast metabolism. Having kids and aging had put on a few pounds and changed the playing field a bit, but after my second was born my hormones went whacked for a time and I gained a large amount of weight in a very short time period.

I couldn't afford to spend money to lose weight (Living in California, on maternity leave. Nothing to spare).

However, once my hormones settled down, losing the weight was a priority. I had worked hard to maintain my weight over the years. There is a lot of obesity in my family and so maintaining had been very important to me. I knew it would be easier to lose the random 10 pounds I had rapidly gained before the problem worsened.

& so I walked. I woke up early every morning and went on a brisk walk. I didn't have any exercise equipment but some weights, videos and a step I bought in college. I used those too. For the first time in my life I watched what I ate. It might have taken 6 months, but I worked off the 10 pounds I had gained in the month or so that my hormones went whacked. Walking was clearly the key though. Lots of power walking.

Thankfully I knew that it didn't cost any money to lose weight. Since I ate less, I probably saved money, honestly.

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All the above said, I have always been very active and I thrive on variety. Thus, I fare better in the long run with more exercise options. Thankfully, there are many options out there.

*Walking - I am not a fan of walking in unsafe areas alone, or in the cold. That said, during the longer summer days, the kids and I walk to the park every evening. For the dark and the cold I have the gym (treadmill). More on that later. For work (not a safe area to walk) the mall is just a five minute drive. A warm place safe to walk when needed. FREE.

I often see our neighbors driving 2-3 blocks to the pool, the baseball diamond, the school, and even to the park. How ridiculous! We rarely drive where can walk to. (There isn't much else to walk to, but where we can easily walk to, we walk).

*Exercise Videos - if you buy one new video a year (or better yet, one used video a year) you can amass a large collection over time. I have invested in a mat, a step, and small hand weights, over the decades. I suppose it helps to focus on one thing at a time. You don't need to go out and buy a full gym, to be fit. Buy used and on sale to stretch your dollar.

*Balls - balls are pretty cheap to be had. Basketball, Soccer balls, footballs. When my son signed up for soccer, we bought a soccer ball and practiced with him. (Now there is a work out!). When we got a new park we bought a basketball. For Christmas this year we asked for tennis rackets - since we have tennis courts. The walk to the tennis courts is also great exercise. These are all great exercise options that have a very small up front investment.

*Swim - in the summer I swim at our pool at least 3 times a week, if not more. Since I am with the kids (keeping an eye on them) I generally do not swim laps. But I will have the kids throw their dive toys way out and chase after them, or race them at times. Plenty of exercise to be had in a pool, if you have free or cheap access to one. Ours is "free."

*Discount Gym - Not everyone needs a gym membership - that is for sure. Personally, I do well with treadmills and ellipticals. (I don't run due to knee problems, but the treadmill - speed walk up a hill - and elliptical can be a good replacement for a nice run). I don't really want to spend the outflow or make the space for the equipment in my house - particularly not with my wild kids who will be intent on breaking it. So, joining a discount gym had been a good option for me. There is no pool, there is no sauna, and there is not even a locker room, nor showers. What there is, is good cardio equipment and childcare.

Over the years as our income increased, I dedicated $15/month to the discount gym. I can quit at any time (no contracts).

When I Was first out of college, 24 hour fitness (with all the frills and open 24 hours) only cost $20/month.

I presume there are many gym options out there.

*Invest in a piece of exercise equipment.

For the long run, when my kids are more mature and calm (maybe when they move out) I foresee buying a nice elliptical machine. Probably used, to save significantly. The thing about these kind of purchases is you can shop carefully, buy once, and it should last for a long time.

The biggest investment I have made in the last decade is $200 for a real bike. I was looking at some REALLY nice bikes in the $400 range. I decided as I jumped back in after a long hiatus that I may need a bike I could ride around the neighborhood without getting mugged. I ended up finding something comparable at Wal Mart for $200. It wasn't totally comparable, don't get me wrong. But it was a very nice bike for how little I paid. Some none-name brand bike that no one would give a second look, but was very powerful and comfortable.

I suppose I look at biking as secondary to walking. Just get up on it and go. There isn't a lot more to it.

*Discount Classes - Colleges and cities offer a myriad of exercise classes at deep discounts. In college I took advantage of the school gym and the exercise classes (Essentially free on top of my regular full-time course load).

I currently have friends who pay $10-$15 a pop for over crowded zumba classes. My secret is an aerobics/yoga/strength training course through the city. IT is only $2.50 per class, but the class is amazing. I suppose the class speaks to my very being since it is all about exercise and strength training without using any exercise equipment but our own bodies. I always leave this class VERY high on endorphins. At least once a week for my sanity.

After going to this class for years, I could probably do all the workouts in my own living room, for free. But I find I do better with the actual class. (Then I can turn off my brain since I don't have to remember all the routines).

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All told, I may spend $30/month on exercise classes and a gym membership. I might invest $25 per year in GOOD shoes (to avoid injuries). I tend to buy a $50 pair of shoes every other year. I maybe invest $30 per year, on average, on some sort of new exercise equipment.

