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Archive for January, 2008

Self-Flagellation Stations

January 30th, 2008 at 08:34 pm

What I need right now are a bunch of little health, wealth, family and spiritual victories, confidence boosts to tell me I'm on the right paths.

I need to resist the urge to kick myself for following common advice to allocate my investments to indexed mutual funds, and finding the DJIA has returned a little less than a negative 2% return over the past eight years.

And to be kind to myself for underestimating, yet again, how much taxes we'll be owing. I withheld a little extra, and set a double-digit pre-tax contribution for my 401(k)s, and itemized, but I still have this knot in my stomach telling me to prepare to pay $8,000 extra.

I will make some calculations to determine at what price point it makes sense to buy a hybrid or alternative fuel vehicle over continuing to use gas-powered vehicles. It amazed me to learn that a multimillionaire didn't pay over $10,000 at any time in his life for a new car. Will the payback period for buying a hybrid next year be within five years? How long do I expect to own the car?

I feel that, bit by bit, truth is coming to me from all sides, and believe that if I make gradual changes in habits and master renunciation of ego and materialist promptings of my weak flesh, I'll get to where I want to be, where I should be.

I'd like to graph, month to month, the increase in satisfaction for dollars spent, as in Your Money or Your Life. I'd like to notice more how not refinancing my house, how not using the car so often, are saving me money. I'd like to remind myself in the evenings that I could be stretching, meditating, exercising with the tot, looking through seed catalogues, reading Gardening in Tough Times, cleaning my house, writing letters, supplementing my son's education.

Local businesses won't call it a recession but...

January 26th, 2008 at 06:45 pm

...I found the two cafes I went to have "winter hours" posted on their windows, "winter hours" being a euphemism for reduced hours. Where do the university students go to earn tuition/living expenses when the nearby cafes are closed? Where do the cheapskates like me go for warmth and free wi-fi access to freelance instead of keeping the house at a comfortable temperature? I should mention that snow is an infrequent event where I live, and 99.97% of the time our roads don't have black ice, and very often the dusting of snow is gone by the next day.

Actually the first cafe I went to today was closed, although its hours sign indicated it was supposed to be open. This is the fourth time I've arrived during normal business hours to find it closed. Thee other times I've shown up only to find it changed its hours to later. And the owner wonders why he doesn't see me anymore.

Maybe I read too much into this. Then again I recall January 3, 9 am, when I showed up for my hair colour, and the colourist said I was his first appointment of the year and I was doing him a favour, helping him out with his rent money.

budget tweaking

January 14th, 2008 at 08:32 pm

business taxes
$338.26 - state taxes
$80.41 - city taxes

The biggie, federal tax, is looming... I am thankful I had the foresight to save some money for that.

allowance for him and her
I included an allowance for the young one, who hardly ever asks for it. I had the money in my pocket but the father and I spent it on hot chocolate and cappuccinos. Call Child Protective Services. On the other hand, I've included my kid in the "profit-sharing plan" of a budget surplus.

donations
So many worthy causes, so few dollars.

I've been reading elsewhere about people considering replacing their mid1990s vehicles. I've been considering replacing ours. I'm angsty about the complexity of scope and enormity of costs for updating our home and the looming car replacement. I might get into consumer debt again, but I plan the maximum amount of debt to be $16700 at a time.

The Best Way To... Set Up a Giving Budget

January 14th, 2008 at 01:19 am

Okay, so from the intertwining of post topics and shared reading over the past few days, it looks like my brain has entered an intentional community with that of lux living frugalis. I'm glad my brain can do one good thing on occasion.

A follow-up on "I Ask Myself, How Much Do You Commit Yourself" and my Insurance Bill musings, especially after V's comment about targeting and planning charitable giving: I am reading The Better World Handbook and on page 266 is the suggestion of setting up a giving budget.

"On January 1, make up a list of your values. Then find organizations that are working to make those values real in the world. Don't let your giving be dictated by who sends you a request in the mail[, or who makes unsolicited fund-raising calls]. Do some research to find the best organizations and the ones that best represent your ideals. The last step is to set up dates and the dollar amounts that you plan to send to those organizations. A giving budget keeps your charitable giving at the forefront of your mind throughout the year so that it doesn't take a back seat to all of the other ways you want to spend your money."


I like this because it seems to me that groups will try more than annually to get additional contributions. This way I can record my contributions, collect receipts, keep records, and say to those who have their hands out for more: "sorry, my funds have been allotted for other organizations at least as fabulous as yours."

Consider also that charity begins at home: national and global organizations like Unicef and Doctors Without Borders do good, yet making additional room in your giving budget for donating to local non-profit organizations has the added benefit of local community improvement, a difference you can see.

Not only that, but making a list of one's values can be wonderfully focusing for how one chooses to budget time and money for maximum impact. We budget for what's important for us. Time is also valuable -- we should budget time to allow us to accomplish what we want.

GuideStar - Non-profits and charities search
Charity Navigator -- how effectively do organizations put ra...

Insurance Musings

January 13th, 2008 at 12:27 am

Last year: $491.00
This year: $546.00

I shall surf for better car/home insurance packages -- if I can get a $60 discount for having both auto and home insurance with one insurance agency that will offset my donation to the "ProjectShare" program my utility offers for low-income people behind on their bills.

Everything is going up, sigh. I wonder how people on fixed incomes are managing...

This week I start being kind to myself.

January 7th, 2008 at 06:55 pm

12,277 lbs per year carbon emissions from our household is not terrible when the Average (more than two persons) American household emits 41,500. Replacing the refrigerator would reduce our carbon emissions by 577 pounds of carbon monoxide per year.

We can cut our pre-tax retirement contributions a bit: in retirement we hope not to have a mortgage, and won't be contributing to retirement programs.

So there are two pats on the back. It is hoped that the increase in disposable income will accelerate achievement of the goals in the Savings Tracks.

On the other hand, I'm not happy that in the first week of recording outgo, we're already up to $644, $944 if we count the last Roth IRA contribution for 2007.

A third pat on the back: I've lost three pounds.

Happy New Year/Bonne Année

January 1st, 2008 at 10:51 pm

I'm in for the $20 challenge. Yesterday I looked for some coins to put in a jar. I've counted, with my boy, $5.47. Also have $32.95 interest for the month from savings and checking...

We spent $7.99 on espresso and hot chocolate prior to a leisurely stroll through the Olympic Sculpture Park and Myrtle Edwards park. I saw some high-tech company buildings I might send my resume to. As long as it means commuting in less than an hour.

Also used some electrical outlet sealers on the outlets on the outer walls. Here's hoping my heat bills come down by a dollar.