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Archive for October, 2009

Down for the Count

October 31st, 2009 at 08:20 pm

Well, almost. DS came down with a terrible cough Wednesday night/Thursday morning. Anytime he gets sick this happens - a barking cough like a seal. We give him the nebulizer, but other than that, there's not much to do but wait for it to pass. No fever, no aches (thank goodness), but we took him to the doctor on Friday just to make sure it wasn't the flu. So he missed school Thurs and Friday, was able to get out for a bit of trick-or-treating today, and seems a little bit better. Keeping my fingers crossed that this passes by tomorrow night.

So needless to say, I've done nothing else over the last few days. I worked Thursday and Friday (hubby was home with him), so when I walked in the door from work, I needed to give hubby some time to get out of the house. I'm going to spend tomorrow doing house stuff (laundry, laundry, laundry) and will have a LONG to-do list Monday, to make up for the errands I didn't do over the past few days.

One thing on the financial front - I already received the reimbursement for the kids' dental visits. It only took a few weeks - I've never seen any health-related thing move so fast!

The other financial thing I need to do is to finish out the month and see where we ended up. I've been doing a good job of tracking as I go, so hopefully it shouldn't be too bad.

Hope everyone had a great Halloween!

Back to the Well

October 28th, 2009 at 08:43 am

On Monday, I blogged about hitting a local library's used book sale. I found 7 books that I could sell for $16.61 (-$3 to buy them) and I was quite pleased with myself.

Last night, while surfing the forums, I came across a post about selling used books to Powells Books online. I still had the list of all the ISBN #s that I wrote down from the book sale, so I jumped onto Powell's website and checked them out. Ready for this? Powells will buy 18 books for $43! Assuming that they're all hardcover, I'll have to pay $1 each, for a net of $25. The best part is that I already did the leg work of copying the ISBNs during my first go-round, and was really careful to identify the location of each book by shelf, so all I need to do is stop back there, pick them out and box them up! Assuming I can find them all, this book sale will have netted me over $38 toward my $20 challenge. Not too shabby! I'm not sure if I'll get over there tonight, but if not, tomorrow, Saturday at the latest.

My $13.75 rebate check from Caregivers Marketplace came in the mail yesterday, along with the rebate from Seattle's Best Coffee, so I added another $14.75 to my challenge.

Today's To-Dos:
1) Go to post office and mail books.
2) Drop off grocery gift cards

Feels like a Monday

October 27th, 2009 at 07:22 am

What a crummy day. 50 degrees, damp, rainy. I would have done anything to stay in bed for a few more hours, but I had to get the kids to school and me to work. Blah...

I had a terrific day yesterday. Ran all my errands. I closed out a checking account I had at Citibank and was shocked that neither the customer service person nor the teller asked me why I was closing it. I had no great reason, I just didn't need it anymore, but figured that they would be interested in why they were losing a customer. Guess not.

I also went to the post office and mailed some books. Another book was claimed last night, so that will have to go out tomorrow. Getting rid of these books is like a slow leak, but it's really adding up.

Speaking of adding up, I went to one of the local libraries that has an ongoing book sale, looking for books I could buy and resell on Cash4books .net. This is really hit or miss, because you never know how many books they're selling, if they're the right ones, etc. This particular one was pretty big (probably 150-200 books). I did ok. I found 7 books to sell for $16.61. It cost me $3 to buy them, and cash4books pays the shipping. So I'm netting $13.31 for my $20 challenge. Door to door it took me about 1 1/2 hours, which works out to $8.87/hr, tax free. I'll take it. They have to go to the post office tomorrow too. I'll also write myself a note on the calendar to go back again in 3 months.

Here's today's to-do list:
1) Transfer money from Paypal to checking
2) Check out times for New Moon on 11/20 and preorder tickets (we're rabid Twilight fans...)
3)Package up the books for the post office tomorrow.
4) Get checkbook / budget up to date.

That's it. It's a pretty small list because I'm so sluggish today that I know not much else will get done. So why put it down, not do it, and feel bad about it? Smile

Prepping for the week

October 25th, 2009 at 09:29 pm

Well, Monday at least. Hubby is travelling for a few days, so I'm working from home tomorrow. I'm REALLY looking forward to not commuting!

