Saturday, January 31, 2009

We have a big girl in the house!

I am doing a happy dance!! My 3 year old is finally potty trained. I am excited, my db is excited and I believe my dd is excited. The sound of "tinkle in the toilet" is the sweetest sound on earth.

I really tried not to push the subject because she was just not interested especially after her baby sister was born. She wanted to be a baby too and she told me so. This past Monday night before bedtime I asked my 3yo to help me "teach" my 9mo to sit on the potty. I put the 3yo on the big potty and my 9 1/2 mo on the potty trainer. This trainer plays music when the child pees in it. I sat on the floor and the three of us sat for awhile and all of the sudden the potty trainer started to play music. My 9 1/2 mo pee' d in the potty. Of course she had no idea what she had done, but her big sister knew and it must of made an impression because she started wearing her big girl panties the very next day.

Although yesterday when we were at the mall she very nicely told me that she had to pee in the potty - yikes - our first public bathroom experience - I guess you have to be careful for what you wish for. LOL. The bathroom was clean and we made it just in time.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Creating your own Family Balance Sheet

Post Update: Please refer to this updated post with more specific information: How to Create Your Own Family Balance Sheet.

My husband and I try to talk once a month about our finances, both personal and for our business. We usually discuss and review our cashflow, budget and any outstanding issues. Because I manage our money for both, I usually run the meeting. A few years ago I created an excel spreadsheet to make reviewing our finances much easier. I titled this spreadsheet, Family Balance Sheet, thus the name of my blog.

Even though I use Quicken and have for over 13 years, I find my spreadsheet much easier for us to review at a glance. On the left side I have 3 categories: #1 - our personal shortterm accounts, such as checking, savings, emergency savings, and health savings accounts. #2 - our retirements accounts and #3 - our business accounts. On the right is a list of liabilities or debts, such as our mortgage, dh's student loan, car loan and any credit card loans. Beside each loan is the monthly payment, total amount of the loan, final payment date, and interest rate. I try to update the balances at the end of every month, but if I can't I definitely update it quarterly.

At the bottom of the page is a list of our 2009 financial goals as a reminder for us and to keep things in prospective. It feels empowering when we can cross items off of our list as being done.

The spreadsheet is quite simple and as soon as I figure out how to post it I will do so. Lately it has been hard to look at some of our balances, especially in our retirement accounts, but on the other hand it is encouraging to see our debts dwindle down. Our balance sheet definitely keeps us focused on our goals.

Do youself and your finances a favor and consider creating your own balance sheet

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Refinancing our Mortgage will save us $9000!

I received an email last Friday from our primary bank about the 4.99% rates on their 15 year home equity loans. The email also stated NO Prepayment penalties, NO points, and NO closing costs.

We currently have our mortgage in a 15 year home equity loan at 5.74% at a different bank. I quickly ran some numbers using an online calculator. We only have 10.5 years left on our existing loan but if we apply our current payment to the new loan we can pay off our house in less than 8 years and SAVE $9000.

After I ran these numbers I could hardly contain my excitement. On Saturday morning I applied online and received a phone call by 4:30 from the bank that we were approved. The paperwork will be processed this week and then we are on our way to pay down our house even earlier than originally planned!!

When we bought the house in September 2001, our mortgage was a 15 year balloon with a rate of 7.25%. This is the third time that we have refinanced. Is 4.99% as low as we can get? We'll see...I am going to keep my eyes open.

Have you refinanced your home recently? Let me know how you made out.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Is Clutter Costing You Cash?

My home office is located in our basement and it can get pretty cold and lonely down there. There are times when I just don't have the desire to go downstairs to do my work, but I have several jobs to do and this is where I work.

It is no wonder from these photos why I have no desire to go to my office lately. I have really let it go. I've got paper & projects in piles. My wooden IN box is stacked pretty high and ready to topple any minute. I really am not this disorganized, but by the looks of my office I might be a candidate for "Clean House". Well maybe it's not that bad, but it is one of the trouble spots in my house and it turns out my cluttered desk is costing me cash.

Late Fees
I realized this was becoming a problem recently when I found a store credit card bill on my desk the day after it was due. Not again. I did this in the spring right after the birth of my second daughter. I pay off my credit cards every month, but I do use my store cards to get additional discounts at the stores. The bill was lying in one of the piles on my desk instead of where it belongs. I have a "bills to be paid" folder that is supposed to prevent this problem. I had to race to the store with 2 kids in tow to pay the bill. When I received the following month's bill I was appalled, but not surprised by the $35.00 in fees that was charged to me. I immediately called the company and asked very kindly to have the fees reversed stating that this was my first offense and I was only 1 day late in paying the balance off in full. The customer service representative was happy to reverse the fees, but I'm afraid they might not do it for me a second time. And since I don't want to find out I have made a commitment not to let this happen again.

Lost Cash
What you can't see in this picture is the plastic 3-drawer cabinet under my desk that I use to keep office supplies. It had gotten really full of junk & about a year ago we cleaned it out and were amazed at what we found:

1. Over $100 in cash in a bank envelope.

2. $100 gift card from American Express. We were pretty excited that we found this until we called to activate the card and it had long since expired. We couldn't remember the exact year we received the card as a Christmas gift from a family member, but it had been several years.

3. $200 in travellers checks that were in my hubby's name. Thankfully these were not expired, but they were several years old as well.

4. About $50 in loose change.

We netted about $250 from this clean up, but I could not stop obsessing about that $100 gift card that was expired.

Loss of time
Because I have let my office go again, I know I am spending more time looking for missing items and less time tackling the more important things on my financial to-do list, like preparing for our upcoming tax meeting, planning for our 2009 financial goals and even paying bills on time.

So here I am again. My desk is a mess and I'm afraid what I am going to find when I clean it up, but it needs to be done. My oldest is at preschool and my baby is napping soundly so I think I will log off and tackle the piles. I will post an "after" picture once the job is done!