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history, a nickel at a time

November 23rd, 2013 at 04:45 am

In the last couple days I "followed" an historical group live tweeting JFK through 1963; its called JFK_1963. It was an interesting Twitter experiment, sort of a "what if" Twitter existed 50 years ago.

(My non-smart phone gets texts, I pay a nickel in time for each.)

It probably doesn't go without saying, but I'll say it - following its tweets today on the 50th anniversary was very affecting and poignant. I was almost 2 the first time, so I didn't have any competing memories where I was nor had any sense of time. Today, in Seattle, on PST, the timing was everything. Before I woke up, JFK was having a breakfast meeting in Fort Worth. By the time I was waiting for the bus, JFK landed in Dallas; when I stepped off to get my morning coffee JFK was in the motorcade; within my first 5 sips of hot coffee, the Cronkite news flashes began. 33 tweets in all, some with humor, some with rumors, most with exceedingly careful wording (journalists took more care in those days, or was it that our imagination?), and the sad end at the end.

All that history for a $1.55 in tweets.

I know how Voyager feels

September 19th, 2013 at 04:43 am

You might know that I love following space flights. Perhaps you've heard that Voyager 1 reached interstellar space. What you might not have known is that it reached it about a year ago ... some measurements seemed to tell scientists they were there, some didn't and that's what caused the confusion. Its not like there was a big ol' sign like you see on the interstate.

So it seems to be with financial freedom. One kind of thinks that if they had $xM, then yes. But really, who knows? You could be there or several years out.

The raise kicked in, but I don't think its particularly enough. I'm going to back down my 403B contributions - they will still be quite high, and I will easily get all the match.

This evening I also got a letter for another vaccine study. I had a good experience with the previous one, and the payment for participating is quite nice ($540). I think I will collect more info.

everyday superpowers

June 9th, 2013 at 09:21 pm

This came up in a conversation about fruit. Yeah - somehow my conversations get wide ranging. My friend remarked that a pineapple that she got from her friend fresh from Hawaii was not nearly as good as one she got from her own cheapo fruit stand.

"I know. Its really who picks it out that counts," I said. "I'm pretty good at picking produce out myself."

The friend looked at me and said, "that is a superpower, you know."

In addition to the produce picking out which helps the food budget, but I also have another financial superpower: in writing or in email, I get what I want.

It's only in writing, not at all verbally. When red-flagged by the IRS in 1989, I wrote the letter supporting my case. The IRS backed off. When Capital One tried to bill me twice/month and dinged me for only paying once, I faxed my case and won.

It got me thinking - what other everyday superpowers does everybody have?

50!

April 30th, 2012 at 02:59 am

That's me. And somehow today made me feel a little sad. I wonder if its a mid-life crisis, more like the thought that very soon my life will change. Right now the routine works pretty well, with a job that I can still save money from, inheritance money which means that I fund my 403B to the maximum, no serious problems ... just...

I want to be a bit lazy. I like my work, but I hate the rush, the complexity, and the deadlines. Along with the paycheck, the medical insurance and the bus pass are very, very useful and would cost me plenty to replicate.

I love doing mosaics, but can I make at least a partial living from them? Can I sell them?

I'd prefer not to rent any more. I'd like a little garden, not to mention making things like decorative walls and backsplashes. Even if it would be possible (hah hah) to do that with the rental, I couldn't take it with me.

I'm certain that its my "this is it?" mental cry. I have to keep reminding myself that "it" is good and much better than many others.

2nd snow day

January 19th, 2012 at 10:28 pm

Luckily, the office was not as nutty as they have been previously - the office has been closed and I'm on my second snow day. DH's office (IRS) tried opening but they closed at noon.

Walking is okay - still have my Yaktrax and they are the best 20$ I ever spent. The neighborhood businesses tend to be open when their employees are living nearby. I thanked the Safeway for being open. Saw two little girls looking under the Coinstar machine - one pulled out a quarter. Heh heh - good to see the habit being passed on.

Other than that, the usual soul searching - are we weenies in the snow, why are we weenies in the snow, could this be handled better, could this have been predicted better? Once upon a time I would have been among them. Now - yep I'm a weenie. I hated snow and ice when I lived in the midwest, and came to Seattle because I wouldn't get much of it. While I would prefer that Seattle wouldn't shut down in the snow, it does, and you can either b!tch about it or deal with it.

In other words, "go on board, dammit!"

So in that spirit - this is what I'm doing this afternoon...

chore vs hobby

January 3rd, 2012 at 05:34 am

Read this interesting article about weight loss last Sunday. Since weight loss and saving money are aligned a bit, hear me out because this blog post has a lot to do about money.

The article was particularly interesting to me because I appear to be one of those rare persons who has managed to keep the weight I've lost, um lost. Although I can't seem to lose lots of weight in one smooth movement, I seem to lose the 10lbs, then plateau, then wait for some change to lose 10lbs, ...rinse and repeat several times. I'm right now at 166.6 (40 lbs down since November 2005) and have managed to survive this year's holiday carb-fest.

