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It's Been Three Years???

January 6th, 2018 at 11:52 pm

Oh my goodness, it has been three years since I checked in.  Just the highlights of 2018 then.

Daisy graduated from high school a year early.  She was old for her grade anyway, so it's okay.  She continues to live with us and is a legal adult.  She is working as a barista and going to community college.  She's anticipating a career in a business-oriented field.  

Mr. H bought the business he worked for for the last 20+ years.  More detail than I want to give, but the financial risks to us were low.  Over the 20+ years the business has gradually lost clients with no replacement clients coming in.  Mr H talked like he wanted to grow the business, but I think he would have to develop new skills, something he does not seem willing to do.  I encourage him when I can, he poo-poos what I have to say.  From what he has told me, they are on track to lose a couple more clients in 2018 with the result that he will have to let his one office staff member (a family member) go.  He will also have to move his office.

I did take a couple of classes in my former field in 2015.  Then I re-engaged in Daisy's education for the next couple of years.  When she graduated this spring, I felt lost.  I knew it would be bad for me to sit around and pout, so within a week I volunteered myself at a local charitable organization.  I would have done whatever they asked, but when they realized that I wasn't afraid of computers, I started working with their systems.  Then, to help with some of the reporting using said computer systems I enrolled in a couple of classes at the community college.  Just like riding a bike - it all comes back.  One of my instructors noticed my work there, and recommended me for a part time job.  I started this week.  I'm slowly moving back into a branch of my former field.  Those are the doors that are opening anyway.  It's surprising to me.  

We have fairly simple finances but we are stable.  I just calculated our net worth - with our home it's 700,000+.  Shocking to me.

The best thing that's happened over the last few years though, is the sense of peace I have about life, most of the time anyway.  Did I gain wisdom from growing older?  Am I just supremely fortunate?  I have no idea, but I am so, so grateful.  A couple of months ago my instructor and one of my classmates both told me that they thought I was "so zen".  I didn't know what to say to that but at least it validates my experience.

Retired Blog?

April 26th, 2016 at 10:54 am

Just read Petunia100's entry about missing retired blogs.

I suppose my blog would be considered retired since I haven't written in it since January 2015. It's still here though. . . I wonder where the others are.

Procrastination Pays Off

January 18th, 2015 at 05:54 am

I noted in my last entry that I was planning to sign up for a class during winter quarter related to my former field. When the class information was posted, I noted on the website that it had a different instructor than the one who taught the class I had visited. Now, anyone who has taken classes knows that instructor quality varies greatly. I liked what I saw for the instruction of the teacher I had visited. The new instructor was an unknown quantity.

After I wrote my previous entry I also looked into a program related to my field. It would be several classes, all on-line, with a certification at the end. The fees would be minimal - the bulk of the cost is paid by the government through a "back to work" initiative. But. . . all on-line, on-your-own classes. And I wasn't wild about the offerings.

As I mulled over my options, I was deluged by Christmas and all that entails.

Ultimately I decided, for a lot of reasons, that the certification program would be my second choice. I went to register for the class at about a week before quarter start, and discovered that not only was the class full, I would be pretty far down on the waiting list! I contacted the school and found out that they were working to get another section of the class opened. I was contacted the first day of classes - a new section opened, and the instructor is the one I visited with in the fall! Normally procrastination comes back to bite me but in this case it paid off.

I am loving my class. I've been out of this field, at home with Daisy for over a decade. But - it's been just like riding a bicycle. It's coming back. I'm not a rock star in my class, but I'm a good solid performer.

YMOYL - The Purpose of Paid Employment

October 1st, 2014 at 07:43 pm

I've been re-reading Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez. A lot of people don't like this book, especially the investment advice. But I've found that there are useful nuggets even if you don't do the whole program.

One of the things that stood out to me on this re-read is the purpose of paid employment. Per the book many people look at their jobs as a source of security, enjoyment, power, personal growth and friendships. All these things that people want to get from their jobs they can get through other ways, such as volunteer work and hobbies. The only thing that a person cannot through other means is - pay. Therefore, they argue, the purpose of paid employment is to get paid. (The larger work of your life may be something else completely different than your paid employment though.)

I have been mulling over this thought. I stepped out of the workforce over ten years ago to be a stay at home mom. I have no regrets over this decision and would do it again in a heartbeat. I am now looking at going back into the workforce. I have been hemming and hawing over it during the course of this year. I haven't been really sure what path to pursue.

One of my stay-at-home friends got back into the world of work via retail. Another person I know was retrained in an area that is desperate for workers. (The retraining was paid for by the hiring company when my friend was hired.) One mom friend stayed at her job, working part time when her children were little and then going back to full time when the youngest was in elementary school. Another mom friend got back into her former line of work after many years out. A couple of my mom friends fell into starting their own businesses.

