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Archive for February, 2008

deflated by inflation

March 1st, 2008 at 03:53 am

Saving log - $3 tip box
Spending log - $1.19 coffee, milk + $9 lunch

Payday. Yippie. I depressed myself by playing around with Inflation Master program on my PDA. My first job out of college in 1985 I made the princely sum of 22K. In 2007 22K had inflated to 42K, just a bit less than what I make now. Economists talk about the stuff anybody at any income level can buy (straight or with credit) and how you can get so much better stuff nowadays versus olden times, but I feel like the Red Queen - running in place to keep in same spot.

I know the saying "be careful what you wish for, you might just get it", but man, a deflation spiral looks really good right now. It does really cause an economy to fall apart - why buy something now when you can get it cheaper later? And you can wait and wait and wait far longer than a business that needs money to provide a good or a service can wait for you to spend. Would be nice not to run, for a few months at least.

rent going up

February 28th, 2008 at 03:40 am

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

It was a nearly no spend day; our temp treated me to lunch as a payback for me treating him a couple of months ago. He has only a couple more weeks with us, but he got picked up by another department for a few more weeks.

Now the not so nice news. Rent is going up by $30/month should we sign another year lease. We've only had a couple of rent increases in the 8 years we've been renting, need a place to sit out and watch as housing prices drop to our level, even with the new rent its still a good deal ... blah blah blah. Still mildly sucks.

FYI - walked past the 500K hovel with no view. The flyers are all gone. It could be that its a sign that new, reduced price flyers will come soon. Or the sellers found an idiot with money. Or the sign will come down.

DH wants to pick up a one-time cleaning. I dunno. Not that the place doesn't need it, but somehow it would be better if it was closer to the spring, in time for "spring cleaning".

wallets

February 27th, 2008 at 04:51 am

Saving log - $4 tip box
Spending log - $1.19 coffee, milk + $18 lunch

Lots of changes happening to our lunch group. Finnish friend and his partner are moving to Memphis, screenwriter friend is changing jobs - he'll be working across the street from lawyer friend and I. We had the dim sum lunch for Finnish friend and paid for it.

After lunch, I watched as lawyer friend checked the money in his ancient, broken down, falling-apart, held-together-by-the -cloth in the pocket, brown wallet. "You know, when I was in the Paris Flea Market I was very tempted to buy you a new wallet," I said.

And I was, but I thought better of it. I didn't even buy wallets for my DH, or rather, I have in the past, but I knew that unless the guy bought it, he wasn't going to use it. Even if it was the perfect size, perfect color, had the perfect number and type of pocket...even if it was exactly the same as the old wallet, except that it was new...probably wouldn't be used. The guy has to buy his own wallet, and it has to be a situation where any wallet is better than the old one.

Of course when you get a new wallet, you have to configure it - figure out which pocket gets what card, whether you fold the money and receipts, what order the money goes in. And since the new wallet is going to be a lot stiffer than the old one, the pockets are hard to use. I think that's the real hassle of the new wallet - new wallet, new configuration, lots of tinkering to get the maximal ease of use.

free TVs on the street

February 25th, 2008 at 01:19 am

Saving log - $0 tip box
Spending log - $3.29 bagel, coffee + $9 groceries, coffee, biscotti

In case I hadn't mentioned it, I made my monthly tip box deposit on Friday. I'm about 3 months away from depositing $2K from the tip box at work, but it has taken a couple of years. Speed isn't the point with the tip box - more like mindfulness with saving. For me saving seems to work best if I'm just involved enough to do it nearly daily, but not so involved that I get bummed because it happens so slowly.

My gym trainer told me on Thursday that the gym will be replacing all the cardio equipment Sunday afternoon, so I decided to do a mega-walk today instead of going through the hassle of bussing, finding a cardio machine that isn't being moved, and bussing back. This walk was truly mega - over 4 miles, through parts of Fremont that I hadn't seen up close.

