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Just Slightly Over 463 Weeks

December 28th, 2014 at 03:33 pm

That's how long until our target retirement date!
I don't think retirement will mean that we never work again, but it will mean "work optional." I think I'll continue to work, but whether it is volunteer work or part-time paid work or some combination of both is TBD.

Austin ranked #3 on the most recent "top 25 places to retire" list from Forbes and was one of the bigger cities on the list. We like it here. So relocating after retirement may not be something that we even need to think about. We envision some day moving to a condo, and that would be the logical time to think about whether we want to stay in Austin or relocate. Because it is a single-story, our current home should be fine for at least the first several years of retirement and maybe longer.

Sneakers On The Ground

May 9th, 2010 at 08:41 am

Tho I've not been around SA much lately, I am still actively involved in my household's personal finances on a daily basis.

I started this blog to chronicle our relocation to a lower cost part of the country (plus join the $20 Challenge), and now that we are firmly established in our adopted home of Austin, I just haven't been blogging as much.

In a nutshell, these are the major PF-related things that have been happening:

1. Wills Re-Done: Finalized (witnessed & notarized, including Affidavits, copy sent to Personal Representative) in early-March. I bought the NOLO book & used their software & created the Wills myself. I would have preferred to use an attorney (DH was not willing to pay the fees to have an attorney prepare our estate documents), but I am happy with NOLO and did the best job I could. The book was clearly written and I got quite a bit of helpful information from it. For me, the way the book was laid-out seemed very organized, and was a great way to think and work through the process. I recommend it for anyone else thinking of doing a DIY Will. I made an effort to keep things simple, in order to minimize the risk of making a mistake. For example, I decided not attempt to create a Trust myself. I also read up on Special Needs Trusts (I have a brother who is developmentally disabled who is a major part of my estate planning), but found out that he does not need one because he does not collect Social Security Disability Insurance.

2. Second Car Purchased: We finally bought a 2nd car. Paid cash. New car. We have owned both new & used, and I believe both are reasonable ways to go (I'm not a believer in "one size fits all" when it comes to PF). Based on how we have owned previous cars and how we feel about cars, I realize that for DH & I, Jonathan Pond's motto of "buy used if you love cars, buy new if you hate cars" is the way to go. In other words, if you are a "car person" and like to change cars frequently, go for used cars. But if you are NOT a car person (like DH & I), keep your cars forever, and do not necessarily like the car-buying process (but put a lot of time & research & mental anguish in to the decision-making), then buy new. Only once did we buy and sell a car within a short period of time, and that was a special scenario. Other than that, we have owned our cars for very long periods of time (our current "first car" is a 1999 model that we bought new, has almost 150K miles and we expect it to last for at least another 50K). We bought a Prius, at the height of the "anti-Prius hysteria." We had looked at the Prius for a couple years, but felt they were overpriced. For a very brief period Toyota offered a $1K Customer Loyalty rebate (if you blinked you missed it), and one dealer in our area offered previously-unheard-of discounts on a couple stock vehicles. On top of that, I was getting ready to restart my full-time seasonal job & we had been sharing one car for several years, so while it definitely wasn't "the best car deal ever" it was enough of a deal and the timing was perfect so we jumped off the fence and wrote a check (plus $5K on the Am-Ex ... for the points ... paid off when the bill came in). Boy that dealership was dead at that time; the salesman said we were his only sale that month.

3. Still Studying the Possibility of Buying a Vacation Rental + Looking at a Self-Directed IRA: At the turn of the new year, I had looked in to buying a 2nd home in our area to use as a vacation rental, then put it on hold because the real estate market in was firming up (didn't think we could get a very good deal). But now that the New Homebuyer's Tax Credit has expired, I think there may be another dip, so we continue to keep a close eye on the market. I am reading "How to Rent Vacation Properties By Owner" by Christine Hrib Karpinski, and that got me thinking about establishing a Self-Directed IRA. I had been wondering if an IRA could own an investment property, and it turns out that a Self-Directed IRA can. Also, I have been perturbed thinking that I could not own individual Treasuries in an IRA (can't see paying a fee to a mutual fund company to buy something I can buy myself through my Treasury Direct, but a Self-Directed IRA may be a way to do just that. These are my current "Big PF projects" ... learning more about vacation properties & self-directed IRAs.

4. Sneakers On the Ground: For some reason, I often ponder "big PF questions" while out walking the dog. On one walk recently, I was thinking about our investment style. While our MF investments are very conservative, we have made bold & risky moves such as DH quitting his job & starting his own business, me starting a small business, relocating to a lower cost part of the country, and now thinking about buying an investment property. I don't think you can categorize us as "risk-takers" or "conservative." I think the military expression about "Boots on the Ground" is fitting ... We like to be very hands-on, looking & observing & participating in what we are investing in; we willing to take risks as long as we have quite a bit of control over those risks and know exactly what is going on.

5. And Speaking of Sneakers: OK, this is not a "major PF thing" by a long stretch, but I did want to point out that everyone, no matter how firmly they have their personal finances under control, struggles with temptation. While it was definitely NOT the case in my younger years, I do feel that my DH & I do a pretty good job overall of managing our finances. But the "consumer bug" still bites from time to time. It's a constant job to keep things in balance. Right now I am hearing the siren song from those "Shapeup" sneakers by Skeechers. Just love the idea of getting extra toning (and maybe some health benefits) while walking just by wearing a certain pair of sneakers! But the rational side of my brain can't see spending $100 for them. So I've decided that if I ever see a pair for $50, I will buy them. I'm hoping they will come out with some awful color scheme that no one wants and they will put them on clearance (I won't care about the color), or maybe it's just a matter of waiting for the market to become more saturated. I will allow myself to indulge in a pair, but only if the price comes down by half.

Hope everyone here has been doing well ... I have stopped by to read folks blogs from time to time, but feel I am out of touch.

