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Making a little more headway

August 22nd, 2018 at 11:09 am

I sold another little batch of stuff, this time to an antique dealer.

I got notice that I'm receiving a full refund on the blouse I'd bought for my mom on my credit card. (It didn't fit.) I paid for the return postage out of her funds.

I wrote to the developer of some software I'd bought a few months back, which turned out not to be usable on my computer. He was nice enough to send me a refund.

I cancelled my domain name registration, which was up for renewal. Back when I was trying to maintain a career, it seemed important to have a domain for my real name, and maintain a website. This was supposed to be a good idea to make sure when prospective employers google you, you have better control over what comes up on the search results. Plus, at my age, I felt it was important to show I wasn't technology-averse.

But I'm no longer looking for a job. Last year I let the web hosting lapse, but kept the vanity domain name for another year. This year I'm ready to let that go, too.

I received a $15 gift card for letting our health insurer do auto-billing to a credit card. I set that up so long ago, I'd almost forgotten about the offer. Now they've sent an email saying I can get a $50 gift card for filling out some kind of health assessment questionnaire. I guess I'll at least consider it, if the questions don't seem too intrusive.

With all these little un-budgeted bits of income and reduced expenses, I've been able to shift things around in my envelope budget in GoodBudget to fully fund my upcoming dental appointment and pay a doctor bill that came in the mail. I was almost ready to skip this dental visit and go back in the spring, if money was too tight.

Now I can concentrate on funding the Christmas envelope.


August 17th, 2018 at 04:11 pm

I have a bad habit of paying for things for my mother, and then forgetting to reimburse myself. She has never used credit cards, so it's not like I can just be an authorized user on an account of hers to purchase things.

She has the funds to pay for her own clothes, but I have to do the shopping. Things get busy, I lose track of receipts and can't reimburse myself right away, and all of a sudden months have gone by and I'm out a significant amount of money.

Sometimes I order things online that need to be returned by mail, and I fall behind on that, too. I won't get the refund until I mail an item back, which just keeps my own credit card bill higher than it needs to be.

We go out for meals once in a while, and I've been paying. It seemed only fair after years of her paying for my meal, and me leaving the tip for both of us. But I've started to feel the pinch.

Tonight I caught up on things related to the clothes shopping. I wrote myself a reimbursement check for over $88, and I have a return packed up to be mailed tomorrow morning. I should be getting a refund on that of over $30.

Tomorrow I'll figure out her share of our last meal out, and reimburse myself from a petty cash envelope I started a few months back. I've started to take a photo of the tab with my phone when we go out, so I have some sort of receipt.

I've got to keep on top of this better for my own sake. I keep up to date with paying all her other expenses, filing billing statements and receipts, etc. If anyone ever asks how I'm spending her money, I don't want there to be any question of mismanagement. But I end up shorting myself sometimes.

Day of little money tasks

August 16th, 2018 at 03:59 pm

I faxed a letter to our new mortgage company this morning, because I now distrust what I might be told over the phone. I've specified that I want a refund of our extra payment for August, rather than having it applied towards principal. The automatic payment did finally kick in, but only after I sent them a money order as instructed on the phone.

I also made a stop at Big Lots. They have a deal where you get a $5 coupon after every three visits, and it doesn't seem to matter how little you purchase each time. So whenever I'm in the area, I run in and at least check out their clearance grocery shelf. No $1 Triscuits or Archway cookies today, so I just picked up a jar of regular price capers for $1.50.

There's a Shoprite nearby so I picked up a few (sale) items my regular store was out of this week.

Mainly, I was in the area to sell a couple of old gold chains to a jewelry store for scrap value. I'm continuing to use GoodBudget (an envelope budgeting system), and it's helping me see how tight things really are. There's a DVD set my husband and I both want to get, but the money's just not there in the Misc. envelope right now. If we're going to get it, I have to find extra money somewhere. I'm not going to spend down our savings for something like that.

I need to declutter anyway. But my method in recent years has been to donate items rather than try to sell them. It's faster, and much less hassle. But right now we could use the money. I'm thinking of creating a separate new email account just to use for Craigs List for privacy reasons.


August 12th, 2018 at 02:32 pm

I've been trying Aldi versions and store brands the past month or so, and it's been working well. No really bad experiences yet. I was inspired by the Downshift Challenge at a website in the UK: https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/shopping/downshift-challen...

