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Viewing the 'Money, time and energy' Category

Keepin' cool the low-class way

July 30th, 2006 at 11:18 am

I've finally convinced DH to take our mattress down to the living room for the week. We're going into another heatwave, with no chance for thunderstorms to break it until at least Thursday. They are saying this is 10 degrees higher than our normal temps for this time of year.

We have central a/c which hardly gets upstairs at all, so we have a window a/c in the bedroom. Most of the time it works out fine, but in this kind of heat it just can't keep up.

I'm not on top of our kilowatt hours like Ima is, but I'm sure it costs plenty to run on days like this. Why waste the money and energy if it's a lost cause anyway?

I just hope nobody decides to drop in on us while we're camped out downstairs! (Next sofa we get has got to be a sofa-bed.)

Strange motivation for finishing taxes--but at least they're done!

July 27th, 2006 at 10:50 am

I did work on our taxes back in the spring, along with my mother's. In fact, ours were virtually done. But I was so bleary-eyed and confused by April 15 that I just didn't trust what I'd done. So I got extensions for both my mother and us.

All this time, my sewing machine cabinet has been closed up and the tax stuff has been piled on top. But last night I discovered an open seam that's too long to fix by hand, and I want to use the machine.

So today I filed all three of our things electronically--federal, state, and the state property tax rebate.

Funny how $100 in tax refunds wasn't motivating enough for me to do it, but getting to the sewing machine was!

(I got my mother's federal one done last week. This week we took a birthday break; she was 89. Next week hopefully NJ will get finished.)

Refining my budget system (long)

July 25th, 2006 at 07:01 pm

Here's the main thing I've been up to as far as reorganizing. What I've wanted for a long time is an easy way to make sure we're living within our means, and to see how much is available for extras.

What I've done is tweaked our direct deposits and automatic savings deposits so that no extra money is left in our main checking account beyond what's needed for monthly bills. When non-monthly bills come up, I transfer the money back in from savings.

The point of that is, when I see a nice balance in there I will know none of it can be touched because it all has to pay bills.

Here's the new way things are divvied up out of our main account (annual figures):

$3372 into Emergency Fund
$1040 into Health Savings Account
$6240 into House Account (property taxes, homeowner's insurance, quarterly water and sewer bills, and lawn mowing)
$600 into Occasional Expenses Account (AAA, safe deposit box, etc.)
$600 into Christmas/Gift/Routine Vet Visits Account
$204 into New Computer/Appliances Account
$2784 into New Car Account (starts after cc pmts are finished)

Then there's checking account #2, which gets $140 a week to cover groceries, gas, pet supplies and two Sunday newspaper subscriptions (being as I'm really getting them for the coupons).

I'll be able to see how much is available to spend on Everyday Expenses just by looking at the account balance. (No fiddling with Quicken reports.)

That leaves a total of $720 for discretionary spending per year out of our regular income:

$240 for personal expenses like haircuts, haircolor, makeup, moisturizer, etc.

$480 for clothes for the two of us.

Everything else, from coating the driveway, to plants, to dates with DH, has to come out of the kind of extra money a lot of you are using for the $20 challenge. Rebates, working the elections, bank bonuses, lower-than-expected utility bills, etc.

I'm corralling all the extra/discretionary money into checking account #3 at Netbank. Result, I can see exactly how much spending money is available just by looking at the balance.

A little background on how I came up with some figures.

Clothes - Dave Ramsey recommends spending 2-9% of your income on clothing. $480 is less than 1-1/2% of our take-home. Also, I found a government chart on income and expenditures that shows a household with our income spends about $1477 a year on apparel and clothing care services. $480 is is less than 1/3 of that. So while it might seem high to some of you, I'm feeling that it's perfectly reasonable for us.

Car savings - The $2784 is just about what we've been putting against the cc debt over the past year. Also, that same government chart shows that a household with our income spends $2797 on new vehicle aquisition per year. So this seems right in the ballpark.

The All-Ett

July 25th, 2006 at 06:26 pm


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

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

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

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

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

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

Disorganization strikes again

July 12th, 2006 at 08:25 am

Had a scare this morning--

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

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

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

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

Microwave on the fritz

July 10th, 2006 at 05:33 am

This has about put me over the edge, as far as shopping. I'M TIRED OF SHOPPING! It's not even that I don't want to spend the money. I'm just tired of the process of doing the shopping.

