Just tidbits about money and finance.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

100 Things About Me Meme

Ok. I hate this meme. I've put off doing it for the last x years that I've had a blog. I just didn't see the point of jumping on that knitter's bandwagon.

But I keep thinking of witty things to write so I'm going to put down a few things.

1. Mapgirl is my nickname.
2. I introduce myself at parties by this nickname, since the party hosts usually call me by this name when sending invitations.
3. My real name is only used by business associates and people who knew me in college.
4. When you meet me in person, I will expect you to call me mapgirl.
5. It started out as a nickname on IRC.
6. And then my friends from IRC would call me this in person when we met for drinks.
7. And it's snowballed from there.
8. It is derived from studying, what else? Geography.
9. I am Korean.
10. I am short.
11. I like kimchee with rice and cold pork. I could eat that every day for lunch.
12. I prefer pig to chicken.
13. Drives me nuts to eat lunch with my Muslim friend at work because he doesn't eat pork. We have to select restaurants that serve both, which is hard to find. So we almost always just have chicken.
14. I am vain.
15. I am vain about being thin.
16. I am blessed with good genes for metabolism.
17. I am blessed with poor genes for teeth.
18. I have beautiful hair.
19. I like to hack it off and give it away to charity.
20. I feel like that makes up for being so damned vain about it.
21. Gift of the Magi, by O. Henry is one of my favorite stories.
22. If you don't understand what 21 has to do with 19, I demand that you read the story.
23. By far the best version I've heard is by Barbara Budd from As It Happens. Unfortunately, because it is a copyrighted work, you cannot listen to the CBC archives for it. You'll have to listen at Xmastime for it to play on the radio.
24. When I hear it, it makes me cry.
25. I cry a lot. I am a cry-baby.
26. Don't get me started on Hallmark specials.
27. I don't own a TV.
28. Someone asked me once and I realized, I've never owned my own TV. It always belonged to someone else.
29. My favorite TV shows are The Simpsons, Sopranos, and old sitcoms.
30. I've thought about being a librarian.
31. I've worked in a library in college.
32. Best part of that job was reading all the daily newspapers.
33. I love books.
34. My favorite incentive at work was gift cards to the bookstore.
35. I won a prize in physics in high school for building a speaker from a styrofoam cup.
36. I was more highly motivated to win than the other students. The prize was a gift certificate to the school bookstore.
37. Some of the boys were mad that I won because I am a crappy physicist.
38. I have good craftsmanship, and that's why I won. My sh*t is well-built. 'Engineered' some like to say.
39. But my knitting and spinning is full of flaws.
40. I can do a good job, but often it's not worth the effort if it's only for me.
41. But if it's for someone else, I'll go nuts and make it perfect.
42. But I rarely make things for others since it involves going bonkers.
43. Once I was told that I would get nothing and like it.
44. That's my philosophy for buying gifts.
45. I rarely give material gifts anymore.
46. I find gifts cause me to accumulate crap I did not want or need.
47. I prefer not to burden people with the same.
48. So I call them or send an email to acknowledge them.
49. But I won't buy a present, unless it's the just right thing to send.
50. I am someone who buys practical gifts.
51. I'll get you a blender if I think you needed one.
52. That's one reason why I stopped giving gifts. People didn't like what I was sending.
53. I've never been mugged.
54. I should have been mugged for all the walking I do at night in scary places.
55. I carry pepper spray.
56. I consider myself 'street smart' sometimes.
57. I think I'm rather foolish though.
58. I love adrenaline.
59. But I am not an adrenaline-junkie.
60. I take calculated risks.
61. I am a fire performer and safety.
62. I cringe when I see people misuse fire arts at Maryland RenFaire.
63. I enjoy talking like a Pirate.
64. Yarr... It's true matey.
65. I have pictures of myself on a Spanish galleon in RenFaire garb.
66. I look smashing.
67. I need a cutlass to complete the outfit.
68. I am dorky enough to get one.
69. I enjoy science fiction.
70. I enjoy classical literature.
71. I enjoy chick-lit fluff sometimes, but find most of it is poorly written and frankly insufferable idiocy.
72. But I loved Bridget Jones' Diary. It seems to rise above most of the genre. Partly because of her neurotic behavior, and the insanely funny plot twists.
73. I love good movies.
74. I'm not a huge fan of video games.
75. I like tennis.
76. I was a fan of cycling during Greg Lemond's heyday, but I am disillusioned by the doping.
77. It breaks my heart to admit that because I really had my belief in cycling shaken up by someone who is a good friend and rode competitively. His stories make me very sad for the sport.
78. I met this friend at work because I was wearing a T-Mobile jersey pin on my cap.
79. I've always hated Lance Armstrong. He was an arrogant bastard as a junior out of Texas when I was following the sport. I don't care if he got cancer. I think he's that much of a jerk.
80. I begrudingly give him respect after hearing from a competitive cycling friend tell me that he personally saw Armstrong lap the entire field of racers at a race they both attended.
81. I've met a Nobel Prize winner. But I was so little, I don't remember it.
82. I met a second Nobel Prize winner. That was pretty cool to stand next to history.
83. In six degrees of separation, I can make the link to Kevin Bacon.
84. One of the best live speeches I ever heard was Hillary Clinton at Wellesley College in 1992. She was amazing and inspiring.
85. I've only been to one inauguration. (They're effing cold in January!)
86. I only remember hearing Maya Angelou while I was there. She was brilliant.
87. I used to be in marching band.
88. I think group and team activities like band and sports are good for kids.
89. I miss team sports a lot.
90. I am competitive.
91. I use harrassing voices when playing darts, Scrabble, and backgammon. But only to family and close friends. Part of the fun is the side game of harrassment.
92. I don't like gambling in casinos.
93. I am usually game for dollar bets and stuff like that.
94. I sometimes have insomnia.
95. I have it right now.
96. I love Hello Kitty, but My Melody is my favorite of all.
97. I bite my nails, but not to the quick.
98. I grow my nails out long.
99. I love a good pedicure.
100. I am not a vegetarian. My people eat dog. (I don't know why, but people think I'm so crunchy-granola that they assume I don't eat meat. It's very weird, but I'm not really that crunchy.)


Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Some of my planned 2007 expenses

Here's what I know I have on deck for next year:
1) One more surgery. Medical FSA is budgeted.

2) Laser eye surgery. Medical FSA will have to be budgeted, but I've decided definitely to push it off till 2008 since I've pushed it off so far. Hopefully my prescription will hold for another year.

3) Motorcyle repairs and expenses. I'm budgeting $1000 for some minor maintenance work to be done, as well as a snappy new helmet. (They need replacing every 3 years and mine will be 5 years old next spring.)

4) Automobile repairs and expenses. I am budgeting something around $2500 for the whole year. Damn the expensive X-mileage services at the dealership. I will skip the next one and go 10K miles later. (Went at 97K this year, will go at 120K next year, and skip the 110K service.) Yes, I am seriously thinking of putting much nicer tires on the car too since I realized this week that around 110K miles, I'll need a new set. A new clutch is going in next month when my baby turns 100K, so beyond that, the car shouldn't need much next year... Though this week I've noticed that I also have to get the pump replaced on the windshield cleaner jets. The driver's side squirts the fluid too low and I'm having some visibility problems. (This means I have to squeegee the driver's side windshield every time I fill the car, and I'm not going to do that when it's freezing outside. No way!)

