Friday, February 27, 2009

Your Frugal Friend-Tip Five

Money saving tip #5-Cheap does not always mean economical.

Consumer Reports is one of my favorite resources when it comes to buying things. Anything! We still go with the traditional paper magazine, but you can sign up for a yearly subscription to the web page if you want. The last issue did a taste test of coffees and with the coffee experts who did the tastings, they decided that Eight O'clock coffee was the best tasting. The other good thing is that it is less expensive than many other brands.

Then there's diapers, where you do get what you pay for. If you buy Pampers, which are pricier than most, you do get the best leak coverage. I bought Pampers, because after my son leaked through Luvs and I had to do clothing changes, bedding changes and/or get him back to sleep, I decided less hassle for more expense was the way to go.

Consumer Reports is good at breaking down all the characteristics you might need to know about each product. Cars go over road noise, reliability, comfort inside the cabin, and power. They weigh this all against the price and make recommendations according to that. They also have a service to help you know the invoice price of cars so that you can negotiate the price well. We did well with our last Honda Accord, getting just barely above invoice price.*

But just because something is cheap, doesn't mean it will save you money in the long run. If laundry detergent is cheap, but doesn't get your clothes clean, well, then you have to wash them again. Two times in the wash is not saving you money. If you use cheap dish detergent or rinse agent and half your dishes come out spotty and with food stuck to them and you have to wash again, you aren't saving money. If you buy off brands of canned goods or cereal and your kids won't eat it because it tastes yucky, you aren't saving money when you throw it out.

It is a balancing act to saving money and buying items that will get used by your family. Thinking through big purchases like computers, cars, and TVs will help you get the best bang for your buck. You might have to pay for it to get the best item, but in the long run, when it lasts you longer than the cheaper competitor, then you're doing pretty swell. And the satisfaction of getting a good product at a good price goes a long way.

*When we went car shopping, I fully intended to check out both Accord and Camry. The salesman at the Honda dealership must have been pretty desperate, because while I kept saying, "Well, I really want to go to the Toyota dealer and check out the Camrys just to be sure," he kept shoving numbers at us that kept getting smaller and smaller, until finally we couldn't say no. It was pretty funny. This was five years ago and the Accord has yet to have been a problem (knock wood). It also doesn't hurt that the Accord only needs its oil changed every 5,000 miles.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Here, there, and everywhere

Tomorrow I head off for a work retreat, which means I may, or may not, find time to post some more. I will be out of town until Thursday.
Then, there was the drive home from work today, which takes about 30 minutes. Usually I listen to NPR, but they're in the middle of their winter membership drive. I've heard fall drive and spring drive, but now it's the winter one. Sheesh, pretty soon it will end up being the daily membership drive. Ok, maybe not that drastic. Also, I am not contributing. I did, once, as a dollar a day member. I think that ought to get me through a few more years before I pony up again.
Besides, the discretionary income is almost non-existent. I have a purpose for almost every little penny, which includes savings and I don't touch savings.
So, not wanting to feel guilty about to listen to the winter membership stuff, I switch to a station. They've been advertising on TV that they got a whole new play list. Guess what? They do! And I liked every single song I heard.
I ended up in the middle of hearing I'm alright sung by Kenny Loggins.
Then they played something by Three Dog Night, which reminded me of my dad. I think he had (still has) Three Dog Night: Joy to the World: Their Greatest Hits. I think I know all the songs by heart. We'd dance around in the living room to mom and dad's record player, sometimes.
(Nothing really to see here except a record player with Just an Old Fashioned Love Song.)
Then a little Bubbly by Colbie Caillat.
A very short break and then I'm listening to the Beatles:
My taste in music is eclectic and I liked to listen to 1960s music in the 80s. I am sure it was a direct influence of my dad.
Then I get an 80s song and I'm bopping in my seat again. Feeling a little like a junior high kid again.
As I'm pulling into my driveway, I get to hear Eric Clapton. And it makes me grin.
(He shot the sheriff but not the deputy.)
Boy, for those 20-30 minutes, I not once felt like I would want to switch stations. It is plenty eclectic for me, running the whole range of songs I've caught snippets of from my youth to the present.
Still making me smile. Hope it will do the same for you.
[Give me virtual pats on the back for figuring out how to embed in my log now. Am I getting cool or what?]

