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Archive for June, 2009

I am good!

June 30th, 2009 at 01:38 pm

I've apparently worked my budget down to an "exact science."

I hesitate to use the word "budget" because I am not really into the whole tradiitonal budget thing. I would drive myself nuts accounting for all those overages/underages every month. & you might be surprised, but I do not care for a strict budget. I like that if I spent no money on gas or food, that I can go splurge on something else. I do not carry things over month to month. I guess I like flexibility and ease, over rigidity and complication.

So anyway, we had a good month and for whatever reason it popped into my mind that we really could save another $50/month. I just felt it would be very reasonable.

I opened my "budget" spreadsheet on a whim and looked it over.

Lo and behold - when LM started his new preschool I guess I rounded way up and allocated $200/month to that. Thing is, most months it's barely $150.

So subconsciously I am thinking I have $50 per month to spare, and in reality - I really do.

My goal for maxing out first ROTH was to put away $350/month and "wing it" on the rest - scrounge it up somehow.

This officially puts me to $5k per year, just based on $400 monthly contributions (well, the additional $200 will be easy to scrounge).

So, I am very pleased.

I would like to build up more cash savings, but I also think it's important to contribute heavily to retirement in this market. So I am kind of doing $400/month to each, for now. I certainly am tempted to put my spare $50 to cash, but I know we have had a good year and with a little patience will probably reach my cash goals within the year. So I will stay the course!

I whipped this up sometime when we were in preschool limbo and we had a few hundred dollars to spare every month. It's worked out well:



As a recap:

short-term "savings" are to be spent within the year (vacation, car repairs, property taxes, insurance, dental, swim lessoms, misc., etc. - everything that is not a regular monthly expense).

mid-term savings - larger expenses expected in more than one year - car replacement and house maintenance, orthodontia, etc. Car repairs for more than I "budgeted" would fall here too, as well as unexpected large bills, etc.

medical savings - we switched to a HDHP and save $250/month on premiums. We save the difference for deductibles and future rate increases.

I've kind of been honing this system for a while, and I am very pleased with it. Once honed, it's been a rather simple and effective savings system. Though we are saving much less than when we both worked, there is much more thought to the big picture. I think the thought makes up for the decrease in savings, in many regards.

Anyway, yes, I already increased my automatic ROTH contributions - starting with July!

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ETA: I do put everything possible on the credit card (for rewards, etc.). It is paid monthly, of course!

Everything not on the card can not be paid with credit cards - bah.

BUT I also worked on this spreadsheet to get an idea what my monthly credit card bills should be - since we recently switched some utilities over to the card, etc. IT can get kind of confusing though since I can put a lot of short-term expenses on the card. It usually runs closer to $2k, BUT I can simply subtract all the short-term items (they tend to be larger/obvious items) and just make sure the rest never tops $1500.

Net Worth

June 30th, 2009 at 07:11 am

Net Worth is up $17k for the year, give or take maybe $1k, depending on stock performance today.

Cash is up about $7k. & is my main concern right now!

Retirement is up $8k (about $6k contributions and $2k gains).

Paid almost $2k off mortgage, this year.

That about sums it up.

Interestingly, our cash and investments passed the $100k mark. Not sure if they have before. That's a nice milestone! Big Grin Depends on the day, but as of this moment, we are at about $100,500!

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Swim lessons - OMG. I bought goggles for the kids over the weekend. Apparently, LM Was not scared to swim - only scared to get water in his eyes. ????? Dh said he jumped in the pool and swam like a fish, during his lesson. (What a relief. When I was a kid I had to be pushed in and I was worried he would be the same way).

He told me his googles were "AWE-SOME!"

So, 4 lessons later, and LM can SWIM! He did so amazingly well. He has a second week of lessons in mid-July and I just asked if she had any more time in August. Hoping I can get him a 3rd week.

In fact, I am so amazed I am going to buy the kids' teacher a nice treat or pay her a little extra. She DESERVES it! ($50 for a week of private lessons was a steal!)

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Piano lessons have took a turn for the better. If I remember today anyway - to give lesson on such a busy day. BUT BM is LOVING it. I simply asked him to practice 5 minutes a day, but he has declared he would like to practice 1/2 hour - twice a day. Hopefully I don't kill his enthusiasm. Wink Which is a big reason usually why parent don't teach their kids. I try to butt out of his practicing too. Practicing is for him and his parent - he doesn't need his teacher there too. Dh may learn something...

Life is Good!

June 29th, 2009 at 09:15 am

I had the BEST weekend. Just one of those weekends where I am so happy where my life has landed.

