Home > Archive: December, 2005

Archive for December, 2005


December 29th, 2005 at 02:42 pm

We're getting passports for hubby and the kids today. Hubby's expires in 2006, and some countries don't let you use your passport if it's not valid for at least 6 months. He needs to surrender his current passport, and wait the few weeks for the new one, so we figured this would be a good time to go, as he has no international travel scheduled for the next few months. At the same time, we figured we'd get them for the kids, too. Hubby takes business trips to Canada that we'd love to tag along on, but a new rule change requires passports to Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean beginning Jan 1. (Used to be a drivers license and birth certificate were enough). I forgot how expensive they are...I think the kids' will be in the neighborhood of $60 each, and hubby's will be a bit more. At least it will be done and valid for 5 or 10 years.

DS has a doctor appointment today. $15 out of pocket, but will be reimbursed by my FSA. I need to log on to see how much I have left in there. I should also take the other car for an oil change. Other than that, it's a miserable day weather-wise, so I'm going to hunker down, straighten up, we'll light a fire and enjoy our company.

Looking forward to payday tomorrow, and closing out the books on 2005...

An eventful few days...

December 28th, 2005 at 03:39 pm

We had a great Christmas. The kids had fun, and got just about everything they wanted. Company came at 2:00 and left at 7:00, and we've been pretty much eating leftovers all week. The house has been nuts, though. MIL left on the 26th around 11:00am, and my brother, sil, and nephews (5 and 7) arrived at 5:00. Not much turnaround time to straighten up, clean the bathrooms, etc. They'll be here until Saturday morning, and my kids (also 5 and 7) are in their glory. They LOVE their cousins and don't get to see them that often. It's been great.

We finally got cable internet! The guy came Tuesday at noon and set it up, then hubby and brother went to Staples to get a wireless router and firewall/anti-virus software. I'm looking forward to using it soon! I've been making some progress on my chores for the week...DD went to the dentist yesterday, and DS has appointments tomorrow and Friday. I took one of the cars for an oil change yesterday, the other goes tomorrow. I have a bunch of rebates I need to mail out, Thank You cards for DD's birthday to write, the bank to visit, etc. I'm going to make a big push to get this all done this week so I can start the new year fresh...

Edited to add: For any of you with Directtv, they are offering a $10 credit if you sign up to have your bill paid via your checking account. The message said to go to When I went there to sign up, I didn't see the promotion, so I called 1-800-directtv and they confirmed that the offer is valid through 12/31...

Starting The Challenge

December 28th, 2005 at 08:00 am

I'm starting fresh with a new thread for 2006! My goal is $2000. Any and all proceeds will be put in a separate account to help pay for a return trip to Californial wine country in November!

Here are some initial thoughts on how I'm going to tackle this:

1) Take advantage of at least one (preferably 2) bank account bonuses each month. The bonuses usually average about $50 each, so if I could do 18 over the course of the year, that would net me $900. I have a pretty long list of available offers, and more are always being added, so I should be able to do this. The trick is staying organized, and closing accounts I no longer want after the waiting period is over.

2) Continue scouring the used bookstore, library sales, etc and selling on ebookdrop. I've been having decent luck with the bookstore by work, and haven't even checked out library sales or other bookstores yet. If I can do a run three times per month, and net $10 each time, that will net me $360 for the year.

3) I'm going to count any rebates I send in for products I would have bought anyway. Occasionally, if I can get something free or close to it with a rebate, I'll buy it even though I wouldn't otherwise. I won't count those, because the rebate is the only reason I'm buying it. But for most products (like the board games for Christmas or the anti-virus software) I would have bought them anyway, so the rebate is a bonus. I'm going to estimate $10/month, or $120/year for this one.

4) Recyclables...I saw Robex's note that she's going to begin recycling bottles and cans. I'm going to do this, too. This should be easy, as I can return them right at my grocery store. The challenge is that 1) my husband thinks that returning the bottles is a complete waste of time and will likely commingle it with the rest of the recycling, particularly if I'm not timely about returning them; and 2) The grocery store gives me a voucher that is reduced from my grocery bill. I'll need to be really disciplined about transferring the cash. At $.05 each, it will take a lot to add up, so I'll shoot for $100 for the year.

