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Archive for February, 2006

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

February 28th, 2006 at 07:02 am

I've finalized the February numbers. The good: groceries came in right on target (actually $506.58 vs. $500, with about $35 of that coming back to me as rebates from Eckerds/Walgreens). If I can hit my grocery target in March, I'm going to reduce it to $450 beginning in April. Gas came in under ($244.20 vs. $300). Hubby may have filled up yesterday. If so, it wouldn't be more than $30-35, so I'll still be under. This is a big accomplishment for me. All of my other regular bills were on target.

The bad: Dining out was way over ($192.90 vs. $100). No great meals, just a few visits to TGIFs and the Mexican place. We'll need to cut back on this. Also, my DirectTv bill is back to normal. Hard to believe that 6 months has passed since I called them and got the $10 discount, but it has.

The ugly: I am totally overextended this month due to 3 things: A $500 landscaping bill from last fall that I was just billed for (of course I took the money from Nov. when the work was done and used it for Christmas/birthdays, etc.). The deposit for our vacation was due this month. We get a house each year with my brother and his family. They take care of the details and tell us when they need the $$. Unfortunately it was this month instead of March. Finally, one of my other brothers is getting back on his feet after a stint in alcohol rehab. He had been staying at my dad's, and has just moved into his own place and started a job. I, along with dad and a few other siblings, have thrown him some $$ along the way until his first paycheck (Mar. 15th, though that will be prorated. First full check comes April 15). I never expected to get the money back, but still lent him a bit more than I'm comfortable with. I'll get the full amount back over the next few months (especially since I'm managing his checking account Smile) but I could really use it now.

So unfortunately, I'm not paying anything toward the HELOC, and I still have the looming tax bill, which will come from savings...I'll calculate my net worth tonight after the markets close (always makes me feel better seeing my 401(k) balance), and hope for a better financial March...

Weekend challenge updates

February 27th, 2006 at 06:57 am

Between the savings from the video rental and coupons I used while shopping for my dad, I have $33.09 to add to my challenge. I transferred the funds to my challenge account this morning Smile

New total: $263.92

Outstanding items: $3.81 (ebook), $10 (Del Monte Rebate), $10 (Colgate Rebate), $5 (Amazon Rebate - not sure if I'm getting this because I didn't submit the packing slip), $10.57 (ebook), $10 (Kimberly Clark Rebate), $4.58 (ebook), $10 (2nd Kimberly Clark Rebate), $10 (Pepsi rebate), $100 (Citi bonus 1), $100 (Citi bonus 2), $5.08 (ebook), $10.61 (ebook), $2 (Chandon rebate), ebook ($1.97), $100 (Chase), $1.00 (Feb Walgreens), $2.38 (Feb Eckerd), $20 Exxon Card (Great Fun), $20 BBB card (Everyday Values), $5 (GG Rebate), $10 (Barber coupons)

Inspired by Ima Saver

February 26th, 2006 at 08:03 pm

I'm always amazed at the amount Ima manages to sock away each day, so I'm taking a page from her book: I'm going to start adding daily savings to my challenge total. I've always used coupons and the like, but I never actually kept the savings separate, until now.

Today was a good day to start...We rented Madagascar yesterday from a nearby library for $1 (instead of $4 at the rental place, plus $4 for the extra video that hubby would have picked up for us Smile). So that's $7 right there. I also went grocery shopping for my dad and used a bunch of coupons, so I'll tally them up and transfer that money to my challenge account as well. I'll update my totals tomorrow.

I also filled out 2 rebates today: $5 for Green Giant veggies and $10 in coupons for Barber foods. I hit Eckerd and Walgreens and picked up a bunch of their rebate items (with more coupons!), but I'll hold off mailing them out for another few weeks.

Finally, my brother gave me a bunch of books that he was finished with. Two hardcovers and the rest paperbacks. I'll list them on half.com...I'm not expecting much because they're pretty run of the mill, but anything's better than nothing.

