Home > Archive: May, 2007

Archive for May, 2007

Easy Come, Easy Go...

June 1st, 2007 at 12:15 am

Well the credit card arbitrage process has been slowed considerably. I got my first statement and was ready to get my $50 Target gift card, only to find I was 350 points away about. & the only way I can see to get 350 points is to spend $350. Easy enough on one hand, but most of the stuff I pay is already set up automatically and I doubt I will spend $350 in gas and such for the next month.

But I did need to fill up so I dug out the card and spent $50 on gas today. I did need to pay the diaper service and was getting pretty late so I just paid 2 months - $106. I then signed up for our next community center classes at $50. & suddenly I am $200 closer to my goal. On a regular month I could spend another $150 easy, but I don't want to take the card on our cruise. Of course it wouldn't be the worst idea to run all of our cruise expenses on dh's card, just easy to keep it all separate. Hmmmm. An idea as I am sure he will run up against the same thing. I guess I will have to check when his card closes for the month. Will probably have to wait another cycle regardless, for the whole balance transfer thing. But that way he can put all the groceries and his gas on the rewards card - for the 3%, if he run up his card with the cruise stuff. Win-win!

I signed up for karate & swimnming. I only show up to aerobics 1/2 the time, so I still have a good month left. & we decided to drop toddler class for a while. I can't get off work during the day - it is just too much. So BM gets swimming, preschool, and karate and LM gets nothing. Then again every toddler class, about 15 minutes into it, LM tells me he is ready to go home anyway. HE seems to enjoy it enough, but 15 minutes is his limit I guess. So we are dropping it for now, maybe indefinitely. We just got to get him out of diapers and maybe we could afford to drop him off at preschool once in a while, which he would much prefer. Just LOVED getting to stay there last night.

Well for June/July I Expect to get a $250 rebate from Chase, as well as $100 in gift cards from Citibank. What a nice windfall. & then around $90 the first month of arbitrage. It will go down considerably every month as the new rule is the minimum payment is 4% of the balance or something - they just upped it which works against us. Oh well. I still expect to make in the realm of $500 - $1k, so no complaints overall.

Interestingly I got another 0%, no fee, balance transfer offer from Chase. I think I have a chance of a higher limit with them because we have had our card quite a few months by now. But all the same I decided those up front offers are no good because lord knows how much they will really give you.

Oh, but back to my card, waiting one month isn't the worst. They denied a credit increase online, but with my credit score I expect to be able to up it if I call in person. Only exception if they freak out about all the credit I just applied for I guess. Well, we'll see. It's worth a try, but $20k is a good start, where we are at for now.

& how weird will it be to say, "I have $20k in credit card debt." I can imagine just saying it out loud to freak out friends and family. Wink They would seriously think we lost our mine because we are so anti-debt for the most part anyway.

$80 Splurge & Couple Stuff

May 31st, 2007 at 02:39 pm

Oh gosh, I hope we don't get too used to this! Wink

Preschool is out last week of june & unpaid so we were going to save $70. We have been doing so good and living so budget-tight overall we decided to splurge. So we paid $40 to Ms. Preschool so she would watch the kids last night. We went to a gourmet Indian restaurant. Oh, it is just the best food ever, and we have been getting spoiled since they opened one in our city (an international restaurant we would hit occassionally in San Francisco as a treat). Now since it is so rare we get out without the kids, it is mostly where we go. But of course, as I mentioned before, my tolerance for really spicy food is going so downhill since we don't eat it that much. We eat a lot of more mexican spices at home -peppers and such, but it in no way shape or form prepares you for the curries and such of ethnic food I guess. I didn't even get the spicy stuff since my tolerance has been getting so low lately, and disapointed so I just kind of felt sick afterwards. Frown

But the good thing is we usually spend $50 here and dh noticed a coupon in the paper way back with no expiration. He wondered aloud if they had forgotten the expiration date, and saved it. & lo and behold there has been an occasional coupon since, with expiration. So dh dug out the old coupon which was 20% off. Not bad. So we spent $40.

So all told, night out is $80. Yeah, that means we can afford a night like that all of once in a very blue moon. I really just don't know how people do it. Of course, like I always say, silly me, I want a nice house and financial freedom so I am less inclined to spend a lot of money on babysitters and eating out. Then your friends ask if you are really that bad off, and I am just wondering how anyone can afford a regular $80/night. Yeesh. Of course they wonder how we can just drop a grand on a t.v., so it is all a matter of priority I guess - LOL.

But dh and I were talking about it because we have never been much of a couple in the way of going out. Before we were married we always did our own thing - own friends, own vacations. I don't even think we spent a New YEars together until we had been together 5 years. We're just weird like that. Since we've been married we do a little more. But frankly, I found it beneficial that is how we lived our life before kids, because lord knows now the only way we get out is if we get out separately. So I guess we established some good habits for our sanity overall.

BUT I got this friend who I keep saying we need to do a girls movie night at our house and she keeps saying we should get babysitters and make it a couples night. I am thinking, are you out of your mind? You are turning our free evening of fun into a $40 night for me. LOL. So anyway, I swear we have had this convo like on 10 separate occassions. She doesn't get that I don't want to do a couples night. I know our hubbies - neither of them are interested. & she is probably equally frustrated with me that I don't get she wants to do couple things. But you know I told her there was pretty much no way I could get a babysitter. If nothing else, can't afford it. & then dh has been rock climbing with a movie buddy and his girlfriend. I guess they started getting insistent that I need to come along one of these days. Dh said at the time he was like, yeah sure, we need to all go out one of these days. But then he thought about it later and was like, wait a minute. No way. He told me if we actually had babysitting - free from grandma - or not free - he sure as hell would not give up some free time with me. It's a catch-22. HE was just saying, gosh, people without kids just don't understand. I told him to invite them over for dinner sometime and I would try hard to stay up past 9 - LOL. We can put the kids down and watch a movie or something. But overall, yeah, we were never into the couple thing and I think we are even less into it now. But this is why dh values his theatre room so much, because it is rare we really get out or go to the movies. HEck he goes to the movies alone all the time because it is just easier. I am not into the movies so why add $50 for a babysitter and a ticket for me.

Which reminds me - we watched "Little Miss SUnshine" last night. I think our new t.v. may help our marriage a bit - LOL. I do not really like watching movies in the theatre room overall. I am just weird that way myself. I'm going to watch a movie, I am going to watch it in bed. Where I am REALLY comfortably. I could care less that the t.v. is only 20 inches or whatever it is. It's a t.v. - I see the picture, I hear the sound. What more do I need. We even got comfortable theatre seating with time but I still feel the same which drives dh BATTY. LOL. So last night he said he really watched this movie. I said fine, but I'm watching it in bed. & for once it didn't end up in a fight. He was like, okay then! 50 inches of t.v. bliss. Lord knows he rather watch it on the big screen, but at least he stopped whining with this t.v. LOL.

Anyway, the movie was SO good. Dh insisted he heard this movie was really good, but I just really have a problem with movies. They take a lot of time. & if I am going to spend 2 hours watching a movie, more and more with time I just get fed up. Most of them are so bad these days. So I was wary, but this was seriously a FUNNY movie. We were both just laughing out loud most of it. To me that is the measure of a good comedy. So go see it!

ETA: SInce I can't comment... YEah, I remember being paid $2/hour to babysit, etc. Of course, we are extremely particular with the kids since they are so young still. Their preschool teacher, family, and a couple of my friends who we trade with are about who I trust. When they get a little older I think overall we can save a lot of money hiring a teenager nearby for a little less. But overall it has gotten pricey with time, indeed. Ms. PReschool charges $13/hour for both kids pretty much. But during the day I only pay $4/hour for 1, even though he is nowhere near full-time. So it kind of works out. She donates the money to a family in Africa so that always helps me stomach it a little bit more. & $13/hour for the best babysitter ever - worth it once in a blue moon...

Our Whales Finally Left!

May 30th, 2007 at 04:59 pm

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Well the whales are getting closer to the ocean. Very close! But they still have a ways to go. I think we were starting to give up hope on them. Who knows if they will even survive once they make it back out to the ocean, but at least they will back in their own habitat. They were both injured by boats in the river.

They've been hanging around in the rivers around sacramento (around 90 miles inland?) for over 2 weeks.

I imagine for anyone who enjoys the rivers during Memorial Day weekend and such it has been a PITA too. Seems like all the waterways have been closed entirely as they have been trying to herd the whales out.

Anyway, dh told me this morning they had made it to Golden Gate bridge which sounded great, but I pulled up an article and it seems like they aren't quite there yet - a ways to go. Go whales!

Found moolah & Who really cares about the Joneses anyway?

May 29th, 2007 at 02:20 pm

OMG - what the heck did I get myself into? I had a few boxes in the bedroom, and well I was hell bent on cleaning out the room. But as I Was posted I didn't want to do too much work - LOL. I didn't realize these boxes were from my office and the kitchen too, etc., etc., etc.

So I probably spent a good 3 hours, heavy lifting and all that too. I told dh afterwards it was good, because it felt good to get through it all, and I wouldn't have done it otherwise - LOL.

In the process I found a jar of about $10.50 change. Score! I told dh that would get my 8 or 9 $1 meals - just make it my cash for the month. Luckily only about $1.50 of it was pennies. Mostly quarters and dimes. I find it funny because I am not into the whole change thing, mostly as I don't carry cash for the most part. So yeah I could start carrying around a bunch of cash and saving huge chunks, but then I'd have to pull it out of my savings, so it goes. I pay myself first and cash is like if I have any leftover I Can splurge a little, just the way I work. So I find it quite ironic that I have a jar full of change.

I also considered giving it to the kids, filling up their little piggy banks as a start. I could do that too. But mostly I invest their money rather than hold onto cash for them too - same thing. But I thought when will I ever come across a pile of change again? So maybe.

Anyway, I had a big bag of trash and a big bag for ebay. I am rethinking this though. The whole reason I wanted to sell ebay was for items I thought I could get real money for. I am getting real with myself, I don't have time to sell a lot of little things, and I am better off maximixing my time at work. I think I have lost sight of that a bit, and will probably shift most of it to the freecycle/donation pile. Either way it will be good to get rid of more junk.

Dh did say he would try to sell his projector again. 2 years ago when he bought the new one part of the reason he convinced me was because he could sell the old one for $800 or something. I don't know. But he never did, then he decided to keep it. HE did try to sell it once or twice, but it was a bit high. He told me he would probably list it for $500 this week and give it a try again. Woohoo!

Well, we'll see.

In other news I just have one pearl of financial wisdom. If you saw the SA blog it had a nice little post about "what you're not." You're not your house, your car, your material things. & then today I saw the post about the Joneses. & I thought to me what is so simple is hard for many. I wasn't raised to care about the Joneses, to define myself by material things.

I noticed this last weekend when I Was hanging out with my parents and in-laws. In true MIL fashion, she actually said to my parent's face that they have always had it easier than her. I just wanted to hide at that point but my parents actually took it pretty well. For one they are both pretty on par financially, they just choose to spend their money very differently, but overall dh and I Were raised pretty on par and have the same financial views, and I know their income is about the same, etc., I do everyone's taxes. But even more to the point MIL has not a clue how poor my dad was as a kid. He did not have it easier than about anyone I know, so whenever anyone starts on that you just want to smack them, honestly. What the hell does she know being brought up in middle class bliss?

But I digress. MIL I have noticed since day 1 always compares herself to others. & she is miserable for it. She has a very charmed middle class life, but she is too busy worrying how everyone else may be doing better to actually sit back and enjoy. She had the gall to tell me multiple times last year that they are "so poor." HAving come from a truly poor family, comments like that don't sit well, she hasn't a clue what it's like to be truly poor. Not that I really do either, but she can complain about her little home all she wants where I have spent many a summer visiting my dad's family who live in shacks without most of the amenities she has. So it gets really old. The whole thing just annoys me. Blah blah blah, yes you are so bad off, then why the hell did you take 6 adults and 3 babies to HAwaii last year? You seemed to have the money for that. Yeah - that's POOR. (Not).

ANyway, the whole reason I share all this is I had an epithany. My dad could have easily in that situation said, "I had it worse." But the thing is who cares who had it worse, does it really matter? Instead my dad kind of turned it around and pointed out all that they had, as opposed to how bad off MIL thinks she is. & as I Sat there thinking about how what a truly wonderfully happy person my dad is and how miserable MIL seems to be I realized plain as day the only true difference is their attitude. I realized I have NEVER heard my dad complain about how anyone had it easier than him. & he never will. Life is too short for that. & the people who are ALWAYS comparing themselves to others will always be miserable. IT's not productive and it doesn't accomplish anything.

I guess I realize I have received a truly sublime gift from my parents who never measured themselves in terms of their material wealth, and never compared themselves to others. I find with time that these are probably the biggest challenges for most of my friends, even other family, but to me comes easy. OF course I am not these things, of course I Could care less what the Joneses' are doing.

But I just throw that out there because truly if you worry about everyone else a little less and yourself a little more, you will really be amazed at the difference in your life. Plus I guess complaining is just about one of my biggest pet peeves ever. Complain a little less and do a little more - certainly got that one from my dad. IT truly makes ALL the difference in life.

Not Much Progress...

May 28th, 2007 at 06:56 pm

I have this neverending goal to have the house completely clean so it is easy to maintain. I never reach this goal - LOL. But then again I haven't really done that much and it feels loads better. I guess I just set the bar low! Wink

I cleaned off my desk and it didn't take so long though I don't think I have filed anything since December. Not a biggie I guess, once the system is set up, easy to keep organized. I had been kind of dreading it and yet it is all done 1/2 hour later. Piles and piles of papers filed. Then again I have a new desk and filing system from 2005 when baby #2 kicked my office out into the hallway. It's nice actually, a big space and perfect for an office, I should share a picture. But we never really found nice filing cabinets I would leave out in such an open space, just little ones and they are getting kind of crammed. Figures. Probably not so bad as I have 4 file drawers and only one is being used for files. I just have to clean out another drawer and shift some things around. DOh.

I am feeling rather lazy for heavy labor and have no gotten near as much work done as I had planned this weekend. Then again I didn't really realize how exhausted I was until I unexpectedly fell asleep on the couch for a few hours yesterday. Yeesh. Just keep thinking 2 more weeks, 2 more week, and I will have an entire week to recharge my batteries. As much as I love just hanging around home on vacation time, it is nice to get away and not feel obligated to do anything.

