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Archive for June, 2008

Starting to feel JINXED!! (& Groceries...)

June 30th, 2008 at 06:08 pm

On the plus side, I got my car back at noon - really nothing wrong with it.

Mechanic called me at 11:45 to say the EGR valve(?) had been stuck, but seems fine now. Plus is usually covered for warranty an extraordinarily long time.

Charged $100, but that's okay. I was holding my breath to more car repairs on both cars. Now they both have a clean bill of health for $100. So not bad. Feeling very relieved. (Likewise, my co-worker just said the Ford dealership quoted her $160 just to diagnose her "check engine" light. What a rip! So though I thought $100 was a bit much, I guess I shouldn't complain. (Family friend mechanic though not as awesome as the one we had back home. But trustworthy at least).

I called dh and asked if he wanted to meet me for lunch and get the car, but he had just heated up spaghetti. I was trying to talk him into it, when I remembered that the fancy Indian place was rather near the car shop (downtown). I didn't have to ask twice. HE said, "I'll be right there to pick you up!"

We decided to go to lunch first and then I could drop him off at the mechanic and let him deal with the time to pick it up.

So we parked a couple of blocks down and realized lunch downtown maybe wasn't the smartest idea. Nowhere to park! We found an empty spot and paid $1.25 in the meter.

We walk to the place and the door is LOCKED. Frown Of course there was a sign, under new management and starting TODAY, closed Mondays. Boy, we felt great about that (not).

So then I just feel jinxed! we were trying to go over there when dh's car died. LOL. I get the feeling that for some reason we are NOT supposed to eat there. Hehe.

But I am super bummed that we didn't make it one last time under old management. Before we had the old chef from the San Francisco location (where we got hooked). Sounds like he had moved on. Frown

So yes, we are crazy and we will try again. Big Grin

I just don't know when.

Anyway, we walked over to a MExican restaurant and had a so-so meal for $16. What a let down. $16 less for our gourmet Indian meal next month.

We should have cut our losses and left. I had lunch at work and dh had his spaghetti at home. Oh well! It was nice to have a quiet lunch - but we wasted most of our July lunch budget (we usually aim for 2-for-1 coupons and spend $10 on our date lunches.

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I didn't think much about it (since the paper sUnday showed what seemed like a million out of control fires still burning) but when I got out of work today I suddenly realized the sky was BLUE! We had been holed up indoors for almost a week, so I am thrilled.

I don't think the fire situation is grand (not sure) but the wind has blown the smoke elsewhere, for now.

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As promised, our grocery bill. Dh spent $55 picking up some stuff. Got stuff for spaghetti, taco salad, refried bean enchiladas, and some chicken dinner.

We got the husked corn for our spaghetti dinner as well. LOVING the stuff. Our luxury for now.

We needed some bread and cat food, and stocked up on chicken.

I am trying to put a finger on why our grocery bill seems rather unchanged. I think our particular store is slow to change prices.

So I just had to share for opinions. I think for one, prices are usually higher here. So that we are used to. But on the other hand, they don't seem to be rising much.

I don't know how much is regional, store, or if dh is just getting better at meal planning (maybe all of the above).

I did notice we mostly had a lot on hand already for most of the meals we made this week. Which means are regular bills seem to be getting lower, but there is still the occasional monster bill when we stock up on things.



Anything strike you as a good deal? Anything strike you as insanely expensive? Just curious on regional perspectives...

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One more thing. Dh is driving me nuts because he drained all of our wallet cash to buy some more games. They are up on ebay and will be sold by Thursday. So this is okay. But he still has 2 unsold Wiis.

I told him I needed ALL the profits back (he owes $400 to the checking account) plus the proceeds from his projector to pay some one-time bills (like private swimming lessons for BM, etc.).

I am thinking once I get all that back and I will just pull $500 cash from savings and give it to him to wheel and deal. He is driving me nuts. Just messing up my system. Plus I have like 20 cents in my wallet now. I don't use cash, but I like to at least carry a $20.

