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Archive for December, 2008

Decluttering still... and again

December 30th, 2008 at 08:51 am

My decluttering efforts wax and wane with my energy level, but lately, I've been at it again. Thanks to the record high temp on Sunday, I spent a few hours in the garage which is organized chaos with stacks of boxes of who knows what. My main goal was to clear a path to the side entry door which we never use. We've had some trouble with the garage door lately and we want to be able to use the side door just in case we need it. I did accomplish that. I also threw out a couple of items that were taking up a lot of space and had not sold at our last 2 yard sales or on Craigslist. I hate to throw stuff away but sometimes you just have to (it wasn't stuff worth donating anywhere).

Next, I realized that my dresser had gotten out of hand again. Not nearly as bad as it used to be, but not as nice as I had made it before either. That actually cleaned up pretty quickly. It is always easier to keep stuff clean than to get it clean in the first place.

Besides that, just the usual of trying to pay attention to the clutter and clearing things when I see them anywhere in the house (or car). Stuff just piles up and will sit there for ages until one of us gets tired of looking at it. I'm trying to stay aware of those kinds of things and just pick up or put away one thing here and there when I pass it.

Best wishes for an organized and decluttered 2009.

In limbo until 12/31

December 29th, 2008 at 06:00 pm

I'm waiting for the end of the year so I can sit down and start doing all the review stuff for the year, adding up spending, credit card charges and rewards earned, portfolio review (ok, maybe I'm not looking forward to that so much this year), totaling up survey income, ebay sales, half.com sales and more. I enjoy gathering all the data and running all the numbers and seeing how things turned out for the year.

I know I could get started now and just add in any late data (like the 3 survey payments I got today or the half.com sale I made yesterday) but it just seems like the year should actually be over when I do it.

I'm sure I'll make a few posts with my review once I have all the numbers compiled.

Have a safe and happy New Year's Eve everyone.

Am I supposed to have goals?

December 23rd, 2008 at 04:16 pm

I see a number of entries and forum posts on the topic of financial goals for 2009. As I peruse them, it occurs to me that I really don't have any such goals. My goal for 2008 was to pay off the home equity loan. I did that on Saturday. We are now debt-free except for the mortgage. I'm going to add part of the former home equity payment to the mortgage, part to general savings and part to adding texting to our cell phone service.

I really haven't identified any other goals or change in plans for 2009. Everything is cruising along smoothly. I don't anticipate any changes in my employment or DW's employment.

We haven't made any definite travel plans but have pretty much decided to go to Disney World for two weeks at the end of August.

I'm hopeful that neither of our cars will need replacing in the coming year.

There are some things we need to do around the house, but nothing overly costly that would require special planning. Just stuff that can be covered out of our regular income.

We always max our Roths. DW contributes the maximum allowed to her 401k. Thanks to paying off the HEL, I just upped my savings rate from 19% to 20%. As always, in June, I'll see where things stand and up it to 21% July 1st if that seems doable.

There just isn't anything big on the 2009 horizon.

Joined Facebook today

December 22nd, 2008 at 04:08 pm

I set up a MySpace page ages ago because one friend invited me, but I've never done anything with it and don't even visit the site.

Today, I got 4 e-mails from old college friends inviting me to Facebook. I e-mailed one of them to make sure the invites were real and not the result of some virus invading someone's address book. Once he confirmed it, I went ahead and signed up. In no time at all, I had messages from 3 of my friends. I also found a bunch of other people who I either went to college or med school with. Clearly, Facebook is the preferred site over MySpace for social networking. I will try and avoid getting sucked in and spending too much time there, but it is really neat seeing these people who I've been out of touch with for so many years.

Happy Chanukah!

December 21st, 2008 at 04:18 pm

I just want to wish all of my Jewish friends a very happy Chanukah. We made latkes tonight before lighting candles and opening presents. I hope all of you have a wonderful holiday.

