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Teaching Kids About Money

November 23, 2012

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Once your children reach high school, it’s time for them to start learning how to manage money, especially investing. Yeah. It helps if you already know about how to manage money. Which, incidentally, I do not. Ugh. I never learned how to manage money (I went to public school where a lot of things slipped through the cracks) and my parents never taught me anything. I can’t say they had a whole lot of money to manage, anyway, and definitely nothing in which to invest. It’s all enigma to me! So I’ve had to learn from scratch. Not easy.

Thank God for the Internet. Seriously, I don’t know what I’d do. I found a very cool website with a “virtual stock market game.” It’s pretty neat! You get fake cash to virtually invest in real companies on the real stock market. Build a portfolio, create investment goals, trade stocks, do everything you’d really do on the stock market.

We have a curriculum book that does something similar but the kids have to juggle note cards, write paragraphs, etc. Playing an online simulation game is much easier and much more fun. Mashable and Forbes gave it props and the game is partnered with Motley Fool, too. Definitely check this out! I know I can certainly improve my miniscule knowledge of how things work in the world of finance….

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Tax Time Draws to a Deadline….

April 4, 2011

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Oh my gosh, it’s April already. APRIL! We haven’t got our taxes done yet. Usually the husband gets them done in the first few weeks if February. But this year, we might actually owe money. So, haha, we’re putting it off until the bitter end.

Because I am self-employed, the sheer amount of paperwork is overwhelming. Then there are the deductions, the interest calculations, the child credit, the charitable giving, the blahblahblah and blahblahblah. WHY does it have to be so stinkin’ complicated?! I am all in favor of a flat tax, across the board. It would simplify everything and would enable each citizen to be an active part in the government. Plus, it would lower taxes. And federal salaries. It’s just a good thing all around! lol!

Here in New York State, we are taxed to the hilt, several times over. We’re taxed on our income. Then if we buy something with the income we have left over, we have to pay sales tax. And if we buy a service with the product we purchased, we have to pay tax on that. So when all is said and done, we’ve paid taxes multiple times on the same chain of products or services. There’s something evil about that….

My area of Upstate New York is a popular “senior citizen” hub. I’m not sure why– winters are bad here and you figure they’d all move to warmer climates. It sure isn’t for the weather or the political climate…. I don’t know much about the quality of life for the older folks here. Eons ago, when my husband was working in insurance, there was a new kind of insurance marketed to folks– extended care insurance (I think that’s what it was called). It was insurance for when you had to go into a nursing home. It was REALLY popular at the time.

But senior citizenry for me is a long way off. If I make it that long. Because I have to get through the income taxes first…. *sigh*

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The Tweeners

February 10, 2011

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I’m a tweener right now. Probably most of us in the Northern Hemisphere are! A “tweener” is what I call a person who is stuck between one weather season going out and another struggling to get in. In other words– we’ve reached the end of our tolerance for one season, and are eager to get into the next! While I like the snow and even the cold, I am sick of the ice and ice dams. Yet, I am torn, because I am one of the very rare people who dislike spring. Spring is wet, soggy, damp, cold, muddy. I am chilled more in spring weather then I am in the winter! I think it’s because spring is so clammy and damp. I dislike it. So I’m a tweener. Ready to see the winter go, but not really eager to see muddy spring come. Hmmm….

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So far, spring is nowhere in sight...

In other news, we got approved for a home equity loan! HURRAY! I used credit cards and cash for the renovation expenses last summer. The cards had good promotional rates, which have now ended. So we applied for a loan and got approved. I like the scheduled payments, I like the routine. I’m praying with all my heart that we can get this loan paid off very soon, because we have the entire UPSTAIRS of the house to do yet!! Then, we tackle the exterior– we’ll need a new roof, new siding…. *sigh*

I am relatively new to home equity loans. Any kind of loan, especially on my beloved home, makes me nervous. It’s all out of pocket, all on our own. It is a REALLY gratifying feeling, though, to see your home’s value skyrocket because you sweated it out one summer. I am so proud of my kids, who helped with our renovations– thanks to our persistent work, we increased the value of our home AND “earned” money enough to refinance everything with a little extra, too. No wonder it’s called sweat equity! I am so thankful for my kids. I couldn’t have done this without them. And now, of course, comes the paying it all off!!! Which reminds me, I better get back to work….

