I'd like to join in the 5-5-5 fitness thing. DH and I will be taking a walk right after I finish here. My fives are:
3) Stretching (Angela Lansbury tape)
4) Leslie Sansone DVDs
5) Cleaning (I'm so out of shape that cleaning the bathroom feels like exercise!)
Some nice little money treats yesterday and today. Our latest natural gas bill is only $10 for some reason. Our normal balancing month for the equal payment plan is September, but I guess we used less over the winter than they expected, and/or natural gas prices must have come down. I also got the chance to do surveys on my latest receipts from Dunkin Donuts and Chick Fil A. We're now entitled to a free donut and a free chicken sandwich.
Viewing the 'Organizing' Category
I'd like to join in the 5-5-5 fitness thing. DH and I will be taking a walk right after I finish here. My fives are:
Over the past couple of days, I've pulled prices from some grocery receipts and started a new price book using Excel.
Most recently, I was using Splash Shopper on my old Palm PDA, and liked it. I'd refer to the database on the Palm, and use the desktop version to input the prices. But I've switched to an ipod Touch as my PDA, and I wasn't impressed by the reviews I've read for their app. I've tried some other apps, but it's tedious trying to enter much information on the ipod. Plus, I want to be able to choose what information I record.
For example, I want to record both price per pound and per item for some things. When I go to Shoprite they price bell peppers by the pound, and when I go to Walmart they are priced by the piece. At Aldi, right now they're in 3-packs. In Excel, I can add as many columns as I want for different types of unit prices, rather than having to choose just one.
I'll email it to myself when I feel it's done, so it's accessible on the ipod. But I still might print it out and carry it in my purse. I don't like whipping out the ipod inside stores if I don't have to.
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.
Monday was an NSD. I spent some time before my afternoon shift doing some produce prep and planning out food for the week.
Tuesday I spent more than necessary because my organizational skills fell short. I forgot to take my mug in to work, so I bought coffee in order to have the use of a cup throughout the day. I'd planned to pick up salads for dinner but didn't take the time to dig out a coupon before I left home for the day. I also forgot to take my empty iced tea pitcher home to refill; luckily I had another container at home to use this morning.
Wednesday I needed to order a shower gift for a coworker's daughter before all the less expensive items in her wishlist are purchased--otherwise a NSD.
I've been trying to use up some food items before they get so old I'm afraid to eat them. So far: the end of a cucumber, a bit of leftover pasta salad, a jar of cheese that had a use-by date of March, one last Wasa cracker, a Dinty Moore beef stew that had a use-by date earlier in April. Today I'll be making some Jello that's dated February, and using up some cooked corn by adding it to a can of vegetable soup. I'm taking some dry creamer into work to help use up some instant coffee I keep there. It isn't drinkable otherwise and I end up either buying coffee or using my own K-cups which aren't that cheap, either.
Today can't be an NSD because we're paying the property taxes, but there's hope for tomorrow.
I've been a Quicken enthusiast for 15 years, but I'm getting very close to giving up on it. Working on this blog entry has been a way to think it through...
128 MB. That's how much memory my computer has--and that was supposed to be the minimum requirement for running Quicken 2008 Deluxe. Well, actually running turned out to be an exaggeration--limping, crawling, or stumbling maybe. (FYI--I started using Quicken on my first computer, back in 1992. That old Quicken version had all the features I needed and worked just fine on 4 MB.)
I decided I was willing to live with the slowness and the quirks because I really wanted to play with the Savings Goal feature. But after installing a security update, it got even worse--now it won't open up and run at all.
I've put in many hours of troubleshooting already, and have another list of things to try from my new email friend, seemingly located in India. Why did I start using it in the first place, what problems did it solve, and do I still need it now? Is it worth putting in even more time trying to get it to work?
Era # 1 - No need for Quicken. Or even a calculator!
In high school and college, my finances were simple. I used a passbook savings account, a Christmas Club, and cash. With passbook savings accounts, you could see exactly what was in your account at any time by looking in the book. With the Christmas Club, you also knew exactly where you stood at all times. You could tell the balance by the number of coupons that were already taken out. And the bank always had a little display out showing what week the Club was on. If it was Week 10 and you were only paid up to Week 8, you knew you had some catching up to do.
Note, the bank provided the only tracking tools I needed.
Era # 2 - Chaos
For roughly 15 years, maybe 1977 to 1992, I could have used something like Quicken if it had existed and if I'd had a computer. I started to keep a checking account, started opening charge accounts and credit cards, and bought some savings bonds. The passbook savings accounts started to disappear, replaced by Statement Savings. The Christmas Club books started to disappear, and now worked like Statement Savings. Note the key here is the word Statement. Without the passbooks and coupon books, I now had to keep track on my own, between statements.
