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No spend day, yesterday!

May 14th, 2008 at 07:24 am

I hardly ever have these. I've been spending way too much on coffee at work, even at 50 cents a cup. Yesterday I drank water instead. Smile

Life has calmed down a little, so I'm trying to get back to some little frugalities. I made macaroni salad over the weekend, and am using it up even though it's rather bland. Making a pitcher of iced tea in the mornings to keep from going into my diet soda stash. Having toast instead of bagels or English muffins, because the price per serving is about half. Using up home-made soup I have in the freezer instead of opening a can.

I'm planning my driving trips more carefully--I actually made it through the past week on $25 worth of gas. This morning I'm in the mood to go to Aldi's before work, but I'll wait til tonight. I can combine the trip with getting my hair cut. Tomorrow I'll hit Petsmart on the way home from work, rather than making a separate trip. It's kind of aggravating when you want to go NOW, but I'm sure I can get used to it.

I've also changed some computer settings so my pc goes on standby sooner when it's idle, and turns itself off earlier at night. May save a little electricity, I hope.

Nothing more exciting going on right now--which is a GOOD thing.

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!"

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.


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!

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%.

Auto mechanic rant

September 14th, 2006 at 08:08 am

We've started taking our cars to our next door neighbor, since he seems to do good work and his prices are very reasonable.


I called him earlier in the week and asked if he could work on DH's car on Wednesday, which would have been convenient for me. He said no, Thursday would be better. Not so good for me, but I said ok.

Thursday morning has come. DH and I got up early to move work stuff from his car into mine, so he could use my car. I went to take the keys to DH's car to the neighbor, and he told me he had to do something about a horse trailer and would be back for the car in about an hour.

It's been 3 hours, and no sign of him. I'd hoped the work would be almost done by now!

Geez. He could have called to cancel, or stopped by to tell me there would be a delay. Or that he couldn't do it today after all. I have errands of my own to do, and things to meet my mother about. I also have to be at work by 5 p.m. If I'd known he wasn't going to work on it this morning, I could have planned to do errands early. Instead I'm sitting here feeling trapped waiting for him, and stewing!

I like paying less for car repairs, but is it worthwhile if it wastes so much of my time?

A/C in car not working--hope I don't stink at work tomorrow!

June 20th, 2006 at 06:11 pm

I hope to get it fixed on Thursday, but in the meantime, I need to work tomorrow. :O

I can't say I'm completely surprised. I've noticed an odd smell this season, when I had the a/c on. I've probably been breathing in refrigerant for the past few weeks, yuck. At least there's still well over $400 in the Emergency Fund.

Two new tires, $244.68

June 18th, 2006 at 04:37 am

Actually, it worked out well on many levels.

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

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

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

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

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

Good Vibrations

April 23rd, 2006 at 01:31 pm

It's been a really nice 3-day weekend for DH and I.

Friday night, we went to see the Beach Boys in concert. Well, there's only one Beach Boy left touring in the "official" band (Mike Love), but they put on a great show. John Cowsill (yes, of those Cowsills) was even part of the lineup. I never realized what a great voice he had. At the end of the concert, they put "Hit the Road, Jack" by Ray Charles on the sound system to start everyone moving out. Virtually everyone was smiling and singing along, as we all left the theater. A wonderful experience.

Saturday was rainy, good for a relaxing day at home. Picked up 3 new books at the library, and new Netflix arrived. I got an emailed voucher for a $50 Mercury Milan test drive, and the new Schwab Visa I applied for arrived in the mail. ($100 gift card after first purchase.) I didn't have to cook dinner as we got take-out bbq chicken dinners from my mother's church.

Today, I found out about the $20 Ford Fusion test drive, which was going on at a mall not too far away. So I took a couple of hours for myself, and had a pleasant little outing. The test drive was painless, and I got to treat myself to $20 worth of stuff from The Coffee Beanery with the gc. Samples of different flavored coffees, chocolate covered coffee beans, and a little caddy for used teabags. None of which I would have actually put money out for, but will enjoy for weeks to come.

It's going to be a long week, as I'm working some extra hours. But I'll be going back fully revived for once. Smile

Car inspection, and gift cards

April 4th, 2006 at 06:51 am

These are my little money tasks for the day.

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

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

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

Claritin, and misc.

January 12th, 2006 at 05:40 am

Someone mentioned how expensive Claritin was, I forget who... Anyway, I've had success with Walgreens' over-the-counter generic version called Wal-itin, which is pretty cheap when it goes on sale. This week it's around $5.99 for 20, in a B1G1F sale on 10-pill packs. I was going to stop in for some, but I found an even better price. Aldi has a generic 10-pill pack for $1.99, all the time. (Just marked loratadine.) No waiting for sales or having to buy more than you need at the time. Thought I'd pass it along.

It's the 12th of the month already, and I've only made 2 credit card purchases.

DMom doesn't have a credit card, and doesn't need to be making extra trips out for new phone cards all the time. So usually I add minutes to her phone card with my credit card, and she reimburses me. I just did it automatically, as I always do, and then realized there's no real reason it couldn't have been done on a debit card. I'll try to remember that next time.

The $100 statement credit finally showed up on the Chase Sony credit card, but I had just paid it off. So I ended up with an actual credit balance. I used it to buy my discounted gift cards for the month. (I purposely want to keep using a cc to buy these, just in case something goes wrong. So this wasn't a slip-up.) After the rebate comes back, my account balance will be back to zero.

