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Archive for October, 2008

BOOOOO!!!

October 31st, 2008 at 03:13 pm



Happy Halloween everyone!

DH and I are getting ready for my best-friend's annual bash and I'm in charge of the music this year. He plans these parties way in advance and they are always the talk of the town, and I'm excited!

I've totally procrastinated coming up with a costume, so looks like it's just some devil horns for me. My perfectionism rares it's ugly head: unless I have a perfect costume idea worthy of a door prize, I won't even try.

Halloween used to involve driving around town looking for and purchasing a costly costume. Sushi with all of my friends downtown. Favors and booze for a couple parties and a cab ride home. This year I'm trying to keep all the holidays simpler and cheaper.

Even Dave Ramsey is Wrong Sometimes

October 30th, 2008 at 10:27 am



I was half-listening to Dave Ramsey's podcast on ITunes yesterday while getting some work done. My ears perked up when a caller asked whether he should roll-over his TSP into an IRA at Vanguard after separating from Federal Service.

This is my exact situation, and my TSP is the only account I haven't consolidated into my Vanguard Target Retirement Fund.
Dave told the guy to roll it over, since you have more choices at Vanguard, and the choices in the TSP are very limited. I went and did a little research on my own.

Here is a breakdown of TSP(Barclays) vs Vanguard fund fees:

0.15% G Fund -
0.15% F Fund - 0.20 (VBMFX) Total Bond Market Index
0.15% C Fund - 0.15% (VFINX) S&P 500 Index
0.15% S Fund - 0.24% (VEXMX) Extended Market Index
0.15% I Fund - 0.22% (VDMIX) Developed Markets Index
0.15% L2040 - 0.19% (VTIVX) Target retirement 2045

Barclays gets a subsidy for managing the TSP, hence the really low fees. Considering the near identical 5/10 year returns I don't really see the point of switching unless you're 100% in the C fund.

Am I missing something here?

How Lenders Lure You To Borrow

October 29th, 2008 at 09:41 am



I know that credit cards are evil, and that I'm paying with snakes. I just love my 3% cash back to give up completely, so articles like this while appalling, are not too surprising:

Banks Mine Data and Woo Troubled Borrowers

* you might need to register for free if you've never read articles on nytimes.com before

Although I firmly believe that the responsibility for every penny of debt ultimately rests with the borrower, we should all be aware of baits the lenders use to lure us into their traps.

The lenders don't just use existing information about your life to inundate you with custom offers, they use sophisticated predictive models to precisely know who will or will not take the bait. They hone their algorithms, making each pitch more effective, getting more people to borrow and spend.

These companies think they are doing a consumer a service, instead they are contributing to the credit collapse of this country.

The whole "Debt Trap" series which explores the surge in consumer debt and the lenders who made it possible, is an interesting read.

Working at home and saving money

October 28th, 2008 at 02:24 pm



This week is the third week I'm working at home full time. It has been an adjustment and there are definitely pros and cons to the arrangement but looking at my credit card activity, it has been great for my pocketbook.

I'm not making the 40 mile round-trip commute everyday, saving approx $70 a month even with today's lower prices.

I'm not driving past Target, Home Depot and an entire outlet mall on the way home from work, curtailing another $100-200 of spending.

I'm not swinging by the grocery store on the way home, so I've been really good at eating through the pantry and the freezer. Last month our food bill was down another $30-50 bucks a week.

I've been much more productive since I'm well rested after getting more sleep in the mornings. It's amazing how being your own boss focuses your mind. Nobody to blame but yours truly and you are directly answerable to your clients. I also have more time to catch up on home projects, make lunches for my husband, and free time in general.

Distraction have been hard to deal with, but I've set up a private work area that is dedicated to work only. Also because I don't want to end up a loopy, sweats-clad newlywed I've made more of an effort to go out to lunch dates and email and visit my friends. I'm also working on getting out of the house more, for a walk during lunch, or a workout or errands in the afternoon.

I have plans to turn my downstairs bedroom into a proper office with a larger table, shelving, and storage for my printer, scanner, etc. I also need to upgrade my really uncomfortable dining room chair that I am currently using, to something more ergonomic. This will all have to wait until my current roommate moves out. Oh well, a girl can dream...

Should I take money out of my house?

October 24th, 2008 at 10:38 am



I plan to finish some remodeling projects in my house in 2009. Namely the master and guest bathrooms, the kitchen countertops/lighting and putting in new carpet or possibly hardwood floors.

I received about 5K towards these updates from the previous owner when I bought in 2003, but I chose to invest it at the time and not use it for renovation. I just recently got married, and I see myself selling this home in the next two years, so that we can possibly purchase something together. I'd need to finish these outstanding projects before I can put the house on the market.

Since we are living on one income I have the option to save and pay for these projects in cash. I bought it in 2003, and if I were to sell it now, I'd probably get the same price that I bought it for. 5 years and it's been a totally lousy non-investment! So I'm considering getting a HELOC because I really hate to tie up even more cash in this home.

I guess I am thinking worst case scenario. If the house market tanks hard, and continues to do so, I would just stop payments and short-sale, or deed-in-lieu-of it along with all the repercussions that would go along with doing that. They predict that Denver home prices will fall about 10% next year, and if there are no govmt programs in place to help people to redo their loans when the homes appraise for way less, I think this trend will continue for years to come.

I know this is crazy, fatalistic thinking, but when companies walk away from their commitments left and right without even a slap on the wrist, I wonder why the consumers can't either.

Sure the housing market will rebound, somewhat, someday. But how long will that take 5, 10 years? I hate to put my life on hold for that long.