Anyway, he worried about interest. I told him the 3% interest on $500 amounts to $15 annually. HE can pay me a $1/month fee (profits) and I will be fine.

I of course want the $500 back eventually, as well. But will give him some seed money.

I think we may clear $400 this month, though a lot of that is in credit at the "used" store and a lot of that is just in more crap. LOL. But I told dh if he could make $400/month and max out his IRA, it will be a long time before I bug him to get a job.

I think he wants to do more than buy and sell stuff - it does take a lot of time. But in the interim, every little bit helps.

(I do remember July being a slow sell time last year on Craigslist. So we are sort of feeling it. But he sold that Wii last week in a FLASH - so there is hope). For now still holding out for $100 profit/each.

De-Cluttering Much??

June 28th, 2008 at 04:13 pm

I just added it all up and we have $800 of stuff listed on craigslist. Not that I expect $800. I always start high and am amazed how many people take full price. But I expect less for most of the stuff listed.

But I have been trying to sell some old crib bedding and stuff with no luck. Ebay would probably be better except the crib bumper is just so bulky. But I am starting to rethink it.

So I am hoping this stuff has better luck. We'll see...

& anyway, this is not pure profit. Dh spent $200 on a Wii/accessories he is trying to unload (for $300).

He has another one to list after this one. We took a listing break with vacation.

With my MLM stuff, and the second Wii to sell I guess we might clear $1k profit. We have a few other little things.

Feels like a small start to a BIG process. Big Grin

I have a pile of a few ebay things, and I am sure I will find more. I also have a pile going for goodwill. We don't bother selling anything unless we can easily clear $20. Maybe a few larger things if we can get $10+.

Anyway, I have up 5 listings, and dh has 3. We'll see how it goes.

I am thinking to next weekend, and we need to prepare for the kids' birthday parties. & we have lots of July plans. So we are hitting it hard this weekend while we have some time.

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I dropped my camera twice last week - once in the dirt. The zoom is giving me problems today. We bought it around 2002 or 2003, and I don't even remember how much we paid.

I mentioned it offhand to dh, and he said maybe it was time for a new one.

I was like, "No way!" and then I asked how much it would be (having no idea). HE said we could get twice the mega pixels for $100.

I think ours is 4 megapixel (don't quote me on that one though) and it was totally awesome at the time.

You could sell me on $100 for a new one with a major upgrade. Surprised dh hadn't asked sooner. LOL.

But yeah, I Was just going to say we can sell the old one too, but not for very much since it has issues, now that I think about it.

Anyway, I am completely shocked with how cheap a lot of these things have gotten over time. When I think of all of our electronic gadgets, I don't think much as far as price, since we tend to buy a little behind and keep things forever.

But as far as the camera, $100 for a major upgrade seems pretty reasonable. We can even keep the old one for the kids. Could be a good compromise since I know BM would love a real camera but we haven't wanted to shell out the bucks quite yet. He's a little rowdy. Wink I mean look what I did just being a clumsy mess on our trip. Frown We didn't exactly have any problems with the camera and would have kept a few more years really... I guess we'll keep an eye on it.

FOOD

June 28th, 2008 at 07:17 am

I think I should start scanning my grocery receipts and see what you all think.

We seriously have noticed NO change in our grocery bills, doing nothing different. We might hit $350 this month (a new low actually) and that includes a splurge on sushi the other night (quite unusual).

I do admit we have been eating out a bit more. (All the deals/coupons). Then again, I have been eating out a lot less (for lunch).

Well, I just get the feeling it is largely regional. & little things like our milk price has not gone up since we are charged the same for 2 gallons at a time, as one gallon, now. So since I can't exactly put my finger on it, I am curious how our food prices compare to what you see... (Now I wish I had kept a price book all along. I wrote it off as WAY too time consuming, but now curiosity wishes I had wasted all that time - hehe).

