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.
Monday, November 3, 2008
This is so fabulous. I realize that the weather has something to do with
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
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
- 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
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
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
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.
Saturday, August 16, 2008
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
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
Walmart yesterday for $5 and $10.
Also bought some notebooks for five cents each.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
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
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
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
- 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.
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?
AMD Turion64x2 TL-60 2Ghz
Nvidia graphics card GeForce Go 7150M
4 gb ram
250 gb hard
Thursday, July 31, 2008
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
- 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
- A $45 reduction in electricity.
- A $19 reduction in water/sewer.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
I found a few other toys that I was interested in and luckily I spoke up, "do these work?" I did not bring batteries with me and so could not test them. They had an extra set and tested both. Unfortunately neither worked. They admitted that they tend to leave batteries in things for too long.
My mother called while we were out. She said she things that we should get a dresser for the baby's clothes and that she'd like to buy it for us if we found one. The only catch was that it had to be real wood. I thanked her and we looked at each garage sale. Finally we came across one that had a dresser. It was perfectly sized for a little girl, was made out of real wood, and was only $20! I asked, "will you take $15?" and to my surprise they agreed. The dresser is worth far more but it was a warehouse filled with things five different households had donated to raise funds for a charity. Some of the things had prices that were hugely inflated and some were a little low. I got a fabulous deal!
I didn't think it was possible to love my new car anymore than I already did. We managed to get the baby (in car seat), full-size stroller, diaper bag, garage sale loot, and the dresser in the back of my PT Cruiser. AND we were still able to fit in it ourselves! We knew the seats folded but I didn't know that they could also be moved out of the way. Very, very cool. (The only concession was that I had to drive; hubby was too squished with the car seat behind the driver's seat.)
I do, however, have issues with the two rings, earrings, and the watch she bought. (She bought the watch because it's a "$55 watch that was only $20! And then they gave me a scratch-off card because I used my store card and I thought 'what the heck'.") Granted, the jewelry was only about $5 a piece, but that's an extra $35 on top of the two pairs of pants.
But, it's her life. I see some of the mistakes that we've made in the past few years and I see a few things she does and realize we're doing the exact same thing. She's such a good friend and sometimes a good mirror. I wouldn't want to be without her friendship.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
I've now got quite a pile of scrapbooking and cardmaking loot. I want more, of course. That's the nature of the beast. I'm trying to make up for my indiscretions earlier in the month and found a website called Swap Bot. Basically it's a website where people sign up to swap things with each other. Some are artist trading card swaps, others are embellishment swaps, and some call for swapping handmade items.
I've signed up for a few. For the cost of postage I can let go of some of the items I had purchased and either wasn't that impressed with, have scraps leftover that I can't think of a use for, or am simply bored with. In return I get an envelope full of things that are new to me! We'll see how it goes.
My friend went to Orlando, which is about a three hour drive in bad traffic. She got caught in the rain shortly before it was time to come home. Soaked, she ran to her car and took off her shirt/bra in favor of a sweater that she keeps in there. (I'm assuming nobody was flashed in the making of this story.) She was giving me an update, by phone, when she said, "Oh good! There's a Kohl's right next to the campus. I've got my Kohl's charge card. I'm going to stop and buy a pair of pants so I don't have to drive home in wet ones."
She had also commented that there was another store, at chain at which she works in our town, right next door. "Why don't you just run in to your store, get your employee discount, and buy a really cheap pair of shorts or something." She basically said that she didn't have the money to buy a pair of pants from her place but she "could afford it" if she put it on her charge card.
I've made the drive in soaked clothing before. I went to Orlando for college and drove home almost every weekend. (At the time gas was less than a dollar a gallon!) Being Florida, sometimes you get soaked, ya know? Also being Florida, however, I did not freeze to death nor even get hypothermia.
Since I can't make choices for anyone else, all I can do is learn from the choices they make and hope to not repeat the same mistakes.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
I read somewhere recently that when you buy stuff the result is that you want to buy more stuff. It's not something I've ever really thought about. This month, however, made me realize that this is completely and totally true for me.
Most months I am content with my $50 spending money. I can throw it around however I'd like. I use coupons and sales and the like to extend this money and usually get about $60-$80 worth of items for it. What I can't buy I eagerly place on my "want" list and look forward to my next envelope of cash like a kid waiting for Christmas.
This month, however...
I had some cash laying around that was from things I had sold. I mentioned my success with ebay and craigslist last month some time, I believe. Additionally the amount was the same as what I owed myself for spending money. I figured it saved me a trip to the bank. My favorite scrapbook store was having a 40% off sale. This is a place that doesn't do coupons or have weekly specials or anything like that. Two or three times a year--usually New Year's Day and 4th of July--they open their doors and it's first-come first-buy-out-the-store. I mean, first-come, first-served. It's hard to resist.
The mental process of having cash that was not specifically withdrawn for a purpose was interesting. I didn't really treat it like I treated my usual spending money. It didn't seem so important that it last throughout the month or that I had already earmarked a certain amount for something else. I spent the entire wad. All of it. In fact, I had to run out to the car for the $5 I had stashed from a few months ago. (I keep $5-$10 hidden in my car for "just in case".)
I was gleeful as I came home. I got so much stuff! Stuff I had been wanting for ages. Stuff I had drooled over and fantasized about. Really cool stuff.
Well, I somehow convinced myself--and I am shamed to admit this--that since it wasn't money I had pulled out for my spending money that it didn't really "count" as my spending money.
I decided that since I had sold my stuff and we had enough to pay the bills last month that I should be able to spend the money on whatever I wanted. After all, I sold MY STUFF to get that money. I put the work and effort into it. I shipped the items or arranged times with buyers. Therefore that money, leftover from our needs, should be mine, right?
I asked hubby about it and he said that it should absolutely be mine. After all, I did all the work, I sold things I had owned, and therefore as long as the bills were paid and our debt and savings goals were met for the month, have fun and good job and I'm proud of you and all the things that supportive hubbies say.
Woohoo! That meant I still had fifty bucks to spend!
Part of what I purchased at the scrapbooking store were Tim Holtz's alcohol inks. I had read about them and various techniques and had yearned to try them out. The day I bought them I came home and the first thing I did was a small project to test them out. Not only are they as cool as I had read about, they completely surpassed my expectations. I am in love with them. I would probably marry them if I could. Fabulous stuff.
So, what did I do? The week following the fourth I drove back to the scrapbook store and bought all the colors they had in stock that I hadn't already grabbed on Saturday. At full price. (No big deal, actually, since their prices are lower than even what I could find online for this particular item, so I till saved about $0.60/each on them.)