No pictures, unfortunately, but on 44th and Fremont a TV repair store lost its lease. At least 30 analog TVs, all free, were lined up on the street. One even looked like the one that we replaced this Christmas. There were even a couple of early 90s analog projection systems out there. Once upon a time they were all wanted, craved even. Not today.

Got a couple of good grocery deals across the street from the free TVs - .99 romaine, .87/lb broccoli, mixed hot peppers for $1.50/lb. Made two meatloaves studded with corn, peppers, onions, sun dried tomatoes - got the idea from a cafe in Tucson that did the same thing and called it the Gila Monster.

the housing bubble, in a nutshell

February 23rd, 2008 at 03:30 am

Took a look at the flyer on this house:



I admit, it is not the best picture of the place, but I was shocked at the price -
$499,950. Here's why...

Classic rule of thumb #1: Mortgages should be in the range of 2 - 2.5X yearly income with a 20% down payment. Even with a 100K down payment, leaving 400K to mortgage, would you know of anyone who has 100K in a savings account and a salary of 150K who would want this place? Especially since even a decent lick of paint on the fence would cost about 50$...putting you at exactly 500K.

Okay, okay, you say...the flyer said that it would be a decent rental property. 3 bedrooms, 1.5 baths, on a very busy arterial. It leads me to --

Classic rule of thumb #2: Price shouldn't exceed 100x the monthly rent. To make money on this property if you paid 500K, it would mean you would have to charge 5K/month to break even. You could rent out all the bedrooms each for $1.67K/month. Know of three people stable enough, dumb enough, and willing enough to each rent a room for 1.67K/month?

I'll be the first to admit that I've taken a none-too-flattering picture and know nothing about the inside of the place. Any bets that the inside would be the Taj Mahal? But applying some misty dusty rules nothing pencils in.

good deed just in time

February 21st, 2008 at 04:38 am

Tuesday
Saving log - $3 tip box
Spending log- $1.19 coffee + $7 lunch

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

To recap, one of our temp staff found ones (for a football pool) and a man's paycheck in an envelope on Friday night and was going to try and put it in the safe as I was leaving. I didn't have the key to the safe, so we put it in a safe place for Tuesday morning.

Looking at the paycheck, I knew that this guy's office was in the building next door. The temp and I took a little field trip to the office that morning.

Total success!

Turns out that on our way to the receptionist we were intercepted by their head of HR. Apparently the guy had requested a new paycheck cut and she was on the way to start the process when we stopped by. HR head also waved the guy in so temp staffer could give him the envelope personally.

The temp staffer was so shy. The guy was going to give her a couple of bucks as a reward, but she waved him off. I think I would have waved him off too (maybe Big Grin) but it was a nice gesture on his part.

But I did put one of my business cards (writing the temp staffer's name on the card) in the envelope. We work for a non-profit...maybe it will plant a seed for next year.

Errands and taxes

February 19th, 2008 at 05:55 am

Saving log - $0
Spending log - $3.28 coffee, bagel + $1.65 coffee + $6 pho lunch

DH worked President's Day, while I could play. It was a glorious sunny day, which never happens in Seattle this time of year. Mostly did errands - made the chiropractor appointment, then walked north through the Pike Market, through Belltown, then cut through some of the Sculpture Park, Myrtle Edwards Park, then the park maintained by the Port of Seattle, then crossed over the Amgen double helix bridge - about 4 miles.

Picture time!

This one was actually taken last week at the Pike Market. How did he get that cat to wear that hideous sweater?


The one thing I missed seeing the first time at the Sculpture Garden was the Neukom Vivarium. Its a nurse log gently and greenly rotting under green filtered glass. Simple, but refreshing.


A very different perspective of one of the bits of sculpture. If you don't know what a typewriter eraser is...well that dates you!


Shot of glorious blue water and blue sky, with a freighter and ducks.


More blue sky, a squiggly tree sculpture, a red ampersand sculpture, and the PI globe.


Inside the Amgen double helix bridge.


