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Archive for September, 2011

Friday Doings

September 30th, 2011 at 01:21 pm

**The day after the latest Game of Thrones ebook became available at library, so did Book one in Stookie Stackhouse series.

I am a fast reader, so no biggie, except GOT is 1000+ pages! Thankfully, Sookie book is pretty average. (They both had mile long wait lists - so it's now or wait another 3 months or so).

Game of Thrones - book 1, 2, 3, and 4? were pretty fast paced and hard to put down. Last one really dragged for me. This one was starting slow, but barely having found any time to read, I am 500 pages in. It is starting to pick up, so it is possible I will finish this weekend. Maybe next weekend I can start the Sookie series.

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**Oh, yesterday was interesting. Went to San Francisco for a seminar, but it was cancelled at the last minute. Of course, ENTIRE OFFICE had gone. It's only about a 1.5 hour drive, but 3-4 hours in traffic. I was the least inconvenienced as I had stayed with my folks and took a leisurely drive in around 7:30am (versus leaving Sacramento at 5am). I picked up my roller skates, my mom hemmed my pants, and I had quality time with my parents, and a full nights' rest.

Of course, if it was just me, I would have played hookie. But, figured it was best to head back to work since the boss was well aware class was cancelled! Had to cancel plans for dinner and drinks in SF with friend. Mostly wasted a tank of gas.

Maybe saved $35 in food and parking in the process. That's the only good I Can say about the whole thing. (But, I'd rather have spent the $35).

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**Today I made another deposit in the stock market. Market was on *low* side (low is relative). Just regular contribution for October because not sure when I will get my paycheck or if I will pay any attention to the stock market on vacation. I sent the money to Vanguard - I can just pay the mortgage when I get my paycheck. Mortgage bought me some float, with its 16 days or so grace period. I am too lazy to move money around from savings or anything like that. Then it gets complicated. Mortgage money pays the ROTH. Paycheck pays the mortgage. I don't have to juggle anything around though I might get my paycheck 10 days late. (Beyond paying mortgage and credit card by the 30th, generally, not much else is due the rest of the month).

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**I was approved for Citi card - will earn another $300 in rewards.

They never called for identity check. (Chase has left me voice mail messages before, anyway, so no messages meant no calls, I figured). I was just getting a chip on my shoulder about how they really don't want my business! But I got an e-mail to call them in 30 days or I will be denied. Still not quite feeling the love...

BUT, when I called they told me I was approved. So, I guess that makes up for it. I've applied with several other credit card companies in recent months, and no one has given me approval with an identity check. So, hey. Good news! (Their identity check was pretty weak, by the way, but they did check).

For reference, Chase asked me how old my MIL was. Like heck I know. LOL. I just knew she was recently eligible for social security, and they thankfully gave me a wide age range. But it was like, "Do you know someone named Mary Smith? Can you tell me her age?" & now I have revealed top secret security info. I didn't even realize.

Citi pretty much just asked me public/easy to find info. I was unimpressed. Especially because they used the e-mail I used on my application. Basically, their process would not stop an identity thief. When my ID was stolen they knew my address, phone #s, birth date. The point is supposed to be to contact me through the phone # listed on my credit bureau account. Not reply to any old random e-mail from someone claiming to be me, and asking the same stuff I already put on the application. Rolleyes Though they may have used caller ID - to be fair. I did call from a number on my bureau report/fraud alert.

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In other news:

**Car passed smog (phew) - I told dh to take it in because it wasn't acting up so much this week.

**Along same lines. Downstairs toilet was leaking like crazy the other morning. It would NOT repeat for dh. WHAT THE HECK? Just like my car. Anyway, dh had bought parts to replace innards for all toilets, at my earlier urging. Because when it happened in master bath, I was relieved I notice, but water had clearly been leaking for days. (& toilets are all same, bought at same time - new house 2001). I figured lord knows when we would notice in kids' bathroom! But dh hadn't got around to replacing those, and I was greeted with spurting water everywhere the other morning. (My "I told you so" moment. Well, except he thinks I am totally crazy because toilet would not even drip one drop for him).

Dh obliged anyway - I am still nagging him to get the kids' bathroom which is the only one I am REALLY concerned about.

