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Archive for August, 2011

This & That

August 29th, 2011 at 08:35 pm

Looks like we probably have about $500 left in vacation budget. Should do for So Cal trip (primarily need to pay for park tickets, and food). Not much left for Napa, but oh well. Dh got us tickets for his favorite pod cast - live audience. Since it was in the vicinity. Relaxing and enjoying the scenery should mostly do. Both trips will have a kitchen, so we can at least whittle down the food costs.

This past weekend we went to the night slides at another local water park. IT's one we have never been to (kind of pricey), but we had a BLAST! IT was so HOT the day we ended up going. Worked out well. (I think while Irene hit land, we were baking in line at the water park!). I was having second thoughts about the crowds - but in the end the experience was really pleasant - we can maybe do night slides next year once or twice. To keep costs down, just BM and I went - met up with friends. LM could not ride any of the slides at this place, anyway. Maybe he can next year (just needs to grow a couple of inches).

LM ended up at a focus group getting a free toy, instead.

Next weekend is the annual "Gold Rush Days" in Old Town Sacramento. Always SO FUN!!! & some relatives are visiting the in-laws from Australia. We invited some friends to the Gold Rush since MIL will be busy entertaining (she LOVES to come, usually). We will maybe go down to San Jose for the day to see relatives. Will break our rule not to drive anywhere on big holiday weekends! But, aiming for the middle of the weekend/day trip type thing to avoid traffic.

Soccer season has started, but it's been bearable to break up the duties. BM had a seeding tournament on Saturday (HOT DAY) and I got stuck there from about 12:30 - 2:30. Some frozen water bottles and an umbrella for shade saved the day. (What are the odds we'd have an umbrella? Not like we ever really need one - but found one in the car. PHEW!) Dh took morning shift which was longer, but cooler. ORiginal plan was for me to bring lunch and switch off, but we were lazy and went to Taco Bell instead. On the weekdays I take BM once a week to practice, dh takes the other day.

$1000 free gift cards officially redeemed!

August 26th, 2011 at 03:53 pm

I know - I need to add a new category for "credit card rewards." I should do that. I went on a balance transfer binge a couple of years ago (0% balance transfers - take the cash - invest in FDIC-insured CDs at high rates). So, this isn't the first binge I have been on for free money.

Anyway, I just redeemed the Southwest rewards - $500 Amazon gift cards.

Annoying part was with Citi (which didn't have Amazon G.C.s) you could redeem other gift cards for $100, and even more. But, with the Southwest rewards, they only come in $50 increments. So, I had to order 10 gift cards. Oh well! Beggars can't be choosers...

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No word on trying to apply for dh's expired direct mail offer (in my own name). Generally, Chase takes a week to call me and verify my identity (fraud alert on my credit bureau accounts). So, no surprise I haven't heard anything. This one was a Citi card - not sure I have ever had a Citi card. I assume they will call and verify my identity in a few days time. (No outright rejection bodes well?)

I haven't applied dh for the Southwest card yet - going to hold back and bide my time a bit. Let's see what else comes along.

For one - I just paid off 3 credit cards. I set them ALL up in my online bill pay, and paid them all off. I will double check the payments clear, get my rewards, and then work on closing them all. Would be nice to get that all done before I try to juggle new cards.

Some Decent Cost Cutting & Other Updates

August 25th, 2011 at 08:10 pm

**Our regular credit card received a fraud alert because dh and I both got gas about 1.5 hours apart (same gas station). I know in the past dh had asked if that would be a problem (getting gas the same day - twice). It never has been, but this time was just close enough to do the trick. I was relieved that was all it was!

**I think my family never returned anything (growing up), and so I am slow with returns. I mentioned how MIL was all excited to buy the kids a bunch of clothes we don't need! & she didn't seem to care that we absolutely did not need them! I finally thought to look if she gave me a receipt, and she had. So, I simply took them back for needed items (school shorts).

MIL just e-mailed me that she wanted to buy some pants, too. I have to inventory what I need, but I appreciate her asking first. & there is always returns...

I would like to buy BM a nice jacket (the one I bought him in Kinder has been handed down to LM), but can probably swing that with gift cards. So, I may get off easy on the school clothing this year. Like -$0- easy.

**I mentioned yesterday that I redeemed a bunch of gift cards, which means I shouldn't have to pay money to buy anything for AGES.

**MIL is officially paying for piano lessons for BM. Was all *talk* for a long time, but now is for real. Starting next month. On one hand, was paying it from the "payroll tax holiday" which should be this year only. I figured we'd work it out next year some way. This takes care of it, but I want to keep setting aside the money so that we don't rely on her to *keep* lessons. For this year, will probably put to the mortgage. For next year, will have to figure it out. (IT's possible if we cut cable - that will cover it. Next year - may put the amount to ROTHs - while MIL pays for it. Or mortgage, if ROTHs are maxed). We settled on her paying $80/month, which covers lessons most months. We will cover extra weeks, books, supplies.

**I had awesome timing in closing out our old credit card. I literally closed it days before our newspaper subscription renewed. I am not sure if I was aware or maybe just didn't remember that the good rate I found last year was contingent on auto renewal. Sure, I know the industry is hurting, but the bill regularly goes up 30% or so. I'd prefer to get the bill and decide if I want to renew.

No official bill, this time, but we did get a letter that we owed $130 (up 30%). I discussed with dh and he really wanted to keep it, so I told him to put it on one of our recently opened credit cards (which will be closed by next month probably). Buys me less hassle factor for next year's renewal. Less hassle if I don't want to blindly pay a huge increase.

That said, dh told me it was no doubt cheaper than the Sunday paper. Whatevah! I went to the corner store today and proved that wrong. BM and I are early birds, and I told him we would gladly go pick up the Sunday paper every weekend before he wakes up. He won't know the difference. Wink It's $2 a week and though we could do even better if we were new customers, it's far better than any delivery deal we get as *old customers.*

Oh - I am sure they might grovel if we literally call to cancel, but I finally talked dh into it! Big Grin He even said not to bother with the Sunday paper, but I will probably get it for compromise. It's not some big splurge that needs to be denied him. I'd just rather take a walk every Sunday than pay the increase.

**COUNTDOWN TO NO CABLE**

I'm all for the *no cable* thing and have done well enough without it when money was tighter. BUT, I did marry a wanna-be film maker, and my dh LOVES his TV and movies.

But, my dh is also cheap, and does not like to be ripped off. I think we've gone as long as we have, because most of the last decade we had a little local cable company that was very good and reasonable. But, since they got bought out it's just double "UGH." Couple that with recent technology advances like roku, and abundant streaming (netflix, etc.), and dh is ready to cut the cord. Woohoo!!!

I think the deciding factor is that we got fiber optic internet, and a new TV (which streams internet), and the netflix streaming quality met dh's uber high expectations. Which I don't think he ever expected it would. So, ever since we have had netflix, we have talked about cutting the cable. (I don't care for watching TV on the computer - but this *streaming to the TV* stuff is awesome!)

BUT, dh went out and signed a contract with our cable company RIGHT before that - for some discount. Rolleyes So we have been sitting and waiting all year to get this done and over with. {I know - how often have I said that we do not do contracts. We usually can not get any cable discounts, because the catch is you have to commit! But, after a decade of cable, I guess dh found it hard to fathom that we would give it up any time soon. Well, that and our current cable is very nice and great customer service, but it is insane expensive).

I am not holding my breath. I am not sure it will work. BUT, dh is committed to trying through the end of the year.

We were just looking it up, and the contract date is sometime around September 15th.

