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Happy Blogversary to me!

March 13th, 2013 at 05:28 pm

What is it about March that makes people start their blogs? Taxes maybe? I just looked back at my first entry 8 long years ago. Like many, I started by lurking on the site. I wrote back then that I had checked out many other sites, and felt most comfortable here.

Truer words were never spoken. Over the years I've ebbed and flowed with my posts, but always keep up with everyone else's progress. I've made great friends, some of whom have even transitioned over to my "real" life - facebook and in one case, a real-life meet up! Such a great community...

On to the meat and potatoes...

Still waiting to hear back from the Accountant. Not suprised he's taking so long, I'm just anxious.

52-Week Yahtzee Challenge: $8 last week, bringing my total to $78.

Haven't been on Swagbux for 2 weeks because I've just been buried at work. Perhaps I'll try to go for a few surveys tonight. If not, I'll get back to it over the weekend for sure.

I'm a bit behind in getting stuff done. I have some bills to write, checkbook to balance, phone calls to make. Just stuff. I need to write it down and knock it out.

Thanks for a great 8 years...

Glad the week is over

March 9th, 2013 at 05:37 am

It was a loooong week at work. Tons of meetings with no "real" work getting done. Unfortunately, it means I need to do some this weekend, but at least I'll be in the comfort of my home!

Today we have a basketball game and an indoor soccer game, with an entire house to clean (really clean) in between. Tomorrow we have nothing on the agenda, except the above mentioned work, so I should be caught up by the end of the weekend.

On the financial front, March is shaping up to be a tough month, as expected. We got the taxes off to the accountant last week, and are waiting for the results. In the meantime, groceries and gas are the two areas that I need to try to really hold down so I can end the month where I expect.

I had an amazing bout of willpower last night, that I hope will last. Hubby was supposed to have a business trip when the kids are on spring break, but it was cancelled. He suggested going to our favorite place in Florida for the week, and found round-trip flights for $258/pp (great price).

I was SOOO tempted to jump right on it, especially given the snow and all around crummy weather we've had. But when I really thought about it, that would be close to $1200 airfare, another $1300 for the house rental, $400 or so for the car rental, $200 for car service to the airport (limited and expensive parking for your own car), $300 to board the dog, plus dining out and other expenses when we got down there. Our "hey these are really cheap fares" vacation was turning into a $4,000+ vacation.

I suggested to hubby that we forego. Given the big uncertainty with the tax situation, and the HELOC I'm trying to pay down, I couldn't justify it. I think he was ok with that, but the topic may come up again. I'll have to steel myself for it Smile

Thankful for the kindness of strangers

March 4th, 2013 at 03:43 pm

Today was a Monday in every sense of the word! In attempting to make my train, I tripped and fell on the sidewalk. Unbeknownst to me, my pocketbook opened and my two checkbooks fell out. I had no idea until I was arriving home this evening. An elderly gentleman out for a walk found my checkbooks and called my house. I picked them up on my way home, safe and sound.

I feel SO fortunate that they were found and returned, without the hassle of having to close and switch accounts. I'm also lucky it wasn't snowy or rainy, in which case they would have been ruined.

And the meeting I was rushing to catch the train for was cancelled. :|

Last night we FINALLY pulled together our taxes, and hubby mailed them off to the Accountant today. The results will be dreadful - we're going to owe many thousands of dollars. (That'll teach us to not increase the estimated tax we pay throughout the year when we see things are going well). The accountant gave us a heads up a few months ago, so we've been setting aside money, but it will still be painful to write the check. I'm just glad that the task is done so we can move on.

I also put $9 into the Yahtzee challenge last week, bring my total to $70.

DS has a basketball game tonight, then dinner, then RELAXING for me! Much needed after this day.

Giving DS-12 a money lesson

March 3rd, 2013 at 07:02 am

Had the opportunity yesterday to give DS (12) a money lesson. He's aware of the Amazon gift cards I receive through Swagbux. I snagged another one yesterday, and mentioned that I will now have $60 in the account. Here's our conversation:

Mom: "Hey, I snagged another $5 Amazon GC on Swagbux today. I'm up to $60."
Son: "Cool. I was looking at a new XBOX game, and if you pre-order it on Amazon, you get an extra (blah, blah). The game is $60, which is the same price as GameStop and Best Buy. Can I order it?" (At least he comparison shops)!
Mom: "Do you have the money for it?" (He gets money from grandma and others for Christmas and birthdays).
Son: "Yeah, but you have the gift cards. That way, I don't need to use my money."
Mom: "Dude, gift cards are just like money. If I don't use my gift cards on this game, I can use them for something else down the road. It's exactly the same thing as cash, it's just that I can only use them at Amazon."
Son: "But you got them for free."
Mom: "They weren't "free". I had to spend my time to get them, just like at work I have to spend time to get paid. If you want the game, you need to give me the money for it."
Son: "I'll think about it".

