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Archive for June, 2007

Credit Card Rewards & Money Tricks

June 30th, 2007 at 07:36 am

I just got my new (BT) credit card statement and so was able to redeem my $50 Target gift card. Woohoo. Should receive in a few weeks. I am pretty pleased though that I received the other one before the kids' birthday - will got to presents/party. This one I will likely save for some fall clothes for them. Either that or necessities if something comes up in the meantime.

The free $125 all told is a nice bonus on top of the interest I am earning. I have only executed one $5k balance transfer thus far. I will pay off dh's credit card today so that when he gets the statement next week I can execute that balance transfer. I will ask one more time for a credit increase too. See if I can squeeze out more than $10k. I am wondering if they will only require a 2% minimum payment as well? Well I can hope!

I have barely received the cash on BT#1 and I already have a statement. It is due mid-July. I am trying to decide when to pay it. I generally just pay these when I get the bill. But part of me thinks I should hang on as long as possible. I think I will just pay it though. I decided instead of transferring the money over (for this small one anyway) I can just do a bookkeeping adjustment. Reclass the $112 from "BT" category to "efund" category. Then I don't have to move the money out and lose interest. It is just $112 LESS I have to transfer to savings for the month. I can just pay it out of the no-interest checking. Gets a little complicated, but erases the benefit of trying to hold out and pay it back closer to the due date. Probably bad news. I'll set it to pay after I receive my paycheck on the 1st every month.

More bookkeeping, but little effort for free money! Big Grin

Can I just say I want to THROTTLE dh?????? I have always hated his bank setup because he had to have a minimum $750 or something in checking and much more in savings. For this deposit he earned a whopping 0.5% on the checking or something. I always had free checking, no minimums, life was easy. Dh on the other hand had quite a few $50 overdraft fees because he would drop below the minimum on his barely-interest checking. HE would drive me nuts. I told him a million times why I hated his account and why I prefer my no-interest checking. I run the balance to 0. Any money that does not go for the current month goes straight to high-yield savings. I have on average $500 sitting in a low-yield savings along with my checking that I can transfer money to/from instantly. So I have a small cushion but the minimum balance is $1 and it probably makes more interest than his stupid checking. There are indeed many times the account sits at $1! I like the flexibility.

So he asks me again last night why our checking account does not pay interest. Like I have not explained it 1 MILLION times. I once again explained how the whole $50 overdraft fees here and there completely wiped out any benefit of the interest on the checking. Though I manage the money better and could probably avoid the fees, I would have to tie up x dollars indefinitely in a crappy low-interest checking account. No thanks dear!

Gah. My dh is smart but he is really hung up on that. LOL.

Well I am sure there are scenarios where it works, where we may even come out ahead. But I am used to running my balance to $0, enjoying low minimums (if any) and it just sounds like a headache. Not interested. Just one more thing to remember - stupid account minimum. LOL.

For example I can earn 2.8% if I pay a monthly fee of $5 and keep a $1k average balance. But I rather keep that $1k in my 5%+ money market. Thanks. Plus if I just kept $1k in there the fee would be more than the interest. This is the part dh never learned. I am not sure what will get it through his thick skull. ???

Net Worth/June Update

June 30th, 2007 at 03:56 am

Blech, I feel chewed up, swallowed, and spit out. What a week. Just seemed like a complicated week.

I wouldn't even know where to begin. But I did take one mental health day this week and have resumed coming home EVERY DAY for lunch. So far I think it is helping. I stopped due to time constraints and expensive gas, but my mental health is worth more and I also feel more productive. Well, we'll see...

IT cuts into my blog time though, significantly. I have been pretty MIA.

Net Worth

Anyway, I updated my Net Worth for June. Was just too giddy and impatient, the accountant in me.

We are up $12,300 for the quarter. Woohoo.

3% exactly.

For the year we are up $15,300 (3.75%). My goal is $25k for the whole year. Getting there...

If you take out all the equity in our home we are up 7% for the quarter/9% for the year.

Quarter:
*Cash is up $5,500
*Retirement is up $3,000
*Paid off $900 on the mortgage
Paid off $2,900 on the car

Year-to-Date:
*Cash is up $5,000
*Retirement is up $5,000
*Paid off $1,900 on the mortgage
*Paid off $3,400 on the car

Investments

We still have some pretty conservative positions. But our entire portfolio is up 7% for this year. Keeping more returns, paying less fees. Feels good...

