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Archive for the ‘Money’ Category

Last week, we had an all staff meeting at work. One of our most senior staff members talked about an employee survey that was done last year (long before I started). Apparently compensation was one of the big issues that came out of the survey.

So, they hired someone outside our area to evaluate compensation and compare wages to those of employees in similar positions throughout the university and the local market. The outside team found that most wages were in line (i.e. no more than 10% above or below the average) with the university and the local market.

What really surprised me was what they did with the salaries that were more than 10% ….

below the average. They actually gave those people raises so they would be more in line with the marketplace!* I was shocked – what a wonderful thing to do.

I love my job.

*(And no, they didn’t give anyone a pay cut if they were making more than 10% above the average for their job.)

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The $6 Insult

Detroit Mayor Kwame KilpatrickI don’t think I’ve written at all about the Kwame Kilpatrick scandal, but suffice it to say that I think he is dispicable. His lies and illegal actions directly cost the city of Detroit a NINE MILLION DOLLAR settlement, money that the city can ill afford. Thinking about it makes my blood boil (as Tim can attest).

Part of Kilpatrick’s eventual sentence included restitution of $1 million, toward which Kilpatrick was ordered to pay $6,000 per month. He has a new job at a division of Compuware, which pays him $10,000 per month (reportedly in addition to a potential annual bonus of more than $100,000).

And now he’s saying that he can only afford to pay $6 per month toward his restitution.

Not $6,000.

Not $600.

SIX DOLLARS.

Kilpatrick’s attorney told the Detroit Free Press “I don’t think he was ordered to live a more modest lifestyle … Is it better Mr. Kilpatrick drives a beat-up Yugo?” Yes, as a matter of fact, I think it IS better if he drives a beat-up Yugo instead of a Cadillac Escalade – a high-end SUV that starts at $63,000. Just like everyone else in the country, when your expenses change, you need to adjust your spending – yes, even your lifestyle if necessary – to accomodate that.

Anyway, let’s take a quick look at what he says his expenses are and see if we can do a little trimming for him.

Home lease: $2,700
Here’s a 3 bedroom, 3 bathroom townhouse within 5 miles of Southlake, Texas for about $2,000.
Savings: $700

Automobile lease: $900
Purchase a Chevy Tahoo (same base vehicle) for $600-$700 per month.
Savings: $200

Utilities (water, gas, electricity): $900
I can’t find specifics on utility rates on Texas, but I have to think that with careful budgeting and careful use of resources (i.e. running sprinklers less often) they could save a chunk here – say, $100.
Savings: $100

Health insurance: $305
Can’t quibble with this one.

Life insurance: $180
I don’t know enough about life insurance to argue with this one.

Automobile insurance: $400
If he drives a cheaper car, his insurance will go down.
Savings: $50

Telephone: $220
Cell phone: $200

Not sure why they need to spend this much on both land line and cell phone, so we’re going to add one line to their cell phone account and call that their home phone.
Savings: $200

Dentist bills: $200
No dental insurance?

Groceries: $600
This sounds OK for a family of five that includes a big, big guy and two seventh-grade boys.

Gas: $100
OK.

Miscellaneous (clothing, school costs, personal care, cable TV, Internet): $600
Don’t know the details of “miscellaneous” but surely with good budgeting they can save $50 per month.
Savings: $50

Probation administration: $60
Can’t get around this one.

Credit card debt: $400
Can’t get around this one if it refers to payments toward debt he’s already accumulated.

Student loan: $229
Can’t get around this one. (But jeez, how long ago did he graduate from law school? Don’t these have to be paid back within 10 years?)

Income taxes: $2,000
Another non-negotiable.

I’m going to add one more thing: A job for Mrs. Kilpatrick. Carlita Kilpatrick is supposedly interested in interior design, so we’ll give her a part-time job at IKEA, where she can work while the kids are in school. Let’s say she works 30 hours a week at $10/hr.
Additional income: $1,000/month

Total savings/additional income: $2,300

Now see, wasn’t that easy? Granted, it’s not the $6,000 that Kilpatrick is supposed to pay, but it would certainly show that he takes this seriously. I can’t believe that any judge would accept his request to reduce his monthly payments based on this list of expenses.

Postscript, 5/9/09: I was extremely pleased to read this on the front page of the Free Press today: “… But (Judge) Groner — who ordered Kilpatrick to make the payments af­ter news reports about his high living after be­ing released from jail in February — wrote in his decision that the former mayor ‘must realize that he is a convicted felon, and will have to balance meeting all the con­ditions of his probation, including restitution payments, with the life­style to which he has grown accus­tomed.’
  ‘In other words,’ Groner added, Kilpatrick ‘may not be able to sus­tain an upper middle class existence while he still owes a debt to society.’ Groner invited Kilpatrick to re­quest a restitution hearing, but Schwartz instead said he would ap­peal the decision. … “

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unemployment.jpgThat’s right.

