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Archive for July, 2008

Median Mortgage Payment

July 31st, 2008 at 01:28 pm

In 2006 the median monthly mortgage payment was $2291. (In Sacramento).

!!

Egads.

On one hand, I am not surprised. I remember marveling at the fliers when our neighbors sold their homes in 2004 - 2006.

"All this yours, for a mere $3k/month."

!!!

& I certainly know a lot of people in the area, with bigger mortgage payments.

But when I think to shortly before we moved here I think of house payments in the maybe $800 range. (I still can't get over how dh's cousin paid a mere $100k for his 4-bedroom home here, in 1999. If only we were 2 years older - our house would be paid off).

I saw some statistic somewhere, that I can't find now, that the median mortgage payment was about $1100 in 2000.

I am surprised it was that much. But the median can be hard to measure at face value. $1100 seems fair.

So that's 110% increase or so, in 6 years???

I will be curious to see where that median figure settles, once all the dust settles.

Maybe in the $1500 range.

The foreclosure rate is something like 100% for people who paid above a certain threshold for their home (over $475k in our neighborhood - every single last one fell. Though some had paid up to $650k).

I imagine all those foreclosures have got to bring down the median a lot!

Our mortgage was in line with the median when we bought, but since we have never increased our loan amount or interest rate, well, we can brag our payment is 50% of the median today.

Though it doesn't exactly mean much.

Then again, we could have maybe stomached a $300k mortgage or so - that was always rather our limit. If we had been looking at houses here in 2005 we just would have rolled our eyes. No thanks! Those were the kind of prices we were running from.

I was just thinking the other day that if we had a crystal ball we could have sold our house in 2005 for the realm of $650k (boy were we close to selling it anyway). & then if we got home sick or whatever we could have just moved back and scooped up the same house early this year for $350k again. Just waited for it to foreclose...

That would have been pretty sweet. Hell, we could have paid cash.

If only we knew.

I do know a lot of people who fled up north in 2004 - 2006. I haven't heard of them swooping in and buying back their houses at a fraction of the cost. Though I wouldn't be surprised if there is somewhat of a phenomenon of people moving back with prices settling so low again.

Then again, maybe they just move on. We have talked much about if we would move back home if it were suddenly more affordable. The decided decision is "hell no," but I must admit that comes with a fair amount of certainty that the area will never be near what we consider "affordable." I do admit closer proximity to family would give us second thoughts. But seems to nearly impossible, why even think about it.

But people who fled Sacramento at the peak clearly have that luxury to return. IF they wanted to.

It will be interesting to see how it unfolds.

Poland and Concerts

July 31st, 2008 at 07:51 am

I was invited to Poland!

Something I will have to think about. I am not really much into traveling so I admit mostly I will probably wuss out. Then again, if I can talk my friend into going with me... The idea of traveling to a very foreign country alone is just a little daunting to me. Doesn't sound very fun. Wink

But I have a friend there for about a year and just invited me to visit and stay for free.

An interesting offer.

For now air fare looks in the range of $2k.

!!

So I was just thinking to myself, eh, it's not on my list of places to travel. BUT if I have some windfall between now and then (next summer) I will take it as a sign. & I will kind of leave it at that. Many other things I rather put my money towards, but if I have some extra, it is an opportunity to strongly consider. Big Grin

& maybe I can find some more reasonable travel arrangements - just what I saw on first glance.

We also need to save our pennies for Hong Kong! Dh's aunt lived there many years and is returning in the near future. I know it will be a wonderful opportunity to take the kids. (Dh was able to go as a kid and had a wonderful adventure there).

My adult life of travel is so night and day how it was as a child. My parents never traveled much before my dad made a very good friend with someone in Japan. (Now he travels often to visit, and really enjoys Japan). A lot of my friends traveled Europe in college but I Was too busy working and paying my bills.

But no matter, I have seemed to catch up enough. In adulthood my parents took me to Europe and Japan. & Hong Kong and Poland are on my horizon now! I think I am feeling more brave after my trip to Japan. So it feels rather unlike me. I guess I am usually a little too practical too. But suddenly the thought of Poland sounds rather adventurous and fun. What the heck?

Though practical Monkey Mama has other financial goals to tackle first. & since I am not really huge on travel I am not going to cry if I miss the opportunity now. (There will always be others).

--------------------------------

Last night dh dug out some old rare coins he had kept. None of them are worth very much (we looked up a few last night) but he had his coins stored with his old concert tickets. Like every concert he had ever been to.

It's kind of funny because when we were teens we both learned to manage our money when it came to tapes and CDs and the like. I found an old journal where I bought insanely cheap music on a weekly basis with my dad. It was our thing. But really how I learned to manage money.

Once college hit I could no longer afford CDs. They just went through the roof and I didn't have the budget. I buy one occasionally now. VERy occasionally. & I roll my eyes when music artists gripe about napster and the like. Give us some affordable options and I would gladly buy more music, but it has just gone through the roof rather quickly. (Though the MP3 thing is a step in the right direction - we buy a decent amount of MP3s).