Anyway, much of the article described what it takes for others (and me, frankly) to sustain the weight loss. Basically near constant monitoring, food and exercise diary, treating yourself as a data point. In a sense, the weight loss maintenance takes on its own place in the calendar. Its really become a hobby, something that requires energy, attention, thought, discussion.

Thinking about that, I had my first epiphany: most people think of eating as a hobby, and exercise as a chore . Most of us vary our eating, can tell you where good restaurants are, and hate cooking themselves because that's a chore. The weightloss sustainers inverted this - they essentially try to make eating as much a chore as possible. They cook at home, they try eat as consistently as possible and measure it. On the other hand, they try to exercise as much as possible - walk, garden, gym, bike and try to mix it up. Vary it, talk about it, measure it and journal it. They try to turn it into a hobby.

My second epiphany came when I thought about saving and spending because they parallel weight loss. Most Americans spend as a hobby, save as a chore. I mean when we blog about others buying that 50K countertop, well what are they doing? Spending as a hobby. They save (or try to) as a chore. Pay yourself first - try to make it automatic ... which works mechanically, but boy not very much fun.

The thing that gets me about the bloggers at saving advice is that we all try to think of saving as a hobby - play games, try different things, journal and discuss what we do or what we've discovered. We also try, at least, to put some aspects of chore into spending. Spend on needs first, then wants .... and not just any wants, needed wants if that makes any sense.

And then investing. You are turning the spending hobby on its head by saving, but buying money.

Now the chore piece ... I don't really want to discount it, make it sound awful because its really not. Chores are important they are necessary and they can even be semi-fun. Just not as fun as a hobby.

yeah, gimme friction

December 17th, 2011 at 07:07 am

At the risk of sounding and getting a ton of hits and disappointing the pervs out there, I'm talking about the cashless, frictionless spending.

Frugality is all about the friction.

Seems like all of society is out there telling you "make it easy" and get with it, while are all here to say "stop for just a second" and "don't be a spending sheep" and "do you really, really need or want it, upon a few seconds of further consideration?"

Contrast cashless buying with layaway. Primitive, but that less than instant consumerism can give you a different way to demonstrate gratitude and compassion.

back to rable-rousing

September 9th, 2010 at 02:52 am

I'm sure I've spelled that wrong.

There's been so much discussion here in the states regarding who is middle, upper-middle and rich, all with the move afoot to increase taxes or get rid of tax breaks to the "rich".

How about my definition of rich, aka who would get taxed or non-untaxed?

Rich: President of the United State's salary and above. The POTUS salary happens to be $400,000.

Advantages:
1. President takes one for the team and can tell people so.
2. For the business/owner/CEO: Are you really taking more risk than the president? Really?
3. For the public sector guy: How did you manage to make more than the President of the US?
4. For any athlete whom you don't like: You are not having a better year, either.

marketplace money

September 8th, 2010 at 05:28 am

First off, its my favorite show and it was my Sunday afternoon date - walking or jogging from my Sunday coffeeshop to the Fremont Bridge. Precisely 3.11 miles.

Now my NPR station is moving it to exile at 5pm. Wha? Time to complain!

But this last Sunday the episode was fantastic because of the juxtaposition between two stories. First off - data mining. Apparently when you pay with plastic, one throws off a tremendous amount of data which banks, credit card companies and businesses slice and dice with wizardry.

(And why I much prefer cash)

Second off was HAMP. Home modifications. And how these very same banks, credit cards, and business manage to lose paperwork, don't return phone calls, etc - incompetence with equally mindblowing skill and wizardry.

It amuses me that if a fiscal entity sees a profit in it, information is treasured; if the same entity fears a loss, incompetence is treasured.

Hey, KUOW? Moving Marketplace Money? What are you treasuring - information or incompetence?

Jackie Handey part 2

July 23rd, 2010 at 04:04 am

Screenwriter friend again.

He is now volunteering to help program events at the Everett Theater, which is now getting an upgraded sound system.

The Everett Theater with a stage and screen has a number of lectures, concerts, etc. Screenwriter friend is being tapped for movies (has a number of cult movies already) and whatever interesting things he can do, and emailed us for suggestions.

I had one and it was a real Jackie Handey wild idea. Part 1 for other brain farts that I've had just to give you a sample.

How about this: you program a so-bad-its-good-film and at the same time you mike up live several teams of comics/improv artists/free range smart asses to produce live smart ass remarks, talk back at the screen, point out cameos, riff on continuity issues? It would be a bit like a live Mystery Science 3K, a bit like Rocky Horror performance art, even a bit like straight DVD commentary, with perhaps scoring (not quite sure how it could be done).

I'm calling it film karaoke, for the lack of any better term.

