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Archive for February, 2013

Why I love February

February 28th, 2013 at 10:53 am

It's not the weather, at least not here in Michigan.

It's not my birthday month, or my anniversary.

We don't plan an annual February vacation.

It's because it's short, and the monthly cash doesn't have to stretch as far as other months.

That's why I love February.

I dislike pretty much everything else about it.

The weather in particular.

Oh, and I forgot to mention anything about the DD2 birthday party. It was a whopping success. Before she went to bed, she said it was the best day of her life.

Our Federal Refund

February 27th, 2013 at 12:50 pm

We got our federal refund yesterday!

I paid a couple of bills that weren't due yet. I was going to wait until I was paid on Friday, but bumped them up a couple of days. I also sent $235.42 to one of our credit cards, the one with the higher interest rate. Why $235.42, you may ask? I wanted to pay (about) $200. The balance was $935.42, so I decided to pay it down to an even $700.

The rest of the refund money went into savings toward our porch/close the expletive house fund.

We're expecting a $500 refund from the state. That will go straight into savings.

It's always nice to be able to pay bills!

Birthday and Porch

February 22nd, 2013 at 08:49 am

Today is DD2's birthday. Tomorrow is her party. The dress is finished. The decorations and food are bought. The house is mostly clean. We are as ready as we will be. If the weather is nasty, the kids will ride the horse in the neighbor's shed.

We do have a swim meet before the party, but it's a home meet, so we don't have to drive far. But, it will be a busy day.

We got an estimate from our builder yesterday about the new back porch. His estimate is $3,800. That doesn't include siding, though. We still need to pick our siding out. He did include the labor for siding the porch, just not the material. He said that could range anywhere from $80 - $350, depending on what we choose. We also want him to place a boot scraper in the concrete. We'll but the boot scraper, and he'll place it. $25? not sure. The bid also included rain gutters for the whole house. That will help keep water out of the basement, so I guess we'll do it.

I'm using a $4,000 figure in the back of my mind. That fits surprisingly well with our state/fed refund figure. So, we will schedule him as for as soon as the weather breaks. Hopefully the project is done before the end of April.

Electric Bill Budget Plan and House Sale

February 21st, 2013 at 06:30 am

We signed up for our electric company's budget plan.

It's not a true budget plan where we would pay the same amount per month, and catch up at the end of the year. We pay a rolling average of the previous 12 months billings. That will normalize our monthly payment quite a bit.

On our short sale, our bank appears to be dragging its feet again. We got word from our Realtor that the buyers will be walking if things aren't firmed up by this Friday. So, I called our contact with the bank, and got her assurance that this segment of the process should/may/might be finished by next Thursday, Feb. 28.

So, I emailed an appeal to our Realtor to forward to buyer's agent, asking for continued patience from the buyers/we're all frustrated with the process/trust me, no one wants this to happen more than we do.

During my call with the bank, I also found out that our point of contact person at the bank will be leaving the company very shortly, and our file will be transferred to another representative. As much as I dislike working with the bank, I have developed a certain rapport with this current representative. We seem to understand each other, and she seems to do her job well. She at least returns my calls and emails. So, the frustration continues.

Taxes are filed

February 19th, 2013 at 12:44 pm

We filed our taxes yesterday. I did some looking, and determined that IRS was ready for returns that claimed depreciation. Apparently they've been ready for the better part of a week.

We got notification that IRS accepted our return. Now we just wait for the refunds. I didn't write down exact values, but our federal refund is around $3,400 and our state refund is around $500.

When we receive our refunds, we'll submit an amended return that includes our adoption credit. Our adoption credit is about $1,200. The reason we're filing an amended form is that it will take longer to get our adoption credit.

Lots of places for the money to go. No problem there. We're still waiting for a bid on our porch improvement, and I would like some of it to go to CC debt. And, of course, we would like to have some reserves if needed to cover costs associated with selling our house.

Rent Check Arrived and the Hat

February 18th, 2013 at 09:30 am

We got our rent check on Thursday. We also got our insurance check from the freezer debacle on Friday. Both checks were deposited on Friday.

The rent check means we'll have enough money to comfortably pay the remainder of our heating oil bill yet this month. Past due charges would have begun to accrue after Mar. 1. So, that's avoided.

Fairly quiet weekend. We did some substantial house cleaning. DD2's birthday party is next weekend.

