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Archive for May, 2006

Grocery Shopping

May 27th, 2006 at 06:11 am

I went to ShopRite last night to do my BIG shopping trip. I had a 30% off certificate, and a mound of coupons. I spent the whole week before planning this trip to get the best deals. End result: $342 of groceries for $190...a savings of $150! There were definitely some treats thrown in there that I only bought because of the discount/coupon but most of it was stocking up on non-perishables. $28 of the savings is due to the coupon train, so thanks again, Flash, for setting them up.

I'm going to try to limit June groceries to milk, bread, fruit and veggies, since I've stocked up on everything else!

Today will be busy...I need to go to the post office to mail half.com books and the coupon train. (I made another half sale yesterday, for $1.00). I also need to pick up clothes from the dry cleaner and go to the bank. I got a nice surprise yesterday...my brother paid back the balance of what he owed me. It was one of those situations where I never expected to see the money again, so it's like a treat to have it back!

So that's it for today...looking forward to a great rest of the weekend!

New coupon train savings total: 38.08

$120 and 3 hours

May 26th, 2006 at 07:02 am

That's what it took to get my car back. First thing Thursday morning, hubby went to DMV to renew the registration ($48.50). After we dropped the kids at school, we went to the police station in Newark to show them the new registration and get our car released. Then, we had to drive to the towing company in Jersey city to actually pick up the car. I don't know how many of you are familiar with North Jersey, but what is literally a 5-10 mile trip took about 45 minutes! The towing company charged us $120.

Here are my thoughts after this ordeal:
1) Thanks, everyone who posted comments of support...I was happy to read them all!
2) Hubby and I took this a lot better than I thought we would. We were patient, and not too stressed. We were resigned to the fact that it was our fault and there was nothing we could do but make lemonade out of lemons. At least we got a few hours of quality time together...
3) I'm fortunate to have a job where I don't "punch a clock" and a boss who's flexible. Hubby's job is the same. I think that's why we were able to keep a cool head.
4) Finally, I have now put reminders in my calendar to register the cars when they come due. Hopefully I can learn from this...

Other than that, I cancelled the last of my trial memberships today. I have offers through mypoints for two more, but I think I'm going to pass for now. I'm trial-membershipped out. I am pleased with the way they worked, though. Definitely worth it.

Back to Earth :(

May 24th, 2006 at 02:38 pm

And in a big way! My car was towed today! Apparently the registration expired in DECEMBER 05, and I never renewed it. The transit police were doing a random check in the parking lot where I parked, ran a check of the plates and towed it. So now I need to renew the registration first thing tomorrow, then go to Newark to recover the car. I have no idea how much it's going to cost, because their offices are only open 8-4, and it doesn't say on the website or the phone message. Sigh...

GREAT Day

May 23rd, 2006 at 07:32 pm

I'm reaping more rewards from my new commute. Tonight I checked out the parking situation at the station which would give me the absolute best deal. I drove into the brand new parking lot, plenty of spaces, clean and well lit. When I went to the ticket machine to see how one goes about paying for the parking, I saw several big signs that parking is FREE until September 1st! It doesn't get any better than this! I will be heading there tomorrow morning, and $10 more to my challenge account for today.

Sold 2 books at half.com for a total of $4.50. It usually costs me less to ship than they reimburse me; I'll update the total when I actually ship them out.

Also on the challenge front, Chase emailed me to say that they're so glad I opened an account with them a few months ago, wouldn't I like to consider opening a second checking account with them, for a bonus of $75? Well sure, I'd love to! I have until mid-June to get it done, so I'll tackle it sometime over the next few weeks.

Still need to take care of some financial housekeeping. My problem is that by the time I think of it, it's usually too late in the day.

New Total: $895.37/$2000

Outstanding items: $100 (Citi bonus 1), $100 (Citi bonus 2), $2 (Chandon rebate), $10 gas voucher (Jan-Mar), IDT Phone card(s)(?), $8 Tostitos rebate, 4.00 (Apr Walgreens), $.25 (Apr Eckerd), $5 (PNC gas voucher), $10 EV gas voucher, $30 Sprint phone card, ??(half.com)

Coupon Train Savings Total: $10.08

Am I cycnical or what?

