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Archive for December, 2010

Panic Mode!

December 31st, 2010 at 02:32 pm

I am in panic mode because I finally got a surgery date. There was a cancellation and so it will be in less than 2 weeks. (Scheduler told me my alternative would probably be March. Ugh!) February would have been fine (preferred). The big deadlines are 1/31, 3/15, and 4/15. BUT, we aren't in the throes of tax stuff yet, too much in January, so I think it will be easier for the rest of the office to pick up my slack. Maybe January is for the best.

Timing is terrible because I have a big audit next week. I was actually hoping to get out of it with surgery. Wink Instead, now it will mean I won't have time to do much else before my surgery. Very frustrating - hope it goes fast and smooth.

To mitigate the panic (& financial side effects of missing 2 weeks of work) I will probably just work every day until the surgery. I was probably going to work Sunday, anyway. So, will enjoy today and tomorrow and then will work every day for about 10 days.

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In other news, I got my nook. Love it!!! The down time of surgery recovery means I will catch up on some TV shows and maybe finish my giant book!

Dh just got some series from Blockbuster - Mad Men? DVR is filled with "Breaking Bads" and we are going through "IT Crowd" on Netflix. I hope it doesn't hurt to laugh - that seems like it will be perfect medicine - will save it for recovery. We have 2 seasons to get through.

I kind of prefer Netflix or Blockbuster as far as just sitting down and watching an entire show. It has its pluses and minuses. Kind of leaves you wanting more, I suppose. But it's hard to get through without a chunk of time off work.

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I'll probably delay some fiscal chores until my recovery.

I already paid all the bills for January. Will have to finalize the credit card payment when it closes Monday.

Today I updated all my mutual funds (made sure all the balances in Quicken matched my actual balances - made sure all dividends posted, etc.). I am actually pretty darn close to $99k in retirement accounts, in the end. Lots of dividends I hadn't downloaded yet.

When the stock market closes (well - when the mutual funds post their closing prices), I will update my net worth. We may be up $3k for the year. After two years of losses, I'll take it! It was a fairly good year, but the house lost value, which hurt us the most.

I got paid, so transferred the last $1k to our IRAs for the year.

I entered all our holdings in yahoo, at 12/30. Close enough since no transactions today. This way, it's easy to keep an eye on stock market returns throughout the year. I just login to yahoo and look at the "year-to-date returns." Though I don't bother tracking every purchase throughout the year.

To do in recovery mode:

Print out year-end statements for all accounts. (Most are online - I just like to have something in paper form just in case).

Calculate our stock market returns for 2010.

Compare 2010 income/spending to 2009.

I usually print out some reports, including net worth, to keep in the long run.

I will also need to print out all the year-to-date numbers for our tax deductions. I already filled in our tax return with preliminary numbers so have a good idea where we are at. Expecting refunds so will file as close to Jan. 31 as possible. (I usually wait until Jan. 31 for any stray 1099s, and to make sure the software is updated, etc., etc.). Last year I filed early enough to avoid an IOU from the state. Since I unfortunately expect a bigger refund this year, I really don't want to get into IOU territory. I suppose the banks took them anyway? I didn't have to deal with that so will be new to me.

I know - I won't even bother risking a refund for 2011. Not from the state!

Our tax situation is so simple. My gross pay = my taxable income, and so I just use my 12/31 pay stub to file my taxes. All of our investments are in IRAs, and so there is no tax considerations. I can run Quicken reports for our interest income (& mortgage interest expense). We don't get any 1099s that I don't already have the info for. But I suppose it's a "just in case" thing that I wait.

This is one reason mortgage pay down is one of our primary goals. We could invest, yes, but we have enjoyed the tax simplicity of not having taxable investments. Throwing extra money at the mortgage keeps it simple.

Making Progress

December 29th, 2010 at 07:01 am

2010 was a crazy year, but not too much to complain about financially.

I've already discussed the goals I met (or didn't meet) and will probably look at the year more in depth after the 31st passes.

But, I suppose this is my official "met my 2010 goals" post.

Financial Goals:

$11k to cash savings
$4080 to ROTHs.

I was unexpectedly able to make my ROTH goal by 12/31. Will do the last transfer when I get paid tomorrow. May have dh run to the bank to me just to get that taken care of.

Basically, put $1k per month to savings, and expected a $3k overtime bonus. With dh's surgery, I think I only got $2500 in overtime pay, but was able to work it out. Had some interest and credit card bonuses, etc. About $15k saved for the year, total.

For the big picture, I achieved my $15k emergency fund goal. Cash is at about $25k today. I give up on $30k. Seems the best I can do at the moment. Dh may get a job this year and if so, we would get this bugger to $30k finally! Impossible on one income, I suppose.