DD1 bought a hat for $20 on Sunday. She bought it with her own allowance money, so that's OK. But I thought it was a bit much for a hat. I'm reminded of my first visit to the Michigan State campus, when I bought a hat for $11 at the MSU bookstore. I think I was 14 or 15 at the time. To me it seemed like a legitimate expense - an MSU hat purchased at MSU. My dad had a fit. $11 for a hat! Oh, it's funny how cycles repeat themselves.

Eye Exam

February 15th, 2013 at 12:27 pm

I went to the optometrist today. My employer just started offering vision insurance in November, and I signed up as both DW and I require corrective lenses. The cost is $13.24 per month, or $158.88 per year.

The coverage included $10 copay for exam, $25 copay for lenses, and a $130 allowance for frames. Anything over $130, I pay 80%. I can get new frames every 24 months.

So, I picked out a pair of frames that costs $155, so I paid the $20 difference. Plus $10 for the exam and $25 for the lenses = $55 for exam and new glasses. Of course, plus the insurance = $210.88. But, DW will get new glasses sometime later this year.

The glasses should be ready in about 10 days. Hopefully they don't break!

Support Group

February 14th, 2013 at 10:58 am

Can't really think about anything financial to blog about today, so I'll mention the Autism Support Group DW and I are attending tonight.

Maybe I've mentioned that DS1 is autistic before? Maybe not. DS2 also appears to be on the spectrum, but not nearly as severe.

Anyway, a support group has formed at the southern end of our very rural county. We live at the northern end. It's about an hour away, but it's the closest thing we have.

I think this is the fourth time the group has met. This will be our second visit. We missed last month due to a family emergency. The group leader has opted for a guest speaker or some other type of program on odd numbered months, and simple parent-to-parent support on even numbered months.

The group meets at a church, and child care is provided. I'm telling you that walking into a church nursery filled with autistic children is quite a sight. We'll be dropping our girls off with my sister.

In December, there were nine people from 7 families. It was very interesting/thought provoking/powerful to hear the stories provided by the other families. For me, the most important person to hear from was the mother of a 25 year old. The rest of us all have younger children. This lady has EXPERIENCE.

The group as a whole is very important for us. There are things that we can't talk about with parents of neuro-typical kids. You have to be the parent of an autistic kid to understand and relate. Thus, the reason we will be traveling an hour once a month for an indefinite period of time. This resource is just too valuable.

Our Insurance Claim

February 13th, 2013 at 05:42 am

Our chest freezer failed. We discovered the failure last Thursday. The circuit breaker tripped. That circuit services all of our outside outlets plus the chest freezer, so we didn't know about it. Everything in it was ruined.

DW wrote down the contents for an insurance claim. The contents included:

93# ground beef
28# Chuck Roast
23# Sirloin Steak
4# Tender Loin
1 bag french fries
7 qts. strawberry jam
2 qts. cherries
Ĺ # cheese
8 qts. blueberries
3 qts. carrots
3 qts. strawberries
2 qts. tomatoes

Our insurance claim is limited to $250. We had that just in hamburger. The check is on its way.

Truth be told, we didn't buy the beef. The beef came from a cow from my in-law's dairy farm. They gave us the cow, and we paid for the processing. I think we spent $135 on the processing. But still, the value of the meat alone was about $560.

We got rid of the meat. DW found an ad on Craig's List for a couple who has 10 Siberian Huskies. They feed their animals only raw meat. Mr. Siberian Husky picked the meat up Saturday night.

The freezer was stinky, but I think we cleaned it up well enough that we can still use it.

Live and learn.

Pennies

February 12th, 2013 at 05:28 am

I think I first heard about the cost to produce a penny about 15 years ago. Don't quote me on any of the figures I will present in this entire post, because they're all from a very shaky memory. But, it seems like 15 or so years ago, the cost to produce a penny was about .98 cents. And that cost has risen tot he point that it now costs much more than one cent to produce a penny.

Two or three years ago, I heard someone on the radio say that the cost to produce a penny is irrelevant because of the number of times an individual penny circulates through the economy. It pays for itself each time it is used, so pennies end up being very cheap. That made sense to me, so the debate was settled in my mind.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, Time magazine had a story about the penny. The story was published on the eve of Canada discontinuing its 1 cent coin. According to this story in Time, the single entity lobbying for the continuation of the penny is the firm that extracts and fashions the all the zinc used in penny manufacture in the US. That firm is maybe a tad bit biased.

