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Do you suffer from "dual-income" envy?

January 22nd, 2009 at 09:27 am

I sure do! It all started when I was in my early 20s looking to buy a house, but the starter housing market in my area was VERY hot in the early to mid-80s as interest rates were dropping from terrible highs. Anyway, I kept getting outbid for houses. I blamed the ability of those in dual-income marriages to bid more for my inability to buy a house.

And now years later, when I hear people talking about "banking my wife's paycheck", it almost makes me physically ill! I realize it is a trade-off, and that my kids probably benefitted greatly from a stay-at-home Mom, but now that they are over 16, money would be of more use.

Anyway, I guess I have to get over it! I just wanted to see if any other single income families are feeling the heat like I am!

So I've noticed that most of you bloggers are women

January 18th, 2009 at 06:07 am

Smile You can't get anything past me! I'm curious as to why that is. First of all, let me state another observation and say that I love this place. It is really fun and productive to share financial problems, tips, goals, dreams, realities, and setbacks. And since most of you are women, I feel like I'm on Oprah. j/k

So it is probably the natural superiority of men, right? That we've stayed out of debt and need no help? [duck and run]

So anyway, before I babble on and on and dig a serious hole for myself, suffice it for now to say that I've noticed this trend and I'll have no further comment!

So who else is mad at themselves for missing the Google IPO a few years ago?

January 10th, 2009 at 05:38 am

I saw a graph somewhere about how phenomenally the stock has done since its release. It reminds me of all the old people who used to say that about Xerox. I guess I figured that the market was more sophisticated now, and also I think it was pretty difficult to get in on it. It would have had to been in my retirement savings, which is fine, but only a very small portion is in a 401k or IRA that allows purchase of individual stocks.

Oh well!

And I'm not even sure how it has done in the bear market. On a related note, anyone who went into cash before the market crashed must be pretty darn happy!

How do you stay focused on saving money?

January 4th, 2009 at 08:40 am

As in most things, I tend to run hot and cold - I'll go whole hog on an effort only to burn out and ignore it for months at a time. One thing I MUST do better this year is to keep up with the mail and related financial commitments. But my situation is so depressing that can be difficult.

I think the answer is to be disciplined and segment each day into chores that must be done, i.e don't ignore things and let them pile up. Pretty simple plan, right? But not too easy to maintain.

I guess it is directly analogous to weight maintenance, another area I am falling down on. So unlike thin and rich, you CAN be too poor and fat!

Overall I have all the tools in my arsenal - I have a hobby that I love and that keeps me sane and is my main form of exercise - cycling. My weakness is that I tend to waste time on the Internet while ignoring household work, so this year I have renewed focus on ensuring that at least some of that time is here, where there is much comraderie and help to be found, so thanks! As far as the neglecting household work, I guess I may have a true Internet addiction. As they say, procrastination pays off NOW, and hard work only pays off over time, so...

Anyway, thanks for listening. I think I may have to reclassify this post as a rant! Smile Which brings up a fascinating question to me - how to classify posts - it seems to be a real art, a lot of it in picking useful minimally overlapping categories in the first place! For now, I put this one in all categories!

I love this blogging software!

January 2nd, 2009 at 03:48 pm

It is just so intuitive and easy to use, which unfortunately is not all that common with software these days. I like how new entries scroll past but you only get one at a time so no single entry-happy person dominates. And then the commenting system with email notifications is so nice.

And the little buttons at the top are fun! Lately I have been hitting the Favorites button when I read a blog I like. And the new entry and one to return to my blog are pretty convenient.

Another fun thing is Categorization. I recently added a Reference Category so I can easily find things I would like to remind myself of periodically, like the "Car Insurance Rules".

And my latest toy is creating new special pages, like one for monthly goals. Thanks, designers and programmers, I'm having a blast!

So who's your financial guru? Dave Ramsey? Jeff Yeager?

January 2nd, 2009 at 09:31 am

I just finished a little book by Jeff Yeager that I got from the new books section of the library. It was entertaining and very easy to read. I didn't glean a lot of new stuff from it, but I did thoroughly enjoy it. My main thought was "hey, this guy is a cheapskate just like me, so why does it work for him and not me". The answer is of course that he had his family on-board and was more dedicated than me.