Well, dh made some greek chicken and potato dinner in the crockpot. Also, some spicy hummus. The hummus was okay. (We need to add more spice next time). & the crock pot dish, well, it was pretty good.

YUM!

Reminds me we are getting a new Indian restaurant. I was told it was in the style of our favorite greek restaurant here (more of a cafe I guess). So we are keeping our fingers crossed that it is GOOD!

We have another one, but we aren't a big fan of it. We only went once...

Oh, and dh may sign up for some Indian cooking classes. Forgot about that too. I give you, the Asian cultures know how to cook veggies. I may eat them a little more if dh can master Indian cooking. Wink

Beyond that, we are going to try "monkey munch" today. Oh, it is terrible for you - lots of butter and sugar and chocolate. I saw it on "Jon & Kate Plus 8" last night and of course the recipe was online (just googled it). So, since we are stuck indoors (smoky air) we will have to just make some monkey munch instead...

Since I am stuck indoors I may de-clutter a bit as well. I had all sorts of outdoor plans, so bah!

If you see my weather thing to the left, yeah, that's smoke... Not clouds, but smoke.

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The man and the kids are now addicted to garage sales. LM really wanted to go so dh took him this morning. Every time he comes back with a toy, of course.

I think we will hit a $2k credit card bill for the 3rd month in a row. Woohoo. I say, woohoo, because we earn an extra $30 in cash rewards as a result.

April was my professional dues (reimbursed by employer anyway) and our camping deposit which got us there. (We usually budget around $1300 credit card which includes pretty much ALL our bills - whatever we can card, of course we card - for rewards). May our Disneyland trip got us there in a flash. I expected to get there this month with medical bills or the rest of our camping expenses. But camping remainder was due May and the medical bill never arrived (put off another month...). So, I thought about it and realized I had more professional dues, due soon. I'll just pay them today and hope it clears the card before the month closes.

We also paid $130 to get dh's car fixed yesterday. New battery and new wires and cables and all that. Rather reasonable in the end. We'll drop off my car Monday and that will certainly ensure we hit the $2k. Think we are there already. This month we bought shoes, camping supplies, and dh's receiver. So, it was just spendy.

& no, I don't expect anywhere near $2k bills next month or going forward. Though I may get a $1k medical bill one of these days. They sure take their sweet time, which is fine with me.

I am hitting Craigslist today. I signed BM up for swim lessons and dh is talking about these cooking classes. It all adds up. I have enough baby stuff to sell and cover it though, so cracking at it. I am afraid that my car repairs will probably need to come either short-term or mid-term savings. Bummer. But trying not to touch savings for anything else.

BM also got his school teacher assignment yesterday. Along with a request for $25 for supplies, and $60 for field trips. They just have you prepay everything for simplicity. I don't think it's so bad. There is an option to pay the $60 in 5 installments. I kind of giggled when I saw that. You have to understand we live in a rather upscale community and so, yeah, struck me as strange. Though I guess on some level, it isn't surprising.

I must admit since I never deal in cash, that this is really throwing me off. Suddenly I have to come up with $200 cash between that and LM's private swim lessons. (Awesome deal, I just got that squared away, after months. His lessons are in July). So, hmmmm, yes, stuff to sell. Sell sell sell, deposit the cash, and pay the cash bills. I don't have any cash otherwise, and am loathe to touch savings. Though that really is what some of it is there for. Just a last resort for me.

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A friend just told me she couldn't afford the $1k to fix the A/C on her truck, so she would just live without. (I swear everyone I know has had A/C problems of late. I am thinking this is a perk to an older car - no A/C problems. These are all newer cars - and problems galore).

But then started talking about a new $20k truck she wanted. On and on and on.

Ugh, this stuff just drives me nuts. It's not worth the $1k to fix, so will shell out $20k instead.