Friday, February 20, 2009

Your Frugal Friend-Tip Four

Money saving tip #4: Put something away for retirement and college.

But maybe not all of it in mutual funds, IRAs, ERAs.

Actually, we're not sure about that yet. We're meeting with our finance guy (yeah, funny, we have a guy) this coming weekend, to see what damage the stock market has done. But we have our account set up to automatically take money every month to buy more stock in one of those accounts. Instead of a lump sum at one time, say, at the end of the year. That way, during the down turn, we're buying stock low, so we get more stock for our money at this point. When it goes higher, our account will quickly go higher. But I'm worried about when that turn around in the stock market will come.

We're young. We have at least 30 more years until retirement (maybe more, they keep moving the social security age back). As it is, I don't think my husband nor I feel like there will be any social security once we come of age. You'd think I'd be mad about my Social Security taxes taken from my check, since I don't think I'm getting any? No, because an obligation has been made to the older generations about their retirement. Social Security probably should have been reviewed, recalculated and rehauled once every ten years to keep it healthy, but our representative government is not really conducive to planning ahead. Votes are gotten by things that happen for your constituents here and now. I heard this said about a city council once, and I think it doubly triply quadruply infinity applies to our federal government.

I'm a bit worried though about my son's education. I do not expect to be able to pay for all of it. But I would like to be able to pay for part of it. In addition, I am hoping, no, I'm banking on it, that he will get scholarships. Yeah, nothing like pressure on a kid still in elementary school. I'm actually banking on hoping both of them will get academic scholarships. Because I did. It really does help. A lot.

In addition, I have no pie in the sky ideals about sending them to Harvard or Yale (once, I imagined myself going to Yale. Ha!). Just a good solid public state university, with in-state tuition. I prefer that to community college, because frankly, I don't want them living at home. Hence, I would like to help pay for room and board, on campus, if need be.

So, as everyone says, we should probably diversify more. This probably means that in addition to IRAs and ERAs and annuities, I should look into CDs (the interest sucks), savings accounts (interest sucks) and maybe savings bonds (good for middle term investments, between 5 and 10 years, see; it was a handy article).

But, we need to keep putting aside the money. No matter what. And do our best not to touch it. As we contemplate things like braces, Mr. Wild and I are looking at other parts of our budget and what to cut back. Savings is not one of them, no matter how we are distributing those savings.

Looking for Frugal Favorites

I'm still looking to add to my Frugal Menu from you folks. Maybe my parameters were too tight. Kid-friendly AND adult-friendly might be asking too much. And the ease of preparation to rival getting take out, okay, maybe a bit unrealistic.

BUT, I would like your help with recipes and/or meal ideas. Here, I'll get you started. Mr. Wild's favorite meal to fix (the man loves chopping things up, you gotta love that)


Brown the hamburger. Use prepackaged taco seasoning WITHOUT silicon dioxide (the brand we have at the moment is Carlita's, but when we run out, I'm trying to make my own) with whatever water they tell you to use and simmer for 5-10 minutes.

Put tacos shells on a pan (we used Carlita's again [FYI it is a SuperValu brand]) and bake according to directions. Make sure you time it, you might get burned taco shells otherwise (and yes, that can happen).

Chop up any of the following: lettuce, tomatoes, onions

Also, make some SteamFresh frozen veggies (we like the corn), serve in a bowl, and chop up fruit into a fruit salad. Put some shredded cheese on the side, maybe salsa, maybe a little light sour cream, maybe ketchup (don't ask, at least the kids eat the tacos).

Voila, dinner!

What?! You want me to tell you what it cost per serving? Pshaw! At least we ate at home around our dinner table. At the very least, we didn't spend any money on gas.

What's on your table?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

I wonder...

So, I'm looking all over the blogosphere. Some folks have photos of themselves in their profiles, some do not. I wonder, should I have a photo of myself? In my profile. I've done it already with my kids. Will it demystify the Wild Child?

Then I start contemplating the photo. My Facebook photo is a couple years old. I haven't even gotten a picture of my new hair cut (which is getting much older by the minute. I think I got this one back in December and I'm still trying to figure out how to wear it) to share with one of my friends back in Chicagoland, who had specifically asked for it.

