Home > Archive: September, 2007

Archive for September, 2007

grandma died

September 28th, 2007 at 03:04 am

Saving log - $5
Spending log - $1.84 coffee, milk + $9 lunch

Sister called at work late this afternoon. Grandma died last night. She was 96.

I'll be off for a few days, heading back to Wisconsin. The viewing and the wake are on Monday. I'll be visiting sister, she'll be giving me a tour of the farmette. I plan on taking pictures.

See you in a few days.

One of my buses changed

September 27th, 2007 at 02:23 am

Good news - a couple of months into my blog I wrote about the closure of the bus tunnel and how it affected my commute. The bus tunnel is back. Yippee!

However, some things will remain the same. No cars or 3rd Ave between 6-9 am and 3-6pm. Seattle got very used to the proceeds coming from those 101$ tickets. Not that I complaining - beforehand the cars on 3rd would just go crazy - turning into pedestrians, etc.

And some things are very, very different again. A few buses transferred to 3rd Ave. One of the buses that I can take to work now lets me off right in from of my gym, right across the street from work. Before, I'd have to take another 3 minute walk cutting through the interior of my favorite building, the Exchange Building. I'll miss that. I'll also miss the 20 calories or so that I burned off daily.

tiring being trained on the obvious

September 27th, 2007 at 02:03 am

Saving log - $0 tip box
Spending log - $1.65 coffee + $10 lunch

Three co workers and I traveled to get supervisory training. There were two highlights:

1. The dude who didn't set his cell phone to vibrate. He got a call. His ringtone was "Back in Black" by ACDC. Nice.

2. If you are going to fire someone, do it in the middle of the week, so they won't spend the weekend buying bullets. Big Grin (Actually it was presented as contacting the lawyer, but I thought this quip was funnier.)

Actually it wasn't horrible. It was just... obvious. I guess that's what happens when you teach empathy to people who might not be naturally empathic. But in a nutshell:

Do unto others as they would have them do unto you.
Pass on as much information as possible and do it face to face.
The obvious might not be so obvious. (I guess this includes the training too.)
Follow your HR policies.

And yet afterwards, I got a headache (rare for me) and I wanted a nap.

at least he was funny

September 25th, 2007 at 02:53 am

A homeless man's sign, as spotted from the bus:

Father killed in Ninja attack.
Need money for karate lessons.

My assistant for the pledge processing season came on board today. Bought him lunch.

meditation on fees

September 24th, 2007 at 04:41 am

Needed a haircut, a couple of grocery items, and I had to write a check to copay the chiropractor, so I broke down and transferred $100 from the brick and mortar bank savings account - a little buffer against an overdraft fee.

Got a letter from Capital One. They're going to shift my billing cycle backward a few days back to the 16th. No matter, I now don't have any recurring charges on it anyway. I moved the newspaper subscription to the new, WaMu credit card. Sweet justice. I would have had to write a .35 check, but I bought a spare set of bedsheets from The bill turned into a semi-respectable 50.34$, which I'll pay next week when the paycheck comes in.

Last week I talked with lawyer friend about 403Bs. It turns out that we made similar money moves with our 403B, but for different reasons. I trimmed my stock portfolio a bit and went for cash and bonds because I wanted a bit of safety. 90% stocks is pretty aggressive even during the best of times. I believe that a recession is on its way and I want a bit of ballast for awhile.

Lawyer friend nearly took all of his stocks and put them in the cash money market fund for a different reason. His favorite fund in the 403B, an international one, was eliminated in favor of a different one, which he hated, because of the fee structure. Yeah, so what about that 1.5% fee, lawyer friend ranted, my favorite posted great returns!

