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Archive for March, 2012

Vacation has started!!!

March 30th, 2012 at 03:06 pm

Musings as I sip on a Mike's Hard Lemonade...

I am officially done with work until Monday April 9th. (OK, I'll need to keep tabs on the crackberry while I'm away, but for the most part, I'm shut off).

We don't leave for Florida until Monday morning. Tonight we're having friends over for dinner and christening the new fire pit. (I've wanted one of these forever and scored a good deal at BJs last week). The Mike's Hard is a great kick-off...

The sump pump is done, so I'll spend tomorrow cleaning up (some dust snuck up into the house through the vents). Plus, I like to leave the house clean when I leave, so it's clean when I get back. I may have to go to the laundromat to do a load of laundry, because our washer and dryer are unhooked, and won't be hooked back up until after we get back.

I also need to take the kids shopping for some summer clothes. Nothing big, just a few t-shirts and shorts, and new bathing suits. I have a JC Penney gift card, so I'll start there.

Sunday we'll pack, and drop the pooch off at the kennel. I miscalculated on the trip expenses in two ways. I remembered that the dog needed to be boarded, but forgot the cost (cha ching). I also forgot the cost of the rental car, and our parking at the airport, which will be several hundred dollars. Wouldn't have changed my mind, but I'm annoyed at myself for forgetting about it. (Well, as annoyed as I can be drinking a Mike's Hard on vacation Wink).

So life is good. I hope you all have an enjoyable weekend!

Taxes

March 29th, 2012 at 06:14 pm

We got the results of our taxes back and for the first time in years, we owe nothing. Woohoo! In fact, we're getting back $2k from Federal, which we'll apply to our April 15 estimated tax payment. Ditto from NJ (forget the amount), but I'll apply that against estimated NJ tax too. We're getting money back from NY, but that will just about cover the accountant's fee, so all in all no money out and we're already ahead for next year.

The sump pump guys were here today and were very neat, which I love. They should be finished tomorrow. We already have the funds for this set aside - such a relief to know that it's already paid for.

I've been off of Swagbux for a while so I'm going to spend some time on that while watching tv tonight. Hubby's birthday is this month and I'll use the gift cards I've amassed at Amazon to get his gift. I also am up to $15 worth of points at Viggle (need to update my sidebar!). Love the free stuff...

Vacation on the horizon

March 28th, 2012 at 08:23 pm

We are headed to sunny Florida during the kids' spring break next week. We just booked it today. It wasn't totally spontaneous; I've had my sights set on this week over the last few months while I've just been nuts at work. Things were touch and go while I waited to see if things would settle down enough for me to get away and sure enough, I'm going. I won't be totally work-free. I'll have my laptop for emergencies and my blackberry, but I will be relatively tuned out. I am REALLY looking forward to the peace and quiet.

The good news is that I've been squirreling away money, so this will be paid off as the airfare and rental bills come in.

So now the fun kicks in. I have two days left at work to get as much done as possible so I can stay tuned out next week. We leave Monday, so I'll need to hit the stores this weekend to get the kids new bathing suits, which they've outgrown from last year. And some last minute phone calls to make as well.

Not much else going on, at least nothing I can focus on with my vacation excitement. Woohoo!

Hunger Games craze

March 23rd, 2012 at 05:42 pm

I took the kids to Barnes & Noble yesterday to get them some books, and picked up Hunger Games for myself. I've been getting sucked in by all of the hype. DD, who is 13, hasn't yet read the book but wants to see the movie. She'll read the book after I'm done with it.

In other news, I spent the day doing things that I wanted to do rather than what I planned to do. I balanced my checkbooks, did my finances, and scoped out some potential sales to Secondspin .com, which I hope to finalize tonight. What I didn't do was clean my house and plan the menu for tomorrow night (we're having friends over for dinner). Fortunately the house is in decent shape, so it won't take much to clean, and I have a few ideas for the menu. Perhaps I'll square that away later tonight. Procrastination...it should be my middle name.

I had all of the windows open today. What a gorgeous week we've had - mid 70s in the middle of March. Who would've thought? I haven't used the heat or ac for at least a week. I could get used to this...

Banking Updates

March 19th, 2012 at 05:35 pm

This is the third time I'm writing this entry. It keeps getting accidentally deleted. Ugh...

I'm still trying to transition from BOA to the credit union. Today I shut down my savings account that I had opened for a bonus a few years ago. It had about $28 in it, and was going to incur a $5 charge this month. So I closed the account and transferred the $28 to my HELOC.

I also moved a few more auto payments from BOA to the CU. Only one or two more to go. BOA was also listed as the account for any electronic tax refunds, so I'm hoping to be able to completely close it by the end of April.

