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Archive for January, 2006

$$$ in the mail!!!

January 31st, 2006 at 03:31 am

I am so excited! There are three debts that I have/had. One is the mortgage, one is a private loan that could be considered an equity loan and the other was a private loan for college costs.It's a "was" because, well, my debtors (i.e. loving grandparents) decided that they could afford to forgive my student loan! I got the letter in the mail today. Holy smokes. That's just awesome. Which means... that way back in August when I made the goal of paying at least $3K towards my debt by February 2006 has been met. Granted, I was only actively involved in putting a little over $1K in the pot, but everything counts if it lowers the balance! Yipppeeee!!!! This bumps up my net worth by $11K.

Friends, retirement and how to do an estate sale right

January 30th, 2006 at 03:22 pm

Friday night was spent as a girl's night out and we had a great time. Stayed at a friend's house, brought treats to share, danced some salsa, laughed and met some new people. A reminder that friends are important!
My newfound $$'s aren't ringing in my bank account, yet, but they're definitely ringing in my head. There's a TEFL course in Barcelona for 4 weeks that would get me certified to teach English as a foreign language. I've applied to two schools for their March programs and we'll see what happens! The kicker is that any training I do needs to be before my third trimester since it's not good to travel after that. I checked out programs on the west coast for certifications, but they cost more money, were accredited by the same institutions and took at least a semester to complete. Forget it!
So, on to estate sales. My parent's sale was such a success. The woman they contracted to do the sale was very organized, professional, and knew her stuff. She and her workers took about a week to sort books with books, kitchen stuff with kitchen stuff, and so on. I.e. they made it easy for people to find the stuff that interested them. Once they had beds taken apart in the bedrooms and had everything laid out on either tables they had brought or bookcases they had brought, everything got a number. By numbering things, it helped to figure out what had gone missing or what hadn't sold.
Next came the pricing. I'd definitely suggest getting someone to help you price your things if you don't have a lot of experience in it. They got $175 for some crazy German soup kettle that was a wedding gift that they were originally going to give away. Paintings didn't sell for much, so if you buy artwork, buy it because you like it, not as an investment (in general). The bedroom sets were a big hit and went for almost the same prices they were purchased for. A good tip to make sure you know what things cost before you go to an estate sale!
On the day of the sale, Saturday, people first on the scene were given a number. The sale didn't open until 8 AM no exceptions. 25 people were allowed in at one time and the estate folks had a person in every room to keep an eye on buyers and answer questions. The second day of the sale was 1/2 off of everything and even then, my parents got good prices for things. They ended up selling 95% of their belongings and are now footloose and fancy free to travel down south for some much needed down time.
They've been retired since my mom turned 55, my dad a few years younger, but they never allowed themselve to actually do fun stuff. I think they felt guilty for retiring early and also felt that they needed to keep up the same standard of living - middle class house, middle class neighborhood, etc. It's taken them almost ten years to realize they really don't want all the middle class status symbols. Or maybe they realized it before, but never had the impetus to actually do what they wanted. Either way, I think they're happier.
So, if you're trying to retire, make sure you really enjoy it! And don't tie yourself down with what you think you're "supposed" to do when you're retired. You'll be much happier.

Maternity clothes and disgruntled males

January 26th, 2006 at 02:44 pm

How is a person supposed to know what size they're going to be when in the later 2nd and 3rd trimesters??! Our first trimester is finally over and the morning sickness/fatigue have started to let up. I'm searching for sale maternity clothes, but all of them look so big! And many of them are really ugly which doesn't help my self-esteem any! I was reading some fashion book on "What Not To Wear" and the British authors had Earl Maternity Jeans as a strong recommendation. I looked online and guess how much? $140! Would it really be worth it? It's been 11 years since our last one and with the last one, I was in a very warm climate and just wore dresses a few sizes too big in stretchy fabrics. Now I'm living in a cold climate where bundling up is a necessity! LOL

After reading the Challenge #4, I went to to the Emigrant Direct site and was in the process of opening an account when it dawned on me that this really wasn't going to help my decluterring process. I already have an ING account.