Over the years I have built up enough exercise options. Any given day I can:

Go to the gym
Go to an exercise class
Go play tennis
Take a walk (around lake, to track, to park, at the mall, go for a hike, anywhere)
Go on a bike ride
Go for a swim (summer)
Kick around a soccer ball
Play a game of basketball
Pop in an exercise video (Step aerobics, yoga, aerobics, strength training)
Turn on the radio and just dance!

& the people around me tell me that it is far too expensive to get in shape, as they read off the cost of personal trainers, pricey exercise classes, and the more high end gyms that abound in the region.

Aw, thankfully I know better.

Frugal Advice - Taxes

January 25th, 2011 at 09:07 am

The best financial wisdom I have picked up for over the years is that there is usually a way to have something virtually identical for much cheaper. Or, the good things in life don't have to cost a lot of money.

Just seems to be a constant recurring theme in the discourse of personal finance. A recurring theme in everyday conversation with people around me.

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CreditCardFree brings today's financial wisdom:

Don't pay more to file your taxes - more than you have to.

Wise Words!

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That said, don't be penny wise and pound foolish, either.

I have to say that as a tax preparer. I honestly believe for our good clients that we save them far more than they pay us. As it should be. If not, they shouldn't hire us.

I also have the clients who pay too much but prefer us for the peace of mind. I suppose I can't blame them, though for some of them they could probably do just fine with a cheaper option.

For the most part, I'd say file your taxes in the manner that saves you the most money in the end.

For the average person, free file or do-it-yourself would be the way to go.

I also think it is good to understand about the taxes you are paying. Whether I Was an accountant or not, I could not imagine being ignorant about the taxes that I pay.

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In the old days I did my own taxes with pen and paper. These days, that would be pretty hard to do (it has gotten so complex) but low cost software could do the trick.

I use the professional software at work to do my taxes. Takes me about 10 minutes (if that), and is free to me. Obviously my tax situation is quite simple.

Unexpected Day Off

January 24th, 2011 at 10:59 am

I was going to work on some Continuing Education from home today. I missed a seminar due to my surgery, but was able to convert it to self study.

On my time card I put about 40 hours sick time and 8 hours CPE (Education).

I peeked at my work e-mail today to find the materials, though I really didn't want to look at anything work related. That I was saving for tomorrow.

Unfortunately, I couldn't find it so I went through my e-mails one by one. Thankfully, nothing too big or stressful going on.

I finally called someone at the office who was able to find out that the materials won't be ready for another week. Rolleyes Should have been ready a week ago.

Anyway, the whole time I have been home I haven't watched all the TV/movies I said I would with dh. Wouldn't by my first choice, but I feel bad. Nothing else planned today, so on the couch watching TV it is.

My boss already pulled my time card so I can't really change it. No matter since I have little choice but to complete it some way, some how. Need it for my license, and it's paid for.

Plan B: The office is closed in a couple of weekends for carpet cleaning. It is usually my only weekend off during tax season. But since I have been lazing around at home for so long, I suppose it wouldn't hurt to get my CPE out of the way during that weekend.

I suppose the worst case is I will have to finish it some time in May.

But it was a tax update and I really would prefer to review the material BEFORE tax season hits hard. It's been hard to keep up with all the tax changes lately. Fed is just the half of it - the state tax situation is a huge mess.

----------------------------------------------------

So, I spent a chunk of the morning clearing e-mails and all that.

Tomorrow I return to the office. Will be working but not really there for 2 half days. Certainly don't want to take any client calls. Will see what kind of a mess awaits me...

Best Financial Advice

January 23rd, 2011 at 03:57 pm

The best financial wisdom I have picked up for over the years is that there is usually a way to have something virtually identical for much cheaper. Or, the good things in life don't have to cost a lot of money.

Just seems to be a constant recurring theme in the discourse of personal finance. A recurring theme in everyday conversation with people around me.

& so today I feel blessed that I know I don't have to spend a lot of money for x, y and z.

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I was just reading an absurd quote about the cost of public college 20 years down the road. something like 25 times what I paid for my education, anyway. I just have to roll my eyes. If my kids have to pay 25 times as much for their education, we will sit down and ask them if it is really worth it. My feeling would be, no.

I know the experts are just trying to get parents to plan and save, but people like us just roll our eyes at the tactics.

Don't get me wrong - I am sure plenty people have and will pay that much for an education. I just don't see the point.

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I got the City Parks/Rec catalog for spring classes. Seems kind of premature, but classes start Feb. 1 I suppose.

Was flipping through. Might sign dh and BM up for a family tennis class. Might be best to wait for summer, but then again, the weather is much nicer now. He doesn't start track until March, so may give it a go for February. Maybe $50 for 4 hours of tennis classes - a steal. (Dh and BM can then fill us in). BM is such a natural, we may sign him up for more classes as well. Later on anyway - when track is over.

