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The vacation that isn't your vacation....

March 11th, 2015 at 05:00 pm

Hello! Its been another busy week. I am still not great about adding new entries, but I'm going to continue to try to add occasionally!

The weather here in Japan has been quite chilly and really windy. Winters here feel very long, especially since the Pacific Northwest is very temperate without the major season shifts that I experience in Japan. I start to wonder if it will ever warm up here, but ask me again in August and I'll be longing for the days of cooler weather Smile

We did see some lovely early cherry blossoms. Hanami is the act of viewing cherry blossoms and is quite popular.

So, I've been saving up for a vacation, but its not my vacation. We have some family from the US coming to stay with us for a few weeks. During that time they want to see several sites with us as their tour guides. Now don't get me wrong, I love having people visit us. And I don't mind taking people to see things. But all this sight seeing and such isn't free. In fact, it gets pretty pricey pretty quickly. Our guests want us to take them to places they know we have gone or restaurants we like which is great, but for three weeks gets expensive. I'm paying for my family of four for things we space out over a year into a three week period. I find myself feverishly saving to make sure we don't go in hock to show our guests around. I've made suggestions that perhaps they select some places they can visit by themselves since I still have school obligations for my kids during the week that places major time restrictions on me showing them everything, but I've been kind of rebuffed as they prefer we show them around.

I feel quit conflicted as I would like to save for a summer vacation for my family to go to someplace we haven't seen/experienced before, but I'll be tapped out paying for our family to take our guests around on their vacation. I do enjoy that we will have visitors, but dread the financial cost and reworking our own financial plans around someone else's vacation.

Unfortunately, this blog entry isn't any sort of epiphany on how to deal with this or even fully a finance issue, but more of an emotional unloading and asking for suggestions on how to best manage this without offending my guests or breaking my bank account! Phew - I do feel a bit better writing down my conflicting feelings! Thanks for being patient with me and my woes! Smile

Hope you are having a great week!

Taxes done right? I dunno...

March 1st, 2015 at 05:49 pm

Hello! I hope everyone has had a great week/weekend. Early cherry blossoms are coming into full bloom and I had hoped to go view them yesterday, but it rained all....day...long! Ume (plum) blossoms are also coming into season. I'm hoping the weather is nice next weekend so we can go view them. Japan is quite hilly and the ume grove is up a ginormous hill making for a fun, exhausting hike! One of my friends referred to it as equivalent to walking up 50 flights of stairs. That's a pretty accurate description! LOL!

Ume blossoms from last year

My big money achievement for the week - my taxes are done! We are still required to file US taxes (my husband gets paid in US dollars here so we don't have nearly the tax complications that many ex-pats do). I have been using the same tax guy for several years and he kindly continues to do our taxes even though we have moved. But I digress...

This year is the smallest refund we've ever gotten. I was worried because I earned a commission check last year and failed to make any tax payments on it during the year and wasn't sure what to expect. But we came out okay and with a small refund. Even smaller once you subtract what I have to pay my tax guy. All I can think is my mother used to tell me that you don't want a huge refund at tax time because it means you have been giving Uncle Sam an interest free loan all year. I suppose she was right, but still - I can't help but feel a tiny twinge of disappointment that it isn't a big refund. I'll just have to plan carefully this year for all expenses and not rely on a big tax "windfall" next year.

How are you doing with your taxes? Not exactly the most exciting financial item for the week, but you gotta do what you gotta do. Smile

My last entry was only like 5 years ago...

February 25th, 2015 at 07:24 pm

I haven't written on this blog in 5 years? Yikes! So sorry. Let me re-introduce myself.

I'm B. I am an American and lived in the Pacific Northwest quite happily with my husband and two kids until 2012 when my husband got a great job offer in Japan. What should we do about our happy life in America? Wish it well and move to Japan of course!

I quit my job; sold off a bunch of stuff; managed the stress of an international move; became a landlord; sold my house because I'm not cut out to be a landlord; and three years from the big overseas move, here we are Smile

There is plenty of time to talk about money, savings and all sorts of stuff, but for now I just want to say hi/konnichiwa! Hajimemashite (its nice to meet you)!

Am I doing it for the right reasons

June 10th, 2010 at 10:51 pm

With my honey on deployment, we have been able to stash a good chunk of change away into savings. But I've been doing it so intensely that I have actually had a moment or two where I find myself short before payday because I've hidden so much money away in an account that isn't very easy to get money out (by design of course).