This weekend, shoes for DH from Shoebuy.com and a tool he needed for work, from Home Depot. Petsmart and two supermarkets. K-Mart for a 2nd new hairdryer like my original one because the first one I bought as a replacement was a pain to use. Shorts for me from the men's department at Target; I was getting desperate after shopping for several weeks. Yes, I guess I'm cross-dressing now. Wink Recently, tires, other clothes, checks. By next weekend, 2 more birthday presents. Still need to get a hair clipper to do DH's hair for awhile; his barber retired.

I found a good deal at Linens and Things for a microwave that would be $20 after a coupon and rebate. But you had to pick it up at a local store, and it was out of stock at mine. Found one for $39.99 at Kohl's, but it was sold out at our Kohl's. Had to ask them to call another store, where I'll pick it up tomorrow. Between checking around online, and making the first trip to Kohl's, I've put at least 2 hours into the project already with nothing to show for it.

When I'm all caught up, I'm going to be very content to stay home doing other things for a good, long time.

One PotatOH, two PotatOH...

July 8th, 2006 at 08:27 am

Yesterday a mysterious package arrived on our porch, a UPS 2nd day air box, from Colorado, filled with something heavy. I couldn't imagine what it could be... Here, the Express PotatOH! people had actually sent me 4 of their microwavable baking potatoes to replace the 2 moldy ones I'd complained about.

I feel kind of bad that they went to the expense of sending out a 4 lb package of potatoes. (Maybe someone should tell them about free item coupons?) But I'm glad to essentially get double my money back on them. They look fine, nice and fresh.

Smuckers' response was excellent, too. I'd written them about their sugar-free preserves, which I didn't like the taste of. They sent me two free-product coupons to replace the two jars I couldn't face eating. The really impressive thing was, within 24 hours of my email they actually called me on the phone to ask some questions (such as the product codes on my jars). Within the week, the coupons were here.

It really only takes a few minutes to email a company about a problem (especially with the aid of Flash's contact list), and very satisfying when you get a response.

The Tea Solution

July 6th, 2006 at 10:02 am

Thanks for all the comments from those who shared my disbelief over the teakettle that couldn't boil water. It definitely was a kettle, not a teapot--there was a whistle, and everything. This is the dumb thing, here:


I notice they haven't posted my bad review yet. Wink I did manage to get my money back without having the box, although I had to dig in my heels a bit.

Kudos to the Lipton tea people, though. They do still make the unsweetened tea! I was googling around and came across their online store. If I couldn't find it locally, I could order it online direct from them.

But even better, they had a "store finder" feature that's better than any I've seen. You can actually search for a store that carries the specific product you are looking for, instead of getting a list of stores who happen to carry the brand.

I found out only one grocery chain in my area carries this specific stuff, Acme. I never go there, hence I never see the product. So I made a special trip today and am drinking some as I type. Smile It's funny how little comforts like this can make your day, even when more important stuff is going on.

Whew, I can stop teakettle shopping, too!

Clothes shopping

June 26th, 2006 at 08:15 am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Financial plans for the week

June 19th, 2006 at 05:30 am

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

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

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

Two new tires, $244.68

June 18th, 2006 at 04:37 am

Actually, it worked out well on many levels.

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

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

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

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

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

Back from Election Day, $200 richer (yawn)

June 7th, 2006 at 06:17 am

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

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

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

Sick of allergy season

May 29th, 2006 at 05:56 am

The worst part isn't what you'd think. Generic claritin does a pretty good job of controlling the sneezing and runny nose. What it can't do is give me my energy back. I feel like I've been unplugged. Or like deflated balloon. I don't feel like I'm ever fully awake or rested, no matter how much I sleep.

If I hadn't been through this for years, I'd think I had mono or something. But I know from experience it's just a matter of waiting it out. When things in the environment change, I'll feel better.

What this has to do with money--I just don't have the energy to run around and take advantage of sales and things. I went to only one grocery store this weekend, and did the best I could there. I ordered socks and nylons online from Just My Size because I dont' have the energy to run out shopping. I'm not cooking much; we've had takeout two days in a row.

I figure it's more important to reserve my energy for higher-priority, higher-stakes things like getting out to do a $50 test drive tomorrow, and getting out to the election job training.

OTOH, it's a good time to do easy stuff like being online, and catching up on my reading. For example, I've gone through Flash's food company contacts and signed up for some newsletters I never knew about.

Everyone have a safe and happy holiday! And wish me a change in the weather.

Election job progress

May 25th, 2006 at 05:56 am

It was last November I signed up to work the elections. In January I got a letter with a card to mail in, saying I was still interested. Then, nothing.

