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Archive for January, 2013

Thanks You Tube!

January 20th, 2013 at 11:29 am

Mentioned to DH that it was past time to flush out our hot water heaters (we have 2 small ones instead of 1 large one). Got a blank stare. He will be the first to admit that he is not a handyman, and he speaks English as a second language so manuals can be overwhelming. Then I said the magic words: "Maybe you could look it up on You Tube." After viewing a half dozen videos, and learning how it's necessary to do this to extend the life of the water heaters and prevent accidents, he is now acting like a man on a mission to save the world from water heater sediment.

Thanks to You Tube, no nagging needed!

Catching Up: The Dog (aka: A Time to Spend)

January 12th, 2013 at 04:56 pm

This is by far the most difficult "Catching Up" update to post.

During the time I was away from SA our beloved dog developed terminal cancer. After consultations with specialists and heartfelt conversation, DH & I decided not to put him through surgeries followed by confinement for a couple weeks and then months of chemo. Instead we have focused on keeping him happy & comfortable for as long as we can. He is doing very well and has stayed with us longer than expected already.

Our decision was based on what we felt was best for the dog. All of you who have been through this know just how badly we wished we could have sat our boy down and had a chat with him to find out what HIS wishes were. But since we couldn't, so the tough decision fell on us.

I am thankful that we had the money to pay for the surgery & followup treatment, had we chosen to go that route. My heart aches for people who have to choose their pets' care based on what they can afford.

Even so, our pet-related expenditures have gone up. He is getting daily medication. We bought a 3rd doggy bed for him, so that he would have a comfy place to lounge in ALL the rooms he hangs out in. I buy cheese just for him when I go to the grocery store ... it's his very favorite. Smile And cleaning costs are up. Bedding (human & dog) is being laundered more often, carpets are being steamed (DIY) more frequently, and I even broke down and bought some Arm & Hammer carpet powder that is supposed to help get your carpets cleaner when you vacuum. Today I took the comforter to the cleaners for a cleaning that it wouldn't have needed if he wasn't sick ($33).

And this spending is perfectly OK! This is one of the reasons why we have saved so hard for so long. To see to his needs and keep him comfortable.

Suze Orman has a mantra that we change up a little bit in our house: "People AND PETS first, then money, then things."

Catching Up: Employment

January 5th, 2013 at 01:16 pm

During the time I was away from SA, one of the biggest changes as far as personal finances go was that in late spring 2011 I became eligible for benefits through my employer. I opted in to the following: 401K (contributing max allowed, and getting 4.5% employer match), medical insurance, dental insurance, and new for 2013 vision insurance. All 3 insurances are for both myself & my husband (he is self-employed). We pay for them (deducted from each pay check), but it's less expensive than what we would pay for individual policies, with better coverage. This means that we no longer have our HDHP and made our final, partial-year HSA contribution in 2011. We still have a healthy balance in the HSA that we use to pay deductibles, copays, etc. At the current rate we are spending it down, it will last many many years.

I also now get paid holidays, vacation, and sick leave. Smile

The non-profit I volunteer with had wanted to hire me as a paid employee, and shortly after I became benefits-eligible with my employer they did offer a job to me, but I had to decline. I still volunteer with them, and a very nice older woman who had been unemployed for awhile was offered the job instead, so everything worked out nicely.

For anyone who is job hunting: I first connected with my current employer when I did some temp work for them in another city about 10 years ago. It was during a period when I was between jobs. I took the temp job even tho it paid a LOT less than what I had been making and was even less than what I could have made on unemployment. I eventually started my own little business, but after moving to Austin several years ago I reconnected with my employer and have been working for them ever since. My point is that sometimes it really does pay off to take ANY job that you can find, even if it means a short-term income reduction.

Catching Up: Credit Card Shuffle

January 2nd, 2013 at 09:47 am

I am loyal to the people (and animals) in my life.
I have zero loyalty to cc companies. Smile

I'm not as good at it as some of you (like MonkeyMama), but I do like to milk the cc rewards.

In 2012 I opened a *Marriott cc so that I could stay for free when I attended my HS reunion. I closed it today b/c my 1 year anniversary is coming up and I would have incurred a $85 annual fee that I was not willing to pay. I know that this was a "one time deal" and that *Marriott won't be offering any special promos like that to me again. That's OK with me. I don't travel that much that involves staying in hotels.

I also opened an American Express Blue Cash Preferred card for a $150 bonus and 6% cash back on groceries. I like that I can call in and have my rewards credited to my account, in $25 increments. There is a $75 annual fee but with the 6% cash back on groceries I will probably opt to keep it. (Towards the end of the year, our favorite grocery store HEB offered 12-cents off on gas if you used one of their prepaid grocery cards, so we were able to double up the 6% cash back and 12-cents discount. HEB's gas is competitive even without the discount. This promo, which HEB runs periodically, is always popular. On Dec 31, the last day of the deal, there was a line at the gas stands!)

Opened an Amazon cc in exchange for a $50 Amazon gift card. Used it to order a b-day gift for my brother, with some leftover for a future purchase. DH will also get an Amazon cc. He likes to buy some of his "ethnic" groceries from Amazon.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Opening & closing cc accounts isn't a good strategy if trying to build up your credit score. My credit score is decent, and I don't anticipate ever having to take out any loans, so I don't have to worry about qualifying or paying a higher interest rate.

P.S. - I had to edit my entry to refer to the hotel chain as *Marriott, otherwise a hyperlink to that particular hotel chain automatically appeared. That is something new in the SA blogs, isn't it?