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Credit on my gas bill :)

December 5th, 2009 at 10:29 am

Wow, this is a busy time of year. From Nov 1st through the end of the year we have both kids' birthdays, anniversary, Thanksgiving, Christmas, our annual Christmas party, and other gatherings with friends. It's all good, but it makes for a pretty busy schedule.

I had one great financial thing happen over the past few days. We're on the balance budget plan with our gas company. We ended the year with a $108 credit, which will be applied toward our December bill (the timing couldn't be better!). We haven't gotten our new amount yet, but I'm hoping this means that our monthly bill will be $9-10 lower.

One inconvenient financial happening: I sent in the form to get our rebates back from one of our credit cards. The amount was about $450. I had to submit paperwork with the form, and it was dated 4 months ago. So they sent me a letter saying I had to resend the package with paperwork from within the last 30 days. Totally inconvenient, and now my $450 will be delayed. Bah Humbug.

I did find a penny on the street on Thursday, bringing my total up to $.55. And I got an email from Rite Aid that my $7 rebate check is on the way. Woohoo.

Going to dad's for a bit today and a quiet day home tomorrow. I'll probably get my Christmas cards done. Gearing up to make a big dent in my shopping this week...

Utility analysis

July 29th, 2008 at 08:42 am

I called up my electric company and asked for my average daily KWH usage (total kwh/# of days in billing cycle), from January 2007 through my last bill. Computers never cease to amaze me; the rep had them for me in about 30 seconds. Here's what I learned:

Electric
2008 vs. 2007
Avg. kwh/day
January 38.63 < 41.77
Feb 31.31 < 34.90
March 29.72 > 29.62
Aoril 26.55 > 26.14
May 28.18 < 29.31
June 56.76 < 57.03
July ???? 55.29
August ???? 55.59
Sept ???? 52.13
October ???? 32.13
Nov ???? 35.21
Dec ???? 44.80

eta: sorry this is hard to read. The first number is 2008 use, the second number is 2007. For months where I have both years data, I indicated if it was < or > from 2008 to 2007.

My usage was up slightly in March and April vs. last year, but down the other 4 months. Overall, through the first 6 months of the year, avg daily usage is down by about 1.7kwh/day. That's pretty good. My bill, however, has increased during that time from $186/month in July 07 to $250/month now! I'm on the budget billing plan, so they reset my rate once/year, based on the previous 12 months. I assume rates during this time have gone up (alot, apparently). I'm going to keep trying to lower my usage vs. last year, and I'll put a reminder in my calendar to see what happens when the rate resets, and raise heck if it doesn't go down at all.

Then, I did the same thing with my gas company, and found this:

Gas
2008 vs 2007
Total CCF
January 377.476 > 118.404
Feb 334.972 < 494.868
March 370.392 < 432.124
Aoril 279.312 > 276.276
May 79.948 < 163.944
June 74.888 < 107.272
July 33.396 < 92.092
August ???? 39.468
Sep ???? 68.816
Oct ???? 93.104
Nov ???? 46.552
Dec ???? 246.928

Here, I was also up 2 months, and down the rest. My bill from July 07 to now went from $252/month to $264/month, which includes $11/month for a maintenance contract on my air conditioner, which I think I have duplicate coverage for. (Yes, I pay $500+/month for gas and electric, which is ridiculous! That's why I'm so bent on getting these down!). The winter is tough, because it's so dependent on the weather. My summer usage has gone down a lot because we have a pool that we used to heat pretty regularly last summer, and I think we've only used the heater twice this year. The kids don't mind the cold water, and I mind it a lot less when I think about how much it costs me! So this one will be harder than the electric bill, but I'm going to think about what else I can do to get this down, especially as the fall/winter approaches. (We replaced our front door last year, and we use digital thermostat timers to turn down the heat when we're out of the house. I have to drill down to the next level of ideas).

Fortunately for us, water is cheap, and costs us only $27/month. (Not even, as that's also on budget billing, and we always come in under).

So that's my challenge for today, tomorrow, and the rest of the year: To continue thinking about ways to get this down. All thoughts are welcome!

Cruising along in 2007

January 15th, 2007 at 08:21 pm

Halfway through the month and things are going "pretty, pretty, pretty good" (any Curb Your Enthusiasm fans out there?).

I am on track for the whole "workout/eat better" resolution. I've been on the treadmill 5x/week both weeks, and have eaten 1600-1800 calories per day. My reward: I'm down 4 pounds. I'm trying to let Baselle's words of wisdom temper my excitement, but it's not working. (I'll have to save it for the week I don't lose anything (or worse, gain!!!)). A side benefit: I haven't spent a dime at the cafeteria at work. Last month I averaged $35/month. So far, nada. I am going to lunch with a colleague on Friday, but it shouldn't be more than $3 or $4.

