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Archive for July, 2012

This & That

July 25th, 2012 at 01:43 pm

**Our new mortgage took several months to show up on our credit report (post refi). In the meantime, our credit scores have taken a bit of a dive. Lending heavily to my theory that our mortgage seems to be most of our credit score (having a mix of account types; maybe extra so for us since we don't have other types of loans beyond credit cards). Of course, we are still 740+ - most of that coming from 100% on-time payments. We kind of do everything else "wrong," but can usually boast 780+ regardless.

Anyway, I noticed the mortgage showing up and our scores still lower than I have ever seen them. But I figure it will work itself out quickly, so went ahead and closed 4 credit cards. I don't like the hassle of all these unused/open credit cards so don't want to wait any longer. We are holding off on any new one-time rewards until our FICO scores rebound. So that round is done and we won't be applying for more cards for another month or two.

I didn't have to ask - Citi gave us a pro-rated refund of annual fee. YAY! (This seems the industry standard to just refund it).

**My ROTH transfer is complete and so we have greatly simplified our retirement holdings.

I am not feeling the pinch losing 10% of my compensation (was full "retirement match") because I also lost all the fees and expenses that came with that. IT's been about 2 years since I have received a contribution (Final 2009 contribution was received late 2010). & no doubt we have scrambled to max out our ROTHs since then. But, I had no choice in the work retirement investments and they were invested very conservatively. I feel like I have closed most the gap contributing more, avoiding fees, and investing more appropriately for *my* age. IT kind of boggles the mind. Anyway, we are now heavy in admiral shares at Vanguard - which means the fees really can't get any lower than that. I keep reading that fees are a huge indicator of retirement saving success. I am clearly seeing why.

**On the retail front I found a nice hike with some swimming holes and thought to myself that I probably should get a 2-piece swimming suit. I checked my allowance status (though obviously I could put this as a "need" of sorts). I just wanted to see where I stood on my spending for the year. The last 3.5 months or so I have bought zero. zilch. nada. Not even any credit card rewards purchase of late.

I am not sure if I am just that *content* or if I am subconsciously hoarding up money for our Orlando trip. Probably a little of both. The credit card rewards have really allowed us to catch up with everyday purchases around the house. But I do generally allow myself a *little* retail therapy. Just haven't needed it, I guess.

I suppose I can splurge on a new suit!

**Saving for Florida (foregoing our usualy staycations) has been *no big.* We managed an amusement park trip anyway, and summer flew by for the kids (school starts in just 2 weeks). We've kept really busy with birthdays and people visiting us from out of town. I think we have room in the budget for a camping trip and a trip or two to the beach (basically just gas for expenses). Kids are also being kept occupied by playdates.

I underestimated how occupied and content we'd be with a -$0- vacation budget this summer. & I also didn't realize how much we'd be catching up with friends and family from across the globe, here at home. They did make it easier.

**On the *BIG* purchases, all I Received was a $200 bill for dh's MRI. They usually bill $1000-ish. I have no idea what this means. I was initially concerned this was only for the IV (because they insisted on using an IV, and all I could see was $$$$ when dh told me that - he said it wasn't very helpful just took more time in the end. They usually just give you a shot of contrast dye). Anyway, but when I got the final bill it looked like it was more for the MRI than anything else. SO, fingers crossed??Especially since this is an infinite annual purchase for our future?

If by some miracle we don't max our deductible this year, that money is going to the mortgage. I won't hold my breath. Wink

**The Big Picture?

Feeling really *caught up* financially.

Savings level and savings pace is reaching our coveted pre-kid/2-income savings baseline. Basically there. It's not particularly apples to oranges as we aren't grossing near what we were last we both worked, but our take-home is probably there (we pay a LOT less in taxes). Our health insurance cost about 10 times what it did a decade ago, but we also have several sources of other income lately. (For example, credit card rewards have been fruitful and tax-free).

Success!!

I am just talking shorter-term type savings. I could keep a steady retirement savings clip and stay out of debt, but it's the middle stuff like paying extra on the mortgage and saving to replace our cars that has been difficult on one-income. I am feeling much more confident with these mid-range goals today.

Not Much to Report

July 20th, 2012 at 11:49 pm

Just kind of busy here, but "good busy."

I also read like 4 books in the last week - so no doubt I have been reading more than blogging.

Of note?

I read the Jaycee Dugard memoir (the woman who was kidnapped for almost 20 years?). I actually highly recommend it. It showed up on a list of "People who like this book liked these books" kind of thing. My first reactions was, "No thanks," but I looked at the reviews and it enticed me. An AMAZING PERSON. She did not dwell too long on the horror of it all, and so was actually a very inspiring book. I suppose it depends on how much of a stomach you have for the horrible parts. I thought it was good middle ground (I have no doubt she left out a lot of gory details). A lot of the reviews were "She held back too much" or the opposite opinion of, "Way too graphic." I personally felt it was good middle ground. Obviously you'd expect the book to be a little graphic.

