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Archive for June, 2015

Bought A Car

June 30th, 2015 at 12:55 pm

& am so glad to be done with that chapter. HATE car shopping.

I know everyone probably thinks we meticulously research these things, but historically we trust our gut, stumble upon deals, and most our decisions tend to be pretty rash. (Usually lots of thought ahead of time, but when it comes down to it we make quick decisions).

We went out just to look but they were desperate to sell used cars for month-end sales. There was no one else at the dealership and we had no plans to buy a car and so we haggled fiercely.

We ended up paying about $14k for a 2013 Hyundai Elantra, fully loaded. 15k miles. (It was in total immaculate condition). They wouldn't lower the price any further on one car and I doubt we were going to come to any agreement, when some manager brings this beauty around. I liked it better than any we had looked at. We walked away for a while to be sure. But I think we both just wanted to be done with the least amount of time and hassle.

As much as I dread car shopping, I do admit they know our type. No one tried to over-sell us anything or throw too much BS at us. I was ready to go through the contract with a fine-tooth comb but there were no fees to argue about.

{It was a car dealership. Don't get me wrong. A very painful experience with lies lies lies. You just kind of tune it out and let the car and internet speak for itself}.

I think my dh was stressing more about it than necessary. I looked up trade-in and it was $12k-ish. When you pay cash for used cars you don't sweat these things. What's the worst case? We HATE the car and we trade it in later? *shrugs* (Clearly we don't want to do this, but I don't see the point in worrying about all the long-term worst case scenarios).

Oh, and I am so happy with the size. Dh has only been considering teeny tiny cars. In the end this is similar in size to our Ford Escort, but feels a lot more roomy inside. (& admittedly is a wee bit bigger). It is so roomy that we have discussed making this the long-term van replacement. A roomy car you can fill with people and camping gear and get 40mpg.

We had our eye on the 2016 Chevy Spark, which has not come out yet. We looked at an older model and I am so relieved dh admitted it was too small for now. I think maybe a used Spark in a few years will be a fine second car. But not as our main driver. 2016 should be vastly improved and we prefer used cars anyway, so would have to wait a while for that one.

I think what we wanted more than anything was something small and very fuel efficient (like we already had). BUT... Dh had to make some (size) concession for growing boys. He was driving me nuts looking at SMALLER cars. We share cars because the van is such a gas guzzler we never drive it anywhere. This is why I couldn't see ending up with a too-small car and a too-big car. We need a just-right-car for the here and now.

Oh, and could care less about anything the car came with. (I don't see us ever needing heated seats. This is California! & our cars are garaged). BUT... I think we maybe paid another $1k or so just to get the integrated blue tooth. We have after market blue tooth in our old cars, but the steering wheel controls are so nice (in new car) and we knew we'd have to pay a lot to get any of that after market. We could have got a much better deal otherwise. The premium package was so "all or nothing". Now we have all this stuff we probably don't want to get too used to.

Three thoughts on price parameters:

1 - We save $100/month endlessly/each for car replacements. So we had about $16,000 saved up for car replacement. (Had 13+ years to save).

The thing about doing this is we have never increased our car spending/budget. Waiting just gives us more time to save, and nicer cars with age. Lots of added luxury without *ever* increasing this line item in our budget.

2 - We've seemed to increase our budget $5k with every car purchase. First cars cost $1k. Second cars cost $5k. Last cars cost $10k. This time we have had the time and the means to amass much more. So $15k is the next logical step. Which of course goes in line with #1 since we bought newer cars that last longer and gave us more time to save, last round.

I think we'd both be happy with something in the $10k range again (our last cars were $10k - 1-year-old/15k miles). But there has been a fair amount of inflation, and with age and means you do entertain the fancier cars. Size was also more of a concern than in the past. (We bought the Ford long before we planned to have kids).

3 - I don't know that we would have bought a car this weekend but for my parents' generous gift to us. Let's face it - we got a free car. & it was more than we were expecting to buy. So I know that number heavily influenced us. Otherwise we may have been more inclined to save a couple of thousand dollars.

I was pleased though that (with taxes) we did not spend any more than the gift. (IT would have been easy to talk ourselves up a bit). I really thought the taxes would push us up further as we kept ruling out the tiny cars.

Another note:

We did just trade-in old car because it was worthless and saved a lot of hassle. Would be different if I thought we could actually sell it for more than dealership offered.

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Reasons we sold dh's car:

**It actually had absolutely no mechanical issues, but was just getting kind of loud and rattly. It was a 2001 that we had paid $7,800 for in 2002. It has 170k miles. It's not even leaking oil or anything (like any car I have ever had in the past with so many miles has). A random part did fall out of the engine recently, which is really weird, but I feel was probably a random/isolated event. The car is in such good repair otherwise.

