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Archive for August, 2012

Something About October

August 31st, 2012 at 07:14 am

It seems the stars have aligned in October. It will be a totally insane month. We already turned down an invite to Vegas and to a couple of concerts. At this rate, 20 more enticing events will show up the first week of October. It's been bizarre.

Anyway, I was just thinking about it because we purchased concert tickets. One of our favorite artists is doing a "living room tour." We offered to host. I figured it probably wasn't the best idea (inviting 30 strangers to our house) - but what are the odds we would picked anyway? [& if we were picked, what an awesome experience!!] Not picked (city not picked), but we decided to go to the San Francisco show. We are bringing 10+ people - not sure how many people will fit. I don't know if this is literally San Francisco, or more suburb-y. This artist is popular among our family and friends. This sets the bar pretty high for the kids' "first concert."

The same weekend is also the combot robot wars - which I put on the calendar ages ago so that we would not forget.

What's neat is that these are both going to be WAY COOL experiences, but due to lack of popularity, neither event is terribly expensive.

Of course, we are going to another concert in October, AND going to Florida. Yeesh! Busy Busy Busy. Couldn't all this fun stuff be spread out a little more? Big Grin

In the meantime, I think we are going for "super low-key no spend" in the month of September. Maybe a little less for financial reasons and more because October will be a bit of overload. I think we should therefore be pretty content for a very low-key September.

This & That

August 26th, 2012 at 09:19 am

**Dh got offered a $85 focus group - woohoo! It's been pretty dry since we have been getting all these credit card rewards. Nice to score both types of extra income in the same month.

**I was dreading the car rental reservation for Florida (guess I HATE planning vacations) and finally did the deed yesterday. It was much better than I expected - I found a car rental for about $100 for 8 days AND this was not a "pre-paid/non-refundable" cost. So basically, I am pleased I didn't have to pay for it ahead of time.

Since it was much cheaper than I was expecting, that leaves more money to enjoy in Florida. Phew!!

**The school year has been very busy. BM was invited onto a Lego Mindstorm team - some regional competition in the fall. Lego Mindstorm is a robot building kit. BM already has a set because my dad bought him one a couple of years ago. This is right up his alley!

**This month has been REALLY low-spend (we plan the same for October). BUT, this has been offset by all the back to school sales. I stocked up a bit on summer stuff for next summer (new swim stuff for the kids - on clearance - replaced my pricier/better support flip flops on clearance, etc.). I haven't shopped Kohls all year, but they were having a pretty big sale + 20% off yesterday, so I online shopped a bit. I ordered a frame print that I think will go really nice with our new couch. I figure I might return some of it. I also bought some socks and underwear on clearance (Hanes.com and Target in-store).

Staying home with the kids has meant a lot of years of "doing without," and I am sure we still do on some level. As were college years. So, I feel delight when I Can stock up on things "before I even need them."

The socks were an interesting purchase because I gave up buying socks in the name of frugality, or maybe moreso priorities, many many years ago. (I just buy packages of plain white socks, as needed). I spotted a bunch of colorful socks on clearance and I thought I suppose I could spare $10 to replenish my sock drawer with some color. Such a small splurge, but makes me feel "rich."

**The plan is to no-spend for the next 9 days or so - credit card closes the day after Labor Day. Back to School sales aside, no-spending has been easy with our busy schedule - with school starting back up and work being such a busy time of year. {No spend means everything except for groceries - will probably be about $100}.

**Oh yes - and yesterday was a big day for soccer - BM had four games. We met up at Jack in the Box to switch off adult duties, mid day (& so LM did not have to sit in the sun all day). We had credit card reward gift cards so it was a free meal. We went for $1 ice cream afterwards, at Rite Aid, but they had raised the price. So spent about $3 for ice cream for two.

**& speaking of credit card rewards - dh also bought a baby roku. I call it a baby roku because it is SO SMALL! Our old one never worked very well (but we have two - and we knew it could work better!). So, it looks like a lot of problems we thought were Hulu problems were more roku problems. IT was nice it didn't cost any money to replace it. We obviously don't plan to sell the old one because it sucks. I suppose it is official that we are committed to "no cable" for the long run. Probably even moreso now that our primary roku is no longer a PITA.

