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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!

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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.

Finally Bought a Bike!

June 28th, 2009 at 03:03 pm

With the hot summer days, I hadn't been so motivated on the bike front.

BUT we actually had a little extra money this month. Certainly could have used it for other things (massive car repair, donate, save, etc.). BUT I decided to think about buying a bike again.

I had settled on a bike in the $400 range, BUT lately we seem to talk more of little bike rides around the neighborhood - BM likes to ride his bike to school (with us), and we talk about riding more to the store and to the local farms for produce, etc. & I was thinking, I do not need to ride around on a fancy bike for that, and I certainly wouldn't leave it in front of a store!!!!!

So I had been leaning towards just getting a cheapie at Target or something. Seemed like a good idea, since I could always use a "cheapie" around the neighborhood and then, if I stick with it and get in better shape, I can shell out $400 or so for a nice bike. If I know I will actually ride it!

& believe me, I have perused Craigslist. Economy or what, but really there is nothing there.

I've been extra motivated because my Craigslist cheapie ($20 range) has pretty much bit the dust. The tire got a little flat, which may be it, but it had a lot of other issues and I rode it anyway out of desperation the other day (had to pick up BM from school). Yeah - didn't sound good. Could just be the flat - but seemed like something else was wrong. Will probably give it away. (Only a couple of gears work and it is missing a break pad - yeah).

So yeah, my super-cheapie has been better than NO BIKE, but that's about it. LOL. I have been eyeing a newer bike for a while.

So, yesterday I decided to do some research. I didn't necessarily intend to buy it yesterday, but found a nice Schwinn with excellent reviews - a different model at each of the big stores. Target had free shipping and was a good deal, but I found one for the same price at Toys R Us (considering sales tax and everything).

We went to check it out and it was a nicer bike than I really expected in that price range. IT was rather heavy, but last I was looking at super light bikes.

What I did not like at all about it was the short handlebars. Ugh.

I figured I would survive, but I had seen a bike in the 32-pound range at Wal-MArt. We decided to check it out. I do not hate Wal-Mart as a giant corporation. I think they take the fall for what most giant corporations do, and I don't think places like Target are inherently better than places like Wal-MArt - corporate wise. I kind of am anti-giant-corporation all around, personally. But what I hate about Wal Mart is their store sucks. LOL. & it's in the WORST shopping center - the one we avoid like the plague. So I wasn't thrilled to go over there on a busy Saturday, nor thrilled to give Wal Mart my business, but alas, we did.

I think the Toys R Us bike was a little nicer on some level, BUT the Wal Mart one was pretty nice. It was much lighter and had nicer breaks. It cost about $20 more, BUT all Wal Mart bikes apparently come pre-assembled. We figured dh would spend the weekend assembling it, so that was a nice touch!

There were lines out the wazoo, but we were able to sneak out the no-wait "5 items or less" line. So in the end, it wasn't SO bad.

When we got home I re-checked the reviews on the bike I ended up with, and found some other reviews I had missed. I am REALLY pleased with the purchase. In general, the tires are crap but if replaced with better tires, can hold it's own against much more expensive bikes (I assume the lightweight is its biggest edge).

SO, I will work on riding it more and getting in shape. I have a bike buff friend who was interested in doing some rides when I got a nice bike. Wasn't sure it that would work since I settled on something much lesser, but I am starting to think if I get new tires, that maybe it will work. Will just have to try. She is in awesome shape and I have a ways to go, so it is all up to her.

More immediately, I would like to get a nicer seat (cheap enough).

Eventually I will need a bike lock and a helmet.

For the long run I would like to get nicer tires. I don't feel any rush on that though. I have no inclination to do any long bike rides with the weather this hot. Wink

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So much for my low-spend weekend!

Today I don't have much planned. Still need to clean house a bit.

On my week off I got addicted to that "How Clean is your house" show on BBC. I think it was bad because it made me feel like my house wasn't half bad. So I didn't clean much after all. LOL. BUT, I had this weird brown/grey discoloration on the linoleum on the laundry room floor. I could not for the life of me figure out what it was or how to get it out. I was resigned to permanent "dirty looking" floors.

But this guy had FILTHY floors and the SAME linoleum. They recommended hot soapy water, some comet, and an abrasive sponge. I figured what the heck. So yesterday I gave it a try.

Wouldn't you know, it worked???? My floor is nice and sparkly again.

Reminds me, the same linoleum, around the toilets, has discolored a bit (BOYS!!!). So I will have to try on that area too - maybe will remove the pee discoloration...

Anyway, I am feeling more pressure to clean up a bit since we apparently are now hosting an impromptu 4th of the July shindig the DAY we get back from camping. Yeesh.

Beyond that, will probably take the kids swimming before it gets too hot (no shade to speak of at the pool) and though I would like to try out the bike, not sure I will make it. Depends how cool it gets tonight. I need dh's help checking it over and he will wake up too late. It's already 75 degrees and it's only 8am. Another scorcher - ugh.

I do like that my workouts are getting so varied - it is easier to stick to. A bike ride, a workout video, a trip to the gym, or aerobics class. I certainly am losing excuses not to work out. I will probably start bike riding a lot more.

Our GPS has a bike mode, which will be interesting to try. On one hand. Not sure exactly what it does. BUT, speaking of not wanting to be mugged for my bike, it's unfortunate that I probably won't want to use it much.

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Anyway, I don't remember the last time I spent so much money on myself. Big Grin It feels nice to buy something nice for myself - it is so rare.

Manic Monday

June 22nd, 2009 at 08:46 pm

Actually, it's not so manic.

BM is done with school, so no manic there.

When I left for vacation I Felt "caught up" at work. For the first time all year - phew.

I daresay I expected a huge pileup on my return, but apparently last week was pretty slow. Yay!

We are camping next week though, and July is busy, so it works out. I also have TONS of non-deadline/less important stuff to do, but I am also wondering what the heck I will do in November, and September. That stuff can wait! I think I will have just enough to do before I go on vacation again. Big Grin

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That being said, the kids start swim lessons today. Just occured to me I probably need to pay another $100 today. AND I have an excuse to leave work early. Have to pick up BM and take him to karate class. Well, I volunteered. Since LM will still be having his swim lesson. So the afternoon will be a little manic.

Oh, crossing my fingers LM is in an agreeable mood today! For his swim lesson.

BM has been progressing on his own, all summer. BUT still will only mostly dog paddle. Will be nice to see him SWIMMING again.

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Anyway, I checked exactly where we are camping next week and it is closer to Tahoe than I realized. Weather this week is mostly 100 degrees here - UGH. BUT 70 degrees where we are camping.

Woohoo! It was a little hot in Yosemite last year. 70 degrees, I'll take!

Will see... No forecast for next week yet - I guess I should have looked up the averages.

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I've got a rough add up of our "Staycation costs."

$90 Campout (Pricey Indeed! But it was more of a non-profit fundraiser)
$120 Gilroy Gardens 1 day
$ 10 parking @ GG
$160 Water Park 1 day (season pass though)
$ 10 parking @ WP
$ 70 Dinner on the river (major splurge)
$ 60 Treated dad to lunch for F-Day
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$520
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Adds up to $520.

We drove to the Bay Area twice, but I didn't even count the gas since I didn't work/drive all week AND because we probably would have made both trips anyway.

We were invited to 2 BBQs in there, and treated to a Thai feast Friday night - so no complaints there. We ate at home, frugally, the rest of the week.

We saved $20+ since our minor league ballgame trip was canceled.

We did not spend a dime once in the Water Park.

We did buy food, etc. at Gilroy Gardens. BUT dh's parents and grandma gave him about $40 (for Father's Day). Covered food for the day. Maybe some gas. I consider that a wash.

We spent about $600 on "toys" since MIL ended up paying for our camping trip next week. (GPS & tent were vacation expenses in a sense. & used saved cash for blu ray player).

We spent $150 on our San Francisco weekend in January.

SO, only leaves about $230 of our annual $1500 vacation budget. (We should not need to spend any money for our trip next week - all paid for - but for maybe $20 gas which will easily come from gas budget).

WE had been talking about a weekend away (no kids) in Pismo Beach this fall. I could hardly think of anything more divine. BUT I think we may save the $$ for Florida or for HAwaii next year. Will see. If we are going to Hawaii, Pismo can certainly wait.

Florida is currently up in the air. FIL's job is still up in the air. So depends on that.

We have also toyed with the idea of visiting my Grandma in Colorado again. Airfare can't be beat. If so, if we pay for that on our own, may blow our budget to pieces. But Hawaii next year isn't exactly set anyway.

Florida and Colorado are kind of unique beasts. Though I wouldn't go bankrupt visiting family, we can put a little more money to visit our grandparents. They are certainly not getting any younger. Neither trip would be a consideration if not for our grandparents.

I really only think we will consider Hawaii next year, if we can get to our cash savings goal by next summer ($30k). We are in "Wait and see" mode. Though I rather go to Hawaii, we have discussed Florida instead. We honymooned there and could be nice to have our 10-year anniversary there as well. Probably cheaper. Would be 4 of us, but in-laws would probably help pay. Plus we could always get away for a couple of nights on our own. We still have a couple of Disney World passes left from our 2000 honeymoon, too. (We were so smart to snatch those up while we had way more income and way less expenses!)

Staycation Plans

June 12th, 2009 at 07:01 pm

As of today, the weather is mostly on my side!

After having a fair amount of time off for 2 maternity leaves this decade, and not being much of a vacation person anyway, my LONG awaited staycation has arrived. Woohoo. I like just having some quiet time at home, and I have looked very forward to this for a while.

Unfortunately I have a fair amount of chores, but then again, that was kind of the point (to catch up a bit on those chores I never seem to have time for).

It will be a little busier than I had hoped, but oh well.

Today we have a picnic with the school.

Tomorrow we have a campout at a local park (if it doesn’t rain? Ugh). As a bonus, dh said we could look into some future camping reservations if the tent goes well (it was fine for our backyard run). For this year, as our vacation fund nears exhaustion, I would like to go to a local camping spot (like ½ hour away). It’s not very grand, but I have camped there before and it is dark enough that you can see the milky way. (Well, you could in the 90s! The area is getting pretty populated). We were disappointed there were so many lights at our Yosemite camp last year, so our goal this year is DARK camping. Maybe for next year we can reserve early enough for some prime beach camping. Now that we have a tent! (Last year we bought sleeping bags. Next year we can buy cooking gear).

Sunday we have a BBQ and will go to the Bay Area for the day. At least we can sleep in our own beds Sunday night – phew. Some family from both out of town, and out of the country!

Monday – Wednesday dh is volunteering (all day – ick) for some free books, etc.

Decided to take the car in Monday for some needed work (as to not cram it in with my work schedule. We don’t rent cars when we are one car less – it’s easy enough to work around. But easier yet when I don’t have to get to work late and leave early!) Though this will leave us carless. Hmmm, we could always drop dh off at his job – duh.

I FINALLY printed up some letters to transfer our savings into our living trusts. Next week we will go to the credit union to get it taken care of, and our $70 property tax refund CASHED. (I got it over a month ago and had pushed it to the side). While I am at it, I will try to get my online savings account transferred into the trust.

It occurred to me I should get my haircut too – has been a while – would like to chop it for summer.

I will probably tackle some big chores while dh is busy “working.” BM will be at school. LM doesn’t need much attention. (Though I am thinking of taking him to a science museum by my work, one we have never been to. Since he is free, we will check it out when I pick up my paycheck next week).

BM has a big BBQ thing his last day of school on Thursday, and we will probably go to the water park, since he gets out around noon. Yay!!!!

Friday I would like to go to an awesome “amusement park” called Gilroy Gardens (aka Bonfante Gardens). I will post all about that later. I have been waiting to take the kids on a weekday. They have never been – but it is more geared towards little ones – so we are running out of time.

Father’s Day weekend – will probably spend it with the our parents. We could spoil the kids and hit another museum. Or just play it low key. Depends how we feel.

For Friday, it depends on the weather. Our backup plan was the Natural history museum in San Francisco. We have been avoiding a weekend visit because it is so BUSY. I have horror stories of the crowds. (I wouldn’t go with my kids unless they were on leashes anyway – it gets so packed).

We are paying for all the splurge with our vacation budget.

Bought a Tent

May 15th, 2009 at 06:24 pm

It's been a while since I have made a "big purchase." You know that dh makes plenty - hehe. But he does all the research and shopping, when it comes to anything electronic.

For whatever reason, I am the tent buyer.

The tent process has been rather long. We have been searching reviews on the tents we see in the sales ads, and haven't come up with much. The quality of most of these isn't great and we rather spend a little more for something that will last.

Overwhelmed with all of the choices online, I found a recommendation for a few tents and narrowed it down to one. The price was $115 new though could easily find on sale for $95. I think we kind of aimed for $100 after looking around a bit. Meaning we didn't want anything much cheaper. $200 was probably our upper limit.

So today I was perusing all the tents on sale in the ads before I finally made our final purchase. (We had put it off to May and then just got busy).

While online I saw a tents @ Overstock ad. I have shopped Overstock in the past though seem to have less luck with it any more. But I hadn't looked at all so I thought I would peek.

I immediately came across "the one." I just loved the tent and it had nothing but glowing reviews. Price was on sale for $199.99.

Overwhelmed with all the tent options this is the first one that really "stood out."

I looked @ Amazon and saw it had free shipping (possibly no sales tax) for athe tent at $189. I wasn't surprised that Amazon had a much better deal than Overstock (considering shipping and all). Has been my experience lately.

I was looking up further reviews on the tent though and came across the tent at REI for $159. It was funny because I came across it quite by accident. & shipping was free if we were willing to pick it up at the nearby store. win-win.

I did one last look at biz rate and also checked REI coupon codes. This was by far the best deal - it didn't even pop up on any price searches.

I am pleased. With taxes and everything the total was closer to $170. But the full price of the tent was around $220, so I am happy with the price. I think for another $50 or so we got much higher quality than we were originally aiming for. Which we were definitely open to spending a little more for.

It should be ready to pick up next week. Woohoo.

It's literally the only tent we have looked at in our price range that didn't have one negative thing said about it. So I am pretty optimistic about it.



When it arrives we will be doing some backyard camping (nice if it does arrive before next weekend - it is estimated to). & we will be taking it camping in June. I think this year is just a "backyard camping" year, but if it works out we intend to use it more.

Since I don't expect to use up our vacation budget this year, it comes from there. We have the cash, of course!

Vacation Update

May 14th, 2009 at 02:38 pm

Most people (more in real life) would assume I obsess about money too much and I never have any fun. (How can you have fun if you don't spend money??? OF course WE know there are other ways to have fun...)

So this post proves the contrary. Wink

It is probably true that it is easier to spend money with a credit card. I may even be guilty. BUT my issue with cash is I just have no idea where it goes. I don't have the patience to write down every purchase. As such, by putting everything on the credit card, all I have to do is push a couple of buttons on my computer to see how much we spend this weekend. I think most people think I spend hours on this stuff when I only spend minutes. I really don't spend a lot of TIME on it. I did go back into Quicken and try to categorize the cash I did remember spending over the weekend

Anyway, our spending for the weekend:



The only other money spent was about $20 on gas for a tank to get there and back. (Took the gas sipper, of course).

Not bad, for quite a nice mini-vacation, in my opinion.

The kids ate free at Denny's, we had a $8 coupon for the Aquarium, and we had a couple of free dinners. Not sure how that would make us deprived though, pinching just a few pennies (er, dollars)...

& here are pictures from Point Lobos. The Aquarium was pretty fun, but we took more pictures at the beach.

Views and wildlife:











That last one was a seal.

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& basically it will cost us $20 gas and $10 parking (which we could skip if willing to walk more) if we ever want to go to Point Lobos again. It's an affordable luxury.

Reminds me, our plans to go to Kaui next year are starting to take shape. Dh asked his mom if we could use the timeshare next year and she got SO excited when she realized it was our 10-year anniversary. When he mentioned it, at first she was kind of like, "What are you talking about? Married 10 years?" I guess time flies! She got so excited I wouldn't be surprised if she ends up covering our airfare or something. Not planning on it, just wouldn't be surprised. We are definitely going. She will see to it. LOL. I was literally like, "It doesn't have to be 2010." & she was like, "OMG, it has to be 2010!" I think she felt bad she didn't realize we were nearing this milestone.

