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Archive for April, 2006

Things are looking up!

April 29th, 2006 at 08:36 am

I fell asleep on the couch last night at 9:45! This almost never happens...I'm more the 11:45 type. I needed it because I was absolutely exhausted, but I woke up refreshed this morning and things are looking up!

I'm going to a Communion tomorrow and hadn't yet gotten a gift. I was planning on getting a piece of jewelry. Money is usually the norm for these things, but the people are LOADED, so I felt wierd giving that. Anyway, a friend who is also going said she was stopping at the jewelry store to get a pair of earrings for the girl. She offered to pick me up a matching bracelet, I told her my budget and it was done! Crossed off my list without leaving the house. (She even offered to wrap it, but I thought that would be taking advantage!). So one thing done.

Then I asked hubby to take DD (and DS) to her softball game today. That will allow me to get out of the house at 1:00 instead of 3:00, which will let me return stuff to 2 stores, take care of Dad's shopping, and run some errands of my own.

Did manage to run the numbers for the end of the month and my net worth increased 1.96% last month, which is awesome considering that I had to take $8000 out of savings to cover the tax bill. Reminds me that we're doing ok, even though I feel like we're struggling. Especially with property taxes due 5/1.

On the challenge front, I received my March Walgreens rebate, which will add $6.30 to the challenge account. I'm also ready to send out April Eckerds and April Walgreens rebates. Also subtracting the $.90 it cost to mail the half.com book.

So all is good in MJRUBE94-land. Hope everyone is having a good weekend...

New Total: $830.64/$2000

Outstanding items: $100 (Citi bonus 1), $100 (Citi bonus 2), $2 (Chandon rebate), $5 (GG Rebate), half.com ($?), $10 gas voucher (Jan-Mar), IDT Phone card(s)(?), $20 BBB gc, $8 Tostitos rebate, 4.00 (Mar Walgreens), $.25 (Mar Eckerd)

Electric Progress!

April 28th, 2006 at 01:34 pm

Always a silver lining in the darkest of months...I went online for my electric bill today. Usage over the month decreased from 695 kwh to 649, for a decrease of 6.6% (YEA!). I'm on the budget billing plan, so my monthly payment is the same, but the credit in my favor went from $188.61 to $262.99. Storing up for A/C season. Also, I think this is the last month I have to pay on the overage from last year (they spread it over 6 months) so my next bill should be lower. It's great to have some good news.

This is going to be a busy weekend. In addition to getting my house in order, I need to buy a Communion gift, return some clothes, grocery shop for dad, and take care of some things on the old to-do list. I suppose I should get started...

Bracing for the end of the month

April 25th, 2006 at 06:40 pm

My 4/28 paystub will be online tomorrow, so I should be able to close out the books for April. Dread is not the word! I know we'll be over budget due to the tax bill (along with some discretionary spending that went overboard), the question is how much I'll need to take from savings to get the checking account back to the minimum we keep it at.

As an aside, it's amazing how fast the IRS cashes your check when you owe them (5 days), but how long it takes to get a refund (NYS). The kicker is that my company offers free electronic filing and I didn't take advantage of it. (Not sure why)...

Nothing new on the challenge front. I NEED to mail out the book for half.com (tomorrow's the due date). I'll take care of that on my way to work.

Groceries and Gas

April 24th, 2006 at 06:59 pm

I just went through my totals so far for groceries and gas this month. Good news: I've spent $429.70 so far, plus another $35 or so that hasn't hit my credit card yet. I'll definitely come in under my $500 goal, because I won't need to go the rest of the month.

We've also spent $263.26 on gas out of a $300 budget (stretch) or $350 (reasonable). I know hubby filled up one of the cars for about $40, and I filled one up for close to $50. I don't think either of those hit yet, which will put me right at the $350 mark. I think the cars are still pretty full, but there's alot of week left. I'm guessing one will need to be filled again before the end of the month.