My thoughts drifted a bit, and I'm a bit ashamed that I didn't have the heart to explain it to him. Fees are important, and can be in some cases and conditions even more important because fees are inexorable. That fund manager will charge that fee whether that fund has a good year or not. The fee is fine if you're making in the rare instance a 15-20% return (although it means you are making 13.5-18-5% return), not so fine if you are only making 7-8% because you are barely keeping up with inflation, and it just becomes worse and worse - most actively managed accounts don't do as well as an index fund, and you pay for that privilege. Imagine if you lost 20% of your 403B, which often happened right after the bust. You'd still be charged that fee with the excuse that "imagine if we weren't your manager - your returns would be even worse!" Big Grin

Fees are so important that there is a story about them. An investor met with a stockbroker to perhaps give him his business. The stockbroker gave him the grand tour, showed the investor how properous the firm was, tried to impress the investor even to the point of going to the slip and showing off the stockbrokers' boats. The investor wondered, "where are the investors' boats?" Fees, of course.

Anyway, by that time lawyer friend concluded, "I wish we had more choices." It turns out that lawyer friend's partner could choose up to 650 funds. Hear, hear. At least for me - I figure I could handle it. Big Grin

end of the month coming up

September 23rd, 2007 at 01:05 am

Payday next Friday - and none too soon.

I wrote a 400$ check for one of my DRPs. It was one in my stock portfolio trading at the low end of its price range. I'm confident that its not a "value trap" so I'm buying on the dip.

It does mean that as we are heading toward the last turn of the month I'm in a rare position - I'm feeling the frugal burn and counting my pennies with the possibility that I'm going to have to transfer some money from brick and mortar savings.

Because of the frugal burn, its a bit of a bummer that the Greek Festival is this weekend. DH and I did the wine tasting - the wines were a lot better than in years past, but still a bit pricey. I weakened and bought Greek olive oil, grape leaves, feta, sheep cheese, capers, taramasalata, sea salt, cracked green olives, and variety pack of Greek cookies. $70.50, and I put it on the credit card. Blegh. On the plus side, we get 70.50$ worth of pleasure out of what we bought.

I also encouraged DH to take the bus out to the festival. Even at $2.50 for the trip that's a lot nicer to do than to drive then drive around for very limited parking. And we are maintaining our habit that we bring our cloth bags. We'll figure it out yet.

drove publically today

September 22nd, 2007 at 12:54 am

Saving log - 0$ tip box
(deposited 47$ yesterday from the tip box to the bank)
Spending log - $6 parking

Our little department was involved in a county-wide volunteer "Day of Caring" today, but we needed a ride to the place that we were to volunteer.

I publically drove our little group. It sounds strange, but I commute every day by bus, I don't really own a car (I consider the cushmobile DH's car), I hate driving standard transmissions that DH loves, I bum rides off of co workers, I consider driving the ruin of my finances and the cause of my weight gain. All reasons that for most of my life I drive maybe once a year. In other words, even after 7 years of working, no one at work has ever seen me drive. The cushmobile - a white Buick - is an automatic transmission, seats five very comfortably, so it made sense to carpool and for me to do it.

It was fun. The volunteering project was a landscaping job - good hard work and we had just enough people. Everybody was busy doing something, we got the project done at about 3 pm, and we had a lot to show for it.

Everyone considered me a boring driver - the conversation kept at a steady stream, no "eeek watch it!", no honking, and probably no stories or whispers behind my back. Big Grin

The only issue was a frugal one - I paid 6$ for parking - my only spending for today. I know that DH would frown deeply. (Spend money on lot parking? Take away my cojones right now. Big Grin) I'll save the parking receipt - I might just as well ask if I can get reimbursed for it. And if I get reimbursed for it, maybe I can get my cojones back.

that was quick

September 20th, 2007 at 04:02 am

Noticed that ING dropped their rate to 4.3% the day after the Fed dropped the prime leading rate. It will probably even go a bit lower in the next few days. Here's to having a long-ish term CD.

friend avoidance

September 20th, 2007 at 03:42 am

Saving log - $7 tip box
Spending log - $1.84 coffee, milk + $7.60 lunch

Crazy day, with work coming from all sides. Last night I lost 25$ at poker with the lawyer friend hosting, but I forced lawyer friend's partner out of the game, so I won a bounty of $5.

