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Archive for February, 2009

Charity, Mortgages & CPA PSA

February 28th, 2009 at 08:32 am

I've been listening to the radio. Occupies my brain during busy times. More productive than blogging (I know I have been quiet).

BUT, a few things...

Dave Ramsey I like more than I don't. I think if more people start out with his method they will prosper for the long run. But at some point you need other gurus and have to get over your fear of leveraging debt. Well, not that you have to, but you should if you want to be truly wealthy.

Anyway, but over time I have warmed up to him - his message is good. I mostly agree with his financial philosophy because it mostly lines up with my own.

I just get frustarted all these talks I hear about mortgage.

Okay, if we REALLY wanted to pay off our mortgage by now we probably could have. We saved most of our second income for the down payment on our home and such. IF we put off having kids, even though we live in California, we probably could have a paid off home in our early 30s.

But, where is the balance in that? Would I rather have a paid off home and still be childless today? Um, no? Should we put our entire life on hold for a paid off mortgage? Kind of ridiculous if you ask me.

Sometimes I listen and roll my eyes. "I live in California, how the hell would I pay off my home in 3 years?" I often think as I listen. But yeah, if I step back, truth is we could do it if it was a priority. It just isn't.

& people REALLY don't understand the time value of money. By the time we get to the point where we will pay off our mortgage, I don't expect it to amount to a hill of beans. We're like age 30 and our mortgage is only 10%(2 incomes) to 15% (on one income) of our gross income. I expect it to be about 5% of our income when we pay it off (probably less). That ain't going to make us financially free and rich. We will be able to save about 5% more of our income. Big whoop.

Saving 15% today would be nice, but I don't buy "Get rich quick" schemes. At what cost? Too much sacrifices now, for sure. & to retirement, etc.

If we did or didn't have a mortgage I don't think makes that much of a big deal to us. We worked hard to put a lot down, have a low fixed rate, and a modest/affordable mortgage. Literally one we could afford if we both ended up with only minimum wage job choices.

I think for me it mostly comes down to perspective. Our home costs are extraordinarily low for the area. That's good enough for me. Plenty of leverage to move ahead. & heck, that second income, when it arrives, will probably knock out the mortgage in no time. IT just doesn't have to be right now. But I think we will quite easily be mortgage free in our early 40s. Which is win-win if you ask me. Just because I am taking a breath to live my life (have children, etc.) doesn't mean I want to have a mortgage until I am 80. I don't even want to have a mortgage when I am 50. I think most people get so either/or they lose sight of middle ground. I prefer middle ground. Big Grin

I probably sound like a broken record too!

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I just have a tax preparer PSA.

Oh, it annoys me to no end the ignorance I hear in the media about taxes. I've heard some stupid things lately.

BUT I listen to this local mutual fund show every Saturday. I like the guy and I almost fell over the other day when he told a listener that they should fire their CPA because their CPA did not steer them from no-load funds.

Huh????

Okay, first of all, as a CPA I probably won't have a clue what you are invested in. Some 1099s are detailed and will list some of your investments that earn dividends, etc. Some show no detail. Most of the time I haven't a clue what my clients invest in - just what they earned.

Secondly, CPAs have NO Training in investing. I have said so much before. If not for my own personal interest in investing I would probably have no idea what a loaded mutual fund was. I certainly didn't my first few years as a CPA. I took ONE finance class in college. I don't remember anything about mutual funds (it wasn't covered).

Thirdly, CPAs should not be giving you investment advice. Huge red flag. Something we usually don't touch with a 10-foot pole. We often discourage our clients from investing in partnerships due to the often painful tax reporting, and I have had a couple of sucker clients I have advised against terrible investments like ponzi schemes. In cases where you just have to say something because it is so obviously a scam or something. But even then you do have to tread carefully. Our malpractice insurer would probably prefer we never utter a word about investments to any of our clients, ever. & fair enough, because we are not investing experts.

Now, if your tax preparer is a certified financial planner or something along those lines too, then good. But the line between the two is often blurred.

