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Scheduled a Weekend "Salon" Appointment

March 22nd, 2014 at 05:35 am

Me: "Will you trim my hair this weekend?"
DH: "Sure!"

"Salon" appointment has been scheduled!

And this morning we went to the "gym" (dropped him off at the driving range and I took a 50-min walk along along a lovely tree-lined street while he hit golf balls) and then went to a couple "entertainment megaplexes" (the public library where we read the paper and I got some DVDs, and then to a meet & greet to visit some adoptable dogs).

Such a lovely, low-key yet fun & frugal start to the weekend. Perfect after a rather hectic week at work (busy season has begun).

I have never been able to understand when people say that they want to save but not at the expense of enjoying life now. I say it's possible to do both!

Time to Warm Up My Check Writing Hand

March 15th, 2014 at 08:56 am

I finished our taxes a couple weekends ago. We owe. That's perfectly OK. Since our number one source of income is my husband's business, our income and therefore our taxes fluctuate. We pay estimated taxes based on prior year earnings, and pay no interest or penalties. We don't spend based on what we make (which varies quite a bit); we spend at a sustainable level and save fairly aggressively. We have the money to pay what we owe (it's only a portion of what we earned after all). Owing means DH's business made more money in 2013 than in 2012, so of course owing is A-OK.

We wait until we have finished our taxes to contribute to our tax-deferred retirement accounts (the exception being my 401K contributions through my employer), again because of income fluctuations and eligibility variations. I know most people like to contribute over the course of the year, because that is what makes sense for them. Our approach works for us.

As soon as I finished our taxes (using Turbo Tax Home & Business on-line through Vanguard's site for the discount) I scheduled our tax payment by electronic transfer close to the due date. How nice that you can finish your taxes and arrange the payment but not actually have to pay until the due date! Then I ordered the transfer of funds from on-line savings to our local (check-writing) account.

This weekend I'll be writing checks, lots of checks, for: DH's SEP IRA contribution, my itsy bitsy SEP IRA contribution (not done for years but can do for 2013 thanks to eBay sales), my Roth IRA contribution, and DH's Roth IRA contribution including catch-up. Also my niece's B-Day is coming up so I'll send a check off for her college fund.

In mid-April I'll mail off our first 2014 estimated tax payment.

Lots of checks!!!

This weekend I'll also do my brother's taxes. I usually do his before ours but this year he was slow getting his W-2 to me.

And I've made a decision about my catch-up contribution for 2014. A little change of plans. I won't be making it to my 401K but to my Roth, since I prefer the funds I have selected for myself at Vanguard over the funds selected by my employer and available through my 401K.

Onward ...

FREE Online Jazz Appreciation Course from UT Austin

January 22nd, 2014 at 09:54 am

Here is the link: https://www.edx.org/course/utaustinx/utaustinx-ut-8-01x-jazz...

I've started the course and am enjoying it so far. They mix in real music so it's not just words and lecturing.

I really enjoy jazz music (own several CDs), watched the Kens Burns series on PBS, etc, but am excited to learn more.

If you decide to give it a try, you may be concerned when you read the part that says you will be required to take a web cam photo of yourself and send it together with a copy of your ID. Rest assured. I was NOT required to do that to complete my registration.

27 Day Food Budget

January 19th, 2014 at 11:08 am

DH is away on a 27 day trip. I'm budgeting $5 per day for food & beverage for those days for myself, plus an extra $40 for 4 days when my brother will be here. Total = $175. What will make this somewhat challenging is that I know there will be some eating out when my brother is here, plus I want to have $45-50 left over on the last day for a big "re-stock" shopping trip since my plan is to eat down much of the inventory in the pantry & freezer, to ensure that nothing goes to waste, and I'll want to replenish so DH doesn't come home to bare cupboards. My plan is to buy only perishables until that last day.