Now I just have to stay married another year. I think we are up to it. Wink

My plan for now is just to keep an eye on airfare. Will jump if we see a screaming deal. We have a good year+ to look! & we have to narrow down a date...

I am super excited about this trip! It will basically be the first big trip we can really afford (mostly on our own - we've always had the free timeshare usage) since having kids. That is something to be excited about!

We want to go to Pismo Beach without the kids this year, as well. We will probably trim that trip down a bit to save some $$ for Hawaii. I think we will still go though. Probably less days and cheaper hotels. Nothing set in stone yet.

Motel 6

May 5th, 2009 at 02:22 pm

I was actually going to go for the beachfront, but the price went up (harder to get beach room - having procrastinated a day and trying to book a room for this weekend!)

It worked out for the best. I found a Motel 6, more central location, for about $80. It had better reviews than just about any hotel I looked at in the $100 range, anyway. It's even got a separate room for the kids. So, I am pleased.

I told dh we should go back and stay at that beach hotel another time. It would be a nice place to stay when we had more leisure! In fact, we are planning a trip to San Luis Obispo/Pismo BEach this summer so it may be nice to stay in Monterey one night, on our way down, to break up the drive a bit. Either that or I will keep it in mind for my birthday. It's a great weekend getaway since we would probably drop the kids off in San Jose, with Grandma, and it's only an hours drive from there.

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Anyway, I am looking forward to our mini vacation this weekend. Big Grin

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Not much else to report.

I enjoy seeing our net worth edge up. Though I really don't think the worst is over with the stock market. Enjoy it while we can I guess.

Work is a little crazy. Just still in "catch up" mode. I do envision it being a little slow late into summer and into fall. Or I could just be crazy. But for now there is so much stuff to catch up on!

I've spent the last few years doing 40-hour weeks. I am not quite sure if I can swing it the next couple of months. It's too busy. *sigh* I know, I should just be thrilled to have a job and to be BUSY!

February Totals

March 4th, 2009 at 03:46 pm

February went pretty well. I could even almost assume my savings plan was not too optimistic or aggressive (a problem I have - I tend to be too optimistic with everything) BUT February was a short month, so we will see how March goes. Big Grin



AUTO - Only about $190 for gas (we budget $300). $140 on maintenance - had to clean something on the van (forget the name) and dh replaced windshield wipers on his car. That's about as handy as he gets - hehe. Since our gas was so little, we were able to pay the maintenance from the monthly budget (I usually reserve about $1200/year in savings for that). I don't think we drove anywhere this month (no trips to the snow or the Bay), which explains much!

CASH - Dh pulled out $40 cash for his ebay buying/selling business. (Basically took some of his profits out).

CHARITY - was a contribution to BM's school - their first fundraiser of the year (they seem to do okay - not a lot of begging for money - this was the first time).

CHILDCARE - about $220 for Feb/March preschool tuition. $50 childcare in-between preschools. $50 babysitting for a weekend date.

CLOTHING - I stocked up on work shoes because I actually found some in my size. Way too high heels. They don't make small heels in my size anymore, apparently. I don't know what the heck. But I stocked up while I could find anything. I had NO HEELS for about 6 months.

DINING - Well, we apparently ate out a lot. A few lunch dates with dh. A few cheap things and fast food, lunch date with a friend, met LM & dh for pizza one day, and we ate at the new Indian restaurant by my work twice. (Crazy horrid location - enjoying it while it lasts). But yeah, the appetizers get us there. We spent $20 on $5 lunches? LOL.

EDUCATION - Karate class for March

GROCERIES - squeaked under $500 budget.

HOUSEHOLD - gardener, and spent about $100 on CFL light bulbs.

INSURANCE - got some refunds on home insurance and disability insurance.

MEDICAL - $550 insurance premiums and $385 for the kids' dental checkup.

MISC - I bought a blanket, we went to the movies on our "date", and we went bowling 2 times. Well under budget here, which means we were able to buy my shoes and the light bulbs without touching our slush savings. Dh wants to stock up on printer ink in March.

(We generally try to stock up on stuff during tax season because we are too busy to spend money or go out otherwise).

PERSONAL CARE - LM & I got our hair cut

TO HOUSE LOAN - is just regular principal payment with mortgage.

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Other financial doings:

**Deposited $50 IRS refund in mid-term savings (IRS was slow to pay compared to state - funny enough). Also, deposited $550 state tax refund (I filed before February to be like one of the only people in Cali who got their refund already).

**Deposited $1k to short term savings. (& pulled $385 out for the dental bill).

**Deposited $250 to medical savings

**Deposited $250 to mid-term savings (will be $400 next month with new preschool)

**Deposited $333 to our ROTHs (Will be $350 next month with new preschool. Considering $416 per month with stimulus. We were only contributing $100/month in 2008).

**Earned $650 contribution to work retirement plan

**Earned a whopping $20 interest on cash

**Net worth still at a standstill. We seem to contribute to savings at the rate we lose money in the market.

Spent a pretty penny on light bulbs...

February 11th, 2009 at 06:29 pm

Okay, I totally LIED. No, I am just a dork. It wasn't inentional.

Our home, we purchased new as an energy star home. Since the lightbulbs never burned out (most going on 7 years strong) and our electric bill was always so low, I assumed we had all CFLs. I said so much in this blog.

Dh only recently pointed out to me that we don't have CFLs. Doh!

When we first moved in, before kids, we did not use like half the house. So this can explain SOME of the light bulb life. But not really. Only 3 of 6 kitchen lights had burned out. (We have used the kitchen lights about every day for just over 7 years).

Anyway, an outside light, a garage light, and a couple of family room lights burned out, so dh replaced them with CFLs in the last year. This is when he imformed me of the truth.

3 kitchen lights had burned out, and 3 were still going so strong. Plenty of light left. But I suggested we go ahead and replace those with CFLs. We decided to keep the other bulbs (probably with little life left) to eventually replace the dining room lights that we never use. They may last forever at this rate, I don't know.

He ended up getting the lights at Home Depot. They are recessed lights and he got the "soft light" CFLs.

OMG. They are SO BRIGHT. It could be that we have 6 instead of 3 working bulbs now, too. Funny thing is he accidentally got some that are much smaller. They look fine and our PLENTY bright. So we just went with it.

I love all the light in the kitchen now!

I also talked dh into replacing the bathroom lights (the kids' bathroom which is used more - has EIGHT bulbs) and since we did like the kitchen lights, he went back out and bought 6 more of the same lights to replace all the hallway lights. Those probably didn't have much life left either - as we use them so much. We will give the old bulbs away. The bathroom ones may have a lot of life since that bathroom we never used until the kids were much older.

Dh also replaced the one already flourescent light fixture over the kids' shower. Phew. I haven't showered with light in AGES. He was really pissing me off not taking care of it. I am happy now, but I also see how dirty the shower is. LOL. But I guess that's what got this whole lightbulb binge going.

Um yeah, I Expect WAY lower electric bills for this investment. We shall see! If we do notice a substantial improvement we will probably do another lightbulb binge. That was 22 bulbs. We still have about 40 left inside. Don't even ask. 4-bulb fixtures in every bedroom left (5 rooms). A fixture in our closet (I assume the same - it's a big closet). 8 bulbs in our bathroom. 8 bulbs in the entry way and formal dining room. Dh replaced a burned out light outside. We have more to replace outside, eventually.

If our bill is lower (since we replaced all the highly used bulbs) then it will be worth it. If not, I think we'll pass until they burn out. Could be a while...

The packaging says "Last 4 times as long as standard bulbs." Dh is like, "How long do these last????" I pointed out to him our current bulbs were anything but standard bulbs. Standard bulbs do not last 7+ years usually. I had to burst his bubble that these probably won't last 30 years... Of course, I wish!

Dh also invested in an extended light bulb changer. We have one stray light above the stairs, about 20 feet up, that we thought we could never reach. Now we can, but it made it a much simpler task to change so many bulbs. So I think that was a good investments. (The recessed lighting in particular - it was easy to reach with this thing).

For whatever reason we have ONE room in the house with no ceiling lights. Go figure. Cheap stupid builder. LOL. But this was a cost saver buying new construction. We never had to buy any lamps. But for our living room. & it really sucks compared to the lighting in the rest of the house. So I don't know know why they skimped on that. Seems they could have done ONE more room.

Anyway, that was our investment and project for the weekend.

I can't say I noticed much difference in our bill from the few CFLs that dh installed prior. But I expect to notice a bigger difference with the mass bulb change.

2008 vs. 2007

January 4th, 2009 at 04:38 pm

Expenses anyway...



Allowances: We did better with our allowance this year. Technically we both get $50/month, or $600/year. I think dh did a lot better because he got so much used stuff and used profits from his buying/selling to buy his toys. But I toned it down a bit as well.

Auto:

Auto fuel was down $400. With gas prices we were way more mindful. Also, the van gets 20mpg and the subcompact gets 40mpg. We simply drove the subcompact more. I have been driving the van more the last couple of months to give that car a break. But yeah, was surprised we did spend less on gas. This does not count how many times dh's family slipped us cash for cash either - so we fared pretty well this year in this category. We spent $2800 on fuel.

Insurance was down $70. We spent $1500. (Liability insurance is really expensive in our zip code - terrible drivers).

Auto registration was about $250. Down $33 from last year.

Auto service went down $3. LOL. I guess we are consistent. We spent $1584. I put AAA here - $130. $667 on the 2005 van. It needed a new battery and a new windshield. Problems with the door locks and the window (as usual), and a diagnosis of a check engine light (was nothing). Also, 2 oil changes. Leaves $787 for the 2001 Ford. 2 oil changes, replace PVC pipe, replaced motor mounts, and a new battery. Oh yes, and replaced some brake lights. The Ford has almost 100k miles and has pretty much never needed a thing but new tires. So it was an "expensive" year for that car, but a long one coming. (Last year we paid so much because we had so many superficial problems with the van. Last year we only spent $150 to maintain the Ford).

Bank Charges: I was mortified to have a $3 overdraft charge. My Bad. LOL. I think it's a first.

Childcare: Well this was pricey! We spent about $400 on babysitting in 2008. About $400 more than in 2007. Was a bit of a splurge for us. The rest was preschool for both children. BM attended through mid-July so was a little longer than 2007, that both of them attended.

Diapers: last year's # was amount we spent on the cloth diaper service. (We used cloth but set them out once a week to be cleaned). This year we probably purchased disposables through mid-year. But something we haven't bought in many months. Hopefully, never again. Phew!

Dining: We splurged on this a bit more this year. One thing, dh and I have been having much more lunch dates and sate nights. So this is where we loosened up for 2008.

Education: This went up a bit as we paid for more school supplies and stuff for Kindergarten. Dh also took an Indian cooking class.

Entertainment: Blockbuster Online

Gifts: Guess we were more generous this year. Actually, I put my dad's fees for Family Camp here - we treated.

Groceries: They went up about $500. Since BM was done with preschool we had to buy a lot more food for him. (He was fed 3 days a week before, and he eats a LOT). We also tried a CSA service (organic produce delivered to our door from a local farm) for about 3 months. We just found it to be too expensive to justify for now. A goal of ours is to get a bike basket and do more produce shopping at the farms a couple of miles from our house. So you know, we could make a bike trip of it, and stock up while supporting the TRULY local farmers.

Household: About $1k for the gardener. We also spent about $250 to repair our fridge, and spent a fair amount on thermal drapes throughout the house. We bought a rice cooker and a broom. We also bought a carpet shampooer.

Insurance:

Disability $155 (down 30%)
Home/Flood $1273
Life Insurance $586 ($1.2 Mil coverage)

Medical:

Medical was interesting. We switched to a HDHP and were able to save $250/month, while taking on a $3k deductible. This limited our out-of-pocket to $3k though. Under our old plan we could have been on the hook for more.

Last year we paid over $8200 on medical premiums/co-pays and $565 at the dentist.

This year we spent $6972 on medical premiums and deductibles (including an ambulance trip to the emergency room), and $3300 at the dentist. LM had a consultation for mouth issues and BM had a pile of cavities. Both kids are also going every 6 months for checkups/cleaning now.

Misc: Guess we are consistent. Dh spent $800 or so on his new computer. One of our newer computers, the motherboard blew and it was not salvageable. We don't remember the last time a computer of ours expired before its time. We just donated some old computers from the 90s for example.

This category included swim lessons for the kids, movies, 2 shows/concerts, camping supplies, outings with the kids (zoos, museums, etc.), school pictures, re-size of my wedding ring, new workout shoes for me, etc., etc.

Personal care: This is just haircuts. We are low maintenance. The kids are old enough to handle beauty school so we saved a bundle. When they were younger we took them to Cool Cuts. It was just so much easier.

Taxes: Just property taxes

Utilities:

Water - our bill went down $17. They raised rates but we were offered metered water for the first time. I really expected to save more with the metering. But $17 is $17! Water was $1095.

We paid a little more for gas/electric because 2008 was our first full year on budget billing. All in all I think we spend less (had lower bills in 2008). But we have prepaid balances on both accounts. I wish they would just take our annual expenses and divide by 12. But they refigure every 3 months and end up way over-billing some parts of the year. It bugs me because we are so consistent and we did this to smooth out the bills. Though they are smoother than usual. Our gas bills run $10 in the summer and $100 in the winter. Now they bill us $20 - $40. So it is better. But I wish they would just bill $30/month all year, and be done with it. Gas/Electric was $1460.

Cable & phone is hard to separate. Our cheap cable company provided our internet and cable service. BUT they got bought out by Comcast. We switched to Dish which is a little more expensive, and DSL through our phone company. So I used to classify internet under cable, and now under "phone." So it is a little confusing. We are definitely paying more.

However, we used to pay about $80/month for cell phones, and now we pay $55. Mid-year our parents added on to our plan and now we all share our minutes.

All in all phone/cable was $60 cheaper than the prior year. (Oh yeah, we got a lot of discounts from Dish because of the TERRIBLE customer service. Dh has gotten them to lower our bills a few times. That helps). Cable and Television was $2200. For Land line, 2 cell phones, Dish, & DSL.

Vacation: This is the first year since kids we put vacation in our budget. We had room for the first time. We were aiming for $1500. We went to D-Land for a week and did Family Camp. This also included a minimal amount for our trip to Denver.

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

In the end we spent $1800 more in 2008 than in 2007.

I can sum up the culprits as having 2 in preschool a chunk of the year (non longer an issue) and large dental bills.

We did spend a lot on fixing up stuff around the house; long overdue.

Everything else was rather consistent.

Roundabout goal is to limit spending to $60k annually. Much more feasible for 2009; certainly 2010 when LM is done with preschool. We also lowered expenses by $2400 annually, with our refi.

I did net about $66k this year. I did not include any income or payroll taxes in this analysis.

We had about $3k in other income. $1k interest, $500 credit card rebates, $1500 in ebay sales, rebates and focus groups.

We received that $1800 tax rebate, but we also owed the IRS a chunk for 2007 so was kind of a wash.

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

We also doubled our ROTH contributions in 2008, from $50/month to $100/month.

We started the year with $0 in our mid-term savings fund, and ended the year with about $2k. I had wanted to save $5k. We saved about $4200, but had a lot of unexpected expenses during the year, which drained the account to about $2k.

Not our most spectacular savings year ever, but may just be our best year since having kids. Wink

All in all, a pretty good year.

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

ETA: I notice something large missing from my snapshot. For whatever reason, I usually include mortgage principle payments in my monthly expense snapshot, but I can not get them to show up here. What the heck? That's another $4k!!!! Am I blind?

Well, not as near $60k in expenses as I thought then. But that is my goal and I still see it as very feasible. I have to go figure this out now. It's driving me batty. MAkes you think, "What else is missing?"

Target for the 10th Time this month

November 29th, 2008 at 06:31 pm

I feel like I have been there 10 times anyway. Yeesh.

