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Prescription Drug Take-Back Day

April 28th, 2012 at 12:15 pm

Here in the U.S., today you can turn in old or unneeded prescription drugs to many local police departments, no questions asked. I'm interested in it as an easy, environmentally-safe way to dispose of some clutter, but I suppose law enforcement wants to make sure certain drugs stay out of the hands of people who might abuse them. DMom has quite a few old bottles we can empty out, and this only runs from 10 to 2, so I want to get out early and not miss it.

http://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_disposal/takeback/ind...

Stockpiling to save time, not necessarily money

March 29th, 2009 at 01:53 am

All of a sudden, I'm finding myself buying in bulk, in a big way. I'd love to have a year's supply of whatever is practical. Two things spurred me to do this--

1) My mother casually mentioned how her friend buys blueberries in season and freezes a whole year's supply. It reminded me of how I like to buy a big carton of red-skinned sweet potatoes in the fall, and eat them all year. It's nice to know they're there, and that I don't have to run up to the farm market every few weeks. And I don't have to think about them every time I make a shopping list.

2) I had another scare this past week with my mother--nothing serious, but something that's going to take extra time again, taking her to doctors and such. Something is always coming up. I just can't devote that much time to grocery shopping. Many weeks I only have a few hours to myself, and I'll be darned if I'm going to spend them all looking at circulars, sorting coupons and running to sales.

So I'm starting to think big. So far, I've ordered some stuff on Amazon and joined BJ's Warehouse (like Sam's or Costco, but a smaller chain). I'm going ahead and spending like crazy, but at least I'm using my price book. My goals is to get stocked up as much as possible while on a vacation week, and then try to relax and enjoy my spring and summer as much as possible. It's throwing any concept of a weekly grocery budget out the window, but I think it'll be worth it.


Paying myself back rather than the cc

March 16th, 2009 at 03:56 pm

I've gotten back into that vicious cycle that Carol Keeffe describes so well in her book*--one month you charge some groceries and toothpaste, the next month when you pay the bill it leaves you short to buy the new month's groceries, and you end up using the credit card again and again each month.

When things were really wild over the past few months, I'd just shop when I could. I didn't always have cash with me, and didn't always know for sure how much was in our checking accounts. I didn't want to overdraw an account, so I used the credit card to be safe. If I was using the credit card, I couldn't go to Aldi, and I didn't have time to shop the sales and use coupons, either. I didn't always take time to record what I spent. Often I had to charge things that were really for my mother, which confused things even more. (She doesn't have a credit card of her own.)

Result--a balance I've been paying off each month, but sometimes painfully so.

This weekend I "borrowed" $140 from our bills account to cover a big food shopping trip. I've got a lot of catching up to do, as we've used up a lot of stockpile items, and a lot had to be throw away because it got spoiled or was way out of date. I'll probably have to "borrow" some more next week. So far this month I've already spent $284 on groceries and we're only half through.

But at least I can pay myself back at my leisure with no interest adding up. And it's enabling me to take advantage of some really good sales and coupons, like a series of $5 off $40 coupons at one of our stores.

* "How to get what you want in life with the money you already have"

Whipsawed, but in a good way

November 1st, 2008 at 03:21 pm

I hardly know where to begin. A few weeks ago, I was actually in tears because of money worries and now I'm trying to figure out how to divvy up a 45% increase in our cash flow. I just found out that my boss really went to bat for me, and got approval for me to go full-time with benefits! Not only is it more hours and free insurance, but also an increase in my hourly rate. Things sure can change fast, down or up.

I've been very worried about how we'd cope when DH's Cobra coverage ran out. That's a big part of the reason I went ahead and sold the rest of the ETFs I had in my IRA. I didn't want to raid the IRA to pay for health insurance, but I wanted to have the option if it came to that. If the stock market kept tanking, I couldn't be sure of how much I'd have available.