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Things I Want To Do This Year

January 3, 2011

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Don’t get me wrong! I’m not making New Year’s resolutions! Several years ago, I resolved not to make them, and I don’t want to break my winning streak! But now that it’s January and soon February will be nipping at us, my mind turns to projects to be done for this year. I don’t always get them all done, but some I do. Late winter is the perfect time to assess the projects, because I generally have nothing else to work on!

Clean up the vegetable garden.
We totally let the gardens go last summer. The renovation consumed all our energy, and therefore the gardens were a mess by autumn. I never tilled them, either. We have a lot of work to do back there this summer.

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Finish the kitchen projects.
My window seat/bench is still unfinished.

It requires a lot of piddly, meticulous sawing, so I have put it off for the winter. It’s TOO cold to work in the garage. The area is a disaster, because the family really has no place to store boots, coats, etc in an organized area. But it must wait.

Get new clothes.
The teens have worn out their clothes. That, and they wore a lot of different outfits during the renovation (which were consequently ruined, GRRR). So while they have several pairs of work clothes now, the good clothing has depleted. Good thing the kids like their t-shirts. And they aren’t too proud to wear fun or goofy shirts. One of my readers sent me a hilarious Chuck Norris t-shirt, after reading that we loved these kinds of shirts. Haha!!!

Pay off the renovation debt.
I incurred several thousand dollars of debt for the renovation. I want to pay it all off this year. Yes, it’s a big goal, but if I am careful, I may be able to do it. We’ll see. I have hope of renovating the upstairs (not insulated, and it feels it!), getting new windows, creating a family room from the attached garage, and getting central heat…. but all that must wait until I pay off the debt. So I’m very motivated!

Start an herb garden.
We’re going to make our own teas and grow medicinal herbs this year. I have assigned a daughter to do some research, and I will bankroll the project. The kids drink a lot of tea, and it’s so expensive. Here’s hoping we can create our own tasty teas this year.

I think that’s enough for now. I don’t want to bite off more than I can chew, or I will grow discouraged. What projects do you have in mind to do this year?

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My Before, During, and After Story, Part 4

November 20, 2010

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This is the story of our renovation, the toils and victories through a sweltering summer of blood, sweat and tears. Read all the gory details of Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Our kitchen project was finally coming to a close. Yet even now, three months since we moved back in, there are many unfinished projects awaiting me. Now that I am back to a normal schedule with kids’ schooling, my online job, and such, I can only chip away at these remaining projects, slowly but surely. My goal is to batten down the hatches for an Upstate New York winter, and I’ll pick up the hammer and saw again in the spring.

After we tackled the butcher block countertops, we collapsed for a few days. Almost all of the really intense physical labor was done. Except the flooring. We’d installed plywood sub-flooring over the 70s hardboard subfloor over the 50s linoleum over the 1855 pine planks…. thank God, they’d removed the funky 40s carpeting somewhere in there (although dregs of it appeared from time to time as we removed partition walls). I love wood, just LOVE it, but it is so expensive. I decided to go with TrafficMaster allure vinyl planks. It looks like wood– for a second or two, anyway– but it’s durable and easy to install. Cost me a small fortune, though, I’ll tell you what. But I had been waiting SO LONG for a new floor.

Vinyl Flooring

Very easy to install. I guess that's why it's so pricey.

Island

It took me about 8 hours (straight) to install the dining room floor, 10 hours to do the kitchen.

Once the floor was done, the room looked like a real kitchen again. We moved in shortly after. Oh, the JOY!

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BeverageArea

This is our beverage area, which I conveniently tucked under the stairwell. Note the painted pantry shelf to the left. Still has no doors, though...

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Our favorite appliance. Oh, how we dreamed for this moment! LOL, six adults in a home make a lot of dishes.

I’d mentioned before about the sink and window as the room’s focal point. I carefully crafted the trim around the window to reflect the home’s Greek Revival architecture. The Greek triangular pediment and fluted trim is repeated throughout the house. I stained this wood extra dark to make it stand out. Cellular blinds soften the hard lines. I need more color and decor here, but all in good time.
Window1

2010 was a wild, crazy ride for us.

