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Archive for January, 2008

mixed bag

January 31st, 2008 at 08:24 pm

Saving log - $8 tip box
Spending log - $60 dinner (for two)

Was treated to the coffee and lunch, so I paid it forward and treated sweetie to a restaurant dinner. It included a very good folk singer/ satirist, so it was appetizer, dinner, dessert and a show.

It was a good antidote to the general craziness at work. Right now I'm just buzzing, thinking of all the things that I have to do. I have to calm myself, see what has to be done, and work my plan. I even went so far as to consult the I-Ching which told me to center myself, work the details and don't draw too much attention to myself.

DJ friend asked me to look at his 403B plan to identify a fund that is too crazy. Sounds a bit terrified that his 403B is dropping with the stock market. Said that his DW lost 100$, so she put everything in cash. Its hard to advise someone so risk adverse; they really can't put it in anything but cash so while they keep the numbers from obviously dropping, they don't see the stealth effect of inflation. The numbers stay up, sure, but when it costs twice as much to buy something in 18 years (at a 4% inflation, using the rule of 72), you've lost a lot.


I wonder if giving him an exercise would help - ask him to track his 403B total daily for a couple of weeks. It will go up, it will go down, it will go up again, it will go down. The idea would be to show that a $100 loss is nothing compared to the variation that those weeks would show. Of course, it might could freak them out even more.

Found my first bill

January 29th, 2008 at 09:27 pm

After just finding only coins on the ground, I found my first dollar bill.

It was in the park that I took a picture of, which after a day of rain has shed its snow and is now back to its old green and brown self.

I picked up the bill, still soggy, and thought of sister's partner who found a $50 on the ground in October.


I still think she mugged someone for it ... she has hidden depths, if you know what I mean. Big Grin

looks kinda fake, in a way

January 28th, 2008 at 07:55 pm

Saving log - $2 tip box
Spending log - $1.19 coffee + $5.45 lunch

For anyone who has winter on their mind, good or bad. Seattle became a winter wonderland overnight. These pictures were taken at sunrise at, oh, about 7:45 am.

The pocket park, facing west

The turned around view, facing east. 89th Street lay before you.

This was the most peaceful part of the day. After that, it went downhill rapidly.


January 27th, 2008 at 06:05 pm

Saving log - $0
Spending log - $3.36 coffee & bagel, $60 clothes

Didn't feel like working out at the gym. It was a nice day so instead I did a little shopping - bought several more long sleeved solid colored tops that I use year round - and did the mega 50 block walk.

I did a little detour. DH sometimes cuts down streets I never travel along, let alone walk down. On the corner of one street he drove, we saw an asian temple, so during my walk I walked past it.

I've lived in Greenwood for 8 years. Darned if the neighborhood still surprises me. This is a Tibetan Buddhist monastery founded in 1973. Its stupa (the white shape) is on the right, with prayer wheels circling it.

The red sign in the left corner invited you to walk around the stupa clockwise, turning each prayer wheel clockwise as you do so. Didn't have to ask me twice. It was very relaxing to hear the wheels turning as I walked. And I forgot to get ATM money afterward.

N.B.:According to Images of America: Seattle's Greenwood-Phinney Neighborhood, this is Sakya Monastery, the only Tibetan Buddhist monastery outside of Tibet. The head lama is 3rd in rank below the Dali Lama.

stimulating my way

January 25th, 2008 at 09:36 pm

Saving log - $4 tip box
Spending log - $1.19 coffee + $13 lunch

Had lunch with a friend today at my hideout. Something about ginger and lemon grass that makes me glow.

Looked my mutual funds and equities today. Not as bad as I feared, but taking a rest this week from looking nearly every night was a genuine rest.

Figured that I'll be unpatriotic, and not spend my share of the stimulus package. Instead I'll save it, use it to cancel out my tax bite, or if I'm feeling particularly punk, I'll put it in a drip stock. Ah, middle age - I'm too d%^& cynical to enjoy having my fiscal package stimulated. The way the dollar is going, $600 will maybe buy a bag of groceries anyway.

another look at your coupon

January 24th, 2008 at 08:55 pm

Saving log - $0 tip box
Spending log - $1.19 coffee + $6.50 lunch

Just in case you're new and you need to know about the mysterious tip box:


DJ friend was excited about getting several more coupons to his favorite Indian restaurant, so we went. The coupon, however, was for 11-noon and 1-2, leaving that critical lunch rush 12-1 at full price. Look at your coupons carefully!

