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Archive for May, 2007

$20 Garden Challenge - First Harvest

May 31st, 2007 at 09:31 am

This morning I thinned my rainbow chard plants. These are the baby plants I uprooted so that the remaining plants have room to grow:

They represent my first-ever vegetable garden "harvest," so I am very excited! I walked back in to the house clutching these fresh, lovely, tender greens with a big smile on my face. I am beginning to understand why people get so enthusiastic about gardening.

Not sure how to assign a monetary value to these since you don't see "baby chardlings" at the supermarket. I decided on $1.50 after asking myself how much I would pay for them: Are they worth more than a buck? Yes, definitely! Would I pay $2 for them? Naw, probably not. So, $1.50 it is.

Full-grown chard has fairly tough stems, so normally I would chop them up and stir fry in a bit of olive oil with garlic. But, these guys are so nice and tender that I think I'll just steam them.

Recouping Wasted $ / How Embarrassing ...

May 27th, 2007 at 09:58 am

When doing my pre-garage sale sort, I came across 2 boxes of books in the garage, many unread. Oh my, how embarrassing! In the past few years I have been very good about just checking out books from the library, but prior to that I obviously had a bad habit of buying books that I did not even read!

Okay, lesson has been learned, and now it's time to move on and recoup some of that wasted money.

Yesterday I listed those books on Half.com and have already sold 2 of them.

I now have a special book that I keep on my bookself; it is one of those blank journal books and I wrote "Books to Read" on the spine. In it I am noting the books I am posting for sale that I am still interested in reading ... so that I can check them out from the library in the future! Smile

Gardening Question: Homemade Tomato Cages?

May 26th, 2007 at 04:08 pm

My grape tomato seedlings are about ready to transplant. I've been "hardening them off" ... a month ago I did not even know what that meant!

Because I have no more "$20 Challenge" funds left without "charging it" and because I'm moving in the fall and don't want any more STUFF, I'm looking for suggestions on how to make homemade, disposable tomato cages. Could I make them out of old wire hangers, or would those be too flimsy?

Top 10 Reasons to Adopt a Shelter Dog Instead of Buying from a Breeder or Store

May 23rd, 2007 at 06:37 pm

Since this is a personal finance forum, I decided to focus on the financial advantages of pet adoption vs. buying a purebred. While I certainly have opinions on the ethics of adoption, I will leave those for another forum.

10: Adoption fees are low (around $100), but prices for purebred puppies are very high ($2,500 is not unheard of).

9: With most adoptions, you are getting a dog that is already spayed or neutered, vaccinated, and perhaps even micro-chipped, so you save yourself those costs.

8: You can find a dog that is already crate and/or house trained, saving the time and aggravation of potty training and the costs of cleaning up “accidents.”

7: If the adopted dog is beyond the teething stage, you save yourself the sometimes very high costs associated with teething-related destructive chewing (chewed up shoes or clothing, chair legs, baseboards, etc).

6: You can find dogs that have already completed obedience training and are well socialized, so you do not have to pay for puppy preschool or obedience classes.

5: The majority of shelter dogs are mixed breed. I strongly believe that mixed breed dogs are healthier than purebred dogs, on average. Especially when dogs are bred a certain way just for appearance (to make them “cute”), they can develop conditions at young ages that are serious, expensive to treat, and sometimes fatal. I know hundreds of dogs, and sadly I have known several young purebred dogs who died very suddenly and tragically (and after thousands of dollars were spent on veterinary bills) due to conditions that their particular breed is prone to; I have never known a mixed breed dog who died that way.

4: Mixed breed dogs are tough! I do not know of any mixed breed dogs that need prescription diets because of sensitive stomachs or skin, allergies, or breed-related teeth conditions. I know plenty of purebred dogs that do.

3: Adopting a shelter dog is an inexpensive way to live like a celebrity! Young Hollywood hotties Hillary Duff and Orlando Bloom, to name just two examples, have adopted dogs.

2. You will really feel like a million bucks knowing that you have given a wonderful living creature a second chance at life!

1: All right … This one’s not finance-related and I will readily admit that I am extremely biased, but who could possibly resist this (note the blurry tail due to constant wagging):

Post Garage Sale Donations Gone!

May 21st, 2007 at 06:03 pm

Community-wide garage sales are the best! A charitable organization makes the rounds of our community the Monday after our garage sales, picking up leftovers as donations. All we had to do was haul our leftover garage sale stuff out to the curb this morning, attach a sign to it, and "voila!" it is gone someplace where it will be put to good use. We held back a few things that we will try to sell on Craigslist or Ebay, and sent 5 boxes of things off to a better place.

Product Packaging Changes: Anyone else noticing?

May 20th, 2007 at 05:52 pm

Anyone else noticing changes in product packaging? I recently bought 2 items that I regret. The packaging guarantees that product will be wasted. I certainly am going to pay A LOT more attention to packaging in the future.

