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Archive for November, 2010

2011 Goals

November 30th, 2010 at 03:12 pm

I usually keep my goals pretty simple. That said, I don't really have any new goals for 2011. I am just cutting and pasting a lot from 2010.

Financially, I only expect to put about $8k in our ROTHS (about 10% gross). But, I will stretch and make my goal to max out for 2011. If nothing else, we are starting contributions in January, and I can use next Jan, Feb, March, April to max out. IF we are in a good cash position in Jan 2012, we can max out.

Our cash savings will be $400/month come January. I need to work enough overtime to cover our medical deductible (2012). Otherwise, no idea where that will come from. Those two add up to $8k. & interest and credit card rewards, etc., go to cash.

Of course, come fall 2011 I expect my spouse to be working a bit. Our primary goal will be to build up cash. Then, mortgage pay down would probably come second (assuming the ROTHs are maxed).

HOUSE - I completed some long range goals in 2010, but pretty much ignored the shorter term goals. Will try again for 2011. (My motivation feels about a 0 at the moment. Too much other stuff going on).

PERSONAL GOALS - those are all about the same. My quest to read a book a month in 2010 ended up being about 1 every other month (Which was good). But, now I got this giant series to read. Dh read it in a year, so I can certainly read it in a year!

I am pretty content at the moment, so my main goals are the financial ones, and it's good to keep on top of the house stuff, because there is always something!


[ ]$8,000 to Savings ($5k house/car & $3k medical)
[ ]$10,000 to ROTHs (Max)

[ ]Fix Gutter
[ ]Plant Fruit Tree (February)
[ ]Replace Kitchen sink caulk
[ ]Paint BMs room (maybe)
[/]Price Security Screen Door
[ ]Price Security Upgrades
(I was going to move the last 2 to "buy," but expect too many expenses in 2011 with house and medical. Same story as 2010).

[ ] Read "Game of Thrones" series
(like, a million pages?)
[ ]2 weekends away, with just dh
[ ]1 camping trip
[ ]More trips to the cabin
[ ]More biking & hiking

Money Shuffling

November 28th, 2010 at 06:59 am

My plan this year was to bump my emergency fund from $12k to $15k.

To do so, I was going to add $3k to my cash ROTHs.

I expect a $2k tax refund due to all the medical bills (& thus, many one-time tax deductions). I will file my taxes in early Feb. and apply the refund to our 2010 ROTH contributions.

I've been waffling back and forth on that other $1k. It was my goal all along, but next year I will be sacrificing cash for retirement savings. I don't know if I want to tie up another $1k in retirement (even if I could easily pull it out in emergency!)

Anyway, I was just paying all the bills for December, and seemed flush with cash. I finally figured that since I was charging my insurance premiums (new feature) that I was skipping one month of payment. Since I don't have to pay for the December charge until the credit card bill was due in January.

Wala! I rounded up and put $750 as a transfer to my ROTH in December. I expect $250, easily, in Christmas cash to cover the rest. Problem solved!

It's cheating a little, but this was a really unexpected benefit to being able to charge my insurance. I was just looking forward to the cash rewards. Big Grin

Insurance Insurance Insurance

November 28th, 2010 at 02:55 am

**Weird. Got an "overdue bill" for my supplemental life insurance. It was due 10/1. !! I looked back and couldn't find the bill, nor any payment for it.

No idea what happened with that! Set to pay it immediately, of course.

**While at it, I needed to transfer some money over to pay that (rather unexpected). So, decided to transfer the money to pay my property taxes, homes insurance, etc. December is a spendy month! About $4k in bills, money transferred, checks ready to mail.

**While at it, looked on line for the 10th time (on a whim) to see if new health insurance rates came through yet. Nothing, as of Wednesday.

Glad I checked! New numbers were there - so I could pay the December bill, etc.

Our insurance went up 12%. No surprise! I just worked $100/month increase in the budget. In the end it was $77 increase.

Of course, it was even better than expected, since they now take credit card payments for premiums. (They have always taken cc for everything but the premiums).

So, I figured I will earn about $15/month in credit card rewards, with that bill alone. Phew!

