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Archive for January, 2012

starts and ends for januar/january/janvier

January 31st, 2012 at 06:50 pm

January 1st:
HELOC: 14927
Money Market Account: 10493
Gold and Silver: 11918

January 31st (no-spend day, by the by)
HELOC: 14400
Money Market Account: 10600
Gold and Silver: 12915

What should be up is up, what should be down is down. The Money Market Account amount is arbitrary: if I had to pay my mortgage tomorrow for March, my Money Market Account would be at 10600, else it would be at $11400.

I am mulling over challenges and goals for February: maybe just doing something courgeous and noble every day, whether it be public or private, is enough.

Ideas: juicing, decluttering, washing -- I bought a gallon of Sal Suds, which now has tax added when purchased online from Dr. Bronner, reading, exercising... fill some in, I'm relatively bereft of ideas.

YNAB update, plus when you can't cut back any more, add more

January 30th, 2012 at 10:07 am

I speak of simple pleasures. Coco Chanel said that a hot bath is good for a rotten mood, and I agree. Yesterday, having had very little sleep, I threw some dead sea salts, ylang-ylang and jasmine essential oils in the bath, and once soaking made some price book entries from my Trader Joe's escapade -- yes I could use some advice as to how to properly enjoy cheap yet luxurious pleasures -- am I to read Balzac or Flaubert or Baudelaire and pop Trader Joe's cocoa truffles in my mouth while hydrating with mixed pear juice + sparkling water? Then I could deal with the "this just in!" reports from Junior about the NHL All-Star Game and other interruptions.

I try for $100/day maximum spending, including bills. I maxed out today with gas and groceries, and will max out the next four days with bills.

YNAB end-of-month top four updates:
Food
Groceries: $480 (excellent!), Restaurants: $220 (three people, I ate out every week, but only at one place with cloth napkins or Script-typeface menus or pâté with toast points. My family ate out too. Groceries spending will rise next month: my seven-week supply of meat will run out, and eventually we will try to get our $55 membership use out of Costco.

Mortgage: $1353.71. Includes a teeny prepayment.

Car Insurance: $266.80.

Phone & Internet: $229.18. This WILL go down next month by $105 next month: we both paid the same bill unbeknownst to each other, and we no longer have a landline.

This month, while eating out, I learned of grenadine soda. A tablespoon or two of grenadine, and soda water, with a bit of lime juice. This I have been attempting to recreate at home, using what must be a decade-old bottle of grenadine syrup. We also used up the decade-old box of kosher salt. My bilingual box of salt I brought with me when I immigrated is still here and nowhere near empty.

today in spending

January 27th, 2012 at 06:28 pm

I saw a Seattle Councilmember come into the closing-fast Greenwood Market. We were lured in by the Everything Up to 40% off signs but wow, now that I have my price book I can see how marked up the merchandise was even with the discounts! Finds: some Saint Andre super-butterfat Brie to use for a posh pasta carbonara with walnuts, kombucha which actually WAS a deal with discount, butter. We were careful about our purchases until we left the dairy and produce, sigh.

As we left, the beginning notes of Talk Talk's "It's My Life" caught me. "You guys go on ahead, I'll catch up," I said. The lads walked as far as the main ingress/egress where the speakers are when my son stopped and said "No I'm staying until the song is over." We took turns at the water fountain until the song ended, good times. I wonder if the Councilmember likes Talk Talk.

Oh yeah, as of today I finally have enough $$ to feel comfortable buying a Prius should our car die tomorrow.

some quickies before the coffee gets cold

January 25th, 2012 at 09:54 am

I repent at leisure for my impatience in mailing the bills off. This is a personal problem: I see the bills with payment in their sealed envelopes waiting by the front door and fret about late-fee charges, also can't estimate to the day when payments will be received, so off they go.

I've mentioned in earlier posts about the "tsunami" of bills at the end of this month--dashed difficult to time these before Friday's payday. The mortgage cheque, insurance cheque, phone cheque have all been received; the EFT for the electricity bill went through, I made one payment to the HELOC for a rounded balance.

