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Getting back in the swing of frugality

April 26th, 2012 at 06:31 am

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. Smile

Loosening up the purse strings

December 7th, 2008 at 10:26 am

I might have loosened them a little less if I hadn't made a mistake in Quicken. (For awhile, I thought I had about $500 more available than I actually did!) Grand total was $615. It's a lot to spend the first month of working full-time, but I thought about each purchase and don't regret any of them. I shopped sales and used coupons. Some of the clothes were almost Goodwill-level prices.

New (to us) TV through Craigslist $200
New throws for living room chairs $20
2 prs winter pajamas $38
4 tubes Revlon lipstick $12
Sneakers, one pr black and one pr white, $62
Bra $24
Nylon knee-hi's for work $22
2 velour track suits $72
6 long sleeve tees $22.50
1 sparkly henley tee $7.50
Black stretch corduroy jeans $15
Navy polyester slacks $15
Route 66 DVD set $37
Black leather purse $34
6 cloth napkins $7
2 computer books for reference at work $10
2 battery lanterns for when power is out $17

My body is changing, due to lots of walking, and I'm now wearing a 16W on the bottom. A lot of my older pants are baggy 20W's. The vinyl purse I bought last year is crazing and not repairable. We gave our lantern to my mother when her power was out, and decided we actually needed two at our house. The napkins I really didn't need, although they may help us cut down on the use of paper napkins. It was either spend the $7 on the napkins and get free shipping, or pay for shipping and get nothing else.

I need more decent casual clothes for running errands, in order to reserve work outfits for work. If I take my mother to a doctor, lawyer or stockbroker or we go out to lunch, I don't want to look like too much of a schlub. My old jeans are not only baggy but getting faded at the knees. That's where the track suits, tees and sneakers came in.

The "new" tv is digital, so it gives us a whole new range of channels on cable that we couldn't get on the old one, for no extra monthly fee to Comcast. It's a larger screen. It's a model that we like, but it's been discontinued, so we wanted to grab it when we could find it. And the picture on the old one kept shrinking every so often.

The new throws replace old ones which have numerous holes, pulls, and stains. The extra PJs are to help stretch out how often I have to do laundry.

I know the spending has to slow down. Next year, my ceiling for discretionary spending like this is the $40 a week being direct deposited into Electric Orange checking. But for now, it feels really good to be catching up on things and ridding my life of some shabbiness. Next project--bathroom towels. Smile

Whipsawed, but in a good way

November 1st, 2008 at 08:21 am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




Today's compulsive little project

April 26th, 2007 at 12:13 pm

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.

What I found, and didn't find

April 25th, 2007 at 09:06 am

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.

Pleasant surprises:

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

Some disappointments:
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.

2007 Goals

December 31st, 2006 at 01:55 pm

I've been thinking about this for awhile, and already have some things set up so I won't have to pay much attention to them.

1) Save up enough by the fall to pay our next car insurance bill in full. We're still paying the current installments, plus I have monthly transfers set up to an ING account.

2) Save toward replacing one of the cars. I have a $300 monthly transfer set up for that.

3) Get the maximum match on DH's 401K. We already turned in the form so his contribution will be 7%, plus a 3% match. (They only match 50%, and only up to 6%).

This is where it gets tricky. The Dave Ramseyites over on another site say that his Step 3 Fully Funded Emergency Fund isn't for things like car repairs. Once you get stabilized and debt-free, you are supposed to budget for those things, and only use the Emergency Fund for something really big like extended unemployment.

So, my original (baby) Emergency Fund account is now for car and house repairs, and based on last year, $4000 will be going in and back out of there in 2007.

I want to try and build up 3 to 6 months worth of expenses in paper I-bonds as the Step 3 FFEF. But there's no money left in the budget. So what I'll really have to work at this year is finding the money to fund it.

I also have one big Not To Do for the year: The only way I'm going to get involved in rebates, trial offers, test drives or surveys is if I'm completely caught up on the rest of my life. Since I always seem to be behind on housekeeping, exercising, food prep, paperwork and reading--I kind of think the "deals" just aren't going to be happening this year!

Joined a gym, and no buyer's remorse

December 16th, 2006 at 12:57 pm

I'm really zipping along on revamping my life for 2007. Today I joined a nice gym and paid for the next year in one lump sum. It comes out to $20 a month, plus they gave me a certificate for a free massage. Smile

I discovered them through a discount program offered by Blue Cross. But it ended up being cheaper to directly pay for a year in advance, at the gym, rather than through the Blue Cross program. The basic program is fine-I don't need childcare and tanning anyway.

All through paying off the debt, I figured on rejoining the gym I'd been a member of before. It was to be my reward at the end. But when I called them I couldn't get any information over the phone; I was supposed to wait for a "consultant" (salesperson) to call me back, which they never did. As I remember, if I finally did get in to see them, they'd drag it out into a 45 minute meeting ending with a complicated set of membership levels to choose from. And there'd be pressure to choose right then, or else I'd lose some of the options the minute I left to think about it.

The one I just joined, I was able to talk to the owner on the phone on my first call. They had the prices posted inside and on sheets you could easily pick up. It was just a totally different experience. I feel like I got a bargain rather than feeling like I'd been taken. A much nicer way to start!

Closed 4 accounts this past week :)

December 14th, 2006 at 11:35 am

One Sharebuilder account is closed, plus HSBC, the Chase Sonycard, and Kohl's. Despite all the reasons for keeping multiple credit card accounts open a few blog entries back, I just don't want the hassle--or the temptation of too many open accounts.

I've been reading Dave Ramsey lately, who says no credit cards, ever. However, I tried that before, and was burned*. So I'm opting for "moderation in all things" and at least reducing the number of accounts I have open. It feels good! Smile

(*There was some kind of business I needed to do, and they wouldn't take a debit card. I had to quick apply online for any old card I could find, that would give me an account number to use right away. Not the best way to choose a card.)



