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Comprehensive Aldi Price List

May 7th, 2008 at 05:23 am

A blogger named Homeschool Dad came across a printed price list in his local Aldi, and posted it online!

I've been trying to keep a price book of Aldi prices, based on my receipts. At one point I even put it up online hoping it would be useful for other people to use as a comparison for sale prices at other stores. But I never managed to put together such a comprehensive list as this one.

Here's the link location as of today (it will open an Adobe Reader .pdf file)
http://a.slickdeals.net/attachment.php?attachmentid=88642&d=...

Homeschool Dad had to take the file off his own website because he got too many hits. Go, Aldi fans! Smile

Homeschool Dad's blog--
http://homeschooldadblog.com/04-12-2008/complete-aldis-price...

I've never seen a printed price list at my Aldi, and I've never noticed some of the products on his list. OTOH, the special seasonal stuff isn't listed, just the stuff they have all the time. The price list also says every product in their store has a price tag on it--not the case here in NJ.

Happy comparison shopping.

It makes a difference

May 3rd, 2008 at 05:16 am

Yesterday as fate would have it, I walked into the supermarket behind a mother and adult daughter, and ended up in the checkout lane behind them too.

Before I left home, I looked at the store flyer, made a list, and gathered my coupons and rainchecks together. They grabbed the flyer on the way into the store, and seemed confused about which week it was even for.

We both had fairly full carts. Their total was over $100, and the cashier told them they saved $3 and something today. My total was $52.92 and my savings, as the store calculates it, were $36.58.

If I ever needed a reminder that it's worth the time to plan ahead, this was it!

Quicken-ing again

April 26th, 2008 at 04:33 am

As I mentioned here:
stressless.savingadvice.com/2007/12/19/of-memory-banks-and-b...
I gave up on Quicken for a time, after a disastrous experience with a newer version on my older computer.

Well, I'm a Quicken user again, but not in a way that would make Intuit happy! I'd gotten a rebate on the new version, and then when I sent the disk in for a refund I got the full price back. So I actually made a $20 profit there. Then, I found a new, sealed-in-the-box 2002 Deluxe version online for $15. It's exactly what I wanted--the older non-buggy version I'm used to, but with the savings goal feature I didn't have before. So basically I've netted $5 for my time, aggravation and losing almost 3 years of data.

Yeah, I know losing the data is my fault. I've never been good about backing up, and I should know better. But at least now I've discovered a way to make it painless and automatic--I have storage space with my (new) ISP and they even give you software to automatically upload your backups. I could have my Quicken data backed up as often as once an hour--but I decided on once every 24 hours.


Living in our "New Normal"

April 26th, 2008 at 04:15 am

It's been almost 7 months since DH quit his job. After 6 months of trying to be really careful money-wise, it hit me--we're in the middle of the kind of emergency you're supposed to save up against, yet we seem to be doing ok.

It doesn't look like he'll be working again anytime soon; maybe this is our New Normal for now. If so, we might as well go ahead with some purchases and home improvement stuff as long as we don't go into the red. Take our life off Hold, so to speak. Lots to report on about that.

Also, DMom was just in the hospital and life's been kind of chaotic. I think writing here again will help me keep my head together a bit, and keep me from morphing into my evil twin StressMore, living in the New Crazy.




Catching up

February 23rd, 2008 at 09:30 am

Thanks for all your condolences. A Going Jessie--I love it! Yes, sad as it is, wouldn't we all rather go like that--quickly, after a long and interesting life.

This morning I sat down and tried to catch up on our financial record-keeping, generally. I was also finally able to come up with what this whole crisis has cost us specifically. It's roughly $1000.

Hotel $177 (they gave us a bereavement discount)
Train $208
Taxis to and from train $130
Obituary in paper down here (to be reimbursed from the estate) $195
Clothes for DH $95
Luggage and locks $50
Flowers $66
Gift certificate for neighbors who watched our pets $25
Gas and tolls for trips to hospital $45
Meals out $120

There was no free food on the train; they did have a cafe car, but all we got was coffee. Mainly, we ate our own snacks on the trip. We took full advantage of the hotel's free breakfast buffet, and free coffee in the lobby.