The men in the house were at each other's throats this morning and I was stuck in the middle. My DH is not DS's natural father and they've been butting heads. DH really likes to have a pleasant morning, with "good mornings" and smiles and DS11 is on the opposite end of the personality spectrum with grumpy "why'd you have to take 1/2 an hour in the bathroom?" comments. I'm going to strangle both of them if they can't come to some sort of compromise. We only have one bathroom, so perhaps it's time for a schedule!!!! (with the pregnant lady having first dibs, of course). Wink

Money from a clutter clean out and feng shui for wealth

January 25th, 2006 at 06:18 pm

My DM/DF had an estate sale last weekend and I had included many of the things I didn't want to move this summer. I made $500 and didn't have to do anything more than clear out the clutter! I had to laugh when my DM told me that people didn't want to pay $5 for a box of Christmas decorations, but they were willing to pay $.50 for each individual decoration which made the whole box sell for more than $12! A china set I couldn't sell on eBay for more than $200 went for $300 (made me VERY happy) and I just can't believe all of that stuff that I never used was worth half of my emergency fund! Yes!

D.S. broke the tea kettle the other day. The next day, my darling parents came over with a new kettle... very large, and very shiny. As a throw back to my feng shui studies, shiny kettles are good for stoves and prosperity and this is an especially good place for one on our stove because it provides the cook with a view of those entering from the back door (so they can't sneak up on you). Since the new kettle, I've received $100 owed me from a friend, $150 DH owed me, the $500 from the estate sale and sold a $45 book off half.com. Oh, and DH got an unexpected $3 from a survey in the mail. Smile We're also thinking we'll probably get a tax return this year (W-2's haven't shown up yet, so this is a rough guess) which means I'll hopefully have $2,000 in my emergency fund by the time April rolls around. I am so excited!!!
Yay clutter control!

How To Save

January 18th, 2006 at 01:57 pm

Reading these blogs has helped me very much! Watching everyone put money away and talk about how much they have built up for a financial cushion is inspiring to me.
We have three paychecks this January and I've taken $350 off the top to place into my ING account. I have a balance of $300 on my cc right now because I placed my semester's class on there, but the interest doesn't start accruing until the end of February and I'll be able to pay it off with the next two paychecks.
One of my goals for 2006 is to have $1,000 in CD's and Not To Touch It. At All. I know that the money should be there for emergencies, but in my case, that's what I have DH for (any emergencies). I laugh that I'm a partially "kept" woman, but the man can afford it. Wink I swear he has Midas' touch sometimes.
I'll be stopping work the end of March so that I can get our house ready to sell, which means I have to save as much as possible in as short of period of time as possible. A girl needs her own nest egg and I have money in retirement plans and a cash value life insurance policy, but I wants funds and cash, too.

This is what I've been learning so that I can save:
- People don't need a ton of clothes. Keep a set mix-matchable wardrobe for work and take off the work clothes as soon as one gets home. Saves on cleaning, saves on the wear on the clothes, and a comfy pair of exercise pants and a T-shirt are so much more comfortable anyway!
- Go without the cable, the TV and anything else that might make a person want all that stuff that gets advertised. People don't Need it.
- Use Paula's beauty books to find cosmetics that don't cost an arm and a leg and work just as well as the high priced stuff.
- Cut your own hair in between shapings. My hubby trims my "do" at around the 5th or 6th week after a cut which means I can go another 5 or 6 weeks (and sometimes more) without having to spend the $25.
- Have one good pair of "heels", one good pair of "flats", running shoes for exercise, lace-up shoes that don't go outside for the FLYLADY and one pair of casual shoes for loafing around in khaki's. A person does not need a lot of shoes. They take up space, get in the way, and are completely unnecessary.
- Give kids an allowace. Let them be responsible for buying any toys, video games, and other clutter creators. DS knows that we'll buy him clothes twice a year, pay for his school activities and his food for the house. If he wants to eat out and we don't, then he gets to pay for it. He's definitely learning the value of a dollar and how easy it is to go from being able to afford something to not being able to afford it!
- Don't go out a lot. Invite friends over for potluck. Enjoy the conversation instead of needing to be "entertained".
- Rent DVD's from the library. No need to see a film right out of the box office.
- Don't drive a car. Or at least cut down on it. I drive possibly 2 or 3 days a week max. Take the bus, walk or ride my bike on other days. Good for me, good for the environment and great for my car. I never have to get the oil changed on the date. Smile
- Air dry clothing (now that our basement doesn't stink, I can safely line dry again). lol
- I keep a coin pig. When it gets full, I take it to the bank. $40-$70 later, I'm that much richer in my savings account.

