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Archive for August, 2005

Getting ready for September

August 31st, 2005 at 08:03 pm

Fall is my favorite time of the year. Great weather, great holidays, including my birthday, DS and DD's birthday, Halloween, Tgiving, all the preparation for Christmas, which gets me in the spirit. What's not to like? Other than the days getting shorter, not much for me!

I'm also happy to put July and August behind me. Between my car troubles and hot water heater breaking, my budget (which was already stretched) was turned upside down. Luckily we were able to pay everything without dipping into savings (due primarily to the fact that I didn't have to pay DS's huge preschool bill and, unfortunately, I didn't put anything toward the home equity line). But now I'm ready to get back on track.

My big goal for September is to be able to pay at least $1000 to the home equity line. I've gone 2 months without paying down the principle, and it's really weighing on me. I have $500 budgeted from our regular checking account, and I'm hoping for the $600+ rebates from our Citibank Drivers Edge card to be sent to us. I already filled out the paperwork, but I'm not sure how fast they'll process it. I'm not sure of the timing, but we're also supposed to get a property tax relief check (~$350, I think) in September or October. That's a drop in the bucket relative to what we pay, but I'll take it. So $1000 definitely seems doable.

I'm also one of those really early preparers for Christmas. My goal is to be 90% done by the Sunday after Thanksgiving, so I can totally enjoy the month of December, including getting together with friends, listening to the music, looking at the lights, etc. without the stress of Christmas cards, shopping, etc. I usually start the prep in October, so one of my goals for September is to look at my holiday spending and figure out painless ways to cut corners. Two areas I definitely plan to target are pictures/cards and gifts. We love to get the kids' pictures taken for the holiday (and since both of their birthdays are close, I only have to do it once per year). But even when I go to Sears or JC Penney and use their portrait studio coupons, I still end up spending ~$125, which is crazy. We always get sheets of wallet sizes to send out with the cards, which I've decided is an area I can cut, because when I get other kids' pictures, I usually keep them through the holiday, then throw them out with the cards. (Not close relatives or friends of course, but kids of cousins and second cousins, etc.). So one plan may be to get the larger pictures done for us, mil, etc. (and use my discounted JCPenney gift cards), and take a picture of the kids with the digital camera to copy and send out with the other cards. (Also, I can substantially cut down the card list. I personally prefer the cards to the Christmas letter that has become popular over the last few years, but I can cut the number of people on the list). As for gifts, I think the use of the gift cards, either as gifts themselves, or to purchase gifts for others, is a good way to go. I can't do much about the list itself, but I can be a bit more creative about the gifts themselves. Glad I have a month to think about it...

I'm off to bed...I get to bed way to late at night because I'm too busy surfing this site...


August 30th, 2005 at 07:23 pm

Thoughts from the last few days:

I am consumed by the coverage of Hurricane Katrina. I just can't fathom the complete and total loss being experienced by these people. It's absolutely tragic. I try to envision if all of a sudden I was told that I had to be out of my house in 12 or 24 hours, possibly never to return again. What would I bring? Not surprisingly, my list includes very few of the material possessions I've acquired over my 11 years of marriage and 10 years of homeownership. Instead, I'd go for important papers (passports and the like), pictures from my wedding, of the kids and my parents, etc., cash and maybe a few special pieces of jewelry.

Even though insurance will undoubtedly pay out to many people (eventually), I understand that the city is relatively poor. How many of these people paid insurance premiums for their few precious assets? Even for those people who had insurance, how long will it take before these people see financial relief? They're talking about it taking a month to get electricity back on; I can't imagine they'll be filing claims anytime soon. Can these people make it for that month, two months, three months or more until they're reimbursed? Note to self: maybe I should boost up my emergency savings after all...

But the thing that makes me so mad is the looting. I understand looting of the grocery stores. People are working on basic survival at this point, so I would probably do the same if I needed food, water, batteries, etc. But the people looting Foot Locker? Come on! I saw video of it on the news tonight and I think that's just inexcusable! I hope when things settle down, the police go back and review the tapes and go after every one!

Phew, that was a lot to get off my chest, but I really needed to do it. Back to my comparably hum-drum life, I actually had a real no-spend day. Not a dime! Regular readers of my posts know how absolutely impossible this is for me. I went to the post office (shipping paid by receiver), the kids' bank to count the coins in their piggy and deposit, and my bank for a deposit. Then I came home, hung out with the kids, and made dinner. That's it. A great way for me to finish up a really expensive month.

Tomorrow evening I'll be able to do my month-end numbers. I get the values of all of our accounts, mutual funds, debts, etc. and calculate our net worth. It had been going up quite a bit thorugh the first six months of the year, but the new car loan put a hit on that! I always feel good about my finances on the first of the month, because I tend not to count 401(k)s, pensions, etc. when I'm thinking of our financial situation because it's sooo far away. Instead I think of monthly inflows and outflows, which is a bit more depressing. Tomorrow should be an equally quiet day, then September 1st!!!

