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Archive for April, 2007

Paid surveys and OAMC session

April 20th, 2007 at 11:15 am

After noticing that many of you are making some side money by completing online surveys, I thought I would check it out. Based on what I have read/heard/seen, I signed up with Pinecone Research (after finally finding a working link) and am waiting approval. I am thinking about signing up for another one as well and then trying it out before doing any more. The one I am looking at is Lightspeed Research. Anyone ever heard of them or done surveys for them?

Went grocery shopping last night for a few staples; OJ, crackers, fruit, etc. Didn't even have a cart full and came out with $99 worth. And everything we bought was on sale! We switched to frozen OJ, don't buy soda or chips, bought store brand everything that we could. It all just seems futile...like we are never going to be able to save money and eat well at the same time.

Will be going grocery shopping AGAIN tomorrow and Sunday because a friend and I are doing a marathon OAMC session. We are putting 20 meals together for each of us that will last us the better part of the month. But of course, buying the groceries is going to hurt the wallet A LOT! Last time I did this, it cost about $200, but the cost per meal was pretty low in the end. Took forever to put it together by myself, but should go a little faster with a friend.

Tomorrow is the first morning of the local farmers market. Around here, it is a wonderful social event and we look forward to it every weekend. This time of year they will have fresh asparagus, cheese curds, bedding plants, fresh baked goods. The weather is supposed to be beautiful and I can't wait. We start by getting a cup of coffee (chai for me) and then walking around the capitol square to check everything out. We buy on the second lap. Have to find the best price for asparagus!

Busy weekend, but should be fun. Looking forward to finally having some nice weather to enjoy. Should be in the mid seventies with sun and a breeze. In other words, perfect.

Lower cell phone bill?

April 19th, 2007 at 06:58 am

Well, I finally convinced DH to switch our cell phone plan last night. It was quick and painless and MAY save us some money. It will definitely save us from the standpoint of not going over on our minutes.

Right now we have a nationwide family plan because DH was doing a lot of traveling for work. Base price: $69.99 for 700 minutes. Then we found out that we needed to add the unlimited incoming package when we tripled our minutes the first month because of all of Scott incoming calls at work (we had previously had it included but the new package charged extra). That added $14 per month for a total of $83.99 per month, add taxes and call it $90. YIKES! But in the past 3 months we have paid $220 EXTRA due to overages at 0.49 per minute. (DH is working on getting his work to pay most if not all of these costs)

The new LOCAL calling plan we are on still has the same base price, $69.99, (both of these are the lowest plans we can get) for 1000 minutes but the unlimited incoming package it $10 and the " free nights and weekends" starts at 7:00 instead of 9:00. Basically we will only save $4 per month, but will be a LOT less likely to go over our minutes. Also, the plan includes 45 minutes of roaming charges each month, so if DH DOES travel it is at least enough minutes for him to call and tell me he is OK.

Man, do I HATE paying this much money for something we survived just fine without when we first got married. Our culture sure has taken a big turn from just 10 years ago. When I was in college, I didn't even have a computer in my room! That was what the computer lab was for! Now the same school I graduated from requires all incoming freshmen to have not just a computer, but a LAPTOP! And there are 10 year olds getting cell phones!

Wait....did I just sound like my mom? Excuse me while I run screaming through the streets.....

A little bit of everything

April 18th, 2007 at 03:42 pm

This week has been a whirlwind. I can't believe it is already the end of Monday because it feels like I have been running non-stop. Work has been crazy and will only get crazier in the coming weeks. The weather is finally getting nicer so now I have stuff that I need to do outside in the yard and garden. One more thing that I don't have time to do.

Money wise things have been up and down. I did open an ING savings account yesterday. I will be transferring all the "short term" money that we have been saving. You know, those Freedom Account things. Did an initial transfer of $300 and will be sending about $900 more in a few days.

However, when doing my forecasting for the new week or so, I noticed we are going to be short on cash in a hurry. Even if we don't spend ANY unplanned money, we are going to be $100 in the hole come next pay day. Yikes! Oh, how I wish we already had a buffer in place! That would make this a whole lot easier. I have no idea how people can put together a buffer equal to one months expenses in just a couple of months. Oh wait...those people probably don't have to pay $900 per month in daycare expenses. So far I have not been able to put one penny into the buffer. But I have been able to pay back a lot of the money we owe ourselves due to overdraft transfers. I have paid back $700 in 2 months, which means we are only down $1500. Could be a LONG time before we are operating at full capacity again.

