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Archive for April, 2007

Today's compulsive little project

April 26th, 2007 at 12:13 pm

I started a new file in my shopping list program for keeping cost per portion info. (Such as, one Italian sausage is 50 cents and saltines cost less than a half a cent each.)

I figure I've been counting calories for almost 40 years, and it hasn't done me a whole lot of good. I'll try something new and see how much I've eaten in dollars and cents each day.

I thought of just continuing to track what I spent on groceries overall, but it would be hard to take into account how much DH and I each ate. Also, it wouldn't give me such a close look at which items are the best buy, like a banana vs. an individual applesauce cup.

What I found, and didn't find

April 25th, 2007 at 09:06 am

Made a trip to Aldi's last night, at what I hoped would be a slow time. I was able to take my time in the aisles, looking for things I couldn't find previously, and writing down prices.

Pleasant surprises:

Nonstick cooking spray (canola-based) $1.29
Turkey bacon $1.89
Splenda, in addition to their own brand of aspartame
Plain, nonfat yogurt
Sugar free "jello" and fat free pudding, in the refrigerated section $1.79 for 6 cups
Fat free "cool whip" 75 cents
Baked nacho tortilla chips $1.49
Mixaid (like Crystal Lite) $1.75
Lite mayo $1.49
Corn tortillas in the bread section, that I turn into baked chips myself, by slicing and baking, 89 cents
Sunflower seeds 39 cents
Tomato juice, large can 89 cents

Some disappointments:
No 1% milk; there's skim but I'm not wild about it
No reduced fat sour cream
No reduced fat sliced cheese
No vinegar besides white distilled (cookbooks say too harsh to be used in salad dressings)
Not much selection in bottled diet salad dressings
No flavored lite cream cheese, only plain
Diet frozen meals limited to "Lean Pocket" type wraps

Still and all, I think I'll find plenty to eat and lose weight. I'll try their diet dressings, and I'll try making some homemade ones calling for lemon juice rather than fancy vinegars.

How to eat healthy and lose weight with Aldi

April 24th, 2007 at 05:36 am

No, I'm not entering the blog contest. Wink Actually, I'm not even starting this project til May 1.

I signed up over on the Let's Lose A Person thread, and am getting nowhere. I need some way to jumpstart my weight loss, some way to make it interesting enough to stick with. The accountability of blogging helped me to get out of debt--maybe it could help me lose weight, too.

So, for the month of May, I'm going to eat nothing but Aldi food and see how it affects my weight and other health factors. I made a doctor's appointment for May 1, so I can get official weight and blood pressure numbers. And I'll be getting some long overdue blood work done this week, so I'll know where I'm starting with cholesterol and such. The trick might be getting a slip for more blood work after only a month!

I'm actually looking forward to working within a limitation like this--I think it can force you to be more creative. And being creative is usually fun. Wish me luck!

Still put-putting along

April 16th, 2007 at 11:37 am

Sorry about the new colors--I was going for Springy, but it's hard to tell what a color will look like from those little squares!

Last night and again this morning, I took the time to sign up for some freebies, and signed up for some good ones. Purina One (again!), Good Life Recipe pet food, a free book on Windows Vista, and a CD-ROM of computer games from AARP.

I've been trying to do advance food prep more often, like hard-boiling eggs and cutting up veggies. Hopefully it will help with eating healthier as well as cutting down on food waste. So far so good--I've put it into some task scheduling software I got recently, and it does seem to be helping.

Another task I put in was checking my Yahoo mail. It's where I get all my paid emails from MyPoints and Inbox Dollars. When I get busy with other things, I can go a whole month without dealing with those emails, and then the offers expire. I don't want to be checking all the time, but I do hate missing out on those points.

Telephone Day

April 15th, 2007 at 05:15 pm

Finally programmed the One Suite access number into speed dial. Our old AT&T phone card raised their rates, so I switched. But since I didn't have the One Suite number memorized, I was making in-state toll calls on our regular long distance carrier and generating a bill of about $2.50 a month. While the $15 I'd already paid to One Suite sat there unused.

Bought more minutes for my mother's MCI phone card, using my Discover card. She doesn't have credit or debit cards, so I use mine and she pays me back.

I also ordered a Virgin Mobile phone for her, as she finally decided a cell would be a good idea for emergencies. When it arrives, I'll be activating it online and setting up automatic billing through of of our cards, too.

I'd really like to stop using credit cards altogether, but I don't feel like I can front all of my mother's purchases out of cash yet. Hopefully sometime soon I'll have enough extra sitting in checking accounts so I can use debit cards for her stuff instead.

Even with earning 5% cash back on gas--I just want to get out of the habit. Every week when I get gas, it just reinforces the habit of using the card. All of a sudden, I just want out!

At least today I did switch billing for our long-distance from Discover to one of our debit cards.



Getting back on the wagon

April 14th, 2007 at 05:38 pm

For the first time in a long time, I managed to get through a whole work week without hitting the vending machine, or picking up coffee at Wawa!

I switched our cell phones to 18 cents a minute all the time on Virgin Mobile. Our original plan was 25 cents a minute for so many minutes a day, then the price per minute went down. But our calls are usually very short, so we never got the lower price.