5) Money saved from other tips that I see, primarily here and on fatwallet. I've come across all sorts of savings on my normal bills, including referral money, bonuses for switching to electronic billing, the whole Bank of America Save Your Change program, etc. Any money saved from stuff like this will be included.

So if I take advantage of all of these things, I'll still be a few hundred short of my goal. I'm going to take another look through everyone else's challenges to see if I'm missing anything else, and keep thinking about what else I can do. Also, I may need to briefly go in the red, because the outlays for some of these bank offers are usually $50 or $100. So I'm going to allow myself to go into negative territory, knowing that I'm guaranteed to get it back.

Good luck everyone!

Merry Christmas to All...

December 25th, 2005 at 12:41 am

and Happy Holidays to my online friends...I hope you all have a wonderful holiday and a happy, healthy, prosperous 2006!

We are settling down for the night. The kids have checked Santa's progress on Norad and see that he's somewhere by the Azurs. (Unfortunately my geography isn't that great, but neither is theirs, so we've convinced them that he's getting pretty close and they need to get to bed!). They're watching the Year Without a Santa Claus right now, we have cookies for Santa in the oven, and I need to go peel a carrot for the reindeer when I'm done. Then it's off to bed for them. I have about 5 more gifts to wrap, then we'll watch Scrooge (a Christmas Eve tradition) before heading to bed ourselves.

Moneywise, I went to the grocery store today to pick up some stuff I need for tomorrow. The grocery stores weren't nearly as nuts as I thought they'd be (perhaps because everyone else was at the mall!). The total was obscene, and it dawned on me that I'm going to be WAY over budget on groceries next month. (We charge them to get the rewards). We've entertained quite a bit this month, which I love, but is really adding up. I'm not going to sweat it, though.

I am looking forward to tomorrow, and the whole next week, reflecting on what a great year it was, how blessed I am to have such a great family and life, and looking forward to what next year will bring. I hope everyone has a great day and an even better 2006!

Head in the clouds

December 23rd, 2005 at 02:53 pm

I walked out of work yesterday and went home, without stopping at the bookstore to pick up the books. Completely and totally forgot until I was about 10 minutes from home. No biggie, hopefully they'll still be there the next time I'm at work in NYC...

I was on the brink of being really non-frugal yesterday...I was surfing around the net, and found a few things at a store in California that my kids would ABSOLUTELY LOVE and that I can't find anywhere else! It said on their website that you could ship overnight guaranteed if you could get the order in by 2:00PST, for a minimum of $25-$30 perhaps more, depending on the weight of the package. (The total order was about $80). I don't know what came over me, but I actually considered doing this, despite the fact that I finished my Christmas shopping a while back, the kids have more stuff then they possibly need, and the shipping was exorbinant!! I checked it out with hubby, who didn't care (he rarely cares about stuff like this). I tried calling the place at least 6 times between 12:30 and 2:00 PST, but luckily only got an answering machine. So I left work knowing that I wouldn't be able to place the order and have it arrive by Christmas. I decided to forget it, and order it sometime next year with regular shipping. I'm so glad I couldn't place the order, because I would be having serious buyer's remorse right about now...

I'm working until 2 today, and friends are coming over tonight (probably order pizza). Hubby and the kids are home cleaning the house Smile, and I need to do some grocery shopping tomorrow. Then it's on to Christmas Eve!!!

Two more 2006 category goals:

Phone: $50/mo I really need to analyze my bills and see if other calling plans would save me more. I also need to use my cell phone on nights and weekends.

Cell Phone: $65/mo I need to avoid 411 calls ($1.50 ea), get better about collecting $10 from MIL for her line, and get better about having hubby get reimbursed from work for any of his work calls that aren't covered.