I am right now reading:

The Floor of Heaven: A True Tale of the Last Frontier and the Yukon Gold Rush

REALLY Good!

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The kids were spoiled rotten for their birthdays and then they pooled their money to buy some software. Well, problem is they need a better monitor for this program. SO, we decided to spoil them some more and get a new monitor. Was about $100, and replaced some ancient montrosity left over from our own childhoods. That's two monitors down and one more to go? Dh thinks the one we have left is the oldest (20+ years - but is rarely used these days). It's nice to replace big/heavy/energy draining technology with smaller/lighter/nicer/energy efficient.

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Maybe this weekend I can get around to a financial update...

STUFF - Take 2

July 15th, 2012 at 06:42 pm

UGH! I can't believe my post just disappeared!! I had put a lot of thought into my post, so I am really annoyed. I usually save every few minutes as I type, so once I saw it totally disappeared I had to walk away for a while. (Not sure how THAT happened!)

Okay, take two!!

I also can't believe I haven't posted in like a week! It's just been busy busy here with kids' birthdays and such.

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SO, as you know by now, I attended an SA meetup on Friday.

Like Ray, I felt like I was catching up with old friends. Really dear friends. I didn't expect that at all - but I guess we have come to know each other really well over the years. & certainly no lack of things to talk about!

What is nice is that I had already met Laura and had an idea what some of the others looked like (from Facebook photos and such). I think it's probably kind of overwhelming to wrap your brain around meeting five faceless people, otherwise!!

Anyway, we had a blast!

Purge

July 9th, 2012 at 02:13 pm

This weekend we should really go through the kids' toys and purge. We try to do it once a year around their birthdays (out with the old and in with the new).

BM outgrew carseats entirely last year (woohoo!). BUT, for whatever reason we still have two boosters in each car. A simple one and a more fancy one with a back and a headrest, per car. I think we have kept it for friends, cousins, and just to be on the safe side. But LM has been outgrowing the more baby booster seat (though enjoys it for long rides because it has a head rest and is easy to sleep in). He needs the "big boy booster" another year, due to new laws - otherwise we would be done.

SO, with his birthday coming up we decided to pull those out of the car. We will get an easy $20 or $30 each for those carseats - a nice haul. We still have one seat in each car so gives us options if we need a second seat ever. The van also has built-in carseats (I LOVE that!!).

Sales + Great Party

July 8th, 2012 at 02:44 pm

I really lucked out with sales this week. We decided on a wheely/outdoorsy toy for BM. Everything of that nature was on Amazon was on sale for like 30%+ off this week. We ended up getting some kind of skateboard (one of the newer types).

I stopped by the grocery store to get cupcake mix and frosting - everything was on sale. Like 60% off. EXCEPT the red velvet cake that LM asked for, but I stocked up on chocolate cake mix and frosting for the future.

Even yesterday I stopped by Walgreens to grab a 2 liter of soda. IT wasn't advertised on sale, so I was extra pleased when it only rung up for $1.25. Big Grin If I knew I would have bought more, but oh well!

I've been on a good sale run lately.

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LM's party ended up being perfect! The best part was I really didn't do anything. WE randomly chose a date before school got out, so we could hand out invitations.

Then we showed up. I did slave over some box mix cupcakes. Wink

Cost: $130

I won't get a gold star for frugality, BUT I get a gold star for the *Easiest party ever* and for it being a VERY fun party.

2 lanes/1 hour = $80
Arcade Tokens = $40
Food/Drink - About $10

We had the party in the afternoon to skip the food and drink, but LM and one of his friends both told me they were hungry right off the bat. I figured we also needed soda to wash down the cupcakes, so I got a giant plate of fries and a pitcher of soda. That appeased them for one hour - I was pleased by the size of the fries.

I didn't expect much from the arcade, BUT all of the kids ended up with HUNDREDS of tickets. So they just had a BLAST. Obviously they didn't end up with anywhere near $40 in merchandise! Wink BUT, you know, you go to Chuck E Cheese, you can spend as much and be there all day and never amass more than 50 tickets. I liked that the kids were able to win so many tickets, even if it didn't amount to much in prizes. They just had a BLAST.

It was HOT yesterday and LM got some water guns as gifts, AND so all the neighborhood kids continued the party at our house after - water fight in the yard.

