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Archive for May, 2006

budget breakers

June 1st, 2006 at 02:47 am

1. $323 to rent a cabin for the week in August. Well worth the cash, as all of DH's family is there renting cabins too. It will be a great time - but I thought it was more like $150/week, so I nearly fell over when I saw the cc bill. OUCH. But to put it in perspective, it's a week-long vacation, with family, without eating out at all. Food expense will be the same as regular grocery expenses since the cabins have a full kitchen. We can swim, lay on the beach, hike, have campfires, etc. at no extra cost.
2. $1443 for DH's summer class. The good side - we did not have to take additional student loans out. The downside: $643 on the credit card. This should be paid off next month though.
3. $50 for Mother's Day gifts. No surprise here, except that I forgot to include this in the budget! Oops.
4. $25 to refill my EZ Pass. My parents borrowed it twice to go out of state because it is so much easier than waiting in line for the tolls. I'll have to get them one of their own...
5. $60 to take the dog to the vet.

All in all, it was not a horrible month, except we ended up putting the cabin and tuition back on the credit card, which we haven't used in a few months. We could have used the emergency fund, but I figure we can always use that in 4 weeks to pay the cc if we can't swing it before the finance charges start. It seems that once the money leaves the EF, there is always something else to spend it on before replenishing the fund. I try not to take any money out at all.
Several years ago DH and I had nearly $30k sitting untouched in that fund. Just to toot our own horns for a minute, I think that's pretty impressive for a could in their mid-20s who never made more than $60k combined. However, two cars (one paid for in cash and one with a $5k downpayment), one family emergency ($5k), one set of braces ($4500), two years of fully funded Roth IRAs($16k), and a job loss/return to grad school ($$$$) later, we are down to $9k. That really depresses me, but then I have to force myself to look back at all we have been able to do, and know that we will get back there again. Right now, thought, I would really like to get that EF back to $10k. I don't know why, I just really like that number. I think I will hold off on that though, only because we are so close to paying off DH's car - less than $1500, I think, so the money would be better applied there. Sometimes I wonder if I am an idiot for letting so much money sit there untouched when we have so many student loans to pay off, but then again, the interest we are getting at HSBC is higher than the interest we are paying on the loans, so I guess it works out okay. Just my random ramblings...

spend spend spend

May 31st, 2006 at 01:52 am

There goes my eat-out budget for the week. I had my weekly allowed lunch out today with a girlfriend - $4.31 for a mediocre fast-food lunch. Then when I got home to a 90+ degree house, DH told me he did not care what was for dinner as long as it was "someplace cold and with someone bringing it to me". We really do not go out to dinner much, so I was happy to oblige. We took the boys to a new authentic Mexican restaurant that just opened last night. Pretty good stuff, if you like authentic Mexican. Another $26 spent. No other cash spent today, though.
Ds1 fell and cracked his head open on his headboard today. DH originally wanted to take him to Urgent Care, but once the bleeding stopped, it wasn't too bad. We'll have to see how it looks tomorrow - might still warrant a trip to the pediatrician. Anyway, between that and the heat, we had some cranky kids today. luckily, they behaved well in the restaurant, other than the 1 year old wanted to run all over the place. Can't blame them for being toddlers, though Smile
I have been waiting until the end of the cc billing cycle (5/28) to pay DH's tuition so that we would have nearly 2 months to repay it. The time is here...I am going to put it on the 0% card, but pay about $800 of it off immediately, since we have the extra cash. The rest (about $600) we'll work on in the next month or so. Bummer. I liked seeing all that money sitting in my account. At least for this one semester, though, we won't have to add to his student loans.

Donation goal

May 30th, 2006 at 01:52 am

I made a goal of donating 40 items this month. I have exceeded this greatly, although I have no idea by how much. I estimate I have probably donated closer to 80-100 items, mostly small items like clothing and books. I just cleaned out my sons' books tonight and came up with about 20 more to give away. I feel my life getting simpler already...aaahhhh.

