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Archive for February, 2008

Blows to the budget

February 26th, 2008 at 06:11 pm

$18 copay for ds2 (ear infection)
$18 copay for DH (possible strep)
$10 antibiotics for both
Ugh! We were doing so well too. Granted, it's not much, but it's almost $50 that we won't be putting toward our Roth this month.
I am eating like a maniac. If this keeps up, I might blow the grocery budget too Smile Today's menu:
breakfast:two bowls of Wheaties with strawberries
2nd breakfast: bowl of oatmeal with 1/2 banana
lunch: frozen meal, chicken with potatoes
snack: handful of almonds and cheese stick
2nd snack (about 4 pm is where the willpower breaks down - yesterday it was -gasp- friend Spam on white bread! -which tasted SO good): Doritos/corn chips snack mix
dinner: steak, two piles of mashed potatoes, asparagus
dessert: butterscotch pudding

I said at the beginning of this pregnancy that I would not gain 55 pounds, like I did with my last two..but I'm so hungrrrryyyyyyyy.......I think I need to start exercising or this is going to be disastrous.

Still around...somewhat!

February 25th, 2008 at 06:03 pm

Okay, seems that I have gone MIA from my blog again. It's been a busy week - we went to Binghamton again to help my MIL clean out her house to put it on the market. While we were there, she took us to see an adorable little house that she wants to buy, only a few minutes away from my SILs. She's going to put in an offer tomorrow (fingers crossed). However, we had to rush home Sat. night because ds2 was feverish and saying his ear hurt. We gave him some drops for the pain and Tylenol for the fever and he finally went to bed around midnight. I thought we would need to take him to Urgent Care on Sunday, but he woke up fine and has been great ever since.
I'm am definitely beginning to feel this pregnancy, which is a mixed blessing. It's great, because I never felt pregnant with my last pregnancy (miscarriage) - I always thought something was a bit off. Now, I am really feeling pregnant, complete with the exhaustion and CONSTANT eating. I cannot believe how much I have eaten in the past three days. But I'm feeling like a real slug, not doing much besides eating, sleeping, and watching t.v. (which I rarely do non-prego!). I feel bad because I don't have the energy to do anything around the house or with my kids, but this too shall pass. Luckily, I can hold off nausea by eating Smile
Moneywise, we're doing pretty well. DH and I have stuck to the budget, aside from a few small purchases (less than $20 total). We've made $500 of our $2000 remaining Roth contribution for 2007. Still, March is going to be hectic, as we still have $600 on the cc to pay off, and make as much of a contribution as we can swing. I am going to pick up some hours at work starting in late March due to a co-workers maternity leave, which should net us an extra $1000-1200 over 6 weeks. It will be great to use that to get a start on our 2008 Roth contributions!

Involuntary water consumption and a house full of sickies

February 18th, 2008 at 12:19 pm

Sound fun? It could be worse, I guess. I don't have to do any housework Smile DH and I share a house with my parents, and my parents run a farm. There is a problem with the pump (perhaps - they don't yet know the exact cause) for the water source for the barn - and drinking source for the cows, cleaning source for the piepline. So, they had to switch the barn over to the house well. And a barn full of cows can drain a not-so-deep well very quickly. In two days, they have already had to buy one load of water for the well, and are going to buy another today. A load of water a day adds up very quickly, at $50 or more a load (that's what it was in the summer - may be more in the winter).
So...we are on a water restriction. Super quick showers - and stretch the time between them. We haven't washed dishes in two days, nor laundry. Wait a little between flushes, if you KWIM. But, I am trying to wash my hands often for the reason below.
Both DH and ds1 are sick. DH felt it coming on Saturday night - some aches, then a cough on Sunday. Today he moved from the bed to the couch, but has not moved again since. Ds1 woke up at 6 am gagging - never threw up, but sluggish and feverish today. Needless to say, we've spent ALL day in front of the tv with me asking him if he wanted to eat yet. Ds2 and I are fine...for now. My parents are going on a cruise next week and are keeping as far away as they can from us! My dad was sick for their last vacation and it was horrible. Hoping for some healthy vibes to come our way -