I'm surprising myself by thinking that I'm going to attempt to get back into my former line of work. I worked in a somewhat specialized technical field that was in demand at the time I left it. But I heard then that that particular technology would disappear, and I just have given it no thought since I left my last job. I figured that I would do something completely different when I re-entered the workforce.

After discussing the possibility of going into my former field with a friend, I decided to go visit a class at the local community college that relates to my field of work. Classes just started last week so I could take the class if I wanted to. When I got there I almost chickened out, but I faced my fears and bravely walked through the door. I was able to follow what the instructor was discussing (even after missing one class, and not having thought about the topic for over ten years) and had a good discussion with him during a class break. After hearing about my background, he encouraged me to take the class and believes that I can get back into my original technical field.

An internet search reveals that this could easily be true - the technology didn't go away as predicted. Many of the people who work with it are nearing retirement - and younger people aren't that interested in pursuing it because - it's old technology. The internet predicts a worker shortage in this area.

I am now planning to take the class during winter quarter. In the interim I'm going to study my previous work field using books from the local college library and also the internet. Oddly, I found a paper on the internet describing the conversion of the old technology into the specific new technology that I will study in winter.

Using It Up

February 17th, 2014 at 02:21 am

Thanks for a great idea, rob and CCF!

I am making cupcakes and they are going to be spread with 5 bits of leftover frosting. (Yes, there is such a thing. Some of the frosting was frozen.)

Tonight I served grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup.

My grilled cheese sandwich had leftover feta in it, along with more melty cheese.

The tomato soup was made from leftover marinara, leftover salsa that had chicken cooked in it, a can of tomato paste, roux and water.

The sandwiches got burned and Mr H refused to eat his and made another.

I am going to find a use for the slightly burned sandwich. Any ideas?

Credit Card Fraud

July 1st, 2013 at 12:12 pm

Or lack thereof.

Yesterday I attempted a small online purchase that wouldn't complete, and I couldn't figure out why. The shopping cart kept telling me to fix the error but no field was highlighted. I tried several times, and finally gave up and emailed the company.

About a half an hour later I received an automated call from our credit card company. The call indicated that our card might have been fraudulently used. We have had fraudulent activity three times in the last two years with this particular card, and my attempted purchase was a $1 sample.

I am grateful that their automated system tripped. Very grateful. So far we haven't had a tremendous hassle for each of our fraudulent uses the credit card company has caught it right away and contacted us. I called the credit card company directly and they authorized my $1 purchase. I was able to order my sample.

Phone Switch?

June 26th, 2013 at 11:56 am

Just wondering who has made the switch from a landline to all cell phones?

We are considering this - we don't get many calls on our land line. I now do most of my long distance calls via cell phone. Originally the long distance calls were to family; now some of our more local friends are considered long distance from our phone.

I have my cell phone on a plan and DH's cell phone is paid for by work on a different plan. We would combine our phones to one plan, and also add a phone for Daisy.

If we cancel the landline we'd also have to do something with the internet which is currently DSL.

I hopped on the internet and was frustrated to find no REAL information provided by my current carrier.

Has anyone here done this type of thing and lived to tell the tale?

Car Fixed . . . Again Using Google

June 9th, 2013 at 11:13 pm

I while back I posted about fixing my car using Google:

Text is and Link is

I didnt actually fix it, but narrowed down the source of the problem and presented it to my car guys. The problem was intermittent and they had tried several ways to fix it that didn't work.

Yesterday the in-car fan in Mr. H's car stopped working. (No defroster! No air conditioner! No air movement in the car, except the 4-60.) Today Mr. H fixed his car using Google. . . and Youtube. He actually did fix it though. Using Google he found car owners of his make and model discussing this problem, as well as some more technical information. He watched some Youtubes and went out and got the replacement part. Installed the part and his fix seems to work.

The part was $50. Im guessing it would have been $150 to $200 for the car guys to fix it.

A Poem for the Thrifty

June 5th, 2013 at 07:40 pm

Not written by me.

I ran across this in a book in the thrift store, and figured it would be on the internet. Sure enough, it is.

Flour Sack Underwear

When I was a Maiden fair,
Mama made our underwear.
With five tots & Pa's poor pay,
How could she buy us lingerie?

Monograms & fancy stitches
were not on OUR flour sack britches.
Panty waists that stood the test
With Gold Medal on the Chest.

Little pants the best of all
With a scene I still recall:
Harvesters were gleaning wheat
Right across the little seat.

Tougher than a grizzly bear
Was our flour sack underwear.
Plain or fancy, three feet wide,
stronger than a hippos hide.

Through the years each Jill & Jack
Wore this sturdy garb of sack.
Waste not, want not, we soon learned,
Penny saved, a penny earned.

Bedspreads, curtains, tea towels, too.
Tablecloths to name a few.
But the best beyond compare
was our Flour Sack Underwear!