5) Save another $2k in my Save-O-Meter. This includes making up for the $1K draw down I did on buying the motorcycle. (Yes, saving is a fixed expense. If I don't treat it that way, it won't happen. You know, that 'automatic' thing by that 'automatic guy', David Bach.)

6) Pay off the Debt-O-Meter by July 1, 2007. "I think I can. I think I can." "Little by little. Bit by bit." I worked out some figures and I can definitely do this if the bonuses are good next year.


Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Articles I liked this week

I am keeping the nose to the grindstone for work the next few weeks. But here's your fresh and tasty content for the day, links and posts mostly from weekend browsing. Good stuff though.

Advice for new graduates from the Washington Post. (Go to Bugmenot for a login if you need it.)

Bellsouth is going to stop charging the replacement fee for Universal Service Fee that expired on August 14th. When will Verizon stop?

Frugal Duchess on saving for retirement or college fund. My vote is for retirement! But hey, I'm done with college anyway! LOL! Seriously, take a look at my comment and you'll understand why retirement is a much better answer if you want peace of mind for your kids.

Jim at Blueprint for Prosperity has some good strategies for sticking to a budget. I should probably listen to him, but I'm just not a very good budgeter. I don't really like the way Quicken has too many categories and then the auto-creating budget always seems really skewed.

Dumb Little Man on crappy things a manager can do to get his employees to quit. I have to say, working for small companies eliminates a lot of this sort of thing. The places where I've run into the most problems with office politics were places that were 500+ employees. But I think all of this is generally good advice for anyone who wants to know what NOT to do when they become a manager. is pretty neat. Cheap furniture from boxes. However, I don't understand why he didn't paint over the logo and scrub the site of FedEx mentions. That probably would have stopped a lawsuit. (Of course, I am a big fan of Jennifer Grannick. I heard her speak at a conference. She's quite a smart cookie.) Love Jose's motto though: It's OK to be Ghetto!


Monday, August 28, 2006

T-Bill vs. Millennium Bank CD

Jonathan is really into T-bills. I'm fascinated by the process and his calculations, but I'm still having a hard time understanding what he's doing. Namely, right now, I see that I have an expiring CD at Millennium Bank. I could roll it into another 180-day CD at a new APY of 5.6%, APR is 5.46%.

I just ran some numbers on the latest 28-Day T-bill auction at a discount rate of 5.075%. When I use Jonathan's nifty calcuations to figure out the APR and APY, I get 5.075% and ~5.20% respectively.

Without taking into consideration tax rates, I see clearly that I am better off rolling my money into another 180-Day CD. Yes, I'm losing liquidity for about 6 months, but my account is already set up and it's something easy I understand.

Virginia has a tax rate of 5.75% after the first 17K is taxed at 2%, 3%, and 5% rates. For the sake of simplicity, let's just leave it at 5.75% instead of the true rate. I'll need a check on the math here, but I believe that the 5.20% rate, when including the tax rate exemption produces a rate that is closer to 5.5%. (APY x 1.0575) Or is it that I discount the bank's CD rate of 5.6% by the 5.75% tax rate for a post-tax yield of 5.3%? In that case, the T-bill is the clear winner, but I need a check on the math.

I put up my own little spreadsheet for this so now I think I'll be able to make rapid calculations regularly, which hopefully will help my understanding of T-bills versus regular savings products I already use.

Jonathan doesn't use high yield online savings accounts because he prefers the return on T-bills better. I see his point when it comes to short-term liquidity. I am locking up cash into laddered CDs to discipline myself, but perhaps I should explore the T-bill thing further for my savings. That way I have money freeing up every week instead of every 30 days on the CD's.

Something to ponder while I build back up my Save-O-Meter from the bike purchase. (Would you guys like me to move the graph? I haven't decided if I should do that or not. I was going to move it to $6K since that's where I'd like to be by the end of 2007.)


Carnival of Personal Finance #63 is Up!

My 1st Million at 33 has it available now.

Try the voting thing out on the right sidebar. I didn't vote since I really like the post I submitted this week. I feel like Chris Klein in Election. I can't vote for myself. That would be wrong, so I abstain.


Sunday, August 27, 2006

Follow up on some old posts and a musing or two

1) Tresemme is really awesome cheap hair conditioner. You get a quart of it for 4 bucks at Target or a beauty supply shop. It doesn't have expensive silicone additives that make your hair feel silky, but dry it out. Since using Tresemme and an ocaisional JOICO K-Pak® Deep-Penetrating Reconstructor, my hair has been restored. (Pooh on Pantene's Smooth and Sleek conditioner. The shampoo is ok though.) Yes, I do tend to use more and glop it on, but it's so freakin' cheap that I'm still saving money.

2) Paycheck challenge: I went to Target and spent too much money thinking I was going to get 10% off my purchase when I charged it to my Target card. Nope. I am going to have call and find out what I'm to do to get my discount the next time. What does this mean? If I budget right, I can still spend less than what I have left in the bank this week. I really must stop putting things on my credit card if I think I'm going to cut it close with the paycheck challenge.

3) Decluttering the house is fun. I like throwing things away. I have a tendency to hoard things and I've been recognizing that I still have clothing I bought (er, my mom bought for me) from high school, 15 years ago. It's still stuff in good condition, but the cuts are out of fashion. I really don't know why I've hung on to it except that it's perfectly servicable clothing. I can't stand throwing this stuff out/giving it away since I can still wear it.

4) I thought I was going to move away from DC and move back home to Philadelphia with my family. Luckily, things are well and I no longer feel the need to move. But when you think about moving, you realize that perhaps the things inside the home are not really necessary. I have this stupid paper weight from my old job. It's an ounce of silver encased in lucite. I'd like to crack open the lucite and sell the silver. I need to just put it into the trash since it's useless and ugly. It's an item I'm not excited about taking with me. What about my future plan to move to California one day? I certainly won't want to take most of the possessions I currently have, so why on earth do I have them? I don't know.

Since I am at my own home sweet home this weekend, I give you a full 7 days of posting this week. Thanks for reading!


Saturday, August 26, 2006

Festival of Frugality #35 is Up!

This summer has been really busy for me at work and at home. But today, I ran across
the 35th Festival of Frugality at Punny Money. OMG. Nick did a fantastic job gathering a host of celebrities to bring you the festival. Wonderful stuff.


Friday, August 25, 2006

Patient Advocacy: Are you getting your money's worth at the doctor's office?

No, really, are you getting everything you can out of your doctor?

Sometimes I feel guilty for stopping my physician and making them spend a full 15 minutes with me. But goddamnit, I was *SICK* last week. That new primary care physician I saw was awesome. She was open to all my weird explanations of my health and symptoms and constant questions.

I'm an obsessive patient. I have a lot of minor chronic health issues and so I am very careful about what I ask the doctor because of medication interaction, etc. I hate going to the doctor, but after accompanying my parent to the doctor for post-stroke follow ups, I see that it is VERY IMPORTANT to get your month's worth out of your doctor.

