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Resisted temptation

January 9th, 2008 at 12:42 am

Forgot to have breakfast at home this morning, just had coffee. Brought my lunch to work, but was still hungry on the way home. I couldn't stop thinking of all of the stuff I could stop and get in the train station - candy bar, slice of pizza, hot pretzel. But I resisted temptation, and hopped right on my train. Didn't stop for a paper either.

I started keeping track of my groceries on the computer. Super tedious, so I'm not sure how long I'll be able to keep it up, but I'll try.

I managed to cross a bunch of things off my list today. Set up an appointment with the eye doctor for Saturday. I haven't been in 2 years, and I can tell that my sight has gotten worse. I'll definitely need a new pair of glasses. Thankfully we have vision insurance, which covers some of the costs.

Speaking of insurance, I finally called them regarding the extension. I need to jump through hoops and fill out all sort of documentation in order for the speech therapist to be considered in-network. Otherwise, I can use her out-of-network. I need to see the forms to see what I'm up against, but I'll definitely fill them out.

Happy Thanksgiving

November 22nd, 2006 at 03:23 pm

It's so easy to lose sight of all we have to be thankful for, when we're mired in the day-to-day. Thanks everyone, for reading my blog and commenting, and have a great holiday!

I'm working from home today and off on Friday. I'm going into school for DD's Thanksgiving party, then to the library, and to get the kids haircuts. Thursday will be at hubby's cousin's house, then my dad's on Friday.

This weekend, we'll start decorating for Christmas! (As an aside, one of the local radio stations started playing 24 hour Christmas music 2 weeks ago! I like the music as much as anyone, but on November 15? Come on...)

I've done a great job making progress on my Christmas shopping. Ordered a bunch of stuff from American Girl (free shipping), and from Amazon (using discounted gift cards). I still have more things to get, but at least I know what I'm getting, so I'm ahead of the game and not at all stressed. I need to dig out my Christmas cards and get started on them, and send out Thank You cards from DS's birthday party.

I updated my October budget, and need to get caught up with November so I can see what kind of progress I've made in 2006. No doubt it will be some good, some bad. I did just receive my auto insurance renewal, and it was around $3,075. I have to look up last year's policy, because I could have sworn it was closer to $3,200. That would make my day!

So that's it for now. Have a great holiday everyone!

Can you spell "no-brainer"?

October 6th, 2006 at 12:20 am

Two posts in one day is pretty rare for me, but I have a great savings opportunity during this year's open enrollment for health benefits.

For as long as I've worked part-time (8 years), we always got our benefits through hubby's company because I was never sure I would stay employed for the whole year. (In retrospect, this was a mistake, because if I had quit/been fired, we would have been eligible to get the benefits through hubby mid-year).

Anyway, with open enrollment for both of us approaching, I decided to take a closer look at our benefits.

By switching our health plan and getting it through my company, we will save over $1100/year, with better benefits! Hubby's doctor and the kids' doctor are in both plans, so that's a wash. Neither of my doctors (regular and obgyn) are in my plan, but for $1100 I'm willing to switch. My old obgyn is in my plan, so I'll go back to him. (Really liked him, but he's far away. For a once a year checkup, I'll suck it up). I usually see my regular doctor for a physical every 2 years, plus the (very) occasional cold, so I'll be satisfied with anyone.

If I make this switch, I'll save $687 in premiums per year. My prescription plan is also much better than hubby's, and will save us $454/year, assuming we continue to use the same meds. In addition, I have no in-network deductible (vs. his $500 indiv/$1000 family), My out-of-network deductible is $300/$600 instead of $500/$1000, and my copay is only $15 vs. his $20. Can you spell "no-brainer"?

My vision plan also has similar benefits to hubby's. The premiums listed on our benefits website are suspiciously low, so I need to confirm them next week at the benefits open house. If they are what they say they are, I'll be switching that too.