Screenwriter friend is genuinely mulling this wild idea. He knows of a number of improv troops that might take a whack at it. I wonder if its been tried before?

dysregulation

June 21st, 2010 at 02:33 am

I read this article in the New York Times magazine today and it got me thinking. That last sentence is especially chilling. "For too many people, the cycle of craving and debt that drives our treadmill existence simply canít be broken."

Should I really pity the Joneses' because they are trapped in a merciless cycle, unable to regulate their impulses...?

Or do I fear them because bullets always trump gold. If people really have issues with impulse control, best not to flaunt. And by flaunt, not even mention that you don't have the same issues they do.

Bad times means that when the cycle of that fever breaks it will be a miserable desperate situation for too many people. I wonder how many people that is ... and are they all concentrated in New York City?

film premiere

May 30th, 2010 at 03:05 am

Wow, five days since I last wrote. Apologies!

Last night screenwriter friends' sons' movie premiered at the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF). The one that I bought two copies of the High Def rendering of, and was given an Executive Producer credit of.

We saw it in its full glory on a big screen last night. Long story short it was a great night. I was going to take pictures, but no photography allowed, and the SIFF photographers were around anyway. Turns out that those pictures from those photographers get uploaded to Flickr, so I'll keep an eye out and link to the pictures as they come up.

First off, the 400 seat place was packed. Not a single empty seat. A number of my co workers showed also, so it was a bit like large group friends night. The SIFF programmer was there to introduce the film and the son came out to receive a commendation letter from the mayor's office. No one from Montlake Terrace had ever gotten a film into SIFF. Then the son thanked everybody who had helped with the film, including me.

The movie ran and it looked and sounded great. Lots of laughs. A film that you'd say, "that was a great film" rather than "that was a great film for a 17 yr old". Lights came up, and there was a 15 minute Q and A with the son and 8 members of the cast - how they constructed their characters, how they improvised, the budget. (all the equipment and actors were there already, so it was blank tapes and pizza for the cast.) $100 in costs. (His costs - mine were considerably more.) Then a standing ovation.

DH and I was invited to and went to the after party, held a couple of blocks away. I had a quick chat with the SIFF photographer who told me about the flickr upload bit; chatted with some of the co workers; and chatted with screenwriter friend and his wife. They told me they coached him on who to thank, and especially coached him on my name. Big Grin I laughed when I told her the extent of my "executive" powers was to decide to make two copies of the movie instead of one keeping karma at bay. Screenwriter friends' wife smiled, and shyly pulled out the SECOND copy of the movie from her tote. She thanked me for the decision and told me that brought it just in case. For what, she didn't know ... but if something happened during the screening, she was ready.

DH was beginning to get tired, so I quickly went up to the son, introduced myself (we hadn't met), thanked him for the shout out and for pronouncing my name correctly.

Then we left, leaving the rest to celebrate. Who knows what the future of this will bring... we'll find out.

quichies

April 6th, 2010 at 04:35 am

Saturday
Saving log - $0
Spending log - $15 brunch + $25 thrift store + $7 bookstore + $21 Fred Meyer
Found money - $.10 (Safeway floor)

Sunday
Saving log - $0
Spending log - $3.88 coffee, bagel + $.50 apple + $8 lunch
Found money - $.24 (road, floor, planting strip, bus stop)

Monday
Saving log - $7 tip box
Spending log - $990 2 HighDef copies of a film, getting it in shape for SIFF + $1.75 coffee + $.50 apple
Found money - $0.14 (escalator, road, planting strip, in front of outside vending machine)

Quichies are just like quickies, only spelled funny. They can be tasty and chewy and cheesy even. Pull up a chair, sit a spell, and dig in.

A slice of ham and cheese, quichie lorraine:
Finished my buying and picking up two copies of a High Def version of a mockumentary film to be shown at SIFF ... in other words, being an Executive Producer. If your wallet is flush (read the whine at the bottom) and you are in Seattle May 28 or June 1, check it out. If not, well, check out the trailer for free.

A skinny slice of plain quichie:
Yesterday, I picked up a wheat penny. Fun, I thought, a penny older than I am. Today I picked up another wheat penny. Coincidence? People diving deep into their change jars? Discuss.

Quichie slice, with some pretty fruit slices for presentation:
Went shopping again at the thrift store and bought a beautiful grey jean jacket with intricate embroidery and little crystals. Fit in a lovely way. $15. DH wanted my Pendleton XL jacket that I bought five years ago and have been wearing even though I am now officially swimming in it. Also broke down and bought a clip type MP3 player/FM radio for the long walks and jogs. $21.

High tech quichie:
Did my first text coupon last week. I was buying some CDs (low tech), saw a little sign to text something to a number for a 20% discount. I did so (nervously!), and for 10 cents (what it cost me to text) I received a text back to show the clerk. $6 savings. I suppose I will be inundated with text ads soon, but I can delete them before I read them at no cost to me.

