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Archive for September, 2011

Friday Doings

September 30th, 2011 at 08:21 pm

**The day after the latest Game of Thrones ebook became available at library, so did Book one in Stookie Stackhouse series.

I am a fast reader, so no biggie, except GOT is 1000+ pages! Thankfully, Sookie book is pretty average. (They both had mile long wait lists - so it's now or wait another 3 months or so).

Game of Thrones - book 1, 2, 3, and 4? were pretty fast paced and hard to put down. Last one really dragged for me. This one was starting slow, but barely having found any time to read, I am 500 pages in. It is starting to pick up, so it is possible I will finish this weekend. Maybe next weekend I can start the Sookie series.

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**Oh, yesterday was interesting. Went to San Francisco for a seminar, but it was cancelled at the last minute. Of course, ENTIRE OFFICE had gone. It's only about a 1.5 hour drive, but 3-4 hours in traffic. I was the least inconvenienced as I had stayed with my folks and took a leisurely drive in around 7:30am (versus leaving Sacramento at 5am). I picked up my roller skates, my mom hemmed my pants, and I had quality time with my parents, and a full nights' rest.

Of course, if it was just me, I would have played hookie. But, figured it was best to head back to work since the boss was well aware class was cancelled! Had to cancel plans for dinner and drinks in SF with friend. Mostly wasted a tank of gas.

Maybe saved $35 in food and parking in the process. That's the only good I Can say about the whole thing. (But, I'd rather have spent the $35).

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**Today I made another deposit in the stock market. Market was on *low* side (low is relative). Just regular contribution for October because not sure when I will get my paycheck or if I will pay any attention to the stock market on vacation. I sent the money to Vanguard - I can just pay the mortgage when I get my paycheck. Mortgage bought me some float, with its 16 days or so grace period. I am too lazy to move money around from savings or anything like that. Then it gets complicated. Mortgage money pays the ROTH. Paycheck pays the mortgage. I don't have to juggle anything around though I might get my paycheck 10 days late. (Beyond paying mortgage and credit card by the 30th, generally, not much else is due the rest of the month).

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**I was approved for Citi card - will earn another $300 in rewards.

They never called for identity check. (Chase has left me voice mail messages before, anyway, so no messages meant no calls, I figured). I was just getting a chip on my shoulder about how they really don't want my business! But I got an e-mail to call them in 30 days or I will be denied. Still not quite feeling the love...

BUT, when I called they told me I was approved. So, I guess that makes up for it. I've applied with several other credit card companies in recent months, and no one has given me approval with an identity check. So, hey. Good news! (Their identity check was pretty weak, by the way, but they did check).

For reference, Chase asked me how old my MIL was. Like heck I know. LOL. I just knew she was recently eligible for social security, and they thankfully gave me a wide age range. But it was like, "Do you know someone named Mary Smith? Can you tell me her age?" & now I have revealed top secret security info. I didn't even realize.

Citi pretty much just asked me public/easy to find info. I was unimpressed. Especially because they used the e-mail I used on my application. Basically, their process would not stop an identity thief. When my ID was stolen they knew my address, phone #s, birth date. The point is supposed to be to contact me through the phone # listed on my credit bureau account. Not reply to any old random e-mail from someone claiming to be me, and asking the same stuff I already put on the application. Rolleyes Though they may have used caller ID - to be fair. I did call from a number on my bureau report/fraud alert.

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In other news:

**Car passed smog (phew) - I told dh to take it in because it wasn't acting up so much this week.

**Along same lines. Downstairs toilet was leaking like crazy the other morning. It would NOT repeat for dh. WHAT THE HECK? Just like my car. Anyway, dh had bought parts to replace innards for all toilets, at my earlier urging. Because when it happened in master bath, I was relieved I notice, but water had clearly been leaking for days. (& toilets are all same, bought at same time - new house 2001). I figured lord knows when we would notice in kids' bathroom! But dh hadn't got around to replacing those, and I was greeted with spurting water everywhere the other morning. (My "I told you so" moment. Well, except he thinks I am totally crazy because toilet would not even drip one drop for him).

Dh obliged anyway - I am still nagging him to get the kids' bathroom which is the only one I am REALLY concerned about.

That & This

September 29th, 2011 at 12:29 am

Came home and told dh I was glad he didn't go to the bank yet (to deposit rewards and anniversary money). I was just thinking how we should probably keep the cash for our trip. Was having a conversation with someone how I NEVER use cash. I believe last time we went to LA we did not need ANY cash, but got me thinking how we should probably take some just in case.

Anyway, so when I told dh I was glad he had not gone to the bank... HE said, "So am I!" & handed me a wad of $20 bills.

His mom is still feeling extreme post retirement generosity. $200 for our trip. Woohoo!

Funny thing is that our budget is about $500 (that's EVERYTHING) and so upping the budget to $700 is pretty darn sweet. Like, maybe this is a wee bit more realistic. $500 pretty much covers travel and theme parks, so $200 might buy us some food.

{$500 is just all we have left from annual $1500 vacation budget. I figure not commuting to work, or buying groceries at home for a week, could buy us some money for food. Or pull from other areas of the budget. Truth is we are meeting several friends in LA and will probably just pass it on by treating for dinner. They always offer to treat us, but I refuse to have single friends pay for the four of us. Maybe I shouldn't. Should ask dh what his other friend does. I don't mind paying for all the starving artists, and all the recently divorced friends, etc. Of course most of them in LA are the starving artist types. & even if not, their rents and mortgages make me cringe. So I am going with that assumption - will be treating a few dinners}.

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In other news, did you see that Amazon slashed Kindle prices today? If you were on the fence at all...

Dh was eyeing Amazon's new tablet, assuming price was $250-$300. He's got the credit card rewards to get it for *free.* Well, they also announced a price of $199 for their new tablet. Wow!

We don't expect much from it, but since we can get it for free, we will buy it. To try it out. We can always sell it if we don't like it.

This & That

September 28th, 2011 at 08:58 pm

Why Emergency Funds can Provide the Best Return on Investments

http://www.mymoneyblog.com/why-emergency-funds-can-provide-t...

Amen to this! Very good article.

Unfortunately, the benefits of keeping cash are rarely spoken about. Particularly in this type economy (with abysmal interest rates). This just kind of puts my own feelings into some very good words.

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Nothing much to report on the cable transition. All that really matters is that dh is content - he is the cable lover in our house. Time will tell...

Anyway, as my initial feeling was, I didn't think I'd really care less one way or another. So, I'm maybe watching different shows (some), but other than that, nothing much to report. Streaming everything to the TVs (roku). Using a different remote control. Desperate Housewives has been waiting for me on Hulu (since Monday morning). Monday night we purchased and watched an AMC show that aired Sunday. (Thanks Amazon)! I think TV habits will remain pretty much unchanged in our house. Just WAY cheaper in the end. It's kind of like just switching cable providers, for me. (Dh is more proactive in getting the shows on Hulu, buying them on Amazon, etc. For me it kind of all magically appears. Big Grin )

It's only in the last few months that the technology is there - let's hope it stays this way for a while. I think we prefer that "buy what we want" style versus "pay a bajillion dollars for a bunch of stuff we don't want and a few things we do want." I hope that is the way all this trends for the log run.

I'd be totally content with Netflix streaming, honestly. But I am not the only one in the house.

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I am pretty much in vacation mode. Wrapping up some big deadline stuff at work. BUT, going to San Francisco tomorrow all day, and vacation soon after that. So, eh. Just trying to get things done, and looking forward to a pretty non-work week and a half or so.

It's funny because seems like lots of kids will be going to Disneyland on break. The kids got these BRIGHT orange spirit shirts at school this year. It's usually blue or green. Lord knows why bright orange (did they get a deal on the color)? Anyway, I told the kids to pack their shirts so maybe they could find some of their friends. Plus, harder to get lost when wearing bright orange? Win-win?

We live so close to Disneyland (5 hour drive?) it's not really a big deal thing. It's more of a decent weekend trip most the time. For us. What we will be hearing from the other families? (OR what we usually hear, anyway)? You DROVE? You drove in the COMPACT CAR? You only went to Disney ONE DAY? You are not staying at a DISNEY hotel? But, with the economy and all, I am kind of curious if that will be the same story. I am actually surprised so many people are going.