Anyway, I saved a TON to cash, but we also had a lot of expenses. When I look at it all it makes my head hurt. Vet bills, dental bills, home maintenance, medical bills. etc. We plan so hard for these things, and yet seem to spend it as fast as we save it. I am trying to save up for car replacements. Thankfully I expect our cars to last MANY more years...

By the same token, since we were flush with cash, we admittedly took on some long put off purchases. Which just compounded everything.

For 2011?

On the horizon I know we will need to spend $500-ish on some home maintenance, but I think we just need a "no spend" year. Though I Can't help the "emergencies" or things breaking. *sigh* But cutting the discretionary spending will help. It's hard to imagine anything to want for after 2010.

In other financial doings, my retirement balance sits at $98k. What a milestone, huh? If the stock market can behave a few months - will pass the six figure mark.

I am expecting a $1500 tax refund, and can make it $2k if I put $2k into my regular IRA. I am tempted, because it would officially put us at $10k (MAX) for the 2011 calendar year.

I suppose I won't decide until after my surgery - see what the cash situation is. I think it would be smarter to put to cash, but it is tempting. (Tax refund is due to medical deductions - so that is something. May be the same situation for next year).

The mortgage will also tempt me. I think we will get the balance down to about $202k this year. I am tempted to put the payroll tax holiday towards the mortgage and get closer to $200k this year. It's psychological, but I suppose 2011 is shaping up to be an interesting year in reaching these sorts of milestones. A $200k mortgage balance will mean we have paid the first $100k of our home off. Big Grin

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Financial Goals for 2011:

I put them on my sidebar - but here it is.

$8k to cash savings
$8k to ROTHs

I am putting $625/month to ROTHs and expect to hit $8k total with credit card rewards. Is 10% of my expected income.

$5k to cash yearly seems ample for long term savings (car replacement, home maintenance, etc.). Medical deductible is $3k and I know it will be spent next month so have to replace it again. (I can hope not to spend it in 2012??? But as long as dh has MRIs, will burn through the deductible quickly - so may be more years. My surgery isn't even the half of it!).

Any windfall or extra money would go first to maxing out ROTHs and then to paying down mortgage. I don't have any other financial goals - nothing else important on the horizon. Retirement, mortgage, retirement, mortgage...

With the payroll tax holiday, I don't feel the rush for dh to bring in some extra income. I suppose that and knowing we get to keep our low tax rates a couple of more years. But, I may encourage dh as far as mortgage paydown. He doesn't seem that excited about retirement savings (maybe because he has been "retired" for a decade?) but he seems to feel much more passion about paying off this house. SO, I may encourage him to find some work this year to pay down the mortgage a bit. I think it just depends on the motivating factor, somewhat. So, I will play the mortgage card during the next school year. As much as we don't *need* the income this year maybe, the longer we put off the inevitable the harder it will be. I just don't foresee making our aggressive savings goals in our current one-income situation. We both have higher long-term expectations. To pay off our mortgage in the next decade, for one.

Nook & Tennis

December 27th, 2010 at 08:29 am

I didn't get the Nook yesterday.

I decided against it because wasn't very pleased with the library system. Dh decided to check it out (very smart). The website kept freezing and the ebook selection seemed VERY minimal.

I even looked at some bigger libraries in other cities that I knew I could get access too. They seemed to use the same system and so it just kept freezing and had no better selection.

I Felt rather "eh" about the whole thing at that point. Decided to keep an eye out for a sale. I can get a nook for $100 out of pocket now. & maybe be worthwhile if I can get one for even less. But I am in the middle of a giant book/series at the moment, so maybe I should just give it a year (or two!)

That said, I decided to peruse the free Barnes & Noble titles today. There are A LOT. Much better selection than the library. (Or at least, easier to browse).

On a whim, I looked, and the book I am reading right now was on sale for $5. It is like 1,000 pages. All the books in the series were $5 today.

For $120 (+ tax) I think I can get the Nook and all 4 books. I have $100 cash from Christmas. (My mom also gave me $60 for groceries/gas, which I really didn't need, so will use that to just buy the series I am reading).

I am excited! Since I already have these books, I didn't really think it was feasible to buy the ebooks. But $5 seems like a steal.

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This week is the "busiest" deadline week of the year for me. It's not the longest week I will work. I think it always feels so crazy because it is only a 4-day week. I worked a few hours yesterday to lower my stress level a bit.