Anyway, if you think your tax preparer is evaluating your investment strategies, think again. You should probably talk to an financial planner or an investment professional if you want investment advice. Wink

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ETA: Oh boy - have I been living under a rock? I just heard about Obama's plan to "cut" the charity deduction. Didn't sound quite right to me so I did some digging to find the truth.

Um, okay, he is proposing to limit the charitable deduction so that you can only reduce taxes at the 28% rate or lower, and not taxes at the 35% rate. You can still deduct it if you are in the 35% tax bracket. It just lowers your taxes a little less than it did before. 7% less, to be precise.

I can assure you none of my clients would think twice about still giving to charity. It's still pretty much their only available large tax break, to speak of, besides funding retirement. My clients would still like the opportunity to give if every dollar reduces their tax bill by 28%. (In most cases 38% when you include the state taxes here).

Wow, don't you love political slinging? Much ado about nothing in my opinion. Perfect example of the tax ignorance I spoke of above. I think it could be a smart move actually, BUT maybe political suicide with the ignorant reactions. I wish anyone would go to the source before they freaked out though. All I see over the internet is "No more charitable deductions allowed because of Obama." & all the people outraged are the ones it doesn't affect anyway. Gotta love it!

Update

February 28th, 2009 at 06:54 am

**We haven't turned on our heat in about a week. Winter never really came here this year; I think it's over. WE have been getting rain though, which is good. IT was a pretty dry 2008.

**Tee Ball has been delayed a bit. Practice starts NEXT weekend after all. We are excited to start. They had record enrollment this year for whatever reason. I think just due to the amount of young kids in our area. Reminds me of fights with the school district in years past. "We don't build new schools until we get insanely overcrowded." So much for forward thinking. The proof is in the tee ball enrollment. I don't know what I expected but wow, there is a lot of kids & teams. THey also seem unprepared for it all - we were supposed to start practice last weekend.

So far the cost is extremely low. We'll see what else comes up. But about $100 for enrollment, uniforms, equipment, etc. Seems pretty reasonable to me!

**LM is LOVING preschool. IT seems to be a great fit for him - I am glad he is fitting in so quickly.

**Work is crazy busy (a good thing for sure) so I haven't really been reading or commenting much.

**Oh, I probably didn't mention that the foreclosure on our street sold pretty quickly. I wouldn't be surprised if it got over asking price. I'll know in about a month I guess!

**We grossed about $200 on ebay this month (probably more since I know dh sold 2 or 3 gamecubes). I have to look up the net though. Dh keeps track on his computer and I keep forgetting to look up the bottom line, to update our challenge. I am confident we netted $100+ for February though, which was our goal.

**I have a rant about short-term thinking. Maybe I have ranted about this before. Actually, short-term thinking is an epidemic. & REALLY my pet peeve.

But I mean in regards to housing. I have quite a few friends and acquaintances who did not buy property in the late 1990s in the Bay Area because they were waiting for properties to drop. (YEah, good luck! I Said that then and I say it even more now. The Bay Area is a unique beast. But 90s was in about its most affordable form - unless the bubble bursts which I guess is still possible).

These people aren't *that* annoying. But the really annoying group is the group that would NEVER buy real estate. Never, ever, ever because it's such a terrible deal. & they have made it known they think we are idiots.

So anyway, both Group A and Group B is running out and snatching up real estate right now.

Interesting!

To Group A - can't fault them for waiting. They were actually taking a more long view all along. But they are paying far more than we did for real estate. So much for waiting for prices to fall. But I have less beef with them. Just - a lot of people are getting off the fence right now. I should applaud them on their long view.

Interestingly, I have a VERY frugal single friend who wants to buy an apartment in San Francisco. Good Lord. I can not imagine. Buying a home at that price with a spouse is one thing. I think I Would be way too risk adverse to do it alone. But I am excited for her all the same. SHe'll probably do fine. & will probably be a great investment.