I also posted the other day about our relative who paid $600k+ for their home. I have mentioned before, but we know so many people who truly believe it is worth having a $500k+ mortgage to simply live in the Bay Area. After moving away about 8 years ago, dh and havn't quite *gotten* it in a LONG time. This was one of those weekends where I feel extra bad for those people. You think they are happy with those massive mortgages? We don't know any of them who are happy.

Anyway, it was literally 110 degrees yesterday. Obviously, I have acclimated.

So what was so great about yesterday?

BM and I went on a bike ride. We got a later start than I preferred. I Was kind of antsy to drive to some more of the bike paths, etc., but decided on its virgin run, to just stay in the neighborhood. Not sure how much I trusted the quality of the Wal Mart assembly of the bike. Wink We checked it over real good and checked the tire pressure, and off we went.

First, LOVED the bike.

Second, it was probably already 80+ when we went outside to ride, but it wasn't so bad.

We had a blast. The bad side is I am wondering if I should get BM a bike with gears now. I felt bad him working so hard on his bike, and mine was a breeze (I have 21 working gears now). Well, thoughts for another time.

Next time we will probably ride earlier (or later) in cooler weather. Wink

After the bike ride we went down to the pool. We didn't get there until 11. Again, later than I preferred. Not a lot of shade there. But knew it would feel refreshing. So we swam for about an hour.

I "sunbathed" in the shade and it wasn't too bad. We were lazy and drove over. Hell if I Walking in that weather. Wink

But yeah, while I Was relaxing in the shade I noticed all but one or 2 adults (many people) were sunbathing in the sun. I was thinking they were completely out of their minds. You know, it was only 100 degrees or so at that hour. ????? Crazy people.

After that we holed up inside the rest of the day, as the temps did climb to 110. But, no complaints. I was pleased we were able to enjoy so much outdoor time and it wasn't that bad at all.

If nothing else I LOVE my bike. Did I mention that I love my bike?

I come to work today glad I don't have a $500k mortgage. Life is good! Big Grin

I truly feel with our LCOL moved that we have made life so much simpler and better, all around. Whereas most of our friends and relatives would NEVER consider moving because the Bay Area "is the place to be." It's just so different from the outside looking in.

On the other hand, if those people stop moving up here, life is even better. So maybe I should just keep mum and enjoy it. Wink

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Anyway, pics from my weekend.

Sunflower field we passed on the way to our playdate Saturday. Picture doesn't do it justice:



& you can see downtown in the distance. Not sure I can ever get across how "best of both worlds we have." Easy to pretend we live in the middle of nowhere, though downtown is a 5-minute drive.



Our current favorite bike ride destination. That lovely desolate park I have posted pics of before - we love to picnic there (it's surrounded by abandoned home lots).

Um, I have never really noticed this "statue" before. It's pretty neat.



& a glimpe of our pool (& the crazy people). IT's like a giant puzzle piece - a kiddie pool circle - attached to a rectangular, deeper lap pool.

IF we get there before 11, any day, it's all ours. We got a late start and this was closer to noon. Frankly, never seen it so crowded at noon, but wasn't surprised with the high temps. (It usually gets PACKED after 5 on weekdays, etc. & weekend afternoons).



Yes, somehow we survive all this un-desirableness. Wink

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Hmmm, did I also mention I am loving my new camera phone?

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I made the peach mango smoothie again and came out better (thicker and less sweet):

Updated Smoothie recipe:

Peach-Orange-Mango Smoothie

8 oz peach yogurt
1/2 can mango-orange concentrate
1 cup milk
1 cup frozen mango pieces
1 frozen banana (peel and chop before freezing)

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I work 2 days this week, but feels like vacation. I am in such vacation mode...

Finally Bought a Bike!

June 28th, 2009 at 08:03 am

With the hot summer days, I hadn't been so motivated on the bike front.

BUT we actually had a little extra money this month. Certainly could have used it for other things (massive car repair, donate, save, etc.). BUT I decided to think about buying a bike again.

I had settled on a bike in the $400 range, BUT lately we seem to talk more of little bike rides around the neighborhood - BM likes to ride his bike to school (with us), and we talk about riding more to the store and to the local farms for produce, etc. & I was thinking, I do not need to ride around on a fancy bike for that, and I certainly wouldn't leave it in front of a store!!!!!

So I had been leaning towards just getting a cheapie at Target or something. Seemed like a good idea, since I could always use a "cheapie" around the neighborhood and then, if I stick with it and get in better shape, I can shell out $400 or so for a nice bike. If I know I will actually ride it!