Along the financial front, I got my gas bill and it was great. My actual use was about $60 less than my budget billing, which is amazing for December (though it was unusually warm). My only concern is that it says Estimate, but it should be actual because they put a thing on the meter to be able to read it from the street. If it is actual, that would be a really great start to the winter heating season.

I've also been taking advantage of the monthly rebates at Walgreens, RiteAid, and CVS, which is allowing me to stockpile some stuff, much of which is free or close to it.

The indoor Christmas stuff is coming down tomorrow. That'll help me along the whole organizational front, because I have decorations all over the place. I'm ready to move on to the rest of the year!

More plumbing problems

January 8th, 2007 at 02:20 pm

Well, one way to meet my goal of being more organized is to have a flood in the basement force you to clean everything out.

Our water softener overflowed, and we don't have a pipe to catch the overflow because we don't have a floor drain, so all the water spilled out onto the basement floor. It happened sometime between 4:30-6:30 Sunday, and by the time we got to it, there was about 3/4" of water on the floor.

Once again, we're thankful that we noticed it before severe damage was done. (Could you imagine if we were away on vacation?). Also, the water level did not reach the bottom of the appliances, so our washer, dryer, and extra refrigerator and freezer are safe.

However, it was more water than hubby could clean up on his own, so we called the company that cleaned up after the bathroom flood. $400, but they were done in an hour. So my goal over the next few days is to go through everything down there and see what boxes got wet, rebox stuff we want to keep and THROW OUT stuff that should have been gone years ago.

Other than the plumbing, all is well here. Took advantage of the beautiful weekend to get the Christmas lights down, haven't spent a dime eating at work (which was another one of my resolutions) and have been exercising and eating better. So far, so good in 2007.

Gas savings even better!

December 6th, 2006 at 01:10 pm

I must have misread my last bill. I got a letter today from the gas company saying that my monthly payment will drop from $319 to $241/month! Well that's more like it. They revisit it every 6 months, and of course with the winter here I'll need to be really diligent about trying to keep it down so it doesn't go right back up again...Yeehaw!

I also got the Bullet Train today, so I'm anxious to sit down with that and a glass of wine tonight Wink.

Direct TV Savings

December 5th, 2006 at 07:42 pm

I had a question about my Direct TV bill, so I called up a rep. Turns out I'm an "A-List Customer" (oh yeah!), so I'm entitled to $15/month off my bill for the next 6 months, as well as a new DVR receiver (read TIVO) to replace one of my existing receivers. The cost of the receiver and the installation is free with a 1-year commitment. Well that's a no-brainer...I just scored a $15 discount for 6 months, and hubby would NEVER give up Direct TV, if for the football package alone! So they're coming the day after Christmas to install my new receiver.

So that's 2 bills reduced (Direct TV and PSE&G gas), and 1 bill (electric) staying the same.

Finalized November numbers and got up-to-date on December, so I can start looking at how the year is shaking out and plan my goals for 2007. I'll have to go back and reread some of my entries from this past January to see how I've done.

Everything's coming up roses!

December 4th, 2006 at 03:07 pm

First of all, thanks StressLess and HouseHopeful for the Amazon tips. I was able to cancel just the video game. Everything else should be here next week, and my account has been credited. Painless. I like painless...

I'm having a great day! Already received my November RiteAid rebate ($36.94), and my $2 Drug Fair Nov. Rebate. I entered them Thanksgiving weekend and the check was in the mail today. Not too bad.

I also got my gas bill today. Unlike the struggles I had last week with the electric company, my gas bill for the next 6 months has been lowered by $11/month. I don't want to get too crazy here...they were billing me a whopping $319/month, every month, for my gas bill, now it's $308/month, which is still ridiculous. But I ended the year with a $377 credit, so I don't have to pay December's bill (awesome, what with the holidays and all), and I still have a $58 credit to apply toward my January bill.

I went to CVS today to pick up some of their promotional items, including a Gillette Fusion power razor, free after the Extra Care Bucks and a $4 coupon, and Sunsilk shampoo for $.50/bottle. $.50 Kraft MacNCheese also. Of course I had to pick up a small thing for each kid (I usually try to shop alone, but hubby's away). Fortunately, I had a $4/$20 coupon, so I applied the $4 toward that.

My goal tonight is to start writing out the Christmas cards and take care of a few Christmas packages. I need to make a trip to the post office tomorrow.

Electric Company Frustrations

November 30th, 2006 at 12:48 pm

UGH!

