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Archive for March, 2005

2 sick kids

March 31st, 2005 at 04:34 am

So my kids are sick. The first got a fever on Easter night and it lasted 2 days, and she still has a cough. My son got a fever 2 days later, and seems to be getting over it now, though he still has a cough. Depending on how he does today, a trip to the doctor may be in order.

It's been a pretty good week so far spending-wise. Other than lunch at work on Wednesday and Tylenol for the kids yesterday, I didn't have a lot of out-of-pocket. This weekend will be different, though. Tomorrow we have tickets to a concert. I'm hoping to have dinner home beforehand, but hubby may want to go out. (Free babysitting thanks to my sister). Then on Saturday, hubby wants to go to the Auto Show in NY. We've gone before and it's really neat to see all the concept cars. It helps more that we're not in the market for a new car, because then we can just look without being tempted. Finally on Sunday, we have a 3yo birthday party to go to. (I'm getting the $20 present from the Discovery Store using the gift card I got on Ebay for $13.58. Yea!)

Regarding my budget, the next two line items are water and internet. Can't think of much to do for these. Water costs about $25/month. I can definitely cut back on the amount of laundry and dishes I do. I'll have to be creative about other ways. Surprisingly, it doesn't seem to go up more than a couple of dollars in the summer, when we water the lawn. As for internet, I still use dial-up (stop laughing!). I get AOL for $17.95/month. I know that DSL/Cable would be a heck of a lot faster, but it's a lot more expensive, and this seems fine to me. I guess you don't miss what you never had!

Have a super day!

3rd no-spend day in a row!

March 29th, 2005 at 05:24 am

It's an all-time record for me to have 3 no-spend days in a row - the holiday and bad weather sure helped. I'm heading down to Dad's today to take him to the accountant and do his grocery shopping for him, so other than the gas (120 miles round trip) I'm set.

Followup to my life insurance quest: I went to Lowermybills.com and checked out the rates on plans comparable to what I have now. Assuming I still get the super-preferred rate (who knows?) there is one rate that would be less than $2/month cheaper. I'm going to put this on hold until June, when I go to my doctor for my annual checkup. If it seems like everything is in order (cholesterol, weight, etc.), I'll switch plans. Not only will it save me $480 over the 20-year term, I'm already 3 years into my term, so I'll be picking up an extra three years, which won't be bad...

Today's line item is my electric bill. I'm also on budget billing here, and I pay $168/month. It's only supposed to be about $133, but for some reason I went way over last year, so I need to make up the extra over the first 6 months of this year. In June it should go back to $133, but I want to conserve enough so that at the end of this cycle, it gets reduced to $120 for next cycle. The biggest challenge for us is having hubby and the kids turn off the lights. It seems like the place is lit up like Christmas all the time! Between that and more judicious use of the dryer and dishwasher, we should be able to cut enough. Fortunately, I'm not a big Air Conditioning person (though hubby is) so that should only run in the evenings when he's home.

Have a great day!

Blech! Rainy Monday

March 28th, 2005 at 06:07 am

What disgusting weather we have...the forecast is rain, rain, rain all day with possible flooding. I hate days like this! Good news is that I won't be going out anywhere, which means no spending (yay). Easter was fun. As expected, we have enough food leftover to get us through most of the week. I may need to go out later in the week for milk, but that's about it.

Next item on the budget is our home heating bill, and it's a toughy. We're on budget billing and pay a whopping $236/month (+$9 for a service contract). I have programmable thermostats, keep it to 63 degrees during the day when we're not here, and try to keep it to 67 when we are here. (Usually we end up increasing it to 69 degrees because we're always cold!!!)

What we could do: I need to get better about turning down the thermostat when we're going to be out unexpectedly. For example, normally on Saturdays, we're home and it's at 67. But if we go out for the day, I don't always remember to turn them down to 63. I've heard about using a blanket on the hot water heater, and of course weather-proofing my (pretty old) house. To be honest I'm not really motivated about any of these ideas. Maybe I'll knock out some of my other saving ideas and come back to these when I'm desperate...

Happy Easter!!!

March 27th, 2005 at 04:54 am

I'm off to church in a few minutes, but of course had to start my day on this website! It's unbelievable how I've come to rely on this site - I'm logged on at least 2-3 times each day. Anyway, today will definitely be a no-spend day, except for the church envelope which is budgeted.

