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Archive for October, 2013

Murphy or No? HUGE Insurance Decrease YAY!

October 25th, 2013 at 01:26 pm

I am not sure if this is really a Murphy thing:

Our car broke down...

...in the garage!

So, was mostly a non-event. (We also noticed during the weekend when we weren't in a hurry and had the second car at our disposal - the carpool situation eliminated any weekday stress while we got the car fixed. Phew)!

I looked over the tires before we got it to the shop and they look fine. So, financially is kind of a wash (was expecting to replace two tires). I will check our maintenance records, but I think they probably only have 40k miles and are fine. Which would explain why the tires looked perfectly fine though we had been on a somewhat "every 2 year replace 2 tires" schedule. Was a good year to take a break since we just replaced van's 4 tires.

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I was SHOCKED to see home insurance bill - just got an e-mail copy today.

Down from $900 to $600. Woohoo!!

I googled a bit and saw State Farm reduced rates this year in California. When I get the full paper mail bill I will look over it more carefully.

I don't think we have ever paid that little to insure our home. In 14 years. Not even our condo (since it was in crazy expensive land).

My life insurance also decreased by about 30% this year. I had noticed it seemed lower but didn't look too much into it. Just got a note from my professional association recently that they had way decreased their rates, so I guess that explains that.

Flood insurance went up 20%, which is 100% political. I did not know since can't keep track of all the minutiae, but I googled a bit and saw it should go up 20% per year for five more years, and that the amount this year was correct. (It was supposed to go up 400% a couple of years back, but then I learned we were exempt because we had flood insurance going way back. So, it's just like that. FEMA bills us directly, but the last few years I had to sort out with my insurance agent. It probably wouldn't hurt to check with him this year, though bill actually matched what was reported in news and by Congresswoman. Last two years was all a mess).

I also got property tax bill. Expected decrease due to some bond refinancing. Decrease was about $125. Supposedly more local bonds will follow suit - so that will be awesome. (Total bill increased a bit because home value went up - but county assessed way conservatively like they have been - they can't keep up and I think are just avoiding the time and cost of appeals).

What will I do with large home insurance windfall? Put it to property taxes. Is actually perfect because I wanted to prepay this year. Saved $1500 on vacation and $300 on homeowners insurance, so that mostly covers the extra property tax payment.

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Other fiscal successes:

Dh actually succeeded in getting out internet bill down by $15 per month. For a year. PHEW!!! I think I will just throw that to the mortgage as a holding place - it will probably eventually fund a cell phone plan switch.

I also received $250 Citi reward. $250 "check to mortgage" - I just deposited to our bank account.

I am holding my breath and waiting another week to make sure they really and truly accepted the third party check. & that dh's tooth removal goes well. & then I guess I must be crazy because will put the money towards our beach weekend. Third time is the charm? Hopefully this vacation is not ruined.

I do feel more financially relaxed about giving that a go, with the home insurance savings. The $250 citi check will pay for the bulk of our weekend away. IT covers the hotel, and we can work the food and gas into our regular budget.

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Other than that, I am just EXHAUSTED! A big deadline kind of week at work. Dh is no longer volunteering in the classroom (which was like a billion hours) and so I volunteered at Fall Festival last weekend. (Exhausting start to week!!). We had an impromptu get together with friends after (at our house). Cleaned house Sunday because the in-laws stopped by. Last night the school had a chili cook off (which was totally awesome by the way) AND we attended a concert. Concert was beyond awesome. & my folks came up for that, so that was fun.

Oh, and a CRAZY busy week at work. I am probably staying home today - I need nothing more than a nice nap!

Bring on the Dental Bills + Milestone Progress

October 17th, 2013 at 08:18 pm

**Dh has a crazy wisdom teeth that has come up the past couple of years since we switched dentists. (It's black and dentist thinks it is way cool - I didn't even know about it).

So, I was envisioning "wisdom tooth" surgery and as dh has mentioned more and more he will eventually want to pull it, I was hoping a few more years in the future.

Well, dentist today recommended pulling. For $150. Can you say, "PHEW!"? Big Grin

I have a bad habit of assuming things our way worse than they are. Don't I feel stupid now?


**BM and LM both are slated for some teeth pulling - we have a meeting around November 10th for that. The word "surgery" was thrown out towards one of the kids. So, I am not out of the woods yet! Crossing my fingers.

Will I be the only one to not suffer a pulled tooth in the month of November? Wink

I actually have horrible horrible jaw and crowded/crooked teeth and orthodontia forever in the $$$$$$$ range, and so on. BUT, I didn't get any wisdom teeth? Does that even things out? Probably not.

