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Summer Doings

June 23rd, 2017 at 01:53 pm

For the first 10 days of summer break, we have absolutely nothing planned. It's a sweet relief after a long/trying school year.

Actually, most of our summer looks like this. We aren't big on filling up our schedule, but the kids' summers are so short and sometimes it fills up very quickly, regardless. So, we are ALL happy to have a very slow summer planned. We will break up the peace and quiet with our annual camping trip and then birthday festivities for the kids.

In addition to just soaking in the peace and quiet, we've also blown all our "fun" money on our trip abroad. So doesn't leave much else. Extra motivation to keep it low key. We have plenty of frugal/FUN things to do, and so I feel very *shrugs* about this part. For example, going to the pool or the beach.

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MH and MM went to a free movie yesterday. We've been having a heat wave and usually they make you line up outside (for free advanced screenings). But in the end, they let them line up inside yesterday. Phew! (MH had gone to another movie on Monday and he had waited outside in the heat. It was another theater).

{The movie they saw last night was "Baby Driver". MH said it was really good and he is telling everyone because the general reaction is that the name of the movie sounds stupid, and no one's heard of it. Even among his movie friends}.

MH did make it into one free movie screening (a few weeks ago) that was really meant for college students. I didn't go because I didn't think we'd get in, and didn't want to waste my time. In the end, the movie was really good and he got tickets for a more normal (all ages) screening next week. So we are all going to see that movie.

Yeah, pretty much MH sees *every* movie before it even comes out. You see why I am not concerned about our lack of "fun money". Wink

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Over the weekend I decided to order some shoes and swim suits.

It's mostly impossible to find shoes that fit my feet, but I found a pair that feel like sneakers and double as casual or work shoes. I bought like 3 pairs of that shoe. So I have probably been good for a while. (That was a few years ago, and I bought a couple of extra pairs that I have yet to wear).

{I was amused when someone at work complimented me this week on my shoes. I've worn them every day for YEARS. I just chuckled to myself how people don't notice these things. Realizing this, goes a long way to saving space and money}.

I am just trying to replace a flat shoe that I have, and I see the same shoe but can't find them in a wide size now. *sigh* I decided that I don't remember ever shopping flats at Zappos so I gave it a try. (Several days later, I've returned them all. A couple fit but just weren't right. One was close and I might try double wide on that brand).

For whatever reason, this reminded me that I really want to replace my swimsuit too. I don't remember when I bought it, but I know I had it 2010 when I went to Hawaii. It's fine, but starting to fray a bit. (I've tried to buy another swimsuit at some point, but have yet to find something).

Anyway, I checked Bealls of Florida and they had some suits on sale in the $10 range. Like really nice swimsuits. So I just bought up a bunch. Something will have to work. & I bought a couple of more expensive ones also. (I only plan to keep one).

So... I told MH that I had just spent $400. He didn't bat an eye. He says, "Yeah, how much are you going to return?"

Well I already returned $260 in shoes; the entire freaking order. He knows me too well. Big Grin

Edited to add: I am reviewing the June spending today. Apparently I haven't bought anything for myself since the beginning of February. Replacing worn out shoes and swimsuits, I'd probably put under "clothing" versus "personal spending". But regardless, I have spent $0 on clothing this year AND $0 for personal spending (before these purchases).

OT Update

April 24th, 2017 at 01:09 pm

**Work has been totally crazy and will be for a while. On the plus side, I did get my annual OT payout.

I do have $3,000 to throw at the mortgage, which is my minimum annual OT goal.

**I did also pay off the TV with my OT check.

My husband was so aggravated with the store he bought the TV from. He had negotiated at several stores, trying to see how much wiggle room he could get on price. & settled on one store that we buy most our electronics from. Since he was haggling, they told him to just buy it on an installment plan. Not the right thing to say to my husband. He was PISSED. He told me about that later. He said, "Who on earth buys a TV on credit?!" Um, just about everyone?? He just has no clue. He's a "debt = hair on fire emergency" type, so he was just completely dumbfounded by the suggestion, and aggravated that they were trying to sell him a payment plan to "save money." Rolleyes

{In case I wasn't clear, their whole sales pitch was, "Who cares how much it cost? Just throw it on credit!" We chose to *care* and to negotiate the price down.}

Even though I am well aware that most people put this kind of stuff on credit, I suppose it often doesn't register. I wondered aloud in a recent blog post why people would pay full retail price for these type things. When wondering that, I Was presuming everyone pays cash. It's not always front of mind how "weird" we are. I guess it makes a little more sense if I step back and realize that most these sales are made on credit.

Spring Break & A Splurge

April 14th, 2017 at 05:21 am

No spring break for me. I am looking forward to April 15th, as to lessening my work load a wee bit. But it's going to be pretty busy for another 2 months or so. *sigh* It's probably optimistic to think that I will get a breather at all.

But, the kids have spring break. MM(13) is on the east coast right now. He will be back today and has two full weeks off of school. Other than this super big trip, he's just going to have to chill out at home.

DL(11) is spending the week with grandparents. With him, it just depends on the day. I wouldn't have been surprised if he refused to go or if he came home early. But he was super excited about being gone all week and spending time with extended family. Is nothing I would have ever guessed in a million years. But, I guess he really enjoyed his last couple of spring breaks (alone with grandparents). & he was in a super good mood the day he left. So, phew!

MH also has a couple of days off of work. I am sure he has been sulking at home a bit because I am so busy.

In the end we did go to a free advanced movie screening. MH goes on average about once a week, but I've never gone without the kids. I have just gone to a couple of animated/family movies on the weekends. You have to get there so early that it's not really ideal on a weeknight, and means leaving the kids several hours. In addition, they don't want you using your phones at all (though I'd want to be reachable if the kids needed anything). So it's just complicated.

Anyway, when I went to the other two screenings it was a very cool experience. Just a really cool crowd. I thought maybe it was the kind of adults who wanted to see kids movies so didn't think too much about it. Just that it was a really fun crowd. But Tuesday night we saw Gifted (which is way better than I expected it would be - I had low expectations). & it was the same kind of crowd. I don't know what it is, but they attract a happy crowd. So it was a really fun night.

Last night, MH made a nice dinner for just the two of us.

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MH did also buy a new TV while the kids were gone. I'd say the stars aligned, with a sale. Actually, we were talking about it and then it went on sale even further after we decided mostly against it. So I changed my mind. I am hopeful that this ends the revolving door of TVs. It's frustrating because my hubby has exhaustively researched every HDTV we have owned, but they have all been pieces of crap. This one is a high-end TV at the same price point (prices are endlessly dropping) and is a different kind of display, so we are hopeful about it. I suppose I was pushing for it because of the price. I don't want to spend more on something we aren't happy with. I can live with this one if it ends up in the "another piece of crap" pile.

They were clearing out last year's models. It amazes me that people would pay 2-3 times as much for something because they couldn't wait 12 months for the price to drop. ??? & I mean, paying full price would have been absurd. There's a couple of electronics purchases I recall my husband doing in the past where he was sure the sales price was a typo. The prices were so unbelievably low. I share because this is how you have your cake and eat it too.

2017 is shaping up to be a year of "taking advantage of opportunities," on the spending front.

2016 Spending & 2017 Vacation Plans

January 1st, 2017 at 02:45 pm

In the end, it looks like we spent within $90 of what we spent in 2015, for total household spending. I mentioned in my last post that we are VERY consistent.

{Edited to add: Um... The kids owe me like $60 for Christmas gifts that they bought. MH was settling up with them yesterday. Once I settle up with them, I think our spending will be within $30 of the prior year. That is just CRAZY!}

Here are top 5 expenses and bottom 5 expenses for last 2 years:


NOTE: Edited to Top 6, to capture big expenses. All other expenses were $2,000 or below.

I highlighted the vacation spending because we aren't big vacation spenders and these are very one-off type expenses. Our annual budget is only $2,000 for vacation, and is more in the realm of what I foresee spending the next several years.

On the mortgage, we made an extra payment (or two?) versus last year. We should be under the $7,000 mark on mortgage interest in the future. This is one of those expenses that is snowballing downward very rapidly.

Auto expenses include repairs/maintenance, insurance, registration, fuel. (We pay cash for cars; no car payments). You might presume that our auto expenses were down because we now have a newer vehicle. But our repair spending in 2016 was $0 on our 2005 minivan. In contrast, the 2013 vehicle needed a new battery and new tires. (We replaced the crappy/cheap stock tires, and the battery died prematurely).

{I do have details on the autos, and I also track expenses per vehicle. For 2016: $1944 fuel, $1800 insurance, $278 registration, $803 repairs/maintenance}.

Medical expenses are insane, but our insurance has covered almost seven figures in medical procedures for my husband (before age 40). So, at least I know we get our money's worth, and it's very important for us to have high quality insurance. I am sure given different circumstances we would have just gone "cheap". It's been our biggest expense for several years, so is nothing new. It's been our biggest challenge with *one income* living, but we live so far below our means that we have been able to deal with it. But I know it's so glaring that I should address.

**I have not included income taxes because is not a big expense for us.**

The interesting thing about our lowest expenses is that it tends to be our more luxury spending. I am sure I have said it a million times before, but will say it again. We don't do without. We just are careful and rein in costs, and shop around. & prioritize what is the most important. So most of our "luxury" type spending ends up towards the bottom.

The only reason we paid any childcare in 2015 is that our carpools were flakey and they'd forget to pick up our kids (and their own kids too). *sigh* Our attitude for 2016 was to just take care of it ourselves. I am sure this is reflected in additional driving (A LOT), but gas has generally been cheaper this year.

Haircuts went up substantially because MM(13) is suddenly interested in a short hairstyle.

Vet care - we learned that our vet is cheap when it comes to shots.

I did notice that our telephone expenses (not listed) more than doubled. It was one of the more noticeable changes, since everything else was so consistent. We just didn't get as many Ting referrals (discounts) in 2016. So we paid $300 for landline + cell phone service for 2015. We paid closer to $700 in 2016. This included adding cell service for DL(11) the last couple of months. Both years we just paid for my parents during the last 6 months of the year. We are going to add MM(13) to cell plan this summer. So, should be an additional $144 per year, for the long run, with the two new lines. (It's only $6/month to add a line to Ting). I don't expect the kids will use much data/texting. They've had smart phones for years, so they are used to seeking out free wifi. I think we will probably just cover this bill for my parents. We used to split 50/50, but now it's going to be more 66/33. & we seem to use more data which is why we just tell my parents not to reimburse us for the second half of the year. Maybe I should just ask them to cover their $144 per year for the additional lines. As long as their usage remains low, we will just cover the rest. I think this sounds like a good compromise, since I don't know that we need to be subsidizing my parents' phone bills. But maybe $144 is a good compromise where we don't have to try to divide the bill as it gets more complicated. That's just their obvious "share" of the bill. You pay per line and then it's a flat amount for all the data, text and minutes that you use for that month (as a group). Even the first line is just $6/month.

I expect our total expenses to be about the same for the next couple of years. We have some home maintenance ($$$$) to tend to. Starting to talk braces for both kids. So stuff like that will probably replace our recent vacation spending. These are things we also want to take care of while our income is high and before our kids start college.

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While discussing vacation spending, I want to jot down some notes on that.

2017 Vacation Plans:

I really want to do a National Park vacation. It will have to be without the kids. Aiming for fall. I am thinking more frugal road trip. I don't even know if we'd spend $500 on something like this. So it's like my "Dream vacation" for the moment, but is nothing that is a big financial drain. Grand Canyon is at the top of the list.

MH has plans to go to Florida for his Grandpa's 90th birthday. It's in the fall; the kids and I won't be able to go. So it just works out. (I do not want to go, so it really works out!) That will be with his family, so I expect our only expense will be airfare, which should not be much.

My dad was making plans to river raft down the grand canyon with my son. He told me on Thanksgiving that he would cover the costs and would expect us to pay for airfare. I think that's fine and reasonable. (Though our vacation spending has been insane, I have just been trying to go with the flow, not knowing how this trip would shake out. Time like this, with Grandparents, is just too priceless). As our parents get more financially comfortable, they invite us on trips less often that they expect *us* to pay for. (They also give us more cash, which we set aside for these type things. Is why I often say that "the Grandparents are paying for it," whether they realize or not). Since it was domestic, I just went with it. In the end the trip sounds quite expensive (more than I would have thought), but I believe that my dad will follow through on paying for it. Anyway, we weren't sure if it might be too late to reserve for summer and I mentioned that MM(13) will get out of school the following year on May 31st. No more of this crazy "short summer" stuff, for him. So my dad told me yesterday that the more he thought about it the more appealing it sounded June 1 versus mid-July. It would be just so crazy hot in July. I think it's probably best all around to push that off. MM has his big school DC trip this spring. So this will space out his big trips a bit. Heck, maybe I will try to tag along if they wait another year. I just couldn't even think about it with my broken foot. That gives me time to save up too. (If this seems feasible, I suppose that MH and I would consider visiting Yellowstone instead, in 2017. We will start making decisions this summer).

2016 Stats

May 15th, 2016 at 01:46 pm

I wanted to do a reality check on our spending for this year. I just had to spend a minute or two running reports in Quicken to gleam the following.

2016 Stats through April 30th:

--Spending is $15,580 for 1/3 of the year.

This is $3,132 less spending than same time frame last year.

Major difference is that we paid $3k for Japan trip in spring 2015.

I'd say we are pretty consistent. The Japan trip was clearly a one-off.

One thing I was concerned about is if we were justifying more spending with dh working. I'd say the answer is no.

In fact...

--Gross Income is up a mere $326. Versus the same time period last year.

Factoring taxes, I'd say our net income is lower.

Is dh working for the money? Clearly no.

{I made less OT money and didn't chase as many credit card type rewards}.

Other Stats:

--Net Worth is up $20,000, from January 1.

--If we paid off our mortgage today we'd have $125,000 left in savings/investments.

I think we have crossed the line to feasible. This would leave our Traditional IRAs and kids' college money (gifted) intact.

Is not something we will consider until we can do so without raiding our ROTHS. But, we are getting there... It's starting to snowball down the hill. We went from $0 to $125k in just 3 years, and that should just continue to accelerate.

October Savings

November 1st, 2015 at 03:06 pm

Received $40 bank interest for the month of October.

Snowflakes to investments:

Redeemed $25 credit card rewards (cash back) from our gas/grocery card.

Redeemed $80 cash back on Citi card.

Redeemed $10 cash back on Visa/dining card.

{These last two were much higher than usual due to vacation expenses}.

Other snowflakes to investments:

--$12 rounding (gets us to $3k)

--$ 25 Ting credits (no cell bill this month)
**This is the final free month since we've run through our credits**

Savings (From paychecks):

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

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

+$1,300 to cash
- $150 Auto registration renewal

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A little commentary on our savings goals:

With dh working, I expect to increase our savings rate roughly from 30% to 40%. But I suppose we will work through that next year.

IRAs: I just happen to expect another $50 credit card reward to my ROTH and so we will get exactly to $11k max this year. It usually doesn't work out quite that perfect. I usually try to get close and just top it off end of year.

I did see that IRA limits are unchanged for 2016 so this goal will remain the same for 2016.

Investments: I am thinking of abandoning this goal. Not in a bad way though. I had intended to invest $7,500 this year.