My 5 minute plan is working great too - a little bit every night really helps. Some nights it amounts to just picking up my clothes from the day or putting away the laundry, but other nights it means huge piles of paper get filed or tossed. Now, it's nearly the point where I look around my room and wonder what is left to be done. And that, my friends, is a wonderful feeling. Smile

Using up leftovers

May 30th, 2006 at 01:48 am

I found myself creatively trying to use up stuff from the fridge these past few days - I hate throwing food away, yet we seem to do a lot of it.
1. Used half a loaf of Italian bread to make Oven French Toast. Failure. I have made this before and it was great, but something went wrong this time. I think it might be baecause I tried to cook it faster on convection but did not leave it in long enough - it was more like soggy bread than french toast.
2. Pudding pops - great success. I made a fruit salad last night that was wonderful, but used a half package of vanilla pudding. I made the other half today and froze it with some leftover crushed strawberries. We ate it a few hours later when it was slushy, but not frozen solid. A big hit with the kids.
3. Jello with some of the aforementioned leftover strawberries and some old sour cream (sounds gross, but I found the very highly rated recipe online). Decent, but not an outstanding recipe. Still, good enough that I will eat the rest of it.
4. Yogurt pops made with the remainder of a carton of yogurt and, yes, leftover strawberries. Quality to be determined as they are still in the freezer.
I made the popsicles in little Dixie cups - worked well, but I think I will need to find something more permanent if I plan to do this all summer. I used to have a popsicle mold, but DH got rid of it as I never used it!
Some good experiments, some bad. This week alone we have discarded two cucumbers, a few stalks of wilted celery, a few tomatoes, and some brown lettuce. I need to find a way to keep on top of those things that always seem to get pushed to the back of the fridge.

how to save money on diapers (the hard way)

May 29th, 2006 at 02:25 pm

Just a little humor to start off the day...do NOT read if you are considering having children soon Smile

1. Decide to let your toddler run around with his diaper off, for "just a minute" while you finish breakfast, since it's good for the diaper rash, right?
2. Put one bite of blueberry pancake in your mouth before you hear the wooosh of running water.
3. Look up in time to see aforementioned toddler finishing #1.
4. Go over to clean up the wet spot and notice #2 on the back of his leg. EWWWWWW.
5. Look all over the house for a pile of #2 - don't find it, and conclude that you caught the toddler in time. Relax.
6. Five minutes later, after one more bite of breakfast, hear your toddler scream as he steps in hidden pile of #2 and tracks it on the carpet.
7. Scream.
8. Try to hold toddler down while cleaning the mess off of him. Wrestle the diaper on. Cry. Clean up the carpet.
9. Resolve to never let toddler run around without a diaper on again, even though technically, I did just save myself one diaper Smile

hot, hot , hot

May 29th, 2006 at 01:34 am

We opened the pool today! Sure, it was green and stinky, but nothing a ton of chlorine won't fix. So in a few days, we'll be cool....until then, I'll just keep the kiddie pool (recycled sandbox) full for the kiddies (maybe me too...it's supposed to be 90 tomorrow).
Yesterday I felt like I did nothing...yet I got a lot done. Today I felt like I ran around all day, but really did not get much done. Must be the heat. Being hot just throws off my day. I'll have to get DH to hook up the ACs soon.
I bought some more seeds today and almost finished up the garden - just need to find zucchini and squash plants, and rhubarb and lettuce seeds. I am planning to plant rhubarb this year to reap the benefits for future years. We used to have a neighbor who shared her rhubarb with us - she always had more than she could use. My family loves my rhubarb desserts and they are always requested. I priced it at the store the other day - $4.99 a pound! So growing it seems to be the only economical way to have it a lot Smile Other plans: a pear tree, once I find somewhere to plant it. I would also love to plant asparagus - but it being a perennial, it can't go in the garden (which is dug up each year by tractor). Last year I bought a plant but never found anywhere to put it. I need to try again this year. I live on a farm, for goodness sake. I ought to be able to find a little patch of land somewhere for my rhubarb and asparagus! I have heard that the rhubarb leaves are very poisonous, so I need to make sure it is planted out of the way (kids) - anyone know if they are also poisonous to animals (dogs, cats, cows)?
Maybe I'll get more done tomorrow...but maybe not...
Goal for tomorrow: get ACs in windows.