I need to return some clothes/sneakers I bought for DS that don't fit, as well as pick up some gifts for Communions we have coming up. The first one is Sunday, so I need to take care of this over the next few days.

Updates to my challenge: I received the $20 Lowes cards and the $20 CC cards in the mail today, so I'm adding $40 to my challenge. We're also having a Cinco de Mayo party, so I picked up 2 bags of chips + 2 jars of salsa. They're on sale at ShopRite for $10 (2/$5 each), and they have an $8 MIR. However, I had $2.10 worth of coupons so they'll be FREE FOR ME! Boy are they going to taste even better with my margarita!

New Total: $825.24/$2000

Outstanding items: $100 (Citi bonus 1), $100 (Citi bonus 2), $2 (Chandon rebate), $5 (GG Rebate), Walgreens Mar (6.30), half.com ($?), $10 gas voucher (Jan-Mar), IDT Phone card(s)(?), $20 BBB gc, $8 Tostitos rebate.

RiteAid Rebate

April 23rd, 2006 at 08:00 am

I received the March RiteAid rebate. $33.75, of which $3.75 goes into the challenge account. Also, I signed up for another trial, and will add the $20 BBB gift card to the outstanding items.

New Total: $785.24/$2000

Outstanding items: $100 (Citi bonus 1), $100 (Citi bonus 2), $2 (Chandon rebate), $5 (GG Rebate), Walgreens Mar (6.30), half.com ($?), $20 Lowes gc, $20 CC gc, $10 gas voucher (Jan-Mar), IDT Phone card(s)(?), $20 BBB gc

Cranky kids

April 21st, 2006 at 02:15 pm

Boy are my kids wiped by the end of the week! DD has been such a crankpot since she came home from school and NOTHING is making her happy. I hate days like this...it makes me fear her preteen/teen years! My son is happy but exhausted (just like mom).

Made some more progress on the challenge front. I received the $20 Barnes & Noble gift cards from a trial membership, I got the $50 bonus from Valley National, and half.com deposited the $15.65, so I'll add another $85.65 to my total. I also sold another book on half.com (Feast or famine I tell you), for $2 plus shipping reimbursement minus actual shipping costs. I'll update the total when I mail out the book.

New Total: $781.49/$2000

Outstanding items: $100 (Citi bonus 1), $100 (Citi bonus 2), $2 (Chandon rebate), $5 (GG Rebate), Walgreens Mar (6.30), RiteAid Mar (6.50), half.com ($?), $20 Lowes gc, $20 CC gc, $10 gas voucher (Jan-Mar), IDT Phone card(s) (?)

Free Sample

April 20th, 2006 at 07:01 pm

Proctor and Gamble comes through! I received a free sample of Tide liquid with Febreze (it says one use, but I'm sure I can split it for two), and 2 Bounce dryer sheets with Febreze. It made me think of the post in the forum where people commented on how many freebies they actually receive. I don't keep track (too tedious) so maybe I forget alot of them, but it seems like they all make their way to my house eventually.

Not doing a great job curbing the dining out bug. The kids wanted to go to TGIF's and I relented. I'm trying to avoid buyer's remorse because I love going there with them, but not when I'm trying to cut back.

On the way home I filled up the car (SUV) with gas. $2.75/gallon for regular for a total of $53.00! Ouch. Certainly trips like this one could have been avoided, but for the most part, our trips are required (commuting and the like). I'm getting good mileage (no pun intended) from the Shell credit card, so that helps. Also, hubby has travelled a bit more than usual this month, so he hasn't been driving that much. I also have a few work at home/vacation days lined up over the next month. I'm hoping the grand total at the end of the month won't be too much over budget. (Retire@50, if you're still looking to swap cards, I'm definitely into it!).

The weekend should be quiet. We have nothing planned for tomorrow. Softball game Saturday morning followed by a sleepover at grandma's for the kids, while we go to a friend's house for dinner. (No out of pocket; we just need to bring a bottle of wine). Then Sunday, DD has a birthday party but we already have the gift so again, no money out of pocket. Love days like that...

