Home > Archive: January, 2008

Archive for January, 2008

mixed bag

February 1st, 2008 at 04:24 am

Saving log - $8 tip box
Spending log - $60 dinner (for two)

Was treated to the coffee and lunch, so I paid it forward and treated sweetie to a restaurant dinner. It included a very good folk singer/ satirist, so it was appetizer, dinner, dessert and a show.

It was a good antidote to the general craziness at work. Right now I'm just buzzing, thinking of all the things that I have to do. I have to calm myself, see what has to be done, and work my plan. I even went so far as to consult the I-Ching which told me to center myself, work the details and don't draw too much attention to myself.

DJ friend asked me to look at his 403B plan to identify a fund that is too crazy. Sounds a bit terrified that his 403B is dropping with the stock market. Said that his DW lost 100$, so she put everything in cash. Its hard to advise someone so risk adverse; they really can't put it in anything but cash so while they keep the numbers from obviously dropping, they don't see the stealth effect of inflation. The numbers stay up, sure, but when it costs twice as much to buy something in 18 years (at a 4% inflation, using the rule of 72), you've lost a lot.

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I wonder if giving him an exercise would help - ask him to track his 403B total daily for a couple of weeks. It will go up, it will go down, it will go up again, it will go down. The idea would be to show that a $100 loss is nothing compared to the variation that those weeks would show. Of course, it might could freak them out even more.

Found my first bill

January 30th, 2008 at 05:27 am

After just finding only coins on the ground, I found my first dollar bill.

It was in the park that I took a picture of, which after a day of rain has shed its snow and is now back to its old green and brown self.

I picked up the bill, still soggy, and thought of sister's partner who found a $50 on the ground in October.

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I still think she mugged someone for it ... she has hidden depths, if you know what I mean. Big Grin

looks kinda fake, in a way

January 29th, 2008 at 03:55 am

Saving log - $2 tip box
Spending log - $1.19 coffee + $5.45 lunch

For anyone who has winter on their mind, good or bad. Seattle became a winter wonderland overnight. These pictures were taken at sunrise at, oh, about 7:45 am.

The pocket park, facing west

The turned around view, facing east. 89th Street lay before you.

This was the most peaceful part of the day. After that, it went downhill rapidly.


January 28th, 2008 at 02:05 am

Saving log - $0
Spending log - $3.36 coffee & bagel, $60 clothes

Didn't feel like working out at the gym. It was a nice day so instead I did a little shopping - bought several more long sleeved solid colored tops that I use year round - and did the mega 50 block walk.

I did a little detour. DH sometimes cuts down streets I never travel along, let alone walk down. On the corner of one street he drove, we saw an asian temple, so during my walk I walked past it.

I've lived in Greenwood for 8 years. Darned if the neighborhood still surprises me. This is a Tibetan Buddhist monastery founded in 1973. Its stupa (the white shape) is on the right, with prayer wheels circling it.

The red sign in the left corner invited you to walk around the stupa clockwise, turning each prayer wheel clockwise as you do so. Didn't have to ask me twice. It was very relaxing to hear the wheels turning as I walked. And I forgot to get ATM money afterward.

N.B.:According to Images of America: Seattle's Greenwood-Phinney Neighborhood, this is Sakya Monastery, the only Tibetan Buddhist monastery outside of Tibet. The head lama is 3rd in rank below the Dali Lama.

stimulating my way

January 26th, 2008 at 05:36 am

Saving log - $4 tip box
Spending log - $1.19 coffee + $13 lunch

Had lunch with a friend today at my hideout. Something about ginger and lemon grass that makes me glow.

Looked my mutual funds and equities today. Not as bad as I feared, but taking a rest this week from looking nearly every night was a genuine rest.

