Saturday, April 19, 2014

Weekend stuff

DH and I went to Home Depot last night to pick up a yard project for him to work on. We bought another pallet of blocks. He was short a couple at the end of last summer when we bought our BBQ grill and he made a little area for it. We also put one of the maple trees out kind of in the  middle of the driveway last summer. He put some large rocks around it for the time being, but wants to make a little "island" with the blocks surrounding the tree, a couple of the large rocks and I'll probably get a small bush or two to add. I'd also like to put some solar lights in the "island".  Leftover blocks will start the little patio/step area we want to add to our back french doors.  I had just received an email from Home Depot for $10 off a $100 garden purchase so was glad to be able to save a little on it. When we return the empty pallet we will get another $10 back, too.

Since he doesn't have any muscle help, he's going to have to do this project pretty slowly, but that's a good thing. It will give him something to do for a longer period of time.  Today's weather isn't looking too good, so he might have to wait until tomorrow to start it.

DD got good news from her job. They will be moving her up to a server position as soon as they can find someone to replace her as host weekday mornings. She is very excited and hopefully it won't take them too long to find someone. The managers hate advertising the job openings and dealing with all the resumes and interviews, so most times they find their people through word of mouth - friends and relatives of the current staff. She should really be able to save a lot of money with server's tips all summer and she doesn't leave for college until late September.

DD has very curly natural hair. It's so pretty, but since about junior high she has straightened it every day. Most of her friends don't even know her hair is really curly. But the past couple of weeks she has gone natural with it a couple of times and everyone just flips out over it. I think it's giving her some incentive to try and wear it like that a little more often. Plus, it's gotten really long, down past the middle of her back. I wish I knew how to copy the picture she took of the back of her head in the mirror and put on instagram, but I can't seem to be able to copy it.

I'm off to the store soon - need some Easter candy. Even DH asked for some candy, which he doesn't usually do. He wants peeps (yuck!) and jelly beans.  After that some house cleaning is in order.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Gloomy days

I haven't looked forward to weekends much lately. With the destruction of our family relationship with our son, it's been like we are in mourning most days. Most days I'd rather be anywhere than home, which is saying a lot, since I am quite the homebody.  I had the opportunity to work from home yesterday, avoid the hour-ish drive each way (in terrible weather), save the $10 in gas, and I chose to go spend it at the office and had an almost 2 hour drive home, by the time I got through the awful traffic and stopped and picked up DH's Thursday burger and fries. DD and I find ourselves looking for errands to run in the evenings, just to get out of the house. Then when we are done and still don't want to go home yet, we stop and have pie somewhere, just to kill a little more time. 

Today I was off at noon for Good Friday.  Ordinarily, I'd be thrilled to shut off my home computer at noon and be done for the day. Now it just feels like an extra long weekend that Monday can't come soon enough.  I'll fill up the space this afternoon by getting the weekly grocery shopping done and vacuuming the house. DD was supposed to have tomorrow off, but she picked up a shift to serve so she'll be gone until early afternoon. I guess I'll use that time to run to Target and see what I can get her for Easter. She just wants a good chocolate Easter Bunny, but I think I'll try to find a cute little basket or bouquet of flowers, a Starbucks gift card and a chocolate bunny.

Other than that all I feel like I want to do anymore is sleep.  When I am stressed or down, sleep is my drug of choice. 90% chance of rain tomorrow, but Sunday sounds much better so at least I can get out and do a little weeding in the yard.  Last summer I planted two Lilac bushes and they grew wonderfully. I've never had them before and all through winter they have looked like they were dead...and until today I thought maybe they had died, but I see lots of new leaves on them now, so that sure made me happy. The 3 maple trees we planted last summer are starting to get leaves again. I also need to clean out the hummingbird feeder and put new sugar water in it. I haven't seen a bird drink out of it yet, but I keep watching. It should be time soon to put the BBQ grill outside again.

I'm just trying to find the small pleasures wherever I can these days. It's hard and most days I find myself driving to work in tears. Thank goodness for audio books and being able to download them from the library. And what a smart thing my ipad mini is! My borrowed time ran out on a book I was listening to and so it disappears from my "bookshelf". A few days later I downloaded it again, so I could finish listening (I'm on a Jack Reacher kick) and figured I'd have to fast forward to figure out where I left off. But ipad picked up right where I had left off! I love this little device - it has given me so many hours of joy (so much better than my Nook....which reminds me I still need to try and sell).