Whine with that quichie?
Just to pile on with others getting roped into drama of broke people buying of meaningless stuff... To me, its not that someone is buying the thing. Free country. Its not even that someone broke is buying the thing. Again free country; one is free to be irresponsible. Its the whining and cajoling that gets me. Shut up about it, wouldja! And what is so wrong about saying I can't afford it and leave it at that? Its a perfectly good reason. No, no, you can afford it. People are taking on becoming the cajoling and hectoring arm of the advertisers themselves....for free.

nature's most perfect sport

February 20th, 2010 at 04:58 am

Friday
Saving log - $4 tip box
Spending log - $1.75 coffee + $.39 apple + $14 groceries
Found money - $0.06 (sidewalk, floor, escalator railing...again)

Thursday
Saving log - $1 tip box
Spending log - $1.75 coffee + $1.65 decaf coffee
Found money - $0.36 (crosswalk, sidewalk, escalator railing)

Wednesday
Saving log - $0
Spending log - $1.75 coffee + $24 paint stripper, paint scrapper, brushes
Found money - $0.21 (gym, sidewalk corner)

Still working hard, but lately it has been sunny out, and, even better, it is a soft twilight out after work when heading for home. I've been watching the figure skating on TV - to me, its a heady mix of Oscar-worthy fashion excess combined with the crash and burn excitement of Nascar: nature's most perfect sport. I've been eating lunch in, but taking a 20 minute walk before diving into Excel and Access for the afternoon.

I've been finding change in one particularly unexpected place: the right-hand escalator railing, on the flat when you grab as you step on. Pennies right now, but very odd - like you hadn't secured your wallet before you step on the escalator. And the other odd thing this last week, I've only been finding pennies and quarters.

$26.31: 656 pennies, 24 nickels, 108 dimes, 26 quarters, $1 bill. To think that I thought, maybe, just maybe I'd pick up about $20/year from this exercise. I've just been tracking this for a little over 7 months.

Also put $45 of tip box savings into the bank.

This weekend, if the weather turns a little bit warmer, I plan on stripping the paint off the patio table. If I feel super, duper ambitious, I'm also going to plant some peas.

the saving schedule

February 6th, 2010 at 04:23 am

Thursday
Saving log - $0
Spending log - $0
Found money - $0 Frown

Friday
Saving log - $3
Spending log - $1.75 coffee + $13 super bowl snacky items
Found money - $0.02 (sidewalk, Safeway floor)

Dirty money tally:
$23.19: 584 pennies, 22 nickels, 100 dimes, 21 quarters, $1 bill.

So spread out a few days every month, I've scheduled "opportunities" to save. Here's my monthly schedule:

1st - $35 1 Drp
2nd - $125 moving from checking to savings
5th - $30 or so goes into a CD
12th - $50 2nd Drp
16th - $100 from checking to ING
21st - $30 or so goes into 2nd CD
last day of month - monthly interest applied to ING ($28), Vanguard ($2), farmette checking account ($1).

I haven't counted the tip box, the dirty money hunt, the quarterly dividend reinvestment or what goes into the 403B, so what I've listed above is not exhaustive. This little bit of savings spread out over many days every month means I get a little saving thrill many times a month, rather than a big old dread 1-2X/month.

Does anybody else have this extensive a saving schedule?

which history?

February 1st, 2010 at 04:04 am

Sunday
Saving log - $0
Spending log - $3.88 coffee, bagel + $12 kaiten sushi lunch
Found money - $0.06 (road)

Saturday
Saving log - $0
Spending log - $14 breakfast + $11 2 bread pans + $2 coffee, energy bar
Found money - $0.31 (sidewalks, road, bus stop, grocery store checkout floor)

Friday
Saving log - $2 tip box
Spending log - $0!
Found money - $0.03 (escalator edge, parking meter, bus stop under seat)


$22.66: 576 pennies, 21 nickels, 96 dimes, 21 quarters, $1 bill

Did my 5 mile walk-some jog today, listening to my tunes. I performed a cleanse on my MP3 player last night, and put a new configuration of songs. My MP3 player is nearly 4 years old, and is showing its age in the battery life (about 3 hrs) and in the capacity (a mere 20 Gb). Still, I'm kinda loathe to replace it - I'll wait until the battery can only hold an hour charge.

Anyway, my walks with the soundtrack give me plenty of time to think. This afternoon I thought about our US financial situation and the saying "history doesn't repeat itself, but it rhymes". I guess I'm trying to figure out what history our times are rhyming with. The Great Depression is the obvious rhyme circa late 2008, but I think we skirted that shoal.

