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Archive for October, 2009

Lots of Updates

October 30th, 2009 at 01:27 pm

**Feeling rather caught up at work. November will be slow, but I will barely be in the office anyway. I have a lot of 3-day weeks ahead. Vacation days, holidays, continuing education, etc. I will enjoy it because end of December will get kind of crazy, and it's all downhill from there!

**I have been super duper productive, even since the family has returned home.

*Opened new CU savings account
*Baked cupcakes for school
*Donated money to school
*House is still looking pretty clean
*Mailed in a pile of rebates

Etc., etc.

**I went by the bread store again. Dh wanted rolls for a recipe, LM wanted more boring bread, and I stocked up on the good wheat bread and the SandwhichThins. We figured everything was about 50% of what we pay for at the store - plus it's MUCH better quality, to boot.

Oh, and I earned 2 free items. Will probably just get more bread, next weekend, when we start to run out. FREE!

**My netbook has gone through a bit of a metamorphasis. I exchanged it for a black one with a larger hard drive. Dh then found a deal on more memory. Since we were able to price match it, ended up costing the same as originally, just about. Maybe $10 more. But, it is now considerably more powerful than my old laptop. Though literally, just about half the size. I think that is so awesome. (Exchange was with relative - we liked each other's color better).

**Fall has definitely arrived! You'd be happy to know my house was 65 degrees this morning, and there was definitely a chill in the air. My heat challenge has begun...

**I would like to do some tree trimming and touch up painting around the house this weekend. Will see what we accomplish. It does look like the weather may co-operate.

**Financially, probably feeling a little stressed. I am nervous about what our health insurance premiums will come out to, as I read about record high increases. Ugh! We've had some pretty nasty years (40% increase was the worst). Considering we pay about $10k per year, can't say I could shoulder another 40% increase.

So, I always stress this time of year.

The last 2 years were bearable, so I feel like we have had it too good and that this year will likely be horrible. On the flip side, preschool is only about 6-7 more months, so I could shoulder a $150/month increase, easily, if I had to. Will see! (Future years, dh would have to return to work, if we had more increases like the past).

I am also not thrilled with where we will end up for the year. Don't get me wrong, we had an awesome year. But as the year progressed, I had higher and higher expectations.

I now feel like we will be lucky to end the year with $20k in the bank. (I've got a LOT of bills come due the next couple of months. Mostly prepared for - but some surprises).

*Will be $12k in the Efund (Was hoping to get to $15k. Mostly ruined by hitting a pole with my vehicle).

*I estimate we will get $8k in mid-term savings. Which isn't half bad - was like $0 at 1/1; no complaints here.

*I feel pretty happy with our current savings levels. $5k per year to mid-term savings. $5k per year to ROTHs. Probably $8 this year to my work retirement.

I am happy with retirement, and feel that it is on track.

I still feel like we have a fair amount of catching up to do on our savings. $8k is great, but I see it disappearing in a flash with work that needs to be done around the house. Not to mention that we always seemed to get creamed with a $2k-$3k emergency (last 2 years anyway. I know I should just feel lucky we had nothing like that the few years prior).

All in all, it was a pretty good year, and I can only hope that we make the same progress next year. $30k cash in the bank is still that magic number that will help me sleep better at night. & looks quite possible, for 2010.

**We are aiming for a no-spend November. Don't expect it to help the budget much, because um, we don't have much spending in our budget. But that's probably why I feel we have been spending too much. We also discussed as my laptop has been replaced, and other things taken care of around the house (and we had quite a few purchases this year) that next year should be rather low key. Dh and I had discussed buying a TV, when LM was done with school. Or at least starting to keep an eye out (could take him years to pick one out). But besides that, dh confirmed that he had nothing on his purchase horizon - he had gotten a lot of purchasing done this year. We have been thinking about a new camera for a while, but it's hardly worth a mention - we can replace our 4 megapixel with a 12 megapixel for $100-ish. & by some miracle, my spouse doens't have an electronic purchase wish list a mile long? (Don't get me wrong, if we came into money his list would be long - but for now, he is content).

So, we are going to try to pull way back Nov/Dec. We never spend any money in January - April. Too busy! That will reverse my savings angst, I am sure, given a few months.

