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Archive for November, 2005

Too much paycheck?

December 1st, 2005 at 05:20 am

Hard to believe when I looked at my paycheck today (I get paid twice monthly - the 15th and the last day of the month). It was $600 over what I usually get, and it looks like I got bonus and retro pay. I thought I got all my bonus and retro pay already. Normally I don't look a gift horse in the mouth, but I have a very weird feeling about this - the payroll coordinator's last day is on Friday. A little bit of fun and games as she leaves? No reason that I can see to be singled out; I'm not a friend nor an enemy. Wonder if someone else got "treated" in this way?

I'd better figure it out and offer to give it back if its a mistake... before it gets comfy in my checking account.

Ever since I got the large checks I haven't done a darn thing with the tip box. I think I might take a break from putting something in this month. Still have to find a Christmas gift for sister. Wonder what to give someone who seems to have everything and no space to put it?

Right now I'm concentrating on diet and am in the middle of my second week of workouts. I did a lot better this week than last. My muscles feel thick and I feel tired. The diet part is starting to impinge on the frugality part - a breakfast which I'm not used to eating, two smaller mini-meals which hikes my lunch budget by several bucks. Oh well, with good health - like a lot of other commodities - the cheapest man pays the most.

no matches, just baggage

November 29th, 2005 at 04:41 am

Mom's retirement benefit, that mysterious Employee Trust Fund, came in a lump sum today. $137.39. Mom didn't believe much in 403(B)s, I guess, and they must not have matched. Its also taxable, so it came with a Form 1099-R. Round and round into the ING account it goes and what it interest collects, nobody knows.

Bought my November I-bond - $500.

Boarded a tiny bus for the commute this morning. We got a young woman (5 yrs out of being a girl) who clearly didn't know bus rules. Came on a commuter transit bus with not one, but two full large suitcases. (Must've been one hell of a weekend). There were no seats, so she parked the baggage right next to the bus driver, partially blocking the entrance, and sat on top of them. Sigh.

Why the driver didn't force her back is anyone's guess. The bus was too packed to yell something clever (who would hear me?), so I just tried to transmit a telepathic signal. A big clean taxi, a friendly taxi driver who is paid and is happy to take on a pretty customer, driving to the airport in comfort and quiet, no one kicking your suitcases. Maybe the subliminal signal will help her think again the next time.

Ha.

Spending log - $1.65 coffee + $6.00 lunch
Saving log - $137.39 + $500 I-bond

Weekend

November 28th, 2005 at 04:45 am

Yesterday we re-visited the hosts from Thanksgiving. We just didn't get enough time to chat with them Thursday because they were being good hosts. Smile They are a couple, the husband is a very high-end wood craftsman (desks, cabinets, tables), the wife used to work for Microsoft (we'll use husband and wife to distinguish them from us), but her health grew bad and the agita about MSFT grew tough to take.

They also asked us for advice on husband's business for marketing and advertising ideas. Husband's business has been falling off as of late. Jobs that husband easily closed on in one meeting are now getting the "wait and see" answer, which is usually a Seattle style passive-aggressive no. DH and I gave them a few ideas, but nothing earth-shattering.

I'm a little worried about them. They took out a second mortgage to rent increased shop space. Dangerous position, if you ask me. They also asked us, yet again, about buying a house. I don't want to buy a house. Even when the inheritance comes in, I still don't want to buy a house right now. It was hard to answer them without being impolite. I see and feel the economy constricting, especially in that husband's business. All the rich smart money is slowing down, waiting for the economy to turn one way or another. It's really no time to take on debt. Assets can shrink but debts never do, unless you pay them.

I got a claim form from Prudential Financial, the same insurance company that sent sister and I each a nice check last week. It has to be another insurance policy. Sister thought it might be the same policy, but why would they send a check first and then the claim form? She told me that she'll call and ask.

Black Friday/Buy Nothing Day

November 26th, 2005 at 12:07 am

Actually, not quite true, I just bought needs: milk, onions, celery, and a cup of coffee from the grocery store; canned cat food from another grocery store. With me, its never a full blown Buy Nothing Day, but an eternal Buy Very Little Day. Saves money in the long run because you never binge.

Why do they call it Black Friday? Yeah, I know, but BF was the name given to the stock market crash in 1929. To my ears, today's nickname just sounds creepy.