Thanks Retire@50!

August 29th, 2005 at 07:32 pm

I think the best part of this site is all the advice tidbits I pick up from other people. A few weeks ago, Retire@50 posted about how she called DirectTv and they knocked $5 off of her bill. Consistent with a thread in the forums about how often you act on tips, I thought "wow, I should try that", then of course I never did. Well today I was surfing at fatwallet.com (a great site for deals), and they had a link about people who called directtv and got $5 off Total Choice packages and an additional $10 off for premium packages (we have HBO and Cinemax). So I finally picked up the phone and got both discounts for 6 months (that's $90!!!!). Now, it's Direct Tv, so I'll believe it when I actually see the credit on my bill. (For any of you who don't deal regularly with them, it's very hit or miss, to say the least). But I got the guy's name and time of the call, so I can refer back to it if the credit doesn't show up. One of the fatwallet posters says he calls back every 6 months for a new deal, and if someone tells him no, he calls back a few hours later, because you get a different answer with everyone you speak to! So thanks Retire@50, for helping me to save $90...

Of course that made my night. But I also got a few housekeeping things done. Since I've pretty much exhausted the ebookdrop.com option, I listed all of the books on both half.com and amazon.com. I've never done the amazon thing, but people here seem to have success with it. We'll see how it goes. I also finally opened the Sharebuilder accounts for the two kids, and confirmed that they're both eligible for the $50 bonus.

Spending today consisted of $1.40 for tolls and $20 for lunch with my sister. Also filled up the gas tank, but I don't remember how much it was (I must have blocked it out because it's so painful). People on the news say that gas prices could go up considerably more as a result of the storm. While that's small potatoes relative to the mass destruction that occurred, it still hurts to hear. I hope we don't have any Saving Advicers close to the damage...

Tomorrow I need to run a few errands, including my bank to deposit a check and rolled coins, the kids bank to deposit change in their piggy banks, and the post office to get my ebookdrop box out (didn't do it today). My other sister said she would come over to hang out by the pool, but I don't know what the weather is supposed to be like. We shall see...

Fun Weekend

August 28th, 2005 at 07:54 pm

We had a great time this weekend. Friday, as expected, was spent going to the library to pick up a few videos (10 minutes before closing!) then to the ShopRite to pick up some groceries. The kids were extraordinarily well behaved, probably because they were so excited about the videos!

Saturday, we stopped at grandma's, had lunch, and dropped the kids off for a sleepover. Then hubby and I went to an Octoberfest. What a great time! The weather was perfect, food was great, and beer top notch (real German beer from a tap - yum). We spent much more than I thought we would (about $60 - mostly for food and souvenirs) but we had a great time.

We also got a great deal at Circuit City on Saturday! Hubby has wanted a TIVO for our DirectTv system for a while, so I bought some discounted CC gift cards. When we got there, they were offering a Samsung Tivo recorder for $99.99 with a $100 mail-in rebate, including existing customers! We also got the necessary cables and a new phone, which we also needed, with a $15 coupon and the discounted cards. Good day all around.

On Sunday we slept late (much needed) and headed back to Grandma's. We went to Kohl's to do some back to school shopping for the kids, with a 15% off coupon and my 20% off giftcards. (She also paid for 3 outfits per kid, which really helped). So I walked out spending about $70 total.

I also had the opportunity to go through all but one of her bookshelves, and found some more books for ebookdrop.com. So I went to the website and sold a bunch of books for $59.05. Totally psyched - it will be going out tomorrow.

After we got home, I took care of all of the PTO stuff, and checked the water heater info. Much to my dismay, the energy factor on the heater was only .58, and it needed to be .62 in order to qualify for the rebate. SO we're out $50, but at least I did the legwork and tried.

My other chore this weekend was to take care of the Sharebuilder accounts for the kids. I'll be doing that tomorrow. Also, I was going to look into the bank bonuses but, duh, the banks aren't open after 12:00 Saturday to call with questions, so that, too shall wait....

All in all a good weekend. I'm looking forward to getting to September 1. August was a tough month, and we're going to end it way over budget, but I think we can regroup in September.

Getting organized this weekend...

August 26th, 2005 at 10:25 am

I need to spend some time this weekend tying up some loose ends...I finally received the form for the water heater rebate. I need to fill it out, which I was all set to do today, except that I need the serial # and model # which of course I don't have. Also, I have a bunch of paperwork from our PTA that needs to be filled out before school begins, so I want to take care of that ASAP so it's not hanging over my head. Third, as part of my $5000 challenge, I want to open up sharebuilder accounts for my 2 kids ($50 bonus each), but I don't have their social security #s committed to memory, so I need to do that when I get home. Also related to the challenge, I printed out a bunch of different "free money from banks" offers. I've already prioritized them. Now I just need to follow up with some calls to get answers to a few questions I have. I have the set of chemistry textbooks to box up for ebookdrop.com, and some more books at mil's house to check out. This is all in addition to the usual laundry, cleaning, filing, etc. that I always need to do.