But my spouse is half deaf and the noise was really bothering him. He is very cautious of the hearing in his good ear and puts a huge premium on QUIET these days.

We had decided 100% to junk this car this year but wanted to wait until next spring or winter when we were in a better cash position. We were maybe 90% there but went up to 100% when we recently took the car in. They looked over the whole engine trying to find where that part fell out and we talked to them about engine noise. We confirmed it was age/car quality and there wasn't much we can do. So we decided to close the chapter on that car.

In the meantime dh's car started to get louder again. I don't know if it maybe needed a repair or if that is how loud it was last summer in the heat (I think it was).

So then we get a cash infusion. & we car shopped more seriously. & here we are.

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Edited to add: We don't finance cars. The primary reason at this point in our lives is the PITA factor. I just don't want to deal with all that (not getting title right away, loan application, getting insurance involved, AND worst of all the endless monthly payments). That's really all there is to it. When we were younger and felt we couldn't afford car payments it was more about living with a $1k or $5k car and not tying up any of our potential wealth in car payments that we didn't really have the money for anyway. I guess there is still some of that as we have never spent more than $15k (including taxes) on a vehicle. Anything beyond that is taking away too much from our future. But at this point in our lives we could certainly finance $10k or $15k at a great rate. The reason we don't is the PITA factor.

I do find that people greatly exaggerate the benefits of car loans. Maybe this is obvious to me because we've never had a car loan? But I'd had to substantially reduce our investments and redirect to car payments. It's not so simple as you would be better off investing versus paying cash. The money has to come from somewhere and no matter how you slice it it would come from our investments. It's just a shell game, in my opinion. I think the cash method is just largely misunderstood. I don't literally tie up all my cash for 15 years while I save for a car and I've never cashed out an investment to pay for a car. We more manage cash flow in different ways. The $100/month for a car that we don't intend to replace for 10-15 years now? It's obviously going to be invested. & in 10 years I will probably start working towards keeping a cash buffer for a car replacement. It's usually more how it works out. But just to be clear, taking a car loan would be a huge hit to our monthly investment contributions. We could also invest the cash up front and that's not a bad thing. You will just never convince me that is *always* and *obviously* smarter to go the loan route. The truth is that it is flip a coin territory. The PITA factor will always leave us preferring to just pay cash and moving on. I will never again think about paying for this car. That is PRICELESS.

Doings, Snowball

June 26th, 2015 at 01:07 pm

Just got back from annual camping trip in the Sierras.

Life continues to be stressful and crazy. The minor annoyances continue to pile up.

While my dad was here (we camp with my dad and in-laws) he fixed a couple of minor things around the house for us. But we found a new problem that we will have to call the gardener to fix.

Of course, we appreciated the break and our trip went smooth as could be. Phew! (A nice sea of calm in a month of crazy).

Finances:

**Dh has been earning tons of google credits and amazon gift cards for whatever survey stuff he is doing. He ended up getting a new roku for $25. (Our old one has been clunky for a while but I didn't really want to spend the money. In the end he spent a whole $25 and it is 10 times better).

I suppose that is unofficially his Father's Day present.

**I sent a payment to the credit cards today. I had booked summer classes for BM, our random wildlife vacation, and had charged dh's MRI. I had charged that all in June wanting to push off actual payment to next month, BUT the credit card balances were getting kind of crazy. Plus the one card has a low limit and so I think it was best to pay it down before the end of the month.

So much for delaying those expenses...

**I had to deposit my big check in person. For whatever reason (I guess since I was very nonchalant about it) they made it available immediately. Which was nice since I received the check Saturday night and we weren't back home until yesterday. Seriously, they asked me when I NEEDED it and I shrugged. Apparently that is how you get immediate access to large sums in this day and age. (If you haven't had a large deposit lately, they usually put a hold on some of it).

So I went home and took all the money out (online). I didn't NEED it but if it was available I might as well allocate it.

**So... I went ahead and made my big mortgage payment.

Mortgage balance is now $177,999. I project that we will be at $174,999 by end of year. $169,999 by April 2016.

**I had already opened a $10,000 CD (at my credit union) for a 1.50% rate and so opened up a second one. I don't know that I felt entirely comfortable tying that much up in CDs, but... we also expect a chunk of cash in December. I am always way too cautious, anyway. Odds are we will probably never never touch this money. (I consider about $15k of our cash savings completely untouchable but for extreme emergency). Of course, the CD is easy to access and there isn't much downside if I have to raid it later.

