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Archive for October, 2006

Send good karma my way...

October 31st, 2006 at 06:02 pm

I posted a few weeks back about the flood in my bathroom thanks to a broken pipe under the sink.

For the last week, the kitchen sink faucet has been acting up. We'd jiggle the handle and it would shut off, although there was usually an annoying drip. Well, tonight it didn't shut off. At all. Coming out full blast.

Hubby is away on a business trip through Tursday afternoon. I tried shutting off the knobs under the sink, but they are so old and stripped (?) they weren't budging. So I went downstairs and shut off water to the house.

After I settled down, I looked around the basement for a valve that would shut off only the kitchen water. Couldn't find one. I traced the pipes back to the main shut off valve. That's the only way to keep it off.

So then, I got a pair of pliers from hubby's toolbox, figuring the under-sink valves might budge. But that didn't work either.

Called dear sister, whose boyfriend has done some plumbing work and lives about 20 minutes away. He gave me the name of a plumber friend in my town. So I called him, but he "doesn't go out at night" and was booked tomorrow. So DS's boyfriend is going to take care of it sometime tomorrow.

In the meantime, the water to the house is shut off. Fortunately, the kids have already had their baths. I had them brush their teeth with bottled water. Later, I'll turn the water on and take a quick shower before turning it off again for the night. I'll catch what I can in the sink and water the plants.

Hopefully it'll be fixed by tomorrow afternoon, and all it will cost me is dinner for my sister and her boyfriend.

Thank goodness our water is so ridiculously cheap. Between the bathroom and the kitchen, we're going through water like it was, well, water!

Sorry for the long disjointed rant...

Super Halloween!

October 31st, 2006 at 03:12 pm

We had SO much fun today! I was in school for DD's Halloween party, and the parade. We got home, and ventured out at 3:30 to go trick-or-treating. We were back at 5:10, which was absolutely perfect timing. The kids (5 & 7) were BEAT. The weather was perfect, too. Near 70, which is something else for the end of October...I put them right into the bath (after having a piece of candy, of course). We're about ready to eat, then an early bed, if they're not too sugared up!

That will leave me time tonight to finish the October numbers and see where things stand. Looking forward to a quiet night.

Catching Up

October 30th, 2006 at 11:20 am

I'm in a good place with October ending. I'm off today and tomorrow, so I'm able to get some things done. (Nothing great, just the typical stuff I normally have no time for).

I'm looking forward to Halloween tomorrow. The kids are so excited. They have a parade at school, followed by some trick-or-treating around the neighborhood.

I need to tally up all of my October spending and check the budget. I'm anxious to see how much my gas bill went down now that I'm taking the train to work. Also, the gas company is coming tomorrow morning to install a special meter that they can read from the street. That'll allow me to actually get an actual reading each month...hoping this will go down too.

It's going to be an expensive week coming up. Our anniversary is Saturday, and DS's birthday is next Monday. I also scheduled the kids' Christmas pictures for Thursday afternoon. It's getting to be that time of the year again...

Swamped

October 24th, 2006 at 07:52 pm

Wow, it's been a week since I last posted. Where does the time go? I'm on this site everyday catching up on the blogs, but I haven't had the time to sit down and write one myself!

Things are hectic but fine. October was a good month financially. I got a small bonus at work (unexpected) and MIL gives us some money each September, so we have that in the account as well. It came in handy. We paid off the small remaining balance on our HELOC ($1700+), so now we have about $20k on 0% ccs from the addition we put on the house. The 0% on one card expires in March, and the other next September, so we'll be working to pay those off in time.

We also took some of the extra money and boosted up our emergency fund. We near-depleted it last April when we paid our huge tax bill, so although it still isn't as high as I'd like, I'm at least comfortable with it.

The remaining money is going to sit in the checking account through the end of the year. In addition to the bathroom remodel, we have both kids' birthdays (and parties, presents, etc.), and Christmas. So rather than feel pinched, we'll leave the buffer in there and get through the end of the year...

The bathroom remodel is going slowly. Our contractor took a look at it and said he would do it. We haven't had time to pick out fixtures/tile, and he hasn't sent us the estimate yet. On the one hand, I'm ok with the pace (the slower it goes, the longer before we begin paying!). On the other hand, he said it would take at least a month to do it all, and I'd prefer not to be under construction through the holidays. We'll make due, though.

