Wednesday, March 28, 2012


Got gas this morning on my way to work.  $4 a gallon for regular and $60+ to fill up my tank.  Ouch!

Check out this handy county by county map of average gas prices.  According to the map, my county, Palm Beach, has the highest average gas prices in Florida, along with Collier County on the Southwest coast.  If you zoom in, you can get the actual prices of gas from station to station and I determined that I'm actually paying more at my local station than other stations in the vicinity.  But, my local gas station has the best cafe con leche so on an early morning fill up, like today, its worth it to pay more for my gas to get my hands on that yummy cuban coffee.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Above and Beyond

Recently, I gave Nordstrom (and I really want to add an extra S on the end of its name) a hard time for stalking me  on the interwebs offering me products that are no longer available.  As an aside, they are still stalking me and still offering up that great tweed coat that isn't available.

As I mentioned in the stalking post, I recently purchased a number of items from Nordstom during their half yearly sale.  I normally have my online orders sent to my office, since  I know someone will always be available to sign for the package.  As such, I received two medium size boxes from Nordstrom this past week.  I promptly unpacked the boxes and repacked into one box for ease of transport.  When I got home, I was going through the packing invoice and the items received when I realized that three small fashion bracelets that I ordered for gifts were missing in action.

The next day I called Nordstrom and explained my problem to a very nice woman, not located on the other side of the world I might mention, and she asked whether I had checked the packing material, because they often tuck small items into the packing paper.  Uh oh, I thought, I promptly pulled all the packing material out and tossed it and since it was the next day the cleaning folks had already come and gone and emptied my office trash.  Being the honest person I am, I told the Nordstrom customer service rep exactly what I had done and further told her that I assumed I had tossed out the missing bracelets.  I wasn't too upset, these were fashion bracelets that had cost about $10 each that I had bought as gifts for my god-daughters and my niece, so if they were gone they were gone and I was out $30.

Well, imagine my surprise when Nancy told me they would send out three replacement bracelets and would send them second day so I'd have them sooner rather than later.  She told me it was always possible that they the bracelets, since they were small, had not made it into the box and since there was no way to check they would rather send me the replacements.

I say, such customer service is above and beyond and one of the reasons that Nordstrom is on my fave list.

Friday, March 23, 2012

You Are Doing it Wrong - Nordstrom Spying Addition

I am a fan of the Nordstrom stores.  Good quality products, friendly and helpful service and an unbeatable return policy.   As a result, it is one of my go to stores both as a brick and mortar store and for online shopping.  I recently bought a bunch of stuff during their half yearly sale.

After my post on Dynamic Pricing, I've been paying attention to what advertisements follow me around on the web.  And Nordstrom has been stalking me left and right throwing up photos of products it thinks I might like.  And they are getting the photos right, but why would they offer me something I like that is out of stock?  They keep throwing up this photo of this very cute Nanette Lepore tweed jacket, but it is completely out of stock.  I really can't figure out the point of this type of stalking.

The same thing happens on Amazon, if I buy an iPhone charger to leave in my car, Amazon then offers me more iPhone auto chargers.  How many cars does Amazon think I own?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

A Few of My Favorite Blogs (not about money or personal finances)

I am a reader.  I read books, articles, blogs, etc.  I've gathered up a few of my favorite non-money blogs and sites for your enjoyment.

First off, marriage.  I'm married and I believe that marriage, like any friendship or relationship takes effort and work.  So when I feel like my marriage needs work or a boost or I just need a reminder as to why I got married in the first place I turn to:  Engaged Marriage and Assume Love.

Second, work.  When I'm struggling with getting my work done or focusing at work, I really enjoy Dumb Little Man.

Third, home life.  I like Lime in the Coconut for Florida decorating and home ideas.  I read Real Simple, both in magazine form and online, for decorating, organizing, meal planning, holiday, and for fashion.  I also read Fly Lady for cleaning and organizing tips.

And last, but certainly not least, I read the Happiness Project blog for tips on how to get the most joy out of life.  I also read the book and I highly recommend it.

Please let me know if you have any favorite blogs that I need to read.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

We Will Take What We Can Get

First the good news.  Mr. Sam will be receiving a 3.5% raise at work.  Now, the bad news, Mr. Sam won't be receiving a bonus this year (no one in his division is receiving one).

And finally, the unknown news, his division is in the process of being sold.  It is unknown as to how the sale will impact his long term employment.  At present, it looks like he will have secure employment at least through the third quarter of this year and possibly through year end.  After that, he will become an employee of the new company, there will be a transition period and he may or may not be retained long term.  We have known about the sale since January, but I'm just posting about it now.  So Mr. Sam has been working on his resume, doing some interviewing and taking the certification classes  that I posted about earlier this year.  Mr. Sam actually started working on his certifications prior to the announcement of this sale.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Dynamic Pricing

You, like me, have probably experienced dynamic pricing at some point in your life.  We all pay more for airline tickets during the holidays.  Concert tickets for the most popular bands are way more expensive.  And Ticketmaster and some sports teams are embracing the idea, also known as real time pricing, with new vigor.  So soon, if not now, you may pay more or less for a similar seat at the ball game based on when you buy.

