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Archive for January, 2007

What do you negotiate? & expensive water

January 31st, 2007 at 10:09 am

I am formulating my submission for a money saving tip. I decided to focus on negotiating prices on goods and services. Mostly because it is not the kind of everyday tip I expect all the other CPAs to answer, looking for an edge (See my last post if I lost you. Wink ) & because it is pretty simple and you know people would in general be game over other tips like save money and only pay cash - no one wants to do that - LOL.

Anyway, so I was wondering what you all have negotiated the price on? Just to get more ideas than the obvious (though I know the obvious to me is not the obvious to everyone).

Yeah I could say come here and hang out and this is the best advice, but the whole point is to get mroe concrete tips. I want to win some publicity so I can THEN say come over here if you really wants lots of tips. Wink

Changine gears -

What is with these water and sewer bills? - my word! Just saw 2 blogs re: high costs. I was shocked when we moved to Sacramento. Back home water was metered (remember many years of drought and conservation too). In our condo I am not sure we were even billed - think it was included in association fee. But I rented a house before, metered water, trash and water was about $10/month each (3 people). IT wasn't even in my budget - didn't sweat it even on my minumum wage. The house we rented was fairly large (hell of a lot cheaper than an apartmnet).

Then we moved here, no metered water, our water/sewer/trash bill is all one - I would have to study it to see what was what I guess. But we have the smallest trash can possible (which we only really need to set out once a month or something). & yet our bill runs $100/month. Far more than our average elctricity and gas bill.

Oh well, they are moving to metered water which is good overall, but really annoys me all the same. Wouldn't be surprised if we were charged even more. But at least we could then control the costs. IT just annoys me on some levle because I lived alone in this house for a year - dh and I For 1 year with no kids. We certainly paid MORE than our fair share as bill is priced on size of house. & now that they meter it - well we do loads of diapers in the wash every day, etc., etc. 4 people in the house, etc. Can I get a rebate for the years we didn't use the water???

But overall yeah I really look forward to metering. Then we can work on cutting that bill. I think overall living in a newer neighborhood with modern plumbing and low-flow toilets, and more efficient appliances, overall I think our bills will be lower. The only thing I Am really concerned is the yard and watering - where I know we can REALLY cut back. With the stupid association there is only so much we can do in the front, but I do want to seriously look into desert landscaping in place of the back lawn, or astro turf, as a friend has. I Still kick myself for not thinking of it sooner. The lawn is overrated - our little square patch that needs SO much water in the 100-degree+ summers. I can do without. & metered water might be the kick in the butt that I need.

But I digress...

Okay - so what have you negotiated down? Top of my mind = cell phone bills, dental bills (pay cash/if no insurance), cc fees, cc interest rates, furniture, cars, mechanics, gardeners, items bought off Craigslist.

Call me Crazy - and need help

January 30th, 2007 at 07:23 pm

Well dh called me around 3 and said the mechanic called and nothing is wrong with his brakes. then 2 or 3 people told me the same thing happened to them and something was wrong. But they couldn't remember what. One of them said it was a "hole in a thingie or something." Yeah that really helps me. GREAT!

So overall I mostly feel crazy though - LOL.

They said they will check it again in the morning - when the car is not warmed up. We'll see - we decided he needed an oil change so we could pay them for their time I guess.

Frankly I rather be crazy than have a repair bill or brake problems. Wink

In other news just got this in my e-mail:

"As part of the Feed the Pig financial literacy effort, we are looking to find the best savings tip that young CPAs can offer to those in their age group. Give us your best savings solution. It can focus on ways to save, how to spend less than you earn, or how to get on the right fiscal track. Whatever you believe can help Americans on the road to financial literacy. The "Top Tips" that we receive will be judged and winning responses will be featured in a press release sent to national media. The names of those who submitted winning responses will be published on the AICPA's Young CPA Network's site.

Hmmmmm, I have LOTS of great advice to save money. But the BEST? will have to ponder...

