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Archive for February, 2011

Clean House

February 26th, 2011 at 08:01 am

No Snow!

The news went on and on about how it would be the first big snow in 35 years. (big snow = anything that might stick! 1 or 2 inches?) IT was supposed to snow overnight. When I drove home, it was beautiful and clear, but COLD! BRRRRRRRRR. Maybe there was something to this snow thing. I don't remember the last time it was 29 degrees at 5pm. Ouch. Maybe at 5am? Not 5pm.

The night was CLEAR and beautiful as can be.

Needless to say, NO SNOW.

Which is why we never get snow. IF it's cold, it's not wet. If it's wet, it's warm. What a big disappointment after all the hype though. !!

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It's supposed to be sunny for a few days, so will warm up. The heat is working HARD today though. Too hard for practically March.

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I suppose I have my project for this year. I want to get more proficient with the house work.

With finances, I probably dilly dally with it a bit because I LOVE to do so. But, that said, I have a pretty efficient, fast system which takes little time.

I want to be the same way with the house.

I just took that career color test thing (see last post) and it says I am an ORGANIZER. Yes, I know I am very organized. So, why can't I be so organized when it comes to my stuff. Why is my house always a mess? Probably because I don't care so much about my stuff.

Anyway, I have been trying to do nightly chores. A little bit at a time. Problem #1 - I can't do a little bit at a time. Everything with me is all or nothing. If I spend 15 minutes picking up, I have a list of 10 more things I Want to do. I can't just clean one mirror - I have to clean them all.

As such, it has been exhausting, and I have spent hours cleaning, but I think a lot of this is the catch up factor. If the house isn't filthy, maybe I Can just clean one mirror at a time. Maybe I won't find 10 new things to do every time I tackle a project.

So I tell myself.

I was perusing flylady again, after a comment suggestion. I liked FlyLady and am aware of the site, but at the end of the day I just could care less about most of it.

But, I checked it out. For whatever reason I thought FlyLady had good cleaning tips. Which is my #2 problem - just not knowing what to do sometimes. My mom was not much into house cleaning either, clearly.

I decided to check out her shower tips.

Buy a loofah, and scrub down every day with soap or shampoo. That's it.

That's it??? Does this sound too good to be true? HEavy bath cleaner is one of the only things we buy because we tend to tackle it a few times a year (if that). As far as cleaning supplies. Something we don't spend money on...

This simple advice was life changing. I just happened to run across the advice of baking soda/lemon juice as a shower scrubber. I had also read the tip of hydrogen peroxide on white tile. AND flylady reminded me how handy a toothbrush is for cleaning (I knew but had forgotten in the months between cleanings).

So, I bought a loofah.

I started scrubbing the shower with soap, during my showers. (I decided to dump the loofah until I got it all clean. was getting nasty stuff all over it).

I did it over the course of a week or so. Then I went over the entire grout with hydrogen peroxide and a toothbrush. Just a section at a time. Took a week. Then I tackled the grimy/grey floor with the baking soda and lemon. Glass I went over with windex.

My shower has never looked so shiny.

I will wipe it down every day with the promise to never have to clean it AGAIN. Hallelujah.

Dh had been cleaning the shower, because it's one of those things I never have time for. You know it's bad if he will clean it.

The only thing I couldn't get clean was the shower drain cover (cheap plastic thing). I asked dh to buy me a new cover, and I would probably never ask him to clean the shower again. Big Grin

Why is this such a success? I figured out how to erase my most hated chore with a simple, efficient, chemical free plan. Double score! No more bath scrub!

My work is not done. I bought a loofah for the kids' bath and have been scrubbing it down after baths. No biggie. But the tile needs some work and the tub could use a baking soda scrub too. My plan? USe their shower and go over the tile a little at a time. That will work.

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What next? I don't know, but I want to add one little habits like that.

I cringe at the idea of dh going back to work, and this is one reason why. My chore list is incredibly small. Day to day I don't do much around the house. I am worried about taking on a lot more household chores/duties. But I am starting to get more optimistic that I can do a lot more without too much more effort.

Color career Test

February 26th, 2011 at 06:58 am

Um, this was freaky!

career color Test

http://www.careerpath.com/career-tests/color-test/

From picking my favorite and least favorite colors, it told me this:

Best Occupational Category
You're an ORGANIZER

Keywords
Self-Control, Practical, Self-Contained, Orderly, Systematic, Precise, and Accurate

These conservative appearing, plotting-types enjoy organizing, data systems, accounting, detail, and accuracy. They often enjoy mathematics and data management activities such as accounting and investment management. Persistence and patience allows them to do detailed paperwork, operate office machines, write business reports, and make charts and graphs.

ORGANIZER CAREERS
Suggested careers are Administrator, Secretary, Printer, Paralegal, Building Inspector, Bank Cashier, Private Secretary, Statistician, Operations Manager, Financial Analyst, Bookkeeper, Medical Records Technician, Developer of Business or Computer Systems, Clerical Worker, Proofreader, Accountant, Administrative Assistant, Banker, Certified Public Accountant, Credit Manager, Store Salesperson, Actuary, Dental Assistant, Business Education Teacher, Food Service Manager, IRS Agent, Budget Analyst, and Underwriter.

ORGANIZER WORKPLACES
Your very careful, conscientious, conservative nature gives others the confidence to trust you with handling money and material possessions. Structured organizations that have well-ordered chains of command work best for you.

Suggested Organizer workplaces are large corporations, business offices, financial lending institutions, banks, insurance companies, accounting firms, and quality control and inspection departments.

Snow?

February 24th, 2011 at 08:21 am

There's something you don't see every day - snow in the forecast. Snow and record breaking lows. So much for spring! Needless to say, any unusual warmth we had early in the month has been replaced with COLD!

Snow is unusual enough as is. Snow at the end of February? Yeesh.

Will see...

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**Received a bill for the rest of my medical deductible.

Timing is okay. I can card it in March, and pay it in April. I have the money in savings. I expect an overtime check in April (for all of tax season) and had planned to replenish the medical fund at that point. For next year. So, in the end, should be a wash.

**Received my state refund yesterday. My credit union would not take on online scan of it - since the format was unusual I guess. So, when the Fed refund comes, will send dh to the bank to deposit both.

That said, I had the money in checking, so just transferred the money to my IRA today. Stock market had been on the lower side - figure might as well get it in. In fact, I hope the market drops even further before I get my Fed refund. Big Grin

I put my refunds to my traditional IRA because the tax break was too good to pass up. IT was $1500 to savings OR $2k to IRA. I chose IRA.

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**Kids have the week off. BM has a big project to work on. They all went to visit family yesterday and go hiking with my dad. Since my dad was laid off again, he wants to do all this fun stuff, but it's hard to work around the kids' school schedule. So, we obliged him. It was kind of a last minute thing - I stayed home and work work worked, of course.

**Since dh was gone, I had to fill up my own gas. With my surgery in particular, I hadn't filled up in ages. I thought my coupon wasn't working when it came up $3.30 per gallon. I squinted at the sign in the distance. Sure enough - $3.55 per gallon. Ugh! $3.30 with my grocery coupon. Thank goodness for that. I don't usually pass many gas stations, but I kept an eye out the last couple of days. Didn't see it over $3.69. (I live and work by a Chevron so is all I ever really see. We get our gas at Safeway and Bel Air - both of them grocery stores).

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In other news, the foam part of my ear buds came off at the gym. On one side, anyway. I was bummed, but eventually asked dh if he had an extra pair laying around.

