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Archive for January, 2012

Continued work stress

January 30th, 2012 at 08:41 pm

Not much going on financially. Wrapped up January numbers over the weekend and am waiting for February to begin. I need to start pulling my tax information together for the accountant, but that probably won't happen until this weekend. We've been diligent about making our quarterly estimated payments, so I'm hoping we won't owe much (if anything). Hubby will still need to contribute to his SEP, so that will be money out of pocket, but at least it's for an investment and not a bill!

Work continues to be stressful. One of the women who works for me has been on vacation since Thursday. I needed to hit her up to log on and take care of something that only she could do. Fortunately she is very accommodating and happy to do it (I'm an extremely flexible boss so it goes both ways), but I still hated for her to have to do it. The stress in the office is palpable.

We wanted to visit my brother for President's Day weekend by he's busy. It would have been a great vacation with my 3 favorite things - relaxing, cheap, and great wine. When he said he was busy, I already had the bug and was ready to book something else but hubby (amazingly) was the voice of reason and said no, let's save the money and stay home. Frankly, that's a treat too these days. I'll make some kickin dinners, we'll watch a movie and light a fire. (And we'll still have the wine Smile).

So we'll see how the month unfolds...

January is Ending Early

January 28th, 2012 at 10:05 am

For me anyway. I got a hold of my 1/31 pay stub, went to the bank to deposit a check and paid all of my outstanding bills. The end result was that I ended the month up by $139. I would love to put it to the HELOC, but I have the $1000 car repair bill due next month, so I'm going to put the money toward that.

I went to the post office today to mail the two ebay purchases. Net result after shipping: I made a total of $20. Not fantastic, but considering the things were collecting dust in my closet, not bad either. I'll put that to the Heloc when the money from Paypal transfers over. I haven't gotten paid from the third buyer yet. It's been 2 days, so I'm assuming they're going to reneg. It was only $2.99 plus shipping, so my net wouldn't be great, but it's still annoying.

Tonight the family is going to a charity basketball game. I bought the tickets earlier in the month, and we're going to grill burgers or hot dogs for dinner. It's beautiful out - mid 40s and sunny. The weather the past few months has been so strange...

I'm about half way to another $5 amazon card through swagbucks, so I'll try to get some computer time for that tonight as well.

Time to get off the couch and actually do something today...

It's "snowflaking" here too

January 26th, 2012 at 08:07 pm

I'm inspired by creditcardfree's accounting of all of the little ways she's been saving up for Christmas 2012. I've been trying to do the same thing paying down my HELOC. So far this month, I've put an extra $167.73 toward it. The money has come from all sorts of things, including coins, selling books/dvds, cutting costs, etc. More on the way with my recent ebay sales. No one thing is a lot, but every little bit helps.

So I ended up with three sales on my ebay auctions. I relisted the other 7 for 10 days figuring, what the heck? Two of the three have already paid, so that's a relief.

I also balanced my checkbook. I have to deposit a check tomorrow and pay all of the end of the month bills. Looks like January was a success. Wahoo!

Ebay updates

January 25th, 2012 at 06:35 pm

I am so inexperienced with Ebay! I just got an email saying that $19.50 was deposited in my Paypal account. Turns out, one of my auctions ended with 2 bids. I assumed that I'd get email updates letting me know that people bidded on the items, but I didn't, so I assumed I had no bids. I went back and looked at my other items. One auction has a bid for $3.99 (a nib Hanna Montana board game. Really? Who buys this stuff?). That auction ends tomorrow. There is also an auction that has a bid for $9.99 that ends tomorrow. One other auction has a watcher, but no bids yet. That ends tomorrow as well. So I'm excited...

I need to pay for shipping on the sold item, but everything leftover will go to the HELOC. I'll get that out tomorrow or Friday. Woohoo.

The other big money news today: I submitted my travel voucher for my trip. I'm getting $277 back, minus the $30 for parking = $247 to the HELOC. Turns out they reimbursed me $.55/mile (I had assumed only $.45). I think I'll get it in my 2/15 paycheck.

I made dinner in the crockpot today. Pulled pork (yum). I was proud of myself because we've been eating out way too much over the past two weeks.