Yes, you think a lot harder about it when it's cash out of your own pocket. In the end, I'm guessing he'll go ahead and fork over the money for it, but I'd say it's a 7.5 on a scale of 1-10, instead of a 12 if I were paying. If he goes ahead, I'll use the gift cards to pay and add the cash to my gift envelope, to give me flexibility to spend it elsewhere in the future.

Does anyone have good suggestions for making the connection to kids that gift cards = cash (almost)?

Month end wrap-up

February 26th, 2013 at 07:32 pm

I made it through February on track. The highlights:

I got a last minute snowflake of $14.01 this afternoon. That brought my monthly snowflake total to $69.65. My goal is an extra $100 each month, so I'm going to add the extra $30.35. Along with the regularly scheduled $500, that will make a total of $600 to the HELOC. So that's on track. I need another $600 for March and April, then should be able to boost it up to $1500/month thereafter. So exciting!

I also forgot to report on last week's 52-week challenge. I added $4 to the envelope, bringing my total to $61.

Finally, I earned enough SB to get 5 x $5 Amazon gift cards, which is my goal each month. That brings my total to $55. Woohoo...

March and April will be tough. We're going to owe quite a bit in taxes, and we have some other big expenses. I'm doing my best to plan for it all and make it work. Two months down and I'm still in good shape, so I'll take it!

Thanks to those of you who are doing so well with your snowflakes. You're inspiring me every day. I love reading about your progress!

Thoughts on Dave Ramsey

February 24th, 2013 at 09:24 am

I finally lost a post. After reading about others who've had the same fate, it finally happened to me. Arghh!

I started listening to Dave Ramsey's podcast. I never followed his plan, but just happen to be somewhere between steps 4-6 (saving for retirement, saving for college, paying down Heloc). I had a question for anyone out there who follows him, and and two "a-ha" moments.

Question: Why does he list saving for college as step 5 and paying off mortgage as step 6? I would think paying off the house would be the same as saving for retirement: your kids can find different ways to get through school, but you're getting older and need to be debt free. I'm saving for both at the same time, I was just curious as to what his rationale is.

A-ha #1: When looking at Dave's suggested budget template, he gives ranges for how much of your net pay you should be spending for each category. I'm in line or below on all the categories except 1: Personal. He recommends 5-10% of net income and I'm at a whopping 17%! Unfortunately, this is where all of the "fun" stuff is: allowance, pet, kids' extracurricular activities, wine (our big hobby), haircuts and mani-pedis, etc. I'm going to focus some attention on how to get this more in-line, without depriving myself, if possible. This is where it's tough to be frugal!

A-ha #2: Dave looks at net income. I also looked at gross income so I could factor how much I pay in taxes into the mix. Here are my top 4 spending categories:
1) Taxes - 27% of gross income
2) Housing - 23%
3) Personal - 13%
4) Savings - 9%

Nothing else is more than 7.25%

I mentioned Personal above, and I'd like to increase savings. The a-ha is a bit of frustration that there is not much I can do about the 2 biggest categories. I just adjusted my withholding, so taxes are what they are. Housing consists of my mortgage, heloc, property taxes (a whopping $13k+) and $300/month for maintenance and other household stuff.

So that leaves me with the little categories to attack, where I don't think there's a lot of bang for my buck.

All in all, I've enjoyed learning more about Dave's approach. How about you? Are you a Dave fan? What do you love/hate about his methods?

Verizon FIOS Savings!

February 23rd, 2013 at 10:05 am

Score! MIL had Verizon phone, cablevision internet, and Direct TV in her house, to the tune of $270/month. She was interested in switching everything over to FIOS, so I gave them a call. She now gets all of that for 3 TVs, plus a DVR box, plus premium movie and on-demand channels for no additional cost, all for $150 after tax. She saved $120/month and has faster internet and more tv channels.

I then asked if they had any referral bonuses. He initially said I would have to sign up on line for a referral code, then have her sign up on line for the service (using that code). He then said "let me see what I can do". Sweeter words were never spokend. He came back and said that he'll put through the order, and we'll both get a $50 statement credit on our May bill.

Woohoo. I know a lot of people hate Verizon but I have to say that my experience with them has been pretty good.

The exterminator came this morning. He is supposed to be here between 8-12, but called at 7:10(!) to see if he could come earlier. That gave me a jump start on my to-do list, which is all done, except for the dog food and the taxes.

A productive day, and it's only 1:00!

So much to do!

February 22nd, 2013 at 09:04 pm

It was a short week that passed really quickly. The downside is that I didn't get much done. At all.

