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Archive for February, 2016

Closed? Or Not Closed? *Rant*

February 27th, 2016 at 07:38 am

I'm glad I read Keeping It Frugal's post before I wrote this, so she knows she's not alone!

I'm selling my dad's house. We were supposed to close 2 weeks ago, then last week, then Wednesday, then Friday at 11:00. I gave limited power of attorney to my lawyer so that I didn't need to attend the closing. At 12:30, I hadn't heard anything, so I sent an email to lawyer and realtor asking if we closed. Lawyer responded that it was pushed back to Friday afternoon, and he would let me know when it was complete.

Needless to say, I didn't hear from him after that. I emailed both of them again this morning to ask if the closing happened, and still no word. Grrrr. In addition to the peace of mind of just knowing it's done, I need to cancel the insurance, turn off the utilities, etc. and would like to get all of that taken care of.

It is *SO* frustrating when people don't get back to you timely with simple answers. I don't want to talk to anyone; email is fine, and I don't really care if it is pushed back again, I just want to know one way or the other. I'm really annoyed.

On the financial front, I'm wrapping up my month. I went over on our "eating out" category, but under in groceries, so that should be a wash. I know next month will require a little creativity too, so I'll prepare for that.

I did receive the check from Replacements.com, and had some leftover allowance from last week, so that will add to my snowflake total. The goal today is to continue my decluttering. I'm making a lot of progress, but there's so much to go through that I have plenty left!

Peeled the onion today

February 24th, 2016 at 06:20 pm

I found out about another unbudgeted expense today - $47 each for 2 Advanced Placement tests at D's school. The money ($94) was due by March 1st. I started "peeling the onion" and realized all of the other unbudgeted expenses I have coming up related to the kids - SAT test expenses in June, sending SAT scores to colleges in September, college applications in Nov/Dec/Jan. And that's just for D. S turns 16 in November and will need driving lessons (required in NJ) to get his permit. That's another $300.

While it all added up to many hundreds of dollars, they're spread out over the year, and I feel better knowing about them and getting them on the budget spreadsheet. I have some more tweaking to do tomorrow just to smooth everything out, but at least it's accounted for. And I already added a reminder for this time next year (D will be taking 6 APs, which will be a bill of $282)!

Extracurricular expenses

February 23rd, 2016 at 05:13 pm

I got hit with a big expense today for a club the kids are in at school. They travel to several tournaments in the spring. We got the bill for the first two, one local and one in Ohio, plus the uniform shirt. Total for both kids: $550. Ouch. I knew it was coming but didn't know exactly when or how much, and didn't have it in my budget this month, so that will be a lot to absorb. I'll need to adjust the next two months to account for the remaining trips.

We also ate out tonight - Greek. Sooo filling and soooo bad for you, but soooo good! I still had money left in the "dining out" category this month, so I didn't go over budget, but I am having some buyer's remorse as I sit like a lump on the couch and digest Smile

Decluttering continues, though at a slower pace during the week. I'm sure the garbage men weren't happy when they picked up at our house this morning!

I'm just waiting for my final pay stub for 2/29 so I can wrap up the expenses for the month. I find when I pay attention to my finances, I get really antsy to get everything tucked away and accounted for.

Cleaning House

February 20th, 2016 at 10:22 am

In addition to regular weekly cleaning, I've continued to declutter the house. I got rid of my shot glass collection from college, which I haven't looked at in the 25 years since I've graduated. What was I thinking? I never even liked doing shots!

"What was I thinking" is the mantra I find myself repeating while decluttering my house. Today I spent time in my kitchen. I got rid of so many extra measuring cups and spoons, utensils, etc. that were just so unnecessary. I got rid of extra travel mugs (did I really need 7?), and dozens of matchbooks. I realized that I have enough office supplies to run a small Staples store, and enough crafts from kids projects to run a small AC Moore! My problem is always going out to buy things that are needed, instead of checking first to see if I already have it. Hopefully now that I'm getting organized, I'll know what I have and can avoid doing that.

A benefit of all of this cleaning: I'm finding things that I really like, but totally forgot about, including a pair of small gold earrings, and a ceramic travel mug with a Monet painting on it. I've also been burning candles non-stop since Thursday, because I do get a lot of joy from them, and don't want to throw them out, so I need to use them up instead!

