Monday, July 20, 2009

On Temporary Leave

Sorry for the lack of posts, folks. I've been suffering from a really bad case of insomnia and tension headaches. The heat is helping much. I'll be taking a temporary leave to focus on my personal recovery. Hope to come back soon.

Friday, July 10, 2009

July Donation - San Diego Humane Society

This month's $20 donation went to the San Diego Humane Society.

The organization served San Diego County since 1880 and provides vital services to animals and people alike through sheltering and adopting animals, providing positive reinforcement behavior training for adoptable animals and for owned animals through public training classes, investigating animal cruelty and neglect, providing adult and youth education programs, sharing animals through Pet-Assisted Therapy and rescuing animals in emergency situations.

A private nonprofit organization that receives no public or government funding, the San Diego Humane Society and SPCA is supported solely by contributions, grants, bequests, investments, proceeds from its retail outlets and some fees for service.
With a blog titled "Shtinkykat", I'm a bit ashamed that it took me this long to donate to the Humane Society. My one and only dealing with the Humane Society was 15 years ago when I rented a "humane trap" to capture a feral kitten at my apartment complex. I was planning to take her to the animal shelter but she stole my heart.

CC "the kitten" (1994-2006), is no longer with me, but the Humane Society allowed me to have a fun-filled 12 years with this lovely kitty. RIP CC and thank you SD Humane Society. =^..^=

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Ink Jet Cartridge Refill Fail

So I've been reading about how wonderful it is to refill your ink cartridges at a fraction of the cost you would pay to buy new cartridges. Walmart sells my black + color ink cartridge combo for $47.97 + tax. $52 is a bit steep, so I decided to give the refill a try at Costco, whose refill price ranges between $7.99 - $14.

song chart memes

First of all, it's not all THAT easy. I went to Costco and was told it would take an hour. Ummmm... okay. I was hoping it would be more like 15 minutes, so I can go around the store trying freebie food samples while I waited. No problem, I'll come back in an hour.

An hour later, I was told that the refill for my color cartridge didn't work. (Grrrr.) I was charged $7.99 + tax for the black cartridge refill. Oh, and the Costco guy tried to keep my color cartridge.

Costco Dude: You want the empty cartridge back?

Shtinky: Duh, dude. I can get a $3 rebate from Staples if I do so.

Now I'm off to Staples to buy myself a color cartridge for $28.99 + tax. (I bought the cartridge at Staples for no other reason than convenience.) I recycled my cartridge and was told I'll get my $3 rebate some time before the end of the year. Great.

Once I got home, my printer recognized my new color cartridge but indicated that my black cartridge was empty. WTF? No matter what I did, it still showed the black ink cartridge was empty. *Annoyed sigh*

I returned to Costco to complain. The Costco counter dude asks, "Didn't you read our instructions?"

Shtinky: WHAT instructions?

Costco Dude: This one. [Shows me a print-out of Do's and Don't's of Inkjet Catridge Care and Maintenance that says: 'After inserting the refilled cartridge, some printers may indicate a "Low Ink" message. For help with this or other printer related matters please visit:']

Shtinky: It would've been nice if you would've given me that before I left the store.

Costco Dude: We always include it with our refills. You probably misplaced yours.

I was sufficiently annoyed that I decided to return the refilled ink cartridge for a refund. But of course, Costco kept the black ink cartridge, so I couldn't recycle it for another $3 rebate. I then went to Walmart to pick up a new black ink cartridge for $23.97 + tax.

Color Cartridge: $31.53
Black Cartridge: $26.07
Missed Opportunity to Recycle Black Cartridge: $3.00
Unnecessary Gas Usage + Mileage (Driving to and fro Costco-Staples-Walmart): $2.00 (est.)
SUBTOTAL: $62.60

And keep in mind, I could've just purchased a combo pack for $52.16 and gotten a $6.00 rebate from Staples for future ink cartridge purchases.

Total Money Saving Fail: $16.44

I could've bought couple of nice lunches or atleast 1 dinner with this lost money.

Grrrrrr... I may try to refill again in the future and see if I'll have better luck next time.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

As Technology Moves Forward, I'm Tempted to Keep Pace

Sorry for the lack of posts, folks. I've been busy transferring my Hawaii vacation videos from my DV palmcorder cassettes to .avi format so that I can burn it onto a DVD for my family. My family's been miffed since I've had the tapes since 2005 and haven't shared it with them.

