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Archive for May, 2007

house woes

May 30th, 2007 at 07:01 pm

I just had a week off from work, mostly so I could get caught up with some organizational tasks, but the house is a mess. An absolute mess. Why is it that I can either be organized but messy, or have a clean house with totally disorganized closets, desks, etc? Why are these two things to hard to obtain together???
On the bright side, I did clear out a totally congested closet. It took two days, if that tells you how bad it truely was. It was the closet I keep all my baby items and clothes in. Every time my boys outgrow clothes or toys, it goes into the closet to await the next kid. Since my youngest is two and a half, and we have not yet started to even plan for the next baby, much less have one, there was 2.5 years of junk thrown in there. I think I have a more organized system for next time. Maybe.
I tried to finish up the garden tonight, but ended up too frustrated. We generally have a nice garden in the same spot every year, but this year there was a ton of dirt dumped on the spot after the excavation of my brother's basement (he's building a house behind ours). That meant a lot of rocks and lumpy dirt. My father tried to fix it with the tractor, but I think the tractor just compacted the dirt more. It's pretty unmanagable. I'm not sure what to do, especially since I already have half of the garden planted. Ugh.

Garden aches

May 27th, 2007 at 08:09 pm

I am trying a new method of planting the garden and, gosh darnit all, it better be worth it because it takes about four times as long! Last year I heard about using newspapers to control weed growth so this year I researched a little more and decided to give it a try, since DH conveniently calls it "our garden" yet never steps foot back into it after he helps me plant (leaving little ol' me with all the weeding). If it will make my life easier, I'm willing to try.
Maybe I'm making this harder than it is, but this is the way I figured to do it. Since each newspaper is supposed to have several inches of soil on top of it, I raked a few inches of dirt back, planted my seeds or plants, then put the paper down. I held the paper down with rocks (windy day) while I watered it, then covered it up with dirt and watered it again. Then I moved on the next row. It seemed to take forever. I got two hills of squash done and three rows of seeds. I have one row left, then all the tomatoes and peppers (which I haven't even bought yet).
Of course, half of the problem was that we recycled every single newspaper in the house yesterday, which left me scrambling today. I was pulling things out of the Sunday paper, finding newspapers tucked away in the bathroom (the crossword puzzlers of the house take them in), and generally ransacking the house for anything I could use. I even went to the neighbors (my brother and SIL) to see what they had laying around. I was about to use some brown paper grocery bags, but then my SIL came home and pointed me to their stash. Geesh! Bad timing on our part. I hope to finish tomorrow...I would love a nice cool, windless day.
Here's the rundown on what we are planting:
Zucchini
Yellow squash
green and yellow beans
beets
spinach, swiss chard, and mesclun mix
brussel sprouts and cabbage
tomatoes, grape tomatoes
green peppers, jalapenos, and banana
peppers
cukes
broccoli
PHEW! A real pain now, but I will be loving it in a month or two.

Top 10 things I shouldn't have wasted my money on

May 25th, 2007 at 05:58 pm

10. Expensive shampoos, soap, and lotions. How many bottles do you have sitting half full on your dresser/shower shelf, etc? Too many. Plain old shampoo and soap work as well as anything else I have tried.

9. Home parties. I used to attend these - Candle Lite, Home Interiors, etc. I have more candles than I could ever burn. I have no room to decorate. The prices on the Tastefully Simple brochures leave my aghast (why, I can make that myself for a quarter of the price!). I finally just stopped - I respectfully told everyone who invited me to one that I just do not attend them.

8. Guilt toys. My kids have a lot of toys. They are gifted to by many members of our family. Yet I do succumb to the guilt buys. DH wants to provide them with memorable holidays. My friends convince me to buy the latest gadget, Dora toy, or similar item. I should be able to stand up and say "Enough!", but at times I cannot.

7. Puffkins. Yikes. Remember Beanie Babies? Of course you do. Puffkins were their littel known descendants which we were convinced would be the next big thing. At $5 a pop, I did spend a small fortune in 1995 money on these little balls of fluff that are now gathering dust in the back of my closet. Anyone want to buy a nice Puffkin collection? I'm sure a lot of us could tell similar stories about the latest fads.