I've yet to fund $1,400-ish from my OT. Sure we've had a splurge-y year and maybe that is a lot of it, but we have also had a very charitable year (by our own standards). I am thinking of letting this go since we have given about this much to charity. & I definitely foresee charity being a higher focus next year with dh working. For this year, we just knew a lot of people suffering a lot of hardships. A lot of stuff came up that we felt compelled to give cash to. I know next year we will probably have more means AND also switching to more cash giving as we have less time to donate. (We've been infinitely more focused on donating *time* since having kids - with lots of time and less money, but that is starting to shift the other way - probably more 50/50 in the interim).

I was also going to invest our tax refund, estimated at $2,500. I was going to invest around 12/31, since we have the cash, and reimburse our cash when we get our tax refund in early February. I am still going to invest the refund, but I am not going to count it towards this year. I will just invest it when I get the money. I was thinking the money was really saved this year, and it's true, but I'd also rather keep it simple.

I've revised my sidebar for the $2,500 (tax refund) and we can wait and see on the other $1,400. I've still got time to scrounge it up.

Expensive, Spendy Week

March 25th, 2014 at 07:27 pm

**I accidentally paid the property taxes with a closed bank account, several weeks ago. I did get an e-mail that the payment bounced, BUT, I never heard diddly squat, otherwise.

I asked dh to go take care of it today. I gathered from online that we had to bring a cashier's check with the "returned check fee" added to it, but lord knows with all the government red tape. (We just got passports last year and the websites and the people on the phone and in person all told us 100 different things. OMG). The saving grace is it wasn't due for another few weeks. Which is why I strongly encouraged dh to take care of it this week, before the tax office gets busy.

As I expected, we needed a new payment coupon reflecting the payment + fee. But, they were able to provide that for him if he just waited in another "line". So, phew! (& there was no LINE!)

$53 rejected payment fee, $5 for the cashier's check at our credit union, and $1 for metered parking.

I will NEVER do that again. Gah! But, happy to have it resolved and for life to move forward.

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**I still haven't funded my 2013 ROTH IRA, but I think I will just do it next payday. Next week. Until then, I have just been hoarding up the cash for that.

All else has kind of been on hold.

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**This week the kids have their dentist appointments (which always seem to be $$$$$). Lord knows this might be "it". The eldest is almost 11 and braces are right around the corner. When his current dentist/ortho recommends it we will get some other quotes and likely choose an orthodontist closer to home.

The eldest also has an "Extra permanent tooth" situation. The baby tooth is loose so they will probably pull it. Will see what they think of the progress of past few months (it's possible he will need surgery to get the permanent tooth out; but probably still too soon to decide much).

None of this stuff is particularly surprising. If anything, neither of them have as bad a situation as I did. I have been saving for their orthodontics since before they were born. Wink Accordingly, I am probably way over-stressed about it. Uneccesarily...

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**It's not all taxes and dentists and ROTHs.

I should get my big tax season overtime check on April 15th.

Since I will have saved up enough cash for the property taxes and the ROTH, and then some, by April 1, we decided to jump the gun a bit and do a couple of big purchases. I don't think we generally purchase much of anything with my April check. BUT, last year was a crazy expensive Murphy year. & so I think we are just getting impatient with our splurges. I suppose we aren't spending it anyway. Just feel more comfortable moving forward knowing that we can bulk up our savings account before we actually have to pay for any of these purchases.

To be clear, we can pay cash for these very easily, without the OT.

What do I Want to splurge on? An upgraded stereo for my vehicle. Dh used some focus group money to upgrade the other car stereo about a year ago. & we've gotten spoiled. I don't know if I would care that much, except I can't get my new cell phone (the one I have had since November), to work with my car stereo. It's driving me a little batty. Especially since I get to enjoy bluetooth in the other car. So, I have been telling myself we will fix that come April.

In the end, dh has an appointment to get that installed on Friday. Woohoo!!

What is crazy is that my vehicle actually has the original stock stereo. I think our MO is generally to buy very inexpensive (older) cars and the first thing we generally do is upgrade the stereos. But, in this case, it was a fairly new vehicle and it actually had a CD player. !! Which has since been broken. I'll get the bluetooth for the phone. Yesterday dh found an extra thumb drive for me to put a lot of my MP3s on. That will get hooked up to the stereo too. It will be pretty sweet. (I think it comes with a CD player too, but I don't know, they all blur together).

We also bought a laptop last week. We've been doing without, but wanted to pick up something before the next school year. As the kids have been fighting over their computer more. They are less happy with the netbook for their needs, and the charger doesn't work half the time. We went with something very practical. & if the kids can handle it and take care of it, then we might consider a fancier touch screen latpop in the future. I am amazed how much prices have come down over the years. We haven't bought a laptop in a decade. IT was probably a little bigger than I wanted it to be, and it didn't have the fancy graphics card for gaming. But, we decided it was very practical, has everything we need, and is a huge step up from our broken netbook. VERY happy with it so far. IT was $475 with tax. We picked it up on sale. Dh says it's on par with his fairly new desktop. The processor and memory and everything. Which blows my mind!

We were trying to figure out where to put it, when we decided just to leave it on our dining room table. The one we use *once a year* for Thanksgiving. The rule is the kids can't move the laptop. For their purposes, it might as well be a desktop. Saved us from having to repurpose or buy another table.

I really really liked the small netbook for travel and so on, but do admit that this is far more practical for work. I don't use it that much for work, but it will be nice for when I need it. I just remember the big old monstrosity of a laptop I had to carry around for my last job, and that does help give me perspective. Big Grin

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Once we see how April shakes out, we will have to sit down and start prioritizing things. Those were the, "I can't take it any more!" purchases.

We've got some home maintenance and travel stuff to sort through.

I think we have literally just been waiting for the storm to settle. IT hasn't gone, but it's gotten much tamer. 2014 so far is the year of, "everything has to be complicated and annoying". Like paying the property taxes with the wrong account. I feel like everything I have touched has gone down like that this year. IT's driving me a little batty. BUT, it is a huge improvement from "A surprise $1,000 bill every single month". That was 2013.

February Wins and Losses

February 9th, 2014 at 01:25 pm

I will probably do a few shorter posts because I have a lot of my brain but haven't had much time to blog lately.

Spending wins this month:

**Gas prices are down. Helps with planned 4 trips to Bay Area?? I filled up at $3.15 yesterday. Dh went to San Francisco mid week for a show. Done with the shows. He scored free parking but had to pay $12 for a two drink minimum. $10 on tolls. (The tolls are a *shrug* because I accidentally double paid our toll refill last year. We did spend $25 on tolls the last 3 weeks, which covers the extra payment. Otherwise we tend to spend about $5 or $10 per year).

Oh, and I mentioned MIL gave us a $50 gas coupon. So, I think we will do fairly well with gas this month, even given all the excess driving.

**Groceries - dh did first grocery run on Friday (first for month). I was hoping we could make up excess spending this month ($100+ on food and parking in SF on a recent weekend). I think it looks fairly likely. If we did not need any groceries the entire first week, and can probably stretch out the 4th grocery run into March. That gives us $300-ish in grocery runs ($100 x 3) plus a fair amount of supplementing at Target and ethnic stores.

We haven't shopped Safeway very much in YEARS because prices have been so terrible. But we were at in-laws and they had a 16oz salad with a giant "$5" stamped on the packaging. I asked where they got it and they said Safeway. Whoa!! So I stopped by and picked up some salad. What a great deal!

So, I told dh maybe he should go check out Safeway - maybe they were trying to be more competitive. He is a little resistant as he is just very annoyed with Safeway. But a LOT of our keeping food costs down is keeping an open mind and keeping an eye on prices, and adjusting. So, I think he needs to go check out the prices. (HE does almost ALL the shopping, and he has a price book basically in his head, so he needs to go check it out. He can be the judge).

Spending losses:

Aside from all our shows and driving, was expecting a fairly low spend month.

Last night I caved for a pizza. I believe while we were eating the pizza, dh told me they were going to the movies today. Rolleyes So aggravated, because if he had told me that, I never would have bought a pizza. It's not a big deal. But, better communication would have meant better decisions. I did gripe about that a bit last night. I will make sure that him AND the kids know that it's not a big deal. It was just the communication. It's so rare they go to the movies. I don't want them feeling bad about it.

So, that is our budget loss for this week.

**Because of the above, I got out the old pen and paper monthly budget.

I will never understand on any level why anyone would be tempted to spend more with a credit card than cash. I have very much a cash spending mentality. So, if I don't want to over-spend (and pay interest???), I have to only spend the money I have on hand. & of course we pay ourselves first (money goes to mortgage and retirement and whatever first), so all I really have to spend is what is left in my checking account.

BUT, sometimes it is difficult to manage a household with more than one person. I found a VERY simple solution. I just keep a running total of our monthly spending, by the computer. On a piece of paper. We can usually squeeze out $200 of discretionary spending, monthly. This does not include gas and grocery spending, which we are well versed and practiced in keeping within our budget. So, it's just everything else.

Credit cards make this SO EASY to manage. I can't say dh overly participates in this part. But I can see any credit card charges basically as the card is swiped. SO, I just write everything down. Then either of us can look at the list at any point of the month and see how much we have left to spend.

So yeah, I hadn't bothered with this in a while, but when I do, our spending always seems to be lower than usual. So, I figured if I Want a really tight month, I better write it down.

I wrote down $160 SF spending, though I expect gas coupon and less grocery spending to completely offset that. It will remind us that we had a very big spend month on the discretionary side of things, and we can cool it for the rest of the month.

I added pizza and movies. & dh and I both made a couple of purchases.

I'd like not to spend any more money this month, aside for food and whatever for upcoming Bay Area trips.

Hardly a tight month, as they went to the movies last weekend (FIL paid), I went to lunch with my friend ($$$$), dh went to a show, and we have a birthday and an anniversary coming up (two trips to Bay Area). I think our social calendar is quite full. & I guess another reason why I Was so thrown off by the movie plans.

Mr. Money Mustache Bares All

January 21st, 2013 at 07:56 pm

Mr. Money Mustache bared all - his spending for the past 3 years.

He spent about $24,000 last year (Family of 3 with a home in Colorado). Cutting all the fat could have easily lived on $14,000.

http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2013/01/21/exposed-the-mmm-fa...

I can relate to Mr. MM. *Obviously* we don't live anywhere near this lean. On a scale of 1 - 10, MMM is maybe a 10. (Or an 11?) No doubt about it!! I am nowhere near a 10. BUT, I can still totally relate. I am used to people telling me that our lifestyle is impossible on my income. We are clearly on a continuum where we spend less money every single year. We will probably never live as extreme as MMM, but are generally headed in the same direction.

I share because anyone can learn from MMM and he gives us all a direction to strive for. Even if we only want to be 4, 5 or 6 on this scale. You don't have to be a 10 to see the benefits.

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Comparative notes on MMM's spending reveal:

Mortgage - we have a mortgage but no intention to keep one forever. Right now our mortgage runs us about $7,500 per year in mortgage interest. Not there yet, but eventually we will be down to $0.

**Plus, regionally, we have *always* kept our housing costs VERY low. Very key for living well while spending less.**

Property Taxes - As long as we don't buy up over time (lord knows we have no plans for that!), property taxes are actually pretty inexpensive in California. I Can compete with MMM here. In fact, the property taxes on our home are the same as they were on our last condo in more expensive city. (Value of both homes was the same, thought current home is far more luxurious). So basically, we have never "bought up" our property taxes, and no plans to in the future.

Food and Dining We are very much in line with MMM. I'd say we eat quite well, but eat the bulk of our meals at home. This was a habit we solidifed when my spouse was first laid off from his job (I was first pregnant). This has been REALLY key in living on a lower income. I have always been surprised how much we could stretch our budget by eating at home. We improve with time. We are always learning and getting more efficient. I expect the tides to turn at some point because I have 2 extremely high-metabolismed boys. Teenage years might be fun! But in the interim, we have improved every single year, for about a decade. Even adding two mouths to feed. We are just much more efficient than when we ever fed just us. (We used to probably eat out most the time - we worked long hours and both had a lot of meals provided by employers).

Healthcare - Healthcare is a financial beast for us. There is no comparison, but with our commitment to high quality healthcare and TRULY getting our money's worth the past few years, I don't have a lot of issue with this. We may always work more for good healthcare. & that is fine. We also just do not have the assets for a super high deductible plan. MMM and us live on two different planets when it comes to this area. {My spouse had brain surgery "out of nowhere" a couple of years back - so why we will always live on another planet - not sure my spouse could get any cheap insurance ever again, with the pre-existing}.

We could also maybe move to another state to lower our insurance premiums, but it's not quite that simple. Wages would also likely be lower. & we are fairly committed to staying put and being close to family. I will pay anything to stay close to my family. It's a deal breaker for us. For that, we will never be a 10, and I don't think everyone has to be a 10. I think my whole approach is to get all our other costs down so, "who cares about the beast? Will deal..."

Auto Our auto habits are somewhat in line with MMM. Buy inexpensive, used, fuel efficient vehicles in cash. We don't have a lot of auto expenses.

We are not DIY in this area, but having a trusted mechanic has always saved us a fortune. It's the next best thing when you can't/won't do it all yourself. For 2012, our spending was about the same as MMM, for example.

Gas - we are guilty on the gas. I have a commute and we *love* to travel by car. BUT, we don't have two commutes, and I could certainly see our gas usage going down considerably when I retire. I *get* it.

Auto insurance - oh, and auto insurance rates are totally insane in our city. That will be another fun one when it comes to teenaged boys! Not much we can do here - we already have inexpensive cars, no collision coverage on the old one, and "perfect" driving records and good credit scores. We've got the best rates we can get in this zip code.

Utilities MMM is good. His level of utility spending is about equal to the flat fee we get from our city and county for water/sewer/storm drainage. NOT going to happen for us. We keep our gas and electricity usage very low though. I know we are well below average. Having an energy efficient home is crucial. Having a fairly large home, people always assume our bills are insane. People have asked me if my gas bill is $300+ in winter months. We don't even pay that much for the WHOLE YEAR! We pay less utilities in our current home than we did in our last condo. The condo was not energy efficient in the least, though half the size with shared walls. Appearances can deceive. I know the questions to ask when we buy our next home.

cell and internet We pay large sums for these luxuries these days. This is not forever. We are seriously considering Ting for cell service eventually and internet offerings seem to improve with time. Waiting for more competition and options. My dh is always telling me about this or that - just waiting for when it is right for us. Just to say, just because I will pay a premium for something now doesn't mean I expect to pay it forever - we are always re-evaluating.

Home - Insurance and renovations. Insurance is a little pricer here, but not by a lot.

I would argue the love of the DIY could be a rather expensive hobby (versus always being painted as simply better and cheaper). We don't spend a lot on home maintenance. Our strategy had been to buy a new home that would not need much the first decade or so of home ownership. Likewise, our first home and our next home will be a condo. LOW maintenance. There are certainly other strategies if you don't love going to Home Depot all the time. Wink

Speaking of DIY, clearly we do the tax and financial DIY (another area where people spend a LOT of money). MMM is a jack of all trades. We are not, but we have plenty of major cost-saving skills. My dh is very good with the IT/computer stuff. I am musical and financial and tax savvy. Can always barter tax skills, computer skills, piano lessons, etc. I find our skills quite useful.

Travel - We don't spend much more on travel. I know MMM is a 10, but we do *plenty* without spending much money. Our vacation spending is comparable.

Other/Misc - Our spending is also pretty comparable. We are not big on the retail.

There are some glaring differences in our spending habits:

Insurance - MMM does not spend money on disability or life insurance. Understandable - I also will not bother when I reach his level of net worth.

