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Archive for July, 2005

I'm in a good place...

July 29th, 2005 at 09:36 am

I am really pleased with the way that July is ending up, with really low-spend days. I kept yesterday's spending to the parking and lunch (

Low-Spend days

July 28th, 2005 at 09:32 am

I made it through yesterday with no more money spent, though hubby sprung for a pizza for dinner. We had a wicked thunderstorm that caused our power to be out for a few hours. I couldn't cook inside, and I don't know how to use the gas grill (but need to learn) and hubby wasn't home yet. By the time he got home, we needed to run an errand and decided on the pizza for dinner. I don't feel that bad knowing it came out of his allowance.

Today should be another low-spend day. I'll need to pay $7 for parking, and a couple of bucks for lunch, but that should be it. Also, MIL was generous enough to throw us $1000 toward the new car, but because the downpayment has already been made and the financing paperwork complete, we're going to put it toward the HELOC instead. That will make me feel better, considering we haven't been able to put anything toward that debt for the last two months (except for my $85...).

The rest of the week/weekend should continue to be low-spend. Work tomorrow, two parties on Saturday, the gifts for both have already been bought so no out-of-pocket except gas and tolls, and Sunday we'll either be in the pool or at the park (I'll figure $10 for ice cream). I'm looking forward to a good August...

Made it through July...

July 27th, 2005 at 11:53 am

With only a few days to go, I made it through July with about $85 left over, that will go to the HELOC balance. (Barely a drop toward the $30,779 balance, but better than nothing).

We've had a bad run with cars lately. On the way to pick up the new car last night, we got a flat. Stopped at a roadside Citgo in the middle of nowhere, and luckily the guy was able to fix it right away. $35. Thankfully, they weren't in the price gouging mood, because they could have held me up for a lot more. 2 tired kids in the back seat, late in the day...yeah, I would have given a lot more if I had to...Anyway, we've got 2 working automobiles now.

Yesterday, I opened up savings accounts for the kids at Valley National Bank. What a great experience! They gave each of the kids a coloring book, crayons, and a little plastic piggy bank. Also, they match up to the first $10 of the deposit, and they have a free coin counting machine! I've been meaning to do this for a while. What made it even better was that the kids were totally into it. I told them when they fill up the pigs, we'll bring them back to the bank and deposit 75% of the total, and they can keep 25% for a trip to Toys R Us. That way, they have something to shoot for and I don't need to listen to them badger me to buy them whatever the toy du jour is. Win-win all around. Of course, they scoured the house for change yesterday and the pigs are half full now...

Spending today for breakfast and lunch at work ($7.25 total). Other than that, I'm hoping for a spend-free day today and tomorrow. We'll see how it goes...

Bought the car

July 25th, 2005 at 07:33 am

As expected, we bought the car on Saturday, and are picking it up tomorrow night. What a great experience...the salesman honored the price he gave me over the phone, so it was a completely relaxing experience. I was able to have him tell me about the car, take a test drive, etc., with no pressure. I really recommend internet shopping for a car. Absolutely painless! I was a bit bummed this morning, because I called my insurance company with the VIN #, and it will cost me 25% more than they estimated for me on Friday, when I just had the make and model number. Not sure why, and it wouldn't have made a difference in the type of car we bought, but I'm curious.

So after putting as much as we were comfortable with down, and financing the rest, we had a low-spend weekend (and many more to come, I'm sure Smile). We stopped for lunch on Saturday on the way home from the dealership ($20), and that was it. On Sunday, we went to a nearby park with the kids to go bike riding, and got ice cream ($9). Other than church and the prescription from CVS (that will be reimbursed), no other money spent. I do still need to pick up my bracelet, so will do that today or tomorrow.