This was the article I read this morning that made me think about the whole thing:

Many Consider Foreclosure as Home Values Drop

Getting Married and Combining Money

October 23rd, 2008 at 12:00 pm



One of my and my husband's financial goals after marriage is living on one income and saving the other. The first step to that is starting to combine our finances, and it's a headache!

I've been reading this blog post and seeing if I could get some insight on the best way to do this:

Should Married Couples Combine Finances?

I have friends who are married and still keep all their finances separate. Then again, combining everything is not a feasible option either bc I have so many different accounts and investments and property in my name.

I think for now the yours, mine and our approach would work best. We decided to start out with a joint household account to which we will both contribute. We will pay the mortgage, utilities and food out of it, and also contribute savings into the linked savings account.

We decided to go with ING Electric Orange and the linked Money Market for this. I was interested in this account since I've read about it a while back. I gladly trade the ability to write paper checks for earning even a small interest on my checking account balance.

I'm taking charge of the bill paying ofcourse, bc I'm a nerd like that. We do discuss what we're doing and what we're spending, and he is very thrifty like me, so that helps.

How do you manage money in your marriage, and does it work for you? Do you have any advice on for a young couple just starting out together?


Our wedding budget

October 20th, 2008 at 11:42 am



I finally sat down and updated our wedding budget now that all expenses have been paid. Here is a run down of how we did it with a guest list of 45:

Invitations, thank-yous,programs, website: $150
I designed and printed our own, and created our website myself. Cost was of paper materials, and hosting.

My dress, vail, shoes : $920
got my designer dress for 1/2 off. My mom made my vail since I wanted something simple. Found perfectly matching shoes on final clearance

Hair, makeup, jewelry : $80
went to two of the finest salons in town for trials and was absolutely disappointed. Ended up trying a lady at a local cost cutters who has been doing hair for 30 years. She was amazing, and what a steal!

His suit and shoes : $270
got his 100% wool Ralph Lauren dark steel gray suit at final clearance

Flowers : $980
for church, centerpieces, bouquet, boutonniere, with orchids, calla lilies, roses

Photographers: $1000
included 2 photographers shooting a 2 hour engagement session and 6 hours on the wedding day.

Decorations: $300
large custom frames for wedding photos of both of our parents and grandparents. Flower petals and rice. Photo mat. About 500 candles.

Reception: $7500 (partially gifted)
Total splurge. Held at the most pricey place in town, but also the most elegant and beautiful. Had two separate rooms, the patio and lawn reserved. About 10 hours of hors douvres, dinner, desert, cake, open bar, dancing, etc.

Rehearsal dinner: approx $1000 (gifted)
Also a splurge for the best french place in town.

Music $20
We had monster speakers and a large dance hall. I spent this money on itunes, and many hours creating just the right playlists for the ipod. It worked, people danced for 5+ hours!

Church donation: $600
Our service was held at our family church where I grew up, and was extremely special.

Out of pocket total: $10000

We came out right at our budget, and paid cash for our event. The day was so warm and elegant and full of laughter and tears and toasts and good food and dancing: worth absolutely every penny!

We didn't register, since we're trying to pair down, simplify and downsize. Because of that we received cash and some gift cards worth a bit over $15000. We are putting all of it into savings and will use a part of it to pay for our honeymoon over the holidays.

And also:

Now that I've graduated from theknot.com to thenest.com, I've been reading a lot of articles like this one:

8 things noone tells you about marriage - via Redbook

Where should I roll over my 401K?

October 17th, 2008 at 12:09 pm



I've got a question for all you readers out there, I could really use your advice...

I've just received my rollover forms from Principal Investors, the company that handled 401k for my previous employer. What I've done in the past with all my errand, abandoned 401k accounts was rollover and consolidate them all into one Vanguard IRA. The amounts were pretty small and having them all under one roof with a lot more funds to choose from were huge benefits.

At Vanguard everything is invested in the TargetRetirementFund2045 (VTIVX). That fund is 90% stocks and 10% bonds and has fallen -33.00 this year, and -4.10 the past three years. My rational mind tells me to buy low and sell high, and that it has time to rebound since I won't need that money for a long time, but I'm still scared. Should I be buying bonds, treasuries or commodities instead of this fund? Should I leave it at Principal in case one of these guys folds, even though their choices are meager and the performance just as bad?

I'd like to know what you would do if faced with the same situation... (as long as it doesn't involve cashing it out and stashing it in my mattress)

Miss now Mrs

October 16th, 2008 at 09:54 am


A photo I snapped during our honeymoon. I'm so lucky to have places like this a little over an hour away. Looking at this view every morning made us instantly relaxed and happy.

Wow, what a wild ride the past two weeks have been. There is a lot of pressure on your wedding day to be the best day of your life, and while I can't say that with certainty until I'm much much older, it definitely turned out to be the best day of my life so far! I've never cried, laughed, danced and enjoyed myself as much as I did on that beautiful day.

The weather cooperated and gave us a beautiful, warm and sunny, Colorado autumn day. The service was gorgeous, the reception location was breathtaking, the food delicious, the cake gorgeous, the open bar stocked, and the dance floor packed till 12am! It is by far the best and most fun wedding I've been to in my life Smile

Back from our mini-honeymoon in the mountains I am now slowly settling into married life, combining our households, starting the process of changing my name (a headache for an older and independent gal like me), and starting to combine our finances. Each of those topics deserves a post in and of itself, and I will also do a post with our wedding budget numbers that might be of interest to other brides to be out there.

I am still on cloud nine!

On the job front I landed a contracting gig with my former employer and have two interviews this week. Wish me luck!