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Archive for December, 2006

2007 goals and a gentle warning

January 1st, 2007 at 12:44 am

Most aren't financial, but they could be...

1. Go to the gym 1 day/week without the trainer. I did this a few times, but the habit did not catch hold. Ultimately, I'd like to establish going to the gym 2x/week without the trainer, 1x with. It would save me 50% off the gym expense.

2. Drink more water. Establish that except for one drip coffee in the morning, my drink is water.

3. Do 10 minutes of calisthentics before I go to bed. I could try in the morning, but I love sleep. I'm not proud.

4. If I'm feeling peckish and want a late night snack, its a salad or vegetables.

5. Finish that novel.

Now the gentle warning. It applies equally to me and to anyone who reads this. Big Grin

Its great that so many people here have the twin goals of saving money and losing weight. Debt and calories, its all the same - you try to run a deficit on both. From a person who managed to do both last year, I have to tell you all that losing weight is much, much, much harder. I'm 44, so my metabolism is an extra hurdle.

Its very important to keep in mind that progress will not be quick, and you will run up against setbacks. Be sure to:

1. establish a few routines that you can succeed at. Get into the habit. Pursue the habit. The 20$ challenge is perfect - who doesn't have 20$? Who can't add to it in increments? And don't go for too many habits at once. Changing it up means you get confused or worse, you'll drop the whole thing.

2. Do the simple things first - eat with small bowls, don't eat out of a bag, look at your food, if you eat out ask for the box as soon as the plate lands on the table. Put change in a change jar, make sure your savings account pays interest, don't take money out of savings, don't loan money, and at this stage of the game, don't brag (you'll just turn into the BIL magnet).

3. track your progress, but be clever at it. I dropped two dress sizes, and lost 19 inches, but I only lost 20 pounds, and that loss happened very ssssssllllloowly. I dropped the inches much quicker and that kept me going. I had my own little milestones - when the bath towel went around me completely, for instance. I track my food and I track my spending both. If you're honest about it, just the act of tracking will help. I won't eat the whole bag of chips because I'm going to have to write it down; I won't buy a lot of something at a bad price because I'm going have to write what I spent down.

4. trust the process. If you eat better and feel better, trust that and use that knowledge to keep going. Even if you spend more money, you might be losing weight. If you drink water, you'll lose your craving for soda. Put that soda money in savings. Even if you aren't losing weight, you are saving money. If you do the gym and get lots of exercise, you'll be tired, but your mood will improve. Even if you don't lose weight or save money, the mood elevation will count for something.

5. try to push your routine a little. Retrain your eye to establish what a normal portion is, eat that, and pay attention to your food. Walk a bit more and a bit longer than you normally do. If you are just saving change in your jar, add a dollar bill or two, or even make reverse change (put a 5$ in and take $5 of change out).

6. know that setbacks are part of process. You are not going to progress in a smooth curve. What if you don't lose that 1/2 pound/week this week? Learn from it. I now have the "Later" technique to use in my arsenal. If a co worker pops in and says, "there is a fantastic cake/ calorie/ chocolate in...", I smile and say, "that's great! I'll be there a little bit later." Later usually means none. Smile I had to learn the later technique because work food is a serious source of setbacks.

7. know thyself. I was reading where someone lost 45 pounds by eating oatmeal the consistency of a brick for breakfast. I would vomit - that would not work for me. Also, other folks might be doing what you are doing, and achieving their goals faster. It's what you are doing for you that counts. Remember, I've lost 20 pounds in a year. Slow as a snail. The trainers all call it "shy losing". I call it frustrating, but there it is.

Happy New Year everybody! See you on the 2007 side.

Cleaned the closet

December 31st, 2006 at 02:29 am

Dec 29 - yesterday
Savings log - 4$ tip box
Spending log - 2$ coffee, milk + $7 pho lunch

Dec 30 - today
Savings log - $2000 (DH paid me back the 2K I loaned him in April)
Spending log - $12 (breakfast & tip) + 54$ (groceries and 40$ cash)

I went and did it. I packed up many of my size 18 and size 20 clothes for donation. It filled two garbage bags. As I was pulling out the pants, dress, tops, etc, I remembered it was a darn lucky thing that I got much of this stuff at the thrift store or at Ross Dress for Less. Nothing I "recycled" cost more than 40$, so I didn't feel that I was taking a heavy duty financial loss. Yet another good reason for hitting the garage sales and not paying full price for anything. Smile

But it was scary. Now it means that I have to at least maintain my new shape, otherwise I'll have to re-buy everything all over again. Frown

I did keep a couple of things. My soft, worn size 18 jeans with the peekaboo rips. It makes a gangsta fashion statement. I kept an XL black turtleneck because I just bought it in September, its warm, and it'll hide any muffin top. There are a couple lightweight animal print pants that I like, and, well, summer's coming back. They hang and float on me and they feel pretty good on the one 90 degree day in Seattle.