I am counting down the days!

Since we already have netflix and blockbuster, dh just wants to subscribe to hulu plus and maybe buy some amazon streaming content. We may be saving $80/month with this move. (Yes, and that is with the contract/commitment/discount. It is absurd!)

Dh seems to think I may have problems with the whole thing. ??? I'll take $80/month over cable ANY DAY. I can not imagine a world where I will have real problems with no cable. But, I guess we will see... (Sure - I Watch it and enjoy it because I pay for it - but I can't see missing it too much!) I've been really digging netflix as an UBER cheap alternative, myself. & since I didn't have cable until about the year 2000, and have rarely had HBO, I have decades of programming to catch up on. (I suppose most of the HBO programming I have watched was on DVD, after the fact, anyway. But there are still several series I haven't gotten through yet).

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Anyway, all of the above means some significant savings through the end of the year. Ideally!

Worth a Try?

August 25th, 2011 at 03:45 am

I redeemed $500 gift cards from Citi today (dh's account).

I chose:

$150 Kohls gift cards
$ 50 Barnes & Noble
$300 Wal Mart
(Will convert $100 Wal Mart to $95 Amazon gift card, and $200 Wal Mart cards into cash - I believe 85 cents on the dollar at PlasticJungle.com?)

{I am giving dh my $500 Amazon gift card from Chase - which I should be able to redeem any second}.

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Dh received a Citi offer in the mail today - the same one we just redeemed. I got the idea to apply for the same card.

Almost like, why didn't I before?

Oh yeah, because initially it came with an annual fee (not waived). I would usually 100% rule out any up-front fee, but I already got $1000+ from ONE Chase offer this year. I figure I could re-invest some of the bounty!

& then dh got a better offer in the mail and we got the fee waived! (For the one I just redeemed).

I still have the original offer (addressed to dh), and it says it expired July 31. I had already applied so didn't apply with the specific offer code. On a whim, I applied for it online today - my name. Our credit profiles are pretty much identical. I thought I might just get rejected off the bat, since I am not him! I put in the information, and changed the first name from his name to my name (it came up with an application pre-filled for the most part - I had to add all the really personal info). & it let me submit it!

The terms were still clearly no annual fee, though I saw no indication of the rewards. They are offering 50,000 bonus points all over the place, but not sure this favorable one will fly if it expired July 31. If it flies, I only have to spend $1000. Well, will be an interesting experiment. Big Grin

If they deny me this deal, I may try another offer. Paying one annual fee for $1000 in gift cards (2 citi cards) is probably worthwhile.

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I heard today that the Southwest rapid rewards card had a $250 gift card offer. (I just earned $500 Amazon gift cards on mine). I was thinking of having dh apply for $250 Amazon gift cards. It had a smaller up front fee. All it took is one purchase - so it was an easy one. Plus, dh wants to buy a $250-ish game system, anyway. Paying the credit card annual fee, instead, is a 72% discount off retail.

& so it keeps going...

If we go through with these, it will be 3 cards each - applied for in a short time - for one-time rewards. It's not that much, really. I see people in other blogs that do far more volume. IF I Were single, I can't say I would be applying for 6 cards. Well, heck, we are starting to double up on the same cards - which would also be impossible otherwise.

SA Blogs = Lightbulb Moments

August 22nd, 2011 at 08:00 pm

I got around to picking my free 8 x 10 up from Walgreens, today. Really confused the cashier, who was skeptical and could not quite believe my picture order would be free. Big Grin

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I had 2 great "lightbulb" moments today - just reading SA blogs.

So thank you everyone for the enlightenment!!

**From Baselle**

Do You Suffer From Decision Fatigue?

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/21/magazine/do-you-suffer-fro...

Per Baselle:

"The basic point of the article is that decisions of any size require energy. The more you make during a day, the more likely you will either make a crappy one or that you will go with what is recommended to you ... and in a sales situation, its always going to cost."

"People sometimes consider my tactic of setting a routine to be ho-hum, but it means that I don't have to re-make routine decisions and I free myself for the biggies during the day."

"Every so often the question, "what is the most frugal skill one can develop?" pops up. I thought it was math estimation skills but I might make the case that preventing decision fatigue might well be it."

So true!

On a simplistic level, I also think that being anti-debt also sinplifies the decision making process. It's pretty simple to arrive at a "Can I afford that or not?" conclusion. The answer is if I have the cash or not (on a very basic level). Having access to large amounts of readily accessible debt really makes the answer to this question harder to pinpoint. (Or - if you don't have any form of a budget or spending limit!) That, I have observed over the years. But I never thought beyond that to how fatiguing it would be to have to constantly evaluate those type decisions. For me, I simply don't. Just one more way in how simplicity brings a level of peace and happiness that is hard for people deep in the debt cycle to comprehend. (What appears to be deprivation and "ho hum" on one level, is actually very simplifying and freeing!)

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Petunia shared an article today that gave me a huge "aha!" moment.

Housing horror: Worse than you think

http://money.msn.com/home-loans/housing-horror-worse-than-yo...

She was sharing the article just as another doom and gloom real estate report.

OF course, I think real estate is very doom and gloom (just looking around me), but I have mentioned that I seem to be in a sea of people who have no clue, and think real estate is the next big thing! (I see a *bubble repeat* in buying behaviors in our own region. People still buying more than they can really afford, and buying far more frantically than they need to).

There was this quote in the article:

"Simon also points to the affordability index, which measures the ability of a family with the median national income to buy a median-price home at current mortgage rates. The index is near an all-time high and double its level in 2006 at the peak of the bubble.

"I would never have believed this index could get so high," he says. A rise in affordability should have spurred purchases, boosting prices and keeping a lid on the index. "What this instead means to me is that the credit is not available to most people," he says. "Houses aren't cheap if you can't get the loan." Simon worries that the problem will get worse in October, when Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Housing Administration drop the maximum mortgage they will buy to $625,000 from $729,750 as a temporary increase expires."

I had to read these paragraphs a few times to get it to sink in. I know everyone around me is chanting, "home prices are lower than ever - deal of the century," blahblahblah. & I have no idea what planet these people are on - beyond maybe not having an inkling what real estate did before the year 2001 or 2002. (& I do think that is a big part of the problem. Society today equals such SHORT TERM thinking).

So, this is why I had to do a double take that some affordability index was supporting this *crazy thinking.*

**Lightbulb Moment**

People are looking at home affordability based on monthly payments. *ding ding ding*

Sure, you could buy a home for significantly cheaper as recently as 1999, say. BUT, interest rates were twice as high then.

BINGO!

I finally *get it.*

I look at things at full price and big picture. I can't get all excited, myself, just because loan rates are temporarily down. This only really matters if refinancing was never an option. But, the truth is most people who bought just a decade ago, have refinanced and are enjoying these record low rates, too. Thus, they bought when affordability was far better (in a big picture way).

& so now I get it.

& I personally ain't buying it!

But at least now I know what everyone else is talking about! & I Feel stupid for not realizing it sooner. I know that most of my peers think in terms of payments versus actual price (when it comes to everything else). I should have figured this out ages ago!

Camping Mt. Diablo

August 22nd, 2011 at 12:42 am

{See last post for some older photos I finally got around to posting.}

With the likes of Tahoe and Yosemite in our backyard, it's probably no wonder we have NEVER heard of this gem before. We went camping on Mt. Diablo this weekend, and it was just amazing! (& a MUCH shorter drive - turned out to be about 80 miles from our home).

