Archive for June, 2007

Cheap Thrills, Regressions: Psychiatry and Coffee

June 28, 2007

That’s close to the title of a famous psychoanalytic article. I’ll try to dig it up.

Today’s cheap thrill was mentioned in a New York Times article. Being a devoted coffee addict, I was surprised to hear about a different method of making iced coffee. It’s supposed to taste great and it is completely easy and inexpensive (though they don’t miss the opportunity to hawk a $30 product, no thanks).

Check it out. Cold brew iced coffee. Can’t wait to try it myself.

Since we’re at the Times, their most emailed article today, as of this writing, is about the iPhone. Save us all.

Veering wildly off-topic, another top story is about the money psychiatrists receive in gifts from drug companies and how this effects their prescribing habits. If memory serves, there was a great song by the Brains called “Money Changes Everything.” I think Cindi Lauper covered it. From the article:

Vermont officials disclosed Tuesday that drug company payments to psychiatrists in the state more than doubled last year, to an average of $45,692 each from $20,835 in 2005. Antipsychotic medicines are among the largest expenses for the state’s Medicaid program.

You can check out the article here.

People of the Word, Beware

June 27, 2007

Verbal types, here. If it isn’t obvious from our monochrome design and text-heavy emphasis. Speaking for myself, I am not opposed to downloading the text-only version of documents. In fact, I am sometimes inclined to do so. The other stuff often strikes me as crap.

But be forewarned. Lately, I’ve been feeling a little image deprived. I might even place an image or two on the blog. Wild, huh?

Perhaps we’ll start with black-and-white, just to ease into it. As I recall, when the New York Times switched to color photos it seemed like they were selling out. Silly, but that’s what it felt like.

Old Posts, New Standards

June 27, 2007

I was looking at some of our old posts — they were like haiku in comparison to more recent manifestos! Nice to have a record of the journey.

Armed with an almond butter sandwich, some milk chocolate, an apple, a tangerine, I’m well into a zero-dollars-zero-cents day — and that’s pretty standard the last couple of weeks.

Now I need to get to that studying for that EPPP!

Lessons From My Daughter’s First Job — A Dream, A Dollar and A Dog

June 27, 2007

Daughter wants a dog
Our daughter really wants a dog. We, her parents, however, do not want to take on this responsibility at this point in our lives. Life is chaotic enough already. However, this does not mean we can’t find creative ways to foster and support our daughter’s interest in and love of animals.

We recently found a great opportunity to do just that. Our neighbors have a dog that doesn’t get taken out on walks very often. So, I asked the couple if we could start walking their dog for them. My girl and I each have a leash and we take the pooch on a walk. It’s a toss up as to who is happier — the dog or my daughter. The dog experiences a smorgasborg of smells and my daughter gets to bond with the animal and pretend for 30-45 minutes that she has her own dog. It’s very sweet.

Dogwalker for hire
Our friends recently approached me to ask me if they could offer my daughter a regular job and pay her $1 every time she walks their dog (about 1x a week). Before I agreed I talked it over with my husband. I wasn’t sure if this was something that our daughter should be getting paid to do. But then I realized that it could offer her some good lessons in learning responsibility and also a sense of pride about doing a job and getting paid for her work (I’m also a big on teaching girls the importance of being paid for their work. This is something I feel that women need to stress to their daughters.)

So, after talking to my husband we agreed it was a great idea. When we mentioned the job offer to our daughter she was beaming. The first thing our girl told her friends the next day at school was “I have a job.” My daughter’s teacher told her she wished she could walk her dog.

Dog poop and responsibility – a lesson learned
Later when my daughter was thinking about her future glory days as a dog walker she said “When I grow up I’m going to be a dog walker and I’m going to hire someone to pick up the poop.”

At this point I told my daughter “Well, you could do that but then you would have to split the money you’ve made with that person. If you pick up the poop yourself you can keep all of the money.”

She thought about that for a moment and I think she realized that it’s worth dealing with a little poop to get the whole dollar.