Anyway, if the kids were 6 feet tall (& they probably will be soon enough) I could see the compact car might be torturous, but since they take up absolutely no room in the car - whatever. We've done it before and we will do it again. The car gets almost 40mpg - of course we take that one on big drives. Maybe what they are really thinking is, "You are driving that OLD thing?"

Sometimes just feels like we are from another planet, is all!

But yeah, stopping at Disney was kind of a last minute decision - it is not the focus of our trip. So, this is by far the most slimmed down DISNEY trip we have done with the kids. I don't know if it matters - all the comments I mentioned above were in reference to more grand Disney trips than this one.

Mortgage Milestone

September 25th, 2011 at 05:05 pm



Was just paying the October bills since we will be on vacation soon. Making sure everything is in order and paid ahead of time.

I am not 100% sure, but think we have reached the milestone of lowest mortgage balance ever. $201,333. Woohoo! (Hard to tell because all I have record of is some mortgage payoff when we sold our first home - the payoff included interest).

We are on track to hit $199,999 by 12/31. I expect a $250 Christmas bonus, and so just have to scrounge $165 Christmas money to top it off. $199,999 will most definitely be the lowest mortgage balance we have ever had. Big Grin

& so I welcome FORWARD PROGRESS.

Story is that our first mortgage was $210k or so (for just a condo). But we traded for a luxurious home (+ yard and garage and stuff like that) for a $230k-ish mortgage. My dh also got laid off and we had a child, so we dropped the 15-year mortgage. Which basically means it took us, oh, 10 years to get back to where we started. A $202,000 or so mortgage. But, you know, no complaining here. The infinitely nicer home, and the spouse not working for a decade - all that is 100% WORTH IT. But I am just excited to make FORWARD PROGRESS. Versus, owing as much at age 34 that I did at age 24.

In another 10 years, we pretty much expect to have our home paid off. (I can handle the 15-year amortization, and dh doesn't need to bring in that much income to knock off 5 more years).

Woohoo to forward progress!

The super plus side is that we were paying in the realm of $1800/month for a smaller mortgage in the year 2001. 15-year amortization. For the next year, looks like we can cobble together $1400/month to the same end (15-year payoff). Low mortgage rates are definitely not all bad. (We can't even justify refinancing below 4.875%). That said, if interest rates stay low, and we can knock off enough principal, we will refinance to a 15-year. I am salivating at 3.25% rates. We just aren't quite there yet.

Hard to whine since we are saving $400/month over our last 15-year amortization. 10 years ago I was paying $1800/month for a flipping condo in a so-so neighborhood. Today we pay $1400/month to pay off dream home in 15 years (same mortgage balance). I suppose we have experienced much forward progress - just nice to move forward with the debt numbers, too.

Anniversary Update

September 25th, 2011 at 12:33 am

I thought Great-Grandma sent us $20, but it was actually $40. Woohoo!

Grandma sent us $100. Double Woohoo!

If we were smart, we'd save that up for a really nice dinner in Napa in several weeks.

Anyway, we couldn't agree where to go and I was in an "eating out" mood last night. We decided to eat out two nights in a row. What the hell. Dh said we should celebrate cutting cable, too.

So, spent $50 last night.

Tonight we are going to a newer Benihana type place in our neighborhood. (We had decided Thai food, but we drove by the Benihana type place and thought it would be fun to check out. If it as good as we hear, will have to take our parents sometime).

& if all we can justify is Taco Bell on our weekend getaway - so be it!

We actually did get our Olive Garden gift card today ($5) but we weren't expecting it and made other plans. I still haven't found the other one, anyway. Rolleyes When I find it, we will meet there for a lunch date without the kids. I don't generally lose things, so I am REALLY annoyed, but I am also positive it will turn up soon.

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Thanks to Baselle, we went to the auto museum today (Free Museum Day). We chose this museum because we had never been (only free one in area that looked interesting, besides a couple of museums that we had been to before). We had to pay for the kids, since was only 2 free tickets per household. So, it cost us $8 (& we saved $16 on adult tickets).

Wasn't sure what to expect, but we really enjoyed it.

Lots of historical cars, as well as some interesting stories, unique cars, etc. Really, quite the museum!

OF course, BM has done two reports now on Henry Ford (one last week) and so he REALLY enjoyed it. We got to see a mock up of Henry Ford's first car creation (Quadricycle), which we knew all about from BM's report last year. & they had one of Mrs. Ford's vehicles - the very one she had owned. Talk about some serious history.

Of course, my favorite car was Linda Ronstadt's black porsche. It was showcased next to Governor Brown's car, since apparently they were lovers at some point.

Black is just my favorite color - the car was pretty sweet.

I thought this was pretty cute:



The *world's first snowmobile* (IT was an add-on kit for the Model T Ford):



Probably one of the most unique cars was Forbe's money green Lamborghini:



I didn't take a picture of the last one, but regretted it. But, it was easy to track down. With the head-on view, I hadn't noticed the gold tires, but did notice that the interior was very gold.

One of the more interesting stories was a 1920s era vehicle which was traded in at the local Dodge dealership in the 1970s. The Dodge dealership restored the vehicle and donated it to the museum. "Hi, I'd like to trade-in my 50-year-old vehicle. I think it is time for something new?"

First Day of Fall

September 24th, 2011 at 03:45 am



Picture is of the first day of fall, on the river by our home. (I didn't take this picture, but it is gorgeous).

Of course, the first day of fall pretty much went unnoticed around here. IT was about 90+F degrees.

I just happened to notice that the "no heat challenge" usually start around the first day of fall. (On the first day of Fall?)

Of course, it is not usually so HOT here, this time of year. A/C has been working HARD, so hard to think beyond summer.

Maybe we won't need heat until next January... Lord knows - weather has been wacky all year. Of course, this would only be useful if we weren't running the AC so much!

Financial Doings

September 23rd, 2011 at 05:26 pm

**Just executed $500 mutual fund buy. Need to transfer $1000-$1500 from savings, to max out 2010 ROTH (by April). Was just waiting for a stock market dip to do so. Leaves $500-$1000 to throw in if it gets worse. (I figure that is likely).

Yesterday may have been better, but I just heard that Vanguard is offering same day mutual fund buys. Funny thing is they did this before, most of the time I have been a customer. BUT, this year they have been slow and I have found it frustrating. I like to buy on low stock days, but hard to do if it take 48 hours to process a "buy." So, to me it seems like it's suddenly back to their old policy. Don't know what happened in the interim. I have certainly done same day buys with VG, before. I suppose it's ironic that I heard this news today. Knowing I could for sure buy at today's stock price spurred me on (though I won't be near a computer the rest of the day, so had to do it on the early side, and assume things don't jump up later in the day).

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**You'll never guess. I applied for a credit card! LOL.

Today I saw Citi was offering some $500 reward, but the catch was you had to spend $10,000 over 12 months. To participate, I'd have to wait a year to get the rewards AND would lose $200 in other ongoing rewards I currently get. Which means I would net $300.

To me, the writing is on the wall. If Citi is going to make offers like that, they want you to stick around a while.

I decided to take the hint and apply for the $300 bonus that I can probably earn in 2 months. Spend $1500 in 3 months, earn $300 in gift cards. No annual fee first year. Offer is on mymoneyblog.com with all the rest. I intend to hit $1500 spending by charging health insurance for 2 months and fueling up the minivan with gas, once. That's it. I will lose $30 in other rewards ($1500 x 2% that I earn on AmEx), so still VERY worthwhile.

& if by some miracle they send me a direct mail offer in the interim, maybe I can sweet talk them into giving me the better offer. Dh did, so I figured this was better than waiting around for some wooing that doesn't seem to be happening.

I'll find out in about a week if I am approved. The second I am approved, I will close out my 2 Chase one-time reward cards. I figured it might be best to keep those until I applied for this card, though not sure it matters. Just a wee bit less obvious that I intend to close the card the second I am done?? Maybe?

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**Tomorrow is our 11-year anniversary. It's pretty incidental to the fact that we have actually been together for about 16 years. (I am kind of thinking, "16 years? Holy Crap!" How can I be that old? That I graduated high school 17 years ago?)

Last year we went pretty big (Hawaii trip) so this year I think we both feel pretty, "eh." We had talked about taking the kids to Olive Garden tomorrow night. I have a $5 gift card somewhere (Credit card reward, of course). That I have to find. & we are expecting another one in the mail (another reward) any minute.

