Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Frugal Causation?

What caused me to be frugal? I'm not sure, I don't think it was my parents. They instilled do not carry credit card debt and live within your means. But that could not be defined as frugal because they had very high means.

So I'm not entirely sure where my frugalness comes from. I was frugal even before I meet DH and he certainly did not help my frugal gene. Instead he encouraged it by coming from a cheap family.

My grandmother is a very frugal lady so having been raised by her it's perhaps where I learned my frugality. She would reuse everything, never wasting a dime. But perhaps my frugalness is a hybrid of my parents spending habits with my grandmother's frugalness.

I might also add for DH and I buying a house so young really disciplined us into saving. Not in a typical manner of money in the bank, but of living with less. We suddenly had to change our thoughts and lifestyle to accomodate being homeowners so young. Our attitudes were adjusted immediately. Typically people learn how hard it is to own a home with unexpected expenses. Learning in our early 20s gave us a huge jump on life. We just rolled with living with less.

So was our frugality a learned trait? Or one born out of necessity? I'm not sure but I hope I can maintain our frugalness for a long time. But it feels to be getting more difficult in someways and easier in others.

How did you become frugal?

Monday, July 30, 2007

Practical or Impractical?

We narrowed down our sofa selection to two choices. One a sofa for $899 from Costco. It is sturdy, durable, dark colored, and comfortable. The second sofa from a store is $1999 but is cream leather, gorgeous and super comfortable.

We love the leather sofa, but it's twice the price, while being less likely to hold up against the wear and tear of dogs and children. So the question now rises should we blow money on a sofa that will look like crap probably sooner? Or a couch that already looks like crap?

This will take more meditation...

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Home Maintenance...

I don't think anyone should own a house who doesn't like to do home maintenance. I have to complain about this because my parents have lived in the same home for 20+ years and have not maintained it at all.

My mom blames the fact they didn't have the money, which is an untruth. Nope, my parents don't like to do home repair. They don't do it themselves, they pay someone. But they also do not like to take responsibility and call a repair person. Truth is that my parents wish a genie would appear and fix the house.

They have no idea what it means to own a house. Right now the house I grew up in has a leaking roof, a rotting pipe, tiles falling out of the bathroom, a broken window, mold, termites, etc. But do my parents care? Not really, in fact my dad says they should sell the house as-is. I get so frustrated because my parents don't care for their belongings. They enjoy buying stuff like cars/homes, but they don't bother maintaining it.

I think people need to really consider their lifestyle before buying a home. After all even if you have all the money in the world, if you do not like maintaining a home then it's not a worthwhile investment. Instead you will be living in a house you hate, not maintaining it, letting it rot. Then when it's time to sell you resent the house and the amount of work necessary to bring it up up to a reasonable standard of care.

My parents I might add are again looking at houses. They are hoping to buy another condo, in move-in ready condition. I personally think they are nutters. My mom says that we don't understand the realities of homeownership because we like taking care of our house. We enjoy home repair, not true.

She thinks that it is normal to call people to replace a lightbulb. Trust me, until I meet DH I thought that's what people did. They pay people to change light bulbs, garden, pretty much do anything. But I'm realizing that home ownership is a huge financial drain for people who refuse to view their home as an asset.

Guess people should be cautious before leaping into home purchases.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Hair cut expenditures

A person would think that a woman's hair cuts would cost more than a man's. However in our relationship it is DH who spends more on haircuts. On average he spends $16/haircut every 3 weeks. I get my hair cut maybe 2x/year for $40 because I grow it out and chop it short.

I was asked by a fellow cheapskate why I don't cut DH's hair. I used to cut his hair during graduate school to save money. But because of my efforts he was forever immortalized bald on his old laboratory's website. The day they took pictures was the day after an infamous haircut I gave him. I was new at cutting hair, and thus DH had a few bald spots. Thus he decided to go bald instead of walking around with rat bites.

Well after a few more bad haircuts, I improved enough to be considered decent. However after DH graduated and got a real job, he demanded real haircuts. Meaning he never wanted to have to take a razor and go bald again from my mistakes. Plus I suppose that having a real job it's necessary he looks decent instead of bald whenever I get careless.

But would I spend $200/6 weeks? Honestly yes, if I could afford it and were debt free. Sure I'd have no trouble. So I guess Lazy Man shouldn't complain too much. I think it's a fun treat his wife enjoys and they appear to be debt free earning terrific salaries.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Asking for an inheritance...

On another board someone asked the question, how do you deal with inheritances? I feel a bit uncomfortable to say the least asking my parents questions about their money. However I did ask yesterday about whether my parents have a will, they do not. It's a little frustrating that my parents are avoiding their own mortality.

But financial aspects aside, my parents really need to put down the wishes on paper. My grandfather was cremated though my mom and her siblings insisted that he would have preferred an open casket funeral. My grandmother does not approve of that, so he was cremated. But since he didn't leave his wishes known what can you say? I think my family likes to practice "avoidance" more than anything else. Same thing happened to my uncle (my grandmother's brother), he died a few weeks prior to my grandfather and no one knew what his wishes were.