Other good news? Absolutely no change to our plan. I am not 100% sure if my surgery will be better in Dec or Jan. Financially. In the end, I don't think it will matter much. So, I don't have to stress about that. (If they raised the deductible or something like that - then it would be time to panic!)

Our health insurance is absurd, as usual, and gaining very fast on our mortgage payment. But, the flip side of the coin is I feel we REALLY got our money's worth this year, and we didn't pay much of anything after the deductible. (Knock on wood - still a month to go!). But, I am rather pleased with it.

In addition to all that, dh will probably be working next year, and can help shoulder the costs. IT would really be the only reason he needs to work. 15% of my income to health insurance - it's gotten pretty ridiculous over the years.

Free Deals

November 26th, 2010 at 06:02 pm

**I just finished ordering my free 8x10 collage - Walgreens.

Decided to just do some Hawaii pictures.

It's a good promo because Walgreens is the only store we have within walking distance. (Can pick up in store). I was checking out their picture options and comparing to Shutterfly. One of these days I would like to print out some of our photos. Since the digital age, our pictures primarily seem to be stored online. I am sure there is lots of competition out there, too. But Walgreens is pretty darn convenient.

So I figured, what the heck. Print some Hawaii photos. We have some frames laying around. Will think of Walgreens next time I need photos. (Said could be ready in one hour! Pretty sweet!)

**I have $3 free MP3 from Amazon. I will have to ponder what I want to get since I paid for a few MP3s rather recently. It had been a long/dry spell between promos.

Of course, if I can't think of something, I am sure dh could use it (he already spent his free $3).


I think free collages and free MP3s will be the limit to our Black Friday purchases. We have no shopping plans for today.

Sometimes dh is enticed by something, but this year only the online deals have been enticing. I know he has been picking up some Blue Rays on deep discount this week.

Happy Turkey Day!

November 25th, 2010 at 04:52 pm

WE always host Thanksgiving. We got the job when we moved to a low cost area - we have more room than anyone else in the family. BUT, I also enjoy not having to travel for the holiday. (Now that I think about it, since we stay home for Xmas, and a local cousin does Easter, we don't travel much for holidays - how did that work out? Big Grin )

Anyway, but we do a potluck. Dh made some casserole and I whipped up my "5 minute fudge" and boiled some eggs this morning. Dh and kids helped a little more than usual with the cleaning. When I got home last night, the dining room was cleared and they had put out place mats and decorations, etc. Phew! This has been the easiest one thus far. (Maybe not so easy when the kids were smaller! But now they can help!)

This year, I am MOST grateful for having our entire family together for T-Day. I have hundreds of things to be thankful for, but that is the biggest one. Dh's Grandma is not getting any younger, and lord knows what we will do without her. She does the turkey and stuffing! So, I am grateful to get one more year of her expert turkey & stuffing, my dh's help, my dad's gravy, etc., etc. Everyone does their part, and after having so many health scares the past couple of years, I feel blessed to get another T-Day with ALL of my loved ones.

Happy Thanksgiving!


P.S. Something else to be thankful for - the day our new external drive arrived, the old one started working. Not terribly reliable, but dh is getting all our files back, and says he rescued my spreadsheets. Woohoo!!

Just Chugging Along

November 21st, 2010 at 04:08 pm

Trying to get as much done for T-Day as possible, because lord knows how next week will go.

Dh is handling the groceries/food, but we've been kind of lazy around here. The fam is helpful with picking up and vacuuming, but I am the only one who scrubs anything.

Yesterday, admittedly, I spent most of the day on the couch. We all seem to have this lingering cold thing, which isn't too bad, but doesn't leave much "umph" to get anything done. Which I think is why the house looks like hell - we haven't felt well the past 2 weeks.

So, my goal is to work until I drop, today. (Then maybe sleep all afternoon!)


IT doesn't help that I Was asked not to eat/drink 4 hours before my biopsy on Friday. In the morning I asked dh to bring me a big refreshing soda when he picked me up. I had some snacks. I usually snack constantly, and I figured I'd be starving. I told him I was going to need a sugar infusion.

