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Archive for December, 2008

Cute News story

December 30th, 2008 at 07:08 pm

I saw this story and thought it would be appreciated here. Big Grin

Text is http://www.sacbee.com/livinghere/story/1504931.html and Link is
http://www.sacbee.com/livinghere/story/1504931.html

Treasured finds:
You'd be amazed what you can find on a walk - a boy and his dad prove it

Eggs

December 30th, 2008 at 01:31 pm

Dh was going to get a dozen eggs for $3+, but spotted 18 eggs on sale for $1.99. Buying in bulk tends to pay off. (Milk is always 2-for-1).

Anyway, I told dh to just pick those up next time and remind me when he does. I'd eat more boiled eggs, scrambled eggs, etc. That's 11 cents and egg!

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I e-mailed the fam about Family Camp. We should think about reservations. The Sacramento one looks largely the same, though a tad more expensive. (We went to San Jose Family Camp last summer). BUT the drive is only a little over an hour from here. IT's near Tahoe. & it isn't quite as treacherous as the 3-hour drive to Yosemite. So, we will try it out. For the long run, if we like it, we may just alternate every year. Yosemite is GORGEOUS, but not sure I want to do that cliff side drive every year. !!

No free kids this year, but looks like the cost is around $500 for 4 days, so not bad. Not bad at all.

We also want to get season passes to Great America (amusement park and water park). Still leaves a chunk to spare in our $1500 vacation budget.

We are staying 2 nights in San Francisco for free in January (if dh ever gets around to getting it booked) so I am not sure if we will go over $1k on our budget this year. Will see. Could do a few more weekends away, BUT MIL will just offer the timeshare anyway.

We may be wise to buy up some camping gear with the rest - that is one thing we want to do more of. But the whole Family Camp makes it really easy and kind of spoiled us.

We also need to take more advantage of the family cabin in the Sierras. Mostly free; we could rent boats and stuff like that. Things to think about.

I see a very cheap and fulfilling year of vacation, for 2009.

There is talk of MIL taking us to Disney World in 2010. Actually, she wanted to do it this year, but the rest of the fam wanted a breather. For BM, would have been 4 years of Disney in a row. A bit much, if you ask me. But we're thinking about it for 2010. It would be largely paid for; no way I Could justify otherwise. Disneyland is closer, but dh's Grandfather lives in Orlando - which is the draw. Though I fail to see the point to visit if we are going to spend all the time at Disney. It's a catch 22. We still have two one-day tickets for Disney though. We bought 4-day park hoppers in 2000 (when we had much more money to spare) and used them over the years. That was a good investment! I failed to see the point at the time, but now on much less income, it's nice. & it's nice if we actually use them too. Otherwise, not such a great investment. Wink

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I signed the kids up for their January Karate class. Since LM has no preschool, we were going to let him give it a try.

Fee went up. $35 up from $30. Ugh! Which means, $70 for the two. I hope they enjoy! Will see how LM like it, and go from there. It is through the city and infinitely cheaper than any other Karate class I have come across. Then again, it's hardly a class worth $8.75/class if you ask me. I wonder if it is because enrollment is down. IT's more of a "fun" class than anything - not terrible technical.

I double checked and my aerobics class is still a mere $2.50/class for 2009. Phew. It's give and take I guess.

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I thought of an interesting analogy I hadn't thought of earlier. I know the frugie crowd, and a lot of the non-frugie crowd, think we are CRAZY to spend so much on our kids preschool.

It just occurred to me the other day that the payments were like a car payment. I think the thought just flitted through my mind that we could bank the payments for our next car, when LM finishes up there.

& it got me thinking.

I am crazy to spend $300/month for 3 years. (Granted times 2, since we have 2 kids). But people telling me this think nothing of a $600/month perpetual car payment.

Huh?

It was just this interesting train of thought I had. YEah, next time one of those people bug me. I guess I could get real loud and annoying about how much they spend on their cars. Maybe that would get the point across. $300/month for 3 years is worth it for a car, but not for our well-being and the greater good of your family? YEah, whatever.

I guess I largely realized why we could afford it too. BEcause we don't have car payments. The reason being because we don't spend much on cars.

