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Archive for July, 2012

Thanks MEC! Interesting Day so far (Car). August Budget

July 31st, 2012 at 12:25 pm

I went over to the school today to check my mail and see what if anything was happening. To my surprise, I received a card from My English Castle. Big Grin I guess I've given enough clues for someone to figure out the name of the school I'm at (not that there's many in this neck of the woods ...or should I say, desert?) Thank you MEC, that was very thoughtful.

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This morning I used my elliptical for the first time since moving here. Blush I managed to make it 30 minutes - the little computer on it said I'd gone 4.3 miles, but ... I kind of find that hard to believe.

Kari was slightly scared of the machine, but was also very interested, so kept coming near it. Thankfully not near enough to get hit though!

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Last night I was really wanting to eat some ice cream I have in my freezer. Instead, I ate a banana!

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This morning I took my car over to the place my co-worker recommended. I asked them to go over it with a fine tooth comb and see if there was anything they thought was a possible problem (safety wise.) They spent a good two hours on it! The end result was that they told me that my car looks like it is in good shape - they didn't see any potential problems.

So ... that is now two mechanics/places that have told me the same thing. Neither of them mentioned anything about the things holding the engine in - so I'm not sure what to make of that.

I also asked for an estimate of how much to change out the timing belt/water pump. $300!!! Including labor!! (I really thought it would be closer to $8 or 900 - at the dealership they charged me $1100 back in 2003/4.) I also asked them how much it would cost to fix my cig lighter. $10 - changed the fuse. Big Grin Now I just have to find my car charger (if I still even have it...)I also asked about fixing the windshield wiper - that would be $90, so I passed on it. (It only works on two speeds - medium and fast.)

They charged me $20 for the fuse and tightening my a/c belt plus the two-hours of looking over my car. I thought that was very reasonable. I'm going to take it back tomorrow to get the timing belt changed.

In case you haven't guessed already, I have decided to take a chance on getting another year out of my car. Big Grin

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Tithing $135.00
Offering $15.00
Phone $75.00
Internet $30.00
Netflix $9.00
Food $160.00
Auto Fuel $90.00
Fun Money $40.00
Medical/Dental $100.00
Clothing $10.00
Household/Misc. $30.00
Car Ins. $12.00
Life Ins. $16.00
Renter's Ins. $14.00
Gifts/Christmas $15.00
Professional $15.00
Kari (CAT) $25.00
Car Savings
(Repair/Replace)$255.00
Vacation $50.00
ROTH $100.00
EF $20.00

Most of these categories will stay the same going forward, except:

Medical/Dental -- I have a Dentist appt. and a blood draw this month. Normally this would be $50/mo

Car Savings: Should be closer to $388/mo.

ROTH - This is what I have been doing, but starting next month I plan to increase it to $150/mo.

EF - I'm mostly concentrating on my car savings right now, but going forward this will be $50/mo.

Car/Life/Renter's are all paid either annually or 2x a year.

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Today's Spending:

Car Stuff: $20
Auto Fuel: $31.71 (will come out of August's budget - I was on fumes otherwise I would have waited til tomorrow.)

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I am seriously loving YNAB 4! I entered my transactions on my phone at the gas station and the auto place. When I got home, they were both already updated on my desktop version. Big Grin Also, it is a lot simpler now to copy and paste my budget numbers now. So Yay! Great job Jesse!!

Home!

July 30th, 2012 at 04:04 pm

The train pulled in about 9 a.m. this morning, only 40 minutes late ... What a ride! If Amtrak would like some pointers on why they are losing business, I may be able to offer a few. Last night I don't know if I got any real sleep at all. I was put in the car directly behind the lounge car ... ALL night long people were going into and out of it -swhoosh swhoosh went the doors .. Loud talkers exiting .. and on and on. The one good thing about it was that the seat was much roomier than the ones on the other trains I rode this summer.

My co-worker was there waiting for me and took me to Walmart so I could get groceries. I meant to get cat food but totally blanked! I bought $24.xx worth of fruits and veggies and nuts. Now I just have to actually EAT them!!

My co-worker and I were talking about the Rogue and about my car (Honda). She told me that when she drove it (H) around the other day it sounded to her like my brakes are about ready to be replaced. Ugh. She also called my car a piece of junk. Frown Frown She wasn't trying to be mean (I don't think at least...) She did suggest another mechanic I might want to take my car to for an intensive inspection. So, probably tomorrow I'll do that.

I am so utterly exhausted today - I tried sleeping earlier but couldn't. Kari wasn't quite sure what to make of me being back for the first hour or so. Now though she's been up on my lap while I've been at the computer for the past 4 or so hours.

Kari found $6 for me today. Smile She knocked off an old box of letters on my bookshelf. When I picked them up I noticed some green ... it was a letter from my brother back in 1996 with $6 cash! Isn't that bizarre that in 16 years I didn't find that money??

I bought YNAB 4 today. Mmmm... Yummy. Big Grin Automatic synching of budget between phone and computer program ... Seweet!! ($40)

Oh ... I did make it into the next decade yesterday morning. Big Grin Down 10.5 lbs!

I need to run by the Post Office, and then go feed my co-workers cat (the one who picked me up this am.)

