Ahhh, New Year's, the time when old men's thoughts return to financial survival! At least mine do!
As usual, I am stressing big time over huge college costs and the resulting student loans for my kids. Throw in that I am nearing retirement age, so as Homer Simpson says, it just gets worse and worse! But time for the tough to get going, I suppose!
As much as you can get involved in a philosophical debate about how long to support your progeny (20s? 30s? OK, 40s and they are out!), to me it sort of comes down to survival. So far I have followed the usual advice to consider your own retirement first, but it kills me to see my daughter head into 5 years of low paying residency and letting those loans compound like a cancer if she has to do income based repayment. So my original plan was to cover the payments for those 5 years, but now that it is nearly time, I am getting a little sticker shock here! But mainly it is the fruitlessness of just paying a ton of interest every month. In retrospect, I certainly wish we had entered an "austerity" budget 4 or more years ago and paid as we went, but the costs were just so high that I guess I froze up and took the easy way out. So the only thing it looks like we can do now are somehow refinance and/or just try to pay them down.
I am bothering the forums asking about this, and I am getting some good input, like the loan forgiveness plan that was apparently put in place around 2007 for people in public service occupations, so I am doing some research, but it appears that most of the residencies my daughter is considering do not meet the requirements for that plan.
OK, sorry for such a bummer post to start the new ear, but I need to work on this and you guys are one of the best support systems around! Thanks for listening, if anyone is still reading, that is.
Oh yeah, to add a touch of positivity, I did FINALLY manage to lose about 10 pounds last year, so that proves that longstanding problems CAN be successfully addressed. Like finance, it is a matter of simple math, but both can still seem to be wicked problems!
Ahhh, New Year's, the time when old men's thoughts return to financial survival! At least mine do!
The sun is the same in a relative way but I'm older.
Shorter of breath, and one day closer to debt!
Sorry, not much to say, but I had to say something!
About my only good financial thing is I have built a nice emergency fund, and continued with a 401k, but it just never feels like enough!
So what is new with you?
I read somewhere that people are serious about losing weight for only about four days at the beginning of the year! Of course I can't remember where or how credible the source was, but it seems like it could be true.
Anyway, a similar thing in relation to money brings me back here every new year, like the salmon returning to Capistrano. We lazy people are amazing!
I am playing around with it for the first time in quite a while, and they seem to have made some very nice improvements as far as automagically categorizing transactions. And that was one of my main impediments - it was so frustrating to have to make the same corrections every month. Now it does "rules", similar to Outlook, that will go back and adjust categories and descriptions, etc. So now I am close to seeing a reasonable breakdown of my monthly spending.
It is very nice to be able to cut through the noise and see spending patterns. Now my next big challenge is unusual items always upset the pattern - big payments, yearly bonus, etc.
So maybe now I can get back to better monitoring and therefore adjustment of the old cash outpouring!
So are there any other users of Mint out there? The usability is getting close to the old Windows 3.1 Quicken that was very slick.
I am one of the "zombie" posters who come and go, mostly go! So who amongst you are the longtime regulars? What keeps you going?
One of the things that keeps me away is financial denial. I just get so sick of dealing with money matters. But I was doing pretty well for a few years there! Maybe now that I've had a little break I will get re-enthused.
I've noticed that in all online forums. Many people come and go while a few regulars remain.
I did something so dumb that I am beside myself. When we got a new heater and furnace, the heating contractor told me that the people that handle those are terrible - that they always say they lost the forms. But the only thing I did in defense was to (hopefully) keep a copy, that I have not yet found.
In retrospect, why the heck didn't I send it certified or registered mail? I called the company around the 120 day mark, which is when they said it would come, and there was still no sign of it.
And don't get me started - they didn't lose it, they obviously flushed it! So lazy people like me are easy prey for their sleazy tactics. This brings out the fight in me - hence the damage control. I know my chances of recovery are zilch if I can't locate the copies. But what are my chances if I do?
I just started a new job within the same company at another location, after the old location closed.
