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Popping In With An Update

February 20th, 2016 at 11:50 am

One of these days I'll be back more regularly.
I have certainly missed you all and want to catch up on everyone's blogs.

The kids and I are doing well. Naturally emotional ups and downs. Financially I have been in a very solid and comfortable position. I'm beyond thankful for that since dealing with everything would be 100 times more difficult if I couldn't make ends meet.

Certainly the children and I would have been better off if there had been some life insurance, but that was not in place. Giving us a financial foothold is the children's monthly death benefits from Social Security.

No benefits for me because I make too much. However, if I ever made less due to reduced hours or job loss I would be able to receive money then.

In other financial news I decided to refinance my house. Refinancing to a conventional loan saves me $114/mo in PMI (FHA loan). I also consolidated the HELOC and my cc debt which saves me several hundred a month in minimum payments.

I was initially resisting the idea of paying off my cc's with my house. But, reducing my amount of outflow every month was the deciding factor.
My new mortgage payment will be $280 more per month than it is currently. I have been paying $315/mo just for the HELOC payment and several hundred more to credit card payoff.

The amount that we receive from SS each month is enough to cover the mortgage and utilities.

My future is a huge question mark.
Who knows how long I'll be living in my current home.
Being able to save a large amount of cash to an EF seems to be the best plan for me right now.

As part of the refi I had to have an appraisal. Housing is ON FIRE here.. It's crazy.
Anyhow, house appraised for $455k!
We purchased it for $265k seven years ago.
It boggles my mind.

Next up working on my taxes...

Y'all take care. I'm looking forward to catching up more soon.

Updates - Painting Rant. Binge Watching TV.

March 8th, 2015 at 09:18 am

Work, home projects and binge watching the past seasons of Downton Abbey and Mad Men have kept me from posting recently.

Work:
On the work front things are going well. It's been pretty busy most days. I've been going through the database deleting old product codes and changing prices.
I told my boss that I'm increasing prices so he can afford to give me a raise. Smile

Home:
I finished painting the pine bookcase for DS's room a few weekends ago. I bought a "tester" quart of blue paint (matching the bunkbed color) for $5 for the outside and used leftover yellow to paint the inside of it. It's colorful. I am pleased with how it turned out. It is great having appropriate storage for the books!

However, it's not all sunshine and puppy kisses here.
I am beyond frustrated with painting the interior doors! I think I am learning more about paint and technique then I ever cared to know.

They are smooth doors with a decorative molded panel. They look like this:



I am too much of a perfectionist to stand any brush marks.

A firm foam roller gave a nice finish to the doors. But I got some areas of "flashing" (That's where the sheen of the paint looks shiner on one roller pass vs. the one next to it).

A professional painting contractor lives around the corner. He recommended Sherwin-Williams paint and a high quality brush.
Tried that yesterday - terrible!
Talked to the Sherwin-Williams guy - we might need a "latex extender" because the paint is drying too fast it's not spreading out to cover the brush strokes.

I think the ideal way would be to use a paint sprayer. But, we don't have one and the cost to buy one is too high. The cheap ones don't have good reviews. We could rent one. It's an option.

Today I am going to try the SW paint with a 4" mohair roller based on some tips I read online.

*SO* frustrating because it is a relatively simple task I'd like to do myself, but we keep spending more money and time and not getting it right.
OK - End Rant.

Binge Watching:
I signed up for the Free 30 day trial of Prime in order to get the quilts for DS's room in two days.

Now I'm using the Prime to watch Downton Abbey seasons 1 thru 3. I started watching last year (season 4) so it has been a treat to binge on all the episodes I haven't seen.

Mad Men I've been DVRing on cable. They have been airing four episodes on Sunday mornings. During the week after everyone has gone to bed I'll watch two episodes one night and two on another. There have been a few nights I watched all four and didn't go to bed until 1:30am! Big Grin

Catching Up - Been Busy with Bedroom Makeover!!

February 12th, 2015 at 02:18 pm

The past few weeks have been so busy for me. Any time I had for the computer was spent updating Quicken, paying bills, shopping for said bedroom or checking email. I did stop in here at SA to read blogs, but I was too tired or pressed for time to post anything.

The project has been clearing out DS's bedroom.
It started with needing to get him a new bed.
He has been sleeping in his crib - converted to toddler daybed, and he is getting too big for that. So I spent a chunk of time shopping for bedroom furniture. After some debate we decided to go the bunk bed route to give us an extra bed for guests. (Visitors currently have the choice of couch or cot.)