Today is Day 2. Yesterday I spent nothing. Today I spent $8 at the Farmer's Market (for those of you who like to know about food prices that was for a 3-1/4 lb bag of organic mixed root vegetables and a 3/4 lb bunch of rainbow chard).

Happy New Year!

January 4th, 2014 at 11:16 am

Due to a busy work (paid & volunteer & side gig ... grateful for all 3) schedule the past couple weeks, I am just now getting a chance to reflect on the fact that it is a new year.

No matter what the calendar says, mentally today is my New Year's Day.

This is what I will do my "first week" of the new year as far as my finances - listed randomly,not in order of importance:
1. Calculate 2013 Year-End Net Worth. (DONE-Whew!)
2. Spend some time reflecting on where we are now vs. a year ago, and starting pondering what changes if any we'd like to make. (DONE)
3. Sign up for 401K catch up contributions.
4. Get funds in place for Jan 15 estimated taxes. (DONE - Paid) Make plan to have funds in place for Jan 31 property taxes. (DONE)
5. Order cc cash back rewards. (DONE)
6. Pay 2 cc bills. (DONE)
7. Activate reward banking debit card and use it 5 times to earn reward (using 5 times may take a couple weeks but I'll at least get a start this week by using a couple times). (DONE and DONE)
8. Update resume & submit to HR.
9. Activate & use tire rebate debit card. (Activation DONE; totally used)
10. Look in to opening another bonus checking account (DH gave me info & wants me to do it ... I need to study) DONE - Opened
11. Decide what to do with funds from CD that matured Dec that are sitting in savings account. (Deciding to wait to do anything will be a legit decision if that is what I decide is best). DONE - Whew!
12. List 20 items for sale (eBay or neighborhood swap). (DONE,plus several relists)


October 19th, 2013 at 01:47 pm

The garage sale is OVER! I barely met my goal for the non-profit, with $51 in receipts. But I exceeded my goal for myself, with $77 in receipts. In addition, I got $40 from my neighbor. (I sold some of her things at my garage sale. I did not want to take any of it and tried to refuse, but she badly wanted to pay me back for petsitting I've done for her, so I relented and took it). I had $6 in expenses (Halloween candy).

3 things I'm going to keep for myself (things like towels that I already have plenty of but will eventually use), there is a small pile of things to list on eBay, the things that were in the "free" pile that were not taken have already been put in the trash or recycling bin, and the rest goes in the back of my car to be dropped off at the donation spot on my way to or from work. (I miss my old neighborhood where they ordered a donation truck to drive through the neighborhood the day after the garage sale ... all you had to do was leave things at the curb!)

It was fun, but I think tonight will be a good night for just curling up on the couch to watch a DVD - I am tired!

Garage Sale

October 17th, 2013 at 06:03 pm

I'm going to participate in my community garage sale this weekend. It's the first one since my move, and the first one that hasn't conflicted with my work schedule since we bought this house 4-1/2 years ago.

I have nothing big or valuable to sell, just some small things.

I'll put out shelves from the garage with my things, some things for my neighbor who will be at work (I figure the more things I have the more likely people will be to stop), plus a table with things for the non-profit I volunteer with (leftover inventory of donated items that haven't sold on eBay).

I have no big financial goals for this garage sale. I hope to bring in at least $50 for myself and at least $50 for the non-profit. I signed up for it because:

- I knew that having a deadline would be a good motivator for going through the house & garage and pulling together everything I don't use. I do mini-purges but haven't done a whole house/garage purge since we moved in. Oh so easy to put those off for "later." Now it's DONE! I even got DH to go through the shelves in the garage with me - yay!

- The non-profit can use every penny it gets, and in addition to some cash it will get some exposure.

- I don't know how it will be in this neighborhood, but in my old neighborhood the community garage sale was a fun social event.

- Hey, even $50 (or whatever I bring in) is better than a kick in the head.

Tomorrow I have to do the pricing. Ugh!! My very least favorite part. I may try to do an hour or so this evening to get a wee head start on it.