I should be able to finalize the month's expenses tomorrow. I'll get my paystub online, and will pay any remaining bills. It feels so great to have already paid cash for everything and have a small credit card bill. Refreshing...

Back from Beantown

January 24th, 2012 at 04:39 am

The weekend was every bit as good as I anticipated. Relaxing and enjoyable. I got to my sister's in time to watch the second football game. I feel bad for both of the losing team's kickers. How do you recover when your entire job is to kick the ball in pressure situations and you blow it? I'm sure they replay the kicks many times over in their head.

Anyway, I'm back in the office today, so I'll fill out my travel voucher. I'll get back mileage, tolls and parking. I would love to deposit all of it (less the parking - $30!) into the Heloc account. I'm anticipating it'll be about $175.

Still no action on the eBay postings. And I'm tossing my deadbeat brother $50 today. I have gotten much better about saying no (or avoiding his calls - lol) but he is in a tough spot and he caught me at a weak moment. Want to see what he looks like? Look up "champagne taste on a beer budget" in the dictionary. That's him...

Let it Snow!

January 21st, 2012 at 07:00 am

I couldn't write a better script for this weekend! Went grocery shopping last night after work to stock the house for the next several days. I was home by 8:00, had a great dinner and watched a movie with hubby and the kids (which I got free from Swapadvd .com - sister site to paperbackswap .com).

Today the weather report is calling for 3-6 inches of snow. We have 2" on the ground already. The best part: It's supposed to end by noon, is enough to use the snowblower, but not so much that it will be a terrible chore, and all of the sports today are cancelled, which means I don't have to leave the house!! Woohoo! And, hubby took in all of the outside Christmas decorations yesterday afternoon by himself, which means I avoid one of my most hated chores.

Then tomorrow, I'm off to my sister's house near Boston for an overnight. I have a business trip there on Monday, so I get to see her, and get reimbursed for gas. I don't see her nearly as much as I'd like so I'm really excited.

I just redeemed my first $5 Amazon gift card from Swagbucks for 2012. I'm going to track them on my sidebar and save them for Christmas. I'd love to earn 1 per week, which would be $225 by the end of the year.

I have a few bills to pay, so I'll knock them out today and get my finances up to date. I've been keeping pretty close track, so nothing should be a surprise.

Have a great weekend. For those in the snow zone, stay safe!

Work stress (not financial)

January 19th, 2012 at 04:44 am

This is not a financial post, but a few things about work (and non-work) stress have come up with others this week and have been weighing on my mind.

We're in the middle of a huge project at work. Started late Nov, going to late February. Late nights, early mornings, weekends, the whole bit. I've been holding my own, thanks to my hubby and kids who have stepped up in a big way, but I can see the toll it's taking on others, including one team member who had to take some time off this week because the stress was so great. Reading everyone's blogs on this site it seems that many are swamped at work as well. I'm concerned that this is becoming the "new normal", which isn't healthy at all.

On the other hand, I have a good friend who's been unemployed since June, 2009. She has exhausted her severance and unemployment and has been looking for work for a while, with no success. She posted an entry on Facebook earlier this week after finding out that she didn't get a job she applied for and I could feel the stress and frustration jump off the page as I read it.

I guess I just feel helpless because I don't know what to do to help either of these people and I want to make sure I don't get sucked into the black hole of doing nothing but work 24x7.

Thanks for the opportunity to vent...

Extra $5.00 to HELOC

January 18th, 2012 at 12:54 pm

I found a 1/2 roll of quarters in the bottom of my car's glove compartment! I was like a kid in a candy shop! So I deposited that with the $22.73 check from secondspin and transferred $27.73 to my HELOC! Brings the balance down to $44,232.31. Longggg way to go, but every little bit helps!

I went to the post office to mail a book and a package. $8.xx spent, and it was my only spending today. And I'm THIS close to finishing the credit union application. Hubby got his form notarized, I just need him to sign the application, which he'll do tonight. Everything else is ready to go.

No Ebay action on my listed items. Not surprised, few of the other listings of these same items had any activity. But they're listed for 10 days, so we'll see.