I had been searching Craigslist every few days since before Christmas. Saw a few serviceable beds and a whole lot of beds I didn't want. Some beds I saw in stores were so flimsy I was afraid to climb up on them. And some beds I liked were nearly $1800!
Anyway, it was a process. I ended up buying a sturdy bed from a local chain store that cost more than a flimsy bed, but half the price of the Pottery Barn bed that it looks exactly like.
I asked for an early President's Day weekend discount. That saved me the sales tax.
And asked for a discount on the matching chest dresser, which they gave me $50 off. That made me happy I was pushy and asked for a discount.

BUT, before I could have this lovely new big-boy bunk bed delivered I wanted to clean up DS's room.
That morphed into painting a wall yellow (his choice), touching up paint on the other walls, FINALLY painting the room doors, FINALLY painting and installing baseboard and door trim.
I've been doing a lot of painting... darn yellow wall took three coats before it looked right!

But the mess and aching back have been worth it - I am so pleased that one room in my house is 100% trimmed out and clean! Big Grin

The baseboards especially are my favorite. DH's too. We are actually chomping at the bit to do the hallway which has un-painted, un-calked baseboard right now.

I have been using gift cards from the Southwest bonus to purchase the new bedding for the room. That has meant more of my time spent shopping online for just the right things. Smile

There is a light at the end of the tunnel.. the bunk bed is being assembled by the deliveryman right now as I type this!!

New Roof Just In Time For Rain

December 9th, 2014 at 07:20 am

Our new roof was completed the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. And, as it happens, that was also the last stretch of really dry weather. It has been raining on and off since.
Some of the rain was really heavy (so great for us in parched Cali!) and our new roof is keeping us good and dry.

It has been such a HUGE relief to get this big project done, even though we will have more debt, it feels so good to not worry.

I did end up getting two spending bonus reward cards to charge the work to and rake in some quick rewards - I'll post details later.

I did have some concern about the sun tubes after the cautionary comments on my post. I discussed with DH, who had zero concern. Also having them covered in the warranty made me feel more comfortable, so we went ahead.

The tubes have made the hallway so much brighter and larger feeling. Before it was like a long, dark cave. Even with all the overcast days the hallway is brighter then if the light was on, so I am very pleased.




There is a really large storm coming in late Wednesday night and through Thursday. High winds and a predicted 3-5 inches of rain in 24 hours.
Another good "test" for the new roof.

Getting Our New Roof Soon!

November 2nd, 2014 at 02:18 pm

As many of you know our house has needed a new roof pretty much from the time we bought it. We have been limping our old, original-to-the-house roof along by patching spots and last year a tarp over the worst spot.

Well, DH collected estimates from six contractors last month ranging from $9700 to $16600. We chose to go with a company who has been in business in our town for 40 years. DH signed the contract and I selected the shingle color last week.


(I think it is a good mix of brown and grey.)

We also added two 10" round skylights to the job to brighten up our dim hallway.
The contract price is $13,320. *Deep Breath*

We have the HELOC to pay for the job.
DH asked if there was a cash discount and was told "No". Then he asked if there was an additional fee to use a cc and was told "No". So, I will first charge it to a credit card for the points then pay off with the HELOC.
The only thing is any card I use is *only* going to get me 1% ($133). Which beats $0 for sure. But, I am thinking we could easily meet the spending requirements for two or three bonus paying cards.
Maybe the Southwest card and a Sapphire card?
Too ambitious?
Going to have to do a bit of thinking....

Un-Fall Like Weather & The Garden

October 19th, 2014 at 11:37 am

Beautiful weather here. Some hot days in the last two weeks - many around 90F!
It was 78F yesterday and going to be about the same today. This weather makes it perfect to be outside doing just about anything.

Yesterday I pulled the old, dry cornstalks out of the garden. Then DH and DD arranged them in bunches out in front of the house for Halloween decoration.

For me that is the definition of Frugal! Big Grin

I also harvested a zucchini and several tomatoes. All the tomato plants are still producing and the sun is getting those green ones to ripen up nicely.




Here is some earlier garden pictures I had meant to share...

DS helping water.




Some of our bountiful cherry tomato harvest.




I'm thinking about planting a few things for a winter garden, but haven't decided on anything yet.

DH's Birthday. Signed the HELOC Docs. Warm Weather.

October 7th, 2014 at 06:10 pm

Yesterday was DH's 39th birthday. I was going to take him out to a nice dinner, but he decided he'd like to have something simple at home. (Maybe dinner out this weekend.)

The kids got him a cute card. I bought a Groupon for golf ($21) that he and DD can do together.

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We signed the HELOC documents at the title company this afternoon. It is supposed to close by the 14th. Meanwhile, we have several roofing estimates coming in.