Yeah, I'll have to remember that. PReschool is such a short-lived expense, it just annoys me to no end when I get a lot of unwarranted input on the subject. & I do. A LOT.

Purge Update & Expense Update

December 29th, 2008 at 03:29 pm

I never thought I would see the day!

Dh sold his Game Cube. He doesn't give up game systems lightly. I posted a while ago he has something like 10. I think that's before he started buying them up for BM. I don't even want to know how many we have now.

BUT, since the GameCube games can be played on the Wii, he decided to let it go. He was reminiscing about it today at lunch (I know, gag. LOL). All the memories. I just smiled and nodded. I may have rolled my eyes a bit too. But as he reminisced over the memories of his GameCube I realized I was lucky he sold it.

Proceeds gone back into his buying/selling games & systems.

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Reminds me, I have another bag set out for donation today and another charity is coming by next week. They average once a week this time of year. It's been pretty sweet.

Set out our old drapes, some toys that the kids volunteered to give up, some old belts and a fan, etc., etc., etc.

Last week I set out a bunch of Christmas stuff. Old lights (we are going to buy LEDs) and a pile of Christmas crap MIL dumped on us. & whatever Christmas stuff we don't use, that was donate-able.

We also found a pile of boxes in the closet when we got out the Christmas stuff. We finally had room to stuff it in the recycle bin. Well, some of it. Broke down the rest of the boxes for next week, hopefully.

So, still in purge mode. IT never ends.

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Got the HOA dues today. They sent some notice, a while ago, about our first dues increase ever, but it made no sense. So I wasn't sure what our dues would be!

Got the bill today. Up $8/month. Eh. I can handle that. IT's a 12% increase but we went 7 years with no increase. We actually had our dues lowered in the early days.

So, now full of knowledge, I can say our bills are going DOWN $100 come Jan. 1:

Mortgage -$200
Health Ins. + 71
Short-term disability (mandatory state tax) +20
HOA + 8
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Bills going down $101/month in 2009
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We had a lot of our bills decrease last year, for various reasons.

Preschool bill goes down $300/month, come mid-2010. So I feel on a role. Big Grin

IT certainly won't always be like this, but enjoying it while I can.

I assume I will have enough raise to cover the $99/month expense increase, so I Can save the entire mortgage decrease, but we'll see...

Pictures of My World

December 29th, 2008 at 07:38 am

Since my camera is a little on the old side, and big and bulky... (I hesitate to call a camera bought in 2002, old, but technology has improved substantially since then!). Anyway, I would love to take more pictures and work in a 52 or 360 picture project, but I find it unlikely I will take many. It's not a little discreet camera I can take with me everywhere. !

But, we did go on a bike ride and I snapped some pics I had been meaning to share.

For one, I tell people all the time I have the best of all worlds. We live in the city and the country. Big Grin It's kind of nice.

& I also wanted to show our little park oasis and the sea of empty home lots that has come to glut our city.

So, where to begin...

These pics were snapped on the corner - at the end of our street.





& I am surprised it turned out, but you can see the downtown skyscape in this picture. We are very close to downtown (just a few miles). When we moved in there were no homes in between us and downtown, so we used to have a more clear view.



& this is just looking back at our development. The border of suburbia.



There is just nothingness, farmland, rivers, etc. as you head west (or north) from there. We pretty much live on the northern/western border of suburbia and there isn't much else out there. Most of the development is east (higher land/closer to the Sierras).

Well, here is a glimpse of the sea of undeveloped home lots:





These are models that have largely been abandoned. They have a security camera and the lawns look manicured, but I have not seen a soul there in over a year. This is across a major road, so doesn't directly affect us or our home values. But is pretty close to us, yes.



Whoever bought these homes, lucked out in some sense. But gives you a sense of some of the monstrosity they were building. & yet, though I am sure they paid top dollar for a very small patch of land, they kind of lucked out and got a lot of empty space. Depends how you look at it I guess.



