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Grrr... Product Rant

July 5th, 2006 at 09:37 am

I didn't really want to buy a tea kettle in the first place, but...

I used to be able to get powdered instant tea by Nestea or Lipton, in a glass jar, with no sweetener or lemon flavor. Just plain, dehydrated tea. You even had a choice of regular or decaf. Now all I can find is sweetened, whether with sugar or artificial sweetener.

OK, so I'll make my own iced tea. But I got tired of spilling water or tea every time I tried to pour it from a regular pan. So when I was at Target, I picked up a tea kettle for $9.99. I didn't really want to spend the money, and I don't really have the storage space for it, but it seems like a necessity at this point.

So I go to wash it out and use it, and find the use and care instructions. In large, bold letters it says you can't use it on high heat!!! On either a gas or electric stove!!! How the heck do you get the water to the boiling point on medium heat? I gave up after half an hour.

I've written a one star review on Target's website, and I'm seriously thinking of writing a letter to Copco. I used to think that was a decent brand, and most of Target's stuff is decent quality. This was a total let-down; a completely useless product. I just hope Target will take it back, being I already discarded the box.

At this point, I still don't have an easy way to make myself some plain iced tea. Grrr.

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.

Learning to leave my Comfort Zone

June 3rd, 2006 at 07:37 am

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.

Utilitarian Walking, and why I don't do it (yet)

May 31st, 2006 at 10:16 am

Found an interesting article when I was googling on daily grocery shopping.


The gist of it is, we fatties would weigh less if we walked to the store instead of driving. There's an Eckerd very close by, and the IGA would even be doable if I had one of those grocery carts. Post office, doable. Library, very doable. I don't mind walking, and the area is safe. So why don't I do it?

The answer is, "What would people think?"

If we lived in a city with good public transit and few parking spaces, where lots of people didn't have cars, no problem. If we lived in an upscale, intellectual town or a college town, people would just think I was being ecological.

But we live in an older suburban area with several seedy apartment complexes nearby. Everyone drives everywhere. Mothers are so worried about their kids walking, they drive them to the school bus stop. If you aren't a total loser, YOU HAVE A CAR, even if it's only an ancient Nova.

When you see someone around here walking with shopping bags, or you see an adult riding a bike on the main road through town, you assume one of the following:

They've had too many DUI's and have lost their license.

They haven't lost their license yet, but their insurance has gone so high they can't afford to pay it.

Their car was repossessed.

They live in one of the seedy apartments.

They probably don't work, because how would they get to a job without a car.

At the very least, they must be very, very down on their luck.

Now, they might be doing it for the exercise, or the environment, or their car might be in the shop. They might be highly disciplined financially, and are saving money for a house, or graduate school or a cruise. But that's not what's going to pop into most folks' minds.

Well, I've gotten used to going to Aldi's, and buying greeting cards at the dollar store. I've admitted to people we have the $10 a month cable tv. I suppose I could learn to walk more places and not care what people think. Wink

This week, I'll try walking to either Eckerd's or the library.

Honesty just cost me $37.10

May 25th, 2006 at 06:32 am

We finally got our first bill from the lawn-mowing guy, and he forgot to bill us for the first mowing of the season. So I wrote him a note about it, and enclosed payment for all 3 mowings.

If I didn't pay him what I knew I owed, I'd feel terribly guilty. I also do things like give extra change back to cashiers when they make a mistake in my favor--and certain people have laughed at me for it all my life!

I'm no angel, though--if it were some big corporation that made a mistake, I probably wouldn't say a word. Wink

But when the cashier is right in front of me, a person who will get in trouble if her drawer is short, I have to give the money back. And the lawn-mowing guy is a nice fellow who's just trying to make a living so I can't stiff him either.

I wonder what most people do.

Spring Cleaning here too

May 17th, 2006 at 10:06 am

Unfortunately, Contrary1, I am my own housecleaner. ;( Lucky you.

Yesterday and today have been Flylady-type days. www.flylady.net

Yesterday I did my version of her Weekly Home Blessing, except I haven't done it for many a week. Also did two 27-fling boogies: 27 items of bad food thrown out from the kitchen and pantry, and 27 items of clutter moved out of the house for Goodwill, etc.

Today was a version of her crisis clean, where you work 15-minute segments in different areas. My sink is now shiny. Well, as shiny as a vintage 1970 avocado green sink can be at this point. Wink

Will be heading out for errands soon, including getting my hair cut and colored, doing one of the test drives, and getting to Goodwill. I'd still like to get more cleaning done, and get the tomato plants in, before heading back to the working world on Thursday night. But things are definitely looking better around here, which is quite a relief.

