My 401(k) is down 16% from the beginning of the year

I am so glad I have 30 years to go until retirement.

Just saved myself $25

I canceled the option on my debit card that was giving me 1 mile for every $2 spent to the tune of a $25 annual fee. Why pay a fee for something that:

  • I rarely use; and
  • Gives so little when I do?

My oldest credit card gives me 1 mile per dollar spent and has a low interest rate (8%). The downer is that the annual fee is $60 (ouch!). From what I understand, reward cards like that rarely waive their fee. I don't think I'd have much luck since I don't use that card that much, and when I do, I pay the balance immediately. That $60 per year is all the money they make on me, so I don't see them too willing to waive or lower it. Guess it couldn't hurt to ask though.

Money Gossip: The Velvet Jones Edition

Single Ma has a great post up about a family member asking for a considerable amount of cash in a short amount of time. I would say that my sister issue comes closest, but I'd like to share a bit of family/wedding gossip with you guys. This really hasn't got anything to do with family members wanting money, it's about family members and weddings...which can be just as, if not moreso, prone to out-and-out fuckery. Gather 'round chrrins'...

My cousin "Ted" recently got engaged to his long-time girlfriend "Betty." To celebrate, Betty sent an email to family and friends saying that they were having an engagement party/bbq at a public park. Attached to the email was a list of all the food that they wanted to the guests to bring.

Oh yes. You read me right. Not only was food listed, but plates, napkins, cups, water, ice, ketchup, mustard, etc. ERRYTHANG. Also, Betty wants at least 2 to 3 names per item to make sure there is enough for everyone. I forget to mention: Ted and Betty live on the East Coast. I and a considerable amount of family members live in the Midwest.

Oh. I forget to give you the date of the wedding: September 2010. Oh yes. You read me right. Personally, I find it amusing that someone would throw a party for themselves, then expect the guests to actually bring the party. But the fun doesn't end here. Another email was sent out. And I quote:

"Just want to give everyone an update of the menu and who is bringing what as well as the first round head count. All or most of you have received this email and have NOT responded back in any way, shape or form. If we do not hear you before or by August 23rd we will take that as you are not coming and will NOT be counted in the final count. Also please don't think that you can just show up and it would be ok with us..."

Emphasis by me, but...eeeeyeah... That's the 'ish my family is on. I politely declined attendance. I love my cousin Ted very, very much. However I'm not going to spend money on air fare, hotel, AND have to buy my own damn food, plates, and ice for a party. Although I did briefly entertain the idea of showing up at the park with a bucket of water saying, "It was ice when I left Chicago!"

What would you have done?

Wisebread has a post about family members that are bad with money. After reading the article and comments, I remembered an incident several years ago.

I had three half-sisters. Two older, one younger. I only grew up really knowing the younger one, who we'll call Tina. To make a long story short, Tina and I were close then grew apart over a couple of pretty serious events. After several years of not talking to each other, she reached out to me. Turns out the reason she did that was because she had just started her new career as a "financial advisor" with World Financial Group...which is basically what I and a lot of other people considered a scam. So basically she was looking for clients. In the interest of trying to build our relationship again, I suggested meeting up for coffee, etc., however it always had to be in some far-flung suburb near her "office" after one of her "meetings" which she would conveniently suggest I attend, then we could go out afterwards. I wasn't having it so I declined, saying that when she had some free time we can get together.

Anyway, a month or two of this goes by and we find out that one of the older sisters that leaves in Canada got stomach cancer. I had a little spare cash to take care of airfare and hotel for my mother and me. Next thing I know I get a call from Tina. She wanted to talk about what happened with our older sister and what I was planning to do. I told her that I was able to scrape together some cash to get my mother and me to go see her, then I asked what her plans were. Well, long story short, became clear that her plan was me. She didn't come right out and say it, she would just throw road blocks in front of all my suggestions:

Me: "Ask your mom for a loan."
Tina: "She doesn't have the money."

Me: "Use your credit card."
Tina: "My credit is bad, I don't have a card."

Me: "As your mom to use her credit card to front you the money then pay off the card."
Tina: "She doesn't have enough money on her card to pay for anything."

Me: "Wait until your next paycheck then make the trip."
Tina: "That's a whole week later, anything could happen and I might miss the chance to see here while she's still alive."

Then she asks me, "What do you think I should do? I don't have the money, and I'd rather stay with you and your mom than at a relative's house that I don't know (when I suggested she take the train for cheap and stay at our sister's house with some other relatives). So, I don't know what to do..."

"I don't have any other answers for you than what I've already shared." I knew she wanted me to offer her the money but I didn't do it. Part of me wondered if I was doing the right thing, however I justified it because we'd been out of each others lives for so long, and the only reason we were talking again was because she wanted me to be a client for her new multi-level marketing scheme. I didn't have the money to give away, so I didn't offer it to her, even though I knew that's what she was looking for. Even though I knew that other sister was ill, and chances are Tina wouldn't make it in time to see her if I didn't pay for her to come with me.

My mother and I went to Canada for a week to visit with my sister in the hospital. We checked into our hotel then walked over to the hospital (I chose the hotel specifically because it was close to where she was). She seemed surprised and delighted that we were there. Making jokes, etc. That would be the last time we'd talk to her. The very next day began a steady decline. A few days after that she passed away. It was three weeks between her diagnosis and her death.

