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Archive for February, 2013

Death By A Thousand Cuts + Unclaimed Property

February 22nd, 2013 at 03:13 pm

What is the opposite of "Death by a thousand cuts"? Because that is what we seem to be doing. Big Grin

I think debt and bad financial management can really be like that as everything just kind of compounds. A lot of little stuff can really add up, that is for sure.

Anyway, I personally find it hard to believe that there is *ever,* "no room for improvement." IT seems we are endlessly able to shave $5 here and there.

**We dropped Blockbuster subscription since our local store is going out of business. Frown This is a huge decrease in benefits and services, but oh well, what else can we do?

We did add disks to our netflix service, to compensate. Will save us $5 per month overall. Maybe more, since we used to make a fair amount of trips to Blockbuster (gas savings).

I think we also got a free trial on the disks, so get a month off - will save $15 this month? Dh just happened to get a netflix offer - but maybe strategic marketing with Blockbuster's whoas.

{That said, would not be surprised if dh bought more movies, so will see. Blockbuster really scratched his "new release/impatient" itch}.

**Dh is clearing out space for the music room transformation of his office. Just a reminder that you can drop off e-waste at Best Buy. They are still doing that. Has saved us a lot of time and energy as we just drop off all our crap there. He got rid of some ancient computers and monitors.

We still have one old school computer monitor in the house, but it gets little use. He kind of wanted to hang on to the others, if we ever need another monitor, but decided prices have got so cheap (new monitors) just to let it go.

{& let's face it, I bet his dad has a few laying around - if we ever need computer equipment we always check with him first. He is a bit of a computer parts hoarder - both new and used/old parts}.

**I don't do a lot of the household shopping and don't have much of a coupon strategy. But I do just try to stock up on things on sale. Or not, when I only pick up a couple of female products here and there. (Dh does all the rest. He will buy whatever, but I like to buy my own toothpaste, soap, makeup, etc.).

Yesterday I noticed panty hose and knee his on sale at Walgreens. They only had 3 boxes on sale so I grabbed them all. It was actually unclear (As everything was marked more expensive except the exact style of knee his that I buy - which seemed too good to be true) and so I picked up a couple and was surprised when they actually did ring up like $1.89 (75% off). So I went back after work to grab the rest. I will go back in a week or two and keep an eye out for more stock. I will gladly buy 10 boxes at this price.

So, that's the little stuff this week. Progress by a thousand cost cuts? Big Grin

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Oh, and get this!!

I found unclaimed property in our state. I saw dh's name in the database. (I mostly expect to *never* find unclaimed property - we do not let money slip out of our hands that is due to us. !!!)

So, what the heck was it?

A 15-cent check that Vanguard sent to us when dh converted his IRA into a ROTH. Rolleyes There was like 15 cents left in the account, for whatever reason.

I did not cash it because it wasn't worth the time, energy to do so. I shredded it.

For reference, businesses are only required to report unclaimed property of $50+. I would never advise my small business clients to bother otherwise. I suppose Vanguard is so huge that they just report everything.

Anyway, supposedly they were supposed to contact us before they contacted the state. They never did. So I feel kind of Rolleyes and think I will just let it go. The state can have my 15 cents - lord knows they need it. IF they had contacted me I would have said fine and cashed the checks. I mean, if they insisted. Yeesh. But now there is a whole extra layer of complication between dh and his 15 cents.

This may seem the polar opposite of the rest of my post, but I believe strongly in time/hassle trade-off. If I saw 15 cents on the ground of course I'd pick it up. I have to go cash it at the bank? & NOW I have to call Vanguard and ask for the money back? My time is worth more than 15 cents, so never mind!! Big Grin

But that is my story of unclaimed property.

Actually, the more I think about it the more I annoyed I am. Dh has an account with Vanguard still. Seriously? They couldn't track us down? Or maybe they figured what happened and just sent it to the state to cover their butts. I guess, fair enough.

What a (Bad) Day!

February 20th, 2013 at 03:14 pm

We ended taking up my kitty back into the vet for an ultrasound yesterday. Though we were told she might have intestinal cancer, I suppose I was in denial. I read it was rare, and figured it was just as likely they she ate something she shouldn't have (the kids are always lying rubberbands around no matter how much we nag them). & she is always coughing up strange things - no idea where she finds these things. Lots of kid stuff laying around I suppose. She is 100% indoors.