To Group B - Um, what happened to NEVER buying real estate and what idiots we are? They keep bragging to us how "little" *they* paid for their houses. They are idiots. One just paid a $100k premium over what we paid in 2001 for a similar sized home. Many are paying the same price for half the home. This group is really obnoxious. LOL. I guess "never" equates to "3 or 4 years." Big Grin & I completely understand not wanting to buy at the peak and thinking it was crazy. I mean, we drew the line at paying more than $300k house, anyhow, anywhere. Which completely ruled out the city we grew up in (in 1995, 2000, 2005, or 2009). So we moved. When we said we would "never" pay more for a house, we meant it. So I understand shunning home ownership in the last 8 years or so, for sure. But we're merely at 2002/2003 prices. Does this warrant loving home ownership suddenly, when you hated it with a passion years 2004 - 2008? I Don't get people.

That's my rant.

But yeah - most of this group is too dumb to realize we didn't pay near as much for our house as they think we did. Have they heard of zillow? I would say most people think we paid about $400k for our house. Few would guess were merely owe $200k. I've had quite a people tell me apologetically they could never afford a $400k house or that they can't qualify for more than a $200k mortgage. Teehee. People are funny. IT's like, "um, yes, who can at our age? Who said we did?"

Actually, it's quite interesting, and I know I have said before, that a lot of people who didn't go real estate crazy the last decade, are doing it now. I have friends snatching up rental properties and first homes thinking they have hit the gold mine! I sometimes worry the bubble will happen all over again for the people who missed the ride last time. They are all too happy to ride it this time. While prices are "low" anyway.

& I have said, I would too, if we had the means. But clearly we don't. IT would be a hedge for our children if prices got astronomical again. NOt a get rich quick scheme, for sure. But we will just have to miss this boat... Somehow I think we will do okay. Wink

Rethinking Charity

February 26th, 2009 at 01:03 pm

I watched Oprah last night - did a segment on our city - homelessness, etc. Mostly focused on California - talked about foreclosures as well, etc.

I do know a lot of people losing their homes and such, but as far as I know, none are homeless because of it. So it was eye opening. (Most of the homeless people interviewed said their family/friends didn't know).

That being said - for those who have lost their homes or are on the verge - it is obviously no walk in the park. I bristle at the comments that it's unfair if these people get help and we shouldn't pay our mortgages either.

Anyway, I have a reasonable mortgage and equity. Clearly I have nothing to complain about and clearly I don't regret paying it down. We are in such a good spot. What is their to be jealous or bitter about???

I am certainly skeptical of taxpayer's dollars to help. I think it is just prolonging the inevitable - but that is a whole other thing.

[url]http://www.oprah.com/article/oprahshow/20090218_tows_li...

Another part of the program was super disturbing though. Many foreclosed homes left filled to the brim with stuff. Nice stuff. & it's all going straight to the landfills:

[url]http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/business/july-dec08/fore...

There was just something so disturbing about that part. All these people left homeless and penniless. & yet houses full of computers, new furniture, and big screen TVs, it all being hauled to the DUMP! This is the legacy we leave from the last few years? A huge pile in the landfill? Is there really nothing else we can do with this stuff??? Ugh!

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Anyway, it was very powerful.

My stance on charity is I would do anything to help relatives. I'd help a friend if I can. We don't give a lot to charity because, I have said before, I am not a fan of "organizations." I'd rather help someone I know who needs it.

I also prefer to give time over money. It's more rewarding and I think often, time is more needed.

That being said, my last few posts were about how well things are going. Yes, I would rather get on our feet more before we dedicated any large sum to charity. Certainly *us* first. If we're fine, and our nuclear family is fine, I am happy to give to the community and such.

So, I Am considering donating my stimulus money this year, and our meager interest earnings, to charity this year. Homeless shelter/food banks. We can easily commit $40/month without compromising ourselves at all. I will also consider a larger 4-figure sum at the end of the year - once I make sure our cars make it through the year and we don't have any large medical bills, etc. But with the economy where it is at and so many people around here in so much need, it's a small thing but it's more than we have been doing.

