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Archive for June, 2006

Clothes shopping

June 26th, 2006 at 03:15 pm

LRJohnson's post about not liking to shop, a post at another blog about clothes, and the sale yesterday at Catherines, all got me pondering this.

Very rarely, when I'm feeling kind of burned out, I do like to do some window shopping where there is lots of color and pattern around. Plant nurseries, fabric stores, Pier One, Linens & Things, even Target's housewares. It revives me somehow. I also like bookstore trips where I do nothing but write down titles to look for at the library. And sometimes I'll try on new styles of clothes just to see if they suit me. (Usually not, and I stay in my rut!)

But other than that, I'm not much of a recreational shopper. I dislike malls. I really don't like going to yard sales and thrift shops where you have to sift through 999 random items to find something you might be able to use.

I've bought a couple of things recently, the MP3 player and a shredder, where I found a good deal on Fatwallet, went to a store for that specific item, and was done. That's my kind of shopping!

As far as clothes, I wish I could get my shopping down to a science, as this fellow has done (read toward the end): askunclebill.typepad.com/my_weblog/2006/05/the_clothes_mak.h...
He buys suits twice a year when a certain store has a sale, he buys certain standard shirts over and over, when Lands End has a sale, etc.

I think it's easier for men. Women's styles change more over the years, and you can't count on getting favorite styles again. I don't know how many "favorite" bras I've found, that have been discontinued before it's time to buy them again. Same with jeans and slacks and blouses. Stores you counted on go out of business, or the buyer at a certain store changes and they no longer carry what you've always gotten there.

That's why I was so excited about the Catherines sale. In recent years, I can always find something there and at Dress Barn. (Yesterday's sale netted a 2-piece dress and 4 prs of nice underwear for less than $25.) In fact, there was more usable stuff there than I had money to spend. I also went to Boscov's, where the women's department is larger than a whole Catherines store--and found absolutely nothing. I'm about done with Boscov's except for shoes.

I'm on vacation this week, and I was going to make myself check out two Goodwill stores, a plus-size consignment store, and maybe an outlet mall I've never been to. I know some people get great deals at these kinds of places, so I wanted to give them a chance, again.

But if I'm honest with myself, I just don't want to spend my time that way, looking for a needle in a haystack. I'd rather just concentrate on C and DB, where there's a better chance of actually finding something.

Big sale at Catherine's tomorrow :)

June 24th, 2006 at 10:56 pm

Catherine's is a plus-size clothing chain.
It's a good idea to get on their email list, as well as their snail mail list, for occasions like this. I just got an email telling me that tomorrow only most full-price items are 40% off (in-store and online), and clearance items are an extra 50% off (online only).

And what I've discovered is, if something goes on sale just after you've bought it, they will give you back the difference. So I'll be heading over to see if I can get $6 back on some unmentionables I just bought, and try to get a dress on sale.

An added motivation

June 22nd, 2006 at 01:50 pm

Yesterday DH heard a credible rumor at work, that where he works might be sold. Some of his co-workers looked it up online, and it's actually been in the news. They should know more in 30-45 days.

It might fall through. His job might be perfectly secure even if it is sold. But it's still kind of unsettling, and another spur to get the credit card debt paid off, and more money in the bank.

If those Japanese prosperity coins are still circulating, could someone put me on the list to get one next? I think we can use all the luck we can get. Smile

A/C in car not working--hope I don't stink at work tomorrow!

June 21st, 2006 at 01:11 am

I hope to get it fixed on Thursday, but in the meantime, I need to work tomorrow. :O

I can't say I'm completely surprised. I've noticed an odd smell this season, when I had the a/c on. I've probably been breathing in refrigerant for the past few weeks, yuck. At least there's still well over $400 in the Emergency Fund.

Financial plans for the week

June 19th, 2006 at 12:30 pm

It's going to be a busy week. I want to get a lot of Life In General stuff done, so when I'm on vacation next week I can just relax and have fun. Figured I'd post my financial goals for the week so that I don't forget any, and as a record in case I get too busy with other stuff to post here.

--Copy and mail the Suzuki test drive and Laughing Cow rebate
--Contact Smucker's about their awful sugarfree jam (DONE)
--Contact the shrink-wrapped-microwave-ready-potato people about moldy potatoes (DONE)
--Make the extra-large cc payment to bring balance below $2000 (DONE)
--After money arrives in checking from ING, open money market account at NetBank for $75 bonus (don't know of a way to get it directly from ING to NetBank) (DONE)
--After bill-closing date on the Citi card, order my Passport to Fun gift cards for the month (DONE)
--Find out whether buying gift cards at my supermarket will go toward the amount I have to spend for a promotion they're running
--Cancel Buyer's Advantage (DONE)
--Letter to Upromise for withdrawal of $25 (have to get notarized)
--Finish weeding and organizing the coupon exchange box at work (IN PROCESS)

Added Goal: Order checks? Looks like I might be on the last pad for our main account. (DONE-Used Checkworks. One box of 150 should last about 2 years.)

Two new tires, $244.68

June 18th, 2006 at 11:37 am

Actually, it worked out well on many levels.