I went to aerobics and stopped by Target on the way home. About 9am - it was nice and empty. Yay!

I needed a new/bigger helmet for BM. He is a wild child and I didn't want to go cheap. Toys R Us just had cheap stuff so I went back to Target today.

I found one all by its lonesome without a price tag. IT didn't match any other helmet brands. I looked down a few aisles to see if more helmets were stored elsewhere. I tried it in the price scanner - didn't work. It looked REALLY nice and sturdy. I figured it was more expensive - but was exactly what BM needed (he's a wanna-be stunt man).

The lady at checkout asks me how much it cost. Good question. She didn't want to get her manager. I said most of them were $19.99 but honestly no idea how much this one is. I figure maybe I'd get it for $20. Woohoo.

She finally decided to call her boss though and they were looking forever. Good lord. Finally found it. $15. On clearance. Glad I waited. Big Grin

I have no idea where it came from but it was just the quality AND the price I wanted. Woohoo.

As an aside, LM has always had a monstrosity of a head. The aged 3 helmet is a little small on him, but 5+ was a little too big (I was surprised by this actually). I figure he could have BM's old helmet because he is quite cautious and can't go very fast anyway. It's better than nothing, and probably better than "too big". Can probably buy him a bigger helmet come spring or summer.

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

We had discussed getting a GPS this year (we haven't given each other gifts in a couple of years and figured that would be our gift). But as the end of the year approaches we both haven't been as thrilled with the idea. Figured we'd go giftless again. (I was actually surprised because it was all dh could talk about all summer).

Anyway, he saw a good deal today and is running out to pick it up.

It's not Garmin as we had originally planned, but dh has read all the reviews and wants to get it anyway. We can at least try it out and return it if we don't like it.

So, about $100 for that.

Yeah, we expect a lot of birthday and christmas cash this month. Phew. It's been a little spendy...

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

I did decide to skip Karate for December. It's only 3 weeks anyway and it had been rather spendy. The thought crossed my mind and dh did not mind skipping it. So, phew.

WE did find a hole in a gutter on the house (probably bird related - no trees, but lots of birds). We will look into getting the gutters cleared and that part repaired next week. We don't have a ladder near tall enough and just not something we will attempt. I looked around the rest of the house and didn't see anything else obvious. I hope it's just limited to that one area. I assume birds, but who knows what happened there.

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

I went for a drive after Target today. We were experimenting with some of the back roads, looking for a path to the river that was reasonable enough for the kids. As I expected, it doesn't really exist. On one hand, I drove about 5 miles around and did not see ONE car. It was almost 10am. So it is desolate enough that the kids could probably ride. Perhaps. Then again, the big ditches on the side of the road (and really nowhere for a bike) wasn't thrilling to me.

Then, when I got to the river I was surprised that it was all private property. I hadn't really thought of that. Boy did I see a LOT of for sale signs too.

Anyway, so much for a nice river ride from our house. I saw a public park about 4 miles out and it looks more like a beach than a park with trails anyway.

So, not the river ride I had envisioned, but was definitely beautiful. Very peaceful, and the fall trees were pretty.

But we certainly have a LOT of exploring to do in our neighborhood, regardless. It's been kind of fun. We're minutes from the city, in the suburbs, but surrounded by completely open space. I've often said we have the best of all worlds. For the long run we always assumed it would be built up and we'd just end up in the middle of the suburbs. & that is probably true. In the long, long run. Some of our neighbors (behind us?) paid a premium to keep the open space behind them. We always thought that was complete BS. Yeah, right. Sure, you paid a few thousand dollars and they will never build behind you? Who dreamed up that scam? But with the real estate market now? We'll have this open space for a while. So it is definitely fun for bike riding and exploring.

On the flip side, am bummed we have little access to any public river paths. Bummer!

Feeling One with the Universe Today

November 15th, 2008 at 05:42 pm

I noticed when I went to aerobics this morning that there were 2 garage sales within a block. I wondered if it was the "annual community garage sale" though I hadn't seen any signs.

Looked it up when I got home. Looked like just a coincidence. No other garage sales around...

Anyway, walked across the street and took LM. Didn't expect toys (no kids) but took him anyway. You never know. He scored a beanie baby for 50 cents.

I struck gold! There were 2 gallons of blue/green paint sitting there. LM likes green and I was leaning towards blue for his room. (We are painting next weekend!) When I saw the color it was PERFECT.

I asked how old it was and how much for it. She said $1/gallon. Not even a year old. I went home to chat with dh. He said he didn't like the idea, and I decided to buy it anyway. LOL. Well, I convinced him.

Anyway, I went back to pay for it. She told me it cost $30/gallon (it was Ralph Lauren paint). Yeesh.

I am hoping it is just dark enough to cover the brown that covers half of the room. I am going to do a test spot to see what I think. If nothing else we have leftover white, to go over the brown, and then the blue should cover that up well enough.

Anyway, dh said the WORST thing about painting is picking the color. All I have to say is, "Problem Solved."

I am not quite sure how it will look. But you can't beat $2. I am confident 2 gallons is enough for the room.

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

Anyway, we went to the other garage sale and they gave LM a little toy he picked out. I would have given them some change if I had any. But they were pretty much giving away all the toys. How nice!

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

My little secret is out. I drive about 10 miles - YES 10 miles - to my aerobics class.

(I don't *get* people who never venture out their neighborhood for anything. All the time people ask me why I drive so far. Because it's the best? As most things I drive outside my neighborhood for are?)

Anyway, $2.50 per hour class. Offered 3 days a week (I am lucky to make 2 days - I hit the gym on days when I have less time, and when the weather is nice there is walking and bike riding, so not my only exercise).

The aerobics class is through the community center. (The one in my neighborhood offers a $7.50 class, I have never been. $2.50 is too good a price I guess).

1/2 hour aerobics, then 1/2 hour arms, legs, tummies, stretching, yoga. I LOVE it because we spend so long on the stretching/yoga and I am REALLY inflexible. I also have a leg injury which needs lots of stretching not to cause me pain. So yeah, couldn't ask for anything better or cheaper.

& the class is largely empty. Sometimes 4-5 people. I guess maybe that is average.

But I have noticing it getting a little more crowded.

& usually no one much shows up Saturday. But today we had like TEN people.

I couldn't help but wonder if it was the economy or what - people looking for cheaper alternatives. I don't know.

Happy for the teacher (she really should charge more) BUT it's getting a little crowded for our tiny room!

Just an Update

November 11th, 2008 at 07:56 pm

Dh earned his keep. He received $125 focus group check yesterday and made about $20 on ebay. Just enough to pay for my ring resize, which he really wanted to do. So, works out.

HE made some Craigslist sales as well.

I actually had extra cash in the checking so will give him the $20 from ebay to plow back into his game selling.

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

I usually pay most the bills around the 1st every month but I had quite a few to take care of this week:

*Phone bills (put on credit card)

*Dish (credit card - dh told them not to take auto payments, but they did. But with the card theft they were at our mercy. Dh called them and told them to stop the auto payments and they listened this time. But now it's kind of a pain to pay them. We won't have them long anyway. DirectTV by next year I am sure)

*AAA (put on card - $130)

*School Lunch (credit card - figured $45 would cover the rest of the year. First $20 is almost gone. BM Eats at school once a week. I enjoy the break!)

*Oh, I paid one credit card (backup card) online and wary if it will go through. I tried to pay regular card (both had new #s due to recent thefts and replacements). But that one was not cooperating. I may have to mail in a check or something. Feels like russian roulette with how BAD our mail service is. So I hope I can get the online bill pay set back up soon.

*I wrote a check (something I rarely do) for Reader's Digest. I think it is our only subscription besides the paper. Our cooking mags are a gift subscription from great grandma and the kids get Highlights from their aunt. I could have set it up online, but in this case, the check was easier.

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

*Dh's car needs an oil change. I reminded him this morning. He said he got a $8 off coupon yesterday. Good timing! (The other ones had expired and I realized we past 6 months. I had my oil changed Oct. 31).

*We signed up to volunteer 16 hours for the Scholastic Warehouse sale. I got suckered into an 8-hour shift. Ugh!

It's sweet since dh's mom (teacher) retired. WE always had tons of free Scholastic products (she had more than she could ever use and chose to give them to us for whatever reason). Anyway, for 16 hours we will earn $320 in Scholastic vouchers. Most will go to school of course, but we may keep $20 for our own purchases.

I have volunteered for multiple opportunities but no one seems to want my help. So I was pleased I was able to volunteer for SOMETHING. Dh has run into similar troubles even with his wide open schedule. The school seems to have more help than it needs. I assume either the Kindergarten parents are extra eager or the volunteering machine lacks organization. Since they are always asking for help. I think, a little of both. Happy to get in some hours. After this we will only need 4 more hours to earn our keep for the year. (Charter school; required 30 hours a year, per family).

*LM told me our neighbors had a BIGGER house than ours! LOL! I don't remember noticing that kind of stuff when I Was young. At all.

His 3-year-old opinion is that a bigger house would be better.

Our house is about twice the size of the one dh grew up in, and about 30% bigger than the one I grew up in. I always worried the kids would end up spoiled. Here we go...

I would tell him that house would have been our first choice and well within our reach ($10k premium for another room or so) but that the layout is atrocious and the appearance of monstrosity is more due to non-energy efficient & space wasting vaulted ceilings throughout the lower level. But yeah, he wouldn't understand. Wink

In fact, we settled for one vaulted ceiling in the formal dining room, because I think it was the least amount of vaulted ceiling we could find in new construction. (One of many horrible trends in the 2000-era; along with giant kitchens, closets and master bedrooms). My long-term dream is to replace the upper level with a giant bonus room - or more appropriately a bonus loft. I don't know how feasible it will be. But I would be happy to banish the vaulted ceiling from our home. They put enough windows up there that I think if we could get a floor and a railing, it would suffice. Shouldn't be THAT expensive, eh???? Then maybe we could reach all the windows and lights. Imagine that!

The 3yo wants to keep up with the Joneses. Ugh! I don't think the 5yo has ever had any Joneses inklings. None that he has shared...

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

For reference: This is my kitchen (though mine doesn't have so much open space on the right side. Right countertop is much closer to island. We have less cabinet space and room, as such. But otherwise, virtually identical). I'd call it "big" but not "giant." Definitely, practical. Island is quite large and yet within reach of stove, fridge, dishwasher and sink. You don't have to walk a mile between these things...



LM also informed me at lunch, when I told dh about his Jonesing, that we should trade houses so the neighbors could live in our "little house." Hehe!

Spendy Saturday

November 9th, 2008 at 04:08 pm

Yesterday was more crazy than I cared for.

We had 2 parties to attend at the same time and I wanted to go to both. I also put 70 miles on the car because one was so far away. I drove to unfamiliar land to drop off the kids at the drop-in childcare place (was a GREAT experience - they also have branches in San Jose where our family lives so I think we could utilize much. To-date we had only used the one by our house), met dh at the party, then left early to take the kids to a party at Chuck E Cheese. So I had to backtrack to pick them up and it was just pure chaos. I couldn't live like that every day - I'd go nuts. WAY too much driving.

I hadn't though much about it beforehand (for the best) but Chuck E Cheese was a COMPLETE mess. I lasted about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Since we arrived so late for the party it wasn't a big deal we only lasted that long. Just crowded and chaotic. LM was pretty upset when we left and I had to drag him out the door. BM seemed to understand a little better. I kept their tokens and tickets and told them we could come back on a weeknight. Monday for all I care. I just wanted the hell out. On the weeknights the place is the complete opposite - EMPTY. If nothing else, LM could play in the play structure then. I wouldn't let him in with all the big, rowdy kids. (BM could hold his own).

Lord help me if they get invited to a party over there again. I guess it would be dh's turn...

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

Anyway, in other news, we still haven't cleaned our carpet. I would say before kids it is not something we did. (Well, our condo had white carpet for some godawful reason and we did clean that one a couple of times). But since kids we seemed to average every 2 years (maybe should do it every year).

Anyway, I am ashamed to say we haven't yet (I talked about this in June) BUT I did also put it on my LONG honey do list for dh. Though he hasn't gotten done, and I am peeved, he has gotten almost everything else done. So I admit I have been rather demanding. For his snail pace anyway...

BUT I have come to a realization lately. I have said before. We're not lazy after all! I just could not imagine finding the time to do a lot of things around the house in recent years. But this year we are kicking butt! The difference is the kids. We don't have a lot of family real close to help with the kids. & so there is only so much we could do when they were really little. We kept babysitting help for a vacations and night outs. Not for home projects - blech!!!

But things change. They are getting older and more independent, and we find we have a LOT more time to take care of things around the house. Daycare not even needed.

So anyway, zetta recommended a lightweight, easy carpet cleaner and I said No Thanks! NO WAY I was going to do it myself. That was June.

But here we are in October, it's not done, and I have nothing but free weekends ahead of me. So my mind has changed, and changing dynamics are why.

I popped by Target and picked up the recommended device. I see mixed reviews so I won't hold my breath. Our carpet is pretty bad. BUT it is also high quality/scotch guard, all that. I don't expect it would take that much work to bring up the spots.

We have one large room that needs work. & I think I will no longer allow the kids to eat or drink in here. Once we clean it - that's it. I don't want to do it again. The rest of the house is fine. We don't wear shoes and we are gentle on the carpet. In here it's just spilled food and drinks everywhere. The rest of the house has a few spots, but this thing is good at spot cleaning.

With this device we may also be better at spot cleaning when spills happen, etc.

I am going to test an area of the carpet this morning, and if I am happy enough with it I will do the downstairs room once the kids go to bed. They'll be gone all day tomorrow so will have overnight and all day to dry and be safe from dirty little feet.

I am not sure how much we will save since it is so rare we clean carpets, but maybe we will be more apt to keep them up a little better. $75 for the device ($5 off coupon) and $10 for a bottle of cleaning solution.

Anyway, so we went to Target on the way home yesterday to pick it up.

While we were there we also picked up some food. We passed the grocery aisle and so I stopped for cookies (something uber healthy dh would never buy). Kids saw marshmallows and I saw generic rick crispies so I let them get the marshmallows. I never made rice crispy treats with them. They will love it.

I also picked up some chocolate chip muffin mix. So I think we will bake a bit today.

Dh called me on the way to checkout to ask if we could get cereal because it is cheaper at Target than the Safeway generic at Safeway. I told him I was one step ahead and had Target generic which was even cheaper. So we picked up some more generic cereal at his request.

Well, wish me luck with the carpets. I am waiting to try it out to see if I recommend it.

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

Oh yeah - I almost forgot - I filled up the van for $35 yesterday!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

$2.12/gallon.

Holy cow!

I had a 25-cent-off per gallon coupon - Bel Air. That is the only way I fill the van anymore - with quarter off coupons. (Saves $4 a fill up since it is 16 gallons). But we had put $75 into the van at some point. $35 I can handle.

Our strategy to not go bankrupt over gas was to drive the 40mpg car as much as possible. (The van gets a mere 20mpg). So, if we kept with our current driving habits our gas bill would be considerably LOW. We have also been driving to San Jose less. The van had also been banished from road trips.

I told dh that I would start taking the van now, more often, with gas at $2/gallon (about). It's a nice strategy but we have been putting a LOT of miles on the old car. & I really don't want to replace it any time soon. So I think we'll give it a bit of a break for a while... I also remember why I didn't mind driving the van to San Jose once in a while. Those days have returned. Phew.

So yeah, we both filled up on gas yesterday and it was a spendy day!

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

I just remembered I hadn't posted in a few days.

I went to Mervyns and it really sucked. Everything was 30% off. BUT everything was full price. I'd say it was more expensive than usual. (I went Friday during the day and it was PACKED too - unexpected).

No returns. I bought a sweater which ended up being a little small. (I never try on shirts because they usually fit - I was a little peeved). I can wear it if I wear nothing under it - the arms are small. Which isn't helpful in a sweater. (Not usually a problem of mine - I wouldn't say I have big arms!)

