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Archive for April, 2005

Quiet day...

April 29th, 2005 at 07:48 am

I'm really looking forward to a quiet afternoon/evening with hubby and the kids. The kids were a bit out of sorts this morning. They've been going to bed later than usual the last few days, and I think they're both just totally wiped. I'm hoping to get them to bed early tonight. Hubby and I were so beat last night we both fell asleep on the couch, which almost never happens! So we could stand a quiet night, too.

As part of my "clean out the fridge" challenge, I'm shooting for a pot-luck dinner tonight. I have a bunch of veggies that I need to use up because we'll have company tomorrow (still haven't planned the menu!) and we're going to a friend's house on Sunday. DD has T-Ball at 9:00 tomorrow (if it doesn't rain), then hubby is taking them to MIL's house so I can clean and get ready for dinner. Should be a good time.

Almost Friday!!!

April 28th, 2005 at 02:10 pm

This week seems to have gone by quickly. Not sure why, but I'm not complaining!

Even though it's not quite April 30, I finished up all of my bills for the month and I can put $2000 toward the home equity line, which will bring the balance down to $31,680! Woohoo! My other good news is that we're making progress on the electric bill. I'm on budget billing, where we're charged $131/month year-round. Each month they compare what the actual is versus what they've charged you, and after 6 months I have $168 in my favor! This is great because we tend to use more electricity in the summer months, so at least I have a buffer. Also, I'm not a big fan of air-conditioning (unlike hubby who needs it on all the time). So I'm hoping to keep it off until 5:00 each afternoon, then set it at 76 for the evening. With any luck I'll keep the credit balance going.

Although April was a good month, I'm not as optimistic about May. I need to buy some clothes and shoes for my kids (about $80 each), we have bday parties to go to, a communion, haircuts, etc. It all adds up! I'll have to see how everything shakes out.

Spent $93 at the grocery store yesterday, but that didn't include food for Saturday when we're having another couple over. (Mostly because I haven't figured out the menu yet...way to wait until the last minute). I'll go out Saturday morning to pick up whatever I need, and I should be ok through the end of next week. Although I have to do it on the sly, because my family would never agree to it, I'm going to do a "clean out the pantry/freezer challenge" over the next three weeks. (Need to stretch it out so it's less obvious). I have a ton of instant oatmeal (bought onsale for $.10/packet - can't beat it), soup, and pasta/cans of tomatoes. Also, there's leftover Easter candy that I can't bear to look at anymore (I'll have to find a good chocolate recipe...fondue maybe). I want to limit my next trip to the store (after Saturday) to milk, eggs, bread and fresh fruit/veggies. We'll see how it goes. This site has also inspired me to list a bunch of stuff on Half.com. My goal is to take an inventory this weekend and post it by Sunday night. I hope it works out. I could declutter my house and make a few bucks at the same time...

Have a great day!

Cancelled my credit cards

April 27th, 2005 at 07:52 am

OK, after 3 days of absolutely tearing up my house looking for my two lost credit cards, I finally had to admit defeat and cancel them this morning. I had the option of having new ones sent to me overnight, but someone would need to be home all day tomorrow to sign for them. Alas, I work on Thursdays, so nobody is around, and now I need to wait 7-10 days for them. Oh well, I guess that means I won't be charging a lot over the next week or two! As soon as I get them, I'm going to cancel the third one that I lost last summer. Then, I'm going to vow to become more organized!

Went to the library on Monday to return the way overdue video. Total fines: $2.65. Again not alot, but really annoying. I'm really going to make an effort to get better about this.

Yesterday was a pretty good day, financially. I went to the post office to send some clothes to a friend of mine. Spent about $6. Other than that, it was a no-spend day, because I blew off grocery shopping until today. I was also able to plant string beans, sugar snap peas, and spinach. We've had good luck with the beans in the past; the other two are new to us this year. I hope it works out well. If so, we can plant a new batch every three weeks or so for a continuous supply. I love gardening - I find it so relaxing!

Today is MIL's birthday. We'll be heading down to her place for dinner tonight. The rest of the week should be pretty spend-free (except for the groceries). We have friends coming for dinner on Saturday, so I need to plan the menu, hopefully with something great that won't break the bank. Then Sunday we're going to see friends for the afternoon so no money there.

