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Archive for June, 2012

Goals, Goals and More Goals

June 30th, 2012 at 07:45 pm

I maxed out dh's ROTH and am well on the way to maxing out mine this calendar year. Since we have been maxing out by 4/15 the following year, that was my goal this year to do it by 12/31.

So, what next? Pat myself on the back and call it a day? Big Grin


I have two similar goals to improve on that.

1 - Max out by 1/1.

Will probably max out 2013 by June 2013, and then aim for 1/1 in the year 2014.

2 - ROTH conversions

I've got more ROTH conversions to do. Feeling comfortable with the idea now due to cash flow. Just in the "thinking about it" stage, though good to keep front of mind in case of a substantial stock market dip. (low values = low taxes on conversion).

3 - I suppose a third unrelated goal is my salivating over 15-year mortgage rates. Not quite ready to make that leap, as would like to pay down enough to keep a very low/reasonable mortgage payment. But it gets more tempting by the day. {Honestly, if we refied today it would be a pretty darn reasonable payment; just been spoiled with the three-figure mortgage payments of late).

I guess these goals are all kind of pressing due to circumstances. ROTH conversions should be done to take advantage of our low tax rates at current. Another refinance would take advantage of record low interest rates. So that is why I am thinking about these goals in particular. Seems the obvious next steps.

Back from Camp

June 28th, 2012 at 04:00 am

Back from camp. Weather ended up being pretty nice, and enjoyed views like these:

Now back to reality!

We did Family Camp in the Sierras, as always. It's really only about an hour drive from our house, so not too far from reality.

I think with all the trees it is hard to appreciate a good sunset. Don't remember catching many in the mountains, so was pleased to catch a bit of color in the sky one night.


June 23rd, 2012 at 05:03 pm

**Just redeemed the last of our current one-time credit rewards. (& received that $500 check already).

I will have to tally them all up some time. Off the to of my head, I believe we are up to $1700. & the year is young...

I also received a $0.30 statement credit on my regular American Express - some reward - I have no idea why. I must have spent $6 on some rotating category that I didn't pay attention to (because I figured I wasn't spending in that category). ??? No idea what the category was.

**We did manage to take some nice family photos yesterday. Found a Japanese garden in San Jose that we didn't even know existed. My parents live next to some beautiful gardens, but the gardens were closed (???), so forced us to find another solution.

The place was just BEAUTIFUL! I haven't seen the pictures, but my dad will bring me a CD tomorrow. I am going to re-print their anniversary photo book with a few minor changes, a few asked-for pictures I could not find, and will close with one of these "family reunion" pictures.

**We went to the amusement park where dh and I met - probably the first time I've gone since I worked there (15+ years) and first time for the kids.

I am glad we scoped it out because they added a "second water park" - but to be frank they just threw in a couple of water slides and market it as "2 parks in one." I am less enthused to get season passes just for their water park, in the future, (so we could skip water park season passes at other places), but admittedly it would work. It is a nice addition.

Six Flags last year was such an awful experience. There was just a lot that annoyed us, and I thought it was a sign of the times. In the end, this park is just infinitely more laid back. I just looked up out of curiosity and the water raft ride that the kids could ride by themselves at 46 inches or so at this park had a 56 inch minimum requirement at Six Flags.

In fact, the kids could ride ALL of the water slides unsupervised. Even the 6 year old. LOVED it. This worked out because it was a beautiful day, but a bit of a chill in the air. Was not interested in getting wet. So we sent the kids alone on all the water stuff. Of course they did not mind the cold.

Actually, we hadn't even planned to do the water park thing, but once we were inside there were several kiddie water play areas, and we realized they didn't need us for the big slides. I just happened to have swim suits, towels and flip flops in the car - mostly because we had planned to go to the beach last weekend and never made it. It really made the day - glad we had them!

