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Archive for June, 2006

Car dealers are like airlines...

June 24th, 2006 at 08:18 pm

...every time you call you get a different price! Last time we brought the car in for an oil change, the guy said that we would need breaks. They didn't need to be fixed immediately, but should be fixed during the next oil change. So here comes this oil change, and a different guy mentions nothing about the breaks, but by the way, we really should get the 45,000 mile service (for $450). Uh, next time. I'll need to work that one into the budget. So the cost of the oil change and the a/c fix (which ended up being a switch problem) came to about $120. The windshield was successfully repaired the next day for $275. Both expensive, but less than I thought, and I haven't had many "maintenance" charges this year, so I'm still within budget for the category.

Aside from the car stuff, I haven't had much spending for the past few days. Went to dad's today, he treated for dinner, and have been spending much of the night preparing for our vacation in NC. We're leaving tomorrow morning. Should be a cheap week, as the house is paid for, we eat in (and split the cost of the groceries with DB), and don't really go out too much. Grandma gave the kids money for souvenirs, so they're set.

I'll be back next Sunday. Hope everyone has a great week!

0% Credit Card

June 21st, 2006 at 08:05 pm

Here's my saga with the 0% credit cards: I had a heloc for about $22,000 from a capital improvement we made to the house. I was able to transfer about $7000 to a 0% cc from Citibank, leaving me with a balance of about 15k. When I opened the heloc, the rate was about 3.5%, now it's 7.25% and rising. So a few months ago, I applied for a Chase 0% cc. Thinking it didn't go through (they sometimes take a while), I inadvertently applied for a second one from Chase. Realized it and cancelled the first one. Then, the balance transfer didn't go through on the second one because I gave the wrong payment address. (Argh!). The deal was that you can only transfer at 0% on the day you open up the account, so even though it was an innocent mistake, they wouldn't redo the transfer. So I closed that account too. By this point, I was a bit discouraged so I let it go. But after 2 months of paying $100/month interest, I revisited my decision.

So I recently applied for another 0%cc (turned out this one, too, was with chase, but a different one than before). I see online that the credit card was approved, with a $16k credit limit. I requested a $14k transfer, so I'm crossing my fingers that it goes through no problem. Man, I'll be happy to pay this bear off!

Other than that, a quiet day. I went to work, hubby came back from his trip. Had an annual doctor visit (no charge - preventative visits are covered). All good.

We did need to put the car we're bringing to NC in for an oil change, and they need to boost the A/C because it's only working intermittently. Not sure how much that will run us, but we can't go on an 9-hour trip without it. Also, a truck kicked up a rock onto the windshield, so that's being fixed on Friday, for $275. A lot of money, but less than I thought it would be. Can't believe vacation is only 4 days away...

Free Travel Mugs

June 20th, 2006 at 06:20 pm

Freebie of the day (actually from last week but I think I forgot to mention it): A new, state-of-the-art Exxon opened up in my town. Nicest gas station you've ever seen, with the car wash and the store. They're having a grand opening promotion where you can stop in and get a free travel coffee mug (with coffee), so I did. I always bring coffee in the car when I'm driving to work, and so the mug will work out great.

On to today, I stayed at home all day, except to drop off and pick up DD from school. I called Citibank re: the $100 bonus. The rep saw that I should have received it, and she's putting through an investigation. I should hear back in 5-7 days.

Ever since Jeffrey wrote the article about embracing junk mail, I've been taking a good look at mine. I mentioned yesterday that I cashed the $15 check to try out the Citibank credit protector program. Well today, I received an offer for a free auto insurance quote from another company (it would take a lot to get me to switch from Liberty Mutual, but I always like to check out the quotes anyway).

I also received an offer for Accidental Death Insurance from PNC Bank. Their rates are astronomical, relative to what we can get through work for the same coverage, but here's the question: They will "give" you $1,000 in coverage for free. No obligation, no cost. So I'm debating whether or not to do that. I get offers like these ALL THE TIME, some for trial periods, some low dollar gimmes like this one. I imagine it will add to my organizational burden by requiring a new folder, but other than that, I'm not sure of the downside. It's amazing how much "stuff" (money, product, etc.) people are willing to give you if you have your eyes open.

I'm off now to update my June numbers and see how things shake out for the rest of the month, then off to bed early...

Sweltering!

June 19th, 2006 at 07:25 pm

Recapping the last few days: Saturday, we did indeed go to the town fair. What a fun day! The fireworks were GREAT and the kids loved the games and rides. The weather, which has been close to 90 for days, was great. Glad to see my property tax dollars hard at work Smile. We spent $31 for dinner, which bought burgers, dogs, and soda for 5 kids and 3 adults. Not too bad, and the proceeds support the firehouse. Sister bought Italian Ices afterwards. Well worth it.

