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Archive for March, 2010

Tuesday Tidbits

March 30th, 2010 at 10:35 am

Kids are on spring break. IT's good and bad. Timing is kind of good so I can throw myself into work and not worry about getting kids to school and stuff like that. But I Also think it sucks that they get all this time off while I am so busy. Can't win.

**Owl Barf Balls

[url]http://www.ginjerclarkebooks.com/owl-barf-balls/[/url]

Dh got this Scholastic book a while back called "Gross Out" or something like that, all about gross animal facts. It had a recipe for "owl barf balls," something like peanut butter, cocunut (fur), pretzels (bones), etc. Dh kept telling the kids they would make it, but it never was done.

So, yesterday I went home for lunch and BM Was reading the book and delighting in it. I joked that we really needed to make the barf balls for easter.

So, came home in the evening, and dh decided to make them with the kids - with all their free time.

& um, they were actually REALLY good. Funny thing is they are making a batch for Easter. It will be fun to gross out the family.

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**So, dh asks me about the budget. He knew I just paid a bajillion bills and told him not to spend any money. So he asks me what kind of budget he is working with, for spring break.

"Um, $0?"

So I Asked him what he wanted to spend money on - we have memberships all around town - plenty of "free" stuff to do. Plus he is planning a few days with Grandma and all that. The little zoo/park by Grandma's house has been closed over 2 years for renovation, so they are going to the grand opening and all. We bought her a membership and it is still good for a few months (since they closed down mid-year through her last membership). So that is free for the kids too.

He just said he maybe wanted to go to a mantinee. "Is that it?" I think we can swing it. I was just bracing myself for some crazy expensive activity, the way he broached the subject. Since when did we not have $15 for a movie? (We go so rarely).

Anyway, I share, because it was kind of a funny exchange. I guess I have been exaggerating our "broke-ness" lately. Like he couldn't make $15 selling a game, anyway.

SO, dh comes home the other night and tells me he spent $50 at Target. For Easter.

Huh???

He was telling me how everything sucked, there was nothing good, and it was expensive. It's just so funny to me that we have the other conversation, but then he thinks nothing of spending $50. In the end he is returning $10 of things. The thing is Easter is a big holiday for his family. I could care less. Of course he mostly bought candy, though we had this huge discussion lately about the kids have way too much candy from school and stuff.

Whatever, I don't get it, but it is his *thing.*

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This weekend will be fun - big family shindig for Easter. Just hoping the weather is nice. Lots of rain for this week. Bah humbug to a rainy Easter.

Other than that, not much but work work work until April 15th.

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Almost forgot - went to Kohls and got swim trunks on sale for the kids. I swear you have got to watch them like a hawk - the prices never ring up to the signs. Went round and round to get the $8 price as advertised.

BUT, struck gold with the clearance rack. I looked all winter for a couple of nice sweaters and nothing fit right. I figure if none of the TONS of sweaters fit, I doubted I'd have any luck on the sales rack after winter. SO, I perused the clearance racks on a whim, and pulled two $10 sweaters that look like they were made for me. So - nothing really fit or looked right, until the clearance rack. Geez - if I had known I could have saved a lot of time. & these were really nice sweaters that should last a while. Phew!

I also scored a long dress on sale for $25. I usually buy one every year around February but they just didn't have anything. With time, the wardrobe has gotten much more varied, since I tend to keep things forever. I got a new dress now that I won't see any clients again for another year. Figures, but, it will be nice for summer too. IT was nice to find some nice things after coming out empty handed so many times the past few months.

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In other news, someone has been passing around my cell phone #. It's really annoying. Apparently people think I am a doctor and have left me all sorts of "urgent messages." At first I was ignoring it thinking they would get a clue. I thought it was ONE PERSON calling over and over and over. I never answer my phone - keep it for emergency and family for the most part.

So, after someone called like 10 times in one hour, I decided to start answering it. It was then I realized it was a lot of different people calling (all from the same hospital #, incidentally). I thought telling people it was the wrong #, would help.

Today it escalated. Now I am getting calls from all sorts of different area codes. I don't know what the heck.

SO, I changed my voice mail to state clearly as day that if they weren't looking for me, they have the WRONG #!!! I doubt this will help since I am clearly not "Dr. So and do." If anyone would actually listen to my voice mail.