But I see a lot of smiling faces looking back at me in the comments sections of the various blogs I visit. Everyone looks very friendly. I suppose you would like it if I added my friendly face? I don't know. The whole getting a good photo might be tricky. I'd feel obliged to wear the right shirt and the right makeup and make sure my hair is decent. It seems like a lot of work suddenly. Maybe Easter, maybe I can get a good picture then. We dress up and look nice, so it might work.

I will have to continue to ponder. Meanwhile, there are followers of this blog who already know my crazy mug and I don't think they'd care one way or another.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

100 days

100 days. 100 episodes. 100 friends on Facebook (not 100 posts, yet)

How many of you have, or had, kindergarteners out there?

*Looks around the crowd, sees a few hands*

There may be a few of you with preschoolers who may have experienced this, too.

Today was the 100th day of school celebration in her class. It's been more than 100 days since I started this blog, but I started on Labor Day and she started soon thereafter, so let's call it a milestone for both of us. She (we) had homework this weekend. We had to send a bag with a 100 collection in it. Yeah, I know, I was also like, what? We don't own 100 of anything. Actually, we do. Crayons. Good thing, because I was not going to go out and buy paperclips, or rubberbands, or whatever else was suggested. Crayons were good. And, as the teacher directed, we counted out all 100 crayons. However, I was NOT going to send the crayons all loose in the bag. They were nicely housed in the 64 crayon box, and the 24 crayon box, and the extra few scattered in the bottom of the bag. But I swear, we did count every single one, like we were supposed to. Because I am the overachieving mom.

We also had to send a 100 snack. 100 sticks of pretzels. We diligently washed our hands. Well, she did and she counted every single one.

Then, poor babe, she got the cold Mr. Wild and I had. It was touch and go, but she said she felt well enough to go to school today, and she really wanted to go. She had a good time with all her 100 things. The teacher mixed all their 100 snacks together, the kids counted by 5s and 10s, colored, and talked about 100 all day. She had paper glasses made out of 100, and a crown with counting by 10s on it. All in all a good thing.

We also had parent-teacher conferences tonight. WC #2 is doing just great. (So is WC#1, but his conference was last night.)


She perhaps talks too much and doesn't concentrate on getting her work done. The teacher was very nice, saying that talking was okay, as long as they talked about their work and got their work done. And she said it was a very chatty class. That must be something, lots of chatty kindergarteners.

You all hear my mom in the background? Yeah, she's nodding her head. That's because it's hereditary.

See, when I was in first grade, apparently I was a bit chatty. And guess what? I have the comments from my report card:

"Wild Child is progressing well in all academic areas of first grade study. We are continuing to stress with Wild Child that it is important to complete certain tasks daily and that it is also necessary to help by being quiet during study periods. Wild Child is very socially inclined and we are trying to chanel [sic] that admirable trait."

Wow. She says that very nicely.

You're all wondering how I came to have that report card.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Too much chocolate?

Ok, you say, how can that be so? I am sharing a recipe from a friend of mine, who shared it with family and friends about 3 years ago. I finally got around to trying it, because, well, what goes well with Valentine's Day? Chocolate, of course! This recipe is for Mocha Velvet Cream Pots and it is from the Cook's Encyclopedia of Chocolate. (And my friend knows who she is. Well, actually, I think her husband made these for her family, he's the chocolatier).

The following recipe has lots of annotations, so you will probably just want to copy it by hand from here.

Mocha Velvet Cream Pots

Serves 8 [I cut the recipe in half, and thus had four pots of Mocha Velvet Cream]

1T instant coffee powder [my friends used instant espresso from an Italian grocery, I used Taster's Choice and I have a measuring spoon that measures 1/2 T, which is very handy, I might add]

2 cups milk [I used 1 cup of skim, because that's what we had]

6T of sugar [I used 3T]

8 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped into small pieces [my friend recommended Ghiradelli, which I used, but didn't know if the 60% or 72% bittersweet chocolate was the right one to use. No other Ghiradelli choices in our store (did I mention we live in a small town?). I decided to use the 60% because I was serving it to my kids, and I used 4 oz]

2 teaspoons vanilla [I used 1t]

2T coffee liqueur [optional, my friends didn't use it, and neither did I, again serving to kids]

7 egg yolks [ok, you're wondering, how did I split one egg yolk in half? I didn't. Somewhere at the back of my foggy brain, I knew, read, found out that when splitting eggs in half for a recipe and of course you really can't, you round up. I used 4 egg yolks. I would have gone for the smallest eggs, but they were all kind of big.]