We met my dad for lunch around 1:00. We met at a fabulous and reasonably priced Thai restaurant. We feasted! I thought, "Where else can you eat authentic Thai cuisine, and drive 15 minutes into the wilderness for some amazing camping!" Maybe other places, but not many?

Our plan was to set up camp (check in 2:00), explore the famed "rock city," and drive up to the peak in the morning before we left, for the views.

Wildlife spotted: primarily deer, hawks, owls, coyotes (?), rabbits. Which isn't terribly exciting because these are the same animals we see at home. But, we saw the coyote a handful of times running around very close. Was beautiful. I suppose we also saw a lot of lizards. I didn't see any spiders bigger than a centimeter or so, so no complaints!!

"Rock City" was just amazing. BM loves to climb anything and everything. & though I held my breath a few times and had to chastise the kids to be more CAREFUL, they just had a BLAST. It was a huge rock playground. Just beautiful!

When we drove in we saw there was a star gazing event, and decided to go. (What luck!!!) Just BM and I went with Grandpa. We drove up to the top of the mountain and saw the most AMAZING sunset. We were above the fog rolling in, and arrived at a great scenic overlook just as the sun finished setting over the horizon.

At the top of the mountain, the night sky was pretty amazing for how early it was and how much light was coming up from the valley down below. If we had been up to staying longer, would have been even more amazing. The fog was starting to roll in (below us)and drown out the city lights when we left closer to 10pm. The moon was nowhere to be seen, and the sky couldn't have been more clear. We saw a handful of shooting stars. Basically, several people were there to show off and share their telescopes. IT was so much fun!!! We looked at several planets, galaxies, nebulae, stars, etc. I used to have a telescope, and love astronomy. We had actually planned this trip in the hopes of spotting the tail end of the recent meteor shower, but got much more than we had hoped for!

In the morning we hit rock city one more time to let the kids play, and then drove to the top. We stopped at the same scenic overlook again. Camp was very foggy and WET in the morning (got to test the water proofness of our tent - it passed. & it was so clear it would have been easy to leave off the water proof cover. It has sort of an open design for watching stars, etc. But for whatever reason we put the whole thing up. It felt like a little rain, when I Walked away from the trees, but was possibly just fog and condensation that hit our tent all night. My dad said the coastal redwoods get gallons of water from the fogs and he never quite understood that (until he slept under a tree in the fog!)

Anyway, so we drove up above the fog line and just soaked in the view for a LONG time. We decided to not drive to the very top of the peak since the observation tower was temporarily closed. I think we were happy with what we were able to see!

The peak was about 3500 feet - and probably the highest peak in the Bay Area. (I am not sure, but we saw several peaks in the distance that were quoted as being 2500 feet high - like Mt. Tam. I suppose we only got a view of the west, so not sure what else can be seen on the east side. Heck, to the east are the Sierra Nevadas. REAL mountains, but those are far off in the distance).

We let the kids play on the rocks some more before we drove home.

Throw this in the "vacation lifestyle" category because it was about on par with our last Hawaii vacation, but was mostly a 24 hour vacation! & certainly MUCH cheaper!!! We are definitely going back for a whole weekend next year. & is a good spot for day visits as well (when driving to/from visiting family).

Frugal note: We took gas sipper (compact vehicle). We were able to easily fit all of our camping gear (for 4), 4 camping chairs (clearly not necessary), etc. I share because most people look at us like we are crazy to try. Big Grin Of course, kids have short legs so not like there is any need for more space. I just find it funny how giant vehicles are seen as such *necessity* in this day and age - the minute you have one child. & yes, we have a minivan, but it is certainly not a necessity. Anyway, was for the best because we probably couldn't have parked at the campground otherwise - not a lot of room for cars. The gas sipper can squeeze in anywhere (& squeeze we did!)

Pictures Long Overdue

August 21st, 2011 at 11:45 pm

First off, camping was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G, and there were no tarantulas to be seen.

I will do a separate post to share some pictures, and events of weekend.

When getting pictures off my phone, I realized I hadn't taken any off my phone in a while.

So, here are a few random pictures:

First, just a small part of the spread for public TV volunteer appreciation dinner:



Last time we were at six flags, BM was wearing a very bright yellow shirt. The fish seemed VERY attracted to him - they all swam over to him at once and popped their heads out. We realized a lot of the staff wore yellow and they probably thought BM was there to feed them. Was just funny!



We saw tons of butterflies there and at the Academy of Sciences. This is just one of many amazing shots.



We did go to the free symphony concert (+ free ice cream) at our alma mater a few weeks back. The place was a mob, but we actually found a pretty nice place towards the front. This is maybe 1/4 of the crowd? But the concert was absolutely amazing. There was no traffic/crowd parking - maybe we knew better where to park.



We passed this house on the way to camping on Saturday. There were also several homes on the base of the mountain. I looked up this house just to see if I could find a better picture online. The real estate in the area was amazingly cheap considering what it is and where it is. ($1 millionish - but heck - we have friends and family who own pure crap at those prices). This may be my new dream place to live or get a second home. I didn't price out any condos, but I am sure if there are any there they would be very reasonable. & even owning a house on the mountain is not entirely unfathomable. I suspect some of the pricing is the economy, and the rest is the "out of the way" factor. (Homes on the mountain were on lower section - higher up was state land).



This picture does not do justice, but we caught the sunset last night (unplanned, and didn't have my camera with me!). It was probably the most amazing view I have ever seen in my life. We were above the fog rolling in. Picture didn't come out as terrible as I expected.



Now I have to go through my camera pictures, and no doubt my dad will have some amazing shots from his super fancy camera!

New Tires

August 19th, 2011 at 01:20 am

I've been meaning to take dh's car in forever for new tires. Lord knows how old the back tires were (maybe 6 years old?), but they don't seem to wear down very quickly. So, we just replaced the back tires. (Front tires were replaced exactly 2 years ago).

I had been meaning to do that forever, but we keep pushing it off since it is not urgent.

It's been maybe 18 months since we have had any service but an oil change. So, we had them look it over (check brakes, fluids, etc.). Damage = $225 or so. Not bad!

Still no brake work needed. I am absolutely in awe of cars these days. If we buy a newer car every 10-15 years, it's always a whole new world with each new car. This 2001-2005 technology blows me away. There is also an element that we are extraordinarily light on brakes up here (primarily drive freeway - no traffic). & the landscape is very flat?

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IF the theme is cars, I just got the first smog check request for my vehicle. I had no idea that new cars aren't required the first 6 years? Something like that? We bought dh's car in 2002, so you think I would have figured it out. Maybe just didn't notice since we tended to keep our cars hers/his before kids. Now it's whatever makes the most sense to drive for any given purpose.

Anyway, I was bummed that my van is now indoctrinated into the smog check routine. Dh will take it in for me, but will probably be a good $50.

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My vehicle has also been extraordinarily low maintenance of late. I don't think I took it in for anything but an oil change in 2010 or 2011 thus far. I was tempted to just drop it off today when we picked up dh's car - have them look it over to. But, I will just do it next month or so.

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Dh's car has been getting terrible gas mileage (compared to usual), but one tire has had a slow leak for AGES. I am presuming the new tires will solve that problem. I haven't been the best at keeping up with the tire. So, I am glad to not worry about that any more.

Anyway, crossing my fingers that solves the mileage problem.

How Annoying!

August 18th, 2011 at 03:49 am

I just packed up all the credit cards - 4 for the slicer. (We earned all our rewards!)

That said, I logged into Chase to make sure dh hit $500 purchases today (I was pretty sure he did).