Later, I changed my mind. I said, "Just bring me water!" I was SO Thirsty.

Yesterday, I just felt thirsty and told dh I felt like that is why I went a step backwards. So I drank a ton of water yesterday and do seem to be feeling better today.


Credit card update:

I resisted calling AmEx about weird charges that had not gone through yet. I am glad I did.

The "BMW" charge completely disappeared. I finally realized that our dinner the other night was a very similar amount, and narrowed it down to that. Doh!

IT wasn't the BMW I was thinking of. Wink

So I stared at the $109 and change cellular charge wondering what the heck it could be (still hadn't cleared), and it finally hit me that I just paid the cell phone bill. (What threw me off was the name and city it was showing up as - which made no sense).

I just knew I hadn't spent $100+ on anything, so was determined to figure that one out.

In the future, I will do as AmEx advises, and not pay attention to anything that hasn't cleared. Wink As they cleared, the proper names showed up on my statement.


Today I whipped up an excel sheet, because I haven't had a chance to have dh dig out some older copies. (Says he has a late 2009 backup, which I can start over with for 2011).

I am mostly waiting for November to be over, to see where we stand for the year. Any unplanned expenses in December can be charged and paid in January. With using the cards, we are always paying last months' bills, so just how it is.

Having Quicken up and running has been MUCH better, but still feeling a little blind without my excel sheets. This will get me through the end of the year probably. Phew!


I did some unexpected Xmas shopping yesterday. I forgot that the kids are expected to buy gifts (both of them this year) now that they have allowances. It's kind of dh's rule, and I am still adjusting.

Well, this is the first year that both kids are buying, and I found the perfect gift for them to go in on for dh. (Usually we just pick up something random last minute, because I forget?)

So, I am pleased with that.

I actually found a random catalog while cleaning up, that had a lot of gag gifts. I was trying to get ideas for my mom, and funny enough, didn't get any ideas. But, I found the perfect thing for dh. & then I saw this cute mohawk hat that screamed BM.

But, let me back up. I used to be a catalog shopper, before the days of internet. A habit I picked up from my mom, I suppose. With the internet, I generally get ideas from the catalogs, and then search out deals on the internet.

It doesn't always work out so well, but yesterday worked out pretty darn well!

The comic book set I bought for dh was on sale at Amazon. I grabbed something else from the kids' wish list to get the free shipping. (I am not sure we will give it to them for Xmas - but I rather buy that than pay about the same amount for shipping anyway).

I initially found a similar $40 hat for $15 on Ebay. I was actually pretty set to buy it, but on a whim did one last search, and found it for $5 at Children's Place. Score! This hat had a lot of negative reviews, which I Was set to ignore (it's a hat!). But, I peeked, and was glad I did. Complaints about the sizes running REALLY small. Which means the Ebay one would have been a waste. They had bigger sizes, which I ordered. phew. I also found a 20% off coupon online, so the hat ended up being $4.

I then did ask BM to help me find something for LM on the site. Might as well - was going to have to pay $5 to ship the $4 hat. There were some REALLY cute hats, but they were all baby sized. Which makes me feel even luckier that I got such a large sized hat for BM.

I gave up but they also had scarves for $4, and BM had been wanting one. I think it was more meant for toddlers, so will see. But it's $4 down the hole if so, and we know plenty of toddlers. The scarf I have in mind for a stocking stuffer.

I'll still keep an eye out for something for my mom, but if I don't find anything, I won't sweat it. We have gotten very casual with gifts over the years. We pretty much just buy my dad FOOD!


November 19th, 2010 at 02:03 pm

I don't remember November ever being like this. It's like the stars aligned at crazy. It's usually my slowest, most relaxing time of the year. Will have to pass that up for this year!

Just a lot going on - work, home and everywhere.


I am pleasantly surprised by our HOA. If nothing else, they do seem to have their finances in order.

