<< Back to all Blogs
Login or Create your own free blog
Layout:
Home > Archive: January, 2012
 

Archive for January, 2012

Frugal Entertainment

January 30th, 2012 at 08:38 pm

Bummer!

Just saw the art museum is having a film festival this week - the cost is $4. I'd so be there, but I got 3 days notice and we have other plans. I am bummed! Also could have been a great networking opportunity for dh.

That said, as broke college students dh and I went to concerts all the time. I've blogged a few times how that was always cheap entertainment, and suddenly we can't go to a concert (hardly any concert) for under $100 for the two of us.

That said, a concert came up with $15 per person tickets. Holy cow! Ah, the nostalgia... We had a great concert opportunity in July too (ended up being free) but I Was so sick and missed it. HEre's to good health this time.

& we have no idea what we will do with the kids, since it is a week night. But we will figure something out. (Neighbor teenager can stay up late, or maybe one of our moms will come up and spend the night. Or we can leave early).

Here is to more frugal entertainment in the near future.

Random Stuff

January 29th, 2012 at 04:59 pm

**Work is Crazy - Tuesday is huge deadline. Hopefully I can *breathe* at that point.

That said, today I mostly slept in bed. Felt a cold coming on, and the fam went to San Jose without me. So I worked very early, and slept from about 12-4. Aaaaaaaahhhhhhhh...

I have been eating out way too much. It's less of a *time* thing and more of a *stress eater* thing. I like my comfort food. But probably need to coordinate better with dh. He has been trying some new recipes, and I don't think we have been fans. So, less usable leftovers. I'd be tending to just grab leftovers for the day and work through lunch, otherwise. It's been more coming home from a long day and wanting nothing more but a BK chicken sandwich! & not another weird dinner that no one likes. Wink

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

**I just noticed *Millionaire Mommy Next Door* completely disappeared a while back (over a year ago?). Makes me curious what is up with that. Actually, my first thought is she probably shared way too much personal info and maybe regrets it a bit. THough really, who knows!

My first rule if I ever won the lottery or anything like that, would be "is fine as long as absolutely no one else knows." Otherwise, easily ruins relationships, etc. Everyone expects a handout.

So, kind of what I Was thinking about her. I hope all is well.

It's not my most favorite blog out there - apparently it had been ages since I checked it out. But I think I liked it overall, it just didn't speak to me personally so much. So I didn't read it daily, but I did like it and checked up on it once in a blue moon.

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

**Kind of mildly related:

My dad had some photography classes up by us and stayed with us Friday night. As always, we seem to primary talk about finances. Kind of both our hobbies, I guess.

So he starts mentioning my Great Aunt who worked for about 60 years? and was single her whole life. He tells me I would be surprised how much money she has. I said, "Well, I never really thought about it, but now that you mention it, I don't think I'd be surprised." I mean, heck, she could easily have millions. But my dad kind of shies off the subject and doesn't want to give away too many details. & basically says she never had any stocks, but did pretty well considering. So, no, not even $1 million, but maybe pretty darn close.

So I say, "Um, okay dad, so how the heck do YOU know how much money she has?"

"Oh, my cousin told me. But don't tell anyone."

Rolleyes

Mental note: Don't tell anyone how much money I have when I am 90+. I just felt it was king of wrong we were even having this conversation. I met her once. See what loose lips do?

Then dh asks me what she will do with that money? What the heck do I know? I met her once! LOL. Probably my dad will inherit some - but I think he has like 100 cousins. So doesn't mean much. Wink For all I know she is giving it all to charity.

Then we somehow got on the subject of one of my aunts who I'd write off as dirt poor. My dad told me she was actually doing pretty well and not the worst off of his sisters. I was really surprised. Told me her house was paid for, but she just didn't want anyone to know that for a long while. (Smart lady). Boy, you just never know!

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

Still spectacular sunsets and sunrises - daily:




What are the Odds? (Stock)

January 26th, 2012 at 09:17 am

I don't buy stock for 10 years (individual stock) and the first one I buy post-2011 is the "#1 Stock of the Year." Up 68%, as of this morning. (Netflix).

I think *we* are up about 60% - except I already sold some at a 30% or so profit.

I actually don't want to share my strategy on this. Wink But I will share after the fact.

Of course, this is the point where *I* would take the money and RUN! & it's in our ROTH so it is TAX-FREE profit.

But dh has a point. Now that they showed some awesome earnings and beat analyst's expectations, people will start jumping back in. That's his theory and I think he has a valid point.

Anyway, I will be making moves on this soon, so will you keep you updated. But, we agreed not to sell any today. Well, not at current price.

I kind of expected dh to relearn why we aren't in individual stocks. It's very soon and I admit it is very likely we will relearn all the bad. But, I amfraid the opposite has happened. It's been kind of fun. Though seeing the "#1 stock" headline was a wake up call. This is as good as it gets. Basically, a reminder not to expect anything like this. Ever again. We got lucky. I mean, 60% return in a couple of months??? Definitely not average. Wink

& I think dh I and make a good investment team. We respect each other's opinions but have different points of view. I already sold some to hedge our bets, for one. But dh kept me from selling it all. So, will see... (You know, it's not "my husband threw away all our money and I didn't agree" or "My wife wouldn't let me invest one penny in stocks," and talking it out really helps us think it through).

For reference, last we *gambled* in the stock market, it was almost everything we had (because we were young and didn't have anything to begin with). These days, we are sticking to 1-2% of our investments. It's a very different game. I hear 5% recommended, but we are pretty conservative, plus just dipping our toes back in. We have never put anything in stocks we couldn't afford to lose, but I think we took much heavier losses in the past. Was maybe 50% of our investments, in the 2001 era. & we lost it all (all the stocks). So, there you go. Losing 1% is much easier to stomach. Plus I think we are much smarter investors these days.

Refi Progress & Taxes

January 24th, 2012 at 06:50 am

I think I am still in utter shock with this 4% refi. Like, I won't believe it until I see it.

But excitement factor is starting to increase as we near our lock deadline.

Plus, I heard from the CU. They wanted a copy of our HOA bill. So far - still very EASY stuff. Will see...

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

I took the time to finish up our taxes, after all. I have had everything I needed to finish since about 12/30. Our taxes are pretty darn simple.

When I had grabbed my medical expenses to estimate I must have looked at the wrong number. Was about $1000 higher than I had estimated. SO, I Was able to change our ROTH/Traditional IRA contributions from 75/25 to 80/20. Bigger refund from state (almost $70?) but net is still about $500 due in the end, as expected. I expect to do 100% ROTHs in 2012, but with the cash outflow of the refinance, I didn't really feel like giving the IRS another $400 or so, this April. I have a lifelong habit of making this decision about every January. How much to put into Traditional IRAs, for best tax scenario... I think 10% of our income to ROTHs is more than ample, and might as well put a little into the Traditional IRA since I probably won't make any more contributions for a long time...

I couldn't file though because our tax software was not updated at work. I might be able to file Wednesday.

Our federal tax rate is about 4% of income and state tax rate is about 1%. As I say, we don't pay much (thanks to marriage, kids, mortgage, medical bills, etc. If I had no mortgage I'd still be an itemizer). The medical bills are probably our biggest deduction. I know my boss is severely confused by my paycheck. Everyone else in my office has a working spouse and pays BIG taxes. I get to take home most of my gross, in comparison. Which is hugely key on surviving on one income. I know a lot of 2-income couples who make a lot more income than us but take home less (when it comes to taxes, daycare, working expenses, etc.). He must just think my mortgage is insane. Wink He has seriously like asked me if I Was sure on my withholding, before. & he's a tax guy. Funny enough, we usually owe about $0 - and sometimes get refunds - I withhold plenty.

Oh and Grandma wants me to do her taxes again, and pays generously. So, I think that means I won't touch my savings for my IRS bill come april. Heck, I will probably just pay the IRS when Grandma pays me. That is GOOD news! She gave me $300 last year, and the other $200 should be easy to come up with.

*Perfect* Eggs & Weekend Doings

January 22nd, 2012 at 09:48 am

**I have mastered easy-peel hard boiled eggs. So we have been eating them a LOT lately. (They are suddenly not a chore to make!)