I may need to check out Dave Ramsey since he apparently specializes in helping people like me dig themselves out before it gets too late.

Any others? I know someone here did recommend another book I got from the library that I enjoyed, so I'll have to go back and find that and maybe reread it.

Since Jeff Yeager is probably not that well known, here is his web page.

I'm apparently a "seasonal" financial blogger - how about you?

January 1st, 2009 at 07:20 am

So I joined last December and flamed out by May! And it looks like I'm not alone! A few of my favorite bloggers here have also fallen off the wagon.

But now I'm back for the usual reason, Christmas is always a financial disaster for me! I managed to hold the line on the old CC up until about September when it spiraled out of control - I still need to go back and try to figure out what happened! Then Christmas hit, my 0% rate expired on some CC balances, and one car needed tires, the other a $550 repair, so it's a Perfect Storm of sorts for me.

So what's your style and has blogging here helped you? What do you get out of it? I have received some good moral support and advice, but at times it seems like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic since all I can focus on are relatively small expenses. But it's all I got - I need to keep things in control since I am working with very little financial freedom or leverage here in attempting to get rid of too much debt.

Anyway, it feels good to be back, and we'll see how far I make it this year!

Financial Denial and Hopelessness

May 18th, 2008 at 11:52 am

I have a feeling that "financial denial" is a major cog in the credit industry's machinery. Back in the day, people didn't have this tool to get them in financial trouble, they just had to suck it up and stop spending, to balance their budget in real time! I know I have always hated to think about money, and that's a mental block I really need to work harder to get past. And my immediate family also has it, big time. They are all too happy to let me suffer through the misery of trying to make ends meet all on my own. I've said it here before, that I always meant to go all Ross Perot on their ***es, to show them just where the problem is and what we have to do. I suppose it all comes down to me being too much of a wimp. But I am quite aware that it's doing my daughters much more harm to allow this to continue to fester than to get them involved in buckling down and dealing with life.

That said, when expenses just rain down, I understandably get depressed. Large dental bills, the ever increasing gas and food bite, and the big kahuna college along with persistent old debt can be a TAD overwhelming.

My current financial state...

April 1st, 2008 at 01:33 pm

Screwed! Well, not totally, yet, but I sure feel like it. I am realizing that I can't use my 401k for the kids' college costs because withdrawals go against my income, so I would qualify for no financial aid at all if I do that. And I can't borrow the whole thing, especially for 7 years in a row. And to make a sad story even sadder, it looks like my FICO score went down recently after I had to refinance some expiring 0% debt to a promotional 1.99%. BoA juggled the credit limits on three CC accounts I had with them. They said it wouldn't adversely affect my FICO score, but something sure did last month - not sure how much lag time is involved, it could also have been financing $10k of college costs on a credit card back in January.

So if anyone can see any bright lights at the end of the tunnel for me that isn't a train, please let me know! Thanks.

Free one month trial of Quickenonline is pretty nice

January 26th, 2008 at 12:31 pm

It does have some limitations, but if you want to do a quick snapshot of your spending, it works very well. My Credit Union keeps three months worth of online data, so it downloaded that pretty easily. So the bottom line over the last three months is it said we are overspending by a couple of thousand! Sounds about right with Christmas. Frown It only does budgeting very simply by comparing the last month with the four month average. But it did point out that gasoline is killing us!! My wife drives a van that only gets about 17 MPG with her usual driving, so she must be driving a lot more than I thought!

One thing that is misleading is that we often get cash back when using the ATM card at the grocery store, so a lot of cash is lumped in with groceries. Any suggestions on how to handle that? I'm pretty sure I will buy regular Quicken with one of those tax software package deals very soon, maybe with one of my Christmas Gift cards, since I know it lets you split transactions like that and the web version doesn't. By the way, I tried the free equivalent at mint.com, but it didn't accept my credit union accounts.

Question on credit score and balance transfers

January 22nd, 2008 at 03:08 pm

Here's about the best online info I could find on the individual components of a credit rating:

It is an unfortunate fact of life that I have to keep shuffling while I try to pay down balances. But when I shuffle to a new 0% or low rate, how much of the available credit line should I use? I'm thinking maybe 90% to maximize the amount of cheap money, but trying to stay under the triggers for ratio of debt to available credit. But I have no idea what the triggers are, or even if they are on an account by account basis or a cumulative basis.

