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Archive for December, 2006

A long absence

December 28th, 2006 at 02:47 am

I think this has been my longest absence from blogging since I started, well over a year ago. Things have just been keeping us very busy lately, both with the holidays and the stomach bug that took out every member of my immediate and extended family for a few days.
We had a wonderful Christmas, celebrating on the 23rd (ds2's 2nd birthday) with my aunt and cousins, on the 24th with my in-laws, and on Christmas with my family. We will have one more party this coming weekend at my SIL's house with all the cousins from DH's family. I was able to attend one work party, but missed two others due to illness. I haven't looked at the numbers yet, but I know we were over budget on Christmas spending by the $650 cc bill. OUCH. Not all of it was on Christmas, but a good chunk of it was. That, combined with a big drop in our investments, dropped our already pitiful net worth by $2000, making it still in the black, but barely. We also have two big expenses coming up - my annual real estate dues ($400) plus MLS access ($114), and we should be getting the fine soon for DH's speeding ticket (probably $100-150). We don't have the money for these, so it's back to the EF we go. I am still toying with the idea of taking $2k out of the EF (bringing it to $5k) to catch up the Christmas cc, pay off my dues, and pay off DH's car. Then we could start off the new year with only one cc at 0% and our student loans.
So why am I not crying right now with all this bad news? There's some good news to balance it out. DH has been on four substitute teaching interviews. All have gone very well. I guess it's true that male elementary/special ed teachers are sought after. Anyway, he has to be approved by the school boards before he can start subbing. One board has met and approved him - the others meet in the first 2 weeks of January. We have heard from multiple sources how desperate the schools are for subs, so we are hoping for steady work. At about $70 per day, that would add another $1000-$1200 monthly. That will help us dig out from under the tuition debt much more quickly. DH calculated that he should be able to recover the lost wages/tuition costs of going back to school in about 2 years from when he gets steady employment. Let's hope!
I have a lot of projects on the back burner that will be coming to the front now that the holidays are over - organizing and ordering a few months of digital pictures, helping my mom organize her 30 years of pictures, transferring over my parents tapes onto DVD for them, taking up scrapbooking again with all the cool things I got for Christmas, general organization and cleaning, etc. As much as I hate to say it, I can't even get started on those things when I spend an hour a day on here. For now, I will be a little more scarce 'round these parts. But I'll still be checking in on y'all.
Smile
Later.

Small victories

December 9th, 2006 at 09:43 pm

I feel like I had a lot of them today.
1. Grocery shopping - I got $22.64 worth of food for $8.64 at Tops. Then I stopped at Aldi's and spent $11.51.
2. I found a quarter left in the grocery cart return at Aldi's, which brought my grocery total down to under $20 for the day Smile
3. I made a loaf of bread. It rose. It's in the oven now and smells good. And it's still rising. I hope it tastes as good as it looks. (my last loaf of bread failed miserably)
4. Dinner is cooking on the stove. I used up the rest of the ham and bone, but saved a package for the freezer to make scalloped potatoes with later.
5. I made three batches of cookies for my cookie exchange tomorrow. The first is out of the oven and yummy!
6. I managed to arrange a cookie exchange/Bunco party at my house tomorrow! Latest count has 12 people coming, some of whom I know and some of whom are friends I have yet to meet Smile The hope is to make this a monthly get-together.
7. We celebrated my youngest son's 2nd birthday last night (even though it's not for two more weeks) with my family. We only decided to have the party with one day's notice. We bought everyone pizza and wings and I made a cake. It was a good time and ds2 got a lot of BOOKS!!! He also got some winter wear, which was needed. What he did NOT get was any lot of cheap, easy to break, annoyingly loud toys, for which I am very thankful.
It's been a good weekend so far. I think it will get even better tomorrow!