So I'm paying the piper this weekend, with an extra long "to-do" list that I need to crank out. Here's a sampling:

1) Pet store to buy dog food
2) Bank to deposit checks and cash out change
3) Local libraries (2) to return book / cd
4) But first, load cd onto Itunes
5) Renew a book that DD needs for school
6) Staples - pick up a few good sale items
7) Grocery shopping
8) But first, make next week's menu
9) Post Office - mail bus ticket refund
10) Pull tax stuff together (finally got revised W4)
11) Clean the house - never ends...

There's more, but this is the list off of the top of my head. No single thing is that big a deal but together, it adds up to quite a bit of time/effort.

Socially, DD has a basketball game tomorrow, then we have dinner with friends (fortunately, we just need to bring wine). Sunday, DD has an indoor and outdoor soccer game. (I'm praying for rain so the outdoor game gets cancelled)!

Financially, I'm planning on pretty much wrapping up the month. I may be able to see my 2/28 pay stub by Sunday, and can definitely pay or schedule the month's bills. And I found $.02 today.

I'm exhausted already!

Credit Line Reduction

February 19th, 2013 at 06:28 pm

I got a bizarre letter from Citibank today. I have a credit card with them that I don't use often (and in fact I've been using all credit cards less). They reduced my credit line from $9,900 to $9,200, because of my limited use. They stressed that it had nothing to do with my credit report or any factor other than that the amount I charge is so low. I don't mind, and in fact was thinking of cancelling the card and picking up a different card with a sign on bonus. I was just surprised.

Went off the reservation today and ordered pizza for dinner. I had a menu planned but didn't focus on it, and it was oh so easy to say yes when hubby suggested it. Back on track tomorrow!

Unrelated to money (and despite the pizza), I'm down a whopping 6 pounds since January, on track for my goal to lose 24 by year end. It's all the healthy eating!

No other great money news, just waiting for the end of the month.

HELOC Progress and Frustration

February 17th, 2013 at 08:52 pm

First, the progress: DH has finally decided that he's sick of the HELOC and wants it paid off! We opened it a few years back to do some capital improvements on the house. We got a good deal, prime minus 1/2% from BOA, so it currently sits at about 2.74%. Works out to about $100/month, on a balance of just under $45k. All this time, hubby has been fine paying the interest, because there's never been any compelling need to pay the principle. Being the more frugal of the two, it drives me nuts, so I'd throw some snowflakes here and there.

Well this weekend, he was in our bathroom (one of the projects) and was annoyed that we're still paying for it. So he's on board to get it down. I had set the goal of getting it to below $30k, which will be a much easier goal with him on board.

Here's the frustration: I closed my BOA checking account a while back and opened an account at a credit union. I've been meaning to set up auto bill payment so I could pay the HELOC electronically, instead of having to go to the branch. I figured I'd test it out with the $55 in snowflakes I have so far this month. So I set it up, hit the send button, and *duh*, realized that there was no way for me to indicate that it was for principle only, and not my regular payment.

It's not the end of the world; I'll just go to the branch and hand in the payment as I always do, but it's so much less convenient than I'd hoped. It also means I paid the March bill a few weeks early but that's ok too.

I will be *SO* happy when I terminate my relationship with BOA for good!

Frugal Anniversary Date

February 16th, 2013 at 08:00 pm

Well, it's all perspective.

Hubby gets off easily, because tonight is the anniversary of our first date (22 years ago!). As a result, we don't celebrate Valentine's Day, when flowers are inflated and reservations are tough to get. Instead, we celebrate tonight.

Hubby picked up a dozen roses, great steaks from the butcher, and the kids went to grandmas for a sleepover. We had a fabulous night - good food, good wine, fire in the fireplace...absolutely perfect.

While the steaks were pricy (but soooo worth it), it was much cheaper than going out. And I'm in comfy clothes instead of all dressed up...priceless!

I had one more $5 Amazon card hit, and will know tomorrow what my week 4 Yahtzee challenge will be. I've got a three day weekend (no work on Monday!) so all in all, it's shaping up to be a GREAT weekend!


February 12th, 2013 at 05:49 pm

It's been a quiet few days financially. I've been busy at work, but have still managed to keep an eye on things.

So what's new? Both my Second Spin and Eaglesaver submissions were slightly reduced, due to items that didn't meet their criteria. This happens occasionally, usually for excessive scratches. I transferred $48.11 in payments from Paypal, which I'll put toward the HELOC in the next day or two.

I put $2 toward the Yahtzee challenge for week 3. I had to scrape to get that. DH went on a trip and cleaned me out of $12 in small bills. I kept $2 for the challenge.

SIL just booked the house for our annual summer vacation in NC. It works out to $2,139.43 per family. I need to get her a check for $948.75 for the down payment over the next few days. I've been setting aside money each month, and so will have it to give to her.

