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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Helping Adult Children Buy Houses: A Little Disclosure

There are so many issues involved, some of which were brought up in the comments to my last post. One has to think of one's own finances, especially retirement. One has to worry about creating dependency: The Millionaire Next Door authors talk about how Economic Outpatient Care weakens adult children and leads to less productivity. And: what about the other kid?

Well, who knows about retirement. Will we have enough? I have no idea. But my frugal chops are well-developed.

As for dependency: so far Frugal Son seems quite independent in his actions, especially considering how low his income is.

As for the other kid: both kids have similar profiles, for which see below.

The reason I am thinking about this is that--after almost 5 years of severe despondency and throwing my 403b statements in a box unopened, I took a peek recently and things seem OK, at least till the next bubble. When I say I, I mean we, by the way. I just do most of the planning, while Mr FS does the gardening, painting, and home and car maintenance. Since we are both frugal by nature and nurture, and because we fantasized about sending the two children to PRIVATE LIBERAL ARTS COLLEGES, we saved and saved, even as the cost of college soared at double the rate of inflation. We even started a 529 account, in which we amassed room and board expenses for four years, because we knew that if our children chose an in-state public institution, tuition would be free via the TOPS program.

As it happened, the dear children weren't as enamored of the private colleges as we were (perhaps there is a lesson there). They received some merit aid at private colleges. Each child also received room and board scholarships on top of tuition at public colleges. For that, we can all thank the test-taking gods or the fact that the children had genetic material from two families with good test takers. (Mr FS told me long ago that his older brother had perfect SATS. I have not independently verified this claim.) They each chose a public institution. Each is happy with that choice.

So, if you have been reading with any attention, you may have figured out that the 4 years of room and board fees remain untouched. Mr FS said "Why not let the kids share in the consequences of their choices?" I say, "No one would question our having spent this money on room and board or a car when they were in college, etc etc."

My musings will continue...

And, if you haven't read this, you should. It was a life changer for me.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Real Estate Plan: Am I Crazy??

Frugal Son is loving New Orleans. He's also loving working in a school. He has a starter job at a bilingual school and is working on a fast track teacher certification. So, my newest plan is to help him buy a house, to take advantage of the low interest rates and still low-ish housing prices. Frugal Son is still young enough to take in a roommate to help pay the rent.

Am I crazy? Fave blogger Funny About Money has had many tales of woe concerning the house she bought with her son a number of years ago. Does anyone have tales of caution? Advice? Logistical issues?

One of Frugal Son's friends opines that New Orleans has a high culture to cost ratio. It also has a high beauty to cost ratio.

Frugal Son sent some links to available real estate. Even a teacher in New Orleans can have 12 foot ceilings, heart pine floors, and floor-to-ceiling windows. Some of the houses are doubles!

For some reason, I can no longer get the links on properly. So just google New Orleans architecture!

Are we crazy??

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Frugal Redecorating: Use What You Have

I've mentioned Lauri Ward's books before: her motto is "use what you have." Frugal, green, and--believe it or not--quick. Her books--especially the first one, which remains the most useful--don't present beautiful pictures or fantasy environments a la Architectural Digest. Most of us couldn't afford the pillows in an AD spread, much less the Picasso gracing the wall.

So much of our mood depends upon our environment. Ward's blog is usually kind of meh, but I check back now and again. Her most recent post shows a room filled with furniture that is either the same as ours or worse! What a relief! Yet look how nice the room looks when the furniture is rearranged.

She explains how to rearrange in her first book. I followed her ideas and--no kidding--instant improvement.

Have you tried her techniques?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Best, Most Frugal Organizing Tool

How's that for an enticing title? Well, I have the answer: it is the plastic dishpan. This kind.

Amazon pic just for reference. I buy them for $1 or so. They are available at any Dollar Store. Interestingly, they are usually priced HIGHER at thrift stores.

I am the opposite of organized. I would never even think of this by myself. No, like most of what I know, I learned it from a book. This one, which is as much consulted as the OED.

