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Archive for August, 2007

Net Worth

August 31st, 2007 at 07:31 am

Oh just paying some bills and looking at Net Worth.

It is up $2600 for the month. Don't ask me how. I have been meaning to redo my spreadsheet for some better measuring and tracking. I assume it is mostly investment gains (must of been low at the beginning of the month?). Around $1.5k of it is savings (adding a bit to retirement, $350 or so to savings, small token to kids' college, oh and $300 paid off of mortgage, $800 to Short-term savings etc., etc.). So yeah, it might go down a bit in the following months as I pay some big bills. Oh yeah, but added $500 profit sharing as well. Maybe most of that is savings (though admittedly some of it temporary).

Puts my YTD at $20k increase, so "just" $5k more to go for the year.

I will probably drain a few thousand in September - December for IRS, property tax, insurance, etc. But I will also get a $6k or so boost to my profit sharing come December (full vesting - woohoo). So might even out.

I will have to re-evaluate my goals as well. The whole $25k (or 1/2 our annual expenses) this year might work out, but we just committed LM to preschool at $200/month. Blech. It might set us back. I think we can still hit $25k in 2008. But we'll see what it does to us this year. Regardless we'll be close and I didn't really expect to make it when I set the goal. Well, we'll see!

Trains...

August 31st, 2007 at 07:09 am

Well, apparently BM's train obsession has passed on to LM.

I don't think we have ever taken the kids to Old Sacramento (historic Sacramento - it is pretty fun) & I just saw they are having historic steam engine train rides from the Railroad Museum all weekend. $16 for all 4 of us to ride a 40-minute trip. Not bad, and sounds fun. Maybe we will have to check out the museum too. There is another one about an hour away I have heard great things about - lots of kid stuff. So I don't know what this one has but, um, the train ride they will certainly enjoy. I don't think they would care about much else. Then we can walk around Old Sac and eat out or something.

LM was a little too timid for any of the rides Monday when we went to MArine World, but he wanted to ride all the trains (there were a couple). So we rode a lot of trains - LOL.

Maybe we'll try to hit that tomorrow. I will probably work Sunday (since I took Monday off) but I figured I could relax Saturday and Monday - should be nice. & will just work from home Sunday - nothing huge.

For the most part we want to stay home and avoid the crowds though. Big Grin

Hope everyone has a great weekend!

Have a great weekend!

School

August 31st, 2007 at 03:42 am

Oh I got school on the brain lately but I Was kind of laughing at the homeschooling thread. I have to agree with Devil's Advocate that those are some pretty broad generalizations about public school. No offense but I had to laugh about the public school kids hanging out in the bars. Sounds like a parenting problem, not a school problem. IT makes about as much sense as the idea that homeschooled kids have no social skills. I didn't realize school was the only place to gain social skills. From either side there is a million different way to teach your kids and I am afraid no size fits all.

But anyway, I didn't reply to the thread because I didn't want to get into it. Also living in the big city I do find things to be very different. We have public schools that are merely supplements to homeschooling. You can find just about anything you would want in a public school out here so I have little issue. It would be absurd to think that the public school system would teach my kids all they need to know though and we would just leave it at that. we are very hands on with our kids so just kind of in the middle - I see the benefits of both and we'll kind of approach it with a hybrid approach. But as with anything when it starts to get all black/white it annoys the hell out of me.

Well wasn't what I Was going to post about, but ironically I came on here to post about public school and saw that thread, and had to get that out I guess. I didn't want to get into it, but then I did anyway. Oh well...

Actually, I wanted to say i skimmed the "2-Income Trap" when I was on vacation in June and it was kind of interesting. Not what i expected at all. For one there was a lot of "the problem is not over-consumption." Since the author has done a lot of research in the area of bankruptcy and I know she has found over-consumption has little to do with bankruptcy (historically) I guess I have to think about it. There are statistics to back it up. BUT it is awfully hard to take the idea seriously when I look at the over-consumption (& debt) around me. It is just insanity and I find it 10 times worse than when i lived back in San Jose. Since housing isn't so expensive there is way way way more over-consumption. My parents argue with me that the Bay is the land of over-consumption. But the difference is most of the people there over-consuming there have the money. None of my peers were buying fancy cars, vacation homes, diamonds and such, but that all seems to be the norm up here (which I find very bizarre since there is not a lot of "wealth" up here). I mean I was telling you about a day in our friend's $2 million house. I think they are more frugal than most the people I know around here making $30k. So yeah I am smack dab in a sea of over-consumption. so I read the whole book cringing at the idea that the cars and homes and vacations weren't the ruin of 2-income families. OF course it is (from my view). most the people I know who work a 2nd job work for all that stuff. Many work just to pay for daycare and a ticket to eat out every night (even sadder).