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The weather here has been hot the last week. It has felt more like July than October. Our tomato plants are still growing and the green ones are turning red very quickly with all the sun. I have been meaning to post garden pics... maybe next time..
I'm off to watch the baseball playoff game.

Rain. HELOC News. Spending.

September 26th, 2014 at 09:46 pm

We had a little rain early Thursday morning and again this evening. The weather has been very mild for weeks and the rain didn't change that - still mild. Plus the rain makes everything smell so nice and fresh and we can certainly use the moisture.


Our loan officer from the CU left me a voicemail that she was completing the documents today. DH and I will sign early next week and the money will be available by next Friday.
DH has contacted several roofing contractors. Some have come to the house already, but we don't have any written estmates yet. We want to get moving on the roof ASAP.


Re: Spending.

DH's side work profits were used to get the truck's water pump replaced (finally), two new tires and a few other odds & ends replaced (wipers, filters, etc.)
$1451 in auto parts and repair

It is the start of a new 4H year.
Yearly membership dues and two pre-purchase tickets for the large fundraising dinner came to $71.

DD is in the Honor band at school this year. Band camp weekend for $135.

I bought a Groupon for the Pilates studio I used last year for $89/eight classes.

I went kayaking last weekend with a girlfriend. $55 for the all day, 11 mile trip down the river. It was beautiful and relaxing, but....

My back was so tight after kayaking that the following day I had a spasm and threw my lower back "out". Had to see a chiropractor yesterday to pop everything back in place. (Primarily the left side of my pelvis.) I haven't used a chiropractor in over 13 years, but I really needed help.
$45 and worth every penny!

Everything (including $900 to debt payoff!) was paid using side money. WooHoo! Keep it coming! Big Grin

Applied for a HELOC

September 18th, 2014 at 04:56 pm

DH and I discussed the need to get a new roof on the house this year. And the need to not drain the EF completely. The solution that made the most sense was a HELOC (not that we are excited to take on more debt!). Once we decided to go that route we visited our local credit union to get some information. It felt really good to have DH participating in the process and making an educated financial move.

Because our loan to value ratio is very favorable our CU offers a zero cost HELOC. We won't be paying for an appraisal or any document, notary or closing fees.

As far as our home value I found this very interesting:
"We will not need to order an appraisal for this mortgage and will utilize the automated value of $421,400.00."

(That's quite a value - Wow! Wonder how that gets calculated? Zillow has us valued at $391,700.)

I filled out the application online from home. Then a few days later received an email from our loan officer requesting documents - W2s, tax returns, mortgage note, proof of insurance, etc. I submitted all that by fax.
Now we are waiting...

Mower Repair & Pre-Sale Gym Membership

August 17th, 2014 at 03:59 pm

Our lawnmower wouldn't stay running. DH had to take it the repair shop. He picked it up this last week. $146 for a new carburetor. Ouch!
We were told that to prevent this from being a problem in the future we cannot use "cheap gas". (Who knew?)
It was recommended that we only use Chevron Supreme in the mower.
(I hope that helps any other mower owners out there.)

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A new health club is being built in our city. They are running a pre-sale special that has the rates about 50% less than regular.

DH really wants to get back into the gym again. Unfortunately this club doesn't offer racquetball (for the sake of his knees maybe that's not such a bad thing).

The cost for our entire family with the special rate is less than the single member rate at the club we had used previously. And the special rate is locked for the length of the membership. If me or the kids end up not using the club we can suspend the additional memberships (me, DD, DS) and reactivate later still keeping the promo rate. At the minimum we can get DH in there working out a few times per week and squeeze $35/month into the budget. We can cancel anytime without fees, so we felt like there wasn't any risk to giving it a try.

Housing Market - Bubble 2.0?

August 5th, 2014 at 06:22 pm

I enjoy looking at the real estate market for our area. The prices here have been climbing and the time houses are on the market has been getting shorter. It's a hot market right now.

I haven't seen a single family home available for less than $300k in awhile. Most condos are in the $200k to $350k range.

Average days on market is about a month.

A house on our street was getting cleaned up all last month. I was waiting to see if it was going up for sale. Well, it was listed on July 29th and it is in contract already. In fact, I saw a home inspection truck in the driveway today. WOW! That was fast!
I am really interested to see what the final price is when it sells.


Here are some interesting snips I thought would be good to share:


This is our home's value per Zillow's estimate.



Here is a recently sold home near us with the same square footage. (I think the 4th bedroom is in the garage.)



This is a fun one.
40 years = 2000% increase in value!



Okay, this house has an interesting price history.
It looks to me that maybe the owner cashed out some equity because it went to foreclosure.
Then it was bought at auction. And they turned right around and sold it for $109,600 more.
I saw the pictures - it was not fixed up at all. Just average house/neighborhood!




