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Archive for August, 2006

Not the gal I used to be

August 31st, 2006 at 08:12 pm

Yesterday I got all bummed out and wigged because I took that test that I promised to take after the Nashville trip...

I failed it. By 3 questions.

The Director of IT took it about a month and a half ago and my other two compatriots took it and passed, so we got our three people for the cheap rate, and yep the questions were crapily worded (blame the tools, not the craftsman)...but still. Sigh...

I'm not the gal I used to be in that regard. In my first year of grad school, I took a immunology midterm when I hadn't even bought the book and had to borrow a pencil from a nervous pre-med (frugally excellent psych-out technique, FYI) and scored second in the class. "Imagine how I'd do if I bought the book," was all I said.

Good times, good times.

Bought my third 4-week T-bill. So my plan is to have 4 $2000 4-week T-bills, staggered so each is bought a different week, and bought from the account that the T-bill matured in. The interest earned from the bills gets scraped back into ING. This $8000 and the $6000+ in my ING account comprise my liquid emergency fund. Everything else is medium and long term-investment.

Got paid today at the raise rate - it was a 30$ increase, so increasing the pay-yourself rate to 75$ from 50$ at the top of the month means I've saved my raise.

Gym was upper body. For the last several days, I've been stopping on 15th NW, a 7 block further walk.

Percents, baby

August 29th, 2006 at 08:46 pm

Its weird how people will bust their butts and get all excited about a 4% raise. It is exciting, but if you save 4 pennies off of each dollar, its like giving yourself that raise.

I was talking to a mid-aged friend of mine who remembered $60/month rents, and how he joked that he was bugged when it when up to $70...all for only $10, he said. What do you mean? I said. You should have been bugged - that's a 16% increase. Man, that's an accountant's answer, he said.

And why save a dime per pound on 99 cent potatoes. Yeah, sure that's a dime, but that's also 11% savings.

Well, it's a lot easier to get into the frugal mindset and easier to rationalize your purchases if you calculate your savings in percents.

As far as gym is concerned - 0%. I lost a pound, gained .5% of bodyfat, lost an inch on the waist and chest, gained an inch on my arms and legs. Considering I punked out on eating and exercise for 2 weeks, I dodged a bullet.

Back to work

August 28th, 2006 at 08:14 pm

Found a quarter sitting on an empty bus seat this morning as I was leaving. That was a good sign for my first day back to work. Best haul I've had in a year or two. Mostly I find pennies and dimes.

And it was just in time, too. Vacation just breeds spending opportunity. If you work on an outside job, you have little time or opportunity to spend. I was okay with not buying lunch, but it seemed like everyday I was shelling out bucks for printer cartridges or a bed or a sheets. Good deals, but the best deal of all is 0$.

Shoveled out 155 emails and went through my day. Caught up with the groom from the second wedding I attended (the couple who got four personal finance books) - we hadn't talked for about 6 weeks. Most of my department is getting back from various vacations, so very soon we will be at full strength.

Got my other habits in order. My back was stiff, but the chiropractic adjustments seemed to hold, even with two weeks on the air mattress and couch. The personal trainer threatened measurements tomorrow. Got the footlong sandwich so I have lunch today and Wednesday - got the special for 5$, so it would be $2.50/lunch. Tomorrow I have lunch with lawyer friend (before measurements). I should finish the month with $60 in my checking account.

Savings log - 7$ tip box.
Spending log - $1.75 coffee + $5.00 lunch.

Chipping away at sister

August 27th, 2006 at 05:50 pm

Eventually she'll get into the 21st century. She's buying a Dell laptop (hold the flaming battery) with WiFi and that will be delivered next week. Her 6 month CD is maturing, as is mine, so she's been asking me for advice for what else to do with the bucks. At least its advice on how to save money, not on how to spend it.

Off and on, as long as I've had my ING account, I've sent her several ING invites to try to get her to try out Internet banking, to get that immediate 9% return. Now that I'm down to my last invite, and I know of a couple of people who will bite, I'm thinking that its now or never. Of course I've said that several times. I just know that if she sees the advantages of one, she'd get mad at me if I could have offered it to her but didn't. Smile

My latest argument is that since she's going on vacation in mid-October, if she needs emergency money, she can tap an Internet bank anywhere she can find a secure connection.