I received my electric bill, the last in my 6 month cycle (I'm on budget billing). I pay $147/month for electric. My actual usage before now was $6.07 over what I had been billed, and my current month actual usage was for $140.xx. So I'm right at $147/month.

Imagine my surprise when I saw that starting next month, my new monthly total would be raised to $158.xx! That's an extra $121/yr!

So I called customer service and got the most unhelpful, I-can-only-read-the-script-they-give-me rep!

Me: Hi. I just received my latest bill and noticed that my monthly amount was increasing from $147 to $158. I'm not really sure why, considering that my actual usage was right around $147.

Her: Well, usage isn't the only determining factor. Gas prices normally increase in the winter.

Me: I'm not talking about gas, I only get my electric from you.

Her: Oh, yeah, electric prices usually go down in the winter and up in the summer.

Me: Well, have you announced new rate increases yet? Because an increase of $121/year seems like a lot to me.

Her: It's not for a whole year. We reset budget billing every 6 months, so this new rate is only for the next 6 months.

Me: Well, if it's only for the next 6 months, then I'd definitely expect it to go down now, while electric rates are decreasing, then maybe go up in 6 months, right before summer, when you expect them to increase.

Her: The 3 factors that go into budget billing are usage, rate increases, and expected temperature.

Me: (Smoke coming out of my ears about now) Right. So if my usage is stable, and electric rates are expected to decrease, then the only thing causing this increase is a change in expected temperature? Again, I can see this affecting gas bills alot more than electric.

Maybe I can speak to a supervisor to find out exactly what's driving this change?

Her: I'll have somebody take a look at it.

Me: Great. Can I have her name?

Her: Well, it's not really a person. The rates are figured out automatically by the computer. Somebody will have to review the account and see if it can be reset back to the $147.

Me: So who can I expect to hear back from.

Her: Me. My name is Christy.

Me: Well thanks, Christy. Looking forward to hearing from you.

(Hang up the phone...curse to myself for about 5 minutes, then decide to vent my frustration on this blog)

ETA: The rep called me back to say that she spoke with someone in Accounting, and they're going to keep it at $147. Makes me wonder how many people don't call and complain...

Phone Cards

November 13th, 2006 at 06:55 pm

My goal through the end of the year is to use up various calling cards I've acquired. I just received $30 calling cards from IDT as a result of a class action settlement, and probably have another 30 minutes or so on other cards. My plan is to use them as needed during the day, so I don't eat up my cell phone minutes. There's definitely an opportunity for savings here...I never think when I call someone - I just pick up the phone.

I also received a letter in the mail about a class action suit against Verizon Wireles. I need to read the details, but at first glance it looks like a $15 credit on my cell phone bill when it settles. Every little bit helps.

I took a quick glance at the Leisure Plus program that StressLess mentioned. I agree with her that I'm not sure that it's worth it...You can save a max of $180 on gas cards, but there's a $90 yearly fee, so you really only save $90, and I don't think there are many other aspects of the program I'd take advantage of. Still...$90 is $90. I'll have to consider this further.

Not much further along on the Christmas front. I do need to order some discounted gift cards to use at Amazon and Circuit City, so I'll be doing that this week.

Send good karma my way...

October 31st, 2006 at 06:02 pm

I posted a few weeks back about the flood in my bathroom thanks to a broken pipe under the sink.

For the last week, the kitchen sink faucet has been acting up. We'd jiggle the handle and it would shut off, although there was usually an annoying drip. Well, tonight it didn't shut off. At all. Coming out full blast.

Hubby is away on a business trip through Tursday afternoon. I tried shutting off the knobs under the sink, but they are so old and stripped (?) they weren't budging. So I went downstairs and shut off water to the house.

After I settled down, I looked around the basement for a valve that would shut off only the kitchen water. Couldn't find one. I traced the pipes back to the main shut off valve. That's the only way to keep it off.

So then, I got a pair of pliers from hubby's toolbox, figuring the under-sink valves might budge. But that didn't work either.

Called dear sister, whose boyfriend has done some plumbing work and lives about 20 minutes away. He gave me the name of a plumber friend in my town. So I called him, but he "doesn't go out at night" and was booked tomorrow. So DS's boyfriend is going to take care of it sometime tomorrow.

In the meantime, the water to the house is shut off. Fortunately, the kids have already had their baths. I had them brush their teeth with bottled water. Later, I'll turn the water on and take a quick shower before turning it off again for the night. I'll catch what I can in the sink and water the plants.

Hopefully it'll be fixed by tomorrow afternoon, and all it will cost me is dinner for my sister and her boyfriend.