This one is a good snapshot of how the prices are nearly the same as the "bubble" prices of 2005/2006.
You can see here the "bubble" was building - look at the nearly 40% price increase from 2004 to 2005.



Any interesting things going on with RE in your area?


Last Day of July!

July 31st, 2014 at 04:04 pm

Sunset view from the side of the house (DS's bedroom window).



My phone does a good job with pictures, but this doesn't quite convey all the shades of color there was in the sky. Hope you all enjoy anyway. Smile

In other news, the bonus points have posted for my Wells Fargo Propel card. Yay!

Unfortunately, their system is down, so I can't redeem right now. *Shucks!*

Post Fourth of July Post

July 6th, 2014 at 09:53 am

We had a busy week here. DH and I decided we would host a BBQ for a few families. I think it has been three years since we invited more than just our family over for a meal - ha!

DD was away all week at 4H camp (which was the BEST ever! Big Grin)
DH and I had to pick up her chores as well as work on getting the house and yard ship-shape. I also had to pick her up from camp Friday midday. So we worked on party preparation a little bit every day of the week. I squeezed shopping for food and supplies on Tuesday afternoon - my half day of work.
We made it a potluck, so that saved some money. I didn't feel embarrassed about asking and everyone was happy to bring something.

Party supplies were:
$ 2 - red plastic tablecloth
$ 3 - blue star paper dinner plates
$ 2 - blue napkins
$ 3 - plastic cups
$ 3 - plastic shot cups
$ 1 - glow-n-the-dark bracelets
$16 - kiddy pool
$ 3 - sidewalk chalk
The last two items are for DS to use all summer. If we are gentle the pool should make it for next summer too.
Total: $33

As far as food goes I wanted to make kabobs. We have never made them before even though I have wanted to many times. I bought 36 boneless/skinless chicken thighs at $2.50/lb. I used fresh zucchini out of our garden on the skewers also.

Food spending:
$23 - chicken thighs
$14 - Kabob produce (bell peppers, onions & pineapple)
$38 - (2) six packs of beer, (2) bottles champagne, (2) bottles sparkling juice
$ 3 - bamboo skewers
$16 - Avocados for guacamole
$ 2 - Tortilla chips
$16 - Huge watermelon
$ 3 - Whole Pineapple
$ 8 - Strawberries & Raspberries
$ 6 - Ice
$ 3 - lime jello
Almost all the fruit/veggies were organic.
Total: $132

The kabobs were a hit. Smile
I even had a few extras that I threw in the freezer - maybe dinner next weekend?

DH crafted a watermelon "basket" filled with the fruit. I should have taken a picture (I think he did) it looked great.

His guacamole was a huge hit as usual.

I had the idea to make jello shots. I saw this really cute idea to make red, white & blue layered jello cups. Well that gave me the idea to make jello shots. And then the idea to make Margarita jello shots.
(Let me say I have only had jello shots once before and I have never made them.)
They turned out really good! I will make them again as they were such a fun little adult item to have. Smile

DH and DD hit the fireworks stand and bought $25 in fireworks.

We all watched our city's fireworks from our house. It is nice to not have to drive anywhere.

It was a really enjoyable party. I would like to do it more often than once every few years. It's one of those things where you keep asking "Why am I doing all this?" and then you have such a good time you feel like "I am so glad we did this!" Smile

Hot Weekend & Other Stuff

June 8th, 2014 at 05:12 pm

Having a heat wave this weekend.
Today it got to a high of 94F.

DD has two friends staying over the weekend. I think they were all up until 3am last night. They were pretty quiet so I'm not sure exactly when they fell asleep.

DH took DS and the three girls to one of the city pools (very near the house) for the afternoon. That left me home alone to work on laundry and housework. (Oh Joy - lol - actually I like it better when I can be alone to get things done)

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Received an alert that someone used our Ting referral code. Yay!
We've had a couple the past few months. Big Grin
Thank you to all of you who have used my link!

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This past week some of DD's bees swarmed.
That means because the colony is doing well they outgrew the hive, so some of the bees volunteer to "move out" and make a new hive somewhere else.

As a beekeeper you try to stay ahead of the bees growth by adding additional boxes to the hive for them to fill. We had an empty box ready, but hadn't added it. Just wasn't thinking about it with all the busy end-of-the-school-year stuff going. Little bummed about that.

If we find the bees nearby DD and her project leaders might be able to recapture the bees and start a second hive. *fingers crossed*

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Big battle episode tonight on Game of Thrones - Can't wait!

Enjoy the rest of your Sunday everyone.

