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Archive for July, 2008

The Banking Shuffle

July 27th, 2008 at 08:59 pm

DH got a new FDIC-insured business account opened. He still has his old account as well, and if he wants to keep it I think that's fine, but he needs to see if he can get the sub-account (not sure if that's the proper name) on his sweep account changed to something FDIC insured (right now it's not insured).

We wanted to find a new bank to open up a personal MMA, and decided to go with Compass Bank since they are offering 3.3% APY, are rated 4-stars by Bankrate, and they have physical branches in the area we can actually walk in to. (We are shying away from internet-only banks these days. Probably no sound reason for that; it's just what makes us feel more coomfortable.)

WaMu & Wachovia: We have accounts at both banks. DH is fine keeping the Wachovia account, but not the WaMu account. He keeps saying we should close the account. I want to keep the WaMu account, not as a vote of confidence in WaMu necessarily, but as a vote of confidence in the FDIC. (In fact, I went in on Friday and deposited a small check, and my pay is auto-deposited to WaMu and I have no plan to change that unless and until I have to.) DH keeps saying, "What happens when the FDIC runs out of money? It's going to happen." (insert eye-rolling emoticon here --- yes, it could happen, but I really don't think we are anywhere remotely near that point yet.) This is from the guy who only a couple months ago was saying it was no big deal if one were to go over the FDIC insured limit or have a non-insured account. The Indymac bank closure sure gave him a jolt. As often is the case when it comes to our finances, he's like a pendulum swinging between extremes, and so I am trying to be a moderating force.
Oh, and the reason he wants to keep the Wachovia account is because he says Wachovia is "too big to fail" (insert 3 eye-rolling emoticons here --- give me a break).

On a more serious note, I should add that our WaMu account is way under the FDIC limit, we have our funds spread amongst several banks, and we would be fine if we could not get our hands on that money for a few days. If WaMu were our only bank, I would be seriously thinking about opening up an account elsewhere.

Psst ... Hey Buddy ... Wanna Hear About My Hot Investment?

July 23rd, 2008 at 08:39 pm

This investment's a guaranteed winner. And best of all, anyone can do it. Car maintenance. (What? You expected me to say I bought tulip bulbs?)

Yesterday I took my Camry in for its 120K mile tune-up. In addition to routine maintenance (oil change, radiator fluid change, tire rotation) there was a long list of things Toyota recommended should be checked out. Based on the lookover results, dirty transmission fluid was flushed and 2 accessory belts were replaced. Total "investment" was $377.

---Knock on wood---

Hopefully my investment will pay off in the form of a car that doesn't breakdown suddenly on the freeway, needing to be towed, causing me to incur unnecessary expenses, and making me miss pay because I can't get to work. And hopefully my investment will pay off in the form of a car that is still going strong at 200K miles (allowing me to keep my money in the bank, earning interest, instead of buying a replacement vehicle).

Nice Freebies for House Shoppers

July 20th, 2008 at 04:36 pm

Today we attended a Home Tour in a nearby community where a builder was giving away $25 gas cards. In addition to the gas card, we got free drinks and snacks.

Awhile ago, we visited the model homes of a builder who was giving away Target gift cards.

I think we will see more and more of these giveaways if the home market remains soft.

Here in Austin, the housing market is still relatively strong compared to the rest of the country. I can only imagine the freebies that can be found in more depressed housing markets.

Might be worth skimming the real estate section of the Sunday paper, even if you aren't in the market for a new house.

Getting Things Done

July 18th, 2008 at 08:01 am

1. Short Sale House: DH & I went to look at it yesterday. It is a real beauty, and it is being offered at a really good price. I had looked at it once, and was afraid DH would fall totally in love with it and want it. I say "afraid" because while it is a lovely home, it looks like the type of home where we would spend quite a bit of time on upkeep of the house and the yard. Fortunately, DH agreed that the house would require quite a bit of time on an on-going basis. (Actually, he made that comment about the yard only, but I can tell the house would be the same, and guess whose shoulders that work would fall on?) The house is pre-foreclosure and has been unoccupied for 6 months. It has not been trashed, but it has been a bit neglected. When we got home, DH walked in to our apartment, looked around, and said: "I like this apartment. It's so CLEAN!" I replied, "Yes, it is" but inside I was laughing and thinking "That's because the magic cleaning fairies show up on a regular basis" Big Grin I was also thinking "Give me 3 days alone with that house and it will sparkle" but I didn't say that because frankly I'm still hoping for a smaller, more modest house and I did not want to put any ideas in DH's head.

