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Archive for December, 2008

crazy end of year

December 31st, 2008 at 10:21 pm

Saving log - $20 tip box
Spending log - $7 bread and chocolate

Went whole hog and paid myself $20 to put in the tip box.

Chalk up one more sign of the recession - our non-profit was crazy busy today with donors getting in their gifts by the end of the year. The last two years were quiet, not so this year. We're not sure whether its because the need is now so visible, or more, cynically, donors especially need the tax break. We even had a couple of walk-ins in the lobby. I just thank them for their gift and hand them a pledge form to fill out. The donor takes the bottom two carbons and we take and book from the original.

Again, nice to be loved, and the money is better than a poke in the eye.

The thing that really knocks the auditor and I for a loop is that everyone was very insistent that we book the gift to Dec 31, even though as long as the pledge form / receipt / check is filled out on Dec 31, is enough. Everyone is much jumpier than in usual years.

Net worth, second half 2008

December 31st, 2008 at 10:03 pm

Sensing that prosecco will eliminate any math ability, before I raise my glass in a toast:

Thank G&d 2008 is over!

I'm here to present my net worth snapshot, circa Dec 31, 2008. Stocks are down, IRA is down, but now its mostly Roth, so it is mostly tax-free instead of tax deferred. 403B is down, but since the meltdown I have put in about 4K into "cheap" mutual funds. Money that was in t-bills is now in ING savings. Cash is holding its own, but it can only do so much.

Down from June, but frankly, it could have been much, much worse. Shelby Davis famously said, "you make most of your money in a bear market, it just doesn't seem like it at the time." Maybe in 2010 - 2011 I'll review this entry and smile.

$112,127 IRA/403B
$200,000 Vanguard taxable
$15,927 stock
$12,140 I-bonds
$105,331 CDs
$51,003 ING, paypal, farmette savings
$1,620 immediate cash
$498,148 total

By comparison:
Dec 2008 ($498,148 total, $386,021 in taxable accounts)
June 2008 ($524,261 total, $387,481)
Dec 2007 ($328,688 total, $192,747)
June 2007 ($176,422 total, $48,205)
Dec 2006 ($132,062 total, $40,329)
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)

the long view (2009-10)

December 29th, 2008 at 10:04 pm

Saving log - $2 tip box
Spending log - $0

Don't get too excited about the no spend day - yesterday I bought a couple of bottles of prosecco for New Year's Eve. ($30)

I've seen other bloggers post up their goals for 2009. A beginning of the year goal/resolution then see at the end of the year whether I achieved it doesn't particularly work well for me. And its a rare person who is inspired or motivated in January...

I do have two long term goals:

1. Be wiser in general with my money, which means adjust appropriately to the situation.

This year I realized in April that to pay less in tax, I should put more in the 403B and see if I can take the drop in the paycheck. My expectation was that interest would be high(er) and my stocks would go up. Didn't happen, but since stocks went down, the Roth conversion made sense.

I was pleased at how my original 60% bond and cash/40% stock held up. New 403B money is now allocated at 90% stock/ 10% bond. The new stuff added to the old stuff is working well, I've nearly caught up to my August high.

I do have to make money decisions a bit faster. I shouldn't have waited for t-bills to go to 0% before I finally moved them out. Oh well, better to make a good decision a bit slow than to compound rash decisions.

2. Buy a house in a couple of years.

I rent, but I am interested in buying on my terms. My general plan is to use 80K as a downpayment and get a 120K mortgage, which is about 2.5x my salary.

Yes, I know that there is no way (yet) that I will get a 200K house in North Seattle. I plan, unfortunately, on a severe recession in 2009 - 2010 to depress prices. I have the basic plan, the credit score, the location ... now its patience. In the meantime, I plan to be an observer at open houses, collect internet resources and become a total expert of the neighborhood. Watch and learn.

Buying a house might not ever happen, at $925/month rent for us is pretty sweet and a lot hinges on my success - keeping a job, the misery of others. Light years away, maybe, but its a star to sail to.

giving up lunches out

December 27th, 2008 at 11:00 pm

Saving log - $0 tip box
Spending log - $12 breakfast

Haven't been to the gym or doing much exercising these last two weeks some walking, maybe a mile or so. Dodging cars trying to "gun it" with my knees as I walk is unappealing.

I went to the gym today though, and weighed myself, fearing the worst. But I'm at:


I have been bringing my lunch most workdays. We've been working about 4 hours per day because of the snow and ice, and if you are there for just a short amount of time, it hard to justify spending 25% of your workday to find a lunch place open and eat what they're serving.

The lunches that I've been bringing are not the portable sandwich variety, but of the bento box variety. I've been making lunches with a base of brown rice or rice pilaf, with turkey, ham, or pot roast laid over it. With that I put a dab of any two condiment-y things like yogurt, cranberry sauce, mango pickle,

Text is red pepper ajvar and Link is http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ajvar
red pepper ajvar, hummus.