Father's Day was quiet. I was able to use gift cards I had on hand to buy his gifts, so that worked out well. He slept late, I made breakfast, then we went to MIL's for a BBQ. Another fun day, but felt like 100 degrees! Man it was hot!

DD finishes school tomorrow. She had 1/2 days today and tomorrow, so I'm working from home. My great buy of the day: I got a 30-pack of Klondike bars for $2.99. Normally $9.99, BJs had a $1.00 off coupon, and I had a free coupon up to $6. We don't normally buy them, but I like to have them around for those times that I run out of ice cream. (Another deal - I went there to get a case of Ensure Plus for Dad. Normally $36/case in ShopRite, $32.99 in BJs. Again, they had a $4 coupon, and I had a $1 mfr coupon, so I got the case for $27.99 or $7/6-pack.)

On to the challenge front, I still need to call Citibank about the $100 bonus, but did get an email that they'll give me $25 if I pay 5 bills by the end of the month. Seems easy enough. I also received in the mail a $15 check from my Citi credit card if I enrolled in credit protector. I've thrown so many of these out over the years, but I deposited this one. I have a 30-day free trial (and already made a note in my calendar to cancel), and they don't charge you the (really high) fee if you don't carry a balance (which I don't). So it seemed like a good risk...Also found 2 quarters in the grass, but I gave one each to my kids for their piggy banks. A pretty good day...

Hubby is away through Wednesday, and we're driving to NC on Sunday morning, so my goal is to use up the perishables we have on hand so nothing spoils. I also need to start thinking about what I'm going to pack so I can make sure I have the right laundry done...

Happy Father's Day

June 17th, 2006 at 08:44 pm

Happy Fathers Day to Price Plus and the other dads that post (or lurk) on this site. I really enjoy reading your perspective on things. Have a great day with your families...

Saving Food

June 16th, 2006 at 06:54 pm

OK, so the title is a bit disingenuous. I only decided to save the food because I was so disgusted at what I had to throw out as I cleaned out my fridge. So I salvaged what I could.

We had company last weekend, and I bought fresh basil, parsley, cilantro and sage. I used a few tablespoons (max) of each, and left the rest in the fridge. Fortunately, I was able to save it. I chopped it all up and froze it, so I will have "fresh" herbs next time I need them, until my herb garden fills out. Ditto with some celery that was starting to go, but would be perfectly good in soup. I also froze a cup of chicken broth and about 1/2 of a 28 oz can of tomatoes. I throw out WAY too much food and need to get a grip on it...

I also started going through my pantry and checking expiration dates. I usually do a pretty good job of rotating stock. However, there are a few things that don't have dates stamped on them (they use factory codes instead - I don't get why they can't put the date on). Anyway, some of these don't have contact numbers, or their websites don't have info on shelf life, so I need to be creative and figure out how to get that info so I don't waste the stuff.

I'm also doing the same in the bathroom. I've acquired quite a few tubes of toothpaste, deoderants, mouthwash, etc. through freebies and rebates and I need to check the dates to see when they expire, and prioritize their use.

A bit off topic, but I have a question for Flash. Do you have any idea why coupons don't all expire on the last day of the month? I have no problem with the 6-weeks or so they give me before they expire, but it's SO annoying to find a coupon that expired on 6/17. Why not 6/30? Don't get it.

Tomorrow, our town is having a fair and fireworks. Free, though we'll probably get dinner there. (The fire department sells hot dogs, burgers, beer, and soda as a fundraiser). Other than that, we'll be pool side. I need to get a few gifts for Father's Day, but I have gift cards, so there shouldn't be too much cash out of pocket.

On the challenge front, I need to call Citibank about that first bonus, and mail out another gas voucher. But nothing came in so the total is the same. I also mailed out the coupon train earlier in the week for $4.05.

New Total: $1079.75/$2000

Outstanding items: $100 (Citi bonus 1), $100 (Citi bonus 2), $2 (Chandon rebate), IDT Phone card(s)(?), $5 (PNC gas voucher), $5 (PNC Gas Voucher 2), $10 Shoppers Essential Voucher, $20 Passport to Fun Voucher, $30 Sprint phone card.

Coupon Train Total: $33.24

Making progress

June 14th, 2006 at 02:53 pm

Some progress on my todo list: I applied for a 0% credit card that I had been preapproved for. Hopefully, the transfer from the HELOC will go through this time and I can stop paying 7.25% interest. I should hear about it in 2 weeks or so.

