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Mish Mash

January 14th, 2008 at 12:33 pm

1. AAA MMA / Bank of America: Anyone else have the AAA-endorsed MMA? I do. It was with MBNA, but then MBNA was bought out by Bank of America. I was pleasantly surprised to see the rates stay high for awhile after the merger, but I recently got a letter from AAA and it seems they and BofA "got a divorce" at the end of the year. I checked the APY on my BofA account and it had gone down a bit. It's not to the point where I'm going to close the account yet, but I am disappointed and will keep watching that account closely. It's getting harder and harder for us savers to find good rates. *sigh*

2. Credit Unions: Broken Arrow made a comment on my last entry that made me think I should look in to CUs again. I had looked in to opening a CU account in the past, but the rates they paid just weren't attractive enough, so I basically of ruled them out indefinitely. BA's post reminded me that I should stay open to new ideas, so I checked out CUs in my area. Unfortunately, they still don't make sense for me. Either I'm not eligible to be a member, the rates paid are too low, or the rates that are attractive are on accounts that have requirements that don't work fo rme. For example, uhcu.org offers a checking account that has a beautiful APY of 6.01%. However, it has the odd requirements that you have 10 debit card transactions and an automatic deposit transaction every month. I don't use debit cards, and I can't get an automatic deposit. I guess CUs must work for some people because I've read entries by people who love them, but they just don't seem to be a good fit for me at this time.

3. ETFs: ETFs are another thing that I have looked in to and they just don't seem to make sense for me. As they grow more popular, I look at them as an option occasionally; just did it again. I'm going to stick with my low cost mutual funds. Frankly, I'm puzzled as to why ETFs are so popular.

4. CVS: I'm still trying to figure this one out, how some people are so thrilled with the deals they get. They did not have CVS in Seattle, so CVS is new to me since moving to Austin. I looked carefully at this Sunday's flyer, but didn't see anything enticing. It may be because I buy most of my hygiene / toiletry / cleaning items at Costco and get better prices there by buying in bulk (buying the store brand when available). The other things in the CVS flyer seemed to be big brand name junk food or prepared food items, not things I buy regularly. I also do Harris Interactive surveys, and I can get free gift cards to use at Target for the few things I don't get at Costco or at the grocery store. For now I'm not jumping on the CVS bandwagon, but I'm going to keep my eye on those posts of those of you who are fans!

5. Suze, Suze, Suze! Suze Orman was on Larry King the other day. She made a comment about the real estate market. She said rather flippantly that you can get a bargain on a house if you can buy a house for $100K when they are asking $200K. That's 50% off of asking (obviously). That may be a reasonable number in some parts of the country, but not here in Austin where prices have not increased as dramatically. But of course my DH latched on to that comment. We have been having disagreements ... We both think prices are going to fall further, but he thinks they are going to go WAAAAAY down and so we should wait indefinitely or offer about 60% of asking price. I, on the other hand, think that if we could get a reduction of about 15% on a competitively-priced asking price on a house we like, that would be a fair deal. Suze, Suze, Suze! Am I going to be stuck in this small apartment for YEARS thanks to your casual comment?!? We'll see.

6. Tire Shopping: We're almost due for new tires, so I've been price shopping. Compared Firestone, Discount Tires, and Costco. We decided on Costco, as their total price for the same tires is lowest. It probably helps that they are having a $60 off sale that they seem to have each January. Some time in the next couple weeks, we'll plan a shopping and lunch trip to Costco. [You can't make an appointment, and usually end up waiting about an hour, so we might as well have lunch and do some shopping while we wait.] We're going with 80,000 mile tires which of course involved a discussion as to whether our car would last that long. It's a Toyota Camry that has almost 120K miles. We decided for that car 200K miles should be no problem. Total cost will be just under $300.

7. Estimated Taxes: 4th and final estimated tax payment for 2007 taxes must be mailed by tomorrow. I'll drop a check in the mail this evening, after the mailman has come and gone for the day. Of course I could wait until tomorrow morning, but I'm always nervous that something will happen and I'll be unable to mail it. Very silly, I know, but that's how my mind works, and I'll be da**ed if I end up getting a penalty for paying late. As always, I will be writing "YOU'RE WELCOME!" on the memo line. Yes, it's silly & a bit immature that I expect thanks for paying every penny of taxes I am legally required to pay, but somehow writing "You're welcome" on the check helps keep me from getting angry when I pay my taxes.

