Sunday, March 29, 2009

Its Ba-ack!

I am happy to report my little baby is home. For the last two weeks my Forrester has been up a friends house getting a new (to us) engine. Thanks to my husbands dear friends Marc and Dan (husband of Betty Boogie) for their help in getting this in. Savings of at least $2500 in labor.

No more smoke coming out of the back when you start it up.
No more weird smell when you shut it off after going somewhere.
No more rough idling.

I am supremely happy and off to play Mob Wars on Facebook - the hubs and my neighbor got me addicted!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

March Wrap Up - April Goals

March is almost over. Spring is on the way but as I sit here at the computer its pouring down rain. I suppose that is better than the snow that just keeps combing back. I decided to post my monthly wrap up early because I have the time this weekend and not much will change. Its month/year end at work so I will be busy the next few days.

The hubs went back to our friends house to finish up my car after working on it last night. The new (to us) engine is in but a coolant hose and clamps have to be replaced. Thankfully no more smoke coming out the back of the car when it is started up. We had to use a credit card for a few car parts and the hubs treated his friends to dinner for helping us out. Their help saved us about $2500 in labor.

I have put snowflaking on the back burner for now. We still spent a lot on eating out and coffee. I'm not giving up on reigning that in though. Since it worked so well for groceries and gas I have decided to give us a weekly allowance for this as well. We shall see how that works this month since I have been pretty successful with our other allowances. One thing that helps is making dinner at night of which the left overs become lunch the next day.

I have tweaked our budget/debt reduction/savings plan strategy - again. After all of our expenses have been covered (including fun money) we have roughly $500 per month that can be put towards extra debt or savings. Some months less than others because of expenses that come up like taking the dog to the vet, car tabs, Costco membership, etc. So, the bucket of money in April will go towards debt, in May towards savings, June debt, July savings - you get the idea. I like this plan because we are working on the two most important things at once, decreasing our debt and increasing our savings.

March/April Goals

Debt reduction: March $1000 - actual $1009.97, April $1212.92
Pay off credit card: March Old Navy - check, April Macy's
Savings: no (BMW tires), April no
Eating out/Coffee: March $180 - actual $102.44 and $145.88, April $120
Groceries: March $400 - actual $355.74 (need to shop today), April $400
Odd expenses: purchase two new tires for hubs BMW - check

BJ dog park ever weekend: March 2 times
Walk every Sunday: March 2 times (illness and scheduled day off)
Walk pier every Thursday: March - epic fail
Wii fit and elliptical 3 days a week: March 2 weeks - epic fail
TV viewing during work week 8 hours: March - check
Computer time during work week 5 hours: March - check
Drink 8 glasses of water a day: March - epic fail

Hand Crafting
Work on and possibly finish one or more of the following: SD tabi socks, SS fingerless gloves, Lady E or Headband - March fail, April tabled as evidenced by lack of interest over the past few months

Decluttering and Condo Projects
Stuff behind couch: using area as temporary storage for items I am keeping and need to find/make a home for
Stuff along TV wall in master bedroom: fail (working on it today)
Buy and install new master bedroom door - fail

101 Things
Complete 101 Things list - check
Cross off two items and blog about it - check (Sushi and my list)

Happy April!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Managing your money in your 30's

I found this great article through a post by Escape Brooklyn. As a person who is on the tail end of their 30's I have already adopted some of the suggestions from the article. Oh how I wish I had done it sooner. But, there is nothing I can do about the past so I have to keep trucking on in the present towards my future.

Right now my and my husbands major source of financial stress is all of our debt and lack of savings. What's even more crazy, two and a half years ago we did not have any debt except a small credit card balance. Now it seems to have mushroomed.

We had heard about Dave Ramsey a few years back and read his book. We liked a lot of what he had to say but didn't exactly agree with his plan. With people like this who help advise on how to get out and stay out of debt you have to take them with a grain of chocolate. Take the suggestions you like and come up with a hybrid of your own. Most importantly, find out what works for you in your particular situation. What is workable for you.