**In other news, how about those Housewives?

Some of you know my vice is addiction to reality TV. I remember when the first "Real Housewives" aired - OC? - that they showed some statistic about the average income in the gated community they focused on. It was something like, say $300k. $500k? I don't remember. But, being in my line of work, I have exposure to much more higher-income people than the average person probably does.

So anyway, I know the average person thinks, "$500k? PRetty sweet!" Meanwhile, they portray these multi-million dollar lifestyles. I can tell you, no one in this state is going to live a lifestyle like THAT on $500k per year. Not validly anyway.

I just found that whole thing really annoying. I mean, it's the perfect Joneses scenario. TV shows always portray completely unattainable lifestyles. I guess that is nothing new. But I felt the income figure was very misleading.

So, anyway, fast forward a few years, and more and more reports come out about these people foreclosing on their homes.

Uh, yeah? Is this a surprise??? You can't afford such an extravagant lifestyle unless you have a LOT of money coming in, for eternity. The second the income stops, the whole bottom falls out. & I am sure a lot of that is happening with the economy.

I was telling my spouse about the foreclosures, and he asked me if they would portray their financial whoas in upcoming seasons. I about choked on my food, when he asked. Of course not! The whole thing is so fake. The failed ones will disappear and new/"richer" housewives will come in.

Will see!!!

Airfare Deals

October 28th, 2009 at 09:28 am

A trip to Denver ($100+taxes - for roundtrip) looks pretty tempting about now:

[url]http://luv.southwest.com/servlet/cc6?kOHpjQSRCBQTVlgLOl...

Would be an opportunity for LM to meet Great-Grandma.

We had such a lovely trip last time - just BM and I.

Just concerned about visiting in the weather. I only go up to the snow on sunny/clear days. Wouldn't have a clue how to drive on ice/snow. & I can't predict the weather!

Though I could finagle a day off work, I can't afford to get snowed in, either... (Has happened before - buried under a few feet of snow).

But, I thought I'd share the deals.

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ETA: We briefly considered it, but decided we have no snow clothing/winter clothing to speak of. & we are cold whimps, and it just doesn't make much sense. Thinking we may road trip to visit Grandma next summer though. Or maybe another deal like this will materialize next summer. Will see!

Monday, Monday

October 26th, 2009 at 02:56 pm

Weekend was productive.

Cleaning progress was made, and the dryer vents were cleaned.

Though I could probably do a once over in every room - to get them all sparkling top to bottom, they probably look better than they have in years. (TIME is key here. Time is not something I've had much luxury of since having babies!). Time and motivation - not sure where the motivation materialized from. But for a quiet week to myself - it really kickstarted me. Maybe I should kick the family out of the house for a week, every year! Big Grin

Anyway, besides time, it helps to have more helping hands around (the kids). With little time and more money, I have rebeled against much "DIY" in recent years. But, I do realize my willingness to get my hands dirty has more to do with time than anything. That's my conclusion as I take on more projects I had intended to hire out. (I still rather get things done *right,* and not do things I hate with a passion - like yardwork. But I find myself taking on more, all the same, with more time).

November projects include touch up painting, and bathroom repairs (resealing tubs & sinks). Maybe some tree pruning and removal. Dh has a wall to repair. I am feeling motivated on long put off projects. But if these are done, the house will be rather beautified for it's 8th birtday.

Next year, we may make progress on the outside (fresh paint and a new fence - on our To-Do list. Though I would label us as the types to put this stuff off, in the end, what do I know? Will likely be the first in the neighborhood. A major reason we have delayed is hoping to get painter recommendations from neighbors. But everyone is too broke to maintain their house, it seems. We were also the first to put in our yard, so I guess I under-estimate ourselves in some regard. Though literally, I can't believe it if we are the first to paint our house. Just sad, since some homes are looking so shabby. Our light colored paint has held up better than a lot of the others).

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Yesterday we went to the pumpkin patch. We had Southern weather. Everyone was in their tank tops - it was WARM! It was rather surreal.

Still crazy warm weather here. Usually around now I struggle to keep the heat off. Instead, we have struggled to keep the AC off. Literally.