Then this morning I received a lunch invitation from lawyer friend. I know he reads this blog sometimes, but here goes. I had to use one of my other frugal skills - friend avoidance. I dearly love (friend love, get your mind out of the gutter) lawyer friend, but $25 dollars today, $15 dollars tomorrow. Well, I am plenty busy these days.... Big Grin

plan B

September 18th, 2007 at 05:17 am

Saving log - $.50 tip box
Spending log -$1.84 coffee, milk + $4.50 curry

I was going to save the full $5 today, but it turned out, accidentally, that I went nearly fiscal commando again. I had $6 and change in my wallet, starting out. Plan A was to get the coffee and milk with the $1 and the change, put the $5 in the tip box, hit the ATM, pick up a couple of items, then have lunch at my "hideout".

The problem occurred when I hit the ATM - debit card gone. (This evening, I found it yesterday's jacket pocket.) All I had was my credit card, driver's license, and a certain amount of bull-headedness. Since the hideout didn't take plastic, if I really wanted it I would have to go to my bank branch and get a cash advance.

That was just an ugly, sad, weak-willed possibility, and how could I write that I did that here? Big Grin

It was plan B. Plan B was walk back to the office, fish the $5 back out of the tip box, go to the curry place, and order the special no matter what it was. That's what I did.

Frugality begins with the making and implementation of plan B, even though its not what I wanted that day. Plan A will have to wait.

Bridge Motel

September 17th, 2007 at 03:53 am

The Bridge Motel, a 12-room motel that I pass by on the bus nearly every day, is now defunct. Artists took it over Saturday night for one night. Next week it gets torn down for something else. Its a small shame - it was at its best a cheap salesman stop right at the Aurora Bridge (hence the name) - but we need our semi-seedy places. What and where would writers write about otherwise? Big Grin Besides, without care even the most upscale places turn seedy.

At the front - in color

Enter Other Side - and we did

The art crowd

The front office

Room of salt with "buried treasure" - greeting cards and found paper objects

Spiral of found, crushed cans (makes a fascinating background on the laptop)

A Twilight Zone, 2001-esque moment in the window of one of the rooms.

Entertainment was free ... well, I spent 3$ on a plastic glass of red wine. Actually, I spent only $2.99 - I found a penny on the stairs. I saw a ton of pennies on the roof when I stuck my head out of an upper window. Didn't try for those. Big Grin

the fugitive (long and funny)

September 15th, 2007 at 10:44 pm

It was a bizarre day at work yesterday. We interviewed for my temporary helper. The first interview went with only a minor, non-bizarre hitch, but the second one... well, you hear about it maybe as a joke or urban legend. What happened was this:

The HR person on our panel confided in us that she wondered if she would make it - interviewee wanted to come in at 11 am, rather than 10:45. One of our panel had to leave at 11:30, so to get at least the 45 minutes, HR was insistent - 10:45.

At 10:45, the person was waiting for us. We ushered her into the room, and while we were all standing, introduced ourselves. Interviewee, a woman, introduced herself - and solved the mystery about how we were to pronounce her first name - then said that she had to use the restroom. Fine, the HR person (a woman) escorted her to the restroom, maybe 30 ft from the interview room.

Back in the interview, while we were waiting for the interviewee, we chatted a bit about this and that, listening. DJ friend, who was on the panel, told us about the little whooshing sound people make as they walk on the carpet between the cubicles.

Minutes pass. I make a joke that the interviewee will be interviewing at 11:00 am. But we thought - well, zippers, snaps, putting yourself together, the fact that women have number 3 to deal with, etc. A few minutes after that, the other woman on the panel and I went to the bathroom to check.

Bathroom empty; interviewee gone.