We don't use up egg noodles very fast, but when I need to buy them, I get Pennsylvania Dutch wide noodles. It's sort of a brainless habit because we always used that brand at home. But they're going for $2.39 right now, for a 12 ounce package. It seemed a bit steep.

Today I checked at Aldi, and theirs are $1.09 for a full pound! Less than half the price and more noodles. Good grief, the cost of brand loyalty. I can't imagine there's all that much difference in noodles.

Errand planning

August 11th, 2018 at 04:01 pm

It was a rainy, stay-at-home kind of day. In between doing laundry, I spent some time today looking at Google Maps and making a spreadsheet.

I'd like to save some time and gas money by planning out my errands better. I'm terrible at remembering exactly where things are located. I'll head out to one place, and pass another one on the way where I could have gotten some business done. Except I forgot I'd be passing it so I didn't bring along what I needed. It could be mail, a bank deposit, dry cleaning, etc. Then I'll have to make a separate trip later.

If you zoom in on Google Maps, you can get really detailed info, like exactly which stores are in a shopping plaza. So I was able to make pretty comprehensive lists of businesses along certain roads, in order of when I'll be passing them, as well as notes to myself about where the turns are to get to other main roads.

We've been living here for over 20 years, so you'd think I'd know my way around by now! But it's built up a lot over the years, and it's been a long time since I bothered to update myself on everything that's nearby. For example, I found out there's an Asian ice cream place nearby that has bubble tea and rolled ice cream. I'm not going to be dropping a lot of dollars there, but it would be fun to at least try it.

Another non-action

August 7th, 2018 at 08:31 am

We have a service contract with an HVAC company which covers annual check-up, basic maintenance and priority scheduling should we have a problem.

Today was a/c check-up day, and a $135 deep cleaning was recommended. Thank goodness, my husband came inside to ask me about it before saying yes. I think what I've been saying about money worries has sunk in.

The a/c seems to be working fine, so we decided to say no for now and rethink it next spring. We do want to keep this old system going as long as possible.

Not taking an action

August 6th, 2018 at 07:09 am

It occurred to me that I might be able to save a little on a couple of ongoing prescriptions if I used a different pharmacy. I was even willing to consider getting them by mail, as long as I could still get emergency prescriptions filled locally.

So I spent some time on the Blue Cross website this morning. Based on today's pricing, the most I would save is $1 per 90-day prescription by going with the mail option. I also wouldn't save money by switching to Walmart, Sam's Club, CVS, Walgreens, or the pharmacies inside supermarkets.

The extra $8 a year I'm paying for the convenience of using the Rite Aid on the corner is worth it to me. Besides the location, I don't have to worry about the prescriptions getting delayed in the mail or being exposed to super hot or cold weather while sitting in our mailbox a long time. So I'm going to sit tight on this.

Taking Action Aug 5

August 5th, 2018 at 05:36 pm

I was playing around with budget scenarios again, and things didn't look good. I decided to cash in a CD and bring part of the proceeds into our checking account each month, until my Social Security kicks in. The early withdrawal penalty is small compared to credit card interest if I have to start carrying a balance.

Someone here or on Reddit had mentioned Goodbudget, an envelope budgeting website and app that has a free tier you can use indefinitely. Unlike YNAB, which only has a free trial. So I signed up and I've been working with it for a couple of days.

I'm only going to use it for variable expenses. I already have reminders set up in Quicken to automatically fill in the bills that are the same every month. And I'm handling food spending in the Daily Budget app.

To save some more money, I just suspended my membership with a self-improvement website which costs $29 a month. I still find it useful. But at this point, I can see it would be better to keep that money for things like upcoming doctor visit co-pays.

42 cents under budget on food :)

July 30th, 2018 at 09:34 am

I've been trying to stay under $600 a month for food for a couple of months now. I failed in June. But as of today, after one last $21.11 trip to Aldi, July looks good.

I know $600 probably sounds like a lot to some people. However the Maptitude map linked below shows average household food expenditure in NJ is $8109, or $675 a month. And the National Standards the IRS puts out (for figuring out how much delinquent taxpayers can afford to pay) says $646 for two people per month. I'll link to that page, too. And it's a lot lower than we have been spending.