Thanksgiving potluck

November 25th, 2005 at 06:45 am

Ate, drank, and made merry at a friend's house outside of Seattle (Issaquah, if you know that area). Brought a tasty 3 grain pilaf (wild rice, quinoa, kasha), and during the potluck, I did my bit as the gravy maker. Gravy is pretty simple, but mysterious enough to be nerve-racking, I guess. The real trick is knowing that you can expand the quantity of it using chicken stock.

Most of the folks there were former Micro-softees, and a few years ago it was buy this and bought that. With their reduced means, they've become more interesting. Smile

My new-found wealth in my ING account now brings in interest of 1.44/day. Now I can afford a small coffee every day for the rest of my natural life.

Dang, that's not frugal

November 24th, 2005 at 07:34 am

I had another good workout so I made a fateful, not very frugal step. I signed up for four months for the use of a personal trainer at the gym. It will be $1941. Ulp!

It was with decided nervousness that I brought it up with DH. (Our finances are separate, but this is big.) Au contraire, DH told me, this is one of the most frugal things you can do. You want to get more active and slim down, you figure that a gym is the next step (I don't have a car, so I walk everywhere or I catch a bus. That takes care of endurance, but my weight is still high), but you don't have any experience with workout machines. Paying somebody to spot you, point out your mistakes, encourage you and keep you from cheating is da** frugal because you'll get it done with no fuss. The frugal part means that since you've put money on it you won't blow off workouts. And what good is inheriting money but not being healthy enough to enjoy it?

Funny how I'm starting this during the holiday season. I figured as long as its not January, I've got a jump on temptation.

been a little while

November 23rd, 2005 at 01:53 am

Ah...settling down for a 5 day weekend. Nice.

Put 47$ in the bank from my tip box. That felt nice, too.

I put the two big checks of last week in my ING account for the moment. It's going to earn far more and be tied up far less than it would in my regular bank.

This last Sunday I really window shopped with a very different eye. Everything I looked at I could afford, which makes things a lot more difficult. Smile The siren sings louder when you know you have a lot more unearned money in your accounts. I can see how people blow windfalls so quickly. It is easy to say, "just what I always wanted. I'll take it!" the first time and then over and over. After the sixth over, its gone. Generic advice about budgeting 10% for your treats then stopping when you're done makes a lot of sense to me. I also have to say, "I already have that and I'm happy with it."

How refreshing

November 20th, 2005 at 06:30 am

Didn't think about money, didn't handle any large checks, didn't hear anything from sister. I just read the newspaper, drank coffee, grocery shopped, ate grocery samples, planned for Thanksgiving, cleaned the house. I have a very short week next week, just Monday and Tuesday.

Thanks, suedavids - I found out that Bob Brinker broadcasts on KIRO 710 1-4pm on Sat and Sun. I'll check his radio show out.

Spending log - 1.65 coffee + 4.38 lunch + 26.34 groceries + 104.35 gym membership

Walking around with nearly $10,000 in my pocket

November 19th, 2005 at 06:05 am

But not for a long time. Okay, it was weird and scary, just like others had said in a thread in the forums. As I trotted those three block to the bank, I clutched my purse just a little bit tighter, kept my head down, growled sublimally, and didn't let anyone come within three feet of me.

Figured that if I was depositing it in my bank, I might just as well visit a teller. She took one look, made a couple of key strokes, glanced at my signature and boom it was done. Blase, like she had done it before. Probably figured that the honest person would personally deposit the check and the criminal would just put it through the ATM. Smile

I plan on consolidating most of my inheritance bits (and I count grandma's dispersement as inheritance) into my ING account until I figure out where I really want to put them.

Got my lunch paid for; this was very nearly a no-spend day. This afternoon at work I was on a field trip to a bank, helping process pledges to the non-profit I work for. They had a good reputation - "a banker's bank" - I was thinking of starting a bank account with them. Then I saw math mistakes and I am re-thinking that possibility.

And in the mail today I got another check from Prudential Financial. A death benefit from Mom. I called sister to ask whether she got one. She did - one penny more. I knew mom loved her best. Smile Another chunk hits the ING account.

What did I do to deserve this?

November 18th, 2005 at 05:22 am

I mean I had an extremely lucky day.

In the morning, I won a gift certificate for a night at a Seattle downtown hotel.