Saturday Morning

February 25th, 2006 at 09:53 am

My husband thinks I'm nuts, but my favorite thing to do on Saturday morning is to get the Sunday ads (we get them on Sats.) and a hot cup of coffee and plan my shopping and meals for the week. This looks like a banner week for rebates/coupons: Rebate for $10 in coupons for Barber foods (Dad uses these), $5 rebate for Green Giant (he uses these two), Hot Pocket Subs free (thanks to deal in freebie section), Walgreens has a boatload of stuff for this month's rebate, and it seems like Eckerd has a few things in their rebate catalog that I could stock up on (plus I have coupons for a lot of it, too, making it even better). I'll do the shopping tomorrow and see how I make out.

I spent a bit of money yesterday. I took the day off, and DS and I went to lunch ($27). I paid $1.80 in library fines Frown and hit some clearance sales at Kohls (about $60 spent, including pjs and shirts for DS for next winter). We also ordered Chinese takeout ($21) because we needed a fast meal and I didn't plan ahead...

Today, I need to go to the fruit/veggie store. I think we'll rent Madagascar, too. I'm going to check to see if the library has it first...

Tomorrow will be grocery shopping for dad and running my own errands. Here's to a quiet weekend...

Affinity Bank

February 23rd, 2006 at 09:12 am

I know I have raved about this bank in the forums, but they really seem to be a top-notch outfit. They have a promotion for the kids, where they will pay 10% interest on balances up to $500 (Guaranteed, FDIC insured). Kids must be under 16 to open an account. I did this for my two last year, and it's been great.

Then they have a deal where you open a checking account with $100 and DD, and they'll give you a $75 bonus. I just checked and my bonus was deposited on 1/17, exactly one month after I opened the account.

Every time I've dealt with them, they've been professional and responsive. I've had to do everything online/over the phone (they're located in California), and have had no problem. I've dealt with a lot of banks taking advantage of these offers, and this is one of the best...OK, enough gushing.

New total: $230.83

Outstanding items: $3.81 (ebook), $10 (Del Monte Rebate), $10 (Colgate Rebate), $5 (Amazon Rebate - not sure if I'm getting this because I didn't submit the packing slip), $10.57 (ebook), $10 (Kimberly Clark Rebate), $4.58 (ebook), $10 (2nd Kimberly Clark Rebate), $10 (Pepsi rebate), $100 (Citi bonus 1), $100 (Citi bonus 2), $5.08 (ebook), $10.61 (ebook), $2 (Chandon rebate), ebook ($1.97), $100 (Chase), $1.00 (Feb Walgreens), $2.38 (Feb Eckerd), $20 Exxon Card (Great Fun), $20 BBB card (Eeryday Values)

Free Trial gift cards

February 23rd, 2006 at 06:56 am

Thanks to an excellent email from Flash, I signed up for 2 30-day trials that will get me a $20 Exxon card and a $20 BBB card. Each cost $1. There were others that I could do, but I figured I would start with these and see how they go.

New total: $155.83

Outstanding items: $3.81 (ebook), $75 (Affinity Bank), $10 (Del Monte Rebate), $10 (Colgate Rebate), $5 (Amazon Rebate - not sure if I'm getting this because I didn't submit the packing slip), $10.57 (ebook), $10 (Kimberly Clark Rebate), $4.58 (ebook), $10 (2nd Kimberly Clark Rebate), $10 (Pepsi rebate), $100 (Citi bonus 1), $100 (Citi bonus 2), $5.08 (ebook), $10.61 (ebook), $2 (Chandon rebate), ebook ($1.97), $100 (Chase), $1.00 (Feb Walgreens), $2.38 (Feb Eckerd), $20 Exxon Card (Great Fun), $20 BBB card (Eeryday Values)

Challenge Deposit

February 22nd, 2006 at 08:03 am

It's a small one, but I received the $4.10 from half.com. I also forgot to update my total for the $2 phone card, so I included that, too. I mailed out the February Walgreens and Eckerds rebates. I'll get $10.97 and $4.13 back from them, although only $1.00 and $2.38 will go into my challenge, because I wouldn't have bought the other stuff without the rebate.