Then, since I had a particular project in mine, I headed to Michael's to get the other items I "needed" for this project. And a few of them were a little more expensive than I had anticipated.
I ended up spending my $50 cash PLUS about ten dollars more.
But that's okay because I "had" to have these items to finish a project I started and isn't it more important to finish something that you start--something which had a deadline of Wednesday--than to have yet another thing sitting around waiting and...
Do you see where I'm going with this?
My stamp club met the second Friday and I was more than a little upset with myself. I have a commitment to spend $15 (plus tax and shipping) each month and in exchange I get 2-3 techniques and projects a month plus food while I'm there for free. Stamp club is one of the reasons why my artwork has improved so dramatically and it's really a sanity saver to be able to get out of the house without the kid (most months, sometimes I do bring her with like I did this month) and have some adult conversation and a project to work on at someone else's house.
But Yipes!!! I had to write a check.
So total for the month I've spent $40 more than I was allotted and I'm still having to hold myself back from running out the door. After all there are several other items that I've wanted for a really long time and don't I deserve them? And on top of that I already blew my budget so why not just really go for it and spend more money... we can technically absorb most of it and so what if we're a little short...
These are what the voices in my head are telling me.
I've had days on diets that were like this. You know what I mean; you eat one piece of chocolate more than you meant to and suddenly the whole box is gone. Plus the chips. Plus a Starbucks on your way home from errands because you might as well. It's awful!
So this post, while disjointed and a little psychotic, is my way of being accountable. It's my way of admitting what I've done and putting it out there. I don't know if this might serve as a warning post or a "you're not the only one" post, but I do hope it's somewhat helpful to someone else. Learn from my mistakes!
So the title of this post should probably be more along the lines of, "Why organization will save you money on your craft stuff."
Here is a short quiz. If you answer "yes" to any of these questions, chances are you need to reorganize your crafting space:
1) I sometimes forget what I actually have and am surprised when I go through my stash.
2) I've purchased more than one of an item because I could not find the first one or forgot I had one already.
3) I find it hard to see what supplies I have so I use the same small section over and over and get bored.
4) My crafts have gotten things spilled on them, wrinkled, or otherwise damaged because of the way they are stored.
I'm sure I could come up with more, but you get the idea.
I went to the dollar store yesterday and purchased some clear shoeboxes with lids and other containers to help me reorganize my crafting area. Until yesterday I was mostly using little boxes that I got on clearance at Michaels for about ten cents each. They are very colorful and pretty and I can't see a darn thing. They're great for things that I don't need to see. For example, glue sticks. Glue sticks aren't exactly inspirational to look at. Therefore a quick label and a shove to the shelf and viola! The glue sticks are stored. But for ribbon and bling and stickers...
One of the items I picked up are plastic baskets that are somewhat V-shaped. The bottom part, that sits on the shelf or desk, is slightly smaller than the upper part which flares out slightly. I bought three. One has all my stickers, one has my rub ons, and one has those "special" items that I hoard and love to look at. I may not use items from that basket frequently but they are the crafty items that inspire me and make me drool over the idea of making something.
I discovered that these items are only good to me when I can see them. Otherwise I don't think about them. Having them out where I can leaf through them allows me to get ideas. Not only for how to use them but also for color combination, themes, and so forth.
I replaced my boxes with the shoe boxes. I only bought five because I wasn't sure that my system will work well. If it does then I'll go back and get some more. Many of my more important items are now in the clear boxes. I can pick it up and see what I want rather than having to open every lid of every box and poke my fingers in. It sounds simple but this really will save me about an hour a month, if not more.
The other benefit of having things more organized is that it's also easier to put things away. If my boxes are labeled and I can clearly see what is in them I have little excuse for not cleaning up after projects. More time saved, not to mention a happier household.
I am going to challenge myself to the following: Make at least ten scrapbook pages, ten different cards, and finish at least two projects using nothing other than the items I already have. Care to join me?
Sunday, July 13, 2008
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
I looked online and found a meter that tracks the measurements of the electronics. It also tracks kwh based on how long you plug it in for. This would be useful, except I don't want to plug stuff in and walk away. I wanted to go through the house and figure it out.
Based on a website "how to" guide, this is what I did in an excel spreadsheet:
Column 1 Find out watts of the unit while in use.
Column 2 Divide that number by 1000.
Example: 200 / 1000 = .2
Column 3 Multiply .2 by our kwh rate (just over 9 cents)
Column 4 Multiply that number by 24 (this gives us how much per day)
Column 5 Multiply that number by 30 (this gives us how much per month)
I also figured out how much the electronics use when they are off. Surprisingly, it wasn't a whole lot. The items that we can turn off cost us just over a dollar a month to leave off. Some items we have to leave on. One example is our portable phone that's connected to land service. It has to be charging on the base. Another would be our television/entertainment center. We have a DVR service and it must be plugged in for it to record shows. Unfortunately the most common ghost items such as cell phone chargers and so forth don't give a high enough reading to tell us how much they're costing us each month.
We discovered that if we turn off our computers every evening before bed we'll end up saving about $11/month. If we go down to one computer between the two of us and giving mom the old one so she can get rid of her ancient one AND turning mine off at night, we'll save almost $16/month. That's over $180/year!
I haven't had a chance to get around to every corded electronic device yet. Cross your fingers that this will help us reduce our electricity bill. It was over $240 last month!
Monday, July 7, 2008
Unless, of course, it costs almost $70.
Why did it cost that much?
Because as he was vacuuming out the interior hubby took out the stroller system. And left it there. And didn't realize until our shopping trip later. By the time we returned it was nowhere to be seen.
We left a message at the contact number they have posted on the door. I also checked all the businesses in the strip mall next door. No one had turned it in. A quick search revealed it hadn't been moved/stashed anywhere. I posted an add on freecycle, hoping that maybe someone has an extra one or one they've outgrown.
My fear is that I will be somewhat housebound with the baby now until we replace it. We have two strollers, one is a regular push stroller and the other is a jogging stroller. I don't know how to use either yet. I do know that baby is so amazingly good about traveling and will sit in a coffee shop with me and people watch for hours. Her attention span continues to impress me. But, I'm not sure that it will continue if she's closer to the grown and wants to try and get out. We'll have to see.
I know that $60 is a lot of money. Our July budget is completely dependent on whether or not I get enough massages to cover our basic expenses. We have some money socked away in case I don't... June and July usually suck. However, things will start to pick up again and when they do it's usually fairly quickly. Unless we dip into the emergency fund, there is no $60 just laying around.
