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Archive for November, 2007

Maybe $700?

November 29th, 2007 at 07:16 am

I woke up early and so was double checking on Vegas info this mornings. Bus is still cheap as I remember but they do have a monorail. Cost twice as much BUT I know of no other way to get across the strip in 10 minutes. Sounds like QUITE an addition. The Deuce was a big step up, and the monorail sounds even better. We'll see what we think in person anyway. Interesting to see how things evolve with time. (I had no idea they put in a monorail!)

Also was checking out all the buffet reviews and such. We are huge fans of the Spice Market Buffet (Aladdin) but I think this time we'll try Mandalay Bay too. Looks similar, but better priced.

We're staying on the north end of the strip which has the really cheap buffets. So a dinner there. & then we'll dine at Fremont Street and at our favorite Indian restaurant (also very near our hotel).

I pinned down more of a $180 budget for dining and about $60 for transportation (shuttle, buses, monorail). This assumes all the info I saw online was current (not so sure). Leaves $60 for incidentals, unexpected things, and gambling. If we adjust our budget to $300. Much more realistic but I am excited to try a new buffet, and that will be for quite an amount of food. Yes, we will have to hit they gym on our return. Though I am sure we will also do PLENTY of walking.

It seems like every time we go to Vegas we spend more money. But we also enjoy more. Gotta splurge once in a while I guess. WIll be fun...

Actually we have never stayed 3 nights before, so accounts for much of the cost. Eating out is such a budget buster when it comes to vacation. It just adds up so fast and is always maddening since it is so much easier to eat way cheaper at home. I mean $180 on food? At home that's 2 weeks of food for 4 of us!! I feel like food is always the vacation budget buster. But we are certainly splurging and enjoying in this case. Just what I always find is so pricey about vacation. The food will cost about as much as our plane tickets this time around...

Vegas!

November 28th, 2007 at 04:37 pm

Well, on a whim we decided to catch one show in Vegas. We did really good on our retirement and efund this year so we decided to take our December balance transfer interest and splurge. Big Grin

I really wanted to see O (Which would be more pricey) but it was pretty much sold out. We decided to try Spamalot instead. A tad cheaper (though not much). I don't know, I am ready for vacation and the idea that "I wouldn't waste my money on a show" went out the window rather last minute. But we have been to Vegas quite a few times and never splurged on a show. IT will be fun.

So our budget looks something like this:

Vegas (4 days/3 nights):

Food/Gambling $200 (Already pd/use gifts)
Shows $150 (Paid with Interest)
Airfare $250 (Paid with cc rewards)
Hotel $0 (No cash but timeshare hell is "priceless" - LOL).
--------------------
$600
--------------------

Oh the $200 includes airport shuttle and bus fare too - the incidentals.

We'll see, it's our last hoorah before tax season and all that. I just want to REALLY enjoy. Mostly plan our budget for fine dining. If we end up over $200 I Won't sweat it much. Just all we need to spend to not dip into our checking account at all. Big Grin On the other hand I figure we could splurge on 2-3 really nice meals and go cheap the rest of the time (fast food or a trip to the grocery store is just fine) and stay well within the budget. Certainly what we aim for.

Not one of our cheaper Vegas trips by a mile. But the ironic thing is gas is getting so expensive, I think our airfare may be cheaper than driving. Certainly if we took the van. Gas would have cost around $200 easy in dh's car. Not to mention wear and tear and TIME. I got the deal I wanted on airfare, but even if I hadn't it probably would have been worth $300-$400. I now realize as prices skyrocket before my eyes. Our airfare deal is looking better by the minute.

Southwest also changed their policy. You get to board in the order you check in. Already checked in for tomorrow's flight (& at the front of the line)! I am just not sure we will get the opportunity to print out our boarding passes ahead of time for the return flight, but will try.

Is it worth it to fly round trip for $125 each, to not get to sit next each other for a one hour flight? OF course it is. But I am optimistic dh and I may actually get to sit next to each other this flight. How divine. I am loving this online checking/boarding pass thing.