I might post the budget I'm looking at either tonight or tomorrow. Maybe I'll wait to finalize it until after I hear what the mechanic says ... dun dun dun...

I did not exercise today .. I need to check with my principal how early people have been arriving at the school - don't want to run in the gym if there's people around! (If too early, then I might just do my elliptical instead.) My co-worker suggested that I might not want to go full force into running here due to oxygen level differences between here and CA ... If I do run, it'll be in the gym so I guess it won't hurt to experiment.

Long Run today, One more DAy

July 28th, 2012 at 07:10 pm

My brother and my dad's friend arrived here late Thursday night. My brother and I finished going through the shed and dad's room - getting everything packed and put away or thrown away or put into donation boxes. It went much more quickly than either of us thought it was going to, so that was a good thing.

Then this morning I woke my brother up to go jogging. I didn't want to go any later because it gets *hot* quickly here. I had planned on a 2 mile jog and then let him go for his 6 miler ... he had other plans though!! The longest I've ran since starting back into jogging this summer was a 3 mile walk/run. Today I did 4.35 miles of walking and running - mostly running!! I told my brother that I was going to be wiped out the rest of the day after doing so much - he was like fine, take a nap. No sympathy there. Smile

When we got back we both ate breakfast, and then went on a 3 mile walk with our dads friend. Part of the walk was feeding the ducks/geese by the veteran's home. I go pecked on the leg/shoe by one of the geese! (It didn't hurt, just was kind of funny.)

Tonight we are going to work on finishing up the garage (I took a nice long nap this afternoon ... can you say sore?!)

My brother flys back to Napa tomorrow morning, and I head back to NM tomorrow night. Hard to believe that the time has finally come to head back home! My dads friend will be staying here with grandma.

One of my coworkers turned my car on yesterday to make sure the battery, etc. was still good. It turned over with no problem. Smile Today I think she was going to drive it around a bit to put the gears through their paces. She told me - I shouldn't have been surprised, it's a Honda! Big Grin

I'll be getting back into big G Monday morning around 8:30 (depending on whether the train is on time or not) and hope to do some grocery shopping - depends on how much time my co-worker has who is picking me up. (They are heading to ABQ for a few days after dropping me off - I'll be looking after their cat.) It'll be so nice to be back home. I hope Kari (my cat) won't be too upset with me ...

This summer between exercising more regularly and not having boco access to junk eating ... I managed to lose approximately 9 lbs ... after today, I think I may be going into the next decade on the scale. Smile Now I just have to figure out how to keep this up at home. Running outside isn't a very good option - lots of empty roads yes, but also lots of loose and wild dogs/animals. So my other option is the school gym .. on the small side, so could get *really* boring *really* fast (i.e. 20 laps equal 1 mile, so to do 3 miles 60 laps ...)

Eating Healthier thoughts / Car stuff

July 25th, 2012 at 09:05 pm

My dad had quite a few diet/healthy eating books in his closet. Most of them I just roll my eyes at, but one did actually intrigue me. I read it in less than an hour - mostly common sense, but just not practiced. It's called "The Full-Plate Diet" and it essentially advocates working up to eating 40+ grams of fiber daily (real foods) and of course drinking plenty of water to go with it. It suggests to eat the fiber rich foods first, then other foods. It has lists of the top 5 fiber foods in various categories (fruit, veggies, grains, something else.) The only food in any of the top 5 categories I don't eat is avacado.

I'm thinking I'm going to really try to get myself working towards eating this way. My normal breakfast is pretty fiber rich - rolled oats w/raisins, a banana and orange juice. I think I'll change the OJ with an actual orange (though I'll want to have that cut up the night before - especially during on school days.)

My lunches and dinners are all over the place. I had gotten away from relying on the vege meats, but they have slowly come back into my diet with a vengence. So .. I'd like to make a change there as well.

I think I'll start buying the fresh spinach again (I stopped after too many packages went bad before I used them up - sometimes before I even opened them ...) Lunch could basically be a big salad of spinach, shredded carrots and squash, diced cauliflower and broccli, silvered almonds, and more rasins. (I love raisins ...) This is something I can take to school with me pretty easily and keep in the teacher fridge until lunch. I may also add a cut up apple or orange or pear on the side.

To make this easier on myself (at first at least) I'll probably buy the pre-diced stuff. I'm WAY too likely to just let it sit in the fridge and mold if I buy stuff I have to actually dice and chop ...

For dinner, a sweet potato and quinoa or baked beans or lentils... (vegetarian!).

Then for a dessert/snack I could do a smoothie with frozen berries and a banana. Also for snacking I need to keep grapes in the fridge.

That would be a pretty fiber rich diet, and also a good amount of protein and numerous vitamins. It also is made up of all foods that I like and enjoy. It also is basically a vegan diet ... which I don't think would be a particularily bad way for me to go considering how my body tends to react to dairy products anymore.. (Poor Thrifty Ray and her DD3 got the pleasure of seeing my body react to the overload of ice cream from Ghiradelli's.. it was SO good, but almost not worth it ... almost..)I won't go strictly vegan because being strictly vegan is more of a whole lifestyle and being vegetarian is difficult enough at times. Besides, when the cafeteria serves grilled cheese and tomato soup ... I want to treat myself!! Smile(I think they had it maybe 6 or 7 times this last school year. Twice during Lent.)

