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Today's money-saving activities

September 2nd, 2013 at 06:28 am

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We are using up a slightly-outdated can of La Choy chow mein for tonight's dinner.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:

Death in the family

February 19th, 2008 at 06:02 am

One day we got a call that my MIL had a stroke, but not to worry because it appeared to be mild. A week later we were hundreds of miles from home, attending her viewing. I can't believe everything happened so fast. She was 90, so it shouldn't have been a surprise, but it was. She was still driving til the end, and had just cooked a big dinner the night before the stroke.

Since this is a financial blog, I'll try to write about things from that perspective.

First of all, when you're in a crisis situation like this, you can't always do things the cheapest way. We took Amtrak, which probably cost a bit more than driving would have been. But we didn't want to drive that far in wintry weather, on roads we weren't familiar with. We could have gotten a AAA discount if we could have made our reservations sooner, but we didn't know the date of the viewing and funeral til after the discount deadline. I also just found out we could have gotten a discount on one return fare with a coupon code, but I didn't have time to search for codes beforehand.

I'm glad that we still had a credit card, and I hadn't closed it out as per Dave Ramsey. It was nice to be able to charge the train fare, reserve the rooms, buy DH some clothes and pay for the local obituary FAST. I had enough to do without running around, getting extra money into the account that has the debit card and waiting for the deposit to clear. OTOH, I'm glad we had some money in the Emergency Fund so we can pay the bill off right away.

It's a good idea to always have suitable clothes on hand for a funeral (or wedding), and sufficient traveling gear. We hadn't traveled in years, and had gotten rid of some crummy old luggage without replacing it. I had to run out and buy a cheap set of suitcases at the last minute. (Nope, I didn't have the time to check where they were made!) Luckily, I'd bought DH some dress shoes on sale awhile back, even though he rarely needs them. He also still had a suit that fit. But he needed a new shirt, and a coat to wear over the suit. His old bomber jacket would have just looked embarrassing. It would have been a lot less stressful if we'd had all of this stuff on hand to begin with.

My oldest BIL is executor, and when we last saw him he was having trouble even finding my MIL's social security number. He hadn't really been involved with her paperwork over the years, and lives at a distance, so he's going to have quite a job finding and making sense of things. I'm more determined than ever to arrange things so DH can manage if something happens to me. He doesn't do computers at all, so this will mean converting back to paper in a lot of ways.

Finally, and most importantly, my MIL's eulogy reminded me to spend less time on finances and more time on enjoying life. The contrast with my own mother is marked. MIL didn't end up with a fortune, but she had a lot of travel and other fun under her belt. She enjoyed trying new things when she had the chance. My own mother has been very careful about money and everything else over the years. Rather than trying new things, she's apt to wonder "why would anyone want to do that?" She's a worrier from way back. So I've been thinking about how I'd rather hear my life summed up, at the end.

My plate is full

December 9th, 2007 at 08:43 am

Since DH left his job, all heck has broken loose. Not due to him--on the contrary, if he didn't have the time and energy to help with this stuff, I don't see how I could have managed. As it is, we are both feeling pretty stressed, and at times physically shaky.

In this entry, the financial front.

Just before DH left his job, he decided to get a tooth fixed. Looking back on it, I think he wanted to look better for job interviews, but it didn't occur to me at the time. That cost $1500.

I managed to pick up some extra hours at work, which covers our COBRA insurance almost exactly. My boss knows I'm ready to go full time and get benefits, and she'd like to give it to me, but it's not in the budget right now.

Still, the cheapest COBRA option (keeping the high deductible insurance and the HSA account) is $645 a month and it's kind of painful to pay. It's more than our mortgage! And we still have to find money to put into the HSA.

We had to start paying on life insurance for DH, because the only policy he had was at work. $94 a quarter.

In October, our dog had a swelling on her cheek that we thought might be a tumor. It was relatively good news--an abscessed tooth that needed to be removed. The vet visits, surgery and medicine totalled $605.

One of the little additions on our house had a much older roof than the main part, and it started to leak once in a while. It kept getting worse and in November we decided we'd better get it replaced before snow season started. Even I could see it was beyond repair, unless we just wanted to lay a tarp over it for the winter! $1125.

We rarely have flea problems, but our dog and cat both got them recently. I didn't have the stuff on hand, so I ordered it online for the best price I could find--just under $100.

