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Archive for July, 2005

Extreme self-care

July 28th, 2005 at 12:33 pm

The morning after my last entry, I found myself unable to get moving on much, and in no better a mood. I realized it was time to drag out my copy of Feeling Good, The New Mood Therapy, by David Burns. It's about overcoming depression, and has a great chapter called Do Nothingism which usually gets me moving again. I read that and some other sections, and realized I'd moved from my "normal" Mild depression well into Moderate and it was time to do something to stop the slide.

The things I wrote in my last entry are so typical of the negative thinking that can overtake you when you're depressed. I don't even know if it's the money worries that really set me off. It could be a whole combination of things, like DH's own bad moods, not exercising lately, not eating right, daylight hours starting to lessen, the hot oppresive weather, the news, or the blood pressure medicine I'm on that has depression as a known side effect. Anyway, I've learned the thing to do is DO something about it, not overanalyze it. So I'm currently on a regime of Extreme Self Care. I'm grateful most of these are free:

Limiting my exposure to the news, talk shows, and advertising for things I can't buy right now
(The way I'm doing that is reading more and keeping music tapes in my car)
Doing things like ironing and shaving my legs so I can wear clothes that make me feel better
Eating right and taking B vitamins
Listening to music
Comfort foods
Cleaning, putting fresh tablecloths on, fresh cushion covers on the porch chairs
Resting when I need to rest
Going online at the library in addition to at home, just to get out of the house and also save my online time at home
Spending time in bookstores just browsing, getting titles and taking notes

I ought to be exercising more, and I ought to get outside now that the heat wave has broken. I ought to get back to weekly "Artist Dates" like I used to do. There's a book called The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron that suggests these--it's just a kind of date with yourself where you get a change of scenery, do something different. Then there are always bubble baths... DH and I also have to get back to doing some fun things on the weekends. $12 for movie tickets is worth it, if it saves our sanity! When I redo the budget again, I'm going to try and find room for Fun.


Sunday blues

July 24th, 2005 at 03:37 pm

I don't like being in limbo. I know how much I have to adjust our budget to make up for the withholding increase, and that's bad enough. But there's no point in overhauling the whole budget again until I find out two more things. In August every year, we find out what's changing with the health insurance we get through DH's job. Usually the deductions go up, often the co-pays go up, sometimes they even switch to a different insurance company for a year and then switch back. Also, at the end of August/early September we'll find out how much our new homeowner's and car insurance policies will cost. I already made some changes that have saved us money on the policies that are about to end. But I'm still waiting to hear what next year's bills are going to be.

It's hard to feel happy and successful about staying within this month's budget when I know it's still probably way higher than what it needs to be from here on. It feels like all my figuring and work and attempts at self-control were almost pointless.

It's frustrating just not knowing what we can afford. While I'm in this limbo period, I'm literally afraid to spend on anything extra at all, whether it's movie tickets or gas and tolls for a trip to the shore. I'd like to clean out our flowerbeds and plant something, but I'm reluctant to spend money on unnecessary things like plants or mulch. So I might as well leave the weeds as "groundcover." I can't face two more months of no fun or extras at all, and having our house and yard continue to look like c**p while the rest of the neighborhood is getting "gentrified". But how much on extras is too much right now? I haven't the vaguest idea.

It seems like the only things I can and should be doing today are things that I don't especially want to do. More errands that have to do with saving or managing money. Kitchen work, like cutting up raw veggies for the week and getting the rest of the meat off a cooked chicken. Coloring my hair at home with Free After Rebate dye.

There are a lot of things I'd like to do online, things that could even make or save us money. But I'm down to just a few hours for the rest of the month, and the library is closed, so I can't even do that today.

I'm determined to find a way to get over this pity-party. Without spending any money. Will report back tomorrow.

End of the month stretch

July 22nd, 2005 at 02:20 pm

This is the first full month on my cheap-o 30 hours a month internet service. I'm down to about 4 1/2 hours, and there are 9 more days in the month, which means I have to be very careful and only stay online about half an hour a day. Thank goodness I can do a little extra surfing at work, on breaks or if I get in early. A month ago I was routinely online about 2 hours a day at home, and it took awhile to adjust downward--so I used up too many minutes early in the month. But I think I'll make it. It's still budgeting, whether it's time or money, which means it doesn't come naturally, for me anyway.

Money-wise, I'm doing better than I was last month at this point. But I'm still down to $55 in my "everyday expenses" category to last 9 more days. It's time to get more pet food, and I wanted to use a bunch of pet food coupons that expire July 31. But if I do a big stocking up to take advantage of the coupons, it won't leave me enough for regular groceries and more gas in the car. As usual, we're stocked up too far ahead on some things, and getting short on money for other things. I don't want to make it any worse. I think today I'll put the extra coupons in the exchange basket at work, so I'm not tempted to use them.

