Home > Archive: December, 2006

Archive for December, 2006

Free Computer Tax Program and a good last-minute Charitable Donation

December 31st, 2006 at 10:14 pm

I downloaded the TaxAct program (basic) for free from their website and used it and the information from my December paychecks and statements to run-through a draft of my 2006 taxes. Looks like I'll be getting about $1450 back, which will make a nice boost to the Emergency Fund (which desperately needs it).

I also made a last-minute donation to one of my favorite charities, Co-Op America. They actively support sustainable and socially just businesses, and I think that making in-roads on the environment and social justice concerns by supporting corporations that act in favorable ways is a tremendously smart move. Until midnight tonight, Co-Op America has a donor grant that will MATCH any contribution you make, making your gift twice as effective. (Of course, that doubles the money that Co-Op America gets, NOT the amount you can deduct on your taxes.) But since this is one of the groups that I most consistently support, I made an extra $30 contribution (I'll get $13 of it back when I file my taxes, according to the calculations I did with TaxAct.)

Other than that, today has been a "no spend" day--in fact, other than taking the dog for a short walk, it wasn't even a "leave the house" day.

Year End Net Worth

December 30th, 2006 at 07:50 pm

The picture shows a big drop in the last month, but that's due to my home value. I use the appraisal in order to use a consistent methodology, and that sometimes has big changes without clear rhyme or reason. It shows my home value plummeting 10% this month, while my boyfriend's house mysteriously rises over 200% in value! If you follow the zillow prices over time, you see that there are occasional odd blips, and the thing to do is to look at the overall trends. So I can't know whether these changes are temporary blips or part of a more enduring pattern. Also, my town was awarded a casino license Dec. 20th, which will surely impact housing prices, and I doubt the zillow data incorporates any of that impact yet. I didn't want the casino but I'm still praying that the impact on property values (and quality of life) is for the better.

Probably a better comparison than the changes over the past 6 months is a comparison with my end of 2005 data.

Net Worth 12/31/2005, 149,279

Net Worth 12/31/2006, 153,979

Change: +3%--This is due to a 2% increase in assets (mostly retirement funds) and a 1% decrease in liabilities (mostly mortgage).

Taking the year-long view, 2006 wasn't a great year but at least my net worth still rose.

Year-End Spending Totals

December 30th, 2006 at 03:49 am

Expenses (Not including Income Taxes)

Home: 14711 (8736 mortgage/PITI, 3763 utilities (gas, electric, phone, internet, water, sewer, trash) 108 repairs, 739 furniture, 1364 other household expenses)

Food: 5678 (4611 groceries, 1364 eating out)

Transportation: 2704 (708 insurance, 946 gas, 1005 service, 46 tags & parking)

Insurance: 435 (mortgage-disability & umbrella liability)

Pets: 7880 (!) (the vast majority of this has been due to Henry's illness).

Unreimbursed Business Expenses: 2430 (mostly a new computer & software)

Education: 1141 (tuition & books)

Personal: 1220 (clothing, toiletries, vitamins, gym membership)

Recreation: 1155 (883 for entertainment = books, newspaper subscription, video rentals, theatre/film/concert tickets, an mp3 player, knitting supplies; 272 to fly out to visit my family for a week)

Charity: 600 (edited 12/31)

Gifts: 258

A present for myself (and a bath for Henry)

December 30th, 2006 at 01:46 am

My Christmas present arrived today--a (7-cup) Cuisinart, along with an extra "thick slicing" blade for soft veggies, and also an OXO salad spinner. When I first put everything in my cart, the total was about $170, but I'm actually only paying $40 for all of this!

First got free shipping--that took about $26 off.

Then used my $50 gift certicate (which I received for being a "community leader" at a discussion board on another online website).

Then I noticed that was having a promotion in Kitchen & Housewares, where if you bought $125 worth of goods, you'd received $25 off. Hence the extra blade and the salad spinner--that brought the "goods total" to $145, more than the $125, but they were both goods that I truly wanted.

Finally, I gave in and opened an VISA for an additional $30 off. My other credit card bill is down to $355, which means that I should be able to pay it off in full in January (barring any more emergencies). The new card is a "rewards card," where I get back 1% for general purchases and 3% for purchases made on, payment being in the form of a $25 gift certificate that gets issued automatically when I've spent $2500 on the credit card. I'm planning to pay this card off in full every month and will transfer money from my savings into my checking account to make sure I can do this. I won't be using it for emergencies, except maybe during the first 6 months when the card has a 0% rate.

