Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Thanks to Living Almost Large

If you haven't been reading Living Almost Large, you're missing an interesting and thoughtful financial blog. I'd say that even if she hadn't bribed me. But bribe me, she did. I received in the mail today, a copy of "Investing in an Uncertain Economy For Dummies," which I won by responding to a contest on her blog. Never mind that there were only two entries. Maybe if the title had been "How to Survive in an Uncertain Economy," there might have been more interest?

I doubt investing will be much on my mind during the next year, but I'm still glad I won the book, and I DO plan to read it. Thanks, LAL.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Christmas Confessions

They say that man plans, God laughs.

I should have kept that in mind when I made my Christmas budget.

This year, God not only laughed, S/he decided to give us WEATHER. I realize that folks who do not live in the pacific northwest already have WEATHER, but we residents of the rainforest just have wet or wetter. We do NOT usually have 14 inches of snow! The entire city shut down for the week before Christmas. I couldn't go to work, which was fine by me. But I couldn't get much else done, either.

Financially, there was weather-related good news and bad news. I saved a bundle on gas since I could not get my car out of the driveway. However, I spent way more than I wanted to on groceries since the only stores within walking distance were a local mini-mart and Whole Foods (what some accurately refer to as Whole Paycheck). We ate well for Christmas, but it was expensive.

Some of my adult children and their children couldn't get to my home at all. Others wore out their welcome as I played host for over a week--about five days longer than any of us wanted! More unanticipated expense.

Then there were the gifts that I had not yet purchased. Forget sales. The only thing that mattered was whether the store that sold what I wanted was reachable by bus. Then I paid whatever the price was. Naturally, that price was generally higher.

Interestingly, none of this bothered me too much because I still had some of my "garage fire" money. Funny thing about having funds that have not been earmarked--they not only give one a sense of comfort, but they are far too easy to spend. I did much better at sticking to my budget last year when I was worried about every penny.

Ah well--onward to 2009. My year-end wrap up and new goals are coming tomorrow.

In the meantime, I finally updated my links. Thanks for your help.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Use It or Lose It

My house is a mess due to the painters. I can barely walk in my living room where all the bedroom furniture is currently hanging out.

So, unable to keep things clean at home, I'm, instead, determined to tidy up my blog--specifically my links to other blogs.

Can I just say that when I like a blog, I like to read NEW posts in that blog? Some of you have fallen by the wayside. I miss you. Where did you go? I want you back.

Solitary Dancer at Bare Bones Living is gone, though she assured me in a private e-mail that she is still tracking her finances, just not so publicly. The guys at Engineering My Finances and The Platinum Years haven't posted since February and July respectively.

At any rate, if you're still alive and haven't posted in awhile, let me know.

If you have a blog that you think I should be reading (and therefore adding to the list), let me know that, too.

I'm giving it a week, and then--

Ruthless pruning will ensue.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Hidden Costs Behind the Free Gifts

I was thinking about this as I marched through Walgreen's picking up several packages of Double A and Triple A batteries. (They are "buy one, get one free" this week.) Once the grandkids run through these batteries for their electronic Christmas gifts, their parents will be stuck supplying the "free" gifts with expensive batteries.

And then there's Grace. My baby sister is paying for my interiors to be painted--it's an expensive and welcome gift. BUT. . .

Who knew all the hidden costs?

For example--the drapes in the master bedroom. I've been here sixteen plus years and have never done more than occasionally vacuum them. But when I took them down for the painters (and recovered from the dust-induced sneezing fit), it was painfully obvious that they needed a professional cleaning. How is it I have survived 59 years on this planet and didn't know that dry cleaners charge by the pleat for draperies? Two sets of clean drapes later, I am out $180!

It also turns out that once the closet doors were painted, their hardware looked shabby. For a mere $48, I combated shabbiness throughout the bedrooms!

Yes, I love my free gift. I'm just a tad less enamoured of the unexpected expenses that came along with it.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Ah Warren--Say It Ain't So

A rather disturbing blog entry concerning Warren Buffett and his granddaughter appeared this morning on AOL. I don't know what bothered me more--Buffett's casual assumption than an "adopted grandchild" was less than a "real"--read that, biological--grandchild, or that one of the richest men in the world would allow a grandchild to go without health insurance.