Be It Ever So Humble ...

June 8th, 2009 at 09:06 pm

Since my last post, guess what DH & I did? We closed on our new house and moved!

For anyone who doesn't know the story, this has been a long time coming. We sold our house in the Seattle area over 3 years ago, and have been living in rentals both in Seattle and in Austin ever since, waiting for what felt like the right time in the market and the right house.

I can't tell you how nice it is to be back in a place that we own!

The first time we drove by the house it was literally one of those "Honey - Stop the Car!" moments that you hear about.


Is it possible to be in love with a room? If so, I may be in love with our new kitchen:


This picture is rather stark without any furniture or pictures, but I wanted to show the curved walk-throughs, which is one feature I really like. (I like soft curved things rather than just hard corners.)



These are old pictures that we took when househunting. I would have liked to have posted some newer ones, but my camera is still in a box. Smile

At one point in the process (just before signing off on our contract), DH started getting a bit of cold feet. There are homes in the same neighborhood that are built by lower quality builders that of course sell for less per square foot. DH started thinking we should go for "lowest cost per square foot" and get a bigger house, but at that point I really put my foot down and rather insisted that quality was much more important. It may be a "smaller" house (at least compared to the others), but I know we will save not only money but also time & aggravation in the long run. It's an Energy Star and green built certified home, so we will save on our energy bills. With the quality of the materials, we should end up needing to repair or replace things much later. I hope Ima Saver will be proud of me for insisting on quality! (I'm not saying it's the quality of a custom home that Ima's husband would build ... it's not, not by a long stretch!)

Closing was a dream. Took all of 30 minutes.

The first thing I did after getting home from the closing was file our property tax appeal. The deadline to file was June 1st so procrastination was not an option!

Moving was fine, but boy were DH & I tired by the time we were done! I have told DH in no uncertain terms that this is absolutely the LAST DIY move for us. Fortunately, there really wasn't a lot of furniture (just our bed and a couple chairs and a small dressers & side tables). If we ever move again, we will just have to hire movers. Honestly, I wouldn't mind if this were our last move EVER (until we move to the retirement center or wherever we end up in our old age).

We continue to stimulate the economy with house related purchases. In addition to the appliances blogged about previously (fridge, washer & dryer), we have purchased a carpet cleaner, a lawn mower, and garage floor liner. I've also ordered a shower caddy & a sofa.

Bless Discover's fraud department --- Usually I only buy gas on that card, so when the garage floor liner was purchased, they immediately called me about "suspicious activity." Nice to know someone's looking out for me!

We Are Switching to OTA ("Free") TV

May 10th, 2009 at 10:08 am

OTA = Over The Airwaves
This is the "free" TV that is available to anyone with an antenna. This is the type of TV anyone my age or older grew up watching.

A move is such a great way to re-evaluate lots of things in your life. In addition to evaluating what things we really want to keep (as in, "Do I really want to lug this ratty object to the new place, or is it time to ditch it?"), you also start evaluating services and weighing the costs vs. benefits.

When it came time to order utility hookups at our new house, I really started evaluating our "need" for cable TV. In our apartment, cable is included, so we have not been paying seperately for it for 1-1/2 years. When we lived in the Seattle area, we used to have a semi-expensive cable package, because that was the only way for DH to add channels from his native country. Since his country's channels are not available where we live now, he started looking for other ways to watch TV, and now subscribes to a service where he watches TV from his homeland over the internet.

Other than a bit of CNN & CNBC (with a smattering of Animal Planet), the only TV I watch is major networks. So I started thinking that cable was not really necessary. I did some research, and the more I learned the more I liked the idea of living without cable.

In addition to loving the idea of not having to pay a monthly cable bill on top of the $25 we're paying for DH's internet viewing, I really like the idea of better reception. I learned that picture quality is better if you DON'T have cable, and this will especially be true once the switch is made to digital TV (June 12).

DH has been patiently waiting to buy a big screen flat panel TV. I asked him to wait until we had our new house and prices have come down. Once we're in our place, I'll give him the green light to go ahead and buy his big toy. I'll have him get an integrated HDTV one; that means it will already have an HDTV tuner built in, so we won't have to buy a seperate tuner. All we need is an antenna.

I ordered this antenna today: http://www.crutchfield.com/p_209TV55/Terk-TV55.html?o=v&sear...
With shipping, it came to $68.

DH will be installing it in our attic. According to on-line reviews I read, it is fairly easy to install. (It's an indoor/outdoor antenna. I knew an outdoor antenna would not go over well with the neighbors.) I don't know if we will have to buy any hardware for mounting, or if we have all of the tools we need, but even if we do have to run to Home Depot and buy something small, I figure we'll come in at $75 or less total. With cable at $49+tax, we will have recouped the antenna cost in 1-1/2 months or less!

If anyone else is interested in making the switch to OTA TV (and with the digital conversion coming up, can you think of a better time?), these were the sites I found most helpful in researching:

http://www.crutchfield.com/S-IOdgy2Geib8/learn/learningcente...

http://www.antennaweb.org/aw/welcome.aspx

Once we're settled in to our new place, I'll let you know how we like our "new" (actually retro) way of watching TV.

Appliances Ordered

May 4th, 2009 at 03:46 pm

We've ordered the appliances for our new house. We looked for appliances that were highly-rated by Consumer Reports, that were very energy-efficient, that fit nicely in their designated spaces, and that had features we liked. We chose "mid-range" items ... neither super expensive nor super cheap. Then we looked for the best deals we could find.

Got our washer & dryer (Fisher & Paykel) from the "Dent & Scratch" section of a discount appliance warehouse. They are new, but have some cosmetic damage ... Who cares?

Got our fridge (Kenmore Elite) from Sears last night ... they had one of their quarterly "VIP Evenings" where all Kenmore & Kenmore Elite appliances are 20% off and then 10% additional off of that ... so, 28% off.