That & This

September 28th, 2011 at 05:29 pm

Came home and told dh I was glad he didn't go to the bank yet (to deposit rewards and anniversary money). I was just thinking how we should probably keep the cash for our trip. Was having a conversation with someone how I NEVER use cash. I believe last time we went to LA we did not need ANY cash, but got me thinking how we should probably take some just in case.

Anyway, so when I told dh I was glad he had not gone to the bank... HE said, "So am I!" & handed me a wad of $20 bills.

His mom is still feeling extreme post retirement generosity. $200 for our trip. Woohoo!

Funny thing is that our budget is about $500 (that's EVERYTHING) and so upping the budget to $700 is pretty darn sweet. Like, maybe this is a wee bit more realistic. $500 pretty much covers travel and theme parks, so $200 might buy us some food.

{$500 is just all we have left from annual $1500 vacation budget. I figure not commuting to work, or buying groceries at home for a week, could buy us some money for food. Or pull from other areas of the budget. Truth is we are meeting several friends in LA and will probably just pass it on by treating for dinner. They always offer to treat us, but I refuse to have single friends pay for the four of us. Maybe I shouldn't. Should ask dh what his other friend does. I don't mind paying for all the starving artists, and all the recently divorced friends, etc. Of course most of them in LA are the starving artist types. & even if not, their rents and mortgages make me cringe. So I am going with that assumption - will be treating a few dinners}.

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In other news, did you see that Amazon slashed Kindle prices today? If you were on the fence at all...

Dh was eyeing Amazon's new tablet, assuming price was $250-$300. He's got the credit card rewards to get it for *free.* Well, they also announced a price of $199 for their new tablet. Wow!

We don't expect much from it, but since we can get it for free, we will buy it. To try it out. We can always sell it if we don't like it.

This & That

September 28th, 2011 at 01:58 pm

Why Emergency Funds can Provide the Best Return on Investments

[url]http://www.mymoneyblog.com/why-emergency-funds-can-prov...

Amen to this! Very good article.

Unfortunately, the benefits of keeping cash are rarely spoken about. Particularly in this type economy (with abysmal interest rates). This just kind of puts my own feelings into some very good words.

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Nothing much to report on the cable transition. All that really matters is that dh is content - he is the cable lover in our house. Time will tell...

Anyway, as my initial feeling was, I didn't think I'd really care less one way or another. So, I'm maybe watching different shows (some), but other than that, nothing much to report. Streaming everything to the TVs (roku). Using a different remote control. Desperate Housewives has been waiting for me on Hulu (since Monday morning). Monday night we purchased and watched an AMC show that aired Sunday. (Thanks Amazon)! I think TV habits will remain pretty much unchanged in our house. Just WAY cheaper in the end. It's kind of like just switching cable providers, for me. (Dh is more proactive in getting the shows on Hulu, buying them on Amazon, etc. For me it kind of all magically appears. Big Grin )

It's only in the last few months that the technology is there - let's hope it stays this way for a while. I think we prefer that "buy what we want" style versus "pay a bajillion dollars for a bunch of stuff we don't want and a few things we do want." I hope that is the way all this trends for the log run.

I'd be totally content with Netflix streaming, honestly. But I am not the only one in the house.

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I am pretty much in vacation mode. Wrapping up some big deadline stuff at work. BUT, going to San Francisco tomorrow all day, and vacation soon after that. So, eh. Just trying to get things done, and looking forward to a pretty non-work week and a half or so.

It's funny because seems like lots of kids will be going to Disneyland on break. The kids got these BRIGHT orange spirit shirts at school this year. It's usually blue or green. Lord knows why bright orange (did they get a deal on the color)? Anyway, I told the kids to pack their shirts so maybe they could find some of their friends. Plus, harder to get lost when wearing bright orange? Win-win?

We live so close to Disneyland (5 hour drive?) it's not really a big deal thing. It's more of a decent weekend trip most the time. For us. What we will be hearing from the other families? (OR what we usually hear, anyway)? You DROVE? You drove in the COMPACT CAR? You only went to Disney ONE DAY? You are not staying at a DISNEY hotel? But, with the economy and all, I am kind of curious if that will be the same story. I am actually surprised so many people are going.

