Wednesday, March 29, 2006

 

The Problem with Housing in Seattle


Here is what I see as a huge problem with the housing market in Seattle: ITS VASTLY OVERPRICED!!! This house is listed for $339,950. Its 730 square feet and is described as needing some fixing. It was bought in 1985 for $53k, the owners will make a nice profit, good for them. Here is my issue, according to county tax records, the 2006 taxable value is $223,000, over 100k less than the listed price. Zillow has estimated the house to be worth $269,534, 70k less than the list. Now I know that just because it is listed for 339k doesn't mean it will sell for that amount, but good grief are they hoping potential homebuyers don't do research? I will be tracking this house to see what it finally sells for, I hope the new owners pay a fair price.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

 

My Coffee Cup Spoke to Me


This quote was on my coffee cup:

"It's difficult for people to get rid of junk. They get attached to things and let them define who they are. If there's one thing I've learned in this business, it's that you are what you can't let go of." Brian Scudamore Founder and CEO
of 1-800-GOT-JUNK

I guess this mean I am four big boxes of stuffed animals.

I like this quote, I think it describes a barrier to embracing the simple life that I need to work on.
 

Buying a Washer and Dryer?

This is from Consumer Reports via the Seattle Times. I dislike that you have to subscribe to access info on Consumer Reports website but oh well.

"Roughly 30 percent of washers and dryers are now bought as a pair. Several manufacturers encourage that behavior with look-alike consoles. One, GE, adds electronic links that match dryer heat and drying time to the chosen wash cycle.

But even if you're buying both machines at once, Consumer Reports' tests demonstrate you can spend hundreds less by choosing the best-performing washer and dryer à la carte.

When it came to dryers, nearly all the tested models were competent performers. Still, the best dryer is only as good as the washer's ability to remove moisture, since less moisture means shorter drying times and lower energy costs. Thus, when buying a set, choose the washer first.

There are three basic types of washers:

Conventional top-loaders. These are best for adequate washing at a reasonable price. Yet most conventional models don't wash as thoroughly as front-loading washers and — despite short cycle times — aren't as energy-efficient. Cost: $350 to $650 for most.

High-efficiency top-loaders. Pricier than conventional top-loaders, these hybrids combine easy loading with better washing and energy efficiency. But at $800 to $1,000, high-efficiency top-loaders cost as much as some front-loading machines — typically without offering as much energy efficiency.

Front-loading washers. These machines provide maximum washing performance and top energy efficiency overall. Better moisture extraction on the spin cycle also means shorter drying times. However, front-loaders are less convenient to load and unload than top-loaders, and — at $800 to $1,500 for most — are much costlier than conventional top-loaders.

CR's tests identified three front-loaders that cost less than most others, while still delivering very good performance and efficiency. The Kenmore HE3 4586 ($1,100, from Sears) and Whirlpool Duet GHW9150P ($1,000) share a similar design. While slightly smaller than the HE3, Kenmore's HE2 4646 performed nearly as well. At $850 (from Sears), it's a CR Best Buy.

For much less, CR found three conventional top-loaders that provide fine value. The top-scoring Whirlpool Gold GST9679 ($500) offers the best blend of performance and efficiency in its class. The GE WBSR3140D ($300) and the Whirlpool LSW9700P ($380) trade some performance for an even lower price. Of the two, the Whirlpool is quieter and is a CR Best Buy.

Top-rated (and least expensive) of the three high-efficiency top-loaders tested was the Whirlpool Calypso GVW9959K ($800). Note, though, that Whirlpool's high-efficiency top-loaders have been significantly more repair-prone than the manufacturer's other washers.

Among dryers, CR likes the GE Profile DPSB62OEC (at $580, a CR Best Buy) and the Kenmore Elite 6697 ($640, from Sears). Both models performed similarly to top-scoring dryers from GE (the $800 Profile Harmony DPGT750EC), Kenmore (the $930 HE4 8586) and LG (the $850 DLE5977) but cost far less. Cheaper still — yet fine performers all — are the Kenmore Elite 6692 ($500, from Sears), the Whirlpool LEQ8000J (at $380, it's a CR Best Buy), and the Frigidaire Gallery GLER642A ($350)."

