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Archive for September, 2007

This is it ....

September 26th, 2007 at 01:09 pm

Next time I blog it will be from our new home ... 2,400 miles away from where we are now! For those of you who are new here, we are moving from the Seattle area to Texas because the cost of living (and especially the cost of houses) is substantially less expensive. In Texas, we chose Austin because it is beautiful and offers a high quality of life. This is also a chance for us to have a "grand adventure" and try living someplace completely new & different.

We leave this weekend. I have family coming in to town tomorrow, and we still have the farewell party, the last rush of packing (it's going well tho), a run to the dump, and final cleaning up of the house to do, so I won't be back on-line until the computer is set up in our new digs.

I am happy to report that the marriage is still intact. Smile Those of you who have done cross-country moves will know what I'm talking about! Only once did the thought, "You go right ahead and move to Texas, and the dog & I will just stay here" cross my mind, and I managed to bite my tongue and just waited for it to pass. If DH has had the same thought (and no doubt he has), he has also kept it to himself.

Thanks for letting me share this big change with all of you. I'm excited to start reporting on life in our new town!
See you all in a week or so (maybe a bit more).

Odds & Ends

September 22nd, 2007 at 10:31 am

Lots and lots of move-related stuff going on, but I will try to keep this update focused on things that have to do with finances.

1. Adios Tomato Plants: I gave them away on Freecycle. Best response to anything I’ve Freecycled so far --- 10 people wrote to say they wanted them! The kind recipient Emailed me and asked me for my “secret” to growing such healthy plants … Ummm, inexperience? Ha ha. The best I can hope for now is to break even on my $20 Garden Challenge, and for reasons I’ve already explained that is okey-dokey.

2. Books: Pulled the plug on Half.com sales early in the week, packed up the remaining books and took them to Half Price Books. Came home and listed the bookshelf on Craigslist, where it sold within an hour.

3. Yard Stuff: Final yard waste pickup was yesterday. [Could have kept one final pickup on the schedule after our departure, but naturally I didn’t want to pay for that!] Listed all of our yard care tools on Craigslist and someone’s coming by to get them later today.

4. Ebay: The last couple auctions end in a few days, and then I’m completely done with the pre-relocation sell-off. Glad to be done with that, let me tell you. [The elephant is essentially gone.]

5. Final Sell-Off Tally: After I had exceeded my goal of $3K, I stopped keeping track of how much money I had recouped by selling things off prior to our relocation because I felt it wasn’t the best use of my time. However, I estimate our final tally is in the $3,600-3,700 range. This doesn’t include the sale of one of our cars and my husband’s sale of his office furniture (because that money has gone back in to his business). Beyond the cash in hand (well, in the bank actually, in a high-yielding MMA of course), the sell-off means that we are able to do this move ourselves instead of hiring movers, are able to rent a smaller-than-expected moving truck, and are able to rent a smaller-than-we-ever-could-have-imagined-six-months-ago apartment. Total Savings? Huge! Lots of work has been involved, and it has most definitely been worth it all.

6. Free Meals: Have been treated to 4 very nice meals out by friends.

7. Eating At Home: So far, we’ve been able to eat normal meals at home (with the exception of when we are being treated to a meal out). So far, we haven’t fallen back on the “eat out, take out, buy frozen stuff” routine that is so easy to do (and completely understandable) when preparing for a move.

8. Farewell Party: All but one person RSVP’d positively, so our farewell party will almost certainly hit our budgeted amount of $500 and may even go over by a bit. We are more than happy to spend it. We carefully considered cost when choosing where to host the event, and we did pare our guest list to only those people we care about the most, but beyond that this is one of the times when we are very happy to spend the money. So much better to have everyone come and go a bit over budget than have people not come! Smile

9. DH Went to a Focus Group: Thanks to this site, I had heard about focus groups and how participating in them could pay off quite handsomely. Awhile back I got a call about joining a focus group; I did not qualify for that study but I did register with the market research company. [If I hadn’t heard about them here on SA, I probably would have thought it was a sales call and just hung up.] We got called about another one, and this week DH went to a focus group and earned $125. Yea! Thank you SA Bloggers!

That's it for now. Gotta get back to packing ... Whee!

