Monday, November 3, 2008

October Utility Bills

Are down again!

This is so fabulous. I realize that the weather has something to do with
it, but it amazes me how small efforts are paying off.


This weekend I put the last diaper in the house on the baby, gave her to
hubby, and ran out to Target to pick up a new package. I realized that
we could get 20 more in a box if I went for the regular Huggies instead
of the special ones. Okay, I'll give it a try...

Turns out they're better than the uber-spiffy ones!

They are shaped slightly differently so the legs don't leak as much.
They fit better in general.

And for $0.05-$0.10 less a diaper!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Has a sunk-cost article that makes me think about our recent attempts to
sell excess stuff.

It's really hard to put prices on some things. I know what it cost new.
I know what we paid for it. And it's HARD for me to accept less than I
think we "should" get. So I lower it /a little bit/. And then I get
really pissed at all the low-ball offers I get. $15 for that baby swing?
Are you kidding me? $75 for my exercise equipment?

The thing that really made me think about this article is the point that
it's important to only base decisions on what something is worth now. It
doesn't matter what you paid for it. If it's not worth anything to you
right now, then it doesn't matter what you get for it. If it's taking up
space that you NEED, then it's more important to get rid of it than make
all the money you can.

Something to think about, anyway.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


I haven't forgotten about this blog!

We're still determined to control our finances rather than the other way
around. We're making progress. We've had some bad months and some good
ones, but overall we're doing very well.

- We have not charged anything on our credit cards.
- We have paid every bill on time.
- We have money left over at the end of the month to put in our
emergency fund or pay off debt.
- We paid for SIX FULL MONTHS of car insurance, which we've never been
able to do before. This saved us bunches.
- I've rented out my office a few hours a week to the tune of an extra
$50 a month (and still have the option of using the room at that time)
- I've completed my first round as a teacher and am now officially able
to sub and already have two more dates at the school set in my calendar.
- I've joined Stampin' Up and already have workshops and classes
scheduled. I'm on my way to earning back my initial investment.

That's a brief update.

It was my original intention to blog here everyday. To be honest I don't
feel like I'm qualified to write articles about basic
credit/debt/investment stuff. That seems to be what every successful
blog does and you know what? I think there are many qualified writers
out there. I don't need to add the stress of being one on my shoulders.

This is what I have going on in my life right now:
- Full-time mommy of a baby
- Food/house/etc.
- Faculty member at local school (part time as needed for 10 to 20-week
intervals or substitute work)
- Member of local chorus, rehearsals every Tuesday night
- Member of networking group
- Member of stamp club
- Stampin' Up! demonstrator
- Business owner
- Massage therapist

(I separate the last two because I'm also the person who does the
website, email marketing, networking, and so forth as well as the actual

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Sept. Utlities

It seems like I just wrote about our August utilities, but I guess time
has been a flyin'!

Our water/sewage bill went up $4 and our electricity went down $1. Not bad!

I can't believe how much less we used compared to last year. The hottest
months almost always had our electric bill around $270 and we're barely
breaking $200!

I'm so glad we got the Kill-A-Watt meter. I guess we could have just
figured out what to turn off/unplug on our own, but seeing the numbers
and doing the math was the extra incentive that we needed to really make
a habit of it.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Not much new!

I've been busy lately.

I auditioned and subsequently joined a choral group. It's something I've
wanted to do for a long long time. These are the benefits that I foresee:

- FUN! I love singing and have always wanted to be part of a group. I
also miss performing.

- New people. This will give me the chance to know people as friends and
possibly clients. This will expand both my social and business contacts.

- Community. It's hard not having a group. Hubby has work. Some people
have church. Others have a very large family. I'm looking forward to
being a part of something.

I've also officially joined Stampin' Up! I'm excited about this. If
nothing else I hope that my scrapbooking/cardmaking addiction will start
paying for itself!

I've scheduled two workshops in September and a number of classes in
Sept., Oct., and Nov. I've updated my demonstrator website. I've sent a
number of email invites out.

*Crosses Fingers*

Saturday, August 16, 2008

I love Open Office

On my laptop I was debating whether to get Office, which I am very used
to using, or whether to do something else. Since my hubby is getting my
old computer I can't transfer the license like I would if I was getting
rid of it entirely. (We would format the hard drive in that case so that
none of my programs or files would remain or be easily useable.)

I downloaded a copy of Open Office, which is very close to Microsoft
Office and is completely free. It's a very nice package and extremely
easy to use. I highly recommend it!