So far it is pretty nice. There are a lot of similarities with the old job but there is enough that is new and different to keep me well stimulated.
I got very lucky in that the first few problems I was assigned were right up my alley, so I was able to help and also help transfer some of my skills to other people to help them contribute. All in all, very satisfying.
The main downside is the distance - for now I am commuting a VERY long distance. I need to figure out how I am going to handle that.
On the finance side, I was able to keep a nice salary and benefits, but with the added commuting costs it is a minor net loss, especially when compared to how bad it could have been. So I need to cut costs NOW! Hence, I am back here! I am spending today cutting down my ever-present stack of mail! Two things I need to do immediately are refinance some CC debt to 0% and renegotiate my cable bill and get rid of my landline.
The site I work at was recently shut down. Oh well - we served each other well for over 30 years! A very nice run. A great job in a great location.
So I have to decide soon whether to take a severance package or stay with my company at another location. Although the severance package is over a year's pay, I hope to stay with the company at the closest location, 95 miles from my house. I really don't want to move.
So now I am looking at a 2 hour commute, or the added expenses of an apartment to crash in on weeknights.
Just typing this makes me wonder why I don't just move to one of the other 10 or so locations throughout the country, or take the package and then do that with other companies. But the company's pay and benefits are very good, and with over 30 years of time with them, I get a lot of vacation and good pay.
Anyway, I need to blog here more than a handful of times per year!
I didn't realize I haven't posted since last October! I've been busy goofing off, so this is my periodic return to trying to be responsible. Not that blogging here is being responsible, but just by spending time here you good people always put me on the right track.
And Sunday mornings are when I always seem to gravitate here. But I have to admit I would be riding my bike if the roads were dry!
Anyway, I am back for a while!
So I am spending a little time here first thing just to get in the frugal frame of mind. My main goal for today is to recover the garage for my car by organizing all the junk stored therein before the first frost, so today it is!
I just searched my blog for "About Me" and I successfully found when I asked about the data in that section missing, and I found that Kimiko told me it was Adblock in Firefox, so I just disabled the Adblock filter ###ad_left and the data returned. Searching really is a boon for us people with old-timer's disease! And I love Adblock, so this one little quirk is easy to take.
OK, the dog needs a walk, so we're off!
It was bursting at the seams for way too long, so it is taking a looong time to get it closer to empty. And we haven't had much of a grocery bill in a few weeks now, which is nice.
Next is the pantry and basement food stockpile - I need to make a sweep to find items that are ready to expire - not much is worse than finding unopened expired items. Eating cheaply can be a great source of pleasure!
I have and it looks pretty similar. It makes some pretty stupid extrapolations from data it gets.
What do you think of when you hear the word "shortcut"? Is it a negative or positive thought?
I think I most often hear it in business situations like this: "he tried to shortcut it, and now it's all messed up". I guess there is some merit in that way of looking at it since business needs to be pretty proceduralized and we can't have people just winging it because they think they know better than the official procedure. But the flip side of that is good procedures evolve from good input, and my thought is that when that doesn't happen people get frustrated and try to "shortcut" it. But if you take "shotcut it" to mean "improve" it, and they go about it the right way by providing useful feedback to the procedure owner, and the owner then adds it and gets it properly reviewed and approved to assure that there are no unintended ill-effects, the net result should without fail be positive.
So all that said, I am a BIG fan of shortcuts. So in an effort to improve them so we can make greater use of them, shouldn't we take a look at their failings? I'll use the common computer example of browser shortcuts since that is easy for all of us to relate to which makes it very illustrative.
Some common failings of browser shortcuts:
1. Too many to quickly read through to find what you want.
2. Out of date or dead links.
4. No longer of interest.
5. Other? Let's hear 'em!
So what tips or tricks do you have for maintaining good browser Bookmarks/Favorites, Whatever?
