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Back and broker but not with a broken back

August 3rd, 2012 at 12:46 pm

The neighbours left on vacation. They took the third best option and left their senile incontinent lonely whining dog inside. Better options are kenneling and taking the dog with them.

I left on vacation with my family. We took the 2nd best option and left all our cats with 24/7 housesitters. The best option would have been kenneling one cat and keeping two cats at home.

Semi-frugal: had free tickets for the Botanical Gardens and for OMNIMAX and Planetarium of the Science Center, and free breakfasts for most of the travel days. Also many dinner entrees for under $10, unheard of in Seattle unless there is a drive-thru and caloric information posted above a uniformed front-counter person.

not at all frugal: Hubby locked the car keys in the truck, requiring a locksmith, and the boy unbuckled his seatbelt when a state trooper approached us after pulling us over. Yes the car had stopped before the boy extricated himself but apparently that did not matter and cannot be proven in court.

Car got 30.5 mpg mileage -- not terrific, but it does terrific speed as we learned through Wyoming, South Dakota, Iowa, Montana and Idaho.

more expenses: higher car insurance, boy requires three teeth extracted, ticket for the unbuckled seatbelt -- we were NOT ticketed for speeding, though we were pulled over for doing 88 in a 75 zone. We were not ticketed because my husband was driving: he had not exceeded the speed limit at any time in our marriage prior to this incident, and we had a rental car we had not spent much time in.

Not looking forward to credit card statements, no sirree.

More Spending, and most not on fun

July 23rd, 2012 at 01:01 pm

DS has three adult teeth coming in, two of his baby teeth are not giving way -- his mouth again resembles that of a shark with a second set of munchers. 31 days from now the baby teeth get removed by dentist. Kaching Kaching. Weep.

Went out to Ivar's Acres of Clams as our guests, on a Sunday night, vacillated between seafood and pizza (show me a restaurant that does both well) -- getting reservations for six on short notice in tourist season is tricky. But I managed it. Brother knows pizza is four blocks away if he wants it: very fresh, like from the water to the pier, seafood is not. On days like that I am reminded how small our city is.

My waist is finally at 34", a one-inch reduction. I keep reading that women with waists 35" in circumference or thicker are at increased risk of diabetes, cancer, heart disease: what if you are taller than 98% of women? What if you are over 40 and your tummy naturally thickens as part of the aging process? What if your waist is still slimmer than your thighs and your breasts and you can look down and see your toes?

Roadtrip will damage my diet. That is why I have protein bars, trail mix, and spring water for food supply. Pondering taking coconut oil for insomnia and sleep issues, but I would need something portable as an oral debriding agent.

One cat has adopted my brother's family. The one that jumps on people ran back to us on the first cool evening and has not left the bed sixteen hours later. No he is not dead.

No dead pool news: Julius Pierpont Patches has died, which saddens those of us who grew up watching him on TV. Andy Williams is dying and I am sad about that too.

In dry weather, the money deluge

July 19th, 2012 at 01:15 pm

Too bad it is outgoing and not incoming.

My aged automobile's engine does not turn over when it is hot. This started a week before my relations arrived, but as I saw the engine temperature indicator narrowly near the red zone, I thought it was heat -- it was the first hot day of the year. The second time it happened was on Tuesday that week, I took it in for its oil change and asked the mechanics to look at the starter problem. They did not reproduce the problem of the engine not turning over when it was hot, but mentioned the starter lock cylinder and ignition switch were worn, and I hesitated as I did not see the connection between those worn parts and our engine. I had to go to Vancouver BC to pick up people and the car failed in Bellingham after I refueled. No rental cars available at the agency five blocks from the gas station because it was late afternoon Friday. My schedule was off and I did not get to see people because I arrived too late. A few more incidents of the vehicle not starting led me to call the shop in desperation and I authorized the replacement of the ignition lock cylinder and switch which is performed today. NOW, after driving it in hot weather, the shop owner says they have reproduced the problem and now it will cost me double.

The landscaping has been done on the new lawn but not on the garden which desperately needs weeding. My relatives will not take the car out for sightseeing because it is flaky and my brother will not drive if he is not licensed to drive in North America. Which leaves me to drive the piece of junk to places where it will naturally overheat, like the Dragon festival in the International District, or Tulalip outlet stores where my sister wants to visit.

I would babysit my nephew and let my brother and sister-in-law have time together but he does not understand English, and I do not speak much Japanese.

The bright spots is that my brother has not yet succeeded in picking a fight with me. The other bright spot: he arrived when my relatives are here so I was able to introduce everyone so no one will call 911 and erringly report a burglar when he shows up to paint our house. Thirdly, my nephew really likes our cats and our cats have, surprisingly, not fled in terror but let him touch them. My sister-in-law does not like cats but she is warming up to the idea of having one, which pleases my brother. She even did not mind when one cat jumped on her. I have warned the painter that my cat may try to jump on him if he enters our house. I know it is not cool or funny to let pets jump on visitors or strangers but the cat does not bite or scratch and we have to CATCH him in the act to correct his behaviour. We can't control him if we are not around to witness.

The painter has taken his deposit. This week has cost me $2500 and it is not even the end of Thursday. If it were not for Greg Proops taping an episode of "QI" for its tenth series with Stephen Fry, and my husband needing someone to share car-driving duties (RENTAL CAR: I AM DESPERATE BUT NOT COMPLETELY STUPID) for 4200 miles, I would do serious harm to myself.

The gift cards I mailed to what I thought was the Cafe Racer survivor's address did not reach him. They were not returned to me. All today has told me is how much I fail at life.