Other woman and I make a cursory pass along the cubicles in case she got lost. I went and chatted with the front door receptionist. She described the interviewee, saw her go in, didn't see her go out.

Oh boy. The four of us on the panel each took a floor to make sure she wasn't hurt, hiding, lost, committing a crime, etc. I took the second floor and chatted with a coworker little about our "runner". Other than the fun fact learning that visitors to Bill Gates' mansion are given a name tag with a GPS unit in it... well, we saw or heard nothing odd or amiss in a bathroom, stairwell, cubicle, office, store room.

Interviewee went poof. The HR person scratched her head. No shows, yes; but she never had anyone bail out at the interview stage before. Someone thought that maybe she thought that she could count us as one of the three contacts/week needed to collect unemployment, but that would mean the definition of contact really stiffened up in the past 15 years.

One thing's for certain - she had a transporter and we didn't.

R.I.P li'l thrift store

September 15th, 2007 at 03:12 am

I bought a batch of things from this thrift store in early August when I heard that they were closing. I never went back but not because I didn't want to. I just knew that if I went back it would touch off a lot of spending triggers - cheap stuff that I would sort of use, stuff that I would "rescue". Time to let go. And I did.

great money quote

September 14th, 2007 at 04:41 am

"Those that understand interest, get it. Those that don't, pay it."

Any other faves out there?

not much

September 14th, 2007 at 04:31 am

Saving log - $8 tip box
Spending log - $1.84 coffee, milk

Got taken out to lunch on Wednesday, so I put what I would have spent in the box.

Saving log - $3 tip box
Spending log - $1.84 coffee, milk +$20 lunch

Spendy, kinda. I was interviewing several folks for temp position beginning at 9 am, which meant that I had to show up by 8:30am. DH offered to drive me, so I let him. Since I rarely do that and its out of his way, I gave him a $20 for coffee, gas, and its insurance that he'll offer again. Just my luck though that the 9 am slot had to reschedule. It always happens that when I rush I needn't have.

And then there was lunch. A new place, tasty enough, but the service was slow, and I paid for the decor. Not going on the short list.

Payday is tomorrow and I'm in very good shape for the end of the paycheck. I'm not depressed, but lately everything's flat, even. Nothing near term to get excited about.

just a test...

September 12th, 2007 at 02:40 am

Saving log -$1 tip box
Spending log - $1.15 coffee (still no no-fat or 1%) + $5 lunch

We have a display case near our offices. I rearranged the letters, as a shout-out to the James Bond fans out there. We'll see who notices.

Text is and Link is

Two commas

September 11th, 2007 at 04:18 am

Saving log - $8 tip box
Spending log - $1.15 coffee (no milk) + $9 lunch (bought DJ friend's lunch)

Learned over the weekend that the phrase "two commas" refers to a million dollars: $1,000,000.

Got your two commas yet? Someday.

The first set of shows on DJ friend's internet radio station started up - Global Vortex Radio. Sunday night's show was classic soul - songs that you've heard, but mostly songs just as great that no one heard of. The other innovation is that DJ friend set up a chat room so you can chat with the DJ as the show is going on.

sister asking for farmette money

September 8th, 2007 at 11:27 pm

Not personally, but again for paying the bills and projects on the farmette. I've transferred $5950, which sounds like a weird number, but it really means that I've transferred a total of 20K to farmette projects. The solar panel, trenching (bury the copper), upgrading the electrical to the house and to the power grid - important especially if the panels provide a surplus of power to sell back to the electric company.

All in six months!

I would prefer to keep it to 20K/year level. I'm feeling stressed and fearful about it because I don't want to feel cheap, but I don't want to feel like the money is going down a rathole. I know all of this is important to keep the place up enough to be worth "buying me out", but I want to see plans, pictures, and experience more about what is going on, and I worry that sister's being taken a bit. Or is she?