Dh thinks I should just put some really bizarre thing on my voice mail so people will go back to the source and say, "what the heck?" Probably not a bad idea. Since only my family calls me anyway.

Anyway, I suppose I will start answering my phone until I get to the bottom of it. I do know most of the calls have come from a hospital (Caller ID) for a doctor. If I knew which doctor, I would call or show up and tell them to fix the phone #. Probably was just a transposition or something. I think I Can get to the bottom of it. It's just really obnoxious in the interim.

Interesting Article Today...

March 29th, 2010 at 03:34 pm

Tears and taxes: Meet my therapist, the accountant
[url]http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/2010/0...

We always joke in my CPA office, that the truth is better than any soap opera. I can certainly relate to the article.

BUT, what is the one thing I have learned from my line of work? Get your affairs in order, and don't be cheap about it. By far and above, greedy loved ones is the number one drama we face. It's a given. Every family has someone salivating and ready to start trouble, when it comes to an inheritance. (Lesson learned - a good lawyer is worth their weight in gold).

I haven't personally dealt with a lot of divorces, BUT, one of my youngest/wealthiest clients just filed for divorce last week. Ugh. It's going to be a MESSY one.

I also agree that most people are more scared of the IRS than they need to be. I've got some stories there. BUT, I have not experienced any audits. My boss has a good track record and so his clients rarely get audited. I've worked here 8 years and we have had a handful of audits - none of my clients. Something else I am sure I will get more experience with, with time.

DIY Beauty

March 29th, 2010 at 10:47 am

One thing I don't talk much about is DIY beauty. Pretty much because "beauty" is low on my list of priorities. I usually contribute to the discussions by saying, "I don't spend a dime on beauty." But for some soap and shampoo, to stay clean, that about does it for me.

Which I find often gets funny reactions, in online forums. As a perfect example, I used to belong to a regional parenting forum and met some great friends through the site. But a lot of the people I did not meet for a long time, in person. It was clear that most of them could not relate to me on many levels. Money and beauty topics always came up. I swear to you, these women must have imagined me living in a shack, driving a jalopy (howsever you spell it) with hairy legs and a unibrow. This is clearly the image I project online.

It was funny because meeting a lot of the women in person, changed their attitudes towards me drastically. The funniest to me was a very volatile and shallow woman. She really hated me online, and suddenly became my biggest ally, once she saw my nice home for the first time. It was just so obvious that appearances were so important to her, and suddenly she looked at me a little differently.

Anyway, my point is, you don't have to spend a fortune on beauty, to look good.

I honestly think self confidence is the bulk of it. I have gorgeous friends who wouldn't dream of leaving the house without makeup, because they would be too embarassed at the thought. Which I personally think is ludicrous. People all the time tell me, well, I am just lucky I can pull it off. Pfffft. Like I Really believe I have more natural beauty than these people. I don't think so.

Regardless, beauty has gotten low on my priority list over the years. It probably doesn't help that my spouse freaks out if I put on tinted chap stick (he just hates make up). I know other friends who are more beauty obsessed would say I "let myself go." For me, I'd say, "I have other priorities." It would be another thing if my spouse really cared about appearances that much. He just doesn't. & on another level, I am more concerned about living a healthy lifestyle. Which keeps me trim and polished, for the most part. I've got healthy teeth, nails, hair, skin. I don't need to paint it all to "look healthy." Exercise and sun takes care of most of it.

BUT, you may be surprised to know I was a beauty freak in my youth. I have actually swing WAY more "girly girl," than tomboy. Which I know does not come across so much in my current lifestyle and blogging.

& I have always been very DIY when it comes to beauty. Always had a styled hairdo, makeup, and manicures when I was younger. All done by yours truly. All I Can say is, practice, practice, practice.

I actually stopped wearing makeup when I developed allergies and could no longer wear eye makeup (I have always been light on the makeup, regardless, though). With age, I kind of found myself shifting to low maintenance hairstyle, though it is important for me to have nice hair. Thing is I can wash and wear the style I have. & I like to wear makeup once in a while. I just can't do the eye stuff every day.

Manicures? It was since having my second child that I have hardly done a thing with my nails. Though, they are always groomed and clean - good enough for me. Though I will often wear clear polish to give them a bit of shine. That takes like, seconds.