I Vant To Be Alone (sometimes)

May 16th, 2006 at 05:51 am

Being an introvert and also rather distractible, I need a certain amount of peaceful alone time once in a while or 1) I can't get anything done, and 2) I start to go absolutely bonkers.

The kind of time I mean is--

No music playing in the background that I don't want to hear. No TV in the background that I'm not watching. No questions or comments about what I'm doing, why I'm doing it, how I'm doing it, or why I'm not doing something else. If I put the cat out on the front porch so I can work in the kitchen unmolested, nobody letting the cat back in. If I leave a light on because I'll be coming right back, nobody turning it off. If I turn down the heat or a/c, nobody turning it back up. Nobody saying they'll be ready to do this or that together soon, and then keeping me hanging for hours. Actually having time to finish my own projects without watching the clock.

Even last week I knew I needed it pretty desperately, so I scheduled a half vacation day for yesterday. Wouldn't you know it, DH decided to take the day off too, at the last minute!

What this has to do with money--I just got an email about a possible $75 survey, and instead of feeling excited, I just wanted to cry. It was just another "should" when so many other things in my life are already going undone. Not wanting to pursue another $75 is proof to me of how frazzled I really am!

It's my day to get together with DMom, but I think I'll cancel. I can't concentrate on her until I feel like I'm caught up on my own stuff. I probably should have cancelled last week, looking back on things.

(I didn't qualify for the survey anyway--what a relief!)

Good Vibrations

April 23rd, 2006 at 01:31 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

Saving $25

April 20th, 2006 at 05:35 am

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.

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

April 6th, 2006 at 06:49 am

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

First dental appt in a year & 4 months!

March 24th, 2006 at 05:23 am

The Health Savings Account mess is finally getting close to being settled. The actual checking account is set up, the first direct deposit from DH's paycheck has shown up, and all the deductions taken out of previous checks have been credited to the account also. We've received the debit card, but not the checks yet. So I can start taking care of things where I can use the card, like I getting my prescription filled, and going to the dentist. But I can't go in for my long-overdue doctor visit yet, because our family doctor doesn't take credit or debit cards.

It's such a relief to see things moving, finally. I had used all the refills for my blood pressure prescription, and only had enough to take me through March 30. I assumed I'd have to go into the office before I could get more, but I didn't want to go in til I got those HSA checks. With the mess it's been so far, I couldn't imagine paying for the office visit myself ($65) and then figuring out how to get reimbursed. The checks might have come before March 30, but I couldn't be sure. I was starting to get frantic.

When I talked to the doctor's office, they said if the pharmacist called in, they could approve a 30-day extension on the prescription to carry me through. Thank goodness! Then I called the dentist, and hallelujah they take credit cards! (That means the HSA debit card should work.) So I've got a checkup and cleaning scheduled for April.

This is not to say I anticipate smooth sailing from here. I tried to get on the Blue Cross website and have had nothing but problems trying to register DH and myself, and then logging in. I want to be able to go online and check what's covered under the high deductible insurance part, and any restrictions on where I have to go--for example, for mammograms.

One problem was, you can't use the Mozilla Firefox browser on their login page, it will only work with Internet Explorer. I only figured that out after spending well over an hour on the problem, over two days. They don't tell you this anywhere on the website--I even googled within the site to see if I'd missed a statement of system requirements. Nothing! Now when I login, I either get a page meant for Blue Cross employees, or one that says my login failed because I don't have an FSA. Well I never said I did! Frown

Phooey! I guess I'll stick to calling them for the time being.

Dad's Hidey Hole

March 22nd, 2006 at 10:07 am

I keep running across the idea of having a little secret cash tucked away in the house, in the sugar bowl or whatever. The experts say to have it for emergency preparedness, in case of a hurricane or the bird flu. It was mentioned in the book "How to hide money from your husband," as something wives have done for generations, partly to protect themselves if husbands leave or die. Generally, it seems to be a way of protecting against some dire emergency. A good thing to have, but not a very happy thing, and about as exciting to save for as a root canal. So I haven't done anything about it.

Well, I finally remembered that my dad kept a little something hidden away, and it was a much more cheerful affair. It was his Hidey Hole. I asked my mother about it recently, and even she never knew where the hiding place was! I'm sure my parents relied on it for little emergencies, unbeknownst to me. But it was also used for treats and unexpected opportunities. If the ice cream truck was coming, Dad might go into the bedroom, shut the door, and retrieve ice cream money from the Hidey Hole. If I had the chance to go somewhere that I couldn't afford on my allowance, I might be handed some money from the Hidey Hole. I have the feeling it was Hidey Hole money he took to rummage sales in case there was a deal too good to pass up. For years, he got a kick out of using an electric frying pan he'd bought for a quarter. Wink In other words, it was a fund for the unexpected, whether good or bad.