I hadn't even thought about it, but since he is now deaf in one ear, I think he told me he could spare a spongy cover from him - he didn't need both sides.

But anyway, as I mentioned, he had started clearing out his rooms/junk. In the process he found the earplugs that came with my current MP3 player. Never thought to give them to me? I don't know. Was just kind of funny. I figured dh would have something laying around. He just didn't know it until he cleaned up a little bit.

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So, last night I went to the gym with my new earphones. Aw, divine!

I had tried to go to the gym the night before my surgery, I believe. I had never seen it so crowded and there wasn't a spare piece of equipment. I threw up my hands. I HATE January!!!

Anyway, I hadn't made it back until last night. The fam was gone and I thought I really needed to hit the gym. Need to get back into it.

Hallelujah - the gym was rather empty. Better than I could have hoped - February is usually pretty bad too.

I can't help but wonder, every January/February, how many people sign up, and pay into eternity, but never show up again. IT's predictable and extremely annoying to us regulars. The rest of the year? The place is kind of empty. Phew! But, what a waste of money. Then again, I guess it keeps the membership dirt cheap for me. Big Grin

Lunch / Amazon / Entertainment Update

February 19th, 2011 at 01:58 pm

Lunch Challenge:

Lunch In: 14
Lunch Out: 3

Lunch Thurs - leftover manicotti
Lunch Fri - PB sandwich @ home
Lunch Sat - OUT

No lunch dates this week (dh or otherwise). Work is crazy, but I generally allow fast food once a week - especially when I work weekends. Today I just wanted something really crappy. That said, it wasn't very fulfilling. I ate too good the past week (lots of good leftovers).

I've taken to choosing my work days by the weather. Today was supposed to be rainy, so I chose to work today. (Weather is not so bad, in the end, but should be nicer and warmer tomorrow).

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After many frustrations with ebay/paypal, we switched to Amazon selling, last year. Wow, it's been about a year.

Anyway, I don't have any complaints about Amazon. It's been so much nicer!

That said, dh got some negative feedback yesterday. He was super aggravated because he is trying to sell a bunch of stuff. The negative feedback might hurt his bottom line.

What was the feedback? That dh charged someone $1000+ for a $30 game. Rolleyes

For one, the buyer never said anything to dh (this was a month ago?). Secondly, Amazon does the billing. We have absolutely no control over that.

Anyway, that in itself is somewhat "whatever." BUT, Amazon refuses to remove the feedback. Rolleyes

In the end, I don't think it's that big of a deal. Amazon is still so much nicer than ebay. But, it's kind of back to the same old, same old. Buyers get away with everything - sellers can't do squat to protect themselves. IT's just step one down that road again...

& no - we did not receive an extra $1000!
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In other news, had to share a music artist that dh discovered on Pandora:

http://jeremymessersmith.com

Jeremy Messersmith

Not only is this guy so GOOD, but he has some interesting marketing. "Pay what you want" for some songs, and some other things along those lines.

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Breaking Bad - does anyone else watch this?

I am still hooked on this show. We just finished seasons 1 & 2 - getting through season 3 quickly. Well, they are airing 2 episodes a week, leading up to the premier of season 4.

I had warned it was pretty macabre. But, that said, the writing and the acting is superb. Beyond that, I can't figure out what I like about it so much. It's a step away from being totally stupid and unbelievable. But the writing is so clever and the actors are so great on this show. Somehow, it works.

If we drop cable - will just have to wait for netflix or Blockbuster. No biggie.

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Which reminds me - Game of Thrones starts on HBO in a couple of months. Dh has asked his dad to record those episodes for us. I am proud of dh because it's the kind of thing he would buy HBO for. He knows he's maxed out the entertainment budget though. Cable is $100/month + $30-ish for all his movie subscriptions (so we don't have to pay for HBO, etc.)

If we drop cable, will have to add Breaking Bad to the FIL request. He has a DVD burner we bought him a while back. The DVD burner was not bought for any selfish reasons, but has turned useful.

Game of Thrones - I whipped through Books 1 & 2 (around 1000 pages each) during my surgery recovery. My dh was just teasing me for my slow progress on book 3. I am about 700 pages in.

Medieval war saga? SO not my genre, but it is hard to put down. I have to admit I am pretty excited to see it come to life on HBO.

I gave the book/series a whirl because wherever dh took it, people would come up to him and tell him it was the best book series EVER. Since I have been reading it on my nook, I haven't got much feedback (no one can tell what I am reading).

Needless to say, I haven't had any lack of entertainment lately.

Tax Questions Answered - Capital Gains & Losses

February 18th, 2011 at 09:41 am

I subscribed to this IRS e-mail a while ago. I believe they send daily tax tips.

I subscribe because the tax code is so immense and complex, there are many areas I never see at my job. So, I find it good to have a refresher - of any kind.

This is also why I like answering people's tax questions. On the less complex side, anyway. The more I practice, the more likely some of this stuff is off the top of my head when clients ask. Helps me to keep on top of the never-ending changes to the tax code.

Anyway, today's topic I knew some of you would find interesting:

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"Ten Important Facts About Capital Gains and Losses

Did you know that almost everything you own and use for personal or investment purposes is a capital asset? Capital assets include a home, household furnishings and stocks and bonds held in a personal account. When a capital asset is sold, the difference between the amount you paid for the asset and the amount you sold it for is a capital gain or capital loss.

Here are ten facts from the IRS about gains and losses and how they can affect your Federal income tax return.

1. Almost everything you own and use for personal purposes, pleasure or investment is a capital asset.

2. When you sell a capital asset, the difference between the amount you sell it for and your basis which is usually what you paid for it is a capital gain or a capital loss.

3. You must report all capital gains.

4. You may deduct capital losses only on investment property, not on property held for personal use.

5. Capital gains and losses are classified as long-term or short-term, depending on how long you hold the property before you sell it. If you hold it more than one year, your capital gain or loss is long-term. If you hold it one year or less, your capital gain or loss is short-term.

6. If you have long-term gains in excess of your long-term losses, you have a net capital gain to the extent your net long-term capital gain is more than your net short-term capital loss, if any.

7. The tax rates that apply to net capital gain are generally lower than the tax rates that apply to other income. For 2010, the maximum capital gains rate for most people is 15%. For lower-income individuals, the rate may be 0% on some or all of the net capital gain. Special types of net capital gain can be taxed at 25% or 28%.

8. If your capital losses exceed your capital gains, the excess can be deducted on your tax return and used to reduce other income, such as wages, up to an annual limit of $3,000, or $1,500 if you are married filing separately.

9. If your total net capital loss is more than the yearly limit on capital loss deductions, you can carry over the unused part to the next year and treat it as if you incurred it in that next year.

10. Capital gains and losses are reported on Schedule D, Capital Gains and Losses, and then transferred to line 13 of Form 1040.

For more information about reporting capital gains and losses, see the Schedule D instructions, Publication 550, Investment Income and Expenses or Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax. All forms and publications are available at http://www.irs.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676). "

Courtesy of the IRS.

http://www.irs.gov/newsroom/content/0,,id=104608,00.html

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That's the long and the short of it. Now you are a capital gain/loss expert.

I always joke that the simple rule is if you make money, report it. If you lose money, you can't deduct that. Wink That is the rule when it comes to personal assets, hobbies, etc. That theme runs through the entire tax code though (passive losses, etc.)

Anyway, because of that, most people don't realize their cars, etc. are a capital asset. Since you rarely make money on these type assets, it wouldn't occur to you that you would have to report any gain. But technically, you would, if you ever had the luck to make money off those type assets.

