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Archive for July, 2010

Newspaper - Read the Fine print

July 31st, 2010 at 12:54 pm

Got a chance to talk to dh about the newspaper renewal.

I laid it out - past annual prices - $111, $111, $130, now $150.

I was worried dh would not be on board, but he said, "Are you crazy??? That's the newstand price!"

I suppose I had my answer, but as he ranted and raved, I told him they have to obviously see who blindly pays.

I am completely fine with buying the Sunday paper from the corner store, myself!

Which led to our next discussion. When we call to cancel, and they offer us something else, what do we do?

He told me honestly he didn't want to pay more than $100.

I grabbed the bill to hand to him, and was about to say, "Good Luck," when I noticed the fine print.

We could get the paper for $104 dollars per year, if we signed up for auto bank or credit payments.

I kind of think it is ingenious marketing. See who will blindly pay $150. BUT, have an option for the people who are going to say, "No way!!"

So, we didn't even have to call. We get the paper for $104 for the following year.

Of course, I am curious what they will charge us next year, then. Hmmmm.

& now I am going to pull out last year's statement and see if I missed this $2/week offer.

We can still prepay the whole year, which sounds good to me.

More Nickel & Diming

July 31st, 2010 at 10:24 am

**So, dh ran my swimsuit through the wash, and ruined it. Actually, I think it was the dryer. I have worn it a few times, since. I noticed that the elastic straps got messed up somehow. I don't let dh wash my clothes, and lord knows how he got ahold of my swimsuit.

I have made sure he never washes it again. Gah! (He's heard me whine enough about it!)

I notice it has holes in the undergarment part (I think those are new) and the rest of it has lost most of its elasticity. It's been wearable since it is a tankini, as long as I tuck it in. Otherwise it is just hanging on me - more like a shirt than a bathing suit.

I am annoyed because it took me a long time to find this swim top, and it suited me very well. I searched my blog. I did buy it exactly 3 years ago - for our cruise. I suppose I can treat myself to a new swim top, for HAwaii. I was thinking the bottom halfs were getting kind of tired looking (& I must have bought those years prior, since I only mentioned buying a top in my blog).

Of course, this is assuming I can even find anything, this time of year. Rolleyes

Kohls is having a big sale online, but the pickings are slim. I'll probably go try stuff and attempt to buy sight unseen if that is my only choice. At least the prices are good. Selection? Not so much.

The last one I paid good money for, but I figured I'd be keeping it a lot longer. I know 3 years isn't half bad, but it was perfectly fine before it met its fate in the wash. Looked as good as the day I bought it...

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**Dh bought a new filter for the fridge water. HE didn't tell me it was just about $50, *choke choke* It was about $45 last year, and $40 the year before. I think they recommend to change it every 6 months, and we just change it once a year.

I am totally fine with tap water - it is just easier to get water out of the door.

BUT, these prices are ridiculous. I think I will suggest to dh that we just change it every 2 years. We can also look harder for other places to buy the filter. He just bought it at Sears, where we bought the fridge. OR we could resume keeping cold tap water in a container in the fridge. The cheapest route, for sure.

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**As mentioned, I am hoping to talk dh into dropping our newspaper subscription. It has gotten so expensive.

Today, I also dropped our $6/month for green energy. We have a local/public electric company, and for $6/month all of our electricity comes from renewable resources. Not bad, right?

Our gas company is a private company and though I have looked at some of their green energy type programs, carbon offsets, etc., etc., I haven't heard much good about them.

On the flip side, have heard nothing but good things about our electric program.

That said, with everything going up, I am trying to slice where it is easiest. IT's $6 that we just don't need to be wasting at the moment.

If dh gets a job, we'll commit to the $6 again, and feel warm and fuzzy about it. For now, I feel like, "Take that!" Maybe relieved there is something easy to cut in our budget.

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But, I think this year it is all really hitting. Last year we didn't feel it so much. A lot of places were rather slow to raise prices. Work was good. We took advantage of rock bottom interest rates, and found some extra cash by refinancing. (Lowered our house payment $200/month). We ate out more than usual because of coupons galore. Even this year, we have been able to take advantage of record low prices for things like getting our house painted.