Anyway, I saw the cutest "glitter tip" manicure that was apparently all the rage at my bank. I noticed one teller, and then another on another day. "Oooooh - that's pretty," the old Monkey Mama said.

SO, yesterday I finally got around to giving it a whirl. I was skeptical since it's probably been 5 years since I did the whole "french manicure" thing. I went out and bought about $20 in supplies (way more than I needed - but figured I should throw out most of my old polish).

I experimented on one nail at a time until I found the perfect technique.

In the end, painted the tips (with guide sticker) a glittery/sheeny white that I Already had. This alone makes for a really nice manicure. Looks much nicer than the "bright white tips," to me. Coated the whole nail with light blush. Added the glitter polish to the tips, without guides. This is a realy good technique, since it hides a bit if your lines aren't perfect. Finished with a topcoat. I tried a few different strategies, but this one clearly looked the best. & as a perk, it was the easiest too.

3 people already asked me if I went to the salon. I guess I haven't lost my touch. Wink The funny thing is my right hand turned out better since I did it second. I was wary how steady my left un-practiced hand would be.

The only room for improvement would be a higher quality glitter polish. Which I will be on the lookout for. I couldn't re-create the look exactly, but got close enough. Going forward, technique down, I can keep up the look for pennies.

I tried to snap a picture, but they weren't coming out. I will break out my camera and share later.

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ETA: Pictures



Phew, a Day Off...

March 28th, 2010 at 09:04 am

& plenty to catch up on around the house...

**Saw swim trunks on sale at Kohls, so may drop by there today, for the kids. Reminds me, my friend looked horrified when I told her I only had one pair of swim trunks for each kid. But for her asking to borrow one, it's never been an issue. :rolleyes (The friend who wonders how one-income people do it... Step 1 - your child does not need 5 pairs of swim trunks).

**Still going through potatoes. I have been making "french fries" every Sunday mornings. Yum. (More just like frying up sliced potatoes with some seasonings). Becoming a bit of a habit.

**If I am really ambitious, I will start posting items on Craigslist. Kids got toys and I the contents of my shelves are still strewn around my bedroom.

**Of course, I have taken tons of pictures over the last few weeks that I have meant to share - may get to those???

**Today is nice and quiet here. We have seemed to have never-ending guests, with dh feeling better and everyone wanting to see how he was doing. Since most of our friends and family live out of town, my Sundays have been rather exhausting.

Oh, but I am only working Saturdays for 2 more weeks. Yay! Next weekend will surely be crazy with Easter - a big deal for dh's family. Lucky for us, dh's local cousin feels up to hosting. I think we stepped in the last year or 2 - I don't remember. I don't need a pile of houseguests, nor to spend my one day off driving all over tarnation. Phew. Easter is always super fun there anyway. He had surgery too and hadn't been up to it for a long time. Dh and his young cousins have all been having surgery and been hospitalized lately (last 12 months or so?). It's kind of absurd. It will be nice to celebrate everyone being alive and well. Too much medical drama for a bunch of young 30-somethings.

I am sure some of dh's extended family will be surprised to see how well dh is doing. Will be good to see everyone.

**Thanks to daylight savings, and dh feeling so well, I am hanging in there. I REALLY look forward to getting my Saturdays back. BUT, daylight savings has afforded me a lot more time for evening bike rides and walks. Phew.

Of course, the forecasts call for a ton of rain this next week - which may make working easier. I've never seen so much rain - we haven't turned on the sprinkler system since 2009. Which is just crazy. The water is good though, as long as we don't flood.

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Saw something that made me gag. Almost everyone I have met in this city, who is a mom, is also a "professional photographer," all of a sudden.

Don't get me wrong - they can do NICE pictures. They all seem to be pretty professional, serious and talented. BUT, then again, how hard is it to be a novice in this day and age (with fancy camera equipment, digital cameras, printing options, etc.)

SO, one of these friends sent me a link to her blog. It was all about how one should consider the $2500 deposit or so for a professional wedding photographer, and then save up another couple of thousand for the whole she-bang. You don't have to buy it all at once, you know.

Anyway, CDs break and everything, but photo albums last forever.

LOL. Seriously? I don't buy that for a second.

As I read the article, I gagged. Out of curiosity, I checked her wedding package photos, and the only info was, "Starting at $4000." Yes, literally, starting at $4k - for the minimum crappy package. Though I would hope her minimum package isn't crappy, but who knows.