Quicken tells me we averaged $718 a month from July 2017 through June 2018. It was probably higher than that because I've missed recording a lot of things during chaotic periods. Right now it says I should have $785 in cash! It's more like $50, and I'm sure a lot of that unknown spending was on food.

I've been using an app called Daily Budget on my phone. It tells me every day how much I can spend without getting too far ahead of myself during the month. It's designed to budget everything, but I'm only using it for food spending right now. It's been a big help. I found it after reading about a similar app someone came up with to help Food Stamp users spread their spending out more evenly over the month.



Stable vs. volatile household income

July 28th, 2018 at 05:32 pm

I just came across a definition of volatile vs. stable household income. Apparently if your income increases or decreases more than 25% year over a year, it's considered volatile.

I've known that our income has been all over the place since the partial lay-off at my old job in 2013, but I never really analyzed it.

No wonder I've felt uneasy, and unsure about how we can afford to live. I looked at our tax returns, and our adjusted gross income in 2017 was only about 55% of what it was in 2012. And in-between, it's gone down and up and down again. In two out of five years, the changes in income would qualify for "volatile."

I found a study where 92% of the people surveyed would prefer a more stable financial life over being a little richer. I guess I'm part of the 92%. I look forward to taking my Social Security at 62 even though the payout will be lower than it could be. The alternative is planning to use up savings and investments between now and my full retirement age, not knowing things like how the stock market will do and what emergencies might come up.



Take An Action: July 26

July 26th, 2018 at 12:31 pm

I've entered two contests this week.

Wawa had those slips again where you do a survey about your last visit, and at the end you can give your contact info to enter the survey.

Then when I was at Shoprite, I noticed a big cardboard box where they were collecting entries for some kind of BBQ sweepstakes. So I filled out one of the slips--why not? Years ago, I actually won a good-sized gift card from another supermarket sweepstakes like this. I don't think many people bother to enter, so there's a much greater chance of winning.

Take An Action: July 23

July 23rd, 2018 at 07:20 am

CB, I like your term "gap year." I'm in the middle of mine. I can't take Social Security until next year, and we're about out of liquid savings that we can withdraw without generating taxable income.

I played around in Quicken this weekend, trying out different scenarios through the end of this year. The state of our projected checking account balances made me very nervous.

After sleeping on it, I decided that the most sensible thing to do is change to monthly payments on our car and homeowners insurance. Otherwise, paying the big lump sums this fall would tap us out, and I'd end up not being able to pay our credit cards off in full each month anymore. The $1 a month service fee on the insurance is a lot less than credit card interest would be.

So, it's done. Once my Social Security kicks in, we can go back to the annual billing.

Another action I took this weekend was using up some dry milk in pancakes, to conserve fresh milk.

Take An Action: July 18

July 19th, 2018 at 10:46 am

One of the books that helped me before was the one by Jerrold Mundis about getting out of debt. I quoted it here before, back in 2005; here's the quote again:

"Fish lay thousands of eggs. Only a tiny percentage of these ever hatch--yet there are a lot of fish around. If I take ten actions and only three work, I've still made three gains I couldn't have if I'd simply sat around wishing something were different. It's taking action that counts."

Last night I read through all my old entries. It was a help to see the kinds of things I tried before to improve our situation. So I'm going to start recording the actions I'm taking this time around, for accountability and so I can go back and see it later on. Here are some things I've done over the past few days:

--Cancelled my gym membership
--Used a $5 coupon for school supplies at Staples, on two rolls of Scotch magic tape. They ended up totally free.
--Got my gas at BJ's Wholesale (cheapest near me)
--Used a $5 off $15 coupon at Big Lots on groceries. Some of the items I got were Triscuits on the clearance shelf, marked down to $1 a box.
--Ordered a pizza online to get an online-only deal.
--Downloaded some free digital magazine issues through the library
--At Walmart, took advantage of a deal on diet ginger ale. It was $1 per 2-liter bottle. Hang-tag coupons on the bottles were for $2 off when you bought 3. So each bottle cost 33 cents. Full price at Shoprite is $1.69.

Wow, I can still log in!

July 18th, 2018 at 01:02 pm

It looks like it's been almost five years since I posted here. I looked through the other blogs and it was nice to still see some names I recognize.