Of course, I think a lot of it depends on how fresh your eggs are and how your stove is, etc., etc.

But what is working for me?

**Boil water & THEN add the eggs. Boil on medium-high for 6 minutes. (Just not a roiling boil so the eggs don't get knocked around too much).

**Take off burner and cover pot, let sit for 1/2 hour

**Cool eggs in ice water for 10-15 minutes

That's it. They practically pop out of the shell. In fact, we boiled a dozen last night and was going to keep 6 shelled for later. Within a minute the kids had shelled them all. *Then* I remembered I wanted to keep some. Anyway, was glad to see the shelled ones keep about as long. I ate on for breakfast and thought I had never seen a more perfect hard boiled egg, so had to share.

I just take then straight from the fridge to the boiling water - it seems to work well that way. We just have store bought eggs - these eggs were just bought they day I boiled them, so maybe there is something to "fresher" eggs.

On average, only one per dozen has been cracking with this method, and still turns out well anyway. (I think generally advised not to put into already boiling water, due to cracking, but that seems to be the least of my issues with boiled eggs - I'd rather not spend all day peeling them!).

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

I should probably try to get my taxes done the first weekend in February. I just feel slammed with work and 1/31 deadlines right now, plus would like to go out of town next weekend. SO, will probably have to wait 2 more weeks. I owe the Feds so no huge hurry, buy I think I might get $20 or so back from the state. If it's $5, I will file ASAP, otherwise lord knows when I will get it. Too many years of IOUs in this state. I was really not expecting a refund this year, at all. But was close enough that I will just leave my withholding as is.

I probably should have done the taxes sooner. I usually have them done by 1/31, but usually not so swamped.

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

Work is crazy but for none of the usual reasons. I've been frustrated with clients who want everything yesterday that are not deadline related, etc. So will probably work a pretty long week this week to get my 1/31 deadlines done. Way far behind for usual, which I didn't really expect since I was out 1-2 weeks the last 2 Januaries with our surgeries. I thought this year would be EASIER. But we lost one employee, and everyone wants everything yesterday. It's just been hectic.

All that said, I Really don't mind. The tax side gets really stressful, but this 1099/W-2 stuff is mostly low key. So am just enjoying this kind of work before I get slammed with more stressful taxes. w-2s and 1099s are pretty EASY.

I'd probably work today but dh had a commitment this morning and I didn't want to work in the afternoon. So, will probably just bring some work home during the week.

I feel like I have no time for anything. It is amazing how much an extra 13 hours a week of work makes. 13 hours lost of free time. & I generally leave work 5:00 every day. It just still feels like an intense adjustment. Anyway, I have never met anyone in the industry who works as little as our firm does. & I also get paid overtime. So no complaints here. I know I have it GOOD!!! Just 3 more months, and back to normal. The extra income is always nice. The boss does not like us working too much and getting burned out. Then quality of work suffers, know what I mean?

It's hard to believe that this is the first January in three years that dh and I are not having major surgery. He says, well, his mom is having surgery. Yeah, but I don't have to pay for it or take a ton of time off work for that! Nor try to recover and care for my family and all that. So I am surprised how swamped I have been feeling. I expected this year to be much easier than past years - particularly January. Anyway, yes it sucks that she is having surgery, but it doesn't affect us quite in the same manner. Her surgery is on the 30th I believe - I will keep you updated. All seems to be good news but "they won't know for sure until they get in there."

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

The weather was GORGEOUS yesterday and crappy today. I'd work Sundays instead, but then Sundays would be pretty and Saturdays would be all gloomy. Can't seem to win. Wink

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

Oh, and I paid the February bills. It's amazing how quickly the checking account balance piles up when you put all savings and mortgage payments on hold (waiting for refi to finish). Anyway, which means once I get paid 2/1 I can probably resume some ROTH payments. I have 2-3 months on hold due to credit card rewards and refinance. I'd have funded those amounts to ROTH by now, but I need more "cash in the bank" per CU request than I expect to *really* need. For one, I've paid off $1200 of mortgage since I applied for refi the first of December. So I won't need *that* $1200 for the refi. But I need to keep it in my checking account until they re-run their figures for actual closing.

Rewards Update (2011) $4164

January 21st, 2012 at 07:00 am

I got my nook!

I got those gift cards fast. Phew! Will probably give old nook to FIL for his birthday coming up.

{Though I have received some of these rewards in January, all of these rewards were earned in the year 2011. I suppose tehcnically these are all the rewards I expected to receive in 2011, though I am just getting the last of the rewards right now. AmEx was 4 weeks slower to let me redeem my point - compared to ANY of the others. I had really expected to have these gift cards in hand by Dec. 31}.

UPDATED TALLY:

$1030 cash Chase Sapphire (moi)
$200 cash Chase Freedom (dh)
$625 gift cards - Chase SW (dh)
$515 gift cards - Chase SW (moi)
$260 gift cards - AmEx (moi)
$500 gift cards Citi (dh)
+$100 gift cards - Citi for trying to close card
$310 gift cards - Citi (moi)
-$99 annual fee (SW card)
+$99 annual fee refunded when closed card
-$69 Fee (SW card)
+$69 annual fee refunded when closed card
-$41 lost value for exchanging some Citi gift cards for cash and amazon gift cards
-----------
$3499 TOTAL *ONE-TIME REWARDS*

+$ 500 deposit to ROTH (Fidelity Am Ex - 2% cash back)
+$ 25 cash back Fidelity Am Ex
+$ 76 Target rewards (5% discount Target purchases; mostly groceries)
+$ 64 Visa Rewards (1% cash back - for places that don't take AmEx)
----------------------------
=$4164 Total CC REWARDS 2011
----------------------------

For 2012, I already redeemed $50 to my ROTH. So, am getting a good head start! But, that said, I don't expect to pull anywhere near $4000 this year. Once our refi is done, will probably have dh apply for Chase Sapphire. He hadn't done that one, so will see. That's a $500 reward. That will put us closer to our usual $1000 average in rewards. We might hit closer to $1500 this year if dh can get $500 from Chase.

Flippers Gone Crazy!

January 20th, 2012 at 06:14 pm

WOW!

The flippers are back with a vengeance.

Um, remember the house 2 doors down that sold for $250k and let me squeak by with a $250k appraisal?

I just saw it listed for sale. For $315k.

Seriously???

I've been proven wrong before. These people do find idiots to buy at hugely inflated prices. I just don't think the banks are going for it these days. So, will see. (Even if they find someone dumb enough, where would they get the appraisal for that high??)

I am looking up that last flip we just had behind us to refresh my memory. Paid $182k (much smaller house) and sold in a few days for $218k. The interesting thing about that one is they put in the listing that it was a flip. I commented on here that I have no idea why one would advertise that, but it seemed to work. It sold lightning fast. Guess that is preferable from buying from a bank. OF course, buyers probably don't know the house was in perfect condition before the flip. Maybe they assume a lot of work was done to it.

Sounds like a sweet profit? IT was much better than I expected them to get, but you figure with all the costs and everything that it seemed like a lot of hassle to probably make very little in the end. That said, these are homes that really shouldn't need ANY work. The one that is two doors down in GORGEOUS (marble throughout) but I don't think they just put that in. I am sure it was probably pretty move-in ready already. I admit I am guessing - but people went crazy with the upgrades here the past decade. & it's not like I have seen any construction crews over there - it just sold a couple of weeks ago (to the flipper).

Er, I saw a bigger home like ours on sale for $224k that was sitting for a couple of months. I don't remember which street and can't find it now. Maybe it is in escrow. Another sold for $240k recently. So this is why I think $315k is pushing it. The smaller homes here have been selling $210k-$220k pretty consistently in the last couple of months - lots of sales. Price difference is generally $20k-$50k for more square footage. These days, anyway. The spread was $200k+ at the peak!! (Land is expensive here, so split levels are a really good value - usually bigger yards since the home footprint is smaller and more square footage too, of course).