I will be fair to my friend. She is obviously very passionate about photography, and her wedding album means a lot to her.

I just gag at the idea that no person's wedding is complete without spending a few thousand dollars on photographs. To that, I say, "give me a break." No wonder everyone is so broke.

(For the record - our wedding photographs were free. Our photography dabbling friends and relatives took the shots with their cameras - and we paid for all the prints. We also have the digital copies saved all over the place - many copies). No, we don't have any postcard picture perfect type photos. But, we have plenty of lovely photos for the day. I personally think anything more would be "just for show," more than anything. Sort of a Joneses thing. We have plenty of wonderful photos to remember the day. Which is all we need for ourselves. We have nothing to show off how fancy the affair was or how much we spent on a photographer, no.

Anyway, I was discussing with dh, who could care less about photos, but is a huge video-phile. As I expected, he could identify with putting a lot of value on a wedding video. So, I asked him, "So, would you spend $2k, 3, 4 or $5k on a wedding video?" He asked me if I was crazy. LOL. He did spend $1500-ish on our HD camcorder. If he could do it all over, he'd get one of his friends to shoot the video with our camera, and edit it himself. I suppose that speaks to dh though. He just wants the high quality video. He doesn't care so much about the "show." We don't need all the fancy graphics and high end editing. He just wants a crystal clear picture. Which is kind of the approach we took to our wedding, since we knew so many people with professional cameras.

Dh actually isn't thrilled with our free wedding video, and has reworked it quite a bit. BUT, our wedding was pre-HD days. I think that is his main complaint. & to this day, he doesn't regret it enough to spend 4 figures on a professional.

Anyway, the point of this rant is not to disagree with anyone who has spent a lot of money on photographs. For some people it means a lot. Fair enough. I just gag at the marketing angle. "Your wedding isn't complete until you pay me a small fortune." Sorry, not buying it!

Financial Housekeeping

March 27th, 2010 at 07:19 am

I suppose I have been pre-occupied.

We were in plan plan plan mode before dh's surgery. Then afterwards, I suppose I took a big sigh of relief.

& forgot to pay my bills - LOL.

There are only a very few bills that I pay manually every month (the ones not charged to credit) - and the biggies are due on the 31st anyway. BUT, I forgot to pay the HOA, and they tend to charge late fees. I expect a $10 fee for that. Doh.

Also was the gardener and PGE. They don't care - PGE was only a couple of days late.

I noticed all this when I paid the credit card around the 20th. It's not unusual for the gardener and HOA to not cash their checks for a LONG time, so I hadn't noticed anything unusual. (I had entered them in Quicken; just not in my online bill pay).

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ANYWAY, as the end of the month approaches, dh withdrew $40 to buy some game system thing. It's all up on ebay for a nice profit, but there is no way I will get that cash back by the 31st. (Ebay auction will be over, but Paypal is very slow to transfer). So my checkbook now has a negative $40 balance (as of 3/31, anyway). So, decided I better get my financial housekeeping in order. I know I have let it slide a bit - so busy with other things. So when I saw the date was getting so close to the 30th, I thought I better hustle. Especially since I have so many large bills this month.

I have been tracking all the large bills in my savings spreadsheet. I usually notate a "TT" next to items I still have to transfer money from savings for. & an "x" when the deed is done.

I showed:

**Medical Savings:

$50 Surgeon Follow Up

(I did receive a $1000 bill, but I can charge it in April and pay it in May. Phew. Will do so to prolong some interest - my whopping 2% and all).

**Mid-Term Savings:
-$1250 new TV and stand
-$200 new furniture for LM

(Mid-term savings is used for large/one-time purchases. Saving for larger things in the future).

**Short-Term Savings:
-$200 tooth pulled
-$200 Summer Camp
-$500 Life insurance
-$250 Veterinarian
$2150 Property Taxes

(Short-term savings is for any non-monthly "expected expense" within the calendar year. We put aside amounts for car repairs and misc. items like summer camp and extra-curriculars, as well as insurance and property taxes).

Veterinarian was not a planned expense, but these kinds of things I put in here, and transfer from mid-term savings at year-end, if I end up negative for the entire year. I debated where to put it at first, and eventually decided to put it here. We could have lower than usual car repairs or stuff like that, so it works out. Or, likewise, I may decide to save more next year, in this category, since my cat is aging and will likely have more vet bills.

