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Viewing the 'Money, time and energy' Category

Keepin' cool the low-class way

July 30th, 2006 at 11:18 am

I've finally convinced DH to take our mattress down to the living room for the week. We're going into another heatwave, with no chance for thunderstorms to break it until at least Thursday. They are saying this is 10 degrees higher than our normal temps for this time of year.

We have central a/c which hardly gets upstairs at all, so we have a window a/c in the bedroom. Most of the time it works out fine, but in this kind of heat it just can't keep up.

I'm not on top of our kilowatt hours like Ima is, but I'm sure it costs plenty to run on days like this. Why waste the money and energy if it's a lost cause anyway?

I just hope nobody decides to drop in on us while we're camped out downstairs! (Next sofa we get has got to be a sofa-bed.)

Strange motivation for finishing taxes--but at least they're done!

July 27th, 2006 at 10:50 am

I did work on our taxes back in the spring, along with my mother's. In fact, ours were virtually done. But I was so bleary-eyed and confused by April 15 that I just didn't trust what I'd done. So I got extensions for both my mother and us.

All this time, my sewing machine cabinet has been closed up and the tax stuff has been piled on top. But last night I discovered an open seam that's too long to fix by hand, and I want to use the machine.

So today I filed all three of our things electronically--federal, state, and the state property tax rebate.

Funny how $100 in tax refunds wasn't motivating enough for me to do it, but getting to the sewing machine was!

(I got my mother's federal one done last week. This week we took a birthday break; she was 89. Next week hopefully NJ will get finished.)

Refining my budget system (long)

July 25th, 2006 at 07:01 pm

Here's the main thing I've been up to as far as reorganizing. What I've wanted for a long time is an easy way to make sure we're living within our means, and to see how much is available for extras.

What I've done is tweaked our direct deposits and automatic savings deposits so that no extra money is left in our main checking account beyond what's needed for monthly bills. When non-monthly bills come up, I transfer the money back in from savings.

The point of that is, when I see a nice balance in there I will know none of it can be touched because it all has to pay bills.

Here's the new way things are divvied up out of our main account (annual figures):

$3372 into Emergency Fund
$1040 into Health Savings Account
$6240 into House Account (property taxes, homeowner's insurance, quarterly water and sewer bills, and lawn mowing)
$600 into Occasional Expenses Account (AAA, safe deposit box, etc.)
$600 into Christmas/Gift/Routine Vet Visits Account
$204 into New Computer/Appliances Account
$2784 into New Car Account (starts after cc pmts are finished)

Then there's checking account #2, which gets $140 a week to cover groceries, gas, pet supplies and two Sunday newspaper subscriptions (being as I'm really getting them for the coupons).

I'll be able to see how much is available to spend on Everyday Expenses just by looking at the account balance. (No fiddling with Quicken reports.)

That leaves a total of $720 for discretionary spending per year out of our regular income:

$240 for personal expenses like haircuts, haircolor, makeup, moisturizer, etc.

$480 for clothes for the two of us.

Everything else, from coating the driveway, to plants, to dates with DH, has to come out of the kind of extra money a lot of you are using for the $20 challenge. Rebates, working the elections, bank bonuses, lower-than-expected utility bills, etc.

I'm corralling all the extra/discretionary money into checking account #3 at Netbank. Result, I can see exactly how much spending money is available just by looking at the balance.

A little background on how I came up with some figures.

Clothes - Dave Ramsey recommends spending 2-9% of your income on clothing. $480 is less than 1-1/2% of our take-home. Also, I found a government chart on income and expenditures that shows a household with our income spends about $1477 a year on apparel and clothing care services. $480 is is less than 1/3 of that. So while it might seem high to some of you, I'm feeling that it's perfectly reasonable for us.

Car savings - The $2784 is just about what we've been putting against the cc debt over the past year. Also, that same government chart shows that a household with our income spends $2797 on new vehicle aquisition per year. So this seems right in the ballpark.

The All-Ett

July 25th, 2006 at 06:26 pm

Text is www.all-ett.com and Link is
www.all-ett.com

I've been starting to feel fed up with all the time and energy I've been spending on money stuff--and I STILL had that close call where I almost missed paying a bill. Something has to give as far as streamlining and organizing.

One thing that's been getting to me is dealing with cards. Credit cards, debit cards, store loyalty cards, gift cards, library cards, insurance cards, etc.