I am thinking of unpacking some boxes in the bedroom and for the most part calling it a day unless I receive a sudden burst of energy. Wink

I did a run through the bedroom last weekend and thank goodness because the in-laws decided to come up rather last minute and of course wanted to see our new t.v. set up in there. I think I now have renewed motivation to keep the room up a little better. It isn't that hard since we don't use the room so much, mostly to sleep, but then again I usually just like that the downstairs can be sparkling and the upstairs can be embarrassing, but who cares since no one goes up there. Until now! I guess the nice thing is closing the bathroom door is a must to get the full effect of the t.v. (shutting out the light) so at least I don't have to keep the bathroom sparkly.

I have a pile for freecycle, goodwill, and craigslist in the living room. I think I will make it a goal to be rid of those things before our trip. Then again if I start unpacking boxes the piles will just get worse! I should probably try some ebay selling the next couple of weeks too. Just realized we are still about $1500 away from our efund goal. I am not sure if we will have any cash to add this month otherwise, just has been a little crazy.

In other news dh has done well. I am expecting some Target gift cards and offered one to dh for a 2nd controller for his PS3. Not really necessary at this point, but would be nice. Anyway, he saw them at the used record store and had enough credit to get a controller he realized - if he sold back a few more games. Woohoo. The kids also fell in love with a helicopter toy our neighbor had - said they got $22 at Costco. Dh saw it at Target or Toys R Us or something for $30 and was thinking for birthday - but saw an ad for $20 at Frys today. Woohoo. I had been thinking of just using our target gift cards for kids birthday, but seems like most of it is taken care of anyway. I guess I will just have to buy some clothes. Oh, we'll figure something out. Might even be worth just selling for a slight discount for cold hard cash. But we could probably stock up on necessities on sale as well, just more work is all.

Allowance Update

May 27th, 2007 at 03:04 pm

I hadn't updated our allowances and so was updating Quicken and running totals and all that. No point I guess since dh was in the hole and I figured I was too. But I was amused because I updated my allowance balance and I have a $1 surplus for May (well as long as I don't buy anything through the 31st - but not really worried about it. Wink )

On the flip side I did tell dh that I would probably consider his rock climbing (going again tomorrow) an allowance item, but since he is so in the hole, whatever. I also got that whole 2 duffle bag for 1 thing which at the time was not sneaky but I realized if I put that to my allowance it should go to his, so whatever, something we needed, will just pass up the allowance. which leaves me a $50 balance to spend for June. Woohhoo.

I find a lot of it is gray area though, but for the most part keeps us reined in a bit.

So far this year I have used my allowance to cover a big cell bill (I went way over - my fault). Bought some clothes, bought nothing for 2 months. Then this last month I bought a new wallet, replaced the diaper bag, replaced my backpack, and bought a monkey doormat.

I also bought some cannisters for the kitchen which were more grey area. I felt we needed them to organize the kitchen a bit. Though we don't NEED them. I tried to discuss with dh where those or the monkey would fit but he didn't have any input. I think since he is so in the hole, that he didn't want to appear unfair, so he pretty much said, whatever, he didn't care.

I guess mostly for the stuff that the other spouse gets NO benefit of or sees no point in getting, that is what the allowance is for. Mostly for those purchases we can't agree on. So it's May and I have spent $250. I am sure all else being equal dh would not care if I wanted to replace my backpack, etc., so not the greatest examples. But, at other times he would argue. Just the fact that my backpack was no longer usable I guess this time means I could have passed it off as necessary. But it's gray and serves its purpose. In the end it really doesn't matter as long as we are cutting back our spending, that is the point.

When I buy clothes it generally goes to allowance because for the most part I have enough to get by. Dh would never buy clothes though, and so when he does he NEEDS it - LOL. I am cool with that - he bought a couple of pairs of shorts (amazing) and so I gladly let him take it out of the general fund - hehe. As I made him replace his duffle bag - yeesh.

Mostly though I think the allowance has done its job. Dh might have bought some big things, but there are no little purchases to be had. & I have certainly reined in my spending compared to the last couple of years.

As you do notice that for the most part dh buys electronics and I systematically go through the house replacing old things. It feels like a neverending battle. But I am not all innocent either as the monkey doormat and the mounds of clothes certainly show.

Which reminds me dh and I were having an allowance discussion because a friend who makes good money but always seems so bad off mentioned her husband had a $600/month allowance. I about choked when she said it (looking at our $50/month allowances). I was telling dh and he reacted the same. Imagining all of the many electronic gadgets he could buy and then explaining he couldn't even spend that much money in a year - $7200 or whatever it would be - LOL. To be fair I said I did imagine it probably included gas and eating out and all that, which we just include in our budget. We mused how we probably could not afford any of our luxuries if we ate out so much ourselves.

But digging deeper, between the 2 of us, $1200/month allowance. Hmmmmm. We both would spend maybe $100 on gas, maybe $50 on eating out on a good month, $100 on a bad month. Maybe $100 on just misc. items, and $300/month/each left over to play with? I'd put mine in a ROTH frankly. LOL. Dh would be in electornic heaven - he could probably buy whatever he wanted. But that is when dh told me, that he decided he didn't put much value on experiences. We had already had a big convo about this before, that most of the stuff we put our money to we still have and use. We put a lot of money to his theatre room and the TVs and our laptop, but these are things we use every day, and get continued benefits from. Neither of us is inclined to spend the money we don't have on eating out and stuff we won't remember. So yeah, I have to give my friend the benefit of the doubt, that that includes all spending money, but I do notice they spend a lot of money on cars, hair and nails, eating out, vacations, etc. Whereas we are likely to spend little on any of these things so we can have a nice home and dh can have his electronics playland instead.

I am happy for people who love their vacations - reading the cheap vacation blog post. I agree mostly with the concept. But as a kid we never had fancy vacations. Personally I could not see spending $1500 on a vacation myself. Not every year any way. I guess for me I always appreciated the one time we went to Disneyland, the one time we went to Hawaii. It was SO special because we had never done anything like it before. So I know too many people who think we are so deprived we aren't into the whole vacation thing, but somehow I don't worry about it too much. I have said before though, we live an hour from the family cabin, 2 hours from Tahoe, an hour or 2 from the beach, and lots and lots of camping nearby. While the kids are younger we can do plenty of that with very little money and I think they will be just fine. Probably get out a lot more than I did as a kid. Plus grandma treated us to Hawaii last year, and our cruise and Florida this year. The kids will be SPOILED regardless. But if not for that I really could do without. It's just not a big deal to me. I think my family were always mostly homebodies, and we follow suit a bit. I think why we value having a nice home. We want our home to feel like a vacation. I guess I don't see the need to have to get away to enjoy. For the most part, vacations are just something I will never really *get,* just from the way I was raised. I see plenty to keep me occupied in my own backyard, and that probably helps. Wink

& funny enough dh feels the same way because he was vacationed out as a child. Vacations were big in his family and always a huge deal. He has been everywhere and seen everything so for the most part he rather sit at home - LOL. IT's kind of funny how we were raised so opposite in that one regard but have the same viewpoint today. Honestly, I get annoyed he is not a little more adventurous sometimes. I guess it can go so many ways.

Back from the Dentist

May 26th, 2007 at 11:54 pm

I am stoked. I pulled out an old dental bill in the $300 range and figured it had been my last filling. Either I was wrong or they were nice to me, maybe it was easier this time, I don't know, but the filling was only $130. So basically about $200 less than I intended to spend. Woohoo.

& well, glad to get that over with. Not fun! A little sore. Not so bad either, but I am wimpy when it comes to the drill I guess.

I had SUCH a pleasant evening with my parents last night. & drove home today - more traffic than I cared for but I guess I have concluded that the drive is just so BEAUTIFUL in the morning, loved it. Plus frankly all the way to the Bay yesterday I was thinking "neener neener" to the holiday traffic - it looked awful in the opposite direction pretty much the whole 2-hour drive. I am not sure why it didn't occur to me that I wouldn't face the same on my return home though - doh. Luckily most everyone headed out Friday though - the traffic was only bad for a little stretch this morning. I got quite a late start too.

When I got home dh and I went out for a pretty fancy lunch. Was divine. & his parents are treating for Greek tonight. (My parents treated me to pizza and donuts).

I took the opportunity after lunch to get caught up on some work and update Quicken and all that jazz. This month has just been so horrid. Was just discussing with dh. On the plus side, since we will be gone a week next month, maybe our grocery and gas bill will be down a tad to offset. Well, maybe groceries, since driving to LA and back probably won't help the gas bill now that I think about it. Kids and fam will be up here so we may be stocking up on food for them anyway. But we'll see. Wishful thinking anyway.

On the plus side, just planning to lay low this weekend. Phew. Not a lot of money to spend. What I really need to do is clean the house. & hang out with the kids.

In other news, something I haven't blogged much about, is we really want to do some hiking this summer. There is so much around. Our little experiment with LM didn't go so well, but hoping things will look up better next year when he is closer to 3. We took BM in a couple of big hikes in Hawaii last year right before he turned 3 and he just LOVED them. Anyway, we want to try to do some smaller ones this year, there is a wildlife preserve nearby and thinking about something like the redwood forest in the San Francisco area - something easier for the little one (Admittedly more of a drive which I think at this point we want to avoid with the finicky one). But stuff like that. & I was telling dh about some blogs I read here about geo-caching and we were checking out the website. I was a little surprised because dh was very gung ho about it. I think we might give it a whirl. Since I have I believe $150 in Target gift cards coming and not even sure what to use it for we were thinking of maybe picking up a little GPS system. Well, we'll see. I think if we go through the effort we want to get a rather nice once, but if we can get 1/2 of it free or something, why not.

As usual lately I think who is this guy and what has he done with my husband? He is not a particularly active guy but suddenly he is all excited about hiking and camping and all this stuff he never seemed to take an interest in before, but now he is all excited about with the kids. & geo caching he is all gung ho on. I tell you 5 years ago if I brought it up he would just look at me like I am crazy and what's the point. I guess all this stuff is a little more fun with kids. But well, I have always enjoyed a good hike or adventure and dh was never on the top of my list to invite along - LOL. But I am actually feeling rather pleased. This is all stuff I LOVE and glad the family wants to participate too. Makes me happy. Even better, for the most part, a hike is free. & anything that doesn't put more money stress on me sounds pretty grand! Wink

I do have to say though, dentist aside, I had a pretty nice & relaxing day/night yesterday. I think I can handle a week of this. My vacation is coming up very soon and thank goodness my mom found my birth certificate while I Was visiting too - phew. I need it to board the boat - still skeptical if my passport with come through. Now no more worries, as I got the birth certificate at least.

Dh is also planning on hiking Mt. Shasta this year. With my dad. I would love to go, but I have a leg injury which for the most part prevents me from doing anything like that. Maybe a day hike is my limit and I would be in pretty bad pain. Dh almost didn't want to go though because he is worried about me - pfffffft. I think I am a big girl and will be just fine. Wink

His mom also was trying to talk me into this florida trip - oy vey. They can't imagine why I don't want to go. I just don't see the joy in flying all the way to Florida for the weekend when it will be SO busy at work. Plus I think they would all kind of enjoy a family thing, and I wouldn't mind having some free time myself!!!!! Anyway, as I understand it, condo, flight & DisneyWorld are free because they had just enough miles and room in the condo without me, so that is probably most important. But the kids are so young too I Feel mostly like, yeah, be my guest, drag them to DisneyWorld for the day. Doesn't sound fun too me - LM is way too young to enjoy it - I am not even sure why they would drag him along. No, don't really feel like I am missing much. We'll definitely take the kids again when they are older though, that is what I look forward to. Plus my new niece is due to be born in that time frame - I'd rather stick around to meet my new niece!!!!

Of course Murphy's law, each of these trips is planned for last week of July & October which are like the only 2 weeks the rest of the year I can't get any time off work - deadlines. What in the heck. But then again, if the fam is gone those 2 weeks I will have more time to cram at work AND to relax at home. win-win. We just have to work out the details got Mt. Shasta - if grandma wants to take the kids for a few days - then it sounds rather divine to me. & lord knows dh just needs a break.

May Interest

May 26th, 2007 at 11:19 pm

$20 challenge:

$6,998.02 - Balance 5/3

$ 72.00 - Interest

$7,070.02 - Balance 5/26

For whatever reason, most my banks like to post interest around the 25th, so got most of it. Will get around $2 from my 2 smaller savings accounts, on the 31st, so rounded up to an even $72. Close enough.

Passed the $7k mark!

Was updating Quicken, retirement is still up above $53k. I recall it being around $49k in December. Moving right along...

What would YOU do for $50 Mil?

May 25th, 2007 at 06:07 pm

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Oh yeah, I thought this was interesting. Honestly I Would be willing to do none of those things for $50 mil.

I am not sure where along the line I learned money isn't everything, but I notice this even around here when the whole what would you do with lottery money stuff comes up.

Look, yeah, it could be nice to have $50 mil, but if you have paid attention to anyone who has $50 mil, especially those who won it, it wasn't all sunshine and roses as you would imagine.

That and a fairly strong moral compass, and a general contentment with my current financial situation, means I Would not be willing to drown kittens, trip old ladies, or cheat on my taxes for $50 mil. But I Was kind of surprised the results of the poll because most of the people I know would readily be willing to do any one of these things as they imagine $50 mil would mean the answer to all of lives problems. I guess I just know better. Wink

Well, I am thankful 15% agree with me. I Was expecting more like 0, but it is a little disturbing all the same...

I mean I Think I could do good by the money and carve out a nice life and do some really nice things with $50 mil, but knowing every sinigle person I Come across the rest of my life will want a piece of it, does not sound appealing in the least.

Food for thought. I don't think overall my answer is purely moral. I think it is because I think things through a little more than the average person. I think really that is all it comes down to. Well, and knowing money isn't everything helps too I guess. Then again I Don't even have the heart to squish a spider that I am deftly afraid of, so the whole kitten and old lady thing are out regardless - LOL. & the whole cheating on taxes is a victimnless crime angle - oy vey. Every one of us are victims of that - but I get it - its faceless - that would be more up my alley if I had to choose one...


