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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:

Text is https://www.edx.org/course/utaustinx/utaustinx-ut-8-01x-jazz-appreciation-1149 and Link is
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)

Whew!

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:

Text is https://www.smartypig.com/ and Link is
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:
Text is https://www.smartypig.com/how-it-works/retailer-offers/retailer-gift-cards and Link is
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.