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I made sure there was enough in my money market checking, for the property taxes, and will just write the check some time in the next couple of weeks.

I added up the rest and netted it against my $2050 savings from my April 1 paycheck. In the end, the net was $607 that had to be transferred from savings. I just did the transfer today, which will easily covered my $40 checking shortfall on 3/31. So, phew, financial housekeeping is done.

When I have time tonight or tomorrow, I will go through and pay all the April bills. Ideally, this will leave me enough in checking, at 4/30, to pay the March credit card bill. I can set everything else to pay, eons ahead of time. (I don't like bills to get paid automatically - I like to review everything once a month and agree to pay things, rather than just have them drawn from my accounts. I find too many errors, etc.).

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Anyway, all that said, the financial tide is turning a bit:

*My cell phone is magically working again. Knock on wood. In fact, someone has a wrong # and called my phone a bajillion times. I am wondering if that is what killed the battery in the first place. Who knows - it is holding its charge now though.

*The network wiring we had done was only $50 (they had quoted us $70) and included the cables, etc. So, it was a much better deal than expected.

*Took the cat to the vet, and she seems fine. We are waiting for some final culture results on Monday. All the blood work and everything came back healthy as can be. She is 12 and seems healthy as can be, but just had been drinking an unusual amount of water - which is a sign of many things. Anyway, it was kind of tapering off by the time we took her in. I am just not accustomed to thinking of her as "old." We might be better about taking her in for annual exams. Her free pass is probably over. I added a few years to her life, I am sure, not putting her through the trauma during her healthy/young years.

She did okay and was quicker to forgive us than in years past. Phew.

Of course, either because of our youthful appearance, and/or the fact we hadn't drug her unnecessarily to the vet in many years, they look absolutely petrified to ask us to pay $100 for a urine sample. I mean, come on. They must have some pretty interesting exchanges with people. Instead of dragging her in for more tests later, we preferred just to get the blood work and everything. They seemed surprised and relieved. $250. No biggie. She's my "baby!" & I am relieved to get the blood work in already and know that it is nothing serious.

Spend, spend, spend

March 24th, 2010 at 01:19 pm

That's how it seems to be over here:

$2200 property taxes (due 4/10)

$1000 medical (just was billed the rest of our deductible for '10 - came much faster than expected - but beats bills that are still out in space, for years past).

$700 - Family camp (MIL may insist on paying; I won't argue. But I haven't exactly offered to reimburse her, because this month sucks. Will bring it up later).

Just paid:

$200 Summer Camp
$200 Tooth pulled at dentist
$70 For some network wiring @ home
$1250 TV & stand
$200 furniture for LM

I am sure there is more.

Oh yeah - taking my cat to the vet for the first time in 8 years. What can I say - when it rains, it pours. We did some of these big purchases because March is usually so low key. Rolleyes But, I won't complain too much.

Take a guess - do you think I am going to touch my emergency fund for a cat that hasn't gotten sick in 8 years? Um, no - ample cash saved for such an event.

Mostly, in that case, I hope she is okay. Told dh she felt left out, since we all have been to the doctor far more than usual, lately. (Dh and I usually go years between doctor visits, ourselves).

My cell phone has issues too. It is like 1 day past 1-year-warranty. Of course! I usually keep my phones for 4 years. So, not too happy. For now, just keeping an eye on it - battery is running down very rapidly. It's new enough that a new battery might make sense. But with 4 people on our cell phone plan, I can probably utilize someone's "free after rebate" phone. Cheaper.

The end result of all this is that I am really treading water when it comes to savings. Most of these are well planned purchases and not a biggie. (All of them?) BUT, I feel like for about a good 8 months, I can't catch a break and move forward. The more I save, the more everything breaks. So, I feel rather bah humbug all the same. *sigh* I feel like the universe will only allow me $20k cash savings. It must be the rule since having kids. I wonder if I toss all my savings into retirement if Murphy will go away. I can't help but wonder! Big Grin

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Dh did good at Target yesterday. HE bought $103 worth of items for $37. Not bad, not bad. Receipt says, "$66 SAVED!" For a total bill of $37. Sweet!

Actually, some sort of Toy Story promo so he got TS1 & 2 on Blu Ray, plus some movie tickets for the new one. I think he paid "$6" when all was said and done - for movies and tickets.