Back to the bookstore

December 22nd, 2005 at 06:25 pm

I work in the city on Thursdays, so I went back to the used bookstore at lunch. I found 6 more books I can sell on ebookdrop for $17.44-$6.51 I need to pay for them equals $10.93 profit. The good news is that this is my 4th round of doing this, and I seem to be pretty consistent netting $10-$12 each time, which is great. The downside is that, in order to find those 6 books, I had to look through about 200! Oh well, not bad for an hour when I wouldn't have done anything else anyway...I'm going to keep doing the used bookstore thing as part of my 2006 challenge. I'm also going to check out some local libraries. Two have booksales once a month. I can go to the sale, write the ISBNs, use the library's internet to check ebookdrop, then buy any ones I can sell. It'll be hit or miss, I'm sure.

Thanks, Baselle, for reminding me about the $.02 stamp increase (effective January 8, I think). I'll change my goal of not buying stamps to buying just enough $.02 stamps to match the number of $.37 stamps I have, then not buy anymore. I don't think that $.39 is an unreasonable amount to pay to get a letter anywhere I want within a day or two, but Post Office expenses are just one example of what shows up in the "Miscellaneous" category of my budget. Every month it ends up being well over $100, and it's piddling amounts like these (and ATM fees, library fines, etc.) that cause a lot of it. Frustrating...

Watched the 40-Year-Old Virgin with hubby last night and thought it was great (though a tad long). I laughed out loud so many times, which I don't usually do at movies. Onto some other 2006 goals...

Internet: $40/month ($0 in 2004, $18 in 2005). I promised hubby we could move from dial-up, which he hates, to cable internet. Unfortunately, I have directtv, so I can't take advantage of the bundled options the cable company gives out, so I think I'm going to be pretty much paying full price. (We can't even self-install, because we don't have the cable wires in the house). I'm ok with the increase, though, because I feel like I get so much out of the internet access.

DirectTv: $105/mo ($89 in 04, $103 in 05). I was able to call up and get them to give me a discount for being a valued customer ($15 for 3 months, $10 for 3 months after that), so I'll get the 3 $10 bonuses in 2006. I think I'm still committed to them for most of the year, due to the Tivo service we set up a few months back, plus hubby really likes it and has no desire to switch to cable, (or reduce services), so the bill is what it is. This is one I'm going to just have to suck up...

Pool: $90/mo ($109 in 04, $77 in 05). The envelope system will really come in handy here, because we normally get socked twice a year when we open and close the pool. Setting aside money monthly will help cushion the blow. I'm also going to go on Ebay and see if I can get some discounted gift cards to Leslie's pool supply. They're not the most popular for sure, but at least if I look now I may get lucky. Also, there are a ton of mail order places I can check out for chemicals and the like, to see if I can get them cheaper there.

That's it for now...have a great day!

2006 goals

December 21st, 2005 at 05:39 pm

Two entries in one day...obviously a slow work day Smile

So here are my 2006 financial goals:
1) Stick to my budget, including using an envelope system for ad-hoc expenses.
2) Increase my net worth by 25%. Not as hard as it sounds, b/c hubby and I both max our 401(k)s, plus normal debt reduction. Hopefully the market won't tank...
3) Pay off home-equity line by year-end. Current balance is $23,819. Plan is to contribute $1000/month, plus as much of hubby's bonus money and other money as possible.
4) Participate in the 2006 challenge. Turn my $20 into at least $1000 by taking advantage of bank-opening offers and continuing to scour used book stores for resales, along with whatever else I can think of.

A quirky sub-goal: I currently have 19 stamps in my pocketbook, and want to make them last until June 30, 2006. I really hate buying stamps!

In addition, for each line item in my budget, I've looked at 2004 and 2005 totals, and came up with a goal for 2006 (which is how I came up with my 2006 budget). I'll list a few of these each day, along with some ideas I need to follow-up on to help me meet them.