Um, we've had the card like a week, if that, and they closed the monthly cycle already. Rolleyes Oh well - the reward was $200. I was going to put it to the mortgage, and didn't expect the cash before 8/31, anyway. The annoying part is that it is one more thing to remember (can't just kill them all THIS month). Dh spent about $125 today - after the credit card closed for the month. Bah!

I got a haircut over the weekend and so charged that on the Southwest Chase. One purchase = $500 Amazon gift cards. Yay!

Dh hit $2000 on the Citi. Health Insurance hit today. We should have $1000 in gift cards to redeem by the end of the month, between this and the Southwest Chase. Woohoo!

+$200 to the mortgage in September... If I don't forget! Big Grin

(I checked - and it hasn't even been a whole month since I applied for the stinking card - what's with the super early mid-month cycle thing?)

It's back to earning a steady 2% cash back on the AmEx. This is much easier! Phew!

Tax Discourse

August 17th, 2011 at 07:46 pm

http://mauledagain.blogspot.com/

Unfortunately, I can't link the blog post I wanted to - specifically. So, scroll down to August 1.

August 1 - Tax Complexity: Why?

"It is no secret that I find the complexity of the Internal Revenue Code to be unjustified, oppressive, counter-productive economically, and the consequence of politicians creating new provisions rather than expanding existing ones, because the former is more advantageous to incumbents concerned about the source of their next campaign funding dollar."

"The Portfolio analyzes tax provisions that pump money into economically distressed areas, an approach that began in the 1990s as Congress chose to ignore direct grants that constitute spending and decided to use tax breaks that are, in effect, spending, though the beneficiaries of these provisions and their Congressional protégés refuse to treat them as spending and thus consider any reduction or elimination of these tax breaks to be tax increases rather than spending cuts."

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Since everyone was talking about that little tax piece from Warren Buffet (Stop Coddling the Uber Rich?) - I thought I would share this as additional reading (after reading some of the discussions around the web this week).

Yeah - there is a lot of big words - and maybe some tax stuff you never heard about - but it makes a big point.

This & That

August 17th, 2011 at 02:13 pm

We all know not to replace anything as often as companies recommend, and only use half the soap recommended for the dishwasher and washing machine, etc., etc. Right?

Maybe I should have aimed higher in my home maintenance goals. (15 years? Power of positive thinking???) I assumed all along the first 10 years would be pretty easy (brand new home). We will hit 10 years in December, but I see a few things that we will probably be replacing soon. (I have mentioned garbage disposal and dishwasher).

Anyway, I noticed that the batteries were low on the thermostat, about a month back. Dh, frugal guy that he is, said "ah - give it another month." So I did. I wrote it on the calendar. & we talked about how important it would be to changed before they died. (Why risk screwing something up - didn't want it to go dead while the A/C was running). But, I then, of course, forgot. Doh. Anyway, it had stopped flashing "lo battery" after I saw that the first time. But this morning it started flashing again. I changed the batteries and have to remember to change them on our other thermostat too (the one I don't walk buy 10 times a day).

Anyway, I took off the cover to replace the batteries, and the thing said "replace batteries every year." I practically laughed at loud. I'll go with, "Replace batteries every 10 years." Thanks!

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I got my $530 from Chase, and so I sent $250 to the school. It's an extra good deal since the income is not taxable, but the donation is tax deductible.

In addition, I put the donation on my credit card, so earned $5 (2%) more in rewards. These rewards just get deposited into my ROTH. (More tax-free in and out).

Note: Also put $250 to mortgage. $30 for bills.

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I can't believe we got a last minute camp site (got the last spot - maybe someone had canceled?), BUT I have since heard it is just about tarantula season. A little early, but who knows with this weather. I was already well aware that there were tarantulas and intended to stay away from rocks, etc. BUT, now I learn that they come out in droves during mating season. I am terrified of spiders, myself. LOVELY!

Oh well - I am going. I may change my mind once I get there!!

Camping probably isn't as frugal as I thought. The camp site is $30, and we are sharing with my dad. But they tack on a $8 reservation fee, and I couldn't find a way around it (but show up and risk there being no spots, anyway - not worth that risk). That fee is more than 25% - I gasped when it popped up. Geez!

& then we have to pay $10 for a second car, since we are meeting there. Certainly is cheaper than the gas to arrange to arrive in one car. But paying $48 a night is more like a hotel room than a camp site. Double geez.

& to top it all off, we are meeting for lunch beforehand at a Thai restaurant.

Oh well - less money for Disney.

I looked and all the beach sites in the state are pretty much booked to eternity. I'll chalk it up to "camping is more expensive than it seems" and will be better able to plan ahead for next year. I can plan some vacation days to better up the odds of getting a beach spot too (most the same sites were open during the week).


Camping

August 15th, 2011 at 07:38 pm

Well, this week is shaping up to be busy!

Plenty of fun busy - not just busy busy.

Actually, we have been planning to do this hike with my dad, but haven't made the time. I told him not to fret. We both had a ton of summer plans, and we certainly have little going on now that the kids are back in school. (My dad's been camping/hiking all over the state all summer!)

Anyway, my dad mentioned a camping site near this hike, and I told him late August would probably be good. That said, haven't made any plans.

So, now he wants to go camping this weekend. This weekend??? I looked at the place looks pretty nice (has bathrooms, running water, etc.). The campground is really close to this hike we wanted to do.

I also saw check in was 2 and check out was noon. Figured we could meet for lunch, drive in together, and cover dinner and breakfast at camp. We've been stocking up on tents and sleeping bags and all that stuff, but don't have much in the way of cooking. That said, my dad totally has the fire stuff covered.
I think we can handle a few hot dogs and granola bars.

IF it goes well, I want to try to go camping at the beach one night, with my dad. Assuming we can get a reservation. September would be the perfect time of year.

I suppose it's the beauty of where we live. We haven't commited to much camping because not sure of the best sites, and also not 100% prepared. We have been talking about camping near the family cabin because heard good things about the camp site. It's really bare bones though and going off to the cabin to cook dinner sounds pretty appealing. Wink Yeah - that's how we camp. Generally when someone else is cooking, or we can find a kitchen nearby...

So, this sounds like a good stepping stone. Camping for about 24 hours? 50 miles away? Sure, I think we can handle that. Even with short notice.

Expect more spectacular pictures!

Magician Magician Magician

August 14th, 2011 at 12:37 am

Dh caught that there was a free magic show at the library today. (Just in time).

He took the kids, and I took a nap!

Totally lazy day here...

Enough magicians for one month?

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I updated Quicken for all our new credit cards.

I have like TEN.

O.M.G.

I usually have 2. The Target card adds a third. Dh has another card that I don't have. & the rest are all for one-time rewards.

I am so happy that I can pay them all of 8/31 and be done with them all!!! I just told dh that I think I was at my limit. Staring at 10 credit cards in my Quicken is enough. Thanks. (Most of them have balances at the moment? Just for this month - we pay them all off monthly).

If there's any more deals, my head may start spinning. Couldn't do this without Quicken, though. Not so easily, anyway. WAY too much to keep track of.

Instead of taking $300 cash from the Citi card, I am re-considering taking gift cards.

I am expecting a $500 Amazon GC from Chase.

From Citi, I can also get $500 in gift cards. TO get Amazon, I have to by Wal Mart and exchange for 95 cents on the dollar. But, it's still a good deal. I perused their rewards today and realized I could probably do some mix of Kohls, B&N, and Amazon (have to trade for Amazon). I can give dh that $500 Amazon from Chase then. I give up $300 cash, but will come out so far ahead that I will probably just take that $300 from savings and put it to the mortgage anyway.