There's still $156 of cash we spent that I can't account for at all. Some of it might be regular groceries and such, but I really can't tell. Every once in awhile something else comes to me, and maybe more receipts will turn up. I really don't like having that much unaccounted for.

The kicker is, there is going to be a lot of family pressure to make the trip again in the summer. The ground was too frozen to bury the ashes, and they'll want to do it during this big family reunion in August. DH is still not working, and our emergency fund is about wiped out. We avoided going out for a similar "second funeral" for DH's father some years back, and I'm determined not to be pushed into it this time, either. If money isn't so tight then and DH really wants to go, then maybe. But I'm not putting out another big chunk of money, and using more vacation time, just to make a bunch of distant relatives happy. DH barely knows them himself!

Death in the family

February 19th, 2008 at 06:02 am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Coffee makers - not Made In China

January 30th, 2008 at 08:20 am

A few months back, I read the book "A Year without Made in China." One thing that stuck with me was how impossible it was for the author to find a new coffee maker that wasn't made in China. I wondered if it were really true. Well, our cheapo 18-month-old coffee maker just died so I decided to find out for myself. I'd written about it here: http://stressless.savingadvice.com/2006/05/01/kissing-and-co...

It's not that I'm completely anti-China. I have some clothes that are extremely well-made, that I love. But I'm tired of buying appliances that die after a year or so. It's bad for the environment, and it's a hassle to have to shop again. And since we drink so much coffee, I don't want to use things made from Chinese metal, which I've read often have toxic impurities in them.

The only stand-alone, electric appliance type I could find that were made in America are by Bunn. The info I found was from 2004, so it may no longer be so. They cost $100 and up. But even American-made electronic parts fail eventually, and I'd like to reclaim some counter space.

If you can get used to boiling water on the stove to make your coffee, and don't need to make a potful, there's the Aerobie Aeropress. If you need to make it by the pot, it appears the 6-cup manual Melitta system is made in the USA. I'll know for sure, either when I hear back from customer service, or mine is delivered. I ordered mine directly from Melitta USA's website, and it came to about $15, shipped.

If you're willing to branch out to other countries, there are French press pots made in Germany, stove-top drip systems from Italy, it looks like the 10-cup manual Melitta is made in Canada, and there's the Eva coffee brewer from Denmark.

If you know of other ones, please do leave the info as a comment.

I know from past experience that the glass carafe for the Melitta isn't going to last forever--we always seem to break them eventually. So I'm still looking for a stove-top all-metal system that doesn't require ongoing filter purchases. I saw some intriguing vintage coffee pots on Ebay, and would like to get one eventually. I was excited to see a aluminum stove-top Dripolator at Vermont Country Store, very similar to some vintage ones on Ebay--but then I saw the same thing at Fantes.com, where they said it was... made in China. So I think I'll go for a vintage one to have in reserve.

Next time--kettles!

Of Memory Banks and Banking Memories

December 19th, 2007 at 06:57 am

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.

Christmas Club blast from the past- Pix!

December 18th, 2007 at 07:48 pm

The old school Christmas Clubs must be alive and well somewhere, because I came across a banknote printer who's still selling the books. And the graphics look about the same as I remember them from the 70's!




You can see their whole product line here:
www.kbnc.com/christmasclub.htm

Full Plate Part 2 - Family Stuff

December 12th, 2007 at 06:28 am

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 08:43 am

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

In this entry, the financial front.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





Auto Scoop radio--has anyone heard this?

November 14th, 2007 at 06:46 am

I just happened to catch this show while I was out doing weekend errands recently. I was absolutely flabbergasted at the advice they were giving.

http://www.autoscoop.com/content.featured.about

It all seemed to be about how to borrow the most money you could, even if you have bad credit, to get the most expensive car possible. After having listened to Dave Ramsey for quite a while, it was quite a shock I can tell you!

The host actually suggested to more than one person that they borrow more than they were paying for the car. For instance, if there was a cash-back offer on the car they should borrow the full price of the car, and take the cash to use. The callers weren't asking if it was possible to do this, he was actually putting the idea into their heads.

I can see where it would be a good idea if you were getting a 0% interest deal. But this didn't seem to be the case; it sounded like most of the callers had bad credit and were living on the edge already. The interest rate wasn't going to be good.

