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Archive for August, 2014

Blah, humbug

August 30th, 2014 at 02:49 pm

Oh, where's my energy today? Being vegan, most of the time I have plenty of energy. Today, not at all. I'm wondering if possible mild dehydration is the cause, as I haven't really drunk too much today except for tea. I kept trying to nap without ever really nodding off because my neighbor was mowing and then Waldo kept jumping on me.

I did manage to get my $10K CD taken care of this am, but the State Farm agent who did it didn't know what he was doing and had to call for support to walk him thru the screens online. Patience is NOT one of my strong suits, and I was getting very impatient. Especially since this same thing happened last year when I got another IRA CD from him!

But he made up for it as I was walking out his office and we had a very nice conversation about investing and a few other things. He's very personable.

I also managed to get the $30 I was charged for a door measuring that never happened to be credited by Home Depot. However, it was a prolonged, unpleasant process. I called them last night and was finally told I had to talk to customer service and was transferred, but of course no one answered the phone. I got them early this morning at 8 a.m. but she still put me on hold THREE friggin' times!

So I'm back to square one with the door.

I stopped at the local Windowland showroom to look at entry doors, but turns out the place is now called something else and was bought by the employees of the old Windowland. Not sure when that happened, but they seemed very disorganized. And they had NO wood entry doors to look at so I spent all of 5 minutes there.

I will try Angie's List next.

Then it was on to Staples, where I wanted to get 2 new ink cartridges for my good-for-nothing Dell printer, which was telling me there was an issue with my printhead, even after I did a "deep clean" of the nozzles. There was still ink left in the cartridges but it was printing all smeary. This printer has multiple problems and I hate it. It's actually a replacement for another Dell printer, same exact model, that was also giving me problems. I have to hand feed the paper one page at a time or it will jam, and I often have to rerun the driver disk just to get it to print becus "Printer does not recognize computer."

So as it turned out they were out of one of the 2 ink cartridges at Staples, and I was worried I'd get home with just the one and it still wouldn't work. A nice young fellow was around and in all of about 3 minutes, with his help, I picked up a Canon printer for I think it was $69 on sale. And it came with the ink. So for the cost of 2 Dell cartridges ($40) plus a few dollars more, I got a whole new printer. He assured me it would be compatible with my Dell, something that had in the past kept me from replacing my stupid printer. When he told me he owned it himself, I decided to go for it.

It's still sitting in the box but hopefully I'll feel motivated to get it up and running sometime this weekend.

I picked up a few groceries at Shop Rite and then came home. It was only noon, but I hardly did anything since then except sweep up a small portion of my driveway where the firewood my dad took left a bunch of debris. I did a teensy bit of weeding and mostly sat in my sun room and watched the many bees going at the white hydrangeas in bloom and my autumn joy sedums, which also really attract bees of all stripes (pun intended). There's not much else in bloom this time of year.

Oh, yeah, I also repotted a small mum plant I bought while at Shop Rite. I had a large ugly plastic pot that had some nice perennials in it along with some tulips, so since I wanted to get rid of the pot, I transplanted the perennials and dug up all the tulip bulbs, which seem to have multiplied. However, I think it's a bit early to plant the bulbs, so will wait a few weeks for that. They'll go near the front door in a protected spot where I know the voles won't get to them.

The weekend is here!

August 29th, 2014 at 05:10 pm

I was able to leave work today at 3 pm. I mowed the lawn and did my monthly investment statement, which looks sweeeet.

My net worth as of today is $650,633. That's more than $18,000 more than last month. Most of this....$573,000.....is tax-deferred money in IRA and 401k accounts, accumulated over a lifetime. I have $76,999 in taxable accounts. The house and car are paid for. And I have a real job now. Life is good.

Yet, all it would take is a market correction, probably overdue. Then, I would have to rebuild savings without a bull stock market acting like the wind in my sails. It would be more of an uphill climb.

My retirement savings goal for year's end was $623,000, so I've already exceeded that goal. In fact, my goal for the end of 2015 was $673,000, so it's entirely conceivable I could hit that goal also. These are specific, tangible goals I set for myself in order to save $908,000 in 5 years time, after which, I could probably retire. (Although my "number" has long been $1.25 mm, but I don't think I want to work that long.)