I have a number of things to get done:
1) Go to dad's bank and deposit checks for him.
2) Go to my bank and cash check
3) Close citibank checking account
4) Fill out next Caregivers Marketplace rebate, and one other rebate for try me free shampoo.
5) Go to post office and mail paperback swap books (6 more gone - yay) and rebates.

3 challenge boosters for the week:
1) I went back to secondspin .com tonight and checked a bunch of CDs that I have. I can get rid of 13 for about $20. These wouldn't be missed - we have the songs that we want on Itunes anyway and I can't remember the last time we listened to any of them. I just need to listen to some, make sure they don't skip, etc., before I officially sell them and send them off.

2) I'm planning on hitting one or two of the ongoing book sales at the local libraries to see if I can hit any pay dirt there.

3) I have a piggy full of change. I'm going to see how much it is and put it toward the challenge. My goal is to boost my challenge amount high enough to take advantage of one of the local banks account opening bonuses.

Should be a good challenge week...

Challenge Update

October 23rd, 2009 at 09:24 am

I received the full credit of $13.38 from Cash4books. It was deposited into my Paypal account today. Not bad. Took just over 2 weeks. So that's $13.38 more for the challenge, bringing me up to a whopping $49.39. I may have to scrounge around the house for some change to get it up to $50!

Two more books were claimed on paperback swap, so I'll need to add "going to the post office" on my list of to-dos tomorrow.

Hubby will be travelling over the next few weeks, so I plan to take a few vacation days while he's gone (to cover pickup and drop off of the kids, NOT to celebrate the fact that he's gone and have a wild party). I'm hoping to use the time to organize and declutter more of the house. Where to begin?

Another $11.75 for Challenge

October 22nd, 2009 at 07:28 pm

I was pretty productive today. Here goes:

(X) Sign kids up for Basketball and Indoor Soccer ($350 ouch).
(X) Update credit cards / budget spreadsheet.
(X) Contact Caregivers Marketplace re rebate
(X) Contact Staples re Easy Rewards
(X) Mail dad's credit card bill

I emailed Caregivers Marketplace because I was expecting a rebate of $13.75, but the check I got in the mail was for $11.75. The customer rep emailed me right back and told me that the $11.75 was for a previous rebate I submitted, and I'll be getting the $13.75 next week. Hot dog, that's another $11.75 to my $20 Challenge!

I also picked a penny up on the street today, so it's actually $11.76. (Baselle, I'm still amazed that you found $20 in a year. I work in NYC and was sure that I'd find a few cents each day. I've been looking for about a week now, and that penny is all I've seen).

I planned out my next attack for the $20 challenge. I like the book/dvd thing and most of the libraries in my county have used book sales. I went online and got the schedule for each one, and I'm planning on hitting them over the next few months. I'll write down the ISBNs, use the library computer to check right away what will/won't be accepted, then buy the ones I can resell. In most cases, hardcovers are $.50-$1, paperbacks are $.25-$.50 and DVDs are $1 or less. I'm hoping that I'll strike some gold (or silver at least). I'm not at all a garage sale person, but I bet the same approach would apply there, especially for DVDs.

Big day tomorrow, with lots to do. Here's the list in advance, so I can get cracking on it first thing:
( )Drop off gift cards
( )Go to bank
( )Close Citibank Checking account
( )Submit and mail credit card rewards form (there's about $450 there. What am I waiting for?!)
( )Finalize menu for Saturday and grocery shop
( )Laundry (DD needs uniform for Saturday, so this is a must!)

Health Plans & Dentist

October 21st, 2009 at 11:25 am

I managed to do everything on my list yesterday, except for 2 small things: 1) I deposited the checks at the bank but didn't schedule the xfer to the emergency fund. 2) I picked up the grocery gift cards, but didn't drop them off to the person who needs them. I'll take care of #1 today. I'll have to take care of #2 tomorrow.