I have made a decision about our cell phones, now I just have to get DH to agree. We can pay the same price that we are paying now and get 300 more minutes by dropping from the national plan to the local plan. The local plan includes 45 minutes of roaming for the times when Scott is out of the calling area on business or something. With the extra minutes we should be able to keep from going over as often as we have the last few months. We have spent over $150 in EXTRA minutes. At 0.49 per minute, it really adds up fast.

The car payment processed through this afternoon, which means we have paid off $157 more on the debt. We have now paid off a total of $1442.30 since March 1st to our outstanding consumer debt. I am happy with this progress, but the total is still scary. We are currently paying $861 per month just to pay off debt. I can think of a thousand things I would rather do with that money.

Taxes are in the mail!

April 16th, 2007 at 03:35 pm

Forgot to mention that I put our federal tax payment ($1499) in the mail on Saturday. We got $1155 back from the state, so we only had to kick in an extra $344. Tried to carve it our of the monthly budget but ended up having to take it out of the EF instead. Oh well, at least it didn't have to go onto the credit card.

We are going to have to sit down with my parents (when they get back from vacation) to do some advance tax planning for next year. Scott got a BIG raise that is going to hurt our tax position. We increased his withholding which really took a chunk out of our monthly available income but I don't know what we are going to do if we need to pay a bunch in next year. Don't want to pay estimates if I can avoid them.

Weekend update & wage increase

April 16th, 2007 at 11:02 am

Another weekend has come and gone and I don't have a lot to show for it. My parents were in town for a few days, which was very nice, but not exactly relaxing. Since they were keeping the boy occupied, I was able to get a little bit of stuff taken care of around the house, though. Paperwork/filing had been taking over my dining room and I was finally able to get things put away/sorted. I am down to one small pile of stuff, but that is mostly catalogs so I should be able to go through it quickly. A little bit of laundry and keeping up with the dishes and that was about all I accomplished.

The weather finally started turn a little warmer this weekend so I did get my front planting bed cleaned up a bit. Still have a few bushes to prune, but it can wait a few days.

I did miserable with the menu planning this weekend. We ended up eating out most meals, but my parents insisted on paying as payment for them staying at our house. I SHOULD have put something in the crock pot for dinner last night, but I didn't get to it. Then all of a sudden it was 7:00 and I had nothing for dinner. We did have a small gift card to a restaurant in the area ($10) so we decided to use that. Still spent money eating out, but we tried to minimize the damage.

The good news that I have is that our wage increases came through for my company. I got a 3.7% raise which is above the company average (yeah!) of 3%. It works out to about $100 extra per month so I am going to put the "extra" money toward my buffer/debt payment rather than increasing spending like I have in the past. We will see how things work out. The wage increase is affective as of our next paycheck on the 27th so I will know better how much more money I am working with in my budget then.

Still haven't sold anything from half.com. Will probably keep them posted, but they are going to be in my way very soon. The idea of the rummage sale is still tickling the back of my brain but I am going to hold off making a decision for a few weeks. May ask my neighbor if she is interested in having one together. Of course, I may just wind up taking everything to Goodwill out of frustration before then. Will have to wait and see.

A little more progress

April 12th, 2007 at 03:12 pm

DH's payday was today and every penny of it has been given a job. And every penny of my paycheck tomorrow has also been given a job. Unfortunately, most of it is going out the door right away. However, for the first time in a while, we are not spending MORE than we are earning. That is the important part. Even though that is a common sense thing, we haven't been doing that in a while which can be evidenced by the debt balance on the left.

I updated the total debt balance to reflect the money that left our account today to pay down the Slumberland and MTU CC. Pretty good payoff for only 6 weeks! Also going out tomorrow is the payment for the Jeep loan, but I won't know the principal paid on that for about 10 days. They only take paper checks and I can't check my balances online; definitely in the dark ages.

Not shown there is the money that I sent to payoff the Wells Fargo card Scott used for traveling a couple weeks ago. Now that card is locked up and won't ever be used again. It will sit dormant or we will cancel it. Haven't quite decided which yet.