It was our balance month for natural gas, and we owed $48 extra. We needed a new faucet cartridge, $22. DH worked on hedges at DMom's house, sliced the extension cord. New cord, $25. MIL needed her phone card re-upped due to a family emergency, $25. We've been very involved with DMom and MIL lately, which has made it harder to do things the cheap way. We've been indulging in some fast food and I'm just happy to get out shopping when I can, let alone following sales and using coupons.

Amazingly, we are still afloat financially so far. I had to charge a few things only because the emergency money I had to spend wasn't in the account with the debit card. As soon as I pay that bill, we'll be debt-free again except for the mortgage.

Oh, and all that subprime mortgage news that's been coming out has made me very, very nervous about our ARM, due to adjust in 3 years. So I set up an automatic extra payment to principal for $50 a month--don't know how much it will help in the long run, but it makes me feel better.

Next time, the family crises. (Oh, joy!)

Credit cards aren't cool, and cash isn't old-fashioned

August 14th, 2007 at 07:23 am

Found an study from the Federal Reserve about payment preferences, and it was really surprising to me. Scroll down to Table 7, and check it out.


It looks like the highest users of credit cards are senior citizens, age 65+.

The highest users of cash are 18-24 year olds.

So if you want to be trendy and youthful, use cash. Don't mind being in the company of old farts? Then go ahead and use credit! (I say this as an old fart who'd rather be youthful and trendy!)

Getting sloppy, sliding back

May 31st, 2007 at 07:10 am

Yikes, it didn't take long.

I stopped doing my 4-week reports here after February. Thought I didn't need them anymore, and was tired of the tedious work involved.

I stopped recording what I was spending out of Cash, figured I'd just chalk it all up to Everyday Expenses.

Life's been getting busier, and I started using the Discover card when I wasn't sure exactly how much was in checking. Rather than stopping to check, I charged things rather than risk having a debit purchase turned down. (Also I was lured by the cash-back rewards.)

Gas prices have gone up, and I haven't revised the rest of my budget to make up for it.

I've been buying special foods for myself to help with The Diet--but honestly, many of them have been luxury items I could do without and still eat healthily.

So, now I've got $135 on Discover from overspending on groceries that I can't just pay off. It's either pay it off over the next 3 weeks, or just don't eat this week! I know it's a tiny balance, but it's a Red Flag, for sure.

When will I ever learn?

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.

4-week report

December 31st, 2006 at 12:15 pm

Boring, I know, but reporting here keeps me honest! For four weeks ending 12/16:

Everyday Expenses are staying pretty stable, despite the craziness of the holidays. It came to $554.76, only about $10 over where I like it to be. And, of course it was due to an organizational problem, sigh... I was watching the budget as I shopped through the month, but I'd forgotten to record a trip to Pathmark in Quicken so it looked like I'd spent less than I had. Oh well, not a disaster.

I had the credit card completely paid off, then I paid for the gym membership with the Discover card on 12/16. But it's paid for now, plus I have a weird $1 credit balance because of a mysterious trial offer refund. Smile

Savings for emergencies stood at $458 in the Emergency Fund, and $570 in the Health Savings Account.

I'm going to keep reporting every 4 weeks, even though the debt is paid off now--I can use it to track savings goals.

A tip for heavy debit/credit card users

December 30th, 2006 at 05:53 am

Take a look at the backs of your cards--are they getting worn? Can you still see the 3-digit security code on the back, that follows your account numbers? If so, write it down somewhere, and if not, call and request a replacement card soon. You don't want to be stuck like I was this week.

I've been using one debit card so much, the numbers are completely rubbed off. I didn't even notice til I tried to use it to buy phone minutes this week, and they needed those security numbers. I only need them once in a blue moon, so I don't have them memorized. I called my bank to ask what they were, and they couldn't tell me--for security reasons. All they could do was send me a new card, which will take about a week to arrive. Grrr!

I suppose at least it's a good sign that the card getting the heavy workout is a debit, and not a credit card. Wink

Closed 4 accounts this past week :)

December 14th, 2006 at 11:35 am

One Sharebuilder account is closed, plus HSBC, the Chase Sonycard, and Kohl's. Despite all the reasons for keeping multiple credit card accounts open a few blog entries back, I just don't want the hassle--or the temptation of too many open accounts.