& this is the park we found in the sea of unbuilt communities. We love it because it is SO peaceful - never see anyone over there. It is surrounded mostly by empty home lots. We had a picnic there one day and though we could see downtown in the distance it felt like we were in the middle of nowhere because it was so peaceful. So we just LOVE it.



Anyway, my friends went to school in this area in the 90s, and having grown up in the Bay Area, we always called Sacramento, Cow Town. LOL. I think because LA, Bay Area, and the coats are so desirable, that Sacramento is considered the armpit of the state. (That is what I hear it called). But I think it gets a bum wrap. It's way cheaper, it's way less crowded, and it's rather close to both Tahoe and San Francisco. We have kind of been reserved to the fast growth, as it is exactly what happened to San Jose when we grew up there. IT was farmland in the 70s, and by the late 80s it had pretty much become an extension of San Francisco. Sacramento was kind of going in the same direction. So, we were used to it. Over crowding, disappearing of farmland, etc., etc. LOTS of people living here and working in San Francisco. That's the way of California. But, if we are lucky enough to revert back to a bit of a cow town as other areas of the state once again become somewhat affordable, that sounds good to me. Big Grin The bubble burst has its perks for us, I guess.

One more thing - we thought we were super smart to buy in the first phase of a new development. Well, we were in our situation. But, yeah, not so smart for people that bought in new developments the last few years. A lot of builders have gone bankrupt, and a lot of unfinished developments. I feel lucky now our entire neighborhood is built up. No empty lots or half finished homes. & you can't build much community if you only have a couple of neighbors. It leaves those desolate homes pretty susceptible to theft, etc.

So, Phew.

Earrings?

December 28th, 2008 at 07:56 am

Where do you frugies buy earrings? That is my questions of the day. (Particularly nickel-free earrings).

Yesterday I went to aerobics, the bank (deposit Xmas money) and to Target and Kohls. Got home around noon and pretty much slept the rest of the day. Big Grin So I'd consider it a lazy day. Though with a sprinkling of productiveness thrown in.

But shopping is something I rarely do - just no time. It is AMAZING how much free time I seem to have these days with the kids getting bigger. I could spend half the day shopping and still have 1.5 free days. IT's been a while - babies can be rather demanding!

& this is bad. It is easy to save money when you have no time to shop. Wink

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I'm getting lazy about balancing all my spreadsheets ("savings buckets") to my bank accounts. Maybe only balance to the dollar every other month any more. So I balanced it yesterday. I was actually only $1.50 off (probably some forgotten interest) and so I added it to the mid-term savings. It was a nice surprise.

I transferred $200 into my ROTH MMMF (cash). From Xmas money. This puts our ROTH EFUND at precisely $7k. ($5k is in taxable cash accounts). I had been adding the interest to our savings and keeping more elaborate bookkeeping than I cared for. So, I contributed $200 to my ROTH AND got the amount to an even $7k. Thus, I am going to invest the earnings back into the ROTH, going forward. I think I need $50 to buy, so could be a while. But, that will make my life easier and my ROTH bigger.

We are earning about $20/month in cash which will keep going to the mid-term savings fund. So, still some interest growing our other savings.

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I returned 3 gifts at Target for a $40 gift card. Not bad! I was going to buy BM some clothes, but ended up getting myself a few treats. Some Christmas-y earrings, and a winter hat. & a plain black shirt. I had gotten one in purple and decided I could always use another plain black shirt for under sweaters and such. So I exchanged that one for black, in a smaller size.

(BTW - I don't think I have EVER returned a gift. I am getting stingy - hehe. I usually regift or donate, so it was just different. Mostly I don't like the hassle, but there was enough to return it was well worth it. & there was no line at Target for returns at 10am in Saturday. I was shocked, but pleased).

I got BM some pajamas, underwear, and socks as requested. In the end I spent $30 of my own cash. But I thought it worked out well.

He still needs pants. They had some that would even do for school, but NONE in his size. Yeesh. Will have to try again later. Piles of 5s and piles of 7s, but no size 6!

I then went to Kohls with my "$10 off" and came out forking over $80. It's the way it goes?

