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Archive for February, 2012

Quick rant!

February 25th, 2012 at 09:03 pm

Remember DH's "best" friend who magically showed up at our house 2 summers ago asking for $5,000 that he would magically pay us back within 90 days? As you know hubby insisted I give it to him-- a single guy in California.

Well, I'm steamed. OF course, he never paid him back and we've heard from him maybe once since he borrowed the money. Today, he emails me his online photo album of his month-long trip TO BRAZIL! You can't pay back your friends who have two kids to support, but you can go to Brazil??? I am so steamed. This is why I didn't want to give it to him in the first place. He couldn't pay his mortgage and property taxes because he'd rather spend his money on "fun" stuff. He's just like my sister. It makes me so mad. Sorry, I haven't done anything fun in years, stashing away every spare penny for me and my family's future, and you come along and take a huge chunk of it, disappear, and go to f**ing brazil. NEVER AGAIN>

freezer fantasy plans

February 24th, 2012 at 06:06 pm

The new chest freezer was just delivered. Time to set my "one day I will be organized and will use the chest freezer to store ingredients for cooking delicious home-cooked meals bought at deep discounts" fantasy. Yeah, That's it, seriously.

The second part of that fantasy was using the fridge/freezer in my kitchen to store premade, ready to heat up frozen meals, hence reducing our dependence on restaurant meals and take out. I am probably living a pipe dream, but it can't hurt to try.

Lent, freezers, and goals. A day in the life!

February 22nd, 2012 at 05:16 pm

Happy Lent. I decided I'm actually going to observe it this year. First time in a long time! I'm giving up all unnecessary spending-- meaning, no buying anything that isn't absolutely essential. And, giving up booze and sweets. I'm feeling compelled. It's only 40 days, right?

Now the chest freezer. I have two gigantic and growing boys (3 and 2), and they eat a ton already. I have been warned that they will one day view a box of cereal as a single snack. I've also been stocking up on sale meats and discount breads and buns. And, when the growing season gets started I always have a ton of vegetables and fruits to freeze. I'm busting at the seams, so I last night I bought a 7 cu ft chest freezer. Small, but not too small. Big, but not gigantic. I used $200 in Home Depot gift cards I earned as a bonus for signing up for the Southwest airlines credit card. free money! I did pay $49 out of pocket. It cost $229 plus tax.

I still have $300 in free Amazon gift cards from that signing bonus as well, but I am going to try to save as much of that as possible for Christmas.

Now on to goals. One of my big goals was to secure some higher-paying freelance gigs. I think, just like last year, the universe aligned. You put the vibe out there and things start to materialize. I'm working on my second back to back assignment for a national wire service, which pays $500 to $600/story, and yesterday I got a call from a new client (an old coworker recommended me) and landed a $250 gig that could turn into a regular assignment. It's not millions of dollars, but considering the major daily newspaper pays me $100 to $150 each for very involved stories every week, these other gigs are MUCH MUCH more lucrative.

Hopefully all of this new cash can help me pay off that car loan and reach that goal for the year. Fingers crossed!

Now, feast, not famine.

February 20th, 2012 at 09:26 pm

In the world of freelance work, I've found it's feast or famine: either your phone is ringing off the hook with assignments, or it's a desert and it's like you dropped off the face of the earth. Right now, I'm having a feast.

I'm working on my second in-a-row high-paying story for a news wire service. Both were stories where editors called me to ask if I wanted the work. A very nice change. This place usually is a you come up with an idea, pitch it, and wait forever to hear if they want it or not. I guess I ended up on someone's good list.

And, I just got an email today from a friend's editor. He works on a higher-paying B2B magazine and was looking for a reliable freelancer. We talk tomorrow. We'll see how that goes. I am feeling overwhelmed a bit now, just trying to get ahead before I go to New Orleans in a couple of weeks, but with freelance, you just can't say no when opportunity arises. So, here's to getting everything done by deadline!

He wasn't kidding.

February 19th, 2012 at 08:48 pm

Hubby went to the store and spent $1750 after tax on computer parts and is building a new super computer. Ugh. Oh well, it's been 10 years since he asked for anything, so I guess he was overdue!

I had already transferred his bonus to savings, but our insulation rebate check for $900 came in the mail yesterday. (Bummed. Had planned to use it to pay down the car loan). I guess I'll use that to cover some of the cost of the computer, and then I'll try to just skimp until next payday and hope I can pay the rest out of pocket.

I don't want to dip into savings. Can you tell?

Hazzah! Hubby got a bonus.

February 17th, 2012 at 08:11 pm

Hubby got his annual bonus today. Hazzah! It was $11,200 after taxes. It was funny, because we were in the kitchen together making coffee and breakfast with our 2 year old, and I was on the computer paying bills.

I told him the bonus arrived, he jumped up and down, and immediately began talking about how he wanted $1700 to build a super computer to replace his old one (He's a computer geek by trade, and it's been 10 years since I bought him a computer. But still!)

We both had a laugh because in the five minutes he spent telling me about the computer parts he wanted to buy, I had already "spent" the bonus. I had sent $1000 extra to the mortgage, paid all the normal monthly bills I pay on payday, and transferred the remaining $9,000 to the savings account. It happened in a snap. He was amazed. I said I always have a plan for every dollar.

