Archive for December, 2011

My Hope for the New Year!

This year I’m not making a list of New Year’s resolutions. I know that I need to eat better, cut out soft drinks and lose the excess ten to fifteen pounds I’m carrying around after the birth of my first child. I know I should do a whole bunch of this and whole bunch of that in 2012, but instead of creating a long list of to-dos I’ve decided to focus on one and only one goal for the new year.

I hope to pay greater attention to my life. In essence, I hope to be present in the every day moments that make up my day-to-day existence. My son is only two and a half months old and I already feel like he’s growing up in the blink of an eye.

Every day I plan to write down the days events, but somehow night falls and I realize I still haven’t even written down the details of his birth, which occurred nearly eleven weeks ago. I am blessed with a very loving husband and a decent severance check, which enable me to stay home with my little boy.

I want to make every second of his young life count. I want to watch the world through his eyes. When we take him to the beach I want to hear the crashing waves as though I’m hearing them for the very first time. His first afternoon blowing bubbles, the first time he really looks at the pages of the storybooks we read. I want to live in these moments, because in no time at all they will feel like distant memories.

This year my only and only resolution is to be present in the moment. Whether that’s time spent with my son or with friends and family I really want to stop rushing around and really embrace this amazing life I am fortunate enough to live! I think it’s less of a resolution than a hope. The hope that I can count my blessings and relish the time we have to spend together.

December 31, 2011 at 9:30 PM 2 comments

Taking It to the CEO

I’m not typically one to be quiet. If you ruffle my feathers I’ll probably let you know about it. If you don’t solve my problem I’ll probably find someone above you who will. That’s just the way things go in my world. Why stand back and let the world whip you around when you can take control of the reigns and make things happen?

If you’re a regular reader of my blog you know that the HR staff at my former company screwed up the processing of my severance payout. For whatever reason they failed to mail out the paperwork required to receive my severance and then never apologized for failing to send it out.

When I called to have the issue rectified I was told the severance check which was originally due to arrive in December was now set to arrive in February. That means I would’ve been waiting for quite some time to receive that money. It also means my severance would’ve been applicable to the 2012 tax year rather than 2011.

My severance was large enough to place me over the limit for payroll taxes this year, so if the check arrived in December I would’ve been saved from paying social security tax. If it arrived in 2012 I would’ve paid the full rate, which by the way is going back up to 6.2% next year.

I was annoyed that HR screwed up, failed to apologize and didn’t seem very interested in rectifying the situation for me. I was told by my HR representative that nothing could be done. I didn’t believe that. I knew that payroll could cut a check for me by December 31st.


I emailed the CEO of my former company along with a VP of Human Resources. I explained my situation, how long I’d been with the company and the bizarre circumstances with which I was let go (a massive layoff for a position I’d just applied for) and that I’d like a check cut before December 31st.

Sure enough I received an immediate response saying the problem could be rectified. A check was shipped via overnight delivery and I received it early this afternoon.

It’s just another case to prove that I am my own best advocate. If I fight for what I believe is right I usually win!

December 30, 2011 at 10:00 PM 2 comments

$100 Worth of Bottles My Baby Refuses to Use

Ahhh. The frustration of the first parenting hurdle. It seems my two month old son will not accept a baby bottle. At six weeks we decided to introduce a bottle and the little guy gulped down three ounces like a champ. The next night the same thing occurred, but a few days later we gave him another bottle and he refused. He eventually drank, but not without a lot of fuss. A day later he wouldn’t accept the bottle from anyone.

So I drove out to the store and bought every bottle and nipple I could find on the shelf. I also ordered a few that I couldn’t find in store from Babies-R-Us. That afternoon he drank from one of the bottles twice, but the next day he was back to pushing it away. $100 later it seem our little man does not want to drink from any of the bottles we purchased.

I read every article I could find on the Internet and tried every trick I could get my hands on, but our baby cannot be tricked. He wants breast milk right from the tap and he refuses to accept anything else.

Am I frustrated? Definitely, but I’ve decided not to get all worked up about the issue. I was hoping our little one would take a bottle once a day so my husband could help out with late night feedings, but I’ve decided not to get too upset about the fact that he is refusing. The truth is that I treasure the closeness of breastfeeding and have no immediate need for the baby to eat any other way. For the time being I can deal with the lack of sleep and since I’m not planning on returning to work for a few months there is no need to rush him to take a bottle.

So what’s a girl to do with $100 worth of bottles that her baby refuses to use? Well for the time being my husband and I are still trying to get the baby to drink from a bottle, we are just doing it in a calm and stress free manner. We hope that he’ll take to one of the bottles eventually, but if all else fails we’ll try to use a cup instead. Believe it or not we’ve had quite a bit of success with a cup already.

I figure this is the first of many parenting hurdles we’ll run into and it won’t be the first time we drop a load of cash in the hopes of helping us solve a problem.

December 29, 2011 at 3:30 AM 4 comments

I’m Sorry. I Don’t Have Your Severance Check.

