Archive for December, 2009:
I sit here staring at my kids christmas gifts piled up by the stairway just waiting to be taken to their rooms. Like most folks, Hope and I put a limit on this years gift giving. Honestly, it was more enjoyable. I think the pressure of buying for everyone takes a bit of the fun out of the season. This year we put a limit on how much we would spend for the kids and even got the grandparents to pare down the number of gifts they bought as well. For the adults we either drew a name and only bought for that person (on one side of the family) or decided to completely eliminate adult gifts (the other side of the family).
I for one have always felt that the season is more for kids. In fact I told Hope and the kids several weeks ago that instead of them buying me anything for Christmas that we would instead sponsor 2 kids through the YMCA angel program. So two weeks ago we headed to WalMart. It was girls against the boys and with a $100 budget for each of our “angel” kids we had a little competition to see who could get the most stuff. While Hope and my daughter got the most stuff, I think my son and I scored by getting our kid a bike! It was fun to be shopping for a child we didn’t even know. Somehow it put the spirit of the season back into the hectic Holidays.
Somehow I don’t think our pared down holiday was much different from others. It seems that everyone we know has been impacted in one way or another from this recession. Getting the spending inline with reality and explaining to the kids that Santa isn’t immune to the recession has turned out to be a good thing.
The communication has been a bit slow, I know – lack of anything to post lately along with the holidays. So today I wanted to give a quick update on the basement progress. For those following along I mentioned last month that I was finishing our basement. Although it has very little to do with personal finance, I am sharing the progress just for your enjoyment. So the story is that Hope has been on me for 5 years to get the basement finished. I of course didn’t want to spend the money. But as with everything she finally won the battle.
My thoughts were that as long as I was agreeing to finish the basement I would at least try to save a few dollars along the way. Here is a quick summary of where we are at:
- had the HVAC folks run the ventilation and motorized damper $2200
- carpentry to frame out the vents (tray ceilings) $1000
- insulate walls and ceilings $600
- plumb the water lines for bath / wetbar $1100
- electrical $1500
- sheetrock $3300
- primer / ceiling paint $250
- floors $5000 (ouch!)
So around $15k right now invested and that will at least give us a finished guest room and playroom. My entertainment room will be a bit longer to complete. I was looking for areas that I could do myself to save some money, but after second thought I decided that plumbing and electrical needed to be done by pros that could knock it out in a couple of days. If I tried to tackle it I would probably still be working on it. I have also tried hanging and finishing sheetrock before, but I was smart enough this time to sub it out. That takes talent and a strong back. I did install the insulation which is another nasty job. That fiberglass is challenging stuff to work with. I went ahead and insulated all the interior walls and ceilings to cut down on noise. That is one of my biggest pet peeves with home construction is that sound carries throughout all the interior rooms because there is no insulation inside the walls.
I knew the floors were going to be one of the costliest items. I did my research though and actually saved about $1000 by comparison shopping on the web. I was just about to order through one of the major wood flooring stores on the web and at the last minute found a store in Alpharetta called SimpleFloors that had a real nice wide plank hand scraped wood floor that looked great. I opted to do the install myself, which I am now having second thoughts about. It is tedious work installing glue down wood floors. It is after 10pm on Monday and I just finished the first room. I would estimate it took me at least 8 hours to complete. Let’s see if my math is correct that room was about 200 sq foot. I only have 1100 sq feet to go! At this rate I should finish sometime around New Years. So much for having the basement finished before the holidays!
I try to keep the posts fairly light on this blog, maybe even to conjure up a laugh at the expense of my miserly ways. But there is an organization that I am associated with that is trying to tackle bigger issues around the looming fiscal issues in this country. One of my colleagues in the financial planning community who is also a part of this organization sent me this note this morning. I thought I would repost for the benefit of the readers here. It’s not meant to depress but more of a call to action. I will get back to the lighter stuff soon:
FACT: By 2019, 92% of all US tax revenue will be spent on Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and interest on the debt. By 2023 it will be 100% leaving NOTHING AT ALL for anything else…..roads, education, defense……the list is long. Cutting fraud, waste, and foreign aid won’t make a dent in the problem.