These were my "mistake purchases":

1. Mayo in a squirt bottle: Squirt bottles work great for ketchup and mustard, but they do not work well for mayo. Too much squirts out, and once it's out of the bottle it's awfully hard to get it back in! This is probably because mayo is so thick. So, no more thick products in squirt bottles for me.

2. Sunscreen in a spray can: What was I thinking? I really should have know better! Half of it ends up in the air or on the floor. Misting bottles might be okay, but I think I will just stick to to lotion from here on out.

Ka-ching! Garage Sale Results

May 19th, 2007 at 06:34 pm

Whew! 2-Day Garage Sale wrapped up about 1-1/2 hours ago.

Our take was $997 ($1,005 - $8 for stickers).

Thanks so much to everyone from SA who offered their encouragement and their "Atta Girls"! You have no idea how much it was appreciated; it really buoyed my spirits. My DH did eventually get on board and even came up to me on Wednesday evening and said very sweetly "You've really been working hard on this, haven't you?" Smile

We are lucky to live in a Master Planned Community that holds a community-wide garage sale that they advertise for us. I did post a free ad myself on Craigslist, but that was the only advertising I had to do.

We are also lucky that our house is on one of the "main drags" so pretty much everyone cruising the garage sales drove past our place.

On Friday, the weather was great so we set up in the front yard and had terrific traffic. Today, it was cloudy so we set up in the garage in the alley, so did not get as much traffic but still did okay considering it was Day 2.

About half way through today, we started selling BOGO and posted big signs. During the last hour of the sale we set a bunch of stuff out on the front lawn and started selling "Fill A Grocery Bag for $1" and we were waving signs around by the street. Both of those moves really helped us draw in the bargain shoppers, and we cleared out some stuff right at the end that otherwise would not have sold.

I am now officially OVER my goal of $3,000 raised from selling stuff prior to our relocation. I am a tired, happy camper.

Garage Sale Related Letter to Myself

May 16th, 2007 at 10:07 am

Dear Self,

Re: DH and his "Garagesaleitis"

Just remembr:

1. You love the guy. Really you do.
2. This too shall pass.

Yes, you asked him to do some things weeks ago, and he has been watching the garage sale pile growing for MONTHS. And yes, he has waited until the 11th hour to do those things and he is grumpy and cranky and fussy because it is "just too much." But remember, he does have a way of making things happen fast, and even if he does not take your careful and methodical approach, and even if he is pretty upleasant to live with at the moment, as long as it gets done that is all that matters.

Yes, he did agree when you guys decided to make this move that you could sell absolutely anything that you wanted to. And yes, one of the main reasons you are trying to sell as much as possible is for his safety (less stuff = smaller truck = safer drive for him). And yes, now that the time has come he has started to pull things out of the pile. *Sigh* Well ... just remember that the guy does seem to have a stronger emotional need to have "stuff" around than you do, and he did agree to sell one of his beloved golf trophies and that is HUGE.

Yes, he does expect "Atta Boy"s for every little thing that he does, and you have not gotten a single "Atta Girl" which you really, REALLY could use. Well .... not much to say, just oh well...

So, with this garage sale now 2 days away, just:
- Keep giving him clear tasks
- Let him do them however he wants
- Stay out of his way!
- Hang in there!

Garage Sale Sorting Theme Song

May 12th, 2007 at 03:57 pm

Only 6 days to go until the "mother of all garage sales" ... I have been a sorting maniac! I am trying so hard to get rid of as much as I possibly can and resist coming up with excuses to keep things that I just don't need or love.

When I lose steam, I start singing my garage sale sorting theme song, out loud and slightly off key, to keep myself motivated:

Saw my life this morning
Lying at the bottom of a drawer
All this junk I'm saving
God knows what this stuff is for
And whatever I believed in
This is all I have to show
What the hell were all the reasons
For holding on for such dear life
Here's where I let go...

From "Almost Home" by Mary Chapin Carpenter

It will be nice to have the garage sale over and done with, and to have my sanity back! Smile

Cable company tried to pull a fast one

May 10th, 2007 at 12:22 pm

Last month we started having trouble with cable reception. Called the cable company; they agreed to send someone out free of charge.

When our bill arrived yesterday, there was a $20 service call charge on it. I called customer service, and they took the charge off. No excuses and no explanations. They never denied that the charge wasn't supposed to be there in the first place.

Do they just go ahead and charge all the time, hoping people aren't paying attention to their bills or won't question the charges? I have lost track of how many times things like this have happened to me over the years. No idea how much money I have saved by always scrutinizing my bills, but I'll bet it's a lot!

Enjoying Life / My Sunday

May 6th, 2007 at 10:24 pm

There was some discussion recently on the forums about saving for the future vs. enjoying life. Well, like so many of you, I firmly believe you can do both at the same time! Enjoying life does not have to mean spending a lot of money!

My fun activities for the day were:

- Sitting in the living room with my DH, drinking homemade coffee and reading the Sunday paper, sharing comments about what we are reading. [Cost: Less than a buck for the paper and coffee]

- Going to doggie play group at the park ~ A group of us regularly meet to let our dogs run around being dogs while the owners stand around sharing news of our lives and talking about community happenings. [Cost: 3 mile car ride round-trip]

- Walking to a neighborhood craft store for a free card-making demonstration where I made a Mother's Day card for my mom and enjoyed a nice chat with the store's owner. It was my first-ever handmade card, so there was the added fun of trying something new. [Cost: 21-cents for an envelope for the card.]