My parents arrived in town last night and Caleb has been having a blast playing with them. Everyone went to bed early so I was able to get a ton of stuff done. I re-updated our budget to reflect the latest income and outgo, cleaned up the kitchen, sorted a bunch of papers and avoided shoveling snow. I also listed more than 30 books on half.com. Nothing has sold and I really don't expect much of it to go quickly, but I will have to wait and see.

I am actually considering having a rummage sale this spring to get rid of some of the crap we have been collecting. Usually I just send everything to Goodwill because I don't want the hassle, but I might be able to make a little bit of money that can help fill up our YNAB buffer account. Can't get rid of all the dang baby stuff yet, but when we can that will be the mother lode.

Income and outgo

April 11th, 2007 at 11:39 am

Tomorrow DH gets paid and I get paid on Friday. I have already scheduled several payments that will go out from my credit union's bill pay system. One of the payments will pay off the small amount we have the credit card we did the balance transfer from and the other will pay off the dreaded Wells Fargo card for hopefully the final time.

Also being paid out on Friday are the monthly payments for the Slumberland account and the Jeep loan. SLOOOOOOOWLY seeing progress at the rate of 2.4% per month. At least it isn't going the other way!

But here is the BEST news....I have not had to use overdraft coverage from our savings account for more than a month. I was using OD protection every few weeks and ended up in a BIG hole where I owe $1500 to our savings account. But I haven't added to that amount so I think that in and of itself is progress.

Maybe I will talk my way out of this bad mood yet....

Depressed

April 11th, 2007 at 09:01 am

I made a big mistake. I looked at the amount we are paying off each month as a percentage, just because I was curious. Currently we are paying 2.4% off each month. Ugh. At least all of our interest rates are low and we are paying the bills on time.

Today I am feeling really low. I am fat, in debt up to my eyeballs, and it is snowing in April. Add to that the fact that my house is a disaster and my back is killing me and you have an idea of my mood. My DH is gone turkey hunting for the weekend so we have canceled his birthday party. My parents are coming into town tonight for a few days, so as long as they watch the munchkin I have a chance of getting some cleaning done. My filing is so far behind that I have papers overflowing our bedroom, dining room AND kitchen. Where is this paperless society we were supposed to have by now?

Pulled a bunch of books together last night that I want to put on Half.com, but I was exhausted once I got DS into bed. I have about 30 books of various authors and conditions that I am going to try to sell. If they don't sell, I think I am going to try to put them up on craigslist. Would have just donated them in the past and not bothered with the donation form, but am trying to make a any extra income that I can come up with.

Splurges, Food & Allergies

April 10th, 2007 at 10:09 am

Well, even though I couldn't find the coupon for dinner last night, we still went out to eat for DH's birthday. Since he got to drink free beer and I only got soda, the final bill with tip came to $25. Not too bad, but should be less. It was strange how eating at the restaurant felt like a treat, whereas not too long ago it was an everyday thing.

Tonight DH is going to my parents to go turkey hunting for the next few days. Hopefully he will decide to stay at the house to eat most meals and avoid eating out, but I am not holding my breath. I know the peanut and I will be eating at home for sure. This month so far we have spent about $150 total for food (dining out and groceries) but it should be a lot less as we aren't even half way through the month yet!

Menu planning seems to be helping with the total overall cost of food, but not as much as I expected it to. I am planning on doing a OAMC (Once a month cooking) session with a friend later this month, so hopefully that will help with next months food budget. I am vowing not to do any grocery shopping (except milk and bread) until the OAMC trip. We should have enough in the freezer and pantry to last us until then if we get a little creative.

Did I mention that my DH has a terrible allergy to corn? Doesn't sound like a big deal until I mention "high fructose corn syrup". That one ingredient seems to be in EVERYTHING. As a result, we have to buy mostly high end things like cereal and peanut butter that are made with actual sugar instead of corn sweetener. That definitely doesn't help the food budget at all. We have to be very careful label watchers because they keep changing recipes of products. I end up making all my own marinades, sauces, side dishes, etc. which can be cheaper except for the fact that I tend to have more "staple" ingredients to buy that way. When I have to restock the pantry it hurts!

ETA: We recently found out that DH is also allergic to Nutrasweet and Splenda too. So he is avoiding all sugar free products as well. What fun.