Net worth, 2006

December 30th, 2006 at 03:20 am

Just to make this a genuine financial diary...


$91,732.79 IRA/403(B)*
$11,463.44 stock (4 DRPs)
$17,052.41 EE bonds, I bonds, T bills
$10,083.57 ING, paypal savings
$ 1,730.04 immediate cash
----
$132,062.25 grand total

* includes $24,000 in a taxable account in Vanguard which I'm going to plow into a Roth. I consider this retirement because that's how I plan to use it.

Dec 2006 ($132,062.25 total/$40,329.46 in non-tax deferred account)
By comparison:
June 2006 ($120,261 total, $65,148)
Dec 2005 ($67,778 total, $23,740)
June 2005 ($46,115 total, $11,293)
Dec 2004 ($38,338 total, $7,558)
June 2004 ($29,050 total, $4,533)

Nice that I can increase my net worth by 10K every 6 months, despite having to buy a 6K bed, use a personal trainer and bury a cat. I shifted 3K to stocks, shifted what was left of the CD (24K) to Vanguard, and put 8K to short term T-bills.

half a million pennies

December 29th, 2006 at 05:17 am

Saving log - $4 tip box
Spending log - $1.50 coffee (didn't drink my milk yesterday) + 7$ lunch

Walked to my bus stop on a near solid surface of black ice. Thanks, Yaktrax. You still have to be cautious, but those rubber springy things really work! Crossed my usual black ice intersection with a lot more confidence.

Succumbed to the holidays: I gained 1.5 pounds for Christmas. I can lie to myself and I can lie to the trainer, but it appears that my body has the last laugh during the holidays. At least I enjoyed that little bit of chocolate.

Still was a crazy work day today but the work piles are backing down, so I'm catching up. The highlight of weirdness came this afternoon when one of our campaign managers told us that one of his companies had a penny drive.

Fine, we said.
Oh no, you don't understand, he said. You will be processing 5000$ ... in pennies!

They were rolled (pwhew, I guess) and were put in boxes and boxes, filling a dolly cart to a height of about two feet. About a third came in cardboard boxes the size and heaviness of a large brick - 25$. The other two thirds were loose rolls thrown in boxes, and even a large money bag. Yikes! I never thought I would see a half a million pennies in one place. Actually, the claimed count was 5003$, so 500,300 pennies. Maybe.

The campaign manager managed to get them all in his car trunk, but he could have sworn that his front wheels never touched the pavement.

The COO came down to our safe just to see what a half a million pennies looked like. The manager who brought it asked how we were going to process a half a million pennies and I joked that we were going to dump them in a pile and roll around naked in them. And why bother with the safe, anyway? If the pennies disappeared, all we would have to do is check the hospitals for thieves with hernias.

Seriously, if it wasn't for the massive amount of energy it would take, since it takes 1.4 cents worth of metal to make a penny, the scientist in me would have much preferred to extract the $7000 worth of zinc and copper from the $5000 pennies.

Sigh. Fun's fun. I'm sure that the bank that we normally use would basically wipe their collective eyes from laughing, then charge twenty percent for the privilege. Its either a run to a friendly credit union and a coin counter, or to the nearest US Treasury office, where they would weigh them. Hard to imagine a coin counter that would handle a half a million pennies.

N.B. we didn't get those pennies out of the safe and in the bank until June of 2007. You want a penny drive? Write us a check!

money's faster...really

December 28th, 2006 at 04:43 am

This time of year we are in a time crunch and really go at it. Most donors want to give in time to get the tax deduction. In most years, they (and we) have until the 31st. This year, the 29th. So all the booking and getting pledges into the system is compressed. I filled in for a couple of co workers today and was soon swamped.

We had a little meeting where it was presented that our department's structure was flat. Most of my co-workers are at the same paygrade and responsibility. I'm a bit higher, and my boss is a bit higher still. But that's it. There is a possibility that my job grade will go up a bit, and hopefully my salary will follow.

