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Archive for December, 2011

Hello 2012, plus 52-4-U-2

December 31st, 2011 at 02:59 pm

Happy New Year, Everyone!

Link Du Jour: Aretha Franklin sings Auld Lang Syne

2011 Spending: It happened. Some of it has yet to happen.
2012 Spending: It will happen.

Hubby bought new clothes at closeout prices!
I made restitution to the library. So good to me: despite a kaput copier, a librarian offered to photocopy the Saturday NYT crossword, for a fee of course, which suited me fine. I paid my dues and got a replacement card.

2011 Reading: Finished The Pickwick Papers. It's a wonder Dickens didn't go blind or get carpal tunnel syndrome. Watched BBC comedy special Dickens parody "The Old Bleak Shop of Stuff" which is either wonderfully silly or silly garbage, depending on your point of view. Best reads: Beat the Reaper, King Suckerman. Best film: Hugo.

2012 Reading: Burr, I Am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to be Your Class President (Daily Show writer pens young adult novel, throws in jokes about Warren Buffett, Bill Gates and Captain Beefheart's "Trout Mask Replica" album), stuff on my shelves, 1Q84.

Major thing I did wrong in 2011: let events beyond my control affect my life.
Major incorrect beliefs in 2011: Opportunities come when I feel ready for them. My stomach will reduce if I reduce my caloric intake.

Things that went right in 2011: Won my dead pool 3-0. Was less in debt in December 2011 than I was in December 2010. School board election. IBM stock price. Mortgage refinance (on a single income!).

From Leo Babauta via Barry Ritholtz, 52 Tips for Happiness and Productivity
Try rising early.
Do less.
Slow down.
Practice patience.
Practice compassion.
Find your passion.
Lose weight.
Exercise.
Eat healthy.
Meditate.
Get organized.
Think positive.
Simplify your finances.
Simplify your life.
Accept what you have.
Envision your ultimate life.
Set long-term goals.
Review goals.
Life mission.
Plan your big tasks for week and day.
Maintain focus.
Enjoy the journey.
Create a morning and evening routine.
Develop intimate relationships.
Eliminate debt.
Enjoy the simple pleasures.
Empty your inbox and clear your desk.
Build an emergency fund.
Keep a journal.
Use the power of others.
Read, and read to your kids.
Limit your information intake.
Create simple systems.
Take time to decompress after stress.
Be present.
Develop equanimity.
Spend time with family and loved ones.
Pick yourself up when you’re down.
Don’t compare yourself to others.
Focus on benefits, not difficulties.
Be romantic.
Lose arguments.
Get into the flow.
Single-task.
Be frugal.
Start small and slow.
Learn to deal with detractors.
Go outdoors.
Retire early.
Savor the little things.
Be lazy.
Help others.

Projects for 2012: Classical Education and Writing tutoring for kid, Japanese language, Price book. Get a Real Job, either in US or Canada. Home fix-ups: fence for the back, replacement door for the back, replacement stair material.

End of Year Collections

December 30th, 2011 at 01:13 pm

Link du Jour: Otis Redding and Carla Thomas - New Year's Resolution

Last payday of 2011. I crash-saved $400 over the past two weeks. That doesn't sound like much, but I also finally brought the VISA card down to a flat zero balance.

Today we bought a framed illustration of SCTV's Dr. Tongue and Bruno (John Candy and Eugene Levy) for $10. It is not in 3-D. This is a $90 markdown from what we saw at Cafe Racer. I wrote to the artist and said I liked it and he sold it to my husband.

Also bought, finally, replacement motorcycle helmet, at about $80 less than I expected to. Yay for girl rider discounts!!

I logged into paypal, and saw that PayPal threatened to close my account within 30 days if I did not accept all-electronic communications. Deadbeats. Through PayPal I will pay for YNAB.

I also put some $$ into each of the savings and chequing account in my other credit union, because I can never remember how they debit me for annual safe deposit box rentals. It occurs to me I could give myself an "allowance" weekly and deposit $ to these accounts for investing, or secret gift money.

