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Archive for August, 2007

'How to Have No Pain': AFB forum post

August 28th, 2007 at 10:21 am

I got these from a forum on Another F@cked Borrower. I may be smug about underconsuming, but comparing my family to that of another American family in a SFR is no big deal. There are still many things we could do, and although I'm in no clear danger now, I'd rather not have to rely on the grace of a divine power to get me through the Depression to come, and I'm dissatisfied with how little we save.

My problem is that my family wage-earners are lazy, scatter-brained and overworked at the same time. The problem USED to be how expensive childcare was.
I can see now where the temptation is to have a maid service, an au pair, a gardener, a landscaper...

#1 live within your means. Get rid of the credit card if you can (I haven't had one since 1998, when I got into trouble with it and had to get a loan to pay off the debt). Consider getting an Amex card, where you have to pay it off in full every month. Unless its a medical emergency, chances are you will survive if you don't have a brand new x,y,z...

#2 Know exactly how much money is coming in every month and how much is going out. Sounds, well, D'Uh!, but I've been amazed when my penchant for magazines has risen to $20 a month because I've neglected to keep an eye on peripheral spending. BTW, if like me you love magazines, consider selling them on eBay after you've read them. Seriously. I have a small eBay business doing just that. I may not make much money, but it pays for itself. There's a lot of collectors out there missing that particular issue of 'Wired' for instance, who will be more than happy to take it off your hands.

#3 Drive an older car that you have paid for. My current car is a Nissan Sentra, almost 10 years old, 70K on the clock. It goes like clockwork and I make sure its regularly serviced. I love pulling up next to a 2005 Hummer, seeing the conflicted sneering/'what if they dent my new car' look on the drivers faces...The same goes for clothes, shoes, eating out, groceries etc...maybe I'm just contrary, but I don't see the point of buying from Abercrombie & Fitch, when there's something equally as nice at Target.

4# Stick all the pennies you've saved being frugal into Tax-free/high interest rate accounts and watch the compound interest grow. Americans as a whole save less than any other Western Country. Which is astonishing, considering the amount of people who come over here (my husband and myself included) to make money.


If I did these, and more, perhaps I'd be too involved and too comfortable to be bothered by the expectation that I and fellow in the black as well as the more fiscally conservative folks are to help bail out people whose choices are made from greed, fear, and innumeracy. (I hope the innumeracy isn't typical of public school education here.)

Flush, Flush, Flush That Money

August 25th, 2007 at 07:15 pm

It's not just the credit card bills for the vacation.

It's the auto insurance: $330
the motorcycle insurance: $270
the motorcycle maintenance: $677
title transfer fees: $19.50
and now, the opthmalogist's exams and orders for new frames: $935
and the kindergarten tuition: $1520
And of course the mortgage: $1570 (I paid some extra -- I'm not yet at the point where the principal part of the payment exceeds the interest, so I pay extra for the principal until it can exceed the interest without my help.)

Flush flush flush flush.

However, what we get for all that money flushing:
* reliable and safe transportation for us all, and for one-at-a-time
* frames with prescriptions to meet our changing vision, before the husband's excellent benefits go away
* access to half-decent and full-time education for about 19% of daycare/preschool, and an opportunity to meet other parents of kindergartners; entry into what I hope to be a familial community
* a place to live for 30 more days. It may be a great time to rent, but for those with houses paid for or who know that a SFH would rent for more than what they pay in PITI and utilities, it ain't such a hardship to have a mortgage.

Those crucial little steps to frugality

August 21st, 2007 at 09:47 am

Yesterday morning, with a minute to kill before leaving for a walk to the bus stop, I brought out the slow cooker and put it next to the pork tenderloin recipe my husband printed from the Internet. I also brought out all the non-refrigerated ingredients, and the pork tenderloin, and set them by the recipe and the slow cooker.

What do you know, when I walked in at 6:15 pm there were the good smells of dijon mustard, balsamic vinegar, and a very tender and flavourful pork tenderloin. With organic chard, and potatoes. And we have lots for sandwiches and leftovers. We're both to thank: he found a recipe 20 hours before it was to be ready and printed it out, I brought out the ingredients onto the kitchen counter in the morning so he'd have sufficient time to prepare.

But I know there are many more things I could do and should do.

I'm rereading Frugal Living for Dummies and it looks like the author is from my part of the world! Maybe I can overcome the HCOL.

I am very keen to try a price book. The challenge of affording a weekend at Newport, Oregon ($300 for gas, hotel, meals) or tankless water heaters strictly on food savings is very appealing.

We've cut down a lot on our supermarket adventures, except for the dairy purchases--they must be fresh, the supermarket does offer organic and rBGH-free dairy options. Going to the farmer's market is more fun: I get to meet the farmers, I learn more about their products, and I can quiz a master gardener or a sustainable-agriculture expert. And I pay the same price as everyone else without having to have a 'card'.

Other challenges:
1. cutting down on water usage, implementing the rainbarrel. It's rained quite a bit here, and is the barrel up to the downspout? No.

2. finding creative alternatives and ways to cut the budget when expenditures in one category go up. After seeing the documentary "Dr. Bronner's Magic Soapbox," I may try the very water-frugal method the ninth-generation chemist performed himself for the camera to clean his hair, his face, and his body. (If you plan to see the film, have no fear: there is no nudity in the demonstration.)

I'm also gently coaxing the spouse to try walking more with me. On Sunday we all walked 1.9 miles on a roundtrip to my child's prospective school, to acquaint everyone with the correct and shortest paths. I do this to gauge time, in case we have a good morning, or lots of budgeted time to walk the tot to school. We probably should bike it, eventually--the hills and traffic scare me.

Post-Vacation Noodlings

August 13th, 2007 at 10:22 am

And it seems the early signs of the economic apocalypse are upon us. And me with credit card debt. Ah. Made a full payment for July's charges. I have been assured by a coworker that there'll be lots of work to do from next week until October. I can pay off my vacation with that, although I do have some savings.

Went school supplies shopping for the boy yesterday. An exciting experience, but boy was getting rowdy and bouncy with his "I want! I want!" regarding backpacks and lunch sacks. We have one more item to purchase.

We did get to listen to Jim Cramer's meltdown on the radio. And the boy thought it was funny to see a well-dressed man have a tantrum (I watched the Colbert Report segment on Jim Cramer). Okay, the remark "I want to recommend buying 'Washington Mutual' for the yield but I KNOW PEOPLE!" I found raucously funny.

And although we saw several Countrywide buildings (and a stadium! Anyone remember Qualcomm Stadium? Or was that 3COM? I forget) by the 101 as we entered and left Los Angeles, we only saw signs of the slowdown when I walked the boy to his prospective school yesterday. Seven houses. One sold.

I don't feel angsty anymore. I am not blind to anything I was present to prior to vacation, but I was responsibility-free more or less for two weeks, and am reassured I can live creatively and with integrity regardless of my money situation. I have diet suggestions and a gentle, easy yoga routine, land I can grow vegetables on--my tomatoes are doing great! And my husband and son now have their passports.

My paycheque distributions from now until October 15:
25% living expenses
25% credit cards
25% windows
10% emergency fund
10% house and garden
5% gold

Windows are getting installed September 13.

My beef supplier is offering investment opportunities. For sustainable, close to organic and close to us beef, and for a 10% guaranteed return, I'm considering getting some shares. The minimum investment is $1000.

Seattle Urban Farm Co. offers the creation of organic gardens. Nice, but I have access to seed catalogues, and can rent implements. Mostly I want: garden design help, garden creation and irrigation system help, some fruit in there like strawberries, and maybe some herbs and flowers too.