We did sign him up for track, too. Starts in March. He could participate for as little as $50. I find these non-profit sports things to be so inexpensive. The funny thing is a number of people have told me that "it is *so* expensive." Since we pretty much just pay per diem (uniforms, supplies) and all the coaches and everything are volunteers, I just have to roll my eyes. We paid $150 to sign him up competitively. Will see how it goes. I personally don't know of a cheaper way to get him so much instruction in sports - the coaches have always been really good. Meanwhile, I have got friends who make twice our income, complaining about the cost. I don't *get* people.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, we will probably sign the kids up for private swim lessons in the spring, immediately before our pool opens. BM doesn't really need it, but could practice his form and more advanced swimming. LM could probably use a refresher. I suppose when it comes to swimming, we find private lessons more cost efficient. We were lucky to have a private teacher come to our pool, on the less expensive side, in years past. You can tell when you hang out at our pool - most of the kids in the neighborhood are phenomenal swimmers. I suppose the ones that are there all the time also get ample practice. We were discussing a less expensive route this year, since they have the basics down, mostly. I told dh, "yeah, but they will learn 10 times more in those private classes - they are so exceptional." Was very pleased with this one place. Hopefully this is the last year we feel the need to spend the money.

Of course, if we didn't have the money, something cheaper would certainly do.

I suppose we will keep very busy the next few months!

Financial Chores Done + Investments

January 23rd, 2011 at 09:11 am

I think I have completed most my financial chores. They didn't take long at all. (Printed year-end statements, stuff like that). My list might have looked long, but it took little time. I am too efficient to waste a lot of time on chores. Much better things to do!

Next weekend I will finish my taxes (not much to do) and file with the state to expedite my refund (before we get into IOU territory again - I can hope).

I hear now that IRS will accept my tax return Feb. 14? Which is sooner than expected. OF course, that is where the bulk of my refund will come from.

As the refunds arrive, I will put them into my IRA.

May just do the same plan for 2011. I can put $8k into our ROTHs this year (if all goes well) and can maybe put $2k into our regular IRA, helped heavily with 2011 tax refunds.

Will see how the year goes though. My overtime bonus is earmarked for our 2012 medical deductible, but I am kind of tempted to put it to the mortgage instead. As a compromise, no decision will be made until the end of the year. It just depends how the year pans out. The mortgage motivation is to get to $199,999 by year's end. I could admit it is purely psychological, but we borrowed a few thousand dollars in our last refi (closing costs) and feel in a good position to repay those. I don't expect to keep hitting the mortgage quite as hard after that is repaid. IT was a good decision at the time (knocked another percent off our loan), and we had no cash to spare at the time, but would like to at least get that part paid off now that we are better able to. IT may seem silly, but we didn't get where we are at current, borrowing money for closing costs. It's something we normally wouldn't do and would like to pay off if we can.

Unfortunately, both our windshields were cracked in the last month. It's not a huge deal (we can get them both fixed very cheaply), but I can't help but feel it might be a bad omen. Just a reminder that there always seems to be something. More than the usual, lately.

As long as dh needs frequent MRIs, I expect we will max out our deductible. & we seem to be in the habit of maxing out before January even ends, with all these surgeries. Rolleyes So, I am not going to rush to put all that money to the mortgage, just yet. IT's an idea for December 31.

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I don't think I fully realized how stir crazy I was. Every time I feel my neck swelling more, I just limit myself to the couch. As such, I've mostly been a big couch potato during recovery.

Yesterday, we went on a long drive to the dentist, visited with my folks, and went out to dinner (YUM!)

& my swelling went down considerably.

I have had my doubts about returning to work in a couple of days, but am feeling much better about that. Phew! Maybe being a lifeless lump hasn't been the best thing for me. Everyone freaks out when I do anything, though. Can't win!

I also under estimated how stir crazy I was. The weather was just GORGEOUS yesterday, the landscape more beautiful than usual. Usually I am a home body but all I could think on the beautiful drive was how I Wanted to get out and go on a hike and go to San Francisco some weekend, etc., etc.

Anyway, it felt good to see some different sights and sounds besides the ones inside my house. Big Grin

We have also been on a very unusual and long rain streak, and it could just be the sunshine. I believe it was 75F+ degrees yesterday. Nothing but sun in the forecast. Phew! My body was not used to not having sun for so long, that is for sure. Maybe I just needed a good dose Vitamin D.

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My dad sent me this article the other day (& to some other relatives).

WATCH OUT FOR THESE INVESTMENTS

http://money.cnn.com/magazines/moneymag/moneymag_archive/198...

I was telling him about Tobias' book "The Only Investment Guide You Will Ever Need." My dad doesn't much care for books, generally, but it piqued his curiosity.

Since we got another $40 in Amazon gift cards, I decided to just ship it to him (depending on the cost).

I had never bought used through Amazon before, but dh has certainly sold his fair share of used items on there. So, I gave it a whirl.

The cost + shipping wasn't much less than the current sale price of the book, BUT I would have had to pay more shipping otherwise. We usually never buy anything until we can congregate $25 of purchases for free shipping. In this case, I found a new book from an amazon seller, and the book + shipping cost $6.

If he doesn't like it or care for it or want to keep it, I'll just ask for it back. I borrowed it from the library when I read it, but I probably something worth having on hand. Unfortunately, the ebook prices weren't very appealing. But, it's one of those books where I might prefer to have on hand to flip through. Might be for the best. If he likes it, I might just have to borrow it and skim through it again.