Um, a house sold for $305k, BUT it had almost TWICE the land. I think this flipper is REALLY pushing it! But, will see...

So yeah - this is the new normal. Bank forecloses, flipper buys, flipper sells. This is the second home in our immediate vicinity. The flippers are back! I think flipper #1 got a very good deal on his investment. I am not so sure on flipper #2. Maybe it is the same person. The listing looks totally different - so I don't think it is the same one. Unless they got advice to leave out the flipper part on the listing. Wink

ETA: This could be a good thing because seems banks are unloading homes faster to investors, through auction. The home behind us was vacant for a time, but the one that just listed was listed as sold before the owner even moved out. Wonder if eviction is part of the buyer's responsibility, these days? Not the banks? Either that, or public record date was wrong. But, hey, no house sitting empty for months. That's an improvement.

Pretty Sunset

January 18th, 2012 at 11:02 pm



The sunsets and sunrises have just been GORGEOUS the last few weeks. Of course, we have barely had a cloud in the sky, either. I have been enjoying as I seem to be driving to work with the sunrise and driving home with the sunset, lately. IT probably won't last much longer as the days are starting to get longer.

Some storms are rolling in so I saw some clouds today...

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

Tomorrow is dh's birthday.

He didn't really want anything on the food side (weird to me - we celebrate with FOOD). But I remember he really likes my fudge, so will make that tomorrow a.m.

I also decided to just take the kids to school tomorrow, as a surprise. I am off of *school drop off* until tax season is over, otherwise. Work is purely INSANE and so I probably shouldn't do it. But, many years we go away for the weekend, so I figure sleeping in a bit one day won't hurt too much. That will probably be dh's best present.

OF course, part of my concern with this plan was that I was also meeting dh for lunch. Will just have to be uber productive at work tomorrow...

Going to the "free on your birthday" sushi buffet. I guess we will celebrate with food.

I think I will also let him get that stupid quieter garage door opener. Haven't seen the point, but we were advised to replace it (by my dad) since it has been giving us some trouble. I keep putting it off due to cash flow, etc. But I guess since I know we have enough equity for refi (not tempted to put cash towards that) and since BM didn't need that $150 for track, after all... Will probably just tell him to get it. If I was really nice I would buy it and get it installed, but I think he can handle it. He's got infinite more time than I do right now. I might have arranged it if I thought of it sooner. I think I was too up in the air with this refi and thinking we should wait. IT was the cancellation of track which swayed me - $150 extra all of a sudden.

Dh will appreciate it because he has to fix it when it gets stuck. Wink Which it hasn't done in a while, and would be nice to replace before it gets stuck again... He's wanted a *quieter* one since the day we moved in (it's been 10 years) though the rest of us could sleep through anything and our bed is nowhere near the garage door anyway.

Of course dh tells me the other day when I brought it up, "The noise doesn't bother me any more." Seriously??? 10 years of complaining, I give in, and that is his response? But I think he will be happy anyway.

This & That

January 17th, 2012 at 12:58 pm

While you all have been having cold weather, it's been record breaking sunny and warm here.

BUT, that sure changed the last few days. The COLD has definitely arrived.

Actually, it was hard to work Saturday because it was so sunny, warm and gorgeous outside. So Sunday I made the family go for a walk. I thought a hike might be perfect, but we were all a little too lazy to go anywhere but out our front door. For the best. We walked about 1/2 way around the lake, but once we turned around the COLD wind was blowing in our face. It was like we walked a good 1/2 mile or so before we realized how freaking cold it was. Guess the wind was pushing us along? We were going to let the kids play at the park a good hour, but changed our mind to about 10 minutes. BRRRRR. At least we got a nice walk in. It was about 50 degrees Sunday versus 70 degrees on Saturday. If I had known, I would have worked Sunday instead.

We've still got sun, but it was freezing this morning. It will be nice to get some rain. I think weather has been more on the normal side, but I just remember endless endless snow and rain the last 2 winters, so it's been weird. I know I usually have a winter setting on the lawn irrigation but I don't have the foggiest what it was since I haven't used in about 3 years. I have just been flipping it on once a week, and turning it off not wanting to leave it on during a freeze. My dad asked if I had been over-watering. HA! I said "under watering." Forgot what to do when it isn't raining all the time.

For summer I have the irrigation set to come on twice a day because it gets so hot. (Not every day, but maybe every other day). So this basically means for 3 years we have been watering twice a day or never. Nothing in between?

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

It's official. It is IMPOSSIBLE to find shoes. I am so frustrated. I am returning all the shoes I bought last week. I kept one pair which I thought would be perfect, but they are too tight in the toes. I am keeping them in the hopes of stretching them out over time. It's all I got.

My problem is big/wide feet and apparently complete lack of "in styleness" of flats and low heels these days. This has been going on for years, but usually Payless has SOMETHING. All Payless has right now is really uncomfortable shoes. & maybe only one or two styles in a large wide. Rolleyes

I increased my price range significantly and still can't find anything, anywhere. So, not sure what to do.

The really high heels are the best I got (bought them a bit ago and they are comfy for what they are). I am giving these shoes a week, but they are killing my feet in the interim. I went back and read the reviews again, so don't think next size up will help.

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

BM has been wishy washy about track. He didn't want to do it, but now he does want to do it. So I sent dh off with a check and an application last night. He came back with the check. Track is cancelled. It's a bummer for BM, but can't say we are upset. There are other options but they are all competitive. He is only 8. We are going to put that on the back burner for now. We are going to focus on tennis as a winter sport. Er, maybe spring. I had been thinking of doing lessons with him, but work is crazier than I thought it would be. So, will see. Maybe we can do tennis in May.

Not doing track will save us a LOT of gas and time. I will re-divert that $150 to other sports/activities for the kids. The cost was really the least of it. The traveling and time commitment was pretty intense.

Of course, the reason I signed him up is the kids LOVE to go to the track down the street. So we will probably do our own unofficial track practice. We've got a track, tennis courts, a swimming pool, and some walking trails and bike paths. I think I prefer "track when we feel like it" versus 3 hours a week on cold nights! We have plenty non-structured activities to keep us busy and fit.

American Express Gold - Redeemed Points

January 17th, 2012 at 12:33 pm

AmEx Gold - will be glad to be rid of it.

I had signed up for it to alert me when my points posted. It instead alerted me to tell me that my point balance was -0-. It just sends one e-mail per month, it looks like.

So saw a blogger mentioned getting the card, so thought I better check one last time (card month closed around the 15th?) and was expecting to send an e-mail asking for my points.

The points were there. Finally!!

So I go to redeem them and it takes me to a screen that says "rewards are 20% off." Woohoo! But then I dig deeper and these were not the rewards I had planned on. In fact, they were twice as expensive. & no B&N or Kohls gift cards as planned.

At this point I am getting really peeved, but figuring there must be some other rewards too. Either that or they just held onto my points until they could update their system and take away all the rewards I was planning to get.

I was about to give up since I know I looked up that B&N card with dh last week - figured maybe he could help me find it. When, finally I found all the gift cards I wanted. THOSE weren't on sale, but they cost half as much. Rolleyes Sneaky sneaky sneaky, American Express.

I redeemed my rewards, and then it asked me for the security code on the credit card, to verfiy my identity. Good Lord! Called dh, and I luckily knew where it was and he was home to give me the number.

So, the deed is done. But could they make it any harder?

Good thing is I should receive in 3 days. I redeemed for $100 B&N (for new nook), and $150 Kohls (for clothing). & $10 Old Navy. Their $10 cards were slim pickings, so I just chose that because I think my friend likes Old Navy. I am sure I can find someone who does.

It's not all over and done yet. I need to receive my gift cards and then I have to close the AmEx. & then I shall be done!

By next week I should have all my rewards in hand and all those pesky credit cards closed. Woohoo. I'll post a final tally when I get to it (2011 credit card rewards earned/redeemed: $4000+).

Raise & Budget

January 16th, 2012 at 01:07 pm

Phew!

Got another $1000 raise - now I can work on budget now that I know the income side.