Sometimes I could kosh Asian families on the head. They don't like to admit their mortality and the idea of discussing money is so taboo. So instead they leave their estates in financial ruin.

As for my parents with 4 kids, I wish they would have a will. I was told on another board I should ask my mom now for a few items I want before anything happens. There are two pieces of jewelry, not worth much maybe $500, which I want. One is my grandfather's ring and the other my grandmother's engagement ring. I would also like to have my girl's day dolls. These are quite expensive, but they were given to me as a gifts and not my parent's at all. I also would like my hand-sewn kimono from my grandmother. However these items reside in my parents house. DH knows how I feel about these items and thinks I should ask for them. I would never sell any of these items.

But if I can't discuss money or a will with my parents how can I ask for these things? It seems greedy like I'm expecting an inheritance. I just am very unsure how people deal with inheritances, especially inheritances that are not fiscal. Plus how do equitably divide it among your children.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Poll: Cutting Expenses

Interestingly I decided to end the Poll about "Cutting Expenses." I was very surprised that the first item to be cut when in debt repayment mode was groceries. People chose groceries at 45%, with eating out coming in at 29%.

This was shocking to me. I personally voted eating out because I feel that category is discretionary. If I were paying off debt I'd stop eating out period, and my grocery bills probably would go up a bit.

Eating out is really a luxury to me. Also I would probably cut stuff like cable and fun money before the groceries, because I see those as extra. I however see people's point that groceries are the easiest line item to cut because it's usually over-inflated.

But I wanted to ask, how much easier is it to bring your lunch one day a week and save $5-10 right there than cutting $5-10 at the store? Or bring your lunch everyday and save $25/week instead of cutting $25 from going shopping?

But perhaps all those voters can convince me otherwise. The people who voted groceries probably don't eat out at all.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

New Mortgage Poll

Created a new poll about your mortgage!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Delayed Gratification?

Last night over dinner I was discussing with our new house guest whether we should have enjoyed our 20s more or if we spent it too conservatively saving and being responsible. He told me that he's enjoying his money, freedom, and time now because when you are 40+ you won't be able to backpack everywhere and travel.

I mulled this over and decided he's right. He's seen pretty much everywhere, but has no money saved, no assets, no debt. He's a very frugal guy, and travels as cheaply as possible. But it still takes a lot of money. If you asked him what he spend on traveling, I think over the last 7 years at least $10-15k/year on traveling.

Now while I believe that I could never have spent that much on travelling even if I had, the money, I wonder if my reluctance to be a wild 20-something didn't stem from meeting my soul mate? Thus I felt that I needed to grow up, save for a wedding, house, car, children. That my future seemed more realistic and tangible than my friend's?

That perhaps if he were dating or in a serious relationship, that he would not be able to just travel? I mean if his future wife said I'd like to buy a car or a house, he probably would have to sacrifice a few annual trips. So is it really that some people are carefree and others are not?

Or is it that some people already have a life plan in their 20s, a person to share their life with, and thus are unable to really let go and enjoy their money? I mean if we didn't buy a house, cars, and wedding, we could have travelled the world already. But would I be happy worrying about having kids, college, retirement, etc right now if I had done that? Would I feel as though I had really grown during my 20s or wasted it?

I haven't quite figured it out yet. But I think my wandering soul meet the right person a bit early so I was unable to really spend money carefree.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Helping children out?

How much help should you give your children? Where do you draw the line?

With DH's best friend living with us, he's going through the debate over whether to buy or rent. Usually it's a pretty simple answer. Buy if you plan on staying put but rent if not. But the unknown factor in the equation is what if your parents were to "gift" you with the cash for a DP? Would that affect one's decision to buy?

I think it would. After all you are mitigating risk by not having to supply the cash. You are reaping potentially reward with minimal loss. And you have an opporunity to get started with life faster. But the truth is it a good idea for a parent to give such a gift?

I know this guy and his parents can afford it easily. But I don't think they should give him the gift because honestly I don't feel he's a very responsible guy. He's a nice guy, but he's 30 and hasn't saved at all for retirement. Instead he travels and spends all his money. He doesn't have any debts, but he also has no assets. Part of it is the expectation of having an inheritence, which is not a bad thing.

But I wonder if this is the right way to "gift" your children with money? Should you help them out? What would be a better solution? I'm interested because I wonder if DH and I will be in that position one day?

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Discarding furniture...

Today we were in Costco just getting a couple of items and we saw a couch. Now we have been saying we wanted a couch for 2 years now since we moved into our new place. But we've never been able to find something that fits, we like, and is in the right price range.

The couch we saw was $1019 for a sectional sofa. The fabric seemed sturdy (microfiber), it was comfortable, and the size appeared to be the right dimensions. We have to go back and measure it more to see if it fits in the doorway.

But how do you buy furniture? For us it's been a real struggle buying furniture and since we've moved in we didn't really add much more than a spare bed and TV. Which is crazy when you consider we went from 570 sq ft to 1800 sq ft. We have the same bed, couch, couple of dressers, etc.

