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Archive for September, 2007

Saving $$ on Vacation, Part 3

September 28th, 2007 at 05:59 am

Tip #3 for saving money on vacation: Don't tune out from the news when your on vacation.

I had been requesting for some time that Mr. Bean take the majority of our savings account money and move it into a CD (yes, we have cash in other accounts for emergencies). The money was in a 4.5% APR Electric Orange Savings. Although ING Savings rates have been fairly stable, I had watched the ING CD rates fall from 5.3% to 5.15% in recent months and feared more drops were on the horizon.

I also knew from experience that if you set up a CD online on a non-business and then the bank drops interest rates on the next business day, you get the lower rate. This happened to me when ING dropped their CD rates from 5.3 to 5.15%. I set everything up under the assumption and advertisement of 5.3%, but by the time everything went through the rate was 5/15% and that was the rate my money was locked in at.

The September Fed meeting occurred the Tuesday we were on vacation. Sunday night I asked if he had opened the CD. He had not. From watching the news and reading blogs, I knew an interest rate decrease was likely from the Fed and banks would likely follow suit and drop their savings rates, too.

So, I pulled out the laptop and we did it together. At the time, ING was offered 5.25% on a CD if you transferred the money from an outside account. We briefly contemplated transferring the money to our checking account and then transferring it back into the 5.25% CD, but I knew we couldn't do all those transfers before the Fed meeting. ING's offer for a 5.25% CD had just been posted, so I doubted they would pull the offer if the Fed dropped interest rates. I was really drawn to trying to get that 5.25% rate, but ultimately decided to go for the bird in the hand and open the 5.15% CD from internal money.

Shortly after the Fed meeting, ING pulled the offer on a 5.25% CD if the money is transferred from an external account. In addition they dropped the 12 month CD rate to 4.9%, and their savings account rate fell to 4.3%.

Even though were were on vacation, it paid to be aware of current events. We locked in the 5.15% yield on a 12 month-- just in the knick of time.

No $$ of the Challenge, but Nice $$ Surprise

September 26th, 2007 at 08:18 pm

You probably haven't noticed, but I sure have: babysitting has been slow this month.

Aside from being away last week, there have been 4 nights I was scheduled to overnight babysit that were canceled because The Dad got his hours switched at the last moment. It's nice to sleep in my own bed, but I miss the money. It's not money I "count" on, though, so I'll be OK.

I did have a pleasant monetary surprise come my way on Tuesday, though. I wanted to attend a professional conference in early November, but the registration fee ($255) was more than I was interested in paying out of pocket. I submitted an application for a scholarship and was lucky enough to have one awarded to me. The conference is the city where Mr. Bean lives, so I expected that the scholarship would pay my registration and possibly offer re-reimbursement for lodging-- in which case I would say I already had housing arrangements and didn't need a hotel.

However, I found out on Tuesday that the Scholarship is a free registration and a check for $995 to help cover lodging and transportation! What a pleasant surprise! My transportation costs will just be gas for the ~500 mile round-trip.

I'm not going to add the money to my challenge because I'm using the Challenge only to total new income streams and things I wouldn't have done in the name of making money prior to joining the SA community. Honestly, I probably would have balked at paying $255 out of pocket for a conference prior to SA.

Now I just need to decide where I'll but the money. I'm leaning either towards earmarking it for my 2008 Roth IRA or earmarking it for a non-retirement mutual fund. I feel comfortable with the amount of cash I have in savings and will be able to max out my Roth for 2008, so I'm starting to think out moving some of the cash in savings into another vehicle. Any thoughts? Any suggestions for where to do more reading? I could come up with 3K (Vanguard's minimum). I'm thinking about the Vanguard 500, but I'm still wet behind the ears.

Saving money on Vacation, Part 2

September 25th, 2007 at 06:26 pm

Another second cost-saving on our recent trip involved by new friend non-fat dry milk.

I eat breakfast everyday-- typically a bowl of cereal with fresh fruit and coffee. Although I stocked up on some cereal bars for the trip, this type of high energy denisty food would never be a satisying breakfast to me.

So, along with clothes and sunscreen, my suitcase contained disposable bowls and spoons leftover from a office party, a gallon Ziploc bag of Cheerios, and pre-measured Ziploc baggies with 2/3 cup of dry milk.

