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Archive for March, 2006

frugal fun

March 30th, 2006 at 03:22 am

Just wanted to give an example of some frugal fun (if you are 2)...ds1 found a pile of sawdust where we cut wood. He and my niece played there for about an hour. I love the ability to find something where others see nothing Smile

doing, doing...done!

March 30th, 2006 at 03:05 am

Here's my to-do list from yesterday and my progress:
-clean, clean, clean - got this mostly done - have a little more dusting to do in our bedroom and need to vacuum two rooms.
-do a market analysis for a client - done!
-start my third online course - get at least two lessons done - done - did three lessons!
-get my pictures in my albums - going to do this next
-cancel the three trial memberships that I have gotten gift cards from already - I cancelled two, but I am not sure which one the third set of gift cards came from. DH opened the envelope and says it was from Great Fun, but it was a Circuit City gift card, which was supposed to come from the Buyers Advantage program. SInce I have only had then open two weeks, I am going to wait another two weeks before cancelling in case I have anything else on the way.

Tomorrow: Another day at home with no plans. I will continue cleaning and maybe even get ready to paint ds1's room. DH found some mistinted blue paint at Lowe's this morning for $7 (gallon). We did have some blue paint...but the puppy punctured the top when we left him alone in the mud room (thankfully this was NOT in the house). We came home to blue footprints ALL OVER the floor, on both doors, up the wall...it was a mess. Luckily it came off with just a little scrubbing, but we had to get more paint Smile
Anyway, ds1's room has a red carpet. We are going to go chalkboard paint either on half of one wall, or maybe the two doors. Then we are going to paint either the moulding blue, or maybe do blue vertical stripes on two walls. Does that sound weird? The room would be really dark if we did the walls all blue, plus I am not sure how it would look with the carpet. DH wants to do Yankee pinstripes, but I don't think we have the talent or the patience for it! But I would like his room to have more of a boy feel. After we get this done, we plan to move ds2 in with him. Wish us luck with THAT endeavor! (they are 1 and 2).
I did write my compliment letter to Winkflash and got a nice response thanking me for taking the time to write. It was nice to write to tell someone how good they are doing - I always plan to do it more often, but never get around to it. I also wrote a follow-up letter to Nextel to thank them for finally taking the time to listen and address my concerns, as well as tell them that the Better Business Bureau complaint was satisfied. I did check my account and the $50 credit was there Smile WOO HOO! I feel vindicated Smile

run run run

March 29th, 2006 at 03:23 am

I feel like I have been on the go all day. My first appointment of the day was 45 minutes away, then I drove back to the office for our staff meeting, worked for about an hour then took some personal time to go show some houses, again 45 minutes away (I got a "maybe" on one of them!), then to my financial planning appt. Finally made it home, but the kids were playing outside and I didn't have the heart to make them come in on such a nice day...so I spent an hour and a half running around outside with them (not that I am complaining about THAT!). Dinner, dishes, some online education - 10 pm and it's MY time! Smile
The financial planning session was actually pretty good - it made DH and I feel pretty good about our position. While we still have too much debt for me to be comfortable with (of course, I would rather have NO debt at all), it's almost all student debt and the planner advised us not to pay it all off since we were making more with our money elsewhere, and since it is deductible. Not sure I agree with that, although I can certainly see how it makes sense. I would just love to not owe any money, period. But I think we are ahead of the game in retirement for our ages (about $24k saved - we are both 28), and we have no cc debt and only a small car loan ($2800). He told us to keep doing what we are doing. The only change he suggested, and it wasn't even a strong suggestion, was to look at mutual funds over straight stock purchases, which is what we have now. I have heard a lot about this on here and have been thinking about it myself. I do NOT tolerate risk well, and it seems the mutual funds are much less riskier than holding the 8-10 stocks we now have. But DH is adamant that the potential for growth is so much better. He says we are making about 20% on our current investments. So I think we will probably leave things as they are for now, but when we start to really accumulate more retirement savings (when he is out of school), I definitely want to put at least 25-50% in funds. Then I will feel a little more secure. But the planner said we are actually doing fine and he wouldn't recommend anything different. A mental pat on the back for us Smile
I withdrew my complaint from the Better Business Bureau today. Still have to write to Winkflash to pat them on the back. I'll put that on my to-do list for tomorrow, along with:
-clean, clean, clean (DH has the day off from school - we are going to get busy!)
-do a market analysis for a client
-start my third online course - get at least two lessons done
-get my pictures in my albums
-cancel the three trial memberships that I have gotten gift cards from already.
Busy, busy.