A lot has happened here. I'll go into details later on, but at this point my husband and I are basically retired, living on one Social Security check and one civil service pension check a month, plus a little investment income. I'm not old enough for Social Security quite yet.

I'm starting to get concerned about how much savings we're going through, so back I came to Saving Advice. Right now I'm concentrating on cutting our spending back, rather than trying to make more money. Although my mom's in Assisted Living now, taking care of her business and trying to get her house cleared out is a part-time (unpaid) job in itself.

Coke Rewards, Pepsi Points, Musselman's, and Stauffer's

September 4th, 2013 at 09:26 am

Today I signed up at both mycokerewards.com and points.pepsi.com. I keep seeing people talk about the Coke rewards over at Fatwallet.com. I've always found that site a good guide to what's worthwhile pursuing, so I thought I'd give it a try. The Pepsi one I'd never actually heard of, but I like Pepsi One and thought I'd see if they had some kind of rewards program.

What I think is odd, is that Coke actually rewards you for buying their products, and Pepsi only rewards you for looking at their websites and such. Frankly, we've been bigger Pepsi than Coke drinkers over the years, and I'm kind of annoyed at how their rewards are set up. They basically don't seem to care how much Pepsi I buy, they just want me to waste time on their website and Facebook page. I have to say, it really makes me inclined to buy Fresca more often!

We buy Musselman's applesauce anyway, and I recently stumbled upon an offer where you save UPCs for a $10 gift card. http://musselmans.com/news/optionsGiftCard.aspx

My mother loves Stauffer's gingersnaps, and I buy them sometimes, too, so I was glad to find their rewards program. http://www.stauffers.com/free-stuff You can get coupons, a t-shirt, gift cards, etc., for saving UPCs.

Today's money-saving activities

September 2nd, 2013 at 06:28 am

Downloaded songs from Freegal.
Downloaded the Amazon Local app, but then couldn't do Audible.com $10 deal I'd read about because it's only for new customers.
Loaded new Shoprite ecoupons onto my Price Plus card.
Printed out coupons from All You magazine's website, Kimberly-Clark (at pickupthevalues.com), and pillsbury.com.
Printed out a hair salon coupon from the Citi Easy Deals credit card reward program, and also bought a Restaurant.com gift card at 90% off there.
Made a big pot of mashed potatoes to use up some potatoes. Some are in the fridge for tomorrow, some are frozen for later.
Used up some eggs by hard-boiling a couple, and using one in corn muffins, which I froze.
We are using up a slightly-outdated can of La Choy chow mein for tonight's dinner. I always keep one on hand for emergencies, and then forget about it. I only thought of it today because of this recent news story:

Cheap, Cheerful and Cheesy - Week 1

September 1st, 2013 at 06:13 pm

I guess because fall is almost here, I just remembered a little project I wanted to try. I want to get into the habit of making grilled cheese sandwiches more often, by making a different type of grilled cheese sandwich every week for, dare I say, a year? That's what people seem to do with these sorts of projects, like here: http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/

So, why do this at all, and why keep track of it here? Basically, because I think it will help our food budget. It's something I can throw together in a hurry and use up little bits of things, instead of ordering take-out. It helps that last winter I bought a little Proctor-Silex sandwich maker like the one pictured. We are only a two-person household so the size is fine. Once it's heated you put the sandwiches in for 3 minutes and they come out perfectly.

from: http://www.proctorsilex.com/products/sandwich-makers-sandwich-maker-model-25401p.php

Today's entry:

Light wheat bread, buttered
Provolone cheese (the only sliced cheese we had on hand)
Low fat ham
Honey mustard
Apple slices as a side munchie instead of chips

(I don't have any connection with Proctor-Silex, I paid for the sandwich maker myself, and all I will be getting out of this project are some cheap, tasty meals!)

Well, it finally happened

August 11th, 2013 at 12:53 pm

After several layoff scares over a period of three years, my full-time job at the library finally ended, in July. I was able to stay on part-time, but of course I'm losing my health benefits. DH left an awful job in 2007 and hasn't had a job since then; we've been able to afford his being a househusband until now. Luckily, here in NJ you are eligible for partial unemployment when your hours are reduced, so that's a help. I've gotten one payment so far.