Saving Money By Having a Pro Do Half

March 29th, 2014 at 10:29 am

We have had two large trees that we wanted removed from our yard. One in the front yard and one in the backyard. I previously mentioned that we planned to use some of the tax refund to pay for this project.

My dad is a timber faller. His whole life (nearly) has been spent in the woods. He has primarily worked forest fires falling burned trees and for road building companies clearing road space.

My dad is saving us money by falling the trees. Then he and DH will cut the large stuff into rounds that we'll be able to burn in our fireplace next winter. Big Grin

My dad insisted he'd do the whole thing - he has the equipment to do it. This would involve dad climbing the trees and cutting them down in pieces as they are too large and near houses/fences to cut down whole. But, he is much older now then the last time he climbed into a tree. Not worth it to me for him to take risks like that! I vetoed that plan.

DH and I hired a local tree company to limb and top the trees. Having the company only do part of the job cost much less than having them do the whole job.
A difference between $2600 (estimated by one company for the whole job) verses the $550 we paid!

This will make the part my dad does much easier for him and less stressful for me. We are still saving a huge amount by *only* paying $550 to remove two large trees. And we will have firewood for next winter that will help reduce winter heating costs. Maybe saving $200+ over the course of the winter?

Good Morning! Recent Spending.

January 13th, 2014 at 07:13 am

Sunrise from the backyard.



DD had her annual eye exam, $64. She needed new glasses and frames. (I glued her frames several times in the past several months. No option to reuse those!)
She ended up liking a pair at Lenscrafters again. She also really wanted to get the new ones right away and LC made them for her in an hour. They give 50% for children 12 and under, so I told DD this is likely the last year we will go there. We paid $249.50.

She is going to a weekend 4H leadership convention in a few weeks. It is pretty large; delegates from clubs in all the northern California counties. I am excited for her to have these types of opportunities. The total cost for the weekend was $140. (Paid half months ago when we turned in her application.)

Last Monday I earned my usual $80 for administering fluids to an elderly kitty. I gave DD $20 for her afterschool bus fare for the month.

Side work Total: $60

Cost of the Plumber. Dry Fall Weather.

November 24th, 2013 at 11:10 pm

I realized I never finished recounting our plumbing tale.

The plumber came on Tuesday evening. (During our only rainstorm we've had in two months.)
He had to get on the roof to rotor through the vent. He didn't find any major clogs - guess the Drano had done all the work by that point. He did clear out a few small roots and discussed with DH some sort of relief pipe that would prevent backups into the house. We paid $150.

So, yes, we ended up getting a bit of rain last week. It was very nice. We really need more - so dry here!

The majority of days in the past 6-9 weeks have been sunny and mild.
It is hard to think of December when it feels like spring.
Cold overnight and in the mornings so the furnace has been running.

We've had a few nights with a fire in the fireplace. Burning chunks of the old shed from the backyard makes the house cozy with free heat. Big Grin

I took this picture two weeks ago of the trees by my parking lot at work. Gorgeous fall colors.
However, after the rain we had big wind for two days. These trees are totally naked now.

Never a Dull Moment - Plumbing Issues

November 18th, 2013 at 10:33 pm

Picture a cozy Sunday evening at Looking Forward's house. Dinner all done. Fire blazing in the fireplace. Dishwasher washing. Load of clothes in the washer. DS in the bathtub. Shower running.
And then... the shower isn't draining. Neither is the bathtub. The kitchen sink is filling up...

GAH!!!

Thankfully DH is handy. He opened the "cleanout" and flushed it with the garden hose with some success.

I ran to Target in my PJs and picked up two big jugs of Drano. Laughing a bit to myself that I might look like someone trying to cover up a crime.
(Maybe I watch too much violent TV??)

After DH's flushing and the Drano treatment things are better - functional. Smile

Since DH is in the trades he is having a plumber he is familiar with come tomorrow afternoon to do a more through cleanout. Like a rooter service. I think we might have an issue with tree roots, but we'll see what the plumber says.

It is very likely he will give us a discount, but it still could be $100 to $200.

Thankful for an EF at times like this.

Heat Wave!

July 1st, 2013 at 08:48 pm

Uncharacteristically hot weather here this past weekend and more to come this week.
(The whole west coast is in a heat wave.)

It registered 101F on our gauge Saturday. The hottest it's ever been since we moved into this house. Sunday and today were 93F. The weather forecast says it's going to be near 100F tomorrow.
All this heat means we are using our AC much more than regular. Frown

My treat to beat the heat has been a few stops at BK for their $0.50 cones. I treated DD and DS on Sunday morning while running errands.
The cones were huge - great value. Big Grin

Thankfully by this coming weekend it's supposed to be back to the usual 80F - 85F summer weather. Then we won't need to run the AC, but I think we'll keep getting the cones. Wink


Interesting Real Estate Activity Here

May 22nd, 2013 at 03:04 pm

Housing in our area has been trending upward. But, the past month or so it has been getting a bit crazy. For example, the Zillow value on our house has risen $13k in the last 30 days.