**Money continues to rain down from the sky. I had my piccolo on consignment and apparently it sold recently. Received a $300 check in the mail yesterday. Woohoo!

I am putting this $300 into investments.

{It was in disrepair and this was a very easy route to get it sold for more than I am sure I could have gotten on my own. Certainly was far less hassle than FB and CL have been of late}.

It was funny because I swung by that area yesterday and was stuck in the heat and traffic staring at the music store for a while wondering if they would ever sell my piccolo. (It's an area that I do not frequent). The check was, at that time, on a mail truck en route to my home. Ha! (We kind of reasoned summer/fall would be a good time to sell but had left it at the store at some point in the spring. Better than gathering more dust in my closet).

**The kids just told me that they have no piano lessons next month and so the snowflakes continue to fall. That's another $200 that I will move to investments. Plus credit card rewards this month (About $90?). Plus $30 to investments since we don't have a Ting bill this month. We also have a REI dividend to cash out.

Possibly a $600+ snowball for this month.

2015 Rewards

June 20th, 2015 at 06:38 pm

Not much to see here. I'm phased out of some of the $500 rewards until next year and I haven't seen the Sapphire card for a full $500 bonus this year. In addition to that, we don't need the extra boost so much this year and I don't think it's the worst thing to rest the credit a bit.

That said, I could see us each doing a $500 reward per year. Why not??

I took some time today to do some fiscal chores. Closed two credit cards (was able to close them simultaneously online with live chat). I called to get my ATM card renewed (it seemed to have not been renewed) and that phone call took less than a minute. I guess I had been putting off five minutes or so of chores. I like it when things are quick and easy!

I still need dh to close a CU account we opened last year for bonus. At that point I can start my list anew.

As I shred credit card bonus stuff for closed cards I don't care about any more, I figured I'd update and was surprised I've not even started a 2015 tally yet. & so here it begins...

2015 TALLY:

$200 Cash (AmEx Card Everyday, Moi)
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$200 TOTAL *ONE-TIME REWARDS*

Other Rewards:

**Free Prime For One Year

**$40 cash back (Amex Reward for spending $40 at Amazon)

**Various monthly rewards that I will tally at years-end.

Thank Goodness for a Slow Weekend

June 18th, 2015 at 01:15 pm

I did have a fairly relaxing weekend last weekend. I surely needed it!

As to this week, has been like the last couple of weeks. I wouldn't even know where to begin...

**We did have some good news and scored a free coastal hotel stay in San Diego for our September wildlife trip. Woohoo! (Was not expecting that at all. This trip keeps getting cheaper. I am so glad that we went for it).

Otherwise, Murphy has just been toying with us:

**AC made a HORRIBLE sound. It turns out just some wire came loose and was hitting the blades. Since we took it apart and re-tightened all the bolts it has been sounding much quieter. Nice! Bullet dodged.

**We left for a bit Saturday and when we came home the cat was squinting one eye. All I could see was emergency vet visit in my near future. Thankfully it cleared up. (Probably just got something in his eye and worked it out?)

**Car troubles. Let me just back up and say that yes we drive older cars. In my experience, our cars have always been in better repair than average. Because we can actually afford to keep care of them. So I have absolutely no frame of reference for this...

So dh gets home Sunday from the movies and he hears a CLUNK when he parks the car. He looks under the engine and finds a part. The car seems totally fine and he decides to drive it over to the mechanic on Monday.

Mechanic is totally and completely stumped. They threw out initially that it looked like a transmission bracket but they can't seem to find it. The receptionist is convinced it's a washing machine part (LOL). Their theory is that it fell out of our other car but we assure them that is impossible. If he hadn't of heard it fall out we would have maybe gone that route. We start to believe someone left a tool in the engine that got tore up or something. OR something got kicked up into the engine on the freeway and fell out when he stopped?

Before we even took it in I told myself this is probably "nothing" like everything else. BUT... Since we do plan to replace this car in 6 months or so, I am running through my head that at least the kids don't have school and we can probably manage okay for a couple of weeks if we have to go car shopping, etc. I know this is ridiculous worst case scenario that will never come to pass. Right? Lord knows I don't want to buy a new car RIGHT NOW though I admit in the grand scheme of things it probably doesn't matter. We'd pay a lot of money just to keep the option of driving the car longer. So as long as it's fixable we are probably just going to fix it. We have already reconsidered car replacement as the medical bills pile up. Not the worst thing to put it off an additional year.

This whole thing was a reminder why it's good to "go there" and to have that Plan B. In the end it was a transmission bracket and they figured it out after everyone looked over the car for hours. They were so happy and relieved that they found it because it would have completely destroyed the engine if they did not fix it. They said they transmission could have just fallen out (WORST case) or caused damage to the engine (probably more likely).