June Budget

I assumed we would not be able to save for a 2nd month ($850 car repair & $500 vacation explains it all - usually save around $500/month).

But our june budget is insane. We drove to LA & will have 2 trips to San Jose after the weekend. With gas prices dropping and other factors we will be below budget all the same. Woohoo.

Our groceries will be way under budget. Being gone 1 week heavily contributed to that.

Dining out - $14 - Under Budget!

Misc. - $35 - some books and a trip to the San Francisco zoo (divine). (My Misc. budget is $150).

Vacation - $500

I am still a little puzzled how we had such a divine/splurgy month and still came out so ahead. Our credit card bill will be below $1200 and that is my budget - very aggressive - rarely make it. So it is the best month we ever had pretty much. Since budget crackdown. I think I made $1200 once - certainly never BELOW that. I budget by expense categories but I try to couple that with I only have enough cash every month to comfortably pay a $1200 cc bill. So I watch the bill and as it gets higher I know the extras have to scale back, etc. I keep an eye on it overall so overall amazed. Though obviously when we have a good month on the budget it is reflected in the cc bill.

The fact is looking at the numbers that we did not eat out more than once - cheap at that (outside vacation). That we curbed our driving and were very mindful of gas prices outside our big trips. That we were gone for a week. That we didn't feel like we could splurge after vacation so we didn't. The trip to the zoo was a real treat but at $30 or so. But we could do that 5 times in a month if we don't splurge on anything else.

Oh but most importantly we didn't have anything unexpected this month. woohoo! No copays, no car repairs, etc.

So I am super happy that with around $1500 in budget overages over the last couple of months that I was only short 1 month on savings - or $500.

Looks like I can transfer some money to saving for July! Big Grin I might have my ROTH IRA money saved by October at this rate. I will let you know when the day arrives and I do my conversion because I can tell you now that is when the market will go bad. LOL. I keep thinking waiting is fine since the market will probably go down a bit (& lower my conversion tax bill accordingly). Instead while I have been waiting my IRA portfolio is up almost 20%. Figures!!!!! I still have to wait for the cash to pay the tax bill, so I keep telling my friends I will let them know the day I do the conversion. Market will drop and I will have paid too much tax. Murphy's Law. Wink Then again I converted dh's IRA before all this. So PHEW. I timed one well enough...

I have to say a good chunk of our net worth doing well is our retirement investment returns. But I am hoping to get to a spot by next year that I do not rely on that for much of my net worth progress. I want to get to a point in the next year or 2 where our net worth increases $25k/year before investment returns, and that those are just gravy. & also so the bad stock years don't affect my annual goals too heavily. Getting there... This year our net worth is getting some positive hits from good luck (cash windfall and wonderful market). But setting things in motion so we don't rely on luck so much in the future. Big Grin



Moolah...

June 28th, 2007 at 10:33 pm

$20 challenge:

$7,635.32 - Balance 6/18

$ 90.00 - Interest
$ 75.00 - Focus Group
$ 75.00 - Gift Cards (reward)

------------------
$7,875.32 - Balance 6/30
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Dh did a focus group last night. They only take a few people so you can get paid to show up and just leave (kind of like jury duty - but a much bigger paycheck).

So he made $75 for 2 hours - he did get called in. They paid cash. He kept $20 to replace his emergency $20 in his wallet, I took $5 since I also had no cash, and will put $50 in the bank with my paycheck next week. I might just save it, but am thinking to holding onto it in case I need babysitting next month. He is going on a big 3-day hike but no date set. Not big on planning - LOL. I may need a babysitter since it will be a busy time at work. We'll see. $50 would hardly cover it either, but it's a start. Otherwise I'd put it straight to the efund.

He filled out a form that asked questions about me too. So now 2 of us are in the focus group pool. SWEET. Hell he made more per hour than I do. I am impressed!!!

Interest ran around $90 this month. Yes I did the balance transfer but the money was only in there a few days before interest was paid for the month. Actually most of it comes from my new 5.7% c.d. It's only a 0.4% increase but gosh between that and the balance transfer for a few days made QUITE a difference. A very good month.

Oh yes and the $75 gift cards - credit card rewards. We used them for stuff we were going to buy anyway (food, laundry detergent, kids PJs, kid birthday presents). Free money.