- See if stroller base can be recovered
- Failing recovery, see if I can find one for free on freecycle
- Attempt to use regular stroller
- Failing freebie and regular stroller, leave word at consignment shops that one is desired
- Failing that... If none of those steps result in replacing the stroller base, I'm going to buy one. I'll sacrifice something in the budget... not sure what. I do know that a large part of my enjoyment, and sanity, as a new mom is the ability to pick up and go whenever I want. She loves to get out of the house and see new people and things, I love to meet with my friends and be able to network and have a good time with business acquaintances, and we both need a change of scenery from time to time. Even if I have to reduce the grocery budget by $10 for the next six weeks well... that's what I'll do.
Sunday, July 6, 2008
I finally saw her out with her son and dog again yesterday and walked down to chat. I asked if the option was still open for me to borrow hers. I figured since I already had the offer I didn't want to see if I could get an offer from the neighbor whose equipment I had originally seen. She was more than happy to allow me to borrow it. In fact, she sent me home with it!
Their trampoline has probably three times the surface are of the smaller ones. I didn't realize that they came in different sizes. The trampoline wasn't heavy. I carried it easily up the street. It was, however, large enough that half my face and down to my knees was covered. I probably looked pretty funny!
If her husband wants it back I told her he can come and get it anytime. She says that he's been talking about how he uses it but never actually does. Guess they'll figure out who's right fairly quickly! Otherwise we can keep it for a few months.
I highly recommend borrowing before you buy exercise equipment if at all possible. My main fear is that I'll have bladder issues that will come up when I'm jumping. (The PT still has problems four years after childbirth and I'm quite sure she does her kegels!) And, of course, there is always the fear that the equipment will take up a lot of space we don't have and gather dust. At least in this case I can walk back down the street and give it back. I'm not stuck with depreciating equipment or a monthly payment.
- If you want to try a certain technique or use a particular embellishment, find out where it originates from.
- Use Google's shopping service or another online comparison tool to find out if the item is generally less expensive from Home Depot or Scrapbook Warehouse, for example. You'll almost always find it's far less at the hardware or office store.
- Find out what changes have been made to make it scrapbook specific. Many times the only change is that the items have been repackaged. Do you need special packaging? Are there special modifications? Are they worth the money? What about if you use a 40% off coupon that some stores are notorious for?
- Many modifications can be made at home. Brads and other non-porous items can be easily colored with inexpensive alcohol inks.
- The scrapbook and craft stores might, however, offer options that you cannot reproduce at home. Or you may not want to take the time to glue gems onto the head of your brads.
- Don't buy a craft item just because it contains "project ideas" or instructions. You can find thousands of these online.
- Search You Tube and other internet sites for detailed tutorials that will give you other ideas on how to use your new tool and get the most out of it.
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
I'd never been to a tapas bar. I did some research online, even going so far as to look at their menu and write down the four things I was interested in. They were all from $5.95 to $7.50. (The menu items went up to $16.00 in some cases, more for wine.) I figured that I would bring a $10 bill, which I did. This would cover an $8.00 dish and leave $2.00 for a tip. Seemed fair to me.
I got there and found out that the group had ordered white sangria, which I had never had. They poured a glass for me. It was delicious. A theme of this post will be, "I don't usually like (insert item here) but it was so good!" I don't normally like white wine. I'm not a big wine drinker in general. However, I have to admit, this sangria was fantastic. I had one glass; the one that they poured for me.
The group had ordered a bunch of food with most ladies ordering 2 tapas items to start. They were brought out as they were prepared rather than when everything was ready. I enjoyed this feature. I tried a few things at the urging of the others including items that I would never have dared try. Tuna tar tar, for example. It was delicious. I also really don't like salmon. I try to like it. In fact, any time I can try some I do. Usually it's one bite, chewed for far too long as my gag reflex tries to make me spit it out and I sip water to try and get it to go down. Last night I ate several bites. It was yummy.
The evening ended with the bill. The group had decided that they were going to each order 2-3 items and then split the bill. There were seven of us and with eighteen items the cost, including tax and tip, was $27.00 per person. Oh crud. I had a $10.00 bill. Luckily one of the ladies was more than happy to put in for me and laughingly said to tack it onto the end of her next massage. So she gets fifteen more minutes of pampering and I got a great discount on a fabulous meal.
I left the restaurant stuffed. I had tried every dish except those that had shellfish, since hubby is deathly allergic, and didn't find anything that disagreed with my pallet. My favorite memories of going out to eat all involve multiple people; this time certainly fit the bill.
But that bill...
I'm going to send an email to my friend that put in for me and ask her if she'd do me a favor and email me some hints for dinners in the future to avoid faux pas. I hadn't eaten at a tapas restaurant before. I understood the concept of sharing, but I didn't get the whole picture.
Would I have gone if I knew that it would cost me around $30.00? I'm not sure. Hubby and I both get $50.00 per month to cover our wants. Most of the time we end up treating it as an extended entertainment budget. Near the end of the month we'll take each other out, treat for ice cream, and that kind of thing. $20.00 of mine goes to craft supplies. Do I want to commit the rest of it for one meal?
Monday, June 30, 2008
I'm happy with it so far, about a week into the process. I can't guarantee it will work long term or for anyone else. Right now it seems to be much more manageable than the high-pressure goals I'd set in the past. List-making is fun for me, you see, and I oftentimes get so involved in making a great list that I forget that I'm the one that has to check everything off of it! Whether it's a to-do list or a goal list or a marketing project, I'm often over ambitious and get burnt out or discouraged too quickly.
Here is my rough draft of the financial goals. This fits the first two parts of my new goal philosophy. I'm setting a large number of goals, many of which are easy to checkoff even though they are important.
These goals are ongoing that I can check off monthly:
- Pay each bill on time.
We do this anyway so it's one of the "freebie" checkoffs. Yet, if we didn't do it, then financial disaster would occur.
- Track bill paid date and bill amount in spreadsheet.
An easy step, barely takes any time since I pay all bills via computer anyway. I also have my excel spreadsheets already set up. I'm not happy with them yet but I can track what's been paid and what's coming up fairly easily. (Haven't switched to Quicken yet... maybe in July once I see how busy I'll be.)
Goals that I can set on a weekly, monthly, or quarterly basis that are also easy:
- Call (Service Provider) and ask what discounts are available.
Variations of this goal would be, "Shop for auto insurance and find the best deal," "call credit card company and ask for lower interest rate," and even, "look online and check for rebates on recent purchases." I obviously can't call Comcast or Chase once a week to ask for a discount, but I can call each of them once every six months or so. We saved hundreds of dollars by doing this recently and it took me less than three hours to do so.