I need to pull my tax stuff together this weekend. My company is sending out revised W-2s in March, so I have some time, but don't want to wait until the last minute (as usual)!

So that's it. Not much, but I'm not complaining!

$15 Amazon gift cards

February 7th, 2013 at 09:39 pm

I cleaned out my inbox tonight, and am so glad I did! Last year, I took advantage of a Groupon-type deal...Spend $5 get a $10 Amazon Gift Card. For some reason, I had a total mind blank when I received the email and couldn't figure out for the life of me how to get the code to apply to my account. I decided to leave it and figure it out later. Well, later is tonight. I found the email, saw what I needed to do (which was quite straightforward) and applied it to my account. Even though I paid the $5, it was so long ago and I completely forgot about it, so I added it to my 2013 freebies, because I feel like it's found money.

I also snagged a $5 Amazon gc from Swagbucks tonight. That will bring me up to $45 in AGCs so far this year.

Other than that exciting news, we're hunkering down for the big storm. We're not supposed to get hit like Boston, but should get 12-18 inches. I went to the grocery store tonight (along with everyone else) and picked up food. (I hadn't gone all week and we were pretty low). I also filled up one of the cars...crazy gas lines that reminded me of Storm Sandy...each pump was 3-4 cars deep. I'm going to get the other car filled tomorrow morning. The school already announced an early dismissal for the kids at 1:00.

DD is having a few girls sleep over tomorrow, so I'm praying that we don't lose power!

The other benefit of the storm is that I get to work at home (woohoo!).

For those who are affected, stay safe. For those who aren't, consider yourself lucky and enjoy the great weather!

I was "THIS" close...

February 4th, 2013 at 07:19 pm

...to winning $4k during yesterday's superbowl! We were watching the game at a friend's house. A bar that the men go to regularly was doing one of those box pools. $200/box, $800 payout per quarter, with the balance at the end of the game. The four families put in $50 (came from my personal envelope money, leftover from Christmas). We had lousy numbers, but still had a shot late in the game, before the Ravens (I think) scored a field goal. Anyway, the payout would've been $17,600/4 families. Not too shabby.

Either way, we had fun. And I did win a Papa John's pizza, thanks to the coin flip challenge. We brought some wine and apps, much of which was left behind unopened, ready for our next visit!

Back to work today. Why can't we work 4 days and have a 3-day weekend each week? Ah...wishful thinking.

Found out from my company that I need a revised W-2, which I won't get until March. It has something to do with a retroactive tax free transit benefit. The good news is that it will be in our favor. The other good news is that I'm a procrastinator anyway, so having until March to pull everything else together is right up my alley.

January Wrap-Up

February 2nd, 2013 at 10:55 am

I got to stay home today Smile. The Hobbit was no longer playing in the theaters, so hubby took the kids down to grandma's for a regular visit. I took advantage and ran some errands, went to the gym, and am now catching up on the computer. Ahhh...

January wrapped up well! I was able to put an extra $177.72 towards the HELOC, in addition to the regular $500 payment. This came from the snowflakes I got in January, along with coming in a bit under budget for the month.

I have some snowflakes on their way for February, but my procrastination caused me to lose $9. I sold CDs last week to two places. One shipped through the post office, and for the other I chose FedEx. The FedEx place is not convenient and I forgot about mailing it during the week. The book places only give you 5-7 days to ship, and by the time I got out today, I was 9 days in. So I needed to cancel my order from last week and re-enter the UPCs, and they were now paying a total of $9 less for the order. Still a lot more than I thought I would get for these, but it bums me out because it was totally preventable. Ugh...

Week 2 of the Yahtzee challenge ended well - $41, bringing my 2-week total to $42! I was helped out by $28 in coins that I turned in. I also had both pieces of a ripped $5 bill that I've had for about a year. I finally brought it to the bank and they replaced it with a regular $5 bill. And I had some leftover allowance. So that's a step in the right direction!

Finally, I got a coupon for a free coffee at Starbucks! I had a gift card from Christmas, so I went yesterday morning for a coffee and breakfast sandwhich. They forgot to make the sandwhich, so I was waiting around for about 5 minutes. The woman who made the coffee was so apologetic, and handed me the coupon for a free coffee. Woohoo. I was in no rush to get to work Wink so the 5 minutes didn't bother me at all. Nice customer service.

We're watching the Superbowl with friends tomorrow. I'll pick up some apps when I go grocery shopping today, and we have wine to bring over. Should be a cheap rest of the weekend.

Another Amazon GC

January 31st, 2013 at 08:46 pm

Swagbux frustrates me. It's feast or famine! I get most of my points through surveys, and sometimes I hit, other times not. Over the last two days, I got 250-point and 150-point surveys, which helped me to get another $5 gc. I'm still waiting for the last one I ordered to come through. That will bring me to $30 so far this year. How great if I could keep that up all year!

