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Archive for June, 2007

Free "Toy" for Dogs

June 30th, 2007 at 02:26 pm

Here's some free entertainment for your dog, if he's anything like mine:

Throw your dirty clothes on the floor.

Let dog roll around on dirty clothes, in utter bliss.

The stinkier the clothes are, the better, apparently.

Now, if only I could get him to pick them up off of the floor and carry them to the laundry basket ...

Freecycling

June 27th, 2007 at 08:51 am

Last weekend I posted a few items to give away on Freecyle. They are items that did not sell at my garage sale, that I held back from the donations pile, and that I was unsuccessful selling on Craigslist (and they are too inexpensive or bulky to list on Ebay).

I love the idea of Freecycle, but I have to say that it is quite a bit of work. For some reason, people respond to postings really promptly saying they want something, but then either don't reply to arrange a pickup or take their sweet time coming to get things.

I will probably accumulate some more things that I will Freecycle just prior to my move, but I will post everything on just one day when I am going to be home all day, and I will stipulate that things must be picked up within the day. Anything that doesn't get picked up, will be donated to charity.

For anyone interested in Freecycle who is not familiar with it, here is the web site: www.freecycle.org

Herbicide!

June 23rd, 2007 at 05:03 pm

Crime: Herbicide
When: Sometime during the night
Prime Suspect: Bambi and his cohorts

Looks like the deer discovered one of my patches of Rainbow Chard. [Not hard to figure out which side of the patch they munched on, is it?] I'm glad I had gone through and harvested a bunch of it just 3 days ago.

Now that they have discovered it, no doubt they'll be back. Bon appetit, Bambi and friends!

The Longevity Game

June 19th, 2007 at 09:07 am

Here's a site where you can answer a few simple questions and come up with a rough estimate of your life expectancy:

http://www.nmfn.com/tn/learnctr-lifeevents-longevity

I'm sure it's not perfect, but it does give you a number you can plug in to those retirement calculators when asked to enter your life expectancy ... Probably a better number than just guessing, tho' my number from doing the game was the same number I had been guessing (90 years).

Making Hay & Some Thoughts on Risk and Pre-Paying the Mortgage

June 16th, 2007 at 09:33 pm

1. Making Hay: For the past couple weeks, DH has been making hay while the sun shines ... and before the sun comes up ... and long after the sun has set! DH owns his own business and he has a "peak season" that lasts for a couple months each year. During his peak time, sleep is a rather precious commodity. This year has been especially busy (which is a good thing when you're self-employed). I've always helped him out a bit here & there with the business when he needs it, but a couple days ago he admitted that it's all too much to handle on his own right now, and so I basically jumped on-board as his assistant. [Fortunately, I used to work in the same field, so I know the business.] For the past couple days, I've been helping him out 5-6 hours a day with office work (on top of running my own little business), and even got his "looked-like-a-tornado-hit-it" desk in order. And I've been taking extra special care to make sure he gets nourishing & healthy meals, encouraging him to go get some sleep whenever he can, and covering for him so he can go hit some golf balls at the driving range (that is where he does his best thinking). Normally I don't "mother" him, but this time of year is different and this year especially so.

It has been great working with him so closely. I have always known he's a REALLY smart guy, but I must say I never fully appreciated what a nimble business mind he has until now.

2. Some Thoughts on Risk: I've been looking for a way to explain my stance on risk and investments. I'm sure some of you on these boards have thought I'm extremely conservative when it comes to investing. And you're right. If you looked at our financial "books" without knowing our whole story, you would probably think that we are invested WAAAAAY too conservatively for our age (plain vanilla index stock & bond funds, Treasuries, and a percentage in boring FDIC-insured deposits that doesn't make sense for most people). But the fact is, where we do take a tremendous amount of risk is with our business.

A couple weeks ago, at the start of DH's peak season, we had a conversation which perfectly illustrates this. One guy DH sells to just left "Financially Rock-Solid Major Corporation XYZ" to go to work with one other guy we know (they're a little 2-man operation now). We have a 20-year history with this guy, going back to when he used to be my colleague (he even came to our wedding), and we know he is a man of tremendous integrity; we trust him as much as you can another person who is not your own family. Nevertheless, any time you extend credit to someone you are taking a risk, especially when it's a new company. Big companies that have "risk assessment / credit departments" (or whatever they are called) probably would not give this guy the time of day. But what DH & I did was sit down and have a brief conversation. I asked DH "Worst case scenario ... How much $$$ could we lose and still survive?" In just a minute or two, we came up with an amount, and that's how much credit we are giving the guy. Ten years ago, hearing that amount may have made my heart stop beating, but now it's not even something I lose any sleep over. Do you think we're insane? I don't. It's a calculated risk, and without taking a risk like that we would have lost a valuable customer and an opportunity to expand DH's business. Besides, we remember what it was like when DH was just starting his business and people took a chance on him ... He has not forgotten what those guys did for him and he and is still extremely loyal to them. [It probably won't surprise you to hear that the guys who took a risk on DH are also self-made guys who started small.]