We're going to stop at the library on the way home so the kids can borrow some DVDs/tapes. Then I need to get to ShopRite for this week's grocery shopping. Normally, I'd be so psyched that I made it to Friday without needing to go that I would bag it until the following week (and save the money). However, 3 of the kids' absolutely favorite cereals are on sale (and I have coupons). Cereal is so unbelievably expensive and I hate to pay full price for it, so I need to get over there to pick some up. I have a few other things on the list as well, but am hoping to keep it around $50 or so. Given that I'm going so late in the week, I'm hoping that maybe I can avoid going next week! The rest of the night will be dinner at home and just hanging out.

Tomorrow, we're going to MIL's house in the morning. She needs to go grocery shopping, and wants to go pick up some outfits for the kids back-to-school! (Gotta love that! - she spoils them). Then, the kids will stay with her for a sleepover while hubby and I go to an Octoberfest with some friends. Sunday is supposed to be a good-weather day, so we'll try to go bike riding at the park.

I just checked my account with the electric company. I'm on budget billing, and pay $131/month. I currently have a credit of $67 (meaning my actual use has been $67 less than what they've billed me for). This has come down significantly in the last two months due to our overuse of air conditioning. I need to buckle down now so I can build the credit back up before they rebalance the account in November. I would love to get it under $120/month, but that would require a credit balance of $121, and I'm not sure I can get there from here in that short a period of time. You never know, though...

More potential $$

August 25th, 2005 at 07:48 am

So I'm still on my www.ebookdrop.com kick. I have literally looked at every book in my house and plugged in the ISBNs to see how much (if anything) I could get. Aside from the $40+ package I sent out last week, I only have a few more books, each for $1+ that I could get rid of. So then I moved on to MIL's house. My husband has kept every single chemistry textbook from his college days (15 years ago) and literally has not touched them since. (My inlaws and husband are both pack-rats supreme - I think they were squirrels in another life!). So when I dropped off the kids this morning on my way to work, I wrote down all of the ISBNs for 1 shelf of textbooks and plugged them in when I got to work. Of the 14 I entered, I can sell 5 for a total of $40.38, including one for $17 and one for $7.04. Given that these things have been sitting around collecting dust for more than a decade, this seems like a pretty good idea to me. I ran it by hubby a few minutes ago and he's all for it. I'm encouraged...he has another 5 bookshelves of stuff there that I can go through!

Other than the usual tolls, parking, lunch, I had a no-spend day. I picked up the kids after work and we hung out in the pool. It's been great weather here - really autumn-like. I'd take 365 of them if I could. So no need for AC! Today will also be a no-spend day aside from commuting and lunch. I need to make a deposit in the bank, and I need to convert currency back to $$ (hubby was supposed to take a trip earlier this month, and it was cancelled so I need to get my $ back). Grocery shopping will wait until tomorrow!

Double Car Payment

August 24th, 2005 at 07:31 am

Ouch. I had to send in the first car payment for the new car I bought last month. It was due on the 26th, so I sent it in on the 18th or so. At the same time, I also filled out the form to get the amount automatically withdrawn from my checking account. Usually it takes some time for them to get everything set up, but not this time! I went on my bank's website today and saw that the automatic debit took place yesterday. Meanwhile, my check is still out there, about to be cashed, meaning I will have paid twice this month. I don't want to put a stop payment on the check because that costs $20-25. I'm not in danger of bouncing it, so I figure I might as well leave it and look at the bright side - at least my loan will be paid off one month sooner! Still a shock when a few hundred dollars comes out unexpectedly.

Edited to add: Called the company to see if there was anything I could do about the double payment. They explained that the ACH debit was them processing my check, so there was only one payment coming out after all. Phew. She also confirmed that auto-withdrawal is set up to start on 9/26. That's a relief!

I've had a few quiet spend days. We went out for ice cream Monday after soccer, and again yesterday with some friends after a few hours at the park. Monday was about $10, Tuesday was about $5. I needed to stop into work last night to pick up something, and treated hubby to Starbucks on the way home. That's been about it. I need to go to the grocery store, but want to wait until later in the week. I also need to drop off some clothes at the dry cleaners...

Decided to (re)start my diet again today. Three things are pushing me: First, none of my clothes fit right, and I don't want to buy anything new right now. Second, I read an article in our local paper about how much money being overweight costs, specifically in terms of copays, rx, medical bills, etc. Finally, I need to go to my doctor for a yearly checkup, but don't want to go until I drop 10 pounds or so. (He's been telling me for 4 years straight to exercise more and drop some weight, and for four years I've been the exact same weight everytime I see him. Can't make it 5 in a row)! When I first talked to him about "dieting" (a term he hates) he recommended I shoot for 1600 calories / day while trying to lose, then 1800 when I'm ready to maintain. So today it starts. Had oatmeal and one cup of coffee (200 calories total for breakfast). Usually, if I get through breakfast, lunch, and snack using 800 calories, then I'm good to go with a normal dinner.