So that's about it...hubby's been travelling, the kids are busy with school and activities, and I'm busy at work.

(Forgot to mention, I had a RAOK done to me today. I left my monthly train ticket on the train today. Luckily I had my name and # on the back of the ticket, so the woman who found it called me. She gave it to the conductor, and he was going to put it in the lost & found at the station for me. So I'm hoping to get it back tomorrow. I have a single ticket to get me in tomorrow, but if I have to replace it through the end of the month it'll cost me about $60!)

Keep the Change

October 17th, 2006 at 03:28 pm

So I signed up for Bank of America's "Keep the Change" program last year. Every time I use my debit card, they round the amount up to the nearest dollar and transfer the change to my savings account. Transfers are made daily. In addition, they match what they transfer. For the first 3 months, they were matching $ for $, thereafter, they match at 5%. Once a year they transfer the matching amounts to the savings account. I just received $27+ in matching funds!

OK, so it's not going to pay off my mortgage or anything, but considering it cost me absolutely nothing, I think it's a good deal. Also, I used the debit card aggressively the first 3 months, but only sporadically thereafter. I kind of like it, though, and think I'll use it more. (Which is the whole point of the program).

No big financial news. I sent out a $3 Musselman's applesauce rebate, but that's been about it. Status quo is the way to go...

Drowning in Paperwork

October 16th, 2006 at 03:50 pm

I made some serious headway into the mounds of paperwork in my house. I signed up for some health benefits under hubby's open enrollment. I need to do the ones we get from my company tomorrow. Also wrote out checks for picture days and a scholastic book order. Gathered up my Box Tops for Education and Campbell's Labels for Education.

(Shameless begging: for any blog readers who don't have young kids or whose kids' schools don't do box tops, I'd appreciate it if you could send them my way. You can find them on Betty Crocker, Pillsbury, Ziploc, Kleenex, and a whole host of products. Each box top gets $.10 back for the school, to help fund things that are inevitably cut in the budget. So if you have them and don't need them, send them my way!)

Shameless plug over. October's been a good month. Bills are paid, and I got a small bonus thrown my way at work, which will help with some of the work on the bathroom. I realize (pleasantly) that I haven't really thought about Christmas yet. We're decorated for Halloween, and I've picked up / picked out a few things for Christmas, but not much more than that. Usually by this time of year, Christmas pix of the kids are done, shopping's done, etc. (Though I do need to get the pictures scheduled, just because those places get nuts once November hits!)

So that's about it here. Just plugging along through the end of the week...

Free trials

October 13th, 2006 at 08:37 am

Check out an interesting article from MSNBC on Trilegant, the company behind those 30-day free trials:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15104735/

Basically, it's about how your bank may be partnering with this company to provide credit card information, so that after the "30-day free trial" is over, they can continue to bill you. The Connecticut BBB has received over 300 complaints about this company in the last 3 years.

To be fair, I took advantage of every one of their programs (sometimes 2 or 3 times!) earlier this year, and never had a problem. But I was also very diligient about calling to cancel within the 30-day period and checking my credit card and bank statements to make sure nothing was amiss.

I guess it's like everything else - let the buyer beware!

I just discovered HCW

October 12th, 2006 at 03:23 pm

I've been meaning to check out Hot Coupon World for a week or so, since Flash mentioned it in one of her blogs. Wow!

It's totally forum-based. I looked at the forum of drugstore and grocery store deals. Basically, they post about what's on sale, what coupons are available, how they stacked things to get the best deal, etc. For every store I shop at! So now, each Saturday when I check the ads, I can check my strategy against what these gals (primarily) are doing and see where I can tweak it a bit more. I am so excited!

It's been a pretty quiet few days. Just waiting for payday tomorrow. October is shaping up to be the first really good financial month I've had in a while. (Finally!)

Finally got my oatmeal!

October 9th, 2006 at 02:51 pm

I checked the RiteAid website and, as expected, the oatmeal went "on sale". Still $3/box (which ain't on sale in my book - I can usually get it for $1 or $2). But combined with my coupons and rebates I went for it.

