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Archive for March, 2008

Watches & Glasses

March 30th, 2008 at 08:51 am

I think the first rule of sensible spending is "know yourself." Do you like to change things up once in awhile, or are you happy wearing the same things until they wear out? Me ... I'm happy wearing the same things until they are no longer functional. So, I try to shop accordingly.

A watch & my glasses (and my wedding ring of course) are the only accessories I wear most days.

I have 2 watches --- The 2nd was a gift. 2 watches aren't necessary, but after I received the 2nd I realized it is nice to have both brown (Guess) & black (Seiko).

Anyway ... The older watch, the Guess brand, is I-don't-know-how-old ... I am guessing around 18 years. I just got the battery replaced ($10) and realized I have lost track of how many times I've replaced the battery or had the strap changed (because it broke or wore out).

Will most watches last forever, as long as you're just giving them normal wear and tear? Will the battery need to be changed more and more frequently as the watch gets older? Are watch batteries so standard that I can expect to always be able to find a replacement battery that fits my watch? Can I keep wearing these watches indefinitely?

How old is your watch?

I will be perfectly happy if I can keep wearing these same 2 watches until the day I die.

It's the same thing with my glasses. I get my prescription updated every few years, but I don't change the frames unless I have to. I have had to change the frame because either the frame broke (walked in to a bike rack sticking way out off of the back of a car and didn't see it - ouch) or I can no longer get lenses that fit the frames. Last time I bought new frames I narrowed it down to 2 frames, then asked the gals at Costco to help me choose. Knowing myself, I told them I'd like to update my look a bit, but not be too trendy because I would probably be wearing those same frames for at least 10 years, maybe more. They pointed out something about one of the frames that made it a bit trendy (was it the shape?), and that was all I needed to know to make up my mind. I bought the other pair.

New Job "Issues"

March 23rd, 2008 at 08:14 am

New jobs always come with "issues" don't they? I hesitate to use the word "issues" in this case because it sounds so negative, when really I just have "things that need to be worked out."

1. Auto Deposit: Friday was my first payday for my new job. I signed up for auto deposit. No deposit yet. Probably just a glitch somewhere, something that I need to get worked out either with my bank or the payroll department. Glad I wasn't desperately waiting for that money to pay bills!

2. To Buy or Not to Buy a 2nd Car? DH just returned from a business trip, so tomorrow will be the start of my needing to get to work every weekday and us having only 1 car. Taking the bus is not an option (the nearest bus stop that goes to my office is 70% of the way to work, so no point in driving that far and not driving all the way in, and I haven't been able to find a carpool. [Parking is free BTW.] As far as I'm concerned, the pay for the job does not justify the cost of a 2nd car, not to mention the fact that it's temp work, so I don't want to buy a 2nd car just because of this job. The distance from home is so far that it doesn't make sense for DH to drive me every day. I've suggested that we try something like I drive myself 3 days a week, and 2 days a week DH drive me in & pick me up so that he can have the car for golf, errands, etc. We are probably just delaying the inevitable of buying a 2nd car eventually, but I do still want to delay it as long as possible. We'll see how it goes ... Hopefully being home without a car (and unable to go hit balls at the driving range) won't be too hard on DH.

3. Clothes = Not Want or Need but "Kinda Sorta Ought to Get"???: I think we need a word for something that is neither a want nor a need but something in-between. I could really use some new clothes for this new job. I have never been what you'd call a clothes horse ... sssh, it's a secret, but DH has always had at least twice as many clothes as me! Smile For a long time I worked in the corporate world, then when I owned my own business the "dress code" (or lack of) was very very casual. Prior to our move, not knowing what would work in the new climate or what type of work I would be getting in to, I did things like let my one remaining pair of tennis shoes wear down to where there were holes in the bottom of the soles, then I just tossed them before we moved. [Didn't buy replacements as it would mean one more thing to move.] Now I'm working in a casual office environment, where the corporate suits don't work and the super casual clothes might not get me fired but probably wouldn't enhance my rep either. I do have enough clothes that fit in to the "in-between" world and work in this much warmer climate where I don't actually NEED to buy new clothes(I could keep wearing the same things over and over if I honestly did not have the money to buy anything new), and I don't like clothes shopping or spending money unnecessarily so I certainly don't WANT new clothes. However, it probably would be a good idea to buy a few more pieces so that I can have a bit more variety in my wardrobe, don't end up wearing the same things over & over, and don't have to panic if the laundry doesn't get done right on schedule. [Although this work is temporary, I should have recurring temp assignments in the same work environment.] I do have the money to buy clothes, and haven't bought any for such a long time, that there's really nothing to stop me other than my dislike for clothes shopping.