Ruth Gettle
This poem is in the book "The Old-Time Art of Thrift"

I think flour sack undies belong to a different generation; I have never worn them.

Perhaps T-shirt underwear could be the flour sack underwear of this generation. I have put together some of those. You can google if you don't know what that would be. An extra large men's t-shirt for $1 at the thrift store can be turned into two or three pairs.

Waiting. . . .

January 22nd, 2013 at 04:17 am

My Roth contribution continues to sit in the money market of my mutual fund, and now I am waiting. . . for the share price of various mutual funds to go down a bit before I purchase them. My various mutual funds have been hovering around the 52-week high share price since the 1st of the year. From what I could glean from the Wall Street Journal the markets were "happy" (my paraphrase) that we didn't go off the financial cliff, and then they were "happy" because of what went on with the debt ceiling. Seems kind of kooky to me! I'll watch and wait a bit longer, but would really like to complete this so I can get it off my list for another year.

Mr. H made his Roth contribution also.

Contribution Made

January 4th, 2013 at 04:21 pm

As planned, I made my Roth contribution for 2013 on January 2nd. The funds went into a money market to be allocated later. I have been watching the price per share of my mutual funds at the end of the year and now, and they have gone up! Is that because we didnt quite fall off the fiscal cliff? I'll wait a bit and see if they come back down before reallocating out of my money market. They adjusted a bit yesterday.

Mr. H received his annual bonus, and I've encouraged him to put some of it in his Roth. I think he will do that.

Roth IRA Contribution 2013

December 28th, 2012 at 12:17 am

I checked the IRS website today to find out if the annual IRA contribution has gone up. It has! I also observed that the catch up contributions are for those 50 and over. I thought it was 55 and over. I will turn 50 in 2013. I've had a largish financial gift and will make the full contribution on January 2nd. The information I have indicates that I can make this contribution any time during 2013. Go me!

Birthday Party

October 18th, 2012 at 06:32 pm

We are usually pretty low key about Daisy's birthday. We have a family dinner (includes some extended family), cake, ice cream and presents. Daisy likes to decorate cakes and usually decorates her own each year. That's about the extent of it. But this year was a big number birthday - Daisy has entered the teenage years. She wanted to have a Star Wars themed-party, and so we did. She drew up a guest list and we invited everyone on it. I thought, we're less than two weeks away from party date we'll probably get about half of our guests. We had over 20 guests, not including adults who stayed. The only two invitees that didn't come now live in another state.

This can't really be a post about how to do a Star Wars party on a budget, because I spent way too much money on it. But we had fun, and I learned some things that could help me in the future.

The internet is full of Star Wars party ideas, and we borrowed a few. One idea, not specific to Star Wars parties, was to focus party decorations on a wall behind the table where most of the food will be placed. We covered the wall with black paper and attached glow-in-the-dark stars to it. I made a banner, using a Star Wars font, that said "Happy Birthday Daisy". We also decorated ceilings with black streamers and silver balloons. The limited, yet focused, decorations worked well.

The kids (mostly girls, plus a couple of younger boys) came dressed in costume. That provided excitement for this particular event. We played three party games two were Star Wars themed. One is the game where you get a Star Wars character name taped to your back and you have to figure out who that character is. The other was a Death Star piata (soccer ball piata painted gray we attempted to make a piata but it was a failure. I did several piatas in my youth but I must have lost my touch). Dinner followed activities. Our dinner was a make-your-own burrito bar ("Greedo Burritos") and lime punch ("Yoda Soda"), and some cut up vegetables. Then cake and presents, and that was the party.

What I learned:
I used the "Ellen's Kitchen" website to calculate how much food to make. When do I ever cook for 30? But I added too much extra to Ellen's excellent calculations. Running out at the last minute, and overbuying, really sunk my budget.

Start earlier much, much earlier. I think our original piata would have worked if wed started on it earlier. The balloon I bought to make the piata center cost $10. (Yes, its a rubber balloon but it's huge I think 36 in diameter if you blow it up all the way. Special purchase at the party store.) That $10 was basically wasted.

If the party is huge, enlist help in advance. Some of the adults who stayed helped out - a lot - maybe even too much. But it's more pleasant to help out a lot if you know in advance you are going to do that. I did not ask for any specific help from Mr. H, but he did dishes after dinner and vacuumed after everyone left.

In order to keep myself out of financial denial, I wrote down all expenses on a spreadsheet. It wasn't pretty but I'm glad I did it. If I had a spending plan first, expenses would probably have come in under the budgeted amount.

Something I already knew:
We can host a lot of people in our house (1200 sq ft) if we can use the back yard and everyone is kept busy with engaging activities.

Our party was basically pretty simple party games, food and presents. Oh, and costumes. With fun guests and a good theme, I think it was a good party.