Luxuries - I am willing to spend money on a few luxuries that I probably would not bother with as much if I were not working full-time. My luxuries are my $15 gym membership and $80/month to never have to do anything with the yard. (I mentioned we will eventually retire to a condo, to eliminate all yard concerns and costs). A gym membership would not matter so much if I could work out *any time.* I like to use for the dark and cold/hot hours. Is obviously a very small splurge. I don't see my dh giving up his internet and cell phone, BUT, like I said we are always keeping our ears open for alternatives. We kind of allow ourseleves a couple of regular luxuries here and there. OF course, do did MMM with some of his other costs.

Other Notes:

--MM probably easily pays no income taxes. We are in a similar boat. We don't pay a lot of income taxes with the decision to live on one income. But I do pay a fair amount of payroll taxes, working. (Which is not *all bad* as provides social insurance like state disability for me and social security for the both of us). But, yes, the "no income tax" thing is very relateable when you are willing to raise a family on one income.

--Debt - no debt payments were mentioned aside from mortgage - neither of our budgets have other debt payments.

--Daycare - MMM's kid goes to public school, of course. Public school + parents at home means little need for childcare. We are fairly committed to a public school education, not having MMM's financial resources.

So, there you have it. I think no matter where we all are on our financial journey, there is something to be learned. My approach is very "one thing at a time" but I feel like there is certainly always room for improvement in our spending. That is what I am always striving for and why I am here. The more efficient I am, the more I can do with my money. & that feeling is AWESOME.

P.S. My dad is a LOT like MMM, so where I got a lot of frugal habits. Funny enough, he would never hire anyone to do *anything,* and I do not think that is always a good thing. Thus, I am a lot more laid back about paying people to do things "right" once in a while. But I am sure my parents easily survived on $15k last year and spent another $10k on hobbies and travel - something like that. It doesn't strike me as weird or impossible. They paid off their home a long time ago and barely put any mileage on their cars. Besides food and utilities, what else do they really need? Apparently not much.

Money OUT!

February 20th, 2012 at 02:53 pm

It's funny because they told us it would be a week (in store) to get the dishwasher, but we ordered it online last night and it should be installed tomorrow.

Woohoo!

We ended up paying $650 for the dishwasher, delivery and installation. We paid a $150 premium for the stainless steel interior and for it to be about 10% quieter. This might have been the quietest one we saw in our price range.

We just paid $10 for them to haul away the old one, partly because I found a $15-off coupon. So, mostly a wash. Basically, couldn't be any easier on us.

We will also save $100 on energy rebates and credit card rewards, which brings the final price to $550 when all is said and done.

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WE just ordered the garage door opener last night too. That one will be a couple of weeks because we ordered it online, but not feeling a rush on that. (In store they told us they could install it by today!)

Anyway, the ugly grand total on that was $350. Basically a $200 unit with $150 taxes and installation. & they will take the old one.

(Apparently Sears has one price to install everything, BUT the garage door is pretty intensive to install and they would have charged an arm and a leg to deliver the washer anyway, so we didn't feel the price was bad considering the convenience. Then again, last time they installed our garage door opener they installed *everything.* It's probably easier to rip out the old one and put in a new one. They had needed to install some rails last time?).

That is dh's belated birthday present. He's been wanting a quieter one forever.

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We save $425-ish a month for home repairs, next car purchase, stuff like that. So, basically won't really even need to dip into savings. We spent $425 (I think exactly?) to fix our heater in January. This will be $900 after rebate, rewards and all. Funny how that works? Pretty darn close to Feb/March savings.

I feel a *shrug* about it because it was extremely foreseeable and we had already talked about replacing both in 2011.

Dh asked if he should hold off on the garage door for cash flow. Nah. We carded it and it will be due around 4/1. So I won't even have to touch savings. I should get my OT bonus 4/15. It would be hard to plan it better for cash flow.

Of course, come 4/1, I will be whining about all the bills. Property taxes, life insurances, IRS bill and all this will be due. But all of the above is already saved for. I just gripe when I pay $4,000 of bills in one week. I always will!

Of course, I Feel "okay, okay, I didn't really expect *everything* to break this year? Can we cool it?" Wink Will see how the rest of the year goes. But I do share because I think sometimes people focus on the pain of savings, but don't seem to realize that this is the upside. Something breaks, you go out and fix it, and maybe we can even splurge a bit on something real nice. & that's it - absolutely no stress! & if it's tax season and you have no time but are making a extra money, then whatever. Fast/convenience wins.

This is why I am planning to save 100% of my overtime check. It will buy me bliss sometime down the road - and that is a fact! (& If I wasn't prepared, I'd be using my OT to pay all these bills, anyway?)

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I frankly don't remember the process when we bought our last garage door opener. Maybe *I* wasn't even involved. Though "buying the cheapest thing we can find" is generally not our way, I am sure it was much more in our young 20s. So, I wouldn't be surprised if that was how we bought our last garage door opener.
(We did own two homes and wouldn't be surprised if we just went cheap with it - was one of the things that did not come with new construction). All we had to buy for this house was a fridge and a garage door opener, so we just went with Sears. (Yes, I like Kenmore!) & we bought a really nice fridge, so probably went cheap on the door opener?

I thought yesterday was fascinating, in comparison. About 2-4 hours of shopping and research, and we picked out the most top-of-the-line appliances we could find in our price range. Maybe our brand loyalty is silly (I don't have many brand loyalties and usually poo-poo them), BUT there is a huge element of just narrowing it down. I think Kenmore had 20 washers in our price range and to our liking, know what you mean? I couldn't imagine adding more brands to the mix. I think one brand was all I could handle.

The process of reading reviews, narrowing down, reading consumer reports, checking them out at the store, and then coming home to re-check the reviews on what we liked in person, was an extremely fast and efficient process.

On the garage door opener, dh spent some time looking up other stores since we weren't married to a Sears specific garage door opener. But, we couldn't find a better deal anywhere. We were initially enticed by a faster door with a battery backup (same price, on sale), BUT the reviews were not favorable on the batteries. (They didn't last long, were expensive to replace, and one leaked on a car and ruined the paint - ouch). Plus, our power is pretty stable anyway (very rarely out of power). So we quickly changed our mind on the batteries. We are replacing our chain with a belt though. It should be much quieter, which dh has always had a thing about.

I just don't remember ever gathering so much useful information so quickly on the internet, when it comes to a big purchase. But I haven't bough an appliance in about 7 years. Thank you internet!!

In the morning I Was kind of feeling dread about big appliance shopping, but the day ended with confidence that we purchased some high quality products, and that it wasn't a painful process after all. Yay!

Dishwasher Update

February 20th, 2012 at 01:52 am

We almost bought a $350 washer (had a $50 rebate. in addition). For an Energy Star Kenmore, NOT BAD!! But, the funny thing is before we went I was leaning towards the stainless steel interior. Dh was very "meh" about it. But, it's kind of my main issue with our current washer (just some crappy GE the builder put in) - the inside is so disgusting and deteriorating.

Anyway, once we got there, the sales man pointed out the one we were going to get ($350) when dh tried to haggle. With the 30% off washers, they just weren't budging, BUT he said, "You can get that one for $50-ish less - the only difference is the buttons." Since the buttons were on the front. Frankly, the hidden buttons would drive us nuts (we decided). After reading reviews - there are no indicator lights on those (something the *consumer reviews* did not mention at all?). So, we were like, "a $300 dishwasher after rebate because we can see the buttons?" SOLD!

BUT, that said, I was looking at some of the Elites and was willing to pay more. Because frankly, this is probably our most used appliance. $300 sounds pretty darn cheap compared to how much we use it. That's the thing about dh and I. We don't mind spending money for something we use every day and get a good value for.

So, we perused the Elites and was leaning towards one ($600-ish?), but decided to leave the crowded mall and just order from home. Phew! (I admit it was nice to see them in person though - to get a better idea what we liked).

So, we came home and checked all the reviews and the Elite ones really had bad reviews. I was surprised.

Dh then settled on the stainless steel interior for $493. Still has a rebate, but the thing was that it is a little quieter. That was the selling point for him - he is half deaf. (It's 30% off - not that we would ever pay full price anyway). The reviews were stellar.

So I get what I wanted in the first place. Big Grin

I was just going to order it online, AFTER I check for online coupon codes. (Unlikely, but worth a check).

BUT, since we are buying more in the end, I might send dh to the mall Tuesday to get one and open a Sears card. We had decided against it to save less than $20. But now we will save close to $25. Though he may prefer to just order from home and be done. I'll leave it up to him. Neither of us is willing to go wait in those crowds today or tomorrow. Wink

That's my lazy shopping afternoon. I just don't have the time to deal with looking for a better deal. I know we probably could find a better deal, but I am extremely content with this. IT was EASY.

We are still not 100% sure on the garage door opener. But whatever we end up with will probably be $200 and a hell of a lot quieter than the one we have. & so dh can stop griping about it. We actually were going to get one with a battery backup, but then read that the battery wasn't that reliable, so not seeming like much of a selling point. Since we aren't married to such a store-specific brand, we can shop around a bit on that one. Will probably buy something on sale this week though, for sure.

P.S. I pulled out the paperwork on old garage door opener and dishwasher, just to make sure there was nothing weird about the size, etc. Apparently dishwasher had a 10-year warranty for leaks. I can't remember for sure if it ever leaked before 10 years though. But was a good reminder for the future. Like hell I expected a 10-year warranty of any kind on that thing. We could have gotten it fixed for free. But believe me, I am ready to replace that tired thing. Wink If I was dirt broke I would keep the thing, but no need to really keep it otherwise. But yeah, I will double check my warranty next time I have any issue, for sure.

Feeling the Pinch...

February 1st, 2012 at 04:03 pm

I did fiscal chores last night - updating the spreadsheets.

Ouch!

Did good on the grocery budget. Squeaked by with about $500 for January. Apparently is still very doable for us. I've narrowed down overage to wine/beer and growing kids. But dh is being more mindful in cutting other costs. That said, we had shrimp for dinner. I think we can still clearly cut a lot of fat, if need be. I just need to report to dh on a monthly basis. He does the shopping and takes budget overages to heart.

Our spending actually looked pretty low and on track for January, but I came up with a negative $300 for the month. Last couple of months was kind of the same but *I forgot parents owed us $200* - stuff like that. So I initially thought I Was just missing some income.

So, pretty much, I couldn't find the $300, and it was giving me a headache. About to give up and look later, when I found it. Almost $200 on dining out. UGH! Plus it was dh's birthday and his dad's birthdays - gifts were purchased that were really beyond our super tight discretionary budget.

February is a short month and so plan of action is just to make up what I can next month. I am also getting state refund ($50-ish) so may just use that.

Our credit card cycle runs through Friday but pantry is filled and cars are gassed. NO-spend 3 days = easy peasy. I don't want one more cent on the credit card this month.

I told dh and the kids we would spend no money in February. We generally keep it pretty non-spend during tax season, so not a huge biggie. I just think we got used to a lot of freebies last year (credit card rewards) and were rolling in cash in December (birthdays and Christmas, etc.). The end result is that *normal* feels like a severe tightening of the reins. Hence the *ouch.* We just need a few months to re-adjust. There is an element of "some of my overtime can go to increased convenience costs during times of high stress." I just wasn't quite thinking $300/month for that. Maybe $100/month?

January is extra *ouch* because I only received one paycheck. $0 to savings. (1/1 paycheck was received 12/30 and put to 2011 financial goals - will get an extra check end of 2012 to make up for it).

But today is payday so I added 2/1 savings to the sidebar. $415 to savings, $10 interest to savings ($425 was exactly enough to cover heater repair from savings account, so not exactly forward progress, no to mention refi costs ready to go out of my hands - easy come, easy go), and $50 credit card reward to ROTH plus $750 ROTH contribution.

For bigger frame of reference, budget is tight, but we are on track to put away $30,000 this year. I need to remind myself, too. Easy to get caught up in feeling *broke* because can not afford a meal out. The big picture helps me relax. Secondarily, cash savings is for more immediate future. (I am tired of getting a lecture on inflation every time I mention I sent $5 to my savings account. Rolleyes Yes, that is why I don't put my long-term savings in cash! Wink )

I added some fiscal chores to my side bar:

1 - Some how I got an extra savings account at my CU with $1. I need to close that.

2 - I've got a ROTH with about $1000 in it that I really need to consolidate - I've got 3 other ROTHs with more substantial balances.

3 - I need to double check that my name is on kids' investment accounts. I know we got my name added to their CU savings account at some point (dh had opened them), but can't remember if I ever added my name to their Vanguard Funds. (They were opened in conjuction with dh's Vanguard ROTH, which was only in his name - no obvious way to add my name). Kind of hard to believe we didn't get that taken care of with his brain surgery and all, but were probably a little distracted (I think I remember feeling happy all our ducks were already in a row so I didn't have to worry about any of this - this duck being small and forgotten).

The kinds of things I had to write down lest I keep putting off.

Vacation Update

October 9th, 2011 at 07:03 pm

We did it - Disney under $1,000. Woot!

Disneyland $236 (special night event)
Legoland $162 (kids were free)
Museums $84 (3 museums; one was free the day we went)
Parking $18 (Legoland + Hollywood street parking)
Souvenirs $80
Food $250
Gas $140
Sunblock $4
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TOTAL $974
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Some thoughts and commentary:

**Hotel was 100% free. Though we are used to free hotel stays with MIL's timeshare, it was because of her new *elite* status that we were not charged fees for taxes or parking. Yay! So literally paying -ZERO- was a nice surprise.

**We took the gas sipper and 4 tanks of gas got us there and back. We had good luck finding cheap gas. Phew!

**We'd generally spend $0 on souvenirs, but I let the kids go a little hog wild on the day we got rained out of Disney. I also really wanted to get them swords/shields at Legoland (their friends had gotten them a while back), BUT it does add up fast! (I am not sure I Would have gotten them either, but dh and I had miscommunication on the price). I hope they enjoyed because next time is probably going to be $0 budget for souvenirs!

**Food is always the biggest part of our budget when we vacation. I think this illustrates why. It's the biggest number of the bunch! & of course, it hurts to spend like 50% of our monthly food budget, in just 5 days. Ouch!

**Interestingly, we spent absolutely $0 on snacks. Last time we went to Disney it was a HOT week and I remember we were just always hungry, and buying up snacks, which did not help the food budget at all. I think you have the tendency to feel hungry when thirsty and also need that extra jolt of energy. This time we brought TONS of snacks from home (I was more aggressive in sneaking them into the parks) and barely touched them. Figured! In fact, all we bought while we were there was some sunblock (Was forgotten at home and only needed it one day). Food was strictly bought for lunch and dinner. Hotel had continental breakfast. We only went through our piles of snacks in the car. I couldn't tell you why - we all have huge metabolisms and usually have to eat more often. I am surprised what a difference the cool weather made. We were probably not used to eating such hearty lunches.

**I am personally not opposed to TV watching in the car. If it keeps the kids happy on a long drive, whatever. I certainly remember my parents torturing me on long drives through half the united states when I Was kid. I would have loved a TV to help pass the time!! But, the kids are pretty good at traveling (used to many 4-hour roundtrip drives to see family). & though a TV in the back would be nice for them, it doesn't do much for those of us in the front seat or specifically for the driver. SO, our main entertainment was audio books borrowed from the library. Between that, sleeping and video games, I didn't hear one, "Are we there yet???" Phew! & the trip went pretty fast for us adults, too. Dh and I always do audio books (library) on long road trips. I just think it was the first time we could all agree on something - kids were too young to appreciate last big road trip.

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The vacation budget is definitely blown for the year, but I think we did very well!