May 22nd, 2006 at 03:35 pm

I opened a bank account last month to get the $50 bonus. I received my first statement today and it had a $12 maintenance fee listed! I called up and explained that the account I signed up for was free everything, no fees. The rep agreed and said she would put through a credit right away. But I hung up wondering if they make this "mistake" on purpose, knowing that some (many?) people really don't pay close attention to the fees and don't challenge them. $12/month is highway robbery!

I had a great weekend shopping! I'm adding $10.63 to my challenge for coupon-train coupons and rebates that I used, and another $10 to my challenge for using my new commute today. I'm also gearing up for my big grocery trip later this week.

I took care of some paperwork today, completing my Eckerd and Walgreens rebates, completing a gas voucher and a voucher for a $30 Sprint phone card from Everyday Values. I need to cancel that membership tonight or tomorrow.

So an all-around pretty good day today.

New Total: $885.37/$2000

Outstanding items: $100 (Citi bonus 1), $100 (Citi bonus 2), $2 (Chandon rebate), $10 gas voucher (Jan-Mar), IDT Phone card(s)(?), $8 Tostitos rebate, 4.00 (Apr Walgreens), $.25 (Apr Eckerd), $5 (PNC gas voucher)

Coupon Train Savings Total: $10.08

30% off groceries

May 20th, 2006 at 07:51 am

So I'm going to qualify for the 30% off certificate at ShopRite after all. I'm on $60 away from the total needed. I'm going to Dad's tomorrow to do his shopping, but the promotion ends today so I'm going to run over there and get some food that I know Dad needs to put me over the top. (He uses Ensure. At $8/6pk, it adds up quickly).

I'm so excited (and tend to obsess about stuff like this), so here's my plan. I have 2 weeks to redeem the certificates. Sales at the Shoprite run Sunday to Saturday. Our Sunday ads come in Saturday's newspaper. So I'm going to look through this week's paper and see what's on sale. Then, next Saturday, I'll do the same for the following week. If this week's ad is better, I can go next Saturday and buy everything. If the following week's is better, I'll wait.

In the meantime, the Caboose for our coupon train is on its way to me, so I'll have those coupons to consider as well. I'm really looking for a big score here, as I stock up on things we use that never go on sale, and get some things that are usually too expensive but with 30% off and double coupons will be worth it. Yahoo!

Rebate goof...

May 19th, 2006 at 01:00 pm

I sent in a rebate for Listerine. The bottle had a rebate tag around its neck. I glanced quickly at it, and didn't see that the expiration date was 6/30/05 (I thought it was 6/30/06!). So I sent it in and it was returned to me. Ugh. I'm going to check the rebate forum to see if there's a different Listerine rebate I can use the receipt for, otherwise I'm out a few bucks...

Day 2 of the commute went well. I transferred another $10 to my challenge account, and $20 to the HELOC. Wahoo!

New Total: $864.74/$2000

Outstanding items: $100 (Citi bonus 1), $100 (Citi bonus 2), $2 (Chandon rebate), $10 gas voucher (Jan-Mar), IDT Phone card(s)(?), $8 Tostitos rebate, 4.00 (Apr Walgreens), $.25 (Apr Eckerd), $5 (PNC gas voucher)

Commute worked!

May 18th, 2006 at 07:04 pm

Hot dog! The new commute worked out very nicely. I made the connections with no problem, and it only took a few more minutes than normal.

Best news is that I found a new twist on the commute that may make it even better! If I go to a different stop on the line, I can park for $2.50 instead of $7, which would save $4.50/day=$22.50/week=$90/month MORE than what I'm already saving by doing today's commute!

I also convinced hubby that $10/day of my savings can go to the challenge account to help pay for our trip, and the rest of each day's savings will go toward the HELOC balance.

Also a good mail day. I received another $10 gas voucher from one of those trial memberships. Glad to see they're paying out, despite the fact that I cancelled. So that's $20 more for my challenge today!

New Total: $854.74/$2000

Outstanding items: $100 (Citi bonus 1), $100 (Citi bonus 2), $2 (Chandon rebate), $10 gas voucher (Jan-Mar), IDT Phone card(s)(?), $8 Tostitos rebate, 4.00 (Apr Walgreens), $.25 (Apr Eckerd), $5 (PNC gas voucher).