I feel like its Japan, circa 1990 - present. Japanese banks were too big to fail too, the banks tightened credit, their version of the Fed dropped the interest rates to 0% (and they are still there), some banks turned into "zombie banks", their gov spent on various stimulus programs to keep some semblance of the population working. But the rhyme doesn't fit completely either - the savings rate in Japan leading up to their issues was very very high compared to the US. The banks could hold out, so could most of their population that was still working could also. And they both have been, off and on, for the last 20 years. I don't hold out any hope that the US population would be able to live on their savings for even a year, not to mention 10 or 20 years. Something has to give.

the most frugal skill

December 30th, 2009 at 05:50 am

Some say its cooking...
Some say its gardening...
Some even say its a talent for organization...

If you ask me, I think its this. Underrated, and you might even say, well duh...
Well, duh...

dime and penny show

November 3rd, 2009 at 05:36 am

Monday
Saving log - $0 tip box + $35 drp
Spending log - $1.75 coffee
Found money - $0.11 (parking meter, sidewalk)

Sunday
Saving log - $0 tip box
Spending log - $3.88 coffee, bagel + $9 tea, apple, oatmeal bar, magazine
Found money - $0.18 (sidewalk, coffeeshop floor)

Found a 5 cent euro on Sunday. I figured I'd count it - after all, the exchange rate of the euro: dollar was 1.47:1. In other words, the 5 cent euro is worth a hair over 7 cents.

I-bond rates also came out today. The fixed rate is 0.3%. Better than 0.1%, but not enough to think about buying more. The variable rate, though, is much better on this 6 month go around - a bit over 3%.

Took a walk at noon and discovered an ING Direct/Shareholder branch on King Street. For laughs I went in and chatted with the receptionist, who told me that there were plans for it to turn into an ING cafe.

Final Jackie Handey thought: We are now back on "Standard" time, coming from "Daylight Saving" time. Count the number of months of each. Standard = November, December, January, February, 1-2wks March. Daylight = 2-3wks March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October. Since we are in Daylight Saving time for longer than Standard time, isn't Daylight Saving really Standard?

All in all, this picture sums up the conflicting signs on the economy. Its a real picture, fyi.

just call me Jackie Handey

November 1st, 2009 at 01:52 am

Saving log - $0 tip box
Spending log - $12 breakfast, coffee + $17 mailing dutch oven to sister
Found money - $0.04 (by parking meter, door jamb, counter)

Mailed off our spare, heirloom cast iron dutch oven to sister. I bought it for $10 about 15 years ago in Tucson, and it has behaved like a champ. In June, when we visited sister at the farmette, DH made the no-knead bread recipe, but we had to use a casserole dish, which is a bit scary to heat up to 500F. It worked out but we mentioned that the dutch oven is the tool for the task. Since June, I have been looking for yard sale/estate sale/thrift store dutch ovens. Either nothing or minimum of $60. So sister gets ours and a clearly typed recipe.

After that it was breakfast and a good long walk. I've found that I'm positively the girl version of Jack Handey, thinking deep thoughts:

1. Visited the brand new Whole Foods down in Interbay. They have something called a "chill room". Its a nice little lounge just off the cafe and the wine/party foods/prepared foods are.

My thought: this grocery store needs a DJ. I mean, you have the space, and you would cater to two populations of people who pay for premiums ($5 cover charge and extra for watered down drinks, extra $1/lb for produce). Synergy!

2. Why isn't there a mailbox in/outside the bus? Right now you have buses driving and using gas, and you have post office guys driving around and using gas. Buses take a published route, and end up at a rest stop, transit center or a base, where the post office guy can open the bus mail box and grab it. This would be a substitute for the blue boxes.

3. Halloween is now second to X-mas, as measured by retail sales. I've seen a couple of mash-up decorations this year (a Halloween snow globe decoration, a ghoul being crucified). Why bother with 3 discrete fall/winter holidays? Next year: Santa with fangs pulling a turkey out of the oven.

happy 80th!

October 29th, 2009 at 05:12 am

you Great Depression, you. You hardly look a day over 79. But never fear, your grandchild parts his hair near the same way.

(In all seriousness, today is the 80th anniversary of the then-Black Monday stock market crash. Wheee!)

Saving log - $4 tip box
Spending log - $1.75 coffee + $2 decaf coffee + $20 pizza
Found money - $0.03 (road, bus floor) and yesterday - $0.02 (coffee shop floor, road)

Today DH is off visiting his mom, so evil me, I cleaned the kitchen and ordered a large pizza - olive, mushroom, onion, and anchovy. All my favorites and even better cold for lunch, and it takes a rare lunch thief to go after the anchovy pizza.

Then Mad Men, then a bath, and off to bed. So far kitty is behaving herself also and hitting the box. Nighty night.

how much for that vulture in the window?

September 10th, 2009 at 03:48 am

Saving log - $0
Spending log - $0 (free coffee)
Found money - $0.01 (elevator of Group Health) + $0.03 (gutter along 1st Ave)

In the window of the now defunct Murphy's Mix...