Do I feel guilty about my decision to not give Tina the money? No. Not even when my sister asked about where she was, and when I responded, "Tina wanted to be her but she couldn't make it. She says she loves you very much and wants you to get well soon." My sister smiled as she heavily breathed, "Ok" and made a comment about how my handbag matched nicely with my jacket (I was quite sharp that day). I don't feel guilty for all the reasons stated above, and also, if Tina wanted to borrow the money, she should have just asked for it. I felt like she was trying to manipulate me and/or the situation to get me to offer it to her instead of her just being upfront. Also, I wasn't willing to go into debt for her. Given the fact that we just started talking a month prior after years of not talking to each other, and the only reason we were was because she was looking for clients--I didn't feel obligated to give her money.

I haven't heard from Tina since. I don't hate her. She's my sister and there will always be a part of me that loves her that comes from that relationship we had in the past. That said, I absolutely refuse to be manipulated if I can help it. By anyone.

Good deal on airfare!

I go to see the boyfriend this weekend. Usually I wait until the week of travel to buy my ticket. Sounds counterintitive, however United runs last-minute specials every Tuesday. My destination is on there every week for $170 compared to the usual $300. So I bought my ticket for this weekend yesterday.

For kicks, I did a search for Labor Day weekend. A labor day visit wasn't in the cards because I figured the prices would be sky-high for a holiday. Nope! I got a ticket leaving Thursday night and coming home the following Tuesday night for $168! That's less than the last-minute fares I usually get! I gleefully bought the ticket today happy for the savings and the chance at an extra visit to see my schmoopy-pie. :))

After that, I'll do one more visit in October skipping November entirely. Why? Well, assuming we still like each other come December, he is going to drive down here to pick me up, we'll drive back together and I'll stay with him for the entire month. You read me. The. Entire. Month. I have a lot of vacation time to burn off and I'd like to spend it with him. Also, if we're really going to take this relationship further, why not take the opportunity to live with each other for a while? I'm sure whatever veneer is left by then will be long gone and we can decide if we need to move further or not. Anyway, back to money...driving, especially since he has a hybrid, will save me a lot of money, as flying would be around $400 to $500 (!).

As far as next year? Who knows. Let's see if we still like each other after Labor Day. :) I'd say the only thing that has to change is that we see more of each other next year. This year he's in the process of pulling himself together financially, which is very important to the both of us. Ideally I'd like for us to see each other every month, with him contributing to that 50%. That may be with him coming here half the time, or him buying the ticket for me to come see him. Right now, that makes the most sense, as it costs him considerably more to visit me. But we'll have to see what makes sense and what we're comfortable with.

So yeah, this was about more than airfare, wasn't it...

I went with Panera

I decided to redeem my $100 cash back reward in 2 $50 gift cards to Panera. Yay! I should get them via mail in 4 to 6 weeks. Boo!

Redeeming credit card rewards

I have a little over $100 in rewards waiting to be redeemed with my Capital One card. I have three ways to redeem the money:

1. Get a check in the mail.
2. Use the amount towards my balance (I don't carry a balance, so this option is out).
3. Buy a one of the gift cards offered.

If I get the check, clearly I can use it for anything I'd like. Chances are it would go in my savings account. Maybe put it towards my travel or emergency fund. However a $100 gift card to Panera sounds like a delicious idea right now. Perhaps I should wait until after lunch tomorrow to make this decision.

Where I almost knock myself over from patting myself on the back so much

This post started as a comment to one of Boston Gal's post when I realized it didn't have a damn thing to do with what she was talking about.


During the housing boom my friends and some family would tell me I needed to buy a home of my own. "If you don't buy now, you'll be priced out of the market!" I even had a friend tell me that she bought a condo because "that's what responsible people do. Get a home of their own." She told me this over phone and even then I'm sure she could see I was giving her wicked side-eye through the fiberoptics. I live at home with my folks. It's an arrangement that (so far, knock on wood!) works out well for us and we're quite happy (when mom doesn't hog the freezer space). The reason I always gave for not buying a home was, "I can't afford it. I can't afford a home AND furniture AND retirement." I was usually met with babble about ARMs or a blank stare.

So all that to say that from where I'm sitting, I am downright ecstatic that I never decided to buy a house during the boom. I'm glad I stuck to my guns by not caving to peer pressure and being honest with myself about what I can truly afford. The banks and their shady-ass ways have a LOT to do with why we are in the situation we are in now. However people not being honest about what they could truly afford is a significant chunk of the issue as well.

So yeah. Yeah me for knowing the limits of being a broke-ass. :/

On Second Thought...

...nevermind about that CD ladder. I'm going to keep the money in the high(ish)-yield savings account it's in now. The point of the unemployment/emergency fund is to be ready when I need it. My savings account is offering comparable rates to 3-month CDS, so I'm just going to save myself the hassle and leave it where it is.

"Economic Woes Force Many To Postpone Retirement"

NPR has an audio segment up from their show "All Things Considered" about how many boomers are postponing retirement. However what gets my attention is the part about how one person feels that her age is working against her in the job market.

It's one of the reasons why I discount the "I'll-just-work-forever" excuse I've heard for not saving for retirement. For a lot of us, there will come a point where we will be physically unable to work "forever" or that you'll be welcome in the workforce. That's why, in my opinion, it's absolutely critical to save as much as you can as soon as you can.

Ladies and Gentlemen. We Have Progress.

As of today, my 8-month unemployment fund is 100% fully funded. I've been a little lax in researching CDs to put the money in, but I'll get started on that now. I'm thinking a few 3-month CD ladders is the way to go, we'll see.

So the next goal? $8,400 in my 2009 Roth IRA/Computer Fund by the end of December. I see this purpose of this fund changing a bit along the way since I'm not sure how much the 2009 Roth contribution will be, and I'm still researching computers. We'll see what happens. The bottom line is to have $8,400 by the end of the year. It's going to be a bit of a stretch for me that will require some fairly strict budgeting, but I'm up for the challenge.