I went to lunch with lawyer friend, lawyer friend's partner and finnish friend. ($10) DH and I were invited to a low key New Year's Eve - board games and tacos.

While we were standing in line to pay for lunch, I commented about that stupid lunch assembly line Visa commercial. How long does it take to pay with tip on a debit card? At least 2 minutes. Swipe, confirm, print out, write out tip, ring up sale. How long with cash? 15 seconds. Slap two fives on the counter, mutter "keep the change", listen for the register and yer done.

Think I might make it to the next paycheck with 100$ in my checking account.

Boxing Day 2006

December 27th, 2006 at 03:00 am

And it was a day off for me. Tomorrow its back to the salt mines. Smile

Today was a traipsing around day, and then gym at 2pm. Hit the Pike Market - usually today would be nearly dead, but since it was pouring, the tourists all clumped together. My hideout was closed for vacation, so I ate at the other hideout - Italian fish stew behind the vendor I get my sister's salmon from. (5$) Yet another slice of old Seattle.

After gym, I hit Fred Meyer and got two pillows, some 3 in 1 (body wash, bubble bath, shampoo), and picture hangers. (31$).

Christmas came in at $420. I've done cheaper Christmases, but the final tally's still not bad.

The next up is the assessment of net worth and goals. I got a lot done in 2006, but very little that I listed around this time in 2005. Maybe I should list only wicked things as goals, because I'm so good at avoiding them!

the best gift of all

December 25th, 2006 at 11:36 pm

Merry Christmas! I got a warm winter coat and a hoodie sweater. The XL sweater he got me is too small - I think DH got tripped up by Junior sizes. Smile I'm using it as a goal. Who knows, I might get there!

We have another Christmas tradition. If we get something, we have to give something away. Since I got a coat, I went to the closet and put a couple of fleece jackets out for the thrift store. DH and I filled a bag.

As long as I was in the closet, I pulled out a black cashmere wrap coat that I bought 22 years ago. I wore it often when I was in my first year out of college in Chicago (bought it when I was 23). I loved that coat, especially its feel - large and enveloping, impenetrable by snow. (It laughed at snow.) Its the nice one that I wear if its very cold and its very formal - a very rare conjunction in Seattle.

Last year in November, I tried it on. I was very depressed that while could get my shoulders in this coat, my stomach stuck out. It didn't fit, and I seriously thought of giving it away last Christmas. My first trainer suggested a visualization goal. I thought about that coat. Bizarre that it was a coat and not a bikini!

Today it fit. Even with a sweater on.

high strength to weight ratio

December 24th, 2006 at 03:42 am

Ah, a celebration and a decoration for the rest of us. I have to admit that comparing this to a Christmas tree, the price is definitely frugal. I have to seriously think about switching my holiday allegiances in the coming years. Its got to be cheaper, and with tongue firmly in cheek, a bit more fun.

We are going to have a couple of friends over for some good conversation and a little holiday cheer. Picked up a little gift and pannettone - Italian Christmas cake - to nosh on. (26$).

Time to think about, and air some grievances. Smile Serenity now!

Superhero stamps

December 23rd, 2006 at 05:01 am

Saving log - $6 tip box
Spending log - $2 coffee, milk + $11 lunch (chirashi sushi, the least Christmas-y lunch I can think of)

Collected up my scrapings from the tip box at work. I put in 46$ this month, which is pretty good. Last year this time, I didn't put anything in (too busy with figuring out what to do with X-mas 2005 and grandma's 10K gift). And no matter the exchange rate, 46$ is at least $46 more than this.

Participated in the gift exchange in the department where I work. Nothing over 5$. I put in one of those water bottles, which didn't cost me anything...and I got a partial sheet of 15 .39 superhero US stamps, which was actually pretty cool.

It could be fun to mix and match the stamp to the bill. The Flash, for instance, has to go with the electric bill; Aquaman, to water, sewer and garbage; if I had some yard waste, I could throw the bill to the Green Arrow; Elastic Man, to the chiropractor; Wonder Woman, to my trainer. Too bad I didn't get any arch-enemies - a character like Doc Ock would have been perfect for the credit card bill.

I have some friends who now, after 8 days, finally have power. I hope retire@50's all right out in Colorado.

calling in favors

December 22nd, 2006 at 05:03 am

Saving log - 4$ tip box
Spending log - 2$ coffee, milk + 8$ lunch

Kung pao chicken at the Chinese restaurant. My fortune cookie for today: "You will enjoy good health and financial independence."