& yes, I Was buying fleece just a couple of weeks ago because we had a chilly night or two. Hasn't gotten much use!

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That's the long and the short of it, from my corner of the world.

I think November will be about projects around the house!

I am also considering trying to get dh on board with a no-spend November. We've just been spending too much, lately. Staying home and working on the house, may be productive. But if I could talk him into not purchasing anything for a month (besides groceries/fuel), well, I think that would be helpful. Though, certainly a challenge. I think November is a good month because we bought a lot of toys the last few months. We should be able to do it. Heck - I'd like to start this no-spend thing, tomorrow! (Speaking of time - I had too much time to shop while the family was gone. That was the downside. The busier I am, the less money I spend).

Almost got a Plasma TV

October 25th, 2009 at 11:02 am

Crisis Averted! Big Grin

No - it wasn't a crisis. We have already decided, for various reasons, to keep our current HDTV up in our bedroom. & to replace our main TV with a HD Plasma, next year. Prices have come down so much, if nothing else.

Dh has wanted our main TV to be a HDTV for over a decade, for sure. There is certainly nothing rash about a Plasma purchase. I'd say he has been pretty patient. Just that we didn't trust the one we bought in 2007 around the kids. So we put it in our bedroom "temporarily." Dh has since become aware of its "flaws." & at the same time, it won't cost much more to replace our main TV, then it would to buy a smaller HDTV for upstairs, which he had also intended. I prefer it upstairs because I am "blind" and like to watch TV before bed. I don't watch as much TV in the main room and usually have my glasses on otherwise. I see no flaws on the HDTV. Dh is pretty particular.

So, anyway. We ended up buying that TV though simply because it came on sale at about 75% off. Dh actually thought it was a misprint, and went to check it out. Came home with a giant TV!! That one is not a plasma.

I admit it looks very silly in our bedroom (all 50 inches or so), but keeps us happy. & like I said, keeps it safe from the kids!!!

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So, today started out the same. Some insane/impossible deal in a 50-inch Plasma. ($849?).

I figured it was 50/50 dh would come home with it.

In the end it was last year's model (not surprising) and didn't have some of the internet features touted with the new one. Dh decided to pass since he couldn't really find any reviews on it. (He saw a few good ones, and no bad ones, but wasn't 100% convinced, but for the savings. Losing some of the features touted, unsweetened the deal).

So, no TV today.

The only reason I share is because our non-frugal friends will never understand us. For one, they imagine we pay full price for everything, and then assume that since dh is patiently waiting for a DECADE for a deal too good to pass up, that appearance-wise, our friends tend to think we wake up and randomly decide to buy electronics. !!

I mean, last time, our friends thought we just woke up and decided to buy a $3k TV. (Well, we paid $1k, and only bought it because we had wanted on for many years and never seen such a good sale).

This purchase would have been the same. Like we just woke up and decided to spend $2k on a TV. ??? I don't think so!!

So for now, we avoid dropped jaws and whisperings behind our back. Not that we care, but just a common reaction we get to our purchases.

I didn't think much of it to point out that the vehicle we bought in 2006 was paid for in cash. (Only brought up because someone at work asked about the financing or something - the dropped jaws threw me off). Of course, with time I realized everyone thought I went out and brought a brand new vehicle. Whereas the one I bought was one-year-old and 50% of the cost of new. & everyone kept asking me if it had leather and automatic doors. Oh yes - and Stow & Go. Huh? Well, no, I couldn't have paid cash for all that!!!

Not to mention that I bought a real beater to drive while we saved up the cash for a minivan. Was a purchase 3 years in the making.

It's all kind of the same, and I know you cash-paying-frugies can relate!

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Today's shopping doings:

1 - Dh is going to try to get a price match on our netbook. Another store offered a lower price today. We won't return it though due to restocking fee - would cancel out deal. Too bad - other computer is a little better (more power) and my favorite color. But we spent so much time setting this one up already. Not sure if price match will be honored, but never hurts to ask. (Not sure since it is a slightly different model, etc.).

ETA: Price Match - scored!!!

2 - Target has board games on sale for $9. Will stock up on a few for Christmas. (Battleship, Twister, etc.)