I'm looking forward to month-end so I can transfer some money to the home equity line. I think it was a pretty good month...

Great Hang Around Weekend

April 25th, 2005 at 05:35 am

This was one of the best weekends we've had in a while. How great it was for the four of us (me, DH, and DKs) to hang out together with no place to go and nothing to do. It was heaven! Friday night we stayed in and watched a movie from the library. On Saturday, DD's T-ball game was cancelled due to rain, so we went to see the movie Robots, then when out to a burger place for dinner. Finally, on Sunday we went to church, played outside and rode bikes. What a great weekend!

I'm back on my "cost of disorganization" kick! First of all, got a notice from the library that a video was due on 3/27 and we haven't returned it yet! I forgot that we took the video to grandma's and left it there. So I have it now and will return it later today. (Fine is $.05/day, plus I think I have fines on my account from the last time I dropped stuff off). I think I single-handedly support the library with all of the fines I pay. And I know it's not a ton of money, but it still burns me up.

Then, continuing on my disorganization kick, I lost the registration and insurance card for my car. I got the car inspected about a month ago, and distinctly remember the guy handing it back to me, with the sheet of paper saying the car passed. Haven't seen it since, and have been praying that I don't get pulled over, seen as I haven't bothered to get replacements. Need to take care of that today!

On top of all that (can it get worse?) I misplaced my credit cards! I have 3 cards that I use regularly (to rack up points - we pay them in full each month). I misplaced one last summer (that's right), but didn't cancel it because I know it wasn't stolen - I think I threw it out by accident. Anyway, hubby still has his, and I figured when it expired (later this year), they'd send me a new one and I'd be set. Well now I've misplaced the other two. I used one last Tuesday and the other last Wednesday, and haven't seen either since. I checked online and there's been no unusual activity on the account so, again, I'm sure they're just misplaced. However, I've looked high and low and can't find them ANYWHERE! Now I'm in a pickle, because I have every bill possible hitting these accounts each month (phone, cell phone, direct tv, ezpass, etc, etc.). To cancel them now would be a total pain in the neck, because I'd need to wait for my replacements, then go to each of these companies to change the cc #. I'm going to keep looking around today, then cancel tomorrow if I haven't found them. Ugh.

I blame this disorganization on pregnancy-related hormones! Before I had dd I was the most organized, detail-oriented person around. Now I'm lucky if I can tie my shoes in the morning! It really drives me nuts!

Happy day...

April 20th, 2005 at 10:11 am

I can't tell you how happy I am that tax day is behind me. The taxes were hanging over my head for months, and it feels so great to have them out of the house. (The timing of hubby's bonus helped, too). So I've been feeling good for the last few days!

I'm anxiously waiting for the month to end, because I'm expecting to have enough leftover to put a big chunk of change toward my heloc. The balance is around $35k, and the rate, which is prime-1/2, was great when the prime rate was 3%, but not so great now that it's 5.75!!. Even though it's deductible, it's getting up there. My goal is to have it paid off by next June. If I'm seeing things right, I should be able to put about $4,000 toward it this month (between the rest of the bonus and leftovers in the checking account), and I'm getting back about $2000 from my NY State taxes, that will go toward it as soon as I get it. I'll do a big celebration when it gets under $30k! I don't mind that we took out the loan, because we used it to make a major improvement on the house, but like most people, I don't like being in debt and I really want it gone. I also have the car loan (currently ~$17k) that needs to get paid off, too. But that's a fixed loan at 4.24%, which is pretty good, so I'm trying to tackle the heloc first.

I've pretty much run through the rest of the categories of my budget (commuting, subscriptions, haircuts). I haven't been creative enough to think of any great ways to reduce these, so I think I'm going to sit tight for the month of May/June, let the changes I've recently made take hold, and re-evaluate where I am at that point.

Have a great day!!!

Catching Up...

April 19th, 2005 at 10:52 am

Tuesday is my "at home" day, so I'm taking advantage! I went to the fruit/veggie store, grocery store, and brought the car in for an oil change. Now I'm in the middle of my 3rd load of laundry (and loving that drying rack). I spent a lot at the fruit store and grocery store this morning (~$180) but I'm hoping it will last me a solid 2 weeks. It feels so good to have a full fridge and pantry, and fresh veggies! I can't wait for dinner, because for the first time in a while I have a lot to choose from! I could have done better with the oil change. I went to one of those jiffy-lube places which tend to be more expensive (even w/ my $5 coupon) than my usual place, but I was desperate! Both of our cars really need an oil change, and Tuesday is my only day to do it, so I had to take care of one this week! It's a beautiful day. DD has T-ball practice at 6:00, and we're hoping to treat them to ice cream afterwards if we have a good day between now and then. The rest of the week should be pretty quiet...