I saw the new smoke-black, high tech water bottle - one of the marketing/gift items - yesterday, and found out that the keeper of that item was one of the staff that owes me a number of favors. So I asked him if I could have one.

"Just one?" he asked. "We have several boxes."
"well..." I stuttered, and then I thought of at least three people I could give one to..."Okay, gimme five."
"Happy to help," he said.

Perfect for the Christmas gift exchange. It is a peculiar form of re-gifting, though.

liquor and meat

December 21st, 2006 at 06:24 am

Saving log - $200 MIL check + 40$ DRP
Spending log - 2$ coffee, milk + 8$ lunch

Monday and today I worked out of the office with a member of the campaign staff, counting pledges and wrapping up. Its been a nice change of pace; its always great to chat with her. We also caught a lot of good people watching, and we both sound like old farts - the kids today comparison. Her frugal tip: its pointless to buy a teenager a good warm coat.

DH, at his current job, won two salamis and a big bottle of chocolate liqueur. Our Christmas is set!

DH's mother, the MIL, sent DH the standard 10K, so in addition to the 200$ I got from MIL, DH will paid me back my 2K that I gave/loaned him to replace the car in the car accident in April. I plan to put it back in savings - but to put it in: savings, DRP, or bulk up the T-bills a bit?

I already have 24K in a taxable account in Vanguard, so I'll be moving 4K of it into a Roth.

average!

December 20th, 2006 at 04:51 am

Savings log - 4$ tip box
Spending log - $2 coffee, milk + $7 lunch

Gym today. I gained a 1/2 lb (190 lbs) but I lost another inch on various parts of my body (upper arms, thighs, hips, waist, chest, calf), so total inch loss was 19 inches. Best of all, I lost 1% of body fat. I'm now at 35% body fat, which is considered high average. I'm now not at unhealthy. Whee! Burning 5 calories with the happy dance.

Feels normal

December 19th, 2006 at 05:45 am

At least during the day, when all the worker and shopping bees are out and about in downtown Seattle. Many of my co workers got power on Saturday, but a few are hosting family and friends. Wednesday was the ETA for power for one unlucky group.

But still it isn't when it gets dark.

My feelings are a bit torn here. The worst of it hit the expensive woodsy properties to the east. Mercer Island, a very exclusive enclave, really got hit. I have to admit a bit of schadenfruede here. A little more planning, a little less credit card action for the stupid stuff.

Then I have to think about how well DH and I would do in the cold and the dark. I mean, really think about it. Yeah, we'd like to admit we would be cleverer. We have a fireplace, candles, batteries, water, a camp cookstove, pantry food, a little spirit, and it would be just the two of us. Just treat it like a hurricane and you'll do fine.

Hurricanes happen in the summer in more southern latitudes. You've got at least 12 hours of daylight. And the day after a hurricane produces some of the clearest bluest skies imaginable.

Night comes early and leaves late. We are only three days from winter solstice and we are up there, latitudinally speaking. 4:30 pm to 8:00 am is 16 hours - a long, long time to wander through a house with candles and flashlights getting chores done, a long time to run the fireplace, much too long for hands of cards and reading books by candlelight, too long when you try to situate yourself in a cold bed, and certainly too long a time allowing a misplaced generator to kill you by carbon monoxide.

We are a day people. Electricity - lights and heat and computer - protect us from ourselves this time of year.

Savings log - $5 tip box
Spending log - 2$ coffee, milk + $6 lunch + 20$ chiropractor + 700$ credit card (paying off a cremation)

Just fine, whew

December 17th, 2006 at 03:11 am

Survived the Thursday night/Friday morning storm all right. We (and to the best of my knowledge, our neighbors) have power and heat, had it on continuously, and we are thankful. About 150,000 folks in Seattle proper (500K throughout the PNW) were not so lucky.

The eerie, maddening thing - the power outages are very, very spotty. One side of the street would be out or one block would be out. At my bus stop Friday, the traffic light was out, the Walgreens and the Tully's coffeeshop was out, yet across the street the Safeway blazed bright and the little shops along that side were lit too. A co worker mentioned that her house had power, but her neighbors across the street did not. She planned on inviting her neighbors over. We used to do that for snow storms when we knew our neighbors better, using the food that you would be bummed about losing.