Today, one of our clients came in with his dog and was telling us about their up-coming move. He and his wife are retired and are moving to So. Oregon closer to some of the wife's family and downsizing their living space. They put their current home on the market and seven days later they had five offers.
$5k below asking.
Asking price.
$5k above asking.
$15k above asking.
$50k above asking.

No, not a typo, really $50k ABOVE asking price. Obviously they chose that offer. He said these buyers had been outbid on several other homes and they were determined not to lose another house!

Um, Wow!!
It's going to be an interesting summer for house values.

Updates

April 27th, 2013 at 05:04 pm

The days have just been flying by here. We have been having beautiful weather and the seeds we planted in the garden two weeks ago have sprouted up. When they get a bit taller I will take a picture to share.

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The chicks are much bigger now. They have almost all their feathers so no more fluffy downy fuzz. We let them out in the backyard every afternoon and they are so fun to watch. Once they are a little larger I will move the dog crate that is their home out to the coop and they can start acclimating to nights outside.

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I received two more referrals on my Ting account - $50 more credit. Big Grin
A big Thank You to the folks using my referral code (if youíre reading this.)
I am so very happy I switched to Ting. Great service and excellent value.

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Last week I changed my withholdings from 2 to 4 so I could squeeze a little more money into my weekly paycheck.

Then this past Wednesday my boss gave us each a brief review and a $1/hour raise. Big Grin Yay!

Now Iím worried with the raise I might not be withholding enough. What I will do is give it a few months then do a year-end-mock-up and see where we stand tax wise.

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The plan for this weekend is relax, relax, relax. Our calendar is full for the next two weeks once May starts, so we've got to rest up.

We plan to have BBQ dinners tonight and tomorrow, so no "real" cooking to do and I love BBQ'd food. Smile

My Day Off?? This & That

April 11th, 2013 at 02:27 pm

I have the day off today. My boss is out of town so he opted to just have the office closed.
I am happy to have a day to do what I want, but it doesn't feel long enough. Smile

I started by going to the grocery store this morning after dropping DD off at school. It was $176.
The total before discounts was $250, so I saved 30% which is what I average in savings when I grocery shop. I feel like that is typical, but maybe not. I could do better by using more coupons.
What percentage do you save on average?

After putting all the groceries away and clearing out the freezer (with DS's help) we worked in the garden.

We have four raised beds. I plant in two of them and DD and DH each have one of their own. This morning I "turned" the dirt in my beds and planted sugar-snap peas, purple carrots, spinach and a purple bell pepper in one box. The second box got a tomato plant, crookneck squash, two zucchini and a lemon cucumber.

The chicks are at least three times bigger than when we brought them home, but are still tiny compared to our adult hens. The chicks are still living in our bathroom. This weekend I think it will be time to move them to the more spacious dog crate. The crate will be in either DD's bedroom or in the livingroom.

Later this afternoon DH and I are meeting with a health insurance salesman about HSAs. The salesman is someone who is in DH's boss' business networking group. I am kinda *meh* about the whole thing. It is good to get information and I really like that my DH is making the effort to learn about financial things. Still, I'd rather be doing something else this afternoon.

Afterwards, DD must finish her final draft of her big report assignment.

Then a 4H meeting.

Then I can relax???

We Have Bees!!

April 7th, 2013 at 12:35 pm

DD's 4H beekeeping leader (EM) captured a swarm last weekend.

DD set up her box and EM brought the bees to our house yesterday. We are all excited. Honeybees are so cool. Just amazing when you learn about what they do and how the live.


DD's 4H experiences have been so wonderful this year. It is such a great way to nurture a child's interests without spending a bunch of money. I also feel like it's a great place for social interactions. She gets to spend time with other kids near her age, with similar intrests, but not in a school setting. Actually, there isn't anyone in this particular club that goes to DD's school. I think that takes some of the "social pressure" off a bit.

The boxes, complete with frames and tops, a smoker, hive tool, frame grabber and feeder were all given to DD for free because they were donated to the 4H project.
To buy these items as a package would be about $185.

The bee leader, EM, is a sweetheart of a lady. Completely volunteering all this time to educate and suport the kids. She collects unwanted swarms to populate the hives so nobody has to buy bees.
A queen can sell for $25-$30. A group of bees like ours could cost $170.