I don't know exactly how this will affect my grocery budget ... but having a good idea of how much I was spending on junk food ... well, I think my overall spending will go down.

Anyway, I won't be able to go full force into it because I have a lot of food in my freezer that I need to use up first. I think though that what I'll do is do breakfast and lunch like I outlined, and then use up the food in the freezer for dinner. Then, once it's gone, go to my dinner plan.

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I've been emailing back and forth with the internet sales person about the Versa for under $15k. I'd finally apologized to him for taking his time, but that I didn't think it was worth driving 200+ miles to see if the car was a good deal for me or not. He wrote back and asked me what *would* make it a good deal ... So I told him $13,500 walk out the door price after trade in. Then I described to him my car. Big Grin I was pretty prolific in outlining it's good and bad points. Figured it didn't hurt to take a chance and see if a deal could be made... I have the feeling that he doesn't think it is a workable bargain because I haven't heard back from him today.

I think what I'm going to do when I get back is take my car to the local mechanic. Then I'll tell them that I am trying to decide whether or not to take a chance on my car lasting (w/o major repairs) for another year, or trying to sell it and get a newish car. I'll ask him to look over my car carefully and see if there are ANY safety concerns (such as the things holding the engine in, etc.) I'll also ask for a quote on the timing belt (because that absolutely will have to be done if I keep the car much longer.)

I read an article on yahoo today about how to get your car past 100k. In the comment section there were dozens of multiple people commenting that getting past 100k was nothing, and that they had cars easily make the 200k and more with no worries. My car made it to 100k with the only real major repair being the air conditioning going out (around the 50k mile mark.) After 100k is when the computer died (which led to my electric locks unlocking doors but not locking, the windshield wiper functioning from medium speed and up only, cruise control not functioning, the radio frying, and the airbags being disabled. I think it was also around this time that the cig lighter stopped working - for charging my phone.) I'm on my third or fourth starter (can't remember for sure.) So ... I'm kind of curious to see if I *could* get my car to 200k ... but I've got to admit that I'm really getting tired of driving something where about the only thing that works well (usually) is the ac/heat. That isn't a good reason to get a new car though... especially when the only way I can do it is to take out a loan ...

If I look at what I've spent on my car in the last year beyond the normal oil changes/new tires/change fluids stuff, it is nowhere near what a car payment would be. Even if the timing belt/water thingy cost $1k, divided by 12 it still would be less than a car payment. So ... I guess what I am thinking is that I am going to wait. If something else comes up with my car, then I'll be ready with having ideas of where to go to replace it. In the meantime I will be doing heavy duty saving in order to have the smallest possible loan when the time comes. (This is of course assuming that the mechanic doesn't tell me some expensive repairs are needed beyond the timing belt .. then I'll have to reconsider, as well as maybe get a second opinion.)

One Week / Ramblings

July 23rd, 2012 at 06:27 pm

In one week I will be back in my own home with my own bed and my own cat! Can you tell that I'm more than ready to be back in NM??
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In looking at cars and prices, I'm beginning to wonder if I made a mistake not taking the Rogue. While it would not have been a car I was very excited about driving, it would be approximately the same amount as most cars I'm finding ($wise.) I showed my Egyptian Aunt and Uncle the car I found last night (2010 Versa w/less than 5k miles for $14,989) and my aunt came to me later and told me that I should probably keep it close to my chest that I'm looking at cars in the same price range as what was owed on the Rogue. Ugh! I can see what she's saying ... but if I looked at cars in the under 10k range, they'd be at least five or six years old with 50k+ miles. Someone probably would come up with some reason to be annoyed by that too.

It really would've been easier to have just kept the Rogue. Easier .. but I don't know that it would've made me happier (especially when my gas costs rose - Rogue avg 26mpg, Honda avg 30mgp.) Ok .. so maybe it's not THAT big of a difference in gas mileage... My brother's already changed his plane ticket, I've booked a train ticket and have someone picking me up.

I was pretty much in meltdown mode last week. I'd been doing research on what documents I needed for the DMV to transfer title, and saw a line in the affadavit that said something about "the estate has no creditors outstanding" and since all we've had come in so far of the medical bills is from the ambulance, I was worried about signing my name to that. Then my mind started going to where I imagined that the medical bills wiped out the little bit of cash estate left after paying the funeral expenses ... so then the choice would be to sell the Rogue or the stocks. Selling the stocks would be extremely stupid, so selling the Rogue .. what if I'd been making payments on it for six months and paying for the insurance .. sold my Honda already ... then I'd be out the payments plus have to look for another vehicle.. (this was part of my panic/meltdown thinking) Then I started looking at how to file taxes for a deceased, and it looked like the only way to do that was to petition the court to be appointed as the personal representative (still not sure on this one...) Anyway, my emotional state was way out of whack ... and what made me calm down was making the decision to NOT take the Rogue.

My aunt who works for a health insurance company, and a close friend of my brother's who is a doctor, both have stated that the liklihood of big bills from this isn't big due to dad having both medicare AND his former employer's health plan. Plus all the stuff he had done in the hospital are considered to be just procedures - not actual surgeries. I'll believe it when we're down the road a year from now and have seen the final costs ...