It's not bad to save and its not bad to save for a rainy day, but I'm starting to wonder if I'm saving out of fear. Its like I'm scared of ever feeling out of control and having a bunch of money saved up lets me feel like I have some sense of control no matter what happens. But its getting to the point where it's almost a detriment because no matter how much I get saved, I could be doing more and I haven't really done enough. This isn't Dave Ramsey gazelle intensity, this is just nuts.

There - I said it. Now I can figure out how to balance things out for myself. Maybe I need a therapist more than a financial blog Smile

The Cost of Being Cluttered

February 9th, 2010 at 12:46 am

There is a lot of stuff in my house. Way too much stuff. I'm not totally innocent in why we have so much clutter, but I would say atleast 75% of it is my husband's stuff and my son has learned the pack rat way of his daddy with a bedroom filled with more stuff than I can shake a stick at.

My son has custom made orthotics and when he had them made they gave us the molds and told us to hang on to them in a safe place. Unfortunately that safe place ended up being his bedroom. Now that he needs adjustments on his orthotics, we can't find the molds to save our lives. I pulled his room apart and nothing. I starting pulling other closets and places in the house I think they might be and nothing. Now our house is cluttered and it's all over the place instead of being confined to closets and such.

Insurance covered them the first time, but I doubt they will be as open to covering another $450 for them within a 6 month period.

It is so frustrating to know I will likely have to pay out of pocket to replace something I know we have, but I can't find. I've gone through the stages of money grief including denial, fear, anger and am coming to acceptance that I'm going to have to pay out of pocket for this because my son's health is worth it. Thus the cost of clutter Frown

My boss doesn't hate me

February 7th, 2010 at 07:43 pm

This week has been so crazy. My boss scared me last Monday when he said he wanted to talk to me. I was working from home that day and offered to call him, but he insisted that I need to come see him in his office first thing in the morning. All I could think was, "oh crap, what did I do now?". I had a really mediocre review and my mid year check in prior to that had been pretty bad. I have been waiting to see if he was going to lay me off.

Tuesday morning, I get off the bus and hustle over to his office as fast as I can. In a 5 minute span he gives me a promo, hands me a slip of paper that reflects my new payrate and runs out the door to a training. I'm in shock and manage a feeble thank you. My company started layoffs about a year and I've just been waiting for the other shoe to drop with him. I had been prepping for a month to ask him if I was up for a promotion, was expecting him to say no and then turning in my two-weeks notice shortly after.

Turns out that the pay raise went into effect a couple weeks ago and I already got a paycheck at my new payrate and didn't even notice. Go fig. It's a good thing, but I am still in a state of shock.

separate accounts are bumming me out

January 25th, 2010 at 09:05 pm

Let me start off saying that having separate accounts is not a bad thing. For many - it is a very good and workable solution. For my honey and I we have always gone the joint route and it has worked out well for us.

In planning for his deployment, we created a second account that is techincally joint as well, but it's really his account. We set it up joint so I could move money into it quickly if needed, but all and all I don't touch it or monitor it besides making sure it doesn't say zero or anything negative.

He got a chance to call me today and we talked about me moving some money into it soon. It kind of bums me out because it makes it feel even more real that he is gone. We've been married for over 14 years and we always keep our assets together. It just feels weird to have something this separate set up.

All in all I have nothing to complain about and am trying to make the best of it while we are apart, but it just still feels a little melancholy sometimes when I see our two separate accounts.

Apparently I'm a financial freak!

January 24th, 2010 at 09:55 pm

My neighbor called me the other day letting me now that she is embarking on a new venture and if I could be a practice customer for her with her and her trainer. I blindly agree, cause she is a great neighbor, it's the least I could do.

Turns out it was financial advising with the eventual selling of insurance, etc. The sell starts with giving people a financial analysis and showing some examples of people's financial situations and how they were able to improve them.

We talked a bit and it turns out my financial situation is better than their examples. Okay - in full disclosure - I have seen a financial advisor last summer and had a good idea on my finances so I didn't do the whole run down with them. But it felt really good that we are on track! They told me how I was not average and ahead of the curve, which I have to say, I enjoyed.

Knowing that my hubby was going to be deploying, we worked hard to get our financial house in order and it's nice to feel like we did a good job!

Eating the food in the house challenge

January 14th, 2010 at 11:33 pm

Man - I suck at keeping this blog up.

Since I last blogged, my honey left on a deployment leaving me at home with the 2 kidlets. We are surviving, but I have given myself a challenge to pass the time. We have a ton of food in this house. I'm not gonna lie. We like to cook and we like to eat and we like to buy food we think we will get around to cooking and eating. The result? We have a ton of stuff in the cabinets and freezer. I want to try to use it all before my honey comes back so we can start fresh when he comes back (and hopefully eat healthier).