Mom money issues

July 21st, 2005 at 01:45 pm

DMom, who for years has given us an annual chunk of money for our IRAs, mentioned she *might* not be able to do it this year because she *might* be getting some work done on her house. We really do refrain from spending any of this; it goes right into our IRAs. So it might not sound like it should affect our budget.

However, what we're doing are traditional IRAs to save on current taxes. I haven't thought of the situation as using a "Mom gift" for living expenses. Since it seemed like something we could count on, long ago I adjusted my withholding lower at work. I'd rather have a smooth income all year long, instead of scrimping and then getting a big tax refund. But that means the tax savings we've been using for living expenses is actually the result of a gift from DMom, even though the money doesn't come directly from her. It's a tax break we wouldn't get on our own, since we couldn't afford to put that much away ourselves.

The result is, if DMom doesn't do it this year and I leave the withholding the same, we'll owe a big chunk on taxes in the spring, maybe even a penalty for not having enough withheld. So I just upped my withholding and now have to figure out where to find another $100 a month to keep our budget in the black.

Now, my mom's "mights" don't often come to fruition. I'll be really surprised if she actually moves ahead with the home improvement projects. Even if she does, she's apt to give us the IRA funds anyway. Although it might be next April 14--I think she likes to keep us guessing. Wink But preparing for the worst seems like the safest course.

Cards, cards and more cards

July 15th, 2005 at 01:08 pm

I think I'll be shopping more at Target. Yesterday DMom and I stopped there after our lunch out. I figured I try to get as much done there as I could, being I had those discounted gift cards to use. It turned out great. Their prices aren't bad to begin with, and when you're saving another 20% on top... I saved myself extra stops at a dollar store and Petsmart and didn't pay very much more. Worth every extra penny to save trips! I plan on ordering more gift cards as soon as I can.

DMom and I had lunch at Charlie Brown's. She really likes their salad bar so we go there fairly often. It wasn't til yesterday I bothered to ask about their free "handshake card" program. You can get $10 gift certificates two different ways--each time your spending adds up to $200, and on your birthday. Or on the birthdays of the other family members you listed when you signed up. DMom's birthday is in a few weeks, so she should be getting a certificate right away; and DH's is in August, so we should get one for him soon also. Smile

I also joined BJ's Warehouse yesterday because of a 60-day free trial offer. I don't know if it'll be worthwhile, but I'm willing to give it a try. Yes, yet another card to try and cram into my wallet. Wink

It comes in and it goes out...

July 13th, 2005 at 04:18 pm

First of all, thanks for the recent comments and making me feel better about not chucking everything to start a business. Wink

Things had been looking good, good enough to start spending a little. I'd downgraded our phone service, cable tv, internet service and car insurance, if you remember. Things are selling on Amazon. I got an interest check recently that was higher than I'd expected. After the new bills came in and I plugged the new figures into my spreadsheet, it looked like we'd have a few hundred dollars extra, even after allowing for $200 a month in emergencies like car repairs.

I sent in a nice extra chunk to the Discover card, and started spending a little here and there to kind of spruce things up a little--
$2 for some extra washcloths so we wouldn't run out before laundry day
$7 for a lamp to replace one that stopped working
$24 for a new TV remote (Had to get the exact kind that came with the TV, because the regular universal remotes don't work with TV/VCR combo units. At least I found it slightly used on Ebay, which saved a little.)
Plus the clothes I'd started buying with the discounted gift cards from Galleria

I even figured out we could continue with DVD rentals through the mail, after our trial period ran out.

Now I just got our new property tax bill, which comes to $256 more a year. Not a very big jump, but it just about eats up our overage. Sigh. Well, we'll have enough to cover this first quarter, and I've upped the amount going into the special ING savings account I have set up for the taxes.

The Reallionare book

July 11th, 2005 at 06:25 pm

What I liked about it--

--The author was obviously born with a gift for communicating, like Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan or Martin Luther King, Jr. It will be interesting to watch what he's doing in future years.
--He does obviously work hard, and has a lot of courage.
--He and his family have lived very interesting lives, and the book is a page-turner.


What bugs me about it--

--He has never actually held a job. His mother taught him that "only a fool would work himself to death for someone else," and that if you work a 9-5 job, all you will ever be is "Just Over Broke." Instead of suggesting people start side businesses, or start businesses later with money saved from a paycheck, he kind of makes it sound like we are all fools for working regular jobs at all.

