Tuesday, June 30, 2009

End of the fiscal year

At work, which is all grant based, we've hit the end of the fiscal year. I've been a spending champion. I still have a couple thousand to get through. Then I'll be back to (somewhat) regular posting.

Monday, June 22, 2009

I should have been a plumber

I could have also called this, good thing we have an emergency fund.

Yesterday, while cleaning up for a get together tonight my husband broke out kitchen faucet. Or maybe I should say the faucet broke while in his hands. It's a model where a single lever goes up down for on/off and left or right for hot or cold. There was a pop, no water when pulling the lever up, then the lever came off in his hands.

He visited our second home, a big box home imporvement store, and came home with a mission. They didn't sell the parts, but a local plumming supply place does. "It's a pretty easy fix if you get tool X they told him."

So this morning he heads to the plumbing store, where again they say "Yeah, it's pretty easy to do." At this point I should mention that my guy is not handy. He can make the computers work, and when I need help (usually in the form of strength) on a project he's there. But not someone you could call handy. The fact that he even volunteered to try and fix it amazed me.

Fast forward 2 hours. I get a call at work letting me know despite turning off the water, water is flying everywhere and he is now bleeding. I take a minute and call a plumber.

I called a national service that we have all seen plumbers for and told them to head over, largely because the lack of a call fee (btw plumbers, why do I have to pay $35-70 for you to just show up???). The guy gets there, gives us quotes, and (after the husband calls) we both fall on the floor. I give a quick call to 4 competitors from the phone book, asking how much it would be to get the problem fixed, using plumber language. Their quotes were all within $20-30 of the quote from the guy standing in our kitchen so we decided to just go for it.

Depending on where in the cycle our credit card bill is and what his comission check looks like 3 weeks from now we may be able to swing it. If not, we have money put aside for time like these.

This is our first house related emergency so far so I'm not going to complain too much. I'm also going to use this as impetus to get off my behind and do something I've been planning to do since we moved in- develop a contractor list. I'd much rather contact someone based on personal reccomendations than call a national service. Come July it's at the top of the list.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

No Refi for Me

When I finally convinced my husband that we should refinance the house rates were around 4.75. The plan was to reduce our monthly payment but keep paying the same amount, cutting years off of our mortgage.

The problem is the declining home values in our neighborhood. When we bought we knew that prices would continue to fall, possibly for a year or two. Based on our 5-15 year timeline we were ok with that. What we didn't anticipate was the dramatic drop in interest rates this year. We put down 10% when we purchased and have since paid $1,000-2,000 in principal (10 mortgage payments).

When we started refinancing all of the banks we looked into required 10% equity. The Making Home Affordable Act reduces the equity requirement, allowing up to 105% equity. I started calling about this option in late April. A plan wasn't in place until 1.5 weeks ago when the rates had crept into the upper 5's.

I called in and had a loan guy run the numbers last week. The estimated savings were under $100 a month. So for now we've decided that the expense of refinancing isn't worth what it will cost us to do so.

We'll be keeping an eye on rates in case they go back down but we're not holding our breath.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Place to Be

It seems that in my neighborhood the place to be on a Saturday night is Redbox. Saturday at around 7 we decided to go get a movie at the newest neighborhood Redbox-there are 4 within 2 miles. The line was 7 people long when we arrived and while we waited 3-4 more showed up.

Our wait was around 10 minutes, but we had no place to be and it was a beautiful evening. We also had a code that would only work at that Redbox ;)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Almost free health care

Today there was a meeting at work about open enrollment. We're a little crazy right now so I asked the HR lady what I needed to do if I am fine with my current level of benefits. Everything will be the same price, with the exception of our health insurance.

Currently I pay $5/month for my well known HMO. Overall I'm happy with my coverage. The only things I'd change are: an allergy center closer to me and phone appointment booking during the after hours.

The new plan is $25/month for the same level of coverage. Unless you fill out a health survey. You can choose to have the information added to your chart (or not). The only information my job receives is that I took the assessment. It's the kind of thing I'd do on my own because the numbers that signal good health are not on my side right now.

With the assessment on record my monthly cost drops to $0. That is $300 assuming I work with the same company for the next year. The only reason this post is called 'almost free health care' is it took me 30-40 minutes to fill it out.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Great Return

My pre trip organization goes something like this:

  • Lay out (or list) clothes I plan to pack
  • Decide I hate all of my clothing
  • Decide which essential items will keep me from being a fashion disaster
  • Shop like crazy

Generally during the 'shop like crazy' period I'm also trying to finish things up at work, get the house in order, and spend some quality time with loved ones. So I run in, sometimes trying things on, other times just pulling things off of the rack. What I end up with are a few key pieces that I like and a lot of crazy.