I still buy some groceries, but I'm trying to really keep it in check to force me to use the stuff in the house. I expect we will have a few thanksgiving feasts through the year. I've started inviting friends to come over for dinner, not just for company but to help us eat some of this food.

I read an article once that a lot of families could live several months easily just eating the stuff that was in their house.

It takes more work to plan things out and defrost things in time, but I am bound and determined to save some money doing this!

For the love of bunny

August 25th, 2009 at 09:25 pm

So I recently took a road trip with my honey and my two kidlets. The youngest has a bunny blanket thing that she drags everywhere...and I mean everywhere. We caught on early how much she loved it and bought a back up bunny, but there is a certain sense of security in having two. Well, we dragged this bunny across 3 states and as we were on the home stretch of the drive home, we realized bunny got left in the bathroom of a fast food restaurant. It had been over an hour since driven off from the restaurant and were 60 miles north of it. I desperately called the restaurant and thankfully they had it. We sent down a prepaid envelope for them to mail it back and I'm calling them daily to make sure they have it and see when they send it.

This made me wonder, how could get another one of these bunnies? They were a toys r us exclusive and they no longer carry them (we look all the time). I found the bunny on ebay. One for $70 and another for $40. And this doesn't even include shipping! What if we only had 1 bunny and I left the sole lovey at the restaurant? Could I ever justify spending this much money on a lovey for my baby girl? Anyone else ever encounter such a dilemna?

Keep your fingers crossed that I can get bunny back soon!

It's only been, what, 4 months since my last entry

July 5th, 2009 at 08:34 pm

I'm such a slacker! The quick update - I didn't get laid off (yet), I did pay off our remaining student loans, and we are anticipating a possible military deployment for my spouse this fall.

My mother was a military wife and when I told her about my husband going, the first thing she asked was, what are you going to do about your job? I don't get it. I'm going to go to work as usual and do it. I guess times have changed Smile

Since we are anticipating this change in finances (it's not a done deal, but better safe than sorry), we have created a pretty good sized list including a bunch of home stuff that needed to be done. Turns out this home stuff adds up quick!! Going to try to capitalize on a work benefit for legal services and get the will updated.

Open to suggestions on other ways to prepare!

All in all, things could be much worse, so I am happy for what I've got!

Great Wolf Lodge/Great Video to Get Perspective

March 14th, 2009 at 09:11 pm

So we wanted to take a vacation but Hawaii and Disneyland are out of the question right now as we try to build our emergency fun. We struck a middle ground and went to the Great Wolf Lodge. We got a good deal as a repeat guest and also going on a Thursday helped a lot.

At the Great Wolf Lodge, you can only live so long at the indoor waterpark so they offer other entertainment. There is this game called Magiquest that costs about $25 including a re-usable wand and a game that takes you several quests and adventures. We saw it during our first visit and couldn't justify the cost. But after my honey did research on it, he thought it would be fun for he and my son to do. I groaned a little but decided we do have the money so it will be fun for them.

We enter the Magiquest store and there is a magnetic pull on your wallet just walking in. It isn't enough to have a wand and the game. They have costumes, accessories and all sorts of extra stuff. The 2 groups in front of us spent over $80 per child in their party. I thought my financial heart was going to stop hearing that. I started to feel a tiny tinge of guilt that maybe I should buck up and let my son get an accessory (but I didn't say that outloud). At least I have the consolation that they loved it and I got to lounge around in the room while they ran floor to floor looking for clues.

All in all - we had a fun mini-vacation for under $300 for my honey and 2 kidlets. We stayed in the cheap no frills room, didn't eat in the hotel restaurants and didn't buy any trinkets besides the magiquest game.

On a totally unrelated note - I saw this video on msn (http://video.msn.com/video.aspx?vid=440c42de-45fb-4c12-a38e-1dc3c2814851) where this former exec who got laid off takes a job as a janitor to survive. I was pretty moved about his honesty and candor and how humble he was. I have thought about what it might feel like if/when I get laid off and this guy really sums it up beautifully. Highly recommend you watch it. There is a more expanded video of his situation somewhere (maybe the today show?) but all in all - this guy's video gives me strength in this crappy economy and helps me remember to pray everyday for all the blessings I have with my family and friends.

I tried for a NSD.....

February 15th, 2009 at 08:16 pm

But the call for donuts was strong. Too strong. But they were delicious.

Tomorrow I am staying home with the kidlets becauase both daycare and school are closed. We have a children's museum membership we'll try to use and if the weather holds up we'll hit the local park.

Maybe I'll have a better chance for a NSD tomorrow.

Am I Next?

