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Archive for December, 2007

Finding My Happy Medium

December 18th, 2007 at 06:19 am

Lately, especially with DH's job uncertainty, I have been ruminating on the idea of what is really a happy medium (middle ground) for me financially. I think I am also more focused on it at this time of year because of all of the commercialism/consumerism that is going on with the holidays. At times I feel like I can live happily in my own little world and be frugal but then other times I want to scream and yell and just go out and buy what I want NOW, NOW, NOW! Fortunately, I do not act upon those desires and the feelings are usually only momentary, but they are frustrating. I think I find such feelings particularly frustrating because I don't see them as reflecting the real me and I see them as being brought on by too much commercial influence. For example, we have a 8 year old TV, probably about 27 inches or so, no high def, no Tivo, no frills, just basic cable to get a decent picture (really bad reception otherwise). I was in Target last week, in the electronics section, to get batteries for my camera. I could not help noticing the nice crisp, clear, sharp picture on the new TVs. Ours is fine but certain channels get a sort of line effect - not sure how to describe it but it is noticeable. Then I look at the prices - $599, $799 etc. just for the basic "smaller" (all bigger than my current" set. Forget the commercials for in home theater systems with surround sound and universal remotes (to the tune of 4K - 5k for the whole system). I don't really want or need a new TV at the moment. It is just that exposing myself to all this makes me, at least for a few hours, think that I somehow want or need a new TV. Sure, it would be nice but I would rather have the $700 sitting in an emergency fund to pay for car repairs like I needed to a few weeks ago. I see people all around buying things like this, getting their kids video systems for gifts, new cell phones (which cost all year, not just a one time purchase), new computers etc. My kids see this too and while they understand my feelings on frugality and living within your means, it is hard for them to appreciate it right now. My oldest sees her friends going on two to three trips (Cancun, Bahamas etc.) a year and wants to know why we don't go at least once. The same friends will get their license soon and their mom is giving them her old car as she recently got a new one. I know and can appreciate that they have a huge mortgage, minimal savings and no college savings but my DD just sees the "stuff" and sometimes feels that I am just being cheap. Things like this make me struggle with my mental middle ground. How much is enough, what can we really "afford" and what does that really mean anyway, etc. The more I go around and around about it mentally, the more I come to the conclusion that the happy middle ground is the one that allows me to sleep at night. For me that means working on savings goals for retirement, college, paying off mortgage etc. For others, I guess they can sleep at night with huge balloon mortgage payments hanging over their heads - I personally cannot. And to me, money/things are just not worth losing sleep over. I would rather have less but be finacially secure in what I do have, than "have it all" but owe it all to the bank.

Uncertainty and a Cool Web Site

December 13th, 2007 at 05:52 am

The uncertainty part is whether or not my DH will have a job after next week. He and the other sales reps at his company had a meeting with the owner on Monday. They had not gotten their car allowances or the other reps their commission checks for November. The owner told them he had not paid because he was owed too much from customer and he was out of money! He is supposed to be meeting with his family this week (it is a family owned business) and deciding whether or not they will be closing their doors for good at the end of the year. Since they always shut down for the holidays, effectively that means closing up next week. The current word is that he wants to close down the main company and keep a smaller division open with a change of focus on their customer base. They make and supply moldings, millwork, doors windows etc. Their primary market had been builders but the business in this area of the country has all but dried up in the last year with the housing slump. Very few builders are still building new houses and those that are, are not paying their bills as they are not selling houses. If he does keep the smaller division open he would wants DH to stay on and help change the focus to sales of custom, high end, furniture quality materials to homeowners and other suppliers. It is a market that is still open and DH has a lot of contacts in this. The alternative is for DH to look for another job. He has already had an interview with another company but if he took that it would ultimately require us to more quite a distance! I refuse to make any decisions til I have all the details on either/both options. I should be going crazy about this but having been through it just last year, I know that no matter what happens, it will somehow work out and we will get through it.
The cool website I found is www.freerice.com (Sorry, I don't know how to put links in!) Anyway, the premise is they donate free rice to needy countries thru you clicking on the site. It is a vocabulary game and I love vocabulary so I have a feeling it will become addictive for me. I am also going to steer my DD16 (soon to be 17) to the site. Her vocabulary is deplorable (see, I told you I love vocabulary) and she can certainly use some practice before she takes the SATs.