We haven’t taken the dog out for a walk yet now that she’s his official walker but once we do I’m going to encourage her to learn how to clean up after the dog. Up until this point I’ve been her pooper scooper. But now that she’s getting paid for this work she needs to do the whole job. If she’s not up to that then yours truly will be pocketing 50 cents per walk.

Perhaps other readers think this is too rigid? Or that I should help my daughter out by cleaning up the poop. I for one don’t think there’s any lesson offered to my daughter if I do the job for her.

One of my coworkers told me “well, it’s good for her to understand that sometimes you have to get a little dirty to get a job done.” I also think she’s up to doing the whole job and that she will enjoy reaping all of the rewards.

Others thoughts?

Kinda like finding out the hardware store owner sells crack on the side.

June 27, 2007

I got a really good buzz off this one. Check it out, here at the consumerist. The above comment is a reaction big banks funding payday loan companies. I’m feeling kind of naive, reading the comments people posted. But this sickens me. I know there are credit unions in Southern California.

I’m going to look into the options.

More On Slow Driving

June 26, 2007

Surprising Results.
I’ve been applying myself to the slow driving project, as inspired by a post at zenhabits. You can check it out here. Today the small revelation was that using the slow-driving method took me exactly the same time as my usual surface-streets commute.

This surprised me a little since a) I drive about 12 miles, and b) In the past I’ve done my fair share of weaving, engine gunning, strategic passing, and all kinds of less-than-genteel, impatient and unsafe driving habits, and I honestly thought that might reduce commute time. On one day, today, all that behavior just comes out in the wash. Same commute time. While I’m not sure about today’s result, my usual commute time is a very consistent 45 minutes.

Getting into numbers.
The math bug got to me again. I idly compute that regardless of how I drive my average speed is 16 m.p.h. That’s Los Angeles for you, given an 8 a.m. start. So you could average 35-40 miles per hour (while on a roll, so to speak) or average 25 miles per hour, but average commute speed is 16 miles per hour. That’s got to translate to some savings, right? What I’m curious about is whether the gas mileage will vary. I’m sheepish to admit just how curious! I suppose it’s a harmless diversion.

The psychology of the thing.
I have to admit it was satisfying pulling up next to the Prius at the stop signal, the one that zipped by me a few minutes earlier. We all end up at the same stop lights. If this result is consistent, it strikes me as another example of our desire to maintain an illusion of control over our lives. Road rage would be the result, then, of a false belief — namely that how fast we drive (on surface streets) makes much of an impact on arrival time. More sane measures, like allowing a reasonable amount of time for transit, leaving on time, are in order.

Dream within a dream.
I was in for a check-up yesterday. Just before my doctor said, “I’m going to check out your prostate now,” we were chatting about how Americans really don’t understand mortality. He noted that a tremendous amount of health care dollars are spent on the last 30 days of life, and high-tech treatments.

“You know, in Europe if you get lung cancer they just send you home.” I was a little shocked by that statement. And I certainly wouldn’t want to be sent home with lung cancer. But I think his point, that there are limits to what we can do, especially at an advanced age, is simply not something we want to hear. And this very strong desire to feel that we have control is at the root of it. We spend a lot of money to feel in control.

Less stress.
Of course, if you have to use the freeway your results may vary. I avoid it. On the freeway, going West towards Santa Monica, commute times would fluctuate wildly. Since I’m in a business (therapist) where showing up late would be highly frowned upon, I can’t afford to be late. The nice part about this slow driving is that I really am more relaxed during my drive.

The long drive.
Stepping back a bit, I think this whole debt reduction/frugality thing is a slow drive. What we are trying to do is put some steady, consistent habits into motion. Those sudden lurches, like paying off more debt than we can actually afford, can come back to haunt us.

Today I have a huge chunk of free time in the afternoon before my evening clients. I’m going to take a little R and R. Set out to the Century City AMC, with free movie pass in hand. I won’t be buying popcorn, but of course I will be driving slowly.

Scanning the Horizon For Black Ink

June 25, 2007

Dear Diary,

I think we might be doing too much laundry. It seems it’s all I do. Of course, this is one of the first times in my life that I’ve done multiple loads of laundry in a row, so that may have something to do with it. Maybe we’re wearing too many clothes. And then there’s the dishwasher. Its hunger knows no bounds. Forever gorging and disgorging flatware and china.