I think there's enough extra cash coming in right now that I can start my own Hidey Hole. Just calling it that gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling. And deciding it can also be used for fun things has made it a much more attractive idea, too. Current balance $40; where it is--not telling! Wink

Have been overspending, no two ways about it

March 14th, 2006 at 07:04 am

Everyday Expenses for the four weeks ending 3/11 came to $693. Frown My goal was $522, and I feel like it's a good month when it's in the $540's. So I overspent here about $150. I actually spent less than budgeted in every area except groceries--less on gas, take-out, pet food, everything.

Like I mentioned before, I didn't make one Aldi trip this month. I guess 50 cents to $1 less on each item really adds up. Also, we've been making use of our stockpile for several months, and it finally got to the point where we had to restock--on fairly expensive things like an $8 double-pack of Jif. And being sick didn't help because I didn't have the energy to bother shopping sales, using coupons, etc.

In addition, we didn't make much progress in the Net Worth area. (Only counting cc debt and emergency savings, not IRAs and such.) Last month, total cc debt was $3724. As of March 11 it was $3906, an increase of $182. The emergency savings account is down to $442 from $611 last month, a decrease of $169. There was one true emergency during the month, a dryer repair of $80.

$182 cc debt + $169 savings loss = $351 decrease in liquid net worth

I looked reasons, and I found $273 of discretionary spending on things like getting my hair colored (when I felt too rotten to manage it at home), buying make-up, books, clothes, the deluxe/state version of TaxAct, yet another new coupon organizer, a cabinet for over our dryer, etc. $273 discretionary + $150 overage on groceries = $423 on extras, that didn't absolutely need to be spent. $423 - $351 net worth decrease = $72, the amount I actually could have spent on extras without overextending myself.

Most of it was stuff I would have spent money on eventually, and I really can't muster up much guilt about any of it. The problem seems to be, I'm losing patience with waiting for things til we can afford them.

Darn, I was feeling so proud of myself for having more financial control lately, when I really haven't!

Organizing on the cheap

March 10th, 2006 at 12:41 pm

I have a clothing problem right now, everything from needing some new things, to having messy piles of clothes around, to where I get dressed, to how I process the laundry and get it put away again. So I went on an organizing discussion board, where as usual people had some great ideas.

However, perfect solutions and great ideas can be expensive. Like hiring someone to build closets. So I'm trying to take the general principles people mentioned, and find the cheapest way to improve things that will do the job.

I keep thinking of the way I agonized over buying silverware a few months back. I went from thinking about spending $200+ on replacing missing pieces in "my pattern", to spending $10 at Target for just enough pieces to hold us between dishwasher loads. Getting to that solution took a long time and was *painful.*

For some reason, this time I haven't had as big a hump to get over about what's reasonable to spend and what isn't, and what's adequate to solve the problem. I know we're getting over $200 back on our taxes and some rebates, and I don't want to spend more than that. If that means a couple of new hampers and $25 assemble-it-yourself drawer units instead of built-in closets, so be it.

Don't get me wrong, I'd love those closets. And there was a time I'd feel like a lesser person if I couldn't afford them. But anymore, feeling like I'm in control financially feels better than almost anything I can think of spending money on. It's a big change in outlook for me, and I wanted to make note of it.

Taking the bitter with the sweet

January 13th, 2006 at 04:58 am

I don't know why I should be surprised...

I found out yesterday I got a raise. Smile I was feeling great, thinking I'd be able to start paying down the cc by $300 a month, planning on posting an entry here with the big green smiley face. It wasn't just my raise that was going to give us some breathing room, but the fact that DH's take-home pay should be going up, too. The actual health insurance deduction was supposed to go down by $80, and $40 was going to start going into the HSA, for a net increase in take-home of $40. Or a bit less, because his withholding would probably go up a little.

But I went online to check his paycheck deposit this morning, and instead of being higher than it was, it's $50 lower! I don't know what on earth is going on. I won't have a clue til we get his actual pay stub. I won't be a bit surprised if something got really screwed up about the new insurance and HSA, considering how it's gone so far. I really dread another finance-related problem hanging over our heads, but at least the long distance and Sony card things are settled. I also really dread having to talk to his supervisor and human resources person again, but it's got to be sorted out and I know he won't want to.