I slipped away for lunch and talked with my lawyer friend who managed to talk to my sister before the farm auction. He had some good insights. She definitely wanted to honor dad's vision. However, the only way that we could know that would be if he had written it down. We didn't find it, and it wasn't in the will. Are we going to have to get it using an Ouiji Board?

Got a lot done in the afternoon.

Came home.

Got my 3M package
Got 2 checks from my cousin who had the power of attorney. One for 450$ and one for $9171. Time to put it in the savings account and figure it out.

Yesterday and today

November 17th, 2005 at 05:51 am

Got back to work yesterday. Felt like I got hammered with requests (grrr), but I managed to get a fair amount done. I just have to take it slow, mix it up (easy project, hard project), and remember my predecessors magic words, "no one dies if it doesn't get done today."

Today was a lot better after about 9 hours of sleep. I went to the gym for the first time ever. The trainer was very nice - we did mostly the weigh-in, the measurements, the setting of goals. A revelation to learn what an ab crunch actually is. Smile It'll be quite the little project to get my weight down.

On the other hand, three years ago it was quite the little project to get my finances in line. I never balanced my checkbook; I had two little 403Bs, 1 little, 1 medium, 1 large credit card balance, and about $1500 in student loans. It was a turning point for me when DH gave me my PDA for Christmas. Three weeks later I found a free, really good checkbook program http://www.freewarepalm.com/financial/mycheckbook.shtml and put my info in with a quavering hand. I had a positive net worth, at least, but barely. This, at 40.

I started with the basics. With the PDA, it became important for me to reconcile my checkbook and to put what I spent in. I learned how I spent my money. It became very important that my credit card balances and student loan balances went down and my 403B contributions went up. When my student loan finally got paid off, that letter stating so was almost as valuable to me as the degree that I got with it. I made small investments, put little amounts and whatever bonus I got into a savings account which grew a little.

I wanted to cultivate some savings and a little investment so I knew what to throw extra money into after my debts were paid.

I learned about the debt snowball, and hit my accounts one at a time (although I did manage to put more than the minimum in each of the others). My worst one with the worst interest, which the cc company refused to lower, I transferred to a $0 balance offer. The debt didn't quite fit--so I made payments on the leftover debt that had to stay on the icky card, while paying low amounts on the balance offer. It was a bit dangerous, the 0$ interest after six month was okay compared to the icky card, but I was lucky. I had a couple of 500$ emergencies, not several $1000 ones.

I paid off my debts and now I'm manipulating my savings, tinkering around the edges.

It leads me into gramma's gift. I feel somehow that this is a dress rehearsal for the inheritance to come. Do I shore up my savings vehicles or go in a new direction? Do I throw it all in at once, or do I dollar cost average and spread out my payments into things?

Grandma and Nut strikes again

November 15th, 2005 at 02:18 am

Well, Nut's at it again. He's thinking about suing for back pay. I have no idea how far back. I do remember putting letters in a file saying to Nut "don't come back". Dad was always the pay as you go type, and if he didn't pay you it was a sign that you shouldn't show up. Smile I'm thinking its either another try to get some bucks or to distract us from the fact that he was stealing stuff. Whatta Nut.

He and his father were at the auction. His dad bought a dead truck, I think. Smile

Turns out that that pilot crashing in the trees in Milwaukee was within 6 blocks of sister's house.

Grandma, who is 95 and is living in skilled nursing care, is going to begin dispersing her assets. $10,000 in a few weeks, with the possibility of $10,000 more in March. After setting it in a 6 month CD to decide what to do with it, I'm going to have to get a financial planner.

It's raining money here, but today was a no-spend day. I'm down with a cold and I'm running on vitamin C packets, Airborne tablets, little oranges, and hot decaf chai. Bleggh.

The farm auction

November 14th, 2005 at 03:11 am

Sister called last night. The farm auction went off without a hitch. The farm equipment that was still there (!), tools, pig iron, things in the sheds, guns, and the household stuff that sister and family didn't take went for about $20,000.

She told me that she had a pretty good conversation with the executor and got caught up. The second parcel got two estimates - one with house, grounds, and land sold together, and one with most of the land split from house, barn, sheds, and 20 acres. If my sister gets the house and a bit of the cash equal in value to what I get in cash, it turns out that the numbers work if she really wanted the house - she would probably get enough cash to fix up the house, should she choose. Now she's a bit frightened - so far the creditors for mom's medical bills haven't come forward. If that holds it means that my sister and I will inherit in the very high $200,000s.