My tracking tools were a paper check register, deposit receipts, a pencil, and a calculator. Eventually I added two more tools--duplicate checks, and teller-provided printouts of recent transactions. They both helped me catch things I forgot to record in the register. My writing is rather large, and I've always had trouble writing in check registers. And even with a calculator I had a terrible time balancing the checkbook when the statement came. I really had no system at all for keeping track of credit card balances.
The first years DH and I were married, we lurched from one financial crisis to the next. It got so bad I was getting cash advances on one credit card to pay the minimum payment on another one. Low income, overspending, and chaotic record keeping all contributed. If payday loans had been invented yet, we might have been sucked into that. My best AND my worst purchase back then might have been that first computer I bought--for $2,000, financed on our Sears card.
Erica # 3 - Golden Age of Quicken
For the next 15 years, 1992 to 2007, I really came to rely on Quicken. It came on that first computer, so I gave it a try. It was intimidating, but the first time I went through the checkbook balancing process with it, I was sold. SO much better than doing it on paper. It seemed like a miracle. I really got into setting up categories and classes and fiddling with the budget feature.
Our financial life got more complicated. Credit union account with several subaccounts, IRAs, stock DRIP plans, more savings bonds. I opened even more credit cards for bonuses and 0% offers. I bought gift cards at a discount and had to track the remaining balances. I started selling books online, and tracked all the business income and expenses in Quicken, too.
But even with all that tracking, we've still had more unpleasant financial surprises than I would have liked--mostly due to counting on Quicken's budget feature. As I've written before, it doesn't take into account the timing of paychecks and bills. It will indicate a surplus for an upcoming month overall, without warning you that you'll go negative for a day because a big bill is due just before a paycheck. It gave me a false sense of security about spending money. So I'm no longer using it for budgeting, and I've spent a lot of time entering expected transactions months in advance, just so I can make sure we won't be going into the red at any point.
And I think our finances got so complicated partly BECAUSE of Quicken. If I'd had to deal with it all on paper, I would have kept things simpler. It seemed so easy to just keep adding accounts and categories in Quicken, til it suddenly became overwhelming.
Lately I've streamlined things. I don't have the bookselling business anymore. We don't own stocks outside of our IRAs. I'm not doing the gift card thing. Practically every transaction in and out of our accounts is predictible, if not automated. Direct deposit of paychecks, automatic transfers to savings, automatic bill payment. We still have two credit cards, but hardly ever use them. I'm trying to use cash instead of the debit card whenever possible.
There just isn't as much to track. And once again, the bank is providing the main tool I need--not in the form of passbooks and coupon books, but through online banking. Maintaining a complete written or Quicken register on my own between monthly statements just isn't as important. The headache of reconciling the account once a month when the statement comes isn't really necessary if I've been keeping up with things online.
The way I'm feeling now is, the computer is a great tool for managing finances. I wouldn't want to go back to pencil and paper. But maybe Quicken was only necessary during that period where banks were pretty much leaving us on our own, without the tools to track thngs between statements. Now with online banking, maybe the Quicken era is ending. I'm pretty sure it is for me.
I started a new file in my shopping list program for keeping cost per portion info. (Such as, one Italian sausage is 50 cents and saltines cost less than a half a cent each.)
I figure I've been counting calories for almost 40 years, and it hasn't done me a whole lot of good. I'll try something new and see how much I've eaten in dollars and cents each day.
I thought of just continuing to track what I spent on groceries overall, but it would be hard to take into account how much DH and I each ate. Also, it wouldn't give me such a close look at which items are the best buy, like a banana vs. an individual applesauce cup.
Made a trip to Aldi's last night, at what I hoped would be a slow time. I was able to take my time in the aisles, looking for things I couldn't find previously, and writing down prices.
Nonstick cooking spray (canola-based) $1.29
Turkey bacon $1.89
Splenda, in addition to their own brand of aspartame
Plain, nonfat yogurt
Sugar free "jello" and fat free pudding, in the refrigerated section $1.79 for 6 cups
Fat free "cool whip" 75 cents
Baked nacho tortilla chips $1.49
Mixaid (like Crystal Lite) $1.75
Lite mayo $1.49
Corn tortillas in the bread section, that I turn into baked chips myself, by slicing and baking, 89 cents
Sunflower seeds 39 cents
Tomato juice, large can 89 cents
No 1% milk; there's skim but I'm not wild about it
No reduced fat sour cream
No reduced fat sliced cheese
No vinegar besides white distilled (cookbooks say too harsh to be used in salad dressings)
Not much selection in bottled diet salad dressings
No flavored lite cream cheese, only plain
Diet frozen meals limited to "Lean Pocket" type wraps
Still and all, I think I'll find plenty to eat and lose weight. I'll try their diet dressings, and I'll try making some homemade ones calling for lemon juice rather than fancy vinegars.