Our house is definitely barren looking. I feel that furniture is meant to be kept a long time. Or at least our super frugal parents keep warning me don't buy furniture. You have to keep it 30 years. DH for once, says if we hate it in 5 years or it breaks we can get rid of it. But who really gets rid of their couch, dining set, bedroom furniture if it no longer fits (because they move) or it breaks? Isn't it supposed to last a lifetime? Thus the dated look of people's furniture?

Philosophically it's only $1k, and we spend more eating out annually or on our dogs. But we do have a couch that works and so I quantify this desire as a want, not a need. But granted it only really seats two people and so with our new roomie, we do need to pull up a dinner chair to sit watching tv together.

But perhaps I'm being way to stingy and cheap by thinking that we have to keep our stuff until it breaks? Maybe DH is right, we buy the furniture that fits our needs as we can afford it. I don't know, I guess I'll have to mull this choice of discarding perfectly good furniture.

To put it into perspective, it's like getting rid of a perfectly great car because your family no longer fits in it, but it's hard to part with because the only justification to ditch it is the size.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Books, a waste of money?

I've discussed with friends what are disposable income items which you buy? One of the top purchases is obviously clothes. But it can be difficult sometimes to distinguish how extra clothes are because for many people there is a certain look they need to achieve for work.

However one disposable item that people seem to always buy is books. I just bought the Harry Potter book 7 last night and it cost $22. Which seems insane to me. But this is the one book I just had to have. However for the most part I don't buy books.

I'm a huge fan of the public library being an avid reader. I borrow books all the time. I can honestly say the last book I bought for pleasure, not school etc, was the last Harry Potter book 6. But bookstores are still making a living and I often go sit in a book store and read for hours. So I can see people buying books. I wonder why people don't use the library more? Or buy used books from the library for 25 cents?

Are books the biggest use of disposable income? The argument can be made for eating out, except by many single people who tell me it's for counteracting loneliness, dating, and saves them money from buying food that rots. So eating out depends on person. But books are they a waste of money?

Harry Potter Book 7!

Harry Potter came out today. Awesome. I'm done with the book, I picked it up yesterday at midnight. Read a bit, went to bed and finished it this morning.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Concession sneakage...

I bought a couple of tickets to the movie Transformers. For the record it wasn't a bad movie, much better than expected. Also there were very few children in the theater, mostly adults and some teenagers.

I bought the tickets from Costco because they give you discounted AMC tickets for $7.50. It's a nice deal. We used to go Regal Cinemas and used the Entertainment book coupons for $5.50. Even better way to save money on tickets. When you consider adult tickets are now $10.50 fo anytime other than matinees. And ever matinees are $7.50.

Going to the movies is a rare treat. But I guess I should ask it is wrong to bring in your own concessions? I feel somewhat bad sometimes, but not all time. At the theater last night we brought in two sodas and a box of candy. Now I sort of feel bad because we probably should not be bringing in food.

But are there circumstances where it's allowed and accepted? What? Well the other theater we go to happens to have a Coldstone's Ice Cream attached so many, many people buy an ice cream and enter. The people working never say a peep, perhaps because Coldstone's has a deal with them. Thus I wonder is it really bad to bring in your own concessions if at some theaters it appears to be allowed?

Do you bring in your own concessions?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

What I (we) do to be frugal?

Inspired by other bloggers being frugal. I had to stop and think if we do things to be frugal?

1. Bring lunch to work - DH now eats out on $10/week, but this just started 2 weeks ago. For 7+ years he has faithfully brought his lunch, as do I. I still do because I need to control my weight more than he does. Surprisingly I think it saves a lot of money.

2. Bike/Carpool to work - I've done both, and DH is currently carpooling to work. We save a bit on wear and tear on the car, healthier, etc.

3. Buy quality clothes - we bought winter clothes when we moved here 2 years ago, and we haven't replaced any of it. Most people add to their clothes, but not us. And if we gain weight we work really hard to lose weight because we don't want to buy new clothes.

4. Never shop - we don't go to the mall, we don't window or online shop. We go out for a purpose only. This way we never spend extra money. I hadn't stepped foot in a walmart/target for almost 2 years before I went in with friends. We aren't shoppers.

5. Track spending - new thing I'm doing this year. I've always watched our spending but it was trending higher than I would have liked in 2006, so this year I curbed it by writing down all purchases. It used to be that when our CC bill would hit $800 I told DH take it out of the wallet and spend nothing. Eat out of cupboard, etc. Now I'm not so bad, but I'm getting strict again about only spending what is planned.

I guess these few things keep us relatively frugal. We're not super frugal, we could be a lot cheaper. We used to be a lot cheaper, but it works for us.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Condo Hell Update #3

Okay I am right now fed-up completely with my neighbors. I hate living in my townhouse. I absolutely think it's a great house and love living here, but I cannot stand having to share my expenses and agree with everyone.

I want to the King and Queen of our Kingdom. Right now we're Senators not accomplishing anything. So we bickered and argued more about money. I'm tired of liars, cheats, and con-artists.