Bob B inspired me to check the daily amount of interest I'm paying. I pay approximately $14.16/day for my mortgage and $3.44/day for my HELOC. The mortgage doesn't bother me so much. I have a great rate (3 7/8%) for a 15-yr fixed, and it'll be paid off in Feb 2018. The HELOC rate is 2.74%. The balance has been out there for years and just needs to go!

Listed Ebay Items

January 16th, 2012 at 07:31 am

I finally got around to listing 10 items on EBAY. The good news is that most items were already listed by others, so I got a good sense of asking prices, shipping rates, etc. The bad news is that most of those items didn't have bids! I listed them all for 10 days, figuring if any pan out, great, if not, it's not costing me anything, and I can always relist. I've only sold a few things on EBAY over the years, so I'm pretty much a novice.

I'm off from work today, so I'm trying to organize, clean, etc. Garbage day is tomorrow and I'm committed to getting 2 extra bags of junk out of my house! And hopefully take down the Christmas decorations too...

Cold Temps = No Spend

January 15th, 2012 at 11:46 am

I should move to Alaska...

It is 15 degrees today, with a windchill close to zero. Other than taking the dog out (and only long enough for him to do his business) I am on the couch in pajamas under a blanket watching football. I'm not spending a dime today. I made pancakes for breakfast, and I have dinner in the fridge from my trip to the store yesterday. So a cheap, easy, relaxing day for me.

And I'm getting completely caught up on everything: work, finances, personal stuff. It feels great. Now if I could just get motivated to take down all of the inside Christmas decorations. Perhaps tomorrow...

Lazy Saturday

January 14th, 2012 at 07:40 pm

I was up and at em early today. DS had a basketball game from 8-9 (ugh), so I was up at 7:00. After his game, we went to pick up the car from the shop (it was sitting there for a few days until I could get a ride). Then I went to Home Depot and paid the final bill for some carpeting they installed. (I paid with a discounted gift card, so I saved 8%). Then I went to the bank and the grocery store.

I was proud of myself for going with a list, and sticking to it, but I still spent $157, which is more than the $125-$150 I was shooting for. I can do better.

DD hurt her finger in a game yesterday, so she couldn't play basketball today, which meant I had the afternoon to relax and putter. My two favorite things. She did have a soccer game tonight which was exciting, and character building if you know what I mean. (They lost 5-0 and it wasn't even that close!).

We had tortellini and meatballs for dinner, but I did treat the kids to ice cream. I have some work to do tomorrow and will be watching the Giants, hoping they lose. Oh, and the secondspin check came already. That'll go into the Bank and transferred to the HELOC on Tuesday.

Friday news

January 13th, 2012 at 02:01 pm

Ate out twice today. I was on the road for lunch, so I stopped at Boston Market ($9.12). And DD and I had some bonding time, so we went to Dunkin Donuts after school, for another $3.75. I've been pretty good about keeping dining out down to a minimum, so I'm not going to sweat it.

The weather here is crazy. It was between 45-50 yesterday, and now in the 30s and SUPER windy which makes it unbearable. DD has an indoor soccer game tonight, then it's on the couch under a blanket for me!

I have a 3-day weekend. I have some work to do, but plan to spend some time getting my financials up to date, organizing, etc.

Avoided $183

January 12th, 2012 at 08:50 pm

I dropped my car off at the shop on Sunday night. They called with a quote of $1156 + tax ($1225). Back in December, I received a coupon for 15% off service. I put the coupon on my fridge, knowing I would need it. But of course, forgot it when I dropped the car off. Even though it said that you had to present the coupon at drop off, I called them up and told them that I dropped the car after hours, so I didn't leave the coupon, and would they still apply it? THEY SAID YES! So it worked out to $183 being taken off my bill. Woohoo...

It's tough to top that, but I had some other good finance news. I sent off a bunch of videos to secondspin .com. I got an email from them that I'll be paid $22.73, which includes $19.50 for the dvds and $3.23 for shipping. They didn't accept two dvds which were scratched, for which I was expecting $3. Not terrible. As soon as I get that check, I'll add it to my HELOC.

Speaking of HELOC, I deposited my coins in the bank yesterday. Ended up totalling $48.71. I rounded that up to $50 and sent it to the HELOC, which makes $140 extra paid so far this year.