A Rant About Priorities

December 7th, 2007 at 11:14 am

Wow, I usually have trouble posting a few times a week so twice in one day is a lot for me. I just could not help myself. This morning I read an article in our small local paper that really got me thinking about people's priorities. Each year before the holidays the paper has a charity drive to collect money to help local people who cannot afford gifts for their kids for Christmas. I have no problem at all with this and actually am planning to send in a small donation. While we are certainly not rich, we are able to afford the bills and then some so I am happy to help others in need. Anyway, each day they run a short story about one of the families who is in need of help. I guess the idea is to personalize the need, put a face, names etc. to their cause. I also do not have a problem with their doing this and I am sure it is voluntary on the part of the families who are profiled. Todays story involved a young couple with three kids under the age of 9. The husband had been injured at work and his disability check barely covered their rent. The were collecting cans and turning them in for the deposits just to have some money for food, heat etc. I applaud their efforts to do extra to try to help themselves. What caught my attention was the statement that they did not know how they were going to buy food, put oil in the tank for the heater and their cable had already been shut off. This stopped me dead. Food, shelter, heat - yes, all necessities! Cable - not! Why didn't they cancel their cable when he was first injured? Have a little talk with the kids about how they needed to save since Daddy wasn't working and do without cable. I wanted to ask if they still had cell phone service! I am not trying to knock this particular family. I hope that they find a way out of this situation and that the husband fully recovers. I just don't understand the attitude of entitlement that so many seem to have. When hard times hit, they act like cable, cell phones and so many other things are necessities, rather than luxuries. If we had really tight times around here and no hope of any turn around soon, the cable would go, the cell phones would go (despite DD16 probably trying to report us for child abuse for that) etc. Since when do people feel like saving the $60 or so cable runs monthly is not worth it? It would pay for a weeks food! I just do not understand how people set their priorities these days. In the same vein I think about my friend who almost had her house sold at sherrifs sale. I am sure that they somehow found a new mortgage lender but they are still eating out often, buying tons of stuff for their kids etc. If they could not afford the old mortgage and they were in forclosure, I am sure the new one is for even higher interest etc. So, shouldn't they be scaling back and trying to save more to put towards what is probably a higher payment? Again, it seems to be a matter of priorities and feelings that what used to be considered luxuries are now necessities. Okay, enough rant for now. If I don't stop myself, I could go on for hours! I just find such attitudes very frustrating!

Hit to the Emergency Fund and Survey Stuff

December 7th, 2007 at 06:42 am

We took my car in on Wednesday because the gas pedal had stuck twice on me when I was coming out of a parked position. I was able to stomp on it and "unstick" it but this was definitely something that required a look by a mechanic. Turns out that there was just a lot of gunk etc. since the car is 8+ years old and has close to 150,000 miles on it. That was not so bad but we had also noticed a bit of radiator fluid on the driveway that morning so we asked him to check that out as well. Turns out we needed a new radiator, hoses etc. The total for everthing was about $720. Not a bill I really need this time of year but I have decided to be thankful. I am thankful we took it in when we did cause he said something would have blown soon and I could have been stuck somewhere. Thankful that DH is employed this year and I have managed to rebuild a bit of an emergency fund. Not that I enjoy spending it, just that I am glad that it is there when we need it and that we have enough coming in to slowly rebuild it.
As far as survey stuff, I recently have been getting a bunch (okay only a few but it feels like a bunch) of surveys from MySurvey. I went what seemed like forever without getting any and now I have two $10 checks coming my way. I am putting them towards Christmas gifts I still need to buy. I also finally was able to sign up for Pinecone. I had heard about them several years ago but I know they are hard to sign up for. Well, I was finally able and eagerly await my first survey from them.
Oh, yes, and I did decide to buy 100 of the flying slingshot monkeys. It came to about $184 including shipping. I have the money in savings to pay for them but DH should be able to sell enough at the market at $5 each that I should have plenty set aside before the bill comes in. I told him I am in charge of them since he would just go crazy and overbuy if the first ones sell. He has already told many people he knows about them and they want them for their kids. I will update once we get them and start selling them.

Flying Slingshot Monkeys

December 4th, 2007 at 06:02 am

For anyone that has not seen this toy, simply do a search for flying slingshot monekys and you should find a multitude of sites selling them, many with videos showing how they work. They are basically small toy monkeys with stretchy hands/arms. You launch them into the air and they fly through the air like a slingshot and make a screaming sound as they do so. I have a goofy sense of humor and I am dying to get some of these as gag gifts for friends and family. I had seen these in catalogs for pricing in the range of 3 for $30.00 plus shipping. It did not occur to me to do a web search until yesterday. Imagine my delight to find them priced much more reasonably all over the web. My problem is now my DH who runs a side business/hobby selling things at flea markets. He would call it a business since he has good cash flow. I would call it a hobby since the cash goes right back out for more merchandise. He wants to order them wholesale and sell them for the holiday season. I found a decent price but am loathe to purchase without having the money already set aside. To me, it is just one more thing he will be spending money on and running up credit card bills. He has no problem with this - I have huge problems with this. However, I concede that he is right about the timing - before the holidays is the time to be selling them. They could be sold for about $5 and would make a great small gift for a child or a great gag gift for an adult (okay, one like me who has a weird sense of humor. I prefer to think of it as a playful sense of humor but then I am also known to hide rubber cockroaches in my kids rooms to "surprise" them.) Anyway, I am trying to decide to buy or not buy 100 flying slingshot monkeys. It would cost about $200 max including shipping and I could get him to sell them for $5 each. There would be no additional outlay as he is already going to the market anyway. So, to buy or not buy, that is the question.