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.
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:
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.
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.
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:
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.
Light wheat bread, buttered
Provolone cheese (the only sliced cheese we had on hand)
Low fat ham
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!)
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, 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.
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.)
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.)
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. 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?
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.
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"
It's been about three months since my last post, and exactly one month since we went to settlement on my mother's "extra" house.
Just before Christmas, my mother got the bad intestinal bug that was going around and because of her age, she was hospitalized for it. Just as she was due to be released, I came down with it and couldn't even go to pick her up myself. Then in January we found out she had a buyer for the house, and spent the next few weeks moving and disposing of the rest of the stuff that was still in it. (Not only is she quite the packrat, we also had to clean out stuff left by the previous two owners!)
It's taken me a month to feel caught up on my own life and back to some kind of normal.
I'm really trying to get back on top of money management--after months of just buying what we needed regardless of price--and posting here is the best way I know to stay honest! So here I am.
I might have loosened them a little less if I hadn't made a mistake in Quicken. (For awhile, I thought I had about $500 more available than I actually did!) Grand total was $615. It's a lot to spend the first month of working full-time, but I thought about each purchase and don't regret any of them. I shopped sales and used coupons. Some of the clothes were almost Goodwill-level prices.
New (to us) TV through Craigslist $200
New throws for living room chairs $20
2 prs winter pajamas $38
4 tubes Revlon lipstick $12
Sneakers, one pr black and one pr white, $62
Nylon knee-hi's for work $22
2 velour track suits $72
6 long sleeve tees $22.50
1 sparkly henley tee $7.50
Black stretch corduroy jeans $15
Navy polyester slacks $15
Route 66 DVD set $37
Black leather purse $34
6 cloth napkins $7
2 computer books for reference at work $10
2 battery lanterns for when power is out $17
My body is changing, due to lots of walking, and I'm now wearing a 16W on the bottom. A lot of my older pants are baggy 20W's. The vinyl purse I bought last year is crazing and not repairable. We gave our lantern to my mother when her power was out, and decided we actually needed two at our house. The napkins I really didn't need, although they may help us cut down on the use of paper napkins. It was either spend the $7 on the napkins and get free shipping, or pay for shipping and get nothing else.
I need more decent casual clothes for running errands, in order to reserve work outfits for work. If I take my mother to a doctor, lawyer or stockbroker or we go out to lunch, I don't want to look like too much of a schlub. My old jeans are not only baggy but getting faded at the knees. That's where the track suits, tees and sneakers came in.
The "new" tv is digital, so it gives us a whole new range of channels on cable that we couldn't get on the old one, for no extra monthly fee to Comcast. It's a larger screen. It's a model that we like, but it's been discontinued, so we wanted to grab it when we could find it. And the picture on the old one kept shrinking every so often.
The new throws replace old ones which have numerous holes, pulls, and stains. The extra PJs are to help stretch out how often I have to do laundry.
I know the spending has to slow down. Next year, my ceiling for discretionary spending like this is the $40 a week being direct deposited into Electric Orange checking. But for now, it feels really good to be catching up on things and ridding my life of some shabbiness. Next project--bathroom towels.
Just saw a headline about November having the worst monthly jobless figures since 1974. Yikes, in some ways this headline bothered me more than recent talk of another Great Depression. I lived 1974. If that's where we are now and it's going to get worse before it gets better, uh oh.
For instance, in 1974 we still had these fashions to look forward to!
But seriously, my 1974 involved--
Seeing adults in my family unemployed, in federally-subsidized CETA jobs, or getting on social security earlier than planned because they couldn't find work.
Going to school in the dark in winter because of the energy crisis (daylight savings all year). Being cold in school all the time because they turned the thermostat down. Having our senior trip to Washington instead of Disney World because it was cheaper.
Knowing that going away to college for one year would have been a waste, if there wasn't money to continue. Attending community college instead, to learn a marketable skill, and dealing with the odd/even gas rationing system as a commuter student.
We were still going through Watergate, and Vietnam was still on people's minds. I just checked, and the term stagflation was coined in 1974. It just wasn't a very happy or optimistic time.
I've been there, done that, and I really don't want to be there again! I mean, you adjust, you shop at K-Mart instead of the mall, your world gets a little smaller. You tell yourself a lot of other people are going through the same thing, but it still isn't fun. Enough already, I've already been economizing for the last 3 years!!!