Home Depot never called me this past week as they said they would, to schedule a time to come to measure my front entry so I could get a new door. They charged my credit card $30 for the measurement fee, which goes toward the door purchase price if you wind up getting the door.

But I'm annoyed at their poor customer service already, not doing what they said they would do. I'm just too busy to chase after them. I called the credit card company to dispute the charge so I can get a credit and go elsewhere, but they required me to attempt to resolve it with the merchant, so then I called Home Depot but she said I'd have to talk to customer service, and evidently, they closed early becus the phone just rang and rang and rang. I'll try again tomorrow.

I also thought I would stop in at my local, in-town Windowland to check out their doors.

Tomorrow I've got an appointment at the local State Farm office to buy another $10K worth of 5-year CDs with IRA money that's earning practically nothing in my Vanguard money market. I think the rate I'll be getting is 2.15%. At least it's something. It's long-term money so I won't need to access it.

Yesterday there were more layoffs at the bank. Not on a massive scale, but selectively done. There were some long-timers, no doubt with much bigger salaries than I have, that were among the casualties. It was upsetting.

Also on the weekend's agenda: installing new bamboo shades in my upstairs bathroom, vacuuming, laundry and attending my town's Labor Day parade with a friend on Monday.

I got yet another new credit card, my 3rd or 4th (!) with Bank of America...the Better Balance Rewards card. You earn $25 cash rewards each quarter you charge something each month and pay more than the minimum balance, on time.

There's no minimum spend requirement, just that you spend something each month during the quarter and then pay more than the minimum required, on time. So it works out to $100 a year, which is equivalent to many other credit card up front bonuses I've gotten, but those offers are getting harder to find as I've gone thru most of them, and this at least lets me earn that $100 a year over and over again, if I keep the card as one of my long-term cards. It's a fairly painless way to earn free money, so that's what I'll do. The hardest part will be making sure I charge SOMETHING in each of the 3 months within a given quarter. Otherwise, no reward that quarter. I have so many cards, that can be tricky, but as soon as I accumulate enough rewards to redeem, I'll be wanting to close down some of these excess cards. Like, my Discover card will be the first to go.

While we're talking credit cards, I'm also going after an Amex deal where if you spend $50 at Stew Leonard's (a local grocery store around here), you get a $10 statement credit. I don't think it's much more expensive than any other grocery store around here, and I always need food, so why not.

Luther and Waldo have become so jaded. They won't even bat at the string I toss for them. Stop taunting us, they seem to say. We know it's dead. We like the real thing better. Smile

Everbank Makes it Ever-Difficult

August 23rd, 2014 at 07:03 am

After a fair amount of time researching CD rates (I'm determined to do better than the measly .06% I'm getting with my Vanguard money market), I decided to put $10,000 in an Everbank 5-yr CD earning 2.30%.

I called last night and since it was after hours, he emailed me the forms I'd need to fill out. There were 3 different forms with over 25 pp. After using up a good deal of printer ink, I saw in one form where they actually ask for your employer's name and how much annual income you make.

This is ridiculous. Since when do banks ask for this info? I'm aware of some credit card applications that ask for income and type of occupation, but this is going too far. And frankly, I don't see the relevance of my earnings when I'm handing over ten grand.

I've opened up CDs before (at State Farm, last year, most recently) and never had to disclose this.

I called to confirm that this info was in fact a requirement and she said yes, it was. I voiced my disagreement over the phone and again over email and then tossed the printed out application forms.

Truly annoying and way too invasive. I'm tired of having to disclose every nuance of my financial life whenever I want to do something. So I won't.

A day in the life

August 22nd, 2014 at 06:47 pm

In the interest of eating healthily and frugally, I continue to find new and enjoyable ways to prepare all the fresh produce I'm getting from the CSA.

Last night I whipped up some Baba Ghanoush... my first. I regret not measuring out one-quarter cup of lemon juice instead of just juicing 2 lemons, because it came out with lemon being the predominant flavor. At the same time, I ran short of the 3 tablespoons of tahini that was needed; I had only 1.5 tablespoons left.

I picked up some more tahini at Stop & Shop on the way home from work and improved it. It was quite tasty with the pita bread yesterday, but tonight slathering it like butter inside the pockets with chopped cucumber and tomato was even better. Yum.