Our first HOA (condo) was fine. No complaints. However, the fees were $250/month when we lived there (included cable, some utilities, and some nice facilities like clubhouse, pool, racquet ball courts, and stuff like that). The fact that it was an uber high cost of living area probably didn't help. Last I saw, the fees had risen to $400/month. Ouch! Glad we sold the place 8 years ago.

Our current HOA? Maybe a little more particular, but not much bite. (I'm to the point where I would complain more about them letting homeowners off easy - which I never thought I would complain about. But the economy has left little in the way of *pride of ownership*).

We just got notice that our dues would go down this year, by $5/month. (They are lower than they started at 9 years ago).

We bought in the community new, and they sent us a note this week that though they had completely paid off the clubhouse this year, they were not going to reduce our dues in light of foreclosures and lack of payment from many owners.

Honestly, I think it's a miracle they had the foresight to stay solvent. They also have an almost 7-figure repair reserves (which means I see more due decreases in our future. They are playing it WAY safe, but I have no complaints about that in the interim). In the end, our dues have stayed rather steady, even decreasing slightly, even while the economy has all gone to hell.

& I never thought I'd see the day I'd praise a HOA. Wink

So hey - good financial news!

The dues are around $72/month, but not apples to apples with our condo, by ANY means. For one, our HOA doesn't own our walls and roof!


The kids finished their first trimester. Had conferences yesterday.

BM? He has the same awesome teacher as last year and is in academic heaven. I didn't expect to gleam much from the meeting.

LM? I was curious because though he seems to be doing great, and is mostly pretty "go with the flow" he has his difficult/stubborn side.

So, I was relieved that they both had glowing reports from their teachers. WE always get lots of compliments from the teachers, but I can't help but feel it's the school and the teachers who should get the compliments. (I know we raise our kids to be respectful, and that we emphasize doing well in school, but they can be a bit of handful if not properly challenged, etc. I can't take all the credit for them being VERY happy in their school environment). This is PUBLIC school, so I know it is a huge blessing.

I am also completely amazed by the technology factor and how they utilize technology to keep our kids challenged. I am still reeling from this whole lexile reading thing (which I wish they had when I was a child!), but now they are doing similar things in math. BM will have a completely custom/computer generated math curriculum come January. (Is that cool or what?)

Anyway, pleased with the kids' reviews, we treated them out to dinner. Their choice was Sizzler. Yum! We have a really nice one with a pretty big buffet. So, we ate well. (I think the kids chose it for the dessert factor - make your own sundaes).


Got my dishes:

I think they are just beautiful! (The red is more of a deep maroon - love love love).

Out of 48 pieces, we had one broken bowl. So, maybe best I couldn't cancel my online order. Out of 3 boxes due to arrive, I think I can fish out one intact bowl.


I've been flying blind on my finances. (My Quicken data in limbo!)

It doesn't help that with the Target card, transitioning out the Chase, and that not everyone takes AmEx - we have been regularly using 3 cards, plus some straggling expenses on the Chase. Make it 5, since dh insisted on using his own Chase. I finally talked him out of that - because moving from one cards to 4+ is driving me a LITTLE crazy - but will be a couple of charges there. (He is concerned if we need a backup Visa since the AmEx is so limited. I told him I would carry his card in my wallet - in case we ever needed it. He couldn't possibly carry 3 cards. Rolleyes )

So anyway, yesterday I had a few moments to sit down with dh and assess the Quicken situation.

I didn't lose ANY data! (Happy Dance). Over the weekend I need to search for any remnants of my excel sheets. Those, I probably won't be so lucky with (since he didn't back those up!)


The Fidelity AmEx is interesting because they show transactions before they authorize. They have all sorts of disclaimers how not to call about those transactions because they have not posted.

Anyway, a weird charge for $2-ish had posted, which I have to ask dh about. It could possibly be for the online backup site.

But, in the "not cleared" area was charges to BMW, a cell phone company, and other companies I never heard of. I Was googling them all to clarify.

Um, seriously? We have had the card 5 minutes.

The thing is I don't think I can call to make a fraud claim because they haven't posted. Rolleyes I will read all the fine print on that later and maybe call them anyway (after I check with dh).