Our credit card bill thus far looks INSANELY low for the month (knock on wood). The gift cards no doubt helped. Well just a few more days. We may come under budget. Even with some huge excesses. Lord knows how - we just haven't spent much on gas and groceries since we got back from vacation. ??? Even with ALL the driving. Gas prices going down certainly helps.

In other news I think I lost my mind. Though I am not big on putting the kids before us financially (well their college anyway - obviously we put them first today). On the other hand, I am learning about the power of compounding. I am considering dropping in $50/month into a mutual fund for them. Looks like they will get enough money from grandma to open a fund this year. If I open one I kind of want to make regular contributions, and the AIP minimum is $50. I believe per month. So I am considering it. I could easily redirect the money I was prepaying on the mortgage to this for BM this year. & next year I can start to add the money for LM too. $50 by itself is small beans. & since LM is younger I can easily wait another year to better afford his contribution.

I will consider it if I can fully fund my IRA. Dh's IRA next year will be left to windfalls and him working. Then again all I need him to scrounge up is $400/month to fund his IRA and put our retirement savings at 25% (25% of my wage anyway). It's not that big of a deal. I think though I like this idea because I can put a very small token amount to the college funds now and it should REALLY pay off with time. I estimate with a pretty conservative balanced fund that their money would be $50k/each at college. Just doing $50/month plus grandma's money. & if she eventually stops her contributions, if dh is working we can make up the $1k/year easily. So I think $100k for college (for both the kids) is a worthy & easily attainable goal. The fact is the longer we wait the more it costs us. I am coming around.

I am not a big believer in 529 plans since we didn't spend much at all on college. I don't like the penalty for not spending it on college. I am considering UTMA accounts instead. We could avoid taxes in the meantime. Which is not really my aim. Well, maybe it is. LOL. I have always been against saving a big chunk in the kids' name - entitlement issues. But whatever. Between that and their already existing 529 ($4k or so?) and any taxable investments we'll save down the road, yes this is why I never really worried about it. The kids will have so much more money for college than I could have ever even imagined having. They are truly blessed. Up until now I figured a paid off mortgage before they start college and a 2nd income would have them WELL covered. & it really would. But hell if we save now then that is less we have to save later - more we can enjoy that second income when it returns. Big Grin

Well it's a plan, for now I am looking at a budget like this:

17% Retirement (long-term)
13% short-term ("escrow" fund)
5% mid-term (car/house fund)
1.5% Kids

I think I can throw them that bone. My aim has been 15% retirement so if we made it and everything else is covered, the kids will just have to be darn spoiled...

My parents hinted they would trickle down more money (they have been getting a lot in inheritance/wealth management gifts from their parents). So it is likely we can scrounge up a full IRA contribution for dh next year as well. Part sweat, part windfall perhaps. Not counting on it but there isn't really anything else we would need the money for at this point. Well I hope it stays that way anyway!

If you told me in 2003 that I could swing this all on one income I would have never believed it. WOW. We used to save dh's money. I keep pondering the many scenarios if he goes back to work and we won't even need it for savings. Perhaps early retirement will be back on the table. Since we have had kids I figured that was out the window. Wink I try not to get too ahead of myself there. Health insurance is still a huge issue and I also need to save pennies for orthodontia and all that too. I think we will still have PLENTY of challenges ahead. But my more immediate goal of working part-time is becoming more and more realistic by the day. My goal was to support my family on part-time income by age 40. Getting there. With each raise we rely less and less on my entire income, and the market is still conducive to some big raises. So I am feeling good these days about everything financially. I really haven't for the last couple of years. So PHEW.

2007 - 3 Flat Tires

June 25th, 2007 at 02:41 pm

Well I think I had 2 in January. Not a great start to the year.

But dh had a flat today.

With all the construction you would think that would explain much (construction on all corners by our home - hotels, stores, houses, you name it). But he said looking back he knows he ran something over on the freeway this morning and saw the flat when he got home. Since my flats were chalked up to running over giant bolts on 2 different occasions, I would say Sacramento is REALLY bad on tires. I am so annoyed. Well, at least it isn't all the consttruction, thus far...

The interesting thing is that dh said he does not ever remember changing his tire, he thinks this is the first flat he has ever had on his 5-year-old car. Considering that I am a flat-tire magnet, I find that quite impressive! I've probably had 10 flats in the last 5 years myself, no matter what the car.