January 24th, 2009 at 11:42 pm

I work at this big company that is pretty well known. They announced layoffs in this last week. They laid off 1400 in this last week with a plan to lay off 3600 in the next 18 months.

I didn't get cut this time around but people I know did. People I didn't think would be cut. Now I have to wonder if I'm next. I highly suspect that I may be on the chopping block in the next 6 months. I'm sure my friends think I'm just being paranoid, but always better safe than sorry. I was laid off once before with this company but was able to line something up, but the hiring landscape is so different, I don't know if I could squeak out of this one.

Based on this - I now officially revoke my previous goals. The goal now is to save save save in the emergency rainy day fund. I think it may get very stormy. I had a great goal to pay off my honey's student loan this year. That's off for now. The goal is to keep afloat and stash away money in case I get laid off.

Hopes and prayers go out to all who may be in a similar situation or who may have been laid off.

On a side note - I read Liz Weston's Easy Money. Good down to earth finance book! Reading Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover. Jury is still out on that book....

My Love/Hate Relationship With Zillow

January 2nd, 2009 at 10:36 am

So I got an email from zillow yesterday happily informing me that my home value has decreased another $5,500. Geez - Happy New Year to you too!

I've heard a lot of people who don't feel that zillow is very accurate, but it's been pretty consistent for my home based on some other stuff I've looked at. I think was irks/bums me out more is that I live in an area where they main type of people are "stretching couples". These are couples who are characterized as high income, high-expense surburban couples. I am two out of three, not sure how good or bad that is.

For the month of December I was on vacation for the first week - stuck working from home for about 1.5 weeks due to bad weather/road conditions and then on vacation for almost 2 weeks, where I've been anti-productive. Monday will be a culture shock when I have to meet my vanpool at 7am!

2009 Goals

December 30th, 2008 at 09:57 pm

So I was reading a community section on MSN money about what people's financial goals are for the next year. I wanted to start tossing around ideas for what I hope to accomplish.

I want to build a decent emergency fund. I can have a tendency to be a worry wart and I'm a bit concerned for my job, even though my honey thinks I'm just being paranoid. I'm in the staffing industry and my company isn't really hiring right now. So if you aren't hiring, and you have a bunch of recruiters who are sitting around, who is the first to get cut???..... (on a side note, I've been on vacation for a while for the holidays, but have plans to make myself useful once I get back in the office). Suze Orman says you should have 8 months in an emergency fund. So I've been building a spreadsheet to figure out the average of what I need per month including monthly, bi-monthy, quarterly bills. I set up formulas to calculate not only monthly, but overall annual costs as well. It was pretty shocking. When I showed my honey, he was pretty shocked. We had never looked at our money like that. I also calculated what we earn per year after taxes and suddenly we found ourselves asking where did the rest of the money go. Little depressing, but liberating as well. If I am following Suze, and goal myself for 6 months - I need to build another 16k. That is a lot of money. A more realistic number to shoot for is probably 8k, but hey - dream big.

I would love to pay off my honey's student loan. Looking rationally, I should pay off the HEL first as it has the highest interest rate of our debt, but the student loan is much smaller and I need the gratification of paying something off in order to keep going. Best financial strategy? Probably not. But debt paid off is debt paid off.

I would like to help my honey understand better that money doesn't grow on trees and we have to plan for some rough times as I don't feel 100% confident in my job. We went to Disneyland with our kids in Dec and talked about going in the spring for a parent getaway. He wants to go the end of January, but I'm not totally done paying off the last vacation. I'm hesitant to charge more, but he keeps saying, "well, we talked about it". I would like him to understand that what we talk about and the reality of our finances don't always mesh perfectly and sometimes we have to pass on things. Anyways, we want to plan another family trip in Nov 2009.

Last thing I would like to try to do in 2009 - simplify. Run more on the treadmill, get rid of more stuff out of the garage and house that we don't need. Lose the excess weight both off my body and out of my house. I want to be quick and nimble and it's hard to do that with a bunch of stuff dragging you down.

Phew - this entry lasted longer that I thought it would. Hope everyone has goals for the next year. Now we can take our new found financial planning powers and use them for awesome.

All the cool kids are doing it.....

December 22nd, 2008 at 11:51 pm

I've been reading other people's blogs for well over a year, but finally decided to get the courage to start one of my own.

I am very interested in personal finance, but don't find a lot of people I can just go on and on about it with, so figured, I can atleast write it out of my system on a regular basis.

We aren't broke, and make the bills and are saving some money, but I always feel broke. I like reading other's blogs cause then I don't feel like a freak looking for ways to get off the consumer treadmill.

This is going to be a long process for me to fill in all the blanks on my profile, so conider this entry my first baby step.