We did buy DD a veil, a board for the box and some wax foundation for the frames. To get her started we spent $40 vs. the near $400. Big Grin

Here is the queen. She is the larger, pretty golden colored one. The golden color is special. EM told us she is the prettiest queen she has seen in many years. EM also believes she is a young queen so we might have her for five years or so.




I am enjoying going out to the backyard and watching the activity going in and out of the box. Smile

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Speaking of 4H: Yesterday morning DD's cooking goup had a field trip to see a local ice cream shop make ice cream. Really a lovely, locally owned shop in our historic downtown. Everyone got free ice cream. I was naughty and tried an Affogato (not free).
The Affogato is two scoops of icecream topped with two shots of espresso in a latte mug. OMGosh!! SO amazing. Obviously you must love coffee - which I do! It might be my new favorite dessert.

New Roof = More Debt??

April 4th, 2013 at 04:41 pm

This morning I woke to the pleasant sounds of rain, but the very unpleasant patter from the drip inside our bedroom. Frown

The temporary patch job DH did held up for almost the entire rainy season. The weather forecasters claim this is the last big storm, but I can't say I trust them even more than 50%. At present we only have the one leaky spot, but this roof has got to be replaced.

In an earlier post I wrote about DH getting together with some of his buddies and doing the job himself. There would be the cost of the materials and the fees at the dump to haul all the debris away. I am not yet sure what the materials would even be because we haven't started to get pricing. If you read my other post I said our plan was to use the fifth payday in May to buy materials. If the materials cost more than that we are going to have to use the credit card to make up the difference.

This morning I was up early and it gave me some time to reflect on this major replacement that our house needs. It's going to be a big job. Demo of the existing roof will probably take one day if not a weekend. The new roof will likely take more than a day or two, but that will be easier, cleaner work.
The way I figure it my DH is looking at two solid weekends on the roof. I think he thinks he is up for it, but I need to be sure he is really committed to wanting to do it. I am not concerned about the quality of the job, but with how much time it would take. If we did it this way it certainly would be the cheapest option. (Option A)

Because this is getting to be a MUST DO item and I can't see us putting it off much longer I am liking the idea of hiring out. Just get it done and over - Period. Much less stress on DH (and marital bliss) to go this route, but more expense (roughly $6500).
Two thoughts I had this morning were:
Option B: HELOC. Lower interest rate and I think we'd get one, but have never checked into it, so??
Option C: CC. I hate this, but it's an option.

Bottom line is DH and I have got to do some material price shopping and some serious discussion. There is not an easy solution with this one.

Warm Days. Bounced Payroll Check.

March 13th, 2013 at 06:41 pm

It was 78F here today. Tomorrow is supposed to be 80F. Wow!

Both DH and I were off work early today. He has been busy, busy working outside. He is widening our driveway by about 18" using free cement he got from a job. He's been moving dirt and using it to fill dips and uneven spots in the lawn.

I think we might start our garden early this year. Maybe as soon as next weekend even.

We also are planning to pick out some baby chicks soon. New laying hens to "freshen" our flock. Smile

------
Now the not so sunny part:

My co-worker's payroll check bounced. Our boss told her this morning that it had been returned. He told her he will pay all the fees associated of course, but the hassle? Blah! She was so upset. Frown

He can't give her the money until tomorrow...

Just to further prove our boss totally sucks with his money.

It would be different if they were scraping by at home. That isn't the case. There are cell phones, premium cable, gym memberships, ice skating lessons, ski weekends and on and on...
The business gets treated like an ATM.

I have had many conversations with him saying how when times get tight you have to cut out the non-essentials.

Why would that be so hard?

A big reason (or maybe the whole reason) is both he and his DW don't want to "deprive" their children of anything (the "kids" are 24, 22, 20 now). Add to that a healthy dose of "we-make-plenty-of-money" keeping up with the Joneses mindset.

Very frustrating.
Plus worrisome when it gets so bad it affects payroll.

Utilities

March 6th, 2013 at 08:56 pm

Lost this post the first time, so here is a less detailed post.

We received a $13 credit by reducing our gas usage compared to last year. Smile
DH turned our water heater down. But the savings might also be because we didn't host Christmas (see below).

Our natural gas doesn't really cost us all that much considering we have gas water heater, stove/oven and furnace. In winter it's about $2 per day up to $5 on some weekend days. In the summer our gas costs us $0.25 per day.

Electricity is pretty steady throughout the year except for the hot days in the summer when we run the AC.

Our water bill was 65% lower this December-January compared with last year. That is about 4400 gallons of water less and over $20 in savings. I figure it is because we didn't host Christmas this year. No extra people in the house and no extra dishwasher loads. Our bill (water & sewer) runs about $85/month on average.

