Saturday, June 30, 2007

Booze Budget

What do most people spend on drinking? I realized I think we spend a pretty nice chunk of money drinking every month. For entertainment/pleasure. But I decided to post the question to people on a message board. What I found was interesting.

Single people spend the most eating out and drinking. Their budgets for bars/clubs usually was equivalent to grocery budgets of married couples or families. Though it seems high it makes sense, because they are basically going out to find a significant other. Thus though it can be categorized "entertainment," I'd personally catergorize it as personal health. After all these people are maintaining their frienships and good mental health.

Then there is the category of DINKS. I've found that these people spend money, but a little more frugally. Usually they spend money less frequently but at nicer bars/clubs. They are going for quality over quantity.

Finally there are those with families. These people rarely get to go out, rarely buy liquor to even drink at home. They are too busy and usually have better things to spend their money on.

So after reviewing groups, I decided I don't spend a ridiculous amount on booze. I was encouraged to go out and enjoy life before I have kids.

But why don't people who have families have time or money to go out? Or enjoy a drink at home? I recall my parents having daily nightcaps before and during dinner. I didn't realize that it was so unusual. I guess we take after our parents who had daily liquor intake.

Want to weigh in? Do you consume alcohol at home? Daily? Is it expensive? Did you stop when you had kids?

Friday, June 29, 2007

Toronto Weekend Costs

We went over our $1k goal for our weekend getaway. We spent $1133.58. Not terribly over and I know exactly how it happened.

We spent $307 for the hotels, $120 dog boarding, $113 for gas, and $30 for tolls = $570. All about right, but then we ended up spending $199 on experiences like Maid of the Mist, Journey behind the falls, CN tower, Blue Jays game, Second City Comedy Show, and Hockey Hall of Fame. A bit more than predicted. We didn't plan on going to a comedy show but it was cool.

Finally we spent $225 for eating out over the weekend. And we also spent $100 on drinks too. What can I say? We had a great weekend and probably overindulged a bit more than we should have but it was fun. I guess I should feel bad but we had a great time.

Tip - don't drink and you'll save a ton. However, I was told by people who have kids, go out and enjoy DINKS activities. So maybe it's not so bad.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Guests Costs

Sigh, my FIL is coming this weekend. Fortunately it's only one week. Problem? I so have to clean the house!!! What am I doing sitting here writing on my blog? I'm stupid.

Then I find out about 5 minutes ago DH's best friend (FK) is coming to live with us July 12th. Right-o. Guess I really gotta clean our house again. Couple of things, he doesn't like dogs, but he has no choice in the matter since our dogs are family. Second at best I'm a poor housekeeper, at worse I'm an utter slob.

What does having guests costs? Well for one thing more utilities. I usually don't turn on the heat or A/C very easily. With guests I suppose we have to. Also more food to feed these presumed guests.

DH has decided to make me the "Bad" guy. Meaning he's going to tell his buddy you can't live with us forever rent free because of ME, the spouse. Yep I'm about to get the bad cop label.

But seriously how long can guests stay before you charge them rent? I've already cleared space in the guest room and closet for FK. I've put out towels, he's going to use our washing machine, A/C, TV, etc.

To best honest, sure it could be nice financially to split our bills 3 ways instead of DH and I shelling out everything, but we've never really enjoyed having people stay with us extended periods of time. Of course we're also not great about telling people to pay up. My BIL has lived with us extended amounts of time, and to summarize DH "Next time he want to 'stay' I'm locking up all the cupboards, charging him $15 a meal."

DH's bro sort of was lazy when he first moved out on his own. He didn't like to grocery shop, he didn't like to spend money, he hated cooking. So he'd come over eat our food, look through our cabinets, and literally "shop". He'd fill up his condiments at our house, ask me for spare, bring his laundry over so he could wash it at our house because he didn't like trucking it to his facilities. Sigh (you can't kick out siblings easily, nor parents).

But we made it. I have am in for a rough summer. Either we'll have greatly increased expenses or greatly decreased expenses.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Buffet bets $1 Million against US tax system

I always get into tussles on message boards with people who claim that rich people pay the most taxes. Yes they pay DOLLAR wise the most taxes, but Percentage wise the middle class pays the most taxes. How is that possible???? Warren Buffet has bet $1 million dollars that you couldn't find a rich person in America who pays more taxes than their subordinates! Yes I've been supported in my statement finally.

Yes! He gets what I've said for years. Rich people shelter money, get paid the "right" way and know how to pay the least % of taxes for income. However a DINK couple who make $100k pay more than average than the rich person. Buffet personally only pays 17% federal income taxes on $46M last year. How much did you pay? On our income we paid more than that!

Yep, the middle class people pay the most taxes. Why? How? They don't get deductions like rich people. They don't donate millions either. But there is a big difference between making $100k/year and $1M/year.

One major sore point with me is the Social Security Tax. The taxes on SS is capped at $97k. So someone like Buffet who made $46M would have had to have paid 6.5% on 46M if there was no cap. Well maybe if that happened SS would be solvent!

Another issue is they tax capital gains/dividends at 15%. So if you are rich (millionaire status) and you live only on your interest, dividends you are only paying 15% at most. Wowsa! Imagine that! You can draw $100k from a portfolio and only pay 15% instead of say 25-28%! What an awesome deal.