Pants are another story. I got a great pair of jeans for $20. I am waiting for deeper sales and I may pick up a pair in the next size higher and lower. Jeans are my nemesis, but I walked in and picked up a pair that fit on the first try (a miracle!!!). I'd stock up on a couple if the price got lower. It's why I am mostly bummed about the bankruptcy. They always have plentiful pants (shorts/skirts) in my size that actually fit. Reasonably priced too. Can't say the same for anywhere else.

I also went by Kohls and used my $10 off coupon. I got 3 tops for $30 there. Not bad! LOVE them too.

I think I have done my shopping for the month...

The other side of October

November 3rd, 2008 at 02:57 pm

I usually summarize all my expenses/savings together, but ran out of time yesterday.

So we spent a whole lot of money. What else did we do in October?

*Saved $1k to short-term savings

*Saved $200 to mid-term savings

*Saved $250 to medical savings & added $250 credit card rebate also

*Earned $26 interest (to mid-term fund). Good bye Balance Transfers; this amount decreased much as a result

*Deposited $100 to ROTH

*Earned $625 in work retirement plan

--------

*Pulled $1500 from medical fund for dental and medical bills.

Our deductible could push our medical fund to -$1500 or so, for 2008 expenses. But I figured it was a lot easier to stomach paying all those dental bills out of there, for now. Will tap mid-term savings later, if we have to. IF we ever get BM's ambulance bill, etc.

I guess there is always a slight chance we won't use our deductible next year and we can recover then. Who knows...

*I subtracted $150 from short-term savings for car registration. I did not pull any money out for other things (like life insurance) because fund is depleted for year. Will have to shift to the mid-term fund through 12/31. Need short-term for property taxes and home insurances (will be about $4k due in December).

We have been slowly adding more to this fund every year and are contributing another $100/month over Jan. 1, so I am happy where this fund is for the long run. I think $1k/month is the sweet spot, for now. But a bit behind, since we did not contribute this much when both kids were still in preschool.

Adds up to about $9k for all of our insurances and prop taxes, and about $2k for car repairs and vacation, and maybe $1k for misc. things throughout the year (like Christmas & subscriptions & vehicle registration, etc.).

*Pulled $550 for new drapes and Dec. 31 concert tickets, from mid-term savings. May need to pull a little more out for car service (would have been short-term otherwise) if it hits the card for October.

*Dh earned $125 at a focus group to pay for my ring resize.

& that's October for you. We took care of a lot of stuff. But November we hope will be low key. No "plans" for any bigger purchases or anything from savings.

Truth is though we have a lot of stuff that have been on the back burner for a while, and as our mid-term fund builds up, we are using some of it. I had preferred to wait until the balance was $5k to start touching it, but with all these dental bills and everything... I kind of give up. Maybe we should take care of some things and start over 1/1. Mid-term fund can easily be gone by then. But it is nice to get some stuff done around the house, etc.







Spending 9/30

October 8th, 2008 at 01:49 pm

*Spending*

Earlier in the year, I looked at my first 6 months of the year and compared our spending to last year. There wasn't much to note (that I remember). Kind of on the same track.

So I decided to compare this year-to-date, through 9/30, to last years. To see if there is anything else to note.

Not really. Total expenses last year for the first 3 quarters, was $45,000.

This year? $47k.

The difference? Easy peasy. 2nd child in preschool - $2k.

We've dropped the childcare expense (BM is out of preschool) back down to a reasonable level.

Auto - we spent $160 more on fuel. But $70 less on insurance and $300 less on repairs.

Groceries, we spent $235 more this year, so far. I'd argue the increase could be attributed to us having to feed BM more (no more meals provided by preschool). But diapers were in this category and we have stopped buying diapers, as of July. There are a lot of little nuances here.

Medical/Dental, we have only spent $250 more this year. This is a tough one. We have had an extraordinary amount of dental expenses. But we also switched to a HDHP plan that is very slow to bill. Our deductible is just about maxed but I have only been billed maybe $1k of $3k this year. So far! In the end I think this will even out with our childcare expenses. (I don't necessarily expect to spend more money this year than last year, as a total, because we will spend less on daycare).

As of June we were pretty even at $30k expenses for the year, both this year and last. I was confident that $5k/month funded our expenses and luxuries, and that $4k would cover a more basic lifestyle in our current home. (Why I base my emergency fund on $4k/monthly. I could cut out $500/month with the lift of a finger - no more preschool or gardener - and I assume if I lost my job or something we could cut another $500 expenses. The easiest thing to cut would be commuting gas and stuff like that. we could trim our groceries and cable, etc. Which I would immediately do if I lost my job). We were actually rather surprised how low our bills dropped when I was on maternity leave, so this is pretty realistic. When you know you are broke, it is easy to spend less. & work is more expensive that you realize!

I think last year, preschool brought up the expenses at end of year. This year, all of the medical and dental bills will. So yeah, it might end up pretty much the same.

This year it's dental work; next year will be something else. There will always be something. But it seems to fit in with our $60k spending goal ($5k/month max).

September Preview

October 1st, 2008 at 02:50 pm

I'll show my expenses over the weekend - the credit card closes Friday.

As of today, I am up to $4890 expenses for September, which is quite reasonable. I like to think our expenses average $4000/month (regular and monthly). & the figure above includes $400 in dental expenses and $400 auto insurance and repairs.

Gas and Groceries were right on - $800. Though I am not sure if dh has to go to the grocery store the next 3 days. Probably, it seems it had been a while. So we may go over. I will encourage him to just get what we need. We certainly have enough food to last through Friday.

So everything was right on, or under budget.

Except one area we completely blew out of the water.

Dining out - $225.

Egads!!!!

LOL.

I almost fell over when I saw that one. I guess it adds up fast.

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

I also just added all my interest for the month, to my savings spreadsheet.

& I remembered I will get $250 from the credit card (rewards) next week.

So my mid-term savings will hit $3k next week. Woohoo!

It will be short-lived. Too many expenses coming up.

I also was finally able to get my short-term savings back in the black. Yeesh.

I updated my totals on the left.

(Almost $5k in cash over efund? Eh, easy come, easy go... IT will be gone on a flash - most of the money is earmarked for large expenses).

Oh well, more on all of this later...

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

Almost forgot, my CD matures next week and my 0% balance transfer is due this month. So this was my last month of $90 interest. That figure will drop to $40 interest, next month. *sigh* It was fun while it lasted though!

To help make up for it I am now saving $200/month. The interest was really nice when times were tighter. Easy money. But now I can pick up the slack (& improve on it).

Spending/Savings

September 29th, 2008 at 11:43 pm

Today was a manic monday. I prefer not to have a lot of manic mondays. Or manic days.

I imagine to myself if this is what most working parents or working moms go through. The way I hear it described, anyway. I couldn't live like this. We were just gone all Sunday and home very late, and hecticness ensued today as a result. That's my excuse anyway...

It rained all morning in the bright sun (where were the clouds?) even though it was almost 92 in the afternoon. Well, this is more like desert than anything. We don't get rain in summer, nor warm rains. But it was bizarre because it was cool and rainy in the morning but hotter than hades in the afternoon.

Looks like earthquake weather to me. But earthquake weather is not so hot. What the heck is this anyway? LOL.

Everyone kept gloating about the wonderful weather. Puh-leez. Another night of A/C. IT's almost October!

I come from 70-year-round weather. A 90 degree day is not pleasant, no matter how cool the shade. Certainly not on September 29th!! Bah!

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

So yeah, I have barely had time to slow down, all day.

Spending:

$140 or so to resize my wedding ring. Because it is 2 rings that will need to be re-welded. Dh walked around the mall pricing resizes and then we got hit with this anyway (he didn't mention it was 2 rings, welded together).

Oh well. It's been 8 years and 2 pregnancies. Maybe in 10 years if I need another re-size we'll have more means. I fretted all the way home since I Was so bloated today I Was an idiot to get sized today. Of course I called dh to have him talk sense into me and he asked if he should pick up the ring and we can go another time. LOL. I told him, no, just tell me to get a grip. I thought it through and decided since size 7 rings are too small in general, and 8 is too big in general, 7.5 is probably right after all. Even if I lose or gain a few pounds. Phew.

Dh also wants to go to a NEw YEars' concert. I told him yes, for his birthday. IT means a lot to him. I think he is being too practical to buy the tickets. I am this close to just buying them. HE deserves it. He may be able to take a friend. I am not that interested and it will only be $70 as opposed to $140 if only he goes. But I'll go if he can't find someone.

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

Dh made $50 on ebay today. I had forgotten about that, so phew. Will help with the ring.

We are canceling our fresh produce from the farm service. IT is $29 a delivery, and just too much. $58/month for now.

We decided our food bill was also up because BM used to eat at preschool 2 days a week. Yes, we notice that much difference! Bills been same same same, even with the economy, and lately with BM out of preschool, it's just, ugh.

We were discussing it and I told dh, "I am not sure how much is just prices in general." But we picked up the kids from Grandma and she said they ate her out of house and home. We looked at each other and said, "Oh yeah. That's some of it." We feed BM 10 more days a month - breakfast, lunch and snacks anyway. Which can be a LOT of food!!!

So we decided in light of recent things, to drop the farm service. We'll pick it up again when we have the means. We really like it. Just way too expensive for right now. Dh said he was spending more on trying to make recipes for all the veggies, etc. So we'll see how much this helps.

Sometimes you think you can afford something nice, and then you realize you really can't. Which is fine. We try to make a point to make sure most of our luxuries are not long-term contracts. So when we make these realizations, it is quite easy to cut back. Phew.

Heck, our only long-term contract is our mortgage. That is the NICEST part about not having debt. For sure. But some of our biggest luxuries are our gardener and our preschool. & tomorrow we could drop both services. It is that simple. We prefer stuff like that over homes and cars and things that just aren't so easy to get out of!

Stress is Decreasing a Bit

August 28th, 2008 at 02:38 pm

I stayed a little late at work yesterday to prepare some rebates. I had thought the due dates were not clear when I realized one was to be postmarked yesterday! So I went to the post office. Gah.

Mailed $90 in rebates, cell phone and computer related - will help the bottom line.

Looking at the credit card bill and feeling better able to tackle it, though we maybe weren't the best this month. We could have saved another $100-$200 through extreme diligence. We can try again next month. We'll be boring homebodies; I think we will survive.

Trying to spend no gas through the rest of the month - $100 under budget as is. Phew!

If we had bought no clothing or stayed in from our fancy dinner out we would have another $150 to spare. Then again, I am not sure my boss would appreciate my worn clothing for one more month. But we have September to redo and save some cash. (& October & November as well - living some lean months).

Anyway, today was the first day I wasn't stressed about it all. & I have dh to thank. He has REALLY come through. This is the man I remember.

Today the credit card sits at $3k and we have no plans but for a few groceries this weekend. We'll see, but I think we can have a no-spend week otherwise. (Credit card closes Wednesday so we have a full week left to be very frugie).

$3,000 August credit card bill
- 400 airfare reimbursement from mom
- 1400 budget
- 200 ebay sales (dh)
- 100 focus group (dh)
------
$ 900 Shortfall

Really, all of it is the new computer. Or $800 computer & $100 fridge repair, I guess.

I don't mind pulling $300 from savings, for the full fridge repair. What that is for.

So I guess $900 - $300 = $600 to contend with - all computer.

I expect a $250 rewards check (Credit card) in a month. We got it WAY early with all this stuff. & about $100 in rebates.

So in the end leaves us with $250 shortfall in the long run.

I guess pulling out $250 from savings for a brand new computer is not a huge deal in the end. Why I am starting to feel better as I tally the numbers.

Plus, at this rate, dh will easily make $250 next month. I think I will even ask him to try to hit that goal.

Reminds me, it isn't done yet. The kids both have doctor appointments and BM starts his dental fillings this week as well. The medical stuff is covered by the medical fund; not a prob.

BUT dental, I don't know. I made some appointments in October because he has so many Fridays off. As long as it doesn't hurt to wait another month, I think it will be nice to spread the costs out a bit.

I also have around $1k in the medical fund to take care of the first 6 fillings or so (there may only be 7).

There is a very slight chance I won't have to drain my mid-term savings below $3k. VERY slight. I won't hold my breath...

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

Oh yeah, I thought I was getting better at editing myself around people terrible with money. But now, I don't think so. LOL. I have just been less annoyed of late and thought I was getting better.

But I ran into someone yesterday who is totally broke, having a new baby, and not sure if they can afford all the new crib and changing tables and such.

I am thinking to myself, "Why are you buying NEW?????? Why are you buying a changing table?" Certainly not the first thing on my list if I Were broke. (& this is their second child - they should know how useless some of those expensive baby things are).

I just find it ironic when we weren't broke we bought secondhand stuff and skipped a lot of the nonsense.

I guess it's not ironic. It's why we tend to not be broke.

But you know, you just want to shake these people.

Instead I didn't say anything. I've learned to not say anything. It wouldn't have gone over well. So I guess I edited myself, but boy I did have to gripe about it.

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

The only other thing I can think of coming up is HAlloween. The kids have 2 very nice outfits which I will probably put up on ebay. We will use the cash to buy something else. So I am pleased with that. I don't think halloween will cost us anything in that regard.

This year the kids are huge on spiderman. They want to be Spiderman and IceMan. In fact, LM generally insists he is IceMan anymore.

I don't even know who IceMan is. LOL. They've moved into decidedly more BOY territory.

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

Oh yeah, the ticket talk reminded me. There is no parking on the street in front of the school (& the parking lot is terribly tiny. It used to be the back parking lot for the middle school - it's a charter school without a permanent location - we just make do with what we can get).

Anyway, dh asked if I had just parked there and I asked him if he was crazy. The government is looking for money and the last thing I need is a ticket. I can walk a few blocks. Which I only did the first couple of days while I gaged the traffic. Drop off is working out okay.

Anyway, yesterday there was someone out there issuing tickets and wouldn't you know a number of people stopped (& got out of their cars!!!!) anyway.

I don't know what people are thinking...

The city must be loving this windfall. !

& my kids keep asking, "How come no one follows the rules?" We have a new playground being built and there were people taking their toddlers in there with exposed metals and NO ground covering. It was totally insane. & the kids want to go in and you have to explain those people are stupid and no you can not go play in the extremely dangerous/unfinished playground. People have just lost their minds or something... IT's been months and I know they are sick of seeing everyone else play in the playground. & everyone else park on the street while we walk. etc., etc., etc.

The Good and the Bad

August 8th, 2008 at 03:05 pm

The credit card is already up to $1200 and it is only the 5th day of the fiscal month.

!!!!!

Just charged $200 for old medical expenses, $300 for the fridge repair, and $300 for computer parts.

Oh yes, and $400 for airfare (to be reimbursed). I forgot about that - is something.

Anyway, I guess the good is we haven't bought anything else. !!

Only $27 of groceries are showing through. (Have bought some gas and groceries since - just hasn't recorded yet).

It's going to be a LONG month.

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

However, dh got called in for a $100 focus group next week. !!!!!

Yay!!!!!!!!!

$50/hour - is not half bad.

It's during the day, but we'll make it work. Even daycare would make it worthwhile.

Now that I think about it, LM will be at daycare and BM is at an age he can sit quietly while I work. Just bring his games - so I may try something like that. & it is also during the lunch hour.

Anyway, dh said he had about $300 cash he was willing to give up from his used game "business." Would give him some cash to keep.

& now this $100.

So he's come up with $400 for the computer.

I don't think he will spend more than $700. So $300 from the budget, at most.

He's bought a few parts with some rebates as well. So hopefully when the rebates come, we can replenish savings a bit.

I may drain my mid-term savings to $2500. Kind of sucks, but could be SO much worse.

Also, we will hit our $250 credit card reward much sooner. We have been racking up more rewards with shifting so much of our medical expenses to the card (with the HDHP).

So that is kind of nice too.

IT's not the greatest year thus far, and I feel like we have a lot of catching up to do.

But I can't help but think as I read the forums AND talk to people around me in foreclosure-ville that there is not much to stress about here. With no debt and a decent amount of savings, this is a small blip we will move past quickly.

I don't say it to brag. I say it to be motivating to those who are struggling. It can be much better. Save, save, save those pennies! & knock those ugly debts on their heads! You can do it!