At the hotel, I'd empty a baggie of NFDM into my Nalgene bottle, fill with 16 oz.water, shake and put in the mini-fridge. In the mornings, I enjoyed cereal, fresh fruit from the Farmers' market, and in room complimentary coffee.

We did our fair share of dinners out, but breaskfast was always en suite!

I (heart) California!

September 24th, 2007 at 07:11 pm

My vacation in Santa Monica was terrific! It was a perfect blend of site seeing and relaxing.

As we hoped, we made it the entire week without renting a car. Granted, we were staying in pedestrian friendly Santa Monica, but we ventured to Hollywood, downtown LA, and UCLA all by bus or Metro. Iím so glad we braved the public transportation, because it greató and I think much of Los Angeles' bad reputation for public transportation comes from people who have never tried it. Don't get me wrong- for a city of its size, LA should have a better system, but what's there is pretty good-- but also under utilized.

I used the Los Angeles Metro web site to plan our routes. Not only did we avoid the cost of renting a car, gasoline, and parking, but we were able to sit back and enjoy the sites and let someone else worry about the traffic and directions.

Friday was our first full day and also the day we did the majority of site-seeing. A few weeks before the trip I had requested tickets to be an audience member on the Dr. Phil show. Iím not a huge Dr. Phil fan, but we thought it would be an interesting experience to be on the set of a television show. We each paid $5 for all-Day MTA pass (which allowed us unlimited rides on the LA buses and Metro until 3amótypically each bus ride is $1.25 and each Metro ride is $2.50). We caught a bus just steps away from our hotel in Santa Monica to ~ 5 blocks from the Dr. Phil studio in Hollywood. The trip was ~11 miles and took approximately 45 minutes.

Being an audience member is a fun experience. Although we appeared only briefly on camera, itís thrilling experience just to be in the audience. The topic was etiquetteó mostly airline etiquette . We had two nice surprises: all audience members received a free copy of Peggy Postís book Excuse Me, But I was Next, but the big surprise was that every audience member received a free round trip ticket on Virgin American airlines! Audience members donít know the showís topic until seated on the set, nor do you know if there are any surprises, so needless to say, we were thrilled!

After Dr. Phil, we caught the bus and rode about 1 mile to the corner of Hollywood and Vine St. and continued to walk down Hollywood Avenue to take in the traditional Hollywood sites, including the Kodak Theater and Graumanís Chinese Theater. From there, we hopped on the nearly empty Metro Red Line and rode into downtown Los Angeles. From there, took it on foot and saw Frank Gehryís Walt Disney Concert Hall, US Bank Tower, and bought some fruit to bring back to our hotel from the Grand Central Market (and Iíll add that I paid only $2 for 4 nectarines and big bunch of grapes)! We missed the free tours of the Walt Disney Concert Hall, but if you're a visitor to LA try to get there before 2pm and take one. We thought we could ride the Santa Monica Express bus back to our hotel using our MTA Day passes, but it turned out that the Santa Monica buses were exempt, so we paid $1.25 to ride the freeway express bus from downtown LA to Santa Monica. We sat on the air conditioned bus and cruised down the freeway for some 10 miles until we were back in Santa Monica. The Friday rush hour trip took about 50 minutes. As it turns out, having ridden the MTA bus twice and the Metro once, we broke even with our day passes, but at least we were saved the hassle of trying to get money out and paying fare for each ride. We were exhausted by the end of the day, but our only expense was on transportation, lunch, and some fruit at the market. Had we been driving, we would have been majorly frazzled and had a lot less cash in our wallets due to the exorbitant parking costs.

Iíll highlight some of our other feats later this week. For now, Iíll leave you with a photo:

Back from Vacation: and adding to the Challenge!

September 22nd, 2007 at 09:51 am

Old Total: $2430.20
+ $60.00 babysitting
$0.66 PETCO coupon on eBay
------------------------
New Total: $2490.86

I got back from vacation late Thursday night. I checked my email and saw I had an opportunity to babysit the following night. I figured the time was ripe to earn back some of the money I spent on vacation!

I made $60 babysitting from 6pm- 12am last night. I also added in a whoppping $0.66 I profited from a eBay sale of a coupon prioir to leaving for vacation.

Once I run some totals of what I spent and get re-organized from being away for a week, I'll post more about my trip. In sum: It was fantastic! ...and we got some nice prizes for being audience members on the Dr. Phil show!

California of Bust!

September 11th, 2007 at 07:44 pm

I'm off to Santa Monica for a week of some much needed R&R and quality time with my husband.

