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Archive for August, 2007

401K and other thoughts...

August 31st, 2007 at 04:43 pm

It's the end of August! Only 4 months left in the calendar.... Where did my time go???

Anyway, I increased contribution % of my 401K. It's back to 20%. I may adjust it again if $$ becomes too tight, but I want to see how I can do it first. Like they say, "Pay yourself first." Plus, I hate paying tax.

I have to say, American tax payers are so generous, I cannot believe how nice people are. I thought Japan was bad, but it was nothing compared to U.S. tax! I'm also amazed how nice American people are about their medical system, too. There's no national health care system??? Unbelievable.... And, look how many people have debt due to medical issues. I have never heard of such a thing before I came to the States, and I couldn't understand why people have "debt" due to medical cost.

OK, there are people who struggle financially due to illness in Japan, too. But, it's not because of medical cost, it's because they cannot work. Normally, there's a cap what people have to pay for the medical expense. I used to pay 10% of the cost, which came about $5 or so per visit. There's no such a thing as "network", so I could go and see any doctor I wanted as long as they have time for me. Also, free or inexpensive health check up is provided by local health offices administered by the Ministry of Health. They make an announcement like, "Stomach cancer screening on Sep. 1 & 2, between 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at ABC health office" in the local paper.

If you work for a corporation, they provide annual medical exam. Seriously. The group of doctors and nurses came to our office cafeteria once a year, set up a medical office there, checked our height, weight, did eye exam, hearing exam, X-ray, and one on one consultation with a doctor. Needless to say, it's all free, and all done during working hour because it's considered as a duty of the company to provide good care for their employees. I took it for granted because it was my norm, but now I know it is not the case in some countries.

Luckily, both my husband and I work for rather large companies now, and they provide good benefits. But, of course, we cannot work forever. I hope we won't have any serious health issues....

Apple Hill

August 31st, 2007 at 03:50 am

We received a free local newspaper today, and I found a guidebook for Apple Hill.

Yes, it's the Apple Hill season!!

There are many orchard along with hwy 50 (freeway between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe) and they have yummy pies, jellies, juice, etc.

I always visit one orchard that makes awesome jalapeño jelly. I got many compliments when I served deep fried cream cheese wan ton with the jelly at the party. (It is so easy to make, almost ridiculously easy.)

I bought three jars and they didn't last very long because they're soooo yummy and we couldn't stop eating them LOL. They're kind of expensive, $6 a jar, but I cannot find the same quality or taste anywhere else.

I was waiting for this season to come, so I can buy those yummy jalapeño jelly!

Slow day - both work and spending

August 30th, 2007 at 05:11 am

It was rather slow day at work because it's almost month end and I just sit and watch everyone to finish their month-end activities. I'm busy in the beginning of the month when I have to close the numbers for previous month.

I thought about going to Longs and Walgreens, but decided not to. I wanted to have at least one no spending day this week, and I thought today would be a good one.

I bought a book of stamps on the way home, though. $8.20 and used two stamps to mail my rebate envelops..

Came home and cooked dinner. Salmon with lemon butter, penne as a side dish, and green salad. Cheesecake and strawberry for desert. It was yummy.

Tomorrow will be my spending day. I need to pay my third installment of my tuition, and need to buy some milk. I will go ahead and buy rebate items at Walgreens and Longs tomorrow.






Veges and fruits

August 29th, 2007 at 04:01 pm

I went to Safeway and bought some fruits and vegetables before sale ends. (Our sale cycle is Wed - Tue.)

I bought:
Green grapes 4.66 lb. $3.68 (.79 per lb)
Head lettuce $1
Nectarines 1.74 lb $1.74
Jumbo artichoke $1.50
Strawberries 1lb $1.50
Total $9.42

79 cents per lb. for grapes is the lowest I found around here so far. According to my receipt, the regular price is $2.99 per lb.

I haven't been to Walgreen or Longs this week. I have shopping lists and coupons for these stores, but I just don't have any motivation to shop this week. Maybe tomorrow. I need to get rebate books for these stores anyway.

Stockmarket is down again

August 28th, 2007 at 10:29 pm

And I'm looking for some good stocks to buy.

I have a couple of K to play with. First, I was thinking about having the $$ in some type of CD, but since stock market is going down these days, I thought it's a good chance to buy something.

There's one stock I have my eyes on, and it was down about $1 today. Needless to say, I was excited about the price coming down! LOL (That means my 401k balance is down, too, but I don't care at this point. I just won't look!)