My other argument is that my little fiscal empire is dependent on me being able to move money easily to other places. Its a lot easier to buy a T-bill or move dollars to Vanguard electronically. But electronically moving dollars requires a bit of faith the first few times one does it. I know that a couple of other bloggers much prefer the paper/in the hand method. A week of cleaning and trying to find assets in a two story undefended, barely padlocked farm house taught me the problems with that. All it would have taken for some of the assets to disappear was gasoline and a match. (Plenty of items outside the house walked away.) Even now there's the story of the homeless guy who found savings bonds in a jacket bought at the thrift store. I'm half expecting that some of our assets could have been found that way.

No really good buys at Larry's when I went for what I figured to be the last time, but I did get a couple of good deals on pork, chicken drumsticks (DH can perfect his fried chicken recipe), and ramen. Sometimes I have a hankering for ramen! It's sad seeing empty spaces and knowing that the stock is going. Shopping at Larry's in North Seattle was a real Saturday routine and I got to know all the cashiers and grocers. Next week we'll be at a loss.

Why, why, why

August 25th, 2006 at 06:05 pm

do I seem to wear out my jeans at the crotch? Even when they are officially 1 size too big? Don't answer that, and I am fully ready to delete the obscene comments (after I wipe my eyes from laughing)...

Got the recycling bin cleared up. All the paper/cardboard I chucked from the linen closet and the home office is gone, gone, gone.

On my last real vacation day (DH tells me I should count the weekend, too, but I'm not), I got my haircut and walked 1/2 of Green Lake, listening to Vanguard podcasts.

The second T-bill matured yesterday, and after Treasury Direct automatically rebought for the next 4 weeks - I scraped the leftover back into ING. Another $7.89.

Another R.I.P.

August 24th, 2006 at 08:51 pm

Larry's Markets - the grocery that I got the good deals from in salmon and milk. At the time, everyone was full of optimism that they had a good buyer. Unfortunately a different buyer came in and bought several of the pieces for the buildings and land. The grocery that I shopped at wasn't part of that deal. Their probable last day is next Thursday, the last day of August.

Now I only have two grocery stores within walking distance of my house.

Larry's didn't usually have the best rock-bottom prices, so I cut my teeth using a price book and teamed it with their Internet flyer with them. I found some great surprises - cheap(er) butter, eggs, corned beef, stew meat, romaine, wine. Their tuna was cheaper than Costco's. Produce was good looking, but rarely rock bottom. On the other hand you didn't have to be alert while you dug. Smile Best of all, you didn't have the evil club cards.

I'd watch other folks in line drop hundreds of dollars there--mine would rarely hit 30$. My high was 80$, and that was during Thanksgiving.

I do expect, however, to find some good last deals as their stock gets bought out. Potatoes are already at .39/lb.

Battery, yes, but quiet otherwise

August 23rd, 2006 at 09:46 pm

Since many of us take care of laptop batteries, cell phone batteries, PDA batteries, MP3 batteries, and since batteries are pretty much the reason electronics get busted, I thought of you all when ran across this link:

Text is http://www.batteryuniversity.com/ and Link is
http://www.batteryuniversity.com/

Some of it is technical, but the how tos are pretty clear.

Other than that, its been a quiet vacation at home. Bought a black printer cartridge $36.98, so I can refill the old one at the mall. That way, I'm not caught short.

I do like to step outside (vacation after all) with a library book and get a little coffee at the local coffeeshop during the day, then at night dip into what Netflix has sent me. If I can't save a buck by not using the service, its also quite frugal to use the he-double-hockey-sticks out of what you've bought.

bed update

August 21st, 2006 at 10:36 pm

Oh yes - bedroom carpet is dry, and a fine perchlorate product (oxy-clean) did a fine job of getting rid of the musty smell. A final shampoo and we have moved back into the bedroom. DH bought a better, queen size air mattress and I can sleep okay on that.

I still wish the bed would hurry up and come. I noticed that we've paid for it already.

the home office, day 3 and 4

August 21st, 2006 at 10:30 pm

On day 3 - I took down the boxes that I shoved on top of the bookcases "for just a little while" back in February 2000. It was quite a productive box - I found 2 copies of my birth certificate, a copyright form from my dissertation, and reviews of my last paper (unpublished).

Its funny - I remember the review being so awful that it was the last straw of my scientific career. When I reread it today, one reviewer liked it, the other didn't but the consensus was fix this and we'll publish.

I wasn't able to fix it (I was 2000 miles away from plants, genes, and equipment), sure, but my 40+ year old self is kicking my 30+ year old self ...why so sensitive - one person was positive, so what if the other's negative? Look at the glass as half full. It wasn't so bad.