Our only obstacle now is staying healthy for tomorrow. & for the entire weekend really. IT would be nice, but probably too much to ask. (just usual kids and germs...).

Oh yes, and I Will have to tell you about Tahiti Village. I can't believe when people IRL seriously tell me to hold my ground or "BE careful because you get sucked in." LEt me tell you, I don't remember the last time I got sucked in by a timeshare presentation, by a car salesman, by a furniture salesman... Any salesman... I just giggle. Somehow I think we'll survive. (Just a hint. The reason we do well financially is we don't spend our money on stupid things. WE don't make rash purchasing decisions. We don't buy things we can't pay cash for. Etc. All things you have to do to buy a timeshare. We didn't need to read all the horrible timeshare stories to figure out it was a high pressure sales thing that made absolutely no sense).

I think I also mentioned people keep telling me they were "trapped" in these presentations for hours. You have got to be kidding me. Let them try to "trap" us - LOL. We do have legs. & cell phones to call a cab. & rights. The bus pass won't hurt either if we have to flee too early.

Honestly, for the most part I think we will go, be bored, and be one of the first to leave, with little incident. It's just so obvious we aren't buying it on any level they don't even bother trying. Has been our past experience.

& you would have to be crazy to think I Would actually tell them my real income. Teehee. Rule #1 - do not tell them your income. I figure the "spouse is out of work" card should keep them off our back. I remember last time we went to a Vegas timeshare presentation they were salivating when we said we were from Bay Are ($$$$$ in their eyes). I told dh, um, let's say our income is 1/2 what it was. The scary thing was how much they salivated over the $40k income or so I put down. Yeesh. This time you have to be over $50k. I am thinking $50,001 will work. $0 assets. Negative net worth? I don't know, maybe they will smell weakness if we lay on the negative net worth thing too thick though.

But yeah last time was a $15k timeshare and it made no financial sense in the least. We were staying at a hotel for $30/night. A NICE one. Why would we spend $15k on a timeshare???? Who wants to stay in a condo off the beaten path in Vegas??? This one will be even easier. They are seriously asking $50k for these things. IT's going to be 10 times easier to say, "Are you out of your mind???" I Think we can walk away from this one.

Anyway, dh likes to play psychological games with people so I think he is looking forward to it. I figure it is a small price to pay for 3 free nights stay, but we'll see how I feel afetrwards. LOL. I am sure it will be uncomfortable at best. Have to play nice... With dh by my side will be okay though. Last time we wasted a good chunk of a short trip on a timeshare presentation (For $50). This time we get 3 full days to enjoy, so eh. It won't be such a big chunk of our time at least. & more reward.

Balance Transfers & Mortgages

November 28th, 2007 at 06:03 am

Well, I got my final balance transfer and so the grand total is $25k for the next 3 months. Then one of dh's has to be paid back. I will have $15k through summer and $10k through the end of next year. They still have not implemented 4% minimums so my payments are rather minimal (It's insane really - EASY money). I also have a 5.7% rate locked in on most of it. Big Grin Let's just say I am very happy with the whole thing and am rather bummed that I want to cut up all the cards and let my FICO rest once all is said and done. Then again, maybe dh should apply for another one. I don't know. It will be hard to give up the easy money. We could probably take turns doing them to limit affects on each of our FICOs. Yeah, think I am HOOKED!

On the flip side, about $15k of it will be in my name; with this new transfer. I am not excited to see what this does to my credit score. Particularly since Chase does not report my credit limit to the Bureaus. Gah. I have been so busy with ID theft to bother, but I will try and see if I can get that fixed. It will help my FICO to see only 33% utilization instead of 45%. I also could ask Chase for a credit increase to help. But they still have to report it, all the same. Doesn't help if they don't report it anyway...

That's the cool thing about having a partner. We both don't have to borrow very much if we combine our efforts.