Some interesting (or not) facts from yesterday's to-do list:

I submitted the receipts for the kids' dentist visits. Their dentist is out of network but we like him so much that we continue to go to him. No worries, as fortunately our plan still pays 100% for the regular checkups, even though he's not in the plan. Good deal. Bad news: They only cover flouride 1x/year and he gives it to them 2x, and for one of the services, he charges $15 more than their reasonable and customary. So the total bill was $450, and I'm going to have to pay $180 out of pocket.

I enrolled in my 2010 health plans at work. Same plans as I have this year, but my premiums are going up by $192 for the year. I'm still pretty happy with it, though. Medical, Dental, and Vision for a family of four will be $3,192/year (or $266/month), and the coverage is pretty generous. Can't complain. I'm just thankful that I have the insurance!

I also signed up for $1800 in my Flexible Spending Account. I only had $1500 this year, and I blew through that in January and February thanks to a root canal and crown. Next year, hubby and I will both need glasses, and we'll have the same dentist issue as this time, along with our prescriptions and regular costs, so I have no doubt that we'll use it all up.

Other happenings: Got an email from Cash4books that they received my package. I didn't credit my $20 challenge account yet because the money is not in Paypal, but hopefully I'll see that by the end of the week.

Today's to do
1) Transfer funds to Money Market
2) Call gym for appointment for DD
3) Sign up for event at DD's school
4) Plan menu for Saturday dinner (another couple is coming over, and I'm going to be super short on time).

Class Trips, To-Dos and $11

October 20th, 2009 at 07:08 am

I'm inspired by everyone cranking through their "to-do" lists, so I'm going to try posting my top 5 to-dos on my blog to keep me accountable. So here they are:

1) Complete the paperwork to be reimbursed for my kids' dentist visits.

2) Deposit check at the bank and set up transfer to money market emergency fund.

3) Go to post office and mail paperback swap book.

4) Pickup grocery gift cards for school fundraiser.

5) Register for 2010 health benefits at work (it's open enrollment time!).

Let's see how I do...

OK, on to my class trip rant. I'm all for kids going on field trips to enrich whatever learning goes on in school. But it's costing me a fortune! Last week, 2 permission slips came home in the backpack for DD. The first is for them to see a Broadway show ($102), the other was for a teambuilding field trip ($34). She had one earlier in the year for Ellis Island ($32). DS already had a field trip for ($28). This was all unbudgeted (though you'd think after 6 years in the school, I'd realize that I get hit for stuff like this every year and plan for it. Lesson learned for next year!). Anyway, is it all really necessary, or can they sit in school and do reading, writing, and arithmetic?

$20 challenge update: I received notification from second spin .com that they accepted my order and deposited $11 in my paypal account. Not bad for getting rid of 4 dvds that we never would have watched again. The turnaround time was pretty quick - less than 2 weeks from order to payment. I'd definitely recommend them. They also take cds and video games. So that brings my $20 challenge up to a whopping $24.25! Woohoo!

Good deals at the store

October 18th, 2009 at 07:35 pm

I went grocery shopping today and scored a few good deals: Pert shampoo on sale for $1.99. I bought 3, and had $3.50 in coupons, so I got 3 for $2.50. I bought a 2-pack of Hot Pockets on sale for $1.99 with a $.75 coupon doubled = $.50. 12-pack of Rayovac AA batteries for $.99 after coupon. You get the picture.

Sat outside for a FREEZING cold, damp, windy soccer game. Sprung for Dunkin Donuts hot chocolate - totally worth it.

Didn't get around to making my butternut squash soup today, but I have all the fixins and will hopefully get it done tomorrow.

One more book gone on Paperback swap. I'll get that in the mail tomorrow.

I also got a bit of organizing done in DS's room on Saturday. I have a bag of clothes that no longer fit ready for goodwill, and another bag full of garbage. His room became the storage place for everything in the house that had no where else to go. It's not perfect, but it's a major step in the right direction.

Should be a quiet week financially.

More books gone

October 16th, 2009 at 11:38 am

I had 4 more books claimed on paperback swap so I have to get them to the post office.

We're going to a concert tonight. Bought the tickets before I got back on the frugal bandwagon. We're having dinner at home before we go so it should be an inexpensive evening. The weekend is looking just as quiet. We're having dinner at a friend's house tomorrow, and soccer Sunday morning. After that, I'm all about cooking - soup, bread, maybe chili.