I keep thinking at some point we'll get to a place where dealing with money is just a routine part of life, not just a series of problems. It's not that nothing good is happening, but it seems like every time I start to feel happy and hopeful, another problem appears within hours. I don't think I've had one full 24-hour period since I've been keeping this journal where I've felt really calm, content and in control of our finances.

Yay, something's FINISHED!

January 11th, 2006 at 09:34 am

I finally got through to somebody at the Board of Public Utilities who could take a complaint about our non-existant long distance service. I talked to them Monday morning, and by that afternoon I had both a reply to my email of January 2, and a message on our answering machine. By this morning, it was hooked up and working. Yay! It took exactly 11 weeks. Something in our state government works. Wink

I hate to say this, but the guy at Pioneer I finally got the call from was a native speaker of English and the sound quality makes me think the call originated in the US. Whenever I've called their customer service, the reps sound very far away, and have accents. I don't have anything against the reps themselves, at the foreign call centers. I actually saw a documentary about call center workers in India, and I have the utmost respect for how long and hard they work to make better lives for themselves and their families. But they seem to only be trained and authorized to handle the most routine transactions--if there's a problem, they refer it somewhere else, probably in yet another country, and nobody seems to be in charge of following up. It's not like they can walk down the hall and get a problem solved by talking to the right person in another department. It's not their fault; it's the client company's fault. Mjrube94, I hope you don't have as much trouble getting your referral!

Another car repair today, this time DH's car. We are trying our neighbor this time. I'm glad I sprung for the AAA upgrade a couple of months back, so we didn't have to worry about paying the tow truck driver for extra miles. And I was already scheduled to be off today, which makes things easier, too. We'll see how it works out...

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

Health Savings Account and DH

December 28th, 2005 at 08:37 am

Well, the new high-deductible health plan at DH's job with the HSA is supposed to go into effect January 1. We've waited and waited, and he never got a form to fill out about how much he wanted to put in the HSA each paycheck. There was one meeting about it in our part of the state, and DH missed it because he called out sick that day. His supervisor said not to worry, because we'd all be getting something in the mail.

Here it is 12/28 and we haven't gotten anything, so I called up to his Human Resources department to ask if we missed getting something. I figured if there was a 12/31 deadline, there'd still be time to get a form and fax it back. I hate making a call like this to his job, but I know from experience he won't do it. He cares so little about health coverage that when he finally started working full-time after three years of part-time, he declined coverage because he "didn't want them taking anything out of his paycheck." I ended up having to continue COBRA coverage from my former job for about $6000 a year until his next open enrollment date. It actually cost us more than that because I had to take money out of an IRA and pay taxes and penalties.

What I found out was, 1) they are NOT mailing anything out to employees, they have to ask if they are interested. 2) The woman who handles it is on vacation til January 3. 3) When I called to try to reach DH at work, I talked to a woman in the local office who said nobody else at their location was going to sign up for it.

I'm feeling stressed and annoyed and unsure of myself all at the same time. Am I wrong in thinking the HSA would be a good thing for us? If so, why is nobody else taking advantage of it? How can I shake some sense into DH's head about the importance of this stuff? Am I being too pushy calling about it myself? Really, I had to call because I know DH wouldn't do it.

Over and over again, I feel like I have to protect myself financially because DH will not do it, and at times has even taken advantage of me. Someday I'll write about that in further depth. Let's just say I'm unexplainably short of cash again after entering my spending in Quicken, and my first thought was that DH has started to "borrow" money from my purse again lately. It might not be the case at all--I've been doing a lot of rushing and not recording things right away. But it takes a long time to build back trust again, and lately several things have happened to remind me he will take a mile if I give an inch.

Venting-Horrible JCPenney.com experience

December 22nd, 2005 at 06:00 am

Thought I'd try to save myself a trip to the mall, to pick up an Xmas gift for DMom to give my husband. She was talking about going out to shop herself today, at age 88, with my aunt who is not much younger. I told her in no way, shape or form she ought to try that, and that I'd do the shopping.

I went on Penney's website early this morning, and from the Christmas Delivery Schedule they had posted, it looked like if I ordered this morning and used Express Delivery, the order would arrive before Christmas. I spent quite a bit of time finding a robe and pajama top and bottom that would match and were in stock, found a coupon code to help defray the cost of express shipping, and went to check out. First, I had to change my email address since it had changed since my last order there. After I did that, it no longer recognized EITHER email address. So I tried checking out the non-registered way, where you have to enter your address, credit card numbers and so forth.