---------------------------------------------------

I decided to buy book #3 in my Fire & Ice/Game of Throne series. Ebook is $5.99. Dh told me it was not on sale still - but not that it cost about half as much as the others (the others I bought on sale for $5).

I picked up the book (dh has it), looked at the 1200 pages on fine print, and thought, "uh uh." I suppose the other perk of the ebooks is you can take any ebook and make the font as large as you want. I doubled the font size for the last 1600 pages, and would like to do so for this super monstrosity book. Not only is the book 1200 pages, but it would be more if it was the size of an average font.

I value my eye site, but also have a gift card balance, so the book will be free to me, anyway. Returning to work, busy season and all, lord knows when I Will finish it.

Unexpected

January 22nd, 2011 at 09:52 am

Didn't expect I'd be making extra mortgage payments this year. Seemed a distant goal, but so far this year has been going better than expected. (Hope it stays that way?)

I revised my financial goals in my sidebar since I have a $2k tax refund to apply to the IRAs & an extra $50/month for the mortgage.

Dh received $20 for his birthday (from his Grand Dad in Florida). I asked him if he wanted to spend it or put it to the mortgage. (Honestly, usually I take birthday money to pay the bills, Lately, it seems, anyway). I wouldn't have cared if he actually wanted to enjoy the money, but he chose the mortgage. (If I had asked ROTH or spend, he'd choose spend). I am realizing that he is much more on board with paying off the mortgage. It is what it is, but I think we will do better than I expect this year, with him more willing to scrounge a few dollars here and there for the mortgage.

He just hates debt so much and the more I talk about the mortgage and show him how little principal we pay every month, the more motivated he seems.

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I paid the bills for February. I wanted to lock in the mortgage payment for February, but since January hasn't posted yet, I will wait a week or 2.

I added $50 from income, dh's $20, and $3 of rounding. An extra $73 for the February payment. It's in Quicken so I don't forget.

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All the money I would usually put to savings in February is going to my surgery (& then some). I paid a $2k deposit (on the card) and one of these days they will bill me $1k for the rest of our deductible. It's done.

So, not much progress to show for January/February, but GLAD I have the cash.

+$35

January 21st, 2011 at 12:50 pm

Dh just sold a pile of toys for $35.

Not bad!

Actually, he just wanted to put it all up for free. Which, usually I am fine with. Rather be decluttered than spend the time to sell a bunch of low-worth items. BUT, I felt one of the toys could easily fetch $20+, so I asked him to try and sell that one.

He put them all up and offered $35 for the lot (or more, bought separately).

Took about a day to sell. Phew!

He is keeping the money for game buying/selling, BUT expects a $100 sale with his recent game purchase. He can at least give me $50 of that - to the mortgage. He also sold enough already this month to pay for our $50 charity dinner. I guess January is a good month.

Since we plan to put a lot into our ROTHs this year (will see), we had talked of putting this extra money to chip at the mortgage this year (goal to get below $200k - need an extra $3k or so to do so). With this goal in mind, will probably be more likely to send small extra payments in throughout the year.

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I am still feeling great and Doctor says if my mood/energy level hasn't been affected yet, it probably won't be. But testing my thyroid levels in a few weeks to be sure. He still thinks I should rest and my thyroid is swelling a lot today, so I am taking heed. I know I have the energy level for work - I just hope it is not too stressful. The difference will be night and day when I return (absolutely nothing to do at home versus crazy busy at work due to both the time of year and my absence). I am planning to ease in mid-week with a couple of half days (before my clients know I am back and bombard me).

I'm almost done with my second 800-page book and will probably put the series down after that so I can get something done. I've only got a couple of days left and have some stuff I should get done around here, before I go back to work.

For some, TV makes them feel unproductive and lazy, but for me it is reading. I don't sit in front of the TV for HOURS like I do when I can't put down a book. But, it's been a good diversion to help the time pass. I am just not sure how committed I am to the next 2 books, during tax season. More time after.

Dh is probably annoyed I haven't been much in the mood to watch hours of TV - I have watched little.

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I do admit I have been a little stir crazy. I am sure dh will be pleased when I return to work because I have been grumbling about my honey do list and seems to me that dh exaggerates how *busy* he really is. As such, I am sure I have been a wee bit naggy.

All that said, I know myself quite well. There isn't much about full retirement (not working at all) that appeals to me. For a day or two I might have lashed out at dh a bit, but by day 3, 4, 5, I just wished I was back at work. I am sick of everyone telling me how awesome it must be to get all this time off work.

I know that the average person thinks it is great to stay home all day, but unfortunately (or fortunately) that is not me. As such, when I get back to work I will be glad to be back (& grateful dh can attend to the tedium at home).

Last time I was home for a time (months, actually) was when LM was born. That was completely different. I enjoyed staying home, but I probably felt a lot better and kept far more busy. Now both kids are in school so there isn't much left to do around the house. Being a classroom helper or anything like that is very low on my list of desires.

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In financial news, my paycheck (net) was bigger than expected. All I told dh was that this year was going to be TIGHT, but then with all these tax breaks, it isn't really tight at all.