In the past, I just copied the DV cassettes onto VHS tapes to share, but my sister recently told me that she intends to throw out her VCR. She said with DVR, she has no need for a VCR. Great. So now I have to burn the family video onto DVDs. What I didn't realize was how slow and tedious this process is. (It takes about 15 minutes to transfer 30 seconds of data!)


I guess my palmcorder (that my parents purchased in 2003) is now "old technology" and new camcorders record images on a hard-drive or memory cards rather than casettes. The image transfers on the new camcorders are much quicker and efficient.

This reminded me of how I've been REALLY slow to keep pace with the march of technology. As you know, in the past week, I purchased my FIRST EVER digital camera. (I've been making do with my cell phone camera up until now.) I still don't own a iPod and I don't have DVR. I own a HDTV-ready LCD TV that I watch in analog.

In many ways, I'm glad I don't feel the need to have the newest and greatest gadgets. I rarely feel inconvenienced by the lack of new modern conveniences.

But when I started playing with my new digital camera, I marveled at how I was missing out on a lot of fun features I can play with. And now, with the excruciating process of transferring data from a DV cassette to DVD, I wish I had a modern camcorder. I guess this is what you call lifestyle inflation and I'm trying REALLY hard to resist it.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Random Thoughts About My 3rd Paycheck and Bank Failures and One Confession

July is a 3-paycheck month and I got my first-of-three paycheck yesterday. I immediately transferred my money to my savings. I wish I could say that I "bank" my 3rd paycheck but alas, I can't. I instead disburse 1/6th of it to myself every month until the next 3-paycheck month comes along. Eventually, I hope to eliminate my debts to the point that I can just bank my 3rd paycheck as savings. Someday....


So my spendaganza goes on. I just bought myself my first EVER digital camera. Yes, it's time I joined the 21st century.

I bought a Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS1, 10.1 MP camera with 12x optical zoom at Costco, using a $50 off coupon and a $100 gift card. The camera normally retails for $299-$330. With the discount and gift card, I paid about $155, including tax. The price includes a carrying case a 2 MB memory card. Not too shabby, wouldn't you say?

Costco offered a $50 off coupon last December. I really, really wanted it at the time, but decided not to. Ever since, I rued my decision of not taking advantage of the $50 off coupon. When I recently saw that Costco was offering the same coupon again, I decided to jump on this opportunity. I'm hoping that the 12x optical zoom will come in handy when I go see the Pageant of the Masters next weekend!


Holy guacamole. Have you seen the FDIC list of bank failures in 2009? Most of these banks had less than $1 billion in assets but it's still very unnerving.

As my faithful readers know, I'm arbitraging my 0% credit card debt by paying the minimum and putting my money in a 2.0% savings account at DollarSavingsDirect.

Bankrate gave Emigrant Bank (the parent company of DollarSavingsDirect) a 1-star rating as of 12/31/08.

Although I don't think Emigrant Bank will go under before October (when my 0% promotional rate expires), I also don't want to take any chances. I'll be transferring my money to SmartyPig (the online partner of West Bank). Bankrate gave West Bank 3-stars. Better yet, SmartyPig's current APY is 2.75%.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

June '09 Progress Report - Birthday Edition

I'm one year older, but do not feel any bit wiser. But I AM financially better off than a year ago. For example, I'm officially $17,557.21 less in debt than I was a year ago. (Technically, I'm $24,800.29 less in debt.) Oh! And did I mention that my student loans are now under $100k? Those are signs of progress, right?


Starting Debt (6/31/08)

Last MonthThis MonthDIFFERENCE
Private SL$49,528.99$45,782.97$45,413.34$(369.63)
Fed'l SL$55,852.68$54,464.64$54,349.12$(115.52)
Credit Card$13,610.75$11,574.08$11,452.08$(122.00)

As you know, I'm snowballing my debt and I'm arbitraging my 0% credit card debt. I recently sold some company stock to pay off my cc before the promotional rate expires in October. If you include the $1,999 net proceed from the stock sale, I have $7,243.08 that I've saved towards paying off my credit card so my net balance is technically $4,209. I CANNOT wait for my credit card balance to go down to zero!





I've fallen off the frugality horse recently and this looks better than it really is.

Every month, I try to "earmark" additional money towards other investment/savings vehicles such as my Roth IRA, savings bonds and CD ladder. These "earmark funds" aren't reflected in my net savings I report every month, so most people won't know that I've saved ZIPPO in these funds for the past couple of months. Had I remained on budget, I could have earmarked an additional $100 this month.