Oh for a time machine! As if I would have listened.

And so it goes. I really feel much more optimistic and happy in my 40s than I ever did in my 30s. Just in case any of you 20+s and 30+s are reading and blogging. It might well be the level of savings above the debt gets you to sleep at night. Life is always better after you wake up from a sound sleep.

Anyway, I finished cleaning and dusting all the books. We still have slightly more book than bookcase, but less than a shelf.

Day 4 - Picked up a paper rope basket for 50% off at Cost Plus (think Pier 1, but cheaper and less kitchy) and put all of the blank office supplies in it. They fit nicely and it looks good on the floor. Fingers crossed that it'll be a good self-nagger, and we'll want to use what's inside. $13.

Got a call from sister about getting a Dell laptop. I was positive - I blog using a Dell laptop, although mine's a bit older with an older battery and the recall didn't affect me. Still going strong after 2.5 yrs.

No word on anyone interested in the second property. I consider the breather to be a blessing. I'm learning a lot on how to invest 30K and that is proving to be intense. I can't imagine handling 10X that amount all at once. Sister was interested in my 4 week T-bill buying, although I sensed that she didn't quite understand it. T-bills would work even better for her - she pays state and local taxes on interest (state of WA has no state income tax) and she would not pay that on a T-bill.

Put 40$ into one DRP and 35$ into another.

the Home Office, day 2

August 19th, 2006 at 10:02 pm

I was flush with linen closet success, so I tackled the home office and library (aka the second bedroom). DH uses it about 80% of the time and I use it about 20%, but in the last year its been running 95%/5% because the office is a total squalid shambles. Total ick. DH makes nests despite several books on organization and cleaning clutter (hah hah - teaching the organizationally challenged organization is a bit like teaching an elephant to fly), and I have to be in the pitiless, ruthless mood to do the task. Perfect: sleeping on an air mattress and the couch for nearly a week has put me in ferocious, ruthless mood. And after that blog entry about enjoying your own box - well, I've been in that vibe all week.

Day 1 - desk, floor, and 2/6 bookcases. My technique is pretty simple: sort into empty boxes. Clean the desk down to the wood making several piles: paper to toss immediately (including pamphlets/CDs of equipment that I know we don't have), paper to put in a pile for DH to sort, CDs and video games, computer equipment and cables. Dust the desk.

The bookcases are bit more problematic. We both love books and we have more book than bookcase, but I figure if I can dispose of 3-4 pieces per shelf (dups, outdated, bad condition, items I was given that I'm never going to re-read), I can get everything back in place. Dusting, though, is brutal!

I finished by vacuuming the floor and turning the HEPA filter on. Here's hoping that the dust on the bookcases makes it into the HEPA.

The pile technique is very useful for DH, because he can make pretty good decisions once his attention gets narrowed down to a box. He got his CDs and video games sorted and sold them at Half Price Books for 18$.

Day 2- file cabinet and 2 more bookcases. I started another box of office supplies. So many reams of paper, blank labels, blank envelopes, pads of paper, blank journals, pens & pencils, computer tools, postits, a binder or two! I've got to use this box before acting on the cravings when I'm at Office Despot.

Found Clif bars for .99/apiece at Trader Joes. Now both DH and I use them as breakfast bars. Not bad with a cup of coffee and the serving size is highly defined.

the linen closet

August 17th, 2006 at 07:38 pm

Slept much, much better on the couch last night, it was quite a bit softer than the air mattress. It took awhile to get into a good position with my neck and upper back straight and not over the side of the couch. I might be able to keep my humanity and sanity by the time the new bed gets delivered and assembled. I guess its a bit more than plunking down a box spring and a mattress over a bed frame. Still..two weeks?

Anyway, did the deep decluttering of the linen closet. The floor became a miscellaneous storage area along with shelves stuffed with bed linens, beth towels, hand towels, dish towels, napkins, tablecloths, pillows. I tossed three boxes worth of stuff - two boxes of magazines (anyone for Consumer Reports 1996?) and fifteen year old scientific journals. It felt a bit sad, but I hadn't looked at them since we moved here six years ago. And there is always the Internet and the library. I bound up a very large plastic bag of clean linens for donation and put it in the car trunk. Out of sight, out of mind...only the memories remain.