The next line item on my budget is my mortgage. We have a $240k mortgage at 4 5/8 fixed, that will be paid off in 12.5 years. We already add an extra $100 toward principle each month. Thanks to the great advice at this site, I've convinced hubby that we should pay the property tax and insurance directly, as the mortgage company takes more than $50/month extra for "escrow". Plus, we have our house insurance and car insurance from two different companies, and never bothered to combine them because the house insurance was always paid through my mortgage and I thought it would be too big a deal. I'm going to call on Monday to get a quote from our auto insurance co. The other good news is that our mortgage company doesn't charge us a fee for paying directly. Yay. I'm going to take care of all of this next week and hopefully start seeing the benefit of this in a month or two.

Bad money day...

March 26th, 2005 at 10:41 am

Today was a bad money day. We needed to get Easter flowers for hubby's mom, and two aunts (and me from the kids Smile) to the tune of about $50! I've been married for 10 years, and we've been doing the same thing for 10 years, yet it never ceases to amaze me how much we spend on these holidays (Easter, Mothers Day, Fathers Day, etc.). We also picked up about 6 pounds of ground lamb at the store, because it's not usually available, and hubby wanted steak tonight (cha-ching). Not expecting this big bill at all...

Luckily I'm getting off pretty easily for Easter. MIL is bringing a lot of the food, and we got a Butterball turkey breast on sale at the grocery store for $1/pound. Great deal on sweet potatoes, and a few other veggies and I'm set.

Back to my line item budget...the next set of items is insurance.

What we already do: We get our medical through hubby's work (really good plan, and our piece comes out pre-tax). We both have life insurance and accident/disability insurance.

What we need to do: I'm 3 years in to a 20-year term with John Hancock. Although I think it's a pretty good rate, I need to shop around. Although I'm a few years older, it's a pretty competitive industry, so maybe the rates have dropped. Second, Hubby gets his through work, and his hesitant to change. I need to shop around for his too, to see if there's a big enough difference to make it worth discussing. Finally, I need to check into LongTerm Care insurance. I'm 34 and hubby's 37. Not sure if it makes sense to get it yet, or wait a few years, because I think the industry (and the plans) are still evolving. Any thoughts?

Happy Easter!!!

Taking another look-see

March 25th, 2005 at 07:36 am

Anytime I feel like I'm not making a lot of financial progress, I try to get re-energized by looking at each line of my budget and coming up with some new way to cut it down. So each day I'm going to look at a new category and see what I can do. (Any help would be appreciated!)

The first line on the budget is Taxes. We pay Federal, State, and FICA/OASD.

What I'm already doing: Hubby and I contribute to our 401(k)s, we use Flexible Spending Accounts for our Health and Dependent care costs, and we save for our kids' college through NY's 529, where we can deduct up to $10k/year from our NY state taxes.

What I can still do (and when): 1) Increase hubby's contribution to his 401(k) in May. His raise is effective in April, so we're going to take 1/2 of it and put it toward this. 2) Increase contributions to kids' 529s in June '06. We're nowhere near the $10k/year that we can deduct, but my little guy has one more year of (really expensive) preschool. As soon as he's done that I can use that money. Any other suggestions?

If it's not one thing it's another...

March 24th, 2005 at 01:09 pm

So my dinner last night was postponed due to the weather, and I was pretty happy to save the ~$25 or so that I would have spent. But then today, my sister called me for lunch. She works a few blocks away from me, but isn't usually in the office on Thursdays, so we can't get together. Good thing, because we went to a real restaurant and I ended up spending the $25 I was going to spend last night. Part of my problem is that I justify it by thinking that I was prepared to spend it last night, so I'm really not out any money because I spent it today. Yeah, right...

Tomorrow will be a big spend day. I have my in-laws coming for Easter dinner (7 adults total). I need to go to the grocery store/fruit & veggie store, as well as the liquor store. I'm going to try to keep the grocery total down, because my MIL is making some of the food, and there will be enough leftover that we should be able to eat all week! We'll see.