 

Ferber gave me $10, good kitty


Tuesday night I went to Walgreens to buy milk because its cheaper there than at the grocery store. I also decided to pick up a new box of insulin syringes for Ferber. I usually get them at the grocery store pharmacy as well, $27 for the brand name box. Well Walgreens had the syringes, but they also had their brand that the clerk said was a few dollars cheaper than the name brand so I said okay. The Walgreens brand was only $17!! Ten dollars less than what I had been paying at the grocery store. And she said that the Walgreens brand was only a few dollars cheaper than the name brand so the name brand must be cheaper at Walgreens as well. This is very exciting because I have to get syringes for Ferber every 50 days. Since Ferber's expenses are budgeted with ours, the $10 savings was rightfully his, but he has very kindly said that I can have it. He can be a very kind cat when he wants to be.

Monday, March 20, 2006

 

A Pox on You Washington Mutual, I've Switched Banks



Three strikes and you're out!!! For the 2nd time in a month, Washington Mutual refused a deposit. This time they gave me a reason I could accept, which is that they do not accept made over checks. However!!! They should have told me that last month when they refused the deposit instead of going on about fraud. So why you ask am I switching banks if I found the reason not to accept the deposit to be acceptable? Well I will tell you, I had my bf with me this time so they could "verify my relationship to the person who made over the check". We asked if he could just deposit the check himself into my account. NO!!! His name must be on your account and he must have an account with Washington Mutual!!! GRRRRR, I say!!! We left and made the transaction as per usual at the cash machine. This was last Thursday, I emailed the customer service rep who responded to my last complaint and have not received a reply. And it being over the weekend does not count since she emailed me on a Saturday last time.

If you're keeping track, Washington Mutual has, in the space of 4 short weeks, refused 2 deposits and lost another one.

Today I went to Homestreet Bank and opened up a checking and savings account with them. I wanted to do business with a bank that was walking distance from my house, the choice was Homestreet or Bank of America. I received a free duffel bag for opening the account (very useful for camping) I learned that they have coffee and tea available every day and treats on Friday and I learned that I can make money. Homestreet will pay $5 for my old debit card and up to $10 for my old checks. And they will shred them for me. Woo Hoo, I like that bit of customer service. And speaking of customer service, everyone who came in the bank while I was there knew the tellers by name and it was just a very nice atmosphere overall. Also my new checking account is interest bearing as well as they savings. The rate sucks but its more than at my old bank. So far I'm very pleased with my new bank, but its only been 3 hours.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

 

Its cheaper to be short when flying


This week Northwest Airlines announced a plan they call Coach Choice. They will hold back some of the aisle seats and the emergency row seats when taking reservations. Then at check in they will charge anyone who would like to sit in those seats an extra $15. Its another way for NWA to get back some of their losses. I've only flown NWA once, it was back before they started charging for the in-flight meal and I thought it was a fabulous meal but I'm not paying extra for food and I'm not going to pay extra for more legroom. United Airlines has a similar program in which they will charge passengers an extra fee at check in if they want to upgrade to unsold seats in a better section of the plane.

On a related note, Financial Freedumb has a link where you can earn free NWA Worldperks miles, maybe you can use the miles to pay for an aisle seat. 200 miles for answering some questions and 2000 if you use the miles in 90 days.

Friday, March 17, 2006

 

How Not to Ruin Your Retirement

USA Today call these the five biggest mistakes people make when it comes to retirement. I know we've heard them all before, so just consider this a gentle reminder

1. Not saving enough.
2. Not having an emergency fund
3. Not diversifying.
4. Not counting health care costs.
5. Not getting all the paperwork done. (updating wills and getting personal liability insurance so if you're sued, your retirement account is protected.)


Thursday, March 16, 2006

 

$300K in Seattle


You can have this house in the Crown Hill neighborhood of Seattle for $299,950, Zillow lists it for $312k. It doesn't hold a candle to the house in Houston found by All Things Financial.

Monday, March 13, 2006

 

Washington Mutual Update

Today started out very frustrating, I wasn't able to call the person from the WaMu ATM Services department who sent me the letter notifying me about the missing checks because I have a long distance block on my phone. So I called the regular telephone banking and they were not able to transfer me to the ATM Services and were not able to grant me a time extension and were pretty much no help at all. They couldn't even look the person up in a staff directory to verify he was an actual employee. However the payroll lady at my bf's work was able to call and verify that this was not a scam and that if necessary I could have a time extension, which turned out to not be necessary since I was able to get both replacement checks today. (after driving 66 miles round trip!, I think I should bill them for gas.).