+$112

February 16th, 2011 at 06:53 pm

I got a rebate check for my disability premiums, today. This makes the cost the equivalent of $150 per year for good disability insurance. (Sounds crazy but it is true). It is through my professional association, and so I suppose accountants don't get disabled as often as other professions. Accordingly, hard to beat these rates. I suppose my membership due would also sway those costs, but my employers have always paid for that part.

Short-term disability is actually mandatory to have in California (paid through payroll taxes), so I also have a one-year waiting period for the long-term policy, which significantly decreased the cost, as I recall. Short term disability pays about as well. (maybe $3500/month versus $4k per month).

Anyway, I hadn't looked at where I was for the end of the month. Dh took out $40 for some game buying/selling, but I got a $70 amazon deposit today (game sales). What a day, huh?

I needed to buy another set of aerobics classes ($30) and I ended up being about $50 short in the check book, after all that. At face value, the school charity dinner came from cash flow (which is impossible) so instead of transferring the money from savings, it will come from my insurance rebate.

This leaves about exactly $60, which I added to the mortgage payment.

As it stands, I want to come up with another $2k for the mortgage, this year. IT will be interesting to see what else we can come up with. During summer we tend to splurge this kind of stuff (rebates) on outings, etc. BUT, this time of year - we are bloated on stuff from Christmas, the weather sucks, and I am working 6 days a week. To the mortgage. Where else would it go? Usually cash savings or retirement, but this year we have mortgage front of mind.

IT is working well because dh is more motivated by mortgage pay down. I will have to meditate on that next year when the mortgage might not be my primary goal. I don't know why I didn't figure this out sooner. If I want him to get a job, I just have to talk about the mortgage a lot. Hmmmmm... Talking about IRAs is just not his language, for whatever reason. HE is crazy debt adverse, but he is also a huge saver. I have said before, I think not working just doesn't make the IRAs that much of a priority. I just wish he cared more about me being able to retire some day too. Big Grin

I can just see it now - when he returns to work we will agree 100% his income to mortgage. You will all tell me that's crazy, and I will say, hey, we SAVE more this way. You got to play the psychological angle once in a while.

Zero Down Mortgage

February 16th, 2011 at 04:11 pm

Interesting article today in WSJ:

Banks Push Home Buyers to Put Down More Cash

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142405274870331290457614...

Gee, when people had to put 20% down, they didn't default so much? Really?

For one, when you have no skin in the game, what possible motivation do you have to hold onto a house that loses value? If you put money into the house, you at least have some motivation to hold onto it.

Regionally, it has been interesting though. As much as "owning was cheaper than renting" for us, when we bought, that wasn't the case in the bubble, where we ended up.

As such, I couldn't see any logic whatsoever to home purchase choices.

IT was literally like, "I am renting a house for $1k per month, I want to buy a house, but I could never afford to save the down payment. The mortgage is $3k/month, but I better buy before I am priced out forever."

This would be the average example.

What I could never get is how on earth you could afford a $3k/month house payment if you couldn't even save up a down payment on $1k/month rent (save the difference for a few years? Hello????)

I don't get it.

Clearly, the math made no sense, and almost everyone I know is back to renting again.

I suppose I see the 20% down requirement would have kept home prices from skytocketing. No one could have played the game.

As such, putting back that requirement will definitely lower home prices. I say, "Good!," even as a homeowner. Because all I See is another bubble forming right where the last one left off. For the short term it hurts. So be it. For the long run, I would like to avoid this mess again and would prefer my neighbors had more of a chance of actually being able to keep their houses.

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On a somewhat related, my young, naive, sister has just bought another home (it's her third).

Her M.O. is to put every dime towards the mortgage, and at some point her goal was to pay off her home lightning fast. Her last home, bought with her current husband, was a modest townhome. Smart girl!

Oh sure, I Was definitely the same way at her age. Well, sort of, but not quite so extreme. She literally doesn't save much or put much of anything into retirement. She's got the rest of her life for that, right? Wink

Needless to say, my parents were telling me a lot of the details of her recent home purchase (I didn't even ask) and I Was rather flabbergasted.

They put 0% down.

?????????????

I have no idea what is up with that. Except that she quit her job before the last home even closed escrow, and has been out of work for 6 months. Heck, they may have spent all the equity. Lost money on the home, and no job for 6 months? I suppose maybe they burned through it - that could be a possibility. Her husband hasn't worked in ages, either.

Or, the experience made her appreciate the importance of having a decent savings cushion? Maybe?

That said, seems so one extreme to the other. The house they bought is pretty extravagant for their income.

They don't have steady jobs, make minimum wage, and have a mortgage that rivals my own, at this point. It doesn't sound very smart. I hope it works out, for their sake, but it just doesn't sound good. Another 0% down statistic, perhaps. I don't see much change in the lending industry. Where is everyone getting thse zero down loans??? (In this case it is military, but my mortgage broker friend thinks we should buy a rental property - he tells me we don't need any cash down - Rolleyes The loans seem to be abundandt!)

A Frugal Tuesday

February 16th, 2011 at 10:40 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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Today's topics? Haircuts and V-Day cards.

**I finally got a LONG put off haircut. I probably try to go 2-3 times per year. It has been about 8 months since my last haircut and I meant to get it cut in January.

Went to great Clips and had a coupon for $9.99. The stylist did not cut the layers as short as I asked. It had been so long, I Was just like, "eh." IT was getting late and my son was sitting and waiting for me. I Also tend to chop off my hair in May, anyway, when it warms up. I'll be back soon enough.

Anyway, the haircut looked GREAT. I usually ask for it on the short side simply because I can get by 9 months without a haircut, when I do. Big Grin I see why their natural incliniation is to always go this length. But usually they ask me a little more up front - "this long??" - and I ask them to chop off a couple of more inches.

Yes, this length is very nice, but it will get all scraggly a lot faster, too.

Anyway, I prefer shorter hair, overall, but over the years I find that it is just too much time, maintenance, etc. for shorter hair. Over the years I kind of settled on the "Jennifer." Don't remember what they call it, but the long layered hair made famous by Jennifer Aniston on Friends. I may have tried it at some point when it was in vogue, but over time I realized it was the perfect frugal cut. Very flattering for my hair/face (my stick straight hair actually has BODY!?!) and yet it is such a basic haircut I don't think it has ever been screwed up. So, it is the perfect style for the cheap haircut chains. Since adopting this hairstyle I have never had a BAD haircut.

OF course, I initially chose these hairstyles because they were flattering and 100% "wash and go." IT's only with time that I really have come to appreciate the frugal aspect of said hairstyle. Beyond the fact that the only hair product I buy is shampoo...

My last cut was:



Yesterday, more like:



Or, the second picture is more how my hair looked without cutting it for 8 months. It just grows out real nice. Yesterdsy was merely a touch up. It had been cut so short last time I didn't really want to cut too much length yesterday.

At $9.99 per haircut, that's $20-$30 per year for a "movie star hairstyle."

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In other news, I bought V-day cards for the kids' classes, yesterday. There were 50% off. I am sure we could have waited longer for deeper discounts, but last year I went too late - the cards were gone. So, yesterday I dropped by with BM and the cards were not marked down. They had some really cool 3D ones - so we grabbed 2 boxes. I had forgotten to ask at the register if they were marked down, but they rang up $1.49 (versus $2.99). We could make our own, but I am not sure we would come out ahead with the cost of ink and paper. Plus, this took about 1 minute of my time. Just popped into the store on my way home.

