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Car Maintenance

December 28th, 2006 at 10:25 pm

Took advantage of the week off to put our car in for new brakes and tires. (Of course I also needed transmission work and a new belt). Rather than charging it and paying it next month, like I'd normally do, I'll write a check this month, thanks to a year-end bonus. I really want to start 2007 with a clean slate.

I've also managed to go through the December numbers, and have come up with goals and resolutions for 2007. That'll have to wait for the next entry, though, as dinner is on the stove!

0% Credit Card

June 22nd, 2006 at 03:05 am

Here's my saga with the 0% credit cards: I had a heloc for about $22,000 from a capital improvement we made to the house. I was able to transfer about $7000 to a 0% cc from Citibank, leaving me with a balance of about 15k. When I opened the heloc, the rate was about 3.5%, now it's 7.25% and rising. So a few months ago, I applied for a Chase 0% cc. Thinking it didn't go through (they sometimes take a while), I inadvertently applied for a second one from Chase. Realized it and cancelled the first one. Then, the balance transfer didn't go through on the second one because I gave the wrong payment address. (Argh!). The deal was that you can only transfer at 0% on the day you open up the account, so even though it was an innocent mistake, they wouldn't redo the transfer. So I closed that account too. By this point, I was a bit discouraged so I let it go. But after 2 months of paying $100/month interest, I revisited my decision.

So I recently applied for another 0%cc (turned out this one, too, was with chase, but a different one than before). I see online that the credit card was approved, with a $16k credit limit. I requested a $14k transfer, so I'm crossing my fingers that it goes through no problem. Man, I'll be happy to pay this bear off!

Other than that, a quiet day. I went to work, hubby came back from his trip. Had an annual doctor visit (no charge - preventative visits are covered). All good.

We did need to put the car we're bringing to NC in for an oil change, and they need to boost the A/C because it's only working intermittently. Not sure how much that will run us, but we can't go on an 9-hour trip without it. Also, a truck kicked up a rock onto the windshield, so that's being fixed on Friday, for $275. A lot of money, but less than I thought it would be. Can't believe vacation is only 4 days away...

Again with the car!

June 6th, 2006 at 08:58 pm

I'm still feeling the effects from my car being towed! Got a certified letter in the mail on Saturday with the TICKET that went along with the towing of my unregistered vehicle. $56. Again, I thought it would be worse, but that brings the total for this little event up to $176! Hopefully this is the end.

I've talked in the past about Main Street Savings, where I can get certain gift cards for 20% off. Well yesterday I ordered the plane tickets for our trip to California through Travelocity, and after I was done with my order, they had a "Get $20 back now" offer. I figured it was for one of the free-trial deals that I've been signing up for, but instead, it was a free trial to Passport to Fun (free $20), and another for Shopping Essentials (free $10). They're just like MSS, and run by the same company, but with different gift cards (and some overlap). I think I'll cancel SE after the month's up, because I didn't really need the stores they had, but I think it would be worth it to keep PTF. These invites are hard to get, in that if you go looking for them, you can't find them. So if anyone is interested in joining, keep your eyes open on your credit card websites (where I found MSS) and when ordering online to see if any offers like these come up.

Not much on the challenge front, though I did go to Eckerds to take advantage of some sales/rebates, and used a $2 coupon from one of the trains, bringing my train totals to $37.29.

As usual, I'm feeling a bit disorganized. I need to take some time tonight to file some papers and get my act together!

$120 and 3 hours

May 26th, 2006 at 02:02 pm

That's what it took to get my car back. First thing Thursday morning, hubby went to DMV to renew the registration ($48.50). After we dropped the kids at school, we went to the police station in Newark to show them the new registration and get our car released. Then, we had to drive to the towing company in Jersey city to actually pick up the car. I don't know how many of you are familiar with North Jersey, but what is literally a 5-10 mile trip took about 45 minutes! The towing company charged us $120.

Here are my thoughts after this ordeal:
1) Thanks, everyone who posted comments of support...I was happy to read them all!
2) Hubby and I took this a lot better than I thought we would. We were patient, and not too stressed. We were resigned to the fact that it was our fault and there was nothing we could do but make lemonade out of lemons. At least we got a few hours of quality time together...
3) I'm fortunate to have a job where I don't "punch a clock" and a boss who's flexible. Hubby's job is the same. I think that's why we were able to keep a cool head.
4) Finally, I have now put reminders in my calendar to register the cars when they come due. Hopefully I can learn from this...

Other than that, I cancelled the last of my trial memberships today. I have offers through mypoints for two more, but I think I'm going to pass for now. I'm trial-membershipped out. I am pleased with the way they worked, though. Definitely worth it.