Double Dip

August 21st, 2012 at 06:56 am

I decided to double dip the Chase Sapphire Card. My Money Blog had a good offer today. The reward will be $400. I am sure I could wait for a $500 reward, but this should be an *easy* one!

Spend $2k in 3 months, for $400.

Will try to get this card by the first. If I can pay this month's health insurance, next month's health insurance, and the car insurance, it will be DONE! So, that is why it's an easy one. I can hit the $2k spending limit the day I get the card. This month's insurance is due the first, and it doesn't really matter when I pay next month's - I usually pay it sometime during the month so the credit card payment is due the following month. Car insurance is due around the 4th. It is cutting it tight so if I don't get the card by the 1st, will just have to wait another month to redeem or find something else to charge.

I was going to just apply for dh too. I could get my reward immediately and we could use his card for gas and groceries, etc. for a couple of months, but he literally just redeemed this one - I figured not to bother. HE just applied for and closed 3 credit cards, so probably best to let his FICO rest a bit. Double dipping might work after a year - probably not after just one month. Wink (Fine print basically says "no double dipping," so it's a crap shoot either way. But I think if I closed the card a year ago, then I have a better chance).

We'd probably use this money for Florida - the timing is good. This would give us a *lot* more wiggle room on the eating out there, and the car rental, and probably ensures we won't have to touch savings for any of the trip. Big Grin

Childcare & Stocks

August 15th, 2012 at 06:41 am

**Interesting observation: Paid $0 for babysitting or childcare in the prior 12 months. {May have paid cash once to teenaged neighbor - but don't particularly track cash purchases, since very rare for us}.

This may be dumb and a waste but we decided to use drop-in place this month for Back to School night, though not needed. IT secures our registration for another 12 months, in case of emergency. We only need about 1/2 hour of care for BTS night, so no biggie. Maybe $20-ish when you factor time to drop off and pick up.

This reminds me, I was also going to sign up the kids for before and after school care, in case of emergency last year, but never did. This year they made us fill all the paperwork anyway, but not required to pay a registration fee unless you utilize more than twice. SCORE! So, it's available if needed, but no financial commitment if we never end up needing it. This is really nice.

On the drop-in place, if we don't utilize again in the next 12 months, we will let our registration lapse next summer. BM will be 10, and all this is getting to be pretty moot. {& if we ever actually do need it - we just sign up again, then}.

In order to cut babysitting costs, dh and I have been meeting for lunch dates (taking advantage of lower lunch costs and the kids being in school). Most the neighbors are out of work so there is always someone to pick up the kids from school or take them for a couple of hours if need be (dh has had a lot of random Doctor appointments the past couple of years - usually when this comes in handy). Kids are often away at playdates anymore. & this does not factor that my MIL begs to watch the kids here and there and sometimes sends us off on vacation just so she can get the kids for a week.

This is an expense that seems to be mostly gone from our lives. Phew!

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I mentioned the kids were into money-making schemes lately.

I have no idea how it came up, but we got on the subject of stocks yesterday. So, I ended up having the kids pick about 10 stocks and we set them all up in yahoo finance as if we had bought $100 of each stock. This way, BM can look every day when he does homework and checks his yahoo e-mail. It's easy to see if his stocks are doing well or poorly, based on if his balance is over or under $1,000.

BM is now a whiz at researching the stocks on yahoo. We looked at graphs and dividends and all that jazz. I explained the Dow Jones to him. He soaked it up pretty quickly. I figured we would have to track dividends (at least input them into yahoo as they accumulate) so will give us a project to do. This is probably a good challenge for him since he is way into math these days. Just another way to make math interesting and useful. Heck, he also got a fair lesson on public and private companies since we looked up quite a few things that were private companies that they could not invest in (Legos, Minecraft, etc.). So that means I had to explain to them the difference, and so on.