I'm thinking, geez, how can that host sleep at night? Maybe it was just the episode I caught. Someone please tell me he's not saying this stuff every week!








Taking things one day at a time

October 20th, 2007 at 08:29 am

It's been three weeks since DH left his job, and he's starting to get cabin fever. He's ready to start looking, but frankly the way things are right now it's good he's still off.

Monday our dog is having surgery to check out a tumor on her face. The vet thinks it's different from the supposedly harmless lipomas she's had elsewhere on her body. They have to put her under to even do a careful exam and biopsy, because she's not the most laid-back of patients. We can't just let it go because it was getting oozy and ugly-looking.

If this is the beginning of the end, I'm sure DH will feel better being able to give her plenty of quality time while he's still home. She's his baby. Even if all she needs is some after-surgery care, it will still be a big help having him home, as I've been working extra hours.

We've also had things come up like one of us having to be here while a new water meter is installed, car repairs, getting to the bank about a matured CD, navigating through the COBRA insurance maze. It's all been easier to manage because he's been home and carrying some of the load.

I'm starting to have this feeling that maybe things are going just as they should be, even if it's uncomfortable for both of us right now. Except for the vet bills, our income and outgo through December is pretty predictable, so there's no use spending time on obsessing over money right at the moment. All we can really do is get through each new thing as it comes along.

Dry cleaning and the environment

October 15th, 2007 at 01:19 pm

In honor of Blog Action Day ...

Personally, I just can't stand the way my clothes smell when I first bring them home from the dry cleaner. But there are health and environmental aspects to it, too. Did you know that California is on the way to outlawing those smelly chemicals by 2023?

www.faircompanies.com/main.aspx?uc=notampl&id=229&sec=1

For years I've been looking for a local dry cleaner who uses the C02 or silicone system, without success. Recently, though, I was happy to see that a new "green" dry cleaner was opening near our vet's office.

I'm going to use them even though it's a little out of my way, and even if they're more expensive. I usually run things through the dryer with Dry Cleaner's Secret between cleanings anyway, which is already saving me trips and money.

To find a green dry cleaner near you, try the locator links at the bottom of the above article.

The Thrift Club, or, Saving in the Great Depression (large image)

October 2nd, 2007 at 06:03 pm

DMom and I were looking through my uncle's 1932 yearbook today, before she gives it to the local historical society.

I got a kick out of this page showing the Thrift Club, and was also quite impressed.



In the depths of the Depression, the students managed to add $2,500 in deposits to the school bank. In today's dollars, that equals $37,500! http://www.minneapolisfed.org/research/data/us/calc/

There were only a few hundred students at most, and it wasn't an affluent area. My grandfather had his hours cut to half-time, and felt lucky to have that. The culture of saving back then must have been really strong. Can you imagine 100% of a home room participating in a savings program today?

COBRA insurance loophole

September 25th, 2007 at 05:30 am

Interesting article that includes info on how to save money on COBRA health insurance after you leave a job:

www.charlotte.com/business/moneywise/story/289408.html

"But here's what a lot of people don't know: You don't need to sign up for or buy COBRA coverage as soon as you bid adieu to your old workplace. That's because you have 60 days to elect COBRA coverage and another 45 days after that to buy it. In other words, you don't have to pay for any insurance for 105 days -- and if you don't get sick or need to see a doctor or go to the hospital, you pay nothing at all.

Here's what you do: You sign up for COBRA on the 60th day after leaving your job. Then, if you need to use the health insurance within the next 45 days you pay for coverage. Claims are retroactive to the first day in which you were no longer covered through work."

Food Prices-Higher or Not?

September 19th, 2007 at 07:15 am

I'm trying to rethink our food budget again, in light of the freezer's arrival and our upcoming lower income. So I went online to find the latest USDA Food Plan as a guide.

It got me thinking--they keep saying inflation is well under control, but I'm definitely noticing higher prices on certain foods. I haven't been keeping good spending records lately, so am I just imagining it?

The CPI figures that just came out say food is up 4.2% on an annual basis (August to August). www.bls.gov/news.release/cpi.nr0.htm

I compared the USDA food plans for last June and this June (June is supposed to represent an average figure for the year.) Their food budgets have gone up 5.9% in a year.