Hotel mix-up

April 18th, 2005 at 06:51 am

Why do I have a happy face icon next to the title of "hotel mix-up"? Because it was in my favor!!! Hubby's birthday was last Thursday, and I bought tickets to see the Yankees in Baltimore on Saturday afternoon. MIL watched the kids, so we were looking forward to a great, relaxing trip. Anyway, we booked the Hyatt Regency 2 months ago. It was the only hotel not already sold out when we booked, and ended up costing $300 for the night. So we get down there at 2:15 for a 4:30 game (check-in was supposed to be 4:00 but we had requested early check-in). The clerk informed us that due to circumstances beyond her control, the hotel was overbooked and they needed to relocate us to a Holiday Inn at the BWI airport (about 20 minutes away).

Now this is a sign that I'm growing up, becuase the old me would have absolutely pitched a fit on this poor woman. But the new, calm, serene me (probably because I didn't have my kids with me lol) just listened to her explain that they were going to put us up for free, and pay our parking at the Hyatt (we had already dropped off our car) and give us cab vouchers to get to and from the other hotel, and give us a voucher good for 1 free night at any Hyatt worldwide, for our inconvenience. Well, all right!!! The inconvenience was minimal, and instead of spending $300, I spent nothing and have a voucher for a free night! Love when that happens! Drove back Sunday morning and, other than breakfast, had a spend-free day. WooHoo.

I think I'm up to the "gifts" category on my budget. I've made one big change to get my spending down here, and that's to buy gift cards on ebay for everything. For Birthday presents, I tend to get Discovery Store cards, as I can regularly get them for 30% off face value. So instead of spending $20 I spend $14, which is much more reasonable for all the school birthday parties we go to. For baby showers/bridal showers I get Toys R Us/Babies R Us/Linens N things, or wherever they may be registered. Combined with some coupons I can usually do ok. The 2 areas I'm still having trouble with are "cash events". In my husband's family especially, people tend to give cash for a lot of events (weddings, graduations, communions, etc.). I haven't thought of a way around this. Where I'd be happy buying a $17 gift instead of a $20 gift, I'd feel weird giving a check for $17. Kwim? The second problem area are unplanned gifts, like housewarmings, sympathy gifts, etc. They usually come up last minute so the gift card thing doesn't work. I need to work on this.

Have a great day...

Buried in laundry

April 15th, 2005 at 07:48 am

I swear the two things I can never get ahead of are laundry and dishes. It never fails that the minute I start the dishwasher, a plate and glass end up in the sink! It's so frustrating. (God forbid I wash them by hand - they just sit there until the dw is done and I unload it! lol) The laundry is the same way, although in this case, I wasn't even caught up yet before I fell behind! I must have 6 loads to do.

Things are good out my way today. It's the 15th, so both hubby and I get paid, and hubby got his bonus check. Unfortunately, that's already gone, as it was used to pay the taxes and the final payment on a vacation house that we're renting in NC with two of my brothers, a sister, and their families. (8 adults, 8 kids in a house for a week. Should be a great time or the end of family vacations!!!)

DD has a playdate later with a really nice girl from her class, so that means park after school (at least for a little while - it's a bit colder today), and no spending! I'm excited about the trip to Baltimore this weekend, and when we get back on Sunday, it should be in the 70s and sunny. WooHoo!!!

Have a great weekend...

Sunny Thursday...

April 14th, 2005 at 09:11 am

OK, so I just finished photocopying my taxes, and am getting ready to package them together, write out the checks, and mail them off. Nothing like waiting until the last possible second! I'm going to go to the Post Office around 2:00...it's always crazy at lunchtime, even when it's not tax time! I hope I don't have too long a wait. I'll just be so happy to cross them off my list!

I went ahead with the homeowners switch yesterday. Now I just need to have them contact my mortgage company to make it official before I cancel the old policy. Then, after May 1st, I'll cancel my escrow account and start putting the savings toward my home-equity line. Yay!