Planning for Irregular Expenses - Just Do It!

October 2nd, 2013 at 12:12 pm

If you are responsible for a living being (yourself, spouse, children, pets, etc.) or a major asset (house, car, etc.) there WILL be irregular expenses.

I had to replace the tires on my car earlier than I had expected to. This hard on the heels of DH having a broken tooth extracted (we have dental insurance but still had out-of-pocket expenses) and replacing the batteries in our lawnmower.

The lawnmower battery actually lasted longer than average, thanks to living in a warm climate, so I can't complain about all of these irregular expenses.

But still ... 3 irregular expenses in 1-1/2 weeks!
1 earlier-than-expected (tires)
1 later-than-expected (batteries)
1 "expected" only in the sense that "life happens" to all of us ... otherwise, completely unexpected (tooth extraction)

Fortunately, we have the funds to pay for all of these irregular expenses. (And yet I still find myself feeling a bit down in the dumps about the tires ... what can I say, I'm human.)

I don't believe that there is any one "right" way to prepare for irregular expenses. You can build cushions in to your budget and absorb irregular expenses there (this is what we used to do). You can have a larger-than-otherwise-necessary emergency fund or general cash cushion and pay for irregular expenses out of that (this is what we do now). When you are just starting out on the path of financial responsibility and independence, you may have to dip in to your small EF to pay for irregular expenses and then build it back later.

It really doesn't matter what your plan is, as long as you have one!

P.S. - Food for thought for the younger folks. I think one thing that helped me stay out of total financial ruin when I was young and not-very-financially-savvy was that I did not own a car or home, so I faced irregular expenses less frequently.

Stubborn Old Mule

September 5th, 2013 at 10:13 am

The title refers to me, myself, and I. I'm pretty good at letting most things go, but some things just really chap my hide ... and then I'm like a dog with a bone.

In my financial paperwork, I have a "Receivables" file. We have 2 receivables:

1. $100 deposit paid to propane company when we established service at our house, won't be paid back until we move or die! (I also list this deposit on our assets when I calculate our net worth, as a regular reminder to claim it if we move.)

2. $xx Capital Credit from scandal-ridden (board members have been sentenced to jail) Pedernales Electric Cooperative from when we were in our apartment - to be paid when we die or 30 YEARS out!

I have left notes in the files for my executor sister asking her to call the companies and claim our money if DH & I both die.

In the grand scheme of things, $1xx really makes no difference. But it bothers me that those companies can keep my money for what essentially amounts to an indefinite period of time. So no, I'm not going to just let that money be forgotten about, which is what I'm sure those companies are counting on. Sorry utility companies, it's MY money. I may never see it again, but I've done what I can to make sure my heirs will!

Car Talk: Another Reason to Own an Ugly Clunker

September 2nd, 2013 at 06:54 pm

You can park at the cheap uncovered long term parking without giving it a second thought.

Hail? Bird doo-doo? So what?

Theft? Not very likely!

Gas siphoning? Good luck getting the gas door open! One of the many "cosmetic" flaws of our 14-year-old golden chariot is a gas tank door that stopped working properly sometime last year. We have to pull up the release lever and wedge something under the lever to hold it up (we carry a screwdriver in the console for that purpose, then go and pry open the gas door. Good luck getting that door open if you don't know the system.

How I'm Using SmartyPig

August 31st, 2013 at 10:37 am

Link to SmartyPig: https://www.smartypig.com/

In spite of the cutesie name, SmartyPig is a bona fide on-line bank. Deposits are held at BBVA Compass and are FDIC insured. The concept behind SmartyPig is that you set a savings goal and make regular contributions until your goal is met. You can share your goal with others (only if you choose to) and can even invite others to contribute to your goal. This is an interesting concept and could be very useful in many cases (saving for a wedding, a down payment on a home, a new car, a vacation, or a child's college education for example). This is all spelled out in detail on the SmartyPig web site, if you want to know more.