Yesterday we got $20 cash from Great-Grandma. Woohoo!

If we don't get our gift certificate in the mail by tomorrow, guess we will choose to dine somewhere else. Decided to see how we feel tomorrow.

Trust me, dh and I enjoy our alone time, but thing is we aren't lacking any alone time, and we just wanted to celebrate with the kids (will be much cheaper than finding a babysitter, anyway). Though if getting a babysitter was important to us, we'd do that. All else being equal, we would have had a nice lunch date today, alone, but I have a commitment with the 1st grade class. Seems dh was busy Monday.

I look forward to our family eating out tomorrow on the big day. It's not something we do often!

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**I had forgotten that I have a seminar near San Francisco next week. I had signed up for webcasts this year (much cheaper) for my ongoing education. It's got its pluses and minuses. I kind of miss the excuse to travel a bit more, but then again I don't miss the cost of it all! (Gas, eating out, tolls, etc.)

Anyway, my work signed me up for a seminar in regards to software upgrades, and stuff like that. So, I will be able to see my folks and drop off some pants that need hemmed. I can also pick up my roller skates from my dad. & spend some nice time with my parents. (Will spend the night before at their house so I can get a short a.m. commute into the city).

I am on for dinner and drinks with my best buddy in San Francisco, day of seminar. (No reason to drive home in the traffic - MUCH better to stay late). I have been trying all year to get together with her, and it hasn't been working, but it always seems to work out with a mid-week seminar. So, phew! I am not holding my breath, but I was lucky she was even in town. But, very good company, and she always takes me to the most amazing restaurants. (She's frugal to the extreme, so it is always some cheap hole in the wall with AMAZING food).

It's Official - No Cable

September 22nd, 2011 at 06:39 pm

Dh did well!

We had discussed what to do if cable company offered incentive to stay. Since past cable companies seemed to care less if we left, I really didn't expect anything. BUT, told dh kind of no matter what it was, I think we were pretty committed to trying no cable for 6 months.

Anyway, today was the big day.

Apparently, our full cable/phone/internet bill is $196 or so. We have been paying about $165 on a one-year contract. I figure cable was about $100 or so of that.

So, they offered dh $105/month.

Honestly, not bad. Not bad at all! SO, I am proud that he declined.

What's even better is that on a contract, they gave us $50/month for phone/internet. This is smoking fast fiber optic internet. No one else offers it, and there is no way in heck we would drop it for anything else. So, I don't mind the contract.

& so it is OFFICIAL! We are a no-cable household. For 6 months, at least. Ideally. Assuming dh doesn't cave. I still don't foresee caving, myself. Hulu has annoyed me, but I think that means I will just be more of a Netflix and a "watch after the fact" type. Like, instead of suffering through commercials, I rather just wait a couple of years until these shows come out on DVD. I can already tell that rather than seeking out my old usual shows, I will probably drop them for easier to watch shows on netflix.

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With the new internet deal, we will save exactly $100 per month. Comes out to about $115, but Hulu will cost about $15/month. So, $100/month savings.

Dh may need to buy 2 antennas for network TV, but they are only $20-ish, each. We have one, but I guess it's older and they switched things around so it doesn't get all the channels it could otherwise. So, we hooked it up to our main TV, for now, to get some channels. We may invest in 2 antennas so we have sports for relatives, public TV access, access to live news, etc. On both TVs.

We subscribe to both netflix and Blockbuster, regardless.

We will be buying some shows off of Amazon (streaming). The only thing we have discussed specifically, is Breaking Bad. We are in the middle of the season, and there is only one more season left, after this one. We want to see it through (& it's certainly worth paying for!!). But, that's about it so far.

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$100/month savings goes to mortgage, for now. For next year, will probably go to ROTHs, but we should be maxed out for 2010.

Of course, if we drop cable indefinitely, dh is going to start begging for a smart phone. Will see... The data plan on ONE smart phone is significantly cheaper than cable. But, then it is just MORE contracts and all that. & we will probably have to change carriers - and our cell plan is currently pretty darn cheap. We shall see!

A Pretty Sight

September 22nd, 2011 at 01:31 am



Time to start closing some credit cards!

(I officially got the last "one time credit card reward" paid off - today).

I had paid them all, but Southwest Chase was kind of weird and added the annual fee after the first billing cycle. So, I just went ahead and paid it yesterday. Today it hit the card.

NOTE: credit cards with "positive balances" are the cards I usually use, and will keep for a while - I just round up to the nearest dollar out of sheer laziness, when I pay them. I do pay all balances off monthly. & yes, phew, I remembered to pay the exact amounts on all the one-time cards!!

**Visa is just current month regular expenses - whatever we can't charge to the AmEx. AmEx I can only download monthly, so why no current month expenses showing there.**

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It's not over. Dh has made one charge on his new Visa, and I will probably have to wait for the second billing cycle to pay the fee. I won't offer it up before they charge me for it. Big Grin Anyway, I will add that to Quicken when I can pay it. I don't know where to send the payment too, yet.

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I am currently waiting for a $200 check in the mail, from Chase. Dh can redeem $250 Amazon gift cards as soon as SW credit card closes - I think he said it closes the 4th.

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It will be a prettier sight when all these cards are CLOSED and I don't have to look at them any more. But I opened Quicken today, and a pile of zeros greeted me, for the first time in a few months. So, that was nice. The hard part is done. Now all that is left is to close these suckers.

It's Official - Kindle News

September 21st, 2011 at 09:53 pm

Library books now officially available to download on Kindle.

At least at our library.

I know the space between announcement and implementation was about a full year. My dh has been griping FOREVER. (He found a way around it and has been downloading library books to his kindle, anyway).

BUT, he really likes the new set up, and not having to do any workarounds.

I still prefer the nook, but I admit it has lost it's #1 HUGE EDGE!

I still way prefer the touch screen though - so I will still be a nook gal, and dh can be a *happier* kindle guy.

I don't know if this speaks more to our library, or if it speaks to Amazon getting its act together.

Talk About Timing...

September 21st, 2011 at 08:00 pm

I was convinced my massive library e-book would be ready in the middle of vacation.

WRONG-O.

It became available on "cable cut" day. Actually, dh will probably cut the cable tomorrow. But, close enough.

I don't expect it to matter much, because I said in my last cable post that I mostly only watch TV at night (when I can not keep my eyes open to read a book). SO, it's not exactly like I just found hours and hours to read. But, the timing is kind of funny, all the same.

What I will probably be doing is skipping the gym, skipping being active, and be a total couch potato reading my book. Because that is usually what happens. The trade-off is usually my more active lifestyle. That, and I will completely ignore the fam.

Then again, I spent some time the last 2 weekends getting tons of stuff off the DVR. The DVR is about empty, so the timing is pretty good. (We had some long documentaries on the DVR we had wanted to watch, etc. Suddenly they were time pressing).

So, today is about as good a day as any. What are the odds of that happening?

Tonight I should have a huge chunk of time to read. Woohoo!

P.S. It's too hot to go outside, anyway.

Regretting Too Little Debt? More on College

September 19th, 2011 at 10:22 pm

I read this article and couldn't help but think, "How many people out there regret taking on too little debt?"

Get Smart About College
Parents and students like to think they're rational when it comes to picking a college and paying for it. They aren't.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142405311190433280457653...

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As a whole, was an interesting article.

But, then there was this sentence: "The way people think about debt, for instance, may leave them borrowing too little, rather than the right amount."

& this one:

"But it's just as important not to take on too little debt."

I don't know - I just don't know what that is supposed to mean. I come from a family who has managed college just fine with NO DEBT. Our parents. Our cousins. Our siblings. Us. & that didn't just fall out of the sky. It was a VERY conscious decision and mindset.

It's not as simple as a debt debate though. I've borrowed money to buy a home. Clearly I am not 100% debt adverse.

So, I think I know what bothered me about this article. It was all about investing in a college education, and how important that is.

Fair enough, on some levels. BUT, is investing this kind of money in a 17 or 18-year-old child, using debt, really that wise? Personally, I think it is a pretty terrible investment in majority of cases.

For reference, I graduated high school at the top of my class. Most of the kids I graduated with were going somewhere and attended prestigious colleges. Most of them spent their late 20s trying to figure out what they really wanted to do and how to pay for the education that had decided they really wanted and needed. Because, they had blown all the money they had, and probably money they didn't had, on an undergrad degree they didn't use.