The other thing I've been doing lately is taking out personal finance/frugal living books from the library. I've already read many of them before, but I find that if I reread them, I usually come across a tip or two that I didn't pay attention to last time around. I just skim them, so it goes pretty fast, and with the two young kids around, I'm just happy to be reading something that doesn't rhyme! lol

Problem with Verizon

March 23rd, 2005 at 11:02 am

I use verizon for my local and long distance. My plan with them was for .05 regional calls and .08 long distance. Apparently last month, they increased my LD to .10/min. I called to complain and they said a notice was sent out with the last bill. I get electronic copies of my bills, and it wasn't evident to me. Anyway, I asked the rep what he could do in terms of giving me a cheaper rate and he said, "What's the big deal? It's only an extra two cents a minute. Even if you made another 30 calls it wouldn't add up to that much." Smoke was coming out of my ears!!! I told him there were plenty of companies that give long distance for .04/minute, so I was already paying a premium to use Verizon at .08, much less .10! I immediately went to LowerMyBills.com and signed up with Pioneer Telephone: 2.7 cents out of state and 4.5 instate, no monthly fees. I know it won't be that much but still. UGHHHHH!

Winter Wednesday

March 23rd, 2005 at 08:04 am

I thought March comes in like a lion and out like a lamb. After a few decent weather days last week, it's no cold and damp, and scheduled to SNOW 3-6" tonight. Ugh!!

I dried a load of towels on my drying rack yesterday. (I think I put too many in the wash, so even after two spins they were still pretty damp. I couldn't bring myself to overwork the dryer by putting them in, so I hung them). It worked out great, the only problem is that I still needed to put them in the dryer with a fabric softener sheet to fluff. But it was nowhere near as bad as it would have been.

I need to figure out the whole liquid fabric softener thing, so I can use my drying rack more. The three problems I have are 1) I've only used dryer sheets in the past, 2) my washing machine is old and doesn't "buzz" when it's time to add the fabric softener, and 3) my washing machine is in the basement, so it's not convenient for me to keep an eye on it and add the softener at the right time.

Can you add fabric softener during the beginning of the load?

Other than that, I'm going out to dinner with friends tonight, and should be able to keep it to ~$25. Haven't seen them for a while, so it should be worth it. I did bring oatmeal to work for breakfast this morning, so no bagel for me!

Have a great day...

The high cost of disorganization

March 22nd, 2005 at 07:15 pm

I need to start keeping track of how much my disorganization is costing me. I went to the library today and returned overdue books and videos ($1.45 fine). I swear this happens to me every week, because I forget what day they're due, or I don't feel like driving over there, whatever. I think I'm singlehandedly funding their budget!

If this was the only example, I wouldn't feel so bad. But I can think of so many times I couldn't find my coupon, let a coupon expire, didn't go to the dry cleaner on Wed/Sun when they have better deals. And it's all due to the fact that I'm disorganized. I bet it costs me a good $10 per week. SO here's the tally:

Overdue library books: $1.45

Busy busy busy

March 22nd, 2005 at 01:32 pm

Tuesday is the only day of the week I'm home. Well, not really home because I'm usually running errands all day. I had the whopping bill from the car place, but other than that, I didn't spend anything, and actually avoided a $23 charge. EZPass sent me a replacement for a tag that I didn't have, and said they would charge me $23 if I didn't return the old tag. I called and convinced the rep that I didn't have the old tag, so they shouldn't charge me. She said it was taken care of, but with EZPass, I'll believe it when I DON"T see the charge on my account!

Other than that I'll be in the rest of the night. It's early to bed for the kids so I can watch American Idol and House!

Diet/Money link

March 21st, 2005 at 08:39 pm

Somewhere on this site, I saw an analogy by Jeffrey about how trying to save money is like dieting. Man I can relate! It so happens that I got fast food for lunch (reminding me of how far off I am on dieting AND saving!). My problem with dieting is that I want to eat what I want to eat, and don't want to sacrifice. The problem with spending is that if I want something, I want it when I want it and don't want to wait. Although I'm doing better with the money part then the dieting part, it's still a struggle! So anyway...

Bagel for breakfast: 1.00
Fast food for lunch: 4.85

Other than a few necessary, budgeted items no spending today.

Tomorrow will be another story. We're getting DH's dad's car. It's pretty old (1992) but only has 40,000 miles on it (he never drove anywhere). We're getting the car for free, but we needed to have a bit of work done on it to the tune of $900, which we'll need to pay tomorrow. However, insurance is pretty cheap and it's in great shape otherwise, so hopefully will last a while.

I'll tune in tomorrow...

I need advice...

March 20th, 2005 at 05:25 am

Today should be a great day. It's Sunday, and the weather is lousy, so we're staying in all day and having a fire. I didn't spend any money yesterday, and was planning on not spending today, but I just ordered a $50 Shell gift card on EBAY for $45. (We spend a ton of money on gas, so anytime I can get it 10% off I jump, especially since the other cards I have are running low).