frustration

March 28th, 2006 at 02:52 am

I thought I was making so much progress on getting my real estate continuing education done - I had just finished my 7.5 hours course. HOWEVER...there is a time minimum that you must spend taking the course - 6.5 hours, I think. When I finished my last test questions, I was expecting a big CONGRATS! but instead I got a screen telling me how much additional time I needed to spend in each part of the course in order to get credit for it. Nearly 2 more hours total. I guess it doesn't pay to be a fast reader...
The good news: Nextel wrote me a very nice letter with an apology (all I really wanted) and a credit - $50 - when I had originally only asked for a $20 one. A very nice surprise. Now I will contact the Better Business Bureau to withdraw my complaint. All I really wanted was someone to listen to me and acknowledge that I was given false information and treated poorly. Now I am happy Smile
Other good stuff: my pictures from Winkflash arrived today. That was super fast. I plan to write a little letter of praise to them. I am trying to point out all the good things I see in companies rather than just focus on the negative.
News on the money front...I have a one hour financial consultation tomorrow through my union - free. I don't think they sell stuff, so I am hoping it does not turn into someone puching whole life insurance on me (like the last one I went to). I have a questionnaire I have to print out and complete. In fact, I forgot about it until just now. Better get cracking!

pics...done

March 24th, 2006 at 02:13 am

I just finished ordering my pictures from Winkflash. 151 pictures for a grand total of $19.11. If I had been using my old film camera, I would have spent approximately $30 on the film, and then at least that much more on developing. Sure, I probably took more pictures with my digital than I would have with film, but I still think this is much cheaper. Plus I got to crop and edit out the red eye. It sounds like a ton of pictures, but it's for 3-4 months. I maintain my regular photo album, then a small one for each child, plus my scrapbooking. I enjoy it, and there certainly are things I could spent a lot more money on, so it's a guilt free expenditure for me.
I also got the bathroom cleaned top to bottom today - it needed it so badly. What a dummy I was too - I cleaned the toilet with a product containing bleach, then wiped down the outside with a product containing ammonia. Then I had to freak out because I didn't know if mixing them caused the toxic fumes, or if just using them in the same area could cause the fumes. I looked it up online, and it seemed that you would have to mix them together to create hazardous gases. So I guess we're in the clear. I'm okay, and the house hasn't blown up Smile I tend to get a little paranoid at times!
Got to get online to do some more of my continuing education. Ick.

such support!

March 23rd, 2006 at 04:01 am

Thanks everyone for the kind words. Being as that DH will be in school until December (and not working), I will continue to do these little things to save. Ah, who am I kidding - I would do them no matter what our circumstances are! it's one of those things that is just ingrained in me. Such a mindset...when you get into it, it never leaves you. DH really surprised me the other day when we got a invitation for a high school reunion for a high school he did not attend - they enclosed a stamped return envelope. Since the invite was not intended for us, we obviously were not going, so DH said to reuse the stamp! Sure, he may have been half joking, but the other half of him wasn't! he is not the type to think frugal, but lately he has been coming up with little things that really surprise me... Smile I do love that man. He really could care less, but I think he understands that it makes me happy to save money and pay off our debts.
Accomplishments for today:
1. Cleaned out and defrosted the freezer (finally). Took several hours - there was SO much ice build up that quite a few things were immovable until the ice melted.
2. Organized, fixed (cropped, removed red eye, etc), and labeled all my digital pics online from Nov-Feb. I have them all downloaded (uploaded? whatever) to Winkflash except Feb, which I will do tomorrow. Then I can order the prints I want and get them into my albums.
3. Took three books back to the library BEFORE they were due. I still have The Millionaire Next Door audiotape out - only on tape 3 out of 8, but they won't let me renew it anymore. I am going to return it tomorrow, then sign it back out again if I can. I have to admit, I am a little disappointed so far. I was expecting great things of this book, but so far, all they have done is say the same thing 50 different ways. Ok, I get the point that most millionaires are not the flashy spendthrifts that most people think they are - but I already knew this before reading the book. Does there have to be a chapter on how millionaires spend less on clothes, and how millionaires spend less on cars, how they spend less on everything...can someone tell me if the whole book is like this before I keep listening? The reason it is taking me so long is that I have found National Public Radio to be more interesting (I only listen to radio/books while in my car), so I never get to the tapes!
Man, can I ever just say something without getting off on a tangent??