{Side note: Really interesting talk with boss. He told me I am the only one in office to get a raise the last couple of years. Of course he said before raise would be bigger if economy didn't suck. But today he told me this tidbit and that it's "coming out of his own pocket, but he doesn't care." So I was kind of surprised by that, but very pleased. To be fair, most everyone else in the office is MUCH older and paid much more. But I think it kind of explains one reason everyone seems so tight with money lately - even all the ultra conservative accountants. I think they were getting accustomed to the big raises of the last decade, and buying things assuming more raises. How it seems. It's not like I identify how hard it must be to *only have a $200k income* - their spouses work good jobs and all that. But it never occured to me everyone else had a salary freeze over the course of the last couple of years. It at least explains a little}.

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

As to the budget:

Health insurance went up $73/month and raise is $83/month. With taxes though, I am a little bit behind. But the *phew* is for getting another raise to cover health insurance increases. I Certainly was not counting on it.

This means I can continue to save:

$750/month to ROTH (about 12% income)**
$400/month to savings
$150/month payroll tax holiday to mortgage or savings

**Between this and credit card rewards, is $9500 per year. Last $500 per year will come from overtime. The only reason I am putting so much away at this point is that we dropped cable. I just bumped it up from $650 to $750/month when we dropped cable.

I am still waiting to finalize refi to revise numbers for new mortgage. The plan on that is to pay more principal than interest, from the start. So I may pay an additional $50/month (over current payment) to do so. Though I am not sure where that $50 will come from. Maybe will just have to do the "more principal than interest" thing on an annual basis. Or just deposit $600 when I get my overtime bonus ($50 x 12).

I'll post the numbers later - I have my little budget excel sheet.

Another Foreclosure on our Street

January 14th, 2012 at 08:12 pm

Noticed an original neighbor moving out a week or so ago. Keep forgetting to look into it.

Hard to know how accurate online data is at times. But I know the sales prices are probably accurate - just not sure on the default amount of loan.

Purchase price 2001 - $262k

Foreclosed mortgage balance - $333k

Sales price to third party - $250k

I wonder if appraiser knew about this sale (it closed the week after our appraisal, but I am sure he knew the offer/sales price). That $250k figure isn't sounding quite so "yeah yeah yeah" after all. I believe it is the same model as our home - probably same lot size. Just two doors down. It probably explains our $250k appraisal.

The guy was actually kind of creepy, so I am not too sad. Was just a single guy from what I could tell. He was just a little *off*, and that was just from seeing him around. (Plus all of our other neighbors are so friendly, in comparison). HE was very reclusive. Which says a lot because dh and I are probably a little reclusive, too. Wink But not to that extreme.

This is why I guess the foreclosure/short sale rate will be 90% around here when all is said and done. Almost every single house on the street. Just not all at once.

& it's never anyone who bought high or anything like that. Though admittedly I know nothing about this man. But considering all the people I know, it's just, "yeah yeah, bought a bunch of cars and a lifestyle couldn't afford, lost house." That's the usual. Being single in a 5-bedroom home doesn't help my impression of the whole thing.

I suppose a more interesting statistic will be how many of these homes foreclose twice in the same decade. I know a lot of people out there buying homes they couldn't possibly afford. This is one reason why I feel like home prices are still over inflated. I don't know if any homes on our street have foreclosed twice - two different owners. I wouldn't be surprised if a couple of them have been lost to the banks twice.

Friday Doings

January 13th, 2012 at 06:40 pm

**Work is crazy. That's all there is to that. Really feeling the crunch of the employee who moved away a few months back. Will be a LONG tax season. (For now it's all the easy/good stuff and I am refreshed so I don't care that much, but panic mode is starting to set in for 1/31 deadlines. Haven't done one thing for 1/31 deadlines thinks to problems and demanding clients. Since it is the 13th, I am freaking out a bit about that. Won't do any tax returns until February, which just become a huge time suck and will be more stressful).

Oh yeah, and we got a new scanner/copier that no one knew how to work. Just ANNOYED. We had a training on it today. It was installed Monday. Yeah... At least I figured out what I needed to. Eventually.

The kids came by my office Wednesday since I was taking them to meet friends for dinner. BM commented to me, "You are the youngest one here!" I am surprised he noticed because my one co-worker is 10 years my senior, but I am sure she looks closer to my age. That said, I think I look pretty young. So if she looks young, I look way younger?

Anyway, being young has its advantage when trying to figure out how to work new equipment. That said, I think I lost more time helping everyone else with all their computer problems this week (we also got new computers - no idea whose brilliant idea that was. November would have been 1000 times better for all new equipment).

**Along the same lines, I am sinking into disorganization since I haven't had 5 minutes to clear off my desk.

Interestingly, I got a $30 refund from my HMO. No explanation. Rolleyes Which reminds me I was expecting a $40 refund and I was going to call and complain about my bill (which I believe should be $0, and is probably due any day). To say I should be refunded $40. I forget how much the bill was for. It's sitting on my desk at work, probably under a pile of papers.

So yeah. I have no idea what to make of this $30 refund. No explanation. Lord knows when I will find time or remember to call and ask about it. I suppose I could have dh take care of it - I probably should.

This whole thing has been so annoying, and thankfully pretty unusual.

**Got an e-mail from CU that no-point 30-year mortgage rate sunk down to 3.875% today. Holy Cow!

Being risk adverse, I am perfectly content with my locked in 4% rate. Frankly, I don't think I have ever refied where rates dropped lower in the middle of my refinance. So, no regrets or anything. It is just shocking!! & then I think, "maybe if my rate lock expires it is not a bad thing!" Big Grin

**Today I paid the credit card off (Main AmEx) because I get paid Monday. I also paid off Visa (charged a lot of insurance on that one the past month). By the time those clear I should have my paycheck. Am maintaining a certain balance available until refi closes (for refi costs). Which is why I paid before paycheck deposit, but not any sooner though I have tons of cash available. I usually run my checking account to $0 - just using it as a conduit.

While in limbo with the refi, I had already paid the mortgage through end of February, and have not transferred any ROTH contributions out of checking.

I've got 4 bills to pay around the 1st (next paycheck) - $300 or so? - and that is about it. Paycheck on the 1st usually goes 90% to savings and retirement. I will of course hold off on all that until this shakes out.

Once refi closes I can do all my ROTH transfers, savings transfers and so on.

It's not like I pay a lot of bills anyway (outside credit card) but it's weird to have nothing to pay or transfer for the next 18 days or so. Credit cards paid off on the early side. No mortgage due.
It's nice to be back to 3 credit cards (AmEx for best rewards, Visa for places that don't take AmEx, and Target card for 5% off). I have been juggling a lot MORE cards for a long time.

Still waiting for my AmEx reward. Unfortunately, it's only in my name and I will have to follow up on that one next week. Thankfully I can probably just send a quick e-mail. Once I get those rewards I can close that last extra card!

Refi Progress

January 12th, 2012 at 06:40 pm

Though I would rather refi with CU than a bank, I believe this is the slowest refi we have ever done. With exception of 4 month refi from hell (which probably should have never been approved in the first place - was in order to buy second home - we kept that loan 5 minutes because were able to sell property immediately after refi).

Anyway, though we only refi when interest rates are rock bottom and there is a stampede, this definitely takes the cake for *slowest.*

I finally just e-mailed the CU today to ask status of appraisal, not expecting a response for quite a while. But, I JUST got a response that appraisal is fine and well.

I knew I was overly paranoid. Gee, what a surprise? I needed $250k value for 80% loan to value. I guessed $250k. They appraised $250k.

Has anything changed since the boom? Rolleyes

I told dh I was so good that I could do an appraisal without even doing any work. Wink Clearly I don't understand the whole process - it is just always magically what it is supposed to be, it seems to me.

This is good news for property taxes and bad news for net worth. Property tax went with $263k assessment at 12/31/10. So this will be another $13k or so drop to value. The value date for property taxes next year will be 12/31/11. An appraisal dated 12/23/11 will be useful if they try to assess at higher than $250k. So far I have found assessments to be on the low side - I am sure they don't want to spend a lot of time and effort on appeals, so they just aim for the low side. Seems to be how it has been. So I am guessing our tax assessment will be under $250k for the next year's property taxes.