Getting Replacement Printer

June 26th, 2012 at 10:16 am

As long as I am ranting about people who are in denial about their animals' age-related decline, I admit that my HP inkjet printer is not worth maintaining anymore. We are shelling out $20 big ones for a laser printer and a USB keyboard from the University surplus.

More in cheap deals: my credit union generously reduced the ticket price to minor league baseball so I could save $32 while I see my hometeam lose 2-12! We invited my kid's best friend to come along, which was a bad idea, as he brought lots of money and bought sugary things for him and for our own boy. At least my kid cannot claim we don't take him anywhere fun this summer.

I Don't Understand Some Homeowners

June 23rd, 2012 at 08:31 am

Some people in my neighbourhood are still doing cash-out refinancing of their houses. I suppose it is marginally better than having outstanding home equity lines of credit if the balances are large, but doesn't one have to pay application fees, discount points, credit checks, appraisal fees, documentation fees, title search costs, et cetera? A regular refinance here could cost $4200-$6900. And the terms are usually for 30 years, regardless of the ages of the mortgagees. So four mortgage refinances over a decade, not uncommon where I am, cost close to $22000. Now, if the mortgages were for shorter terms and smaller interest, the costs would not be so cumbersome. I paid close to nothing for my refinance and neither shortened nor lengthened my term but I saved $8700 in interest. But if the amounts are larger and the terms remain constant, that is prolonged, the interest saved is not as significant.

Our newspapers used to present "oh woe" articles of people who have lived in their houses for most of their lives, but somehow did not mention the frequent mortgage refinances, always for larger amounts. And articles of the "we are underwater on our mortgage and have lost our equity" sort and it turns out they got 0% down or interest-only mortgages. Values in our area dropped from the 2007 peak by 30% by 2011, which is not long ago.

I weep for the future of your country. About half of these people vote too and nearly all have good, professional jobs. Or maybe it is just that many people in my neighbourhood are clueless. That seems most likely to me.

Money Musings

June 22nd, 2012 at 07:49 am

Having a lot of equity in the house helps only when you are trying to sell it; nowadays you cannot borrow so much from it.

We learned that a house down the street is scheduled for public auction. The owners had gone to India to take care of an ailing relative, but rented the house. I do not know how it is that the rental payments, for there are people living in the house, are not applied to the mortgage and that the mortgage is not paid. Maybe the mortgage is with a lender who went under or who is notoriously inept or the owners died or something. The amount owing is a trifle above what we owe on our house, I did not know if the renters knew about the notice of trustee sale so I printed a copy out, along with some advice and links on renters' rights. If they get booted out they can live in our house if they do not smoke. Their cat comes over almost daily to hang out with one of our cats. My husband fantasizes about buying the house by covering the outstanding amount so we save on moving expenses.

Gold slid 2.5% on deflationary fears. This bums me out but it is not like I have not already profited, and I expect some volatility. I am relieved my obsession with buying a car and keeping as many assets liquid as possible kept me focused away from gold buying.

An Eureka moment: the neighbours who are negligent dog owners are probably too clueless to suspect that their animals are at the ends of their average life spans per breed, and do not think animals can get dementia. Google will give the average life span for a dog breed, and calculating how long the people have been in their houses with their dogs leads us to conclude that these are old dogs. Having had a 19.75 year old cat, I can tell you that elderly animals can wander in the dark and moan, whimper and whine because they are disoriented or feel alone. Even without dementia, elderly animals suffer from separation anxiety and the pointer next door has ALWAYS suffered from separation anxiety.

Tip: do not get a Burmese or Siamese kitten if you are over 50 years old. At one time the world's oldest cat was a Burmese cat, 35 years old. We had no idea about the life spans of Orientals when my mom bought kittens; we told a couple who once owned a Siamese that we wanted to wait until my very possessive Burmese had died before having a baby, and they said "they can live into their 20s, you know."

I walked from Convention Place to Boren and Madison, then to 5th and Madison, then to Columbia and 4th, and saw no coins anywhere. The beggars must be especially keen-sighted or baselle must have beaten me to it. I was hoping for eleven cents to make up for my mortgage increase.

Disorganization Blues

June 14th, 2012 at 08:28 pm

Today I found a recent 401(k) statement for the spouse. This set me off on a hunt for the retirement statements I have. I have piles of papers scattered in the spare room, our bedroom and in the living room. Never mind I have three crates for filing these.

In rooting for these statements like a blind pig who trapped her snout in lavender oil for a half-hour, I learned I miss investing. I have not invested for three months, instead saving $$ for house, taxes, laptop, family vacation. I must return to dropping envelopes of hot love to my brokerage of choice, and dabble in foreign currencies and precious metals.

I have also learned I cannot have control over my life until I tame my clutter. Then I will have organized and prioritized. Everything is a wildcard right now. I want so much to keep things simple, but the monkey mind reigns supreme. I hate this because I set a bad example for my child who is even more organizationally impaired than I.

But in also rooting for the statements I have found a library book I feared I would never see! That goes back tomorrow.

$306.13 optometrist bill today. I wonder what kind of high deductible we have in our health savings account.
He understands though, and spots me some prescription medication when I visit for my regular examinations, saving me $89.

What else: oh I was tabulating the finance statements for our bridge loan application outside a closed cafe (no, baselle, not THAT one) when the killer's dad (TKD) comes up. We are alone as the spouse had gone across the street for cheap roadtrip reads. I give TKD a hug, we talk about the grieving process, bridge loans, nuclear detritus washing up on the West Coast (note to self: do not move south) and why the cafe is closed: owner hastened downtown for a permit to participate in the local farmers market which started today. I did not tell TKD that I bought gift cards for the recovering barista/cook (RBC). Some stalking, errr, research showed that RBC was threatened with foreclosure three years ago so he presumably is not a wealthy person. I got a Target card for him and a Petco card for his little cat friend who could well be his "cheap therapist" as he recovers to return to work. A man who rides a motorcycle and owns a cat melts my heart.

