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Archive for August, 2006

My Monopoly Family

August 29th, 2006 at 04:35 pm

I went to oneshare.com and purchased one share of Burlington Northern (NYSE: BNI) for my child's birthday. I printed out an announcement and gave it to him. He has birthday on the brain. Union Pacific (NYSE:UNP) is nice too, but there's a Burlington Northern railway a few miles west of us, by the beach, and I wanted something my son could see and identify.
I could also put Boeing (NYSE:BA) and Microsoft (NASD:MSFT) in his Coverdell plan too, as he identifies those company logos readily. Union Pacific will have to wait until Christmas.

When I told my husband what I had done (it was pricey! fees, shipping, framing, gift wrap, commission!) he said "maybe I should start buying railroad stock, with peak oil to deal with." Yes! A possible convert! We can discuss DRPs (thanks for the moneypaper.com idea, baselle) and Sharebuilder.com!



I quipped, "yes, we can be the Monopoly family. I bought Water Works (the WaterShares Exchange Traded Fund PHO), you and the boy can buy the railroads, and I'll look into another utility and maybe some Kinder Morgan Partners and commercial real estate trusts."

Why don't I do these things?

August 25th, 2006 at 05:56 pm

Beyond Coupons: Ways to Save

Knowing the best sales -- how do I do this when I don't listen to commercial radio, nor read the newspaper? A local supermarket e-mails me its flyer every two weeks. Now that I'm on a CSA, I rarely drop more than $30 on a supermarket trip.

Other Things I should do

keep track of expenditures
buy in bulk @ Costco
save for home improvements
keep a price book
grow my own herbs
caulk around windows and doors
upgrade the insulation in the attic
deepclean the @#$%ing house
shop for meat at farmer's markets
try for no-spend days
plan a batch-cooking day
follow a low-cost food plan
read up on year-round gardening
chart the family net worth
make my own lunch at night
soak beans before I go to bed
plan my menus for a week


More Ideas
Keep a list on the fridge of items I want that cost over $50
Collect digital photos of items for sale and post them with item descriptions on expo.live.com, eBay and craigslist.org
Buy a rainbarrel

**Blush**

August 22nd, 2006 at 03:37 am

So, uh embarrassed and tugging at the collar here...

I had no @$#!ing idea that Uncle Sam would be sending me a cheque for $2192.59 USD. I wasn't here on savingadvice.com in March/April 2006, when I was frantically adding up W-4s, deducting my university extension course tuition, and itemizing, bulking up the envelope with schedule after schedule... trying to whittle what we owed down to under 10% of what was due, or else we'd be slammed with a penalty. Three times I worked on our 1040, with the sigh of "okay, next time we get an accountant to do this."

And we have a check for $2192.59?!

Well, it totally looks like I'll be covered for the scooter payment due September 28.

Oh blast, a crash diet which probably won't work

August 21st, 2006 at 05:03 pm

One month to go until my scooter APR resets to 12.99%. I am keenly aware that my predicament is mellower and smaller-scale than the predicament of people (including ACCOUNTANTS, and DOCTORS) who bought too much house on an adjustable rate mortgage. Why is $4300 + ($7400 x 0.1299) such a big deal to me?

I could live on everything in our pantry, except for bread, cereal, eggs and milk for a month.

I have $5000 in savings.
$3400 is coming our way probably within a month, but perhaps later. I'm not counting on that $3400 to save me, but I'll receive half of that "someday." $930 is coming to us within two weeks.

Crash-saving: utility bills come bimonthly -- not sure I'll save much by washing in cold and drip-drying.

Is cutting down on food the best/only way to crash-save? What are other ways?
I can get away until September 14 for paying late on my mortgage, but I don't know how that'll help matters.

Don't want to borrow from friends. My friends will likely not see this as an emergency worth covering, even if I could give them 0.5% interest (6% annualized) for a thirty-day loan.

How about selling books and CDs? Crib? Wedding dress? Premiere issue of Wired Magazine? I may have to go with a 6.9% cash advance from my credit card (from the credit union, not the infernal Moloch that is Bank of America) to transfer payments ($2000 @ 0.069 < $7400 @ 0.1299).

Finally, a yard sale

August 20th, 2006 at 02:03 am

After three years, we are trotting out our goods at vastly marked down prices. I reaped thirty-seven dollars and seventy-five cents.

This is not a sale at my yard. I would have done things differently: computer printed signs, tables, wider distribution of signs and publication (little nickel, newspaper -- bring in the non-computer folk).

I may send things to another yard sale happening next weekend. Or I might sell items on craigslist or eBay or amazon.com. They are mostly books. Lots of my CDs went, which is good. I had feared that my tastes were too wacky/extreme/dated. Nobody has purchased my Chaplin stuff. :-(
or is it C|:-=X?

Bought Barilla pasta at a dollar a pound, saving $4.75 at the store.

Gas bill: $19.06 for the month. YEAH! Consumption down by a third from last year. YEAH!

I want to adopt the pantry challenge -- we have not bought meat in two weeks! We have beans, rice, grains, and fresh vegetables.