Since BM was with me, we had a talk about how waiting after the holidays and planning ahead for next year was an easy way to save money (so you have more left for other more important things). I told him we could even wait a few more days and pay less, but all the good stuff would be gone.

I am not big on spending any length of time to save a buck here and there, but for no effort, I will of course take 50% off!!! $3 saved - easy peasy.

Updates

February 15th, 2011 at 01:17 pm

Lunch Challenge:

Lunch In: 11
Lunch Out: 2

Lunch Sun - Frozen Pizza
Lunch Mon - Leftover Jambalaya (GOOD!)
Lunch Tues - chicken nuggets & ramen

I actually brought leftover spinach manicotti today (cheese, spinach, salsa, YUM). But I was hungry on the early side and decided I probably needed more protein. OF course, I may need some of the manicotti to get through the afternoon - ate closer to 11:00. Will see.

Dh tried a new jambalaya recipe over the weekend. Yum!

Success!!!

February 14th, 2011 at 05:12 pm

Finally got my tax return e-filed.

California is filed and no talk of IOUs at the moment. Phew!

IRS hasn't accepted my e-file yet - they will be slammed this week so may take some time. Is the bigger refund, but state is the one that I worried about as far as solvency. IRS will be fast once they catch up.

I usually file Jan. 31, and I usually don't have any refund to speak of, so this has been super annoying! Technically I should have been allowed to file state, but my work software wouldn't let me until IRS started taking returns (today).

I have a $2k refund (mostly due to all the medical bills last year) and I've committed it to my IRA for 2010. Just eager to get my refund and fund it!

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Is it true what they say that the first $100k is the hardest to save?

I'd say, yes and no.

We saved up $100k pretty easily before we had kids. Most of it went into our house. (Income was about what it is now - net - but no expenses to speak of. Now its kids, insurance insurance insurance, kids, etc.). Take it from me - save while you are young!

The market has been so blech the last decade, it's been slow going, but our retirement hit $100k right about 12/31/10.

The market has been on fire, 2011, and soon I will have another $2k to add.

I see what is meant. Even if we don't put in a dime, we should earn an average $5k-$10k per year with our investments, as they stand now.

The other thing for me is that my boss controlled about half of our retirement funds, before the end of last year. Though it is true that he was putting a LOT away for me (tax free income!), the fact is I have more aggressive and lower cost investments than my work plan had. Work retirement plans are notoriously expensive (administration, accounting, etc., etc.) and the investment profile of my office was geared to the mostly near retirement demographic.

I can't make up all that difference ($8k per year contributions), but I feel better seeing I can make up some of the difference with better returns and less fees.

Embarrasing Moments

February 14th, 2011 at 08:12 am

This was a really cute article in the paper. Makes you feel better to know everyone can be an idiot. Big Grin

Local Execs Share Mortifying Moments:

http://www.sacbee.com/2011/02/12/3396810/bob-shallit-local-e...

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It's not super embrrasing, but reminded me of a similar story. When I interviewed for my current job, I was brought tea during the interview. It was this really fancy tea set, and it looked like the lid of the hot water was secured to the container. IT was glass or something that looked very fragile. When I poured out the hot water the lid came crashing down. Somehow it stayed in one piece. I was pretty mortified at the time. But I got the job anyway.

Reminds me, just last week, none of us could get the projector to work. Culprit was the lens cap. Big Grin I said something like, "This is why we are not engineers." I suppose I am probably not the first one who couldn't figure out the tea logistics. I am good with numbers and stupid with basic mechanical functions - as any good accountant probably is.

Weekend Doings

February 13th, 2011 at 08:18 am

**Dh had a poker game, and won as usual. Well, second place. Won a whopping $22. Like last time, he told me he could have probably won first place or won more, but it was getting too late. Maybe next time he should just crash with his friend, and stay to the bitter end???

That said, he spent $17 on gas and the bridge toll, so it wasn't a huge win. He guessed he may be up $5. But, hey.

Obviously they are not huge rollers!

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Yesterday morning we picked up the downstairs. IT was one of those times where it took no time at all and I wondered why we didn't do it sooner. (It's either that or "OMG it's been so long and it took forever" - hard to tell how it would go - I was expecting the worst since we hadn't picked up in months).

I scrubbed the little half bath from top to bottom. I could do some dusting/vacuuming, but at least the house is presentable again for guests.

I was thinking I should probably scrub the kids' bathroom real good too. Maybe my chore for today.

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Oh yeah, I went to aerobics yesterday. It's probably been 2 months. 5 weeks or so since I even hit the gym. We played tennis last weekend and I was surprised by my stamina, but aerobics really surprised me. Sometimes it just REALLY kicks my butt, but my heart rate was very low and I had far more strength (& flexibility) than I imagined I would. I am relieved I don't have to start over from 0. But trust me, my abs are flab. I am obviously far from 100%. I guess I am mostly surprised how strong my heart is after neglecting cardio for many weeks.

All that said, I had done a fair amount of walking. I suppose that was helpful.

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Since dh was gone yesterday, playing poker and all, the kids and I had a nice night to ourselves.

We went to McDs since we had $20 in G.C.s from Christmas. (Dh hates it - I can tolerate it - I at least like the fries - can't say I'd eat anything else there). The kids ran full speed for about 45 minutes (through the play structure) before I carted then out red and sweaty. I think they'd *go* until they passed out if I let them. Rolleyes

It was really funny, but most of the kids there were wearing identical outfits (down to the shoes). I Was kind of laughing to myself - I didn't get the memo! I saw 2 sets of girls (clearly not the same age - so not twins) dressed up to the hilt in identical outfits. Then 2 little boys came in with matching jeans, shoes, shirts. Strange, to say the least!

Anyway, as the kids put on their shoes, I remembered there was a Payless right down the street. BM was well in need of new shoes. LM's shoes were also borderline. Lord knows what they do to their shoes! We went to Payless and I told the kids just BM Was getting shoes unless there was a sale. Was Buy one get one 1/2 off, so ended up getting them both a pair of shoes.

After that we went home, watched a movie on the DVR, and snacked on popcorn. They are easy to please.

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While at the shoe store I bought myself some earrings. I actually had run to the store in the a.m. - to get milk - and bought some tulips (they were gorgeous and only $3.99). So I had myself a nice splurge. About $11 for a few pairs of earrings - so $15 treat for myself. I am easy to please!

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V-Day is tomorrow and I can care less. It is a non-holiday to dh and I. Absolutely nothing planned - no purchases planned.

We had leftover V-Day cards from last year, so didn't spend a penny on the kids. Last year I missed the after sale, so tomorrow night or Tuesday I will stop by Walgreens and snatch up some Valentine cards for next year - after they get marked down. (This seems to be more cost effective than printing out *free* cards on our color printer - with the expensive ink - I think I paid $1 for holographic Valentines last time - they are really cute!).

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In other news, dh shocked me when he vocalized his intent to go through all his boxes and crap. Woohoo!

The story on that is I have been in de-clutter mode for a while and have little left to de-clutter.

The kids came along after this, and so we have done pretty good with them. Sell/donate/give away old toys and clothing as soon as it is outgrown. I am sure it could very easily get out of control, but that is something we have never had issue with.

Dh? He is another story. It's kind of funny because he freaks out about clutter in the garage and closets, etc. I generally believe we can fit 10 more times as many things in these spaces - 10 more times as much as he does. So, he can be a little particular about not hoarding too much.

BUT, he likes *stuff* far more than I do. He is also more sentimental. This means he just has a lot more crap than I do.