With the gift cards? Can probably commit to a $0 Christmas. PLENTY for gifts. We usually don't spend much for Christmas anyway.

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Okay, so I FINALLY closed my old Chase Freedom Card. It's the least fight any cc company every put up. It went like this: "I'd like to close my card." "Why?" "Because I just got 2 new Chase cards, and never use the old one." (I could have griped about their crappy rewards change or attempt to charge me fees, but just wanted the deed done - that was all so long ago and Chase has rewarded me very nicely this year with these new cards). Anyway, their response was, "It's closed." I have had them BEG in the past to keep me. Like, they would match ANY rewards. Those days are gone, huh? (Actually, that said, I declined their new terms, complete with fees, and they let me keep the card. Over a year ago? Maybe they were going to cancel it anyway at some point).

I think I will just e-mail them when I am ready to close the other 2 reward cards. In case they get in a begging mood. I can think Ceejay for giving me the idea.

Anyway, one less account to look at, in Quicken. I logged onto Chase, and the account was already gone. Woohoo!

Dh and I both have to close 2 cards each next month - most of these one-time reward cards have annual fees. I suppose that is how they get you (they know people are scared to close cards, or forget, or whatever). Considering the fee factor - we are closing them all next month!

Nook Update

August 13th, 2011 at 12:56 am

I was resigned to the fact that I would probably buy the latest Game of Thrones ebook (though was waiting to see if it would go on sale).

Dh bought the hard cover (since it was all he could pre-order) and at least the print is a little bigger. I may just suck it up and read it.

& then? Hallelujah! I was perusing ebooks at the library and spotted it. Why hadn't I looked sooner? Lord knows.

I am like 10th in line, but considering that there are four copies, it shouldn't take very long. In a couple of weeks I will also request the book with every library card in our house (2 weeks apart, each?). Since you can't renew ebooks, and the book is 1000+ pages. I figure I can get some decent coverage that way. No renewals? With 4 library cards, I can work around that.

That said - not too worried about it. Will read the bulk of it on my nook, and have the actual book for the rest.

It's official - I ain't going to buy it!

I still have a $3 credit on the B&N gift card I got for Christmas. Not sure what in the heck I will use it for. Maybe a book I can't get at the library on ebook.

Though the library does not have a lot of old books in ebook form - they seem to be stocking up on new books at a pretty rapid pace. The limited selection I worried about seems pretty moot at this point.

I share because a bajillion people have poo-pooed my ereader for being expensive. & go on how to say how used books are so much cheaper. I've always been 99% a library gal - and nothing much has changed except I don't have to take the time or gas to go to the library to get my books any more. I LOVE it!

Yes, the ereader itself adds an extra expense, but everyone is always yapping to me about the cost of the ebooks. I Wouldn't know, because I don't buy ebooks any more than I would buy paper books. If they told me the nook was expensive and they were scared to lose it, at least that makes sense. Big Grin But the $0 I have spent on ebooks in the 8 months I have owned this thing? Somehow I will survive, financially.

Back to Reality

August 12th, 2011 at 07:35 pm

Aaaaahhhhh...

Our little mini vacay was perfect. Will have to remember this for next year. Should be a tradition: back-to-school vacation. & was the perfect mixture of a couple of lazy days at home, a short drive, some fun activities, time with family, etc.

I certainly have delighted in the fact that our kids will be on the same campus/schedule for one year. (Next year their locations will be split up - bah!). But, I hadn't thought much beyond that. A couple of people have since asked me how LM has adjusted to "all day school." I expect he will adjust just fine since he is going only 45 minutes longer than before! I can't say I was a fan of all-day Kinder, but the kids handled it well (LM WAY BETTER than expected), and I suppose it makes 1st grade a very easy transition.

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I skipped my long overdue need for a haircut because my scalp was so sunburned. Will have to wait a few days. Decided I didn't need the extra pain.

I gave blood a couple of days ago and was dissapointed by my reward! I was looking forward to a free soda and a free pint of ice cream. The "pint for a pint" was apparently over and I got some coupon I won't use (Applebees). I still looked forward to a cold can of soda (FREE) when they burst my bubble and told me no more soda. I always thought it was weird they had soda (doesn't seem to be the best for replenishing blood, and they sometimes try to talk you out of it though they have a fridge full of the stuff). But, whatever, I had come to embrace it. Big Grin Anyway, I do think it's a good thing. I was just bummed because I was so looking forward to free ice cream and soda!

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I sent a check off to school for almost $200 (supplies, field trips and spirit t-shirts). The kids have enough lunch pre-paid for a few more weeks, but should probably make a large deposit for the rest of the calendar year.

School lunch went from $2.25 to $2.50. I think it was $2.50 the year before last. (It had gone down at some point)? Overall, it's a pretty good deal for what it is. A well rounded meal, and the kids will eat it. I think our limit was 3 days a week (not that they did that every week), but we may do a 2 day per week limit this year. Will see, I guess. LM has taken to lunches far more than BM, but he is less likely to eat all the veggies. So, not sure how I feel about that. I'll probably deposit enough to cover 2 lunches a week for the rest of the year.

I haven't decided if I should register them for daycare this year. IT's $30 per family to register. & they switched it up this year so you pay after the fact - no more pre-paying. I still have some balance from when dh had surgery. I put $100 or so down and we never used it up. Lord knows what happened to the balance - I should look into it. If I have to release it or anything (I am happy to donate it to the school).

Anyway, I like the new system - pay the month after. No pre-paying amounts you may never use! The only reason to pre-register is to ensure a spot, I guess, though it doesn't seem to be much issue. IT's just nice if we ever need it for any reason whatsoever - to have the kids all signed up. Then we can drop them off any time. Since we found no reason to use it the entire last school year... That said, we did sometimes use the more expensive drop-in daycare during parent conferences and stuff like that. Duh. Decision made. Will come in handy those times - worth it if we only use it for that. (The cost is about the same - hourly - but school is much more convenient).

Decision made - more paperwork to fill out.

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P.S. All of our school money and vacation money comes from "short-term savings." We set asides amounts monthly, for all this type stuff that is very forseeable.

Back To School

August 10th, 2011 at 03:11 pm

Easy Peasy!

Kids don't need any clothes.

They have back packs and lunch pails already.

School will ask for $25 donation or so, each, for supplies. (So we don't have to buy one thing all year).

& so, we did nothing, nada, zip, zilch, to prepare.

If only every year were so easy! Big Grin

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MIL bought the kids some polo shirts for school. She was all excited because they were on sale at Target. For reference, I tend to avoid Target clothing for the crappy quality. (I do buy the kids' clothing there - but they outgrow it in 5 minutes. It's dirt cheap - and holds up as long as it needs to).

*I* stock up on polos at Hanes whenever they are on sale - usually $5 or $6 a pop. Needless to say, I don't need any shirts for the kids - they have a TON. New ones and everything. I always stock up when there is a big sale.

But, MIL refused to take no for an answer. I glimpsed that if she had her way, she'd throw away all their Hanes shirts and replace them with her *superior* Target shirts. ("They are cotton and polyester!" she tells me). I have to roll my eyes at the ridiculousness as clearly they must be eons above in quality, right? Wink

We decided to exchange all the shirts for pants (which we will need - and are more costly). For all her insistence I take these shirts - she did give me the receipt.