I also merged two Chase checking accounts into one. I opened them both up for bonuses a while back, and use them to put aside money for my mortgage and property taxes, so they're not comingled with other money. Because my mortgage is with Chase and I autopay from a Chase checking account, I get a 1% rebate each year.

While I was on the Credit Union website, I checked out their mortgage rates. I have a 15-year 3.875% with Chase. Assuming my current payment schedule, I'll pay it off in February 2018. The CU had a 5/1 ARM at 3%, but I would only pay it off one month sooner. It would cost me .25 basis points and $3,000 in closing costs so it's not worth it.

I also checked their HELOC rates and saw that the rate was around 5%. I'm currently paying 2.74%, so I called Chase to see what their rates were. 4.5%. When I quoted my current rate, he said it was because I took my line out so long ago (pre-crisis), when rates were more favorable. So reluctantly I'll have to stick with BOA for my HELOC.

In other news, I finally received the 2 $5 Amazon gift cards I was waiting for. Took just under two weeks. My Amazon balance is now $35. I'm waiting for one more from Swagbux, and have enough points for another. That'll be 5 for March, so I'll need to accumulate toward April after that. Woohoo...

So it's all good. Slow and steady wins the race...

The dumpster is officially "full"

March 18th, 2012 at 10:59 am

Thanks to my fabulous brother and sister-in-law, the dumpster is now full and ready to be picked up. My brother helped hubby take apart the kids' wooden swingset (that they haven't used for years and with rotting wood in places). SOOO much extra space in our yard now. He also went on our roof to blow off the leaves and clean the skylights (hubby doesn't like heights).

SIL and I tackled the kitchen and garage. Mostly straightening up in the kitchen, but I did get rid of old cookbooks that I never use, some mismatched glasses, etc. We didn't get very far in the garage, but did manage to go through the PILE of old shoes and some other assorted junk. I'll need to finish that chore this week, along with some other loose ends. I am exhausted but feel so great!

Got the taxes off to the accountant last week and am now waiting to see what we get back. I need to take a look at our account balances as well. I would love to be able to put some more toward the HELOC...

$175 out of the blue

March 15th, 2012 at 07:28 pm

Many moons ago, we got a letter in the mail that we were eligible to be part of a class action suit against United Health Care, from back when we had insurance through them with hubby's company. I seem to receive a handful of these letters each year, and always take the time to go to the website and register. Usually I get a check several months later for a few bucks. Well today I got the check for $175.xx! Totally out of the blue; I completely forgot about it. That is getting deposited first thing tomorrow and transferred right to my HELOC. Woohoo!

I need to submit receipts to Flexible Spending. My son went to the orthodontist a few weeks back. That was $540, and we have a few $25 copays for various doctors. I'd like to get reimbursed this month, so I need to get them in.

The dumpster is getting picked up on Monday, so I have a few more days to toss things in. Overall, pretty pleased with the progress we made, but still more to do. Fortunately, it looks like a nice weekend ahead...

Company's coming

March 14th, 2012 at 07:59 pm

My brother and his family are coming for a visit Friday-Tuesday. There's much to do, including cleaning the house, grocery shopping and menu planning. I took a vacation day on Friday, but will need to start tomorrow. (Why do today what I can put off?)

Hubby mailed our taxes to the accountant. Glad to have that behind me, but I do need to get dad's out as well.

A good friend of mine is turning 40 over the summer. She's planning a very expensive girls weekend to Aruba. She's scouting out some all-inclusive options. I'll have to get the final estimate before I decide for sure. I've known that she was planning something over the top (she was originally thinking Las Vegas) so I've been putting money away for it. No doubt, it'll be a great time, I just don't want to have buyer's remorse. More to come on this one...

Quick post

March 12th, 2012 at 08:39 pm

It's late and I'm beat, so this will have to be a quick one.

We're THIS close to having all of our taxes pulled together. Hubby should be able to send them to the accountant tomorrow. Not sure what the end result will be. We usually get money back from NY and owe NJ and IRS. This year we were really diligent about paying estimated tax to both NJ and IRS, so I'm hoping that we'll end up getting something back.

I also have to package together dad's taxes and get them to his accountant. Probably Wednesday on that one...

I finally saw one of the Amazon gift cards come through on Swagbux. 2 more should be coming through tomorrow or Wednesday. And I have enough points to cash in another. That'll be 4 for March.

Payday is coming up Thursday, so I'll have to prep for that and get some bills paid. My brother and his family are coming for a visit this weekend, so I want to have everything wrapped up before then...