May 25th, 2007 at 05:27 pm

Well, I lied. I Actually came into work for a bit this morning AND will take some work home. So it is not as much of a 4-day weekend as you may have imagined, but I got a little too caught up in it myself. A short discussion with dh yesterday leads me to believe though that this weekend is not as free as thought. LOL. His mom is coming up which is fine and dandy. I wanted a peaceful weekend, but I told dh I really didn't care as long as I don't have to be social. I Feel less guilty neglecting the kids when they are smothered by Grandma anyway, so I might get some work done and I decided maybe I could take dh to that fancy restaurant that wasn't so bad for lunch - on the price.

Of course, because of this we should just be happy and postpone our date night next week, but it is so exciting to get a date night. We'll just have to make it really cheap. Not doing the FANCY dinner should help. IT may be overkill, but we need a break too. Wink

Sunday I am not sure if we have much planned - but Monday dh is working on some internet sitcom with his buddies.

I guess this means for me I Will try to get all my work done Saturday, and enjoy a nice lunch, clean house Sunday (backwards since the guests are coming saturday - but oh well - it looks a tad better these days) & hopefully means a relaxing fun day with the kids Monday. I just want a day or 2 to not to worry about work. Which means I want to whip out 2 articles, get a few hours of work done, and go on a date tomorrow. In the name of 2 days with no pressing needs, I think I can swing it!

Today I am driving home to see my dentist (Which you all know I have been absolutely dreading - but will good to be done with) and spend a nice night with my parents. Ah, it should be nice. Just to escape!

In financial news, I know gas is crazy but I think to some extent I have been wondering what everyone has been going crazy about. I filled up and it was about $3.10/gallon (As opposed to $3.50 where it was for a bit) and then dh nailed it on the head. There was an article in the paper how gas was up on average 45 cents/gallon nationwide in the last month alone, but it went down here 15 cents or something in the last month. I have no idea why, but now I see why all the hooha and why I did not notice so much myself. So far we have been sticking under budget, many long van trips and all, but I don't really look forward to summer all the same. We're taking the Escort to LA (cramped but cheap) and probably for any other drives this summer. I guess it helps not driving a Hummer (As so many people around here drive - I get really sick of hearing SUV & Hummer drivers complaining about gas prices - gah - mostly because these are the last people it would occur to to drive a little less, much less downgrade their vehicle).

So anyway, gas for me has not been so bad. Not good, but not horrid. IT won't bust our budget until summer, and then we'll probably just drive a lot less to compensate. Admittedly I have been driving a lot more too with aerobics class and such, but WELL worth it.

Speaking of saving energy though, I just signed up for the PEak Corps program here. Which basically means they could cycle off our a/c for 4 hours, technically on a really hot day. But we save $5/month. We pay $6/month to support the green energy programs, so I figure this will offset that (for 4 months out of the year anyway). I first heard of it 2 years back, but with a newborn, wasn't interested in sweltering. THough they say on average they use it 10-16 days every summer (mostly July and AUgust I imagine). For the most part when I first saw this they hadn't even used it that much and now they are requiring all new homes to automatically sign up (they can cancel after) but since only 20% of people opt out, it just means that many more people participating and less chance the a/c will ever be out for 4 hours. I just told dh I was going to do this. If it is too much we can give 24 hour-notice to go to a smaller program - where they can only turn off 40 out of 60 minutes every hour. THat I KNOW we can handle. I always go on and on how our house stays so cool and I am not that worried. Dh argued with me saying it wouldn't affect me and why I Didn't care - LOL. I reminded him this was most likely to happen at peak times. Since I am usually only gone 8-5 and he is more likely to do his own things evenings/weekends, um no, will probably affect ME more. But whatever. I bet you a million to one we won't even notice!!! So we have to swelter for a couple of hours and turn on some fans - big whoop... *rolling yes* But like I said, if it is that bad, we change our minds, downgrade, still save $3.75/month (for 4 months) and get to use the a/c as much as we probably need it anyway.

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In other news, our local movie theatre is offering free movies for parents and kids on the summer weekdays. I Think last year it was only on preschool days and LM Was too little/fussy anyway I am sure. This year I think the kids and dh will love it, they have 2 free days a week now. Woohoo. Free summer entertainment is always good. Should 2 & 4 year-olds be watching movies (even though rated g?) You can argue that one but dh is movie king and BM has certainly seen more movies than I care that he has seen. LM we just figure whatever, he's there. I don't think we really turned on the t.v. much before BM was 2, but LM is around when BM watches t.v., and he gets sucked in. Dh and I were just commenting how he probably has seen way more t.v. just for being the younger one. Time will tell if we sucked his brain dry, but he seems okay. So though dragging 2 small kids to a movie would not be on top of my list, dh will be excited. & maybe I could arrange to watch LM while he takes BM a couple of days. Even better... I noticed the first showing was Curious George which both kids LOVE.

Finally, I have gained 7 pounds. Eeks. But it is good. I always gain a few token pounds when I start an exercise program. It must be frightening - my body fat percentage - when I don't work out or something. Today I Was up a good 7 pounds but my skinny jeans fit for the first time since tax season - so Way to Go - muscle gain!!! I have 2 more weeks and had wanted to make a little more progress before the cruise, but oh well. I'll survive. I was lazy and I pay - I have only been doing my aerobics for a month -a nd 1/2-assed at that. I have 7 pounds of muscle and that is better than nothing. My physique is just looking a little better overall. I look so forward to just eating my heart out on the cruise, but there is so much activity on the boat - aerobics, gym, rock climbing, plus if we do any excursions, etc. I would really like to do a bike ride myself. I think it will offset and honestly hope it is a chance to get re-motivated a bit. I find 2 factors working against me since having kids - hormones and time. I Think the time is the worst though. HAving a week to do whatever sounds divine. & I want to whip my body into better shape! & maybe I will be motivated to work a little harder when I get home. Wink

Well I hope you all have a good weekend. I will probably be around online tomorrow since I have so much work to do, but you know if you see me hanging around Sunday and Monday, just chastise me - LOL. I need to get my butt off the computer! Wink

Financial Stuffs

May 24th, 2007 at 07:52 pm

So it looks like I may win $5 or $10. That was easy peasy money. Wink Good to see more people participating in this newest blog competition though. I think they're fun, though I am stumped on Top 10 for now, may sit this one out.

I moved $500 over from bonds to stock. Everything is doing good I guess, but getting way too bond heavy. So did the shift. I just did a big shift a couple of months ago - yeesh. Keeping on top of allocations. Plus it looks like we are up 8% for the year. Not bad, not bad. Cash, bonds, stocks and all... I am still amazed how much we are beating ex-broker's butt, but I guess not having to pay an inordinate amount of fees makes ALL the difference. All that being said we have another 1-2% to beat 2004 & 2006.

I would really like to do some ROTH conversions right now. I keep thinking what if dh gets some giant windfall from this movie and we get pushed to a higher tax bracket? What I should really think is, so what? Like it matters. So we will have that much more money to pay for the conversion. I should just bite the bullet and do it! What are the odds anyway - pretty slim. I have to jinx it to get a big windfall, so be it. That would be quite a jinx. Wink I can't contribute to any of my funds right now because I guess for the same reason - it is iffy if I am entitled to a tax-deductible IRA contribution if any extra money comes in. I should just start the paperwork - lord knows it takes forever. Waiting so far just means a bigger tax bill - all my accounts are doing so well. I don't think I have any bond funds right now either - dh has them all - since we have so little to work with individually I just consider it all one - our money. I have some cash, he has the bonds, we both have everything else I guess. But yeah, I should start paperwork and start converting. Every $100 gain is another $15 tax due to the Feds when I finally do it. It would be nice to be able to add some money to my accounts! Wink

Oh, I tried to move the $115 sitting in my Fidelity cash account to my mid-cap fund, but I guess I need $250 minimum. Now that is a conundrum. I am not sure if I can add any money. All the more reason to convert that and contribute the token $135 so I can invest the cash. I was wondering if I sold $135 from the mutual fund and then bought it back with the $250 if that would work. It probably would, but would they rather me go through all that? Gah. Why are these things so dang complicated!

Just more Busy Busy - some Financial

May 23rd, 2007 at 02:33 pm

I kind of laugh at myself reading some of the blogs because I pride myself on being a simple person and leading a simpler lifestyle (I guess in comparison to city folk). But I guess you have to keep in mind is I am usually a go go go person, and I have REALLY slowed down since having kids. Then again, maybe it is the kids that make life crazy. I don't know. But I think back to the days I worked and had school from 6am to 10pm and you know, these days are simple if you ask me. Wink

It is also funny because I ran to my friend at preschool the other day and told her that things were slowing down but BM was in karate and I just started aerobics, and all our evening are tied up, and she called me a soccer mom or something. Oy Vey! I think I took offense to it - LOL. But after karate class BM and I sat and watched the ducks at the pond for a good 1/2 hour. I thought soccer moms don't this. I need down time too much I guess. Wink I don't want to push my kids. Though I guess my problem, which I get from my dad, is I want my kids to experience everything there is to life. Honestly I want my kids to take piano lessons, and BM to continue karate if he likes, I want to take him roller skating and bowling on the weekends, all the stuff my parents exposed me to. But it is all to overwhelming all at once. One thing at a time I guess. I am sure at some point it could be translated into the crazy soccer mom lifestyle I imagine, but overall I just want the kids to know there is much out there. & frankly I wish there was enough hours in the day to have 1000 hobbies, but I realize there isn't. I am content with aerobics class for now as raising kids takes 99% of my time. Wink

Anyway, in financial news I now make enough money to qualify for $4k/month disability benefits through my professional association. Awesome Possum since I have been using this as a benchmark for our basic expenses. So I will up it from $3500. IT is only like $200/year premium. I keep hearing how disability is so expensive and so I wonder if this is another one where being young paid off. OF course then I wonder if I should have locked it in in our 20s. For now it is such a good rate though and I am already 30, I Am sticking with it. Though I will start shopping around, would be willing to pay a bit more to lock in a rate for 30 years or something. I could kick myself for not doing that in my 20s. Our life insurance was an incredible deal since we locked in the rates while young and healthy. Then again it is such a bargain through my association. Decisions decisions.

I also tried to up my credit limit online on the citi card (like I want to call them and sit through their high pressure sales tactics - could I call a credit company without a protection package spiel - oy very - Chase has been super obnoxious and Citi doesn't seem much better. Now I do not need protection in case of loss of work - that is what my efund is for!!!!). Anyway, they denied me because I was a new customer, but I tried for dh too on a whim that maybe he had been a customer of Citi before. Well, lahdedah, I just got an e-mail that they approved him a $4k credit line increase just by simply asking online, a couple of weeks after he applied for the card originally. It means we have $16k to BT fee-free between the 2 of us. I am happy. Means around a $500 return - much more worthwhile now. I will call and ask - with my credit score I really can't say they would say no - we don't have much credit to our names overall and I have been reading some people just called and got $25k. That's what I want - LOL. Well, I'll try, inconvenience and all.

I also applied for the WAMU card out of curiosity. Plus it was cute. Wink LOL. They gave me $6k I think - and are transferring it to my Citi Card where I can online request a refund of the credit balance! This BT had a $75 fee and mostly I just wanted to try it out. I am lucky they gave me $6k. If they gave me much less I am not sure I could even come out ahead - but the BT 0% rate is for around 14 months... I now see why Citi is such a good deal, because you can utilize the BT later after you ask for a bigger limit. I knew WAMU wasn't the best deal, but offset against the others, it will up our returns a bit. mostly I wanted to experiment with the whole process. Though it would be FAR easier to just have one card with $25k or something. But I like paying bills and paying with Quicken, and for the first time, will set all these up to pay automatically anyway (keeping a close eye). I think it won't be so bad - just have to be organized and remember when each needs to be repaid in full. So I'll keep you updated!

Today I am meeting some girlfriends for lunch. IT has been too busy but finally just said screw it. I need a life - LOL. & I also have a movie night with my mom's group the week after the cruise. It seems during tax season all the working moms dropped off the face of the earth, but hoping if I host an event or 2 maybe we can move forward. Just happy I can make an event. They have been having a lot of marykay and tupperware parties - blech! I just want a nice cheap playdate for my kids - not be sold crap. & then they are always pushing for pricey weeknight dinners which many of us can't afford. Someone had the suggestion that we meet for a lunch on a weekend - now that I could jive with! We just don't do dinners except that is the ONLY time we can generally find babysitting - but saving big pricey dinners for dates with my hubby myself. Wink

Which reminds me my cruise is in less than 3 weeks!!!!!!! I thought it was 4 weeks away. I am so happy though lord knows where my passport is. Keeping my fingers crossed I get it in time - oy vey. Now I Read that an expired one would suffice just dandy. But I mailed it off to the terribly slow passport agency. Worst case I guess is I can drive to SF the week before and demand my old one back or something - LOL. I just do not like things last minute and mail has been awfully slow so I am terribly antsy about it. I should have lied and said my trip was much sooner - silly me. But I wanted to be fair to the last-minute applyers. *sigh*

Oh yeah, and I have bunco tonight. I felt silly when I realized - meeting my friend for lunch and will see her at bunco tonight too - but it has been too long. Nice to be getting a semblance of a life back - phew. THough lunch and bunco is not cheap either. Wink

Send me money vibes - win win win!!!!

Oh yeah, I am still planning to do Kiva, and maybe Prosper. Kiva soon, like this month. Prosper, I will probably wait until I get my efund to where I want it - plus some ROTH conversions. So maybe in December or next January.... All things on the back burner for right this moment but I want to get to!

Need some ideas...

May 22nd, 2007 at 04:14 pm

I got a wonderful article idea because I keep replying to posts and blogs about usual rules and assumptions about finance and how they don't really apply when you start young/are young.

Like am I worried about paying off the mortgage before retirement? Not exactly. If I take the full 30 years from my last refinance it will be paid off 10 years before traditional retirement age. & neither of us really has a burning desire to retire early. We own our dream home with a fixed low rate. I really don't foresee not having our house paid by 55, nor having the desire to move up.

