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Archive for February, 2007

Homemade Freezer Burritos - Looking for Tips

February 27th, 2007 at 05:40 pm

I'd like to make up a batch of homemade burritos and stick them in the freezer to have anytime I want a quick lunch ...which is most days Smile

I know store-bought burritos aren't very expensive if bought in bulk packs, but I'd like to try making healthier versions at home (using whole wheat tortillas, for example).

Have any of you ever done this successfully? What tips can you offer?

Financial Books on Tape

February 26th, 2007 at 04:02 pm

My "new" car has a cassette player, so I'm now able to get books on tape from the library and listen to them while I drive. Today I picked up "The Millionaire Mind" and started listening to it. Just started it, but it sounds like it's going to be very interesting.

Netflix Price Reduction

February 24th, 2007 at 09:46 am

My Netflix charge is going down!

I subscribe at the 1-at-a-time (2 a month) level and the price is going down from $5.99 to $4.99 per month. Yea! I'm happy to save a buck!

I'm not sure if they are making changes on the other subscription levels.

My Bad - Cautionary Tale About Donating Clothes at a Drop Box

February 23rd, 2007 at 10:08 am

At the risk of embarrassing myself, thought I'd share this story to let others learn from my mistake.....

Since we paid down our mortgage, we take the standard deduction on our taxes instead of itemizing. So, I no longer care about getting a receipt when I donate used goods.

There are a couple drop boxes for used clothes in my town that I ASSUMED were for some sort of charity. They have the American Flag on them and a big recycle sticker and a nice-sounding name. Since the locations are so convenient, the last couple times I cleaned out my closets I dropped off clothes there.

Then I heard that these were actually set out by some sort of for-profit re-selling outfit. So, this morning I looked one of the drop boxes over thoroughly while pumping my gas (one is located at our gas station) and, sure enough, there is no mention of it being for a non-profit charity.

Shame on me ... my bad for not reading carefully enough before dropping off my "donations"! I will be much more careful in the future.

Our "new" car with a checkered past!

February 17th, 2007 at 10:22 am

Until 2-1/2 weeks ago, we had 2 cars: a '94 Taurus with over 170K mi and a '99 Camry with 100K mi.

Last summer when the Taurus needed brake work, we thought about replacing it and started looking around at what was available (both used & new --- we always like to keep all our options open and then go with what we think is the best deal). After lots of reading, looking, test driving, and discussing, we finally decided our best option was to fork over the $ to have the Taurus' brakes repaired.

What we concluded was that, due to sky-high gas prices, the type of cars we prefer (what I call "sensible sedans": reliable, safe, moderately-priced, full-size sedans with decent gas mileage) were very much in demand. Back when we bought our Taurus and Camry, SUVs were all the rage, and our cars were considered rather unfashionable. Fast-forward to 2007: hybrid cars are all the rage, and good old "sensible sedans" are once again selling well. Dealers' lots are over-flowing with SUVs that have been traded in. [Anyone else remember reading the news bit about the dealer in CA who was arranging to have people's SUVs torched so they could get some insurance money and buy a smaller car?]

Of course, high demand meant we weren't going to be able to get a "deal" on the type of car we wanted. Hence the decision to keep the old car.

Then this winter, we had another problem with the Taurus --- thought it was the starter, but fortunately it just needed a new battery. At that time, we went through a different mental exercise. We thought about whether we should downgrade to just one car. After a couple days of sharing one car while waiting to get the Taurus running, we (well really it was mostly my husband) decided that having just one car wasn't a very attractive idea. So, thoughts of what we would do with the Taurus were still percolating at the back of our brains.

Then, 2-1/2 weeks ago one of my husband's friends called him and asked for some help in getting his company's car sold. [The company is closing down their US office. The friend will be going back to his home country, but before that he has to sell off the company's US assets on top of preparing his family to move.]

The car is a 2002 Subaru Legacy with 58K miles.

They ran the Carfax report and found out that this car has had a very checkered past indeed! We will never know for sure, but we suspect that somewhere along the line the title was "washed." The car started out as a rental, and eventually was in an accident that caused enough damage that the insurer wrote it off as "salvage." Then it was moved to our state where the car was re-titled without the proper inspections (major no-no)! Whether that was done intentionally, we'll never know, but we do have our suspicions ... Our friend had bought the car not knowing what he was getting (obviously it had been repaired and you could not tell it's history by looking at it).

Husband & friend took the car to a dealer, but they said no way would they sell a car that had been salvaged. They suggested that they could sell it on Craigslist for $5-6K. [Had the car not been totalled in its past, the Blue Book is about $13K.]