I have about as much luck with dieting as I do with saving money, so it will definitely be a challenge...

I love my Sonic the Hedgehog avatar...

August 22nd, 2005 at 09:58 am

I'm technically challenged...I've been on this site for months, and only today figured out how to get an Avatar next to my name. Thanks to Max'sMommy, I had to find Sonic the Hedgehog. My kids are huge fans (I spent many a $$ at the Boardwalk games on vacation, trying to get them a stuffed Sonic and a stuffed Tails). As I was scrolling through, I also found a picture of Alfred E Newman from Mad Magazine. What, me worry? Tough choice, but he ended up in second place. Maybe when I'm tired of Sonic I'll swap him in...

Expensive birthday party!

August 22nd, 2005 at 06:56 am

We went to the most expensive kids' birthday party I have ever been to on Saturday. A classmate of DS's from last year just turned 4. She had a really fun magic party at a brand new place. They saw a magic show for about an hour, then had pizza and ice cream cake. At that point, the party was officially over, but the kids were allowed to stay and play on the indoor gym equipment. My son had such a good time, I picked up a brochure thinking we would have his party there. Not thinking that anymore! The price: $395 for up to 15 kids, each additional kid $16.95, birthday child free. She only had 13 kids at the party (not including the BDay girl) so that works out to over $30/kid, not including tip and goody bags! FOR A 4 YEAR OLD!!! Given that this is the new place in town, I'm sure there will be a bunch more there this year...I'm guessing at least 3 or 4. Can't justify that at all...

Anyway, after this really fun party, we went to the museum. Parking was $21, and tolls to get over the George Washington Bridge were a whopping $6, but everything else was free. The Magic School Bus was cool...they took all the seats out of the bus and filled it with little interactive science experiments, etc. We also looked at the regular dinosaur exhibit and the planet stuff. They had a special dinosaur exhibit that's in town for a few months. It was really interesting, highly recommended for anyone in the NYC area, but the kids were a bit tired by that time, so they didn't get as much out of it. I decided I will definitely renew my membership. It expires in September, and costs $100 (tax deductible) for a family, but tickets to all these special exhibits are free. In the case of the dinosaur exhibits, it would have cost about $50 if we had to purchase them, and we definitely visit a few times a year, so it pays for itself. (Not to mention being educational and a good cause). It's always a fun day.

Sunday we had the barbeque. That was fun, though steamy, and as expected we have a ton of food leftover. I froze enough meat to last for 7 meals for DH and me, not including what I left in the fridge for tonight. Good deal...

So now I'm back at work for the beginning of another quiet week. DD has soccer tonight, and that's about it for the week. I also decided to stop the daily tracking. After religiously doing it for over two weeks, it's obvious to me that I spend a lot of money on tolls and gas, and unnecessary money on food when I'm at work or on the go. So now it's time to figure out how I'm going to get motivated to change that...

Energy Rebate

August 19th, 2005 at 10:18 am

Always trying to make lemonade out of lemons...

I was surfing around my gas / electric company websites and I found a rebate offer of $50 if you install an energy efficient hot water heater. Wahoo. I'll double check when I get home, but I'm sure the one we just installed a few weeks ago meets the criteria. The gas company is sending out the forms as we speak. Sometimes it pays to surf...


August 19th, 2005 at 08:00 am

So happy it's Friday...my favorite day of the week!

Yesterday was my long day at work. I was out of the house by 8:30, and didn't get back until about 8:00 at night. The good thing is that I can't go anywhere and spend money, so other than gas, it was a pretty inexpensive day:

Thursday spending:
Tolls $1.40
Parking $20
Lunch $5
Gas $34

I'm going to BJs after work today, where I need to pick up a few things for Sunday's BBQ. Then, I'm taking MIL to ShopRite. She offered to pick up all of the meat for Sunday, which will save me beaucoup bucks. Then I need to go home tonight and clean, clean, clean. I also have to run out to Toys R Us to pick up a present for a birthday party DS is going to tomorrow. Fortunately I have a stash of discounted gift cards, so there will be no cash out of pocket.

Tomorrow should be great. In addition to the party, we're heading to the Museum of Natural History in the afternoon. In addition to a new dinosaur exhibit, they're having Ms. Frizzle and the Magic School Bus out front. (For anyone whose heard of this, we think the Magic School Bus is great!). We're museum members, so the museum itself will be free, though we'll have to pay parking, tolls, and gas, which adds up. Still easily justified. Then MIL is taking the kids for a sleepover, and we're going to a friend's house for cocktails/appetizers. Knowing my friend she'll have enough food for an army, as she's making a lot, and everyone's bringing something, so we won't need to have a big dinner at home.