So Cal Week $974
San Francisco $100
San Francisco/Staycation $200
Camp Sacramento - 3 nights $100
Six Flags Staycation $200
Camping Trip $140
Water Park/Monterey $145
Water Park with friends $40

TOTAL - $1,899

Vacation budget is $1500. MIL gave us $200 for Disney, bringing total to $1700. At face value we are over budget by $200 for the year, but some of the gas and food can come from our gas and food budget. SO, I think we just squeezed in with our budget.

That said, we still have weekend Napa trip for our anniversary. Point is to get away and enjoy the scenery. I doubt we will spend much of any money on the trip. I don't think we care at all - the hotel is supposed to top notch and we will enjoy that.

I am expecting a $300 credit card reward in November, so may consider that to pay vacation expenses and/or to allow one nice dinner in Napa. I haven't really decided what to do with it yet, but considering I put most the rest of our substantial rewards this year to the mortgage, I can live with splurging this last $300. It is one reason we decided to go to Disney Monday night (we had also planned to go another full day if not rained out - $300).

Spend Spend Spend

September 3rd, 2011 at 09:10 pm

That didn't go according to plan.

Dh mentioned how his swim suit broke (it's probably many years old, and it ripped when we were at the water park last time).

I told him I'd look at Kohls online since I had all those gift cards. (Mostly wanted to spend them on *moi* but what is one swim suit?)

Not the cheapest swimsuits ever, but they were on sale, and free with my gift card. Dh even let me pick out a really nice pair that I liked.

While on the site, I decided to look at jackets. I last bought BM a decent jacket when he started Kinder. 3 years ago? I got it at Lands End when I thought the school would be more of a stickler for uniform jackets. (They aren't sticklers, at all). Granted, I have only been looking around since spring, but I just can't find anything. So I started the search anew (& checked several sites). Best deal I found was some nice rain jackets at Land's End. I wanted something light and water resistant. With a hood. Apparently California wear is hard to find. I don't need a full out rain slicker, and certainly nothing fleece or heavily padded. Anyway, $30 at Land's End - found the perfect jacket - and I found a coupon for free shipping. If it lasts another 3 years, and even longer for LM, guess I can't complain. LM just gets BM's old jacket, since it has held up well.

Back to Kohls... When looking at jackets I saw these hoodies that I was looking for about 3 years ago but could not find. (Not for a reasonable price, anyway!) Patience pays off...



Of course, the kids were all excited. They were on sale for $24 each. Nothing I'd get excited about, except I was looking for these so long ago, and I know that is a good price compared to what I have ever seen.

While on the site I also checked out table clothes, since ours is falling apart. With messy kids, I prefer the vinyl kind, but those also seem hard to find. I ended up spending closer to $20 on a very pretty table clothe. Will see how long it lasts! Was a nice splurge.

I found a 15% off coupon, virtually making dh's swim trunks free. I found a free shipping coupon, also. So, I spent about $75 for all of the above. Used my free gift card, and have $75 left.

It was fun to splurge a bit without spending anything.

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I also redeemed my free photobook from Shutterfly today. (Dh got some coupon for spending $20-ish at Target? I couldn't tell you why or what the specific deal was?).

I decided on a 2011 Family theme since I had so many great photos this year. Several camping trips, trips to the beach, hiking adventures, etc.

It took at least 2 hours to put it together, and I paid $3.20 to add 4 pages to the book (so I could fit everything!). Shipping was about $7.99 as I expected. I didn't even look for any coupon codes - I probably should have! Spent about $11 for that - very well worth it.

I also got 50 free prints for being a new Shutterfly customer. (I ordered a photo book back in 2004 maybe? But haven't since, and have apparently switched e-mails, etc.) I didn't order the free prints yet, but may be a project for Monday. Very time consuming. Will focus on printing copies for the kids and for family. I prefer to keep them digital or just print out a very few, myself. But I Can certainly get good use out of free prints.

So, I spent about $41 all told today. ($30 jacket + $11 photo book). Not bad for the haul!

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So, my parents' 40th anniversary is coming up, and I am terrible with gift ideas. BUT, working on this photo book gave me a great idea. We will make them a really nice photo book for their anniversary. I am so excited! We are visiting them today, so I will try to sneak out a photo album and have dh start scanning. I have had some relatives send me some old photos, etc. Will see what we can put together. I've got almost a year, but I want to get started on this project. Sneaking photos from their home without them noticing, may take some time.

Lifestyle Creep + VG news

May 13th, 2011 at 01:35 pm

I've said often that we have no plans to *permanently* increase our lifestyle. To that end we avoid payments and contracts (increased expenses that are hard to get out of). We prefer to focus on one-time splurges. For example, if I had a windfall, I may be open to a vacation or a toy, but not a more expensive car which would just be more expensive to maintain (more annual taxes and insurance). Buying up in home is absolutely out of the question!

But, apparently lifestyle creep shows itself in many ways. Recently, it was the cat litter box. I broke it a couple of weeks ago. A cat litter box should be cheap enough to replace, but we had a top-of-the-line model, and after much research decided to get a BIGGER top-of-the-line model. Final cost when all was said and done? $42. For a cat box!

Okay. So the story is that my dh is spoiled rotten and when I became pregnant and concerned with toxoplasmosis, his mommy couldn't bear the thought of him having to deal with the cat litter. So she bought us this litter box:



You just roll it over and the box is clean. Wala!

After checking some local stores and comparing online prices, I chose to pay more with amazon than some store I never heard of and had little in online reviews. I can't say I have ever made that decision before, but Amazon really won my loyalty, and I didn't have time to wait for a sale.

I decided to try the extra large model since my cat has been filling the litter box daily. It's been insane. Her health seems to be fine, but she is getting old. I clean the cat litter box 3-4 times more often than usual any more.

Funny thing is while I Waited for it to arrive I got out a cheap little box and I found it quite easy to maintain. I started to have second thoughts about bothering with the $42 cat box. Maybe I should just send it back?

But then, the cat began to drive me nuts. Since she has pretty much always had this COVER over the box, she seems to have no sense of boundary in an open box. There was a ring of pee all around the litter box. Rolleyes So as I clean clean clean all week, I was relieved when the box finally arrived.

The last box lasted 8 years. It was free. I can only hope this one lasts a little longer.

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P.S. Did you hear? Vanguard lowered the minimum initial investment for their Target Date retirement funds. $1,000. Before, only STAR fund had a minimum $1k investment.

http://www.mymoneyblog.com/vanguard-lower-minimum-investment...

Bad timing for me. I put my kids' college money in the more conservative STAR fund since I did not have $3k per child. I believe it was last summer I had enough to transfer it into a Target Retirement fund (minimum $3k investment). OF course, maybe it works out because the market was rough before that time. Wink But I only have a short time-frame before the money gets more conservative - college investing is nothing like retirement investing for 40+ years. I've only got 10 years left to save, and will probably get pretty conservative in 5 years time.

Updates

November 19th, 2010 at 02:03 pm

I don't remember November ever being like this. It's like the stars aligned at crazy. It's usually my slowest, most relaxing time of the year. Will have to pass that up for this year!

Just a lot going on - work, home and everywhere.

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I am pleasantly surprised by our HOA. If nothing else, they do seem to have their finances in order.

Our first HOA (condo) was fine. No complaints. However, the fees were $250/month when we lived there (included cable, some utilities, and some nice facilities like clubhouse, pool, racquet ball courts, and stuff like that). The fact that it was an uber high cost of living area probably didn't help. Last I saw, the fees had risen to $400/month. Ouch! Glad we sold the place 8 years ago.

Our current HOA? Maybe a little more particular, but not much bite. (I'm to the point where I would complain more about them letting homeowners off easy - which I never thought I would complain about. But the economy has left little in the way of *pride of ownership*).

We just got notice that our dues would go down this year, by $5/month. (They are lower than they started at 9 years ago).

We bought in the community new, and they sent us a note this week that though they had completely paid off the clubhouse this year, they were not going to reduce our dues in light of foreclosures and lack of payment from many owners.

Honestly, I think it's a miracle they had the foresight to stay solvent. They also have an almost 7-figure repair reserves (which means I see more due decreases in our future. They are playing it WAY safe, but I have no complaints about that in the interim). In the end, our dues have stayed rather steady, even decreasing slightly, even while the economy has all gone to hell.

& I never thought I'd see the day I'd praise a HOA. Wink

So hey - good financial news!

The dues are around $72/month, but not apples to apples with our condo, by ANY means. For one, our HOA doesn't own our walls and roof!

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The kids finished their first trimester. Had conferences yesterday.

BM? He has the same awesome teacher as last year and is in academic heaven. I didn't expect to gleam much from the meeting.

LM? I was curious because though he seems to be doing great, and is mostly pretty "go with the flow" he has his difficult/stubborn side.

So, I was relieved that they both had glowing reports from their teachers. WE always get lots of compliments from the teachers, but I can't help but feel it's the school and the teachers who should get the compliments. (I know we raise our kids to be respectful, and that we emphasize doing well in school, but they can be a bit of handful if not properly challenged, etc. I can't take all the credit for them being VERY happy in their school environment). This is PUBLIC school, so I know it is a huge blessing.

I am also completely amazed by the technology factor and how they utilize technology to keep our kids challenged. I am still reeling from this whole lexile reading thing (which I wish they had when I was a child!), but now they are doing similar things in math. BM will have a completely custom/computer generated math curriculum come January. (Is that cool or what?)

Anyway, pleased with the kids' reviews, we treated them out to dinner. Their choice was Sizzler. Yum! We have a really nice one with a pretty big buffet. So, we ate well. (I think the kids chose it for the dessert factor - make your own sundaes).

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Got my dishes:



I think they are just beautiful! (The red is more of a deep maroon - love love love).

Out of 48 pieces, we had one broken bowl. So, maybe best I couldn't cancel my online order. Out of 3 boxes due to arrive, I think I can fish out one intact bowl.

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I've been flying blind on my finances. (My Quicken data in limbo!)

It doesn't help that with the Target card, transitioning out the Chase, and that not everyone takes AmEx - we have been regularly using 3 cards, plus some straggling expenses on the Chase. Make it 5, since dh insisted on using his own Chase. I finally talked him out of that - because moving from one cards to 4+ is driving me a LITTLE crazy - but will be a couple of charges there. (He is concerned if we need a backup Visa since the AmEx is so limited. I told him I would carry his card in my wallet - in case we ever needed it. He couldn't possibly carry 3 cards. Rolleyes )

So anyway, yesterday I had a few moments to sit down with dh and assess the Quicken situation.

I didn't lose ANY data! (Happy Dance). Over the weekend I need to search for any remnants of my excel sheets. Those, I probably won't be so lucky with (since he didn't back those up!)

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The Fidelity AmEx is interesting because they show transactions before they authorize. They have all sorts of disclaimers how not to call about those transactions because they have not posted.

Anyway, a weird charge for $2-ish had posted, which I have to ask dh about. It could possibly be for the online backup site.

But, in the "not cleared" area was charges to BMW, a cell phone company, and other companies I never heard of. I Was googling them all to clarify.

Um, seriously? We have had the card 5 minutes.

The thing is I don't think I can call to make a fraud claim because they haven't posted. Rolleyes I will read all the fine print on that later and maybe call them anyway (after I check with dh).

I am less happy with AmEx by the minute. Maybe time to shop some Visa reward cards. (Not that this has to be an AmEx thing, but who on earth could have our credit card info? we just got the cards)!

To be continued...

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Turkey Day - we provide the turkey and the place, but not much else. Maybe a few sides, etc. Dh is going to do some shopping today.

Xmas - Not much to do. I got LM that art stuff, and my parents are giving BM a hugely expensive gift (something nerdy - robotics thing). Dh will fill in the rest with his Scholastic vouchers - he is volunteering 24 hours or something (so means about $500 in books - though will donate most to the school). BM's teacher told us last time we donated 8 hours, he got 300 books from that. IT's a non-cash way to make a HUGE difference. His goal is to add 500 to his class library the next Scholastic sale. !!

Anyway, Dh's family is big into Xmas and he may buy some things, but I am not sure I will bother buying anything else for anyone. Maybe a work gift exchange and stuff like that. I prefer simplicity and a non-material Christmas, myself.

We don't necessarily buy big gifts for the kids every year. I didn't buy the art stuff for Christmas, but since we found something big for BM to open on Xmas Day, (even thought not from us), it seemed appropriate to hold the art stuff to Christmas, too.

The kids will get a zillion gifts from the in-laws, which is why we don't bother much with it. They don't seem to notice or care. As far as they are concerned, "Grandma" is in charge of Christmas gifts. My parents don't even usually buy them anything, and they are too small to think that is weird. Books and games from Scholastic are perfect for stockings and a couple of gifts under the tree.

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I've been writing down all our misc. purchases, and after adding everything from the credit cards today, that dh didn't tell me about. I think we have about $11 left for the rest of the month. In fact, may need it today for co-pays.

It's a work in process!

Money spent?

Medical $10
Gifts $20
Parking $10
Eating Out $70
Babysitting $15
Clothing $50
Music Downloads $5
Misc. $9
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$189

Today, I am going to sit down with dh and tell him how we have no more money for the rest of the month. (I can pull co-pays from medical savings, but rather not. The savings is for more substantial expenses!)

So, if we cut our gas and grocery spending through the end of the month - will buy us wiggle room. I need to immerse him in my own world so I don't have to do this every month. (& I have to take our spending limits more seriously, myself). We both have room for improvement.

Score one for the Savers...

April 20th, 2010 at 09:20 pm

What advantage do savers have?

Rock bottom prices on just about everything, while the economy is sour.

I am so ecstatic - just got a quote to paint our house.

Was discussing with a co-worker, who told me she had been quoted $5k to paint her house, in the last few years. I was expecting $5k-$6k, but saw some lowball adds for the pre-season, and was deciding if we should just bite.

I also blogged how this looked like a case where painting 2 stories cost twice as much as one. I always roll my eyes when people say a house like ours cost twice as much as a house like theirs (to maintain, to heat, to cool, etc.). In general, I have not found that to be the case, at all. This little known thing called, "economies of scale."

But, anyway, from everything I heard, I thought this assertion was correct for house painting.

So, answered an add for a $2000-$3500 paint job (2 story quote) and almost fell over when the guy quotes us $2200.

I do think he was salivating over all the "badly needing paint job" homes in our neighborhood. Good luck with that - most of them are bank owned. Wink But I wouldn't be surprised if we got a bit of a discount for the potential business.

I suppose I should have asked why we luck out on the low end. All I could figure is that our house is very square. Really, that's probably it. (Maybe I underestimate the amount of McMansions in the area, too). They do have a lot of cracks to fill and windows to tape off, so I wish them good luck with that. Glad I don't have to do it. (Oh yeah, I thought the tall height of our house would be another big issue - apparently it doesn't matter to them).

The cheapest this guy paints is for $1700. So, I am happy to say, in this case, it won't cost twice as much as if we had a smaller home.

It's raining cats and dogs today, so I am not sure where that leaves us. (I thought we were done with rain). But we may get our house painted in the next week or 2. Dh and I will discuss our final decision tonight. I couldn't find the paint color for our shutters, so may have to ask my neighbor. Since my feeling on price was so *off* we may get some other quotes. Who knows, but we liked the guy and he looked good on paper.

I am going to start talking to the neighbors about replacing our fence. Just feel them out. If they are too broke, or totally uninterested, so be it. But there has got to be bargains to be had. I kind of don't want to have to scramble while the fence is blown down or anything. Our renter neighbors just moved out and they had a TON of pets. Now would be a good time. Though I have no idea how to get ahold of the landlord. May be worth it just doing it ourselves. Small yards mean cheap fences. But I want something little better quality than the builder put in. It would be nice if the neighbors agreed and pitched in, but will see.

