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Archive for February, 2015

Is a movie middle class?

February 27th, 2015 at 07:21 pm

So remember my story about my crazy, broke friend Mrs A? She's the one who lives in her mom's apartment, doesn't pay rent, has three kids, drives a mercedes, shops only at whole food, and complains about how expensive everything is. Well Mrs A posted on Facebook that she spent $170 on going to the movies with her family over the weekend and said it was so unfair. She wrote it's unfair that going to the movies is an elitist event and since when did it happen that taking a family of 5 is so expensive?

I didn't respond because I personally don't think the movie has to be so expensive an event. It isn't cheap but it's not the most expensive thing you can do.

So I saw her a couple of days later and asked her how did it break down to being so damn expensive. She said it was two adults, their babysitter (13), two kids 4 and 5 and the 1 year old. Their tickets cost $70 alone. They went to a deluxe theater and saw Sponge Bob in 3D. Then another $100 for food and snacks since they went at 6 pm.

Okay I have to say anyway you cut it I guess the problem is they didn't even try to minimize costs by going to a matinee or buying discount movie tickets at $8/each at Costco. Then for five people it would have been $40 plus 3D fee. Save them at least $3-5/each person. Then if they had gone at a different time instead of dinner perhaps they wouldn't have needed snacks. And why not bring in their own snacks or juice box at least?

Do you take your family to the movies? Is it middle class? I think Mrs A personally went above and beyond what any middle class family would have spent. And perhaps the movies isn't a "middle" class activity anymore.

I asked myself would I spend $30 for an activity for me and family? I don't think so. But I have spent close to that going to the Monteray aquarium or CA academy of sciences. But both times that was the entrance fee and we brought our own lunches to save. So I tried to minimize the expense and maximize the experience.

But the movies? I'd like to think I'd buy one big popcorn for $10 and tell my kids that's it share it. And the movie tickets and my own juice boxes.

But of course perhaps it's wrong to bring my own juice box but I bring in my own water bottle even now. Whereas before I never bought popcorn, since we go so infrequently I pony up for popcorn.

What do others with kids and without kids do?

Should we sell our house now?

February 22nd, 2015 at 05:07 pm

So we are not sure what to do whether we should sell our home and rent. Background and some information. We are planning on moving June 2016 no matter what. DH is quitting his job and we are leaving the area to relocated cross country. This could happen sooner if the right opportunity arises. Unfortunately his most recent interview did not work out. So we plan on selling our townhouse next spring no matter what. But we have one year to live where currently are or sell.

We live in a nice 3bd/2.5ba townhouse (1700 sq ft) with parking spots in good school district. DH commute is 30 minutes driving and 1 hour by public transit. We owe $385k on our place and conservatively we could sell for $750k right now. Our current monthly payments are $1700 mortgage, $550 property taxes, $250 HOA = $2500/month. Our utilities we pay a balanced budget of $250 electric and $300 natural gas (last month our gas/heat bill was $700).

If we were to move we would be looking at paying around $2k/month to rent a 2 bd condo 1200 sq ft. However it would be a 30 minute commute by public transit and less driving. A few of these rentals include heat and hot water including one I found for $2195/month 2 bd. The school district is also good but the commuting location is better.

So the question is should we sell our place and lock in our equity? Perhaps it'll go up more in the next year but we are really betting on is that nothing will happen to our condo in the next year. That we won't be hit by any big repairs.

When I look at it I know financially it makes most sense to stay put right? I mean we are paying around $850 interest and $850 principal. And the interest and property taxes are deductible and principal payments are enforced savings. So in effect we are paying to rent our place $1300/month with HOA + interest/property taxes (taxes deducted out). Versus $2k to rent a smaller but better located apartment.

So how do I calculate what's better? What am I missing out?

So many Joneses

February 13th, 2015 at 03:16 pm

I am horrified by how many people are trying to keep up with the Joneses. I don't pry into people's lives and I certainly don't ask questions about income or finances but this week has been sad and eye opening.

Right now the weather sucks. So my DK2 is in an early intervention group for speech. Kiddo is delayed probably due to hearing impairment. The group has probably 8-9 kids and we "drop off" our toddlers for 1.5 hours to interact and speak with each other and teachers. During this time we often sit and chit chat in a room while we wait since we can't leave the building. You get to know these people, this is my 3rd week. So this week with the bad weather people were discussing parking, driving, and cars. One woman just bought a brand new 2015 lexus IS350. But she said it's leased and great in the snow. While guy next to me said he and his wife had just leased 2014 Honda Accords and CR-V. I said I own a subaru. The conversation continues and both people are talking about not being able to save for college or any money. I bite my tongue from saying "well probably leasing these fancy cars are the reason." But what can you say right?

The next day I am having a playdate with a friend (Ms A) who I've always known has money problems. They make more than enough money but can't seem to pay any bills and spends money like it's water. Ms A has three kids, lives pretty much rent free with her mom, and her husband makes $60k/year cash. Her mom owns a multifamily building and they live in a big unit and should be paying $1500 (way under market value, should be closer to $4500/month) but often don't pay her mom. Ms A husband doesn't file taxes and mostly works for cash as a mechanic/construction/snow plow. She says to me on Wednesday "if only we made $120k or double what we make now and all our financial problems would go away. I know we'd be able to move out and afford everything." I again had to bite my tongue from saying there is no way doubling your income would help. She only shops at Whole Foods, buys organic food only, uses babysitters to go to yoga, pays the minimum on her CC, gets laser hair removal, and drives a mercedes. She makes bad financial decisions and I've seen it when she pulls out three different cards and says "charge 1 kid on each card to go to a museum or playspace." Making more money is not going to help her.