Well, that's all I'll say for now. Anyone who's been looking for a job lately knows how frustrated I'm feeling right now. I think I'll look back in my blog to see how we managed during previous lean times, and then go downstairs to make dinner. We are having cheesesteaks, Smile but home-made ones using Old Neighborhood shaved beef and a loaf of Italian bread. I hope they turn out well, because it should cost about 1/2 the price we used to pay for take-out ones.

Taking advantage of training freebie

May 19th, 2012 at 06:32 am

A couple of weeks ago, I found out that librarians in my state were eligible to sign up for free, three-week subscriptions at http://www.lynda.com, a website that offers tutorials on tech and business topics. I jumped on it! At work, I'm responsible for doing our little class on Microsoft Word, now that the person who used to do that class has been cut back to virtually no hours. I'm not that familiar with the old version, let alone the 2010 version we recently put on a few public computers. In addition to doing classes on request, I also need to help people on the computers throughout the day and should really get better acquainted with all of Office.

I have to say that having only three weeks of access to the tutorials has motivated me to use it. I have a list of other free tutorial sites that I've never gotten around to using simply because I didn't have a deadline. I like the Lynda.com tutorials I've used so far, and I like how they keep track of which lesson you're on, let you keep a queue of other ones you're interested in, and suggest appropriate followup tutorials when you finish one. I'm seriously thinking of paying for a membership when my free time is up, however--if I no longer have a deadline to take advantage of it, will I continue using it?

There's a lot more there that would be useful to me beyond the Office training. Although our operating budget at work was cut back drastically, for some reason we got approved for a large capital expenditure on new computers, and I'll mostly likely have to set up and maintain them. They'll probably come with Windows 7, which I've never used. I've been keeping an eye on job openings at other libraries, too, just to be on the safe side. One job description appealed to me but would have been a stretch--they wanted someone who knows several programming languages in addition to having the MLS. My library school master's is 25 years old this month, and while I have experience on my side, I feel as if I don't update my technical skills it will be hard to compete with more recent graduates who have training on all the current things. That is, if I really am laid off, eventually. I'm still having a hard time gauging how likely that is.

Beyond possibly paying to watch these tutorials, is it time to consider buying a new computer at home, with Windows 7 on it? (I can't just buy the software because my PC doesn't meet the requirements.) Over the years, I've found that it's hard getting up to speed on new things if I only have access to them at work--there's never enough time to just sit there and learn, undisturbed.

I'm in a quandary every day about whether to spend money or not, because of a possible layoff. Should I not buy clothes because I might be laid off, or should I buy them because I need decent outfits on hand for possible job interviews and because in the fall I'll be working a lot of 6-day weeks. Should I not spend money on a new computer and tutorials because I might be laid off, or should I spend the money because I might be laid off. Should we go ahead and spend the money on home improvements because DH and I have the time right now to be here and monitor the work, or not? (If DH had to go back to work, and I had to take a job with a longer commute, and neither of us had any vacation time built up yet, it would be nearly impossible to manage.)

Any thoughts?

Happy May Day :)

May 1st, 2012 at 04:07 pm

I'd like to join in the 5-5-5 fitness thing. DH and I will be taking a walk right after I finish here. My fives are:

1) Walking
2) Gardening
3) Stretching (Angela Lansbury tape)
4) Leslie Sansone DVDs
5) Cleaning (I'm so out of shape that cleaning the bathroom feels like exercise!)

Some nice little money treats yesterday and today. Our latest natural gas bill is only $10 for some reason. Our normal balancing month for the equal payment plan is September, but I guess we used less over the winter than they expected, and/or natural gas prices must have come down. I also got the chance to do surveys on my latest receipts from Dunkin Donuts and Chick Fil A. We're now entitled to a free donut and a free chicken sandwich.

Restarted price book

April 29th, 2012 at 07:41 am

Over the past couple of days, I've pulled prices from some grocery receipts and started a new price book using Excel.

Most recently, I was using Splash Shopper on my old Palm PDA, and liked it. I'd refer to the database on the Palm, and use the desktop version to input the prices. But I've switched to an ipod Touch as my PDA, and I wasn't impressed by the reviews I've read for their app. I've tried some other apps, but it's tedious trying to enter much information on the ipod. Plus, I want to be able to choose what information I record.