6. New clothes. I shudder to add up what I spent in clothes in my previous life (pre-frugal). Now I buy most everything secondhand. I fess up to buying my undergarments and swimsuits new, as well as the occasional basic wardrobe piece that I might not be able to find used. But 95% of what I buy is used. I still get sticker shock when I walk into department stores and see what the prices are. On the occasions that I do buy new, I inevitably spill or shrink the item by the third wearing. I prefer to go with an item that has already been pre-shrunk, wears well, and I won't feel guilty about if I get a stain on it. Plus, you can redonate the items when you are done and probably get a tax break close to what you paid for it. Win - win.

5. In the same vein - kid's clothes. They outgrow them so fast and really don't care what they wear, at least for a good many years. I got the majority of my kids clothes from the Thrifty Shopper's 2/$1 table. I did buy a few new pieces, but they weren't any better or gave me any more satisfaction than secondhand pieces.

4. Books. "What???" you say, "Someone is actually saying not to buy books?" Yes, I am. I have shelves of books (luckily, most bought second hand) that I feel obliged to keep because I might want to reread them someday. Yet, I can get nearly any book I want from my local library, and I seldom do reread any of those books on my shelf. (I make an exception for children's books, which can be found very cheaply at thrift stores and garage sales and have value above and beyond the space they occupy in encouraging our kids to read).

3. Kitchen gadgets. A rice cooker. A wok. A quesadilla maker. All of these things sound great, but take up TONS of SPACE and are seldom used. I have learned how to cook my rice in the oven or stove, to stir-fry in a frying pan...well, I have kept the quesadilla maker because it's just so neato, but I know that for as much as I use it, I should ditch it as well.

2. A private college education. It's so easy to just take out more loans when you are going to school, until you find yourself graduated, with a job making $15,500/year, and $15k in student loans. I wish someone had told me that it was okay to attend the community college for a few years after graduating, then transfer, but being salutatorian of my school, I never felt that it was even an option. I was *expected* to go to a four-year school. At least I met my Dh there, which makes it worth every penny Smile

1. A new car. Ugh. After calculating that I had worked a year (half-time) to pay for DH's new car - the only new car we have ever bought - I decided that I never again will buy new. There are so many slightly used cars out there that are a much better value.

A quick tally of some of my bigger - and smaller - mistakes. Maybe some of these will ring true with others. Maybe I will have to follow up with my top 10 frugal purchases Smile

a nice day

May 25th, 2007 at 05:29 pm

although it was hotter than h*ll here today. I wish we could have a nice, warm day here in upstate NY, but we vary from 50 degrees to 90, with little in between. Sigh.
I kept the kids busy by putting a kiddie pool out with some cold water and plastic cups. The occupied themselves for the better part of the afternoon dumping water all over the driveway and immersing themselves when it got too unbearable. I also took the three kids, ages 4,3 and 2 (the two youngest being mine, the other was my niece) out grocery shopping today. Call me a wimp, but I'm often hesitant to take MY two out by myself, much less take all three of them! My boys don't have a lot of patience for anything more than 30 minutes, but they all did great today. I went to our local Mennonite/seconds store and, as always, found some great deals. One good find was a jar of tomato basil pasta sauce for $.50. I threw it in the crockpot tonight with a jar of plain tomato sauce, leftover peppers and onions from our sausage dinner last night, and a bag of frozen chicken tenders I had found a few months ago at the same store. Total cost: about $5. I seved it over pasta with a salad (leftover from my mom's lunch out today - I just added two more leaves of lettuce to stretch it). It fed four adults, three very hungry kids, and I still have 2-3 servings left over. Yum.
Speaking of the kids...they both fell asleep at the dinner table tonight and are already tucked into bed. Every so often, they crash early to make up for those busy summer days. Gosh, I love the summertime.
DH got his first "real" paycheck today as a long-term sub. It was $1200, but his next one will be about $1600 for two weeks. Neither of us has ever made that much money before. Yes, it's been a very good day Smile