I've been reading Dave Ramsey lately, who says no credit cards, ever. However, I tried that before, and was burned*. So I'm opting for "moderation in all things" and at least reducing the number of accounts I have open. It feels good! Smile

(*There was some kind of business I needed to do, and they wouldn't take a debit card. I had to quick apply online for any old card I could find, that would give me an account number to use right away. Not the best way to choose a card.)

Making up credit card rules for myself

December 4th, 2006 at 07:47 am

I just looked over the old credit card transactions in Quicken, to see exactly we've been charging since I started here, May of 2005. Unfortunately, I don't have a record of how we built up a balance of $4185 by that point! But it does give me an idea of how much I can cut down on cc usage, and hopefully keep out of trouble better.

Two big reasons for using the cc's have gone away. First, Citi's rewards were cut back. Second, the Dealpass gift card programs seem to be going kaput. Somewhere I read that they only took credit cards, not debit cards, and I never wanted to take the chance.

So the good reasons I have left for using them occasionally are:

Discover pays back 5% on car-related expenses.

If I'm doing trial offers, it helps to have extra cc account numbers to use.

If I'm buying something electronic that might fail, the Sony card doubles the warranty.

Sometimes there's a special discount you can only get if you use a specific card. I've taken advantage of this with Kohl's, Mastercard and Discover.

DMom doesn't like credit or debit cards, and doesn't want one of her own. But she's perfectly happy to have me order things for her online with my cards! If buying something like her computer would leave me strapped until she reimburses me, it seems reasonable to put it on a cc.

If I'm buying something from an unfamiliar place, and think I might have trouble with the order. I've been happy with the way Citi handles chargebacks (have done it twice.)

Then there's always the possibility of a new-account bonus offer that you don't get until after your first purchase.

Virtually everything else (95%) that I've used cc's for lately could have been handled with debit cards or checks, so long as enough money was in our checking accounts. And except for some car repair emergencies, if there wasn't money sitting there I shouldn't have bought the stuff anyway!

Changing focus

December 3rd, 2006 at 07:25 am

Less than two weeks, and the last of the cc debt will be paid off! You might have noticed I changed the title of my blog--not quite true yet, but I had time to fiddle with it today so I did.

I'm getting really apprehensive about staying out of debt for good this time. I've dug out several times before, only to fall back into debt again, and I'm sick of it. Just like I've lost weight before and always gain it back. I'm not good at the maintenance phase!

I'm also sick of thinking about money all the time. But I know if I relax too much about it, bad things will happen. So I'm trying to come up with ideas that will keep me on track and not be a pain in the neck.

#1 - I have debit cards, I just have to remember to use them. It's been an ingrained habit to whip out a cc whenever possible, to earn rewards or because I'm not sure whether there's enough in checking to cover the purchase. Which leads to...

#2 - Get used to keeping more of a balance in our checking accounts, even if they're earning no interest. That way, I can write a check or use the debit card without worry, and then reimburse checking from savings at my leisure. In the past, I'd charge something like a vet visit, wait for the money to move from ING to checking, and then pay off the charge. Only sometimes the money went for other things before the charge got paid.

I'd be interested in any other tips on staying out of debt, once you're out.

Recent tweaks

November 11th, 2006 at 10:50 am

Like they say, the only constant is change. First the Citicard cash back rewards being cut back from 5%, now the discounted gas gift cards are being dropped from the Dealpass programs. (I was in Today's Escapes+.)

I guess one big reason I wasn't too upset about the Citi thing was, I was getting more than 2x the discount with the gift card thing than from Citi anyway. And since I've started shopping more at Aldi (where they don't take credit cards) the 5% cash back on groceries wasn't a big loss either.

But now that the gas gift card Deals have Passed Wink I felt like I had to do something. I mean, the cc rewards plus the gift card rebates have come to $400+ a year.

Tweak #1. Dropped Today's Escapes+. There just weren't enough gcs I'd want to buy in a month to justify the monthly fee. (They've also dropped Target and Amazon.)

Tweak #2. Instead of cancelling the Discover card like I'd planned, I called and asked if I could just switch it to their gas card (still 5% cash back). They said yes! It will only come to about $60 a year, but that's something.

Tweak #3. I was going to cancel Credit Protector now that I'd done the $50 in rebates they'd offered me to stay on the first time. But now they offered me (5) $10 Walmart gift cards for staying on, and lowered the rate. So that's an unexpected $50 that will help relieve the pain. Smile

BTW, there is another program at www.leisureplus.com where you can get gas cards at a discount. But you are forced to buy 3 different kinds to maximize your savings, and after you pay the monthly fee it only saves you about $80 a year. Seems like too much hassle to me.