Home Portion of Mini Vacay

August 9th, 2011 at 05:45 pm

Best I can tell, the temp was 77 degrees yesterday (per internet). I'd have guessed 80 or a little warmer. Was wary because the day started cloudy and dreary. Didn't really want to freeze all day! Then the sun came out and the weather was just *perfect.* The kids can pretty much do all the slides now. Though we waited in plenty of lines, I don't think we have ever seen the place so empty. Was just a perfect day!

(Though dh did get a nasty sunburn. The rest of us are more sun tolerant. I just ran out for a giant bottle of aloe vera. What amazed me is how milky white some of skin is and how bright red and awful his splotchy sunburn is. Absolutely nothing in between. I said "where the sunblock worked - it worked well?").

I admit my scalp is rather burned though. I've been wearing hats most of summer, but didn't want to lose my hat on a water slide.

We decided to come back last night since kids have *meet the teacher* today - school starts back tomorrow.

I had loose plans to get a haircut and give blood today/tomorrow. I had made lunch plans and forgotten them. (But told my friend to call me and remind me. She called and I knew the second I heard her voice - glad she reminded me!). I told the kids we could go see the smurf movie today (matinee prices). Dh isn't interested - so works out.

I was kind of looking forward to a *date day* with dh. Tomorrow. But when I brushed my hair this morning I remembered I was in dire need of a cut. Tomorrow may be a bit busy. Then again, a haircut and a blood draw shouldn't take very long. The kids both have the same school schedule this year - for 7 hours a day. DIVINE!

In the middle of my busy day I have to get up some pictures - I have some amazing pictures to share from the beach.

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Financial update:

Our retirement is down $13,000 in the course of a few days (no matter - am in for the long haul).

We hit the credit card bonus with Citi card the last few days and the new Chase card arrive, so I just switched them out. We may hit the Chase bonus within a week since I have a $215 charge I was going to put on the Citi but will put on the Chase instead. Just $285 to go. I think we will be redeeming lots of rewards the end of this month! I expect to hit 3 separate rewards by 8/31.

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Oh yeah - while staying with MIL, we got all our vacations booked (free room). The Napa vacation share they have is apparently divine. BUT, since we waited so last minute, we couldn't get anything in September (anniversary late Sept). So we went for last weekend in October. It's pretty much a free vacation - so doesn't really matter to me when it is!

We also booked our So Cal stay in October. Staying at the same place as last time. I believe we had to pay a $20 parking fee, but were within walking distance from Disney. We settled on 4 nights away. The cat has done well with two 3-nights away, this year. We needed to leave way extra water and cat litter for her. (Wary because she got stressed and a bladder infection last year). If she has enough water and clean litter, she seems to be doing okay. Was clearly more than just stress. So, phew. We've left her 4 nights before with no help, but will ask my friend to check in on her, give her some canned food, and clean her litter box. I think will need a little extra help. I hope the stress doesn't send her into another infection - I can't do anything about the stress. But I can make her litter boxes cleaner and get her some canned/wet food in our absence. She needs more water, cleaner litter, and more wet food - in her old age.

The free nights weren't given, so I am excited to get all that squared away!!

Mini Vacay

August 7th, 2011 at 09:54 pm

We've been having a GREAT mini vacay before school starts!

Saturday we went to Point Lobos (state beach near Carmel). The place is just amazing. So beautiful and peaceful - I have great pictures to share (later).

We dined at a little Mexican restaurant in Carmel and had a celebrity sighting - Tom Bergeron was eating at the next table. The kids love America's Funniest Videos, so thought this was pretty cool. We let him eat in peace (granted, a lot of pointing, whispering and peeks - LOL).

Maybe my dh is more observant, but he seems to see celebrities all the time. Since this was my second celebrity sighting, I thought this was pretty cool.

Other than gas, didn't spend a dime. Our parents treated lunch/dinner the last couple of days.

Tomorrow we are going to the local water park - will spend about $100. Will be a little bit spendy.

Weather is so cool here still (I know - our heat went east - I know it's incredibly hot throughout much of the country). So, not sure how great this water park idea will be. Hopefully we aren't too cold!

Pictures to come later.

Frugal Advice - Networking

August 5th, 2011 at 09:01 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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Okay, so we all know that networking is essential in the workforce. Right?

But, jobs and careers are just a piece of our existence. The same holds true for every aspect of our lives. Networking = opportunities.

I wouldn't even know where to begin, in sharing in the many different forms that social interaction has saved us money over the years.

I was thinking about it because I was just talking with my son's friend's mother for a little bit yesterday. I have met her in passing, but never had the opportunity to sit and talk with her. Just happened to run into them at the park by our house (they don't live in the same neighborhood, but were there for soccer practice). In talking to her, she told me her older son was taking piano lessons for $10/hour. Holy cow - $10 an hour! Apparently, a local charter school has public music lessons. Something I had NO CLUE about.

I couldn't tell you how many frugal tips like this, that I have heard through the grapevine.

OF course, online forums and blogs are also a HUGE resource. Just by simply following one of my favorite financial blogs: www.mymoneyblog.com - I have gotten some amazing credit card bonuses this year (almost $2000!). & heck, I don't buy anything without googling coupon codes (which someone out there is gathering and sharing).

That said, I also think regional and local networking is also very valuable.

Our choice to do public school was largely influenced by a financially struggling friend (who is absolute financial genius, by the way). She was a teen mom - neither of them have degrees - they have 3 kids - and they do amazingly well considering how little they have to work with. She opened my eyes to the multitude of public school options in our city. This is probably just one thing I learned from her - but one thing that will probably have the hugest financial impact on our lives.

In addition, the parents in our neighborhood started a public charter school a few years back, which is now just top notch. We heard about it on the ground level and were able to volunteer to help set up the school and secure our children spots in the school. At the time, we didn't know how it would pan out, but what did we have to lose? We got into this network just by talking to other parents at the park. (I now talk to people all the time who were simply out of the loop and out of luck. They're stuck going through the lottery process - with horrible odds of getting in).

Other ways that networking helps? I have friends all over the world - always good for free room and board. I've had absolutely amazing travel opportunities.

I've commented how when we lived in the Bay Area that we always had friends at many major companies and so were able to get deeply discounted gadgets and software. An old classmate/co-worker of mine ended up working at Adobe, and so we were able to buy professional video software worth thousands. The cost? $20. Somwthing like that.

The irony is that I am not a very social person, and neither is my spouse. But we are friendly, and we do have a lot of very social friends. (& we have several extremely social extroverts in the family). We also do get out and walk a lot, so do randomly run into people and talk to people we probably NEVER would otherwise.

It's really something so simple as going outside your front door once in a while, that can bring you so much opportunity!

Approved!

August 5th, 2011 at 03:58 pm

Officially approved for the Southwest rewards (Chase) card. Another $500 reward. ($400 - after fees).

Woohoo!

I only know because I logged in and saw *three* cards today - whereas before I only had 2 Chase cards.

I am personally only opening these cards for rewards, and will close them the second I am done.

It seems kind of ludicrous to be extended so much credit. Does anyone really need *3* credit cards with one company? All with -0- balances?

I really thought they were going to deny me and I would have to call and offer to close one card, in order to get the third.

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Anyway, I still haven't closed old Chase card though have wanted to for ages. Dragging my feet, because I hate calling for this stuff. (Used to be good ongoing rewards, but those dried up and they have tried to add fees to it, too - I declined the new terms. But tired of dealing with that crap).

Can you just close your account over secure messaging these days? Probably can.

Anyway, now it's *easy.* "I just applied for 2 new cards, and so would like to close the old one."

It will be a warm up since I will close the other two in the next couple of months.