& of course we feel much the same way about concerts. Somewhere between dropping to one income and having kids, concerts have become completely unaffordable.

Occasionally we will price a concert, and then cringe. Say, nevermind. It's something I have noticed over the years, but thought it could be somewhat us.

BUT I do remember when I was a very broke, struggling college student, going to many many many concerts. So it kind of puts it in perspective.

So yesterday dh found all these concert tickets and starts reading them off. He was laughing because we were going to concerts like every weekend for a time - sometimes 2.

So it hit me. I asked him if the prices were on the tickets.

Um, yes. 1996 - most were under $10.

!!!!!!!

$20 for the BIG names. He had one $25 ticket and a $36 ticket for Lollapalooza.

The rest were in the $9 - $20 range.

Seriously!

We tried to buy a ticket for some show recently where the tickets were something like $15 each, but the fees to buy the ticket were $20 each. I think that was the last straw for us.

Whatevah!

So now I remember why I could afford to go to 4 concerts in a month when I was broke, and why now that we maybe make 3 times the income, combined, we can't even justify the cost more than maybe once a year.

Bah to the music industry.

There's some inflation factor there but most of the tickets had been purchased 10 years ago. Inflation has not risen that much, overall.

I can't help but wonder if the overall debt nation has contributed as well. Who buys these tickets? Who can afford the $75/pop for nosebleeds at a so-so concert (with all the fees and everything)?

Oh well, I won't sweat it. We certainly have other priorities these days. But it was really interesting to see all those ticket prices. Kind of what I had been feeling, but was nice to see my memory was correct.

It's kind of a bummer though because though we would love to take the kids to some more benign concerts (maybe when they are older) I think it's rather out of the question with modern prices. It will be more rare than common, which is too bad for this musical family.

Energy Usage

July 30th, 2008 at 02:44 pm

In the forums I just answered a question on the topic, but figured I'd post here too.

Annually we use 303 therms of gas. For the past year we paid $437.

Annually we use 5473 KWh of electricity. For the past year we paid $605.

Average = $87/month total.

I figured I'd update since I had even better numbers to share before, and then we learned our electric meter was
"off." LOL. Not so well as we though.

But still, over a year later, nothing to get worked up about.

In addition to that we contribute $5/month to a Green energy program (through our utility).

I don't like PGE's programs, but we have a city-owned electric company that has made much more progress with green energy - so I contribute through them.

We have 2600 square feet, someone is always home, and no we don't sacrifice COMFORT when it comes to hot water or air temperature. Though our 68 degrees in the winter and 80 degrees in the summer may be a bit conservative to some, we find it very comfortable.

& I LOVE HOT water - LOL. We are a bit of hot water hogs.

I had to share because AGAIN - just last week - someone asked me if our bills were $500 in the summer.

We do have a large home, yes. No, I have never had a bill near $500. OMG!

I found out a couple of years ago that my MIL Was lamenting to everyone about our gigantic utility bills. (She never bothered to ask). Funny enough, I found out because I always bragged to my mom about how low are bills are. Sometimes I will get a $5 gas bill in the summer. & of course I have to brag to my mom.

So, one day my MIL said in front of my mom about us poor kids and our hundreds of dollars in monthly utilities. My mom was like, huh? LOL.

I never set MIL straight - whatevah. She still never bothered to ask us. Just assumptions.

But it really annoys me about the stereotype of larger homes. So I set it straight every chance I get. (Well, except with MIL because I think that whole thing is kind of funny. Though if she ever said anything like that to my face...)

Did I mentioned how energy efficient newer homes were? With energy efficient appliances??? Big Grin

I've already said it before, but I will say it again. Since we moved somewhere with a considerably lower COL, our insurance, property taxes, and everything are the same (if not cheaper) in our current home than they were in our old condo in the Bay Area.

The utilities were the icing on the cake. Lower!!! Twice the space, and way lower utility bills.

So yeah, I know a lot of people think at face value that our home is not very financially sound. But it costs little more, in every way shape and form,than a condo half the size did, back home. Eh.

Spendy July/Investments

July 30th, 2008 at 07:31 am

You could argue we put too many of our eggs in the house bucket in our 20s, but I have no regrets. Doing so, for one, means we aren't in the mess most of our fellow young Californians are in. (We put a lot of cash down but refused to pay $600k for a home, all the same).

But even as housing tumbles and rents are rocky, we still pay far less for our home than it would be to rent something comparable (always have).

So there is a large measure of method to our madness. Big Grin

BUT, I am pleased to report that I was glancing at my net worth schedule, and as of July we have only $1k more in cash equity in our house than we have in cash and investments.

!!

Which means, by the end of the year, we should have more cash/investments that cash paid on our home.