Anyway, I appreciate the ultrasound technology as it was easy and less costly. The vet told us usually (historically) they'd just operate. & our cat is older and not sure she is really up to that. I mean, who wants to be operated on if you don't have to?

She was diagnosed with non-treatable lymphoma and given weeks to live. Frown

So, I had a very heavy heart yesterday. I am surprised how hard it hit me. She is 15 and I know very logically her health has gone downhill over the years, and that her time is nearing. But, it is still tough when it comes down to it.

I haven't talked to the kids about it at all. They were there for the news, and dh took them to San Jose to spend the week with Grandma. I think the older one is taking it hard. I don't think either is overly attached to the cat, but he is just more sensitive. We will talk about it when they return.

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On the plus side, I think this is as easy as it gets. We were gearing up for some tough choices. Being told, "There is nothing you can do" doesn't leave much in the tough choice department. Not that we won't have some tough decisions - will see how she progresses. She is old enough that we won't pursue other opinions or anything, is all. I thought it was very likely she'd be going in for surgery, so dodged that bullet as well.

As the writing has been on the wall, we have been gearing up for this a bit. This is the only pet we have ever had as adults. I told my spouse that since we always had outdoor cats, they usually just disappeared. Don't remember putting any pets down. But if we did, the parents dealt with all that stuff, know what I mean? So this feels very much an induction into adulthood, that is for sure. & I have been kind of wary as I didn't really know what to expect. But, on the flip side, I think we've had enough medical crap lately that we probably know all the questions to ask. When I had my thyroid surgery the surgeon was overly impressed with my questions. Well, dh had *just* had brain surgery. I told him, "You have no idea." I suppose we are up for asking all the right questions. We have some experience to pull from that we wouldn't as younger pet owners.

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I suppose that alone would make for a rough day, but cancer always has to appear in 3s or 4s or 5s, it seems.

I met with an elderly tax client yesterday and he matter of factly told me he had liver cancer and would not be here next year. Shook my hand and left. Frown

So, that was my day.

F___ Cancer!

Chickpeas for Lunch

February 17th, 2013 at 11:41 pm

Give me a convenient Indian grocer, and a good crockpot cookbook. & I am pretty much ready to go vegetarian. Which sounds totally absurd to me on some level. Big Grin

Seriously. I am keeping a food log because I kind of want to see where we are. Dh and I have been talking about cutting back meat a bit more. (For us - not for the kids). I don't think I could have fathomed this ages 0-30. My caloric needs were way too high while growing and bearing children. But age slows things down considerably. These days it's more like a shrug and a *why not?* What's even more interesting is dh is so on the same page as me. Probably anything to get me to eat better. But his metabolism is slowing too.

I believe in moderation, so I highly doubt we will ever go 100% vegan or vegetarian. But we are just trying to be more conscious and move more in that direction.

I think we have just been naturally heading in this direction as we have been mindful of our grocery budget since having children. Eating at home mostly. Improving on that over the years. VEry slowly picking up more and more cooking skills and tools. When we eat these beans and lentils, to replace only a handful of meals, our grocery bill is going down down down. !! It will be interesting to see how this plays out for the long run. Could be a substantial grocery spending cut while feeling like we are eating even better.

Anyway, what yummy goodness has me pondering vegetarianism?

Curried Chickpeas:

http://www.cookstr.com/recipes/curried-chickpeas

YUM!!

That was 14 hours on high, slowcooker. So we cooked it overnight and had it for lunch.

This & That

February 17th, 2013 at 05:53 pm

**Hit the store on Friday for post-V-Day sales.

We were actually unprepared for V-Day because the kids' class sizes increased drastically (mostly unforeseeable). So, dh ran out and bought some cards earlier in the week. THEN BM forgot his cards and LM stayed home sick. They were also both kind of "meh" about it, and I encouraged them to be "meh" about it (while dh didn't??). So I picked up enough for probably one more year, and they have enough already for next year, so might be my last V-day run. I also picked up some candy for myself, to keep at work.

LM ended his perfect attendance streak, with a sick day. 2.5 years!!