I like to say I am just more evolved. Wink


**I was going to post this with my last post but forgot. I noticed stocks did well yesterday, probably due to Government news. So I updated our net worth and so on. I did not realize things had soared higher for us than they did all year so far, until I updated, so that was a nice surprise.

We surpassed a major milestone earlier this year. More financial assets than debt (mortgage). It was an exciting milestone, but now I am eager to get well on the other side of that milestone. In the interim, a volatile stock market can push us backwards on that goal.

As of today we were up about $20,000. !! I am very pleased with that. So, as of today we could pay off our mortgage and still have $20k! It would be higher, but we've had one heck of a year. I think we'd have crossed the $30k mark if not for everything breaking and going wrong. On the flip side, I am very "big picture" focused and the big picture is certainly going well. Of all years for things to be expensive, this might be the one that bothers me the least, on some level. At least our investments are doing well.

I've truly felt that this year is the year our assets are starting to really work for us. & that is aside from the stock market being totally on fire. They'd be working well for us regardless.

P.S. Our ROTHs are also nearing the $100k mark. Big Grin If I had funded them at all this year, they'd be there. But I think it's too soon to call, though if I add the cash earmarked for that we would be there. Just waiting for some more cash infusions to make those contributions and to make it official. Maybe 12/31? Completely random but dh and I would both have about $50k each. WE have both invested differently and different amounts over the years. I converted my old 401k into a ROTH IRA at some point, too. Which maybe makes up that since most years I funded his ROTH more than my own since I had work retirement plans for several years; he never had a work retirement plan. The last 2 or 3 years we have both maxed out our ROTHs since have been our only retirement contributions that we can contribute to. I have more money in a IRA (rolled over from employer plan). Total retirement is fast approaching the $200k mark. The first $100k was really and truly the hardest. IT goes so fast after that point - especially in a market like this.

Fiscal Updates

October 17th, 2013 at 01:50 pm

**Got a $20 sprint credit - will add to 11/30 mortgage payment. That's $40 mortgage snowflakes next month with the $20 I have been adding for carpool savings.

Sprint was giving us $40 per month, but dh is fine with $20. Basically, him and I are not paying our "data charges" as long as we can't get much data. The $40 seemed flukey and generous, BUT, it also paid for his phone replacement when it broke, so I guess it works out.

**Dh is going to try to call and haggle down our internet bill. The bill is absurd, but we aren't seriously going to leave and the service is A+. It is cheaper than our cell plan, and it actually works as advertised. Wink (He is probably motivated knowing I will be more open to going back to Verizon if we tame that beast - they refused to give us any more discounts once our last promo ended). We don't have cable with them, but was our last cable company. we negotiate everything no problem, but seem to ever have any luck with the cable companies - we walked away from several who were unwilling to give us extended promotions. Even when we legitimately said "we are leaving" and we left. Don't ask me! All this to say, not expecting much on this front.

**I got a $60 prepaid visa rebate for our recent tire purchase. I had the bright idea to pay it to our health insurance (since it was a larger sum than the usual $15 or $20 rebates). Worked like a charm! Will have to remember that for the future.

**We redeemed our Citi "triple dip" reward. $250 check to our mortgage (which I read most people just deposited to their bank - will try that first - our checking account is with mortgage holder so we still have Plan B if the deposit does not work).

We had 1200 points left and one of the first rewards that popped up was a 8G Flash Drive. Sold!

Once my paycheck hits today, I will pay off that card. When we receive rewards in hand I will cancel that card.

The mortgage payment was an annoying reward to redeem because you have to call in to request it.

**My younger child who was fond of big words is regularly calling me "economic". I will take that as a compliment. Big Grin He means it in a more "frugal" or "money conscious" context. It's cute.

**IT's been crazy and busy and I can't believe Halloween is only a couple of weeks away! It completely slipped my radar. I have not bought the kids costumes in several years. I am a little more open to it this year, especially since getting so last minute, and also because it has been a while. I found angry birds costumes 80% - 90% off. I guess not so popular any more??? You got me! So I am trying to sell them on that. Will see...

Feeling Non Party Pooper-ish

October 15th, 2013 at 07:49 pm

**I got an e-mail about the 5th graders $200 field trip deposit due. I had completely forgotten. But was waiting for more info. I suppose I will give up on more info and just put it down. (I don't see any reason why he would not participate, and we had many years to prepare).

