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Archive for October, 2005

Bad financial finish

October 31st, 2005 at 09:13 am

Not quite sure how things went downhill this month...it started off so well! I ended up having to fill one car over the weekend (long trip to my dad's) and I'll need to fill the other one on my way home from work today (still Oct. 31!). So that means my gas budget will be wayyyyy over. *sigh*. On the plus side, when I went shopping for Dad, I was able to pick up a few things I needed, so this week I should only need to get milk and bread.

Last night, we went to dinner with a friend of hubby's who was in town on business. On the one hand, we only see this guy once a year or so, so I can't feel too bad about going out with him. On the other hand, between dinner and the babysitter, I'm not sure it was worth it. To make me feel better, we're calling it our "anniversary" dinner (anniversary is Saturday, so we won't go out then). Just a beat way to finish up the month...

This week I'm swamped! We'll go trick-or-treating tonight, tomorrow I'm watching my friend's kids and DD has CCD, Wednesday is an after-school activity, Thursday I work late, Friday is DS's birthday party, Saturday is our anniversary and Sunday is DS's birthday. Whew! Somewhere in there, I also need to drop one of the cars for an oil change, get the kids haircuts (never got around to it this weekend), get the stuff for goody bags, buy his birthday present for us, ... Double whew. One day at a time...it's all you can do.

Not much going on

October 28th, 2005 at 06:59 am

Wow, I don't ususally go three days without posting...I guess that just shows how little I've got going on right now. I'm pretty much just waiting for the end of the month to wind down.

I went grocery shopping last night and spent ~$107, brought down to $91 with coupons, and $50 of that was for my dad, so I'll get reimbursed this weekend when I see him. $41 for me is not bad, though I do need to stop at the fruit/veggie store this afternoon. Still I've only spent $292.64 so far this month (budget $350), so even with another $20 or so, I'll make it Smile!

On the flip side, I went over on my gas budget. I was hoping to keep it under $300, and I'm already at $353.50, with 3 more days to go until the end of the month. My guess is that one of the cars will need to be filled up at some point during the weekend, bringing the total closer to $400 Frown. I don't know that there's much I can do about this, but I'll look at it and make whatever small changes I can.

We've got a lot going on this weekend. I desperately need to take the kids for haircuts today after school (and make appointments for their Christmas pictures). Tomorrow, DD has soccer, then they're going to Grandma's again for a sleepover. Hubby and I are going to our friend's house for dinner (and we only need to bring a bottle of wine, which we already have) so it should be a spend-free day. Sunday morning, I've got to go to my dad's house to finish his shopping, then we're going to a Halloween Party during the day. Tonight I'm making the mushroom-chorizo soup for hubby, then tomorrow I'm making a butternut squash soup for the party.

I also have to get a grip on benefits for next year. We get them through hubby, and the medical, dental, and eye care combined are *only* going up $6/month next year. I say only because I guess I expected it to be a lot more. I can't complain, though, because his benefits are great. Also, I have to tally up my dependent care and health care expenses for his FSAs. I think I can reduce the health care to about $50/month (from $75). The dependent care should drop from $5000 to $4500. The nice thing is that his company picks up 5% of our childcare costs, so they give us the full $4500, but only take out $4275 from his check.

One last item, and it was a surprise and a bummer: My town raised my property taxes by $750/year because of the room we finished over our garage. They assessed it at about $15,000. We owe $450 extra on November 1st, then $150 extra on Feb 1 and May 1. Big bummer. I was counting on using that money for some birthday/Christmas gifts. That brings our total property tax bill to just under $8500, and that's before the reassessment that they did for the whole town. (Haven't been notified about the hit we'll take on that). Blech Frown

A few bonuses

October 25th, 2005 at 05:46 pm

Today was a good money day...

First, we got the security deposit back. It was $750! Our contract stated that they would keep $25 as a "processing" fee, so I was only expecting $725, but we ended up getting the entire amount back. Wahoo. Then, I referred StressLess to Pioneer Telephone (Thanks!) and will get a $10 bonus after she signs up. Finally, I sold a children's Halloween book at half.com for a total of $2.78. The book was only $.99, with media mail shipping reimbursement of $1.94. But I was able to ship it priority mail for only $1.52, so I did that, and the customer should receive the book before Halloween. I'm hoping that this results in goodwill with her, so the next time she's online looking for children's books, she'll choose me over the other dozens and dozens listed. That's my problem with half.com...there are soooo many copies of the same book out there, all for the same or similar prices. How does a buyer choose? Do people find that they have a lot of repeat customers?

Spending today: $55 for gas. Ugh! It was only $2.59/gallon (the cheapest in months) but I was on fumes. Also, I took DS to lunch today for $15, but that comes out of my allowance. Tomorrow, the kids need haircuts desperately.