**There are all sorts of nasty viruses going around, and I think we are all fighting off a little bit of *everything* in our own ways. I have battled with an upset tummy and being sniffly. (I usually have a very sensitive throat, but no sore throat???) I'd probably write off the sniffles as allergies, but the boys are all sniffly too.

Anyway, my feeling when first sick was "Oh crap!" considering all I have heard is going around, but has so far not amounted to much. But definitely low energy levels all week. BM did not miss any school, though only told us he felt sick at all when we were all sick Thursday. He won't slow down or admit to being sick unless he needs to go to the ER, basically. LM was down for a day and dh felt kind of "meh" for two days. I had a 24 hour bout where I just felt terrible unless I was laying down.

I am hoping this does mean we are just fighting off this and that and that no one gets stuck with anything more nasty. *fingers crossed*

**Year of 10 is shaping up to be pretty darn nice for Big Monkey. !! He got invited to take some college courses this summer at the local State University. The classes are offered for 4th - 9th graders. Will have to pay some money, but I think this program will likely afford other leads and opportunities. So I am stoked. The 4th grade classes are pretty pared down and probably don't amount to much. They all run one week and is nice because won't interfere with his Europe trip. The older kids are offered 3-5 week courses AND get college credits. How sweet is that?

Offerings like engineering and robotics will entice Big Monkey. I was excited to see lots of art classes - that would entice Little Monkey when he is of age (I see no reason why he won't also be invited, when he is also in 4th grade).

They do have to take a test to see which classes they are eligible for - I am sure that means more for some of the higher math classes and such. BM LOVES math, but seems we have plenty of other resources to challenge him on that end. I'd think the robotics type stuff would be more enriching. But, who knows. If he wants to take some higher level math class, then whatever makes him happy.

Some days I feel that Big Monkey is extraordinarily charmed. He will have quite the enriching summer, it seems.

Black Lentils

February 13th, 2013 at 03:21 pm

YUM!

This cookbook is going to save us a fortune in eating well:

The Indian Slow Cooker: 50 Healthy, Easy, Authentic Recipes

http://www.amazon.com/Indian-Slow-Cooker-Healthy-Authentic/d...

**THANKS to Thriftorama, who recommended it!**

Last night we had black lentils:

http://www.mensfitness.com/nutrition/healthy-recipes-0/recip...

{Beware - this is a spicy dish}.

Served on rice and garnished with finely chopped onions. SO GOOD!!

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It's interesting, because we eat a diet heavy in onions and garlic, and peppers (probably more mexican inspired, usually, when it comes to home cooking skills). But all these Indian dishes are really heavy on the garlic and onions, and peppers - just prepared in an entirely different manner. No wonder we like so much.

Dh scored spices for 70 cents, at Target. HE noticed quite by accident.

Since we *just* had a new Indian grocer open up real close, we are getting most the Indian spices and lentils very cheaply there. So, what I thought might be a bit of a luxury is actually decreasing our grocery bill. I likey!!

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In other news, dh told me he got all kind of deals at Target yesterday. I am too busy with work to detail any of it or figure it all out. I think there was $5 off for buying pet products (cat litter and cat food).

$5 off some blu rays, too.

Dh also told me that he can no longer keep the grocery runs at $100+ (for gas rewards) if we are going to be eating all these Indian dishes. Oh well!! I think we come out farther ahead with the lower grocery bills. Wink I don't think he hit $100 at all this year. Another big part of that is they changed up their rewards. Which made me anxious at first, but we seem to be benefiting us - working in our favor. The gas coupons usually amount to about $8 of gas saving a month, but obviously we are saving far more than $8 on groceries. So I can appreciate the bigger picture.

Spending & Misc.

February 10th, 2013 at 03:29 pm

**I haven' given up sales tax tracking. It got a little crazy last weekend and I am sure I missed some things (I was not sure of tax rate where we were - though can look up - and dining out receipts never seem to have any details but the total).

For the week, there was about $100 spent on groceries, and $0 taxes paid. This means $100 spent on food; no alcohol or soda.