29 Days to a Smooth Move

September 18th, 2007 at 07:56 am

If anyone is planning a move and could use a little guidance, I highly recommend the book "29 Days to a Smooth Move" by Donna Kozik and Tara Maras. It's written in a workbook format with lots of checklists and spaces to write notes, so you don't just read it, you actually use it as your master moving organizer.

The authors spell out the major categories of things to do before a move as:

1. Readying the house for new occupants
2. Condensing your goods
3. Packing your possessions
4. Preparing the children (in our case we can substitute the much much easier "preparing the dog")
5. Organizing paperwork (estimates, change of address forms, etc.)
6. Saying goodbye

I have these written on a board in my office, and I make sure I am making progress on all of the categories (except number 4, the one about the dog) every single day.

No doubt this book falls under the "money well spent" category.

Well, time to get back at it ...

Will I break even?

September 16th, 2007 at 10:04 pm

The big question for my $20 (Garden) Challenge this year seems now to be: Will I be able to break even (recoup my original $20 investment)? My grape tomatoes are still green-green-green. It is quite cool here and I have just under 2 weeks to go before my move, so I know the odds of actually harvesting a single tomato this year are slim to none. All I am harvesting now is the microgreens ... I sure am glad I made the mid-challenge decision to plant those, otherwise I'd have ended up in the red for sure!

Oh well ... I do not regret this challenge one bit. While I have MUCH to learn yet about gardening, I have made a start. This is what I have learned:

- Yes indeed, I can plant seeds and they will actually grow (my thumbs are not quite as brown as previously thought)
- Gardening can be done frugally ... no need to get sucked in by all of the gizmos and pretty decorations
- There are lots of resources out there for learning and plenty of really nice people like contrary1 and Joan.of.the.Arch who are willing to share their expertise
- Think cheap, healthy SOIL: This is the real secret. Most of my $20 challenge money went to buying potting soil (since I was limited to container gardening). I'll wait to plant my next garden until I have a house and have a composting system going.

Home for 2 Days / Leaving Again

September 11th, 2007 at 12:48 pm

Hi All! I got back from Austin late on Sunday. Everything went really well there. Austin is a beautiful place full of lots of friendly folks.

Temporary Housing: Great news! I had found a sublease on Craigslist and was keeping my fingers crossed that it would really be as nice as it appeared to be on-line. It was, so that is where we will be living. I drove to the sublease place as soon as I landed in Austin to check it out. The couple that has the lease had already moved out and cleaned the place, so I was able to give it a good lookover. [I had some alternate places lined up in case the sublease didn't work out, but fortunately didn't need them.] The rent has been paid through the end of Sept, so DH & I are taking it over from October which is perfect. The lease is up in April, so if we find a house to buy we won't be locked in to a really long term. The best news is that because we are taking over the existing lease we are paying $180 per month less than what the same floorplan in the same complex is currently renting for.

Friday evening I went out and bought cleaning supplies and brought them to the apartment.

Saturday morning I called carpet cleaners and found one that could steam clean the carpets same-day; they showed up within 3 hours. I took our application (pre-completed here at home) to the leasing office; they had a pretty slick system, just typed some info in to the computer and said right away "You're approved." Was glad to hear it. Smile
Then I went and opened up an account at a local bank. Finally, I detail-cleaned the entire apartment, even tho' the previous tenants had done a pretty good job cleaning up.

On Sunday I went to Costco and bought some basic staples (dry goods, shampoo, TP, etc.) then went to the apartment and got it stocked. I even ran some bleach through the clothes washer so it is all sanitized and ready to use as soon as we arrive. [You frugalites will appreciate this: I took the hotel soap and stuck it in the shower, so that as soon as we get the shower curtain hung we'll be able to wash the road off.]

I kept thinking about my DH & pooch as I did all of this, and it felt really good knowing that I was giving them the "gift" of being able to arrive at our new place after what will probably be a long and exhausting road trip to find a well-stocked and sparkling-clean apartment waiting for them.

I'm home now for just 2 days. Tomorrow I leave on a 5-day trip to my mom's. There are some things that she wants help with around her house, and since I am "not working" this is a good time for me to go give her a hand. When I return, I'll have just 2 weeks until our move day.

Whew ... I may not be working for pay right now, but that sure doesn't mean I'm not working! I did come up with a temporary "title" for myself which you can see in my blog description.