Birthdays and Weekend Spending

April 9th, 2007 at 02:11 pm

Today is DH's birthday. He turns 32 and we were originally planning a small, informal party for next weekend but he has decided he doesn't want one now. At least that will help with the cash flow issues. He had lunch with his parents this afternoon as they were passing through town and his gift from them was $50. So now he has a little spending money of his own that he can use for his turkey hunting trip this week so that will help the budget as well.

The weekend went pretty well, spending wise. Dinner on Friday night was McD's drive thru on the way to my parents but then they provided the food for the rest of the weekend. We did pick up about $15 worth of beer, but that was it. Of course, there was about $50 of gas that we wouldn't have spent otherwise, but I did plan for it.

The only boo-boo came in the form of easter bunny shopping for DS. Since he is only 2.5 I have never done the basket thing before. So I went to Target and picked up a bunch of stuff for the basket and the egg hunt. Ended up spending about $40 total. OUCH! I will definitely have to do better next year. And he is not getting anything else for quite a while. May have to see what toys that he doesn't play with that I can sell to make up for it. Shouldn't be a budget killer but could definitely hurt it quite a bit.

Want to hear something funny? A few weeks ago we got one of those valupak kind of coupon flyers in the mail so I went through and clipped the coupons that I thought we could use. One of them was for a place here in town called the Nitty Gritty which bills itself as "the birthday place". Basically you get to drink all you want on your birthday and you get a souvenir mug to go along with it. The coupon was for a buy one, get one hamburger deal, so since it is DH's birthday and we had this coupon I thought it would be a good idea to splurge a little. Problem is that I CAN'T FIND THE COUPON! Dang! Of course I didn't file them away like I should have and now they seem to have disappeared. Don't know if we will still go or not. I don't have anything else planned for dinner and DH was looking forward to it. I feel really bad....will have to create better system for handling coupons in the future.

Sad Situation

April 9th, 2007 at 07:32 am

While at my parent's house this weekend, we found out that our neighbor's 20 YO son, Neal, really screwed his life up but good on Saturday morning. Apparently, he was in a minor accident but decided to flee the scene at a high rate of speed. Less than 5 minutes later he ran a stop sign and got into another accident, but this time he killed the driver of the other car. The man he killed was a pillar of his community and is being mourned by thousands of kids that he coached, mentored and taught.

Neal was ejected from his vehicle and taken to a local hospital. While at the hospital they discovered that he was not only drunk, but also high on cocaine. There is little doubt that he is going to spend the next 6-20 years in prison. I feel so bad for everyone involved in this horrible situation. It just makes me sick.

Love the new look!

April 7th, 2007 at 04:35 am

Logged on this morning when I couldn't sleep and am LOVING the new look. And I love that we can do so much customization, although I will probably be too scared to try different colors for a while.

How much?!?!

April 6th, 2007 at 06:56 am

A few posts ago, I was lamenting how much having another baby would hurt our new budget and whining a little about life in general. Well, after many long heart to heart conversations and some close examination of the budget, DH and I decided that we are going to try for another baby this summer. That way the baby would be born in May 2008 or later. This is important because my parents own an accounting firm and the winter months are just INSANELY busy for them. They can't focus on anything else and I don't want to stress them out anymore than they already are.

So, step one in this process is to attempt to secure a spot on the waiting list at our daycare. Currently they are theoretically booked until 2010 for infants, although no one on the list is even pregnant yet. I thought it would just be a "put your name here" kind of thing, but they actually required us to pay the deposit and application fee in full! Are you ready....$325 NONREFUNDABLE, NONTRANSFERRABLE dollars. Yikes! I had to pull money out of our savings account to cover this unexpected cost....guess this falls under the heading of "miscellaneous". The good news is that this fee will cover the first week of care once Baby starts, but what if there is no baby?

In other news, we are headed to my parents this weekend for the holiday. Well, actually we are headed there so they can see Caleb before they head to Key West, Florida for 6 weeks like they do every year after tax season. They have been going to the same place and staying in the same room for 15 years. Have become great friends with the owner and his family and the thought of going there is what keeps my mom sane though the months of February and March.