Could just be a coincidence of circumstances, but everyone I know that went to State actually hit the ground running in their careers, really knew what they wanted to do, etc. Sure, I have a friend who went to Stanford and is very successful, but for the most part all that comes to mind is classmates who were working at Target when they turned 30. MANY of them still lived with their parents. & these are the *bright* ones.

I kind of see it a lot with my wealthier clients. They hand their kids whatever, and they live at home, don't work, take it for granted, etc. I just don't see a lot of people paying the big bucks for college and doing much with it.

I am personally committed to not tying up all our resources when our kids are 18 - leaving them in a position that leaves them with severely limited options down the road.

It's not just that I am so debt adverse that it is crippling. It's kind of like I don't see the point to pour all that money in such a young person. I am very open to feeling differently and being very supportive if my child REALLY knows what their passion and career goals are. BUT - I don't see why I can't plan to pay cash for that. *shrugs*

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But it also begs the question... Have you ever regretted taking too little debt? Just curious. Can't say I have any regrets of that variety.

Scored free ice cream!

September 18th, 2011 at 09:45 pm

So, I was all bummed that the "Pint for a Pint" Baskin Robins promotion was over last I gave blood.

So, how random is this? I find a "pint for a pint" coupon in my purse. I checked for a date (because lord knows how long it has been there!) and it has some 2010 copyright, but no expiration date.

Dh redeemed it for me. Big Grin

I get a pint of ice cream after all! Wild and reckless sherbert. YUM.

No idea where mystery coupon came from... Maybe from another time I gave blood?

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Yesterday was so busy. But, it was a nice day. I even snuck in a nap. Aaaaahhhhh.

We went to opening ceremony for new fire station. I had not realized all the creative thinking and community teamwork it had taken to get this open. Depending on the day, they can't decide if we are a 100-year flood zone or a 10-year(?) flood zone. At current we have a building moratorium while levees are repaired. Anyway, I've mentioned before - it's all POLITICS. Whatever the truth is, it's buried among all the politics.

Anyway, in order to get the fire station built, they had to change it to a 2-story structure - the first story being little more than "warehouse" and 20 feet high. But they are able to at least store the fire trucks on the first level (no idea how that part works). They showed us some spaces where they thought ahead and hope to turn into a gym, etc., on the lower floors, eventually - once all this straightens out.

The fire station is very cool - some pretty neat state of the art stuff. I am so glad we went.

This is why I love our community though. People get things done. No obstacle seems too big.

Anyway, BM had a soccer game. Drove 50 miles for a birthday celebration and drop some things off with my dad. Today I played tennis and went shopping (topped off Kohls gift card - got some pants for work). This afternoon I rest and do nothing!

In Defense of Cable

September 18th, 2011 at 02:15 pm

Dh keeps mentioning what if I can't adjust to no cable. Whenever the thought comes up, I snap at him. "cable is all you - believe me - I will have no problem dropping cable."

& then later I will wonder to myself how ironic it would be if I had issue with it. Like, when I Was sick for about 7 days straight and could do nothing but lay around and watch TV. I decided netflix would do the job well in the absence of cable. Phew.

BUT, dh seems to be adjusting much better to the commercials. Then again, he generally has about 4 hours extra every day that I don't.

Anyway, he was showing me Hulu last weekend, and all I could think was, "You HAVE to watch the commercials?!?" Ugh!

& so I have been clearing off old stuff off the DVR and haven't really been trying the new system. So, last night I finally got around to watching Parenthood, on Hulu Plus. The commercials drove me batty. I oscillated between thinking "blahblahblah" through them and repeating the mantra, "This saves $80/month." I figured that given time I would adjust.

BUT, it took one hour to watch a one hour show. I haven't spent one hour watching a one hour show, in over a decade. I can tell this is going to drive me INSANE!!!

& so I admit that it is a possibility that I may be the one with the most difficulty adjusting. I just value my TIME too much.

Anyway, my thoughts on cable are that it is pure luxury, and I couldn't imagine buying cable while having any consumer debt, etc. (I skipped cable in college when I Was absolutely dirt broke).

BUT, my dh loves his TV/movies, and over time I have come to appreciate cable as cheap entertainment. (Cheap in the grand scheme of things. There is always some great comedians, for one, but you don't have to leave the house or pay for the comedy club. There are also lots of movies, etc. So, is how I think about it in an affordable sense).

Of course, I'd say we primarily watch comedies and documentaries. Certainly that is what we watch on cable. I think laughter is priceless, AND very healthy, and the documentaries certainly open the kids' minds and opens them up even more to learning.

BUT, I don't identify with TV watching as mindless time suck. I primarily watch TV when I go to bed. I am the type who easily sleeps 9 hours a night, goes to bed early, and is wide awake at 5am. I can't read at night because I fall asleep too easily. There is absolutely nothing I Can do productive at night, and watching TV is my routine. (I would never watch TV first thing in the morning, which is my most productive time of the day. But at the end of the day, productivity does not come to mind)! Yeah, I read in the mornings, for one. Anyway, it's not wasting time, and it's not bothering my sleep. IF anything, it helps me to stay awake and connect with my family when otherwise I'd be asleep.

But that said, there are a handful commercial-laden, one-hour shows that we can watch in the course of 10 minutes. & most the shows I Watch I can get in about 50% - 75% of the full time slot - just zipping through the commercials. Which means, sometimes we can watch 3 hours of TV in the course of an hour. Certainly we are used to watching 2 shows in the course of an hour (we could watch 3 shows is watching the 30-minute variety).

It will be interesting to see how this goes. Who knew I could be the first to cave?

I had never thought of cable as an extraordinary time saver. Compared to the alternatives. I could certainly just turn off the TV, but not sure that will work best for our family. I think it is possible I will only be watching Hulu with the family. When we can talk during the commercials and stuff like that. & it looks likely that I will drop the Hulu shows that I watch alone.

I think I will probably adjust, but who knows...

P.S. My mom has a lifelong habit of muting commercials. I will have to start doing that. Big Grin That will be my little act of rebellion. & that will probably help immensely. (Hulu is nice enough to tell you exactly how many seconds are left in the commercial). Time suck aside, it's been like nails on a chalkboard, to me.

Cable Countdown, etc.

September 16th, 2011 at 09:22 pm

Was bummed when I looked up what was going on at Disney (wacky hours) and didn't find an answer for most of the week. On MONDAY, they have "Mickey's Halloween Party," which is sweet in the fact that we could maybe knock out our Disney visit (it is secondary to our trip, anyway) for $200. For 8 hours at the park. BUT, catch is we have to pre-buy tickets, and driving up that day just is a huge squeeze. (One flat tire or car issue could mean $200 down the tubes)!

Anyway, if that was Tuesday, I think we'd do it, and just see if we felt content or wanted to go back Wednesday, too. Could be a fun experience. But, since that is Monday, I think we will pass.

Anyway, other things are coming together nicely. La Brea tar pits just happen to be free the day we are available AND I didn't realize the Observatory was always free. May hit the observatory after settling into hotel first day (visit at night and use the telescopes). I've never been to either place.

I can't find any legit discounts (saw some fishy/scammy ones), so plan of action is just to arrive early and buy park tickets there. That is what I Expected since I don't remember pre-buying any tickets last time (there was no incentive to). Will be paying full-price, single day tickets everywhere (no park hoppers), but kids get in free to LegoLand (I have coupons).

One last thing - was going to look up Weekend Sherpa for other activities. Think we are pretty booked, but will look for something simple and "on the way" to break up drive home (a hike, or even just a view).

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I finally looked up cable contract date. It appears to be 9/21. That's 5 days before the cable cord is cut! Dh tells me he won't be swayed no matter what they offer. (Will see...) Hulu Plus looks promising. Quality passes muster with dh (& even I said a little "wow!"). He's been trying it out - I haven't so much. We will be streaming netflix, amazon + hulu directly to our two TVs. At some point dh had some computer DVR set up for HD content - not sure if he will be utilizing that. Has also talked about getting an antennae. All of the above is about 80% cheaper than cable, for the same content. (Though, it's admittedly kind of all over the place+ will have to suffer through more commercials than we are accustomed to - we are accustomed to ZERO). I suppose we also have Blockbuster to round it out. Netflix + BB, we subscribe to regardless.