Gas: $235/mo ($248/mo in 2004, $231 in 2005). This will be up slightly, but given the higher prices, it seems like a reasonable target. I've already set my programmable thermostats, and I'm going to try to reduce the amount of laundry I do, and the number of times I run the dishwasher. Replacing the front door would be a big help, too, considering you can see daylight through the big crack, so I'll need to talk to hubby about that...

Electric: $131/mo ($103 in 2004, $149 in 2005). Not sure what happened this past year. I need to look into shutting off the extra refrigerator after the holidays. (We have an extra freezer, too, but I'm not sure if I'll be in a position to shut this off, too). I also need to make sure the lights are off when not in use and replace burnt bulbs with fluorescents. I'm curious to unplug a bunch of stuff we don't use regularly to see if that really does make a difference.

Water: $22.50/mo ($25 in 2004, $24 in 2005). This isn't a huge bill, so I don't usually stress about it. On the one hand, limiting the dishwasher and laundry will help. On the other hand, I don't think hubby watered our lawn once this summer, so I'm sure that will need to increase next year. We'll see how this goes.

That's it for now...I'll add more next time.

Year-end news

December 21st, 2005 at 03:56 pm

I met with my boss yesterday...I'll be getting a 3.72% raise next year, and $2500 of my possible $4000 bonus. Both are better than I expected, so I'm pretty happy about that. Also, I'll be taking a new job (still within my company) sometime around mid-February. The upside is that I really need a change of scenery, and the new work and new people both seem great. The downside is that I'm not yet sure what my new schedule will be, and it's likely that I'll be commuting into NYC 5 days per week, which is a drag both time- and money-wise. But I'm so happy to be moving, that it's ok!

I've been using this week (and likely through the end of the year) trying to take care of housekeeping type things. I like starting the new year off fresh, with a clean slate. So I went to the doctor yesterday, DD had her doctor appointment yesterday, she needs to go back to the dentist next week, and DS has 2 appointments next week. Way to use up the rest of my Flexible Spending Account! A good friend of mine will be here for the holidays, so we'll get together with her on Friday. MIL is coming over for a quiet Christmas Eve, then we have 11 for Christmas. I'll need to do some grocery shopping before then, but hopefully not to big a hit since I went so over budget last week.

Then my brother and SIL are coming next week with their 2 kids. They live in NC, so I don't get to see them nearly as much as I'd like. Can't wait for them to get here. On the money front, I needed to renew my newspaper subscription, but they wanted $102 for 6 months (7 day delivery). When I asked if they had anything cheaper, they agreed to keep my current $47.45 rate, which was an introductory offer. Never hurts to ask! I'll keep this for 6 months, then switch to another paper before coming back to them. I mailed off my last box of books to ebookdrop yesterday. I'll try to hit the used bookstore tomorrow during lunch for another round before the end of the year.

I've just about finished my 2006 goals, so I should be able to post them next time...

Great weekend!

December 19th, 2005 at 03:28 pm

This weekend could not have turned out any better (except for my grocery bill!). The kids had a SUPER time at DD's birthday party. It was a fun place, the goody bags were a hit, and the girl I wasn't sure about DOES celebrate Christmas, so I really lucked out! It was a late night, though, by the time we got home from the party, opened up gifts, played with them (of course) and went to bed...

On Saturday, I got a great haircut and color- she always gives a good one, but this one was exceptional! (Could it be better in December because it's holiday tip time? Who knows). Then DD had Basketball, which she loves. After that, hubby took his mom Christmas shopping while I went grocery shopping with the kids. 2006 resolution: No more grocery shopping with kids. Seriously, my goal is to go grocery shopping with them no more than 9 times the entire year. I had a list, but was also improvising (always a big mistake). The store was packed, the kids are too big for a cart, so they're walking and BORED out of their mind. It was a struggle. So the bill ended up being higher than I would have liked.

I did get some cooking for the party out of the way Saturday night, and finished up Sunday. We had a great time with our friends, the kids had loads of fun, and other than a boatload of dishes still piled in my sink, it was a perfect day. We also have a lot of leftovers. I need to look at what I have left and plan out my meals for the rest of the week to use it all up.