I could feel sorry for myself and my move backwards, but it is hard to get too upset looking around me. That is for sure.

Murphy is Not Welcome Here...

August 5th, 2008 at 02:10 pm

Bah!!!!!

Hey, are you all sending me thoughts, prayer, vibes or whatever for my new car?

I think you may be, because everything else is falling apart. I always notice when something good happens, something bad happens, the yin and the yang.

So that is what I am holding out hope for. LOL.

Is it worth winning maybe one of the $1k prizes if I have to shell out $1k in repairs this week? Maybe not. Bah.

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

It started Saturday. I thought our HDTV was broken (barely a year new). I am QUITE relieved to say it was the TV station (CNBC and MSNBC). But holy cow, I almost had a heart attack. I was drifting off to sleep watching CNBC (Suze of course) when I noticed a missing square on the TV screen. I knew it was bigger than a pixel and seemed kind of odd, but the worst was running through my mind.

Changed the channel and looked at older episodes of Suze, and it was gone.

I told dh later and he knew exactly what I Was talking about. Said MSNBC had given him the same heart attack just the other day. But it was definitely not on our end. Phew!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anyway, so, phew, saved by the bell.

But Sunday, dh got some ice cream out of the freezer and it was mushy. Freezer broken!

We ended up just calling Sears out. They tried to sell some extended warranty thing for $250 and I just rolled my eyes. The freezer was cutting in and out, I was sure it was probably something simple.

Anyway, dh was in a panic and I told him just to chill out and call Sears. Yeesh. He was convinced we needed a new fridge!

Wouldn't you know, it cost $250 to fix. Buggers. But it was just the filter had never been cleaned. They recommended once every 3 months and showed dh how to clean it. I think once a year will suffice. (It took over 6 years to give out). A fuse had also blown, so it was more than just the filter.

The guy tried to sell another extended warranty thing to dh. Dh said no and the guy said, "Yeah, I wouldn't bother. Kenmores never have problems."

Well, duh.

So my PSA of the day is clean the filter on your fridge...

(Also cost us a freezer full of food - luckily really not much in there. Some chicken butter, and veggies. & ice cream that was almost gone anyway).

Anyway, we were coming into our super frugal no-spend August, because the last few months have just been a little too spendy. & this is how it starts. !!!

All of this would be fine except dh calls me later and I don't hear anything. I tried to call back and he didn't answer. I wonder if the kids are playing with his cell phone or what. Or if he was in some terrible accident trying to reach me (I assume the worst of course).

What is going on??????????

I finally reach him and he is grumbling that his blue tooth is no longer working on his phone. (He realizes as he is trying to call me).

Okay, no biggie. He just bought it and he can take it back. But annoying all the same.

But the reason he called me is because his computer DIED. Dead as a doornail.

Ugh!

I am cursing myself for jinxing it. It is the computer we leave on most of the day and I Was quite adamant in the forums that we have never had a computer die on us. (We never have, we still have the computers we used in college - for the kids to use and other uses). But we have replaced the power supplies a million times, so I would much rather leave the computer on than turn it on and off too much. Personally.

Oh yeah, was that the jinx of the century. This computer is about 4 years old I would guess? One of our newer ones, for sure.

Dh bought a power supply because it wouldn't even start, and that is the usual repair - have done it a few times on our other computers.

BUT that wasn't it. He had told me when I got home it was fine unless it was the motherboard.

HE eventually diagnosed it as the motherboard. UGh!

Of course, he first postulated he could rebuild another computer for a mere $200 since he wasn't quite ready to upgrade all the other parts. He built this one. But then he remembers he needs buy an OS. Okay, maybe $350, For a new notherboard/processor and Windown Vista or whatever.

Last I heard he may spend $600. We'll see...

Of course, I looked at the bright side. I know he has been chomping at the bit to upgrade his big editing system. So I said, just upgrade it and move your old one down here. It's the logical choice. & he says, no, he's not ready to upgrade.

Whatever. Will save me six figures then. LOL. (It's all I hear about - I need a new computer!!!! But given the opportunity, no he doesn't want one. I don't understand).

Anyway, I know it's a PITA and has thwarted all my Craigslist selling indefinitely because that computer had my e-mail and Craigslist postings and pictures, etc. I feel jinxed on the Craigslist side. I knew I should have used one of my other e-mails. Bah! I had some interested e-mails that are lost in space. At least future ones will get through.

& yes, though it will be a huge PITA for dh to fix and all, he was just going on and on last night.

Seriously, we have 3 other up and running computers. I think he will survive. I kind of roll my eyes on some level. At least it wasn't our only working computer.

Anyway, Murphy has done a job over here, but it's hard to get too worked up. Dh has been making some decent side money, and for the first time since like 2005, I actually have a savings fund for this kind of stuff. I would prefer to move forward at a faster clip, to make up for lost time. But I have about $3200 in there now. Plenty to fix the fridge and replace a computer. We haven't really had anything give up on use since we had kids and cut our income way down. All I can think of is out washer which was 30years+ old anyway. So I think if this was one month sooner I'd be a bit more panicked. But I know we've had quite a lucky streak all the same.

I just hope Murphy is done for this round. Wink

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

Oh, the only other thing around here is I am not sure I shared the monster fight I had with dh. He actually hung up on me on the phone. LOL. Yeah, I Can laugh about it now. I honestly think that was a first.

He went to deposit the kids' birthday money in our account (as we always do) so we could transfer it (electronic transfer) into their mutual funds. This was like a month ago.

Anyway, dh called me to tell me they wouldn't take the checks ("third party") and that he was going to open accounts for them. I started griping that was ridiculous since they would charge fees and give miserable interest and I didn't like the idea. I just wanted to put it in their mutual fund.

Anyway, dh got all pissed like I didn't think he knew what he was doing and he hung up on me. !!!!!!!!!!

We talked it out but I realized there are certain things we will NEVER discuss again. I brought up his wonderful bank account with the crazy minimium and how he kept getting $50 fees for dropping under the minimum. He still to this day is annoyed we have a 0% checking account, and I roll my eyes at his 0.5% checking account that needed a $1 minimum and was routinely hit with $50 fees. So I brought that up and that was the hot button that caused him to hang up on me.

Yeah, something I will never mention again. Yeesh! (But I am right - you understand!!!)

Dh also tells me he is annoyed I locked up all the kids' money for college.

Huh? I told him it was in a UGMA mutual fund where it would actually GROW, but they could use it for whatever the hell they want. That's the point.

So, oh boy, we obviously have some communication issues. I guess he thought it was all locked up in a college fund. We rather see eye to eye on that one since neither of us spent much at all for college. But for whatever reason since I call it a "college fund" he thinks it can only be used for college. More just a term I use for their long-term savings. At this point, yeah, most of it is for college. What else are they going to need it for in the next few years????? But if they want to use it on a car or house, whatever. That's why I didn't put it in a 529.

So, there is a point to this story.

We tried to open these savings accounts for the kids multiple times and each time have had a brick wall. We need to bring x,y, and z. Oy vey. IT's easier to get a passport.

so dh made the trek yesterday for another attempt, BM in tow (thought he may enjoy the process).

Anyway, so dh called to tell me that the deed was done, and I log online to look at all those lovely accounts. After our fight dh had assured us there was NO FEES. Whatsoever. I said, yeah, they'll stick you somehow. & dh thought I was insulting him. I told him I would never argue with him over TV setup so why is he arguing with me in my area of expertise? LOL.

So I log on yesterday and their accounts have $44 instead of $45.

Dh failed to mention the fee they stuck him with. LOL.

So I am like, um, was there a $1 fee? He's like, "Yeah, yeah, I don't want to talk about it."

LOL.

It was just funny.

I was right, but I Can live with $1. It is a CU after all. The bank would be much worse.

But this is the point I tried to make to dh all along.

The nice thing is now we can transfer the money to our account, and then into their mutual fund.

Hallelujah. What a lot of PITA for that. Geez. But it's all set up now, the fee is paid, and life moves on. (Doesn't seem to be any other fees so we'll survive).

I don't care if BM wants to keep some money in there, but I think LM hardly needs $44. (He's 3 - what is he going to buy?) So I will try to convince dh to let me transfer that to his mutual fund. We still have some talking to do about it all.

But yeah, about the biggest fight we ever had - & what a stupid fight it was.

Spendy July/Investments

July 30th, 2008 at 02:31 pm

You could argue we put too many of our eggs in the house bucket in our 20s, but I have no regrets. Doing so, for one, means we aren't in the mess most of our fellow young Californians are in. (We put a lot of cash down but refused to pay $600k for a home, all the same).

But even as housing tumbles and rents are rocky, we still pay far less for our home than it would be to rent something comparable (always have).

So there is a large measure of method to our madness. Big Grin

BUT, I am pleased to report that I was glancing at my net worth schedule, and as of July we have only $1k more in cash equity in our house than we have in cash and investments.

!!

Which means, by the end of the year, we should have more cash/investments that cash paid on our home.

I think that is an interesting milestone. For the longest time it seemed most of our assets went to our home... We saved dh's salary for years, to pay off as much as we have.

It runs something like $91k in investments and $92k cash paid on home. Today.

For the long run, I expect our investments to blow the mortgage out of the water. I am only 30. (TIME is most definitely on our side).

You could argue if we should have paid down more aggressively, or invested more instead, but I am VERY happy with this balance. I think we did the right amount of both.

I am also pretty darn close to hitting six figures in my savings and retirement, which is another neat milestone.

But anyway, though we felt it was important to load up the house basket while we were young, I am glad to move past that. I didn't want all my net worth made up of equity, forever. Though there is little I can do as far as equity equity. If it wants to stay super high, I won't stress that my investments are less. Worse problems to have. Big Grin (We still probably have a solid $150k of equity in our home, today. But for measuring purposes I am more concerned what we paid on the home, particularly since there is a risk the value of our home will fall significantly more).

P.S. I do look REALLY forward to when my mortgage balance is LESS than my investments. Have a ways to go on that one...

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

July is VERY spendy!!!! Ugh...

$85 to school for supplies/field trips
$100 on uniforms/backpack/start up costs
$105 Indian cooking lessons
$110 Swim Lessons
$75 new cell phone (rebate to come)
$30 Hands free head set (new law)
$200 Birthday Party
$100 Car Repair
--------
$805

These are all under the Misc. category which I usually budget something like $150 for.

The rest would be covered under short-term savings (birthdays, car repairs and such) but it seems like I have been pulling more out than I have been putting in lately.

All this would be fine, for one month, but I have some potential, very unexpected, dental bills for BM. Ugh!

So I am feeling the pinch this month.

I was really looking forward to saving $200 this month - portion of preschool savings. But I have decided to put that savings off one more month. For Kindergarten start up costs. (I did divert $100/month to the short-term fund for this kind of stuff, so will be prepared next year. Just not prepared coming immediately off pricey preschool/daycare).

I keep telling myself that the extra $3600/year will help. I just have to give it some time to build. (No plans but to save it all).

Also, I am eyeing the medical deductible fund, as far as dental expenses, to ease my financial stress level. Our HMO is terribly slow to bill, and though I am quite sure we will hit our full deductible (murphy's law of course), it isn't set in stone. There may be some extra cash there. In the meantime there is plenty of float. The $1k cash I have should cover the dental.

These are the budget gymnastics I am going through to make July work.

Dh's extra money has helped much though. I don't want to rely on it, but it helps in a crazy month like this.

Extra money to the ROTHs? Yeesh. One of these days...

This was, thankfully, an extraordinarily spendy month. Not the norm! It just feels a little overwhelming.

I am ready for a slow/calm spend month. Here's to August.

Financial Abundance

June 12th, 2008 at 02:23 pm

Financial Abundance is very relative.

I don't feel financially abundant because I haven't crossed all my "i"s or dotted all my "t"s. Too many expenses in the near horizon.

Likewise, we've had much more financial abundance, in the past. So I feel broke compared to where we were before kids. VERY broke.

As we approach $20k cash in the bank, 10% to retirement, and $5500 monthly take home, we are getting back to more of the higher level we attained in our early 20s.

It's probably a unique situation at 30 to feel like I am catching up to the abundance I had at 25. & it is certainly not a bad thing to be there again, so young.

Well, close enough I can taste it.

Plus a spouse who is more employable by the day (daycare is going down in price by the minute anyway, and we are no longer the sleepless zombie parents of newborns, so have more to work with). I guess it feel extra abundant to get there on one income. We were there so young because we had 2 incomes.

Anyway, we expect $1800 from the government this month (stimulus).

I expect $2k for the kids on their birthday, probably a bit more.

I know that money is not ours, but it is certainly $2k less *I* have to worry about, as far as their future.

Likewise, I know I will feel $4k richer in just a couple of months, with both of those.

We are also cleaning out the house and back on track with ebay and Craigslist listings.

Money to date: $20.

Slow going, but going. We expect hundreds in the next month or so.

Dh committed to selling his old projector AGAIN. (At this point I am happy with $100. Cash is cash. PArt of the deal when he bought a new one in 2005 was he would sell the old one in the realm of $500. Right now he is asking $300 or something, but he has asked $300 before. I am pushing him to list it at $200 and am peeved. He's listed it a couple of time too high, and at this point I'll take anything).

We'll probably have a TIVO to sell for an easy $100+. We'll see how our new system works first. (New internet and satellite, TODAY).

The expensive part of this completely unforeseen circumstance (mom & pop cable company bought out by Comcast) is that the 2 services will overlap for a time. Need a few days to change over our e-mail and see if we are happy with the system(s). Dh also informed me we need to shell out $50 for a modem. (No doubt financed by sale of TIVO - not compatible with satellite or something - don't ask me). I canceled my June payment to mom&pop/comcast. It was due next week and set up in my online bill pay. Once we are certain (hopefully by Monday) this is the change we want dh will call our old company and ask for a pro-rated June bill. I thought I had paid June, so glad we hadn't, and we have more traction to negotiate. I don't want to pay 2 "cable" companies for June.

Likewise, they already started dropping some of our channels, so we are eager to change, and complain about our bill.

I expect to make $200 with my final MLM sales and an ebay listing to clear out my inventory.

We have 3 strollers to sell (Easy $20 each) and stuff like that.

So it feels like a financially abundant time.

Oh yes, and the fact that my last LARGE payment to preschool was cashed last week. I think that is most of it. What a LOAD off.

I am still stressed about our mid-term savings. Looking at the house, thinking the house needs some paint and the fence needs to be replaced. Dh's car is not getting any younger. But other than a strong need/urge to bulk up that part of our savings, life is good. Better than it has been the year before, or the year before that, etc.

With a child out of preschool I have a good $3k/year to commit to that today, that I didn't yesterday. Makes a big difference.

------

On the flip side, the doom and gloom in the news is getting to me. I don't know why more today than yesterday, but it really is.

I think I was feeling like things are going pretty good for us.

So I have been feeling rather generous.

In good times, we are quite content to volunteer as hobbies. I like to volunteer at the library and with wildlife rehab. Dh volunteers at the public TV station. We pat ourselves on the back for doing good for others.

I still think it's all good stuff, and they probably hurt more for volunteers in rough times. So I *get* that. IT all helps.

But yet, in times like this it just doesn't seem like enough. The animal shelters are completely over run and the food banks are drowning. So I think we will commit to give a little more to these organizations in the upcoming months. I am eyeing the profits on our Craigslist/ebay sales, and will see what we can do.

IT's very unlike me. We grew up not giving CASH to ORGANIZATIONS. My parents would give you the shirts off their backs, but I don't think they have hardly given to charity. Their frugalness precludes giving away hard-earned cash. They aren't even much for volunteer work either. Which always surprised me most personal finance books recommend giving 10% income away. My parents would flip at that idea. They have generated plenty of good karma without giving away cash. So that is where I come from. I see you don't need to rain cash on other people to do well. (Though my parents would be more likely to give cash to friends or relatives who needed it, then a faceless organization, which is the other part of it).

They are just very giving people, so I have always been able to reconcile this in my head. You don't need to give cash to organizations to be a giving person.

Likewise, it is a bit of a struggle for me to put my financial health behind giving a little more. I feel like I am very close to a goal and I would probably be better off to get there first. That's my parent's voices in my head.