May 28th, 2006 at 02:39 am

Ok, I hit upon a new idea today - which undoubtably some will think is wonderful, and others will think I have WAY too much time on my hands. Last weekend I took the newspaper, jumped in the car, and hit the garage sales. Even though I knew where the roads were last weekend, I still wasted too much time driving around because I didn't have a route planned. So, this week...I printed out a map of the area I was planning to hit, marked down ALL the garage sales in that area, and planned a route. By looking at the entire picture, I saw that all the garage sales were concentrated around the perimeter of the city, so that I could start on one side and do a big loop, hitting nearly all of them without going out of my way. I would have driven probably twice as much as I did if I had not mapped it out first.
Now...what I need to find is some Internet site that will let me input addresses and plot them on a map for me. I looked today, but couldn't find anything. This will save me a lot of time in searching for roads AND it will tell me exactly where on a road the sale is. Anyone know of a way to do this?
Anyway...onto the $$$. I bought three pairs of jeans for $3.25, two books for $.50, and a shirt for $.75. But the best find of the day was two Guinness signs (DH's family is very Irish and very into Guinness) - one for $1 and one for $.25! They were pretty scrungy looking, but a quick cleaning and they came out great. Dh is going to keep one and give one as a gift to his grandfather. Total spent: $5.75 for a morning of fun with ds1, who really has gotten into going with me. We stopped at my elderly aunts house for lunch on the way through - a nice visit.
A quick stop at the greenhouse after garage-saling ($10.80) and we came home to plant the garden. So far we have tomatoes, three types of peppers, cukes, beets, green and yellow beans, spinach, and swiss chard planted - still need zucchini, yellow squash, lettuce, cabbage, and broccoli. I love this time of year!

a sale! a sale!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

May 27th, 2006 at 01:36 am

I presented the offer on the house and it was counteroffered, which my buyers accepted! We have a bona fide, dually accepted, signed, initialed, delivered contract. It is contingent on my buyers selling their house, though, which will be on the market June 1. I am hoping for a very quick sale on that one. We already have some potential interest in it.
A little side note: when I was telling my buyers what they would need to bring when we signed the contracts, I asked them to bring an earnest money deposit of $1000 (typical for a house in this price range) and was met with an incredulous stare. They could not come up with $1000, even though they were putting an offer in on a $120k house. So we settled for a $500 deposit, which luckily was acceptable to the sellers. Wow. It makes me really appreciate our emergency fund and that we can pay for nearly any expense that comes our way without batting an eye. Those of you who are struggling to fund you EF, keep at it! The security it provides you is immeasurable. It is such a sense of relief to not worry about where you would get the cash if the car breaks, if you suddenly become unemployed (happened to DH last year and now he's a full time student!), how to pay for medical bills or co-pays, etc.
Absolutely no plans for tomorrow, except maybe to hit a few garage sales if the weather is nice. DS1 said he would go with me again (he's 2), but I will have to keep it short if he goes, as he tired out pretty easily last weekend. I think I will go make a french toast casserole for the morning out of a leftover half loaf of Italian bread. It will be a nice Saturday morning treat.

Money spent today: $17.83 pizza for dinner (DH's idea - neither of us had time to cook tonight as I was running all over the place for this offer and he was helping my brother with farm chores as my parents went out of town), $3.95 postage for the coupon train, $3.87 for coffee and a muffin this morning with a client (my treat, although this client did bring me a pair of hand-me-down, but perfect condition, sneakers since we are the same size). Lunch with my friend was cancelled by her, so I ate a half bag of M & M's at my desk, then another snack when I got home at 3pm. Not the best, I know, but the M&Ms were given to me and it beat going out for lunch. So I was able to stick to my one-lunch-out-per-week rule!
Did my 10 minutes of quick-clean last night. Back to 5 tonight.
Goal for tomorrow: plant seeds in garden. If I have time, I'll run to the greenhouse for my tomatoes, cukes, broccoli, cabbage, and pepper plants too.

the good things...