I've been trying really hard, running around to to buy things on sale, using coupons and rebates again, and had our freezer pretty well filled up.

One night DH got out some pizza and left the door open about an inch. In the morning, I heard it running like mad and discovered it. That's when I finally broke down and cried, fearing that all the food was ruined and money wasted. (We've been using the food up as fast as we can, with no ill effects so far.)

DH started looking for work, and finally signed up with a rather cheesy temp agency out of desperation. You can read about them here, and either be forewarned or just see how the bottom half lives:

http://www.motherjones.com/news/feature/2002/03/street_inc.h...

I even went so far as to tell my mother I couldn't chip in the tip anymore when she took us out for a meal. It was really embarrassing, but felt I had to do it.

She likes to get out to restaurants, but is housebound now and needs one of us to drive her. She pays for the meal, and we've been paying the tips. But what with gas prices, I didn't feel I could keep shelling out more money on tips than we could have made the whole meal for at home.

Now, amazingly, the tide seems to have turned. Instead of feeling stunned and unsure because of all the bad economic news, I'm now feeling stunned and unsure about how to handle this good fortune.

I really, really, don't want to blow it.




McDonald's-my best investment this week

October 8th, 2008 at 12:11 pm

No, not McDonald's stock--coupons.

DMom and I sometimes go to McD's for coffee because it's cheaper than some places and we like it just as well. Yesterday there was a sign on the door about Halloween coupons books, so I asked about them.

For $1, you get a coupon folder with 12 coupons for free items. In other words, for $1 you get coupons for about $10 worth of food. Can't beat that with a stick.

I suppose they're meant for kids--they have Ronald McDonald on them, and they're for small items--hamburgers, cones, juice, milk, and apple dippers. They expire 12/31.

I bought two. They are just the kind of things DMom and I might want to snack on with our coffee. Or that would hold off the hunger pangs if I'm out on errands a long time.

Somehow this lifts my spirits more than hearing that the Fed has lowered interest rates. Wink

Back because I'm scared

September 27th, 2008 at 11:13 pm

I feel like I need to huddle around the virtual campfire at Saving Advice again, safe from the cold, cruel world with some people who have their heads on straight. Smile

I'm trying not to be a Nervous Nellie, but all this upheaval in the economy is starting to get to me. It's not just what I'm hearing on the news--it's real life.

WAMU-we have our one credit card with them. Things should be business as usual, but it feels strange to have a 2nd credit card provider go belly up on me. (I had a NextBank card years ago.)

Wachovia-I have a brokerage account with them, DMom has two brokerage accounts plus she owns a pretty significant chunk of Wachovia stock which is already showing a loss. I'm hoping they don't do a WAMU and that she doesn't lose it all.

The housing market-My mother, at 91, has finally put her "extra" house up for sale, seemingly at the worst possible time in recent memory. There have only been two showings in about 3 weeks. If it goes on too many months, we may need to help her get it ready to rent out.

It's been a year, and DH still isn't working. In a lot of ways it's been a help, but we could sure use some extra money.

Especially since we are still paying $660 a month for his COBRA health insurance, which runs out in March. The prospects for me getting full-time at my present job don't look good, and the cost of an individual (non-COBRA) policy will be even higher.

Our emergency fund is below the $1000 minimum that I feel comfortable with, and I'm going to have to work hard to get it built up again. I'm unavoidably spending $200 a month on gas now (because of driving my mother), and our car insurance just went up $35 a month.

Somehow I'm going to have to get back to frugal ways, but I don't have time to fiddle around with Quicken like I used to.

Hope things are going a little more smoothly with everyone else.

One last entry

August 11th, 2008 at 12:45 pm

My own mother had full-blown stroke on June 1, and it's basically changed my life. Several times I've had ideas for entries about how caregiving can affect your finances, or my observations on Medicare. But I just haven't had time to write.

In fact, I haven't had the time to read the other blogs, and when I checked in to read new posts in the forums, there were hundreds more than I had time to check out.