Boy, if this one from the Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Credit_history#How_credit_ratin... article is true, I am REALLY in big trouble! It brings up a very interesting point though, since I am looking at transferring OUT of a CC with a high APR but a low minimum payment to one with a very low 2% APR and most likely a much higher minimum payment.
# Control of debt - Lenders want to see that borrowers are not living beyond their means. Experts estimate that non-mortgage credit payments each month should not exceed more than 15 percent of the borrower's after tax income.[citation needed]

One more bit of info - the Credit section of my wamu CC account (which is very nice, BTW) implies that maybe it's 50% of an individual credit line that they look at. My score did go back up last month and looks pretty good right now.

It's not easy to squeeze a budget,and I guess large minimum payments are good.

January 14th, 2008 at 06:55 pm

After budgeting for the essentials, there just isn't much room for cutting in my budget. It seems like all I've got are the perennial targets, food and household items. Severely reducing eating out costs is the easiest score, but my wife's fast food habit will be tough to break. And she always gets the expensive combos, where I always get the $2-3 worth of items from the value menu with water to drink in the rare case when I am stuck eating fast food.

A big part of my budget is CC payments now that most credit card companies have raised the minimum payments to something like 2% of the total, and the last CC balance transfer I had to take for college might be 3%!! My CU still has the ridiculously low minimum payments though, and that really can lead to trouble. Before I always had the attitude "Later", but now I realize that I can't do that, "later" has to be NOW!!

Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic

January 13th, 2008 at 07:53 am

My finances have hit an iceberg (college). I should be getting the women and children into the lifeboats, right? The water level is rising fast! So saving another $100 or $200 a month probably isn't going to save our ship. Not that I can ignore cutting expenses, but I need to make more drastic maneuvers. Oh well, until then, I don't like the position of these deck chairs!

Why was the quoted loan rate so high for a college student?

January 9th, 2008 at 06:44 pm

I was pretty shocked when applying for a college private student loan for my daughter that even with me as a co-signer, they wanted to charge 10%, with a 3% origination fee!! Does anyone have any idea if it could have been because my credit rating is only about 722, down from 745, or was it just because of my daughter being a college student with no job?

In any case, I'm trying to improve my credit rating by not having any charges with a balance near the limit. I'm thinking that this will be essential to get student loans at a decent rate. I guess I'll put in for my free credit report right now to get the story on why it recently decreased by 20 points (according to the Wamu website). I haven't really done anything recently that would have caused that that I know of.

Later addendum: I am happy to say that Discover came through with an excellent rate, about half of Chase's!!! It sure pays to shop around - too often I think "they're all the same" - definitely not true.

Don't look down!

January 7th, 2008 at 04:40 pm

As I figuratively soared high above my finances to get a bird's eye view, I decided it's definitely not good to look down! When your CC debt is not too much less than your annual take home salary, THAT is a problem. Oh well, one day at a time! In my case it averages a thousand or two a year for 20 years or so, but I think it has only been accumulating over the last 10 years, or actually it has to be less since I can't have juggled 0% rates for that long! Oh my, I have work to do!

Tax deductibility of private student loans?

January 7th, 2008 at 01:04 am

I am wondering if you can deduct accrued interest or only paid interest on these? I'm pretty sure it would be paid interest only, but I figure there might be some people out here with experience on it. I'm also wondering if you can make extra payments on them, since the payments seem to be more rigidly structured than most loans,

I'm having a hard time with this decision

January 6th, 2008 at 08:52 am

I (she) need(s) to take out a private student loan to get my daughter through the next semester. But I can't decide whether to select deferred interest, pay interest only, or pay principal AND interest. I'm probably giving all of you a financial heart attack by even considering the first two! But this is only the first of eight years of college. I told her that she will have to pay the incremental over a state school, which comes to about $20k per year! So even though this one will be her responsibility, I can't see just letting the interest fester and add up! On the other hand I need to consider my ability to make payments. And the rate is fairly low, about 7%. Ideally I would select deferred payments and then make more payments as able. But I have CC debt to pay off also, currently at 0% but I can't keep that up much longer and it could roll to a bad rate.