Soup for dinner

October 24th, 2005 at 02:13 pm

As expected, I did have a really quiet weekend. The kids went to Grandma's for a sleepover, and I made a great meal Saturday night. Then Sunday we pretty much hung around the house all day and watched football. (Plus another great meal, with leftovers!).

The only money I spent today was parking ($20), and food at work ($2.90). We were supposed to have soccer practice tonight from 5:30-7 but considering that 1) It gets dark at 6:15, 2) It's about 40 degrees out, 3) a Noreaster is supposed to hit any minute, 4) there are only two weeks left...you get the idea...we're blowing it off. It's primarily due to the weather and the fact that I don't need my kids getting sick.

I decided to make soup tonight for dinner. Hubby has a dinner meeting, so I figured this would be a good time to try out a new recipe. It's a mushroom-chorizo soup. If it's good I can have it tonight, if it's not good I have leftovers from yesterday. lol. If it's a keeper recipe, I'll figure out what the cost is per serving. I like that Retire@50's been doing this with some of her recipes, and I think it might help to get a better grip on my grocery bill. I think I mentioned a few entries back that I want to have a soup/salad night at least once each week (maybe twice). It can be so much cheaper than meat and I think it's such comfort food. I could eat soup every night in the fall/winter.

No other big money news today. I called the realtor regarding our security deposit from the house we rented in the beginning of the month ($725). She said it was mailed out on Friday, so I should have it tomorrow or Wednesday. This will go straight to our Christmas budget. That's it for now...

Edited to add: The soup is definitely a keeper! If you like mushrooms and chorizo sausage, that is. I'll tally up how much it is per serving and try it out on hubby later this week!

Big hit at BJs

October 22nd, 2005 at 02:04 pm

After weeks of putting it off, I finally hit BJs, to the tune of $134 ($20 to reimbursed by FSA)! I know I was talking about $50 last week, but as always it came in pretty high. I don't feel bad, though, for two reasons: First, I stocked up on things I needed, which should last me for a while, and 2) If I had to spend this much, better to do it this month while I'm pretty well within my budget of $350 for the month. (I need to tally the most recent figures).

Today, I did go to PNC bank. I opened up a completely free checking account with $25, walked out with a $10 Best Buy card, and a $25 BP card is on the way in 4-6 weeks. I'm not sure how long the account needs to stay open, but I'll probably keep it for at least 6 months...that seems to be the going time. I needed to go to that bank for my dad anyway, so it wasn't even out of my way. I thought $35 for 15 minutes work was not bad. (Plus, I'm hoping they do the same thing Chase did - offer a bonus in a few months to tack on a savings account!). I didn't make it to the other bank, or call Affinity. I'll shoot to take care of that this week.

Today is rainy and really cold. The kids played soccer in 45 degree weather with a steady mist. We were FREEZING! I hope they don't get sick! Looking forward to a quiet rest of the weekend...

Weekly recap

October 21st, 2005 at 08:33 am

So where am I? I think I'm in pretty good shape.

Thursday I did meet Sis for lunch ($30), along with parking for work ($20). Today, I unexpectedly had to go into the city for work, which means another $20 parking, and $1 spent already for a bagel. I'll shoot for a light lunch. After work, I'll hit BJs...I can't put it off any longer. Meanwhile, hubby is leaving work early to pick up the kids from school and take them to a birthday party (actually, only DD is invited, and hubby will need to entertain DS).

I received my $100 Sharebuilder bonus ($50 each for the 2 kids). That was a great deal. I have a number of accounts I need to open this weekend, including one at Oritani (an offer for $50-$60), and the offer at PNC (thanks StressLess) for $35 in gift cards. Additionally, I have an offer for another account at AffinityBank that I need to open online.

DD has soccer tomorrow (weather permitting - it's supposed to rain pretty hard), then the kids are going to Grandma's for a sleepover. Hubby and I talked about going out to dinner but decided to pass, make a great dinner at home, and relax. Much needed. I have nothing going on for Sunday either, so I'm looking forward to the weekend...

:( I'm Sick :(

October 19th, 2005 at 06:27 pm

I have such a head cold, it's incredible! I'm going to try to be in bed at 10:00 tonight and get a good night sleep.

Today was a low-spend day. I spent $1.63 for breakfast, and picked up invites for DS's birthday party ($7.65). Not too bad. I also used my debit card so I could get the match from BOA's Save Your Change promotion. I've been using it anytime something comes to an odd amount. In addition to the match, I won't be seeing it on a credit card bill next month, which will be nice. So far I'm up to about $1.50 in matched change. Not much yet, but it will add up quickly. Plus, that's just the match. They've also transferred $1.50 from my checking account, so I'm actually up $3, without really feeling it.