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Frugal Backfire of the day.

To be fair, BM has been reading for many years. BUT, we bought a Jenga game for pennies at a garage sale. It was "adult jenga" but the kids couldn't particularly read, so who cares, right? (Oh - I think it was Truth or Dare Jenga!). BM has only been really reading sentences or phrases for a year - we bought this before then.

Anyway, today the kids got it out and BM started to take an interest in reading them. LOL.

I told dh to see if there was a Jenga at Target too. I think the old one will disappear now. It's completely over the kids' heads, so the whole thing was pretty funny. But yeah, time to replace it with a more kid appropriate version - like plain old Jenga!

Weekend Doings

October 25th, 2009 at 07:53 am

**Friday night we dropped off BM at school for a "Parent's Night Out." Was a fundraiser for the 5th graders specifically, but I was impressed at the idea (seemed like an easier way to make money than last years' fundraisers). Anyway, BM REALLY wanted to go, so we said, whatever. $20 for 3 hours.

We ended up eating at home, ourselves, and taking LM to Chuck E Cheese. It was crowded as expected, but *too* bad. LM had some fun. We have tokens leftover from birthdays AND MIL brought us coupons for 40 free tokens. In the end, not too pricey of a night.

**We saw a Colombo bakery outlet on our way home Friday night. Chalk that one up to FOUR outlets in our city. (I peeked online but looks like it possibly closed quite a few years ago. I wouldn't check it out anyway because I am bakery'd out!)

**Yesterday I went to aerobics in the a.m. and got to the Entemann's Outlet when they opened. That is a good in strategy! The place was well stocked. I checked out the "free" bin and it had plain wheat bread.

There were piles of empty shelves when we went last Sunday. Yesterday they were FILLED with SanwichThins - costco sized ones at that. Wow - those things must be popular! (Those shelves cleared out quickly last weekend).

I picked up a large bag of SanwichThins, some of the donuts for the kids,& pita bread for dh. I grabbed some crackers since I knew the regular bread would be free then (Or I'd pay for the bread and then get free, something I would never use). The crackers were rather expensive, but divine.

I almost fell over when I looked at the ingredients on the bread. Wheat and flour? I mean, literally like less than 10 ingredients.

I told dh that I hope the store stays open - we are getting spoiled by the high quality food.

I slit the big bag of SanwichThins and gave them to our parents. They hadn't heard of them. Was my plan - but not sure if they would like them. Well, they did!

**I baked the rest of the cookie dough yesterday, and saladed the rest of the eggs. I ended up taking out the bacon and adding vinegar. I liked it better.

**Yesterday we had our Windows 7 party. We did the party to get a free copy of Windows 7.

We had some crazy Round Table coupons (like $5 off one pizza - we have been getting tons of those) so got some pizza. My mom slipped me some cash for the pizza anyway, so we were spoilt.

We showed off Windows 7, and my new Netbook, to the techies at the party. Spent the rest of the day chatting and playing cards.

Our parents came, so doubled as a nice day with them.

With all the bodies, my mom who is sensitive to heat, asked us to turn on the air. Not sure I would count it except that it was getting pretty darn warm (78). So we ended up turning on the air for a couple hours.

I think I can confidently say that is a record - running the AC on Oct. 24? Yeesh! Not normal!

**I asked my folks if they had a lint brush I could borrow. They said no, but I asked my dad for a lesson on cleaning the dryer vents (something I had been meaning to do). Will be my chore for today. Pretty self explanatory, but wanted to make sure I wasn't missing anything. They improvise with the vacuum cleaner, which is a good idea (long attachments). Not surprised at all that they would improvise rather than have a lint brush! But talking to them saved me some money in that area.

It's a good reminder to clean all your appliances. When our fridge gave us issue last year, turns out we just needed to clean the coils or something like that..

I may bug dh about that - that it's time to clean the fridge.