Sister was hoping that the decisions would be made for her in such an obvious economic way. And a couple of the distant family relations still in east-central Wisconsin really want her to keep the house. They told her that she wouldn't come back if she just took the cash. (Like me) That could well be, but I told her that it was her life. If she had plans for the house, fine, but don't take on a house just because people want you to.

DH was on a funny work schedule, so he was at work today. My opportunity to do something that he is lukewarm about. I saw Good Night, and Good Luck which I enjoyed very much, but I missed the matinee. Yikes! 9$.

Shoes

November 13th, 2005 at 12:37 am

Got the shoes at G.I.Joes today for 40$ and a sports bra for 30$. All I have to do is find flipflops for the shower and I'm set.

The farm auction was this afternoon. I wonder how sister and the executor got along? Haven't seen any Breaking News on the Milwaukee Journal site. Fingers crossed.

Feel like I'm coming down with something. Figures, its three days after my flu shot.

Don't bother reading this, its boring

November 12th, 2005 at 04:58 am

Not much happened today. I took the plunge and bought a gym membership to the gym next door at work. Gotta pick up some decent gym shoes. The ones I have are beaten, have holes, and have no ankle support. I have about $263 left of my paycheck, but I'm waiting for my sewer/water/gas bill, which should grab about $120 of it, so I really have about $140 left for gym shoes.

I was staring at the starlings in the trees across the street from my bus stop, but didn't take into account the birds in the trees I was under, waiting. My jacket got spluched. Yuck. Stupid bird with good aim.

Spending log - 1.65 coffee + 5.00 lunch (wonton soup)
Saving log - 4.00 tip box + 40.00 3M DRP

The innocent fax

November 11th, 2005 at 04:28 am

First of all, thanks for the comments about my goal!

About 95% of my emergency savings is in 3 places - an ING account, in electronic US savings bonds at Treasury Direct (1.5 yrs of buying a month at a time), and in 3 DRPs - stocks. I count them because I'm willing to sell the stock if need be, and they are stable, blue chip stocks bought with my post tax dollars, different than my 403B. The other 5% is in my bank savings and checking account.

One of the things sister and I talked about last night came into play this morning. Sister still had in her possession an offer on the same parcel from that same buyer had made to dad a year ago for a bit higher price. Remember, no one threw anything away. Smile The offer was not radically higher, but a worth-your-while mentioning it higher.

Sister asked me what I should do, so I coached her on the innocent letter technique. She put a voicemail on the executor's phone, and then faxed a copy of that old offer to the executor with a note that said, "Gee, I found this in the house when I was cleaning. Why was the buyer willing to pay this price to dad last year? What has changed? (Blink, blink.)

She also mentioned that neither one of us was in a rush. True on my end, but I wonder how true it really is on hers.

I got an email this morning from sister that the executors and sister's lawyer were very interested in that offer, and are going to make a counter offer based on it. The innocent, non-defensive letter (fax) strikes again! It saves everyone's face and the tone lets them help you out.

Spending log - $1.65 coffee + $7.62 lunch (had the lamb curry as a splurge)
Saving log - $5.00 tip box

Health fair

November 10th, 2005 at 04:15 am

Today was a faux-no spend day. I spent, but I used a gift card that someone else loaded up for me, and I saved half a large sandwich yesterday for lunch today.

Went to a health fair put on at work. Except for the fact that I need to lose weight (and who doesn't?) and my blood pressure is on the high normal side, things look good. Fasting blood sugar at 96 and total cholesterol at 175. YAY. I signed up for a gym membership at work. We'll see how that goes. I normally walk 10 blocks of downtown Seattle to get to my bus, and while it's keeping me from getting fatter, I need to think about improving that bit of my life.

Yesterday afternoon the executors called at work to update me; then sister called me later that night. The executors told her that I had agreed to X, and she was wondering whether that was the case. I honestly don't remember agreeing to anything, just that I understood what the situation was, so I told her that. I suspect that the executors are using divide and conquer, a useful tool when you trying to get scattered heirs to agree to anything. I'll have to keep my comments to myself - the non-committal uh-huh - and ask the executors point blank at the end of calls if I've agreed to anything. Smile

My lawyer friend hadn't called her yet. He told me he would do it tonight.

I'll reach a milestone two days after payday, when I finish my sticking bits of my paycheck into various accounts. I will have saved 12 months worth of living expenses!