Then Sunday's the BBQ. Hope the weather holds up...

Concerned about future costs

August 18th, 2005 at 08:10 am

Ooh, this has been a pretty tough week, especially where future finances are concerned. I forgot to mention on Tuesday that the friendly neighborhood Real Estate Appraiser dropped by. Our town (as well as our whole county) is in the middle of a real estate revaluation. Hasn't happened in over 10 years, so now it's time. He measured the outside of the house and looked around the inside at the # of rooms, baths, etc. and said I'll get a letter announcing the damage in a few months. A friend of mine in town who was one of the first ones to be reassessed will be paying - are you ready for this - $15,000/year in taxes! Obscene! She lives in a bigger, newer house than mine (4000 sf vs. 3000 sf, approx), but she is on a small plot of land (1/4 acre? McMansion), while I'm on an acre. I currently pay $8300 in taxes and am really sweating this out! Countywide, rates have increased about 40% during this revaluation. My only hope is that they're taking so long to get through the town that the rates won't be ready for 2006. The upside, of course, is that property values have also shot through the roof, but that's of little comfort when it's just a paper gain...we have no intention of selling anytime in the near future.

On a lesser, but more immediate scale, I read in the paper today that the gas company received approval for a 10% rate hike. Not unexpected, I guess...their costs are going up too. I'm on budget billing, and my monthly gas bill is $175. I'm also way over so far, so when they rebalance in November, I'm expecting that it will go up ~$40, not including this hike. At least I don't have oil heat anymore. We converted in 1998. At the time, I think we were paying $.89/gallon, not it's up to $2.41!!! I wish I could stop time for a while...

On a positive note, I finally mailed out the books to ebookdrop.com, for $43.85. I have a few more books lying around that I know they'll take, and about two dozen more that I need to enter and see.

Spending for Wednesday:

Gas $48.02 (SUV - close to empty)
Tolls $1.40
Breakfast $1.22
Lunch $2.95

No great shakes here...just the usual.

My cup of tea...

August 16th, 2005 at 06:12 pm

I just sat down to the computer after getting the kids to sleep, and my tea bag broke. I have a bazillion bits of tea floating around the cup. No big deal, relaxation postponed for another two minutes...

I'm back. The last two days have been relatively uneventful. Yesterday was payday for hubby and me, so I paid the bills and updated the budget. August marks the end of my biggest financial break: Two months of no preschool/afterschool/childcare costs for the kids ($942/month total). Bills will be sent in later this month Frown Normally I look forward to the extra cushion in the budget during the summer, but unfortunately this year they were sucked up by car trouble. Only 10 more preschool payments to go!!!

I've mentioned ebookdrop.com in a couple of places over the last few days. I finally sold the 10 books yesterday for $43.85! Now my only problem is finding a box to put them in and getting them to the Post Office. One of the books was a 15-year old chemistry textbook from DH's college days. We got $17 for it. Unbelievable. So I started going through the house today to dig up all similar items. (We've been in our house for 10 years, and they're in the same box in the same place today that they were when we moved in!). I found a calculus book that they would buy for $1.80. Not much (considering it probably cost me $60 back in school!) but what the heck! I'll shoot to sell some more books there next week.

We're having hubby's family over for a barbeque this Sunday. Should be 12 adults and 3 kids total. I've been doing a GREAT job with my grocery bill so far this month (only $142+ so far and the month is half over). I refuse to blow it for this get together. Fortunately, my mil will make a few things, others will bring dessert, which just leaves the main food and beer, and the food shouldn't break the bank (it's not filet mignon, afterall), and we should have leftovers for the early part of the week. You have no idea how excited I will be if our grocery bill is under $300 for the month! And while I'm at it, gas is currently on target to come in under $300. A few months ago, this would have really bothered me, but with the price of gas now, I'll be downright giddy if I can keep it under $300. (Though how pathetic that those 2 items alone are $600/month! What's wrong with this picture?)

Spending totals for the last two days:

Tolls: $2.80
Parking/Ferry: $22.00
Breakfast at work: $1.00
Lunch at work: $2.99
Child Care: $50
Housecleaner: $90
Lunch (T): $11.63 (Fast food with the kids)
Gas: $36.00

Total: $216.42 for 2 days

Thoughts on the above: Hubby and I both agree that the cleaning lady is the last luxury standing as we cut back on discretionary spending. She was coming every week (total luxury!) now we're down to every other. I know if I ever quit working I'll have to let her go, but it will be tough...Gas is still through the roof! And I can't leave my house without paying at least $1.40 in tolls on the Garden State Parkway!