Heading out of town

February 16th, 2008 at 06:54 am

I think DH and I are going to take the kids to Binghamton today to help my MIL clean out her house a bit in preparation for selling, many in 3-6 months. I say clean out a bit because there's not much of a dent we can make in two days (we have to be back tomorrow night to bowl). Let's just say there is many years of accumulation, as well as neglected repairs. She had a realtor over who quoted $90+...but as a realtor (and admittedly not knowing her market, but I do know that there are no inflated markets in our part of NY), I think that's a big stretch. The house has holes in the foundation (when they got their furnace replaced, they were told that it was lucky they did, or else the carbon monixide leak probably would have killed them). Her heating bill is $800 a month on the budget due to the horrible (or lack of?) insulation. Apparently, there are septic problems as well. The kitchen and bath need to be gutted (probably the bedrooms too) and they just need to start over. I'm thinking more like $50-60k tops. But, I wasn't asked, and I am not offering any opinion. Last thing I want to do is get in the middle here. I just hate to see her pinning her hopes on $90k when I just don't see it happening. Maybe I'm wrong about their market - I would LOVE to be wrong here. Anyway, we're going to go down and help where we can. I'm thinking of stopping on the way to the science musuem that we have a membership to. The kids will love it and it will tire them out a bit Smile
A bit of free entertainment yesterday - a trip to the local library and cards at my brother's house next door. We were able to take the kids and set them up with a movie in the basement (both fell asleep on the couch), so no cost for babysitting either.
And, now, a week off from school - that means a week without daycare expense either! We are lucky that our daycare provider does not charge us for days that ds2 doesn't attend (since he only goes two days per week). That's $54 that can stay in the bank!

I stood in the return line at Wal-Mart for $.53

February 14th, 2008 at 06:41 pm

Am I nuts? Probably! But it's the principle. I used to embarrass DH by going to the return line for any overcharge - even a dime once. But, you know, I just hate getting ripped off, and I figure if they're doing it to me then they are doing it to everyone and making a mint. So, I questioned the cashier about charging me $2.50 for my apple juice while we were literally in pointing distance from the sign on the apple juice display that boldly proclaimed $1.97. Unfortunately, I didn't catch it in time, so off to the return line I went to reclaim my $.53 (standing behind about seven other people). Ugh. I hate Wal-Mart.
Some good news - my HcG levels were very good yesterday, meaning this pregnancy (at this very early point) is progressing well. Sonogram is scheduled for late next week.
Not much else to report - although I did feel like a mean mommy today. Well, not exactly mean, but not the nicest mommy either. My two boys have money saved up and I've been telling them for weeks that I will take them shopping for new Thomas trains. I went to Wal-Mart after work (it's across the street), so I didn't have them with me. I called them to ask them which trains they wanted, then asked them if they wanted me to buy them and they could pay me back - they said yes. I brought home the trains and asked for the money, which they gladly handed over (still too little to really understand the value). I really wanted to reinforce the idea of spending money on something you want (especially since they did some chores to earn extra), so I made a point to take the money. Still - what kind of mom takes money from her kids on Valentines Day? Hopefully one whose kids grow to learn the value of a dollar!
Oh, and speaking of Valentine's Day, DH came home with quite a haul from the kids at school. One kids gave him a $5 Dunkin' Donuts g.c. and two boxes of Girl Scout cookies! (ok, admittedly, she does have a crush on him, but c'mon). He had lots of candy, cards, and even a little glass vase. Is it just me, or do there seem to be a lot more gift giving occasions, as well as a wider net of people that you are 'expected' to give gifts too nowadays? DH isn't even a teacher - he's an assistant, and only sees some of these kids for a few hours a week! I was really glad to hear that my son's pre-k does not celebrate any holidays. We didn't send anything in, but he still received Valentine's from 7 out of the 11 kids in his class. Oh well.