BUT, the tide is definitely turning. I did take a hit to my own compensation this year, and as things are renewing and government budgets are put in place for the new fiscal year, all of our bills seem to be on the rise. I don't remember a year like this before. Sometimes, a, b, and c will rise prices a bit, but x, y, z will lower them. It usually seems to even out. This year is just lots of economic pressure.

Though we are still getting a lot of good coupons - that said. Maybe even more than we have been. I have been getting $5 off Round Table Pizza and $10 off oil change coupons, multiple times a week. Those are usually rare treasures, even in this economy.

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In other news, my co-worker is getting her house painted for about $5k. She is the one who is refinancing. I referred my paint guy to her, and lord knows why they didn't go with him. Didn't even call him. They may have their reasons, so I didn't push it. But she was just kind of like, "We are paying for it with the refinance." The conversation was like, "We didn't shop around at all because the money is coming out of the sky."

I don't want to pick on her, because I like her, and she is probably more financially responsible than 90% of Americans out there (maybe 95%?).

BUT, I still can't get past this. It's like talking to someone and one day realizing that you aren't speaking the same language. & you didn't realize it before.

I mentioned before that she is about 15 years my senior, which is the part that is ultra mind boggling to me. In 15 years, I want my mortgage paid off! I know that may be a lofty goal, and maybe I won't quite make it. But I can't foresee anything that would make me so nonchalant about borrowing money against my house, as I approach age 50.

I suppose the important thing is that I mentioned all this to dh, and he was dumbfounded. What is important is that apparently him and I speak the same language. & it's nice to talk to someone who speaks the same language. Not, "IS it just me???"

I'll keep scratching my head as the topic of this refinance keeps coming up, but it's none of my business, I don't know the whole picture, and it doesn't affect me. & so life will move on!

This & That & When not to be Cheap

July 31st, 2010 at 07:05 am

My lazy days of summer have been replaced with crazy busy crazy. Yikes! What a week. 7/31 is a deadline at work, but its just one of those times where the stars aligned and everything went wrong. Too much client drama (divorces, fighting partners - stuff like that).

I told dh at some point, "This is worse than tax season!" But, it was only one week, and I feel like I have dug my way out. Phew. I feel a little more relaxed today.

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**Read an article in the paper about DIY security putting pressure on security firms. I can't find it online, unfortunately. I found the article kind of funny because I grew up in the land of engineers. Security IS DIY. So they were talking about DIY security stuff that we have had for decades. BUT, I do admit that the ability to unlock your front door remotely from the computer, and stuff like that, is a step up in an interesting direction. (The rest is yawn, a lot of this stuff has been around well more than 10 years???)

I also shared this because I notice random regional differences here and there. Anyone around here who cares about their finances does DIY security. I Was surprised how much stock other people (forums) put into those security monitoring firms. I think it comes down to regional differences. & I realize more and more every day, the region I come from is *Weird.* Big Grin

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**Speaking of this newspaper article, I got the newspaper subscription renewal. Dh fights to keep it every year. I pulled up Quicken real quick to see what we paid the last few years, $111, $111, $129. Now they are asking about $150. Ouch! At $111 dh told me it was worth the ads/coupons alone. I am not sure I will be so easily convinced this year. Will see!

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**I just got the notice from my credit union asking me to sign up for overdraft protection for debit card transactions. So they can charge me all sorts of fees when I go over.

Actually, I never use my debit card and I never have overdrafts. So, I will obviously NOT opt in.

But, I have heard some banks are pretty obnoxious about asking you a zillion times. I can't help but feel their measly $3 overdraft fee is not a HUGE moneymaker for them. But, I could be wrong. They are obviously trying to spin it, calling it a "New Courtesy program," to let us overdraft and charge us lots of fees to do so. Big Grin

The overdraft thing is just not anything in my realm of understanding.

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**On a final note, it has been asked in the forums, "What would you never scrimp on, or be cheap about?"

That is a hard question for me to answer. I can be cheap with just about anything, honestly.

But, a bell has gone off in my head a few times. My answer would be LEGAL SERVICES. Realtors and estate lawyers, come to mind.