That said, kind of bad planning on their part as they added that big 4th grade Sailboat field trip. That means 4 years in a row of big bucks on my part 4th, 5th, 4th, 5th. I noticed the middle schoolers had -0- field trip money requested. But, let's wait until this 5th grade gets up there. Some of the more well-off bigger spenders are in my older child's grade.

Well, that's a buzzkill since I had totally forgotten about it. !!

It's likely we just won't give any money to the school when we have 5th graders. We tend to donate a fair amount (because the school is AWESOME). But lord knows this year I have nothing to give. Next year it will probably be a chunk of change to field trips, instead. I forgot the full price, but it was a lot more than $200 - some "several nights away" thing.

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The other e-mail I got should probably go into the buzzkill pile. Endless requests for last minute money and so on drives me batty. So, I mostly stopped participating.

But I got an e-mail about a bunch of things needed in two days (shoot me now!) and for whatever reason I perused the list on the offchance anything was easy. I spotted "fall decor" for a raffle basket. I'll hit the Target dollar bins and Michaels with coupons, on the way home tonight.

Aren't I feeling in a NICE mood? (99% of the time I'd just grumble about the last minute requests and would say, "As if!!")

Part of the nice mood if I don't think anyone has asked me for anything this year. So, that helps. (Either that, or I ignored all the rest and forgot because they were too last-minute).

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Made some de-clutter progress this weekend but had a serious DOH moment. !!

Dh was ready to donate an old first-generation-ish DVD player. I found the manual for it plus a manual for an old CD player dh was supposed to sell many moons ago.

So, what did I do? I switched the manuals! Sent the CD one off with the DVD player. Oh well!

We already had that to purge, some clothes, and some more frgaile goods I Couldn't fit into the last pile. IT was a fairly small purge, but I was able to get it all out. My table begins anew and fresh.

That said, the "stuff we can sell for money" pile is growing, so may be our focus in the coming weeks.

Still got the carsetas (ahem, dh! - to be fair it has been crazy busy).

I got out the old cat carrier since we have no need for it.

I've got some wall hangings to sell.

I've got a mop/vaccum thing and dh did at least get that monstrous CD player out from our closet (so old and big that we will probably just freecycle at this point).

In addition, we did finally get through the downstairs closet. Lots and lots of boxes and gift bags (though we rarely give gifts. Might start a one-in/one-out rule on thise. We retained a "lifestime supply" and recycled anything that wasn't absolutely pristine.

I found some odd things as I believe I used the closet to stuff things in when I had smaller kids and less time. But cleared that stuff out and am mostly left with extra granite, tile, carpet, and all our gift wrapping needs (to last a lifetime).

I also went through manuals I had in two spaces in the house. Found some really old stuff and purged a lot. Others I was able to put with their sales/donation items. I could probably organize a bit more, but was a start.

Both those were fairly short and easy projects that I wanted to just get done to feel like I made some forward progress (on my otherwise super lazy vacation week - I honestly did little else).

November might be a good time to focus on craigslisting and purging paint and hazardous waste (which I mostly have in a pile ready to go).

We could probably also go through the garage now that it has cooled off a bit. (Should be an easy project - not a lot to it - we keep the garage pretty clear for cars. But there may be some weird forgotten things in there).

This & That - Mostly Good

October 10th, 2013 at 02:33 pm

Phew! The universe seems to be cutting us some slack this week.

**Got back from our "Plan B" vacation. We cut it short by about 5 days - so not much else planned the rest of the week. Might go see a couple of movies.

I will say I haven't had a nicer drive in "forever". No traffic whatseoever - didn't particularly see any crazy drivers. How is that for a miracle? With the year we have had I was also crazy afraid of some bad luck like a breakdown. So I am relieved to say it went very well. (I've probably never done a road trip of any length in such a new vehicle and had no logical reason to be worried - it's just been that kind of a year).

So, we do feel relieved to be home in one piece.

**WE spent about $1,000 for the trip. I will break it down when I get a breather. I think we honestly easily could have made it a $500-ish trip. I told dh to keep that one in our back pocket if we were ever particularly broke and wanted a getaway. We splurged on show tickets and a kitty hotel, which was about $400 of our costs. So, $600 for gas, hotel, food, transportation and so on.

The State Park we went to was AMAZING and probably made up a bit for skipping Death Valley. I think we saw some similar landscapes. The kids seemed to warm up to Vegas by last day and seemed to really enjoy the last night. Days 1 and 2 I wasn't so sure. Vegas was certainly PACKED. I think a lot of travelers were diverted there.