And I found a penny yesterday, and another one today.

But it wasn't all money in. I went to the post office to send off the (almost) last batch of books to paperbackswap. Bought gas for $54. And I went grocery shopping for about $48.

The kids wanted pizza for dinner last night, so while I was grocery shopping, I bought a 16" store bought pizza $6.99 with a 50% off coupon because it was so late in the day (around 5:30). Can't beat that, and the kids loved it. The price for pizza in the pizza place has skyrocketed. A plain large pie is about $14 now.

So almost halfway through the month and so far, so good!

It's cheaper than a car payment

January 10th, 2012 at 04:55 pm

Thsi is my mantra for the day. Car was way overdue for an oil change, and was really sluggish starting up over the weekend. We took it to the shop and - cha ching - $1100 later (plus tax), I'll get my car back. Of course the oil change and new battery (which caused the sluggishness) were a given. But while they were looking at it, they found x, y, and z. My car is 8 years old, with 128,000 miles. I've been going to this shop forever, and the car hasn't been in since last June, so I'm inclined to believe them. After getting over the initial sticker shock, I kept reminding myself, "it's cheaper than a car payment". It's been 7 months since I spent any money on the car, which works out to be about $165/month. Could be worse.

That got me thinking...there are 3 places where, without fail, I always walk out spending more money than I thought I would going in: 1) the car shop, 2) the vet, and 3) Target. Don't know why, but it's true.

I was hoping to be super productive this afternoon, but got called into a call for work. I did manage to deposit some cash and checks at the bank, for me and for dad. I can now move over $80 to my HELOC payment.

Tomorrow I'm on vacation, and will hit the bank to cash in my coins and go to the post office. I also have to go grocery shopping, but it should be a fairly inexpensive trip. And relax, can't forget to relax!

Two-for-One Posting

January 9th, 2012 at 04:10 pm

I got home late last night and was beat, so I'm posting a two-fer today...Sunday and Monday updates!

Sunday was crazy busy. DD had a soccer game, then we dropped the car at the shop to get checked out. I went to dad's for dinner, got home around 9, and had some things to take care of to get ready for my week. It was a no-spend day, and I ended the week with $10 leftover, which will go into my "mom fun" account. The envelope has $15 in it. My plan is to use the money I save to fly down to my SIL's for her graduation from her Master's program in May. It's a Thursday night, so hubby and the kids won't be able to go. I'd stay with Bro and SIL, so the only expense would be the flight.

Today the big news is that I avoided fast food. It's just me and the kids, and I didn't feel like cooking at all. I suggested Wendy's to the kids, and DD said no, she'd prefer chicken quesadillas. Easy enough and SO much healthier and cheaper. So we went with that and, other than setting one of them on fire because it was too close to the broiler (oops), they were really good.

The book requests from paperbackswap .com continue to roll in. I have another half dozen to mail tomorrow. Also have to get to the bank. I should be getting a copy of my 1/15 pay stub tomorrow, so I can confirm my assumptions of how much will come out in taxes, etc. and finalize the 2012 numbers.

No-Spend Day

January 7th, 2012 at 07:39 pm

I had a no-spend day today, second one of the week. I rarely have no-spend days, so this is pretty impressive for me.

Some happenings for the day:

1) I went ahead and transferred the $10 in train savings from earlier in the week to the Heloc. I updated the balances on my sidebar.

2) I found a penny. My first found money of 2012. I added that to the sidebar as well.

3) I received the check in the mail for my 2011 Death Bet winnings. I'll deposit that into the bank on Monday and transfer it to the heloc as well.

4) Tomorrow should be a pretty good day. DD has a soccer game in the afternoon, then I'm heading down to Dad's for dinner. Assuming tomorrow should be another no spend, I'll end the week with at least $5 of my allowance left to put in my "mommy fun" envelope. Woohoo!

5) Hubby's travelling this week, which should make for a cheap grocery week. It's much more casual when he's gone, food-wise. The kids and I will make Bobolis, or scrambled eggs for dinner, and I try to use up whatever we have in the house.

One week down, 51 to go. 2012 is off to a pretty good start...