This week should be a quiet one, financially. I'm still going through the budget trying to look at what else can be done. One thing I started to do was to get a grasp on the kids' clothing situation in anticipation of back to school. I'm hoping not to go until October or so, when stuff gets marked-down. With the warm weather in September, they should be good in their summer clothes, and I'm hoping they have enough fall-type clothes that still fit, coupled with a new outfit or two from grandma, to get through. That should help keep the clothing bill down. I also cleaned out my own closet, which was great because it let me see exactly what I have, too. It's "business casual" where I work, and I don't anticipate needing anything for the fall. That's good news...

Status Quo

July 22nd, 2005 at 07:19 am

The last few days have been pretty uneventful. Other than going to work, and the costs associated with that (parking, gas ($2.39/gal!!!), tolls, etc.) I haven't had much out of pocket. That will change some today and a lot tomorrow.

Today, I need to pick up the bracelet that I had fixed, dry cleaning, and a prescription and allergy medecine from CVS (which will be reimbursed). Tomorrow, we're biting the bullet and going for the car. Ouch.

Thankfully, the rest of the weekend will be quiet, as we have absolutely no plans. This should mean minimal spending...I don't think I need to go grocery shopping anytime soon, as I have plenty of milk and fruit, and stuff in the freezer. That'll be a big help. My plan for the rest of the day is to look at the budget again and see what I can slash (or at least trim) in anticipation of my new car payment Frown.

More car stuff

July 20th, 2005 at 09:45 am

So the bad news is that both hubby and I decided we need to get a new car, soon. The good news (always trying to make lemonade out of lemons Smile) is that my company participates in arrangements with three corporate buying programs, all of which contract with automobile dealers to give you the best possible price without haggling (which I hate). A colleague of mine recently used the GoldStar directory, so I tried it. They gave me the phone numbers for salesmen at relatively close dealerships for the 2 cars we're interested in. I called and told them the type of car I wanted, which options, and which prices, and they both quoted me prices over the phone that beat Edmunds "True Market Value" price, by between $1000 and $1500 dollars! Can't beat that! We like both cars, and will probably test drive them this weekend before making our choice.

Now it's on to financing. If we go with the (slightly) more expensive car, they have a promotion now where you can get the loan for 3.99% through their financing company. Otherwise, we're on our own. The salesman over the phone said going through him would probably get me a rate around 5%, so I'll try to do better than that. I'll start with LowerMyBills and Eloan and see where I end up. I was thinking of using my home equity line, but the rate (prime-1/2) is now up to 5.75%! Even though it's deductible, I think the fixed rate around 5 would be better. Man, I need to pay that beast off.

So that's my scoop. The downside of this new loan is that it will probably come out of the money I was going to use to pay down the home equity line, which means it will take longer to close that out. So I really want to redouble my efforts and try to shave more money out of other areas of my budget, if possible. We'll see...

Great catch-up day!

July 19th, 2005 at 07:16 pm

The kids had a sleepover at grandma's last night, so today I got to sleep late, read the paper in bed while drinking my coffee, clean out two closets and do 5 loads of laundry. I also got my hair cut and colored, but the thunderstorms around here (due to the 100 degree heat) caused a power outage at the salon, so they couldn't blow dry my hair, which saved me a couple of bucks.

We've decided that we're going to need to break down (no pun intended) and get a new car. The one that was fixed still sounds a bit off, and we agreed it's time. So my job now is to figure out how big a down payment we can handle and shop around for loans. Also, we got the gas bill after our first actual meter reading in months, and we're about $500 over our budget billing, which they review in November. Although we can probably bring it down a bit, our monthly bill will probably be going up come November. I'm hoping it will be offset by the gains we've made on our electric bill.

Also, after reading Kashi's last entry, I dropped Laura (Frugal Texan) an email letting her know that her savingadvice.com friends were thinking of her, and hoping she was doing well. Coinciidentally, I had thought of her the last time I was on. This money stuff is so challenging, that anytime I get into reading someone's journal then they go away for a while (or permanently) I hope it's not out of discouragement or frustration. I think the support on this site is great, and just wanted to let her know we were thinking of her...

I'm off to Edmunds.com to do my car research.