At that point I may just close the account. I don't want too many cc accounts open, and at this point I just have a bad taste in my mouth about this company. If it took 19 weeks to get something that was due in 12 weeks, and it was something they offered voluntarily, themselves--how long might it take to handle an actual billing dispute? If they are so disorganized that one week they send a letter saying I'd need to wait 1-2 billing cycles, and the next week the credit shows up... If I know from Fatwallet discussions that some people were getting their credits within days of their first purchase and others were waiting months... If I know that they kept offering the same deal under different names, when they were so far behind fulfilling the deal for people who'd applied months before... I don't know, I just don't feel very good about them. It's a failed marketing ploy for them, as far as I'm concerned.

It's funny. The PNC deal was for less money, but things went a lot smoother, and they won me over as a customer when I'd originally thought I'd close my little account fairly quickly.

Yesterday's car repair bill was only $213, and it included some maintenance stuff as well as the actual repair. I know we saved at least $75 compared to Firestone or a dealership doing it. And I can walk to our neighbor's repair shop. Everything seems to have been done right the first time. So I'd call it a success. Smile

Yay, something's FINISHED!

January 11th, 2006 at 09:34 am

I finally got through to somebody at the Board of Public Utilities who could take a complaint about our non-existant long distance service. I talked to them Monday morning, and by that afternoon I had both a reply to my email of January 2, and a message on our answering machine. By this morning, it was hooked up and working. Yay! It took exactly 11 weeks. Something in our state government works. Wink

I hate to say this, but the guy at Pioneer I finally got the call from was a native speaker of English and the sound quality makes me think the call originated in the US. Whenever I've called their customer service, the reps sound very far away, and have accents. I don't have anything against the reps themselves, at the foreign call centers. I actually saw a documentary about call center workers in India, and I have the utmost respect for how long and hard they work to make better lives for themselves and their families. But they seem to only be trained and authorized to handle the most routine transactions--if there's a problem, they refer it somewhere else, probably in yet another country, and nobody seems to be in charge of following up. It's not like they can walk down the hall and get a problem solved by talking to the right person in another department. It's not their fault; it's the client company's fault. Mjrube94, I hope you don't have as much trouble getting your referral!

Another car repair today, this time DH's car. We are trying our neighbor this time. I'm glad I sprung for the AAA upgrade a couple of months back, so we didn't have to worry about paying the tow truck driver for extra miles. And I was already scheduled to be off today, which makes things easier, too. We'll see how it works out...

Making use of time off

December 26th, 2005 at 06:47 am

Hope everyone had a nice holiday, or day off, or some nice overtime pay if you had to work.

It was our usual quiet holiday--at least as quiet it can be, when DH gets to the point where he can't take visiting much longer and starts getting grumpy. Wink

Since we don't do that much for the holidays, and I'm off work whether I want to be or not, it gives me some extra time to catch up on things, as well as just relax with a pile of movies and books. There are still plenty of things I could do, but I can't help feeling frustrated about not being able to get some businessy things done because, after all, it's the holiday season.

Two frustrating things I haven't been able to get done because of the holidays:

I tried to apply online for an HSBC credit card offer I'd gotten in the mail, 0% for 15 months, a much longer stretch than what I have now. It would let me consolidate and close out at least one other account, and give us some predictability for a good period of time. Something went wrong, though, and I'm afraid now they might think I was trying to put in two applications. I tried to call them today to find out, but that office is closed today.

I tried to top-up DH's Virgin Mobile phone, with a top-up card I'd bought at Best Buy. But the PIN number wouldn't take. The guy at Virgin Mobile said it showed as never being activated for use, so I have to take it back to Best Buy. If you think I'm venturing there the day after Xmas...

I did manage to get my car worked on last Friday, and am accomplishing things around the house. I'm even getting around to things like clearing out old emails. Will I be glad after we get through New Year's and life starts getting back to "normal." (Whatever that is!)

Lands End GC = Dog Food

November 17th, 2005 at 12:13 pm

Yup, it's weird but true. I used a Lands End gift certificate to buy dog food today.

When I first signed up to get the discounted gift cards, I had in mind to buy more Land's End clothing. I have a t-shirt and a sleeveless cotton blouse of theirs that I really love, and I'd gotten them on a really good clearance sale at Sears. I figured when things went on clearance again, at landsend.com or in Sears, I'd be ready. But I kept checking, and no really good deals have come up. I couldn't find much of anything else at Sears or Sears Hardware to use them on, either.

A K-Mart store not too far away was switched over to a Sears Essentials over the summer, so yesterday I finally called them to see if I could use the Lands End gcs there, like you can at a regular Sears. They said yes. I didn't know quite what to expect, but it worked out well. I found two of Sears own brand winter tops on sale for $10.99 each, which I can really use. And to use up the gcs, I was able to buy the dog's food for the week and some regular grocery items.

I can't say I'll be going back anytime soon. But it feels really good to get some use out of the gcs, and conserve some actual cash. Monkey #3 off my back this week!

Russell-I know what you mean. It's great if you can find an independent mechanic you can trust. Unfortunately, ours on the corner sold out, and now here's an Eckerd where he used to be. Another guy we tried down the road couldn't figure out to put a belt on correctly, and it kept getting shredded. Finally a dealership mechanic figured out the problem. What good is cheap if the work isn't done right? A friend of DH's is a good mechanic, and will do side jobs for us at at good price. But if it's something where the car won't start or it isn't safe to drive, it can't wait til he has a free weekend. We kind of have to go where we can arrange getting us both to work and back, and picking the car back up. Which for us is this Firestone, or a Dodge dealership about 8 miles away. I did call the dealership for a comparison price on the wiper motor, but their price wasn't any cheaper.