Tomorrow will be a bit expensive. I'm meeting sister for lunch in the city (always a fun time, but usually expensive). Fortunately we don't do it too often. That should be it. I'm also psyched that I haven't gone to the grocery store all week, and probably won't, though I still need to do that BJs run, probably Friday. That's about it. I need to go to bed before my head explodes!

Avoided Spending for Disorganization

October 18th, 2005 at 10:40 am

On Saturday, I had to go to the cell phone place to pick up a phone charger. Hubby and I have the same phone, so we have two, but he needed to take one on his trip and we couldn't find the other ANYWHERE! I need to have use of my phone, between commuting to work, picking up the kids, etc., so I bought one for $30!! I was so mad that my disorganization was costing me this much money that I turned the house upside down until I found the old one. I brought the new one back today, unopened, and got my money back. Phew!

Other spending today: gas ($50!), picture day at school ($36 - ugh) and $20 for babysitting tonight (my niece is coming over so I can go to back-to-school night). Wow, a more expensive day than I thought it would be. Hopefully I can make up for it over the next few days.

Gas and Groceries

October 17th, 2005 at 09:09 am

So far so good in October...To date, I've spent $170.43 on gas (budget $300) and $117.64 on groceries (budget $350). I'm a little concerned about the gas total, because I'll need to fill up a few times between now and the end of the month, so the $300 may be tight. I should be ok with groceries. It's kind of deceiving, because we were on vacation the first week of the month, and didn't spend much partly because we ate out more than usual, and hubby is away this week, which means I eat whatever's in the house. But if I come in under $350, I'll take it no matter what the reasons!

Low spend day today. I spent about $2 for breakfast at work (no lunch), and I need to go to CVS to pick up a prescription that will be reimbursed. At some point, I also need to pickup invitations for DS's birthday party. Other than that, no spending...

What happened to my last entry?

October 16th, 2005 at 12:29 pm

I know I'm losing my mind, but this makes it official! I wrote an entry on Friday and lost it. Oh well, the long and short of it was that I got caught coming home from work on a flooded highway, was late picking the kids up from school and was in a total panic. But I'm over myself now.

Financially, I had a good few days. Friday was no spend...I managed to avoid having breakfast and lunch at work, which is pretty good for me. Saturday, I picked up some dry cleaning and $3.90 at the grocery store (+.10 match from BOA for using my debit card!). Hubby paid for pizza when my brother and his family came over, so I'll need to reimburse him. Today has not only been no-spend, I haven't set foot outside the house. Hubby left early this morning for his trip, so it's just me and the kids for now. My sister is coming to stay the night so she can take the kids to school (I go to work early on Mondays).

I'm rereading 2 of my frugal books...Living on a Shoestring and PennyPinching. I've read them both several times, but not for a while. I need to go through them again and pull out any useful tips I haven't done already. That's about it for today...

Boring money days

October 13th, 2005 at 08:38 am

The weather has been horrible. It has been raining, damp, and cold since Saturday, with no end for another couple of days. Blah. We had to turn on the heat in the house, because the highs have not been getting much out of the 50s, but we have been keeping the thermostat at 65. One thing I need to do is program the thermostats, to keep it at 65 when we're home, and drop it to 60 when we're away. Every little bit helps...

I have had relatively low-spend days. Wednesday included tolls ($1.40), lunch ($3.90), and $25 to the town's rec program for a class for DD. Today should be tolls ($1.40), parking ($20), and lunch.

We've got a pretty quiet week to look forward to. Nothing Friday, then soccer and a birthday party Saturday (gift already paid for), then on Sunday, hubby leaves for a business trip for the week. I do need to go to BJs at some point to pick up a few things, but I'm hoping to keep the trip under $50. We'll see how it goes...

Errand Day

October 11th, 2005 at 06:01 pm

I feel like I got a lot accomplished today. DS had a swimming lesson this morning, we booked his birthday party, I dropped clothes at the dry cleaner and I went to Chase to deposit $25 to my savings account to get above the minimum required to avoid the $4 fee (which I got hit with last month Frown). The heating guy came over to do the annual check and everything's fine.

I also went to Bank of America and signed up for their "Keep the Change" program. I mentioned this in one of the forum threads. If you sign up for the program and use your debit card, they round up to the next dollar amount and deduct that from your checking account, and sweep the difference to your savings account. For the first 3 months, they'll match what they sweep 100%. After that, they match 5%, up to $250/year. I'm not a big debit card user, but I figured I might as well sign up (it's free), and whatever I can get from it is gravy. So when I went to the produce store and spent $7.67, I used the debit card. Total made so far: $.33.

So it's b een a good, relatively low spend day. Tomorrow's my first day back at work since I left for vacation on September 30. I really don't want to go. My vacation was a success in that it seems like forever since I've been at the office, yet that makes it all the tougher to go back. Oh well...