--His mother had tried starting many businesses over the years, but they were still living in poverty when the book began. At one point she used the rent money to fund business proposal materials and didn't get the contract. All they were left with in the world was $40. She risked that rent money with several kids at home, knowing they'd probably be evicted, having experienced living in a car with them once already. She ended up applying for public assistance and food stamps. Nowhere in the book is anything said about this whole episode being a mistake, let alone irresponsible. Instead, his mother is held up as a hero.

--He was taught that "hustling" is a good thing. (I actually looked up definitions of hustling, just to make sure I wasn't misinterpreting what he meant. The definitions I found all pretty much have to do with pressuring people, deceiving them, misrepresenting yourself, and making ends meet through questionable means)

--He makes it sound like even though you have no money, you can become a partner in a new business and immediately be able to afford moving to a luxury apartment. This is supposedly what happened with his mother. I don't buy it, and I think it's a bad idea to give people false hopes about such quick results.

--In two little paragraphs at the end of the book, we find out that he actually LOST much of his money in late 2001.

Is is worth a read? Yes. Does it show a good plan to follow if you want to build financial security for the long term? Not exactly. As far as I'm concerned. the book is full of risky ideas I want to avoid! It's back to titles like Get Rich Slowly, for me. Wink

Frugal Saturday, Escapist Sunday

July 10th, 2005 at 12:29 pm

Saturday was kind of money-oriented, but now I've had enough and need a day off!

--Mailed a book that sold on Amazon. DH had gotten it free at work when someone was throwing it away.
--Went to the public library to pick up requests; one of the books was about money, Reallionaire by Farrah Gray.
--Went to the used bookstore to use some of our credit from last week. Many of the books we'd turned in were more freebies DH had brought home, plus some old ones of our own that were too low-priced on Amazon to bother selling there. One item I got was an audio version of "How to get out of debt, stay out of debt and live prosperously." Also found several books on the $1 shelf I can sell on Amazon for much more.
--Listened to the "out of debt" audio in the kitchen while I made banana bread to use up two over-ripe bananas.
--Read the Reallionaire book. It's supposed to be inspirational--a kid from the projects actually became a millionaire as a teenager, after selling a food company he started at age 13. But there's something disturbing about it, which is hard to put my finger on exactly. Maybe will post more about it later. If anyone else has read the book, I'd be interested in your comments.

Today I think I'll get out in the fresh air, do some yard work and forget about everything else. Smile

Figuring out how to cut down on food spending

July 5th, 2005 at 01:20 pm

I thought I'd look at the past week's grocery shopping to see where that extra $10 or so is going every week. My theory was that I'm spending too much on groceries, and DH and I are overweight, so therefore I must be spending too much on junk food. But when I looked through my receipts, that didn't seem to be the main problem--at least for this past week.

Here's some stuff I think I could save on, without too much extra work.

--Buying ground beef in bulk, maybe even at Aldi's, instead of $1 a burger for preformed 80% lean burgers at Pathmark's meat counter. (The cheap frozen ones haven't worked out for us because it's hard to pry just 2 burgers off at a time.)

--Buying Aldi's vegetable soup again for 1/5 the regular price of Campbell's Chunky. (Maybe get Campbell's as a treat when it's on sale and I have a coupon.)

--Buying Aldi or Save A Lot packaged cold cuts instead of Oscar Mayer bologna for $2.89. I need something on hand for when the fresh-sliced deli stuff runs out, but it could be a lot cheaper. I can't imagine the OM bologna is any healthier than the store-brand stuff, especially something like turkey.

In other words, I've got to work on buying cheaper alternatives to basically the same thing. At least that's my lession from this past week.





June Report / July Plan

July 1st, 2005 at 12:54 pm

No more ranting, back to work. Wink

What didn't work in June - the BudgetMap system
It was cumbersome to use, so instead of recording my spending more often than before, I didn't record it at all for days on end.

What I'm trying in July - Keeping a little spiral notebook and a pen in my purse and car
The important thing is to jot everything down right away, every time. I can always move it into Quicken or a spreadsheet later on. I'll also be trying to sell my leftover BudgetMap materials online this month.

What didn't work in June - The food budget
I can't seem to get below $600 a month for groceries, pet food, and take-out. But I'm supposed to be keeping it to $557 to make our budget work. What I've been doing is watching store ads, collecting coupons, and making 2 or 3 market trips a week trying to get the best deals. But maybe looking at all those ads is just making me buy things I wouldn't have otherwise. And it also uses gas. (I was over budget on that, too.)

What I'm trying In July - A radical experiment
I'm not going to look at the food ads. I'm going to make shopping lists based on what we need and want, rather than what the stores are pushing. I'll go to an extra store to get something I can't find elsewhere, but not to save 35 cents on a sale item. I'm really curious to see whether I end up spending more, or less.