Everything is mixed up. I went to a new gas station. Who knew that gasbuddy could point out a station right under my nose, even closer than the habitual haunt, with cheaper gas. In fact, looking at some old receipts I was appalled, simply appalled at the price I’ve been paying for gas.

But this Saturday, intoxicated by the sheer madness of a mid-day gas purchase, I forgot the receipt, so my number crunching will have to wait another day. My number-cruncher alter-ego is seething with anticipation. We bought the gas at high noon. It was about 83 degrees Farenheit. Twenty full degrees warmer than the usual Saturday run. So it was, perhaps, high volume gas. How will I ever sort it out the cost-benefit analysis?

What strange ways I’ve taken up. Pulling plugs out of sockets without a thought. Driving 55 m.p.h. (but trying not to piss people off, if possible). Being very aware of when I can coast down a hill. Noticing with no small amount of smugness the other drivers ludicrously weaving in and out, spilling their precious fuel — and then arriving at the light at the same time as I do. Thinking very seriously about whether we are laundering too much.

Have I studied a whit for the EPPP, the national licensing exam for psychologists? No. Not of late. I have drifted into a fringe subculture of frugality, blogging, and plug pulling. Does this mean that I am figuratively “pulling the plug”? One wonders.

I wonder if there is a parody of personal finance sites out there. There must be, no. Maybe an Onion piece? This drifting into the trees, losing sight of the forest. I have lost sight of the budget. Just for a few days, but it nags at me. The budget. There’s where the goodies are. Not this niggling penny pinching. The big plans, the straight and narrow, the total control — the end of debt. How far off is it? When shall we strike it? Like a sailor up the rigging, looking for land, I scan the horizon for black ink. Thirsty.

Debt-o-Meter Updated: 13.877%

June 25, 2007

I just updated our debt and emergency fund watch numbers. The good news is that we’ve continued to make some progress on our debt. The bad news is that our cash flow hasn’t been flowing in the right direction and we had to transfer some funds from our savings to our checking to cover expenses until I get paid at the end of the month.

So, how did we get off track? I attribute this to having to buy year-end gifts for teachers and having to increase our childcare costs over the summer. A twenty dollar bill here and there can make a difference on a budget without any fat. A 10 hour day with a $15/hr babysitter obliterates me.

I imagine we’ll have to dip into our emergency fund soon as we learn we have termites and we’ll need to tent. It’s going to hurt. Just when it feels like we’re making progress something else comes up. Anytime anyone goes under our house I cringe because of what they might find. Ignorance is bliss. But then again, that’s how we ended up in so much debt. So, the question is how can you be on top of things and still find your bliss? How can you be a realist on a mission w/out getting totally obsessive and discouraged? I’m hoping to find out…

Autistic Frugality

June 22, 2007

I’ve been working on my slow stuff.

Slow driving. It is hard, but I’m trying to drive a steady 60 m.p.h. on the freeway for efficient fuel consumption. Furthermore, a post at wise bread noted that the cheapest day to buy gas is often during the week, Tuesday or Thursday. Now I am questioning my whole Saturday morning gas run. I’ll have to look into this.

Driving at this speed also appeals to my autistic, geeky side which likes the idea that I’m traveling a mile a minute. It’s easy to calculate how many minutes it will take you to get places when you’re traveling a mile a minute. Good times.

Slow shopping. Browsing in a used bookstore with a solid conviction that it is very unlikely that I’m going to buy anything. Each time I got the impulse to buy I talked through it in my mind.

I have a book like this at home. Actually, I have several books like this at home, and I haven’t read them… This book looked great at the new bookstore. Now it doesn’t look quite so attractive. Hmm, I like almanacs, but this one is from 2000. Almanacs aside reference books are a pretty tempting buy used, but right now I don’t need a reference book. Wow, this book is so cool! Let me see if I can find it at the library.

In the end, it was quite a fun afternoon cruising around at 30 miles per hour, not buying stuff.