I know a lot of people don't feel the same way, but a lot of people haven't seen as many people as I have, completely screwed over, losing tens of thousands of dollars going cheap.

We've done a fair amount of house buying and selling in our young lives, and we unintentionally ended up with a M.O. of sniffing out bad realtors on the other side. Particularly, bad selling realtors. When house hunting, this has never been particularly our plan, but this is always where we end up. Good for us, but all I See is money down the drain for the sellers. They'd be better off FSBO. I've said, you'd be better off with no realtor than with a bad one. (But a good one is worth their weight in gold!)

& then there are legal fees.

The biggie that I see a lot at work, is Estate planning.

The wisdom is that if you live in California, and you own a home, then you need a living trust. I think most people are skeptical of this advice. PArticularly frugal people. They don't really understand what a living trust buys them.

As I watch the drama unfold all the time at work though, I KNOW why I need to have my estate affairs in good working order. At the least, it takes a lot of stress off my heirs. At the most, it ensures my intentions are carried out, and not unintended consequences I didn't foresee.

Anyway, I share, because this week a client sold a house. She inherited it when her mother died, about 3 years ago.

Her mother didn't want to spend $1k or so on a will and living trusts. (Actually, in this case, this was not the reason - but I will pretend it is because it is an example I see ALL the time!)

This means that they had to go through probate court, to settle the estate. They pay a percentage of assets to the probate court, for all the legal fees and such, and after 2 years, the title is changed and everything goes where it should. As the sole heir, this was a pretty cut and dried estate settlement.

MEanwhile, she had to maintain this home for about 3 years (property taxes, insurance, etc., etc.) and got to list it in a TERRIBLE market. IT took many months to sell, and the house is worth about half what it was 3 years ago. So, she may have lost $150k in that.

Of course, the lost home value if the least of it. HAving to deal with all of this for THREE years after losing her mother, has been very hard. I have seen this over and over.

For comparison? Clients with living trusts, have been able to settle all of their affairs within a couple of months, and immediately put homes up for sale.

I had a client with a net worth of over $3 million, who passed away this year. Her entire estate was settled and distributed within a few months. Many different properties, etc. The legal fees to do so were a drop in the bucket compared to how much probate would have cost.

I understand this is a regional thing, too. But all I know is I wouldn't do that to my family. I spent about $1500 to make it as easy on them as possible, by getting a proper estate plan. Money WELL spent. I think the motivating factor is not even the money. BUT, doing so will obviously save our heirs well over $1500, in the long run.

Being Spontaneous

July 28th, 2010 at 06:51 am

Trying it our for a couple of weeks anyway.

I tried to book whale watching tickets, and the system online was clunky. I probably should have just called (but the place also said be patient about calls because phone was ringing off the hook).

Their tickets were refundable at least. Never heard anything, and so after about 36 hours, I Decided to just go buy from the most expensive place. It was $10 per person more than all the others, BUT clearly had the nicest boat. I suppose the price was a huge deterrent, because none of their weekend cruises were sold out yet. (All the rest are, at this point).

So I bit the bullet this morning. Was $150 for the 4 of us (service fees, too). I will call the other place later to make sure we aren't double booked.

Actually, I am ultra excited about the trip. It's rare when we randomly drop $150 on something, but I do believe this is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and am not stressed about it at all. It's more of a frugal victory. That we can drop everything and do this last minute trip. This is WHY we live like we do.

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Of course, soon after is our Colorado trip. That is a "Drop everything to see Grandma" trip. Kind of the same thing but it will cost 10 times as much, and will probably be a little less exciting. Wink But I suppose it is along the same vein.

After which, we can resume being boring! Big Grin

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LM did end up starting the pre-K program. It has been awesome. He is teacher's pet. He is the type who immediately loves or hates anyone, and so, I hope he isn't setting high expectations for his K teachers. I hope he isn't too upset when he meets the real K teacher. They are all sweet ladies, but with him, who knows. He will find something to hate.