Today I was commenting on the faulty logic of ROTH IRAs being less favorable in today's dollars. I have a 40-year investment horizon. I should be able to put in $4k/year and take out $1 million plus tax-free in 40 years. Hello. In the meantime I am young and my income tax rate is nil now too. win-win. If your ivvestment horizon is only 10-20 years and you are at the peak of your career income-wise, well then it makes little sense. I'll agree. But as usual I see huge exceptions for being young.

I find myself over and over saying yes, these financial principles make sense when you are in your 40s or something, but the ball game is completely different when you are in your 20s. Of course I would rethink ROTHs if I were in my 40s. OF course I Would work harder to pay off the house sooner if I bought a home in my 40s. Etc., etc.

But I find having a LONG investment horizon changes all the rules.

So is there anywhere else any of you have noticed this?

I think overall I am going to turn this article into more reasons to start investing and taking charge of your finances while you are young!!!

The other obvious one is you can invest less, on an annual basis, for retirement, the younger you start, due to the power of compounding, which really ties into the rest. Why pay off the mortgage early when I have such a long investment horizon, is really what it comes down to. As does all of these. But I figure there are some other things I haven't though of - always helps to have more brains to pick.


ETA: I thought of a good one in the middle of the night and completely forgot. It figures - LOL. Maybe insurance - how you can lock in low rates in your 20s.

It's a Girl!

May 22nd, 2007 at 02:09 pm

I am getting another niece around October - woohoo!

The funny thing though is we gave so much stuff to family being the first to have children. At first we gave freely because it was family, but after a while dh and I started to conclude, this sucks. LOL. We have spent so much on baby stuff and everyone else gets a free ride. Plus we have started selling bigger things. Luckily no one seemed to need them. But we visited his cousin one day and when we got home dh says to me - there is no way we are going to give them any more clothes - they do not need them in the least. Yeah they live in an expensive area but they seem to be doing quite well. & plus BIL's family is large and they have hand-me-downs galore from them too - more to the point. So we were kind of excited to start selling some of this stuff instead, and then dh tells me, well what if SIL has a boy? She'll need boy clothes. & of course she already asked me what I have available to give.

So anyway, the boy clothes I have to sell and donate aren't much, and won't make us rich or anything. But it is kind of nice all the same to not feel like the sole support of all things baby in the family any more.

I think more of my bitterness set in when SIL could not even loan us one item when we had my second. Heck I think she wouldn't give me back some stuff when I asked!!! So I got really annoyed. But I would still feel obligated to help all the same if it was a boy. We're just stupid like that - LOL. Of course anything for a 1-2 year old already resides with dh's rich cousin, so not much we could help her with now anyway.

I shouldn't get too excited though because you never know. I have a couple of friends who were having girls that ended up being boys, so you know, nothing is set in stone I guess. Wink

Oh, but I have to tell you a cute kiddie story.

I remember it was around May 2 years ago when I was shopping at Target for some maternity bras, and I Was with my son, and all of a sudden he starts exclaiming (he was about 2) - "Those are so cute!!!!" To the bras. Well, they were just plain and white - nothing really cute, but all the ladies around started laughing. Was just So Funny.

So over the weekend I had LM in the shopping cart and was wheeling him around in search of the adorable monkey doormat I saw in the sales ad. I told him to keep an eye out for monkeys. So we went down a bath aisle with little monkey bath accessory sets and I exclaimed how cute they were. So we kept rolling and he saw more monkey stuff so he exclaimed in his little baby voice, with much excitement, "That is so cute!!!!!!" Of course again the other ladies in the aisle start cracking up. IT was really funny to me because I immediately had deja vu.

& well I guess I have to admit that I must exclaim, "how cute!!!!!" a lot. LOL. It's something about this particular age that both boys picked up on it though. Hehe.

Busy Busy Busy Busy

May 21st, 2007 at 08:45 pm

I think for the most part I feel blah due to the lack of sleep. I concluded this because I had a wonderful productive weekend, went to bed very happy and just wokr up feeling like crap this morning. Slept maybe 11 - 6, but I like need 8 hours to function, and the whole getting awakend 100 times in between is the biggest problem.

& of course the only reason I got so much done this weekend was I didn't take any naps, which usually I thrive on. Well, maybe next weekend I can catch up around the house, and then resume naps after that. The 4-day weekend I have should help too - phew.

I swear - I never missed a glorious full night sleep in my life, before kids. I value my sleep very highly. I was actually surprised how well I adjusted to the sleepless nights when I had kids. But a mere 4 years later (almost 5 years when you realize pregnancy as well makes it impossible to sleep), I think I am done with it - I want my sleep back. IT doesn't help when older/wiser parents say your kids will always keep you up (with worry if nothing else). I can't even fathom a life of this. LOL. At least once these evil molar finally break through it will calm down for a bit. I hope...

In other news we should find out today if SIL is having a boy or a girl. Yes, I know it is not 1000%, but I am excited anyway. Very very very excited. I kind of hoped its a boy, but then I realized there are 3 boys in the family and only 1 girl, thus far. Either way a healthy baby is most important. Wink But I can go buy those adorable little baby outfits once I find out - woohoo. I have to admit I really enjoy having a niece because I love buying those cute girly clothes I will never get to for my own children. Then again it has been so long since I have had an infant, well I will enjoy regardless, all those little bitty baby things - how fun.

Anyway, things accomplished this weekend:

* Cleaned out kitchen cupboards and threw away so much old food I am embarassed to admit. Some stuff that expired 2000 - 2003. Blah.

*Worked a bit

*Went to to realtor's house for dinner. Had shrimp! Kids met and had an absolute blast. I think it will be great to get the kids together more but not sure how well the adults jived. A little too hoity toity for me which I find ironic since I never got that impression from me. realtor before going to his home. Interesting though. I guess I got tired hearing about how their beautiful upscale home was in the "ghetto." LOL. Oy vey. To their credit, they didn't clarify until we were leaving that a horrible shoothing that took place a few months back happened 2 doors down from their home. Oy vey. But you know, idiots are everywhere. One shooting does not a ghetto make.

*Cleaned up the bedroom - had dh move his dresser to its new spot (displaced by his beloved TV) and set up my shelves and anchor them. We have boxes to unpack from when we were thinking of moving. Now I Can unpack some boxes.

*Added some more things for the freecycle and donation piles. One thing I found in the cupboards was baby food. Also bibs. At least the baby food didn't expire yet or I Would feel really bad.

*Moved old/ancient/horrible recliner out of baby's room and put the toddler bed in there. Will recycle chair. It did us fine through 2 babies with a nice blanket to hide the fact it is completely falling apart. Was a hand-me-down. Will freecycle it. I don't want to think about the crib to bed transition with nights as they have been. Then again he's not sleeping anyway, so why not. We would have to do significant babyproofing to his room though. It was easier with the eldest, we moved him into an empty/bare room. LOL. We'll have to move the diapers and babyproof and yadda yadda. Then again he might sleep better in a bed instead of a crib. WHo knows...

*Light cleaning

*Took the kids to the park Sunday. There is this really cool/big park by BM's karate class with a pond as well. We saw some baby geese there the other night after karate class and just sat on a bench 1/2 hour watching the birds. Someone had thrown food on the ground before we got there but the birds didn't notice until we sat down, so a ton of birds came up to us and BM was just in heaven watching them all. OF course he wanted to hug them all and was upset I made him sit, hands off and all that - LOL. The baby geese were actually kind of ugly, but fun to watch. A bunch of baby ducks too - very adorable. So I drug the family out Sunday. LM loves the birds, but was too enamored by the park to really be bothered by the birds. But a nice park, will have to frequent that one more.

*Ate out Greek Dinner last night. Well ordered in actually. That place is just too good - too addicting...

*Dh went rock climbing (indoor) with some movie buddy - was glad he got out though worried it is an expensive hobby to persue. He keeps telling me how much I have to try rock climbing on the cruise ship. IT doesn't sounds fun to me in the least - I don't like, well, heights. I'll try it but don't expect to like it - LOL. Even worse his best buddy has been doing REAL rock climbs and he wants to go. If you haven't noticed I am not much of a risk taker. Doesn't sound fun to me. Blah. Oh well, it could be worse...

*Oh yeah, went shopping. Spent too much money. What a spendy weekend. We went by Target because they had a sale on some nice duffle bags I had been looking for on ebay. I figured the sale was about the same, but I could check them out in person as opposed to the stab in the dark it was going to seem on ebay. So we all went and dh stocked up on sale items (laundry detergent and such), and I stocked up on bags (found a nice backpack as well since I finally just threw my old one from college away - the thing was thrashed. The new one is 10 times nicer though, and we have some nice bags for our trip. The best part is the duffle has rollers (my other one well it still works fine but it is big and gets heavy - the rollers are a NICE touch), but even better it came with a free smaller bag. Dh has a nasty old little holey duffle bag that has got to be since he was a baby or sonmething. IT's either the bag or me. It has to go. This one is 10 times as nice but he still wants his old one. I just can't take it anymore - LOL. Last time we visited his mom I had a plastic bag and dh had his holey bag and the kids had all their nice bags and I told MIL - such is lif e- the kids have way nicer stuff than we do. Wink But now we are all on par. It is nice to move beyond the plastic grocery bags, personally. LOL. Next on the list is his jacket. I think I even replaced it once since I met him - this old gray hooded sweatshirt. But I don't know what he does to these things - it is just nasty. Washing doesn't seem to help. I guess for his birthday or something - LOL. But I conquered the duffle bag and am very happy. Wink

Oh yeah, but my impulse buy was a giant monkey doormat. Too cute!!!!!

So it was a very busy weekend.

I felt bad we spent so much money, but today it evened out. I just realized preschool is out (& don't have to pay) lasy week of June!!!!! The payment for June is in my May budget, and I was pretty dead on for the month. So now I suddenly have $70 extra. No mind that with the car I didn't put a dime in savings (long-term) this month, and we had a spendy weekend. I told dh we should use the money for a night out. So I reserved a night our next week for Ms. preschool to babysit and we are going on a date.

Actually my boss took us to the fanciest restaurant last week and OMG it was SO good. I told dh what I really wanted to do was take him there. (Plus the lunch prices really weren't that bad - though I guess I have to wonder about dinner). When we couldn't decide what to do I think partly we realized we were kind of sick of going to the same place for dinner whenever we catch a break. At least I am. SUre, it's rare enough, but boring all the same - LOL. So, with babysitting and the fancy dinner will probably spend a little more than the $70 saved. But I REALLY look forward to it!!!!

Oh yeah, but though I did so much and all is well, still feeling overwhelmed. Have to scrub all the bathrooms, get the freecycle/donate/sell piles out of the house, scrub kitchen, pick up the lving room (looks like a tornado has been through). I just want my house back - I hate living in a sty. It was too overwhelming so I just started small with the kitchen cabinets, but it really helps. I didn't realize how bad they were for one!!!! But if nothing else want the house hospitable for dh's family - they are staying to watch the kids when we go on the cruise... I know for a fact MIL will about faint when she sees the cabinets. She knows we are slobs and plus it bugs her. Wink

Oh yes, I also bought some canisters to set out on the kitchen counters, to free up cupboad space - which spurred the cupboard cleaning frenzy. IT didn't free up as much as I had hoped, but will probably buy more. I think it is a good idea overall - we have tons of counterspace but the cupboards seem cramped. Dh and I also got into a great debate how to store spices. I hate how they are stored now and I can't find anything, but he resists change. YEah, sure, I do never cook because I can't find ANYTHING!!!!! LOL. He does get a little possessive of the kitchen, but I do enjoy cooking it would like to do it once in a while too. Wink That whole thing is on hold until one of us devises a compromise. I saw some cute wall spice racks until I realized our kitchen has NO wall space either. Bummer. Dh resists everything that I think is useful. Even a nice drawer organizer would work, but he resists - because the kids would get into them. Whatever. The kids don't get into the knives. But he doesn't seem worried about that one. *whatever* Which reminds me we should probably move them since BM has mastered the child locks. But that's the thing, clearly hte knives are off limits and the kids don't mess with them. I am not sure why dh has no faith in his parenting skills when it comes to spices. LOL. Knives yes, spices no. Sometimes he is really frustrating!

Common Myths About College

May 20th, 2007 at 05:50 am

1. Going to Private College will make you more successful than Public College

Some quotes from an interesting series Laura Rowley did on the subject:

"Research shows that 20 years into their careers, highly motivated students who don't attend the most selective schools earn roughly the same salaries as those who do."

"Studies show the ranks of CEOs, at least, are not dominated by Ivy League grads. Spencer Stuart, the executive search firm, found 11 percent of CEOs at Fortune 500 firms had Ivy League degrees -- down from 16 percent in 1998. A survey by the Wharton School found that in 2001, 10 percent of CEOs received undergraduate degrees at one of the eight Ivies; 48 percent earned them from public colleges and universities."

Text is and Link is

Granted, there are some situations, maybe many, where a private university will give you a leg up. But is it always worth it at any cost? I would not agree in the least.

By the way, most of the people I know from high school blew too much money on fancy private colleges right away, then returned to public education (then out of money) for their real degrees and/or Master degrees. This always seemed REALLY backwards to me. So I have to add, if you must go to private college, make sure you have picked the degree/career you are going to stick with. That's pretty hard to do at 17/18.

2. Colleges that cost More are Better

Unfortunately I can't find any links to the articles I have seen on this subject. But there was a really interesting article I read a few months back how many colleges would raise their tuition (& accordingly their financial aid packages) to increase interest in the college when enrollment was down. It really worked. If tuition was perceived to be too low, enrollment would drop. Often raised tuition was all it took to spur more interest.

We are smarter than this. Much as many of us here are not too big on brand names in general, why settle for a brand name college that just costs 10 times as much as the others? Substance should be far more important.

3. You have to go into debt to get through College

As with anything, there are shades of gray here. I know plenty of people who needed to take on a little debt to get through college. Sure. The problem here is too many people look at it as an all or nothing proposition. If you can't afford college, and have to throw it all on a card anyway, why pay attention to the budget? I remember getting so sick of people in college who had to pay their own way through who racked up a lot of debt and whined about it while living lifestyles 10 times as grand as those of us quietly working our way through college, working many jobs, and budgeting and cutting expenses. I wasn't really convinced that large car payments and party lifestyles were necessary to get through college.

But mostly my point is, if you think something is impossible it will be. IF you think it is impossible to get through with no or little debt, well it will be. Consider changing your thinking.