Basically the 3rd unit owner is all of those things. I am not fabricating anything. We're willing to pay up our portion of the retaining wall but he is refusing. What are we going to do? My DH again is being very compromising and decided to negotiate part of the money collected from the developer to be for the unit. This way we can move forward. I hate them and I do not want to give them any money period. I might have been more amenable earlier this year but not any more.

Why? Well they refuse to submit and itemized invoice for repairs done to their unit from the insurance settlement. So last night we ended up in a bitter fight with them saying "the contractor was too busy to supply a reciept." My mom always say if it smells like a rat, sounds like a rat, it is a rat! And the 3rd unit owner is a RAT! Something fishy is going on, but he is being a jerk.

So I'm becoming unforunately more irritable with each passing day. I've realized that I hate the 3rd unit owners and despise their lies. The 3rd unit owners lied about the gutters/downspouts. They lied about the electrical wiring. They lied about the money paid by the developer. My DH has compromised on pretty much everything, why? Because he just wants to move forward.

He says that we need to keep good relations with these unit owners. So tell me readers how can owning a single family home cost more and be more hassle than this? I have had to pay more money for damages to my house NOT caused by myself but by idiot owners. We have had to compromise, compromise, compromise.

This is it. I am tired of compromise. I even hate the word. And for what? What did it really save me? Nothing. This townhouse has cost us more emotionally and financially than any single family purely because we have to repair damages done by idiots. You have to have gutters and downspouts, but when the jerks won't pay for it, what choice do you have? Or electrical wiring damaged by those same jerks.

There is no way to get money from a unit owner easily and by "compromising" and allowing the association to pay half of it, the work at least gets done. But these jerks cause the whole problem which by the way they never ask permission from the condo, so the problem happens after the fact.

Thus living in a condo is a nightmare. It is pure hell. There is no escape. And without leverage and constantly trying to negotiate the house would fall apart to crap. There are citations for fire hazards. There is more damage done without a downspout/gutter. So what would you do?

Condos are too stressful.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Gambling..fun or waste of money?

I've gambled twice in my life. Once one night on a cruise ship with DH (one hand of roulette because we were drinking, we won $41 then went to bed), and once I went to Las Vegas for the weekend and played in this slots tournamet where you paid $100 for 3 nights stay at the hotel and got entered into the tournament. We had fun both times, but I'm not a huge gambler.

But it got me thinking. We probably live close enough to Atlantic City for a weekend getaway. But I'm wondering if it's worth the weekend? Las Vegas had lots to do with shows and just walking the strip. Honestly we spent more on a show than DH did on gambling ($20 versus $200).

But is gambling fun or a waste of money? Do people go to casino/resorts to gamble or just relax and gambling is a by product of the weekend? Do you have a budgeted amount to spend on gambling and when it's gone, you're done?

Obviously gambling is a huge money maker or else so many casinos wouldn't be around, and states wouldn't have the lottery. But is it your hobby? Do you enjoy it? I wonder if I had more disposable income if I would do it? I do want to see Atlantic City though.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Tax Ethics?

On a message board I read, I'm amazed by the number of people who incorrectly quote tax law. They claim to not pay taxes on items which I've paid taxes on in the past.

For example one man claimed to not pay taxes on his moving expenses on the company. When we moved cross country, sold a home to the company, and bought a house on their dime, we had to pay taxes on all expenses paid for by the company. Why? Because it was as though they had given us the money to pay all those expenses. Also we used a CPA and filed out tax return. The man used turbotax and deducted all of his moving expenses paid for by the company. I questioned the ethics of this and he never responded.

Second case, a woman claimed to not pay income taxes on tuition reimbursement from her company. At the IRS website I read and was told by the CPA that $5250 was not taxable but above that the reimbursement was taxable. The woman claimed it wasn't taxable because the tuition was paid by taxed dollars, thus getting the money from the company was also with taxed dollars. She didn't understand that taxed or not, it was reimbursement which would increase her income.

Third case was a person who claimed to have the still gotten the child tax credit for three children, though she claimed to have made $120k last year. Again on the IRS website it states that Married Filing Jointly incomes of over $110k have the credit phased out.

I just don't get where these people their information from? Are they using turbotax? Are they using a CPA? Why aren't they more informed about what is a tax deduction? I feel as though I shouldn't be as honest on my taxes because here we are DINKS paying a lot of taxes, yet not cheating the system at all. But others are making "mistakes".

Are you honest about your taxes? Do you use a CPA or turbotax? I wonder what percentage of people are honest while doing their taxes? Are these people just exceptions and not the norm?

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Networking for lunch...

Well we've been hardcore brown baggers for the 7+ years we've been together. Before because we were broke. More recently because I am on a diet (perpetual). If I eat out a lot I gain weight. I am just one of those people, for whom I have to watch my caloric intake and excerise.

But DH is not one of those people. He can eat, drink gallons of soda, not work out at all and still be super skinny and healthy. For example he ate 6 dunkin donuts free from work (because everyone else was on a diet) in one afternoon. Came home and ate dinner to boot.