I mentioned I often volunteer time, but that has been by the wayside since having children. Dh volunteers many hours and since he does not work, that seems fair enough. I largely stopped volunteering when I was miserable sick during pregnancy. I considered it a success when I got dh to volunteer so much time (he never volunteered before that point).

I am considering making volunteer work a top priority in the non tax-season. I don't want to get into it right now - I just don't have the time. But it was something I was probably going to put off a few more years, until I could do more *with* the kids. I have had a bit of a change of heart now.

Then again, I am not as convinced time is as needed, with so many people out of work. But something to look into.

Nothing spectacular, but I am definitely going to make charity more of a priority this year.

If I was single, I would also consider helping someone with a place to stay temporarily. They did a segment on Oprah about that as well. I think it was more people with homes, struggling, taking in other people to help them out. I would gladly give someone a cheap place to stay until they could get back on their feet - we have plenty of room. But dh would NEVER go for it. $40/month will be hard to talk him into! But just other ideas to consider. It's hard to enjoy a large house knowing so many people out there are homeless. *sigh*

I still haven't ruled out that we may end up helping a relative or 2. A couple of them might end up needing it. So, you know. It might not be the worst to leave our extra space open for them. Who knows what will happen.

DINK Dreaming

February 25th, 2009 at 01:32 pm

DINK, meaning dual-income, no kids

The underlying theme of my entire blog is how well we did before kids and how our life goal is to get back to that savings level. Days like this I am glad we had kids rather young. It's not like we have a large income to live up to since dh quit working so early on in his career (merely 3 years in?). If we had waited a few years we may have a smaller mortgage and bigger savings, but more income lost in the interim, etc. I think going young was the way to go.

We allowed enough time to save up that I stress when my efund is lower than 3 months' expenses and when I don't have enough cash to replace our cars, etc. IT's all relative. But once you have decent financial security, it is difficult to move backwards. I think also my biggest fear is we have been so lucky in our youth that I fear once we reach some DINK level we may just be kicked off by some outside forces; not by choice. (Job loss, natural disaster, anything).

I am reflecting on it much as we just reduced our expenses by almost $400/month by simply refinancing the house and switching preschools. Meaning, no change to our lifestyles, but wala, just about enough to fund an entire Roth!!

Anyway, the most dh ever brought home was $2500/month, so at our peak that was what we saved, in addition to 10% of my income to my 401k (about $5k). The $2500/month went to cash, where it eventually went to down payment on home, massive cash savings, cash for moderate car purchases, and a few thousand here and there into our IRAs over the years. Short-term savings (property taxes and the like), mid-term, long-term, all funded by dh's income.

So I am super excited as we near that savings level again. Though I have mentioned before, it is certainly not an apples to apples comparison.

For now we are at:

$1000/month short-term savings
$ 650/month cash savings
$ 350/month ROTHs
-------
$2000/month savings

Getting awfully close.

My increased retirement contributions, through my employer, and overtime, bring our savings level up by about another $500/month.

For a grand total of the magic number, $2500/month!

Of course, we have more expenses, and $2500 doesn't stretch as far as it used to. At least $3k/month is what we should aim for, to factor inflation. I guess that's the point where I don't care particularly if we have a second income while the kids are younger than teens. $3k/month to savings? - we're probably good.

We'll probably hit $2700/month once LM is done with preschool next summer.

Means merely another few thousand dollars a year in income will make a BIG difference.

WE actually just crossed over to the point where I feel like we are saving more than we "need" to in the long run. That certainly feels NICE. But we have things to catch up for. Building back up our cash savings, starting to think about college more, we will have a couple of cars to replace within the decade, AND we haven't put any money to speak of into our house since we purchased it 7 years ago - we have some work to do, etc. Beyond all that, we will err on the side of saving a bit too much cash in the interim because dh would like to go back to school to get a teaching credential or possibly upgrade his film/TV minor to a major. Whatever he does, he will probably go to school a bit to make himself more marketable. Of course we would like to pay cash (community college/state college is our aim - which is still quite affordable around here).