Friday, August 15, 2008

*crosses fingers*

Hubby had his six-month review this week. His boss is extremely happy
with him and told him he's getting a raise! He wasn't given any details
since they've been slammed, but this is a really good thing. This
paycheck doesn't have it so we'll see on the thirtieth how good the news
really is.

Walmart Clearance

Just wanted to say that I found quite a few nice tops on clearance at
Walmart yesterday for $5 and $10.

Also bought some notebooks for five cents each.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Car Insurance

I finally made the choice of who to use for car insurance once ours expires at the end of the month.

The winner is Progressive at $623.53.

Not only did we get better coverage than Geico, plus "gap" insurance (even though they don't call it that) which Geico does not offer, we were able to do so for far less.

Geico wanted over $850 to renew. I changed our two deductibles from $500 to $1000 for collision and comprehensive and got rid of car rental reimbursement. New total? $770. I called and spoke with the lady over the phone to try and figure out why I could get better coverage elsewhere for more than a hundred dollars difference. She couldn't find any other discounts but did give me a huge schpiel about how in 2010 we'll automatically get accident forgiveness and how wonderful this is.

Blah blah blah. I get it. I am not a person who believes that "that kind of stuff never happens to people like me," or that I am such a great driver I would never cause an accident. Nope. I know that it takes the blink of an eye for something to happen. Where we live we have lots of older folk we call "Sunday Drivers", intermittent rainstorms throughout the year, and many other things that could easily turn into a fender bender or worse, no matter how good of a driver you are.

I personally think that saving $300 a year is a much better deal. If we do get into an accident we will simply deal with the increase or find a company that won't hold it against us. I could purchase that from Allstate straight off, for example, without a five-year wait. Geico lady couldn't tell me how much an increase might be. She said it didn't really matter how bad the accident was, it was more a matter of circumstance and how many and yadda yadda. In other words she was very vague. I'd lose my $50 good driver discount for sure and I may see a rate increase of $100-$200. Well geeze, it seems to me that I would end up paying about what they're asking me to pay now, don't you think?


Monday, August 11, 2008

Hobby into money?

I've made a decision to join the Stampin Up demonstrator team.

I've always hated Avon, Mary Kay, Candlelight, and all those other "party" type businesses. Especially the vitamin and wellness ones. Because I'm a health care professional they always try to recruit me. On my networking webpages I even put "Please do not contact me regarding vitamins or other wellness items, thanks!"

Even with the more girly organizations, however, I have a bad taste in my mouth. When I was younger I had some friends who would have parties and invite me. Being a good friend, I went. They were always boring and the one time I ordered anything not only did I not get part of my order, and the rep never returned any of my calls, but the products I did get were not nearly the quality promised.

So it surprised me when I discovered how excited I am by the possibility of joining Stampin Up. It's been something we've talked about for a long long time.

I was going to join before hubby got laid off from job number one. Then I was going to join and he got laid off from the next job. Then I couldn't because I delivered my baby and then he didn't get hired again for ten weeks. Then my business ended up dropping off due to summer and economic issues and it didn't happen a third time. Now, however, hubby is doing very well in a non-construction-based company that is very stable, my business is steady, and we have the money put aside.

So why am I doing this?

- I am very impressed with their products. I've been using them for almost a year and find that they are far superior to other companies. It doesn't matter if we're comparing paper to paper or punches to punches or stamps to stamps. Every item is a better quality.

- The starter kit is a great value, especially when signing up during a promotion. I already get over 350 worth of items for under 200, right now I'm going to get an additional 47 worth. Lots of people sign up for the kit, which you fully customize each time, let themselves drop of the active list, and sign up again to get the awesome value.

- I've been asked by people for awhile to teach technique classes. This is something I could do and make more money by having product for them to order.

- Home parties intimidate me but I can make money if I do them. Yes, it will take effort and all that. I am not naive. I've researched a lot of companies and I know what the reality is versus the promises.

- I'll get a discount on everything I order plus hostess benefits which make it even better. Face it, I'm going to spend my monthly allowance on craft stuff. I can get better quality items that coordinate with each other by doing it this way and not feel guilty for not opting for cheaper items just because I could have gotten them with a coupon.

- I can sell card fronts on ebay for additional money. This is a popular thing right now and they go for fifty cents to a dollar each most of the time.