I'm up to the Church/Charity part of my budget. I'm not inclined to do any cutting here. If anything, I should increase this category! We've been paying the same amount to Church each week for the last five years! I just don't have the inspiration to increase it. As for other charities, one thing I'd like to do is make it more routine and organized. There are some places I give to every year (town fire/first aid, etc.), but I don't think about it until I get their letter in the mail. Then there are places (colleges, other charities) that I give to occasionally, but with no real schedule. Finally there are places (American Cancer Society, etc.) that we give to in memory of someone who's passed away, things like that. In all of these cases, it just comes out of the blue (and usually all at the same time, and usually during a tough month!).

I think I'd be better off making a list of places to whom I want to regularly contribute, then set aside an amount in the budget each month and do it. That way, it's scheduled, regular, no surprises.

Oh well, I need to finish my taxes (blech)...

Still sick Wednesday...

April 13th, 2005 at 08:15 am

Actually, I feel better, but I still have no voice. The good news - I dropped a few pounds because I've had absolutely no appetite for the last three days. Gotta love when something good comes out of something bad!Despite my poor voice, I'm going ahead with the house insurance switch today. I'm just waiting for the rep to call me back. It'll feel good to cross that off my list!

Made it to the grocery store yesterday and spent $74 and change. I haven't totalled everything up, but I should be under my goal of $300/month (which is great, because last month we were way, way over). I'd be satisfied if by the end of the year, it balances out to under $400/month. It's tough.

Expecting a no-spend day for the next few days. I brought lunch to work, and am planning on getting the kids from school and heading to the park. Tomorrow is hubby's birthday, and MIL will take us all to dinner to celebrate! Then on Friday, I think we're getting together with some friends for drinks at their place. That will make up for the weekend! We're heading to Baltimore to see the Yankees vs. Orioles (hubby's a big Yankees fan). MIL is watching the kids overnight. Wahoo! I get to sleep late on Sunday! So we'll be dropping some bucks this weekend, but we planned for it a while ago, so it should be ok.

Have a great day, everyone!

Still sick...

April 12th, 2005 at 08:23 am

...but I need to venture out of the house today. Hubby's birthday is Thursday, so I need to head to the store to pick up a few things for him. After sleeping on the couch all day yesterday, and going to bed at 9:00, I feel a little better, and well enough to go out. I'll also attempt the grocery shopping, but I think I can get by without it.

Next line item on my budget are doctors/RX. This is a pretty good category for me because we're all relatively healthy. Hubby has a great medical plan at work (and the premiums come out pretax), and we use his FSA for out of pocket expenses. I'm not really inclined to cut corners here. I don't mind not going to the doctor myself (who has time?) and I don't really like to take anything, but when it comes to the kids, I don't like to fool around.

Should be a quiet rest of the week. I'm hoping for one or two no-spend days at some point!

Still sick!!!

April 11th, 2005 at 10:15 am

I don't know what my kids gave to me, but it is throwing me for a loop! Went into work today (only because I took off last week when DS was sick and didn't want to overdo it), but I should have stayed in bed. I don't get sick too often, but man when I do, look out!

Today was going to be my grocery shopping day, but that just isn't happening! I need to stop by the dry cleaner to pick up one jacket that's been ready for weeks ($4.50), and I spent $.74 on hot soup for lunch. That's it for today!!! I was also going to take care of my house insurance switch, and change a few appointments, but I sound like I've chain-smoked 1000 cigarettes! I have absolutely no voice left! I guess it can wait until later in the week.

Looking over the budget, I'm up to the childcare/preschool portion of the spreadsheet. This one really hurts. My son goes to a great preschool that we really love (dd went there too). He has one more year to go before Kindergarten. The cost? A whopping $635/month, for 3 full days (9:00-3:00). Pick your jaw up off the floor, you read it right...and it's going up to $655/month next year. Unbelievably, this isn't even the most expensive place around! There are less expensive places that we didn't like as much, plus, most of those places don't have the full-day option, which I need while I'm at work. Neither DH nor I want to move him, so we're going to suck it up and pay it for 10 more months until we're free!!! (and the $655 will be funneled right into their 529 accounts). In the meantime, we use the FSA account at my husband's job to get it taken out pretax, and his company kicks in 5% of the cost as a perk. I also pay DH's aunt $50/week to watch DS all day on Thursdays. That's a steal!