Valley National Bank

April 19th, 2006 at 07:20 pm

I can't believe how much I got done today! Went to the bank, 2 grocery stores, BJs, CVS, and the new bank to open my account. I also did a load of laundry, ran the dishwasher, made Rice Krispy treats, and a ham soup with the leftover ham bone from Easter. (And it came out pretty well, if I say so myself)! This is in addition to spending an hour at the park, and DD's softball practice for 2 hours. I'm about to pass out!

The big news today was opening the new bank account. Anybody who's read through my posts knows how much I rave about Affinity Bank in California. Well, for those of us in Northern NJ/Manhattan, Valley National Bank is a close second. I opened savings accounts for the kids last fall. They'll match up to the first $10 the kids deposit, which I thought was cool. And even though their savings rate is paltry, I like the idea of having a brick and mortar place the kids can visit to deposit their money.

So they're running a promotion through the end of the month where they'll give you $50 for opening a free checking account. No minimum required to open the account, no minimum balance, no fees, no nothing. And the $50 will be credited to my account tomorrow. (I need to leave the account open for a minimum of 6 months). One of the bummers associated with these bank deals is that you need to wait for them to credit you the bonus, sometimes follow up, etc. Can't beat having it in hand the next day. LOVE this bank...

Off to bed...

Accelerated Challenge

April 18th, 2006 at 08:00 am

I was planning on saving my challenge money for a return trip to California wine country in November. However, we're now going with another couple we're friends with, and we need to do it over the summer (late July/early August) due to the kids' school schedules. So while I'm excited about going with this other couple, I need to pick up the pace with regard to the challenge.

With that in mind, I'm opening another bank account tomorrow. I was planning to do this in March but was too disorganized and needed to take a break. However, the bank extended the deal. $50, no minimum, no direct deposit needed. Can't pass it up.

I also got an email from a website called www.onsaletag.com, where you can sell books, cds, dvds, etc. Never heard of it before, but I'll check it out tonight and see how it works. I'm still a bit concerned about ebookdrop, so if I could find a viable alternative, all the better. Has anyone heard of this website?

Edited to add: Ok, I checked this site out. It looks like they're trying to compete with half.com, in that they don't buy or sell, they just act like the middlemen. However, (this may sound snooty or elitist - I don't mean it to be), the grammar on this website is so bad that I can't believe the site is for real. I can't believe that someone trying to promote their business would allow it. It's unreadable! So I think I'll pass, at least until I hear more about it...

In the meantime, I have a few updates to make to my challenge total. I need to subtract out $5.58 to cover the cost of mailing the half.com books. I need to add in the $2.20 from Eckerd's March rebates, and add a few more things to the outstanding list. So it now looks like this:

New Total: $695.84/$2000

Outstanding items: $100 (Citi bonus 1), $100 (Citi bonus 2), $2 (Chandon rebate), $5 (GG Rebate), Walgreens Mar (6.30), RiteAid Mar (6.50), half.com ($15.65), $20 Lowes gc, $20 CC gc, $10 gas voucher (Jan-Mar), IDT Phone card(s) (?)

I definitely need to think of some more ways to boost this up!

50/30/20

April 18th, 2006 at 07:39 am

I was reading others' entries about the 50/30/20 system. Mine came to 58% needs, 20% wants, and 22% savings. Although the 58 and 20 are a bit off, I'm not too concerned because a few of the categories could go either way. (For example, I need groceries, but some of the groceries are wants). Interesting exercise.

I have a few things leftover from my list last week that I'd like to tackle today or tomorrow. Specifically, I need to close a savings account, go to the grocery store and pick up dry cleaning.

It should be a quiet rest of the week. Hubby's travelling through Friday, so it's just me and the kiddies...