I took a walk yesterday morning, and on the way back noticed one of my tires was flat as a pancake. It was beyond saving, with both a screw stuck in it AND the steel belt thingies starting to show. I've had a weird shimmy thing going on, and was afraid something big and expensive was wrong. Turns out it was only the bad tire, because with the spare on, everything was back to normal.

I'm so glad I got home from work ok on Friday. I'm so glad I wasn't scheduled to work Saturday morning. I'm so glad it went flat from the screw, instead of eventually blowing out while I was driving. I've been keeping an eye on a front tire with a slow leak, but I never thought to look closely at the other ones.

I checked around online, and the consensus seems to be that Costco has the best price on tires. And on the face of it, it looks like I would have saved $60 going there, even after paying the membership fee.

However, the closest one is 30+ minutes away. I probably would have been tempted to buy stuff inside Costco that I didn't really need. I would have had to pay extra for an alignment, while at Firestone it was free because I'd paid for lifetime alignments. And if we had to take advantage of Costco's road hazard coverage, we'd have to drive that 30+ minutes again to do so.

Enough was in the Emergency Fund (yay!) and it's DONE. So I'm content to have done it this way.

Joys of a half-empty fridge

June 17th, 2006 at 11:52 am

Our fridge is looking emptier and emptier lately, as a result of a slower shopping pace. If anyone looked in it day before yesterday, they'd think we were flat broke.

Yesterday morning I thought I'd get a head start on dinner and make up my salmon patty mixture. It was a pleasure to be able to actually fit the bowl in the fridge. There was still more room, and I still had time. So I made chocolate pudding and mixed up a pitcher of diet lemonade. Also hard-boiled the end of the eggs.

I like the idea of cooking from scratch and making things ahead, but rarely do it. And now I'm aware of one reason why. Trying to find ingredients in an over-stuffed fridge is hard. Trying to fit prepared foods into same is also hard. So I don't do it.

I'm going to make a conscious effort to get used to the look of a fridge with plenty of open space.

Finally feels like progress

June 15th, 2006 at 02:49 pm

Unexpected funds and lucky breaks keep turning up lately. Thank you, Benevolent Universe, God, or whatever name you choose to give it. Smile

So instead of having to make smaller payments on the cc debt, right now it looks like I'll be able to throw some extra against it and have it paid off by the end of the year. It looks like I can get it down to $1999 by the end of June. Below $2000. I'm psyched!

DH's 14-yr-old car actually passed inspection this morning, on the first try. So no inspection-related repairs will be needed.

I just qualified for a focus group, to be held during my vacation week. It pays $75.

The $25 Great Fun/Buy.com rebate actually came, much to my surprise.

A $25 CVS gc offer came to me in my maiden name, at my mother's house. I didn't even have to switch a prescription, just give them my info.

I forgot about the $350 property tax rebate we should be getting in October.

I even got a free breakfast sandwich this morning; it was time to pull them and the store was giving them away rather than just tossing them.

Sometimes you're stuck in a run of bad luck, and sometimes you're in the flow where good things keep happening. I know it won't last forever, but I'm sure enjoying this while I can.

Podcast Interviews with other financial bloggers!

June 14th, 2006 at 01:25 pm

moneybloggerpodcast.blogspot.com//

Neat! This guy interviews bloggers who write on financial topics. It's really interesting to hear why other people started blogging, how they approach it, and the responses they've gotten. It's especially interesting to hear the voice that goes with a blog you've been reading. OTOH, in several cases hearing the interview has sent me off to explore a blog I never heard of before.

Maybe someday one of us will be interviewed!

One question he seems to ask of each blogger is, why do you think so many people have such big debt problems? The usual answers are easy credit and so much advertising. However, the answer I keep coming back to, for myself, is not really knowing what we can afford. Still. After blogging here for a year, using Quicken for years before that, and trying other budget methods in between.

The only solution I can see is, get as much out of our main checking account as possible, and into accounts for specific purposes. Then I'd know whatever was left in checking after paying the bills was ok to spend. I've done this to some extent, but I'd like to go further. Will be crunching some numbers this weekend.

Book Review-Green With Envy

June 14th, 2006 at 12:15 pm

Subtitle, why keeping up with the Joneses is keeping us in debt. By Shira Boss.

Nothing terribly profound or new, but it was a quick, interesting read. I'd recommend it as a library borrow, but it wouldn't be worth buying IMHO.

The author and her husband were going through a rough period financially, and it looked to them like their peers and neighbors were doing much better. However, one day she overheard a seemingly rich neighbor talking about financial problems, and her curiosity was piqued.

She found a way to get the low-down on the neighbor's situation, and then went on to do more interviews on the same theme--how did actual financial situations differ from how they appeared?

The most surprising part was the chapter on congressmen who have such a hard time financially they have to sleep in their offices!

I did find it hard to have much sympathy for the ultra-rich, whose main problems seem to be 1) a lack of privacy because of all the servants in the house, and 2) boredom because of not having to work. I'm sorry, their money still gives them choices the rest of us don't have.

