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Archive for December, 2008

Updated Sidebar

December 30th, 2008 at 06:46 pm

I updated the list of debts on my sidebar so they're all current. The mortgage is a 15-year fixed @4 5/8% that we still have about 9.5 years left to pay. The car payment is a 3.99% with 1.5 years left to pay. The HELOC is prime minus 1/2%. This is the killer for me. We used the money for a capital improvement on the house, but the balance has just been sitting out there for a while and I'd really like to get it paid off.

I also updated the Piggy Bank line. I always put my loose change into the bank. I'm going to keep doing that each day. Also, any additional, unexpected money I make (1/2.com and the like) will go in there too. We're going on vacation in July and I'd like to put the money toward that.

There are quite a few articles on MSN Money about different legitimate ways to earn $100/month. I'm not sure I can take advantage of any of them, but I would like to more seriously think about how to raise a few extra bucks. I need to relist my books on 1/2.com because my inventory expired, post some things on ebay, etc. I'll check out some more ideas and try to get creative.

Surprisingly, I haven't gone nuts with the New Years Resolutions (I usually do). I'd like to commit to getting to the gym 3-4 days/week and get back to following Weight Watchers. Financially, I'd like to be able to survive hubby's career change with as little sacrifice as possible. I think if I keep it to just those 3 things I should be able to focus.

Here's something that should help: Just got a notice from work that if you get your cholesterol/sugar/blood pressure/weight tested and complete a health form about it, they'll knock $120 off our April medical premiums. This works out perfectly because I was due for a physical anyway, so I'm going to schedule my appt for late January to give me a few weeks to drop a couple of pounds and watch my cholesterol. Easy way to save $120!

All in all I'm pretty much at peace going into 2009. Life is good...

Had a Wonderful Christmas

December 27th, 2008 at 10:16 am

I hate to say that I'm glad it's over, but I'm glad it's over! It was a fun time, but it's so hectic and crazy, and I wasn't nearly as organized this year as usual. I bought my last gift at 4:00 on Christmas Eve and was still wrapping at midnight!

We did watch A Christmas Carol as we do each Christmas Eve. The kids watched it with us for the first time, which was kind of cool (though they didn't understand the British accents!).

I'd say overall it was a scaled down Christmas. I haven't done the final tally, but I'm guessing we spent about 25% less than last year. Funny thing is that the kids still got everything they want and it still seemed like there were a ton of gifts even at that. Best thing is that we paid mostly cash for everything, and the few things we charged will be paid before month's end.

My sister and her family are in town until tomorrow night. I plan to spend the next few days wrapping up finance stuff from this year (still have a few rebates to fill out, etc.) and will do some planning for next year as well.

Safety in Numbers

December 21st, 2008 at 06:23 pm

I was talking to a good friend of mine last night. Her husband travels Sun night/Mon morning through Thursday every week. She works part-time in the city, 3 days/week, (1.5hr commute each way), and she's been finding it difficult with him away so much to manage everything at home (2 kids in school, their activities, etc.). She thought her hubby would be done travelling this year, but he'll continue through March. She's decided to quit her job and start a dog-walking business in town.

They can make it on just his salary, but things will be tighter. So I told her that we're going through the same thing and would be definitely watching our $$. Another friend's husband just started his own company (she's a SAHM) and another friend's husband has a job that's not totally secure in this economy. (So far no problem with it, but you never know, and she's a SAHM too).

These are all the people we get together with every week. The girls will go out for drinks after the PTO meeting, the guys will go out to watch a football game, and we usually end up at one house or another during the weekend. It ends up costing quite a bit of money. Even if we're going to someone else's house we usually bring a 12-pack of beer or wine and some sort of food - a good $20/week at least, more if we're going out or hosting people at our house.

So I told my friend that I'm planning on being more frugal in the new year. I'm going to make sure that I have food on hand or in the freezer (meatballs and sauce, brownie mixes, cookie mixes) so I don't have to buy expensive food to cook for them or bring to their houses. We can make it a point to get together at our houses more than we go out. We can (hopefully) stop with the Tupperware and Candle parties, where I always end up spending $100. (Even if they're not game for this, I'm not going to any of these parties in 2009!).

I'm hoping that it will be easier to watch our money now that all of our friends are in similar positions. It's more like "keeping down with the Joneses"...