This means we've purchased 3 BIG items in the last week. I certainly hope the ripple effects of our personal economic stimulus spending spree will reach you wherever you are. Smile

As I know most of you are, we're pretty studious shoppers when it comes to major purchases; we put a lot of time & energy in to it. So if feels good to be done. We now have all of the "necessary" items for the house. We haven't purchased any furniture yet, but we've yet to find any screaming deals, and we can get by with what we have for the time being.

Sorry I've not been around. I've been getting lots of overtime at work (for which I am very grateful), still have my volunteer work to keep up on, and have the upcoming move.

One of these days I will update my badly outdated sidebar! Cheers.

Came Close to Making an Offer

January 10th, 2009 at 08:43 pm

We've had a couple of days of marathon house-hunting. Came pretty close to making an offer on one house, but didn't. Went so far as to bring blank contract papers home with us. Of the *gazillion* (only a slight exaggeration) houses we have looked at, it is the one we have liked the most ... and we both like it equally. Very pretty house, nice size, perfect number of rooms. It is also a pretty good deal. Problem is, we're only lukewarm on the area (DH kind of likes it, I kind of don't). That's why we decided to hold off.

We had put our Austin househunting on hold when we were leaning towards San Diego (which is still a possibility BTW), and so when we started looking around here again after many months off we were pleasantly surprised to see that the builders have started taking serious price cuts. The "Oh ... the Austin market isn't affected by the national housing downturn and won't be" arrogance that we had run in to previously is GONE. Another thing that we are noticing is that some builders are starting to build NICE, smaller houses, which is a change here in the "Everything is bigger in" state and one that we welcome.

The other housing market tidbit is anecdotal evidence that the housing market bailout may be working in some instances. Months ago, we looked at a short sale home. At that time, the owners had moved out. We contacted the listing agent and found out that after receiving several lowball offers, the bank decided to work with the owners and they have moved back in to the house.

I'm tired. For me personally, househunting gets exhausting because it is so intense. Do you guys feel the same way? The last 2 nights we were so tired we did not want to cook and ended up going out to dinner. Thank goodness for the Olive Garden gift card we got for Christmas and the BOGO coupon to IHOP ... And to Ms. Koppur who gave me the idea of IHOP for dinner! (We learned that IHOP for dinner is great because there is hardly anyone there.)


First 3 Financial Decisions of the Year

January 6th, 2009 at 07:01 pm

1. Today's 10-yr TIPS Auction (first of the new year, and one of only a couple for 2009): We decided not to participate. I sort of wanted to, DH did not want to, and I was not sure enough that it was a good idea to try to persuade DH. (I am starting to think that if DH was single, all his money would just be sitting in the bank. I'm the one who brings up things like TIPS and mutual funds, and sometimes I have to push to get any sort of investing done.) Since my crystal ball has not yet been delivered, I of course have no way of knowing what will happen in the next ten years. Best guess? A period of deflation (due to constriction in consumer spending) followed by soaring inflation caused by the pent-up pressure of the presses at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing running overtime during a deflationary period? Auction results were published at www.treasurydirect.gov and the yield was 2.245%. I suppose it would have been fine if we had participated in the auction, but it's not the end of the world that we did not. (If, 7 years from now, we are in a prolonged period of double-digit inflation, please remind me what an idiot I was.)

2. New Bank Account for Bonus: We decided to open up a new checking account just to get a $100 bonus (we had received a promotional coupon in the mail). We have to keep the account open for 6 months, and there is no minimum balance requirement. I do wish that banks would just offer better interest rates rather than offering these bonuses, because it is a bit of a hassle to open and close accounts ... But I suppose that is why they do it the way they do ... There are lots of folks out there who can't be bothered to open & close accounts, but for $100, I sure can!

3. We Decided to Buy a Specific House (it didn't pan out, so don't get too excited): While at a party on Saturday, DH received a semi-cryptic message from a builder's sales rep saying "I sure hope you're still in the market for a house. Call me." DH got up early Sunday morning and checked the builder's web site, and saw that on one house in particular they had taken a BIG-TIME price drop. He came in and woke me up all excited like a kid on Christmas morning. I checked it out and got very excited myself. I said "Let's buy it!" and DH agreed 100%. It was truly a screaming deal. We were ready to go out to the house and sign a contract on the spot, for the asking price. (It is in one of our favorite areas of Austin, we know and like the builder, and DH had visited that particular house and had liked it very much and explained it to me in a way that I knew I would like it too.) We had to wait several hours until the sales office opened for the day, but I got my checkbook out and put it in my purse so we could head out there and write them a check. While waiting, I was doing chores around the house and DH was on the computer Zillowing, etc. Before too long, it started dawning on both of us that something was not right, that it was just too good to be true. Gradually we came to the realization that there had to be a mistake, perhaps a mis-typing when the new price was inputted. It felt like the air slowly going out of a balloon. When the sales office opened for the day, I called them to check on the price, and as we expected the price posted on the web site was wrong. In fact, the actual asking price was more than double! Oops!

Poor DH looked so let down, but I wanted to end the whole experience on a positive note for him so I high-fived him and told him that he has a great eye for a bargain (he does).

What I learned from the experience is that we are 100% ready & willing to buy a house when the right deal comes along, and that we are capable of making a VERY quick decision if need be.

----------------------------------------

Our 4th financial decision of the year will probably be made very soon, and it will involve our apartment lease. We had wanted to move to a larger apartment back in December, but the management of our complex kept dragging their feet. Our lease is coming up for renewal very soon, and it's time for us to make a decision about what we want to do. We have new rent rates on our current unit, and information on a possible larger unit. Today I went out and checked out several other complexes for comparison purposes. We are now leaning towards going to a month-to-month lease. That will give us more flexibility. We're looking at Sept or Oct as possibly a good time to buy, but if we find a great deal (like the one we found over the weekend, but "for real") sooner than that, it will be nice to not have to break a lease. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that I would be a "month-to-month lease" type of person, and certainly not at age 40-something. To me, month-to-month leases are for people who don't know where they will be a month (much less a year) from now. And guess what? Right now, that's me.