At least make an effort to make the debt hurt as little as possible!

4. You can't work while you are in college

Okay okay, so there are some degrees and some people who can not work while going to college. I get it. Go take out some reasonable loans. That doesn't bother me. But too often I see very able-bodied/smart people who would never consider working in college. IF nothing else, is it really that impossible to work a couple of jobs in the summer and earn some money when school is out? I pretty much worked full-time all through college and had a 4.0 GPA. IT took me 5 years instead of 4. Hardly worse for the wear. What do you think looks better on a resume? Someone who didn't work a day during college, someone who worked summers only when school was out, or someone who balanced work and school at the same time. #3 will win by a mile but I don't think #2 will do half bad either. #1 - I don't know. The only exception being lots of extra-curriculars, which if necessary, maybe time to hit the student loans. There are exceptions to the rule, of course, but for the most part I see too many "I can't"s where there really shouldn't be.

5. You are a Horrible Parent if you don't provide a College Education for your Kids (particularly expensive ones at any cost)

I think #4 kind of leads into this one. That parents forget their children are able-bodied adults who can help pay for their own college. Really, it won't kill them!

Anyway, I just had to share my experience, and I guess why I feel so strongly that most college talk is a lot of hype. The downside is people get SO emotional about this issue their brain really goes out the window. You don't know how many times I have been called names and considered a moron because I don't intend to save up 1/2 mil to put both my kids completely through medical school, like it is their god-given right. But most of the time I have to admit this kind of response comes from people who resent the fact their parents weren't there for them for college. I understand that gets emotional. But look, there is a huge difference between not being prepared, not supporting your kids, etc., versus just expecting the kids to pull their weight a bit, and not putting college in front of all other financial goals, illogically.

As for my family, my father came from an extremely poor family and had no help with college. He went to state and worked through college, coming out with no debt. Having done so he was able to, through his career, move from the lowest social class to pretty much upper-middle-class. Obviously my father values a college education dearly as it made a HUGE difference in his life.

However, my parents didn't save a dime specifically for my college. I am not saying they didn't save a dime. They had plenty of money to finance my education if they so choose. But they didn't earmark a huge chunk for college or expect me to get a free ride. They wanted me to work as hard as they did for their education because they knew I would appreciate it that much more. Plus the difference here is night and day. I had a middle class family to fall back on which my father never had. They helped me a bit. But they sure as hell refused to pay a dime for private college as mostly they just saw it as a waste of money. If I Wanted something like that, that bad, I Could figure it out. I needed to contribute heavily to my education at first, and then completely after the first year (As well as move out and support myself as an adult. Why not, they had done it from day 1).

Fast Forwarding to today, I have too many friends who can't pay their bills, but have thousands and even hundreds of thousands saved for their kids' college. That is just crazy! Because my parents managed their money much better I don't expect to be supporting them in old age. I truly appreciate that they did not go broke over my college. I have too many friends who had expensive colleges paid for who are now cleaning up the financial mess their parents made.

My point being overall, if you want to save for your kids' college, so be it. It will be a great gift. Just keep in mind that it will not be a great gift to your children if you go into financial ruin over it. Also, keep in mind having parents who made me work a little harder for my college degree was the best gift they ever made me. IT made me a very strong, self-sufficient person. Plus I sure as hell learned to live on a shoestring which is invaluable.

I haven't saved a dime for my kids' college yet, and likely will never earmark a dollar specifically for college for the kids. BUT I can guarantee that they will have opportunities tenfold the opportunities that either I or my parents had. Before you throw stones just know my oldest son already has more in a college account started by grandma than my entire education cost. I think it is pretty overkill. But since they have more wealth to share now, and we are so much further ahead of the game than they were at this point in the game, I am not too worried about it. Even without grandma's money I would feel the same. But it brings a point that someone not saving money for their kids' college and not intending to finance it all, does not a bad parent make. Too often this whole thing is seen as so black and white. There are many shades of gray.

& obviously, I get a little emotional on the subject too. Wink

So there you have it. I think all these myths can really be summed up in one main rule - don't get too emotional about college decisions. That's when you pay far more than you should for your child's education. Look at things a little more critically, do your best, know your child can survive as an adult, be confident that you raised them well, etc., etc.

If you really wanna pay for the best schools and not have them work a day, go for it. Just please don't sacrifice your own life for something that may not be appreciated, or even used. I have too many high school friends who turned their fancy paid-for educations into minimum wage retails jobs. Too many parents are blindly financing educations for just that - minimum wage dead-end jobs. IT seems to be an epidemic in the middle class society I grew up in where parents valued fancy educations beyond everything else, including the outcome of said education. Hopefully my experiences can help other parents avoid the same mistakes.


May 19th, 2007 at 07:03 pm

Man, am I burned out. Work is crazy, feeling behind. I think the worst is everyone else thinks I should be free and have tons of time, but I don't. My boss reminded me he would pay me another bonus if I worked more overtime. LOL. Is that a hint? Well, I always look at the bright side. Though I wanted to cut back my hours, I guess doing the opposite and working more isn't the worst, if it means more pay. I really could squeeze out another $400/month or so if I just went to work an hour early every day. THat is what I really should do.

The thing is that is not a terrible schedule overall, but the baby has just been so difficult and not sleeping well at all. IT comes and goes, but this was not a good week. If I could actually get a decent night sleep on most nights I could probably accomplish twice as much as I have been. Instead I am in a fog and just too behind and overwhelmed. I have been pretty miserable and not very posty. I think mostly I Am spread too thin. I don't like feeling like I am doing a half-assed job everywhere. Ever since I had my second child I just don't handle stress very well - still hormonal stuff I guess. So I am frustrated I don't feel like myself either. I find myself vegging a little too much and feeling a little too sorry for myself which just pisses me off more, because I am becoming what I hate. I just need to get off my butt and do more, but I just haven't been very productive, because I am a little depressed, and just doesn't help the cycle.

I also skipped aerobics class all week -- my word. I told dh I was so excited that I only had to pay when I show up, but he pointed out yesterday maybe that was bad - LOL. It really is - the reason I signed up is I figured if I had to pay I would go. I really wanted to tone up a bit and shed some pounds before the cruise. Instead I think I am gaining weight. But again, obviously sitting around and skipping aerobics is not helping me.

I think mostly I am stressed about work. I was very happy to have an easy job and little responsibility. I am resigned to the fact that more responsibility is probably best for my career, and my income. & my boss needs help, too bad I am the only reliable one. I think I am mostly frustrated though because I wanted to be cutting back my hours and not doing so much at work. But my boss needs me, what can I do. HE is trying. He is hiring a CPA in North Dakota and even looking into outsourcing lower level work to India. The shortage of qualified help is insane. The good side of ever increasing pay and incredible flexibility has reached the tipping point. The flexibility only works when other employees shoulder the burden. I got paid $35/hour to play receptionist on Monday because I was the lowest level employee available when 3 people called in sick. LOL. My boss and his wife were appalled when they got back from lunch - where was everyone. Everyone was home sick and the receptionist had to run client stuff to the post office. But that's how it's been. We have 10 employees today. I think we had 15 when I started 5 years ago. Monday there were only 2 of us in the office at 2:00, that was when I got reception duty.

The workload may be down a bit, and efficiency may be up a bit. But then again we have more less qualified employees today as well. Oh well, I don't know if I can ever slide along at easy 40-hour weeks again. Just too much to do, not enough people to help. Still way better than any other CPA firm I have ever seen (most tend to push 60-hour weeks easy). But all the same I have gotten used to a pretty easy work schedule the last few years, as has the family got used to it. THey really resist me working more, which of course stresses me out too.

So that's everything here.

Pretty much blah.

I have been trying to get together with our realtor for about 6 months since he has kids our age. A simple playdate at the park would do. ANyway, they invited us to a BBQ today. IT should be fun. BUT I am tempted to cancel because I feel so behind. But I resist the urge. IT is ridiculous we met him about a year ago - we were looking at houses last year. & only now we get the kids together. Actually, it was kind of funny, I met his wife separately and didn't put 2 and 2 together right away - and yeah we have all been saying the kids need to meet one of these days. We'll see if they hit it off. We need to resume some socialness. I think we usually find we get so exhausted with life we rather hang around home. Then again dh and I are big homebodies. It is BM who is Mr. Social Pants and we try to be more social for him. But it is good for us too. We need to get out more, no doubt. SO hopefully today will be fun!

Oh yeah, and neighbors sold their house. I am dying to see what they got for it. They said they took a knocking, but knowing they paid closer to $300k and asked for $625k (5 years later), I am not too worried about them. Will be curious though as it was only up about a month, if that. I Tell you the 3-bedrooms here SIT - many on the market for more than a year. Neighbor's house is 3000sf, sold without a prob... Who knew... The old adage that small houses always sell is just so not true around here. I am relieved we have a more high-end house because what it comes down to is only move-up buyers are buying right now. But we'll see...

Oh yeah, but I forgot to say - I am taking next Friday off. Good or bad - I don't know - depends if I feel more caught up. Have to get my filling back home. So will probably spend the morning with family and then drive down alone. I really look forward to it (well except for the whole dentist part - drilling, expenses and all) - will probably spend the night with my parents since the drive was so pleasant in the morning last time. I really look forward to a good 24 hours away from it all - ALONE! & a 3-day weekend after that as well. I Would like to just be home, 3 days, no work. Catch up around the house - just behind on everything.

& our cruise can not come fast enough - I am just ready for a vacation!!!!!!! Dh and I are salivating at being away from the kids for about 5 days - twice as long as we ever have. We'll miss them terribly. HEck, we'll probably be bored out of our minds - LOL. But look forward to it all the same... The cruise ship seems to have PLENTY to keep us occupied - that is for sure. But you know, 24 hours a day with no responsibilities, I am not sure we will really know what the heck to do with ourselves. Overall though I expect the break/refresher will be really nice and we will be happy to get back home too. I think I will be content to eat to my heart's content and spend some time in the gym. Luckily my 2 favorite pasttimes are pretty complementary - I usually work out enough to allow extra eating - just not so much lately with kids and family to tend to. But I hope to be active and enjoy, and spend some time lounging on the beach too - nothing I love more than a nap on the beach... Just 4 more weeks......

Which reminds me I want to spring clean and ebay and craigslist and all that, but nothing pays better than my job - Wink - so I think I will survive (& said overtime). I just look forward to cleaning out the house a bit is all...


May 18th, 2007 at 02:18 pm

Well, I peeked yesterday and my IRA transfer has not gone through. As you will recall, Fidelity was so difficult I just bought D&C through them, $75 fee and all, I was tired of being out of the market. Bruce Fund was much nicer and willing to send a request 3 times in a row (as opposed to DC's 1 whimpy failed attempt). But when it hadn't cleared yesterday during the day I started to fear the worst. This internal battle if I should just keep my money at Fidelity for a while for ease (though resigned to the fact I am p.o.ed and likely to move my money down the road) or if I should leave immediately in protest or what. But none of this matters now because I was updating Quicken this morning and a $4500 left my Fidelity account last night. Woohoo!!!!!!!!!

& so go my adventures in investing in the Bruce FUnd. VEry interesting little fund - had to invest through them directly I believe.

Now my conundrum is I have a Traditional IRA account at Dodge & Cox with NO money in it. I was considering contributing $1k just to keep it open. & when the smoke clears, and now that I know I can do a transfer, and I know how to now without getting rejected, LOL, eventually I would probably transfer from Fidelity too. But in the meantime I have a conundrum. Sure it is aggressive to move the money from the efund for that, but it's good. So we get $15k in our retirement this year instead of $14k, nothing wrong with that. But, all the same, my ability to contribute to a traditional IRA hedges on the outcome of the rest of the year. Plus I wanted to convert all my IRAs to ROTHs this year anyway. So can I make a traditional IRA now and then convert it? Maybe, I guess, but so many what-ifs about the year.

I think my best bet is to call D&C and see if I can convert the account to a ROTH before I send in money. Tell them my conundrum and my intentions and that I no longer want to transfer assets from Fidelity. We'll see.

Plus if I use that money it lessens the money I will have for taxes for a ROTH conversion. So I may be best off just closing the D&C account and forgetting about it this year. Why does it have to be so complicated?

I also got a BT offer in the mail yesterday from WAMU. They said they want to give me a $30k credit line. IT does sound interesting, I want to research it a bit more. Of course in fine print they say the average CL is $4k. So what are the odds? If I could get $10k+ I am so in though. Considering asking for $15k BT and see what I get - will research a bit first. This one would have a $75 transfer fee, but seems not too bad, since it would be interest-free for 1 year. Would make in the realm of $500. I don't mind $75. Plus interest on the $75 for 1 year - it couldn't be that bad could it? Of course maybe I should just ask for $30k - then it would really be worth it.

Oh, but back to retirement, it has been hovering around $53k. Not bad. If I can just keep my job another 7 months or so I get a $10k contribution this year as I fully vest. It's exciting as we near our first six figures in retirement! 2-3 years off, and depends on the market, but getting there!

Money Spent this weekend

May 14th, 2007 at 12:08 am

Oooh, a spendy weekend.

Well went back home yesterday and had a marvelous time. The sad thing is I packed up the car around 8:30pm to head on the 2-hour drive home. I knew I was pushing it late but I didn't want LM to sleep too early all the same (more of a 9:00 bed time) and he was having so much fun with both grandmas - being the complete center of attention. This doesn't happen with larger than life BM around most of the time.

So anyway, was driving back and telling dh I was sleepy - on the phone - when he urged me not to push it. Oh I am fine I say, haven't even turned on the cold air or opened the soda to wake me up. so says I, until I hang up the phone. I was a good 10 miles out and I could just not keep my eyes open - thanks to LM waking me up at 4:30am, and days and weeks of lack of sleep regardless. So I decided to turn around. Was quite an easy decision with droopy eyes, my baby in the car, and my parents just a few minutes away with an extra bed. I did tell dh I felt bad though, that I should have left earlier. But he made a wonderful point - if so I probably would have felt sleepy 1/2 way and felt obligated to push on. I have done that too many times. Probably why I knew better than to push it. So anyway, it was an easy choice, though annoying since LM nor I sleep very well away from home and I was exhausted.