At work, I have a pretty deeply nested and hierarchical list that serves me well. It is pretty darn big list that has developed over the years, so of course it benefits greatly from a periodic (and it can be infrequent, like once a year or so) cleanup to remove dead links, defragment, repack, etc. I just recently did that and now it works MUCH better for me. The main thing was to re-alphabetize, where the need results from my bad habit of ad-hoc addition of new ones at the bottom of the list instead of taking the few seconds to find the proper category. Just the act of thinking about it how it fits in helps keep me organized.
I have yet to have a similar success at home. But one trick I use everywhere that has also helped at home is to create digital "junk drawers" or "Little Used" folders to hold stuff that I might have looked at once and then didn't have a regular need for. Of course it is good to sift through them once in a while also to make sure something doesn't get forgotten.
So what are you tips and tricks? Something elaborate like Del.ico.ocious (what ever the heck that is)?
Or something more simple? In the extreme case, I recently heard of someone who simply deleted ALL of his shortcuts because what the heck, everything is just a quick Google away anyway, so why not? Although I doubt many of us would go that far, I think that keeping them well organized would go a long way in preventing the urge to nuke your shortcuts like that.
So FINALLY, I have stopped my verbose outpouring and it is your turn to comment, dear readers, if any of you have persevered this far.
I am starting to read the book Creativity by Mihaly Csikszentmihaly and I like it right from the start. He is a psychology professor at the University of Chicago. One of his early points in the book is that there are many things competing for your attention, so if you really want to have a chance at being creative it helps to cut down all the noise around you. And creative people can be so wound up in their ideas that they can appear isolated and unfriendly, when actually they are just preoccupied, like the stereotypical absent minded professor (maybe a little projection on his part)?
I thought I would get this down here since it is one of my main ideas in life and one of my main pet peeves, that as an advanced society we seem to have to spend way too much time on mundane or overly complicated stuff. Take computers, for instance. Computers can be wonderful tools, but also maddening nuisances! And I am convinced that there is SOMETHING I can do to help this situation since it is a field rife with opportunity.
Anyway, that's all for now, but I'll probably bore you with ideas from this book all along until I finish it.
This post is dedicated to Homebody.
After reading GTD about twelvedy-fifteen times, I think it FINALLY sunk in! I think the defining moment was when I realized that I could use my cell phone's Notepad to jot down notes of things that flit across my mind. (previously they just flitted right on through!) An age old principle, to write things down, but one I was never able to fully follow until now. It's hard to carry a pen or pencil and paper everywhere, but it sure is easy to carry a cell phone!
I have been keeping lists at work for years with pretty good results, but I only recently dumped out my work email inbox and it feels great! So I also dumped out my personal email inbox, although I did just stuff it all in a big folder called "limbo". The defining moment for that one was when I missed an ebay sale because my inbox was so full of crap that I avoided it like the plague and missed multiple mails. But I went in and unsubscribed to all the junk mail lists I was on (I think my ISP screwed up and has multiple people with my email address, hard as that is to believe). That one is a lot harder to keep empty even than work because it still gets so much junk, but so far I am stemming the tide.
So anyway, I also use a very cool Linux program at home called Tomboy Notes for my monthly log of things to do, things done, etc. I love it because it works just like Wikipedia or the WWW with hypertext. If you type a word that you already have a page for, it automagically creates a link. The resultant web very nicely mirrors the way I think. For both of these simple new tools, it helps a lot that I enjoy using them, since if it is fun I will stick with it.
So anyway, I am flush with success after finally checking a few things off. It is especially satisfying to fit something fairly major into a small time window. For instance, I was able to change oil in our car in an hour between events because I had everything ready, and I was tired of looking at it on my list. Another example - I finally remembered to get a USB stick to back up those Tomboy notes and I actually did it - something that I had been putting off for months. A lot of the magic is in breaking tasks up into their smallest element, that is making sure the "next action" is really a doable action and not more of a project, which is a series of next actions.
I am excited because this is the closest I have come to breaking the procrastination and slovenly practices habit in ages! Yes, I still have a LOOONG way to go, but even a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
What a relief! I may as well go ahead and admit this - I found $1000 of Flexible Spending checks in there. I guess I thought they were just EOB forms. BAD Ralph! I am such a dweeb! Anyway, it took almost all day, but it was a good way to hang out in the AC and get some long overdue work done.