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I’m spending the winter quietly, taking things slower as best I can. I work at home to pay off the kitchen. If we had hired out to have all this work done, the job would have cost us a small fortune. By doing everything ourselves, we saved a ton of money. It was a lot of work, sure, but I think everyone was enriched by the experience, especially my kids. Here’s a quick breakdown of the economics:

According to this chart, we saved over $36,000 by doing this ourselves. That is a HUGE savings! Yes, I took time off from work to work on this renovation. I worked on reduced hours for four months. However, consider this: a kitchen renovation gives you an average of 70% return on the cost of the project, so I basically “earned” $25,200 on the value of the home. That’s more than I make in a year, let alone four months. So even though I’m not seeing a liquid $25,200 cash in hand, it’s part of my real estate investment. It was well worth it, I think, to go reduced hours on my job (with which, I figure, I lost about $2000 income) to earn $25,200 in capital investment on the property. Moreover, improving the electrical and water supply reduces our insurance premium, the insulation in the walls reduces our heating bills,Β  and everything in general improves the quality of our lives here.

I think my DIY project was worth it. But I’m SO GRATEFUL it’s over!

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Home Depot Coupons and More!

July 3, 2010

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Ooo here’s a very nice online coupon site for you frugal folks: Savings.com. They even have promo codes for Home Depot! Home Depot coupons, codes, and discounts are very, very hard to come by. I have already spent $3,000 at the blasted place. It WOULD HAVE been nice to have saved a couple of bucks there had I known about promo codes earlier!! Oh well, my purchases aren’t all done yet (we do have to get sheetrock, cabinets, countertops, and flooring yet). So I’m glad I found this website. There’s a really nice promo code for free shipping for Home Depot on purchases over $249– that’s a great savings because shipping is EXPENSIVE. I ordered a 100-pound, cast iron sink and it cost a pretty penny to get here. And I haven’t been looking forward to picking up my own 100 sheets of sheetrock.. so now I can have it delivered. πŸ˜€

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Why We’re Renovating At This Time

June 1, 2010

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Well, it seemed as good as any. πŸ˜€

I wanted to renovate this kitchen ever since we moved here, 13 years ago. The kitchen, remodeled by the previous owners in dark brown, orange, and yellow, was dark, dank, and horrid. I painted the cabinets and walls white to get some light in the room, but the paint didn’t help much. We just kept tolerating the disaster year after year, hoping that *something* would happen to help us pay for it.

Well, after I saw the condition of the old knob and tube wiring when I gutted the living room in 2007, I shut down the electric for half the house. The kitchen electric was cobbed together with a few sliced wires, so all we had was a small, dangling fixture and two outlets. And then the plumbing in the ceiling started to leak to the kitchen below. And then the countertops started to dissolve. And then the plaster started falling down on our heads. And then, we got a letter from our insurance company, asking us to review our now-decade-old policy and get a new inspection of the house for a new policy.

We’d NEVER get approved. Never, not in the condition the house was in. And according to our mortgage, we HAVE to have home insurance. So if we couldn’t renew with our old insurance company, we were going to pay through the nose for some really, really expensive policy. And I didn’t want to spend that money on insurance– I’d rather spend the money on a new kitchen and be done with it.

It was difficult enough to try to get this policy. We live in a residential area, but everywhere around us– north, south, east, and west– are businesses. It’s a mixed dwelling area. So many insurers wouldn’t even look at our property because we are so close to businesses and parking lots. We finally found someone who would take us. The LAST thing I want to do is jeopardize it.

So I guess you could say this situation motivated us to do the kitchen. I was motivated enough before, but I was willing to *wait* for money to drop into my lap before I got started. And that never happened. However, now that we have begun, the money is coming in. I have a job, and while it is difficult to work my online job AND renovate at the same time, it’s not impossible.

But my advice to anyone else would be: don’t wait for an insurance problem to back up into a wall. Get it done, so you can enjoy it and not feel pressured. πŸ™‚

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Building Supply Comparison Shopping

March 17, 2010

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Now that the snow is just about gone, I feel invigorated enough to start some planning for the new kitchen, and do some supply comparison shopping. I had this amazingly bright idea when I visited my local Big Box Home Improvement Store— take a camera to snap photos of the products! And to think I used to write it all down on paper with a pencil! No one in the store seemed to mind one bit. Maybe everybody does it, now?? It is extremely helpful to snap photos of the stuff. I can look at the photos and compare with other products online or at other stores.