And here's an article that says:

"According to figures from the United States Department of Agriculture, the price of foods containing high amounts of protein have increased the most. The cost of beef has increased by 6.4 percent. Poultry is up 7.8 percent.

"But both are trumped by milk, which costs 9.5 percent more than it did at the beginning of the year.

"For the year, the USDA is forecasting a food inflation rate of 4 to 4.5 percent, with the highest increases being seen in dairy and eggs. Historically, retail food prices inflate at a rate of 2.5 percent. “Very rarely do we get above 3.5 percent,” said Leibtag. But even if prices fall some this autumn, it appears this year's inflation rate will be the highest since 1990."

www.freshplaza.com/news_detail.asp?id=6647

It really makes you wonder what to think.

I've bought a freezer

September 18th, 2007 at 10:08 am

I guess it sounds nutty, being that DH will be unemployed in less than two weeks. But I'm glad I did it.

The reasons I had for deciding to get one a month ago have just gotten stronger. My stress level is even higher, and it's even more important to cut down on the time I spend on errands. I know I'm going to have to devote time to the computerized end of DH's job search, and I want to be able to pick up extra hours at work if they're available. We need to have enough easy stuff for dinners at home so I'm not tempted to pick up take-out.

On Sunday at Shop Rite I was behind a woman with three girls, who spent $495 on two piled-full carts of groceries. I was shocked at first--I would have at least used some coupons and not bought full-price pomegranate juice!

But then I looked at how calm they all looked, and how the mother was slim and looked like she took care of herself. I thought, well at least she's done shopping for awhile now and can go live her life, exercising, playing with the kids, whatever.

That's what I want, in addition to keeping the grocery budget under control. I'm tired of having to make a weekly trip to the bread outlet for the whole grain light bread that helps me control WW points. Why weekly--I don't have room to freeze bread for future weeks. And I'm sure not going to pay full price at the supermarket.

I'm tired of having to decide between the bag of burgers and the bag of chicken at Aldi's, just because there won't be room in the freezer for both, and then having to make another trip there a week or two later.

I'm tired of shopping sales all day, not able to really stock up at each store, being so tired I stop at Wendy's for dinner, and then having to do it all again the next week.

I'm also tired of putting things in my mother's freezer temporarily, and not being able to get to them right away.

I've spent hours pursuing possible used freezers on Craig's List, to no avail. I've been watching prices online for the model I really want, and the sale prices at the big box stores aren't any better than our local appliance guy is every day.

So today I did it. With actual cash money out of our home/car repair savings account.



Update on DH leaving job

September 14th, 2007 at 08:04 am

Thanks for all the support and the "fightin' words." I'm more relaxed about it at this point, but I do have to remember not to make things too easy for him.

Actually, we've both done this before (left jobs without having another one yet), and I completely understand why he feels the need to leave this one. At least he's given plenty of notice and is trying to stay on his immediate supervisor's good side, so he can use her as a reference.

I can even understand why he went ahead and did it without telling me first--he knew I'd probably freak and try to talk him out of it. (I've gotten this way with my mother, who seems to fear all change and decision-making, in my life as well as hers. I just don't tell her things anymore, til they're a done deal.)

What I really can't take is being yelled at like I'm the enemy!

DH is burning off some of his stress with physical activity now, like taking walks and doing yard projects so he's a bit less irritable. I've been bargain- and freebie-hunting like crazy the past week or so, like I used to do when we were in debt. I did go clothes shopping and got enough to keep me happy--but it was mostly at Goodwill and a huge sale at Sears where I got a bunch of tops for an average of about $4.

I just read that it's taking about 4 months for people to find a job at the moment, so I'm trying to stockpile 4 months worth of grocery and household stuff when I see a really good sale. So far, we have enough bath soap and Kotex for the duration. Wink

DH quitting job, with nothing else lined up

September 5th, 2007 at 07:18 am

Vent Alert! Guess what the D stands for today?

I'm about as angry and frustrated and scared as I've been since I started writing this blog. DH told me the end of last week, and it sounds like he actually gave his notice at work a week before that--without even mentioning it to me beforehand.