Love triple coupons!!!

October 10th, 2005 at 08:53 am

For some reason, my ShopRite has been running triple coupons up to $.99 a few times over the last month. My philosophy on coupons is that if there is even the slightest potential that I might use an item, I clip the coupn and keep it in my coupon envelope. Then once a week I go through the envelope and throw out any that have expired. I usually throw out most, but when triple coupons rolls around, they're gold. I ended up with an $89.84 grocery bill that was reduced to just under $59.64, got a ton of stuff for free or near free (toothbrushes, deoderant) and got a bunch of other stuff I normally buy for so much less than normal (yogurt, waffles). I was so excited when I got home...it really made my day. I also picked up the dry cleaning ($35) and went to Church, and enjoyed the rest of the day at home.

I'm on a pretty good roll today, too. I'm off for Columbus day, along with DS. I called a company and got a $32 credit for some stuff I ordered that was never delivered (rotten customer service). I'm actually happy because we didn't need the stuff anyway; I was sucked in by DS and DD. I also caught up on all my paperwork, filing, bill paying, etc. In addition to the credit, I received a $4.91 deposit from half.com, and a $5 credit from Citibank for going all-electronic. (I just signed up for this from Bank of America, too, and should be receiving $5 by the middle of December). I'm going to keep better track of my mail over the next month or two and try to go electronic as much as possible. Less clutter for me, and if I can get $5 to make my life simpler, why not?

I haven't turned on the heat yet, despite the house going down as low as 64. (I'm a baby and usually like it 72!). But I put all the flannel sheets and blankets on the bed, and everyone's flannel pjs are washed and ready to go, along with bathrobes and slippers. (HINT HINT for the kids and hubby!). It hasn't been so bad at all. I want to see how long I can hold out, because the highs for the next few days are only supposed to be around 60, and it will be raining and damp, which always makes it feel colder. When I finally do give in, I think I'll set the thermostat at 65 and see how it goes.

So October is looking a lot better for me than the last few months. Two weeks in, grocery ($118) and gas (79.18) totals are under budget and the month is flying by. Looking forward to a great rest of the day...

In a great place

October 8th, 2005 at 05:57 pm

Man, did I have a great vacation. It was exactly what the doctor (would have) ordered! We went to the Jersey Shore and had the most incredible weather I have ever seen the first week of October! Highs were 75-80, lows in the low 60s, no rain until Thursday, and the ocean was 71 degrees! We managed to get to the beach, and the kids got in the water, every single day! We were also close to a park that we went to every day but one. And because it was "off-season", there was nobody there!!! We looked up and down the beach, and aside from a few surfers, and some regulars, we were it! I thought we might have a few overnight guests during the course of the week, but that didn't pan out, which was fine, because it meant more downtime for the four of us. My sister and her boyfriend were staying at another house close by, so we did manage to get together with them twice for dinner. All in all an amazing, relaxing, fun family vacation.

And the best part, I came back today in an absolute downpour. It's supposed to rain all weekend and be cold next week, so I definitely picked the right week to go!

As expected, I did pretty well financially down there. We ate out more than I anticipated. I don't have the exact totals yet, but I think dining out/takeout was about $200. Groceries for the week totalled about $50. And we bought gas (and of course, NJ tolls!). Not too bad for a week away.

We finished off the vacation mode tonight by going to a burger place for dinner, and picking up the kids' Halloween costumes. I saw the lead story when you first get on this site about the amount people spend on Halloween and I believe it; the store was packed!

Tomorrow, hubby is taking the kids to his mom's for the day, so I have a day completely to myself! I need to get some groceries for the week, as well as to pick up dry cleaning, but that should be it. I'm off on Monday for Columbus Day, and Tuesday is my normal at home day, so I plan on tackling some things on my to-do list.

Another thing that has put me in a good mood: I realized that I have a couple of sources of "income" I forgot about: 1) NJ is direct-depositing a $300 property tax rebate in my account (small potatoes compared to the $7700+ I pay in prop. tax each year, but I'll take it!), 2) We put down a $750 security deposit on the house we rented last week. (We did this in June so I completely forgot about it). They take a $25 fee out for their troubles, but I should get the rest back in a few weeks. 3) Finally, we got a TIVO recorder at Circuit City last month (using my discounted gift cards) for $100. Direct TV was giving away a $100 rebate if you bought it. I finally got the forms from them right before I went on vacation, so I'll be filling them out this weekend, and hopefully getting the rebate in 4-6 weeks. So that adds up to about $1100 that I forgot about/already paid, etc., and will be treated like found money! It will go a long way toward our 4th quarter expenses, including both kids' birthdays, Christmas, car insurance, etc.

Hoping this good feeling lasts...