For my DD, I need to send her to after-school care on Thursdays when I work late. It costs $85/month for the one day a week, from 3:00-6:00. The nice thing is that if there's a half day, they take her at 1:00 for no extra charge, and if I need to send her on a different day of the week (or in the morning before school) I can just pay a daily drop-off fee. So it really gives me the flexibility I need. This is also eligible for the FSA, but frankly, my son's preschool sucks up all that money ($5000/year pretax) pretty quickly!

As for other kid-related extracurriculars, I'm one of those people who believe less is more. I sign DD up for a lot of the town-sponsored activities, which tend to be inexpensive, and include her friends from school. DS is too young for the town stuff now, so he's not currently enrolled in anything! Other than swimming lessons, which I think is a safety thing as much as a fun thing, I don't sign them up for anything else. This is in sharp contrast to other friends of ours, whose kids' schedules are so unbelievably packed that they don't have time for anything! One friend had her daughter (1st grade) in CCD (religion class) every week, Girl Scouts one day per month, Gymnastics on Wednesday, a competitive swim team (practices 2-3 days/week + meets on the weekend) and tball/soccer through the town. No wonder she's always on the go! I'm more for spontaneous play dates and parks in the nice weather. (Is that just frugal me justifying it? I don't think so, I think kids today need a bit more down time than they get).

Wow, I better get off my high horse now. I usually try not to judge other people (at least not out loud rofl) I guess this cold is making me feel worse than I thought! Have a great day...

No-spend Sunday

April 10th, 2005 at 06:04 am

I've done pretty well this weekend, and am anticipating a no-spend day today (except for church, which is a planned expense, so I consider it a no-spend day). We're going to visit friends today, even though I seem to have caught whatever my kids had last week Frown

I have a pretty unspectacular week coming up. Dinner home every night, no unusual expenses, etc. We'll see how well I can stick to the budget.

Have a great day, everyone!

Starting the Weekend Early...

April 8th, 2005 at 09:56 am

I'm out the door from work at 2:00 today. Great way to start the weekend!

I have an update on my house insurance. Remember I convinced hubby that we should start paying the property taxes and insurance directly, because the mortgage company was taking out an extra $50+/month for escrow. I decided to hold off until after 5/1, when our property taxes are due, to ensure that nothing gets screwed up. But the paperwork is ready to go!

In the meantime, I decided to compare house insurance rates. We went with State Farm at the time we bought the house (10 years ago) because we had an in-ground oil tank, and they were the only insurance co. that would cover it. My auto insurance was always with Liberty Mutual (who I love). Anyway, we switched from oil to gas about 6 years ago (and had the tank filled), but never bothered comparing rates because the money was taken out through the mortgage and it just didn't dawn on me. So now that I'm about to pay the insurance directly I gave Liberty Mutual a call. What an eye opener!!

Right now, we pay State Farm a total of $1720/year ($879 for homeowners, through the mortgage, $690 for a $1m umbrella policy, and $151 for personal articles that need to be scheduled separately).

When I called Liberty Mutual, they quoted me $741 for the homeowners and $281!!! for the umbrella (I forgot to get the personal articles quote). Even if you assume that the personal articles quote is the same (though I'm sure it'll be less), that's only a total of $1173, or a savings of $547/year!!! (32%). Every year!!!

So after I'm done kicking myself for not making this switch sooner, I'm going to run the numbers by hubby this weekend and make the switch on Monday.

This weekend should be a bit hectic, but fun. My dd starts T-Ball tomorrow, we promised the kids we would go see the Robots movie at the local theater, then on Sunday we need to visit the friends whose party we blew off last week because the kids were so sick. We'll be spending a bit of cash, as we need to go tonight to buy the baseball mitt, and the movie and pizza will add up.

Next line item on the budget is "clothes and dry cleaning". Clothes are a no-brainer for me. We don't spend a lot of money on this, we buy stuff at the end of the season, and rely on my MIL to get outfits for the kids for different occasions. Also, although it's harder now that the kids are older and they don't grow out of clothes as quickly, we take hand-me-downs when we can. The challenge for me is dry cleaning. We average about $50/month, and could probably cut it in half if we were a little more careful about how we treat our clothes. For example, hanging them up right away instead of dropping them on the floor in a wrinkled mess Smile! I want to shoot for $25 next month.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Happy Spring Day...