& then they wonder how we can afford our lifestyle on half the income, while all the while wondering why we drive OLD cars. I've had one too many people tell me old cars are a financial drain. Yeah, the $130 I just spent to fix dh's car with 90k miles (paid off when we bought it in 2001) is killing us. NOT! Wink

In fact, our newer minivan is so awful, I am sorely tempted to trade it in for an old Toyota. We'll see what the repair bill is this round. The minivan has awful repair bills, which I did not expect in a newer vehicle. So I guess it all depends on the car. But I will take a $1k bill over a $20k bill any day. I know, it's the debt mentality. Get a $300 payment or something and that is better than shelling out $1k. That is the thinking.

I know they will think I have lost my mind when I trade in the van for an older car. Wink But probably what we will end up doing, to get our gas bill and repairs bill down.





Financial Update

June 27th, 2008 at 01:08 pm

I am not sure if I will enjoy doing a net worth update as of 6/30. I am afraid I won't have much to show. But I guess we shall see...

I guess we have a general idea of what our vacation plans will be for next year. Though who knows, anything can happen. My dad told me he was hoping to spend next year visiting family, though I guess I may tag along on some of those. We have talked of flying to Denver for a weekend so the kids could meet my Grandma. Maybe pop in on my sister in NC for a weekend (the airfare is generally cheap, but I don't know these days). My parents would probably foot the bill if I tag along though. Would just be me for NC. But yes, the kids for Denver.

Now that the kids are of booster seat size, air travel is back on the table. We have just had the most horrid experience trying to rent decent car seats on vacation. We traveled with both kids when they were just 1, and at that point vowed never again. I don't know how it went in Florida for dh and the kids last October. But, ugh. He was a brave soul to try that again. LOL.

So anyway, there is discussion of family stuff, and I have no idea what dh's parents have in mind. But we are thinking 4-5 days at Family Camp/Yosemite again, next year. & we have also talked about getting season passes to the amusement park by our home town. I guess it's somewhat nostalgic for us (we spent so much time there as kids/teens) and is in fact where dh and I met, as we both worked there many years. So, they have added a water park and parking is included in the season passes. For today they sell 4 season passes for $260. I am SOLD. We spend so much time in the area that we can make a few half day trips and avoid the large expenses like food. The place is a 5-minute drive from my parent's house, so we can even drop off all the valuables there and go enjoy our time without locker rentals and such. The water park is a REALLY nice touch. Plus if we are willing to pay $320 instead (or just $60 more), we get season passes to another great park in the area. Probably well worth it.

I think that about eats up our $1200 vacation budget, but I think is perfect. We leave plenty of wiggle room in the budget for "daycaytions" as is, which is generally more our speed.

Which reminds me, with all the fires, the air quality here is really horrid around here for now. I am afraid we will be locked indoors all weekend. Kind of a bummer because the weather has been rather pleasant. !! It's just TAUNTING me. This is the mildest June we I can recollect since moving here about 6 years ago. We've barely turned on our air. We left it on around 86 degrees for the cat when we were camping, but I don't think the air turned on at all. Our house has settle at a nice 80 degrees. No air conditioning needed.

But yes, dreading July/August. It's going to be a shock. Likewise, I hope this does not mean horrid hot weather prolongs into September. That is what I am afraid of.

We have been experimenting with changing our water sprinkler set up and have cut the watering time about in half (if not more). I think it is only working because of the mild weather. We may have to go back to watering every day come July. But our gardener set it to go off twice a day, year round. HE tweaks it each season, but I am pretty certain it always goes off at least once every day. So now that we are switched to metered water, we are experimenting with it.

I know, it's terrible. We should have done this before. We are from drought country, so the water habits of people here appall me. We conserve much water inside the house. But never having had a lawn before, we just did what the gardener said. I think we can get by with much less water most of the year. & anyway, we can cut it way back in the backyard. The front yard is another story. We get very mixed messages. Don't use any chemicals (They flow to the lake) but we'll fine you if your yard isn't sparkling green, even in the 110-degree summers. YEah, whatevah! We do what we can in the front, I think we might just let the backyard go. I'd love to rip it out and just put in tanbark and a play structure. Maybe some astro turf like a friend of mine did. This watering thing is ridiculous. All for some ideal that is completely unattainable in the climate. The rest of the year is fine, so no one resorts to desert landscaping. But I am sorely tempted. I know it's probably not "allowed" in the front yard, but we have changes in mind for our backyard. Also considering a garden and some fruit trees, etc.