If the penny were discontinued, cash transactions would be rounded up or down to the nearest nickel. Electronic transactions would not. How many cash transactions do you make compared to electronic? And, for the cash transactions, wouldn't the rounding down happen about as often as the rounding up?

I dunno. I thought that the debate was very silly. Who cares how much a penny costs to produce? But, this Time article made the case for me. It's time to end the penny. What do you think?

We went to look at fair pigs

February 11th, 2013 at 06:32 am

DD1 and I went to look at fair pigs this weekend. This will be her third year showing pigs through 4-H at the fair.

Two years ago, we waited until too late (mid April), and there weren't too many left. The pigs we found weren't well matched (you need two for the fair, and try to get pigs that are of the same size and body type), they were awfully big, and not of great quality. We paid $40 for each of them.

Last year, we looked in the middle of March. The pigs were much nicer, better matched, and of better size. Same breeder. DD1 paid $80 for each pig. She had her own money from the previous year's project. She did quite a little bit better in the competition.

We've found out that if you want to have the quality of pig that will really do well in the competition that you really have to spend $150 for each hog. And, those that do really well buy three pigs in the spring, and pick the best/most well matched pigs to show in July. The third pig is either sold on the open market, or kept for family use.

So, we looked at a new breeder's farm this weekend. He is a cut above our previous breeder. He charges $120 for pigs. They're still too young to buy, but we looked at his inventory, and were impressed. We're on the guy's list, and he will call us when they're ready. (late March/early April) There is one family from our fair on the list ahead of us.

DD1 loves raising animals, and showing them at the fair. The money she makes goes into her college fund. (her mother and I defrayed a fair bit of our own college expenses the same way)

We would probably be money ahead to buy cheaper hogs, but she wouldn't do as well in the competition.

The Birthday Party

February 7th, 2013 at 06:48 am

DD2 will turn 7 on the 22nd of this month. She's going to have an "invite friends over" party. We've always celebrated her birthday with a party, but until this year, it's always been family members who have taken part in the celebration.

I think she's invited 6 or 7 little girls. We're going to pay the neighbor girl $20 to bring her horse over for the kids to ride. It's a really old really tame horse, so there shouldn't be any problems with it, but helmets, just in case!

Besides the horse, costs will include some food (prepared at home) and some simple decorations. It's a cowgirl theme, so DW ordered some fabric, and DW and DD2 are sewing a cow girl dress.

The guests are other home school friends, a girl from church, and a girl from swim club. None of them will expect a big fancy expensive type party, and the horse should be a big hit. As of right now, the horse is a total surprise. And DD2 is already super excited. We've not even told DD1. Hope it's a nice day.

A Big Thumbs Up

February 6th, 2013 at 06:26 am

I've joined a real estate forum to get some answers to questions I have related to selling my house. I've gotten some good information. Emphasis on some.

The people are helpful, and respond very quickly to my questions. But, when compared to the thoughtfulness and intelligence of respondents here in SA on both the forum side and the blog side, there is no comparison.

So, a big Thumbs Up! to you, SA community. I haven't found a better free resource on the whole internet.

Short Sale Update

February 5th, 2013 at 05:46 am

This is the current situation with our short sale. A buyer made an offer on our house on December 6. There was some negotiation back and forth between the buyer and our bank. The final settled upon price is 5% less than our list price, and 9% more than buyerís initial offer. So, thatís done. We have an agreed upon, contract signed price for our house. That was last Thursday.

Why did it take two months to agree upon a price? The reasons are too many for me to list, or even for me to remember for that matter. Iíll comment on one of the reasons, though. When the title work was being done, it was discovered that there was a second mortgage recorded on the property. We proclaimed that ďWe have no second mortgage on the propertyĒ And we didnít, and we donít. In fact, as clear as day, the mortgage was recorded to Frank and Jody W., the previous owners! The previous owners had taken out a mortgage on this house, before we bought it, to build a new house, and the mortgage wasnít taken off the house when we closed on it, eight years ago! So, getting that figured out added about a week to the process. But, I digress.