So there's another bullet dodged.

{I have no idea why part fell out in the first place... That is a whole other thing}.

So yeah, that is SOME of my week.

I keep thinking it's Friday. (on Tuesday and Wednesday even). It's been such a LONG and exhausting week, on many fronts.

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We were also keeping a bucket list #4 trip (THIS YEAR) in mind because an opportunity came up for dh. We found out Monday night that it was not meant to be. I think we are kind of emotionally deflated because of that.

He's trying to sell a movie script. One door closes and another door always opens. There will always be a million doors, and it is expected to probably have a lifetime of doors slammed in your face. This was just such an exciting opportunity and a bigger risk was taken because of it. & we never would have planned the wildlife trip if it would potentially interfere with this.

The new open door is that he already has a meeting in LA while we are down there for the wildlife trip. Who knows - maybe this is a better opportunity.

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As to dh's medical stuff, we have a meeting next week. Will go from there. Life hasn't given me a quiet moment to even think about that.

Hoping for a Slow Weekend

June 13th, 2015 at 01:16 pm

Thank goodness for Saturday! Should have some time to reboot after the last couple of weeks of crazy.

**We got our wildlife encounter booked. Could still be canceled due to weather, so fingers crossed we get to see this through! I will share more eventually.

**BM told me he needed a navy blue t-shirt for the last day of school (for teams). This is annoying since they have a million navy blue school uniform shirts, but I understand he doesn't want to wear a more formal shirt for this. Since Target often has t-shirts for $5 I finally gave in. We were going to drop by Target today while in the area. But anyway, BM ended up checking the other team colors and said there was no "black" and he thought black would be close enough. Smart boy! It's not the saving $5 that matters so much to me as just how proud I am that he figured a solution.

I also notice when things get "crazy" is always when we run to the store more. I just don't know if I don't have the mental capacity to figure it out as much when life gets hectic. So I am relieved that I don't have to run to the store at all this weekend. More time for some well needed unwinding. Phew!

**My employer is selling a bunch of furniture. I looked through it since we are looking for some storage pieces and working on organizing our home more.

I picked up a nice shelf for $15. It's more of a short/long bookcase. I was thinking for LM's closet which has nothing in it. We also talked about putting it in his room to replace his "baby" toy box.

So when I brought it home dh and I carried it upstairs, only to find shelves already in the closet. ??? Dh thinks we bought them. I have absolutely no recollection of them. LOL. But LM liked the new shelves and replacing the toy box is still a good plan. (I'd just put the shelves in our closet otherwise. That was sort of s Plan B. I think they'd work best in our closet but I also though LM lacked storage and would need it the most).

**This weekend we have some fun things planned.

--Annual BBQ for neighborhood.

--LM is going to movies and ice cream with his teacher and some classmates. (Some silent auction thing I think I paid $30 for a couple of months back).

--Dh bought 3 Jurassic Park blu rays with free movie passes, so all the boys are going to that this weekend. (He often buys those deals. The movies were on sale, so win-win). I went with dh when he bought those movies at Target. Looking at full price blu rays and all that always astounds me. My dh is a movie collector but just doesn't spend those crazy dollars on it all. Anyway, any time he takes me along I appreciate how little he spends on that stuff.

June Crazy

June 10th, 2015 at 03:35 pm

June is Crazy!

I'll share some tidbits but just imagine 5 other serious meetings and issues that we have been tackling this month. Gah! Last week was one of those weeks and this weeks hasn't been any easier.

Random Tidbits:

**Thank you whoever has used my Ting referral link. We are looking at 5 or 6 months of free cell service. Woohoo!

**We are planning a third bucket list type vacation for this year (versus the 0 that we usually do?). This is CRAZY!!

It's not overly extravagant and is why we are considering it. But dh told me about this wildlife encounter thing. I initially was just putting that aside for later but then he sent me a link and I looked closer. I said, "We have to do this during this year. There is no way they will be able to keep these prices or manage all this as word spreads about this place." We thought it would be $800 for 4 and didn't know how backed up they would be but in the end it's just $600 (4th person in group is free). Woohoo! We will drive and need a couple of nights of lodging. They had slots in September that we are trying to book. Totally booked up through summer. It's a really small outfit.

In the meantime... Some celebrity goes over there yesterday and blows up twitter with how awesome this place is. O.M.G. Kind of what I was worried about but didn't expect that to happen so literally the day after we started the reservation process. Let's just say I am feeling very happy with this decision!

