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Archive for August, 2005

**it has hit the fan

September 1st, 2005 at 04:55 am

Well I spoke too soon regarding sister and the bank executor. The bank executors are going to send us each letters describing what they are going to do and how much they're charging for the pleasure. According to sis (who hates them, so not an objective source), they want to charge 4% of the gross estate instead of 2% due to added complexity and environmental issues. I'm thinking its to offset the extra gas its gonna take to drive those 8 miles from the bank to the farm. Actually, since it is real estate and farm stuff and I know about 3 environmental issues already, I would believe and buy off on the 4%.

What worries me is that sister was telling me about an inheritance tax that kicks in for estates above $650,000. I'll have to ask for clarification - simple searches on the Wisc Dept of Revenue list in big letters - No Inheritance Tax since 1991. I guess its time to gird the loins and whip up another brilliant innocent letter...gee, I don't understand, from my research neither WI nor the Feds is levying an inheritance tax.... Smile Wish me luck!

Spending log - 1.65 coffee + 7.00 lunch + 3.00 bubble tea

Saving log - 4.00 tip box

Zero balance checking

August 31st, 2005 at 04:46 am

Spending log - $1.65 coffee + $6.00 lunch + $2.50 snack

Saving log - $6.00 tip box

Well tomorrow's payday, and I've bottomed out at $50 in the checking account. It's a little low - I like to bottom out at about $90-$100 at the end of the month. I had an exBF that aimed for what he called "$0 balance checking" at the end of the month. Musta worked for a company with a perfect HR department that never, never ever gets your paycheck wrong! Of course at the time I argued that I, too, practiced $0 balance checking because my $100 cushion never changed. I only had to do the $100 balance checking once, then $0 thereafter. HA.

I don't have cable, so I'm following what's going on in the southeast over the web. I see the same things happening there on a much, much larger scale than what I experienced. If the parallels hold, the most ironic thing was that 2 or 3 days after the hurricane, skies will be as blue and the air will be as clear as can be. In other words, all of NO's airborne dust, sand, and the free Mardi gras beads are all in Tennessee by now.

Cheapest gas at the cheapest stations in Seattle is $2.75. I see a fair number of new faces on the bus and less entertaining behavior. Not all is bright in mass transit paradise, though. The bus stop I normally use is on a piece of street that's sinking and has to be replaced. Its going to be out of commission for a year. The best part about that stop was that all three bus lines that stopped there I could take downtown. The stop that replaced it and all the other ones within a block of it -- only two lines in different combinations. I've missed more buses in the last week than I have in a year. Grrrr.

Steady as she goes

August 30th, 2005 at 04:10 am

Not much on any economic front -

Bought this month's $500 savings bond. Next month will be only $300, to allow me to throw the spare $200 against the credit card. Nothing on the savings bond manifest front, but it only has been three business days and it has to get to AK from WA.

DH put in several calls to the landlord regarding the toilet. An email, then one more day and then its the tenant's union.

This last weekend, sister got through cleaning most of the basement and has a good start on the attic. She had to pitch a lot of water-damaged baby clothes. Its not like they would fit us anyway. Smile There is a hole in the front of the house that's going to be filled in. The bank (our executor) made formal contact with her. She didn't tell me anything more and in this case, I'm taking no news as good news.

Two more days until the next paycheck.

Spending log - 1.65 coffee + 7.00 lunch

Saving log - 4.00 tip box

Plumbing and Katrina

August 29th, 2005 at 02:10 am

Last night the toilet broke -- landlord time! The shutoff value is busted, so when the back of the toilet recharges its water it keeps going, and water goes into the overflow valve into the bowl and keeps going and going, overflowing the bowl. So the drill is: water is now turned off to the toilet, use the toilet, flush, then lift up the cover on the back, turn on the water, watch it recharge until it gets to the level its supposed to, then turn off the water to the toilet. We don't have kids so its inconvenient but if the landlord doesn't respond in a couple of days its time to hit up the Seattle tenants union.

Of course this plumbing problem is nothing compared to anyone in New Orleans facing hurricane Katrina. I'm not a religious person, but I'm praying for the best. In 1996, we were in Raleigh, North Carolina and rode out hurricane Fran. Raleigh's inland and is actually one of the places that the Outer Banks folks evacuate to, but that time the eye of Fran passed over Raleigh. Fran was a category 3.