HE also had a "$10 off $75" coupon. He was going to stock up on cat litter and cat food. I had seen a really cute beanbag monkey for $30. 2 weeks ago. I might have bought it, but had scored a beanbag monster on sale for $7 a few weeks ago. SO, couldn't really stomach the $30 price tag. Figured I'd keep an eye on it.

SO, I told dh if he had a $10 off coupon and had to work so hard to use it - to just get me the monkey! I consider it $20.

Dh had a pile of other coupons and bought some food on sale. SO, there you have it. & I got my monkey, too boot. Big Grin (Though since it was still there I can't help but wonder if I should have waited longer for a discount!)

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Reminds me in a roundabout way, about an interesting conversation with a friend this weekend.

She is one (of many) who has presumed I didn't have to pay for my own college. I am too financially successful to have "done it on my own." She's actually about 10 years my senior, and has serious issues about her parents not paying for her college. OF course, there is a lot more to it (like, an absent parent was going to pay, then flaked out). Not quite the same, obviously, as parents like mine, who are extremely supportive but expected me to work hard for it, all the same. I certainly understand why she is PISSED!

So anyway, she is a good friend, and honestly, I've never had the heart to tell her that I actually worked and paid cash for my own college. Doh. IT's not like it would make a difference - she's got issues on that subject.

SO, we were visiting this weekend and she starts griping about her 1-income friends. Which is a little uncomfortable. She tells me, as a conclusion, "I just don't understand how people do it!"

At first I was looking over my shoulder. Is she talking to me? Does she remember that my spouse hasn't worked since I met her many years ago? But I think it was more than that. She's got some snotty "friends" that I don't care for at all - who put her down. I think she was just more griping about them than anything. Maybe she was posing the question, "How do you do it?"

As far as the snotty friends - one is on the brink of foreclosure, so they say, so not sure I would care about them bragging about "better finances." LOL.

But anyway, even though we long planned for our current stage in life, I told her frankly, that after taxes and daycare, there wasn't much income to be had with dh working. Of course, I tend to be very private, in real life, when it comes to finances. This blog is my venting place. I love talking about personal finance. BUT, I realize most people don't want to talk about it, and in general I tend to be pretty private.

BUT, I told her that I knew that many people thought I made more than my spouse and that we would have to make six figures to do it. I told her that honestly we were both making $50k when dh stopped working. BUT, that it isn't like we gave up $50k in income. We gave up about $25k income, because our tax bills went down by about $25k. & the other $25k could easily be eaten up by daycare, commuting, work clothing, etc., etc. I mentioned how we eat home cooked meals 99% of the time, whereas I know they eat out like every meal. That makes a HUGE financial difference. The plain truth is we give up a few thousand dollars a year. Of course people look at that at face value, and wonder how you surviv on $50k less a year!

OF course, we are much younger and we didn't have that much to give up. It's not like we worked for YEARS in a career and just gave it up. We were just starting out - so it doesn't make a huge difference one way or another if dh has to start all over, in the workforce, in the future.

I don't think she will ever quite *get* it until she gives it a whirl. But she has been working hard on her finances and aims to cut back her work hours in the future. I told her I could help her run the tax scenarios - she would probably be surprised how much tax money she'd save, cutting back her hours.

So, dh was off scoring bargains at Target yesterday, and I thought of my friend. Was just thinking how it is like his full time job to keep our living costs down, in any way possible. This is the stuff that other people just can't *See.*

Of course, we are so LUCKY all around. OF course.

So LUCKY that we have such an excellent public school.

So LUCKY that dh scores any gaming systems, accessories, games that he wants through buying/selling video games.

So LUCKY that we can get any book free we want from Scholastic (through volunteering).

So LUCKY that people will always offer us NICE hand-me-downs.

The list goes on and on. I suppose that is the flip side of the coin. Do people think that we really just sit around at home, and all this falls into our lap? We are always searching out ways to squeeze a few more bucks out of our budget. To stretch our dollar a little further. But gosh, fierce money management can be a full-time job!

Dusted Off the Checkbook...

March 21st, 2010 at 08:36 am

**I really only write checks to the school any more. I suppose it will be a double whammy with income taxes and property taxes. Income taxes could be paid online pretty easily though. Leaves old fashioned paper checks for property taxes and school "donations."