Checked my net worth. Zillow's decreased the value of my home by $5K but big deal.

My child's birthday is one week after the 2.9% APR scooter promotion ends. I can't deny him a birthday, but I can postpone a party.

How often do you slough your possessions/have yard sales?

After this concludes, if I don't get an e-mail for the address/date and time of the next sale, I may trade my books in for credit at a book reseller.

Another savings goal

August 16th, 2006 at 09:54 pm

I do load it on myself, don't I.

I was in Instant Message chat with a Newfoundland pal. She and I want to visit Los Angeles, primarily Hollywood, next year. I want to meet her: I've been writing to her for over twelve years. I also want to eat at Musso and Frank, and to try out for "Jeopardy!", and to see Catalina. Even my son, not yet five, says he wants to go to Hollywood.

I've got a lot of living to do! I haven't been to CA since 1996, and I want to go soon before gas gets prohibitively expensive. It's $1829.00 for a family bedroom round trip by Amtrak, + $300 food. 3300 miles * $4.19/gallon @ 25 miles per gallon= $553.08 + $300 food + 650 hotel + $410 car rental = $1903.08, and that doesn't include the stay and food and admissions in Hollywood. $74 fewer dollars to ride the train.

Not doing myself any financial favours this week

August 14th, 2006 at 06:58 pm

It was our anniversary yesterday. Twelve years: silk. So I point out to the hubby some WinterSilks aviator scarves: maybe I can wear one when I scoot in the winter. Me, I buy him silk pyjamas: he has never had them, and I find men very attractive in them.

We also ate out. With the kid.

Motorcycle insurance: $224.
2006-7 Children's Theatre subscription (boy likes musicals and stage presentations): $204
Annual Zoo membership renewal: $90
Gift for boy's playmate: $15
Cards: $10
Helmet Halo (so drivers can see me at night): $15
Replacement blinds for bedroom: $35
Flexcar charge: $138 (for $40 annual driver fee, and taxes)

I guess the nice thing is that I have the cash to pay for these, being semi-frugal.

Husband still has not filled in Dependent Care Spending Account Reimbursement Form. Maybe it's just me who thinks $930 would be great to have to pay down the scooter. I wish that weren't so. It would be so lovely to have a spouse that was equally as concerned about saving money as I am, if not more. Obviously I am not miserly when it comes to my son and husband.

My spouse has not had silk pyjamas before, and my son does seem to enjoy live musical theatre. I feel I should encourage my boy's tastes and talents, and three performances over seven months isn't exactly overkill.

These are new "extravagances" for me. I have been cutting back in groceries: no meat for over a month now. We take the kid to playgrounds and farms and the zoo for cheap entertainment, and occasional museum exhibits -- no big spending on XBox or Nintendo. He is too sophisticated for the "just give him a cardboard box" ploy: yesterday he wanted to play SCRABBLE.

Minor as this is, I did get a 10% discount on the Helmet Halo. It was going to be 5%, but I mentioned to the salesclerk that a certain coworker of his (and I named her) traditionally gives me 10%, which is true. I will keep going to this motorcycle parts and accessories place for the discounts and the promotions: Women's Brunch and Fair.
Few motorcycle shops cater to women the way this one does.

As much as I distrust credit card companies...

August 7th, 2006 at 07:33 pm

because, as mentioned on a forum here, they will change the terms and conditions agreement of the contract at will and repeatedly,

I am considering applying for the Discover Platinum Gas Visa and ditching the MBNA Platinum Plus card I've had for seven years but haven't used for four.

MBNA reduced the grace period to 20 days.
According to a Website, Discover still has 25 days, plus a 0% balance transfer introductory rate for 12 months. Plus 5% rewards for using the card for gas. I could get a whopping fifty cents back at the gas pump!

MBNA switched to American Express from Visa. Why, I don't know. I think one has to pay the American Express off in full every month, right? So what good would those convenience cheques with the 0% offer for nine months do me?

Then again, Discover's CEO didn't die, leave his idiot son in charge, who then made so many deleterious changes and bad decisions that the company's profits went down by 94% so that it was engulfed by Bank of America either.

I checked bankrate.com and whoa! 20 day grace periods are now the rule, not the exception!

Lowered Expectations

August 3rd, 2006 at 06:02 pm

The MAD TV recurring segment cracks me up every time.

I feel more peaceful, oddly, knowing that if I have problems achieving those goals I'm supposed to have achieved, then there are millions of people in my boat. It's not a little liferaft, it's the Queen Mary.

Considering the nation's saving rate, I think anyone who earns the median income or lower and manages to increase her net worth year after year, home equity excluded, is doing a great job.

Anyone who sacrifices a dear toy or hobby or reduction of luxury expense (mine is eating out) for the ability to afford more later or live better should be congratulated and applauded.

I've noticed I haven't given myself any victories. I need to give myself a chance at winning. Get the resume overhauled -- circulate it. Sell the books and CDs and things. I try too much in one day, or one week.

