<< Back to all Blogs
Login or Create your own free blog
Layout:
Home > Archive: June, 2005
 

Archive for June, 2005

Getting set for vacation!!

June 23rd, 2005 at 07:54 am

Two days to go, but only one at work, because hubby and I took tomorrow off to get things done. Can't wait.

Yesterday was pretty good financially speaking, although I did spend unbudgeted money on some flowers for hubby's aunt. She's been in the hospital for awhile now and I visited her yesterday after work.

Today's my late day at work - I'm here until 6:30. I'd like to get to Circuit City on my way home, because I've been planning on buying a digital camera for a while, and would love to get it before we leave. I ordered CC gift cards through Main Street Savings, so I got them for 20% off. I'm going to check out their sales after I'm done here and find a camera that's reasonable. Tomorrow, I have a doctor's appointment, and I want to take the kids for haircuts, also I need to pick up a few things from the dry cleaners. I managed to make it through the week without grocery shopping, though I need to pick up a half-gallon of milk tonight.

The rest of my time tonight and tomorrow will be spent doing laundry (surprise) and packing...

Spent too much at Target...

June 21st, 2005 at 07:21 pm

I don't usually shop at Target, and good thing! It seems like every time I go in there for something, I walk out with a bunch of things! I went there today looking for water shoes for us to take on vacation, as well as for rollerblades (late Fathers Day gift for hubby). I ended up walking out with 6 pairs of water shoes (1 each for me and hubby and 2 each for the kids - nothing worse then putting your feet in wet shoes, "but they were only $5 each"), roller blades for hubby and me (I've been interested in getting some for a while), and some shorts/shirts/summer pjs for the kids (on sale). I'm disappointed that I took such a big step back.

Took dad for his biopsy today, and he told me that he's going to call his other doctor tomorrow to make an appointment regarding his stroke symptoms. Also, he'd like me to go ahead and set up all of his bills to be paid electronically. So I guess when I suggested both of those things on Saturday, it wasn't a good idea, but now that it's his idea today, they're great ideas! Ugh! Sometimes I feel like I have three kids...

The good news is that other than my big trip to Target (and pizza out for lunch Frown) I didn't spend anything else today. I guess you have to look for the good wherever you can find it...

Swamped

June 20th, 2005 at 03:50 pm

It ended up being a crazy weekend, and is shaping up to be just as crazy a week. By the time I got home from work on Friday, ate, got the kids to bed, etc., the night was pretty much shot. I don't even remember what I did, but it wasn't much.

I went to visit my dad Saturday morning. What an ordeal! After talking with a few different people on Friday (including Dad himself), I'm convinced he had a mini-stroke the weekend before. When I tried bringing this up to him on Saturday, he attributed his symptoms to a problem he's been having with his eye (he's scheduled for a biopsy on Tuesday for this). I wanted to schedule an appointment with his cardiologist for Tuesday as well to check out the stroke angle, but he flatly refused. He wants to wait until he gets the results back from the biopsy before doing anything else. It's frustrating for me, because I hate to see him wasting time, but he's of totally sound mind (not to mention really stubborn). So I'm leading him to water and he's just not drinking! I'm curious to see how things go tomorrow.

I made it back home in time for the town's carnival on Saturday night and that was a great time! The kids went on a few rides, then we went to a pizza place for dinner, before coming back for fireworks. We didn't get home until almost 11:00, and the kids were troopers staying up that late.

I made breakfast in bed for hubby on Sunday, then we went down to his mom's for a barbeque. It was fun, but the kids never seem to be as well behaved at her place, so it's kind of tough. Also, we got back late (8:00), and I still needed to make stuffed mushrooms for a party at hubby's work today, along with a few loads of laundry.

Today was DD's last day of Kindergarten. Hooray! I also got a letter in the mail from Chase. Anyone who hasn't done so yet, you have to check them out. They're offering me $25 if I make 3 bill payments from my new checking account before August 23rd! That will bring me up to $175 from them alone ($100 to open checking, $50 to open savings and $25 for bill pay). Can't beat that! I'll sign up later on tonight or tomorrow. I'm also going to try to get to Valley National to open those kids accounts tomorrow. With all the excitement at my dad's this weekend, I didn't have a chance to get back there.