Long Overdue

March 10th, 2012 at 08:21 pm

Hubby and I are getting sump pumps installed in our basement later this month. In preparation, we need to do some major cleaning. We rented a 20-yard dumpster for 10 days, figuring it would take that long to fill it. After only four hours of grueling hard work, we have it about 75% full, and have gotten through most of the stuff in the basement.

So what's long overdue? Let's see. My kids are 11 and 13. I threw out 2 crib mattresses, a changing pad, a baby swing, my daughter's first two-wheeler, more "Little Tikes" things than I care to admit, several bags of toddler clothing. I could go on. How did it take me 10 years to get rid of this stuff? None of it was salvageable, just JUNK with a capital J-U-N-K!

On tap for tomorrow is to finish up some loose ends in the basement, then move through the rest of the house over the next week until it's completely filled up. I'm exhausted, and thrilled!

In other news, I have enough points to get my first $5 CVS gift card from Viggle. Took about 2 weeks, and from what I can gather, I think one card every 2 weeks is a reasonable goal. I also cashed in Swagbucks for 3 $5 Amazon gift cards. They've been verified, but haven't shown up in my gift card list yet, so I'll wait a few days then contact customer service. That will bring me up to $35 in Amazon cards so far this year.

Finally, I got a direct deposit of $4.08 for my half .com transactions. When I go onto online banking next I'll transfer it to the HELOC.

Wiped up, and cleaned up

March 6th, 2012 at 04:09 pm

I wiped up at Petsmart today! I went to get a large bag of dog food and some biscuits for the pup and brought my coupons. I got a 33lb bag of food for $39.99, minus a $5 coupon. Plus, I had coupons for 3 free cans of dog food, a free 4lb bag of cat food, 5 free cans of cat food, and $2 off a bag of biscuits. Grand total including tax: $41.88. And I paid for it with a gift card that I bought at an 8% discount. Not too shabby.

Then I cleaned up, or rather cleaned out, the junk drawer in the kitchen. I threw out old menus, expired coupons, etc., and found $3.44 in change. Nice...

Tonight I think I'll try to tackle some swagbux surveys and work toward another $5 gift card.

Some "Cash" coming in

March 5th, 2012 at 02:50 pm

It's not quite cash, but it's close...

I had enough Swagbux for another $5 gift card for Amazon. That brings me to $20 so far this year. I'd like to at least keep pace with 2/month, but 3 or 4 would be better. (I've been trying to limit computer use during family TV watching time, so it's really put a crimp in this).

I also got back $26.50 in Staples Rewards. A lot of this was due to the free battery offer they always run (buy a 16 pack of Duracell AA / AAA batteries, free after rewards, limit 2). The way I go through batteries between the kids' stuff and remote controls, it's a great deal. I was planning on using the rewards next time I need printer ink, but I'm also interested in checking out some of those other ink places. Has anyone used them? The prices are great, but I'm not sure of the quality. Regardless, I will definitely find something to use the rewards on at Staples. And I'm a Premier Staples rewards customer (or whatever they call it), so the rewards don't expire for months.

On the "real cash" front, I received a rebate check for $12.49 that I had forgotten about, so that will get deposited in the bank and paid toward the HELOC. I also sold another cd at half. com (2nd one in a few weeks), and will net about $3 for that.

We have a big house project starting in a few weeks. We're getting sump pumps put into our basement. We don't have a huge water problem, but two or three times a year we get a few inches down there and the hot water heater comes THIS close to ruin. Anyway, as part of that project, we need to clear out all of the junk in the basement. I'm talking my kids' baby swing, Little Tikes kitchen, baby clothes, etc. (they're 11 and 13 now, so this clean up is WAY overdue)! We're going to get a dumpster and devote the next two weekends to it. Of course I'll keep my eye out for anything that can go on ebay, but I think it's pretty much all junk.

Other than that, I'm fighting off some bouts of spring fever. The winter has been incredibly mild, it will be 60 later this week. It's lighter out later and spring is in the air. Can't wait...

Back from the Brink

March 1st, 2012 at 05:04 pm

So my crazy hectic work project FINALLY came to an end on Tuesday. We're still in the middle of some post-project craziness, but not quite as bad as it was.

My discovery of the week: Viggle. Have you heard of it? It's an app that lets you watch tv shows and trailers on your phone (and I suppose you can use it on your computer as well). You get points for each one you watch and can trade points in for gift cards. One of my friends has been feeding her Starbucks habit with it...Kind of like Swagbux tv, it runs in the background while you're doing other things (i.e., you don't need to actively pay attention). I'll see what kind of effort it takes to get the first gift card and go from there.

I need to pay the rest of my February bills and get cleaned up for March. I'm still working on transitioning everything over from BOA to the credit union. Super slow process.

So slowly transitioning back to some normalcy, but it'll take a bit of time...