We usually give most of our money at Christmas. What little we do.

But I am feeling strongly like we should really make an effort to give a little more before the giving season.

I may regret it down the road, but for now I feel like I should share some financial abundance.

I admit it is a nice feeling.

& yeah, I think the food banks will top our lists for a while. We usually donate to animal shelters (still top the list in these times - yikes), Red Cross, and a few other things that are near and dear to me, but not so needy as the food and shelter seems to be for animals and humans around here lately... So I think we will shift our giving a bit. We'll still contribute to those near and dear come Christmas. But adding the food banks and extra donations to the animal shelters. Just feels like the right thing to do.

In this economy, I might as well be a millionaire. We feel one in a million talking to a lot of our friends lately.

& I attribute much of it to our anti-debt philosophy. So far we are weathering the storm well enough.

Maybe it is harder to feel generous when everyone has way more bling than you.

I admit it feels very different of late. Our abundance becomes more and more apparent as more and more houses go into foreclosure around us. & more and more people trade in their SUVs for bicycles. So it just feels very different.

We're used to living on a very low income compared to those around us. Also. Which is why it's easy to lose sight of our own abundances. I know a casual peruser of my blog won't realize that we live on an income that qualifies us for aid, locally. It's not a lot for living in California. Though it gets really relative real fast. If you bought a home, paid for, in the 70s, and you have a pension, you can live pretty lean ($
$20k/year?). If you had to buy a house at the peak, well $100k income won't get you very far.

IT gets so relative though, for now I KNOW we have an abundance of food and shelter. That's all that matters. IF I am not worried how to feed my family, I have something to give to a family that is worried. It should really be that simple. I just haven't seen so many hungry people before... I can't say I have seen any in my adult life. Not in my own backyard.

Which I hesitate to say. I live in the city - I have seen PLENTY of hungry people. But I guess seeing so many acquaintances worrying about how to buy their basic bills, is REALLY freaking me out. What I mean when I say I have never seen so many hungry people in my own backyard. Yikes.

Cable/Gas/Gloom/Shopping

June 7th, 2008 at 01:50 pm

Well, it is official, Comcast bought up our mom & pop cable company.

We will grieve on that for a while.

They are offering a deal of the same price as we have been paying, for their most premium package, for one year. Considering it as a means to test them out. Also will the most seamless, probably. Dh said the premium package doubles to about $150/month in a year. I worried aloud about this and dh said, "Are you crazy? I would NEVER pay $150/month for cable. Especially if I was working too. When would I have time to enjoy?"

But, for now they also have a cable/internet/phone package that is mirrors what we already have in both price and channels. So for now I don't expect a budget change. We'll probably enjoy the premium stuff and switch to the big package deal in a year.

Phew!!

I unfortunately expect their prices to rise instead of drop (our cable prices have dropped in the 6 years we have lived here and gone with mom/pop).

We also don't expect near the customer service. Frown

I guess it reminds me though, that his TV obsession has exploded with many hours home alone. He has a point, and this is one area where he usually has little common sense. So I am glad he is displaying major common sense in this regard.

-----------

Gas. I had a wonderful long gas post and I couldn't post it. Was it perhaps a sign? I figured it would spark controversy. But trying to summarize:

I was looking at gas articles when I saw gas had topped $4.50 on Wednesday, and came across the West Coast average gas price for the last 15 years or so, every June 4.

Anyway, the last time we REALLY felt the gas pinch was 2003. It was then that gas had doubled just about from the year before. I remember in particular because I was on maternity leave and glad I had nowhere to drive.

I remember my 2005 maternity leave being the same story.

As I looked at the data in this article, gas was largely $1/gallon until 2003 when it topped $2.

This was also when we went down to one-income so we REALLY felt the pinch.

Looking at the numbers, gas has spiked 40% about every other year since that point. This year has not even reached 40% yet. But of course as the numbers rise, smaller percentages are felt more strongly. Of course.

Anyway, in 2005 I couldn't justify driving home at lunch any more. That had always been my luxury. So 2005 with another 40% increase, we dropped that luxury.

I remember dh and I feeling the pinch and everyone we know buying SUVs.

Anyway, so in 2006 I set my gas budget at $300. I was quite certain gas would go up a solid 40% again.

So anyway, reminded me someone seemed all amazed I made my gas budget in April. Which just bugs me. Where is the rocket science here? Gas has been spiraling out of control for years. I try to plan accordingly.

Believe me, we are trying to drive less. We are parking the van. We are considering staying in instead of all the road trips we wanted to do this summer.

But believe me, you don't have to be rich to see gas prices rising and to prepare accordingly. I think people have taken my blase-ness about gas prices as an attitude of one rich.

Ah, I wish. It's an attitude of one prepared. I am not surprised in the least. My budget gas allowed for it.

I am considering that I will probably have to "up" my gas budget for 2009. Maybe to $350 from $300, to be well covered. BUT this year's $300 is well more than plenty to cover a commute that costs about $80 monthly with current gas prices. The rest is gravy and driving is one of our main luxuries.

I guess mostly my point is I set my gas budget very high in 2006. & I haven't changed it since. It will suffice this year.

I am at a loss why so many people on this board are so confuzzled by gas prices. Usually I identify more with this board, but I guess I feel odd woman out. I can't believe I am the only one who saw this coming a mile away???

& don't get my wrong. I totally understand that people are just reaching a tipping point. I am just surprised so many frugal people on a board like this are reaching their tipping points so fast. To me all I see is a long established pattern being continued. Thus where as mostly I see a lot of panic in the masses, I wonder what's new.

I admit though, even with all this said, we are feeling gas pinch. As I said the last time we felt so pinched was when it topped $2. IT changed our lifestyle dramatically. & I sense as gas tops $4 our lifestyle will change quite a bit. It is a bummer that one of our biggest luxuries is our cars. We just love the freedom to drive any time/ any where. But as prices rise, it is a luxury that is harder to justify.

It's also more maddening than usual to live in an area with such subpar mas transit (both expensive and not terribly useful). I would gladly commute to work or take the train to visit family, to have more weekend gas budget. BUT there just isn't much out there. The train, for one, costs like 5 times what it does to fill up the gas tank for a round trip. So much for that...

Anyway, last time gas prices jumped like this was the worst time for us financially. I guess this time around we are in a better spot, and more prepared. That is the jist of my feelings. It does make all the difference.

--------

But man, how about the news yesterday? Doom and gloom. I was depressed just looking at the news.

I read 1 in 4 homeowners in US has zedro or negative equity.

Seriously? Egads!!!!!

GAs prices up.

Dow down.

Unemployment, highest jump since the 70s?

Oh boy, you get the feeling the country is just about to implode.

-----------

Which also reminds me. I made an offhand comment about the economy to a client yesterday, and she laughed. "The economy?" she said. They had the highest revenue day, ever, last week. This is our most successful client. Mostly doctors. But this one specializes in cosmetic procedures. So, yeah, the rich are still getting their laser treatments and botox. That is for sure.

This bodes very well for my job. Wink

We have 2 young doctors in this area and believe me, they make bank. Where as most of our doctors net around $100k-$500k, after expenses but before taxes,they net millions. I have never seen 2 people who have so much more money than they even know what to do with it. IT's insane, and their businesses are booming. That is my glimpse into the economy. As we get further in the year, we'll see how much the economy is affecting the rest of our clients. I expect expenses up with gas prices, but revenues rather the same since the insurance companies rule. We'll see...

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Well, I have been busily shopping.

Bought 2 camping chairs, and 3 sleeping bags (thank you amazon.com).

Today I need to buy some new shoes - will order from zappos.com. My workout shoes are dead/old/useless. I have waited too long to replace (as usual - a terrible habit I have).

---------

Dh has been applying for a few side income jobs. He hadn't exactly told me but perusing our shared e-mail I saw lots of correspondence re: video jobs. Many of them paid. Which is actually quite odd because usually there isn't much out there with paid offers. I can't help but wonder if he just saw the ads and responded, not necessarily thinking of looking for paid work but spotting the ads all the same.

I will keep my fingers crossed. !!

He has applied for many jobs, and not gotten anywhere, the last 7 years or so. I mean hell, McDonalds won't hire him. I have NO IDEA what is up with that. We ventured he was over-qualified and kind of gave up. I have posted in the past that we both scooped up jobs like that in the fistfuls when we were in college. But an old guy with a degree? You don't just get those jobs I guess. (Old meaning mid 20s with a degree). I told dh to drop his education on his resume. Seriously. For a McDs job? Whatevah.

Anyway, these jobs were second video camera on wedding videos, for good money. He is certainly well qualified. & also some independent film productions with paid positions. His experience may warrant pay.

We shall see.

At this point I would love to hoarde some cash for work around the house. I think he is motivated to buy toys. Wink We'll find some middle ground. I don't mind that if it motivates him to bring cash. But we have to be realistic too - a large chunk has to go to household and savings.

In the interim we have some catching up to do. In the more long-term, a little extra cash can go a long way to funding retirement.

Anyway, for the first time since having kids dh has some actual TIME to devote to work. & it hasn't been that long that the kids have been sleeping well too. The playing field has completely changed, and you don't know how happy I am to see dh making an attempt at some cash. On one hand I think, "It's about time!" On the other hand I know that times have not been so great the last few years - the kids have kept us insanely busy. Even I find a large amount of time that wasn't there before. & I imagine this is rather new to dh as well.

Likewise, it is nice to see dh applying for way better paying, and yet more realistically achievable, jobs.

A mere $100/month could make a huge difference in our finances/savings.

Well, we'll see!!!

------

Oh yeah, beyond all that I noticed a small flood in our backyard yesterday. IT looks like something completely chewed through the flower bed irrigation tubing. I looked at it rather dumbfounded. You wonder if the gardener had been careless, and whacked it with a saw or something, until you see it is completely gnawed through. We had some mouse problems last year. I have no idea what else would gnaw through it. I have to investigate the front yard today. I am confident dh will be able to patch it together with a trip to the hardware store. & I am mostly relieved it seems to be only that one spot. But you got me at a loss there.

Ugh!

We also had no idea one of our trees is fruit bearing. ???? My best guess is purple plum (from web searching). We've had the tree a few years and never noticed fruit until yesterday (& lots of it!). It doesn't appear to be edible to humans. Bummer. I remember when we were house hunting seeing a large yard covered in purple bird droppings from some sort of dark purple fruit. These aren't quite so dark, but it does have me worried. !!!!!!!! Especially if you knew the number the birds have done in the past with their white droppings. I think the only real money we have put to our house to date is bird proofing. Seriously. Thank goodness, before our house and yard was to be covered in purple poop. Wink

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

This weekend:

1 - Clean up the house

2 - Put some stuff up on ebay/craigslist. I have been WAY lazy on both fronts. I probably have an easy couple of hundred dollars to be had if I list some things this weekend. Maybe more.

I feel behind...







$75 Gas Fill Up

June 5th, 2008 at 01:48 pm

Oh my!!!!!

Well, to be fair, I had run it fairly long on empty (was almost 18 gallons as opposed to the usual 16 gallon full up).

But dh filled it up for me and came home and told me, "I don't know if it's full. It stopped at $75." I had to digest that for a bit. It seemed when I bought the van 2 years ago, fill ups were $45.

$75? Huh????????????

I at least assured him it was full. I had only driven it 20 miles on empty and that was a record fill-up. But probably coincidentally the same amount they cap off at.

When he told me it was for 18 gallons, that made a little more sense. But still. WOW!

That was with our wonderful grocery discount. The grocery chains have been great on staying ahead of the gas curve, but times seem to be changing. I passed a Valero that was a good few cents cheaper the other day. I would have filled up there if I had been in the correct lane to turn in. It's close enough to my work that I may frequent that one a bit more. In the past the grocery stores have won hands down. Just have to keep an eye on things. It changes with the wind. No comfort zone. Which is probably much of the shock here. I think the grocery stores absorbed the price spikes for a while, in an effort to gain loyal customers. I was actually quite shocked to see a cheaper Valero because I had gotten accustomed to the grocery gas being so much cheaper.

In the meantime we have a secret weapon. We primarily need one car and the other one last cost $35 to fill up. It will go the same distance on $35 that mine does on $75. Needless to say I am taking to driving dh's car MUCH more these days. IT is ridiculous to commute in the van and ridiculous to go on long trips with it. It's pretty much rendered useless, though fine for around town trips with the kids. It may come in handy for field trips and such. I don't know.

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

Which leads me to our car conundrum. I admit I didn't do my research. I glanced at the 22/25mpg EPA estimates and didn't think much about it when we bought it in 2006.

My cars have always gotten 30mpg+.

Shortly after we bought I did start to regret it. I hadn't grasped what a difference the whole 10mpg made. Likewise, I am not sure I have ever gotten 22 or 25 mpg in the van. It's much worse.

Dh is so sick of me driving his car, he told me a while back and I could just sell the van for a convertible. "Whatever!" he exclaims.

I have seen it many times mentioned that it doesn't make sense to trade in a gas guzzler that is already paid. ???? Why not? For us we got a pretty decent deal on the van and it has thus depreciated little. I would have no qualms selling it for a good $10k (looks doable. We paid closer to $12k, 3 years ago). & buying a much more reasonably priced car. My last car I paid in the realm of $1k and drove 3 years without a problem. The only reason we dropped it is we always considered it an interim car until we could afford a newer minivan. So I know I could get a pretty sweet car in the $5k range. Or $10k. Or $1k. I don't know what I would do.

I've had the "newer" minivan for 2 years and I have not much good to say about it. It is very luxurious and comfortable. That's about all it has going for it.

On an annual basis it has far more repairs than any old beater I have ever owned. The insurance is expensive. Etc., etc. So as I reached that point where I could buy more luxury, I quickly wonder why I bothered. All the reasons I loved extremely used cars are suddenly very magnified.

Dh is on board with me. We could slash our gas bills significantly and buy a less expensive car to boot. I am not sure why the general advice is to stick it out. Certainly makes no sense in our situation. Maybe it makes sense if you have a large car note. But even if you bought a new car and you ate that depreciation, I still don't agree it is your best bet to stick it out. I guess that assumes though you only buy new cars.

Having no car note and being open to a very used car means innumerable options and freedoms. Phew.

The conundrum for me is that the little compact Japanese cars are VERY tempting. I admit I am love with the mpg in dh's car but probably don't want to commit to a car that small. It personally makes me uncomfortable. But he will drive nothing bigger than a Civic. I learned to drive in a "boat" of sorts. Which is why I am stuck with the big car though it makes little sense.

We try to think how often we really need the van and what if we just rented in those instances instead. Lord knows we could live without it, easily.

We go round and round on it.

The thing is when I look at some of the more mid-size cars that would have the same advantages (more room, etc.), the gas mileage really isn't that much better.

So if I am not willing to commit to a small commuter, then there really is no point to make the jump.

In the meantime I think we will take to driving the subcompact and leaving the van for when a second vehicle is necessary. We are certainly changing our mindset. We will pretend much more that we only have once car. We've kind of gone halfway whereas on the days dh doesn't go anywhere I tend to take his car. But I think we are expanding it to on the days that we both go somewhere, the longer driver gets the subcompact.

I also don't think we can afford to drive the van on long trips anymore. The drive to LA went really well in the subcompact, so I am fine with that. We had always wanted a van and made the jump when LM was born. The whole big bulky car seat thing was not working in dh's car, whereas before that I had little issue with the car. Now that the kids are outgrowing the big bulky carseats, well, the subcompact isn't so bad.

But then you get back to square one. If the van is too expensive to drive, why keep it?

Should we just admit that we no longer see the point in having a roomy vehicle? Probably...

I think we will re-evaluate in the winter, when gas prices settle down. Dh thinks that will be a better time to sell it. He may have a point.

I am sure I can do much more research on a roomier mid-size with good gas mileage. I am sure there is much out there. Something like an older Camry may be more our speed.