Out With The Old, In With The New

January 2nd, 2009 at 08:32 pm

1. Year End Net Worth Calculation: We ended up a leeeetle bit for the year. And when I say "leeeetle" I really mean it! 2%. Considering that ROR on mutual fund investments was -25.2% for the year, we can live with that. It means we retained enough of our earnings to ever-so-slightly more than offset our losses. Just like so many of you guys, living below our means was what saved us from being down for the year.

2. DH's Business (2008 results & 2009 outlook): DH's business for the year was down slightly (compared to his annual average). He had started the year off with a bang and we expected it to be an up year, but it didn't end up that way. In 2009, we expect business to be down more. There are a couple big factors working against us (one of them of course is the overall state of the economy), and a couple working in our favor. We will be satisfied with a year that is "just moderately bad to okay." And we know we will be fine even if it is really bad.

3. New Year's Resolutions: I don't make formal resolutions. My goals are created as the need arises, or as I am inspired by something, or learn something new that makes me realize there is something I should be working on. The ones I am working on right now are continuations of things I was already working on Dec. 31st.

While it's not a resolution, I did buy a special book for the new year ... "The Intellectual Devotional" ... I will be reading my way through that this year. Since it is formatted to be read starting on a Monday, I started it on Dec. 29th.

Again, while not a resolution, the one thing I was becoming dissatisfied with towards the end of 2008 was not using my time effectively. So, since the "devotional" (it is not a religious book BTW) is meant to be read one page each day, and since I am reading it in the evening, I stuck a post-it note to myself on the inside cover asking myself: "Am I satisfied with what I have to show for how I spent my time today?" So far, that has been a help. I hope it will continue to be.

4. In-Laws & Plans for the New Year: My FIL finally did it ... after much dragging-out, he got things wrapped up with his business and is now officially retired! I have mentioned before that DH & I want to give them something special such as a trip to commemorate their retirements (my MIL worked part-time at my FIL's business, so both of them retired). The gift is now in the planning stage! When we called to wish them happy holiday, we asked him where he would like to travel. He said he wants to come to the USA. And then he started listing the places he wants to visit. You'd think it would be something like "San Francisco, LA, and San Diego" or "Philadelphia, NYC, and Washington DC" right? But no! He said, "I want to go to Denver ... and Atlanta ... and Boston" ... LOL! That's so cute. (Places can seem so close to each other when you are looking on a map.) They want to come for 3-4 weeks, so I think we could actually make that itinerary work. We know this will be his last trip here, if indeed he is even able to make it this time. He has had some serious medical issues over the past few years, including a couple times he was rushed to the hospital for life-saving procedures ... Not the sort of thing that could be dealt with easily on a 13-hour plane ride. First he has to talk things over with his doctor, figure out what the risks are, and then decide if he wants to take them. DH & I have talked about it, and if the trip is a no-go, we are going to give them a cash gift and tell them to use it on anything that would make them happy. I mentioned that it might seem impersonal to give cash, but DH reminded me that in his culture it is perfectly acceptable, so that is what we will do.

5. Party: We got our first formal party invite since moving here to Austin. It's a "wrap up the holiday season" party. Isn't that a nice idea for a party, having it the weekend after New Year's? We did not have to worry about being out with the drunk drivers, we were able to stay home and calm our dog when the fireworks went off, and (most important for us old folks) no need to worry about staying up until midnight. Should be fun, and should be especially nice for DH, since part of the problem he has been having with Austin is feeling "out of the loop" socially.

So Much To Think About

December 16th, 2008 at 07:33 pm

Since returning from our house hunting trip to San Diego, DH & I have been doing a bit of house hunting ... in Austin! The Austin real estate market had been holding up pretty well, but some builders seem to have "seen the light" and have taken some pretty significant price drops.

So, Austin seems to be "back in play." So much to think about ... Austin? San Diego? When to acutally buy? And what to do about the apartment lease that is coming up very very soon?

What are San Diego's advantages? Paradise on Earth: Mild climate, and drop-dead gorgeous scenery. DH can be more comfortable & happy there. Housing prices have already dropped quite a bit.

What are Austin's advantages?
Financially, very comfortable. Low cost of living (emphasis on low taxes and low cost of housing). I have work here. The housing market is showing signs that it has weakened and we may finally be able to "drive a bargain."

It almost seems like a "head vs. heart" decision, with Austin being the head and San Diego being the heart. I've been toying with ideas of how we could get both, such as staying here in Austin but planning on vacationing 2-3 weeks each year in S.D. (We've never had a "regular vacation spot." We've always enjoyed visiting new places. But maybe it's time to change that ... at least for a few years, until we get the itch to try some new places again.) I'm also looking in to a couple things that might make DH more comfortable & happier here.

So much to think about.....

"Fun Things To Do Before We Leave Austin" - Salt Lick BBQ

October 21st, 2008 at 03:51 pm

Today DH & I went to The Salt Lick BBQ for lunch. It's an Austin classic. Not only was it fun, it was yum-yum-yum. I wish I could describe the pit where they barbeque the meat ... But trust me, it's really cool.

They served very generous plates full of meat (DH had ribs; I had a combo of brisket, rib, and sausage), potato salad, coleslaw, beans (hate to be picky but this was the only item that didn't really taste very good ... too salty), bread, pickles, and onions. I brought half of mine home, so I'm getting 2 meals out of it.