I came across the January letter last week while I was going through papers, and almost threw it away. I figured it was a lost cause. But then I thought, why not at least call and find out what happened?

Long story short, the guy I talked to was almost sure they could use me somewhere--and not way off in November, but in June, for the primary! There is training next week, for which I've taken a vacation day. I'm just waiting to hear which session they're putting me in. Then, if all goes well, they'll let me know where I'll be sent to work on June 6.

I feel like I should create another category for blog entries about patience and perseverance! So much of what I've been doing to make or save money just seems to take a long time; lots of waiting and follow-up.

An investment that pays 400%

May 23rd, 2006 at 06:29 am

Try paying for coupons. (Actually, the sellers all specify you are paying for the service of having the coupons clipped rather than for the coupons themselves. Legal issue, I guess.) I'm so pleased with how this has been going for me lately, I figured I'd post about it.

I set up a lot of saved searches on Ebay, and each morning I get an email with links to auctions that match the search. (I also have searches set up for gift cards and other products I'm looking for.)

This morning I saw a lot of (6) $1 coupons for cat food our cat likes. I snapped them up immediately for $1.19. If I'm figuring this right, I'll be saving $4.81 by spending the $1.19, which means I've increased my purchasing power by 404%.

I've learned to be careful about getting more than I can use before the expiration date. I've seen lots of 20 of this same coupon, but passed on them because I'd never use them in time. 6, I will use.

I also use a non-Ebay clipping service, where you can choose individual coupons in the specific quantities you need. I'm using www.cnfcentral.com (formerly Dab's Forms) because you don't have to get multiples of each coupon you choose. If I only get Worcestershire sauce once a year, I don't want to be forced into buying 5 coupons for it. But if you want multiples anyway, there are many other sources. A good discussion on them is here: www.dealagogo.com/showthread.php?t=31959

Since I'm getting so much at Aldi now, there are only a limited number of name brand items I can use coupons for. This targeted approach gives me a quick way to find the specific ones I can use.

Discretionary purchase today--MP3 player

May 20th, 2006 at 01:02 pm

I've been thinking about this for months, and finally took the plunge, for many reasons.

There was a good deal at Staples for the model I'd been thinking about, but with much more storage than I'd ever hoped for. It came to a little over $58. Creative MuVo TX FM with 1GB of storage.(Thank you Fatwallet!)

This model should work with the downloadable audio books they have at the library where I work. (Not all models do.) It has a voice recorder, which I'd thought about buying separately for a long time anyway. You can also store data on it, so it will take the place of a USB thumb drive, which I've thought about too.

It is also a lot cheaper than getting involved with a broadband bill every month, or satellite radio. My dialup is still ok for most things, but lately for downloading radio shows it's been awful. It's supposed to be 56K but often it's been in the 30's or even 20's. This way I'll be able to download podcasts and radio shows on my dinner hour at work, and have enough to listen to for days. It should be quite a time-saver over the way I've been trying to do it.

It also may give me some brownie points at work (which one can always use). Wink My boss is disappointed that not many people are using the audiobook service. But it's hard for us on the staff to talk it up and give people instructions, if we've never used it ourselves. So in a way, I could classify part of the cost as a work expense. Wink

I'm holding off on the leafblower for now, and will use part of the Ace gc for poison ivy killer, which is a necessity right now.

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!)

Bargain hunting = Emergency room visit

May 12th, 2006 at 07:29 am

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.

KISSing and coffeepots

May 1st, 2006 at 05:21 am

Keeping It Simple, Stupid, that is.

Our coffee maker died yesterday. Right after dinner I ran out to K-Mart, 1/2 mile away, and picked up the cheapest, most acceptable looking one I could find. It's a Black and Decker and cost $14. I have no idea whether it got good reviews or not. It has one on/off switch. It makes coffee. Good enough.

Last time, I tried to be a good little consumer and get the absolute best coffeemaker at the best possible price. I checked online reviews, I went to 3 or 4 stores, and ended up spending $55 at Bed, Bath and Beyond. It was a Braun with a programmable timer. Great reviews. Sale price. 4 buttons, two lights. It was a pain in the patootie from the first day we had it. And it died after 3 years and 3 months. What a lot of wasted effort!

Last night we had coffee going in the new pot within 1/2 an hour of the old one dying, and I was able to relax for the rest of my Sunday evening. And I don't even care if this one dies in a year, it will still be cheaper per year than the last one.

A bird in the hand...

April 30th, 2006 at 01:17 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.