The hurricane actually wasn't the worse part, it was the aftermath. Thousands of trees were down, there was flooding in low lying areas, the big mall was flooded in three feet of water, no gas to be had because the pumps needed electricity to operate, little or no fresh water. It took some neighborhoods in Raleigh 3 weeks to get power because the utility cables were buried underground. When an uprooted tree snapped those cables, the power company had to dig to find the break. People didn't get back to work for weeks. If you were living from paycheck to paycheck (like I was), it was a catastrophe.

The twin habits of frugality and kindness really, really come into their own in times like that. Good luck and God bless you, New Orleans.

Produce Sale

August 28th, 2005 at 03:53 am

Yippee! One of my grocery stores had a 12 hour produce sale today. Nice. Except for the fact that it is soooo easy to overbuy for just the two of us, so a little strategy is in order.

Got 4 peaches at a good Seattle price, but I always try to buy them a bit under-ripe so I can eat them over the week.
I've overbought tomatoes, so it might well be raw tomatoes for a couple of days and then dress up tomato soup with chopped tomatoes and a little bit of cream. 1 lb of green beans. Terrific price, but they always sell them too wet. They shouldn't be dry, but if the mist drenches them and then you throw them in the refrigerator, its a mold colony waiting to happen.

And there's the problem of what to do with middle aged vegetables. They're not fresh, but they're way too good to pitch. I've got a whole head of cauliflower like that, so tonight I roasted the cauliflower and drenched it in homemade lemon tahini sauce. (Lemon tahini sauce in the summer, bechamel in the winter!)

Spending log - 1.75 coffee + 5.00 lunch + 16.70 groceries (produce, salad dressing, cheese)
Saving log - 0

Dear Ann Lander$

August 27th, 2005 at 04:22 am

Damn, me and my big mouth. All because I asked an intelligent question during that darn lunch and learn. Now I've become the de facto financial advisor of the office. At lunch I was asked my opinions about various financial problems people had who all make way more money than I do. Not that I don't care, but cripes, it ain't easy being frugal.

I think I'm gonna charge big for advice. Smile

Spending log:
Coffee - 1.65 + Lunch - 10.00

Saving log:
$1

Tip box

August 26th, 2005 at 03:40 am

Spending log:
coffee - $1.65 + lunch - $4 + bubble tea - 3$

Saving log:
Tip box - 5$

I collected my squeezings from the tip box and deposited it into the bank. I do this monthly. $45 this month. Average - it ranges from $40 to $53, but I had a lot on my mind. My savings account in my bank is a bit like the lobby - a holding area for when I decide where I want to put my savings - ING, bond, or DRP. It earns a laughable amount of interest.

Mailed the bond manifest yesterday. Now I can bite my knuckle.

403(b)

August 25th, 2005 at 05:21 am

Spending log:
Coffee - $1.65 + Lunch - $6.50

Saving log:
Tip box - $3

We have a lunch and learn at work - and today it was about our 403(b). We are lucky in 403(b) land in that we get a 3% match if we put in 6%. The choices are "okay". If I sound a little bitter, its because I'm of two minds. We used to have the choice of Vanguard fees, where the fees were about 0.2%. Right now we have Merrill Lynch-esque ones which are ranging between 0.7% - 2.0%. Bleegh! I put in 12% - I'm debating whether to drop it back down to 6%, get the match, and start an IRA (or a Roth IRA) back with Vanguard.

And then I have TIAA CREF money, where the fees are around 0.3%. A couple of people were asking about how to transfer into our funds. Yikes! I was going to ask if I can transfer *out* of them. Smile

The presentation was the same ol' same ol'. Put money in and let us manage it or else you're gonna live to be 100, but eating cat food for the last 20. Smile Not that I don't agree with that possibility, but frankly, just telling us everything's gonna be alright if you save at least 10% and forget it while we (*&% with you ... nope. I wasn't born yesterday.