**I found a coupon online that saved us $40 on admission. We somehow didn't even eat lunch in the park. ??? Don't ask me how. I still have what feels like a lifetime supply of cotton candy. The bags were just HUGE. Anyway, we really didn't spend much beyond admission - just ate dinner outside the park when we left.

**WE are home now, and I just noticed that salmon was on sale - about 30% off. Our grocery spending is so slim this month, too. So we will probably pick up some sushi and salmon fillets.

I told dh I would make meatballs today since we got home too late last night. He wanted some for leftovers the day we get back from camp. It's a simple recipe that uses frozen meatballs, so I get off pretty easy.

Dh is working Scholastic all day. Will work for books. (Gives most of them back to the school and teachers).

**Not overly looking forward to camp. We got a bit of a cold spell. It's going to be *Brrrrrrr.* I am sure regardless we will have fun. Just won't be a lot of lounging in the sun for me.

Just Three Easy Payments

June 21st, 2012 at 03:14 pm

Going to hit the amusement park today.

Interestingly, at website, there is the option to buy all tickets and packages with just *three easy payments of...*


Needless to say, we won't be buying tix on a payment plan.

Rent or Buy

June 20th, 2012 at 03:40 pm

There was a good piece in the WSJ about renting or buying.

To Rent or to Buy? That Is Not the Question

Text is and Link is

Of course, I also liked that it touched on the fact that neither was going to particularly work for this couple. Hmmmm, sounds familiar.

Summer Doings

June 19th, 2012 at 02:15 pm

**My parents' anniversary was wonderful and non-traditional. Didn't exactly start out planning it that way, but that is how it ended up. Accordingly, I don't even think we spent $100.

My folks took us on a train ride in the mountains. Everyone was tired and exhausted by the end of the day so we just ordered sandwiches in. We treated, but had been expecting to treat for a much more fancy dinner!

They LOVED the video dh made - we all did - a true gift from the heart.

Just another reminder that the good things in life don't cost money.

Everyone is being pretty resistant on the family photo idea. No one wants their picture taken, and "why on earth would you spend money on that?" Meanwhile, we are reminiscing and saying how much we love the one fancy photo we ever had done (30 years ago). So, they are frustrating me! Latest plan is for my dad to take some photos of us tomorrow. Will go to some gardens. My dad can set up the shots (he is an awesome photographer). Dh can push the button. Hopefully we end up with something. This is probably a fair compromise.


**I don't think I will be whining about lack of vacation funds this summer (all reserved for Orlando in the fall).

Family Camp is next week (long ago paid for).

Then the kids' birthdays, and school starts back in August anyway.

I promised them time at that play place that I still haven't found time for. We've also been talking about going to the drive-in.

That said, dh and I decided to take the kids to the amusement park where we used to work (& incidentally where we met). Have never taken them and though it's a "vacation budget" kind of thing I just kind of felt like we should just do it while I had some days off, vacation budget or not. We've been talking about it so long, but always have so many other plans. I found tickets for $20/off, so will only cost about $140 for the day. I believe we can make them season passes at no extra cost.

Anyway, I hadn't thought much about it except we spent way less on my parents than we had earmarked. BUT, yesterday I got an e-mail that piano lessons were cancelled the month of July. Wala - $160 saved out of thin air. I actually pondered it briefly and thought, "I don't even know what to do with this money" - mortgage, Florida, donate it to the school (was a front runner for a bit), etc. "Eh, I probably will need it for bills this month." Then I realized that it was practically already spent on our trip to the amusement park. I am excited it works out that way! Might cover tickets and parking - will probably spend a fortune on food.

I am starting to think our summer is very busy and full! {A couple of weeks ago I was grumpy to put our entire vacation budget to ONE trip, in comparison}.

We barely bought any groceries this month, and so I think we can absorb most of the anniversary/sister visiting kind of costs with the grocery budget. Camp is next week and we generally spend $0 on that trip. All food provided, etc.