That said, I think a lot of my de-cluttering came from being forced out of one of the bedrooms when the kids were born. I took an office in a nook in the upstairs hallway. Dh on the other hand, gets 2 bedrooms - an office and a media room. (Don't ask me how this worked out - except he had more *stuff* to begin with). Anyway, he hasn't had much motivation to downsize his crap.

As the rest of us have de-cluttered so efficiently, I have lately asked if he really needed all those boxes - if he even knew what was in them. Some of them haven't been opened since we moved.

As far as movies, music, games, etc., I know we are very different. I don't like all that crap everywhere, especially when it can all be rented or digitized. I find with technology I own less and less *stuff.* Anyway, he loves all that stuff, I know that, and it's fine. It's the boxes that are never opened that have bugged me over time. & that is the stuff he is thinking about going through. Woohoo!

Particularly his office/bedroom - seems there is a lot of crap in there that no one ever uses. I don't have any other use in mind for that room at the moment, but would be nice if it was cleared out a bit in case we needed it. Could make it a guest room of sort (just needs a futon).

With the kids (& technology) we have mostly abandoned our respective offices. I prefer the small/portable netbook. Dh does most his video work in his media room - more central to where he can keep an eye on the kids. My *office* has been taken over by the kids. OF course, I no longer work from home and prefer not to! Funny how quickly things change. When we bought the house, we both wanted our own private space. Technology really changes things. I just make my private space wherever I can find it - and am happy with that since I don't have so much *stuff* to keep track of.

Lunch Update

February 11th, 2011 at 05:21 pm

Lunch In: 8
Lunch Out: 2

Tues. Lunch - Leftover potato soup
Wed. Lunch - Frozen Pizza
Thurs. Lunch - salami sandwich
Fri. Lunch - OUT - buffet

Dh and I had our lunch date today. I forget that buffets aren't the best *Dates* - we seem to spend so much time up and getting food - less time with each other. Particularly last week anyway. This week we timed our food trips a little better.

Anyway, it was rather disappointing. A lot of cold and stale food. Frown Not near as good as last time!

For one, they have the most divine red velvet cake, usually. I was more in a chocolate mood, and got chocolate cake, but it was hard and stale. I didn't realize at first it had just been sitting out too long. I just thought it wasn't very good. I asked dh to grab me a velvet cake instead, but it was even worse. Instead of trying again, I grabbed a cookie that was fresh baked. At least I got a decent/fresh dessert.

Probably for the best - less inclined to eat there again, any time soon.

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Not much planned for the weekend.

Work work work.

& I really need to do some long put off chores around the house. REAL exciting stuff.

Dh wants to buy an apple tree and February is the month to plant. Anyway, that is one thing we need to look into. I can't help but feel it will get put off another year!

Frugal Advice - Cars

February 11th, 2011 at 09:46 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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The easiest and most cost effective frugal move for us, has most definitely been not spending a lot of money on cars over the years.

I am sure we could do even better not buying cars in the first place.

But, we love our cars, and there is a huge convenience factor. We just know that we don't have to spend a fortune to own cars.

Anyway, I probably have heard a million excuses over the years, why my broke friends couldn't possibly spend less than $20k - $40k on their vehicle. (Yes, some couldn't possibly spend LESS than $40k!)

This one comes up often, but I it still leaves me speechless. In a recent discussion about cars and car payments a friend stated, "Well, I will always have a car payment because I *need* a reliable car."

Yes, and there is no possible way to get a *reliable car* without a car payment? Rolleyes

Oy vey!

I've bought cars for the price tags of $800, $1500, $5k, and $8k, and $13k.

Not ONE of these cars was unreliable in the least.

The $1500 car I Drove for 7 years - it died in its 20th year of existence.

I won't bore you with the details of car #2 & #3. They were both EXCELLENT cars sold long before their time due to personal circumstances.

Both our current cars were bought 1-year-old, for $8k and $13k, respectively. One is a little compact, the other is a minivan - hence the price range. These were both bought at a dealership, so have a little extra cost in there, compared to the other cars we all bought privately.

We've never owned a car with a warranty of any kind. This substantially decreases the cost.

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Anyway, I feel blessed to have learned very early on that I Didn't need to spend a fortune on a reliable car. I learned that lesson from my parents, who sold me their 13-year-old 1981 Toyota for $1500, when I turned 16.

My parents sold me their car because I Was their 16-year-old daughter. We all agreed that reliability was the #1 thing I needed in a car, and that was what they could give me. Safety and reliability. (#2 - they didn't want me to go into debt for a vehicle).

I couldn't tell you how many times I drove that car ALONE on 500-mile round trips, to visit friends in So Cal and in Tahoe, etc. All through college I worked multiple jobs. I don't remember ever having any car issues that prevented me from getting to school, work, etc.

& so I learned very early on that I didn't need to spend a fortune for a reliable car. Probably the best financial lesson I ever learned.

Sure, I Was lucky in being able to get such a reliable car from a family member. BUT, I've had the same experience with any cars we have bought.

My second car was a "like new" convertible I bought for $5k. IT was an older model that had just basically never been driven much. When I bought that car I easily drove 40k miles per year, for my job.

People have since told me I only drive old cars because I don't need to drive a lot. I couldn't possibly understand what it's like to drive a lot for my job. Rolleyes Well, it's kind of the opposite. Why would I spend a fortune on a car I am going to drive into the ground very rapidly???

These days, our commute is small, but we spend a lot of time driving a 200-mile range to see family and friends. When we vacation we tend to drive long distances.

& so I can agree that having a reliable car is extremely important. But I suppose I just feel blessed to know that I don't have to spend a fortune to have that peace of mind.

P.S. I have found over the years we spend less to maintain our vehicles, than average. We take good care of our vehicles. Older cars also mean cheaper insurance, cheaper tags, etc. I don't believe our other car ownership costs are "more" simply because our cars are older. I have found the opposite to be true. Don't get me wrong - older cars need more maintenance. BUT, the low insurance, tags, etc., generally offset those costs. Plus, we have a trusted mechanic which saves us a fortune in auto maintenance.

Pistachio Cake & Chores

February 10th, 2011 at 12:52 pm

**Yes, I Was definitely very much extra Kumbayah when the question was asked, "What Would You Change?" Lazing around the house a few weeks will do that to you, I guess. Big Grin

Anyway, as I am thrust into "crazy busy" at work, one thing I wish I was better at was doing small chores on a daily basis. I LIKE financial chores, so those are always done. But most other household chores, I am not a fan of, and I rarely do.

I've shared my philosophy of cleaning before. IT's the pyramid structure. The dishes, trash, laundry, bathing are ALWAYS done, but everything else can wait. Big Grin Just, nothing else is quite as important. The less important it is, the more rarely we do it.

I probably feel a little extra buried after surgery and not lifting a finger around the house for a few weeks.

Will see how long it lasts, but for now I have been committing to one small chore every night. Of course, I haven't gotten back into a workout schedule, so I think I usually spend more time working out. BUT, that's still not an excuse to not spend 5-10 minutes every day keeping the house neat.

So far this week?

**Cleaned most the mirrors upstairs, and wiped down all the door knobs while at it. (I noticed the kids' mirrors were covered in finger prints - so started with that - but then noticed how filthy the other mirrors were - might as well do them all!

**Clean bathroom while kids are in the tub. They no longer need that constant supervision, so might as well be productive. Sometimes I file papers at the top of the stair (where I can keep an eye on them), while they bathe. Sometimes I clean all the toilets.

