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Paying myself back rather than the cc

March 16th, 2009 at 08:56 am

I've gotten back into that vicious cycle that Carol Keeffe describes so well in her book*--one month you charge some groceries and toothpaste, the next month when you pay the bill it leaves you short to buy the new month's groceries, and you end up using the credit card again and again each month.

When things were really wild over the past few months, I'd just shop when I could. I didn't always have cash with me, and didn't always know for sure how much was in our checking accounts. I didn't want to overdraw an account, so I used the credit card to be safe. If I was using the credit card, I couldn't go to Aldi, and I didn't have time to shop the sales and use coupons, either. I didn't always take time to record what I spent. Often I had to charge things that were really for my mother, which confused things even more. (She doesn't have a credit card of her own.)

Result--a balance I've been paying off each month, but sometimes painfully so.

This weekend I "borrowed" $140 from our bills account to cover a big food shopping trip. I've got a lot of catching up to do, as we've used up a lot of stockpile items, and a lot had to be throw away because it got spoiled or was way out of date. I'll probably have to "borrow" some more next week. So far this month I've already spent $284 on groceries and we're only half through.

But at least I can pay myself back at my leisure with no interest adding up. And it's enabling me to take advantage of some really good sales and coupons, like a series of $5 off $40 coupons at one of our stores.

* "How to get what you want in life with the money you already have"

A wild few months

March 9th, 2009 at 08:27 am

It's been about three months since my last post, and exactly one month since we went to settlement on my mother's "extra" house.

Just before Christmas, my mother got the bad intestinal bug that was going around and because of her age, she was hospitalized for it. Just as she was due to be released, I came down with it and couldn't even go to pick her up myself. Then in January we found out she had a buyer for the house, and spent the next few weeks moving and disposing of the rest of the stuff that was still in it. (Not only is she quite the packrat, we also had to clean out stuff left by the previous two owners!)

It's taken me a month to feel caught up on my own life and back to some kind of normal.

I'm really trying to get back on top of money management--after months of just buying what we needed regardless of price--and posting here is the best way I know to stay honest! So here I am.

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

1974--eek!

December 5th, 2008 at 09:05 pm

Just saw a headline about November having the worst monthly jobless figures since 1974. Yikes, in some ways this headline bothered me more than recent talk of another Great Depression. I lived 1974. If that's where we are now and it's going to get worse before it gets better, uh oh.

For instance, in 1974 we still had these fashions to look forward to!

Text is 15minutelunch.blogspot.com/2007/10/strap-in-shut-up-and-hold-on-were-going.html and Link is
15minutelunch.blogspot.com/2007/10/strap-in-shut-up-and-hold...

But seriously, my 1974 involved--

Seeing adults in my family unemployed, in federally-subsidized CETA jobs, or getting on social security earlier than planned because they couldn't find work.

Going to school in the dark in winter because of the energy crisis (daylight savings all year). Being cold in school all the time because they turned the thermostat down. Having our senior trip to Washington instead of Disney World because it was cheaper.

Knowing that going away to college for one year would have been a waste, if there wasn't money to continue. Attending community college instead, to learn a marketable skill, and dealing with the odd/even gas rationing system as a commuter student.

We were still going through Watergate, and Vietnam was still on people's minds. I just checked, and the term stagflation was coined in 1974. It just wasn't a very happy or optimistic time.

I've been there, done that, and I really don't want to be there again! I mean, you adjust, you shop at K-Mart instead of the mall, your world gets a little smaller. You tell yourself a lot of other people are going through the same thing, but it still isn't fun. Enough already, I've already been economizing for the last 3 years!!!

Something I learned on Sears.com

November 29th, 2008 at 05:33 pm

Did you know they carry items like Keebler snack crackers, paper doilies and printer paper?

If you need some small filler items to make your order eligible for free shipping or to use a coupon, try Breakroom Supplies in their search box. You'll find all sorts of things like single boxes of tissues, air freshener, bags of mints or Nips candies, and so forth. They also carry small office supplies, like boxes of paper clips.

You'd be hard pressed to find this stuff using their category titles--it's all deep within the Electronics and Computers category.

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:

Text is http://www.motherjones.com/news/feature/2002/03/street_inc.html and Link is
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.




I-bonds vs. the stock market

October 12th, 2008 at 12:48 pm

Thought this might be a good time to post a link to this chart, being that the stock market has been so choppy lately. Note that the chart is updated to October 1st--and the I-bonds were already ahead before the worst of the stock market's descent. Might be good for anybody else who's feeling rather chicken right now.

Text is http://www.savings-bond-advisor.com/i-bonds-versus-the-stock-market/ and Link is
http://www.savings-bond-advisor.com/i-bonds-versus-the-stock...

