Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Seattle Here I Come

Being away from the day to day responsiblities, my financial spreadsheet, and thinking about our life in general I've decided we need to take a vacation. In July we will have lived together for 3 years. We traveled (5 days) for our wedding/honeymoon because of restrictions at his new job. Outside of Gameboy coming on a work trip with me that's the only time away from home we've had together.

Our next planned vacation was supposed to be Japan. I haven't really written about it because we wanted to get the car/house stuff settled before starting to save. I know when we get around to saving for this trip it will not be cheap, putting the trip at least 1.5 years out.

What I didn't realize is how much that amount of time was weighing on me. It's more than a love of travel. Part wanderlust, part time for reflection, part special memories travel is really important to me. Though we've taken individual trips that ease this I really want to explore with Gameboy.

So while I was traveling I decided that this summer we're going to the Pacific NW. So far there are not many details. Seattle is a must because he has a lot of friends there and I've always been intrigued. We may also visit Portland. The trip length will be somewhat affected by hotel costs, but somewhere between 4-7 days.

Looking at the budget spreadsheet today I realized that late summer/early fall is more realistic. June will be a heavy month, but during July/August we should be able to work out saving for a trip in addition to our regular debt payments.

Any suggestions of things to do, placest to stay, where to eat, etc are welcome!


I'm back from a wonderful whirlwind vacation full of friends & family. In my mind vacations fall into two categories- people and/or places. This was definitely a people trip. I didn't take in any other the major sites in the cities I visited. I ran errands with my mom and aunt, went to the mall with another friend, and in general just hung out. The most important thing for me was to get to spend time with some of my favorite east coast people and celebrate two wonderful graduates.

I'm pretty sure I came in under budget, because while on the trip I didn't pay detailed attention to what I was doing. I did a lot of big picture thinking though, about debt, our future plans, making the most of time, our decision to settle in the west and the differences in lifestyle between my friends and myself. In a perfect world I would have had today and tomorrow to more properly mull over these thoughts, putting them into an actionable plan.

Instead I'll be working at least one night this week to meet a deadline. Our admin assistant was supposed to get a few things done in advance of my return to make these three days easier. I'll get the report done, but honestly my heart* isn't in it.

My house is also...interesting. Housework is not my husband's forte and while he straightened certain areas others look like a tornado hit. The back yard, which was pretty low before I left enjoyed the combination of rain and working sprinklers and looks like a jungle. Despite the work deadline (or because of it) I need some order at home so tonight we'll be in the yard with our mower, soon to be acquired weed whacker and maybe some weed spray.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

On Vacation

I'm currently on the east coast, soaking up some humidity and seeing loved ones. So far it's been great. I'll be posting more when I get back.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Mileage Reimbursement

I have a bad habit. Really I have quite a few. Most of them circle round to a dislike of paperwork and poor organizational skills. There are just many more things I'd rather do with my time- even where there's a financial payoff. This is especially true since I go over 40 hours most weeks.

As a result I haven't done a mileage or purchase reimbursement since I started my job in September. I average 6-12 out of office meetings a month. It's May. I couldn't find my planner from last year so I only did late December until May and 5 receipts that I could get my hands on. The total: $606.

I will do expense reports more often. I will do expense reports more often. I will do expense reports more often. I will do expense reports more often. I will do expense reports more often...

Monday, May 11, 2009

44 cent stamps

It you're like me you don't use stamps very often. I actually can't remember the last stamp I put on something personal (my office is another matter). But for those rare occassions it's good to know that stamps are now $0.44, up $0.02 for the last rate hike.

While we're talking about stamps, do yourself a favor and buy forever stamps. They cost the same $.044, but next time rates go up you won't have to add that extra stamp. My director's predecessor used some end of the year funds to but hundreds of stamps last year. She did not buy forever stamps. So the next 170 or so envelopes I send out will need 2 stamps. When you're dealing with one or two envelopes it's not a big deal. When you're dealing with 50-100 it's not so much fun.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Getting ready for transplant

After 6 rainy/snowy weekends in a row my raised bed garden is finally built. I still need to get it leveled, staked, and filled with my peat/compost compost mixture. Tonight and tomorrow morning I'll get a lot of that done. Now that the bed is almost ready I'm itching to get the seedlings that I've been growing for 2 months into the ground. But there's one important step between here and there.

When we leave our temperature controlled houses we: put on/pull off jackets, add a little sunscreen, pull out an umbrella if it's raining and so on. We have methods to help shelter us from the elements, the seeds that I've been growing do not. Sitting on my window sill there is sun, filtered through a window and steady 68 degree air. When I put them outside they'll have to deal with direct sun, wind, a 30 degree change in temperature each day, and a new environment for food (the roots).

So a few days ago I've started the process of hardening off. Each day I put the plants outside for a bit, adding time each day. On Wednesday it was 2 hours (evening), yesterday was 4-5 (evening), today I put them out at 6 and they'll be there until I leave for work with another session this afternoon. Tomorrow it will be 8-10 hours, with some mid day sun. Depending on the weather forcast they will move to their new home Saturday evening or on Sunday. If you have the option cloudy days are the best to transplant.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Random + Net Worth Updates

It's a few days past month end, but all of the transfers from our last paychecks have finally settled.

Net Worth: A positive balance is so close I can almost feel it! Assuming things don't fall apart this summer I think I could be there by mid fall.