Sorry about the new colors--I was going for Springy, but it's hard to tell what a color will look like from those little squares!
Last night and again this morning, I took the time to sign up for some freebies, and signed up for some good ones. Purina One (again!), Good Life Recipe pet food, a free book on Windows Vista, and a CD-ROM of computer games from AARP.
I've been trying to do advance food prep more often, like hard-boiling eggs and cutting up veggies. Hopefully it will help with eating healthier as well as cutting down on food waste. So far so good--I've put it into some task scheduling software I got recently, and it does seem to be helping.
Another task I put in was checking my Yahoo mail. It's where I get all my paid emails from MyPoints and Inbox Dollars. When I get busy with other things, I can go a whole month without dealing with those emails, and then the offers expire. I don't want to be checking all the time, but I do hate missing out on those points.
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.
For my "13th month", the 4 weeks ending January 13, I went over budget on Everyday Expenses by about $50. It came to $595.42.
For the first full 4 week period in 2007, ending February 10, I went over by about $36. I thought I was going to come in under budget, and even things out. But it didn't happen, and here's the main reason why.
My mother paid me back for something in cash, rather than by check. I didn't get to the bank with it right away, and started to spend it rather than using my debit cards. I did remember to record some things, and may have more receipts somewhere. But the fact is, right now I have no idea where $63.95 went, and no way to reconstruct it. If the purchases had been with a debit or credit card, they'd turn up on my statement and I'd know.
Since I have a category "cash unaccounted for" in my Everyday Expenses reports, it now all gets counted against Everyday Expenses no matter what it was for. Gosh darn, but I hate using cash!
On the plus side, our savings is starting to grow. I'll be keeping updated totals under Author Info at the top right of the blog.
Take a look at the backs of your cards--are they getting worn? Can you still see the 3-digit security code on the back, that follows your account numbers? If so, write it down somewhere, and if not, call and request a replacement card soon. You don't want to be stuck like I was this week.
I've been using one debit card so much, the numbers are completely rubbed off. I didn't even notice til I tried to use it to buy phone minutes this week, and they needed those security numbers. I only need them once in a blue moon, so I don't have them memorized. I called my bank to ask what they were, and they couldn't tell me--for security reasons. All they could do was send me a new card, which will take about a week to arrive. Grrr!
I suppose at least it's a good sign that the card getting the heavy workout is a debit, and not a credit card.
I finally found a missing restaurant gift certificate we received, in a pile of books and mail. I finally remembered where a missing $30 went--our holiday drinks supplies. But I still can't locate the Petsmart gift card with $29 still left on it, or the Target card with about $6. And the house is a mess. I don't like being this out of control!
I've been thinking about how setting up automatic things has really helped me get on top of our finances (direct deposit, automatic transfers and bill payment). Things go better if I don't have to re-decide or remember to do things over and over again. It's turned out to be mainly an organizational battle, rather than some big psychological hangup that made me overspend in the past.
So I've been looking for free or cheap "automatic" ways to solve my housekeeping and weight problems. I finally remembered about Flylady--completely free, she does the remembering and the emails just come. I don't have to think, just DO.
Now if I could just find a free way to mimic Jenny Craig or Nutrisystem!
I seem to be obsessed lately with reorganizing my system for the new year. I can't seem to concentrate on much else til I make some decisions.
Today's decision, Netbank must go. It was nice to get the $165 in bonuses, but as an ongoing thing it just isn't working. This morning I researched some local banks to see where I might want to move my Discretionary Spending checking account. I think I can get the account opened and direct deposit from my paycheck set up by the end of the week.
FYI - My objections to Netbank.
First, to get paper statements in the mail, they charge you a fee. I really need automatically-mailed paper statements so DH can see what's going on if something happens to me. But I'm darned if I'm gong to pay extra for them.
Second, it's not easy getting money into the account. There are no local branches. And, they don't set up links to other institutions like they do at ING, Paypal and Schwab. You have to give them the sign-on and password to your other accounts' online banking systems. Nobody else asks for that, I'm not comfortable with it, and I'm just not doing it.