For example, I want to record both price per pound and per item for some things. When I go to Shoprite they price bell peppers by the pound, and when I go to Walmart they are priced by the piece. At Aldi, right now they're in 3-packs. In Excel, I can add as many columns as I want for different types of unit prices, rather than having to choose just one.

I'll email it to myself when I feel it's done, so it's accessible on the ipod. But I still might print it out and carry it in my purse. I don't like whipping out the ipod inside stores if I don't have to.

Prescription Drug Take-Back Day

April 28th, 2012 at 05:15 am

Here in the U.S., today you can turn in old or unneeded prescription drugs to many local police departments, no questions asked. I'm interested in it as an easy, environmentally-safe way to dispose of some clutter, but I suppose law enforcement wants to make sure certain drugs stay out of the hands of people who might abuse them. DMom has quite a few old bottles we can empty out, and this only runs from 10 to 2, so I want to get out early and not miss it.


Getting back in the swing of frugality

April 26th, 2012 at 06:31 am

Monday was an NSD. I spent some time before my afternoon shift doing some produce prep and planning out food for the week.

Tuesday I spent more than necessary because my organizational skills fell short. I forgot to take my mug in to work, so I bought coffee in order to have the use of a cup throughout the day. I'd planned to pick up salads for dinner but didn't take the time to dig out a coupon before I left home for the day. I also forgot to take my empty iced tea pitcher home to refill; luckily I had another container at home to use this morning.

Wednesday I needed to order a shower gift for a coworker's daughter before all the less expensive items in her wishlist are purchased--otherwise a NSD.

I've been trying to use up some food items before they get so old I'm afraid to eat them. So far: the end of a cucumber, a bit of leftover pasta salad, a jar of cheese that had a use-by date of March, one last Wasa cracker, a Dinty Moore beef stew that had a use-by date earlier in April. Today I'll be making some Jello that's dated February, and using up some cooked corn by adding it to a can of vegetable soup. I'm taking some dry creamer into work to help use up some instant coffee I keep there. It isn't drinkable otherwise and I end up either buying coffee or using my own K-cups which aren't that cheap, either.

Today can't be an NSD because we're paying the property taxes, but there's hope for tomorrow. Smile

How things have changed, how they've stayed the same

April 23rd, 2012 at 06:09 am

WORK--I'm still working full-time, although for how long I don't know. Of the people left at my job, I'm now the one with the least seniority, so I am the most vulnerable if and when more budget cuts happen. In July, my take-home pay will go down a bit because we'll be paying more toward our health insurance. My schedule won't be as predictable now, because we full-timers will have to cover holes in the schedule that the part-timers used to cover. We'll also have to work more Saturdays, at least two a month, because there are fewer people in the rotation. This means at least two weeks a month where I'll have to commute six days a week instead of five. (We're only open a few hours on Saturday, so you don't get another full day off for working it.) That means more money spent on gas, and losing more time on driving. We've been warned that we may end up with unpaid furlough days later in the year if the money runs out.

FAMILY--My mother is almost 95 now, and still living by herself. There's some dementia creeping in, and I'd feel better if she were in Assisted Living. DH hasn't had a paying job since he left an awful one in 2007, which has been fine with me. He does a lot of the running with my mother, taking her to the foot doctor, physical therapy, the bank, etc. As it is, I've been using up most of my vacation days on Mom issues; I don't know how we would have managed if he were working and we were constantly stressed about which one of us could get time off for something or other. There's always some little crisis coming up.

DH's INHERITANCE--DH's mom's estate still isn't settled; she died over four years ago now. It turned out that the brother who was designated executor wasn't coping with things because of dementia. A lot of time had gone by before this came to light. DH and his sister were named as co-executors and when they got to work on the project discovered quite a bit of cleanup and repair work that hadn't been done on her house. It's a pain getting there to do anything because it's several hours away from everyone, plus it's a gated community and there's always a hassle getting in, or getting repair people in. They started out asking over $130,000 for the house; since then, thousands have been spent on repairs, the price has been lowered below $70,000, and it still hasn't sold. There has been only one offer, which was withdrawn at the last minute.

