Monday, June 30, 2008

Lolcats are great!



Too funny to pass up.
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The Breakdown of our Middle Class Lifestyle



No, it isn't breaking down. Rather, I've made some pretty charts.

Having nearly an acre of land (0.876) near Fruitland Avenue on South Hill is expensive, but we think our quiet, dead end street is worth it. The most ruckus we've had in the nearly 2 years we've been here is the neighbor who ran over our mailbox (who has yet to fess up the $29.63 for the replacement) and the tree that came crashing down just after we moved in. Not bad, all things considered.

That being said, I think I'm putting it out there showing a breakdown of our expenses. How do yours stack up? Here's what went into the various categories:

"Bills" includes car insurance, cell phones (we do not have a home phone), misc. bills such as license renewal, and energy bill.

"Entertainment" was Comcast (TV and internet, although I consider internet a necessary bill. Definitely more than cell phones, but I digress). Movies, some toys for our son, gifts for other babies (birthday parties) and Netflix.

"Food" category covers trips to Fred Meyer, Costco, Winco, Target, and other stores. Some of this category is actually clothing and or small toys for our son. Also included was our dining out expenses.

"Gas" is pretty obvious - gasoline. Terrible. We set a new family record for driving this month, less than ever before, but our gas bill is higher than it has ever been since we got together.

"Medical" includes trips to the dentist, doctor, chiropractor.

"Misc" covered a hygeine product (hair clippers for a money saving cut for me!)

I'm curious to see how July will stack up. We have a wedding to go to, so gas will likely be higher in addition to a gift. Within that budget, we're also trying to conserve to save for cutting down the tree of death (mentioned earlier) which will come in at a heafty $450 as the bid stands now.

This pie chart doesn't include money put into personal savings, as that happens before the budget is even set. At the end of each month, my policy is that any remaining money will go towards paying down our car loan. After 2 months, we've paid nearly half the loan.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Wii Fit Update

Just an update since my post on 6/8 - I was 249.2lbs then. Today, 6/22/08, I weighed in at 241.0.

That brings my total so far since 5/21 to 13.4lbs. Woo!

(No pictures of the chart because I can't find the camera)

Between eating more slowly, eating less, exercising, and giving up soda, this is going fantastic. Hopefully I'll get to a 'normal' healthy weight in the next 12 months!

*Thud*

:(

The sound it seems no parent can escape. When I first heard horror stories of the infamous thud I thought to myself "Okay, I'll never let that happen."

Good intentions can end badly.

This morning when Rebecca was getting ready she asked an overly drowsy husband, namely me, to watch Peter who was crawling around on our bed after eating. I briefly opened my eyes, long enough for her to get the okay to go get read for church. Shortly after that, there was a loud thud and before Peter could even start crying (and cry he did!) I realized what happened: He crawled off the side of the bed.

Here I was all worried about him falling off the couch or something, but he takes a fall an extra 8" higher from our bed. I felt horrible. I immediately scooped him up but could not console his little tears of fear and pain. Finally he calmed down when he saw Rebecca, but he fussed for a few minutes more as I held him.

Sure as can be, five minutes later, he was trying to crawl to the edge of the bed to see what the heck was over there.


Peter is okay, but he has a bruise on his forehead. Luckily he didn't break any of his little bones (or his nose or anything else, like his neck!).

What a terrible feeling...

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Here comes summer!

Today is beautiful! I've got a quote for $450 on the "tree of doom" hanging out in our back yard. It needs to be cut down before the windy season. The lawn has been mowed and we are making progress out back. Fruit is coming in but I need to get the apple tree's prepped so the apples don't get eaten.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Thoughts on HSA's

Expanded HSA's, or health savings accounts (sometimes known for other purposes as flexible spendable accounts), are on McCain's agenda for health care. I'm all for something that will help save me money, especially since Obama's plan will inevitably cost me somehow (be taxes, higher prices, lower benefits, higher deductibles...it will come out somewhere), but I have to scoff at the idea of HSA's. It wouldn't be bad if my experience with a HSA hadn't been soured by FBMC, for "Fringe Benefits Management Company".

The truth is, the whole process was difficult to tap into, except the part where the employer auto-deducts your pay. Afterwards, you must retain service records (not receipts) from each of the qualifying expenses you want to reimburse. This wasn't explained clearly in their definitions, it only referenced the IRS code which explains what a qualifying expense is, without reference to the IRS code where you could look it up yourself.

The documentation itself came easily enough from our hospital and other expenditures. However, upon submitting it, all claims were rejected. FBMC claimed that we weren't eligible for some of the expenses and others didn't have supporting information. I submitted the same claim forms for three expenditures and the fourth occurred last September.

I concluded they have a deny-all policy. They claimed our account wasn't eligible for reimbursement until 10/1/07, despite the auto-deduct being effective 9/5/07 (the first pay check). After a few contacts back and fourth, they finally said the eligible reimbursement time had passed (3/31/08 was the last day to submit). How fortunate for us!

It is for this reason I scoff at HSA's and the idea of utilizing them further.

Wii - Wii Fit - Wii Fit Wii!

Sorry, bad joke. We got Wii Fit on the first day and I've been pretty good about doing it each day. Sometimes its been every other but I've been able to get in between 15 min to 1hr a day, averaging about 20 minutes.

People laugh about it, but being as it has helped me chart progress, I am pleased so far. Take a look at the results below:

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Retirement

Recently I was asked a some questions about the various retirement plans at work which got me thinking about my own situation again.

Obviously for me it is sort of a cloud, despite the best 'financial outlook' I don't think anyone is qualified to predict what anything will be like 46 years from now. That being said, using today's facts and figures, things are looking pretty bright. It got me thinking, though, of how many people are in trouble. I know many people my mom's age who simply do not think about retirement or are just starting to think about it at age 50. That may be even more scary than my situation - that is, not knowing what will happen in 35-46 years from now as opposed to knowing that in 15 or so years you'll have the make the decision to continue working because your planning wasn't enough.

In addition to that, there are a number of unknown factors, such as additional children, changes to the house, rising cost of fuel and food, inflation, and more. It is a difficult subject to tackle. I'm not yet to the point where I will pay money to someone to help me sort it out - but I am doing a lot of reading on investing to try to get the most bang for my buck. For the time being, though, we are focusing on paying down the new car we recently purchased, paying down the mortgage, and staying out of debt.