That's it for now. I'm a bit distracted tonight...

Major banking day

June 17th, 2005 at 10:05 am

WooHoo!! I have been meaning to take advantage of all of these bank offers for awhile now, and finally did it today! First stop, Chase. I opened up a savings account with $250, and am getting a $50 bonus. Best part of this deal: They had 3 different bonuses ($25, $50, or $75), and I thought I'd have to go for the $25 one because I didn't want to keep a minimum. I stopped by the branch right across the street from where I work, and it turns out they have a deal for employees of my company, where you can upgrade to the middle account and still not need a minimum. So I qualify for the $50 bonus. Yeah! The money needs to stay in the account for a minimum of 6 months, after which time it can be closed out, penalty free.

Second stop, my computer. Went onto my ING account, and sent links to my 2 kids. Set up accounts for each of them using a $5 deposit. They each get a $25 bonus, and I get a $10 bonus each for referring them. Money only needs to stay in the account for 30 days, then it can be taken out penalty-free.

Third stop, computer/snail mail. I read a post on another site for Affinity Bank. (www.affinitybank.com). They have a Kids Only savings account where they pay 10% interest on balances up to $500. Can't beat that! That's more than my kids are earning in their 529s, and this is FDIC insured! I printed out the applications and need to mail it to them with my $25 opening deposit. My plan is to then fund it with the ING money (after 30 days) and with my almost full piggy bank, for whatever that amount is. Then, I'm going to try my darndest to deposit $50 each per month until it reaches the max $500.

Finally, I stopped at Valley National Bank because they have a Kids Savings program where they will match the first $10 when you open an account. Plus they have free coin counting, which is a really nice perk. However, when I went to the branch, I needed to have the kids' physical Social Security cards, and I only had their numbers. So I will try to get back there tomorrow.

For anyone who's interested in these deals and others, I highly recommend www.fatwallet.com. If you go to their finance forums, they have a link on banking deals. Some of them are unbelievable. It's a great way to build up an emergency fund or a fun money account.

For someone whose as organizationally challenged as I am, all of these accounts may be daunting, but I think I can handle it. This money will make up for the $27 I'm going to lose this weekend. We need to get a bike hitch for the back of our car so we can bring the bikes to NC with us. I found the one hubby wants at our local bike shop for $180 (cheaper than Sports Authority, unbelievably). They sent out a 15% off coupon through those val-Pak mailers, but it expired on June 11th. Missed it by one week. Now I'm out $27. And the kicker is that I priced this out weeks ago, knew what we wanted and where to get it, but wasn't organized enough (again). Frustrating.

This weekend is going to be jam packed with stuff. I'm working late today (unusual for a Friday), so it will be a pretty quiet night. Tomorrow our town has a "day in the park" with carnival rides, fireworks, and the like, that starts at 4:00. Sunday is Father's Day, so I'll be making breakfast in bed, then we'll head down to MIL's. The one variable is my father. I need to get down to see him, and can make it tomorrow morning, or Tuesday, or next Friday evening. I think I need to go Tuesday because he has to have a test done at the hospital, but I'd like to get down there another time. I don't know quite when it happened, but it's amazing when you look at your parents and think, "Wow, they're old". It's like overnight they become old and frail. Leaves me with a weird feeling...

Have a happy Father's Day everyone.

Teacher gifts

June 15th, 2005 at 07:59 pm

My number one goal when I get home from vacation in July is to be more organized. Anyone familiar with my posts understands the challenges I have here, and it's not getting any better. My daughter's last day of school is June 20, and their end of year party is tomorrow. It's been on the calendar since September, yet there I was, out at the store at 9:00 tonight. So frustrating.

Anyway, I picked up gift cards for her teacher, as well as the two class moms. I also needed to pick up some clothes for our trip, as well as hubby. Tomorrow is expected to be a no-spend day, other than normal commuting costs, although I need to pick up Father's Day gifts at some point before Sunday (waiting for the last minute AGAIN!!!!! Frown )

July will be better, July will be better, July will be better...

The TV is fixed!