2. 2nd Car: Apparently I was not the only one researching cars the last month. In addition to the SmartCar that I want to test drive, DH wants to check out the new Volkswagen Jetta Diesel. Looks like a reasonable choice to me. Now I just need to find out if it's currently available in our area.

3. Short-Term CDs: BofA is offering a 7-month CD @4.11% (available on-line only). Not too shabby. We decided to go with that for some of DH's post-busy-season money. Higher rates are available elsewhere, but either the terms are longer or the bank is shakier.

4. VMSXX: We discussed, and DH is considering it. He's a bit anxious about putting non-tax-deferred dollars in a non-FDIC insured spot. Why that is any worse than putting tax-deferred money in a non-FDIC insured spot is beyond me. He keeps asking me: "How safe is Vanguard, really?" I'm all for VMSXX, but DH needs a bit more time to process the idea ... He has a couple friends who are both financially savvy and conservative. No doubt he will be consulting with them. Hopefully we won't end up with a mattress investment.

My Own Personal Christmas In July

July 16th, 2008 at 02:20 pm

DH has been gone on a month-long business trip. He gets back tonight! Yea! I'm so excited that I woke up this morning before the alarm went off ... Just like a little kid on Christmas morning! There are some feelings that no amount of money can buy, and this is one of them.

Other good news:
- The post-spa-treatment breakout has cleared up ... just in time (barely)
- I went the entire month without eating takeout one time ... pat,pat,pat on the back for me
- I've selected a charitable organization in the area to volunteer with. (This is something that really helps me feel connected to a community, and I've been looking for a good one here in Austin.) I'm attending my 2nd meeting at the end of this week
- I tried Jeffrey's nifty "towel in the dryer" tip and it worked very well ... I will be doing that from now on to cut my electricity usage (thanks, baselle, for the confirmation that it worked)

Issues I'll be dealing with (together with DH) in the coming days are:
- We are going to see the pre-foreclosure house together ... I'm a tad nervous that DH is going to love it a bit too much ... I think it's probably just too much (size & cost).
- We are going to test drive a Smart Car and if we like it, will decide if we want to go on the wait list for one (we are getting by finewith one car right now, but know we will want a 2nd car eventually ... I've read about the Smart Car and think it would make a perfect 2nd car ... Since the current wait for a Smart Car is 12-15 months, that would force us to stretch the one-car-only business out a bit longer but would allow us to know that it is not a forever thing.)
- We have accounts at both Wachovia & WaMu. Both are on the short list of banks that are potentially the next to fail. We need to talk it over and decide if we are comfortable keeping those accounts or if we want to close one of them. (I don't see any need to close both.)
- Now that DH's busy season is wrapping up, it's time to decide if we want to purchase shares of Vanguard's Tax-Exempt Money Market Fund. I've been researching CD rates as well, as that is our alternative.
- DH's business account is not FDIC insured. I've been nagging him for months (maybe over a year in fact) to change it to a FDIC insured one. He didn't think it was a big deal, but the Indymac Bankclosure was the wake up call he needed to make him realize how important this is, so getting him set up with a different business account is now priority number one.

Hope all is well with all of you.

WWAD? (What Would Amber Do?)

July 13th, 2008 at 08:16 pm

What Would Amber Do?

That was what I asked myself when I was driving home, tired and hungry after running errands. DH is on a long business trip so it's just me, and I wasn't in the mood to cook because I was hungry and just wanted food. I started hearing the siren song of the Whataburger drive-thru calling to me.

Then I started thinking about our friend Amber, and how she has done such a great job over-coming the eating out habit ... She's a real inspiration ... Hence the question I asked myself:

What would Amber do?

I don't actually know what Amber would have done, but thinking about her inspired me to go home and zap a Smart Ones frozen dinner (that I had bought on clearance at Super Target for $1.18) in the microwave. Saved myself a few dollars, and probably did my health some good as well.

Thank you Amber!

Updates

July 10th, 2008 at 05:18 pm

1. Spa Treatment: "The procedure" was today. It turned out very well, tho my face now feels a bit itchy and I can see major breakout starting along my jawline. I'm glad I had this done when I can lie low for a few days. I was a bit red for a couple hours after, but fortunately that calmed down because DH called and asked me to take care of some business for him this afternoon that involved meeting someone. The good news was that I ended up spending only $41 (including tip), not the $50 I had expected. I knew the price of the procedure, but for some reason had mentally added $4 to the price. Also, either tax was included in the price or Texas does not charge sales tax on services (this is the first time I've had a service performed in Texas so I don't know). I had researched spas on Citysearch, looking for customer-recommended spas nearby, narrowed it down to 3 spas, and then checked their rates on-line. The one I chose had a Citysearch coupon for first-time customers. Not only did I get $10 off but I also got a "free" body lotion that normally retails for $28. Not the sort of thing I'd normally buy, but I was happy to take the freebie. Thanks for all of your positive comments on my previous entry. I now feel perfectly fine about my little "secret-self-esteem-boosting-expenditure."