Still not looking at my stocks and equities this week. We've had the drop in prices, now we have the rally. Of course the rally didn't really make up for the drop.

In gym today two other trainers were teasing my trainer. We now have a little index card binder into which my trainer writes the wicked routine she devised for me. Index card binder = $4.50, including index cards with the holes. The binder opens up the long way, like a checkbook, so when my trainer writes notes, it looks like my trainer was bribing me with checks during my routine. 15 pushups for a buck, anyone?

Still holding at 184!

no, no, no, no I'm not

January 22nd, 2008 at 07:37 pm

Saving log - $2 tip box
Spending log - $1.19 coffee + $5 lunch

Nope, I'm not going to look at my stocks, 401k or any equities this week. I'm heavy in cash, haven't moved anything yet so that's not the issue. I'm going to keep my emotion out of this, good or bad.

This is the time when 12 month CDs come into their own.

Time to give it all a rest.

Best way to start the saving journey

January 20th, 2008 at 08:04 pm

Ten years ago, I had about $15000 worth of credit card debt, and about $10000 worth of student loan debt. Still, while I was frugal, and I was slooowly paying off my debts, I realized that I was missing one ingredient - my routine.

Oh I had one. I'd drive to work, maybe drive to a lunch spot, visit a couple of friends, come back and work, then decompress by driving to the Barnes & Noble and read and have a decaf and a sweet. Yikes! I had a routine, but that routine involved leaking cash.

Routines are one of the most powerful tools that the saver has while non-stop novelties KILL saving. Sure, we all like: fun surprises; dinners out; new things to read, eat, think about; the chance to meet new people and have new experiences. Every once in awhile these things add spice to our lives. But those surprise vacations are often are white elephants when the plane ticket, gas, meals, incidentals are figured in; extra tasty calories allow you to gain weight and trash your credit at the same time; books and media are great to experience, but if you use them only once, well, what do you have? The memory of what your floor used to look like. Smile

A routine is a powerful tool because: (1) you hone your budget to it, (2) you pursue in your routine only the things that are meaningful to you, (3) in assessing your routine you know why those things are important to you, and (4) you've put a price on those things. When the price of some of the elements of your routine goes up, then instead of cursing it, you either find a way to cheapen that element to compensate, or you drop the element entirely.

The first step in developing a routine with an eye toward saving is to write it down. This goes in tandem with you writing down everything you spend. Well, where did you spend your $ and what were you doing? And don't forget the weekends because that's where most of your frivolous spending occurs.

Now that you have your daily and weekend routine. For each of those tasks, what makes it something that you like or you have to do? Work, of course, is a big part of your routine during the week day. You probably have to do it to earn money, so you might like your job or not, but you know why you are doing it.

Another example, a classic in the frugal literature. Maybe you like a cup of coffee on the way to work or the first thing as you get in. How do you feel about this task in your routine? Do you think its a waste? What elements do you like about it?

Now that you have your feelings about your tasks in your routine. How can I maximize a particular task's value?

Take the coffee example. It could be that you love coffee and caffeine. Buy a decent cup of coffee, the cheapest size that you can drink, or if you find that making coffee has value to you, make coffee to take in. It could be that you have coffee with the boss or coffee has value to you because its a way to socialize with spouse or co workers. Time to think about a token order of something cheap(er) so you minimize the cost, but maximize the info you get from spouse or co worker coffee time. Do you finish your coffee? If you don't - time to definitely think about getting the smaller size!

The next step. Are there tasks in your routine that no matter how much you've thought and tried to maximize their value but you find you can't? Drop those completely. Don't spend a dime on those!

The final step. Are there tasks in your routine that even maximized, you can replace with something cheaper? We'll switch examples here with cable, the other great frugal example. Why do you have cable? Like a specific show or sporting event? Afraid that network TV doesn't have enough choices? You can get TV shows from Netflix, Amazon or the public library. You can go a sports bar or a friend's house for the sporting event.

Closing the loop. As you start streamlining your routine, honing your tasks by maximizing all their values, and eliminating spending tasks you don't like, your spending should smooth out.

Start saving!

do you haggle?

January 19th, 2008 at 07:58 pm

Saving log - $3 tip box + $600 Drip stock contributions
Spending log - $1.19 coffee +$8 lunch

Saving log - $0 tip box
Spending log - $28 (brunch for 2) + $30 groceries

I read this article in the New York Times this morning...