I lost my job today.

I’ve officially joined the ranks of the unemployed.

I was completely shocked, only because the layoffs were rumored to be tomorrow, but I got let go today. Severance pay is decent, plus they’ll pay out unused vacation and personal time – those just rolled over on Feb 1, so I’ve got a nice little chunk there too. Plus we’ll soon get a big tax refund, as usual (we always have too much taken out because we prefer to get the big refund). I’m a little worried about COBRA costs – the kids both have asthma and need to be insured – but I’ll worry about that when I get “my packet” in the mail next week. And of course there will be unemployment at some point.

Honestly, I’d kind of be pleased if it worked out so that I could stay home for a while without putting too much of a financial pinch on the family (and ending with a good job, of course). I’ve been working since I was 15 years old, and it would be nice for the kids to have a stay-at-home mom for a while.

Wish us luck.

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dllslngI love a good bargain! This weekend we got several.

On Saturday, we took the kids to the dollar theater at the mall to see Madagascar 2. Admission for four, an extra large tub of popcorn (and we got the free refill) and an extra large pop came to just $18. Normally we wouldn’t spend that much on refreshments, but it was Little Sister’s first movie at a theater, and we wanted her to have pop and popcorn.

On Sunday, LS and I went to Target and a couple of other stores. She had some Christmas money to spend and wanted to look at the toys. Among the things she looked at were the dress up clothes. They were quite expensive  – for example, $30 for a cheerleader outfit that was pretty cheap looking (in both senses of the word). She also liked looking at the bride Barbie doll. We went to the children’s consignment store afterward and looked at the fancy kids’ dresses. We ended up with a very pretty fancy white dress, complete with netting underskirt, for $6.50.  Much better quality than anything from the actual dress up section at Target, and it’s machine washable. So LS has her bride dress. And it’s a size 6, so it’ll be in her dress up box for years.

When we were at the mall on Saturday, we went to the toy store. It’s a boutique toy store, so it’s pretty expensive. Of course, LS loves her dolls and had to look at the doll section. She really liked the baby carrier and wanted us to get it so that she could “wear” her babies. It was $30, though, way too much for us. So instead, she and I went to Joann’s the next day and she picked out a length of fabric that I made a “ring sling” with for her dolls. It cost about $4 to make using instructions I found on the internet, and I could have spent even less if we had used some fabric from my “stash” instead of spending $2 on new fabric.

Anyone else get some good bargains lately? How do you make your own bargains?

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Pimping My Kid

I have a gripe with Book Boy’s school. I just hate it when they send home fundraisers for charities. I don’t mind the “drives” – coat drive, book drive, food drive, etc. – because I know that those directly benefit local kids.

But yesterday, Book Boy asked me how much money he has. I said $31, I thought, and asked why.  He said he was going to donate it all to “jump for a cure” or whatever the American Heart Association calls it. I was a little surprised, but understood completely when he said it was because he wanted to get a prize this year. Tonight he brought home a flashy, full-color brochure complete with a list of the various prize levels. He put a $10 bill in the envelope (I think the remaining $21 is actually in my wallet at the moment) and asked if I would donate. I said I wasn’t sure, then said I’d donate $5.

He was upset, and showed me the prize he wanted to “win” – it was at the $125 level. (I don’t remember what the prize was, but I remember thinking that it was a piece of junk, as these “prizes” always are.) I told him I would donate a little but I couldn’t give that much. Fine then, he said, let’s ask Mimi. Now, I do NOT like to solicit donations from anyone (or sales, when the kids are selling things) and I told him no, we weren’t going to do that. He said “Don’t you care about saving people’s hearts?” and ran back to his room. (I don’t believe that he wants to donate to save people’s hearts, he just wants that darn “prize.”)

I’m still not going to donate more than $5, and quite frankly I hope he doesn’t donate his money. I know that sounds selfish, but as a family, we have our “pet” causes* to which we give generously of our time and energy – and money, as we can afford to – and I really don’t appreciate the school “pimping” my kid like this. This is actually the same kind of thing that turned us off Boy Scouts – the very first meeting we had was basically a sales meeting for a bunch of popcorn salesmen (the kids) and I just didn’t want to have any part of it.

*SafeKids – I obviously donate lots of time/energy to them, and money when I can – and the Foundation that my company runs to assist employees in need. I’m not a complete scrooge. 🙂

Anybody else have this kind of situation? How do you handle it? Do you let your kids give their money so they can get the “prize,” knowing they’ll wish later that they had their money back?

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With the economic uncertainty that the country is going through right now, Tim and I have been doing a little belt-tightening lately. Nothing major yet, just watching what we spend and being smart about the money we do spend. Trying to trim the amount I spend at the grocery store, not getting pizza for dinner, etc.