Mucho Mulch

April 27th, 2006 at 11:39 am

I don't know whether to say I've committed myself to a lot of gardening, or say I should be committed. (Especially after that dream, LOL!) But I've just ordered 3 yards of mulch to be delivered next week, for $85.

BTW, there is a neat mulch calculator here, to figure out how much you'll need:


The minimum most places will deliver here is 3 yards. One place would do 2 yards, but their price was the same as 3 yards other places. I checked Lowe's, and buying it by the bag looks more expensive. Plus, it would take multiple trips back and forth for enough bags, since we don't have a truck anymore. Then there's the work of lugging the bags out of the car each time, before you even start working in the garden.

My only concern is, am I getting a fair deal. They made a mistake and charged me for more expensive stuff than what I ordered. Then they didn't know how to fix the cc charge or issue a credit on the cc. (They're going to send cash over when they deliver.) Now I wonder how I'll ever be able to tell if I get a full 3 yards' worth. They showed me a scoop that's supposed to hold the amount I'm getting, but I can't imagine it would hold 42 bags of the mulch I saw at Lowe's. (That's what the mulch calculator says is the equivalent.)

I guess the only way I'll know is if it goes as far as I think it should. If not, next time I'll get it at Lowe's--at least I'll know I'm getting the right amount.

Time and money, a new perspective

April 21st, 2006 at 05:47 am

I've always assumed it was more time-consuming to live on a low budget. For example, keeping a price book, cooking from scratch, doing things for yourself rather than paying for a service.

But I've been feeling kind of frazzled lately, and realized something strange. It can be even more time-consuming to have money on hand!

The health insurance stuff is finally straightened out, and money available in the HSA. So over the past few weeks, I've had to find time for a dental appt, a doctor appt, and a mammogram.

If I didn't have $500 I could spare to do the Netbank deal, I wouldn't have that deal to keep track of.

If I didn't have money for buying clothes, I wouldn't be spending time shopping for, buying, or returning things.

If I didn't have money for mulch, I wouldn't have to buy, haul and spread it.

If we couldn't afford to catch up on deferred maintenance requiring the electrician or the plumber, I wouldn't have to get hold of them, schedule appts and arrange to be home.

If we didn't have money going into IRAs and a 401K, I wouldn't have to spend time figuring out how to allocate the funds.

If our only income was from working, our taxes would be a lot simpler.

I mean, really, it's a relief to be able to start catching up on things. But I'd forgotten how much time it takes to actually DO things. As opposed to spending hours online, or reading, or watching movies because you don't have the money to do much else.

You win some, you lose some

April 20th, 2006 at 09:47 am

I've been trying to neaten things up this morning, and thought I'd find out exactly when and where I can take those aluminum cans we've been crushing for 4 months.

I found out they're paying 25 cents a pound, which doesn't sound too bad except the cans are pretty light. I got on the scale with and without the bag of cans, and the cans appear to only weigh about 8 pounds. That's $2--meaning it will take over 2 years to recoup the cost of the can crusher!

Oh, well, there is the entertainment factor in crushing the cans... Wink

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.

It's all in the details

April 12th, 2006 at 08:22 am

And sometimes it's tedious and frustrating.

Last night I was happy to find some lipstick on Ebay that I can't always find in stores, and went through MyPoints Insider's Club just in case they refunded shipping on Ebay purchases. However, even if they do, I'll be out of luck. I forgot the purchase had to be done on a credit card that's registered with the Insider's Club...and paid for it out of my checking account. Duh!

I just got an offer from Citicard, where I get $10 extra dividend dollars when I make my first purchase through their Dividend Merchant Network. So I went to register for it, and it said I already had. It said I could have a new username and password emailed to me--but apparently I'd used an email address I haven't had in over a year. So I had to call and find out what to do. It took calling two different phone numbers and going through 3 CSRs to get it straightened out. (Although I'd signed up before, I'd never used the program, so it looks like I'm still eligible for the $10.)

I figured while I was setting things like this up, I might as well get Fatwallet Fat Cash up and running. I tried to use it before, but it didn't work for me. So today I got around to looking at their "Cash Back Solutions" where they walk you through computer settings that might be hindering things. There were 13 printed pages of things to go through!

So. I now have access to all these programs. Plus AAA deals, and AARP deals, and general Mastercard and Visa deals. How on earth to keep track of which program has which stores, what the % off is, which cc and email address I need to use with each one, who has free shipping anyway, and which stores I can easily get discounted gift cards for.

The only thing I can think of is to assemble a spreadsheet with stores down the left, and then columns for each discount program where I can enter the % discount and any other notes. If anyone's seen something like this online, already assembled, I'd sure like to use it and save myself some work!