Anyway, when I drove home from work yesterday, the skies were sunny! (After weeks and weeks of rain - the sun may have peeked out while I was at work some days - but I haven't seen it much). We had gotten tennis rackets for Christmas and so when I got home we hit the tennis courts. Was a perfect day (not too cold). BM is an absolute natural. He did much better than I expected. Dh and I did better than I thought. (We used to play raquet ball a lot. Not sure I've played much tennis, took a while to get used to the ball not being quite as bouncy as a raquet ball). We were terrible, of course, but warmed up pretty quickly.

I don't know how long it will last, but the kids enjoyed doing their own thing and helping keep score. For a while, BM tired out and kept score while LM "played." Since LM didn't do much, dh and I got some decent practice in. We have 2 courts and they played in the second court while we warmed up, too.

They have family classes through the city - very affordable. At the least, BM and I will take a class in the spring. Maybe all of us.

I had to share because with all this snow talk, we were playing tennis in the sun. Wink

More Christmas Spending

December 26th, 2010 at 10:52 am

I had just tallied the Xmas spending in our last post. But maybe I spoke too soon!!!

We got a free Kindle from credit card rewards.

We LOVE it, but have decided in the process that the nook is more useful. (Our library does not check out books in a format compatible with the kindle, being one of the main factors).

Anyway, that unexpected $50 gift card from a client, was for Barned and Nobles. I haven't perused the website too much, but I know there probably isn't much I want to buy from B&N. (I am sure I could find something, but nothing on my current want list).

On a whim, I opened up the website and started to look around. I thought, "Gosh, what I really want is a nook!" Dreaming of checking out ebooks from the library...

I called dh and said, "I think I want to buy a Nook!" He said he had just read an article that in households, there is an 80% chance is one person has an ereader, someone else in the household will get one. Basically, he wasn't surprised.

Of course, if we get the nook, we will fight over it, for sure. Or it may lead to the purchase of a second nook, in the near future...

At current, I am thinking of buying the nook from Target (I can get 5% off with my RedCard). I will peruse the internet for other deals. Then I can use my Barnes & Noble G.C. for a nice cover and maybe a couple of books? OR, I can pay full price there and just use my gift card. Depends what comes out the cheapest in the end, I suppose. None of the B&N coupons I can find apply to the nook. Figures!

If you see any good nook sales, let me know. We may just go buy in the store this weekend. B&N, Target or Best Buy. The sweetest deal we can find (there doesn't seem to be much in the way of deals at the moment). I buy so much online - I am excited to pick one up in person. Though, I may hold back and wait for a sale.

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ETA: Wanted Nook because dh kept telling me he thought it was better. But now he is researching all the other e-readers, to be sure. Will see. Nook is the front runner, but maybe no hasty decisions this weekend.

Christmas Numbers

December 26th, 2010 at 08:20 am

I think we usually spend about $500 for Christmas. This year, I didn't pay much attention, but we ended just about dead on at $500.

$60 Teachers, etc. (cash/gift cards)
$0 Scholastic ($230 worth of books for teachers)
$50 Boss gift
$20 Work gift exchange
$75 In-laws gifts (went in with sister/cousins)
$3.50 (for $207 worth of books/games at Scholastic).
$17 Bday/Xmas mom
$35 Bday/Xmas dad
$8 game for sister
$35 treated parents to lunch for bday
$4 Dollar Tree (stocking stuffers)
$50 easel/art set for LM
$15 Marie Callendar pie for birthday
$127 Other gifts for each other (dh, kids, moi)
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$500

As usual, we got far more cash than we spent. Worked out pretty well!

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We've got games coming out of or ears, here. Board games (LOTS), video games, etc., etc. I think the kids will find plenty to do this next week off of school. (Not that I was worried about it before Christmas!)

Oh - the big gift from my folks (for BM) was the Lego MindStorm. It's basically a robot building/programming set. It is SO COOL! Very expensive, and we all kind of thought it might be a bit over BM's head. In the end, it looks like it is right up his alley and he will learn a lot. Definitely a big score there. I am just pleased it turned out so well and am awed by how educational it is. That thing will keep him busy all year (there is so much complexity you can add to it).

Feeling Blessed & SA Meetup!

December 24th, 2010 at 06:34 pm

Feeling extra blessed this year. IT's just been a very pleasant holiday.

At work I got some divine isotoner gloves in the gift exchange. From clients? Homemade fudge and a $50 gift card!!!! Never gotten anything like that before. What a nice surprise! The boss actually gave us really nice work bags (very functional). & the usual bonus. Woohoo!

Just got home from Christmas with dh's family. It was more muted than usual. BUT, MIL always seems to bring more gifts Christmas day, so lord knows what she will bring up tomorrow! I got some clothing that I picked out, we all got tennis rackets, and I also got some new carry-on luggage. Some calendars. I think mostly stuff I asked for. We didn't get the roku box, but dh thinks we are getting that for his birthday. Will see. If not, we may use the Amazon gift certificate for that.