I also checked out the dates AAA is offering the defensive driving course: July 8 at one location, August 5 at another. I'll check our calendars and sign up for one of those.

I signed up for a California 529 because of a promotion they were doing a while back. I've been meaning to close that account and merge the funds with my NY529. Thought it was a bigger deal to do this. Turns out, I need to download a form from NY's site, fill it out and mail it in. They take care of the rest. Can't get much easier than that!

I also went on to Marriott's site to get details about the points mixup from our trip to Baltimore. Before I actually spoke with someone, I realize that we have enough points to pay for 2 of the nights we'll be in California in July, so rather than go through the hassle of having them credit us for the Baltimore trip, I may have them apply the points against the California trip instead. It all comes out in the wash...

So as always, I still have a lot to do but at least I feel like I'm making a dent. I need to think about what else needs to get done and make a new list (I'm a list person...). We're leaving for vacation in NC on 6/25, so I'd like to have things organized (relatively) before then...

On the challenge front, I'll update the totals next time, but I got the free coupon for a free iced tea 1/2 gallon from Turkey Hill. (BTW, this is a great company. If you call or sign up with them, they send you a calendar each year, filled with coupons).

Quiet night...

June 12th, 2006 at 07:23 pm

The pool party was a raging success. It amazes me how long kids will stay in the water for! Now I feel like I can relax for a bit...

I managed to get a few things done tonight. I reset the coupon train and will mail it out tomorrow. I also checked into some company stock and options hubby has. I've been meaning to do this for a while and never got around to it. The options are worthless. He needs to hold the regular shares for at least 3 years, so we can sell them beginning next March, if we so desire. No big dollars or anything, just nice to know.

I'm taking a vacation day tomorrow because DS is in his end-of-year show at preschool. I'm planning on taking care of a few more things tomorrow...

2 for 4

June 12th, 2006 at 09:36 am

It's been 4 days since my last post. Not ideal, but typical. Looking over my to-do list, I'm making progress on 2 of the 4 things: I'm targeting July 3 or 5 to get the kids' passports done, because both hubby and I are off. Also, I received an offer for a 0% credit card in the mail so I'll be signing up for that tomorrow. I still need to look into the defensive driving and accident insurance costs.

This was a good weekend. I received the coupon train on Friday (it'll be going out tomorrow. Sorry for the delay, ladies). I also received a $10 check for one of the gas vouchers I sent in.

Just found out today that the hotel we stayed in in Baltimore charged us, instead of using our points, so I need to call them today or tomorrow to get that credited back.

DD is having a pool party today for her friends from school, so I've been a bit preoccupied planning for that. The rest of the week looks blissfully quiet...

Back on the wagon

June 8th, 2006 at 07:08 pm

Even though I'm on this site every day (and usually several times a day), I feel like I haven't been focusing on my finances as well as I should be. I find that instead of posting daily, I've only been posting two or three times a week, and I've lost track of some things I wanted to do.

So I went back and reread my entries from the first of the year, and wrote down the following things that I meant to do, but never got around to. I'll try to tackle these over the next week:

1) Schedule a date/time to get the kids passports. They sure don't make it easy, as both parents need to appear, or one must send a notarized letter to let the other get them.

2) Check out defensive driving courses. We held off b/c hubby's company usually offers them for less than AAA, but they haven't yet and the year is half over. So I'll check out dates and times and sign us up. Cost will be $120 for the 2 of us, but we'll get a $120 break on our (sky high) auto insurance for 3 years, so it's worth it.

3) Revisit 0% credit cards. I had one with a limit of $7500 that I transferred part of the HELOC to. I tried to transfer the rest of the HELOC to a Chase 0% card, but the transfer didn't go through (my fault, wrong address), and the 0% offer w/ no balance transfer fee was only good the day you opened the card. So I cancelled the Chase card. Despite getting 0% offers regularly, I haven't taken advantage of any others. I still have about $15k on the HELOC, and am paying about $110/month interest (at 7.25%, deductible), so I really need to get going with this.

4) Double check accident insurance rates. Hubby and I both have it through work. I need to check out other companies to see if our rates are competitive. I'll do the same for life insurance, although I checked that not so long ago...

I vow to get back on the wagon...

Two other thoughts as I look back and look ahead...For all of you who did the trial memberships, I've sent vouchers in after I've cancelled and have still received the $10 checks. However, for the last one I tried, I got a letter back from the company saying thanks, but because I cancelled they can't send the $10. Change in policy? Really alert customer service rep? I don't know, but for the $.37 stamps, I'll try once or twice more to see if it happens again.