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In other news ... this morning I walked/ran 3 miles in 43:34 minutes. My pace was 14:50 - which is just ten seconds shy of my best 5k race time.

I am so tired - all the time. I keep hoping that my regualar running will at some point translate into energy. I wonder if my synthroid needs to be upped (although I hope not, not sure how much higher it can go - .137mcg.)

When I was feeding the birds this afternoon there was one larger bird that didn't get away. I stood really really still and it stayed put. I slowly stepped forward, and then a little ways towards it. It stayed. Only when I lifted my hand up to take down one of the bags did it fly away. That was pretty cool. Smile

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I did the final steps to link my Bofa and ING accounts today, and then transferred the money. By Tuesday it will be available for me to pay off the credit card I put the funeral expenses on. I'll be very happy to see that balance go back to normal!

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Last night I spent about an hour weeding my dads garden. I only got maybe half-way through - the weeds were really running rampant. As I was taking my bucket of weeds to the garbage, I heard the garage door close and lock. My grandma had locked me out of the house! Big Grin I knocked on the back window - she went to the front door. I kept on knocking and she finally figured out where the knocking was coming from. Smile

I think I'll probably go weed some more in a half-hour or so (hopefully cooler ..) this time though I'll be sure that she knows I'm outside!

Clothes Shopping & Car Ramblings

July 22nd, 2012 at 07:07 pm

One thing I've noticed while out here in CA this summer is that most of my tops have a number of claw shaped holes in them, as well as some staining. I've seen Kari (my cat) in my closet before, but hadn't really realized how much damage she was inflicting on my clothing.

I decided that while I was in an area with an abundance of places to buy clothes, that I should try to replace a number of tops. So today my grandma and I went clothes shopping. Smile I ended up buying 7 tops total - 3 from Walmart, 1 from Macy's, and 3 from Sears. The least expensive top was $5, and the most was $25. I'm very happy with all of them, and think they will help to upgrade my professional image. I was really hoping I could find a replica of this one particular top I bought at Lane Bryant 4 years ago which I absolutely love, but I didn't find anything close. (I've been looking ever since I realized how much I loved the top ...) It's at home (NM) so if I think about it I'll take a picture of it - maybe one of you have seen it somewhere ... Big Grin

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***Please be advised, the following is a spewing of my thinking/thoughts arguing back and forth with myself ...

So in thinking about cars I took heed of the advice to look at certified cars. In my area (within 200 miles) there are 0 certified cars that are 2010 or newer AND less than $15k. There are 14 cars that are 2009 and newer AND less than $20k. So ... if I'm going to pay $14k+ for a car ... I'd rather get a brand new (last year model) with full warranty, etc., than a 2 - 4 year old car for the same $ or more.

When I get my next car, I want to be able to run it for a minimum of ten years. (My current car I've had since 1997 - bought new with 37 miles on it.) Since I live out in the boondocks (30+ miles to nearest town with more than two gas stations) I really cannot take many chances with the reliability of a vehcicle.

It would be great if I could find a car like my first one - a Hundayi Sonata that had sat in a grandma's garage and had 33k miles on it and was 4 years old .. in perfect condition. I paid $5k for it (in 1994) and drove it for 3 years, then sold it to my parents in 1997. My dad drove it for two more years (he put more miles on it in two years than it had on it when he bought it from me.)

I'm really looking at the Nissan Versa - mainly because it seems to get similar gas mileage to my Civic, it is a similar size/handling, and from my experiences riding in my co-workers Versa - seemed like a good car for the price range. I'd be open to other cars. Mostly what I'm lusting after is the ability to charge my phone via cig lighter and play my phone over the radio. Everything else I don't care about too much. (ok, I care a lot about gas mileage and size/handling - large part of why I ended up not taking on the Rogue.) Big Grin

I could put $2 - 4k into my current car - change the timing belt, do whatever needs to be done to make sure the engine doesn't fall out, figure out how to get my cig lighter working again (was told $3-400), and install a radio (and just hope that it doesn't fry like my last radio fried ...), oh yeah, the shocks probably will need replacing soon and possibly the brakes within the next year or two .. Maybe I could get a new hood too ... My car might last another 4 years after all that, or .. the electrical system will go out or the a/c will fail and then my car'd be a goner or need a few thousand more dollars work ... Meanwhile my family would be getting more and more worked up about how unsafe my car is, and I'd be getting further and further behind on having the ability to get a new car with cash.

Or ... I could do all that and my car could keep going fine for another 4 or 5 years, and then I'd have more than enough time to save the funds needed to replace it.

Or .. I could buy a new car (last years model) for around $13-15k. Put down $4k in cash for it up front, and then use dealer financing for the other 8-11k. Depending on the dealer finance rate, either stick with it or borrow 10k from my grandma (5% finance rate) to pay it off. (I read in several places that you can work a better deal on the overall price if you go with dealer financing.) Then either way I went ... aggressively pay the car off within two years (any money left from dads estate after medical bills, using tax refunds and extra paychecks, plus whatever I can sell my Honda for.) Then have 7 - 8 years to save towards the next replacement car (while also having the ability to work on other financial goals.)