**Wednesday I dumped the extra cat box we put in our bathroom when we went to Hawaii. (We've only been home 4 months???). Not a good long term solution - cat litter in our bed all the time now. Blech!

So, finally got around to that. I also cleaned the vacuum because I realized it was completely filthy (the bottom part).

Other ideas?

-Dusting sections of house
-Vacuum sections of the house
-dust/vacuum stairs
-clean car interiors

I keep on the downstairs a little better due to frequent guests. Not that I do well with the daily clean, but we tend to hit the downstairs more often. I NEVER have any motivation to clean the upstairs. So I am thinking this might help us keep on top of the house as a whole.

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In other news, I am disgusted with society. Big Grin I was really terrible and slow with the Christmas/Birthday Thank Yous. But the only feedback I ever get is that everyone else is too busy to be polite. "How do you find the time?????" To write a thank you note? Honestly, I am embarassed it usually takes me so long. I think I sat down for a half hour and wrote off a pile of notes.

Just leaves me kind of disgusted.

The funny thing is, I don't think I would necessarily notice or care if we didn't get Thank Yous from everyone, but it's that statement, "I don't have the time," that just annoys me. "You won't make the time," is the truth of it. It's not important to you. Apparently, society mostly agrees. Kind of sad, don't you think?

Regardless of all of the above, the truth is my kids are at an age where they can mostly do their own Thank You cards. Which is more the point - not to make the adults suffer - but to teach our kids to be polite.

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Our latest cooking mag had this Pistachoi cake recipe:

http://www.tasteofhome.com/Recipes/Pistachio-Cake-2

Usually their new recipes are not public, but this one is kind of sort of... You can see the entire recipe if you really want to?

It looks very similar to another cake recipe I have - that one is more of a streudel - but uses a yellow cake mix and some oil and sour cream to make it extra moist and divine. Anyway, this one is a similar concept with a pistachio theme. It looks YUM. Hopefully I can make time to bake it this weekend.

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P.S. I finally got $150 awards redeemed from my AmEx to my Fidelity IRA. Woohoo!

Monday Monday

February 7th, 2011 at 12:47 pm

Lunch In: 4
Lunch Out: 1

Breakfast - granola bar
Lunch - Leftover pasta casserole (from last week)
Snacks - TBD

Dinner - TBD

I know everyone thinks I am super organized and I plan plan plan. Well, organized, sure, I guess. But I think my life philsophy is more *keep it simple* than *plan plan plan*.

Anyway, as usual, I just grabbed something to eat on my way out the door. This works just fine for me. All that I really saw in the fridge was leftovers from last week. So that was my lunch.

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TV was interesting over the weekend.

**SUZE - What a great episode Suze did. Did anyone watch? Did you love that letter that realtor wrote to Suze? Berating Suze for telling viewers they can't afford mortgages. The realtor said that you don't need a good FICO or more than 3.5% down for a mortgage - and so many people profit from these mortgages - brokers, appraiser, realtors, etc., etc. People need to take on these mortgages to keep the economy afloat! The letter was so self serving, and Suze said to consider the motives of those who encourage you to buy things.

Seems like basic common sense, doesn't it? Consider the motives of others when they give you financial advice.

Likewise, I have commented many times on this blog how absolutely insane the real estate market here is (Sacramento). While just about everyone I know has foreclosed or is on the verge of foreclosure, people all over the world are swooping in to snatch up real estate at *rock bottom lows.* Let's back the truck up here. Real estate may have feel 50% overnight, but it went up 100% overnight, immediately beforehand. The thing is, Sacramento real estate has never been particularly valuable, except when people were taking on mortgages worth 10 times their income. The people who are buying don't understand the market at all. They think prices are super low, when they are actually on the high side, really.

All I see is a new bubble reforming before the old one had even finished deflating.

Likewise, the VERY FEW people I know who did not foreclose, are all running out to buy their first homes, or real estate investments with little money down. EVERYONE. So I have said quite a few times, "Has anyone learned a thing?!?"

Anyway, Suze touched on this. She is the first person I have seen vocalize those concerns. She specifically used the word *bubble* in regards to the prevalence of 3.5%-down FHA loans and the real estate market.

Again, seems like basic common sense, doesn't it?

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**'Til Debt Do Us Part

I watched the episode with the guy with the $700/month truck payment.

Boy, I thought Gail was awfully nice to that guy!

When she told him to settle for a *gasp* $400/month payment (very generous, don't you think?) he literally cried and had a little hissy fit about that. He blurted out that truck was the ONLY thing he had bought for himself since having a family (resentful, much?).

Gail told him to live in his truck for a weekend (hey - you love your truck so much...). That was probably genius. BUT, she caved a bit and told him to rework the budget while he was in the truck, if it meant that much to him.

I think that was an important move to get him on board. The point of frugality is not being deprived. BUT, I think her caving in a bit glossed over the point she initially was trying to make that his truck seemed more important to him than his family.

Of course, the very end was warm and fuzzy, he kept his truck, and they did well enough to get the full $5k from Gail.

I can't help but wonder if a large percentage of these families don't learn anything and start back at square one. I'd find it more interesting if they actually followed up on some of these families.

I think it is possible for some people out there to prioritize, and even lease a $700/month truck while being fiscally sound. But, I just didn't see it with this family. The truck was a very big emotional symbol for some deep seated issues between the husband and wife. I just don't think he really *got it*.

Fun Weekend

February 6th, 2011 at 09:33 am

**Friday night was the big *cooking school* fundraiser. O.M.G. I had worried the menu didn't seem that exciting, and dh told me at some point, "they are still learning - I wouldn't have high expectations."

Boy were we off the mark! Big Grin One of the best meals I have EVER eaten.

They had never done anything like this before, and did not accept any money for food, etc. Said they just needed the practice. I think we need more fundraisers like this. Big Grin Cost of fundraiser = $0. We paid $50 and got more than a $50 meal in exchange, for sure.

Only downside was they were really slow, so childcare ended up costing $35. Ouch! If we can do this again, will have to arrange cheaper childcare. (& will show up an hour late?)

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Yesterday was Free Museum Day, so we hit the museums.

Holy Cow was it CROWDED.

We spend $2 or so to park downtown and $20 on a fast food type meal. We decided to skip the buffet after that childcare bill.

Art museum first, which was probably smart. It was plenty crowded, but enjoyable.

We stopped by the city cemetery and ate lunch over there. It is a historic cemetery with some historical figures there. IT was very peaceful compared to the rest of the day. Not very many people and just, peaceful.

Final stop was to be the science museum. I figured it may be too crowded to enjoy (this place is a really SMALL museum). So our backup plan was the aerospace museum down the street. Anyway, we saw hundreds of cars at the science museum (was insane) and I told dh I Was surprised if they could fit 50 people inside, so I though we should move on! It is very inexpensive and a convenient location - we can go there any time.

Unfortunately, the space museum was a bit of a mob too - by then it was getting pretty late. They have a really cool playground, and somehow the kids didn't get trampled in the playground mob. We figured we'd peek inside. We had just been there for the Star Trek exhibit - which has since moved on. Inside, there wasn't much different since last time (just more room to spread out all the exhibits), BUT since the weather was nice, all the planes outside were open to look inside, sit in the cockpits, etc. Thus we stood in lines for an hour or so checking out some of the planes - it was really neat.

I think yesterday was a success. Lesson learned - next year pick one museum (that is usually on the more costly side) and get there early.

Dh is always really into all the science museums, but going to the art museum reminded me that I need to take the kids to the DeYoung and the MOMA in San Francisco, one of these days. Particularly LM, who is much more artsy (while BM is very scientific). Anyway, was impressed by the Sacramento art museum, and was a good introduction for them.