Anyway though I brown bag because I try to control what goes into my food. Eating out has a lot of grease, lot of butter, extra calories I can't afford (waist-wise). And honestly I'm frugal, I'd rather eat out once a week a nice meal than everyday.

But DH really has been wanting to eat out for lunch. He gets invited a lot and feels as though he wants to go. So we decided to budget $10/week. Think it's reasonable? But we'll stop if he gains weight.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Subletting Room

Okay so we're subletting our spare room to DH's best friend. He was going to live till the end of the month for free and then try to sublet elsewhere but it doesn't look like it's going to happen. Now the question is how much to charge him? Obviously with him here for 6 weeks our utitlies will increase.

We're already storing all his stuff in our spare room, and he has a private bath that is clean. And our place is new. Big deal where we live, a lot of places out here are old and not clean. But he's gotta live with our dogs, and he's not a dog person.

Question is our utilities are for cable, internet, electric, and gas are $350/month. Cable, internet, and phone are $100/month, with electric/gas being $250 (balanced billing). So the question is what is fair? Also he'll be eating our food probably and using our toiletries probably. Also since he doesn't have a car, he'll probably have to carpool with DH to work, because they work in the same area. But he's DH's best friend so obviously a discount is in order, actually we're porbably lucky he's paying anything, if it were my BIL we might not be able to charge.

What would be a reasonable amount?

Friday, July 13, 2007

Financial Wedding Etiquette

I was reading the WIR message board where the topic often comes up, "Is it rude to ask for cash for a wedding?" Emily Post/Ms Manners answer is yes. It is rude to ask for cash only. It is also rude to insert registry information. But many couples do anyway.

Now realize that things differ for people based on religion, race, and culture. So I try to not stick to the standard Ms. Manners answer of asking for cash is rude. It'd be politer to not ask but have the best man/maid of honor tell people who ask, "yes they'd prefer cash" or "they are registered at such and such." With that being said we got cash for our wedding, but well that's traditional where we come from. Also my mom had a "money box" to hold all the envelopes/checks from people. This is not rude, I did not ask for cash, but every wedding in Hawaii does it this way, and DH's side of the family totally understood because culturally that's how they do it to. We only registered for gifts from our friends, because both sides of our families gave us cash.

So besides asking for money, the next question is how expensive of a gift should you give? This I wrestle with, because many people give say $25/per couple says the WIR message board. But where we live, that won't even touch the cost of the meal. And my mother has always told me you give the price of the plate. Now she also said there is no reason to go to a wedding if you don't really know the people and they are just fishing for a gift.

So I feel pretty comfortable giving a $50-$100/per person gift depending on the location, time, and setting of the wedding. I also might add that for relatives especially my close family, I do and will give more generously but that's obviously because of our close relationship. But I'm curious what most of my readers do regarding gifts for a wedded couple? Do you give enough to cover your meal or not? Does it depend on whether you are close to the couple?

Finally thank you notes. The only thing I did promptly was my thank you notes. They were mailed within 3 weeks of the wedding. My mom would have killed me otherwise, she's a stickler for thank you notes. But what I've noticed is that for pretty much every wedding I've ever gone to I've never gotten a thank you note. I've never been told if the couple got my gift or not. I don't know if this is a forgotten tradition, but it seems like no one sends thank you notes anymore. Am I alone in wondering if my registry gift got there?

These are my few thoughts on financial wedding etiquette. Especially with it being wedding season right now.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

We're in Debt blog

Found a very inspiring blog for those people who are in debt, it's called "We're in Debt" by the King and Queen of Debt. They started out 4 years ago with $150k in debt and have paid it off. The bulk of it $35k I think this past year.

What? How so? Well a very generous jump in income is where it all began. If you read his article "$35k paid in 1 year" the couple pretty much doubled their salary in 1 year. They went from $60k to I'd guess closer to $110k at least. I'm not sure. But with that increase in income it wasn't too tough to pay off $35k.

But they stuck to a budget and moved forward. That's the point though, no matter what your income you need to live within your means and move forward. Not everyone can double their salaries in a year. And not even lived a super extravagent lifestyle before so when debt payoff occurs suddenly tracking their expenses frees up 15% of their income. But it's a slow and definitive process.

Anyway it's a nice site and a good post.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Dental Followup...

Well turns out things got even worse. The dental office says I didn't give enough notice, 24 hours, though I called the day before. Which is fine, I should have called even earlier. But I still think $350 is an outrageous fee, especially when they have been holding on to $20 of my money!

Last year I had a filling done and was told to pay my portion of the payment as I left. I did this, but it turns out my insurance company overpaid and there was a balance of $20! I was never told this, nor was the insurance company informed that there was a balance in our favor (whose it is, not sure, but I think it's mine).

So I asked why they didn't refund me the money? The receptionist said because they were "holding" on to it until I came in for more dental work. I said what if I didn't come back? She said "Oh well, it's your responsibility to ask for the money back." Yeah right.