June 14th, 2005 at 07:42 pm

Unfortunately, it cost me $150. At least the parts were covered ($60). I also went to the post office to mail the third book I sold on half.com (yippee), and the dry cleaner. It's been so hot here that they actually let the grammar school out after a half-day. Only the Kindergarten wing has Air Conditioning and it was just unbearable for the rest of the kids. The last day of school is Monday, with half-days on Friday and Monday, so I guess there's not a lot being done these days anyway.

I listed the rest of the books lying around my house on half.com. I think I'm up to about 65 books. None of them is really expensive, but I figure every little bit helps, especially because they wouldn't be missed. I have a bunch of miscellaneous finance stuff to take care of tomorrow. I think I mentioned that I got an offer from Chase to open up a savings account to link to my checking, and they'll give me either a $25, $50, or $75 bonus depending upon which type of account I open, so I want to take care of that tomorrow. I also got a $6 rebate from Coca-Cola. Listen to what a great deal this was: I bought 8 bottles of Coke products at the A&P for $.75 each, with a mail-in rebate for $6. So the soda was free! We don't even drink that much soda here, but I couldn't pass it up, so I'll bring it on vacation with us.

I'm still discouraged about the whole grocery shopping thing. I forget whose journal I just read tonight, but they're reading a book that basically says to do something because if you try 10 things, maybe 7 will fail, but that means 3 will succeed. I definitely think most attempts I've made to bring down the grocery bill have failed. If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. The first thing I'm going to try is to not go to the store before I leave on vactaion (June 25), except for a gallon of milk. I still have a ton of fruit, vegetables, and meat from this weekend's excursion, and that should be enough. We'll see how it goes.

Tomorrow should be another steamy day...

Quiet week

June 13th, 2005 at 09:15 am

I had a pretty good weekend. Friday was quiet. Hubby came back from his business trip on Wednesday, so we all just hung around together Friday night. I let the kids stay up until 10:00 (way too late), but they hadn't seen him a lot because of his trip and they were being well behaved. Paid for it a bit the next morning when they were overtired, but that's to be expected.

Saturday, I mailed the other half.com book and brought back overdue videos to the library ($3.40 Frown). Hubby's friends from college slept over Saturday, and other friends joined us on Sunday. Even thought I kept the menu to chicken on Saturday and burgers/dogs on Sunday, the bill was pretty high. I guess by the time I added in rolls, condiments, beer/wine, salads, etc., it really added up. But at least I have leftovers.

I ended up freezing 4 quarts of strawberries, but I'm getting into this canning idea. I scoped it out and Target sells some stuff to get started. I just don't know if I'm into it enough to spend the $30-$50.

The A/C has been on all weekend, with no end in sight until later this week. Between the company sleeping over, and highs in the 90s, it's been on a lot. I'm just trying to keep it to 76 or so when hubby's home.

I'm hoping this week will be pretty cheap. I have enough food in the house that I don't need to go shopping, and we have no plans to go anywhere but in the pool! Scratch that. I forgot that the TV repair man is coming tomorrow between 11-1. Even though the parts are still covered under warranty, the labor is a minimum flat fee of $150. Could be more depending on what he needs to do. Big bummer.

We're leaving for vacation on June 25 to go to the Outerbanks (NC). Should be a great time. We rented a house with 2 of my brothers, my sister and our families. 8 adults, 8 kids. The house, which wasn't that expensive considering we're splitting it 4 ways, is already paid for. We're all bringing groceries and the like, and will split the bill at the end of the week. We generally hang at the house and barbeque, as opposed to going out to eat, so that will certainly keep costs down. Can't wait to take a break for a week! After that we're meeting up with friends at the Jersey shore for 2 nights over July 4th. Then it's back to the daily grind...

Drowning in Strawberries!

June 9th, 2005 at 01:47 pm

I'm digging this half.com stuff! Sold the Purpose Driven Life for $5.25 plus shipping. Not bad, considering it was in the pile of books my sister gave me (for free) last weekend. The only thing is that I'll now have to rent it from the library to read it... I'll get it out in the mail tomorrow, and am definitely going to spend my time between now and Sunday listing everything else in my house...