-Do not go in and let them only poke and prod you.
-Be EXTREMELY specific about your concerns.
-Read up on symptoms, observations and ask the doctor what he thinks about them.
-Get yourself ready before your appointment with your concerns. Write them down so you don't forget.
-Take a notebook with you and take notes during your time with the doctor.
-Ask why they are giving you the prescriptions and if there is anything to watch out for in terms of side effects.
-Do the 'brown bag' test. That's where you take all your medications to the doctor so they can see what you were prescribed by all your specialists, etc.

[EDIT: new! After commenting at InsureBlog, I realized I forgot something.]

-If you are bi-lingual, get a translator. Many hospitals now have translation services for free if you request it. (I personally did not like our translator, but there were times where having one who was redundant was better than not having one.)

I gave the doctor a list of post-stroke concerns about appetite, rehab, etc. I talked to friends who have stroke experience about certain types of things to ask (pulse/ox numbers to ensure enough oxygen was getting to the brain, etc.). Neurological observations, caloric intake, mood, physical capabilities, prescription requests, aids for development, etc. I grilled the doctor because I wanted to get the most out of post-stroke rehab for my family. Frankly, the doctor was impressed and asked me if I had medical training. I said no. I read a lot and I have friends who are nurses, doctors and physical therapists.

Even for myself, during my first visit to the doctor recently, I was lousy miserable but asked her what to do with my infection, the meds, any possible secondary infections, etc. And since I had a follow up, I remembered that I had to ask her for an additional prescription for an asthma inhaler and tried to think of other things I might need.

Good luck! Get your money's worth. Be an educated patient and talk to your doctor. They're only human, trust me. If you talk to them, they'll talk to you. They're not gods and you have every right as a patient to address your health concerns.


When am I going to get the hang of this thing?

My patient advocacy post was supposed to be at 8AM today, not PM. That explains why it why it was buried in the PFBlog feed.

That also explains why my afternoon post isn't floating to the top. I'm annoying myself today. Is it happy hour yet?

FWIW, I treated the guys on my team for lunch today. For some reason, I've had meals purchased for me by other people all week. (Not that I'm complaining) But I figured a little karmic payback for a team lunch was a good idea. And I'm not even the team leader!

I'm feeling flush. I started this morning with $200.00 cash. I think I can stretch all that till next Friday when I get paid next. I have to go on a large grocery shopping trip, get two rolls of quarters for laundry and one tank of gas. Everything else should fit in if I budget my dollars right this week.


Tempted by Prosper

I have a account. I put a little money in it, but not enough to put a bid out. I am putting a little more money in it, primarily out of curiosity. I wonder if this thing really works. If it does, I think I'd like to put more longer term savings funds there.

Yes. I know. I should be focused on paying down debt. But I think I'm on a good track to do that. (At least on paper/Quicken I am.) I am thinking about different ways to save my money and get a good return on it. I've lost my taste for stock investing for now, but something about Prosper's concept is really appealing.

So I figure I'll put a little more into Prosper. Give it a whirl and see what comes out. Couldn't be much worse than watching a portfolio lose 75% of its value during the dot-com crash. (Yep, but it wasn't a lot in dollars.)


Thursday, August 24, 2006

Articles I liked this week

There weren't too many since I didn't have time much to read this week.

CNN/Money on clashing money styles for couples. Interesting article. Couples and money. Gee. I'd love to get to that state one day...

Madame X on valuing your real estate for your net worth calculation.

Because Simplicity in Kansas was the inspiration for Madame X's post, I clicked through and found this article. Very interesting comments by the SIA economist. While reading the article I had a thought. I don't have a lot saved for retirement, but I do sock away quite a bit more than I used to. However, I don't pay down my mortgage very fast either. I think I would like to get to an equilibrium point soon where my retirement account and my home equity are roughly equal. I'm not sure how close I am to that now, but that seems like a good short-term goal to have. I'm going to bet that today my retirement isn't as much as my equity. Something to ponder.

Free Money Finance on when to quit your job. There's some good advice here. I'd also include if your job makes you cry every day, ask yourself why and compare your answers to this list. I had a job that made me cry every day because I hated it so much. I quit and realized how stressed out I had become working there. Quitting was the best thing I ever did.

LA Money Guy on ways your personal life can hurt your professional life. A good reminder. And if are wondering about, the site I mention in the comments, the pertinent articles is here. Read some of the stuff she writes before and after. She definitely advises people not to blog about work. Don't get DOOCED!

Jonathan gets a CLUE. Remember when I wrote about CLUE while buying car insurance? Well Jonathan writes about how to check your CLUE report and getting it for free!

As a follow up to the free gas card I mention in the car insurance post, I did receive it! I carried it in my wallet for a few months without using it. Then when I got really, really, really sick last week, I gave it to my friend as a thank you for chauffeuring me to the doctor, the pharmacist and being all around nice to me while I was feeling crappy. He was headed out on a long road trip and I figured he'd actually use the card, since clearly I wasn't going to use it.

Lesson here is self-explanatory. Um. At least I hope it is...

Great article on elder care/abuse and financial issues! I really worry about this sort of thing with my parents. I used to worry that I didn't speak enough Korean and they would stop understanding English in their senility. I worry less about that now since my language skills are better and my folks have lived here long enough they use English all the time. Found through Feed the Drones


From Business Week: Best of PF Blogs

From Business Week

Bah! Just go read! I'm not knocking the BW list, but y'all can go visit the aggregator and visit a wider variety of blogs, and not just for the young. But if you want to visit blogs for the Under 30 crowd, try the Festival of Under 30 Finances! I'm over 30, so you won't find me there. Therefore, you know this endorsement rings true. Good luck to all of you out there still in those first 7 years of student loan repayment. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and I promise, it's not the headlight of the oncoming train.


Wednesday, August 23, 2006

I am a blogging dork

Yes. I have two commenting systems. I put on Haloscan without understanding it well because I wanted to trackback. However, I don't really get tracking back and doing the pings. (I don't have time for all this. I just like to write!)

So yeah. Your friend Mapgirl. Heh. Dork.

Ask me about my WordPress conversion. HA!


Zoom Zoom!

Ah, so I did it. I picked up the bike, insurance, and title this weekend. Next weekend, a trip to the DMV to complete the transfer. After that, getting the permit. Somewhere in there I have to pick up one more piece of gear (overpants), because I already own my own gear. I'll try to put together a tally after I get the pants figured out. But this definitely will go on my August net worth calculations as an asset! Oh boy, I cannot wait!

It's a really clean bike. The guy who owned it treated it really well. His wife no longer wants to ride it anymore so she's making him sell it. I think she was actually shorter than me. It's a 2002 MZ RT125. It's a very small cc bike, but it could really move when we opened up the throttle with about 285 lbs. on it.

The beauty of this bike is that it doesn't make a small person feel like they have to have a lot of strength to manhandle it. The problem with the Honda Rebel 250, which is recommended for most short stature riders as a starter bike, is that it weighs about 350 dry, and feels super heavy when you sit down on it. I always felt like I had to start going to the gym to ride it. This bike is so light, I don't have that issue at all. Dry weight per the manual is about 290! WOW! That's crazy light.