With the amount of debt we have right now I could not even think of waiting to get it all paid off before seriously starting to save money. The hubs and I came up with what we think will be a workable plan. After all of our expenses, minimum payments and some fun money are covered we have X amount left over. We are calling that X our "bucket". In April we will put our bucket towards our debt, in May towards our savings, and keep going like that. True, it will take us a little longer to pay off debt but we will also be increasing our savings at the same time. That is just as important to us as getting the debt paid off.

In just over five years my husbands youngest will have graduated from high school and we will be in our young 40's. It's almost like a do over. We do plan to move to a part of the country that is less expensive (and warmer) and we KNOW that we will be out of consumer debt and have a significant amount of money in savings by then.

If you are in your 20's here is the link to that managing money article.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Happy St. Patricks Day!

Monday, March 16, 2009

101 Things - Sushi

One of the items on my 101 Things list is to learn to make Sushi. My dad learned how to make it a couple years ago and for a few years served it at Christmas Eve dinner. I understand why he didn't serve it last year. Its quite involved. So, last Saturday the hubs and I went over to my parents house armed with Sushi makings and Sake.

The kind of Sushi we made was Maki-zushi, commonly known as California rolls. My favorite sushi is actually Nagirizushi which is essentially pillows of rice with Wasabi and fish on top (probably much easier to make too). My favorite fish of choice is Salmon. Our California rolls had crab, avocado, wasabi and English cucumber. The hubs actually got really good at it.

We are a little sushied out because of the amount of crab we bought. A half pound makes a LOT of Sushi!

TBOZ Update

As many of you lovely readers know I was involved in costuming an independent film during the summer of 07. Basically a bunch of people who really wanted to do a film (after all, that is what I went to college for). My husband and I were also an executive producer which is a fancy way of saying I paid for the priveledge of cosutming an indie Zombie film to the best of my ability and exercised my credit card liberally.

For those of you in the Seattle area - we are going to have a screening in June. Click on this link here to check out the behind the scenes blog. From there you can click on the link to our website and get signed up to attend the screening!

We hope to see you there!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

101 Things List Completed

Over the weekend I completed my 101 Things To Do in 1001 Days list. It was actually kind of hard. I did end up going to the day zero website and clicked on other peoples blogs to get inspired. Items in bold I have completed (with the completed date). Items in italic I have started (with dates if appropriate).

There were quite a few things on my list that I realistically didn't think I could accomplish within the next 1001 days. Some of them were travel related. Because I really want to get to Europe at some point in the next 1001 days. Some of my other out of country travels are on a second 101 things list to be started after this first one.

In all reality, I think the reason for this list and the time deadline is to ensure you actually do some of the things you always think you will do. It will also bring to the forefront things you thought you wanted to accomplish but maybe are not as important to you as you once thought.

In any event, I will be happy if I accomplish a good majority of the items on this list by the end date. If I don't get to all 101 things that is OK with me. The point is to stop thinking and "just do it".