Yesterday was a great day, but also a big money spend day. My son's end of year show was cute. (Nothing like a bunch of 3/4 year olds singing out of tune!). I went to Bath and Body Works (with one of my discounted gift cards) and took advantage of their annual clearance sale. I found a scent that I really like that they discontinued a while ago, so I picked up the lotion and the shower gel. Then I had to get end of year gifts for my son's teachers (that I forgot to budget for Frown), go to the Post Office to mail the first book I sold, and hit Toys R Us for a few birthday presents. So I was already in the hole before I even went grocery shopping....

I started off pretty well in the ShopRite, where I get most of my groceries. I spent $53 (I targeted $50, so that's not bad). But then I also picked up a 12-pack of Mike's Hard Lemonade (have to have it in the Summer) for $13. Then I went to the fruit/veggie store. That's where I messed up big time. I love going there, because they have fresh, home grown stuff, a ton of variety, etc. But I always buy a ton of stuff (most of which we use before it goes bad). Right now, they have locally grown strawberries for $3.50/qt and they are OUT OF THIS WORLD! So I bought 3 of them, along with the rest of my stuff. As I was on line, the woman in front of me told me I should just by a flat of them, because it doesn't cost that much more, but you get 8 quarts instead of 3. So while the cashier is ringing up the rest of my stuff, I go get a flat and after she was done ringing it up I find out that it was $24!!!! By that time the order was done, so I didn't want to make her re-ring it, so I took them. Now I have 8 quarts of strawberries!

I have a canning book that I got from my mom, even though I've never canned a thing in my life. I figure now is the time to learn! I froze one quart of strawberries last night, and am keeping 3 for our own use over the next few days. The other 4 I'm going to try to can if I can figure it out over the next day or two, otherwise I'll freeze them too. I hate when stuff like this happens...

Other than that, our relatively new TV broke yesterday. Fortunately we bought it last July and it has a 1-year warranty on parts, so we only have to pay for labor (which is probably the most expensive part anyway). The guy is coming next Tuesday. I don't know...June is not starting off with a bang!

Sold my first book at half.com

June 7th, 2005 at 08:03 pm

Hooray!! After listing all of those books last night, I sold a hardcover John Sanford for $6.50 plus shipping. It will be out the door tomorrow morning. If it weren't so late I'd go ahead and list every other book in my house. Oh well, I'll save that for a different day... For those of you that list, Tree0164 suggested selling the children's books as a lot on Ebay. I've never sold anything on EBAY, so I'm not really sure how it would work. Would I put the whole kit-and-kaboodle in one lot, or would I separate lots by type (e.g., Dr. Seuss, Clifford, etc.). I know people say the Ebay fees are pretty high, but the flip side is that the price could get bid up. What do you all think? I'm comfortable with the whole half.com thing, so my inclination is to stay put.

On to other things, it was a great mail day. I got a $15 rebate check (I don't remember for what!). Also, I got an offer from Chase to get "up to" $75 to open a Chase savings account (to go along with the checking account I opened last month and got $100 for). I need to go to their website to find out what the details of the accounts are, but I will definitely be taking advantage of that!

Both of those things make up for the gas bill I received yesterday. I'm on the budget billing plan, and pay $233/month. The meter is in my house, and I'm usually not home when they come, so they estimate it. I got a notice on this bill that it's been awhile, so they need an actual reading over the next month or two. Out of curiosity, I went downstairs and read it myself, then calculated it using my number, and it would raise my bill by about $500! On the one hand, I went really overboard with the heat because the weather didn't start cooperating until this week. I had my heat on the last week of May. On the other hand, our usage goes way down during the summer, so I'm hoping that by the time they rebalance in November, it will all balance out and they won't raise my monthly charge.

Today was a no-spend day. It was 90 degrees, so we hung out by the pool pretty much all day. I did break down and put the air conditioning on tonight. The kids were hot and having trouble falling asleep, and it was even getting to me. It's also been 85-90 for the last 3 days, which is extreme here for early June.

I have off tomorrow for my son's end of year preschool show. It's not until 1, so I'll run errands (and spend money) tomorrow morning. I need to go to the post office, bank, Toys R Us, and grocery shopping. My goal is to keep grocery shopping to about $50. We'll see how it goes...

Listed 32 books at half.com!