Still on the simplification kick

August 30th, 2006 at 07:12 am

I just cancelled the Schwab Visa I'd applied for because of a $100 gift card offer. They aren't honoring the offer because they said it had an expired code. Frown I held onto it long enough to use the account number for three trial offers and at least get those free gift cards. (Net gain $57.) Now they are all cancelled and there's no reason to keep the cc.

I still have other trial offers to cancel, and am working on that today.

I'm starting to unsubscribe from a bunch of email newsletters I'd signed up for at some point. Also, as catalogs come in the mail, I'm starting to call in and ask to be taken off the mailing lists.

I finally figured out that Citibank calls their automatic payment thing AutoPay. They sure don't make it obvious on their bill or their website. You have to request a packet to be mailed out, and then mail the application back again. I'm going to set it up to take the minimum payment automatically, just to keep me current if life gets crazy and I forget. I can pay the rest of the balance separately each month, as usual.

The All-Ett

July 25th, 2006 at 06:26 pm


I've been starting to feel fed up with all the time and energy I've been spending on money stuff--and I STILL had that close call where I almost missed paying a bill. Something has to give as far as streamlining and organizing.

One thing that's been getting to me is dealing with cards. Credit cards, debit cards, store loyalty cards, gift cards, library cards, insurance cards, etc.

There isn't room for all of them in my wallet, so I've only been keeping the most commonly used ones in it. I have a little drawer where I keep other ones, and more are just in a rubberband in my purse. When I have to use one, I have to look all three places. I can't tell you how many times I've been caught wishing I had a specific card with me, when it was at home in the drawer.

I read about this new kind of wallet on Fatwallet, and decided to order one. In purple. Smile It holds up to 30 cards plus there are two sections for bills.

I hardly ever write a check, so I won't miss a section for that. And I always end up throwing my change in the bottom of my purse anyway. So I think this wallet is going to fit my life better than the traditional kind. And if I don't like it, I can re-sell it Amazon.

I'm not connected with the All-Ett people in any way, just thought someone else might be interested if they're getting as overwhelmed with plastic cards as I am.

Thinking about life after debt

July 15th, 2006 at 12:43 pm

I can see the light at the end of the tunnel as far as credit card debt. Right now I'm on schedule to have it paid off by the end of the year.

For a long while, I'd been thinking that once it was paid off, things would ease up and we'd be able to spend more on discretionary stuff. It seemed like there was no point in actually budgeting for things like household goods, clothes and recreation until things weren't as tight.

Then I realized that when I was finished with the $250 a month on debt, we'd have to start saving that amount toward getting a newer car in 2008. After we get the car, we ought to put that $250 a month on the mortgage so the balance is lower when it readjusts in 2010. (We'll either have less to refinance, or the adjusted payment won't be as bad as it would have been.) After that, we'll need to save that same $250 toward replacing the other car in about 2013.

In other words, that $250 a month is spoken for, for years to come, and can't really be spent on anything else.

So I really need to figure out how we can manage more of the fun, extra stuff on the money we have NOW. Because it's not going to change that much after the cc debt ends. (Hence, why I was googling around about clothing budgets.)

Why I just opened a store charge, and may do so again

July 13th, 2006 at 12:42 pm

Just what I need, another account to keep track of!

But it seems like the sale prices at some stores never get really interesting unless you can also take advantage of the extra discounts they only give to their charge customers. I've noticed this at Kohl's and Boscov's in particular.

I was getting the microwave at Kohl's anyway, and also had to pick up a birthday gift for my MIL to give my mother. And that was bringing it pretty close to th amount you needed to spend on your Kohl's charge in order to get $10 in Kohl's Cash. It seemed like a good time to go for it.

It ended up that the microwave, a summer purse and a bathing suit coverup cost me a total of $47. Without doing the deal, the microwave would have been $38 anyway, so basically the purse and coverup together came to $9. Not necessities, but things I've been looking for a long time, and I'm glad to find them for $9.

Anybody have further suggestions on store charges that are worthwhile to have because of special offers for charge customers?

Disorganization strikes again

July 12th, 2006 at 08:25 am

Had a scare this morning--

I've been trying catch up on paperwork today, as it's become a mess again. Because I've been spending so much money lately, I thought I'd better go onto all our banking and cc websites to make sure I'd recorded everything.