OUR HOUSE--We were counting on a chunk of inheritance money to get repairs done on our own house, but at this point we don't feel it can wait anymore. Despite my job situation being shaky, we're getting estimates on having repairs done on the front of our house. A few weeks ago, before I knew whether or now I'd be laid off, I applied for a loan against my pension. If I had been laid off, I wouldn't have started getting billed for it for six months, giving us a little extra financial cushion to work with. It would be a way to stay in the pension system and still be able to get a pension at age 60, while getting use out of some of the money in the meantime. Now that I haven't been laid off (yet) we're planning on using the pension loan proceeds for the house repairs.

DH is now battling diabetes, so I've been concentrating on buying healthy foods rather than cheap ones. Both of our pets have died (they were both 16), so there were some final expenses but we no longer have to buy pet food and supplies. We miss them, but don't plan to get new pets any time soon.

Back after 2-1/2 years

April 22nd, 2012 at 02:04 pm

A quick test message will have to do for now--just lost a long post about why I'm back, but I don't have time to redo it.

Basically, there have been cutbacks at my job; I'm scared and feel the need to save money like crazy. However, time and energy are always an issue and I don't know how I'm going to manage it.

Gee, I hope this works!

TD Bank Mess--Thousands of Angry Customers

October 1st, 2009 at 09:20 am

I've experienced some weird things with banks, but this takes the cake. It's not even so much what is happening, but how their public relations people are (not) handling it.

First, I heard at work that any direct deposits going into TD Bank accounts weren't showing up. It wasn't a problem in our payroll department, it had to do with TD's computer system. The first employees to call about it were offered $25 for their trouble.

Later in the day, you had an extremely long wait to get through on their customer service line, and when you did get through, no more offers of $25. Latest reports are that the customer service number is no longer working at all.

First, the problem was going to be solved by 4 p.m. yesterday. Then by 6 a.m. today, then by 8 a.m. today. This morning TD put out a statement saying they were caught up with Wednesday deposits, so my paycheck should have shown up, but it hadn't. So I went over to the branch, where I was told the statement wasn't accurate and that things should be caught up by 4 p.m. today.

In the meantime, some people are being given the option to have their direct deposits manually put into the system, some are not. Some people report being limited to $250 withdrawals, some report $50. Deposits are not showing up, but apparently withdrawals are--so people are racking up overdraft fees. TD is refunding them, but it's still a hassle for folks to deal with it. Some people are reporting odd, random withdrawals being taken from their accounts.

Personally, here's what I did: 1) Canceled some automatic bill payments and scheduled them to be paid from a checking account at another bank; and 2) Changed my direct deposit instructions so nothing goes to directly to TD anymore, so this won't happen again next week. I think we'll be closing our TD account within the next month. If they can't even handle processing deposits, what does that say for their ability to maintain a secure system, where account and social security numbers are even safe?

As my mother always says, "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool my twice, shame on me."

This news story is especially good because there are a lot of comments from TD customers at the bottom, and a link to Twitter postings.


Buying books the Insiders Club way

September 5th, 2009 at 01:16 pm

I've had the urge to buy books lately--part of putting my life back together and feeling normal after several strange years, I think. I'm starting to buy books that have been on my Amazon wish list for years, books I used to own but sold to raise cash, books that my local libraries don't have that I don't want to inter-library loan.

It's easy enough to put together a $25 order of new books from Amazon or Barnes and Noble, which qualifies for free shipping. But what about out-of-print books, or ones that are just a lot cheaper used? With shipping about $4 a pop, even 1 cent books can start to add up. This is where I'm finding it's worthwhile to keep my membership in the Insiders Club, aka freeshipping.com. (About $9 a month.) I know people have mentioned them here before, but not specifically in reference to books, so I thought I'd report how it's working out.

There's a limit on how much shipping they will reimburse per order. I think it's $10. So I've been ordering in batches of two books, to get a reimbursement of about $8 each time. There are quite a few online bookstores participating, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, ABE, Alibris, Half.com and more. There's also a limit on how many rebates per store you can do in a year, so I'm trying to spread my business around.

Sometimes, although I've ordered two books at once, a store will split it up into two orders. But so long as I add a note about what happened, there's been no problem getting my rebate. (Yes, they really do reliably send out the checks, as long as you remember to send in your paperwork after starting the submission online.)

If you find yourself shopping online a lot, it really is worthwhile if you can get in on an offer to join. (I got the offer at the end of a Woman Within order.)