I have been advised to track my household spending separate from groceries, but have never bothered because we just don't spend that much on misc. Not worth the hassle. We have one budget for all of the above, and we have no problems sticking to it. In January I believe the only thing non-food we bought was cat food and cat litter. The pet stuff may be worth separating out. But again, we have one budget and stick to it, so is all that really matters. I certainly don't have to manage my toiletry budget since it is generally pennies. Looking at all the $0-tax receipts reaffirms this. You see why don't bother to comb through the receipts and classify the groceries from the non-groceries.

I'd do it if I found it useful at all.

**Onto the gloves. With my newfound "cold weather" knowledge, I experimented with wearing gloves around the house yesterday. I do not have appropriate gloves for wearing around the house (preferably fingerless) but was experimenting and very pleased with the results. I could see using for driving, work (the heat in my office is currently busted), veggy reading/computing/TV watching at home. If I am up and about I don't have any trouble keeping warm - so not like I Will be wearing gloves to cook and clean and to do anything active.

The results?? I left the heat off all day. I generally turn it on in the morning to warm up the house a bit and then turn it off when I leave for work. It's not like I get much benefit in the morning, but I get some, and I know if I warm up the house first no one will touch it while I am at work. So I did do that. I don't remember when or why I turned it off - maybe out of habit. Dh and BM were out of the house all day. I experimented and felt quite comfortable. Left the house around 3pm, and when we got home closer to 7pm the first thing I did was eat some ice cream. I did not put on gloves. Dh went over to turn on the heat.

I said, "Did you turn on the heat!?! OMG!!" To which I think I startled him quite a bit. LOL. I said, "Don't get me wrong - turn on the heat all you want. But seriously, YOU just turned on the heat before *I* did!"

I wouldn't have turned it on last night.

So, that is that. I will no longer be the cold weather whimp in this house. & I will chide dh a bit because trust me, he has chided me for using a lot of heat.

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After a long day, the kids and I spent $11 eating out last night (Burger King). I used to like their shakes, but have taken to just getting their sundaes because they cost about 25% as much. Maybe not as big, but I don't need a big shake anyway. Dh did not want to partake, so saved us. I was very much in an "Eating out" mood, combined with a "We have no money to spend on any real eating out." So when dh said he didn't want to eat out, made it easy. A compromise might have been to pick up something hot at the grocery store (is lazy and all that, but FAR cheaper than feeding 4 of us out).

I also did some Amazon shopping yesterday. I had a $25 gift card so only spent $13 of my own money.

I did buy gloves. Will consider them a free gift (gift card was a Christmas gift), and I added a cute hat to my wish list for next Christmas/birthday season. One I could wear around the house.

I have had some nice peelers on my wish list for a while, and MIL commented just last weekend how sucky our peelers are. I Said, "That's why they are on my wish list." Anyway, since I needed to spend a little more for the free shipping, I just bought the peelers. About $10. I am sure they would have shown up as a gift next year, but was the perfect useful "rather not pay as much in shipping" purchase.

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The other thing I bought on Amazon was a mop.

Firstly, I had bookmarked this article because was interesting:

http://thehappiestmom.com/10-upgrades-to-make-cleaning-house...

I can't say I felt the need to buy most these products. BUT I am stuck on mops, and appreciated the mop recommendation:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B003NYFDWK/ref=as_li_qf_sp_...

I'd been meaning to get around to using my Amazon credit to just buy the thing. But once I got down to it I found something that I think will work better for me:

http://www.amazon.com/MopAway-MOPAWAYFLAT-Chenille-Microfibe...

& I know, I should have asked for suggestions here before I bought anything.

My general feeling is to not use disposable products while cleaning. I am not much of a neat freak (in fact, I am the anti neat-freak). This means that the only way I clean my floors is on my hands and knees. Seriously. Which runs totally counter to my non-neat-freak stand, sounds like. Anyway, scrubbing floors on my hands and knees is totally fine for the bathrooms, and will still continue to do, because they are small squares. BUT I seriously need a better solution for our kitchen.

The mop I bought is a non-disposable solution that does not even use any chemicals. Only water needed. Considering I don't remember the last time I scrubbed the entire kitchen floor (just been spot cleaning), this will be a huge improvement. It sounds too good to be true, but am willing to give it a try.

I'll clean more with better tools. Is long past time I figured out a GOOD mop solution.