- Review Credit Report.
I could do this three times a year for free. Checking for inaccurate information is very important. If I track who I asked for a report for an when I can do this indefinitely and easily at no cost to me.
I remember the first time I ran a mile and what an amazing feeling that was. There was much panting and sweating and effort that went into that first mile. It was hardly effortless. But I did it. I did what so many other people brag about being able to do. Something that I had always pictured as being off limits, or too hard, or simply impossible for an out-of-shape asthmatic. It was a lovely high.
Right now I couldn't run a mile if I was running from Godzilla. I couldn't run a mile to save the life of my child. I don't know that I could run three straight blocks.
This is an overview of my thought process/system for goal setting. Over the next few weeks I'm going to apply it to my finances as well.
Goal Setting #1: Set more than one goal
I find that if I only have one goal to look forward to, and I fail to meet it, I feel like an overall failure. Having multiple goals allows me to feel that I have succeeded and made progress even if I didn't cross everything off the list. After all, how do I know how much and what exactly I'm going to be able to do right now?
Goal Setting #2: Set goals that are easily achievable
I find that in my list of goals I need some that are easily achievable. These are either things that are a part of my regular routine anyway (only if they reinforce my goal) or are simply easy to do.
This week, for example, among many goals, my goal list included:
- Drink one bottle of water upon waking up before any food is consumed.
- Stop eating lunch when full.
- Stop eating dinner when full.
These are very easy to do things that can have big results. Yet they don't cause any kind of hardship. And it's simply lovely to be able to go to my goal paper, which is taped on a kitchen cupboard, and check off goals several times a day. Then, in the spirit of having "done something" those slightly more difficult goals seem less threatening.
Goal Setting #3: Modify goals frequently to fit
I've broken down goals week by week. For example I eat oatmeal most days of the week for breakfast. Not only is oatmeal healthy, it's extremely cheap. My husband and I can eat breakfast for a full week for about a dollar. Incredible. He makes his with plain water whereas I currently can't stand it being that plain. I use almond milk. Almond milk is fairly expensive. (I hate regular milk and it doesn't like me all that much.) This week I'm reducing the amount of almond milk I put in each bowl by 1/3 cup. My goal reads, "2/3 cup almond milk in oatmeal" and the column for check-offs reads, "2/3 cup," to remind me what it is. Next week it will be 1/2 cup, the following week, 1/3, then 1/4, then none. By making my goal into little goals I am more able to achieve watery goodness than by going cold turkey with it.
I'm also modifying my exercise goals. This week I've done one set of squats and two of pushups. I have one more set of squats this week and then I've met my strength training goals. I set a goal of two walks for cardio. Yes, it's a slow start, but that's what's recommended by most experts. Next week I'll add something else like tricep dips or lunges. By the end of the month I'll be doing two sets of a number of exercises twice a week. I may also add in some of my VHS tapes and so forth, but not until I know what I can do and stick with.
Goal Setting #4: Pick an irregular week
For some reason Sunday-Saturday or Monday-Sunday weeks just don't work for me for goal setting. I've known this for quite some time. This is why my "weeks" are Tuesday-Monday. Starting a day late doesn't make an impact, however having that Monday to catch up really helps. Today is the last day of my first week. It's a purely psychological thing for me that might not work for anyone else. I know that it's made a big difference to me.
My next step? Making a list of financial goals, similar to my body goals, and working on those.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
I made pita bread from scratch. I've discovered it's incredibly easy and I love working with the dough, feeling it change as the yeast starts to interact, feeling the gluten strands start to stretch and become elastic and... it's fabulous. I love the smell as it starts to rise and then simply go into nose heaven as it bakes. *happy sigh*
I had made batches of hummus the night before, so that was taken care of. Mom found a recipe for tziki sauce (I have no idea how to spell that and don't feel like looking it up, so sorry). I hate yogurt, always have, and it amazes me that I love this sauce so much. It's simply yogurt, cucumbers, onions, garlic, dill, salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Fabulous!
Our salad consisted of romaine hearts, a cucumber, two tomatoes (the seeds of which I removed and ate greedily), artichoke hearts, black and green olives, roasted red peppers, sweet onions, green onions, feta cheese (of course!) and some of those sour sandwich peppers that I adore. My Greek dressing turned out wonderful as well.
Mom made a black olive, green olive, garlic, and olive oil spread for the bread as well. Yummo, as RR would say.
I love cooking things from scratch. There is something so satisfying about it. Not to mention, of course, that doing things from scratch is tremendously cheaper than buying things premade.
We realized the other night that we don't ingest a single item that has high fructose corn syrup in it. We occasionally have a soda. Maybe once a month. Other than that everything we make at home is pretty much free of all that crap. Isn't that fabulous?
The dinner was a big hit for all three of us. I enjoyed it as much as the gyro platter we get from a local restaurant and didn't even miss the meat. Especially since my Greek salad was so big!
Then I make my list based on store and category. I used to make my list based on the aisles at Publix but our home store recently got reorganized. Now I just do it by category. This saves me a lot of time in the store itself.
Finally I get together all my coupons for the things that are on sale, paper clip the lot together, and off we go. We always hit Publix last because of the cold foods. The rest of the stores we go to based on a route designed to save miles. There are many times we'll have to go to more than one Walgreens or CVS. This isn't a big deal as there are many within a couple of miles.
Our budget is $100 for the week for all of our groceries. We also have an $80/month "household and baby" budget. I usually just say "$120/week" to make it easier on us, but that's not always possible. Some weeks we don't use any, others we use $40.
This was an "overage" week. We spent about $130.00 even though the household budget was drained the week before. Summer always has excellent deals. The money is in the account (from selling stuff over the past month) and I would much rather save a ton of money by going $30.00 over this week than to wait until next week and miss the deals.
An example would be that I managed to get two cans of formula, usually $25.00 each, for just over $30.00. This will do us for two weeks. I also got us a month's worth of TP (for under a quarter a roll, which is good for Charmin) and ended up being able to get us four things of ALL for $0.55. (That's just over $0.10 each for a normally $5-$7 item.) I love CVS. Love it, love it, love it. Baby food was also a need item this week and I got a lot of it. Usually we pay about $0.50 a jar. This week I got some for just over $0.10. (It was 3/$1 and I had a buy four get $1 off Q, for example.)
We stocked up on some essentials. We spent a little more money. All in all, we spent just over $130 and we "got" over $250 worth of food and items by combining sales and coupons. Go team!