I started out with a sense of calm, because I finally knew what was going on. See entry here: http://stressless.savingadvice.com/2007/07/27/fud_28650/

I know he hasn't been crazy about the job for some time, and it does sound like it may be getting harder. So I can understand it. I immediately got on the stick and started cancelling automatic transfers to savings, figuring out how much more I can get in take-home by adjusting my W-4, and looking up how much individual health insurance might cost. I've done a lot of thinking about how I can reduce the food budget more, and what else we can cut. My Weight Watchers membership, perhaps?

Then this morning, DH started picking at me about the state of the house, and how I should be spending my vacation week. A vacation week I scheduled out of desperation because I was already feeling exhausted and frazzled before he hit me with this news.

All of a sudden I'm not feeling like such a team player. He's still spending money on discretionary stuff, and hasn't applied for any other jobs yet. While I'm doing my financial fiddling, he's happily watching tv or sleeping. I've been trying to be cooperative, and then he has the gall to start browbeating me.

Right at this moment, I'm feeling like I shouldn't have to give anything else up. I've been working hard at getting our expenses down over the past few years. I'm not willing to go any further. I still need to lose weight. With him at home, it's going to be hard to find time to myself, and WW meetings would be a good escape. So that stays. I need clothes, and I already have money set aside. He's still spending money on books and cigarettes. AND I'M NOT THE ONE QUITTING A JOB! So today, I'm going clothes shopping as planned, dammit.

Oh, and to top it off I found out today the car insurance bill has gone up 26%.

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

August 14th, 2007 at 07:23 am

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

http://www.federalreserve.gov/pubs/feds/2006/200617/

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

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

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




Whistling in the dark

July 28th, 2007 at 06:31 pm

Thanks for the comments about my health insurance worries. The support here is always great. Smile

I spent the best part of a day worrying about it, and have at least a month to go before we really have any answers. And it's not the only thing I'm worrying about right now, so..

At this point, I'm looking for ways to distract myself for the duration that 1) won't cost extra money, and 2) won't undermine my weight loss project. It's so easy to fall back into bad habits when under stress.

So, here's what I've come up with so far:

--Writing to a library that might have info on an author I've become interested in
--Getting back on track with housekeeping stuff
--Watching lots of movies
--Taking walks, exercising
--Reading
--Taking quiet time in the morning to relax, maybe write affirmations
--Listening to podcasts
--Playing Bookworm
--Closing out another credit card account, as an act of confidence in the future
--Getting to an extra WW meeting each week
--Going back to recording every penny in Quicken, and doing the 4-week reports again




FUD

July 27th, 2007 at 05:53 am

That would be Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt. Wikipedia says it's an advertising term, but what I'm feeling is about DH's job and our finances.

His company has been sold, and so far DH and his coworkers have good feelings about the change. They are encouraging all employees to stay, and they have more generous sick and vacation policies. However, I'm antsy to know what the health insurance situation is going to be.

They have several Blue Cross plans to choose from, but not the cheap High Deductible/Health Savings Plan combo we have now. DH has no idea yet whether it's fully paid for by the company, or whether he has to kick in, and how much.

We could be looking at substantially higher or lower take-home pay. It could mean moving ahead on goals faster than we'd thought, or having to cut our Emergency Fund and New Car Fund savings down to a trickle. As it is, we really need to buy some life insurance on him, as the new company-provided policy will be half what it was.

I'm glad it looks like he still has a job. I'm glad we have no cc debt left. I'm glad we have enough in the HSA to cover the dental work DH is in the middle of. But I still can't help being nervous!

90th birthday dilemma, partly about money

June 30th, 2007 at 06:17 am

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.)








Homeowner's Insurance Tip

June 8th, 2007 at 08:10 am

FYI - You might want to check and see if you're covered for cleanup from sewer backups. That is, unless you're willing to do the cleanup yourself--yuck!

DMom is going through this right now, and the cleanup is even going to involve removing basement shelving and other old wood that can't be sanitized. It's going to run into several thousand dollars--and she discovered her homeowner's insurance won't cover it.

Apparently you need to add an extra rider to your policy to cover this sort of thing. She hadn't thought of it, and her agent hadn't suggested it.

Luckily, we're with a different company, which automatically adds the rider unless you specify you don't want it. It's costing us $50 a year for $3000 of coverage. Worth every penny, as far as I'm concerned!