Did you know they carry items like Keebler snack crackers, paper doilies and printer paper?
If you need some small filler items to make your order eligible for free shipping or to use a coupon, try Breakroom Supplies in their search box. You'll find all sorts of things like single boxes of tissues, air freshener, bags of mints or Nips candies, and so forth. They also carry small office supplies, like boxes of paper clips.
You'd be hard pressed to find this stuff using their category titles--it's all deep within the Electronics and Computers category.
I hardly know where to begin. A few weeks ago, I was actually in tears because of money worries and now I'm trying to figure out how to divvy up a 45% increase in our cash flow. I just found out that my boss really went to bat for me, and got approval for me to go full-time with benefits! Not only is it more hours and free insurance, but also an increase in my hourly rate. Things sure can change fast, down or up.
I've been very worried about how we'd cope when DH's Cobra coverage ran out. That's a big part of the reason I went ahead and sold the rest of the ETFs I had in my IRA. I didn't want to raid the IRA to pay for health insurance, but I wanted to have the option if it came to that. If the stock market kept tanking, I couldn't be sure of how much I'd have available.
I've been trying really hard, running around to to buy things on sale, using coupons and rebates again, and had our freezer pretty well filled up.
One night DH got out some pizza and left the door open about an inch. In the morning, I heard it running like mad and discovered it. That's when I finally broke down and cried, fearing that all the food was ruined and money wasted. (We've been using the food up as fast as we can, with no ill effects so far.)
DH started looking for work, and finally signed up with a rather cheesy temp agency out of desperation. You can read about them here, and either be forewarned or just see how the bottom half lives:
I even went so far as to tell my mother I couldn't chip in the tip anymore when she took us out for a meal. It was really embarrassing, but felt I had to do it.
She likes to get out to restaurants, but is housebound now and needs one of us to drive her. She pays for the meal, and we've been paying the tips. But what with gas prices, I didn't feel I could keep shelling out more money on tips than we could have made the whole meal for at home.
Now, amazingly, the tide seems to have turned. Instead of feeling stunned and unsure because of all the bad economic news, I'm now feeling stunned and unsure about how to handle this good fortune.
I really, really, don't want to blow it.
Thought this might be a good time to post a link to this chart, being that the stock market has been so choppy lately. Note that the chart is updated to October 1st--and the I-bonds were already ahead before the worst of the stock market's descent. Might be good for anybody else who's feeling rather chicken right now.
I've been thinking about these for a long time as part of our Emergency Fund, but never seem to have enough money to spare. They can't be bought in IRA's, where the bulk of our already-accumulated money is, so I'd have to find new money.
I know you can buy them in small amounts, but I guess I'm embarrassed to put a bank through the paperwork for a $50 bond. (I'd rather do the paper ones, as it would be a help to DH in an emergency.) But maybe I will start, once I know the new rate as of November 1. They are supposed to announce the new rate this week.
No, not McDonald's stock--coupons.
DMom and I sometimes go to McD's for coffee because it's cheaper than some places and we like it just as well. Yesterday there was a sign on the door about Halloween coupons books, so I asked about them.
For $1, you get a coupon folder with 12 coupons for free items. In other words, for $1 you get coupons for about $10 worth of food. Can't beat that with a stick.
I suppose they're meant for kids--they have Ronald McDonald on them, and they're for small items--hamburgers, cones, juice, milk, and apple dippers. They expire 12/31.
I bought two. They are just the kind of things DMom and I might want to snack on with our coffee. Or that would hold off the hunger pangs if I'm out on errands a long time.
Somehow this lifts my spirits more than hearing that the Fed has lowered interest rates.
Hi, and hugs to everyone who left a comment for me last week.
SCFR mentioned how some older folks may be in trouble because they never changed their asset allocation as their situation changed:
I think that hits the nail on the head for me, also. When we had two incomes, a higher total income, and cheaper health insurance, it wouldn't have been so painful to see the balance in my IRA drop over $800 in one day. I could have just saved harder for a couple of months and made up the loss. But the way things are right now, it could take me a year or more of scrimping to make it up, if it's possible to do at all.
Maybe it isn't just fear that makes me want to lessen my exposure to stocks, but good common sense. I've heard you shouldn't invest what you can't afford to lose--and right now I don't feel like we can afford to lose ANY of it.
