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Archive for August, 2008

It pays to talk to a human sometimes

August 30th, 2008 at 10:48 am

I booked the hotel last night for our weekend in San Francisco, and instead of chosing The W at $299, I chose the Clift House (extraordinary!). On their website, it said the room I wanted was $255. Instead of booking online, I called them and asked if we could take advantage of their "Summer Special" which was supposed to be for bookings in the month of September (we are booking it for August 31). And, she gave it to me! The cost of the room is $189.

Plus, I told her it was our 5th anniversary getaway (which it is) and she made note of that. So, we may have something special waiting for us in our room.

It pays to talk to a human sometimes!

Happy Long Weekend!

August 29th, 2008 at 10:25 am

It won't be cheap, but it should be fun. My BF and I are driving to San Francisco (about 70 mile trip) and staying at The W Hotel ($299/night). We will go see Beach Blanket Babalon (a SF tradition) $60/ticket, and then Yoshi's Jazz Club for dinner and a show (not sure what that's going to cost).

I'm paying for the hotel, he's paying for probably everything else.

Love that Interest!!

August 26th, 2008 at 08:11 am

Iím interested in interest!

I opened a money market account with GMAC on January 1 this year for my first ever Emergency Fund Ė it was one of my new yearís resolutions that I came up with after reading SA blogs. Anyway, they post the interest on the 25th of each month. Yesterday, I earned $17.49 in interest (3%) and have added it to my EF total on the left.

"Hidden" Money - Money I forgot to add to my Budget

August 25th, 2008 at 06:30 pm

I was playing with Pauletteís budget spreadsheet (in her blog today) and as I was plugging in my expenses, it looked like I had ďmore month than money.Ē I couldnít figure out what I had done wrong because I have a healthy savings and checking account and never bounce a check.

What I forgot was that although my monthly take home is about $4,400 (after taxes, medical insurance payments, and 401k contribution), I also put 10% of each paycheck into what is called an Employee Stock Purchase Plan (ESPP) which comes due every six months. In the last two cycles (the last 12 months), I made over 20% on my investment! This is the single greatest money maker I have and I'm so thankful my company provides it to us.

For example, on August 1 the ESPP came due and I sold my stock. I purchased it with $4,300 (which was collected out of each my paychecks over the last six months) and sold for $6,300. If I did my math right, it was a 30% profit!

This last year, my ESPP gained me about $4,000 in extra income. I got one check in February and one in August for over $6,000 each. I use this money to pay my property taxes and have a little extra buffer in my checking account.

In addition to the ESPP money I get every six months, I forgot to plug in my profit sharing checks which come every three months. They net about $650. And, I have been getting a tax refund ever since I bought the condo and that amounts to another $5,000-$7,000 a year.

Iím glad I figured out what I had done wrong on the budget spreadsheet, because I was concerned I was in way over my head!

My how rapidly the vacation fund has grown!

August 25th, 2008 at 10:26 am

It's amazing how quickly you can save money when two people focus on it!

My BF and I started a joint savings account in March of this year. We hadnít designated just exactly what it was going to be used for, but it quickly became known as our vacation fund.

We have been putting in equal amounts (this is VERY important to me, even though he earns more than double what I do) to fund this account. On the 1st and 15th of each month, we each automatically transfer $100 to the account. So, thatís $400 per month. Then, when we have extra money Ė like when we get profit sharing at work Ė we put in additional, equal amounts.

In just six months, we have reached $4,400 in the account! I had hoped for $5,200 in one year, but we are already almost there. So, itís time to set a new goal. And, we have yet to pick when and where our vacation will be. I think we could have almost $8k by Christmas. And, knowing me, Iíll want to just keep on saving it instead of spending it!

Do I have to get custom drapes?

August 23rd, 2008 at 10:07 am

I ordered new blinds for my condo living room. The vertical slats for the sliding door came in yesterday and Iím still waiting on the wood blinds for the large window. The cost for the two came to $730.

The vertical blinds were installed yesterday and they are nice enough, but they make noise (squeak) when I pull them shut or push them open. And, I bought new drapes which were 95Ē long and they are TOO SHORT! The drapes cost me $100 and I have to return them. What I need are 100Ē drapes. Guess what? They donít make 100Ē drapes. You have to buy 108Ē drapes and get them hemmed.

So, Iím considering getting drapes custom made. I have no idea how expensive that will be. Has anyone done that?

Home Maintenance vs. No Maintenance

August 21st, 2008 at 08:45 pm

Keeping up a home is expensive, but not as expensive as not keeping up a home!

I bought a condo three years ago and it was in pretty darn good shape. It was built in 1980 and the previous owner had put in new floors, new appliances, and a new furnace. The kitchen and bathrooms are still 1980, but in good working order.

I had the interior painted ($2,000) and thatís all so far. My homeowners association pays for everything on the outside of the condo, so need to do anything there. I figured I should be doing something, but what? You see, this is my first home, so Iím still learning about home ownership responsibilities.

So, I thought maybe I should get the ducts cleaned. I called Coit (a company that cleans stuff in the SF Bay Area) and they quoted me $300 to clean all the ducts, including my dryer vent.

I thought that sounded a bit steep, but when I pulled up one of the floor duct coverings and peered inside, I knew I had to get them cleaned. Good lord, have you ever looked inside one of your ducts? Itís GROSS! And, when winter comes and you turn on your heater, all that crap (dust, dirt, hair, crumbs, etc.) blows up into the room, all over your furniture, food, dishes, etc. Itís really awful! So, Iíll have them come out and do that soon.

I also decided I should get new blinds in the living room (the ones there are pretty cheap and are starting to break). I picked out really nice stuff Ė not stuff that will break anytime soon and it will cost me $730. They are being installed tomorrow. Yay! I also bought new drapes for $100. This will make a big difference and really freshen up things.

So, itís expensive to keep up with things, right? But, let me tell you about a friend of mine who has a house in San Francisco and hasnít kept up with the maintenance. His fence is falling down ($2000), his house is in desperate need to exterior paint (no idea what that will cost him, but a bundle, Iím sure!), interior paint (big house, so probably $3000-$4000), carpets (they have holes in them!), and new appliances (his refrigerator is held together with bungee cords).

He is trying to rent out the extra room right now, and everyone who comes through to look at the place isnít interested because itís so shabby. He cannot afford to do all the maintenance, but he canít attract a renter without it. He has just let this go for way too long and now heís in a pickle.

So, Iíll choose to keep things up, step by step. That way, Iíll never be hit with a huge bill to bring everything up to snuff.


Learning The Ropes

Been Gone but Boo got me back!

August 21st, 2008 at 05:58 pm

Hello folks,

I've been gone for quite a while, but have been peeking in on how you are all doing. It was Boomeyer's question about how much we spend vs. income that got me back into the game. Thanks, Boo. That was really interesting.

When last I was here, I was telling you about the Party King and the destruction of my BF's house. Well....it has been several months, and we still haven't gotten the carpet replaced or the walls painted. We did get the furniture repaired and cleaned. But you know how these things go -- you pick out carpet and then you decide that you need new window treatments, and while youíre at it, why not paint the whole house?? It's turning into a lot of work and money.

The Party King is paying his father $2,000. It is reasonable, I think. The boy fought it hard, but has succumbed. And, he is now off to college and we are thrilled.

Iím going to keep this first post back very short, but will do my best to get back into posting the comings and goings around here.

Cheers to all,