As long as I can refi, have 20% equity, and my property taxes are going down (especially since no plans to sell right now) then is fine by me. Maybe property values can shoot up when we are ready to sell and downsize. In the interim, we enjoy the reduced taxes.

New Nook?

January 12th, 2012 at 12:53 pm

Met up with my friend for dinner last night and she showed off her new Nook Simple Touch (Christmas gift) that I Was largely responsible for talking her into getting.

I played with it for about one or two minutes - OMG I want one! Sad thing is I believe mine (older nook) was closer to $150 and this one was $100. I've only had it one year myself. Yeesh!

Of course, doesn't mean I am going to run out and buy one today.

BUT... I do have a $50 B&N credit. I had gotten it free from rewards, to buy ebooks, but haven't spent a cent on it. I'd rather put it towards a new Nook, now.

I mentioned to dh and he tried to hard sell me on the Kindle Touch. Problem with that is then he would want to use it all the time. What he is really saying is, "I want a Kindle Touch!" Sorry dh - maybe you shouldn't have spent all those Amazon gift cards on other stuff (Kindle Fire, etc.). He is also saying that Amazon is better. But I still have a preference for the nook, personally.

That said, he looked up the reviews, and put his tail between his legs and said, "Actually the reviews are REALLY good." Yeah dh - that's what I was trying to tell you. The thing is AWESOME and so much better than the one I already have. I guess my firsthand experience doesn't count for as much. Wink

I looked up the American Express rewards I am owed and the only good gift card I saw was Kohls. I checked on a whim and I can get up to $250 in B&N gift cards, too. Of course dh said, "Can't argue with free!"

So, I am thinking of redeeming $100 B&N gift cards for a new nook and then $150 for Kohls. I already have $50 B&N (can buy a new cover and leave a decent balance for future ebook purchases) and $100 Kohls gift cards laying around. So will still have plenty credit card reward bounty left.

Maybe it's for the best that American Express has been really really slow to give me my points!!

I haven't really told anyone about our credit card reward bounty (I mostly don't think anyone would believe me), but my friend was asking me about Christmas. I told her we usually don't do much but we got the Kindle Fire and 3DS for free with credit card rewards. & Kindle Touches for my folks. Her eyes were bugging out of her head. Now I will have to tell her I got a new nook too (when I get it). I will mention that it was free, too. But, she doesn't know the HALF of it! Wink

If I upgrade, will probably give the old one to a relative. Not sure who. Dh will check what he can sell it for, to be sure, but I expect it to be mostly worthless with today's ebook prices - so much new and improved out there.

We could give it to his dad for his Birtdhay, and leave it at that (no money to spend later this month for that, then). Dh thinks he would like it - his mom took to the kindle more than he expected and so his dad came to front of mind because he is a VERY avid reader and dh thought Kindle would be more for him.

If I couldn't get it for free, I'd probably wait 6 months or so for the next price drop. So, I am excited that I can maybe score one now.

De-Clutter

January 11th, 2012 at 12:59 pm

**FINALLY remembered to give the teachers their gift cards. Doh! I am sure they were very surprised. The kids whipped up some "Happy New Years" cards with printer paper, Tuesday night. I taped in the gift cards, and they seemed to have reached their destinations.

**Set out a bag for charity today. We keep getting these bags that will say "pickup this Tuesday." But dh will bring them in, and by the time *I* notice them, lord knows which week it was for. So, I got a bag that said "Wednesday, 11th," for pickup. & I actually remembered. Phew! I have no idea what charity it was and don't really care. If they will take my crap off my front door - they can have it. This time of year they seem to be coming by weekly. This is one reason I never buy trash bags. They leave giant plastic bags at our front door every week. I find them to be useful.

MIL had given me some used clothing that the kids didn't need (they have way too much as is). So, I just set that out, some outgrown toys and clothes I had accumulated a while ago, and a thrashed car seat. Well, the cloth cover was thrashed, and it was cheaper and easier just to replace the whole seat. I figured maybe someone could use it. OF course, they maybe will just trash it. I hope not, but I just wanted to be rid of it. IT's just a booster seat without any padding (I tossed the ripped apart fabric).

MIL gave dh a double stroller to sell. I offered to set it out, but he said he would try again. He has already tried to sell it a couple of times. I'd be happy just to be rid of it. IT would be one thing if he hadn't of tried. Since when were stroller buyers so picky? Probably one of the nicer ones we have tried to sell. Usually that stuff sells in seconds. Which I am sure is why he wants to try again. (We've bought several used/old strollers and turned around and sold them for the same price when we were done. We were just asking $20 for a much nicer stroller that had been bought new and barely ever used! Could be price was too low?).

I've got some more fragile items I tried to sell in the past but since they didn't sell easily I don't really care. I should bubble wrap those and get those ready to just donate next round. If I can post something up and sell it real quick, I sure as heck will take the money. But once it gets a pain to sell, there is a point where I just want it out of the house.

**Oh yeah, there was an old print cartridge that has been a permanent fixture in our hallway for 1-2 years. I keep asking dh to take it to the school to donate. Everytime I bring it up he plays dumb, "You never told me." Well I think we have had this conversation 10 times??? Good Lord. I finally gave up and just brought it to work to recycle here (co-worker will take to her child's high school to recycle).

I still need to figure out where to take hand-me-downs to school clothes closet - the clothes remain (2 shirts???) where the printer cartridge was. I would have probably used the clothes closet this year because I will be able to drop off outgrown kinder clothes for the first time (& would like to exchnage for 4th-grader wear for next year). But the clothes closet has been very unorganized this year. No one seems to know anything about it. I saw it at a mandatory parent meeting - there were a LOT of clothes. But no one said it would be there, I didn't have my shirts to exchange, and it threw me off. I could get over it if I had the time and mindset, but I don't think most parents wanted to be digging through the used clothes in front of everyone. I'm not sure I really wanted to, either. But I will be mentally prepared for next time. My glimpse of the clothes tells me that my "I will save it for people who need it, until I can give as much as I can take," was a useless gesture. I should have just taken the hand-me-downs. Or maybe that was just because no one knew how to get the clothes this year, and so it has piled up quite a bit!

Stocks, Introverted Bliss

January 10th, 2012 at 12:52 pm

**When dh made the NFLX buy, it went up about 25% in a week or so.

I felt it was prudent to sell off the profits. Make 25% in a week or two? SHOW ME the money!

Dh didn't agree and we left it in. It went up further. HE said, "I was right."

Then it went into the toilet.

I figured all along dh just needed a reminder why we *don't do stocks.* So I wasn't overly worried about all this. Though maybe a little annoyed. My strategy is simply "risk adverse non-gambler." Which dh also is, but his brain goes out to window when it comes to stocks.

Anyway, my dad called me to tell me NFLX had hit 100. I wasn't near a computer yesterday and had no idea. (Not sure if dh is living, breathing the stock status like he promised me he would - like I didn't want to find out the day after if some news sent stock prices dropping. Likewise, prices getting back to my sell point - he should have told me). I told dh as I was walking out the door today that I was selling my 25% profit as originally planned (if not too late), but we could talk about snatching up more shares if it dropped again. I was waiting for him to argue, but he didn't say anything.

For reference, after trading fees and everything, I sold my 25% profit today.

I sold 1/4 our shares for about $300 and Amazon was at $175 or something in that realm, so I just snatched up one share of Amazon. We each have 1% of our retirement portfolio in stocks. I chose Amazon, but paid way too much (couple of months back), it seems.

Stupid quote from dh: "I forgot about the stock market as a whole." For when NFLX dropped substantially with the rest of the market.

Seriously dh? Seriously? Because losing $100,000 in home equity while trying to sell our house, when those planes hit on 9/11, that didn't do it for you? Completely unpredictable "out of nowhere" events can put the markets in a tailspin??? (I just don't know how you can lose so much financially in one random event and not be wary in the future. To be clear, not that I think our own financial whoas amount to a hill of beans when it comes to the Tragedy of 9/11. But, just saying that dh should know better).