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Place eight 1/2 cup custard cups or ramekins [I used four, the recipe also notes you can use oven proof coffee mugs] in a roasting pan [a casserole also works, and is what I used]. Set aside. [side note: about three years ago, I bought 8 1/2 cup ramekins from IKEA with the intent for actually making these little desserts. Yes, this is the first time I used them.]

2. Put the instant coffee into a saucepan. Stir in the milk, then add the sugar and set the pan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, until both the coffee and sugar have dissolved completely. [this actually happened before it even came close to boiling, so I kept it on until it boiled and then on a little longer]

3. Remove the pan from the heat and add the chocolate. Stir until it has melted and the sauce is smooth. Stir in the vanilla and coffee liqueur, if using. [my chocolate never seemed fully melted, it was very grainy in the pan. I did not put it back on the heat, but I was sorely tempted. I don't know what was going on there. Maybe that's normal for Ghiradelli?]

4. In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks to blend them lightly. Slowly (very!!) whisk in the chocolate mixture until well mixed (start with a slow bead of chocolate mixture into the egg so you don't cook the egg0, then strain into a large pitcher (or large pyrex measuring cup, which I have!). The straining removes any little cooked bits of eggs - yuck![my friend's notation, I actually had very little bits and they might have been chocolate. This went much better than expected, except it was hard to keep a slow bead of mix flowing out of the pan into the egg. It was more like dribbling down the side of the pan and I was worried it would not make it into the bowl.] Divide the mixture evenly among the cups or ramekins. [It actually makes slightly less than an actual 1/2 cup in each bowl, in case you were wondering]

Pour enough hot water into the roasting pan (or casserole) to come halfway up the sides of the cups or ramekins (less if you are using the coffee cups) [and I wondered, why is that?]

5. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the custard is just set and the knife inserted into the custard comes out clean. [for me it was actually 40 minutes before this happened] Remove the cups or ramekins from the pan and let cool. Place on a baking sheet, cover and chill completely [if you don't have room for a whole baking sheet in your fridge, you can cover each and set them individually around the fridge] Decorate with whipped cream, if desired.

VERDICT: Well, it was very rich. The small half cup serving was all I could handle. My children couldn't finish theirs. Not even close. WC #1 had it with whipped cream and more milk to drink, which seemed to help, but he gave up. WC #2 really wasn't impressed. The first bite or two got raves and then it was too much. It really did need the whipped cream to cut the richness a little. Whew! It was good chocolate, but really only for adults. I thought I did pretty well on the first try. But, I'm unsure about Ghiradelli and its melting abilities, and perhaps I should have used milk with a little fat. Though, that might add to the richness. Shoot, I should have taken a picture.

I also need to have other recipes to use in the ramekins, because, honestly, I am not going to be making this that often.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Food additives

I don't normally worry or care much about food additives. But lately, there's one that has got me flummoxed. Silicon dioxide. Which happens to be the same stuff that is in the packets in jacket pockets, purses, shoes that say "Do Not Eat" and "Throw Away." So I'm told.

So, I pull out the chili powder and see silicon dioxide after which in parentheses it says "anti-caking agent." So, I'm thinking, hunh?

Maybe the manufacturers think the amount they put in the spices or powdered mixes is not much. But why do the little packets from your purses and shoes say, Do Not Eat? Those are never very big packets. How much of the chili powder will I eat to be equivalent to the packets in my jacket? We eat quite a bit of it, usually using 3 T in our chili batches. Which we make quite often in the winter. Me, Mr. Wild and WC 1&2 all eat it. So, I'm thinking that can't be good. Why in the world, if the packets in goods, like purses and shoes, say do not eat, and then it is added to our food? Yeah, seemed weird to me, too, maybe stupid.