Checks in hand, I went into my branch to raise some heck. What I found was that I was not being persecuted (being the 2nd problem in 3 weeks, I felt I was), the bank had lost an entire batch of checks and in fact there was another gentleman waiting to deposit his replacement check. The customer service manager explained what had happened, deposited my replacement checks, and that was that. He also is going to credit my account the $25 dollar stop payment fee that my mother was charged (she wrote one of the missing checks) so that I can pay her back. If my bf's work is charged a stop payment fee, I just have to let them know and they will credit me that amount as well. All in all the problem was resolved in about 5 minutes, they were extremely apologetic and I didn't even get to yell at anyone :( He even thanked me for being good natured about the whole thing.

And irony of ironies, there was an article in the Seattle PI this morning about how WaMu is offering free checking for life and other incentives in order to attract more customers. But what about their existing customers? My bf is going to open a checking account this week, not at WaMu, and get direct deposit so I won't have to deposit checks for him anymore which will eliminate the problems I had, but I'm still going to spend the week researching banks and deciding if its worth the hassle to switch. See, that's the problem with banking these days, with direct deposit, automatic payments and online billpay you're so sucked in that its hard to get out.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

 

Debt Update



It occurs to me that I haven't posted a debt update in a long while and reducing our debt was one of the reasons I started this blog so here goes. Back in October was when I started getting serious about paying off the debt, I created spreadsheets to map out how long it would take depending on payment amounts etc. Back then the debt was $12832.99 and I was paying $516 a month towards it. Since then it went up a little because of using one of the credit cards for holidays and cat expenses but we've got the discretionary fund for those expenses now. Right now the debt is $9695.27. We are paying $1016 minimum/month on it and hope to have it paid off by next February.
 

2 Experiments for March

This is inspired by No Credit Needed's Cash-Only Experiment. I'm going to try and save money in two of my budget categories this month, discretionary and grocery. I've been using my grocery budget to cover my discretionary spending because I wasn't budgeting for discretionary. This month I've budgeted for both and any leftover funds will go towards the debt reduction.

Budget Period: March 10 - April 9

Discretionary, starting balance $244, current balance $187.57. I took some cash out for lunch and paid 2 doctor bills.
Grocery, starting balance $200, current balance $170.66.

I am hoping to keep the grocery spending between $150-$175 and that I will have at least 10% of my discretionary funds left at the end of the month. I will really have to curtail the eating out this month, one day at a time is my new motto.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

 

Net Worth and Budget Update and Cat Hair


My net worth for March went down, this is because I hadn't updated my car value in awhile and had to adjust it down 3k. Otherwise I would have had roughly a $1200 increase.

March's budget is in the sidebar, the difference in allotted funds and available funds is my discretionary cash for the month. I have changed my budgeting process, previously I didn't have a discretionary fund and would take misc expenses like eating out, the cats syringes etc out of whatever category had funds available. That was a very bad way to budget as my category spend was never accurate. Speaking of CATegories, as I type this my cat is standing in front of me and I can't see the keyboard without leaning over him and getting a mouthful of cat hair. Go away Ferber!

The results of February's budget will not be known until next week. This is because all of the incoming funds for February have not been received yet. Due to some kind of error in the payroll department, my bf did not receive his February 28th paycheck. He was told yesterday, 10 days after the fact, that he won't be receiving the check until his next payday on March 15. He still hasn't been told why the error occurred or received an apology. This does not bode well for his new job and I'm extremely confused as to how a company can forget to pay someone.
 

WASHINGTON MUTUAL LOST MY DEPOSIT

Following on the heels of denying my deposit on 2/16, Washington Mutual has sent me a letter stating that they have lost the checks I deposited via ATM on 2/3. According to the letter it is my responsibility to have replacement checks issued and I have until March 15. I just received the letter yesterday so they've only given me 3 business days to correct their error. Since one of the checks was my bf's paycheck, I highly doubt I'll be able to get a new check in 3 days. Here is my plan of attack:

1. Monday morning go to the bank and ask for an extension of the deadline.
2. Monday afternoon go to my mothers house and get a replacement check from her (one of the checks was my birthday check from her)
3. Monday morning my bf will let his boss and his payroll department know that they need to put a stop payment on the original check and issue a new one asap
4. Monday night, write a letter of complaint. I emailed a complaint to the bank last month when they refused my deposit, but the apology email I received in return had a definite scripted feel to it.I feel a handwritten letter will get more attention as it will stand out amongst all the emails. (sidenote: handwritten notes are such a rarity that there are actually companies that specialise in writing them for you)

I am also in a conundrum. I have been with this bank for 10 years and have had absolutely no problems at all until these two within the space of three weeks. Should I consider two problems in 10 years a good ratio and stay with them or should I switch banks? Switching banks is such a hassle, and I'm not sure a different bank would be any better and they might be worse.