And just when I’ve gotten in the “spend less” mindframe? The muffler goes out on my car. That’s going to be several hundred dollars, at least. Ugh.

Well, at least Tim and I had already made the decision to wait as long as possible to replace my car rather than replacing it later this year. I guess I’d be even more irritated about it if we were planning to replace the car in the near future.

Anybody else feel that way – just when you start to get ahead (or feel like you’re making some headway, at least) something throws a wrench in it?

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What a Bargain

I love the dollar theater! Where else can you see a (reasonably new) movie with your kid for just $2? Tim and Book Boy went to see Kung Fu Panda this afternoon – they even managed to skip the snacks, so it actually DID cost them just $2 to see the movie.

The best bargain, though, is on Tuesdays, when all movies are just $.50. Last summer, Tim and BB went to two movies in one day – for just $2 total! (I believe that either snacks or lunch was involved that time, though.) What a fun, affordable afternoon.

I can’t wait until Little Sister can sit through a movie – it will be great to take four people to the movies for $4! She’s getting closer … while Tim and BB were gone today, she actually sat and watched about 30 minutes of Toy Story. (This is up from about 10 minutes.) Normally I’m thrilled that she doesn’t care much to watch TV/movies, but going to a movie is different.

Anybody else go to the dollar theater? Either way, how often do you take your kids to the movies?

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What a Feeling!

Tim and I got our rather large tax refund today. (Gotta love direct deposit!) I just used a chunk of it to pay all the bills, including the ones that aren’t due until April. What a nice feeling! And of course we still have a nice amount left – we’ll use some for a little splurge of some sort, then sock the rest away to use as needed throughout the year.

(No, this doesn’t not mean we’re debt-free, just that I don’t have any bills to pay in the next few weeks.)

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As everyone surely knows, the housing market is in an incredible slump. Housing prices have dropped, sales have dropped, etc.

When we bought our house a little more than six years ago, there was a new subdivision going up nearby. The sign said “From the $170s” ($170,000s). Over the years, the number increased – the $180s, $190s, $200s, $220s. There are still new houses going up in the subdivision – very similar to the ones that have gone up all along. But over the past year or so, the “From the” numbe has gone down.

And now? The sign says “From the $140s.” (Thanks Dad for pointing that out.) That’s SEVENTY THOUSAND DOLLARS less than the same houses were selling for a year or two ago. A third less.

I am SO glad that we got Big Brother into that new school this year. We were tentatively planning (last spring) to start looking for a new house this summer, but that has now been put on hold indefinitely.

Anybody here having problems because of the housing market? Or, on the flip side, anybody benefitting by purchasing their first home at a great price, or anything like that?

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Edited to add: Just to clarify, I’m really not complaining about the amount of work I do as a mom.

Newsweek recently ran an article that began with the following statement: “It seems that if homemakers were ever paid for the myriad jobs they perform—from chef to chauffeur to psychologist—they’d command a whopping $138,095 annually, several times what most working mothers earn in the workplace. This according to a new survey from Salary.com, which based its calculation on a 92-hour workweek and the median national wage for the assorted jobs that mothers must perform each day. ”

Now, I don’t really have any quibbles with that figure. Surely no one would dispute that a mother (and a father, for that matter) fills a myraid of different needs for her children. Nor am I trying to start any kind of stay-at-home-mom-vs.-working-mom debate. I’m a working mom myself, but I’ve had tastes of being a stay-at-home mom and in my opinion, both are hard!! There are pros and cons to each situation, and both have benefits along with some drawbacks for the children. And both kinds of moms work hard.

My argument? That silly “what stay at home moms are worth” number pretty much implies that stay-at-home moms are worth more than working moms. It also ignores the fact that when I’m not at work, I’m doing all the same things a stay-at-home mom does. Who do they think is cleaning, doing the laundry, helping the kids with their schoolwork, teaching them how to get along, making cupcakes for their birthday? Who’s taking them to the park and going to their school functions? Who’s buying groceries and trying to ensure that they eat healthy meals? Um, that would be me (and hubby).

That would be me, from the second I get off work at 5:00 and leave to pick up Little Sister until after the kids go to bed. That would be me, from the time I get up at 6:45 on Friday … and Saturday … and Sunday … until after the kids go to bed. It’s all me, all the time. (And hubby!!!)

So, if the $138,092 is for a 52-week year and a 92-hour “workweek,” that works out to $28.87 per hour. I figure I work 58 hours a week at this mom job – 14 hours per day on Fri/Sat/Sun, 4+hours per day Mon/Tues/Weds/Thurs. That’s $1,764 per week, or $87,072 per year. In addition to what I  earn at my 4o-hours-a-week job. (Which, believe me, is NOT $28.87 per hour.)

Not exactly sure what my point is with all of this – I think I’m just sick of being left out of the “what is a mom’s work worth” discussion.

 Thoughts?

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