I decided to finally do something about the $37,000 sitting earning nothing in a Vanguard money market account. Everbank emailed me the paperwork; since the it's an IRA I'm transferring, they need a real signature. 2.30% is better than .06%. It's a 5-yr CD, but this is only a portion of my cash position and I won't need to access it. I think I'm in for $10,000. If rates rise within that time, as I expect they will, I have other money I can use to ladder some more CDs.

Today at lunchtime I walked for 45 minutes; tonight at home I mowed the lawn for 30 minutes. So fit in some good exercise there.

Tonight I applied for a Bank of America Better Balance Rewards card where you earn $25 a quarter as long as you charge something every month and pay it on time and make more than the minimum payment.

I was disconcerted to not get an immediate approval...probably becus I already own 3 BankAmericards. I hope I get this one.....

Looking forward to a long holiday weekend next weekend, and of course, getting out a few hours early on Friday.

We have a new gal on our team who wasn't aware of the Thursday Farmer's Market in the city where I work, so I suggested I take her there next week. She sits where most of my group sits (I'm in another location) and there are several people there who have never struck me as especially friendly, so I do feel for her a little, being new.

My neighbors behind me are making some moves I don't approve of. We had a talk last night. I am looking the other way that they have 3 illegal tenants up there now, their solution to allowing them to remain living in their home instead of selling (which they haven't been able to do) and moving to Tennessee, home of cheap real estate.

However, she told me last night that her husband's daughter and two granddaughers are coming to live with them from England. (He's British.) His daughter is divorced, but the father sees his girls once a week, although he hasn't always been a regular part of their lives.

They are due to arrive here in the States next week, and apparently are not planning on informing the father they are leaving. My neighbor kept saying disparaging things about the father, that he was not a good husband, doesn't make good money and that his ex lived in a very bad neighborhood and needed to move to protect her children. Well, they could have moved somewhere else in England....She made it seem like the move to the US was the ONLY solution.

She said oh, the father can come visit us here. Like yeah, that will be easy?? It's outrageous to me they would disregard his paternal rights so casually.

In the meantime, they have now acquired 2 cows. The first cow kept mooing constantly for the several days it was alone and then suddenly, things went quiet. They had gotten a 2nd cow, thank God. I felt bad for the cow; it was the first time it was separated from its mother, the first time it had ridden in a trailer, for 40 minutes, and everything was strange to it. At least now it has company.

Robin Williams RIP

August 12th, 2014 at 03:58 am

So sad to hear about Robin Williams' death. It's sad when anyone commits suicide, but all the more startling when a funny man does it.

It just goes to show you, that even with a loving family, rewarding career, respect, fame and financial independence, depression can cause horrible things to happen.

And, while debate over legalizing marijuana has gone on for decades, a perfectly legal substance known as alcohol held someone like this within its inexorable grip.

So sad...

Done, done & done!

August 10th, 2014 at 05:42 pm

I find that when I'm busy (aka, working f/t) I am uber-productive on my weekends.

I got all these things on my list done:

1. Weeded the driveway. (Yes, many cracks...some day I will have to repave it.)

2. Weeded the veggie garden. (I pulled the rest of the onions, and while they are pint-sized, about the size of golf balls, they are very oniony-tasting.)

3. Weeded various perennial beds and the brick patio while giving wide berth to the growing paper wasp nest, which is now the size of a basketball. The weeding is by no means complete, but at least I did a fair amount.

4. I picked up my half share of veggies from the CSA and got my biggest haul yet: 5 cucumbers, a pint of cherry tomatoes plus a pound of small regular tomatoes, a head of lettuce, a few more yellow squash, 2 bell peppers, 2 skinny eggplant, a pound of string beans. I think I forgot to take some potatoes. The farmer is looking very, very tan/red these days.

5. I watered the grass I sowed this spring, but unfortunately, this is the time of year, very warm with little rain, when whatever grass I plant partially dies back and weeds take its place. I let the watering go for probably a one-week period, and that's all it took. I am SOO tired of watering this particular plot of grass, dragging the hose around, plus a much smaller patch in the backyard where I have to haul water in a large plastic watering can.