Back to school night

August 28th, 2007 at 03:32 pm

I went to my DD's back to school night last night. It started from 6:30 p.m. and ended 8:30 p.m. Looong day for me, but it's ok. It's nice to see her teachers and learn what they're planning to teach this year. Also, I didn't go to a high school in U.S., so it's really interesting for me to experience different type of education system.

This year, DD has 8 classes. English, Spanish, Pre-Calc, Chemistry, AP World History, Symphony band, Leadership, and Health/Driver's ed. She's sophomore in high school and she told me this year sucks for electives because she can only choose two. Health/Driver's ed is mandatory, that leaves only two electives and she chose the symphony band and leadership class which she cannot live without. It means she doesn't have P.E. this year. She will take it in her senior year but she doesn't like the idea because she'd rather take some type of AP class. (Yes, she's a nerd.) I should have her talk to the school counselor and see if some type of sports activity will substitute P.E.

btw, I found this article. Some of you may have read it already, but I thought it was pretty good.

http://finance.yahoo.com/banking-budgeting/article/103404/20-Timeless-Money-Rules?mod=oneclick



Mailing out rebates

August 27th, 2007 at 07:08 pm

I filled out the rebate forms for Longs Drug and Walgreen's. I need to make a copy and mail them out today. I am also mailing my second Kellogg rebate.

The value of rebate is rather small in August because there weren't many good deals. It seems September is much better.

Making a shopping list

August 27th, 2007 at 12:38 am

Today's Sunday. It's coupon day and new weekly ads day for drug stores. I love Sundays : )

I went through all three Drug Stores' ads for this week as usual. It seems like a good week!

Walgreens has much better rebate items than last month. Pantene Pro-V hair care, Remmel foundation, Aquafresh toothbrush, Clear care contact solution, and Zantac. Well, I won't use Zantac for sure, but it's a good deal for people who use it. I'm happy about the contact solution. I need some soon.

Tomato sauces are finally on sale. 4 for $1, and I have 40 cents off coupon. Make them 15 cents a can.

By the way, if you use Zantac, you can get three for free. It's offered as a free after rebate item at Walgreen, Longs Drug, and Rite Aid. Too bad, I don't need it. (I should be glad, though...)

Longs Drug has Efferdent as a free after rebate item. I need it for my DD's retainer. They also have Nestle fun size candies for 2 for $5. I have a couple of $1 off coupons for Nestle candies. Time to start stocking up candies for Halloween.

Rite Aid is just OK. Maybe I will buy some notebooks, because Mead 1 subject notebooks are "6 for 96 cents."

Party

August 25th, 2007 at 10:15 pm

I went to the part with my friends last night. One of our friends is in mortgage business and he threw a party to get his name out.

The theme was 70's and some people looked like they're at a Halloween party. (I'm sure they can reuse their outfits in October.)

I can hardly drink, but my friends drink like fish.... Sometimes I have to remind them there are people in this world who CANNOT drink more than one glass of wine.

Grocery shopping night

August 23rd, 2007 at 08:00 pm

I went out with my friends last night for B.D. outing for one of my good friends. After I came home about 9 p.m., I realized we were out of milk. That means DH will have a temper tantrum. (Yes, DH. I don't have a son.)

So, off to Safeway. Actually, it is nice to go grocery shopping at night because the store is pretty empty.

In short, I paid $71 for grocery that should last for about 10 days....could be more.

For example, I bought three thick pieces of rib eye steak (my DH is the steak and mash potato man), about 5 lb. of chicken thigh, 3 lb. of ground beef, a rack of baby back rib, two case of bottled water, two gallons of milk, 4 bottles of Cattlemen BBQ sauce, 2 boxes of Cheez It, lettuce, cucumber, green pepper, grapes, tomatoes, etc...... My receipt says Club Card savings $53.18, Coupon savings $4.60, Total savings value 46% $60.78.

And I get 10 cents off per gallon at the Safeway gas station which is cool.




Kellogg Rebate No. 2

August 23rd, 2007 at 02:54 pm

I'm doing the Kelloggs rebate no. 2.

I bought:

2 Frosted flakes that had the "Buy 2 get 1 free" peelie coupon on the box. $2.50 x 2 = $5
2 Toasted honey crunch $2.38 x 2 = $4.76 - $1/2 coupon = $3.76
Kellogs Speical K cereal $3.98 x 2 Free from coupons
4 Yogos fruits snack $7 - $2 (using two $1 off coupons) = $5

Total paid $13.76
Less rebate $10

Final price $3.76

Losers....