I think the best advice I can offer is to not live up to your means/save raises. I will have to come up with a submission. Like the most money I ever saved was when I graduated college and lived like I was still a starving student though I got paid 3 times as much.

My problem is everything I can think of sounds so obvious. Well, if they pick me and feature me or anything I will definitely give a shout out to this website!

$200 Back

January 30th, 2007 at 02:09 pm

Well I am glad I significantly racheted down my state withholding, asked my boss.

Just finished up my taxes overall and getting $200 net back - woohoo. Originally estimated $200 due so I am happy as a clam.

I had a $20k ROTH conversion that I paid nothing in for, for state, and I still am getting $875 back. (overwithheld MUCH???) I owe about $675 for Federal - I paid Fed for the conversion, but the conversion pushed my income too high and I missed a lot of my medical deductions. So it brought my taxes up even more, etc. I don't mind owing a little so I didn't care. But $200 back, net, is sweet. Will probably file in the next couple of weeks, get my state refunds, and then when I get it, just pay the fed. In the bank it would earn me $4/month. Eh, rather get that tax bill out of my hair!!

Last year my taxable income was around $50k with my maternity leave. Some untaxed disability, some taxed, lots of unpaid time from work, etc.

This year was about 90k with the ROTH conversion and my first full year since my fat raise in 2005. That is pretty sweet.

Either way still well in the 15% tax bracket thinks to the insane cost of housing and health insurance over here, makes a nice tax break at least. Kids help too (though can I reiterate they cost 10 times as much as the tax break? LOL. Still don't get that logic - more kids for more tax breaks - blech - gotta be crazy. Wink )

This year I expect to pull in $80k with all of our various efforts to make money. The last few years have been in the $40k-$50k range for the most part so it should be pretty sweet. All the same, there is no way in heck I want to get used to that kind of money - I think that is dangerous. I am trying hard to save save save.

I reconsidered how much our net worth should increase this year, considering payment of car and payments on the mortgage. With that and our investments performing average, I expect around $30k increase. $10k savings, $5k investment returns, $8k profit sharing, $3k car paid off, $5k mortgage principal. I had missed that $8k before (car and mortgage principle), but you can't discount that - woohoo.

AAA - got my money's worth in 12 hours - more car crap

January 30th, 2007 at 12:30 pm

I just had to say I am feeling really frustrated today because we make it a point to keep up our cars and keep on top of things. BUT today we were stranded with no cars. NO CARS. What the hell? LOL.

Anyway, about 12 hours after AAA rescued my car last night, I am ready for work and hop in dh's car. Since he is going to replace my tire today. Back out the driveway and the breaks abosultely do not work. Anyway, having had break probs in the past, I know full and well the emergency break is my friend. I pumped the breaks and tried again, and thought, hmmmm, something is just not right here. So I go inside and tell dh I am apparently not going to work until the tire place opens. Ah, but it is open he says. Phew, Anyway, he was all annoyed with me though since I drove his car last night. What did *I* do to his car anyway??? LOL. HE goes out and tried the brakes and says they are fine - like he doesn't believe me. I told him to be my guest and drive around the block - with emergency break in hand please - gah. He didn't want to call for a tow. Such a doofus. Well yeah I pumped the breaks and they might feel semi-okay, but the guy is clueless. Seriously. It was then and there I figured it was probably fate or the powers that be that gave me a flat tire so that I would drive his car and realize immediately something is wrong. I think they felt just fine last night, but I don't drive the car every day, I don't know. & dh soesn't see what is wrong - oy vey.

As usual I feel lucky that I find out in the driveway rather than the freeway, which I have lost brakes ont he freeway twice - Not Fun!

So dh went off to get me a new used tire since I felt work was too far to drive on the donut, and apprently it is in great demand, don't want to wear it out - hehe. Would be quite a detour to avoid the freeway anyway.

I called AAA and they got there in about 15 minutes. I literally said, eh, just come pick it up anytime. They get there in 15 minutes. Versus my priority on the side of the freeway taking 1 hour. Figures.