There isn't room for all of them in my wallet, so I've only been keeping the most commonly used ones in it. I have a little drawer where I keep other ones, and more are just in a rubberband in my purse. When I have to use one, I have to look all three places. I can't tell you how many times I've been caught wishing I had a specific card with me, when it was at home in the drawer.

I read about this new kind of wallet on Fatwallet, and decided to order one. In purple. Smile It holds up to 30 cards plus there are two sections for bills.

I hardly ever write a check, so I won't miss a section for that. And I always end up throwing my change in the bottom of my purse anyway. So I think this wallet is going to fit my life better than the traditional kind. And if I don't like it, I can re-sell it Amazon.

I'm not connected with the All-Ett people in any way, just thought someone else might be interested if they're getting as overwhelmed with plastic cards as I am.

Disorganization strikes again

July 12th, 2006 at 08:25 am

Had a scare this morning--

I've been trying catch up on paperwork today, as it's become a mess again. Because I've been spending so much money lately, I thought I'd better go onto all our banking and cc websites to make sure I'd recorded everything.

To my horror, I noticed I hadn't even scheduled the payment on the Sony card, which is due Friday, the day after tomorrow. If I did it the normal way from my bank website, they wouldn't get it til Monday. Frown Luckily, I could sign up on the Sony card website to initiate the payment from their end. I'll get credited for it today.

I feel very lucky, indeed, because sometimes when you try to set up transfers like this, it takes a few days while they send test amounts. If that had been the case, I couldn't have avoided a late payment.

I've got to get better at keeping up with this stuff, no matter how busy life gets. And no matter how hot it is! (I do paperwork upstairs in a room with no a/c, and some days I just can't face it.)

Microwave on the fritz

July 10th, 2006 at 05:33 am

This has about put me over the edge, as far as shopping. I'M TIRED OF SHOPPING! It's not even that I don't want to spend the money. I'm just tired of the process of doing the shopping.

This weekend, shoes for DH from Shoebuy.com and a tool he needed for work, from Home Depot. Petsmart and two supermarkets. K-Mart for a 2nd new hairdryer like my original one because the first one I bought as a replacement was a pain to use. Shorts for me from the men's department at Target; I was getting desperate after shopping for several weeks. Yes, I guess I'm cross-dressing now. Wink Recently, tires, other clothes, checks. By next weekend, 2 more birthday presents. Still need to get a hair clipper to do DH's hair for awhile; his barber retired.

I found a good deal at Linens and Things for a microwave that would be $20 after a coupon and rebate. But you had to pick it up at a local store, and it was out of stock at mine. Found one for $39.99 at Kohl's, but it was sold out at our Kohl's. Had to ask them to call another store, where I'll pick it up tomorrow. Between checking around online, and making the first trip to Kohl's, I've put at least 2 hours into the project already with nothing to show for it.

When I'm all caught up, I'm going to be very content to stay home doing other things for a good, long time.

One PotatOH, two PotatOH...

July 8th, 2006 at 08:27 am

Yesterday a mysterious package arrived on our porch, a UPS 2nd day air box, from Colorado, filled with something heavy. I couldn't imagine what it could be... Here, the Express PotatOH! people had actually sent me 4 of their microwavable baking potatoes to replace the 2 moldy ones I'd complained about.

I feel kind of bad that they went to the expense of sending out a 4 lb package of potatoes. (Maybe someone should tell them about free item coupons?) But I'm glad to essentially get double my money back on them. They look fine, nice and fresh.

Smuckers' response was excellent, too. I'd written them about their sugar-free preserves, which I didn't like the taste of. They sent me two free-product coupons to replace the two jars I couldn't face eating. The really impressive thing was, within 24 hours of my email they actually called me on the phone to ask some questions (such as the product codes on my jars). Within the week, the coupons were here.

It really only takes a few minutes to email a company about a problem (especially with the aid of Flash's contact list), and very satisfying when you get a response.

The Tea Solution

July 6th, 2006 at 10:02 am

Thanks for all the comments from those who shared my disbelief over the teakettle that couldn't boil water. It definitely was a kettle, not a teapot--there was a whistle, and everything. This is the dumb thing, here:

Text is www.target.com/gp/detail.html/sr=1-4/qid=1152204615/ref=sr_1_4/601-2474764-5440904?%5Fencoding=UTF8&asin=B000ENADU0 and Link is
www.target.com/gp/detail.html/sr=1-4/qid=1152204615/ref=sr_1...