MZ, being finely designed and crafted by Germans (East), did a great job stripping this bike to well-placed essentials. My friend is jealous that I have a real dipstick on my oil tank and not just a little window like his SV650. HA! Even so, it's the small things like the placement of the switches and how far you have to move them to engage or disengage them. Doing small repairs on this bike myself will be pretty easy. Chain maintenance, oil tank/filter access, etc is all very reasonable. The valves could be replaced at home too, but I don't ever think I'll get that ambitious. I'm just happy to have matched spanners to adjust my own shocks.

This bike is a rarity, so I hope that it will retain some of its value. A lot of starter bikes hold their value since they can be sold to the next beginner, often for what was paid for it, less any maintenance or repairs done. (I love that it takes mostly stock Yamaha parts.)


ps- If you want to leave an instantly appearing comment, use the comment link to the left. I moderate comments from link on the right, and today is a day I have to keep the nose to the grindstone.


Question of the Day Marathon - Day 17

I was inspired to ask this question by Tricia, but I'm my own victim of this. And I don't have a husband to blame it on! (Exaggerating for comedic effect here, no offense meant to Tricia's husband.)

So the question is:

How much of a balance do you leave on your checking account/s?

I have two checking accounts. I allow one to draw down to $50 because I rarely purchase transactions more than that off this account. It's my discretionary spending account and it's for lunches and gas mostly. The other account has my fixed expenses and the checks I draw are much larger, so I leave about $150. Anything over gets swept to ING.

Are you a sweeper? Non-sweeper?


Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Question of the Day Marathon - Day 16

NCN has today's question of the day. I really liked this one, partly because I can't remember the first thing because I'm so old! But the real reason I like this question is that the last thing I bought on credit was my recent surgery. I started to rack my brain for other things and realized that for the most part, I pay for stuff with my debit card now.

That's a huge change for me. A year ago, I wasn't paying for my life with my checking account. I was paying for it all on credit. Slowly, with little paycheck challenges and some automated savings, I've gradually shifted over to putting less on my credit cards.

Yes, you can make a change in your life! It may be slow and very subtle, but change does happen!

Who'da thunk it? I am slowly weaning myself off credit cards and paying more and more stuff with cash in the bank. I shock myself!


Citi Dividend Platinum Card

Jonathan ,
Jim, and Claire are reporting the demise of the Citibank Divident Platinum Rewards card. Bummer. I have this card too. The cash back was rather nice. My official notice came in the mail last night.

Is it time to move to Discover or the Citi Driver's Edge card? Not sure yet. All I know is that I have a new Target card, and perhaps it's the Sign of the Times...


Monday, August 21, 2006

Update on Medical Expenses

After my first follow up with the oral surgeon, we planned out the second surgery. I asked if we could push it off till after the new year starts. And he said yes. YAY! That means more time to save! I can sink some more money in medical FSA next year now that I have a good idea of the cost. (His office assistant gives you a worksheet of all the costs laid out. It's very clear and within about $200 of what you actually have to pay. How many doctors do that?)

Oh, and the follow up visit was FREE!

I'm looking at Jim's article on Lasik, and following the Yahoo Finance link, you'll see I was wrong about the medical deduction. You can only deduct the portion of medical expenses OVER the first 7.5% of your income, not the whole amount. So if you spent 9% of your income, you can only take 1.5% of it as a deductible amount. You have to eat the first 7.5%. This is why delaying the second surgery is worthwile for me.

Hooray! More time to save!


Friday, August 18, 2006

Question of the Day Marathon - Day 14

Kira asks, 'What are you vices?'

Journey to Financial Freedom has yesterday's, 'Do you have any side income?'


Lands' End at Sears

Friday night I promised a girlfriend to help her shop for new clothes for work. We both work in IT so we get cut a lot of slack about our wardrobes. However, I'm at corporate HQ now, and so I actually still have to break out a suit on occaision. She gets to wear jeans and t-shirts if her laundry isn't done. I am green with jealousy. That's one way to be frugal about clothing.

While we shop we end up at Sears because I really want her to try the Lands' End no-iron dress shirts there. She doesn't like making a fuss over ironing and neither do I. I am determined to get her into a collared shirt out of sheer malice and avarice over her workplace dress code which allows her to wear a T-SHIRT. But these shirts are truly fantastic. There's a coating on them which makes them a little stiff and wear very well, and require NO IRONING. I've left them in the dryer for an hour and still had no wrinkles in them. They say they last for 50 washes, and it's easily more than that. I've had one for about 3 years now and the only finishing it needs is a bending down of the collar tips since it doesn't have collar stays. (And why are brass ones unavailable these days? I had to go high and low and finally end up at a Nordstrom's to get some for my dad for Father's Day one year. Wretched!)

But I digress. We landed at Sears after about 2 hours in the rest of the mall. This trip was not to be for me. But while there, I see jeans on clearance and for some reason I get it into my head that I ought to try a pair or two to see if there are any cuts that I like. My last experience buying denim made me very, very angry, a la the Hulk. I do not think the slutty Britney-cut on jeans flatters me even I am apparently the right size for it.

I pick out two pairs and try them both on. They both fit nicely, but differently. One is relaxed fit and the other is a slimmer cut. I could buy either, but I'm not sure. I wasn't supposed to be buying anything! I was just here to help my friend! I swear! Well, I look at the prices and my friend convinces me that $15 for one pair and $25 for the other is pretty good since they're originally far more than that. $40 bucks for 2 pairs of nice fitting jeans is not bad. I see her point and agree that it's still a good deal.

Meanwhile, she's got 3 types of shirts and we select various colors since they're going to be $10-14 each for nice Pima cotton t-shirts. We trot over to the checkout and the nice man behind the register scans the first pair of jeans for me. I see on the read out that the $15 pair is now $9! WHOA. GET OUT. He scans the second pair. $11 bucks! NO WAY. I'm getting two pairs of jeans for $21.00 including taxes. NICE.

My friend and her armful of shirts? We think she's going to spend about $130 on all of it. Nope. Because she's buying multiples of the same shirt, some of them go as low as $7.50 after the third shirt is rung up. Her purchase of 10 shirts? $88.00.

I tell the guy at the checkout that I usually just shop the catalog and he says that it's actually better to come into the stores first since that's where the clearance stuff ends up, even from the catalog. I don't know how true that is, but I am definitely going to start going to Sears more often so I can get my good deals on Lands' End clothes without paying for shipping!


Thursday, August 17, 2006

Impulse Purchase or Planned Purchase of 7 Years?

In about 2 hours, I might own a motorcycle. It's neither here, nor there what you think of them. I am pretty sure it's going to be mine once it passes the test.

I always wanted a bike or scooter when I lived in San Francisco. It was about 7 years ago that I first thought of this. I have family members who ride and the advice was the same. Don't get a bike till you can get your starter bike for cash. Well... I have that emergency fund... And you see this model doesn't come on the market very often. It's a 125cc engine and it's in very good condition. At my weight, I can easily crank it up to 80mph and with an aftermarket kit, add an additional 8HP.

There's a lot about this bike that is absolutely perfect for a starter. So though I haven't saved specifically for it over the last 7 years, I have thought very much about what I wanted. It's the right opportunity.