So now I am ready for the long haul, to KEEP the darn thing at zero. I do of course still have a "hold" bin, but at least now I know there is nothing but filing and low priority stuff in there. Of course my files also filled up again, so I expanded into another plastic container, and man, is it ever nice to have a working file system again. Up until today, I stacked the overflow on TOP of the main set of folders, so it was too painful to move the stuff to file. Now it is all clear and ready to use.
I got in the mood because I cleaned up at work Friday and that also felt great. And that was prompted by my memory of a guy at work asking for something, and as I pulled it out of one of my slovenly desk stacks, he asked - "I wonder what else is in there?".
A word to the wise...
Our tap water has a bad enough taste (mainly from chlorine) that we used to buy those 2.5 gallon jugs of water. But since we started using a PURFilter oval pitcher, that has stopped, except of course for the portable bottles. So besides the substantial savings, we are generating less waste, and both are nice frugal things to do.
There only real downside is that sometimes the filtering can be a little slow, as the filter gets older. Being cheap as heck, of course I planned to replace the filter way less than the recommended 1-2 month interval, since it is just being filtered for taste. I figure I would taste any breakthrough. But that plan looks like it is being jeopardized because the filter getting slow as it ages is a problem because then the unfiltered water gets poured out before the filtered water when used if the top section hasn't drained down yet. And man, is there ever a difference in filter price depending on where you buy it. At our local Shop-rite, one is $12.99! Versus about $6.50 or so at Amazon.
I find this pitcher a lot more aesthetic than having one of those big contraptions on the faucet, but who knows, I may do that later. But for now, I am very happy with it.
I had sort of an epiphany today as I was cleaning up some old grapes after being away for a while. Just about everything has a shelf life, and it can be very costly to ignore that fact. In an ideal world, we would review everything at an appropriate interval to ensure that it is still good. Sounds easy, right? But as refrigerators everywhere can attest, it certainly isn't!
The problem for me is that it can get quite tedious. Checking the garden for the need for watering, for instance.
I'm guessing there is no easy answer! But I suspect it is like exercise - you need discipline, and it has to be fun. Any ideas?
Oh, and here is a good example where knowledge is power in this area.
And that site also makes a very good point - on some products, even a use by date is just for taste reasons, seldom safety. But sometimes it is! This area needs work. My suggestion (and I am serious here) is a "use by or get sick or die date". But realistically, if we just standardized on "Best By" dates for non-safety, we could restrict "Use by" strictly to safety issues, like milk. etc.
This is a new record, mid-June. I made an incredibly small omission on my Schedule A when I submitted it in mid-February, and I didn't get a letter about a problem until about April 15. I promptly mailed the small correction, and received my refund 8 weeks later. The (*&%%% government got some pretty good use out of my money for about 2 extra months! And it was pretty substantial due to college tax credits. OK, next year, maybe I better have someone else look it over first!
There is No Doubt on what category to file this one under!
I guess the real answer lies somewhere in between. I use both baby steps and blitzes, and they both seem to have their place. So as long as we do at least one, that's most of the battle.
Building momentum is definitely cool, so starting with baby steps and ramping up as you can see a deadline become doable. I guess this is the logic behind paying off the smallest debts first, to build some confidence. I'd be willing to bet that there is a pretty significant flood of feel-good chemicals released into your bloodstream upon completion of a task, and the more arduous and difficult the more released. On the flip side, there is nothing more demoralizing than feeling overwhelmed and like you can't make progress.
This seems to be all I post about, so you can tell it weighs heavily on my mind, which is just about always groaning under the weight of something or other.
Anyway, on a related note, kudos to the people who keep this site running - it truly is a wealth of good financial info and I'm quite glad I found it 2 years or so ago.