Easter Leftovers

April 17th, 2006 at 06:28 am

I hope everyone had a great Easter. We were at MIL's...big spread, far more than I prefer. (I'm Irish and hubby's Italian. Even after 11 years of marriage I've never gotten used to all the food that's served, eaten and wasted on holidays!)

Anyway, after gorging ourselves all day, we came home with plenty of leftovers: lamb to have tonight for dinner, coldcuts and other pickings from the antipasto, and about 20 pieces of spiral ham, plus the bone. I'm thinking of making some sort of soup with this, but I need a recipe...So I'll be eating all week.

On the money front, I received the $35 Office Max rebate from the shredder. I was sweating this out because I think Office Max is going out of business so I didn't think I'd get it. I also got a $5 Eckerd card as part of their monthly rebates. Neither of these is going to my challenge, because I wouldn't have bought the stuff without the rebates, but it's still money in my account!

I mailed out the 2 half.com books this weekeng. Spent $4.08 on postage. I have to check my account to see how much is coming back.

Other than that, busy at work, busy at home...Have a great day everyone.

Making Progress

April 15th, 2006 at 07:29 am

I finally got my act together and started making a dent on my list:

1) I photocopied and signed our taxes, and will drop them at the post office today.
2) I closed one checking account and will close the savings account on Monday.
3) Completed the form for hubby's mail order RX and will drop that in the mail with the taxes.
4) Called the heating/ac company about our service contract. It went up 33% from last year. Price hadn't changed for many years, so they went through all their contracts and reset the prices. Still worth it.
5) Signed me and dad up for the IDT class action lawsuit.

I still need to sign up for MyPoints Insider Club.

I have a bunch of errands to do today, including grocery store, dry cleaner, bank, laundry, cleaning, etc. Luckily we didn't have much planned for today.

On the challenge front, I sold 2 more books at half.com, and I need to add the $10 gas voucher to my list of outstanding items...

Got the Barber coupons!

April 13th, 2006 at 02:37 pm

So I got the $10 worth of Barber coupons in the mail today. That's great, because I buy these for dad all the time and will have no problem using them up.

I also received the $15 in gas vouchers from PNC. It's so annoying...they give you three coupons for $5 each, one for the next three quarters. So now instead of submitting it and being done with them, I have to keep track of them for the rest of the year! I won't add that into my total until I get each check.

I also have $40 of gas vouchers from the Auto Advantage membership. I wasn't going to bother with them, because I cancelled the membership and didn't think I'd get them. However, I did receive a $10 check for groceries from another membership even though I cancelled, so it may be worth the cost of the stamp to submit it.

Finally, I didn't think about doing this before I sent the coupon train on, but next time I get it, I'm going to keep track of the coupons I take and use. Anything I save above and beyond the postage to send the train back out should go to my challenge. I should be putting all grocery savings in there, but am not that disciplined...

Almost forgot...Found $1 on the way home from work and signed up for 2 more memberships.

New Total: $699.22/$2000

Outstanding items: $100 (Citi bonus 1), $100 (Citi bonus 2), $2 (Chandon rebate), $5 (GG Rebate), $15 gas vouchers (PNC), $2.20 (Eckerd March), Walgreens Mar (6.30), RiteAid Mar (6.50), half.com (?), $20 Lowes gc, $20 CC gc

Crazy week

April 13th, 2006 at 08:16 am

Is it ever not a crazy week? I don't think I've ever started an entry with "Gee, I have absolutely nothing going on and it's great!" At least it's all good...

DD has been off from school this week, so that meant a bit more juggling of the schedules than normal, especially now that I'm working every day. Also, with hubby's birthday tomorrow, and Easter on Sunday (thankfully MIL is cooking), and of course taxes due - don't forget about taxes due - things are just nuts!

Next week hubby is travelling Tuesday through Friday. Sometimes that makes things more crazy because I have to juggle everything myself, but on the other hand, I'm hoping it will give me time to finally get organized (like I've been talking about for the last few weeks but haven't gotten around to).