6. Also watered the veggie garden after weeding.

7. I made my lunch for the 1st 2 workdays: cheese tortellini with sliced cherry tomatoes and croutons with a bit of salad dressing, plus sliced cucumbers on the side.

8. Stopped in at Dress Barn looking for a nice top to wear at my Thursday picnic, but didn't find anything.

9. Did the final touch-up/coat of paint on 2 windows in my office.

10. Pulled down the Virginia creeper vines that were climbing over the roof of my toolshed.

11. Had a nice lunch with a girlfriend at a new restaurant in town that is very nice with its reclaimed barnboard ceiling and brick interior walls. I had lobster bisque and a beet salad, plus she wanted desserts, so the bill for lunch came to $62 with tip!!!! I can't believe the prices!

Her big news was that she had a melanoma removed from her face, and is having more surgery this week to remove some squamous cell moles elsewhere on her body. She is fair-skinned with red hair.

12. Went over my mother's to talk to her about having an aide come to the house a few times a week. Response: No go. We got in a big argument. I give up, for now. It's too exhausting. Guess we'll have to wait til the next medical crisis comes.

13. Filled up the gas tank and picked up a few groceries.

14. Picked up a few $3 tank tops to sleep in at Wal-Mart.

Plus, I did these things that weren't on my list:

1. A load of laundry.

2. I made a pitcher of ice tea, which I like to bring to work with me in my Thermos. Much better than drinking soda!

3. Swept the upper part of the driveway where the rhododendron leaves always fall.

4. Took a walk on one of the town's walking trails - very peaceful.

5. Took a walk around the block tonight to squeeze in some more exercise before dark.

6. Used my electric trimmer to tidy up an azalea and another shrub in front of the house.

This evening before dark i noticed a silver pickup zipping up and down the street. It had flashing lights and stopped at my neighbor's, then pulled up my driveway before going up the very long driveway to the people who live behind me up the hill. A fire truck followed them up. They were there about 10 minutes, then left. I called my neighbors to make sure they were okay, and she told me someone (they don't know who) complained about all the smoke caused by the fire in their fire pit. She had been sitting outside with a book and a glass of wine and was quite startled to find a fireman in full gear on the property. They live in the middle of the woods.


I'm so grateful for another Friday...sort of

August 8th, 2014 at 04:36 pm

I'm so grateful for another Friday...although when the weekend comes around, I feel like it's just another kind of work I've got to do. Frown

Tomorrow I'm meeting a friend for lunch in town at a new restaurant. That's the only really "fun" thing I'll be doing.

Yesterday I worked at home becus my landline was not working and i had to let the AT&T guy in. When I got home Wed. night, however, I discovered the phone was again working, but I decided since I'd already arranged it, to still work at home, which is rare for me during the summer months unless I have a doc appointment or something.

So I was able to make some much-needed phone calls which is incredibly difficult at work since I work at a cube and there's NO privacy.

So I scheduled my physical for September, after my new health insurance kicks in, so I can earn $50 I think it is just by doing a "wellness" thing and getting that physical. There are a bunch of other things like that you can also do to earn money, up to a max of $250 a year, and I intend to try to do every one of them! As you can see, I'm still thinking frugally, even after getting the big new job, and I doubt that will ever change.

I still haven't restarted Netflix. I am so busy with yardwork and that kind of thing now, so I may wait until late fall to renew since I'll have more indoor time then. I've gotten used to free Hulu's very limited selection of shows.

I called 2 home health aide agencies to get help for my mother. Both were recommended by 2 people I know. The next step would be interviewing the 2 aides one of the agencies would send to meet me and my mother. This all takes so much time, considering I can't do this during the week. While I worry about my mother being alone so much, at her age, I also worry about the proclivity of any aide we might hire to possibly steal small items (of which there are a lot) from my mother's place. Or worse, I could see my mother asking them to help her with the computer, which she often has problems with, and the aide gets a hold of her email password. From there, she could eventually get her credit card numbers, bank account number or who knows what. I'm hoping to feel more motivated and energetic about it to schedule something for next weekend.

So, here's some financial news....Earlier this year I contributed $6500 to a traditional IRA, not knowing I would get a perm job at the bank. I'm realizing in hindsight that with my $80K gross salary, my Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI) for 2014 might exceed $70K, and that would mean that the traditional IRA I contributed to earlier in the year would not be tax deductible.