Petunia in a Flower Garden

October 17th, 2012 at 03:47 am

Wow, it's been a while since I've been here.

I've come to the realization that, despite all my efforts, Mr. H and I are unlikely to ever be on the same page regarding finances, or a lot of other things. When we got married I believed that we had much more common ground than we actually do. I had hopes for many years that we would eventually come together on things, in a way we could both live happily with. Now, after almost 20 years, I think it's unreasonable to keep thinking that. I've spent the last six months developing a sense of peace about this. It's a thin peace, but still it's peace.

I'm in a denomination that discourages divorce, and I've had the opportunity to observe a number of marriages over the course of many years. Some people have great marriages that are sources of joy and pleasure for them and some have difficult marriages that create lives of patient endurance. It's a comfort, really. My situation isn't all that different from many women (and men).

We are still together, and likely will continue so (divorce is expensive!). . . but it's a different kind of together than I worked so hard for, for so many years. Frankly, I don't think anyone would get married and hope they would have a life like ours. But it is what it is, and I've decided to put more of my energy into things that will be fruitful, instead of trying to influence a situation that will not.

As such, I'm going to rename my blog to Petunia in a Flower Garden. . . . when I figure out how to do that. The French onion soup was helpful, but I'm moving on emotionally.

Daisy continues to grow, and our financial situation continues to be stable. We aren't rolling in cash, but we've weathered the current economy pretty well so far. I've kind of checked out of our finances for the last year and a half or so - now it's time to check back in.

I have achieved none of the goals I have on my side bar. . . still there's two and half months left in the year. Probably some time to make some progress on them. . . or rewrite them entirely.

Like a Bad Staycation

September 1st, 2011 at 09:27 pm

We just weathered a bout of an intense gastro-intestinal bug. Mr H had taken some days off, and we were to go camping with friends. Daisy came down with it first, me the next day, and Mr H the day after that. We were mostly housebound for a week and a half. Ah, frugal family bonding at its finest.

We spent time reading aloud (when Daisy felt up to it - she had it the worst), watching movies, reading quietly, playing board games, doing puzzles and flopping around in the family room. We drank chicken broth, and enjoyed a few days of the finest BRAT diet cuisine together. (If you add rice to chicken broth it's almost chicken soup!) Mr H was less sick; he worked in the yard and took walks when he felt up to it. We also discussed poo every day. We haven't had conversations like that since Daisy was potty trained.

Mr H pointed out that it was kind of like a cheap staycation. We had very little in food costs, we had to buy an extra package of toilet paper, and the water bill will probably be higher. I think I would have rather paid for a camp site and gas to get there.

Mortgage Balance at Zero

March 29th, 2011 at 01:41 pm

Our mortgage balance is now zero.

I wrote about our relative, Lily, who died recently. She's left an inheritance and some of that has gone to pay off the mortgage.

I'd much rather have Lily back though. I miss her terribly.

Final Things

February 1st, 2011 at 03:29 pm

A close, older family member, "Lily", recently died unexpectedly. While neither Mr H nor I are the executors of her estate, I am getting a close-up look of what happens with a person's money and possessions after they die.

Lily lived with another family member, and we went to the family member's house every day for a while. We've looked at old photographs (who are all these people?), called family and friends, gone to the court house to record the will, enjoyed the company of many family members and friends, passed around the kleenex, met with the church people to help plan the funeral, and eaten lots and lots. The family member that Lily lived with has a network of church and work friends who brought food to the house every day. Mr H made some of the phone calls to get insurance straightened out, and met with the cemetery folks to find out what would be involved in the burial. We discovered that there is a fee for everything connected with death. We both helped with some parts of the funeral, and helped entertain out-of-state family members.

Lily had some items that could be considered monetarily valuable, but it's surprising how many family members are just not interested in them. I have asked for one of Lily's cookbooks, and Lily herself gave Mr H her crche set right before Christmas. (No, she was not ill.) For us, those two items have significant value.

Later this month I'm going to talk with Mr H about final things. We do have wills, but there are some parts of them that need changing and updating. I think I will look into cemetery plots, headstones, funeral homes and all that go with that. I don't anticipate that Mr H and I will move out of this area. Having a final resting place for us and having made some of the arrangements for that time will make it easier on Daisy when the time comes. Even though Lily and her husband bought plots many decades ago, Lily's husband requested to have his ashes scattered. She could never do that. He was still sitting in the living room (in an urn) when Lily died. When the paper work about the plots surfaced it made the decisions much easier for Lilys children. They went both to the plots they purchased together, and have combined headstone. Having them be together has been a great comfort to some of the family. I am going to add Final Things as a goal on my side bar.

I took Lily's library book back to the library and cancelled her library card. The only book she had checked out was called "Throw Out Fifty Things". How weird is that?