Got my first mammogram today - yes at 47 I'm a bit late Frown, and found a penny on the elevator floor. (So rare as a consumer that I left the medical complex with more money than when I entered) The rest of the money I found next to the parked cars along 1st.

I'm working on getting the cost basis for a stock I'm planning of selling to improve my tax position. That's the real hitch of getting everything online and with the extra hurdles in security it means that you have to go into your accounts often or else you miss a trick and getting in when you really need to is a PITA. Anyhow, I'm in the process of getting a security code so I can go back and re-set up my accounts. Blegh.

The meat delivery is now firmly on Sept 19, with a meat grill fest afterward. Somebody asked about dessert - I'm pretty sure that I can find a caramel chocolate cheesecake and call it a "cow pie".

saving and cool

September 8th, 2009 at 02:49 am

Monday
Saving log - $0 tip box
Spending log - $3.88 coffee, bagel + $20 groceries, lunch + $6 2 movie tickets
Found money - $0

Sunday
Saving log - $0 tip box
Spending log - $3.88 coffee, bagel + $7.50 lunch, Financial Times
Found money - $0.01 (sidewalk on Greenwood Ave) + $0.10 (bus stop) + $0.35 (Fred Meyer parking lot)

Yesterday was quite a good change finding day, if I do say do myself. Since mid-July, I've found and picked up $2.10 worth of change and a substantial amount of change came from the Fred Meyer parking lot - I know I'm a zombie when I leave there. Big Grin

Labor Day (today), DH and I kicked it and took it easy - nothing too adventurous. Seattle decided to go for the off and on rain anyway.

We finally hit the movie theater in ... how long, to see Star Trek at the Crest for $3/ticket. I remembered that it had been reviewed well in May, and I thoroughly enjoyed months and months later. Yeah, I know, a little late.

It got me to thinking, though. In my youth, sigh, I would have seen that movie within a week or two of it coming out ...even nerds had their standards. Worse, I probably would have teased you if you hadn't. Now? I just smile and wait for the next week of summer and another movie that you had better see if you want to be with it. Just becomes part of a treadmill of stuff you had better buy (and store!), along with things you need to buy a ticket for.

Saving and being with-it don't play well. It doesn't seem to matter the circle you run in. Nerds like me - the gadgets, the computer, the sci-fi movie. Fashionistas - well, everything in the mall, which has seasons and for the with-it, has to replaced every year. Foodies? Heirlooms, organics, and local food seem to be the craze right now, which sucks - when they become less of a fad, their price will drop. Pick a sport, any sport, and there's serious with-it spending involved. Being green and sustainable? Surprise - there a ton of green stuff you apparently need to buy, despite the fact that the greenest purchase is no purchase at all but use up what you already have. I have to admire the ad-man here - being able to deflect the conversation to buy from not-buy.

It seems like I spend more of my time hiding out from not buying. "Great movie," I say when the topic comes up. A little white lie, I know. "Someday I'll buy the house," I say warily. Could be 2010, 2011, 20 never. I think sometimes that learning how to hide out from/ignore peer spending (not as obvious as keeping up with the Joneses) is the biggest skill I learned in my 30s. If only I hadn't teased others about being so cheap in my 20s! There was no with-it spending that I did in the 80s that I even remember, not to mention change my life.

my turning point

August 22nd, 2009 at 04:24 am

Friday
Saving log - $2 tip box
Spending log - $1.75 coffee
Found money - $0.10 (sidewalk, 1st Ave)

Thursday
Saving log - $1 tip box
Spending log - $1.75 coffee
Found money - $0.01 (sidewalk, Greenwood Ave)

I can't say that I've had a St. Paul on the road to Damascus moment in being frugal. I was always a good saver, and had a reasonable amount of discipline even in college in the early 80's when I held myself to $10/week (this when a Saturday Harold's Chicken white half came to $2.75).

I graduated from college, worked for a year, applied to grad school, got into grad school, got my grad degree, moved and became a journeyman scientist, well for each leap I saved up about $2K for the move. It was always paycheck to paycheck but with 2K savings.

Where I really fell in my youth was in the money management arena. During my bad old days, my money management skill consisted entirely of: Look at ATM balance, I have $x in my checking account, therefore no spending. I hated it when the bank's monthly statement came in - I never looked at it. Too depressing. My spending was hit and miss - paycheck week I could be social, the next I had to be super frugal and was a pain to be around. Even up until my early 40s I felt like my money was managing me. Worse, when money manages you, you feel on edge in your job ... you have to keep that job no matter what because you have to keep the money coming in, no matter what.

My first big break was getting a PDA for Christmas. I found a free checkbook program and began putting in my checks, ATM trips, paycheck. Then I put in my savings. I put in my credit card balances, then I put in my 403B balances. I found, to my surprise, that even though I owed 15K in credit card and student loan debt, my net worth was positive.