Well ... I went ahead and made a list of what I could buy that would add the most variety to my wardrobe, and I've come up with a shopping strategy (hit Goodwill first, then a consignment store where I'm going to sell some things as well as look for some new for myself, and finally the clearance rack at a couple retail stores). I'm going to try to find a day when I have enough time and energy to get everything I "need/want/???" in one day. Just get it over with!

Today is one of those days ... I have the time and energy ... But glory halleluiah many stores are closed because of Easter so I have a reprieve until at least next weekend!

Older Sister Update

March 11th, 2008 at 09:42 am

Over a year ago, I posted on the forums regarding my older sister's financial troubles, the extent of which really became clear for me when she called to ask to "borrow" money to have her suffering cat put to sleep:
http://www.savingadvice.com/forums/general-discussion/26108-...

Thanks to all of the great feedback I received, I decided to "play it very cool" even tho' I wanted to jump in to "crisis mode!" I think I've managed to avoid turning her off by becoming preachy. She continues to make slow progress, and I keep my eyes and ears open for opportunities to offer support and make occasional gentle suggestions.

In addition to the steps mentioned on the forums (such as giving her a copy of Suze Orman's Women & Money), I've done a couple small things since then.

- When my other sibs and I went to DC, she decided to stay home to build up her emergency savings. Tho' we normally don't exchange Christmas gifts, I bought her a small souvenier gift in DC and attached a brief note telling her how much I supported her decision. She loved the gift.

- Sis is a hard-core environmentalist. She buys TP made from recycled paper. I knew better than to tell her to buy cheaper TP. But, when I saw that Costco started carrying TP made from recycled paper, I called her to let her know, and she thanked me. (She is not a member herself, but has friends she can tag along with when she wants to.)

- When I read a blog entry on "America Saves Week" (I am so sorry that I don't remember the name of the blog author) I sent her a little "FYI" with a link.

This is the Email I received in return:
thanks!

I've been doing the writing-down-every-penny-I-spend thang, to find the places I can cut a little to help save for my big trip with (name deleted). I honestly had no idea how much my couple lattes a week added up to until I did that........


Boy did that warm my heart!

Honestly, without the SA members' help, I know I would have come on too strong and just turned sis off. So thank you so much for helping me come up with a rational, reasonable approach.

Oh, Just Go Spend Some Money Already!

March 8th, 2008 at 05:22 pm

DH is on a business trip, and had to lay over in Washington DC. [That was the only routing available to get the free ticket he wanted using his mileage.]

I had to practically NAG him to get him to go downtown and take in some of the sights. (I suggested he spend one extra day in DC, since he had to fly through there anyway, but he wouldn't hear of it.) He has never been there, and he is not a US citizen, so he didn't get what the big deal was, even after I showed him my pictures and brochures and tourist book souvenier and raved about it. I told him it's like The Louvre, Champs Elysee, Eiffel Tower, and Versailles all rolled in to one, only better! Since he only has this evening, I strongly encouraged him to take the Grayline nighttime bus tour so he could see as many sights as possible in a short time, even tho' it would mean buying a ticket and he would have had to take a cab back to his hotel from a Metro station. I told him "I know that will cost money, but I promise you that it is money you will never regret spending for as long as you live."

I'm happy to report that after much encouragement he finally decided he was willing to spend the money.