Slow selling. Sold a compact disk on Amazon for $7. Woohoo!

Slow web design. I am very tempted to delete a directory in WordPress in a random fashion in order to upload a new layout I like. But I’m afraid this could be disastrous and I haven’t taken the precaution of backing up the blog. Easy now.

Safe, well-cared for children: Priceless?

June 21, 2007

As husband Noma has just calculated the costs our childcare over the summer are going to be exorbitantly high. If I calculated this correctly it looks like we’ll be shelling out an extra 3K on top of what we already pay. While I think there are probably some things we can do to reduce our costs (this blog is a good way to ensure that husband and I have crucial financial conversations, which is hard when you both work and have two young kids) this always leads us to look at whether or not we’re willing to compromise. We can get rid of just about everything else but this is our top priority and it’s hard to be rational about it and look at it merely from a financial point of view.

It’s hard to get affordable quality childcare in Los Angeles. We have one child in public school and our childcare costs are still over $1500 a month between the $800 a month preschool, afterschool care and some supplemental $15/hr babysitting (this is the going rate for 2 kids in LA).

 What can we do as a society to help provide higher quality childcare at an affordable price?

 We’re lucky to be in a position to pay for high-quality care and it nearly kills us financially. What about families that don’t have this option?

Where do you draw the line between big picture financial responsibility and how much money to spend on getting childcare that you’re comfortable with? As a working mother it is essential for me to have caretakers who I love and respect and who love and respect our kids.

Is this emotional aspect to childcare causing us to make bad financial decisions? Should we be compromising a bit with the childcare?

 Down the road I’d like to put more energy into fighting to get better quality affordable childcare available for all families. For now I’m just wondering about my own family’s choices.

Thoughts?

Babysitting: Summer Financial Hit

June 21, 2007

And I don’t mean like hit parade. Top 40. I mean like when the starship Enterprise takes a direct blow from a Klingon photon torpedo to its hull, and Scotty says something about being down to backup power and… you get the point.

We have a number of awesome “babysitters.” I think the word is a misnomer, if not out-and-out pejorative term. This is a person that we trust with our children. They are not babies. They are little citizens in formative development.

Nor is this our “nanny,” who has been engaged on a full-time and part-time basis. The babysitter is more for piecework, if you will.

Yesterday was the last day of school. So we are into the world of wacky daycare options and the logistics of two kids, which as any parent knows, can be quite daunting.

The frugal side of this is “ouch.” When I realized our babysitter would be here from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m. I cringed. I believe that’s $150. Bear in mind that right now there’s not a day that I make $150. Well, not regularly anyway. Ouch. I shudder to think about what our summer budget is going to look like.

National Debt — Boomer Legacy?

June 21, 2007

Recently in my listening this track has struck me as being somehow related to the frugalist mindset.

Papa’s faith is people
Mama she believes in cleaning
Papa’s faith is in people
Mama she’s always cleaning
Papa brought home the sugar
Mama taught me the deeper meaning

Thoughts about this?

Since I’m not a baby boomer, I won’t list the artist, but you can check out her extraordinary fan website here. It includes tons of cool stuff like all the alternate guitar tunings for her songs, full lyrics, art, etc. As fan sites go it is stunningly competent, thorough, and useful.

Speaking of boomers — Ken Wilber (shudder?) has an interesting book called Boomeritis. One of the premises is that boomers eat their young. Highly pertinent regarding parenting we’ve observed. The book itself might be okay if it was the first of his you’ve read, but otherwise is mind-numbingly repetitive. Still, the guy obviously knows a lot and has lots of interesting ideas. Beware of New Age sentiments. To be fair, he is as critical of New Age marketing as the next skeptic.

If you’re in a reading type of mood, have bent toward social commentary, I highly recommend this book by Christopher Lasch, The Culture of Narcissism. A lot of it relates directly to spending habits, consumerism, current trends in helicopter parenting (eternal hovering). I just did a search on this site. I am dumbfounded that I’ve not mentioned this before. Dumbfounded.