I'm excited and I'm sure I'll be posting more about this later on. Wish me luck!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Our Anniversary Supper

Six years ago we enjoyed a frugal wedding. Elopement, more accurately, though we had our parents in attendance at the courthouse. Afterward they treated us to lunch at a little place called Freds. That evening the two of us had a very special dinner at The Melting Pot. Our server was the best I've ever had in my life and they did everything they could to make our night special. My favorite memory is when we walked out to the car and found the staff had tied balloons all over it with congratulatory phrases.

We decided that we were going to go back there to celebrate or sixth wedding anniversary. Hubby made reservations, the money was set aside in the budget (we decided that rather than spend our anniversary allowance on buying each other gifts we would have a nice dinner out), and we both looked forward to it for weeks.

I was disappointed. The food was okay. And it is fun to use the pokey sticks to cook your own food. The cheese course is always my favorite. But when it comes down to it, I really didn't feel like the meal or the experience was worth near what we paid for it.

I'm a great cook. There's very little that would intimidate me even for the briefest moment when it comes to kitchen mastery. I think a souffle might make my knees shake a little but really, when am I going to make one?

There are also other restaurants that are our special celebration places. I adore JoTos, for example, which is almost thirty dollars less. You get a great show and the food is fantastic.

So all in all I felt like we should have gotten more for our money.

Ultimately we skipped the dessert course, another fourteen dollars, because we were stuffed and I would much rather go out another night and get some amazing cheesecake and maybe bananas foster at Stonewood for roughly the same price.

The evening ended on a very poor note and I feel very badly for ruining it. It wasn't my fault.

I went into the ladies' room to use the facilities and as I was reaching up to lock the door (I had closed it but was multitasking and unbuttoning my pants so as to sit at the same time) and some woman flung it open. The door hit me in the head and the movement was so swift and surprising that my hand flew back and my thumbnail scratched my eye.

I have a huge eye thing. Nothing scares me more than the thought of losing my eyesight. I was legally blind for a large part of my life and LASIK completely changed my world. Any eye injuries scare the crap out of me.

I didn't tell her what had happened. I figured she thought she just invaded my privacy and was likely embarrassed. There was nothing she could have done and I didn't think we both needed to have our evenings ruined by the event.

So I'm sitting here typing this in bed--I took some generic Tylenol and then came in to lay down as soon as we got home--while hubby is off on a quest for ice cream.

I'm bummed. The scratch isn't that bad. It hurts, burns, and itches at the same time, but now that I have finally stopped crying it's a lot better.

I did get a chance to wear my jeans. Most everything in my closet is maternity issue and at seven months I'm sure it's quite time to stop looking sloppy. Most of my jeans shorts were commandeered by my husband--we buy size 36 men's shorts because they fit us both and are inexpensive--so all that's left are maternity clothes or my scrubs for work.

Dillard's had a big sale and I got two pairs of really nice jeans for under thirty-five dollars. One of them I wore tonight. They are really form fitting and I feel sexy in them. It's the first time I've felt sexy in an outfit since way before I got pregnant. They're dark denim. The other pair is also flattering but is a lighter denim and more casual for every-day wear.

I'm going to be hitting Goodwill soon once a week or so until I can rebuild enough clothes that when I go to networking meetings or to mom's groups I can at least look somewhat put together. It really does impact my business.

Monday, August 4, 2008


What is the difference between:
- Spouse giving birthday gift of check, cash, or gift card to be used as recipient desires;
- Spouse taking specific list of items, shopping, and then wrapping them as presents for the big day;
- Birthday person spending money in budget for what they want

We recently decided that this year we're simply going to distribute the budgeted cash for our birthdays and allow the person whose birthday it is to go buy what they want.

It's great to open up a fabulous gift from your spouse and say, "wow! That was really thoughtful!"

But in our family, at this moment, it's not really the best option. Why? Because our wants and needs are pretty specific. The last thing we need is more stuff in the house that needs to have a home or that we're going to end up selling in a garage sale. If we want something, then we want that particular thing. Also, time is awful. In order for my husband to go shopping he'd have to take what little time we have together to do it. I'd much rather spend time with him and spend the money however I want it.

This year I spent my money on two things. One was a keyboard that goes to the PDA I use for my business. This will allow me to focus on writing inbetween clients, keep better client notes, and so forth. It was $20.00.

The rest was put towards a laptop.