Lots of unfrugal activity. Other co workers are buying hotel rooms while they are waiting for the power to come back on. Every diner and restaurant has a line. According to the TV, gas seems to be running low, lines of cars waiting for gas are long - apparently by people driving around to keep warm. G$d, I hope that isn't the case. Surely we have to be better prepared than that! There are some Red Cross shelters, but unfortunately getting the word out and receiving the word depends on electricity.

Pride goeth before a big credit card bill.

Winter event and rants

December 15th, 2006 at 01:50 am

Our office had its - holiday party aka the winter event. Two good pieces of news:

1. Happened today. When we got the afternoon off (by tradition), most of us got home before the brutal wind and rain storm. I didn't quite make it home before the beginning - had gym class for an hour, so when I got out at 3pm, it was Venus murky with the rain coming down in sheets.

2. We are getting a 2% raise, starting in January 2007. Don't call me ungrateful, I love it, its much better than a bonus (a raise is forever), but...

Could it have come from a pro-active assessment, rather than a reactive one (smart, confident people slamming our office during exit interviews)? Wait a minute...what am I saying? What company ever does this?

Guys, if any of you are watching the Thursday night football game on the NFL network, I want you to remember that Seattle is always like this. Always. You don't want to be here. We never see the sun, we're never dry. Mountains? What are those? We never saw them until the satellite pictures clearly showed them. Smile

And finally, to the junk mail industry: I nearly caught pnuemonia sprinting out in the sheets of rain to get the mail in the mailbox. What was in the mail? Crap.

Saving log - 1$
Spending log - 1$. Our banquet table had a bet as to who would win our main award. I didn't win. I won due to the fact that it kept me distracted enough to have just one dinner roll while we were waiting for lunch.

what I wouldn't do for cheapness

December 14th, 2006 at 05:42 am

Like standing out in 40 degree weather outside the Roosevelt Safeway waiting for a guy in a green Suburu? All to buy a 2Gb flash drive for 25$.

You see, DJ friend's frugal skill is Craigslist, and he is a master at negotiation over the phone. He got his flash drive for 20$. Seller's new price was 30$, but DJ friend managed to get him down by $5 by "knowing when to be silent". All you do during the seller's offer on the phone is to pause an uncomfortable length of time. Stretch it out. The person who talks first - loses. Smile

DJ friend also taught me more Craigslist philosophy. Your job is to sell the item ASIS with no guarantees, not provide customer service. I fell into that pitfall by trying to sell some laptop memory. I kept getting bites, but they all asked me for advice whether it would work on their systems. Not your job, he said. They should either know that, or are willing to take a flyer on it. If you're only selling it for 5$, the flyer is easy. In other words, asis, no warranty, I dunno, do-you-still-want-to-buy-it?

So I called the seller and arranged the pickup - the Roosevelt Safeway. I felt like a spy, standing outside, waiting for a green Suburu, a twenty and a five twisting between my fingers in my pocket. That's the other device if the seller tries a fast one - 25$ is all I have. I'm only Craigslist challenged. Drove by, I got my drive, he got $25.

Shopping at the Safeway beforehand was an opportunity, though. Got Odwalla energy bars for 1$/bar. I've gotten them for as low as .89/bar, so a 1$ wasn't too far off.

Lunch was with the lawyer friend and the co worker who resigned. Her last day is Friday. The Szechuan noodles and dumplings were wonderful, and we stuffed ourselves for 12$ (we bought for the co worker). I was so stuffed that I held up some bills fanned out, and lawyer friend took what was appropriate. Not a shining frugal moment but funny nonetheless.

Got my sister's Christmas gift. She got the fruit, I got the cheese and summer sausage. Between the two of us we could have a fine party.

Also got a Christmas newsletter in the mail. Sigh. Anybody else throughly creeped out by the verb in this sentence: Male so-and-so gave us (insert baby quantity, gender and generational marker here). Ya helped a bit, but gave? Its a baby, not a piece of property! Yeech.

Saving log - $0
Spending log - $2 coffee, milk + $12 lunch + $17 Safeway + $122 electric bill (winter rates).

management approval

December 13th, 2006 at 04:15 am

HR printed up their first draft of how PTO (paid time off) was supposed to work - as written, it looks like you can only "cashout" if you are leaving and with "management approval", not on a yearly basis. Can't say I think any of the management approval part, when theoretically PTO is supposed to be ours. And we all know how much management will approve of anything done that costs money, even if we are a non-profit and therefore money is less of an object. Time for a clarification.