The other funny observation I made is that BM prefers daddy and LM seems to prefer me. I couldn't help but notice that he just seemed in love with his teacher. He likes females more. It's kind of funny. BM currently has a male teacher and is in heaven. He lucked out with him for 2 years - I don't think there is another male teacher in the entire school. I would have said that it was because dh stays home, but LM has always been more momma's boy, regardless. He also has always had a lot of girlfriends. He just prefers females. So, I think BM kind of put up with kindergarten, but I can see Kinder being an ideal little world for LM. The K teachers are so maternal with the wee little ones.

Summertime...

July 25th, 2010 at 12:22 pm

**Aaaaaaahhhhhhh... Just enjoying a nice leisurely summer weekend.

I actually worked a bit yesterday (or a lot) and didn't get home until 2 or 3. It works out, because I didn't want to use any vacation time for Denver. It's coming up, and with July 31 being a big deadline, and me taking Monday off for a seminar, I really needed to get some hours in. Though I could probably work some overtime next weekend, it's more necessary THIS weekend! I just put my time to next week, and put everything over 40 hours next week, I'll put to the following week. Vacation time off, solved.

Of course, I was pretty beat from a long work week, when I got home, but after recovering, we decided to go to the pool. Unfortunately, dh doesn't find it as relaxing as I do. But I drug him along with his book - hopefully he got a little bit of relaxation out of it. Our neighbors ended up showing up with pizza, and I sent dh home to grab some popsicles to share. Kids were in pool heaven. The unexpected free dinner was nice!

We have definitely been going to the pool more. I told the kids we could go tonight, because I know I won't have to get IN the pool with them. It makes all the difference. Usually it's just more exhausting with weaker swimmers. But, we are definitely taking advantage of the amenities this year, and enjoying the difference it makes to take strong swimmers there.

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Today, dh left me alone with the kids, and they were a little stir crazy, so I told them we could go outside before it got too hot. Ah, the weather is DIVINE. Is about 80 degrees, with a really nice, cool breeze. Our front tree has gotten big enough to provide substantial a.m. shade (this is new), and the kids ended up drawing chalk on the sidewalk (mostly) while I did some financial housekeeping on my netbook. I just sat in the garage and told them to stick to the shade, ORELSE I'd have to get out the sunblock!

The sun felt much hotter, so wasn't in the mood to walk to the park or anything. It's supposed to be a 100-degree day. We try to enjoy the cool mornings and evenings.

Absolutely nothing planned for the rest of the day, either.

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We were thinking of going to the Star Trek exhibit, but it will be around until January, and we decided to take it easy this weekend. Then the whole whale watching thing came up, so probably for the best. We will probably go sometime in the fall.

I am not sure how whale watching will pan out. Between that, and the Pre-K program starting TOMORROW, we have to re-arrange all our plans with MIL. She was going to take one kid each, for about 4-5 days. Now we want to shanghai the kids in the middle of that, for this whale tour, but we will work it out. Plan A is to invite her along. Will see. Another Plan is to leave the kids with her, and sneak off to see the whales ourselves. Cheaper that way? Big Grin

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**We returned a few gifts that the kids got for their birthdays. Others, we left at Grandma's house. Was a good idea, I think.

MIL also sent down a pile of school clothing, so I will be able to take back some of what I bought. Turns out I liked the shorts she got better, and she did listen when I told her I did not need any shirts (got a bunch from Hanes, very cheap). So, I can take back the more expensive shorts that I liked less anyway. Phew!

This is a nice gift because the kids even have some pants now. All I really need is a jacket for LM (which can wait a couple of months) and maybe more pants come October. I can live with that.

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Yesterday I found time for a DIY mani/pedi. I have bright red toe nails and shiny/clear/polished nails.

Life is good!

Whales & Tax Dollars

July 24th, 2010 at 11:16 am

The city, or whoever, put a big median in the major road by our house, a while back. There was absolutely no thought put into this project. When we come out of our development, we can turn right, to the west, where there is absolutely NOTHING. OR we go left/east, to where everything is. But, it didn't occur to them to leave us space to turn left from our street. We have to go right a couple of blocks, and make a U-turn. YEah... This effectively doubles our commute to the school across the street, when we drive or bike. (Or we can go out another exit when we drive, which is less convenient, and means a drive down the speed bump road from hell).

Did I mention the school across the street? NO crosswalks!