Second thought: I started MyPoints on 4/15 and I already have 2800 points, primarily for filling out the surveys and clicking on all the emails they send. I need to look to see how much I need to redeem for a gift card, but that added up pretty quickly.

Over halfway there!

June 8th, 2006 at 04:18 pm

I never recapped my challenge at the end of April or May, so I took a look at it now. I added $70 from 7 days worth of commuting savings, and some misc. savings (half.com deposit, coupon savings, etc.), bringing my new total to:

New Total: $1079.75/$2000

Outstanding items: $100 (Citi bonus 1), $100 (Citi bonus 2), $2 (Chandon rebate), IDT Phone card(s)(?), $5 (PNC gas voucher), $5 (PNC Gas Voucher 2), $10 Shoppers Essential Voucher, $20 Passport to Fun Voucher, $30 Sprint phone card.

Coupon Train Total: $37.29

My breakdown goes like this:

1) Bank bonuses ($900) - $225 in hand, another $200 on the way, and an offer for a $75 bonus that I'll take advantage of if I can get my act together before the offer expires. So I'm on track with this, though I may lower the goal because I'm drained from doing so many of these.

2) Books ($360) - $158.07 and counting. Doing ok without ebookdrop, though I'm considering placing a small order with them using books around the house to see if they've got their act back together. I'd feel much better if Diva Jen could get her situation with them resolved...

3) Rebates ($120) - Already have $123.50 in hand, with more outstanding. It's amazing how many are out there...

4) Recycle ($100) - $1.95 'Nuff said.

5) Other - $346.93, thanks primarily to the trial memberships

6) Everyday savings - $224.30, thanks primarily to my new commute and coupon savings.

So I'm over halfway to my goal. The three big things have been the trial memberships ($250 worth of gift cards for $12), the rebates (they're everywhere!), and the $10/day from my commute, which is really adding up. Always on the hunt for new and interesting ways to build it, though...

Again with the car!

June 6th, 2006 at 01:58 pm

I'm still feeling the effects from my car being towed! Got a certified letter in the mail on Saturday with the TICKET that went along with the towing of my unregistered vehicle. $56. Again, I thought it would be worse, but that brings the total for this little event up to $176! Hopefully this is the end.

I've talked in the past about Main Street Savings, where I can get certain gift cards for 20% off. Well yesterday I ordered the plane tickets for our trip to California through Travelocity, and after I was done with my order, they had a "Get $20 back now" offer. I figured it was for one of the free-trial deals that I've been signing up for, but instead, it was a free trial to Passport to Fun (free $20), and another for Shopping Essentials (free $10). They're just like MSS, and run by the same company, but with different gift cards (and some overlap). I think I'll cancel SE after the month's up, because I didn't really need the stores they had, but I think it would be worth it to keep PTF. These invites are hard to get, in that if you go looking for them, you can't find them. So if anyone is interested in joining, keep your eyes open on your credit card websites (where I found MSS) and when ordering online to see if any offers like these come up.

Not much on the challenge front, though I did go to Eckerds to take advantage of some sales/rebates, and used a $2 coupon from one of the trains, bringing my train totals to $37.29.

As usual, I'm feeling a bit disorganized. I need to take some time tonight to file some papers and get my act together!

Long time since update...

June 2nd, 2006 at 12:46 pm

Crazy as usual...Anyway, here's what's been happening:

May ended on a good note, thanks to my brother paying me back. I'll total up the categories this weekend and post my progress. Looking forward, June is going to be an expensive month. We owe the other half of our beach house rental for vacation, the towing charge for the car, gardening-related expenses, etc.

The savings from my commute has been useful. $10/day has been going to my challenge, and $10/day has been going to the HELOC. So I was able to pay down $90 on that. (A drop in the bucket, but a start).

On the challenge front, I'm adding the following: $50 (commute), $8 (FritoLay), $4 (April Walgreens), and $.25 (April Eckerd), for a total of $62.25. I also mailed out 3 half.com books for $4.53, so the net add is $57.72, bringing my new total to $953.09. Almost halfway there.

New Total: $953.09/$2000

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

I made it through the last week without grocery shopping. I mailed out the caboose ($2.79), bringing my coupon train savings to $35.29. Pretty good...

Oh, another cost of my disorganization: I was late making my car payment this month, and was charged a $9.50 fee. I pay online on the 15th of the month with my other bills, and for some reason, I overlooked this one. I had it set up on auto-pay a while back and ran into a problem with it, but I may try it again to prevent another oversight like this. So between the car getting towed and the late payment, my disorganization cost me $129.50 this month! YIKES!