I guess for everyone out there who hates paying taxes think well maybe there is something to feeling overtaxed. Because the lower classes pay a bigger percentage of their incomes in taxes. Although someone making $50k with 2 kids doesn't, but someone making $120k with 2 kids often has phased out tax breaks. So that person's real tax rate is very high.

Cutting Expenses Poll extrapolated

I think I may have allowed my post to be a bit misleading. I should have written when in debt payoff mode what is the first thing you cut? Not for one month but more like 18-24 months...

So this is a long term cut, not a one month $25 here or $100.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Cutting Expenses?

People always come to financial messages boards and ask for help with their budget. They then proceed to say they should spend less on groceries. They are spending say $50-100/week for their families. But they hope to save $25/week.

I think that's nice, but to be honest it's a drop in the bucket and does not solve the problem. What? Well think about it. The real budget breakers are things like mortgages/rent, car loans, cable, internet, cell phones, etc.

That's where the fat is and should be trimmed first because those items usually take up larger portions of the budget than you can imagine. Why would you bother saving $25/week in groceries when you have a $500/month car loan? Or $120/month in cable? You don't even have to change your eating habits, in fact you can eat out more if you dumped the car.

Or if you over bought on a mortgage and pay 40% instead of 30%? What would happen if you had that extra 10% in your pocket? Could you afford cable, internet, groceries with that extra 10%?

If so, then why are people looking at pinching pennies for groceries when there are bigger budget busters that should be examined first?

Monday, June 25, 2007

Reimbursement Results!

I am very surprised that so many of my readers would be amenable to submitting reciepts to their spouse for reimbursement. Must be my independent nature that would never allow that.

To me money is money. Sure we can each get cash and spend it as we see fit, but to submit expenses to be reimbursed? That would drive my DH insane and would be the end of livingalmostlarge!

But the results of the poll are as follows

Yes 63%
No 33%
Maybe 4%

Carnival of Personal Finance #106

The Carnival of Personal Finance #106 is up at the Digerati Life. I submitted my article "Condos burn in hell." Unfortunately I just had to rant a little about my condo.

Interesting articles too look over are "Things are fine" by Boomie and "breaking financial illiteracy" by KRG.

Looks like a huge carnival with 91 submissions.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Are pet expenses also travel expenses?

Well someone posted that $1k is a lot to spend a couple of days away. I tend to agree, I won't know for a few more days exactly what we spent because we charged a lot and I'm not sure what the exchange rate on the CC will turn out to be.

But one expense I'm not sure other people count but I do is dog boarding. I don't know if this is common or uncommon, to others they don't include it as a travel expense. But to us every time we travel something has to happen to our two Bichons. So I always use it when figuring out what we're doing for our travel plans. This time we got off cheap and only spent $120. That's not a bad deal for 4 days. We usually spend more but our normal person was booked solid.

Is pet care considered an expense of travelling? I guess we'd get off cheaper if we didn't have to figure it in. Is getting a house sitter or pet sitter considered an expense of traveling?

Should I calculate it into any weekend away? I am just mulling it over tonight.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Lifestyle for kids...

Interesting on the LLNOE board I read, a woman asked the question should she wait to have kids (she's only 27), or should she just move forward while still in debt? I wonder about this too? We're not hugely in debt, and it's student loans and a mortgage. BUT I worry about money and time.

She got many differing responses about her situation. Most were suggesting she go ahead and not worry about money. Because children are only as expensive as you allow them to be. However a few did suggest waiting because she had over $100k in non-mortgage debt. The woman said it would take over 5 year to pay off this debt, so she was wondering if they should wait to have children. But they were able to pay their bills and "snowball" still debt now so they were not on that tight a budget. And they have childcare lined up with her mother-in-law.

However one opinion, which I really liked said, there is no wrong or right decision about kids. However picture yourself 5 years from now raising kids. How would you like to be raising your children? With a tight financial situation or less constrained? Would you like to have a choice to stay at home or be forced to work? Would you like new clothes or used clothes for your kid? Do you want a bigger or smaller home? Will it affect the number of children you have?

The woman who wrote this said that there is no right or wrong answer. Each person's decision is personal. And you and your spouse need to sit and decide HOW you want to raise your children. What it is you want to be able to provide, and if there will be financial stresses in life? She said she never thought she'd ever advocate not having children, but as a parent now, she believes that people should think before they leap. They should consider what they want.

The woman said if she could go back she would have waited just because she has a lot of financial stress impacting her marriage and children. It's hard for her because she finds it difficult. How she's raising her kids is not how she pictured raising them. And that is what is most important. How you want to raise your children.

This is something I wrestle with. I think if we just did the deed now, we'd manage for sure. We'd become extra frugal and really live to the bone. But we'd make it for sure. BUT if we waited we'd need to be less frugal and definitely not worry about money. Right now the decision for DH, not me, is to wait. He can't deal very well with financial uncertainty and says if we had a kid he couldn't sleep. He'd be worried about our bills, our student loans, our future. And though I think we'd swing it, I think though he's a risk taker in some areas of our lives, otherwise he has very set ideas about what we'd provide for our children and have as a financial base. And that image can't be accomplished if we had kids now. So I guess though it's possible, the ideas of family DH should be meet first.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Condos burn in hell!