Whenever my family starts to chime in on how unsafe they think my car is, I tend to defend my car. But the reality is that every time I take a trip to ABQ (about a two-hour one-way) I do worry. I've kept up with the general maintenance and oil changes - but I've also had multiple minor accidents and mishaps over the years in it. The hood that is currently crumpled (due to me rear ending somoenone in Dec.) is actually the 4th hood my cars had (hail damage, running into a pipe sticking out the back of a truck and something else I can't remember ..) I was told before moving to NM that one of the things holding my engine in was completely corroded and that the other two were just a matter of time. My timing belt was last changed in 2003 or 4?? so it's probably on borrowed time. The computer in my car appears to be working fine right now - although it is the same one that was in my car when my radio fried... (it's the 4th computer in my car - 1st one died, replacement was stolen, 3rd one from junk yard was for a standard car and not automatic ..)

When I get back to NM in a week, I'm not really going to have time to do anything about this one way or the other. School starts on the 15th and I'm WAY behind in everything I feel like I need to have done. So ... maybe I'll wait till November when we have a week off for Thanksgiving. I'd have a lot more to put down by then, and my timing belt should *hopefully* hold out til then ...

(In doing further research about the best time to buy a car, it seems that there really is no consensus. So November might just be as good of a time as any other..)

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I finally made enough Swagbucks to redeem for a $5 AGC today. 1st one this summer!

Much Accomplished/ Offer from Grandma

July 19th, 2012 at 09:13 pm

This morning I got up and got my run in - did 1.5 miles running in 14:39 pace. Smile Then I did another mile walk/run in 15:12 pace. I think I may be getting close to being ready for another 5k. In fact ... I'm looking at a 5k race on August 12 in ABQ ... The weekend before school starts. The race is early in the morning, so I could make a day of it in the big city. It might be kind of fun actually - especially if I can get anyone to come with me. Smile

My first 5k race was Too Hot To Handle and I think it was in mid-July 2008?? My dad was there cheering me on and took before and after pictures, as well as making a short video of it. He loved hearing all about my races when he wasn't able to make them.

Sigh.

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Today we went to the bank and got all my dads accounts closed out. I had them give my grandma a cashiers check for the amount I think was hers. (For some reason dad had an account in his name with her money ...the only way I figured out this was the account she was talking about is because of my dad's meticulous record keeping.) The rest was made in a cashiers check to me. I was going to deposit it into ING via picture deposit, but after opening the app to do it realized the amount was too large.

So tomorrow I'll deposit it into my Bofa account, and once I have ING and Bofa linked, I'll be able to move the money to ING. THEN I'll be able to pay the credit card bill that I put the funeral expenses onto. Whew. It's not due til mid-August, so I'm not worried.

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We had to get two documents notarized today. That cost $30. Thankfully no one else was there so we didn't have to wait. (There was no wait at the bank, but it took nearly two-hours to close out the accounts!)

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Next we stopped at the stock place where my dad had an account and started the process to transfer them to my name.

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Then we went to Walgreen's and picked up a prescription. (There are few Walgreen's in this area, but lots of Rite Aides.)

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Finally we went out to dinner at this Asian food place. Today is my Egypt Aunt and Uncle's 42nd wedding anniversary. They are high-school sweethearts. Smile

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Before all of the above though ... I made a phone call to my internet service provider. I really didn't think it would do any good at all, but decided to try.
I was able to get a reduction of $20/month on my bill!!! Woo hoo!!

Before the phone call, my grandma and I had a nice chat to kind of clear the air about the last couple days worth of drama. She *really* wants me to replace my car. She said if I really want a Versa, that she'd loan me the money to get it this coming October (end of fiscal year) and I could pay it back $150/month. I tried to tell her no outright, but she wasn't taking it. So I finally told her I'd take it under consideration and think about it.

I have about $3k right now that I could put towards a car, and I *might* be able to get $1000 for my car. By October I *might* be able to save $1500 more (if I *really* buckle down.) So ...that's roughly $5500. That would mean a loan of approximately $8000.

I know the timing belt needs to be changed *soon*. I also know that I was told a year ago that one of the things holding the engine in had gone bad, and that it was only a matter of time for one or both of the remaining ones to fail. I also know that there are many other things that could go wrong that I don't know about.

I think I could probably pay this loan off in 14 to 16 months. If I put all of my tax refund to it, and then also the two "extra* paychecks, plus as much as I can afford to throw at it otherwise. I absolutely abhor the idea of the loan, but ... if it is for a car I'm choosing (and that gets good gas mileage) maybe it would be better to get the new car before my current one really starts falling apart and become worth nothing.

**I could also possibly have some money from my dad's estate to put towards it depending on the amount of the medical bills. So, that could cut the payoff date to 8 to 10 months.

I'm not sure if I'm trying to rationalize taking a loan, or if this really may be the thing to do....

My plan (before dad died) was to wait til Oct, 2013 and go to a dealer at the end of the day towards the end of October and ask to see what Versas they have from the last year models stock. Then name the price I'm willing to walk out on. (Depending on the features, I was thinking somewhere between $12 and 13k.) If I take my grandma up on her offer ... I could do the same thing, only in Oct, 2012.