Fun weekend

July 18th, 2005 at 07:14 am

I'm feeling a little better about the car situation. It seems like the shop fixed the car, and it appears to be running well. My frugal nature got the better of me this weekend, so I'm shelving the idea of a new car (for now), and hope that my current car will continue to work for at least another year. Thanks for the comments/encouragement...

The rest of the weekend was great. The kids had a sleepover at grandma's on Saturday, and hubby and I went to a friend's house for dinner. (They don't have children, and my kids are usually bored to tears there). Then on Sunday, we brought the kids home and had two other couples over to our house. A tad on the expensive side, but not as bad as going out. We had a great time.

I'm not going to go grocery shopping this week. I went on Saturday to get ready for company, and picked up enough milk and fruit to get us through the week. Hubby's away on business for a few days, and we have no plans for this upcoming weekend, so we should easily be able to get by with whatever is in the house. I still need to go to the jeweler's and the dry cleaner's, but nothing else. Hoping for a quiet, stress-free week...

Car troubles...

July 15th, 2005 at 10:03 am

The car place just called. $860! Hubby expected it to be more. I was hoping for more in the neighborhood of $400 or so. This is bumming me out in 2 ways: First, the bill will be charged today and paid in August. That bums me out because I was really hoping to get back on track paying $1500 toward my home equity line in August. While I may be able to make up some of it cutting corners other places, a good chunk of the $850 will need to come out of that $1500.

Second, I'm trying to fight the overwhelming urge to get a new car. It's funny that we just got our car fixed, and so shouldn't even be thinking about a new car, but that doesn't seem to be the case. This is our current car situation: Hubby's car is a 2003 with just under 30,000 miles on it. We have a loan out on that car at 4.24%with a balance of about $16,000. The car that just got fixed is a 1999 (American car) with just shy of 100,000 miles on it that we own. Between this trip to the shop, and two others over the past year when the car has broken down at inopportune moments, we have fixed just about everything that can possibly be fixed on it. Then, we also have my fil's car, a 1992 with only 41,000 miles on it (he never drove anywhere)! That car was given to us for free by mil, and she paid the insurance on it through the end of the year.

The problem is that we easily drive 30,000 miles per year total, between work, families, etc. While hubby's car is fine, I'm hesitant to drive around in either the 99 (because it keeps breaking down) and to a lesser degree the 92 (just because it's so old). My worries are compounded because I almost always either have the kids with me, or am rushing to pick them up somewhere (and can ill-afford to have a car break down when I need to get somewhere). So a new car (don't want to deal with anyone else's hassles) looks pretty appealing about now.

The only thing holding me back is that I can't stand having the one car payment that we currently have, much less two, and we definitely can't afford to buy a car outright. Hubby has brought up leasing, which I have a strong aversion to, because I know deep down it's not the best thing to do, despite the lure of a $299 payment! So my plan is to try to keep my current car situation for at least a year. My goal is to have the home equity line paid off by next April, and the car loan paid off by next September. If I can hold off until then, I'll at least feel better about my financial situation.

Still on a roll...

July 14th, 2005 at 11:44 am

Turns out yesterday was another "low-spend" day. $1.40 in tolls and $4.25 for lunch was it! I suppose I'm just postponing the inevitable...I didn't make it to the dry cleaners (but I have a 20% off coupon, so can go anyday). Also, the car place called and said I needed my fuel pump replaced (as this was the cause of all of my problems) and unrelated to that problem, I need my serpentine belt replaced (not unexpected). They were waiting for the parts, so I don't think the car will be ready until Friday, so no money out of pocket for that until then! So far today, I paid $1.40 in tolls and $20 for parking. My boss took us to lunch to thank us for our hard work, so I had a great meal for free! I'm not expecting to spend anything else today.