Well I guess you can see I need to do a small rant about my condo. So our retaining wall issue is still unresolved. One of the other owner's is trying to argue that the MONEY, DH and I collected through our ATTORNEY from the developer is 20% his! Though he didn't even own the condo when she gave us the money. Also she was trying to say it was for both Unit 1 and 2. We never agreed to that! In fact we sent a letter stating exactly opposite.

The reason we took the money is there were three different engineers, with HER engineer stating the retaining wall could be done for $5700. Two other engineers said $18k and $20k. We also have statements from the two engineers explaining why her engineering quote would not solve the problem.

The developer is a shady, horrible woman. If you don't believe me she's had multiple lawsuits from contractors. Including a neighbor who was a contractor who worked for her. He showed me his lawsuit against her for $40k of work she didn't want to pay for, but he sued her and she was forced to pay. By the way she's a millionaire who doesn't even need the money, a radiologist that lives in a million dollar home. Arrgh. And she tries to not pay ANYONE. Including her engineer that drew up her plans, he came to us and tried to get paid, we said "NO! We did not sign a contract with you, the association did not sign a contract with you. PERIOD." So he went after her in court for his fees. And again she had to pay.

Right now it's not worth suing her because the amount is not much. She owes about $1k more for us, which we are willing to let slide. HOWEVER, with the other unit owner wanting another $1k we're not willing to budge.

We went after the jugular and tore him a new one. This unit owner DOES NOT pay his monthly dues on time, only once every 6 months. HE tore down the gutter drain pipes, but refuses to pay to replace them. He SAYS he put them up, BUT he didn't. He couldn't have put it up properly because he didn't put up the house siding until this summer! 1 year later. So the gutters even when he put them up were improperly put up! That jerk refuses to acknowledge that he's the one who caused the damage and should pay for it. So my wonderful DH got tired of the arguing and said he he would agree to allow the condo to pay 50% of the damages this piece of work caused.

You wonder why I curse and degenerate CONDOS! Well come and live in my hell-hole and tell me it's easy to deal with neighbors. Tell me it's easy to get anything done when you constantly can't make a decision. Please tell me that living in a house is harder? Really? Try getting 3 different couples to agree to a ONE project. Try getting 3 different couples to agree that ONE couple caused damage and the others shouldn't pay. Try getting one couple to pay up Home Owner's fees?

Last time I wrote, someone said that homes were expensive. Well condos are more so when you have to constantly go to a lawyer. When you constantly have to pay for DAMAGES done by a jerk who won't admit it. And if the repair isn't done well the house will rot. And you need to sue him otherwise. Try to constantly be chasing someone for money for insurance. Or would you just fork over the money like living in a house? But wait, you can't even just fork over the money and pay a repair person because still EVERYONE has to agree before work can be done!

That's the kicker of living in a condo. Why it's pure hell, and why only idiots like myself do it. I wish I had never bought this condo. I hate it, hate it, hate it. I pray everyday that we quickly finish our degrees, get a relocation package and move away from this hell-hole. I'm renting next time if we can't afford a single family home. I do not care what it costs, I'm never going to buy another condo. I'm printing this article up and I'm going to paste it to my wall as a reminder "Single Family Home, Single Family Home".

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Belated Birthday Present!

Yes I got my birthday present finally. We decided with our upcoming trip we would purchase a GPS. I was tempted to instead ask for a bedroom set, but that's on permenant disability long story.

So instead I get a GPS system. I got a Garmin Nuvi 350 for $360. DH "paid" $180 of it for my present, the rest I decided to use my birthday money from. Yes I still get birthday money, I don't expect it at all, my aunt, grandma, and mom sent me money. I guess they just like to give gifts. I did mention to my mom about the GPS, which is probably why she sent the money. Now I'm going to have order her one too, usually when we buy something like this our parents want the same deals. Hence they same computers, same digital camera, etc. And not just one set but both sets of parents.

The GPS should be awesome. I wonder if I should feel guilty over the price of such an expensive gift. But then again last year I got a $300 b-day present that keeps sucking money every month so this is a steal. In case you missed it last year I got a second Bichon Frise for my birthday. He costs about $75/month for everything so it's a continual drain of money. Good thing I like him a lot! Though he was my most expensive present ever, and still is. I think he brings relaxation and pleasure to us both though. And we got him for a good price because he is a rescue dog but purebred. We aren't keen on buying purebred dogs when there are tons out there for adoption. For reference we used for our first bichon, and for our second bichon.

What is the most expensive present you ever got? DH got an ipod a couple of years ago and hockey ticket this year. I'm not sure what we're going to do this year for him. I'm thinking maybe another hockey ticket or something. His toys have always been more expensive in general, but when I want something (like a dog) my one "gift" blows his out of the water.

But I'll let everyone know how it goes this weekend. I am dying to rip open the package but I'll wait until DH gets home to set it up before he yells at me for breaking it or something.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Carnival of Personal Finance #105

The second anniversary of the Carnival of Personal Finance #105 is up at JD's Get Rich Slowly. He asked that people post their best blog article.