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Part I: We found out that a friend and her husband were selling their Queen-sized bed. We expressed interest. After some bargaining we agreed on $180.00. The original price was $200.00, but as none of us have a truck they took off $20.00 to help pay for us to rent one.
Part II: Money
To rent the truck (including gas, etc.) was $71.91. I can't believe it. We were thinking it would be around $40.00. Crazy! We applied the unexpected 44.65 that we got back from the car dealership (for the tag) to this and ended up with a difference of 27.26.
In an earlier post I described how I sold our twin bed, which we bought for $50.00, for $60.00 awhile ago and I sold my table cart to a student for $50.00. I gave the couple this $110.00 when we picked up the bed. This means we owe them $70.00 when they come this Sunday.
I transferred 69.87 from my paypal account to my bank account. This was all from selling stuff from around the house. Go me!
And, to top it all off, I sold our double bed, which we bought for $150.00 for $175.00 this morning.
Maybe I should get into the mattress business?
Part III: Where's the rest going?
This month has sucked for me business-wise. The good thing about selling things around the house is that it has raised funds not only to cover the very comfy queen mattress but also to cover some of the appointments that I missed because clients were on vacation or dealing with kids just out on summer break.
Part IV: Was it worth it?
You may say that a mattress upgrade was not necessary. I disagree. To picture this: my husband is 6'4". He's rather trim, but even then he's got a very large chest and wide shoulders. I'm 5'10" and about forty lbs overweight. Neither of us could stretch out on the bed on our back and have our feet be on the bed! We were barely making a double bed work and frankly weren't getting good sleep. We were beating each other up in the middle of the night. Our sleep quality has increased tremendously since picking up the bed last Tuesday. In the past week I've had less headaches and back pain and I feel much more refreshed. He's reported similar results. It was totally worth it.
Monday, June 16, 2008
We played Trivial Pursuit the other night with some friends. Between the two families I think we have about forty board games. (They have five kids.) I usually don't like Trivial Pursuit because it makes me feel stupid. Turns out it helps if you're using an edition that has questions from your actual lifetime! We played a version that was 1982-2002. The older versions went up to mid-80's. I was born in 1980 so I've always lost, badly, and felt like a moron after games. I enjoyed this one, however.
I'm hoping to implement a board game night soon, probably at our house. With the five-kid-friends we'd go up there, but for all our friends that are closer to us, we're the only ones with a kid so they can come here. We've also gotten an invite to go play cards at another friend's house. I think we're going to do that once a month or so.
I highly recommend looking at Goodwill for board games, by the way. Some of our friends have bought a bunch of them, almost new. Unfortunately we found out that most of them were just stupid, but it sure beats paying full price for stupid. Right?
- The way the author not only addressed the cost of buying things on credit, as most do, he also dealt with the opportunity costs of buying anything. It doesn't matter if it's cash or credit. He gave a formula to figure out exactly how much of your life you're trading by spending a certain amount of money. Wow.
- I really enjoyed the way that the author used example people. Even though they were fake, had fake lives, and so forth, it was a lot easier to read about "someone else" figuring out their budget, finances, etc. than trying to picture myself in the book. I was able to relax and take in the information, process it, and then apply it. Usually I'm too busy trying to mentally interact with the book and that makes it harder to get it the first time around.
- The author gave standard tips for saving money. This was an added feature and I'm sure that some of those tips will hit readers as new. It was an expected part of the book that didn't impress me all that much. What did impress me, however, was how he used those tips with his example people. He needed to find "debt destroyer" funds in the budget. He went through a category-by-category budget search to find the amount and showed how it can be easier than one thinks to free up 10% of the income. He really stresses making saving money painless so that it's not about deprivation.
- The thing I like the most was the way that he continually stressed that you can either make the same minimum payments for dozens of years, pay thousands more in interest, and end up with very little or nothing OR you can do 10% of your income now towards debt, get out in a matter of years, and end up a millionaire. That really hit home with me. Normally I don't like repetitive things, but this was one I needed to hear.
The Card: I handmade my husband's card. It's one of my favorites that I've ever made; I learned a really cool new technique that I've been experimenting since. I wrote a very sweet little inscription in the flap about how I always thought he'd be a good dad--but I was wrong. I had underestimated him; he's a GREAT dad. He got very teary. It was beautiful to watch. (side note: I admit it, scrapbooking and cardmaking are on the top 10 list of "hobbies that people trying to increase their wealth should get addicted to". There's always something new and exciting to buy!)
The Gifts: Mom and I had gone to WalMart earlier in the week. They had coffee beans on sale. I got him a pound of extra bold beans and some espresso truffles in dark chocolate. One of the ways we've saved money is that we don't get him coffee or beer every week. We save those things for special occasions. It really has turned an every-day item into a decadent treat (speaking coffee, not beer). He was very excited about both, especially, I think, the chocolate. Usually I'm the one trying to make a bag of excellent chocolate last for weeks, and I admit I'm not all that great at sharing!
The Time: We had a good friend come over and babysit. She's been asking a lot lately and even though mom was going to be home for most of the time we'd be gone I went ahead and invited her over to sit. She and babygirl adore each other. We decided to hit a matinée movie (The Incredible Hulk--he wanted to see it, I didn't really, but I did end up enjoying it!) to save some money and avoid the larger evening crowds. We avoided $3.00 parking by saving our ticket stub. We had also stopped at Walgreen's and gotten a few favorite candies. I don't see the point in paying concession stand prices: $4.50 for a small soda! So yes, we broke the rules by sneaking in our own stuff, shame on us. For supper we went to Longhorn. He got a Coke and I got sweet tea. (This was a splurge for us.) We split a 9 oz fillet and he got the baked potato and I got the salad. Between the sides, the bread, the drinks, and the 9 oz of meat, both of us were full. I can't imagine paying for two plates when one does the trick. Very yummy. After babygirl went to bed we did as well. (Free entertainment and free exercise, who can beat that?)
I forgot to have him write a few things for the Father's Day scrapbook page I want to do, but he agreed to do that tonight. All in all it was a great day.
Friday, June 13, 2008
I was offered a sideline of income yesterday. I had a nice conversation with some ladies at the craft store (yes, I stayed within my budget and yes, everything I bought was on sale, and yes, the purchase was planned) and they asked me to come out and teach them basic techniques. "We'll pay you, of course!" And of course I agreed! We've been emailing back and forth. Not sure what will come of it, but I'm excited. I love crafts and would love to teach for money.
This makes me kick myself for not going ahead and signing up as a Stampin'Up demonstrator during SaleABration. I am not a MLM type girl. I wanted it for the discount and the fact that their products really are lovely and high-quality. During the celebration it was 20% off the kit (which is already a huge value) plus an additional $50 towards any one stamp set. *sighs* I may still go ahead with it. That's a whole other post.