So that's it for me. Should be a quiet week, some very minimal running around to do, and gearing up for the weekend. Wahoo...

Great "goody bags"

December 16th, 2005 at 03:31 pm

So I left work last night and went to the used bookstore to pick up all of the books. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a bunch of the ones from my previous visit, but I found some others. Grand total: $15.80 from ebook minus $5.40 cost of the books = $10.40 profit. Put the order in this morning and will ship them out tomorrow. Not bad.

Then, as I was walking to the train (down a different road then I normally walk) I came across a closeout store. I stopped in on the off chance I could find something for DDs goody bags and boy did I. Adorable Christmas mugs with little stuffed animals inside (snowman, santa, reindeer, or bear) for $1.49 each. Couldn't pass that up, so I got 12 of them, along with some tissue paper to wrap them. There are 12 people coming to the party (including DD and DS). I know for a fact that 10 of them celebrate Christmas, and one celebrates both Christmas and Hanukkah. There is one girl coming and I'm assuming she celebrates Christmas, but am not really sure. I asked DD and she didn't know. My plan is to give her either the snowman or bear, just in case, with an apology to her mother if that took a load off my mind last night.

It's a slow day at work...the weather wasn't as bad as predicted, and the NY transit strike didn't happen (yet?), so it's a lot calmer than I expected. I'm picking up MIL for the party and she's sleeping over. Tomorrow, I have a much needed hair cut and color, DD has basketball, then hubby is taking his mom Christmas shopping, while the kids and I go to the grocery store to pick up stuff for our party Sunday. I guess sometime between now and then I should finalize the menu...

Verizon discounts

December 15th, 2005 at 08:53 pm

I'm not sure if I've mentioned this in previous posts, but Verizon Wireless gives significant discounts to employees from a bunch of different companies. See the thread from below. I know I'm eligible for a 17% discount on our primary line through our company. I figured if everyone was looking at their goals for 2006, this might help some find extra cash...

Speaking of extra cash, last week I went back to the used bookstore and found a bunch of books to sell to ebookdrop, but I was holding off buying them until I received payments for the first two packages I sent. Today, I went back to the store to get another list of ISBNs to check out. While I was checking out these new numbers, I double-checked the numbers from last week, only to find that 2 books that were accepted last week were no longer being accepted, one that wasn't accepted last week is now being accepted, and the $$ offered on a few of the others went up or down by a few cents. So the moral of the story for me is 1) if I see books that are being accepted, buy them and ship them out right away and 2) keep the lists of numbers for future reference, so I can run through them again at a later date to see if anything has changed. As it stands now, I'm going back there after work to pick up all of the books they're accepting...should result in a profit of about $19 (which really covers 2 weeks worth).

I'm a tad stressed today because DD's birthday party is tomorrow, and I haven't gotten goody bags yet. Personally, I hate giving and getting goody bags, because they're usually filled with a bunch of junk that the kids love (of course) but that end up as needless clutter around the house. However, I will never win this battle with hubby, so off to the Dollar Store I'll go tomorrow before work. I'm also hoping to make it home tonight before an expected storm hits tonight. Doesn't sound like a lot of snow, more ice and cold rain. I think I prefer the snow...

Tomorrow will be a bit crazy, between work, the party, getting the favors, picking up MIL, etc., but I think it will be a great time...

Low-Spend day

December 15th, 2005 at 01:55 am

Today was pretty successful, money-wise. Other than $2.95 for lunch, and my usual $1.40 for tolls, I didn't spend any money. I also didn't knock much off my to-do list! My only goal tonight is to program my thermostats. It's so easy to do, but I just never got around to it since I first turned on the heat. Of course, we're in the middle of a deep-freeze here (high today of about 26), so I need to do whatever I can to reduce the gas bill. I'm hoping for an early-to-bed night. Hubby is travelling, kids are sleeping, so I should be able to take care of that one thing!