Total bill after all the deductions: $40.06.

The Cuisinart, by the way, replaces an identical one I sold at a garage sale 10 years ago. I sold it because I was moving and didn't use it much. I've regretted the decision since. I might not use it *much* but it is indispensible for some things. I've probably bought $50 worth of cheap slicinng and chopping gadgets during the intervening 10 years which I can now purge from my kitchen because they not only take up space but never worked as well as the food processor.


I also splurged and paid for Henry to have a bath. He needed one and I need a pro to cut his nails. He's doing pretty well these days (and he looks quite dapper in the scarf they tied around his neck after the bath). The Prednisone is generally working, although an initial attempt to lower his dosage failed and we're back up to the inital dose. He's handling it better this time around, though--no more peeing on the rugs like he was doing the first month on the drug. The drug makes him hungry and lethargic, so he's gained 12 pounds and takes shorter walks, but the digestive woes are under control and he should be off the Prednisone by April or May and we can work thn on getting the extra pounds off and the walking mileage back up.

A couple of small victories

December 29th, 2006 at 03:25 am

Since Henry fell ill this summer, my wallet has had a hole in it that has been immune to being patched. I'd expected that a fairly young dog would cost me about $80 a month to feed, supply, and provide veterinary care for. Henry has been diagnosed with 3 chronic condittions that require 3 monthly medications for life, plus an expensive veterinary diet that I expect him to be on for life since the other conditions apparently derive from his food allergies. Even buying his medications online 6 months at a time, his monthly maintenance cost is now about $250 just for meds and food. Hopefully with the diagnosis and treatment, the outrageous vet bills will go down. Between the startup costs of getting the dog (whom I DID have checked out by a vet first...he had no problems until I'd had him for five months), the vet expenses, and the maintenance, he's cost me about 15% of my salary for the year (in other words, my retirement contribution and my emergency fund.) My baby is well worth it but it's frustrating nonetheless--and I worry terribly about what happens when the contract job I am on ends in August. My income could take a significant hit.

So any savings is good. I have two small victories to report, one pet-related, one not. The pet-related one relates to the weekly urinalysis the vet has been charging me $30/week for. I bought some pH strips (which cost about 10 cents each) and will start doing the weekly reports myself most of the time. I paid for one last urinalysis today just to calibrate my strips against their reports--mine were .25 off, which is close enough (given the scale of these measurements) to accept most of the time.

The other savings has to do with a personal purchase. I've spent a good deal of time the past couple of weeks evaluating various software packages for doing mindmapping, which I've decided will help me be more productive in my teaching and other work. The first time I'd tried to download a freeware program, I'd had no luck, and I gave up and instead became enamoured of a commercial program that would cost me about $100. But I was motivated to try and download the freeware program again, and this time I got it working and am quite happy with it, thus saving myself that $100. (Now I can buy that new pair of walking shoes--the old ones are a year old and I put about 600 miles/year on them, so they are in need of replacement. A good pair of shoes is less costly than podiatrist care!)

Money in, money out

December 21st, 2006 at 01:52 am

Paycheck came today and I immediately transferred $1000 to pay off some of the accrued credit card debt. That still leaves about $370 left to pay on the CC, but the latest car repair expense hasn't yet been posted, nor have I done my holiday shopping (limited tho that will be), so I'll pay the rest of the CC off after Christmas. That still will leave $1000 that I owe my mom that I was supposed to pay off by year's end--but (with her permission), I'm delaying that another month, given the $955 worth of unexpected car repair and veterinary expenses this month.

Finally did the last of the end-of-semester chores today so I am officially closing my books on the Fall semester. Relieved to be done. Mostly tired and not very much in the holiday/celebratory spirit. Not trying to be, either. I live in the "Christmas City" and maybe I'll take a walk downtown tomorrow and try and feel a little "holidayish." But we also learned today that we got one of the state's coveted slots licenses, so that the casino will indeed be built on the old steel mill, and for me, that's definitely NOT cause for celebrating--I worry about the crime and traffic that will soon begin to befoul my beloved historical city.

*head bang* *head bang* *head bang*

December 15th, 2006 at 07:34 pm

I just can't seem to get ahead. I *thought* I was in good shape to have all my credit card and loan debt paid off by the end of the year. After all the money I've spent recently on vet bills and getting Henry's problems under control (and after last week's $150 car repair), I thought the laws of probability would work with me--at least til the end of the year. But NOOOOOO.