See, I'd probably be better off if he lost miserably. He's a very smart, practical, risk-adverse guy. But just mention the word "stock" and his brain goes out the window. But, he is also not a big gambler so I don't foresee this becoming much of an issue. IT's just maddening to watch him relearn what I learned very loud and clear in the year 2001. We lost a lot, financially, that year. All those glorious tech stocks ended up in the toilet, too, lost several thousand dollars. The home equity would have recovered, quickly of course, but we had already bought another home and were moving - so just had the luck to completely ruin our plan and put us $100k behind. That sure was a financial lesson.

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

**I read "The End of Normal," by Bernie Madoff's daughter-in-law. Kind of interesting, very sad. Her husband (Madoff's son) committed suicide. They claim he (son) was totally innocent and that Madoff had stolen from several family members, etc.

More along the theme of "Your life can turn upside down in one instant" without you having a clue what is coming. For that, it was riveting.

**Randomly picked up "Moby Duck" and barely started, but so far is a really good read.

"Moby-duck: an accidental odyssey : the true story of 28,800 bath toys lost at sea and of the beachcombers, oceanographers, environmentalists, and fools, including the author, who went in search of them"

LIBRARY ebooks, of course!

**A friend flaked on me Sunday, so I finally sat and watched the first 3 hours of Battlestar Gallactica, with dh. I had tried before, but usually fall asleep (as I would watching anything post 8pm at night). But I was really dragging my feet on devoting the time, if all it did was put me to sleep so far.

Okay, so after those initial 3 hours, I am SO totally hooked. What an amazing show. Dh was right, which is why I kept trying. Every episode is 45 minutes, after the first two, so I can live with that. What's nice is we can watch it around the kids. (We have been watching HBO shows after kids go to bed and I am way off my schedule). So I told dh I would watch it if I could watch it after dinner - no more LATE bedtimes for me, during tax season.

So, yes, I was planning to be all social and all that, but instead I have been in introverted bliss. Worked all alone Saturday, watched TV and read all day Sunday, and now I've just got a few days to finish my Moby Duck (I got it before 2 other books that all became available about the same time, so is the last one I got to - didn't expect it to be so good?).

& financially? Not a heck of a lot going on. Like, nothing. I still haven't heard on that appraisal. I should probably call the CU and make sure they got it. Which would take me out of my introverted bliss. *sigh*

QUIET Friday, Taxes, Shoes

January 7th, 2012 at 03:30 pm

Friday was QUIET. Today so far too. Phew!!

Looks like MIL is having outpatient surgery this month (follows our pattern: in the middle of biopsies during the holidays, surgery in January). But, that's it! The word her doctor used was "pre-cancerous cells." There should be no recovery time. Her and dh seemed in good spirits after getting more information.

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

I thought I Was going to have to really start bracing myself to withhold more income taxes, that we were on an upward swing after a long downward swing. For reference, last year we got about a $2000 income tax refund, and this year I owe $500.

I believe I was wrong. I got my W-2 today and updated my tax return. Even though I basically withheld hardly anything for the state ($30 per check), I am still owed a $40 refund. (I was trying to avoid any refund from insolvent state, but failed!) The Fed tax situation is about same as prior year, but the prior year way too much got withheld from my bonus check. This year, not enough. You can't win. But I rather have the use of the money up front and owe $500.
So the plan will be to file around January 31 for my refund, and to pay the Feds on April 15th.

Taxes will still be on an upward slope if this refi goes through. Will take a hit to our itemized deductions, so will still have to plan for that. But I thought it was going to be a bit of a double whammy, so I am relieved our taxes don't seem to be on an upward climb.

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

January has been pretty non-fiscal so far, BUT today I bought some shoes. When I noticed my very comfortable work shoes were falling apart, all I could find was some very high heels to replace them. I took the risk on the "these shoes are so comfy" reviews, though I Was skeptical. The kind of shoes I like and buy are way out of favor the last several years - can't find any in my size at a reasonable price.

Anyway, the super high heels are not too bad. Meaning, I can actually wear them. But I will go insane if those are the only shoes I have. SO, I checked online again today and thankfully found some flats and a low heel. Hallelujah! Everything was on sale, I found a 30%-off coupon in one minute, online, and delivered to store since that makes free delivery.

I went back and forth on buying the cutest boots, but with 30% off, they were only $21. So I did a $21 splurge on myself today. It's hard for me to splurge like that, right after the Christmas and Birthday binge. If it was July, I probably wouldn't have thought twice about it. But today I felt a lot of reservations. It seems silly as I type it out, since it was well below my monthly allowance limit! Frankly, I probably won't buy anything else for myself the next 3 months anyway. I usually don't shop much during tax season, and I don't really shop online much at all (except when I need something).

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

Tax season is well under way, one-day weekends for me for a while. I have no idea why, but I was the only one to show up to work today. It was very nice and quiet and I got a TON done. Everyone has been complaining about money (which is very unusual - accountants tend to be pretty conservative) so lord knows why I am the only one racking up the overtime. I also had a TON to do, but the financial incentive is extra nice. So I guess I was extra surprised that no one else seemed to take advantage. I am sure I will not be alone for long!

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

Oh, I did also redeem $50 on my Fidelity AmEx ($50 deposits to my ROTH). On the 4th, when the statement was ready and my points were available. Will be on average once a month now that I no longer have any other credit cards I am charging up for points.

I still have not been able to redeem my $250 AmEx reward. Of ALL the rewards cards I had this year, this is the only one that did not make my points available within a week of the credit card cycle closing. I am waiting for the second closing next week and will call if I still don't have those points. (They credited them to me with my last statement, but still says "pending," so I have been unable to redeem!)

Job Update, Depressing

January 4th, 2012 at 05:29 am

There has been a huge element of "Why Even Bother Looking for a Job" (in our house) with the hole in dh's resume AND the job market.

That is pretty much the feedback dh got.

I am not depressed just for him. Practically everyone I know is out of work right now. I am taken aback sometimes on the forums with the "People are just lazy there is plenty of work out there." I realize some of it is regional, but I know the unemployment is pretty terrible in the region I live in.

BUT, I had a couple of long-term unemployed stay-home mom type friends who were able to pick up seasonal work over the holidays (jobs my dh was turned down for before the economy went sour) so maybe I was getting a false sense of hope.

The depressing part? Big wig tells dh they had ONE THOUSAND applicants for a receptionist position, recently. I *knew* this I really did, but to hear those numbers on a personal level. It just made me sad for all of our friends and family out of work right now. That is hard to wrap your brain around.

That said, I am still excited for dh. Big Wig did give dh tips on his resume, and suggested dh talk to to one big wig - the one who happened to want to offer dh a job"if they could get the budget." I recognize that some of dh's standoffishness is his sense of this and the economy. IF they are laying off mostly now, etc., is not the time to really be pursuing a job. IT sounds like he probably should talk to this other guy about this position since the one he e-mailed is not really in that department (which I don't know any of this). BUT, I still think it was a good start because he was very friendly and helpful all the same.

The job will probably go to someone in the union, is what he said. & that dh's resume will go straight to the trash with no experience, probably. Since this is a little more specialized, probably won't get 1000 applicants, but will get many.

BUT, my dh still applied, and seemed very "It's not the end of the world" if I Don't get this job. He is simply so passionate about it. So I am still very proud of him, and kind of like, "WHO is this person?" Maybe next week he will slide into depression if they reject him. I don't know! For now, I don't know this person. Wink

For reference, when he asked the person in a similar position for help getting a job, 5 years ago, they sounded like there were a lot of full-time job opportunities available. Boy how times change, so quickly.

I've felt all along he'd probably have to go to school to get a fresh start on his resume. I mean a couple of thousand dollars at state to turn his film minor into a major - not the $50,000 trade school. Wink But who really wants to make that investment in this economy? If don't have to? Will probably wait for better timing. Re-affirming what we have already been thinking. OF course, the other avenue is getting an *in* by networking. But even that seems to be putting dh back to square one with the "no experience."

I also feel like my plan to get a low skill part-time job in the summer is insane. But I may still try. All you can do is TRY!