Tomorrow should be busy and quiet at work. Nothing on for tomorrow night, a bunch of local errands (and a badly needed cut and color) on Saturday, and down to my dad's to do shopping on Sunday.

New commute tomorrow

May 17th, 2006 at 03:42 pm

I came up with 5 different ways to commute to my job, all of which are less expensive than my current route. I think one of them will work out everyday, so I'm going to try it out tomorrow. (The rest depend on where my kids are and when they need to be picked up). The new daily commute adds up like this:

Gas: ~$10.50 (vs. $12)
Tolls: $1.40 (vs. $2.05)
Parking: $7 (vs. $20)
Mass Transit: $6 (vs. $3)

Total: ~25/day vs. $37.05. Doesn't Jean Chatzky have a book about saving $10/day? Here it is! And if I can take advantage of some of the other options sometimes, they're even cheaper (and of course, working from home or vacation is the best!).

So I'll try it out tomorrow and see how it goes. Because the kids' schedules and mine change, I'll need to plan out each week or month to see what the best combination is for me. I really hope the timing of this new way works!

On to my coupon train savings: I went to the store today and saved $3.50 using coupons from the train. I paid 4.05 to send the train on, so I'm down -$.55. Not to worry, I'm saving my coupons for a week or two from now when I get to use my 20-30% off certificate.

On to the regular challenge: I called Citi and confirmed that I would be getting the first $100 by June 15th, and the second $100 90 days thereafter. A long wait for sure, but for $200, I'll suffer. I received the $5 Green Giant rebate and another $10 gas voucher, so I'll add the $15 to the challenge, bringing me up to:

New Total: $849.74/$2000

Outstanding items: $100 (Citi bonus 1), $100 (Citi bonus 2), $2 (Chandon rebate), IDT Phone card(s)(?), $8 Tostitos rebate, 4.00 (Apr Walgreens), $.25 (Apr Eckerd), $5 (PNC gas voucher), $10 (EV gas voucher).

I mentioned a while back that we were moving our trip up to the end of July. I checked about using Frequent Flyer miles but none are available on the flights we checked. Regular r/t flights are running in the neighborhood of $450. We were only planning on paying for one (and were hoping it would be cheaper), so I'm going to need to absorb this too. Perhaps my $10/day savings with my commute can fund it...


Commuting Costs

May 16th, 2006 at 03:05 pm

Wow...I never actually thought about just how expensive it was to commute to work each day until I put it in my blog yesterday. ($35/day - yipes!) It is now my goal to get this down.

A few things are contributing:
1) I go into work (in NYC) everyday since I switched jobs at my company in February. Commuting to NYC is expensive no matter how you get there.
2) I work part-time, so I leave work in the middle of the day to get home in time to pick up the kids at school. Unfortunately, mass transit doesn't run as frequently in the middle of the day as it does at rush hour, so my options are limited if the kids are at school.
3) Two days a week, my son is at MILs because he doesn't have preschool, so I need to drive him to her house, which is on the way to the city (but eliminates the train as an option).

So my normal process is to drive to Hoboken (65 miles r/t ~$12 in gas + $2.05 tolls), park ($20) and take the Path ($3 r/t)

On the plus side:
1) My company credits us for the first $100 of mass transit expenses. So while my parking and gas aren't covered, $100 of the PATH (subway), ferry and train costs are.
2) My company allows us to pay the first $205 of parking expenses each month pre-tax. That can equate to about $60/month savings.
3) When the kids are out of school and I won't need to pick them up exactly at 3:00 (they'll be with MIL) I'll have many more options and can pick the cheapest one.
4) My boss is very easygoing about working from home, so I do that a few times a month.
5) Most importantly, I love my job, work for a great company, and have no desire to quit, so it's a good thing that my salary covers all this...

Tonight, my goal is to calculate all of the different options for getting into work, look at the calendar for the rest of May and June and see what I can get June's bill down to.

Worth It / Not Worth It

May 15th, 2006 at 02:18 pm

I'm having a good day...I received my NYS tax refund of $1673. It will immediately go back into our savings account, from which the hefty Federal Tax bill was paid. It will feel good to start building that back up.