- Taking the dog for his afternoon walk, enjoying the scenery and getting some exercise. [Cost: free]

- Laughing my head off watching "Little Miss Sunshine" which I borrowed from the library. [Cost: car trip to the library]

Journey to BA: Current Number and Goals

May 5th, 2007 at 12:18 pm

Okay ... call me a chicken if you want, but I'm just not comfortable posting my Net Worth on-line. It's not that it is so low that you all would take pity on me and send me donations, and it's not that it is so high that you would start plotting to kidnap me and hold me for ransom. Smile It's just a matter of comfort.

What I am willing to share is where I am on my Journey to "Balance Sheet Affluent" - a term coined by the author of "The Millionaire Mind." Here's a quick explanation:

Age x .112 x Total Annual Income = Expected Net Worth

If you are 1/2 or less your Expected Net Worth, you are "Income Statement Affluent" (IA)

If you are double or more your Expected Net Worth, you are "Balance Sheet Affluent" (BA)

My goal is to become BA (2.00 expected net worth) by age 60. If you want to know the details of why this goal, please see my previous post in this category.

So ... drumroll please ...

Our current number as of 4/30/07 is: 1.32 times expected net worth (not too bad, but with still quite a ways to go to get to 2.00). I'm 43 years old, so I have 17 years to get there.

Here is my first goal: To bring this number up to 1.36 by 4/30/08.

Anyone else care to share where they stand on the IA/BA scale? We already know ImaSaver is a BA ... And I'm sure none of us are surprised about that! Anyone else a BA? Anyone want to admit to being an IA?

Also, if anyone can tell me how I can post a "BA" graph (instead of Net Worth) on the side of my blog, I'd appreciate it!

If you're interested in details of how I am doing my calculations, here goes:

Income: Average of the past 7 tax years (because of large fluctuations due to self-employment); Income = AGI + Change in Tax-Deferred Retirement Accounts (new contributions +/- change in value ... except that prior to 2007 it only includes new contributions because I don't want to go back and research changes in value ... from 2007 onward, I will include changes in value) + Tax-Exempt Interest @ TEY

Net Worth: Cash Assets + Home Equity (Based on Purchase Price, Adjusted Annually at rate of Inflation, MINUS 8% eventual sales costs) + Estimated Car Value (KBB)

Attn Pet Owners: Free FedEx Shipping from Heartypet.com (AWESOME deal!)

May 4th, 2007 at 01:23 pm

Fellow Pet Lovers - AWESOME deal from http://www.heartypet.com/

Free FedEx Shipping all all orders between now and 3:30pm Eastern Time on Tuesday (May 8th) only! It started at 3:30 today, so it's a really limited time offer.

This site sells lots of top-quality, premium brands of pet food (Wellness, Innova, etc.)

If you've done any internet shopping for these premium brands in the past, then you know that you can find prices below retail but the shipping costs will kill you, especially on the canned stuff.

If the pet food recall has had you wanting to upgrade your dog or cat's food, this is is great opportunity to try the premium stuff and save some money.

I just ordered 3 cases of canned for my 4-legged boy (I would order more if I weren't moving cross country) plus some treats; I paid 74% of what I would have paid at my local retailer.

Pre-relocation sell-off: March & April Results

May 1st, 2007 at 09:23 pm

Yawn!!! Nothing exciting to report. March & April results are:

Sales of some stuff on Half.com & Craigslist = $151.23

Interest = $23.07

Grand Total, Jan - April = $2,109.34

Perhaps I should say I THINK the results are ... Our computer had a meltdown and we had to run rescue disc and my spreadsheet was lost. I pulled numbers from what I had printed out and what I had recorded previously in this blog.

I have 4 more months to go to reach my goal of $3,000. Our garage sale is going to be in mid-May, so this should be a pretty big month; I'm hoping to get over the $2,500 mark.


***We chose our rental truck (Penske, 22% discount for AAA members who book on-line)***

***We decided on what to do for our farewell party. We played around with the whole range of options, from doing nothing to having a fancy catered affair for 100+ folks. We decided to host a dinner at a nice but moderately-priced restaurant, and we decided to pare the guest list down to only those who mean the very most to us. We'll invite around 40 w/ an expected turnout of around 30, and a budget of $600 (tho' we know it could go as high as $800 if everyone shows up, and we think that would be great)***

***I mailed out letters to my clients letting them know I would be closing my business.*** Frown

***I thought seriously about changing the name of this blog category from "Relocating to a lower cost part of the USA" to "Relocating to a fantastic part of the USA" because the more I learn about Austin the more excited I get about moving there! However, because we began this journey as a way to boost our finances long-term, and since this forum is about personal finance after all, I decided to keep the name the same, and I hope you Texans don't take offense!***