**Sprint coverage sucked eggs most the trip and so dh told me he was done with them. I think he had been holding out hope for 4G, but this trip just sealed the deal. He has to call and complain and get our credits back for the rest of our contract. We will start running numbers. We will probably go back to Verizon. At least we have a feel now of what kind of data usage we use, and so on. Before, was just boycotting anyone who didn't offer unlimited, but he is just not happy with other options. We've never been happy with any phone carrier but Verizon. They may be pricey but they offer exceptional coverage and service.

**We came home to our 2014 health insurance premiums. Gah! They usually e-mail it and certainly wasn't expecting that. In fact, we had been discussing that on the way home. In the end, we dodged a bullet. Only went up 5%. (I know - ONLY!! But we have had too many years of 10% - 20% increases). Which means we have one more solid year of insurance cheaper than our mortgage. Next year looks to be the year, where our insurance costs more, for sure. For reference, this is in CALIFORNIA. It's not like housing is exactly cheap.

I haven't looked up the exchange yet but never expected much from it (while gainfully employed). I appreciate the options for the unknown future though. But anyway, we have "young and healthy" insurance and so did not expect much. For reference, the Platinum plan was being quoted as $1500 per month, while we pay $900/month for a lower deductible and far better coverage. They released the rates around September 1.

In addition, I do have health insurance through employer, so that is another wrench. IT's just really crappy insurance and expensive. It's like I'd pay $1,000 per month to add the family, and nothing we needed would be covered. That kind of thing. But, since *I* have insurance offered to me, I do not believe *I* can buy insurance on the exchange. Even if it is crappy by my own measure - it meets the minimum requirements.

Our income is near the cutoff for income tax credits, so I doubt I will find the worse plan that costs more any more enticing. If I were unemployed, it would be fully subsidized, and that would be a whole other story. But seriously, how does that even work? I have to cough up $1500 per month now and wait for a $18,000-ish tax refund after the end of the year? Holy cow!! I guess it's better than no subsidy.

So, anyway, the long and the short of it was I did not expect to use the exchange. But, I will look up actual rates now that it is all set up and check our tax credit and so on. I haven't done that yet.

My dad told me his insurance was going from $2,000 per month to $300 per month on the exchange. They have no income, so that is not surprising. I have to re-strategize for them since we were converting all their IRAs to ROTHs, ideally before they turn 70. But, it might be better to leave their income very low and get these healthcare subsidies until they turn 65. I expected the exchange to help them more with all their pre-existings.

{Their insurance is still $2,000 per month, but they will be getting HUGE tax refunds as most of the savings will be tax credits}.

**I talked to my dad last night and he no longer wants to take BM to Japan. I am a little disappointed because him and his Japan friend aren't getting any younger and healthier. BUT, he said he wanted to take BM in 2015 instead. I think I can live with that. He even said he wanted to pay for him if they went in 2015. I felt like it would be dumb to pass up the opportunity, BUT, it does put a lot of financial pressure off of me. So, phew! {Next year my dad wants to do a solo trip and wants the flexibility to go any time of the year}.

**We have $1500 left over from our planned vacation budget, for this week. I'd probably realistically expect to spend $2500 on our 10-day National Park vacation. We save $1500 every year for vacations. MIL gave us a check for $1,000 right before we left (totally unexpected - for anniversary and trip). I don't know if she would have given us the check if she knew we could not go to the National Parks. But, whatever. I already sent it to the credit card so it's all paid for. We spent just about that much. I wouldn't say that we planned it overly much or limited it to only $1,000, but maybe we did subconsciously. We certainly splurged more than we would have been able to given our very expensive year. So, that was certainly nice.

So I have this $1,500 that I Was thinking for Japan.

Since Japan is cancelled, then we could really use a $3,000 vacation budget next year ($1500 x 2 years). We have a wedding to go to near Yellowstone. But, without the Japan trip, we can also re-try our 10-day trip next October. It's an election year and so we discussed that the odds were Congress wouldn't be so stupid next October 1. Though, who knows. Rolleyes We hadn't really considered it otherwise because we had like 3 other opportunities next year otherwise. We felt we would probably stay home next October, though the kids get an ideal vacation week (& only THREE more!!!). But, going on 4 vacations next year just wasn't going to happen. 3rd trip was visiting my sister.