However, she had some interesting points that with the public school system, homes where the good schools were, well they were bid up in the fierce competition. I see it. I hardly know anyone who has bought a home that wasn't based on "test scores." I find the idea absurd myself since we feel education is in our hands for one, and secondly, since when was a school only measured by its test score? BEing frugal through and through we would be more likely to find that school that didn't have the best test scores per se but had the best program that we felt fit our kids. There are plenty of wonderful schools without the "best" test scores.

Anyway, no I can't say school was our #1 choice when it came to our home. Sure we considered it a bit, but the idea is even more absurd somewhere in Sacramento where public school options abound. There are so many specialty/charter schools across the city that anyone can go to. So you would think it really wouldn't matter as much. I guess the bid is for the high test scores and the convenience of a school in your own backyard. The smart ones can see through the smoke and mirrors though and can figure out a ticket to a good school without the most expensive house. (For one they completely wrote off the option of renting to get in a good school, don't ask me why. I am not a fan of renting, but would consider it if it was a cheaper ticket to the best schools - why not?).

Anyway, moving here where housing cost like 1/3 at the time we bought in a very upscale neighborhood. To us it was cheap so why not. We were to have a school (new school as it was a new development). But with the nasty school board politics & obvious developer bribing (I wouldn't know where to begin) we were left with no school. You would think being in this area most people would happily send off their kids to private school, but that turns out to be not the case at all. Instead there was a huge public outcry. & having a lot of educators and politicians in our community, the parents decided to start our own Charter School. We have 1000 families, most of the families with kids have preschoolers and the school board is in denial why we would need a school. They seem to be looking at nothing but current enrollment, which is absurd. There could well be 1000 kids in our neighborhood alone (not to mention the eons of new construction).

Anyway, dh got really involved with it as something to do and a way to secure a spot for our kids. I think it was more something to do than anything. I am not sure I was thrilled about the idea of sending our kids to a brand new school (We don't even have a site yet in its 3rd year of operation at this point).

But you fast forward today and everyone just raves about the school. I have been asking other parents where they will send their kids (trying to guage who will be in class with my sons) and everyone keeps telling me they want to send their kids but aren't sure they can get in with the stiff waiting lists. As for us we are guaranteed spots, so phew.

I didn't realize how amazing this is though until I Was browsing school data online yesterday and I just saw the school had the highest test scores in the school district (by a mile, and it is a good district). dang.

I kind of worry how the momentum will be when my son starts school. Seems like they have new teachers, new programs, and everyone is really excited about it all. You wonder if with time things will slow down, the excitement will wear off. In the meantime I find the school will be a good match for my older son (just what he needs really - it has a rather unique approach) and we might of got ourselves a ticket to the best public school around. Who knew... The thing about charter schools is they are heavy in parent involvement. IT makes all the difference. This one being built from the ground up by the parents... The whole experience has been rather interesting.

Of course I have to admit, would a school like this pop up in a poor neighborhood? Of course not. Would the parents have the time or the resources to set something like this up? Um, no. I guess I am impressed that everyone didn't just roll over and send their kids off to private school. But all the same you can kind of see the inequality of it all. The good neighborhood will buy the good school. Back to square one. Interestingly, they have to have x amount of poorer students and they will try to get a broad demographic (which I think is great - more like the area I grew up which had a lot of diversity - I want my kids to see that - to not just go to school with a bunch of wealthy kids). But you know only a very lucky few will make it. I guess frankly in the end we bought a good education with our neighborhood.

Such is school and politics, apparently.

I have to say too though that most of the neighborhood is million dollar homes and we aren't even close to that. So on a frugal note, buy the cheap home in the nice neighborhood - it's another ticket to the good schools I guess. OF course with time these homes have been bid up exceptionally high (like a $100k premium to live in this neighborhood. Dh and I look at each other like lord knows why - it's just a neighborhood. We'd pay $100k less to move a few blocks out. We'd still have the same ticket to the same schools. It's all rather absurd I guess).

But yeah - the "2-Income Trap" - was very politic-y. I am not sure I would recommend it. There is probably some truth to it. But it's like, yeah everyone is bidding up the price of schools and education. My family has found it easy enough not to fall for that. my dad and I both have professional, very well-paying careers that cost us little in education. I expect my sons to be able to find the same. I don't buy that my kids need the expensive preschool to succeed in life (in fact I am more convinced by the day that the fancy preschool does more harm than good). Since when did you have to spend $20k-$30k for a decent set of wheels? We just never bought any of it - it makes ALL the difference. The 2-Income trap was all about this kind of stuff. People paying way more than they should for everything. & the authors failed to realize that this is all easy enough to avoid. Pushing for political policies to make things more fair instead of just saying, hey, this is all a bunch of BS. Of course not "buying" it all it has been easy enough to stay out of that trap for us.