If my car were to break down before Oct 2013 and/or require really expensive repairs, then I might have to take the loan anyway and end up paying more for a car. I had no warning that my car's computer was about to die in the summer of 2009, but yet it did. I definitely cannot afford anything like that again with this car.

I don't have to decide this right now. I can see how much I'm able to put away in savings between now and the beginning of October. I can also check with the local mechanic who's been working on my car and see what he thinks I might really be able to get for it. Then decide one way or the other after running the numbers.

**No, I am not in the market for a used car. I've read all the arguments for and against. I know many people have great success with used cars. IF I had a mechanic I trusted completely AND was in an area where I could have a good number of used vehicles to choose from, I might consider it. Since neither is the case - last year's model is my way to go. **

Out of Debt

July 18th, 2012 at 10:06 pm

I had a great time this past weekend meeting SA friends and spending time with my brother. If you are ever in Napa, be sure to take in the Wine Train - it is quite a fascinating experience. Smile

It's been a drama filled 36 hours or so here in LL. The long and short of it is that I am no longer going to be taking over the car loan for my dad's Rogue. It's going to stay with my grandma who will sell it to recoup as much of the loan cost as possible. I will be keeping my paid for 97 Honda Civic and buckling down hard to save for my replacement car (which is sorely needed.)

I feel a sense of relief in that I'm not taking on a debt, but I also feel sad that we're letting dads car go and that I'm not going to have the majorly updated car (2010 model) with all the nifty features. After sitting for 7 weeks, I'm not sure what shape my car will be in ... but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

Starting in August I'm going to go on a cash basis for groceries, entertainment and the etc. stuff. I'm also going to attempt to lower my internet bill (only one provider in the area .. but will see if possible.) I need to start looking into the cost for making a will and living trust for a single person, as well as making sure that every bank account I have has a Payable On Death person listed and ALL my other accounts have a beneficiary listed. Then I will probably send my brother a sealed envelope with a list of accounts and passwords and update them twice a year or so (old copies to be destroyed without opening.)

I need to really save aggressively until September of 2013 or until I have at least $10k in my car fund. I probably will have to replace my timing belt sooner than later if I want to be sure my car lasts another 14 months ... so I need to start pricing that out.

Whenever I see a book I want to get for the library on Amazon that I don't have gift card money for ... I MUST learn to say NO!! If I don't, that will derail my car fund faster than anything else.

Frugal Entertainment

July 11th, 2012 at 02:31 pm

Last night my aunt and uncle, my grandma and I all went to a free concert put on by an oldies group called The Preps. (I had to Google them, did you?) The community next to LL has an outdoor arena type thing where during the summer they sponsor two concerts a week.

It was a lot of fun, and I actually knew about 60% of the songs they sang (lots of covers, but a few orignal hits from their own group.) I especially liked the song they ended with -- I'm not sure exactly what the title is ... but whenever I hear it I'm reminded of an especially tender/romantic scene in the movie Ghost ... "time goes by so slowly and time can change ... I need your touch..."

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I got a call this morning that the Rogue should be ready to be picked up around 4 today. They had to install a new part in the transmission - hopefully that'll take care of the problem.

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My grandma gave me a little money as a thank-you for taking care of her. It doesn't come close to making up for the loss of summer school ... but that wasn't my reason for staying here and helping out. Plus, if I look at it in terms of money I've saved by being here ... gas, food, impulse purchases, etc. I probably have saved around $600 (including what she gave me.) So ... it's something.

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It's really hard to know what to get my grandma for birthday's/Christmasses because she doesn't really have a need for *things*, so today when we were shopping at Walmart I saw she had slippers on her list. So I helped her pick out a pair, and then when we got to the checkout I informed her that *I* was getting them for her. Smile She protested at first until I explained that it was an early birthday present (her birthday is in September.)

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I'm getting ready for my trip to Northern CA tomorrow. I have a long bus/train trip ahead of me, but I have plenty of reading material on my phone and may download a movie from iTunes to watch. Plus I'm sure I can sleep a bit.

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If you remember I had filled up the bird feeders when we got back from San Jose on Saturday. Well, the birds haven't been eating anything from the hanging bags. I thought maybe it was because we were using the larger bird feed instead of the finer grain (which we'd ran out of.) Today we stopped by this really cool store completely dedicated to birds (with a mini-zoo of a camel, goats, etc) and I found out that I was correct. So this evening when it gets cooler (110 degree high yesterday!!) I'm going to go change out the feed in the bags. (I'm also going to do some weeding in the garden. The section I didn't get to very well last time has really sprung up the weeds!)

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Tomorrow will be my first payday of the new fiscal year. Instead of it being my yearly salary divided by 24 like 2011/12, it will be divided by 26 plus the 1% raise. I'm a little nervous about how that final amount will work out ... but one way or the other, I'll be able to make it work. I'll just need to see what I can cut or minimize - probably Netflix .. and then maybe going to cash only for groceries to keep within a budgeted amount... Maybe I'll try calling my internet company and tell them I can't afford to keep them any longer and see what happens ... although I have no where else to go for internet if they call my bluff ...