1. Vacation in Europe (honeymoon we never had)
2. Write book/screenplay
3. Be debt free (not including condo)
4. Make another film
5. Reach my weight loss goal
6. Take a Caribbean cruise
7. Go to New Orleans for Mardi Gras
8. Make my "gypsy" tent
9. Put down a slate floor in bathroom
10. Buy a Mini Cooper S in British Racing Green
11. Learn to rock climb
12. Visit my aunt in Anchorage
13. Finish my Lady E
14. Declutter my house and storage unit
15. Learn how to use power tools
16. Make DVD storage
17. Host a masquerade Halloween party
18. Go to Canada (Whistler) for the 2010 Winter Olympics
19. Learn how to make a perfect Cappuccino
20. Plot my family tree at least four generations back
21. Brew a batch of dark beer
22. Take a digital photography class
23. Learn to bake my own bread
24. Find the perfect recipe for Red Velvet Cake - 2/13/09
25. Take basic web building/html class
26. Teach BJ to roll over
27. Halloween weekend at McMenimans Edgefield Hotel
28. Stonehenge replica at Maryhill
29. Visit Jacksonville, Oregon (home of Bruce Campbell - its a hubs thing)
30. Stay overnight on the Queen Mary
31. Visit Hearst Castle
32. Bungee Jumping
33. Belly dancing classes
34. Stay overnight at San Diego Wild Animal Park
35. Wine tasting weekend in Sonoma
36. Publish a book
37. New vanity in bathroom
38. Finish hearth and mantle in living room
39. Buy a new couch and chairs for living room
40. New counter tops and cabinets in kitchen
41. Build bar for dining room
42. Build a Japanese rock garden
43. Build deck in backyard
44. Buy all basics for my wardrobe
45. Re-Tile (subway tile) shower in bathroom
46. Camping at Baker Lake
47. Complete home inventory
48. Buy two laptops
49. Get rid of computer shelf
50. Frame 48 star flag
51. Refinance condo
52. Visit the Louvre
53. Learn conversational Italian
54. Complete sepia family photo project
55. Plant and harvest herbs and veggies in garden
56. Make homemade jam/jelly
57. Learn to have a conversation with my SS without getting upset about his attitude
58. Hide at least two Geocashes
59. Find at least ten Geocashes
60. Get my dragon tattoo
61. Make a new ethnic dish once a month
62. No cursing for a day (or longer)
63. Get my passport
64. Try the new Absinthe
65. Send cards to friends for no reason
66. Make a time capsule
67. Write out motivational notes and place them in books at the library
68. Read Utopia by Thomas More
69. Blog about each item as its completed
70. Go to at least five concerts (Dropkick Murphey's 2/23/09)
71. Go to at least five FCC Sounders games
72. Have three months living expenses saved to not be touched
73. Finish wedding scrapbook
74. Get caught up on season four of Weeds
75. Host a mystery dinner party
76. Participate in 26 things photography scavenger hunt
77. Host a scavenger hunt
78. Quit JOB for home business
79. Use good china at least once a month (even if dinner is something simple)
80. Go to a Cougars home football game
81. Host an Oscars party
82. Host a New Years Party
83. Revamp blog layout
84. Have at least 200 blog posts in a year
85. Learn to scuba dive
86. Buy an orchid and keep it alive
87. Volunteer
88. Go cross country skiing
89. Buy 42" flat screen TV
90. Read Twilight book series - 3/11/09
91. Pay it forward at Starbucks
92. Take dance classes with hubs
93. Learn to make Sushi
94. Go to a broadway show
95. Actually see all of the best nominated films of 2009 before the Oscars
96. Visit Disneyland with the hubs
97. Reread Clive Cussler (Dirk Pitt) series in order
98. Do the Jingle Bell run 2009
99. Eat completely organic and vegetarian for an entire week
100. Have a gourmet picnic in the park with the hubs
101. Start next 101 things list - 3/8/09

Goal end date is Tuesday November 8, 2011. Do you have a 101 Things list?

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Stuff You Find

The last couple of months I have had on my to do list to declutter some areas of my home. Yesterday I started with a box that has been sitting by a trunk I use as a coffee table (my maternal grandfather's WWII army trunk) in my living room. To give you and idea of how long it took, I watched the first two movies of a Harry Potter movie marathon (to continue today).

I can't believe the things I found in that box. A little photo book from my prom, a photo from a birthday party when I was in 7th or 8th grade, a sketch of a gal I did from a book cover, some scrapbook paper, my social security card with my maiden name on it (not pictured for obvious reasons), a postcard with a 50's era photo of two adults pulling a kid on a sled, stickers and some ribbon from my college alma matter, an old fashioned luggage sticker, business cards, a postcard from the kilt shop my husband bought his kilt from, a card from the hubs, a blackmail photo of my BIL, a handmade invitation for a baby shower I gave for my sisters first child almost four years ago, a sticker form my highschool marching band (I twirled a flag in the band), a newspaper clipping from an article about our highschool band going to DC to be in the first president Bush's inaguration parade, journals from high school and college, letters & cards from ex boyfriends and friends from college, art projects, a Christmas list I wrote when I was probably six, pages ripped from magazines with decorating ideas, gardening tips and recipes I want to try.

All in all this spans between 1988 to present day. Over 21 years - the same amount of time it takes to grow a legal adult!

I also found a map of New York city with an autograph from Peter Cetera (if you grew up in the 80's you know who I'm talking about). This was from a trip in 1988 and I met him waiting for the ferry to Staten Island. At first I thought he was someone who could win a look a like contest. It's really pretty surreal when you meet a celebrity in person. Especially when its serendipitous.