Then the bus mostly home. I'm doing my taxes late this year. Normally I do them myself and get right on it to have it over and done with...but because I inherited and sold property, received a 1099 where I might have to fill out a Schedule K, and earned decent money off of taxable investments, well, discretion is the better part of valor this year. I made an appointment with a local CPA this afternoon three weeks from now.

One last thing - I managed to score two fantastic deals at two different grocery stores 1. on frozen vegetables - .99/lb for frozen corn, peas, peas & carrots, green beans; 2. ground beef at $1.49/lb. The freezer is full.

10 things I learned from probate

February 17th, 2008 at 04:27 am

I first started my blog to journal my experiences with inheritance and probate (defined here as the process by which the will is discharged) after my dadís death in July 2005. It seems as good a time as any to use this as a nice little summary of the whole shebang and of my blog in general, especially in 2005 and 2006. Enjoy the walk down memory lane!

1. Someone died because of it. Sounds like a smart-ass thing to say, but itís true. Someone who youíd much prefer to be alive has died, youíre grieving, and now you have to make decisions and sort out many relationships that now will never change. Yeah, like that will be easy! Be thankful for thing 3.

2. Have an updated will. Sister found the will in a file cabinet in the attic after a few hours of searching. We were grateful that dad had one. However, it was 40 years old! Sister and I were mentioned at the end, basically saying at the end of a long list: if everyone else dies, they get it. Well everybody else did die because a lot happens in 40 years. We also knew that we didnít do always what dad would have wanted, but for that we needed an updated will. The Ouija board just didnít cut it.

Oh yes, keep the will and other paper assets organized, together, and in a safe place. Sister and I sorted important papers from dreck for a week, sister even longer, and we moved them from a one padlock- secured farmhouse to sisterís house. The lawyer winced a bit when he heard that because you arenít supposed to move anything, but letís face it, all it would have taken is a meth addict with a match so we did what we had to do.

3. It takes a long time. Sister and I finally got through it in June 2007, after one extension, for a total of 23 months or nearly two years. In a sense, we were grateful, both because of thing 1, thing 7, thing 9 and because we had plenty of complicated decisions to make. If you spent your inheritance ahead of time through your credit card, beware.

4. You will say to yourself: WTF? Often. Toothless old guys telling us that dad was sitting on fabulous riches Ė ďthat land is zoned commercialĒ, supposed adults driving farm equipment away for ďsafekeepingĒ, property lines 10 feet from where they were supposed to be, finding grandpaís tax returns from 1970 to his death in 1999, sister having a completely different childhood in the same house than I did, finding out that the estate had insurance for vandalism.

5. The executorís job is that of a switchboard - to collect assets, taxes and debts, then to discharge all in the most efficient way possible. Really donít have any good story about this point. Just that if the executor is a family member and is part of the emotional mix that no good can come of it. It was the one advantage of the 40 year old will Ė all of the family members picked to be executors were unable to do it.

6. Debts first, then assets. One of the first things that the executor did was put in a call for creditors on the estate in the local newspaper. The deadline depends on the state; in ours (Wisconsin) the deceasedís creditors have 90 days to come out of the woodwork. 91 days, tough. Creditors are paid from the estateís assets, whatís left is what you inherit. Your children or your inheritors donít inherit debt, with one exception: co-signers. If you need another reason why co-signing a loan is awful, here it is.

7. Probate might be resolving more than one estate or relationship. We also resolved momís insurance assets, gave items to dadís sisters, found residual savings bonds that grandpa gave to us, paid off Nut (a hired hand of dadís from the 1980s) some back wages that he claimed he had, and I got closer to my sister. Frankly, Iím glad there was only the two of us.

8. Both emotion and analysis have their place. Sister was close to the action, and far more emotional. I was 3000 miles away and had to be dispassionate and analytical. Or was that really the case? When it came to all the assets, I would have sold them to the highest bidder because I attached negative emotions to them, while sister saw the usefulness in picking and choosing the buyer and keeping at least the old homestead. We could keep the homestead, pay for it, and improve it, so why not? In the end, I was glad that her analysis and emotion ruled the day.

