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a little stressed out lately...

January 19th, 2006 at 12:46 pm

...so much so, that I've started wearing my night guard (for my teeth) to bed because I've been clenching my jaw. I catch myself doing it while awake, so no doubt I'm doing it while I sleep, too. My jaw hurts.

So what's all the fuss? Well, we may be moving. The current Boston job market is not kind to J's line of work. Also I am putting out a lot of money for "professional education." Yep, it might be time for me to change careers. Then there are tiny stressors like work issues, some home repair we got done this week, rescheduling appointments...even an upset dog.

I'll post more when I'm happier. Just checking in now.

relatively cheap 3-day weekend ahead

January 13th, 2006 at 09:17 am

I’ve been kind of bad this week about not bringing my lunch. I just haven’t felt like cooking at all, and have been eating pb&j sandwiches and cereal for dinner. (I could live on pb&j.) Good thing we don’t have kids. Wink I’ve only spent $15 this week, at least. Still, I need to start cooking big batches and getting the freezer stocked up for when I have weeks like this. I remember I went through a similar period several months ago, though at the time I wasn’t labeling my freezer containers so sometimes I didn’t know what I was bringing for lunch. Once, what I thought was pureed squash soup turned out to be curry sauce—oops! I started using freezer labels after that.

Not much in the way of plans for this 3-day weekend. Tomorrow, a local charity is coming to pick up some old furniture that’s been hanging out in the basement. I’ve been waiting to get rid of it so that I can give the basement a good cleaning. It will cost $25 to have that furniture picked up.

Then, I’m taking the dog to the vet to get his nails clipped for another $15. I hate paying someone to do it, but not as much as I hate doing it myself. I get so nervous about hurting him that my hands start shaking and I start sweating; meanwhile, he’s trying to pull his paw away with a look on his face like, “You don’t know what you’re doing, lady!” which only makes it worse…

whee--on with the new year

January 12th, 2006 at 09:25 am

Well, it's finally feeling back to normal around here, so I thought I'd check in with an update. It's been a largely no-spend week except for lunch today and yesterday (around $10 total) because I just haven't felt like cooking the last couple of nights. Been a little under the weather; I think I caught a mild version of J's cold.

I've made progress toward my goal of moving 2 months' worth of living expenses to an account with a higher interest rate (leaving one month's worth in our local bank)--the other night I changed my ING account into a joint account and moved $9000 there.

I paid $300 toward my credit card, so the balance is now $6070. I think I'll send in another hundred soon just to get it below $6000, simply for the psychological boost.

not a bad spending week

January 7th, 2006 at 05:07 am

I did pretty well this week--I brought my lunch every day, and spent money mainly on necessities--groceries, gas, $10 dog license fee...my only superfluous spending was a $3.03 latte at Dunkin Donuts, and that was because we'd run out of our favorite coffee at home and I was tired of drinking the other chicory-flavored stuff. Thursday and Friday I didn't spend anything at all.

Now the week BEFORE...I went wild, spending Christmas money. A new electric throw because my darling dog (DD? heh) chewed up the other one, a 3-year subscription to Money Magazine for $29.85 (that seemed like a good deal), a new terry robe, some essential and fragrance oils to make soaps and bath salts, some new makeup/skin care stuff...I don't regret any of it at all, though. I don't always have this kind of guilt-free spending, but this time I felt good about treating myself (especially since someone else footed the bill). Smile

Goals, This and that

January 6th, 2006 at 12:40 pm

I tried out The Grocery Game, but cancelled my membership before the trial ran out. We don't spend that much on groceries to begin with (at most, $50/week), so I don't think we'd get much use out of it, really--I'm only shopping for 2, and I don't buy a lot of convenience foods. Also it relies kind of heavily on Sunday paper coupons, and I don't get the Sunday paper. I can see where it might work out for larger families who DO get a Sunday paper, but I don't think I would have gotten my money's worth. If I need something I buy it, and if I spot something on sale that I can use now or later, I buy it. That works well enough for me.

This is my first attempt at creating goals for 2006. I still need to talk some of them over with J, whereupon they may be tweaked:

Concrete goals:

1) Draw up will or trust
2) Save 3 months of living expenses for a total of $16,500 (currently at $13,134)
3) Move bulk of savings to an account with a higher interest rate
4) Figure out household net worth
5) Change cell phone provider--I want a better deal, so technically it's a financial goal, albeit a small one (nevertheless, I've been putting it off for months)
6) Review insurance policies to ensure best deal

Less concrete goals:

1) Continue learning about investing and personal finance
2) PAY OFF CREDIT CARD DEBT (currently $6370)
3) Continue contributing at least $140/week to 403b

i-bond question for the i-bond queen, baselle!