The inspiration photo for my wedding cake (ripped from a magazine). The plaid icing was actually layered and woven different colored icing. There is ribbon around the round cakes. I love the different shaped cake pieces.

And the actual wedding cake. I brought the above photo to my cake person and she said the icing would cost me a lot of money. So, she scanned a scarf I have of the tartan that matches the hubs kilt and printed it on sugar paper which she wrapped around the cake and seperated it to make it look woven. This was necessary because I could only afford three sheets of sugar paper. I didn't want all the flowers on the cake. That appeared without me knowing. My flower person was my best friends mom. She did a wonderful job but we disagreed on flowers for the cake - I guess she won. :) BTW - we did save the top piece and ate it a year later. My mom froze it for us.

I can't believe some of this stuff. I have packed it around to places I have lived. I moved to North Carolina and back and some of this stuff managed to keep with me. Its not for being organized either. I'm down to just a few boxes and bags left to go through. I wonder what else I will find? What kind of crazy stuff have you all turned up in your efforts to declutter?

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Interest Can Be Expensive

I was online taking a gander at two loans we have. Looking at how much interest I have paid compared to the principal over the life of the loans. YIKES!

The hubs and I took out a loan in November 2006 to buy our Subaru. In just over two years we have paid the principal down by $4111.21 and have paid interest of $1503.79.

In September 2007 the hubs and I took out a personal loan to pay off credit card debt. The interest rate was so much better than what we had on our credit cards. In just over a year we have paid the principal down by $3444.97, paid interest of $2280.03 and debt protection of $893.67.

TOTAL - $12,233.67

For this amount of money we could have bought the Subaru outright or taken a stupendous vacation or a couple of great vacations or just socked it away in our savings.

Of course when you sign up for a loan you know that your entire payment is not going to go to principal. When you look at the hard numbers you see exactly how much that borrowed money is really costing you. It's kind of scary really.

One thing I can say by looking at the numbers is I am even more antsy than ever to get the debt paid off. Between finance charges on our credit cards and interest payment on our loans it just kills me. Presently we are paying as much to our debt as we can while still trying to get my Subie back on the road. A few small parts and the hubs and his friends are ready to put the new (to me) engine in. Then it will be back on the road.

We actually have a plan in place to refinance and consolidate our debt to where we will have much less in minimum payments every month. Part of this plan we will not execute for a couple of months as we want to get credit card and loan balances down as much as possible first.

Do you know how much interest you are paying to your debts every month?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

So Proud

My SS was nominated for a United States Achievement award. I'm super excited for him. He could win a grant for college or a $10,000 cash award. He's only in the seventh grade. He really wants to go to Cornish for college and focus on music. Winning would be a real boost for him.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Yard Work

Today the hubs was super excited about doing yard work. Probably because we bought a new toy, an electric hedge trimmer. In just under an hour we trimmed the hedge in our backyard and got all the old dead plants out of the yard. Seven garbage bags, one bucket, two disposable hanging planter baskets and one trellis. I hope to actually rip out this hedge because I hate it. I want to plant bamboo instead. Our homeowners association (of which I am a board member) is pretty cool about things like this. I want to do it after the flaking paint on the outside of my neighbors unit is fixed. The bamboo poles on the ground in front of the hedge are going to be a super cool project from my 101 things list.

The grass is looking super mossy this year and I'm not certain why. We are lucky enough to have the largest back yard in the complex and our grass is usually pretty good except along the fence.

I decided to go with a much simpler gardening plan this year. I have crocosmia planted in the garden in front of our window. It was too wet out today but I need to dig it up and spread it out to fill up more of the front of the window. The photo below is them poking through the ground.

This plant looks like tall grass and ends up with an orange flower. I'm going to stick to this here and under a tree at the back of the yard. The orange flowers in this photo is what it will looks like later this summer.

I had some clematis growing on a trellis next to the patio which I ripped out because the trellis needs to be replaced. I may plant trumpet vine as well this year. Not certain yet.

The patio looks really cluttered in the photo below but that was before we took the garbage bags out and swept. I plan on growing some herbs along the fence and plant colorful flowers only in pots. We might even do a small deck off of our patio. So, even though this was not on my list of projects for the month I feel good about it. Now to the living room clutter.