Mortgage Decrease

January 4th, 2011 at 04:28 am

Here we are, on the third day of the year, and there is already progress on paying off the mortgage.

The regular payment was made on the first through the magic of auto-deduction. Plus, we discovered that the interest rate change in June hadn't been entered properly in Quicken, so we actually owe about $25 less than we thought. It's almost like paying extra. Smile

New mortgage balance: $4887.17

We Have a Goal

December 30th, 2010 at 04:09 pm

Yes, it's true. WE really have a goal for 2011. It's as much Mr H's as mine. . . although it helps when you can see the finish line coming pretty quickly.

Our goal is to pay off our mortgage. As of today, December 30, 2010, we owe $4,990.38. Our mortgage payments themselves are very low we bought our house 13.5 years ago using an ARM and just paid extra. When the mortgage re-amortizes every year our payment drops. We don't have a specific plan for paying it off, but as extra monies present themselves they'll be applied to the mortgage.

Would You Ever Have a Blog?

December 29th, 2010 at 03:06 am

My mother asked me this the other day as I read something from my blog reader to her. She was visiting from out of state for Christmas.

I don't really like to lie to my mother, so I think I side stepped the question. Did I want to explain to her that I already have a few languishing blogs, including this one? No I did not.

But. . .

Thrift-o-rama recently commented on how blogging must be magic, because if you write it on your side bar magic seems to happen and the goal you were pursuing falls in your lap. When I started this blog almost three years ago my biggest money issue was really a relationship issue - how to get Mr H involved in our finances. In the early part of our marriage he was somewhat involved. I woke up one day about 10 years ago and realized that he was not involved at all I was making all the decisions, paying all the bills and dealing with all the stress by myself. As time passed I realized that I could drop the bill paying on him without too much stress on either of our parts. I had set the finances up so the bill paying was all done using an account that didn't generally run short (the stressful part of bill paying) and Mr H excels at routine tasks. Paying the bills and making entries in quicken was easy for him (and he does something similar as part of his job) and also exposed him to our general finances. But he still wasn't really involved in financial decision making. He also wasn't very engaged in other parts of our mutual life that are outside the scope of this blog. I wrote several times about my attempts to get him involved in our financial life. Each attempt required planning, preparation and strategy. My attempts were somewhat successful although they did wear me out a bit.

In this last year. . . something happened. Part of the something was that Mr H's father died after a short illness. A death of a parent pretty much always seems to get a person to think about their life. Mr H tends to avoid thinking about and dealing with stuff (I don't mean this unkindly; I think even he would tell you that about himself) but I think his dad's death coupled with some boundaries I'd set got his attention. In the last months he:

Initiated a Sunday meeting to discuss general finances. We now do discuss finances more regularly and HE initiates it.
Had his car totaled (he's fine, was hit on an on ramp while waiting for a flow restrictor light). Used insurance proceeds to purchase a new used car and handled all the details with it.
Received his annual bonus; realized that he'd made more money this year than any year previous. Seemed quite proud of that.
Worked extra on an irregular basis; set money aside for taxes and, using percentages we'd decided on together, allocated money for family fun, car replacement, retirement, and mortgage payoff.
Opened a Roth IRA. Was tickled when it made more money than our savings accounts and CD's.
Thanked me for not giving up on long term goals even though he didn't participate for most of our marriage. He realizes that my focus got us where we are today. Although we've had lots of other problems (outside the scope of this blog) our financial picture has been modest but comfortable. Focusing on a long-term strategy means that the bumps of life (like his car being totaled) are just bumps and not huge stressors.
Wanted to discuss what to do with his annual bonus. He already has ideas he didn't wait for me to make suggestions and then just agree with them.

Is this really my life? Maybe this year will bring us out of the onion patch and into a flower garden.


October 8th, 2010 at 12:29 pm

September was another overspend month in Checkbook Number One. We had a problem with this in Checkbook Number One for several years, and I finally got it under control about two years ago. To keep it under control I have to work diligently, and it got away from me in May. Weve been a little bit over every month since then. Its time to get it back in line.

Checkbook Number One has four budget categories Groceries, Gas, Church Contributions and Everything Else. (Bills such as Mortgage, Utilities, schooling expenses, and also Christmas are paid out of a different account). Gas was about right, and Church Contributions were accurate. The overspending occurred in Groceries about 115% of the budgeted amount and Everything Else about 125% of the budgeted amount.

I reviewed our Grocery and Everything Else purchases for September in detail. As usual it wasnt one big thing that sunk the budget but an accumulation of little stuff. In Groceries, we spent a little too much in the treat category and I also stocked up on some household staples without decreasing spending in other areas of the grocery budget. In Everything Else. . . a few too many trips to Starbucks. There were some unanticipated cash withdrawls by Mr H. I dont begrudge him that, but if I dont know about it until later Ive spent the money elsewhere by the time I find out. Due to overspending in August this category also had less money in it.