I'm sure there are probably other things I've been doing to save, but those are the big ones. I need to write down my goals for the next few months, though, so that I can see exactly where I'm going.
My parents are having an estate sale this weekend that I have some items in - hopefully I'll get some $$ for it!!!
A healthy bank account (and a healthy baby!) are very important to me this year.

Getting Ahead Has Always Been Difficult, but You Can Do It!

January 14th, 2006 at 07:02 pm

Finished reading "Getting Ahead Gets Harder" from msn this morning and I just have to shake my head. No, I don't think that getting ahead is any harder than it ever was (talk to any member of the previous generation!) and I think articles like this only perpetuate the blossoming belief that people "can't make it" and ensure folks feel sorry for themselves. (reminds me all of those people I see who can't possibly be held accountable for their actions, or they defend their children even though the evidence is clear to the contrary, or those folks that think they can cut in line). Smile

Ridiculous. Okay, so things have changed, we have to be responsible for our actions and our families in different ways than our parents did, but it doesn't mean it's any more difficult than what they had to go through. This pity party that's running through the airways is disrespectful to the personal power people have within themselves. While I was in college, I screwed up. I didn't work as much as I could have (even though I was a single mother) and I spent way more of my student loan money on things I didn't need because I was trying to make myself feel better through those "things." My fault, no one elses and I don't appreciate other people trying to blame similar mistakes on too much advertising, or the government for making credit so easy, or anything else people decide to blame their own stupidity on. Take Responsibility. The people on this site always inspire me because they are taking Responsibility. Trying to achieve their goals and fix their mistakes. Awesome.

What we really need articles on is perspective (Yes! magazine is good for these). While I was living in northern Europe for a year to finish my schooling, my ds and I lived on pasta, bread, fruit, vegetables and milk. I didn't go out, we lived in a one bedroom garden apartment, but our time there was a very high quality of life. My ds went to a fantastic child care, I studied at a great university, we went hiking up mountains on Saturdays and I learned that there was no need to have all of those things I'd left behind in the U.S. In fact, when I got home to my storage unit, I threw most everything out/gave it away/sold it because I just didn't need it anymore. It was a very great feeling! And one that people don't have to go to another country in order to experience. Get rid of the cable, get more involved in communities and the workings of your city. There are so very many ways to make a great life without lots of stuff. What do humans really need, anyway? Food for the body, food for the mind, food for the soul, shelter, and clothing, right? Well, I'll step down of my soap box, now. I know that there are people who really have it rough, but I've also seen a lot of people who make $30K a year in our city and think that they just "can't make it" on that salary. I see these same people with brand new cars, expensive, large apartments/houses, big screen televisions, eating out a lot and all those things that are completely unnecessary. Yet they believe these things are vital to a happy life (ironically, they're not happy). Argh. Oops, sorry, I started again.

The article struck a cord, I guess. Smile

On a different note, I hope everyone is doing well with their 2006 goals and that everyone's remembering what is truly important! I am on the last legs of "A Million Pieces" and remembering what it was like to be involved with an Addict. The book has brought back some memories that I had tried to forget a long time ago. Very good book.