What is your family's financial heredity?

January 6th, 2008 at 05:44 am

It's interesting that to a large degree in both my parents and my wife's parents, the man solely supported the family at first in the traditional model. But then the women took over for Act II, supporting the families from roughly age 50 or so.

But even more interesting to me is that both families sort of just barely got by, and yet the impact this had on my wife and I has been very different. It turned me into a natural cheapskate, very at home here. But to her, it meant giving her daughters what she never had. Both very reasonable reactions. But needless to say, it has caused trouble and conflict and led to our current less than ideal financial situation. I should also say that neither of us learned squat about finances from our parents or anyone else really, and we have unfortunately repeated that mistake in our daughters. For some reason I don't think our schools here ever had a class like that for kids, but I'll have to double check that, especially for the one still in high school where there is still time.

So I know what we need to do, to instill financial common sense in all of us, but I need a strategy, mainly a way to broach the subject. We are in this mess because whenever I bring up money, I get stonewalled. So I've often thought we needed a combined marriage/financial counselor, but as you might expect, I'm much too cheap to seek out and pay such a person, if they even exist. But as I'm sure many of you here know, there is a difference between being financially sensible and just plain being cheap. If there really was such a person and I had gone to him years ago, we would almost certainly be better off.

And lest it sound like I am laying too much at the feet of my wife, I am the one who allowed this to happen, it's my life that is affected, so I have to take some blame for not dealing with my problems in a timely and effective manner. Man, life is complex! I just wanted to get married and live comfortably.

Will I ever learn?

January 5th, 2008 at 05:18 am

Perusing this year's tax form I see that I made a big mistake. Suffice it to say that you need to consider the consequences when you do something, ESPECIALLY something big. Do I know that? Yes. Do I always do that? No! Why not??! I sure hope Ron White isn't right that you can't fix stupid!

Is there anything as satisfying and comfortable as a fully depreciated asset?

January 5th, 2008 at 04:33 am

You know - old shoes, old cars, old clothes. The top of the list for me is my good old car, a 1995 Honda. I'm totally comfortable and familiar with it - everything falls to hand immediately. It's familiar like an old friend. But the best part is no car payments! I just can't see tying all that money up, even though I truly love cars and would be in heaven with a nice new high tech, responsive machine. But that's just not in the cards for me right now, even though for most people my age it is. Does it bother me sometimes? YES! It sometimes seems like everyone on the road is driving a BMW except me! And I know most of them don't drive it because it's "the ultimate driving machine", they just drive it for the status (not that there's anything wrong with that, although I'm guessing there may not be THAT many of you here to offendSmile) I would appreciate the superb handling and road feel, etc., but I could not tolerate the high maintenance costs. But that jealous feeling doesn't last long. I look around on the roads and see my kindred spirits, all the people driving comfy old cars, usually young college age kids. My favorite car of the genre is the 90-93 Honda Accord - man, most of those things still look new! What an investment! They just keep on going and going, and still look pretty stylish to my eye. So, every time I drive my car I smile inside thinking of the money I am not spending on interest and depreciation.

From there the scale goes down pretty quickly. There is the Dell computer from 2000 that is still cranking away. Before that I think I had the same computer during about all of the 90s. Then there is my 1988 bicycle that has given me more pleasure per dollar than seems possible. So then we get to the poster child for this subject, the old shoe! Now perfectly molded to my feet, it just feels so good! And the same for old clothes, both much to the chagrin of my wife. I love that patina of age, I wear it like a badge of frugality, within reason of course, I don't think I look like a bum, I just look comfortable. So anyway, depreciation is the silent killer!

OK, I give! What do these acronyms like DD and DS mean?

January 3rd, 2008 at 02:40 pm

DH I got: Designated Hitter, er, I mean Domestic Housemate or Dear Husband.

OOPS! Now that I wrote this out, I'm going to guess Dear Daughter and Dear Son! Dang! I was only thinking Domestic Housemate, but as soon as I googled up Dear Husband for DH, it hit me! OK, I've still got a question though. Is DD(7) an age or number? Playing the odds, I'd say age.