Guinea Pig With Glasses

May 15th, 2009 at 08:09 pm

No, not the one on Youtube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PAOplanuumc


I'm anxiously awaiting a $30 pair of prescription reading glasses from an online optical store. If I were happy with the progressive lenses I got locally (and the attitude of the optician), it never would have occurred to me. But in doing some research online, I stumbled on a blog called Glassy Eyes, which is full of info on how to order cheap but good quality prescription glasses (and contacts) online.


Basically, you can guesstimate a frame size that will fit by reading the little numbers printed inside your existing frames. You enter the numbers from your eye doctor's prescription form; generally you don't even have to send in or fax the prescription paper, so you still have it on hand for your next purchase. (Apparently it can get quite addictive buying new styles and colors, once you know you can buy them so cheaply. Wink Sheesh, one place has some frames that only cost a dollar!)

The main problem seems to be finding out your "pupillary distance" which determines where the center of the prescription goes in each lens. Eye doctors often don't write that on the prescription blank, and local opticians often don't want to divulge it to the customer. But there are ways to figure it out yourself, or with a friend, and instructions are available online.

I want a nice large, frumpy frame that will give me a large field of vision; the optician would only show me skinny, fashionable frames. I want to try reading-only rather than reading/intermediate bifocals, which the optician says I need. (And which cost more, of course.) So for $30, I'm willing to experiment.

It looks like it might be a workable alternative for someone who really needs new glasses, doesn't have vision coverage, and can't afford to spend much. I can't wholeheartedly recommend it, since I haven't gotten mine yet. But I'll keep you posted.

Has anyone else tried this?

Stockpiling to save time, not necessarily money

March 28th, 2009 at 06:53 pm

All of a sudden, I'm finding myself buying in bulk, in a big way. I'd love to have a year's supply of whatever is practical. Two things spurred me to do this--

1) My mother casually mentioned how her friend buys blueberries in season and freezes a whole year's supply. It reminded me of how I like to buy a big carton of red-skinned sweet potatoes in the fall, and eat them all year. It's nice to know they're there, and that I don't have to run up to the farm market every few weeks. And I don't have to think about them every time I make a shopping list.

2) I had another scare this past week with my mother--nothing serious, but something that's going to take extra time again, taking her to doctors and such. Something is always coming up. I just can't devote that much time to grocery shopping. Many weeks I only have a few hours to myself, and I'll be darned if I'm going to spend them all looking at circulars, sorting coupons and running to sales.

So I'm starting to think big. So far, I've ordered some stuff on Amazon and joined BJ's Warehouse (like Sam's or Costco, but a smaller chain). I'm going ahead and spending like crazy, but at least I'm using my price book. My goals is to get stocked up as much as possible while on a vacation week, and then try to relax and enjoy my spring and summer as much as possible. It's throwing any concept of a weekly grocery budget out the window, but I think it'll be worth it.

Paying myself back rather than the cc

March 16th, 2009 at 08:56 am

I've gotten back into that vicious cycle that Carol Keeffe describes so well in her book*--one month you charge some groceries and toothpaste, the next month when you pay the bill it leaves you short to buy the new month's groceries, and you end up using the credit card again and again each month.

When things were really wild over the past few months, I'd just shop when I could. I didn't always have cash with me, and didn't always know for sure how much was in our checking accounts. I didn't want to overdraw an account, so I used the credit card to be safe. If I was using the credit card, I couldn't go to Aldi, and I didn't have time to shop the sales and use coupons, either. I didn't always take time to record what I spent. Often I had to charge things that were really for my mother, which confused things even more. (She doesn't have a credit card of her own.)

Result--a balance I've been paying off each month, but sometimes painfully so.

This weekend I "borrowed" $140 from our bills account to cover a big food shopping trip. I've got a lot of catching up to do, as we've used up a lot of stockpile items, and a lot had to be throw away because it got spoiled or was way out of date. I'll probably have to "borrow" some more next week. So far this month I've already spent $284 on groceries and we're only half through.

But at least I can pay myself back at my leisure with no interest adding up. And it's enabling me to take advantage of some really good sales and coupons, like a series of $5 off $40 coupons at one of our stores.

* "How to get what you want in life with the money you already have"

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