But, you might be surprised to learn that dynamic pricing is being utilized across many type of regular consumer goods.  Online, if you click on a particular shirt, dress or shoes, or save something to your virtual shopping bag or basket (which I do all the time, virtual shopping helps to satisfy my shopping urges) you might end up paying more for that purchase.  And if you are willing to pay more for goods, or shop at pricier web stores, think Neiman Marcus and Saks 5th Ave., next time you want to buy that t-shirt on line at J. Crew you might be surprised that you'll pay more than someone whose online history shows that they shop at Target.  This Slate article describes the mysterious practice of online dynamic pricing.

I swear, I recently fell victim to this practice at least twice that I know of.  I was in the hunt for a doggy life jacket for our old dog Snarfle as I plan for a west coast fishing trip.  I did some research and found a highly rated life jacket available online at Amazon.  The price was $18 when I saved it to my Amazon shopping cart.  When I went back to purchase the life jacket the price had increased to $26.  I assume, in this instance, the price had gone up based on inventory, there was only one life jacket in size large in stock.

More nefarious, I recently purchased a cocktail dress at Neiman Marcus (online) and did so at work using my work computer.  As an aside, the dress was on super sale and it was for a charity, black-tie event.  I'm not in the habit of shopping at Neiman Marcus.  And as a further aside, I ended up returning the dress due to fit issues.

Thereafter, I was doing some online shopping at J. Crew, J. Crew is my go to place for casual clothes, and had looked at purchasing some items for said upcoming vacation.  I was interrupted and so picked up my online shopping at home and I swear the pricing was different between my home computer experience and my work computer experience. I had read the Slate article, linked above, so I wasn't sure if I was just being paranoid.  But today I am at work so I double checked and the pricing at J. Crew is different using my work computer vs. my home computer.  So, I cleared all my cookies on my work computer and I got, wait for it, a third price.  As an aside, my work computer is routed through a server located in a large city in the north east.  So, if J. Crew is trying to figure out who I am and what price I'll pay for something, before I log into my J. Crew account, it thinks I live in a pricey city.

I assume there are pricing differences in brick and mortar stores as well, so I guess I should not be surprised that on-line retailers will work to charge the most they can depending on where I am located, but pricing based on perceived tolerance is beyond annoying.

Thursday, March 15, 2012


 I normally give my niece and nephew $100 for birthdays and $100 at Christmas, I also contribute, on an automated schedule to their 529 plans during the year.

But, my nephew just turned 18 and I gave him $200 for his birthday because I counted it as a bigger birthday.  He is also graduating from high school this year and I assume I will give him money at graduation.  My niece is turning 16 this year and I'm pretty sure I gave my nephew $100 when he turned 16, but I don't really remember.  I was planning to give her $100, plus I bought her a special necklace last year that I've been saving for her sweet sixteen.  The necklace cost at least $100.

So, am I safe giving my nephew $300 this spring, between his 18th birthday and high school graduation, and giving my niece $100 plus necklace?  When my niece hits 18 and graduates from high school I plan to gift to her in a similar fashion.

I should, of course, mention that there are both mature, good kids who will be happy with anything I give them and will send appropriate thank you cards too.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

How Did You Celebrate the Dow Hitting 13,000?

I updated our NetWorthIQ numbers  and did a happy dance that we hit a new high for our net worth.

Also, we really need to take a hard look at some of our stock purchases made back in early 2009 and some of those stocks have more than tripled in value since we purchased same.  We need to think about whether we should be selling some or all and reinvesting the profits into bargains.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Roth 401(k)

Mr. Sam and I both split our 401k monies between the traditional 401k plan (pretax dollars) and a Roth 401k plan (after tax dollars).  But, it sounds like we are among a minority.   This Wall Street Journal article  indicates that fund companies report that rate of participation in Roth 401k plans ranges from 6% - 15%.

We opted to put a chunk into the Roth 401k, I'm putting about a third into the Roth 401k plan, because taxes for us are a big unknown.  Will we pay more or less in retirement, we don't know.  Will taxes go up or down in the future. we don't know.  So we hedge and put some of our retirement monies in each plan.  We opt to put more money in our regular 401k because it helps to lower our current taxes and ups our take home pay.  Since we fund our IRAs with after tax monies we have, in the past few years, since we became eligible, have converted a big chunk of our IRA money to Roth IRA.  We've already paid taxes on this money so we'd rather convert and have the money grow tax free and be able to withdraw it tax free.

How about you, are you splitting money between a regular 401k and a Roth 401k plan?  If yes, why and how much.  

** I don't pretend to be an investment professional or expert nor am I a tax professional or expert (I've been audited), talk to someone who knows something about this topic before you make a decision.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Adventures at Costco

As part of our efforts to save more money in 2012, we have committed  to reducing our eating out and ordering in expenses.