Silver was down 22% for the year in 2011. Gold was up.

Today I used my price book for shopping! I forgot one item but I was in a rush so my spouse could use the car.



I am unhappy about the home value and my equity taking a dive over twelve months despite the new roof but it happened to seven properties on my schadenfreude sheet. Californians who remember 2008 are nodding. Sometimes I think of paying enough down on my HELOC to get my equity past 60% but that would mean losing the APR on my money market account, and jeopardizing my ability to pay in cash for my car. I imagine some people my age have worse scenarios. I've paid just 6% of my mortgage in four months (good!) and have paid 38% down of the sale price for the house for 13 years (ugh).

Starting a Price Book

December 27th, 2011 at 10:21 am

SavingAdvice.com forum post on price book.

I didn't think to take one of the little notebooks I gave to the school teaching staff last month, so I bought a recycled-paper small one to fit in a purse. The price book idea I read in The Complete Tightwad Gazette, but OrganizedHome.com also has a downloadable template.

YNAB v3.6.0.5, perhaps considered "faddish" by some, so far has kept me mindful. My Money Market Account (MMA) is $600 larger than it would have been if I weren't keeping track. We're not completely denying ourselves either: I bought nibbles for our board game sessions. I'll be shelling out $$ on NYE. My attention deficit disorder had me drafting and redrafting some asset allocation/spending plan schemes. With YNAB I can keep better track of my savings goals and where our money is going.

I also don't include my gold and silver amounts in YNAB because of their daily fluctuations, so I look more broke than I am.

Today I give blood.
My Price Book so far has entries for items we commonly buy from Costco, or find ourselves walking to yonder national chain every week to get.

Thinking I might not do a Target (TGT) Direct Purchase Plan, but rather put some cash in one of my stock accounts: the initial purchase fee in the DPP is equal to the commission the investment service applies, and I've had a number of free trades, so averaging the commission cost is lower.

The spouse of one of my alt.obituaries Dead Pool picks died: no points.

Merry Christmas

December 25th, 2011 at 09:59 am

Wishing you the true and greatest gifts: love, friendship, peace, joy, a warm place to sleep, and a full stomach.

Return of the $20 Challenge for 2012

December 23rd, 2011 at 09:12 am

My personal approach is to have mini-challenges. I won't restrict these to one per month, although they happen to number twelve. Some will be easier than others.

2012 $20 Challenge Savings Goal: $200. This way I look like I accomplish something.

Bathroom Challenge: Use up cleaning products from Bathroom and Kitchen, replenish either with homemade remedies or with products for which I have coupons or 10%+ savings discounts.
Amazon/Craigslist/eBay Challenge: Let's sell some stuff!
Chinook Book Challenge: Use coupons from 2012 Chinook Book.
Coffee Challenge: Reduce # of coffees out per week to two.
Coupon Challenge: Using coupons from circulars or Target.com, but not Chinook Book.
FreeCycle Challenge: Get needed items through the kindness of strangers.
Freezing Challenge: Keep forgetting I can freeze homemade bread, dough, pies, muffins and beans after they've been cooked.
Gas Challenge: Does not apply to scooter. Fill up every ten days. Options: walk, bike, take transit, or scoot.
LifeHacker/Tightwad Gazette Challenge: Learn something? Share something!
Movie Challenge: Watch films on Archive.org, on my personal PC, or from library whenever possible. Exceptions for films like 'Hugo' or rare specialty films at theaters where we have memberships.
Pantry Challenge: Popular in the last four days of a payperiod. Exceptions only for milk, eggs, butter and bread.
Poverty Challenge: Weeklong Pantry Challenge.
Reading Challenge: First, pay off library fines. Then pay for replacement cards. Then get books from the library. Also read ebooks from library or what I've downloaded.
-------------------------------------
Wondered why I've managed only to replenish $2450 of my $7500 roof. Spot price for ounce of gold was $100 less than what it is now, and I had 1.5 oz fewer than what I have now. Also silver was $5 more per ounce than what it is now. I did not dedicate myself to debt repayment. When silver touches $40/oz I will liquidate some.
--------------------------
I signed up for a local consumer research study firm but I fail all its survey qualification questions. Maybe because I don't have a lot of techie gadgets, or watch television. What are some good questions to answer "yes" to so I can get somewhere between $50 to $100 for participating in these groups.