The money and the weight loss are nice, but its a bummer giving up one of things I most enjoyed (lunch somewhere else).

converting to a Roth

December 26th, 2008 at 11:20 pm

Saving log - $7 tip box
Spending log - $0

In a more normal month, I would have taken what I collected in my tip box to the bank a few days ago. But a few days ago we would have been lucky to make it to work for a few hours. Today was a nearly normal work hour day, so I had a bit of time to make it to the bank.

I brought my lunch, so I didn't spend anything today. I'm in a good spot this month - near the end of the month and I still have over 300$ left.

I found out that converting my traditional IRAs to Roths in Vanguard is very easy - you basically "buy" the Roth from the proceeds of "selling" the traditional IRA. Vanguard then gives me a 1099-R, and I declare the proceeds of the traditional IRA as income. We make less than 100K, the 2005 and 2006 traditional IRA each dropped about 40% so I will be paying less tax on it, and I've put 15K in my 403B, so my income is so much lower compared to my withholding. The original expectation that I used to do that - I'll make more interest and capital gains in 2008 - ain't going to happen. Converting the traditional IRA to a Roth will be a tactical win-win-win for me.

non-Christmas Christmas show

December 25th, 2008 at 06:13 pm

Saving log - $0 tip box
Spending log - $35 groceries

Merry (sloppy) Christmas to you all! Seattle is now in the midst of a thaw - making driving is even more treacherous than it was over ice. Then - ice that you can drive low and slow, and while it was slippery, at least it was hard. Now - ten inches of white snow-slush-mudlike consistency over a sea of cold gray water. You have to "gun" the car to keep it moving through the quicksand-y white slush, but gunning it means you're driving on the water underneath and hydroplaning between parked cars.

We were invited to Christmas dinner, but we nearly got stuck several times. Heck with it, we canceled. Make the full dinner ourselves, play with Morgan, and keep an eye on our flat roof carport.

This afternoon I re-visited one of my favorite non-Christmas Christmas shows, a Homicide: Life on the Street episode set on Christmas Eve. I love non-Christmas Christmas shows much more than the Christmas shows, if that makes any sense.

its a girl

December 23rd, 2008 at 06:32 pm

Saving log - $0 tip box
Spending log - $32 kitten chow + $35 groceries

Freakin' icy again today, so I burned another PTO day at work. Our work hours have been around 11-3, the car deals with snow better than ice and slush, and then there is the 2-3 hr evening commute. I did the critical time tasks yesterday, I had the PTO time, and tomorrow's Christmas Eve.

But DH and I were productive: Morgan went to the neighborhood vet. She's a girl, no chip, 6-7 months old (the vet showed us her baby molars), no scar or tattoo indicating she was spayed, no feline leukemia, and at 5 pounds with a little fat on the lower underside, she was just a teeny bit overfed. Not obese, just back off the food a bit and don't worry about the shortchanging the kitten development. The vet opined that no kitty just eats what s/he needs then stops with an eternal buffet in the food bowl. He suggested a decent premium brand kitten food, but only 2 feedings at 1/8 c each. In other words, 2 tablespoons. The big bag of dry kitten/cat food is going to last awhile.

"She's a blank slate," the vet said.

Today Morgan got her battery of shots: rabies, distemper, leukemia. DH bought the shots, I'll buy the spaying and chipping...which we'll do in January.

does your newspaper do this?

December 23rd, 2008 at 05:37 pm

I opened up one of the sections of the Seattle PI (Post Intelligencer) and found a sheet of printed gift wrap:

Close up of the pattern:

And I had a box to wrap so I used it. Does anybody else's newspaper provide this frugal service?

In another newspaper, I read about

Text is shoplifting going up and Link is http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/23/us/23shoplift.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=shoplifting&st=cse
shoplifting going up (expected during a recession), but inside the article came an astounding (to me) statistic: 1 in 11 Americans use the five-finger discount.

spent 48 cents today

December 22nd, 2008 at 08:39 pm

Saving log - $0 tip box
Spending log - $.48 coffee

Again, we had abbreviated hours (11a - 3p) because of the snow. DH drove me today, and to pay him back - because he kept me from waiting about 2 hours in the snow - I bought him whatever coffee he wanted. He used up the last of my gift card plus 48 cents.

I wasn't quite sure whether the office potluck was on. Friday (I didn't make it to work on Friday, so the story is second hand) the gang who was there decided to try to have it today. Today, though, again maybe a quarter of the invitees showed up. I brought spinach dip that I bought over the weekend. Special commendation to the co worker who brought a cake!

Got caught up with the items that I had to do this week, along with a couple of other things. Right now with the 4 hour days its just keep head above water.