For October, inspired by Denise (Thrift-O-Rama) and Laura (Love the Life You Live) I went through and figured out how much grocery money Id have to spend each week. Then I allocated how much I thought I would spend where (we get some food items on a schedule, direct from a farm). In the Everything Else category I tried to anticipate expenses for the month (ie, peoples birthdays, Halloween costumes, etc) and write them down.

One week into October this is already putting us on the right path for the month. Ive already had to consciously choose to spend Grocery money on some items and not others. We are on budget as of October 7th. Only three more weeks to go!

The Frugal Approach to Lighting

September 28th, 2010 at 04:17 am

The frugal approach to lighting: sit around in the dark.

In May or so the light fixture over our dining table shorted out. Thats a time of year we have plenty of daytime (although we may or may not have plenty of light depends on the cloud cover). Mr H removed the old fixture and put caps* on the wires. . I wasnt heart-broken to see it go. The fixture was ugly and had lots of clear glass. No matter how often I cleaned it it always looked dirty.

Weve been light-less in that area of the house since then. I have spent hours looking for a new fixture local stores, the internet and Craigs list. Due to space (small) and location (two other nearby fixtures) Im looking for something specific. I really dont want to spend several hundred dollars on a light fixture.

Its getting darker now and because of that I finally bought a fixture via Craigs list for $5. The seller was nearby and Mr H installed the new-to-us fixture in 10 minutes. The new fixture isnt really the right thing either, but we will get our $5 out of it. Im going to keep looking for something that looks better in that space.

*Do I know what these things are called? No, not really.

A Walk through the Neighborhood

September 25th, 2010 at 01:52 pm

Daisy and I went walking through the neighborhood the other afternoon. I noticed that there are quite a few houses for sale in our neighborhood. Generally thats not a surprise; we live in a starter home kind of area. The surprise was how many homes were for sale. Daisy and I like to look at houses, and it gives me a chance to pass on information about houses and finances in a low-key setting. After looking at some of the flyers she asked about square footage, forced air and carports. I brought up the general prices of houses in our neighborhood and that we dont share how much money we make or how much our house costs with others.

While walking we picked up three flyers.

House #1 must be an estate sale. Grandmas house they called it. House is small and needs updates.

We drove by House #2 a few days ago and noticed it was for sale. At the time I commented to Mr. H that it must be a foreclosure since the grass wasnt mowed. Sure enough, it is bank owned. Unless it needs a lot of structural fixing its a good deal.

House #3 is on our block. It has been for sale a long time. I checked Zillow when I got home. Its been for sale for about 450 days.

Mr H looked at the flyers when we got home. He commented that all of these houses need work. I guess its a statement on the times.

More on Checkbook Number 1

September 15th, 2010 at 02:39 pm

In our two-checkbook system, Checkbook Number 2 is used to pay the bills - monthly, bi-monthly and annual. Money for Daisys educational expenses is also put there. Checkbook Number 1 is used for groceries, gas, church contributions and everything else (gifts, yard and garden, clothing, trips to Starbucks, etc.). When I started this blog in April of 2008 Checkbook Number 1 was overspent by $100 to $500 pretty much every month. April was the point at which I realized that we had run out of savings and could no longer do that. Mr H paid the bills - I had dumped that on him about a year or two prior - but was uninvolved in most financial decision making. I finally got spending in Checkbook Number 1 under control in December of 2008. At that time Mr H was oblivious to the problems with it, and has continued to be oblivious to those problems.

Mr H was shaken out of oblivion in July. That's when he learned two things about Checkbook Number 1: if not watched carefully it will be overspent, and there are several hundred dollars extra in the account, not shown in the register balance, to help smooth the rough spots. In other words, while the checkbook register might be showing negative numbers, the actual balance in the checkbook isn't negative. His reaction to this discovery lead to some, uh, discord. But in the larger scope of our financial lives it was a good thing.

Last Saturday he came in while I was working on the spending plan for Checkbook Number 1. When I finished I showed him the numbers. On gas, groceries and church contributions we are doing okay for September. The everything else category is getting spent pretty fast though. Because wed overspent Checkbook Number 1 in August the dollar amount in the everything else category is lower than usual for the month of September. We may end up doing some shifting around. I do my budget keeping manually, so it was easy to hand him the paper and explain to him how things were falling out. He even asked some questions. I think he is now on board with the issues with Checkbook Number 1.

People reading this blog might wonder, why didn't I ever tell him about this before? Why am I hiding this from Mr H? I have learned through the course of our marriage that unless something is personally affecting Mr H RIGHT NOW he generally doesn't pay any attention to it. He is also very easily overwhelmed and avoids hard things without easy answers.** He does spend money out of Checkbook Number 1, but until it impacted him (Daisy and I were gone for most of July and he was forced to deal with Checkbook Number 1 in our absence) he saw Checkbook Number 1 as my responsibility and nothing he had to be concerned with.