My second big break came when I finally paid off my student loan. I was lucky (not skillful, particularly) that I took out loans only during my undergrad years; I grit my teeth and lived on the meager stipend during my grad years. Still, I realized that in 1984 I had $15K in student loan debt, 0K in credit card debt. In 2002, the tables were reversed. I had $0K in student loan debt, $15K credit card debt. I used the satisfaction that I got out of paying the student loans to inspire me to pay off the credit card debt, which I did in May 2005, a few months before I started this blog.

My third big break came a bit before the other two, strangely enough. DH gave me a share of Coke (KO) and started my first Dividend Reinvestment Program (Drp). My granddad used to invest in penny stocks in the 70s and had a lot of fun ... this before index funds, 401Ks, IRAs, or even Drps. All there seemed to be after passbook savings accounts were stocks, bought in 100-share round lots. Anyway, as I got a grip on the credit cards, I began to put in $50 every month or so into KO stock. I treated it a bit like a letter to a long distance friend. You get the mail, open it, and respond. I used to mail the check back within a week of getting the receipt of the last payment.

So really I had a lot of little money management revelations. For the longest time, it was paying off credit card $300-400/ month, putting in some $266 in the 403B every month, putting in $50 into KO, adding savings at the top of the month, tip box in the middle of the month, living within my means the rest of the month, and noting the transactions into the PDA. I didn't care about being splashy - I went for relentless. I decided to learn by doing with investing, never paying more than $100/ pop, but doing it over and over again.

Working small, gradual, and relentless meant I learned enough to handle two inheritances - as I describe in my blog. I really shudder to think about how I would have handled the inheritances when the money was managing me.

I've said it several times, and will probably say it several more - don't wait for the "big money" to learn how to handle money, the "small money" has a lot to teach you.

the way it used to be

August 20th, 2009 at 04:03 am

I rarely post more than once per day, but I was quite taken by this post. Warning, it is a bit involved, and holds special meaning to those 40 and above. I know I sound like an old codger when I say "the way it used to be." Please, you young'uns, don't roll your eyes! Big Grin

The Addiction to Fake Wealth

Even frugality was simpler then.

the wallet that growls

August 11th, 2009 at 03:21 am

Saving log - $0 tip box
Spending log - $9 lunch + $9 groceries
Found money - $0.01 (sidewalk 1st/Cherry) + $0.01 (next to tree along sidewalk on Greenwood)

My current change drought has ended with a couple of pennies. I think its because I primed the pump - a quarter fell out of my purse at the chiropractor, so someone else will get my luck.

As I walked Saturday, I missed a fascinating picture. I was downtown about a block south of Macy's - a patch of dive-y area. I idly watched a little cutely dressed up chihuahua step lively, tugging on a leash. I noticed that the doggie had on what I first thought was a faded greenish ruffle. Nope. Said chihuahua was sporting a ruffle made from one and five dollar bills.

It made me laugh.

Now the question: Why? Was doggie a walking wallet? Found art? Was someone commenting about the American economy? NAFTA? (Hey, look - its cheaper to make a dog collar ruff out of dollar bills than it is to buy one.)

thank you for smoking

May 18th, 2009 at 02:50 am

Saving log - $0 tip box
Spending log - $3.88 coffee, bagel + $.69 apple + $11.50 conveyor belt sushi

Today I found .12 on the ground. I generally find a coin here and there (pennies mostly) every couple of days. Often, like Disneysteve, if I find one, I find another - so that is a good little rule.

As a public service, and to the determent of my own coin hunting, I thought of coming up with a checklist of reasonable places where I find stray coins. I've been hard at work thinking about it, but the places that I've found coins are so varied - sidewalks, parking lots, bus stops, on the floor of the bus, in front of my driveway, on the road along the curb, pedestrian intersections, behind the paper honesty boxes, in front of ATMs ... in other words I can give you an inelegant, exhaustive list that isn't very easy to remember.

Later, it hit me the thread that most of these places share: they are high foot traffic places where people wait for a few minutes, stick their hands in and out of their pockets and then leave. Fine, but as you are walking along a sidewalk, hard to tell those high traffic hotspots from ordinary sidewalk.

Or is it? I suspect not. One of the things that some people do as they wait and jam their collective hands in their collective pockets is smoke. And when the bus comes, friend comes, cigarette is finished, what happens? Some of the butts go into the can (thank you), some land on the sidewalk or whereever.

I submit to you a very simple rule: the more cigarette butts on the ground, the more likely you will find change on the ground.

Let's be clear here. I'm not saying smokers are more likely to drop change. I'm saying that cigarette butts are a reasonable marker to identify those good coin hunting places where a lot of people wait with hands in pockets, yet have to leave in a hurry.

I'm probably also saying that street sweepers and those business folk who keep their front sidewalks clean are my competitors - if you sweep a butt, you probably are sweeping coins too.

The rule isn't perfect - I've found coins in our front driveway (neither of us smoke), close to gas station pumps (not supposed to smoke there), on bare sidewalks. Still, today, there were a lot of butts (even a joint where I found that dime) where I found my change today.