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This year really isn't the greatest for us financially. BUT, on the flip side, we have more means than we have had in a while, to do a lot of put off projects. Throw in the prices for the sour economy, and it means we can stretch our dollars further. Maybe it's good we didn't necessarily have the cash for this in the boom.

The irony is that this completely confuses people like my MIL. We basically live the same, financially. We really couldn't be much more alike. But, she has a REALLY hard time understanding other people's priorities. Like, if I didn't have $2k+ sitting around to drop everything and go to Florida for a week. I protested that we didn't have the money. Maybe I should have said, "We have too many other financial priorities right now."

When we got sick of hearing how cheap dh's surgery would be, and pointed out it wasn't "free" like she imagined, means we must be broke. All she knows is "free healthcare." Dh told her we had the cash to pay the bills, but she just couldn't get past why we had any medical bills.

I can just hear it now. "I thought the surgery was SO expensive. How can you afford all this stuff?"

We also have more cash than we have had in a while. This year isn't really a great year for us financially. I did take a 10% hit to compensation. We are still riding the wave of 2009 though. We lowered our house payment by $200/month and cut our preschool costs by about as much. We have cash for LONG put-off projects. Low prices in this economy just means it's a good time to jump on these things.

That is the other thing with MIL - she always was over-estimates what we pay for things. She was JUST bragging to me the other day that they paid $15k or so for THEIR car. (You should have heard this conversation!) I didn't say anything. Dh's car cost $8k, and mine, $12k. Who is she trying to impress? She has made a lot of weird comments about our van, and it was thay conversation that made me realize she thinks we paid $20k for it or something. As did a lot of people, when we bought it. I thought *she* was smarter than that. Apparently not. Is that why she always looks at our van in disgust? She's always had issues with it - I have no idea why. Maybe I should have bragged we only paid $12k for the van. With her, it's just best not to say anything though.

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Oh, in other news, I made an optometry appointment. My eyes haven't really changed and I have a spectacular pair of glasses. Which means, it feels very suddenly that I haven't had an eye exam in about 6 years. I know - egads.

I haven't had glasses all my life and just haven't got in a groove. I know I should go in more often.

SO, I decided to just make an appointment with my HMO (Easiest). I actually have VSP through my employer. Really, the only benefit I do have, at this point. BUt, we used our deductible and rather just go there where all my medical records are and stuff. (Will use VSP to pick up some new glasses, elsewhere).

I checked the prices to be sure this wasn't a stupid move financially. They must have updated everything to reflect we spent our deductible! Pretty much everything is free the rest of the year. Optomestrist? FREE. Woohoo! It even confirmed that dh's MRIs will only cost us $50 (what they charged us last time). Woot.

We have $3k to go on our out-of-pocket. I have an GYN appointment, too this year. The kids' checkups are always free (preventive). Probably the GYN ones too.

Even the emergency is pretty cheap. We will try not to end up in the hospital - that will eat out out-of-pocket in week. Was the only thing listed that actually really cost anything. Surgeries and hospital stays, I suppose. Will try to avoid. Wink

Hope it's not Too Good To Be True

February 17th, 2010 at 07:29 pm

I did some shopping last night. All I need is the internet to do financial damage. Credit card info - memorized!

Anyway, to make a long story short, we tried to hit a few mattress sales this weekend, and failed. I suppose, in this day and age, the true deals are online. (It probably doesn't help that 10,000 small businesses closed in our county, in 2009). You know - those hole in the wall places are impossible to find any more. Our favorite furniture discounter is long gone, etc.

I would like to see and feel a mattress before I buy it. But I haven't seen anything halfway decent for under $1k. I don't think my standards are that high either - just looking for a Twin mattress for my youngest. With the "best sales of the year" winding down, I started looking online, out of frustration.

I struck gold with Overstock.com

$1200-ish mattresses on sale for $450-ish. Big name brands. $2.95 shipping. Unexpected perk - no sales tax. (Though technically, California can come after us for the sales tax - might as well report it - but I have a year to pay that). I also found a $10-off coupon. I stared at the total in disbelief before I clicked "finalize purchase."

So, that whole thing isn't over. Will see when it arrives. BUT, the mattress had excellent reviews, as did Overstock for their mattress selling/shipping. Well, okay then. At this point, I am desparate!

There were a couple of catches. BEsides not getting to see and feel it. (& I suppose if I wasn't so sick of the mattress stores, I could have gone out and looked for one in person, to see, before I committed). Anyway, the mattress did only have a 5-year warranty. Which, actually surprised me. Because we saw some really cheap crap with 3-year-warranties. This mattress appeared to be much higher quality. Anyway, with out eldest, our philosophy was to buy him a "forever" bed. (He actually just has my old "forever" mattress). The thing is, he is a rambuctious boy, and I think we are lucky he hasn't broken it yet!!

So, yeah, I am totally happy, with current cashflow, to go a little cheaper. Maybe LM will get his *forever bed* in a few more years... I am still assuming he gets at least 10 years out of this mattress, all the same.

The other thing is that I know we will just buy a platform bed of some type, eventually. I really just wanted the mattress. But this one came with the boxspring.

I think it works out, because dh has been really against throwing the mattress on the floor. I really wanted to buy a mattress LAST year and to buy a bed this year. With the box spring, maybe he won't freak out too much about LM not sleeping on a REAL bed. Will look more bed-like?

That being said, since we are no longer shopping "forever bed," I am sure we will find something quite frugal in the next few months. I suppose we will shop for a bed and desk set. But if what we want is on the pricey side, we can wait another year or so to get him an actual bed frame.

I suppose we can sell the old toddler bed for $50. That is how much we paid for it used - though it came with a crappy mattress that we switched out for our nice crib mattress.

Good mattresses are so important! So I am crossing my fingers that I didn't make a terrible purchase.

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I shopped around but only bought him a mattress pad, last night. Amazon? Ours is pretty sad (has holes and everything) and found one for $20-ish, so replaced it too.

Will take him shopping for some bedding, though I know we can make do with that too, for now. I REALLY liked a comforter set online for $99. A little pricey for my taste, but maybe I should just get it - since the mattress was a steal. Will wait and see if the mattress is good, and will consider it. (Or wait and see if it goes on sale???) Mattress should arrive in 1-6 weeks!

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I also bought a nice pair of workout shoes at Zappos. It's the only place I can find shoes that fit. Without spending DAYS roaming the stores. I had picked this month to buy since it is a long put off purchase. HAd been waiting for a slow month. Not that this month is ending up a low spend month, but the mattress will come from savings (for much less than I expected), and I've still got room in the budget for shoes. If they fit well, I will immediately buy a second pair. I replace them so slowly, every time I find a good pair, the go out of production buy the time I want to buy them again. I hate that! I have been shoe hoarding of late. It's a perk to having more wiggle room in the budget. Phew! It may be YEARS before I have to shoe shop again. Big Grin

2009 Totals

January 1st, 2010 at 07:05 pm

2009 was an awesomely awesome financial year for us. Phew!

INCOME

My salary went up $1500 for the year, and I earned another $3k in overtime (over the year before). In fact - best overtime year by a mile, since having children.

Gifts were up $2k this year, since MIL randomly gave us $1k they got for turning in an "old clunker" to the state. A state program - not the "cash for cars." This was a TRUE clunker. My mom also ended up giving us $1k for the MRI. So, got $2k completely unexpected, and this was a large reason why we decided to just pay cash on my auto body work. Borderline to file a claim anyway - and ruin our perfect driving record. This way - we had the cash and it was done. No rising insurance to worry about. Phew!
MIL always gives $1k each to the kids, and $1k to us, every year. So we had a fruitful gift year.

Interest income was about $240, as opposed to $350 last year. Though I had MORE cash! Ouch!

Our other income was down about $600 this year. A bit of a bummer. Looking closer - we had a lot less focus groups this year. Last year dh sold a projector for $250. He did a wedding video for a family member for $100. $500 credit card rewards. About $300 focus groups. The rest, about $700, was ebay selling and such. In 2009, $500 credit card rebates, and about $800 in ebay sales. I don't have the grand total of what dh sold. I think he sold a lot more this year (though summer was a very slow patch). BUT, $800 is all he gave me for bills/saving. I am quite sure he netted $1200 this year - as was our goal.

His ebay sales, which are very helpful, will take a big hit this year with his surgery. But he may be able to make up for it when both kids are in school in the fall. He should have a lot more time to make a go of it, then.

In addition to all that, I did get a 10% employer contribution in 2008 - to retirement. As always. In this economy though, I don't take it for granted. Won't know for many months about 2009.

That covers the income side of things.

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EXPENSE

I was more careful to check everything was included in this report, this year. I can not, for the life of me, get my mortgage principal payments to show up. That will add about $3500 to both years. Leaving my YTD expenses at about $65k. My goal is to limit expenses to $60k, but does not necessarily account for big, one-time items. I also will be able to reduce annual daycare (preschool) expense by about $2k, in a few months time. So - pretty darn close. If I hadn't of smashed my car this year - we'd be about there.





**Allowances - Dh and I generally give ourselves $50/month. Just to have the freedom to buy whatever the heck we want! I am not much of a strict budgeter, and this year I pretty much ignored it. (Dh tends to save up for bigger items so I usually track more closely, for him). Anyway - I find it funny how we both kind of ended up about $600 for the year. We just know our limits.

I actually cut down my clothing buying by about $300. I bought a bike instead, this year! Which was a most awesome purchase. So I used my allowance quite well this year.

**AUTO - We spent about $800 less on gas, thanks to lower gas prices. Insurance/registration was all about the same, though dh and I both had to renew our driver's licenses for a fee. Service/maintenance was the usual $1500 (for 2 cars) though I spent $2200 to repair my van (the pole run in). WE spent about $800 on the van (stupid stuff) and $600 on the old Ford (new brakes for the first time ever - 100k+ miles - new tires and work on the AC). About $100 on oil changes for both cars throughout the year. Pretty typical. The "new" Dodge is a PITA and dh's old car is extremely light on repairs/maintenance - always has been.

Chalk up the $1800 increase in Auto expenses this year to my run-in with a pole. Hopefully we can avoid that next year.

**Bank Charge - I stupidly got an overdraft charge last year. You wanna know why I don't bank with the big boys? So a stupid mistake only costs me $3. This year was a typical no-fee year.

**CASH - Dh talked me into using my card more this year. I used to reserve it for over-$10 purchases and such. This year I see a slew of $1-$5 charges on my credit card. But it is nice not to carry around cash. (But for the token amount for emergency - I no longer carry any cash).

**CHarity - It looks like we were more charitable, eh? Not particularly. Oh - our usual $250 donations for 2008 didn't get made until January 2009. That is part of it. The rest is just school stuff. Every dime and donation to the school is tax-deductible, and this was BM's first full calendar year in school. We also have memberships to a couple of museums and such.

**Childcare - In 2008 both kids were in preschool for 1/2 of the year. In 2009, Ms. PReschool up and moved. So we haven't been paying as much for preschool. The new one we found is very cheap. This is also a large reason why our auto fuel expense went down. This is also why I Was able to work more overtime. Found a preschool closer to home. Ms. Preschool was worth every penny though and we miss her TERRIBLY. I am so sad she can not care for LM while dh is in the hosptial, etc.

Dh and I did not pay much for babysitting this year. We were able to squeeze in a fair amount of lunch dates while the kids were in school - much cheaper.

**CLOTHING - BM grew like a weed, and I actually splurged on some workout clothing this year. I was actually surprised to see how much we spent compared to last year. BUT, I did really go through my wardrobe and upgrade things this year. Things that were just falling to pieces, etc. These were not "allowance" items. We had a little more money to buy what we "needed" this year and made more of a priority than other years. Even dh bought a few things - though mostly thrift.

**Dining - we spent a fair amount more this year. As mentioned, dh and I did a lot of lunch dates. We also ended up spending a lot on eating out with my dad in the hospital so much, and with our own issues at the end of the year.

**EDUCATION - This is just karate classes for BM. He got bumped up to the big kid class, which cost more. Also bought 2 belts for him this year, etc. He is officially yellow belt, now! Through the community center - which is far cheaper than any of the private places around here.

**Entertainment - is just our blockbuster online. More than the movies, we also get free game rentals and such, with this plan.

**Gifts - I suppose we were predictable here.

**Groceries - up $200. I suppose consistent here, too.

**Household - last year we bought a lot of thermal drapes and CFLs and such. This year we did a lot more low-cost maintenance. Also - $80/month for the gardener - my #1 luxury.

**ID Theft - I started this category to track expenses when my Identity was stolen. Since then we have had a lot of fraudulent credit card activity (completely unrelated. I don't think I have ever had fraudulent activity on my own card - in over 15 years of having credit cards. Last 2 years have been the pits!). Anyway, I just throw any improper expenses here so I don't forget - make sure it gets taken care of. Not sure why the -$19.99, but that's all it is.

**Insurance - we upped our umbrella insurance a bit, this year. Everything else was pretty status qou.

**Medical was about the same. BM didn't have a pile of cavities in 2009 (phew), but we did have more medical bills and higher premiums than last year. Still came out a tad ahead, I suppose? Not so lucky for 2010, that is for sure!

**Miscellaneous - We definitely had more cash this year. & spent a little of it. This year we did Little League and swim lessons. Stuff easier to justify with lower preschool costs. We also went ahead and bought a GPS and a tent. So was a little more spendy than the year prior.

**Mortgage Interest - with our refi around January 1, 2009, we saved $1800 in mortgage interest. Which is totally super awesome. The principal is being paid off about the same rate as before.

**Personal care - just haircuts for the 4 of us.

**PRofessional Dues - all of these are reimbursed by my employer, but I tend to make political contributions with my dues. Which is what remains.

**Subscriptions - just the newspaper - we renewed to weekends again. All we ever wanted, but they stopped offering for many years. Dh can't give up his paper.

**TAX - this is just our property taxes - they went down a bit this year. Much more down for next year.

**UTILITIES - I have no idea why our utilities went down. We are still in limbo. Hoping to change to Surewest for cable. Still waiting to test out their *new* DVR, so we can drop DISH. We did switch to high speed internet with Surewest. I believe it was this year that we first dropped long distance and call waiting (I finally convinced dh). I suppose this was also the first full year of sharing our cell phone plan with my folks, which also brought costs down. High speed internet was justified with the nearing end of expensive preschool. Phew!

Our gas/electric did go down 10%. Though most of that is due to lower rates. The CFLs were a bust as an investment, in my opinion. We apparently already had some sort of efficient bulbs (which also last forever - we gave a pile of 8-year-old bulbs to our neighbor - still going strong). I don't think we will bother going CFL with the rest of the bulbs. We had only changed the most used bulbs in the house - since we have SO MANY lightbulbs.

I suppose we got sucked in by hype. Which is good to be aware of. For example, our hot water heater costs pennies to run. I suppose it would be stupid to replace it eventually with a tankless heater. Which costs FAR more - and yet won't really offer us any cost savings. I didn't foresee the light bulbs would be the same way - but they are.

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Thinking to 2010...

I suspect most of our spending will be similar in 2010. With the exception of expected medical bills.

Our flood insurance may go up, from $300 to $1200-ish, per year. They have been wishy washy about that - all politics.