Because I know this about me I'm very careful with my receipts & bags. Until I know I love something the tags stay on. Sometimes there are mini fashion shows. And then I decide what I actually like and what looks rediculous.

Once I'm back from my trip I neatly fold things back into their bags and begin the great return. Today I returned two dresses, a shirt and a pair of jeans. That totaled $173. Tomorrow I'll do round two, a few shirts from one store and a few pieces from another. This includes the trench that my loving husband said would keep him from leaving the house with me. That will be around $140.

The key is to get everything back to the stores in the same billing cycle. Usually if you check online or call in you balance due will be reduced. Even more important is asking about the return policy before you purchase, so you know the dress that you loved but may hate can actually be returned.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Taking Security too Far

After Chase bought WaMu my husband decided he no longer liked his personal credit card. This was in the time period just after buying a card and when we were considering refinancing. We bought the house just using my info to avoid the self employed hassle that made most of his employment history at the time. With the tightened credit market we weren't sure if we would be able to swing the refi with just my income.

Instead of having even more credit pulls while looking for a new card I shopped from my credit report. We added him as a joint user to a card with a longish history & healthy limit that I was worried would get closed. Since then it's been his primary personal card.

Though he's the person who set the username and password he got locked out this morning. Because he's just a joint user (not joint owner) I had to make the calls to get it unlocked and the passwords reset. I hid my copy of the card when I got it, so I couldn't have the card numbers.

So I call. Put in my social security (which for once actually made something pop up on the other side and they didn't ask again in 2 minutes). Get a guy on the phone. He takes me through verification questions that require knowing where the card was used, last amount paid, or the information on the card. The one thing I could answer (if my wallet weren't missing) was my driver's license number. I ask if that will get me through later.

I find my wallet, go to work, come home and try again. I do the social. Confirm the credit limit. Give my driver's license number. Confirm the names of people on the account. Offer to give the social for someone else on the account. I explain that I don't actually use the card. That my husband is the primary, but because of their security system he can't make the call. I also confirm the address on the account. All this and the girl will not reset my password.

While I appreciate them trying to protect me from identity theft the call was pretty ridiculous. After a brief conversation with the manager she agreed. But why make a girl get salty on the phone?

E-fund tax and life

Where did the week go?

In the near future (ie after I discuss with the other half) I plan on enacting a new rule for our efund. I am super hesitant to ever touch the efund, even when it makes sense. He is always ready to use it. The solution- the efund usage tax. Every time we take money from the efund we have to replenish what was taken (normal) and add additional funds. For instance amount taken plus and additional $1,000. When I talk to him we'll work out the exact details-how much the tax is, how quickly the money needs to be replenished, and if there are any exceptions.

The actuall discussion will probably have to wait a week because this week will be a bit more stressful than most. At work I'm nearing the end of our fiscal year. Due to my late start date (3 months into our fiscal year) and other things just not working out I have a lot of money to spend. Since I'm working with tax dollars and on the behalf of the kids in my community, though I have thousands to spend I want to use to be responsible in my use of the funds. His job just moved teams around so he is starting with a new boss and hopefully will be interviewing for a promotion.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Adding to the Money Plan

We've been homeowners for 10.5 months now. As we knew it would, this has done all sorts of things to our monthly finances. So far there haven't been any huge surprises (well other than how expensive landscaping is) and things are going well.

But there's a problem. In our drive to pay down debt and handle the necessities around the house there are a lot of household items we haven't gotten. They aren't things that we need to live, but are things that would make our house a lot more comfortable. My wishlist includes- art/decoration for the walls, a patio table, a dinning table, and a new to us grill. In the next few years we'll also need baby furniture.

These purchases are big enough that most month's we couldn't just buy them. They're also not emergencies, though sometimes my husband thinks otherwise- no grill = major emergency in his mind.

So starting this month we're going to put $150 into a household account so we can buy household things without (me) feeling guilty.

Our monthly set asides will now be:
Insurance $350
House Account $150
Utilities $121 (I pay what's due and save the difference)

In the Black

My networth is in the black! I went over the numbers 3-4 times to make sure it was correct becuase honestly, I was a little bit shocked.

I finally realized that the money I have set aside for landscaping ($2500) is giving me a boost. There's a chance that next month I'll take a very shallow dip into the red, but from July onward I should be in the black. And from then on I intend to stay here.

I will now resume with the happy dance in my cube.