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We ended robot season yesterday with the Northern California Championship. We lucked out as it was right down the street from our house. !! So I drove back and forth a bit yesterday to catch the highlights, but also had plenty of time to veg at home. The kids did totally awesome for their first season.

I am honestly surprised they achieved anything - a group of VERY high-energy children that get easily distracted. LOL. My own child is a high energy NERD. & this is what this group was heavily compromised of. This means they had the brains and focus to do quite well (many of these kids could sit quietly and read or study all day if they were alone), but they also would have been just as happy to go outside and play tackle football. Which is about what they did most of yesterday. Just with the energy and makeup of that group. But anyway, it is nice to see that they were able to focus and achieve something, somewhere along the line.

Aren't the lego trophies cute?

YUM!

February 9th, 2013 at 05:07 pm

Even better at home:



I picked up some mini bagels, chive cream cheese, smoked salmon, and red onions at the store. I already had capers at home.

{I looked for caper berries but could not find. We had some in Pismo at a fancy Italian restaurant. Served warm. YUM! We were like, "What is this?" I thought of it since was thinking of capers}.

So anyway, toasted the bagels and served up last night when I got home (the rest had already eaten dinner). The kids LOVED it. Dh is not a salmon fan so I told him it probably works with salami too. He thought it was okay with salami.

While at the store, BM asked for jello. He also asked for those pre-made lunches. Forget what they are called. Yuck!! I told him we could have all of the above but is far cheaper to put together ourselves. Which was why I was at the store at the first place - putting together my gourmet bagels.

So we went over to the jello mix aisle and they had jello mix on clearance for 50 cents. Score!

I spent $13 on ingredients, to recreate a "meal for one" that cost $20+. This was a meal for 4, easily. The salmon lasted 5 minutes, but plenty bagels and cream cheese and onions remain.

I was experimenting because was thinking of serving these bagels when we host the next get together. BUT, I think it is too complicated. The bagles have to be warm, and yadda yadda. I think we will come up with something much easier. & lord knows most the women would not touch the cream cheese or the bagels. But in turn, these are good foods for my "high caloric needs" children. But yeah, will work on other menu items for the party.

Warming Up the Hands

February 8th, 2013 at 09:11 pm

I know some of you are probably so sick of hearing about Mr. Money Mustache. !!

Anyway, had an article that I think a few SA-ers would enjoy. It is about reducing energy costs. IT was a guest post, actually.

http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2013/02/01/the-oil-well-you-c...

Anyway, I think regionally we tend to be extremely frugal with our energy usage. Part of it is living in an efficient house. The other part is not believing in leaving the house the same temp 24/7 all year (which seems incredibly common).

I think living in a warmer climate, I was reluctant to do much more though. Keep the house colder inside than outside? Not really logical, know what I mean?

BUT, over the years I have been working on acclimation. I know it's very possible, because living in far less energy efficient homes over the years, and with very frugal parents, I am not accustomed to heat at night. In fact, I can't sleep if it is too warm. So I really do think you just get used to what you get used to.

Likewise, we didn't grow up in such a hot climate, so setting the AC anything below 80 sounds CRAZY to me (during summer). Can we just be happy that it is 30 degrees cooler inside than outside? When I was a child hot days were rare, there was no AC, and we just sweated it out. My mom is reluctant to move up here because of the heat. She doesn't deal well with it. I always tell her she should move up here because it's like living in a fridge. The AC is cranked up so much *everywhere.* At home, it's leave the AC house to the AC car to the AC office to the AC store. Know what I mean? I don't even have a summer wardrobe, really. I am usually wearing sweaters to work so I don't freeze, because still not used to this AC culture. I agree the AC is needed for basic survival, here. But I think most of us would survive at 90F and be quite comfortable at 80F. I don't know why I have to bring sweaters everywhere when it is 110F outside, so I don't completely freeze inside wherever I am. Our culture is just so ridiculously wasteful.

Anyway, on the heat, every single year we seem to improve on the last, as we work on acclimation. I don't have anything working against me except my self. The boys in my house do not use the heat much. So, I am the only one working on acclimation. (They do tend to use the AC more than I - I could live with it a little warmer than them - so evens out I guess).

I've had my eyes on some fingerless gloves. I've got gloves, but I think the fingerless variety would be nice around the house. I turned up the heat the other day because I just could not get my HANDS warm.