So it gets me thinking, maybe I don't want to buy stuff with that in it? And I'm thinking, do we, as consumers, really care that our sprinkling of spices doesn't cake? So, I check other packages for anti-caking agents. Grated parmesan like Kraft, that sits on the shelf instead of the refrigerated section. They use cellulose. Um, is that paper then? Or tree bits? The taco seasoning mix uses tricalcium phospate. Which apparently, according to wikipedia, can be used occasionally as an antacid. With tacos that might not be so bad.

But still, I ask again, do we as consumers really need our powdered stuff not to cake? Because I would be perfectly happy to pound the container or package on the counter until it separates itself and then sprinkle it in whatever, or on whatever.

I guess I'm getting to be more of a label reader. I am finding that you can find stuff without the MSG and other things if you just read a label and pick a different brand. I also avoid high fructose corn syrup if I can. Mostly, it takes making things from scratch to avoid most additives. So pull out your cookbooks and give those recipes a try again. I'm not overly cautious, but I am more cautious than I used to be.

Happy hunting.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Your Frugal Friend--Your Frugal Tips

We like to eat out occasionally, but with some family economics creeping in (kid needs braces), we're cutting back on some things. One of them is the eating out. Instead of once a week, I am trying to cut it to once a month. I just find that sometimes it feels so much easier to go grab something from some local restaurant and not have cooking dishes to clean up. We also suffer from the "What's for dinner" syndrome, where I come home and Mr. Wild says, "What do you want tonight?" One of the ways I try to alleviate this is to come up with 4-5 meals that we can buy groceries for and then Mr. Wild can pick one for that night and work on it. It is much better for my overtaxed brain after work, than trying to think about what food to make right when I arrive back from work. We only do 4-5, because we want to leave a night or two to allow for a leftover meal. No reason for all that food to go to waste if there's extra.

Any of you have suggestions for quick and tasty, kid and adult friendly meals that can make little mess (that may be a more difficult challenge) and be done quickly? If you have recipes for one dish meals, or the like, please leave them in the comments section. We will all appreciate it! I'll do a follow up post and get you all to vote for your top three-five, maybe post a five day planner of our favorites.

Have at it folks!

No sleep

I hate colds. I hate cold medicine.

I tried using Alkaseltzer Plus Cold Medicine. Last year it was a pretty good standby. But yesterday, I had ringing in my ears. And I couldn't sleep last night (this morning? right now?), which used to happen with Sudafed (which actually seemed to make my heart race). The ringing in the ears is listed on the package and says I'm supposed to stop taking it and call the doctor. Like I have time for that. Doctors are only available during working hours, but what am I doing then? Working. So I have to carve out a bit of time to call. Then I'll get a triage nurse, who will take my problem down and then I wait while at some point she talks to the doctor and then calls me back later to tell me if I need to do something different or if I need to set up an appointment.

I have a feeling they'll just say, stop taking it. Ugh. So now what do I do to clear up my sinuses? Yes, I'm drinking hot liquids and taking hot showers. I suppose we really ought to pull out the humidifier.

Meanwhile, I am awake right now at 5:30 am. Well, I've been awake since 3:50 am. And not really tired. And now I'm hungry. I am supposed to get up at 6:30 am (usual time). I don't think I'm going to be sleeping for an hour. If I went back to bed, I would probably toss and turn.

Lack of sleep will not be good for my cold. I worry if I'm not careful, I will get an ear infection. Which adults don't usually get. I got one about 7 years ago, much to my surprise and the doctor's. I had a fever and my ears were hurting after all the nasty draining and plugging of my ears. I went in and the doctor looked in my ear and says, "Well, you have a raging ear infection." She sounded super surprised. I'm thinking, "No, sh*t, sherlock," because it was hurting badly. Ever since then, when I hear the goop slopping around in my head, I worry it will infect my ears again. So maybe it's good I'm upright and drinking hot liquids.

At least I'm getting some blog posts in.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

High school reunion

Lots of action on my Facebook account as we start to slide into the 20th year since I finished high school. Wow, what a difference 20 years makes! Just amazing. I am really enjoying Facebook, because there are some old high school friends that I've really enjoyed catching up with. So, friends and acquaintances are posting old photographs (I really need a scanner, considering all my photos then were taken before digital), and everyone jumps on the bandwagon to make comments. It's fun to read and ponder. In one of those comments sections I saw an interesting tidbit about an old junior high and high school classmate of mine. I didn't know her really well, but we'd end up in the same circles occasionally. Someone mentioned she had a bead shop in Wisconsin somewhere, so I thought I would look it up.