Tying up loose ends

December 18th, 2008 at 06:30 pm

I've been on the site sporadically this year, but looking over my posts I feel like I need to tie up some loose ends. Also, a few random musings.

I'm on the equal payment plan for my utilities. After keeping the house at a chilly 63 degrees during the day (66 from 5-10pm), and using the thermostat timer religiously, I ended the year with a $67 credit. So I thought that my new monthly rate would drop $5 or so, from $250/month to $245. It went UP to $267/month!!! Apparently they factor in other things, including expected rate increases, avg. temperature, etc. So I guess it would have been even worse if I didn't cut back, but yipes.

I fared a bit better with my electric bill. That was also $250/month. I ended with a $95 credit, and my new monthly rate dropped to $242. Still ridiculous, but at least headed in the right direction. I have a second refrigerator and freezer in the basement. I use the freezer quite a bit, but am thinking of disconnecting the fridge after the holidays.

Some good news...we're using my company's health benefits in 2009. Our monthly premiums are dropping $65/month versus hubby's plan, with similar if not better benefits. My Rx plan is also much better. I take one medecine that I get mail order for $74 under hubby's plan. Because it's a generic, a 90-day supply will only cost me $10. DS takes a medecine sporadically, which I also order through the mail. $100 under hubby, about $32 under mine. So I'll be saving a few hundred bucks from all of that.

I'm saving a bunch of money on Christmas pictures this year. I like to get professional pictures of the kids done each year, plus I usually send out the picture of the two of them in my Christmas cards. This year has been so nuts that I haven't even done cards yet, and never got their pictures done either. I usually go to Sears or JCPenney and get screwed, because their portrait packages are only good for 1 pose. Because I get each child individually, plus 1 together, that counts as 3 poses, so I don't get any of the deals.

Wednesday night, my daughter was dressed up for the school chorus concert, so I dressed up my son and took a picture of them in front of our Christmas tree. Sent the picture to Walgreens.com and got 40 wallets for the Christmas cards for $10. Then today, my daughter was off from school for her doctor appointment. Afterwards we went to Sears and I got a package of her pictures (1 pose) for $9.99. I'll do the same with DS next week, then bring them both, spending $10 each time. Grand total: $40. In years past, it's been $200-$400! What a waste...

The next week will be nuts. I need to get my cards out, finish shopping, and wrap the gifts. Tomorrow is DD's birthday, so I need to wrap her gifts too. We're having a party on Sunday for some friends (requires menu, shopping, cooking and cleaning), and I'm hosting Christmas for 12 (requires menu, shopping, cooking and cleaning). No complaints - it's all fun, great stuff. Just busy. Snow's coming too...

That's enough rambling for now. Hope everyone is enjoying the holiday season!

Ch Ch Changes

December 16th, 2008 at 11:09 am

Shoutout to David Bowie, who I really like.

I've been off the site for a while now, preparing for a major life change that will likely require my presence here more than ever.

Hubby has decided to quit his job and start up his own consulting company. I know on the surface it sounds crazy to give up a stable, good paying job in this economy for something totally unstable. But when we thought about it more, it actually makes some sense.

First, he's 40 and has been miserable at his job for a while. I'm a strong believer that if you're going to be spending so much time doing something, you may as well be happy about it. That's priceles...

Second, his job is actually not that stable. His company recently announced that they're being bought out, and there's no guarantee of future employment with the new company. We could wait around for a severance, but who knows when/if that would happen.

Third, I have a very stable, well-paying job with great benefits. I recently took over a new position that came with a promotion and my company is actually in pretty decent shape. I'm also only part-time (80%) and have the option to go back full time if I want, which will get me an extra 20% salary.

So we'll be losing a little over half of our total income (ouch). My goal is to be able to pay all of our regular monthly bills with my salary, and rely on whatever he brings in to pay for special things like vacations and to amplify our savings. He'll have enough pressure in the beginning trying to get up and running without added financial burdens.

So I've run the numbers and am thinking it will be doable but REALLY REALLY tight. I'm not sure exactly what my net pay will be, because I need to change withholding and all of that, but I think it will be close.

We're moving to a cash/envelope system. I always charge everything and pay off the credit card each month, but would prefer the discipline of cash. So in December, I'm paying the credit card bill from November plus everything this month cash (using my year-end bonus). That way everything including Christmas will be paid by the 31st and we'll start the year fresh.

Next time I post, I'll put up my January expenses and talk about what's getting cut. I'm really excited to get going with it!