The female kitty hasn't been eating or drinking, and it's been three days, so I brought her in to the vet and she's in the hospital now getting rehydrated. That's at least $350-400 I spent on tests etc for her this morning, and if the rehydration alone doesn't do it, then tomorrow she goes off for a $450 ultrasound. Before that, I took the car in for its regular maintenance service and they told me that the inner front axle boots are broken and should be replaced before they need to start sanding the roads--so I have an appointment next week for another $325 (on top of today's $85 for oil change & tire rotation).

Then today I received the last of my part-time job paychecks, since the last class was last week. That's $840 extra a month that I'm really going to be missing.

Maybe I should start looking for a part-time job for my month off of teaching but I am SO burned out and SO don't want to.

So much for ending the year being out of debt.

$800 towards the credit card

December 11th, 2006 at 09:15 pm

Well, the goal in moving $1000 out of my ING account back into my checking account over the weekend was to pay off the credit card bill. But not quite. First there was the $150 in emergency car repairs on Friday that got added to the credit card bill. Then I forgot about last weekend's $95 gym paying $95 once up front, my monthly fee is reduced to $19 for life--something I should be able to afford regardless. Doesn't save me much the first year but is a good deal thereafter, and Gold's Gym has been around long enough that I'm not worried that they're going to fold anytime soon. Then there were my two impulse buys: $113 on two accounting textbooks for a class that is required at one school but not at another. I'm working on an accounting certificate through the community college (generally cheaper) but can take a class through the college where I work this term, so I thought I'd familiarize myself with the material from the prerequisite class at my college that's missing from the community college curriculum. The "real" impulse purchase was a pair of speakers for my mp3 player that I got on sale for $37 including S&H (retail price $99). So with all of that extra spending and the $800 payment, the credit card bill is now down to $380. I also owe my mom $1000 to be paid this month. Things will be tight but I think I can squeeze $1380 out of my Dec 20th paycheck and be out of debt (late edit: other than the mortgage) by year's end. That's the plan, anyhow.

Unplanned Spendy Day

December 8th, 2006 at 10:27 pm

Well, I didn't think that today would be a "no-spend" day (given that the refrigerator was empty this morning), but I didn't think it would be as costly as it turned out. Still, could have been worse. Feeling hungry this morning and facing a large stack of grading, I thought I'd go out for breakfast (being in a celebratory mood with the ending of class), then stock up the fridge and spend the rest of the day grading. It was not to be.

When I went out to my car in the frigid cold (air temp about 10, with windchill about zero), the car wouldn't start. I went in and called AAA. They sent someone out who gave me a boost and got it started and then did a load test on the battery and told me on the basis of that that I'd need a new battery...the CCF or something number should have been over 500 and mine was 178. He said he had a battery of the same brand (Interstate) as I had with him and that it cost $74 and he could install it right then for another $15, so I agreed (the battery was 5-6 years old and corroded and had been a bit sluggish as it got colder, so I knew it was indeed time for a new one). It actually took him nearly half an hour to install it--something wasn't catching right--and he worked pretty hard for that $15 out there in the frigid cold, so I gave him a $5 tip when he left.

By then it was lunch time, so I stopped off at the library and then for lunch at my favorite little Korean restaurant. While driving to the library I kept on hearing this ticking noise that had started when the battery had originally died, and when I got out of my car, I could see that the hazard lights would not switch off. I didn't want those to drain the battery again, so I drove over to the dealership. They ended up having to reset the security system and that cost another $52. I also treated myself to a latte around the corner while I was waiting.

After the car was fixed, I finally got a chance to do my grocery shopping, so that was another $90 or so out the door--plus $21 for filling up the gas tank while I was at BJ's since their gas is relatively cheap.

Now I've got a pot of minestrone cooking on the stove, a full refrigerator, and a car that starts right up....and a whole pile of papers to grade that I haven't touched yet. Oh well. I'll tackle some of those, then watch an epidosde of Northern Exposure on DVD and call it an early night and get up to grade bright and early in the morning.

Last Day of Class

December 7th, 2006 at 11:43 pm

I just taught my last class for the semester this afternoon. I don't have to step in front of a classroom again to lecture for over a month!!!--the new term doesn't begin until January 15th. I still have final exams to give and administer and a heck of a lot of grading in front of me (100 exams, 25 term papers, 120 lab papers, and two honors theses), but the daily grind of class prep is over for the moment. By this time next week I ought to be able to hear my own thoughts again!

(Ought to be eating decently again often happens this time of term, I haven't had time to go to the grocery store or to cook and meals for the past week have been frozen dinners, fast food, and PBJ sandwiches.