Thank goodness our water is so ridiculously cheap. Between the bathroom and the kitchen, we're going through water like it was, well, water!

Sorry for the long disjointed rant...

Catching Up

October 30th, 2006 at 11:20 am

I'm in a good place with October ending. I'm off today and tomorrow, so I'm able to get some things done. (Nothing great, just the typical stuff I normally have no time for).

I'm looking forward to Halloween tomorrow. The kids are so excited. They have a parade at school, followed by some trick-or-treating around the neighborhood.

I need to tally up all of my October spending and check the budget. I'm anxious to see how much my gas bill went down now that I'm taking the train to work. Also, the gas company is coming tomorrow morning to install a special meter that they can read from the street. That'll allow me to actually get an actual reading each month...hoping this will go down too.

It's going to be an expensive week coming up. Our anniversary is Saturday, and DS's birthday is next Monday. I also scheduled the kids' Christmas pictures for Thursday afternoon. It's getting to be that time of the year again...

I love Liberty Mutual

October 5th, 2006 at 05:00 pm

I should be a paid spokesperson for this company for all the times I talk about how great they are! I called the 1-800 number at 3:15 today to tell them about my water damage. They had an agent call me back within 15 minutes. He said he'd have a company they use to assess the water damage get in touch with me. They called within 1/2 hour, then the co-owners of the company were at my house at 5:00. They looked at the damage, and said they would have a crew at my house tomorrow morning at 9:30 to begin drying everything up and seeing if the rug can be saved. (I'm sure it can't - it's at least 15 years old and pretty ratty!).

Then our contractor called us back. We told him what happened, and that we're thinking about remodeling part of the bathroom (not a wholesale overhaul, but putting down tile instead of carpet, and a new shower). He said if the insurance company asks for an estimate, call him and he'll give us one, and once we get the check and are ready to remodel, he'll be happy to do it. Music to our ears...we thought this would be too small a job for him. I guess the fact that he's done work for us in the past helps.

So although my bathroom is out of commission for at least the next 5 days while they dry it out (thankfully we have others to use), and the carpet is still soaked, things are looking up a bit.

On to other news...Thank you Amy for $15 of free Shoprite coupons!!! ($5/$40 for the next three weeks) Those savings will be going right into my challenge account, thank you very much.

More great news...I think my gas bill will actually go DOWN when they review it. I'm on budget billing, and their last estimated reading was higher than my actual usage. I'm hoping the bill will drop $10-15 per month.

My other great savings opportunity is health insurance through open enrollment, but that's such a great story, it deserves a separate post!

Burst water pipe

October 4th, 2006 at 12:49 pm

I had an entry planned for today, but this one takes the cake!

I came home from work/picking the kids up from school and walked into the house. Heard a noise that sounded like the bathtub running. Went into my bathroom to find that the pipe underneath the sink burst, and the carpet was SATURATED. It must have happened hours ago, judging by the amount of water on the floor.

So I tried to shut it off underneath the sink, but couldn't see because it was gushing so badly. Called hubby at work - no answer. Called our plumber - no answer. Finally called the water company and they told me how to figure out where the shut off valve was.

Fortunately, it only shut water off to half of the house, so we still have access to toilets, shower, and laundry. Downside is that we'll need the plumber to fix the pipe, and I have no idea what to do about the carpet. It would take forever to wet/dry vac the thing.

Hubby's on his way home from work now to bail us out (no pun intended). We'll assess the damage from there.

Random musings

September 22nd, 2006 at 03:16 pm

I'm trying to spend some time this weekend getting organized. First stop - coupons. I went through the coupon wish list thread and matched up people's wants with what I have and don't need for the Northeaster. As I get people's addresses, I'll mail them out.

I had a mail in form for Campbells Label for Education. Submit 10 upcs with the form and get 200 bonus points. So I need to get that off my list.

Also need to mail in a St. Ives form. I bought 2 products, so I send in the form and get 1 free...

Finally, I need to get my Box Tops together. I forgot to submit them at the end of last school year, so I have about 30 lying around. I'll send them in with the kids on Monday.

Somehow I ended up on the ToysRUs mailing list. Today I got a coupon for $10/$50, expiring in mid-October. I also have gift cards that I bought at a 20% discount. I'll need to see if I can combine these with a good in-store sale...

I can't wait for the next electric and gas bills. (When have I EVER said that before?!) It's been so cool for the last few weeks that the a/c has been off, and despite it getting pretty chilly at night, we haven't turned on the heat. (Twice, the house has been 63/64 when we woke up, but I'm trying to hold out until at least October 1. Flannel sheets are going on the beds this weekend, and the kids will be in their feetie pjs if necessary) I'm hoping I'll see a big difference in the bill.