Figured that I'll be unpatriotic, and not spend my share of the stimulus package. Instead I'll save it, use it to cancel out my tax bite, or if I'm feeling particularly punk, I'll put it in a drip stock. Ah, middle age - I'm too d%^& cynical to enjoy having my fiscal package stimulated. The way the dollar is going, $600 will maybe buy a bag of groceries anyway.

another look at your coupon

January 25th, 2008 at 04:55 am

Saving log - $0 tip box
Spending log - $1.19 coffee + $6.50 lunch

Just in case you're new and you need to know about the mysterious tip box:

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DJ friend was excited about getting several more coupons to his favorite Indian restaurant, so we went. The coupon, however, was for 11-noon and 1-2, leaving that critical lunch rush 12-1 at full price. Look at your coupons carefully!

Still not looking at my stocks and equities this week. We've had the drop in prices, now we have the rally. Of course the rally didn't really make up for the drop.

In gym today two other trainers were teasing my trainer. We now have a little index card binder into which my trainer writes the wicked routine she devised for me. Index card binder = $4.50, including index cards with the holes. The binder opens up the long way, like a checkbook, so when my trainer writes notes, it looks like my trainer was bribing me with checks during my routine. 15 pushups for a buck, anyone?

Still holding at 184!

no, no, no, no I'm not

January 23rd, 2008 at 03:37 am

Saving log - $2 tip box
Spending log - $1.19 coffee + $5 lunch

Nope, I'm not going to look at my stocks, 401k or any equities this week. I'm heavy in cash, haven't moved anything yet so that's not the issue. I'm going to keep my emotion out of this, good or bad.

This is the time when 12 month CDs come into their own.

Time to give it all a rest.

Best way to start the saving journey

January 21st, 2008 at 04:04 am

Ten years ago, I had about $15000 worth of credit card debt, and about $10000 worth of student loan debt. Still, while I was frugal, and I was slooowly paying off my debts, I realized that I was missing one ingredient - my routine.

Oh I had one. I'd drive to work, maybe drive to a lunch spot, visit a couple of friends, come back and work, then decompress by driving to the Barnes & Noble and read and have a decaf and a sweet. Yikes! I had a routine, but that routine involved leaking cash.

Routines are one of the most powerful tools that the saver has while non-stop novelties KILL saving. Sure, we all like: fun surprises; dinners out; new things to read, eat, think about; the chance to meet new people and have new experiences. Every once in awhile these things add spice to our lives. But those surprise vacations are often are white elephants when the plane ticket, gas, meals, incidentals are figured in; extra tasty calories allow you to gain weight and trash your credit at the same time; books and media are great to experience, but if you use them only once, well, what do you have? The memory of what your floor used to look like. Smile

A routine is a powerful tool because: (1) you hone your budget to it, (2) you pursue in your routine only the things that are meaningful to you, (3) in assessing your routine you know why those things are important to you, and (4) you've put a price on those things. When the price of some of the elements of your routine goes up, then instead of cursing it, you either find a way to cheapen that element to compensate, or you drop the element entirely.

The first step in developing a routine with an eye toward saving is to write it down. This goes in tandem with you writing down everything you spend. Well, where did you spend your $ and what were you doing? And don't forget the weekends because that's where most of your frivolous spending occurs.

Now that you have your daily and weekend routine. For each of those tasks, what makes it something that you like or you have to do? Work, of course, is a big part of your routine during the week day. You probably have to do it to earn money, so you might like your job or not, but you know why you are doing it.

Another example, a classic in the frugal literature. Maybe you like a cup of coffee on the way to work or the first thing as you get in. How do you feel about this task in your routine? Do you think its a waste? What elements do you like about it?

Now that you have your feelings about your tasks in your routine. How can I maximize a particular task's value?

Take the coffee example. It could be that you love coffee and caffeine. Buy a decent cup of coffee, the cheapest size that you can drink, or if you find that making coffee has value to you, make coffee to take in. It could be that you have coffee with the boss or coffee has value to you because its a way to socialize with spouse or co workers. Time to think about a token order of something cheap(er) so you minimize the cost, but maximize the info you get from spouse or co worker coffee time. Do you finish your coffee? If you don't - time to definitely think about getting the smaller size!

The next step. Are there tasks in your routine that no matter how much you've thought and tried to maximize their value but you find you can't? Drop those completely. Don't spend a dime on those!