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STUFF

All of my free gift card/credit card reward stuff has arrived. Also got my free photo orders (shutterfly, Walgreens). We've gotten so many packages the last couple of weeks, it is ridiculous!

My personal splurge was a gorgeous table cloth (+ protective cover) and roller skate wheels.

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$$$$ OUT

We paid in advance for BM's dental appliance to be made. So, about $800 out of pocket (that and 2 pulled teeth). I decided just to pull this from medical savings. I had already saved $3,000 for 2012, and so that leaves us with about $2,000 for next year.

I am estatic to leave mid-term savings untouched (though is for this kind of thing - still feeling a bit behind).

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Tomorrow is shaping up to be busy.

Will try to make it to aerobics in the a.m.

BM has a soccer game.

New fire station down the street has an open house. (Woohoo for a really close fire station!!) Now if only they can afford to stay open all the time - AND have got their GPS updated.

Turns out my dad will be at mid-way point, between our homes, to spend time with friend (+ friend's birthday celebration)? I invited myself along. I will be able to drop off my skates + new wheels, and dine out with a bunch of people I don't know. Though birthday boy is a lifelong family friend. I figured I wouldn't get much better chance to see my parents in next 2 weeks (with big road trip coming up + weekends filled with soccer). My dad has all the proper tools + the time to change out my skate wheels.

Skates were only about $30 - $50. I bought some bearings at some point, and the wheels were free (though I didn't see a set of wheels for under $60 or so, online). These are skates I hope to keep FOREVER. I never bought skates before, but when pregnant my feet went up a 1/2 size or so. Things they don't tell you... So, anyway, hoping to stay this size a while? Do your feet shrink when you get old? Big Grin

Amazon Marketplace

September 15th, 2011 at 04:37 pm

We ditched ebay over a year ago (too many stupid rules, and problems) and switched over to Amazon Marketplace.

Amazon is not perfect, but has been little to complain about.

Until dh got a note that he can not sell anything from mid-November to mid January because only existing sellers with good feedback and who sell 25 things or so in last 60 days, can sell during Christmas season.

What the...?

Sucks for us, because is the time of year we make the most sales.

Sucks for buyers because this severely thins the competition.

Anyway, he is a long-term seller (sold last Christmas with no complaints) and has nothing but positive feedback. But, just doesn't do that full-time type volume.

Whatevah!

Will probably research 3rd option for Christmas time selling. ??? Doubt we will resort to Ebay. & will complain a lot, too, yes.

Eating Well

September 14th, 2011 at 12:30 am

I didn't particularly notice during the summer, but guess I ate out less lunches. Because went home more to eat lunch with the fam, etc. Also, no lunch dates out with just dh (well, not many). Since kids were home.

I try to do one lunch date a week (dh, or friends). Is my social/reconnect time.

BUT, microwave at work went dead. I didn't realize until Monday lunch and so went out for fast food at last minute. (Thought about it later - leftovers probably okay cold - but was the surprise factor that threw me off).

I invited dh to lunch today, and have a date already set with a friend for Friday. For next 2 days, will have to remember sandwiches or something that doesn't need heating. Hopefully a new microwave arrives soon.

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Today we dined at the sushi buffet. All You Can Eat for $9.99. Plus, lots of other Chinese/Japanese food + seafood. Quite a bargain for what it is.

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The dead microwave has an interesting story. When I started working here (1/1/02), I would sit in the lunch room and hear everyone whine and complain how crappy the microwave was. & it was pretty crappy. I remember it taking 10 minutes to heat up soup - something like that.

So, anyway, I asked my boss if he could buy a new microwave. Because if he wasn't going to, I sure as hell was going to just go out and buy one!

Anyway, I think the whole story is that I asked my *mentor* type in the office if that was out of line (& how come no one else had). He was like, "Don't see why that would be a problem." So I shot my boss some e-mail. The very next day we had a new microwave. I don't think anyone else ever knew *why.* 'Twas magic!

The funny thing is my boss is always very eager for an outside perspective and new ideas. Not sure that's what he had in mind - but that is what I saw. Big Grin

I personally have extremely low tolerance for B.S. & sitting around and whining day after day over something so stupid is complete B.S., in my book. (& lord knows - they must have been whining for years!)

RIP Microwave. You brought speedy lunches and harmony to our office for almost a decade...

Hope we get a replacement soon! Might have to send some e-mails.

{Accountants tend to be frugal - most of us eat in most the time - microwave gets heavy usage!}

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UPDATE: I brought cold sandwich on Wednesday and was greeted with a new microwave. What a sigh of relief for the rest of the week!

Credit Card Reward Update

September 13th, 2011 at 09:25 pm

Received check from plastic jungle - $182. Woohoo!

Dh was approved for Southwest Chase.

SW Chase = $250 Amazon gift cards minus $69 fee.

New grand total of cash and usable gift certificates?

$2,654

I can still easily earn some AmEx cash rewards (regular credit card - have resumed its use).

If I apply for this no-fee Citi card, I can make it an even $3,000 for the year. (Citi reward is $300 gift certificates).

Dave Ramsey would say, "No one got rich off of credit card rewards."

My reply? "Tell me how else to legally and ethically earn $3,000 with an hour or two of *work.*"

Living on one income, this stuff is some serious GRAVY! "Little" stuff like this adds up big time, and makes ALL the difference.

That said, we usually make about $1,000 a year or so, on credit card rewards. This year is just UNREAL with the rewards.

The Flippers are Back?

September 12th, 2011 at 07:01 pm

???

I just did a post about real estate this morning.

Anyway, later this morning I came across a home listing in my neighborhood. For whatever reason, the flipper heavily advertised that it was a *flip*?

Why would you advertise that???

This is the scenario. 8-year-old home foreclosed due to a divorce situation. Market Value is probably $200,000. (THough, if you price it $225k it will never sell, and if you price it $199k, it might sell in 5 minutes for $220k. Seen it over and over).

Flipper paid $185,000 - bought from bank. I can't imagine the home needed anything more than fresh paint. That said, all that to profit $10,000-ish seems like a LOT of work! But, who knows.

Of course, the home is listed for $225,000. If flipper is a stickler on price, I predict home will sit forever.

Of course, since 99% of the homes in the zip code are bank owned or listed as a short sale, who would you rather buy from? I understand that the ocassional home owner heavily advertised that they are not in a foreclosure or short sale position, because it can be an easier process. But, when the choice is *greedy flipper* or *desperate homeowner* - which do you choose?

I can give the flipper kudos for getting a good purchase price for the home, but then again, home prices are just in a free fall. (Not a situation that screams "Let's flip *nice* homes that don't need any work." Like, where are the profits supposed to come from?)

I don't know - it will be interesting to see how this plays out.

The flippers are back!

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Interesting article today sheds light on the situation:

Home buyers find themselves aced out by investors
http://www.mercurynews.com/business/ci_18853804?nclick_check...

Home sellers accept lower prices from cash investors. Explains the deal that flipper arranged on neighbors' home.

Kind of funny to read about frustrated buyers and bidding wars. Same old, same old. Bay Area property doesn't come without *fierce* competition.

Spending Hours on Shutterfly

September 11th, 2011 at 12:54 am

It took a while to put together my free photo book last weekend, but it has already arrived (a couple of days ago).

Woohoo!! Talk about fast!

We got our first digital camera in 2002, and have done little other than store them on the computer. (We put on disks periodically for our parents - was our backup system - we are now paying for periodic online backups, too. More for other things than pictures, but just to point out we have the backup thing well covered).

We've printed out some pictures here and there, but the ink always seems so expensive. (Usually get free extra/unwanted photo paper from my dad).

Anyway, I signed up on Shutterfly for the free photo book coupon I had, and since I was a *new customer* (hadn't used Shutterfly in almost a decade) I also got 50 free prints. So, spent several hours today picking out the 50 prints, cropping, labeling, etc. (It is sweet that they put the date automatically on the back - and I added descriptive info. LOVE IT!)

I did not look at every photo from 2002 - current. BUT, our photos are well organized, and I usually save the best in a slimmed down edited version in a separate "edited" folder for each month. For Facebook or to e-mail to family, etc. Apparently, that is genius. I went through all the "edited" folders and picked out my favorites. Found a few photos I had forgotten about and that made me laugh. Also some other gems. I got from about 2002 - 2009, and whittled it down to about 40 pictures.