Have a 6 month CD with ING that will mature in early January. Decided put it back in regular savings. I thought of adding it, in a controlled way, to either the t-bills or to my stocks.

Nearly a no-spend day. I ate the other half of the footlong sub I bought.

Felt logy at the gym today, but I managed to finish. A woman in the locker room tipped me off that the Goodwill on 65th/8th has a killer Monday night sale.

Saving log - 1$ in tip box
Spending log - 2$ coffee, milk

Back in the saddle

December 12th, 2006 at 05:32 am

Wore my medium top to work today. Having a waist is a pleasure that just doesn't get old.

Now with most of the temp staff gone (just our temps that are helping us process the pledges), the office refrig is clear. Today I went back to my trick of buying the foot long sub to eat over the course of two days.

It felt very good.

Throughout the weekend, I managed to put a bit of money into one of the wallet pockets that I don't seem to use. It helped create for me that in-between state of forgetting it was there and not spending it and remembering that it was there to put in my tip box Monday morning.

Tonight DH grilled a chicken breast for me. As I was eating it, something didn't feel right. I set the urn of my kitty's ashes next to me as I ate. Much better.

Saving log - $6 in the tip box + $7.40 this week's t-bill earnings + 40$ into a drp.

Spending log - $2 coffee, milk + $20 chiropractic copay + $6.86 lunch (for 2 days)

Entrance and exit strategies

December 11th, 2006 at 04:56 am

Thrift store, yet again. Got size 14 gap jeans in the current style, which I can get into but are quite tight. I suspect that that brand runs a tad small. Maybe in three weeks it will be a bit looser. They look okay if I wear a large something to hide a seriously large muffin top. Smile

Also picked up a medium sweater, and a large top. The large top was a bit of a surprise - it seemed to be a bit smaller than the medium top.

2.99$ large top + 2.99$ medium top + 5.99$ jeans + tax = 11.71$

I'm treating these pieces as goals to get into eventually...a bit like an entrance strategy. Its nice to buy the items at the thrift store, especially if you expect to chase smaller sizes on the way down. You feel a bit different about the items that are a bit large for you.

Now I have to begin to think about an exit strategy about the XL pieces and the size 18s. There is one pair of soft, worn, full of rips jeans that I still love even if they are 18s, and I'll keep them until they hang around my knees. The rest? Time to think about putting items out for donation.

how do you know?

December 10th, 2006 at 06:23 am

Kicking around day. DH bought my Denny's lunch, I covered the tip. Then it was a haircut, and a cider because getting a haircut is so traumatic. Smile

Talked to a Mormon elder, who was all of 20. He was passing out hot chocolate and pamphets on the street corner of 85th and Greenwood. I accepted the hot chocolate and a chat. Weird to think that my little Seattle neighborhood is hotbed of religious fervor and we are the heathens.

Spending - 2.65$ tip + 15$ haircut + 3$ cider

Noticed that a number of bloggers are writing about if they budget and/or if they reconcile their accounts. I don't budget, but boy, I reconcile my checkbook (and all my other accounts) online every day.

I don't know about everybody else, but once upon a time I didn't do either, and my accounts showed it. I figure that to get somewhere financially, you have to know whether you are overspending. You can either do it at the beginning/end of the month, which is what a budget is, or you do it continuously, which is what reconciling your checkbook is.

My mind can only wrap around these two choices, but I figure there must be more. So I throw out this question - how do you know if you are overspending?

yeah, I'm wicked

December 9th, 2006 at 06:21 am

As you might have guessed by some of my comments in the blogs, I'm the person at work who says in a public setting what other people wish they'd said.

We had a going away party for my former boss, and I volunteered to tell a story or two before we hit the cake (others did too, it wasn't just me). I told a couple and then told the most amazing fact about her - that her first job fresh out of college was working in a women's prison. And then my line: "and that skill set was probably the most directly transferable for this place."

Sigh. Its a blessing, its a curse. If I ever leave, my co workers are probably going to have a roast.

In the PTO/403B news, I got an apology from the HR person, our vacay time will be rolled over for 2007. Smile HR fought the COO, and the COO won. Now to work on whether the limit is 15% of your salary or $15,000. From the change-your-403B-stuff form, it looks like the latter. Again with the innocent letter. Not nice when you have to train HR.