New total: $157.83

Outstanding items: $3.81 (ebook), $75 (Affinity Bank), $10 (Del Monte Rebate), $10 (Colgate Rebate), $5 (Amazon Rebate - not sure if I'm getting this because I didn't submit the packing slip), $10.57 (ebook), $10 (Kimberly Clark Rebate), $4.58 (ebook), $10 (2nd Kimberly Clark Rebate), $10 (Pepsi rebate), $100 (Citi bonus 1), $100 (Citi bonus 2), $5.08 (ebook), $10.61 (ebook), $2 (Chandon rebate), ebook ($1.97), $100 (Chase), $1.00 (Feb Walgreens), $2.38 (Feb Eckerd)

Challenge Progress

February 21st, 2006 at 03:09 pm

Finally! Today was a great mail day. I received two rebates: The $20 rebate for Norton Security, which will count toward my challenge, and a $29.99 rebate for Quicken (bought it with Turbo Tax), which won't count toward my challenge, because I wouldn't have bought it anyway, but it's still nice to get! Also, I finally received a $25 referral bonus from BOA (thanks JodiM). I gave up on this because it seems like forever since she signed up, but now I'm adding it to my challenge as well.

New total: $151.73

Outstanding items: $3.81 (ebook), $75 (Affinity Bank), $10 (Del Monte Rebate), $10 (Colgate Rebate), $5 (Amazon Rebate - not sure if I'm getting this because I didn't submit the packing slip), $10.57 (ebook), $10 (Kimberly Clark Rebate), $4.58 (ebook), $10 (2nd Kimberly Clark Rebate), $10 (Pepsi rebate), $100 (Citi bonus 1), $100 (Citi bonus 2), $5.08 (ebook), $10.61 (ebook), $2 (Chandon rebate), ebook ($1.97), $4.10 (half.com), $100 (Chase)

I've pretty much given up on ebook...I've sent them two emails for information, tried calling their 800 number and their online help is always offline. I'll leave the outstanding items on my list in case they come through, but I'm not holding my breath. The rest of the stuff on my outstanding list is pretty much the "sit and wait" type.

I'm going to look into two new ideas for my challenge. The first is to find a replacement for ebook. I have two in mind (one is swapbook, I forget the other). Hopefully one of these will pan out. The second is to look into some of these trial memberships that offer gift cards as an incentive. I can use the cards for gifts and put the cash in my challenge account. I'll pursue these and see what else I can think of...

Eating out too much...

February 21st, 2006 at 08:02 am

I added up a few categories to see how I'm doing so far this month. I'm right on track with gas for the car ($214/$300). I think I'll come in under for groceries - a first($367/$500), with only one more trip this weekend. The downer for the month is eating out. I only budget $100/month, and although I haven't actually added it up, I know I'm way over (about $175 so far). Ouch. I'll also be over next month, as hubby and I go to an annual fundraiser for $200, in addition to any regular eating out we'll do. Hmmm.

I'm expecting a pretty quiet week. I'm taking Friday off, so it will be a 3-day week for me. Hubby has a few dinner meetings, which will give me some time alone after the kids go to sleep. One of my goals is to see other options for selling used books besides half.com and amazon. I want to look into Swapbooks and ecampus, so if anyone has any experience with either of these, please let me know. Thanks!

Quiet weekend

February 19th, 2006 at 08:45 am

I signed up for the $2 phone card from Shell (listed in the freebies forum) and got it already! Wow, that was fast. I'll be adding the $2 to my challenge.

I finally got whatever stomach thing the rest of the family had last week. It came at 11:00 Friday night and lasted just about 24 hours. All I could do Saturday was take a bath and sleep on the couch. We did manage to go to dinner at a friend's house (previously planned) because I was starting to feel a bit better. We bought dessert, but no money out of pocket.

Today we're planning on seeing Curious George, then going for pizza for dinner. We're all off tomorrow, and the kids are off from school Tuesday but hubby and I have to work, so they're going to grandmas tomorrow.

That's about it...it's been a really quiet weekend.

Credit Card Madness

February 16th, 2006 at 01:51 pm

The number of credit card offers I get in the mail each day is mindboggling! One came today with a new twist: They'll give me a 20" Sharp LCD Aquos TV immediately ($850 value). The catch: I'd have to transfer $5000 onto the card (no balance transfer fee), and maintain a $3500 balance for at least 18 months. The rate on the card is 9.99%. So that means I'd be paying at least $575 in interest over the life of the card. If the balance falls below $3500, they hit your card with a one-time fee of $700. I'd be curious to see who signs up for this card...

Not much news today. Had a good first day at work, and we're going out to TGIF's to celebrate.