Switching to a credit union

January 6th, 2012 at 06:50 pm

I'm eligible to participate in my company's credit union. I first found out last summer and was interested, but not motivated enough to follow through. Having direct deposits and automatic payments makes the thought of changing so overwhelming.

Then last fall, Bank of America proposed charging customers a fee each month that they used their debit card for a purchase (even if they used it only once in a month). I found that astounding. It's so much easier / cheaper for them if customers pay with a debit card, and they get a fee from the merchant. Yet they were going to tack on another fee from their customer. They backed off almost immediately due to the outrage and news coverage, but the fact that they considered it in the first place is enough for me to switch.

Given the craziness of work and the holidays, I didn't get around to filling out the paperwork to make the switch. But this was one of my goals for the New Year. Today, hubby got his signature notarized so he can be listed as a joint owner, so now the packet is ready to go.

The thing I'm most looking forward to is that they allow you to open sub-accounts for a Christmas Club, vacation club, and other savings. I'll be able to direct deposit money directly into these each month from my paycheck. I'm hoping to have everything set up and transferred over by the end of February.

In other news, I mailed another dozen books and a bunch of dvds. I have another 6-7 books to go. My shelves look bare! (Well, not really, but it's getting there).

My car was a little sluggish twice today when I was starting. I really hope that it's nothing major, because a huge car bill is the last thing I need. We'll see how it goes tomorrow...

Worked Late

January 5th, 2012 at 08:11 pm

I'm just on my way home from work now. When I work this late, the company sends us home in a car, instead of having us take mass transit. So I didn't spend the $10 train ticket, so tomorrow I'll move that money to the Heloc.

The only money out today was at the post office, where I mailed off 12 of the books. Still many more to do, which I'll knock off tomorrow. I brought my lunch (well, not really lunch - granola bar and nuts), but better than buying at work.

Wednesday happenings

January 4th, 2012 at 08:30 pm

Here's the spending for today:

Lunch @ work - $11.75 (It was sushi day, and my last hurrah. Packing lunch tomorrow!)
Post Office - Mailed a book - $2.41
Fruit & Veggie Store - $23.05 (hubby)
CVS - Mailing supplies - $34.88 - $17.50 ECBs
Tickets for the family to a charity basketball game - $51.98

Deposited checks from my dental insurance for the kids' 6 months visit. I had to pay $155 out of pocket, because the insurance only covers flouride treatments once a year. And unfortunately, I underestimated my flexible spending for 2011, so I had none left. I was reimbursed for the rest ($345).

Made an awesome dinner of ground lamb and Greek spices in a pita. I was proud of us for not eating out. I got home late from work, and hubby didn't feel like cooking. It was a pretty easy recipe, so rather than order out, I did the cooking. Quick and delicious. We haven't had any fast food / takeout yet this year (yes, I realize it's only the 4th, but for us that's pretty good).

Low spend day

January 3rd, 2012 at 06:58 pm

I had a low-spend day today. I had coffee at home, but then grabbed another cup at work with a co-worker (as much a social thing as an "I want coffee" thing). I also had lunch at work. We pay in the cafeteria by swiping our ID card and having the money come out of our paycheck. Super convenient, but dangerous, because I never really pay attention to how much I'm spending. To that point, I don't know what I spent today, but think it was around $7.50. Hmmm, need to pay more attention to this.

My only other spending was the train ticket and subway ride. I'm saving a few bucks on the train this month. Instead of automatically buying a monthly ticket, I actually figured out when I would be in and out of the office, and priced out a combination of weekly, 10-trip and single tickets. Turns out that instead of buying the monthly for $234, the combination of tickets will be at most $213. That's just for the train. The subway is an additional $1.50 each way. Fortunately, my company pays the first $100 in mass transit costs, then the next $125 comes out of my paycheck pretax. Still super expensive, but every little bit helps.

I need to go to CVS tomorrow and get envelopes to mail my books and dvds. I'm up to 21 books to mail on paperbackswap, and 4 dvds on swapadvd .com. I also have to mail the second spin dvds. Fortunately, the mailing envelopes are part of this week's CVS promotion "Buy $30 Get $10 Gift Card" so that'll help offset some of the cost.