A few positives in the budget

February 13th, 2008 at 07:48 am

As some of you may know from my forum post, I have a strict budget set out for the next two months in order to attempt to sock away as much as I can for DH's 2007 Roth IRA contribution before I have to dip into my EF for the rest. I had a few nice surprises along the way:
- $61 mileage check I had forgotten to figure in
- $30 vet bill for a Sunday emergency re-staple of my temperamental cat with anesthesia. I was expecting $100 or more. Another reason I love my vet!
- $20 cash from MIL for lunch (which we paid for with a gift card. We didn't want any money and DH refused several times, but somehow the money still found us. Saves us a trip to the ATM for another few days).
- a week off from school for winter break - that means no day care costs since DH is home!

A couple minor bleeps in the budget:
- an outstanding $36 in co-pays that my midwife's office informed me of yesterday (I don't know why they can't tell me about them at the time of service!)
- gas...we seem to be running through it quicker than usual, somehow

Other than that, I'm feeling pretty good about the budget. I figure I'll be able to put in $500 with our next paychecks at the end of this week, and probably $1000 more by the first week of April. That will only leave me $500 short (I've already done $2k from EF), which I can switch over from EF until our tax return comes in (about $600).

On the baby news, I had my second round of bloodwork yesterday and am waiting anxiously for a phone call to tell me the results. It's still very early (5 weeks), but if my hcg levels are rising appropriately, it will be a good sign.
(fingers crossed)

9 things I have learned from making mistakes

February 11th, 2008 at 06:05 pm

1. Buy a used car.
Actually, this was DH's mistake (although he won't admit it because he has always, always wanted to be the first to own a car after years of hand-me-downs). After I figured out the cost in terms of how long I had to work (approximately one year), I decided never to buy a new car again. A newer used car will be just as good for thousands cheaper.
2. Never lend money to friends or family that you can't afford to never see again.
This was the most expensive lesson - to the tune of $5000. If I had to do it again, I would in a heartbeat (DH's parents furnace went out in November right after his dad went into the hospital for a triple bypass. They had just entered credit counseling and had no credit available. We found out that the ductwork was leaking carbon monoxide and fronted the $5000 for a completely new heating system). My mistake here was in expecting the money back, not in lending it. I carried around some bitterness for a few years at not seeing the cash (DH on the other hand, never expected it back). If you have the ability to help out, and you don't want to ruin a relationship, give a gift instead of a loan. If you can't afford to spare the cash, don't give the loan.
3. Don't buy a house just because it's cheaper than rent.
You can also substitute any number of reasons here for not buying a house, but in our case, it simply was cheaper than rent (by about $90). We were also newly married and completely uneducated. We bought a cheap house, poorly maintained, in a declining area. We also did not plan to stay in the area for more than 3 or 4 years. Somehow, after seven months on the market, we managed to get close to our asking price. This could have turned out much, much worse, but we walked away from it with a little more than our downpayment. I loved our house and, again, wouldn't change our decision, but it certainly gave me a new perspective on future housing and the right reasons to buy.
4. New clothes are usually not worth the price.
It took me years of shrinking, staining, and otherwise ruining expensive clothing that I had only worn once or twice to realize this. Of course, there are always going to be certain items that you have to buy new, but in general, 90% of my wardrobe comes from thrift stores, hand-me-downs, or garage sales. If I tire of an item, or ruin it, I have no guilt about getting rid of it.
5. Full price is usually negotiable.
Once I started trying, I found that you can get the price down on just about anything if you ask, bargain, or threaten to take your business elsewhere. I managed to find this out by accident one day when I was shocked by the price of a car repair. Instead of authorizing the work, I told the mechanic to hold off while I checked around for prices. Lo and behold, about 15 minutes later, the mechanic called me back with a significant discount, saying that he "happened" to find a part cheaper somewhere. A little light bulb went off in my head, and I now check around before any major purchase, including searching the Internet for coupons for anything from coffee, restaurants, photo processing, or oil changes.
6. Invest as early as you can.
DH and I started early, by most standards (age 25). However, in the few years leading up to our investing start, we were sitting on $10k+ in the bank. If we had just started investing some of that a little earlier...
7. If something is wrong, complain.
If you are not getting a service that you paid for, or are getting overcharged for it, call the company. If you do not get a favorable response (and feel you are being wronged), take it one step higher until you get what you need. The company president, the Better Business Bureau, even the local news can be powerful catalysts to right a wrong. I started heeding this advice several years ago, once getting a $50 credit and another time getting out of a contract that was misrepresented to us. However, I missed many opportunities to get what I deserved before I found my voice.
8. A fancy college is not always worth the price.
I'm not going to make a blanket statement here, but for me, I do not think a private four year college gave me any more of a head start than a community college would have. I still remember this mistake every month when I pay off my student loan (which would have been done about 4 years earlier had I went to a community college for two years, then transferred).
9. And, finally, not money related (unless you count him as the best investment I ever made!), don't overlook your best friend when looking for love.
This would have been my biggest mistake ever, had DH not been so darn persistent. He was a good friend and wanted it to be more, but I could only see him as "just a friend". Sometimes what you really need is right under your nose Smile