Accordingly, I found myself at Costco this Saturday afternoon with Mr. Sam.  I really do not care to grocery shop and Costco on a Saturday, during season, was horrible.  The place was jam packed and, I swear, half the people in there were just hanging out eating samples.  The other half of the people were running into me with their carts.  Also, I didn't know where anything was so I found myself walking around in circles wondering why I agreed to go to Costco in the first place.

Not surprisingly, I have decided that Costco is not the place for me.  I assumed that I could buy the many Morning Star Farms products that I enjoy - wrong!  The only fake meat product that Costco seems to carry is Boca Burgers.  While I did pick up a box of the burgers, a gal can't live on fake burgers alone.  I also assumed I could stock up on Lean Cuisine products, which I eat for lunch, but again - wrong!  Costco only carried one flavor of Lean Cuisine and it was chicken which is not something I eat.  When it came to things that I do eat that Costco carries, cheese, yogurt, pasta, the portions were just too large and I had no idea if the prices were a deal or not.

Mr. Sam, on the other hand, happily bought chicken breasts, turkey burgers and turkey bacon.  We also loaded up on paper towels, toilet paper, cleaning supplies and personal care items like soap and razors.  Additionally, we stopped by the liquor store section and got a bottle of rum and a bottle of vodka.  The Costco liquor store was my favorite part of this trip.

We spent more than $500 on our trip to Costco.  Yikes, how is this saving us money I ask.  But, Mr. Sam assures me that he is set for the next two months for food.  I, on the other hand, need to hit Publix this week.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Additional 2012 Goals

We still need a new accountant, so that is a priority goal for 2012.  Additionally, I would like to get our debt load below $565,000.

As for non-financial goals, I would like to finish my office organizational goal (a carry over from 2011) and then maintain our paperwork habits.  I also would like to install plantation shutters in our front bedroom which faces east.  The front bedroom includes three large side by side windows (more like the photo on the right) and one additional large window on the south wall.  We have plantation shutters in one room in our home, the entry way, and my plan is to eventually install them in both downstairs bedrooms, the office and possibly the dining room.  The first room we did was expensive, so we are savings our pennies, see house account goal, and I hope that we will have enough saved to do room number two this year.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Mortgage Musings

With our March prepayment of an extra $415 towards our principal, our mortgage (on our primary home) is now below $265,000.  Whoo-hoo!

I like to imagine us being debt free and no longer having a mortgage payment.  [As an aside I don't include our investment properties as our personal debt regardless of the fact that it is personal debt.]  At our present pace, our mortgage will be paid off in 14 years, which is 7.5 years ahead of schedule, and that is just with an extra $415 a month.  If we upped our extra principal prepayment we could have our mortgage paid off in 10 years.

When I start thinking this way, I really get excited about paying down our debt and start seriously contemplating funneling extra money to the debt rather than savings.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

2012 Savings Goals - March Report

(1) Max out 401k(s) - $6788 (20%)(goal is $34,000)
(2) Max out IRA(s) - $0 (0%)(goal is $10,000)
(3) Add to e/r fund - $ 2000 (20%)(goal is $10,000)
(4) Pay down mortgage - $1245 (25%)(goal is $5,000)
(5) House projects - $250 (5%) (goal is $5,000)
(6)  Trading account fund - $0 (0%(goal is $5,000)

Total - $10,283 (15%)

We are just about $3,000 behind on our goals.  Which makes sense, since we didn't finalize our goals until a couple of weeks ago.  Plus we have spent close to $6,000 on Mr. Sam's two certification classes.  It is going to take real focus and drive to catch up.

I have also updated our profile. With the market off yesterday, our investments are down today.

How are you doing on your 2012 savings goals?

**Edited once on March 8, 2012

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Not Lucky

I pay for one magazine subscription, for Real Simple, which corresponds to my efforts to clear clutter from life, appreciate the life I have, i.e. wear the clothes I own, decorate my home with items I already own, etc.  I buy Real Simple each year when my neighbor's kids run their magazine subscription fund raiser.

Recently, I started receiving Lucky Magazine. Lucky is basically a magazine for people who love to shop.  And while I love to shop and enjoy fashion, I don't love this magazine because it is filled with tempting items that I want to purchase. Basically it is a glorified catalog and I find it very tempting.  I am generally pretty good with recycling the catalogs the minute I go through the mail.  But last night, while I tossed the catalogs I found myself sitting down to flip through this "magazine" and also found myself thinking that I would like to purchase some of the items featured.

When I peruse a Vogue or something similar I never really get to the point of contemplating purchase as the items in Vogue are way out of my price range and frankly not practical for my life (way too runway).  But the items featured in Lucky are in my price range, fit my style and life and the mag gives the details on how to purchase (like a catalog).

After last night's tempting review, I have decided that I will recycle this magazine the second I receive same.  I didn't sign up for the magazine, I'm not obligated to read it and it would be better for my wallet if I avoided same.