Meant to Bead is the name of the shop. If the shop itself is as snazzy as the web site, it looks like loads of fun. I'm not necessarily an avid beader, or even a beader to begin with, but the projects on her website are so gorgeous, I wish I was an avid beader and could start making such lovely things. I especially like the earrings featured on her site. So, I think, good for her and how fantastic for her! I hope her shop does fine in these tough economic times, because I am sure it started as a hobby for her and grew into a business. Nothing like doing something you love. You can tell from the customer comments that she takes pride in what she does. If you like to bead, she has an on-line store as well, and appears to have a gorgeous selection of beads. I hope you enjoy looking as much as I did. I don't know if she'd remember me.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Your Frugal Friend--Stuff you need to know

Economic Stimulus Plan: Do you know what's going on? I'm not sure I know or understand all of it. But Skywriter over at November Fifth is putting together a nice summary. But beyond the summary, she asks you, the reader, to look it over as well. So I have. And I think I need to read it through more carefully. I have some thoughts on the economy that I'm working on for a post. I am not an economist by any far stretch of the imagination, but I can tell you what I see and what I think from my view point, here in small town midwest.

Do yourself a favor and instead of ignoring the politicians, pay attention. And pay attention to your representative. And start making comments to him/her. If you're on-line reading this, then you probably have email and email isn't that hard to use. Many people spent the last eight years ignoring. The new administration is promising transparency, so demand it from your government.

No, you may not get everything you want or believe in, that's why there is compromise, but also, don't sit and hrumph around just because you didn't get what you wanted, keep talking (and not shouting and not accusing and not participating) or life will move ahead without you and you'll wonder what happened.

Your Frugal Friend-Tip Three

Money saving tip #3: Don't spend more than 25% of your monthly income on your housing.

Housing=mortgage payment+taxes/12+home insurance/12+private mortgage insurance (try not to have this though) or monthly rent+renter's insurance/12

Bankers want you to think you can spend 28% or 30% or even more on monthly housing. Or at least they used to. When we went for our first home mortgage, I was shocked that they would let us have a loan that would end up costing us 36% of our monthly income. Needless to say, we looked for a cheaper house that would get us down in the 25% range. I think we were closer to 28%, but I was at least still more comfortable with that. When we moved out of the Chicago suburbs, we had a nice tidy sum from our old two-bedroom house that allowed for us to put down 40% on our new four bedroom house, making our monthly payment within the 25% of our new one-income budget.

Where did I get the 25%? Good old mom! Yup, when she was getting her degree in Home Economics, one of the things she learned was that housing should be no more than 25% of your income. Sure, that was in the late 1960s. But why should that advice not continue to work now? She gave me that piece of advice at some point. It stuck.

How can this translate for you? Well, check what your current housing payment, plus a twelfth of your insurance and taxes is at the moment. Is it around 25%? Maybe a little higher? Maybe really high? If it is really high, it might help to think about refinancing, which will work if you plan on being in your home for at least another five years. A lower interest rate can really help to bring down the costs. Also a re-evaluation of the equity you have in your home might also get you off of private mortgage insurance, which will also bring down your monthly payment. But you also should have cash for the closing costs. Rolling it into the mortgage can cost you lots more in the long run. On our first house, we did refinance and brought down our payment by $400. That was a huge help.

Hmmm...maybe we need to bring Home Economics back. It seems lots of people have ended up on the ropes, because they don't understand how to manage their own home economics. They aren't learning it on their own either. Maybe it should be in schools again. And not just the sewing and cooking, but the managing budgets. If they had forced us all to take something about managing budgets in junior high or high school, maybe the average person's economy might be doing better.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


Opened up yahoo to check home email. Saw an article about executive compensation and its maximum limits. About time!