It's no biggie. If I changed my mind for no reason - it's my perogative. But, I like the easy out!

Luck is on my side!

August 4th, 2011 at 07:31 pm

I really didn't expect much from Chase.

But...

This morning I had 53,000 points to redeem! Big Grin

Of course I redeemed - before they could change their mind.

Grand total of cash rewards? $1,030 (I already got $500).

$750 to mortgage
$250 donate to kids' school
$ 30 will just keep for bills

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Dh filled up both cars and got groceries. Between that and weekend vacation plans, I am pretty sure we will earn our Citi rewards by the end of this weekend. (In comparison, I spent $10 on food this week - so - clearly no worse for the ware now that I am no longer an authorized user on this account. That said, I need to charge a $215 professional fee that my boss will reimburse. I can do that with dh's card - factored that in my calculations for above).

As such, dh might get his new Chase card and get those rewards in first billing cycle. Only have to spend $500. 4 more weeks of gas/groceries will do the job.

I will rejoice when we pay off these cards and get them all closed (probably all said and done by mid September. I'll pay them all 9/1, but then there is the closings to deal with).

I do admit Quicken is kind of hard to manage with the endless stream of credit cards. I got to leave them all in there for history. It's fine for now - but a few more years like this? Ugh. That said, I couldn't imagine managing all this without Quicken! Quicken did greatly sinplify tracking all these cards. I have just been paying them all off the 1st of the month so I don't forget. I just paid off 4 credit cards a couple of days ago (July charges). One to go, for July. I usually pay the one or main card off second half of month. I paid all the little ones ASAP to erase the *I forgot* factor.

I told dh we had a good run for 2011 (expecting $500 cash + $500 gift cards still. Plus more deposits into my ROTH. WELL over the $2k mark). BUT, if I see *another* $500 reward, not sure I Can resist. Big Grin I suppose that is my new thresshold. A year ago, I would have thought $100 cash reward was awesome enough! Since we both already opened 2 cards this year, for one-time rewards, I think we will just hold out for $500 rewards. Not expecting any, but who knows.

I may change my mind - has been really easy money!

Dh seems skeptical that we could possibly qualify for more rewards. I assured him we were just the small guys. I have seen people who apply for the same card over and over and over, just for example - open/close/repeat - the BIG LEAGUES. I somehow doubt we are even a blip on the radar. I've never had reason to apply for more than 2 cards per year (each). But seems plenty of people do far more volume.

This & That

August 4th, 2011 at 01:43 am

July was a pretty cheap month, overall.

For one, we spent only $130 on auto gas. I think it's a record low, and I can't quite wrap my brain around that!

I was sick an entire week (didn't drive to work), dh has been sick an entire week (didn't drive anywhere), I suppose I didn't eat anything at all for a couple of days. Stuff like that. (I did spend $20 on 2 prescriptions what were useless and I didn't use. But still came out way ahead). Anyway, no school or activities, etc. But for piano lessons.

All that, and we drove 100-ish miles round trip to Six Flags.

Besides that and work, I suppose we just didn't really go anywhere!

'Twas nice on the budget.

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That said, I didn't scrounge any extra to the mortgage this month. No extra cash inflows. BUT, if I stick with the $50/month (tax holiday) - I did do that for 7/31 - and commit most my credit card cash rewards to the mortgage - may only have to come up with another $500 this year to meet my goal. (Easy Peasy!)

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Got off pretty easy with kids' party. About $100 for the bouncy house, $0 for the magician, $25 for party favors (magic wands). I hate party favors, and often skip them. BUT, I thought these would be a little more useful than a bunch of crap. Dh said they were a HUGE hit - so glad I got them. Food was within grocery budget. I could say $125 for an extremely successful/exciting party. BUT, dh's folks picked up the pizzas and I sent them a check for $30. Not sure they will ever cash it - but I tried.

If they cash the check, that is $77.50 per kid. Since it was for TWO birthdays. I'll never pull off 2 birthdays like *that* again.

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Well, this could REALLY suck, but no worries since dh found a good solution.

We had a power surge a week ago or so, and dh's PS3 absolutely died. Sure, we have tons of used games systems and games, and don't spend a lot on this stuff. BUT, he had bought the PS3 very early on, brand new. In fact, it was backwards compatible - with old games (which I now understand is very rare). It had cost $500+ - I am sure.

Power surge? KILLED the PS3.

Yeah - NOT HAPPY. Usually when dh buys more expensive equipment, it is of higher quality. So, I Was really ticked off.

Dh did his frugal research and decided the best option was to send it back to Sony for a newer refurbished model. Cost? $100.

I can certainly live with that. Phew!!!

Pros? It's smaller and more energy efficient. I believe dh said this would be okay for our no-cable switch and so we won't have to buy a roku. So, if you look at it that way - will cost us very little (versus cost of a second roku box). The old one did not have the same features as the newer ones.

Cons? It's not backwards compatible.

Of course, dh still has his PS2 - because he has like every game system known to man and refuses to ever give them up - so probably no matter. Just kind of a pain.

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Power surge problems did not end there. I found the garbage disposal to be dead about a week later. I Can't fathom that no one touched it all week, but seems to be the case.

Dh wasn't feeling well, but it was all clogged up and I don't have the strength to loosen the pipes to get all the food out. So, dh did that for me only to find there was no food in the pipes. All stuck inside the disposal I guess. LOVELY. The thing had been acting up a while, and I can't say I Was sad to see it go. (We've taken the pipes apart many times to clear up clogs). Just not happy with the timing and how it was dead but I didn't know and put a bunch of food down the disposal.

If dh was feeling better, he may have noticed sooner, but he didn't. There was a big red switch on it. After taking pipes apart and putting them back together, and being really aggravated with me? Flipped the switch. That's all there was to it. We could only chalk that one up to the power surge.

The experience renewed our resolve to replace it before we *have to.* It does need to be replaced. Some time this year. IT hasn't aged gracefully, and was probably some really cheap crappy thing the home builder put in (2001). We understand most our neighbors have replaced theirs already.

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We've also had minor dishwasher whoas. IT just looks absolutely disgusting.

So, while dh was sick I Was doing most the dishes. I flipped it on one day and it made a LOUD, annoying buzzing sound. I asked dh if that was *normal* and he assured me it was. Well, that sure wasn't normal when it was brand new. Nor most of the last decade. I said, "I think we are going to have to replace that sooner rather than later." Dh agreed. Besides looking like heck, it just hasn't been cleaning as well, either.

I'll probably do a little internet digging, just to be sure. I Was just reading the SA blog about how sometimes people throw away appliances when all they need is a simple repair. Reminded me of our switch problem with the garbage disposal. Doh!

But, anyway, I did look up dishwashers (having no clue what they cost because I never bought one before). I was impressed. Maybe it's time for something newer and quieter. Maybe even more efficient. I figure we use it just about every single day, so got our money's worth.

These would be the first repairs/replacements on the inside of the house. Bought in 2001. Can't say I can complain.

I can tell that my problem is I really don't want to jump the gun in any replacements. (What if it lasts another decade???). By the same token, I rather replace things before they break. Before you are stuck and have no choice. So, we've made a loose decision, but I wouldn't be surprised if it took us YEARS to execute.

I do like being able to keep an eye out and jump on a good sale. Time to start looking for a new dishwasher. Patience and time will buy us a good deal.

We've been blessed to have been homeowners for 12 years and never made these kind of decisions before. Sure, we have had a few minor repairs - but no replacements!