Los Angeles isn't exactly known for being a budget-friendly place, so I'll be interested to report back on my experience of living it up while living on a budget.

Here are a few things that I've done already to help minimize the expense:

1.) We're combining business with pleasure. The primary reason for the trip is for Mr. Bean to attend a work meeting. His airfare is covered, as are 5 nights in the hotel. We are staying 7 nights, but we were able to get the "corporate" hotel rate for the extra 2 nights. Also, our cab to and from LAX are covered. The cab normally costs $50 each way!

2.) We're not planning to rent a car. Yes, I know this is ambitous since LA isn't exactly known for having marvelous public transportation. Although a car rental for the week was reasonably priced at ~$150, parking at the hotel was $35 / day. Yikes! I was able to use the Los Angeles Metro web site to figure out how to take public buses to Hollywood and the other tourist attractions we're interested in seeing. It also helps that we are both content to spend time just enjoying the lovely Santa Monica beach rather than trying to travel all over Orange County.

3.) We're taking advantage of the of one of LA's best free events: a television show taping. We're going to be audience members on the Dr. Phil show! All I had to do to get tickets was fill out a simple form on his web page. In my opinion, the quality of topics covered by Dr. Phil has really declined in the past few years. I expect the show will be a hoot!

4.)I used my coupons to stock up on suitcase friendly snacks. I got all of the following for $3.50. I'm also packing a lunch for our 6+ hour plane ride.



Of course, we'll also do our fair share of eating out and splurging to make this a memorable trip. I've already paid $75 for a private surf lesson. I can't wait!

That's what frugality is all about for me-- saving on things that don't mean much so you can take advantage of the opportunities that do!

$42,070

September 9th, 2007 at 12:11 pm

$42,070: the approximate amount I've paid in rent over the last 6 years.

Yikes.

The number is only an approximation because some of my apartments included utilities in the rent whereas others, like my current place, do not. I halved the monthly rent for the past 3 years since I was married because my spouse and I basically split expenses.

My rent has ranged from $400 / month (my current place.. where $400 covers 1/2 the total rent for a 2 BR house and no utilities in a small college town), to $860 / month for a 1 BR apartment in DC back in 2004.

This is good motivation to continue to stash away my $20 Challenge money earmarked for a house down payment.

Another Challenge Addition

September 7th, 2007 at 09:24 pm

Old Total: $2400.20
+ $30.00 babysitting
------------------------
New Total: $2430.20

I babysat from 9pm - 12am.

Challenge Cash!

September 6th, 2007 at 06:15 am

Old Total: $2270.20
+ $130.00 overnight babysitting
------------------------
New Total: $2400.20

The Mom paid me in advance for the overnight babysitting I'll do tonight, so I received $130 in total. I came early last night (usually I get $20 extra for this), but she paid me $30 extra plus didn't subtract the $10 credit from when she overpaid me last time. I told her she was paying me too much and I reminded her of the credit, but she said that they really appreciate it when I come early because it allows her husband to earn a lot of extra money.

My morning is off to a good start!

More moola for Challenge

September 4th, 2007 at 07:22 am

Old Total: $2214.03
+ $56.17 textbook sale on half.com
------------------------
New Total: $2270.20

I sold the other textbook I got for free. My profit was $56.17. The breakdown looked like this:

$65.00 sale price of book
+ 2.64 shipping reimbursement
- 8.13 half.com commission
- 2.81 actual shipping cost
- 0.53 cost of padded envelope + tax
--------------------------
$56.17 profit

Milk prices, revisited

September 3rd, 2007 at 04:58 pm

I just thought I'd do a follow-up to this previous entry regarding the prices of milk from a local dairy, grocery store, soy and non-fat dry milk (NFDM).

I've been drinking re-constituted NFDM for the past 3 weeks, primarily in my cereal. I don't care of the taste it straight up in a glass, but it works fine in cereal and recipes. My dislike of the reconstituted milk for drinking definitely results in a lower consumption of milk-- probably not a great thing as far as my calcium intake is concerned. It has been wonderfully convenient though-- no extra trips to the dairy, no spoilage, etc.

I was near the Dairy this morning, so I picked up my first 1/2 gallon of fresh milk in quite some time. They've raised the price of a 1/2 gallon of skim from $1.50 to $1.55. Not huge, but worth noting. I think we can anticipate the price of all dairy foods to continue to climb.