a few random updates

May 22nd, 2007 at 06:34 pm

-Just finished my second Pinecone survey for $5! I love it - so much better than those survey savvy ones that I never seemed to qualify for.
-I was invited yesterday to go to Myrtle Beach for a week in July with a friend who gets a condo there through work. She and a bunch of her girlfriends are going - only one of whom I know, but I think it will be a lot of fun. The upside? All I have to pay for is airfare (or gas, in the unlikely event that I decide to make the 13 hour trip). The downside? It is the week before our camping trip, so I won't go for the entire week (I can't stomach two weeks away from home). I think I'll go for 4 days or so. I can't decide if I want to go for the first part of the week, then have a few days to recover at home before camping, or if I should go at the end of the week and head right to the cabin from the airport. Either way, it will be a lot of fun and I already have DH's blessing, as well as my mom's (who will watch the kids while DH works and I'm gone). Airfare looks to be about $300. Any of you South Carolinians care to suggest any attractions near Myrtle Beach (although there is a good possibility that we won't even leave the beach...) Smile
-Dh should be getting his first large paycheck in two days!!! He has one interview already for a FT permanent position next school year, and he has been "strongly encouraged" by the head of the special education department to apply at the school he is currently at, which would be his first choice. The problem is that if he is offered a position at school #1, he will have to make a decision before he knows anything about school #2, since they haven't even posted for the open position yet.
-We have a rather large cc bill to pay off thanks to DH's generosity in Mother's Day gifts - three gift certificates for a massage and lunch at a very upscale day spa for me, my mom, and MIL. Should be fun...but it did take me a few days to stop hyperventilating over the cost ($150 each). I guess I can relax now and start to enjoy some of the things we have worked for. I also have an outing planned for next month with my SIL, MIL, and several other members of DH's family for a hair cut/style, highlights, etc. at a new salon - we are going two days before DH's cousin's wedding. I have never had highlights before, so I'm anxious to see how they turn out. I'm afraid I might like them and want to get them more often - dang, they are expensive!
Seems like I had more to write, but this is getting long enough...

Musings of a long-time blogger

May 20th, 2007 at 07:37 pm

I don't know how to say this...and I don't know if it is a good or bad thing...but I just never get to this site much anymore. On one hand, I am feeling infinitely better over our financial situation than I was a year ago, or even 3 months ago! DH has steady work and a few great propects for a permanent teaching job next year. Our net worth has gone from negative to nearly $11k in three months time. We have enough money to not worry about where every penny is going. We continue to pay off our cc balances every month, while maintaining a sizable EF.
But, I am spending money that I wouldn't have considered spending a few months ago. Our entertainment budget is out the window. I only get to this site once a week or so. Am I becoming too complacent? Or am I just at a spot where I can let my hair down without being consumed with worry? Is that a good thing or a bad thing?
This site was a lifesaver for me over the past two years, from a difficult decision to live on my PT income while DH returned to school, to making those ends meet through all those months. Most of all, it was just nice to know that I wasn't alone in my attempts to save money wherever possible, to make things from scratch, to not buy new when used would do. But now I find myself visiting less and less - and it's certainly not because I am any less interested in the wonderful people I have met here. It just seems as though life keeps getting in the way. There is always so much to do in these warmer months. At the same time, I feel as though I have less financial stuff to blog about. It seems less relevant for me to blog about making ends meet when we are meeting them, with extra! I don't know...I'm rambling, just trying to figure what I'm doing here and if I should keep trying to maintain this blog.

April budget

May 20th, 2007 at 07:26 pm

Budget for April:
Groceries: 225 -> 267.22
Household/Cell: 45 -> 0 (oops - forgot to pay the cell phone bill - I paid a double bill in May)
Car: 175 -> 372.52 (about $30 of this was for maintenance - the rest for gas. Ouch!)
Medical: 200 -> 416 (AHHH pinkeye!)
Clothes: 0 -> 29.56
Loans: 300.36 -> 300.36
Entertainment: 100 -> 804.13 (subtract $646 for two cabins for summer vacation - one which we are being paid back for - and the real total is $158.13)
Gifts: 50 -> 16.19
Miscellaneous: 100 -> 136.81
Real estate: 75 -> 0
School/Day care: 200 -> 0
Investment: 3500 from March surplus, 500 from April -> 4000
Cash withdrawals: 100 with no fees -> 180, no fees
Total income: 3600 -> 5029.88
Total expenses: 1920.36 -> 6522.79

