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Hey, where did all the "About Me" stuff go?

September 12th, 2009 at 10:24 am

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!

What's your biggest financial lesson? Mine is today is tomorrow.

August 22nd, 2009 at 10:11 am

I am a born procrastinator, and it has and is costing me dearly. The bad part is it is a progressive disease. Fall a little behind, no big deal, you can set aside some time and work extra hard to catch up. The all nighter syndrome a few of us may remember from our school daze. And it actually feels good to work hard and complete something. But fall behind big time, and you start to lose hope. THEN it starts to get REAL bad. Little things turn big and snowball, another term and concept that we debt-troubled people are all too familiar with.

In contrast, I know a guy, a former Boy Scout, who always does things as soon as he can. And he is a financial rock of Gibralter, I'm sure largely due to that and other good habits. He says he grew up poor, but I think it is also due to the Boy Scout experience, probably along with genes. My nature, in contrast, is a laid back "thinker", an absent minded professor who is interested in concepts rather than details. Needless to say, that ain't good in the anal world of finance. I try to concentrate and focus and I succeed for a while, but it's always a struggle and I then backslide big time.

It is an interesting paradox. The payoff for procrastination is obvious and I am hooked on it. But the payoff for hard work is also obvious, and I also love that. But it takes hard work! And actually, I'm more a fan of easy but satisfying work - you know - doing the laundry, etc. So a lot of financial chores actually do fall in that category - paying the bills, keeping track of a budget, etc. But I tend to put it off too long even though it is relatively easy. After thinking about it a while it is the feeling of being overwhelmed that snowballs on me. So now, since I have LOTS of saved up "staycation" (a vacation that isn't dirt cheap is, in my current financial situation, absolutely unthinkable). So cheer for me as I try to work hard to bail out the sinking financial ship.

By the way, what is your biggest financial lesson?

So is the credit crunch a good thing?

August 3rd, 2009 at 02:47 pm

Is the way CC companies are closing down lines of credit just a return to fiscal sanity? Will it force people with debt problems to bite the bullet and get 'em paid off?

I have mixed feelings, but in the long run it's probably a good thing. They got some of us hooked on crack and now they have withdrawn it suddenly.

So my big question is will colleges respond to supply and demand, and lower their prices as people who used to depend on student loans are denied en masse? My feeling is no, they will behave more like government, where the only way to cover their uncontrolled expenses is to keep jacking up the price. At least until people figure out alternatives to college.

Oh man - what a difference a year makes!

July 28th, 2009 at 06:51 pm

I applied for a private student loan for my college daughter, and I was turned down, even with me as a co-signer, they said because of my credit rating! And last year I got one at 1% over prime. So in one year I apparently went from a very good rating to trash? I think the credit crunch is hitting big time!

This really stinks. I had planned to use loans to get both daughters through, and then once I could withdraw from a 401k after age 59.5 to get them paid off. But I was concerned that this might happen. Why have I died and gone to hell?

Man, graduation/birthday season is expensive!

June 8th, 2009 at 05:01 pm

It seems like April/May/June are pretty darn expensive months! If it isn't graduations, it's birthdays. OK, that's my poor excuse for a post for June. Smile I guess I'll go update my Goals pages.

Help me decide whether I should get my daughter a car!

May 3rd, 2009 at 10:08 am

OK, for the hardcore here, I'm sure that the correct answer is no, since I do not have the money. Case closed!

So if we go with that, do we be really mean and make a senior ride the bus to school, or more realistically, have her mom take her as in the last two years since the bus leaves WAY earlier.

One big problem is that the darn high school parking lot is like a demolition derby for not just door dings, but MAJOR door dents! They just about ruined the beautiful 2002 Accord my older daughter took there her senior year.

The killer for me is I am a cheap car guy (yes, I know, definitely an oxymoron, especially with insurance and repairs). So one of my favorite things in the world is to get a nice old fully depreciated Honda for her to drive. The killer is the insurance. Ouch! But I'm still thinking of a REALLY cheap car with only liability. Help me decide!

Another quick update

April 20th, 2009 at 05:47 pm

It feels great to have the taxes behind me. But I've been slacking on maintaining focus to pay down debt and keep up with paperwork. I have unfortunatley noticed a pretty big uptick in family spending with the nice weather - it seems every trip is a $100 trip if you include a meal out!

I sure intend to get back here soon with some more meaningful posts - see you, and keep saving!

A quick entry amid the tax frenzy

April 11th, 2009 at 12:16 pm

I'm finding a few nice things that are combining to give me a decent refund this year. We were able to get a decent education deduction, and at least a piece of the child tax credit for my daughter's last year of eligibility. And we're finally getting the $300 recovery rebate for her that I missed last year because of the careless mistake of omitting her SS number on the return. And next year I'll have to pay some college loan interest to take advantage of the deduction up to $2500.

My bottom financial line is still way too much debt and expenses. Argghhh!!!

I'm still here! To catch up, some minor stuff..

March 15th, 2009 at 03:31 pm

I just got my FAFSA in under the wire for today's deadline for my daughter's college.

I wanted to get the taxes done first, but TurboTax is acting funny. I think I need to reset it and start over, since it doesn't seem to have picked up my state withholding so it's telling me that the standard deduction is better, and I KNOW that ain't right! I always filed manually, but since Vanguard allows you to at least use TurboTax, I found that it is good for finding college deductions. But it also has my state wages at TWICE what they should be. Hmmm...