I revised the "budget" and decided to add $50/month to the mortgage.

Short term saving remains at $1200/month (should be more than ample).

I revised mid term savings from $400 to $415/month (for an even $5k per year - just about).

I revised the ROTH from $625/month to $650. Essentially up to a full 10% of gross.

How quickly I can return to work full force (& earn overtime) determines the fate of the rest of the year, I suppose.

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Dh and I did have a talk about him looking for work this year. He has been trying to volunteer more at the TV station (where he wishes to get a job). After our talk he tried again and immediately got a reply from a high up at the station who has already said he would like to hire him (if he could get the budget). I think it is awesome if *he* knows how much time dh has and what kind of other work he can do.

Anyway, the fact that this particular person is going to somewhat oversee or assign dh's volunteer work, is a very good sign. For one, there is a lot of work to be done (no one else can coordinate volunteers?). Secondly, he already expressed interest in hiring him, when dh told him he would have more time during the week, before. So, will see!

Our discussions of him working have little to do with our current finances (should be a really good year). But, I just told him I would really appreciate him finding a job so that I have more flexibility to transition to a new workplace. My boss may retire any minute. If I stay depends on if I have the choice and who takes over. At current, no one wants to take over, and past candidates were many I would not want to work for. So dh will volunteer while I brush up my resume. No point in him actually looking for work until summer is over. We had already agreed he would not work the first year the kids were in school. I thought it would be a tougher year (it hasn't been), but tax season and summer are hard times to think of jumping back into the workforce. Hopefully job prospects are better come fall. They are currently pretty darn slim. I think volunteering and making more contacts is his best use of time, at current.

Free Smoothie

January 19th, 2011 at 08:40 am

Dh is taking me out to B&N today for a free smoothie. HE already redeemed the coupon on the nook, but I guess you can go redeem it any time (when you log into their wifi?)

Dh got me smoothie fixings, but I have been too lazy (not tired - just lazy) to make them. Or to ask dh to make one. A free one sounds nice though. Big Grin

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I haven't been "doing too much" or doing much of anything because I have a fair amount of swelling. Probably not a lot, but it is uncomfortable. I now know what it feels like to have a large growth in my neck - not fun. So as long as I am swelling, I am sitting pretty still. Which is fine since I am getting way into my book series. Book #2 is another 800 pages or so.

I also haven't slept in my bed at all because laying more flat is uncomfortable. Oh well - getting used to the couch.

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I do have the financial chore to print out 12/31 statements - maybe I will do today or tomorrow.

Gourmet Dinner

January 18th, 2011 at 05:36 pm

**School decided on an awesome fundraiser this year (versus a most lame one last spring). Anyway, they made arrangements with a local cooking school. For $50, we get a gourmet meal, and they may also add a childcare component to the fundraiser. Since they had limited spots, dh signed up the second he got the e-mail. Plus, he already made enough money on amazon this month to make up for it (now that I think about it).

**Saved some money today. Doctor rescheduled my appointment. Was going to drop the kids off at care, but they rescheduled for a morning later in the week - while kids are at school. I figured he'd look at my incision, say "looks good," and that would be the extent of it. I even feel up to driving myself, but dh insists on going with me.

**Tonight I get to ESCAPE the house for dinner. Yay! The restaurant where dh frequently meets our parents to trade off kids (about 60 miles away) was closed down and they ended up finding a cheap buffet. I wasn't that impressed when they took me on a Sunday. The prices were expensive for Sunday brunch and it had a bit of a *ghetto* feel. Dh swore lunch was much better than the dinner menu they were apparently serving. The ice cream was disgusting, too.

That said, dh swore by their lunch, and they opened the same restaurant chain right by my work. Since I work in a terrible area, I wasn't overly thrilled to check it out. (Um okay - so they like to operate in less than desirable locales).

& then we walked inside...

The price was a little stiffer in Sacramento, but we quickly let it go. The scene was right out of Vegas. Otherwise I have never seen a bigger buffet. It was huge and yummy.

SO, we had promised to take the kids sometime. They love buffets and always get their money's worth. Just $4/each for them and their giant stomachs.

So, since I no longer have a doctor appointment to go to, we decided to go out and eat. Will check out dinner, anyway. We couldn't swing lunch with the kids any time the next week or so.

**We had agreed to sign up BM for track this winter, but I was worried when the local track club had not updated their website. Wonder if they went broke or something - lack of interest? (My kids love the track and love to run - but I know few like them). Even LM wants to sign up - but he is too young (he never wants to sign up for anything).

Anyway, I meant to e-mail the club and express interest, but it's been a bit crazy here.

Thankfully, I saw they updated their website. To join for "recreation only" is a mere $50. But I will probably just sign up for "competition" at $150.

**I am relieved that I should feel up to the dentist Saturday. IT will be a sad day. Our last visit with my very affordable/reasonable/conservative forever dentist.

