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Archive for May, 2007

Easy Come, Easy Go...

May 31st, 2007 at 05:15 pm

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 07:39 am

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 09:59 am

Text is http://tracypress.com/content/view/9467/2/ and Link is
http://tracypress.com/content/view/9467/2/

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 07:20 am

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 11:56 am

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 08:04 am

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.