Personally I'm not interested in making regular contributions towards a goal in a SmartyPig account or sharing my goals with anyone else. What I'm going to write about is how SmartyPig can be beneficial even if you DON'T want to do any of the above. I'll also tell you about the little "hitch" I ran in to so you can avoid and deal with it, and will even share a little "secret bonus."

I opened my account with SmartyPig about 1-1/2 months ago, for 2 reasons:
1. Their current APY on savings accounts is 1.00% which is decent given the current low-interest-rate environment.
2. With your savings, you can get gift cards that give you a cash boost of up to 11%. You can see a list of participating retailers here: https://www.smartypig.com/how-it-works/retailer-offers/reta... I shop regularly at Amazon.com (just 2 days ago a box arrived for me from Amazon - vacuum cleaner bags - pretty exciting huh?), and occasionally at Macy's and Dillard's. So I knew I would use this feature. The boosts for those 3 retailers are: 11% at Macy's / 5% at Dillard's / 3% at Amazon.com.**

Here is an overview of the process:
- Register with Smarty Pig
- Set up your savings goals: Assign goal names, amounts, and target dates. Regarding the target date, if you just want to deposit your money once and start earning your 1% interest like I did, set a target date of at least a week out the first time. That will give you time to get everything verified and funds transferred. I allowed 10 days to be safe but it was probably longer than I actually needed. (Once you are up and running, you can set target dates of just a couple business days in the future, just enough time for funds to be transferred.) SUGGESTION: Create many smaller goals rather than one or two large goals (more on that later, it has to do with the hitch I ran in to).
- Link your SmartyPig account to an existing checking account. You will need to verify your account, in the way that is pretty standard for on-line banks. SmartyPig will make 2 small deposits in to your checking account (which they immediately withdraw - sorry creditcardfree, no mini snowflakes here) and you enter the amounts of the deposits on the SmartyPig web site. Once that is done, Smarty Pig can transfer funds from your checking account and you are up and running.
- When you want to withdraw funds, you close a savings goal.*

*AS PROMISED - THE HITCH (and suggestion to deal with it): When you close a savings goal, you really close it. You get 100% of the amount in that savings goal (your initial deposit plus interest earned) back, either in gift cards or a transfer back to your linked checking account. So don't think that you can create one savings goal and make incremental withdrawals; you can't. I learned this the hard way. I thought I'd put low-4-figures in to a "Shopping" savings goal and request gift cards from time to time over the course of several years. WRONG! I had to take it all at once. Fortunately, I didn't have to take it all in gift cards. I just ordered what I wanted in gift cards, and the balance was transferred to my checking account. Having learned my lesson, I then set up a couple different "Shopping" goals each with low-3-figures. Unless you know exactly when you will want to withdraw your savings and how much, I recommend that you break your savings down into multiple smaller goals. I now have 7 goals, 2 for "Shopping" (earmarked for future gift card orders) and 5 more general ones. You can name your goals whatever you like and no one is going to follow up to make sure that is how you really use them. I chose names that were relevant to why I save (EF, Retirement, DH's Dream, Travel, and Car) but for all anyone cares you could call them One, Two, Three, etc. This may sound complicated, but it's really not. Yes, you will have to take a couple extra minutes setting up the goals, but it's really not that hard. And you'll be glad you did when it comes time to make a withdrawal.

**Also as promised, the Secret Bonus for all you SA numbers geeks: The cash boost is actually higher than what it states on the web site. They shave the boost off the top of the face value. For example, I got $150 in gift cards from Macy's. 11% ($16.50) was shaved off the top so I paid $133.50 for the gift cards. That means I actually got a 12.36% cash boost ($133.50 x 1.1236 = $150).

Overview - My Opinion: So far, so good. I'm satisfied with the security & navigation of the site, fund transfers have happened quickly & smoothly, and I have ordered gift cards from both Amazon (electronic card) and Macy's (physical card) and have used both without any problems. I'm happy with the 1% I'm earning because it's the highest of any of my savings accounts. And the cash boost on gift cards is great.