I ended last week with $5 of my allowance left over. That goes into a special "me" envelope, along with some money I got from MIL for Christmas. I'll save it for a girl's night out, or some other unbudgeted splurge.

Got home late from work (7:45). We had lasagna for dinner that I had defrosted from the freezer. Have enough leftover for the kiddies to have tomorrow night. Still on track 3 days into the new year. It's a beautiful thing...

Last day of break

January 2nd, 2012 at 06:29 pm

It's back to work tomorrow. I thought the kiddies had to go back to school as well, but they don't go back until Wednesday, so they'll hang with hubby tomorrow.

I made good use of my day. I made a ton on meatballs and sauce, enough to have tonight for dinner, and freeze 4 more meals for the family. I cleaned out the fridge and inventoried the pantry. One of my goals for 2012 (always) is to eat out less and plan meals. That'll be much easier now that I know what I have! I also did a few loads of laundry that had been neglected.

Money-wise, I did some spending, but all of it is in the budget. I ordered the kids' lunches at school, got DS's haircut, picked up dry cleaning, and got our weekly allowance from the ATM. I also ordered a discounted gift card for Staples, which I'll use to pick some things up later this week. And I went to the gym, for the first time in months!!

I try to buy discounted gift cards whenever possible. The Staples gift card was 5% off, and I recently picked up a PetSmart for 10.2% off. There are a number of different, reputable sites out there, and they offer quite a variety of cards. If you're interested, check out cardpool .com, plasticjungle .com, or giftcardrescue .com. We recently bought new carpeting from Home Depot, and I paid for that using gift cards that were 8% off.

I missed out on a coupon opportunity at the dry cleaner. I picked up $46 worth of dry cleaning. When I dropped it off, I gave the kid a 10% off coupon. He was a bit flustered and didn't apply it. I realized too late (note to self - check receipts). If the owner had been there when I picked it up today I would've asked for it, but it was another kid, so I didn't bother. So I missed out on $4.65.

I have 14 books and 2 DVDs to get in the mail tomorrow. I still need to take the pictures for the Ebay items and update half .com.

Great start to the year

January 1st, 2012 at 07:28 pm

With the exception of the Cowboys getting absolutely crushed by the Giants, today has been a great day. I slept late, spent time with hubby and the kids, walked the dog, and did some MAJOR, desperately needed cleaning in our den.

Here are the highlights:

While cleaning out the den, I went through all of our books and dvds so I could figure out which to get rid of. (I don't think my 11- and 13-year-old kids need "Biscuit Takes a Bath" and "New Tracks for Thomas"). I sold 8 DVDs to SecondSpin .com for a total of $22.50. Assuming they are all accepted, that money will go toward the HELOC.

I listed the books and the rest of the dvds on Paperbackswap .com and Swapadvd .com. I don't get any money for these, but I'll get credits which I can then use to get books or dvds that I'm interested in. I use it primarily to get summer reading books for the kids and new movies. Definitely recommend checking it out if you haven't already. Anyway, 7 books have been claimed already, and another 17 are on people's wish lists, they just need to be claimed.

I still need to update the books on half .com, but that'll be one of tomorrow's to-dos.

While cleaning out the den closet, I came across two old direct tv receivers and a few Lenox and Mikasa bowls and vases that I've never and will never use. My first thought was to list the bowls and vases on Ebay and chuck the receivers, but then I thought, what the heck, let me search ebay and see if there are any on Ebay. Sure enough, they're both listed, one for a low price of $20 and one for $12. I'll undercut that by a few bucks and consider it gravy if they sell. Three of the Lenox/Mikasa things are listed by others too, for prices between $10 and $25. Two more are not currently listed, so I'll put them up and see what happens. I don't have a ton of experience with Ebay, but what do I have to lose? They've been collecting dust in my closet for years anyway, so a few more weeks won't matter.

I filled 3 garbage bags as well. Much of it was due to shredding documents that I can't even believe I still had. I'm talking every pay stub since I started working in 1991, and bank statements from our first account as a married couple, back in 1994. I have enough shred for a ticker tape parade.

I found another $.65 while cleaning, and I didn't spend any money all day.

On the docket tomorrow is some more cleaning and cooking. Kids don't go back to school until Tuesday, so another quiet day in store.