Was listening to NPR yesterday and all I could think about was how much money people at the top of these companies are making. It's just insane! True Blue Texan did a good job of sharing her sentiments, which happen to be similar to mine. I took a cut in pay for a job with more responsibility (not to mention our household went from two to one incomes), yet managed to purchase a four bedroom house and send my kids to soccer and dance. Ok, maybe our vacations consist of the yearly holiday trek to our families' houses, but hey, we need to see them and we get to enjoy time with them and have great home cooked meals. Still, we have computers, a cell phone, satellite, and sometimes take vacations other than seeing our families. We try to save for our retirement and college (though using the stock market was maybe not the best bet, but we'll see). We also have a good sense of deferred gratification. There are things I do wish we had in life, I'd like to travel to Europe once a year, and the Rocky Mountains once a year, and wish we had a cabin of our own on a lake somewhere. Maybe someday, maybe not. But my life is still complete without them.

The amount these executives are getting and I am just imagining all the things all that money could go to. Such a selfish culture, these CEOs of big companies or CFOs or COOs. When your company is tanking, real leadership would be to say, hey, I need to take a pay cut, especially if I ask all my worker drones to take a pay cut and/or must lay them off. How many workers could stay on if the salary of the executive was cut? Gasp! More people are still on the pay roll to get the job done. Productivity and morale might still be up.

And I hear all the business boards crying, we can't get good talent if we don't pay this. Hmmm... what if all the boards, together, decided they should cap executive pay. Then, CEOs won't leave, because, oh, Company Y is paying the same as Company X. Incentives should be based upon performance. Hey, incentives in stock might help (especially if they aren't allowed to sell off for a certain number of years after leaving), because your fortunes would ride on your stocks. OH! So your company has to perform well to be a top stock! Gasp, that's bonuses tied to performance! And yeah, duh, how come shareholders have been so left out of this loop. I don't understand much, but it seems people on boards in publicly owned companies also get large amounts of compensation. What are their qualifications and how do they get to be there? And why don't shareholders get to know more about their companies? Because it's dang hard to understand.

So the same old people run all these corporations and have played with all our money. And then they screwed up, lose our money and have the gall to go to the US taxpayers with their hand out. So I am glad that compensation is being limited for those companies that will ask for a handout from here on out. It's too bad this didn't happen with the first half of the rescue package.

Just like government, maybe we need new fresh blood in these leadership positions in companies. I wonder, how many of the CEOs are in my generation, Generation X as we're called. I bet very few Fortune 500 companies have Gen Xers in the driver's seat, if any. It would be nice if someone could give us a chance, us and our younger counterparts. Sometimes experience is good, but sometimes mixing it up with different generational viewpoints is good, too.

There's so much that could be done with education, health care, infrastructure, job creation, if the money wasn't tied up in so many executive salaries. They aren't giving much of it away. Now, are they going to help spend us out of this crisis? I don't think they can. I hope a new day is dawning on corporations, taking out the craziness and putting in responsibility and accountability that should have been there all along.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

More Blogroll Amnesty Day

Stealing an idea from True Blue Texan, where one is supposed to talk about some of the smaller blogs out there, I want to introduce you all to L and her very new blog, How Did We Get Here? I know L through graduate school. I went through the same program she did, only she did it later than I did. I think perhaps her class visited my site where I worked at the time her class was going through the program, so to get wonderfully fun world experience, or some such, or maybe not. The ol' brain just can't remember these things anymore. At the very least, I have seen her at the alumni gatherings and we have served on our alumni board at the same time.

L has just moved to the city of my birth, Des Moines, Iowa. She and her significant other, K, are both fairly new to the city and they started the blog to share what they do in Des Moines, Iowa with their family and friends.

I remember the Des Moines of my youth, some of it brought back to me in the book, The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson, also a native Iowan. But Des Moines has grown up. Look at all the fun things a cute 20-something (I think they are) couple can do in Des Moines, Iowa. And it makes me also long for my home state. I do miss it at times. So she has provided me some first class entertainment and some ideas for what I can do with my family if we finally get the chance to move back to the great state of Iowa.

Don't get me wrong, the midwestern state I currently live in is just as great as Iowa. But, somehow, I think I will always have a soft spot for the land of my birth.

My tiny little contribution to the blogosphere, pointing you in the direction of potentially interesting blog content. I have found in my forays that I have yet to find a blog I didn't like. My blog following list is really huge. I am going to have to cut back some. I really need to spend more time with my kids.

Oh, I'd also like to say I'm glad L joined my followers list. I was getting a little antsy about having 13 followers. I almost made a post asking for more people to follow me publicly. Whew! I feel better now.