Hope this is useful information. If you have any questions, let me know.

Blast from the Past

August 28th, 2013 at 07:12 pm

Today I purged our 2005 & 2006 tax return folders (keeping the actual returns and documentation related to home sale, stocks, retirement accounts, and P/L statement for DH's business but shredding all other supporting documents). Among the items hitting the shredder were 1099's from Indymac & WaMu.

The old timers around here will remember a time when the banks where I had accounts seemed to be failing left & right. Indymac ... WaMu ... Wachovia.

Yea - Not feeling sentimental about any of that. Big Grin

Good morning

August 4th, 2013 at 09:59 am

I woke up to 2 eBay payments received overnight ... one for an item that had sold yesterday and one that sold with a Buy It Now. This is on top of 1 payment I received yesterday, so I will have at least 3 packages to ship tomorrow. I will mail the packages tomorrow at the same time I run a deposit to my husband's business account. (The post office and bank are 1-1/2 blocks apart.)

I have 3 days off of work (my work is project-based and my next project starts on Thursday). I still have a few items yet to list on eBay so I WILL do that during my time off.

Now the Whole World Knows! Well, maybe not the whole world but ...

July 17th, 2013 at 07:36 pm

One of my favorite sites www.DepositsAccount.com was featured on the ABC Nightly News last night.

I've been following this site for years & years ... from back when it was called Bank Deals Blogspot. They've never steered me wrong when I'm interest (savings) rate shopping.

I hope success doesn't spoil them the way it did Bankrate.com

Making Advance Travel Plans

July 14th, 2013 at 03:33 pm

We're planning a trip overseas, to DH's native country, in September. We'll be on slightly different schedules. DH is going to depart 4-5 days earlier than me to visit customers, and possibly make a stopover in a different country to explore some business opportunities. Our return flights will leave on the same day, but he'll be coming straight home and I'll be stopping off on the West Coast to visit family for a few days, so we'll be on different flights. I'll be gone 2 weeks.

This trip will be different than previous trips because we are going to do a lot of traveling around, visiting 6 different cities. (Usually we just visit 1 city, occasionally 2.) Lots of aunties & uncles have been begging us to visit, plus I want to take DH to the town where I did a home stay while in college. Now that we are without pets, it is the right time to do a longer trip.

So, we'll be buying rail passes. That will be an expense that we don't usually incur.

Today we booked my flights using DH's airline miles. $53 for airline taxes & fees. (His ticket will be a business expense; he is going to purchase his ticket and is monitoring prices. He is very good at pouncing when the prices hit bottom or near to it.)

DH also booked one of our hotel rooms using his Best Western points. FREE

I haven't tried to pencil out a budget yet, but if I had to throw out a ballpark guess it would be $2,500-3,000 for the 2 of us, with the rail passes being the most expensive item.

P.S. - We are holding off on looking at adoptable dogs until we get back from this trip. Well, I peek from time to time, but nothing serious .....

eBay Sales

July 13th, 2013 at 11:40 am

I'm working on listing the items I purchased for resale on eBay. 13 listed so far, with 1 sale (a Buy It Now) within minutes of listing. I've added to my original goal which was netting $100 through eBay sales this summer; I also want to raise at least $10 for one of my favorite non-profits through the eBay Giving Works program.

Things are slowing down at work and I won't be working as much overtime so this is a good time to do this.


June 22nd, 2013 at 08:13 am

My life has been pretty boring these days because I've just been making hay while the sun shines by working lots of OT. Yesterday I submitted my timecard with 61 hours on it. After 12 days straight I finally have a day off ... then back to work tomorrow. It felt like such a luxury to not have to set the alarm clock and I slept in until 7:45 this morning.