It's been a long week at work, so I haven't gotten much done. We're going out to dinner tomorrow (on DH's company) for a belated Christmas dinner. When I get home from that, I'll finalize my January numbers, which are pretty well set.

As for the weekend, the hub and kids want to take MIL to see The Hobbit and are insisting I go with them. We all saw it already (except MIL) and I wasn't nuts about it. I thought Lord of the Rings was much better. The start to this (3 hour) movie was extremely slow, and it's not really my genre of movie. So hmmm, spend 5+ hours round trip watching a movie I have absolutely no interest in, or spend 5+ hours hanging home with the dog in total peace and quiet. Tough choice. We'll see how it works out. MIL will pay for the movie tickets, so there will be no money out of pocket at least.

Time for bed. I'm hoping to catch up on some sleep this weekend too!

Free Papa John's pizza

January 30th, 2013 at 04:07 am

Papa Johns is having a Superbowl promo. Guess the flip of the coin correctly and you get a coupon for a free, large 1-topping pizza. Vote online by Saturday night.


$9.60 Snowflake

January 29th, 2013 at 02:10 pm

Adding to my February totals...

The box of books for Powells that I feared may have gotten lost was received yesterday, and $9.50 was sent to Paypal. I also found $.10 on the bus this morning, bringing my total "found money" to a whopping $.15.

I think I'm addicted to the whole "sell off books/CDs/DVDs" thing. A team leader gave us all copies of a management-teamwork book that I had already read and my first thought, no lie, was "I've already read this. I wonder how much I could get for it." I didn't sell it, but the thought definitely crossed my mind!

52 week Yahtzee challenge

January 28th, 2013 at 03:27 pm

And the week one total is...(drumroll)


Not the quick start I was hoping for, but the whole point is that each box needs to get crossed off once, so does it really matter? I was actually lucky to get the $1. I was in the post office mailing some packages, and the total came to $7.04. I had $8, and apologized to the clerk for not having change. The woman behind me gave me $.04, leaving me with the $1. I'll have to pass that random act of kindness forward.

I'm making it through January in pretty good shape. Over here, under there, with a little bit left over. I need to count my coins and cash in at least $15 worth, so I can bring my extra Heloc payment up to at least $100 (on top of a $500 regular payment).

I finally watched Forks Over Knives today. I really liked it. Both hubby and I have family histories of all sorts of diseases. We've been trying to reduce our meat consumption all month, and have found it easier than we thought. The documentary added a little more incentive to keep it going.

February will be a much tougher month, financially. We've already blown the entertainment budget by getting us and the kids tickets to a concert in April. The memories will be "priceless", but the hit on my checking account was "pricey". I also enjoyed a free month in January for my electric bill (I had a credit balance from the monthly budget billing plan). I also inadvertently prepaid the water bill in Dec, so January was a free month there too. Time to put my creative hat on and see what adjustments to make...

CD Sales

January 26th, 2013 at 12:17 pm

When I sold my last round of dvds, video games, and books, I had not gotten around to cataloging my cd collection. I did that yesterday and ended up selling a bunch to Eaglesaver ($27.29) and Secondspin ($20.05). In doing so, I got rid of so many cds that the kids never listen to. (The Jonas Brothers and Disney Moves CDs were particularly gratifying)! So $47.34 already in line to start my February snowflakes.

DH comes home today. We have a very short window between church tonight and DD's soccer game, so we're going with ravioli and sauce for dinner. I need to run out to the store to pick that up, along with a few things that should hold me through the week.

The pup was sick all day yesterday. Couldn't keep anything down, and was just blah all day. I held off taking him to the vet to see if it passed. It seems to, as today he ate a bit and went out for a walk, but he's clearly tired. I do need to pick up some Resolve at the store, though!

DD has a basketball game tomorrow, but nothing else going on. I did get suckered for basketball pictures for both DS and DD this morning. $16 each for individual and team pics. Such a waste of money. I need to get better at "just saying no" to this kind of thing.

3 Freebies

January 25th, 2013 at 09:40 am

Today was a good day for freebies!

1) I finally got the remaining points to snag my $5 Amazon gift card, which will bring my total to $25. It should come through within a few days.

2) I got a $5 rewards gift card from Best Buy. This was particularly nice because I wasn't expecting it. I signed up for their rewards program before Christmas when I was picking up a few things. I assume this is a result of having spent a certain amount of money then, but I don't know. Anyway, it's good through May, 2013, so I'll probably use it the next time DS is looking for a video game.

3) I won a free lunch at work! They have a healthy station in the cafeteria that I've been going to lately. They had a raffle for people who bought meals there. I put my name in and won! It's worth about $6, so that's cool.

