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Archive for March, 2012

Mega Winners

March 31st, 2012 at 08:58 pm

From a logical and practical standpoint, I have absolutely no use for several hundred million dollars. Apparently, I am alone in this sentiment. Probably comes largely from my line of work. {I've mentioned how people fight over the smallest amounts of money - it's just sad - I know life would never be the same if I had that kind of money - people treat you different - generally not nicely}. & did I mention the logistics?

OF course, If I was deep in debt or something, or unemployed, I am sure I may feel it was worth a shot!

Needless to say, I did not play.

BUT, I had to share that someone in our neighborhood apparently did win the $227k-ish prize. 5 out of 6? I wouldn't be surprised if it ends up being someone we know - is a pretty tight-knit community.

Will see!!! Someone bought the winning ticket at our grocery store. So unless they were just driving through... Will see if they release their name to the media, or speak about it around town.

Now, winning $227k sounds much more manageable and useful to me. Woohoo!!

So was anyone on SA the lucky BIG winner??? Wink

Baconator & Investment Taxes

March 29th, 2012 at 05:24 pm

**Is it weird that I am bummed that first mortgage payment is not due for another month?

I think I am just itchy to make first payment and to see how extra principal payments are handled. The CU website does not have a space to enter "extra principal" with payment, and I am not keen to revert to a paper and check method (I do have paper coupons). I think I will just make the paymnet and send an e-mail about the principal application. I can't be the only one online who wants to just pay it at the wesbite, without a paper check.

Anyway, it's probably best to replenish savings with next paycheck. April 16th should bring me some serious cash inflow. Or not. I need to wait for my overtime to be 100% sure how much I want to put to the mortgage, anyway.

**I am thinking a lot more about tax gain harvesting. I share in case you are not aware that the long term capital gains tax rate is 0% for "15% or lower" income tax brackets. {Expires this year? Maybe not expiring with all this election stuff?} I've got too many tax shelters to bother with taxable investments, so it doesn't mean much to me, but am thinking about it in term of kids' UGMAs and my folks (who have no income at the moment, but lots of investments). Regardless, I was also thinking this was an easy scheme to skirt around the kiddie tax. To harvest gains. If the stock market stays up like this... I googled a bit and apparently this is quite common. I just hadn't thought about it before. Will need to think about it more as the stock market performs well and their balances grow.

**So much of marketing is getting you to pay more for very similar products. (Or, allowing you to pay much less, if it means you wouldn't buy it otherwise - i.e. senior and student discounts. Better to sell at lower prices than not all, to certain demographics).

Funny experience today. Dh met me for lunch. I had $7 cash in my wallet, and wasn't so interested in eating out, as I just wanted a break from craziness at work (but no time for the usual drive home). So we go to the Wendy's across the street, and I just look at the Dollar Menu and get some junior bacon cheeseburger thing. & some value fries. Dh orders the Baconator! It came out to like $7. Neither of us eat there very much at all (once every couple of years?). I am a BK gal and he likes Carls Jr. So, we sit down to eat and dh looks at his very small burger, and looks at mine, and says, "What is the difference??" I said, "It looks like it has a thicker patty?" He didn't believe me, but I thought it looked very slightly more substantial. Though otherwise it was pretty identical. So he tells me, "I paid $4 for this thing!" I just had to laugh because though it was a perfect size for me, there was no way that little burger was going to hold him until dinner. He was thinking big giant Carls Jr. type burger, know what I mean?

So he did complain about it - they told him it had a "premium bun" (looked identical?), more bacon, extra cheese, and a bigger patty.

Pfffft...

I am sure all fast food chains have similarly priced type items. We just happened to order the budget-priced and the cadillac-priced version of the same thing. No discernable difference. We were both business majors (he majored in marketing), so there is nothing surprising about this. But I just thought it was funny. My dh was not amused!

Ah, I love the dollar menu!

I actually just noticed the other day that the BK shakes were almost $4 as well. I was thinking of getting one. I looked at the price and thought, "Like hell!" Their little fudge sundaes are $1. I figured the difference was negligible there, too.

Vacation Planning

March 24th, 2012 at 05:39 pm

**Tax season excepted (only 4 months of the year), I don't identify with a job tying me down. Of course, I am a happy weekend-vacationeer, so this could be much of they why. I could never see vacationing months of the year. I have no burning desire to see somewhere else for weeks or months of the year.

Anyway, I share, because I am severely limited by childrens' schooling and pets. Today has been a futile exercise in vacation planning. I mostly GIVE UP!

My job is the *least* of it, is all.