Now my husband has a day off and we're down to our last $200 unless we want to risk a third withdrawal from our Money Market Account, or "live off the credit card" for unscheduled expenses and you just know the US gummint's gonna suspect us of funnelling money out to support Al Qaeda if we have too many withdrawals (thank Maud I am not responsible for Congress, and that it's highly unlikely we'll make four additional withdrawals from the account before January 31 when we get money on Friday).

no longer snowbound

January 21st, 2012 at 09:35 am

For my first outing since snowflakes started on Tuesday, I went to Starbucks with my spouse yesterday to go get coffees and then to the post office to mail some bill payments. I wore my mink hat and coat: nobody blinked. We all probably felt like we had been teleported to Juneau. I don't like the money tsunami flooding out of our chequing account at January's end, yet it's a relief to know that some money still remains, and not all of the payments due are monthly or even bimonthly. I only wish more of the payments could be scheduled for after January 27. It'll be a flood going out and a flood coming in.

With the rise of gold and silver prices, I am now past $15000 for our car fund. This is a milestone. I am caught up with my HELOC, next week we get pay stuff.

Wondering if I should buy some Walgreen Co stock. Standard & Poor's Reports plus Value Line say yes. My list of replacement items suggests otherwise. I could buy two shares of WAG, and have some $ left over for DonorsChoose.org. On the forums someone said he'd bought TC and FCX, and the fundamentals and buy prices on those appeal to me: I like 17%+ Return on Equity, some dividends, low price/sales ratios, and natural resources. Now that you know my strategy you also know how not to invest.

Our refinanced mortgage has seen us leapfrog past other recent refi'ers I am tracking. We haven't even made our six months payment yet and already we have paid 6.27% of the mortgage, and by our first year we will have paid over 10%. It took us eight years to get to 33% payoff with our prior mortgage, and now if we don't sell the house we'll be at 33% before 2015 comes around.

snowbound pt 2: still have power

January 19th, 2012 at 10:24 am

Lots of people don't. School is closed, so lots of writing practice scheduled for boy. Woke up to ice pellets striking the windows. Nice feeling to be able to turn on the lights, though I did bring the battery-powered lantern into the bedroom last night.

Regretting not making Costco trip earlier in the month: ran out of flour, brown sugar, best-tasting coffee, apple juice, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, stewed tomatoes. What good is a price book when you are limited to carrying your groceries on foot from two local supermarkets?

Update: We are now without a landline. It wasn't good value to get repeat phone calls from spoofed numbers saying "this is your final notice" for reducing credit card rates. Also somehow landline voice messaging costs $13+/month and that's more than half of what I pay for Voicemail, unlimited texts and internet with Virgin Mobile.

YNAB four weeks later: $437.27 increase in assets, $493.82 decrease in liabilities. Net worth is $6818.54 (excludes stocks, retirement funds, personal property, precious metals and house equity).

coffee without honey and cream = 41 cents/cup
saving at least a dollar by not visiting a coffee shop.
turkish coffee = 53 cents/cup
saving $1.22 by not visiting a coffee shop


Three Weeks into YNAB, plus downward equity

January 16th, 2012 at 08:37 am

Assets up $380.75, liabilities down $445.28.
Does not include gold and silver, bonds, CDs, retirement, or illiquid assets.

Inspired by monkeymama's foreclosure post, I checked my street: one block up, our block, one block down. We didn't have many foreclosures--just one Notice of Trustee Sale from 2003 on our block, and a dead woman's house that didn't sell fast one block over, but I think that's because people with 0% down found new construction more alluring than these "Welcome Home GIs" mid-century houses. That's not to say our neighborhood didn't suffer, it just didn't zoom up in price. Summer 2008 saw the most inflated values, I believe, as people were priced out in better areas.

The top two properties for equity (both above 48%) in my Schadenfreude tracker are on my street. They didn't do cashout refinances. When I calculate the total amortized principal+interest from current mortgages, and divide that by their current Zillow values, the results are both under 1. All properties but two (those are four bedroom houses on our street that Zillow last year recalculated their values to be roughly $92000 per bedroom) have lower equity from May 2010, despite some having 20-year and 10-year mortgages.

By the end of the year, I think I can get my HELOC balance to equal 10% of my mortgage balance. It's a tidy goal to work towards. Probably more realistic than the hoped-for return to 60% equity.

Bean Here, Done This! With short subjects of food

January 14th, 2012 at 09:23 am

This week I did not at any time order coffee or espresso out. I know the week doesn't officially end until fifteen hours from now, but I thought that was remarkable. My husband had only work coffee on Friday.

I will brave jaunts for flour, eggs and canned soups, so I can commence to warming the main floor and our stomachs. I will also brave semi-annual payment of car insurance. This might be the last one we have for our vehicle. I better go bless the heap with holy water so we are protected from driving hell this week.What's great on a snow day? Red pepper soup and brioche!