Bond, US Bond

August 24th, 2005 at 05:43 am

I got my 50$ back - both the bank and the transfer agent were wrong. 35, not 85. Then again, how hard could the research be? I have crappy handwriting - but not bad enough to convert a "TH" into an "EI" on the check.

Sister mailed me the paper savings bond with my name on it. Its a EE with 7-1991 issue date. I'm in the process of converting the paper bond into an online one because its way easier to redeem them (don't have to find the oldest bank teller and hope that you don't get a confused look). So far, its pretty straightforward.
You have to get an invite to convert your bond - I sent an email for how to ask for one, and I was sent one.
With the bond in your hot little hand, you register your bond - name, issue date, type, serial number, etc.
You make a manifest, listing out the bonds you've registered. You sign the manifest instead of the back of your bond.
You mail the bond and the manifest to the US Treasury.
You cross your fingers... Smile And you watch from your account its progress.

Spending log:
Coffee - 1.65 + lunch - $5.00 + drugstore - $6.00

Savings log:
Tip box - $2.00

Whew!

August 23rd, 2005 at 04:34 am

The farm is fine. Sister tells me that she had made a lot of headway on the upstairs of the house, but that the attic is going to be a barrel of laughs.

Wrestling with my bank and the transfer agent for one of my DRPs. They both claim I wrote a check for 85, not 35. We shall see about that!

Spending log:
1.65 for coffee + 7.50 for lunch

Saving log:
8$ in the tip box

Credit report finally clear

August 22nd, 2005 at 02:56 am

Folks on the west coast could start getting their free credit reports from the three credit bureaus on Dec. 1. Based on thinking about buying a house (I didn't - too expensive for the value you get), I had my report pulled over a year ago. Looking at them all three were riddled with minor mistakes, so setting them straight was a good little project.

Since my score was good, I wanted to monitor and protect my report, so I pulled a different bureau's report every four months. That way, if I lost my credit card or had my identity stolen I could pick it up in four months instead of years. I looked at Equifax's and fixed the employment history in Dec., Trans Union's had a nine year old tax lien that should have fallen off and I fixed that on Mar. I looked at Experian's last night. All clear!

That was so nice - it wasn't always the case. About ten years ago I was in sad financial shape - unemployed and took unemployment compensation. I got caught because no taxes were taken out. I paid the IRS, but not the AZ state income tax, which promptly slapped a tax lien on me even when I moved to NC. A year later I paid it off, and the fact that I paid it also went on my report. Did I get brownie points for that? Nope. Frown If anything, the record that I paid for it reminded everybody that had this in the first place. Grrr.

Tornado!

August 21st, 2005 at 02:41 am

There was a super-cell of tornado activity in Wisconsin Thursday. 18 of them throughout the late morning and early afternoon. Looking at the map and the list of counties where the tornadoes hit, the activity was mostly far to the south and west of the farm. Sister figures that if anything, probably fallen branches. A couple of dad's friends in contact w/sis had mowed the lawn - if there was damage, they'd tell her. The farmhouse is shrouded in large trees, though. Plenty of possibility for minor damage, so sis is going out to investigate.

In honor of our family, a recipe for a frugal summer supper - open faced cheese, tomato and bacon sandwiches.

1. Set oven rack as high as you can, turn oven on to Broil.
2. Get out a clean, dry cookie sheet.
3. Lightly toast 6 pieces of bread, and set them singly on cookie sheet.
4. Set on each piece of toast one slice cheddar (or American) cheese.
5. Slice fresh, ripe slicing tomatoes into 1/4 in slices, thicker if you'd like. Put tomato slices onto cheese.
6. Cut raw bacon in half at its width so they fit on the bread. Break toothpicks in half.
7. Toothpick raw bacon firmly on top of the tomato. Plant the toothpicks deep; they have a tendancy to pop out if they're loose.
8. Broil until done. They don't take long; you want to prop up the door to watch and adjust if necessary.

They are done when: bacon is done and cheese is melted and bubbly, and both the toothpick ends and the edges of the toast are black. Best when hot.

Icky decision

August 20th, 2005 at 05:56 am

Its not that icky a decision, just a bit of a dispiriting one. Normally I put a chunk of money in savings bonds automatically, and I'll do it this month. But with the credit card balance I decided to drop my savings bond buying by $200 and throw that into paying the credit card, along with the little raise. I figure I should be clear of credit card in 2 more months, unless I get yet another emergency. That might be a hint to actually use my emergency aka "kiss my a** fund" fund.