*sigh*

I was thinking I should book May vacation that I have been dreaming of for months. IT was just a weekend beach getaway, but I forgot about school. Dh is vehemently opposed to taking kids out of school on a Friday. So we fought about that this morning. {I just completely forgot about school - I can't wrap my brain around the kids having a schedule. I apparently still live the fantasy of their pre-school years - we got spoiled}.

In the end we compromised and came up with a grand vacation plan for the year.

Things discussed:

--Santa Cruz weekend in May (no time off school necessary - since is closer to home). He'd check with his mom for a free condo stay for 2 nights.

--Pismo Beach was put off to summer. I saw cheaper rates during the week, anyway, so felt this was a fair compromise. Maybe we could stay 3 nights, too.

--We decided we really need to go to Denver again to visit my Grandma. We decided to go without the kids this time. Basically just whenever I can snag a good airfare deal.

--We discussed doing road trip when kids have their week off in October. No firm decisions - either up north or down south or in the middle. But one problem we keep coming to is if we are doing all that driving we should "drop in on my Grandma." I think seeing her separately is a good idea - we don't need to *drive* all the way to Colorado. Just felt sort of obliged while "1/2 way there anyway."

--Of course, we didn't discuss any camping trips, but we have a few in the works.

Sound like a solid vacation plan?

Well, I priced Pismo Beach again after some miracle the stars aligned and my dad agreed with the only couple of days I felt would work for us during summer (we had wanted to go with my folks - it was dad's idea to begin with). Kids have such little time off and most of that time is booked already. Only problem was hotel was not available those days. ??? Good grief!!! I threw up my hands and at some point told my folks we should just go in November. They seemed open to that - so may be all that will work. Though I haven't ruled out just pulling the kids out of school one day. To be fair, most the summer rates were pretty high anyway. Apparently we have never been in summer - usually spring or fall - which is the best time to go, but cheaper since the tourists don't know that?? But anyway, the cheap summer day rates I saw were while the kids still have school. & on and on it goes...

At some point later in the day I realized there was no way we could do this road trip with my old/feeble, stressed out cat.

So, basically after talking about it and thinking about it all day, we give up.

I think I will just have to sleep on it, and try again tomorrow.

Or maybe not - I hate things that are overly complicated!

But hey, I wasn't planning to go to Colorado any time soon, when I woke up this morning. That one is easy because the kids can stay home and go to school. Thank you MIL! Dh is very sweet to worry so much about my Grandma. I suppose one good plan emerged today. I suppose we will also entertain the idea of a mini-road trip, sometime this year.

Double Dip - Take two

March 24th, 2012 at 05:16 pm

**Good Grief!

Dh got another credit card offer today. It was for a $500 reward from Citi. This makes it like the 10th Citi offer he has gotten in like the last 30 days - it has been absolutely ridiculous!!

Anyway, *this one* is the card he just closed a few months back. I think? Big Grin So I will again try the double dip.

It wasn't a spectacular offer in that it was a "spend $3000" offer - which I think is just the normal offer. Last time he only had to spend $1000 to earn $500. But, anyway, I will bump this one to the top of the list for two reasons:

1 - I am curious to try the double dip. & if he is denied, we can just move on to the next offer.

2 - Citi seems to like him and gave him extra rewards last time. So, hey, it's worth a shot. Might get more than $500 in the end.

No Double Dip

March 23rd, 2012 at 06:31 am

*Doh*

We didn't do a credit card double dip after all.

Just got dh's card and was linking it online, etc., when I noticed the new one is a "preferred" card and the old was was a "premier" card.

I found it quite odd they would invite him to re-open a card he very recently closed, but sometimes the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing, know what I mean?

The plan is to charge the next 2 months of health insurance, and about $400 in groceries, to get to our $2k limit. The less transactions to get there, the easier it is for me. I am no longer setting up these credit cards in Quicken, because it *never ends* and was really mucking it up. I will just break down the expenses when I pay the card, so "less transactions" is far easier to track and handle.

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In other fiscal chores, I officially applied for more life insurance. Still no decisions for the long run, but in the short run, my coverage is increased by 70%. Is enough to easily support the fam for 20 years and to pay off the house. Will see if I am approved, considering recent surgery.

