Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Short Month Alert

February is always a short month, but this year it snuck up on me. This is probably because I'm handling my finances a little differently than in the past. Usually in the late 20's of a month (27th-29th) I schedule transfers for a few bills due early the next month. But this month that's not enough time for money to move between my brick & mortar/ING/payees. This morning I took 10 minutes to do the transfers and all is well. Good thing I realized when I did.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Dear Camera Charger

Where are you? I have pictures to take- brand new babies, closet pics for mom, and some worm poo for an upcoming post. It's been a while so I'll say uncle. Please show yourself.

My shopping problem

So I have this thing when it comes to shopping. I walk into a store, look around and immediately I'm drawn to the most expensive thing. Especially when there are no price tags. Shoes, furniture, clothing- anything. This can make shopping hard.

After yesterday's post I decided to look at some outdoor furniture online. I started with the big box places, asked some coworkers, and went to main sites of manufacturers I liked from the first two. I have fallen in love with a piece for our front porch. When I showed Gameboy he instantly started oohhing and ahhhing. You can see that this is leading to a problem right? The outdoor love seat that would be incredibe for the front porch, plus cushions but minus shipping is almost $2200.

I'm sure it's high quality that will last forever. And I subscribe to the buying quality pieces that will last side of frugality. But that's more than half of what our appliances cost. For one (oh so beautiful) love seat.

So if you have any reccomendations for affordable outdoor furniture I am all ears.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Debt Payoff Celebration

As we get closer to paying off our car loan (less than 3K left!) I’ve been thinking about ways to celebrate. The thing that keeps floating to the top of my mind is backyard d├ęcor. When we moved in we were focused on things like moving costs, getting vents cleaned, appliances delivered, internet set up, and such that we didn’t really do anything buy haphazardly water our backyard*.

My short list includes a grill that cannot fit on top of a table, a table/chair set, and some additional chairs. It may or may not expand as I explore a bit more.

The plan (depending on his commissions and how much I work outside of work) is to have the car paid off in April or May. The next month instead of snowballing our next goal (saving for a car for Gameboy) the money $325 car payment and extra money goes towards back yard stuff.
We’ll still research and buy the highest quality within our budget. But this way we get a fun brake from the serious and make our home a bit cozier. I still need to discuss this with Gameboy but I think he’ll agree.

*We didn’t get the replacement part for the sprinkler until September. Then we realized it was even more broken. On the sprinkler guys recommendation we’re waiting until spring. So we used a hose end attachment (when we remembered) during the last months of summer.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Urgent Care...

how I love thee.

So I don't know how I missed out on the beauty of urgent care for so much of my life. Maybe it has to do with growing up on an HMO and never really having to do more than call a number and ask where to go. Whatever the reason I have found and we have used urgent care 3 times in the past year.

For those of you who aren't familiar, urgent care is like an after hours, walk in doctor office. Price ranges based on your insurance, but in our cases it's been just $5-15 more than a regular appointment. That may not seem like a bargain, but when you consider that it's significantly cheaper than the ER it's worth it. Urgent care is also helpful when you can't or don't want to take off work for a relatively simple appointment. I'm not advocating doing away with your regular doctor. Having a regular practitioner is important, but the ease of urgent care has thrilled me.

Here's an example. A few months ago Gameboy joined a new (very expensive) exercise program. On day two he discovered that the childhood asthma he though was long gone had become exercise induced asthma. He left class early and after a break slowly drove home. His work schedule has little flexibility and that week he had wall to wall meetings so taking time off to see a doctor was not really feasable. Still I made a few calls and no one could see him for 3-4 days. When he got home I said we should check out the urgent care place that's in our town center. He was seen within 15 minutes, got a full workup, and left with exercise instructions and an inhaler.

This week we made another trip in the hopes of discovering what Gameboy's mystery illness(es) are. For $45 we ruled out a few illnesses, and got two perscriptions. He's still sick, but looks human again.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Garden- Starting Off & Seeds

If you're anything like me, at this time of the year you're itching for winter to end. For the past month I've been daydreaming about our backyard once the weather warms up- cook outs, lemonade plus a good book, and a vegetable garden.

Really, I've been daydreaming about the vegetable garden for more than 2 years. Enough space for a least a small raised bed was on the 'must have' list during the house hunt. The back of the house faces south,* so with the exception of some fence shading it should be a good location. Unfortunately, by the time we moved in last summer it was too late for a real garden. I did a few container plants but only the cherry tomatoes were able to produce anything before our relatively short growing season ended.

I'm going to do my best to track the costs and production of the garden as I go along. There will be some extra expense this first year to get things up and running. I'm planning on raised beds which need to be bought or built (after buying materials). Currently I'm budgeting $100 for that portion of the project. Then there's fill dirt/compost/moss/whatever else I decide. Last fall I started composting with worms to help lessen that expense. Finally there are seeds.