I bought 5 boxes @ $3 = $15. I had $3 in coupons, bringing it down to $12. RiteAid will give me a $4 rebate, and I have a mail-in rebate from Quaker for $5. Net result: 5 boxes for $3 = $.60/box or $.06/packet. Ain't bad. I also picked up Electrasol dishwasher detergent for $.49 after rebate. Worth the trip.

I also hit CVS. They have a bunch of far items this month. You get the credit in the form of "ExtraBucks" that can be used in CVS. Not sure how I'll like this program, but I figured it'd be worth a try.

Great shopping day

October 8th, 2006 at 11:22 am

Hubby went fishing this morning, and the kids went to Grandma's, so I was able to go shopping by myself. I made out great!

First stop: Walgreens

Glade Candles 2@$2.50ea - $2 coup = $3
Glade PlugIns Refills 2@$2.50-$1 coup= $4
Glade PlugIn Fan $7.99free w/refills, -$1
Scrubbing Bubbles 2@$2.50 -$2 coup = $3
Activa Back Rub 2 oz - $9.99
Rayovac 9V - $3.00
Bubble Mailer - $.99
Tax - $1.89

Total cost: $24.87
Walgreens Rebates: $24.29
Total spent after rebates: $.58

Can't beat that...

Next stop: A&P

Yoplait yogurt 12/$4.22 after coupon
Dozen large eggs $.99
5lb sugar $1.99 (2) = $3.98
1lb butter $2.00 (2) = $4
Keebler Crusts $1 ea (3) = $3
Vive Shampoo + Vive Conditioner - Both free (B1G1 store deal + B1G1 coupon)

Total spent: $16.82

Final stop: ShopRite

Too many things to itemize. Highlights were Musselman's applesauce 6/$6.80, and I have a $3 mir. Also, used my $5/40 coupon from Amy.

So a great trip. Today, I'm going to make meatballs for the freezer, and a peach/blackberry cobbler from the frozen fruit I have on hand. I'm off from work tomorrow. Life is good...

Can you spell "no-brainer"?

October 5th, 2006 at 05:20 pm

Two posts in one day is pretty rare for me, but I have a great savings opportunity during this year's open enrollment for health benefits.

For as long as I've worked part-time (8 years), we always got our benefits through hubby's company because I was never sure I would stay employed for the whole year. (In retrospect, this was a mistake, because if I had quit/been fired, we would have been eligible to get the benefits through hubby mid-year).

Anyway, with open enrollment for both of us approaching, I decided to take a closer look at our benefits.

By switching our health plan and getting it through my company, we will save over $1100/year, with better benefits! Hubby's doctor and the kids' doctor are in both plans, so that's a wash. Neither of my doctors (regular and obgyn) are in my plan, but for $1100 I'm willing to switch. My old obgyn is in my plan, so I'll go back to him. (Really liked him, but he's far away. For a once a year checkup, I'll suck it up). I usually see my regular doctor for a physical every 2 years, plus the (very) occasional cold, so I'll be satisfied with anyone.

If I make this switch, I'll save $687 in premiums per year. My prescription plan is also much better than hubby's, and will save us $454/year, assuming we continue to use the same meds. In addition, I have no in-network deductible (vs. his $500 indiv/$1000 family), My out-of-network deductible is $300/$600 instead of $500/$1000, and my copay is only $15 vs. his $20. Can you spell "no-brainer"?

My vision plan also has similar benefits to hubby's. The premiums listed on our benefits website are suspiciously low, so I need to confirm them next week at the benefits open house. If they are what they say they are, I'll be switching that too.

Finally, my dental plan has better coverage than hubby's, for about the same price. Only downside is that the kids' dentist (who I think is GREAT) isn't in my plan, and it's not worth switching dentists, or paying him full price.

So I'll bask in the savings from the health plan, and possibly the vision plan. It was definitely a little tedious to compare the plans, but well worth it in the end. Even if mine wasn't better, at least I'd know I checked it out.

So all of you two-career families out there in frugal-land...check both your benefits!!

I love Liberty Mutual

October 5th, 2006 at 05:00 pm

I should be a paid spokesperson for this company for all the times I talk about how great they are! I called the 1-800 number at 3:15 today to tell them about my water damage. They had an agent call me back within 15 minutes. He said he'd have a company they use to assess the water damage get in touch with me. They called within 1/2 hour, then the co-owners of the company were at my house at 5:00. They looked at the damage, and said they would have a crew at my house tomorrow morning at 9:30 to begin drying everything up and seeing if the rug can be saved. (I'm sure it can't - it's at least 15 years old and pretty ratty!).