I suppose we should feel lucky they left 2 spaces in the median to turn left into the school parking lots. Rolleyes

Anyway, at some point, they ripped out some of the median, and put in a crosswalk. A little more helpful for when we bike ride, but a bit too impractical for walking. We just jaywalk.
Since there is literally nothing to the west, there are no cars to navigate when crossing the street, so, eh.

Anyway, they just started ripping out the median by the end of our street. Could it be? We can turn LEFT again??? HALLELUJAH!

Ah, our tax dollars at work. Gotta love it.

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We may do a rather impromptu trip to Monterey, next weekend.

Whales crowd Monterey Bay to feast on krill bonanza
[url]http://www.sacbee.com/2010/07/24/2911782/whales-crowd-m...

Um, one 3-hour tour saw 80 whales, and almost 600 dolphins? & 8 blue whales???? (1 blue whale is a rare sight).

We actually went on a whale watching cruise once, in Washington. We didn't see any whales. No regrets though. The views were spectacular, and we saw lots of wildlife.

This just looks like an amazing "once in a lifetime opportunity." IT looks pretty guaranteed we will see some whales (Many!!). So, will see if we can squeeze it in. I just peeked and one place is sold out most of the week. But maybe we can get reservations for next weekend. If not, will have to pass up the opportunity. We have plans the following 2 weekends.

All that said, we may go down to the beach and watch them with binoculars. Will be our frugal alternative, though we may have to get there early to get parking! We can stay with our parents Saturday night and drive down to the beach really early, though. Lots of options.

But, I am liking the idea of the cruise, myself. Will see!

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Well, BM starts soccer next weekend. I suppose it will get a little busy with that.

I am still working on the piano thing. Formal lessons would be much preferable. It's too easy to slack off, and though I haven't had any issues for the most part, he was very huffy his last lesson. Lots of eye rolling and heavy sighs - that kind of thing. I see clear as day why it is a big no no to not teach your kids. But, he is still very open to it, so there is something. This is all my pocketbook has room for. (I should feel lucky this was the first "bad" lesson we had, I suppose).

I can probably get LM started, but I think one kids is my limit for now. Need to get in a better groove.

I can't help but feel the irony that the top of my list of what to do with more income is "buy piano lessons," when we really have more time for that commitment without each dh working. Figures!

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LM is never interested in doing anything, but both kids LOVED swimming lessons.

We paid $20 per lesson, I believe, for a top notch swimmer to teach at our pool.

We paid $30 per lesson for their last lessons. But our expectations were high, and their teacher blew our expectations out of the water.

The kids loved her and all that, but I got what I wanted. Better swimmers. I can't justify spending more money on that.

Dh is the one home with the kids though and he hears how much they want more swim lessons. He found someone who looks really good on paper who will come to our pool for $10 per lesson. ($15 for 2 kids at once).

I told dh that was nice, but BM starts soccer next week, and doesn't need any more swim lessons. I refuse to pay for him. That said, LM never wants to do ANYTHING. & I do not mind continuing lessons for him. We just finished preschool, and our pool is only open until Labor Day. SO, if he wants one more month of lessons, whatever.

Will see how we like the teacher. I told dh not to get his hopes up because clearly we had some top tier teachers already, and have high expectations.

Great Article, interesting talk with dh

July 21st, 2010 at 07:33 am

**We got dh's car back within a few hours of dropping it off at the mechanic. New rotors. I kind of guessed since he mentioned last time that they were iffy. No complaints, here. Our 2000+ vehicles have been AMAZING with the brakes. It could be our driving habits, here. We drive mostly freeway and not much stop and go. I was a lot rougher on my brakes when I was younger, but definitely did a lot more stop and go kind of driving, all the same. This is the first time on dh's car at 110k miles, and I am wondering when the van (@80k) will need brake work. We've always driven such old cars, before these, that the batteries and the brakes blow my mind. Both lasted 100k miles, easy peasy, on these newer vehicles.

Anyway, $300 to replace his rotors. Was our only car repair this year, thus far. With the way things had been going, I was sure it would be something in the $1k range. So, I am pleased!