To my horror, I noticed I hadn't even scheduled the payment on the Sony card, which is due Friday, the day after tomorrow. If I did it the normal way from my bank website, they wouldn't get it til Monday. Frown Luckily, I could sign up on the Sony card website to initiate the payment from their end. I'll get credited for it today.

I feel very lucky, indeed, because sometimes when you try to set up transfers like this, it takes a few days while they send test amounts. If that had been the case, I couldn't have avoided a late payment.

I've got to get better at keeping up with this stuff, no matter how busy life gets. And no matter how hot it is! (I do paperwork upstairs in a room with no a/c, and some days I just can't face it.)

An added motivation

June 22nd, 2006 at 06:50 am

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

Finally feels like progress

June 15th, 2006 at 07:49 am

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 06:25 am


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.

Catching up on odds and ends

May 18th, 2006 at 12:48 pm

Cancelled YourMusic.com. I signed up through Inbox Dollars, and was glad to get a CD that DH wanted, for $5.99. But I don't need to be spending $5.99 every month on a CD right now.

Got $5.99 credited to the Citicard. I'd ordered stuff from Roaman's that turned out to be defective and dirty. Roaman's didn't charge me for the return shipment, but they refused to refund the shipping charge on the original order. I called Citi and said I didn't think I should be stuck with $5.99 when I'd gotten absolutely nothing. They were very nice about crediting my account.

Requested my Citi rewards check for $68.

Decided to lower the amount I'm paying to HSBC from $290 down to $250 a month. I thought I could afford the $290, but now that I figure in the lawn mowing, it's obvious I can't. The account won't quite be paid off by the end of the 0% period, but I don't mind paying $10 or $15 in interest for the final couple of months. Better than feeling strapped for the next 6 months.

Found out how getting a blood test works, under our new insurance.

Subscribed to the other Sunday paper on a half-price subscription sale. Their coupons are much better; it will be well worth it.

Went to Eckerd's last night for bargains; spent $11 after $9 in coupons were taken off.

Ordered another batch of Dealpass gc's. Only have a few more months to take advantage of these; don't want to lose the opportunity.

Almost finished putting our upcoming transactions in Quicken, through the end of the year. It really helps to see our cash flow ahead of time. If we're going to run short, better to see it coming and find a solution early on.

It's all in the details

April 12th, 2006 at 08:22 am

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!

4-week report

April 8th, 2006 at 03:44 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

Credit Protector, part 2

April 3rd, 2006 at 07:30 am

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.

Claritin, and misc.

January 12th, 2006 at 05:40 am

Someone mentioned how expensive Claritin was, I forget who... Anyway, I've had success with Walgreens' over-the-counter generic version called Wal-itin, which is pretty cheap when it goes on sale. This week it's around $5.99 for 20, in a B1G1F sale on 10-pill packs. I was going to stop in for some, but I found an even better price. Aldi has a generic 10-pill pack for $1.99, all the time. (Just marked loratadine.) No waiting for sales or having to buy more than you need at the time. Thought I'd pass it along.

It's the 12th of the month already, and I've only made 2 credit card purchases.

DMom doesn't have a credit card, and doesn't need to be making extra trips out for new phone cards all the time. So usually I add minutes to her phone card with my credit card, and she reimburses me. I just did it automatically, as I always do, and then realized there's no real reason it couldn't have been done on a debit card. I'll try to remember that next time.

The $100 statement credit finally showed up on the Chase Sony credit card, but I had just paid it off. So I ended up with an actual credit balance. I used it to buy my discounted gift cards for the month. (I purposely want to keep using a cc to buy these, just in case something goes wrong. So this wasn't a slip-up.) After the rebate comes back, my account balance will be back to zero.

At that point I may just close the account. I don't want too many cc accounts open, and at this point I just have a bad taste in my mouth about this company. If it took 19 weeks to get something that was due in 12 weeks, and it was something they offered voluntarily, themselves--how long might it take to handle an actual billing dispute? If they are so disorganized that one week they send a letter saying I'd need to wait 1-2 billing cycles, and the next week the credit shows up... If I know from Fatwallet discussions that some people were getting their credits within days of their first purchase and others were waiting months... If I know that they kept offering the same deal under different names, when they were so far behind fulfilling the deal for people who'd applied months before... I don't know, I just don't feel very good about them. It's a failed marketing ploy for them, as far as I'm concerned.