June 6th, 2005 at 07:51 pm

It took a little while, but I sorted through the books that sis gave me and listed what I could on half.com. Apparently, the books you buy through Scholastic promotions in the school have a different ISBN that doesn't allow them to be resold. (I have a ton of them at home, too. I guess they'll be garage sale or donation material when the kids outgrow them). So anyway, I was able to list 32 books, and couldn't list about a dozen. My plan is to leave the dozen down where the kids can reach them, then put the others one shelf higher. That way, if they want to read them (or have me read it to them) I can keep track of it and put it back on the shelf where I can find it if it sells. I'm so inspired that I'm going to go through the rest of the books in the house and add them to the list. I'll keep out the absolute favorites that we read all of the time. For the rest, it's worth it to put them out there and if they sell, they sell. I'm not sure why I'm so excited, because the average listing price is about $1.25 each, but at least I feel like I'm doing something, and even $1.25 would be better than nothing!

That made up for a little disappointment I had today. My credit card cycle closed on June 3rd, so I was able to tally up my June totals for stuff like groceries, gas, etc. that I charge each month. Over the first 6 months of the year, I averaged about $550/month for groceries and $305/month for gas. I feel like I should be able to knock 20% off both of those categories, but obviously haven't, despite paying a bit more attention to my finances since February. The gas total, though incredible, doesn't bother me so much, because I do the whole EBAY gas gift card thing when I can, and it's not like we drive for fun. It's pretty much work, school, and home. The grocery bill really bums me out. Some months it's great, some months it's terrible. My goal (which seems laughable now) is $75/week, or $300/month. After stewing over this all day, I think I need a two-pronged approach: limit my groceries to $75/week, period, despite "great sales", or all the stuff the kids want, etc., second, rework my menus when we have company come over. I've got to search some of the frugal sites to check out good, company-acceptable recipes that won't kill our budget.

So that's the deal. I'm home tomorrow. Grocery shopping (ironically) but I'm shooting for $50 because 1) I'm mad now and 2) with hubby travelling all week, we're kind of cleaning out the pantry/fridge. We'll see how it goes...

Boy is it hot ...

June 5th, 2005 at 07:20 pm

The high today was in the mid- to upper- 80s. I slept at my sister's last night, then went straight to the birthday party/friend's house. By the time I got back to the house at about 5:00 tonight, it was 79 inside. Hubby is on a business trip and I'm really trying to avoid the A/C, so I opened all of the windows and turned on the fans. Now it's about 77. It's all psychological, though...I figured out a good trick. We live in a ranch-style house (one floor), but there is a finished playroom above our garage. It must not be as well insulated as the rest of the house, because it's colder than the rest of the house in winter and hotter in the summer. Anyway, it was 88 when we got home tonight. After playing up there for a while, the 77 in the rest of the house felt pretty good! The kids went right to sleep, and instead of sitting here with a glass of wine, I'm here with a glass of water Smile.

I also used the cell phone instead of the regular phone all weekend. I really think this is going to make a difference, and hope I can remember to keep doing this.

We had a super weekend. My sister's was a lot of fun (as always), and the party today was great. One good score: My sister's son is 9, so she sent me home with a boatload of books that he's outgrown, as well as some videos, computer games, board games, etc. We already have a ton of kids' books in the house, so I think I'm going to list them all on half.com. My experience so far with the other stuff that I listed is that it's kind of hit-or-miss if you sell. I listed some pretty obscure titles, and even at that there were at least half a dozen other copies. So I figure I can list them, read them in the meantime, then ship them out if any of them sell. The only problem I have is figuring out a way to keep them organized so I can find them in a hurry. (I'm disorganized enough, my kids have absolutely no sense of order!). So I'll think about a way to work it tomorrow, and list them tomorrow night. I love getting all of these hand-me-downs. The kids don't care that they're used. To them, it's like Christmas in June! What a great way to start the summer...

I'm over myself

June 3rd, 2005 at 08:35 am

After feeling not that great all week because of my car troubles, I finally got over myself, and am looking forward to a great weekend! Hubby is leaving tomorrow on a business trip, so tonight will be spent getting caught up on laundry and doing other errands to prepare for his trip, but at least they'll be done and out of my way.