DMom is actually doing pretty well, living in one of her two houses and trying to sell the other one. But she's not supposed to drive, so DH and I are doing a lot of running, and we're the ones trying to empty out the for-sale house. I don't see things calming down any time soon--when one project is done, there's another one waiting to be started.

So, it's been fun and fulfilling, but this blog has to go. Best of financial luck to everybody. Smile



Full Plate Part 2 - Family Stuff

December 12th, 2007 at 02:28 pm

It started about 4 weeks ago.

DMom finally decided to have the bathroom redone in one of her houses, so that one house was completely livable and she could sell the other one. She's been driving between the two houses almost every day for over 20 years. Did I mention she's 90 years old???

DH and I attended meetings with the remodeler with her, moved furniture and breakable stuff so they could get in and work, made phone calls, made sure there was food and coffee in the house, etc. DH also got a shed torn down and some yard work done while it was going on.

For 3 weeks, we took turns being at the house at 8 a.m. to let the remodelers in. DMom couldn't sleep there because there was no bathroom, and she couldn't drive down herself to meet them because she doesn't get that early a start in the mornings. We'd wait til she got there, then tried to get on with our own days.

We thought it was only going to be 2 weeks, so we scheduled our own roofing job for week 3. But as it turned out, I was at DMom's with her remodelers while DH was home dealing with our roofers.

At the end of the job, we discovered the toilet they gave DMom was not nearly powerful enough...you don't want to know! I ended up working a split day, managing a toilet changeover for her during my afternoon off.

It was getting to be very stressful because while sitting at DMom's house, we were holed up in her living room which is crammed with old, crumbling dirty stuff she doesn't want to get rid of. We saw tons of things that need to be thrown out, given away, cleaned, or stored. We could have gotten a lot more done while we were there anyway--but she just kept saying No, No, No. She couldn't deal with that much change all at once. Very frustrating.

Finally at the end of the projects, DH and I sat down after dinner to relax, but it wasn't meant to be.

My BIL, who lives with my MIL (also 90) has had bipolar disorder for many years, which has been pretty well controlled with lithium except during extra stressful periods. Well, it was starting to have medical side effects and they changed his medication.

I won't go into detail, but we've spent many hours on the phone with family, the security guard in my MIL's development, the mental health crisis people. The police and crisis folks were at the house 6+ hours before he was taken to the hospital in an ambulance. He'd been holding MIL practically hostage, pulled out the phone lines so she couldn't communicate with the outside world. He was suicidal, and there's a good chance there's still an old gun on the property that he hid somewhere. The police looked for it, and couldn't find it.

We are all very apprehensive about how long the hospital will keep him, how he'll be when he gets out, and how to keep my MIL safe. I called the social worker's office at the hospital but only got an answering machine and no call back yet. I emailed the Red Cross's Lifeline service (the I've fallen and I can't get up thing) but it bounced back as a bad address. More frustrations I really don't need.

We've also got DMom's car at our mechanic because lots of repairs have been adding up and we felt it wasn't safe for her to drive. It looked like she hadn't gotten an oil change for over a year! She's just developed a bladder infection and since her car's in the shop, I'm driving her to doctor appointments and the drugstore this week.

I've been spending money like a drunken sailor--can't even tell you what on. I had to raid the Bills checking account for stuff that should be coming out of the Groceries checking account, but I don't see how it could be helped. I can't see my financial life getting back under control until things start to calm down. I've been lurking on a Debtor's Anonymous email list, and know I would be taken to task for Vagueness (not writing down everything spent, not spending within a budget). My mental reply to the DA folks right now is, "Get Real!"

My plate is full

December 9th, 2007 at 04:43 pm

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!)





90th birthday dilemma, partly about money

June 30th, 2007 at 01:17 pm

Warning - Long!

Got a message from a family friend, asking if we were doing anything special for my mother's 90th birthday.