I asked for a credit line increase to $11k and they approved it instantly. I told dh I wish I asked for much more to improve my utilization ratio. But he knows me too well. He's like if you asked for more you would have borrowed more. Well, is that so bad? It seems they were slow to give me credit before so I did not ask for much. I get the feeling I could have asked for much more.

In other news, regarding the ARM thread I was looking up mortgage rates and was rather surprised. We used to have a 15-year fixed, before kids, and figured we wouldn't be opposed to that again down the road, BUT we figure 15=year rates will probably never drop below our 5.75% fixed again (not soon enough to be worthwhile anyway). Anyway, I was looking and Countrywide had a 15-year fixed for 5.25%. I have to say; it is tempting. Particularly since we have paid so much down since last time. I think our payments were $1800 before and would be more like $1700 in this case.

Anyway, with one kid out of preschool in a few months, it is an interesting thought to go this route.

However, I knew that those #s were fishy. It was not clear how many points there were and I already knew Countrywide requires impounds to get the best rates (no way jose - for many many reasons).

Anyway, so I found the fine print - 2 points and impounds required. Not the greatest deal after all. (To note, our mortgage was acquired with no points, and no impounds!). These days I wish we had paid down the interest rate a bit. Then again really not much to complain about.

Anyway, BUT interest rates are dipping again and so it may make sense some point down the road to switch. We'll see. Just something we have to keep an eye on. Not sure it would make much financial sense today anyway; but always hard to pass up a great rate. In much more shape to go back to that now than we have the last few years.

Of course if rates don't drop down I think our current 30-year rate is lower than (if no the same) as our old 15-year rate. I do like the flexibility of a 30-year mortgage (e.g. if one of us were sick or lost a job it is nice not to have a stressful payment) and likewise I don't think it is the best idea to up our payment considerably. Hope I don't get too tempted. We always figured when dh returned to substantial work that we would add $500/month to the mortgage and resume our 15-year amortization. We'd still have plenty to invest and play with as well. In the grand scheme of things it is a much better plan. But if rates drop to 5.25% with no strings, well, color me tempted. Give me 2 years and I'll be ready. Big Grin (Interestingly interest rates dropped to the all-time lows right before our first child, so that is when we last refied. What are the odds they would do so again with our kids graduating from the insanely expensive years? Would be cool. But won't hold my breath. Already got pretty lucky once - hehe).

Of course when it comes to the great mortgage debate, this is why I like our 30-year so much. Much more flexibility. Sure if things are good we'll pay it off in 15 years. If we end up unemployed or disabled, I'd rather have the cash. win-win.

Went Shopping...

November 26th, 2007 at 07:59 pm

I am SO bummed. They had this spectacular "Holiday House" that timed all these lights to music. Anyway, I think it has been around a few years; but word really exploded about it last year. We went to see it 3 times last year (each time was considerably more crowded). So today BM and I discussed it on the way home, that we needed to get there early this year. So when I got home I looked up to see when it started. I did warn BM that they could be gone; because of cranky neighbors. Anyway, I called it.

Looked up the website and they just updated today - no show this year. Frown I am so bummed, but I certainly don't fault the neighbors. IT wasn't the light or the noise but the traffic that made them cranky. Lord knows I wasn't going back there, close to Christmas.

Anyway, they are looking for a commercial location to setup next year. I don't imagine that would be hard to find. (Free spectacular light show that brings in too much traffic??). So I hope they work out something for the future.

Anyway, we were watching their videos from last year and they had one song from the Trans-Siberian Orchestra which is also very spectacular. On a whim I looked up the CD and was listening to some of the audio files on their website. LM just LOVED the music so I went to Amazon to add it to the wish list. Which is fine, except it was on sale for $8.99. Really not bad at all - eligible for free shipping. I also noticed all the books on my wish list were on sale for $4.99. So I bought 3 books and that. Of course I was short like 50 cents for the $25 minimum for free shipping. (Shipping is $6 or so). I was perusing stocking stuffers, but of course the $1 stuff doesn't apply for free shipping. Bah. I finally just bought another book I had my eye on. It was $10 though. Oh well. I'd rather pay $10 for a book than $6 for shipping.