I don't really haggle. I've never thought about it much. In Mexico we haggled a little bit, but if you are the least self conscious, boy that hinders you. I have it in me, I guess, what with writing, speaking and faxing the innocent letter, but those are more pointing out what should have happened in the interest of fairness rather than "can you give me a break".

I'm nice enough so that I engender a little sympathy, and I am now a bit older and less self conscious, but still I usually don't. I think its because I don't buy too many expensive things and it just doesn't seem to be worth it buying just food and staples.

So I don't. But do you?

yikes at the grocery store

January 17th, 2008 at 09:24 pm

Saving log - $0 tip box
Spending log - $1.19 coffee +$17 lunch

So much for the 3 free lunches. I just caught up on this one.

Yesterday I discovered that I had no tomato sauce for the pasta sauce, so I made do last night with chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, and a bit of vinegar and water. Every so often, though, I need tomato sauce.

Here's where the price book gets depressing - the best price I saw was .95/14 oz can. Back in 2004 sauce was .33 - .44/can.

Then I checked out the pasta
2008 - $2.38/16 oz bag
mid 2007 - $1.50/16 oz bag
2005 - .69/16 oz bag
2004 - .67/16 oz bag

third free lunch this week

January 16th, 2008 at 09:46 pm

Saving log - $7 tip box
Spending log - $1.19 coffee + $13 stamps

Third free lunch of the week. I pay now for the next two days.

Put what was in the tip box into savings. $46. Not too bad this month. Payday yesterday, so I could move another $100 from checking into ING. I needed to pick up some stamps, just in case, so I got a sheet of Forever stamps along with a sheet of regular ones.

Made a quick dinner, but had a bit of a scare - a jar of crushed garlic broke in my hands. Luckily I didn't get cut, but the sauce got a lot more garlic than it should have. I rescued the rest of the garlic, checking for shards, by putting it in a plastic container with a bit of olive oil on top.

Found a dime in between our couch cushions.

this week is sweet as far as calories are concerned

January 15th, 2008 at 09:24 pm

Saving log - $0 tip box
Spending log - $1.19 coffee

Yesterday I bought a sandwich from the winnings of the Packer game. I bought large enough so that yesterday I got free lunch, today I got free lunch, and tomorrow our little department is hosting a free lunch as a thank you for the temp staff. 3 free lunches this week.

I had 10$ leftover from Sunday and I won't have to hit the ATM until Thursday. Yay. Slow the velocity of money so that it leaves my wallet at a crawl. Big Grin

Was a serious icebowl commute this morning. I live on a ridge, so its an icy downhill no matter where I go. Still have my Yaktrax. They work like a dream and get comments about them when I stand at the bus stop. And stand I did; the bus came late making me 45 minutes late.

fitting puzzle pieces

January 14th, 2008 at 08:56 pm

Saving log - $2 tip box
Spending log - $1.19 coffee

Many freebees. Got cash for the sandwich, enough to do the footlong drill (buy a footlong sub, eat 1/2 one day, other 1/2 the next), got a free coffee from the financial planner, who I had a meeting with this morning. I have to do a bit of research comparing Vanguard with Schwab, especially figuring out fees when I rebalance. I suspect Vanguard will pass with flying colors, but you never know.

The issue is that my portfolio was fine before the serious influx of inheritance money. Now everything has to be re-jiggered to get the appropriate % to the now much larger total.

The plan is to take all but 180K of cash/cash equivalents (180K should be enough for a 50-60% down payment of a Seattle house in my neighborhood in about 3 yrs, a bit of emergency, along with some payments to sister for farmette), put them in a moderately aggressive portfolio. Each account that can't be rolled over into Vanguard - 403B, IRA, Roth IRA, should contain 1 or 2 different accounts to make it simple to determine whether one asset or fund is doing fantastically well or bad.

Emailed the Amerprise guy. Yes, the box of checks we gave you - use 'em. At the very end, to scrape up the little bits of interest, I need to email him to get the paperwork to completely close the account.

The best way to get a free lunch

January 12th, 2008 at 11:27 pm

Depend on blind loyalty to a certain football team. Big Grin

Won the sandwich bet -


6 in Italian sub on whole wheat, drag it through the garden (all the veggies on it).

ten minutes

January 11th, 2008 at 09:14 pm

Saving log - $1 tip box
Spending log - $1.19 coffee + $13 lunch

I woke up at 7:45 am for an 8:10 am bus. It went downhill from there. I got in and was bombarded by needy co workers, my temp guy looking for projects, and strange snafus. I solved them, but it wasn't until mid morning when I could work on what I needed to work on ... for me.