Poor DH was so delighted with the delicious taste that he started gobbling his food too fast and had polished off his whole plate before realizing how full he was getting ... He started complaining on the car ride home about being too full! Funny since initially he wasn't 100% sold on the idea of going ... His reservations disappeared as soon as he took the first bite.

Plates were $9.95 each; with tax & tip we spent $25. Absolutely worth it! It was a great outing. With the exception of the free breakfast at Ikea, this was my first time out to eat in about 6-7 weeks, so I think that added to the pleasure.

On a side note, I am deleting the Bat Flight at Congress Ave Bridge from my list of things to do. Bats are a big part of life here in Austin (they help control the mosquito population), and the bridge bat flight looks really cool. But I found a grove of trees near where I live where several times I was able to watch bats taking flight at sunset (right after birds flew in to roost ... it was like they were trading places), and I saw several bats when I went on the cavern tour. While that's not the same as seeing the big bat flight, I'm satisfied that I've had enough "Austin bat experience" and I can save the expense of driving to and parking downtown without feeling like I'm missing out.

Quickie Price Comments

October 12th, 2008 at 09:34 am

1. Gasoline: Yesterday I finally saw a price below $3 ($2.989/gallon for 87). Wouldn't you know it, I had filled up a few days earlier. Oh well, I guess the laws of dollar cost averaging apply to gas fill-ups as well as mutual fund investments ... Maybe the next time I need to buy the price will be down even more.

2. Groceries: I have decided that the "HEB Banana Price Index" is the best way for me to track grocery price trends ... Granted this method is VERY informal and EXTREMELY unscientific, but it is the one item I buy most frequently, and the change in price of that item does seem to mirror the overall price trend of the types of groceries I buy. Back in May I blogged about how prices had gone from 33 to 44 cents per lb. Shortly thereafter it went to 48 cents and very quickly to 49 cents ... Wish I had bothered to note the date but I'm guessing June? Well ... since then the price has remained steady, so nothing to complain about.

3. Revised Food & Drink Budget: DH is on board, although right now it is in more of a "we'll see how it goes" mode. I would prefer a firmer commitment, but I'll take what I can get.

4. Medical Insurance: We pay for our own, an individual policy. Got notice that as of November it's going up $48 per month. Oh well. I won't go without it. Best to focus on what I can control. Sure glad the new food & drink budget is in place. Smile
On a side note, while I am looking forward to the move to San Diego, I am NOT looking forward to possibly having to look for an individual health care policy again (it's just so mind-numbing and such a heavy responsibility). If I can transfer the policy I have right now to Cali I will do that.

Great Event!

October 5th, 2008 at 04:05 pm

The organization I volunteer with had it's big annual event today, and it was a stunning success. All attendees seemed to have a great time.

One of the best things about our current living situation (living very cheaply ... I'm only working off & on at temp jobs and not looking for anything permanent) is that I've been able to devote some time to volunteering... the amount of time involved ebbs & flows, but at times it's like a part-time (unpaid) job. I'm no PrincessPerky (aka Scouting volunteer extraordinaire), and what I do is itsy-bitsy small potatoes compared to the organization's leader who works full-time-plus for no pay while raising 4 children, but at least it's something.

Not having to worry about bringing home more than just a few slices of bacon once in awhile, and therefore able to devote some of my extra time to a worthy cause, has been a real blessing. This is sort-of how I envision my early retirement years, and I know I'm lucky to be able to do it for a bit in my mid-40's, while my knees & back are still strong!

In addition to the emotional rewards, there are quasi-financial fringe benefits to volunteering. There was a pizza place at the event that was selling slices. When the event ended, they started handing out free pizzas to the volunteers and I got one!

And it was a good workout. I'm so tired ... I must drag myself out to walk my dog, but then I'm going to crawl in to my pajamas and plop on the floor to watch an episode or two of "As Time Goes By" ... if I can stay awake. (Since we don't currently have a sofa, if I want to lie down to watch something on TV, it must be on the floor.)

So ... Why San Diego?

September 25th, 2008 at 08:15 am

After all of the effort to relocate to a lower cost part of the country (from Seattle to Austin), why are we now planning to pack up and move yet again to San Diego?

Short Answer: Becaue we can, so why not? If you have to ask, you probably haven't ever been to San Diego! It's gorgeous. We both love it. And for the first time in our married life, it is "comfortably affordable" for us.

Longer Answer: When we got married, DH was not instantly enamoured with Seattle (to put it mildly). We married in the spring, and Seattle unfortunately had a very wet summer that year. It wasn't long before he started talking about moving to California. Keeping an open mind, we discussed that. He was okay with San Diego and LA; I was okay with San Diego and the Bay area. San Diego was the one area we both liked...in fact, it was the first choice for both of us. But at that time, it was just too expensive for us (as were SFO and LA, frankly). So, we stayed in Seattle, and DH learned to like it. But he never cared for the rain or occasional snow. After we sold our house and started thinking about relocating to another area, a warm climate was important, as was a lower cost of living. We spent months researching and thinking about it, and finally settled on Austin. (At that time, we did not really think about San Diego because real estate prices there were still so high.) I like it here, but DH has never really felt like he fits in. Knowing DH wasn't really loving it here, while we were house-hunting, we continued to keep an eye on the markets in other parts of the country (especially on the West Coast). As everyone knows, the market in Southern California has really plunged. One day I just looked at DH and said something like "You know, I think we could move to San Diego now" ... and that was it. Within a day we had decided to go, and it felt absolutely right. No need to do months of research this time. It's just that it is now feasible to live someplace we both have always wanted to live, so why not?

Our expenses are going to go up. They will be much more than they are here in Austin, and because of the state income tax will even be a bit higher than they were in Seattle.

DH thinks being back on the West Coast will help his business a bit, and it probably will, but we can't plan on that. So our income will basically be the same as it is now and bit less than it was in Seattle (because I don't have my business anymore).