If this isn't shady dental practices I don't know what is. I called my dental insurance and was informed that I need to send in a letter informing them on paper what happened so they can investigate the dentist for insurance fraud. I also called the licensing board and was told to file a complaint about the $20 because they legally should not be holding clients money. What do you think the dental office is doing with all these overpayments by clients?

Also the dental office told me there was a sign, not BLATENT, but up somewhere in the office. They said that according to state law, they did not have to get me to sign a form or get me to even see the form and they can charge what they want. I'll be calling another dental office to confirm if this really is state law.

But for now I'm waiting for all my records to examine my previous bills, see their cancellation policy, etc. I think they are real jerks.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Dental Bill Outrage!

I cancelled a dental appointment last week. I did it because of DH's job change our insurance wasn't processed yet, though it would be eligible from his start date. I just wanted to confirm that the procedures would be covered and what my out-of-pocket costs would be.

The Dental Office assured me the would work on the billing later. I said no and I was cancelling the appointment. They said it would all work out and I was very uncomfortable with that. These were the people who wanted to do 3 crowns, multiple fillings, etc. I said no, so the receptionist said she would have to charge me a cancellation fee. I said "fine", expecting it to be $25-100.

Nope it was $350 to cancel the appointment. Which is an outrageous price. Of course turns out after I called my insurance company today, if I had gone, the dental office lied to me and they were not a "in-network" provider. So the procedures, 2 crowns, would not have been covered by the insurance. Instead it would have been $3k+ out-of-pocket. So the dental office blatently lied to me.

So now I have to go and argue with them over the cancellation fee, which I feel is outrageous. It is ridiculous that they are allowed to get away with this. But they are. I am going to call them tomorrow and ask about reducing the bill. I also am contacting the state board and reporting them to the BBB.

We shall see what happens...

Monday, July 09, 2007

Cost of Children...

Now we're getting really serious about children. I think we'll start trying to conceive at the end of the year. After all I was just called "old" by my mom! I'm going to be an "older" mom and I'm not even 30.

Well what are some costs? Well our medical premiums will go up. Instead of paying $32 every two weeks we'll be paying $55 every two weeks. That's a difference of $23 x 26 = $598/year. Not too bad. But I can't estimate what our co-pays will be because it will be dependent on the amount of times we go to the doctor but it's $10 co-pay to anyone who knows.

Second cost daycare. Will we spring for it? I doubt it, I'm thinking I'll work on my thesis stuff at nights if allowed and if not well I figure my parents and in-laws will be living with us for a bit. I don't plan on working once I'm done so we won't pay for childcare, unless I get a cushy night job (not out of the question).

Third things for the baby. Well since I've learned about couponing, I figure I'll be able to save a lot of money on diapers, potentially making it free or close to free. I know I should use clothe diapers but I'm not sure I'm up to the challenge (and DH refuses). Now how much does onesies costs? I'll say $3/each and I'm buying 30 = $90.

A couple of big ticket items will be the car seat, bassinet, and stroller. I'll estimate $500 for a car seat/stroller combo, and $100 for the bassinet. Are we missing anything I guess I might get the rest of the stuff used.

I posted on savingadvice.com today about the cost of children, and interestingly everyone there seems to think kids are really expensive. They doubted that anyone with 3 kids could be making it on the median salary of $45k/year. Yet on the baby board I visit a ton of families which are large are making it on that much or less a year. Are they really suffering? Do they really not have adequate medical, vision, dental care?

I am confounded whether kids are expensive or not. I used to think they are and still do in some ways. Like my lost wages. But in material goods and provisions, I now believe they are not expensive. I also believe that many people consider things like single bedrooms, cell phones, cars, college necessities when in reality they are luxuries.

So what is the real cost of kids? Are they really materially expensive? Of course they are expensive in terms of wages lost, less savings, etc. But do we really need to buy all these expensive items?

Carnival of Personal Finance #108

The Carnival of Personal Finance #108 is up at Broke-Ass Student. Looks like a huge carnival.

I submitted my review of the movie Sicko. Usually I don't review movies but this had a financial bent by being a documentary about the American Healthcare system.

Other great articles is "Don't expect a big pay raise" by consumer commentary. Nice ideas for earning more money. At My Money, My Life she writes about "Food, Money, Love". This is why my DH stays at home when I go grocery shopping. He buys without concern at all for money. We make good money = DH figures he can buy whatever he wants. And honestly being the child of poor immigrants, well food in both our households is the one thing neither of our parents skimp on. They don't waste, they buy quality meat, quality veggies, etc. We always got to eat good food, very well balanced and healthy. Not much junk food, we both grew up eating steak, rack of lamb, lobster, fish, seafood galore. Now that I pay my own food budget, I can only imagine what my mom spends on food a month! Holy cow sashimi every night for me and my dad @ $19.99/lb!

So as a foodie, I can't say I don't feel her pain!

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Money down the drain...

I probably shouldn't write it like that. But we spent an exorbitant amount this week during my FIL visit. More money eating out, going to attractions than our monthly budget for food/eating out/cable. Arrgh.