10 things I have learned from my kids

February 9th, 2008 at 07:23 pm

1. Don't be a slave to labels or the Joneses.
It doesn't matter whether it's new, used, free, or handed down - if it's an appropriate item of clothing, toy, or book, the child will love it, no matter what it's origin.
2. Decide what your priorities are.
Some things are worth the money, like health care, wholesome food, museum memberships, and education. Other things are not, like brand name toys and clothes, expensive games, and fads. My sons get more pleasure and benefit out of our museum membership than they will from any video game system.
3. Education is priceless, but doesn't have to be expensive.
Reading a book is just as much (if not more) fun as watching a movie or playing a video game (not to mention cheaper, more portable, and better for you). Look for opportunities to learn all around you in the "real" world (wish I had known this before going into debt to go to a private college).
4. Take care of yourself.
Exercise is free! Just follow a 3 and 4 year old around for a day.
5. Don't leave money on the table (or floor).
Finding a penny on the ground makes your entire day! (Ok, I have to admit that I didn't learn this from my kids - I've known it for years! But my oldest son did find two pennies on the floor of a restaurant today and was over the moon).
6. Life is not all work, and it's not all about money.
We have started to offer my oldest son, age 4, chores that he can do for extra money. If he's in the mood, he'll do it and add a quarter to his piggy bank. If he's not, he'll turn us down. It's a good reminder to not give up all your pleasure for a little more money and to balance yourself. (Of course, there are still chores he MUST do without getting paid!)
7. Choose your purchases wisely.
My sons love to look at toys on the computer - for hours if we let them. They have money in their piggy banks, but have not yet decided on what they would like to buy (although it will, without doubt, be some Thomas the Tank Engine toy). Take your time and look over your options - then you will be truely happy with your decision instead of regretting it the next day.
8. Stop eating when you're full.
My kids are great at this one. When they are full, they stop eating. When they are hungry, they eat. How many of us truely listen to our hunger when we eat? I know eating can be a habit, a crutch, or a hobby - and the more you eat when not truely hungry, the more you spend (not to mention health-related costs of overeating).
9. A kiss is better than a Band-aid.
Sometimes all you really need is a kiss, a hug, or a kind word - not medicines, flowers, or retail therapy.
10. The best things in life - hugs, kisses, and 'I love you' - are free!
No explanation necessary Smile

The highs and lows

February 7th, 2008 at 05:11 pm

Yesterday I found out first that I was pregnant (yeah!!! - just 4 weeks along - too early to get really excited though), and about ten minutes later, the vet called to say that the lump removed from my cat was cancer. Talk about your roller coasters! Basically, there's nothing to do about the cat other than chemo, and I'm not taking that route (which isn't even that effective, per the vet). My cat is healthy right now, and she does not appear to be in any pain, and she just had a huge chunk of skin/lump removed, so it could even be months and months before it comes back (at least, that's what I'm telling myself). She's ten years old and we've had a good time together. So, I'm dwelling on the positive right now - a baby! Blood test yesterday confirmed it, but I'm due back in a week for more tests. My midwife is being very cautious because I lost my last pregnancy. Send some good wishes and healthy baby vibes my way Smile

Leaking money left and right...