taking YNAB tutorial right now online

December 21st, 2011 at 06:15 pm

Somewhere between being baby-la-la and "oh I never thought of money that way". Comfortable with YNAB's philosophical approach and Rules.

Keep forgetting I have stock. My stock balances are very low though: I haven't added to them this year in favour of an investment yielding 22% instead. I bought one share of P&G. I have enough stock to liquidate if I needed to pay tax for the new vehicle.

Paid mortgage through the mail this month.

Can it be? A No-Spend Day!

December 20th, 2011 at 04:38 pm

Yes. But tomorrow won't be one: I'm buying turkey sausage for bean soup, ground veal and ground pork for tourtière. My scheme for the next eleven days is to spend under $100/day, and put what I didn't spend into the VISA card, then the HELOC, then into silver, money market account, Procter & Gamble Direct Purchase Plan (DPP), and Walgreen DPP. Target by Value Line and Standard & Poor's judgements is worth buying as a Direct Purchase Plan BUT! The initial purchase charge is equivalent to my TD Ameritrade account charge; and when I signed up to receive the Direct Purchase Plan by mail, the Bank of New York/Mellon website's form did NOT accept my name, although when I used the Contact Us form to complain, my name didn't hold up any processing script.

I have been blessed with heaps of bean sprouts so am making chow mein, chop suey, egg foo yung before they get slimy beyond use. The More-With-Less cookbook is helping me out.

I dropped off three cans of tuna, one box of macaroni (it was Barilla, the good stuff), and one package of whole wheat spaghetti at the local food bank.

Has anyone used the YNAB software program with success? Has it paid for itself? I have a trial program but only a seven-day trial key.

My Dead Pool 2012 lists are ready.

'Interest'-ing Day

December 17th, 2011 at 10:34 am

Friday I witnessed six impossible things before noon:
1. Smooth ride free of congestion to downtown, namely the Public Markets.
2. Immediately available parking.
3. Easy walk with 25 lb box o' meat to car.
4. Easy parking spot to Western Ave where I reused the parking sticker (illegal).
5. Got back from downtown in thirteen minutes. (I live over eight miles away).
6. Had exactly enough for fish, meat, Terry's Chocolate Oranges, and 2012 Slingshot.

I offered one to my son's teacher when I came by to give my son a lunch. His teacher is English, so I expected the Chocolate Orange would go over very well. He received it like a young child, with an "OOH!"

Not going to buy a car until my finances are big enough to manage paying off the car + the HELOC.

Compared to a year ago I am $1515.01 poorer in liquid assets. I'm playing the tattered and faded "I paid for a new roof" card here and saying that's not entirely sucky.

Hubby got $350 from his parents. It's designated "fun money." I asked him to consider putting it in the Money Market Account and he made a face. What's wrong with wanting cheap fun all year?

Did I mention I have three strikethroughs for my 2011 dead pool? Two within ten days. Golden!

Ides of December Update

December 15th, 2011 at 01:12 pm

HELOC: $14950
Target: paid $36.57 (statement balance paid in full before 12/22 due date)
Visa: $220 remaining (statement balance paid in full before 12/27 due date)

Year-end interest on HELOC: $454. My goal was to have paid $10K of debt for 2011, and if I exclude borrowing, I've accomplished that. But my balances currently owed are not $10K less than December 2010: they are $6900 lower.

That $10 Target gift card went to a local women's shelter.

I gave $10 each to two schools in the new school directors' districts.