I could kick myself! -- Insider's Club

April 10th, 2006 at 07:19 am

I joined the Insider's Club at MyPoints over the weekend, and re-explored the stores on MyPoints. Sheesh--just within the past couple of weeks I've bought stuff at several of their stores. I did look up coupon codes and used the cc with the best rewards, but I would have certainly saved more money with the shipping rebates. Not to mention, I didn't earn the MyPoints! So thanks for all the info on it.

I didn't know they'd offer $10 back on my next purchase through MyPoints, over and above the shipping rebates. I'm about shopped out now, and have spent way too much time trying to figure out what I could really use at this point! Finally settled on some batteries at Ace Hardware. After the $10 back, it will come to 59 cents for an 8-pack of C's.

BTW, the offer I got was $6.99 a month for membership, but billed annually. So I'm preparing for a hit of $83.88 after the 30-day intro period. The good news is, if you quit before the year's up, you're supposed to get a pro-rated refund. Also, it looks better than Amazon Prime because it covers so many more stores.

Thanks again!

Car inspection, and gift cards

April 4th, 2006 at 06:51 am

These are my little money tasks for the day.

I haven't posted about this before, but I'm doing something different with the the PNC account I opened awhile back. I found out I could split the direct deposit of my paycheck, so I now have $140 a week going into the PNC account. That's just enough to cover the Everyday Expenses budget, the newspaper subscription and Netflix.

My current Everyday Expenses cycle is over on April 8, and there isn't much left in the budget. But there IS money left in the PNC account, because part of the spending was from Petsmart gift cards. So I'm using part of the extra cash to buy more discounted gift cards, which will help even more cash build up in the account. Kind of a snowball effect.

It's car inspection month for me, and I think I'll get it done this morning. I'm anxious to do the Netbank checking account offer for $75, but they want you to keep a $500 balance for at least a month. Before I tie up that money, I want to know how much I might have to spend to get the car up to snuff.

Credit Protector, part 2

April 3rd, 2006 at 07:30 am

I decided I'd try to do one little thing each day this week, to help our finances. No matter how busy the day is.

Today is my long day at work, but this morning I called Credit Protector and asked if there was any way I could get more of the rebate vouchers like the $20 one I got when I signed up. (Over at Fatwallet, rumor was you didn't really need to threaten to cancel, just ask.) It worked! $50 in rebate vouchers should be here within 7-10 days. (5 x $10 each)

Easy money, although slow. I can send in receipts for anything, such as groceries or gas I need to buy anyway, so it's not much of a risk. And rebates aren't taxable. No reason NOT to do it, really.

Weight, again

March 27th, 2006 at 06:45 am

OK. The last time I wrote about trying to lose weight was back in January, and I've gained 4 pounds since then. Right now (at 231 lbs) I'm only 7 pounds lighter than my absolute worst weight. As you know, I'm overdue for a doctor's appointment, and I fully expect a lecture and an increase in my bp medication. Oddly enough, the more pressure I've put on myself to lose weight before my next appointment, the more food I've been shoveling in. It has to stop.

I know I can lose weight, and I know that having an official program to follow, and some kind of support group, really helps--because I've done it before. The problem is, I think I need something that I can stick with for the rest of my life. And the cost of such a thing is a huge factor.

Over the years I've signed up for Weight Watchers (several times), Jenny Craig, and various gyms. You always reach a point where things aren't going well. Your weight hits a plateau. Something happens in your life that makes it hard to get to meetings or to the gym. It's hard enough to stick out the plateau, or get back in the swing of the program. If money is tight as well, it's awfully hard to keep shelling out money for something that doesn't seem to be working, or you don't have time for at the moment.

I can just see someone in one of those places wagging their finger at me, saying if I was really committed to lose weight, I'd spend the money to keep up my membership, or to buy the latest gadget the company is trying to sell. That kind of guilt-inducing salesmanship makes you feel like even more of a failure. You leave feeling not like someone who's making a good budget decision, but a fat, undisciplined loser.

So I've signed up for TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly). It's a nonprofit group, which I'm hoping makes a difference. There's a yearly fee of $24, which includes a magazine. I found the basic guidebook on Ebay for $7.50 shipped. If you go to actual in-person meetings, there are local chapter dues (very small, from what I've read), and you might have to pay a 50-cent fine on a week when you gain weight. But you can do it completely online if you need to, and save on the chapter dues. I think that money-wise, it's something I can stick with over the long haul. Wish me luck!

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