I'm hoping for a quiet weekend. We have soccer tomorrow, then the kids are going to grandma's for a sleepover. Instead of going out to eat, I'm taking 2 steaks out of the freezer, and we'll have them with a great bottle of wine. I do need to go to the veggie store and pick up something to have with it.

Sunday I'm going down to my dad's...

Electric Progress

September 7th, 2006 at 07:14 pm

Be warned: Boring post about electricity usage!

I went online and looked over my last 13 months of electric bills. In August 05, I averaged 68 kwh per day. This August, it was down to 58 per day, despite the fact that the average temperature was 5 degrees higher this year (and the A/C was on non-stop). So I feel like I'm really making progress.

During the summer, when the pool filter and a/c are on, usage varied from 50-58 kwh per day. During the rest of the year, from October through May, it ranged from 22-34.

I'm going to keep tracking this over the next few months and comparing it to the same period last year, to show me that it keeps getting better. I have plenty of room for improvement, too, considering that my kids (and husband) keep every light and television on all the time!

Brrrr!!

August 29th, 2006 at 04:47 pm

Wow, we're in the middle of a damp, cold stretch. Feels like fall in northern NJ!

I was super-proud of myself on Sunday. Spent the entire day cooking and baking, including homemade bread, blackberry ice cream, blackberry and peach clafouti (thanks Contrary, for the suggestion!), blackberry sauce, steaks for Sunday night dinner, and bolognese sauce for Monday night. It's been a long time since I did that much in the kitchen and it was great!

I've been positively swamped at work, so I haven't had time to get my 8/31 stub and finalize the August numbers. If I thought they were better, it'd be easier to get motivated to do this!

Got my electric bill today. The actual usage was really high due to the a/c being on during last month's heat wave. Fortunately, we still have a credit of about $85 on our budget billing...I'm hoping that we can end the year with a credit and drive next year's rate down...

Quiet rest of the week...work, work, work!

Electric Progress!

April 28th, 2006 at 01:34 pm

Always a silver lining in the darkest of months...I went online for my electric bill today. Usage over the month decreased from 695 kwh to 649, for a decrease of 6.6% (YEA!). I'm on the budget billing plan, so my monthly payment is the same, but the credit in my favor went from $188.61 to $262.99. Storing up for A/C season. Also, I think this is the last month I have to pay on the overage from last year (they spread it over 6 months) so my next bill should be lower. It's great to have some good news.

This is going to be a busy weekend. In addition to getting my house in order, I need to buy a Communion gift, return some clothes, grocery shop for dad, and take care of some things on the old to-do list. I suppose I should get started...

Energy Savings

April 7th, 2006 at 06:23 pm

A few weeks ago I wrote about an energy saving kit being offered to NJ gas customers for $5. I got it today. It included weather stripping, low flow shower heads and faucet aerators, and outlet cover insulators. It also came with two cards with energy and water savings info. Some of the tips on the cards are basic, but others I didn't know, so I figured I'd pass them along. Check out www.niagaraconservation.com for more info.

One of the things I liked was the listing of kwh used by many appliances, which I didn't know and I'm going to start paying attention to:

Dishwasher- 30kWh w/drying cycle, 20 w/o
Oven 350 degrees for 1 hour- 60 kWh
Microwave Oven - 16-40 kWh
Toaster- 4-12 kWh
Coffee Maker- 12kWh
Washing Machine (5 loads/wk) - 7 kWh
Dryer (5 loads/wk) - 100 kWh
Radio (3hrs/day) - 9 kWh
Television 23-25" (4 hrs/day) - 20 kWh
VCR/DVD - 5 kWh
PC Desktop/Monitor - 10 kWh
Ceiling fan - 18 kWh
Central Air (750 hrs/yr) - 2,250 kWh/yr
Water Heater (family of 4) - 250-400 kWh
Refrig (17cu ft,frost free,10 hrs/day) - 150

My goal for the weekend is to check my electric bill to see what I'm being charged for a kWh to get a sense for home much $$ each of these things is costing me. Then I can figure out where best to direct my efforts. (Line Drying clothes looks like a frontrunner already!).

A few other little known (to me) facts:
*You can cut your water heating bills in half by using low-flow aerating showerheads and faucets.
*Use task lighting. Instead of lighting an entire room, focus light where you need it.
*An outdoor central air conditioner unit operating in the shade can use 10% less electricity than if in the sun. (Ours are...not sure how you'd move them if they weren't)

Interesting stuff...I'm looking forward to looking into this further to try and cut down my bill...