Finally someone understands me! Yay!

January 3rd, 2008 at 09:56 am

Man, you people are a bunch of kindred souls as far as being cheap, er, I mean fiscally responsible - how refreshing! I get so tired of being Jack Benny, where everyone accuses me of being cheap! Actually, I do sort of take a page from his book and use it as my schtick. But can you believe how many people think being frugal is a BAD thing? Yes, I know, they are probably talking about being Ebenezer Scrooge, not the reasonable measures taken by most of us here. Anyway, thanks for understanding!

But that's only half the equation, and I definitely need help on the investing side, since I am one of those people who wishes I didn't have to deal with money. Plus investing has always seemed too Las Vegas-like for my tastes. Anyway, I am sure you will help me improve.

Name Brands and My Experience With Them

January 1st, 2008 at 10:03 am

Honda - Absolutely love them. I've been a loyal customer since 1988. Their cars are just bulletproof and last forever. And when they do make a mistake as in Odyssey transmission failures, they stand behind their product. Automotive nirvana as far as I'm concerned.

Dodge - bought a new 84 in 84, and based on that experience, never again.

Delta Faucets - Mixed - The kitchen one started leaking within a year or two, and I understand their much ballyhooed lifetime warranty is only on the finish. Argghhh. On the other hand the bathroom one is pretty nice.

Price-Pfister faucets - horrible! The handles just fell off and they feel horrible to turn.

Dell - Very good, as long as you buy wisely, i.e get the graphics card and memory slots you need.

Apple - mixed - so far my daughter's Macbook is fine, but her Video iPod died about the day the warranty was up. So far my other daughter's Nano is fine.

To blog or to forum? Do you check comments on old posts?

January 1st, 2008 at 05:28 am

I've been a forum addict for years now for hobby type things, and I see that this site is a unique and interesting mix of blog and forum. But as usual, flexibility causes you to make choices. I love the blog home page where the blog posts come up, which is very forum like. But I also really like how the blog is more of a personal thing, the author's conversation with the world. As I'm exploring the blogs as they come up in the new posts, I usually go back to get a feel for it, especially the first post, usually where the impetus for joining is explained. But I wonder if anyone sees comments I make to year old posts? Turning on email notification seems like it would cause too much mail, so do you do that or just go back and look to check for new comments? Man, it's tough work trying to keep the Internets organized, but someone has to do it!

Doesn't the popularity of Dilbert and Office Space sink in for companies?

December 30th, 2007 at 07:49 pm

Quotes like "That'll make you work just hard enough not to get fired" come to mind. Or decisions at Dilbert's company being made by drunken lemurs. It really hits close to home!

How do you stay fit inexpensively?

December 30th, 2007 at 06:25 pm

For me, it's road cycling. I can just leave my house and be back anytime from .5 to 3 hours. No driving anywhere, no gym memberships, and it's extremely time-efficient. I still ride my 1988 bike, so I can keep the expenses under $100 per year. The only necessities are tubes, tires, chain lube, and occasional bike maintenance. I'm lucky enough to live in an area where I can ride for a lot of the winter. The main drawback is it's weekends only during the winter. Another drawback is it's non weight-bearing, so I supplement it by walking the dog. But like any exercise program, if it suits you you stay with it, and I do, since it gives me so much back - the joy of the open road, great exercise, and everchanging scenery.

Hello World! My status as of 2007

December 29th, 2007 at 09:30 pm

OK, you can chalk me up as yet another New Year's newbie! I am here mainly because it is time to come up with the spring college tuition funds which is for some strange reason depressing and scaring the heck out of me.

In a nutshell, I make a good salary, but it has been stretched to the breaking point for years, and college is a heavy straw on this camel's back. Unfortunately we have wound up with inverse college savings, i.e some CC debt. As they say, life is what happens while we are busy making other plans. I have a decent 401k, but savings outside that are just about nil, a paltry EF only. So I figure I will be working to my early to mid 60s just to squeak by even if all goes well, another depressing realization.

I have actually been trying to figure out whether to seek professional help for the last few months, whether in the form of an accountant, financial planner, or financial aid counselor. But I am a big fan of Internet forums, so here I am, looking forward to some helpful input.

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