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One thing I'm really really going to miss when I go back to NM is the extremely easily access to vegetarian and vegan food here. In the normal run of the mill grocery store they have most of one aisle dedicated to canned veggie foods. Then of course there is the university supermarket which *only* has vegan and vegetarian foods ... Then today grandma and I went to Clark's and they were 80% vegan/vegetarian with a HUGE selection of Amy's foods AND 4 or 5 varieties of vegan pizza.

The university market is having a campmeeting sale through the end of July ... so I am planning on making a large shopping trip there before heading back to NM. Half a case or more of Big Franks, 4 or 5 cans of Nuteena (Nutmeat or whatever they're calling it now) ...etc. It will probably take all of my food budget from June and July ... Smile But it will be so nice to have those things on hand (and they keep for a long time.)

Nissan Rogue troubles/Brag on Brother :)

July 9th, 2012 at 07:35 pm

When we were on our San Jose trip last week the Rogue displayed a loud whining sound within the first 100 miles of going up hills and other steep terrain. We turned off the A/C and the radio to be able to hear it better. Once we got back to flat land the whine stopped. My uncle also experienced times where he lost acceleration power going through intersections.

So we got up bright and early (well... bright and early for me for summer time...) and headed to the Nissan dealer. My car was the 3rd in line. It was *just* under the 36k mark (so still under the general warranty), and well under the extended 100k transmission warranty (which my dad LOVED to brag about.) Around 3 this afternoon we got a call telling us that they had found something going on with it, but would need it for a few days to figure it out.

Luckily we have two vehicles here, so we can get by for a few days with just one.

I hope that they figure out whatever is going on with it before I head off to NM, because once I get there it's a minimum 2 hour one-way trip to the dealer!!

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My uncle dropped me off at the fitness center where I did 17 laps around the indoor walk/run track. Unfortunately my gps did not work in there, and I got conflicting reports on how many laps made a mile ... I *think* I did around 2 miles. Then when I was finished I walked home -- 0.9 miles. Smile If I had actually gotten myself out bed this morning at 6:30 then I could have had accurate time/distanc/pacing info (because I would've done it outside..) but making myself get up that early on a summer day when I didn't *absolutely* have to... yeah, not going to happen! Smile

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We had baked sweet potatoes, vege baked beans and salad for dinner tonight. Yum! One of my favorite meals. Big Grin (not to mention easy peasy!)

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Now I'm waiting for it to get cool enough out to coerce my grandma for her daily walk. We did some walking while grocery shopping today, but I'm not letting her get by with just that. Big Grin

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This is so cool! I just got off the phone with my brother and he told me it was okay to tell you guys. Smile If you watched (or have read about .. and really, who hasn't at least heard or read) the Bacherlete (sp??) ... you may recognize the name Ali. She was the Bacheorlette from two seasons ago (before Emily.) Well my brother snagged a new travel show being syndicated nationally by NBC to be run after Saturday Night Live. It is hosted by Ali and some other people. One of their first stops is ... the Napa Wine Train!!! They were there today filming - my brother put *everything* together for them. He may even be included in some of the footage. Big Grin

He doesn't know for sure when this episode will air, but as soon as I know, I'll let y'all in on it. Smile

(He received lots of flirtation from both Ali and her friend who was with her ... no big surprise at all considering his charm and good looks. Big Grin )

Those of you coming to the SA meetup will have to put up with me showing off my brother for a few minutes. Big Grin Big Grin

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I've gotten really tired of carrying my phone with me when I go walking or running. (Most of my workout clothes don't have pockets, and the eh em "extra" pocket isn't so good when you're sweating up a storm ..) So today I bit the bullet and bought a $15 arm band to hold my phone. The only thing I don't like is that I have to take my phone out of it's protective cover to fit it in ...

Ok, going to go drag grandma out for her walk. Smile Then I'll come back and catch up on blogs and forum posts. Smile

Updates/Dads Interrment/Kari Story

July 8th, 2012 at 02:00 pm

I am back at my grandma's house (for a few days at least.)

We (my uncle, grandma and I) traveled up to San Jose on the 3rd. We ended up arriving at my aunts house a little earlier than we thought, and were greeted by a very unhappy uncle. I can't say that I have ever felt less welcome. To give him some space, we went over to my aunt's best friends house (where my uncle and his wife were going to be staying.) A few hours later, after eating supper and relaxing, we went back to my aunts house to find my uncle in a much better mood. A while later my brother arrived. Smile

The morning of the 4th my brother and I went for a "jog" together. (Warmup for him, dying for me ...) Then we put together a nice picnic feast in my aunt and uncles backyard - veggie franks and veggie baked beans, corn on the cob, potato salad, regular salad, watermelon, etc.

That night most people backed out of going to the fireworks, but my brother, uncle and I all went. It was a really awesome display - and both my brother and I felt a little like our dad was there. Neither of us believe in ghosts, etc., but it was more that we knew it was an activity he would've loved. He really loved fireworks - but especially on the 4th - a prelude to his birthday.

The next day my brother and I went on a grueling 3 mile walk/jog (with some tortorous hills!) Then we headed to Lodi where the cemetary is where my dad was to be interred. Our appointment to sign the paperwork, etc. was at 1, but we didn't get seen until nearly 2 - apparentally they were overbooked. Hmm...