Japan Trip is just a few weeks!?!

August 30th, 2007 at 05:20 pm

Crazy!

Well my dad keeps asking me what I want to do, but being very go with the flow (& very busy) I hadn't come up with much.

But I spent some time today surfing the web and getting ideas. For one I noticed japan was on the same longitude as our area of California and my coworker, who travels much, said she was in Japan for a long layover and traveled a bit, and found that it was very much like California. I also hear spring is the time of the cherry blossoms and so am wondering what autum will bring in Japan. If it looks just like California (the weather/plants, etc.) well that sounds a little boring. BUT I have just been looking at the most beautiful pictures of Japan in the fall. Exquisite. Looks nothing like California to me - LOL. Well I guess I will just have to see.

Oooooh - getting excited.

We will be spending most of our time with a family there so I think it will be less a touristy trip and more of a cultural trip, if you know what I mean. But we are staying in our own hotel. & doing about 4 days in Tokyo (Shibuya - looks like NYC) and 2 days in Kyoto (more historic). Oooh and riding the bullet train of course.

I also saw there was a monkey park in Kyoto - kind of at the top of my list. Big Grin

Lots of temples and shrines and views. OF course my sister wants to shop shop shop, my dad wants to hang out with the locals and see some bands (& eat) and I want to see the temples and see some of the outdoorsy stuff. I just want to get outside. If it was the proper season Mt. Fuji would be at the top of my list....

Oh, but I think Hiroshima would also be fascinating to see. Maybe a bit heavy. Not sure if we will have time.

Also, DisneySea. Had never heard of it, but it is next to Tokyo's "Disneyland." But DisneySea looks really different. Kind of interested, not sure if anyone else is.

So I just sent a list off to my dad and sister for scrutiny. I think if I can make it to the Monkey Park I would be happy. When else will I ever get to see/feed a bunch of "wild" monkeys.

& now I guess I have to brush up on my Japanese. I have traveled to Europe before and though the language barrier can be intimidating (sure everyone speaks english but the locals are much more nicer when you attempt their language). Well, Japanese sounds way more imitimidating than Spanish or Italian. I don't know, I grew up around a bunch of people speaking Cantonese/Indian languages/Japanese. But it is just so diferent from English/European languages. My sister is really into Japanese so she'll have to be my translator/speaker - hehe. So yeah, on one front, being among a sea of Asian people and foreign tourists, I don't think I will feel terribly out of place than a day in San Francisco (or even a day back home). But the language thing will be very different.

On the flip side dh's aunt lived in China for many years and speaks cantonese very fluently. The funny thing is she was in Guatemala for a few years and had a really difficult time with the language. She got so used to the Asian languages I guess. She kept telling us "Spanish was too hard to learn." ??? I guess it is tough to transition between the 2 because the languages are just so different. But english being my only language I am completely in awe of anyone who has mastered a second language. (Much less 3 or 4 languages).

The rich get richer...

August 29th, 2007 at 11:36 am

Well it is so true.

A good article which illustrates how if you get a little ahead of the game everything is cheaper/easier from there.

I guess I am enjoying this guy's articles too. I just get a bunch of relevant articles e-mailed to me every day from my CPA society but he had an interesting article a week or 2 ago. (I think I used to ignore these because I do not have a wsj subscription but I guess a lot of the time they are public artciles - so I should always check).

The Small Ways Wealth Begets Wealth
[url]http://online.wsj.com/article/SB118833722444811379.html[/url]

Fako score - 780

August 29th, 2007 at 09:14 am

Experian just sent me a notice that they blocked all my info.

I thought my free trial had expired (which is stupid because basically you can't get anything free for the free trial - now I can check my experian report daily if I like - and check my fako score (is not a true FICO score). But the past score was in line with my true FICO score so overall I think it is reasonable. I've seen some weird fakos in the past (like that go up to 900??? Not in line with fICO of course).

So I checked and indeed my free trial was up. I thought they would have e-mailed me - what a bunch of annoying bastards (sorry). For one it is not free because they won't let you check your score again until after the free period. Then they don't even e-mail you to tell you your free period is up. I Was starting to get aggravated since I figured it was up today or tomorrow and had checked the website yesterday with no luck.

But today, yes, "free" credit report and fako score. I should be able to check tomorrow too if I like.

My FAKO score a few days after the ID theft was around 725 (hit anyway with my balance transfer) but today is a pretty 780. So woohoo.

The true test will be what TransUnion reports my FICO score to be through WAMU. Signing up for that card was SO worth it for the monthly FICO updates. Heck, I would recommend opening an account at WAMU just for that. (The 0% balance transfer doesn't hurt either).