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I just got an e-mail that balanced billing for gas, doubled. $20/month to $40/month. To be fair, probably should have been $30 all along. I have no idea how they figure these things, since our annual usage is so consistent. Gah. Just wish they would charge the same amount every month - like $30? - it would all even out. I just looked and we have paid $14, $21, $26, $31 during the last 2 years. $40 in 2009.

Anyway, the main problem? I didn't turn down the water heater for summer. We barely use ANY gas in summer, because it is usually regularly 100-ish degrees, and the heater is extremely efficient for what little hot water we need (cooking/dishes). We like our HOT showers in the winter, but don't need HOT water in the showers for summer.

To be fair - June was more like spring, or even winter! But, July - I could have turned it down. I am annoyed how much that will cost us. I just turned it down.

ETA: Turns out bill switched to $30, and I didn't notice! Doh! But, phew - not as bad as I thought. Still charged 50% more than probably necessary in July. But I owe +$9 for last month. Luckily no late fee. I might not have remembered the heat was on too high otherwise - shocking bill did it - so for the best.

Significant Goal Progress

August 2nd, 2011 at 07:44 pm

If we can keep this momentum (no really expensive surprises?), we are on track to do *awesome* with our financial goals this year.

Will probably:

**Put $10k into ROTHs (have never maxed out both?)
**Hit $30k+ cash savings
**Hit $199,999 balance on mortgage (30% down; 70% to go).

All of these goals have been YEARS in the making.

I'd be happy to spread out these wins a little, but for whatever reason it's boom, boom, boom. (On track to all be solid around 12/31).

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I had an interesting epiphany today about the mortgage. I am extremely hesitant to put extra to the mortgage, considering the logic factor of investing instead, and the past experience of tying too much up into the mortgage.

Epiphany? Last time I put extra to the mortgage, I didn't have a solid big picture financial plan. Meaning, I wasn't making retirement/savings a priority, etc. I believe it came about when we refinanced about the time my first son was born. When I went back to work, I resumed the old mortgage payments (extra principal). It was dumb. Our gross income had been halved, and expenses were rising with a new child. At the time, it felt dumb to not keep the old payment, but the truth was something needed to give.

A number of things have swayed me this year, and I think this was the final realization I needed. With ample savings and maxed out ROTHS, it's not dumb and I probably won't regret it. Clearly, my gut is telling me to pay more - so I will listen. (My gut always serves me well).

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Speaking of the gut...

I have been really intent to get to a cash savings level of $30,000, for years. Last year, I Was so intent on finally reaching this goal, than I started commiting $1000 per month to this goal. I had like $25,0000 to start? I didn't get anywhere. The more I saved, the more life threw at me.

This year, I threw up my hands. I give up! I reorganized my financial priorities, and suddenly it falls into the place. This is with extra mortgage payments, so is one reason I have made that mind shift with the mortgage. You can't argue with better results. The universe agrees with *this* plan.

Anyway, if no cash surprises arise in August (we usually charge everything, anyway), then our cash balance may hit $30,000 for about five minutes on September 1st. (Before the car insurance is due). No matter. I expect some car repairs, car insurance, and kids' dental visit to be charged this month and paid in Septmber. But absolutely nothing planned in October, so it is feasible to hit this goal for real on October 1. (Then again - BM Might be due for some expensive dental work - so won't get too excited).

The motivating note on my desk says:

$35,000 - 2002
$27,000 - 2003
$24,000 - 2004
$17,000 - 2005

Nope - I haven't had this much cash since I have had children. The note reminds me that the hardest thing we have found with this one-income/kid thing is lack of cash. Lack of cash = lack of flexibility. Lack of freedom.

It's all relative. If you asked most my friends, they'd wonder what the heck I have to worry about. (People are SO CLUELESS about money)! But seriously, ask any 30-something I know. $30,000 in the bank - what the hell? Live a little. Blahblahblah.

So, does this mean when I reach my goal that I will move on to other goals? More college savings? Taxable investing? Go hog wild?

Um, no. Got to keep chugging along. $5000 per year to cash savings. $8000 in years we use our medical deductible: every year?

$30,000 will break down approximately as follows:

$15,000 emergency fund
$ 3,000 medical deductible fund (2012)
$12,000 savings

Just about enough savings to replace dh's 10-year-old vehicle.

I haven't even started saving to replace my 6-year-old-vehicle.

The plan to buy a brand new house and not put money into it for a decade has worked out extremely well. But the decade is about over. More home maintenance savings is needed.

Kids are both on track for significant orthodontia.

Dh may want to go back to school.

We want to plan 2 big parties for our parents' anniversaries in the next 2 years.

& all of this will easily hit in the next 5 years (don't invest money you need in 5 years).

We don't borrow for things, and not sure how that would help anyway. Then I could just have a bunch of payments and have $0 for savings.

I prefer the flexibility of cash. Plan B is to not replace any cars until dh goes back to work (if have to - can live with one). Plan C is we are both content to spend $2k or $5k on a car - if that is all we can afford. Just depends on our financial picture when that time comes. (We've always done well with older cars - and frankly didn't pay that much for our current vehicles - both bought one-year-old).

Will keep adding to cash - doesn't seem like that will change for a long while.

I did wonder for a few minutes: This goal met? What next? But then I looked at reality. We've got a heck of a lot of expenses in the near-term horizon.

Updates

August 2nd, 2011 at 04:16 pm

**I didn't end up going to the skating rink final weekend. Childhood friend told me line was miles long and not to bother.

I told my dad, but he went anyway. He knew the owner and got in for free. Guess I could have gone!

**Hard to make too much of it, but dh got invited to a baseball game tonight by public TV station. His dream job would be there. Dh had mixed feelings since he HATES sports, but obviously recognizes the opportunity. He is definitely going. Was an individual invitation to him only (he is just one in a sea of volunteers), so, pretty exciting! Problem is he only volunteers during live broadcats, when it can get pretty hectic. He never gets much choice to socialize, etc. So, I am hoping he opens up and lets them know that he wants a job there!!! Or at the least, makes clear that he is unemployed. I don't think they even know.

All that said, the guy who invited him is gay. & dh has a history of gay admirers. So, I am a little suspicious of this guy's motivations. LOL. To be fair - dh was invited plus a guest of his choosing. Guy had to figure he'd bring his wife. (But it's last minute, so dh is going alone).

**I am eagerly awaiting Thursday/Friday to see if Chase honors my second $500 bonus. Credit card closes on the 4th?

**After quick e-mail, Citi refunded $125 annual fee. Phew! They will remove $50 fee after dh cancels my card (tonight?). Kind of sweet, since I was able to rack up a few charges in the interim. Though, apparently that privelege costs $50. Ouch! (I realized *after* I applied, and dh asked to remove me and the charge when he got the cards - but they told him over the phone no fee. I knew that was wrong and we'd probably have to fight it again - but worked out best it could).

Anyway, we've charged about $1600. Dh will easily hit $2000 this month, with groceries and gas. We should get the bonus points by the last day of this month. (I just have to remember to switch health insurance payment to dh's name. That's $750 of the $2000 - to be charged late this month).

**Taking me off the Citi card means *I* am going back to the 2% cash back AmEx. I don't charge much, so I don't expect it to amount to a hill of beans. (Our utilities, etc., I just kept going to the AmEx all along - no point to change them since amounts are small and we didn't need these charges for bonus points).

If I get approved for the last card I applied for, I only have to maka *one purchase* with it. So, I think I am mostly done with *musical credit cards.*

Dh has $500 to charge on one new card (it hasn't arrived yet - will probably earn that bonus in September).