I hope everyone has a wonderful Easter with their families.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Adding to savings

I just transferred $500 to my EF, so I am now sitting at $2,177.  IF I get that extra bonus I have a hunch about (I know -  I shouldn't even been hoping for it to happen, since I don't know for sure) it will be approximately $5000 after taxes. It is going straight into savings, I'm not even telling DH one word about it.  We still have the possibility of getting our sales performance bonus's for this years sales and he can be aware of that, if it happens. But this bonus would be totally unexpected and to be able to put that kind of money straight into savings would give me the kind of financial peace of mind I have not had since I got married almost 30 years ago. 

What a sad realization that since I got married, except for about a 6 month period of time, I have never had any financial security and no savings. About 4 years into our marriage DH was making really good money for almost a year and we saved about $10,000, but then we put it all into buying this place. After that he went into self employment and we haven't stopped struggling since.  I will say the past year has been much better, especially with getting the 2 raises and the 10% of salary bonus.  Our monthly fixed expenses are quite a bit less than my income and we have been able to use the extra for some needed landscaping, repairs/upgrades and a few personal purchases, such as dh's guns, put a little in savings and start contributing to my 401k again. Heck, if we meet our sales goals this year and get a bonus again, I might even use some of it to take a vacation! As a family we have only had two "real vacations" (DH and I never had any vacations before kids). One, when the kids were really little, we drove to Arizona to visit my snowbird parents, then left the kids with my parents and drove the 5 hours to Vegas and went to a Nascar race weekend. Then my parents brought the kids to us in Vegas and we drove back home.  Then in 2008 we all flew to Florida and spent 5 days, part of that doing DisneyWorld and Universal Studios.  My mom took DD and I on a vacation a few years ago to Hawaii, but I didn't pay for any of that.

I just wish we had some equity in our home! Then we'd have some choices in whether to stay or not. The news keeps saying home values in our area are rising the past couple years, but zillow (the only thing I know to check) just keeps going down! Almost a year ago I started checking it (end of May) and by August it was up to $143,000.  Every time I check since then it just keeps going down and is now down to $127,000. I doubt it takes into the account the $10k in fencing we put in and the other landscaping and new floors in 2 rooms, but still very low and way under what we owe ($120k on mortage and $60k on HELOC).  It kind of makes no sense that it's at $127k when the drug house behind us - which is a double wide, acreage is just a tad bigger, they have no garage and no landscaping whatsoever and zillow shows their home at $142k!

I've been listening to some Dave Ramsey show podcasts on my ipad mini. I love his get out of mortgage debt advice. I'd really like to start knocking some extra on this mortgage and HELOC, but at this point, with the late start I got in retirement saving, it seems the wiser choice to put as much as possible towards that. I'm not really sure what the best plan is. I also don't really want to pay down any of it for another reason.  Our mortgage and Heloc were part of our bankruptcy (chapter 7) and we did not reaffirm either loan after our bankruptcy. The advice I got was that it was not smart to do that because as long as we keep making payments, there is nothing the banks can do and when our loans are paid, the house will be ours.  IF something were to happen to me that affected my ability to earn our one income, then we'd be screwed. We'd be liable for these house payments and no way to pay them and poof - there goes our credit again. With not reaffirming our mortage and HELOC, we still have the option to walk away from it all (if something major were to happen where we couldn't make the payments anymore) without it affecting our credit, as it was already part of our bankruptcy. If I've learned nothing in life, it's that nothing goes as planned and I'm not willing to take the risk of reaffirming.

Therefore, I don't want to spend, say 5 years or so, snowballing money at our mortgages and then lose my job or get sick or something and still have to give up the home because I couldn't make the payments. All that money put into it would just have been for nothing, especially when we are still underwater.  If we had equity, that would be a different story. Any money put into it would/should be able to be recouped in a sale (as long as home values stayed same or better).  I'd rather just keep socking money into savings and if I ever get enough (before it's paid off) saved up to completely pay off the HELOC in one shot, then I would do that.