I'm keeping DD home from school tomorrow (actually, she's going to the sitter with DS while I'm working). She has a sore throat and has been fighting something off all week. Her birthday party is Friday, and her actual birthday is Monday, plus the usual holiday happenings, so I think it would be better for her to get some rest.

Tomorrow is payday, so I'll be paying a few bills. I'm also in the city for work, so I'll try to stop at the used bookstore and write down and check some more ISBNs. I already have a list of about 7 books to pick up, but I'm holding off until I get payment on two boxes I've already sent. Hopefully tomorrow I can find some more.

I'm looking forward to a quiet day tomorrow before a busy weekend...

A lot of running around...

December 14th, 2005 at 01:33 am

Today was my day at home, and I made it worthwhile...I did some of the housekeeping stuff I've been talking about all week (tons of laundry, made phone calls, finished Christmas cards, etc.) and I ran a bunch of errands. The errands weren't as productive as I'd have liked and were a bit costly...I picked up my new glasses ($93 - will be reimbursed by my FSA), went to the liquor store for a grab bag gift ($15), went to the grocery store for a couple of things ($12.25), and went to CVS for hubby's vitamins ($9). I also picked up $50 in gift cards that hubby needed. When I'm done here, I have 4 more gifts to get...should be about $50 total, and I'll pay for them with gift cards that I have on hand.

On the unproductive side, I had to run to the Verizon Wireless store to check out the deal with my brother's bill. (Hasn't paid for a few months - long story - and they disconnected his phone). He's not going to be able to pay the bill for at least another month, so I was going to see if I could throw a few bucks toward it to at least get it on, but they wouldn't budge unless the whole thing was paid. So unfortunately he's out of luck, and I spent some time for naught. I also tried to stop by the local Gap store for a gift certificate, but the parking lot was SO crowded, I literally drove in one end, up and down all of the aisles, and out the other end because there were no spots and I don't do well with crowds. Finally, I also tried to stop by my bank. I didn't want to go in, and the drive through line was 8 cars long, with only 1 teller open, so I passed. Then I forgot that this was DD's last CCD class before the holiday, and so I left the gifts for her teachers at home. I'll give them out after the holiday, but it just seems so lame...

So I guess that means that I have things to do tomorrow...I also called PNC Bank today, because I hadn't received my $25 BP gift card for opening my account. I'm guessing that the rep never sent in the paperwork, so when I followed up, he said they no longer have BP cards, but could send me a $25 Best Buy gift card instead. That works for me. He's sending it from the local office, so I should have it in a week or so...

I am digging my new Shell credit card. I was able to charge the first installment of my auto insurance, and my glasses, which will earn me a rebate of about $18. That's 1/2 tank of gas, and I've only had it one day. Wahoo. (Though I normally don't charge $600 worth of stuff per day, thank goodness!). That's about it from here...

Family parties

December 12th, 2005 at 04:29 pm

So my sisters and cousin came over on Saturday. Normally we would have a fantastic time, but the day was definitely marred by my one sister drinking WAY too much wine, and her boyfriend being an argumentative idiot! I don't know that many people would describe me as laid back and easygoing, but can't we all just get along. If someone says the sky is blue, do you really need to say it's blue and white, because there are clouds in the air? You may be right, but you'd also be incredibly annoying. That's what we were dealing with...Next time, it's going to be girls only (plus my hubby).

The upside is that my kids had a fabulous time seeing their favorite cousing, and the food was great, with some leftover for me this week. Hubby has dinners out tonight and tomorrow, then is going on a business trip Wed and Thurs. I'm planning on spending the time doing laundry (as usual) and continuing to take care of some housekeeping issues. I'm doing well with my 2006 goals...for all spending categories where Dec. #s are final, I've tallied it up and planned for next year. Everything else I'm tracking and will finish up the last week of the month. As part of my planning, I looked at 2004 final and 2005 numbers. It's amazing that, even when you think you're keeping an eye on things, there's still plenty to improve upon...

So that's it from here...nothing else is really new.