August 15th, 2005 at 06:55 am

Thanks to Akaivyleaf for posting a message about www.ebookdrop.com in one of the forums. Apparently, this functions like a used book store. You enter the ISBN and if they want the book, they tell you right there how much they'll pay for it. They also cover shipping. The upside is that, unlike half.com, you know immediately if you can sell your book. The downside is that, out of a hundred or so books I entered, they were only willing to buy about 10 of them. But I still see this as a great thing, because the prices were at least what I had them listed for in half.com (sometimes a lot more), and at least they're definitely sold and out of the house, while half.com is so hit and miss. Either tonight or tomorrow, I'll actually sell the 10 books, take them out of my half.com inventory and ship them. They send payment to either your paypal account, or a physical check or money order. Thanks again Akaivyleaf!!!

I also mailed out the book I sold last week on half.com. The bummer is that it was supposed to be sent out on Friday via Media Mail. But because we left for vacation early Friday morning, I wasn't able to get it out. I felt compelled to send it out today priority mail, because I didn't want my feedback to take a beating. I ended up breaking even, because Priority Mail cost the same amount that I was getting from half.com for the book and shipping, but at least it's out of the house...

Had a great vacation. Spent way too much money, so my "fun money" account will take a beating when the bill comes due, but it was worth it! We went to the beach, waterpark, boardwalk, etc. and the kids had an absolute blast! Weather was hot, hot, hot, so there was no better place to be. I haven't totalled up the damage yet, but will list it when I do, even though it's coming from this other account.

Other than vacation related stuff, my only other spending since Friday a.m. was the grocery store and chinese takeout yesterday:

Groceries: $77.24
Takeout: $17.10

I needed both desperately after being away for the weekend...

This week looks pretty quiet. We have soccer tonight, if it doesn't get rained out, which usually means ice cream afterwards. Tomorrow we're heading to the town pool with some friends, then work, work, work the rest of the week.

Another half.com sale

August 11th, 2005 at 10:39 am

It's feast or famine with this...When I first listed my books, I got a couple of hits right away. Then nothing for weeks, now another sale, this time for $1.75 + shipping. I need to find the book first...it doesn't sound familiar, so I'm sure it's in the pile my sister gave me. I'm going away this weekend, so I don't know if I'll have time to get it out tomorrow (quick turnaround is the one thing I don't like about half.com), so I might need to wait until Monday and ship it priority. Luckily, I seem to be reimbursed more for shipping than the stuff actually costs, and even if it costs a few cents more, it may be worth it. I need to get the first book sent out today.

I've already found one benefit to my new hot water heater...the shower heats up within about 10 seconds. It used to take one to two minutes. I was never disciplined enough to catch the water for plants and the like, so it literally went down the drain. I'm hoping I'll see desperately needed savings on my gas bill over the next few months. I also need to check with my gas company to see if there are any additional rebates because it's an energy efficient model. I doubt it, but it's worth checking...

My last electric bill was a bit of a shock. I'm on a budget billing plan, so each month it's $131. I had worked up quite a credit $164 of what they billed me versus what I had actually spent. I was hoping that when they recalculate my monthly payment in November, it would go down by at least $10. Now I'm not so sure. After a month of using the air conditioning ALOT (it was over 90 degrees for the entire month, or so it seemed!), my credit is down to $90. I know we used the AC a lot this month, too, so it may go down some more, but then I'm hoping to buckle down in September and October to build the credit back up...

Yesterday's spending was not too bad:
Tolls $1.40
Parking $7.00
Prepaid Milk for DD during school year $17.40
Ice Cream Cone Smile $2.00

Total: $27.80 Pretty good, even though I could have done without the ice cream...

Brought my breakfast

August 10th, 2005 at 09:46 am

I realize what a waste it is to get breakfast and lunch each day at work, but I'm having a hard time bringing it from home. Today I brought breakfast, which is a good start...

Yesterday was expensive, though necessary.

Plumber - $500
Haircuts - $32 (both kids)
Groceries - $21

Total: $553 (yikes) It ended up being about $100 cheaper to have the plumber replace the hot water heater instead of the gas company, so I'm glad I checked it out.

Didn't get through as much decluttering as I had hoped. By the time we got back from our errands and ate lunch, our playdate came over, then it was dinnertime! I'll need to tackle this a little at a time. Not much going on until Friday, when we leave for the shore. Just work and home, with some laundry sprinkled in. (Oh, I did make a sale on half.com that I need to mail out tomorrow. $2.50 + shipping. Not a lot, but not bad either...)

Mandatory decluttering!

August 9th, 2005 at 07:09 am

I was talking to hubby at work when I heard a crash. Turned out that the whole bottom shelf of his closet (where he hangs his shirts, pants, suits, and on top of which are his shorts, pajamas, sweaters, etc.), came off the wall and broke. Looks like I'm going to spend the better part of today going through everyone else's closets in order to make room for all his stuff, until he can fix it...