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Financially speaking...

**Paid off balance transfer #2. Woohoo.

I am keeping this card open until my free FICO score checks dry up. I think I only have one more month. So will just close the card.

LEaves one transfer open. IT's earning 5.7% and will through the end of the year. Big Grin

**Paid the July bills (all but one or 2) and wrote the last check to preschool, for BM. Plus they were on vacation - unpaid - for a week. & so on and so on.

HAllelujah!

IT will be more exciting next month when I pay $280 (instead of $630, for 2). IT's a "short" month. I will celebrate even more then.

Anyway, beyond that, I had enough cash to pay all the bills for June, which was good, because it was a pretty spendy month.

I expect July to be rather spendy with birthdays and such, but then again, I look forward to plumping up the kids' savings with the gifts they will no doubt receive.

**I was kind of waiting to see how the month panned out because it has been so "unusual" in a sense to see if I had any leftover for a donation.

I think I will earmark $100 of my MLM supply/going out of business sale - for the food bank. If I make more I will probably put the rest in our savings.

I told dh he could buy and sell more Wiis if he's like, to buy a Wii. I caved. Was just feeling nice I guess.

I guess I shouldn't get too excited. Dh's car is in the shop today and mine will probably go Monday. I should probably get those bills before I get too generous.

I also need to keep in mind that BM will need some school supplies and uniforms as well. I think Grandma has a lot of that covered (phew) but we'll see. I wanted to earmark $200/month to our car/house savings, now that he is out of pricey preschool. But I may need to earmark the first month for supplies. We'll see...

**I can't remember if I posted this, but with my stimulus check, my short-term savings is out of the red (pulled into the red by my 4/15 tax bill. Funny how that worked out). AND my mid-term saving fund surpassed $3k. My mid-term goal is $5k for the year and I am rather confident on that. I just wish I had more to add. Going forward, $5k annually is probably plenty. I just wish $10k cash would fall out of the sky and make up for the last few years where we have saved very little. Just a lot more catching up to do...

But yeah, dh bought his receiver and we bought a lot of camping supplies this month, etc. We went on a rather luxurious date (for us) and it was just kind of spendy. We were no doubt helped greatly by all the gas reimbursements dh's parents kept raining on him. I think $200 between all of them. Funny enough, they have BM and we are meeting them mid way to pick him up on Sunday. So yeah, I wouldn't count on more gas cash, but who knows. They must think we get TERRIBLE gas mileage. (His mom have him $60 to drive 120 miles - LOL. & his dad slipped him $40 for driving 220 miles. I guess with his "super car" (40 mpg) we are coming out way ahead. My dad slipped me $80 for Yosemite (to be fair we paid for his entire vacation otherwise) which was actually about right. IF it had been dh's parents they would have slipped us $200 for gas or something - LOL.

I had worried that we could not justify so much driving to see family. Now I am thinking we need to do it more... Wink

Camping - Part 2

June 26th, 2008 at 07:02 am

In real life I have gotten many questions about this camp. So wanted to share more.

Text is http://www.friendsofsanjosefamilycamp.org/ and Link is
http://www.friendsofsanjosefamilycamp.org/

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"There are over 60 wood frame and canvas covered tent-cabins scattered among the pines and oaks throughout camp. Each cabin contains cots with mattresses (no bedding), benches, a table and bookshelf and can comfortably sleep up to six campers. All cabins have decks for outdoor relaxation. Electrical outlets are available at an extra cost in some cabins.

Fully equipped restrooms are just a short walk from any cabin. All restrooms have hot showers, toilets, washbasins and changing areas for infants. There are electrical outlets in all restrooms.

