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Home > Archive: September, 2010

Archive for September, 2010

The Frugal Approach to Lighting

September 27th, 2010 at 09:17 pm

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

In May or so the light fixture over our dining table shorted out. That’s 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 wasn’t 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.

We’ve 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 Craig’s list. Due to space (small) and location (two other nearby fixtures) I’m looking for something specific. I really don’t want to spend several hundred dollars on a light fixture.

It’s getting darker now and because of that I finally bought a fixture via Craig’s list for $5. The seller was nearby and Mr H installed the new-to-us fixture in 10 minutes. The new fixture isn’t really the right thing either, but we will get our $5 out of it. I’m 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 06:52 am

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 that’s 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 don’t 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. “Grandma’s 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 wasn’t mowed. Sure enough, it is bank owned. Unless it needs a lot of structural fixing it’s a good deal.

House #3 is on our block. It has been for sale a long time. I checked Zillow when I got home. It’s 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 it’s a statement on the times.

More on Checkbook Number 1

September 15th, 2010 at 07:39 am

In our two-checkbook system, Checkbook Number 2 is used to pay the bills - monthly, bi-monthly and annual. Money for Daisy’s 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 we’d 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 13th, 2010 at 09:02 pm

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 06:29 am

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.