An interesting tip, if you are husband- or wife-hunting and living in the Northwest. Apparently many children of the wealthy, from the Northeast, are relocating to the Northwest and trying to live life like "normal" people. So if you meet a nice starving artist in Seattle, give them a chance. They might be a millionaire in hiding. Smile

Latest experiment seems to be working

June 10th, 2006 at 11:48 pm

Just finished my first full week of the new month, where I'm trying to spend more slowly by limiting myself to $15 a day. I've ended up right on target, having spent $105 this week (including one take-out dinner of cheese steaks). We've had to do without a couple of things for a day or two, but it hasn't been awful. There always seem to be substitutes, if we look around at home.

Here's a comparison of how I've been spending during the first week of each month:

May $187
April $198
March $167
February $212
January $254

Obviously, the pace IS much slower and there should be a lot more money left toward the end of the month. So I will keep going with it for now.



4-week report, a bit late

June 8th, 2006 at 01:10 pm

For me, May ended on June 3.

CC balance down to $2808 from $2972, a reduction of $164.

Emergency fund balance down to $681 from $716, a reduction of $35. (No good reason except I had to move money into checking because of a cash flow problem--bills being due just before paychecks coming in. Will be moving money back in as soon as the election pay comes in.)

Net improvement $129.

Everyday Expenses came to $594, well over where I want to be. I feel good about stocking up on some good deals, but I still wish I could have stayed on budget overall. So far this month, doling myself out $15 a day, I do seem to be spending more slowly. Hopefully, I'll end up with better results by the end of the new 4-week period.

Doesn't sound like much progress, but when I look at our overall "current" net worth, it jumped up by $1180 this month! There's way more sitting in checking accounts, gift cards, ING goal accounts and the HSA. So I guess it was a pretty good month after all.

Back from Election Day, $200 richer (yawn)

June 7th, 2006 at 01:17 pm

It worked out well. It was a Primary with no hot contests, so there was very low voter turnout. Boring for the experienced workers, but fine for me since I was just learning. It's been interesting to see how the new computerized voting machines work, from both sides.

The day runs from 5:15 a.m. to after 8 p.m. with a one-hour break. However, you can bring snacks and reading material with you, and take bathroom breaks as needed. I packed food but also took some cash in case the other people wanted to order a pizza or something. But as it turned out, we were all kind of cheap and my only expense was 50 cents for coffee. (A retiree ran out to McD's and was able to get everyone's coffee at the senior citizen price. Smile)

I will definitely plan do it again in November. If I could work all elections during the year (primary, general, and school board) I'd be making an extra, pretty easy $600 a year. Smile

$15 a day - First Day

June 4th, 2006 at 04:36 pm

Thanks to some good sales, I was able to get quite a bit for less than $15.

IGA, one day sale on deli ham and cheese (1/2 pound each), plus a large carton of fat-free half and half, $5.27

Stop and Shop, Kraft buy 5 get $5 off promotion, used some coupons, and I got:
bread, a tomato, cottage cheese, cheese crumbles, two bars of 2% fat Cracker Barrel, soft light cream cheese with chives, a large bag of chips, and chow mein noodles for $8.58. The receipt says I saved $14.84.

Total, $13.85. The only thing we are missing is something dessert-y. I might make some peanut butter cookies this afternoon. Other than that, we have plenty of food to hold us for the next few days.

Time for a little levity. :)

June 4th, 2006 at 02:05 pm

www.the39dollarexperiment.com/
Takes Flash's idea of writing to companies to a silly extreme!

Example, "Before I feed Shagwell any type of pet snacks, I personally sample them to assess their quality and flavor. After all, if I think they taste bad, what is Shagwell expected to think? I just wanted to let you know that your "Dingoroo" dog treats taste excellent" (He got $25 worth of dog treats for that letter!)

www.grocerylists.org/top10/
A collection of grocery lists that are kind of funny because of misspellings or an odd combination of stuff.

Have a good day!



Learning to leave my Comfort Zone

June 3rd, 2006 at 02:37 pm

This seems to be my theme for the moment. Sorry I can't remember who, but someone else recently wrote about how things don't seem so difficult once they become a routine. It's so true.

There's the "utilitarian walking" thing. I feel funny about doing it, so I don't do it. If I'm going to do it, I'll just have to deal with feeling uncomfortable about it at first.

There's coloring my own hair. I haven't done it enough to make it routine. But millions of women do it; it shouldn't be that big a deal, once I get used to it.

There's the elections job. I've never done it before, and there's a lot to remember. I almost didn't call in to get my assignment because, well, because I'm a chicken! But I do want to try it, and it pays $200, so I'm going to push through the zone and do it.

There's the Suzuki test drive, where I'll have to go to the same pushy dealership I went six months ago for a previous test drive. For $50 I'll screw up my courage and give it a try.

I feel funny about shopping at Goodwill for clothes, and I dread the long drive. But I really ought to go, if I want to spend less on clothes this year.

The biggie is home improvement. I've kept putting off lots of stuff until we have the money to hire someone for this or that. But it doesn't look like we'll have much extra money for that for the forseeable future. Maybe it's time to move out of my comfort zone and try doing more things myself. I wonder if I can coat the driveway myself.

The only thing I have to fear, is fear itself.