A fearless, organized life filled with vitality and love: that is my goal to work toward.

My rough challenges for June

June 4th, 2012 at 02:50 pm

Cafe One is closed because of a horrific murder on Wednesday. Cafe Two will be closed by noon tomorrow as the owner is going to the Oregon Coast for scuba diving. Dare I attempt weaning myself off coffee? I heard coffee drinkers live longer but not where I am.

Challenge #2: the glorious thing about my travel was that I went with a menopausal woman who is dealing with spongy tummy, hot flashes and surreptitious weight gain just like I am. If you're a gay man like Dan Savage you can say that weight loss is easy when your diet is mostly fruits and vegetables, you lay off HFCS, and you exercise. If you're a woman of a certain age, your experience is that exercise and diet are key, but not the complete cure. We lay off HFCS but we suffer progesterone loss. So I will try to reduce my weight. Maybe five pounds this month. I am using Energy Medicine for Women which my friend bought at Powell's.

Challenge #3: Going outside to do gardening/yard cleanup while my neighbors let their dogs bark. This is a sanity challenge as after a few years the barks become close to torture. Better to have two months of prolonged torture and a lifetime of relief afterward than slow torture for years. I guess where I live the odds of dog owners stepping up their care regimen when their pets become geriatric are as likely as criminally insane people voluntarily committing themselves or voluntarily giving up their firearms.

coupon book for 2nd year of mortgage arrived. Taxes went up, no surprise, and we are now paying eleven cents more a month.

What's Bleak this Week

June 1st, 2012 at 08:32 am

My family and I lost some friends on Wednesday at one of our hangouts. At the other coffee hangout I would see an elderly man and chat with him, and come away happier or more filled with knowledge from the experience: that man is the father of the person who killed my friends. I hurt, but not as much as the family and best friends and fans of the dead, the man whose jaw, lung and armpit were shot, the cafe owner whom I have known and rode scooters with for years, and the elderly man who could do nothing but tried everything to prevent this from happening.

I paid $756 of our credit card bill. DH bought a laptop. Since August 1 I have paid $10225 principal of mortgage debt.

DH finally fixed his tax withholding so we are living on 6% less cash. This doesn't wreck me, but wherever we land next I will most definitely start working. And no more skimping for eight-ten weeks to come up with tax money.

I am going out of town for a few days. This was planned before the shootings and I need some time away from home. My friend is paying for the hotel, we are going dutch on food, and I am paying for my transportation there, back and around. I don't intend to be too frugal: I need sleepwear, would like some books at one of the largest brick-and-mortar bookstores in the country.

I still dislike my son's school. It employs an evaluation tool for teachers from the Northwest Evaluation Association which is very uneven and unreliable: my kid has scored from 60 percentile for his grade to, I kid you not, off the charts in the same subject. This tells me nothing. Nobody tells me anything, very few read my sentences, most interrupt or talk over me. I am waiting for education professionals to tell me how these behaviors and actions foster trust and communication and cooperation between parents and teaching staff. I do not put forward anything to the staff that is not evidence-based or documented or undiscussed with my in-laws, with a half-century of teaching experience between them.

My state really sucks for education and funding for public health. Do not move here.

Two Year Schadenfreude anniversary

May 26th, 2012 at 03:23 pm

I started tracking the values of twelve properties in my region, including mine: ten in my city, one in the same county, and one in a different county. My criteria for tracking: did I work with the individual homeowner, were we close in age? One I stopped tracking last year because the house was sold. One condo, one townhome, ten houses. Replaced that with a 3 bedroom house one town over.

COUNTIF(Houses with depreciating equity): 8
My equity went up by 0.17% over two years. That's with a 20-year mortgage, then a 12-year mortgage. Only two people refinanced over that two-year period. One refinanced four times over 100 months prior to May 2010, so she's probably due.
Median mortgage paid: $10702.96 from inception of mortgage. $16167.38 average.
Loan to Value ratios vary from 109.79 to 43.62.
Percent of mortgages paid year to date: 2.6683% to 17.2567%. I'm ranked fifth from the top, not bad for nine months mortgage.
Median mortgage balance remaining: $257614.13; average is $253945.84.
The Median Mortgage Debt in my state is $225581. This is one of the most expensive counties for real estate.

Median equity: $64205.97; average $69271.85
Median Value of Home Equity nationwide is $181189, so you can tell we suck bananas here. Lengths of mortgage range from 179 months to 9 months. Lengths of home ownership range from 179 months to 70 months.

Median equity percentage: 21.07%; average 21.78%.

time to suspend my savings goals

April 27th, 2012 at 09:16 am

Everything now is about getting the house up for sale. Not sure if I should immediately pay off the HELOC or let it go as I spend $ on curb appeal projects. I have another 21 years left on the HELOC, and $37K before I hit my max.

So I abandon the car plan and YNAB for now.