As Iíve mentioned in previous posts, our buyer is getting financing through USDA Rural Development. The folks at USDA RD do not want their buyers to purchase crappy, in disrepair houses that their new owners would be ashamed to own. Fine. So, USDA RD has a whole check list that a home inspector goes through to deem the house worthy of a USDA RD sale. Any deficiencies are to be repaired before close, at either buyerís expense or sellerís expense, as negotiated. Also, buyer does not have mortgage approval. He has a pre approval letter, but not an actual approved mortgage. As both of these items (the inspection, and the mortgage) are an expense to buyer, he did not want to proceed with them until after the price was agreed upon. So, maybe heís started on these now, but not prior to last Thursday.

The original, agreed upon closing date was Feb. 4. About 2/3 of the way through the price negotiation period, it became clear that we would not meet the original close date. So, we extended to close date to Feb. 28. When the price was agreed upon, the close date was extended to Mar. 15. Just to add additional time for buyer to get his part wrapped up. We were about to agree to that Mar. 15 close, when the short sale rep from our bank said ďWait a minute, the BPO expires Mar. 6Ē. Whatís a BPO, you may ask? We didnít know, either. Itís ďBrokerís Price OpinionĒ. Our Realtor gave her best opinion of the actual market value of the house back in December. Itís good for three months. And, the Realtor has to wait until the current BPO expires, before giving a new one.

Why donít you close on March 5th, you may ask? I asked the same thing. Our Realtor has seen enough RD loans, that in her opinion, the inspection/repair process is very unlikely to complete before six weeks.

Our current contract with our Realtor also expires Mar. 15. If buyer does walk, we will get a new Realtor. Some of the reason this has taken quite as long as it has is due to her inexperience with short sales. That has become evident to us. Also, if we have to go through this process again, from the beginning, we will be more experienced. We will know that we have three months from the start, before the BPO expires. We will also know what price range the bank will accept, so we can do some of the negotiation before the offer gets sent to our bank.

So, weíre keeping our fingers crossed that this sale happens. This is closer than weíve ever been to a closed sale, but weíre not holding our breath either. And, we sure hope that the next offer comes from someone with conventional financing. Iím working on a rant about who is and who isnít getting approved for financing these days. But, Iíll save that for later; Iíve said enough for now.

Various Stuff

February 4th, 2013 at 06:35 am

Sometimes I see a particularly good quote on the top of the SA banner that I've never seen before. I like this one: "No-one would remember the Good Samaritan if he'd only had good intentions. He had money as well." - Margaret Thatcher. Where do they get all those quotes?

Beginning of the month CC payments have been posted. remaining balance on CC#1 = $929.00 (8.9% APR), and remaining balance on CC#2 = $726.52 (5.25% APR), for a grand total of $1,655.52.

We didn't do anything special for the Super Bowl. I took our boys down to my folks house to watch it. My folks are in Florida for a couple of months, and we're watching their house for them while they're gone. I quit watching during the power outage. I didn't spend any extra money at all on Superbowl Sunday.

Our taxes are completed, but not filed. We claim depreciation on our for sale/rental house. IRS is apparently not ready to accept any returns that claim depreciation. I suppose we could file without the Schedule E, and file an amended form later. But, we were already going to file an amended return with our Adoption Credit claim. We're expecting a $1,200 AC. We could file now, and include both the Schedule E, and the AC on the amended form, or file two amended forms, or just wait for the depreciation thing to work itself out, and file our 1040 + Schedule E, and then the amended with the AC. That last option is the one we're opting for right now.

The reason that we're definitely waiting on the AC is that you cannot file the AC electronically. You need to file that via mail, because they IRS requires proof of adoption, and they look at AC returns very closely. Last year, we filed the AC as an amended return. We got our regular refund quickly, and our AC in August.

The AC in non refundable this year. Last year it was fully refundable. I'm not sure how long we will have to claim the credit. Five years? We've looked, but as far as we know, IRS has not released that information yet.

Most likely (if we do end up selling our house in 2013), we will be able to claim the unused potion all next year, because we expect to owe a butt-load of tax due to the short sale property not being our primary residence.

Taxes

February 1st, 2013 at 06:44 am

We've got all our forms. We've got Turbo Tax. Almost everything was entered last night. We didn't have a solid number for what we paid in insurance for our rental house, so I called and got that amount this morning. Our tax forms should be e-filed later today.

I'll comment on the refund amounts (State and Federal) after they're filed. The Fed refund will be a bit less than last year, as I adjusted my allowances. I only had $227 withheld on the Federal side, with 13 allowances.