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When we got home last night, I voiced to dh how frustrated I was with our savings pace, and how relieved I was that the repair was only $300. I told him I about gave up, since I have been trying to get to a $30k cash minimum, for the last 18 months or so, and how I can't seem to get past $20k, no matter what happens. I am saving $1k per month for this goal! But, far more expenses, lately.

While voicing my frustration, I told dh I was thinking of dropping the goal, and resuming retirement contributions, come 1/1. We will put a fair amount in this year (more than $0), but I would like to start 1/1 either maxing out one ROTH @ $400/month, or even better, putting away 10%. IT is critical since my employer took away our 10% retirement contributions this year. I need to start making them, myself.

(In addition, when we had no money to save, no expenses ever come up. I can't help like feel like I will be frustrated, until I put retirement first. It always seems to kind of work out).

& then I said, "The only thing that stresses me out is the vehicles. I don't see how having a payment would help, because it reduces how much I can save. I am stressed out that the van is catching up on miles, and now fear that both vehicles will need to be replaced around the same time. Maybe I should let it go and figure you will be working by the time we need a new vehicle, but it still is stressing me out, because who knows what will happen."

KEep in mind - we only pay cash for vehicles.

Dh told me, "Well, if something happens, we'll get a vehicle for a couple of thousand dollars."

I said, "Duh."

This still stresses me out, plenty.

Then the conversation got interesting. At some point or other (in the distant past), I vocalized that our second vehicle was a luxury, and dh didn't quite agree. I mean, he realized it on some level, but I think I would have quite a fight to ever settle on one vehicle.

So dh shocked the hell out of me, and says, "Look, if we find ourselves in a situation with needing to replace 2 cars, we can live with one. Heck, if one goes, we don't have to replace it right away. The kids are both in school now and we can walk or bike to anywhere we need to go, while you are at work, for the most part." The kids' school is just down the street.

I mulled on that a while, and he is right. I just needed that perspective.

It was very eye opening for me, because the only thing I am REALLY struggling with, on this one income thing, is replacing the cars at the level we have gotten used to. Both our cars were purchased in the $10k range. They are great and fine and will last a long time. But, saving the replacement cost has been daunting on one income. We are doing good on savings at the moment, but dh bought his vehicle in 2002, and most the last 8 years we haven't saved a dime for another car. I am still catching up for some lost savings years.

Of course, all that said, the $30k goal is probably more about the economy than anything. Emergency fund for unemployment. But, taking the car out of the equation, makes me feel a little lighter, all the same. So, phew.

I have been wondering how we can continue to maintain 2 vehicles on one income while maybe I should have realized it would be easier to give one up to prolong our one-income status. It feels like a "duh," moment. Dh would only give it up if the car died, though. Or needed an extraordinarily expensive repair.

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In other news, I read a good article in Money Magazine:

7 Secrets of Super Savers

[url]http://money.cnn.com/galleries/2010/moneymag/1007/galle...

Of course, the website article had 8 secrets!

This article was so good, I am going to make copies of the magazine version.

I have noticed MANY times over the years that people have been jealous of our income/lifestyle, and found that they might make double our income. Happens ALL the time.

A friend recently told me that she had no idea how "people do it." The 1-income thing, which she is working very hard towards.

I read this article, and it sums it up pretty well. I am thinking, next time someone asks me that question. I will have to hand them this article? There is no one thing - it is a sum many differences in lifestyle and money management.

Nothing I haven't already said in this blog, probably.

Of note, "The simple act of tracking what you spend can help you spot places to cut."

I have never been very big on the budget. I don't set a budget for every spending category and track it every month. What I do do, is track my spending in Quicken. I know where every penny goes, and every single month I review it to spot problems, early on. It could be as simple as, "Dang, we really spent a lot on groceries last month. We will have to rein that in this month." I really just eyeball it, and if something is amiss, we can fix it immediately. I do try to stress to people, that you don't have to obsess over the numbers. You really just need to know where you stand!

The article also toted automatic savings. This is the one thing that I did not do before, and I have found has been very beneficial with a tighter budget. I save $2200 every month. It is a bill like all the rest, to me. I have to live on what's left after all the bills are paid, and that $2200 is transferred to savings. We save far more with this attitude. With much bigger incomes, we were used to saving "whatever was leftover," which may be 50% of our income. IT wasn't a bad thing. On one income, we find that nothing much is ever leftover unless we pay ourselves first.