Varigated Post

May 18th, 2013 at 04:56 pm

1. Free Kindle Fire arrived! It was a gift for opening up a new bank account. Oh happy day. I am the sort of person who needs to set aside a chunk of time to figure out new (to me) technology, so I probably won't use it for a couple weeks.

2. Property Tax Protest: Yesterday we mailed in a protest to our property taxes. DH had to prod me a bit to do it, so I recruited him to do some of the research that I used on the protest form. Not sure what the outcome will be but it was one of those "nothing to lose" propositions and we have a good case (I think).

3. Making Hay While the Sun Shines: It's our busy season at work, so I've been working 50-60 hour weeks with no end in sight. I have to keep reminding myself that when things slow down I will be missing the O-T.

Onward ...

I want a Porsche ...

April 27th, 2013 at 06:47 pm

well, sort of. We are in the market for a new vacuum cleaner and I am lusting after this: http://www.amazon.com/Miele-S7260-Upright-Vacuum-Cleaner/dp/... Definitely the "Porsche" of the vacuums we are considering. No, we don't have a cat or dog right now but DH & I had "the discussion" when we started looking for a new vacuum and we decided that we should prepare for the day when we will hear the pitter-patter of 4 paws around the house again.

2. Free Kindle Fire: I got Email notification that my free Kindle Fire has been shipped. It was a promotion for opening a new bank account. Sure beats a toaster. I've never had an E-reader or a tablet before. Will be fun to figure out how I can get the most out of it for the least $.

3. Utilities "Sweet Spot": I love this time of year, when we aren't using either the heat or the A/C, and the yard is fine with once weekly waterings. I paid our electric, gas, and water bills today ... $147 total for all three. I budget $200 and last year we averaged $193. Water & Electric rates have both increased so I don't know if we'll be able to stay under $200 average for the year but we will try. Late last summer we bought a stand-alone dehumidifer which is helping us keep AC usage down. Also, without a pooch in the house we use a bit less water (no more weekly bath or filling up the water bowl, and no more doggy bed laundering) and we don't have the regular "out to the backyard" trips that cause us to lose heat & cooling out the back door.

4. 28.6%: Yesterday was payday. 28.6% is the percentage of my gross income that ended up in our bank account. And it's OK. The rest went to taxes, my 401K (50%), Medical Insurance, Dental Insurance, and Vision Insurance. My husband is self-employed so the insurance is for the both of us.

5. Legacy Project: I'm burying this deep in the post for those of you who cared enough to read this far. The legacy project for our beloved late dog is on. Our dog was a rescue, and the organization where I volunteer will be building beds for an animal shelter that is located about an hour from where we live, where the animals stay on wet concrete floors all the time. Frown DH & I are going to pay for several of the beds, and the organization is going to invite other people to donate beds as well. We can write messages on the bottom of the beds in Sharpie pen if people want us to. I'm going to write "In loving memory of(our boy's name)" on ours and draw lots of hearts. This is what the beds look like: http://kuranda.com/ This is what life is really all about, isn't it? Maybe I'll need to get by with a less expensive vacuum and pay for one more bed???

Disappearing Posts

April 14th, 2013 at 08:48 am

The problem with blog posts vanishing when I go to post has become pretty frustrating. It has happened to several of my posts now, and it always seems to be the ones that are lengthy and that I have put a lot of thought in to. Yesterday I wrote one about the ability to think in an abstract way as it relates to personal finance. I may re-do it later if I can find the motivation to overcome my disappointment that it went *poof* The problem is that re-written blog posts never seem to be as good as the original.

I really do want to keep up my blog. I must remember to compose in a Word document and then copy and paste, so that my work isn't lost.

I made the mistake of briefly venturing back over to the SA Forums but was reminded pretty quickly why in the past I have steered away from there. There is one poster whose grandiosity is, frankly, rather frightening to me.