I made the extra trip to Pathmark this week, as they had some things on sale cheaper than Wal-Mart. I made the effort to get rain checks on things they were out of. I also asked at Wal-Mart about their price matching policy.

I've been taking out $100 a week in cash to try and get used to using it for groceries and such. I want to see if it really does cause me to spend less than when I use debit or credit cards.

Why? I want to find some extra money for fun stuff. I can't get psyched to find extra money for savings, but spring clothes and plants seem to be a powerful motivator!

The most common emergencies

April 3rd, 2007 at 11:40 am

Bingo! Found a report that partially solves the "intangibility" problem for me.

Your kind comments yesterday also helped. Intangible is definitely the word for the problem. Earning interest in an incentive. And I can buy into the insurance deductible thing.

pewresearch.org/pubs/325/we-try-hard-we-fall-short-americans...

Thanks to My Money Blog, who mentioned it here:

www.mymoneyblog.com/archives/2007/02/americans-assess-their-...

The most common kinds of unexpected expenses are medical, car, home and housing, life events and children. The %'s for other occurrances is way lower.

We can save for medical deductibles and expenses in the HSA. I already have special savings accounts for car repair and replacement, household repairs and maintenance. That kind of leaves unemployment, veterinary expenses, and funding car and homeowner's insurance deductibles, and life event things like traveling for funerals.

The deductibles for car and homeowners comes to $2000.

Veterinary is kind of discretionary, and would depend on how much money we had on hand. Some people spend thousands trying to keep an animal alive, some would let a dog go naturally or have it put to sleep.

I can see building up the HSA to cover our $3000 annual medical deductible, and keeping $3000 handy for other deductibles, vet expenses and family events. We'd be covered for all the most common things.

I STILL can't see the point of building up even more cash-equivalent savings for remote possibilities I can't imagine, rather than increasing our retirement savings and getting the house paid off.

I haven't said so before, but we have some "untouchable" money in a regular brokerage account plus IRAs. It's not in the form of ready cash, but in the case of unemployment we could survive on it for well over a year. I don't see the point of cashing it out and putting it in the money market just because that's where Dave Ramsey says an emergency fund should be.

So I'm going to aim for $3000 in the HSA, and eventually $3000 in the money market, even though that's only a little over 2 month's expenses. And I'm going to concentrate on fully funding the HSA first, since medical expenses are the most common and we get a tax break.





Emergency Fund

April 2nd, 2007 at 05:58 am

I'm having trouble getting enthused about socking money away in a general Emergency Fund.

It's pretty easy for me to accept putting money away for specific purposes, like the property taxes or car repairs. I can see the purpose of the savings in my mind's eye.

But "emergencies" is so general, and the need to have the money on hand feels remote. It's been impossible for me to throw every extra penny toward building it up as Dave Ramsey recommends for "step 3"--it's even been uncomfortable trying to make myself get a small, steady monthly amount in there.

So I want to start keeping track of when it's come in handy, or would have if there'd been enough money in there.

March, Emergency vet visit - $460
April, PSE&G budget bill balancing - $102
Jan-March, costs of Indian meal moth infestation (airtight food containers and traps) - $60

That's a total of $622, or about $207 a month. I've been begrudgingly putting $100 or less a month into the EF account, and actually had to pay the vet bill out of the car/house repair money.

So, as of today I'm decreasing the amount automatically going into New Car Savings, and increasing the amount going into the EF. And I'll keep reminding myself here of why that's important.




Checking back in

April 1st, 2007 at 06:47 am

Gosh, I sure hope this new design is just for April Fool's Day. It's kind of weird having a guy's picture on the top of my blog!

I've been concentrating on other things lately, and let the blogging go. But I've got to start paying more attention to money again. I feel like it's been slipping through my fingers...

Let's see, our biggest financial hit recently was an emergency vet visit on a Sunday that cost $460--and the cat just turned out to have gas. (Did you know they give cats Zantac?) Today he's limping--and he's going to have to keep limping til a weekday.

Our neighbor the mechanic prefers to be paid in cash, and we both thought my car's problem was going to be an expensive one. So I took out $500 to be safe. It turned out to be much less, but it wasn't convenient to get the leftover money back into the bank right away. And so it just WENT. Since my last blog entry, I've gone through $164 in the "unaccounted for" category.

DH's boss is having a baby, and we ended up spending $56 on baby shower gifts. There was a group gift where each employee was expected to chip in $40, and then I was invited to a shower, which seemed to require an individual gift.

There's a possibility that my paycheck could actually go down this year. A new town government has come in that's decided to take away "longevity" bonuses from non-union workers. (The unionized ones would never agree to it.) That was a percentage of pay that was in every paycheck. We also don't know if we'll get much of a yearly raise or not. Usually we get the same % raise as the unionized workers, but there's no guarantee. It's possible we'd get no raise, and lose the longevity, resulting in a lower hourly rate. Keeping my fingers crossed.

On the positive side, I have not run up any debt during these little emergencies. I have two car test drives that haven't expired yet ($75), and I know of a couple of credit cards I could apply for that would give a bonus after the first purchase. It's a new month--gotta get cracking!

Well, that's the news from Lake Woebegone.