Finally, my dental plan has better coverage than hubby's, for about the same price. Only downside is that the kids' dentist (who I think is GREAT) isn't in my plan, and it's not worth switching dentists, or paying him full price.

So I'll bask in the savings from the health plan, and possibly the vision plan. It was definitely a little tedious to compare the plans, but well worth it in the end. Even if mine wasn't better, at least I'd know I checked it out.

So all of you two-career families out there in frugal-land...check both your benefits!!

Blackberries and Peaches

August 26th, 2006 at 03:33 am

We went fruit picking again today, this time for peaches (again) and blackberries. Man, am I envious of JodiM for having bushes in her backyard! I was online earlier and found recipes for a blackberry cobbler, blackberry ice cream, and roaster peaches with blackberry sauce, all of which will be made on Sunday. YUMMY! These pick-your-own farms are great. The kids had so much fun, plus they had a hay pyramid and petting zoo.

Tomorrow we're off to an Oktoberfest. It's an outdoor thing, free to go. We'll need to pay for food and beer. We went last year and it was entirely reasonable. Then Sunday is a stay at home day. I'm going to cook, bake, and relax - not necessarily in that order.

I need to printout my paystub for 8/31 and see how I ended up the month. (I already know it was tough, I just need to see what the damage is)...

I'm thinking about auto insurance again. Once the kids are back in school, I'll be able to change my commute to work (again!) and take the train, instead of driving. That should save me something, because hubby and I are both listed as commuting >30 miles each way. I won't be, and it turns out he's not now - that's a mistake. So we should see a cut for that. Also, I got the dates for the insurance reduction program. There are dates in October and November we could go to, and hopefully see the savings when our policy re-ups in December. Anything to get that number down...

RX Savings

March 1st, 2006 at 04:23 pm

I finally got around to looking into mail order prescriptions. I only take one RX regularly, and it was $10/month last year. This year they raised the cost and it's now $25/month. If I get it mail-order, it will cost $50/3 months. That will save me $100/year (8% of our 2005 medical costs), plus I'll have it delivered to my door. Seems like a great deal to me. I need to go back to the doctor later this month, and will have her write up the new prescription.

I'm also in the process of reviewing our life and accident insurance policies. I already determined that my life insurance policy is competitive, and hubby's not willing to switch his. As for accident insurance, which we both get through work, mine seems like the better deal. I can add a spouse to my policy, but coverage is limited, so I need to figure out what the combined price would be vs. what hubby's paying now. I doubt that it would be more than $1 or $2/month, so I'm not sure I'd make the switch, but I at least want to find out.

Hubby's on a business trip tonight. I hope to get some books listed on half.com. I looked into the other alternatives to ebook, but I don't think they'll pan out. They seem to be more textbook-oriented, as opposed to general books.

That's about it for now. Have a great day everyone...

Feels like a Friday...

February 2nd, 2006 at 06:55 pm

I wish it was - I'm really beat today!

I confirmed yesterday that BOA would not let us transfer the HELOC balance onto their 0% credit card, so I didn't apply. I called Chase and tried to get them to waive the $75 balance transfer fee, but they wouldn't budge. Luckily, we received a Citibank 0% credit card offer in the mail yesterday with no balance transfer fee. So I applied today. We're preapproved, so I don't doubt we'll get it, I'm just waiting to see what the credit line will be. The response comes via snail mail, so I'm sure it will take a week or so, then it takes 3-4 weeks to make the transfer.

Went to the used bookstore at lunch. Didn't do great. Four books for a total of $10.69-$4.32(cost) for a net of $6.37. Ah, well, I guess that's why I said an average of $10/week. Some weeks are better, some are worse.

I feel like I'm pretty up-to-date on the daily challenges so far. I'll feel great when the 0% credit card is in place with the balance transferred, and I think my auto insurance is in as good shape as possible. (The one outstanding item for me is to take the defensive driving course with hubby. His company usually offers it at a substantial discount vs. AAA, so we'll wait awhile to see if they offer it. Otherwise, we'll go to AAA).