I am less happy with AmEx by the minute. Maybe time to shop some Visa reward cards. (Not that this has to be an AmEx thing, but who on earth could have our credit card info? we just got the cards)!

To be continued...


Turkey Day - we provide the turkey and the place, but not much else. Maybe a few sides, etc. Dh is going to do some shopping today.

Xmas - Not much to do. I got LM that art stuff, and my parents are giving BM a hugely expensive gift (something nerdy - robotics thing). Dh will fill in the rest with his Scholastic vouchers - he is volunteering 24 hours or something (so means about $500 in books - though will donate most to the school). BM's teacher told us last time we donated 8 hours, he got 300 books from that. IT's a non-cash way to make a HUGE difference. His goal is to add 500 to his class library the next Scholastic sale. !!

Anyway, Dh's family is big into Xmas and he may buy some things, but I am not sure I will bother buying anything else for anyone. Maybe a work gift exchange and stuff like that. I prefer simplicity and a non-material Christmas, myself.

We don't necessarily buy big gifts for the kids every year. I didn't buy the art stuff for Christmas, but since we found something big for BM to open on Xmas Day, (even thought not from us), it seemed appropriate to hold the art stuff to Christmas, too.

The kids will get a zillion gifts from the in-laws, which is why we don't bother much with it. They don't seem to notice or care. As far as they are concerned, "Grandma" is in charge of Christmas gifts. My parents don't even usually buy them anything, and they are too small to think that is weird. Books and games from Scholastic are perfect for stockings and a couple of gifts under the tree.


I've been writing down all our misc. purchases, and after adding everything from the credit cards today, that dh didn't tell me about. I think we have about $11 left for the rest of the month. In fact, may need it today for co-pays.

It's a work in process!

Money spent?

Medical $10
Gifts $20
Parking $10
Eating Out $70
Babysitting $15
Clothing $50
Music Downloads $5
Misc. $9

Today, I am going to sit down with dh and tell him how we have no more money for the rest of the month. (I can pull co-pays from medical savings, but rather not. The savings is for more substantial expenses!)

So, if we cut our gas and grocery spending through the end of the month - will buy us wiggle room. I need to immerse him in my own world so I don't have to do this every month. (& I have to take our spending limits more seriously, myself). We both have room for improvement.


November 17th, 2010 at 07:52 pm

Got my CU's online deposit to work.

No more trips to the deposit paychecks! Will be real nice...

It took a little trial and error to get it to work, but not too bad.

Dh had some cash from his focus group, so will have to run to the bCU to deposit that.

Dh didn't see what the big deal is, (since I usually go on the way home, or he goes while he is at the grocery store or gas station right there), but he often forgets to make deposits for me, which makes me anxious. I think this will make life much easier. & considering we don't use our scanner much, might as well utilize it more.

We scanned it last night, and it showed up in my account around 11am today.

Updates & Links

November 17th, 2010 at 03:40 pm

Get your Fico score for free:

Text is and Link is

I wasn't able to get mine (Easily) due to fraud alert on my credit bureau accounts. I didn't care enough to call and all that jazz. But I did check dh's score. I think it was 796 (as opposed to usual 800s) but we have made a mess with 0% credit card balance transfers and all sorts of activity the last few years. I'll take it (& assume my score is very similar). I don't remember the last time I saw his score, outside of our last refi.


Adoption for cheapskates

Text is and Link is

Here was a good post. I knew state of California was very generous with foster-to-adopt program (will pay you quite well to adopt a baby. Yes, they pay YOU!)

A relative of ours has adopted two siblings, and had them both since the day they were born, through this program. (There may be more siblings in her future - the biological mother has 10+ kids in the system already. Very sad, but has been a blessing for our family).

What was eye opening about this post is that other states have similar programs.

It's a good reminder for those facing the high cost of adoption - that the state will pay you to take babies that no one else wants. I think people focus so much on private adoption, that they lose sight on all the unwanted babies in this country.


Made an "impulsive purchase" of sorts.

We actually just asked for cheap dishes/silverware when we got married. We may have bought some of it. I don't remember spending much of anything.