As dh and I discussed all the things we want to do with the kids, yesterday, I felt very overwhelmed. There are not enough hours in the day to explore all of the art, culture, museums, nature, etc., that our region offers. Yesterday we were reminiscing about some of the museums we had gone to on field trips (that the kids won't since we moved 100 miles out). We added quite a few museums to our list that we should *really take the kids too.* I think it's twice as long now than it was last week. Oy vey!

Once tax season is over, we will sit down and come up with an action plan for what is more important to hit while the kids are this age - what should wait until they are older, etc., etc. Start knocking some things off the list...

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I was just clearing some pictures off my camera - not sure if I had shared these before. Just a pretty sunset:



TGIF

February 4th, 2011 at 01:38 pm

Lunch In: 3
Lunch Out: 1

Breakfast - apple sauce, cereal
Lunch - Leftover chicken enchilada casserole
Snacks - chicken nuggets, banana

For Dinner, we have a gourmet dinner out (fundraiser). The menu wasn't that impressive, but will cross my fingers. We had this most amazing dinner in Hawaii and I was thinking something more along those lines. More courses and more unique dishes. Maybe I have just been watching too much "Top Chef."

Well, will see how it goes!

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TGIF - merely since this is my only Saturday off for many weeks.

As such, I can go to aerobics. I have done some walking since surgery, but that is about it.

I KNOW this is pushing it, but the weather is so gorgeous, I want to fit in some tennis. I KNOW I should ease in more, but oh well. I will be careful and take both activities slowly.

Tomorrow is also "Free Museum" Day in Sacramento. We have absolutely never gone. Maybe because it is smack dab in the middle of tax season. As my only Saturday off, maybe we usually collapse at home, or go visit family. I don't know, but the weekend is wide open, so we are excited about it.

The aerospace/science museum are close together and a good fit (LM And dh haven't been to this science museum). However, I have never been to the art museum here, and since it is more expensive generally, that is my first choice. Some that we talked about that looked interesting by name were the city cemetery and the medical history museum. Obviously we have to narrow it down.

Oh, I just had a thought, too. That YUM buffet is right by the science and aerospace museums. Maybe we could hit the art museum and downtown stuff in the a.m. and then go to the buffet across town and hit the others in that vicinity.

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In other news, last time I visited my mom, she was shredding old documents from the 80s.

She even had some paperwork re: a house they had not owned since 1980!

I thought about it, and decided that since it has been 9 years since we sold our condo, that we probably didn't need all our old closing documents and refinance statements (refied twice, at the least!)

I might wait until May, but that is a shredding project I must tackle. I would keep the closing statements and anything nostalgic, but can probably dump a box or two of paperwork!

I also have tax filings going back to 1992 or whenever I first started working. Um, yeah, it's time to start shredding. I'll be keeping 1040s and certain paperwork, but the bulk of it is no longer necessary to keep. Shred shred shred.

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I am relieved to say that Fidelity credit card reward redemption got deposited to my account. Took 2 days instead of the 30 days in the fine print. Phew!

& then, today, I had another $100 to redeem (due to medical bills).

So, I added the $150 ROTH deposits to my side bar. Pretty genius, huh? The income is tax free to begin with - then into the ROTH where it stays tax free. Big Grin

Anyway, I had trouble redeeming, initially, so I am glad those kinks seemed to be worked out.

Frugal Advice - Beauty

February 4th, 2011 at 01:21 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.

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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I don't know how relevant this is to everyone, but I figure I'd share and put it under this category.

Anyway, while my main concern the past few months with this whole thyroid thing has been to tackle it and move on, many people I talk to seem quite concerned about the scar my surgery may leave. Lots of tips on how to minimize scarring!

I was actually a little taken aback at first, but figured maybe I under estimated how much the scarring would bother me. Will see. (It was something I could care less about, initially).

Anyway, I am 3 weeks post-op and I find I am just relieved that I no longer look like frankenstein. Wink In certain angles, I can barely even see the incision, though it is still very loud and obvious at this point.

My doctor recommended massage and told me to avoid sunburn (for the short term). He probably had to say it, but I giggled since I have been keeping it well covered with scarves and turtle necks. Not like any sun will reach my neck!

Anyway, it has healed enough that I decided to invest in some Vitamin E or cocoa butter or whatever. I don't mind doing what I can to minimize the scarring in the long run.

That said, I started to read and research before I bought anything.

Conclusion? The best medicine is a good surgeon, massage, positive thinking, and no sun burning for ONE YEAR. In fact, some of the creams can make it worse. Not that I am *that* concerned about the creams, but why waste the money? The studies done in that area mostly concluded that vitamin e, cocoa butter, etc., merely had a placebo effect. Also, the act of massaging the cream on the incision site meant more than the cream itself. So I have been doing neck massages with soap, in the shower.

All that said, since I apparently should be really concerned about sun exposure, I will probably pick up one of the creams with SPF, for summer. It's really no more expensive than sun block, and then if there really is something to it, I can't say I didn't try. Wink

I didn't save a fortune or anything, on my approach to healing. BUT, every time someone sells me some type of beauty product or miracle cure, I usually step back and make sure if it is really worth the money. IT seems that it rarely ever is, and that constant skepticism has saved me a lot of money over the years.

ETA: Being *cheap* was good, because I have since heard that the thyroid is VERY sensitive and to never rub any chemicals in the area. A friend who is a make up artist was telling me how they do not put any creams on the neck area, etc. Interesting!!! Makes me wonder how many people use these magic healing creams just to end up with more problems in the long run...

Bill Reductions & Vacation Plans

February 3rd, 2011 at 08:23 pm

For February Lunch Challenge:

Lunch In: 2
Lunch Out: 1

Breakfast - granola bar, peanut M&Ms (@ home)
Lunch - Leftover chicken enchilada casserole

For dinner, it was leftovers. I decided to have a salami sandwich and some wheat thins. On a hamburger bun, since we were out of bread! (Since I have been eating leftovers for lunch every day).

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Bill reductions:

**Gas bill (balanced billing) went down from $26/month to $21/month.

This is where you become jealous I live in California, and then I point out that I know plenty of people with three-figure gas bills ($100-$500/month in winter months). The weather helps, but energy efficiency matters MUCH more!

Anyway, our gas usage was actually up for January (no surprise since I was home 2 weeks - I use far more heat than the rest of the household). But gas prices were low compared to last year.

Anyway, they adjust it every 6 months or so, and I figured $20/month was more along the lines of our gas usage. The lowest it has been is $14/month (which was too low for all year!)

**Auto insurance - dh's auto insurance renewed January and it was exactly the same as last year.

I just got my bill and so was surprised it went down about $40 per year.

I presumed at first that it was the collision portion that went down. Since the van has collision insurance and the other car doesn't. BUT, I decided to pull out the bill to be sure.

Surprise, surprise - we both paid the same for liability last year, but this year that is the part of my bill that went down. I presume that they will adjust dh's bill, accordingly. I will keep an eye on that and call them later if we don't get a refund or if it doesn't show up on the July bill.

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VACATION

We are gathering up loose ideas for vacation plans this year.

For one, I am pleased because no one is dictating our vacation this year. (That has its pluses and minuses. But since that is the norm, I am kind of sick of it). Of course, I won't speak TOO soon because it is only January.

On top of that, I actually have vacation time. Maybe simply because no one has planned a 2-week trip yet to eat up all my vacation time.