8. When I was preparing to pay for the new tires and for my estimated taxes, I started thinking back on my financial life and how I got to the point where I could absorb "irregular" (tho expected) expenses like these so smoothly, without stress ... There was a clear turning point (what Dr. Phil would call a "Defining Moment") that I had forgotten about until now. I'll write about that next time, as it may be a bit long. But as a teaser, I'll just say that Ann Landers deserves much credit! Curious? Stay tuned ...

9 Responses to “Mish Mash”

  1. JanH Says:

    I have heard one comment that Texas (in general or parts?) will weather the economic ebb and flow a bit better than some other places. Probably because of so much industry still tied to fuels. But, perhaps the housing prices didn't accelerate as high? I have no idea. But, it might be fuel for your side of things!

  2. mom-sense Says:

    On #4, I use CVS-brand cold medication/pain reliever/fever reducers in my household. (There are a lot of us). For the first two weeks in Jan, it was buy one/get 1/2 off 2nd CVS brand. In addition to this I had a handful of $2.50 off $10 CVS purchase and CVS Bonus Bucks. I did make out great on these purchases. Otherwise I'm with you on the name brand snack items. Before I was organized we would have to run in and pay $3.89 for a gallon of milk (vs. the $2.15 at Aldis or $2.45 at Walmart). I have to stay away from Costco or Sam's Club because I'm not at a point where I can budget well for those huge trips, but I was able to plan and budget for $250 tires/oil change/maintenance and it pleasantly came to $221. I am making some progress here since I've been on the Forum.

  3. sagegirl Says:

    Okay--you have definitely peaked my curiosity with the whole Ann Landers comment. I can't wait to here it!

  4. disneysteve Says:

    I totally agree with you on CVS. I truly tried to see if that would work for my family and to take advantage of the weekly "specials" would cost us a small fortune by buying more costly brands, convenience items, etc. The other problem is that personal care products tend to be one thing we are brand loyal about. My wife and daughter will not switch shampoos every time a different brand is cheaper, for example.

    I finally gave up trying because we just don't shop the way we would need to for the CVS thing to work for us.

  5. nance Says:

    Regarding real estate in Austin. I seriously doubt that prices are going to go down anywhere near 50 per cent. It is an area of the country that is growing and has become popular. That is not conducive to huge reductions in house prices. That seems to happen in "depressed" areas, where there are few jobs. With interest rates going down again, it might be a good time to buy. I have family in that area.

  6. Ima saver Says:

    I am curious too? I will stay tuned!!

  7. boomeyers Says:

    Yes, the Texas housing market was one of the cheapest to start. I live in Missouri and our housing costs are very reasonable and the housing market in Texas was even cheaper than that, so I don't think you will find any HUGE bargains, just good bargains.

    I got some really nice Michelins at Costco for a GREAT price!! I am very pleased and their warranty was great too. The guy that changed my oil and did my tires said he can't touch Costco's price.

  8. monkeymama Says:

    Yes, always shop the CUs, particularly when you move. No 2 CUs are ever the same. Some of them around here are horrible, but ours has great rates and no fees, many branches, and great customer service.

    You can't say the same for all CUs, likewise you can't write them all off just because you come across a bad one. Wink So yay for trying.

    Gosh,. I have been so busy with everyone elses taxes I forgot I was going to send some in. Think it's a little late now. LOL. (I am having a doh moment).

  9. Broken Arrow Says:

    Hehe, I didn't realize that I said that much. Big Grin But, I do think that I am very fortunate to be eligible for my CU. Both my checking and hopefully HSA soon are paying 5%. And yes, my checking does have a wonky requirement of at least 25 debit card transactions per month. Otherwise, no minimum balance or fees (except HSA, which wants a $1).

    I think they're popular because it gives people a chance to invest actively, but at least with Vanguard, still enjoy the fact that it's a low-cost index fund. So, that's really the appeal... if that's what you're looking for.

    Truth to tell, I don't shop at CVS, because there isn't one close enough to me with deals good enough. However, I do like CVS as a stock! Big Grin Going long, the future looks bright for CVS.

    Real estate:
    I'm with you on this one in that you really have to crunch the numbers with specific examples to be sure. Where I live, the subprime situation isn't so dire. In fact, the real estate market is still climbing, albeit at a much slower pace than before. I don't necessarily think that Suze is wrong though, but only as a broad, general comment.

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