So LM kicked me all night but I managed to get some sleep, and I don't think my parents or dh could have been more pleased that I sucked it up and went to bed instead. I told my mom I might just leave at 3am if LM was too much of a handful - as long as I could get some sleep first. Anyway, he was fine until 5:30 though he slept SO restlessly and kicked me awake quite a few times. Gah! But around 5:30 he started freaking out so I popped him in the car and took off. He slept the whole drive so worked out well - I was worrying this was his new wake time or something. I am an early bird but truth be told it is the only time I have peace and quiet around the house - I don't need him waking up at 5am too - hehe.

Anyway, as annoyed as I was by the whole thing it really worked out. We got home about 7:30 when the other boys were waking up. It was a beautiful drive with the sunrise and hardly a car on the road. Loved it. Probably drove faster than I should (I usually pretty much stick to the speed limit) but it made for a quick drive indeed, with no traffic to speak of. Unfortunately I REALLY lack sleep but hopefully will get to bed early tonight.

Anyway, yesterday we went to the local art & wine festival by my parents' house and was fun. Actually ran into a couple of blasts from the pasts. Parents bought me both lunch and dinner and LM was in the best mood he had been in weeks or months. Just all day happy happy happy. HE only even napped 1 hour on the way up and after being awake since 4:30am that was it. Wha??? LOL. Just crazy.

While there I wanted to get my mom a gift but didn't get the chance. She was difficult. I might just make a donation in her name. If there was really nothing she wants, I respect that. But I want to do something nice for her all the same.

I forgot my camera which was a shame - we really enjoyed a lot of the gifts and crafts - some interesting things - but most way too pricey. But I did spot some cute stuffed toy snakes in different patterns and got one in white leopard print for LM. He was having fun waving it at passer-bys, it got a lot of attention. My mother also ended up having to go sit down at First Aid while she had LM, was just getting too tired. We found her and she was fine, blood sugar up a little high, not sure why, but we were ready to go and left. But while over there LM got a free balloon. He made out well.

He really gets overshadowed by BM who is super genius BTW. LM is not slow in the least, but there is no comparison. BM was practically reading by the time he was 2. LM could care less about letters and I am not even sure he knows his colors and shapes. But he talks up a storm (I have never had a kid who talks in fragmented sentences - ???? - they both went straight to full sentences. Didn't expect that with LM so much, who knows why except he mimics his bother so much). Anyway, so he had fun showing off his colors and numbers yesterday. HEck, I didn't even know he knew some of those and he definitely ate up the attention. LOL. Imagine my surprise when he counted to 10 for Grandma and pointed to his balloon and told me it was purple as someone handed it to him. Truth be told I have kind of enjoying him as a baby because my older son was never really much of a baby very long. I think officially he is not much baby any more though, and it's time to face up to it. Waaaaaaah. I was very content to have a simpler child, believe me. LOL. Dh and I joke that their brainpower combined is just going to be scary when they are older - hehe. Have to watch out for those 2 when they put their heads together as they grow older. Oh, I know I shouldn't brag but it's mother's day. Wink I am proud of my boys though they scare me sometimes. But it's funny to learn LM knows much that he hasn't been quick to share, or maybe we just have not encouraged out of him much. I am sure that is more to the point. We were in a big hurry for BM to grow up, and I know now LM is my last baby and I just want him to slow down!!!

SO yes, $7 for a snake, which was a steal compared to everything else there. Not much less than $20-$30. I'll have to snap a picture and share!

BM had quite a day with dh yesterday. They went to a birthday party in the morning and then dh took him to a little kiddie amusement park called Funderland. I think I took him last summer and he was a little overwhelmed. But this time he had a blast - more his speed I guess now that he is about 4. It's like aimed for 3-5 year-olds.

Friday night BM was obsessed with his digital watch and kept reading his time every minute or 2, ticking off the minutes. He was upset when I made him take it off for bed and I suggested dh pick him up a cheap little clock radio to keep by his bed. I figured he could keep an eye on the clock in bed if he like, for one. & also, since he has an analog clock in there which leads to much confusion since he doesn't really understand it. Sometimes he will fall asleep and though dh said he had to stay in there until the big hand lay some place on the clock sometimes he stays in bed once he awakens because he doesn't realize he fell asleep. LOL. At least dh can better explain how long he needs to stay in his bed for nap time. But in true dh fashion, oh no, a little cheapie alarm clock would not do. HE had to get him a CD player. Oh - don't even ask...

All I hope is he didn't just pick up something cheap. Hope it lasts. If he expects much else for his upcoming birthday, I wouldn't count on it - LOL. spoiled spoiled. THough I must admit he was beaming ear to ear when he showed me. Most definitely an appreciated gift. But yeesh. I never would have suggested if I realized what I was walking into...

So that was $25. Maybe $10 at funderland, I don't even know. My $7. Oh they spent $7 on Taco Bell. And so about $50 spent this weekend. Oh and a tank of gas - make it $100. I was bad, I took the van. But it is just so comfortable. Frown

Which reminds me, dh blindly picked up a Taco Bell kids meal and it ended up being like $4 - *choke choke*. Mind you, dh and I can eat there for $4 easy. So it became clear once he paid, he kind of scratched his head and looked at the receipt. The experience was good though because he told me he was going to order kids meals more carefully from now on. I said, well, yeah, you are lucky that one was so blatantly expensive, orelse he might not have even noticed. It's like they charged full price for everything in the meal and tacked on $1 for some crappy toy. No more TB kids meals, for sure.

Today is Mother's Day! Not much going on. Dh got me my gym mat. Big Grin BM gave me the most adorbale little present he made at preschool - I will have to get the camera and share. Dh also saw Round table had a $5 coupon in the paper so we pigged out on pizza for lunch - yummie. I have been working a bit, but no mind, just a laidback day overall. I had actually wanted to clean house all day (something I rarely do but so way behind it would make me happy - would have made everyone chip in). But I am just too exhausted. Tax season has been over almost 2 weeks and though the house looks slightly better, not much. Then again, my mom was telling me about some reality house cleaning show. We were saying how we both weren't big on house cleaning but just can not possibly fathom how a house could be so filthy as to be filled with trash, bugs, and stuff. We definitely have too much stuff piled around the house, but at least all the floors and walkways are clear. LOL. I guess I find it takes minimal effort to keep the house decent, so I will just never understand. THough I look forward to doing some spring cleaning and a super scrub down. Not a neat freak, not a big fan of cleaning, but I also get really sick of clutter and mess all the same. A good cleaning is long overdue around here. Believe me no one else would think to help. Wink I don't mind the cleaning, but times when it is really busy it gets a little maddening. But as dh says, it looks fine to him. LOL.

That reminds me, the funniest thing, we used to pile the laundry in the corner of our bedroom and once in a blue moon I would go through it. In less busy times I tend to keep on top of it, but during tax season it's just a pile. But anyways, since we put the gargantuan t.v. in the laundry corner - LOL - dh has been putting all the laundry away. You don't know how much his laundry piles would annoy me sometimes. To be fair, some of it was mine, but I would be more likely to put mine once in a while. I don't touch his clothes because he gets particular. His clothes live on the floor. I know, we're crazy - I don't let him touch my clothes either - LOL. But now there are no clothes on the ground. LOL. WOW!!! I would have let him get the t.v. sooner if I knew. Wink Honestly right now the only pile on the ground is mine. I should set a better example if I want him to stick with this!

Weird News of the day & Our Pathetic Attempt at Date Night

May 11th, 2007 at 02:32 pm

YEah, they installed this giant ride right off the freeway that is REALLY distracting when you are driving down a very busy stretch. but when I was in San Jose last weekend I was reading this funny article, in the paper, about a ride that looked exactly this same - this monstrosity that just spins around. & then when I looked closer I realized the article was about the Sacramento one - LOL.

The gist:

"The Scandia Family Fun Center, which operates a super thrill ride (168 feet high, spinning at 60 miles an hour, pulling 3.5 gs) called the Screamer, in Sacramento, Calif., decided in March that because of neighborhood residents noise complaints, riders would be prohibited from screaming (and subject to ejection from the park)."

The article we read didn't say anything about expulsions from the park. Dh and I were joking how would they enforce that rule. Seriously? No screaming? LOL. I guess they enforce it with expulsion from the place? LOL. That's just too much!

No screaming on the Screamer... What next.

Which reminds me, I am kind of crazy. LOL. I told dh I want nothing for mother's Day. You notice we will go out and buy what we want - like a HDTV - hehe - on ocassion, but most holidays we really don't buy each other much or even want much. I think for the most part we are just happy with what we have overall, and can afford what we want in a sense, holidays really annoy me when people start asking me for lists. I frankly would be more pleased if everyone would donate in my name than pile on the material goods that I don't want anyway. We can be a little scroogey I guess. But I don't really remember the last time dh or I bought each other a gift for a particular holiday or event. So we were arguing because I Said I really just don't want anything. Like peace and quiet would be the nicest - LOL. Nothing material though PLEASE!!!! & he was going on and on he has to get me something. Maybe joking. But anyway, I decided roll up gym mat might be nice for my aerobics class. Something I really couldn't justify otherwise, but could make a nice gift - so I told dh that was what he had ot get me basically. LOL. Well, either that or nothing.

Then I decided it had been a LONG while since we had a date night and maybe we could try a night next week. OF course when I think about it I do just cringe. In the range of $35 for a night away with the kids. Blows our budget out of the water before we even decide what to do. But figured it had been a while and maybe we should splurge this month, in the name of Mother's Day - sure - why not. So I mentioned it to dh last night and he says, well what do you want to do? I said well, my first instinct is to go to the nice Indian place, but no way it will fit int he budget. It is ridiculous that with dinner out and babysititng the night could top $80. That is just insane. We'll go for Indian next time the grandparents visit - free babysitting. Then we were talking movie. Still a good $50+ night, but a little more easy to stomach. Thing is all the movies out there suck. I really don't want to watch a movie. All dh wants to see is GrindHouse and I sure as hell don't want to see that. LOL. So then he says, how about GolfLand? Eh, it just doesn't sound very appealing to me. Now you must know he proposed to me at Golfland and was one of our cheap date hangouts in college - LOL. But, I don't know, just doesn't sound very fun. IF we were back home we would have the nostalgic factor, but eh, not here. & then he mentioned bowling. Which again, I don't know why, sounds bad. We were like, well we could just enjoy quiet time at home. IT doesn't even have to be scandalous - LOL - just a quiet dinner at home. But we realized we just have so much to do without the kids around, around the house, we would not spend any time together. LOL. So it's official, we are pathetic. I am like, we don't know how to get out of the house any more, do we? Nope. LOL.

WE will probably just got for a more affordable dinner out in the area of the babysitter, but I don't know. It doesn't even sound that appealing. We go out a lot with the grandparents watching the kids. Well usually anyway. But when you got to shell out $35 for a night out it suddenly doesn't seem that important I guess. But it is important, and we'll figure something out. One of these days. NExt week is shot so we will try the following week. We are still so particular with babysitter and Ms. daycare only does Tues - Thurs night (but donates the money to a family in Africa which I have to keep in perspective - it's more than just paying for care) and then a friend we trade with on occassion, but it is just so exhausting when it is our turn to babysit - LOL. & the grandparents are always great but I think with tax season and all we just haven't got out much. Sounds like it is time to ask them for help with a night out!

Adventures in IRA Transfers

May 10th, 2007 at 07:43 pm

Well, I sent in a transfer request to BRuce Fund and D&C. From Fidelity.

Bruce Fund called me last week and said they couldn't do the transfer until my fund at Fidelity was liquidated. Blahblahblah. I posted about my annoyance. So I did liquidate it and it was done within 24 hours. (My, Fidelity is fast compared to Vanguard). Told them to transfer $5k cash.

So all is well and I am eager for the transfer. But today I get a voice mail from Bruce - same problem. Now I am just fed up. Darn Fidelity!!!!

So I called Bruce back first and talked to them and it immediately became clear the problem. They requested $50k. LOL. Of course, why Fidelity didn't say, um, there isn't $50k here, I will never know. Gah. So 3rd time perhaps will be the charm. I have nowhere near $50k in this entire account.

Dodge & Cox has not called me once. I should probably call them and see what is up. I have the money sitting in a mutual fund until I hear otherwise because I don't want it sitting in cash for weeks or months. I figured they would have called me by now. I just figure the second I take time out of my day to call and follow up, a notice will appear in the mail or something. But this is getting ridiculous. BF has been rejected twice and managed to call me & D&C is nowhere to be found. Then again they are probably a much bigger fund. I just have to suck it up and call and see what I Can find out I guess. I Am tempted to forget it and just invest through Fidelity brokerage. Then again I don't want to - and don't want to give them the pleasure after being so difficult. Wink Could Fidelity just call me? I mean come on. They don't want me to transfer my money obviously, but anything to speed along the process would make me a happier customer, I am not transferring all my money out. But I am getting tempted...

I was really impressed with Bruce, likewise, but they are trying my patience at this point. LOL.

Oh yeah, I don't plan to do a transfer again for a long while. Yeesh.

ETA: Oh yeah, so I Called and sounds like there is a letter sitting in my mailbox right now - at home. Figures. I knew it!!!! LOL. But I am POed. I think I may just pay the Fidelity fee to buy through them. IT doesn't look like the worst deal. D&C wants me to send another transfer requestm with another $10 fee. Blah. I give up. I was perusing Scottrade and some others but I don't think I Would touch many of those with a 10-foot pole - particularly e-trade. Horrid horrid horrid customer service. I think I will buy some through Fidelity just to get in and will transfer $1k over to D&C directly - 2007 contribution. Just so I can add to them with no fees down the road. An idea for now... Have a few days to think on it anyway. The really only downside is I don't want to give in to Fidelity being so difficult. & I don't want to. But I don't mind paying a fee where I Can actually reach a live person if need be. I have been trying to read all the fine print and make sure I am not missing anything. IT is a $75 trade fee to buy - but none to sell - so it seems - could change. We'll see. I am sick of the hassle myself. If I had just done this last month the appreication alone would have paid the fee tenfold. SO you know, sometimes you have to look at the big picture. The only downside I keep coming back to is that I couldn't add more money without a fee. So I am not sure where that leaves me. Might be some kind of auto investment plan to look into though. I won't need to add any money now, but thinking to the future - rebalancing portfolios and such.