I know we will have a lot of "convenience/daycare" type expenses with dh's surgery. Some of these will mirror last year - since we drive a LOT to the Bay Area and helped out my parents when my dad was ill. WE will have a lot of similar costs with dh having surgery in the Bay Area, and such. I mostly plan to fund these with our "vacation fund" though. The last 3-4 years we have been trying to set aside $1500 for vacations, though had been low on our priority list and set to $0 for the few years prior. Basically - it's the first thing to go.
That frees up $1500 for daycare and convenience - more eating out and such. Which should really more than cover it. I also expect that our miscellaneous spending will be down a bit since dh will be out of commission for a while. HArd to say, since in January - March I tend to be so busy with work that we don't go out and do a lot of things together. It tends to be very low spend months anyway - the time while dh is recovering. But, will just have to see.

Anyway, with all this medical hoo-ha, I certainly don't expect to keep our expenses down to $60k. BUT, will of course, TRY!

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SAVINGS

I ended up saving about $10k cash in 2009, as well as putting $4k into our ROTHS.

2009 was the first year I ever contributed to our ROTHs regularly, from income (as opposed to funding later with cash - or with gifts, etc.). I wish I could say the same for 2010, but we are going back to the lump sum method for 2010 - depends how the medical bills stack up. If we feel we have any to spare, will do a lump sum contribution towards the end of 2010.

2009 was good - hopefully after this hump we can pick up where we left off!

Spend Spend Spend

December 12th, 2009 at 10:15 pm

Well, it's been spendy, but the cosmic powers that be have allowed it I suppose.

Last night we had an impromptu $150 night out. Don't ask me why - very unlike us. The babysitting fundraiser was $40 for the kids. I Wasn't feeling 100% and was ready to just stay in when dh was going on about what he wanted to do. I suggested we do something different - like go out for fondue or something. I actually had a coupon in my coupon book, so we decided to give it a whirl. I figured it was uber expensive but maybe we could keep the costs down. In the end, we spent $100, coupon and all. Plus $10 to park downtown. IT was pouring rain and freezing - who knew so many people would be out - yeesh. (Actually, we were lucky to get a table with no reservations - the place was rather small).

Anyway, I felt terrible about this since we have seemed to hemhorrage money the last couple of months, with this and that. On the other hand, sometimes it is nice just to say "Screw it," and do something we would never do otherwise.

Now we can say we have been there, done that. Worth $100 to ever do again? Nah. Part of the reason we tried it is my dad took me out to a wonderful fondue lunch - I think it was when the fam was in Florida. That place was about as expensive - but was better. (Though my mom and I both felt the cost was insane and doubted we would ever go back). The place last night had more variety and we certainly had a feast though. We also had our chocolate flambeed, last night. (Fancy!)

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So yeah, that's that.

Today was a little better. I Ran to Kohls in the a.m., with the kids, because I really just wanted a nice sweater for my wardrobe. I try to buy like one sweater and one dress every year. (I buy more than that - but those are like the basics). Nothing really fit and I didn't do so good (which was annoying - they are flipping sweaters - but they all just fit so odd. I usually don't even try on tops really). The kids were being obnoxious so I could have probably left spending $0, but I saw the most beautiful jacket I had ever seen, and it was on sale for $30 (something like 80% off - it was an expensive coat). All they had was Large, so I Almost passed it up, but tried that one on in the end and it fit perfect.

I suppose I will consider donating another coat, since that one wasn't really needed. But I will feel like a million bucks in such a fancy jacket (hope it washes well).

BM fell victim to the size trolls today too. My kids grow tall and lean. I am always grateful that even the cheapest of pants these days tend to have elastic bands on the inside. I always make those as tight as I can, and the kids generally wear belts too.

SO, since he had some freak growth spurt, and mostly skipped size 6, I went to grab some size 7s today. Not sure I'd have him try them on, but just that I Can't believe he skipped a size. (His 6s looked like flood pants!) So he did, and he couldn't button the slim pants. What the heck??? It's like bizarro world in the size department - not just me! Big Grin

I can't believe I bought my boy regular pants! 'Tis nice, since I am not sure the larger sizes have all that elastic (I just don't know).

They only had one pair in his size though (un-slim - Was on sale, phew) so we may run to target this weekend too - to get a few more pants.

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We ran by Walgreens to get some umbrellas. We don't generally need or use them, but I told the kids we could go for a walk in the rain today. I think the umbrella I had broke. I suppose I will have to go on an umbrella hunt.

We stopped by Walgreens to get some Umbrellas and some junk food. We asked and couldn't find them umbrellas, so figured they were out. I checked out all the junk, and on the way out we spotted the umbrellas, of course. 2 for $10, so we grabbed 2 and went back to pay for those. The cashier told me to use the $5 I had just earned, and didn't know I had. So in the end, 2 umbrellas for $5, wasn't half bad. Big Grin Talk about customer service. My mom is always telling me how much trouble CVS gives her about those. WE go to walgreens all the time (the only store we can walk to), and not sure I ever got a $5 coupon.

Anyway, the kids excitedly claimed their umbrellas. Maybe I should go buy one more, for myself. (BM does walk to/fro school to, so will probably be handy for him. It just really never rains enough to warrant an umbrella from the car to the door, etc.).

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I slept in and missed aerobics this morning - gah! So unlike me! I decided to go to they gym, and took the kids. We paid for lifetime childcare though, so was nice to get some use out of it. The kids had whined and complained about it for a while, and they were always watching TV, etc. They can do that at home with daddy! But today, they had fun and didn't watch TV anyway. Worked out.

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Oh yes, so today my mom calls me and tells me she is sending me a $1000 check for dh's MRI. This is extremely unusual (my parents are tightwads!) and a very nice and unexpected treat.

Any worries I had in the back of my mind about being a little too spendy last night, immediately went away. Sometimes these things just work out!

Of course, my mom called me later and sounded like she was changing her mind. She called to ask me about details on our health plan. I have told her a million times we have a higher deductible because we save about as much on premiums going that route. Sensing her mind change I threw in that our deductible was doubling next year. (It's not like it matters that much this year - but next year will be ugly!).

Anyway, regardless of if I end up with this check or not, I suppose I should have a talk with my parents about this. It's not polite to tell someone you are going to give them $1k, and then change your mind. It's downright annoying!!!! She was going to send me $1k for the ambulance bill (the one I never got) and then changed her mind. I suppose I didn't fret too much about it since I never got the bill. But that was long forgotten, until I could sense she was going to change her mind a lot faster this time. (Last time she changed her mind after weeks or days. This time it was an hour I guess).

It's just how my parents are. THey want to help out if we *need* help. *Need* is relative. If they don't want to help us that is fine. I will have to remember this next time - no excitement until the check is in my hand. My bubble was filled and deflated rather quickly! I suppose if she asked me if I Really needed it, I Would say, no, not for 2009, but it could be really useful for 2010. Big Grin Which is kind of how our conversation went. & even then, I don't know. My parents don't generally hand me cash, and if they are going to start to, it's something they need to work on. Like, be sure before they open their mouths! Because, though I am fine with no handouts, I don't like getting excited about a gift that gets taken away! (If I had to guess what happened - my mom blurted it out, and my dad did not agree. My dad is the tightwad, I should say. Big Grin )

So, will see...

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Anyway, I have a walk in the rain to prepare for. Brrrrr. I must be crazy, but the kids need to go run outside. (I don't mind rain - just not a fan of cold! Though our extreme cold weather has left. Phew!).

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I really don't have any spending on my horizon, but all mys pending yesterday and today was so impromptu. So I don't know. But overall - not much planned here the next few weeks. Think we will hole up inside and try to stay warm, the rest of the weekend.

We've mostly been busy volunteering - I think we will log 9 hours for Scholastic/school activities this weekend. Dh already worked at least 7 hours at the TV station this week. I suppose we should do what we can while able bodied. Just, when it rains, it pours. Our schedule has been a bit hectic.

Consequences of Having Cash - Prioritizing

November 8th, 2009 at 11:18 pm

The consequence of possibly getting our cash in order within a year, is that when you have cash it is easier to spend it.

In theory anyway. Dh and I are not the greatest examples as we can be a bit of cash hoarders. But by the same token, I do feel like we are about to explode with purchases we haven't been able to justify since having kids.

I am not sure how the 2 sides will balance out, so better safe than sorry.

It is also always good to sit down and talk about this stuff with a spouse. Sometimes you have no idea they were thinking it was a good idea to make a huge purchase in a year or 2.

So, what does this say about us? The only *new* purchases we have on the horizon (things we don't already own):

Bed/Mattress for LM (NEED)
Security/Screen Door
Trip to Hawaii
Play Structure (for kids)
Ping Pong Table
Pool Table

The trip to Hawaii materialized this year as a potential reward for making it this long without dh working, as our finances improve. Also goes will with the whole 10-year-wedding-anniversary thing. Though we are starting to think we should make it an 11-year trip. I feel no pressing need to have to go ASAP.

That is a rather new thing, and the rest centers around our home. Because, well, we are home bodies!

Here's most of the rest of the list. ** Denotes replacing things we already own. Some need to be replaced; others we want to replace with newer and/or better:

**HDTV
**New Computer Monitors (20-ish years old - the both of them).
**Digital Camera (6 years old - pennies to replace with something 4 times better)
**Replace Fence
**Outdoor Furniture
**Replace Sectional Couch (I just hate it)
**Adobe Suite (Software)
**HD Camcorder
**Redo Bathroom Tiles
**Replace Garage Door Opener (Quieter)

Though I am often impressed how little our material wish list is (new items we don't already own), other times I see how overwhelming it can be to maintain a fair amount of material items. IT probably doesn't help that so much that we own was hand-me-down or free. OF course, the irony, if I think about it, is that most of the stuff we want to replace, WE BOUGHT NEW in the first place. Oy vey. No explanation for that! Big Grin

I keep thinking of more things for the list. I will have to update this post eventually. I'm probably forgetting quite a lot.

There will always be a list. I am quite sure some of these purchases will never be made. Not all of them are financially justifiable - & some are more necessary than others.

I am hoping that having a real, solid, written down list (that isn't merely in our heads) will help us to better manage them financially. This is definitely a new thing!

An Interesting Weekend

September 28th, 2009 at 08:13 pm

This last weekend was interesting.

I got my long-awaited 3-day weekend in my favorite area of the state.

And...

Not sure it's my favorite area any more.

Anyway, we had a very nice time. No doubt about it!

I budgeted roughly $500 for the weekend. Not really sure where we came in. Will see as everything hits the cards in the next couple of days. & I will tally it up.

We decided to drive down along the coast since we had plenty of time. The bad side was there were few choices for lunch. Our planned fast food stop became a $30 gourmet meal. (A salad and a hamburger? Split? Water in a cup?). Thank goodness for the GPS, lest we missed the only food for miles. The thing was awesome for the trip. (We knew it would be since we borrowed the in-laws' so much, in the past).

Saturday we made up for it. We went to an Italian deli I had heard about. We primarily went for the gelato. But OMG, we both had the best sandwhiches we have ever eaten. For $6.95! Mine was so huge I could have finished it for dinner and been content. I always think of as food as the most expensive part of traveling (particularly with the kids). So the deli was quite a find!

We ordered pizza in one night and had an excellent Thai feast the next night. So I think we struck a good balance.

Yesterday we spent a few dollars at Burger King, and filled up with gas. (We piled up on leftovers for brunch, before we hit the road). The drive wasn't so bad. Though taking a cat nap at my folks' house helped, before the last leg.

I did get to sleep, and kayak. Watched some movies with dh, read a little. The relaxing weekend was a success. I find these days I can even go a day or 2 withou missing the kids too much, with helps. By Sunday, dh and I missed them terribly though.

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Today I transferred over $500 from savings, to pay for the trip. I think that shores up my negative 9/30 checking balance. It should work out.

We did receive $150 for our anniversary, and will probably deposit $100 in the bank. That will help too - but I will just deposit it with my paycheck.

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This morning as I made sure all the bills were paid and all is well, and transfers made for the 30th, etc., I pondered upcoming expenses.

I almost forgot about my pesky vehicle repair. Ugh. Dh said he would call about that when he returns from Florida - since they said if we need the part, it is backordered for a month. Well, it was a few months ago anyway.

Seems fair. Would like to pay for that in November. Though, it's not certain it will be a pricey repair. It's just likely, I guess. But we will take it in this month, in case it takes a month to get the part. Want everything kind of settled before the Holidays.

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Apparently we missed a 100+-degreed weekend. Phew.

We had perfect weather by the beach! Lots of clear, sunny days (rare). Phew! We lucked out! Though we certainly saw plenty of fog, too.

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Back home, after another scorcher today, it looks like weather will settle around 75 degrees.

One day it's 100 degrees. The next we will probably be turning up the hot water a bit, and digging out blankets for the beds. Not much in between I guess. September was "summer" through and through, for whatever reason. That is rare too.

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Anyway, back to my favorite area of the state. Well, I hadn't made it down there in about 10 years, and yes, things have changed much.

On the way down I was telling dh about Ima Saver having lived in a RV for a while and how it was no longer her dream. I told him I was sure if I lived on the beach any length of time, it would lose it's allure. Particularly around here. We have cold beaches.

It's funny how wise those words were. On the way back up I told dh, "It's not like I remembered." I remember the area being this amazing place I wish I could live.

Instead, I think we have found a much more appealing home in Sacramento. It's funny how much has changed in a decade. I told dh that I know I have said it before, but lord knows why our area of the state is so cheap and looked down upon. I have officially converted. I rather live here than the beach, yes. It is so much more beautiful here, and there is so much more to do. Maybe I like that we are so central to everything. The beach, San Francisco, Tahoe, etc.

I had a nice time, but there is definitely no place like home. Big Grin

Dh and I also reflected a lot, on our long drive, about our low-cost-of-living haven, and how it has turned out for us. I think our move has turned out better than we had ever imagined.

We talked about our friends and family and how difficult everyone's lives seem in comparison.

We definitely made the right choice!

I wasn't a blogger here in 2002 when we made such a life altering decision, to move. But at the time, we were bitter. We were bitter that we could not justify paying for the high cost of living in our hometown. We were smart enough to realize it was a losing battle. But the decision did not come with great joy. The joy was shallow. The joy was that we could actually afford a single family home, etc. It helped to lessen the blow, of leaving everything we knew and loved, behind.

Bitterness has given way to serious contentment, with time. True joy, beyond anything material. I share because I know there are many, many people out there who struggle in extremely high cost areas. Who struggle if they should move, etc. If you do your homework, it can be extremely rewarding. I have a lot of friends who moved up North who aren't happy. But they are WAY farther out from their family and I think the weather factor is pretty shocking. (The "up north" move wasn't near in the realm of cost savings we found, either. We were lucky to be able to make a far simpler/smaller move for far more cost savings). From that, I know it can go both ways.

I guess I Feel lucky too, that we ended up happy with our move.

I think my parents went through a similar metamorphasis. All I remember is them longing to get back to the mid-west, when I was a child. These days, they could live anywhere, and they rather just stay put. I feel like our own journey has become very similar.

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Well, I am now gearing up to be "single" for a week, since my family is leaving for Disney very soon. It is definitely not boring here!

September

September 23rd, 2009 at 02:44 pm

I mentioned earlier, that I was short a lot, in checking, for the month of September. Excess spending just kind of snowballed from my dad being in the hospital and everything, in the spring and summer.

I also said that I am making "pay myself first" a priority, and how it all seems to work out in the end. Not exactly worried about it!

Dh had a good sales run this month. However, a $50 items did not sell on ebay yesterday. He had a high minimum because it's the type of thing that can sell for too low, once in a while. I think he will easily sell it before the end of the month.

But assuming that doesn't sell, I currently face -$200 in the checking. Which is not bad. It was -$500.