February 5th, 2008 at 05:53 pm

I am getting realy quite frustrated. The bills are mounting here, and there is no way we are going to be able to make our full Roth IRA contributions for 2007. We transferred $2k from our EF to get a start. We haven't had to touch the EF in at least 6 months, so I feel okay about doing that. However, transferring anoth $2k would only leave us with $2k in there, which is a bit too low for my tastes. So that means we need to come up with $2k between now and April. In the last month or so, we've had to pay:
-nearly $600 for the cat's surgery and recovery
-almost $200 for DH's contacts
-$550 for my yearly Realtor dues and quarterly MLS access fee
-gas! (at the price gas is, it warrants its own mention, despite being an ongoing cost)
-two student loan payments totalling $300 each month
-$400 on our Lowe's card (actually, this is 0% until July, but I thought we had some extra cash last month - I really wish I had that money back now!)
-about $200 in medical co-pays and eye exams

We still have to pay:
-$200 for my contacts
-$100 for my Realtor key rental
-$850 on the Discover (only $250 by the end of February, the rest by the end of March)
-$200 rent/utility payment to my mom

On our income of roughly $1200/every two weeks, it doesn't leave us enough to make the Roth contribution. Our money is spent before we get it every week! I feel like a loser to complain, since we live without a housing payment, but I have just been really down about the finances lately and needed to vent a little. That's okay here, right?

My very expensive cat

February 3rd, 2008 at 01:58 pm

Remember that $300-400 surgery I posted about a while back? Wellllll.....
Day 1: Cat had surgery. Paid about $420 for surgery, pain meds, etc. Brought cat home without collar since cat will not keep one on.
Day 2: Cat pulled out her stitches and had a gaping hole in her back. Took cat back to vet, where vet looked at me disapprovingly for not getting the collar, but stapled cat up. Said she would be fine and put a collar on her. Paid $10.50 for collar. Cat kept collar on all evening.
Day 3: Sneaky cat waited for us to go to bed, then took her collar off and proceeded to pull out almost all her staples. Gaping hole in cat. Took cat back to vet, where he had to resuture her wound underneath the skin, then tried glue on the top. We said "Told you so" to the vet. Vet replied he had never, never had any animal pull out her own staples. Vet conceeds that we are dealing with an extraordinary cat. Vet charges us $100 because he had to anesthetize cat for sutures.
Day 4: Cat keeps collar on. Seems to have given up the battle to open up her wound. DH and I go out of town, leaving instructions for my parents to give the cat her medicine.
Day 4, evening: I get a call at 10:30 pm that cat was terrorizing my parents. They had it wrapped in a towel to give it medicine, but she ran away and popped the glue. Gaping hole in cat. I'm 2 hours away. Sh*t. Frantic phone call to vet, who calls me back after 11 pm to tell me to sit tight until morning, since there's not much to do tonight anyway. The nearest emergency clinic is an hour away, and nobody but me can get near the cat to get her there.
Day 5: There go my Sunday plans to visit with DH's family. Get up early, get in the car to pick up kids at my MILs, then come home. Coax terrified cat out of hiding (I'm the only one she'll come to), pop her in her modified kitty carrier (AKA cardboard box), and take her to the vet. Vet sedates her and sews her back up. More staples, and a harder plastic collar. It's Sunday, so the computer wasn't on, but I'm sure there will be a bountiful charge to my cc for today. I do have a greater appreciation for my vet, who lives next door to the clinic and was wonderful about meeting us there today.
More to follow, I'm sure. Just checked on the patient, and she is resting quietly (still sedated, so I don't think she's figured out how to get the new collar off yet). She is turning out to be one damn expensive cat. I have to laugh about this, or I might just cry!