Garbage is $43 every three months.

Cell phones are $16/mo for me (Ting) and $85/mo for DH (Sprint).

Internet/Home Phone/Cable runs us $150/mo.

House Values

March 3rd, 2013 at 02:50 pm

The market is pretty strong in my county right now. I started looking at houses and prices about two weeks ago. A friend is house shopping and my co-worker and I have been perusing the listings. It's been interesting because prices are climbing steadily and inventory is tight. If a house is nice and priced right it isn't for sale long.

I looked at my neighborhood (about a five block radius) and in the past four months there have been four sales all about $300k. Currently there is a house listed for $325k one street over from ours. It is a slightly smaller house, smaller lot and only a single car garage.

Zillow has our house estimated at $285k. If comparable houses are selling at $300k I think it is more reasonable to say our market value is $300k. It's rather exciting to gain value even when it really doesn't matter for us right now.

There are still plenty of foreclosures. I know some people just walked away because they didn't *want* to pay the inflated mortgage when the house lost value. Of course there are also people who couldn't afford such a huge payment anymore. At the height of the bubble our house sold for $506k.

Is the market gaining steam in your area too?

Good Roof News (I Hope)

February 21st, 2013 at 03:51 pm

Our roof needs to be replaced. It is original to the house which was built in 1955. We have gotten a few estimates and they have all averaged about $6500. We've had to limp our current roof along with patch jobs and last month a tarp across a particularly bad spot. I have focused our extra money on debt pay down and not making much of a plan for the roof. If DH had a large side job or two he could make enough to pay for it in cash, but he hasn't had any large jobs for awhile.

(Back story: About two years ago he had a big job and used the profit to buy a motorcycle. Made me so very angry that he chose that over the roof! Now he has been having to live with the results of that choice. At this point I hope he has learned from this. (I don't even want to talk about - sure way to start a fight.) When it comes to money he really needs to "grow-up". He has got to realize he can't buy every toy or thing he *wants*.)

I know because of these events surrounding the roof I am happy to *dump* the problem on DH and let him worry about it. I feel like I am saying "Yeah Honey it could've been done already, but you made your bed now lay in it." Without verbally saying anything.

Alright, on the real reason for the post.

About two weeks ago DH and I were talking about the plans for the "extra paycheck" months. He told me that he thinks he is just going to have to replace the roof himself. He has had offers from a few friends to help him do it. Some with prior experience and others just handy, so he wouldn't be doing it completely alone.

Then last weekend he was helping a buddy out with his furnace and the roof subject came up. This friend, B, replaced our windows a few years back and has general contracting experience. He told DH he has all the tools needed for roof replacement and has done it a few times. They discussed trading services; HVAC work for roofing work.

What this all boils down to is that we would buy materials and labor would cost us beer and pizza for 4 or 5 guys over a weekend or two.

This could be very good. Maybe it can all come together this summer.

Turned the Heat ON Today

October 21st, 2012 at 05:44 pm

I had to turn the heat on this morning. My mom was here visiting and she and DD slept in our living room. This morning it was 61F in the front rooms and my mom really doesn't like the cold. (I am not about to freeze my beloved mommy. Smile )

The furnace only cycled a few times this morning and then I turned it back off. We had another beautiful, sunny day, but not nearly as warm as it had been getting this past week. A few days back it was in the upper 70s to the low 80s. Today it might have gotten to 70F.. maybe.

Tonight I am baking a pasta dish in the oven. Again, using the oven for the dual purpose of cooking and heating. I don't plan to have the heat on overnight or use it tomorrow morning. It might rain tomorrow night, if so we will have the heat back on.

Dream Homes

September 4th, 2012 at 10:36 pm

Non-Frugal Post.

I am sure we all have a *dream home*.
Mine is a large, open layout house with a wraparound porch. I have always loved the log house look so that would be a plus. One story or two story; as long as everything I wanted was there. Preferably a four or five bedroom. Maybe a three bedroom, but with a little guest cottage so when visitors stayed there would be plenty of space.

Our dream home would be on at least 3 acres of property. I would love to have a barn and a covered arena. Garden space and a manicured lawn area. Maybe a pool, hot tub and/or sauna.

Well, every so often I get to looking at places for sale in my area. Usually, I start by looking at recently sold places comparable to our house just to get an idea of our home's worth. Then I can't help but start looking at current For Sale homes.

My recent search yielded a few *Dream Home* candidates.

This house is 3800sf on 4.25 acres with a barn, guest house and garden.




The list price is $1.5 million.

How in the world can I buy it? Suggestions? Big Grin

I saw a few others, but this one so far was my favorite and the most expensive, of course, lol.

What is your *Dream Home*?


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