Actually, I found a light, black sweater, that I had been searching out for AGES. I thought it was $20-something for sale, but it rang up $33. I was overly optimistic I guess when looking at the prices. But something I have been searching for forever, and I actually really like the fit. So I keep it. I just wanted something to cover up a bit on some of my dresses. But nothing too heavy or warm either. I also spent about $50 on earrings.

So, the story on the earrings...

I LOVE earrings. I used to have a giant earring collection and enjoyed wearing "different" and BIG earrings when I was younger.

BUT, my dream was to get more piercings and I got my wish probably around age 16. I have 3 holes in my left ear and 2 holes in my right ear.

Well, WORST thing I ever did. Since then my ears became very sensitive to earrings, and then I was working where multiple earrings were not allowed (about 3 years in high school and college) and then I was completely broke in college and too busy to worry about earrings anyway. So I just stopped wearing them. Entirely!

Which is kind of sad.

So when I was shopping yesterday I thought, "I want some earrings."

When I sold Cookie Lee jewelry I would buy some, but in general, too heavy for me. Which is saying a lot - I like big earrings. But I just didn't mesh well with CL earrings.

So that was another obstacle to my life with earrings. As it was the only jewelry I bought for many years since it was of good quality and deeply discounted for me.

Anyway, Target really didn't have much, but had some cute Xmas-y earrings. I spent about $12 on 4 pairs.

Now, Kohls had nice earrings and they were mostly 60% off. I decided to stock up on a few basics and just start over.

I don't know what happened to most of my earrings, but I have some more modest/professional ones. I have to go through them, though my ears are so sensitive I just kind of wanted to start anew.

& I am well aware of the magic of clear nail polish!

For the long run, if I am going to get back into earrings, I need to get more frugal about it. It's one of those things I can't see buying used though. & cheap is not good for my ears.

Kohls was a good start. On sale they had some nice earrings at reasonable prices. I may run to Claire's and pick up some "sensitive" earring studs. I would like some more studs. But I can slowly accumulate larger earrings, and I don't need that many. That is the good thing!

Christmas Update

December 27th, 2008 at 07:04 am

Looking in Quicken, Christmas was about $330 spent & $300 to charity. (For us, includes a LOT of birthdays too - I just didn't bother to separate the category).

$75 KIVA G.C.s to the preschool
$15 Target G.C. to Kinder teacher
(BM made cute cards for his favorite aides/teachers)
$30 cash to gardener (figure he's hurting these days - I usually give him $20)
$30 Make-A-Wish for my mom
$100 my donations (from my bonus)
$100 dh's donations (from bonus)
$ 50 to boss's gift (rest of bonus)
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$400 That's most of it.

Other $230:

$100 on dh's family (went in on concert tickets, dinner G.C., and lots of G.C.s for great-grandma - they made out well). Includes $2 for Restaurant.com gift certificate worth $25.

$22 on Hisss games (2) for relatives

$6 almond roca for dad

$10 for super heros for LM from BM (he paid half)

$20 for dh's gift (BM paid $5 of it)

$10 for candy for work gift (stuffed in cute Xmas cookie jar that I had gotten for free)

$20 on my nieces (clothes)

$20 for a Set Cubed game for my dad

$20 bike horns for the kids

& that's that.

Or, $630 total spent - $250 from bonus = $380 cash. We just spread out purchases over a few months.

Oh, and the kids got a ton of toys. Dh had a pile of stuff from Scholastic (paid for with sweat) and a lot of video games and stuff (Legos)bought used, funded from game sales. So we didn't spend much cash on them, but believe me, they had plenty.

For example, he bought this giant pile of Legos for $80, kept what he wanted (TONS) and sold the rest for $80. So they were cheap to buy for this year.

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Christmas Day turned out very nice. Phew! Just very low key. Ate well, and relaxed. Kids had a million toys to play with. They got one or two things from their great-grandma and all their aunts. My parents got them a couple of things, we got them a few things, and MIL got them each a TON of things. So, they just have toys/books/games out their ears.

It's hard to top MIL who is a gift hog (did I mention) but LM's favorite toy of the day was the LEgos. I think he played with them about 12 hours straight Christmas Day.