About a year and a half ago I decided to “just say no” if anyone asked me to be part of another board, another project. But then in December of 2008, Phil Smith (political director of the Concord Coalition) asked me if I would chair the Atlanta Fiscal Advisory Council, one of 7 groups around the country that would work with very diverse groups of both grass tops and grass roots, first explaining about the very real fiscal crisis faced by our country and then working to find areas of agreement as a basis for moving toward solutions. I simply thought “How could I possibly say no.” Indeed, of all the things I’ve ever worked on, this is the most important and the most immediate.
I just got back from DC where each group delivered the reports that were compiled from our year long effort. To get an idea of what I’m talking about you can visit:
..or go to cnnmoney.com and search for “Deficit warriors storm Congress” under “videos”
This short video is a snapshot of the issue and the purpose of our trip. I do have one line I think is funny. You have to laugh or you’ll cry.
The article written by CNN in advance of our actual visit based on a summary report of our findings.
The actual report. The Atlanta section is first.
You can see a 30 minute version of this outstanding documentary that explains the basics. An update of this documentary will be coming out later this year.
After you see this I hope you will be alarmed enough to say to yourself, “What can I do?” I have some suggestions:
· Try to educate your friends, families, and co-workers about the problem. Making the necessary changes will be painful and people have to understand why they need to swallow some nasty medicine. Our government will never have the political will to do the right thing unless citizens demand it.
· Stay informed….. the facts…… by accessing non-partisan information at www.pfpg.org and www.concordcoalition.org They both sponsor the Fiscal Wake Up Tour and had a big part in making the movie IOUSA. They need your support in this very important work.
· There are 2 non-partisan commissions that are trying to take the politics out of this: Senate commission (Conrad / Gregg Commission http://senatus.wordpress.com/2009/12/09/conrad-gregg-to-announce-deficit-reduction-commission/ ); House commission (The Safe Commission from Cooper / Wolf http://wolf.house.gov/?sectionid=202§iontree=7,202 ). Write your Senators and Congressmen and urge them to support and listen to these commissions.
· Be flexible. The nature of compromise, the only thing that will move us forward, requires that we accept things we might not like to get the results we must have.
Thanks for listening. Now go be part of the solution.
Here’s to many more years of happy holidays.
Yes, it is true that I participate in the frenzy of Black Friday shopping. I go out at 5am sans makeup or even coffee in my veins looking for the best deals. I usually go with a friend which makes it fun and we get alot done in a short amount of time. There’s something about going shopping at the crack of dawn when most people are sleeping that just seems different and festive. However, I was very disappointed in the “deals” this year. The sales were actually better the week before Thanksgiving then they were on Black Friday. Toys R Us had no deals to be had. I guess that the retailers are cutting back on their spending as well because none of the stores I went to were very well stocked. If you were looking for the newest Wii game, a Barbie camper, or heavens forbit, a Zhu ZHu pet…you were fresh out of luck. I did purchase some things…but I did not go crazy, as my husband had feared. And when my holiday shopping is done, I will lay out the loot and return the items that were not good deals, or that I bought on a whim. We have set a budget for what we want to spend on each of the kids…and I will try to keep it to that as best as I can.
If you have to spend money, you might as well get a deal. At least that is my line of thinking. So for the benefit of fellow readers I wanted to share a couple of websites that I have used, one for purchasing and one for low price events.
The first is www.fatwallet.com , this website alerts you to various deals but also offers online coupon codes for internet purchases. Case in point, when I was establishing this blog site with my host I searched fatwallet and found a promotional code for discount. Just like that I saved $15 for Hosting services. They also have a pretty neat selection of “current deals” that users submit.
The second is for all those in metro Atlanta: http://blogs.ajc.com/atlanta-bargain-hunter/ , this is a blog from the Atlanta Journal and details everything from personal finance to cheap entertainment. It’s a good reference to use for anyone looking to save money on entertainment in the ATL.
If there are any websites that you commonly use, submit a reply and I will post them for everyone to use.
MISER TIP: if you have to spend the money, do a little homework and find the bargain!