Anyway, I feel quite accomplished for the day Smile

Ok, it was a little weird

March 22nd, 2006 at 03:07 am

...eating my sandwich while EVERYONE else (except Jim, my office mate) was enjoying a manicotti, meatball, garlic knots, and salad dinner (Jim and I agreed to skip the $6 lunch and bring our own to the staff meeting). We got quite a few stares and even some comments when we pulled out our sandwiches. Everyone assumed I was doing it for health reasons, though, since I have recently lost quite a bit of weight. I did feel really self-conscious though. I will have to get over that. I do feel good about the extra $6 in my pocket Smile
During the staff meeting someone asked about fund-raising for a developmentally disabled person who wants to take a vacation - she can pay her way, but somehow the staff who need to go with her need to have their way paid. Now, I am not opposed to fund-rasing (well, acutally I am a little opposed to making kids hawk overpriced items to people who don't really want them (no offense intended here - I know it's a way of life for schools/clubs), but that's another rant...and I might just have to suck it up when my kids get old enough!) - but then someone suggested that "why don't we just do something like an early Christmas collection to help her!" So now we are going to have a Christmas collection in July and another one in December? After the meeting Jim (a fellow cheapskate of sorts) and I went back to the office to complain. Not specifically about this, but there is always SOMETHING at the office to contribute to. There are always fundraisers (right now there is a box of candy, an order form for food, and a sign-up sheet to sponsor someone for a walk-a-thon). There are always "parties" (Pampered Chef, jewelry, candles, etc), and there is always the collection for baby/birthday/retirement etc. Not to mention our regular birthday club to which you have to pay $1 per pay period to belong to and which you are looked at as a grouch if you don't participate. Jim did not want to participate, but they celebrated his birthday anyway, so now he feels obligated to contribute. Sorry, had to rant a little. I get so tired of having to say no all the time...
Other than that, a good day - had my teeth cleaned at the dentist ($85 for cleaning and exam - I will get about $40 back from insurance) - I have to go back next month for a teeny cavity Frown but I did get a toothbrush from the deal, and the hygienist slipped in two toothbrushes for my kids too Wink
Made a good taco casserole tonight - found the recipe on recipezaar.com, the best site ever for recipes, IMO. I used the shells, seasoning, and salsa from a kit - browned the beef with onion, then added the seasoning and a little tomato sauce. Then you layer the crushed shells with the meat, and cottage cheese/sour cream mixture, and shredded cheese. Yummy. I have already added the recipe to my keeper pile and will definitely make it again. I got the taco kit for about $1 on sale too, so it was pretty cheap.
No work tomorrow...plan to catch up on my pictures. If I can get them labeled and ordered from Winkflash, I will feel accomplished Smile I have a backlog to order from November. I try to order 3-4 months at a time as their shipping is only $.99 no matter the size. I would like to get all my pics in order by the end of the month.

dog food!

March 21st, 2006 at 02:50 am

I got my coupon for free dog food today - after all the trouble I had registering on the site. Free cat food, too. And now that we have the new puppy, we will use it (the dog food, that is) Smile
Also got some deodorant...I was never really into the freebies much, but it is very easy to get hooked. However, I do have to scroll through about 50 to find one I would use...oh well. Can't complain about free stuff.
Mot much to report today - big car payment went out in the mail. I decided to bring my lunch to work tomorrow rather than kick in for a manicotti lunch at out staff meeting. At least my office mate agreed with me, so he's brown-bagging it too (I would feel a little weird being the only one). Maybe we'll just eat lunch before the meeting and not eat during...
Busy day tomorrow...work, dentist, back to work, home.