The topic of vacation did come up because we are planning our annual family camp vacation. Just 2-3 nights a couple of hours away, but is always a blast.

We've already discussed a LegoLand, Magic Mountain, Planetarium/Observatory trip. The cost would be virtually nothing. (WE decided to skip Disney since the kids have already been a 4 or 5 times between Florida and LA).

In addition, we have been talking about some road trips for a while. I have never been to the Grand Canyon or Bryce Canyon, so that tops my list.

Dh and I talked a little about doing one big vacation, but have decided that we should just do two trips. So Cal Trip and Southwest road trip.

I am kind of overwhelmed thinking of all the logistics on the Southwest road trip. A lot to plan and figure out. I think the hardest part will be keeping the trip short and sweet while feeling we have enough time to see and enjoy everything.

Our families have been so *vacation crazy* lately. MIL has some pretty pie in the sky and grand vacation plans for the upcoming years. I wouldn't even know where to begin. MExico, China, exotic places of the kids' choosing. I personally feel a little nostalgic to those *dirt broke* road trips we always did when I was a kid and in college, etc. A road trip sounds very enticing to me!

My blog theme lately has been how the point of being frugal is to have the good things in life at a lower cost. My personal vacation philosophy would probably be a perfect example. It doesn't have to be grand and expensive to be fun and meaningful!

Food Doings

February 2nd, 2011 at 08:31 pm

For February Lunch Challenge:

Lunch In: 1
Lunch Out: 1

Breakfast - granola bar, apple sauce
Lunch - Sushi buffet

For dinner, heart cheese soup (with hamburger instead of turkey):

http://www.tasteofhome.com/Recipes/Hearty-Cheese-Soup

YUM!

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Anyway, dh and I had a marvelous lunch date.

That said, regardless of the economy, the buffet that we ate at is usually jam packed. If you eat at the traditional noon hour, I have seen them run out of plates. We try to go on the early or late side.

Imagine my surprise when I got there closer to noon and the parking lost was mostly empty. "This is interesting," I thought. Of course, the restaurant was chosen because I had received a really good coupon in the mail (a rare find).

In the end, the place was empty. No idea what was going on. To find a restaurant deader than dead is not rare in this economy. Probably more the norm. But, at the same time, some places are just always jam packed. People are so fickle. One day it's the most popular restaurant - the next day it's suffered the fate of the rest.

Anyway, we spent about $17 for 2 lunches and a soda - so not a bad deal. In addition to sushi galore and some other food, I got some baked salmon as well. A very good deal.

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Weather here is spring-like. BM told me the groundhog saw his shadow. Last year we got a really early spring. Looks the same, but who knows how long it will last. The kids wore shorts and we didn't run the heat today. Obviously this is polar opposite of most everyone we know! I was writing a note to dh's Grandpa in Florida and remarked that maybe they had as much sun as us - no one else seems to. Wink

I hope everyone is keeping warm and safe!

Lunch Update - Part II

February 1st, 2011 at 06:50 pm

For February Lunch Challenge:

Lunch In: 1
Lunch Out: 0

Breakfast - granola bar, apple sauce
Lunch - leftover pasta casserole
snacks - yogurt, raisins

Boss gave away some *old* soda (not old at all) and so I caved and had a can of soda with lunch.

For dinner, dh made this really good smoked chicken enchilada casserole. REALLY good - the recipe is not available online at the moment. I would share, otherwise (a Taste of Home Recipe).

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Not sure I will eat out this week at all. Wanted to do a lunch date with dh. Thursday is some kind of school thing (LM is performing), and Friday we already have dinner plans. Tomorrow the kids get out of school early. But will suggest early lunch.

Since dh has no kids and more time lately, we have talked a lot about him coming to meet me for more lunches. BUT, I just got a good coupon for our favorite buffet and coupons for a new Thai restaurant in my neighborhood. My boss lives so close to work - I should ask him to keep all his coupons and give them to me! What I need is some coupons for destinations closer to work.

Anyway, maybe tomorrow would work better if I met dh closer to home. Sushi buffet for lunch. YUM. If we do that - will eat well this week.

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Today I got paid. Zapped the deposit online so should show up tomorrow.

Every January I reshuffle everything. See what can be paid with what paycheck. Since everything seems to change. Anyway, it looks like I can pay everything. Mortgage and big credit card gets paid closer to the 30th. Everything else can come out of my 1st check of the month.

So, once my paycheck clears I will send $2k to the credit card (to pay off surgery deposit). I am pleased I can fund our ROTHs, etc., since I initially thought I'd have to wait for my next paycheck. I need to set the ROTH contributions to pull automatically every month. I need to pay all the credit cards (Visa, Target card). Everything else has been set up to pay via credit card or online banking. I just had to wait to the end of the month to see how much the card balances ended up (paid off monthly).

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We've had the American Express card a few months. 2% of every purchase should automatically go to ROTH.

Technically.

I set it up automatically but it didn't transfer.

I tried to redeem "one time" but the link didn't work.

Today another blogger mentioned some sort of credit card rewards and it jogged my memory. The link actually worked so supposedly $50 is being transferred. Said it may take 30 days. Rolleyes

I hope the link is working in a few days since with the medical bills I might actually have $100 more to redeem come February 4th. If I don't make it, will be $50 in a few days, and another $50 in a month. I will claim success once I get any of this money in my ROTH!

Lunch Challenge

February 1st, 2011 at 08:04 am

The Lunch Challenge

I eat in most of the time, anyway, but welcome the opportunity to share how I do it.

Since I have been out from work quite a while and just going home for lunch (since my return), the challenge reminded me it was time to restock some food at work.

On hand already:

BBQ Sauce
Salad Dressing
Apple Sauce (large jug)
cereal (in tupperware)
raisins

Brought today:

Granola bar (breakfast)
yogurt
Bag of frozen chicken nuggets
Banana
leftover pasta casserole (dinner last night)

I forgot the ramen!

I don't think I have ever had ramen in my life, before, but dh picked some up on sale rather recently and I have come to enjoy them as a light snack. (Not enough nutrients or calories for a meal - but a nice winter snack). IT was funny because at first I looked at it and said, "Should we really be eating that???" But, in the end I decided I was a little overly concerned. My motto is always moderation, and my initial reaction was overkill considering we don't eat that much of it.

I'll have to bring some ramen in tomorrow - my work stock is gone.

I primarily drink water. No beverages to bring, but I usually bring a large cup (32 oz?) so that I don't have to run to the water jug every hour all day. A cup is just easy to grab, easy to clean, etc. Over the years I see more co-workers copying my idea. Wink I usually just bring one cup every Monday, and take it home to wash at the end of the week.
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For the challenge, I have 23 work days this month.

I will aim to bring lunch 19 days out of 23. I meet dh or friends for lunch once a week. For me, I find it necessary for my relationships, to not hole up and eat in ALL The time. But, it's a challenge to remember and make the time, some times.

On the weekends, since I get paid overtime, I am usually a little less concerned about eating in. If I have to work on a Saturday, might as well eat some decadent fast food or something like that. BUT, when I eat in, I can get out of here faster. Since I didn't work most of January, I will just aim to eat in Saturdays. Will see how it goes.

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When it comes to saving money in some areas so we have more to save (& splurge in other areas), these are the three biggies for us:

**Home - cut home costs as much as possible (moved to low cost region)
**Cars - cut vehicle costs as much as possible (buy older vehicles, for cash, and keep them a LONG time)
**Food - Eat in (most of the time) to cut food costs

Those are the three biggies, for us. Food is one of those things that can add up to a ton over time.