Good saving day :)

March 7th, 2006 at 03:07 pm

First, I mailed the book for the Amazon sale...I only made a whopping $.50, because I needed to buy the padded envelope. (I was all out Frown). Still better than nothing, and I'm happy to be rid of another book...

Second, I signed up for one more trial membership today, as well as for a bunch of free samples. I'm keeping pretty organized notes as to when to cancel them all...thanks for the heads up, Diva, that they may try to give a hard sell...

Third, for any NJ Saving Advicers...I just received an offer in the mail with my gas bill. For $5, the gas company will send you a "Gas Cost Cutter Kit", which includes weather stripping, a low flow shower head, a low flow kitchen aerator, a low flow bathroom aerator, electric outlet gaskets, 2" clear tape and a saving energy guide. Although it's pretty late in the year now, I'll order it for next year. My gas company is PSE&G, but it's a state program, so any resident should qualify. Call 1-866-522-3806 or your gas company for more info.

Finally, my other great savings news for the day: I volunteer at DD's CCD in the Child Care room. This year, tuition was waived for teachers and aides (but not child care people). Next year, they're waiving tuition for all volunteers. Because DS will be in CCD next year as well as DD, that's saving me $130 for the year. Normally, I'd love to see this money go to my challenge, but given the tight month we had in February, I think I'll keep it where it is...

So all in all, a pretty good saving day.

What a weekend...

February 5th, 2006 at 07:39 pm

It was a tough weekend financially...First, I did my taxes using Turbo Tax. Upside - it was a piece of cake, really easy and user friendly. Downside, the net result is that we're going to owe about $7000 total. Ouch! I pulled out last year's return and compared some of the big line items. The culprits - fewer donations (we donated a car for 2004 before the rules changed), slightly higher income, slightly lower mortgage interest and higher Alternative Minimum Tax. Blech. I still have to check out one thing that may help - we had losses from a mutual fund sale a few years back that we've been carrying forward. I thought we used the last of it in 2004, but I want to double check. Otherwise, we're stuck with this big painful bite. Thankfully, hubby gets his bonus in April. The only question now is how much of it will be covered.

Onto other things, we got our gas bill in the mail. Over $500 last month (and over $500 the month before too). I'm trying not to flip out too much because we're on the budget billing plan. So even though we're wayyy over now, our actual usage is pretty low come April. I just can't let it get too out of hand.

We also ate out unexpectedly yesterday. The kids were at grandma's for a sleepover, so we went to Church Saturday night and decided to go out afterward. The bill was about $60 (hubby paid $20 cash for drinks at the bar, but that's his problem! Smile). In light of the looming tax bill it probably wasn't the wisest thing to do, but we did have a great time.

So not a great financial weekend, but I'm ready to put it behind me. I'm the kind that likes to get all the bad news out of the way at once, rather than have it come in dribs and drabs...

I'm over myself

June 3rd, 2005 at 08:35 am

After feeling not that great all week because of my car troubles, I finally got over myself, and am looking forward to a great weekend! Hubby is leaving tomorrow on a business trip, so tonight will be spent getting caught up on laundry and doing other errands to prepare for his trip, but at least they'll be done and out of my way.

Tomorrow, I need to go to Dad's to take care of his grocery shopping and other errands he needs done. My sister is taking the kids so I can do all of these in peace. Then, I'm picking up my kids and her son and taking them to my brother's house for my niece's high school graduation party (wow that's a lot of relatives!). We'll stay a few hours there and then return to my sister's for a sleepover. Although I'll miss my hubby while he's away, sleepovers at my sister's are the kind of fun things that I can do while he's away. We'll have a fantastic time...

Then on Sunday the kids have a birthday party to go to, at a new place that I've been meaning to check out for a while. Then we're going back to the friend's house for a barbeque. So it should be a great weekend. I anticipate some spending, all budgeted: 1) $$ for graduation present, 2) birthday present for this kid and one next week using Toys R Us gift cards, 3) Big bottle of wine for sister's house. Not bad for a weekend of fun...

I'm starting to give my budget another look now that things have settled down from my last round of changes. One positive is the electric bill. I mentioned that I'm on budget billing, where they charge me the same amount each month. I currently pay $133/month for the budget, plus an additional $30 or so to make up for the overrun I had last year. Well the good news is that June is the last month to pay the overrun, so the bill should drop from $163 to $133 next month. Also, the $133 is budgeted. Since November, I've actually spent $196.48 less than they've charged me. I'm hoping I can keep this up, so that in November, when they review my account, they drop the monthly charge to less than $133, and I'll have a credit balance to pay for the first month or two. So far, I haven't used the air conditioning, except to try it out, and don't intend to until at least next weekend.