So far, so good...

Daily Challenges

February 1st, 2006 at 05:42 pm

I really like Jeffrey's daily challenges. The most recent one was to check into increasing auto insurance deductibles, which was on my list of stuff to do in 2006 anyway. With the prodding of the daily challenge, I went ahead and called.

To change both cars from $500-$1000 would save me $212/year. However, the rep told me to check with the lenders, because they may require no higher than $500 deductibles. One did and one didn't (yes, I have two car loans Frown), so I went ahead and made the change on the one, for an annual savings of $150/year. When I pay off the other, I'll change it as well. My plan is to set aside $500 (difference between current deductible and $1000) so it will be there in case we ever get in an accident.

I also called BOA regarding the 0% credit card they offered. After getting through the entire application, the rep informed me that you can't do a balance transfer from another BOA credit card. I asked her if the same held true from a BOA home equity loc, and she said she wasn't sure. So I cancelled the application, and will go to a branch and find out from someone there, face to face. If not, I have a 0% offer from Chase. The plus side is that the Chase offer is for 15 months, BOA is for 12. The downside is that there's no balance transfer fee from BOA, whereas Chase's is $75. Either way, it's still better than paying the interest to the HELOC each month. (And with the offer from BOA in hand, maybe I can get Chase to reduce or eliminate the fee).

Other financial news: While I was paying off my fine at the library yesterday, I noticed they had a few more books for sale. I only had time to write down a few, but found two that ebook will by for $2.54 ea. (Cost to me $.50 each). So I'll stop by there today on the way to pick up DS from school, and I'll write down the rest while I'm at it. I also should be able to go to the used bookstore by work tomorrow.

That's it for now...

Flexible Spending Headaches

January 25th, 2006 at 03:33 pm

So I called my company to see if we could change our 2006 Dependent Care amount for our flexible spending account. Seems like mine is an unusual circumstance (of course). If I quit altogether, that would definitely be a "qualified change in status". Likewise, if I didn't have a job and got one, that would be a qualified change. But moving from one job to another, and changing hours in the process, which therefore changes my need for dependent care, "does not appear" to be a qualified change. Fortunately I'm working with someone who seems conscientious, and is escalating it to her management. We'll see what happens.

Other than that, I took care of some financial housekeeping. I entered the Staples rebate, faxed some receipts for my flexible spending, and got caught up on some other stuff. I wasn't able to finish January's review last night, but should get to it tonight...

More stew...

January 13th, 2006 at 03:44 pm

...and not the kind you eat! I called hubby's benefits group. The term life went up slightly because they recalculated the amount, but mostly because the company raised the rates across the board. I don't know, but a 30% increase seems like a lot to me. (Granted that they haven't raised it for a while, but still). When talking with hubby about it yesterday, he seemed surprised that my 20-year term for almost the same amount was only $30.67/month (I'm only 2 years younger than he is). I think my plan of action is to price out 20-year terms for him. He's due to go to his doctor in March for his annual physical. If things look good (Cholesterol, weight, blood sugar, etc.), I'll bring up the idea again of switching to term. (Point being that he'll have to take a physical for the insurance company too and we want to make sure he'll qualify for the best rate). He may or may not go for it but we'll see.

Continuing to stew...I got my renewal for AAA yesterday - $123!! It includes me and hubby, and AAA Plus, which allows you to be towed anywhere within 50 miles for free. I like AAA, and we've definitely gotten our money's worth out of it with all the car trouble we've had over the past few years. I use a 14-year-old car to do the bulk of my commuting, and between me and hubby we drive well over 30,000 miles per year, so I really don't want to get rid of it. I already eliminated towing from my auto insurance premium (no sense having that if you have AAA). Didn't save much, but every bit helps. My goal for the next week or two is to scour the AAA website and check out all the other benefits they offer. I'd like to take advantage of whatever I can there to help offset this cost!