I have an account with Viggle, which gives you points for checking into various tv shows. You get 1 point for every minute you watch tv (any show), and opportunities to win bonus points. You can typicaly get a $5 gift card for either 10,000 or 12,500 points, or in some cases a $15 gc for 30,000 points or a $25 gc for 62,500 points. At the end of the year I was able to get 3 $5 CVS gift cards, which was great, but they no longer offer CVS. I'm debating between Barnes and Noble (10k), Starbucks (12.5k), Chilis (30k) or Best Buy (62.5k).

I'm doing well with "use it up" week. DS made 2 great dinners with the veggies I had on hand, and I have leftovers for tonight and tomorrow. Very successful.

We've got a lot of sports going on this weekend, but it should be relatively inexpensive. I'm waiting for my 1/31 pay stub to post so I can finish up the finances and see exactly how much I have to pay toward the HELOC. Woohoo.

Love the new twist on the 52-week challenge

January 23rd, 2013 at 03:33 pm

When the 52 week challenge first came out I thought "eh". By the time the end if the year comes and I need to put away $40+/week, it's going to have to come from sources I would have been saving anyway, so why bother? But Jeffrey has developed a new twist on the challenge that I like: treat it like a game of Yahtzee...each week you have to save something, but the amount can vary based on what you have available in a given week. (He did a much better job of explaining it then I. See the home page for more info).

So I'm going to start this Friday, and I'm going to try to use sources of money that I normally wouldn't count. For example, I get $20/week allowance, so that will be the base and I'll go from there. Should be fun.

I finished a 100-pt swag survey yesterday, but something happened on the last screen and I didn't get credit for it. That would have put me over the top for my next GC, so hopefully I'll snag it tonight.

I planned out the pay down of my Heloc and mortgage. Using what I think are reasonable assumptions, I should have the Heloc paid off by Dec 2014 and the mortgage done by Aug 2016. Dd goes off to college in September 2017, so that's the ultimate goal, if my current dates slip. It's amazing how real it becomes when you write it down. I did it by hand (I'll transfer to Excel later) so it really registered!

My sister is in town helping me with the kids while hubby is away. So lucky to have such a great support network! I'm looking forward to a yummy dinner, wine, and catching up!

$7.53 Snowflake

January 22nd, 2013 at 04:08 pm

I received a $7.53 check today from a place like Ebates (% back for online shopping) for some gifts I bought at Christmastime. I'll deposit it this week and add it to the January Heloc total. I'm up to $85.85 for the month. I'd like to get to $100. I have coins to deposit that should bring me pretty close, if not over.

I have to follow up on a shipment of books to Powells. I received Eagle Saver and SecondSpin, which went out at the same time, but haven't heard a peep from Powells. I need to go back and see exactly what I sent out and give them a call tomorrow.

I did two frugal things today: First, I combined trips and hit the Bank (deposited checks), Staples (faxed something for dad) and Post Office (mailed a PBS book and letters) all in one trip.

Second, I stuck with the "use it up" plan. I was at the supermarket buying the kids' dinner (I buy the meat/fish fresh a few times a week). While I was ordering shrimp, the tilapia looked good. I was going to get one for me, only $2.99, but held off and used up some eggs that are expiring this week.

I hit a few good surveys on Swagbux, and am close to my next gift card. Hopefully I'll be able to order it by the end of the week. I just received my last one, so I'm up to $20 so far this year.

Much to Report

January 20th, 2013 at 02:42 pm

I have a lot to report!

First, I avoided paying $8 today. DD needed a new stretch reading book for school tomorrow morning. She told me at 3:15 this afternoon (ugh), and she didn't have any books on hand that the teacher would okay. (Apparently they call it "stretch" reading for a reason -- no gimmies). So she decided on a Stephen King book. I assumed I would have to go to Barnes & Noble and pay the $8 for it. Instead, we went to our library, which is open until 4:00 on Sunday. No luck. Then we high-tailed it to the library in the next town over, also open until 4:00. No luck. I was going to go to B&N at that point, and she suggested checking the library in the NEXT town over, which is open until 5:00. We found the book she wanted, and checked it out. They give us 3 weeks, so we'll need to renew it, but I saved the trip to the bookstore and paid nothing.

(BTW, Thrifty Ray was surprised about the library offerings in my area. The library we ended up at, which is in a really upscale town, has a Keurig machine and coffee pods for its patrons! Now THAT's service)!

Second savings: CVS, and a broader lesson on the value of my smartphone. I got an email from CVS offering me 20% off regular priced items this weekend. Hubby needed razors and shaving cream for his trip, neither of which were on sale. I forgot about the coupon until I got to the store. Instead of missing out, I pulled up the email on my phone, clicked the link, and chose the option to send the coupon directly to my ECB card. Voila. Saved $3.20.