Credit Card Doings

June 18th, 2012 at 02:16 pm

**Today is pay day - so I can pay off that final Citi card (opened solely for rewards). Woohoo! The balance is more than my paycheck, but I have money in my account already, and no more bills to pay this month.

**On the "refund after month end" deal, I think I will just pay the full 5/31 balance. The return was about $1,000 (it posted closer to 6/10), but I spent $1,000+ in airfare this month.

Anyway, our utilization was insane last month (finished two $3,000 spending rewards in May, plus one return did not process in time) and so I think it's probably best to just pre-pay most the airfare and knock down the balance a bit. I don't think it probably matters at all, but then I don't have to worry about the credit card company being difficult. Our utilization should be back to normal levels too.

Of course, I am relying on a $500 credit card reward to do this without having to move *any* money around. If the $500 doesn't come in time, doubt I will sweat it.

**Still waiting for that $500 check and about $25 in gift cards. As SOON as we get those we will cancel this round of credit cards. Hopefully this week.

I will e-mail Chase to close the cards, but dh can call Citi. Last time Citi kept offering him $100 to keep his account open for 5 more minutes. So I am keeping my fingers crossed for more offers like that!

This & That

June 16th, 2012 at 02:42 am

**Got Orlando hotel booked. The place dh and family usually stays at was no longer offered with MIL's timeshare points, so we had to settle for luxury digs with tens of thousands of square feet of pools, waterfalls, water slides, etc. Oh, I guess we will survive! Big Grin The room is 1200 square feet?!?

The quality of these places can really vary. Which usually I don't give a flip because it's FREE. But, it sounds like this will be a seriously luxurious hotel. Too bad we will probably not have much time to enjoy. Too much to see and do. But we do have 7 days, so can fit in some pool/hotel lounging time.

**Kids had A+++ report cards. Okay, maybe next school year we have nowhere to go but down. Maybe that is what I said last year, but our kids continue to be awesome. It's not just the grades and test scores - got lots of compliments on socialness, personality, emotional maturity, etc. I know they have brains (inherently) so am more impressed with the other compliments, personally.

We took them out for frozen yogurt the last day of school (like $10 with coupon) and I will take them to an out of the way play place some time next week. Will be $14. It might as well be Disneyland as far as they are concerned. I decided what the heck. They definitely earned it.

I am a proud mama!

**The week has been very busy with BBQs and pool parties. More to come.

Dh's aunt is visiting from Hong Kong. My sister is visiting from Ohio (she no longer lives in NC). So, busy busy busy. But definitely GOOD busy.

**Oh yes - last night we went to a concert in the Bay Area. We've been going to several lately because prices have actually been within some reason (after many years of no reason). This concert was not cheap, but a long-time favorite local band. So was worth it. We've been hitting more $10 concerts lately. This one was maybe closer to $20/each - lots of FEES. Rolleyes But worth it. I'd have to look up to see the total we paid. Probably $15 + $15 fees. Something like that!! Reliving youth and seeing an awesome band? Priceless!

This & That

June 13th, 2012 at 02:15 pm

**Hopefully today we can lock in our free timeshare stay in Orlando. I've never been to this condo, but the kids and dh have been there twice (with MIL). Dh says it is VERY nice!

**Today I redeemed a check for $530, from Chase. It's going towards the furniture. I was only expecting $500, and so I believe this extra $30 will bring the furniture purchase down to $495 Total (total cash outflow). Big Grin

**Since the couch is already paid for, we are just depositing the $530 check into savings.

I hadn't mentioned that we just plan to spend the $500 amazon cards. I honestly didn't expect to get it so was thinking of it to spend. Plus, the Amazon is easiest to redeem with Chase (there is not a good cash back reward?). Anyway, I would like to try again for a nice sleeping mat for camping (I have 2 - gifts - not impressed by either). Probably a skateboard for BM for his birthday (probably won't cost much) and dh has a lot of camera accessories to buy for his new camera. I am primarily considering it "camera accessory" money.