Dh's family is big on cash anniversary gifts, so I won't be surprised if they give us $100.

The -$100, that will probably remain, will probably transferred from savings, as "emergency expenses."

Phew!

I will be so glad it wasn't the original -$500 or so I saw at the beginning of the month.

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Credit card bill for this month is rather benign. We are up to $1200, and I think all I have is $60 due for karate. That leaves about $250 for gas and groceries. We budget for about $1500 on the card, monthly. We pay EVERYTHING on the card.

We will take $500 out of savings for our beach vacation. I will probably transfer it over Monday, so that there is enough in checking for all the 9/30 payments (mortgage and health insurance). I'll probably be $100 short otherwise, as mentioned. Speeding up the transfer makes it easy. Actually, gives me another month to come up with $100. Now that I think about it, I may not need to transfer money from savings at all. Which is how it all snowballed in the first place).

I don't want to jinx it, but September has been rather low key. Phew! Even with our rather impromptu beach weekend, our expenses will probably be under $4k for the month.

I am not sure what October will bring. The rest of the fam is going to Florida (on MIL's dime). BUT I am sure there will be some expenses there. But, with them being gone, it will be pretty low spend here for a week. October can go either way. We already have halloween covered though, so that is good.

In November, we should probably get my car taken care of. It still has a potential $1k repair. November is just kind of slow at work and probably a good time to get it taken care of. I just needed some time after all the car repairs of August!

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I finally give up. One of the few things I spent any money on with my kids was their nursery. In the grand scheme of things it wasn't a lot, but I did spend in the realm of $200-$300 for the crib bedding and decor. I have been trying to sell it for a year at $40, $30, $20, $10. At $10-$30 I had PLENTY of interest, but just interest from a LOT of really flaky people.

So I give up. My posting expired, and to the donation pile it goes. Some charity comes by every other week or so, so I will set it out next time I get a pickup notice.

I guess not very many people want a sophisticated leopard print theme for their nursery. I LOVED it, and it was worth every penny. I had just hoped to get a little something for it. *sigh* Hardly spent so much on anything else *baby.* But most everything else was extremely re-saleable.

De-cluttering of the last year is complete! Yay!!!!! Now it is time to hit the closet, as I also mentioned. Time to go for another round! Hopefully I will have the motivation and energy while the family is gone. I am taking 2 days off work to enjoy the peace and quiet. Here's to being productive. (Fall gets me in the de-clutter mood, not sure what it is!) I assume true fall weather will arrive in October, and will help. Though even in this heat I have been eager to de-clutter.

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That's the long and the short of it. Boring can be good. Big Grin

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We treated out last night since BM lost his tooth. Main reason being we have been encouraging him to wiggle out his "stuck" baby tooth. We had been promising frozen yogurt since his new permanent tooth already came through - many weeks ago. Spent $30 on fast food and frozen yogurt. Was a nice treat!

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I got a cheap tickets promotional e-mail, and perused airfare prices. Nothing tempting, which is good. I perused Vegas and Denver airfares, etc. But I looked at Kaui airfare for next summer, and almost fell over. Looked at spring and fall too. I think if I ever see $500 tickets to Kuai again, I will bite. They don't even sell tickets for September 2010 yet, though. But I'd go in May if I saw a good price. Big Grin I can usually find cheaper tickets to Oahu. But I think Kaui adds a fair amount of cost. I barely saw anything under $800 per ticket. !! Though, yes, I saw $500 per person tickets, earlier in the year.

I will start keeping an eye on things and set up a price alert - maybe for May or September airfare. I didn't really want to decide anything until next summer. But it doesn't hurt to start pricing things. I think if I saw a good price I would nab it though. I got the Hawaii itch!

P.S. I found $500 RT tickets for May. But I will hold off. It was flying out of Oakland. Which works for me, to save $600!!! I think this is why we never spend much on airfare. We have 4 major airports at our disposal. Of the 4, one will usually have some pretty discounted airfare. You can never tell which one. Last time we went to HAwaii, starting in Sacramento was pretty cheap. As of today, that would be the most expensive starting point. Will see!

Wal Mart Bikes

September 7th, 2009 at 01:30 am

I recently came to the realization that BM is WAY too big for his bike. We didn't think he would outgrow it anytime soon, about a year ago when we decided to buy LM a bike.

I guess we forgot how FAST they grow. Yeesh!

Let's face it though, moving up 4 inches in size isn't very practical (even if he is way too big for his 16").

I have been searching out a 20-incher with gears, which isn't very easy to find.

I did see one at Target, but I figured I was crazy because I can't find anything about it's existence (online) in a 20" size.

I was going to drag dh and BM to Target today to check it out, and maybe stop by Wal Mart. (Admittedly, this bike did look huge. Not 24+ inch huge - but rather big for BM).

But, I lucked out. The Craigslist bike pickings have been slim. A lot of way overpriced bikes and such. I figure this rare bike would be near impossible.

But I checked anyway, before we headed out, and I found it. It looked like a pretty decent bike for $35. Had 10 gears, was well cared for, etc.

The seat had to be lowered with a wrench, but guy said it lowered. We hadn't really sized him on any 20-inchers, so we took it. I was going to have a talk with BM before we got there, but hadn't. I didn't want him whining if he didn't like the color, etc. Let's face it - this is as good as it gets.

No problem - he immediately fell in LOVE with the bike, even though it was a bit big and hard for him to handle.

When we got home we realized the seat did not lower after all. I was a little bummed that this bike was not going to work currently. But no huge loss, we could certainly sell the thing (even at a profit). It is a nice bike.

I started perusing 18-inchers (didn't think to look before - didn't seem practical since on size charts he is "too big."). I perused the Wal Mart reviews and wrote down all the 18/20-inchers with good reviews. I figured we would do some sizing for something that would work NOW.

I would have spent some time trying some 20-inchers on for size, but they were all too high up, and I figured I could drive the sales people nuts pulling down a bunch of bikes for me. The 18-inchers were much smaller and I got a couple of them down (all the ones I had seen online were in stock - phew).

BM was too in love with his other new bike, so he wasn't very enthused. But I talked him into a shiny bike with both handlebar and coaster brakes (probably good for transitioning). I assured him we could keep the other one and he will grow into it soon enough (certainly by next summer). He's only really a couple of inches too short for the seat level.

As far as recommended size for 18-inches? Pfffft. He will obviously fit it well for a while. It fits perfect with room to grow.

The funny thing is the new bike came with training wheels. Those came off immediately!

So our household is complete with 14", 16", 18", 20" bikes. LEt's face it - it will be nice to have some extra bikes when his friends come over.

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I can not say enough good things about Wal Mart's bikes. It is *the* place to buy a bike. The same bike was $100 at Target, and had glowing reviews. It was $70 at Wal MArt, and already assembled.

I knew it was the place to go, because we got such a good deal on my bike. The pre assembly is definitely worth something! (Though when I was at Target it looks like they now do the assembly too). Wal MArt's selection is hard to beat though.

I try to avoid Wal Mart, because I just don't like the store. It's in a terrible shopping center, etc., etc. BUT, we will likely buy any future bikes there.

When I was shopping high end bikes in the spring, for myself, never thought I'd end up at Wal Mart. !

Spending Spending Spending

September 2nd, 2009 at 02:15 pm

With the whole car repair thing, I am putting off expenses more than usual. Credit card closes Thursday. Friday I can go wild with September spending - yeehaw!

My list:

1) Bike helmet (had put off one month but decided I should buy a seat now since I am riding a lot. Fall is ideal biking weather).

2) School logo clothing (for workouts). May go workout clothe shopping this weekend. Need more/brighter clothes for bike riding.

3)Underwear - I was thinking I needed some more and Saw Hanes.com has free shipping and a big sale through Labor Day. Guess it's a good weekend to shop?

4)I have to pay for an extra curricular class for BM (he is all excited about it and I told him he could go if they still had spots on Friday).

That would be about it - not a HUGE list.

BUT, dh secured babysitting so I told him I am booking the hotel ASAP. !!!!

Wait a minute, I better wait until Friday. *sigh*

Anyway, what I totally forgot about is SCHOOL. I am still adjusting. Dh is staunchly opposed to taking BM out of school. I pretty much refuse to go on vacation if we can't leave Friday a.m. LOL. I will win. Womenly wiles will win. But either way, we came to the realization that the journey is going to be a large part of our weekend away. We better enjoy the journey and not just the destination. (It's only 10 hours of driving. Which is why we never make it there any more, living more up north!).

We may work out a compromise on the school, but we might have to drive 5 hours straight and leave later than I had planned. Which is why we better enjoy the journey. Will see!

I will fish out prices. The cost is coming out of savings anyway, so maybe I should jump while prices are good. I will check their last minute prices for this weekend to see how they compare...

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What else is up this month? Probably some clothes shopping for BM. I guess it adds up fast!

Lord know what is on dh's list.

The cupboards are bare and usually he doesn't participate (when I ask him to hold off shopping a couple of days. He never listens). But he told me he was grocery shopping Friday. I am glad he is being nice this month. He realizes how spendy August was, I guess. I am unaccustomed to empty cupboards though. But it's doable.

Going Away, Yay!

August 31st, 2009 at 07:11 pm

All big expenses aside, I feel well with the financial universe lately.

It could be the feeling that life is short (more obvious lately as my dad faces his health problems), or it could be that we just spent a pile of money on the unexpected, and are still a mile ahead of last year. It could be that our life is kind of settling into everything we have been working for the last 15 years. I kept thinking all weekend, "This is precisely where I want to be." Mostly as I found time for things I haven't had time for in many years.

For whatever reason, I felt rather zen the last couple of days.

We already spent our vacation budget for 2009, and last night dh brought up our anniversary. We discussed much about the many getaways and weekends alone we could conjure with little money spent. Use free timeshare points for a weekend anywhere? Stay home and day trip to Tahoe or San Fancisco? Spend a weekend in Reno (usually cheap hotels can be found, maybe more than usual in this economy. One night would do it). Spend a weekend at the family cabin for free? Go camping? Possibilities endless, really. & the only way we have mostly vacationed in our life. Most our years together being broke college students or sacrificing additional income to be home with our kids.

What I told dh was that I really just wanted to go to Pismo Beach. IT is something we had both been looking forward to, and even tried to plan a couple of times, but it always falls through the cracks. It's my favorite area of the state, and yet I don't think we had ever been, since we moved up north. It's been 8 years at the least.

We have a favorite hotel there, and the timeshare points won't do. We figured it would probably be a $500 weekend between the hotel, gas, and food. The hotel is beachfront and an absolute STEAL (it's apparently been remodeled but still only $100/night. Phew! We will splurge $150/night for the ocean view). We discussed how a couple of dinners out and fast food stops on the drive would be preferred, but that we would be happy to pack some PBJ sanwhiches for lunch. Not like we have to spend a pile on eating out. The gas will be the cheapest part of the trip.

We still have to arrange babysitting, but since our annniversary is less than a month away, I am excited at this rather "spontaneous" vacation. Big Grin IF we can't make it until October it will be okay, but September is an ideal month to visit the beach.

I am just so excited to finally make this a priority!







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As an aside, I checked the hotel's website last night as we discussed the feasibility of this last-minute splurge. Today, I decided to check a few of the travel websites to make sure there were no better deals.

I almost fell over, and had to check a few sites to make sure I could believe my eyes. If we went through any other travel website, about, the room costs $350/per night, as opposed to the $150/night we found at the hotel wesbite. WOW!

A decade ago, these travel websites were little known, and you would not believe some of the steals we found on travel over the years. But these days, more and more, I find booking flights and hotels directly is the cheapest way to go. Any more, you just pay a premium for "travel sites". Funny thing is the hotel price is more what I remembered it being. Of course all the travel websites boast "low price guaranteed" with their premium quotes.

I double checked and triple checked to make sure it was the same hotel and same type room. It was!!

IT pays to do your due diligence, that is for sure.

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We also talked about our wish to go to Hawaii next year. I think that will be delayed because we have other financial goals to meet first, and all these car repairs are delaying things.

Dh and I discussed how waiting one additional year to go to Hawaii is not a big deal. I don't want to delay it for 10 years. But one more year? I can certainly wait!

We will probably be able to go on a free Alaskan cruise next year anyway. So, what the heck. The "free" part is looking rather appealing.

---------------------------------------

In other news, I have been pondering my workout clothes.

I don't mind spending a litte bit of money on work clothes. I don't spend a ton, but clothes shopping is frustrating enough I prefer to just shop new. I consider a "nice wardrobe" as part of my job description, and something reasonable to spend my income on. Since I have settled on the same size for about 5 years, and have been buying higher quality clothing the last few years, it's something I find I spend less and less on, anyway.

"Workout clothing" is a different animal. I have some really old t-shirts and a couple of workout pants I got at Marshalls for like $10 each, ages ago.

I keep thinking one of these days I need to update my workout wardrobe a bit. But it certainly hasn't been a priority.

It has become a priority as I bike ride more. I usually try to avoid the outside as MUCH as possible in the summer. OR the winter really. My wardrobe is extremely mild and full of dark colors. I can't help but feel I need some brighter colors for safer bike rides, and will definitely need more warm and cool clothes for the seasons.

As I type this I realize I should probably just make a trip to Marshalls and/or Ross, and stock up. They tend to have pretty good deals, and plenty to choose from.

The kids' school also made it amazingly hard to buy school logo clothing in the past, but just opened an online store. I was thinking buying a couple of t-shirts and sweatshirts might be a good way to update the wotkout wardrobe a bit. The money mostly goes to a good cause. The t-shirts are rather affordable.

Speaking of all that, I am going to buy a bike helmet in September. I keep putting it off due to other purchases. Heck, I think it's time for a new seat too (I logged about 5 hours over the last 2 weekends - and a more comfortable seat is certainly high on my mind).

I guess September will be rather spendy!

Phew!

August 27th, 2009 at 02:10 pm

Life resumes to "normal," I guess.

Took the car in for the AC yesterday, and assumed it may take a while. But, we already got it back!

After 10-days of being a "1 car family," we are very grateful to have 2 vehicles again.

Not sure if this is good or bad, but they couldn't find anything wrong with the AC. (Heck, it was working fine when we took it in). They drained the freon (had some moisture in it) and refilled it. It seems to be working much better.

Total cost? $100. PHEW!!!!! (I was worried this would be another $1k bill).

Of course, we will see if this fix "holds." But with summer nearing its end, if it doesn't "hold", not sure I care at this point. Either this is it, or we can survive until next spring.

Phew!

-------------------------------

I also was proud of myself. My parents found it important to teach me basic car maintenance. But, I don't remember getting much education on tires. I can change one, but that's about it.

So, historically, relative, friend, mechanic, says "OMG - you NEED new tires." & so we replace them.

Deciding maybe we need a better method, I have been trying to keep better track of the age of our tires.

Dh's tires are at about 50k miles so I was going to ask the mechanic's opinion. BUT, before we went over, I checked the treads myself. He had one bald tire (thing is OLD - might have been a used tire we bought a few years back - just kind of overlooked. Lord knows how old the thing is). Another tire was iffy. But the back 2 tires seemed just fine, which was actually rather surprising. But I figure this is my guess - I have NO IDEA what I am doing.

We had decided to just get the tires taken care of while we were carless all day.

So, mechanic agreed. Replaced 2 front tires and had a re-alignment. I am not sure how much life is left in the back tires. It's kind of nice we didn't have to replace 4 tires. BUT now it's just more work to keep track of it all. But I was proud of my own diagnostic. Big Grin

I should probably just check the treads at the end of every summer. Now that I am getting the hang of it.