Downloaded ePamphlet from usa.gov on healthy frugal recipes. You Can Too!

As I picked up some paper detritus, I found an old printout from grocerylists.org. I love how, in addition to dairy, fish, baking goods, there's a shopping section for carcinogens. I resolve to reduce my intake of parabens this year. I just had bacon burgers last night, au Yellow Farmhouse Cookbook, so that will be sad to restrict. Come to think of it, pancetta and prosciutto are processed meats too. I go cry now.

It is nearly the middle of the month and we have spent only $26 on automotive fuel! Yay shut-in lifestyle!

Fave poverty cookbooks: Cooking for College Kids - home ec teacher from Alberta so LOTS of meat recipes. Meat's plentiful in Alberta! More-With-Less, the Mennonite classic. Saving Dinner by Leanne Ely.

2012 predictions and me

January 13th, 2012 at 11:58 am

Etta James released from hospital last week
Robin Gibb seeking natural treatment. Seven rounds of chemo!
Penny Marshall smoking and eating Italian food.

Psychics predict ends to Abe Vigoda, Muhammad Ali, Pope Benedict XVI, Lindsay Lohan, and Dick Clark. This is not wishful thinking: I have only one of those people on my list.

Also, gold and silver will rise. I'm hoping they'll rise enough to handle the also-predicted summer spike in food commodities and oil prices. I predict summer gas prices west of the Rockies to reach $4.50 US/gallon by August.

If you look at the sidebar, there's a new debt reduction milestone. My car fund is not increasing, as I have made debt reduction my top priority this quarter. Hubby and I paid the same bill without each other's knowledge. He did it on the credit card, I used EFT.

For fun: go to Google.com and input "do a barrel roll." Safe for all ages.

1-11-12

January 11th, 2012 at 02:27 pm

I have a few no-spend days. It feels like deprivation and no benefits because much of the surplus has been earmarked for end-of-month utility bills, ensuring a zero balance for the next credit card, and the semi-annual auto insurance.

We were warned by the pediatric dentist late last year that she would be an out-of-service provider. Fortunately that issue was resolved very recently (we should get our letter in the next two days).

Learned that our charges for water, waste and sewer services are 34% below average residential.

The problem: my brother is straddling hope/expectation that our two families will vacation together. I won't do it if I can't afford it, and yet I sense I will be buying a car soon. I am now putting out feelers for a relax-pace, part-time temp job for four months.

I have a question: do you know any home mortgagee who did at least one cash-out refinance in the past seven years who presently does not regret her decision?

Update: A man who nearly lost his house to a Sheriff's Sale last year has been arrested a year after breaking into a woman's house across the street, tying the woman with duct tape, taking her debit card and demanding her PIN. He didn't refinance in the last seven years, just bought in Nov. 2005, like the guy in the BottomLine MSN article, and didn't have the means to pay his mortgage for several months. He didn't have a serious criminal history before then. I've got to keep tabs on my neighbours now!

Epiphanies

January 6th, 2012 at 11:38 am

It's a religious observation, sure, but meditating on its secular connotation here are some:
1. my food bill is high because the meat I buy is growth-hormone free. Sure that sounds smug until you know that my dying mom asked me to eat organic and whole foods. If your parents died from degenerative and cardiac disease you'd be making different choices too.

2. Inertia is the only thing stopping us from cancelling our landline. The only calls are from offshore autodialers, and they're not worth running out of the shower to answer.

3. You know what would be funny? A 2000s-era home-building publicly traded company specializing in Nevada/Arizona/California properties called "Icarus." Seattle can have "Fungi Bull Properties."

4. Come to think of it "Seattle Spores" would be a funny NHL hockey name.

5. The Canucks is not a nice team name: "A Canadian, esp. a French Canadian (chiefly used by Canadians themselves and often derogatory in the US)", but it's used. What's sad is that "Canadiens" is a team name used in a city in a separatist province. "Canadian" is also a code term white American racists use to label African-Americans.

6. Insurance companies somehow know when our insurance becomes due: three solicitations in two days for our business. Two of them give teaser quotes higher than what we currently pay, and one of them has the Hugh Dennis catchphrase "Are you paying too much for... insurance?"