When we first bought life insurance, the idea of using that money to pay off the house was absurd. (We could both easily pay the mortgage on our own, so why tie up all that cash?). But it is a more serious consideration with a long-term unemployed spouse and insane low interest rates (he couldn't possibly refinance if something happened to me, though the bank would want him to, and even if he could, lord knows where rates will be at that point in time). I am of the mind that *I* would probably downsize and keep a mortgage, if something happened to spouse. But I appreciate how dramatically things have changed since we signed those life insurance papers 10 years ago. Dh's life insurance is enough to pay off the mortgage, and have plenty left over, if that is the best choice. If I am unemployed or if interest rates are insane...

Of course, in the last 10 years we have only wiped out about $30,000 of mortgage debt. In the next 10 years I intend out to wipe out $100k - $200k (50% - 100% of remaining balance). Thanks to more income and less interest. So maybe the whole thing will be moot in a decade's time.

A Beautiful Sight!

March 22nd, 2012 at 08:57 am

Apparently our refinance was funded, because our old mortgage is showing as paid. (It probably funded Monday, but is just showing up online).

Better yet, when I logged into my CU account today, I saw the new mortgage there.

Talk about simplicity!

Now, what are the odds that they will keep the loan? Hmmmm...

Until and when/if things change, I will really enjoy the simplicity of just having our mortgage with our primary banking instutution.

I have a huge principal payment to make mid April, so it will be a good test. As is, it wasn't "100% set up" yet so I couldn't check out the "extra principal" interface. Though I could send a payment today if I wanted to (for however much I wanted to pay). So, that is good.

I was only going to send about $400 of my bonus to principal - first payment due - but that would make it a $1000+ principal payment. Holy low interest!

This & That

March 18th, 2012 at 09:28 am

**Dh was out of town for the weekend, so we decided to be lazy and order in pizza (he doesn't much care for our pizza choice - plain old pepperoni - so when the kids mentioned I thought it sounded good).

Then I picked up sushi on a whim - our grocery store has fresh sushi - so yummy!!!

It actually worked. New tradition? LOL. Though we'd have to buy twice as much sushi if we got some for dh. It went in a flash.

The pizza place is just down the street, by the grocery store, so we picked it all up. I suppose we could have been a lot lazier and less frugal by having it delivered.

Oh but I did order the pizza online - I loved that!

**Tax season has been a typical low spend/high income time of year for us. It's always a nice start to the year. I've got 6 more weeks of *busy* to go, though maybe only 4 more Saturdays. Will see...

Only four more weekends? I think it will go by in a flash.

In the grand scheme of things, plenty busy, but seems a low-stress, "things going smooth" kind of tax season. Which is good, because not sure how I would survive otherwise. VERY busy!

**We've made no big plans for the year yet. I suppose we will see how things shake out after April, financially.

We do have a beach weekend planned in May (very excited!)

In June, my sister is visiting, my folks have their 40th anniversary, and we have family camp the week after that. So, that will be a busy couple of weeks.

We keep talking Grand Canyon - I've never been - so maybe this year should be the year. We have absolutely no plans otherwise, but we'd all be content just to stay home and go nowhere. Which is a very likely option. (Excepting camping trips, hikes and beach visits of a local nature - plenty to keep us very content in our own backyard).

**Oh yeah - I went to Target to return some pants that were way too big for BM. Holy heck - what a zoo! Thankfully the return line was short and sweet. Dh later told me, "I could have done that for you." Really I should have had him do it - not sure what I was thinking. Target on a Saturday? I guess I was thinking, "I will just stop by on my way home some day - save some gas." I suppose I usually hit Target early in the morning - then no one is there. So I found it shocking.

My First Double Dip

March 15th, 2012 at 07:28 am

It's clear from some of the other blogs that focus on credit card rewards, that many people apply for the same cards over and over and over.

I don't think it is anything we have ever done. I don't think either of us has ever had the same credit card twice.

Anyway, with the refi done, I closed my last one-time credit card from last year. & so we begin anew. {I honestly don't think any of this would have affected our credit score in a way to hamper the refinance, but we did want to just be on the super safe side. A lower interest rate on our only debt was a FAR higher priority than these rewards!}.

I had three cards on my peripheral, and they would all have to be applied by dh. So, I think we will stay on a "one at a time" plan.

Our health insurance is about $800/month, so it is very easy to meet these minimums, with little effort or purchasing. We just put it on the credit cards.

The three cards?

1 - When I closed my AmEx Gold Premier, I noticed they were advertising $250 rewards to the general public. Dh had not had this card.

2 - I recently noticed Chase Sapphire had a decent reward (it was long enough ago I don't remember the details). Dh had not had this card.

3 - Citi still LOVES dh and sent him a direct mail offer for a card he just opened and closed recently. Citi Thank You. Spend $2,000, get $250. No annual fee.