Now if it passes just one test, it's mine. I will need liability insurance, new riding pants and possibly boots. I have about a month or two left in the riding season and I've already taken an MSF course once and failed. I just never logged enough hours riding on anything to become competent. Without getting my own bike, I'll never be able to pass the MSF course, or a state licensing exam.

I hope the bike passes the test. If not, I won't be shopping for another bike for a while because I know I shouldn't be pillaging the emergency basket of cash for this.


Awesome Article on Gas Pricing

You absolutely must read this article. It's FASCINATING STUFF. It's the Washington Post, so please use Bugmenot for a login.

I rant often about the idiocy of gas boycotts having casually observed the business for most of my 30+ years on this earth. I consider myself more knowledgeable than the average gas consumer being the daughter of a gas purveyor. I've tracked tank measurements, received bills of lading, etc.

This article really breaks it down. I didn't even know that metro districts have extra taxes placed upon them, which would explain the plummet in prices when you hit rural areas, and not just rent on the gas station property.

Very good stuff. I do not exaggerate when I say that you must read this, especially if you own a car.


Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Question of the Day Marathon Catch Up!

Young Finance Guy on what's an expensive night out?

Money Dummy on money shenanigans.

Steve Braun asks, "What percentage of financial success comes from "financial skills" and what percentage comes from "character?" - I find it hard to quantify. I understand what the question is trying to ask, but I know some bad characters who are cheap bastards, so I'm not sure they are really quite related. After all, even Tony Soprano knows how to drive a hard financial bargain.

Mighty Bargain Hunter on the best deal you ever got. This one is fun!


Welcome Readers of My Money Blog!

Welcome readers of Jonathan's blog! I'm glad you are all stopping by!

I'm feeling much better today. Without the gory details, the fever broke yesterday. I'm taking an extra recuperating day to get off my weird sleep schedule and eat solid foods. The best way to have a no spend day is to be sick at home. However, this illness cost me one doctor's visit, one prescription, juices, Gatorade, soups, digital thermometer and lots of bodily misery.

Thank you for the well wishes. I really appreciated them this week. Let me catch up on the Question of the Day Marathon and I will write up some of the things I've been pondering during my illness.


Monday, August 14, 2006

Painfully Aware - Hiatus

I am painfully aware of every joint in my body right now. Due to my illness, I won't be participating in the Quote of the Day Marathon until I am back in tip top shape. Please visit AllFinancialMatters and to keep up.

I have a feeling I will have plenty to say about healthcare and insurance after this ordeal. So stay tuned.


Friday, August 11, 2006

Welcome New Readers!

And thanks for visiting me here.

I got reposts from Single Ma and Madame X. No Credit Needed Blog also has the frugal tip collection and many of you new visitors are following through from there.

Thank you for visiting me. Please feel free to leave a comment. I just have a few basic rules that boil down to these three:

1) Please try not to be anonymous. Even if you say something like 'W.L.' for a name, that helps clear up conversations that anonymous has with anonymous in the comments section.

2) Please try to be courteous. Rule of thumb, if you wouldn't say it to my face in person, don't say it here or to my other guests.

3) It's my blog and if I don't like your comment, I'll delete it. If you want to say your peace, start your own blog! (But I'm recommending WordPress lately.)

Good night!


Life Insurance Beneficiaries

Make sure after you have a major life event, that you re-evaluate your beneficiaries on your life insurance and investment accounts. This means, birth of children, marriage, divorce, etc.

To respond to a comment by Then Things, no, I've never told my family what I've done. When I first opened my 401k accounts at work, I discussed beneficiaries with my sibling. I think there is a vague notion that my family members are listed. I mentioned once to my parents the life insurance since when I first got it, it was to cover my mortgage only. The initial downpayment came from my parents, and I felt that they should get the property if I passed. Now that I see a little more what the costs are of long term care, etc, I bumped up my coverage.

This 'respond badly' business. Why should they respond badly? They're going to be grieving if I die. I'd think a windfall of money wouldn't make them feel much worse.

Telling them in advance of being beneficiaries? Frankly, it's none of their business. It's none of the business of anyone else to know they might receive money from me after I am gone. That's what leads people to do greedy things like Double Indemnity.

I don't think this sort of windfall is something that folks should plan on. Sure, if you're in a couple and one of you dies, that's great. Perhaps that will help plan stuff, but I don't have that kind of relationship going on in my life so I don't feel I need to say anything to anyone.


Thursday, August 10, 2006

More Articles I liked this week

Pacesetter Mortgage has the dirty truth about bi-weekly mortgages. I'm actually all for bi-weekly mortgages. But like him, I don't think you should pay someone a fee to do it. Just do it yourself! Read his post and see what evil could befall you if you sign up for a program.

Five Cent Nickel researches out the best calculators for retirement savings. The life expectancy calculator is the kicker. It really gives you a good idea of what your current life expectancy is. I'd add on 5 years too just because medical technology will probably advance enough in 20-30 years to squeeze out a little extra life from you.

I usually don't read regional housing bubble blogs unless it's for DC area. But I was compelled by The Northern New Jersey Real Estate Bubble Blog's post about homeowners not being able to afford upkeep on their homes. Sounds like they didn't save enough for their emergency basket of funds.

Rob on Hypermiling. I sent him a WaPo transcript on this subject and these are his thoughts. The only bummer is that I already do a lot of these things, or they are unsafe to do where I drive.

Claire is Tired But Happy. And like Single Ma, she's a pretty cool parent, especially when it comes to teaching her child about money.

Kay at Don't Mess with Taxes on the newest charitable giving guidelines/law from the IRS. Thanks Shrub! (Twit.) Now he's made it really difficult for people to slip $5 into the plate every week. Be sure to put your money into envelopes with your name on it and have your church's volunteer administrative staff write you a receipt every week. NICE. I am surprised the religious right didn't freak out over that. Oops, did I give away my political bent here? I actually didn't mean to do that, but my mind just did a free association and realized this is a HORRIBLE burden on smaller charities who rely on the nickel and dime contributions of kind-hearted people. Like, the Salvation Army, Red Cross, etc. Geez. I'd better get my canceled check the next time I send in $50 to Doctors Without Borders. Hm. Will it be used against me later as a official record of my political leanings? Troubling, but I digress horribly into politics here, something I try really really hard not to do.

Jonathan at Matrix breaks down Bernankespeak. It's actually from the WSJ, but he's the only place I've seen it reposted whole with extra commentary.

Personal Finance Advice has a great article on Money, Happiness and Time. It's a much better discussion than most because it divorces the direct relation of money and joy to money and time as it relates to happiness. What do you think?


Larry Ellison - Oracle Sponge

I work daily with Oracle, so I tend to read the Oracle blogs out there. One of my favorites is The Oracle Sponge.
He has a brief, but funny post about Larry Ellison and personal finance. Go check out the interview article link. You will be amused.

I smirk at Mr. Ellison. He's worthy of being smirked at. Not least of which is because he was once pictured in the San Jose Mercury News Features section prominently wearing a woman's kimono as robe. That tidbit comes from a Japanese friend who worked at Redwood Shores. There are men's styles and there are women's styles, and I guess he thinks he's so rich it doesn't matter.