I submitted my article "Jealousy/Envy" for submission. Something I think everyone feels at some point in time. The psychology of wanting what others have is normal, natural. The problem is being envious and only seeing the pros, none of the cons or sacrifices they have made to accomplish their goals.

Two articles in the same theme of what I wrote that I liked are "Can money buy you happiness?" at the financial jungle and "Money isn't everything" at blueprint for financial prosperity.

Money can't buy happiness but it can give you the opportunity to become happy. It matters to someone who is broke to get a million bucks, but to someone like Arnold going from $48 to $50M isn't a big deal. But that first million matters.

And money isn't everything like Jim wrote. Money means nothing if you have no one to share it with and aren't happy. You have to use your money to become happy, maybe spending time with friends and family. Being a scrooge isn't all that great. And like I wrote, a salary doesn't define you. At least it better not or I'd be worth 1/4 of what my DH is!

weekend getaway goals

Woohoo! We're going away for the weekend. I can't believe it. DH is finally going to take a day off not to study or work on the house. Instead this Thursday we take off for Toronto. Though it's just a weekend away we'll be spending I guessimate about $1k for the entire weekend.

Our hotels already booked through priceline cost $307.30 including all taxes for the weekend. Not terrible, not great, but we are staying in downtown Toronto walking distance to everything and next to a T stop. So I think we're getting a decent deal.

Next for gas it's 542 miles, so 550 miles one way. 1100 miles round trip makes me think it will take about 4 tanks of gas, 1 tank = 300 miles. That will cost about $120. I'm not sure how to calculate the wear and tear on my car, but I'll need an oil change when I get back. Then the dog boarding is another $120 for the 4 days. Right now we're running at $550.

Can we spend $350 on eating out for 4 days? I don't think so but we were planning on going to niagara falls and riding the maid of the mist ($12.50 per person), the CN tower ($25 per person), hockey hall of fame ($13 per person), and cathing a baseball game at the skydome ($10 per person). So in activities I guess we'll be spending about $120 for the weekend, leaving us $230 to eat out for 2 people.

Can we do it? I guess we'll see, I'm posting it here, because I plan on pricing our trip and seeing how we do. I think we can do it, but it really depends on whether we feel like indulging in our trip or not.

I'm guessing that we'll easily spend $230 which makes me sort of feel guilty, yet not at the same time. We've had a lot of extravagent trips these past two years and now we're back in student mode, no money and no time. Sigh. Maybe we can make the best of it.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Charging Rent?

Today DH's best friend is defending his thesis. Then he's moving up near us and is planning on staying with us. I'm not sure how long. I've cleaned out the guest bedroom, had the cable turned on, and on Friday a friend of his driving up dropped off about 15 boxes of stuff. We moved that into the guest room and it's starting to look really full.

But I was thinking, should we charge him rent after like 3-4 weeks? Is it appropriate? Or do we just let him pay for food? Do we charge him for food after 3-4 weeks? He's stayed with us at most 2 weeks at a time, which has never been a big deal. But previously those were visits, not actually living here.

I think he'd be amenable if he can't find a place to live, but is it rude? And should we even bother? And how much do you even charge in this case?

Also it's possible he'll find a place soon after moving in. He's not really the type to be on top of things, so I worry he'll move in with the intention of moving out, but gets lazy and doesn't. And I like him, so I can't just kick him out (no way DH's kicking him out). But I think I can deal with a month.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Happy Father's Day!

Happy Father's Day to all men out there. Hope it's a good one. Dad, thanks for everything.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Cost to entertain?

What does it cost you to entertain friends/family at your house? These past two weekends we've had bbqs at our house. Which was awesome and fun. I love entertaining, but my pocketbook says not.

We had about 6-10 people both times. Not a huge party, but not tiny either. We also did provide everything and did not do a potluck. I grew up with my parents entertaining a lot and going over to my families houses a lot. So I just like having people over because I enjoy it.

But I calculated and each time I think we spent about $75-100. Doesn't sound like a lot but it adds up really fast. Buying extra meat/food not on sale, but what I feel like providing. Also buying extra beer/wine for people coming over.

Is this outrageous? What is the average cost of entertaining at your house? Of course it's cheaper than going out unless you only pay for yourself. But I enjoy also relaxing at home. It's fun. Also this past weekend we went over to a friends house as well where I was observing their hosting and figured they too spent $50-100 easily on everything even with a potluck.

Because I have fun doing it, I don't mind. But I do feel a bit guilty for blowing our grocery budget. Do others feel this way?

Festival of Under 30 Summer Heat

This week the Festival of under 30 Summer Heat Edition is hosted by Matthew Paulson at

Following the guidelines I submitted my article "where to put savings...". Lots of great articles this festival check out Uncle Leo's "How to find health insurance", an absolute must for many twenty-somethings. While not under 30, Uncle Leo provides valuable insight for people just starting out. Looks like a great new blog, check it out.