I got to where I could check out, and tried to choose Express Shipping, but it wouldn't let me. A popup kept coming up saying what the deadline was, which obviously had not passed yet. But it just wouldn't take. I finally found a number to call about website problems. I tried to describe the screen and the drop down menu that wouldn't work, and the woman didn't even seem to believe there was a drop down menu. She tried to tell me it you chose the Express method of checkout, it would automatically be shipped the fast way. It just isn't so--Express Checkout just automatically puts in your preferred shipping address and credit card number.

Anyway, she started to just take my item numbers and put the order in on her end. She came up with an arrival date of December 28, even when she put in Express Shipping. Then she put me on hold for quite a while, and finally came back to say that it wasn't working because UPS doesn't deliver on Saturdays in my area.

Geez, if they would have put a disclaimer or a chart somewhere on their page about delivery schedules, where you could see it wouldn't work in your zipcode, it would have saved me an hour and a half. It wouldn't be that hard--Barnes and Noble does a great job telling you whether their next day shipping will work for you or not.

So, it's out to the mall, I guess, where it will now be even harder to find a parking spot than it would have been an hour or two ago...

Spending like crazy

December 12th, 2005 at 07:26 am

I guess that's why I haven't been posting--it's kind of embarrassing to have to post about doing so much discretionary spending, when everyone else seems to have their spending under good control.

There's something about this season that makes me spend on things I've been putting off. Something about facing the fact that if I need or want something, I'd better get it for myself because no one else is apt to get it for me. DH isn't much of a shopper, and DMom just can't do much shopping anymore. Also something about the year ending, a new one about to start, and what I'm just not willing to put up with or do without for another year. I think it also has to do with reading All Your Worth. Yes, I want to reduce our Must Haves, but a big reason you are supposed to do this is so you have more money left for Wants. It kind of makes me feel justified in spending a bit.

I'm not giving in to ads and displays for things I never wanted before. It's basically things that will make life easier, or more efficient, or less shabby, that I've come up with on my own. I'm trying to get the best prices I can, and use the gift cards I already have on hand.

Here's some of the stuff I've bought recently:

--Pajamas for both DH and I (to support our goal of keeping the heat at 66 at all times) - about $32

--Commuter mugs for both DH and I (to preserve our clothes and car upholstery, now that it's hot coffee season again) $23.98

--Sheets (The fabric of the bottom sheet in the one set we have has started to split. I'll try to repair it, but I'm only going to count on it as a spare) $24.99 and extra pillowcases $7.34 before I knew I'd need a whole new set of sheets.

--A fax/copier machine (Something that would have come in handy several times in the past. The clincher was that our car insurance agent merged and moved to an office about 45 minutes away. Getting something there in a hurry would now be a big problem, and the closest public fax machine is at a liquor store. Something weird about handing personal info over to a liquor store clerk!) $30 after rebate

--New coupon organizer (I was trying to cram too much into my $1 paper one, and it tore pretty badly. I couldn't find another one for $1. In fact the exact same paper one would have been over $6 shipped on Ebay. So I went for a fancier thing called a Coup-O-Dex for just a little more. More about this in another post.) $8.54

--Dixie cup dispenser for kitchen (Dishes are always a problem around here.) $4.76

--Space heater. $21.17

--Bubble shipping envelopes in bulk. (Got tired of trying to get to Walgreens when they are on sale, finding them out of stock, or having to run to several stores to get enough) $16.85

--Red velvet-looking lint removers (a replacement for one I had before, that was great on dog hair. Saves pulling out the vacuum to get hairs off living room furniture). About $6 at Target for a combo pack of mitt and thing with handle.

Gotta go....

Christmas so far

December 4th, 2005 at 01:42 pm

I've continued to work on money stuff today, as I think of things that need to be done or I want to keep track of. I've been doing a lot of spending, and I may put up quite a few more entries over the next day or two. I don't expect anybody to read them all--It's just helpful sometimes to be able to go back and read my own entries, and refresh my memory.

Christmas is kind of strange for us, as the only relative near is us my mother. DH's brothers and sister are spread out in Florida, Pennsylvania, and pretty far from us in NJ. My mother-in-law is in Pennsylvania, I'm an only child, and we don't have any kids.

I wouldn't say we're feuding with DH's siblings, but the Christmas situation started to get really weird a couple of years ago. It started the year my father-in-law died, and I think the rest of the family must have decided not to do gifts because of being in mourning. Only nobody mentioned it to us, so we sent gifts as usual. Then the next year we figured they wanted to stop, so we didn't send anything, but they did--again, not saying anything to us. DH is the youngest, and this isn't the first time it seems like he's the forgotten child. One time a party was planned, and my s-i-l made a family slide show. There were virtually no pictures of DH at all--like he didn't exist. How hard would it have been for her to call and ask if we had some of the pictures?