Deep Satisfaction

I don't know exactly why, but I feel really at peace at the moment. I glance over at the Save-O-Meter and know that right now, my cup runneth over. Knowing that I have a wad of cash ready to deploy really does easy my mind about my small financial anxieties.

I really want to encourage everyone to think about how much they're saving and try to add a little more. Are you saving regularly with an automatic plan? Can you afford to save another $10? $50? $100? 1%? 5%?

I know I'm obsessed with finances, but I am slowly finding out that my friends are all concerned about the same things I am. Last night I talked with a friend who is an only child. She, like me, also carries a lot of life insurance for a single person with no kids. We're of the same mindset. We both feel our parents haven't saved enough for retirement completely on their own, so should something happen, it's important that they receive something from our life insurance policies so they're still well-cared for. (Is 'for' a dangling preposition?)

While my Save-O-Meter isn't nearly the 3-6 month emergency fund it ought to be, I am very glad to know that I have the savings and can focus on some other priorities right now, like the Debt-O-Meter.

I probably should have saved this subject for the Question of The Day Marathon next week. (I'm Wednesday the 23rd, I think.) But it's on my mind right now. I am pleased that I have met my goal. I rest easier at night knowing that if the clutch on my car gave out tomorrow, I've got the cash to pay for the whole entire repair job. (Don't worry it hasn't even started to slip yet.) What satisfaction I receive from having savings! After years of anxiety, it feels fantastic to truly have a reserve of funds.


Wednesday, August 09, 2006

QoTD and Anniversary

Today's Question of the Day Marathon hostess is Young & Broke. I love the question. It's good to fantasize just a little bit.

Today is also the 2 year anniversary of being a homeowner. (Well at 4pm this afternoon it will be). Kind of cool. I can sell the place and take long term gains. (Yes! I will actually have some, even with a cooling condo market!)

We'll see what another 2 years of condo homeownership brings me.


Gas Calculator at CNN/Money

Great gas budget calculator from CNN Money.

I really like that they've added how many barrels you use per year. Kind of brings it home by connecting spot price per barrel with what you actually use in gallons.

uh, that link above probably doesn't work because of the dumb way CNN does javascript pop ups and my ignorance about how to create the hyperlink correctly. Please go to the front page of CNN and click the link to the left middle, under the top stories.


Question of the Day Marathon - Day 6

Single Ma is yesterday's Question hostess!

Please go visit her and leave a comment. I liked her question a lot and I think everyone should be able to answer this question readily. It's all part of knowing where you stand financially. So please take a moment to consider her question. If you don't know the answer, go home tonight and research it!

EDIT: Sorry I didn't post this earlier. Work got in the way! And I'm working now!


Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Taking Care of Business (Or Your Parents)

N.B. There will be a Blogger outage today at 4pm Pacific Time today.

And another one from MSN Money Central. (Thanks Amanda for pointing me there!) My parents don't make me feel like I owe them anything, but I know I owe them everything. They really did sacrifice a lot by coming to the US. They forced me into academic/economic choices that probably weren't the best for me, but I love them anyway. One of my biggest fears has been how they were going to take care of themselves in retirement. By the time I finished high school I was really freaked out that they had nothing saved. And they didn't. Nothing was in cash or investment accounts that I saw on tax returns for financial aid applications. I didn't know they could sell their home or business for a profit. Silly me. I know better now and I am happy they are settled.

I watch as a friend struggles with his parents. He once described them to me as 14-year olds with really large allowances. I didn't know what to say. TCB is one of my personal mottoes and it's true. Taking care of themselves for as long as possible is the greatest gift your parents can give you. (Ok, let me go weep now. Watching a parent rehabilitate from illness is emotionally wrenching for me.)

But the main thing to ask yourself is what are you prepared to do? Have you started your nest egg now that you can afford to help out your folks for a little while? Are you going to expect your kids to help you when you are in old age? Amongst my Asian friends, there is no question that we're all going to help out our parents if they need it. Kidney, left arm, you name it. As I get older though, I realize that my economic circumstances are just as important and I want to be ready to help.


You Need A Kick in the Pants

I'm in love with MSN Money Central this week.

You need a kick in the pants to start saving money!

MP Dunleavy's post is great. Wonderful stuff about how to start out small with savings.

If you haven't started to save yet this year, it's ok. It's August. There is still time to sock away a little something.

Have an ING Direct account link. Start saving now!

Yes, I'm finally getting around to making a link. If this works, I'll make more.


Articles I liked this week

Cap on reading through a credit card off. VERY GOOD post. Make sure you read and understand it. There will be a quiz the next time a tempting offer comes through the mail.

Kassy at Sparing Change has a new look. It's an older post, but I just saw it. Lookin' good!

Matrix has a post about the Bank of Mom and Dad. I guilty as charged.

Financial Freedumb on CD laddering with a twist.

MSN Money Central on the zero dollar emergency fund. I don't usually read MSN, or anything Microsoft has to put out unless it's something technical I need for work. I followed Amanda's link over here and found this article pretty compelling. The main thing to keep in mind is that liquidity and accessibility are the main issues for having an emergency fund. My fund is not easily liquidable on purpose, but it does disburse me money in monthly chunks which are very useful for me in terms of the discipline of savings as well as what I think I need the fund for. I think I need the fund for being laid off, therefore monthly disbursements of cash are like a monthly paycheck, instead of having unlimited access all at once. has an new figure on the average consumer debit. Check it out. I do believe it's less than my Debt-O-Meter. *sigh*


Monday, August 07, 2006

Question of the Day Marathon - Day 5

Free Money Finance has Day 5.

"Which is more important to financial success: saving money (spending less than you earn through cost cutting) or making your income as high as possible (earning more money)?"

This is a pretty philosophical question.


Carnival of Personal Finance #60 is Up!

JD at Get Rich Slowly has it available to you now.

Pacesetter Mortgage on HELOC trends. Good stuff. Interesting analysis and he offers some strategies for you if you have one. Go back to Calculating Blended Rates for the CNN/Money link to show you how it's done.

Brian Brown, CPA reiterates my old post about operating at a loss, etc. He says it slightly differently, but it's still the same sound advice if I do say so myself. Mind your own Money!

Gas pricing and spending behavior. Interesting. At a time when I am trying to accelerate my debt payments, most others are slowing debt payment down. I don't know if I really *need* a gas subsidy from my employer. Around DC, people get MetroChecks to ride public transit. I think that is much more effective than paying for people to keep burning fossil fuel. How about letting people just telecommute once or twice a week instead?

Roth & Co. on hiring tax professionals. I kind of like the way they look at it. I do think I have an overblown fear of the IRS. However, it hasn't driven me to seek out a professional. I consider myself a reasonably rational and well-educated individual, competent enough to do my taxes. I think any judgement errors I make in doing my taxes will probably be forgiven much more readily than if a tax professional did it for me. The very last point about quasi-bureaucrats makes a lot of sense to me. By professionalizing tax preparation and lionizing those who do it for us, we remove ourselves from its process and create a class of intermediaries who are actually superfluous for a lot of folks. I'd rather save the money & educate myself in the process rather than pay someone to do it faster for me. Having assisted other people with organizing their small business receipts and expenses for their CPA, I think a lot of folks can do it without a CPA and be just fine.


Saturday, August 05, 2006

Am I Making Enough Money as I Could Be?