The final step. Are there tasks in your routine that even maximized, you can replace with something cheaper? We'll switch examples here with cable, the other great frugal example. Why do you have cable? Like a specific show or sporting event? Afraid that network TV doesn't have enough choices? You can get TV shows from Netflix, Amazon or the public library. You can go a sports bar or a friend's house for the sporting event.

Closing the loop. As you start streamlining your routine, honing your tasks by maximizing all their values, and eliminating spending tasks you don't like, your spending should smooth out.

Start saving!

do you haggle?

January 20th, 2008 at 03:58 am

Saving log - $3 tip box + $600 Drip stock contributions
Spending log - $1.19 coffee +$8 lunch

Saving log - $0 tip box
Spending log - $28 (brunch for 2) + $30 groceries

I read this article in the New York Times this morning...

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I don't really haggle. I've never thought about it much. In Mexico we haggled a little bit, but if you are the least self conscious, boy that hinders you. I have it in me, I guess, what with writing, speaking and faxing the innocent letter, but those are more pointing out what should have happened in the interest of fairness rather than "can you give me a break".

I'm nice enough so that I engender a little sympathy, and I am now a bit older and less self conscious, but still I usually don't. I think its because I don't buy too many expensive things and it just doesn't seem to be worth it buying just food and staples.

So I don't. But do you?

yikes at the grocery store

January 18th, 2008 at 05:24 am

Saving log - $0 tip box
Spending log - $1.19 coffee +$17 lunch

So much for the 3 free lunches. I just caught up on this one.

Yesterday I discovered that I had no tomato sauce for the pasta sauce, so I made do last night with chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, and a bit of vinegar and water. Every so often, though, I need tomato sauce.

Here's where the price book gets depressing - the best price I saw was .95/14 oz can. Back in 2004 sauce was .33 - .44/can.

Then I checked out the pasta
2008 - $2.38/16 oz bag
mid 2007 - $1.50/16 oz bag
2005 - .69/16 oz bag
2004 - .67/16 oz bag

third free lunch this week

January 17th, 2008 at 05:46 am

Saving log - $7 tip box
Spending log - $1.19 coffee + $13 stamps

Third free lunch of the week. I pay now for the next two days.

Put what was in the tip box into savings. $46. Not too bad this month. Payday yesterday, so I could move another $100 from checking into ING. I needed to pick up some stamps, just in case, so I got a sheet of Forever stamps along with a sheet of regular ones.

Made a quick dinner, but had a bit of a scare - a jar of crushed garlic broke in my hands. Luckily I didn't get cut, but the sauce got a lot more garlic than it should have. I rescued the rest of the garlic, checking for shards, by putting it in a plastic container with a bit of olive oil on top.

Found a dime in between our couch cushions.

this week is sweet as far as calories are concerned

January 16th, 2008 at 05:24 am

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

Yesterday I bought a sandwich from the winnings of the Packer game. I bought large enough so that yesterday I got free lunch, today I got free lunch, and tomorrow our little department is hosting a free lunch as a thank you for the temp staff. 3 free lunches this week.

I had 10$ leftover from Sunday and I won't have to hit the ATM until Thursday. Yay. Slow the velocity of money so that it leaves my wallet at a crawl. Big Grin

Was a serious icebowl commute this morning. I live on a ridge, so its an icy downhill no matter where I go. Still have my Yaktrax. They work like a dream and get comments about them when I stand at the bus stop. And stand I did; the bus came late making me 45 minutes late.

fitting puzzle pieces

January 15th, 2008 at 04:56 am

Saving log - $2 tip box
Spending log - $1.19 coffee

Many freebees. Got cash for the sandwich, enough to do the footlong drill (buy a footlong sub, eat 1/2 one day, other 1/2 the next), got a free coffee from the financial planner, who I had a meeting with this morning. I have to do a bit of research comparing Vanguard with Schwab, especially figuring out fees when I rebalance. I suspect Vanguard will pass with flying colors, but you never know.