Very busy today. The pledges and money are pouring in.

Savings log - $3 tip box, transferred $7.04 from t-bill interest into my ING account.
Spending log - 2$ coffee and milk, $10 lunch (hmmm, hot tempura fat), 10$ dinner. DH and I went lazy today.

Its like a rash

December 8th, 2006 at 04:33 am

Well, its about as pleasant. I've been noticing that all my financial websites (banks, brokerage, 403B, IRAs, US Treasury) have been doing the same thing - beefing up their security.

Everybody's splitting the panels between the username and the password, forcing me to add characters to my password, forcing me to give the answers to stock questions that mean nothing to me (guys, how about me coming up with wacky questions, which I then answer...I can't answer questions about children's names when I don't have children!). My password has morphed into three. My bank is gripping about the fact that I didn't give them a cell phone number. I don't have a cell phone number!!!

I understand it, what with the advent of WiFi and the data theft of the past few months but man it is inconvenient beyond inconvenient. I'm just going to get my account locked up.

Saving log - 0$
Spending log - 1.50$ coffee + 8$ lunch + 4$ groceries (bag of salad for $1, broccoli, chicken stock ... warning - canned chicken stock will go up after Christmas!

grit in the gears

December 7th, 2006 at 05:19 am

Savings log - 2$ tip box
Spending log - 1.37$ coffee + 5$ curry

Today was just weird at work. Not our department in the basement (cough, cough) lower level, our temp staff seems to be in good spirits, which is nice. Everyone else. One of my co workers in a different department confided to me that she will be leaving in a couple of weeks.

I emailed HR about a couple of things about our switch from sick / vacation time to PTO (paid time off). Apparently the plan, as presented, implied that if we have enough time we can "cash out" some of it. All I asked was whether, if I could cash out, could I put it in my 403B?

Sneaky, no? My emergency fund is full, and if I can siphon off some of my PTO riches into my tax-deferred 403B, well what's the problem?

Got snapped at, and the HR person was trying to tell me something different than what the COO was telling us. I forwarded the COO message to HR..let them duke it out. Smile There are days when I relish being the grit in the gears.

new relationship with money

December 6th, 2006 at 05:20 am

Savings log (12/4) - 3$ tip box
Spending log - $2 coffee & milk, $9 lunch at the hideout, $10 bag + $5 plastic shaker for DH.

Savings log (12/5) - 5$ tip box
Spending log - $2.36 coffee, 1 pt milk, 5$ lunch.

Bought a new wallet and bag. The wallet was a nice impulse purchase (yep, I can be implusive, too), the bag a bit less so. I've been thinking about a new bag that I can sling and can keep my hands free as I walk. I've learned from my grad school days that it makes no sense to carry a ton of papers home where I won't look at them, so I try to carry a little as possible. The bonus with this small bag is that it slings well and is weighted so it rides naturally flat on my hip. I appreciate that. How could I not? The reason I hate the aisle that I get boinked in the head by every other bus rider's bag as they're lurching by.

The wallet's a bit more interesting. Soft red leather, smoother and longer, with three long pockets, a clear plastic pocket for the bus pass or license, and slots for credit cards. The only thing it lacks is a place for a decent amount of change.

Its funny how changing your wallet changes your relationship with money, at least for a few days. My original wallet was basically two pockets - an easy zippered one for dollars and change, and a clear plastic slot for cards. Very simple and quick.

Now I have several slots with multiple zippers for either for money organization or for hiding/losing money, slots for plastic cards of all types: debit, credit (dangerous!), library, grocery, punch, business. The zippers are a bit stiff - will I spend less money because its harder to get at, or will I spend more because I'm frustrated? And the lack of a change purse - will I save more change, or do I spend more?

One thing's for certain - this wallet won't get lost in any my pockets, no matter what pants I wear.

Christmas shopping

December 4th, 2006 at 03:39 am

A PDA case for DH, 3 plastic 3 liter boxes, a red leather wallet = 71$.

Have DH's gift, and sister's. DH is getting gifts for MIL, BIL, and sister-in-law, based on where he currently works (customer service for a kitchen and wine ware company).

I think we are done!

White lying (funny & philosophical)

December 4th, 2006 at 03:19 am

Now I'm not talking about the big horrendous lies that break the law or really, really hurt people. I'm talking about the little white lies, the ones that provide social grease. Often, white lying is a skill that can help you become frugal. Let me explain...