Anyway, if the kids were 6 feet tall (& they probably will be soon enough) I could see the compact car might be torturous, but since they take up absolutely no room in the car - whatever. We've done it before and we will do it again. The car gets almost 40mpg - of course we take that one on big drives. Maybe what they are really thinking is, "You are driving that OLD thing?"

Sometimes just feels like we are from another planet, is all!

But yeah, stopping at Disney was kind of a last minute decision - it is not the focus of our trip. So, this is by far the most slimmed down DISNEY trip we have done with the kids. I don't know if it matters - all the comments I mentioned above were in reference to more grand Disney trips than this one.

Mortgage Milestone

September 25th, 2011 at 10:05 am



Was just paying the October bills since we will be on vacation soon. Making sure everything is in order and paid ahead of time.

I am not 100% sure, but think we have reached the milestone of lowest mortgage balance ever. $201,333. Woohoo! (Hard to tell because all I have record of is some mortgage payoff when we sold our first home - the payoff included interest).

We are on track to hit $199,999 by 12/31. I expect a $250 Christmas bonus, and so just have to scrounge $165 Christmas money to top it off. $199,999 will most definitely be the lowest mortgage balance we have ever had. Big Grin

& so I welcome FORWARD PROGRESS.

Story is that our first mortgage was $210k or so (for just a condo). But we traded for a luxurious home (+ yard and garage and stuff like that) for a $230k-ish mortgage. My dh also got laid off and we had a child, so we dropped the 15-year mortgage. Which basically means it took us, oh, 10 years to get back to where we started. A $202,000 or so mortgage. But, you know, no complaining here. The infinitely nicer home, and the spouse not working for a decade - all that is 100% WORTH IT. But I am just excited to make FORWARD PROGRESS. Versus, owing as much at age 34 that I did at age 24.

In another 10 years, we pretty much expect to have our home paid off. (I can handle the 15-year amortization, and dh doesn't need to bring in that much income to knock off 5 more years).

Woohoo to forward progress!

The super plus side is that we were paying in the realm of $1800/month for a smaller mortgage in the year 2001. 15-year amortization. For the next year, looks like we can cobble together $1400/month to the same end (15-year payoff). Low mortgage rates are definitely not all bad. (We can't even justify refinancing below 4.875%). That said, if interest rates stay low, and we can knock off enough principal, we will refinance to a 15-year. I am salivating at 3.25% rates. We just aren't quite there yet.

Hard to whine since we are saving $400/month over our last 15-year amortization. 10 years ago I was paying $1800/month for a flipping condo in a so-so neighborhood. Today we pay $1400/month to pay off dream home in 15 years (same mortgage balance). I suppose we have experienced much forward progress - just nice to move forward with the debt numbers, too.

Anniversary Update

September 24th, 2011 at 05:33 pm

I thought Great-Grandma sent us $20, but it was actually $40. Woohoo!

Grandma sent us $100. Double Woohoo!

If we were smart, we'd save that up for a really nice dinner in Napa in several weeks.

Anyway, we couldn't agree where to go and I was in an "eating out" mood last night. We decided to eat out two nights in a row. What the hell. Dh said we should celebrate cutting cable, too.

So, spent $50 last night.

Tonight we are going to a newer Benihana type place in our neighborhood. (We had decided Thai food, but we drove by the Benihana type place and thought it would be fun to check out. If it as good as we hear, will have to take our parents sometime).

& if all we can justify is Taco Bell on our weekend getaway - so be it!

We actually did get our Olive Garden gift card today ($5) but we weren't expecting it and made other plans. I still haven't found the other one, anyway. Rolleyes When I find it, we will meet there for a lunch date without the kids. I don't generally lose things, so I am REALLY annoyed, but I am also positive it will turn up soon.

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Thanks to Baselle, we went to the auto museum today (Free Museum Day). We chose this museum because we had never been (only free one in area that looked interesting, besides a couple of museums that we had been to before). We had to pay for the kids, since was only 2 free tickets per household. So, it cost us $8 (& we saved $16 on adult tickets).

Wasn't sure what to expect, but we really enjoyed it.

Lots of historical cars, as well as some interesting stories, unique cars, etc. Really, quite the museum!