Meanwhile we got $44 back from the dealership in the form of a check. They refunded the difference between what the registration cost and what we had paid them for it. That was a happy surprise.
Hubby rented a uhaul last night and took off with our best guy-friend to go pick up a bed that we bought from another couple. By selling some household items that we weren't using I managed to get $110/$180 that we agreed on. We'll sell the bed we have now for between $150 and $175 quite easily. I'm surprised the truck rental is going to be close to $60 (including the gas he put in it). They charge $0.70/mile now! I hate that we don't have any friends with trucks anymore.
We managed to stock up on chicken and beef at $1.88 lb for cuts that are normally quite a bit more. I'm so glad to have meat stockpiled. I can cook really well, and I love doing it, but it's hard to go to the pantry and make a meal out of the things we'd scored on before. With meat the possibilities are almost endless. I have 11 meals of chicken and at least six of beef at my fingertips. And, considering that we eat many, many vegetarian meals during the week, our stockpile should last us for quite some time. Yay!
Thursday, June 12, 2008
Monday, June 9, 2008
This is a good link to get a general overview of many ratings. I'd explain more, but I'm too busy reading it myself.
I'm going to go ahead and do some research on Quicken versus Money. Yes, it's about $29.00. But then again, I "lost" 29.00 because I paid fees for having insufficient funds in an account because my system was not adequate.
I'm in process of setting it up now. I'll let you know how it works out!
- It's useful to have all of my accounts in one place and set up categories so I can see spreadsheets quickly.
- Categories are predefined and don't go along with our current budget.
- Budget setup is very clunky and needs much improvement; don't think I'll be using this feature much.
- Excellent variety of alerts.
- Ability to "hide" accounts from Mint; this is great since I'm on my mom's accounts but don't want her info showing up in the list.
- Ability to add any accounts you have login for; this allows me to add hubby's accounts too (with permission, of course).
- Participants include PayPal, which is great.
Monday, June 2, 2008
learning to dance in the rain
It's very similar to hers, actually.
The woman who I split an office with was responsible for decorating it. It's quite lovely, actually. Perfect for a massage room. The colors are rich cream, red, and brown. She put up several framed pieces of art as well as several quote plaques. One of them reads, "Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass; it's about learning to dance in the rain."
I hadn't heard that quote before and it struck me so profoundly that I still, even three full months later, stare at it and feel instantly grounded and centered while I'm working.
Recently I've realized it also sums up my financial life; no matter what is happening, breaking, needing replaced, or coming unexpectedly, it's not about "getting through this" so that we can "finally _________". It's about _________ing even though things didn't go as scripted. It's about finding ways to enjoy life and rising above the thought that we are only as great as our pocketbook. (Suggested fill in the blanks: live/living, be happy/being happy, get ahead/making progress...)
Friday, May 30, 2008
Straight into the Orange savings until we decide exactly where to apply it.
Thursday, May 29, 2008
Day 2: I sold a table cart I had bought when I was doing many many housecalls. Our business used to be housecalls exclusively. I don't do many now and I've learned that the table cart is a bigger PINTB than it is a time-saver so it's been getting in the way for the last two years. I paid about $90 after tax. I sold it to a student for $50 last night.
Total: $110 towards our "stuff" fund.
What will we be using said fund for first? A friend of ours is selling an almost-new pillow-top queen bed for $200 (OBO). I've told them we want it. I know that I can get $175 out of the double that we are now using, especially if I throw in the two sets of 400 thread count sheets and the waterproof mattress protector. (BTW - I paid $150 for it.) I should be able to buy the bed as soon as they are ready to move, sell ours rather quickly, and possibly even come out ahead.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
It's a 3 bed/2 bath house. It's like this: the three bedrooms are pretty much in a row on one side of the house. The one on the end has the bathroom attached and big closet. This is mom's room. Then the larger bedroom which is now an office and the nursery. Then the small bedroom which is where we sleep. On the other side is the livingroom. Then the kitchen. The garage is on the "back" of the third bedroom.
It has worked fine so far. Having stuff from four people (now five) has been a bit of a challenge, but we're managing. Now that we have a kid, however...
We'll be okay until she needs her own space. When does a kid "need" her own space? When she's old enough that she needs one room we can put her in and know that no matter what she gets into, she is going to be relatively unhurt. So basically by the time she starts walking, which will be within the next six months.
We originally decided that we'll "make due" and renew our lease in August. This means we'll have at least six months of a rough time while we figure out how to manage all the things we have in the house and create a space where we can put her, even if that means using fifteen baby gates. There's no other choice... we can't go through the rest of the attic and pare down our belongings enough in the next three months. We've worked at least eight hours on the weekends and an hour or two almost every night and it's just too large of a project. Also, finances to move right now aren't where we want them to be. And, on top of that, our rent is hundreds below what we'd pay for a similar house, let alone a larger one.
It would be impossible, as things are, to give her her own room in this house. Equally impossible to get a four-bedroom house within six-hundred of what we're paying for rent now.
However, I found a solution.
The biggest issue is what to do with the computers that are currently in the office. The paper and labels and CDs can be put somewhere to keep them out of the way. It won't be great, but they aren't the problem. These giant honkin' computer desks with the laser printer, printer/scanner/copier, and everything else are the big issues.
If we get rid of one of the computers (we'll give the slower one to my mom who will be getting a massive upgrade by switching over) and get rid of one desk entirely. Hopefully we can sell it. Then we'll have enough room in the larger bedroom (currently bedroom/office) for our bed as well as the other officey-type stuff. We'll move the nursery into the smaller bedroom.
Alternatively, if it's only one desk, we might be able to find room somewhere in the living room. We'd likely have to get rid of something, but it's do-able. This would mean a computer-free bedroom.
One of the reasons we wanted to keep an office was so that the computers are completely out of the way and we don't have to worry about baby getting into things. We simply close the door and viola! So chances are this option will not come about; we'll have to deal with a bedroom/office which is much safer than a nursery/office.
Now, that means that we've gone from three computers in the house to two. This may or may not work. The plan is to keep "stuff" money and put it towards a replacement for the one computer in the form of a laptop. Yes, yes, electronics are expensive wasteful junk. However, in order to get a promotion at my evening teaching job I will need a laptop anyway. Plus I will be much more productive with my writing. (More writing=more "extra" income for debt.) My mom has agreed to pay for 1/2 laptop in exchange for the upgraded computer. Another space-saver is to take the money from selling one of the desks plus the money that I will hopefully get from selling all our old computer games (great games, just beat them or played them to death) and get a flat-panel monitor.