The funny thing is that we get endless compliments on our cheap/plain dishes. Okay then!

They are getting worn, tired, chipped, and some broken/trashed (10 years later).

So, I know dh has talked about replacing them, or buying some supplemental dishes at least.

& then I saw them. I saw the most beautiful set of dishes in the Kohls ads. I looked them up online, and it was even better. Free shipping and glowing reviews about how sturdy the plates were and how much everyone's guests always loved them.

So, I asked dh when he got home, and braced himself. I thought he would hate them. He said, "Fine by me."

I felt bad purchasing them, because it's been a rough year, and it's really not a need. BUT, we decided to just get 12 sets (cheaper to buy sets) and keep the old plates as a backup (for large family gatherings and stuff).

Truthfully, I just bought the cheapest thing I could find to start, and have never loved them. As I went back and forth over this set, I just looked at them and thought, "I have never seen such pretty plates before. Those are mine!" & I finalized the purchase.

I spent about $180 - the sets were 50% off between coupons and sales.

Though the shipping was free, there was a surcharge, and I couldn't use my $10-off coupon. So, dh may be able to get the total down to $160 if he can find them in the store. He said he would double check today, for me. Big Grin

IF we can't cancel the order, we may be stuck with the shipping surcharge, but still worth a try to save $10. I know returns are easy with Kohls - we can just return to the store.


I hit target the other day and tried my new RedCard. BM had absolutely no non-school pants that fit him any more. I ended up spending about $50 (new pants, a couple of shirts, socks, underwear). Plus, saved 5% off that. Not bad, for a new wardrobe.


The weather here has been pretty warm. I am out of the heat contest as of Sat or Sun. Probably Saturday. I was upstairs putting away laundry and stuff like that and it was just FREEZING. I told dh that I knew I would survive, but that it was probably a good idea to test out the heater and make sure it was still working. Before winter really hit. (I was justifying, but I think it was a good excuse!)

I heated the upstairs to 68 and took a luxurious shower. The sad thing is that it got hot after that and the house has been mostly 68 - 72, in the days since. (I think warmer than otherwise, since I did warm it up about 8 degrees!)

This time of the year, there is really no point to go cold turkey. Turning on the heat 15 minutes for some extra comfort can't mean much to our gas bill. BUT, the longer we draw it out, the better I think we do in the winter.

I'd still like to make it to Thanksgiving, before turning the heat on again, but not holding my breath. We got a cold spell this week and it's already in the 30s outside. Hasn't gotten inside yet (still 68) but I think I will be cold in a couple of days! There is a big/cold storm coming through this weekend. Feels like spring to winter, overnight.


Anyway, I am pleased with my plate purchase. I justified it as a birthday gift (b-day in a couple weeks) - I may get the cash to pay for it. If not, will get Christmas money.

Next year I feel we will really be tightening the screws, so hopefully that is my last hoorah for a while.

When we first had kids, our budget was so tight that it was hard to justify much of anything. I have been spending the last couple of years replacing things around the house and making LONG put-off purchases. I Was looking at the stockpiles around the house of stuff I have been buying on sale. Or, if I find something I really like (shoes, bras, whatever), I just buy extras for later. (That's a function of being picky more than frugality).

I think we are well equipped to have a spending freeze of sorts for a while. Phew!

For Jeffrey (& Chase Funny)

November 16th, 2010 at 09:26 pm

Today, I was just listening to a random radio station that was doing it's little trivia (to make you listen to the commercials - asks a question and then answers at the end of the commercials, I believe).

I was just about to get out of my car when the Trivia question asked was, "How much money is Jeffrey Strain trying to prepare an entire Thanksgiving meal with?" Something along those lines.

I know the answer to that one. $1

It was 92.1 in Sacramento. Big Grin


In other news:

Um, I got an E-mail from Chase reminding me all about how they are changing my cash rewards to way less favorable terms.


You would think they would sneak that into the fine print, rather than shout it from the rooftop! I already got the clear as day letter about this.

I just think it's funny. Am I supposed to be excited and happy about this? ???

Did they notice I haven't used the card since I received the first notice? Wink