I don't know what's up with east coast weather. It snowed yesterday, and was about 39 degrees when I picked the kids up from school. Brrr. Damp and rainy to boot. The heat's on, but we're keeping it at 63 degrees for the day.

Totally off topic, what's up with balloon boy and his family? I don't know if it's a hoax, but that father is guilty of being a little kooky.


That's about it. Not much to post about, but I wanted to stay in the habit...

Decluttering Books

October 13th, 2009 at 07:17 pm

I put a bunch of kids books on Paperback swap last week. 4 were claimed right away, as customers had them on their "wish list" so as soon as they were posted they went. Four more books were claimed over the last few days, which will go out in the post office tomorrow. I also received a request for someone who wanted to get a 3 for 1 deal on some Magice School House books that are really small, and should hardly count as 1 credit each. That's 11 books out of my house in one week. I'll get credit for 9 of them.

I also received 2 Paperback Swap books in the mail today, both on frugality/saving. I haven't read either of them previously, so I'm looking forward to it.

Folded 2 loads of laundry tonight Smile

Money Angel, Money Devil

October 12th, 2009 at 07:31 pm

I sometimes feel like I've got a money angel on one shoulder and a money devil on the other shoulder.

Money angel made me stop at the Target on my way to Dad's house to return DS's pants that I bought last week. $14.99 credit on my card. Bought dish detergent at the store with a TMF mail in rebate. Paid $1.79 and will get $2.99 back.

Now for the devil. I had to drop off mail to my brother. Mess doesn't even begin to describe what this man has done with his life. Deadbeat dad, alcoholic, pathological liar, sponger, on and on. He has mail sent to dad's house (because he doesn't have a permanent residence) and he asked me to drop it off to him. I got there, hugged him, gave him his mail, and was about to make a hasty retreat when the request came: "ah, hey, do you have $20 on you?". I should have lied, said no, and hightailed it out of there, but the devil on my shoulder said "no, he's worse off than you are, you can part with it". So I gave him $20. It came out of my personal fun money (because Hubby has a much stronger backbone than I do, so it can't come from house funds). The whole way home I rationalized it by saying that I only see him once or twice a year, it's easier to say yes than no, but I'm still upset with myself for not saying no. Uggggh.

Busy Day

October 10th, 2009 at 05:25 pm

DD had a soccer tournament today. First game was 9:45, second game was 4:30. In between, we went to Applebees with the team for a team lunch. One of those bonding things that's tough to get out of. I was pretty pleased, though. We had a fabulous lunch for $54 (4 people). I was so full at 6:30 tonight that I didn't have dinner! I thought it would be more (usually is when there's a large group and the check is split), so I feel pretty good about that. Other than that and a gas tank fill-up, no money spent.

Not much on the docket tonight. I'm sipping a glass of wine (ok, more drinking than sipping), planning my grocery store run for the week. That's about it. Oh, and more laundry Smile

Two Feet in the Pool

October 9th, 2009 at 07:50 pm

When I decide to do something, I usually obsess and focus on it non-stop (except losing weight! lol). I've been so focused on getting my finances back in order that I didn't do a stitch of laundry this week. Until today, when hubby and DS informed me that they have no more socks. Oops! So I did 3 loads.

On the financial front, I opened up a money market savings account at BOA for our emergency fund. Right now we have a bunch of accounts all over the place, and I wanted to consolidate. The rate is 1.05%. I checked out ING and their rate is 1.30%, which is a difference of $25/year on $10,000. So I opted to keep it local at BOA. Not sure yet how high we'd like it to go, but certainly higher than it is now. I'll track it on the side, and we're planning to add $250/month to it.

Soccer was not cancelled. The weather guy's report was wrong (go figure). I always say that if I did my job as inaccurately as they do theirs I'd be out of work!

I didn't get to Target to return the clothes. I also didn't get to BJs, which was on my list. I should be able to take care of it on Sunday. But I did get to the Post Office, so that was something.