Back when DMom was 80, we did have a fairly large party--and now that I remember it, it was at the instigation of this same family friend. We dug out old photos and things, and put them on display. It was a nice group of guests, a mix of family and friends, and overall a very nice memory for everyone. But it also cost several hundred dollars at a time when I was using credit cards and spending money like water. This family friend whose idea it was did make a nice memory book, but didn't contribute to the cost of the party. She just made me feel like I ought to do it, if I were any kind of daughter.

So here we are 10 years later. I was planning on keeping things small, for a myriad of reasons.

My MIL turns 90 the same month, and we probably won't even be seeing her. We'll send her a larger gift than usual, and talk to her on the phone, but that will probably be it. It doesn't seem fair to go overboard for my mother if we don't do it for both.

Many of the people who attended the 80th birthday party have died, or have moved away to live with or near their children. Or they're in assisted living. Also, there really aren't many blood relatives of my mother to invite. I'd end up spending hundreds of dollars to feed distant relatives like my cousins' grandchildren on my father's side, so that other older relatives would have a ride to the event.

If I were still spending money like I used to, I might not think twice about it. (And if I weren't already devoting a fair amount of time and mental energy to my mother and her situation, maybe I'd be more willing, too.)

But right now my gut answer is "No, I'm not doing anything special for my mother's 90th birthday. If you'd like to do something yourself, feel free."

It makes me feel kind of guilty and cheap, but I just don't want to be roped into trying to recreate an event that should stay a nice memory. Or spending money because someone else thinks I ought to. (Someone, by the way, who is much better fixed than we are! And who is retired and has a lot more free time.)








Telephone Day

April 16th, 2007 at 12:15 am

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.



Saved by a glitch in Amazon's checkout system

September 2nd, 2006 at 02:50 pm

The last eight days have been wild, and upsetting at times. DH is having trouble with his knee and back, and having emotional ups and downs because of the pain. He ended up bursting into tears while we were having ice cream and cake for his birthday. We found out my aunt has a form of leukemia. An episode happened at work where I had to call the police, and I'm still kind of shaken up about it. Many computer problems at work. My mother had to ask me what the rest of her social security number was; not a good sign.

By yesterday morning I started feeling desperate and wondering how I was going to continue dealing with this kind of stuff with the darkness of winter coming on. I've always thought about trying those light boxes people use for Seasonal Affective Disorder, and found a good deal on Amazon.

I guess it wasn't meant to be, because although I tried several times, the order wouldn't go through. It kept getting stuck when I tried to choose free shipping.

I felt better by later in the day, keeping busy at work, and boy was I glad the order hadn't gone through! As I told DH last night--I can buy a lot of chocolate, take-out meals and movie tickets with the $179 I almost spent, and I KNOW they make me feel better. Smile

I Vant To Be Alone (sometimes)

May 16th, 2006 at 12:51 pm

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!)

Bargain hunting = Emergency room visit

May 12th, 2006 at 02:29 pm

Sigh. This week I took my mother along shopping to a discount chain store that shall remain nameless for the time being. She still drives, but doesn't roust herself to get out shopping very often. I thought I could kill two birds with one stone, picking up something I needed myself, and also getting her out. That's why I feel especially bad about this--part of my reason for the trip was to take care of my own business and save time. I keep thinking if I wasn't being so selfish, this might never have happened.

She was looking at canvas shoes. There was a style that fit her pretty well for $5.99. But it wasn't on sale, so she kept trying on the ones that were on sale for $5. Understand she has no need to save the 99 cents! While saying it was a waste of time and we ought to go home, she kept trying on pair after pair.

Suddenly she cried out in pain, removed the shoe she was trying, and there was a nail-like thing stuck in her foot! It turned out to be part of some kind of security device.

She pulled it right out, unceremoniously. I would have been freaking out, myself! I told her she ought to get a tetanus shot, if nothing else, and she decided if it required a doctor visit she better file some kind of report to the store.