Anyway, after all this, I decided I'd just go ahead and start doing what I'd had in mind for awhile. I'm doing donations in honor of the siblings' families, instead of giving them gifts. I make up little slips on the computer and put it in their cards. They also should get a letter direct from the charity. Last year we did Toys For Tots, this year we are doing an organization that's rebuilding libraries in the Hurricane Katrina areas.

Here's the total so far:
Donations $70
Gift cards for DH's co-workers $60
Cards and stamps $26
Special cookies I can't bake $19.95 (shared with Mom)
Gift card for nephew $20 (he's our godson, and nothing is his fault; so he continues to get a gift)
Beach Boys tickets $94 (DH and my gifts to each other this year; concert isn't til spring)
Phone card for mother in law $19.80

I need to find something else small that can be tucked in a card, for my m-i-l. Then there's my mother, on whom I'll probably spend about $25. Or more--I always feel like whatever I do isn't enough, considering all she gives us. Maybe a little on baking supplies. All in all, I don't expect it to be much over $350. Which is more than I usually figure on--but I'm tired of not doing anything special for just DH and me. Too many years we've spent money on obligatory gifts for other people, and didn't have anything to spend on ourselves. No more. At least I got the tickets at a discount, buying them directly from the county instead of Ticketmaster. (The county government is a sponsor.)

Good enough is good enough

November 27th, 2005 at 01:50 pm

What Flash said an entry or two ago hit home with me. I'm also very tempted, as in her example, to spend $5 more for a larger box of chocolate than is necessary because it's a better buy per pound.

I also saw myself in a book I read this week, Save Karyn. This is the young woman who ran up $20,000 in credit card debt and then put up a website, www.savekaryn.com, and asked people for help paying it off. She described her thought processes as she decided to spend money, and a lot of the things she told herself sounded just like me. Like, "Why not get the top of the line thingie, it's only a few dollars more."

I've been doing a lot of shopping this week, and I tried to keep reminding myself not to let those kinds of thoughts take over. And it's worked pretty well.

Here's an example. We started out married life with 8 place settings of silverware. But lately we've kept running out of silverware between dishwasher loads. I counted, and we were down to 4 place settings. I guess I can't complain about losing 1 piece a year Wink, but I'd chosen it carefully and it was good stuff.

I figured these were my options:

--Buy replacement pieces, which would come to $200 using replacements.com (and this is stainless, not sterling silver!), or through Ebay, which would be cheaper but very slow, because it doesn't get listed very often.

--Buy a good new set for 8. I was very close to getting a set on Amazon for $71.99, which seemed like a great buy for what it was. But even amongst the supposedly good stuff (marked 18/10 and made by a well-known company) I was reading bad reviews about knives getting rust spots, knife handles coming loose, and so forth. It hardly seemed worth spending that much if, 1) I'm going to keep losing 1 piece a year, and 2) there's no guarantee of quality even at this price.

--Buy a cheap new set for 8. But I have my limits for cheapness. I don't want fork tines that bend. And if I'm really being cheap, and we really only need 4 more place settings, why spend money for 8?

--What I ended up doing was buying a cheap set of 4 place settings, for $10, at Target. The forks seem strong, and the knives are nice and heavy. The style is similar enough we can just mix and match with the original set. They're good enough to serve the purpose, which is to carry us between daily dishwasher loads. We're not preparing to give a state dinner.

I actually think I'm happier than I would have been if I'd spend the $71.99. And I have to say I'm surprised. I just wish this "good enough" mentality was more engrained in me. I sure spent a lot of time shopping and thinking, just to come to the decision that most other people might have made automatically.


November 9th, 2005 at 08:03 am

There's an interesting article in the current issue of Psychology Today that I meant to post about. "The Winning Edge," p. 42+ Nov/Dec 2005.

It's about "grit." The ability to keep on keeping on. Persistence, tenacity, staying committed, sticking with things despite obstacles. What researchers are finding is, it's probably even more important than intelligence or creativity or the circumstances you were born into.

It got me thinking that I need to develop some grittier attitudes about money:

--Getting to financial security is going to take time. A long time. Accept it.
--There are going to be setbacks and obstacles. Get used to it, and just keep going.
--It's not how much money you have, it's what you do with it.
--Everybody makes mistakes. Just try to learn from them.
--Stay optimistic, and believe I'm going to succeed in the end.
--Do a little less flitting around with new projects, and a little more working on what I've already started.
--Practice deferred gratification. Remember to look at the big picture, the long-range consequences.

