Thursday, April 30, 2009

3 deadlines met

Can I take a nap now?

This week was a bit crazy because I had a grant application, grant spending deadline, and quarterly report all due between Wednesday and tomorrow. Other than physically driving the grant to the submission location tomorrow (after it gets a signature) I'm all done.

Usually this would be cause for a drink. Or at least a nap. But neither seem to be in the cards for me. Unless I go take a nap in my car in the work parking lot. I'm picking up my second most favorite guy, my mom's friend's 6 yr old, from child care in a bit and hanging out with him for a while. Then I'll leave him at my house with my husband and go sit for the preschool triplets.

I think a trip to Sonic for one of their happy hour sweet teas is in order. I hate the styrafoam cups (Sonic, if you're reading, can we do something about that) but I think sugar and caffeine are going to be necessary to get me through the evening.

UPDATE: Inspired by this Dooce post I decided to try and take a cat nap in the car. I didn't want to deal with moving the booster seat so I reclined the drivers seat, used my cardigan as a blanket, and turned NPR down so I could barely hear it. I set my alarm and immediately fell out. It was one of those naps where you wake up feeling a little stupid- totally wonderful.

My BFF- The Library

For as long as I can remember I've loved reading. I was the kid reading with a night light after lights out or reading a book hidden in my desk during classes I thought were boring. As such, the Mt. Pleasant library was one of my favorite places to go (the park, my cousin's house and Popeyes also made that list).

I've always known that the library saves me tons of money but how do you (in a relatively easy way) quantify those savings? Use this handy calculator. My savings? $172.95 a month. The cost savings are based on avereage full cost prices, which I wouldn't pay. But even half my savings plus paying $20 in fines is more $66 each month.

In addition to being frugal the library is good for the environment. The books get read over and over again, so the paper that goes into it is reused. This reduces the number of copies that need to be printed thus reducing paper.

If you haven't been in a while check it out. Most libraries have DVDs, CDs, and community education in addition to books. My local library even offers online books, cutting paper out of the process entirely.

Happy Thrifty Green Thursday!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

I live in a land called dilema

By nature I'm a bit of a worrier. I'm also really indecisive when there isn't an option that fully fits within my guidelines. So in the time that I haven't been spending like a mad woman (for work) and writing requests for more funding I've been going over and over 2 big decisions.

A) Landscaping. We have to get it done because we are that house that is bringing down the block at the moment. The options are xeriscaping, which requires less water (aka earth friendly) and less mowing (husband friendly) but costs money. An amount that I pretty much think is ridiculous. Then there's re-sodding. Increased water usage. Having to mow. $2,500 cheaper. So my environmental side and my wallet are at odds with each other. Saving up over the next few months is not an option because of the HOA, that and we don't want our neighbors to hate us. Gameboy is heavily leaning towards xeriscaping. I like the idea in theory, but not the money.

Then there's the landscaper thing. Guy A came out, measured, did a drawing and gave a quote. Gameboy sent the quote to Guy B (a friend of a friend), asking if it was a reasonable quote. Guy B sent a counter quote that's $1,000. I have a bit of an ethical dilemma because his quote is based on Guy A's original work/design/planning. We're still in discussions about this.

B) Refinancing. We could drop our rate 1.5%, but it will cost 7K to do so. We would have to move at warped speed (something that makes me cringe) because of changes coming May 1. The loan officer said she could get our house appraised $10K higher than our purchase appraisal. Our appraiser friend thinks we're down $5-15K. So loan officer lady is saying she could get an appraiser to appraise higher than we think our house is worth and higher than our friend thinks our house is worth. But we have to pay $350 out of pocket for this pipe dream.

The refi, based on the high appraisal, would cut the $70 we pay in PMI. There would be an additional reduction of $140 ($210 total). What we owe the mortgage company would only be $155 less because we currently save/pay for our insurance on our own and that would no longer be an option.


Thursday, April 23, 2009

Earth Day Resolution

Yesterday as I drove through oodles of traffic I though about what I can do for the earth. I wanted something to comit to until at least next Earth Day. Something that I can add into my life without spending thousands of dollars. Something that didn't take hours a week.

Some of the things I currently do include: using homemade cleaners (50% of the time), making our own laundry detergent (98%), bringing bags to the grocery store (60%), catching water as it warms up for plants (79%), recycle (110%), repurpose (90%), drive fuel efficent cars (100%). I'm sure there's more, but that's what is coming to mind.

One area where I fail- using disposable plates/silverware/bowls at the office. I have the type of office where the center table has food at least once a week- causing plates and silverware to head to the landfil. When I actually bring my lunch I often forget forks, spoons, etc.