Monday, April 14, 2014

False alarm

Yesterday morning I had just gotten out of the shower (trying out the new shower head I had just put on! It was nice!) and I hear DH yelling at me that the phone was ringing (he was still in bed) and I grab it and it's someone from my mom's security system company notifying me her garage alarm had gone off and they couldn't reach her.  I assumed she was at her boyfriend's for the weekend, as she is almost every weekend. I tried to call her cell and house just to see and no answer So, DH and I quick put on some clothes and run over to her house to check on it. We pull up and her car is out of the garage and parked on the street and her golf cart is parked on the side of her driveway. Everything else looked ok. Hmm.  What the heck? In my rush and also my thought that she wasn't home, I didn't bring her house key with me. I didn't want to set her alarm off again, if we opened her door as I didn't know how to turn it off.  I tried calling a couple more times and of course she never answers her cell phone (drives me nuts) and we started getting worried - what if she was in the house and something had happened to her? So, we drove back to our house, got her key and drove back to her house......pull up and find her boyfriends pick up backed up into her garage.  They had been at the hardware store and just got back as they had been doing some work inside her garage!  Geez! Give me a heart attack why don't ya!  She knew she had set off her alarm on the back door to her garage, but apparently didn't think it necessary to call her alarm company to tell them the error. Just glad all was ok and she felt really dumb. DH is like "Just start answering your phone!"

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The $75 dimmer switch

Several years back we put a dimmer switch on our dining room light. Lately, when trying to slide it to turn on or off it's flickering and shorting out.  So, I went and bought a new dimmer switch at Home Depot. Same brand - just a bit different in that it has an on/off switch and a slider.  $23 bucks.  DH installs it. Starts to shove all the wiring back inside the box to put the cover back on and I say, why don't you see if it works first?. oh yeah, good idea.  So, I go flip the breaker back on and and POP! The brand new dimmer switch blows out!

So, DH is trying to figure out what happened (he really knows nothing about electricity, mind you). Says he vaguely remembers having problems with the first dimmer switch installed 7 years ago or so. But, he must not have as it didn't blow out and it worked.  He figures he must have had some wires touching or something. So, back to Home Depot I go to buy another dimmer switch....another $23 bucks.  He installs it and POP! There goes that dimmer switch. I suggested DH call our good neighbor, because he does seem to know a bit about electrical stuff (his job is installing traffic signals) and DH of course doesn't want to do that.  That's not manly.

Finally I just said I'm going to go buy the normal on/off rocker switch like was originally in there and like is on all our other light switches....and I'm going to go buy it at the mobile home parts place out at the end of the highway. While there I can also finally get the kitchen sink strainers I've been needing forever (nothing in mfg'd home is standard and these are off sized - 3" ones that no stores carry). $5 bucks for the light switch and $4 each for the strainer baskets. On the way home DH calls says he called good neighbor, he came over and showed him what he did wrong. Apparently DH was treating the wiring hook up like a plug in socket and not a switch. Doh!  So, if I want to spend another $23 and stop and get another dimmer switch he knows how to install it now. So, detour to Home Depot again and spend another $23.

Third times a charm and now we have a $75 dimmer switch for our dining room light.  Like I told DH - just look at it as a $50 education in electrical knowledge.  Geez!  Oh, and the kitchen sink baskets?  The guy gave me 2 different sizes, so now I have to go back to exchange. I had even questioned him that they looked kind of bigger than 3" (I had apparently picked up the bigger one to look at it) and he was being a butthead about the whole thing and I set it down and picked up the other one (the right one) and then thought to myself, "oh, ok it's right". 

Next up on the home projects list is a new screen/storm door.  Might go buy that today. We'll see how DH is feeling. It's a sunny warm day and he might feel like working on something. Our old screen door lost it's ability to close slowly and not slam and if I have to hear that screen door slam one more time I'm going to go insane. I don't know why DH can't just pull it shut without slamming it. DD and I manage to close it nice and quietly every single time....

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Getting Saturday started

With her final quarter school schedule (one online class) DD was able to switch back to working weekday mornings and now has weekends free again. Her best friend has been working at the same place the last few months and it has worked out perfect that she now needed weekend shifts due to her school schedule, so they swapped. She always like to go shopping with me, even grocery shopping (weird girl!) so later this morning we will be off to grocery shop and pick up a few miscellaneous items at Walmart. Almost out of the tiny Keurig coffee filters I use (I have the adapter to use my own coffee grounds) and parakeet seed.

Another thing we have been trying to find time for is to go over to our bank and check into DD opening an IRA with some of her savings.  Good girl! I showed her the calculations that if she put $2000 a year into some mutual funds, starting at age 18, and did it for 10 years and just left the money there until she retired she'd have a good solid chunk of money! I can't remember if she planned to do $1000 or $2000, but I think it is $2000. She did spend a couple thousand (of her $7,000 saved) to fix her car and buy the laptop, but she will be working all summer and it sounds like she will be moved up to a server position soon, so she can really sock away the money from the extra tips until she goes off to school at the end of September.  Our bank is open on Saturdays, so I think we'll include that stop this morning.  Hopefully I can get keep her on this saving track she is on and she won't need to be put in positions to make the stupid money decisions I made over the years.