So here are my goals for the week:
1) Sign taxes and get them in the mail by Monday.
2) Close one checking account and one savings account
3) Put in hubby's mail order RX, which will save us $100/year once I actually get around to doing it!
4) Sign up for IDT class action lawsuit
5) Sign up for MyPoints Insider Club
6) Call Heating/AC company to find out why our service contract doubled

The kicker is that none of these things takes more than a few minutes and I just haven't gotten to them. Now's the time!

Also, (totally unrelated), it seems like there are a lot of new people blogging, and I think it's great! I really look forward to reading everyone's entries...

Challenge Update

April 11th, 2006 at 08:15 am

WooHoo! I received two unexpected checks in the mail. The first was $10, for a voucher I sent in for one of those trial memberships. (I cancelled the membership and never thought I would see the $10!). The second was a $5 rebate from Amazon for something I bought for Christmas. I threw out the packing slip needed to redeem the rebate, but sent in the form with a nice little note about how I didn't have the slip, but had the UPC code...it took so long that I didn't think they'd honor it but they did. Yay!

In other challenge news, I received an email from IDT. A few years back, I had their unlimited everything service for $40. (Also referred my dad). Apparently they were charging customers for the gov't surcharge, but not forwarding the money onto the gov't. So a class action suit was filed. Depending on when you were a customer, you get either a $15 or $25 paid phone card. I'll file the claim for me and my dad. It won't be resolved until July-August, but it's something to look forward to!

New Total: $688.22/$2000

Outstanding items: $100 (Citi bonus 1), $100 (Citi bonus 2), $2 (Chandon rebate), $5 (GG Rebate), $10 (Barber coupons), $15 gas vouchers (PNC), $2.20 (Eckerd March), Walgreens Mar (6.30), RiteAid Mar (6.50), half.com (?)

March recap / property tax woes

April 8th, 2006 at 11:49 am

I know, I know...it's April 9th, but I've been avoiding doing my March recap because it was a sub-par month. A few things put me over the top: We spent $509 on gas for the cars! I've been shooting to spend $300. I did great with this in February, so I expected March to be a little higher. Add in the trip to NC (~1150 miles round trip), and that added another $100+ to the bill. Better luck this month.

We also spent almost $400 eating out. We were shooting for $260 ($100 regular + a dinner for $160 that we planned for. The rest was totally unbudgeted.

On the plus side, I finally cancelled AOL ($17.95/mth) now that I have cable internet.

I'll learn a lot more about my financial picture this month. Hubby's raise takes effect this month, and he'll get a small bonus. We need to drop his withholding to zero, plus put $200/month into an account for estimated taxes. Also, our town did a revaluation and our property taxes are going up in August. We currently pay around $7700/year, and after the calculation the town gave us to estimate the new amount, it comes to about $9700. So that means an extra $175/month to that account. Fortunately, this is the last month I need to pay for DS's preschool, which will free up $655/month to cover these new outlays. Curious to see where it all ends up.

I'm looking forward to getting my coupon train...this was a good week for coupons! Other than that, I need to (finally) mail out the taxes and file some stuff!

Energy Savings

April 7th, 2006 at 06:23 pm

A few weeks ago I wrote about an energy saving kit being offered to NJ gas customers for $5. I got it today. It included weather stripping, low flow shower heads and faucet aerators, and outlet cover insulators. It also came with two cards with energy and water savings info. Some of the tips on the cards are basic, but others I didn't know, so I figured I'd pass them along. Check out www.niagaraconservation.com for more info.