Whenever I've bought seed packets (usually for herbs) I end up feeling very wasteful. I plant at most 10 seeds and the rest sit around in a drawer somewhere. I don't know if it's just not cost effective to sell them in smaller quantities but we're talking crazy amounts of seeds. So imagine my delight when someone on my favorite yahoo group* suggested buying seeds together. This way we each get a reasonable amount of seeds at a lower cost.

We're still getting our order together, but I'll post my final cost with a list of what I'm buying. So far it's looking like cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, broccoli, and melon. I have never (with the exception of those tomatoes) grown more than a few herbs- making this summer a bit of an adventure. Any green thumb advice is very welcome!

*which makes winter shoveling oh so fun
** the source of my most frequent babysitting clients, a recent extra earning opportunity, and random advice

Friday, February 13, 2009

Random Thoughts

I don't know where this week has gone, but here are a few random thoughts:

More than 1 radio station in a market should not be able to do a fund drive at the same time.

Fund drives for children's hospitals + driving = bad. Otherwise known as crying + driving= bad.

I had very little to listen to this week.

I miss traveling.

It amazes me how quickly I can make a paycheck disappear (this includes saving).

I'm not big on holidays (including tomorrow) with the exception of Thanksgiving.

I love pictures.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Ending the Firefight

My work is entirely grant based. Currently the things funding me and my day to day are: a federal block grant via a state nonprofit, state funding, a local tax initiative, and a state foundation. In a way this means I have 5 bosses and 4 work plans. And for the most part that's fine. That's how thing happen in my industry and I knew that walking in.

The problem is that for most of my 5 month tenure I've been fire fighting. Instead of doing work at a planned & steady pace I'm jumping through hoops to meet/anticipate 1 deadline or crazy request after another. A big part of this is that during the first 3 months of the grant years my position was empty. I knew there would be a bit of a learning curve but it has been steep. I'm playing catch up in all areas, doing the things that have to be done by a certain time and other things fall by the wayside.

In the 2-5 day down periods I have between the craziness (if I'm so lucky)I've been doing a bit of work dreaming. Not the I wish I made $100K a year kind, but what I want my accomplishments to look like and how I can get there. Step one, after I put out the current fire(s), is to create a year long plan. This will outline what I have to do month to month, when grant reapplication deadlines are (my director & I missed one a few weeks ago because we just didn't know), events where I want to participate, when reports are due, and time lines for some of our bigger programs.

This is where I got to before leaving for a meeting Friday morning...

In addition to the outline I am trying to set up a few shadow visits. There are 15 other agencies funded by one of my grants. Some of my colleagues at other agencies have been in the field longer than I have been alive. I know there are advantages that my relative youth brings to the job, but I'm also a big believer in learning from those with experience.

All of this ties back to one of my goals for the year- finding a work life balance. I was doing pretty well the first two weeks, despite 2 big deadlines. Deadlines 3-6, the work training I'm attending on Saturdays,* and my directors impending maternity leave have left be very unbalanced. My one quasi solace is that I'm not the only one feeling this way. I was meeting with our other program manager the other day and one of the first things she said to me was "I feel like all I do anymore is put out fires." In two weeks I hope to get this all under control and get started on my strategies.

*theoretically I'm taking 1 comp day a week to make up- to bad I'm needing 45 hours to get the regular work done. I'm keeping good notes and will eventually take the time

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Credit Age

Crazy busy week but this was fun. My credit age is more than 15 years older than my real age!

I am 43
in credit years!
Credit Curious

Credit Age Quiz by SpendOnLife.com

Monday, February 2, 2009

Roth Decisions

Right now my 2008 and 2009 Roth savings are in limbo. Why? Because I can't make up my mind.

First, there's money I saved during 2008. I saved in an ING sub account because I thought I might want to invest in a new fund*. Most of the funds I've looked at require $2.5-3K for the initial investment. Since I didn't have that in January I decided to save and make a decision when I had enough money. I crossed over $3,000 in December but the decision is yet to be made. I know stocks are on sale and I have 30+ years for growth, but looking at performance (my main tool) is hard when just about all negative. I feel like I may as well be picking out of a hat.

Then there's the 2009 question. I only have $3,184 saved for 2008. Between January 1 and tax day (actual filing or April 15th, whichever is sooner) you can still contribute to the prior years Roth IRA. So, the funds we allocate to my Roth (8% of my salary) could go be 2008 or 2009 funds. By April I still wouldn't hit the 2008 limit. As a result (baring a major windfall) my amount for 2009 would be piddly. But that's just vanity getting in the way right?

Where are your Roth funds invested?

*My 2006 IRA is in a Vanguard Retirement Year fund but I think I want to branch out more.