But we will both be happy ... and DH much more so. That is worth a lot.

The temperate climate will mean DH can get out and golf much more often, and the dog and I can take longer walks (and on the beach to boot).

I have a friend from college who lives in San Diego, DH has a couple friends who live in the LA area, and I have family in LA. (LA's not San Diego of course ... but it's a heck of a lot closer than Texas.)

All of our family wants to come visit us there! What's not to love about being a tourist in San Diego?

So, in spite of the higher cost of living, Sand Diego just has so much going for it that it makes perfect sense for us.

The move is going to be so easy, since we sold off so much before moving to Austin, and have held off on buying any new furniture until we had a house. I think this will be my easiest move since I was a college kid heading off to the dorm.

As easy as it will be, that doesn't mean I look forward to it. I look forward to the destination, but moving is indeed a pain. I am keeping my fingers crossed that this really will be our last move until we make that final move (condo, retirement home, nursing home, or hereafter).

House hunting has been very interesting. Bank owned foreclosed properties, short sales, trustee sales ... We're seeing it all. I've looked at several houses (on-line) where the home was foreclosed mid-renovation ... flooring torn up, kitchen counters off, interior doors lined up in the garage, etc. For anyone willing to put in some time/effort/money, there are some real bargains out there!!! We will spend less than what we sold our house in Seattle for ... it will mean a smaller and probably older house, but we will still come out ahead as far as we're concerned.

Thank goodness for the internet. It makes house-hunting so much easier. We are working with an agent this time (since we are on a strict time table for making a purchase and we are commiteed to buying) ... He sends me new & updated listings everyday, and I look them over. If they look interesting, I can Zillow them, and look on Mapquest to see where the nearest grocery stores are. Smile

We have already purchased our tickets, reserved our rental car, and book our hotel room for our house-hunting trip out to San Diego (in early December). We also have our game plan. The only things I still have to do, in addition to continuing to house hunt, is to buy a digital camera and make a boarding reservation for the dog (I have narrowed my choices on both down to just a few, but am waiting to pull the trigger).

Ideally, we'll move late-Feb or early-March. But we have been warned that if we buy a short sale, the negotiation stage can take months. So, we are "hanging loose" about the move date. If need be, we can extend our lease here on a month-to-month basis.

And do we regret having moved here to Austin just to have to pack up and move again? Absolutely not. When we made the original decision to move away from Seattle, San Diego just wasn't a good option financially. Austin was, and it was the right choice at the time. It has been really, really, really nice having such low expenses, even if it was just for a brief period of time. And it's a great town.

P.S. - Did you notice my updated Cool Quote in my "About Me" column? I guess a bit of Texas has rubbed off on me.

Off to Mom's / San Diego Plan

August 17th, 2008 at 04:25 pm

Off to Mom's: I'm heading off to spend a couple weeks at my mom's ... all of my siblings will be there at least briefly (the 3 sisters all live in different parts of the country). Of course my darling brother (who lives with my mom) will be there the whole time, and I am looking forward to spending time with him as well as with Mom. I will be doing my utmost to NOT talk about personal finance while I am there, since my mom & I definitely do not see eye to eye. (I have refrained from blogging about mom's finances because it would probably turn in to a long and ugly bitch-fest.) What I do plan on doing is filling in some of the information on her "Letter of Instructions." I have printed out a blank copy and packed it in my suitcase. I agreed to be the executor of her estate when she passes, and I asked her to fill out the LofI for me. She said she would but it has been several years and she has yet to do it. I feel woefully unprepared to deal with her estate, and for the sake of my brother (who is developmentally disabled) and for the sake of my own sanity when that time comes, I feel I must get some information from her (including the mere basics such as the name of the attorney who drew up her will). I am telling myself to tread lightly ... I will be saying the Serenity Prayer frequently, I'm sure.

San Diego Plans: DH & I have worked out a temporary plan. He will head off to San Diego shortly after Thanksgiving and spend about 4-5 days househunting. He will narrow the choices down to 10 or so, and I will go out for a day or two to see those 10 houses together with him. If all goes according to plan, we will put an offer in on one of those houses (tho we will also decide on 2nd and 3rd choices as backups in case the negotiations on the 1st choice falls through). We have heard from several agents, both here and in Cali, that the buying process on a short sale is quite lengthy ... as long as 16 weeks. We don't know that we will be buying a short sale house, but given the market conditions in that area right now, odds are pretty high that we will, so we are allowing plenty of time for a lengthy negotiation and closing in the spring. In the meantime, we are doing lots of "window shopping" on the internet.

Austin Sightseeing: I have checked "Cavern Tour" off of my list of things to do before I leave Austin. It was very cool. Will try to write about it later, but now I must go finish packing.


Before I Leave Austin ...

August 12th, 2008 at 10:07 pm

I had a very long list of places I wanted to visit here in Austin (and nearby cities), but thinking that I would have a lot of time I have only visited a few so far. Today I pared down my list to a manageable size and it's now posted there on the left.

This will involve spending some money, but I know that in all likelihood I will never be back here again ... not because I don't like it ... in fact, I highly recommend Austin as a great place to live ... just because I can't foresee any circumstances that would bring me back here. So, I want to leave with no regrets about the things I did not do.

Since househunting is no longer on the agenda (today I purged a drawer full of house flyers, etc), I also agreed to take on an additional project with the volunteer organization I've gotten involved with. (They know I'll be moving, but wanted me to do it anyway.)

On the Road Again?

August 12th, 2008 at 06:25 am

The big news here is that we may be moving again. DH is just not digging Austin enough to make this our forever home.

When DH first brought this up I felt a bit whiplashed (still feel that way in fact). But I understand why he's not happy here. We will probably be moving back West in the spring, but not back to Seattle. We're thinking California (because of the weather). There goes the low cost of living!!! Oh well, at least we will have had 1-1/2 years of living cheap.