7. Ease is the Disease.

8. For your decluttering/weight-loss/woo-trippy pleasure, It's All Too Much - Beatles YouTube (safe for all)

Mystery Home Science Theatre: Case of the Bloated Food Budget

January 5th, 2012 at 10:51 am

I live on the coast of the largest body of water on the planet, 110 minutes drive from the second vastest country on the planet. Gas prices, home values, taxes for me are more expensive than for someone in Gary, Indiana or Tulsa, Oklahoma. So my food budget is bigger too. If you gasp at $600/month eating-in groceries for a family of three, you are either a farmer or vegetarian or you can get a 4-bedroom mansion in your neighborhood for $175000. For $175000 one gets a two-bedroom condo in a 40-year-old multi-strata building in my neighborhood, and I live in one of the uh, more affordable areas in my city.

I have been fixated with $750 budgeted for food away and at home and now recognize this fixation is futile and wrong. If someone lived in Boston or Manhattan or San Francisco thought "I should be able to spend no more than $1000/month on a 2200 sq. ft. living area not situated anywhere near a toxic waste site. What am I doing wrong?" I would gently mention that costs of living vary by area.

Since adopting the YNAB software budgeting system, I must accept that there is no “normal” month for categories, and food is one of the most volatile. It probably has a beta rating of 2.4 in my household. December is when we splurge on stocking stuffers and little feasts and that is not normal. December 31 is not normal for us either: we spent $60, the three of us, eating out.

I’ve also just recently started to keep a price book, have not abandoned meat on our diet, and although I’ve cut down on my coffees out, or swapped two cappuccinos for three drips, in January it feels really good to have something hot down the throat while making those no-gas-day errands.
My son takes lunch to school.
I make soup but maybe not enough.
My husband eats at home most of the time he works.
We do whole and organic foods and shop at farmers’ markets, though.
I like seafood and know its health benefits but even being by the fricking ocean doesn’t stop mussels from being $4/lb and clams at $5/lb or halibut at $22/lb. What do we have? Salmon at $5/lb., sole at $7/lb, tilapia or snapper at $4.50/lb. And it’s not just me buying coffees, or chess meeting snacks, or hot chocolates.

I am now reading the flyers to stock up on good deals offered by any of the three major supermarkets and two discount chains I frequent. Probably it is too early to call this food-cost experiment a bust.
--------------------
January 1:
personal holdings
Precious Metals: $10800
HELOC: $14771
Liquid: $17500
Stock: $1800

Stockwatch - some I have, some have great expectations.
TGT: 51.25
MCD: 100.33
DIS: 37.51
FCX: 36.81
WAG: 33.09
PG: 66.71
-----------------------------
What I'm reading now: Burr, by Gore Vidal. The Disappearing Spoon, by Sam Kean.

wu wei of the dragon (year)

January 1st, 2012 at 05:45 pm

At last it can be told:
I met baselle yesterday to deliver my list and share in a toast to 2011 and 2012. We had a lovely time: I was immediately comfortable with baselle, and coming from a hermitess like me, that is big. She told me she was waiting for someone, and I pulled out All Your Worth and my decorated price book from my bag and said "let's see if these items are markers of the person you're to meet with."

At last it can be told:
1. Annette Funicello
2. Aretha Franklin
3. Dick Clark
4. Etta James
5. Gary Carter
6. James Garner
7. Larry Hagman
8. Penny Marshall
9. Robin Gibb
10. Zsa Zsa Gabor - breath barnacle

Eight slots were committed, two of them wavered over three weeks. I agonized about Don Rickles, Prince Philip and Andy Williams, but I am about points. This is a "balanced" (growth + income: some sure things, plus one long shot, one nonagenarian) list. I do not wish ill on any of these people, and I do know what it is to lose immediate relatives well before their time. I put Zsa Zsa Gabor down to thwart everyone else who had her on their lists too, just like I buy stock or precious metals just to make its price go down the next day. I wonder if the rule of five applies to dead pools: one does better than you expected, one worse than you expected, and three are par for the course.

I won the dead pool my friend and I had between ourselves last year, with 20% success rate. I'll be happy with 20% success this year, but I hope for 44 points or more... But the dead pool victory of 2011 ensures $30 added to my $20 Challenge! Thank you to Chris, Harry and Jack for making this possible.

Hubby bought clothes at JC Penney at vastly reduced prices, I think 70% off. Righteous.

Walked on Burke-Gilman trail in north-east part of city with boy. Beautiful day, hubby was pushing at me to break in my helmet on the scoot, but boy asked to come along.