May 26th, 2006 at 03:11 am

Now that I got my rants out of the way...I wrote an offer on a house for the buyers I have been working with! Everyone keep your fingers crossed - we should hear in the morning. It's not the best offer, but I hope we can get the ball rolling and at least get a counteroffer. Plus I wrote up the listing agreement to sell my buyers' house, to be listed on June 1. If I were to sell them both, then I would have enough money to pay off the car loand and DH's next semester of tuition. Oh please please please!!!
I did break down and buy lunch today because there was absolutely nothing to take from home. $2.15 for a McChicken and a sundae. Normally I wouldn't mind, because I allow myself one lunch out per week, but I already agreed to meet a friend out for lunch tomorrow. But it's done, so I'm not going to beat myself up over it.
Yesterday we had a surprise trip to the zoo. I went to drop my son off at pre-school and his teacher asked me if we were going on the field trip to the zoo that day. Uh...field trip? She said she told DH, who swears she didn't! anyway, we ran home, packed up the kids and some bag lunches, called my niece next door to go with us, and off we went. $17 for admission, but no other money spent. It was a good time Smile
I think that about covers the past few days...haven't had a lot of time to write. Last night I was so exhausted I fell into bed at 9:30 and slept until 8:30. Now it's 11 and I have to be up at 7 (plus I have 10 minutes of cleaning to do tonight as a result of my exhaustion last night!), so I better get going.

How I wasted three hours of my life

May 26th, 2006 at 03:04 am

(really long post, I'm warning you)

1. Finally called on that old medical bill.
-I started with my husbands former employer (ECC) to find out who our insurance coverage was with during the date of the bill. They told me Aetna and gave me the number.
-I called Aetna - they were not our carrier at that time.
-I called ECC back and they gave me the number to North American insurance (NA).
-I called NA. They were our carrier at that time, but did not pay the bill because they considered it "over reasonable and customary" - in other words, they said, I was overcharged and they would not pay it. I was advised to take it up with the lab.
-I called the lab - they said I needed to take it up with the doctor who ordered the test.
-I called the doctor. They said the lab was nuts and they had nothing to do with what the lab was charging me.
-I called the lab back. They looked again at the claim and told me that NA had paid for two tests, but had not paid anything on a third test. Even if the amoutn was above what NA considered reasonable, they should pay at least a portion of it, and the lab can write off the rest. They told me to call NA back and have them fax the explanation of benefits.
-I called NA back - they looked again at the claim and determined that DUE TO COMPUTER ERROR THE TEST WAS NEVER PAID FOR. However, since ECC dropped NA as the insurance carrier, there was nothing they could do. I would need to go back to ECC and have them pay the bill, since ECC was on a self-funded system at that time (meaning ECC paid the bills out of their own funds, NA just processed the claims for them). In other words, NA not longer has the money from ECC to pay for it.
(At this point I was absolutely livid and NOT the nicest person to speak with, especially since I was just told to call the person I had started all this with).
-I called ECC and was told that since they were no longer on a self-pay system with NA, they could NOT pay this bill, absolutely no way, under any circumstances. They recommended that I refuse to pay it based on the fact that I never received the bill for 2.5 years, and now it was too late to go back to the insurance company for payment.
-I called the lab back and left a message explaining what ECC had said, and asking them what I should do.

Then they called back and left a message with my DH not to worry about it, that they would take care of it. Believe it or not, this made me furious!!! They made me go through all of that when they could have just let it go to start with, based on their failure to bill it to me for over two years????? At least it's done now. Saved: $95.20. Estimated time spent: Two hours. Hourly wage: $47.60 (if I look at it this way, I do feel a little better about it!)

2. Called back to check on why the charge from Yahoo has not yet been reversed (we received a charge for $25 for a service we did not order - it was supposed to be refunded to us, but never was). I spoke to a customer service rep about this charge, but we apparently were not getting our points across to each other. At first he told me the refund had already been credited, at which point I told him I was looking at my statement online and no, it was not credited to my account. Then he told me it must be a problem with my bank, because it was credited. When I pressed for more details, he put me on hold and then came back to tell me that he could cancel the service. I told him that would be fine, but I still wanted my money back. He cancelled the membership, but told me he could not refund the $25 because it was made with a valid credit card. I calmly explained that the purchase was made with MY cc, but I did NOT make it and I did NOT want this service. He advised me to cancel my cc, as it appeared someone else was using it. I asked for the specifics of the service request (who made it, what date, online or in writing, to which Yahoo account it was attached, because no services were listed under my or my husbands Yahoo accounts), but the rep told me he did not have any of this info in front of him. I asked for my money back again and was transferred (after 30 minutes on hold) to a supervisor, who looked into the situation and sent my refund for processing. I again asked specific information on the Yahoo account that had requested this service and was told that he COULD NOT GIVE THIS INFORMATION OUT!!!! So if I want to get information about who is using my card, I have to get a freaking subpeona. Unbelievable. So my only option is to cancel my debit card. Which, I just realized, I have not done and will have to do in the morning. Amount saved: $25. Total time spent: 1 hour. Hourly wage: $25.
Of course, this really is not a savings at all since this is money I did not spend in the first place. I can see how people get easily frustrated and just pay rather than fight a system that treats them like dirt. Yahoo WILL be getting a letter about this, oh yes. Jodi_m is not one to give up easily. In fact, I would have done the same for a $10 bill rather than a $100 bill because IT'S THE PRINCIPLE.