Also check English Major's "Living on a stipend". We've lived so long on a stipend it's second nature. Can't buy anything. Anyway we're living almost large now.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Dental Work Followup

I had to cheap out on my dental work. Turns out I only paid $45 for two fillings. What? Well unfortunately I sought a second and third opinion today, and both dentists agreed that I did not need three crowns. I did need one crown, but neither had time to do it. And I was having an incessant toothache so one of the dentist instead just did a filling as a stop-gap mesure. Sure it won't last forever, but at least I'm out of pain until I can get an appointment and approval from the insurance to do the crown.

So both dentists agree that I should replace my original crown, although it might be the fault of my 1st dentist. Last year when my crown fell out, a different dentist at the practice in an emergency glued it back in. She did not tell me that it was not fitting well, nor did it appear in my dental records before as needing to be replaced. I got my records (grudgingly) and showed them to the second and third opinion dentists. Both agreed that it was probably due to her incompetance that I need to replace my crown.

Also both dentists said that the 3rd crown was utter lie, because neither could even see a need for a filling. Thus I paid $45 for two fillings (one of which was absolutely necessary), and $25/piece for a second opinion.

Money well spent I think to preserve my teeth and my pocketbook. Initially I was going to pay over $3-4k for the dental work suggested by the 1st dentist.

What I've learned? Get a second opinion even if your original dental office is pissed at you. Screw them, they are in it for the money. Don't just open your wallet and pay. Be careful, you only get one set of teeth. Having them drill it down is not cool! Instead consider not only the costs but the reality of not having your teeth.

So now with DH switching dental insurance, I have to figure out which dentist I really trust. I don't feel as though I've found anyone I really like. I think I'll ask for more references. The two second opinions were okay, but I hated the office staff at both places. They were super rude and the wait was horrible.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Carnival of Credit Card #16

The 16th Carnival of the Credit Card is up at Credit Card Lowdown. I submitted my article "Best Buy 0% CC" to the carnival.

Another small and starting out carnival. The best article of the submissions might be from 3debtconsolidation "when is your CC debt too high?" The author has a few guidelines including no more than 20% of take home pay, can't afford to make the minimums, etc.

Enjoy the carnival.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Supersized cars?

DH and I laugh all the time about our cars. Sigh one of my doors on my corolla is broken, luckily it's the back door behind the driver. While the front bumper of his car was smashed in. And my rear bumper was scraped by someone else. I feel good about our cars because we're super unlucky with them for some reason. During our time out on the East Coast, in 2 years we've had 3 hit and run accidents where you can see quite a lot of damage on our cars, but NO note. My rear bumper, DH's front bumper, and his rear bumper. I just don't get how people can hit someone else's car in a parking lot and LEAVE! I couldn't just leave, I would never be able to sleep again without nightmares. I would probably be comatose from the anxiety that the cops were coming, bad karma, etc.

But we were debating again, do you really need a large car for kids? When we first meet DH thought we'd never need anything larger than his focus. He did admit with 2 kids it "might" be better to have 4 doors, but he didn't think anything bigger than a compact necessary. Both of us were raised in tiny cars, VW rabbit and bug. But I argue it's because we didn't have car seats but bassinets our moms put in the front seat floor. Yeah nuts, but back then people appparently didn't put much stock into car seats.

So I'm wondering do people really need large SUVs or minivans? I can understand a sedan because well our cars are tight, but anything larger?

I argue it's necessary depending on age of kids and carseats. DH says no way can you ever have kids fast enough to not fit 3 car seats in a sedan. I don't know if that's true, except if you happened to have like twins or triplets.

I wonder are we supersizing our cars because we're buying to the larger space issues? Or is it necessary. FWIW, I would love a larger car, but my DH is a no-go person. So it's not happening.

But I posted on two different message boards WIR and Savingsadvice threads and the opinions were very differing and interesting. I haven't settled on whether we'll jump directly into a minivan or try a midsized sedan.

Carnival of Home Improvement #6

The 6th Carnival of Home Improvement is up at Mortgage Lowdown. I submitted my article "Condo Hell Update 2". I think it just shows how much a hassle home ownership can be sometimes.

Another great article by silicon valley blogger is "Proof buying a house is impossible..." that is totally how I feel sometimes living in one of the most expensive areas. But I can't let it get me down.

Anyway this is a small festival hopefully growing.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Where to put savings?

The festival of under 30's question for the next carnival is "Where do you put your savings?" Well to be honest mostly in my bank savings account. Why? I do put some in a vanguard money market, but to keep things simple I keep a large chunk of change in my savings account.

I find it easier to have a lot of cash on hand because we have a lot of bills to be paid monthly. To leave my account always close to zero would drive me insane because I'd have to transfer money back and forth all the time. I guess I'm not disciplined enough to make ever bill the same.

I guess I'm just lazy.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Best place to put savings?

Where is the best place to put your savings is the question for the next Festival of Under 30. I am sitting here thinking about it, and decided, wherever makes you happy.

It makes me happy to leave a nice chunk of money in my piddly bank savings account earning 1% because I like the freedom of being able to pay my bills without transferring money. The rest of my money is left in Vanguard. Why? Because I find it just easier to leave it all in one place. I don't like having so many accounts, I don't like tracking so many statement, and I don't like stressing over whether I'll have a bounced check because I have to wait for the cash to hit my account before I can pay a bill.