Saturday afternoon in a haze of painkillers, I contemplate my income. I see that PF Bloggers are making money doing marketing surveys and whatnot, things like Deal Barbie, Pay Per Post, tc.

I, for one, have always been reluctant to give away my personal information. It's never been something that interested me. I hate getting scads of junk mail. I'm the one who has to truck it out to the dumpster, so I'd rather not have the mailman bring it to me. Ever since I asked the Direct Marketing Association to remove me from their mailing lists, I have not received any junk mail beyond the catalogs I already use and a local coupon flyer.

But I digress. I really wanted to write about other income streams. I have monetized this blog. I succumbed and I have ads. I have made a little money from it, enough to pay for my domain name. (For that eventual move to WordPress.) However, for family reasons, I stopped working a second job on Sundays. I also don't cram this site full of ads to make even more money off of people's eyeballs.

I don't sell stuff on eBay. I actually don't like eBay. I don't buy anything there either. I had two experiments there and one set of books sold, the other did not. I wasn't sure that it was worth the money in the end. But I see how it's appealing to run stuff on eBay versus holding a yard sale.

Now that I'm getting serious about throwing stuff away in the house, I am inviting friends to pick through my stash of yarns and buy any from me that they want. Two of my knitter friends came over on Friday to keep me company and bought some yarns from me. I made $28.00 selling yarns that I easily purchased for $30 or more. (That's the beauty of stash. You keep it for so long, you forget what you paid.)

I have some ideas about selling crafts and turning my hobbies into businesses. I would love to be able to blog full time and make money teaching knitting and spinning., but I don't think I'd be able to make the kind of money I am accustomed to spending. I think part of my problem is that I subbornly refuse to economize. I am not a lavish spender. I don't own a tv. I don't buy lots of DVD's or video games. Dining out, books, and my annual vacation trip are probably my biggest extravagances.

As things with my family's situation settle down, I guess I'm still thinking about getting a second job. It's really kind of insane. There are people who would be thrilled to make the salary that I do. But for some reason, I feel like it's not enough. I want to make more so I can save more.

Like the ant that's toiled all summer, I am looking forward to the fruits of my labor this autumn and winter. As the weather grows cold, I will be able to look upon my summer savings and know that I am comfortable.

Looking for passive, residual income is great. But I guess looking at my interest growth on savings is what's keeping me going right now.

Sure I could look for another job and make more money. I get restless and bored very easily with work. I need fresh intellectual challenges all the time. I could make the investment in a certification course and use that as leverage to find another job which pays $10-20K more than the one I currently have. I could finally bite the bullet and go to business school and ask for $30K more, but be saddled with crazy student loan debts.

I guess the answer is no, I am not making enough money as I could be. I'm early to mid-career in a good career. I could easily take myself to the next level, but I am hating the adage, "You have to spend money to make money." It's not doing anything for me to reduce my credit card debt, that's for sure. I struggle with the idea of making more but working less. I could make more by working more, that's easy. I know how to do that. THis other stuff, collecting passive income? I don't know. I feel like I need to sock away more savings to make that really work for me.

I've been wandering into the idea of purchasing more dividend paying stocks. My uncle worked a long time for P&G. He's retired now and doing quite well. I think a lot about that. He was a company man at P&G. Over 30 years, I bet he bought a lot of their stock at an employee discount. I'd never buy my company's stock, but what if I diligently started buying P&G and Coca-Cola and never stopped buying it for 30 years? I think I'd probably do ok.

Alrighty. Enough rambly thoughts. It's time to pull out another ice pack and get away from the keyboard.


Question of the Day 3 & 4

I've been remiss keeping up. Work's been busy and I get a bye for the medical stuff yesterday. I did respond to questions 3 and 4 at the Investimist and Experiments in Finance.

I like participating in these things because I get to visit new blogs. I get stuck a rut sometimes and I don't keep my eye out for new things when I'm too busy to ferret out fun stuff.

Many, many new things are afoot for me. Big things that will effect my income stream and finances. I can't say more now, but look for changes in the next few months. I'm sure I will be blogging about my financial choices in the face of these changes.


Pity Party & Zucchini Soup Recipe

On personal finance, is it better to spend the extra money on liquid Ensure that stays down, vs buying groceries you're just going to vomit up later?

Anesthesia stinks. And narcotics make me queasy. I had my wisdom teeth pulled out (the dreaded medical expense) and I feel horrible. No, I'm not swollen up like a chipmunk. I wear ice packs on my face all day. The only thing I was able to hold down yesterday was 3 bottles of Ensure and my medication. That's about 1000 calories for those who keep track. Not nearly enough. I want more calories but let me side step here for a second.

Frugal tip: If you ever get frozen stuff by mail, save the ice packs from the packaging. I have these great big ones I use instead of ice on camping trips. Last year at my old company, there was a problem with the AC in the building. Later the building management company sent us Hagen Dazs as a present for putting up with the heat. The ice packs in the mail order packages were going to get thrown away, so I snagged about 4. I would have take more, but they were heavy and I couldn't carry them all. This ice pack covers my whole face. They will harden completely stiff in the freezer, but as they soften I can sleep face down on them. I don't look swollen at all today. It nice being able to pull a fresh ice pack out of the freezer whenever the old one is too warm.

Anyhow, I thought I would like to eat some nice soft avocado as a fresh produce treat yesterday. Um, bad idea. I got really sick. And one of my lovely friends came over and made me fresh cream of zucchini soup. Oooh. Nope. That wasn't good on the tummy either. But I was able to drink about a half cup of it today. Here's the recipe:

Cream of Zucchini
2-3 medium zucchini
2 cans of Chicken broth (Campbell's, so they're like 10 oz cans)
1 onion
cream or milk
garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste
Parmasean cheese

Chop the zucchini and onion and boil till soft in chicken broth. Puree with hand blender in the pot. Finish off with cream/milk as desired. The idea ratio is 3/4 soup to 1/4 milk. Sprinkle the cheese on top as desired.

I am amazed out how simple it was to prepare. Since these are pantry items, the only things you'll have to buy fresh are the zucchini. (I am the kind of person who always has an onion in the house.)

ps - This rambles, wanders, has bad grammar, structure and typos. I am sure you will forgive it for today.


Friday, August 04, 2006

My 2006 Tax Write Offs

I thought I'd follow up on an earlier post regarding the saving grace of my exorbitant medical expenses.

I wrote that I could write them off my taxes since they'll be over 7.5% of my income. What I did not know is that I can claim my unreimbursed medical expenses, as well as my health and dental insurance premiums. Now it makes me wonder if I can re-file my taxes from last year to get a bigger refund. (I had COBRA payments out the wazoo when I was unemployed for a few weeks.)

Also, I said that I could write off some technical books I purchased since I was using them at my job. Well, not exactly. If the expenses total over 2% of my income, I can take the deduction. I don't think I've spent quite that much money on technical books since I shop around for a good deal. However, if I squeeze in another related programming/training course before year end, I might be able to write off even more. More training is always good since it's just another reason to ask for more money.