I told dh if he wanted to wrap the stuff up for his family to give to me; whatever. Good deals. I can't complain!

I also downloaded credit card expenses - updated. We leave Wednesday for Vegas and so pretty much paid all our bills and bought all our gas and groceries for the month.

Credit card bill will be about $1350. Well in the budget, christmas and all. PHEW. Following some spendy months.

There is Vegas, but I am getting birthday cash and $130 refund of deposit from the time share company.

I think we can budget around $200 for eating out (mostly all we will spend money on). We'll use the credit and cash. We also figured we'd go to the movies (matinee I am sure. Big Grin ).

Dh, very sweet, tells me today he wants to splurge on my birthday. I am like, and a trip to Vegas isn't enough??? He just said he wanted to go out to a nice dinner or something on the actual day. I just say, duh. We had already been talking all the places we were going to eat. Truth is, really, we just got to Vegas to eat!!! Big Grin

In other new I am under a pile of mandarins. LOL. That is the fun thing about Sacramento. Is it city or rural? Becoming very city, very fast. Historically very rural (as is much of California really). So my coworker has an orchard of mandarin trees and she gave me 4 buckets. She said she'll give me 4 more next week. Gave one bag to each fam and will give one to preschool. Will keep the last. Kids love them.

I am always pawning off unwanted food at work and I have to keep remembering not to lug a back back to work. That is where they came from. LOL. But they disperse pretty fast between all our family and all.

Which reminds me, we don't have a garden and haven't really thought much about it, but dh wants to get an apple tree. Our main tree died (lord knows why). The one planned to block the sun in the summer and shed its leaves in the fall to let the sun shine in the winter. Anyway, the tree never got very far. Dh wants an apple tree. He said his parents had a dwarf tree and never got too out of hand. We'll have to plant one in the spring. Kids will love it.

Things have warmed up a bit here. Weather went straight from summery to wintery. It was a little crazy. It is settling on autumny. Much chillier than it was, but not freezing... Phew...

November Interest

November 26th, 2007 at 07:01 am

$20 challenge:

$9,261.87 - Balance 11/13

$ 145.00 - Interest

------------------
$9,406.87 - Balance 11/26
------------------

Well, received my bank interest today and know what the CDs will bring Saturday. So $145 for the month.

I just executed my last balance transfer so expect an easy $200 interest for December.

Which would put my challenge to $9600. & I have worked enough overtime to bridge the gap to $10,000. I do not know though when I will get paid. So we'll see. Nothing much else planned in that regard. If I save any gift money between here and January I might be able to make it. With birthdays and Christmas there is ample opportunity. The problem is I already have that money earmarked for other stuff. We'll just have to see... {My rule is if I deposit it in efund or retirement I can count gifts towards the challenge. Not if I need them for more short-term expenses).

Yes the challenge really encourages me to save more than spend. I expect next year to go much better. We got much farther on track, but haven't built up much of a car repair fund this year which was my downfall. I assume we'll get plenty of christmas money for that - to replenish short-term savings for the new tires and such. Otherwise it could have gone straight to retirement. So close... I don't expect next year to be an issue since we no longer have to divert so much cash to the e-fund. We are working on our car/house fund next year. Which hopefully means come NEXT Christmas we will have a windfall for retirement. I was hoping to be there this year; but little to complain about overall. We have made substantial progress.

Dh went shopping today...

November 23rd, 2007 at 07:43 am

He went out. He is not an early riser in the least but I woke up at 6am and he was nowhere to be found. "Oh lord," I thought. He went shopping!

He got home at 7am and said it wasn't very crowded.

Usually hits up Fry's and easily waits in line there all morning, but said no good deals this year. Well, nothing he wanted or was worth waiting in line for...

He bought a new razor scooter at Target for $7 cheaper than the one we already bought. (So $20 instead of the $27 we paid. Original price around $50). Probably not worth it alone, but they also had some PS3 guitar game thing at 33% off.