Carnival of Personal Finance #104

The Carnival of Personal Finance #104 is hosted this week at Going Green. Looks like a fantastic carnival with tons of great articles.

I submitted my article "Children working". But other great articles include "could you live off one income" at my two dollars, answer is yes.

The other article I liked was "Buying a profitable rental property" By Journey to Financial Freedom. I think that investing in RE is overhyped and the demands are really understated. Most people think jump in, instant money maker. But it's not as easy as it seems nor as lucrative as people make it out to be. We'll see in another 2-3 years if people say being a landlord is great.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Doctors are crooks!

Yesterday I took the day off from work to go to the eye doctor and dentist. I needed a second opinion on my teeth, which I am still unsure about and new prescription for contacts.

So I went to a vision service provider, which I got from the insurance website. I booked an eye exam and went in. Once there, I got examined and then was told they don't allow insurance to cover contact lens fitting. I said well how much? They replied $300. WTF? Last year when insurance paid it only cost $40 out of pocket and that was because I wear toric lenses. Well apparently this opthamologist is a SCAM artist. He decided that contact lenses are cosmetic thus he need only accept to write glasses prescriptions. And thus he can charge people for contact lens fittings.

I said "no thank you," took my glasses prescription and walked out. I was pissed. I called the insurance company the moment I left and was told yes I could have gotten a contacts fitting, but since he did the glasses I couldn't complain because he had meet the MINIMUM standard and it was his choice to not accept insurance for contacts. WTF? Apparently it's bait and switch tactic at the doctor's office where they think you'll be to hassled to make a fuss and just pay! The guy is a jerk. I was really pissed and more pissed at the insurance company for allowing someone to behave like this.

Frustrating. Doctor's think they are God. They think that they are able to behave however they see fit. But what they are not understanding is that the medical system I think is due for a huge change and it's going to happen faster than they expect. What? Well for one thing it only cost $99 at Costco for an eye exam and contacts fitting. Next time since it's so cheap I'll just go there. Plus I annually order my contacts from costco.

But I can't believe the sleeziness of this doctor. Trying to rip people off who don't want to come back by saying that he'll only write glasses prescriptions. I guess I'll show my true blue colors and say I'm a die-hard socialized medicine supporter. arrgh.

$300 for just contact lens fitting! Pshaw! I can buy all my contacts for that much.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Condo Hell Update #2

Last night DH meet with other "trustees" regarding issues for our condo association. First up, since we flooded the downstairs unit and it was found that the master condo insurance would pay for it, we were off the hook for the deductible. So that was a nice starting bonus.

However that lead to the first point of contention. The owner whose house we flooded wanted to pocket the insurance settlement and pay for the repairs. But DH, I, and "the couple" are against this. Thus it was negotiated that he could submit reciepts for repairs or directly bill the association. Well see how that works out.

Second major point of contention is our retaining wall. When we purchased the seller/developer lied to us and said the money was set aside prior to our closing. Our attorney dropped the ball by not checking, however it was written into our purchase and sale agreement. Then she tried to not pay up and also tried to pay a lower amount than the agreed upon 40% of $20k.

Now the "brother owners" bought their condo with cash, thus they DID not do any due diligence, and failed to get a 6d certificate. This would have certified that no outstanding debts were due to the association, but the developer sold it cash so she didn't have to get a 6d certificate. She had asked for one, but we had refused to sign it because she had not paid our 40% and the 20% for the condo she was selling. However after we negotiated more through our lawyer whom we paid, she forked over 60% of her $6k estimate. This we felt was unacceptable because there were two other quotes for $18k and $20k to repair the retaining wall.

However, because we got some money from her through OUR lawyer we called the money ours. However she attempted to say it was for the other unit as well. That is where we are stuck right now. First she won't put up money for the higher quote. Which if it should come in less, we will return the money to her. Second, the unit she sold in cash, should pay the 20% of higher amount because they did not fully investigate the debts associated with theunit before purchasing. When we bought we were shown only the $20k quote and assured it was set aside.

Thus right now we're fighting over whose money it is. We're not backing it down because we paid a lawyer to obtain the money. So why should "the brother owners" get a portion of it?

What is the next step? I don't know, but this is why living in a condo sucks. I hate it, I hate all this negotiating and trying to make decisions as a team. I'd prefer just living alone and being solely responsible for our actions/decisions.

One day I shall own a single family home and be able to do what I want, when I want, and make all the noise I want. I hate condo living...

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Company update

So a couple of things about DH's job situation. He took the new job, but it may be for the best. Today he got a very strange email at work asking that if anyone was taking time off next week please contact HR. Very strange indeed. He thinks and others have hinted that potentially layoffs are coming. And if they are coming, sure he could have stayed and collected severance, but this way he beats the rush in looking for a new job. When a ton of resumes are hitting the market, it's better to beat them and not look desperate. This way the company hiring DH was under the impression that he did not have to leave his company if he didn't want to. This makes the deal he got even sweeter.