It took the guy 3 hours to deliver the car 5 miles away- - ??? They haven't looked at it yet, just got it. Dh is still iffy but he will see when we get the bill - LOL.

I was feeling really good about the budget this month. Now I am just annoyed. I don't know. Dependswhat the damage is. The tires were no biggie, but new breaks or whatever - blech. Push our emergencies to the realm of $500 this month. Oh yeah we have plenty of cash, but I was just looking to saving a lot more this month. Oh well. I hope this is not a sign of 2007 to come.

Oh yeah, dh got a really sweet tire for $25. USed again. I asked him why $25 when the last one was $30? He said he didn't know - didn't notice. Maybe they felt bad for him since he was just there - LOL. It was a really nice tire, better than the last - even weirder that it was cheaper. Oh well.

Hey in other news I booked our dentist appointments back home (still have not found a decent/honest dentist around here) on a saturday in Feb. & BM gets his first checkup. We'll see how it goes...

I also got the broker's 1099 woohoo - gonna get some real idea of where we stand for 2006. Last I checked we were getting money back - maybe $100 net. Beats owing - woohoo. It had our huge tax loss which I expected, and the dividends were about $20 so overall I Am pleased - probably better off than I thought. Well I'll go crunch and let you all know. Wink

Bah - Another Flat

January 30th, 2007 at 07:16 am

Yesterday was not fun.

Maybe it was fate but I Was too busy to pick up BM and I worked until 6:30. Unusually late because my office is in such a bad area and I do not generally like to leave after dark.

So dh picked him up around 5 Thank God. Well, around 6:45 I was tooling along the freeway towards the fast lane and I start noticing a noise. Mostly in my subconscious for a minute and then I started thinking, "What is that?" I don't know if flat tires were more at the front of my mind since I just had one!!! But I thought, sounds like I got a flat. Luckily I had past generally the bad area between work and home, and was at an exit I could take to get to my house - just a mile or 2 away. I am not sure if I intended to pull over or go stop at the gas station first (probably) to fill the tire, but I crossed about 4 lanes of traffic to exit and that was about it - tire blew, could barely hobble it off the road.

How could I have the WORST luck to have 2 flat tires in the course of a couple of weeks. & yet I felt so incredibly lucky I had just enough time to get OFF the freeway. I Was talking to my mom later and she was like, if you have to, you can always drive a flat home. LOL. YEah try driving on a rim - was not going to happen.

Anyway, called AAA and they seemed all concerned I Was on the freeway - they would be there lightning speed. YEah whatever. LOL. I Was relieved to see it wasn't the used tire I just bought. Another perfectly beautiful good tire gone. Frustrated because with my recent flat I had checked all the tires, they all were great. In the end we found a giant bolt in the tire, must have run over it on the freeway or before I got on. I Was frustrated because I told dh that I should probably check my tires before I get in the car any more. & yet I was all alone in a bad area leaving at night with hardly any lights, like I could have even checked anyway. I was actually very concerned about a suspicious car hanging around, the last thought was to check tires. I am ALSO super duper frustrated because my last car attracted nails and bolts like a magnet (my cars before - same commute and all - NVER a flat). & this car coming up on a year had served me well. But one day in January, one day I wondered aloud to a co-worker that my van does not have this constant flat problem. & wham - now it does. I obviously did NOT knock on wood. Gah!!!!

Constant flat or no this is the first time I have had a blow out. & this is the 2nd time, in one month, and ever in my life, I have had a tire in shreds, not just a little nail hole. This van is cursed. Bah! I will seriously go back and read reviews on the original tires. Might be worth replacing the other 2 and getting better tires - not sure what the deal is. Or would any tire protect fromt hese bolts I keep running over? - lord knows from where.

Anyway, dh is my hero. I called AAA and chatted on the phone with dh for a while. HE offered to come exhange places with me since I had worked all day, had to pee, was hungry, etc. LOL. I Said no, didn't want the kids on the side of the freeway. But after about 1/2 hour and no tow truck in sight, I Said okay, please just come GET me!!!! LOL. OF course I Watch all that true crime stuff and always the girls alone on the side of the road getting raped and murdered. Either way I just wanted off the freeway.