RIP and Financial Peace

March 2nd, 2013 at 12:22 pm

Our beloved dog passed away peacefully last week. He was around 11 years old (we adopted him as a young adult of around 1 to 1-1/2 years old, so his exact age was unknown to us). 7-1/2 months ago he was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer, so we knew that this day would come. But even if he had lived for another 7-1/2 YEARS, it still would have felt too soon to say goodbye.

Post-diagnosis, he lived a nearly "normal" life until the last 30 hours. DH & I did everything we could to keep him happy & comfortable. We followed his regular routine as much as possible, making modifications to adjust for his changing physical needs. When the end came, it came swiftly, and his passing was as peaceful as anyone could possibly hope for a loved one.

When DH & I were making decisions about our 4-legged boy's care and end-of-life, we never had to ask ourselves "What can we afford?" We only asked "What do we feel is best for him?"

What "financial peace" means to me is knowing that I can care for my loved ones who are depending on me.

In my early 20's, I "inherited" 2 cats. I was a single, young gal living in a studio apartment, not very good with money. (Truth be told, pretty ignorant about personal finance.) When one cat became very ill at a young age, fortunately I had some money set aside that I had been saving to buy a car. I wiped out the savings to pay for her treatment. She recovered and lived happily for about another 14 years.

When I was becoming more knowledgeable about personal finance and created our first budget, shortly after we got married (when money was still pretty tight), I created a Pet category and allocated extra money to it every month beyond what we needed for the cats' basic needs. When the balance grew to 4 figures, DH asked why we weren't using that money for something else. I told him "some day we are going to need it." DH talked it over with a friend who is older, financially responsible, and a pet lover (basically a mentor); the friend agreed with me, and DH never again questioned why I set aside extra money for our pets each month. Over the years, we needed that money, for our cats and later for our dog.

Our pets never had a bunch of toys. They didn't wear clothes. They had nothing with a luxury brand label on it. They had good-quality basic "gear” plus several nice extras. And they never lacked for love, companionship, training, mental stimulation, physical exercise, quality food, or excellent veterinary care. Knowing that we were prepared and were able to meet all of our pup's true needs gives DH & I a real sense of peace.

RIP sweet boy. We love you.

Tax Returns Done

February 13th, 2013 at 06:59 pm

I prepare my brother's tax return as well as my own household's. All returns are now completed. I still need to transfer money to DH's SEP IRA and our Roths (we always wait until the return is completed), and mail in our federal return. Yup - Just like creditcardfree, I have to use snail mail this year. According to Turbo Tax it's because of Form 8889, distributions from an HSA but no contributions. (No contributions this year because I started getting medical insurance from my employer spring 2011 so we no longer have a HDHP making us ineligible to contribute.) It feels good to scratch this fairly big financial task off of the "To Do" list!

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: 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.


December 25th, 2012 at 01:48 pm

Well, I'm back. The reason for stepping away is no more. Looking at my sidebar makes me smile ... It has been ages since I read "Texas." Looking forward to getting caught up.

Stepping Away

February 13th, 2011 at 02:04 pm

For reasons I spelled out on the Forums and won't repeat here, I have decided to step away from Saving Advice.

It's sad because this site has really meant a lot to me. This is a place where we can do what we usually can't do IRL ... talk without reservation about money! I was so happy when I found this site, because at last I had found a place where I could talk with like-minded folks about one of my passions: personal finance!

You all have come to mean a lot to me over the past 4-1/2 years. I have been taught, challenged, encouraged, and inspired by many of you. Thank you!!!

Keeping this blog has helped keep me on the track toward financial freedom. I'm really going to miss it ... as I will miss reading your blogs.

I wish all of you nothing but the best.

Biggest Outflow Month

January 14th, 2011 at 01:17 pm

Estimated tax payment was dropped in the mail yesterday evening for pickup today. (Dear IRS: You're welcome! Dear Fellow US Citizens & Residents: You're welcome, and thank you to all of you who pay your legally required taxes!)