3/23/05 Update
The replacement checks were deposited to my account on 3/13, the funds were supposed to be taken out of my account on 3/15. As of today the money is still in my account. If it sits there long enough without the bank taking it back, can I keep it?

4/18/05 Update
The money is still in my account even though I emailed the bank on 3/24. They said it would take 5 days to investigate and make an adjustment to my account.

Monday, March 06, 2006

 

Somebody smack me please!!!

February is the best month even though Kweee disagrees. February is my birthday month, so I allowed myself to not worry about the budget as my present. We didn't worry about conserving energy and stayed nice and toasty warm all month, I bought some cd's I'd been wanting and a food processor. We ate out a couple times and this is where the smacking starts. Although I had assumed we would go over the food budget this month, I did not think we would go 125% over the food budget!!!! I am now suffering from eater's remorse, somebody pass the antacids please.

And here is something else that I am smacking myself for, I don't allow for discretionary spending in the budget. Well that will change as soon as the March budget starts on Friday. And March shall be known as the month of attacking the eating out and controlling the discretionary spending!!!

smack, smack (my head hurts)

Saturday, March 04, 2006

 

Pot Roast Recipe, YUM

This recipe was in the Seattle PI from the Intermediate Eater a few days ago, it sounds yummy so I thought I'd share it. I'm not sure how long the link will stay active, so I'm posting the recipe and the link. I don't have all the ingredients yet, if anyone tries this let me know how it turns out. And for those of you who don't know what Archie McPhee's is, make sure to check out their site, its the most awesome store we have in Ballard.

JOANNE'S POT ROAST
SERVES 6-8

  • 3/4 cup red wine
  • 1/2 cup dark balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 to 3 pound chuck roast or brisket of beef
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 2 medium onions, sliced
  • 3 tablespoons chopped garlic
  • 1 can (14 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 5 strips lemon zest plus two teaspoons chopped
  • 1 can (14 ounces) beef broth
  • Spinach linguine
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 12 pitted kalamata olives
  • Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

With a Swedish back-scratcher from Archie McPhee's Ballard outlet, moosh together the wine, vinegar and sugar.

Pat the meat dry with a paper towel, season with salt and pepper and then in an oven-proof pot on the stove top, brown the meat on all sides in hot oil. Remove roast to a warm dish.

Turn heat to low and saute the onions in the same pot, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and saute 1 minute more. Stir in the wine mixture and bring to a low boil. Stir in undrained tomatoes, cranberries, the strips of lemon zest and beef broth. Simmer 5 minutes then plunk the pot roast back into the pan. Cover and shove into the oven for 1 hour.

Turn the meat and continue cooking covered 1 1/2 hours or until very tender.

Meanwhile cook spinach linguine in boiling salted water (about 1/4 pound per person).

Combine the olives, parsley and the 2 teaspoons of minced lemon zest.

Remove meat to a cutting board and slice. Serve on plates over the linguine, slop some pan sauce over each helping and top with the olive mixture.

 

This post made me mad!!!!

Yesterday I found a post on PFBlogs that made me really mad. It was an article from Scripps via SBM's Financial Coups talking about how a gentleman thought his credit card debt was too high so he made a $6500 payment. And the credit card company didn't immediately deposit the check because:

"the amount they had sent in was much larger than their normal monthly payment. And if the increase hits a certain percentage higher than that normal payment, Homeland Security has to be notified. And the money doesn't move until the threat alert is lifted"

Homeland Security has to be notified??? Because he might be a terrorist because he made a larger payment than normal?? So minimum payment amounts are raised by the credit card companies in order to get us to pay more, but if we pay too much, watch out - you could be considered a terrorist!!

Yesterday a friend of mine commented on a previous post about how his bank was concerned because he made a larger than normal deposit at an ATM machine. I wonder if the same kind of flag went up? Are we supposed to not deposit money in the bank and not pay off our credit card debt in order to not be a terrorist? I wish I could win the lottery right now so I could pay off my debt and make a large bank deposit just to make Homeland Security sweat.




Thursday, March 02, 2006

 

AARP! AARP!

Hee, that sounds funny when you say it out loud. Today I was surfing for info on 401a plans and found a site I hadn't thought to check out before, AARP, the American Association of Retired Persons. The money and work section of their site has loads of information on financial planning, saving for retirement, credit & debt. I highly recommend checking the site out.