On the positive side, my gas bill for the cars is $153.73 so far this month. I'm trying to keep it to $300/month, so I'm hoping to come in right about there. I also got my first Shell Credit card statement, and I earned over $57 in credits that will offset any Shell Gas I buy next month. So that's cool. Have a great weekend...

Life Insurance

January 12th, 2006 at 08:47 pm

I forgot to add this in my earlier entry...

I got hubby's January paycheck. His life insurance, which he gets through work, went up $14/month!!! He gets x times his salary, so I don't know if they recalculate the total each year and adjust it, or if it's just that he's a year older now, or if they raised the rates on everyone, or a combination of all three, but $225/year is insane! What bums me out even more is that right before the end of the year, I went onto lowermybills.com and checked out 20-year term insurance for him. Turns out it was only about $2/month cheaper than what he had through work. Given that the insurance through work doesn't expire, increases with his salary each year, and doesn't require a separate physical, it was definitely worth staying. I mentioned the increase to him yesterday, and he's reluctant to switch, I think primarily because he doesn't want to take the extra physical and he doesn't like the fact that term insurance expires. I'll call to see what caused the increase, then I'll have to stew about this while I figure out what to do...

On a lesser (but still annoying) note, I got a letter in the mail from our bank. Seems like savings accounts will be charged a $3 monthly fee if the balance falls below $300. This shouldn't be a problem for me, but I'll need to be careful, as this is my "fun money" account and it sometimes falls below that level, also this is the source for the money I use to open other accounts. Hmmm...

Starting the Weekend Early...

April 8th, 2005 at 04:56 pm

I'm out the door from work at 2:00 today. Great way to start the weekend!

I have an update on my house insurance. Remember I convinced hubby that we should start paying the property taxes and insurance directly, because the mortgage company was taking out an extra $50+/month for escrow. I decided to hold off until after 5/1, when our property taxes are due, to ensure that nothing gets screwed up. But the paperwork is ready to go!

In the meantime, I decided to compare house insurance rates. We went with State Farm at the time we bought the house (10 years ago) because we had an in-ground oil tank, and they were the only insurance co. that would cover it. My auto insurance was always with Liberty Mutual (who I love). Anyway, we switched from oil to gas about 6 years ago (and had the tank filled), but never bothered comparing rates because the money was taken out through the mortgage and it just didn't dawn on me. So now that I'm about to pay the insurance directly I gave Liberty Mutual a call. What an eye opener!!

Right now, we pay State Farm a total of $1720/year ($879 for homeowners, through the mortgage, $690 for a $1m umbrella policy, and $151 for personal articles that need to be scheduled separately).

When I called Liberty Mutual, they quoted me $741 for the homeowners and $281!!! for the umbrella (I forgot to get the personal articles quote). Even if you assume that the personal articles quote is the same (though I'm sure it'll be less), that's only a total of $1173, or a savings of $547/year!!! (32%). Every year!!!

So after I'm done kicking myself for not making this switch sooner, I'm going to run the numbers by hubby this weekend and make the switch on Monday.

This weekend should be a bit hectic, but fun. My dd starts T-Ball tomorrow, we promised the kids we would go see the Robots movie at the local theater, then on Sunday we need to visit the friends whose party we blew off last week because the kids were so sick. We'll be spending a bit of cash, as we need to go tonight to buy the baseball mitt, and the movie and pizza will add up.

Next line item on the budget is "clothes and dry cleaning". Clothes are a no-brainer for me. We don't spend a lot of money on this, we buy stuff at the end of the season, and rely on my MIL to get outfits for the kids for different occasions. Also, although it's harder now that the kids are older and they don't grow out of clothes as quickly, we take hand-me-downs when we can. The challenge for me is dry cleaning. We average about $50/month, and could probably cut it in half if we were a little more careful about how we treat our clothes. For example, hanging them up right away instead of dropping them on the floor in a wrinkled mess Smile! I want to shoot for $25 next month.