It's funny. The PNC deal was for less money, but things went a lot smoother, and they won me over as a customer when I'd originally thought I'd close my little account fairly quickly.

Yesterday's car repair bill was only $213, and it included some maintenance stuff as well as the actual repair. I know we saved at least $75 compared to Firestone or a dealership doing it. And I can walk to our neighbor's repair shop. Everything seems to have been done right the first time. So I'd call it a success. Smile

Progress and frustration

January 8th, 2006 at 10:59 am

Have gone an entire week with no credit card purchases.

The HSBC card arrived, as did the balance transfer into our checking. I've scheduled payoffs on the other cards.

DMom gave me my birthday cash, and it was higher than previous years. For once, I don't feel like I need it desperately for anything and am going to put it right into the emergency savings account. I was playing around with the tax estimator thing Baselle posted, and it looks like we might owe this year. It would be nice to know enough money is sitting there, ready.

We're building up quite a credit on our electric co. budget billing. We should have one or two months with no bill this spring, plus the monthly amount after that should go down. A nice surprise.

It's the last week of my 4-week budget, and I still have money for Everyday Expenses. Smile Looks like I might finally come in at or below my 4-week goal for the first time.

Now for the frustrations. I guess I need to develop some philosophy about when to declare an issue dead, and just give up on it. And when to keep pushing so as not to lose money or a service I'm entitled to. Right now, I'm dealing with several ongoing problems that could use up several hours a day, if I let them.

--Pioneer Telephone. Still waiting for long distance service. Called the state board of public utilities, and am playing telephone tag with the person who takes complaints. How much more time should I waste making phone calls that result in nothing? What I'm thinking of doing is this: Use up the

No cc days

January 4th, 2006 at 08:11 am

I still don't believe in the cold turkey/complete abstinence theory as far as credit card use.

Sometimes it just makes sense to charge a purchase, for example, if you're buying an expensive appliance and putting it on a cc doubles the manufacturer's warranty.

Sometimes it's just the practical thing to do in an emergency. If I don't have ready cash for $844 in car repairs, there is no way I can leave one or both of our cars in the shop while we get rides to work from friends, or take public transportation, or wait for vo-tech students do the repairs. (The kind of thing the author Jerrold Mundis would suggest.) I'm sorry, but putting the repairs on a 0% credit card makes a lot more sense to me than completely disrupting our lives for several weeks.

OTOH, it felt good to be starting fresh on New Year's Day, with a clean slate. It seems like the time to try something new, and I decided it would be interesting to see how many days I could avoid using a credit card. So far, so good. I've switched my Netflix billing to the debit card on my little checking account. I'll be moving the newspaper billing to that, too. I ordered myself a DVD for my birthday, and was able to use Paypal. I had to buy a new toaster, and used a debit card.

This morning while I was waiting for a phone call, I played around on Quicken to see how much I used ccs last year. I made 241 purchases on them, about one every day and a half! The total amount of purchases came to over $11,000. At this point, I'm feeling very lucky our total cc debt is about the same as a year ago. It's a miracle it didn't go much higher.

I don't believe cutting down on cc use is going to solve all our financial problems. I'm not really sure that our spending will go down enough to counteract the loss of $300 from the Citi rewards program. But it can't hurt to try and see what happens. At the very least, our debt won't grow, and that's something.

Misc. updates

December 29th, 2005 at 08:29 am

HSA/DH -Thanks for the support and book suggestion. I *am* going to call again next Tuesday when that person is back from vacation, and keep trying to get it set up. DH doesn't seem to mind that I'm working on this; I was kind of afraid he'd be angry that I butted in. And the ladies in his office are nice enough. I guess it's more me feeling really uncomfortable about doing it. I can't imagine DH calling my job, asking about my benefits. Or my parents calling each other's jobs. Or spouses of co-workers of mine calling in, either. Unless the employee in question is deathly ill in the hospital or something.

Believe me, I do have quite a few accounts in my name only. And I have gone online to make changes in DH's 401K allocations and do health insurance business. (After I talked to him about it.) I guess I'll be able to do the HSA business on my own, too--after it's set up. But it sounds like filling out forms for his payroll person to set this stuff up is something that has to be on paper, and come from him.