9. Stuff is harder to deal with than money. Old farm equipment, furniture, dishes, vinyl records, books, clippings from the newspaper, farm cats, and clothing from the 60s: all went for pennies on the dollar. And while real estate is where the value of the estate was, it was the hardest of all to deal with. Are you sure that you want to collect that much stuff? Who are you storing it for? When you think about it, we are all renters, marking our place on this earth. Enjoy what is yours now and enjoy it completely: you canít take it with you.

10. Itís now your asset. Thatís what I think the whole point of probate is. Because it takes forever, it gives you time to chase away the emotion and the ghosts, and gives you the ability to get comfortable with whatever you are inheriting. At the end, you want it to end.

good deed, delayed

February 16th, 2008 at 03:43 am

Saving log - $3 tip box
Spending log - $1.19 coffee + $15 lunch

Got a lot done today, but at the expense of telling people, "go away...right now." At 5:30pm, as I was about to leave, one of the temp staff found a check and an envelope of money on the street. It looks like its coming from someone who works in the building next door. No way to lock it up with the rest of the money - the co worker with the key to the safe left a half hour before - so I had the temp person tuck the envelope underneath my keyboard.

We'll see if we can do a good deed on Tuesday, after the President's Day holiday.

Sweet holiday this year - payday was today, right before it.

gradually, then suddenly

February 14th, 2008 at 05:53 am

Tuesday
Saving log - $1 tip box
Spending log - $3 coffee

Wednesday
Saving log - $0 tip box
Spending log - $0

Attended a workplace all staff retreat with breakfast coffee and lunch provided, so I managed to have a no spend day today. Yesterday I brought a lunch and I knew that I would have a no spend day the next day so I splurged and had the delicious $3 drip coffee. Averaged out over two days, its just a bit more than my usual.

The retreat was interesting as these things went. I had a minor epiphany during the retreat with the concept that relationships usually succeed or fail gradually, then suddenly. It came from a Hemmingway character, when asked how he became bankrupt, said, "gradually, then suddenly."

The speaker at the retreat generalized it to all relationships, but since this is a financial blog, I much prefer to keep it in its original setting. How many of us got into serious debt gradually (through denial), then suddenly?

For the bloggers here wrestling with their debts, please remember that denial is a powerful, long lasting emotion. It makes the gradualness of your financial situation so easy to take ... much easier to take than facing the sharp shock of reality. And who among us remembers exactly all of the items we got into debt over? Wonderful or necessary, it doesn't matter - only the denial remains.

All of us savers, though, saved our money gradually, then suddenly. Compound interest is the classic gradually, then suddenly situation. Our 401Ks didn't just magically get big, it took time for most of us to start our 401Ks, decide on the amounts, increase the amounts over time.

Several of the new bloggers here talked about the courage it took us more established bloggers to blog about the mundane. Money management itself is all about the gradual, then the sudden, all about all the little mundane choices to save small amounts consistently over long periods of time, the fact that putting $44 into savings while taking out $40 from the ATM is somehow different, and better than just saving $4.

Right now its all about you all out there discovering the same thing. Try it. Saving will be gradual for a long while, but when it turns sudden, it becomes amazing.

raccoon tales

February 12th, 2008 at 04:06 am

Saving log - $1 tip box
Spendng log - $1.19 coffee + $8 lunch

Nothing financial happened. The only thing interesting during the whole day happened in the morning when I walked through the Greenwood park gates for the bus and saw a raccoon ambling by in the road, unconcerned.

It wasn't a monstrously big one, but grown enough - more like an old teenager, young adult one. But raccoons out in daylight brazen like that meant it could be rabid. I stood still and waited for it to pass by then hop into a culvert on that corner.

Reminded me of other raccoon stories. The family of raccoons we apparently fed by setting a garbage bag outside (this before recycling when the Seattle garbagemen would actually trot into your yard and pick up your trash); the three foot high raccoon picking through the dumpster behind Dick's Drive In on 45th...