** Single readers, take note. These are hugely frustrating qualities in a life partner.

Daisy's Yellow Boots

September 14th, 2010 at 04:02 am

Daisy's feet have grown past girl's sizes and into women's sizes. This opens up new possibilities in shoe acquisitions. We typically purchase new a pair of Merrells for every day wear. Dress shoes and other shoes frequently come as hand-me-downs or from the Goodwill.

Daisy and I went estate sale shopping on Saturday and she found a pair of short, bright yellow rubber boots. When we went to pay we found out they were half off - we paid 25 cents for them. Score!! Daisy was thrilled with them as only a "tweenage" girl can be thrilled, and the ladies taking our money were equally thrilled. They mentioned how happy their mother would be that the boots would go to someone who clearly loved them.

Most of the estate sales we go to aren't hosted by the family of the person who died. It seemed our purchase might have brought some pleasure to a grieving family.

We've Come A Long Way

September 11th, 2010 at 01:29 pm

Our financial life, in a nutshell:

* Mr H's job continues to be stable. I anticipate it will be stable for another five to seven years.

* We haven't had any economic catastrophes. In that way our life is good.

* In March I bought two used curriculum items at the Goodwill outlet for $1 total. I sold them for a total of $8, less 15% (they were sold at used curriculum fair - 15% to the sponsoring organization). Correct my math if it's wrong, but isn't that a 485% profit?

* My brain has been in other places that aren't financial. We have overspent Checkbook Number One for a few months. The big difference between now and a few years ago: Mr H actually knew about it. I have made no progress on any of my goals.

* To counterbalance my lack of progress, Mr H has been consistent in the saving of money for retirement and a replacement vehicle. He has neatly handwritten all amounts in a manual ledger for several months.

* Mr H, on his own, opened up a Roth IRA with the saved money. He has a pretty conservative investment (he's even more risk averse than me) but he is happy with it. It's made more so far than our various savings accounts and CD's. He's tickled by that fact. **

* We meet regularly and have discussions about our finances. Mr H originally said every Sunday night. He's not that consistent, but I take what I can get and I don't remind him. If he "remembers" - great. If he doesn't it irritates me but I try to let it go.

A discussion about finances is really a discussion about future plans, hopes and goals. In that area we have more productive conversations than we have ever had. I wish I could be happier about this, but it feels like the first 16 years of our marriage (we have been married 17 years) were a complete waste of time. But if I set those thoughts aside (hard to do for me) we really have come a long way in the last three years.

** As a side note, I read on The Simple Dollar blog about the blog author's retirement investment strategy. He and his wife vary in their ability to tolerate risk, so they each choose what they want in their porfolio as if the other didn't exist. That seemed like a good strategy for us. It helps that they are reasonably financially sensible people.

Vermin and Used Items

March 5th, 2010 at 09:42 pm

I have had various run-ins with vermin over the years. I stayed with my sister in roach-infested apartment for a while. Years later, I had a mouse visit me in a studio apartment that I lived in. (I shrieked and jumped on a chair, just like in the cartoons. Did cartoons influence me? Or do cartoons mimic life?) Mr H works in a downtown area, has had to deal with vermin as part of his job, and as a result I have learned quite a bit about various kinds of vermin. Previously it's been roaches and rats, primarily. Now Mr H is dealing with bedbugs.

Yes, bedbugs.

Mr H has had to learn about them, and as a result I have learned quite a bit about them over the dinner table in the last few months. You can google them; it might gross you out though. Did you know that cochroaches are one of their natural predators? (This led to a rather amusing discussion about using cochroaches on leashes to take care of bedbug problems.) Mr H has requested that any used clothing items I bring home go into the dryer on high for about 20 minutes to kill any possible bedbug eggs. I'm happy to do this. Now that I know way more than I want to about this topic - I sure don't want to take chances with them getting in my house!

Mr H picked up change the other day. He was cleaning up an area for work. He picked up 115 pennies, 3 dimes and 1 nickel. Wow! I was impressed.

I'm putting my mileage for March on a page. With only 5 days in to the month - it looks like if I get in the car I drive at least 20 miles.

Two Cents' Worth

March 2nd, 2010 at 11:21 pm

The other day I went for a walk after church while Daisy was at Sunday school. As I approached the tattoo parlor what did I spot but two pennies on the ground. Do people lose their change when they go in to get tattoos? I'm sure the college student walking by the other way thought I was nuts but I picked them up and put them in my pocket.

March 1 mileage: 0. We didn't leave the house.

Just. . . Wow

March 1st, 2010 at 03:11 pm

He did it.