Then came lunch. My first choice had a line out the door - no good - so I went to my hideout - nearby. Got in at 12:30, and while it wasn't nearly as busy I mentally went over my schedule today. Wasn't I supposed to have a meeting at 1? I got served at 12:45, huffed it down, caught a bus and got back at 1:10 pm, heart racing thinking "I'm late!".

Meeting was at 1:30. Whew, wasn't late after all.

My boss and I waited for the elevator to make the 1:30 pm meeting when we heard voices in the shaft. Elevator was stuck on a floor - we got a co worker to call facilities and rescue the voice, making us both late ... by 10 minutes.

The day took its own today.

Yesterday I made an appointment with the financial planner for Monday. I was satisfied that he wasn't going to use me as a boat payment, and the last thing he said to me was that I should sleep on any advice and not be to rash.

Finally, the CD shop near my house put up a sign that he was going out of business. I passed by a couple of times since then, bummed and little bit embarrassed. The owner was a friend and, well, what is the etiquette here? Go in like nothing happened and pick over the stock? Walk by and leave it alone?

I went in tonight, gave my condolences, and found a couple of CDs. Turns out that he's moving a lot of stock this week. I laughed and said that the persian carpet sellers in Pioneer Square had the right idea. Keep advertising a going-out-of-business sale, lay low for a couple of weeks, then start back up again. Another customer told him exactly the same thing.

sign of the times lunch

January 9th, 2008 at 09:15 pm

Saving log - $5 tip box
Spending log - $1.19 coffee + $7 lunch

Lunch. Yes I know, eating lunch out is not frugal, and probably not great for the health either, but it is one of my few vices and if you work in a basement, you'd pay good money to see sunshine...making the food a bonus. Not only do I keep track of how much I spend on the meal, I keep a food diary of what and how much I eat. So I've noticed a sign-of-the-times thing with a Korean lunch today.

Lunches are staying the same price, but they are getting decidedly smaller. The styrofoam takeout container of bi bim bap (Korean BBQ with vegetables) is filled similarily, but the next size smaller. Call it the candy bar effect. Anybody else notice this with their lunch?

The frugal side of me felt a pang, but the diet side of me said yippee.

Speaking of lunch, I rarely eat here. He's very close to work, and I'm decisive orderer, but I got into a fight with him once about Fresca. Why order a side of bile? Big Grin


Not much else financial happened. It was a day of missing making contacts. Telephone tag with the friend who is a financial planner. (His voice mail said he was a vice-president - yipes!). Email tag with the Ameriprise guy (grandma's trust dollars are in Ameriprise).

Caught up with most of what I was behind on, but I spent a great deal of time answering not-so bright emails.

Didn't even find any pennies to pick up on the sidewalk.

yours truly--

January 8th, 2008 at 09:31 pm

told her boss how much she inherited from dad and grandma, then promptly picked up a penny from the sidewalk. It was a shiny penny, after all...

sandwich riding on a game

January 7th, 2008 at 08:43 pm

Saving log - $5 tip box
Spending log - $1.19 coffee, milk + $8 lunch

The first thing out of my mouth (me, Packer fan) at the chiropractor (he, Seahawks fan), was:

"We are going to kill you!" Big Grin

He was about to tell me the same thing, hah hah, I got it out first. Of course doing an adjustment on my mid back he said the same thing and then pop and CLICK.

So we made it interesting - we bet a sandwich on the game. A no-spend day next week depends on which Brett Favre shows up: Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde. Big Grin

Lawyer friend suggested a mutual friend (who used to work with us) who is now working as a financial planner. I've wanted to catch up with him anyway so its time to contact him.

I have three goals for any financial planner because I'm a DIY at heart:

1. Entry point for services: CPA for taxes, lawyer for estate planning.

2. Coalescing of accounts and making sure that the allocations are diversified.

3. Knowledge - I know what I know, I'm trying to learn what I know I don't know. What don't I know to even learn about?

I get the feeling that I will be buying this lunch, so life's a wash. Big Grin

change tales - the red quarter

January 5th, 2008 at 06:47 pm

DH picked this beauty up from his change today. "Want to hear about red quarters?"

Do I!