SO, I saw this article and found it kind of fascinating. Apparently muscle generates a lot of heat. & females lose heat in their hands and feet faster. It REALLY clicked for me. So I think investing in some gloves could go a long way for me - warm hands probably could mean lower energy bills. By a LOT I am guessing. {I also never thought anything about wearing a hat inside, but is also something to consider}.

I have a better understanding of my children. They are all muscle/no fat (just how they are) and they are like little furnaces. Sometime I will sneak a blanket on them in the middle of the night (because I presume they are half as cold as I would be) and then you know, they wake up drenched in sweat. I have since learned to let them monitor their own body temp. I can't say other people (teachers, etc.) have learned. We are the weirdos who send the kids to school without jackets. There is every so often a tale where a well meaning teacher made them wear a jacket - I am sure not necessary in the least. I figure where we live - it's not like it's the end of the world to not wear a sweater. They are fine. So I call them little furnaces. Very true. The article above said that muscle was more efficient at keeping you warm, than fat. I totally *get* it. I think just being female would make me less efficient - as females have higher body fat in general. This explains a lot in my house.

Now I am off to find some hand warmers.

Rewards Update

February 7th, 2013 at 02:14 am

**The upside to the spendy January is I was able to redeem another $50 credit card rewards to my ROTH. Don't expect to do that too often this year. This card mostly pays for Health Insurance, some utilities, and miscellaneous. (Might average $50 every other month, for most the year).

My parking ticket contributed $1.20 to this bounty. I can look on the bright side.

**Right after I last posted, I got an e-mail that my new AmEx bill was ready. I marveled how it was only $500 when I realized it closed on the 4th as I had originally asked. ??? I am not sure if this is the new closing date - my online login says it isn't. But it's a little too coincidental, so maybe it is. Will save me an e-mail. !!

Thank goodness, because I still squeaked by about how I thought we would. I don't think we bought anything this week, so not like it helped me much to close early. BUT very happy to have all the credit cards on a calendar month. The 4-card system is MUCH easier than it sounds. But it is a must that they all just be on a calendar month. Then I pay the little ones off the first of the month and the bigger ones the middle of the month. It just works; not much to think about. Easier than I Expected. This one card is new and they would only move up the date a few days at a time - I figured I'd get it straightened out eventually.

This month they are all BIG, except Target was only $100 for Groceries. The new AmEx actually was small enough at $500 - I may just pay it this week. Gas/Groceries for 3 weeks or so. The visa had all sorts of insurance, school lunch for 6 months, so was large. Usually it is only $200 for some utilities.

**Out of ALL The credit card rewards I have done, this AmEx Blue is the only one that makes you wait a full extra cycle to calculate and redeem rewards. So I need to go through and double check their calculations. Is not a big deal with Quicken - I just pull a report and check their gas and groceries category matches my records.

Since I had asked them to move up the cycle a few days, they gave me a two month cycle to do so. SO, I *finally* got about $75 rewards with this last statement. Rewards I earned in Nov. and Dec. I can not redeem quite yet, but hoping tomorrow.

I haven't given it *any* thought. The other AmEx rewards go to the ROTH because that is the only way I can redeem that reward. SO, I am thinking of just automatically putting all these rewards to my mortgage. In fact, I should also match the ROTH rewards into the mortgage. It's not like we need these to max out our ROTHs - will do it anyway. But this may be a solid $800 extra to our mortgage this year, if I match the other AmEx rewards into the mortgage.

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As for one-time rewards, haven't seen anything terribly enticing, and giving the credit a bit of a break.

Reminds me, I don't know what the heck list dh got on. We got some weird "Borrow $6,000" offer that looked payday loan-ish. Never got an offer like that before???

& I swear Citi has been sending him a 0% balance transfer offer every single freaking day. They still hate me. I could double dip on the Citi, but they so did not seem to want my business last time, and never send me any good offers. No idea how I got on their bad list, and how dh got on their good list. So, I have been kind of saving that double dip for WAY last. But anyway, I don't know what their angle is. If they send this balance offer 20 times in one month, we will cave and say yes? We have no balances to transfer, so besides looking closer the first one or two or three times to see if there was any other rewards offer, it just goes immediately to the shred pile.