Also, the plumber came this morning, and the hot water heater was just delivered so we'll see how that goes. I have no water in the house right now (he had to shut it off to do the repair), so as soon as I'm done here I need to run my errands. First, I need to go to town hall and get a permit for the new water heater. Not sure what that will run me...I'm hoping less than $25. Then I need to take the kids for haircuts. They desperately need it, and while I'd rather wait until closer to the start of school, they need it now and it will be less crowded.

After lunch, friends of ours are coming over for a playdate, so that will be a good time, then it's 4 loads of laundry as soon as the water is back on. Hubby is going out to dinner after work, then his friend will be staying the night, so I need to also get ready for that. Wow, it's a busy day...

August 8 spending:
Tolls: $1.40
Parking: $7.00
Lunch $2.92
Pmt on 0% cc: $100 (This was for electronic equip for the new room we put on the house).
Parking ticket: $10

Total: $121.38 Thoughts: Not bad, all budgeted except for lunch and the pkg ticket (which was hubby's)!

Not such a cheap weekend after all

August 8th, 2005 at 09:25 am

So I spent more this weekend than I anticipated...

I spent Saturday running errands for and having dinner with my dad, but I spent some $$ on me along the way:

Wine - $60.00
BJs (Groceries) - $44
Tolls - $3.80
Lunch - $6.67
Gas - $19.68 (with a prepaid gas card)
DVD Rental - $4.50

Total for 8/6 - $138.65 Thoughts: BJs, tolls and gas totally necessary. Wine, Lunch, and DVD not at all necessary...

Then on Sunday, we had a great family day. Went to church, peach picking, and bike riding. Peach picking was great! They also had blackberries and raspberries for picking, which I love! The farm was so family-friendly...the kids loved picking (and eating!) the fruit, they had a little petting zoo and a big pyramid of hay bales for climbing. And the weather was absolutely perfect! We spent $33, which was more than I thought, but we walked away with a bunch of fresh fruit (berries are expensive but worth it!) and a great family outing! Then we rode bikes at the local park we found, and hubby sprung for ice cream (out of his allowance).

8/7 spending:
Tolls: $1.40
Peach Picking (incl. lunch): $33

This week should be busy...DD starts soccer practice tonight, the kids need haircuts at some point this week, and we're going to the shore on Friday for the weekend. I also have to pay a few bills (including a $10 parking ticket Frown) and get organized before we go. I'll keep you posted...

Friday Spending

August 6th, 2005 at 07:14 am

Let's see...I don't have my totals in front of me, so I'm doing this from memory:

Tolls $1.40
Breakfast $1.00
Lunch $3.50
Circuit City Gift Cards $200

Total August 5 spending: $205.90

That last one is one of those "don't absolutely need but would really like to have" items. Hubby has been wanting a TIVO for a few months now. We've been putting it off and putting it off due to our car troubles and other attempts to save money on unnecessary expenses. But with football season coming (we have DirectTV with the football package at an extra $180/year, so we may as well get the most out of it), he wants to be able to watch the games and hear it in surround sound. Anyway, he estimates that it will be about $200 between the receiver, cables, etc. I can get the gift cards for 20% off through Main Street Savings, and Circuit City has a promotion going on through Aug 14 where they will give you a gift card worth 10% of what you spend, over $99. So if the total is $200, I'll get a $20 gift card, for a total of $220 in gift cards, having only spent $160. Better not to have spent it at all, but it we have to, I'm happy to get $60 "free".

Off to run my errands today...

I love Fridays...

August 5th, 2005 at 09:32 am

Despite the hot water heater issue, I think I've had a pretty good week. I'm looking forward to a pretty cheap weekend, although I'll be spending some money today. We have nothing going on tonight, I'll be down at my dad's tomorrow to take care of his shopping and errands, then Sunday will be an at-home day. Bike riding in the park for the third weekend in a row, and peach picking at a local farm. I'll have to check out some good peach recipes...

I received my bonus $25 Target gift card for signing up with Main Street Savings (yeah, I signed up 3 months ago - they're pretty slow with these things but at least I have it!). I'm starting to accumulate a little stash of these cards which I intend to use as Christmas presents. My goal (has never happened before) is to have absolutely no Christmas spending on my credit card in January. That means I need to be done shopping by December 11, so they all end up on that month's bill.

Yesterday's spending: $58.02

Tolls $1.40
Breakfast $.92
Gas $36.00
Lunch $7.70 (out with boss)
Car Wash $12.00 (wanted to wash the car before I gave it to the neighbor)

Thoughts: There's definitely some waste here and there, but not as much as I expected. I think I'm confirming that my two biggest sources of waste are grocery shopping (duh) and buying things that I don't absolutely need to have but would like (more on that next time)...

Almost a no-spend day

August 4th, 2005 at 07:23 am

I ended up passing on the grocery store yesterday. The kids were in their bathing suits at Grandma's when I picked them up from work, so I just left them like that and went straight into the pool at home. I think I'll ask hubby to stop by and pick up ice cream on his way home (comes out of his allowance then), and I'll pick up the rest of what I need on Saturday when I do my normal shopping. So the only money I spent yesterday was for tolls on the way to work. (I really hate NJ toll roads...).