I've thought about and tried a couple of different work-arounds, but I'm tired of the hassle. I'd just rather use a normal bank that sends out statements, and where I feel comfortable enough about staying for the long haul to set up direct deposits from my paycheck.
Less than two weeks, and the last of the cc debt will be paid off! You might have noticed I changed the title of my blog--not quite true yet, but I had time to fiddle with it today so I did.
I'm getting really apprehensive about staying out of debt for good this time. I've dug out several times before, only to fall back into debt again, and I'm sick of it. Just like I've lost weight before and always gain it back. I'm not good at the maintenance phase!
I'm also sick of thinking about money all the time. But I know if I relax too much about it, bad things will happen. So I'm trying to come up with ideas that will keep me on track and not be a pain in the neck.
#1 - I have debit cards, I just have to remember to use them. It's been an ingrained habit to whip out a cc whenever possible, to earn rewards or because I'm not sure whether there's enough in checking to cover the purchase. Which leads to...
#2 - Get used to keeping more of a balance in our checking accounts, even if they're earning no interest. That way, I can write a check or use the debit card without worry, and then reimburse checking from savings at my leisure. In the past, I'd charge something like a vet visit, wait for the money to move from ING to checking, and then pay off the charge. Only sometimes the money went for other things before the charge got paid.
I'd be interested in any other tips on staying out of debt, once you're out.
Maybe this has been an especially weird couple of weeks. I've started the additional hours, plus other things have come up like retraining for the elections and having my car worked on three times. Whether it's a temporary situation or my new normal, I've been feeling I just can't keep my wits about me.
Being a sucker for products that will get me organized, solve problems and improve my life, I've ordered a planner for $36. It's a new kind I've never tried before. If it helps, I don't mind the cost. If it doesn't... well, at least this one has a 6-month money-back guarantee if you don't gain back an hour a day by using their system.
I kind of feel like I need to write a confessional. OTOH, I've decided that's silly.
OK, I've just spent $48 on a scanner, I've signed up for Verizon's voicemail again for an extra $6 a month, and I've decided to pay the $30 for Budget by Snowmint (virtual envelope budget software) after the trial period.
I could have spent money on making copies, buying more file folders, and so forth. I could have decided to keep wasting time leafing through papers, trying to stay offline when important calls are due, and playing around with free but cumbersome budget systems. Instead, I'm spending money on tools that actually do the jobs I need done.
Every time I spend money on techy stuff, part of me feels like it's a luxury, like I'm just trying out some new toy. I guess it's because I'm almost 50, and the highest tech thing I had as a kid was a transistor radio!
I'm seeing libraries get rid of stuff I never thought I'd see, because the information is now available online. I just bought a car part on Ebay for my mother. Even some homeless people have email addresses, laptops and blogs.
It's a new, digital world. So why should buying a digital tool feel less legitimate than buying, say, a hammer? I have the discretionary money on hand to pay for these things, and they serve my streamlining goal, so why not? But it still feels weird in a Future Shock sort of way.
I just cancelled the Schwab Visa I'd applied for because of a $100 gift card offer. They aren't honoring the offer because they said it had an expired code. I held onto it long enough to use the account number for three trial offers and at least get those free gift cards. (Net gain $57.) Now they are all cancelled and there's no reason to keep the cc.
I still have other trial offers to cancel, and am working on that today.
I'm starting to unsubscribe from a bunch of email newsletters I'd signed up for at some point. Also, as catalogs come in the mail, I'm starting to call in and ask to be taken off the mailing lists.
I finally figured out that Citibank calls their automatic payment thing AutoPay. They sure don't make it obvious on their bill or their website. You have to request a packet to be mailed out, and then mail the application back again. I'm going to set it up to take the minimum payment automatically, just to keep me current if life gets crazy and I forget. I can pay the rest of the balance separately each month, as usual.
So far, I'm liking the three checking accounts for Bills, Everyday Expenses, and Discretionary. But then I realized there is a lot to cover under Discretionary.
It's one thing to see a $200 balance for Discretionary spending. But how much can we spend on a dinner out, and not go into money we'll need next month for the anti-allergen heater filters and a new carton of bubble mailers?
So I made up a budget within a budget, kind of a virtual envelope method for just that account. I have 17 categories and a slush fund, for everything from postage to cosmetics, to clothes, to batteries. When I make a deposit, each category gets a certain percentage. That way if our extra income isn't as high as I'd figured, all areas are hit equally. If more comes in than expected, all areas get a little boost.