Looking up

November 8th, 2005 at 06:02 am

Things are looking up a bit from yesterday. Thank you very much for the supportive comments!

I had lunch with the lawyer friend today and two other friends (more his than mine). We all had or were close to family estate problems. Comforting in an odd sort of way. Lawyer friend offered to call up my sister and "talk her down", and get the full scoop from her side, which I thought was a great idea.

When I got home, I called sister and asked her whether it would be all right if my lawyer friend called, and she agreed. But it gets better. First of all, she agreed that she was acting like a skunk. It turns out that the executor apologized and told that actually they were a bit blindsided by the auction. Both the executor and sister will attend the auction this Saturday, which I think will do a world of good. They hadn't met, they've just called and emailed, so seeing a person instead of a name on bank stationary will calm sister down quite a bit. Turns out that the executor can call things off if the auction is a sham. Hearing that really eased sister's mind. Not to mention the pleasure she'll get introducing him to Nut. Big Grin Now we're talking fun.

She also got word today that the executors presented the price of the first parcel to the interested parties. One party blanched a bit at the price and dropped out, another only wanted a small piece of land for a building (like that's gonna happen). But of the two parties left, each is very interested and will put up counter bids for us to consider. We're on our way. The apprasials for the second parcel, one complete and one split with house, grounds, barn, & 20 acres and the rest of the land are coming at the end of this week.

I asked sister about her plans for the house if decided on it and got an annoyingly vague answer - a second place, a dog run, a weekend place. Well, its her life. Then she let slip that she really needs the money because she doesn't want to work anymore. I don't get it - if that's the case, then take the money and don't take on an economic boat anchor like a 100 yr old house.

Whew. I feel better already.

Oh yes, and being the beneficiary of that mysterious Wisconsin Employees Trust thingy that mom had : $136. Let's see...lump sum or 30 yr annuity? Smile

.K...yes, dear part II

November 7th, 2005 at 05:58 am

II, rather than 2. The blockbuster sequel. The Two Towers after The Fellowship of the Ring.

I described sister as "slightly" or a "bit". No slightly or bit about it. In the last entry, any slightly/bit should be changed to very. She's in a snit again, a flare up on the "why is US Bank the executor?" Now I'm getting the... "why are you trusting them to sell the land? Do you really trust them to sell the land at a decent price?" and the "dad wouldn't have wanted it this way..."

I'll ask my lawyer friend for advice, basically asking the question - how much communication should or can occur between heirs and the executor? I'm pretty sure that the answer is this: the executor is responsible for the efficient collection of debits and assets of the estate, and to disperse the leftover assets to the heirs. Nothing more, nothing less.

Dad be damned. Dad couldn't make a complex financial decision if his life depended on it. And since he's dead, it falls to his estate. Not to the heirs.

Of course I don't trust "them" for the sake of "them" to sell the land at a decent price, but I do trust the fact that the 4% of the estate fee will be the encouragement to sell the land at a decent price. The fee ensures that accepting lowball offers means that they will screw themselves. And I do trust a bank not to screw itself.

And should the heirs be around for the farm auction? Of course not. The household inventory was low and therefore sad, but theoretical. Seeing the stuff actually disappear for pennies on the dollar is going to be heartbreaking. What is sister going to do when she gets there. Buy stuff? Force the bidding up? Cry?

At least in the original plan, if the family collected household items and got a hold of them, we would generate family goodwill. Maybe that's what's really torqueing off sister. Bad decision on her end. After the word about the sinking foundation, she cooled on the idea about inheriting the house.

I'm going to have to warm up the K...yes dear response. Maybe I'll get another friend who mixes ambient music to loop in K... yes, dear to something restful. Oh wait - this is a marathon, and we're only rounding the first corner. A little drum and bass to get the energy going.

One thing's for certain. It's a whole lot easier to save money and buy your own assets than it is to inherit them.

Sister this and sister that

November 5th, 2005 at 04:38 am

Sister emailed that Nut was at it again. He's been on the grounds of the estate, poking around, exploring...umm, stealing. Sister put her foot down and called the sheriff and asked that the property be watched every so often. Of course, if the sheriff is on a routine, Nut will soon figure it out. He's not stupid, he's just ... Nut.

