Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Old Year in Numbers

2011 is almost gone, so here's how it all wound up financially:

My overall debt decreased by $7,258 over the course of the past year.

My retirement funds in my 401(K)increased by $10,616.

My net worth decreased by $7648--a function of NW housing prices which have gone down steadily for the past two years. I'm not feeling too bad about this since I own my rental outright, and my current home will be paid off in 2.25 years. I'm still over the half-million mark which sounds fine to me.

I did not meet my 2011 goal which was a desired debt reduction of $10,000.

But hey! There's whole new year coming up!

New Year but same old goals because I am still determined to lower my debt by at least $10,000 a year.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Few Great Gifts

A funny thing happened on the way to Christmas Day--my sister and my friend/roommate of the past two months ganged up to buy me all the things they think my home is missing. Which is how I wound up with a full-length mirror (which I used to have before a running grandchild accidentally collided with it two years ago), silicone spoon rests (thereby retiring the pottery ones I got from my great-aunt thirty years ago that were shaped like apples, but the stems had all gotten broken), a new set of dishes (to replace the remains of four separate sets I'd acquired over the past twenty years), linen dish towels (because I think hand towels are uselessly small for the bath, so I hang them in my kitchen) and a set of silverware for 12 (Really? Silverware is supposed to match? Who knew!).

And then, my wonderful sister bought me three new bras. (Guys, you can skip this paragraph. The women know whereof I speak!) In 62 years, I've never actually had a fitting session before purchasing a bra. And I've certainly NEVER spent $65 for a bra. But my sister took me for just such a fitting, and in the package under the tree were THREE, count-em, THREE brand new, well-fitted bras. BTW, I read somewhere that most women wear bras that are one size too large around the back and one cup size too small--that turned out to be exactly true for Grace.

All in all, Grace did very well this Christmas.

I hope yours was good, too.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

God REST Ye Merry Grace

So much for plans to get all my shopping done ahead, and be ready for Christmas.

Here it is Christmas Eve and I still have shopping to do and presents to wrap.

I've been listening to Christmas carols and scrambling to clean house before the kids and grandkids descend upon me. Every time I hear "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," I wonder where the 'rest' part will come in for me.

I'm thinking this month's financial report will not be good, but it will have to wait until I can breathe agains. Which, of course, is all too common with Christmas budgets--at the end, the budgeting goes out the window and I'm just trying to get everything done.

I hope you all have a peaceful Christmas and a financially better new year.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Grace: An Ungrateful Recipient

I started thinking about charitable giving in response to this post at "Grumpy Rumblings of the Untenured." Nicole and Maggie listed their favorite Christmas charities.

The point being, these were THEIR charities.

So far, so good.

Grace is not so much of a scrooge that she begrudges anyone for lobbying for their favored cause, especially at Christmas when pocketbooks are likely to be open.

But I draw the line at sending donations to MY charities in the name of other people to whom I feel obligated to give a gift.

Case in point: this year a relative of mine who usually sends small gifts to my family gave cards saying that she was not gifting this year. Instead, she made a donation on our behalf to a local animal-rescue project. Now there's nothing wrong with that particular charity; it does good work. But it is SO NOT a charity to which Grace would make a donation. (Sadly, Grace is a bit of a scrooge when it comes to animals--I don't have pets, don't want pets, and have never quite gotten the "dogs and cats are just like our children" people, even though I number those types among my friends.)

It doesn't feel like a gift at all. In fact, I would rather my relative had sent a card and said she wasn't sending gifts this year--given the economy, that would have been understandable. Instead she makes unwarranted assumptions about the charities I care to support. To put it another way, I wouldn't be making contributions to Planned Parenthood in the names of certain friends of mine who I know support Right To Life.

Nicole and Maggi think I should get over it--any donation beats an ugly sweater or a bath set. (I agree about the sweater, but I happen to like bath sets!)

The truth is, I won't confront my relative. I know she means well.

But, hey! This is what blogs are for. I can at least warn YOU about my feelings on the subject.

And I don't think I'm alone.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Great Giftcard Controversy

A few years ago, I gave my sister a giftcard from Eddie Bauer. I knew she liked their products; I needed to find another $50 item for her; and my daughter who was working at Eddie Bauer for the Christmas season could use her 20% discount to get the card for me.

Win-Win, right?

Omigod! You would have thought I'd given my sister a lump of coal.

She let me know in no uncertain terms that a giftcard is thoughtless, a lazy shopper's way out and no way for loving sisters to exchange gifts.

So, lesson learned.

Except that this year, when I queried my children and grandchildren about gifts they'd like to see under the Christmas tree, a surprisingly large number WANTED gift cards--cards to Victoria's Secret, IKEA,, Starbuck's and Nordstrom's.

I can understand, given my somewhat eccentric tastes, why some of my family might NOT want Grace picking out individual gifts but cards bother me a little since it then becomes clear to everyone exactly how much I'm spending on them for Christmas.

Also, how many ways can one wrap a giftcard so that it is any kind of surprise?

Finally, I worry that some of my adult children will spend the giftcards for regular living expenses, not something special for Christmas.

But is that any of my business? If one of my daughters wants to use the giftcard for her boyfriend, should it matter to me? If one uses the giftcard for groceries instead of the clothes I wanted her to buy, what of it?

I'm not a person who particularly likes to shop. Giving giftcards makes it very easy for me, and in many ways, I appreciate that.

In the end, I probably will give cards to those who requested them.

But NOT to my sister!

NEVER again, to my sister!