May 23rd, 2006 at 01:47 am

DH played in a poker tournament over the weekend - didn't win. But his entry was free (my uncle sponsored him), so it didn't cost him anything. Then he played on the tables a bit and won $30. However.....some friends invited us over for mroe poker last night. After we picked up a pizza and DH lost $19, we were down again (although I did win $1!). I play much more conservatively than DH - meaning when he loses, he loses bigger than me. And of course when he wins, he usually wins much bigger too! I'm not complaining though - turns out we only spent about $7 overall for two nice evenings. We did get to catch up with some friends of our friends, who will be looking to buy a house in the next year and said they will give me a call, so that was nice.
Busy day today - barely got to see my boys Frown I'm just not used to this. I used to be the one who stayed home all day! But we have talked about switching again once DH gets his degree. or at the very least, I will stop working extra time and go back to 20 hours. After work, I had to meet the other bridesmaids in my brother and future SILs wedding to finish making the invites for the shower, so I never got home until just before the kids went to bed. Boy did I get a good reception from the boys though Smile
Oh, here's how my stupidity cost me money. Saturday night my foot just happened to find a finishing nail that had been abandoned on our carpet. Ouch. I thought I would still be covered by the tetanus shot I got in 1998, but I asked a nurse today at work to be sure. She said I probably would need to go back for another - and I did. $15 gone and a sore foot (and arm) to boot. No other money spent today. I SOOOO wanted a doughnut and coffee this morning, but I resisted Smile
Goal for today: set up card match. Done.
Goal from last week that I have not gotten done yet: call about old medical bill. Somehow I keep forgetting until 7pm, when it is too late to call. I need to make this a priority tomorrow!
Last night I missed my five minute clean up for the first time - we didn't get home until well after 11pm and I was pooped. I guess tonight I'll have to take 10 minutes to catch up!

dump and donate

May 21st, 2006 at 03:03 am

We had our Dump and Donate day today at my real estate office - a chance for clients to bring in garbage for the dumpster and doantions for the Rescue Mission. I took a minivan full - mostly donations. It felt good to unload all of that - and I got a free hot dog (ok, two) and doughnut out of it.
I took my older ds (almost 3) garage saling with me this morning. He did great, for about two hours. Then I bought him a new construction vehicle for $1, and all he wanted to do was "Go home, play in dirt pile". So I ended up taking him home before heading over to the office. It was a cold, drizzly day - quite miserable - so we stopped for a hot cocoa and doughnut. It was a nice treat to share with ds Smile Worth the $1.50. Other money spent: $1 for truck, $.50 for book, $.50 on two travel mugs, $2.00 on two pairs of pants for DH and one shirt for me, $.25 on a pair of shorts for ds2. Not a bad morning for $5.75 total. I love cheap entertainment...although I would probably faint if I figured out how much I spent in gas. Some things are better left alone.
Goal for tomorrow: Set up my next card match, which was due to be played by this week. Oops. I am going to try to set it up for next weekend. It will be the last one for me until fall.
The five minute rule is still working out well - I haven't missed a night yet and slowly, slowly, my bedroom is taking shape.

forgot my goal...

May 20th, 2006 at 01:13 am

Ok, my goal for today has now become my goal for tomorrow...actually, Monday, since I may not be able to get in touch with anyone who can help me tomorrow. I just plain forgot about it. I will try to get the medical bill taken care of soon.
absolutely nothing to report today - no money spent, no money earned. How boring.