Anyway, wrote a couple of checks - hadn't written any for 2010 yet - and don't expect any more for a long while.

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**I didn't watch more than the first 5 minutes of Suze, but she was talking about a cash movement. I felt she was being kind of harsh on the credit card companies for starting to charge annual fees. I suppose to the uber responsible of us, we remember the days of annual fees and don't mind paying a fee for all the convenience and security. So, eh.

BUT, if the cash movement wins and paying with cash is universally discounted, I suppose I could see going the way of cash. Interestingly, I have never really used much cash in my lifetime. I use to shop with checks until I turned 16 and started mostly shopping with credit. Before the days of cash rewards - but it was super convenient. I have never really been a "cash carrier." It is only the last year or 2 that I have given up carrying cash for under $5 purchases though. Now I really never carry cash (But for a few $20 bills laying around, for emergency).

But I suppose I would change with the times, to save a few bucks.

I don't really expect this cash movement to take off. But, will see!

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**Real estate is still manic depressive here. It's the only word to describe it.

Real estate is still in the toilet. Only 3 homes sold in my zip code this past week (which is absurd - usually there are at least 20 sales - many more in regular times).

The news is all doom and gloom.

& yet, everyone I know is currently buying a house. The bidding wars are same as they always were. 100 offers on a house? Boom or bust - it still happens.

Did I say, manic depressive???

I think the thing is that there is so much pent up demand for home ownership here. So many people priced out for so long. & investors swooping in. I know a lot of locals have dreamed for $100k median prices, and I just have to roll my eyes. The magic number seems to be $200k. Anything under that - someone from LA or SF will snatch up, sight unseen. Even if no one local wants to buy. Our city may be more investment property than owner occupied - those have got to be interesting statistics.

Anyway, I read in the paper, along with the "100 offers for decent properties" that though all the statistics were in the toilet, some insane amount of homes were currently in escrow. Expecting a good spring, here.

No surprise. I know a handful of people in escrow, myself. Our next door neighbors, renters, just moved out. & a quick perusal of Facebook shows a LOT of my friends, and their friends, in escrow.

I meeting with one of those friends today. Will be interesting. She told me at some point, almost like she was embarassed, that they could only afford a $200k mortgage. Um, okay. (I personally wouldn't borrow much more than that, myself. But I realize everyone thinks we have a $300k-$400k mortgage. Because we are too young to have got a decent price and who would put any money down???)

Considering where they bought it sounds like they probably bought a pretty expensive home (From my perspective). It will be interesting to hear more details. I think they cleaned up their credit and in the end qualified for a lot more than $200k.

The other interesting thing is that at face value, this person is smart and waited out the bust. BUT, the reality is they would have bought a $500k home if they could have qualified. Terrible credit meant they couldn't play the game. Anyway, now they are talking about moving in a couple of years. They are buying the house to "get rich quick."

YEah.

So, I will just smile and be happy for her.

It isn't like I haven't said, "Are you sure that is really a good idea?" At this point, the house is in escrow and I just have to support her.

I have had similar discussions with some of my clients. Cash and stocks sucks. So I have one client who is snatching up properties left and right. That will get them rich overnight, of course.

Oy vey.

So the market is manic depressive, and no one has learned anything.

Contrary to the masses who are walking away from their properties without a care, most of the people I know who foreclosed were emotionally and financially devastated. They are just too embarrassed to talk much about it. It should be a requirement to sit down and talk to one of these people (who foreclosed) before buying a house in this city. IT could solve a lot of problems.

Feeling Blessed

March 19th, 2010 at 09:50 am

What a week it's been. Ugh.

Mostly just work crazy. I really only have 3 more weeks of "crazy," which I find hard to believe. It will FLY right by. Then life can resume to "normal"? I can only hope.

Of course, though it's been a rather crappy, crazy, stressful week. YEsterday was AWESOME!

I snuck out for a nice lunch date with dh. Lord knows when our last "date" was. On some level, the kids are getting old enough that we no longer feeel, "OMG, get me out of the house, we need alone time!!!" So it's not like we haven't spent any time together or missed our dates. But, it was still nice to make some quality time together, all the same. Not like I have seen him much, this month.

So, yeah, we had a really nice lunch. Then we went to BM's parent-teacher conference. Since he is all signed up for the after school care now, he just went there, so dh and I could eat lunch and meet with his teacher privately. Worked out well.

