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Archive for April, 2006

A bird in the hand...

April 30th, 2006 at 08:17 pm

is worth two in the bush, as they say.

This weekend I was able to take advantage of some quick freebies, a nice change from watching and waiting.

1) Got an unexpected $11 rewards check from Staples, apparently from the purchase of my mother's computer. Used it to replace printer paper that I'd given my mother, and bought 3 boxes of Nonni's chocolate biscotti. 1 box for us to keep, 2 for my mother (part of Mother's Day).

2) Saw an offer where you sign up for weekly emails from Office Depot, and they send you an email with a coupon for a $10 package of CD-R disks. Printed it out right away, and picked up the disks on the way to Pathmark.

3) At Pathmark, bought a ton of Kimberly-Clark products to generate $8 in coupons toward my next order. The stuff was on sale to begin with, and I had coupons. Nice to have the coupons in hand, rather than having to do a Walgreen's rebate and wait for the savings.

4) Found a new printable coupon on Entertainment.com, for a restaurant we've been wanting to try. Had a nice dinner Saturday night, for $6 off.

TOPS, and Weight Loss Plan B

April 27th, 2006 at 08:33 pm

Sorry so many posts in one day!

As I posted before, I was going to try TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly) as it was about the lowest cost weight loss organization I could find. My plan was to visit the local chapters my schedule would allow, and then settle on one to attend every week. The cost was supposed to be $24 a year, and $1 a week to the local chapter.

Yes, the dues are $1 a week but more is expected to be put out, if you're going to go along with the group and fit in.

The smaller, laid-back group played bingo regularly and other little contests that cost money. It would have been a minimum of $3 a week even there. Not much, but they told me flat out they only had "fun" programs, as they'd all been trying to lose weight for a long time and knew what to do. It was just a matter of doing it. I didn't see much chance for support and inspiration there.

The larger, more active group had raffles and 50-50 drawings. Plus they were very enthused about attending the state level events every year. Which can involve fees, special shirts so everyone matches, renting a hotel room, etc. I could see there would always be pressure to spend more than I wanted to, if I wasn't always going to be the odd bird. For the amount of money I'd end up spending with them, I might as well be going to Weight Watchers or rejoining the gym.

So, I'm going online only.

Mucho Mulch

April 27th, 2006 at 06:39 pm

I don't know whether to say I've committed myself to a lot of gardening, or say I should be committed. (Especially after that dream, LOL!) But I've just ordered 3 yards of mulch to be delivered next week, for $85.

BTW, there is a neat mulch calculator here, to figure out how much you'll need:

www.gardenplace.com/content/calculator/mulch_calc.html

The minimum most places will deliver here is 3 yards. One place would do 2 yards, but their price was the same as 3 yards other places. I checked Lowe's, and buying it by the bag looks more expensive. Plus, it would take multiple trips back and forth for enough bags, since we don't have a truck anymore. Then there's the work of lugging the bags out of the car each time, before you even start working in the garden.

My only concern is, am I getting a fair deal. They made a mistake and charged me for more expensive stuff than what I ordered. Then they didn't know how to fix the cc charge or issue a credit on the cc. (They're going to send cash over when they deliver.) Now I wonder how I'll ever be able to tell if I get a full 3 yards' worth. They showed me a scoop that's supposed to hold the amount I'm getting, but I can't imagine it would hold 42 bags of the mulch I saw at Lowe's. (That's what the mulch calculator says is the equivalent.)

I guess the only way I'll know is if it goes as far as I think it should. If not, next time I'll get it at Lowe's--at least I'll know I'm getting the right amount.

Good Vibrations

April 23rd, 2006 at 08:31 pm

It's been a really nice 3-day weekend for DH and I.

Friday night, we went to see the Beach Boys in concert. Well, there's only one Beach Boy left touring in the "official" band (Mike Love), but they put on a great show. John Cowsill (yes, of those Cowsills) was even part of the lineup. I never realized what a great voice he had. At the end of the concert, they put "Hit the Road, Jack" by Ray Charles on the sound system to start everyone moving out. Virtually everyone was smiling and singing along, as we all left the theater. A wonderful experience.