(DH is laughing at me because not only was I happy to find a quarter, but I was happy enough about it to bother posting it here. Pooh on him...he just doesn't get it)

Inspired by Thrifty Ray

December 5th, 2006 at 03:24 am

My top ten favorites of the Christmas season:
1. Christmas Eve with my aunt, who is 92. Every year since I was born (except one year I spent with DH before we were married), the family has gathered in my aunt's tiny apartment for Christmas Eve (or Christmas Eve Eve, or the day after - we have had to switch it around with so many additions to the family). When my parents were first married, there was a total of 5 people who gathered. Last year, we had 15. The menu never changes: cold cuts, potato salad, pickles, cookies, and fudge. My aunt gives us each a lottery ticket, although we never win much.

2. Making new memories, even in keeping with old traditions. This year, for the first time, we are meeting at my cousin's house instead of my aunt's. It got too be too much for her to host. But, the people remain the same, the menu will probably be the same, and I know we'll celebrate in the same manner!

3. Decorating Christmas cookies on Christmas Eve. This was DH's tradition growing up. We were able to do this with his mother last year and will do it again this year. Thus, a tradition is born!

4. Book bags - another tradition of DH's that we have adopted. His mother made cloth book-sized bags that we...er, Santa...fills with books each year for the kids.

5. Cookie exchanges (this year we are combining it with a Bunco party)

6. Cousin's Christmas - usually the day after CHristmas, but this year it will be the Saturday after, most of DH's cousins (about 12-14) gather at my SIL's house will all the aunts and uncles. It's a day of food and fun. We do a gift exchange where you draw numbers. Number #1 will pick a present, then #2 can pick a new present or steal #1's present. It's a riot and it usually takes the better part of an hour with all the stealing Smile

7. Turkey dinner at 1pm and turkey sandwiches that night.

8. Hidden stockings. Somewhere along the line as kids we came up with the idea that we should look for our stockings, much like you would look for Easter eggs! Our parents, er...Santa, obliged, and we would get up Christmas morning and have to search for our stockings. The hiding places got harder each year. We finally abandoned this tradition when we got a little old for our parents, er Santa, to be leaving us stockings...but it might be revived when my boys are a little bigger.

9. Working out an arrangement that we get to see both sides of the family, with no hurt feelings. Both DH's and my parents have never, never given us a guilt trip about not spending a holiday with them. The arrangement might very from year to year, but we always get to see everyone. This year it is 12/23 with my aunt, Christmas Eve and Christmas morning with my MIL (at our house), and Christmas dinner and evening with my family.

10. All of the additions to our family. My aunt used to joke that she thought our family line would die with my father, a bachelor until age 39. Then he met my mother, had three kids, who are all now married. They have three grandchildren with many more to come. One of our best presents was our son, born 12/23 two years ago. Just another reason to celebrate this wonderful time of year!

Enjoy the season!

Stuff

December 5th, 2006 at 03:07 am

I've got some great gifts for my birthday - we had our family party over the weekend. My parents slipped me $100 and told me that I MUST spend it on myself (how well do they know me??). I had a few items of clothing on my wish list so my mom decided to let me do my own shopping, since I usually return anything she gets me anyway Smile I also received a $50 g.c. to get a new pair of bowling shoes from my MIL. DH got me a new memory card for my camera and two shirts (that I picked out and handed to him at Target). One brother and SIL made me a beaded bracelet with my boys' names on it - the other brother and SIL bought me a TON of really nice scrapbooking stuff. My BIL regifted a $25 g.c. to a restaurant! And my SILs sent me a beautiful sweater from the Gap. I love my birthday Smile
I have not been keeping track of my freebies in quite a while - I'm probably too far behind now to catch up. But one thing I did want to mention - DH found out that his grandparents took out their trashcompactor once Grandpa started using a walker (it was in the way). He called and asked for it, so they gave it to us. My father has been trying to fix our trash compactor for weeks, but found out that the part he needed was no longer made (these things are OLD). The one we received is the same brand, so we are going to try to make one usable compactor out of two old ones. Yeah for recycling!
We have three days left until payday and still about $100 in our checking. Except for the $60 DH took out of our savings, it looks like we made it through another two weeks without going into the EF (of course, now that I said that, we are going to have a financial emergency tomorrow).
My BOA Keep the CHange account netted me $36 and change over the past year. Not too bad, but I think I could have done better just getting a $50 sign-up bonus somewhere. Oh, wait, I think I did get a bonus too when I signed up with them. I am going to keep the account because the bank is so convenient to my work.
Still toying with the idea of taking $2k from the EF to pay off the car and pay down the cc (tuition). It would leave us with $5k. I am very optimistic about DH finding work, as he has four interviews coming up this week for subbing. It seems the substitute teachers are in high demand around here - good news for him!