We met our goal of putting $4k into DH's Roth by 4/15. One thing that is pretty obvious is that I have NO idea of our income from month to month with DH being a substitute teacher, although we did just find out that he will be making $188 per day as a long-term sub, with steady work through the end of the year Smile Now maybe we can plan a little better.
We had some big expenses already as we booked our summer vacation cabin. We also had some big unexpected expenses with the pinkeye outbreak (which morphed into two ear infections for my boys), which consisted of four separate doctor's appts, two trips to the pharmacy for five different medications, and a new pair of glasses for me (unintended side effect as I had to wear my glasses for a week while recovering). Throw in a trip to the dentist for me and DH and we have a lot of medical expenses for the month. And don't get my started on the gas prices...ugh.

May budget
Budget for April:
Groceries: 225
Household/Cell: 415 (320 to my mom for monthly expenses, 160/month times two months - we are starting to catch up for some past months where she told us not to worry about it. I have also included two months of cell payments since I forgot to pay last months bill!)
Car: 250
Medical: 50 (two scripts, one medical appt. co-pay)
Clothes: 50 (I need summer clothes desperately and have already spent about $30 on clothes this month)
Loans: 300.36
Entertainment: 100
Gifts: 500 (I never would have estimated it this high at the beginning of the month, but DH surprised me, my mother, and my MIL with gift certificates to a very upscale spa - total $450!)
Miscellaneous: 100
Real estate: 50
School/Day care: 200 (certification fee for DH's teaching)
Investment: 0 until we get the AmEx paid off
Cash withdrawals: 100 with no fees
Total income: 3000
Total expenses: 2340.36
Looks like we should be able to knock another chunk off the cc this month. The balance is down to $2k, from over $5k.




Even happier dance

May 8th, 2007 at 07:12 pm

Wow, I was excited about $25 more for DH for being a long-term sub...but we found out that he will actually be making 1/200th of a teacher's salary every day now - so instead of $75/day, he will be getting $150-$75/day. That's HUGE!
It's been a hectic week - too much to do around the house that I just can't get to. I finally pulled out all the summer clothes for the kids (it hit 80 today). The entire house is a mess though. Since I'm not working tomorrow, that's my goal. Along with planting my herbs (received from a wine and herb tour we took over the weekend), starting to prepare my garden, cleaning up the yard, doing about 5 loads of laundry, etc etc. Oh, and I take the kids to the library or roller skating rink every Wednesday too. Phew.
Moneywise - things are going well. We have booked our one week vacation at a cabin for this summer - $323 for the week. I have our 0% cc paid down to $2300 and only a few hundred dollars on the other cc, to pay off in two days when we get paid. This was from a few tanks of gas (DH lost his debit card) and ordering DH's contacts. Net worth is creeping very steadily toward $11k thanks to a great rally by Apple and John Deere stocks. WOOHOO!
DH's grandmother fell at the grocery store this evening - she's getting x-rays at the ER as I write. She's alert and I don't think she's in pain, but she is over 80, so everyone keep your fingers crossed for her.

Happy dance!

May 2nd, 2007 at 01:27 pm

DH walked in the house doing the happy dance today. He was called to the principals office (not in a bad way!) at the school where he is subbing and was asked to stay on until at least June 1st (but with a good possibility of staying until the end of the year). And, because he is now classified a "long-term sub", he gets $25 more per day, and a month of steady work, with at least a foot in the door for any openings next year.
Phew.

Happy dance! Happy dance!

Free contacts!

May 2nd, 2007 at 01:25 pm

I just came across an awesome deal at shipmycontacts.com (I wrote about them in a previous post as I was really pleased with the price and speed of shipping). Anyway, I went back there to order DH's contacts - also Night & Days. The price per box? $0 after rebate. These are the same contacts that I paid $35/box for, and my eye doctor charges $70/box for! What a great deal - ends today though.