Real Estate, etc.

February 5th, 2013 at 02:19 pm

**My dh was right - can renew library books 3 times. I was surprised - I don't tend to renew. If I seek out a book I generally read it through right away, or I decide not to bother. But I am reading a book to the kids and is taking *forever.* Not sure if we will finish but can always re-check-out.

**Our neighbors had an oyster party for Superbowl. I can say I tried it, but can't say I see the draw. These oysters are legendary, but I think with the Superbowl and all the oyster converts, they were happy to just eat them raw. The stories I had heard were about the BBQ variety. Apparently winter oysters are the best - they were delivered straight from the ocean. So, that was interesting.

**Dh went to a Superbowl party about 45 minutes away. One of his script writing friends was visiting from LA and so he wanted to put in some face time (they have been working together through skype). I had already grasped that the guy's family had money, but they apparently moved recently. Dh said, "OMG - you need to look up what they paid for their house," when he got home. I said, "It's probably not that exciting, they live in the middle of nowhere." But we were still both surprised when we looked it up. There were listing pictures online so I got a feel for the Estate. Is about 3 or 4 acres, rather isolated, with a lake view. (It doesn't matter what kind of home is on the property - that is some serious acreage with California land prices. But it was a very large, by CA standards, 3000 liveable square feet). The value of the home? $600,000. That's it. My feeling was, "Holy Crap, that is a lot of house/land for $600k." Dh said, "That's it!?!" Financial wise, not terribly impressive. They could have bought a home in the 1980s very modestly and just made a lateral move to this place in the middle of nowhere. IT speaks nothing to big incomes. I suppose kind of like our own experience - trading a condo for a more luxurious home in a cheaper city. People always guess we are far richer and we paid far more than we did. I believe they are from the Bay Area as well, where $600k might buy you a starter home if you are lucky.

We were just having a long talk about where and how we may downsize in the long-term future. So I think this was a good example for dh. I told him, "See - exactly what I was talking about!" If we are retired and don't need to be near lots of employment, it seems there are many cheaper havens that aren't much farther out. Some are closer to the Bay Area. Some are closer to Tahoe. We would not be buying several acres - our plan is to downsize into a condo. Though I doubt this town has condos, at those land prices, they'd probably be priced about $50k. Maybe lower...

It boggles my mind that real estate this "cheap" exists in pockets of "insane expensive" real estate. Dh's family owns a cabin not far from this place dh asked me to look up - I have always been surprised how little that is valued at, considering the location.

Mr. Money Mustache has also talked extensively about this:

http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/12/26/cure-yourself-of-t...

It is amazing sometimes the reasons why people are willing to pay a small fortune for a house. Dh and I have always been the "Dig a little deeper for the substance" types, so has boded very well for us when it comes to real estate. Whether we made such a drastic low-cost-of-living move or not really doesn't matter. We always have a knack of seeking out a deal on a property - something the herd has overlooked for some illogical reason. Just as an example, when we bought our first home, all I heard was we would be in an insane bidding war and to expect to have to offer six figures above asking price to get a foot in the door. This was not our experience in the slightest. We bought an updated to the hilt/move-in ready home. WE were the only ones putting in an offer. We had more than 5 minutes to think about it. It was a sellers market and we moved fast - but we had the luxury to sleep on it, at least! Our current home - people turn up their noses at our school district. Our kids attend the most AMAZING school just a few blocks from our home. We bought because we were willing to seek out the infinite public options in the big city. Just turns out we didn't have to. To this day I still get comments about our school district. Rolleyes Frankly, I don't think we could have bought a better education - I have no idea how to improve on our kids' K-8 school. My older child has basically had a custom education, at a PUBLIC school. Thanks to technology and the amazing administration and teachers. We also saved a fortune by buying on the outside of a gated community (did not personally see the draw or $$$$$ of buying inside the gates - and can attest many years later the gates add not real security - if anything those larger hoity toity homes are targeted far more for theft - probably takes the bullseye off of us entirely). We also went with a non-name-brand builder, so saved a fortune there. Stuff like that. It all adds up and up and up!