I must call about landscaping the front and back, bridge loans, and maybe even a Bellingham real estate agent. I need to call its School District Admin office and see how they accept/treat children with graphomotor difficulties. I went to a meeting yesterday at my son's school: I still don't understand his teacher other than that he has two dozen kids, an overloaded schedule, and a high priority to make sure his students can write competently and that he himself meets the metrics and expectations the district gives him. He doesn't entertain the possibility that my kid is bored/frustrated with his class, because I guess teachers think if you have special needs or some sensory problem going on, your brain is supposed to be stuck on that and not at all racing so fast and finding the pace of the class slow. I want a cognitive test without 130-level ceilings to see if my kid's . brain is doing much else. There are programs for the highly capable but if you're hindered by a disorder that makes writing or fine motor actions grievously poor you don't get accepted.

It doesn't make sense to move to a city with 1/10 the population and expect more understanding and experience, I guess.

Weirdness: all the other properties are going up except my and my friend's. She's got just under $120K left on her mortgages and I have just under $130K on mine.

April 5: The Colour of Spring

April 5th, 2012 at 08:27 am

This is safe and lovely, especially on a sunny morning. If it weren't cold and I weren't limping I'd go trippin' through daffodils and tulips. Older people can enjoy Blossom Dearie's "A Fine Spring Morning" or Donovan's "Lullaby of Spring", young'uns "Spring" by Saint Etienne or "Magical Spring" by Ride.

The spring has lifted the housing market and thawed the values. I'm feeling bold enough to mail my tax payment, and to plan my post-tax spending: car maintenance, hair colouring (I get a 'consideration' discount for a book I unloaded on my hairdresser), dental exam, needed pants, shirts and sleepwear. I also attempted sit-ups last night. My appetite is back and I'm sleeping through most of the night now. Although my hockey team has clinched its division it cannot do what the NY Rangers did and clinch its conference.

Tonight is silent film and vaudeville night, with dinner at a Cajun/Creole restaurant. Yeah!

It's National Poetry Month: I am trying to get into the spirit of it, by reading beyond Wendy Cope and the Modernists. Break the Glass by Jean Valentine won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry but I am not moved by its contents. The Dickinson and Baudelaire collections are all out on loan at my library. I'll probably go retro and take out the Coleridge collection, read Elizabeth Bishop as well, and borrow Pokemon Dad's 2009 published book of poems for the kid to read and bring to school: he can point to the photo on the back and say "I know this man!"
Finance: this is a tight week. I'll probably have under $50 in chequing by the time the paycheque comes. Feh. VISA to pay, more Lenten donations... did I mention that I based my Lenten offerings on the performance of my hockey team, that has now won seven games in a row? Watch them slack off after Easter and give St. Louis the conference winner title.
I paid $45.19 for gas this week, our tank down to a never-before-witnessed .6 gallon of fuel. Why so low? Tax payment and budgeting for March. I overspent that month's budget by $850 as I shunted $1170 of the income to the 1040-V payment.
My Struggles: my attempts to help my kid with his writing are ineffective, inefficient and feeble. His teacher called us into a conference to discuss my kid's handwriting difficulties. It only took oh, three workbooks of writing, a call and interview with a psychologist, a call to the school district's Speech Language Pathologist and a subsequent call from the SLP assigned to our school to bring on this conference. I do not like my school district. I do not like the school PTSA: "We're going to entreat you to contribute and then not respond to you when you offer to volunteer, okay? Because that's what makes us great, okay? I don't feel you're a team player with community spirit if you demand a response from us for niggly details like when and where to show up, okay?" I don't have to like my son's teacher but I feel I must trust his experience and approach to helping my son succeed, though my son's grades aren't any evidence that his teacher and I are doing any good. At least DS's teacher acknowledged I was aware of the problem and trying to help, and at least I was able to walk away from the meeting knowing that his teacher did not rule out the possibility of a disorder or a disability.

little things

March 28th, 2012 at 01:46 pm

1. I started juicing, now that I am reading a book by Dr. Sandra Cabot. This week I used spinach in the drinks, for protein and to offset the acid from lemon, grapefruit and orange. The drinks aren't horrible. The great thing about juicing is that a lot of carrots get used, and therefore I buy in bulk, and that brings the cost per pound of carrots down to 70 to 80 cents.

2. Gas is now officially over $4.019/gallon where I live.

3. I believe my neighbour's dog is senile, as she is old and was whining outside at 2:35 am. We suggested to the neighbor that he bring his dog to a vet for a checkup, as she was outside and whining when it was cold and wet, and older animals are likely to be uncomfortable in those weather conditions, as they have thin skin, sensitive bones, and possible cognition decline. But why take care of your elderly best friend when you can irritate your neighbours to the point where they have to move if they want to claim their property rights of a quiet night?

4. This one is for baselle: Robin Gibb undergoes surgery - my friend and I were at Gainsbourg last night when she pointed to my price book cover and said, "I predict he will be the next to go." "I'm goin' nowhere, somebody help me." Stayin' Alive

5. Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, who is charged with murdering 16 Afghans, had mortgage finance problems. His house was briefly on the market days before the murder of the Afghan civilians. This is why I am afraid to confront my underwater-mortgage neighbours about their suffering animals. It's said that Staff Sergeant Bales had Post-Trauma Stress Disorder, and I believe that, as my cousin was a staff sergeant from the same company, and was diagnosed with PTSD before he was shipped to Afghanistan. I am told that my cousin killed civilians as well, but I cannot verify that. “I don’t see how you can do this,” he said, “and not be damaged.”

6. My Jeopardy! tryout sucked. I got maybe 44 out of 50 questions.

Money going to sprucing up house 2 put up for sale

March 25th, 2012 at 04:10 pm

Then I'll go buy a car.

Windows painting, steps and rail painting, moss cleanup, garden cleanup, tree cleanup, new plants put in, interior painting. Hoping it'll be under $5K.

