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Archive for September, 2006

Bye bye baskets

September 30th, 2006 at 06:43 pm

I used to buy baskets - a lot. At garage sales, mostly. At one point DH told me he was going to throw away one basket for every one that I brought home because I had so many. Why did I need so many baskets? To hold my stuff. All kids of stuff - papers, cards, socks, stuffed animals, etc.
Since I started the decluttering process many months ago, I had a nice realization. If I didn't have so much stuff, I didn't need so many baskets, buckets, drawers, storage containers, etc. At one point I had six baskets of various sizes stacked up in the hallway after a good day of cleaning, wondering what I was going to do with them. It felt great! So, a challenge for everyone - attack one basket, drawer, bucket, whatever and get rid of it!

More freebies to list: my mom worked at the farmer's market today for my cousin, who owns a greenhouse. One customer left a bunch of radishes on their table and never came back for them. At the end of the day, my mom brought them home rather than throw them out. Not a huge savings, as I don't even like radishes, but DH will eat them.
Retail value: $1
Value to me: $.25

Total freebies: $258.72 (retail value: $963.47)

October goals

September 30th, 2006 at 06:03 am

Oops...posted my September budget results, but completely forgot to write out my October budget. Here goes...

Goals for October:
Groceries: 250
Household/Cell: 90
Car: 325 (DH's first student teaching assignment ends this month and his second assignment is only 45 minutes away, so we should be able to cut back here)
Medical: 75 (one dentist appt, one MD appt. for ds2)
Clothes: 0
Loans: 300.36
Entertainment: 175 (140 total bowling expenses, with babysitter costs)
Gifts: 75 (three birthdays)
Miscellaneous: 50
Real estate: 0
School/Day care: 120
Investment: 0
Cash withdrawals: 40 with no fees (not counting money taken out for envelopes)
Total income: 1149.00
Total expenses: 1500.36
Wow...have to trim somewhere this month. Thank goodness we only have three more months of this before DH can start working again. I also have to find the money to pay off the cc balance - $367. Looks like another month of dipping into savings.
Hmmm...just had a thought of how to bring my income and expenses more in line this month. I called to check on my next car loan payment - even though I asked them to apply all extra payments toward principal, somehow my next payment has been advanced a month (not due until 11/2). I can skip it for this month - not the most desirable option, but I am only paying $4 a month in interest, so it wouldn't set me too far back. Hmmm...any thoughts?

Debt update

September 29th, 2006 at 07:01 pm

1. Pay off Discover $628 balance -> down to a $367 balance, which will be paid off this month
2. Pay off American Express $4530 balance (0% interest until 8/07) -> up to $4552
3. Pay off car loan, $1085 balance, 3.75% interest (this was a higher priority until I realized that I am only paying less than $4 per month in interest!) - at $200 per month this will be paid off relatively soon anyway
4. Pay off my student loans $6200 balance (about 4.6% interest) -> down to 6122
5. Pay off Dh's student loans $15145 balance (in deferment)

Overall, a $357 reduction in debt. It's a start...

September goals

September 29th, 2006 at 06:49 pm

Yeah, I'm jumping the gun a little on this one since the month isn't even over yet...but I've been anxious to see how we fared this month.

Goals for September:
Groceries: 275 -> 192.90 - I actually came in under budget! A big cheer for the envelope system and my new-found discount grocery stores Smile
Household/Cell: 90 -> 207.76 (one check I wrote in August for household expenses didn't go through until Sept - reason for the discrepancy)
Car: 400 -> actual expenditures were 675.14 with car inspection/repairs, but gas expenditures were 365.32, a little less than I expected
Medical: 200 -> 243.21 (two additional scripts to fill, although I did cut some of my dentist bill by requesting x-rays every two years instead of annually - I read they are only needed that much anyway)
Clothes: 0 -> 35.60 (DH needed some for student teaching)
Loans: 300.36 -> 300.36
Entertainment: 165 -> 145.13
Gifts: 75 -> 110.51
Miscellaneous: 100 -> 123.19
Real estate: 0 -> 0
School/Day care: 40 -> 40
Investment: 0 -> 0
Cash withdrawals: 100 with no fees -> 180 with 3.75 in fees...grrr.
Total expenses: 1745.36 -> 2257.55
Total income: 1579.50 -> 1860.92 (counting commission check)
I think I had projected a $200 shortfall this month...ended up being $396. I'm still trying to figure this one out as I only took $180 out of savings...must be some outstanding cc charges that account for the extra $$ spent.
I also put $4500 on the 0% cc - Dh's tuition. Not looking forward to paying that one off, but at least I won't be paying interest on it for a year.
I'm feeling pretty good about September. Yes, we spent more than we made. But the only two categories where we were significantly over were car and medical - necessary expenses. We reined in the spending in other categories. So I feel pretty darn good, even in the red.

free free free!