So I started with #3. The offer would no doubt expire at some point, AND I expected him to maybe be rejected once he applied, anyway. Finally, amazon gift cards are the primary award we redeemed with this one. So, I think that is the best reward anyway.

I applied online today, and he was instantly approved.

They *really* want his business. They offered him all sorts of rewards to keep his account open "a little while longer" last time. So if we go through the same thing again, the reward potential is higher. On the flip side, there is absolutely no motivation for us to keep this credit card, beyond the one-time rewards. So apparently they want to keep trying, but I don't feel very enticed. Wink

The Plan Takes Shape...

March 14th, 2012 at 12:55 pm

**Tonight I really need to buckle down and pick our next credit card reward. & get signed up. Back in the game!

**I sat down and worked mortgage numbers on the new mortgage loan.

We will continue to pay old payment, and only need an extra $400 (one-time) to "pay more principal than interest" on the new loan this year. Consider it done - our first payment will be $1,000+ to principal.

Our secondary goal is to pay off $10,000 per year. IT took so long to finish the refinance, that I am just making that a fiscal year goal. IT doesn't really matter either way because will likely pay off $100k in less than 10 years anyway. Since I just paid a couple of thousand of refinance costs, I am happy to leave any *extra* payments beyond what we have been paying anyway, to our 12th payment on this mortgage. It still basically achieves our goal, but works much better with our cash flow to put it off a few months from our original plan. I had hoped to be there by December 31, but April 30th sounds just dandy to me!

**Which leaves our IRAs. I maxed them out today - for 2011.

This is not a goal we have achieved much in our young lives, because usually our IRAs are more *gravy* in addition to more substantial retirement plans. But we are now "plan-less" and it's all we got.

So, is deifnitiely way more of a priority these days.

Since I do not need any more cash to achieve our mortgage goals the next 11 months or so, our primary savings goal at this point is to max out our IRAs on a calendar years basis. I could achieve it today - I could probably moreso achieve it after April 15th. (Meaning, could add another $2500 or so to put us on a calendar year schedule). BUT, for now I am just going to hold on until December. A lot of stuff in our house has been breaking, and I feel it is going to be one of *those* years. If things settle down, or we receive unexpected money, this is our #1 new goal to achieve for 2012.

Smart Phones in our Future?

March 12th, 2012 at 07:03 am

Check this out:

https://ting.com/why-ting/

For reference, we pay $55/month for our dumb phones, and I refuse to pay extra for texting, on principal. The prices are such a rip.

I felt the same way when cell phones first came out. We waited a *long* time to get phones.

Even with our $55/month cell phone plan, I am not overly thrilled with it. IT works for us because we never go over our minutes or anything like that. They are just waiting for you to slip up once and POUNCE!! It's not an industry I am thrilled to support.

So *this* is what we have been waiting for.

I don't think we will sign up tomorrow or anything, but I think it's long overdue to get a company that is going to stick it to the big monopolies in this way. I am excited to see it! Competition is sure to follow. I just think it's a good sign.

I am sure we will be early adopters compared to many of you - we live in tech central and are very techie, so would like to jump on the bandwagon. Just don't want to go broke doing so.

It's the most wonderful time of the year

March 11th, 2012 at 05:19 pm

**LOVE** Daylight Savings. Actually, it totally snuck up on me.

Dh is grumpy because he hates it (just picture him as a vampire - not more light! Not waking up earlier!!!).

I could do with daylight savings replacing regular time (& skipping all this back and forth). But, in the grand scheme of things, it doesn't bother me.

**I finished Grandma's taxes. & that's a wrap! Still waiting for a couple of things for my folks, but theirs' is mostly done. That's all the charity tax work I can squeeze out, but it seemed to go pretty fast this year.

I still don't know if in-laws did their taxes. I still think they will be surprised by how high their taxes will be in retirement. I am sure we will talk about it later.

**Reminds me, dh's sister got a job. She got laid off about a year ago, and wasn't even looking for a job. {I know - know one wants to hear about it! Jobs falling from the sky? Rolleyes }

Dh's family is no more a pile of deadbeats. I guess mine isn't either since my sister is gainfully employed now too. Wink

Actually, our families are good savers, and everyone dealt with unemployment just fine. There was just a time in there where *everyone* was unemployed.

**I got some chores done this weekend. First haircut in ages. Have to cut LM's hair a bit. Got some groceries while I Was out (ran out of cat food). Updated my credit card at the gym. Stuff I have been far too lazy to do!