Naturally, after looking at our first house--an informal inspection down the road, told the empty house's neighbour what we were doing and asked her questions about the block--we came across a neighbor on our house who listened to us vent about our troubles: lots of people in adjacent properties buying dogs and not bothering to train them so they all bark whenever, making it impossible for us to enjoy peace and quiet in our home.

I don't want to live where ignorance, recalcitrance, hostility and malice trump consideration and goodwill. I'm willing to sell and buy my way out of that. I can then buy a car with cash, and pay off the HELOC.

Treasury Direct is no longer selling paper I Bonds, except with income tax refunds, which we will probably never see as I much prefer owing.

Thinking of moving

March 15th, 2012 at 01:21 pm

I am equally happy living in both urban and suburban environments, hubby is mostly urban except without the patois and bling. I compared a desirable city north of us to where we live now:
North City
+ better public school test results
+ can be in Vancouver within 90 minutes
+ cost of living a little lower: housing and utilities are less
+ closer to my friends
+ better bookstores
+ lower violent crime rates
+ marginally lower property tax rate
+ higher comfort index
+ less-expensive houses
+ culture
+ sunnier

- mass transit barely used
- walkscores are lower, unless I want to be within ten blocks of the interstate (cancer risk). Definitely getting a Leaf, Volt or Prius if we move up.
- higher property crime rates
- cul-de-sacs galore: accident potential
- groceries costs are higher
- smaller library system
- snows more
- more politically diverse: most every local election goes the way we want it to in our current city
- rains more

I don't want so much land as I want a house that's within walking/bicycling distance to some good schools and I don't have to take the car freaking everywhere. We could move to a condo or townhouse in our current city but the schools would still suck. It would help also to have little noise from barking dogs, so maybe no suburban stuff.

Maybe I'll investigate the school district and see how its curriculum is different from "if we just corporatize everything or let the Gates and Broad Foundations run our schools everything will be great!!" Seattle.

Cherry not included

March 10th, 2012 at 09:42 pm

Because so little, aside from a nice coffee out this morning, and a nice bath after a few hours of intensive bathroom and kitchen cleaning, is going well in my life right now, please enjoy

Doin' The Banana Split - Safe for kids, practically encouraged.

jolted into conscious spending/saving

February 17th, 2012 at 02:02 pm

Walked to and from Target today, in the rain. I made a list of six items I could carry home in a six block walk. I didn't save much money other than the 5% discount from RedCard and some sales on non-list items like AAA batteries and Starbucks ground coffee (total $4.23), but I did get some aerobic activity. When we empty the bag we can bring it to a Starbucks store for a free 12 oz drip for even more savings. I was going to go to Costco but was stopped by a back-of-the-envelope estimate of the cost of my desired purchases, the sum of which I mentally added to our heating bill ($118). I probably saved $1.50 by not going to Costco (gas).
Lentils ($1.49/lb), organic sugar ($3.00/lb) and quinoa ($7.99/30 oz) are not good deals at Target but they are at Costco.

Oh! And do we want to discuss deals? I shopped at Trader Joe's for produce, and came home with two humdinger deals, said the man who checked out my groceries. One was in the produce department -- I will let the regular TJ shoppers guess--answers in the comments please, and the other is the wine. I picked up a barbaresco nebbiolo for under $15 and saw a Barolo for under $20. I and the woman behind me at checkout were treated to a mini-seminar on how Trader Joe's manages to sell wine that cheap: it pays in cash and on time (at the time of sale/pickup, I guess). I silently edged toward the end of the checkout aisle, conscious of the woman behind me with her shopping cart, but she was as appreciative as I was to learn more about how Trader Joe's gives us its budget-price value wonders.

My rules now:
any home brewed cup of coffee that is less than 30 cents for 6 ounces is okay. I am also using up green tea and will work on the yerba mate when Lent starts (February 22).

Make at least one meal a week that includes any of the lingering red lentils, polenta, kasha, barley, quinoa in our pantry.

I posted a chart of our tax liability on the fridge. I am recruiting the boy to do weekly inventories of our pantries, fridge and freezer. Our reward for getting at least halfway to our tax liability in savings will be a 2-day stay in Vancouver (the uppercase one, in case the NW peeps were wondering) right after the tax payment is in the mail.

Gary Carter was on my list in the dead pool baselle is administrating. RIP Mr. Carter - Montreal was lucky to have you.

No help for it, I must make myself employable

February 12th, 2012 at 10:14 am

Had a shock when I went to renew my prescription: $319 price tag. I did not have the money in my account, as it was the day before payday, had not activated the Flexible Savings Account debit card. It was a RENEWAL, and it was $175 more than what I paid in October. What petroleum or gold dust is in the prescription? Does a Health Savings Account mean the health insurer doesn't subsidize ANY of the prescription?

The prescription would be for 15 weeks. But still, when I've cut clothing, food, gas, entertainment, charity, telecommunications what do I do? Mortgage down $120 from last year, $42 now gone from the phone bill.

Thinking of selling what I can on Craigslist and eBay,
asking the spouse to take out only once a week money he'll need for the week, or half the money for lunch that he takes out each week.

Also considering going back to school to take bookkeeping and minor-level accounting or data processing analysis so I can take my skills north or to a rare small company employer that can offer health benefits.
I am FreeCycling at any rate. This week is different from most: I awarded first dibs to people with transportation and mobility issues. Not intentionally, but just how the first responses looked. If you can't afford a car, or get outside your housebox, you have a greater need for the kindness of strangers.

Umpqua Bank visits my son's school

February 8th, 2012 at 03:35 pm

My son is excited about the new School Savings plan Umpqua Bank is offering. I am not. My son earns 6% interest on his credit union account, Umpqua Bank offers 0.1%. I tell him this is 1/60th of his credit union rate.