August 22nd, 2007 at 08:37 pm

Sometimes people I work with wear me out.

I'm really tired of hearing,

"It's not my job."
"I didn't do it."
"I don't have time."

I feel like I'm doing their work, making corrections of mistakes they made, when I don't really have time to do all that!!

Sorry, I had to vent somewhere.

Kellogg's another rebate

August 21st, 2007 at 10:40 pm

Kellogg published another $10 rebate form last Sunday. I almost ignored it because I already sent my rebate in for the previous one.

Well, this one has the different period and PO number. This means another rebate!!

I know there's Buy 2 get 1 free peelies on Kellogg's boxes these days, and I still have a couple of $1/2 coupons. So, it will make the deal sweeter. More cheap cereals!

Where did the $$ go???

August 21st, 2007 at 05:58 pm

I noticed that our cash flow is really tight in August. I realized it's because August is the "Back to school" month.

We spent quite a bit on DD's clothes and shoes. I just wrote a check for her school bus pass. Her marching band fee of $160 is due soon also. Oh, she wants to buy a yearbook, that's another $60 something....

I also had some expenses for my school. Tuition installment, parking permit, and textbooks.

I hope September won't be as bad as August Frown

$1.06 shoes

August 21st, 2007 at 03:09 am

I was organizing coupons last Saturday and found $10 off from $10 purchase mailer coupon from JC Penny that expires 8/18 (Last Saturday.) I was glad I organized my coupons that day.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, I live five minutes from the mall. I went to JC Penny, thinking about getting a free T-shirt or something.

Well, I found a pair of silver strappy sandals.
The original price was $45, and it was 50% off, down to $23.01. Then, there’s an additional discount of $11. The sign said “You pay $10.99!” Well, I paid 99 cents plus tax, after using the coupon. Paid $1.06. Even my cashier said “Wow! It’s a great deal!”

ALL laundry detergent

August 20th, 2007 at 04:15 pm

I did the Uniliver deal at Longs last week.

ALL laundry detergent Price $6.99 BOGO
Bought six bottles.
$6.99 x 3 = $20.97
Coupons $1 x 3 (I only had three coupons for ALL Mighty kind)
Coupons $0.5 x 2
$20.97 - $4 (coupons) -$10 (rebate) = $6.97

I could knock off $1 more because I found one more ALL mighty coupon AFTER I went shopping.... Oh well.

$1.16 per bottle. Not great, but o.k.


MOMA

August 20th, 2007 at 03:59 pm

My advice is to implement "Strategic Purchasing" for your personal purchases.

My three effective tools for strategic purchasing.

1. Store flyers
2. Coupons
3. Rebate books from drug stores

This is my weekly routine.

Sunday: Buy a newspaper and read drug store weekly ads and see if there's any "free after rebate" items. After checking free stuff, then look for other items I can get dirt cheap with coupons.

Tuesday: The sale cycle for grocery stores around here starts on Wednesday and they distribute store ads on Tuesday. I go through three store ads that are around my house (Safeway, Bel Air, and Save Mart) and look for $1 items and BOGO items that I can match with coupons. Also, they announce deals in their ads (like movie deals, etc.), so I keep my eyes on these.

As many of you know, people who don't care about saving money often laugh at coupon clippers like me. But, in my opinion, I'm only buying things strategically, utilizing large corporations' marketing strategy.

OK, I will talk about some marketing stuff, so stop reading if you get bored with these "academic" BS Wink

In marketing, there are "Pull Strategy" and "Push Strategy."

Pull strategy is that manufactures "pull" customers into the store and have them look for the product. For example, companies often give out high value coupons to consumers. (like, "Try me free" type of coupons.) Consumers bring the coupon to the store, and they will ask a store clerk where the product is. This is the "Pull strategy."

"Push strategy" is that manufactures "push" stores to sell their products aggressively. They provide programs like "Buy 10 items from XYZ brand and get $10 free coupon for next purchase." type of deal. This is the "Push Strategy."

Well, we, the very smart consumers, take advantage of both ends and get these products at the bottom price, often "free."

I've been clipping coupons and using rebates for only a couple of years, but it saved me so much money.


Weekend splurge

August 20th, 2007 at 03:53 am

I splurged a little today.

My daughter and I went to the Japanese restaurant that just opened and giving out BOGO coupons for lunch menu. One of my friends told me she really liked the restaurant. So, we gave it a try. Well, it was… o.k.