Hmmm. Maybe that's why I'm loathe to spend my emergency fund. Who wants to spend down a kiss my a** fund on just any old boring emergency that I can't actually say "kiss my a** at. So unsatisfying.

Spending log:
1.65 - coffee + 10.00 lunch + 20.00 cider and dinner with DH.

Saving log:
0 !

What I get for looking at someone else's ATM slip

August 19th, 2005 at 04:02 am

Agita or a good laugh? You decide.

So I was at the ATM machine, getting my standard two twenties. Someone left their ATM slip dangle from the slot. In the age of recycling and possible identity theft it rarely happens. I mean the slip was just hanging there. I was going to toss it, but just I had to look at the balance.

$10650.

15 years ago I would have written an envy-fueled "can I sleep with you?" note on the slip and then stuck it in a prominent ledge of the ATM for all to see. But now, armed with my financial knowledge, I realize the truth. How freaking dumb can you be for having $10,650 dollars in an 0.5% interest (at best) checking account?

Attended the company picnic. It had a Hawaiian theme and it was fun as these things go. Best of all, it was a free catered lunch.

Tip Box - $2; coffee - $1.65 + .35 change into their tip jar ... my version of the no spend day.

For the person who gave my journal 5 stars ... thanks mom!

Wheels were turning

August 18th, 2005 at 03:57 am

Not much on the economic front. ING hiked up its interest rate, which works out to be a 0.01 more in interest/day. I talked with a woman who took me up on the ING invite. She noticed the increase in interest and was thinking on signing up her kids for ING savings accounts. I told her she should send them invites, because then she gets $10/each. She smiled and nodded. The wheels were turning and it was good to see.

Moved $450 of this paycheck into my bank savings account (the bank I have my checking account in). In about a week, the money in this savings account will go to buy an I-bond from Treasury Direct. Most my accounts are nested, like a series of buckets with controlled, budgeted leaks leaking into other buckets with higher interest rates. As long as I fill the inner bucket with my paycheck I'm all right. Just have to figure out when enough is enough. Smile

Heard good work gossip at lunch, so lunch was a bit expensive. But you have to pay to play sometimes. Smile

Spending log:
coffee - 1.65 (all change) + lunch - $11

Saving log:
Tip box - $2.

little of this, little of that

August 17th, 2005 at 05:39 am

Put 4$ in the tip box, paid 300$ on the credit card. Ate a 5$ lunch.

Checked out my grocery flyers on the web for any deals. If I buy it regularly, and the prices are good, I put them in my price book too. Slim pickings this week, although there is a deal on frozen OJ, cottage cheese, sweet corn, nectarines. Sometimes you got to go and be there for the deals, if there are any. Cheapest gas here in Seattle is approaching 2.60; the expensive stuff is high 2.90s... $3 by the end of the week no doubt.

Bank is going to be the executor - that was in the executor of last resort in dad's will (will was so old that the executors named were dead) - and sister's lawyer is going to handle the legal affairs. Time to make calls to clarify the situation - who wants to be double billed? Papers are going to the lawyer and the bank is going to do a driveby to assess the farm.

Sister is getting wigged by this whole thing, I can just feel it. Sent a link to the ebookbuy site to her. (and their contact address is in Seattle) We've got boxes and bags of books. Might just as well clear the decks and get a couple of bucks at the same time.

Co workers, many of whom knew their stuff, are leaving for greener pastures in droves. I have a suspicion that I'll be doing something similar within a year.

money coming in

August 16th, 2005 at 06:25 am

Got $100 from DH for 1/2 of the two combined utility bills.

We have a bit of an odd system - we don't have a combined account, just two separate ones. Yeah I know, might just as well write up the divorce papers, dammit. Smile It works for us because we both work, no kids, we don't have wildly divergent spending styles, and we've each saved each other's economic bacon over the years. And if I screw him over the utilities he can screw me over the rent. Mutual economic assured destruction (MEAD).