---------

But, um yeah, I was quite vocal that I thought it was premature to panic about gas prices a few months ago. Even last month. For us, prices have gone up 50 cents in about 3 weeks. & I have to say I am feeling the pinch now. Egads! I don't expect it to affect our budget much. But it will affect our driving habits, that is for sure. & I admit I could be naive in thinking it won't affect our budget much...

Chomping at the bit to SPEND money.../Scary Tales of GIANT mortgages

June 2nd, 2008 at 12:54 am

Well, May was an insane spendy month and june should be rather calm (knock on wood).

Credit card closes Tuesday and I count all the purchases until then to May. All the purchases will have to be squeezed into my June paychecks. Not much more room...

So we are fine with the 2 more no-spend days ahead.

BUT our camping trip is fast approaching and we need to purchase some supplies.

WE tend to approach things slowly. Whereas some people might buy an aresenal of camping equipment on a charge card (newbie camper) we figured we would start with a cabin and prepared meals. Our cabin has electricity too.

So it means all we really need is sleeping bags. Even that is questionable as it won't be very cold. Some warm clothes and blankets will probably do.

I was thinking of bringing my yoga/exercise mats for the kids to sleep on, on the floor. Cots provided, but it will be tight and the kids still roll out of bed too much. I am thinking with a little cushion they will be fine on the ground.

I found some decent sleeping bag deals on amazon today, with free shipping. I am very pleased.

Dh has some old sleeping bag I am wary of. I would prefer to buy a new one myself. For him he has a very nice cold weather one.

I still haven't found one - but I'll keep my eye out.

I just saved a bunch of stuff to my shopping cart. Will buy Wednesday...

I found a nice folding chair at a decent price but will shop around a bit.

I found some decent/cheap lamps, though we may have enough flashlights around, for this trip. No lamps needed with the electricity, though would be a good purchase for the long run.

I think if the trip goes well we will buy a tent next year. we may stock up on more cookware and that kind of stuff in the future. As we slowly build a camping arsenal.

The best is today grandma slipped us $60 for gas. Completely unexpected. That will pay for the kids' sleeping bags and a couple of lamps, if we go with that.

I have been wanting a travel chair for a while, so may fund it from my allowance. Not sure if dh wants one too. I should probably shop around a bit more as well.

We have been trying out the cheapies but they are REALLY uncomfortable. So not worth it. The one I found was $40 but had nothing but good reviews.

Thinking on it.

I will peruse Craigslist for all this stuff before I make any final purchases.

I also need new workout shoes (put it off to purchase after Disneyland. Boy my shoes are trashed after that). I think I found some at zappos.com. I LOVE the site with the detailed reviews and abundance of wide shoes. I have been shopping around the local stores and GIVE UP. Will probably spend $50 on a nice pair of shoes. Haven't replaced them in a couple of years, so it is time.

Finally, California has a new law in one month - no more cell phone use in the car without headsets.

Dh bought me one for my birthday but it sucks.

So I was perusing a bit. I think I will ask dh to do some research there. I want something a little more comfortable, and that I can hear.

June may be a little spendy but the $60 from nowhere helps immensely.

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

Which reminds me, I was cleaning up a bit and found a note that our estate lawyer (or family friend, I should say) had moved.

I was going to be nosy and zillow it but had never gotten around to it.

Until today!

Oh my!!!

From being nosy I gathered that they sold their 1500-square-foot home on 1/10 acre for $600k (little more than they paid in 2004).

& they purchased a 2000sf home a good ways out, for $800k. Lot size is twice as big, which is actually a good size for the region.

WOW!

Did I mention how old they are? Like 28?

As usual this stuff just leaves me dumbstruck.

Obviously I wouldn't have a clue how they can afford a home like this. Though I give them points for moving further out and scoring both land and square footage.

Dh's sister paid about that much for a 1200-square-foot, OLD house.

This is our experience with our friends back home. We just scratch our heads. Color us LOST.

On the flip side, I ran to an old college friend at a seminar quite a few months back. She kept asking when/if I may move back to the Bay. (As did dh's friend who lived in like a million-dollar house. You are like - "Hello!!??!!").

Anyway, I have mentioned the extreme shortage of qualified staff in CPA firms, and therefore the huge incentive to bring in qualified people. My last firm offered a $10k bonus if you recruited someone, and that was before it got really bad. (Probably a better chance of winning the lottery then finding someone qualified who would want to work at that job).

But anyway, she started courting me for her firm and seemed very confused when I made it clear we weren't moving back anytime soon. "Why wouldn't we move back?" she asks. I say, "Um, because we can not afford to live here."

She then tells me (she has to be at least 30), oh, well she was still living at home with her parents.

She was apparently clueless how maybe it was a bit too expensive for a young family to stay in the area. Though obviously she was choosing to live with her parents for some reason.

That is pretty much the gist of my experience. Either own a home for $700k+ or live with the 'rents.

& then look at us all weird like why would we ever move????????

Is it just me, or is this some major, insane bizarro world? Wink

I know, I know, it's just the usual. My jaw STILL to this day hits the floor every time I found out a relative or friend paid $500k+ for a HOUSE. You think the shock would wear off at some point.

I have a childhood friend who rents in San Francisco and makes about what I do. She is the only one I understand on some financial level. Her rent is probably bigger than my mortgage. But she doesn't have a family to support either. We do sit around and wonder how the hell our friends are affording these real estate monstrosities, in their 20s. We assume they are in WAY over their heads while we HOPE they have come into some money from family or something. I really haven't a clue...









In a Bloggy Mood

May 28th, 2008 at 07:56 pm

Yikes. Guess I am in a bloggy mood today...



I whipped up some muffins at some point over the weekend, and had forgotten the leftovers. So grabbed them for breakfast this morning.

I probably already blogged this in the past, but I just LOVE that jiffy hasn't change the look of its packaging, like ever. For it's blueberry muffin mix.

Love the quick/simple treat. But have blogged often how I am sick of going to the store and trying to find plain pepsi in a sea of 50 different kinds of pepsi, and same for the toothpaste, etc. I go mad.

So kudos to Jiffy for keeping it simple. Some of us like it like that. Big Grin

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

I also had another topic to write on.

Being in California has been interesting since we were in the thick of the tech bubble, when we lived in San Jose, and now we live in the thick of the housing bubble, in Sacramento.

But interestingly, I had some thoughts that I don't see mentioned much in the media.

The tech bubble probably would have ended much worse, but people started dipping into their homes, much to survive. Sure, I have seen more than my fair share of excess when it comes to home equity. But the reason a lot of people started borrowing way over their head was because of the tech bubble burst. I can hardly think of a family I know that didn't face lay offs in 2002-2004. Significant, long layoffs. Even up here in Sacramento. My dad has never been laid off more than like a month in his life and he was out of work well over a year. We figured much of that had to do with age, but employment opportunities have been booming for him the last year or 2. So it seems it was more economy than anything.

So to be fair, a lot of people around here started digging into their homes, merely to stay afloat.

I was thinking about this since quite a few friends are starting to face layoffs, and lament they have barely recovered from the last round.

& so I do have to sympathize.

I was googling the subject a bit and didn't see much. California stastics showed 7% unemployment level at the peak. Today we are already wooshing past 6%.

IT's all a little deja vu.

I think this makes this forecasted recession much scarier. I am not sure how people will get through this round. The debt solution is pretty much gone.

I don't know.

I am surprised there is not a lot more observation about this though, in the media and in other blogs, etc.

OF course, "significant" and "long" are relative terms when it comes to layoffs. I Was perusing California unemployment data and it hit 10% for much of the 70s and 80s.

Ouch.

So anyway, I am back to, "Who couldn't see this coming?" Who could live in this area and not see this mess unfolding?

I guess a lot of people!

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

That kind of reminds me I haven't seen gas up past $3.99, like gas stations were hesitant to raise above $4. Well today as I drove to preschool I noted $4.10 gas and $4.15 gas at the cheapie gas stations.

WOW!

I can only imagine what the Chevron on the corner here has gone up to. I'll have to look when I leave work tonight. IT had been holding steady at $3.99, prior.

& this reminds me, when all the gas hype started, I think where I Was with the housing bubble. "Who couldn't see this coming?"

Or maybe I just feel behind the times. Gas has taken quite a chunk out of our budget in recent years. I think we felt the pinch much stronger earlier in our one-income years (it had risen more percentage-wise in the years I had my children). So I found this all rather predictable, felt we were nowhere near the worst, and was unsure why the sudden panic. Though obviously we have reached a tipping point for the masses; I reached my personal tipping point LONG ago. PRobably what it mostly comes down to.

But I do admit that today my jaw dropped when I saw Arco for $4.10. Knew it was coming, but egads.

Likewise, I feel much the same about healthcare. Everyone is freaking out, and I wonder where the hell they have been. Where was the panic when rates increased 300% in a few short years? Not that they have for everyone. But in 2003 it was in the ballpark of $200/month to have full insurance coverage and small co-pays, for us. Now we pay $800/month for the privelege of giant copays and less coverage.

I feel like I should have invested in healthcare stock the last decade, and not be so proud of our efforts to keep housing costs down. For the short term, housing is decreasing greatly, and I am not sure how long until our healthcare costs more than our mortgage. Ouch! The interest on our mortgage is $1k monthly, so it's getting pretty close. At least the principal on our mortgage is a return on capital. But it makes our healthcare look that much more astronomical to look at it that way.

Anyway, with all this running in my head I am not sure what it is. I think just being a major planner and forward thinker means I panicked long ago about all of this stuff and have had time to adjust. It's all I can figure...

Every time I pick up the paper, all I Can think is, "Old News..."

Gas prices are insane and the healthcare system is bankrupting families. Well, where have you all been? I've been here for a while.

Maybe I should start making predictions of the economy. Hmmm... Though I have nothing to predict for now. Healthcare is the thorn in my side, for now. But I'll give you a heads up if I find a new thorn. Wink

Actually, I just thought of it. Income taxes on the elderly. You'll be hearing a LOT more about that in 5 years. I'll be yawning at the headlines, as usual.

(I do need to do a post on that - I really do. I guess I have a fair amount of insider info - preparing taxes and all).

Oh I can assure you the next thorn in all of our sides will be taxes, taxes, taxes. Maybe I should start blogging about that. Seriously.

But back to gas, yeah. I used to drive home every day for lunch. Every single day. I stopped in 2006 because gas prices had just gotten so out of control. So 2006 was a bad gas year for our family (well years like 2002-2006 slowly creeped up to that point). It's just something I Could probably never justify again. I miss that luxury. I just held out until my youngest weaned from breastfeeding. Probably would have cut back on the gas sooner, otherwise.

For now we budget $300/month for gas which gives us quite a bit of wiggle room. We can stretch it farther by driving the van less and the compact more. So that gives us lots of wiggle room. When our gas bills regularly exceeds $300/month is probably our next tipping point. At this rate it is not terribly far away, but I have already made the major sacrifices for gas prices, a couple of years ago... SO for that, it is old news to me. Our next step would maybe be selling the van (far more gas guzzler than I ever imagined) and/or carpooling more. Driving to see family less, etc. Just not there yet. Phew. Though I find those all to be rather small sacrifices except for the big one - less affordable to see our family. That is what I dread, and is already affecting our driving decisions...

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

Well, in other news, dh and I are planning an elaborate date. Oooohh la la.

I got an e-mail about a comedy show coming to a small theater in the city. I have a friend who was in some productions, but haven't talked to her in a while, so wondered if she was involved. Anyway, I mentioned to dh that it looked interesting, and he said he had wanted to go see it - his friend was the Director.

Well, lah de dah.

The tickets will be $25 for the 2 of us, so really quite a splurge for us.

Plus the daycare.

I am a little uneasy since it is only on Fri/Sat night, on the later side. Kids stay up late, so no biggie, but we have been taking advantage of the drop-in care at slow times. So it will be a test to drop them off on a busy night. BM is fine, but LM much more timid. He needs more one-on-one care. But he does good with his brother. We'll see. Not sure it's any preferable to see out a babysitter we don't really know. They love the place at least.

I guess this will turn into a true test of our "freedom." The ability to drop the kids off and go out on a Fri/Sat night sounds absolutely divine. A luxury long ago forgotten...

I think with BM we have reached "freedom." I still worry about LM a bit too much...

Of course, I thought while we were downtown, what we really needed to do was to dine at our favorite upscale Indian restuarant. We rarely go because of the prices, but the food can not be beat.

The night will easily be $100, probably more. With show, daycare and food. But I think it will be a nice splurge.

Well we haven't picked a date for our date yet. Sometime in June. I do look foreard to that.
















Back From Disney

May 18th, 2008 at 03:49 pm

Well, I will try not to make a post 10-miles long. Big Grin

We just got back from our week-long vacation to Disney, last night. & I am rather pleased with how it went. We had a really great time, and it didn't break the bank at all. Woohoo. Total cost $1111. The in-laws gave me $150 before we left and we are expecting $250 cash back from our credit card in a couple of weeks, so this will lower our out-of-pocket to about $700. Not half bad?

Particularly since we generally do Disney as a weekend thing (we live close enough). It's usually not a big expensive week-long thing for us. So this was a very unique trip for us. I wanted to really take our time driving and spend more than one day at Disney, etc. I don't think we'll go to Disneyland for a week again, for a VERY long time, if ever. So, it was just different.



*Other - this category was for souvenirs and unforeseen things. $40 was for valet parking at our hotel (blech - totally unexpected, and annoying). $27 was for stroller rentals - 3 days(rather expected). $20 on souvenirs and $20 for Lego Sets from Lego Land (cheaper than we had seen retail so picked some up).

*Gas - Gas wasn't bad. Prices here have been $3.65 - $3.99 (depending on coupons and brand). We only got stuck paying more ($4.08) on the last leg of our trip. So we only filled up half tank, which we estimated, and was, exactly enough to get home. We filled up for $3.77 when we got home (Safeway, with discount). We paid $3.99 somewhere on the way down (prices seemed cheaper last Monday on the way down). We found $3.83 near our hotel, though we actually found some $3.75 gas after we had filled up twice. Right in front of Disney where we thought it would have been more expensive. But that is where we saw $3.75 gas when we drove past on our last day. Figured. We had already filled up for the drive home, when we saw it.

So we drive about 1200 miles total for $106. Not bad (sure beat flying) and dh's car did get awfully close to 40mpg most of the trip. Freeway. We didn't see much traffic all week, except it was horrid on our way out Saturday morning (no idea why). So we got some pretty decent gas mileage most of the trip.

I know many acquaintances thought it was horrible not only we drove, but we took the subcompact. But man, the 6 hour drive was really nothing. I have driven to Kansas too many times (family there) to sweat a 6-hour drive. Dh fashioned a makeshift TV with his DS2 so the kids did watch some shows on the way (maybe an hour each way). The thing that shocked us was they did not sleep either way, at all. Figures. They were okay considering the close quarters and everything though. Though LM did have the great meltdown of 2008 shortly after we got out of LA yesterday. Egads. He seemed to be a little under the weather all week, so poor guy. But after that he was pretty pleasant the rest of the 6 hours. Phew.

Disneyland - I was going to buy tickets online for a $6 discount, but the $3 service fee and the whole "will call" thing (couldn't print them out) annoyed me. We figured we'd just buy tickets there. Which did work our since the first day there was no line for tickets.

Legoland, I was going to buy online as well, but saw we would get a $10 pr ticket discount with AAA if we bought in person there. So we just bought there as well.

LM was free everywhere, since he is not quite 3 yet.

Our hotel was 1 mile from the park so we decided to walk it the first day (it seemed closer once we got there. though we noted the hotel was next to Motel 6 - will consider Motel 6 next time - great location - probably an expensive Motel 6). Our hotel was completely free (relative's timeshare) except for the mandatory valet parking. We didn't have full kitchen, but was 2 rooms, microwave, fridge, etc.

We were nervous when we got there but put the kids together on the pull-out couch bed, and they did great. (I think they were too exhausted every night to do little more than sleep. We were worried they'd play too much, or disturb each other).

We also brought lots of food and stocked up on juice and milk once we got there. The breakfast was right across from our room and had long hours, so probably would have sufficed. We ate much more breakfast there than we had planned/expected.