Cheers,
Jorge

Cheaper groceries without the fuss

January 13th, 2006 at 04:01 am

Cardinal rule #324 don't buy items other than groceries at the grocery store - you'll pay more. Rule #623 use your coupons to save money, etc., etc. Well, I didn't follow the rules tonight other than making sure my belly was full before I went, but it looks to me like I have spent quite a few dollars LESS than I would have at any other store. ALDI's has arrived. It's been in town for a few months and I've gone there occasionally, but after spending the last few weeks price comparing and checking out some food samples from ALDI's, I'm hooked.
$1.99 for liquid laundry detergent... 34 loads (and nobody uses a full cup anyway)
$.39 for baking soda
$.89 for Pringles
In sum, $52.15 for 32 items and that included vitamins, red meat, cheeses, and condiments.
Wal-mart is not a hero in our household. We loathe their big ugly stores and their abuse of employees. Anyone read "Nickel and Dimed?" If you've ever felt humiliated and over-controlled, and taken advantage of in your job, you'll definitely understand. Wal-mart is the antithesis of creativity for its employees. In the marketplace, however, they're brilliant.
Anyway, we don't like shopping at Wal-mart, but have in the past because sometimes we don't have the money to go to the smaller stores.
Since ALDI's arrived, I don't think we'll need to go to Wal-mart anymore. Have we jumped from the frying pan into the fire? I'm not sure. I only know that ALDI is a German company. They keep very few people on staff, the items are not on shelves (saves $ on labor), they only take cash or debit cards, you have to put a quarter in the grocery cart to use it (no need to pay somebody to herd the carts back to the building) and they have everything a person needs. They have many wants as well.

My last deposit to ING will be ready tomorrow and I'll "withdraw" the money into a CD. I was waiting for the balance in the savings account to get a little bigger before putting it in a certificate of deposit. I'm starting a laddering system and am very proud of myself. This is my first $500 saved just from paychecks and not from windfalls from family, etc. I think it marks progress and I'm pretty proud. I've always had to have money set aside automatically so I wouldn't touch it, for example, my retirement funded before I saw the cash. This cash in the CD will be money that I have physically set aside - on my own. Woohoo!

The stink is not gone, yet, but it's better. I've opened one of the vents in the basement a little tiny bit to help with the air circulation, too. I'm giving the baking soda one week to work it's magic, I'm going to mop the floor in the laundry room one more time and if those don't work, I swear I'll call the cadaver clean-up crew. Wink

The stench - how to get rid of odors?

January 9th, 2006 at 09:28 pm

This is a desperate cry for help. Our grey water sewer backed up a few weeks ago and the goose grease stuffing that caused this fiasco (and our guest's lack of knowledge about garbage disposals...) have created quite a perfume in our basement. I've had the carpets cleaned. I've washed the concrete areas with soap and water... next will be SCRUBBING those areas with a handbrush... our lava rocks don't work to soak up the stench, essential oils don't help, baking soda hasn't helped (but I haven't tried keeping a few open boxes in the downstairs, just sprinkled it around...hmmmmm), I'm in my first trimester and I generally don't use anything but biodegradable/non-toxic anyway. Even so, I can't use anything that might cause the wee one harm.

The smell makes it an exciting challenge to get laundry done (throw the clothes in the washer as quickly as possible! and run back up the stairs) and my son's play area has been eclipsed by - yuck, THE SMELL! Can't even line dry clothes in the basement because they soak up the odor. I feel like we could make a horror movie. The only one in the family that doesn't mind is the pooch. But she's generally not a good judge of smells... I've watched her roll in horse, bird and cat excrement and have the pictures to prove it. (kidding about the pictures).

We'll be listing the house in a handful of months for sale. The de-cluttering is in its last stages, but if this smell does not go away, I will not be able to smell er... Sell the house. Okay, okay, I may be exaggerating a wee tiny bit due to large hormonal increases, but the other two males in the house can smell it as well, just not quite as intensely... Smile

And yes, I'll warn future owners of future possible catastrophes involving the disposal and drain!

On a more financial note - these stock price increases are the bomb. I've made the $50K net worth mark and am ecstatic.

On being an introvert - is there an advantage?

January 7th, 2006 at 10:57 pm

Just finished reading "The Introvert Advantage: How to thrive in an extrovert world" and I can see how some aspects of an introvert's personality are advantageous. If only the extrovert world would start appreciating us more! Smile

Sometimes when I've been overloaded, the slightest touch would set me off and it was difficult for people (especially my mom while I was growing up) to understand that I didn't want to be around anyone - had nothing to do how much I cared about the people. I like to be around people, but I get my batteries charged by being by myself (often reading a book or taking a walk or just sitting and thinking - which is very hard for some people to understand - they think I'm being lazy). Extroverts, of course, get their energy from being around others and having lots of stimulation. Not to say that that can't get tiring as well and extroverts need to have time outs, but in essence, being with people is where the charge up their batteries.