The solution: get a set of work plates to store in my desk. We have access to a sink, soap, and sponge so (other than laziness) there's no reason not to use regular plates/silverware instead of paper. I also have a drawer that is currently empty that can house things.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Striking Earth Day

Over at the Green Baby Guide Rebecca does Earth Day resolutions. I wanted to come up with one or two this year, but honestly there's something a little more pressing weighing on my mind.

Gameboy belongs to a union and on Monday they announced that the chances of a strike in the next month or two are high. Probably in the 95% range. Management has proposed going 100% commission, dropping vacation time, and a long list of other things.

This has been a nagging worry in the back of my mind. How long will they strike? How will this affect summer income? What about health insurance? What will this mean for his long term employment?

It doesn't help that our efund was recently accessed. I'm still working on a plan but over the next weeks I'll increase the number of families I babysit for and other side jobs. We'll be paying off my car and putting aside the rest of the money for our appliances when we get our tax refund. I'm also going to try to save most of Gameboy's checks until the probable strike date (two checks).

I'm not panicking. We're at a point where we live on 2.75/4 paychecks each month. There are also things built into our system (ie self escrowing) that we can change for a month or two if we need to.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

My 403(b) hasn't lost money!

I started my new job in September. By the time I settled in, met with someone about investing options, and got the paperwork together my contributions began in 2009. I'm doing 8% percent pre tax to the 403(b) and 8% post tax towards my Roth.

The 403(b) account is my only financial account that I can't access online. The brokerage is kind of crazy with the security and I haven't had the time to jump throught the 15 hoops they require. I got my first quarterly statement last week. Until I get through those hoops this is my only access to how my accont is doing. Considering the current market that's probably better for my blood pressure.

My account total- $13.56 higher than what I contributed. Not amazing, but a positive number makes me happy.

New Car Loan Detail

We bough Gameboy's new Prius late last month. This week we got a new loan from a credit union. Why change loans after 3 weeks? A little thing called the interest rate.

When we sat down to do the financing at the dealership the first rate they told us was 7.99%. I looked at them like they had lost their mind. My auto credit score was low/mid 700's, his was upper 600's. In most of the places where we shopped the loan those rates put us in the first or second tier. We hemmed and hawed a bit. The finance guy magically came up with 5.74% from a bank they partner with. Because we had the option to shop the loan in the first 45 days (and I was driving 100 miles a day to get us both to work) we told them to start processing.

The next few days I called all of the banks/credit unions where we have accounts. We bank with a big bank, I have another account with a national bank, and I have two credit union accounts that I go back and forth about closing back home. One bank couldn't beat 5.74%, the other took 8 days to call me back. Both credit unions had rates just under 5%. We gave both permission to run our credit so we could get exact answers. The first offered 4.6%, which we were ok with. The second offered 4.4%, making us happier.

As we started the long distance paperwork I went to their website a lot. I'm bad at keeping track of phone numbers. On day 2 of the process their leading banner changed from something about college loans to new car loan rates for 'green cars.' I can't remember the last time I dialed that fast.

The final verdict: 4.15% interest with payments at $506. The difference in finance charge is ~$1,5oo. Not that we plan on having the loan for the full 60 months ;). We're thinking we'll get it knocked out in around 2.5 years.

In the future I'd shop the loans and get the better rate first, but if you have a loan with a crappy rate looking into refinancing with a credit union may be a good idea.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Note to self

Putting off taxes and quarterly reports should be avoided.

I think next year we'll use a tax preparer. I say this every year but what end up holding me back is not so great record keeping and finding the time. It's a bit like going to the hairdresser. Once I'm there I love it, but scheduling, getting my hair in hairdresser shape* and driving there are just too much. So I end up doing my hair on the couch with a tv marathon ever couple of weeks.

This weekend my husband and I are going to have a conversation about record keeping. We need a system beyond "this is a household thing hon, here you go." I happily do the household finances, but maintaining a filing system on my own is not something I'm up for. The summer I worked at a credit union relabeling and moving 2 walls of file cabinets killed that.

I have a couple of ideas/options.
  • File folders that we just drop things in by category
  • Expandable file with categories
  • The baggie system- putting all receipts for a month in a sandwhich bag and dealing with them at the end of the year. This is from a coworker.

Do you have any super easy ways to keep all of the documents from taking over or flying away?

*My hair and combs don't get along. I break around 2/year. My hair is usually twisted so hairdresser prep involves un twisting and detangling (2-3 hours), then (without retangling) getting my hair to do something that's acceptable for leaving the house. It's a process.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


Somehow the personal and busy times seem to overlap. Nothing I can't handle, but it's keeping me on my toes.

Taxes- almost done

Adjusting car loan- we got a loan from a dealer with the option to shop the loan for 45 days. I'm using a long distance credit union that will be great once I get through the hoops. I need to get pay stubs and possibly this year's taxes to them.