My dad (depression-era generation) driving in parking lot: “Okay, here we go.”
“What?”
“Look at this, crikey. It’s a very interesting phenomenon. The me-generation in action. Look at them.”
The couple in front of us are wandering through the parking lot in front of traffic, seemingly oblivious to their holding it up.
“It’s a fascinating phenomenon. Other people simply don’t exist!”

My dad is, as he likes to put it, “a trained social scientist.” So he does have a frame of reference in his observations. Not sure I’ve connected all the dots here. One thought is that when the baby boomers are gone, it’s possible that the cycle of debt slavery at the personal and national levels, if it hasn’t collapsed already, will begin to subside.

Another thought is that with the boomer parenting in evidence, living without limits and incurring debts as ways of being in the world are actually going to get worse. Bummer. Must think good thoughts!

Packing Lunch, Packing Mistakes

June 20, 2007

I was so bummed out yesterday when I realized that I’d forgotten my lunch. A little out of proportion. Must watch that. Perhaps that’s why I felt so sympathetic toward Basil yesterday, when I read about his double mistake disaster. His post title, by the way, is worth the visit alone.

Our secret blog world — we don’t discuss the blog with anyone, just we two and you — has been constrained by the arrival of a house guest. Also, ladydough’s father coming for dinner.

Honestly, I think one of my favorite things about the blog is having something that we share, but no family members read it (that we know of), no brick-and-mortar friends. It is an odd sensation, pleasant.

I was being annoying this morning and ladydough hinted that she might never post again if I don’t cut it out. Tail between my legs, I shuddered. Not that!

Addendum: zenhabits has a list of 73 debt reduction tips. He includes a link to a PBS documentary that I, living in the media-free bubble, hadn’t heard about. The link looks great. Click here!

Debt Reduction: 7 Crucial Habits to Cultivate

June 19, 2007

The field of psychology has a history of debating just how people learn. Is it through reinforcement? Social modeling? Good examples to follow? What you want to learn is how to cultivate the good personal finance habits so you can eliminate credit card debt and get on with your life. You want this. I think I can help.