Blogging over 2 years

December 20th, 2008 at 07:31 pm

Wow. I was just looking at the sidebar and realized that I started my blog in October 2006. Time really flies. I had no idea it has been that long. I've posted over 200 entries. I always feel like I don't blog much, but I guess even just a few entries each month really adds up after more than 2 years.

Thanks to all who visit.

Sad anniversaries

December 16th, 2008 at 02:15 pm

This is not a financial post. I don't do many personal posts, but just felt like writing today.

December is a rough month in the Disneysteve household. My brother, my father and my wife's father all died in December. Today is my brother's birthday and the anniversary (on the Jewish calendar) of both our father's deaths.

My brother was 28 when he died in 1987 of a drug overdose. We weren't all that close, especially in the 6 years before his death, due to his drug use. But I still am sad about his death and about it's effect on my mom and the family.

My dad died suddenly of a heart attack in 1992, 5 months after our wedding.

My father-in-law died of lung cancer in 1993. He had been sick for a while. In fact, we really expected to lose him before my father.

We are grateful that both of them were alive for our wedding but we're sad that neither lived to know our daughter. They both loved kids and would have been great with her.

So that's where my head is today.

Ebay/Half.com year-end update (almost)

December 14th, 2008 at 05:05 pm

My last 2 ebay auctions ended last night. I will not be listing any more items until after the first of the year, so I thought I'd see how I made out. I sold on ebay very little this year - a few weeks in the spring and the past 2 weeks. My sales totaled $507.81 of which $252.94 came since 11/23. Not a lot, but just fine for the limited effort I made.

On half.com, I've had sales of $116.03. I still have items listed and will continue to add items as I get them. Since it is a fixed-price setting, I see no reason to stop listing because of the holidays.

So that's a grand total of $623.84 with the possibility of some more coming in from books sales. Certainly not an earth shattering amount, but all money I didn't have before. Virtually all of the books sold were ones I got for free, so that is pure profit. Numerous ebay auctions were for items I got for free. Others were items I bought for resale but bought so long ago that the money was gone and forgotten, so essentially, that pretty much counts as all profit at this point. Plus, every item sold is one less item taking up space in the house.

My intent is to ebay more seriously in 2009. I'd like to see sales of $100/month or more which I think is a very doable goal.

Our daughter thanked us today.

December 12th, 2008 at 08:26 pm

This is not a financial post, just something I wanted to share.

Those who have (or have had) a teen will understand when I say that there are brief moments in time when you get a glimpse of hope, a sign that there is a light at the end of the parenting-a-teen tunnel. We had one of those fleeting moments today.

We were finishing up dinner and out of the blue, our daughter turned to me and said thank you for introducing her to good food and cooking and stuff. Dinner wasn't even anything particularly fancy, but good home-cooked comfort food - ravioli, homemade sauce, grilled veggies, fresh grated Locatelli, and Italian bread with freshly roasted garlic. She said she's glad that we make stuff like that and that we're teaching her to cook and to appreciate good food.

I nearly fell off my chair. It isn't often that sincerity like that comes out of her mouth. I'm glad to know that she actually does appreciate things that we do for her and with her, even if she doesn't always show it or acknowledge it.

Ebay update 12/10

December 10th, 2008 at 05:08 pm

As of tonight, my ebay sales since I started listing on 11/23 total $214.69. My half.com sales since 10/1 total $96.77. That's a grand total of $311.46! Since my goal was to pick up about $200 by year end, I'm happy with that. Of course, it isn't all profit. I'll sit down and tally up what I actually made once my remaining 6 active auctions end.

I don't think I'm going to start any more auctions until after the first of the year. It is too late to list stuff for Christmas (I don't want to do 1 or 3 day auctions) and I think buyers fade as the holidays get closer.

I'll start up again in January.