Have a great weekend everyone!

I LOVE Liberty Mutual!

April 3rd, 2005 at 04:09 am

I started a thread in the discussion area for this tip, in case some people didn't bother going through the journals, but what a great deal I got from my auto insurance company today!! They sent me a $277 check, which is a 10% discount on my auto insurance premiums. I graduated from Columbia University, and apparently, their alumni association struck a deal with LM to give their members a 10% break on premiums. On top of that, I qualified for a "college education discount" as a graduate of a four-year school.

Not only did I have no idea I was even a member of the alumni association (I thought they sent the newsletters to everyone!), I definitely didn't know that they did stuff like this. I'll be on their website (and hubby's alumni website) tomorrow to see what other goodies I can find.

So if any of you are graduates, check out your insurance company and alumni association to see what you can find. I'm so jacked up about this right now, I'm never going to get to sleep, which makes losing an hour a lot more palatable. YEAH!

3rd no-spend day in a row!

March 29th, 2005 at 01:24 pm

It's an all-time record for me to have 3 no-spend days in a row - the holiday and bad weather sure helped. I'm heading down to Dad's today to take him to the accountant and do his grocery shopping for him, so other than the gas (120 miles round trip) I'm set.

Followup to my life insurance quest: I went to Lowermybills.com and checked out the rates on plans comparable to what I have now. Assuming I still get the super-preferred rate (who knows?) there is one rate that would be less than $2/month cheaper. I'm going to put this on hold until June, when I go to my doctor for my annual checkup. If it seems like everything is in order (cholesterol, weight, etc.), I'll switch plans. Not only will it save me $480 over the 20-year term, I'm already 3 years into my term, so I'll be picking up an extra three years, which won't be bad...

Today's line item is my electric bill. I'm also on budget billing here, and I pay $168/month. It's only supposed to be about $133, but for some reason I went way over last year, so I need to make up the extra over the first 6 months of this year. In June it should go back to $133, but I want to conserve enough so that at the end of this cycle, it gets reduced to $120 for next cycle. The biggest challenge for us is having hubby and the kids turn off the lights. It seems like the place is lit up like Christmas all the time! Between that and more judicious use of the dryer and dishwasher, we should be able to cut enough. Fortunately, I'm not a big Air Conditioning person (though hubby is) so that should only run in the evenings when he's home.

Have a great day!

Bad money day...

March 26th, 2005 at 06:41 pm

Today was a bad money day. We needed to get Easter flowers for hubby's mom, and two aunts (and me from the kids Smile) to the tune of about $50! I've been married for 10 years, and we've been doing the same thing for 10 years, yet it never ceases to amaze me how much we spend on these holidays (Easter, Mothers Day, Fathers Day, etc.). We also picked up about 6 pounds of ground lamb at the store, because it's not usually available, and hubby wanted steak tonight (cha-ching). Not expecting this big bill at all...

Luckily I'm getting off pretty easily for Easter. MIL is bringing a lot of the food, and we got a Butterball turkey breast on sale at the grocery store for $1/pound. Great deal on sweet potatoes, and a few other veggies and I'm set.

Back to my line item budget...the next set of items is insurance.

What we already do: We get our medical through hubby's work (really good plan, and our piece comes out pre-tax). We both have life insurance and accident/disability insurance.

What we need to do: I'm 3 years in to a 20-year term with John Hancock. Although I think it's a pretty good rate, I need to shop around. Although I'm a few years older, it's a pretty competitive industry, so maybe the rates have dropped. Second, Hubby gets his through work, and his hesitant to change. I need to shop around for his too, to see if there's a big enough difference to make it worth discussing. Finally, I need to check into LongTerm Care insurance. I'm 34 and hubby's 37. Not sure if it makes sense to get it yet, or wait a few years, because I think the industry (and the plans) are still evolving. Any thoughts?

Happy Easter!!!