  1. Reward yourself. The sooner after the thrifty behavior the better. Rewarding yourself before, during, or some time remote from the behavior will not have the desired effect — creating a positive reinforcing association with the habit you are trying to cultivate.So reward yourself right after you defer the impulse purchase, make a menu plan, buy gas in the wee hours of the morning… Make sure the reward is something you love, ice cream, playing soccer, spending time with the kids, whatever it is for you.
  2. In the beginning, reward yourself often. If you are just beginning to develop habits they require constant reinforcement in order to stick. This is in the beginning. So for the couple of weeks reward yourself as often as you can, again, as close to immediately after the desired habit as possible. We start to believe, somewhere in our brains, that looking for bargains actually causes ice cream to materialize.After a couple of weeks you need to taper off the rewards, otherwise they become meaningless. But in the beginning, continuous reinforcement is powerful. It is the strongest reinforcement schedule for establishing a habit. This is well documented by lots of empirical research.
  3. Make your rewards non-routine. When I say non-routine, what I really mean is unpredictable. After continuous reinforcement, which has limited utility, unpredictable rewards are the next strongest reinforcement schedule.A good example? Slot machines. This is why people get hooked. The reward is unpredictable, but it comes, and that has a powerful effect on people. This is not to say that routine rewards are not good, they are fine. But mix it up a little.
  4. Make it a ritual. This may seem to contradict the last point, and in a way it does. But ritual has its own power. Going for gelato after the kids clean their room every Saturday may not be, strictly speaking, as reinforcing as a random treat, but it sure will work miracles on Saturday!More importantly ritual provides continuity in our lives, comfort in order, and helps us focus on what we value. I would not rely solely on ritual, as it is not the most powerful reinforcer, but having a ritual or two can be very powerful.
  5. Join a community with similar debt reduction goals. Truly the internet is fantastic for this. You can go to personal finance blogs and read about things that people on the outside generally are very reluctant to talk about, including their big financial blunders, how much money they make, how they choose to spend it, how they got into credit card debt, and what they are doing to get out of it.Community offers a variety of food for thought, ways of looking at things you might never have come up with on your own, handy tips, as well as the emotional support that comes from knowing your predicament is not yours alone. Do not underestimate the power of being able to identify with people you like and respect.
  6. Find a debt guru. I am not a big fan of gurus. They tend not to live up to their initial radiance. So gurus aside, find someone you like and respect who has walked the walk for longer than you. It might be someone you’ve known personally for ages, or someone you strike up a rapport with on a personal finance blog. It’s probably more effective if you actually know the person in actual time and space. Have an appreciation for their personality and how they make their finances work for them.I know a lady in her late 60’s (I’m guessing) that I’ve known since I was about five years old. I now recognize her as being a titan of frugality. We saw her during our vacation. She offered to take us and the kids out to lunch. She said “we can go to [crappy chain] or [a local Chinese restaurant].” That part was a no-brainer. The chinese food was good and inexpensive. When my wife remarked that she wished our kids were more adventurous eaters, that she wished our kids would eat sushi, my guru bridled. “You don’t want that. That’s expensive!”Now that might sound cheap. Her point was that if you can avoid fostering expensive habits in your kids, then avoid it. When they grow up and get jobs they can acquire whatever expensive habits they like. She had picked both restaurants because they were adjacent to parks, planning to take the kids there if they got squirrelly. She had thought of everything. Would it surprise you to know this lady grew up in the Mid-West?
  7. Consider psychotherapy or some kind of debt counseling. This may strike some of you as very non-frugal. It is not for everyone. It may seem draconian (the expense!) or even counterproductive. It may fall under the heading of “treatment of last resort.” But some of us are really going to need some outside help if we are going to make substantial changes in our habits.Debt counseling may be an excellent option. Another is psychotherapy. If you are overwhelmed with negative thoughts that have evolved into larger attitudes and the way you are in the world, a good cognitive-behavioral therapist might be able to help you get some perspective.Are some feelings — regret, vulnerability, powerlessness — hard for you to get a handle on? Do you tend to be very energized and optimistic only to collapse when faced with the outcome of your decisions? This sort of pattern tends to be entrenched. Even when we know exactly what we need to do in order to get out of debt, save money, whatever the goal is — we stumble. This can be very frustrating and lead to plummeting self-esteem and self-punishment, not to mention mounting credit card debts.A good psychodynamic therapist, one that looks at some of the deeper meanings you attach to money, may be able to help you make sense of and even overcome this type of problem. The goals in this sort of therapy are ambitious, including making adjustments to our character. You can’t change your character, but you can modify it in ways that are helpful. Are you are confused about how your finances got to be such a mess? Then you might want to pursue psychotherapy.

No Credit Needed

June 18, 2007

We finally got our numbers together and put them on the NCN site. Here’s a great post at Free Money Finance on deterring burglars, should they make it into your home.

Maxed Out, Review

June 18, 2007

Maxed Out was a good reinforcer for our debt-reducing mindset. It was somewhat less satisfying as a film. As a muckraking documentary it did most of the right things — there was a scene in the senate, there were tears, there were revelations.

I was fascinated to learn that the big banks underwrite many sleazy check cashing and pawn shop businesses. Ripping off the disadvantaged seems to be a bad habit the financial industry can’t kick. The tears weren’t quite as manipulative as Michael Moore might have coaxed, but that element was in evidence. There wasn’t much of a narrative.

We’re keeping it around tonight to watch the Dave Ramsey special feature. I’d never heard of the guy until a few weeks ago!

It was a worthwhile rental. If you need a jolt of anger, it might do the trick. The guys that made the calls to debtors really came off as first-class a**holes. But that’s the nature of such movies. One sided.

Cash or Credit? Running From the Numbers

June 18, 2007

I’ve written a page after having run some numbers regarding our credit cards. It could potentially take a very long time, a decade, without aggressive action! Over at the Simple Dollar, Trent posted an interesting dilemma revolving around the idea of maybe cashing out a 401K. Obviously, not something you want to do without careful, sustained thought.

Cut the hair, did the early morning gas run. Went to the farmer’s market. Ah, the smell of fresh herbs, sage and mint, drifting over the asparagus… A delightful Father’s Day.