I attended a seminar on Rainwater Catchment. From a 1998 article: "Considering the cost of water in King County may double in the next decade, a UW experiment in catching and reusing rainwater could be a harbinger of good things to come."

It's the candyass, anxious self dreaming up lurid scenarios of getting gouged for necessities (energy, healthcare) that scavenges for ways to either prevent or offset rising energy costs or ways to invest cash to survive those rising costs.

Sixty-six months ago I switched from oil to natural gas: $6400 outlay (including a gas line installation) -- I think now we've seen it pay for itself. We thought seven-eight years at first, but thanks to rising oil prices... (yes, I know natural gas is going up too, but we have a more efficient heating system)

This would involve getting into debt, like the electricity wiring to enable telecommuting, but we have to think about the possibilities:
* is it worthwhile to make an energy change that pays off 10 to 15 years from now? (one could roll the costs of a rainwater catchment system into the selling price of the house)
* how to space the home improvements for minimum pocketbook pain
* how large and sophisticated a system to get

We thought we were so smart getting a Fisher & Paykel energy efficient washer, and a Niagara low-flow flapperless toilet. Then I learned what the Germans have.

I can say, though, that we're saving $35/month in water bills. So the toilet paid for itself in four months, and the washer takes 20 months for it to pay for itself.

We've been thinking about rainbarrels, and indeed the Lord and Master might be buying some before he takes off tomorrow for his weekend. But after last night, I'm thinking larger scale.

Found my mom's 1 oz. gold Canadian coin (turned into a brooch). Now I can honestly say I own gold.

There should be some good kinds of debt other than education and mortgage: is home improvement one of them.

And it's okay to scale down expectations of being able to pay for everything all at once with cash. What matter are investment and prevention. I can't be perfect, but it doesn't get me anywhere to dream that Americans are perfect.

Because if Americans are perfectly attempting to save for retirement and rainy days and education and investing for energy reduction and healthcare prevention, and yet there's the stagnant wages and the negative savings rate, that can only mean the country is going down the toilet. Stay the course indeed.

So I'll imperfectly manage to increase my net worth. That might be the only realistic option open to me right now. Anything above that might be woolgathering.

June July Goals revisited in August

August 1st, 2006 at 05:03 pm

1. Do my job well.
-- um.
2. Learn skills to take to the next job.
-- Slowly, but starting. August.

3. Network for next job.
-- This month for sure!

1. Keep track of every penny that comes into the house.
2. Keep track of every penny that leaves the house.
3. Record a monthly budget.
-- I designed a budget, at least.

Well, I did #1. #2 I was lax with. #3.

Some victories -- I found my TreasuryDirect sheet with my account number. I'd like to thank the spirit of Charles Chaplin for that: I was putting a book my child and I were looking at (Walter Kerr's The Silent Clowns) back when I saw the stray sheet of paper. Also found I had $325 in a stock account somewhere. I have a stock account with seventeen cents in it too. woowoo!

1. Shop for car/motorcycle/home insurance.
-- I got a discount on my car insurance.

2. Get estimates for wiring.
-- I called an electrician. I need to call him again so he can come over and give an estimate.

3. Assemble 15-30 recipes for next month from "thrifty" sources.
-- I photocopied from Cheap. Fast. Good! and Jane Brody's Seafood Cookbook.

4. Try to work over 35 hrs/week.
-- this didn't work out so well.

5. Start researching -- buying stuff for brother
-- this I did. This relationship is so lopsided: he's asking me for favours and paying me to do stuff because he's overseas. Is there anything I want where he is? No.

My liabilities are $989 lower than last month, and $3482 lower than June. Assets are up $14000 since June. I have to remind myself of this because the cash we have in our account is $400 after childcare and mortgage are accounted for.
I wonder where the money went then I remember: I paid off $1300 principal, and $700 interest.

My spouse swears he faxed in reimbursement applications for June and July child care, but I have not seen any checks in the mail. The balance he has in there is around $800 by now. If he got it out, he could have a fine time this weekend. He'll be riding a train, staying at a hotel. How can I not let him have his fun, when I have had daytrips to the Kitsap Peninsula and to Mount Rainier?

Mortgage will be paid off by June 1, 2023.
One week to go until the stock proceeds come.

Who was it, Amy Dacyczyn? Jerrold Mundis?, who said "don't compare your financial situation to others. What matters is how your financial situation is compared to what it was, and what it will be." I need to always remember that. My financial situation is better, but as the housing prices deflate nationwide, and a recession takes a bite out of my retirement goodie basket, I can't count on it always being this great. Steeling myself for 20% depreciation in retirement balance, and 10% in home -- why? we've actually made some energy improvements: a new furnace, natural gas rather than oil, double-paned, argon-filled energy efficient windows, newer energy efficient applicances, and also, 20% depreciation in home price leaves a price that is commensurate with inflation: it takes 1.208 times as many 1999 dollars to buy our house that would supposedly not ever have appreciated. As houses appreciate maybe 1% beyond inflation, and my area is being revitalized by the city, plus is one of the few affordable places left in the city, I can't see 20% depreciation for the house. No. 10%.