Given that I'm focused on cleaning all weekend, it should be a pretty inexpensive few days. I need to stop at the grocery store later today, but that should be it! I've spent less than 1/2 of my grocery budget so far this month, so I'm hoping to have a decent amount left over on the 29th!

Declutter Motivation

February 18th, 2016 at 04:04 pm

One of my New Year's resolutions was to get rid of a Hefty bag worth of stuff every week. I could sell it, donate it, or trash it, but it needed to leave my house. I've been pretty good about getting this done, some weeks better than others.

I found two things today that will help me keep my motivation. The first is a list of 200 things to throw away. So many great things on this list that jumped out at me. Why do I keep menus when I can view them online? And how many tea light candles do I have and never use? (I'm now on a mission to start burning them, because I really like them, I just never think about it). When I'm struggling to find things to toss, I'll start with this list.

http://embracinghomemaking.net/2015/04/200-things-to-throw-away/

On another site, I saw a reference to a January declutter challenge. The idea is that you toss the number of items that corresponds to the date (e.g., Jan 1 - 1 thing, Jan 2 - 2 things, etc.). I'm going to try to do this and see how long I can go. I started tonight throwing away 18 unmatched Tupperware items. Like the pantry yesterday, they've been cluttering up the drawer for a while. So great to be able to see what I have and know that it all matches!

Food Waste

February 17th, 2016 at 03:56 pm

The downside to finally paying attention to my finances: I have to face the music for all of my neglect!

I cleaned out my pantry today. I had to throw out a bunch of food that had expired (by at least 6 months)! In total, I lost some faro, red lentils, black beans, kasha and rice (can you tell I was on the "starch shelf"?) Oh, and a bag of chips too. I had gone through the shelf with canned goods too but fared better there.

It was painful, but it's done. And I can now see what I do have, which will hopefully lead to better planning so I don't get caught like this again. To start, I had a bag of wheatberries that I've had forever (no exp'y on the package), so I put them in the crockpot to cook overnight. I read that they'll stay for 2 weeks in the fridge / 1 month in the freezer, so I'll plan on making a few salads with them.

I had previously cleaned out the freezer and fridge, so I know what I have there as well. I'm going to try to use up as much as I can between now and the end of the month and check back in.

In other news, I'm still using You Need A Budget. I'm getting used to it, so I think I'll keep it when the trial runs out. Not as simple as my trusty old Excel sheet, but I guess I need to get into the 21st century at some point!

Deep Freeze

February 13th, 2016 at 06:32 pm

Northern NJ is in the middle of a deep freeze tonight. Temps of 0 degrees, with wind chills of -20. I am hunkering down for the weekend. I went to the grocery store today and am stocked up. I don't think I need to leave the house until I go to work Tuesday morning, so I'm shooting for no spend days tomorrow and Monday.

My big goal is to continue decluttering the house, and getting 1-2 hefty bags to go out with the trash on Tuesday.

Avoided a Vet Bill

February 12th, 2016 at 06:47 pm

Now that I'm getting back on track with my budget and spending, I'm watching every dime.

My pup was sick on Wednesday afternoon. I could tell he just wasn't "right". He was sleeping off in a dark corner of the house, wasn't eating, etc. I decided to wait until Thursday to see how he was. He ended up feeling better last night, finally ate something and was interacting with the family more, and today he's back to his normal self.

Of course I would have been happy to take him to the vet if I needed to, but I'm glad I didn't have to. For some reason, I never know what to expect - sometimes I get out of there with a $35 bill and other times it's $350! I'm just glad he's feeling better.

Other than that, it's been pretty quiet money-wise. I got a few more payments from the book sales in. Also heard from Replacements. I'm only going to get about $20 from them, rather than the $50+ I thought. A few pieces were too scratched up (not surprised) and a few were cracked / chipped in transit. I don't have the receipt from USPS to file a claim, so I have to eat it. I think their valuation is fair all things considered, but I don't think I'll deal with them again.

$23.08 spend day

February 9th, 2016 at 07:46 pm

I was all set to write that I had a No Spend Day. Then I remembered I bought 2 hard boiled eggs at work for breakfast this morning because I didn't have time to cook them at home. Shoot. OK, so I was going to write "$1.08 spend day". Then I remembered I filled up the gas tank for $22. So I'm at a "$23.08 Spend Day." I'm not very good at No Spend Days!