I figured we could track through the end of the year and maybe for next year we can do some actual pretend stock trading. This year is more learning about it and next year can be them actively participating a little more. Might as well learn the hard lessons while young and with nothing to lose. If they do well, I would probably pay them the profits. I'll have to think on it, because I wouldn't ding them for losing. I think they'd get the point though. When I think back to money lessons of my youth, my parents always over-rewarded me too (like 100% match for meeting a savings goal).

Mental Note: Must look into DRIPS - might make sense for some real investing for the kids.

Back to Work & Random Stuff

August 13th, 2012 at 06:41 pm

**I haven't worked substantially this summer - many days off. I figured this week would be a big adjustment - but it feels nice to have three full weeks to get caught up.

**Our weather has been extraordinarily mild the last two years (yes - as it has been anything but, everywhere else). We've got some heat wave this past week (several days of 105+ degree temps), but frankly it hasn't been bad. I say that because I have no reason to be outside AND it has been cooling off at night. Usually it only gets so hot because it doesn't cool down at night - and that is the *worst.* 5 or so nights of this and I haven't even flipped on the fan. (I don't know if we ever particularly run the air all night, but usually during heat waves like this the fan is a must to get any sleep). Feeling grateful for cool nights in extreme heat...

**I just noticed that last credit card bill equaled my paycheck. What are the odds of that? Easy come, easy go! It is the only bill I have to pay until September, so whatever. We are having a low-spend month to make up for "too much fun" last month. {The credit card balance is not much indication of that, since it has more than just monthly spending - like medical bills, dental bills and insurance already saved up for - but reminds me we are keeping it low key this month. Maybe next month too}.

**Briefly contemplated driving 200 miles roundtrip for a Weird Al concert tomorrow night, but it was *really* expensive. I decided to add Weird Al to my FB instead so I Would see updates on future tours and doings. Seems to me he usually isn't so expensive at the Fairgrounds. We have seen him before and he does a *great* show, and we have been looking for a good first concert for the kids. Would have been perfect! But, I am sure we will find something a little more reasonable. It's not just the cost - it was a bit much with the hassle factor. & the convenience fees for this one venue were *insane* - even if it was a favorite venue of ours. Maybe we have overlooked for 2 tickets - but the fees were about $50 for 4 tickets. Ouch! All his other better-timed/kind of close shows will be while we are in Orlando. So we decided to let it go.

Our other contenders are suddenly doing a lot of 21+ shows - Rolleyes - but dh and I still plan to enjoy!

Actually, we were just talking about finding a concert to take the kids to because dh went to see Iron Maiden and he saw a ton of little kids there. Go figure! We were thinking something a little more mellow. Big Grin

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**I had a really quiet weekend since dh took the kids to San Jose. I got many chores done. Of note, I shredded absolutely everything related to the "one-time credit card rewards bonanza of 2011 and 2012." We are in a lull and I closed all of the cards, so I figured best to get rid of the piles of paper. It was insane. There will be more, but am enjoying taking a break.

End of School Break Doings

August 6th, 2012 at 09:31 pm

**Had a little mini vacay to end the school break for the kids.

Went to the beach, and we lucked out with a *beautiful* day.

Stayed at "hotel parents," who treated us to several meals. More than usual. But we drove back pretty late from the beach and were on our own last night. We stopped for Greek - it wasn't that good. Frown We are still bummed favorite little Greek place closed several years ago. The search continues... Today we went to our favorite restaurant (Mexican) at around 1:30 and we were the only ones there. Holy cow! I don't know - I often meet my friends for lunch at 1 or something - I just found it to be very bizarre. I suppose we were lucky the place was even open. Their lunch crowd is very serious about sticking to the noon hour!

Oh - and we took the kids to an old favorite hangout of ours - a nickel arcade. We spent about $13 there - definitely had fun. ($8 admissions for four - plus $5 spent in nickels).

Yes, we found several nickels on the floor - inside and in the parking lot. You'd do well if you could peruse that parking lot every day.