I have no other plan but to ask around a LOT - we may have to try a lot of dentists this year. I've already tried two highly recommended dentists up here that were nothing but scammy. *sigh* I dread it and will probably send out dh this time around. See what kind of random dental work the scammers will dream up for him. I Was quoted several thousand for work I clearly don't need. That was almost a decade ago, and my teeth are still healthy as they always have been - no work needed. We decided to stick with our dentist back home - the drive no longer sounded so bad. (The scary part was how highly recommended these dentists had been!!)

Anyway, I'd mostly like to drive there and back (usually we'd make a weekend of it). But, if I feel up to it, we will meet my parents for dinner at a favorite restaurant, before driving back home.

I will eat well this week!

**Finally, retirement officially hit six figures on Friday. Yay, stock market. Not holding my breath that it will last long, but feels nice for now. Big Grin I didn't put much in the market last year, but will resume more aggressive contributions next paycheck (Feb. 1). Yes- must be why the market is high.

**Oh, I finally finished my 800-page book. On to book 2. I've done little this week but read, and go for some short walks. The book is good motivation to sit still. It started out kind of "eh," but as it gets more complex it is harder to put down. I am hoping to finish book #2 on the Nook (getting used to the larger granny print I can use). For book #3, all I have is a book with a font that looks like a 6. Ugh. Dh is keeping an eye out for it to go on sale. My eye site may be worth $10 for book #3. Big Grin

Roku

January 16th, 2011 at 08:43 am

Dh was spoiled for his birthday and got a roku box.

Problem is, it is not getting an HD signal in our bedroom. He has been wanting a new router anyway, so picked one up with the Amazon gift card. Hopefully that will fix the problem.

Just one more bump in the road to "no more cable."

We can stream hulu and netflix directly on our new TV so this gives us access to all this stuff on our other TV.

Dh had experimented with a computer set up at some point (forgot the name of it) but this is so much nicer/easier/better.

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I don't remember the last time my life was THIS boring. LOL. Dh and the kids have left me before (a weeks' vacation - a couple of times) but I had so much I felt I had to do around the house. I had to work. I got together with friends.

Sitting on the couch, reading, and watching TV all day, is getting pretty old.

I'll give it a couple of more days, but am going to start finding some projects around the house very soon.

I feel GREAT! I am also eating us out of house and home. SO hungry! Healing must take a lot of energy.

I'm Home!

January 13th, 2011 at 02:10 pm

I think my Doctor lied to me! He told me many times patients go home the same day. I don't think I could have done better but got stuck in the hospital overnight. I told dh I found it hard to believe I could have done any better and released early.

Anyway, thankfully I am home and I can actually rest now!

Surgery went very well. Definitely the best anesthesia experience I have had.

I haven't had any pain meds since they gave me morphine when I first woke up (had a mad headache) and I Feel GREAT! So I expect recovery to be pretty quick. I did have a drain tube which was pretty uncomfortable, so am glad to be free of it. Doctor took it out today and released me. Phew!

That said, the nurses were very responsive to me (best hospital experience we have ever had) and dh bought me some really good ear plugs yesterday. Not that they didn't wake me up every hour all night, but I got more rest than I could have otherwise. Thank you earplugs!

Biopsy during surgery was inconclusive, as expected. So I get to keep half my thyroid for now. Did not find anything bad. Get more biopsy results in a month. I think this was the best outcome we could expect. The doctor did not expect anything conclusive during surgery due to the type of mass it was. At least he didn't tell me it looked horrible, had spread, and/or decided to take the whole thing.

It's good to be home!

Big Day!

January 12th, 2011 at 06:53 am

I haven't had much time to think about my impending surgery, which I think works out just fine. I am a very "one thing a time" person. I could spend the last months worrying if I have cancer, or I can just wait and see if I do, and then worry about it. Kind of how I Feel.

Anyway, I have had a lot of questions about when I Will get biopsy results, etc. Honestly, I just want to get through this surgery and heal. I presume I won't know until I meet with my doctor next week, and that is fine with me. I don't foresee thinking much about it while I recover.

I think a big physical/emotional strength for me is being a good sleeper. I always have been. (More like - it is often hard for me to stay awake!) That said, I Was starting to feel anxious last night and expected a night of tossing and turning. Imagine my surprise when I conked out around 9pm and didn't awake until about 5:30am. I almost couldn't believe my eyes when I Saw the clock. Aaaaaaaahhhhhh. Don't think I could have slept better.

Though I am anxious about my surgery, yesterday I left behind a lot of stress at work. I don't have to think about work for a couple of weeks, and since it has been unusually stressful lately, I think that contributed to a really good night sleep.

I've had a few surgeries before so I feel rather zen about it. I could see freaking out a lot more if this was my first time under the knife.

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I don't have to be at the hospital for a few hours. Just enough time to take the kids school and to leisurely pack a bag. Then we will go on our way. I am glad I didn't have to leave at dawn, before the kids woke up. Though beyond that would be nice to get it over with I suppose.

I am not sure if I will get to come home today, but I can only hope! I am mentally preparing myself how it is probably best to stay in the hospital if I Feel really crappy. (They said maybe 50/50 I stay over night)? That said, I am very healthy and tend to be able to come home on the sooner end from procedures, so I mostly expect I will be home tonight. Which makes me VERY happy. I can hardly think of anything worse than being stuck in the hospital overnight. If nothing else, I find it impossible to rest in that environment. All I will want is some peace and quiet! Even with two rambunctious boys at home, they sleep soundly about 9 hours a night and go to school 7 hours a day. Plus dh can take care of them and wait on me. Coming home sounds very nice!