If the year is good we may be able to put $10k into cash this year - but you see we have a lot of competing goals. I wouldn't mind increasing the efund either.

Maybe it's eye opening to have so many of my clients coming in this year and "struggling" on one income in the $120k range. Sometimes I think we will always worry about money. We didn't so much when we were younger but I think it was due to being naive more than anything else. Ignorance can certainly be bliss.

But I do admit, aside from this whole catching up thing and trying to set aside $10k cash this year, I do feel significantly more relaxed with our current situation. No ill will towards those wil mortgage bail outs. They certainly can't feel my peace of mind and my freedom today.

It's funny though. The reason we decided we were ready for kids was when we bought our dream home in our low cost of living haven and we no longer thought we had to save $100k down for a starter home. That was precisely why we were saving so rapidly. We figured, "What do we need all this savings for anyway? Let's have kids."

Our expenses have stayed rather stagnate and my income has grown considerably over the years, which is why we are where we are at. But we do still have kids to support (orthodontics, piano lessons, college and the like) and I didn't know our medical insurance premiums pre-kids would grow by 8000% in just 3 or 4 years. I never expected we would last this long on one income and that dh would probably have to return to college to get a job.

Of course, if we expected all this, well, it wouldn't be life. Life isn't s'posed to be so easy, right?

But yeah, as we square away this whole preschool thing, it just hit me. Wait a minute, we didn't do anything but we are saving almost $400/month this year? Huh?

& I tell you, the extra overtime I can work with LM going to school by our house, instead of by my work when I used to drive him? I think preschool will just about pay for itself this year. Woohoo. Though I did play hooky yesterday to pick him up on his first day and figure since he will either arrive or leave in the noon hour (depending if he can get an a.m. class) I will have plenty of opportunity to go home at lunch (as I often do) and pick him up or drop him off once in a while. Arriving at work at 9 & having to leave at 4:45 always was such a time suck. Adding 15-minutes to a lunch once a week isn't as near of a big deal.

Car Expenses

February 25th, 2009 at 07:28 am

LM started his new preschool yesterday and did extraordinarily well. I think it is a really good fit for him. & for my pocketbook. Yay!

We took the van in yesterday. The gas pedal was sticking and I self diagnosed it as a dirty throttle body. A couple of hours and $110 poorer, the car is good as new. Chalk it up to one more problem I have NEVER had in a car. On the internet I read that it is not a common Dodge problem. Lucky me. (I have driven a couple of cars well past 150k miles that did not have problems with power doors, power locks, nor dirty throttle bodies, but whatever. Always something stupid with this van. Things that all our other cars have last 150k+ miles without issue. The van's mileage is 60k, which also makes it one of the newest cars we have ever owned).

Not sure I will ever equate new cars with "longer lasting and more reliable." Dh's $7888 Ford has 100k miles & is 8 years strong. It's given us less trouble than the Dodge and the 30k-miled Mustang I once owned. It's obvious when it comes to Saturns and Toyotas why we have had better luck going extremely used. But the cheapie Ford has treated us quite well! IT can be pretty hit and miss with cars. This is why I prefer to buy used more - let people drive them into the ground and then we can read the reviews about which ones are safer and last longer. The Ford is the only worthwhile newer car purchase we have ever made. Spending $12k on a van bought us more room, but not much else. At least I didn't mind when the 8-year-old Mustang I paid $6k for with virtually no miles needed a lot of repairs. At least they weren't superficial ones (the windows always worked) and I hadn't spent over $10k on the car in the first place. I got a significant discount simply because it was an older model - it was virtually new otherwise. & it's repairs rivaled my "about as new" minivan. Average $1k/year, which I find ludicrous.