The Emergency Fund: Five Steps to Creation

June 17, 2007

I read an article called “Creating an Emergency Fund on TheStreet.com’s web site this morning.

The author Jeffrey Strain shares 5 steps to creating an emergency fund. I’ll list them below with some of my own thoughts.

1. Start now
Ladydoughgirl: For me it is tempting to just focus on paying off our debt rather than build an emergency fund. However, we also realized we always have unexpected expenses and better to start an emergency fund than try to scramble and charge those unexpected expenses down the road.

2. Separate the account
Ladydoughgirl: We learned about ING’s high-yield savings account through other personal finance bloggers. We got the referral bonus (I think from Bostongal’s Open Wallet) so we started out with an extra $25 in our account. For me separating the account is crucial. I need to make accessing the money just a bit difficult otherwise I could see my temptation of dipping into it for pseudo emergencies.

3. Make it automatic
Ladydoughgirl: We opted to have an automatic payment sent to our ING account on the 15th and 30th of the month. This corresponds to my pay days. Since the transfer happens at pay day and automatically I don’t feel the pain. If you can’t afford $100 a month, try any amount. I think consistency is key. With $100 a month we’ll save $1200 by the end of the year.

4. Understand its purpose
Ladydoughgirl: This point is a bit sticky. My husband and I were just talking about this. Ideally we would like our emergency fund to be large enough to cover two areas (1) 3-6 months of salary in case I were to lose my job and (2) a hefty sum to cover any unexpected costs (such as car or house repairs) and large recurring items such as property taxes which we find ourselves scrambling to pay 2x a year. Right now our emergency fund will have to focus on #2 and cover those items. Once it gets large enough I’d like to have enough to also cover that 1st scenario.

5. Use it when you need it
Ladydoughgirl: Per #4 we will likely use our emergency fund this year when we have to pay our property taxes. In the meantime they money is sitting pretty in our high-yield ING savings account. This makes me feel much more secure and prepared.

Debt Watch Progress — 12.7%, There

June 17, 2007

The widget isn’t behaving. That was a fun sentence to type. Unfortunately I’m having trouble editing the debt watch figure in the upper right hand corner of the page. In the meantime I wanted to note that we’ve made a bit more progress. The only way we were able to do this was because I got a hefty bonus in June.

Start: $25,494.63
Now: $22,466.11

Now we’re actually now at at $22,252.45 in credit card debt.
So, we’ve paid off $3,242.18 or 12.7% of our original credit card debt.

While it feels a bit demoralizing to think how much longer we have to go I am pleased at what we’ve done so far. Especially since we just recently decided to get our financial acts together (just about 5 weeks ago).

While I look forward to many interesting nights of beans and rice and seeing how creative we can be about not spending money I feel like we’re doing about as well as we can without me having a total sense of humor failure. There will only be so much progress we can make on the debt until my husband’s practice starts bringing in more money and/or I get paid another bonus (not until the Spring next year). That’s just the way the cash flows. Or not.

Your Debt Reduction Identity

June 16, 2007

Or mine? I’ve been looking at our layout and thinking about some design changes. A fresh look. Ever since I read that the WordPress Kubrick theme abuses the distinction between categories and tags I’ve felt like we need to get hip. Plus a few more columns might be nice.

Then I’ve been thinking about noma (my handle) and how that’s sounds like cancer. I’m trying to end unwanted growths! Speaking of cancerous, I discovered (ha!) that an account I opened in a more sanguine moment, for professional income, has been merrily decreasing by $8 a month. So that $100 is now $76. I’m pissed. I hate Wells Fargo. Of course, I’ve nobody to blame but myself. But I’ve also found that getting banks to reverse charges isn’t that difficult.

Looking over at the emergency fund I feel that we’ve reached a whole new level. That is, we’re not gonna be leveled by those incoming kamikazes. We’ll simply swivel the big gun. And kablooey.

I think we’ll be living our new routine and taking a break from the blog over the weekend. Tonight a friend’s bringing us dinner and I finally got a hold of Maxed Out. Review on Monday.