I also got an offer from my Citibank Drivers' Edge card. For 3 months, they'll give us a 5% credit on all purchases, instead of the usual 2%. We charge everything and pay the bill each month, so for 5% it will be worth it to use that card more over the next few months...

I worked from home today, because it was DS's Kindergarten Orientation. Other than taking the kids back & forth to school, I didn't leave the house. So I saved $34 by not going into work ($20 parking, $2.05 tolls, and ~$12 gas).

I also have dinner in the CrockPot. One thing about crockpots: you're totally screwed if there's a blackout! Our power went out for 1 1/2 hours this morning. Luckily I was home so when it came back on, I reset the Crockpot and am good to go. Had I been at work, we'd be ordering out tonight!

While on the subject of Crockpots, I'm going to start a "Worth It/Not Worth It" list in my blog. Today, for the first time, I used Crock Pot liners by Reynolds Wrap. Absolutely no mess! No baked on gook. I received a sample package of 4 in the mail (which makes them even MORE worth it), and I don't know what they cost at the store. But I'm thinking if they're at all reasonable, with a coupon, then they're WORTH IT! I'd love to see others list items in their blogs that they think are worth it or not...

Why I could never EBAY full-time

May 14th, 2006 at 08:31 pm

So this woman contacted me and was interested in buying some books I had listed at half.com. Then she tells me that she's actually interested in ALL of the books in the series that I had (29 in all). She asked me to calculate the total bill + shipping and I got back to her with an email Saturday afternoon. Then, NOTHING. So I send her another email on Sunday to make sure she got my email and wanted to go forward. She finally sends me an email at 9:00 Sunday night to say sorry, she actually found some books at a discount store that she bought instead, but she'd keep me in mind for future purchases (don't bother!).

HELLO? She contacts me, she knows how much the books are because they're listed at half.com, I get back to her in record time, then she bags it, after we agreed in principle and were just working out the details. Is it me or is that totally rude? Not to mention deflating because I was really looking forward to the contribution to my challenge account.

So I realize that I could never do the ebay thing full-time. It's just too frustrating when you run into people like this. Sorry for the rant, had to get it off my chest.

Other than that, had a great Mother's Day with the kids...got some nice flowers and a gift certificate for a massage. Hope all the moms (current, future, grandmas, etc.) had a great day!

Happy Happy Dance!

May 13th, 2006 at 07:49 am

So I mentioned last night that I received an email from someone looking to purchase Magic School Bus books as a gift. I wrote her back figuring that she'd buy a few and I'd make a couple of bucks. Well, she wants to buy ALL 29 OF THEM!!! At $2 each, I'll be adding $58 to my challenge! (I'm charging her actual shipping costs, so that will be a wash). Even nicer...we've agreed to have her make payment thru Paypal directly, and I'll ship them out Monday, bypassing Half.com and their fees! That's a TREMENDOUS boost to my challenge and it has completely made my day!

Spent the morning sipping coffee, checking out the Sunday coupon inserts and making my grocery list for the week. Cleaned out all of my desk drawers over the last two days, so while that's like a drop in the ocean in terms of the disorganization in my house, it's a start and I'm pretty happy with it.

Off to enjoy the rest of my day...

I'm over myself

May 12th, 2006 at 03:16 pm

Wow, that last entry was a downer...I'm now officially over myself!

It's going to be a dreary rainy weekend, which is ok by me. We've got a birthday party and communion party tomorrow (still need to get the communion gift). Sunday we're going to MIL's for the afternoon. We usually pick up hanging baskets for her, and flowers for hubby's aunts. I'll be hoping (lucky) to keep it under $50.

I'm excited about an email I received today. I have a number of Magic School Bus books listed on half.com. Someone emailed to check the shape of the books, because they wanted them for gifts. I wrote back that they were practically new, and to let me know which ones she wanted. I'm hoping that she'll buy a few of them, which will add $2 each to my challenge.

My goal this weekend (in addition to relaxing) is to start the review of my budget. I took out a new finance book from the library...mostly the same stuff, but I'll use it as reference as I go through my list.

Seeing the glass half-empty...