& believe me, I have perused Craigslist. Economy or what, but really there is nothing there.

I've been extra motivated because my Craigslist cheapie ($20 range) has pretty much bit the dust. The tire got a little flat, which may be it, but it had a lot of other issues and I rode it anyway out of desperation the other day (had to pick up BM from school). Yeah - didn't sound good. Could just be the flat - but seemed like something else was wrong. Will probably give it away. (Only a couple of gears work and it is missing a break pad - yeah).

So yeah, my super-cheapie has been better than NO BIKE, but that's about it. LOL. I have been eyeing a newer bike for a while.

So, yesterday I decided to do some research. I didn't necessarily intend to buy it yesterday, but found a nice Schwinn with excellent reviews - a different model at each of the big stores. Target had free shipping and was a good deal, but I found one for the same price at Toys R Us (considering sales tax and everything).

We went to check it out and it was a nicer bike than I really expected in that price range. IT was rather heavy, but last I was looking at super light bikes.

What I did not like at all about it was the short handlebars. Ugh.

I figured I would survive, but I had seen a bike in the 32-pound range at Wal-MArt. We decided to check it out. I do not hate Wal-Mart as a giant corporation. I think they take the fall for what most giant corporations do, and I don't think places like Target are inherently better than places like Wal-MArt - corporate wise. I kind of am anti-giant-corporation all around, personally. But what I hate about Wal Mart is their store sucks. LOL. & it's in the WORST shopping center - the one we avoid like the plague. So I wasn't thrilled to go over there on a busy Saturday, nor thrilled to give Wal Mart my business, but alas, we did.

I think the Toys R Us bike was a little nicer on some level, BUT the Wal Mart one was pretty nice. It was much lighter and had nicer breaks. It cost about $20 more, BUT all Wal Mart bikes apparently come pre-assembled. We figured dh would spend the weekend assembling it, so that was a nice touch!

There were lines out the wazoo, but we were able to sneak out the no-wait "5 items or less" line. So in the end, it wasn't SO bad.

When we got home I re-checked the reviews on the bike I ended up with, and found some other reviews I had missed. I am REALLY pleased with the purchase. In general, the tires are crap but if replaced with better tires, can hold it's own against much more expensive bikes (I assume the lightweight is its biggest edge).

SO, I will work on riding it more and getting in shape. I have a bike buff friend who was interested in doing some rides when I got a nice bike. Wasn't sure it that would work since I settled on something much lesser, but I am starting to think if I get new tires, that maybe it will work. Will just have to try. She is in awesome shape and I have a ways to go, so it is all up to her.

More immediately, I would like to get a nicer seat (cheap enough).

Eventually I will need a bike lock and a helmet.

For the long run I would like to get nicer tires. I don't feel any rush on that though. I have no inclination to do any long bike rides with the weather this hot. Wink

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So much for my low-spend weekend!

Today I don't have much planned. Still need to clean house a bit.

On my week off I got addicted to that "How Clean is your house" show on BBC. I think it was bad because it made me feel like my house wasn't half bad. So I didn't clean much after all. LOL. BUT, I had this weird brown/grey discoloration on the linoleum on the laundry room floor. I could not for the life of me figure out what it was or how to get it out. I was resigned to permanent "dirty looking" floors.

But this guy had FILTHY floors and the SAME linoleum. They recommended hot soapy water, some comet, and an abrasive sponge. I figured what the heck. So yesterday I gave it a try.

Wouldn't you know, it worked???? My floor is nice and sparkly again.

Reminds me, the same linoleum, around the toilets, has discolored a bit (BOYS!!!). So I will have to try on that area too - maybe will remove the pee discoloration...

Anyway, I am feeling more pressure to clean up a bit since we apparently are now hosting an impromptu 4th of the July shindig the DAY we get back from camping. Yeesh.

Beyond that, will probably take the kids swimming before it gets too hot (no shade to speak of at the pool) and though I would like to try out the bike, not sure I will make it. Depends how cool it gets tonight. I need dh's help checking it over and he will wake up too late. It's already 75 degrees and it's only 8am. Another scorcher - ugh.

I do like that my workouts are getting so varied - it is easier to stick to. A bike ride, a workout video, a trip to the gym, or aerobics class. I certainly am losing excuses not to work out. I will probably start bike riding a lot more.

Our GPS has a bike mode, which will be interesting to try. On one hand. Not sure exactly what it does. BUT, speaking of not wanting to be mugged for my bike, it's unfortunate that I probably won't want to use it much.