The first thing you realize after getting laid off is that a lot of bills come due. If you don’t have other insurance COBRA comes calling. If you want to convert your life insurance policy MetLife gives you a ring. The good news is that all of these places are willing to extend benefits to the unemployed.

I can remain on COBRA for 18 months and I can convert my life insurance to an individual policy without a medical exam. The bad news is that once I review the options and make decisions I need to pay the bills.

Since my employer used to pay a good portion of these benefits I had no idea just how much they cost. With COBRA my medical and dental insurance will now cost me over $1400 a month. By the way since coverage is retroactive I now owe three months worth of premiums. That’s right by the end of January I’ll need to fork over nearly $3000.

This wouldn’t be such a big deal if my employer mailed my severance check, but alas my check is no where to be found. It seems I must fill out a bunch of forms before I can receive payment and surprise, surprise the paperwork was lost in the mail. Well my former employer is claiming it was lost in the mail.

So here I thought a check would arrive this week and instead I find out my former employer hasn’t even begun processing the paperwork for my severance. Now they’ll need to resend the documentation and won’t begin the process until they receive a copy back with my signature. That may mean waiting another month to receive that big check.

It’s a good thing we have emergency savings. I know a lot of people in the same situation would be unable to pay their medical bills.

December 24, 2011 at 5:25 AM 3 comments

Seriously Considering Giving Netflix the Boot

I’m seriously considering giving Netflix the boot. It seems to take forever for them to obtain the rights to ship out DVDs for new releases and when a movie finally becomes available it seems to take forever for them to actually mail it to me. My queue is filled with notes reading ‘long wait.’

My husband and I currently subscribe to the 2 DVDs out-at-a-time plan, which costs $14.99 a month to receive Blu-rays. We originally had access to streaming video as well, but once Netflix started charging for that service we got rid of it. Most of the available movies are relatively old and we really only watch older films when we’re at the beach house in North Carolina, which isn’t very often these days.

Rather than waiting for extended periods of time to receive new releases I’ve recently starting renting them from Amazon. I noticed a few months ago that Amazon discounts the prices of a select set of movies each week. The selection varies, but there always seem to be at least three or four movies available for 99 cents at any one given time.

For the price of a monthly Netflix membership I can watch 15 movies at 99 cents a piece. A newly released HD movie typically costs $4.99, so if I didn’t rent any discounted movies I could only rent three movies in a month for the same price as my Netflix membership, but in a typical month I probably only watch three or four movies anyway.

Some people may suggest that I downgrade to the Netflix 1 DVD out-at-a-time plan if I rent so few movies, but a lot of times I hold onto a movie for a few extra days so my husband can watch it with me. Then I use the second DVD as a rotating wish list for chick-flicks he wouldn’t be interested in.

I think I’ll place my Netflix account on hold for now and try to rent exclusively through Amazon. Right now the cost of membership just doesn’t seem worth it.

December 22, 2011 at 4:59 AM 6 comments

No Gift Hunting This Year

Since my son arrived this fall I’ve had very little time to spend shopping either in-store or on the Internet. So, rather than busting my hump to find the perfect gifts for people I decided to dish out the gift cards, hand over adorable photo albums of our new addition to the family and call it quits on gift hunting this year.

While I know that gift cards aren’t exactly the most interesting items to receive they do ensure that the recipient won’t have to spend the week after Christmas driving around from mall to mall returning unwanted presents.

This year I want to focus more time on the ones I love and less time on the mountain of gifts waiting to be unwrapped under the tree. Let’s hope that the recipients of my gifts view Christmas in the same light.

December 20, 2011 at 2:55 AM 1 comment

My Final Paycheck Arrived

When the kind gentleman with the UPS uniform knocked on my door I immediately knew it was a package from my employer. I didn’t even need to look at the outside label to make that determination, somehow in my heart I just knew that’s who it was from.

As he handed over the envelope I thanked him and wished him a happy holiday. I wanted to say, “you’re delivering the details of my layoff”, but I simply closed the door behind me and peeled open the package. I was right and wrong. It was a envelope from my employer, (previous employer I guess I should say), but it wasn’t the details of my severance package. It was a check. The very last paycheck I should ever expect to receive from them.

I hate to admit it, but I was sad to open that envelope. As I looked down at that piece of paper I thought about the very first paycheck I received from them and how excited I was to start my employment there over twelve years ago.

Although my departure from work is a true blessing, (as I am now able to spend the first six months of my son’s life right by his side), I am still disheartened by the way I was let go after all these years. I’ve had my grievances against that place, but in many ways I feel like I grew up there after college.

Over the years I’ve realized that I’m not one who likes to say goodbye. In fact, it’s probably the reason I worked there so long in the first place, but like it or not that final check certainly put an end to my career there.

Luckily my husband quickly reminded me that continued employment would mean leaving my sweet baby boy all day in exchange for a mind numbing job stuck inside a cubicle. Although I’m still sad about the way things ended that thought certainly put a smile on my face.

In fact, if my employment had not ended I would have been forced to return to work in just two short weeks. With that thought in mind all I can say is thank God I was laid off, because I don’t know if I could bear leaving my little one so soon.