I actually almost didn't go, because it has been so busy. I didn't really care that much. Didn't expect any surprises. Teacher communicates plenty so didn't expect any "news." & the last one went so well that I joked that the only direction BM could go, was down. But really, I expected a pretty uneventful meeting. Maybe more of the same. Clearly, dh could handle it alone and fill me in later. But I changed my mind in the end, for whatever reason.

So, we had heard his teacher would teach the next grade up (2nd grade) for next year. I figured odds he'd get him again were slim, though he is one of the best teachers ever and such a perfect fit for BM.

SO, he tells us if we want BM to stay in his class, he can. O.M.G. Sign us up!

The other thing is that BM is very bright and can be a bit of a handful. As his parents, we know that as long as he is mentally challenged, he can be the sweetest angel on earth. & hell, we don't expect that 100% of the time. But, you know, if the teacher told us he was bouncing off the walls, we wouldn't be terribly surprised. So, instead, another perfect report. I don't expect my child to be "perfect," but it pleases me because I know that it is because he is happy. He is exactly where he needs to be, and he gets to stay there another year. I couldn't be happier. I know that if he had the *wrong* teacher, they could tell us our child was hell on wheels and has issues. It's just how it is.

I also didn't think about it until later, but I am just amazed that we have been able to get through such a tough time without affecting the kids too much. I mean the kids little worlds could have been turned upside down with dh's surgery and everything. So I am super happy that we didn't have to turn their worlds upside down and that they seemed to have made it through rather unscathed. I am so grateful for our family stepping in and helping to make a very stressful time a bit of an "Adventure" for the kids.

And score one for frugality. My kids go to public school. Honestly, I would be hard pressed to find a better school for BM. If I truly believed my only options were my "assigned public school" or one of the insane expensive private schools in the area, I doubt I would be so happy today. Dh and I, on the contrary, feel pretty strongly about education and know there are tons of options available. We are just extraordinarily lucky that this school just happens to be walking distance from our home! & chalk another one up to luck - two years with the most awesome teacher ever...

(I do recognize that our expectations are now infinitely high. But, could have worse problems).

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

Switching gears to the not so happy...

Dish was never able to come up with a signed contract. BEcause we never signed one. Doh! I thought maybe they would just leave us alone (no - didn't REALLY think it - but it has been a long time since we dropped them).

BUT, the big bad bill arrived yesterday. $50. For breaking an imaginary contract.

I don't know, I could write them a nasty letter, report them to the BBB and fight it a bit. Oh, I will report them to BBB though I don't expect it to amount to a hill of beans. They already have some insane amount of complaints about their business practices.

Dh is a FIGHTER, but he is out. He told me last night he didn't want to DEAL with them any more. I won't write a check ASAP, but I think I will just write the check and be done. I have so many friends who don't understand. Who would fight to the death on these things. & dh generally runs in that category. But considering his recent surgery and all, I told him not to worry about it.

I think what helps is dh calling them in the past and spending hours on the phone with them to remove $50 here and there that were maybe more grey areas. I figured he probably saved us at least $100 that they could have fought more. We tried to fight this one and aren't getting anywhere. Being a glass half full type person, I can look at the big picture and just get over it. They can win this battle, but we have won a few and we would certainly never give them our business EVER AGAIN. Plus I will tell everyone who will listen not to use their service.

Don't get me wrong, it will take a lot of will power to write that check. The pure principle of it. But if it means my dh doesn't have to spend another few hours on the phone dealing with the most frustrating people on earth. Well, HE is worth the $50.

Writing is my strong point so I will write them a nasty letter. Something along the lines about how their service sucked, glad to be rid of them, I don't agree, but I value my health and my perfect credit record too much to deal with this any longer. (I do tell you I Was tempted to ignore the bill if we couldn't reach a resolution. On principle it is probably the best idea. But reality is that we will have to keep fighting and fighting and fighting. Even if it ends up a fight with collections or something. Ugh. I've got MUCH better things to do with my life).

This is just one area I often don't agree with some of my more extreme frugal friends. I just value my happiness and time too much sometimes, to deal with BS like this.

Plus, usually dh is the type to pick every battle. So it kind of works out. I don't remember the last time the 2 of us "gave up" on something like this. Happens once in a while, I suppose. This is the last I ever want to speak about it or think about it, that is for sure! Life moves on.