I also got a pay raise with my paycheck. Small but nice and better than a sharp stick in the eye. Save it eventually, but for the first couple of months I'm throwing it at the credit card. I was expecting to pay off my credit card balance in 4 months, but now with DH and this I think I can stretch my payment and get it down to 3 months, with the 3rd month very comfortable.

Got taken out to lunch so very nearly a no spend day.

Spending log - 1.65 - coffee

Saving log - 100$ payback + $48 raise

Weekend errands

August 14th, 2005 at 06:14 am

I like routines, especially now. It feels good to follow a weekend itinerary that I've had for years. Saturday is chase day - grocery and the errands that piled up over the week.

I have a couple of grocery stores and price book. I use a price book regularly but it really only guarantees that you won't completely get ripped off. Sometimes you need what you need, no matter the price, so the price book can depress you a bit. For example, today is 20% off produce day at the first grocery store - got a couple of good deals on some produce, but I thought I'd wait to buy a couple items at grocery store #2, where they were traditionally a little cheaper. Big mistake - the items were pricier by .20/ lb. Sigh. My sanity, time and DHs gas are precious. Buy only what you need and move on. Smile

Mailed a couple of light boxes and got stamps. Gotta check on postal service rates - UPS is getting to be seriously, seriously spendy.

We went to a late afternoon matinee at the $3 movie theater and saw the Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill. It made me cry at the end. Haven't seen a movie in months.

I made gazpacho and blue cheese potato salad. Should hold us for a few days. We graze from the refrigerator over the summer.

Spending log:
grocery stores - 22.48+6.64, mailing boxes - 26.46, movie - 3.00

Saving log: not a darn thing.

Monday payday!

Bus rider principles

August 13th, 2005 at 04:39 am

Now that gas is approaching 3$/gallon I see a lot of new faces on the bus and a lot of crappy (yet highly entertaining) behavior. I, herein, list several principles that every new bus rider should know about to make their experience just a little better:

1. The less you lug on the bus the happier you will be. A bus is not a car with a big back seat, not an airplane without wings, not a youth hostel on wheels. You have a seat (if you're lucky and got on early!) and a lap. If your backpack is as big as you are, you'll have problems.
2. "Spy voice" on the cellphone. Enough said.
3. Bus driver knows his route and perhaps the connecting routes, along with a few well known intersections. He is not a telepathic GPS unit with feet and will not drive you to your door.
4. Bus driver is probably concentrating on the road; he might see the express bus behind him, then again, he might not.
5. People come off before you come on. When your turn comes, be sprightly when exiting.
6. Yelling "Back door!" is acceptable and fun.
7. If you want to try riding the bus to see if it agrees with you, try it on Friday. It's less crowded, with mainly the "hard core" commuter types. We know you're serious if you ride on Friday. Smile Monday is the worst day, its full of dilettantes.

Spending:
Coffee - $1.65 + Lunch - $5 + Bubble tea - $3.25 + Electric bill $75.92 (grrr. usually that's about $60 this time of year)

Saving:
Tip Box - $3 + another DRP - $40

Life affirming bad for you food

August 12th, 2005 at 04:19 am

I had a hankering for good tasting diner food. Something so bad for you that its life affirming, in a weird sort of way. Unfortunately the open-faced hot turkey sandwich w/gravy didn't come cheap, at least as far as lunches go. Paid an office mate for a birthday pizza lunch.

Spending log:
Coffee - 1.65 + Lunch - 10.00 + Pizza lunch - 4.00 + Sewer/water - 121.00

Sent $35 to one of my DRPs to buy the better part of a share...
Saving log:
DRP - 35.00 + Tip Box - 2.00

Another office friend of mine, formerly a lawyer, offered some of his services as we're settling dad's estate. Mostly its going to be advice and implications of what I'm signing. We've been friends for years - I don't expect a bill.

bank robbery

August 11th, 2005 at 03:17 am

Stuck 1$ in my savings tip box at work and made reverse change in the box (pulled out 5 ones and a 5 for a 10). Makes things much easier when I deposit the contents in the bank 2 blocks away. My tip box is opaque and in a locked drawer. It seems a bit dangerous to keep it at work but the bank is 2 blocks away and its useful for the surprise collections - birthdays, lunches and presents. Its nicer now to be in a small, quiet department in your job - you get hammered less for that sort of thing. Smile

Found 12 cents on the floor of a bank that I don't bank at but cut through as a shortcut to my bus. Tee hee, I'm a bank robber. All I need's a mask.