All I kept thinking was that was the easiest birthday party ever. #1 - Not at our house #2 - Not a birthday party package. #3 - Skipping the whole meal thing. I think that part was really key. That was my #1 party rule when the kids were young and we did much more budget birthdays, but had let that slide in recent years. I've done all 3 tactics before, but never all at once??

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My favorite gift was my neighbor who gave LM $7 cash for turning $7. I think he really liked it too. You know people always tend to do that for family, but I will remember that in the future for the kids' friends. She kind of got off easy, but it did the job!

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If I go with a $200 2-kid party budget, then I have $70 left for BM. I think that is more than ample. The play place he wants to go to costs $7 per kid. I think it will be a lot less kids, and then we will go out for pizza afterward. GOOD pizza, not cheap/crappy stuff. I think I can do that under $70.

Regardless, BM's party will be of the same vein. Show up, and go for pizza afterwards. Easy peasy.

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The kids are entering reality. One of LM's reactions to yesterday was, "That's IT!?!" with the gifts. Usually the party is combined, and probably way more chaotic with so many kids. Maybe it was just having a more intimate birthday party that was so nice.

Yes LM, $7 a couple of water guns, a puzzle and a board game. That is IT! When I think back to my birthdays, that is QUITE a haul if you ask me. Big Grin

BM also had a hard time learning that it wasn't about him this time and that he had to watch his brother get gifts while he got none. I honestly thought someone would not read the invitation carefully and would bring him a gift anyway, since historically we have always combined their party, but that didn't happen. Since he is older and having a much more modest birthday he will have to get over it. As dh told him, "Like all his toys aren't yours to play with too." I think they will survive. Wink

Separating the parties did significantly cut down the number of gifts as we won't invite all the same kids to both parties. Likewise, some people feel obligated to buy both kids' gifts, even if I told them they weren't or only put one child's name on the invitation.

On Being Weird

July 6th, 2012 at 03:59 am

The older and wiser I get, the more I think being "weird" plays a large part in succeeding financially. Of course, one would not have to be "weird" if the culture was all about saving for a rainy day and living below one's means. But since we live in such a consumer society, all that stuff is just "weird."

4th of July is a day for us to be extra weird. We moved from a pretty anti-firework city to kind of the polar opposite. So to watch the firework culture feels almost as if we moved from an entirely different country. This year was extra interesting because we had the super fun block party (LOVE it - so simple and yet so fun!). But all I hear is how financially screwed everyone is. So I kid you not - I have never seen so many fireworks in my life. Seemed to me there was probably a lot of "putting on an image." Instead of maybe some, "I can't afford my house payment so maybe I shouldn't be blowing hundreds of dollars on fireworks."

Needless to say, we had quite a fireworks display. Though we of course spent $0.

{In fact, all I spent money on was a whopping $3 of corn on sale - to feed about 30. The rest we gathered from out pantry - I offered to bring things we already had on hand}.

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My second thought of the day on being weird? Both my sons' birthdays are within the week and the thought did not even cross my mind to buy them a birthday present. HA!

Dh brought it up, and I was just, "Oh - I hadn't thought about it."

IT's not that we don't buy our kids gifts. Frankly, it's really the only time we buy them much of anything. BUT, they get so spoiled rotten by their friends and family and such, that whatever we buy is hardly noticed. So, it's just kind of a *shrug.* Usually dh gets free books and free video games and all that jazz, and we made out pretty well the past year with credit card rewards. This year I think we will buy them a couple of bigger gifts. Actually, one is coming from credit card rewards. Dh already picked out a $50 gift for LM (pre-rewards). Well, I am glad dh thought of it because not sure when I would have.

Investment Clean Up

July 2nd, 2012 at 10:52 pm

Today is investment clean up day. Lots of portfolio adjustments.

In addition - I am consolidating down to:

--Dh has one ROTH
--I have one Regular IRA
--I have two ROTHs - one for mutual funds and one for cash and stocks (brokerage)

{We might have had 7 accounts or something at some point - don't ask me why!}

Of course, I still want to convert the regular IRA to a ROTH, so there is more consolidating in my future.

On the investment cleanup, I really thought that I was going more away from "Target Date" type funds, now that we have passed the six figure mark and can really start to diversify.

Funny thing? I am leaning more towards "less is more/simpler is better." SO I am cleaning things up but am ending up mostly with one mutual fund per account.

I don't know why I have been so resistant to simple index investing. At the end of the day it fits my personality and life strategy better. Keep it simple; don't over-think.

I have been picking a lot of smarter brains (smarter/older/more wise than me), and this is where I have ended up.

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Not much else to report. Haven't been spending *any* money and payday comes tomorrow with most of it going into savings.

Oh, and my kids turn 7 & 9 in the next couple of the weeks. How the heck did THAT happen? I swear I will blink and they will be adults.