Long story short, we ended up at the emergency room and neither of us got home or had dinner til after 7 p.m. She got her tetanus shot, plus a smear of Neosporin on a band-aid.

Hopefully Medicare and her supplemental insurance will cover it. The bill should be interesting in any case. Maybe I'll start a pool, and whoever guesses how much hospitals charge for emergency bandaids will win a prize. Wink

She also got a prescription for an antibiotic, which cost her over $60 after her Blue Cross discount.

I'm trying to see a lesson in this. It's one more reason to stop shopping at this particular chain, which I have grown to hate. Don't take my mother shopping? I could order things I know she needs from catalogs and bring her things from stores, even though she resists it. Keep your tetanus vaccine up to date, so it doesn't become an emergency? Look in shoes before you put them on? My mother should get Medicare Part D even though she doesn't see the point, because you never know when you'll need a prescription? Don't sweat spending an extra 99 cents if you can afford it?

BTW, she seems to be doing just fine.

A bird in the hand...

April 30th, 2006 at 08:17 pm

is worth two in the bush, as they say.

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

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

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

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

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

Ebay stores?

March 15th, 2006 at 07:16 pm

The 10-cent listing fee for today spurred me on to list a few items on Ebay. With photos from the digital camera--Yes!

Not that I got my listings for 10 cents. I like it when other people offer Buy It Now, so I use it when I list something. Also, I've been through listing items for a very low starting bid, and having them go for that price. There's no way I'm going to let a rare book go for a penny, so I also set reserve prices.

It got me thinking--would it be more worthwhile to set up an Ebay store? They give you the first 30 days free, then it's $15.95 a month. My mom's interested in selling some stuff, too, so maybe it would be worthwhile. I like the idea of having it more like Amazon, where the items can just sit at my set price til the right buyer comes along. For some reason, I really dislike the whole auction thing, as a buyer or a seller.

I wonder whether they still charge the monthly fee if you're on vacation? What if you have to close your store completely, and then want to open one again in a year or so--will they let you back in? If anyone knows, I'd appreciate the info.

In addition to the shower curtain, music box, and two books on Ebay, I listed another book on Amazon and got a $20 rebate ready to go. Went to Aldi's yesterday. Basically, I've been working on stuff that will catch us up financially rather than going on to anything new that will cost money.

Easing back in

March 6th, 2006 at 03:28 pm

DMom's computer is set up and at her house. I'm finally feeling back to normal after being sick. The snow is gone. And I'm finally starting to feel caught up with paperwork and household stuff. So it's time to come back.

I knew I was going to be over budget for this 4-week Everyday Expenses cycle, but I just ran a report this morning that showed me how bad it is. So far I'm well over $600 with nearly a week to go. By the time I get gas one more time and go to Petsmart, it could reach $700.

I know it was because I was short on time, what with extra projects, being sick, and dealing with the snow. But things like this happen all the time, and I can't be running over budget every time they do. So I looked things over to see if I could figure it out.

The main thing I noticed was, if I get to Aldi's once or twice in a month, I'm within my budget. If I don't get there, and especially if I'm going to Stop and Shop instead, I'm way over budget. So the key seems to be MAKE TIME FOR ALDI's, no matter what else is going on in my life. And try to stay out of Stop and Shop.

Will be back soon

February 8th, 2006 at 02:31 pm

Lots of stuff going on. The last seven days have been really busy, and posting here was just at the bottom of my list. It's been the kind of week where what I'd usually do last Wednesday got pushed off til Thursday, the usual Thursday stuff got pushed to Friday, and so forth. I didn't get to my local library, and didn't even think to renew things online. So I had to pay almost $6 in fines this week, mostly for a movie I never even got to watch. Frown Also, I've gone over my grocery budget. But I did work a few extra hours last week,and I'm so glad things are moving along, that I don't mind spending a little extra.