I could definitely do better but I've been a bit lacking in the motivation department.



Glad to see that notwithstanding a pretty big market correction a week ago, I'm still in positive territory.

Looks like the biggest gainer (%-wise) is my Roth IRA that increased in value by 35.53%. But that's only because I contributed $717.29 when I bought 7 shares of TIP. Since it's only "up" $631.55, I actually lost money. Dang it!

The biggest gainer ($-wise) is my 401k, which increased in value by $1,723.53. I contributed $1,613.42, so I actually made money in this puppy. Woo hoo.

For those who are curious, the breakdown of my net worth can be seen here.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Post of Shame Follow-Up - How I Intend to Pay For My Recent Spendapalooza

One of the drawbacks of taking time off of work is that I always come back to exploding in-boxes (electronic and otherwise). Heck, that's still not going to discourage me from taking days off from work. But I do want to apologize to many of my fellow bloggers for falling behind on their recent posts. I intend to catch up over this extended holiday. ^_^

Before I go on to explain how I intend to pay off my recent spending bonanza, I just have a funny (but pathetic) tale to tell. My big sis and I went to Disneyland on Friday to take advantage of a Disney promotion that gave away free admission to patrons on their birthday. (FYI, if you want to upgrade to a park hopper ticket, it'll cost $25 extra.) As part of the promotion, I also received a "Happy Birthday Shtinkykat" (read:"Happy Birthday You Cheap Bastard") button to wear all day.

We were on this ride called Grizzly River Run at California Adventure and our boat was filled with a gaggle of children ranging from ages 5 to 12. One of the girls wished me a happy birthday. The second girl asked, "How old are you now?" The following is a true conversation:

Chaperone/Mom: That's not a polite questions to ask a lady!

Shtinkykat: It's okay. I'm old.

Boy 1 (Approx. Age 9): You're 72!

Shtinkykat: You're close. Just divide that by 2 and add 1.

Chaperone/Mom: Oh, you're still young.

Boy 2 (Approx. Age 10)
: You're 26?

Shtinkykat: I'll take that.

Chaperone/Mom: (Giggle)

Girl 2 (Approx. Age 12): Seriously. How old are you?

Shtinkykat: Uh... 72 divided by 2 plus 1.

Girl 2 (Approx. Age 12): 41? 40? 39? 38? 37? 36?

Boy 1 and Boy 2: 31! 32! 33! ....

Chaperone/Mom: (Getting alarmed) C'mon kids. What's 72 divided by 2?

Kids: (Collective mental straining)

Chaperone/Mom: (Getting depressed) Oh, you're a sad bunch if you can't figure that out!

I truly hope these kids aren't representative of the average kid's math skills in the U.S.


Anyhoo, onto the real topic of how I intend to pay for the $600+ I spent over this past extended weekend.

Back in 2001, I was just starting to contribute to my 401k (vested value at the time = approx. $600) and I didn't own any stocks. This always bothered me since I was pushing 30 and owned absolutely nothing in my life. After the 9/11 attacks, the stock market took a temporary plunge. I suspected that the dip was only temporary would eventually recover. But I had nearly no savings to take advantage of what I thought was a temporary dip.

At the time, most online brokerages had a $5,000 minimum to open. Too rich for me. The brokerage that had the lowest minimum ($1k) was Datek (now TD Ameritrade). Still too rich for me.

I suggested to my sister that we open a joint account at $500/each. She agreed. (Coincidentally, one of our early stock purchases were Disney stocks.) Over the next couple of years, I contributed an additional $400 or so,but since stopped after I opened my own individual accounts at Scottrade. I also never really gave much thought to the Datek account and hadn't included its value in my net worth calculations.

Fast forward to 2009. My sister offered to buy out my interest in the Datek account. She offered to pay half the current value, but I knew that wasn't fair since most of the stocks lost a lot of value and she had contributed much more into the account. After some number crunching, I discovered that I hadn't lost any of my $900 investment despite the market crash, thanks to stock splits and dividends. (Hurray!)

My sister wrote me a check for $1,000 ($100 as a birthday gift). I initially had lofty thoughts of putting that directly into my Roth IRA, but that ain't happening. Looks like I'll be using this "windfall" to pay for the recent spending bonanza as well as a weekend getaway I'm planning with my BFF. Sigh. I know it's unwise and imprudent. But what's done is done and it sure beats using my EF, earmarks or (gasp) going into credit card debt for my spending extravaganza.