Of course, I forgot I had a Target return. Tempted to run out and just do it, but think I will just do it on the way home some day, to save gas.

**Dh is making a wonderful greek chicken dish in the crockpot. Smells divine!

Oh - the dish was chosen because we had leftover potatoes from corn beef and cabbage night. A frugal choice to use up items on hand.

http://www.tasteofhome.com/Recipes/Greek-Chicken-Dinner-2

Quicken

March 10th, 2012 at 04:05 pm

This is too funny - I swear I was posting this before Looking Forward. Hehe. I didn't copy!

I don't know why loan and title companies are always SO AGGRAVATING!!! AAAARRRGGGGHHHH!

Anyway, supposedly we sign Monday, for refinance. EXCEPT they called dh and told him to get a cashier's check for like $4700. Problem was they told me $3200. & really? A cashier's check? Since When?!? I guess it's no biggie, just not sure I have ever needed one before. Probably when we bought and came to the table with $50k-$70k. But otherwise? For a few thousand dollars for a refi? Rolleyes

No one told me any of this until after 5:00 Friday and so I am SO AGGRAVATED. I think it is just an impound thing though - they *never* seem to get that right! {No impounds - I only told them 100 times, due to past experiences, and paid my property taxes early so they wouldn't touch them!}.

Crossing my fingers we can get this straightened out first thing Monday, and can still sign Monday. I don't have $4700, but maybe that is for the best - forces them to fix it on their end. I decided if dh deposited all our cash Monday, we might barely come up with the amount they asked for. {Just thinking worst case though I *know* we do not owe that much for the refi}.

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Thank goodness for Quicken! I enter all my bills and income in there about a month ahead, sometimes two months. Then I shift things around, utilizing float, in situations like that. I had to play with Quicken last night to determine how much cash I could part from checking account, and for how long.

Meanwhile, with all this money in/out in/out from savings for property taxes, new appliances, refinance costs, on and on and on, I really have no idea how I would manage it otherwise. Quicken doesn't make math mistakes. & it is so much easier to deal with than Excel. Paper would be a nightmare. (I don't do paper and pencil accounting at work because it isn't very efficient, so guess I feel the same way at home). To be fair, I use excel in conjunction with Quicken - the excel part is just pretty simple.

Between Quicken and an excel sheet that I use, I know precisely where I stand!!

So, once I get this *real* number, I can update my Quicken and see where we are at - will take about 5 seconds.

I couldn't function without Quicken right now - I would be going bonkers!! It's also been very helpful with the credit card rewards and such.

If this refinance ever ends maybe I can be done with all this financial juggling. It's been non-stop since all those credit card rewards started last summer. On and on and on. Pay this big bill early for that reward, and stuff like that...

You'll have to pinch me

March 8th, 2012 at 09:56 pm

I think I am still in shock over this refinance. I still don't believe the numbers.

Last time we refied I was over the moon. For reference, when I shopped studio apartments in my early 20s, there was nothing decent under $1200/month or so. So, to refi down to almost $1100/month struck me as absurd (we live in a luxurious home).

This time, I just can't even think about it until it is final. $950. You know how many people I know our age in California who have a $950/month mortgage and an under $200k balance. Um, no one???

You will have to pinch me.

Looks like we will sign next week. I can't think too much about it until then. I keep literally dreaming it was all a mistake and it doesn't go through. It's this "too good to be true" feeling.

Once it finalizes I will be keeping 10-15 year loan rates in my peripheral. I really do not want to refinance again. Really! But, if we can pay down a chunk, I will be open to it. Right now I'd do it at $180k loan balance. & I keep hearing rates may drop even lower. So, if they do, I just want to keep my eyes open and be ready to run the numbers.

The economy sucks eggs, we all know, but it's nice to take advantage of the one silver lining. This is the only silver lining I see economically, these days. & I am hoping to eventually end up with 2.5% or 3% loan. (Though, don't get me wrong - NO complaints about 4% - even that is unreal).

Of course, you see it in the blogs - all these people who will be debt free in their 30s, etc., with these refinances. Crazy times...

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Other than that, we already got our dishwasher rebate. Holy cow!!

I mailed it in around the 23rd of Feb., and it was supposed to take 8-12 weeks. So that was a nice surprise! Got it before I even paid for the dishwasher. Woohoo.

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We should close next week on refi, and I went ahead and paid the property taxes early. SO, cash flow is not good for rest of month. IRS payment and IRA contributions are all on hold until April 1 pay day. (All the bills are paid and we card everything, but just annoyed I can't pay the IRS and fund the IRAs, and all that stuff, until April. It would all be done, otherwise).