And the oldest story of all, when the other three foot high raccoon was trapped in dad's concrete silo, snacking on silage (cow kimchi - chopped, fermented corn stalks, tassels, and leaves). And raccoons are belligerent drunks, too. Whatever you do, don't shoot at a raccoon inside a concrete silo and MISS. Then you have to duck back out and wait for the bullet to stop ricocheting.

money flying this weekend

February 11th, 2008 at 01:16 am

(perhaps an entry would be helpful)

Missed the caucus this weekend - we just didn't get out and about from Saturday breakfast, coffee, paper. And our caucus was 50 blocks away. Yeah, I know, excuses excuses. So much for being a decent citizen. I much prefer primaries vs caucuses and totally wish they were open (you didn't have to declare a party before voting). 20 years ago, Washington state voting took on a fun dimension - sometimes you sacrificed your vote by voting for the other party's nutball.

Mid afternoon, we hit Trader Joes' picking up a month's worth of .99 clif bars, two bags of salad, two pounds of pasta, which .79/lb.

I walked about 1.75 miles along Greenwood Ave and back, on errands and small purchases. Dropped off a CD at the library, did a little window shopping (debating about whether to get that Hillary Clinton nutcracker for my sister), bought a 1 lb of fun pasta and while there got advice on how to use some very concentrated and salty sheep cheese (lasts forever - grate some into warm pasta, put into sauce, use it along with yogurt to bake in filo dough), bought a book on the history of Greenwood (love the pics), chocolates for Valentine's, and bubble bath for me.

Sunday was a gym day and another walk day - and I bought some walnuts (for beet walnut salad and waldorf salad), grapes (still terrible price at $2.50/lb, but better than I've seen anywhere else, blue cheese, and rye bread.

Even those the prices are terrible compared to my price book, I've got to lighten up a bit and not worry so much about spending a little. I have about $150 from this paycheck and I get paid this Friday.

Saturday
Spending log - $13 brunch and coffee + $46 Trader Joe's + $7 pasta + $19.95 book + $33 chocolates + $4.50 bubble bath (2 bottles)

Sunday
Spending log - $1 apple + $1.55 decaf coffee + $16 groceries.

free lunch (again)

February 9th, 2008 at 06:49 am

Saving log - $3 tip box
Spending log - $1.19 coffee + $10 groceries

Today was the last day for most of the temp staff. We'll have a couple staying on for another month or so; my temp person will stay for one more month. We had a last lunch party, paid for by the department.

Then it was another party for a co worker leaving after 21 years. She wanted to make sure that I was still writing so in her memory book I wrote in the address to this blog. I've given my blog address out to a couple of others on their last day. I wonder if they ever looked me up here?

Kinda funny that in the age of easy worldwide publishing that I would be so covert about it. But it is far weirder to be so open. Like somehow its bad for a company to check if you've put up your spring break drunk pic...and then, the gall, not hire you if they find it. How dare they?

Checked to see where I could go to caucus at 1pm tomorrow.

Wrote a 40$ check and a $35 check to two drips.

not buying calories

February 7th, 2008 at 04:06 am

Saving log - $0 tip box
Spending log - $1.19 coffee + $10 lunch

The most interesting part of the day was the trip home. First off, I left at 5:30 and was excited to see that the sky was merely deep blue and not pitch black.

Second off, on my walk home from the bus I suddenly hit a black patch - half of the block on Greenwood Ave between 85th and 87th was out of power. I asked at the coffee shop next door - the first business brightly lit - what had happened. The owner told me that their power went out at 3pm and that's all she knew.

Next, I hit the Safeway with an eye to getting a little ham to have as a nosh. It was in the process of being renovated. They should have just closed it for a day or two and got everything sorted out. Instead, no meat, nothing hot and ready to go, and nothing remotely in the places I remember. I just took a quick walk around, didn't find what I wanted and didn't look for something to buy.

nothing to see here, move along

February 6th, 2008 at 04:08 am

Saving log - $6 tip box
Spending log - $1.19 coffee, $5.50 lunch

Zip is happening on the financial front. Made a $150 last month on a CD, still waiting to move some of my cash into stock. Today is clearly not the day even though the advice is "buy on the dip" - I get the feeling that there will be more price dips for awhile, and double dipping stocks is probably just as gross as double dipping chips.