The only thing I don't like is that I don't feel like, "my husband bought these things for me." It's not like a piece of jewelry that I can glow about and say, "Oh thank you for the compliment! My husband picked this out himself." Yes, he contributed most of the money towards the budget that was put towards these things. Yes, he helped me pick out what I wanted and was a great sounding board. But when it comes down to it, I'm the one that actually bought them.

I don't know if any of that makes sense. We'll see how things go shortly.

For our anniversary (five days before my birthday--what was I thinking?) we decided that instead of getting each other gifts--we didn't budget very much at all--we're going to have one nice dinner and have a great evening together.

Final Decision and Purchase

We have been seriously discussing a laptop since last spring. There are a number of reasons why we decided to purchase one.

One reason has to do with space. We simply do not have room for both computer desks anymore. Therefore one computer has to go. My mother wants it and gave us $250 towards a laptop in exchange. A laptop takes up much less room.

A second reason is that as an instructor I can use one of the school's two laptops, however having my own will make things much easier. I don't have to worry about transferring files or trying to get my windows stuff to work on a mac.

As a writer having a laptop will allow me to work on projects far more often. Prior to yesterday the only way I could write was if the kiddo was napping (in which case she doesn't nap well because she's in the same room as the computer) or if I took time away from my husband on the few evenings we have together. The laptop now allows me to write while I supervise her playtime. (No worries - I'll still spend hours playing with her on the floor. At this age, however, she mostly plays by herself. There's interaction but her play isn't exactly interactive.) This also allows me to take on some freelance website stuff if I have the opportunity.

So the decision was made after hours of discussion.

I've been looking at ads from the three major office stores and two major big box stores every weekend for the past three months. I feel I can spot a pretty good deal when I see one.

We picked out the laptop we wanted. It's normally $899 but was on sale for $749. We received an additional $150 off because we signed up for Verizon's Air Card. It's a brand new promotion and anyone who signs up gets the discount and 30 days to try it out. I returned it and canceled the contract within 24 hours so we won't even have an activation fee and the $150 off is still ours.

The laptop cost $600 plus tax so slightly under $642. My mother gave us $250 towards it which brought our cost down to under $400. I put about $75 of my birthday money towards that. That left us $318 to cover. Not bad for a thousand dollar laptop, eh?

Some specs:
AMD Turion64x2 TL-60 2Ghz
Nvidia graphics card GeForce Go 7150M
4 gb ram
250 gb hard

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Black Hole Hobbies

At what point does someone who is involved with say, oh, I don't know... scrapbooking.... say, "I have enough stuff," and mean it?

I'm beginning to feel overwhelmed by the amount of stuff that's available. And oh, I long for it! I look forward to each new month and the little bit of money I get to spend on myself and I count the days.

But at what point does this black hole hobby finally stop sucking on my finances? There are people with far less than I have who create beautiful layouts and cards and are quite happy. There are people with far more than I have who are equally happy. I'm sure there are those with the exact amount who are, also, very happy.

So why am I not?

I'm going to be seriously examining my motives over the next few weeks and try to figure out what it is about "new stuff" that is creating this craze. I've been working with what I have and making some really cool thing. I challenged myself to do so. And I'm finding I have plenty... but I still want more.

Stay tuned for more about my black hole hobby and how I'm going to carve a cork large enough to plug it up.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Budgeting Forward

Yesterday we discovered how to do something new with our budget. It's almost August and we needed diapers, formula, and baby wipes (oh my!). We found some deals at Target and ended up spending just over $100.00. This is what we got:

- Two extra-large boxes of Huggies size 3 on clearance. This will last us the month, if not longer.
- One large box of sensitive wipes. Again, this should last us through August.
- Two cans of "bonus size" formula that includes 20% more formula "free". Same price as we normally pay. This is two weeks worth for our seven-month old.

Here is what we did:
- Took one can of formula out of this week's food budget.
- Took the other can of formula out of next week's food budget.
- Subtracted remaining amount from remaining July household budget.
- Carried remainder forward to August's household budget.

I don't like to "borrow" from money that is in the budget but not funded yet, however we made an exception this one time. I was very proud of myself for figuring out what should come out of where and how to do it.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Due in August: Utility Bills

Our efforts (assisted with the Kill-A-Watt device) to reduce our utility bills yielded the following:
  • A $45 reduction in electricity.
  • A $19 reduction in water/sewer.
We reduced our bills by over $60.00 for this past reading. I'd say that was well worth the time, effort, and $20 for the Kill-A-Watt device!