A similar thing happened at Staples last week. I forgot to print out that email as well, for $5/$20. I stopped at their print center with the intention of printing the email there. The associate said no need, just pull it up on my phone and show the cashier, and they can enter the code from there. No problems at all.

So the lesson is to make sure that all of your cards are registered and linked on the sites, and don't give up on the savings if your forget the coupon at home!

I received $5 in the mail today! I had filled out a survey for Swagbux a few weeks ago, about potential new product offerings for a dinner product. They asked if I would be willing to try it at home and fill out a survey about it, and I said sure. The product arrived on Saturday, and we need to try it and respond over the next week. They sent the $5 to cover the cost of the other ingredients I need (ground beef). The kids and I will try it tomorrow. Because I would have bought ground beef for them anyway, I'm going to count the $5 as a freebie and add it to my January HELOC payment.

It's "use it up" week at my house. Whenever hubby travels, I like to take the opportunity to use up whatever I have lying around the fridge and pantries. I have a lot on hand, and should be able to eat for the week without going to the store for myself. I made onion soup today, and have the makings for potato-leek soup as well. I've got some beets, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, spaghetti squash, turnips, and more onions, so plenty of veggies. I also bought some soft tofu earlier this month when I started this vegetarian kick. I have no idea what to do with it, or how to use it, and it expires later this week. My goal for tomorrow is to come up with a recipe that I can make this week and see how it goes.

So all in all, a pretty good Sunday. I'm off tomorrow for the holiday, but will be down at dad's for a few hours.

Saturday Musings

January 19th, 2013 at 09:07 pm

Saturday random musings...

1) I received my $7.50 payment from SecondSpin, which will go to the HELOC.

2) I'm in mostly good shape with the budget for January. I have $135 left for groceries. I went shopping today, and hubby is out of town for the week, so all I'll need is meat for the kids and my regular shopping next Sunday. I will likely be over on gas, not sure yet by how much.

3) I'm going back to the gym next week. I haven't been much since November and need to get back in the swing. I've been doing a good job with reducing the amount of meat we eat. I've been getting some really creative, tasty recipes that we've really enjoyed. I'm weighing myself tomorrow, but I can tell by my clothes that it's going well.

4) I need to take down the indoor Christmas decorations this week. We got the outside lights down last weekend, but just haven't tackled the inside yet. That's my chore to do while hubby's away.

5) I need to get back on Swagbux more regularly. My goal was to get 1 $5 gift card per week. I'm on track so far, with $15 already and another $5 on the way, but I haven't been as aggressive about getting on there as I'd like.

I think that's it for now. I'm looking forward to a quiet Sunday...

I'm over myself

January 17th, 2013 at 12:01 pm

Thanks to everyone for the supportive comments as I wind my way down Motherhood Lane. It's so nice to know that I'm not the only one feeling like I do.

On to financials...I got my first snowflake cash in hand - $15.82 from EagleSaver for the books/games/DVDs I sold a few weeks back. It's in my Paypal account now, and will go right to my Heloc. In the "non-cash" department, I scored another $5 Amazon GC from Swagbucks, bringing my total to $20.

January has been going well. No major surprises with the paycheck, and all if the budget categories are still on track. I'm hoping to have an extra $100 for the Heloc at month end.

On the downside, I had my first mishap with the bus yesterday. It had snowed the night before and I was running late, so I caught the last bus on my route in to work (7:25 am). It never came. I waited until 7:45, then drove in. $37 for parking. Ouch. This is unbudgeted, making it all the more painful.

Parenting blahs

January 13th, 2013 at 07:21 pm

Skip to the 2nd half of the entry if you want financial-related thoughts...

At the risk of having the "old-time parents" laugh at me...

Parenting is hard!

And frustrating.

One of the things I love about my job is that I know at the end of the day (or project, or whatever), if I've done a good job. With kids, it's a total crapshoot. DD (14) is going through such a tough time right now...stressed about school (I think the prospect of graduating 8th grade and moving to high school is a bit intimidating). Stressed about her schedule (which is busy but not over the top). And there's no magic answer to make her unstressed. (The "dude, it only gets worse" didn't work, but I am putting that on my "mom of the year" application, LOL).

*Sigh*. If only our kids could see themselves the way we see them.

On to financial musings. I had a productive day today.
- Went to church.
- Then to CVS for conditioner and deoderant, paid with ECBs and a gift card.
- I tried to take DS for a much needed haircut, but they closed 15 minutes earlier Frown.
- I picked up a cd from the library (kids have gotten on the frugal bandwagon, and have sought out library cds to load onto Itunes instead of paying for the songs).
- I also picked up dry cleaning
- and did what I hope is most of the grocery shopping for the week.