May 9th, 2006 at 04:08 pm

As I caught up to date with my budget, I figured something discouraging out: The top 3 categories in my budget account for 59% of my spending and I can't/won't do anything about it.

Taxes (Federal/State/FICA/OASDI) top the list at 25% of our gross pay. I already max out our 401(k)s, take advantage of FSAs, pay pretax for health and commuting expenses, itemize deductions, and invest in low-turnover, growth mutual funds. Other than the drastic measure of quitting my job (which I don't want to do), I can't think of anything else to get this category down.

Mortgage/Property Taxes/House Insurance accounts for 17% of gross pay. We have 11 years left on a 15-year fixed mortgage at 4 5/8, which is great. We shopped around for the best house insurance (although I do need to review our coverage to make sure it meets our needs), and property taxes are going up in August, though the final numbers aren't in yet. I pay tax and insurance directly so I don't have an escrow account but again, short of moving (which I consider extreme), I don't see what else I can do to get this down.

Savings account for 17% of gross pay, and include our 401(k) contributions, and savings for our kids' college educations. I'm trying to boost this up, not cut this down, so it's staying where it is.

After the big 3, the next category is at 5% of gross pay, and they all go down from there. So the long and short of my rambling is that it's a bit discouraging to realize that you don't have any "home runs" left to hit. It's great to get the utility bills down, keep grocery spending under control, etc., but when 59% of your spending is locked up in 3 things you can't chage, it's a bummer.

So I will continue to focus on the little things. I went through an exercise last spring where I went line item by line item on my budget and think it's time to do that again. 4 singles=1 home run...

Coupon Train Savings

May 8th, 2006 at 02:56 pm

On Saturday I received the second round of the coupon train. I decided to keep track of what I'm saving versus shipping costs. I marked all of the coupons I took out with a red dot, so I would recognize them in the envelope with the rest of my coupons. Periodically I'll add the amount I've saved to my challenge total.

I mailed out the package today, so my total is -$4.05. Can't wait till next week's shopping trip!

6 Days since my last post!

May 8th, 2006 at 08:41 am

Wow, it's been almost a week since I've posted. I'm on this site every day, but just haven't had the time to update the blog.

Had a busy week. Went to a Communion on Saturday, and had a Cinco de Mayo party yesterday. The party caused the grocery bill to be much higher than normal, but I should still be able to stay within budget this month.

I need to update my budget and see how things are looking for May. I did pay the last preschool bill last month, so that should be a big help getting things back to normal.

Like alot of people here, it seems like May is pretty crazy with the gifts. We have one more Communion next weekend, MIL's mother's day present, plus whatever hubby gets for me, a birthday and a bridal shower present (already have gift cards for both) and 2 kids' birthday parties (already have presents for both). So I'm hoping the bank won't be broken...

Updates to the challenge: Not much. Got the $4.10 deposit from half.com. Need to call Citibank about the first $100 bonus.

New Total: $834.74/$2000

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

20% off Groceries

May 2nd, 2006 at 01:37 pm

ShopRite is running a promotion where you can get up to 30% off based on how much you spend in a set 5-week period. ($300=10%, $600=20%, $900=30%). Dad's bill on Saturday was about $325, so I got a 10% coupon already. I'll definitely spend enough over the month to get the second certificate, for a total of 20% off. Combine that with the coupons I hope to get from the coupon train next time it stops by me and I'll be ready to stock up!

The Communion on Sunday was fun; great weather. Back to work yesterday and things have been busy! Ran a few errands today, including paying my property taxes, so that's behind me. On to the next thing!

These trial memberships have been great. A friend of ours is getting married in July and is registered at BBB. We want to get her this appliance on her registry for $60, minus 20% coupon = $48 minus $40 in BBB gift cards from these memberships = $8 out of my pocket! Can't beat that!

Have a few more updates to add to the challenge: I'll add in the BBB gift cards, so that brings me to $850.64. I'm also submitting a $5 gas rebate from PNC and a $10 gas rebate from Everyday Values. Not sure if I'll ever receive them, but it's worth the stamp to find out.

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)(?), $8 Tostitos rebate, 4.00 (Apr Walgreens), $.25 (Apr Eckerd), $5 (PNC gas voucher), $10 (EV gas voucher).