I guess I should also mention the whole compensation and why it's a paycut but it's not at the same time. First he got a nice $10k raise in salary. But he is giving up a bunch of company stock. We're going to leave about $40k on the table, plus potentially another 10k in bonus next year. But the company he's going to hopefully will give him a generous bonus as well next year. But a huge selling point is the company will be reimbursing him tuition for his MBA program. Right now we've paid about $15k this year, and another $15k for the rest of the year. So that's $15k we'll be getting back potentially, which we will have to pay taxes on, but it will be really sweet if it happens. So DH figures what he's losing in income is being made up by his tuition benefit.

Another point which is pissing me off, his current company is terrible at reimbursements. It's been about 1 month and still no reimbursement for his conference last month. It really bugs me because we floated them the money on our CC, which I can pay but I'm just pissed that they haven't given it to us yet. I don't like this business of reimbursement but that's how it works for us.

Anyway DH has about 2 weeks left at the company he's giving notice today. I wonder if he'll be told to just leave? Or if he'll be asked to be "let go." One can only wonder what this evening holds.

Also up tonight a meeting with our neighbors regarding issues with our condo association. Can I mention again how much I hate living in a townhouse? I wish we could have afforded a single family home. Right now I realize I sound like a spoiled child, but it's tough waiting to be able afford a single family house when there are are so many people out there complaining about buying a $300k SFH.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Best Buy 0% CC

So we don't really do too much CC arbitage, but we've always done the 0% CC offers. I've actually considered doing it for furniture, but haven't been able to find the right furniture. Anyway though this month I just finished paying our 0% CC bill to Best Buy. It feels really nice to be able to not have the payment hanging over our heads.

The very first time we did a 0% CC we had the cash on hand to pay for, but it seemed a better cash flow purpose to use the Best Buy CC. We didn't make a lot of money and were purchasing our first condo together. We had pretty much scraped every penny to afford the 10% DP, closing costs, etc such that it was tough for us to part with our last $1k to pay for our washer/dryer/fridge. We preferred at the time to keep the little money we had as an emergency fund and charge instead those three items.

Turns out it was a good idea. Three days after we closed and the washer hose broke flooded the downstairs unit. We fortunately had home owner's insurance though we were not living there yet. But we did have to pay the $1k deductible. So our little cash money went to that instead of our CC. That's what got us hooked on paying for things with a 0% CC.

Borrowing money from a CC at 0% still seems risky to us. But buying stuff seems acceptable. I don't know what the difference is. DH financed his first car as well $5k, but as a foreigner it was a good way to build credit, and keep cash on hand in case of emergencies. We still have the car 7 years later, though the loan was retired after 3 years.

I've asked DH whether we're done playing with 0% CC deals. He says he's not sure he'll ever pass up a deal to finance something at 0%. Me, I'd like to be at the point one day of affording everything cash up front easily. It may or may not happen. I am not going into debt, but I'm not sure if we could ever part with our money when the opportunity to make more were presented.

But I'm not a CC abuser, so I cannot speak as someone whose experienced CC debt. Our debts have been a mortgage, 1 car loan (no plans of more unless it's 0%), and student loans. So for us personally our debts have been tied to our educations. Thus we've never lived beyond our means, it's just that affording the tuition 100% in cash, while working we haven't been able to accomplish. We don't take out any school loans for living, just purely tuition purposes. And we've paid for part of the tuition in cash as well when I was an undergrad and DH now.

So while we'd like to live debt free, I don't know if we ever will. Yes, sounds crazy, but DH is a major leverage fanatic. I wrote months ago how aggressive he is with investing and has no qualms about losing our investments. And the same risk tolerance is applied to our debt/leverage. I don't think he'd leverage us broke, but he would be willing to gamble.

Our next 0% purchase, I forsee maybe furniture, maybe a car but who knows.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

May 2007 Networth Update

We increased our networth by almost $17k in May or 8.63%. But most of that money was from cashing out the ESPP we have at DH's company, since we do 15%, it's a lot. Anyway that money is already earmarked to pay cash for DH's summer school, so next month it'll be gone! poof! We'll be out about $10k of it like that. Ha, I notice this a trend in our life, we make a nice sum, and could use it for a great vacation or something. Instead we just spend it tuition!

Monday, June 04, 2007

Children Working?

If your children work and earn money would you take it to support your family? Would you expect them to pay for household bills?

I read that and couldn't believe that parents would do it. I would like my children to work a few hours and earn spending money, but I would not be charging my children for food, shelter, and transporation unless it was a dire emergency. I would have to be broke and pretty much out on the streets before I would take my children's money for things I consider basic necessities. Above and beyond yes they need to pay for, but basic needs?

I was appalled on a message board that a parent would send their teenage children out to work to help support the family while not working herself. First, I do understand her not working because they have 10 children. I have to add right now all of the 10 children are under 18. None are adults according to the legal limit. But shouldn't her husband get a second job, or she work nights somewhere before sending out their teenage children to get jobs because they cannot meet their bills? That to me is ridiculous to expect your children to bail you out of your mess, while sitting on your tush.

How can any parent allow their child to work say fast food at nights while they sit at home? How can any parent not be delivering newspapers at 3 am to try and make ends meet while allowing their teenager to instead deliver newspaper and then taking the money to pay bills? I know life throws you for loops, but don't parents have a responsibility? Shouldn't they be trying to pay for basics? Otherwise, this might be harsh, why are you having those children?