No matter what, I should be home soon. Phew!

Hanging in There

January 10th, 2011 at 07:28 am

Did I mention I am sick of hospitals?

For any new/casual readers:

2009 - My dad narrowly survived both a stroke and a heart attack (a few months apart).

That was a hard year.

Of course, then my dh was diagnosed with a brain tumor.

2010 - dh's surgery - we are on wait and watch to see if it grows back.

2011 - I am having my thyroid removed (partially) this week because it has a large mass on it. They can't tell if it is cancer or not - will have to biopsy the mass once it is taken out.

Meanwhile, I have very healthy kids, and I know so many people dealing with so much worse at the moment (young fathers who have passed, lots of brain cancer going around, etc.) I feel blessed that it hasn't been worse, that I Still have both my father and my husband, but at the same time I am kind of emotionally exhausted with everything!

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To limit the stress (as much as possible) upon my return to work, I have just been working every day up to my surgery.

I think this is an extra fine strategy. I hadn't thought much about it because I simply I have so much work to do. That is my sole motivating factor. I suppose that and trying to make up time off so I get paid the entire 2 weeks I am expected to be out.

Meanwhile, where there is MIL, there is drama. Of course there has been drama. I don't know much about it - I am blissfully unaware. Everyone else can deal with the drama - I have other stuff to worry about. I am thinking this work work work strategy is pretty nice. I've hardly given a thought to the actual surgery. Suppose will cross that bridge when I come to it. Certainly no time to stress about it!

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We haven't bought anything all month but food. Just, groceries. & Dh and I had a lunch date last week.

I told dh I Was in the mood to just go out last night, for dinner. Since I won't be driving to work for almost 2 weeks, we splurged the cost of a tank of gas on a meal out. It was very nice!

Of course, dh had planned to take me to lunch today, too. I will eat well before surgery. Big Grin

Besides working all weekend we had friends over Saturday and found some time to play tennis yesterday. We are all getting much better. We have 2 tennis courts in a small space, and have never seen anyone else there. Yesterday, someone was playing doubles in the other court. Being terrible players ourselves, I wasn't sure we would stick around long - didn't want to bother them with all our stray balls. In the end we did pretty darn good. Personally, I had extra motivation to aim better, but BM is getting REALLY good. He is simply a natural. I think we only hit 2 balls their way, but they hit a couple our way too. Big Grin

I probably would have gone to the gym too, but it closed at 6. I think we finished playing tennis around 5:15. (Part of the reason why the membership is so cheap - no frills, not terribly long hours. Closes early on Sunday).

So, tonight I would like to hit the gym, one last time before surgery. (& yes, I HATE this time of year - they gym has been so freaking crowded as it is every January. I can only hope I get a machine!)

Tuesday night BM has piano lessons. I suppose I will spend the evening with my family.

& Wednesday it's surgery for me.

I've been working a hell of a lot, but will just be winding down everything today and tomorrow. I think the worst is over. Phew!

Hell Week

January 7th, 2011 at 06:33 pm

This is officially the week form hell! My first client IRS audit AND then surgery will follow in just a few days.

Ack!

I have been a tax professional for over 10 years. Why is this my first audit? I have been with my current employer for 9 years and his clients rarely get audited. He told me this when he hired me, but boy, did he mean it! They don't bother since there is nothing to find. (Past audits yielded no changes).

I can only hope to find another firm as clean and squeaky (& easy) when he retires.

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I am working all weekend to get as much done as I can before surgery, and to avoid using up too much vacation time, etc.

I don't mind at all - it's kind of easy work this time of year (W-2s and all that - maybe hectic, but easy). & I won't have anyone bugging me so I look forward to actually getting some work done!

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I was talking to my mom about the piano lessons, and she sounded more supportive than last we talked! The funny thing was she said, "When was that?" I Was like, "Last Tuesday." Wait a minute - today is Friday. I feel like WEEKS have passed since Tuesday - it's just been one of those weeks.

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I have been very MIA here and probably will continue to be. But I suppose after surgery I will have all the time in the world to catch back up.

Financially, all I can hope is that I am good as new and back at work ASAP. I paid all the January bills and told dh as long as he picked up my paycheck by 1/30, should be okay. Pay day is mid-month, but I didn't want to rely on it for any bills while I was focusing on my recovery. I will probably just pick up my paycheck upon my return to work.

Other than getting that stuff in order, my mind isn't much on finances. Too many other worries I suppose.

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I suppose I have some major vegging to do. Stress detox tonight.

Living the High Life

January 4th, 2011 at 08:24 pm

I told my parents excitedly that I signed BM up for piano lessons.

They weren't very enthused. Said something like, "Why would you pay someone to do that???"

1 - They paid for piano lessons for 20-ish years for me (& I taught for about 10 years - so they know I could handle it).

2 - They are cheap. They think we are hoity toity for all the stuff we do farm out. (I value my time more, that is for sure).