He said there was no line. (It was certainly crowded but he shopped fast!)

He also went by a game store that had "Hero Scape" - some kind of board game he has been all excited about but seemed too pricey - got it for $20 instead of $40 full price.

The kids are with Grandma so we are going to go wrap up the presents now. We got LM a train set and I will probably run to the Dollar Store next week for the stocking stuffers. Oh yeah, we also have a PILE of free books from Sholastic (3 boxes actually) and dh bought a few games that were $5 after rebate (something like that). So we'll wrap some of those. So though we wanted to keep it simple because the kids get so spoiled anyway, yeah they have a lot to unwrap from us... Since the books are from teacher grandma anyway (she has a so MANY unused points that we have to use this year...) I asked her to please take credit for all the gifts. I left the "from" line blank on all those while they work it out. I would love it if she put her name on all the gifts and didn't buy anything else. It gets to be WAY too much with dh's family. So I know this is really wishful thinking. But we'll see! {After further thinking I decided those games/books would go a long way for stocking stuffers. I might by them some candies or treats but I think we're pretty set for Santa. Plenty for grandma AND Santa with the 3 boxes!}.

My work is done. Big Grin I just have a pile of checks to write in Christmas. & some things I can do online (donations and such). I am waiting until December to spread out some of the costs. The hard work is definitely done...

Here is to another "simple" christmas.

& yay to dh for saving some dollars. You couldn't pay me to shop today. LOL.

We have a quiet day with no kids which is really COOL! We might splurge on a Greek lunch out. I am looking forward to taking a NAP! I just love naps. I am sure dh would love to go to the movies, but with Vegas next week I told him we should rent a movie instead. (Plenty of free coupons from Blockbuster). He does have his theater screen you know. He seems content with that. I don't know why with the kids gone the urge is there to spend money. But lunch out will be really nice - and not too pricey. & we are going to stay in otherwise.

Oh yeah - and I need to hit the gym. I can not tell you the last time I made it to gym or aerobics. It's just been hectic. I think I can hit it Today & Sunday.

Saved $23 this month...

November 21st, 2007 at 04:08 pm

Well, um, I got the water bill today. Couldn't make heads or tail of it. For one, it is due today (but postmarked a couple of days ago). Well, okay then.

It also makes no sense how they charged us. But our metering took effect and our bill was $23 lower than our usual monthly bill. They are only charging us every other month for water I believe.

Anyway, so they showed we had $45 of water charges for the last TWO months, as opposed to the usual flat $45 they charge MONTHLY. Phew. Then they pulled some number out of the air to bill us. But looked reasonable since we already paid the flat water rate last month.

Hopefully the next bill is a little more clear.

This was before it started raining and we turned off the water outside entirely, so at this rate we might save more than I originally thought. Not bad for 2 rather dry/warm months. It has been unusually warm.

Well, Thanksgiving has evolved very strangely. I think I am going to go out to eat with my parents while dh does the crazy family thing. Long story.

I think his family is really freaked out about this turn of events, but we have a lot history of doing our own thing. I think they worry a little too much. It's kind of funny. We are totally cool with this arrangement. He has the kids. His mom is worried about how this "looks." I am just looking forward to peace and quiet. Big Grin {I also have a long history of not caring what other people thing. who cares??????}

So mostly I am looking forward to a peaceful holiday. We are no longer hosting so it will be far more relaxing than I thought.

I worked a few hours today (hadn't planned to with hosting) and will probably work a bit in the morning or Sunday. I made up enough time I can use vacation time to go to Vegas next week. Big Grin

Maybe I can even squeeze in some overtime in December, now that I am catching up for all this time off. Well, one thing at a time.

BM did tell me today he was thankful for our "house." That's what he decided at preschool. I asked him what in particular he liked about our house - or was thankful about. He said, "That we have a cat in our house." LOL.

Have a great Holiday!!!