I guess I'm not very sympathetic, but I would never take my children's money without desperately needing it and working already to the bone. If I expected my children to work and contribute to the household, I would only do so after I had worked as many hours as physically possible. Otherwise I would consider it selfish and irresponsible.

I might be wrong because I'm not a parent. So other parents out there will probably correct me and tell me that kid should at age 14 or 16 pay for a portion of food, gas, groceries. But to me they are still children. They are still my responsibility. And I should be the one working, not them to put food on the table, shelter over their heads, etc.

So yes I am being judgemental but we are not talking about kids who live at home while in college. We are not talking about kids paying for cell phones, fancy clothes, cars, etc. We are talking about basic necessities, ends meet. The problem is that these people cannot afford to feed, clothe, shelter, transport their kids without extra help.

Spousal Reimbursement?

I guess I'll leave this up for at least a week and then check out the stats. This is my first attempt at a poll, I think it looks okay. I need to work a bit more on my website design skills.

Anyway I think it should be interesting to see these results. I am guessing that the majority of people who answer will be biased mainly because they are PF bloggers.

But my question is would you allow your spouse to reimburse you for your expenses?

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Marital Financial Bliss #6

I read a message board LLNOE, where people are paying off debt. No biggie right? But some of the spouses are not on board. But I read a thread where one spouse "reimburses" the other spouse for their spending and was complaining about the spouse not being on "board" to pay off debt. WHAT?

That's just nuts. I would rebell if my DH tried to put me on a reimbursement system and I think he'd feel the same. I guess that is probably the reason for the debt, lack of communication about money between spouses.

I wonder what would happen if more people before marriage had to go to premarital counseling which included a huge section on money? Since money is the number factor for divorce, what would happen if people had to talk about their relationship with money before marriage?

Would it help or hurt? Would we be more open? People share about past relationships, family life, etc, and yet they never discuss their debts, views on retirement, etc before marriage. Why is there so many issues with money? I wonder do most people discuss finances before marriage?

DH and I didn't really discuss finances before marriage, but then again we shared pretty much our entire adult lives together so there wasn't much before marriage. We graduated college and meet. So now sometimes we have issues over spending money, but usually it's DH's problem. I am not a spendthrift, but he's such a cheapskate that it raises issues. But we're dealing with them, he can wear clothes that are new and can have more than 1 pair of shoes!

But back to the case, why would someone require their spouse to put in receipts for reimbursment? It sounds like a control issue to me.

How do you split bills and finances with the spouse? Does anyone else have a spouse who doesn't feel like they deserve anything? Or castigates themselves for purchasing anything? Or feels that a penny spent on anything not absolutely necessary is wrong? That they are a bad person for spending money?

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Flipping Houses..Fraud?

A news article presented that the star of "flip this house" is a fraud. The star Sam Leccina did not own the homes he "fixed, flipped, and sold" and he did not actually repair the homes as it appeared on the show. A&E has already pulled the show/reruns and wiped any mention of the show from their website.

Also the star did not really makes the profits he was supposedly reporting. In fact Leccina does not even posses a real estate license anymore. All the "so-called" profits were fake.

I know most personal finance bloggers will laugh at the show. But many normal people actually watched the show and believed it was so easy to make money. They actually bought into flipping houses for a profit.

I know this because my mom is one of those people. She watches shows like this and thinks "wow, real estate is a sure thing." Sigh. I hate these shows because they give people foolish hope. They only show the positive aspects and none of the negative ones. Also now they aren't real to boot!

My parents were thinking of buying a third home. They believed a $400k 1 bd condo, which would generate $1600/month rent (this is what they are paying), with a $300/month condo fee is a good deal. What is the return on the investment? Well I think it's around 3%. Great, but my mom only see "I'll make $1k/month to bring home, off a $400k investment." Arrgh.

I'm so glad this show is being shown for a fraud. These shows prey on the uneducated and greedy. People thinking it's so easy to make money, rather than just save and building a nest egg slowly. But that wouldn't be a fun show. That would be average joes, living average lives.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Cable Decision

So now that we're switching our cable/internet/phone to Verizon, RCN has discovered this because we're porting our phone number. So we got 3 desperate phone calls from RCN attempting to retain our business. RCN is not willing to give us a new deal. Apparently when I mentioned leaving I didn't sound serious enough last week. Why do companies do such things? Why not just put your best deal forward? I read somewhere that it costs 5x more to signup new clients than just retain your current clients.

So on Friday I decided to play Verizon against RCN. I asked for their best deals, and got better than expected offers from both. I was offered by RCN 2 HD-DVR receivers, free premium movie packages, free long distance, and one month free for $110/month. Not bad. But then I called Verizon and they offered me FIOS internet, cable, and phone with free long distance, multi-room HD-DVR, second box, free premium movie channel, free first month, and a 2 year guarantee price. What price? $99/month for all of that, what a nice deal. Thus I decided to stick with Verizon.

So turns out that cancelling my directv isn't as big a deal as it would seem since I get a free first month. I only wish I could do this with car insurance. But living in MA, because drivers are so bad the state has to regulate car insurance otherwise it would be too unaffordable. But that's another post.