money stuff

March 20th, 2006 at 03:59 am

A technical post rather than my usual rambling...
Money in:
tax refund (federal) - yeah!!!
$100 on it's way from cashing out my cc reward. I looked over all the gift card options which I could have used to get a $25 gc for redeeming $20 worth of points, but there really was nothing I needed or wanted. I already have a wallet full of gift cards that I never use because I rarely buy things new. So what do I need more for? I took the cash!
I also cashed out my BOA cc rewards - a $50 credit to my account. After I ordered it, it said it would be credited within 4-6 weeks. I was so mad that I called Customer Service and asked them to cancel it, but they couldn't. I assumed it would be credited immediately (and it did not say otherwise) and I wanted to close the account soon. But anyway, the credit showed up within 3 days Smile I wonder if my phone call had anything to do with that, or if it was just dumb luck.

Money out: $1419 balance paid on my BOA cc.
$3000 car payment being sent out tomorrow - $2860 left. Not too bad for taking out a $7500 loan 14 months ago. I'll be glad when this is gone and we can focus on the student loans.

Still left to pay: one cc - it still has temporary authorizations on it, so I don't know the final amount yet. Should be paid off by the end of the week (app. $270).

Remaining debts: car loan
my student loan - app. $6800
DH's student loan - app. $15000 (and will probably grow by about $6k more). UGH.
Luckily, no mortgage debt.
Still need to contribute $2000 more to my IRA. DH doesn't think he can contribute to his this year since he has no earned income - anyone know anything about this?

What did I do?

March 18th, 2006 at 03:57 am

I am showing a house tomorrow, 45 minutes away, at 8 am. On a Saturday. UGH. But it's a promising prospect, an investor I work with who buys a lot of beat-up places to renovate and rent out. This place, on the market for a hefty $27,500, already has an offer on it, but the agent is letting us get a look too before the seller decides. We were going to meet at noon, but we decided speed was of the essence. I hope he wants to put in an offer. It would be a cash deal and a quick closing - would only net me about $370, but I would take it!! I have decided to attack the car loan and student loan whole-heartedly, so every bit helps.
I resisted the urge to order out this afternoon at work and ate my humble little lunch at my desk. Since I ate out three times last week, I decided to limit myself this week. I haven't eaten out yet, but might have to tomorrow due to work (I won't be at a place I can easily bring a lunch to). We'll see - actually, I might be able to get home in time for lunch, which would be the best option. Tomorrow night we are putting on a Irish dinner (with some non-Irish dishes too) for my family. DH is making a Bailey's cake - YUM!
I deposited nearly $1000 in the bank today and noticed that my tax refund was there - credit cards, begone. I will still have a few thousand to play around with and will probably put toward the car loan. We always pay off the cc every month, so we never pay finance charges...but I am always worrying about when payments are due and missing one (did this a few months ago to the tune of $40!), so I decided NO MORE. DH actually agreed to go along with it. The problem we both have is that we take our debit card out of our wallets for one reason or another, then find ourselves out of gas, or with a cart of groceries, and have to whip out the cc to take care of it. So a little organization will help. Carrying cash just is not an option for us. DH is too careless with his wallet. Although, I must say, it has come back to him every time. The last time he left it at a supermarket. The funniest time was when he lost it in the ocean...didn't even realze it until someone came walking down the beach calling his name. Unbelievable. The man has great karma. But not a chance I am willing to take with a walletful of cash. So we are going to make an attempt to be more aware.

Pictures

March 17th, 2006 at 03:25 am

I want to try this out too...this is one of the few pics I can find recently of my boys together - on my 1 year old's first birthday Smile

procrastination is over...