& my dad got this for BM:

Text is http://www.amazon.com/Elenco-SC-300-Snap-Circuits/dp/B0000683A4 and Link is
http://www.amazon.com/Elenco-SC-300-Snap-Circuits/dp/B000068...

That was the clear winner for the year, except a couple of things dh got him at Scholastic where you build your own things. Those were probably cheaper, but all those were the BEST. I had to share this toy because it was so cool. (It's totally not my thing, but BM got the engineering gene from my dad. So they both played with that all day. LOL).

Dh got a lot of Blu-Rays and video games and books and such. He was not as spoiled as usual, but I think he is getting past it. Christmas is for the kids, not him. He even said so much at some point. (Usually his mom spoils him AND the kids).

I got some lovely ear warmers from BM and dh. It has just been WAY too cold to go outside, but with ear warmers, I may try to get some a.m. bike rides in. So LOVED them.

My mom got me a couple of nice gifts - a cute black cat kitty mug - and a monkey of course. We don't necessarily exchange gifts much these days, so was a nice surprise.

Dh's family got me a nice hair brush and a lot of clothes. They scaled back for me too I guess, which is FINE.

Some NICE clothes from Kohls and some crap from Target. I just do not buy Target anymore - too cheap. The one was cute but was too thin and flimsy and the other stuff was not my thing, so I will take those back.

BM needs clothes so I will probably exchange them for some clothes for BM. It will be a nice gift not to have to come up with the cash!!!

My mom did give me a $10 off at Kohl's thing (just one that came in her mail) so I might treat myself over there in exchange.

Dh's GrandDad sent us $110 - just using it to pay the Xmas bills.

We got the usual $1k from dh's parents. They started this at some point after we had kids, and makes ALL The difference, particularly a few years ago. I was not so sure they would give us that this year - they've had a rougher time of it. Now his dad faces a layoff (wanted to retire in a few years). BUT yeah, we did get that and I just plopped it in our short-term savings. I think we could use it next year as well. After that point, if they are still giving us that check, I think we can just consider more long-term savings.

Last year we were totally spoiled and got about $8k in cash gifts from our parents, which was quite unusual. So, if you didn't believe that was unusual. We usually get $1k for Christmas, and that was that for this year. & that was only even the last few years. We have relied on it a bit more than I would like in recent years, but glad to be moving past that. Actually, I think it was kind of crazy they gave it to us - with their current situation.

& yeah - my boss gave me the usual $250. Sometimes I use it to buy some nice work clothes, etc. This year we just donated it.

Christmas was NICE. Look forward to a relaxing weekend.

Long-Term Goal Update

December 26th, 2008 at 06:07 pm

I added my long-term goals to my sidebar. I am liking this new format - clear and concise. These are all things I have talked about at some point or another. But, yeah, now it's all in a little concise summary.

**Long-Term Goals**

[x] 15% gross to retirement
[ ] 10% gross to cash (mid-term) savings (This is more of a catch-up goal than a long-term goal. BUT the nice thing about over-saving cash is you can invest it later. As long as it is not spent on stupid things). Big Grin
[ ] Max out ROTHs
[ ] Pay mortgage off by age 45 (before kids start college)

Those goals are in the order we would like to achieve them.

The following are some things we intend to spend our cash on:

[ ] Paint Exterior of Home
[ ] Replace Fence
[ ] Replace 2001 Ford with a Prius (ideally, 2013 or later)
[ ] Purchase a used convertible in the $5k range (To replace the one I gave up when we had kids! I had bought it like new for about $6k and sold it for $3k after BM arrived. I'd love a Toyota Celica - for power and fuel efficiency - Celica was my first car and is sporty and cute as a convertible. My last one was a Mustang - cute but cheap - not going the cheap route again. & it was actually a 4-cylinder so not bad on gas, but it sucked).

& my aggressive net worth goals, that I have mentioned many times before:

Increase Net Worth by 50% of expenses, annually:

[x] 2007 +$30k
[ ] 2008 +$0
[ ] 2009

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I am caught up enough at work that I worked no overtime this week and I have the entire weekend off. YAY!!!!

I'll do a Christmas update over the weekend.