The issue is that my portfolio was fine before the serious influx of inheritance money. Now everything has to be re-jiggered to get the appropriate % to the now much larger total.

The plan is to take all but 180K of cash/cash equivalents (180K should be enough for a 50-60% down payment of a Seattle house in my neighborhood in about 3 yrs, a bit of emergency, along with some payments to sister for farmette), put them in a moderately aggressive portfolio. Each account that can't be rolled over into Vanguard - 403B, IRA, Roth IRA, should contain 1 or 2 different accounts to make it simple to determine whether one asset or fund is doing fantastically well or bad.

Emailed the Amerprise guy. Yes, the box of checks we gave you - use 'em. At the very end, to scrape up the little bits of interest, I need to email him to get the paperwork to completely close the account.

The best way to get a free lunch

January 13th, 2008 at 07:27 am

Depend on blind loyalty to a certain football team. Big Grin

Won the sandwich bet -

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6 in Italian sub on whole wheat, drag it through the garden (all the veggies on it).

ten minutes

January 12th, 2008 at 05:14 am

Saving log - $1 tip box
Spending log - $1.19 coffee + $13 lunch

I woke up at 7:45 am for an 8:10 am bus. It went downhill from there. I got in and was bombarded by needy co workers, my temp guy looking for projects, and strange snafus. I solved them, but it wasn't until mid morning when I could work on what I needed to work on ... for me.

Then came lunch. My first choice had a line out the door - no good - so I went to my hideout - nearby. Got in at 12:30, and while it wasn't nearly as busy I mentally went over my schedule today. Wasn't I supposed to have a meeting at 1? I got served at 12:45, huffed it down, caught a bus and got back at 1:10 pm, heart racing thinking "I'm late!".

Meeting was at 1:30. Whew, wasn't late after all.

My boss and I waited for the elevator to make the 1:30 pm meeting when we heard voices in the shaft. Elevator was stuck on a floor - we got a co worker to call facilities and rescue the voice, making us both late ... by 10 minutes.

The day took its own today.

Yesterday I made an appointment with the financial planner for Monday. I was satisfied that he wasn't going to use me as a boat payment, and the last thing he said to me was that I should sleep on any advice and not be to rash.

Finally, the CD shop near my house put up a sign that he was going out of business. I passed by a couple of times since then, bummed and little bit embarrassed. The owner was a friend and, well, what is the etiquette here? Go in like nothing happened and pick over the stock? Walk by and leave it alone?

I went in tonight, gave my condolences, and found a couple of CDs. Turns out that he's moving a lot of stock this week. I laughed and said that the persian carpet sellers in Pioneer Square had the right idea. Keep advertising a going-out-of-business sale, lay low for a couple of weeks, then start back up again. Another customer told him exactly the same thing.

sign of the times lunch

January 10th, 2008 at 05:15 am

Saving log - $5 tip box
Spending log - $1.19 coffee + $7 lunch

Lunch. Yes I know, eating lunch out is not frugal, and probably not great for the health either, but it is one of my few vices and if you work in a basement, you'd pay good money to see sunshine...making the food a bonus. Not only do I keep track of how much I spend on the meal, I keep a food diary of what and how much I eat. So I've noticed a sign-of-the-times thing with a Korean lunch today.

Lunches are staying the same price, but they are getting decidedly smaller. The styrofoam takeout container of bi bim bap (Korean BBQ with vegetables) is filled similarily, but the next size smaller. Call it the candy bar effect. Anybody else notice this with their lunch?

The frugal side of me felt a pang, but the diet side of me said yippee.

Speaking of lunch, I rarely eat here. He's very close to work, and I'm decisive orderer, but I got into a fight with him once about Fresca. Why order a side of bile? Big Grin

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Not much else financial happened. It was a day of missing making contacts. Telephone tag with the friend who is a financial planner. (His voice mail said he was a vice-president - yipes!). Email tag with the Ameriprise guy (grandma's trust dollars are in Ameriprise).

Caught up with most of what I was behind on, but I spent a great deal of time answering not-so bright emails.

Didn't even find any pennies to pick up on the sidewalk.