Not Sore

May 10th, 2007 at 04:54 pm

Weird. I think that I REALLY underestimate the amount of exercise I do with 2 small kids - LOL. All the heavy lifting and such. I got in such a funk during tax season where I would just go home and veg, I felt like I did so much sitting which in general is not what I do - I am generally quite active. So I figure I must be in horrible shape and the usual 5-pounds from tax season arrived. I generally gain a few pounds Jan - April, and then work it off the rest of the year. So it goes, except I have a good round 20 pregancy pounds too - 10 from each baby.
I worked off an additional 10 I gained from whacked out hormones and PPD after my second was born, which is great, but I still have 10 pounds from him all the same - which is depressing. If I was toned and in shape though, would be better. I don't get too hung up on weight. But I am horribly horribly out of shape and not eating great either - that is the bad.

Well, so I thought.

I went to aerobics the other night and it seriously kciked my butt. I mean it was intense, and last week I Was sore all week (only went once). But since the next morning I haven't felt a pain. Really weird. Not sore at all. Anyway, I was trying to tone it down and go slow as not to hurt myself, but I am thinking maybe tonight I should just push myself more. LOL. I expected more pain. All I Can figure is I am in better shape than I thought.

I would really like to get out and walk more too. Been so busy and also the weather has been horrid (HOT). Which reminds me the pool will open in a couple of weeks too. Will have to do more walking and swimming in the coming months. I worked off those last 10 pounds by walking mostly. As only now I can bring myself to spend so much time away from my family working out. But it has been so WONDERFUL just to do something for myself. The ladies joked that they didn't want to come to class this weekend because it was Mother's Day. But I feel different. I would consider it a gift to go to class - hehe.

We've had the a/c running the last couple of days. Ugh. IT is BAD news when it gets this hot so early on. I am not looking forward to another Sacramento summer. BAck home the weather rarely wavered below 60 or above 80 year-round. I miss it terribly. I really want to get a convertible one of these days but I Can't say I would really get much use of it. Out of the question in the 100 degree heat. Oh yeah I see people driving on the hottest days with the tops down but I think they must be insane. LOL. Back home I drove with the top down almost every day of the year. So sometimes I wonder if it is really worth it - if I would really use it. The weather this year has been particularly extreme, for the area.

Oh anyway, I was watching Work Out last night (reality show) and a girl around my weight anyway (not necessarily my shape or size overall) had lost 10 pounds and the difference was amazing. That is the kind of motivation I need. If 10 pounds would transform my body that drastically, then I am sold. Wink I just haven't been very motivated. I thought my cruise would motivate me more, eh. Before I could eat whatever I want and exercise and be good to go. This is not the case anymore. Old age and hormones working against me. I have been eating in, eating dh's dinners, working out. Hopefully I will show some progress, but I probably need to do more. #1 is cut back the soda. Dh insisted on buying me full cans and 2-litres out of saving money. I Was doing so good drinking a little can every day, but since the switch and stress of tax season I have spiraled to 1-2 full cans a day, maybe more. I am so annoyed with dh - I kept telling him the expense meant nothing compared to my health and I would work on cutting back further in the summer. Now I am eons behind. I am doing better, slowly but surely. I guess my first goal should be to get down to 1 can a day, and less from there. I Can't do things cold turkley - it just doesn't work for me - slow and steady always wins the race. Anyway, I keep telling my brain to stop drinking so much soda, probably my only real obstacle at this point as I am doing so much better than usual on everything else. But it is really a psychologoical crutch. Food is my issue and always will be. I have been eating better but I have replaced it all with soda - soda feels good! LOL. But I did read JEffrey said he drank 1 glass of water whenever he craved soda. Would not deny the soda, he would just have to drink a glass of water first, and then he would want the soda less. I will have to try that. Going back to smaller cans would help too. I feel bad wasting things and so basically I would never throw out a soda. I got those toppers but they don't work so well in keeping the carbonation in. I am trying 2 litres but they disappear real fast - but might be the way to go. Oh really I should just go out and buy myself some small cans. Dh will just never understand. IT may be crazy and psychologicical but all I know is it works!! The cost is nothing compared to my happiness, health and peace of mind. Wink But this is my big true battle right now. Hopefully a few weeks in aerobics though and I will start to see a difference and get motivated.

Another Wealth Score

May 9th, 2007 at 02:18 pm

Text is and Link is

Oh yes, I did find another one.

Basically, divide your net worth by your lifetime earnings. That's it!

"For young clients early in their careers, the desired ratio is somewhere between 0 and 25%.

For clients in midcareer, he wants a ratio between 25% and 100%.

By the time they're ready for retirement, the preferred ratio is 100% to 200%."

Interesting. I have played with our savings as a percentage of income (from our social security statements) but I wasn't really sure how to measure the results I guess.

With home equity we are at a wonderful 68%. Without, we are at 28%. Considering we are so young and early in our careers, overall, I am quite pleased.

Of course I am more interested in forward progress, and at first glance I thought gosh, we are probably slipping behind. LOL. But my goal for the year is to increase our net worth by 33% of our income. 28% is actually quite an easy goal in comparison. The 33% is a little aggressive and depends on a good stock year. So overall, this fits in our goals, we are moving forward okay.

On the other hand, we probably need to more forward faster than our current 28% clip, so I don't know. Then again we are saving far less than our earlier financial peak, and overall the prospects for the future look much better. I guess something to keep in mind as we track further progress.

But overall another interesting article and another way to look at things. & the main point of the entire article is that it isn't what you make, but what you save. Amen to that one!

We have no doubt had a few good years, but most years in the last decade we made an income in the $20-$60k range. House aside, we have saved 28% of it all. These days aren't our best savings years, but our investments are certainly picking up the slack, all the same. Saving much, early on, truly makes all the difference. & the funny thing is sometimes I regret not doing more sooner, because it would make things easier today. I guess there is always room for improvement. As on the flip side it is saving so much early on that gives us more freedom today. I just have to be happy with that I guess.

Credit card arbitrage progress...

May 8th, 2007 at 01:49 pm

Ooooh, just like the word - arbitrage.

Dh got his card. Um, that is fast!

The little insert that came with the card said nothing about waived BT fee, but it also said there was a cap of $50 (which I don't believe there was a cap on the contract I read when I signed up). So either way, $50 or free, either way is fine with me still. We'll still come out ahead. But I also saw an article that Citi was getting rid of universal default and its famed line that made me cringe: "we can change the terms at any time for any reason." I hear they are dropping that too - so good. Maybe good we got these cards now as you wonder if they will change some of their other fees and rewards to compensate.

Anyway, dh can go make a purchase this week and then we can wait for our bill to pay it off, get our reward, and do the balance transfer. Oh, and ask for an increased limit too. We'll see... I'd say by end of june we will have our balance transfer in place.

I don't know where my card is? I applied the same day. Maybe in the mail today!

BM had his first karate class. My word - it was right up his alley. Wasn't sure what they would do with such young kids, but lots of jumping and running, working on dexterity I guess. Plus they did 1 cool move where they jumped over a foam noddle and then did a somersault as it sailed over their head - it was actually quite a simple but impressive karate move - LOL. Right up his alley, but he was very intimidated all the other kids were so practiced. I saw those noodles at the dollar store so figure we can get one and practice a bit. I don't know if for the long-term this will be something he enjoys, but for his energy level today and all - they definitely designed the class well for energetic 3-5 year olds. Hehe. Didn't know what to expect but I think he will enjoy. Class was only 1/2 hour but was fairly intense. At the end of the day, close to dinner, might be a better class for early in the day. HE was exhausted after a day at preschool and that. But overall went well.

Funny thing is I was wary signing up for this class and aerobics after rumors about how horrid the traffic is going east/south at evening commute, but thankfully I do not see this to be the case. I have had so many co-workers complain about their commute a little further south - I guess the bad part is the south part. ??? I thought last week might have been a fluke, but it was actually quite a pleasant drive, so not too much rush rush - phew.

Also, gas prices are insane. I mentioned in the past that dh would refuse to let me drive his car (which gets almost twice as good gas mileage). I took to driving it sometimes on days that he wouldn't need it, so he won't gripe too much - LOL. & then, well, now I am taking it whenever I have a class - which is almost every day - LOL. HE didn't even whine about driving the van yesterday. Phew. IT really does make more sense him home with the kids to drive the van, but he loves driving little cars and I don't mind the van - in fact I prefer it to his as long as I don't have to park in a tight spot. But in the name of gas I think we'll give his car a good workout this summer.

I was looking at our April budget and we actually made out $1200 credit card budget (pretty rare because it is a little too aggressive). But um, yeah, just about right on. With that and our low utility bill and being a little under budget with gas and groceries - all that really helped. Of course add on the car repair and t.v. and we blew our budget completely out of the water - but we won't do that every month, and it feels like a great accomplishment that our monthly goal is not entirely impossible. Wink

Where have you Traveled? (copy)

May 7th, 2007 at 08:43 pm

Oh thought this looked fun. I guess I have never left the states except one trip to Europe when I was around 21. Some near opportunities that I missed were an opportunity to travel a month in Europe, a month in India, and most recently my dad invited me to Japan but couldn't leave the little one nor take the time off work after so many months of maternity leave. He has been to Asia many times, as my hubby has, and so I hope I will get an opportunity some day. I probably regret missing India the most as such a unique opportunity.

My dh has actually done a lot of traveling because his aunt is a nun who has been stationed all across the world, and he also worked for a Malaysian company for while. As for me I have many friends who love to travel, but the timing never seems to work out - the downside of being too responsible too young - Wink - kids and work always in the way.

Well, next month I will get to add Mexico to my map - woohoo. I have no idea why I have never been to Canada. Gosh, it seems like I should have, but I haven't! I do have a few friends up there... Will make it some day.

As far as states I am sure I forgot a few - had to stop and think on a few since I have visited so many cities, without much thought to states. I love New York and had a friend whose mom lives out there in NJ so have made the trek a couple of times with her. I also took a Greyhound from Tennessee to NY once which I would not recommend - LOL. Went to New Orleans once. DC once (Virginia, Maryland, etc.), Florida once. Boston from New York once. Absolutely loved Boston. I think I could live on the east coast. Except for the cold anyway - hehe. Family in Coloroado and Kansas, which we drove to from Cali MANY times so included all those states. Been to Las Vegas a few times, and on some road trips up through Washington & Oregon a few times. Oh yes - Hawaii twice! Finally, have a couple of friends in UTah - so been there a couple of times. & California I have just been all over - I love road trips in general. Just hard to leave the state because it is so big - LOL. A 6-hour drive to southern california. Going east is just desert and boring for the most part. Wink Though Tahoe & Sierra Nevada is beautiful, I can admit that. I guess I Drive over that border often as well.

Oh yeah and my sister moved to NC a few years back and the airfare is cheap so we tend to go quite often - at least once a year anyway.

I don't think I have much else on my list to see but Alaska. I would love to go on an Alaskan cruise some day. Maybe Texas to knock out the south, and maybe up north. I should have been able to go to Chicago for my first job but got passed over the first time, slipped through the cracks because I switched departments, and then I left like 1 month before some big Florida trip. Figures - LOL. All the accounting firms though seem to have training up in Chicago - bummer I didn't get the chance to go. But due to my adversity to cold weather none of the northern states really draw me in I guess. I don't really have a burning desire to go north, but Alaska just sounds so interesting I guess. The exception.

Asia, Australia, Africa (the As) would probable be next on my list, but not for a long, long while. Dh and I have more domestic destinations planned to share with the kids, and figure maybe in retirement, or at least once the kids have flown the nest, we want to do some more foreign travel.


May 7th, 2007 at 12:19 am

Got a $15 check in the mail. Probably a rebate. Rebates don't go to my challenge (I am a rebate hog from way back). I must admit this was a slow rebate though - I think it is from January. I don't know about idiots though wanting to reform rebate rules and change them. Duh - the reason they take time and effort is so few people use them, and the rest of us profit. Start demanding easier rebates and they'll just disappear. Can't say I have ever had a problem, not exactly rocket science. Fill out the form, send it in, wait. Make copies just in case there is a problem - though I have never had to use said copies myself. Anyway, my rant for the day I guess. In better times I would get $20-$30 a month in rebates. But dh has been curbing his electronics spending so not so many of late.

I paid all the bills for May, all I knew of. I lucked out and the Community Center class charges didn't hit the card before closing, which means I basically had the cash to pay all bills, including unexpected $800 car repair bill, just about down to the penny. No savings this month, but it is a small miracle I don't need to pull from savings for the car. No complaints here. Funny how often things just work out. Since I tend to pay the preschool after the first of the month, I am still considering giving $100 to this month. Can do that with cash on hand for now. With that and my impending dentist visit, I don't expect to save much next month either.

Paid the credit card bill - well - set it to pay electronically after my paycheck on the 15th. I don't like paying so close (1 week) before due date. I, um, I don't know. Things won't turn around for while - next month is shot. It was a problem getting my deposit in last week as well, in time for mortgage payment. BUT I noticed that my credit union is open until 5:30 so I ran to the bank around 5 - not even that crowded. I think that will save me - I can do that in the summer. Sometimes I send dh to the bank for me, but BM was home sick so not an option last week. I really usually just mail my deposits - but not an option with bills due so close to pay day. I just don't like it, it puts me on edge. I may just withdraw the money from savings after all (means it will sit in my checking at no interest, but will give me more peace of mind and ease - I like not worrying about depositing my paycheck for weeks if I don't have to! Wink ). Anyway, I may just do that once I get the credit card balance transfer earning interest.

Oh yes - but back to my credit card statement I just got - I am just $3 away from a $250 cash back reward. Woohoo. I think I will just earmark that for fun money for the cruise and hope it is enough. Hey - all we had to do was spend about $300 more to make it this month. I think if I hadn't paid off the TV already it would have been a $4k bill - believe me - didn't need another $300. But we are so close! Heck, I should earmark that for the dentist and try to save my earmarked $450 next month. I'd probably happy just to sleep and eat on the cruise - LOL - just be nice to get away and have no worries for the week. But I thought it might be fun to splurge on an excursion or something. I guess we'll see...