January 5th, 2006 at 08:52 am

Hi Baselle, and anyone else who might be reading this!

I bought an I-Bond in late October, for $400. The value hasn't changed--that is, I can't see that any interest has been added to it, though I thought it was supposed to be applied monthly. Can you explain why this might be happening. (In other words, is something wrong?)



December 29th, 2005 at 11:04 am

Oh, we are FINALLY home. It was a long 7 days. It was actually a better trip than I imagined it would be--I would even say it was nice--but nothing beats being in your own space again. Only the dog was happier to be home. We sprung him from the kennel last night. Our plane was late, and I called the kennel and asked if we could arrange for an after-hours pickup, and told the owner I'd be happy to pay the fee ($30). However, when we got there she told us not to worry about it--I thought that was really nice. Definitely going to have to send a thank-you note.

I'm feeling a little lazy today; too lazy even to read all of my favorite personal finance blogs which I normally love doing. I've gone to get milk and the mail and cleaned up a little, but that's probably all I'll do today. I go to work tomorrow and then we have a three-day weekend. Maybe by the end of it I'll be back to my normal self and can finalize my 2006 financial goals.

I tried to pay for as much as possible with cash this trip, but I know J put about $600 worth of expenses (hotel, car) on his credit card. Going to have to nag him to pay $600 above what he'd normally put towards the credit card when we do bills.

ING still hadn't closed out my Roth when I checked this a.m., so I called. They said they should be able to close it today. Still feel silly about my mistake, but oh well.

December 20th, 2005 at 03:20 pm

Well, I did something pretty stupid. Remember that Roth IRA I opened? Well, it turns out I'm ineligible for it. Depending on how you file and--if filing married/jointly--how much you and your spouse make combined, you may be ineligible for a Roth. I remember reading that a while back, but I'd forgotten. Also I didn't know for certain how much my husband was making these days. It turns out--and this is a little depressing--he makes four times what I do, and because of how we file, I am ineligible for a Roth, my paltry salary notwithstanding.

Guess my relaxed work atmosphere and 35-hour workweek come at a price.

To be honest, though, I'm a little relieved. I jumped into it without checking it out fully, and I wasn't maxing out my 403b (which would have been almost half my salary!). I think I just liked the idea of having a little batch of tax-free money waiting for me when I retire. Maybe the tax laws will change, or maybe we'll find that we should change how we file anyway for other reasons. I think I'll look into the latter, though I have my doubts we'll do anything differently.

Anyway, I called ING and told them what I'd done. Apparently it happens all the time, which made me feel better. I'm getting the money moved to my savings account. Sadly, however, my Roth account had gone down $10.00. Feh!

Better money day, Money Magazine

December 18th, 2005 at 05:19 pm

I went to Brooks to pick up my beloved KASHI cereal, which was on sale for 2/$5. Good thing I was watching the register, because they rang up at the regular price of $3.49. I was buying some other items, and since I'm not terribly quick with adding things up in my head on the spot, I might not have noticed if I hadn't been paying attention. (A few years ago I probably wouldn't even have thought to pay attention.)

I picked up Money magazine, which wiped out my cereal savings. A new subscription goes for $10/year, and I'm thinking of ordering it after the new year. Several financial bloggers recommend it, and the few times I've read it it's had generally useful info (though I might not use it to pick stocks). Anyone here read it or have anything else to recommend?

I had four no-spend days last week before my spree at CVS yesterday. (At least none of the items were impulse purchases--believe it or not, everything I bought was on a list!) Smile

spent a good deal of money today

December 17th, 2005 at 05:23 pm

...at CVS, of all places. I bought:

*a ceramic straightening iron--sometimes I like to straighten my hair and my old one doesn't get very hot anymore
*little gloves to wear with moisturizer to bed--will probably creep J out
*eyebrow groomers--I have "substantial" eyebrows
*bitter-tasting stuff to put on my nails so I don't bite them--yes, it's a nasty habit; it grosses me out and they're my nails!
*red lipstick--I used to wear it in college, and still sometimes get in the mood for it

I had a $10 coupon, but I still spent a little over $70. Then I went to Starbucks and got a pumpkin spice latte, and an iced latte to bring home to J. Another $7 or so. It's all out of my system now.

good meals for hard times

December 15th, 2005 at 07:50 am

I can't recall who was looking for this book online, but I'd been intrigued by their description and checked it out from the library. I really like it! The author has an amusing writing style, and the recipes are actually pretty creative (especially for the 70s). I made a bean and potato curry dish last night that was good. The nutritional info is a little out of date, and of course the prices she quotes, but I believe most of the recipes are still considered "healthy." I checked online for prices for this book; unfortunately they're still high.