Anyway, I am sure many SA bloggers will identify with this article!

Nickel & Dimed & Other Stuff

July 20th, 2010 at 01:01 pm

Just got the "water" bill. In general, it went up about 10%. It is really water/sewer/garabage/whatever. We have a city and a county bill. They equate to about $112/month now (up from $100). Maybe more, since I haven't got the county bill yet, for July 1 (new fiscal year). Ouch!

Metered water is optional here. Our city has a terrible reputation for wasting water. Only about $5 of the bill was for summer watering. Only $15 was the metered portion that I can control. (I averaged $10/month before watering season). Not much I can do about most of the rest of the $100.

Gotta love it!

It just figured, since I was just tallying up everything:

$9/month Netflix
$9/month LM's new allowance (up from $0).
$9/month Cable increase

We lost our cable promotional rate, this month, apparently. I looked over the bill, and we still get a substantial promotion for internet, for a few more months. So, by 2011, will be full rates. Ouch. Overall, seems to be worth it. Went from "bottom of the barrel" cable and internet to "top of the line." The sad thing, is we get like $100 if we refer people to Surewest. BUT, the 4-5 people I know we could talk into it (our more techie friends) all live in the Bay Area. & Surewest, for some logical reason I am sure, does not provide service there. But, I think they really should! The second they do, I know I can earn a pretty penny in referrals.

All these increases are being financed by the fact that I am saving $150/month on preschool expenses. Though, I was hoping to save most of it. But, that does justify the Netflix and cable increases, for us. I am just not enjoying everything else seeming to go up in $9 increments. It ALL adds up.

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Well, in other news, took dh's car in for squealy brakes. I am crossing my finger for it to be "nothing." Interestingly, they were squealing like crazy, and then stopped squealing. So, who knows. We have just been too busy/lazy to take it in. BUT, he wanted to go on a long drive with the kids later this week, to visit family. SO, told him I wanted to get the brakes looked at first. The only reason we had put it off was because they stopped squealing before we got around to taking it in. But we hadn't been driving the car much, either. I don't like messing with brakes.

Real Estate Update

July 18th, 2010 at 08:52 am

Another frugal day.

Yesterday we swam (LM is getting so much better in the pool. Will be 3 days in a row, today, but the practice has been awesome for him. He's got one more lesson).

We went to a free event at the museum. They had an awesome/hilarious magician. Was a great night.

Today we have friends over for pizza (take and bake from the grocery store - they have the best tasting/very low priced pizzas). Heading to the pool again.

I Was going to work, but dh talked me out of it. It's been a little busy, but I did remember that if I work next weekend it will be easier to apply it to my Denver vacation (I don't want to use any vacation time). So, I put off the inevitable, one more week.


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I haven't had much in the way of real estate updates, because, nothing is going on. Hardly anything is for sale. Just lots of empty homes that the banks have been too busy to foreclose or to try and sell. Kind of a mess.

BUT, there was some recent activity.

A single story home sold for $257k. Another for $235k. A 2-story home sold for $276k.

Most of these were short sales that have been sale for like a year or more.

This is good news. We owe just over $200k on our home, so we still seem to be in good above water territory. It is hard to tell when absolutely nothing is selling.

Anything priced $199k has sold in a flash, in recent years (bidding wars, even), but with all these short sales, the banks ask way more than market value. They haven't learned much. They've got homes sitting for months/years when they could have unloaded for about the same price by just asking for less to begin with. Gotta love it.

(To be fair, most of the $199k prices had been foreclosed homes - some of the banks act like they really do want to sell - and they sell FAST. When they ask $199k, they might get $230k because then there is a frenzy. I find that psychology so fascinating. Most people ask too much and don't get anywhere).

ETA: A few homes went up for sale recently. They are all "upgraded to the hilt" variety and ALL are short sales. The bank seems to be coming around to short sales - I don't think we have really had many before now. They are starting to see the light that a short sale may be easier/better than a foreclosure?