The main thing is, I'm getting a computer set up for DMom. She's needed a little help with paperwork over the past few years, but has always handled her checking account just fine. I always thought if I needed to help her with that, there'd have to be a computer to use at her house because I can't function without Quicken! I figured at that point I'd even buy the computer myself if I needed to. I didn't know it til yesterday, but she did have a problem this month because of something weird Verizon is doing, which was rather confusing on her checking account statement. She had even gone to the bank to try and figure it out. So I guess it's time. I can start doing it in Quicken, she can keep doing it her way, and then we can double-check each other.

Even before that happened, though, DMom said she was ready to go ahead with a computer. I'd shop, and she'd pay. So this past week was spent shopping for the best deal.

She's been thinking about it a long time, but what spurred her on was tax season. We didn't have a great experience with H&R Block last year. $350 and we did most of the work. She's content to have me try doing it, but she's nervous about my computer being online. Someone might hack in and find her social security number, etc. She'd rather spend money on a computer at her house, with no internet access. And she's absolutely tickled about the printer I found that can also be used as a copier when the PC isn't even on. (She's big on copying articles and sending them to friends.)

So I might not be posting much for awhile, what with helping her move furniture, setting up the PC and working on both our taxes. Wish me luck, and I'll see you after April 15. (Hopefully before.)

Claritin, and misc.

January 12th, 2006 at 01:40 pm

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





Part of Christmas will be delayed, that's all

December 22nd, 2005 at 03:43 pm

As I showered, getting ready to make the dreaded mall trip, I calmed down and realized that DH probably wouldn't care if his pj's arrived a few days late. If I could just convince DMom of this, I'd just go ahead and order the stuff at Penney's online with standard shipping and be done with it. She wasn't too hard to convince, especially when I described all I was able to find on sale for $53 total. Wink As a matter of fact, my gift from DMom is going to be arriving late from Amazon, as well. (She'd told me to go ahead and order the blender I wanted.)

On Christmas Day, we'll have a nice dinner together, and visit, and we'll give her our gifts. It will be fine.

Now I just have to pick up a few things for DH to give his female co-workers tomorrow (I'm figuring chocolate would be safe), a prescription, and a few more things for DMom if there's time. If not, I can do that tomorrow. So I won't know our Christmas bill total for a little while. I'll also be taking a lunch break today with DMom and my aunt at a little Italian restaurant, and working 5-9. A much easier day than I anticipated. We even chose the restaurant for lunch, based on how far away from mall traffic it was. Wink





Budgeting lesson from the 1950's

August 16th, 2005 at 01:35 pm

Last week DMom and I were discussing money and budgeting methods, and she pulled out a ledger book from when she and DDad were first married--1952 to 1956! We got a good laugh at some of the prices, believe me. Wink

DMom is Mrs. Moneybags at this point, but as she pointed out, back then it felt like they were living from paycheck to paycheck. And actually that wasn't such a bad thing for them back then. The first few years they were living in an apartment and didn't own a car. So there weren't surprise car and appliance repairs or large car insurance and property tax bills to plan for. They kept track of things as small as 47 cents for an electric socket, but my dad managed to buy a slide projector for $185. That's $185 in 1950's money--equivalent to several month's rent.

What I found really interesting was that although they had a budget, they were always going over. (I think I found one month where they were under!) And yet, over that 4-year period, things worked out just fine overall.

The key seemed to be their systematic savings, along with an artificially low, slightly tight budget. (To paraphrase The Millionaire Next Door, "they created an artificial economic environment of scarcity for themselves.")

DMom said she had a nice cushion of "war bonds" she'd bought during WW2. And I could see in the ledger book they were still buying more savings bonds, $37.50 a month for a $50 bond, through payroll deductions. If they went over budget by $10 each month, they were still $27.50 ahead because of that payroll deduction. When the checking account got too low, or they had something unusual to spend money on, they just cashed in some bonds--as opposed to the modern way of using plastic. Wink

It left me feeling a little better about making mistakes and not managing to stay within a budget all the time. I tend to worry and feel guilty--like if every financial move I make isn't exactly right, we'll end up bankrupt and it will have been my fault. But maybe the important thing is just to make sure we're moving in the right direction even if it's only by $27.50 a month. Once again, remembering to look at the big picture and not letting myself get so riled up.