I thought my kid was good at math. What happened to the good ol' days of rocketing returns from shorting the banks, boy?
[heavy sigh]
Washington Mutual, the "we faw down and go boom" bank, was offering .25% way back when.

The only advantages I see is that my boy does his banking in person, he gets a piece o'swag for a deposit reward, and I have an excuse to visit an Umpqua Bank to cash in my "free coffee!" Chinook Book coupon without looking like someone on the take.

Test Drive Result: no Prius this time

February 3rd, 2012 at 02:34 pm

Reasons: [for Jerry! hi!]

1. I asked to see the title. Instead of offering or showing me a copy, the seller said it was in a safe deposit box and would be presented to me at the time of signing.

2. I hoped for a half-way point between his place and mine for a title transfer place, like maybe downtown at a County office, but he said it would have to be in his neighbourhood.

3. I slept, but not very well. My precious metals went down, beside. I'd been told that when God is with me, I feel deep peace inside. I did not feel deep peace until I had read responses from a handful of message boards in which I posed my question about requesting a copy of a title. I had read on automotive consumer websites editorials and articles recommending asking to see a title. The responses from the message boards said my request was reasonable and thus I declined the seller.

4. I insist on doing due diligence. That means taking a checklist, having the right questions to ask, and perusing the correct documents. Why a seller wouldn't do the same, especially when I am not the first person to come look at and test drive the vehicle, is not for me to know, I guess.

5. I am not financially ready to make this purchase. If I am okay with the price of the car, but balk at paying 9.5% of the car price for county tax, and the car is priced at $14700 when Kelley Blue Book and Edmunds suggest $12434 - $13470 for a Prius for sale in my city in "very good" condition with the options this auto had, and I'm freaking out because I don't know why my spouse takes out $40/day from our account, then purchasing the car in full is going to drive me bonkers. Okay, more bonkers. Lifetime residency in the Bonkers Penthouse Suite.

I would like a Prius, I would like to pay for it in full with cash, I would like to read more about how a buyer prepares to venture into private party vehicle sales. I have cash, but they are in scattered liquid assets, which I would pay back into the HELOC within a year.

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).

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.

the holiday road to debt is paved with good intentions

November 22nd, 2011 at 08:55 am

Link du Jour: 100 Frugal Gifts - BibleMoneyMatters.com

I am revisiting the small income, encroaching expenses situation that gets a few people into debt. Especially during the holiday season when the PLEAS drop into the mailbox like, oh, raindrops in Thailand and everyone has a hand out. Feed the hungry! Food banks in dire need! Church needs to retire its debt! School at a deficit! Pay for what you listen to!

To work on his writing practice, I gave my kid an option to write to Santa Claus: the number of electronic games and systems was jaw-dropping. "If I am a bad kid, just send me one. If I am an okay kid give me three Pokemon Nintendo games. If I am a good kid please send me six." He used to not believe in Santa Claus, which was better for us because when he understood everything came from Mom and Dad, he wouldn't make demands that would clean us out because the guilt would hurt too much.

My family was poor too and deeply in debt. We looked through the Sears Catalog: back then you could make a kid happy for $10.78. Now it's what, $60? We're in a much better situation now--we own a home so no moving around due to rising rents and slow child payments, gas prices don't bother us, no car payments. He has a college fund, I never did. He has stock in Berkshire Hathaway. But what child is ever moved by the poverty his parents experienced as children?

There's a number of presents that a child will gleefully receive before the joy precipitates and the unwrapping is merely perfunctory. I forget if it is Vicki Robin or Center for a New American Dream who gave the number but it's three.

I am not giving him three electronic items. He wants slippers, he can have one electronic game, maybe a book. There must be children out there who swear they've been good but get very little during the winter holidays. They suffer from no fault of their own. My child is no more deserving than they.

And nobody receives karma points for digging themselves into a position where they can no longer help other people but must focus on their own debt solutions. That's why I pay more toward my HELOC than I do to charities.

costco night and other craziness

November 20th, 2011 at 05:30 pm

Spent $100 less than anticipated at Costco, but we didn't get as much as originally planned. Long grain brown rice is hard to get. I would like to thank the thousands of locals who got so p.o'd at their banks and switched to our credit union that Costco opened ALL its stores to participate in our credit union night. The parking was MUCH easier, and we spent no more than twenty minutes in the store, with clear aisles and short waits at tasting stations.

My freezer is now full with three weeks' worth of meals. Thank you, Costco and Credit Union!

Last week my husband found our car's cabin light was on. Not all of us lock the car's doors -- my husband and son don't. Today I found that although we've driven eighty miles since the last fill up, our gas gauge reads as if we've used two-thirds of our 12-gallon tank. Our car gets between 24 to 36 miles per gallon. I suspect someone is siphoning our gas. It'd be easy for them to do if they had easy access to our gas cap by opening an unlocked car door.

Also: used Savings Bond Wizard on my bonds -- I was within $30 guesstimating the accumulated interest. The bonds have a 3.46% yield and a 5.83% rate.

can't buy groceries w/o someone lying in wait

November 12th, 2011 at 09:40 am

Walked out of a supermarket yesterday, failing to escape notice by people with clipboards waiting at the exit. I don't like clipboard people: they exist to collect signatures for initiatives or to collect non-tax-deductible funds (Greenpeace!). I cannot and do not sign initiatives. I already piss off beggars because what money left I have for altruism goes to tax-registered charities. I was asked do I "want to bankrupt the banksters?"