In the end, I kind of think it is good that I waited so long to do so. After some time, it was easier to narrow down the best of the best. I'll probably just keep the pics in an envelope and won't really bother with a photo album - there aren't that many. I will give a few of the prints I ordered to family and friends.

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BM got his soccer game out of the way nice and early this morning. By some miracle we have absolutely nothing planned for the rest of the weekend. The day has kind of gotten away from me here, as it is HOT and will probably hit the pool until bedtime. BUT, tomorrow I plan to get off my lazy butt and do something around the house. I don't really remember the last time I did any real housework (besides the basics/every day type stuff). No deep cleaning for months?

We are trying hulu plus free trial and am pretty impressed on first impression. However, they make it very hard to get free hulu content if you subscribe. Rolleyes & we haven't watched any commercials in about a decade, so I can tell that will be real annoying (you can't zip through them). BUT, a few short commercials here and there - I suppose is fair to save a significant amount of money on cable. That said, even the PBS shows have commercials - which is pretty annoying.

Anyway, we have to pay something like $40/year to get Hulu free content, since we are subscribing to hulu plus. Oy vey. MEans hulu will be closer to $15/month than $10/month. But still beats cable buy a mile!

Not Feeling so Hot

September 9th, 2011 at 08:26 pm

I thought maybe it was just some random allergy thing, but in the end, I think I got some cold virus. It hasn't amounted to much more than a lot of sneezing, but today the throat is feeling scratchy and I could use a nap! Oh well, this is extremely mild - it's just annoying.

Along the same vein, thought we live in wasp central, I somehow managed a decade without getting stung. What's ironic is they have been less visible than usual (cooler weather - they really like our HOT summers). BUT, I have managed to get stung twice in the past month or so. Rolleyes I was wearing flip flops and stepped on one in the grass. Was NOT fun - the bottom of the foot is a sensitive and oft used area, I guess. Ironically, I had only been stung once before, and it was when I was a teenager, running my hand through my hair. I don't remember if I was swatting something or just randomly running my fingers through my hair. I think it was random finger running. But anyway, last night we were walking home from the park, we walked under a tree, and I thought I felt some leaves touching my hair. I kind of reached up to make sure there were no leaves in my hair, and felt a sting. Rolleyes

IT wasn't so bad, and so I thought maybe a hand sting was much better than a bottom of the foot sting, but today my finger is all swollen and red. Just trying to keep it iced.

I think I've had enough wasp stings for a while. Apparently they are only dangerous when you can not see them? I'll have to remember not to touch my hair when I feel something. More like I should ask if there is a wasp on my head?

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I did some retail therapy at Kohls. I had $10-off Kohls cash + $22 left on my gift card balance. I bought a really nice shirt (like one I already have) which works well for work and casual and I will wear all the time (score!).

I tried on a pile of clearance stuff, but nothing worked.

But, I did find a beautiful sweater. I LOVE it! Since it's like the hottest day of the year today, I skipped it, but maybe I can wear with the inside AC at work next week (you know - it's always freezing there).

Spent about $5 out of pocket for those clothes.

I really like the shirt because it is flattering, nice enough for work, and very light weight. So, have been wearing a lot in the summer. Though the longer sleeves kind of help with the chill in the office.

So, I decided to search their website for more shirts like it. I found one with great colors, and another one that was a little different but might work. I just paid $30 cash for those. These should be shirts that get a LOT of wear. I decided to save my $100 gift card for later (plus I didn't have it on me!). I essentially spent $35 for 4 GREAT tops, so I am pleased. Good retail therapy.

In the mail I am expecting a watch for LM, a pretty table cloth, wheels for my roller skates, a few years' supply of razors, etc. Thanks to Amazon.

I've still got some gift cards, but this should do for this round!

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Dh already got his new (2nd) roku (ordered Tuesday??). We will try a free subscription of hulu plus, this weekend. I am not sure the exact day our cable contract ends, but think it is around 9/15. Very close!

I have got a LOT of stuff to watch this weekend. Realizing all my DVR shows will be lost, otherwise. Well, I will have to prioritize.

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P.S. Oh yeah - dentist was not bad. Nothing new. Will spend $800-ish for some preventative work for BM (pulled teeth/retainer), but we have just been waiting for some permanent molars to move forward with that - was not a surprise! Phew! BM is cavity prone and both kids will be an orthodontia mess (as was I). So, I hold my breath every time. It sounds like it is possible BM is outgrowing his cavity-prone toddlerhood (just as dh had - terrible teeth as a small child - never has had a cavity since - that kind of thing). I don't think BM's hygiene has been stellar, but in the past if we brushed/flossed 3 times a day he would still get cavities, so it seems to be getting better. (Oh yeah - dh did buy him an electric toothbrush - forgot about that. Maybe that is the magic. DH has always used one of those - LM and I don't seem to need the extra help).

-1 to FAKO

September 7th, 2011 at 10:13 pm

I closed my oldest credit card a few weeks ago.

(For reference, I don't keep any old credit lines open if I don't use them. My FICO tends to be 800-ish regardless, so I don't really see the point to keep old cards open).

Anyway, the card is 4-5 years old and I have nothing else much older than 1 year. Usually the mortgage helps it all even out, but our current mortgage is only about 2.5 years old.

I am kind of in current conundrum because the second these rewards dried up and I Decided to drop this really old card (it had a good rewards run!), another of my credit lines was closed for non-usage. So, usually I have something a little older to hang on to! (I could have made a purchase to keep the card open, but didn't care *that* much. I replaced it with a CU credit card that I expect to keep long-term).

That said, creditkarma.com told me that my "length of open credit history" score was an F, so I figured it would be hard to make it much worse than F!

I checked a couple of times, but the recent account closure was not showing up.

Until today. My FAKO score dropped one point.

I didn't expect it to amount to anything, but you never know.

One point down - so be it!

Credit Card Reward Round Total Update & Mortgage Update

September 7th, 2011 at 08:00 pm

Officially Received, between 1/1/11 and 9/7/11:

$1030 cash (Chase Sapphire)
$1015 gift cards (Citi $500 + SW rewards $500)
$ 350 deposit to ROTH (Fidelity Am Ex)
-$99 annual fee (SW card)
-$23 lost value for exchanging some Citi gift cards for cash and amazon gift cards
---------------
$2273 TOTAL

cha-ching!

Dh is still due $200 cash from Chase.

=$2473 TOTAL

Today I signed dh up for a reduced Southwest deal. Deal is to make one purchase, pay a $69 fee, and get $250 in amazon gift cards. (HE is eyeing the new kindle, so this will cover it. & how easy is it to just make one purchase)?

I've got my eye on a Citi deal - $300 gift card reward + no fee first year. BUT, I am going to hold out a bit and see if I can get a better direct mail offer. Or, maybe close all the other cards before I start this merry-go-round again. I think you have to spend $1500 in 3 months? I am waiting to redeem that $200 cash from Chase in a couple of weeks. So, I will re-evaluate at that time. For now, the SW card was a no-brainer since it only involved one purchase. Anything more complicated than that, I rather close the chapter on all the other cards first!

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If I get that $300 deal, I will probably turn it into cash for the school. Will see!

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MORTGAGE UPDATE

Expect to make an extra $450 mortgage payment this month, with credit card rewards.

This puts the balance to about $201,750. I had expected to use savings/Christmas money, etc. to pay this down to my $199,999 goal, but doesn't seem too necessary. Normal principal is around $300/month, and I can add $250/month for the rest of the year with no cable + payroll tax holiday (& piano lessons covered by MIL). So, that about covers it.

This is good, because I probably need to divert about $1500 from savings, to max out our ROTHs in 2011. We are on track to put in a full $10k this calendar year, but also diverted a LOT of that to fund tax year 2010. So, I ran the numbers and a $1500 deposit will get us maxed out by April.

I am keeping an eye on the market. If it REALLY tanks, I will slip in that $1500 earlier. IF not, will wait until the last minute (either December or April - just depends). For now, seems like lots of downward pressure on the markets, so I will wait it out and build up more cash, first.

$30,000 cash goal is still so close but so far!! Kids have dental appointments today, which is never good news! I also need to set aside about $1500 for taxes. (The usual was not withheld from my overtime - so will owe)! & that ROTH money I just mentioned. & so it goes - on and on and on!