Back to Earth :(

May 24th, 2006 at 09:38 pm

And in a big way! My car was towed today! Apparently the registration expired in DECEMBER 05, and I never renewed it. The transit police were doing a random check in the parking lot where I parked, ran a check of the plates and towed it. So now I need to renew the registration first thing tomorrow, then go to Newark to recover the car. I have no idea how much it's going to cost, because their offices are only open 8-4, and it doesn't say on the website or the phone message. Sigh...

Commute worked!

May 19th, 2006 at 02:04 am

Hot dog! The new commute worked out very nicely. I made the connections with no problem, and it only took a few more minutes than normal.

Best news is that I found a new twist on the commute that may make it even better! If I go to a different stop on the line, I can park for $2.50 instead of $7, which would save $4.50/day=$22.50/week=$90/month MORE than what I'm already saving by doing today's commute!

I also convinced hubby that $10/day of my savings can go to the challenge account to help pay for our trip, and the rest of each day's savings will go toward the HELOC balance.

Also a good mail day. I received another $10 gas voucher from one of those trial memberships. Glad to see they're paying out, despite the fact that I cancelled. So that's $20 more for my challenge today!

New Total: $854.74/$2000

Outstanding items: $100 (Citi bonus 1), $100 (Citi bonus 2), $2 (Chandon rebate), $10 gas voucher (Jan-Mar), IDT Phone card(s)(?), $8 Tostitos rebate, 4.00 (Apr Walgreens), $.25 (Apr Eckerd), $5 (PNC gas voucher).

Tomorrow should be busy and quiet at work. Nothing on for tomorrow night, a bunch of local errands (and a badly needed cut and color) on Saturday, and down to my dad's to do shopping on Sunday.

New commute tomorrow

May 17th, 2006 at 10:42 pm

I came up with 5 different ways to commute to my job, all of which are less expensive than my current route. I think one of them will work out everyday, so I'm going to try it out tomorrow. (The rest depend on where my kids are and when they need to be picked up). The new daily commute adds up like this:

Gas: ~$10.50 (vs. $12)
Tolls: $1.40 (vs. $2.05)
Parking: $7 (vs. $20)
Mass Transit: $6 (vs. $3)

Total: ~25/day vs. $37.05. Doesn't Jean Chatzky have a book about saving $10/day? Here it is! And if I can take advantage of some of the other options sometimes, they're even cheaper (and of course, working from home or vacation is the best!).

So I'll try it out tomorrow and see how it goes. Because the kids' schedules and mine change, I'll need to plan out each week or month to see what the best combination is for me. I really hope the timing of this new way works!

On to my coupon train savings: I went to the store today and saved $3.50 using coupons from the train. I paid 4.05 to send the train on, so I'm down -$.55. Not to worry, I'm saving my coupons for a week or two from now when I get to use my 20-30% off certificate.

On to the regular challenge: I called Citi and confirmed that I would be getting the first $100 by June 15th, and the second $100 90 days thereafter. A long wait for sure, but for $200, I'll suffer. I received the $5 Green Giant rebate and another $10 gas voucher, so I'll add the $15 to the challenge, bringing me up to:

New Total: $849.74/$2000

Outstanding items: $100 (Citi bonus 1), $100 (Citi bonus 2), $2 (Chandon rebate), IDT Phone card(s)(?), $8 Tostitos rebate, 4.00 (Apr Walgreens), $.25 (Apr Eckerd), $5 (PNC gas voucher), $10 (EV gas voucher).

I mentioned a while back that we were moving our trip up to the end of July. I checked about using Frequent Flyer miles but none are available on the flights we checked. Regular r/t flights are running in the neighborhood of $450. We were only planning on paying for one (and were hoping it would be cheaper), so I'm going to need to absorb this too. Perhaps my $10/day savings with my commute can fund it...

Commuting Costs

May 16th, 2006 at 10:05 pm

Wow...I never actually thought about just how expensive it was to commute to work each day until I put it in my blog yesterday. ($35/day - yipes!) It is now my goal to get this down.

A few things are contributing:
1) I go into work (in NYC) everyday since I switched jobs at my company in February. Commuting to NYC is expensive no matter how you get there.
2) I work part-time, so I leave work in the middle of the day to get home in time to pick up the kids at school. Unfortunately, mass transit doesn't run as frequently in the middle of the day as it does at rush hour, so my options are limited if the kids are at school.
3) Two days a week, my son is at MILs because he doesn't have preschool, so I need to drive him to her house, which is on the way to the city (but eliminates the train as an option).