Long distance-We tried to make some long distance calls over the holidays, using Pioneer instead of the phone card. We kept getting a message about not being authorized to make the call. I checked our last phone bill, and it showed Sprint as our regional carrier, and no long distance carrier at all. So I called Pioneer this morning. They said the Sprint part was ok, and said the long distance should be set up within 24-48 hours. I have to call a test number in a few days to make sure it went through. I was joking when I said this project could take weeks--I never imagined months! I started making the switch back on October 26.

BestBuy-Between phone calls, driving to Best Buy and waiting in the return line, It took me about an hour and 15 minutes to get the Virgin Mobile top-up card problem settled. A lot of work to do, just because somebody missed scanning the barcode somewhere along the line. Glad it's finished!

Mazda test drive-It's been less than 2 weeks since I mailed in the offer, and the Supercertificate code came in my email already. I'm impressed! I've ordered a $25 Staples gift card.

HSBC cc application-Yes, two applications did go through. The second one was turned down. The rep said it couldn't be deleted because the decision had already been made. I really don't like the idea of a "declined" on my credit report, but there doesn't seem to be much I can do about it. I'll make an explanatory statement with each credit reporting agency, but from what I understand nobody is apt to read it. Everything seems to be done automatically by computers, which only look at numbers.

The good news is, the rep on the phone put through a balance transfer big enough to pay off the balance on the Sony and Discover cards. He's actually sending the money to our checking account, to save us $50 on balance transfer fees. (Doing one transfer instead of two.) Then I'll just pay off each account out of checking. 0% till March 2007. I just hope the declined application doesn't affect my FICO number, triggering a cancellation of the 0% rate...

Have read 3 books so far, right on schedule. Exercised once last week. Mailed 2 more rebates this week, for a total of 4. The latest ones were Dr. Pepper for $5, and 2 General Mills whole grain rebates for another $5.

Making use of time off

December 26th, 2005 at 06:47 am

Hope everyone had a nice holiday, or day off, or some nice overtime pay if you had to work.

It was our usual quiet holiday--at least as quiet it can be, when DH gets to the point where he can't take visiting much longer and starts getting grumpy. Wink

Since we don't do that much for the holidays, and I'm off work whether I want to be or not, it gives me some extra time to catch up on things, as well as just relax with a pile of movies and books. There are still plenty of things I could do, but I can't help feeling frustrated about not being able to get some businessy things done because, after all, it's the holiday season.

Two frustrating things I haven't been able to get done because of the holidays:

I tried to apply online for an HSBC credit card offer I'd gotten in the mail, 0% for 15 months, a much longer stretch than what I have now. It would let me consolidate and close out at least one other account, and give us some predictability for a good period of time. Something went wrong, though, and I'm afraid now they might think I was trying to put in two applications. I tried to call them today to find out, but that office is closed today.

I tried to top-up DH's Virgin Mobile phone, with a top-up card I'd bought at Best Buy. But the PIN number wouldn't take. The guy at Virgin Mobile said it showed as never being activated for use, so I have to take it back to Best Buy. If you think I'm venturing there the day after Xmas...

I did manage to get my car worked on last Friday, and am accomplishing things around the house. I'm even getting around to things like clearing out old emails. Will I be glad after we get through New Year's and life starts getting back to "normal." (Whatever that is!)

The Credit Protector Gambit has begun

December 14th, 2005 at 07:31 am

I'd heard about this on Fatwallet, and am now in a position to pursue it. It's available through Citibank credit cards--I'm not sure if others have a similar thing. You sign up for the Credit Protector program, which is designed to help you pay your credit card bill if you are disabled, called up for military duty, etc. After the 30 day intro period, they start charging you 85 cents per $100 of your balance.

Not a great deal at all, if you are carrying a balance. BUT--normally they give you a $15 gas purchase rebate for joining. Right now it's a bit better, $20 back on any purchase at a store. Then when you try to cancel, they keep offering you more $15 gas rebate offers. Still not great, if you are carrying a balance. But if you aren't actually using the card, and there's no balance, you are getting $15 back every so often, for no cost whatsoever.

Since I'm not planning on using the card after this billing cycle (and after I get my last rewards check), I can finally take advantage of it. Smile

FYI--The offer showed up for me three different places when I went online to check my Citi account today, at different times. Once along the right side with some other offers. Once on the screen that came up after I logged off. Also through the link that says "today's special offers."

Baselle--Thanks for your comments. I don't think I've been too extravagent, either, glad you reinforced that. Although I don't really feel guilty about this spending, I just feel kind of guilty that I DON'T feel guilty, if you know what I mean. Wink

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