Asked sister for to send me the savings bond so I can get it the online account. It must be a reaction to all the paper I touched, but I just love the online stuff. My dream would be to have a single sheet in a safety deposit box listing account numbers, assets, beneficiaries, passwords. Go to it, guys...

Spending log:

1.75 for coffee
6.50 for lunch

Saving log:
1.00 for tip box
.12 tip from Wells Fargo

Back to the present

August 10th, 2005 at 04:18 am

Ugh, the credit line on the credit card bill is well over $600. Most of it from last week, but Sunday it was DHs birthday and we went out for dinner. Pay the card all next month or spread it out over several months? Decisions, decisions... I just hate to spend down my emergency fund (why? it was a real emergency!), so I'm gonna do the unprudent, non-perfect saver thing and revolve the credit a bit.

Pored over the mail. A utility bill from my landlord was calculated wrong, it claiming that according to the lease we would pay 70% instead of 50%. DH was unnerved and was going to pay it, but its easy to fix by a polite email...blink, blink, write innocent. Why was it 70% this time and 50% last time? Did we miss a notification? We got back a whoops, we were wrong its 50%. Letter writing and arguing an economic case was always a talent of mine. The IRS red-flagged me once in grad school and I managed to get the IRS to back down. Its a gift.

Sister emailed me to tell me she and a cousin found several EE savings bonds in our name from 1991. Hah! As usual, finding money. Her gift. Plugged the issue date and amount in my savings bond wizard and got a very pleasant surprise. I'm surprised on another level - gramps was always pro-business, anti-government, no taxes kind of guy. It'd be like me buying Enron stock or something.

The routine last week

August 9th, 2005 at 05:00 am

It was nearly routine last week - 1.5 hr drive from Milwaukee to Oshkosh, then to the farm. At the farm, pawing through paper in a hard target search for assets and pieces of paper that will help us file dad's last IRS return.

We put on a vinyl LP and began...

My mom was a serious clutterer. I'm debating whether she was a hoarder or not. One minute I was flipping through newspaper clippings from the 80s, the next, grandpa and grandma's wedding picture. On which side you ask? Found them both. We found my birth certificate, my sister's birth certificate, my mom's birth certificate, my dad's birth certificate, grandpa's wedding license, a school assignment my mom wrote when she was 8, pictures of my great uncle in WWII when he served in New Guinea. I also found scraps of paper with a note or a sentence or a book list written in my mom's hand and stacks and stacks of newspaper. My sister was luckier - she usually found money. (I guess that's why I have to save it. Smile )

The important papers we hoofed to Milwaukee, the rest to recycling. Here's another reason why clutter is bad. Its totally exhausting for your heirs who will never share your opinions about its value!

On the bright side, except for gas, we had several no spend days. We ate Dad's food and drank his soda and found his high school class ring, all without his permission.

Sister and I started an email chain of decisions that we made and agreed to so its written down. Sister is in Milwaukee, so she will be doing the heavy lifting in this. I feel so guilty about this. I sorted and organized the papers until late in the evening - my way of keeping busy.

first entry - a lot to think about

August 8th, 2005 at 06:03 am

Why start this journal? Well, kashi asked me to!

The reason that I haven't for so long is that I didn't really feel that I needed to. My debt was under control and I have been happy with my savings rate for the last two years. Life was good...at least it was until the last Wednesday in July.

Now its not. My dad passed away unexpectedly July 27. Mom passed away nearly two years ago, so now its my sister and me. There was a will which states that we inherit equally a dairy farm in Wisconsin. Luckily it wasn't a working farm - no livestock - two parcels of land, barn, sheds, farm equipment, house, household items.

Right now I really feel like my finances (and my emotions) are out of control and will be for some time. Of course I've spent a fair amount traveling to the funeral and beginning the long journey through the will and probate. My sister, who lives in Wisconsin, did a fantastic job with the funeral arrangements.

More tomorrow.