One of the things I liked was the listing of kwh used by many appliances, which I didn't know and I'm going to start paying attention to:

Dishwasher- 30kWh w/drying cycle, 20 w/o
Oven 350 degrees for 1 hour- 60 kWh
Microwave Oven - 16-40 kWh
Toaster- 4-12 kWh
Coffee Maker- 12kWh
Washing Machine (5 loads/wk) - 7 kWh
Dryer (5 loads/wk) - 100 kWh
Radio (3hrs/day) - 9 kWh
Television 23-25" (4 hrs/day) - 20 kWh
VCR/DVD - 5 kWh
PC Desktop/Monitor - 10 kWh
Ceiling fan - 18 kWh
Central Air (750 hrs/yr) - 2,250 kWh/yr
Water Heater (family of 4) - 250-400 kWh
Refrig (17cu ft,frost free,10 hrs/day) - 150

My goal for the weekend is to check my electric bill to see what I'm being charged for a kWh to get a sense for home much $$ each of these things is costing me. Then I can figure out where best to direct my efforts. (Line Drying clothes looks like a frontrunner already!).

A few other little known (to me) facts:
*You can cut your water heating bills in half by using low-flow aerating showerheads and faucets.
*Use task lighting. Instead of lighting an entire room, focus light where you need it.
*An outdoor central air conditioner unit operating in the shade can use 10% less electricity than if in the sun. (Ours are...not sure how you'd move them if they weren't)

Interesting stuff...I'm looking forward to looking into this further to try and cut down my bill...

March Challenge Update

April 4th, 2006 at 08:54 am

The challenge is 1/4 over, so I tallied everything up to see how I'm doing.

Bank Bonuses ($900) - So far I've received $175, with another $200 outstanding. I didn't do a new one in March and probably won't in April. Instead, I'm cleaning up some accounts to get myself organized.

Books ($360) - Ebook finally came through with all of their payments. My new total in this category is $136.33. Half.com alone won't be enough to reach my goal of $360, so I think I'll try ebook again, though cautiously.

Rebates ($120) - I've received $89 so far, so I'll easily surpass this goal. I'm pleasantly surprised at how well this category is working for me.

Recycling ($100) - $1.95 so far. Should I even bother listing it anymore?

Other ($520) - $226.93 so far. The gift cards from the trial memberships really boosted this total.

Daily Savings - $69.01 - I added this category last month and don't really have a target. The key is actually transferring the money I save when using coupons, forgoing something, etc.

New Total: $673.22/$2000

Outstanding items: $100 (Citi bonus 1), $100 (Citi bonus 2), $2 (Chandon rebate), $5 (GG Rebate), $10 (Barber coupons), $15 gas vouchers (PNC), $2.20 (Eckerd March), Walgreens Mar (?), RiteAid Mar (?), half.com (?)

I was duped! :)

April 2nd, 2006 at 10:18 am

I'm glad to see I was the victim of an April Fool's joke. (I need to wake up before I jump on this site...it didn't even occur to me that it wasn't real). Anyway, so glad to see that the site's not going anywhere!

I still need to finish up tracking March's spending. I did calculate our net worth, and it went up 5% last month, so that was good news. It helps me remember that even though I feel like a pauper sometimes, it's worth it to boost up our 401(k) and (slowly) pay down our debts.

April didn't start off real well financially. I went shopping to buy myself some clothes and shoes for work, and spent most of my budget for the year! (yikes). I don't really know what to expect for April, because hubby gets his raise and (small) bonus, and we have to change our withholding so they take out more tax, which will definitely impact take home pay. But it's a bullet we need to bite, in order to get our act straight.

So that's about it for now. Glad everyone is sticking around for a while...

Wow, that's big news

April 1st, 2006 at 05:06 am

I have really mixed feelings about the news that the site was sold. Of course I'm thrilled for Jeffrey and Nate, because they deserve to be rewarded for all of their hard work. At the same time, I'm curious to see what the changes will mean to us. I feel like I've really gotten to know a few of the posters well over the last year or so, and would hate to lose that support network if we're all forced to go our own way if the site changes too drastically. I don't know if I could support a site who's main focus is on payday loans...

Several people have mentioned that they visit more than just this site. Has anyone found one they could recommend in case this changes too much? I love the combination of the blogging and the forums, and haven't come across anything else like it. Wow...