So my normal process is to drive to Hoboken (65 miles r/t ~$12 in gas + $2.05 tolls), park ($20) and take the Path ($3 r/t)

On the plus side:
1) My company credits us for the first $100 of mass transit expenses. So while my parking and gas aren't covered, $100 of the PATH (subway), ferry and train costs are.
2) My company allows us to pay the first $205 of parking expenses each month pre-tax. That can equate to about $60/month savings.
3) When the kids are out of school and I won't need to pick them up exactly at 3:00 (they'll be with MIL) I'll have many more options and can pick the cheapest one.
4) My boss is very easygoing about working from home, so I do that a few times a month.
5) Most importantly, I love my job, work for a great company, and have no desire to quit, so it's a good thing that my salary covers all this...

Tonight, my goal is to calculate all of the different options for getting into work, look at the calendar for the rest of May and June and see what I can get June's bill down to.

Free Sample

April 21st, 2006 at 02:01 am

Proctor and Gamble comes through! I received a free sample of Tide liquid with Febreze (it says one use, but I'm sure I can split it for two), and 2 Bounce dryer sheets with Febreze. It made me think of the post in the forum where people commented on how many freebies they actually receive. I don't keep track (too tedious) so maybe I forget alot of them, but it seems like they all make their way to my house eventually.

Not doing a great job curbing the dining out bug. The kids wanted to go to TGIF's and I relented. I'm trying to avoid buyer's remorse because I love going there with them, but not when I'm trying to cut back.

On the way home I filled up the car (SUV) with gas. $2.75/gallon for regular for a total of $53.00! Ouch. Certainly trips like this one could have been avoided, but for the most part, our trips are required (commuting and the like). I'm getting good mileage (no pun intended) from the Shell credit card, so that helps. Also, hubby has travelled a bit more than usual this month, so he hasn't been driving that much. I also have a few work at home/vacation days lined up over the next month. I'm hoping the grand total at the end of the month won't be too much over budget. (Retire@50, if you're still looking to swap cards, I'm definitely into it!).

The weekend should be quiet. We have nothing planned for tomorrow. Softball game Saturday morning followed by a sleepover at grandma's for the kids, while we go to a friend's house for dinner. (No out of pocket; we just need to bring a bottle of wine). Then Sunday, DD has a birthday party but we already have the gift so again, no money out of pocket. Love days like that...

My car failed inspection!!!

June 2nd, 2005 at 04:10 pm

Unbelievable! So I finally take the car to inspection this morning, thinking I'll be in and out and at work by 10:30. I get there and the sign says it was a 30 minute wait (more like 45!). The car ends up failing because the light bulb behind the back license plate is burnt out, and I roll into work at 11:00. So I have a big, red, REJECTED sticker on the car, and 45 days to get it fixed and bring it back. I'm trying to laugh because if I don't laugh I'll cry! Meanwhile, the car place called about the other car. Oil change, tire rotation, change the air and fuel filters. It's probably going to be another $200. The only thing that makes me feel better is that we haven't dropped a dime into either cars for a while.

Feeling better today...

June 2nd, 2005 at 03:31 am

Still not a great day, but I'm feeling a bit better. The car dealer didn't find out why my car wouldn't start, but did find something else that needed to be fixed, to the tune of $245. I ran it by hubby and it sounds legitimate, plus we go to them often and think they're trustworthy. I'll take the car (again) to inspection tomorrow. It should pass with flying colors. Meanwhile, we left our other car to get its oil changed. It is sooo overdue, I was waiting for the engine to seize up on me! So we should be in good shape car-wise tomorrow.

Plugged in our May numbers to my spreadsheet and was pleasantly surprised to find our net worth going up. Our 401(k)s have a lot to do with it, and the stock market must have ended on a good note, because our mutual funds were up. I have a hard time getting too excited about the 401(k), because it will be quite a few years before we retire, but it's nice to see the number going up.

Dropped off some clothes at the dry cleaner ($19.75 - way under my usual $50). Still have library videos outstanding that will cost me a few dollars in fines. Had leftovers for dinner. Tomorrow will be much of the same. Ice cream after t-ball should be the only out-of-pocket...

Great weekend/lousy Tuesday

June 1st, 2005 at 02:51 am

I had a pretty good Memorial Day weekend, but I spent a lot. We didn't do anything Friday night (which was great!). On Saturday I got a haircut/color ($95) to hide all my gray hairs (probably from spending $95)! If I wasn't such a chicken, I would color my own hair with L'Oreal. I'm just afraid it would turn out green! But it would be a lot cheaper...After DD's T-ball game at 1:00 we were home for the rest of the day.