April 7th, 2005 at 08:15 am

It's in the 60's again today and sunny, sunny, sunny. I had to laugh yesterday. I worked late, so my husband left work early to pick the kids up from school. I called him at 5:00 and he told me he was at the park with all of the other town moms. We usually go to the park after school in the nice weather, and I could just picture him there chatting about what they were making for dinner, what stuff they signed the kids up for, etc. Ha!

I met my friends for dinner last night. We were supposed to go a while ago but bad weather forced us to cancel, so we went yesterday instead. You may remember that I spent the $25 I set aside to go out to lunch with my sister, so I had to buck up a new $30 for last night. It was a fun time, nonetheless, and next time we're going to one of the girl's houses.

I'm still going through the budget. The grocery store costs are a never-ending battle. It seems like everytime I have a few good weeks, a big whopping bill follows. It's just something I really need to devote some attention to. Now, eating out, which goes hand-in-hand with groceries on the budget, is another story. We've been averaging about $100-$150/month since September. On Thursdays, I work late, and hubby picks up dd from school. They go to TGIFridays for dinner each week. I don't want to ask them to stop it, because it's good bonding for them, so I've tried to cut the cost by getting TGIF gift cards on EBAY. (Saved 10% on the first try). Then, we usually go out once or twice a month as a family. I'll tackle this by going somewhere relatively cheaper (out for pizza?) or picking up some gift cards for other places (Chilis) that we might go to. I'm happy to say that we've really cut down fast food to once or twice a month (from once or twice a week!), although that money usually comes out of our allowance. Still, it adds up...

That's it for now. Have a great day!

Beautiful day...

April 5th, 2005 at 02:22 pm

Sunny and mid-50s...walked to school to pick up my daughter, and hung out at the park for an hour. Also hung up two loads of laundry to dry. I love spring!!!

Went grocery shopping today and spent about $52. Not bad for a weekly total (we usually spend between 400-600/month, and my goal is 350. Actually, my goal is 300, but I figured 350 would be a good interim step). So I'm on track as far as that goes, but this didn't include any meat, and not that much else, for that matter Smile

I started a price book toward the end of the year, and it's been great. I've been pretty faithful about writing down all of our expenditures, and it definitely helps when I see stuff on sale in the circular and can't remember what a good price is. It's a work in progress.

Other than the store and another trip to the doctor for my son ($15 copay) I've been at the house all day. Have a great day...

Spring's around the corner!!

April 4th, 2005 at 02:01 pm

Can't wait for later in the week - temps in the 60's!!!

Had a blah couple of days. The kids are still sick, and between a $30 copay at the doctor and $70+ in prescriptions, I was a bit bummed. But I already turned in the receipts to hubby's FSA and they turn around the cash pretty quickly.

I'm still riding high from my auto insurance score. But I have to focus on some other things. I did the paperwork to get rid of my mortgage escrow but I won't send it in til later in the month, because my property taxes are due May 1 and I don't want anything screwed up. I also need to take a really good look at our homeowners insurance, because I haven't reviewed it at all in 10 years, and our needs may have changed a bit.

Next line item on the budget is groceries/eating out. Man, there are a ton of places I could cut here! First off, I need to leave the kids home because they add a good $10 to my bill each week. Second, I need to plan around what's on sale, because I never do. There are so many more, I'll have to wait until the next entry to think of the rest.

But I am struggling with one thing: Is it better to be organized (big sticking point for me) and go shopping on the same day/time each week and just buy what you need? Or is it better to only go shopping when you need stuff. I really don't know! I'd love to get in the routine of leaving the kids with hubby, doing my shopping and being done with it, but I also know on the weeks I never made it to the store (because I really didn't need anything and was too lazy) I spent practically nothing. I need to watch that I don't run out last minute for stuff, because that's a budget-buster too. What to do? What to do?

Have a great day!

I LOVE Liberty Mutual!

April 2nd, 2005 at 08:09 pm

I started a thread in the discussion area for this tip, in case some people didn't bother going through the journals, but what a great deal I got from my auto insurance company today!! They sent me a $277 check, which is a 10% discount on my auto insurance premiums. I graduated from Columbia University, and apparently, their alumni association struck a deal with LM to give their members a 10% break on premiums. On top of that, I qualified for a "college education discount" as a graduate of a four-year school.