Saturday was rainy, good for a relaxing day at home. Picked up 3 new books at the library, and new Netflix arrived. I got an emailed voucher for a $50 Mercury Milan test drive, and the new Schwab Visa I applied for arrived in the mail. ($100 gift card after first purchase.) I didn't have to cook dinner as we got take-out bbq chicken dinners from my mother's church.

Today, I found out about the $20 Ford Fusion test drive, which was going on at a mall not too far away. So I took a couple of hours for myself, and had a pleasant little outing. The test drive was painless, and I got to treat myself to $20 worth of stuff from The Coffee Beanery with the gc. Samples of different flavored coffees, chocolate covered coffee beans, and a little caddy for used teabags. None of which I would have actually put money out for, but will enjoy for weeks to come.

It's going to be a long week, as I'm working some extra hours. But I'll be going back fully revived for once. Smile



Time and money, a new perspective

April 21st, 2006 at 12:47 pm

I've always assumed it was more time-consuming to live on a low budget. For example, keeping a price book, cooking from scratch, doing things for yourself rather than paying for a service.

But I've been feeling kind of frazzled lately, and realized something strange. It can be even more time-consuming to have money on hand!

The health insurance stuff is finally straightened out, and money available in the HSA. So over the past few weeks, I've had to find time for a dental appt, a doctor appt, and a mammogram.

If I didn't have $500 I could spare to do the Netbank deal, I wouldn't have that deal to keep track of.

If I didn't have money for buying clothes, I wouldn't be spending time shopping for, buying, or returning things.

If I didn't have money for mulch, I wouldn't have to buy, haul and spread it.

If we couldn't afford to catch up on deferred maintenance requiring the electrician or the plumber, I wouldn't have to get hold of them, schedule appts and arrange to be home.

If we didn't have money going into IRAs and a 401K, I wouldn't have to spend time figuring out how to allocate the funds.

If our only income was from working, our taxes would be a lot simpler.

I mean, really, it's a relief to be able to start catching up on things. But I'd forgotten how much time it takes to actually DO things. As opposed to spending hours online, or reading, or watching movies because you don't have the money to do much else.

You win some, you lose some

April 20th, 2006 at 04:47 pm

I've been trying to neaten things up this morning, and thought I'd find out exactly when and where I can take those aluminum cans we've been crushing for 4 months.

I found out they're paying 25 cents a pound, which doesn't sound too bad except the cans are pretty light. I got on the scale with and without the bag of cans, and the cans appear to only weigh about 8 pounds. That's $2--meaning it will take over 2 years to recoup the cost of the can crusher!

Oh, well, there is the entertainment factor in crushing the cans... Wink

Saving $25

April 20th, 2006 at 12:35 pm

Was at the doctor's this week, and remembered to ask him to write up my prescription for larger quantities at a time. The pharmacist had told me I'd save a little that way. As it turned out, it was very little--I saved $3 by getting a 3-month supply instead of one. Seemed hardly worthwhile, until I figured it out would save $12 over the course of a year.

Then I ordered some rawhide bones for the dog, and noticed that shipping would be free if I bought more at a time. So I ordered a 6-month supply instead of a 3-month supply. It only saved $3.38. But by ordering this amount twice a year, instead of smaller orders 4x a year, it will save $13.52.

A good reminder to myself that small changes really do add up over time.

Happy Easter, and may your egg win!

April 16th, 2006 at 04:29 pm

We used to call this game Eggie Uppers.

familycrafts.about.com/cs/misceastercrafts/l/blegggame.htm

It's all in the details

April 12th, 2006 at 03:22 pm

And sometimes it's tedious and frustrating.

Last night I was happy to find some lipstick on Ebay that I can't always find in stores, and went through MyPoints Insider's Club just in case they refunded shipping on Ebay purchases. However, even if they do, I'll be out of luck. I forgot the purchase had to be done on a credit card that's registered with the Insider's Club...and paid for it out of my checking account. Duh!