We have a 3-day weekend. Lots of soccer, shopping for Halloween costumes, BJs and Target are all on the list. And I'd like to spend some time on Sunday cooking. Butternut Squash soup, banana bread, meatloaf muffins maybe. mmm.

Trip to the Post Office

October 8th, 2009 at 08:43 pm

I signed up for an account on cash4books and sold 6 books for a total of $12.99, plus a 3% Paypal Bonus = $13.38. I'll box them up and get them to the post office tomorrow, and add that to my $20 challenge when I get the money.

I also signed up for an account on second spin and sold 4 DVDs for a total of $11. The bummer is that I need to pay for shipping, which will eat into the profit a bit, but still better than nothing. The difference will go to the $20 challenge also.

Four people requested books that I posted on Paperback Swap. No money for these, but I'll get them out of my house, and I'll get credits for books that I want to buy in the future. Those will go out tomorrow as well.

And finally, I have a rebate check for $13.75 from the Caregivers Marketplace that will count toward the $20 Challenge. For anyone who doesn't know about Caregivers Marketplace, you should check it out. They give you rebates on all sorts of items that caregivers (both of babies and elderly) would need. For example, Diapers, Depends, Polident, Ensure, etc. You submit your receipts and they give you $ back for each (usually $.75-$1). They're prompt with the payments. This will be the third rebate I've filed with them.

I'm not planning to include coupon/rebate savings in my challenge unless it's something I would have bought anyway, or if I made a profit (e.g., free after rebate and a coupon). In this case, I bought stuff for my dad during my monthly shopping trip for him that he reimbursed me for. The rebate is gravy, so I'll count it.

I'll update my sidebar to keep track of my Challenge on the progress. The books could work. I had some success with that a few years ago. We'll see.

Tomorrow should be quiet. It's supposed to rain all day (no soccer practice? Fingers crossed). I have to return some clothes to Target. And of course, get to the post office!

$20 challenge update - Books & DVDs

October 7th, 2009 at 08:13 pm

I logged most of my books into Cash4books.net. I can sell 5 for about $10 (but one of them I want to read again before I sell, so I'm going to make good use of my long commute tomorrow, then process them tomorrow night).

I cross checked the books on ebookdrop.com, but they weren't buying any of them. At the same time, I logged any books I didn't sell onto paperbackswap.com. You don't get paid for these books (members swap them for free), but for every book of mine someone wants, I get a credit to get a book for free. Comes in handy to buy Christmas gifts, kids' summer reading lists, etc.).

Then, someone in the forums mentioned secondspin.com as an option for selling used dvds. I logged a bunch of our dvds in. Many were only getting $.25 or $.50, so I'll hold onto them, but quite a few were getting $2 and one got $5. Initially, I think I'll part with 4 (for $11) and see how smoothly it goes.

So I'm going to process these orders tomorrow night and assuming I get the checks, that will be an extra $20 or so toward my challenge. Hmmm, a 100% return in 1 day. Wish I could keep that up!

I'm on fire today!

October 7th, 2009 at 01:35 pm

Here's the good, the bad and the ugly for the day, ugly first:

I made the second payment on the cc that was due 10/5, so it's now paid off in full. I'll have to wait until my next statement comes out on the 13th to see what the late fee / interest damage is. At least I have a week to work on my story for the customer rep...

The bad:
Bought pizza at work yesterday, $5 on my id. This is the first slip up since I started.

Bought a bagel and coffee this morning, $1.94. Paid cash out of my allowance.

Went to Target to get fall/winter clothes for DS. I knew it was coming (he's growing like a week) and it was budgeted. Used my debit card. The key: I was all by myself. In and out in 1/2 hour, spending less then I would have if my "helpers" were with me.

The good:

Paid off the credit card.

Balanced my check book and projected out through the end of the month.

Starting the $20 challenge (see below).

Printed out a bunch of rebate forms, matched them up with coupons I have. Showtime has a $25 Visa gift card rebate for signing up for 3 months. We just signed up a few weeks ago so we could catch Dexter (one of our favorite shows) with the intent of dropping it after the season is over. If the rebate goes through, that will just about pay for the 3 months.

I have some money from my birthday, so I'm going to take $20 and start the challenge. I'm going to start slow, post some books on half.com, check cash4books, bottle deposits, some coupon and rebate savings. I'll get more creative after that...