It might sound cumbersome, but it's already giving me a better picture of what we can and can't afford.
A $5.99 CD sounds hardly worth worrying about, in relation to an overall monthly budget of $2500. It sounds somewhat less affordable in relation to a Discretionary fund of $200. It's obviously out of the question when the uncategorized Slush Fund has a balance of $3.21. Mailing a package Priority for $5.05 doesn't sound so bad, but Media Mail is obviously the way to go if there's only $2.50 in the Postage category.
Sounds overly detailed, I'm sure! But a penny saved is a penny earned; and tall oaks from tiny acorns grow. Hopefully this will help keep me from overspending and getting back into debt in the future.
I tried to do this in a spread sheet, but it was awkward because it doesn't all fit on one screen. I found these nice budget forms online, and now I'm using a Form 3 for each category.
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.
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. 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.
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. 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.)
Cancelled YourMusic.com. I signed up through Inbox Dollars, and was glad to get a CD that DH wanted, for $5.99. But I don't need to be spending $5.99 every month on a CD right now.
Got $5.99 credited to the Citicard. I'd ordered stuff from Roaman's that turned out to be defective and dirty. Roaman's didn't charge me for the return shipment, but they refused to refund the shipping charge on the original order. I called Citi and said I didn't think I should be stuck with $5.99 when I'd gotten absolutely nothing. They were very nice about crediting my account.
Requested my Citi rewards check for $68.
Decided to lower the amount I'm paying to HSBC from $290 down to $250 a month. I thought I could afford the $290, but now that I figure in the lawn mowing, it's obvious I can't. The account won't quite be paid off by the end of the 0% period, but I don't mind paying $10 or $15 in interest for the final couple of months. Better than feeling strapped for the next 6 months.
Found out how getting a blood test works, under our new insurance.
Subscribed to the other Sunday paper on a half-price subscription sale. Their coupons are much better; it will be well worth it.
Went to Eckerd's last night for bargains; spent $11 after $9 in coupons were taken off.
Ordered another batch of Dealpass gc's. Only have a few more months to take advantage of these; don't want to lose the opportunity.
Almost finished putting our upcoming transactions in Quicken, through the end of the year. It really helps to see our cash flow ahead of time. If we're going to run short, better to see it coming and find a solution early on.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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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.
Before going on errands yesterday, I ran my report in Quicken that tells me how much is left in the Everyday Expenses budget. I was thrilled--it looked like there was lots of wiggle room, and it was ok to take advantage of whatever deals I came across.
But when I got home, I discovered to my horror that I'd never taken last weekend's receipts out of my purse and entered them in Quicken! Much more of the budget was gone than I'd realized.
By that point I had already bought some extra grocery items at Aldi and Wal-Mart, and worst of all I invested in a 30-pack of beer for $18. It was a pretty good deal, and will probably last us all summer--but we sure didn't NEED it, especially if it meant blowing the budget. I never would have bought it, had I been organized enough to know the true budget balance remaining.
Aargh! I guess this makes a good case for Flash's Visa debit card idea. Even if you forget to record what you've spent, the remaining balance on the card wouldn't lie.
Well, at least now I can drown my sorrows with the beer.
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. 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!
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.
Well, here goes with the new system!
JC Penney never put through a credit they were supposed to, when they ran short of an item I ordered at Christmas, even though it showed as in stock. Called about it this morning; will have to watch for it for 1-2 more billing cycles.
Gas company sent two bills, the second one saying I owed twice the amount as usual. It was because I called in the meter reading, and then the meter reader put in the reading also. Another phone call this morning, to get the 2nd bill cancelled out.
DH's paycheck was even lower than the last one, so I had to gather and copy all the pertinent paperwork at 7:15 this morning, so he could show his immediate supervisor what his new health deduction was supposed to be. It turned out last paycheck was short because he took a day off at the end of the year, when he was actually out of vacation time. But this time it was the insurance that was the problem. They took out the old amount PLUS the new amount, and will have to refund $123 in his next check. Thank goodness we have enough cash on hand to carry us through til then.
Yesterday got a call from the stockbroker who handles my account with some income-generating investments. A bond was called in, and he wanted the ok to reinvest the money in something else. I felt like I had to research it a little to make sure the new company was ok. I'd rather take a little less interest than get a higher rate on a junk bond.
Wednesday, my weekly paperwork day, I wasn't really in the mood for it and tried to make a game out of it by counting how many piece of paper I handled. I lost track at 100. It took several hours, and there are still more things I ought to do.
I feel very lucky to be working part-time, and have the time to take care of this stuff!
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