While we were working on the paperwork, my uncle (the one who was very unwelcoming) and my aunt's best friend went out and got a flag and enough red roses for everyone in the group. I thought that was really sweet and thoughtful.

Finally the paperwork was done, and payment made and we headed out to where they had already dug the hole for the ashes. We all gathered around while the man put the ashes in the hole, and then we each took turns placing a rose on the ground near the hole. Somebody said a prayer, and then the man started filling up the hole with dirt, and finally covered it with grass sod. We took photos of various groups of people, and then headed to our cars. Before we got to them though, we stopped for a while at the graves of my aunt's (who lives in Egypt) grandparents.

We all went to a late lunch at an Italian restaurant. Their bread was simply out of this world (Strings, if you ever get to Lodi.) We stayed there for awhile talking and laughing and reminiscing. Then everyone took off on their various ways.

Friday we had a late brunch of leftovers from the 4th's lunch, and managed to take off shortly before 2 p.m.

When we got here to LL I was disheartened to see that some of the plants I'd been given from coworkers in NM had pretty much completely withered, even though I'd watered them well before I left. I'm hoping I can still revive them though. Frown

I also realized that I didn't pay the car insurance for my/dad's car -- I'm so used to paying car insurance automatically once every six months that having a monthly due date doesn't register very well. I'll call them tomorrow and make a payment over the phone - once they get my dad's death certificate, I should get a good sized refund. My dad had had a number of tickets recently which caused his rate to go up.

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I'm REALLY looking forward to this coming Friday and meeting up with some of the SA Family. It will be a much needed break. Plus I'll also get to ride the wine train with my brother on Sunday, so that will be quite an experience as well. Smile

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I got an email from my principal yesterday (she's taking care of my cat Kari.) She assured me that Kari was just fine ... then told me this story: She'd gone over to my place in the morning to feed/water Kari, and then had gone off to G to run errands. She'd only locked the doorknob lock on my front door. When she came back a few hours later, she noticed as she was walking up my steps that my screen door was swinging
AND that my front door was swinging! Her heart dropped thinking that Kari had escaped .. But when she walked through the front door, Kari was sitting there on the couch facing the door just looking at her! I can just imagine the look on Kari's face. Big Grin

It's good to know that Kari won't attempt to escape the house even when she has such a golden opportunity. Truthfully, I think she has an unhealthy fear of the outdoors - seeing as how the only time she gets to see it is when she's in her carrier going between the house and the car. Smile

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Ok, now I'm going to do some blog catching up. Smile

Frustrated (Tax related)

July 1st, 2012 at 12:05 pm

So it looks like I won't be able to enroll in any classes at my alma mater until 2013 Fall semester. Why? 1. The Americorps Education credit is counted as taxable income *the year you use it.* and 2. I am being forced to close out my 401k with the oil and gas company I worked at *by* July 15.

If I use my Education Award *and* rollover my 401k into my ROTH (which really is my only choice since I don't have a 401k with my current employer) that will add over $10,000 in taxable income for 2012. That means I would lose my "savers credit" for putting money into my ROTH, and more than likely bump me into another tax category.

I can't enroll in the Spring 2013 semester because they want you to have it paid mostly by December. So that money would be considered taxable income in 2012, even though it was used to pay for education in 2013. (This is what I ran into for tax year 2011 - I'd paid for my Spring 2011 classes in December, 2010, so all my scholarship money received in 2011 became taxable!)

The savers tax credit is worth about $700 for me. So, I could lose that $700 PLUS have to pay more in overall taxes. Unless I delay taking the classes for one-year. That would mean I'd have 3 years to complete the requirements for renewing my certification. Doable, but much more difficult than spread out over 4 years.

Ugh!!! I do have to count my blessings though ... if my principal wasn't forwarding my mail to me, I would not have even KNOWN about this until long past the deadline (July 15.) Then I would've had no choice on how the matter was handled. (The letter says something about how if you miss the deadline to make a decision, that the account will be handled according to IRS rules - whatever that means.)

I do have to wonder why they are forcing this now. It hasn't even been a full 4 years since I was laid off. I wonder if maybe the company is closing its doors, and so they are having to close out all the 401k accounts??

In thinking about it more, this actually is a good thing to do this now - before I've committed to classes and asked for payment from my education award. At least this happened before the tax consequences would be set in stone. And... I guess not getting the summer school money this summer is turning out to be a blessing too ... sort of. That plus the rollover would have pushed me over the tax savers credit (but not into a different tax category.)

*Yes, I could just pay for the courses with my own money, but I'd only be able to afford one course and then my savings would be pretty much gone. With having car payments now and higher auto insurance, I really don't feel good at all about that idea.

**The deadline for applying for Fall 2012 classes is July 15. I was actually working on that application this weekend, and only needed a couple pieces of information before pushing submit and paying the $60 application fee. So, I'm glad I found this now rather than later.

***ETA - Question?? Rolling over my 401k into my ROTH - will that affect how much I can contribute to it for the 2012 tax year? I already have $700 for 2012 in it, and the 401K would put it into the $5500 range, plus the amount I would otherwise contribute throughout the year.