I am feeling broke because of the selloff. I recognize that I must act against my feelings in investing. Hubby gets paid tomorrow, so I'll see if gold slips below this year's average price, and ask about Maple Leafs: expecting big swings. And it's a triple-paycheque month: that's always good.

If you missed this post and want to participate in the recipe exchange, please do. And thanks to those joining in the recipe exchange -- you've posted some intriguing offerings!

Off-Topic: Recipe Exchange

December 14th, 2011 at 07:04 pm

I received an e-mail recipe exchange tree. I am wondering if I can get six to twenty recipes as comments in here to give to my e-mail friends. Naturally the repeat visitors to this post can use what commentators share.

Here's mine, "Syllabub" from The Grange, a 1835-era "gentleman's house" which was originally the house of Upper Canada's "government elite" the Family Compact Boultons.

Syllabub -- a popular dessert recipe served from The Grange kitchens. If it gets runny and starts to separate, serve it as a great drink. Metric measurements are to the right of the item. Use US or metric, but not both, unless you want to double the recipe.

1 large lemon 1
1/3 cup medium sherry 75 mL
2 tbsp brandy (optional) 25 mL
1/4 cup granulated sugar 50 mL
1 cup whipping cream 250mL

Grate lemon peel finely; cut lemon in half and squeeze juice into bowl. Add grated peel, sherry, brandy if using, and sugar. Stir until sugar dissolves. Add cream and whisk until soft peaks form. Spoon mixture into wine glasses. This tastes best refrigerated for 24 hours before serving. Makes four servings.

Gainsbourg is closed due to a kitchen fire, until the end of the holidays. Maybe I'll just make homemade Chex Mix and the Syllabub.

Post-ecliptic thoughts

December 10th, 2011 at 01:12 pm

I present a short list of new or offbeat effective ways I have saved money this year:
1. Freecycle.
2. Invest in Turkish coffee kit. Espresso cravings go away with re-roasted fine ground seasoned with cardamom.
3. Shop at Goodwill for pants and shirts.
4. Start shopping for some groceries at Target.
5. Bring Chinook Book with me to all shopping expeditions.
6. Use Dr. Bronner's Liquid Castile Soap as occasional shampoo. Bring own empty bottles of Dr. Bronner's to refill at store: a 40% saving.
7. Airdrying not quite bone dry clothes.
8. Baking own bread.

We caught a half-hour of the lunar eclipse before the everpresent clouds smothered the moon. Walking in the 56F house led to the observation that my house is still cluttered. I wonder if our school's families can have a fundraising rummage sale.

I found the KitchenAid KFP 700 booklet for the food processor. I have used the processor exactly once, for pie dough. Now that I have the booklet out, I can learn how to use those blades and accessories.

Storewide sale at motorcycle center. Thinking of asking about layaway plan. I told a long-term salesperson there, I suspect he may be the husband of the woman who regularly gives me the "biker-chick" discount, that I am used to certain discounts. If I can get 20% off a good helmet that fits, it's worth paying for.

A suburban Bank of America branch has taken to stationing a security guard outside, I saw as I returned to my car from a grocery trip. I defeated the temptation to tell him that the thieves were in the branch already, wearing business attire.

Paid full price for a screening of "Hugo" in 3D, but as it was one of the best films I have seen in two years ("Man on Wire" made me cry, as did "Hugo" -- films that use Erik Satie compositions are tearjerkers), and we didn't pay for concessions, the outlay wasn't that bad. Seeing "Hugo" in 3D is worth it to approximate how the fin-de-siecle audiences reacted to the "lifelike" motion pictures. It was even better than the book because of the Satie soundtrack and the clips of Keaton, Lloyd and Chaplin.

According to my car fund chart, I am behind my June 2011 accounts by $1734.91. That's about how much principal I've paid my Home Equity Line of Credit, which means that we're not saving much money, if any.
Somebody please let me know I am not alone.

Finally used the Target coupon for the gift card

December 8th, 2011 at 08:31 pm

We were to shop for stocking stuffers but bought things no one really wants in their stockings: AA batteries, socks for boy, a travel mug (that one is going into someone's stocking), and two lampshades.