September 29th, 2006 at 06:03 pm

I keep remembering things to add to my freebie tracking list...all of this stuff was received in the past month.
-two free movie tickets from a contest, value $15.00
-$10 gift card to Target from mypoints, value $10
-today I bought three packages of Kotex, which cost me $7, but which I will receive a $10 rebate for, product valued at $10.47
Total value: 285.47 (total retail value: 962.47

More freebies

September 28th, 2006 at 06:14 pm

Forgot to add that I received several partial bags of cat food from a relative after their cat passed away. It was nice of them to think of me even when they were feeling bad.
Estimated value: $15 (pricey food)
My value: $4 (I buy the cheap stuff!)

That brings the value of things I have gotten for free to $250 (estimated value of $927 if bought new).

New category

September 27th, 2006 at 06:39 pm

I was just thinking over all of the things I have gotten for free lately (hand-me-downs, freebies, Freecycle, etc.) and wanted to start tracking it. I'm not sure how to quantify it, since a lot of these things I would not have bought for myself, so it's not really money saved. However, they are items of value that I now own. Maybe I'll give a conservative estimate on how much the item would have cost new, followed by what the item would have cost me if I had bought it (presumably used).
I'll start by backtracking over the last month.
-1 large garbage bag of boys clothing, sizes 4-7, from friend
estimated new value: conservatively, $500 - tons of brand name Disney, Gap, etc. clothes
my value: $150 used
-1 bag pears, value $3, from co-worker
-1 pair of children's shoes, worn once, from a co-worker
new value: $40
my value: $2
-a box of used children's games, from a Freecycle in return for items I gave to her
new value: $30
my value: $6
-a bag of silk ties for DH to wear while teaching, from DH's cousin who is a teacher but doesn't wear them anymore
new value: $100
my value: $20
-clothes from DH's cousin, about 5 shirts, 3 pants (needed shortening which was done by my MIL), one pair of shoes
new value: all brand name, probably $200
my value: $50
-clothes for DH from my brother, several shirts
new value: $50
my value: $15

That's all I can remember for now. For me, it's simply a matter of letting people know you are interested. One co-worker, who brought me the children's shoes yesterday, had never brought me anything before (despite thinking about it) as she thought I might be offended. Now that she saw how happy I was to accept them, she said she will keep me in mind for the future. I am willing to bet I will receive clothes from her in the next 6 months.
So, an estimate of what the above would have cost me, new: $923
What would I have spent to get the above? $246. That's money in my pocket, just for saying yes!

Money tally

September 27th, 2006 at 06:27 pm

Big spend day, but nothing that was unbudgeted.
$177 for two dentists appts (myself and ds1). This was his first visit and he was SO good for the dentist. She even commented on how polite he was. Course, he wore his Buzz Lightyear shirt and insisted that everyone call him Buzz, which they did.
$19 spent at store #1. I found a few good deals - some things that were free after I combined coupons with sales. I think I saved about $14, so I'm getting closer to that 50% mark. I did buy a few things that I needed which weren't on sale and no coupon, so that brought down my savings. Stop #2 was Aldi's, so no coupons there - but I had to stock up on some canned goods, like beans, which I can never find coupons for anyway. Spent $21 there. My grocery envelope has $2 left in it - I think I can make it until the end of the month!
The rest of the day I spent at home, cooking (jalapeno jelly, yogurt, soup with tomatoes and ravioli). I did make $91 payment on the big cc (0% rate), so I guess that counts as money spent too.

This one's for Bookie :)

September 27th, 2006 at 06:17 pm

Vanilla-Scented Granola, posted by bev on recipezaar.com, recipe #23108

cooking spray
4 c. old fashioned oats (I used quick cooking)
1 c. sliced almonds
1/2 c. golden brown sugar, packed (I used 1/4 c. brown sugar with 1/8 c. Splenda brown sugar)
1/4 t. salt
1/8 t. ground cinnamon
1/3 c. oil (I used 1/4 c.)
1/4 c. honey
2 T. sugar
4 t. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 300. Lightly spray baking sheet with cooking spray (I had to use two baking sheets). Mix next 5 ingredients in large bowl.
Combine oil, honey, and sugar in sall saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Pour over oat mixture - stir well. Use hands to toss until thoroughly mixed. Spread on baking sheet and bake until golden brown, 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cool completely and store in airtight container at room temperature for up to two weeks. Makes about 8 cups.
(I split this into two batches - for mine, I added coconut before baking. For my mom's, I added raisins after baking).
Enjoy!