Our strategy for our next home (when kids are done with school) is to ditch the land (I've seen very large and nice condos for $100k-ish), and if retirement ready, to ditch the city. We still want to be relatively close to our parents and kids and the city. But can certainly go for the low prices 45 minutes out if we are no longer commuting on a daily basis.

It's tricky. It is not as simple as "anything further out is cheaper." This is actually largely not true (that further out is cheaper) because we live between so many "more deireable areas." But there are definitely some hidden frugal gems - we've got a good decade to seek them out. {& frankly, staying put may be most cost effective - for whatever reason I feel the city we live in now is far overlooked and under-valued, maybe being in close proximity to so many highly sought out cities}. I am not going to move somewhere just because it is cheaper - I want to know the "why" - we may even rent a place in the interim to see how we feel about the place - stuff like that - we will be digging deep and doing our research.

Relaxing Weekend

February 3rd, 2013 at 10:34 pm

**I am so happy to be home. We had a nice/relaxing weekend, and I think dh had a GREAT time (I think he appreciates breaks like this more, being with the kids every day). BUT, I slept terrible, and killed my back staying up last night to watch a movie on their small TV/uncomfortable couch. I told dh, "I know this place is fancy schmanzy, but I like our home MUCH better!!" We certainly have a much nicer TV and a much nicer bed and couch! Big Grin

So, I am personally just glad to be home.

WE did soak in the hot tub this morning, and my back does feel much better.



Last time we went to Napa, we gave it a try and saw the sights and did the wine tasting. This time the location was just chosen for the last minute vacancy. We decided to stay in and relax. That we succeeded with. I think dh's mom was appalled that we did stay in and did a take and bake pizza. LOL. Frankly, nothing appealed to us about going out and spending a ton of money. We did order some room service, the take and bake pizza our local grocery store does is A+, and we went out for an excellent Greek lunch. So, certainly no complaints from us. Since she did slip us $60 (I suppose was for dinner?), I don't think we will spend any of our own money for this trip. At least the vacation budget will remain intact for *this* weekend. Phew!! {We did have to pay $10 for the room - for whatever reason - it has been $0 generally lately when we use their timeshare points}.

We also did go walking for a couple of hours - bird watching by the marsh. There was absolutely no one there; I only wish we had thought to bring binoculars. But still saw plenty of beautiful birds, and enjoyed the peacefulness.





Weather was pretty nice, but not as warm as expected. I still broke out the flip flops and worked on my tan a bit. Big Grin

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Room service: I had to order again because last time we were in a splurgey mood and ordered smoked salmon, toasted bagel, chive cream cheese, red onions and capers. So we ordered again this time, but I think what I should do is just re-create this at home. YUM!! We are entertaining in a few weeks, and will have to remember this. I wrote it down so I do not forget.

While at the store picking up our pizza, I also noticed ranch/carrot packaging with sunflower seeds. I had never thought of that. I just picked it up because it looked tasty, but we always have these ingredients on hand at home. So I will have to remember this next time we entertain, too. Or to keep on hand for the kids.

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In other news, we went to San Francisco twice last month, AND my friend just bought a home in San Francisco. !! That is another post for another day. But looks like I may be going back in a couple of weeks to see her new place.

{Short version - paid $500k+ to own 1/4 of a home/four-plex kind of thing. She will probably fare better than most the locals who can't hang onto their $100k-$300k homes. So though it sounds kind of crazy insane to me, I am also not too worried about her finances. Wink Just because she is crazy insane frugal, and I do think her parents would help her if she lost her job or anything like that}.

SO, I looked up once again into getting an electronic toll tag, and for the first time it actually makes some financial sense. In fact, I almost got one for each car before I read that it had to be used at least once a year. Unlikely with our van, as we try to drive the gas sipper for longer trips and especially for big city parking. SO, we decided to just get one. The fine print on the toll tag said we could switch it between cars. So, PHEW! That is PERFECT!! {THey did not say this so much on website, as they prefer you do not switch it. But for once in a blue moon, makes me very happy. Now I just have to remember. !!}.

This is kind of significant to me, because when we moved here, one thing I felt like was that we were not much farther out from San Francisco. BUT, in the end we never go (directly from home) because the bridge is such a nightmare. So, I am so happy to erase that part as a downside to our low-cost-of-living move. No more waiting hours just to get past the toll booths. WOOHOO!!