According to DH, they're red because someone coated them with red nail polish. That someone was the jukebox owner. Often if a jukebox was quiet, it stayed quiet, and if the jukebox was played, then other people would put quarters in and play what they wanted.

So a bartender would "prime" the jukebox and play it using a red quarter. When the jukebox owner pulled in the take for that week, he'd give the bar back the red quarters to use for more priming. They weren't supposed to leave the bar...this one was an escapee.

Anybody else have change tales?

Two frugal firestarter recipes

January 5th, 2008 at 03:51 pm

So we were eating breakfast at the Library Cafe this morning when the owner decided to crank up the woodburning stove. DH and I knew what would happen when the owner stuffed it with newspaper. Sure enough - smouldering smoke from the soy ink and it just didn't catch the first time. Or worse, the newspaper would burn just dandy, leaving the wood all nicely unburnt and dry.

We had that problem ourselves with our fireplace when our wood worker friend turned us on to his solution:

Firestarter Recipe 1

old style dixie cups - small, waxy paper kind. NO PLASTIC!
candle wax
saucepan you do not care about

Think back to your college days when you were making jello shots. Big Grin Set up your dixie cups on a tray. Fill dixie cups 1/3 - 1/2 way with sawdust.

Warm the used candle wax gently in the saucepan. When pourable, pour the wax into the dixie cups, filling to 1/2 to 2/3. Let cool.

Don't over fill; the dixie cups stack better if they are underfilled and the rim of the dixie cup is a feature here.

To use, stack the wood as usual. In between the spaces, shove the dixie cups rim side out. Light the rim. We've found that it will take 2, tops 3, dixie cups strategically placed to start a decent fire.

Now since we weren't woodworkers, a dependable sawdust supply was a problem. DH came up with this twist:

Firestarter Recipe 2:

old style dixie cups - small, waxy paper kind. NO PLASTIC!
dryer lint
candle wax
saucepan you do not care about

Just like recipe 1, only put a small bit of dryer lint in the dixie cups instead of the sawdust.

lose two pounds, gain a CPA?

January 3rd, 2008 at 09:28 pm

Saving log - $0
Spending log - $1.19 coffee + $13 lunch + $5 magazine

And now I'm coming into the busy period at work, where one day gone means a very, very busy next few days. Such was the case today.

But I got brilliant news at gym. I dropped two pounds and another inch around the waist so I am now back down to 184, where I was in August.

Time also to clean out the tax launch pad - a green folder where I kept last years W2, various DIV and INT tax statements to prep for this year's tax season. Does anyone use a CPA? How did you find him or her?

2008 front of year routine

January 2nd, 2008 at 05:46 pm

Saving log - $30 monthly interest in small accounts
Spending log - $3 bagel, coffee + $14 drugstore + $11 groceries

Stayed at home to greet the plumber. Plumbing got fixed at about 3pm, but I just was not feeling it to go into work for an hour. So I bought some groceries - we had no fresh vegetables in the house, so I picked up the cheap three: carrots, celery, onions.

While I was waiting for the plumber to come, I got a number of financial and gym tasks done: I set up my 2008 Roth ($5K is the maximum this year), I checked out my online Ameriprise account (grandma's trust is in Ameriprise, they've made an account in my name to move it from her to me), transferred $5K into the farmette account, and I put gym routines as little date journals into my PDA. Throughout the year, my trainer wrote out the exercises of the routines that we did on a small pad of paper. This pad of paper is nearly full. When we transfer to a new pad of paper I know the old one will disappear.

Yesterday, sister was online so we did some IMing. She sent the Excel spreadsheet that I made for her in October. I should have remembered to get it while I there, but I didn't so I taught sister how to send attachments.

I suggested she go through her checkbook and bank statements coming from the joint account for the farmette and IM me the transactions so I can update. Turns out we were $350 in the black for 2007 after taxes, electrical upgrade, solar panels, propane, new front door, redoing the milkhouse and foundation. Whew!

But not so whew - at least for sister - is that she hadn't done any of her paperwork to get grandma's trust transferred to her. Still in a serious, serious snit with the cousin, thinking somehow that he's stolen something or is hiding something. Its so bizarre to me why she's stamping her feet. Frankly, she's hurting herself - I've looked at the trust that has been transferred over into my account. Its a little more than what the cousin estimated it would be.

As it is, I now have to at least ask a CPA for advice on my tax situation for 2007. My ship has come in, but my moorage for it is not nearly adequate. Big Grin