The author has some great tips about social situations that I can learn a thing or two from. Small talk usually drives me crazy. On the other hand, small talk is where relationships start and how careers are advanced. Other tips include how to tell whether your child is an extrovert or introvert and how to encourage both types. Being an introverted mother with an extroverted son has created some friction in our house and now I realize I just need to be more verbal in my apprecitaion of the things he does.

I'm sure there must be some advantages to being introverted... introverts tend to think about things in more depth, they often come up with more creative solutions, or more thorough solutions i.e. they've thought about the whole process and the possible consequences, but I'd have to say that it's still hard to be an introvert and I've had to learn lots of skills for working in an extrovert's environment. Smile, laugh, be cheery (before I run and hide in my office for some peace and quiet). Smile

Marti Olsen Laney also includes tips for introverts and dating that I got a kick out of. Won't need those, but I enjoyed reading them.

Jorge

Creativity in the U.S. / jobs

January 6th, 2006 at 02:27 pm

Looks to me that Americans are going to have to get creative and Managers/Supervisors are going to find ways of encouraging that creativity. In my professional world, creativity is not always appreciated and in many ways, it is discouraged. "This is how we've always done it." Seems like "they" in management view creativity as a lack of willingness to mold to the corporate culture. Perhaps it is, but this doesn't take away from the fact that businesses are going to have to start listening to their employees or else they're not going to be in business much longer.

Finished reading "The World is Flat" (finally! - I was on the waiting list for quite a long time) and was amazed at how much countries outsource. Who would have guessed that hundreds of thousands of tax returns were completed outside the U.S.? Accountants here send the simpler returns over to India or wherever it's cheapest and this in turn allows the U.S. accountants to spend more time on the more complicated returns. Who would have thought that a radiologist on the other side of the world may be interpreting your test results? Thank goodness they can't outsource surgery otherwise we'd be out of an income!

My son has always wanted to be a computer programmer. Perhaps we'll have to find another career to fall back on, eh? He's in the midst of learning two languages: German and French, but Japanese wouldn't be a bad addition. We'll be in the northwest next year and Japanese is offered in some of the middle schools. Was watching the German news last night and due to unemployment, higher skilled Germans are searching elsewhere... the latest destination? :Sweden. Not as much income, but a definite high standard of living.

A favorite for dealing with foreigners: "Kiss, Bow and Shake Hands: How to do business in 60 countries". Avoid "Idiot's Guide to Cultural Etiquette", however.

We have some friends from Thessaloniki (Greece) visiting this weekend and I'll have to ask them over dinner tonight if they've noticed much change in outsourcing/insourcing.

The world is definitely smaller if not flat.

3 Basic financial fitness markers plus 2 for 5. :)

January 5th, 2006 at 05:38 pm

These were interesting and I wanted to share.
After developing my financial goals for 2006, I reworked my net worth and had taken it for granted the formulas I use to assess my financial fitness.
Perhaps someone else may find them useful:

The markers involve the following:

1) Emergency Reserve: equals immediate liabilities minus liquid assets and should equal half of net annual income

2) Debt-load Ratio: equals total liabilities divided by total assets and should not be over 35%

3) Progress toward retirement: equals net worth divided by annual income and should equal 20x annual income

I've used these guidelines for years, but cannot remember where I first found them to attribute the source accurately. Perhaps bankrate.com? Apologies. As the authors in "All Your Worth" have said, it used to be that one Couldn't spend more than they were able on necessities because of guidelines that had previously been upheld by banking and credit institutions.
My response to this is that people should then apply those "old" guidelines to themselves rather than relying on someone else to do it for them and then they'll greatly reduce current and future financial woes.
It's not always about being frugal.

Two last BONUS guidelines: 4) TOTAL debt (not including mortgage, but definitely including equity loans) should not equal more than 36% of gross monthly income and 5) housing should not be over 28% of gross income

This needs to be a private blog for me, so I've tried to be more discreet in my entries on the personal front compared to my last 5 months worth of entries (which I've deleted). And professionally, I wouldn't want too much information out in the open, either. On the other hand, I truly enjoy reading financial publications and sharing information learned with others, so I will continue posting a journal, just not quite as personal as I'd started out.

My first journal helped, though, and I'm in much more control of my money. It's a great feeling to see progress.

Happy New Year!
Jorge