As the mother of five daughters adopted from the foster care system, there is no question in my mind that these are my "real" kids. Nor do/did my parents, sister or friends ever question that. They didn't get a vote, either. What the heck does Buffett mean when he says HE didn't adopt her as a grandchild--um, Warren? YOU didn't have to--YOUR SON adopted her, and that makes her YOUR grandchild. Don't you have lawyers who can explain that to you?

Of course, the grandchild in question is an adult and apparently makes $40,000 a year, so it's not like Buffett owes her health insurance, but you'd think it would concern him that she doesn't have any.

I know it concerns me when my adult children or my grandchildren don't have health insurance, even though I am not in a position to provide it for them.

I dunno--even assuming that Buffett has more reason than a documentary film and an Oprah interview to dislike his granddaughter, his statements about adoption and his lack of assistance to her are disturbing. It's not like he's being asked to give her a Corvette--it's HEALTH INSURANCE, for Pete's sake.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Freemarket Kharma

Fortunately, I have never said I was a nice person. Or if I did say it, you should probably know not to trust me on the subject.

It's not nice to have warm, fuzzy feelings over the misfortunes of others.

But. . .

Mea Culpa. I couldn't help myself.

There I was, thumbing through my new issue of Vanity Fair (purchased frugally for a six dollar annual subscription rate on E-Bay) and I happened on Michael Shnayerson's article about the cutbacks the super rich are having to make in the wake of the Wall Street crisis.

I particularly liked the trophy wife gazing at shelves of $6000 handbags bemoaning the fact that she will have to cut back her maid service. She couldn't just sell one of those fancy bags? Pardon me if I'm feeling sorrier for the maid than I am for Ms. Trophyette.

Actually, it is the personal trainers, the nannies, the charities who depend on monies from the well-monied, the waiters and the real estate agents who are the real losers here. But the very wealthy, down to their last ten million or so, seem more worried about the upkeep on their summer homes than the fate of those they employ.

Poor, pitiful them.

And shame on Grace for having a laugh at their expense (both literally and figuratively!)

Sunday, December 7, 2008


This is a list of bits and pieces that don't warrent an entire post but are too good not to put somewhere on this blog.

1. My total indebtedness went down in November, though not by much. I'll do a more thorough analysis at the end of December.

2. My 401(k) is back over $100,000 but the roller coaster is giving me a headache. I have made a decision NOT to increase the monthly amount I put into my 401(k) in 2009 but I'm not going to reduce it either.

3. On the job front, I will not be getting a raise this year, but I will get a lump sum payment in January. We are unionized and have a salary scale. I've been at the top of the scale for years, so rather than keep adding steps to the scale, I am more likely to get a lump sum that is a percentage of my annual wage. The truth is, I rather like this, though I would not want it to continue forever. I could get $120 more per month which winds up being about $42 more per paycheck or I could get one larger check. Sad to say, I am more likely to put the lump sum toward debt reduction than the regular monthly increase.

4. I did hit the major sales on Black Friday, and if I do say so myself, I got a lot of great deals and no lives were lost. In fact, it seemed to me that there were not as many folks out at 5:00 a.m. as I've seen in the past. One local store puts all their socks and bath towels on sale at half-price--I stocked up for the year. Another had comforters for $9.99. I got several since I never seem to have enough blankets, especially when I have guests. For whatever reason, GPS units are on everyone's Christmas list this year, so I bought several TomTom 125 units for $99 each--the lowest price I've seen for those. I also got 60% off on children's winter jackets, so guess what the grandkids are getting from Grandma Grace this year.

5. My sister (the rich one, and the provider of major gifts to moi!) came for Thanksgiving and gave me my gift early--a great gift it is, too! She is paying for my entire home interior to be repainted and rewallpapered. I've been in this home 18 years and have repainted only two rooms. After assorted children and grandchildren, some with serious behavior issues that impacted (literally!) the walls of my house, it badly needs refurbishing. Not to mention that the previous owners thought that blue plaid wallpaper would look good in the kitchen. Ahem! Since when is blue plaid wallpaper a good idea for ANY room? So Grace is knee deep in color chips and wallpaper samples. Pray for her, and keep her away from magenta accent walls!

6. I love cranky bloggers, so I particularly appreciated this one from Becoming Debt Free in 2009. The woman who griped about new hubby's child support debt annoyed me the most, especially because she may well be in the old wife's position some day.

7. Gas is $1.69 and my 100 gallons of heating oil is now $189 rather than the $307 it was I paid the last time I put oil in the tank.

That's it for the small stuff. More, later.