The Dining Hall complex is in the heart of the camp. Here you will find the dining room, kitchen, store, recreation room, camp office, and the medical aid station. A broad, shaded patio overlooking the Tuolumne River provides the perfect spot for reading, socializing, napping, or playing ping-pong. The Dinning Hall deck is the setting for many of the summer's social activities.

Upstream from the Dining Hall a small dam which creates a swimming area in the river. Lifeguards are on duty during all scheduled swimming hours and there is a roped-off, shallow area for small children and beginning swimmers. For sun lovers there are beach and lawn areas for recreation or lounging.

Across the river from the Dining Hall complex is Miners Island and Fort Tuolumne. Both are favorites with the younger campers. Miners Island is an island where young campers can play and where the kiddie campfire is held. At the Fort Tuolumne playground (not a licensed daycare) you�ll find supervised childcare and special activities for the young campers.

In other areas of the camp you will find a volleyball court, baseball diamond, basketball court, fish cleaning station, amphitheater and of course, the river. The river provides shaded beaches, cool dark trout pools, exciting raft rides, and the relaxing sound of its water tumbling over the rocks as it flows through camp. "
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I really enjoyed the pace we found there.

We spent our time

swimming
wading in the river
hiking
watching wildlife
watching the stars at night
napping
reading
playing cards
Campfire/roasting marshmallows
BBQ Picnic in the meadow
Dropped BM off at the playground, periodically
Scavenger Hunt
"Mission Impossible" Game one night (BM's favorite part!!)
Carnival & Cake Walk (100 people - FUN!)
Ping Pong

They also had stuff like arts and crafts, archery, mini-olympics, and a lot of games we didn't compete in, mostly because the kids were too young. But I think we found a pretty good mix of relaxing and keeping it slow, while enjoying a few of the activities with the kids.

Every day they had pretty jam packed with activities, from 9am - 10pm. They also had a few organized hikes and the teens had a sleepover in the rec room, etc. Oh yes, and movie night.

It was nice to drop off the kids with our parents, periodically, as well. Just nice to have an extra set of hands and eyes. Grandma, for one, took great glee helping the kids get food in the cafeteria, which put a load off of us. So made the whole thing rather pleasant... I think dh expected his parents to take the kids more. I was pleased with the help. The kids also had a blast running between our tents and exploring the area around the tent.

Sacramento does have a family camp, but it would have cost us about the same (just more expensive, even for residents) and it was in Tahoe. We were kind of like, eh, Tahoe, we can go there any time. Our family has a cabin near there, and it is a mere 2 hour drive. (Which reminds me, they have owned the cabin 50 years and their insurer they have had for the last 50 years just dropped them due to fire danger. Don't even get me started...)

I did realize throughout the weekend that the place we stayed was really much like Tahoe anyway. Of course, we REALLY enjoyed the proximity to Yosemite. We have discussed trying both camps next year though and seeing which we preferred. Of course this could spur an addiction to family camp. There are so many in the state to try.

Beyond all that, I think we are motivated to both make it to Yosemite a little more often (more than once a decade) and to go camping a little more often (just over night/weekend trips). We have great camping areas within 1/2 hour and camping on the beach is only a couple of hours away. We realized we can easily/cheaply pull off more small camping trips. Heck, the summer is young. When I thought of camping before I was just overwhelmed by the thought of trying to cook and all that. But one night, I think we can swing once in a while.

Likewise, the kids are getting to an age where we could do weekends in the cabin a little more. Even better... IT's a rather simple one hour drive from here. I don't necessarily enjoy the drive all the way to Tahoe or Yosemite - a little treacherous.... But I realized we should take advantage a little more. IT is technically owned by dh's grandma but it is ours to use whenever. We just haven't really had the urge to use it with wee little ones in tow. It will be nice if we can organize more family things there. & even bring a tent for the kids. The 3-bedroom place was perfect for the last generation, but ours is getting a little LARGE.