I say that as I am enjoying listening to my fairly new portable HD radio. Basically an iPod type device, it allows me to listen to my area's excellent radio stations with less static than traditional FM, and as an added bonus, it shows the songs that are playing IF the station enters the data, and most of them do, to varying degrees.
I had my eye on it for months, but I waited until the price dropped from $50 to $40. Only 10 bux, but it felt great for some reason, that delayed gratification. Plus, I buy VERY few things, so that makes it more of an event when I do.
But what feels best is I love it - no ongoing costs other than electricity to recharge the battery, and it is just fun. Yes, I am a simple man. Maybe it brings me back to my childhood when I was thrilled to get a transistor radio. I remember transistor radios were rated by how many transistors they had - I think I got a deluxe TWELVE transistor one. It was all so stylish, extra wide, silver grill - nice!
Maybe radio just appeals to the cheapskate in me, since so much variety in music just comes streaming freely over the air. I've also always been awed that radio and TV work the way they do, over the air. To me it is sort of mind boggling that when you are outside on a beautiful day, the air is full of all those signals.
I also fondly remember sleeping out in a tent and getting that AM skip at night - faint signals from faraway places - just so cool to a kid. Went well with distant train horns.
Anyway, I guess this one gets filed under raves.
So what purchases of yours give you great pleasure?
I admit it - email and postal mail have had me overwhelmed for far too long. The problems are remarkably similar. A constant steady flow pours in, and I always left it in the inbox, while attempting to pull out and deal with the important stuff. Slack off a few days though...
So there mixed with spam and junk mail in an ever expanding mountain lay very important notices about important financial matters with close deadlines.
At work I have been quite happy with keeping a clean inbox for about a week now. I have read David Allen's Getting Things Done book quite a few times now, and probably one of the most important things he says is to trust your filing system enough to depend on it, and the only way that happens is with regular reviews. To that end, there is a very nice program for my Linux PC called Tomboy Notes. It is hyper text based so it is pretty easy to review. I have had a huge Word file at work for years now where I keep notes on day to day things in as organized fashion as I know how. So when I use it, I review it. So I hope to do the same at home with Tomboy Notes now.
Anyway, thanks for listening. I like to document things as I go along, since it helps me think. Of course it MAY also be a form of procrastination, eh?
This is despite thousands in payments. No, I don't have massive interest rates (although some have skyrocketed and need to be paid off badly, Capital One), but I do have massive Christmas costs that pretty much offset my payments.
I guess I need to get more serious - I think getting some Dave Ramsey books is in order. I have got the family on board more than before, but Christmas has ALWAYS been our Achilles Heel. I would like nothing better than to institute a no charge policy for Christmas. We have at least made most Christmas costs clothing costs which have come down somewhat over the rest of the year. For now I will go run some numbers on Quickenonline, my usual post-Christmas wallowing in grief.
I had over 500 items in my work Inbox - the emails had just piled in over the end of last year when I was quite busy and then out for a lot of vacation. But I've always kept my backlog there, even though I created a HOLD folder years ago, but I never really warmed up to it to the point where I used it properly. So I weeded the Inbox down to about 200 and then stuffed them in a HOLD folder, and I created a new one, HOLD - Time Critical! Check every day! We'll see if I follow through.
I have to admit, it is quite weird to see a blank Inbox! BTW, I got the term Inbox Zero I think from Lifehacker, a collection of small tips like this.
And in other organizational news, I got one of our cars inspected a full month and a half before the due date, and as expected, the line was nil! I may beat this procrastination thing yet! I also nipped at my bill/filing mountain and whittled it down a tad, and I did a similar cleanup at work, where it was even more sorely needed. Clean and organized, even semi-clean and semi-organized, feels great!
I REALLY need to lick my procrastination problem this year. So how about some good suggestions from you people?
It is so true - the payoff from procrastination is immediate and always good. But the payoff for hard work is delayed and not quite as certain. I do get immediate payoff from simple but critical tasks completed, ESPECIALLY when completed early, but still I find myself avoiding them. And as for the hard tasks...don't ask!