So he came and rescued me.

I noticed his car needed gas so stopped on the way home.

I swear he got home like 1 minute after me, after my gas stop. Said the tow truck guy braved changing a driver-side tire with all the cars racing past - *shudders* - and he was off pretty quickly. Guess I could have waited 5 more minutes - figures.

Oh well, that is my swell dh. HE is going to go get me another used tire today too.









Spend Update

January 29th, 2007 at 02:04 pm

Jan. 30 - $25.00 Another Tire
Jan. 29 - $22.00 Gas
Week 4 total: $140.00
Week 3 total: $330.48
Week 2 total: $278.05
Week 1 total: $374.24

**5 no spend days**

Items bought new in 2007:
Nintendo DS accessories (2) (dh)
Underwear(dh)
Packing Tape (for ebay selling)
Bubble envelope (for ebay selling)
Shipping Labels (for ebay selling)
Tire Pressure Guage
Pin-wheel
Toy Bird
Professional Pants (5)
Professional shirts (7)
Professional Blazer
Knee-his (for work)
Panty hose (ebay)

Items bought used in 2007:
Tires for Car (2)
Used books for kids (6)

Items free in 2007:
Old cell phones for kids to play with
Toddler's First Library Card!

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

Ah, no no-spend days this weekend because I asked dh grabbed to grab some salmon at the store for my salmon patty craving - saturday. YEsterday I Was in quite a mood and was REALLY craving sweets - sent dh for ice cream. So $30 between sat & sun - he stocked up on milk and yogurt as well, maybe other things.

I think beyond stressed I Was also exhausted. I love to take naps on the weekends and got a lovely 2-hour nap Sunday. Then I could not keep my eyes open past 8:00 and slept like an absolute log - hardly stirring all night. It was nice. No wonder I Was in such a funk - exhaustion I guess. BAby has been sleeping rather well too - we both took an hour or so on the floor one night and since then he will wake up, cry for 5 minutes, and go back to sleep. HE is a drooling fool so no doubt teething or something. But just those nasty molars left, might be a LONG few months, but at least he has not been up EVERY night.

Oh well, today is not the frugalest of days. BM has to be picked up from preschool by 5, over by my work (sort of) a good 20 minutes from home. I am working on cranking out my last set of W-2s. Phew!!!! But asked dh to pick up BM. There is not way I will be done at 4:45. So a lot of wasted gas today. THere will be a lot more days like this in the spring months. Offset by lots of overtime pay I guess...

I don't like to do things last minute but if I think about it, it is truly a miracle I am not further behind considering I Was IT specialist week 1 of January and dh was out of commission about a whole week, week 2. So I have had 2 weeks about to do a month's work. Hopefully I will be all caught up tomorrow and no more Sundays working. But I wouldn't count on it. Just stuff piling up that I didn't have time to do this month, and then the tax appointments start - I have one this week and one next week already. Oy vey.

I am still waiting on my 1099s and stuff but I Want to file for my refund already - LOL.

In the meantime I may be almost done with my client's W-2s, but I have a big pile of 1099s to work on too. Hopefully those will ALL be out of my hair Jan. 31. Almost there!!!! All this stuff makes January about the worst time of year for us. December is pretty bad, so is JAnuary. I am sure I will saying Feb & March are the WORST too when my days are filled with tax returns, and no time to do our regular accounting. & then April is really really really bad because we are so behind AND we have April 15th as well as April 30th quarterly payroll filings. So yeah, I will be saying every month is the worst until May. & then I will say I will have so much time to catch up. But then someone will quit or go on maternity leave or something. LOL. I just notice with time I get gradually more and more busy, even during "slow" months. I've tried to resist too much work and responsibility, but there is only so much you can do - I think with my longevity I am a little too heavily relied on. Feel like the place would fall apart without me lately. We need a new manager. That is what we really need. I think this comes at a good time though. Concerned about money, a little more willing to take on more and work more. I still have it pretty good overall. Lots of flexibility.