$6 gas bill

May 6th, 2007 at 04:15 pm

I was super impressed that our heat/gas bill was only $6. LOL. But it was actually really $16 with a $10 credit still left over - lord knows why.

Our electric bill has been insanely low since we had a second child, but coincided with a new washer/dryer. We bought for energy efficiency and let's say I Was really impressed. But realistic since we on average do 1 load a day with cloth diapers and all. BUT they stopped billing us for 3 months, came out and replaced the meter (obviously some problems) and bill went up markedly. We wonder if we were just under-charged all this time. BUT we have a separate gas and electric company. So last month our gas bill was -$10 because they have us a $40 credit with no explanation (just said adjustment). & this $6 bill shows we used 1/2 as much gas as the same time period last year. ???? So why is our gas going way down while our electric goes up? Were they backwards? LOL. Kind of weird...

But anyway, the main reason I post this because I am SO sick of people assuming big house equals wasteful. Gah. Dh and I discussed it. We use gas for hot water (4 people to bathe), stove (we do tend to cook almost every night), gas dryer (laundry almost every day), and of course heat - which we haven't touched in about 2 months. So all I have to say is wasteful my butt. Beat my $16 gas bill. Wink & yes the house is always between 68 and 80. I think we suffered a couple of days in the 80-85 degree range because they were odd days - last week. But basically my point is taking energy efficient measures goes a long way. We are more likely to conserve bath water and laundry energy than suffer the discomfort of a cold or hot house though, but it is all compromises here and there. Obviously there is more to the bigger picture here. The house itself is built extremely energy efficient so there is little need to run the air or heat about 1/2 of the year. So while certain relatives and friends are wagging their tongues behind our backs (I hear from the grapevine from those who do know how low are bills really are) they have no idea what they are talking about. Just because they are content to pay $500 gas/electric bills doesn't mean we are paying $1k/month because our house is bigger. No way! LOL. This month our combined gas and electric, before credits, was $50. & that is pretty average. Wink It is funny the assumptions out there. I guess I just find it ironic that people could be so wasteful and spend $500/month (I know the gas/electric companies are gouging, but they are using a lot of energy all the same - much more than us). That they could be so wasteful and point the finger at people who are much more conservative in the end. It is really weird I guess... & I guess an important lesson to be careful what you assume. & for the record, I am not assuming anything, they are always complaining about their high bills - LOL.

Anyway, since we had such a crazy expensive month, it is nice to have a $6 gas bill - it helps - phew. Hopefully things will settle down because yeah we will have a couple of $100 electric bills in the summer - the heat gets pretty intense here, and the a/c will be working overtime. I'll take all the negative and $6 bills I can get - woohoo.

Spendy Weekend

May 6th, 2007 at 03:16 pm

Amazingly enough, I had a most marvelous weekend. Lord knows how because it was also quite trying - LOL. I also have a number of pictures to share, but will get to that later.

Wednesday dh threw out his back. I was just packing up at work around 4:45 thinking I was ready to go when dh called asking when I was leaving, because he threw his back out around 3:00 but the kids were waking up and he think he needed some help. Lucky for him I was on the way out. He might have been okay Thursday, though completely unable to pick up the kids, so I just called in sick. My vacation day was Friday and long overdue, I figured I'd extend it a bit. Sure I could have tried to go to work at nap time or bring some work home, but frankly, wouldn't have been very productive, probably more in the name of feeling better than really getting any work done. So I eagerly took the day off. Of course it has been so long I took a day off without much dh help, and I had forgotten how exhausting a day with kids was - LOL. They wore me out pretty quick.

Friday we went to Monterey. I was going with or without dh. In fact I really encouraged him not to go. But he really wanted to go. The car ride was absolute hell. Dh had taken the baby seat out when he got the t.v. and was in no shape to put it back in. But I was insistent on driving the van, terrible gas mileage and all. It has built-in car seats. The seats are great except for the fact that there is no head rest. So the kids hadn't slept much the night before (BM was too excited and LM sense it I guess). So they were exhausted. Talked BM into the booster seat with head rest, but LM had little option. I brought a blanket and a towel to help his head but he wasn't having it, so I sat next to him while he screamed his head off. HE finally fell asleep and I made a nice pillow with the towel, but I was getting SO car sick and dh was really in no shape to drive. So we switched places (3rd or 4th stop at this time - 3 hour drive) and so of course he woke up when we stopped, etc. I think I stopped to pee too but forgot to ask BM if he needed to use the potty (doh - obviously we don't do this often) so we had to stop again for him soon after - LOL. So anyway, most of the last hour LM whimpered as dh was of little help with his inability to move his back much - but we FINALLY made it. Kids were not on much sleep and not much of a nap in the car - but they had an aboslute BLAST - so I guess the trip was a success. The coolest thing too is the Aquarium long ago had a big round pool the bat rays would swim around and you could pet them, but was gone last time. Dh said he thought they were coming back, but weren't on the map so I just thought he was crazy. But they were there. The kids got soaked reaching in their arms trying to pet them, but got a couple - a very good experience. They are just so friendly, they come over and pop their head out - kids just loved it - so did the adults. Wink The last time we went BM was 1 - we went because they had a great white shark on exhibit, and it was just a crowded mess. But going on a Friday was absolutely MARVELOUS. Not too crowded, and just very pleasant. I think after a while BM got sick of all the fish, but LM could have stayed their for days - he loved it. They had lots of interactive exhibits for the bouncy one.

We splurged on lunch, and dessert, before we went home, at Ghiradelli. Between that and gas and aquarium, gosh, we spent around $200 I am sure. A very spendy day, but once in a while you just got to do something like that.

We had a miserable 1-hour car ride back to MIL's where we ate Chinese and went to bed. I had to get up with LM twice but was the best night he has had their in ages. We just try not to sleep anywhere but home lately, he has been so bad, but luckily there is a bed next to the crib in the spare room, so when he got up, I just laid on the bed next to him and he went back to sleep. Would have just stayed there but worried I would keep him awake with snoring or something - hehe. So anyway, what this means is the last few times we have visited the fam we have been miserable and we are always trying to time driving with naps and such. This trip was opposite. We actually got a good nights rest and then we decided NOT to drive home at nap time with the car seat situation - LOL. So in the morning we went hiking. It was an interesting experiment is BM LOVES hiking, but we have held off as LM (who is quite big and heavy) wasn't even walking a few months ago, and certainly not ready for a big hike. So we had the idea to try this nice little park in San Jose foothills, something very easy. So we went with my parents in the morning and worked out because LM had an absolute freak out. BM is running way up ahead - nothing will stop him, and LM refused to walk after a point - LOL. Going with my dad I figured at least we could take turns carrying him if it was too much for him, but he refused to let anyone but I carry him - dh couldn't carry him. Ugh. So my mom and I quickly turned around. I finally lured him with fruit loops - told him if he would walk I would give him "candy" and he liked the fruit loops and accepted them as candy. So he actually walked down most of the way until a wind came up and freaked him out again. He is almost 2, and a little sensitive, but a little overboard yesterday - think he was just exhausted, maybe not feeling well. So of course we went home only to find my mom didn't have the keys to the house - LOL - so we went to 7-11 and I bought some milk and gave LM a bottle, trying to calm him down. Then we picked up the herd and went to lunch! We treated my parents to buffet (least we could do) and gorged ourselves. LM was a little moody through lunch but the funniest thing was he smeared beans all across his face and hair. He ALWAYS gets food in his hair so nothing new, but I took him to the bathroom for a scrub down and some lady asked me what happened to him - LOL. Food - silly. Food happened to him - LOL.

Anyway, after lunch back to my folks place, where usually the point in the trip where dh and I feel like collapsing and my parents aren't really sure if we should drive home. But I was feeling pretty good. We succeeded in getting the kids down for a nap and had some nice quiet time with my parents, and it was a really pleasant time.

Kids probably woke up at 5, but my grandma called and we chatted for a long while, and we didn't end up leaving until 6. Kids sat together in the back for the 2-hour drive and had a blast together - just so cute - getting so interactive - LM was in the best mood he had been all weekend - phew. Came home, ate dinner, bed, and kids did not wake up once - so I am feeling even better today - actually got some sleep!

Anyway, the crazy part is while we were there I saw some Festival is going on next weekend that every year I see the signs, and I always have conflicting plans. This year I don't have any, except with gas prices, and after such a spendy weekend, I am not sure I want to add a 3rd trip to the month of May. But dh got all excited about it, a day alone with BM to do big kid things. Who knew. So anyway, I am thinking of going down alone with LM next weekend. Only if it seems he will be in a better mood though. & I will have to take dh's car for gas economy AND a good carseat - hehe. Well, something to think about.

Oh yeah - I did do my aerobics class and also had quite a workout Friday and Saturday so dh had a point - maybe just getting out and getting some fresh air energized us a little. Getting a 4-day weekend certainly helped I think. I just really needed it. Phew.

I just saw Jeffrey's post on KIVA, which was great because I had seen that before and thought it looked great, but so busy paying off the car and building up e-fund, etc. Put it on the back burner for later. I think now is time, as we have met many more goals than intended already for the year. Will probably start with $100 for now. & at the end of the year see if we can up it. I will also have to send the link to BM's preschool, the lady there, I think she would love something like that, if she hasn't heard of it. I just thought of her because they donate all their extra babysitting income to a family in Africa, and go on a lot of missions, etc. I think she would enjoy giving through that channel. Will spread the word, indeed. For me, so interesting to give in a way that is so renewable. I love the idea that $100 can go on to help many many people. But if I don't get it back, is for a good cause...

Challenge Money

May 4th, 2007 at 02:25 am

$20 challenge:

$6,925.52 - Balance 5/1

$ 72.50 - Writing Money

$6,998.02 - Balance 5/3

Just got word on my writing profits for April - woohoo - another great month.

Had earmarked it for Monterey - and well, will be just enough to get us all in the aquarium and pay for parking. Guess gas and lunch will still be out of pocket - a pretty penny. But not often we splurge like this.

I didn't really expect to be earning this much, so is nice. Had earmarked this for fun money and figured we would work on making another couple of hundred per month for savings, selling old items and such. All of this makes a huge difference in our finances. Every little bit helps!!!!!

More April Number Crunching

May 3rd, 2007 at 04:20 pm

Ugh, not a typical month thank goodness. Got the car locks fixed yesterday - grand total for mirror, window, locks, oil change, and a fixed seatbelt (bugger was twisted so I asked them to fix - think they just threw it in anyway) - grand total was $850! Of course if I knew the door locks would be such a pricey ordeal I probably would have fixed the side mirror myself. Yikes! The part alone was $200. So much for convenience. Probably wasn't worth it. Dh wondered aloud why I even bothered, but when I smashed it to smithereens it had some sharp edges. I figure $200 is better than someone getting scratched and suing us - you just never know. But the odds that I will smash it again? LOL. Probably big. I will really try to be careful though - I should just get in the habit of turning in the mirrors whenever I park in the garage - would be a simple solution.

So the #s for April:

As you already know, dh used his entire annual allowance for his PS3.

Auto - we were $100 under budget for gas (good with these insane prices - includes a trip to San Jose as well) but the repairs were $850 and blew my budget out of the water. I think we have only been budgeting $600/year for repairs (& not coming anywhere close). So a bummer, will maybe up it in the budget.

Diapers - paid 2 months for the diaper service because paid late last month.

Dining - all we did was order in 2 pizzas in April - one was reimbursed by family - so not bad at all. I use my cash to get $1-$2 meals here or there, but really didn't do much this month either.

Education - kids and I are each taking 1 recreational class. cheap cheap cheap overall. I had my first aerobics class last night and it KICKED my butt - LOL. But it also felt really good. Well not so good today, but I need this. BM starts karate on Monday.

Groceries were $50 under budget. They were $50 over last month so probably a wash. Includes paper diapers (LM is sensitive to the cloth at night) and soap and all our household goods.

Household - dh bought a new filter for the fridge - in addition to the usual gardener expense. What a racket. I wonder if you can find them cheaper on ebay or something. We only change them out 1/2 as often as they suggest - and even that could be overkill - sucker is like $40.

Medical includes dental - since all 3 of us went in, in April. Paid with short-term savings set aside for it.

Misc - $1300 to the t.v. and stand. I spent $150 Target that I haven't broken out yet. Some of it for kid clothes - rest to my allowance. Got to dig out the receipt.

Professional dues from last month were reimbursed.

To car loan - final payment - woohoo.

No mortgage payment - I postponed it to after the first so I wouldn't have to touch savings to pay for the TV. Which just now reminds me another reason to catch back up - to help our taxes - will make sure to get 12 payments in for this year.

That sums up April.

It was a really crazy month.

Got my bonus so paid off the car.

To pay for the $850 car repair? I am not sure. I think I have $400 excess in the checking and so if I don't save the earmarked $450 to the e-fund this month I can swing it. But we are just SO CLOSE to having a *full* e-fund and wanting to invest a little above and beyond, it is frustrating to be so close, but so far. Since this month was so crazy, and leaves little cushion, I will probably need our June earmarked savings to pay for my tooth filling. Most of it anyway. Anyway, part of the reason for the e-fund I guess is so we can earmark a certain amount to retirement in 2008 and not touch it! Because it would really frustrate me to miss a couple of months of contributions over this stuff. Well, we'll see how it goes.

So anyway, it was a very spendy month, and kind of crazy, but my bonus and the unexpected cash gift from my parents helps immensely, so not much to complain about. & it is nice going into summer. Even though a/c bills get crazy and gas gets crazy too, overall summer tends to be very mellow and less expensive, lord knows why. So I am looking forward to a typical summer, please. Wink On the flip side, we have been so busy and want to get out more, so I don't know.

Which reminds me now that I have some more time, we probably need to set a goal to bring in a certain amount each month - maybe $200/month or something. Will either invest or save - need to hit ebay and Craigslist.

In case you concluded I don't have a life during tax season (because I didn't), gosh, I can't believe how quickly our May calendar is filling up. Every weekend is filled with activities. It will be good to get out, but gosh it gets so easy to overdo it too. This is the exhausting part about having kids - feels like it is always something - LOL. I forgot about this - silly me - thought things would really calm down. But with dh itching to get out of the house and work on movie things, I am finding my time even more hectic and squeezed, in a sense. So it goes. At least less sitting at a desk all day...

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