I just got an offer from Citicard, where I get $10 extra dividend dollars when I make my first purchase through their Dividend Merchant Network. So I went to register for it, and it said I already had. It said I could have a new username and password emailed to me--but apparently I'd used an email address I haven't had in over a year. So I had to call and find out what to do. It took calling two different phone numbers and going through 3 CSRs to get it straightened out. (Although I'd signed up before, I'd never used the program, so it looks like I'm still eligible for the $10.)

I figured while I was setting things like this up, I might as well get Fatwallet Fat Cash up and running. I tried to use it before, but it didn't work for me. So today I got around to looking at their "Cash Back Solutions" where they walk you through computer settings that might be hindering things. There were 13 printed pages of things to go through!

So. I now have access to all these programs. Plus AAA deals, and AARP deals, and general Mastercard and Visa deals. How on earth to keep track of which program has which stores, what the % off is, which cc and email address I need to use with each one, who has free shipping anyway, and which stores I can easily get discounted gift cards for.

The only thing I can think of is to assemble a spreadsheet with stores down the left, and then columns for each discount program where I can enter the % discount and any other notes. If anyone's seen something like this online, already assembled, I'd sure like to use it and save myself some work!

I could kick myself! -- Insider's Club

April 10th, 2006 at 02:19 pm

I joined the Insider's Club at MyPoints over the weekend, and re-explored the stores on MyPoints. Sheesh--just within the past couple of weeks I've bought stuff at several of their stores. I did look up coupon codes and used the cc with the best rewards, but I would have certainly saved more money with the shipping rebates. Not to mention, I didn't earn the MyPoints! So thanks for all the info on it.

I didn't know they'd offer $10 back on my next purchase through MyPoints, over and above the shipping rebates. I'm about shopped out now, and have spent way too much time trying to figure out what I could really use at this point! Finally settled on some batteries at Ace Hardware. After the $10 back, it will come to 59 cents for an 8-pack of C's.

BTW, the offer I got was $6.99 a month for membership, but billed annually. So I'm preparing for a hit of $83.88 after the 30-day intro period. The good news is, if you quit before the year's up, you're supposed to get a pro-rated refund. Also, it looks better than Amazon Prime because it covers so many more stores.

Thanks again!

4-week report

April 8th, 2006 at 10:44 pm

Total cc debt as of 4/8 - $3537, ($3906 on 3/11), down by $369

Emergency fund as of 4/8 - $511, ($441 on 3/11), up by $70

We aren't quite caught up to where we were as of February 11, but we're moving in the right direction again.

Everyday expenses 4 weeks ending 4/8, $506, which is fine. Anything around $545 or under, I feel pretty good about.


I think it was a very good month, especially considering--

It was quarterly utilities month, about $190 for water and two sewer bills (one municipal and one county)
It was time to put money on the Virgin Mobile phones, about $111
It was our nephew's birthday, which required a gift, $20
I did quite a bit of discretionary spending on clothes, about $115
Joined TOPS, $24
Bought that beer! $18

I did charge quite a bit of this for convenience and the rewards, but paid it off right away. It helped that I worked some extra hours, and we didn't have to pay an electric bill this month.

Today's money-generating task was calling Discover card, and trying to cancel. I really was ready to cancel, as there isn't much reason for me to keep it. But I figured if they made me an offer I couldn't refuse, I'd keep it awhile longer. Wink They did--a $20 rebate when I make a purchase within 30 days. Smile

Two more money-generating tasks

April 8th, 2006 at 01:59 am

First, thanks for all your supportive comments. Smile

This morning I opened a Netbank checking account for the $75 bonus. I'm hoping that once I've left $500 there for the required 30 days, I'll have another $500 free to add to it. Then I can put $1000 into their money market for another $75.

I missed doing anything to generate money yesterday, and was looking for something small to catch up with today. And...