But the most reliable and least repaired cars were my 200k-miled Toyota and my 150k-miled Saturn. I drove them for 10 years. They both cost me in the realm of $1k. A 15-year-old Toyota is looking like a pretty good purchase these days. I wonder often if they also just don't make them like they used to. The Ford will have to last 40 years to even out with the fact I paid $2000 all told for cars I drove for 10 years. $200/year = 40 years to equate to $7888 purchase price of Ford. {This is precisely why we have a relatively small mortgage for our age and region}.

The outside is shinier but that is all I Can say about our newer car purchases.

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I hadn't thought about it but this year we will also hit 10 years' home ownership. Like December 31.

Not much to report. We will be about $1k-$2k more in mortgage debt than when we started. We will have borrowed $30k to double the size of our home and to add land and a garage, etc. We will have borrowed $5k for the last refi of 4; having paid cash for second home purchase closing costs (as well as the first) & all other refis.

We will have lowered our mortgage payments from $1500 to $1100 monthly, with lower interest rates. So we pay 25% less for twice the house since we moved to a lower cost region and because interest rates have continued to drop since we first bought.

I think it is less of a milestone for us because basically we always owned. I also think that owning a condo was a good financial move, but in that regard maybe not as exciting. We will have actually owned LAND as of 8 years this December. Maybe we will celebrate 10 years of land ownership in 2011. That is far more exciting I guess. Maybe I can boast paying off 5% of our original mortgage by then. Wink I don't sweat it. When I was in college a studio apartment in 1995 cost as much to rent monthly (on the bad side of the tracks) as our current mortgage. I don't mind the progress. & We still plan to pay off by age 45 anyway, so don't take my nonchalance as a love of debt or unconcern for mortgage. I look very forward to paying that sucker off. Just, one thing at a time. Paying significantly less for our mortgage than rent is reward enough in the interim. & is the primary reason we did buy. Even in this market, our house rents for about $1800/month, minimum. Home ownership has treated us good.

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I almost forgot. There is talk of forcing people to cut water usage by 20% in our city. I wonder how this will be monitored/enforced/punished. What if you water usage has always been extraordinarily low?

Don't get me wrong - it's a good thing - the water waste here is INSANE. But having come from drought country, even with flat water rates we always bathed less, used clothes/towels longer before washing, only do full loads of laundry and dishes (with our water conserving appliances - full loads use less water than hand washing), watered the lawns less, and used the "mellow yellow/brown flush it down" rule. I was wondering how in the heck we would save 20% as I draw the line at bathing every 3rd day. Why should I bathe every 3rd day when so many people I know can bathe once a day and cut their shower water usage in half? Ugh. I did realize dh and I tend to be shower hogs. We could always cut to military showers. 5 minute showers may even help. I guess even we have room to cut. I don't know though. We will have to fight with the HOA over how green the lawn should be in summer. This will be a good thing in that regard! The green lawns are ridiculous and the only water usage we have to speak of is when we have to water the lawn twice a day in the summer heat to keep it green - lest we get nasty grams from the HOA - I always found that whole thing insane. The rest of the year we really use little water.

Well, this week is just a crazy busy week. So I should probably get going!

Lots of Links

February 23rd, 2009 at 01:01 pm

An interesting article about CD risk. I hadn't thought of this before:

If your bank is bought, your CD yields could be slashed
[url]http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/money_co/2009/02/bank-c...


California is offering a massive tax break to people who buy newly constructed homes:

Home Front: Tax breaks pile up for homebuyers
[url]http://www.sacbee.com/business/story/1639155.html[/url]

Just an interesting article on taxes in California. This does not even begin to cover it. Not the greatest article. But I get so annoyed when people say "you shouldn't pay more than "x" for a tax return. IF we broke out charges by Fed & State, the state return would cost more, for sure. It definitely costs more to get your taxes done in this state.

I think the legislature had their heads in the right place when they refused to conform to all of the massive Federal tax breaks this last decade. BUT the mess it has created? They should probably conform to most of the laws and then increase tax rates to cover the difference.