Who know someone raised with such DIY values could be such a lazy bum? Big Grin

Anyway...

BM had his first lesson. For one, he was 10 times more enthused to be taught by someone else besides me.

Funny side benefit? As I sat there and let someone else do all the work (I read my nook), I felt a little bit of euphoria. Since I taught so long (but it's not my job now) and I enjoy music, I wouldn't say it was a chore to teach my children. Well, before. But all I could think is "one less thing I have to do." I liked it far more than I expected! I've taught so many kids I suppose it was nice to let someone else teach mine.

I came home and told dh that it's really nice to hire people for things!

I hesitate to be too optimistic. Will see how it goes. But definitely a good start.

LM is really naturally musical, but hesitant to try new things. I figured I'd save a few bucks waiting until this spring or summer to get him signed up. Anyway, I offered to teach him so he could keep up with BM. He expressed great interest the last time I brought up this idea (he prefers me over some stranger). But today he told me he wanted to focus his efforts on being a great video game player. The wording he used when he said this was so funny too - I can't remember precisely what he said. (He's 5).

Oy vey!

As his brother improves, the forces of jealousy and curiosity will come over him, I predict.

Green Energy

January 2nd, 2011 at 08:45 am

With the economy and all, didn't expect a raise this year at all.

Anyway, when trying to cut costs, I decided to drop out of our city utility's green energy program. I was hoping to save $6 per month, but it didn't work out so well. Since our balanced budget billing is based on past bills, it didn't change anything when they re-calculated our monthly amount.

Bah!

That said, 2011 is turning out better than expected with all the tax breaks. In addition to extended tax cuts (wasn't sure about those even, before they passed), and the payroll tax holiday, my state income taxes also went down by about 75% (some tax increases expired).

In the back of my mind I had decided to add back our Green Energy option, but hadn't gotten around to it.

Today they just happened to be talking, on the radio, to a marketing person from our electric company. So, when I got to work, I signed up again.

The perk that I didn't intend, was that I could choose a gift card from a handful of vendors. $10 for signing up! (Maybe I should quit and re-sing up ever year - Wink )

I don't know when the gift card arrives but I just picked jamba juice thinking of my upcoming surgery. If my throat is sore, etc., might be nice to have some smoothies. I might not be as up to making my own.

We actually have a different utility company for our natural gas. I have heard not to invest in their green programs. I have heard over the years that our electric company's programs were particularly good. (They are also a non-profit, which makes them a very different animal of sorts).

After hearing about all the program does do, in more detail, I feel more commitment to stick with it.

For merely $6/month, the utility will buy renewable energy - enough to cover our home's entire electric needs. In addition (& this part I didn't realize or I forgot) they use the money to implement more green energy locally. They have used the money to buy solar panels and wind turbines. For the long run they want to make most of their renewable energy, versus buying it from others.

IRS Filing & Low Gas Bill

January 1st, 2011 at 06:52 pm

My dad just sent me an article that the IRS is not equipped to accept tax returns until late February? Due to late passage of 2010 tax laws.

So, I wonder if this means I should file my state tax return (to avoid the IOU situation) and file my Federal taxes when I can. Hmmmm. Will probably be my plan of action.

As far as work, no one has their taxes done much before that point, so, eh...

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I also just got the December gas bill. Was shocked because we used 1/2 the gas that we did last December. I would peg January as our coldest month of the year, on average, but this December has been record breaking COLD.

Likewise, last December was our biggest gas usage month for the seasonal year - 75 therms. For December 2010? 37 therms.

I'll give credit to myself. I moved the thermostat down one degree last year and have been better about just showering and dressing in the cold this year. (It no longer bothers me as I have just adjusted. House is usually 60 - 64 degrees in the morning. I take a hot shower, throw on my clothes and go, so, eh).

Dh and the kids walk around in their underwear all winter - Rolleyes I am bundled up to the nth degree with fleece blankets all over the house. I don't do well with cold, but can generally be fine at 68 being well bundled up. Anyway, dh got a robe for his surgery last year (nice and warm) and has actually been wearing it around the house. I can't help but feel with both kids at school and his robe that maybe the heat isn't being turned on as much as usual! I can't help but wonder how much credit the robe should get. Frankly, I don't think it matters much. He is probably just less concerned about the kids comfort since they are both at school all day.

On balanced billing, our bill has been as low as $14/month. I can't help but wonder if it will be lower once it resets. Usually December/January obliterates any credit we built up the rest of the year. Instead, our gas usage this month was the same as last March.

Oh - January won't be so good. I will be home recovering surgery and will probably prefer to keep the heat at 69 all day. I will demand a little more comfort than usual. At night I could care less - I snuggle up with dh and bundle up in blankets. I've lived in much colder/less insulated homes. So at night I can be pretty spartan while sleeping.

As a funny aside, dh was complaining that he was cold the last few nights. Rolleyes He is sleeping in his underwear and wearing a sheet. I told him to get a blanket!! It's kind of funny because I am the cold whimp. Like, get a blanket - what a novel idea! With all my layers and blankets, it hasn't felt any colder to me...