Annual property taxes will go out next week (tho not due til the end of the month, unlike federal taxes they have to be RECEIVED by the due date).

Car registration for our new car also gets paid this month. This one is relatively small, but it adds to the feeling that we are rendering an awful lot unto Caeser this month.

Unemployed? This May be of Interest

August 8th, 2010 at 09:32 am

About 7 years ago the office where I worked was closed, and I found myself unemployed for the first time since I was 14 years old. I immediately started looking for a new job, and started collecting unemployment benefits. Didn't have much luck at first, but then I found a job that I knew I could be hired for. It was a company looking for a large number of temporary workers. The commute would be long, and the pay would be less than what my UI benefits were, but it never crossed my mind not to take the job. I would be able to extend the length of time I could collect unemployment (in case I did not find a permanent job), it would be an interesting experience doing something new, it would keep me "out there" in the work force. Also, call me old fashioned but I could not imagine not working if I had the opportunity.

I got the job. During the long commutes, I did quite a bit of soul searching, thinking about what I wanted out of life. By the time the temp work ended, I had decided to start my own business. Never went back on unemployment, and ended up taking only a fraction of the benefits I could have received.

So, you might be thinking that taking the job that paid less than unemployment "cost" me a lot, right?

Well, almost 3 years ago we moved to Austin where that same company I had temped for has a larger presence. Once again, I found myself looking for work and knew that working for this company was something I could do and would quickly be hired for, so I started temping for them again. I started getting more & more work, and I've now been offered a supervisory position.

If you are unemployed, if you have the opportunity to work somewhere but you think you may not want to do it because the pay is less than your unemployment benefit, please reconsider. You never know what is going to happen down the road. You never know when the experience you gain and the connections you make on that "low-paying" job are going to pay off.

Life Lesson from B

July 5th, 2010 at 02:25 pm

Inspired to post this because of a current discussion on the forums and what is happening to my friend from work B.

B, who is in her late 60's, has been diagnosed with advanced lung cancer. (She is not a smoker if anyone is wondering. Whether she smoked in the past, I do not know.) They are using a combination of chemo & drugs not to "cure" her (that's not possible) but in the hopes of buying her another year or two with her husband of 40-plus years J. J has never had anything to do with the household finances. Never paid a bill, etc. He is now handling it, and it doing a great job. Thank goodness they had some "advance notice" so that she could teach him.

I understand that the hand off of financial duties is just about the least of their worries right now, but still, it is important. If you are the one in the household who handles the finances, if God forbid you dropped dead tomorrow, would your spouse or partner (or children or other family member if you are single) know what to do? If not, what do you need to do to teach them?


January 27th, 2010 at 06:00 pm

The revolving door at "chateau scfr" continues to spin.

My mom came & stayed with us for 8 days. She loved Austin and the house, and I really enjoyed showing her the sights. Went to the LBJ Museum, day trip to Fredericksburg, Umlauf Sculpture Gardens, day trip to San Anotonio, and AMOA Laguna Gloria. We dined on gorditos at Haberno Cafe, noshed on German food in Fredericksburg, and chowed down Texas BBQ at the Salt Lick.

In between DH's family's stay & mom's visit, 2 of DH's business clients came for short stays. (And there are more coming soon!)

Oh the joys of having a new home in a city people are curious about ...

A tiny bit of financial news: I finally sold my "junk" gold, a very thin broken necklace & a man's pinkie ring that for some inexplicable reason DH's mother had given me several years ago (it was used) and I don't wear. Got $200. But I also decided to use the same jeweler the replace a clasp on a broken necklace I found on the sidewalk; that cost me $30, so I really only netted $170 + a necklace. The necklace is a silver one from Tiffany, worth approx $300 from what I can see on-line, and I like it, so decided to fix it up and keep it. Lest you worry about my integrity, I DID post a notice about finding the necklace on our HOA's web site, and left it up there for 2 months waiting for the owner to claim it. They never did.

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