That reminds me, I keep trying to think of other ways to make money. I just remembered my boss offered a bonus for us to recruit people. I don't remember how much, a couple thousand perhaps. You will appreciate this though. What was SO crazy at my first CPA firm job was there was a huge shortage of staff from 2-5 years or so experience. The reason, well they paid crap and worked you to death, but you had to do CPA firm audits to get your license - for 2 years. Anyone who stayed longer was on partner track pretty much. OTherwise there would be NO Reason to stay really. At my first job I Was making about $30k/year and they offered us a $10k bonus to recruit someone in the 2-5 year range. $10k. You know how many people got that bonus? 0. Was impossible. Just impossible!!! Of course whenever I got together with my college friends we would spend the whole time trying to recruit each other, each with dollar signs in our eyes - LOL. No way no how.

Anyway, well, I will keep it in front of mind for once things settle down after April. I Will have to really think hard and see if I can find anyone. LOL. IT's pretty much an impossible task, but wouldn't hurt to try I guess. Today there is no 2-year audit rule so basically it is impossible to find anyone, experience or not. I think as long as I work here I won't get worked to death at least. So far it's been okay. But you know if one more person leaves, I don't know. I might even ask my boss if his reward applies to new-college grads. IF so I wouldn't mind getting involved in college recruitment. We got to spur some interest in our little firm. Something to think about when it is not so BUSY.

More of the same...

January 28th, 2007 at 06:10 am

Text is http://finance.yahoo.com/expert/article/moneyhappy/22594 and Link is
http://finance.yahoo.com/expert/article/moneyhappy/22594

Text is http://finance.yahoo.com/expert/article/moneymatters/20375 and Link is
http://finance.yahoo.com/expert/article/moneymatters/20375

My 2 favorite gals. Nothing much new, more of the same.

I woke up early and felt motivated today. I have been planning for a LONG time to formulate an article for the Dollar Stretcher on being a 1-income family. & right now I feel motivated and will give it a start. Hasn't been a new one in that category for a couple of months so we'll see. Maybe will motivate me to write more articles.

I have 2 things to focus on. One is planning from the getgo, which can only help people already with kids so much. But I still think it is important - to plan ahead best you can. GOod advice for people thinking ahead I guess. But even more importantly, to be flexible. Be open to doing things a little different than the norm, if it will work out better for you. Not a greater example than having the father stay home with the kids- how how weird is that? I know quite a few people who have considered the option, that it would work for them, but were just too scared to take the plunge to do things different, falling to the pressure of family and society. I also know plenty of people who make 1-income living work by constantly thinking outside the box. IT is a big key in figuring it out for many.

Are you saving Too Much???

January 27th, 2007 at 08:20 pm

Text is http://www.wilmingtonstar.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070127/ZNYT01/701270416/1002/business and Link is
http://www.wilmingtonstar.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/200...

Interesting article in the paper today - brings up an interesting discussion.

Jist of it is that Online Retirement Calculators on the websites of some investment firms like Fidelity & Vanguard, overestimate how much you need to save so you invest more with them of course.

My first thought was, well, yeah, and they exaggerate how well their funds do all the time too - gotta be a wash, right?

Secondly, as stated in the article, with the push to get people in this country to save, the last thing we need is to tell people they are saving too much.

Thirdly, for the savers out there. We rather err on saving far too much. IT is really pretty impossible for us to figure out how much we need in retirement. Life happens. I think the closer we get the better idea we'll have. In the meantime, heck yes, we will aim in saving too much. Of course. I Can think of far worse things...

But overall an interesting point I guess.

The article also said Americans are not so bad off - they are saving and are prepared for retirement. Pffffft. On what world? LOL. I could argue that one until the cows come home, but whatever. My only real peeve with the article.

Overall, figured could spark some interesting discussion.