That's a lot of IFs... but it will keep us in this house for years to come.
I have a debate about what to do with this "found" money from selling our items.
Smart Thing To Do 1: Put this money towards debt.
Smart Thing To Do 2: Put this money in our Orange account and use it to buy other stuff.
Okay, 2 doesn't sound all that smart when phrased that way. I just reread it and went, "oh my." Here's what I really mean: There are certain things that we need or will need to buy. Whether it's for an individual, the adults, the baby, or the household in general, it's almost impossible to get buy without buying more stuff at some point.
An example would be new straps for my husband's knee brace. The VA will pay a thousand dollars towards replacing the whole thing but refuses to pay a hundred dollars to replace the straps when they wear out, which is once every few years. It's not something that happens on a regular basis and it's hard to find money each month to save towards. We feel it's not right to waste money like that so we pay the $100.
Another example would be tires on the older car. (PS: I LOVE my new car! So does mom!) We shouldn't need them for awhile, but it's very easy to hit the edge of a curb or run over a nail here in FL and end up needing repairs to the tires or entirely new tires. I'd prefer to have money set aside rather than draining our fabulous emergency fund. You know?
So I'm thinking that having a "stuff fund" would be a neat idea. If we have something we really want or need we have to raise money by getting rid of stuff we aren't using. This helps to manage both our pile of stuff as well as our budget.
Where do you apply your "stuff" money?
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
My explanation is this:
I've been using two new spreadsheets to try and track our money and create budgets. One uses a zero-based budget, which I really like, and the other uses an electronic envelope system. Since one is more of a budget and by the way how much did you actually pay and the other is what did you pay, towards what, and when, I figured I could use both to create a good system. It's been driving me nuts!
For one thing I've "lost" three hundred dollars somewhere according to spreadsheet number two. My account balance is $300 more than it should be and I cannot figure out wherein the error lies. In the first spreadsheet, however, I am short by quite a bit when I add up with my real numbers. I cannot figure it out. So I'm frustrated and sicking hubby on building me a new spreadsheet with the modifications I want. This will allow me to budget with a zero-based system and "fund" certain items with each paycheck very much like an envelope system. This is important because I need to use certain funds to pay certain things. Otherwise I don't have the money until later in the month and the bill is due in the first part. I need to be precise or we're a little screwed.
Then there's the business account. I hate hate hate the online system that the business account uses. I love online banking, but this bank's system drives me nuts. It shows all credits, all deposits, and what you have available. (I just got an email back from the bank manager with a "no problem" and instructions on how to display the running balance... why isn't this "on" by default?) So up until two seconds ago I had to figure things out on paper and apparently I screwed up.
Ladies and gentlemen, yours truly who brags about never overdrafting accounts, bouncing checks, and so forth made a big boo-boo worth $211.05 overdrawn.
I was so proud of us for doing so well... and you know what? I still am! So what if I made one very minor correctable mistake? Accidents and mistakes happen. They are a part of life and a part of learning.
I formally forgive myself.
Monday, May 19, 2008
Yesterday we did really well. I had $5.00 left over for the produce stand, even! I stocked up on Cottonelle flushable wipes. Target had them on sale and with my $1.00 coupon I got eight 84 packs for just over $2.00 each. They also had our cat food on sale. I was going to get the larger bag and realized that I could get two smaller bags, which were $0.50 more than the big bag if you added them together for the same size, and use two $1.50 coupons instead of just one. The other items, a Diaper Genie Refill and a small toy for the baby, were priced competitively.
We stopped by Richard's for the bulk items that we get. We both eat oatmeal in the mornings so we get a great big bag of rolled oats at $0.59/lb. I also like to eat nuts. (I'm allergic to peanuts but treenuts are fabulous.) I also picked up some almond milk. (I can't do regular milk, except in cooking, or soymilk.)
At Publix we spent the rest of our money and even including baby's brand-name formula brought our total to $115.00 for the day out of $120.00. Not bad! $120.00-$130.00 used to be what we spent each week just on food, plus several last minute trips, plus eating out, and if it was a household need week (paper towels, cat food, etc.) we'd spend $150.00 easily. Now it's $120.00 no matter what--and if we want to eat out it comes out of the entertainment envelope or we save money from the food envelope for it. No borrowing from the following week, either!
I was very excited last week because Publix formula is $10.00 less and has the equivalent nutritional structure of Enfamil Lipil, which we usually use. We gave it a whole week and are going to finish off the can. However, we're switching back. She's been throwing up worse than ever. This is an issue for her anyway, but it's been steadily improving. The Publix formula has put things back on "fountain mode" again. We've also had a few really rough patches of gas, which hasn't happened for a really long time.
Yet Sunday I woke up and was very happy to see my shiny new car in the driveway. I enjoyed driving it as we ran errands.
Today I let hubby take it to work and traded cars with him when he came home for lunch. I saw Mortimer (my car--yes, I named it) outside and got a big grin.
I'm very happy that all three of us now have reliable, safe cars, with working air conditioning, no fumes, that start each time, and that don't make funny noises. I'm thrilled that we were able to purchase the two cars rather than do a lease because our deal was so good the payments were even better.
Saturday, May 17, 2008
Amount financed: $9508 at 7.14%
Not the best, but not too bad either.
You'll notice I'm not going to add that to my debt pie chart. That's only for credit card debt. Once that's complete I'll add another for the car, then for student loans.
I'm so excited!
Thursday, May 15, 2008
His message wasn't about pickles. It was about the cars. After a lot of role-playing and discussion on Tuesday evening hubby had the confidence to call last night and talk to the manager.
He explained that we are going to buy two cars. Whether we buy them from that dealer remains to be seen; there are many other dealerships that would love to sell two cars. He said, "the deal is only hinging on one thing." As you can imagine the sales manager was practically drooling all over that little tid bit.
Happy story short, because little bit is going to wake up from her doze soon, is that they are honoring the original really-awesome deal.
Car 1: 2007 PT Cruiser, Touring Edition, Rim Upgrades (which I could care less about, honestly), 9,400 miles (rounded up)
Car 2: 2007 PT Cruiser, Touring Edition, Slightly over 20,000 miles so we'll call it 20,500.
Basically 2 almost brand-new cars. Our walk-out price (tax, etc.) is right around $10,800 each.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
The second project, the big one, is to focus on my writing. I have two books in progress, a children's book completed and ready to shop around, and many articles in varying stages of production.