I'll pay off the credit card next week - get all these big purchases paid off.

I ended up spending $5,000 of our savings this year already - shakes out to about $2000 in home repairs, $2000 for refi costs, $500 due to IRS and diverted $500 to IRAs. Ugh. I should just be relieved we didn't need any cash to keep 20% equity for refi. I am very relieved about that - it would have been worth it, but glad I can keep the rest of my cash. For now. I'll probably get $4k-ish back in April (overtime) and from there I look forward to some forward progress. {I'd even be fine with some treading water}.

I think heavy investors often picture cash as stagnant and worthless. I think this may illustrate why I find cash useful. Stagnant? Ha. It constantly ebbs and flows. Just to be clear I am not endlessly stockpiling cash for no reason. IT comes and goes, and I am always saving for that reason.

Fingers Crossed

March 6th, 2012 at 12:58 pm

**Fingers crossed that we made it through the bottle neck. Loan lady told me we close within a week, assuming all goes well (which should because as she said, "your loan was so clean and easy - I don't foresee any issues.").

I think next week is the busiest week we have had in a lONG time - so it figures we now have to squeeze in a loan signing too. Rolleyes It seemed kind of obvious that would be when it happens, but I really didn't expect it to go through so fast. (Of course - so not holding my breath, either...).

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**Concert last night was awesome.

It was so funny because I was mentally gearing up for all the smoke, drunk people, late night, etc. {Thinking I am getting old for this. Not *too old* - but old - I don't think I have been to a concert in a few years, and certainly not a night club type concert in many years. Outside a few no-name bands where there is no crowd - have several friends who play in bands - usually no one shows up to their shows. Wink }. But this place was REALLY nice. I know smoking was banned indoors ages ago but doesn't mean you don't get a heavy dose of weed and cigarette smoke every time you do to see a band indoors.

So, we get there and it's a lounge with a few tables scattered around. We see an empty table right to the side of the stage and take it (Figure either no one wants to be off to the side, or more likely no one saw the table, because it was close to a pillar which was blocking the view of the table). So we got there early enough to snatch the table, and I was relieved I didn't have to stand for 4 hours.

Oh, it gets better. So there is like a good five feet between us and the stage, and I kid you not, all night people would kind of wander over and be in our way, and then they would notice us, get apologetic and get out of the way.

Then they wrapped up at 11:30 and it took us like 5 minutes to get home.

& I didn't smell any smoke whatsoever - after 4 hours of sitting in the club. What the heck??

We are so going to become regulars at that club, I can tell you that. It was so much nicer than I expected. I don't know if they had some noise curfew or what - 11:30 seemed awfully early compared to what we expected.

& the bands were GREAT - so was a good show.

Anyway, I told dh, "have we just never gone to any clubs around here?" Since when were grungey concert goers so polite? What the heck? *I* would have stood in front of those lame people sitting in the back. LOL. I mean, unless we had like a weelchair, I think it's fine to expect people in the back to stand up if they want to see. Especially if there are only a handful of seats, anyway. It was a "standing up" concert, for the most part.

So, not only did we have seats, we had "right in front of the stage/awesome view" seats. Big Grin

We got free parking, and I bought a $2 soda to help me stay awake.

Definitely a very nice date with the hub! Reminded us of our youth, somewhat. But getting older, I really appreciated how nice the venue was.

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**Dh's folks came up to babysit the kids, so we did corn beef and cabbage for dinner (a little early for St. Patty's Day). It was funny though because dh wanted to make it with company so we wouldn't have piles and piles of leftovers, and the tradition is his parents usually cook it anyway. BUT, the in-laws ate like birds and there was not one drop of food leftover.

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**On the strictly financial front**

--Told dh I was thinking of updating my crappy stock car stereo with so many major financial goals met this year and some extra money in the bank. But what I primarily wanted was the ability to play my MP3 player. (Extra so, since my single CD player doesn't work well at all, lately). So he found an adapter I can plug into the cigarette lighter for $16. In fact, it was free because he had a $20 credit at Amazon (from other purchases/deals). I think that solves that!!

--Transferred $50 to my ROTH today - credit card rewards. Will definitely have another $50 on April 1.

--Bought two pairs of pants for work - Kohls online - free with credit card rewards. OF course, got some coupons, free shipping, on and on and on. I had gotten a *Really nice* pair of pants a while back so decided to buy a couple more - luckily they were on sale.

--I've still got about $50 Kohls and $50 Barnes and Noble rewards leftover from last year's credit card reward bonanza.