While at the hotel last weekend be both loved the shower and shower head. I bought one and installed it yesterday on her shower. I'm going to take a shower in her bathroom and see how it works and then probably put one in our masterbath shower. We've always just had those very cheap basic shower heads. Well, off to try it out!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Another week gone by

It's been a busy week.  A special one time project at work keeping me busy and my boss had to take some time off to go care for her aging parents.  Add in the extreme stress the 3 of us are feeling over my son and his choices and it's been another crappy week.

DD and I did get away for the weekend to visit her university. There was an all day "preview" for incoming Fall students and her out of state roomie and her mom flew in, so they got to meet and we all hit it off greatly. We enjoyed the weekend, as much as we could with the cloud that's been hanging over our heads of late. It was nice to have the money to do the weekend like we wanted to and not worry about it (though I wish we could have afforded a better hotel).  Honestly, neither of us really wanted to come home......

I took Monday off work just to sleep in and rest up. It was a ton of walking on Saturday, add in 2 nights of bad hotel sleep, and then a half a day of sightseeing on Sunday and I was exhausted.

The weather has been nice this week so DD got her 2 rained out tennis matches from before Spring Break made up this week. So far she has played 2 doubles matches and 2 singles matches, so coach is at least trying to let her play some singles. She has won all her matches so far! The singles were so fun to watch. Very close, but she stayed focused and pulled the wins out of them. One she won in a tie-breaker that she was down 1-5. There was no way I thought she'd win that! First to 7 points in the tie-breaker wins. They have to win by 2 points and she won the tie-breaker 8-6.

The neighborhood drug situation remains at a constant. We did have about a week and a half of very quiet (at least directly on our road) and it was so nice. But then renter's son moved back in and just took the place of meth-mom and all her activity.  Last night was apparently an arrest or two outside the drug house behind us. 3 cop cars, lots of lights and from what DH could gather on the scanner at least one person went to jail. This is the driver of the very loud import type car that goes back and forth from drug house behind us all day/night. He must run their drugs out to buyers. It's not a daily thing, but he has his busy times and it was very satisfying to know they finally got him. DH says the deputies usually report on the scanner that the vehicle is being towed off to impound after they make an arrest, but on this one the deputy actually reported he was following the tow truck en route back to the precinct, so we are taking it as they wanted to search it more thoroughly. There is also another car that frequents the house on our street quite often and it has always had a headlight out (how do they not get pulled over?!). I finally got the license plate# off of it and reported it as part of this drug problem, so maybe they will be on the lookout and get that one pulled over soon.

On my previous post a couple people asked what we plan to do. At this point we are just sticking it out and DH is doing his best to fight it (gives him something to do, right? ha). We are still probably about $40k underwater (due to taking out a HELOC in 2007, when DH was still working). The property values have really not come back at all, at least in our neck of the woods. Certainly not the 5% or so a year the news keeps reporting it is.  At this point our only option would be to just walk away from our mortgage and we aren't willing to do that - yet.  Plus, renters typically have a history of moving on and not staying at places too long, so we are hoping that is the case soon. One can dream, right?

I am just so tired and run down feeling.  At this point it's all I can do just to get myself to work each day and get the things done that must be done. Extra's I'm just too tired and exhausted to worry about. When I am stressed I just want to sleep - when DH is stressed he just wants to be vocal about it - all day long. So, we don't quite jive in how we are handling this. DD is just trying to focus on school and tennis, she doesn't say much about it.

I am hoping I am on target about a hunch I have about work......I think we might be getting an additional bonus based on last year sales. We got 10% of our salaries in bonus last year (1/2 paid out in June and December) but I'm having a hunch we might be getting an additional 10%! Being the accountant I see things the rest of the employees don't see, and a couple of weeks ago, when we were still trying to close up our books for 2013, she had me make a journal entry in 2013 to "accrue 10% bonus". Plus there was another bonus entry - but the owners and managers got paid that last what else can the other money set aside be for? Plus the dollar amount matches approximately the total bonus's paid out to us last year. And, we were all notified of a company lunch meeting coming up in a couple of weeks......if I am right that they are surprising us with this (and my boss will do her best to keep me in the dark - she'd do that payroll herself) it means I would be getting a bonus of about $7300! Boy, do I hope I am right on the money about this.