Sometimes life has a magical way of working out. Rather than unhappily returning to work or being forced to quit I am actually being paid to stay home for a few months with my child. Although I’m unhappy with the way things ended, deep in my heart I can’t imagine parting ways any better.

December 14, 2011 at 3:40 AM Leave a comment

Maxing Out My 401(k) to the tune of $155,758.87

I started contributing to my 401(k) in 1999 with my very first paycheck at my very first job straight out of college. Of course, I made such a teeny, tiny salary when I first began working that I couldn’t max out my contributions, but in 2002 and 2003 I got really close and in 2004 I finally reached my goal.

• 1999 — Limit $10,000 — My Contribution $898.49
• 2000 — Limit $10,000 — My Contribution $4042.65
• 2001 — Limit $10,500 — My Contribution $6521.03
• 2002 — Limit $11,000 — My Contribution $10,452.81
• 2003 — Limit $12,000 — My Contribution $11,843.89
• 2004 — Limit $13,000 — My Contribution $13,000.00
• 2005 — Limit $14,000 — My Contribution $14,000.00
• 2006 — LImit $15,000 — My Contribution $15,000.00
• 2007 — Limit $15,500 — My Contribution $15,500.00
• 2008 — Limit $15,500 — My Contribution $15,500.00
• 2009 — LImit $16,000 — My Contribution $16,000.00
• 2010 — Limit $16,500 — My Contribution $16,500.00
• 2011 — Limit $16,500 — My Contribution $16,500.00

When I added up the numbers I was amazed to see a total of $155,758.87 in savings! I think this is one of the reasons automatic savings is so valuable. You start out small and increase the percentage ever so slightly with every raise and wham twelve years later you wind up with a large chunk of change!

December 11, 2011 at 4:55 AM 4 comments

Do You Restrict the Number of Gifts Your Children Receive?

Our little one will be less than three months old by the time Christmas rolls around this year. However, despite his young age I have a feeling that our families will inundate him with bags full of goodies. While he certainly won’t be able to count the number of gifts he receives I don’t want to set a precedence for Christmases to come.

I want our son to feel blessed and loved, but I don’t think he needs a room full of gifts to demonstrate those two things. I would prefer our families to buy him a small number of presents. Honestly, I’d prefer just one or two. He’s simply too young to appreciate most of the items he receives and so small that I fear most of his gifts won’t even be played with.

Of course, I also don’t want to disappoint our family by asking them to spend less on their new grandson. I certainly don’t want to downplay the joy and excitement they have for our son’s first Christmas.

My husband and I purchased savings bonds for my niece and nephew until they were five. We always bought them one small gift they could open, typically story books for their libraries.

I certainly don’t want to ask my family members to buy them savings bonds, but I would like them to know that we want to limit the amount of gifts our little one receives if possible. I hate to think of all of the money that will be wasted on toys our son will outgrow quickly and/or never play with.

So I’m wondering if any of my glorious readers place a restriction on the number of gifts their children receive from friends and family members. If so, how did you approach your friends and family about your desires?

Also, do you think I’m being a bit crazy about wanting to restrict the number of gifts my son receives? A friend recommended accepting whatever gifts are offered and then donating whatever we feel is excessive. While that might work with a gift received from a distant relative it certainly won’t work for family members who see him on a weekly basis and will wonder where his gift is.

December 7, 2011 at 4:45 AM 4 comments

Book Review: Shiny Objects

I couldn’t resist a free copy of James A Roberts new book, Shiny Objects: Why We Spend Money We Don’t Have in Search of Happiness We Can’t Buy. Before the book arrived I was told it “exposes the hidden motivations and erroneous assumptions behind our spending habits and reveals the key to reversing the devastating and ever-increasing effects of materialism in modern culture, showing readers how we can actually increase our well-being by scaling back.”

As soon as I saw the description I knew I wanted to read the book. I’ve written about my own quest to clear out unwanted clutter from my home. To free myself of the overhead associated with owning unnecessary objects and to stop myself from purchasing any items for which we don’t have a pressing need.

Since I started clearing out the clutter I’ve been better able to focus on the things in my life that really matter. I no longer buy things we don’t need and I save money and live happier without all that unwanted junk.

Shiny Objects takes you on a historical lesson through the various events through our country’s history that have led to the over consumption of stuff. In the book, Roberts divulges with great detail moments in our history that have led Americans to take to the malls in an effort to shop away their troubles and out-consume their neighbors. After completing the historical lesson Roberts focuses the last few chapters of the book on steering the reader away from a consumption based lifestyle in favor of a life better lived.

I enjoyed reading this book, but must admit that I found parts of the historical lesson a bit boring and long. Overall though it was an interesting read, but some of the facts about our country’s overspending habits could have been condensed. I must admit that I began to glaze over during some chapters and even skimmed paragraphs rather than reading all of the details. However, I found the book to be quite informative overall and truly enjoyed reading it.

December 3, 2011 at 4:50 AM 1 comment

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