I haven't heard how much it set him back. If it's fixable, a few bucks. If not, maybe $20. I must say for all the flats I have had it is only this year that they were unrepairable flats. We'll get another used tire. I keep reading how never buy used tires but I don't buy it. I Can see staying away from this re-treading business, but beyond that, as with anything, go down and pop off a "used but barely used" tire off a retired car and pay 1/2 as much, maybe less. Replaced tire, or just a patch, it will barely blip the budget. When it comes time to replace all 4 then we go new. But this one at a time business, eh. Of course, considering the car is 5 years old and never a flat or new tire I am wondering if it is time for new tires. Perhaps... The used tire will be by far the nicest one!

For all my flats I have never gotten a flat from a "used" tire (knock on wood anyway).

Well I'll see what the verdict is tonight.

Dh also spent our $50 Target gift card (credit card reward) today. Loads of laundry detergent (with $5 off), some groceries (with coupons), and 2 pairs pajams for BM. Grand total around $53. The PJs were more
than I Would have spent ($13 for one pair?) but the last ones I bought didn't last long either. You get what you pay for? They are hard to find at the thrift shop where I do well with pants and shirts and jackets sometimes. But I am starting to wonder why even bother. In this weather, put them to bed in underwear... Save the money for nice winter PJs. LEaves $25 for now for birthday presents for the boys (should be plenty). & I will get another $50 gift card in a bit. Probably save up for more groceries/laundry degertent/paper towels, whatever. I am tempted to start stocking up on warmer clothes for fall/winter for BM, but the thing is lord knows what size he will be. 5 or 7? LOL. I can keep the card until I know though I guess...

ETA: Oh gosh yes, the road construction is insane. Is that why - fiscal year? The road by my house is under construction as well - s'posedly for quite a few months. Doing a lot of work with all the development. But the road by my work 10 miles away is even worse. I am just sick of all the traffic and road closures.

Nice Weekend...

June 24th, 2007 at 05:10 pm

*Went to pool Saturday a.m. but was closed for maintenance (bah).

Public pool but usually go in the a.m. and pretend like its ours - tends to get packed in the evenings, but quiet the rest of the time.

*Took kids to park instead & 99-cent ice cream at Rite Aid. Dh had noticed it (I didn't even know they had ice cream in there) - and the kids LOVED it.

*I took the kids to Fairytale Town & the zoo today. About 9am - noon, weather was extremely pleasant for a summer day in Sacramento AND no one else was up. Weird. Dh was really wary and I didn't expect it to be a pleasant trip, but wanted to give him some time. Kids were fine (I guess he had a bad trip a couple of weeks back and refused to take them alone again for a long while. I think he was peeved it was so easy for me, but the place was empty and kids were extremely well behaved today. I could easily see it going in the opposite direction so I lucked out. Wink But I think we ALL had a really nice morning.) Anyway it was "free" except the nachos and ice cream we bought.

*ORdered pizza in yesterday because we found another $5 off coupon at Round Table. Sweet.

*Dh went grocery shopping and spent $54. He is getting very adept at getting $50 groceries every trip, which comes with a 10 cent off per gallon gas coupon.

Gas is actually going down here (WEIRD for summer - it is settling around $2.99 - from MUCH higher - and the mild weather is nice for the A/C & electric bill - pleased with the weekend).

*Double checked BM's swimming schedule - he has class all week at 9am. In a wading pool. Nothing fancy, I am not sure how many days he can make it. As a plus he has no preschool so I was thinking I could work more hours/have an easier week with less driving him around. But the whole swimming thing complicates things. We'll see.

*Dh's focus group is at 7pm, not 7am. I had no idea. The good is it won't affect work. The bad is it affects aerobics. Bah. I am wondering if I should just give up and start again July 1. Give me a week to try had to catch up at work, and then commit to myself and all that in July. We'll see.

*I will have to scramble tonight to clean house a bit. Almost forgot that I invited me mid-west coworker over for dinner Monday. Bah. I know it is the nice thing to do. Its just exhausting and all that...

*Dh is going to have to make me a batch of homemade salsa too. MExican theme for Bunco this week - I volunteered the salsa, but dh is the master chef. I think I mention dh usually has all the ingredients on hand (leftover veggies for the week) and just has to buy peppers. We have been eating a lot of salsa. I am not a big veggie fan but I can down the salsa so it is good.