As dh said, "We are blessed to not need the job."

Last night I thought, "Someone may need this job to feed their family." Which just adds to the "depressing," but is the truth.

Batteries OUT

January 3rd, 2012 at 02:08 pm

**Yesterday I got my Thank You notes done. Phew! (Has got to be a record). I sent out the soccer photos I received VERY late, so killed two birds with one stone.

**I forgot to wear earrings today. DOH! Trying to break that habit! I went home for lunch and remembered to put some on. Tomorrow will try again...

**While home I noticed the "used battery" pile and decided to take them to the community center tonight for recycling, while I am there for my aerobics class. A good New Years task - I also grabbed the batteries at work - I have QUITE the pile to deliver.

**I keep trying evey year but it always gets too overwhelming to keep up with. Or I forget, etc., but I updated the old "New/Used/Free 2012" Page in my side bar. Trying to keep track what comes into the house and what goes out of the house. We certainly do not need more stuff, and helps me to remember to purge at least as much as we bring in. Batteries OUT is a good start. Haven't spent one penny this year yet. Er, dh did get groceries today, I guess. I don't count food and our toiletry purchases pretty much tend to be in the "need" category - "buy when we need," so I don't bother with those details. I suppose I count everything except the "constantly consumed." The "constantly consumed" never accumulates in our house - we don't stockpile, and I don't buy much but the basics. Maybe "never" is a strong word, but for the most part is true and is not useful for me to track (I am sure it would be useful to some).

More Limbo, etc.

January 2nd, 2012 at 09:29 am

I forgot to mention in my last New Years reflection post that my budget is entirely in limbo at the moment. Not sure what will happen with payroll tax holiday the rest of the year, not 100% sure refi will go smooth, and don't know if I get any raise this year, etc.

Anyway, once I get my salary figure in the next two weeks, I will revise the budget. Mostly not sure what I have to do with $70/month medical insurance increase. Usually raise barely covers it. At least once I get salary nailed down I can do a budget with current mortgage, and revise it if/when refinance finalizes.

If refinance goes well, my new mortgage goal will simply be to pay more principal than interest, on a monthly or annual basis. I don't even know if I care so much about any further paydown or my "mortgage free age 45" goal if we can immediately commit to paying down more principal than interest. I think I could be content with that, and obviously that would go a long ways to an aggressive payoff. With the refi, thing is I wouldn't have to commit as many resources to the mortgage as I was planning to, and will be paying it off faster! Woohoo!

Of course, payroll tax holiday will continue to go to mortgage. I am not spending it or anything, just need a plan B if I can't put that to mortgage all year.

I wasn't paying attention - our state disability payroll tax went down 0.2% for this year. Woohoo! How did I miss that? Will increase my paycheck by $10 per month. I'll take it!!

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

I got an enticing job offer today in my e-mail, from Liberty Tax Service:

"Be A Tax Animal," the e-mail subject said.

"Are you interested in working in an office where everyone is committed to your success? A place where the customers feel welcome? Were food and beverages are served and everyone is happy."

Well, why didn't you say so? Food and beverages served? Sign me up!

I mean, what the heck does that mean? LOL.

Anyway, I noticed the typo when I showed it to dh. Were food and beverage is served.

Too funny.

Where everyone is happy! The cheese is just too much with this statement.

I think I will keep my day job. Wink

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

Our neighbors had a New Years Day party, which was awesome. LOVE our neighbors.

This is dh and I: "So do not want to go to a big party, but will go for the kids. They will have fun."

In the end we had a GREAT time.

I figured something out too. There is this one woman friend of my neighbor who I just don't quite *get.* She is VERY nice. Too nice. I met her right after dh's brain surgery because took the kids to some party where I didn't really know anyone and she was very nice and talked to me quite a while. But she creeped me out a little bit because I didn't know her from Adam, but she sure seemed to know all about my husband and kids, etc. But balance that with the appreciation of someone being so nice and friendly to me when I didn't know anyone and just got my husband home from brain surgery. The creep factor was very small. Anyway, for the first time since always seeing her in passing, we had a really nice in-depth conversation. #1 - I REALLY like her. #2 - I think I kind of put my finger on some my reservations with her. Her and her husband look a fair amount older, and maybe just seem a little bit out of place. IT sounds terrible on some level because I sure as heck know a lot of older parents. It's not just the age. They just always seemed out of place to me, and that might just be some of it. But then I find out last night that neighbor's husband is 48. & so what dawned on me is that it sure as heck makes a lot of sense that they are friends. (Before, I didn't quite get their relationship?) Though my neighbor could easily pass as 20-something, she is 40-something, and apparently her husband is very near 50. The realization? Dh and I are the ones who are severely out of place! I find that funny. Which I think is one reason we get a lot of awe from a woman like her (which comes off a little creepy especially when you don't even know who the person is?). It's like 30 is the new 18. We are so YOUNG!! How did we do all this SO YOUNG!?! (I had kids at 27/29 - was hardly on the super young side, in my opinion).

But I suppose this is one reason why we like the group so much. I think we identify on a huge level with waiting and being emotionally and financially ready to have children. We just didn't have to wait so long to get to that point, ourselves. & I am only really realizing just how huge the age gap was there. I had no idea - everyone else generally looks so young.

So, from now on I will wonder who is wondering what the heck dh and I are doing there and wondering why *we* seem so out of place? LOL.

Anyway, found out this other family we know with kids the same age as ours, moved in behind us. Small World!

I LOVE my neighbor to death - but she is a beat down working mom who always just looks so exhausted. She put together this giant dinner for like 50 people yesterday and since all the kids are BOYS around here, let 15 or so rambunctious boys run through her house. Good for her - but I ain't going to do that. EVER!

So she mentions my wonderful next door neighbor and how we really need to get together on a monthly basis. Wonderful idea - just get something on the calendar. I thought she meant just the three of us, for dinner. So I offer to host. Then she starts mentioning the entire neighborhood. I am like, "Well, this was great, but it would have to be a potluck if I am hosting." & then I thought about it later and thought, "Yeah, I don't think so." The nice thing is during the summer we could just meet up at the pool and make it super casual. But I don't want all those boys in my house! So I am thinking of just inviting her and at most 2-3 other families end of this month, and just leave it like that. I was also thinking of another couple of families I would probably invite, anyway. I think if the core 3 of us want to do something like that, and we can invite whoever *we* want to, sounds like a good idea, but to have a "entire neighborhood" party every month is a bit much. So, will have to think on that. I think it's a great idea, but I know no one else I particularly interested in inviting the entire neighborhood to their house. Takes someone special. OR crazy!

New Years Resolution and More Medical Bills

January 1st, 2012 at 12:46 pm

Oh, I made a New Years Resolution after all!

Wear earrings EVERY SINGLE DAY! OF course, I don't really care if I fail, as long as I start wearing them more than once a month or something. Wink To start, it will be every day until becomes more habit.

I got some earrings for Christmas and a new earring holder. As I was going through some of them I honestly could not remember where some of these earrings even came from! & I always forget to wear them, I think largely because they are kept in the bedroom and dh is usually a sleep in there whenever I get up and dressed. SO, I may move the earrings into our closet just so I can flip on the light and look at them (closet is huge like a bedroom and plenty of room to set them up on a surface in there - is usually where I get dressed and ready for the day).

Anyway, I used to be the Queen of earrings, but kind of got past that as a broke college student. I have been buying more earrings again in recent years, but then I forget to wear them, which is stupid. So I can't buy any more until I start wearing them.

Also, my ears got really sensitive at some point - didn't used to be? But I know the trick now to coat them clear with nail polish - that way I can wear any kind. Sometimes the cheap ones don't bother me anyway - I just can never tell!

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

I looked at our net worth and expenses for the year (prior posts) and all that. I think I am done with most of that.

Today we are going to a New Years Day Party, and so I have to go pick out some earrings to wear. Woohoo. Big Grin

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

I feel lucky that our non-profit medical HMO is so simple. Beyond the deductible they pretty much just don't bill us for anything beyond very small co-pays. Before this HDHP/deductible thing, I NEVER got a bill outside of insurance and co-pays in the office.