Killer Fees

October 6th, 2009 at 05:44 pm

I'm swallowing a tough pill as part of my "get organized/back on track" plan.

We had a HUGE credit card bill this month. I always pay the balance off in full each month, but my timing was off getting the funds to cover the bill into my checking account. As a result, I was only able to pay 1/3 of the bill, and I made the payment online the night it was due, which means it didn't hit until the next day (late!).

The balance of the bill will be paid on Thursday, but I'm still going to get hit with interest on the outstanding amount. I'll also get hit with a late fee, though I'm going to try to call them to get that waived.

Ouch! Tough lesson learned. This one will hurt for a while Frown. I'm now moving away from the credit card and onto the debit card. Much safer. Eventually I'd love to use an envelope system, like I've read on some blogs. Slow and steady...

Monday Musings

October 5th, 2009 at 09:53 am

DD has soccer practice every Monday night, next door to the neighboring town's library. I've taken advantage of it by borrowing 3-4 CDs each week, which I then go load onto my Itunes. In most cases, I'm getting songs that I really like, but definitely wouldn't pay $1.29 for (yes, they raised the price from $.99!). Great way to build my music collection for free, and little opportunity for late fees because I'm there every week.

Didn't spend any money at work today, though I'm hungry because I only brought breakfast (not lunch) and I haven't stocked my file cabinet with food yet. No worries, we have a machine on the floor where we can get free coffee, tea and hot chocolate, so I'll grab a hot chocolate to hold me over until I get home.

Finished reviewing the September bills and tried to plan out the rest of the year. We have some emergency funds in 3 different accounts and we're looking to consolidate. Wow, rates are low right now. Even ING is only 1.30%. Our regular bank has a money market deal that's at 1.05% so we'll open the account there, even though the online rate is higher. (Net difference - $25/year on $10k. I'd rather have one less account).

Has anyone done Dave Ramsey's plan? I looked it over but haven't completely bought in. We have a manageable level of debt (though none would certainly be better) - a mortgage, car payment, and heloc. Details on my sidebar. The HELOC is the one that really stresses me out, but I can't get over his idea that I should only leave $1000 in my emergency fund until all non-mortgage debts are paid off. Doesn't seem like a big enough cushion to me. Anyway, I'd love to hear about everyone's experience with his plan.

Saturday Update

October 4th, 2009 at 09:58 am

I had a great Saturday. I spent an hour in each room and did whatever I could to straighten up the room during that hour. When the hour was up, I moved on. It felt so productive and not overwhelming, because I knew that when the hour was up, I was done. Of course the place is such a mess that I need many more hours to get rid of all the clutter and get organized, but I felt like it was a great start.

I also got through many loads of laundry, including folding them instead of just leaving them in the basket!

I spent money at the grocery store, wine store, and for a friend's birthday. The wine was unplanned, but a good deal.

Today should be a no-spend day. MIL took us to the diner for breakfast, her treat. Unfortunately I have to get some work done today (in between football games) and I'll update the September numbers later tonight.

Wed / Thurs Updates

October 2nd, 2009 at 06:59 am

I'm on a roll with the "not eating at work" thing. Haven't spent a dime at work all week, and have no plans to today. Wahoo...

On Wednesday I went to Dunkin Donuts with DS ($3.85) and went out for drinks with friends ($20). Both came out of my personal funds from birthday money I received and not house money, so I'm ok with both. We did take out pizza last night (even though I had chicken set to go in the fridge). I was outvoted 3-1 on that. Looks like I have some work to do with the rest of the family Smile.

I called Verizon and cut my wireless bill by $15/month. We had signed up one of the phone lines for unlimited downloads and internet surfing, which is so unnecessary, and we were barely using the service at all. So that's done.

I'm also looking for a new "in-network" doctor. I switched plans in January and none of my doctors are in the new plan. I'm not that picky, though, so I'm choosing a new one, which will be free (no copay for well visits) instead of $100 or more if I paid out of pocket.

So all in all I feel like I'm slowly getting myself back in gear. Being on this site more regularly definitely helps!