So, yes, about $250 spent on tires and alignment.

Obviously, a very expected part of auto maintenance!

------------------------------------

As we know all of our auto expenses, we can come up with a game plan.

I was rather surprised we only spent $500, to date, on car maintenance. We took the van in THREE TIMES already, but I guess it was all small stuff.

$500 + $350 AC repair/Tires = $850.

We budget about $1500 per year for regular vehicle repairs and maintenance.

For now, I think I am going to pull $1k from short-term savings, towards the van's door replacement. It puts us over $1500 YTD for auto expenses, but I have some wiggle room there.

I am going to pull the other $1200 from the medical fund.

The year is not over yet. BUT, ideally we will have enough in there to cover the Dodge's computer problems (estimates at $1k) AND ideally we won't need it for medical expenses.

Doing all this, we still have a chance to make it to $10k in our mid-term savings fund this year. I haven't touched a dime of the money I saved up this year (Current balance? $9000!).

So, worst case, we can always dip into that. I am just trying my darnedest not to!

Big Expenses; Learning New Tricks

August 25th, 2009 at 06:26 pm

Um, you learn something new every day? Friend was fan shopping and learned all fans spin in 2 directions. One setting is for winter and one for summer. NEVER heard of this.

http://www.hansenwholesale.com/ceilingfans/fanfaqs.asp#ceil...

Is it just me?

Dh checked, and wouldn't you know, since our home was built in the winter, all our ceiling fans were set to "winter" mode. & heck, they work much better in SUMMER MODE (during summer). Doh!

Not sure I will bother with winter mode, during winter. But I am a little curious to test it.

May our fans be more efficient, now... (We don't use them much at all, but maybe will with the better performance).

---------------------------------------

It will always amaze me what things we do out of habit. IT feels like there are infinite ways to become more efficient at things.

Dh was going to make some simple burritos last night and stopped by the store for the usual "burrito seasonings" packet that we have used for eternity.

He paused because the price was $2. $2?????? For a pack of spices??

Decided to improvise. We cook a lot and have ALL the spices. So he found a recipe online and whipped up his own burrito seasoning.

$2 saved!

I've actually always made my own teriyaki sauce. I don't know why. I just make a batch and keep it in the fridge. Taste better and is cheaper? I told dh he should whip up a few servings of the burrito mix, and just keep it on hand. (IT was a mix of like 10 spices). I am afraid I wouldn't have the patience for that every time I made "quick burritos." But he seemed happy with it.

I might whip up some of my own ready-made seasoning mix for the rare times I cook.

-----------------------------------------
In other news, I got my vehicle back. YAY!!!!!!!!

Today is a busy driving day, so decided to take dh's car in tomorrow.

Grand total was $2200 -- new door and all. Ouch!

I would probably just transfer $2k from savings and send a payment to the credit card, and be done. But I will hold off in case dh's AC repair is also massive.

But, yeah. Ouch! I can literally only think of a small handful of items I ever shelled out more than $2k cash for!

I literally thought about it for hours and came up with this list. The list wasn't long so I brainstormed anything I paid $1k+ for, also:

$300k (2001) Current House
$260k (1999) Condo - sold for profit 2002
$12k Minivan (2006)
$ 8k Ford Subcompact (2002)
$ 6k Mustang Convertible (1999)
$ 5k Refi (2008) **only time paid points**
$ 2k Car Repair for stupidity!
$2k Dental Expenses for BM (2008)
$2k Fridge (2001)
$2k Closing costs (about 5 times?)
$1.5k Couch Sectional (2000)
$1.5k First TV (married) (2000)
$1.5k Various Electronics (pro-camcorder & a couple of projectors over the years) (2001-2005)
$ 1k My first Car (drove for 7 years) (1992)
$ 1k Per Semester of College (1990s)
$ 1k Wedding (2000) Our portion of the tab, anyway
$ 1k Wedding Ring (2000)
$ 1k Mattress on bed (2000)
$ 1k Per Semester of Grad School (2002)
$ 1k To Bird-Proof house (2003)
$ 1k Update Landscaping (2004)
$ 1k Washer/Dryer (2005)
$ 1k Wills/Trusts (2006)
$ 1k Big Screen HDTV (2007)
$ 1k Dh's high-end editing computer (2008)

Things forgotten but added:
$ 1k Wedding Ring (2000)
$ 1k Wills/Trusts (2006)
$10k Closing costs paid in cash over the years (estimating, but we bought twice and refied 3 times with cash. Around $2k/each). Worth every penny!! Current savings - $5k per year with 3.5% lower interest rate than the first mortgage we ever had.

Since everyone is adding homes:
$260k 1300 square feet, condo
$300k 2600 square feet, house

Since they are appreciating assets, overall, I didn't really count them. Everything else 100% LOSES MONEY. But sure, I will add them.

(& boy - I admit some of these are estimates. I doubt our fridge cost a full $2k, but I remember it being closer to $2k than $1k).

(Most our furniture is used or hand-me-down; or bought at deep discount for new, or gifted to us. The sectional is the only furniture we ever spent more than $1k on. & trust me -- our house is 5 bedrooms and FULLY furnished! Our vacations tend to be under the $1k range. Don't remember every spending more. Knock on wood, but we have literally never had more than a $1k auto repair before, old cars and all. I am sure I could have forgotten if we had though. This year is proving the exception -- as both our cars face large mechanical repairs).

& well, it's no surprise my dh loves TVs and movie projectors!

I am racking my brain wondering if I forgot something! I didn't include house purchase, for various reasons.

Let's face it, we have been bombarded with "stupid expenses" the last couple of years. There's not much in return for giving $2k to the dentist for fillings, or $2k spent because I hit a pole. It just sucks.

OR should I just feel lucky we haven't had more giant, unexpected expenses???

---

On the plus side, my van looks like a million bucks (gotta love body shops) AND whatever they did fixed the window too. (Power window only works intermittently).

Goodbye Hawaii Fund!

August 2nd, 2009 at 03:39 pm

I didn't really mean to post a "cliffhanger" post in my last post. I was a little depressed, true, but really, I couldn't make this post without pictures.

So, here is the scoop, complete with pictures.

The short answer is we were doing really well, had some extra money, and we were talking about Hawaii next year. BUT I was an idiot and I had a run in with a POLE! Now I need to repair my vehicle and it will obviously cost thousands.

Waaaaaahhhhh!!!!!!



---------------------------------------

Here is the long version, in true Monkey Mama Fashion.

First, in the forums there were discussions about how many accidents teens get into and if they need new cars. I pointed out that I had never particularly been in an accident and didn't know many who had. BUT when I was 16, 17, 18, I had a few run-ins with poles and such. Even my DH had a run-in with a pole at age 16 (he is a marvelous driver). Thus, I think a bit of a clunker is appropriate at that age.

I figured I outgrew that. It is true that my brain is mathematical, but not very mechanical. & it's iffy if I should operate heavy machinery - LOL. BUT I have been able to avoid stationary objects, and moving objects at that, for about 15 years. So I figured those days were over and I could drive nicer cars.

Yeah, right!

--------------------------------------

So it's a pole, get over it. Is that what you say?

The thing that REALLY pisses me off is this freaking van. The computer probably needs to be replaced and it will probably cost $1k. I was really pissed about this for a time. (It's only a 2005 with 60k miles - most every other car I ever owned was bought with 150k+ miles and never needed expensive repairs. So this is my perspective).

I did gain new perspective when I whined to a friend and she bragged about how she doesn't have car repairs because she brought a brand new $35k minivan.

Seriously? It was like the slap in the face I needed. We paid $12k for the van. So it needs a $1k repair. So it may be the most expensive car repair I ever had - in like 15 years. I got over it quickly. !! I think our van, all repairs included over the course of its life, will cost less in the end, than $35k! Geez.

In the interim there was this whole cash for clunkers thing and we discussed it. The sticking point for me was that it could be a good deal overall to trade in the van for a new Toyota subcompact. We could find one in the $12k range, we would drive it 20 years if we could, it would get better gas mileage, etc. BUT the sticking point is I don't want a second subcompact. We don't need a VAN, but we "need" something a little bigger than dh's car. So we have been going round and round. The thing about CARS is we didn't have to fix it. It's all moot anyway - though I have probably NEVER gotten better than 18mpg on the van, it's rated as getting better mileage and it doesn't qualify anyway. Which makes the whole thing moot - no more discussion there.

We've also talked about trading it in for some boring granny car. We could maybe profit on the deal, and still keep the size. Would make more sense than buying a new car. I've found many deals, the cars are just so UGLY. LOL. I am not terribly picky, but geez. I even researched other years on the Dodge Caravan - maybe we should just trade for an older/better year. I know so many people with older ones who LOVE them, but I can't find any decent overall reviews on any year in the last decade. 2005 maybe isn't even the worst (imagine that!)

So we have been in talks about getting rid of the van anyway, I am kind of annoyed by the thing, and now I go and do this. If it was a beloved car I would just fix it and shut up about it. !

I know your next question is if we have insurance. YEs, we have collision insurance on the minivan. IT's worth more than $5k, which is my general collision rule of thumb. Plus it's so new, I'd probably keep insurance a couple of more years, even though it's value is rapidly plummeting to the $5k range.

BUT, I have said many times, I insure for catastrophe. I honestly can not see using my insurance for this mishap. It was my fault 100% and would only increase my premiums, etc. Maybe my thoughts are misguided here. But I have the max deductible possible, and we easily have the cash to take care of it. So I don't intend to deal with the insurance. I don't have much experience with insurance. I just know our premiums are rock bottom because we've never had any tickets, accidents, or claims. So why mess with it? Obviously if I had a larger repair or "catastrophe" - I would prefer to save the insurance for that.

------------------------------------

So, that's the long and the short of it. I think it could be good that the damage is limited to the door. Not that it would be easy or cheap to replace the door, but I honestly think that is all that needs to be done. That's the silver lining.

We will take it to our mechanic (he has a body shop) Monday for a quote and will also take it down to the dealer for a quote, sometime this week. Mostly because we have been putting off the $1k computer repair and we need to take it to the dealer for that anyway. I am pretty anti-dealer, but sometimes in these situations they can offer cost savings over an independent shop. So we will see what our options are.

& I will cross my fingers that the van settles down and doesn't give us more grief for a while. (& that I can go another 15 years without hitting an object -please?)

Truth is the only problem we have ever had is with the computer - so maybe this would fix things. Is certainly cheaper than buying a new car, for the short run. Trading it in for a better, similarly priced, used vehicle is still a strong possibility, but it has to be fixed to do that! & if we put all this money into it, we will want to stick it out for a while.

I keep telling myself we have had such awesome experiences with our VERY used cars, that I just need to get over it. We are lucky this is the most expensive repair (the computer replacement) that we have ever had. Though I truly consider the wisdom of keeping a vehicle that cost so much to upkeep.

& if I have to get in an accident, a 5mph collision with a pole is probably preferred. No other cars, people, and no injuries were involved. Phew!

---------------------------------------

I had a car before that got rear ended more times than I can count. Usually when I wasn't even in the car. We fixed it a couple of times, and then I gave up. I stopped fixing the thing - it was jinxed. I've driven around less than stellar cars.

If the damage was minor enough I'd probably let it go. (The van got hit in a parking lot like the week after we got it and we never fixed it - terribly minor - barely noticeable - but about $1500 to fix). So I also had to point out I would be the first to let it go if it was minor damage. But I did some pretty serious damage to the door. I was shocked when I looked it over that the door still functions 100% (still slides open, locks, etc.). BUT yeah, I hit it enough that the van is no longer sealed, etc. Air was blowing through and no doubt water will in the rain. Which kind of sucks because the van is covered in mud - but no car wash for it until it is fixed! LOL.

But yeah - I guess I can't decide much until I know the cost. My personal guess is it will be in the $2k range to replace the door. If it's much more, we may consider going the insurance route. I don't know. We have lots to figure out this week.

------------------------------------------

We easily have $3k or so for car repairs, so that's okay. I told dh maybe we will spend our anniversary on a beach in California instead. We can still do something "nice." But I will mourn the loss of that money ("opportunity").

Other than that, we have the cash, and we will move on. This is precisely the kind of thing SAVINGS is for. & it's not even coming out of our emergency fund. This is not an emergency; these things happen all the time. This would come out of our "new car" fund (mid-term savings) since we have no plans to replace our cars in the near future.

I told dh we need a "July and August sucks" saving fund. We need to save about $3k per year for that. Wink Last year we spent about as much on repairs around the house and mostly on BM's cavities. Thing was the dental expenses were tax-deductible, so this is worse on some level. No tax deduction for car repairs!

----------------------------------

P.S. I can't imagine how frustrating a situation like this is for people who owe substantial amounts on their vehicles. Paying cash for cars makes things like these a mere bump in the road, really. (I had to find the motivational, no-debt angle).

I am good!

June 30th, 2009 at 08:38 pm

I've apparently worked my budget down to an "exact science."

I hesitate to use the word "budget" because I am not really into the whole tradiitonal budget thing. I would drive myself nuts accounting for all those overages/underages every month. & you might be surprised, but I do not care for a strict budget. I like that if I spent no money on gas or food, that I can go splurge on something else. I do not carry things over month to month. I guess I like flexibility and ease, over rigidity and complication.

So anyway, we had a good month and for whatever reason it popped into my mind that we really could save another $50/month. I just felt it would be very reasonable.

I opened my "budget" spreadsheet on a whim and looked it over.

Lo and behold - when LM started his new preschool I guess I rounded way up and allocated $200/month to that. Thing is, most months it's barely $150.

So subconsciously I am thinking I have $50 per month to spare, and in reality - I really do.

My goal for maxing out first ROTH was to put away $350/month and "wing it" on the rest - scrounge it up somehow.

This officially puts me to $5k per year, just based on $400 monthly contributions (well, the additional $200 will be easy to scrounge).

So, I am very pleased.

I would like to build up more cash savings, but I also think it's important to contribute heavily to retirement in this market. So I am kind of doing $400/month to each, for now. I certainly am tempted to put my spare $50 to cash, but I know we have had a good year and with a little patience will probably reach my cash goals within the year. So I will stay the course!

I whipped this up sometime when we were in preschool limbo and we had a few hundred dollars to spare every month. It's worked out well:



As a recap:

short-term "savings" are to be spent within the year (vacation, car repairs, property taxes, insurance, dental, swim lessoms, misc., etc. - everything that is not a regular monthly expense).

mid-term savings - larger expenses expected in more than one year - car replacement and house maintenance, orthodontia, etc. Car repairs for more than I "budgeted" would fall here too, as well as unexpected large bills, etc.

medical savings - we switched to a HDHP and save $250/month on premiums. We save the difference for deductibles and future rate increases.

I've kind of been honing this system for a while, and I am very pleased with it. Once honed, it's been a rather simple and effective savings system. Though we are saving much less than when we both worked, there is much more thought to the big picture. I think the thought makes up for the decrease in savings, in many regards.

Anyway, yes, I already increased my automatic ROTH contributions - starting with July!

--------

ETA: I do put everything possible on the credit card (for rewards, etc.). It is paid monthly, of course!

Everything not on the card can not be paid with credit cards - bah.

BUT I also worked on this spreadsheet to get an idea what my monthly credit card bills should be - since we recently switched some utilities over to the card, etc. IT can get kind of confusing though since I can put a lot of short-term expenses on the card. It usually runs closer to $2k, BUT I can simply subtract all the short-term items (they tend to be larger/obvious items) and just make sure the rest never tops $1500.


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