Busy 2 Weeks

March 5th, 2012 at 01:34 pm

**I mostly feel in limbo, which is primarily why I haven't been too bloggy.

Waiting for refinance to finish (will it ever???)

& should get paid overtime mid April. So can see where our cash balance shakes out. (We met some long-term cash balance goal at 12/31, but so many expenses this time of year - plus some home improvements, etc.).

Ideally we can greet May with a three-figure monthly mortgage payment, and a hefty savings account, and maxing out IRAs. At which point we are going to seriously sit down and discuss some priorities with how to move forward (I may have 20 competing ideas/goals, so it is a little over-whelming. Little things we have put off too long - $100 here and there that I think we can justify now - always the usual medical, vet, orthodontia bills to consider - as well as bigger long-term financial goals).

Work is too busy to focus on much else, so I guess I would be happy if refinance shakes out by April 15th.

Then I can see where we are at, and move on.

On the refi front, I was assigned a new loan processor (after much complaining), who was very responsive, and then just disappeared off the face of the eart. Rolleyes I also got a direct mail advert from a company who said to call even if we were *in the middle of a refinance.* I am thinking I might give them a call. Last broker was great, but just isn't offering the best fees/rates. Sure, you get what you pay for. But at the end of the day, if *this* loan ever closes, I really won't care about the hassle - I will have gotten the best rate. I just worry too much that this will never close. Aaarrrgggghhh. I am not feeling I want to go with last broker, even if I know it will go smooth. The rate just isn't good enough... His sale is "pay no fees/higher rate so you can just refinance later." I told him I don't want to refinance later - so we disconnect there. He might reconsider knowing I literally went elsewhere, though, so maybe I should just call him and grovel. He's always in the back of my mind for a smooth/fast refinance. I just expected more from my credit union. *Sigh*

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Tonight dh and I are going to a concert. We used to go to concerts all the time, then prices got insane.

We were both delighting in the reasonableness of this concert. (Blitzen Trapper). Which is why I would tell you we are going.

It hit me this week that this was a milestone for dh. He has been so down on concerts since losing hearing in one ear (brain tumor). I think what happened was he had some hearing problems in other ear last year, and the hearing test tech sensing his distress reminded him that all he will need is a hearing aid to restore hearing in the deaf ear, for the long run as technology is going. There is already one that would work for him. It's crazy expensive and not worthwhile, now. But it reminds him he can enjoy a concert and not worry about being 100% deaf in his old age. Which has been a worry for him, at times. He is super sensitive about preserving the hearing in the other ear, that is for sure.

So, I think this is a good step - you got to just get out and live a little. I am so happy to see him looking forward to a really loud indoor concert! Big Grin Music and movies - those are his passion - so this is a really good thing.

How do I feel about staying up 4-5 hours past my bedtime on March 5? Taxes out my ears? Not thrilled, but happy for dh. I don't think I really know any of their music, either. But I can appreciate a good concert, so I am sure I will enjoy.

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Next two weeks are busy!

**LM starts piano lessons.

I am not sure how I feel about this. MIL wants to pay. Dh is pushing it. LM is very musical and will love it for the long run. But he is reluctant and I worry about pushing it too soon. Then again, the whole thing for me is wanting the kids to have a music foundation so they can play any instrument later, if they choose. I taught, and it is virtually *impossible* to teach adults music. It's so much easier when the brain is young. So, we might have just had to push it in a couple of years anyway (he is a person who will be musical, whether he admits it now or not). Dh is good at that stuff - glad he is handling it.

The other thing is BM is doing more of a classical/traditional training. I don't know if that will be best for LM. But I do want him to learn to read notes/basics. I will be searching out more improvisational type teachers I am sure, for the long run. BM and I are more classical/by the book types. LM will be a "play it by ear/creative" type, for sure. He's got clearly a natural talent for music. He is too young to know what he wants. He is 6 & 1/2. The kids' piano teacher was a 1st grade school teacher though, so I think she's a good place to start.

**Parent/teacher conferences next week

**Kids have dentist appointments

**I felt like odds were that refi would close next week. Probably too early, BUT, my calendar looks insane next week. So, seems when it would happen. Wink I've we got various appointments every day.