My challenge explained...

February 16th, 2006 at 09:36 am

A wierd thing happened...I got an email with a comment on my $20 challenge, but I don't see the comment listed. Anyway, the person wondered how I was taking advantage of all of these bank bonuses, between direct deposit requirements and whether or not I'd be blacklisted for opening and closing so many.

I'm allowed up to 4 direct deposits by my employer. (I'm sure hubby's company allows multiple ones too, but I haven't needed to look into that). I have just now reached the point where I need to close out an account in order to make room for another. Many of the accounts I open are either savings accounts or checking accounts that don't require DDs, which is how I've been able to manage so many thus far. (I've also done 529 accounts and Sharebuilder, which don't require dds).

Also, I don't always close the accounts right away. Many posters on this site use an envelope system to help them with their expense tracking. I do a similar thing with my accounts. I have a checking account that I use to pay my property taxes, another for my auto insurance, and I'm going to use one of my new ones for my quarterly federal tax payments. Each month I deposit a set amount into each of these accounts, then pay the respective bills from there. I have a savings account dedicated to my $20 challenge, and another for regular savings. So although some accounts certainly do get closed when the waiting period is over, I'd say it's the exception rather than the rule.

Also, to answer another question about bank bonuses that I've seen, I have not yet had a problem with opening too many accounts. I try to keep it to no more than 4 in 3 months, because I've read that that's the magic number, and I've been fine. The biggest problem is that it's an organizational headache...

For those who are looking to increase their challenge totals, this can be a great plan. I made $710 in 2005 opening accounts for myself (and in some cases hubby and the kids) and my goal for 2006 is $900. Good luck!

A Day Off...

February 15th, 2006 at 09:40 am

I'm switching jobs at my company, and tomorrow is my first day. Because I have no work left to do at my old job, my boss is letting me "work from home" today. Kids are in school and the house is quiet!

A few updates - I did sign up for the second 0% credit card. Unfortunately, this included a balance transfer fee, but it will still be well worth it. I won't know how much of the HELOC I can transfer to it for a few weeks, but every bit will help.

I received a bill from my newspaper yesterday for $47.45, due upon receipt. I could've sworn that I already paid it. Sure enough, I looked at a past credit card statement and I paid it in December. I called the company and they saw the payment and told me to throw out the bill. Just goes to show you that you can't accept this stuff at face value.

I paid my mid-month bills and got our budget up to date. I also went through a ton of clothes that my kids have outgrown and separated into "throw out", "donate", and "give to my friend" piles. Of course, I still have the box of really cute outfits that I couldn't part with!

I still have 2 hours before picking up DS at school. My goal is to clean out the massive clutter in my den. If I can get that done, it will be a fantastic day...

Half.com and Bank Bonus

February 15th, 2006 at 09:32 am

I mailed the book for half.com. It cost me $.87 to mail, and I'll be getting $4.10 back. I also signed up for the Chase checking account today, which will get me a $100 bonus.

I need to get creative and think of more ideas for my challenge. The Chase bonus was my third one since Jan 1, and I want to take a break before taking advantage of the next one ($50 from Valley National - expires March 31). I'm not sending anything to ebook until (unless) I get paid for my outstanding orders, so that's on hold. I do have a few things to list on ebay, but I'm going to wait until they have one of their listing deals. In addition (or otherwise) I have a bunch of stuff that I could sell at a garage sale. The only problem is that I don't want to host one! Last year, my sister and her boyfriend had one and asked if we wanted to get rid of anything, but I didn't have my act together in time. Maybe I'll suggest they hold another Smile.

New total: $106.73

Outstanding items: $3.81 (ebook), $75 (Affinity Bank), $10 (Del Monte Rebate), $10 (Colgate Rebate), $20 (Norton Security rebate), $5 (Amazon Rebate - not sure if I'm getting this because I didn't submit the packing slip), $10.57 (ebook), $10 (Kimberly Clark Rebate), $4.58 (ebook), $10 (2nd Kimberly Clark Rebate), $10 (Pepsi rebate), $100 (Citi bonus 1), $100 (Citi bonus 2), $5.08 (ebook), $10.61 (ebook), $2 (Chandon rebate), ebook ($1.97), $4.10 (half.com), $100 (Chase)