This chick LOVES dishpans. She uses them for children's books (face forward, stand upright) and just about everything else: socks, toys. I bought 20 after reading her book and guess what--after almost 20 years, I am STILL using them. For vitamins and other drugstore items. For gloves and hats. For spices. ETC.

If you buy them all in the same color, you can line them on a shelf and they do not look too horrible. Even better, they make a closed shelf into a dresser. And you can use them in a dresser drawer as a divider.

Who needs the Container Store? The dishpan is a gift of the frugal universe, right up there with dried beans. You can have as much as you want and they are GOOD. Enough. I see I am getting carried away.

Do you have a tool as good as the dishpan? Or almost?

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Congestion: The Causes

Are you still congested? So said the half-asleep Mr FS. He was referring to my recent annoying illness. Yes, I'm OK. The cure for that is usually sleep.

Ah, but what about the other kind of congestion, that which plagues my living space and--judging from all the storage facilities I spy (no, I am not a user)--the living spaces of many, many others.

To mis-allude to that famous literary opening. All clutter looks alike. All families get to clutter in their own way.

My congestion is particularly acute this year. After seeing a bunch of stuff whoosh out when Frugal Son got his apartment in New Orleans, we saw a bigger bunch of stuff whoosh in when we dismantled my late and missed father-in-law's home in California. We were the last of the children to go. Even though the family is somewhat unconventional (in some ways), they are all materialists. They LOVE STUFF.

Of a particular sort. If the stuff had been valuable (conventional in a way), it would have been emotionally and practically easy to sell. If it had been conventional (mass-produced stuff from mid-priced venues), it would have been easy to donate. But what about handmade furniture and rugs? Handmade sweaters? These have no value on the resale market, yet much value on the emotional market.

And what about eccentric collections--like a bunch of bells on a handmade wooden tower? Or a bunch of bird calls. Or things made of interesting types of wood?

Looking back, being the last of three visitors was a vulnerable position for an unconventional person of a materialistic nature. Mr FS intoned: I just can't stand thinking of it going to a stranger. A dangerous sentence. And--since we were last--if we didn't take it, no one would.

We contracted a PART of a truck: 9 by 5 by something. Mr FS proved to have unanticipated skills in fitting things into tiny spaces IN-BETWEEN. Truly, unpacking was like watching all the clowns emerge from a tiny car at the circus.

We're working on the clutter. Making some headway. I finally found a spot for that bell thing. It is nice to look at. And we now have a new addition to the family lexicon.

One piece of pie left over? I can't stand to think of it going to a stranger. Or how about the last bite of mashed potatoes? Ditto.

The cure for clutter, of course, is donation. As we (in spite of the above sentence) gather things (our things) to donate to various thrift stores to make way for the emotionally resonant items that came in, we remember this beautiful sentiment:

You shall neither wrong a stranger, nor oppress him: for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Missing in Action: The Problem, The Cure

I guess I've been Missing in Action. Not really, of course, but my poor little diminished blog! A busy and stressful year, but no more than usual.

Lately, I've been plagued by objects Missing in Action.

To wit: before we went to Florida to visit my mother, I searched for my favorite long-wear-over-leggings tank top (my MOST worn item on trips) and couldn't find it. Still can't. OK, it's all pilly I admit, but the closest thing I've been able to find is a long Eileen Fisher tank. Can you imagine if I also lost that after spending $148 on it?

Then, Miss Em and I helped my organized shopaholic mother clear out her excess, to the tune of 15 handbags. UGH. I packed them up and will bring to consignment for my mom. One I planned to keep was a black Coach bag. When I got home, it was nowhere to be found, though the ugly ones were all present. Where is it?

Then, En route to meeting up with her back to school ride, Miss Em and I stopped at Walgreens for some OTC meds. We bought one mistakenly, so I said I'd return it today. I thought I put it in my purse with the receipt. the receipt is there, but the meds are not. Did they fall off my lap at the drop-off point?

I know this is an affliction of middle age. I used to have an excellent memory, with some photographic capacity, so I could find anything. No more.

The cure, I'm afraid is the usual. Decluttering.

Does anyone have any other suggestions for dealing with the affliction of objects Missing in Action? Advice appreciated.