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Archive for December, 2006

2007 goals and a gentle warning

December 31st, 2006 at 04:44 pm

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

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

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

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

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

5. Finish that novel.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cleaned the closet

December 30th, 2006 at 06:29 pm

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

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

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

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

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

Net worth, 2006

December 29th, 2006 at 07:20 pm

Just to make this a genuine financial diary...


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

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

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

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

half a million pennies

December 28th, 2006 at 09:17 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

money's faster...really

December 27th, 2006 at 08:43 pm

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

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

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

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

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

Boxing Day 2006

December 26th, 2006 at 07:00 pm

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

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

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

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

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

the best gift of all

December 25th, 2006 at 03:36 pm

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

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

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

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

Today it fit. Even with a sweater on.

high strength to weight ratio

December 23rd, 2006 at 07:42 pm

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

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

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

Superhero stamps

December 22nd, 2006 at 09:01 pm

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

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

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

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

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

calling in favors

December 21st, 2006 at 09:03 pm

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

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

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

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

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

liquor and meat

December 20th, 2006 at 10:24 pm

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

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

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

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

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

average!

December 19th, 2006 at 08:51 pm

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

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

Feels normal

December 18th, 2006 at 09:45 pm

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

But still it isn't when it gets dark.

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

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

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

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

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

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