Oops, I fogot...My problem with no-spend/low-spend days is that I always end up forgetting something. I get my discounted gift cards from Main Street Savings. They took their advertisement off of the GM card website where I initially signed up, and in the discussion area here, someone mentioned that the link I gave them was no longer working. Conincidentally, I went online to place an order for some gift cards to get ready for back-to-school clothes shopping, and no matter what I entered, my shopping cart kept coming up empty at checkout. Although I have placed 4 orders successfully with them, including receiving and using the cards and getting the discount, I started to worry that they may be getting ready to shut down the program. So I ended up ordering over the phone, which seemed to work, and I bought some extra gift cards that I was planning on getting later in the year for Christmas, just in case they shut it down. Total spent: $500, and I'll get a $100 credit (20%) back. I received an email today saying the order was processed and shipped, so they're fine for now. But I guess it wasn't such a low-spend day after all!

I deposited 2 rebate/bonus checks in my savings account today, and made 2 more sales on half.com. Although it's not much, I'm happy for every bit. Other than the car, which is the great unknown, I'm hoping to have a few more "low-spend" days (no more gift card orders!) tomorrow and Saturday. We're having two couples over for dinner on Sunday. I don't know yet what I'll be making, but I'll need to do some shopping for it on Saturday. That's it for now...

Almost a No Spend Day!

July 12th, 2005 at 05:52 pm

I don't know why, but it seems I can never, ever have a totally no spend day. But today I came close. I don't go in to the office on Tuesdays (which right there saves me on gas, tolls, and parking). I stayed home all day, except for a trip to the town pool with some friends that are members. They paid for the guess passes (not sure how much) so I splurged for ice cream for the kids, for a total of $7.20. That's it! Yay!

Tomorrow I need to run a few errands to/from work, including dry cleaners (it's Wednesday!) and the bank. Also, we've been having problems with one of our cars (like everyone else on this site, it seems!) and that went into the shop yesterday. I don't know if they called hubby today, or if it will wait until tomorrow, but I'm sure that will be another few hundred dollars.

Otherwise, I hope tomorrow will be a quiet day...

So far so good...

July 10th, 2005 at 08:03 pm

Had a good weekend that went pretty much as planned.

Went to BJs on Friday, and ended up renewing my membership. When I went with the 60-day free trial, they were running a special (of course). Instead of the $40 annual membership, they lowered it to $30, made it good for 15 months instead of 12, and allowed me to add another person for free. (Had I known this ahead of time, I would have thought of a friend that I could split the $30 bucks with. Instead, I added hubby, which will also be good because then he can stop and pick stuff up if I'm not with him). I had never been to this BJs before (right across the street from work), and it seemed nicer than the one I was used to. I made out great. A gallon of 2% milk for $2.15!! I only got things I legitimately needed, which was good.

Also this weekend, I went to Kohls for hubby's clothes. Everything was on sale, I used my 20% off gift cards, and got a $10 reward for spending $50. Mostly used up the gift cards, with $35 out of pocket. Then I went to ToysRUs and bought the gift I needed plus an extra gift and wrapping paper for $56-$10 coupon=$46 (bought with 20% discounted gift cards). No cash out of pocket and I'm set for the rest of the month.

Library fine (last one!) - $1.70, auto parts store $3.99, jewelry repair/add charm $16. That's it. The two big bummers were filling the cars up with gas. $2.29/gallon!!! That really shot up over the last week or so. I don't think I ever paid over $2.17.

I'm hoping to stay organized/on track this week. I have menus planned, and shouldn't have any big hits financially. The only thing I'm worried about is the actual gas meter reading. They've been estimating my usage for months and it's time for them to get a real reading. I know it's way over their estimate, but I'm hoping I can make up for it during the rest of the summer. We'll see how it goes...

Catching up...

July 8th, 2005 at 08:05 am

The kids are going to grandma's for a sleepover tonight, giving me much needed time to get myself organized after vacation.