Before I talked to my dad about Japan, dh and I had discussed driving up to Montana for the wedding and hitting at least Bryce and Zion. I haven't really looked at a map and don't know how feasible it was. BUT, I told him the kids had seen more than I ever saw before like my 21st birthday (I mentioned we absolutely never vacationed anywhere when I Was a child). & so I was fine with ditching them since the wedding is while they are in school. I am not getting younger and I wanted to see some National parks. So, we had talked about doing a big road trip just the two of us. But, I did not know the wedding was literally near Yellowstone (Montana is a big state). Dh just told me that was the case. So, maybe we will just fly and do Yellowstone for a week or something. & we will try again in October for the rest.

In the meantime, I wanted to prepay our property taxes. Which, only ties up the money for about 4 months. I decided that was the best bang for my buck since would get me an income tax deduction. But, that was while the market was flying high. I will have to ponder that - have until about December 10th to decide. This extra $1500 vacation money would be perfect for that. It's tied up, but then I won't have to cough up $2000 next April. I think that is mostly the plan, but I may fund our IRAs if the stock market takes a dive in the coming weeks. I hadn't wanted to drop our cash down and was thinking of funding in April. I expect some cash infusions in December (gift) and April (overtime). BUT, I will put in the full $9500-ish I still need to max our ROTHS if the market takes a significant dip. & I may forget about the property taxes in that case. It can wait another year.

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Edited to Add: I forgot one thing. We also expected to save $150-ish this week not being home (regular gas and groceries spending). & I needed $165? to get our mortgage below $190,000. SO, I will add that extra amount to the next mortgage payment - whatever the exact dollar is will come from this savings. I know we will be home 4 days this week, but the gas savings is pretty solid since no school or work commute this week. We will have to eat very cheaply. Which is fine - ready for some good home cooking. I can't stand all the eating out when we vacation, we are so spoiled by the good home cooking.

Vacation Cancelled

October 4th, 2013 at 03:14 am

National Park closure means our vacation is canceled. Frown

Of course our vacation was ruined this year! - because this is how the entire year has been!!

I've been getting lots of well-meaning advice to do this or that instead. (Skip the national parks and do private tours and excursions instead). Rolleyes I roll my eyes because a week in the National Parks was to cost a $25 entrance fee. Everything I have been suggested literally costs 100 times as much.

I am extra bummed because it is just so rare that we do a big vacation like this. A vacation just for the sake of vacation - for more than just 3 days. All 4 of us. Have we *ever* done anything like this? Will we ever make it work? I am REALLY bummed...

We are not out one single penny. I guess that is the silver lining. I am peeved for everyone who flew halfway across the world or spent a lot more time and energy and money. I saw people on the news who had to book their hotels last October, for this October. Thankfully, we planned a more "winging it" kind of a road trip. We'd in general avoid the "mile long wait hotels" anyway. So, we hadn't committed to one single thing. Dh cancelled all of our hotel reservations today (we had booked all but our last night) and he said he got quite an earful. Not just about how all the hotels were now empty, but how all the customer service reps had so many friends and family affected by furlough, and so on. I dealt with the kitty hotel. Apparently they have a generous cancellation policy (which was not in anything I had read or signed before), so glad I asked. I thought that was the only thing we might be on the hook for, but wasn't too worried because it was not a peak travel time. So after talking to them, it was official that we have not lost a cent on our cancelled trip. Phew!

Plan B:

Plan B is not going overly well. But, well, nothing is... We were thinking of going to LA and Vegas, but the LA part seems dead (one show sold out, in the interim, and it was hard to find a decent and reasonable room so last minute).

Right now our Plan B is to just go to Vegas. 3 Nights.

What can I say - we do mini-vacations well? Rolleyes

Even if we throw in a big fancy show, we will probably save $1,500-ish (60%) with the trimmed down trip. Which might be useful next year (Talking about Japan, we have a wedding to go to which happens to be near Yellowstone, and I might visit my sister). That said, all of next year's trips were going to have to be 1 or 2 of us at a time, financially, so I doubt we will actually be able to make up for anything we were planning to do this year. Except be glad if we can make it to Yellowstone. All the other closer parks will have to wait for another time - lord knows when. (& the kids will miss out on Yellowstone because they will have school).

I've been stressed and bummed all week, but feeling much better as we have "given up" and switched gears. It's the sitting and waiting that was driving me the most batty. I am not much of a "looking back" type and with the new room reservation I find myself thinking less about our screwed over trip and more about how we will have fun regardless. I also feel better that we are going on some sort of road trip and can use some of our preparations. Vegas isn't terribly exciting as we've "Been There/Done That" a few too many times, but it will be an experience for the kids. It's probably not something we would have ever planned with them, but it's the only place in our itinerary that we can enjoy. So, it is what it is. I do know there is a lot of cool stuff that they can enjoy.