Sheetrock prices are still steady. I have to find out from what country this stuff originates– I won’t buy Chinese-made sheetrock because of all the health problems it’s caused. I wrote a post about that here, if you are interested: Chinese-Made Drywall Causing Headaches.

drywalsle

I have determined to get Traffic Master Allure flooring. I LOVE the stuff, LOVE it. I wrote more about it, here.

Traffic Master Allure

allure

Of course, I have to plan all the electric, too. Wow, prices have really creeped up on this stuff. I will also *hope* to be getting some help installing the electric this time. I did the Living Room and girls’ bedroom all by myself, but the kitchen has special needs. I’d appreciate an expert or two for this. And just think– soon my entire house will FINALLY have electricity!! It’s almost too good to be true!

electrc

Yep, I’m installing Cat5 Internet wiring in EVERY ROOM. I dislike wireless. I’ll have to build a control panel somewhere, to accommodate for all the ports we’ll have.

cat5stuff

So that’s the latest. I’m really, really getting excited about this. I’m working very hard while it’s still winter, to earn enough money to pay off my bills and save some for this project. I’ll probably have to get a bank loan to fund it all, though. :-p But Lord willing, everything will fit into place. I’ll be sure to have loads of posts with photos as we progress. I am n the process of making the electrical, plumbing, and furnace duct schematic. I figure I’ll start demolition sometime at the end of April or mid-May.

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Credit Card or Bank Loan?

January 19, 2009

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I have long considered (and tossed around at great length) whether to finance our home improvements and renovations with a bank loan or with a credit card loan. My own personal credit is very good, which has given me great options for credit card loans; but bank interest rates and home equity loan rates really haven’t changed much for me. I know one family that financed their entire tens-of-thousands renovation with credit cards, and they had everything paid off within six years and paid very minimal interest. This is extremely appealing to me. Credit cards have extreme flexibility. But you have to be disciplined to control your spending and pay it off in time for it to work.Β  How have you financed your improvements, and how did it go? With the banking industry crisis, I haven’t seen banks willing to budge their rates very much. Yet with credit card loans, my good credit can get me a very low APR.

Financing is hard work– harder work than renovating, I think! Know your options and scout around for the best deals. I’m hoping that this year is MY year to finally finance and get that new kitchen! πŸ˜€ And as always, do your homework before leaping into a financing plan!

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The Changing Times

October 1, 2008

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I was on the phone with a friend yesterday, a woman old enough to be my mom (she’s a Baby Boomer and has recently retired with her husband). They had very good, high-paying jobs and a great pension and retirement investment plan 15 years ago. But with all the recent financial market crises and increasing taxation, she and her husband are seeing their investments go up in smoke. When they retired, they were told that their investments (done through their employers) would be close to a million dollars when they retired. Sadly, with inflation, the devaluation of the dollar, and taxation, she and her husband are not even close to that number anymore.

The beneficent, generous corporations of the 1950s to 1980s are long gone. Retirement plan? What’s that? Nope, we have had to take financial matters into our own hands, and judging by the economy, it hasn’t been that successful. And we have always known that Social Security will not be there for us. We have to do things ourselves.

So here come the innovations. πŸ˜€ One such group is called Inner 8. They are the next generation of personal investing, and amazingly enough, they work something akin to a social network (the new modus operandus of Gen X).

This is from their website, which I think explains what’s happening in the financial world today:

We don’t think professional stock brokers and money managers have a lock on investment talent. Or that they should reap all the rewards of investment success. Only Inner8 makes it easy to build your own smart, private, inner-circle of trusted investors powered by our new proprietary analytics. You get profitable investment ideas, demonstrate your own expertise and save a bundle on investment suggestions. It’s a rewarding experience.

What great timing! At a time when wealthy Wall Street crooks are asking the government to bail them out of their bad investments- leaving the average American shafted and penniless- it’s high time we took our own matters into our own hands.

Inner8 is the brainchild of some veterans of E*TRADE. They connect similarly-minded investors and give analytical data, real-time stock market ideas, and tips on best picks, better investments, and better money management.

Gen X’ers have always been wary of placing our hard-earned money in the hands of bureaucrats, corporation retirement plans, and slick investors. We prefer to manage ourselves, and gather advice where needed. Inner8 looks like a great way to do this. If you are interested, check out their website for more.

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