Other than that, I'm not sure where I'll focus next. I think I'll tackle the phone bill. I used to have the unlimited everything plan, advertised for $39.99/mo, but really costing $56.95 by the time they added all of the taxes and fees. I decided that was way too much, so I dropped down to unlimited local ($21.95/mo) and got my regional and long distance from Pioneer Telephone at some ridiculously low rate that I don't even remember. But between the two, my phone bills over the last few months have still been around $50-$52. Not exactly the great savings I was hoping for. The biggest problem is that neither of us is all that disciplined about using our cell phone exclusively after 9:00 and on weekends, when it's free. (Or during the day for that matter, since we usually have spare peak minutes at the end of the month). I'm going to make a concerted effort in June to only use the cell phone. If I can do it, then I can start working on hubby. If I can't do it, there's no way he'll do it, and I'll need to find another option...

Almost Friday!!!

April 28th, 2005 at 02:10 pm

This week seems to have gone by quickly. Not sure why, but I'm not complaining!

Even though it's not quite April 30, I finished up all of my bills for the month and I can put $2000 toward the home equity line, which will bring the balance down to $31,680! Woohoo! My other good news is that we're making progress on the electric bill. I'm on budget billing, where we're charged $131/month year-round. Each month they compare what the actual is versus what they've charged you, and after 6 months I have $168 in my favor! This is great because we tend to use more electricity in the summer months, so at least I have a buffer. Also, I'm not a big fan of air-conditioning (unlike hubby who needs it on all the time). So I'm hoping to keep it off until 5:00 each afternoon, then set it at 76 for the evening. With any luck I'll keep the credit balance going.

Although April was a good month, I'm not as optimistic about May. I need to buy some clothes and shoes for my kids (about $80 each), we have bday parties to go to, a communion, haircuts, etc. It all adds up! I'll have to see how everything shakes out.

Spent $93 at the grocery store yesterday, but that didn't include food for Saturday when we're having another couple over. (Mostly because I haven't figured out the menu yet...way to wait until the last minute). I'll go out Saturday morning to pick up whatever I need, and I should be ok through the end of next week. Although I have to do it on the sly, because my family would never agree to it, I'm going to do a "clean out the pantry/freezer challenge" over the next three weeks. (Need to stretch it out so it's less obvious). I have a ton of instant oatmeal (bought onsale for $.10/packet - can't beat it), soup, and pasta/cans of tomatoes. Also, there's leftover Easter candy that I can't bear to look at anymore (I'll have to find a good chocolate recipe...fondue maybe). I want to limit my next trip to the store (after Saturday) to milk, eggs, bread and fresh fruit/veggies. We'll see how it goes. This site has also inspired me to list a bunch of stuff on Half.com. My goal is to take an inventory this weekend and post it by Sunday night. I hope it works out. I could declutter my house and make a few bucks at the same time...

Have a great day!

A new month...

April 1st, 2005 at 09:17 am

April will be a tough month for us. We owe federal taxes, and are getting NY state money back. But of course, I didn't file that first, so I'll be out all of the money for federal and won't get back the NY for a month or so. (It's that cost of disorganization I was talking about a few posts ago). Anyway, the net result is that we're out about $1100. We kind of expected it, because it's the same every year, but it still hurts to send in the check. We've also bought a few things for the house that we had been putting off and finally decided to bite the bullet and buy. I hate starting the month off behind the 8-ball!

The kids are going to the doctor today ($30 total copay, plus any medications that are prescribed). We just started doing a healthcare FSA this year, so for some reason, I'm not as disturbed about this, because we'll get reimbursed (even though it already came out of our paycheck). I'm sure that we'll need to pay parking for the concert tonight, and we planned on having takeout, but that should come out of our allowance.

Update on my quest to reduce the electric bill: We're on budget billing, and we're running about $125 under, through the first four months. I'm hoping that even with increased use over the summer, we'll still be able to knock it down to $120 for next year.

The next line items on the budget are phone/cell phone. I just changed my LD plan to some ridiculously low rate (2.7c out of state, 4.5c regional in state). This should knock about $10/month. I need to get better about using my cell phone for more of these calls. We usually have enough minutes leftover at the end of the month that I could do some of the long distance calls using that.

Have a great weekend!

2 sick kids

March 31st, 2005 at 04:34 am

So my kids are sick. The first got a fever on Easter night and it lasted 2 days, and she still has a cough. My son got a fever 2 days later, and seems to be getting over it now, though he still has a cough. Depending on how he does today, a trip to the doctor may be in order.