Chomping at the bit

December 6th, 2006 at 09:03 am

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.

4-week report; thankful we're $5000 better off than last year

November 24th, 2006 at 05:58 am

Thanksgiving was easy, as DH and I just went out to a restaurant with my mother. We both were in the mood to declutter and reorganize, so that's how we spent most of the day. I'm starting to do my annual paper clean-out early, and it feels good.

So I've caught up with my 4-week check-in for "November" which actually ended on November 18.

CC debt down to $449. It's due to be paid off on December 16. Before the end of the year and before my 50th birthday. Smile

Cash-like assets (not IRAs and such) up to $5150. $505 in the official EF, $490 in the HSA, plus the balances on gift certificates and in the ING and Netbank accounts. "Quick" net worth $4701.

My Everyday Expenses came in under budget at $529. For the past 4 months, I've been tracking coupon use, too. It's been averaging over $40 a month. This past month it was $52.83.

At the same point last year, our "quick" net worth was MINUS $504. And we'd spent $653 on Everyday Expenses in the equivalent 4-week period.

Progress!

Free dinette set--unbelievable

November 22nd, 2006 at 05:42 am

DH had to work on clearing out yet another apartment where somone had left all kinds of stuff when they moved out.

Sometimes it's pretty junky, and I get aggravated if he brings too much home just because it's free. But this time he did good. Smile It's a dinette set, a table with leaves plus matching chairs. Solid wood with a formica tabletop, not a flimsy metal thing. It's in like-new condition and actually matches our kitchen cabinets.

I've just been hoping to snag two matching chairs to use with our older kitchen table, when we could afford it. We've been using a table and two chairs, none of which match each other. Now, we get a complete matching set, for free!!! I told DH he was off the hook for Christmas. Wink



4-Week Report

October 21st, 2006 at 04:56 pm

Yay! Under budget this month. Which is a good thing, since I forgot to enter some spending in Quicken last month and the September total was more than I'd thought. $606 for Everyday Expenses in September, and $496 for October, averages out to $551, not much higher than my target of $545 a month. And we have two weeks of dinner in the fridge and freezer already, to start the new "month."

The HSBC balance transfer card is down to $799. Under $1000 for the first time. Smile There is $320 on the Citi card because I just ordered this month's discounted gift cards. Still and all, the total is $494 less than last month. Progress!

I think I've finally developed the habits of a lifestyle we can afford--and I'm finding myself very content. Last night I had a great time playing the free version of Bookworm online, and having a bowl of nearly-free Malt-O-Meal "sugar crisp" for my evening snack. I guess as things change, you still have to tweak, but I think my major, rather stressful lifestyle reworking is complete. (Ironic, now that my pay is going up!)

OMG, the extra hours start now!

October 16th, 2006 at 06:54 pm

I haven't gotten my mind around it yet, but I'll be glad to see some additional money coming in sooner than I'd thought.

First item of business: pay the &#@%$^ credit card off by the end of the year, as originally planned, instead of stretching it out to the end of the 0% period in March.

I'll have to do some number-crunching again; I want to try and fit within the All Your Worth recommendations. But tentatively our plans include upping DH's 401K contribution and me rejoining the gym.





Sexist spending

September 18th, 2006 at 06:58 am

First, thanks for the comments the past couple of entries. It really does help to know other people are in the same boat--whether it's in a positive way (learning to live with high tech) or negative (being behind on house maintenance).

I spent some time this morning trying to find the best paving company prospect for getting our driveway coated. I already knew there weren't any local companies listed on Angie's List so I thought I'd check on the Better Business Bureau website.

There were several that looked promising, but one jumped out at me. In business over 35 years, a BBB member with no complaints filed, and... the president is a woman.
I called to arrange an estimate.

If the price is remotely reasonable, and if they can do it before the fall festival, I'll go ahead and not even call another company. I have to say I like the idea of giving my business to another woman.

I feel funny about it, though. It feels like preferential treatment, or discrimination or something. But I guess it's kind of natural to want to help out one of your own--especially when you know they're a rare bird in their industry.


Still on the simplification kick

August 30th, 2006 at 07:12 am

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. Frown 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.


Yay! Work getting done on the house

August 29th, 2006 at 07:08 am

I'm trying a new electrician I found through Angie's List. (Got in on a free year's membership awhile back.) He called me back the same day I left a message, he called last night to confirm someone was coming this morning, and when the guys came I found out they planned on going ahead and doing the work instead of just giving an estimate. Smile So far so good--the guy I used to use is almost impossible to get hold of.

They are putting new security lights on the back of our house--the one that was there had literally fallen off! It's not an emergency, but we did want it done before Daylight Savings ends. The money's coming out of our Emergency Fund since it's a must-do.

I had three days in a row with no errands. Saturday we only left the house to go out for dinner (DH's birthday is this week, but he'll be too tired after work to go out.) Sunday stayed home all day, and Monday only went to work.

Glad to hear all the positive comments about automating bill payments. It's a relief not to hear horror stories!

Homeowner's bill paid--progress over recent years

August 16th, 2006 at 06:27 am

I just paid our homeowner's insurance bill, in full, a month early.

In 2004, I paid in full but just in time. I had to visit the insurance office in person to pay it the day before it was due, so it wouldn't be late.

In 2005, I had to break it up into three installments because I couldn't afford to pay it all at once.

In addition, back in September 2005 our total credit card debt had jumped back up to $4527 due to some car repair bills. Today it is $1400.

Some definite progress.

(BTW, the homeowner's didn't actually go up $71. The total I saw online included installment fees that I won't have to pay now.)