I think that is an interesting milestone. For the longest time it seemed most of our assets went to our home... We saved dh's salary for years, to pay off as much as we have.

It runs something like $91k in investments and $92k cash paid on home. Today.

For the long run, I expect our investments to blow the mortgage out of the water. I am only 30. (TIME is most definitely on our side).

You could argue if we should have paid down more aggressively, or invested more instead, but I am VERY happy with this balance. I think we did the right amount of both.

I am also pretty darn close to hitting six figures in my savings and retirement, which is another neat milestone.

But anyway, though we felt it was important to load up the house basket while we were young, I am glad to move past that. I didn't want all my net worth made up of equity, forever. Though there is little I can do as far as equity equity. If it wants to stay super high, I won't stress that my investments are less. Worse problems to have. Big Grin (We still probably have a solid $150k of equity in our home, today. But for measuring purposes I am more concerned what we paid on the home, particularly since there is a risk the value of our home will fall significantly more).

P.S. I do look REALLY forward to when my mortgage balance is LESS than my investments. Have a ways to go on that one...

-----------------------------

July is VERY spendy!!!! Ugh...

$85 to school for supplies/field trips
$100 on uniforms/backpack/start up costs
$105 Indian cooking lessons
$110 Swim Lessons
$75 new cell phone (rebate to come)
$30 Hands free head set (new law)
$200 Birthday Party
$100 Car Repair
--------
$805

These are all under the Misc. category which I usually budget something like $150 for.

The rest would be covered under short-term savings (birthdays, car repairs and such) but it seems like I have been pulling more out than I have been putting in lately.

All this would be fine, for one month, but I have some potential, very unexpected, dental bills for BM. Ugh!

So I am feeling the pinch this month.

I was really looking forward to saving $200 this month - portion of preschool savings. But I have decided to put that savings off one more month. For Kindergarten start up costs. (I did divert $100/month to the short-term fund for this kind of stuff, so will be prepared next year. Just not prepared coming immediately off pricey preschool/daycare).

I keep telling myself that the extra $3600/year will help. I just have to give it some time to build. (No plans but to save it all).

Also, I am eyeing the medical deductible fund, as far as dental expenses, to ease my financial stress level. Our HMO is terribly slow to bill, and though I am quite sure we will hit our full deductible (murphy's law of course), it isn't set in stone. There may be some extra cash there. In the meantime there is plenty of float. The $1k cash I have should cover the dental.

These are the budget gymnastics I am going through to make July work.

Dh's extra money has helped much though. I don't want to rely on it, but it helps in a crazy month like this.

Extra money to the ROTHs? Yeesh. One of these days...

This was, thankfully, an extraordinarily spendy month. Not the norm! It just feels a little overwhelming.

I am ready for a slow/calm spend month. Here's to August.

The Day Old Bread Store

July 30th, 2008 at 06:45 am

Yesterday we ate very cheaply.

My parents picked up a pile of bread products at the Day Old Bread Store. A whopping $2 for a giant bag of bread. The GOOD stuff. English muffins, dinner rolls, giant onion rolls, etc.

Anyway, they gave us a pile of it when we were last in San Jose.

(We need to find one of those - we have a wonder bread place but it is a bit out of the way).

Anyway, dh told me a little bit back he had some extra ground beef in the freezer if I wanted to use it for anything. So yesterday I figured a hamburger sounded mighty tasty, but knew I wouldn't get away with it while the kids ate other leftovers. LOL.

So I pulled 2 mini-hamburgers out for the kids, and saved myself a few calories I guess. I was thinking of the nice onion rolls we had from my parents (which were very fresh even 10 days later).

We also still had some dinner rolls, so I put the kids minnie hamburgers in those.

What a hit!

That was my cheap meal of the week since it was all leftover/free stuff.



HELOC

July 30th, 2008 at 06:11 am

Today I got a little letter from a mortgage broker about HELOC. How now is a good time to borrow up to 90% of my equity in the form of a HELOC.

Anyway, it said in various places in the letter that there were absolutely NO FEES.

In fact after one sentence how there was NO FEES, there was a sentence how there were minimal closing fees and an annual fee.

What are we? Idiots?

Puh-leez.

That's my interesting tidbit of the day. Wink

(Yeah, this guy was recommended by a somewhat financially savvy friend - I didn't want the mortgage brokers who screwed over almost everyone I know. The guy seems nice enough but he really wants us to buy rental real estate. Good Lord. But yeah, the letter about no fees, when clearly there are lots of fees, is not a warm fuzzy for me).

P.S. My wallpaper at work is a gorgeous picture of Bryce Canyon, that my father shot. I had never been there or seen anything quite like that. I do notice now that I stare at it every day it's not so fascinating. LOL. But I usually cycle between pictures from my dad and pictures of the kids. Which says, my kids are #1! But sometimes my dad sends me an awesome picture. Wink