I had three no-spend days in a row this week. This a.m. I had to ship out a box and buy stamps and spent a little over $12. I was going to take my chances with parcel post, but priority was only .70 more.

I'm feeling less irritated by the holiday spending situation. I'm going to make a point of paying for as much of the trip as possible with cash vs. using a credit card. We've already paid for the airline tickets which were the costliest items.

cheap weekend at home

December 12th, 2005 at 08:08 am

We were pretty much holed up at home from Friday on. Friday we got slammed with snow. I shoveled three times and my back still hurts. I try not to use my back but somehow it happens.

It was a spend-little weekend. Saturday I went grocery shopping. That evening I made a baked ziti dish and froze 6 servings of leftovers. We watched a movie from Netflix (Ring 2--I don't recommend it). Sunday I cleaned, and went out only to buy dog food and treat myself to another holiday latte from Starbucks (eggnog flavored, pretty yummy; will try pumpkin spice next).

J's open enrollment ends this Friday. I'm going to push him to get Long Term Disability insurance. I have it, but he's the "breadwinner" so he definitely needs it. Surprisingly enough, the cost of my LTD insurance is .72 per 100 dollars, and his is .28 per 100 dollars, so the difference in what we'll pay per year is less than $100, and I make about a third of what he makes. I had no idea the insurance cost could vary so widely between employers.

Regarding my last entry, Baselle's comment made me think that perhaps Forbes is a "lifestyle" magazine and therefore isn't in the business of giving good financial advice. I'm actually not all that familiar with Forbes, so I don't know if that's the case--it's still scary that some folks might not know the difference, though. Anyway, it reminded me of another financial tidbit I read in Real Simple, a magazine I actually like. Around December of last year, an article advised that a good rule of thumb for holiday spending on GIFTS ALONE* was 1.5% of the GROSS HOUSEHOLD income. I did the math, and laughed uproariously at the result.

*Edit: I searched around online for this advice elsewhere, and see that other folks are recommending the 1.5% gross income figure for TOTAL holiday spending. There's a chance I got it wrong about Real Simple recommending it for gifts alone, but that's honestly how I remember it because it seemed so ridiculous. 1.5% of GROSS income still strikes me as a hefty amount. We're spending a little over that for travel expenses and gifts, and it burns me up.

how to live well--well beyond your means, that is

December 7th, 2005 at 12:38 pm

I found this "special edition" article by Forbes.com really disturbing:


These fictional families drive expensive cars, have two homes, and send their children in private schools--but yet they're not portrayed as living beyond their means, even though they save only 1% of their income. The authors admit that "this may not be the most fiscally prudent way to behave, but it is the norm in this country," but I feel that portraying these folks as "living well" is irresponsible. Especially when the article ends with, "So, are you ahead of the game or are you behind?"

I'm sure there are some people who would read that article and feel they're doing something wrong because they don't live like those families.

not a bad start to the month

December 7th, 2005 at 09:31 am

J did bills before he left for NYC, and we had more money left over than we usually do. It was the same last month. We don't budget--I tend to agree with David Bach that budgets aren't the answer--I think we're just spending less on ourselves lately. It's a nice feeling.

It's almost been a no-spend week; however on Monday I paid the deposit down for our new windows and door ($1400), and yesterday I bought a book from Amazon Marketplace ($12.40, Nice Girls Don't Get Rich). So far, I've brought my lunch every day this week. I'm going grocery shopping tonight so I should be able to manage tomorrow and Friday, too.

I tried making some financial goals but didn't come up with anything earth-shattering. I did realize I likely won't be able to pay off my Chase card ($6550) next year unless we have some sort of windfall. I think I'll try to transfer it to another 0% APR card when my year runs out in March. Sigh...

I'd like to continue putting about $700/month towards retirement, which includes my employer's contribution. Not sure how much I'll contribute to my new Roth.