More money spent and a narrow escape on Sunday. I had to go to Toys R Us for a birthday present. No cash out of hand, but I did use a gift card. After the party, DD and I went to the fruit/veggie store and to the supermarket. Grand total: $190. This is where hubby and I differ when doing the budget. I chalk all of that up to "groceries", but he thinks that part of it should go under "entertainment", because some of the food was for a barbeque with friends on Monday. I don't care where I put it on the budget, it's still out of pocket! While I was doing the shopping, hubby and DS went to his mother's. On the way, the nice friendly police officer pulled him over to tell him that his car was supposed to be inspected by the end of April! Neither of us had any clue!!! The cost for driving around in an uninsured vehicle? $150 ticket which he thankfully didn't get. Just a stern warning.

The barbeque Monday was great. The couple was fun, weather was great, food was super. Just a really good time. (A lot of wine/sangria didn't hurt either!). But then it was back to work...

I'm normally home on Tuesdays, but I needed to go into the office for a few hours today. So I was already in a bad mood when I walked out the door. Spent $20 on parking and $18 for after-school care for my daughter Frown. I left work at 2:00 to get the car inspected before picking up the kids. Went to Motor Vehicles, but the estimated wait time was over 90 minutes!!! I got on the line figuring it couldn't really be that bad, and it was worse. I didn't move for 25 minutes! Then I realized that it was the last day of the month and everyone and their mother were trying to get their cars inspected. Desperate as I was, I couldn't stay in the line another minute, so I went to pick up my son at MIL's house. I parked in front of the house, ran in to get him, hopped back in the car and it wouldn't start. Dead, so I had to call AAA. Now, there's a small part of my brain that's happy to be getting my $65 yearly membership's worth, because I needed the car towed about 30 miles. On the other hand, it was about the most inconvenient thing I've ever experienced. The driver came in 20 minutes (which was great). But he couldn't accommodate my son's car seat so I had to leave him with Grandma. I took the ONE HOUR ride with this guy (in total silence), and dropped the car off at the dealer. As soon as the tow truck left, I tried to start it just for the heck of it and it started right away. Go figure. I left it with the dealer anyway so he can take a look at it tomorrow, because I can't risk breaking down with the kids. My husband, who left work early to go pick up my daughter (because I didn't know how long I'd be) came and picked me up at the dealer. We went to Wendy's for dinner ($14), then picked up DS and came home. So now I have a car that's still not inspected, I risk a $150 ticket as long as I drive it that way, and it's at the dealer, with who knows what wrong with it, and who knows how much it will cost. Bummer!

Tomorrow's another day...

Happy day...

April 20th, 2005 at 05:11 pm

I can't tell you how happy I am that tax day is behind me. The taxes were hanging over my head for months, and it feels so great to have them out of the house. (The timing of hubby's bonus helped, too). So I've been feeling good for the last few days!

I'm anxiously waiting for the month to end, because I'm expecting to have enough leftover to put a big chunk of change toward my heloc. The balance is around $35k, and the rate, which is prime-1/2, was great when the prime rate was 3%, but not so great now that it's 5.75!!. Even though it's deductible, it's getting up there. My goal is to have it paid off by next June. If I'm seeing things right, I should be able to put about $4,000 toward it this month (between the rest of the bonus and leftovers in the checking account), and I'm getting back about $2000 from my NY State taxes, that will go toward it as soon as I get it. I'll do a big celebration when it gets under $30k! I don't mind that we took out the loan, because we used it to make a major improvement on the house, but like most people, I don't like being in debt and I really want it gone. I also have the car loan (currently ~$17k) that needs to get paid off, too. But that's a fixed loan at 4.24%, which is pretty good, so I'm trying to tackle the heloc first.

I've pretty much run through the rest of the categories of my budget (commuting, subscriptions, haircuts). I haven't been creative enough to think of any great ways to reduce these, so I think I'm going to sit tight for the month of May/June, let the changes I've recently made take hold, and re-evaluate where I am at that point.

Have a great day!!!

Catching Up...