Dealing with old car- the mechanic who has it has been very against donating it. He wants us to give him the title to wipe out our diagnostic bill. I think he's full of it. Gameboy is going to see if he'll forget the bill and give us a few hundred. Otherwise it's being donated.

Landscaping- we got the quote for the front yard. I almost fell over. I understand why so many people use grass even though it's more maintenance and water. We have to decide how important low maintenence and water consumption are for us. Also if there is a way to work the price into our budget.

Grant spend down- I have 3 grant budgets that I run. All have spend down deadlines, one in April and two in June. I've been working on getting programming together for June and paying tuition bills for April. Yesterday I learned that 8 people never attended classes so I have a few thousand to reallocate.

Maternity leave madness- my director is on maternity leave. Before she left we created a pretty plan. The stuff covered on the plan is fine, more work but manageable. It's all the other stuff that comes up that makes my head spin.

External players- really this should be external players that don't return calls/emails. Recently I've had a few who don't get back to me then after a deadline want me to rework things. I'm so over this.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Alligning Vision

Today, as we both drove home, my husband and I talked about what we should do with our tax refund. Whenever we have a windfall ($1,000 plus) I check in to see if there's anything outside of our game plan that he would like to happen with the money. I map out what I would like to happen, gather numbers, then talk to him.

The first thing- pay our state taxes was a given. Then I wanted to pay off my car and put asside the remaining funds for our 0% interest appliance fund. Depending on when we actually have the refund in our hands there will be $500-1000 left after doing those things. There are a few options:
  • Extra payment on the Prius
  • Rebuild the efund (used $3,000 as a car down payment)
  • Home exterior fund (landscaping (HOA required)/patio furniture)

I gave the first two options and with no needling he agreed that we should rebuild the efund. If you knew my husband and/or have heard the range of financial discussions we've had over the past 2.5 years you would get how amazing that is. He gets the value of having a cushion, but given the choice would much rather pay off debt. If the economy were different or his job was different I may agree. But they're not, so having a small efund makes me happy.

Despite my efund love we're going with option 3. Our lawn is diseased in the front and a required tree is missing. We're leaning towards xeriscaping to reduce water consumption. The problem is we have no clue what this will cost. If there is no blizzard when we wake up a landscaper is coming over with a drawing and numbers. The HOA fine season and plan approval requirement make this time sensitive. So whatever is left after we pay off the debts on the top of our list will be spent on the house.

Next month I'll get a new plan together that will rebuild the efund and attack the Prius loan.

Net Worth

We financed the car. My networth fell. It's -16,184. Really, there's not much more to say.

Without the new car loan the line would have continued it's happy climb. I'm pretty confident that over the next months it will continue the upward climb. The break even point will fall sometime next year. Probably late summer unless the comissions (him) and snowflakes (me) are amazing for the next of the year.

Speaking of snowflakes- I made no extra money during March. That's the first time in more than a year.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

1st Quarter Check In

We're a quarter of the way through 2009. This is crazy. I thought this would be a good time to look at my annual goals and see what I still need to do.

Things I'm making good progress on. Things I've thought about but scheduled for later. Things I'm not doing well on.

Pay off my car by May. Possible, but not very likely. End of June should happen though.
Buy Gameboy a new car before his current car dies. No luck. Also why my car won't be paid off next month.
Work Roth IRA's into our 80/20 plan. Kinda. 8% of my 80% goes towards my Roth IRA. I want something a little more concrete for both of us- see below.
Also convince Gameboy that we should both be doing Roths. Haven't started this one yet. Wanted to get my car paid off first.
Get to know one of my neighbors. It's still snowing. I'll work on this once it's nice outside.
Give more. I've donated more than I usually do at this time of the year. I've also found an organization I think I want to volunteer with regularly.
Figure out a better work life balance. Getting there. I only check my work email from home twice a day (once before, once after). I also have a better feel for when things are going to get crazy.
Reduce the knitting stash. Umm... this would involve not buying more yarn. Which I haven't been doing. I blame all the new babies that need hats from baby yarn, that's most of the yarn purchases. I have found a use for 3-4 foot pieces of yarn that I got from freecycle a while back.
Join/serve on a nonprofit board. This will be a summer/fall activity.
Move 10 minutes each day. This can be strength, aerobics, yoga, whatever. Until my around birthday I was great. He got sick, I got sick, work deadline, helping dad move, his car situation. Not good reasons to ignore my health. I started up again yesterday.
Grow my own food (well some of it) this summer. Seedlings started! Materials for a raised bed mostly purchased. If nothing else there will be veggies this summer.

I'll update networth once all of my transfers go through.