It's so frustrating because I don't mind spending money on them, but I feel that my in-laws never reciprocate the generosity to us. They never send birthday cards, christmas, etc. They do not send us gifts period. We've been together almost 8 years and I think I got a basket of hand lotion my first christmas visiting them.

It's really because they are cheap, not frugal but cheap. They never offer to pick up the tab, though they make more money than us. They never offer to pay for going out somewhere, though they suggest to go. They never offer us anything and they know we're "starting" out. This has been a pattern for years.

I don't know why it still bothers me and why it's always bothered me. I guess I would hope they would make some sort of effort. This Christmas DH bought them gifts and dinner, but he got nothing in return. Anything even a card would have been a gesture, never mind they forgot his birthday 2 weeks earlier (again a card or even a phone call would have been nice).

I just get angry because my mom sends DH a card, and now that we're married a b-day gift (shirt nothing fancy), and we get a joint plant for christmas every year from my parents. Even my grandmother sends DH a card and a phone call.

I used to give my in-laws gifts every Christmas, but slowly I've been diminishing it. I've also stopped sending a birthday card (basically I buy the card and hand it to DH to mail to his parents). I haven't had the nerve to stop mother's/father's day because i do it for my parents just a card in the mail.

What is so wrong with them? When we got married they never once offered to pay for anything, not even an offer. We paid for the wedding ourselves, but still an offer might have been appreciated. Also my MIL asked if we were getting married because I was pregnant, and why was her son marrying me if I wasn't "knocked up". Yes lovely, I still haven't forgotten over 4 years ago her saying that. No housewarming gift, no gift when them come to visit. Even a friend visiting brings a bottle of wine or plant or something, but not my in-laws.

I know this is a vent, but I can't help always feeling like my in-laws keep taking from us because they honestly feel DH "owes" them for paying for his room and board when he was growing up. They have said as much, that they provided him with food, clothes, shelter. Now he should be "repaying" them.

Ugh, there are many other things that bug me about them that are not at all financial. But since this is a financial blog I can only rant about the financial aspect of our relationship with my in-laws.

My parents are not perfect, but they try. They try to be nice to us, and they really do try to show us they care and appreciate our gestures. But I bet I don't even get a thank you for this week. I don't get acknowledged.

So my total for the week if I guess $1k for everything and it went to buy peace in my house. My parents are visiting in September, I wonder if I'll feel like this?

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Sicko..a review

Today I watched the Michael Moore (MM) movie called "Sicko". Typically I don't watch movies in theaters, but my FIL is in town and we had to entertain him. But more on that tomorrow.

So I am a die-hard liberal married to a socialist Canadian. Which is strange considering our finances. But I am a firm supporter and believer in universal healthcare. I believe it is short-sighted for people to think they are covered even my employer insurance. Why? Because imagine you are vacationing in Hawaii and crack your head on a surfboard. Then you go to the hospital, and are told you have to pay a lot of money, 50% because you are an out of network hospital, using an out of network doctor whose costs are considered "unreasonable" to your home state insurance.

Hmm...gee you'd be up the creek at that point. So how is it possible that people who work and pay for insurance would be so screwed? Well it can and does happen all the time. And the yet people believe a universal system is bad?

Watch the movie. I believe that MM overexaggerated the faults of the US system, but there are many problems. I also know he understates the waiting time for the Canadian, UK, and French universal systems. Being married to a Canadian, he says there are waiting times for medical treatments, but they can be shorter than the US system. What????

Well think how long it takes to get "pre-approval" for treatment? Or how much the insurance company fights paying for treatments? The film Sicko shows how much the average american has to struggle. But do they even think about universal healthcare? No.

Mainly because it's been demonized by the government. Truth is Canadians pay only 10% of federal taxes to their universal health care system. Americans pay 14.6% of their taxes because of skyrocketing costs of healthcare. Here's a link to check out. So if universal health care cost less why are using a capitalistic system?

But it does cost more in increased government taxes. Something which MM did not talk about in Sicko. Instead he focused on all the free care people receive from their governments. He did not address that it calls for increased tax revenues.

But why aren't we willing to change? MM suggests because Americans are afraid of revolting against the government. A corrupt government in bed with insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, and doctors. Also when he interviewed people in universal healthcare countries, they said they care about society in the whole and not just themselves.

And perhaps that is the root of the problems. Americans care about me, me, me, and never consider the bigger picture. If we had a socialized system imagine being able travel anywhere without fear. Imagine not worrying about losing your job or finding one to provide health insurance because you were covered by the taxes you paid? And that employers would no longer be able to skirt hiring you for 35 hours to not pay you health coverage?

Things might change. People might reconsider their lives. Definitely if we had universal system less people would need to declare Bankruptcy for medical catastrophes. The number #1 cause of BK is medical bills.

I would not believe ever point in the film Sicko. It's got a major liberal bias. However I do think it raises valid points to be thought mulled over. Perhaps when all is said and done you'll still think every man for himself and socialized medicine crap. But at least watching the film it will make you aware what socialized medicine is. It will also make you think about how easy it is to slip from a comfortable middle class existence to bankrupt by the wrong medical tragedy.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Expired Coupons

I don't know if many people use coupons. I am but I use very select few coupons because of the way I shop. Thus I have ton of expired coupons.