We're giving our old car (that kept breaking down and was finally fixed, but not quite right) to my MIL's neighbor. He has a 17-year-old son who will be going to a local college in September. Although we're not charging him for it (I didn't feel right given that he's still going to need to put $$ into it to make it run, we wouldn't have gotten anything on it as a trade-in, and he really helps MIL around the house quite a bit), I will be able to take it off of my insurance after this weekend. Of course the insurance on the new car is still a little more, but every bit helps.

For any of you who have Verizon Wireless, I just signed up for an offer they have where they will give you a one-time $20 credit if you set up auto bill pay from your checking account. I previously had auto bill pay to my credit card, so I cancelled that, then set it from checking. Supposedly, they'll credit you after the first payment they receive. (I'm not that confident in VW's administration, and I don't like the idea of them being able to debit my checking account, so I think I'll change back to credit card bill pay after rec'v the $20).

August 3 spending:
$1.40 tolls

Thoughts on this: I never have NO spend days, so this is pretty darn good...

That's it for now...

More hot water heater news...

August 3rd, 2005 at 08:34 am

So after getting the quote from our heating/ac guy, I called the gas company. They gave us a similar quote ($1049 or $1299 depending on which warranty we went with). So I guess it really is that expensive! We ended up calling the plumber. We're going to order the model he recommended, and it will be delivered on Tuesday. He'll come that day to put it in. The model is about $580, then we'll need to pay whatever his labor ends up being. The good news is that if we charge the water heater, it won't show up on the bill until September, so we can pay the plumber now and the heater later. That may make it doable without touching savings.

Today will be just work and a trip to the grocery store. I got most of what I needed last week, so I'm going to try to keep the bill under $20. I brought my breakfast to work Smile, so no money there. If I end up going for lunch, I'll try to make it something cheap...

As for day-to-day spending, so far pretty good. Here's the tally:

August 2 spending:
Jeweler $48.50 (unbudgeted)
CVS (RX) $19.99 (will be reimbursed through Flex spending)
Service call for hot water heater $45.00 (unavoidable)

Total $113.49

Thoughts on this: Wow, August 1st spending was $113.50. I hope this doesn't work out to be my average for the whole month!

It's always something...

August 2nd, 2005 at 09:23 am

I'm an optimist at heart. But it really stinks when things derail my progress. After having all of my car problems in July, and thinking they were behind me, I now need a hot water heater! We have had water in our basement for a few weeks, and finally got it checked out today. $45 for the house call to investigate the problem, then they offered to replace the hot water heater with the exact same model for, are you ready for this, $1160! I told them I'd call if I decided to go with them. In the meantime, I'm giving myself a quick education in hot water heaters online and trying to figure if we can get a better deal. We have a good relationship with a plumber that we use, so if I can find a good model relatively cheap, I don't think the labor will kill me. But either way, it seems like it will be another $750 or so...Frown I have no idea how old it is, because it was here when we moved in 10 years ago.

What a bummer. Today is my at home day. The kids and I will be hanging out in the pool later, then I need to pick up that bracelet that's been ready for weeks, and go to CVS to pick up two prescriptions that will be reimbursed by my FSA.

Final August 1 Spending:
Tolls $1.40
Parking/Ferry tickets $37.00
Bagel w/ cc $1.00
Stamps 1.11
Lunch $3.99
Dry Cleaner $24.00
Gas $45.00

Total: $113.50

Thoughts on this: Everything was budgeted for except the bagel, lunch, and stamps. I need to get motivated to bring food to work with me. Also, the price of gas is absolutely crazy! Oh well, back to looking at water heaters...

Excited for August...

August 1st, 2005 at 06:51 am

We had a great weekend. Went to the two parties on Saturday and the only money we spent was for gas. (Prices are insane and I didn't have my gas card with me). The gifts for the parties had long since been purchased, so I was able to just show up and enjoy myself.

On Sunday, my MIL came up, we went bike riding in the park with the kids and MIL paid for ice cream. I would have had a no-spend day, except that I ended up going grocery shopping. I figured it would be better to go alone while she and hubby kept the kids. I was right...I only spent $40 and that will be it for the week. Also, I'm cheating a bit because I want to start tracking every dime in August and since I went on July 31 it doesn't count Smile!

I pretty much charge everything I can (and pay it off at the end of the month), so I guess I'll list the charges when I incur them, not when I pay them off. So here we go:

August 1 spending:
Tolls $1.40
Parking/Ferry tickets $37.00
Bagel w/ cc $1.00

I'll update at the end of the day, because I still need to get allowance for the week, buy stamps, exchange currency for a trip hubby is taking, and go to the dry cleaners...