A couple years ago CA would not have been an option becaue of the high real estate prices, but thanks to the recent housing price declines it now looks like living in Cali may now be doable.

Relocation Means Visitors!

May 3rd, 2008 at 11:56 am

A very nice benefit of relocating is that, if you move to a nice place people are interested in visiting, you will get visitors!

Last weekend my aunt & uncle stopped by on their way back to the West Coast from doing volunteer work in Mississippi. They were road-tripping and we are not yet in a position to put people up overnight, so they did not stay long, but we did enjoy a lovely, leisurely early dinner together and a couple hours of wonderful chat before they had to head to their next campground. They took backroads and enjoyed seeing lots of wildflowers!

This evening a friend from overseas is flying in for the weekend, stopping by on his way to a convention in Vegas. [He decided to detour to Austin just to see us. Whether he wants to see us or sees this as an opportunity to check out Austin, I do not know. In either case, we're happy he's coming!] That means dinner and more friendly chat for all of us tonight, then a fun day of golf for him and DH tomorrow.

I need to do my end-April net worth statement and update my "Journey to Balance Sheet Affluent" progress, but right I'm just more in the mood to play hostess to my visitors than play with my spreadsheets!

As Suze Orman says: "PEOPLE FIRST, then money, then things."

Have a nice weekend everyone!

Bonuses

April 12th, 2008 at 12:20 pm

I've been in earning mode lately ... Taking on extra shifts to earn OT when available, and busting my backside to get performance bonuses at work. Since I'm currently doing work that is intermittent temp assignments, I figure I might as well "make hay while the sun shines."

This weekend I got a full 2-day weekend (No extra shift available).

I'm happy for the bonus money when it's available, but I'm also happy for the "bonus" time this weekend!

Another bonus I've been enjoying is my first ever wildflower season in Austin. One nice thing about living in a brand new place is the chance to see seasonal changes in a completely different way than what you are accustomed to.

The wildflowers are really weeds, so they pop up anywhere you would normally see weeds, such next to roadways, so there is no need to go out looking for them ... I see lots each day on my way to and from work and when out walking the dog. I'm quite captivated and trying to learn how to identify them. The ones I'm seeing the most these days are pink evening primrose & bluebonnets.

I did not take these photos, they are from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center website:





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!

Food Price Obsessions (and other tidbits)

February 23rd, 2008 at 06:56 pm

Great Brunch Out: Today DH & I went to Olive Garden for an early lunch; we both had the all-you-can eat soup/salad/breadsticks combo ($5.95). We had a $4 coupon, so the total with tax & tip for 2 of us came to $10.34 ... Not too bad for a tasty lunch with lots of veggies (tho the lettuce was iceberg), no dishes to wash, and a date with my favorite guy! We don't eat out a lot, so it's always a much-relished treat when we do! [And in case you're wondering, we combined our brunch out with running other errands, so there was very little gas expense.]

Broccoli: Smile Oh I'm still smiling about this... It's been so long since I found a good deal on FRESH veggies! Super Target had a sale on broccoli, the cello-pack bunches for 2 / $3. I had a coupon that I had printed out on-line for $1 off, so I got 2 big bunches of broccoli for $2. Since they charge by the bunch instead of by the lb, of course I chose the heaviest bunches!

Staying Put: We decided to renew our lease, so we'll be staying put for awhile. We do think home prices will drop a bit more, we are completely contented where we are, and it's lovely having our costs so low, so why not wait?
I am kind of burned out on househunting, and am relieved that there is no reason to do any more of that until the fall, when we can get serious about looking (and then hopefully buying) again.

New Job: Forgot to mention that I got a job. It's intermittent full-time ... not contract work, but off & on temp assignments, challenging & enjoyable; I will likely stick with just this until we buy a house.

Wild & Wacky Housing Market

December 20th, 2007 at 11:24 am

Housing market ... blah ... blah ... blah!
I'm sure many of you sick to death of hearing about the housing market, right? If so, I understand. However, as I am "on the ground" right now in the market (house hunting), it's on my mind almost constantly, and so I'm gonna keep blogging about it. Sorry.

So much going on since my last update.

1. Went back & looked at the "more than we originally wanted to spend" house that DH was getting dreamy-eyed about. Had a serious talk, and reconfirmed that it is indeed more than we want to spend. It's out of the picture for now.

2. A couple of houses we've been looking at have taken one or two price drops, and still have not sold.

3. We have expanded our search to include not only Austin but also San Antonio and all points in between.

4. A small to mid-size builder whose homes we had looked at and liked stopped all operations last week. Still uncertain whether they will declare bankruptcy or what. They have quite a few homes under construction, some under contract to buyers and some are spec homes. I feel incredibly sorry for those buyers whose homes are sitting there half-finished. What happens in a situation like that? And I feel sorry for the people who live next to half-finished homes when construction ceases; I am guessing that most of them haven't yet figured out what is going on. DH & I had thought we might consider buying a house that was almost finished, but now we are committed to not making an offer until the last nail has been pounded in!

5. We both have a list of our "top 3 houses we have seen so far" and we have 1 house in common. However, we don't feel we have a clear enough grasp of the market yet to make an offer.

6. DH & I have had some disagreements about how far we think the market will fall. But Suze Orman said something on her show about a week ago that we could both agree with: She said that if you could buy a house at 2002 prices, you are getting a good deal. The question for us is how to determine what 2002 prices were. Sales prices are not published here in Texas, and we haven't yet figured out a way to get the hard data we need. Back in good old King County (Seattle), you could find data on what every single home sold for, although you knew there was a bit of fudging because of buyer's bonuses, mortgage point pay-downs, throwing in the appliances, etc, etc. But at least you could get a decent general idea. [Note to Texas Realtors: If you would cease your lobbying against making house prices public record, maybe some of us fence-sitting buyers would climb off the fence and buy that house you are so eager to sell! Since when did non-transparency make a housing market better?]