Having risky financial investments on top of the risk involved in DH's business would just be too much. We have to balance things out in a way that works for us.

3. Pre-paying the Mortgage: Maybe this is also a good time to explain why for us it made perfect sense to pre-pay our mortgage. Whenever DH had an especially good year with his business, we kept our expenses the same, continued maxing out our tax-deferred retirement savings, kept our cushy EF plus whatever was needed to ensure the business could keep running smoothly, and then took anything extra and paid down the mortgage. The alternative would have been putting more in those previously-mentioned ultra-conservative investments. So, for us, paying down the mortgage made sense for 2 reasons: 1) The return on the alternative investments probably wouldn't have been any better than the mortgage interest rate, and 2) Given the amount of risk you take when you're self-employed, there is something very reassuring about being able to say, "No matter what happens, at least we'll have a roof over our heads!" It gives you a certain amount of courage to take the business risks that you need to.

Well ... I know this is probably much more than any of you ever cared to know about me, and I should go get some sleep so I can get back to making hay tomorrow!

Half.com - Wow!

June 13th, 2007 at 07:14 pm

After averaging 2 or 3 books a week for months, I suddenly sold 6 books in the last 2 days! And I know wyozozo and koppur have been getting good book sales as well. Anyone know what's going on with half.com? Have they been advertising? Sending out subliminal messages? Or is it just that the only stuff on TV right now is crap, so everyone's hitting the books harder than usual (as I have been doing)?

Whatever is going on, I hope it keeps up. And if anyone has been waiting to list books, I'd say jump in and do it!

Have any Colette Peters Christmas Books?

June 12th, 2007 at 06:05 pm

If anyone has a Colette Peters book on Christmas cake decorating lying around that you don't want, you may want to list it on Half.com. You should be able to sell it for at least list price, and probably more. Of all the books I've sold on Half.com, it's the one that sold for more than I paid for it.

Loving Fresh Herbs!

June 10th, 2007 at 11:00 am

We are loving having pots of fresh herbs right outside our door. I've done 2 harvests so far. Last weekend I thinned the herbs and chopped up what I yanked out and mixed them in with scrambled Egg Beaters & goat cheese ... really delicious! Last night I snipped a big bunch that I chopped up and put on top of scalloped potatoes. Not only did it add a bit of color & flavor & nutrition, a big bonus was the wonderful aroma coming from the oven as the dish was baking.

Both times I used mixed herbs, just grabbing any old variety that looked like it was ready.

I am a newbie gardener, and I highly recommend fresh herbs to anyone who doesn't have experience gardening but is interested in trying. They are really easy to grow, grow so well in containers, and fresh herbs are SOOO expensive from the store.

I bought just one seed packet which was a mix of herbs, started them inside in egg cartons, and then transplanted them outside in larger containers when they got big enough and the weather had warmed up. I didn't buy any containers, just used what I had on hand. I even scrubbed out a no-longer-in-use trash can, had DH drill holes in the bottom, and ... voila! ... instant garden container.

If I can do it, anyone can!

Journey to BA: First Year Goals

June 9th, 2007 at 08:49 am

My goal is for my household to reach 2.0 on the "Balance Sheet Affluent" scale by the time we are 60. At the end of April (when I first calculated where we were), we were at 1.32. My first annual goal is to reach 1.36 by end of April 2008.

Although this will probably give the accountants in the group fits, my "BA quarters" will be: May-Jul, Aug-Oct, Nov-Jan, Feb-Apr. This works for me for a number of reasons:
- The most obvious one is that it is based on when I started tracking my numbers.
- Coincidentally, this works very nicely because one estimated tax payment will fall in each of my BA quarters. [As those of you who are self-employed know, US estimated taxes are not done every 3 months, but in Jan, April, June, and September] Each time I make an estimated tax payment, our net worth takes a hit. One hit per "BA quarter" and it all balances out very nicely.
- Finally, with my "BA year" ending in April, I will assure that I have completed my income tax return and will know exactly my past year's income, and can adjust my "7-year income average" accordingly.

