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Archive for November, 2006

New Word for Today: Creativity

November 28th, 2006 at 04:54 pm

If you read my earlier post today, my word for the day was FRUSTRATION. I have decided that I am just plain old tired of being frustrated and it is up to me to change it. So, I have decided that my word for the rest of today will be CREATIVITY. Whenever I am feeling depressed, frustrated, stressed out etc, one of the sure fire cures for me is to do something creative. So, I am going to make the time after work to work on some projects that I have been putting off. Not putting off cause I don't want to do them, just putting off cause I "don't have the time". I usually make homemade Christmas cards each year. I was not going to do it this year but I saw a really cute card in a craft book so I am definitely going to continue my tradition of homemade cards and get to work on them this evening. I already have what I need so I just need to plant myself down and start. I also bought a pattern over the weekend to make some of those pajama/lounging type fleece or flanned pants for my DD. We already bought and washed the material so what am I waiting for? I will at least get the pieces cut out tonight so that I can sew her up a pair tomorrow. They are so easy, it is just the pattern pinning part that I seem to hate and is the major sewing hurdle for me. Anyway, I feel better already, more in control since I decided not to be frustrated anymore. Sometimes, not always but sometimes, changing your mood can be as simple as deciding to! I would much rather feel creative for the rest of the day than frustrated!

The Word of the day is FRUSTRATION

November 28th, 2006 at 01:39 pm

It is only 8:29 am and my word for today is FRUSTRATION (yes, with all capital letters, thats how much frustration I am feeling right now). Hopefully ranting about it will get rid of some. First, my DH, who has been out of work for 5 1/2 mos. is supposed to start a new job selling cars for a local dealership. He went in yesterday and spent the day there. They were supposed to go over all the details with him, pay, benefits etc. He came home and when I asked him for details his only response was "I don't know. The person I was supposed to talk to was not in today". Argggggggghhhhh! So I am frustrated at the "employer" - I mean, how can you tell someone you are hiring them but not give them any of the details??? I am also frustrated by my DH - how can he "work" for them all day without them telling him any of the details? He is supposed to go back in on Weds. to talk to the Human Resources person who is supposed to be in by then. I told him to just leave if they don't give him the details. Not someone worth working for if they are that disorganized and care so little for new employees. So, DH says he has a new job and I say, NOT until they sit down with you and give you details. Very frustrating. Second frustration, I was driving my kids to school this morning and put down my window to remove the condensation. Only problem was my window now will not go back up! I think the motor died so it is stuck in the down position - wide open. Luckily I can park right in front of work where I can keep an eye on it. I called the dealership and am going to take it in this afternoon to at the very least put it stuck in the up position so I can safely lock it and not get wet if it rains. Very frustrating! Even more so when my DD says, "oh yeah mom, dad was having trouble with the window over the weekend. Did we forget to tell you?" Fortunately, the steam from my head did at least help warm up the car - since cold air was blowing in the open window the whole way to school. Hence, my word for the day! Here's hoping it is only the word for the morning and I have a better word for this afternoon.!

Things I Have Never Bought

November 23rd, 2006 at 01:21 pm

First of all, Happy Thanksgiving to all! I had a conversation with a friend yesterday which got me thinking about spending styles and specifically things that I would never spend money on. This same friend and I are neighbors and walk together at least once a week. I don't know great details about her financial life (my philosphy is not to ask, only discuss what someone else brings forth) but I do know that she was very happy last years cause her DH took a new job and it came with a significant bump up in pay. She and I have recently been discussing finances on a pretty superficial level - I mentioning many times how I wished DH would get a job soon and I was tired of living off our savings. She said they would be in trouble if her DH lost his job cause they had almost no savings. About two weeks ago she participated in a family wedding and told me when all was said and done they had spent close to $1000 dollars on this (bridesmaid dress, flower girl dress, ring bearer tux, hair for girls on day of, hotel for two nights etc.) I was somewhat amazed but did not say anything. On Monday she was complaining to me that they had to ask her dad for a loan because they were "out of money". Then on yesterday she was telling me how she went to a warehouse store and bought a veggie tray to take to the thanksgiving dinner they were attending. She rationalized it to me that with the cost of fresh veggies it was almost the same price. Now she knows well how frugal/cheap I am and mentioned it with the excuse already in place which I thought was rather funny. I proceeded to tell her that she could have easily hit the local produce outlet which is cheap and high quality. She claimed not to have the time to get over there nor to cut up veggies. I found this interesting cause she then proceeded to tell me that she had to kill about 1/2 hour while running errands before she could pick up her son (in the same general area as the produce outlet mind you). After we got off the phone I started to think about all this and it got me thinking about what people will and won't do with their money and how much people care about what others think of them. I am not knocking my friend in any way - she is a good friend and will remain so, I just find her choices interesting in light of her situation. I know she is very concious (even worries) about what others think of her. I personally have reached the point where I do what is best for my family and myself and don't worry about what anyone else has to say about it. If we cannot really afford to spend the money on something, I don't do it just to "fit in". Anyway, getting to my title, the whole conversation and my subsequent train of thought has gotten me to yet another list (I have always liked lists). This time it is a list of things I have never bought cause I just refuse to spend the money on them.
1) Premade fruit or veggie bowl or tray. I love fruit and veggies and frequently serve trays at parties, I just prefer to make them myself.
2) Store made birthday cakes. I have made all of my childrens birthday cakes (44 so far if I am counting correctly). I just refuse to spend what they charge for a cake.
3) Starbucks coffee - nothing against it, just will not spend what they want on it. I actually just had my first ever cup of Starbucks a few weeks ago. My daughter was at a birthday party and the parents had brought a take out "box" of coffee to share with the guests parents.
4) Cleaning service/person for my home. Nothing against this either, I actually have a small commercial cleaning business (offices etc) that I do on the side. I even went so far as to interview someone once but when I found out what they charged and thought about everthing else I could do with that money, I would rather clean myself.