I'm bugged that the Super Tuesday coverage is displacing my normal TV routine. Yep, I am frivolous. Big Grin

anchovy pizza

February 5th, 2008 at 04:52 am

Saving log - $2 tip box
Spending log - $1.19 coffee + $6 lunch

Over ate during the Super Bowl as we hosted the Duvall friends. Another anchovy pizza lover is so, so very rare, so when a medium arrived with anchovies, I went whole hog.

Usually the anchovy pizza is a covert, solitary pleasure - when DH is on the road, often I will order an anchovy pizza to nosh on for days - because during pizza ordering all it will take is just one "ick" and nix on the anchovies. "Ick" it will be because no one is middle of the road with anchovies. Sure we do have the anchovy posers who pick off the 'chovies and eat the rest, but really the best use of anchovies, other than their delicious saltiness, is the place holder feature: the area around the anchovy is inedible to anchovy haters.

Darn useful for marking pizza. In a mixed crowd, ever notice that the vegetarian pizza gets snarfed up before the meat pizza? Strategy! The meat eaters can eat the veg pizza, the veg eaters can't eat the meat pizza, so of course the competitive eaters figure that if the first piece is the veg, they can always get a meat pizza slice later, at their leisure. Add anchovies and the balance of power changes. We can eat whatever pizza we want. Bwahhhahhh!

One last anchovy pizza story. When I was a TA in grad school, I taught labs and graded tests along with 4-5 other grad students. Grading tests was a chore, so to make it a bit better we would order pizza and make a party out of it. The first test, for our pizza order we conferred using the "what do you hate-we'll leave it off" technique. One of our brethren just for laughs, said, "you know, I really like anchovies." We all looked at each other and said slowly, "we like anchovies, too." What are the odds of finding fellow anchovy pizza lovers? We ordered anchovy pizza for the entire quarter.

Deadbeats: be careful out there

February 3rd, 2008 at 01:55 am

A little something for Dollars for Dough Nuts, who predicted this about a year ago.

Remember that in the credit card world good is bad and bad is good. When a credit card company talks about a deadbeat, it means someone who pays off his debt monthly, so the credit card company gets a little basic profit from the transaction. Following the rule of bad is good and good is bad, when the credit card company talks about "riskier customers", they're talking about their risk, not about yours.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/2008/feb/03/creditcards.citi...

But why would a deadbeat really care? If we truly pay off our debts monthly, the only crimp in the whole system is not having the card just in case. Frankly a deadbeat credit card user is so close to using cash exclusively anyway. The deadbeat holds the stronger hand here.

Pass the popcorn, the main feature of the credit crunch is about to start.

bakery outlet

February 3rd, 2008 at 01:17 am

Since its Super Bowl Sunday tomorrow, and we are hosting, nope, I won't make it to the gym that day. Instead, I walked down Greenwood Ave today for 25 blocks, then walked back up.

I passed the Oroweat Bakery Outlet. Open. I have been curious for sometime what's in it, who comes, what's available, and most importantly - how much?

Bread, of course, on the right as you walk in...but also Entenmann's pastries and donuts on the left. Also other items like soups, some canned goods, crackers. Not too excited about that today but its something to keep in mind for future use. Anything with a lot of sugar in it appears at least $1 more. Fresher items on that side, explained the cashier.

Picked up a bag of dinner rolls for $1.19, and 6 pack plastic sleeve of Thomas "everything" bagels for $1.25. (Now I can have Zen bagels whenever I'd like - everything with nothing). Each of those items were almost $1.50 off the regular sale price at the grocery. Stuck them in the freezer when I got back.

At the checkout, I had a nice chat with the cashier - Saturday's really the only time I could get there, but it didn't stop me from accepting a punch card. Ten purchases of at least $2 a pop entitles me to a freebie.