7. Speaking of realtors ... It boggles my mind when they do not return calls from potential buyers. Two homes we wanted to see, the agents never called back. [In one case I was so interested in the house that I actually called twice.] In a third case, the agents called back 3 days later explaining they had been out of town ... Don't they know how to retrieve their voice mail? [Note to sellers: If your house is priced right and houses in your area are selling while yours is not, take a long hard look at your agent.]

Greetings from Ausin

October 6th, 2007 at 08:41 am

Have We Reached The End (a poem by A.A. Milne)

"Have we reached the end?" asked Pooh.

"Yes, I suppose it seems so ...
and yet,"

"Yes, Piglet?"

"It is also the beginning."

----------------------------------------

Thank you to all of you who posted well wishes on our move! I am writing this from beautiful, sunny Austin, Texas.

The move could not have gone more smoothly.

My mother and brother came to our place on Thursday (Sept 27). We had our farewell party that evening, and it was perfect! Everyone had a great time and the food was terrific. Even tho' 2 people cancelled at the last minute, we still went $21 over our $500 budget because more wine was consumed and more people took after-dinner coffee or tea than I had expected. It was money I was absolutely delighted to spend. We received $350 in gift cards --- gotta love it, everyone knew that the last thing we would want was one more thing to have to pack! I was also given a small framed old family photo that had belonged to my late grandmother, which I was more than happy to pack and which I will treasure forever.

On Friday morning we picked up our rental truck, and DH & my wonderful brother got about 2/3 of our things loaded that day. On Saturday morning my family left town, and DH & I worked on finishing packing and cleaning and loading. We were comfortably on schedule so decided to go out to eat at DH's favorite Chinese restaurant.

On Sunday morning we did the usual last-minute stuff (including loading our mattress) and left early, a full 1-1/2 hours ahead of schedule and without any last-minute scramble.

We stayed over 3 nights in Motel 6's along the way. DH had decided he was not comfortable towing a car behind the rental truck (it was the first time he had driven a truck of any kind) so I did end up driving our car separately. It was easier on DH, and definitely easier on our pooch who got to stretch out across the entire back seat instead of having to lie on the floor of the truck between our seats. I was really glad we had previously sold one of our cars and were down to just one car, so that last minute change of plans was possible.

The entire drive went very smoothly, and we saw a lot of beautiful scenery along the way. We did not stop to do any sightseeing, and that was fine.

BTW, kudos to Discover Card's fraud division for calling me on my cell phone on day 2 to question the "suspicious activity" (gas purchases in Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Wyoming) on my card ... Nice to know they were watching out for us!

We got in to Austin on Wednesday afternoon. On Thursday we finished unloading and returned the truck. I waited to blog until I had the "essentials" (kitchen and clothing) unpacked.

What is amazing is that all of our possessions (including the paperwork and office machines for 2 businesses) fit in to a 16-foot rental truck with a bit of room to spare! Aggressively selling off possessions really worked out well for us; not only were we able to do the move 100% ourselves (with loading help from my darling brother of course), we were able to rent a small truck, and we are now living in an apartment much smaller than what I could have ever imagined back when we developed this plan to relocate. Not only did we save on moving expenses, our monthly expenses are waaaay down too.

This is something that you fellow frugalites will appreciate ... A couple days before our move, a friend came over and looked around at the boxes and packing supplies in disbelief [I had visited her house when she did her last move, and she was sitting on her couch watching TV while a moving company was packing up her stuff] ... She said to me, " ... xxx ... You have money, why don't you just pay someone to do this for you?" I held my hands out to gesture at the packing stuff and replied " ... zzz ... THIS is WHY I have money." To which she could just reply "Yea ... I suppose you're right."

Boy, it sure feels good to have this great big project almost completed (although I still have quite a bit of unpacking to do).

Next project: HOUSEHUNTING!!! WHEE!!!

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 ...

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!

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.....

Sold A Car

August 29th, 2007 at 03:07 pm

Forgot to mention that we sold one of our cars over the weekend. It all happened so fast that it still doesn't seem quite real. It was the Subaru Outback, the one we just bought in February at a terrific price, and the one for which we bought new tires and a new HD radio/CD player & speakers.

One of DH's friends wanted to buy a car for his son. The son wanted something with a decent audio system, and with enough space to hold equipment for his band. The parents wanted a reliable safe car that would never end up in a street race.

The dad knew the story of how we got the car and asked if we'd be willing to sell it. He said he'd reimburse us what we paid for the car, plus everything we had added to the car, including a major tuneup at 60K miles. The family came over to look at it and decided to buy it on the spot.

We decided to go ahead and sell it. It's a great deal for our friends who bought it. And it's a great deal for us too, because it means we won't have to drive it to Texas. Instead of DH & I driving separately, we'll all be able to go together in the truck, towing our Camry behind.

My last day of work is Monday, so we should be able to easily get by with one car. We're going to go as long as we can with just one car, at least until after I start working again. I think it would be great if we could try to get by with just one car period, but we'll see how that goes. Cars are such a money drain, not only with the purchase cost, upkeep, and gasoline, but also insurance & licensing.

Even tho' we spent "life energy" researching and buying the new tires & radio, and getting the Subaru serviced, what it boils down to is we got to use that car for a little over 6 months for just the cost of gasoline and insurance. Not too bad.

I'll admit I'm gonna miss that HD radio tho' ... sigh.

Ebay Promo for Sellers Aug 23 & 24

August 24th, 2007 at 10:19 am

Today & tomorrow (Aug. 23 & 24) Ebay is having a promotion where you can upgrade to a 10-day listing for free. Not quite as good as free listings or 10-cent listings, but I'll take it!

http://www2.ebay.com/aw/core/200708.shtml#2007-08-22170025


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