I need advice on how to deal with a spouse who's not really into the frugal thing. He doesn't spend a lot of money, but he also doesn't share my excitement for saving $5 here or $10 there. I opened up a savings account to put in all of my little savings, hoping by the end of the year he will see how it has accumulated into something more than a "couple of bucks". But I find that all the day-to-day frugality (turning off the lights, turning the heat down, cutting coupons) goes right by him. Any suggestions?

It pays to call!!!

March 19th, 2005 at 06:06 am

Wow! It's only 9:00 on Saturday morning and I'm having a great day! Two months ago, I made changes to my family share plan with Verizon and signed a new 2-year contract. The deal I got was $59.99 for the first two lines, and $9.99 for each addt'l line (for my MIL), for 500 minutes. Plus my company has a corporate discount with Verizon so I save 17% off the first two lines. Anyway, the bill should be in the neighborhood of $67 or so, by the time the discount is applied and the fees and charges are added.

So last month, my bill comes in at about $115 (which was similar to my bills before I switched to the new plan). When I called about it, they said something about the fact that I switched mid-cycle and blah blah blah- it was a transition issue. This morning, I get an email from Verizon that my next bill is ready, and it's $117! So I call the (very friendly) customer service rep, who tells me that the in-network and weekend calling, which was supposed to be free, wasn't set up properly, thus my bill was so high.

So she credited me $80 for the last two billing cycles and straightened it out going forward!!! I know that I'm basically just getting my money back, but given that the last bill was already paid, I'm going to take the extra money and put it right into savings. Yeah!

The rest of the day should be spend-free! I have that bridal shower to go to, but the gift has already been paid. Then we're going to MIL for dinner. I'm hoping tomorrow should be a no-spend day too, because the weather is supposed to be cold and rainy. That means a roaring fire and family game board day.

It's shaping up to be a great weekend!!!

Thursday's happenings a little late

March 18th, 2005 at 07:40 am

Ok, so it's really Friday morning. Ever since I had kids I'm incapable of doing anything on time! Thursday was a good day...No unbudgeted money spent.

I've got a big case of spring fever! The weather has only been in the mid-40's, but I haven't worn a jacket all week. Another 10-15 degrees and I'll be set. Can't wait to try my new drying racks outside in the sunshine! (Also can't wait to stop using the gas to heat my house - the bills are unreal. Thank goodness for budget-billing!

That's it for now. We're going to the park after school and to a friend's house for dinner, so I'll need to spring for a bottle of wine/12 pack of beer, but that can come out of my allowance.

Wednesday's log...

March 16th, 2005 at 07:56 pm

Today was an ok day. I was off to a great start this morning, having breakfast and coffee at home, but I need to get better about bringing lunch to work. I spent $4.50 and it wasn't even good! The only other spending was taking the kids for haircuts, and I was able to move $145 toward paying down a bill, thanks to overtime at work. Slow and steady wins the race...

Tuesday's a spend day...

March 15th, 2005 at 07:26 am

Tuesday is the only day of the week that I don't go into the office. The downside is that it's the only day that I can run my errands, so it usually means spending money. Today I have three stops: the dry cleaner, the grocery store and the fruit/veggie store. The only plus is that I went to BJs (warehouse club) over the weekend, so my grocery store list is pretty small...

I also have my usual 4 loads of laundry to do, but I'm actually looking forward to it! Over the weekend, I brought a garment rack and a drying rack so I could hang-dry instead of using the dryer. And what a deal I got...I had a bridal shower and a housewarming party to go to, so I went on EBAY and bought a $108 gift card to Linens N Things for $79 (~27% off). I got both gifts (with 20% off coupons) and had money left over for the drying racks. (Yeah!)

Time to go clean the house...

I'm starting a journal today

March 14th, 2005 at 08:48 am

Ok, so I've been lurking on this site for a while and finally registered. Since then, I've been lurking on the blog area, reading everyone else's posts, and finally decided to start my own. So a little about me...

I'm 34, married mother to two (DD 6 and DS 4) living in northern NJ. I work part-time, and was raised in a really frugal home. (My mother could stretch a buck better than anyone I know!). Anyway, we're doing ok financially, but we live in a pretty expensive area, so between mortgage, retirement, college savings for 2 kids, and day-to-day life, I like to save as much as I can. I've looked at a bunch of websites and am definitely most comfortable here. I think Jeffrey and Nate do a great job!

I'm going to use this journal to track daily expenses and observations about where my money goes. I hope anyone reading it finds it interesting...