November wrap-up

December 3rd, 2006 at 02:48 am

November budget and actual expenses:
Groceries: 250 -> 176.15 WOOHOO! My largest trip was $44, and I've decided that I am going to start cleaning out the frezzer a bit, so I should be able to keep this low next month too.
Household/Cell: 90 -> 98.05 (contract ended and cell bill went up - I am starting to shop for a new provider)
Car: 350 -> 257.69 What a different those gas prices make!
Medical: 0 -> 9.28 lab bill from previous month
Clothes: 0 -> 0
Loans: 300.36 -> 300.36
Entertainment: 140 -> 194.83
Gifts: 200 -> 335.50
Miscellaneous: 50 -> 74.83
Real estate: 0 -> 0
School/Day care: 160 -> 80
Investment: 0 -> 0
Cash withdrawals: 80 with no fees -> 200 with $2 in fees
Total income: 1300 -> 1340.13
Total expenses: 1620.36 -> 1728.69
A $388 difference. About $190 is currently on ccs to be paid off - another $100 came out of savings. I'm not quite sure where the other $100 came from! We did get quite a bit more shopping done than we anticipated - probably another $200-300 to go before we are done.

December budget:
Groceries: 225 (a slight decrease)
Household/Cell: 90
Car: 250 (no more student teaching after this week!)
Medical: 0
Clothes: 0
Loans: 300.36
Entertainment: 120
Gifts: 300
Miscellaneous: 50
Real estate: 0
School/Day care: 80
Investment: 0
Cash withdrawals: 80 with no fees
Total income: 1300, with the possibility of more if DH substitue teaches
Total expenses: 1495.36
If it weren't for holiday spending, I might have actually been able to make it through this month without using any savings!!





good mail day

December 1st, 2006 at 10:45 pm

Received $3.30 in Eckerd's rebates in the mail today, as well as a two coupons for Betty Crocker/General Mills (one free, one $1 off) after I wrote them a question about a can of frosting I had bought. Yeah!
I also deposited $4.56 in rebates into my account today - one for Hunts and one from Rayovac (thanks MJrube!). I think the Eckerd's rebates were for the batteries too, so they paid me $6 to buy $3 worth of batteries Smile

one call already on the new listing

December 1st, 2006 at 08:27 pm

The new house I listed on the MLS has already gotten one interested phone call. I would LOVE it if I had a quick sale...it would be app. $1900 comission. But I won't get any hopes up yet. Plus, when this house sells, I will need to find a house for the owner, and possibly her elderly father. It would be just the boost we need. Keep your fingers crossed for me.
I am toying with the idea of taking my EF down to $5k and using the excess (about $2300) to pay off some debts. I could eliminate our car loan (about $900), both small cc balances from this month ($188 combined), and use the rest either for Christmas shopping or to pay down the 0% cc (DH's tuition). I think I could be comfortable with a smaller EF now that DH will be working in a week (hopefully). I am going to hold off making a decision until later this month when my next car payment is due.
On the good news front...DH has two interviews for substitute teaching positions. One is 10 minutes from our house and the other is 20. He also has a resume and phone call in to our local district (5 minutes away), but I have heard that they are really slow at approving subs. I have been hearing that school districts are DESPERATE for subs around here, so hopefully he can get some experience and make some money close to home while searching for a long-term position. Cross your toes for us too - we've got a lot to hope for in the next few weeks.