The grand strategy is to ensure that for 2 or 3 paychecks at the end of the year, I can ask my payroll department about not withholding any Federal taxes. That would give me a nice chunk of change for reducing debt/buy some Christmas presents and I wouldn't be giving Uncle Sam an interest free loan. Heck, I should have them change that now rather than later!

Wow. This really has me thinking about exactly what I spent my money on this year, and how I can maximize my training for work to lighten my tax burden. I'm seriously going to have to sock away some money in 2007 to finally have laser eye surgery too.

ps - Next Income Bracket has a mid-year tax check up post you should read.

pps- This was written draft form a few days ago. Now I am loopy from the surgery and will not post again today. Will have happy smile when ceramic prettiness gets inserted. Expensive, but they look the best.


Thursday, August 03, 2006

Articles I liked this week

LAMoneyGuy on the dreaded reverse mortgage. He's also collecting Flippers in Trouble. Heh. Schadenfraude.

As an AMEX holder, this article is full of bad news. I like getting rewards points, but really, I no longer carry this card in my wallet because I have a Citibank Dividend card. I may finally have to kiss my AMEX goodbye since they don't take it where I shop for lunch everyday.

It used to be if you had good credit with American Express, you could get credit from nearly anyone. Now I'm not sure that it matters. But who else says 'Member Since' on the front of their card? And what other card have I had for more than 5 years? Hm. That annual fee rubs me the wrong way too.

The Housing Bubble has a great post about people getting deeper into debt with HELOC's. The comments are very interesting. I will not say the now trite 'priceless', but they are worth reading. I stand guilty of rolling some consumer debt into my HELOC when in a fit of pique, rage, frustration, whatever you want to call it, I quit my job last year.

Stupidly, before really getting a grip on my finances, I now carry more debt than I did when I first signed for my mortgage two years ago. Choices and decisions. At the same time, I've also doubled my retirement savings, which helps me sleep better at night. What next? I want to pay down my consumer debt while still bulking up the retirement account. We'll see what is possible as time progresses.

Single Ma on ongoing new home construction issues. It's been quite a hassle for her. I am not sure I'd ever buy new construction after hearing other stories like hers from friends. I prefer a home that's new to me, and well-loved by the previous owner, after all 50yo shade trees don't plant themselves!

Millionaire Artist on small payments towards her debts, and IFCOME. I like that. IFCOME. If it comes, you can spend it.

CNN/Money has a great work place politics quiz on the right side of that link. I found it very interesting. I'm good at some things, and "bungle others". I'd agree with that assessment. As far as cussing at work. Yep. That's me. I also beat my head against my desk when the motherboard gets fried for the second time in 2 weeks. That isn't office politics. That is shoddy hardware from the vendor.


Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Rule for work

Dumb Little Man is kind of a new blog (new to me at least), but I was intrigued by the title since I work in the same field. He readily admits this is some a$$ kissing, but there's a lot of good advice in it.

I have been thinking about how to get ahead recently. Last night I was relating a story about going out drinking with my co-workers when I was working at a dot-com. My advice? "When you're socializing with co-workers outside of work, you're really still at work." Obviously, don't be a pill, but don't be the drunkest, sluttiest, whatever-est. Go with the flow, observe everyone else till you figure out the lay of the land, i.e. who will stab you in the back professionally for vomiting in the toilet last month when everyone was at the product launch party.

The girl gossip in one company was out of control. Apparently, I was the only woman under-30 at our company that hadn't shagged my manager. I was glad of it, but it was weird to be told such-and-such details about his sexual escapades. There is friendly and then there is TMI. Eventually I had to head off my friends when they were getting too personal about him. People respected that there were limits to what I wanted to know. And though discretion is the better part of valor, people talk. They talk to you. They talk about you.

Have fun with your co-workers. Grow close to them as you face challenges and obstacles at work, but realize they're still your co-workers and till you know where you stand, be professional even when you let your hair down.


Question of the Day Marathon - Day 2

Caustic Musings has it available now. My answer is shameful. But hopefully in researching it, I will redeem myself.


Net Worth Update

The NetWorthHQ graph is updated. I revised the valuation of my car upwards since I had a chance to re-evaluate it more accurately recently when I thought about selling it. Turns out I was undervaluing it by a lot. Raising the value by a thousand dollars is still undervaluing it, but not very much. I suspect in 6 months, it will be close to correct market value. For what it's worth, I use the NADA Guides, which generally favors the seller. Because it's produced by the dealer association, all car dealerships will accept this price if you take it to trade-in. It's frequently better than the Kelley Blue Book value.

Credit cards are spiking due to recent wedding travels and purchasing the final wedding travel tickets. I expect it to keep rising due to some pending medical costs, but hopefully those debts will peak and start falling in the next 90 days. By then I should be clear of all the weddings I know about and my medical trials will be over. It'll be October 31st and I can start thinking about Christmas presents for the family.


Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Question of the Day Marathon - Day 1

I love participating in these things because I am a lazy blogger! Other people are making up content for me. I love it!

JLP of All Financial Matters has the first Question of the Day available.

"If your budget required you to give up something that you like because you just didn’t have enough money to cover your expenses, what would that be?"

Go read the comments and find my answer there.


Articles I liked last week

James & Miel have a book review of Money Mistakes You Can't Afford To Make. It's a series. Check out Part II here.

Frugal Duchess on tap water vs bottled.

Bluebird on hedge fund managers. Heh. I'm re-reading Random Walk and that's pretty much the same assessment. It's hard for the professionals to beat the market over time.

The Consumerist writes about the MPAA finally suing the wrong guy. HA! I hope Sean Hogan wins. I appreciate when a person fights for the right thing. That's integrity. Integrity is hot.

The Checkout on balance transfers and cautions us on using them. Good advice. There's some good cautionary tales in the comments too.

Jane Dough has been highlighting the Boston Globe series on Debt. Very frightening stuff. If you live in Massachusetts, consider yourself warned. Get out of debt, FAST! (Login will likely be required for the newspaper's website. Try Bugmenot.)

Udandi Andi has a tasty treat to bake at home! It's not really PF related, but for a DIY candy present, it's cute and yummy looking. I wouldn't say no if you brought this to me.


Reading Up

Welcome August!

I went to the bookstore this weekend to pick up some books on PHP and CSS for this eventual move to WordPress.

I bought the books with debit card, and read them both this weekend. (Yes, along with Madame Bovary. They weren't very large books.) I think only one is worth keeping since the second book is not a good one for me. I have a hard time being in a bookstore and deciding which technical books to buy. I frequently have to buy it, read through a hefty chunk of it, and then return it if it wasn't what I wanted. I basically did that with both books and found that there is a different book I should get. I picked up the third book last night and paid the $5.00 + tax difference.

I don't actually enjoy reading online all day. I prefer print media. It's easier on my eyes, hence I like getting a newspaper and buying actual books.

I'm lucky on the book purchase. As an IT/developer, technical books can be written off my taxes since they help me with my job, and are not reimbursed by my company.

Lately, I've been a big fan of returning things if I find that I don't need them. I realize it's a second trip to the store, but sometimes the cost is very little if that means hanging out someplace after work while DC rush hour traffic dies down. Spend money here, but save it over there. I hope it nets out to a savings overall.

Blogging will be lighter over the next few weeks as I study up on technical things and try to get MFC flying somewhere else.


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