**Dh made an appointment with a local dentist. I've been in denial since my lifelong dentist retired. I've tried a couple of dentists up here in the past - SO SCAMMY. Wanted to bill me thousands of dollars for work I clearly did not need. (A decade later, teeth are as perfect as always - without said work). Anyway, I sent dh to test out this guy. I googled "conservative/honest dentist" and this is all I Can find. My friends all have dentists of the scammy variety. The ones I saw came highly recommended! Ugh! Thank goodness for google. Anyway, IT's been a year since we had our teeth cleaned, and it is starting to drive me nuts. Dh can't be seen for another 6 weeks or so. I need to call and book an appointment. I can cancel it if his appointment goes bad, but I don't know if I can wait until June. I've never missed a 6-month-checkup in my life - it's time to get a good cleaning and polish in. *Fingers crossed*

I'll probably have a cavity or something for my extreme denial - should have done this in the summer. I have just been dreading, and kind of hoping my parents found someone good. {They haven't, and are in the same boat}. Since we kept a dentist 100 miles away for so long, I would do it again for someone honest. We are lucky we found a good dentist situation for the kids. We should actually ask them for a recommendation too, when we see them next week. They are pediatric dentists, so won't work for us! I don't know how on earth we lucked into that situation. IT's been perfect for BM and retired dentist approves of their work thus far. BM has needed a lot of work - he inherited the worst from both of us though - so it's no surprise and we have always had a solid second opinion.

If nothing else, dh has a dentist friend who was appalled at the scammy dentists I saw about a decade ago. We may end up going to him if we can't find someone more local. We went to him for a third opinion at that time. Heck, maybe he knows a good dentist who has moved to Sacramento - we should probably ask. Odds would be good - people always moving up here.

Progress & 50/50

March 1st, 2012 at 08:00 pm

**It's hard to imagine being squeaky is helping at all, but when I asked what the hell was going on with my refi, I Was assigned to someone else (though not given any sort of date).

She e-mailed me the next day (today) and asked for everything all over again. Unfortunately, I had everything but my last pay stub (which I eventually found at home though sent an urgent e-mail to my boss to ask for it, just in case).

I sent her everything else within minutes of getting her e-mail. I don't know if this is progress? OR starting from square one.

I imagine if I hadn't been so squeaky no one would be looking at my file right now. Which is sad because it's been about 90 days since I Was approved.

I think we are used to being at the front of the pack because we are so *easy* but I think the problem is people have so many pressing real estate problems that we just got pushed aside, this time. That's all I can figure.

Yeah, I will be badgering this person far more than I did the last.

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We also got our new garage door opener today.

When all was said and done we paid close to $750 for the opener and installation, all new parts, etc. Replaced everything but the door? I had asked my dad for an opinion if we should fix it or replace it, a while ago. He said: "replace before it breaks." So when the guy came today and said we should really spend $400 replacing this and that, dh called my dad and discussed it with him. My dad approved, and he is cheap and skeptical as hell, so that pretty much says everything there is about that.

Then the guy tried to sell dh a $1500 garage door. LOL. Because the thing is, the opener is a lot quieter, but the door is dang loud. BUT, I notice a substantial difference. It's fine. & of course dh was, "Like hell I am going to spend $1500 to replace a perfectly good door." I am of the same mind...

I was extraordinarily blase about this whole thing. I Was thinking maybe we should have just asked our neighbor to install it. But the problem is he refuses to really charge us anything (though he is looking for handy work) and then I feel bad. So my attitude was, well, we paid about $30 to fix our gutters last year (neighbor), and we paid $750 for all this. Guess it evens out. Though I much rather have paid all that money to our neighbor.

& I am well aware we spent a little more for speed and convenience and not having to dig through the internet searching for recommendations, licenses and BBB reports. We just went with Sears. I suppose we had the luxury because I spent the last few major maintenance times doing all that due diligence and getting rock bottom deals. This was *it's the middle of tax season - I am paying more just to get it done!*

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Dh and I watched 50/50 last night.

It's about a very young guy with spinal cancer. We had seen the trailer what felt like not too long after dh's brain surgery. We went to the movies and that was they joy we get to watch? I had absolutely no desire to watch it - way too close to home. {In fact, I had recalled it was about a brain tumor - I recalled wrong}.

So, it came out on Blu Ray recently and dh mentioned it. I said, you know, I think I can handle it now. I don't think I could have watched it last year.

So, we watched it. I have mixed feelings on it. Extraordinarily well done. & though it was about cancer, we could so identify with the story line on so many levels.

On the flip side, it was kind of crude and they had this whole like American Pie side story. We were trying to watch it with the kids around and the language was just filthy. I decided we couldn't recommend it to our parents. So, for that, it was a shame.

But the lead actor was *excellent.* Watch him, ignore the rest, and you have an excellent movie.

The take away? You go through something like that - you know who your true friends are. Amen.