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I got $10 off at Kohls (Kohls cash) for buying stuff with my free gift card. Woohoo! (I think usually when I spend enough to get Kohls cash - the last thing I need to do is go shopping there again)! But this was a little different.

I also have a 20% off coupon, so will buy myself a treat today. Probably a nice top that I can wear to work. I don't think I've bought any work clothes this year, and I am feeling the boring-ness of my wardrobe.

Found $20 + Plastic Jungle

September 7th, 2011 at 12:34 am

Dh is so silly!

He told me that he went to the grocery store, and the cashier mentioned something about a $20 coupon that wasn't printing. So told him to go over to customer service to get the coupon. He had no idea what this was about, but "$20" perked up his ears. So, he goes to customer service, and their printers are not working either.

So...

They just hand him a $20 bill.

Big Grin

As dh tells me this story, and how everyone seems to know it is obvious he is due a $20 coupon, my guess was some kind of $20 gift card with purchase or something. (The only reason I imagine they would hand him cash in exchange!)

He was just completely clueless...

So, I google it. I just google the store, $20 coupon, and it pops up that today was the last day to earn "$20 off next purchase." You just had to spend $100 to get the coupon, which dh always does to get the gas coupon (25 cents off per gallon!).

We stopped getting our paper, so is probably the reason we were completely in the dark. I should probably bookmark the grocery store webpage or look it up on Facebook or something, to keep in the loop!

The store was Raley's/Bel Air - their customer service is always exceptional!

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Well, I got an excellent first impression from Plastic Jungle.

The amazon gift cards I redeemed directly from Southwest Chase have still not arrived. On the same day I redeemed my Citi cards, which have arrived. Last week (Friday??) I mailed in $300 Wal mart gift cards to Plastic Jungle, in exchange for about $180 cash and about $95 amazon gift cards.

Today I got my amazon gift code e-mailed to me. Big Grin

So, basically plastic jungle was faster than direct redemption. Hmmmmmm...

Thank goodness. Dh really wanted to buy a roku box before we cut cable, and if it took much longer, I think he was going to pay cash. Which was really annoying with $600 amazon gift cards on their way.

The cash was mailed to me today. So, will see how long that takes. But I am uber impressed with the process. I will definitely do again some time.

I am sure the roku box is ordered and on its way. Only 2 more weeks of cable?? (We already have one roku - but apparently we need two rokus. Whatevah - it's FREE)!

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ETA: Gift cards arrived today! Woohoo! So annoying though - I ordered 10 x $50 gift cards (largest denomination offered) and they sent 20 x $25 gift cards. Oy vey!

I took 6 - it didn't take too long to enter all the codes. Dh has 15 codes to enter (14 from Chase + 1 from Plastic Jungle).

Dh ordered the roku plus some CDs and a Christmas gift for the kids. I want to get a watch for LM (BM got one from Grandma? Ignored it for a while, and now won't go anywhere without it? But I am impressed by the quality and want to get an identical one for LM). I still need to get wheels for my roller skates. So I will start with those 2 purchases and save the rest for later. It's that time of year where I pretty much put everything on the wish list for Christmas (dh's family is BIG into material Christmas). So, if it works out, maybe I won't spend the other $100 or so for a while... But it will be nice to have that balance there for when needs arise!

The World Doesn't End When You Say No

September 6th, 2011 at 07:25 pm

I am extremely proud of one of my good friends with the financial progress she has made the past few years.

& yet, there are times I still notice substantially different financial philosophies between the two of us.

Anyway, we got cornered at the Gold Rush Days, by a balloon animal artist. I immediately said "no," to the kids. We had intended to spend no money, and I had already let them get ice cream with their friends. (Plus, it's not like they haven't gotten a TON of ballon animals over the years. Maybe none this year, but I think they will survive).

Of course my friend's response was, "I couldn't possibly say no!" But she was grumbling about it, all the same. Like how she was forced into this situation and just couldn't say no.

& this is where I see that dh and I substantially differ from other people.

We can so NO to things.

& I really don't understand why people have such a hard time saying no to things. Whether it be a timeshare, high pressure sales, or balloon animals.

So, anyway, that was just my recent, "I couldn't say no!" experience.

Of course, made it harder for us to say no, but we could still do it. & if you asked the kids today, they probably don't even remember the incident. It certainly didn't come up again, after the point it was obvious that we meant no.

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I've often struggled with how SPOILED the kids are by grandparents and just being in a much better financial standing than we grew up in.

It's experiences like these that remind me that they are not spoiled. Maybe they are on some levels. But, on other levels, they know the answer is just, "No."

I am still adjusting to the fact that my more well off friends are better at saying no. The broke ones never are. It makes sense of course, but still throws me off guard at times.

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Anyway, yes, we decided to go to the Gold Rush Days afterwards because the kids really wanted to go. Dh and I were kind of, "eh," but it wasn't too hot in the end, and we didn't know they would be so bummed to miss it.

For the best, since we had made loose plans to meet some friends. So, we didn't ditch everyone we invited. LOL.

Yesterday was kind of run run run, because we were there for about 5 hours, and I had also promised the kids a trip to the pool. I honored the promise since it might be the last day the pool is open. (Who knows though - hot week - so we might get a few more days!). There were a number of neighborhood kids there, so they had a blast. I just lounged and read, so I got some veg time in.

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Our 11-year anniversary is coming up in a couple of weeks. We have a weekend getaway to Napa - that we are redeeming in late October, simply because we booked too late to get anything sooner.

MIL was trying to get us to drive down so she could have the kids (I think, selfishly). But, I was feeling pretty "eh" about the whole thing. I didn't feel we needed to do anything spectacular on the date, and kind of wanted to save some money to enjoy Napa, anyway.

So, I talked to dh about it. I told him my feelings, but that I of course respected if he wanted to do something more elaborate. He said, "Don't we have an Olive Garden coupon? I'd be happy to just take the kids with us." Sounds PERFECT to me! I suppose whatever we decide, it will be the four of us. (I think part of the thing is it just isn't hard to get alone time, with the kids in school. In fact, we have a lunch date at home, today. & we were meeting for lunch later in the week. So, not feeling the night out alone need. If money was no object we might do it, but I rather save up for some really nice meals in wine country).

Salmon Weekend

September 5th, 2011 at 05:09 pm

Oh, I probably gained 5 pounds this weekend!

In-laws had a big BBQ for out-of-country guests on Sunday. We drove up Saturday to make it easier and to get some time with my own folks.

I am not sure how hot it was here, but getting near 100F on Saturday. We could just feel the heat seeping into the house, and was so happy to ditch town. Big Grin It's generally 10-20 degrees cooler in San Jose - on these hot summer days.

Saturday night my dad grilled corn, salmon and veggies. YUM!

Sunday morning my dad invited us on his donut run. YUM!

We got to the in-laws home close to noon and had "breakfast" there. Their guests from Australia were just waking up - so we lucked out. I ate a lot of bacon, along with some waffles, etc.

On the menu for dinner? Grilled salmon, burgers, sausage, corn. Plus deviled eggs, baked beans, etc., etc.

We lounged in the pool, ate well, socialized with the fam, and had a great time!

Got home about 9pm, and was surprised that the house was not a billion degrees. Phew! I usually leave one zone in the house set to 86 degrees or so (after a friends' newer/energy efficient home - much like ours - got up to 100 degrees during a freak heat wave while they were out of town - it killed the fish). I go 86 degrees for the cat, and when we get home late at night, it can take a while for the house to feel "bearable" on hot days. IT's usually hotter than 86, upstairs. WE did not expect to find the thermostat as low as 82. Phew! 82 I can live with.

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I was going to cook up some salmon this weekend, myself. I suppose I have had enough salmon, and can put that off a couple of weeks. Or maybe to next month. I guess everyone had the same idea! (It's not like we have any labor day salmon tradition - just happened to be the theme this year).

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We were going to hit Old Sac Gold Rush Days (a tradition!), but the potential heat has made it not very enticing. I think we will be pretty lazy around the house, though I may get some house chores done...

Spend Spend Spend

September 3rd, 2011 at 09:10 pm

That didn't go according to plan.

Dh mentioned how his swim suit broke (it's probably many years old, and it ripped when we were at the water park last time).

I told him I'd look at Kohls online since I had all those gift cards. (Mostly wanted to spend them on *moi* but what is one swim suit?)