Casino visit

December 7th, 2008 at 03:34 pm

I realized that I haven't posted about any casino trips for a while. We've actually gone quite a few times. My wife and I have enjoyed going to one of the PA casinos that is about 25 minutes from home, less than half the travel time as to Atlantic City. It is easier for us that way since we have to leave our daughter home alone when we go. That way, we aren't out as long. We can be there and back within 3-4 hours.

Anyway, we took a ride there yesterday. I convinced DW to play blackjack with me and stop throwing money away on slots. She likes playing them but I know the odds are horrible. At least at blackjack, you've got a good chance of winning.

So we both sat down at a $10 blackjack table (these are electronic tables, not live dealer games). She started with $100. I started with $200. We played for about 20 minutes and she was up to $205. I was actually down a bit, maybe $170 I think. She decided to cash out and go play slots. She'll usually budget $100 for play so this way, she'd be playing just with her winnings. She also had $25 in free play that the casino had sent her.

I continued to play and ultimately walked away with $285. Not bad - a 42.5% gain on my investment. Sure beats my stock portfolio.

My wife, of course, went to a slot machine where she lost her $100 and the $25 they had given her, so she ended up ahead by just $5, though I suppose that still represents a 5% gain.

We had lunch at their diner and I had comp points for that so it was free.

This was actually my 6th winning trip out of our last 7 visits, so I've been having a pretty good run of luck. Hope it lasts.

Ebay update 12/5

December 5th, 2008 at 07:02 pm

I started listing on ebay on 11/23. Those items ended this past Sunday, 11/30. Only 1 of 3 sold, but I wasn't surprised. I grossed $23.06 for that one which I was happy with.

My next 3 auctions ended today. All 3 sold! I grossed $92.53 for those.

I also got my Half.com statement today and I earned $28.21 from book sales this sales period.

That's a total of $143.80. My goal for starting back selling was to earn $200 by the end of the year. I'm pretty close and still have 13 active items with $27.00 in bids already (on 2 items), so there's a good chance I'll hit $200 by the time this batch of items ends.

I know most people do ebay for the money, but honestly, I'm really doing it as part of my decluttering efforts. The money is just a bonus. The real accomplishment is getting the stuff out of the house.

ETA: For those who wonder if they should offer worldwide shipping on ebay, 2 of my 3 items today went to non-US buyers. One is going to Canada and the other to South Africa.

Good news/Bad news/Good news

December 2nd, 2008 at 06:16 pm

Yesterday was a roller coaster ride in the money department. While at work, I had some down time and was able to do a $30 survey online. It is always nice to earn extra money at the same time I'm earning my regular salary. That was the good news.

When I got home, my wife was waiting for me with the bad news. She had accidentally put her jeans in the wash without emptying her pockets. Her cell phone (that she just got a couple of months ago) was in her pocket. It is currently drying on the counter but does not appear as if it will come back to life. The phone will probably work but I think the screen is destroyed, making the phone kind of worthless.

Then I opened the mail and had 3 survey checks totaling $145, so that was more good news. And my wife also told me that she had gotten a bonus check at work, which neither of us was expecting, for $150. After taxes and the 401k deduction, the actual check came to $61, but $75 plus match went into the 401k.

At first, I thought she might have to buy a phone outright which can be very costly, but we checked our account and it turns out that 2 of our phones are eligible for upgrades, so she can get a new phone for free with a contract extension. In the meantime, she still has her old phone which is broken but still works, so she plugged her SIMM card into that so at least she has a phone until she gets a new one.

So more good news than bad, and the bad news turned out not so bad. I thought it would be costing us money but probably won't in the end.

November Survey Total

December 1st, 2008 at 09:58 am

For the newbies, I'm a physician and get to do various market research surveys online for doctors only.

For November, I earned $253 on surveys. That is low compared to the past when I was doing as much as $700 or so, but I had slacked off doing them for a while. Since there is a lag of several weeks between when the survey is done and when payment comes, I'm still feeling the effects of that. Lately, I've tried to get back to doing them more regularly so hopefully the December number will be higher.