Thursday, December 24, 2009

No Money for You

Yesterday a mild (4-6 inch) snowstorm hit our area. As I was layering up to do the first round of shoveling there was a knock on the door. In the year and a bit we've lived here we've never gotten a "Can I shovel/weed/etc knock." My husband bemoans the how unindustrious the kids in the neighborhood are, thinking back to the money making snowstorms of his childhood.

Generally I like shoveling snow, but this is our 4th shovelable* snow this season. And the season goes until about April.

So a guy knocks, offering to shovel once yesterday and then come again in the morning to take care of the overnight snow. He asked for $15 for the first day and $10 for the next.

We pooled our cash and came up with $16. The huz was doing an airport run last night and was supposed to get cash on his way home. This morning he hadn't gone for cash before the guy left, but the bank is 10 minutes away so he figured he would be back before the guy was done.

The guy shoveling and his fiancee finished up pretty quickly. She showed me which house they would be moving to and said they'd stop back later. The she thanked me profusely, letting me know that the money they earned today would pay for their Christmas dinner.

After 30 minutes and I called the huz to make sure he's not stuck in the snow. Apparently folks in our neighborhood like cash for the holidays- he'd been to five different places (including 2 banks with multiple ATMs) and every ATM was out of cash. I suggested cash back at a store which was finally successful.

I'm glad that our shoveling duties for the moment are done. I'm happier that our laziness may have made the season a little brighter for a neighborhood family.

*Less than 3 inches and we only shovel the walkway

A Thoughtful Thank You

A while back a friend of a friend had her first baby. Based on the past year that's nothing spectacular (other than that whole miracle of life thing). Without thinking hard I can name more than a dozen babies of friends and coworkers that made their appearance in 2009.

This one was a little different though. She didn't plan to get pregnant. She wasn't sure that she even wanted to be a mom. But she's also one of those people who loves those in her life wholeheartedly. When the friend we share has needed help she's always been there- laughing, cursing an ex, or calling in others when a little support was needed. I saw her last May on my trip east. We celebrated our friend's accomplishment, and though she was 6 months pregnant she went out of our way to make our friend and her parents comfortable.

I added two more baby hats to the pile I was knitting and crocheted a little blanket. It was nothing fancy, just sending her and her new baby a little love for their journey together.

Fast forward to yesterday. Going through the mail that piled up when your mailbox* was stuck, I pulled out anything handwritten. Amidst the Christmas cards was an envelope from this mom. Now in general I'm pretty laid back about thank you notes. She sent a text and then a picture msg with the baby wearing one of the hats, so I wasn't expecting anything. Inside was a nice note saying thanks for the items & support for her little family. This was nice, some would even say expected.

What I wasn't expected was a gift certificate. This new single mama took the time to go online, look through restaurants in my town, and choose one that she thought I would like.

All in all I thought it was a sweet and thoughtful way to say thanks. I may even steal the idea.

*Despite living in a single family house we have one of those units on the corner where everyone has a tiny slot.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

How to spend way too much money at the grocery store

A) Go hungry
B) Go with an informal list
C) Don't stick to said list
D) Bring no coupons
E) Go as a snow storm approaches or as snow falls from the sky

For extra credit:
F) Repeat 12 hours later.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Student Loan Surprise x2

Last Friday I took the day off to use some of my use it or loose it time. I missed my early December net worth calculations (time just got away from me) and decided to catch up. I logged into all of the accounts, plugging balances into Excel and noting the progress we've made. The mortgage was looking good. The Prius is pretty close to our year end goal. Then I logged into my student loan account.

A while back I wrote about getting my interest rate reduced .25% by setting up auto debit payments. Each month I make sure that a few days ahead of the 3rd (my payment day) the cash is in my ING checking account. Each month the funds get pulled out without incident. Until December. On the 3rd the funds were happily sitting there. I scheduled some transfers for other things on the 4th and moved on with my life.

You see where this is going right?

The student loan people didn't pull things until the 4th. At a low moment in the transfers (there were multiple in and out) the student loan people try to get their money. But it wasn't not there. At this point I abandon updating the spreadsheet and get on the phone.