April 19th, 2005 at 05:52 pm

Tuesday is my "at home" day, so I'm taking advantage! I went to the fruit/veggie store, grocery store, and brought the car in for an oil change. Now I'm in the middle of my 3rd load of laundry (and loving that drying rack). I spent a lot at the fruit store and grocery store this morning (~$180) but I'm hoping it will last me a solid 2 weeks. It feels so good to have a full fridge and pantry, and fresh veggies! I can't wait for dinner, because for the first time in a while I have a lot to choose from! I could have done better with the oil change. I went to one of those jiffy-lube places which tend to be more expensive (even w/ my $5 coupon) than my usual place, but I was desperate! Both of our cars really need an oil change, and Tuesday is my only day to do it, so I had to take care of one this week! It's a beautiful day. DD has T-ball practice at 6:00, and we're hoping to treat them to ice cream afterwards if we have a good day between now and then. The rest of the week should be pretty quiet...

I LOVE Liberty Mutual!

April 3rd, 2005 at 04:09 am

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

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

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

Another rainy day!!!

April 2nd, 2005 at 05:00 pm

First of all, thanks to whomever gave my journal 4 stars. Although I started writing this for myself, I know how much I enjoy reading everyone else's posts, and hope that others enjoy my journal as well. I'll "strive for five (stars)" going forward.

Second, yet another crummy weather day in northern NJ. Torrential downpours all day, our gutters were clogged, and dear hubby was out bright and early this morning cleaning them out (while I was getting my hair done...nice).

Third, went to the Eagles concert last night. I quickly remembered why I don't go to concerts that often anymore. The tickets were expensive ($80), but worth every single penny. The concert rocked! It was the other stuff that got me. Parking was $10!!!! And for anyone familiar with the Continental Airlines Arena, there is absolutely no convenient mass transportation, so you're stuck driving. Then, we were totally parched (thanks to Chinese take out earlier in the night) and got a 16oz soda and a bottled water for, are you ready for this?, $7.25!! The water was 3.75 and the soda 3.50. Thankfully, we ate right before we got there so we didn't get anything else. Can't imagine what the people with hot dogs and pretzels were paying...

It's been a spendy day already. Between the haircut and shopping for a birthday present for a party tomorrow, and a special dinner out with the kids later, I've separated myself from some cash. But tomorrow should be a no-spend day, and I'm shooting for 4/5 no-spend days this week. I really need to buckle down.

Next line item on the budget is car expenses. (Actually, it's DirectTv but that's the last item I'm shooting to reduce, becasue it's near and dear to hubby's heart!). We have a $17,000 car loan at 4.25% on one of our cars. We have another 3.5 years to pay on it, but I'm going to tackle it as soon as I pay off my home equity line. Hopefully the car loan should be gone by next summer.

Our insurance is expensive, but we go with Liberty Mutual, and it's always the cheapest (by far) every year when I compare it to others. One way I'm hoping to reduce this is by looking into moving our house insurance to Liberty Mut. Combining both policies should drive down the cost.

We spend between $250-300/month on gas. I've tried to reduce it by buying gas cards on Ebay, but any savings I've gotten have been replaced by higher gas prices, so I'm still in this range. I guess it would be even worse without the cards! As for maintenance, we do the regular stuff, and keep our eyes open for coupons and whatnot. I think the key for me is getting the car paid off asap and trying to get the insurance down...

Have a great day!

Busy busy busy

March 22nd, 2005 at 09:32 pm

Tuesday is the only day of the week I'm home. Well, not really home because I'm usually running errands all day. I had the whopping bill from the car place, but other than that, I didn't spend anything, and actually avoided a $23 charge. EZPass sent me a replacement for a tag that I didn't have, and said they would charge me $23 if I didn't return the old tag. I called and convinced the rep that I didn't have the old tag, so they shouldn't charge me. She said it was taken care of, but with EZPass, I'll believe it when I DON"T see the charge on my account!

Other than that I'll be in the rest of the night. It's early to bed for the kids so I can watch American Idol and House!

Diet/Money link

March 22nd, 2005 at 04:39 am

Somewhere on this site, I saw an analogy by Jeffrey about how trying to save money is like dieting. Man I can relate! It so happens that I got fast food for lunch (reminding me of how far off I am on dieting AND saving!). My problem with dieting is that I want to eat what I want to eat, and don't want to sacrifice. The problem with spending is that if I want something, I want it when I want it and don't want to wait. Although I'm doing better with the money part then the dieting part, it's still a struggle! So anyway...

Bagel for breakfast: 1.00
Fast food for lunch: 4.85

Other than a few necessary, budgeted items no spending today.

Tomorrow will be another story. We're getting DH's dad's car. It's pretty old (1992) but only has 40,000 miles on it (he never drove anywhere). We're getting the car for free, but we needed to have a bit of work done on it to the tune of $900, which we'll need to pay tomorrow. However, insurance is pretty cheap and it's in great shape otherwise, so hopefully will last a while.

I'll tune in tomorrow...