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Before the gift extravaganza, the kids and I got to meet up with an SA'er. FrugalTexan (Laura) !!! She was very sweet and we had nice meet up at the zoo. It was just kind of a frugal/neutral place to meet up. Was able to squeeze in a couple of hours. IT was our first SA meetup for the both of us.

She was visiting relatives in San Jose, where most of our family lives.

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We just got home and found our front door was piled up with cookies and cards. Feeling very loved this holiday season!

We probably get a few things throughout the week, usually, but just never seen it all piled up at the front door like that.

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My eggs hatched and I can cash flow that $3k ROTH contribution. That was my goal for the year, and I had intended to fund that with my tax refund. So, made the goal a little earlier than expected. Woohoo!

I was feeling hesitant towards the end of the year thinking I may need the cash for medical bills, etc. But, since I am also getting a decent tax refund, I will just transfer $3k into the ROTHs next week. Christmas cash of $1250 will help fund that. I scrounged $750 since I was able to start paying our health insurance with my credit card this month (& thus skipped the payment from the checkbook this month). The last $1k comes from my paycheck 12/31. I have been saving $1k per month to cash. That's the last big push. Next year will focus more to retirement than cash.

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The initial report on the neighborhood fire was "very minimal damage."

BUT, today I heard that the family was staying at a hotel for 3 months (estimated) while the damage is fixed. Wow! We may have $50 - $100 left at the end of the month (got $100 from my mom yesterday, too). I think we will just send it to the family. The neighbors put together a nice haul for their Christmas (their presents were destroyed in the fire), but I can't help but think they may be worried about shelter more than gifts. I think I would be! Will see if there is anything we can do to help.

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Tonight we have our own Christmas traditions, and tomorrow we will spend a nice day with our folks, at home. The fridge is filled with take and bake pizzas. We keep it very low key!

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To my SA family - Happy Holidays!

Christmas Crazy

December 23rd, 2010 at 07:24 am

**I still feel like I have been on full speed the last 2 days (& has affected my sleep - had so much on my mind).

I SO look forward to tomorrow. "Christmas" with the in-laws, and a meet up with a fellow SA-er! If I can manage to stay healthy. We tried last year. Now I remember why I ended up sick and canceling. But it was a bummer and I want to be healthy tomorrow.

Christmas will be nice, too. Nothing really planned - nothing much to do. Dh is picking up some "take and bake" pizza today. I'll make my 5-minute fudge sometime Saturday. Done!

Sunday I will probably work all day. But, I look forward to putting work aside for a couple of days, in the interim.

**I had almost forgotten LM's big easel. We put it together last night. Didn't take too long. It is SO COOL. I am SO EXCITED to give that to him.

BM's big gift will be from Grandpa. IT's some robot/engineering thing.

We don't always do big gifts. It's hard to compete with Grandma - easier just not to get the kids anything!

But once we got the easel all set up yesterday - I just got so excited. I know LM will be in heaven. HE loves to just sit and draw and draw and color all day.

If I can squeeze a few minutes from my work day I am going to hit the dollar store for some paint and erasers. Dh and BM were supposed to get that, but decided on a video game instead. In the meantime, the dry erase board, chalk board, and paper roll will probably be enough (he has crayons and marker for that). But I think the paint will be the best part!

**On top of the madness, we wasted about 3 hours watching a movie last night. Inception. Rolleyes

My dh is the movie buff and we had been waiting a long time to see this. I was relieved when brainy/movie buff said, "I don't get it." Neither did I.

*sigh* That's what I get for listening to hype.

I identified with these review:

"It's a bold, stunning feature of impossible technical virtuosity. It also has the tendency to be about as emotionally stimulating as a college lecture. " From rotten tomatoes

[url]http://insidemovies.ew.com/2010/07/20/inception-why-i-didnt-get-it/[/url]

"I found myself more or less entirely baffled by Inception. I tried, I really tried, to figure it out, but I just couldn’t get the hang of it — not really. For approximately two out of every three minutes the movie was unfolding on screen, my honest experience is that it was vague, obscure, scattershot, puzzling, confounding – and, finally, maddening. There were moments, of course, when I was dazzled. How could you not be? Yet even then, I had the feeling that those moments would have provoked virtually the same reaction of “Oh, wow!” awe if I had seen them completely out of context."

That about sums it up.

I can't help but see the potential in this as far as a TV series. There is a LOT to flesh out. But I couldn't help but feel that everything was just so HASTY as they tried to cram all that into one movie.