Caleb (2.5 YO DS) has been asking for the past week to go to Nana and Bumpa's house. He was SOOOO excited this morning when I was able to tell him that we are going there today. He is being so sweet and snuggly lately that I seem to be forgetting his bratty behavior from the past few weeks. I have been trying to be firm and setting boundaries and he seems to be responding well to that. He is whining a little less (THANK God!) but that could just be a coincidence.

BTW, I checked today and the payoff that I sent in the other day has cleared the bank. We will be closing that account today and that feels really good. Any progress is good, but this feels great!

To close or not to close

April 4th, 2007 at 08:28 am

I have two credit cards that I would love to close the accounts. One I paid off yesterday, the other will be paid off as soon as DH's reimbursement check comes in. Right now between ALL of my cards I have a total limit of $51,300 (OMG!) and am carrying a balance of $11,754 which gives us an overall ratio of 22.9%. If I close these two accounts, it will reduce our credit limit to $39,500 leaving us with a ratio of 29.8%. The other thing that puts a wrinkle in this equation is that one of the cards (Wells Fargo, $7800 limit) is our second oldest card overall. The other card (American TV, $4000 limit) is only a couple months old so I will probably close that one for sure.

I am waffling because I don't know how this will affect our credit score (I assume it will be negative). On one hand we aren't planning on applying for anymore credit anytime soon, but on the other hand I don't believe in completely disregarding our credit score as irrelevant. I have been hearing more and more about how your credit score can affect everything from insurance rates to interest rates, so I want to keep it as healthy as possible.

Yes, I am probably over thinking this. I REALLY want to close the Wells Fargo account so I can be rid of this albatross once and for all. Worst customer service I have ever had and just plain miserable tactics for getting every penny out of us that they can.

Any thoughts?

Half.com?

April 3rd, 2007 at 02:39 pm

I recently found out about Half.com and was wondering if anyone here has used it. I have a bunch of books and CDs that I would be willing to part with but am wondering if it is worth the hassle of packaging and mailing. What do you think? Any words of caution? I am generally overly cautious about this kind of thing but the extra income at this point would be greatly welcomed.

More random stuff

April 3rd, 2007 at 10:09 am

Well, the payment went out this morning to pay off our first debt in our "debt snowball". Very exciting! Of course,I will probably be compulsive about checking my account to see when the payment is actually credited some time in the next couple days. Then we will be closing the account for good. And with all the trouble we have had with this company, we will never be financing anything with them again, no matter how good the terms are. Just isn't worth the effort. Besides, we are supposed to pay cash for everything from now on anyway, right?

I spent some more time with YNAB this morning and I think it is starting to make a little more sense. Still not entirely clicking, but I am going to have to bend the program to my will until I can get to the point where we are working under "Rule 1". I don't know how we are supposed to determine what our "extra" money for the month is when I seem to need every penny left at the end of the month for the beginning of the next month.

I sat down and did an extensive cash flow analysis (meaning I wrote all my bills on a calendar) and it looks like we are eventually going to get ahead, but it won't be until about the end of June that we start seeing a balance building in our account. I don't know why, since our costs are generally fixed, but it shows I am going to be down to nothing at the end of this month and probably next as well. I guess there is just a lag in the results.

One of my first priorities is to pay back money to our savings account that we have "borrowed" in the form of over draft transfers over the last several months. Right now we owe ourselves $2,060. So before we start building our buffer, those accounts need to be flush. I am going to do that by only budgeting the money that we receive as paycheck each month and then any additional income we get (i.e. daycare reimbursements, gifts, etc.) toward these accounts. We should be back to the actual numbers in about 4 months or so.

Yet another monster post. I can't seem to be brief, even when talking to myself. Smile

Debt Tracker, March 2007

April 2nd, 2007 at 10:33 am

Here are the totals for the month of March, 2007:

Current balance as of 3/31/07:
MTU Master Card = $10300
American Furniture = $385
Slumberland = $581
Circuit City = $805
Jeep loan = $9234
2nd Mortgage = $13050

Total = $34355

$35104-$34355 = $749 paid off since 3/1/07!

WOW! It didn't feel like we were making any progress this past month, but I guess we did. Also, what doesn't show up there is that I have scheduled the payment to PAY OFF the American Furniture loan IN FULL tomorrow.

If all goes well, we will have paid off another $1100 by the end of April (inc. American loan payoff). If I could do cartwheels, I would.