Husband approached me about buying the car. My first reaction was "Heck no!" I told my hubby that I'd rather he go out and buy a brand new top-of-the-line Mercedes (and of course I'd be steaming if he did that) than drive something that would make him one bit less safe if he were in an accident. But finally I agreed that if our very-much-trusted local mechanic inspected it and declared it completely safe, I would consider it. I called the mechanic prior to the inspection so he would know exactly where I was coming from, and he gave me his word that he would not sign off on it unless he was as sure as he could be that the car's safety had not been degraded. Turns out, the wreck had been a side-impact crash that caused extensive body damage on one side of the car (both door panels) but had not affected the car's driveabilty or safety. He also said it had been repaired extremely well.

So, the price discussions began. We wanted a deal, and our friend wanted to get the selling over and done with and wanted someone who was willing to deal with the red tape involved in getting the car "street legal" in the eyes of our state government. Agreed on price: $3,000 (and our friend agreed not to deposit our check until we had passed the Washington State inspection).

On Feb 1, we took care of the paperwork, got the temporary permit, and scheduled the necessary inspection (Feb 16th at 8am was the first available date) with the Washington State Patrol. A nice bonus was that we only had to pay use tax (euphamism for sales tax) on the $3,000 sales price because the state has no way of accurately determining value on a salvaged car. We gave our friend the check to hold and parked the Subaru in the garage. We also posted an ad for the Taurus on Craigslist and put a For Sale sign in the window.

Talk about good fortune ... Yesterday, not only did the Subaru pass it's WSP inspection, but in the afternoon we sold the Taurus! [We had hoped to get $950 for the Taurus and we only got $700, but we are okay with that.]

My favorite part of the story is the discussing my husband and the WSP inspector had. It went something like this.
WSP: "I love these cars. I've been shopping around for a good deal on one. May I ask what you paid for it?"
Husband: "$3K"
WSP: "I'll give you $3,500 cash for it right now." [Yes - he was completely serious.]
Husband: "Sorry I think we'll keep it."
WSP: "Good call. Even the salvage value is $6-7K and the repairs were excellent. You got a great deal."

Ebay Alert: 50% off Insertion Fees, Feb. 14th only (Auction-style listings)

February 13th, 2007 at 08:58 pm

Tomorrow's the day to list, ladies and gentlemen! Good luck on your auctions, everyone!

How to Secure a Rental Truck Door?

February 9th, 2007 at 11:18 am

Does anyone have any suggestions on the best way to secure the back door of a rental truck? Is there some sort of portable alarm we could buy that would go off if someone tried to open it?

I'm concerned that someone may break in to our truck while it is parked in a hotel parking lot, and I'd feel much better if we had an alarm. Of course we'll have a standard lock, but I know that those can be cut.

I was going to look in to this a bit later (we aren't leaving until end of Sept), but after seeing Jeffrey's post about a $15 rebate from Paypal on purchases over $30, I'm thinking I may go ahead and buy something now.

Thanks very much for any help!

Half.com Question

February 9th, 2007 at 09:06 am

As part of our pre-location purge I am selling books and CDs on half.com.

I have had 2 buyers who apparently buy many books every day (we're talking hundreds). One of them has now bought from me twice, and had the books shipped to different people at different addresses, each time with a note "no invoice please." I think these people must be somehow simultaneously buying my book & re-selling it to another person.

Anyone of you smart people know how they are doing that?

Did Not Vote Today

February 6th, 2007 at 09:18 am

My city is voting today on a bond-issue; it's a one-issue-only ballot.

I thought long and hard about it and decided that since I know I will be relocating and therefore will not be around to pay for the bond, it would not be right for me to vote. [The decision was not clear-cut. I didn't see it as a black-and-white ethical decision, but one that was very gray. I understand why other people would go ahead and vote.]

So, for the first time since I turned 18 and earned the privilege and responsibility of voting, I did not vote today. It feels strange.

Brother's Taxes Done

February 4th, 2007 at 09:58 pm

My brother came up to spend the weekend and brought his tax forms with him. [I always do them for him.] Got both his Federal and State returns finished using Turbo Tax online, for free. First time I used Turbo Tax for his returns and I loved the way the federal info got automatically transferred over to the state return! [I've used Turbo Tax for my own returns before, but we have no state income tax.]

In the past, brothers returns have been Tele-filed but the IRS has eliminated that option. We wanted to E-file, but in order to E-file we would have needed a number off of his 2005 return and he didn't have that with him. So we had to print out and mail the returns which means he will have to wait a bit longer for his refund. Next year we will be better prepared to E-file his returns.