I recently started contributing (the max) to my new 401k at work. Thinking about how disappointing it would be not to be able to deduct that IRA, I decided to sign up for the $5500 catch-up contribution for those age 50+.

I checked the gross I made at the bank while still employed by the agency, and it was actually a lot less than I thought, what with my mandatory week-long furlough and all those unpaid holidays. So I calculate that my gross income from the agency and the bank will be just $63,140, and after subtracting my 401k contribution ($4,264 for a partial year) ad the catch-up contribution but then add back in about $1400 in taxable interest from investments, I figure my MAGI will be just $54,776, well below the $60,000 threshold to be eligible for a full deduction on the IRA contribution.

At the same time, I'm still working on earning a 2.5% bonus on my taxable contributions I've been making into my Barclay dream account. I figure it's worth about $114 to me. I should have already earned it (you have to contribute any amount up to $1,000 for 6 consecutive months to get a 2.5% bonus on the total interest earned on the money in the account) except that either I or they screwed up one month when I could have SWORN I contributed to the Dream account but apparently contributed to my OTHER Barclay money market account. Anyway, I have 3 more months of contributions to go and then I should earn it.

Garden news:
I've begun picking small cherry tomatoes and a few smallish tomatoes from my bushes, and I've pulled up a number of small yellow onions, too. Also occasionally picking beets and there's a cucumber that's almost ready. The wineberries, at least the ones I can reach, are pretty well spent. I was able to freeze at least 4 bags holding about 2 cups each. I'm satisfied with that and would rather stay Lyme-free than diving into the brambles for more berries.

It's been a fairly cool summer(no, not complaining at all), and so my tomato plants are holding onto the green tomatoes longer, I think.

For my birthday, my sister gave me a cute little thistle feeder and the birds have discovered it. Some goldfinches and also chickadees. I enjoy watching them. And she gave me a dozen or so oranges expressly for the Baltimore Oriole feeder she gave me last Christmas. I've hung it out and have seen Orioles in early spring, but haven't seen any at the feeder.

Possible home maintenance projects on this weekend's list which I likely won't get to but have listed anyway include:
*Paint Thoro Plug over patched areas of concrete wall in basement so it's all a uniform white
* Finish painting the trim in my office (will take 5 minutes, but the clean-up is a pain)
* Pull vines off the toolshed

I'd also like to get a haircut and figure out what I'll wear to the work picnic up in Massachusetts next week. I may buy something new. I'm not really looking forward to it becus it's ALWAYS an incredibly long day, having to drive 3 hours up and 3 hours back in the same day. In addition, becus the employee who usually rents a van/SUV and drives everyone is on vacation, that leaves just me and my boss as the only employees going, with 4 different contractors. Since a contractor isn't allowed to rent the vehicle and drive, that leaves me and my boss, and my boss has already told me she doesn't want to drive. I can't blame her since she goes up there every other week, but the difference is that she stays 3 or 4 nights, while when the rest of us go, it's up and back same day. I have never driven a van or SUV before, so now I'll be driving 5 women in a van on this long drive. I can think of so many other things I'd rather be doing, believe me.

The assisted living place

August 2nd, 2014 at 04:40 pm

I had an appointment to meet with the director of the assisted living place they're constructing in next town over. While the private apartments were small...just 600 square feet for the 1 bedroom, probably the coolest thing about it was that they recently "bought a farm," and in a few years time, they expect to provide 85% of all the food served at the place from this farm, including veggies, grass-fed beef, eggs, and even milk.

They have a lot of communal spaces including an art studio.

But it doesn't really seem doable, given the incredible cost. For the one bedroom, it's $6,550 a month, or $78,600 a year. If I calculate the sale of her condo, her savings and what my mother gets annually in Social Security, she'd deplete her savings within 4 years. Yes, um, 4 years, when she would be 84. After which she'd have to leave, probably for a nursing home, whether she was ready for one or not, becus at that point she'd be broke.

I also studied the website of Masonicare assisted living, which is right in my town. This place is different becus it's non-profit. Unlike the first place, they require a large ($110,000) lump sum down, but then the monthly cost is in the range of $2,100. In that scenario, her money would last for 12 years. Big difference.