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Today we picked up soccer gear for BM and I stocked up on some clearance items at Target. Two $2 shirts for LM (who is always swimming in hand-me-downs, so nice to buy him something else once in a blue moon - and hey it was literally a blue moon last week). I often comment I do better at Target (which is convenient) than the thrift shops anyway. About the same, anyway, for the kids. There may be cheaper thrift shops, but it always seems to be so time consuming. Though I'd shop thrift more if I couldn't just get hand-me-downs and clearance items so easily.

I couldn't resist a cute monkey shirt that was 50%-off. Big Grin

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I should probably fill up the kids' school lunch accounts, but I saw that last year the 4th grade campus had a different (private) lunch service - which was $3.25/lunch versus the usual $2.50. Ouch! Thankfully I brought it up to dh (I was aggravated if I had to pay under a different service, because if I knew I would have drained BM's account to -0- as I can not imagine the red tape to get that refunded by the district). Anyway, dh tells me he heard they dropped it. Phew!! I was thinking of telling BM "no school lunch" at that price. The only reason we buy as much as we do because it's such a good deal.

But anyway, hopefully I figure out the deal with that soon. So I can fund their lunch money - I usually do a big deposit twice a year - August and January. IT would be nice to just fund the same accounts and have $2.50 lunches. The district often changes the lunch prices too, but I haven't seen any indication that they have for this school year. Need more info, I guess.

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I don't know how we got on the subject, but we started talking about how we really need to make a Hong Kong vacation plan.

IT seems we talk about a lot of things, but talk is talk. It seems so little of what we talk about actually comes to fruition. Which I think is a GOOD thing. We talk about things and we save up for things, but priorities and wants are ever changing. I think this is one reason that I don't equate "frugality" with "deprivation" - as it is so often perceived. We probably have saved a fortune over the years not just giving in to every whim on a credit card. It's not like any of those whims are missed or mourned for - they are merely forgotten as better things come along.

& I share because I am sure I have blogged out many things that eventually completely fell off my radar.

Anyway, dh's aunt is living in Hong Kong right now and so he was saying we really need to go now while she is still living there. She was living there when he was a child, and it was an awesome memory for him to make that trip. One that he can repeat with his kids, now that she is back in HK.

Anyway, this is a plan that has been brought up very loosely many times, but is maybe becoming a "more seriously talked about" plan. I need some more firm details about exactly what we are talking about here. So, onto more talking...

Right now I think I need 2-3 years to save up for this. & we are totally fine with that. Just crossing my fingers a bit that we can do it on the sooner side. I think 2 years would be aggressive but a good plan.

Checks

August 1st, 2012 at 12:00 pm

Supposedly the kids' school will let us make all payments through Paypal this year.

Woohoo!

My initial reaction is to avoid any and all fees when it comes to banking and payments (because the little things add up and there are always free/convenient options).

BUT, I think I might make this an exception. School activites are the primary reasons I write checks, and doing away with checks altogether would be *awesome.* Even if I have to pay a small charge to do so.

I was surprised that I pulled out my last book of checks this past week. I have like 29 checks left, and that should easily last me two years. Maybe longer. I think I am just going to wait a year or two before I re-order. I think it is possible checks will become obsolete in that time. The only hold out at this point is the county (property taxes). I also refuse to give the IRS my bank information, but this is probably just silly at this point (if I send them a check they have all the same info - must keep it stored somewhere). I am so careful that I Was pretty certain my identity theft a few years back originated from the IRS. So I have been extra cautious. {Honestly, the most likely scenario was mail fraud, which would make my checks to the IRS even more susceptible? Since I can just e-file my bank account info - so probably time for me to move on with the IRS}. I still don't think the county accepts anything beyond paper checks (without huge surcharges like on credit payments). But if that's the only real hold out that is two checks per year. They will have to come around at some point.

I needed a check for dh's cousin. Dh owed him money and told me at the last minute. More notice and I would have paid him through bill pay - how I pay *everyone.* Of course, he hasn't cashed the check yet and so I wish I had just bill-payed it. I just enter an amount online and my CU mails out a check - when it comes to individuals. Once you set someone up it takes about 5 seconds to pay them.