Not the cheapest swimsuits ever, but they were on sale, and free with my gift card. Dh even let me pick out a really nice pair that I liked.

While on the site, I decided to look at jackets. I last bought BM a decent jacket when he started Kinder. 3 years ago? I got it at Lands End when I thought the school would be more of a stickler for uniform jackets. (They aren't sticklers, at all). Granted, I have only been looking around since spring, but I just can't find anything. So I started the search anew (& checked several sites). Best deal I found was some nice rain jackets at Land's End. I wanted something light and water resistant. With a hood. Apparently California wear is hard to find. I don't need a full out rain slicker, and certainly nothing fleece or heavily padded. Anyway, $30 at Land's End - found the perfect jacket - and I found a coupon for free shipping. If it lasts another 3 years, and even longer for LM, guess I can't complain. LM just gets BM's old jacket, since it has held up well.

Back to Kohls... When looking at jackets I saw these hoodies that I was looking for about 3 years ago but could not find. (Not for a reasonable price, anyway!) Patience pays off...



Of course, the kids were all excited. They were on sale for $24 each. Nothing I'd get excited about, except I was looking for these so long ago, and I know that is a good price compared to what I have ever seen.

While on the site I also checked out table clothes, since ours is falling apart. With messy kids, I prefer the vinyl kind, but those also seem hard to find. I ended up spending closer to $20 on a very pretty table clothe. Will see how long it lasts! Was a nice splurge.

I found a 15% off coupon, virtually making dh's swim trunks free. I found a free shipping coupon, also. So, I spent about $75 for all of the above. Used my free gift card, and have $75 left.

It was fun to splurge a bit without spending anything.

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I also redeemed my free photobook from Shutterfly today. (Dh got some coupon for spending $20-ish at Target? I couldn't tell you why or what the specific deal was?).

I decided on a 2011 Family theme since I had so many great photos this year. Several camping trips, trips to the beach, hiking adventures, etc.

It took at least 2 hours to put it together, and I paid $3.20 to add 4 pages to the book (so I could fit everything!). Shipping was about $7.99 as I expected. I didn't even look for any coupon codes - I probably should have! Spent about $11 for that - very well worth it.

I also got 50 free prints for being a new Shutterfly customer. (I ordered a photo book back in 2004 maybe? But haven't since, and have apparently switched e-mails, etc.) I didn't order the free prints yet, but may be a project for Monday. Very time consuming. Will focus on printing copies for the kids and for family. I prefer to keep them digital or just print out a very few, myself. But I Can certainly get good use out of free prints.

So, I spent about $41 all told today. ($30 jacket + $11 photo book). Not bad for the haul!

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So, my parents' 40th anniversary is coming up, and I am terrible with gift ideas. BUT, working on this photo book gave me a great idea. We will make them a really nice photo book for their anniversary. I am so excited! We are visiting them today, so I will try to sneak out a photo album and have dh start scanning. I have had some relatives send me some old photos, etc. Will see what we can put together. I've got almost a year, but I want to get started on this project. Sneaking photos from their home without them noticing, may take some time.

Citi Denied Me!

September 2nd, 2011 at 03:42 pm

They sent me a nice letter about how they denied me because my name was not on the credit card offer.

I am skeptical. IF this were the only reason, why did they let me apply, then? Why do they let you change the name?

& REALLY??? My FICO scores are identical to dh's. Why on earth would they not look at my credit and just accept me??

So dh gets a second offer for a card he ALREADY HAS, and all I get is denied. Bah.

Plan B? I found they have the same card - no annual fee, earn $300 gift cards if spend $1500. I can swing that (2 months health insurance plus one gas fill up will cover it). So, I will think about this one. Hmmmm...

Well, I will wait a bit and see if Citi tries to court me, first. Plan B would be the reason they denied me. So, maybe Plan B should wait!

Fiscal Chores and Such

September 2nd, 2011 at 02:45 am

Busy *Financial Chore* kind of day...

Deposited my paycheck and paid the mortgage.

Paid off my CU credit card (like to just pay it off at CU website, monthly).

Downloaded interest in all Quicken accounts (about $15 for August).

Transferred money over from savings so I could fund our ROTHs. Will put back with next paycheck. This solved *flow* problem from wanting to pay off all the one-time-reward credit cards and be done with them ASAP. I decided to pay off Target card with next paycheck (since it was due 9/28 or something like that). ROTH money from savings - and moved the Target pay off - and my checking balance stays in the black for the month.

I usually just round up and pay whole amounts on the credit cards (I am lazy that way), but had to remember to pay exact amount due on all these cards I intend to close! (Just what I need - some credit balance of pennies on every single card).

I shouldn't have anything to juggle around next month since I will have killed 4 credit cards.

Today I received all the Citi gift cards. Barnes and Noble gift card went to my balance online. Now I can mindlessly buy ebooks for a while. Dh asked if I was going to buy the latest Game of Thrones (Game of Thrones is all I have bought with my last gift card - too long to borrow from the library and read in time). Anyway, I checked and I am getting very high up on the ebook waiting list. Think I will save the gift card to buy deeply discounted/on sale books - or things I can't find at library. I expect the balance to last a LONG time.

Kohls cards - I locked up for later. Will probably buy some work clothing - will need some pants at some point.

Visited Plastic Jungle to trade the wal mart cards for cash and amazon gift cards. Dh already dropped them off in the mail. I should be mailed a $180-ish check in a few days, and e-mailed an amazon gift card code. Dh is chomping at the bit to buy a second roku for our cable ditching experiment. Hopefully this gift card code arrives very quickly!!

Cash will go to mortgage paydown.

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I have not taken my van in for anything more than an oil change in over 2 years. This morning it was acting up (out of nowhere). My uneducated guess is O2 censor. (2nd guess would be transmission - UGH).

I am not sure what I would do with a vehicle with pricey transmission problems. For all the OLD cars we have driven, we have never had major repairs or decisions of that type. (Dare I say it - never a transmission problem??) So, was worrying a bit.

Anyway, since we have driven such old cars, I often get complimented on how we must keep them up. Which I find kind of funny. It's more what we don't keep up (we don't do anything unnecessary). My rules are pretty much change the oil every 6 months, keep an eye on tire pressure and fluids, and take our vehicles in the second they have a problem. For the long run, this has worked very well for us.

For the short run? Problem could not be re-created, so dh just thought I was crazy, and repair shop did not find anything. Rolleyes So much for that method. Big Grin Actually - I just wish they had kept the car overnight - I expect it would act up again in the a.m.. But if it does, I know it should be okay for the daily commute or errands. Will see...

BUT, I had been planning to take the car in anyway for a lookover. Had some fluids topped off, got an oil change (was due anyway - so might as well get it done) and ended up needing new brake pads. No surprise there since no brake work has ever been done on car - hitting 90,000 miles.

I have the feeling I will be getting the O2 censor replaced soon. I can hope that's all it is, anyway. For now, whatever. Crossed a chore off my list! I got off easy - about $300. (I had wanted to wait maybe a month - since we JUST took dh's car in - but that is how it goes).

Oh - and it doesn't help that I am due for a smog check. I will hold off and see if I can get this diagnosed and fixed, first. Last thing I need is to fail, take it back to the shop, and then have to re-smog! The smog check is expensive. The car was spewing fumes today when it was acting up, of course!

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It's been a LONG week at work, this week. I am so ready for the 3-day weekend!

Free Photo Book

September 1st, 2011 at 02:16 pm

Dh spent a few dollars at Target (groceries) and got a coupon for a free 8 x 8 photo book from Shutterfly. About a $30 value.

Way cool!

I am not sure if I will make a book for us, or as a gift. Hmmmmmmm...

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Today is pay day. I usually pay the regular credit card off the second half of every month.

But, I've got a handful of rewards cards to pay off - and I Want to be rid of them all! So, I will have to sit down and juggle everything around. The bad thing is I rather make our ROTH deposits this week while the market is still low. (I usually deposit those around the 1st of every month!) But I had put those back to later in the month. I am now thinking of pulling the money from savings, instead. (& I fully realize who knows what the market will do - lord knows waiting could be better in the end).

It's no biggie either way. It's just my flow is all messed up. If I pull money from savings, I will put it back when I get my next paycheck, is all.

I usually pay all my bills and do all my savings transfers the first week of the month - and then pay the big credit card with my second paycheck every month.