Both places handle the meals and offer local transportation to shopping and doc appointments when needed.

Seems that first place I visited is really designed for wealthy families, not us.

My sister and I are going back to talking about hiring someone through an agency to come in on a regular basis to do whatever or just be with her. That won't be cheap either, but I think it will be cheaper than the above 2 scenarios and she wouldn't have to give up half her stuff to squeeze into such a small space. Although the big plus about the assisted living places is their built-in social aspects with lots of activities and other people to get friendly with.

The hardest part will be getting my mother to go along with any of these options, once she hears the price. Having power of attorney and a joint bank account with her, I could just go and do it, but I'd rather she didn't hate me for doing that, so I'll have to be patient (NEVER my strongest virtue) and wheedle her into it.

Tomorrow's my birthday, so we'll be over there and bringing lunch. We will bring up the topic, although I'm not prepared to talk in great detail as I haven't done all my homework. There is so much to be done, and at work I have ZERO privacy to talk on the phone, so whenever I make a call I have to go to the stairwell, and people can't call me back given my lack of privacy.

I want to try to get my mother to give up the computer, for good. She's been calling me lately about how she can't remember her password and is leaving me frustrated messages. She really doesn't need it and mostly uses email, but mostly it just stresses her (and me) out.

I found a third yellow jacket nest in my lawn, but since it's been sort of rainy all day, I won't spray tonight.

I cooked up a bunch of zucchini and squash tonight in a casserole with sun dried tomatoes, onion, parmesan cheese and cubed stale foccacia I'd frozen a month ago. It came out pretty good. I am so tired of sauteed, watery squashes, or even roasted.

I filled up the gas tank and bought a few groceries (well, $70 worth, that's more than a few) at BJs.

A little of this, a little of that

August 1st, 2014 at 07:11 pm

Hooray, Friday and the weekend are here!

I got my first full paycheck today. By the time the federal and state deductions sucked their share, I wound up with less than I thought. Frown However, I did contribute my 15% ($461) to my 401(k).

Hooray for the 401(k)! The first I've owned in 5 years!!

Yeah, as Petunia noted, the stock market was a bit of a downer in the past few days.

I've been keeping tabs on the largish paper wasp nest that's growing directly behind my house, maybe 8 inches from the safety of my window. It's about the size of a basketball now. At one point recently, I noticed a largish gash on my side of it, maybe 2 or 3 inches long. It was almost like a stretch mark or something, like maybe the hole was made by the weight of the nest itself. I'm not sure, but what really fascinated is that a day later, these hornets had neatly patched the hole with a live rhododendron leaf. It was really amazing. I don't know how insects can do that. It must have been a collaborative effort. Smile Really, really interesting. To me, anyway.

My birthday is coming up on Sunday. I will be ancient then. Stash Tea sent me a deal where if I spent $20, I get $10 off, so I went and spent way too much time browsing their site and finally placed my order for $24 so I could try some interesting new teas and enjoy them in a new turquoise Stash mug. Smile

I will also make use of a $10 off birthday coupon from the car dealer, for my next oil/filter change.

I got the lawn mowing out of the way on Wednesday and Thursday.

In another 2 weeks I'll have to make another trip north, to Massachusetts, to a team barbecue. However, because the company has instituted a new expense reimbursement policy, we can no longer drive our own cars and get reimbursed if it's over 150 miles. The trip to our office up there and back is about double that, and the barbecue will be, too. That means I have to go to the trouble of renting a car through a certain travel agency. Which will be a pain because I have no one to drive me to the car rental place, wherever it ends up being. If they don't have some sort of service to drive me home, I'd have to leave my car there, if they even permit that. Not something you want to have to mess around with, considering all the paperwork and then when you're tired coming back, to have to drop it off, etc. UGH Hate it.

I have an appt. to meet with someone and get a tour of an assisted living place near me. For my mother. I just want to get all the particulars. It would be a huge uphill battle to even get her to consider moving into one, especially if she knew the cost, but she has serious short-term memory problems. I don't think she can live alone much longer.

It's a huge task. I can't even barely think about it because if I do, I'll feel overwhelmed. My sister at least agreed to check out 1 or 2 places in her area.