Which reminds me, my dad had an extra license on his Adobe software, so once again we lucked out. I don't think we have ever paid more than $20 for the software - and it is really expensive. (I used to have a friend who worked for Adobe and could get us any software package for like $20). This time we got a FREE copy!

The huge amount of retail insanity this one camera purchase "gift" has wrought will probably be insane. This $500 Amazon gift card will make a very small dent in it. & most of it is really "need" to get any use out of the camera. On the plus side, it can lend to an income. The last camera we bought was very expensive at the time, but was paid for by doing wedding videos (like just one or two weddings paid for the darn thing).

But yeah, we are basically not planning to spend any more money this year. It's been totally insane this year. Most the camera accessories will have to wait to 2013. I am just not particularly happy about such a large "material" financial goal. & that is my parents who essentially put this financial pressure on us.

For example, my dh is whole heartedly writing a script right now. & working on a web show as well. BUT, he was not planning to film either of these with his own camera. So thought the gift/sentiment was VERY nice, it wasn't exactly the most useful for the immediate now. BUT maybe having a HD camera will lend itself to more paid work. So I will be positive.

It's not overly weighing on me by any means, but this is just kind of our thought process.

**In other news, LM has $2.50 left in his school lunch account. School is over. How is that for planning?? Phew!

BM is not as enamored with school lunch and has like $30-ish left.

Orlando Here We Come!

June 12th, 2012 at 08:59 pm

Following online airline advice, I was able to lock in awesome tickets today for about $295/apiece.

Ironically, we ended up back with United. I never thought we would get full refunds on our Denver trip, and their Florida airfare was absurd when I looked last month. So it worked out for the best. Best to get a full refund and start over, though we ended up with the same airline.

I've been diligently checking flights every so often. Today was a marked decrease in airfare, just as predicted by the travel experts. In addition, we are flying directly to Orlando. (The gap between Tampa and Orlando airfare was closing drastically - that part was unexpected).

I didn't even look at other local airports. $295 to fly from my backyard to the Grandparent-in-laws' backyard? The other side of the U.S.? I am IN! I am so pleased how we got the most convenient flights. It's at the price point where I don't care what other options there are. Backyard to backyard it is. We also got a "red eye" on the way home. Sort of. We leave like at 7pm but get home at midnight due to the time change. Another reason I made our home airport a priority. Once we land we are all but HOME.


June 12th, 2012 at 01:56 pm

**I was still skeptical up until redemption, but the $500 gift card balance now sits in our Amazon account. Big Grin I quickly applied them before Citi could change their mind. Wink

The Double Dip was a success!!

I don't know if it made a difference that dh received a direct mail offer for this card (& oh yes, he will receive more - Citi sends him offers what seems like every freaking day). I am wondering now if I should try an unsolicited double dip.

Anyway, I redeem $500 cash tomorrow from Chase and $150 from another bank next week, and I think we will be done for a while. Not because there are no good offers out there or I am fatigued by this "barely lifting a finger" for a ton of tax-free cash. BUT, because our new mortgage is still not showing up on our credit reports and our FICO scores are diving a bit. I've always felt that the mortgage substantially inflated our FICO, and there is apparently much truth to that.

I think this works out well to take a breather in between deals. We will get these credit cards all closed before we entertain applying for a new one. Soon enough our mortgage will show back up and we can return to being far more carefree with the endless opening and closing of credit cards. But a little forced breather is nice.

I definitely see more rewards for 2012!


Yesterday was busy and productive.

**Picked up a Father's Day gift (just something silly for $5 that we know dh will like).

**Picked up flowers for LM's teacher. Dh is going to manage a few Scholastic hours for her too (volunteered for set up this week).

Dh did a video for BM's teacher (to end his 3-years with the kids) and we had a good Craigslist sale run a couple of weeks back so I already handed $20 cash to room parent towards Amazon gift card.