Unfortunately, the bus tour was sold out. Frown But he did head downtown as soon as he checked in his bags. He rushed around seeing as much as he could (White House, Smithsonian Air & Space Museum, etc --- unfortunately I don't think he saw any of the monuments) and ended up with blisters on his feet! He called me from the Air & Space Museum quite exhilarated, saying "I could stay just here for hours!" And he has decided that if his flight tomorrow is overbooked, he will volunteer to get bumped!

Hopefully if something like this ever comes up again, he'll listen to me a little sooner! I'm all for saving money (and I certainly would have asked for the AAA discount from Grayline), but goodness, when you have the opportunity to have such an enriching experience, if it causes no strain on the budget, just go ahead and spend the money already!

Are you surprised to hear me say that? Some people think I'm a total tightwad, but I disagree. I will squeeze a penny till it screams, but I also am willing to spend when I truly think it's worthwhile.

Book Review: "The Number"

March 4th, 2008 at 03:27 pm

Recently finished reading "The Number: A Completely Different Way to Think About the Rest of Your Life" by Lee Eisenberg.

From the inside flap: "It's the burning question for 76 million baby boomers. It is a question that ought to burn for everyone over thirty. It is a life-defining issue. Most of us don't want to face it, but we have to. It's The Number: How much money do you need to secure the rest of your life? Do you know what your Number is? Do you know how to think about it? Do you know what you want to do with it?"

First of all, I should say that while this is a personal finance book, it is NOT a general advice PF book. It is very focused on retirement, and it is probably most appropriate for folks who already have a fair amount tucked away in their retirement savings and are attempting a "reality check" about where they stand. If you are in the earlier stages of the PF journey (struggling to get out of debt, working out a budget, learning about 401Ks and IRAs and such) then this is NOT the book for you. I know everyone's situation is unique, but I'll throw out "35 and older, if retirement savings are your primary financial concern" as an appropriate demographic for this book. But if you're 30 and are hoping to retire at 50, by all means give it a look-see. Smile

I enjoyed this book. Overall, I'd give it a B+.

The author spends quite a bit of time exploring all of the variables that make coming up with "The Number" so challenging. He also encourages us to think about how we envision our lives in retirement. He met with people who help others plan for their retirement (CFPs and the like). And he visited with people who are preparing for retirement or are already retired to see how they are "living their dream." He attended retirement planning seminars, met with the brain power at Fidelity Investments, and visited "active adult" communities. He writes with a sense of irreverant humor that sometimes borders on the snippy (he did live in NYC for quite a while which may explain that).

This book raised more questions than it answered (and that is not necessarily a bad thing), tho I did come away feeling that I had a slightly better grasp on my Number.

I really liked what he calls the "10 commandments of modern portfolio management" ... his condensation of the rules written about so much in the financial press that unfortunately too many people still don't follow. The following are Mr. Eisenberg's words, not mine, from pages 125-6 of the book. (If I'm breaking any copywrite laws, let me know and I'll delete.)

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* Thou shalt not put all thy eggs in one basket.

* Thou shalt have the patience of a nesting hen.

* Thou shalt know that past performance is no guarantee of future results, nor shalt thou become so exuberant so as to forget that eggs drop, cookies crumble, bubbles burst, and that which goes up will eventually come down.

* Thou shalt not invest in anything thou dost fail to understand.

* Thou shalt not question the divine power of compounding interest.

* Thou shalt not squander long-term returns by incurring frequent trading commissions or excessive management fees.

* Thou shalt honor thy company's retirement plan.

* In particular, thou shalt honor thy company's match --- after all, it's free money.

* Thou shalt take on risk commensurate with thy ability to sleep well at night.

* Thou shalt honor thy age and timeline by properly apportioning thy ratio of stocks to bonds.

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If you'd like to learn more, you can find links to articles by the author at the following site:

http://www.thenumberbook.com/thebook/articles.php

I'd recommend starting with the article "Nailing Your New York Number" from New York magazine.