Well yes I do want to bankrupt the banksters. I'm buying gold and silver, "natural resource"-backed currencies, and supporting candidates not funded by large banks. I watch Max Keiser and read Peter Schiff.

I tell locals who believe they're trapped at big banks, doomed to endless fees and charges because of their torpedoed credit scores, about Express Credit Union, I spread word of a state representative's effort to bring a state bank, like North Dakota, who oh shock! golly gee! isn't as badly off as the states who don't have state banks, to us. But someone with a clipboard doesn't want to hear that: he wants my signature or what's left of my wallet.

Even though forum commentators will scoff that the banks introduce and raise fees to scare away "deadbeats" whose accounts are too expensive to operate, the very fact that people are closing their accounts is bringing these commentators out. And the commentators don't even bother to make sense:
Bank employee "you can't get wealth management services through a credit union"
Credit union menber "then why is there a wealth management service tab on the credit union website"
Bank employee "see! you've made my point! the credit union has to partner with a company!" (??? Can any American translate that logic for me?)

Would you feel confident entrusting your dollars to a bank employee who doesn't have a clue about modern banking trends? Who believes falsehoods is part of the job description? Why or why not?

And "good luck getting your ATM card to work in other countries." Never had a problem using a Cdn "caisse populaire" or credit union. "There'll only be three branches where you can do banking." Credit unions participate in shared network banking. It's weird that the trolls post "go away you deadbeats" and in the same breath "you'll be sorry you left!" Sounds like abusers getting nasty when their victims head for the door for the last time.

I wonder if anyone choosing to stay at a bank is confident that the banks won't raise fees, now that a "handful of riffraff" have left, and that the Bloomberg article about the $53 trillion worth of Merrill Lynch toxic derivatives moved to the FDIC-insured banking unit won't haunt them. People like Illinois Rep. Joe Walsh blame the government for the 2002 homeownership act, but do some research? How many banks went to the government in charge in 2002 with drafted legislation to be signed into law? What banks created Presidential Libraries to curry favour with the U.S. head of state at that time? When you know these things, and you assume that the people who troll and stay at banks know them too and have read newspapers over the past five years, you wonder if there's environmental pollution or severe cognitive dissonance resulting in faulty brain wiring.

My personal favourite was one idiot troll who posted "who in Seattle who isn't a grandparent already can afford a 12-year mortgage?" (ahem ahem!) Troll was about forty, boasting about his new re-fi'd 30-year mortgage at a bank. And his APR is higher than mine at a credit union.

I'm not cut out to be a banker, I guess. Don't understand astroturfing to insult people who've had enough or who've found better deals. It was easy for me to leave Bank of America when I was told they don't negotiate, and that they only make changes to the terms of credit card agreements when credit scores go DOWN or when they buy a regional bank or are forced to by Congress, never do the agreement terms improve when the credit score goes into the 750+ echelon.

As if the status symbol of parking $18000 in an account with 0.1% interest at a bank outweighs the $18000 earning 0.5% interest. Only in the United States are value hunters scoffed. "Pah! Look at you in that Corolla, you sad hyper-miling loser! I get 9 miles per gallon in this tank! I can run you over while I text! You ramen eaters shopping at Target! I buy everything at Barneys New York! I bet you save up and pay for your cars in full you schmuck!"

Some fields are missing data

November 10th, 2011 at 02:50 pm

My son, whom I can not and must not label as autistic or special needs or brain damaged, lost his coat at school. It is not in the lost'n'found, nor in his classroom. I am angry, but it was two years old and I paid $17 (tax included) at Macy's.

I have had two credit card offers since opening a Target account. My husband has not received any, and he is not on an Opt-Out list, whereas I am, so I know somebody's been selling my info.

I fret that my credit score took a big dive. The PTSA Fundraiser tells me she's working on getting our school on the Target RedCard program.

Bought two ounces of Canadian silver.

There is such a thing as being too penurious with money. My husband went out at the last minute to a concert I told him about, fine good. We had drinks at a campaign party beforehand, fine good. He bought CDs at the concert, one was signed by the band. This bothered me. My kid losing his coat bothered me too. My coats are second-hand and decades old. I haven't gone to a concert, but then again I bought boots. And I wait eleven weeks between haircuts.

Maybe it's because our statement shows billing of 55 days instead of 61 days last year, but I am astounded to find our water/sewer/yard waste/food waste/recycling bi-monthly bill down to $177.09. Two months ago it was $210 (summer rates, didn't feed my roses at all).

I have my DeadPool 2012 ten-person list. Funny how I'm so fussy about my list preparation and research, and then with seven weeks away until the end of the year I look at my 14 living people and think "now why did I think all these nonagenarians and one centenarian would die in 2011?" Watch as three people on my 2012 list die before December 30, and I replace them with my 2011 holdovers, and nobody dies at all in 2012. Except Harold Camping.

For My English Castle, I went for a walk today. I have been a couch potato for the past week doing last-minute election stuff, but now I am set free to go collect those urban blight yard signs from medians.

Rising Costco prices, or that plus 42 cents will give you coffee

November 6th, 2011 at 08:42 am

I don't know if it's because it spent $22 million on the state liquor privatization initiative, or to cover James Sinegal's golden handshake, but the cost of coffee went up by 15% since my visit six weeks earlier. $6.29/lb for five pound bag of coffee. That IS the cheap coffee. And obviously I bought in bulk.

Bah it bugs me to spend $87 on a small box of items at Costco. Granted the two priciest categories: meat and wine were in there, but it was organic ground beef in bulk and red wine for slow cooker roasts. And I see that lamb there is $9/lb instead of $13.67 at Safeway or $24 at the public market.