It is possible I just deleted or missed the e-mail, but no requests from LM's room parent. Phew! Last year they wanted to get airfare for the teacher - ??? - I never heard an explanation why. It would be one thing if she said, "Teacher does a lot of travel" or "Really wants to see her family," or something along those lines. She has also taken to only listing the families who contribute when presenting gifts. Which is probably just a matter of personal preference, but I find it really tacky. Not all the kids can financially contribute, and I think a class gift should be a class gift. Actually, what it really strikes me as is immature. That is the word I am thinking of. It is possible I feel totally alone in my feelings. Just seems to me if we want individual credit we can do individual gifts.

Which is maybe precisely what was decided this year...

**Got out invites for LM's party. I am kind of having a personal issue with the bowling alley he chose, because they say "no party decorations or cake" without a reserved party. So, me bringing 5 kids to go bowling (quite some business, but not enough to make a party) means I can't celebrate in a birthday way. Really??? Reminds me when I checked with McDonalds on their policy many moons ago and their manager looked at me like I Was crazy and said, "It is a free country!" Yes, it is, but private businesses have their rules. Put McDonalds (or at least this particular manager) on one end of the spectrum. Bowling alley on the other end. Dh said maybe we could just get birthday jerky. LOL! We will figure something out. I Wasn't going to bring decorations, and we can celebrate without a cake, for sure. I think we can think of something (probably not jerky).

No Cake for You!!

Seriously, I should check if they even allow outside food. Could be they just don't. Though it's funny they mention only the cake then.

**I am trying to wing BM's birthday with like a one-week notice, as this is the only way to take advantage of free play time at his favorite play place. I am not sure how well this plan will ever work. Planning anything short notice just does not work for the people I know. Actually, his best friend's family is pretty chill, but they are on vacation. Summer just adds that element of impossibility. Which was why we were trying to do it THIS week, before everyone went off on their vacation and day camp ways. Will figure it out... I am thinking we should just arrange a day with his best friend - because that will be far easier.

**I got a $200 MRI bill. I have the feeling this is not all of it. I initially got a $5,000 bill (it was glaringly incorrect; billed as if dh was uninsured). Reality is probably somewhere in the middle. They told him $1100 at time of service, which is more what they usually charge. In the meantime, it's the parade of random bills...

Something Doing

June 12th, 2012 at 12:53 am

I guess some days it pours. It's been so *yawn* on the financial front recently. But certainly not today...

**I was *finally* approved for an insurance increase with my professional association "annually renewing" term life insurance. IT's kind of mid-way between a longer term and a 1-year-term, because I do not need to report any health changes to keep it, etc.

The plan was to get this going while I search out more long-term insurance. I already have a 30-year-term insurance, but it seems inadequate considering where life has headed. We bought it for the kids, not each other. But dh has been unemployed for 10 years, so it seems prudent to add more coverage.

My other life insurance policy is dirt cheap and I will be keeping it. So I am just looking to supplement it. It was 10 times income a decade ago. I was just approved for another 10 times current income. About 50% more. It took forever because of my recent thyroid surgery, which thankfully had no effect on my coverage. Basically it amounts to 13 times income + a paid off mortgage. This is more than ample for my family.

This policy will be about $330 per year. The other one is $240 per year. If I can lock in a reasonable 20-year-term and drop this temporary ($330) policy, I will. I will make that a goal to figure out this year. For the long run rather get a longer term policy that I am not ineligible for if x, y, or z happens. I have to ponder it though, because as a supplement, maybe it works well in that regard. Dh is still wanting to get back into the workforce, etc. So this still could just be a temporary need.

The motivation to lock in another 20-year term is because my spouse is no longer eligible for life insurance. Ouch! I know anything can happen tomorrow to put me in the same boat.