Mom money issues

July 21st, 2005 at 01:45 pm

DMom, who for years has given us an annual chunk of money for our IRAs, mentioned she *might* not be able to do it this year because she *might* be getting some work done on her house. We really do refrain from spending any of this; it goes right into our IRAs. So it might not sound like it should affect our budget.

However, what we're doing are traditional IRAs to save on current taxes. I haven't thought of the situation as using a "Mom gift" for living expenses. Since it seemed like something we could count on, long ago I adjusted my withholding lower at work. I'd rather have a smooth income all year long, instead of scrimping and then getting a big tax refund. But that means the tax savings we've been using for living expenses is actually the result of a gift from DMom, even though the money doesn't come directly from her. It's a tax break we wouldn't get on our own, since we couldn't afford to put that much away ourselves.

The result is, if DMom doesn't do it this year and I leave the withholding the same, we'll owe a big chunk on taxes in the spring, maybe even a penalty for not having enough withheld. So I just upped my withholding and now have to figure out where to find another $100 a month to keep our budget in the black.

Now, my mom's "mights" don't often come to fruition. I'll be really surprised if she actually moves ahead with the home improvement projects. Even if she does, she's apt to give us the IRA funds anyway. Although it might be next April 14--I think she likes to keep us guessing. Wink But preparing for the worst seems like the safest course.

Deciding how to handle windfalls

June 26th, 2005 at 01:44 pm

A nice problem to have!

My mother is pretty generous with cash gifts for Christmas, birthdays and our anniversary. The thing is, often the money has gone right toward some kind of bill like car repairs, a new oven, etc. I've been glad to have the help, OTOH it's really a blow to the self-esteem to feel like we wouldn't be making it except for her help. Especially since I'm 48 and DH is about to turn 50. So what I've been trying to do with our budget is make sure we can cover all the necessities of life on our own and let the gifts be for extras or savings.

It was our anniversary yesterday, and the usual nice check has arrived in the mail. I've already set up automatic deductions from our checking account, sending 10% to our savings account for a new car and 10% as an extra payment on our (0%) credit card. The balance is what I'm still unsure about.

I want to be rid of the debt. I want to sock as much away in that new car savings account as I can. But I just signed up for two of those programs where you buy gift certificates at 20% off. It doesn't make sense to keep up the memberships at $14.95 a month and buy the GCs in dribs and drabs, with the savings barely covering the membership fee. What makes sense is figuring out how much I'd spend in a year at those stores anyway, buy the GCs all at once, and then quit at least one of the programs. That way, at least in theory, I'd be saving 20% off what I'd be spending on extras like clothing, plants, and home improvement projects anyway. This chunk of money would enable me to do that, and it's what I'd planned to do. But I seem to be chickening out.

I don't know if I've made a mistake in signing up for the programs or not. It's no biggie; I could buy nothing and just cancel before the 30 day trial period is up. Which is being more realistic and honest with myself--figuring I'd spend that money anyway and I might as well save 20%, OR, recognizing that as easy as it is to let small amounts of money slip through one's fingers week in and week out, I'd be better off putting this bigger chunk toward savings or debt while it's easy to do. Also, would I be able to save that 20% or even more by just shopping carefully and buying less? Will I feel stuck buying at the stores I have the GCs for even though I see a great sale somewhere else? Will I end up spending more because in the back of my mind, I'll be thinking about how much of a bargain I got on the GCs?

I guess at the most basic level, it comes down to spending vs. saving vs. paying on debt. They all seem to be pulling at me equally right at the moment.