I notice they haven't posted my bad review yet. Wink I did manage to get my money back without having the box, although I had to dig in my heels a bit.

Kudos to the Lipton tea people, though. They do still make the unsweetened tea! I was googling around and came across their online store. If I couldn't find it locally, I could order it online direct from them.

But even better, they had a "store finder" feature that's better than any I've seen. You can actually search for a store that carries the specific product you are looking for, instead of getting a list of stores who happen to carry the brand.

I found out only one grocery chain in my area carries this specific stuff, Acme. I never go there, hence I never see the product. So I made a special trip today and am drinking some as I type. Smile It's funny how little comforts like this can make your day, even when more important stuff is going on.

Whew, I can stop teakettle shopping, too!

Clothes shopping

June 26th, 2006 at 08:15 am

LRJohnson's post about not liking to shop, a post at another blog about clothes, and the sale yesterday at Catherines, all got me pondering this.

Very rarely, when I'm feeling kind of burned out, I do like to do some window shopping where there is lots of color and pattern around. Plant nurseries, fabric stores, Pier One, Linens & Things, even Target's housewares. It revives me somehow. I also like bookstore trips where I do nothing but write down titles to look for at the library. And sometimes I'll try on new styles of clothes just to see if they suit me. (Usually not, and I stay in my rut!)

But other than that, I'm not much of a recreational shopper. I dislike malls. I really don't like going to yard sales and thrift shops where you have to sift through 999 random items to find something you might be able to use.

I've bought a couple of things recently, the MP3 player and a shredder, where I found a good deal on Fatwallet, went to a store for that specific item, and was done. That's my kind of shopping!

As far as clothes, I wish I could get my shopping down to a science, as this fellow has done (read toward the end):

Text is askunclebill.typepad.com/my_weblog/2006/05/the_clothes_mak.html and Link is
askunclebill.typepad.com/my_weblog/2006/05/the_clothes_mak.h...
He buys suits twice a year when a certain store has a sale, he buys certain standard shirts over and over, when Lands End has a sale, etc.

I think it's easier for men. Women's styles change more over the years, and you can't count on getting favorite styles again. I don't know how many "favorite" bras I've found, that have been discontinued before it's time to buy them again. Same with jeans and slacks and blouses. Stores you counted on go out of business, or the buyer at a certain store changes and they no longer carry what you've always gotten there.

That's why I was so excited about the Catherines sale. In recent years, I can always find something there and at Dress Barn. (Yesterday's sale netted a 2-piece dress and 4 prs of nice underwear for less than $25.) In fact, there was more usable stuff there than I had money to spend. I also went to Boscov's, where the women's department is larger than a whole Catherines store--and found absolutely nothing. I'm about done with Boscov's except for shoes.

I'm on vacation this week, and I was going to make myself check out two Goodwill stores, a plus-size consignment store, and maybe an outlet mall I've never been to. I know some people get great deals at these kinds of places, so I wanted to give them a chance, again.

But if I'm honest with myself, I just don't want to spend my time that way, looking for a needle in a haystack. I'd rather just concentrate on C and DB, where there's a better chance of actually finding something.

Financial plans for the week

June 19th, 2006 at 05:30 am

It's going to be a busy week. I want to get a lot of Life In General stuff done, so when I'm on vacation next week I can just relax and have fun. Figured I'd post my financial goals for the week so that I don't forget any, and as a record in case I get too busy with other stuff to post here.

--Copy and mail the Suzuki test drive and Laughing Cow rebate
--Contact Smucker's about their awful sugarfree jam (DONE)
--Contact the shrink-wrapped-microwave-ready-potato people about moldy potatoes (DONE)
--Make the extra-large cc payment to bring balance below $2000 (DONE)
--After money arrives in checking from ING, open money market account at NetBank for $75 bonus (don't know of a way to get it directly from ING to NetBank) (DONE)
--After bill-closing date on the Citi card, order my Passport to Fun gift cards for the month (DONE)
--Find out whether buying gift cards at my supermarket will go toward the amount I have to spend for a promotion they're running
--Cancel Buyer's Advantage (DONE)
--Letter to Upromise for withdrawal of $25 (have to get notarized)
--Finish weeding and organizing the coupon exchange box at work (IN PROCESS)

Added Goal: Order checks? Looks like I might be on the last pad for our main account. (DONE-Used Checkworks. One box of 150 should last about 2 years.)

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.