*That reminds me we had a bad week wasting food. Dh left out the canned salsa and it spoiled the night his friend was here. & I dropped our giant glass container of minced garlic, on BM's foot nonetheless. What a mess... He is okay but it is funny that our garage now REEKS of garlic (where we store the trash bins). As long as it doesn't start smelling rotten I guess... The garlic capital around here is Gilroy, you can smell it as you drive past the town, so I told dh our garage smelled like Gilroy today. Wink The container was full (new) and most of it would have been salvageable if not for the whole broken glass thing. Decided to toss it.

*Dh's cousin's adoption of an 18-month-old boy will be official this week. They did foster-to-adopt and couldn't have been easier - they have had him since the day he was born. So happy for them, they are having a big party next weekend. I hope the next one goes even 1/2 as well - they want a big family and so far unsuccessful on their own, so they plan to adopt more. They also adopted an older girl way back (long story) and they have a way of helping kids who really need it. Though they have had the boy from day 1 he was addicted to drugs and has had many issues. They are very good with it though, will probably adopt more troubled children. Incidentally I used to babysit for a single lesbian woman who adopted a crack baby. It is really sad what these little ones go through the first few years. hopefully it gets better... Being willing to adopt these babies though means an easier/cheaper process than otherwise though.

*I cut back my writing schedule a bit and it feels good. I was working on a monster article yesterday (yet unfinished) but I think I am just going to resolve to taking one day off a week - no work whatsoever. I think something I need. I usually don't mind working a little saturday and a little sunday (beats working all day saturday or something) but I think I was a little burned out too. I am realizing more vacation time is great - though I would like to lessen my work hours during the week, it is not going to happen. I will get much more rest taking large chunks of time off. So I am trying to keep that in mind going forward. As long as work is the way it is anyway. I can get out early friday but then I am just behind and have to work harder the rest of the week. In the end it is not as nice as I had hoped. I still have hope I will catch up and things will settle down a bit. Work has never been much for me at this place outside of January through April so I am just thrown for a loop.

*Financially speaking, our efund sits at $11k. I started with $5k late last year. I am rather pleased. I am shifting gears to scrounging the $1800 to do my ROTH IRA conversions. I can not add any money to any of my IRAs until I convert them. At least I can add to dh's IRAs. But I aim to save the tax money for this, this year. I did dh's IRAs last year - which was a good $1500 in tax, so it feels good to be almost done with all of them while we are still in such an insanely low tax bracket.

I will make enough interest to get my efund up to $11,500 easy by December. I only need a few hundred dollars this year then to reach my final goal. If I make the $12k efund and get the $1800 ROTH tax money, we will shift gears to retirement. OTherwise I am getting a $12k contribution from my boss this year so it isn't exactly suffering if I don't get to it. But I want retirement to be #1 come January 1st.

My goal is to start regular retirement contributions 1/1/08, but we may make it sooner... Exciting... I haven't made regular contributions since I had my 401k in 2000. & the whole dollar cost averaging thing was really good on my portfolio. That is what I want to get back to - regular contributions every month. More of a priority than an afterthought (you don't know how many years I dropped in $5k to our IRAs on April 14th just so we could get a tax break - hehe. Trying to make it priority, not last minute tax strategy. Retirement just hasn't been a priority to us before - we have been so focused on getting into a house out here and being home for the kids, so it is a mindshift). I've always had 10% contributions of my salary and thrown in a few thousand here and there, so we haven't done bad at all for our age, but my goal is to triple my current retirement balance in 5 years. & I also want to have a good $300-$500k retirement balance before we hit 40. So we have a lot of work to do!

Pictures...

June 22nd, 2007 at 07:29 pm

Had to share, was talking about it earlier and just remembered:

Baby's room before we began (used to be the cat room I guess - we had an empty room when we moved in as we each took an office, and still had a room to spare):



& my "Baby Cheetah" decor:



lots of leopard print...



The wall border has a bunch of mommy & baby cheetahs and I have 3 pictures in the room (which you catch a glimpse of) with mommy and baby animals plus I have a mommy & baby monkey wood carving.

*sniff* Will miss all the mommies and babies. Of course now that I think about it maybe I can sell some of that stuff on ebay or Craigslist. That's something I guess...

The room was made rather unisex before we even knew if we were having a boy or a girl the first time, but it is a little on the girly side I guess. Plus LM has been ripping off all the wall borders. Funny since he is the tamer one usually. At least BM left the room nice for him - LOL. It was the nursery for both boys. & let me say we didn't spend a lot of money on it either - it is quite frugal. Wink