Getting ready for a new week

October 30th, 2005 at 04:21 pm

Even beyond the latest car problem, last week was a rough one. By the time the weekend rolled around, I knew I had to keep things simple and just try to catch up with myself. I did one big shopping trip at Pathmark, didn't use one coupon, and spent $76. Usually I match coupons to sales and go to 2 or 3 stores. But I just didn't want to spend the time or energy.

DH and I both have gas in our cars, and some cash. There's enough food in the house. The laundry is caught up. Tonight I'm dealing with those stacks of paper that build up so fast, and doing a little actual cleaning. We got some extra sleep, and got out on walks. We have movies to watch and books to read.

I don't even know how much money I spent over the past week--I probably overspent, what with the Pathmark shopping and $15 for Chinese food. But I think I'll be able to start the work week feeling caught up, and calmer. And that's the most important thing to me right at this moment.

Girl's Day Out

October 21st, 2005 at 12:10 pm

Just one girl, me. Smile I had a floating holiday to take, so I had the day off work. Even though it's been raining all day, it was still nice.

First I went and did the PNC offer, which by the way I found over on Fatwallet.com (I should have given credit). It's actually even better than I originally noticed. When you sign up for the rewards program on the debit card, they automatically give you 10,000 points, which qualifies you for a $25 gift card of your choice right off the bat. So it's really a $60 deal instead of a $35 one. Hope all goes through ok--the customer service person wasn't sure how the special web deal worked, and had to call in to find out. But I do already have the $10 Best Buy gift card in my hot little hands, so that's something.

Next I drove over to the town we used to live in 10 years ago, before we bought our house. It was already upscale compared to where we were able to buy, and it's only gone onward and upward since we moved! The crummy old Superfresh is now a fancy Genuardi's supermarket, which was my first stop. I've been seeing some good sale prices there on http://www.cairo.com, and figured I'd get one of their savings cards. I scoped the place out and was able to get a few sale items already. Very nice, especially the 1/4 of the store that was actually a sit-down restaurant.

Also discovered there was a Baja Fresh in the same shopping center, which I'd like to try someday. (With a discounted gift card of course.)

I'm trying to use up last year's Entertainment Book coupons before they run out on November 1. So I used a bakery coupon and got some nice stuff for 50% off. If any of you follow true crime, maybe you remember the case where the NJ rabbi hired someone to kill his wife, and the wife was well-known as a bakery owner? Well, this was one of her bakery locations, and I'd never been there.

Had a coupon for Hallmark also, so I went to look at Christmas cards. It was pleasant to look at everything, but I just couldn't get psyched to spend $3.99 per card, even with a coupon.

Now I'm off to polish my nails, for DH more than myself. Gotta keep him happy; I just usually don't have the time or patience to sit around waiting for them to dry. No dinner to worry about as we're getting pizza. We have beer, movies and books on hand, so I anticipate a nice relaxing evening.

My Stress is definintely Less today. Smile

Another car repair--glad yesterday is over.

October 13th, 2005 at 05:20 am

For the past few weeks, something in my car hadn't been right. Some kind of loose feeling in the front end, and a vibration coming up through the steering wheel. At first it only happened at higher speeds, then it kept getting worse. It got to the point I was avoiding the freeway I usually use, and driving on slower local roads instead, because I was afraid of what might happen. I was trying to avoid a car repair until I had more emergency money saved up. But I got to work late a couple of times because of taking the longer route, and the problem just kept getting worse, so I figured I'd better not wait anymore.

Yesterday I spent the best part of 5 hours getting to and from the car repair place, and waiting for it. The repair cost $508 and there was only $80 available in the emergency account I opened awhile ago. So onto the 0% Sony cc it went. Part of the job was an alignment, and when I drove it out it was pulling to the side--the alignment was worse coming out than it went in! In addition, I discovered that the fan for the heater and a/c now only works on high. It worked yesterday. I was extremely suspicious that they either bumped something by accident, causing the fan problem, or caused the problem deliberately, to create more work for themselves. Especially because I also didn't have this front end problem until just after they did the timing belt a few weeks ago.

(I did some research online, though, and discovered that the blower resistor, which controls the fan speed, is a weak point on my car. One poor guy on a message board is replacing his 3 or 4 times a year!)

I was already on edge because of PMS (thank goodness that's over!). Burger King kept about 6 people waiting in the drive-up line before taking anyone's order, and then they messed up my order. The receptionist at AAA told me to go the wrong desk to pick up the Entertainment Book, which used up more time. My day was so messed up I didn't eat lunch til 2 p.m. or dinner til 8 p.m. (Cold BK, warmed over.)