So what I've found out is that you should send your expired coupons to overseas military families. They are allowed to use coupons up to 6 months after the expiration date at the commissary. Also they do not get coupons while overseas like we do in the US.

Anyway a good site to use to send these families coupons is The overseas non-profit coupon org. I just figured if you get the coupons and don't use them, mail them off. It could cost a $1 but it might be a nice gesture for those serving abroad.

Buying a purebred dog

Okay, I'm nuts about my dogs. I enjoy having our Bichon Frises, one we got from a breed specific rescue, and the other a pound. I think the one we got from the pound is a little poodle, and not 100% Bichon Frise, but I could be wrong.

Anyway we spent $300 on each dog from both the pound and shelter. Both dogs came neutered, microchipped, and given vaccines. What a great deal. Also both our dogs were somewhat older and suppossedly housebroken (they are but they choose to party in our house sometimes). We specifically needed Bichons because of DH's allergies, we needed a dog that didn't shed.

But we weren't interested in paying a lot of money to purchase a puppy. But I was curious as to how much it would cost. We never even researched the prices of puppies because I've felt too guilty purchasing a dog when there are many slated to die (including our Bichon Mochi).

Right now checking online it would cost us $895 at the cheapest, up to $1500 for presumably show quality, to purchase a Bichon puppy. This does not shipping. Now if we went to a breeder nearby, it would probably cost more.

Our neighbors probably paid $700+ for their beagle. And what does she have that our two dogs have? Nothing. We even got papers for our first Bichon Stefan from the rescue group.

So I have to wonder, why do people spend so much on purchasing a dog? Is it because you want a puppy? And it's difficult to find a puppy in the shelter? Is it for the status of having a purebred dog? Is it because you plan on showing the dog? Do you not want a dog that has behavior problems?

Most people I know they don't plan on showing their dogs, so why is it necessary to get a purebred dog? I do understand the behavior problems, but most dogs from rescue groups are carefully screened to have wonderful personalities and are 100% adoptable.

I can't understand spending more money on a pet, which will love you whether they were $300 or $1000. Our $300 went to expenses incurred by the rescue and shelter, so we were paying more for the dog's care, not for the dog itself. I guess it's like clothes, most people want the new designer clothes. Not everyone wants the used one.

But something for parents out there considering buying a dog. Please don't, at least not until your kids are really old enough to be responsible. And don't buy a dog, consider adopting one.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Amazon Sucks!

Okay I ordered a used book from Amazon Marketplace. Unfortunately I bought the book from a seller and it was an older edition. The editioned I received was placed probably "mistakenly" in the 6th edition area.

I called Amazon, and they said to report the mistake by email. Then give the seller another 3-4 business days to respond. Then I could potentially get my money back. I am super unhappy with Amazon.

Their customer service sucks, their return policy is stupid, and they basically are useless. Why do I buy books from them? I really need to get the book but I'm now going to be stuck paying full price.

Sometimes I wonder if it is worth it? These online purchases seem perfect and too cheap to be true, and sometimes they are.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Happy Fourth of July

My one day break from blogging! Happy Fourth of July!

Monday, July 02, 2007

Picking an MBA school?

Is it worth picking a top program for an MBA? I think it is. But I'm biased. DH didn't go to the best school possible because he wanted to work. For him (us), our situation made it necessary financially for him to work, and he felt it necessary to get more work experience rather than school experience.

He already has a phd from a top 5 school, so this degree while terminal is not his only graduate degree. That may have also influenced him to not go to Harvard/MIT business school. The fact his field is not business may also influence us to think it's not as necessary to go to the best school.

But our two neighbors both have MBAs from a respectable but not top school. They are also in the financial field and believe that the best school possible is the best option. Thus they feel that it's better to not work, and go to school full-time.

What do you think?

Carnival of Personal Finance #107

The 107th Carnival of Personal Finance is up at Blogging Away Debt. My article Cutting Expenses was submitted to the carnival.

Other fun articles to check out is "Senior Money Pit - grandchildren" at GRACEFUL retirement, awesomely brilliant article for seniors. I don't recall what I did at 15 with my grandma, but I suppose it's close to what I do now. Except now I have money to outrageously spoil her rotten. And yes I do, same with my mom because without them I would not be here. My grams is the BEST! And I always send her stuff. But unlike that grandma I saw mine daily.

And near and dear to my heart is "picking an MBA program." About whether to pick a top MBA program. Worth it or not?

Sunday, July 01, 2007

June Net Worth

Our June Net Worth went down, mostly because I counted a new $8500 student loans. We overall increased our saving and used cash to pay for summer school, but we still need more loans. We also will come into more ESPP money next month because DH left his company.

I think these next few years we should have a slightly tough time of it with the student debt, but overall we'll be putting awy $25k/year to retirement, paying off $10k/year mortgage, and trying to build our cash savings.