I mentioned it to DH in passing. I didn't want to be a complete sneak about this, but I have to use some special strategies with him. Yesterday I mentioned that I put a large catalog out for recycling and that I did the same with his Chilton manual on his old car (the one that was wrecked, now is gone)...he still wanted it! He has this fantasy of putting the manual on the hood of the first 1988 Corolla AllTrak he saw. That book cost $60!, he said. DH never went to college...you get a little blase about book prices when you do!

I'm rolling my eyes here. Smile

My special strategy is to put the manual in the car, because he must be out and about and driving when he blesses some hood with the manual. Smile He can look at the book in the back seat for a week or so. Then I move the manual to the floor of the car, kind of out of sight, then the trunk, and then...poof. If he asks... I dunno, where did you put it?

Transfered $200 into ING today. Its not all my bonus, but a good chunk of it. I figure my raise works out to about $40/paycheck, so I've hiked my pay-yourself-first rate by $25 at the beginning of the month, and $50 at the fifteenth.

Ate breakfast and coffee out today, and celebrated the linen closet by a gigantic fruit and green tea slurpee concoction. Yum.

If its August, it must be 70%

August 16th, 2006 at 08:56 pm

Another year, and another August sewer, water, garbage bill. Again, the landlord got it wrong in the letter by claiming that the lease said we owe 70% of the utilities. I went a bit stronger than the innocent letter. Instead, I copied the current lease (which referred to the 2000 lease, no changes), and the first page of the original lease, which said 50%.

Now don't get me wrong. It's not the money, its the fact that the lease is a contract. If I paid 70%, it'll suddenly be 70% all the time, and who's to say what it will be in the next bill?

These last couple of days have not been particularly vacation-y, if you know what I mean. We've decamped on air mattresses in the living room which means I wake up with a stiff back. The bedroom floor is dry, but smells a bit musty. Gotta be a bit of mold. Time for another carpet clean, and hit the carpet with the sodium perchlorate. New bed won't be here for a little while, so we might just as well get the carpet in great shape. This afternoon, I lit up a particularly powerful bit of incense in the bedroom and that helped the smell quite a bit.

Today I felt a bit blue because of all clutter. Tomorrow I'm doing my favorite cheer-up technique: deep decluttering. In just fifteen minutes this afternoon I found a quarter. Looking forward to earning some money!

Slept around

August 14th, 2006 at 09:17 pm

Gotcha reading, didn't I? DH and I spent the first day of our vacation sleeping around...for a new bed, of course. We tried out mattresses from Select Comfort (all those Sunday mornings listening to Prairie Home Companion paid off) and Sleep Country, then rounded out the day by checking out Costco online just in case there was a deal, and reading Consumer Reports online.

A few random notes:
Why do mattress companies all have initials SC? And lots of mattress names start with S; many have "pedic" at the end. You get so that you say...that one!
The sales staff at each place were very nice about their competitors, but they did try to distinguish their products.
DH sleeps hot so he warms up Temperpedics, Latexes, Memory Foam...and that eliminated a lot of choices. (Shouldn't blame DH for this - in a few years, I'll be sleeping hot, too, if you know what I mean.)
We both seem to take a bed of similar firmness.
We both squealed with delight at the idea of an adjustable bed (I can blog in bed)!
DH really liked the massage features..when the massage was going, I kept looking for where the quarters would go.
Shopping mattresses is kind of relaxing. Ten minutes on a mattress with a nice pillow...wake me up when you decide whether you like it or hate it...the stress comes from that its all d%*n pricey because we're starting from scratch (no box spring, and only waterbed bed box).

In the end we went with the Sleep Comfort adjustable. It was actually 19$ cheaper. Of course when your total was at $5,147, what's 19 bucks? (by comparison, DH's original waterbed cost 100$)

Bed emergency

August 13th, 2006 at 08:13 pm

The waterbed began to leak this morning, and it was terminal. And yet I'm thankful that:

-we are on the first floor.
-bed bag lasted 30 years, according to DH.
-bed bag blew at about 8am. We got going when it first started. In other words, no waking up to floating slippers.
-we both knew what to do, which was to unplug everything in the bedroom, drain the bed, move dry things to the living room, wash wet sheets, wait for the bed to drain (coffee and the Sunday paper), put drained bag out in the back yard along with the container and the platform, wet and dry vac, shampoo & rinse carpet, run fan to dry.

If I'm buying with the emergency fund, I'm looking forward to getting something else. I've suspected for awhile that the waterbed has been keeping the chiropractor in business. Being able to get regular sheets will be a treat, we can catch up with the latest in bed technology, and if I have to give up the travel part of this vacation, then darn it it'll be the hotel bed at home.