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Archive for October, 2006

Cost of working more hours, Part One

October 31st, 2006 at 05:46 am

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.

Text is www.plannerpads.com and Link is

IGA rant--why should I go to locally owned stores when they always mess up?

October 26th, 2006 at 12:52 pm

I haven't been going to the local IGA very often, but since my schedule is tighter now it seemed like a convenient alternative to Pathmark. But it doesn't save time if you frequently have to go back to get things fixed.

Today's fiasco--There was one checker on, the girl with one paralyzed arm. She really can't bag very well, so I bagged myself instead of watching as each thing rang up.

Since I record my spending in Quicken, and divide things by grocery, pet, nonfood and tax, I look at my receipts pretty carefully. As it turned out, she missed taking off some coupons, took another coupon off too many times, and one item rang up higher than the sale price. It wasn't easy to figure out as their receipt is very hard to read. I actually made up a spreadsheet to show the customer service person where the mistakes were.

The checker is one problem, the weird receipt is another, the final one is a store policy. Every other store around here gives you the item free if the price rings up wrong. Not the IGA. As a result, I ended up getting $2 back rather than $4.19. And that, after fooling around for 1/2 an hour trying to figure it out.

I've had problems there several times before, even though I don't go there very often. OTOH, I go to places like Pathmark, Target, Aldi, and Stop and Shop much more often and I can't remember the last time it happened.

I think it's worth my while to continue with Pathmark, even with the drive time. And, it's another example of why I don't feel guilty for shopping at chains rather than local businesses.

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!)

Full Baskets Foundation's Cheap Thrills

October 17th, 2006 at 06:14 pm

This one's for everyone who's going through a rough patch right now. Sometimes you just have to de-stress before you can figure out how to solve problems. It's time for a lot of us to take a deep breath and enjoy some...

Free (or almost free) Entertainment

Take a walk. Notice the details of your surroundings.
Sit in the sun for a few minutes.
Take a walk while it's snowing and admire the patterns of the snowflakes.
Listen to your favorite music.
Dance to your favorite music.
Watch the sun setting.
Sit or lie down and do nothing (relax) for 20 minutes.
Go to bed early.
Read an engaging novel.
Cook a dish you haven't made before.
Rearrange the furniture.
Check the newspaper and plan outings that are free or almost-free. (In our area, museums have reduced prices during certain hours.)
Visualize or write out your dreams and goals.
Read a comic book for children or for adults.
Play a board game with the kids.
Watch the kids playing together.
Listen to birds singing.
Plan to have friends over.
Sing, hum or whistle.
Sort through and organize your photos. Watch family videos.
Plan your next vacation.
Write a letter to a friend.
Smile at someone or compliment them.
Go pick fresh fruit, whatever is in season, apples, strawberries, blueberries.
Make something by hand.
Take a nap.
Watch a good film on television or rent a video.
Listen to a book on tape.
Plan a practical joke on a friend.
Browse in a bookstore.
Try your hand at drawing.
Work a crossword puzzle.
Go see a concert. (There may be free concerts locally.)
Go skating.
Go swimming.
Go cross country skiing or snowshoeing; go for a long walk or hike.
Go for a cup of coffee or other beverage.
Eat lunch outside in the sunshine on a terrace or in a park.
Clean the car inside and out.
Pick some weeds that have flowers and make a wildflower bouquet.
Check out a book from the library and teach yourself something new, how to draw, paint, cook, invest in the stock market, sew, or a myriad of other things. Check out tapes and learn a new language.
Turn on your favorite music and take a long soak in the tub by candlelight.
Take a long, hot shower.
Try out different ways of applying your makeup.
Do your nails.
Wear perfume when you're not going out.
Take the time to apply lotion all over your body.
Dress up when you're not going out.
Do your hair when you're not going out.

Do what I can to change a difficult situation.
Accept what I cannot change.
Find something good in what I cannot change.

I've found this list at various web addresses over the years, but it keeps disappearing. I don't know what the Full Baskets Foundation was or is. If anyone associated with them has copyright concerns, please let me know and I'll remove this entry.

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.

"How much money do you want to make next year?"

October 13th, 2006 at 05:42 am

Well, that is in effect the question my boss has asked me. She's working on next year's budget and wonders if I'd want more hours, and if so, how many. I don't want to pass up an opportunity, but having to come up with an answer in 24 hours has me kind of flummoxed.

On the one hand, we could certainly do with more income. On the other hand, I don't want to commit to more hours than I can handle on a permanent basis. If something comes up and I don't want to work the elections anymore, I can just say no. If I've committed to more hours at my regular job, I'm stuck.

Also, I wondered how many more hours I could work before making us ineligible for the Saver's Credit, or pushing us into the next tax bracket. Not to worry, even if I worked 7 more hours a week, we'd still be poor enough. Wink

I think I'm going to say 4.

4-week report, ending Sept. 23

October 2nd, 2006 at 06:09 am

Everyday Expenses came to $575, a little high but not terrible. Mostly because I had a bunch of cat food coupons to use up before they expired, so I bought ahead. It certainly wasn't from gas prices--only spent $80. Yay!

But overall, I did some SERIOUS spending this past month.

HSBC $1099, down by $50. But overall cc debt (purchases not yet billed or due) up to $1613. I purposely bought as much on the Citi card as possible to get one last rewards check from them. You have to have $50 in rewards to request a check, and I had to work to make it.

Emergency Fund $110, down $570.

But I have no regrets.

We spent $345 on car repairs and maintenance. Worth it for peace of mind.

We spent $250 on the lights for the back of the house.

I spent $78 on misc. household stuff such as curtains, a throw rug, miniblinds and a hose.

I paid less on the credit cards to reserve cash for the plumbing work we had done in September but weren't billed for yet. (It came to $515, which we'll be paying this week.)

It's gotten to the point where the undone repairs and maintenance are weighing heavier on me than the weight of unpaid debt. The main debt is at 0% through March, and the Citi charges are still in the grace period. I'd rather have two fully functioning bathrooms than have these paid off early for no reason.

So, a satisfying month even though the numbers say otherwise.