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Anyway, I don't remember the last time I spent so much money on myself. Big Grin It feels nice to buy something nice for myself - it is so rare.

Peach Mango Smoothie & Simple Pleasures

June 27th, 2009 at 01:16 pm

I have mostly been sticking to my usual strawberry smoothies - some variation of yogurt, OJ, and frozen strawberries. The thicker the better!

Today I finally decided to try something new, since dh had stocked up on yogurt. We had picked up frozen mangos and some orange-mango juice concentrate since they had been on sale. Dh had also bought a giant tub of peach yogurt this week.

I am not much of a chef, but it's hard to mess up a smoothie I guess. I figured peach and mango sounded good (what do I know).

Um, YUM!!!!!

I was concerned about the juice concentrate being too strong - so used water to water it down a bit. As such, it was very thin, but one taste, and it was DIVINE!

The recipe:

Thin/sweet (juice) version:

8 oz peach yogurt
1/2 can mango-orange concentrate
8 oz water
1 cup frozen mango pieces
handful of ice cubes

Thick/less sweet version:

8 oz peach yogurt
1/2 can mango-orange concentrate
1 cup milk
1 cup frozen mango pieces
1 frozen banana (peel and chop before freezing)

Sure was tasty!

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Kids were invited to a playdate today - someone we met through tee ball. Mostly, the little kids got along really well and though they seemed very nice, hadn't talked much to them.

Um, how freaky was this. I swear this women and I led completely parallel lives. It was the most bizarre experience I have had in a while. Even down to the whole monkey thing. The girl likes monkeys!

I wouldn't even know where to begin.

This could get interesting.

Little Updates

June 26th, 2009 at 07:24 am

Kids made a little puppet show. PAinted a box green to test out the paint color. Came out pretty good - much better than the old "green sheet" trick. Not sure when they will get to painting the wall.

I was wondering if the HOA would complain if we had a green wall in our garage. Probably would. They have nothing better else to do. But do I care? Nah. I think we have the right to a green wall! (They nagged a neighbor once for keeping the garage open too much - apparently we are not allowed to open our garage doors. Well, um, I don't remember that one being in the rules. So sue me!)

The garage isn't exactly beautiful to start with, you know? The walls aren't even painted. Looks rather "unfinished" as is.

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Piano lessons have gotten to a rocky start. I think the biggest issue with teaching your own child is taking it seriously. Thus, I put BM's lesson time on the calendar for the next 2 months. If I could save like $1k in the first year, I could take this seriously.

AND? Promptly forgot his last lesson (didn't look at the calendar, forgot, then went out of town so no real time to make it up).

This week wasn't much better. I forgot kids had swim lessons 4-5. SO, I came home about 5 and they were just switching on a video game. Didn't quite realize. I said something like, "Time for piano lesson. & a walk after dinner."

The kids were playing their game and I plopped down on the couch for a while.

Big mistake. I am such a morning person that I just deflate in the afternoon. So, I Was pretty much done. Once I sit down, in a comfy spot, it's over.

By the time they were done with their game, I was exhausted. I passed on piano. BAD, I know.

YEsterday I came home about the same time and a video game was getting popped in. I was SO annoyed yesterday why they had all day and were just ignoring me when I got home. I finally realized why - because they had just gotten home too. So I barked at them - "No video games!!!!!!!!!!!" MAde them turn it off and BM had his piano lesson. Enough is enough.

I don't think he practiced much, and his first lesson wasn't particularly grand, BUT he did AWESOME! I was pretty impressed.

I gave dh strict instructions to have him practice. 5 minutes a day would suffice at this point. I showed dh everything he needs to practice.

I was searching through my old music files for something and came across some exercises I used to always give to younger students. I barely remembered them and was glad it had written instructions on precisely how to do them. LOL. I am completely disturbed by how little I remember from my teaching days. This may be harder than I thought, BUT, it will be a good refresher. IT was a skill I knew I could always fall back on, so good to keep it fresh.

My sister is visiting this month and so I will have to pick her brain a bit. She taught, has taught more recently, and is currently teaching a student, I hear. If nothing else, I just need to remember what we do the first year, outside the book.

I am pleased to say BM is a natural though. Big Grin I didn't think so first lesson, but he is doing really well. AND next week he will learn a couple of nursery rhymes, so I think it will get more interesting, rather quickly. (This is why it's so much easier to teach kids. They are pleased as punch to learn "Mary had a little lamb.")

I'd start with LM if he was open to it. (Maybe give it 6 months to really get into playing - but can start teaching him basics and note reading). He was not interested yesterday. No rush there.