**Since we picked up a bit for the party - I'd say the whole house is clean, but for the kids' rooms and bathroom. Today we will hit those rooms. I don't have much to do but to scrub their countertops in the bath, and to scrub their teeny-tiny floor around the toilet. (The rest of the bath is carpeted - don't ask me why. We had to ask not to have carpet by the tubs. Seemed like a bad idea!) But does mean I have little to scrub. Just the little square around the toilet/tub. Dh has shower duty since I cleaned the WHOLE HOUSE while they were gone. I often ask him to clean the shower - it's just the thing I hate the most. I don't mind any other chores, so work for us...

If we accomplish that today, I could say the whole house is clean!!! Only accomplished because the fam was gone a week. & well, it will last all of 5 minutes, of course. Why I rarely make that a goal!

I even cleaned out dh's car the other day, so we are on a clean record. It needed some major vacuuming. My vehicle was detailed recently, when it was repaired, so I got off easy.

House and cars, clean!!??!!

As usual, just trying to keep up with it, going forward. Will probably fail, but will at least try. I did enjoy having little to do to get ready for this party.

& in November I would like to take some time to detail each room (clean window sills and baseboards. Touch up paint, etc. All NEEDED!). Yeah - that's my November goal.

So yes, a few chores for today, but will take it easy otherwise.

**Work is slowing down quite a bit. In November/December I have quite a lot of holidays, vacation days, and days off for education/seminars, etc. It's always a tough adjustment to go from the slow end of year to the crazy tax season. Crazy begins in late December, so I always enjoy the calm before the storm. I'll only be in the office 3-4 days a week for most of November/December. Which is fine because there isn't a lot to do!

SanwichThins - Yum!

October 22nd, 2009 at 10:08 pm

Fiber optic internet has been useful. I downloaded Quicken to my new Netbook today. It turns out I needed to remember my Quicken login, and it took a while to track it down. But, phew, I did.

Anyway, I asked dh how long it would take to download (quoted something like 20 minutes DSL/10 minutes cable). Before dh could answer it was done. Um, ONE SECOND? Sweet!

Um, so it is like 1000 times faster than DSL??? (I've downloaded some small things since the switch, but nothing like this).

I spent the evening setting up my skype account and testing it out. Quicken was a breeze to set up. Phew!!!

I never felt comfortable keeping all my financial data on my laptop so I have the data stored elsewhere. Perfect in this case, since the Netbook is so small and portable. Don't worry - I won't cart around all my financial data with it!

ETA: Dh checked the specs on my laptop, and this machine is slightly better. Hard to imagine something so small can be more powerful.

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In other news, I couldn't tell you how much these cost in the stores because mine were free. Big Grin

But, oh my, did I mention how yummy the Oroweat Sandwichthins are? & no I am not a health nut, so the health nuts can pick it apart. I grabbed them because I thought they almost looked like panini. I didn't expect them to be so good!

[url]http://www.sandwichthins.com/[/url]

We got the multi-grain one.

I did eat one with my egg salad recipe. I think I have been eating them completely plain otherwise. Haven't even tried toasting it yet. Because they taste so good! I am sure they would be great with many food stuffs. Dh was going to whip up some hummus for the weekend - these will be perfect with it.

Bought My Netbook Today...

October 22nd, 2009 at 03:00 pm

If we had seen this first though...

[url]http://www.bestbuy.com/site/olspage.jsp;jsessionid=895D...

Just a PC, monitor, laptop, netbook, & wireless router, for $1199!

(We have monitors from the 80s/90s, and a PC - from the 90s as well - that's on its last legs. Talk about tempting!)

We did discuss the deal for quite a while today. Dh sent me the link, kind of as a joke. But he hadn't noticed the monitor was included too. He could have talked me into it. We would have returned the netbook I bought today - which would have made it a $800 deal for the rest.

BUT, not really necessary.

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Anyway, ended up with a Toshiba Netbook. ALMOST went with Asus. If the Asus was in stock, would have gone with it because it was cheaper (& prettier). BUT heard REALLY bad things about the power supply, so decided to go with the in-stock Toshiba. We went test driving them last night, and we both really liked the Toshiba in the end. Good reviews backed it up. Dh bought it today since Windows 7 rolled out today.

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I tested it out at lunch today, briefly. So far I REALLY like it.

To be honest, my laptop needs replacing. I am a laptop girl - love having the portability around the house, etc. BUT, the idea of buying another laptop has been hard to swallow.

