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Happy 2016! My yearly NYD entry

January 1st, 2016 at 09:05 am

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. Smile

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!

Hello! Still plugging away here!

September 10th, 2015 at 04:10 pm

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?

Four Days!

December 31st, 2014 at 03:01 pm

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!

So Mint has made some good progress lately

March 30th, 2014 at 08:58 am

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.

So what has been happening here in personal financial blog land?

March 6th, 2014 at 05:23 pm

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.

A major rebate fail - damage control time

October 7th, 2012 at 08:52 am

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?

First week in my new job - so far so good!

January 22nd, 2012 at 09:06 am

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 economy finally caught up with my job. :(

October 29th, 2011 at 11:50 am

The site I work at was recently shut down. Frown 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!

Hi everyone! It's been a long time!

July 3rd, 2011 at 06:08 am

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! Smile

A beautiful vacation day on tap! Plus, Adblock is nice!

October 26th, 2010 at 05:04 am

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!

Ahhh, working down the fridge inventory feels good

October 14th, 2010 at 03:30 am

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!

So has anyone else here moved from Quickenonline to Mint?

August 31st, 2010 at 06:26 pm

I have and it looks pretty similar. It makes some pretty stupid extrapolations from data it gets.

Are shortcuts really inherently bad? Why do they have such a bad reputation?

August 29th, 2010 at 05:28 am

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.
3. Forgotten.
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. Smile

Creativity and simplicity

August 7th, 2010 at 06:57 am

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)? Smile

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. Smile