After months of nothing, tonight I got the chance to do a survey for Stanford Research for a $5 Amazon gc. I hopped right on it so I wouldn't miss out. What an exciting Friday night! Wink

$45 more a month, burning a hole in my pocket

April 6th, 2006 at 01:49 pm

My 2nd, smaller raise of the year starts this month. It's for "longevity" and starts now because it's my anniversary month. In my last job, we got this kind of bonus in a lump sum once a year. But here, it's just added onto your pay each week. It will come to about $30 a month.

I also found out the budget billing for our electric is going down by $15 a month.

I was >>THIS

Cost per pound lost

April 6th, 2006 at 01:35 pm

Thought I'd post some interesting stuff I found online, about the cost to lose a pound using different weight loss programs. It really reinforces my decision to try TOPS. I may not be successful in getting and keeping much weight off, but at least I won't bankrupt myself in trying:

From http://www.naafa.org/press_room/rush.html

(costs per pound lost)

"Medically supervised, very low calorie diets
HMR $7.94
Medifast $6.85
Optifast $9.88
United Weight Control $11.56

Balanced low calorie diets run by dietitians or non-medical personnel
Diet Center $4.08
Jenny Craig $10.43
Nutrisystems $8.62
Registered Dietitian $5.80
Weight Watchers $1.10

Volunteer-staffed or self-health support groups
TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly) $0.03
Overeaters Anonymous $0.00
Source: Journal of the American College of Nutrition"



From http://www.guideline.gov/summary/summary.aspx?ss=15&doc_id=3...

"COST ANALYSIS
It is not known whether weight-loss interventions are cost effective or cost beneficial, given that weight loss is generally not sustained. Studies suggest that a sustained 10% weight loss is expected to extend life expectancy by 27 months and to reduce expected lifetime medical care costs of chronic medical conditions (diabetes, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, coronary artery disease, and stroke) by $2200$5300. One study suggests that surgical intervention may be more cost effective in the long run than medical treatments because of persistent weight reduction after surgery. However, in that study the average cost per pound of weight loss was approximately $250."

(Makes you wonder if it's worthwhile to deprive yourself for years, to extend your life only 2 months and save only $2200!)


From http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A45499-2005Jan...

"Price is likely to put many of the programs beyond reach of those trying to achieve a healthy weight, the study found. The medically supervised programs, which also provided food, cost the most, ranging from $840 to $2,100 for three months, or "about $50 per pound lost," Wadden said.

Jenny Craig cost $1,249 for three months, including all daily food. Both Weight Watchers and L.A. Weight Loss cost about $170 for three months, while Ediets.com was $65, TOPS $26 and OA had no charge."

Car inspection, and gift cards

April 4th, 2006 at 01:51 pm

These are my little money tasks for the day.

I haven't posted about this before, but I'm doing something different with the the PNC account I opened awhile back. I found out I could split the direct deposit of my paycheck, so I now have $140 a week going into the PNC account. That's just enough to cover the Everyday Expenses budget, the newspaper subscription and Netflix.

My current Everyday Expenses cycle is over on April 8, and there isn't much left in the budget. But there IS money left in the PNC account, because part of the spending was from Petsmart gift cards. So I'm using part of the extra cash to buy more discounted gift cards, which will help even more cash build up in the account. Kind of a snowball effect.

It's car inspection month for me, and I think I'll get it done this morning. I'm anxious to do the Netbank checking account offer for $75, but they want you to keep a $500 balance for at least a month. Before I tie up that money, I want to know how much I might have to spend to get the car up to snuff.

Credit Protector, part 2

April 3rd, 2006 at 02:30 pm

I decided I'd try to do one little thing each day this week, to help our finances. No matter how busy the day is.

Today is my long day at work, but this morning I called Credit Protector and asked if there was any way I could get more of the rebate vouchers like the $20 one I got when I signed up. (Over at Fatwallet, rumor was you didn't really need to threaten to cancel, just ask.) It worked! $50 in rebate vouchers should be here within 7-10 days. (5 x $10 each)

Easy money, although slow. I can send in receipts for anything, such as groceries or gas I need to buy anyway, so it's not much of a risk. And rebates aren't taxable. No reason NOT to do it, really.