We bought a pretty nice laptop in 2005 because dh envisioned using it more. So I am not thrilled with buying another one, just 4 years later. But it is on its last legs. Though we agreed to get a more low level laptop next round.

Anyway, I like the lower cost of the netbook. & it is fitting considering I do little more than internet on it. & the lighweight and size is pretty cool.

Talk about a bit of an impulse purchase though. VERY unlike us. All I can say is happy birthday to me. Big Grin

Truth is, I just didn't feel we had the money to spend on it right now (though laptop has been pretty bad for quite a few months). So when the money arrived, I was a little impatient.

Dh is also always hogging up the big purchases. Glad I got a turn! Big Grin

The Good/Bad - Property Taxes & Computers

October 19th, 2009 at 08:42 pm

Definitely more good than bad!!!!

I read a report about local property tax assessments today. I can never remember all the dates, so saved me some homework. Was a reminder that assessment date was Jan. 1. Since we had a $325k appraisal at the time, other homes sold in that price range and that is exactly what our house assessment was, well, I didn't expect anything (assessment decrease) this year.

I was preparing to research home values on Jan. 1, 2010 and have my evidence in case the county didn't agree, next year. Hard to tell since nothing has sold less than $300k yet. BUT, some lower priced stuff sitting, etc. Who knows - was going to do my homework on Jan. 1, in case we could lower our taxes for NEXT year.

Anyway, property taxes in California - they can't go up more than 2% per year (or else no one could afford the taxes). Anyway, but they will go down to real value in a decline. Though in an uptick, they jump back to old levels. Homes are re-assessed upon sale.

Um, not sure state has ever had to reassess so many home (in decline). Definitely new territory - have read a lot of articles how this is a first. Current property tax laws not THAT old. From the 80s?

Anyway....

This is where it pays to live in a fancy neighborhood!

I almost fell over when I opened the bill (which did arrive today) and saw a $40k decrease in assessed value. Wahoo!!!!!

Makes sense when you consider the zip code as a whole. Our neighborhood can usually fetch much higher prices though.

So anyway, no complaints here!!!!!!

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What's the bad news? I use assessed value (home) to measure house value for net worth. Ugh. My net worth is going to take a large slide backward this year.

I am fine with that because I will just adjust it 12/31. & well, I think the assessed value is in line of what our house value is probably worth at this point. So I will go with it.

I know there is lots of debate if homes/cars should be valued for net worth. For me, I can't imagine not doing it. We have put almost $100k into our house, almost HALF our net worth. Of course I count that as an asset. For most of the time we have been homeowners, homes were more liquid than cars. Sell a property in a day with 100 offers? Easy. Obviously not the last few years. But it is the same with cars. Since we pay cash for them, it's not like our cash goes in a black hole. If I spent $15k on a car, it's a $15k asset, that does depreciate rapidly. But I do include these things to get a realistic net worth picture. (I do depreciate cars very rapidly, and I like the assessed value method for home, since the price does not rise rapidly that way).

This year will be a good year since we did good on net worth. I expect to break even with the backward house value slide. I can live with that.

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Anyway, $40k lower house value translates into a $400 tax break that I did not expect.

At the same time, my 4-year-old Dell laptop has been giving me a lot of grief. I have been too cheap to replace it, but it's been terribly slow this year, and the battery has been useless for about a year. (Our understanding all along was that it had a 3-year-life. Yup, that would sum it up).

I just happened to be having a gripe fest since my laptop would not do what I wanted it to do. I joked to dh we should get a new one with our tax savings.

Well, we are thinking of replacing it with a Netbook. There's some pretty decent ones in the $400 range. So we may go out and buy one this month.

I'll take a Netbook over a bigger property tax bill, any day. Big Grin

Yup, jumping on the netbook bandwagon. I just need something for internet and Quicken. Minor photo editing. Dh thinks I can do it all on a cute little Netbook. Woohoo!

Props to Intuit. I only needed to remember my credit card #, name and phone # to access my Quicken download. Phew - I of course forgot my login! So that obstacle is cleared.

Leaning towards a HP Netbook. Dh has some homework ahead of him.