I have posted about how I like to buy local, but I have to share this anecdote -- there's a lampshade place less than a mile from where I live. When my decades-old antique "shabby chic" lampshade's paper lining cracked apart then broke, I went to the "generations-old family business" to be told nobody made that kind of lampshade anymore, and they wouldn't have the lampshade I wanted unless I requested one custom-made, which would be about a hundred dollars. "Crikey," I thought, "if this place doesn't have it then my lamp is toast!" and I was going to FreeCycle the lamp. Only Target had the lampshades that fit the lamp perfectly at $12.50 so my lamp is lit.

Bought some boxes of frosted bite-size wheat cereal from Target too, to find on the back of each box a plug for "Target Take Charge of Education" so I taped a note to one of the boxes saying it sure would be great if our school were registered in Take Charge of Education, but a school staffer, not a parent nor PTSA member, had to enroll the school. I think I am becoming a Target believer: I used to visit every two months, but now that I have the RedCard I visit every two weeks: always for groceries and necessities, mind.

I also was the conduit for a donated box of pens, pads, notebooks, pencils, and teacher accessories today. I hope/wonder that the teachers will make use of them.

Wondering what to do with the $10 gift card -- give it to boy to buy Pokemon cards, give it to stepgrandmother down in Florida this winter, give it to a women's shelter...

Maybe 2012 is when I restart stock buying.

December 7th, 2011 at 05:27 pm

I think maybe the button was taken! Let's hope!

I am deluged with coupons, and I am so tempted to buy as "an inflation hedge." Local drugstore chain, Target...

One thing I haven't done recently is add to my Direct Purchase Plan stocks. Thinking of also Canadian National Railway (CNI), which I had my eye on and is doing nicely. My father once worked for Canadian National: I have early misty memories of going to the train depot.

CNI's up to 78.07, and Value Line noted when it was not yet at 76 to wait for a pullback. But I'll keep it on my watch, with 3-5 year returns ranging from 6% to 15%.

WAG dropped 11% this year, but Value Line's 3-5 year returns projected are 18% - 22%. DY: 2.66%.

GE year to date's drop is -10.88%, 3-5 year returns projected are 20 - 35%. DY: 3.77%. Morningstar says it's a buy.

PG year to date's drop is... hey there's no drop! 2% increase, with 3-5 year returns projected 12 - 17%. DY: 3.28%.

Kinda glad I went with gold and silver this year.

Also, my friend needs to come up with three stiffs in three weeks to win the 2011 dead pool between the two of us. No 96-year-old famous male with pneumonia was safe from me.

Who needs snow? Lots of flakes here.

December 7th, 2011 at 08:28 am

This is Seattle for you: "We'll siphon your gas and steal your mail and packages, but don't expect us to carry through our insistent pleas for free things by actually picking them up."

I FreeCycle, which means I subscribe to a listserv where locals make WANTED and OFFERED posts for items, and are contacted by people who have a "match." I offered an item and there were eight responses along the lines of "please please please" "I want I want I want." I gave the first intended recipient 72 hours to get back to me as it was the weekend and not everyone, especially the poor, has immediate access to a computer, he didn't; I gave the next-in-line 24 hours to get back to me (she posted in the evening, so I figured she had a PC or smartphone), she didn't. I'm on number three.

I'm not even giving away a piece of petrified dung, or an "E.T." tchotchke (those sat around in 7-11s for two years post-movie where I lived) but a collector's item.

new grocery savings tip

December 5th, 2011 at 06:20 pm

At the self-check-out counters, collect store-issued coupons left behind by customers. My son does this regularly: it's like collecting change under library photocopiers or in the old days, checking the coin return of payphones at airports.

He collects other people's receipts, which isn't so useful, unless they buy things that would go into our price book.

Make sure the customers have actually left the store: one man was confused when my son took his receipt. Patience is key!