I came here because I realized by far my favorite mode of procrastination was the Internet, and at least here I can hopefully use the Internet productively.
OK, off to do some work for a while!
I always love the fresh start in January, and if you plotted my post frequency here, well.. (maybe I'll actually do that for fun!). You know, - a new year, fresh beginnings, all that crap.
I love doing the small things I can do to try to crawl out of debt - mainly economizing on food and cars and other household expenses. But as I was doing the math on the new year, I realize that that ain't enough! While we do finally now spend less than I make (except of course for college), the margin is pretty darn thin! So small stuff ain't gonna' do it.
I have no real point here, just thinking out loud. And you know the old saw about insanity is doing the same old thing and expecting different results. I think I have managed on some level to convince my girls that money is hard to retain. They both realize they need to cut back on daily expenses and they do very well on that for the most part, but they love their big somewhat expensive trips. I guess you are only young once, and at least they know the trade-off they are making.
I think my malaise has to do with how the US has become a place where it is very costly to live! That has to be leading to our non-competitiveness, when you consider that we pay WAY more than most places to support our government. OK, maybe Europe etc. does pay more, but they get more in return, like HEALTH CARE! I'm mostly looking at China and India who are both chock full of people quite willing to do jobs we used to do for a LOT less, and IMO that has to be mainly due to a smaller government tax burden, cost of insurance, etc. Maybe not, but I think it's a good guess!
So anyway, help me out! How can I stop being insane, live a good life and pay off this darn debt?! What hurts me is I LOVE a frugal life, but trying to live like most Americans is what put us in this hole. That debt is mostly clothes, toys (I HATE AMERICAN GIRL), vacations, years of swim and dance lessons with associated costs, and eating out, AFAIK. We have always been pretty darn frugal on cars, buying good ones and driving them until they drop.
I am finally getting a little discipline and attending to things that I've been neglecting. The main one is tackling my paperwork/filing mountain of stuff! I think my problem is an overflowing and undisciplined file system. So how is yours? A place for everything and everything in its place?
How do you deal with these? I am afraid I will do the wrong thing and make it worse, so that is paralyzing me and stopping me from doing anything.
I posted this question in the forum but I am still perplexed. The problem is an old medical bill for a dermatologist that the HMO kept refusing to pay by telling us we didn't have proper authorization. We tried and tried but got nowhere with them, and then somehow I missed it when the idiots turned it over to a collection agency, who then put the negative item on the credit report.
I will keep researching but if anyone here has had experience with this, please let me know.
This is putting my life on hold and I have a tuition bill coming up in January. We had been squeaking by with private loans. Much as I hate that, it is better than tapping my savings that are all in IRAs.
I guess we'll see, but I suspect that they are exempt - they certainly seem to have been so far. I know that state colleges are bursting at the seams as kids and parents shun the high priced private colleges (and very rightfully so). And I would imagine Community Colleges are booming also.
So how will the high priced private colleges deal with declining enrollments? And I'm not really sure if they have that or not - I guess all I know for sure is that state colleges are very full.
I guess the only real economical choice a student and parent have in the short term is to move down from state to community colleges for at least the first two years. There are just a handful of reasonably priced private colleges that I know of. There should be a thriving bunch of them. But maybe it takes real work (and a healthy endowment) to keep costs down and only a handful of colleges have that. A problem for me is that if my kid prefers the large university, the affordable private choices are about nil. There are a few small colleges that hold costs down, but they are pretty boring places!
As you may be able to tell, this drives me crazy! To have my life savings evaporated in a few short college years exasperates me to no end.
I haven't been here for a few weeks and it looks like there's been a somewhat big change. The place seems more boring and generic now without all those pics and background info. So did we have some kind of online stalker or security breach or something?
I have been just hanging in by my toenails financially lately. I've been walloped by several big unexpected bills all at once. I need some kind of break! To top it off some kind of wrist injury is keeping me off my bike, which is my stress reducer and main form of exercise. I guess I need to step up the dog walking in its stead! Anyway, I hope the rest of you are doing better than me!
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