I like to believe the glass is half full and from reading SA and other sites I think there are people saving money. I'd like to think most people are fiscally responsible. Then a week like this happens and it's depressing. It's depressing knowing that people driving these new fancy cars Lexus, Benz, etc can't really afford it like I assume they can.

The two parents in the toddler group I hope the best, and perhaps they have a great reason for leasing their cars. But since they can't seem to save I don't think so.

As for my friend? Ms A is a lost cause and perhaps when she grows up and her mother kicks her out then she'll suddenly realize more money = more happiness and the ability to save. You should be able to save no matter what the income.

On a good note DH got an average review at work and a raise. I think 3%. Best in his department considering most are on probation. It should make him happy but instead it makes him depressed.

Snow days

February 9th, 2015 at 09:26 pm

Apparently we are in for another 24" of snow. I've had enough. Yet another snow day. I'm crying out "uncle" and still it comes. And all we can look forward to is more snow Thursday. Of course that's the good news.

My bad news? DH didn't get jobs he interviewed for so now we are stuck. How stuck? I don't know. But we are moving forward with a few plans.

We are at a crux. Quit and move? Get an internship and transition quickly into a new field? Or take courses and transition slowly. DH is taking courses to transition. There are so many balls in the air I'm not sure what to try catching.

Financially we are just trudging along. Our FU fund is pleasantly plump and perhaps that's best. My DH had a moment of weakness after finding out he didn't get the job and said "I hate the idea of staying at my job another year. I can't stand it." Perfect storm? Perhaps.

I hate where we live and despise it. DH hates the new management trying to get all of them to quit or fired. 40% of his department have been told they're getting bad reviews and being put on probation. He's in the "okay" average bunch. But it's depressing and he's unhappy with the new management.

I don't know what to say or do. I asked if he wants to just quit and take courses and transition. He says he needs time to think. But the overall misery at work I think is making him depressed.

So do we chuck it all now? Do we muster on and try to transition to a new career? Do we just throw caution to the wind? I don't know. I swear it feels like a roller coaster and one where I have no idea where the end is, I'm just hanging on hoping I can stay on.

Tired of hearing it...

February 4th, 2015 at 07:33 pm

Seriously winter sucks. I can't believe how much snow there is. I have ice dams hanging off my house. I also have 2 inches of ice on my stairs, life is not good right now. But seriously I am finding that my friends are splintering into two groups. Those with money and those with less.

The group with money often don't even realize their lifestyle is not the norm. For instance recently they are SAHM who on a snow day hire a babysitter and go to the spa. I was told "we deserve it, spent all day cooped up inside. It was tiring yesterday and we are used our "me" time," since the kids normally go to preschool in the mornings. I was invited but said sorry too expensive a day. My DH hears this story and the invite and said "what part of staying at home with your kids is hiring sitters and going to the spa?" I hear that a lot recently from a group of moms, "we deserve time away from the kids. You should send them full time and get time to yourself. How unaffordable can it be?" I'm seeing a pattern.

Of course on the flip side you see those moms who either stay at home and say they can't do anything. Or who are working and say they have no money because everything goes to childcare. I hear complaints from these friends about how hard it is to do anything. And I find it interesting that mom's who stay at home but with a very tight budget are offended by the suggestion to work. And those who work are horrified at the idea that if didn't work they'd have to live on half or reduced income.

The pattern I'm seeing is that very few people are actually satisfied with what they have or make. Very people understand or realize that the grass is not always greener on the other side or that some people are satisfied with less money.

I mean the people who have money rolling in have no idea how to people live on so little money. You just can't when you are used a certain lifestyle. And those who have less can't fathom spending that much and desire more but aren't willing to make a sacrifice of working more. While dual income families are jealous of those not working but never stop to examine how much less often times the single income families are living on.

I rarely make financial comments to friends because I doubt they would listen. But I really want to shake them all and say be satisfied and realized people make difference choices for different reasons. That if you choose to work then realize you make more than the family who has one breadwinner.

But when will people learn? What would happen if more people were satisfied with what they have?

Health Insurance Premiums

February 3rd, 2015 at 01:01 pm

We've got great coverage for our health insurance through my DH's job. However less and less is being covered and "co-pays" and premiums are going through the roof. It's going up faster than our raises percentage wise. I know others here will weigh in but I hadn't really thought about it till I looked at my DH's paystub this month and cringed a little.

In 2015 we are paying $135/biweekly (26 payments) for family health insurance. We paid in 2014 $119/biweekly for an increase of 13.4% in one year. In 2013 we paid $101/biweekly for an increase in 2014 of 17.8%! In 2012 we paid $96/biweekly for an increase of "only" 5.2%. In 2011 we were paying $84/biweekly for our family plan for an increase of 14.3%. In 2010 when we had our first child and moved to a family plan it was $82/biweekly so the increase was only 2.4%

So in 5 years our premiums have gone up 65%. I imagine in probably the next two years we will have doubled our premium cost. What can be said and done? I don't have a clue. I guess we just suck it up and say I hope we get a raise, which has happened but it's been 2% merit increases. How do we keep up with inflation when some of our fixed costs are spiraling out of control?

I'm not complaining. I'm actually happy we have health insurance and it's a very generous policy. But I worry how much more expensive it's going to get and whether we can ever afford to leave a "group" plan and buy our own.

Have you been tracking your health insurance premiums? Dare I ask what others pay? I am going to guess a lot.