I'm heading to BJs after work today. I let my membership lapse in March, because I wasn't really sure if it was worth the $40/year. But they sent an offer for a 60-day free trial, with full membership privileges, through ValPak (coupon mailers), so I'm going to take advantage of it. My plan is to buy what I need today and price out some other stuff I'm interested in, then go again in the middle of August to buy up what I need for school (juice boxes, snacks, etc.), and other stuff I get from there that won't go bad (razors, shampoo, etc). I've been keeping a price book over the last 18 months or so, so I can make sure I'm getting a good deal. That way, when the 60-day trial is over, I should be set for awhile and won't need to pay for the membership.

Then I need to go to Kohls to get hubby some clothes. I have $50 in gift cards (that I got 20% off Smile). I should be able to keep the total to under that amount, so there will be no cash out of pocket. Then I need to stop at the grocery store for a few things I can't get at BJs, and the library so I can return 2 DVDs that will be a week late (due to vacation and prior to my renewed effort to become more organized and avoid fines!). Finally, I need to go to Toys R Us (also using gift cards, so no cash outlay) to get a birthday present for a party later this month. We have 4 other birthdays and a going away party this month, but they're all getting discounted gift cards. Oops, also have to go to the auto parts store, to get the light bulb for behind my license plate, so the car will pass inspection, and the jeweler to have a charm added on to my charm bracelet. I think that's it. Hope I can get it all done today.

Tomorrow I need to head down to Dad's and do his grocery shopping, so there shouldn't be much spending there.

So far, Day 1 of the new, organized me is going pretty well.

Back from vacation

July 7th, 2005 at 08:15 am

Wow, I've been away for awhile. It took me a long time to catch up on everyone's journals and all the new posts in the discussion area.

As I promised myself before vacation, I'm going to try to make a renewed effort to get better about saving my money. I had a really bad June, money-wise. Went totally overboard on vacation, and basically just spent a ton of money. As a result, I'll need to do a lot of digging out in July.

I think I need to take Kashi's approach and look at my goals for 2005. The problem is that I didn't formally make any, so I suppose I should start now. The big thing hanging over my head is a Home Equity line with a $30,779 balance that we used to make an improvement on the house. Up until now, my approach has always been to put any extra money toward it at the end of the month. But as hubby pointed out last night, it's too easy to spend the money and have nothing leftover. So beginning in August, my goal is to put $1500 toward it each month, with an extra $5000 in September if an expected bonus materializes. That will knock it down $12,500 by the end of the year. It's definitely a stretch, especially toward the end of the year, because we have Christmas, both kids' birthdays, and auto insurance ($3200) due.

So how to reach the goal? I think getting more organized will be a big key for me. Reading over my past entries, I realize how much I've complained about my lack of organization and it needs to stop now. I'm going to spend the weekend giving this some thought, but my initial ideas are:

1) I need to go grocery shopping alone, and with a list. My kids cost me a boatload of money every time we go to the store. Also, I forget who recommended that she NOT look at the weekly sale paper because it ends up costing her more, and she should just write down what she needs. I think I'm going to try that, because I always get sucked in by the "great deals".

2) I need to get better about menu planning, including having some foods in the house that we can whip up quickly. If I had a dollar for every time I forgot to defrost something, was missing a key ingredient, etc., I'd be able to pay off all my debt!

3) I need to set a schedule for doing errands so I avoid fines, late fees, etc. and take advantage of the best deals. Our dry cleaner has a deal on Weds where you get 4 things cleaned for the price of 3. No coupons needed. If I have dry cleaning, I need to wait until I have at least four things, and I have to wait until Wednesday. Period. Library day will also be Wednesday. That way I can avoid all of those ridiculous late fees.

4) I need to get better about gift planning. The funny thing about birthdays is that they fall on the same day each year! It's not like they sneak up on me or anything. So on the first weekend of the month, I'm going to buy whatever gifts I need for that month. (Of course, if I see a really great deal and know I can use it down the road, I'll pick that up as well).

Finally, I need to keep a critical eye on all of my money, including utility bills, spending money, etc., to see where I'm wasting it and what I can do better. And as much as I really want the debt gone, I need to remember that it's a marathon, not a sprint.