Sister was also a bit miffed at the household inventory appraisal. I explained to her that he set the price a bit low because if he wanted to buy it he would resell it and he would want to make a good profit if he kept his costs down. Sister is interested in buying most of it. I'm not terribly thrilled - her house is stuffed to the gills. I suggested that she cherry pick and buy up what was appraised the highest.

But finally, sister was very miffed that Nut knew when the farm auction was before she did. She's thinking collusion, and perhaps that's the case, but she's got to realize that the men in these parts behave exactly like hens - clucking and gossiping over coffee. Auction, FYI, is scheduled for next Saturday the 12th. Frugal meisters, if you're near Oshkosh WI, its 5975 Scott Road. Have fun but watch where you step. Smile

I got an email myself today that I'm scratching my head about. It seems that there is a move afoot at work to have a socially responsible mutual fund as a choice in our 403(b). The email suggested that I encourage my team to vote on the proposal. I don't mind that. I mind that the thought is that I will somehow encourage folks to vote yes, because somehow my co workers have got it in their head that I love socially responsible investing.

Hmmmph. They're not going to like my opinion. For a mutual fund, I like making money. My opinion is that socially responsible investing tends to constrain your choices. Its like the old saying - "good girls go to heaven, bad girls go everywhere." To make money, money's gotta go everywhere. No company has clean hands. Heck, when the economy is going to pot - what do people buy? Yep - cigarettes, booze, and porn. Add the fact that we're in a war so the gummint is going to buy weapons, and the future looks very, very bright for vice. Smile

Spending log - 1.65$ coffee + 4.38$ lunch (curry place has a great friday special)
Saving log - 6$ tip jar

Dome Burger again

November 4th, 2005 at 06:11 am

Geez, after only 6 weeks? I try to space out my junk food proclivities, but today it was very rainy and dark in Seattle. I woke up at 7:00 and wondered if I was in a cave and when daylight would come. Worse, I really wanted to stay in nice, warm bed. I bribed myself - a junk food lunch if I would wake up and go to work.

A co-worker wanted to thank me for a couple of emergency projects I did for him. (I work for a non-profit and during fundraising season nearly everything is an emergency project) I picked up a Starbucks gift card as a thank you from another co-worker...so I gave him my card and asked him to load it up. Haven't used the card yet, but it seems like a quickie way to collect goodwill.

Scheduled my next set of I-bond purchases in 2006. 300$/month for 6 months. Since I worked my way up saving 500$, it means that I free up 200$ to buy more DRP stock. I know that there's a calculation (from the Drip Advisor) that you can make on your portfolio to buy stock in the most strategic way. A nice little project. I have a couple of months to figure it out and either pick up an Excel spreadsheet with the calculation or make one.

Tonight the tops of all the trees at my bus stop look like they are covered with black, oblong fruit. Then one of the fruits flutters a bit and settles on another branch. Starlings settling down for the night. Brrrr.

Spending log - 1.65$ coffee + 6.28$ burger, fries, root beer.
Saving log - 3$ in the tip jar

catching up

November 3rd, 2005 at 05:10 am

Well, no day away from work goes unpunished. I was hopping today so the day went by fast.

At lunch and learn today we learned about on new medical insurance plan. The old one would increase over 30% from last year. The new plan, a PPO, seems pretty good. Too good. I wonder what the catches are.

The box sister sent was my high school stuff. Evil woman! Smile

Saving log - 4$ tip jar.
Spending log - 1.65$ coffee + 4.38$ lunch (curry special)

no spend day

November 2nd, 2005 at 05:01 am

I was sick, so I stayed home. Actually it was due to eating a large quantity of roasted, salted pumpkin seeds. I was impacted, let's leave it at that. I called it in as food poisoning, and although I wasn't exactly poisoned, it did involve food. What else was I going to say?

Most of the day I slept, except when I ate the last 4 caramels from trick or treating. (Gotta get right back on that horse Smile ) We got 20 trick or treaters last night, last year we got zero. Very unpredictable. Its why I love caramels - they're usually the frugal choice.

Got the household inventory, the executor's summary, and a box from sister in the mail today. I asked for a several items and pictures and I suspect that that's inside the box. The letters were soaking wet in the mailbox; I'll have to email the executors and warn them to send anything that I have to sign in a water-proof envelope.

I'm a bit disappointed by the fixed rate rate on the new I-bonds, but buying a small amount each month ($300-$500) means I have the luxury of keeping them put. I don't have a large lump of money nor time to chase interest rates.