Will pull this from our Hawaii funds if need be.

**I had a skin biopsy that turned out to be benign. I didn't expect otherwise but it's always nice to get that kind of confirmation. I'm trying to rest up and heal. Stitches get removed Friday.

Other Stuff:

**OF course, dh always overshadows me on the medical front. We received the shocking news last week that his brain tumor seems to be growing pretty rapidly. They want to do radiation this month. If we don't do anything it will be too big and he will need surgery again. (He had it mostly removed in 2010, with surgery. Last year we discussed radiation in 5-10 more years, just as a frame of reference what a huge change in situation this is).

For the most part it sounds pretty easy. The procedure itself. It just brings up a lot of questions for the long term.

The procedure itself was not so easy 5 years ago. Waiting has bought us a lot of time and advancements so this thing will be so much easier than when we last discussed, AND the kids are so much older and no longer daycare dependent. Heck, they can help take care of dh if need be, but doesn't seem to be a concern at all. The hospital is doing a team meeting to discuss best options but the Doctor we talked to thought he'd be done with this procedure the end of June, and that he'd prefer to do in our city. Waiting to see if the team agrees and to get a date.

All we can do is one day or one step at a time.

Financially we will have a lot of medical bills this year and next. The obvious to go is our mortgage pre-payments. That makes the whole thing *shrugs*.

It's hard for me to explain given our own personalities AND what it's like to wonder at some point if you would be around to see your kids grow up. It's not the vacations *at all* that matter to us. But it's just when dealing with all this we also can't muster up the energy to care if we pay off our mortgage possibly one or two years sooner. It's that financial stuff that matters the very least of all. (I am so grateful to have a conservative mortgage and to have paid down rapidly in good financial times, for sure, and that is some of it). The wildlife thing came up like the very same day as all this news. I admit it's also nice to be planning something so exciting while planning something so stressful. It's helped. & of course we aren't going to cancel the one big vacation (Hawaii) we wanted to do with our kids and already planned. (I can't say it's something we'd ever plan solely because of this type news, but we also aren't going to cancel it because of this). There's no thought or discussion here. We have an extra $3k earmarked to the mortgage and it's getting moved over to medical expenses. It was a split second decision that seemed obvious to the both of us.

May Savings

June 2nd, 2015 at 07:40 pm

Received $35 bank interest for the month of May.

Redeemed $25 credit card rewards (cash back) from our gas/grocery card. Deposited this snowflake into investments.

Redeemed $37 cash back on Citi card. Deposited this snowflake into investments.

Redeemed $4 cash back on Visa/dining card. Deposited this snowflake into investments.

Redeemed $50 AmEx rewards as a ROTH contribution.

Savings (From paycheck):

+$200 to investments
+$300 to cash
+$900 to IRAs

Short-Term Savings (for non-monthly expenses within the year):

+$1,300 to cash
-$1,132 for concerts/events, vet visits, medical, dental, summer class registration, printer ink, organization purchases, pirate gear for camp (pirate theme this year!) and other misc.

CRAZY month!! In May and June of last year we had -0- in non-monthly expenses. For this May I had ten different entries on my spreadsheet (as to 10 different kinds of expenses). Which is probably like more than we have ever had.

I am happy to put May behind me. It wasn't anything big but just a lot of little expenses. It was just a weird month. We are overall in a "no spend" kind of mode with our big vacations this year. (Not planning anything else all year and being more homebodies than usual). On the flip side, there is also a feeling of "doing very well financially" since we keep surpassing financial goals at a more and more rapid pace. This could be some of the spendy-ness. (It seems silly to deny some random things that came up this month).

I've noticed that "May spendy crazy" seems to have been a common theme for SA bloggers.

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For June dh has a pretty busy schedule and so I will probably have lots of time to work on some more house organization and de-cluttering. It's the kind of thing that sounds so awful and boring to me, but since diving in I have gotten a bit in the *zone*. & it's probably a good redirect of energy since we won't really have any "fun" funds for the rest of the year. (Spending it all on big trips!) So my attitude has adjusted a bit and if I am stuck at home I better make the best of it. OF course, joining a group is also really motivating.

{& I wouldn't feel sorry for me. The worst case is we just lounge by the pool all summer, which is what we have been doing. Boohoo? Big Grin }.

I have more to blog about organizing and de-cluttering but honestly I've been spending less time blahblahblah and more time keeping my house in order. Maybe not a bad thing? Though I do expect to eventually get over the other side of the mountain. I don't want to spend all my time cleaning for eternity. I am enthused to make 2015 the year to get well on the other side of the mountain! & I know blogging about it will keep me motivated too. So more on all that later.