Of course, now he doesn't think it's funny. He was kind of sad that I wouldn't give him $1700 right away for the computer. I'll cave eventually. I'd just like to revel in the feeling of being ahead and putting big chunks of money to work for us-- at least for a day or two.

The money shuffle

February 16th, 2012 at 07:54 pm

it's that time of year again: for the money shuffle! I moved some money from taxable brokerage accounts into my 2011 IRA and Roth IRA, and into hubby's 2011 Roth IRA. My goal is to clear out some of the regular non-retirement brokerage accounts over the years, to make my life less of a headache during tax time. So, into retirement it goes.

I had signed up for a Southwest airlines rewards card last year because they were giving out 50,000 point bonuses. We were going to use that to fly to Las Vegas for my friend's 40th birthday, but they cancelled the vent (they have no money), so I just cashed in the points for a $200 Home Depot Gift card and a $300 Amazon gift card. The HD card will go to buying a small chest freezer we have been planning to get, and the Amazon card will be saved for Christmas. The card will soon be cancelled.

Hooray for shwag!

Taxes, friends, work, the house.

February 14th, 2012 at 09:52 pm

Things have been quiet lately. Not really, I guess, but no major disasters. In January, we had a lot of work on the house done-- ceiling fans installed in the bedrooms, new bath fans in both bathrooms, and we had the entire house insulated --attic and exterior walls. The utility company paid half the tab for the insulation, through a special energy efficiency project. I certainly loved that!

I also decided (someone should stop me next time I try this) to redo the basement. We bought a sweet 1960s vintage bar right before Christmas, so we had to move furniture around to set it up right. And, of course, I was like "while we're moving bookcases, why don't I refinish them and repair them?" Three weeks later, or painting, sawing, etc later it's finally done. It looks fantastic, Don't get me wrong, but boy, how do I get myself into this? It's like I just make up work for myself!

**

I finally started the taxes last night. The W02 and my 1099s are in. Not all the brokerage forms are in, but I didn't want to wait.

I really didn't know what to expect because we adjusted the withholding last year when we bought this house. We wanted to lower the refund amount and free up more cash every month while we got used to paying a mortgage. Still, no wonder I feel broke!

Half of my self-employment income goes to taxes-- SS and medicare taxes, self-employment penalty etc. The rest goes to IRA and daycare so I can work. I paid $3000 last year (more in reality, but on paper through licensed places) for care for one kid, and got a measly $418 childcare tax credit. Boo. It kind of reminds me that I'm not really making anything. Frustrating.

We also paid about 11,000 combined in real estate taxes and mortgage interest. I hate paying mortgage interest. It's such a racket. It's motivating me even more to once again have a paid-off house as fast as possible. I have other uses for $500 a month!

Moving into a not-paid-for-house has really shown me how spendy financing real estate really is, and that I kind of took for granted the sorts of bills we didn't have when we had a paid-for house .Here's to getting this loan paid off by 2016!

That said, looks like we might be getting some sort of refund, and my plan right now is to send 50 percent to the car loan and 50 percent to the mortgage, just to shave a little bit off the balance.

***
The good news is that hubby will be getting a bonus this year. I'm not sure yet when it's coming or how much it will be, but I'm planning to park it all in savings immediately. It's been harder to save big chunks of money now that we have a mortgage. I've been lucky to stash $300 a month, compared to about $1000 a month without a mortgage. I'm trying though, and with all the work on the house, we've had to take money out of savings to pay for some of the repair. I hate that, knowing how slowly it's going back in.

**
I got wild and crazy today and opened a Roth. Hubby has one, and now I have one, in addition to our other retirement accounts (IRA and 401k). I was hesitant because of my self-employment. I like to contribute the max $5000 every year, and due to the aforementioned self-employment tax issues, I need as much tax relief as possible on that income. I never thought I could afford to put some of it into a Roth, considering I can only put $5000 total into both.

I'm thinking we need to take better advantage of hubby's roth. We can contribute up to 5000 a year to his, because he has a 401k. And, a little into mine.

Why the change of heart? Tax free withdrawals in retirement, and I could use the money to pay for the kids college if I needed to, or keep it for myself for retirement. I was thinking of putting some of the extra money we save for the kids money into a roth, instead of just overloading the 529. I want to preserve financial aid, and I want to have the money for retirement if we don't use all of it for the kids' schooling. Just thinking out loud.

***
I've been hitting the coupons lately, trying to get free stuff and stock up on things at a deep discount. I'm making more of an effort, so to speak. I've been getting a few free things a week, which is nice.

In recent months I've gotten 4 packs of bic pens, 3 12- packs of Shick razors, three bars of Olay soap, dental floss, Kotex minipads, toothpaste, 2 Loreal paris lipsticks, and 16 go packs of Teddy Grahams for free.

The list of things I got for less than 50 cents is humongous. That feels good, and I mostly kept a lid on spending these last couple of weeks (after the big house bills died down), so I'm not feeling as out of control of the cash.

Now, if I can just make it two more weeks.

We're going on a long weekend to New Orleans to the wedding of a friend, and it's going to be great!

We're also doing it on the cheap. We're staying with friends all but two nights, so our hotel bill went from $600to $200, and we're driving, so we'll just need to pay for gas, food and fun. Amazingly, I checked our vacation account and it's enough to cover the hotel. I put 10 a check into it, plus any mail-in rebate checks, and it's already more than $200. Those little bits really do add up.