DJ friend drove me home, so I avoided the 2-3 hour in the dark bus wait. As a payment, he wanted to see Morgan. Done.

compositions in white and black

December 21st, 2008 at 09:01 pm

(The White) Our patio this afternoon, with another 6 inches on the way...

(The Black) And little Morgan enjoying her feather toy...

She made it out from under the bed this morning. The catnip and lavender helped.


December 20th, 2008 at 03:59 pm

Well we've brought the kitty to our home, and while she behaved herself during the car trip, she's deep in the hideout stage. She's probably thinking, "its a bad dream. If I get some sleep and just relax, I'll be back at the old place." We are keeping track of where she is, I've put some food and water down, got out the scratch post, got out the kitty feather toys. No pictures until she appears.

I call her a she, but I thought better of just flipping a scared kitty and checking for gender bits, so its unconfirmed. The finders told us they didn't see or feel anything obvious, and she is about 2/3 - 3/4 grown, old enough for the obvious to develop.

She looks so much like a cat DH once had, Merlyn, that we went with the Arthurian theme and are going to call her

Text is Morgan le Fay and Link is http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morgan_le_Fay
Morgan le Fay. And right now being invisible and hidden, the Italian (and scientific) version,
Text is Fata Morgana and Link is http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fata_Morgana_(mirage)
Fata Morgana, fits her too.

advanced transit tips

December 18th, 2008 at 09:49 pm

For your own snowy commute:

1. Buses have the usual issues with starting and stopping on hills. Of course you do not want to wait at a bus stop on the middle of the hill, but...
2. If you have the chance to pick your stop, from say, different places downtown (evening commute), the best stops are:
3. stops close to where the bus begins or ends. Buses lose time as they plow through the snow. If the bus is coming directly from the bus barn or from where it rests, its probably close to on-time. Because its at the beginning of its route you have an excellent chance of getting a seat.
4. stops where the bus transit time is measured. Lets say you are looking at a schedule and it says bus "comes from intersection x". Intersection x is better than where you are (unless you are at intersection x Big Grin) because it is usually is comprised of two arterials, multiple buses use the stop, its usually flat, and buses try to be on time for it. In snow that's an impossibility, but there it is.
5. better likelihood that a place nearby exists where you can get a hot cup of cocoa. You just don't want to be out there by yourself for hours.

And a tip for walking: if you do have to walk in the ice and snow, if you are walking on an east-west street, walk on the north side sidewalk. The north side sidewalk is going to be less icy because the sun, traveling along its southern course, is going to warm that side of the street and soften & melt the ice more quickly.

whatta day

December 18th, 2008 at 08:26 pm

Saving log - $0 tip box
Spending log - $12 dim sum

Last night we did get the snow finally. As I was sitting at the bus stop, someone commented that they were happy to see someone else wearing "chains". (she had on hers.) The driver took it low and slow; at 2nd and Columbia, our last stop before heading down to the viaduct, he took one look at the two jackknifed buses that tried and thought better of it.

Maybe only a quarter to a third of our office made it in. Today was our all-staff meeting, but the breakfast delivery guy made it by accident. We set up about third of the food in a conference room. The food was very appreciated, and its appearance was lucky today - a lot of local places weren't open - and will be lucky tomorrow when a lot of places again won't be open.

The dim sum place was open and they were happy to see us. Normally people were swinging from the rafters, but today they filled up sedately. Lawyer friend and lawyer friend's partner were hosting but they couldn't make it, they couldn't get up Beacon Hill.

Our offices closed an hour early. However, there were a number of reports that Metro was cutting service to a number of peripheral lines to concentrate on the core ones, so I left even earlier. I didn't feel up to waiting for a bus that might not come in the dark. I caught a bus in the light but had to walk home in the dark. It reminded me of college, when we thought nothing of walking miles in the dark in -50F weather for

Text is fried chicken and Link is http://baselle.savingadvice.com/2008/11/17/a-salute-to-harolds-chicken_45220/
fried chicken and how much fun we had going there. It didn't hurt to imagine that I burned more calories getting the chicken than the chicken had.


December 17th, 2008 at 10:08 pm

Had a nightmare that I was super late to my gym appointment...no wait, that was real. My bus spidey-sense worked as it usually does during weekends and holidays - 30 seconds too late.

I was 45 minutes late, so I was an official no show. However the trainer did weigh me for the 15 minutes of my time and we now have confirmation - I'm at 183.

Latest project - DH and I are in the process of getting another kitty. I half expected that eventually another cat would appear, but after 2 years, I guess that we aren't cat magnetic. We put the word out to our network that we were interested. DJ friend has a friend who has several cats and a adolescent stray showed at their door. We got a picture - all black with a brown sheen undercoat, good coat, cared for. They've put up posters for several weeks. No owners have shown. We are going to visit with a carrier. If kitten is agreeable, we bring him/her home. I'm ready for another pet relationship.