My DJ friend is also a co worker at the non-profit, just a couple of office doors down. Because it is a non-profit, its just like a family - money is short and arm-twisting is long, especially with fund raising staff, who have heard soft "nos" before and will press you until you give them a hard "no", and then you get the lecture on teamwork. Substitute "what kind of team are we that we can't get X?" with "what kind of family are we that we can't get X?" and you can see where I'm going with this.

Anyway, DJ friend got tapped to run his two turntables for a task at work. Bad in some sense because now everyone knows he has equipment. A day or two later, another co worker (also a DJ, kinda) wanted to borrow DJ friend's stuff to use for his DJing at another work event.

DJ friend, of course, knows that all electronic equipment is touchy. He doesn't trust the other guy but he knows that a straightforward "no" will get the lecture about not being a team player. (Of course getting your stuff back busted or tweaked so that it takes a month to get it to what it was isn't team playing either, but somehow that gets ignored. Smile) So DJ friend came to me for help.

I laughed. "You gotta learn to tell a brilliant white lie."
"Teach me," he said.

So what are the principles of a good white lie?
0. (to get you in the mood) Remember that the original situation might well be a white lie. Smile
1. Know what your final result is.
2. Your white lie has to start with the truth.
3. It has to be plausible & the implications understandable.
4. It has to told simply enough so that no one wants details, or even thinks to check on the few details you do provide.
5. It has to be complete. No one should be able to come back and say, "maybe we can do/wait for Y instead?" This is the principle that most people fail at - its the difference between white lie and glorious white lie.

So let's begin.

Borrower claimed that he didn't have the funds to rent or buy another turntable - he bought records for the event (principle 0). Could I borrow one or your turntables?

Here's the white lie we came up with for DJ friend.

First of all, the final result is that no, you cannot borrow either turntable (principle 1).

During the event that DJ friend used his turntables, one balked on a song. Nothing horrible, one performer had to take the place of another until the snafu was resolved ten minutes later. So the truth was that DJ friend's turntables were balky, and we had hundreds of folks who witnessed it. That formed the nucleus of the white lie (principle 2).

DJ friend embellished the problem a bit, claiming skipping, which is a brilliant twist - DJ friend could claim that both he and the borrower's reputation are at stake (principle 3).

Now we get to the meat of the white lie. Both turntables are in the shop. No one wants to know which shop (principle 4). Both turntables are in it (principle 5.) This part was where DJ friend questioned the lie. "Are you sure?" he asked.

"You have to do both," I said. "Your turntables are a team so both could be causing the skipping (principle 3), and besides you don't want him to borrow either of your tables. Right? If you say one, you give him the opening to ask for the other. Then you have to give him a second lie about the other turntable."

(And the second lie is where the white liar usually gets into trouble. Remembering one lie is doable, remembering two is often not.)

The closer is that the problem is so intermittent that its going to take a while (principle 4) for the repair shop to figure it out. (principle 5)

So sorry, came the reply. Then nothing. No reply is the symptom of the brilliant white lie.

I throw the principles of great white lying out as a public service to the frugal community. After all, how much money do we have to shell out to fix whatever a borrower did?

Use the skills only for good! Big Grin

shakers and DH

December 2nd, 2006 at 05:54 am

Which is pretty much how my spending went today. $2 again for the coffee and the milk, and I'm about halfway through the protein powder the chiropractor gave me as a gift. Lunch today was the $4.36 curry special - Fridays are the best ones because every vegetarian curry is on special. Then I bought 2 plastic shaker cups ($4.99/each) - one for work to get the protein powder in the milk, one for home to use to make salad dressings.

Had gym for the third time this week because I had one session/week for a couple of weeks. I'm thinking that I'd like to buy a couple of sessions for DH at his gym. He claims he exercises and he does know about the machines, but when he told me that he injured the back of his knee pushing 300 lbs, I wonder if its male stubbornness. And his body doesn't seem to change. Smile I'll have to be a bit cagey, though.

I also worry about him for other reasons - he is the exact opposite of me in terms of sleep. Sleep apnea, disordered sleep, having to use sleeping pills to get to sleep, snoring...the big trifecta of bad sleep. He takes Ambien, and I worry that he actually does sleep eat. The kitchen's not a shambles in the morning, but a cupboard or two is open and things have been rearranged.

$1 in the tip box. My Paypal account made $1.25 this month.