I received the $1.08 for another book sold to Chegg, so that will go into my snowflake total. Still waiting on the others. I'm also making a big deposit into my 365-day challenge. Hubby went on a business trip today and emptied his pockets of change. $6.32! I snatched that right up and will add that to the challenge Smile.

I took a vacation day tomorrow. Couldn't wait until President's Day on Monday. Looking forward to relaxing with the dog!

No Spend Superbowl Sunday

February 7th, 2016 at 10:27 am

I'm in for the day, and ready for the big game! I went grocery shopping yesterday ($95 - met my goal of keeping it under $100). I got the fixings for chili, which is in the crockpot now and smells amazing! I should have plenty of leftovers for lunch this week too. I also bought some snacks for the game, along with things to get me through the week.

I signed up for the free trial of You Need a Budget. I think Laura should get commissions from them for everyone who signs up - she got on board in the very beginning and is a great spokesperson for it! I have much of my budget info at work so I'll need to wait until tomorrow to get everything entered, but I'm off to a good start. It seems pretty intuitive, and I love the fact that there's an app so I can access my info right on my phone. I'm excited to give it a go!

Just heard news today that one of our friends was laid off from his job last week. They are our age (mid-40s), with two teenagers. Hoping that he can find something quickly. Also hoping that they have a good safety net to weather the storm.

Ebates

February 6th, 2016 at 07:47 am

I just received an unexpected $19.94 from Ebates. I'm not a huge online shopper except at Christmas, and I always try to remember to use Ebates when I do shop. They only pay out quarterly, though, so I completely forgot about it until it showed up. That increased my snowflake total to $33.27 for the year, with a few items still outstanding. Slow and steady...

I need to go grocery shopping today. I didn't go last week, so I'm pretty low on things, but I'm going to try to keep it under $100. We decided to have meatballs tonight, which I already have in the freezer, and a beef chili for the Superbowl, which should be pretty inexpensive. It feels good to be focused on finances after a long time completely ignoring them!

Sloooowly moving to Cash system

February 5th, 2016 at 05:41 pm

I love the convenience and perks of credit cards. I charge most things, but always pay off the balance at the end of every month. Even though I'm not paying interest, I'm always a month "behind", in that I'm spending February's money for January's stuff.

I've been slowly trying to move off of the credit cards to a cash-based system. It's tough to do, because it essentially means paying double the amount one month (the credit card plus the current month). I'm at the point now where all of my utilities (gas, electric, phone, wireless, etc.) are drawn directly from my checking account. Now I'm moving on to other categories.

First is gas. Thanks to super low gas prices ($1.53 yesterday!) I came in $70 under budget last month. I took that amount out in cash, and will use it to buy gas the rest of this month. I'll likely need to charge a few fill-ups when the $70 runs out, but I'll be way under budget again next month, and will cash out the rest and repeat. By my estimates, I should be caught up and paying exclusively be cash in March, April at the latest.

I was also $50 under my grocery budget last month, so I'm doing the same thing there. That will take some more time, though, so maybe July? That's the goal.

Binge watching Netflix

February 3rd, 2016 at 05:22 pm

Hubby is on a business trip and the kids are out at a school event. I came home from work, made dinner from stuff I had in the house, and am now on the couch binge watching "Making of a Murderer" on Netflix. Cheap evening!

I received the $12.25 from Powells, so I'll add that to my snowflake list. I also scoped out pricing for selling used cell phones, and may be able to get about $50 for 3 of them. I'll probably tackle that this weekend, because I'll need to remove personal info from them all.

The beginning of the month is usually pretty quiet, financially. I'm not complaining!

Virtual Day

February 2nd, 2016 at 06:01 am

I'm working from home today. The kids have "virtual days" from school today and tomorrow. They have school-issued laptops, so the teachers assign work and hold class online, while the kids log on from home. They tried this idea two years ago when we were battered with many bad snow storms, but the state didn't "count" the day because the logistics weren't planned out and it didn't meet some technicalities in the law. Now, with the states blessing, they are trying it again and these days will count.

I'm a bit conflicted about it. On the one hand, I applaud the school district for being innovative, and virtual learning is a "thing" that's only going to grow in the future. At the same time, I'm a bit of a traditionalist, and I pay big tax dollars to support the schools! They'll be sending out surveys to students and parents tomorrow; I'm curious to see the results.

If nothing else, I save on gas and tolls from my commute, and I can hang out in comfy clothes instead of getting dressed up for work, so it's a win for me!