The biggest achievement today was that I made dinner at home. DD had a soccer game at 5:00 (refer to schedule stress noted above). The game ended at 6, about 1/2 hour away. We came home and I made dinner instead of grabbing fast food or pizza, as we normally would. I tried out a new vegan recipe (that was dynamite). That part of my 2013 resolutions is going pretty well. And I lost 1 lb this week, as a result of my clean living.

Sorry for the rambling. DD has thrown me for a loop. Looking forward to a quiet week at work and home (fingers crossed).

Is it Monday?

January 11th, 2013 at 05:20 am

Sure feels like it! I forgot to set the alarm and overslept until 7:00 (I'm usually out the door by 6:50). The last bus on my route is 7:25, so I needed to take the train/ferry instead. I had to pay for the 2 train and 2 ferry tickets. Total cost: $31. Ouch.

Our town recently went through a reassessment. Our house value dropped from $727,800 to $568,900 (22%) in just a couple of years. At first I was happy, or at least not disappointed about it, because I thought it would result in a reduction of our $13k property tax bill. But everyone's value went down, so it will likely not make any difference. We won't find out until August. The positive is that we have no plans if selling the house in the near future, and the mortgage is just over $100k, so it's not the end of the world.

I did have one bright spot last night: someone on their blog (I really have to get better at attributing this stuff!) was going to go through their memberships, etc to make sure they were taking advantage of all of the benefits. I started doing that, and went to the Upromise site. I've been a member since 2001 and have amassed over $4k for the kids' college fund, without giving it any thought at all. That will barely cover a semester of books these days, but better than nothing!

Have a great weekend!

Kohls cash, dentist, found money

January 10th, 2013 at 04:58 am

That was about the extent of my Wednesday.

First, Kohls cash: MIL bought us some Christmas gifts from Kohls that we needed to return. She gave us the receipt, along with a $70 Kohls cash, which expired on Jan 1st that she forgot to use (!). When I returned the stuff, I asked Customer Service if I could do anything about the expired Kohls Cash. She said they honor expired certificates, but you can't return any merchandise you buy with it. So I got a merchandise credit for $61, and I can use the expired Kohls cash (reduced to $60 after the return). I wish I knew this sooner because I've thrown out my fair share of expired Kohls cash, thinking they were useless.

Took DS to the orthodontist yesterday. Good news: I'm going to save $170 on his braces! When he got them, they charged me $4,340, and my insurance covered 50% up to $2000. So I put $540 down and $100/month for 18 months. My coverage went up in 2013, so they now cover 50% up to $2,500. 50% of 4,340 is $2,170, so I'm getting an extra $170. Unfortunately, I can't count this as cash savings, because I planned my Flexible Spending around the full amount. I'll be able to use the difference on something (glasses, contacts) but unrestricted cash is always better.

And finally, I found my first money of 2013: a nickel in the parking lot.

Today I need to put through my last FSA claim for 2012, from the kids' December trip to the dentist. I'll have $4 left in the account, so I'll need to go back through my records and make sure I didn't miss anything.

Saving and Spending

January 9th, 2013 at 06:30 am

On the plus side, I recently received a promotion at work (after a greuling 2012). At my new level, my company reimburses gym memberships. For first timers, like me, they reimburse 75% of the cost, up to $1500. For people in the program more than one year, they have a sliding scale based on how many times you attended the year before.

The gym I go to is relatively new (5 years old) and pretty state of the art. It has a great kids program as well. They really emphasize fitness being a fun family thing. Anyway, my membership is $69/month. So this means that I will only be paying $17.25/month this year, for a savings of about $52/month. The full amount was included in my budget, so FOUND MONEY! The company also foots the bill for a cardiac stress test (mandatory for over 40), which I've been meaning to do anyway.

So that's the saving for today. The spending is DD's 8th grade field trip to Washington DC. I just got an email that this month's installment is due. The total cost of the trip is $616. Personally, I hate the idea of my 14 year old being away for 3 days and 2 nights supervised only by school personnel, and I question how much they'll be able to see and do with 150 kids, versus what we could do during a family trip. And I'm quite sure that I could arrange a more meaningful trip for the 4 of us for less than $616 bucks. But alas, I don't want her sitting in a study hall for 3 days while all of her friends and classmates are away, so we're bucking up for it.

Speaking of DD, I'm home from work today because she needs to go to the doctor, and DS needs to go to the orthodontist. Both of those payments will be covered by my Flexible Spending. (Another "savings" - my orthontic coverage increased from $2000 to $2500 this year, so $500 less for me to pay. Wahoo). We have High School orientation tonight, and a number of errands to run today, including returning a few Christmas gifts. Busy, busy, busy...

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