The good news is that it seems the IRS is ready to pay bozos like me who somehow missed last year's stimulus payments. I somehow omitted my two daughter's SS #s on the return, so we missed their stimulus payments.

In other news, I almost killed my car by letting the oil get low. I think it's consumption may be getting high prematurely, at a young 150,000 miles!

Anyway, I stayed away too long!

The Winter Savings Effect

February 19th, 2009 at 02:03 pm

Has anyone else noticed that it is MUCH easier to save in the winter than in the other seasons? I think it is because cocooning is so darn cheap. I know with my wife and kids, if they are out somewhere, they are spending money. So the only time I ever come close to catching up is January through April - unfortunately a very short season.

So what is the Ideal Budget?

February 16th, 2009 at 04:20 pm

Does it look like this, the top Google hit?

[url]http://7million7years.com/2008/08/29/ideal-budget-alloc...

In lieu of anything else, it looks pretty close to me. I'd like to post my actual numbers next to it for a critique from you people, hopefully I'll have that ready in a few days. What I do know is mine is far from that! Oh, housing is dead on, but debt service is a TAD higher. Arghh.

So the numbers in descending order are :
Housing 30%
Transportation 14%
Food 12%
Entertainment/Recreation 7%
Clothing 6%
Misc. 6%
Debt 5%
Savings 5%
Investments 5%
Insurance 5%
Medical/Dental 5%
Total 100%

Some difficulties with quicken online are slowing me down, but luckily I found the help forums, and a fix for the problem I am having is due in February. In the meantime I'll probably just resort to Excel.

Man, budgeting is a bear!

February 15th, 2009 at 09:02 am

The good news is that Quickenonline FINALLY co-operated in accepting the CC data from my CU. I re-entered the login data and it finally started working, so now I have four months of CC data to work with. So it will pick up things like periodic charges for bridge tolls (it stinks having to commute over a toll bridge!) and anything else that goes on the CC and needs to be budgeted.

I guess it isn't telling me anything that I didn't already know, that our excess spending is manifested in a rising CC balance over the last six months or so. The trick I guess is annualizing things like auto maintenance and Christmas expenses.

And I have basically stopped using the CC, converting to cash for the occasional dining out so that I feel the pain, and it works! But my wife has not slowed down as much as I had thought. Arggghhh!!

Oh well, back at it.

Better to go Cold Turkey When Cutting Spending?

February 14th, 2009 at 11:56 am

A quote that really stuck with me from the TV series that I just discovered called "Maxed Out" was a woman saying it was easier to just stop spending money than to try to just cut back. This was in reference to eating out. Makes sense, sort of like alcoholism, you have to stop, not just slow down!

But realistically, severely scaling back can be a great feeling. Then it feels just wonderful to splurge once in a great while on very small things. It seems more special when it is unusual. The habit of eating out all the time drives me bonkers - what a waste of money!

We've still got a long way to go, and it is very hard for me because it's indirect, in that I'm trying to control my family's spending, although I still take challenge in making my frugal ways even more frugal. What I've realized is that my accounting sucks. It's not a be all and end all to know where the money is flying away, but it is a necessary first step to getting control and setting a realistic budget. It gives me a common language to use with them, like "we did very well on eating out last month, so we can go out once this month, etc." If it all just gets sucked up into the big black hole of debt, it's much harder to visualize. I think that is what most of America has lost with Credit Cards, that necessity of give and take to balance things out. It's like a cultural collective madness - I'm sure most people just follow the crowd, most of who can't afford to go out all the time either. That's why I've always appreciated the viewpoint of depression era people - they know the deal.

Who here watches Maxed Out on Style Network?

February 13th, 2009 at 11:51 am

And yes, I realize that sounds silly and hypocritical coming from someone who shouldn't even have cable. I've made many a tarry in that battle over many years and I've always been forced back. Just one more example of how my preferred monkish lifestyle is at odds with a family. I have to rationalize it (for now) by remembering that we spend VERY little else on entertainment.

ANYWAY, I've been sick lately and I ran across the Maxed Out series on Lifestyle network on daytime TV. I only saw the one yesterday about two 30ish single women who made the smart choice to share a condo, but they were each in deep debt due mainly to maintaining a single urban lifestyle, with WAY too much eating out. So besides slashing expenses, the counseler lady insisted that they sell or refinance their condo - they went for a refi. This was a little surprising since you usually hear not to do that, to pay off consumer debt with home equity. So I think I am in a similar situation. So far I THINK I can make the payments without doing that, but it is getting way too close for comfort.

So I will concentrate on analyzing expenses - both women were SHOCKED that they were grossly overspending. I'm not quite in that much denial, but there is some fog as to exactly how much we are overspending, so that is job two, right after stopping the bleeding from excess interest charges.

Anyway, it's a good show, and it just emphasizes to me what a constant battle it is to keep debt from encroaching if you don't make a serious and concerted effort to prevent that from happening. I think it is a little worse these days when costs are rising much faster than income, but it has always been a battle. I remember when I grew up, eating out was just not done, we just couldn't afford it. And now it is WAY too routine.