Debt Progress From Dec. 6, 2008

December 5th, 2011 at 08:22 am

Back then I owed $161,000. HELOC was $20300, Mortgage was $139000, Visa $700 (I didn't carry a balance on the VISA, but noted it anyway).
Now I'm at $132466, with HELOC down by $5000 and Mortgage down by $22000. That's almost $10K/year.

Oh yes, and my credit union opened a branch within seven minutes' walking distance. Calloo Callay oh Frabjous Day!

planning expenses for next year

December 4th, 2011 at 10:06 am

Need an amortization/savings chart.

Hubby wants a special laptop.
My laptop case is coming apart.

I know when my HELOC roof expenses are paid back I'll relax the payback schedule.

Maybe a motorcycle helmet for the little guy.

New-to-us car.

Today's Special

December 3rd, 2011 at 06:04 pm

The hip, upscale diner my friend and I went to for debt group chat played "oldies" music (Modern English, the Smiths, Duran Duran, Echo & the Bunnymen, Simple Minds, Talk Talk). The diner was not that populated, which surprised me. When it's the four of us we opt for something cheap and north, but my friend and I are Seattle foodies, and although we are in debt, we have enough to pay once a month for some good food. This was kinda economical for us anyway because we combined our occasional "let's eat somewhere good" urban pleasure with debt group.

My husband and son ate out "to get even with" me. I have been eating out for brunch/breakfast nearly every month for eleven years with my debt group.

Was asked for money as I went home from the library. Minutes later I bought an issue of Real Change and spoke with the vendor at last, telling her I'd been passing her by because I didn't have a dollar, not all my walks have "commercial intent", and I end up giving to food banks and homeless shelters, and badged Real Change vendors this year.

I just thought of something. Catholics have Advent calendars, I wonder if many North Americans have Add-debt calendars. Open a door, see a "Gold Box/Red Hot" savings opportunity every day, bring out the card.

My husband has been waiting for eight days for his birthday gift. We are hoping it hasn't been stolen: we've been at home every day, and I have received two packages in that periods.

Read that 18 percent of mortgaged homes in a nearby county are underwater. 17% of mortgaged homes on my sheet are underwater. Washington’s negative equity mortgages accounted for 17.2 percent of all mortgages, according to CoreLogic. The county south of us is hurting with 29% of mortgages underwater. Titanic real estate!

Also learned that things are so tough, that someone broke into a house to steal toilet paper, chicken cutlets and milk. No electronics, just protein and disposable paper. I got my family to lock our car doors now: guess the battery dying from some dimwit using the cabin light to find the gascap release lever snapped the spouse to attention. You have to be broker than broke to steal gas from a 1990s-relic automobile, and to break into a house to steal something not for pawning or for crystal meth production.

For 2012 I will concentrate on getting a job that will allow me to pay off the HELOC or build up our savings so we can work on the house and sell it and move, or rescue my sanity. Also, my friend and I agreed that while many people (myself included) look for the magic one-shot savings tip that will save them 10% on their expenditures, the reality is that dozens or hundreds of cheap little tricks are going to do it, and lots of them require forethought and organization.

First of December

December 1st, 2011 at 02:12 pm

HELOC: $15137.12
Mortgage: $117,328.84

Money spent on coffees today. A local entertainment periodical is offering a raffle of two paid nights in a Vancouver, BC hotel for those who give to a certain food bank charity. If I win I have to take my family (they and apparently homeland security take my solo excursions with alarm). They've been to the hotel and my husband still gripes about it. It's a decent hotel but the nickel-and-diming of fees rots his socks.

Mailed a present to my NY friend: $2.25.

Things are rough all over. When we went to coffee the proprietor was wailing and gnashing his teeth. Half my debt group are ill. Owe money in overdues to libraries but will pay up before Dec. 31.

Dirtnap for Dollars 2011 closes in 30 days. I leapt into the lead in early January and have been there for nearly eleven months.

How to save $10000 - Link du Jour from Wall Street Journal.