Anyway, day 1 we walked to D-Land and we probably could have gone all day without a stroller, but LM really needed a nap and so we got one for him to nap in, late in the afternoon. I think dh carried him back to the hotel most of the way that night. The second day we went as long as we could without stroller (just a PITA) but we got one much earlier day 2. Friday we went to Legoland and picked one up when we got there. He was just fed up with walking by then. BM on the other hand, outgrew strollers long ago. I figured we would probably rent strollers all 3 days, and was pleased the rest of us could do just fine without the shuttle. The walk was not a big deal at all.

On our beach day we did not have to pay to park, so we didn't spend any money that day outside food and gas. LM walked that day since we didn't do so much walking.

Which leaves food! I just budgeted $100/day or so because food is always so insane. I know we could have easily spent less, but with some advanced planning we had saved a lot, and the second half of the week we ate rather well. So, really, no complaints.

We ate lunch in the parks 3 days and dinner out of the parks every night. Wasn't so sure we would swing the late dinners, but in the end it worked out well to walk over to the IHOP/Denny's outside the park and rest before our walk back to the hotel.

So, $367 was to feed us all for 6 full days. IT also included treating 2 friends to dinner one night. So, not bad.

Day 1 we packed a picnic lunch and ate at a rest stop. We stopped to visit dh's aunt for dinner, which worked out really well. They say it never rains in So Cal, but last time we drove down (September 2006?) it poured and it kicked up so much oil and grime from the road our car was just black. It was very memorable. So Monday we are driving into LA and it is sprinkling. We are just confused. What is up with the rain???? We stopped at the convent and had dinner with the nuns there - beautiful real estate - as I expected - nestled in the hills. Their dinner spread wasn't very big (I've had many lunches when I audited other religious organizations) and they did say lunch was generally bigger. So we had a light dinner and enjoyed walking around the grounds (though admittedly it was wet and cold). Lots of pretty flowers. We saw lots of poppies driving in and lots of trees with purple blooms. I have no idea what those are. I tried to remember if I had ever been to LA in the spring before. Probably not in many years - was just gorgeous.

So, anyway, this made day 1 a cheap eating day.

Days 2 & 3 we ate expensive lunches in the park and dinner right outside the park at IHOP/Denny's. Kids were free at IHOP I believe, though of course prices were inflated due to location.

We snuck in some trail mix and brought bottled water (from home - refilled with tap water) but it was so hot I bought a few cold waters and sodas. Particularly Friday. IT seems like the hotter it was the hungrier we were too. So bought more snacks on those days. That is where they REALLY gouge you though and we tried to keep it to a minimum. I kept cold sodas as the hotel too and we did not order any soda while out at. Though in the parks the water was so expensive I would just get soda because it cost the same anyway.

I think we got really sick of burgers and greasy food the first couple of days. Thursday we went to San Diego to the beach and we went to a placed called Panini's. I had looked up places ahead of time and was more upscale than I expected but the food was DIVINE.

For dinner that night we tried out a Thai place near our hotel and it was excellent. So we ate VERY well that day. We spent $95 on those 2 meals, but we met some friends for dinner and treated them, so it was more than just us.

Friday at Legoland we stumbled upon a wonderful restaurant. Lunch was $45, but was worth getting more than grease. Dh had stir fry and I stocked up at the salad bar (with potato salad and pasta, rolls, etc.). We also got a cake for dessert. Splurged a little. Was another great meal though.

For dinner that night we had Taco Bell and Dairy Queen for dessert ($12). Which really we could have done that every night and saved a lot. Was just nice to eat more than fast food. Though really IHOP and Denny's kind of fell short when we looked forward to some more homemade-like food. Just so greasy.

On the drive home we mostly went fast food.

& that sums up the nitty gritty of our trip.

I was really pleased how it panned out because Thursday we really needed a day of rest. Besides the drive to the beach, and dinner with friends, we did little that day. Had a chance to rest our feet.

Friday was the hottest day of the week (in the 90s in LA?) so was a great day to spend in LegoLand - much closer to the cooler shore. They also had a lot of great water rides. So was easy to keep cool.

So I don't think we could have planned it any better. D-Land closed at 8:00 the days we were there, but it was empty enough, we got a lot done. Though, last time I believe we went on a Saturday, and with the whole Fast Pass thing we found little advantage during the week. Most of the Fast Passes were closed which meant we waited in lines longer than we were accustomed to. Fast Pass wait is usually like 0 if you come back in an hour, and we waited in a lot of 15-minute to 1/2-hour lines. Though certainly no longer lines - I'll give you that. But we were a little disappointed at the amount of 1/2 hour lines we had to wait in. However, it was significantly less crowded than the last Friday we were there (particularly in the afternoon/evening) which was probably preferable with the kids. The BIG crowds would have been a lot harder to navigate. But my feelings were kind of mixed about the mid-week advantage. We have just gotten so accustomed to the Fast Pass thing - felt lost without it. I don't think we were able to use Fast Pass once. As a result, lines were longer than we have grown accustomed to. I guess the good thing is a weekend trip in the future doesn't sound so bad.

Oh yeah, in D-Land I thought I read that some restaurants had 10% AAA discount. But it was rather hit and miss. At one restaurant dh got food for him and the kids and when I went to get my food they wouldn't give me AAA discount. They had just given it to dh, but insisted it had been a mistake and they don't have AAA discounts. Of course, dh showed me his receipt and it said "-10% AAA." So we were rather frustrated. I still have no idea what the deal with that is. Do they take AAA or do they not? Maybe haven't updated the registers?

We also went to California Adventure for a few hours while at Disney, and we really liked the park. It was really great for the kids and we really enjoyed it (had heard mixed reviews before).

Legoland was perfect for the kids' age range. I don't know if we will ever get back there (if they will be too old for it next time) but we just had a blast there. It was a great little park. The water area was just perfect on such a hot day, and probably where we had the most fun.

One reason why we went was because unexpectedly, LM LOVED Disney World in the fall. He was feeling a little under the weather all week and I don't think he particularly enjoyed Disney this round. Which was a little disappointing. BUT CA Adventure had some great kiddie areas, and LegoLand was very much his speed. BM actually went on all the big rides at Disney. He has no fear, and LM was terrified of just about everything. I don't think they could have been more opposite, so we split up a lot. But dh and I took turns with the kids and got to go on most of the big rides, etc.

LM absolutely LOVED seeing all the characters in the park though. & there was certainly much he enjoyed.

We also happened to catch the Disney fireworks show on our drive home Friday night from dinner, so it worked out pretty good. LM would have been terrified if we were any closer, but we watched from the car and our hotel, and the kids loved it. Seemed a fitting finale for our trip.

& it certainly feels good to be home.

Today we are unpacking, laundry, grocery shopping.

Oh yes, we left the A/C on 86 for the cat (we just left it on downstairs). So when we got home last night it was 91 degrees upstairs, and took quite a while to cool down to 80. I can't imagine how hot it would have been without the A/C on down here. I am glad I thought ahead. Not sure I exactly expected this weather in May, but heard a heat wave was coming so thought ahead to leave the air on for the cat.

We have a cat, but we just left her plenty of food and water. Sometimes we talk about getting a dog, but eh. Cats are such low maintenance... Makes it easy to vacation. Though if we were gone any longer we'd have someone check in on her at least once.

Well, I guess I have to adjust back to reality now. Bummer!

Spendy May

May 7th, 2008 at 07:49 pm

Well, yes, I already said May would be spendy.

Just charged about $1k to the card (& it's only the 7th?). Almost $600 in medical bills (emergency room and hearing test for dh - most of it hearing test - as I mentioned before). Also paid $400 for the rest of our camping reservation. At least there should be no more money spent on that trip but gas. The food is included. I would have preferred to pay that in June, but they wanted the money this month. On the charge card made little difference when I charged it, this month. So just got that taken care of. The medical bills, I generally only have a week or 2 to pay them. I just waited so I could put it on the latest charge cycle possible - waited until after the 4th so it would be on May's bill.

We expect to charge around $1500 this month, for Disneyland. I guess we'll see how much we spend...

& so the spendy month begins.

May is kind of crazy.

But in July I will only pay 50% the usual preschool bill (& monthly going forward) and we will get our stimulus rebate.

So, yes, I look forward to July...

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

Oh yeah, and dh had $100 charge removed for 2007 lab bill. Way to go dh! I asked what the deal with it was and he said no one knows, that they are just idiots. So, we'll see. For now the word is we don't owe it. We'll see what the bills say. I don't always have the faith in one phone call clearing up stuff like this. Wink

Weekend Update

May 4th, 2008 at 02:30 pm

Um, okay. Did I ever mention my kids are weird? LOL. On Friday I was in the mood for a walk, and was also feeling ambitious. Thankfully, dh was up for it as well. I wanted to attempt a long walk to a new park, but dinner was running a little late and we got a late start. We realized we'd never make it. Probably a 30-45-minute walk one way. I was just happy to walk.

So on the way we were trying to cut through the school and I pointed out the track to the kids. The kids LOVE to run around in circles, so the sight of the track was like heaven on earth. At home they run round and round endlessly around the kitchen island. There are many bumped heads and encouragement to slow down, but running around in circles is like heaven on earth for them - we just let them do it. I am sure we are terrible parents, but I don't know - it's really hard to get them not to run around.

Anyway, so this whole giant loop was quite amazing to them. BM ran one lap in just under 3 minutes and was off on another one. LM has do to everything BM does so he also ran 2 laps.

BM couldn't be any happier and LM was yelling "This is awesome!!" the whole time. If only I had thought of it, should have brought them to the track ages ago. I told dh - well when they refuse to nap - I think you have a new "weapon." LOL. Run them ragged at the track.

I couldn't help but wonder if any casual observer would think we were insane. As BM insisted that we time his laps. I imagine the whole thing could look pretty bad - making our toddler run laps - LOL.

Anyway, BM insisted he wanted to run a mile last night. We went to the track (they mostly ran the entire way there and back as well) and they ended up doing 3 laps. I think they both did. BM's time had slowed a bit, and he really wanted to run a full mile. We told him he should probably work up to it a bit more. Mostly I was worried about LM trying to keep up with him. He was running 4.5 minute laps.

But I have the feeling we will make it back to the track tonight and let him run a mile.

Well, that is certainly cheap entertainment.

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

Dh and I were going to go to the movies last weekend but we never made it for various reasons.

We went yesterday and dropped off the kids at the drop-in care place. They told us rates go up tomorrow. They suck you in and then raise the rates. !! Up $1/hour.

We have been trying to swing 1 date a month, and they also have sent us a ton of coupons, so I think we'll survive.

Of course, if I think about it, it makes me cringe. 'Twas $40 for 2 hours without the kids. Yikes! They childcare was about $25, and we paid $15 at the movies. (Matinee).

On the flip side, it was absolutely amazing to drop off the kids and do something. Our parents are GREAT about giving us time alone, and their daycare will take them on occassion at night. But all of this takes great care and planning. & with our parents, a 2-hour drive. IT was so weird just to say, "let's go out" and drop off the kids.

I think we likey.

& the kids LOVE this place so they had a blast.

At that cost though it is a luxury we can afford no more than once a month. It was actually our April date which we hadn't gotten to with tax deadlines and all.

In May we have a date - a volunteer appreciation dinner - which is always fun.

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

I assumed gas would be more pricey in LA but in the paper there was a story on gas prices and gas is on average 2 cents a gallon cheaper there, than here. I think our best bet is not to fill up the tank in the middle of nowhere. Where the high prices will be. But that is good to know. That maybe gas won't be any worse there. Woohoo.

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

I am fed up to here with my health insurer. We have always paid the higher price for co-pay insurance with our HMO. Which means sure we had a $50 co-pay last year (no small beans) and insane insurance premiums, but we have never had any hassle and everything is pretty much covered. I've never received a bill more than $50 or anything like that. We never receive statements or bills - we just had the comfort knowing most anything we would need was fully covered.

Of course, ideally, this is the insurance I would love to keep, but it went from insanely expensive to completely unaffordable, as they push their subscribers more to HDHPs.

So we signed up for the HDHP and I Was thinking it wasn't so bad. Our total out-of-pocket and premiums are lower than they were last year. (I think our out-of-pocket was honestly a good $3k higher last year though it was all stuff we generally never would have used).

So I was starting out looking at this quite favorably. We had a lot of doctors visits early in the year and they charged very little up front. They also sent me the average charge for various services, and it didn't look so bad.

Then I realized this was a false sense of hope.

They bill slower than molasses so the bills are starting to roll in. We eventually got a $400 bill for dh's hearing check. Which we thought had only been $75.

I am not sure how much they will bill for the ambulance for BM, but they recently sent us a notice for $1500. I admit the drive is a bit far (not like the hospital is down the street) but when I had googled ambulance costs the most I saw was $500. ??????? What in the hell would cost $1500 for someone who was borderline if they even really needed it. Not like they hooked him up to machines or anything costly.

So I try not to get too upset about it as it was not the bill. For all I know the bill will be $500. I just don't know.
But the "cost" is apparently $1500.

I have never seen bills and non-bills like this before. I liked when it was all behind the scened.

Anyway, this is the kicker though. The kicker! I got a bill friday for $100 for lab work in 2007. I was livid. It was for dh and he likes to deal with this stuff. So I handed it to him to take care of. I said, when you call, tell them in the last 30 years I have NEVER received a bill. Likewise, I don't understand why it takes ONE YEAR to bill for simple lab work. I think it is an error since we were under the copay plan last year and the copay was $10.

So I know the bill is wrong. But I am just livid that they seem to be going back through old charges and treating them like we were in the HDHP. I didn't pay an extra $300/month insurance last year for crap like this.

Anyway, I had a terrible thought that dh had been told originally he prepaid these lab tests and he made a big STINK about it when they tried to charge him. In the end, after they removed the $10 charge we found out that we had been misinformed in the first place and the prepayment was not for the lab - was for something else. I don't remember the exact sequence of events, but I remember learning after the fact that the $10 was a valid charge - after they removed it.

So I have a fear it has something to do with that. Like they are going through old records.

I am sure dh will work it out and just pay the stinking $10. But if I had any idea I would have gotten a $100 bill? Would have paid $10 then.

I almost hope this is it because I would hope this means no more surprise bills for 2007. Ridiculous. At least this would be a logical reason they would go through and see we never paid for it. But it just makes me nervous. What next? This certainly doesn't apply to our 2008 deductible.

Likewise, I have a fear we will get bills for 2008, well into 2009. No sigh of relief here if/when we get through the year under our deductible. IT would be like, let's wait a year and see. I think this whole 12 months to bill thing is completely ridiculous. It is 3-months and going as far as these emergency room charges - the first bills started to roll in last week.

Anyway, so it takes 1 year to bill for certain things, and I keep getting notices and statements and random bills all over the place. The bills are really hard to keep on top of. One itemized all our visits for the last 3 years (thought it didn't charge anything pre-2008). Of course I had to pull that one out and check this lab test was not on there. IT wasn't.

I "only" have 4 bills to compare any future charges to, for now, but I imagine in the long run this will turn into a nightmare. Since I am getting on average one bill every few days.

I imagine by the end of the year I will have 50 random bills that I will have to scour through as 2008 charges roll in well into next year and I am checking to make sure we are not double charged for anything.

So this is how the other half lives?

All I can think is thank goodness we had the premium insurance through my pregnancies. No paperworks; no bills. The thought just gives me a headache. Where we would be if I was pregnant with this freaking HDHP.

Yes, this is the first year that I feel our health plan is not bankrupting us. Yes. There is a plus there. But the hassle factor is like 1000-fold. I am not enjoying this at all. Is this the trade off?

I keep wondering how they keep costs down with this insanely inefficient billing. I imagine all this stuff generally goes on behind the scenes anyway. Only difference is that us and our pocketbooks are now in the loop. It's so convoluted though. Egads!

You know, for the long term I had considered getting into medical billing. (If you can't beat them; join them) or getting in at the accounting department of our HMO. For the benefits.

I have always said I could/would never work for the IRS. I would go insane. I can't tell if this is better or worse. IT's about the same caliber. I don't think I could do it. Just big, inefficient bureaucracy. I better start working on another pan...


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