But balance transfer and all my score seems to be back to normal. I am sure it will get back to 800 when we pay off these balance transfers.

Oh but this was the beautiful part of my fako score:

" Listed below are the top factors that lowered your score. They are listed in order of importance.

Credit scores are calculated based on various factors in your credit report. Currently, your credit report does not show any significant negative or derogatory information. You can be proud of the fact that you are building a good credit history, so continue with your positive credit behavior!"

Eat that.

Big Grin

Oh it's nice to get things cleared up and back to "normal."

I really believe having an excellent score to start means that this whole thing was barely a blip on the radar. (& not having lots of debt either as I could have been slammed by universal default and stuff like that).

I am just not sure if this is over yet. My info is still out there. We'll see...

& when you have a good score, close your oldest accounts, take balance transfers, blahdeblah, who cares. So my score was in the 750 range for a few weeks. It is back to normal and I still have most of the entire balance transfer outstanding. It's just dropped down enough with the $200 or so paid off that it is no longer affecting FICO negatively. With the regular payments it will only help my score. I really do think people with good scores try to overthink FICO. Pay your bills on time, don't take on more debt than you can handle, and the little stuff will not kill your score. Believe me I have done EVERYTHING wrong when it comes to FICO this last year - but I don't really care. Even the ID theft didn't slay me. IT was 685 which made me nervous, but wasn't bad all the same.

Well, I hope FICO agrees - I'll found out in a few weeks with my next WAMU statement.


Got To Get Selling

August 29th, 2007 at 07:41 am

Maybe it was good I was lazy.

We decided to sell the Pack 'N Play.

Maybe the double stroller.

Now I can do it all at once.

So I expect:

$40 Pack/Play
$30 Double stroller
$20 Exersaucer
$25 Baby Gym
--------------
$115 Total

Yeah we can probably bring in an easy $100 if we get selling. Plus I will ask way more for everything and will probably get full price offers anyway. This is just my low before I rather just donate I guess.

Dh just paid $200 for the unlimited childcare at the gym (we are just LOVING it). I figure I had the cash and we can apply Christmas money to pay for it. We just took an advance from short-term savings. But coming up with $100 would go a long way to just taking care of it.

I also have a pile for freecycle. Maybe that is something we can work on next weekend. (Or will everyone be out of town? Maybe the following weekend will be better for selling/giving away). Well, we'll see. I'll have more time to clean and list things.

We have been using the pack/play as a timeout pen for LM but he really doesn't need it anymore. Heck he is crawling out of it anyway - LOL. Time to move on.

I have some clothes to ebay too - a few new with tags. I was waiting for spring/summer and maybe it's too late... Maybe should wait again - LOL - little springy outfits. New with tags, never worn (from family who never listens to size - thankfully they have been MUCH better as clothes that fit are very appreciated). I figure rather than grumbling about death ears I'd just sell a lot of new clothes - might make a decent sum.

I can't remember the last time BM used the double stroller so it could really go - those things are so dang bulky.

The cool thing is we will probably sell everything for breakeven. I think we bought the pack/play and lord knows what we paid, but everything else we got pretty cheap off craigslist. & will be able to sell for what we paid at the least - easy.

Yeah - this is not the expensive part of having kids. Like I said, the healthcare and lost wages will kill you. Not the gear - the gear is easy to get immaculate and cheap when it is "used."

Which reminds me in that thread way back on how expensive kids were someone mentioned they only took their kid to the doctor every couple of years or something. Well, okay then, but it is not the doctors visits that are expensive - it is the INSURANCE. You think I am going to drive on these California freeways with my kids and not have health insurance? Hello! One car accident could devastate us financially even though we are all the epitome of health. (Sorry just thought of that. I should dig out that thread and mention that). I pretty much agreed with everything else - I see both sides. If we wanted to move to the boonies and cut some corners sure we could probably raise a bunch of kids if we really wanted to. But not taking your kid to the dentist and not having health insurance can be a pretty pricey endeavor in the long run. Scary. Oh I wish it were only so easy. Wink Just seems short sighted and misguided to an extent.

Heck we were lucky we did not end up in the emergency room last night. Poor LM split his lip. It was pretty nasty and I wasn't so convinced it wouldn't need stitches (though admittedly I Was over-worrying). He seems okay. But if it was any deeper it could have been a trip to the emergency room. Without insurance one trip could cost thousands easy. I think with insurance we pay $500 or something so it wouldn't have been pretty either way. They don't charge much for regular visits but stick it to you with the emergency room. But yeah, he fell and bit his lip pretty deep. He's got a swollen lip today but it seems to be healing fine. Hope it continues that way.

Sure the $500 or so would have sucked but I could hardly think of anything worse than holding him in place so they could stitch up his lip. I think he lucked out though his lip is sore today. No needles, so phew.