I've been thinking about these for a long time as part of our Emergency Fund, but never seem to have enough money to spare. They can't be bought in IRA's, where the bulk of our already-accumulated money is, so I'd have to find new money.

I know you can buy them in small amounts, but I guess I'm embarrassed to put a bank through the paperwork for a $50 bond. (I'd rather do the paper ones, as it would be a help to DH in an emergency.) But maybe I will start, once I know the new rate as of November 1. They are supposed to announce the new rate this week.

McDonald's-my best investment this week

October 8th, 2008 at 05:11 am

No, not McDonald's stock--coupons.

DMom and I sometimes go to McD's for coffee because it's cheaper than some places and we like it just as well. Yesterday there was a sign on the door about Halloween coupons books, so I asked about them.

For $1, you get a coupon folder with 12 coupons for free items. In other words, for $1 you get coupons for about $10 worth of food. Can't beat that with a stick.

I suppose they're meant for kids--they have Ronald McDonald on them, and they're for small items--hamburgers, cones, juice, milk, and apple dippers. They expire 12/31.

I bought two. They are just the kind of things DMom and I might want to snack on with our coffee. Or that would hold off the hunger pangs if I'm out on errands a long time.

Somehow this lifts my spirits more than hearing that the Fed has lowered interest rates. Wink

Asset allocation--any ideas?

October 5th, 2008 at 11:54 am

Hi, and hugs to everyone who left a comment for me last week.

SCFR mentioned how some older folks may be in trouble because they never changed their asset allocation as their situation changed:

Text is http://scfr.savingadvice.com/2008/10/02/still-around_43742/ and Link is
http://scfr.savingadvice.com/2008/10/02/still-around_43742/

I think that hits the nail on the head for me, also. When we had two incomes, a higher total income, and cheaper health insurance, it wouldn't have been so painful to see the balance in my IRA drop over $800 in one day. I could have just saved harder for a couple of months and made up the loss. But the way things are right now, it could take me a year or more of scrimping to make it up, if it's possible to do at all.

Maybe it isn't just fear that makes me want to lessen my exposure to stocks, but good common sense. I've heard you shouldn't invest what you can't afford to lose--and right now I don't feel like we can afford to lose ANY of it.

Here's our asset allocation right now,
roughly:

Cash 46%
Bonds 36%
Stocks 17%

Only $6487 is easily accessible, i.e., cash and not in IRAs. Most of the bonds are non-IRA, but it's not like I can count on the values holding up if I needed to sell them. I have a GMAC thing that's lost 2/3 of its original value, although it's still paying me interest.

Honestly, I think I could sleep a lot better at night if I cashed it all in and just paid off our house!

Even if I sold the rest of the stock, it still wouldn't be accessible because it's all in my IRA. But at least I'd know for sure how much I had. I did sell my S&P 500 index fund last week, and I don't regret it. It only went down from where I sold it, and then I read that more S&P 500 companies cut their dividends in Sept. than ever before. That doesn't bode well.

Any thoughts?

Back because I'm scared

September 27th, 2008 at 04:13 pm

I feel like I need to huddle around the virtual campfire at Saving Advice again, safe from the cold, cruel world with some people who have their heads on straight. Smile

I'm trying not to be a Nervous Nellie, but all this upheaval in the economy is starting to get to me. It's not just what I'm hearing on the news--it's real life.

WAMU-we have our one credit card with them. Things should be business as usual, but it feels strange to have a 2nd credit card provider go belly up on me. (I had a NextBank card years ago.)

Wachovia-I have a brokerage account with them, DMom has two brokerage accounts plus she owns a pretty significant chunk of Wachovia stock which is already showing a loss. I'm hoping they don't do a WAMU and that she doesn't lose it all.

The housing market-My mother, at 91, has finally put her "extra" house up for sale, seemingly at the worst possible time in recent memory. There have only been two showings in about 3 weeks. If it goes on too many months, we may need to help her get it ready to rent out.

It's been a year, and DH still isn't working. In a lot of ways it's been a help, but we could sure use some extra money.

Especially since we are still paying $660 a month for his COBRA health insurance, which runs out in March. The prospects for me getting full-time at my present job don't look good, and the cost of an individual (non-COBRA) policy will be even higher.

Our emergency fund is below the $1000 minimum that I feel comfortable with, and I'm going to have to work hard to get it built up again. I'm unavoidably spending $200 a month on gas now (because of driving my mother), and our car insurance just went up $35 a month.

Somehow I'm going to have to get back to frugal ways, but I don't have time to fiddle around with Quicken like I used to.

Hope things are going a little more smoothly with everyone else.