Carolla: My car is officially paid off. I added the KBB private party sale price to the net worth calculations now that we own it outright. Now the goal is not to wreck the car. I know a lot of people who have damaged a car right after they purchase. Today I came close when my brakes locked up and I spun out on the highway. I'm fine and the car's fine but it was the second scariest experience of my life.

Prius: I love how easy it is to pay this loan. I've been going on about it all month and sending little payments to figure out the system. To pay I just do a share to loan transfer. The loan detail is there immediately, with how much went to interest and how much went to principal. Until the due date it subtracts from the monthly payment. Once you've made your full payment for the month any payments before the due date are principal payments. Compared to most accounts where an extra payment means a paper check to some random address this makes me so very excited. As you can tell I can't stop talking about it. The only part of the system that needs some work is getting money to the credit union. Currently it looks like: paycheck-brick and mortar- ING- credit union. Very inelegant. Later this summer once things (hopefully) stabilize one of use will probably set up a payroll deposit to the credit union.

Refinance: We didn't go for the crazy quick refi. The timeline was too scrunched and the closing dates outlined overlapped with some can't miss meetings. Since I'm in meetings 3 days then on vacation for 6 taking the time off wasn't an option. I'm going to call our current mortgage company this week to get info from them.

Landscaping: I put this decision in Gameboy's hands and he decided on xeriscaping. There will probably be some creative financing to make it happen, it depends on what happens with the strike and if Gameboy's commissions that should have been paid 1 month ago ever come in. At worst I will loan 'us' some money from personal savings.

Jobs: It seems very likely that he will be on strike starting next week. We've been working on a strike plan to pull in income. I'm hoping his union/management will come together with a deal that makes the job worth having. My job is entirely grant funded. My grants all expire at the end of June. One funder will let us know in the next two weeks. My main funder hasn't put out reapplication docs. This will be addressed while I'm on vacation, but I'd like to get it over with.

Vacation: Despite all of the crazy I'm still going on and will totally enjoy my vacation. We have efund money, I have personal savings that we can use in a pinch, and worse comes to worse I can nanny for the summer or he can go back to his former industry. He's been getting inquiries about the former industry which mean more money but less stability. I have things for graduation girl A, my former roommate and graduation girl B (after much prodding) requested cash. I'm working on creative packaging. Also thinking about getting some of the cash exchanged for her summer trip to Europe.

Lowes Card: We purchased appliances when we purchased the house. A series of mishaps led to returns/repurchases. So while I thought all of those funds were due mid July I recently realised that things are due in July, August, and September. We've decided to pay each portion of the bill the month before it's due. This is a final back up in the event of a cash flow issue this summer, but getting each portion getting paid on time is our number one priority.

Those are the big things happening in our life right now.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Me at the bank

Today I wasn't feeling well so I left work a little early. I detoured on the way home to deposit a check from babysitting last week. This is how it went:

Drive thru banker: Ms. Sara L, do you have a personal banker
Me: Not here, why?
Drive thru banker: Well you have a sizeable balance and we want to make sure your money is working it's best for you.
Me: Oh, that. We have a sizeable credit card bill due this week.

Good to know they're looking out though. This bill is pretty high ($7K range), to anyone else the balance would probably look rediculous. Just under half are expenses associated with Dad moving out. Did I ever blog about that? Anywho, we also charged the downpayment for the Prius. The regular day to day expenses are around their usual amount to round out the balance.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Dear Kayak,

I love you.

In general is my favorite place to start researching trips. I like that it gives a wide variety of options by searching multiple companies. There are also sliders to narrow down take off/landing time on each flight, length of layover, length of trip, and my favorite- price. If that's not enough for you there are also check boxes airlines, number of stops, and type of aircraft. All of this means it's easy to find your most perfect flight/fare combination.

The new additions since my last fligh have me even more excited. It will calculate baggage fees and add them to each price, giving you the true ticket cost. There is also this handy chart that outlines all of the airline fees. Will a free snack make or break your flight? How much will enough leg room cost you? And of course those baggage fees.

If you're thinking about taking a trip and have the money saved up this is a great time to fly. Two years ago the tickets I just bought for my trip would have been in the $350-400 range. Direct flights from the Rockies to Philly and then back from DC, booked just under 3 weeks in advance cost me $276. Depending on what I do baggage wise I'll be $19-49 under my budget. I could have gotten things down $26 by taking a flight with a layover but at this point getting in early enough to have dinner with my husband and make it to work the next day (not to mention 3 hours of my time) are worth $26 to me.

This isn't a sponsored post, I just love the service and it has continually helped me to find the best fare/flight combinations time and time again.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Things that make me proud

Eariler this week, amidst the craziness, I called my cousin to see how she is doing. We talked about finals, the graduation plans, her new job, and summer plans.

She's exicted about a trip to Europe with her mom this summer and all of the family that are coming in for graduation. Pretty normal stuff. Then she said she's really excited about starting to invest! When she starts working in June she's definately starting a Roth IRA and possibly starting a 401(K) depending on what thier package looks like. I can't tell you how proud I was of her at the moment.

My cousin is 22, debt free, and ready to do her thing in the market. She secured a job last summer. Pretty much, she has her head on straight and is ready to tackle adulthood.


The final check for the Carolla has been sent! Our tax refund hit this morning and Toyota should have thier money sometime next week.

I'm going to wait until their website shows a $0 balance and then I'll update the sidebars. That's an extra $325/month headed to the efund (until it's topped off) and then the Prius.