By the time I had the chance to call the car repair place back and complain, I was not a happy camper. I'm afraid my Inner *itch took over; now I feel kind of badly. I think when I take the car back in on Friday, I'd better take them an Entenmann's coffee cake or something.

If not for the PMS--If not for the day being so rushed--If I'd had time to come home, do an aerobics tape and take another shower before work--If I'd had a chance to eat right--If I'd had time to be online a little while and chill out. And most importantly--IF I'D HAD THE $508 READY AND WAITING IN THE SAVINGS ACCOUNT--I don't think I would have snapped. You can't control everything, but if just one or two things had been different about the day, it would have made a world of difference. And one thing I can control is having money socked away.

After this, I think I'm ready to start throwing all extra money into the Emergency Account, until it's built up to a comfortable level. Rebate checks, coins, etc. There are things I've been starting to hanker for, like those nicer razor blades, a gym membership, and so forth. But if using money on that stuff means continuing to deal with emergencies in such a stressful way, it's just not worth it.

Heartwarming experience at Aldi's today

October 11th, 2005 at 04:11 pm

I ran in just to get some fruit my husband likes, and as usual the lines were long.

Things seemed to be moving unusually slow, though, and I finally realized the woman at the front of my line was short of money. A lot of Aldi customers seem to be stretching their pennies, and I've seen this happen several times before. This woman was putting things back like cans of 39 cent beans, one at a time, trying to get it down to where she could pay the bill. The cashier was being very patient, and luckily nobody in line was grumbling or rolling their eyes. But it was still kind of a stressful, embarrassing situation for everyone.

Finally, the woman in front of me told the cashier, "tell her not to worry about it. I'll pay it." And she did! I wondered at first if they were friends or family members shopping together, but no--they were total strangers. The "Good Samaritan" said she'd had weeks like that, and she hated to think of the woman's kids going without food because she was a little short. The cashier said things were tight for her too, as a single mother. They both agreed at least they were better off than the customer who couldn't pay.

I'll tell you, when I came out to the car and tried to tell my mother what happened, I broke down and cried. When I finally got it out, she started to cry too. I didn't know whether to be sad that so many people were having a hard time, or happy that there are such nice people out there.

It just points up what I've heard before--people with less money are more generous (percentage wise) than wealthier people. I'm sure it's because they have a more intimate knowledge of how much the help is needed. In The Millionaire Next Door, I remember the saying "my favorite charity is myself," which is a good indication of the mindset I mean. Not that I don't want more money socked away. But I'd rather be someone who helps people out in the checkout line than a millionaire who's a jerk.

Crazy Eights Sale

October 2nd, 2005 at 03:28 am

I feel like I've made up for lots of mistakes through a great sale at Stop and Shop.

I could see from the circular that their Crazy Eights sale was a good deal. You bought 8 items from a particular group of products, and got an $8 coupon to use later. Since many of the items were only $1, you basically got them for free. What they didn't say in the circular, that I only found out from a message board, was that you could do this over and over again. You could even take the first $8 coupon and use it to buy the 2nd group of 8 products, and so forth, so you hardly had to put out any actual money. I didn't know about this til late in the week, but I still managed to go 4 times!

I used 2 of the coupons and still have 2 to use this week--on things like B1G1F chicken, and Ragu on sale for which I also have coupons. Because of all the stocking up I've been able to do for practically nothing, it's not going to be hard at all to keep to my reduced food budget this month. Whew! Thank goodness for: Stop & Shop's sale, the info I can get on the internet, working part-time, and storage space.

Also, our property tax rebate of $350 arrived in our bank account yesterday, instead of October 15 as I expected. Saturday was a good day. Smile

Last gasp of summer

September 18th, 2005 at 04:53 am

Thanks for the comments. I think "frugal fatigue" about sums it up. I decided to take a day off from being responsible, and we finally drove down to the shore--our only trip there this summer.

Gas about $15
Tolls $4.70
Air show at municipal airport, free
Lunch at airport $15
Beach, free
Pizza for dinner $10, at least it was bought with a coupon and we have leftovers for another dinner
Beer $5
Having our dinner in the back yard, free
Watching old movies after dinner, free
Not doing any laundry, cooking, cleaning, or shopping, free

For a total of $49.70. But like the ad says, feeling of complete relaxation, priceless.

Usually we go to a free beach, but this late in the season I could only track down 4 streets in Ocean City where there would still be lifeguards. I figured on biting the bullet and paying for their beach tags--but the Beach Tag Police were nowhere to be seen. The little building where you usually buy the tags was already boarded up for the season, and nobody walking up and down the beach checking for tags, either. A nice surprise.

I've got to start budgeting money for more outings like this...

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