Tomorrow, I need to go to Dad's to take care of his grocery shopping and other errands he needs done. My sister is taking the kids so I can do all of these in peace. Then, I'm picking up my kids and her son and taking them to my brother's house for my niece's high school graduation party (wow that's a lot of relatives!). We'll stay a few hours there and then return to my sister's for a sleepover. Although I'll miss my hubby while he's away, sleepovers at my sister's are the kind of fun things that I can do while he's away. We'll have a fantastic time...

Then on Sunday the kids have a birthday party to go to, at a new place that I've been meaning to check out for a while. Then we're going back to the friend's house for a barbeque. So it should be a great weekend. I anticipate some spending, all budgeted: 1) $$ for graduation present, 2) birthday present for this kid and one next week using Toys R Us gift cards, 3) Big bottle of wine for sister's house. Not bad for a weekend of fun...

I'm starting to give my budget another look now that things have settled down from my last round of changes. One positive is the electric bill. I mentioned that I'm on budget billing, where they charge me the same amount each month. I currently pay $133/month for the budget, plus an additional $30 or so to make up for the overrun I had last year. Well the good news is that June is the last month to pay the overrun, so the bill should drop from $163 to $133 next month. Also, the $133 is budgeted. Since November, I've actually spent $196.48 less than they've charged me. I'm hoping I can keep this up, so that in November, when they review my account, they drop the monthly charge to less than $133, and I'll have a credit balance to pay for the first month or two. So far, I haven't used the air conditioning, except to try it out, and don't intend to until at least next weekend.

Other than that, I'm not sure where I'll focus next. I think I'll tackle the phone bill. I used to have the unlimited everything plan, advertised for $39.99/mo, but really costing $56.95 by the time they added all of the taxes and fees. I decided that was way too much, so I dropped down to unlimited local ($21.95/mo) and got my regional and long distance from Pioneer Telephone at some ridiculously low rate that I don't even remember. But between the two, my phone bills over the last few months have still been around $50-$52. Not exactly the great savings I was hoping for. The biggest problem is that neither of us is all that disciplined about using our cell phone exclusively after 9:00 and on weekends, when it's free. (Or during the day for that matter, since we usually have spare peak minutes at the end of the month). I'm going to make a concerted effort in June to only use the cell phone. If I can do it, then I can start working on hubby. If I can't do it, there's no way he'll do it, and I'll need to find another option...

My car failed inspection!!!

June 2nd, 2005 at 09:10 am

Unbelievable! So I finally take the car to inspection this morning, thinking I'll be in and out and at work by 10:30. I get there and the sign says it was a 30 minute wait (more like 45!). The car ends up failing because the light bulb behind the back license plate is burnt out, and I roll into work at 11:00. So I have a big, red, REJECTED sticker on the car, and 45 days to get it fixed and bring it back. I'm trying to laugh because if I don't laugh I'll cry! Meanwhile, the car place called about the other car. Oil change, tire rotation, change the air and fuel filters. It's probably going to be another $200. The only thing that makes me feel better is that we haven't dropped a dime into either cars for a while.

Feeling better today...

June 1st, 2005 at 08:31 pm

Still not a great day, but I'm feeling a bit better. The car dealer didn't find out why my car wouldn't start, but did find something else that needed to be fixed, to the tune of $245. I ran it by hubby and it sounds legitimate, plus we go to them often and think they're trustworthy. I'll take the car (again) to inspection tomorrow. It should pass with flying colors. Meanwhile, we left our other car to get its oil changed. It is sooo overdue, I was waiting for the engine to seize up on me! So we should be in good shape car-wise tomorrow.

Plugged in our May numbers to my spreadsheet and was pleasantly surprised to find our net worth going up. Our 401(k)s have a lot to do with it, and the stock market must have ended on a good note, because our mutual funds were up. I have a hard time getting too excited about the 401(k), because it will be quite a few years before we retire, but it's nice to see the number going up.

Dropped off some clothes at the dry cleaner ($19.75 - way under my usual $50). Still have library videos outstanding that will cost me a few dollars in fines. Had leftovers for dinner. Tomorrow will be much of the same. Ice cream after t-ball should be the only out-of-pocket...