March 17th, 2006 at 03:24 am

finally got my letters out to past clients to ask for referral business. I sent them a small gift too (either a Super Certificate or a Dine-A-Mate type book, depending on where they lived). I have only been talking about doing this for a few months now...next I want to send a few letters out to people who did not buy a house from me, but did look...some of them stopped looking due to circumstances and may be in the market again soon. Never hurts to remind them I'm alive Smile
I have made some decent from-the-freezer-to-the-crockpot meals this past week. Feels good to get the freezer cleaned out a little, although now I am seeing that we have about 30 bags of corn (my parents grow and freeze their own) and 20 cartons of frozen strawberries (my mom picks and freezes tons every summer). I love being creative and seeing what I can make out of nothing. And this is a good time to do it too, because DH and I have just been shopping way too many times this month - probably at least twice every week. We have to go again tomorrow because we have invited the family out Sat. for a corned beef/roast beef dinner (not too many of them like corned beef). I already bought the corned beef and we got the roast out of the freezer, but there are a few other things we need to get. I don't mind though, spending money to entertain. I like making a good meal for people and watching them enjoy it.
I signed up for a few more trial memberships last night - now just to remember to cancel them! I was careful to write down the information about each, esp. the date. As soon as I receive the g.c., I am going to make the calls. There were two offers that made no mention of a g.c. anywhere on the sight, so I guess the promotion must have ended. I skipped those.
Working a short day tomorrow since I have to go in for a few hours on Saturday. I plan to stop at the bank and post office after I get out - got to get my letters in the mail. Then tomorrow night either DH or I are going to pick up my parents at the airport. They have been on a cruise for 11 days. I always hated being alone in the house with two toddlers (give me some adult conversation please!), but this last week and a half has been kinda nice. But it will be nice to have some more activity around the house again.

ugh

March 16th, 2006 at 02:15 am

Another reason to hate this online education I am taking...it failed to save my spot when I stopped, so now I have to take half the lesson all over again.
Today was a pretty laid back day. After I dropped ds1 off at preschool, I took ds2 out for breakfast. We had a nice time - he flirted with everyone in the restaurant (he's 1). Then we went grocery shopping and spent about $45. A big chunk of it was for the corned beef we are going to cook on Friday, and my splurge on two cartons of Ben and Jerry's ice cream (2/$5). The bad news though - they rolled out of the bag and under the seats while I was driving - directly on top of the heat vent. They were mush when I unpacked them. They are frozen again, but I don't know if the taste or texture will be affected. I am going to be really ticked if I can't enjoy these! Speaking of which...isn't it time for dessert?
I finalized my insurance choice yesterday - stayed with Liberty Mutual. I took the higher liability, but did cancel the rental coverage and upped my deductible. The cost was $1223 for two cars, both with collision. Definitely better than the $1343 I paid last year with the same company, so I think my time on the phone paid off. The best part is that it will be automatically deducted from my paycheck with no installment fees, so I don't have to pay it all now. I can use that money toward other things without having to pay any more over the long run. YEAH!
I am going to take a good look at the money situation tonight, so I can decide whether I want to pay off the car loan, student loan, or something else when I get my tax refund. I was gung-ho on getting rid of the car loan, but I think I may pay off the cc first (currently at 0% interest), and then pay off about half the car loan. I have to run the numbers to see...

grumble grumble

March 14th, 2006 at 04:09 am

I just ordered my online real estate continuing education classes. I tried out a sample class first and liked the speed of it - but now that I have paid for 22.5 hours of classes and started them, it is S--L--O--W! I don't know how I am going to get through these hours at this pace! Probably with savingadvice.com on my other browser for convenient flipping! Anyway, I did it again - I waited until the month before my license is up for renewal to cram all my hours in. If I spend just an hour a night, I'll be done by the end of the month...license doesn't need to be renewed until 4/16, so I will get it done. It's still better than sitting in class all week!
I got a few free samples this past week - deodorant, shampoo and conditioners. Nice. I like to see little things trickling in. I also signed up for one of the free trials - greatfun.com. I am supposed to be getting a link for an Exxon card, I think - but nothing so far on my e-mail. I have gotten two e-mails from them to confirm my membership, but no gift card mentioned anywhere. Can anyone who's done this tell me how long it took for them to get the e-mail? It's been 2 or 3 days now...I always screw these offers up somehow!
I stayed up too late reading Dave Ramsey last night. Have to decide which of his principals I want to attempt. It just goes against my frugal sense to pay off my 0% cc before my car loan, but since it is such a small balance, Dave says to do it...and I do think it would make me feel better to have it gone!