I've really missed keeping up on all of your blogs ... I'm going to give them a quick scan right now, and hope that I don't miss anything too terribly important.

See you all again in about a week!

Leaving on a Jet Plane

September 6th, 2007 at 09:20 am

Tomorrow I'm off to Austin to choose our temporary housing (a rental apartment or house). After much eye-reddening searching on the internet and phoning, I have what I think / hope is a good plan. If it all works out, we'll have a good deal on a perfectly acceptable place to live temporarily. I think I have all of the documentation I need to do the whole apartment-application thing. [Copies of tax returns since we are self-employed, application forms pre-signed by DH since I'm the only one going, checkbooks and locations and hours of banks in case we need cash since I don't use ATMs, and even phone numbers of carpet cleaners in the area and the address of Costco ... More on those last 2 bits later, afer I return.]

I really cringe at the thought of giving out my SS# on an application and handing over a copy of my tax return, but there's no way around it. I can't even remember the last time I gave a "stranger" my SS, and after reading MonkeyMama's blog about ID theft it's the one part of this trip I'm dreading.

I'm flying down using DH's airline miles (paid a $10 fee), I'm staying at a place using his hotel reward card points that includes free continental breakfast, and I booked my rental car ages ago at a great weekend rate of $13.23/day base (it will total $41.42 for 2 days once all of the taxes and surcharges are added).

Smile Typing this out reminded me of something ... I just stopped typing for a second to grab the $5 Starbucks gift card I got free for answering surveys on-line at Harris Interactive, just in case I need a late-morning or early-afternoon pick-me-up. [I drink coffee but make my own at home, so going to Starbucks will be a real nice treat for myself.]

I'll have to eat lunches & dinners out; I think as soon as I finish typing this I'll go to Subway's web site to scout out their locations where I will be. If I am going to be eating "fast-food" type stuff, I may as well go with the best alternative (fairly healthy, and a decent value for the money).

I'll also have to buy gas ... I think Mapquest has a feature where you can check out the cheapest gas by location, so I'll do that as soon as I pinpoint Subway stores!

Well guys, I hope you all have a great weekend, and I will be back after completing this big step in our "Relocating to a lower cost part of the USA" journey!

Good Accountants Worth Their Weight In Gold

September 4th, 2007 at 11:21 pm

Today DH & I met with a CPA / Pension Consultant to discuss his self-employed retirement plans. We got some really terrific guidance, and it was definitely worth the time and cost. This is something I've been wanting DH to do for a couple years, and I'm so glad he finally agreed to do it.

He was reluctant because back when he set up his business he did hire a CPA to "do his books" regularly but we relaized all she was doing was recycling the information he was inputting to QuickBooks, and when he did ask her for advice what she told him wasn't very helpful. Since then, he hasn't hired a CPA for anything.

The woman we met with today was an entirely different story ... As DH said, "She is as sharp as my pencil."

The difference between a so-so, inexpensive CPA and a sharp-as-tacks but more expensive one is night and day. Just because a professional's hourly rate is higher doesn't mean they will end up costing you more. A well-qualified professional will be able to get the work done in a fraction of the time and probably save you money on top of doing a better job.

Labor Day!

September 3rd, 2007 at 07:40 pm

Today, Labor Day, was the last day I provided service to my clients. Friday was my last busy day with work, and things started really winding down over the weekend. No fanfare and no feeling of finality, tho', as I still have a fair amount of "wrap up" work to do. Of course, there was a tinge of sadness, but it was much less than I expected.

I started my business almost 4 years ago, and now it is ending. I have a feeling of accomplishment knowing that my little business was a success and made my clients lives easier & better.

Perhaps the lack of sadness is because I've been so busy with "forward-looking" things. I thought I would be done with my pre-relocation Ebay sales, but I am still chomping away at that elephant. And I have spent much of the last several days shopping around on-line for a rental in Austin and planning my scouting trip.

So ... What do I call myself now? Temporarily retired? Between jobs? In transition? On hiatus? On a very long vacation? Bumming around? I got my first "real" job (with paychecks and tax witholding) when I was 14 and except for a couple brief periods between jobs when I was actively looking for work, I have worked ever since then. For the first time in my life, I am not working and am not looking for work! It does feel a bit strange.....