In other news, my bank was hacked

May 31st, 2007 at 07:26 am

flyinghamster.com/post/39440

This is the same goofy bank where someone else's credit card payment was taken out of my checking account. The same goofy bank that charges 20 cents if you use your debit card with a PIN instead of putting it through as a credit card. The same goofy bank that makes you jump through hoops by forcing you to change your password constantly, as if they're super security-conscious.

I deliberately changed my log-in ID from the default ss# to another word, but I've been told that didn't protect me at all. No matter what log-in ID you choose, they still used the ss# internally. So basically, there is absolutely nothing I could have done to protect my data better, other than avoiding this bank to begin with.

I've never had these kinds of problems with any other bank--tell me, do you think it's time to go? Wink

Getting sloppy, sliding back

May 31st, 2007 at 07:10 am

Yikes, it didn't take long.

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

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

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

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

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

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

When will I ever learn?


Goodbye, Netbank; No thanks, Everbank

May 22nd, 2007 at 05:56 am

In case you hadn't come across this, Netbank is being taken over by Everbank, and the changeover may be finished by the end of June.

biz.yahoo.com/pz/070521/119898.html

I've read good things about Everbank, but their money market account is too rich for my blood right now. I'm using our Netbank MM to try and build up a Fully Funded Emergency Fund. Netbank wants to you keep a minimum of $500 in the account, so although we have $955 in there, only $455 is really available for emergencies. I found that frustrating enough. But Everbank wants even more--a minimum of $1500 to avoid a monthly fee of $4.50.

www.everbank.com/001MoneyMarketYP.aspx

So I'm looking for alternatives. Right now it looks like Capital One Bank is our best bet. $1 to open their MM, no minimum balances to maintain, no fees. Plus they apparently send out paper statements! Smile

If anyone has experience with Capital One as a bank, I'd like to hear it. I only had a credit card with them years and years ago.

Finally getting organized about this

May 7th, 2007 at 07:24 am

Here's my plan for today, totalling 30.5 WW points (which is within my limit), and costing $3.50 (which is below the daily allowance of $4.38 for the USDA's Thrifty Plan for Dec '06). It includes the minimum 5 fruit/veg servings and 3 dairy servings that Weight Watchers recommends. I've also got 2 servings of whole grains.

Breakfast, fruit and grain bar .21, and 1/2 cup pineapple chunks .17

Lunch, 3/4 c baked beans .25, 1 corn muffin .07, 8 oz glass skim milk .18, 1 raw carrot .06

Dinner, salad made with 1/3 bunch romaine .19, large radish .03, equivalent of 1/4 of one pepper from tricolor package .23, 1/2 cup cauliflower .27. 10 sprays of Wishbone Balsamic Vinaigrette .07 (Aldi had it this week.) Ten cheese ravioli .54 with 1/2 cup Grandessa sauce .30

Snacks, hardboiled egg .10, tropical fruit snack bowl .35, 7 triscuits .10, yogurt .43 and 1 cup popcorn .08.

The snack bowls are twice the cost of the fruit that comes in larger cans. I'll try to only use them when I'm not home.

The Grandessa pasta sauce is twice the cost of Mama Cozzi, but it has half the fat and calories so it's worth the extra money to me.

I'm actually still using up some Act II popcorn rather than Aldi's brand, so the price is based on the Act II right now.

I'm not just eating the beans and corn muffin to be cheap--I actually like them and they are pretty filling.

Two interesting free diet-related links

May 3rd, 2007 at 12:36 pm

Someone is posting Weight Watchers points for Aldi food items:

aldireview.niesens.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=111

Here you can track and analyze your food intake according to the latest version of the government's Food Pyramid:

www.mypyramidtracker.gov


It's been a hectic week, and I'm really scampering to figure out what I can eat in a day on Weight Watchers. I just haven't had time to sit down and figure out cost per meal like I'd hoped, plus I'm missing some cost and label info for stuff I bought awhile back. I think I'll have more time after I have some good menus worked up that I can repeat.

I'd started to work with the Pyramid Tracker above, but that system allowed me a lot more food than WW is, even though I set it to maintain my weight at 50 pounds less than I am! So this a second change to my eating habits in about a week. My head is kind of spinning right now.


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