If you are a coin hunter, let me know if this rule helps you find more change!

the parable of the marshmallow

May 14th, 2009 at 05:23 am

Saving log - $1 tip box
Spending log - $16 groceries

I've been thinking about the marshmallow test (a test for self control) and how it relates to saving money and investing. And money temperament in general.

Just to summarize, 4 yr old children were left alone in a room in full view of a marshmallow (or favorite food). The child was told beforehand that he could have two marshmallows if he could successfully refrain from eating the one he saw until a researcher came back. The child who could wait did better in school, etc, than the child who couldn't.

I wonder if the correlation holds for investors also - maybe its part of the 'investor's temperament' that Warren Buffett talks about. Or maybe not.

Of course to save money, you have to practice a form of the marshmallow test every other minute. Essentially instead of grabbing and eating the marshmallow, you delay buying or going into hock by buying, grabbing, and eating the marshmallow. Every so often, though, one should have and enjoy a marshmallow or two.

But investing is slightly different than saving. A lot of the tricks you can use 'saving' aka keeping yourself from eating the marshmallow - looking away, pretending its a sculpture of a marshmallow rather than a real one - are tricky when you are trying to invest. With investing you are trying to use money to buy cheaper money. Its more like trying to figure out by yourself when the marshmallow is at its whitest and tastiest, and eat it then. So you have to keep your eye on it to make a decision, but not keep an eye on it so you don't make a badly timed decision.

Half digested thoughts...

paper or cloth?

April 8th, 2009 at 04:16 am

Are dollar bills paper or cloth?

Discuss.

We call our money paper, but not many pieces of paper survive the washer or can be folded 4,000 times before the paper disintegrates. Not too many pieces of paper have 25% linen fibers in them. There now are synthetic blue and red fibers in currency "paper"; some old formulations contained silk.

But somehow thinking of dollar bills as cloth is weird. So I'm torn.

Paper or cloth?

supercycle musings

March 3rd, 2009 at 05:05 am

For my 1000th entry, I got a little philosophical.

Why the Kondratieff hate? Why the hate about economic cycles in general?

To get you caught up a bit - Kondratieff was a Soviet economist, who came up with the idea that large economies 'cycle' over the space of several generations, generally on the order of 50, 60, 70 years. First you have a spring-like boom, then a summery plateau, then a fall-like stagflation, finally a wintery credit contraction and deflation.

The Kondratieff hate seems to be throughout the political and economic spectrum. Of course we all in the West would hate him because who wants to hear (and have to prepare) about recurring depressions? Bummer, so stick my fingers in my ears and say, 'la la la la'. But then Stalin had him killed, not because of the depression part (that fit well with what he hoped would happen to the West), but because of the spring renewal that came after. Kondratieff couldn't catch a break.

The rebuttal that I've been picking up is that Kondratieff was wrong because his timing was off - Great Depression +60 years fell in the mid-90s, so ha ha, schmuck, you're wrong. As a woman, an argument like that makes me laugh. Just because my period's late doesn't mean that periods don't exist.

And in general, it seems to me that social sciences in general have this personal attack component to them that the natural 'hard' sciences had lost centuries ago. Its one thing if you believe and can prove Freud's theories to be wrong, but then add to it the rumor that he molested his patients? Seems a bit over the top. Einstein proved that Newton's physics didn't explain many special situations in the universe, but that last I heard there were no hard personal feelings about the whole thing.

If we take Kondratieff's work as an hard-science-esque observation, I think the more interesting questions are: What is the underlying cause? Economies are created by people, after all, so is it a mechanical aspect like an underlying credit expansion and contraction? Or is it a more personal thing like subtle changes in the perception of risk, thereby causing more risky behavior? Does the cycle lengthen as the human lifespan lengthens? It seems like a leading coincidence that we are undergoing an eerie replay of the 30s, just as the first hand experience of the 30s is in the process of dying off.

cookies for all seasons

February 26th, 2009 at 05:00 am

Yesterday I was at the grocery store watching the green cookies that two weeks ago were pink and it got me to thinking ... you can tell time by grocery store cookies.

Valentine's Day = heart shaped cookies with pink or white icing, with red, pink, or white sprinkles

St. Patrick's Day = shamrocks with kelly green icing

Easter = purple and yellow egg cookies or yellow chick cookies

Mother's Day = generic flower or rose cookie with red icing

Father's Day... nothing, unless those cookies were made of bacon

4th of July - stars or circle shapes in red, white and blue icing.

Cookie drought over the summer and fall, until...

Halloween - pumpkin or cat with orange or chocolate icing

Thanksgiving - "harvest-y" gold and orange circles

Christmas - big daddy of cookie holidays. Red, white and green circles, wreathes, bells.

New Year's - Christmas cookies 20% off.

Making me hungry!


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