I see this trend at many Japanese restaurants around here that everything is waaay overpriced. My DD ordered Unagi donburi (Eel bowl) that was $16.95. I ordered Chirashi that was $16.50. There were few things I didn’t like.

1. I ordered some green tea. It’s supposed to be like “water” at Japanese restaurants, means free of charge. This restaurant charged $1 for it.
2. Miso soup didn’t have enough fish broth in it. So, it tasted too weak.
3. The edge of my tea cup was chipped.
4. Sushi rice needed more vinegar.

Dishes were just ok, not fantastic. It’s obvious the owner is not Japanese because they served wasabi and gari (pickled ginger) with Unagi donburi!! What the heck???

The total bill was $22.95. My dish was free from the coupon I had ($16.50 off). I gave the waitress $5 tip, so I paid $27.95 at the end.

After lunch, we went see “Rush Hour 3” using free movie tickets I got from Safeway. ($19.50 value.) The movie didn’t have very good reviews, but I thought it was pretty funny.

Total spent: $27.95
Saved with coupons: $16.50 + $19.50 =$36.00

Sharing a Sunday afternoon with my DD: Priceless : )

Tight cash flow month

August 17th, 2007 at 10:45 pm

I'm stressing a bit about our cash flow.

We have about 2k for four weeks. I have to cover all of our utility bills (including phones, TV, internet cable, etc.....) and grocery. This should be enough. I mean it "should" but I'm bit nervous because there's always "SURPRISE!!" type of cost. I need to watch our cash flow really carefully.

Payday Friday

August 17th, 2007 at 06:57 pm

It's Pay Day today, and I transferred $500 towards my CC account first thing in the morning.

I may have to use my EF to cover some cost incurred this month. It seems that I do well for first six months of the year, and go downhill from there Frown

My DD had an appointment for follow up check up for her wisdom teeth. Took one minute. She is heeling just fine. Good news!

Not so good news. She complained about her tooth, and said it might be a cavity. Sigh.... We used up her insurance coverage for this year. We're spending so much for dental expense this year, between DH and DD.... and me, too.

401K balance

August 16th, 2007 at 04:52 pm

Like everyone is mentioning, the balance of my 401K is down, down, down....

The balance reached 6 figures a couple of month ago, and it's back to 5 figures again.

I'm not worried, though. I have about 20 years to catch up LOL

Actually, I am thinking about increasing my contribution while market is down.

One reason my 401K return has been good is I contributed a good portion of my salary around 2001 when market was really bad.

I didn't plan it that way. It was totally a serendipity kind of thing, but it worked out.

We tend to forget "Buy low, sell high." Maybe I should start looking for good stocks to buy.

My turn for feeling pain

August 16th, 2007 at 01:40 am

I'm back from the dentist. My face is so numb.

It hurts my wallet, too. $605.50. Ouch!

My dental insurance paid $672.50, but they only cover half of crown work.

My classes will start in Sep. and need to buy textbooks, too. That's approx. $350.

How easy it is to spend $1,000! And, so hard to save....

Drug store deals - Rite Aid

August 14th, 2007 at 10:22 pm

I went to Rite Aid and picked up few free stuff.

Garnier fructis Shampoo $2.99
A couple of GE light bulbs $2.00
Duck tape $1.50

All free after rebate.

I can get a GUM toothbrush for 25 cents, but debating if I should actually PAY for a toothbrush. I still have a dozen of those I got for free.

Walgreen's rebate really sucks this month. So, I'm just focusing on their RR (Register Reward) deals which I got a dozen Kellogg cereal. They're doing Revlon this week, but I got a ton of those at ULTA before I went to Japan. I paid like $5 for more than $60 worth of products at ULTA. I gave these make up to my friends as a souvenir from U.S.

Longs has the Uniliver rebate I should think about doing. I'm getting low on laundry soap, so maybe should get some ALL.

More expenses....

August 14th, 2007 at 06:15 pm

As soon as I bring my CC balance to zero, there's more charges coming in. Well, I should be glad my starting balance was zero instead of adding CC charges on top of debts.

This month has been a killer month for me, though.

DD's dental fee $1,095. I'm still waiting to see how much my my insurance will cover.
My dental fee $600. I have to redo my crowns and the insurance only covers 50% of the cost. I still have about $300 in my FSA account, so out of pocket will be about $300.
DD's back to school clothing $230 We went to Aeropostale and American Eagle. What can I say? She is a teenager... I already sent a payment to my CC account for this portion last night since we're getting paid tomorrow.
Dream Dinner $85. This is one of those things you prepare several meals, take them home, and freeze them. I went to the place and tried out yesterday, and it was really easy and tasted pretty good. $85 is for 7 meals of my choice. The portion is pretty generous for 3 servings, so it will make good leftover lunches for me.