**Electric company

Electric company sent me an offer to get a free state-of-the art programmable thermostat if we participate in a study. They want to see is cooling the house down "before it gets hot" saves energy.

I am fairly confident that it won't save energy, so let's just say I am not interested (Not interested in wasting electricity and bigger bills during the study). We already have very nice thermostats and we have never used the program function. Which I totally understand makes sense in some case. But we use FAR less energy by only turning it on when we really need it. & of course we have experimented a bit over the years.

I think one problem is if you just cool the house ahead of time, then you get used that that. & from experience, cooling off the house first doesn't do much on a 110 degree day. You turn it off and the house heats up FAST! (OR leave it on - and it is running ALL day, for sure).

Some days it is 80 degrees inside and it is hotter than hades. & other days it's gotten up to 85 and you haven't even noticed. So, this is why we don't use a program. Why we don't cool things ahead of time. I think a lot of it is just where the thermostat is, etc. In the winter we regularly leave our house at 60 degrees. BUT other days I feel like I am freezing my butt off at 70. Just depends how much chill is in the air. One thermostat in the middle of the house doesn't always measure very accurately.

Lucked Out

June 11th, 2012 at 02:55 pm

I threw together a photo book for my parent's anniversary. To be fair, I've actually been looking for photos for YEARS, but only spent the past weekend actually scanning and photo booking.

I lucked out. For Father's Day, the photo books were 30% off, and I found a $10-off coupon to add to that. Saved about $30. Big Grin Which was why I kind of rushed it. Figured I'd get it done and get the 30% off!

The photo book will pale into comparison to dh's documentary on their 40 years. But it is something a little more tangible.

Financially, I believe we are just taking them to dinner. I will just pay for this photo book and not ask my broke sister to go in. Will say it is from us. She traveled; we can pay for dinner.

I had talked to my parents about wanting to do a professional family photo when my sister is here, but they refuse to let me pay for that. BUT, they have a lot of photographer friends, so we might do something.

I was saving up all this money to do stuff, but in the end I might not spend more than $100-$200 (mostly dinner). Oh well! My parents are low key like that - shouldn't be surprised they refuse to let me spend any more. Heck, they probably won't let us pay for dinner. But we will insist!


I basically have the next month off of work. There are days that I will be working but a lot of time off in there. Particularly the next 2 weeks with an out-of-town concert, sister visiting for week, and annual Family Camp trip.

Not Much Doing

June 10th, 2012 at 03:27 pm

I guess I am saturated on the personal finance front because I really haven't had anything to say. *shrugs*

Has it all been said? Wink Oh, I am sure there will be more to say. Just nothing new this week.


I am waiting for $1000 in credit card rewards - should redeem half on Monday and half on Wednesday?


This week is all about BBQs and lazy days at the pool. One down, two to go. Today we are meeting friends at the pool (no BBQ).

Oh, dh and I are working fast and furiously on my parents' anniversary gifts. I am scanning photos (for a photo book?) and dh is doing a little documentary about their married life. Their anniversary is next weekend.


The theme this weekend is "starving artist." I read a really good memoir about the daughter of a writer. I was then watching some profile of artists on Netflix.

I now have a deep appreciation that my husband is not a starving artist. He may come across that way, but he is far too practical, and not near insane enough.

I appreciate his willingness to pursue his dreams, while keeping a firm hold on reality.

Credit Card Question

June 5th, 2012 at 02:19 pm

I just paid off $2500 Chase bill and about $1300 on regular credit card (furniture).

I still need to pay off the $2500 citi next payday.


Whenever I have a return after the end of the month, I just pay it. I am uber conservative, don't want to pay a cent of interest, and rarely (never?) return more than $50 anyway.

So I am really annoyed that dh's camera return has not showed up yet on the regular credit card. IT will probably show up today, but the credit card cycle closed yesterday.

The return will obviously be credited to last month, right??? Credited to the time period in which it was charged?

Seems logical, but you never know with credit card companies.