SO, it is pretty obvious to me when the bills are incorrect. FIRST, they sent me a $1500 bill for dh when should have just been a $10 co-pay. We called and they said "nevermind - you owe $0." THEN yesterday I got the $10 bill. BUT, the problem is they messed up at the appointment and had charged him $50, which didn't even show up with all the adjustments on the bill. Kind of like, "x dollars billed for this, y dollars paid by insurance, $10 DUE." Okay, so where is my $50???

Will have to call them again next week. I believe I am due a $40 refund. & I would really like it back, soon!

See? At least this is SIMPLE. So simple I know that it is wrong.

With some of these health plans, lord knows what they are billing you and what's what!

This is the first mistake like this I have had with them, EVER. So, though I am annoyed, I figure, whatever. I think it stemmed from them rushing the bill out so fast. Usually I don't get these bills for MONTHS or YEARS. I got this one a week after dh's ultrasound. Rushed for whatever reason - I know now to be extra skeptical of FAST bills! That is what I have learned. IT takes them forever to sort out their red tape, it seems. I like that they usually leave us out of the red tape.

2011 Better than Expected, 2012 In Limbo

January 1st, 2012 at 10:10 am

Happy New Year everyone!

I updated my goals in my sidebar. Nothing really new or haven't already blogged about, so will leave it at that.

2011 was a GREAT YEAR! I wasn't so sure as it started out on a bad note with a cancer scare and thyroid surgery. But beyond my surgery in very early January 2011, everything from there on was "Better than Expected." We braced ourselves for another financial hit from surgery, and I pretty much felt 100% from the second I woke up from surgery!

Anyway, beyond all that, we made a killing in credit card rewards this year, so the common theme in 2011 seems to be, "That was way better than I expected!"

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

I am feeling extremely "meh" on the 2012 goal thing this year. Far more than usual. (I am usually pretty crabby about the idea there is anything magical about January 1 - I am more likely to make goals ANY time of year, when it makes sense). But, I usually play a long a wee bit more and don't mind taking the time to think about the upcoming year and what I want to accomplish.

I think a lot of it is that I just feel kind of in limbo. We have probably been in limbo for a little while, but it is very apparent as the year ends.

I have no idea what is going to happen to my job when my boss retires. Worse, everyone else I know in my field works a bajillion hours a week. I know that if I can't stay at current job (if he doesn't sell business or if I don't like new owner) that I would ideally like to seek our part-time and/or temp work. I don't mind working a bajillion hours a week for a short time to get somewhere. I certainly have before, but I refuse to live my life like that for the long run. I'd rather be a temp, honestly. Most part-timers I know in the industry work practically full-time anyway, so that wouldn't be a huge jump, if I got a job without enough hours. As a sole breadwinner though, it would have to be enough hours. Maybe I will work a bajillion hours until dh gets a job too. I was hoping he would be working so I could do the temp, part-time thing (which I don't expect would frankly pay a lot less, but would be a little less uncertain is all).

Dh is in limbo because he frankly has no clearer path today than he did 10 years ago. BUT, for today there is no pressing need for a second income, and I am sure I can find a good job if I tried. I have had several wonderful full-time jobs and though I know they are harder to find and I will have to prove myself all over again, I am sure there are other employers like my boss (& the prior one I had) out there who are AWESOME! Frankly I'd like to say I researched and took my time, but I generally just fell into each and every job. I do believe in trusting my gut though. I turned down several jobs when I took this one - AND the last one - the writing was on the wall when it came to work/life balance. & no one tells you "I don't expect you to work a ton of hours," if they don't mean it. Wink

Anyway, back to dh. We had a REALLY great year financially so it is hard to nag him on the job front. I also wonder from a discrimination standpoint if it would be easier for ME to find a part-time job to pick up some slack. He has certainly faced some serious discrimination and brick walls looking for the lowliest of part-time jobs. Meanwhile, several of my female mom friends seem to have no problem getting the same kind of work. I think working full-time, and being educated, is also a huge strike against ME, but am considering some part-time extra work in the summer to save up reserves for future job uncertainty. Nothing I would have bothered with small kids, but with them getting older I feel like I have infinite amounts of time that I didn't have a few years back. I always do good with a busy schedule, so I do not mind AT ALL. Dh's ego minds. IS the only problem. That and I can't take a very open job as preserving my first job is priority #1. I can't have my clients seeing me work at Target, or being a waitress.

Anyway, dh and I were talking about it yesterday. & I kind of realized some of the problem. He is working on some video/movie projects right now, and I give him that. But he was like, "well, summer isn't good because kids are home, and tax season sucks, I should really hit the pavement next August and find a job."

Ugh! August is fine from "I am in the middle of working on my DREAM" standpoint. But I feel like we had the same conversation last year. It will NEVER be a good time to get a second job. But down the road could certainly be a WORSE time if I have to prove myself to a new employer. Right now my schedule is extraordinarily flexible and I am sure we can make it work. SO, I am kind of stuck between trying to be respectful of dh's dreams and goals, while wondering if we are going to have the same conversation next year. I think I will probably leave it that I won't bring it up again until August, but then that is it. Tax season, summer, who cares?!?

Dh's mom was a teacher so though he was a latch key kid, probably at our kids' ages, his mom was ALWAYS home for summer, and he really struggles with that. I can't say I am much better - my mom never worked. BUT, summer break is only 2 months here, and they can spend some of that time at school daycare with their friends, some time spending the summer with family members (they could play merry go round at Grandma, Grandma, Great-Grandma, and two aunt's houses - they would LOVE it and I wouldn't worry about them - during the week. They did that during dh's surgery and still ask when they get to go stay with family again - they thought it was just a PARTY - would only be a couple of weeks out of the year). We have so many options. & I could always arrange my work schedule to pick them up every day after school, when school is in session, which is why I am not so worried about it. I had to remind dh that my work schedule is not set in stone and this is all pretty workable.

Of course, I always thought it was ridiculous to worry about dh starting his career over at 35 - I went to college with several people who were starting their careers at that age! But I do feel somewhat of a clock ticking - he turns 36 this month. Though financially we could probably be very fine waiting another few years to subject kids to the daycare merry go round, I am just not sure it really matters that much at this point or is worth pushing off dh's career start until 40+.

Dh and I agreed one of us should stay home with the kids *a few years* but boy *this* is not what I signed up for! But I totally relate to the mixed feelings after the luxury of not having to worry about ANY daycare for about 9 years.

So anyway, I come from a place of setting some very fierce goals, accomplishing them quickly, and enjoying the fruit of all that hard work. Then we kind of sat back and relaxed the last 9 years or so since I got pregnant with our first child. I think it just really hit me when we had our 10-year anniversary of our low-cost-of-living move, a couple of weeks back. Dh told me, "Guess I have been out of work about 10 years too." Slowing down to have kids has been the best thing we ever have done, no doubt. But it's been 10 years, and I feel antsy. & I don't really know what the future looks like. We've always planned everything out so much. I suppose I also come from a point of knowing that working really hard for the next 2 years or so can REALLY pay off for the 10 years that follow that. I Feel like it was really so little we did do to get to that point 10 years ago. But the economy sucks and I am watching our parents unable to find any work, and so all that just makes me feel anxious!!

Of course, to be clear, very part-time, side work (dh does well working nights, too), etc. is fine, but there just seems to be no jobs. I don't know if dh will find anything without diving head first back into school and/or career, and how much patience he has to be turned down for all that crap work anyway. He hasn't been given a chance for the same jobs he easily picked up in college - VERY frustrating. & he hasn't looked very seriously since about 2005. Meaning, I know it's only WORSE now - a LOT worse. But he has applied for a few jobs this year, even so - nothing has panned out.

It's not the first time I ever felt like this - not sure what our future holds. It's just been a LONG TIME. We have made our lives so steady and grounded for so long, it's hard to face change! I am sure it will all come together, for now I just have no idea how! I am revisiting feelings I haven't had since graduating college or getting engaged and deciding to get married, etc. When you just not sure what is best! We haven't made a lot of life decisions since moving here 10 years ago.