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Not much plans for the weekend. I should clean the house. IT's such a disaster!

Updated Totals

June 24th, 2009 at 07:11 am

Not much to report, but I paid all the July bills (er, set them to pay on due dates) and updated my savings totals, to the left.

This year we have saved just about $7950. So, only $50 shy of my original $8k savings goal. Woohoo!

My goal has since been revised to $10k, but saving $400/month + interest, will get us there easily, by December.

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Our cash total is hovering around $22k-$23k, currently.

My goal is $30k cash (solid 6 months of income) before we will consider putting more into our IRAs. One maxed IRA is fine, for now. I expect by 2011 we will be maxing out both our IRAs. (Or likely, be able to max out 2010 during 2011).

So, definitely making some nice progress.

No plans to prepay a dime to the mortgage, until our ROTHs are maxed. Since our retirement is doing well, as is, I am excited to move on to mortgage pre-payments, etc. BUT, can't pass up the awesome tax benefits of the ROTH. I guess my big pie in the sky goal, for now, is getting to mortgage prepayments once again. Something we haven't particularly achieved on one income (of course, neither have we achieved maxing out IRAs, etc.). I guess it's ALL exciting.

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I guess, as a review, our goals are to:

1)Get cash savings back up to snuff
2)Max out ROTHs
3)Resume mortgage prepayments

In that order, yes.

Annual Renewals & Other Tidbits

June 23rd, 2009 at 05:27 pm

I had an interesting surprise today. I had put off paying the newspaper subscription, hoping I could talk dh out of it. (No such luck!)

It is due in a couple of days so I figured I might as well pay it. I just pay annually since it is the cheapest option (as with everything, really).

I was in Quicken, scrolling through last June, trying to figure out how much the price had gone up. I tend to just set things to pay on the due date. But I couldn't find the payment in our checking account though I was SURE we paid with online bill pay. Checked the credit card in case - still couldn't find it. Finally sorted by "name" and found a payment in August. & the few Augusts prior.

Um, okay?

I went to dig out the last bill, and sure enough, we had last paid for August 2008 - August 2009.

Guess what this bill was for...

June 2009 - June 2010.

Hello????

I am not sure I would have noticed but for Quicken. I have said a million times Quicken recoups its cost very quickly. This is just another example.

What was the markup for this year? 35%. $111 to $150. Plus they tried to double bill us for TWO MONTHS.

Dh will call them and take care of it. I am not so concerned about the due date any more. Since we are paid through AUGUST!

I am making a mental note to check the date on last payment for all annual renewals. Tricky!!!!!!!

& this is why I love having a stay at home spouse. I swear he spends half his time on the phone anymore. Ugh!

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The weight loss is sort of going.

My pants waist has not shrunk a mili-inch, nor have I lost a mili-pound. (It's been about TWO weeks, and admittedly, for vacation we probably ate too much). BUT yesterday I scored progress.

I had been wearing a sweater (AC freezing me out at work) and took it off when I rushed home briefly before carting kids around in the evening. The shirt I had on underneath, lord knows the last time I felt comfortable wearing it alone.

As my clothes have been getting a little tight, I had no idea what I Would wear. I refuse on many levels to buy bigger clothes. So I am stuck with an extremely limited wardrobe for now. How's that for motivation?

I threw on my jeans while I pondered what the heck I would wear out in the heat. & I caught a glimpse in the mirror and thought, "Huh - I look damn good." Good enough for me - I was in a hurry. (I was sure it was just my mood or something).

Dh sealed the deal because when I got home he looked at me and asked if I had lost weight. "Not even half a pound," I replied. "These are my fat jeans. But I did think I looked good today, in this outfit." Apparently he agreed.

This morning I got the tape measure out on a whim. I lost an inch around my ribs (pretty much the skinniest part of my body as is - figures. Like, did I really have fat there?). & apparently 2-3 inches around my hips since I last measured. Holy Cow!

I am not used to my middle holding up my jeans, but probably the case for now. My issue is with this post-baby, stubborn, belly fat. Bah to it. But I think at this rate it stands little chance - muahahaha.

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LM did SO awesome on his swim lesson yesterday. No complaints and he showed no fear. Mommy was so proud. (Although thinking, who is this kid???? Glad we took the plunge and signed him up).

I think the magic factor is "wanting to be like big brother." Though that doesn't seem to work much with trying new things, usually...

BM did pretty awesome as well. He is learning the breast stroke. Dog paddling is gone (apparently, he just needed goggles). So yeah, I need to buy him some goggles.