While holding for an agent and then holding for her supervisor (when talking to me about my money you can't sound like my 15 yr old cousin) I poked around on their site. Then I found surprise #2- the happy surprise. After 24 on time payments my interest rate will fall 1%. I don't have to ask or do anything. I just start saving money.

I was worried that surprise 1 would jeopardize surprise 2. That night I paid the amount due ($88 instead of the $315.99 we usually pay), and a $15 insufficient funds fee. Tuesday the page online with the info about the interest rate dropping move from 20 to 21 on time payments. I think they're one of those places where you're on time within 15 days of the due date. Not that I'll be taking advantage again.

The final bit of student loan news comes from 2 extra payments. Above I mentioned the monthly payment vs the amount due. Right before I started this extra payment thing my mom sent in an extra payment for my birthday or something. As an aside, I love that she knows paying off debts is so important to me and will send funds to debt instead of sending my something I don't need. Back to the student loan- the company that manages my loan is one of those irritating places where if you want to make an extra principal payment you have to include a note and mail it to a special address. Mom didn't do this so each month they collect more than they need and sit it in a 'bucket' until there's a full payment and then forward the date.

I think the 'bucket' thing is bs, so I only paid them what was due and sent the rest as an extra principal payment. They actually got 2 checks because earlier in the week I wrote out a check to kill my 4th loan. Loans 1-3 have balances in the $7,000-8,000 range. Loan 4 has a balance of $270. Though it shouldn't, loan 4 really really bugs me. Earlier in the fall during a financial talk I said I wanted to pay off this little loan because it bugs me. My husband shook head at my crazy but said he was fine with it.

So we should start the new year with the student loan $500 lighter and by the end of the first quarter the interst should be lower.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Use it or Loose it

I'm off today. Not because it's a good time at work, or I have plans to do something fun. I'm up against a vacation hour deadline. The larger nonprofit that I work for decided that we can no longer accrue paid time off with no cap at the start of the fiscal year. By the start of next fiscal year we can have a max of 80 hours. Each quarter the max we can accrue goes down to ease us towards 80.

As of Thanksgiving I had 7.5 days to take. On top of the 2 days we get for Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, and the half day we get after the company luncheon*. The catch is if I am over the limit I don't accrue anything in January.

I have to check again but I think I'm within 10 hours. I'm going to go in and leave when I'm ready next week. Any left over hours will be donated to the employee leave bank. I'm also going to spend these days off planning the 11 days I need to take during the first quarter of 2010. There may also be a few check requests for work.

*Does anyone under the age of 60 use this word? I felt really really old typing it there.
**Again with the words my grandma would use.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Does time ever slip away from you? In the midst of all of the post Thanksgiving posts there were some new worth updates. That's a pretty good indicator of the beginning of the month, but it still didn't click.

Now some random thought:
Work was hectic but I'm working on letting go a bit. I have scheduled 1.5 days each holiday week and still have to take 34 hours of vacation between now and then. Yesterday was one of those slow start days so I just took an hour. I'm going to take a little time each day and try to make the few hours I'm there each day really count.

Robbery is expensive. Tomorrow I'll submit our almost full insurance claim. Everything's been replaced so far. All that's left is painting the door to meet HOA standards. That won't happen until spring unless we get a heat wave going. We're dealing with some arctic conditions that are just crazy (we hit the high temp at 4 am). According to the guys at the home improvement store I need a 50 degree day to do a good job. I haven't done the final math, but we're well over $3,000 to replace things. Our deductible is $500 and then there's the stuff that insurance won't cover.

I started a pottery class this week. It's a small group that seems interesting and I'm happy to have another creative outlet. The class is by our city's Parks & Recreation department and comes out to $4/night. The only problem is coming up with what I want to make. I walked in with no ideas and didn't love my first project. Just one more excuse to spend way too much time on Etsy- if you don't know and like hand made things click with caution.

I'm sick of fake news. I don't care about celebrities sleeping around. Or who they're dating. Also, CNN for the love of all that is newsworthy man up and move on.

Hope your holiday seasons have started well!