Here's our asset allocation right now,
Only $6487 is easily accessible, i.e., cash and not in IRAs. Most of the bonds are non-IRA, but it's not like I can count on the values holding up if I needed to sell them. I have a GMAC thing that's lost 2/3 of its original value, although it's still paying me interest.
Honestly, I think I could sleep a lot better at night if I cashed it all in and just paid off our house!
Even if I sold the rest of the stock, it still wouldn't be accessible because it's all in my IRA. But at least I'd know for sure how much I had. I did sell my S&P 500 index fund last week, and I don't regret it. It only went down from where I sold it, and then I read that more S&P 500 companies cut their dividends in Sept. than ever before. That doesn't bode well.
I feel like I need to huddle around the virtual campfire at Saving Advice again, safe from the cold, cruel world with some people who have their heads on straight.
I'm trying not to be a Nervous Nellie, but all this upheaval in the economy is starting to get to me. It's not just what I'm hearing on the news--it's real life.
WAMU-we have our one credit card with them. Things should be business as usual, but it feels strange to have a 2nd credit card provider go belly up on me. (I had a NextBank card years ago.)
Wachovia-I have a brokerage account with them, DMom has two brokerage accounts plus she owns a pretty significant chunk of Wachovia stock which is already showing a loss. I'm hoping they don't do a WAMU and that she doesn't lose it all.
The housing market-My mother, at 91, has finally put her "extra" house up for sale, seemingly at the worst possible time in recent memory. There have only been two showings in about 3 weeks. If it goes on too many months, we may need to help her get it ready to rent out.
It's been a year, and DH still isn't working. In a lot of ways it's been a help, but we could sure use some extra money.
Especially since we are still paying $660 a month for his COBRA health insurance, which runs out in March. The prospects for me getting full-time at my present job don't look good, and the cost of an individual (non-COBRA) policy will be even higher.
Our emergency fund is below the $1000 minimum that I feel comfortable with, and I'm going to have to work hard to get it built up again. I'm unavoidably spending $200 a month on gas now (because of driving my mother), and our car insurance just went up $35 a month.
Somehow I'm going to have to get back to frugal ways, but I don't have time to fiddle around with Quicken like I used to.
Hope things are going a little more smoothly with everyone else.
My own mother had full-blown stroke on June 1, and it's basically changed my life. Several times I've had ideas for entries about how caregiving can affect your finances, or my observations on Medicare. But I just haven't had time to write.
In fact, I haven't had the time to read the other blogs, and when I checked in to read new posts in the forums, there were hundreds more than I had time to check out.
DMom is actually doing pretty well, living in one of her two houses and trying to sell the other one. But she's not supposed to drive, so DH and I are doing a lot of running, and we're the ones trying to empty out the for-sale house. I don't see things calming down any time soon--when one project is done, there's another one waiting to be started.
So, it's been fun and fulfilling, but this blog has to go. Best of financial luck to everybody.
"It's bad enough trying to keep up with the Jones; when you have trouble keeping up with the guy living on the wrong side of the tracks, it's a source of constant aggravation." -- from an old blog entry by a fellow named Philip Brewer
There have been a lot of sob stories in the media lately, revolving around high gas and food prices and the mortgage mess. The one people are discussing in the forums happens to be about food stamp recipients. When you're feeling stressed about your own finances, it can be really irritating when you're asked to feel sorry for someone else who's made dumb choices yet still enjoys luxuries you don't have, or has walked out on the kind of responsibility you are fulfilling, or is getting help you aren't getting. I know I've gotten riled up at times.
But Mr. Brewer says something I hope I can remember:
"When people around you make unwise choices the appropriate emotion to feel is compassion, not ire. When you find yourself wishing for better crap the appropriate emotion to feel is gratitude for the crap you've got, not envy for someone else's."
He says it's the Buddhist perspective. All I know is, I'd rather learn to think that way than have my blood pressure spike up!
He also has a good piece on how voluntary frugality and poverty are two different things--even if the poor person and the frugal person are living on the same budget.
There are two special purchases at Aldi that I've been itching to buy--a paper cutter for $20 and a metal detector for $50.
I decided today that if I could dig up the money to pay for them somehow, then I could just as well afford to move the money into savings instead. I've already spent quite a bit this spring, and our emergency account balances are low.
Still, I always find it hard to put money aside for vague reasons like "emergencies." Maybe playing mind games with myself like this is the only way to get it done.
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