Then our contractor called us back. We told him what happened, and that we're thinking about remodeling part of the bathroom (not a wholesale overhaul, but putting down tile instead of carpet, and a new shower). He said if the insurance company asks for an estimate, call him and he'll give us one, and once we get the check and are ready to remodel, he'll be happy to do it. Music to our ears...we thought this would be too small a job for him. I guess the fact that he's done work for us in the past helps.

So although my bathroom is out of commission for at least the next 5 days while they dry it out (thankfully we have others to use), and the carpet is still soaked, things are looking up a bit.

On to other news...Thank you Amy for $15 of free Shoprite coupons!!! ($5/$40 for the next three weeks) Those savings will be going right into my challenge account, thank you very much.

More great news...I think my gas bill will actually go DOWN when they review it. I'm on budget billing, and their last estimated reading was higher than my actual usage. I'm hoping the bill will drop $10-15 per month.

My other great savings opportunity is health insurance through open enrollment, but that's such a great story, it deserves a separate post!

Burst water pipe

October 4th, 2006 at 12:49 pm

I had an entry planned for today, but this one takes the cake!

I came home from work/picking the kids up from school and walked into the house. Heard a noise that sounded like the bathtub running. Went into my bathroom to find that the pipe underneath the sink burst, and the carpet was SATURATED. It must have happened hours ago, judging by the amount of water on the floor.

So I tried to shut it off underneath the sink, but couldn't see because it was gushing so badly. Called hubby at work - no answer. Called our plumber - no answer. Finally called the water company and they told me how to figure out where the shut off valve was.

Fortunately, it only shut water off to half of the house, so we still have access to toilets, shower, and laundry. Downside is that we'll need the plumber to fix the pipe, and I have no idea what to do about the carpet. It would take forever to wet/dry vac the thing.

Hubby's on his way home from work now to bail us out (no pun intended). We'll assess the damage from there.

Rebate Madness

October 2nd, 2006 at 08:20 am

I have been REALLY into rebates lately, and have read with envy Flash's and Retire@50's Del Monte savings. I'm now biding my time to take advantage of the Quaker Oatmeal rebate:

RiteAid has a rebate this month, buy 4 participating PepsiCo products (including Quaker Oatmeal), get $4 back.

Quaker has a rebate, buy 5 products get $5 back.

I have 2 coupons for $1/2 Quaker Oatmeal.

So if I buy 5 boxes, I'll get $11 off/back ($4 from Riteaid, $5 from Quaker, and $2 from Coupons). (Note, that RiteAid rebate programs are online, so you can use the same register receipt for both).

I was at Riteaid yesterday, and was tempted to buy, except the oatmeal was $4/box(!). So I would have gotten the 5 boxes for $9. Not worth it. I've noticed though, when these stores do their rebate programs, they usually put the rebate items on sale throughout the month. So I'm going to keep my eyes open, and if the price drops to $3/box or less, I'll get them.

Good thing this forum is anonymous. I think most people I know (present company excluded) would think I'm nuts for getting so excited about ways to save a few bucks on oatmeal. Yeah...crazy like a fox!

1/2 hour too early

October 1st, 2006 at 01:44 pm

My goal was to keep the heat off until October 1st, but the house was at 64 degrees all day yesterday. The low was projected to be 51 last night, and we were pretty cold, so we turned on the heat to 67. It was only 11:30p.m., so I missed my goal by 1/2 hour.

I had an unexpected break today. Hubby's friend came to visit with his 2 boys, so he and hubby took my kids and his kids to lunch and bowling! I was able to go grocery shopping in peace!

Deal of the day: ShopRite had an 18 pack of Rayovac AA batteries on sale for $2.99, and Rayovac is offering a $3 rebate on any purchase, so I'll get them for free Smile!

I also hit Walgreens for some of their October rebates, including a family size Fructis shampoo free after rebate (+ $1 coupon, so I make out on the deal!).

I need to mail out the September Walgreens rebate and the Rayovac rebate tomorrow. The trains are also going out tomorrow, so hopefully they'll run a bit more smoothly now...