Shredding strategy

September 8th, 2007 at 11:14 pm

Saving log (Friday) - $5 tip box
Spending log (Friday) - 1.84$ coffee, milk + $5 curry lunch + 40$ ATM

I keep my paper financial files on the lean side, just enough to carry in a portable tote. I cleaned the old stuff out. The next step is to shred, but the house shredder is old, delicate, and cheap, only designed to do the casual 3 sheet shredding. I had a more than that, so I had to develop a strategy.

Looking at the papers carefully, I found that I only needed to shred the paper that had my name, address, and account number, and those only occurred on the top third of the paper that I wanted to shred. The rest, a couple of quick rips. It really saves the shredder from getting hot and making that strange grrrry sound when its unhappy.

I took a look at some of my old 403B files. Right now I have about $53K total, fully vested. But at the beginning of:
02, 3K and 20% vested
03, 7K and 40% vested
04, 14K and 60% vested
05, 22K and 80% vested
06, 29K and 80% vested (February 06 was when I got vested)
07, 41K and 100% vested

You never think you get anywhere financially until you look at where you've been.

That reminds me, time to download a few months worth of my monthly statements to my flash drive...


September 7th, 2007 at 05:20 am

Saving log - $0
Spending log - $1 coffee + $7 lunch + $7 snack, mocha

I was away from my desk all day today at a training in Adobe Acrobat. It was entertaining and a nice change of pace. I got wind from DH that I'm going to participate in interviewing a temp staffer bright and early at 9am, which means I conned DH into driving me back to work to print out the interview questions, the resume, the job description. I shouldn't have looked at my other emails, but I did. Crisis! Sigh. Sometimes I think some of my coworkers can't find their collective hhmmm with two hands and a flashlight. Big Grin If you know what I mean.

Had the camera on me, so a couple of interesting snaps.
Yeah, how many space needle pics can you take?
This one looks like the War of the Worlds Martians had just landed, mid-zap.

And this one looks like the Daily Planet. Not quite, its the PI building (the training was held a block away).

oldie but goodie

September 6th, 2007 at 04:54 am

Saving log - $0
Spending log - $8 lunch

Don't have much financial going on. But I discovered a loophole in DH's trick in Saturday's entry and wrote it out.

And I did discover an old funny financial article from The Onion, America's news source:

Text is and Link is

Oh yes, The Onion is very well known for tossing in a dirty word or two. Don't say you weren't warned.

go and sin no more

September 5th, 2007 at 02:33 am

Saving log - $8 tip box
Spending log - $1.84 coffee, milk + $5 lunch

Got a form letter from Capital One this evening. They've gotten rid of the $29 late fee. Because its a form letter doesn't say whether they are moving the closing date back to the 15th; the next paragraphs were just a note that if you got a late fee, you did these two horrible things - yadda yadda yadda. I got most of my loaf - the slices that cost me money. I'll take it as "Go and sin no more".

The first round of temp staff has arrived, putting some energy in our sleepy doings downstairs. I overheard that they should make friends with me "because I fix problems".

At least I fixed mine. Big Grin

Two entry-ettes

September 3rd, 2007 at 04:43 am

Saving log - $0
Spending log - $3.28 coffee, bagel, cream cheese + $1 apple

Two things -

My weight has been creeping up and now its at 187 (from 184). My trainer suggested a bit more cardio, preferably at the gym. Last week I made it in on Sunday for 40 minutes. Since the gym is on special weekend holiday hours today, I did the marathon 30 block walk - from 24th Ave NW - and promised the trainer that I would not saunter. I managed it in 45 minutes.

Second thing. I figured out that, month in and month out, with interest and saving, that I increase my net worth by $500/ month. This month it was $508. I used to have to save the whole thing, now I let CD interest do some of the work.

another sneaky tip from DH

September 1st, 2007 at 09:48 pm

So we were at Denny's this morning, as usual. We mostly pay by cash, but rarely we pay by plastic. DH gave the server his debit card to cash out. When the server came back he specifically asked for his ID. DH gave him his Costco card. I asked DH what the heck happened. DH smiled and showed me the back of his card.