The other night Mr H approached me with his old paycheck stub and his new paycheck stub and asked me if I wanted to talk about what to do with his salary increase now or on Monday (the first). Not being one to want to let grass grow under my feet with this one, I said "Now".

Mr H asked me how much I wanted to put towards a new-to-us car. I said that it depended on where else we wanted to put the increase. If we had five items to put it to I would suggest a different amount than if we had 3 items to put it to. After discussion it became clear that we had two items to put it to - retirement savings and new-to-us car. I suggested a dollar figure, he agreed and that was that. 31% of the increase will go towards the car, the rest will go towards retirement.

Mr H will deposit these funds into a somewhat unused savings account and keep a ledger of how much is going to each item. He volunteered to do that. Eventually I'm anticipating that the retirement funds will be automatically invested somewhere. We discussed IRAs. I suggested that we open one in Mr H's name. I do have an IRA - the funds in it came from my old employer. Mr H has no retirement savings anywhere.

I'm still kind of in shock. It looks like Mr H is engaging more, involving himself more in our mutual life. Are things really changing? We've been married quite a while, and his involvement has been extremely limited for most of that time. I'm open, but naturally pretty skeptical. When I first started trying to bring up my car and its lifespan, at least seven years ago, Mr H said that when my car died we'd just buy a new car and take out a loan to pay for it. At the time I said, Mr H - if we can't afford to put money into savings for a new car, how would we afford a car payment? He had no answer. He's come a LONG way since then. . . most of the distance traversed in the last three to six months I think.

Music to My Ears

February 24th, 2010 at 11:22 pm

After reading the comments to my last post, and responding to them, I decided to attempt a(nother) conversation with Mr H regarding my car. I've been attempting these conversations since my car approached ten years in age. Usually my concerns were met with vague responses and when I pressed for specifics Mr H would start to sputter and yell. Not conducive for problem solving, to say the least.

I realize that my last post and my response to comments may have sounded a tad whiney. I'm pretty discouraged in many areas concerning Mr H. All I can say is - if you are single choose your life partner very carefully. I'm a shining bad example of what not to do in that department.

The short version of the following is below the asterisks:

Setting the stage:
I chose a reasonable time (Daisy was in bed) and approached quietly.

When to replace:
I told Mr H that I had been thinking about my car, and what criteria we might use to decide to replace it. He told me about the four vehicles he'd owned: Truck 1 was replaced when he'd spent $500 every six months fixing it. Truck 2 was replaced when he'd spent $500 every six months fixing it, plus he just wanted something new. Truck 3 (purchased a month before he met me) was sold 1-1/2 years ago when gas prices reached $4+ per gallon (truck got 15 mpg). Car 1 is an economical Honda purchased used from his folks, who took meticulous care of it.

I asked if there was a dollar limit in repairs at which he felt my car ought to be replaced. We easily spent $2000 fixing it last year. He couldn't really come up with one. I pondered if the $500 every six months was felt more in the 1980's, when his finances weren't very stable. Our finances are reasonably stable; we set aside money for car repairs so while it's a hit financially we aren't wondering where our mortgage payment is coming from. He agreed that this could be true.

In the end, he really didn't come up with a dollar limit. But he believed that if the engine or the transmission needed to be replaced the car should be replaced. Success! I believe this too, so we are in agreement here.

How much to spend:
Without really knowing how much a "good" used car costs, I had thought $5000. He suggested $10,000 as a figure. (The Honda was between $9000 and $10,000.) I agreed.

What to purchase:
He suggested another small Honda. I told him that if my car dies before Daisy leaves I'd like to replace it with a mini van. I'm entering serious kid-hauling years and frequently haul more kids than just Daisy; I'd like a kid-hauling vehicle. After she leaves home we'd downsize the vehicle. He agreed, although, again, neither of us really know what a "good" used min-van would cost. And, I suppose, it depends on your definition of good. My car is likely to go at some point after 200,000 miles. The clock is broken, the tape player is broken, the paint is chipping in spots and I'm taking it in this week to get a seatbelt replaced. A vehicle with 100,000 miles on it could look pretty good to me!

Where the money is coming from:
We'd been doing pretty well in our conversation, and so I brought up the big question. . . the fight starting question. . . where is the money going to come from? He is going to be negotiating a raise with his employer this week. He suggested that we table this conversation until March 1st so we'd know how much, but then. . . he said the words I'd longed to hear since I started these conversations seven or eight years ago: "I think we should set aside money every paycheck specifically for it. If we don't do that we will just spend the money on something else." Be still, my heart!

Now I'll wait to see if he brings it back up on the first. . . if not, I'll bring it back up later.


The end result was that we had a suprisingly reasonable conversation that ended in agreement on when to replace, how much to spend, what to purchase and where the money is coming from. No yelling or sputtering was involved.

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