2. In-Laws: A while back I blogged about getting a retirement gift for my in-laws.
http://scfr.savingadvice.com/2008/06/08/retirement-gift-for-...
FIL was supposed to have loose ends wrapped up and be officially retired by June 20th. Guess what? He's still working! Since MIL has already moved to their new home, he had moved in with SIL. But apparently he decided he had overstayed his welcome, so he is sleeping in his office. Good grief! I really don't know if it is because there is a holdup on the portion of the business he is selling, or if he just is emotionally unable to stop working. Take note everyone, especially you self-employed folks: As retirement approaches, create a set-in-stone exit strategy for yourselves. I wonder if it would help if we told him that we were going to give him a nice gift, but that he won't be getting it until after he has actually retired?

3. House Hunting: I went and checked out a home that is in pre-foreclosure ... the sellers are trying to do a short sale. It's a really lovely home but I think it's too big and too much money, but DH is REALLY interested in it so we'll be going back to see it after he returns from his trip. Sad situation for the sellers tho ... It's a really lovely home yet they only lived there for about 1-1/2 years. It never ceases to amaze me how so many people managed to get themselves so over-extended.

Am I About to Commit Financial Infidelity?

July 9th, 2008 at 04:11 pm

(The males in the group may want to stop reading this now, as this post falls under the TMI category. Consider yourselves warned.)

DH is currently on a long business trip. I am between work assignments. The first day I was off work I called a salon and scheduled an appointment. My appointment is tomorrow. I am going in to have a little "procedure" done. You see ... I am entering that certain "time of life" and have recently started noticing an increase in facial hair. (Fellas - I warned you. This is not a pretty post.) Fortunately it's very fine, super light peach fuzz. I think it's still at the stage where I'm the only one who really notices it, but it's definitely not going away on it's own and it won't be long before it is noticeable to others. So, I decided to get a facial waxing. (The idea of shaving bothers me for some reason. I don't want to use harsh chemical hair removal creams because I have sensitive skin. Electrolysis is expensive and I want to see how long the waxing lasts before I consider that option.) I scheduled this procedure while DH is gone and while I'm off work in case I have some sort of a reaction or breakout ... I'll have time to "heal" before I'm in the public eye.

Also, to tell you the truth, I'm embarassed to tell DH I'm having this done. My intellect tells me that this is something many women go through, and that it's just a biological thing and that I can't help it, but my emotional side fears the loss of femininity involved.

Here's where the possible "financial infidelity" comes in ... I stopped off at the bank while I was out running errands this morning and withdrew some cash so that I don't have to put the charge on my CC. DH doesn't scrutinize the bank statements, but he does check over the CC bills.

We each are given "pocket money" (allowance) each month that we are allowed to spend on whatever we want, and since I spend so little I have a great big fat "pocket money cushion" saved up, so it's definitely not like I'm spending money I'm not "entitled" to spend. (BTW, we are talking about $50 including tax & tip. I printed out an on-line coupon for new customers that will knock $10 off the cost.) And if I told DH about it, he might think it was a bit unnecessary and a bit of a waste of money, but I know he wouldn't try to stop me from doing it. He has never complained about my spending. This expenditure will get recorded in our household books, but just generically as "pocket money." (From time to time I get some cash to use as "walking around money" so it will look like that is what I did.)

But the fact remains that I am going to pay cash for something just so DH doesn't find out about it. Is that wrong? Ladies, have you ever done anything similar? Guys (if any of you are still reading), how would you feel if your wife did something like this?

Harris Interactive Points can now be redeemed for $5 Paypal payment

July 2nd, 2008 at 03:22 pm

Harris Interactive is a research company that conducts surveys on a variety of topics, not only consumer products but also "issues" such as health care, finances, politics, etc.

I've been doing HI surveys for several years. When you do surveys, you earn "points" that can be redeemed for rewards. In the past, I redeemed my points for gift cards at Target or Olive Garden. (Cash previously was not an option, so I figured that gift cards were the next best thing.)

I just completed a survey and when I went to redeem some points, I was pleasantly surprised to see that 800 HI Points can now be redeemed for a $5 Paypal credit. This is a brand new option. As far as I'm concerned, that's as good as cash!

If you'd like to join the HI panel, here is the web address:

http://www.harrispollonline.com/