Not only did I have no idea I was even a member of the alumni association (I thought they sent the newsletters to everyone!), I definitely didn't know that they did stuff like this. I'll be on their website (and hubby's alumni website) tomorrow to see what other goodies I can find.

So if any of you are graduates, check out your insurance company and alumni association to see what you can find. I'm so jacked up about this right now, I'm never going to get to sleep, which makes losing an hour a lot more palatable. YEAH!

Another rainy day!!!

April 2nd, 2005 at 09:00 am

First of all, thanks to whomever gave my journal 4 stars. Although I started writing this for myself, I know how much I enjoy reading everyone else's posts, and hope that others enjoy my journal as well. I'll "strive for five (stars)" going forward.

Second, yet another crummy weather day in northern NJ. Torrential downpours all day, our gutters were clogged, and dear hubby was out bright and early this morning cleaning them out (while I was getting my hair done...nice).

Third, went to the Eagles concert last night. I quickly remembered why I don't go to concerts that often anymore. The tickets were expensive ($80), but worth every single penny. The concert rocked! It was the other stuff that got me. Parking was $10!!!! And for anyone familiar with the Continental Airlines Arena, there is absolutely no convenient mass transportation, so you're stuck driving. Then, we were totally parched (thanks to Chinese take out earlier in the night) and got a 16oz soda and a bottled water for, are you ready for this?, $7.25!! The water was 3.75 and the soda 3.50. Thankfully, we ate right before we got there so we didn't get anything else. Can't imagine what the people with hot dogs and pretzels were paying...

It's been a spendy day already. Between the haircut and shopping for a birthday present for a party tomorrow, and a special dinner out with the kids later, I've separated myself from some cash. But tomorrow should be a no-spend day, and I'm shooting for 4/5 no-spend days this week. I really need to buckle down.

Next line item on the budget is car expenses. (Actually, it's DirectTv but that's the last item I'm shooting to reduce, becasue it's near and dear to hubby's heart!). We have a $17,000 car loan at 4.25% on one of our cars. We have another 3.5 years to pay on it, but I'm going to tackle it as soon as I pay off my home equity line. Hopefully the car loan should be gone by next summer.

Our insurance is expensive, but we go with Liberty Mutual, and it's always the cheapest (by far) every year when I compare it to others. One way I'm hoping to reduce this is by looking into moving our house insurance to Liberty Mut. Combining both policies should drive down the cost.

We spend between $250-300/month on gas. I've tried to reduce it by buying gas cards on Ebay, but any savings I've gotten have been replaced by higher gas prices, so I'm still in this range. I guess it would be even worse without the cards! As for maintenance, we do the regular stuff, and keep our eyes open for coupons and whatnot. I think the key for me is getting the car paid off asap and trying to get the insurance down...

Have a great day!

A new month...

April 1st, 2005 at 09:17 am

April will be a tough month for us. We owe federal taxes, and are getting NY state money back. But of course, I didn't file that first, so I'll be out all of the money for federal and won't get back the NY for a month or so. (It's that cost of disorganization I was talking about a few posts ago). Anyway, the net result is that we're out about $1100. We kind of expected it, because it's the same every year, but it still hurts to send in the check. We've also bought a few things for the house that we had been putting off and finally decided to bite the bullet and buy. I hate starting the month off behind the 8-ball!

The kids are going to the doctor today ($30 total copay, plus any medications that are prescribed). We just started doing a healthcare FSA this year, so for some reason, I'm not as disturbed about this, because we'll get reimbursed (even though it already came out of our paycheck). I'm sure that we'll need to pay parking for the concert tonight, and we planned on having takeout, but that should come out of our allowance.

Update on my quest to reduce the electric bill: We're on budget billing, and we're running about $125 under, through the first four months. I'm hoping that even with increased use over the summer, we'll still be able to knock it down to $120 for next year.

The next line items on the budget are phone/cell phone. I just changed my LD plan to some ridiculously low rate (2.7c out of state, 4.5c regional in state). This should knock about $10/month. I need to get better about using my cell phone for more of these calls. We usually have enough minutes leftover at the end of the month that I could do some of the long distance calls using that.

Have a great weekend!