OF course, BM has done two reports now on Henry Ford (one last week) and so he REALLY enjoyed it. We got to see a mock up of Henry Ford's first car creation (Quadricycle), which we knew all about from BM's report last year. & they had one of Mrs. Ford's vehicles - the very one she had owned. Talk about some serious history.

Of course, my favorite car was Linda Ronstadt's black porsche. It was showcased next to Governor Brown's car, since apparently they were lovers at some point.

Black is just my favorite color - the car was pretty sweet.

I thought this was pretty cute:



The *world's first snowmobile* (IT was an add-on kit for the Model T Ford):



Probably one of the most unique cars was Forbe's money green Lamborghini:



I didn't take a picture of the last one, but regretted it. But, it was easy to track down. With the head-on view, I hadn't noticed the gold tires, but did notice that the interior was very gold.

One of the more interesting stories was a 1920s era vehicle which was traded in at the local Dodge dealership in the 1970s. The Dodge dealership restored the vehicle and donated it to the museum. "Hi, I'd like to trade-in my 50-year-old vehicle. I think it is time for something new?"

First Day of Fall

September 23rd, 2011 at 08:45 pm



Picture is of the first day of fall, on the river by our home. (I didn't take this picture, but it is gorgeous).

Of course, the first day of fall pretty much went unnoticed around here. IT was about 90+F degrees.

I just happened to notice that the "no heat challenge" usually start around the first day of fall. (On the first day of Fall?)

Of course, it is not usually so HOT here, this time of year. A/C has been working HARD, so hard to think beyond summer.

Maybe we won't need heat until next January... Lord knows - weather has been wacky all year. Of course, this would only be useful if we weren't running the AC so much!

Financial Doings

September 23rd, 2011 at 10:26 am

**Just executed $500 mutual fund buy. Need to transfer $1000-$1500 from savings, to max out 2010 ROTH (by April). Was just waiting for a stock market dip to do so. Leaves $500-$1000 to throw in if it gets worse. (I figure that is likely).

Yesterday may have been better, but I just heard that Vanguard is offering same day mutual fund buys. Funny thing is they did this before, most of the time I have been a customer. BUT, this year they have been slow and I have found it frustrating. I like to buy on low stock days, but hard to do if it take 48 hours to process a "buy." So, to me it seems like it's suddenly back to their old policy. Don't know what happened in the interim. I have certainly done same day buys with VG, before. I suppose it's ironic that I heard this news today. Knowing I could for sure buy at today's stock price spurred me on (though I won't be near a computer the rest of the day, so had to do it on the early side, and assume things don't jump up later in the day).

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**You'll never guess. I applied for a credit card! LOL.

Today I saw Citi was offering some $500 reward, but the catch was you had to spend $10,000 over 12 months. To participate, I'd have to wait a year to get the rewards AND would lose $200 in other ongoing rewards I currently get. Which means I would net $300.

To me, the writing is on the wall. If Citi is going to make offers like that, they want you to stick around a while.

I decided to take the hint and apply for the $300 bonus that I can probably earn in 2 months. Spend $1500 in 3 months, earn $300 in gift cards. No annual fee first year. Offer is on mymoneyblog.com with all the rest. I intend to hit $1500 spending by charging health insurance for 2 months and fueling up the minivan with gas, once. That's it. I will lose $30 in other rewards ($1500 x 2% that I earn on AmEx), so still VERY worthwhile.

& if by some miracle they send me a direct mail offer in the interim, maybe I can sweet talk them into giving me the better offer. Dh did, so I figured this was better than waiting around for some wooing that doesn't seem to be happening.

I'll find out in about a week if I am approved. The second I am approved, I will close out my 2 Chase one-time reward cards. I figured it might be best to keep those until I applied for this card, though not sure it matters. Just a wee bit less obvious that I intend to close the card the second I am done?? Maybe?

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**Tomorrow is our 11-year anniversary. It's pretty incidental to the fact that we have actually been together for about 16 years. (I am kind of thinking, "16 years? Holy Crap!" How can I be that old? That I graduated high school 17 years ago?)