It's been a pretty good week so far spending-wise. Other than lunch at work on Wednesday and Tylenol for the kids yesterday, I didn't have a lot of out-of-pocket. This weekend will be different, though. Tomorrow we have tickets to a concert. I'm hoping to have dinner home beforehand, but hubby may want to go out. (Free babysitting thanks to my sister). Then on Saturday, hubby wants to go to the Auto Show in NY. We've gone before and it's really neat to see all the concept cars. It helps more that we're not in the market for a new car, because then we can just look without being tempted. Finally on Sunday, we have a 3yo birthday party to go to. (I'm getting the $20 present from the Discovery Store using the gift card I got on Ebay for $13.58. Yea!)

Regarding my budget, the next two line items are water and internet. Can't think of much to do for these. Water costs about $25/month. I can definitely cut back on the amount of laundry and dishes I do. I'll have to be creative about other ways. Surprisingly, it doesn't seem to go up more than a couple of dollars in the summer, when we water the lawn. As for internet, I still use dial-up (stop laughing!). I get AOL for $17.95/month. I know that DSL/Cable would be a heck of a lot faster, but it's a lot more expensive, and this seems fine to me. I guess you don't miss what you never had!

Have a super day!

3rd no-spend day in a row!

March 29th, 2005 at 05:24 am

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!

Blech! Rainy Monday

March 28th, 2005 at 06:07 am

What disgusting weather we have...the forecast is rain, rain, rain all day with possible flooding. I hate days like this! Good news is that I won't be going out anywhere, which means no spending (yay). Easter was fun. As expected, we have enough food leftover to get us through most of the week. I may need to go out later in the week for milk, but that's about it.

Next item on the budget is our home heating bill, and it's a toughy. We're on budget billing and pay a whopping $236/month (+$9 for a service contract). I have programmable thermostats, keep it to 63 degrees during the day when we're not here, and try to keep it to 67 when we are here. (Usually we end up increasing it to 69 degrees because we're always cold!!!)

What we could do: I need to get better about turning down the thermostat when we're going to be out unexpectedly. For example, normally on Saturdays, we're home and it's at 67. But if we go out for the day, I don't always remember to turn them down to 63. I've heard about using a blanket on the hot water heater, and of course weather-proofing my (pretty old) house. To be honest I'm not really motivated about any of these ideas. Maybe I'll knock out some of my other saving ideas and come back to these when I'm desperate...

Problem with Verizon

March 23rd, 2005 at 11:02 am

I use verizon for my local and long distance. My plan with them was for .05 regional calls and .08 long distance. Apparently last month, they increased my LD to .10/min. I called to complain and they said a notice was sent out with the last bill. I get electronic copies of my bills, and it wasn't evident to me. Anyway, I asked the rep what he could do in terms of giving me a cheaper rate and he said, "What's the big deal? It's only an extra two cents a minute. Even if you made another 30 calls it wouldn't add up to that much." Smoke was coming out of my ears!!! I told him there were plenty of companies that give long distance for .04/minute, so I was already paying a premium to use Verizon at .08, much less .10! I immediately went to LowerMyBills.com and signed up with Pioneer Telephone: 2.7 cents out of state and 4.5 instate, no monthly fees. I know it won't be that much but still. UGHHHHH!

It pays to call!!!

March 19th, 2005 at 06:06 am

Wow! It's only 9:00 on Saturday morning and I'm having a great day! Two months ago, I made changes to my family share plan with Verizon and signed a new 2-year contract. The deal I got was $59.99 for the first two lines, and $9.99 for each addt'l line (for my MIL), for 500 minutes. Plus my company has a corporate discount with Verizon so I save 17% off the first two lines. Anyway, the bill should be in the neighborhood of $67 or so, by the time the discount is applied and the fees and charges are added.

So last month, my bill comes in at about $115 (which was similar to my bills before I switched to the new plan). When I called about it, they said something about the fact that I switched mid-cycle and blah blah blah- it was a transition issue. This morning, I get an email from Verizon that my next bill is ready, and it's $117! So I call the (very friendly) customer service rep, who tells me that the in-network and weekend calling, which was supposed to be free, wasn't set up properly, thus my bill was so high.

So she credited me $80 for the last two billing cycles and straightened it out going forward!!! I know that I'm basically just getting my money back, but given that the last bill was already paid, I'm going to take the extra money and put it right into savings. Yeah!

The rest of the day should be spend-free! I have that bridal shower to go to, but the gift has already been paid. Then we're going to MIL for dinner. I'm hoping tomorrow should be a no-spend day too, because the weather is supposed to be cold and rainy. That means a roaring fire and family game board day.

It's shaping up to be a great weekend!!!