cooking frenzy

September 26th, 2006 at 06:36 pm

This happens every time I get a day or two off from work - I go into a cooking frenzy. I have noticed that it has been much more acute (and adventurous) lately. Today the result was homemade granola (I challenge anyone who likes granola to try this - so easy and very delicious, not to mention way cheaper!). DH and I also made pickled peppers. The plan tomorrow is to make pepper jelly. We still have jalapeno peppers coming out our ears, despite giving so many away on Freecycle. I'll take some into work on Thursday - maybe that will help clear out the glut.
My next goal - yogurt. I want to try the recipe from the Tightwad Gazette. I was all set to try it the other day, but the yogurt I had on hand didn't say "live cultures", so I wasn't sure if it would work. Have to make a trip to the store to get some more yogurt before I can set off on that adventure.
I spent $17 today on a book/gift sale at work. I found a nice present for my DH, but it was $16 with the Books Are Fun people, who came last week, so I passed. The EXACT same item popped up again this week (different book group) for $9. I was thrilled, so I bought that along with a little gift for myself - a greeting card organizer/calendar/address book (it has space to hold cards for each month, as well as write down all important dates). Not normally something I would spend $8 on, but it comes with 24 beautiful orchid greeting cards - that's only $.33 per card, not counting the book! Even though I have all but given up on exchanging cards, there are occasions where I still need to have a nice card on hand, which I usually end up paying $.50 for at the dollar store. These cards are so much nicer, and I get the book to boot! No other money spent today.
One of my co-workers wives set up a table at work today to sell her jewelry - very pretty and reasonably priced, but just not something I spend money on. I wear very little jewelry - just my wedding set and one other ring with an occasional pair of earrings. Anyway, everyone kept telling me how I needed to go look, it was so reasonable, yada yada yada. I looked, and I passed. Yet I noticed many other people (some whom I have heard say they can't wait for the next payday as they have NO money) shell out $30, $40, $50 without blinking an eye. When I think how long I have to work for one bracelet...no thanks.
Slight headache all day - never bad enough to take anything for it (stupid me), but just enough to be annoying. I think I'll go to bed now...

September resolutions?

September 24th, 2006 at 07:25 pm

Just to keep myself on track and accountable...a few things I need to step up on as things have not been quite to my standards lately.
1. I resolve to not go more than 5 miles per hour over the speed limit. This is better for gas mileage and for reducing the chance of getting a speeding ticket. I will ask DH to pledge the same.
2. I resolve to have more patience with my children. I have been finding myself raising my voice more often than I would like. Patience, patience.
3. I resolve to continue in my effort to declutter and simplify life.

Tomorrow is a new day. Tomorrow will be a better day!

been away for a bit

September 24th, 2006 at 07:22 pm

We went to Binghamton for the weekend for nephew's 17th birthday party (he was FIVE when I met DH...I feel so OLD). A nice visit, as usual. I am so lucky to have found a partner with a family that I adore.
Bad news on the spending front - the entertainment envelope was empty tonight as we were looking for bowling money. We had a few events come up that we didn't plan for - a fall festival, the potato festival (we come up with a lot of reasons for festivals here in Small Town USA). Plus I forgot to budget for DH's Wed. bowling league. I'll try to plan better next month. We took $20 from the grocery envelope instead, so at least we didn't have to hit the dreaded ATM. The worst news though - another speeding ticket for DH. UGH. As upset as I was, it would be hypocritical of me to get mad at him as I speed as much, if not more, than he does. He just spends a lot more time on the road, so his chances of being caught are higher. I really hope it does not affect our insurance rates though. His court date isn't until October, so we are going to try to plead for leniency before then. He has already taken the defensive driving course, so that won't be a help for at least another year.
The good news though...two checks to deposit tomorrow. $546 commission check from my last transaction and $108 from my friend for our theatre tickets for next year (cc is already paid, so I can use this money toward other expenses). I think I will pay off two small cc bills ($50 total) and then make some payments on the big cc - the one we used for DH's tuition. It's a start, however small!

To Infinity...and Beyond!

September 21st, 2006 at 06:41 pm

Couldn't resist showing off these pictures of my little Buzz Lightyear. The wings were his DH's invention. The shirt - well, he hasn't taken it off since he got it (in a hand-me-down bag of clothes) except when I insist on washing it. When he puts it in, he proclaims himself the "real" Buzz Lightyear and "flies" around the house saying "To infinity and beyond!" (Buzz's catch phrase, for those of you who are not forced to watch Toy Story over and over again).

And now to smack myself in the head...I had a lead on a real estate client that I called a few times, but never got in touch with. I left her a message before I went on vacation in August and never heard from her. I have been forgetting and forgetting to try again to reach her. Anyway, I looked online before calling her tonight to make sure she hadn't listed her house yet - and she had - for $119k. And it sold within a week. Ouch. She listed it during the week I was on vacation. Oh well. I guess I should have been more persistent in trying to reach her. Although, her name was given to me by another client - maybe she already had an agent and didn't tell him. I never connected her to find out, so I guess I'll never know if I could have gotten the listing or not. The agent she did list with does a lot of sales and has a good reputation, so I might not have been able to get the listing anyway (I'm small potatoes Smile)
I spent some money ($3) to meet a girlfriend for lunch today - the first time I have eaten out in a few weeks. I deliberately went somewhere cheap - and she understood! I also stopped at Walgreens today to pick up a few good sales - Royal jello, 5/$1, Walgreen brand acetaminphen, BOGO, and coffee for DH. Spent $8, "saved" $9 - but actually didn't spend a thing as I used my rebate gift card. I wanted to go back to get the Kotex rebate again, but I forgot my coupons (Doh! double head smack!) and I certainly wasn't going to buy them without coupons! (flash - are you getting to me?)