My husband and I figured the new coffee costs: 30.68 tbsps in a pound, two tbsps per cup, so 15 cups per pound. 75 cups for $31.45 = 42 cents per cup of coffee.

Link du Jour: How Much You'll Actually Save By Making Your O...

Compare with average 8 oz. drip retail = $1.75 before tax. So we limit our coffees out to Saturdays and Sundays.

I read that some do a second serving of coffee with half fresh and half leftover grains.

I bought Turkish coffee and a set for my spouse in August. I started making it for myself this week -- looked complicated at first, but with practice and some prep it takes less time than making regular coffee. And ooh the caffeine buzz lasts for hours.

I caved into getting a store card, after 10 years

November 3rd, 2011 at 04:04 pm

We have possessed three store charge cards in our joint lifetimes: a The Bay card, Bon Marche card, and now Target.

Target I can actually walk to, and now that it's expanded its offerings to include dairy and fresh produce I can see myself using it. As a bonus I'd hoped to give some money via the RedCard to my school.

My school has been in existence for three years. It is not in the Target "Take Charge of Education" database. Nobody in the school administration had added it, no PTA fundraising coordinator thought to include Target.

I thought if I had the school's tax id number I could call Target and get it added, but no. I had a 89%-misunderstood conversation with a woman who thought "Tax ID" was "Target ID" and that strictly kindergarten-to-twelfth-grade schools were allowed in the database. She even thought that when I told her of the elementary schools, middle schools, parochial private schools, alternative K-8 school and high school listed in the database.

So now I have a Target RedCard temporary slip so I can get my 5% discount right away. We'll see if the school PTA board responds to my ideas about public awareness. Our school isn't even in Wikipedia.

hooray for payday!

October 21st, 2011 at 09:03 am

DS might not like it, but I'm going to get him clothes for Christmas so I can knock off some of the replacement items. I don't have to be the "fun" parent 100% of the time, just the caring and supportive one.

Two months -- must spend carefully!
I have ten days to use this year's Chinook Book coupons.

The VISA account spirals upward. I sliced 25% off the balance today.

Precious metals at a 10% discount from last month.

My natural gas bill usage was 22% lower than it was at this time last year, with the same temperature.

Hubby's videocard on his laptop is dead, so he bought himself a new motherboard. I am okay with this -- it beats buying a new laptop, and most of the money he used came from his PayPal account.

Schadenfreude update - of the twelve properties I'm tracking, only ten of them have mortgage debt to property value ratios lower than the US average of 69.8%. They were purchased between 1999 and 2000, and although they had refinances and home equity lines of credit, the cash-outs were minimal, under 0.5% of the amount lent.

I don't know, doubt actually, that the $60 VEHICLE (I am not calling it a car -- I know this is going to include scooters and motorcycles) tab initiative will pass. Yet while listening to the talk radio discussion about the proposed measure, I pondered aloud what I can do to save $5/month.

The horrors came two weeks early

October 16th, 2011 at 10:07 am

So the time I allotted for worrying has officially arrived: the market value for my house has nosedived.

I ate too much sugar last night woke up in the middle of the night and despite counting down several times by seven from 1498 and entreaties to my invisible friend, who is now downgraded to imaginary friend because I go by "a friend in need is a friend in deed" I was awake for four hours. That friend was probably looking over some Kansas City reverend's shoulder at some verboten computer images. Because that's more rewarding than dealing with a soul in pain.

My computer is on the fritz. This is a pity because I made PNG files showing the major contributors of the school board director incumbent's 2007 campaign, who live in another city and would not send their children to public school let alone public school in this city, are also the ones who gave heaps to defeat Initiative 1098, an initiative for an excise income tax on state residents earning more than $400,000/year. The father of our wealthiest citizen was FOR Initiative 1098, the man the wealthiest citizen left in charge of his company was not for the initiative. The latter man funded the incumbent.

I'm supposed to be doing a walkaround blitz in my legislative district. That'll be fun with no sleep.
I am very sour on US politics now. My councilmember running for Attorney General, my state representative, my state senator are not going to get $ from me. "No, you chose to endorse someone who wasted money our schools desperately need. I am assuming you knew what this man did for 3.5 years before you endorsed him. Nobody told me in Immigrant Class that voters are supposed to elect people who misappropriate their funds and sit on big financial scandals without telling their fellow elected representatives. Why don't you put that in your campaign materials if American voters are so okay with that."

My husband took a deserved break from us this weekend, taking the scooter out to the peninsula to Neah Bay and Port Angeles. All that was fine but he didn't have to tell me how much he enjoyed it.

Meanwhile I am trying to get my kid to write poems as directed by his teacher for weekend homework. He is defaulting to Dorothy Parker variations: "if I had an AK-47" "if I had a howitzer". I am attempting to show him Wendy Cope (UK light verse poet) poems about English weather and football so his teacher'll be impressed. How hard can it be to write a poem?

1. Think of a subject, topic or image. Like weather.
2. Brainstorm/word association. Preferably adjectives and nouns.
3. Use senses: touch, taste, sight, sound, smell.
4. Find words that rhyme.
5. Identify and use a meter scheme.
6. Put some truth in it.

Here are my images, for example, of Seattle Rain:
* Odin's stale gym sweat
* The inside of my eyelids
* colour of a prison door
* damp cold teabag

Example rhyme of truth:
This June I had to wear a sweater
July by leaps and bounds was better
...October is cold with mist
November we make plans to spend
The best part of December pissed.

To his credit he did manage a poem about the National Hockey League teams.

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