The state of California, in the interim, gives us migraines. I've heard joked that tax preparers like the complexity. Um no, we do not like the complexity. IT is complex beyond words. No one wants to be personally liable for figuring this mess out. Give us simpler tax laws, PLEASE. I actually contribute to the CPA political action committees all the time as they work hard on trying to get California to conform where it would make it simpler, etc. Like HSAs and IRA income limits. (The political committees have also been fighting AMT long before it ever became a more mainstream issue. But yeah, regular old joe blow doesn't understand all this stuff and the mess it creates. We have to deal with it every day).

Growing gap in federal, state tax laws
[url]http://www.mercurynews.com/personalfinance/ci_11734260[...

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Completely off topic...

& finally, just a funny website I came across recently. It's all the recent Garfield cartoons, minus Garfield. IT's kind of funny. & sad... Clever!

[url]http://garfieldminusgarfield.net/[/url]


Bowling

February 22nd, 2009 at 02:19 pm

When I Was a child my mom took me bowling 1-2 times a week (I remember bowling 2 leagues most of my childhood; with my mom. Summers anyway).

Anyway, I got some random though to go bowling on Friday. We took the kids today and had a blast.

In college I lived down the street from a bowling alley with $1 games on Sunday mornings. We had to get there early (it was always PACKED) but it was well worth the wait. Between that and the discount movie theater and the nickel arcade, we had plenty to keep us occupied in our broke days. Double matinees were like $2 or something. Those were the days.

So this morning I perused bowling alleys and found the only one I had ever been to in sacramento (once?) was like $36/hour for a lane. Holy cow!!!! No other bowling alleys had websites or prices online to speak of but I narrowed it down to two alleys, based on reviews about better prices. We figured once we were there we could price the sales and so forth.

Well, how about $1.50/game? Since it was sunday morning. With inflation, feels like the good old days. Plus it was not crowded. Plenty of people bowling, but half the place was empty (& it was a LARGE bowling alley).

I am so excited by this find!

I have a bowling ball and shoes (though you could argue the shoes need to go - I think they were hand-me-downs in my teens and are falling apart). But wouldn't you know shoe rentals were $4??? Serious? $3 for the kids. Dh and I will be buying bowling shoes, and we will go from there. When they cost $1 dh never bought shoes. $4 is another story. I'd even buy the kids shoes if I thought we'd go regularly.

I bowled a 108 & a 130. Dh bowled a 107 and a 132. Something like that. LOL. You could drop a few pins due to the bumpers, but they weren't as annoying as I thought they would be. I wouldn't have got more than 1 or 2 gutter balls - go figure. I bowled once since we moved here. Otherwise it's been a solid decade!

BM had never bowled and he got a 67 and something in the 70s. HE did rather well. LM had the same score as BM (tied) but gave up after 5 frames. So he snacked on chicken nuggets while we bowled a second game.

Bowling, shoes and chicken nuggets all came to $25. Once we square away the shoes we can easily make it a $10 visit; maybe $20 if we drop off LM with childcare. Or maybe dh and I can just take turns taking BM until LM gets more into it.

It was fun.

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I have a friend who does go roller skating and bowling a lot with her son so I was thinking we should try to get together with her. (My dad took me roller skating very weekend as a child).

Irony is we have shunned these activities while the kids were too small to get much from it, because with not a lot of money to spare, I didn't see the point in lavishing it on 2-year-olds and 3-year-olds.

Anyway, this friend is laid off right now, so probably so much for that plan. I said recently we always seem to zig when everyone else is zagging.

It's the same for the mom's groups. When I was working less and had babies and we had no money to speak of to spare I was frustrated by some of the more expensive activities so often chosen. I felt disrespected for wanting to save money, and never became very close to many of them. These days they are all planning cheaper activities. Funny how quickly things change. The thing is I am no longer interested in sitting around having free playdates as much. I want to go out and do the activities I did as a child.

Now everyone is lowering their prices in the economy, we are getting out more, and no one else can join us. It's just ironic on some level. It's also a little lonely! But yeah, we are used to being the odd balls.