(instead of a signature, the words "CHECK I.D." appear.)

So a Q and A followed:

Q: Why?
A: I didn't want to give up my signature to just anybody. If I sign, the ID thief has your card and your signature, which means they can forge it well enough for a pimply-faced kid's glance.

Q: What other cards did you do this with?
A: Debit and credit card.

Q: How did you come up with this?
A: Found the tip on someone else's blog. (and now its on mine).

Q: What about the bank?
A: They don't care as long as its not blank. I wrote it in unerasable sharpie, see...?

Q: So what do you have that has your signature on it?
A: Nothing. (thinks for a minute). Oh yeah, my driver's license and my Costco card. Yeah, I guess you do have to have some ID with a signature on it. The DMV makes you sign the driver's license.

ed note: There is a problem with this. If you're worth the talents of a real identity thief, all said thief would have to do is create a fake secondary ID with your name and the thief's signature.

what would great-grandpa eat?

September 1st, 2007 at 05:40 am

I finished Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life. It was about a commitment to eat off the garden or very, very locally for one year. Of course, such a thing is possible if you live on a bit more than a postage stamp lawn and in a state with well balanced agriculture.

I've also been reading and hearing about others making a commitment to eat food grown within 100 miles of one's locale. Local-voring, its called. I like the idea, but I've always had problems with such rigid rules. A bit expensive and a bit pretentious. At the very least, local-voring within the greater Seattle area will give you a massive caffeine withdrawl headache. (No coffee trees within 100 miles of Seattle). Bananas are good for you. Standing around the meat case tempting yourself with either the New Zealand or the Oregon beef means annoying other shoppers who just want to get in and get out. Nope, I want an easy rule to avoid total deprivation and at least not do the completely wrong thing. Big Grin So I've come up with my own semi-local-frugal-vore rule, short and sweet.

Eat what and from where your great-grandpa would eat.

Now I know I have a definite advantage here. My great-grandpa on my mother's side was a grocer during the Great Depression. (FYI, great-grandpa was still alive when I left for college.) The grocers' kids ate okay, however they ate what wouldn't sell, a frugal but possibly disgusting and frightening prospect in the Depression.

Still, coffee was not unheard of, neither were bananas. Fruit and produce, however, were sold in season from either North or Central America. Fresh food coming from places much further was prohibitively expensive, so great-grandpa wouldn't eat it. Sugar was just granulated, and also expensive, so it was a once in awhile thing. He was also, as you might have guessed, darn frugal. He also ate home cooked meals, no junk food, and only in his much later years ate things with a lot of strange preservatives. Except he had that unfortunate taste for Spam.

The great-grandpa rule isn't perfect, but it has to be better than having to bring a mental GPS unit when going to the grocery store.

frugal dilemma 2

September 1st, 2007 at 05:02 am

Saving log - $0
Spending log - $1.84 coffee, milk + $15 chirashi lunch + $25 poker game

Paycheck came - yes, I am making $50 more/ paycheck, or $100 more a month. It justifies my raising my savings rate to $50/ each paycheck.

This evening, I played Texas Hold 'Em poker with lawyer friend, lawyer friend's partner (who works as IT support in a law firm), and 5 lawyers up on the 48th floor in downtown Seattle. Man that sounds like the setup for a punch line. I lost, of course. It was fun, but pricey, so it will be a once in awhile thing. Cracking the poker game and winning isn't cheap - $20 buy-in, $5 bounty (if you lose all your chips, you pay the person who dealt.)

And no, that is not the frugal dilemma, this is:

A couple of week's worth of Wall Street Journals, Investor Business Dailys., and a Barron or two. Stealing is not right, neither is littering...but recycling is a virtue. I was sorely tempted to take a Thursday or a Friday's paper. I didn't, but there it is...