Last year we went pretty big (Hawaii trip) so this year I think we both feel pretty, "eh." We had talked about taking the kids to Olive Garden tomorrow night. I have a $5 gift card somewhere (Credit card reward, of course). That I have to find. & we are expecting another one in the mail (another reward) any minute.

Yesterday we got $20 cash from Great-Grandma. Woohoo!

If we don't get our gift certificate in the mail by tomorrow, guess we will choose to dine somewhere else. Decided to see how we feel tomorrow.

Trust me, dh and I enjoy our alone time, but thing is we aren't lacking any alone time, and we just wanted to celebrate with the kids (will be much cheaper than finding a babysitter, anyway). Though if getting a babysitter was important to us, we'd do that. All else being equal, we would have had a nice lunch date today, alone, but I have a commitment with the 1st grade class. Seems dh was busy Monday.

I look forward to our family eating out tomorrow on the big day. It's not something we do often!

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**I had forgotten that I have a seminar near San Francisco next week. I had signed up for webcasts this year (much cheaper) for my ongoing education. It's got its pluses and minuses. I kind of miss the excuse to travel a bit more, but then again I don't miss the cost of it all! (Gas, eating out, tolls, etc.)

Anyway, my work signed me up for a seminar in regards to software upgrades, and stuff like that. So, I will be able to see my folks and drop off some pants that need hemmed. I can also pick up my roller skates from my dad. & spend some nice time with my parents. (Will spend the night before at their house so I can get a short a.m. commute into the city).

I am on for dinner and drinks with my best buddy in San Francisco, day of seminar. (No reason to drive home in the traffic - MUCH better to stay late). I have been trying all year to get together with her, and it hasn't been working, but it always seems to work out with a mid-week seminar. So, phew! I am not holding my breath, but I was lucky she was even in town. But, very good company, and she always takes me to the most amazing restaurants. (She's frugal to the extreme, so it is always some cheap hole in the wall with AMAZING food).

It's Official - No Cable

September 22nd, 2011 at 11:39 am

Dh did well!

We had discussed what to do if cable company offered incentive to stay. Since past cable companies seemed to care less if we left, I really didn't expect anything. BUT, told dh kind of no matter what it was, I think we were pretty committed to trying no cable for 6 months.

Anyway, today was the big day.

Apparently, our full cable/phone/internet bill is $196 or so. We have been paying about $165 on a one-year contract. I figure cable was about $100 or so of that.

So, they offered dh $105/month.

Honestly, not bad. Not bad at all! SO, I am proud that he declined.

What's even better is that on a contract, they gave us $50/month for phone/internet. This is smoking fast fiber optic internet. No one else offers it, and there is no way in heck we would drop it for anything else. So, I don't mind the contract.

& so it is OFFICIAL! We are a no-cable household. For 6 months, at least. Ideally. Assuming dh doesn't cave. I still don't foresee caving, myself. Hulu has annoyed me, but I think that means I will just be more of a Netflix and a "watch after the fact" type. Like, instead of suffering through commercials, I rather just wait a couple of years until these shows come out on DVD. I can already tell that rather than seeking out my old usual shows, I will probably drop them for easier to watch shows on netflix.

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With the new internet deal, we will save exactly $100 per month. Comes out to about $115, but Hulu will cost about $15/month. So, $100/month savings.

Dh may need to buy 2 antennas for network TV, but they are only $20-ish, each. We have one, but I guess it's older and they switched things around so it doesn't get all the channels it could otherwise. So, we hooked it up to our main TV, for now, to get some channels. We may invest in 2 antennas so we have sports for relatives, public TV access, access to live news, etc. On both TVs.

We subscribe to both netflix and Blockbuster, regardless.

We will be buying some shows off of Amazon (streaming). The only thing we have discussed specifically, is Breaking Bad. We are in the middle of the season, and there is only one more season left, after this one. We want to see it through (& it's certainly worth paying for!!). But, that's about it so far.

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$100/month savings goes to mortgage, for now. For next year, will probably go to ROTHs, but we should be maxed out for 2010.

Of course, if we drop cable indefinitely, dh is going to start begging for a smart phone. Will see... The data plan on ONE smart phone is significantly cheaper than cable. But, then it is just MORE contracts and all that. & we will probably have to change carriers - and our cell plan is currently pretty darn cheap. We shall see!