Three minutes ago I sent out my first magazine submission. I should hear in 8-10 weeks. I expect rejection, however I'm picturing that check coming in the mail. I'm opening it, smiling, and running inside to show it to my mom and my husband. I'm picking up my daughter, twirling her around, and then sitting right down with a deposit slip. I'm putting on my shoes, grabbing my purse, and heading to the bank. I'm home again, at my computer, and I've just put the entire amount of the check towards a debt payment. I feel great.
Wish me luck!
I don't mean as in making payments and slowly decreasing balances over time. Yes, the willpower involved with that is hard. Yes, for many people it's almost impossible. But that's not what I refer to.
The payoff amount at anyone time changes because of how the interest compounds. And then, at the end of the billing cycle, you get even more interest based on your balance over the course of the month. My husband and I both got statements from cards that we "paid" off. One was for less than five dollars, the other less than ten.
It's so frustrating!
I even payed more than I knew was due for one of the cards. They had to send me a check for the difference. And yet, somehow, I owe them $4.50. And of course since the payment won't go through until tomorrow, what about the interest that's going to be added.
I want to call and really bitch someone in the CSR field out. Right now I just don't have the energy or the time. Maybe next week.
- The price we were given on each car is a fantastic price, even with 20k miles.
- 20k miles on a 2007 car isn't that big of a deal; it's just that we were expecting one of them to have under 10k.
- We didn't "lose" anything because we never "had" the cars. Therefore this is like complaining that we only won $200,000 on the suitcase game when we could have walked away with $450,000 but turned it down. We still have a great offer on the cars.
- I put a LOT of research into different cars, companies, dealerships. I've exchanged quite a few emails. I've made dozens of phone calls. If we pass on the cars then I now need to start all over again and choose a different set.
However, if we walk away from this deal, which we probably will if they don't give us what they agreed to:
- There are MANY dealerships who would love to sell two cars. We live an easy drive from Tampa and St. Petersburg where many many car dealers live and, if needed, could even drive down to Orlando. Worst case scenario is we invest a bit in gas to go pick up our cars.
- I'm sure we can get close to the same deal for two cars in this economy.
- We should be considering cars with better gas mileage anyway. This will be a major expense--actually, it already is--so there's no point in buying a new to us car unless it is one we really love or one that will save us money on gas.
I've wanted a PT Cruiser since they came out. Drooled over them. This is, in fact, my third attempt to buy one. I wasn't able to make a great deal the other two times so I walked away. Every time I see one I make a comment, even if it's in my head, that "that's the car I'll be driving some day!"
Now that the reality of ownership is but a few details away, I find myself less than excited. I don't know if it's the effect of all the stress that goes along with the car buying process accumulating or if it's because I've realized that the kind of car I drive doesn't really matter.
It's weird. I'm so close to something I've wanted for a long time and I'm ready to turn my back and start all over. I really thought I'd be jumping up and down and calling everyone I know to tell them. Not really. I don't feel good about the deal. And if I don't feel good about something, I don't do it. I've learned to listen to that internal voice that says, "not right now."
Also, now that I know we can get a 2007 car of several different kinds for an affordable price, we don't have to lease. This has made me realize how much I don't want to lease. This is weird, considering I was gung-ho about it. But for us it's financially stupid and if we can own a car and keep our payments roughly the same, we're good. (I am NOT a payment buyer, however I am conscious about what our payments will be and how much I can spend on a car. I am negotiating overall price, not payment. No way I'm financing for more than 60 months and even that I'd prefer not to do.)
If my mother had air conditioning that worked, I wouldn't worry about this right now. If my husband was comfortable driving his car (btw--airbag light has not come back on since first day) and I knew I would be okay with him putting the kid in it fume-wise, then I would rest for a few months and then start to look for other cars. I've worn grooves into my current car. I don't even have to think about driving it anymore than I think about walking. It's very comfortable and I have no issues with it.
However, hubby's car needs to be replaced soon. It would make a great commuter car for someone without kids. My mom either needs to put $1500 into her car to fix the a/c or she needs a car that has a/c. (She has some health problems and gets overheated very easily.)
I don't know what to do.
In the meantime I'm going to wait until next week, I think, to start the process over again. So I'm going to sit and be still and listen. When something feels right, I'll know that's what we're going to do.
Sunday the dealership was closed so we checked out the Toyotas. I wrote about that in another post. Long story short, my husband cannot fit in the cars and I barely can.
Monday I took my mother to the dealership so she could drive the car that would be hers. She was okay with it. There were a few things she didn't like. As we talked, however, we both admitted that things like the headrests would feel weird. We've both driven our cars for 10 years now. That's a serious case of "being used to" our current cars!
We sat down. I had a check in my pocket for the deposit. It was unlikely we'd get the cars that night since my mom hadn't gotten her Capital One packet in the mail and we weren't sure what financing the dealer could offer. So the check was part "hey, we're serious--don't sell these cars" and part down-payment.
Then the salesguy started talking about the cars we had just driven. My mom had driven the one that we had talked about; I had not. I was very confused. We had been talking about mileage under 10k and rims; I had even joked that if he'd seen my car he'd know they weren't a huge selling point for me. I had written down the exact mileage. Well, if we wanted the lower mileage car he'd get us the best price possible.
We went home instead of putting down a deposit. I was confused but I had an appointment. The rest of the afternoon was spent on the phone with the salesguy trying to get him to understand that we wanted the cars we had talked about for the price we had talked about. We got some hemming and hawing about the stock numbers and I told him straight out that it would be a matter of principle with my husband. Even if it's, "only $700 difference for 10,000 miles--what a deal!" the fact is that we were quoted the price on the lower-mileage car.
He didn't get it. He supposedly talked to his manager and the big boss. Sorry, couldn't do it. But for his money, he knows what he'd do.
We went in later to have them appraise our cars. I figured maybe since he'd backed himself into a corner about the price of the cars he'd be able to offer us more for the trade-ins.
Nope. $800 trade-in value on two cars. (I didn't expect much; they both have close to 100k on them and they are in "fair" condition.) $200 was for my hubby's, $600 was for mom's. I know I could sell either car for over a grand. (Guess which we'll be doing?)
Yesterday we didn't talk with them at all. The store manager called and left a message with mom--he wanted to thank us for coming in and see if he could do anything for us. Hubby and I spent a long time talking strategy about what he should say and how.
We also called my best friend Brian. He's the son of the mechanic that works at the dealership and one of the reasons why we were given a damn good price to begin with. I asked if we were being crazy for standing on one part of principle. But, like he said. It's not the $700. It's not the 10k miles. It's the fact that it's not what we originally agreed to.
So hubby will call today and we'll find out what's going on.