So....These are my first-year goals:
- By end July: 1.38
- By end Oct: 1.37
- By end Jan: 1.36
- By end Apr: 1.36

This is why I'm aiming for a big push the first 3 months, then tapering off to my goal of 1.36:
- DH's business has a "peak season" and he brings in about 80% of his annual income in our first BA quarter. When we get to the end of July, we will have a pretty good idea what sort of shape we are in income-wise for the year ahead.
- My business will cease in the middle of our second BA quarter. I do not know how soon after our move I will be bringing in income. Also, I am continuing to bring in a bit of $ from the sale off our our possesions prior to our relocation, but that will stop in our second BA quarter.
- In our second BA quarter, we are going to have the expenses related to our move which are not insignificant.
- So, the overall goal is to make as much money as possible the first quarter, taper off a bit the second and third quarters, and then hold steady the fourth quarter.

To reach our goal of BA by 2.0, we will be focusing on the 4 quadrants of Financial Fitness that Susan Feitelberg outlines in her really excellent (but unfortunately overlooked) book "The Net Worth Workout":
***Earning
***Spending
***Saving
***Investing
I will explain more about this later, but I do highly recommend this book for anyone looking for a good personal finance book, and it especially speaks to people who are interested in physical fitness because it explains finance in terms of a "workout."

Finally, a brief note on why the BA formula is actually NOT linear (as some have suggested): The income portion of the formula is "Total Annual Realized Household Income" which means that it is not just salary income, but income from all sources (including interest, dividends, capital gains, etc). As savings grow, passive income grows, and so (hopefully) if you chart your Total Ann. Realized Income over time it will not be a straight line but a curve.

Well, thanks for reading this rather dry post! My first goal of 1.38 by end of July is pretty steep, so let's see how I do!

Best Children's Birthday Party Game (Good for Yarn Hoarders & Spiderman Fans)

June 3rd, 2007 at 02:51 pm

Reading posts about childrens birthday parties and yarn hoarding, combined with the fact that Spiderman 3 is in the theaters now, jarred my memory of a really terrific and frugal birthday party game my mom did when I about 7. She took cheap little "prizes" and wrapped them up, one for each party guest. [I don't remember what the prizes were; the game itself was the main point, not the prizes.] Then she tied string or yarn around each prize and wove a gigantic "spider web" throughout the entire house, crossing and twisting all of these balls of string/yarn around each other, furniture, staircases, etc. Each piece of string/yarn ended at the front door (with little balls remaining for unraveling). When all of the guests arrived, each one got a little ball of yarn, and we had to then untangle and unravel the web until we reached our prizes. Imagine 10 little girls climbing through this giant web of yarn to get to a little prize ... Oh my, we had so much fun and we got good and tired doing it, which probably made the rest of the party easier on my mom! Smile

My parents did lots of other great, fun, and frugal party things (cupcake decorating contests, picnics in the park, etc.) but the spider web game was definitely the most memorable!

Pre-Relocation Sell Off - Results Through May

June 2nd, 2007 at 09:34 am

Well, since I already announced that the results of our garage sale mid-May pushed me over my goal of $3K, this is a bit anti-climactic, but here it is.

In May I netted $1,061.07 from selling off stuff (mostly at the garage sale, but also a bit on Half.com and Craigslist, plus my DH sold a few of his books to a local shop) and earned $11.28 in interest on proceeds from the stuff I've sold.

My grand total is now $3,181.69.

I am going to continue selling things, but probably won't report again until just before our move in September.

My focus has shifted from raising a certain amount of money to seeing just how much I can pare down and still feel comfortable. I've spent quite a bit of time thinking: "How small of a house could we live in without feeling cramped." I definitely don't want to feel squeezed in; been there, done that, don't ever wanna do it again! But I know that a smaller house means not only a lower purchase price but also significantly lower upkeep costs and monthly expenses (especially in Texas where AC is so necessary yet expensive), not to mention that it is better for the environment. The house we choose is going to have a big impact on my goal of becoming "Balance Sheet Affluent" by age 60 ... It all ties together, doesn't it?

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And to completely change gears, I have had a really rewarding month in terms of my business, both emotionally and financially. After sending out letters to my clients that I would be closing my business, I was overwhelmed and gratified to receive many phone calls, Email, notes, and even one boquet of flowers. They all said how much they were going to miss me; it was really surprising and touching. My husband commented: "Wow - This is almost like attending your own funeral, isn't it?" And he was right. I've also had quite a few people decide that they want to use my business one last time before I leave, so I have been very busy the past couple weeks and my schedule is very full right up to my last day of work. To be honest, I had expected just the opposite, that people would start looking for someone new when they found out I was leaving. The extra income is going to be a nice boost, and I am glad that I've already done so much pre-relocation-sell-off since the next few months are going to be busy with work.