Utilizing pennies

August 13th, 2007 at 06:17 pm

I started using pennies in my penny jar.

I have a bunch of pennies in a good size jar, and didn't really think about it for few years.

Then, I realized, these are money!! (Duhh....)

The problem was, I have a rather thin wallet that does not allow me to look for small change so easily.

So, I started carrying a coin purse, and put a bunch of pennies in it.

Result:
Bought a stamp 58 cents.
Got rid of 8 pennies.

Bought a couple of newspaper. $2.12. Got rid of 12 pennies.

Bought a coffee and gum. $4.12.
Got rid of 12 pannies.

I used up most of my pennies I carried around in no time!

This is much better than Coinstar or whatever that charges so much to convert coins to bills.


Staying home day

August 10th, 2007 at 09:51 pm

I took a day off today to stay with my DD. She just had her wisdom teeth removed. (All four of them!!)

She was so out of it when she came out of the doc's office, and went straight to sleep after we got home. Good thing doc's office is only five minutes away from my house.

My husband was home for lunch, so I went to Walgreen's to pick up her medicine while he was home with her. The cost of medicine was $41.98 and paid with the gift card. Good thing my gift card was loaded with rebate.

I also bought some more Kellogg cereals because the sale ends tomorrow and they had a good stock for the "Special K with red berries." My DD seems to enjoy this cereal. I bought two boxes on Monday and she finished one box already. I bought four boxes and paid $6.85.

I only had one $1 off coupon left, and used a $2 off from $10 purchase coupon that was in the mailer. For some reason, $2 coupon gave me 15 cents off extra even though there's no tax on food items in CA.
So, $10 ($2.50 each x 4 boxes) - $1 - $2.15 = $6.85 and got $5 catalina back.

Final price, approx. 46 cents per box.



Dental expenses

August 8th, 2007 at 08:18 pm

I went to the dentist and, of course, he found a couple of new cavities. I know he's telling me the truth because I can see them myself. Also, I need to replace one of my crowns. That sucks because it's expensive and my insurance only covers 50% of the cost for crowns. The gal at the dentist office told me she will send me an estimate.

Also, my daughter will have her wisdom teeth removed this Friday. They want 50% of expense paid up front, even though they will get some $$ back from the insurance company. The total cost is $2,040 and we need to pay $1,095 this Friday. I think we should get about $300 back, so final cost should be about $800. I wish I would've known she will need to have wisdom teeth taken out this year. I could have double coverage from both my husband and me. (We work for two different companies and both of them offer pretty good benefits.) I didn't cover her under my husband's insurance this year because we normally don't need much for her dental work. Just regular cleaning.... Well, lessons learned. I will get ourselves double coverage for dental next year.



Our boat is now paid off

August 7th, 2007 at 09:27 pm

I confirmed the balance of our boat loan. ZERO!! Yeah!!

Now, the only debt payment we have is our home loan. I'm so glad we can use this money ($270 per month we used to pay towards boat loan) for the saving for our daughter's trip next summer.

She is going to NYC and DC to participate the summit of international affairs organized by the organization called "People to People." It's a good chunk of money (approx. $3,000 plus spending money) but my husband and I thought it will be a wonderful experience for her.

It is an investment for her future.

Another Kellogg purchase

August 7th, 2007 at 08:21 pm

Went to another Walgreen's and got some Frosted Flakes this time. I wanted to buy Frosted Flakes yesterday, but the Walgreen's I went only had one box, so I got Smart Start instead. I had never tried the Smart Start kind, but figured it's a good chance to try them since they're free.

I used up my $10 rebate limit, so I only got 4 boxes of Frosted Flakes, and paid $3 for them. (75 cents each.) Not free, but it's ok. My daughter needs them for her breakfast anyway.

Kellogg deal

August 6th, 2007 at 03:37 pm

I finally found a deal I want to do this week. Kellogg has a rebate going on for $10 for 10 products. And Walgreen's has a pretty good price for them.

Buy
4 cereals $10 - $2 coupons - $5 catalina = $3
4 crackers (or cereal bars) $10 - $2 coupons - $5 catalina = $3
2 Pop Tarts $4 - $1 coupon - $1 catalina = $2

Final price will be $8 and get $10 rebate for them. $2 profit!!



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