Okay, that is my short list. I may or may not come up with more. I would be interested to see what others have also never bought.

Things to Be Thankful For

November 21st, 2006 at 02:36 pm

In the spirit of all the list making that I have seen lately, I have been thinking of things that I have to be thankful for, partly because this is thanksgiving week and partly because it helps me to focus on what I do have as opposed to my financial frustrations. Here are a few in no particular order:
1) 4 healthy children - I was having coffee with friends last week listening to them talk about kids with seasonal allergies, food allergies etc. and thinking how glad I was that we did not have to deal with any of that (to say nothing of people dealing with their children having life threatening diseases). My DH and I have four very healthy children who maybe see the doctor once a year for something viral etc. if even. Boy are we lucky in that regard.
2) My dogs. I have two mastiffs and they are my major self-indulgence. They are definitely more expensive to feed and care for than a smaller dog would be but they give my whole family such love and joy that they are well worth it.
3) A frugal upbringing. My parents were both physicians so we always had money for whatever we needed but we were never spoiled. For example for Christmas we were allowed to ask for one "big" gift (which in the 70's topped out in the $20.00 price range) and also got some smaller stuff. It made you think about what you really wanted and would really use cause you didn't want to "waste" your request.
4) A fair amount of intelligence. I have a good memory and pick up concepts quickly. I think how much harder it must be for people who do not have either to be as frugal as possible as easily. I am not saying they cannot do it, just that it would be a much harder process. For example I can stand in the store w. a coupon and quickly determine if it will give me a better unit price on an item combined with a sale than the same generic/store brand item. Just makes the whole saving money stuff easier when you can quickly make those calculations yourself.
4) A safe warm home to return to each day and in which to raise my kids. You would never find my house in a magazine photo shoot but it is clean (relatively) and plenty large for our family. Each child has their own bedroom, we have a finished basement and a nice size yard. I laugh when people talk about buying their dream home. I tell them in all seriousness that my dream home is one with no mortgage. Right now we have built up a lot of equity in our house and are on target to have it paid off in 10 years of so.
5) My health and my DH's health. Both of us are healthy and in decent shape (we could both stand to lose a little weight).
6) A love of learning and acquiring new skills. I am not afraid to try new things so I have learned over the years how simple it can be to paint, do simple decorative painting and wallpapering, sew, quilt etc. I have replaced sinks and garbage disposals, installed ceiling fans and done other things that I never would have thought I would be able to handle. I love the sense of accomplishment that comes with doing something yourself. (But I also know when to call in the professionals if needed.)
7)My DH. He drives me crazy more often than not but I figure if we have put up with each other for over 20 years we must be well suited. (Not that I possible do anything that drives him crazy!)

Secret Santa

November 20th, 2006 at 02:13 pm

I read an interesting story in the paper over the weekend about a man (I cannot remember what city - I think in the midwest somewhere) who had been anonymously giving money to people around the holidays for the last 30 years of so. He had given away something like 1.3 million in that time and was finally revealing his identity due to health concerns and other reasons. I found it a really nice story and really admired him for his spirit of generosity. I must admit though that I was also curious why after 30 years he was finally revealing his identity. I don't say this to knock him or what he has done in any way but it just made me curious.

I have been trying to get my holiday shopping done a little at a time since before Halloween. With my DH out of work and money tight I absolutely refuse to add debt for holiday presents. I usually make big plates of cookies for neighbors and teachers (I love to bake) so that will be a pretty low cost gift. I buy my ingredients on sale or at Aldi and usually end up making double batches of about a dozen different kinds of cookies. I also have a great, very simple recipe for really delicious homemade peanut brittle that I may make for some teachers. I tell people that it is a top secret, really difficult family recipe. If only they knew, it is about as easy as making rice krispie treats! Don't tell! Keep my secret safe!

My DH is jewish and we celebrate Hannukah in our house. (Probably spelled that wrong, I usually do.) I think it makes gift giving easier because there is a definite limit - eight gifts per child - count them up and you are done. My youngest two daughters love crafts so I have been hitting the local AC Moore weekly to take advantage of their 40% (and sometimes special 50%) coupons. Buying a few gifts a week and making sure to get them all on sale has kept me from adding any debt and I am about 1/2 done with the shopping. Another thing I have been doing for the last year or two is to try to wrap gifts as I buy them. I keep a list and write them down once they are bought, then wrap and label. It is pretty stressful to try to wrap 32 gifts (8 each X 4 kids) but it is pretty painless to wrap 2 or 3 once or twice a week. I keep the wrapping paper (bought 2/$1.00 after the holidays last year) in my closet, along with a roll of tape and scissors. This way I am always ready to roll. I find that this also thwarts the attempts to sneak peaks to see what Mom has bought. I myself was terrible about this as a child. I would find my gifts, no matter where my mother hid them including the attic, the basement and a locked closet (I had to find the key first). Actually, I still am really bad about this. My DH gets really mad at me cause it is almost impossible to surprise me, no matter how creative he gets with his hiding places. After 20 years, I still find my presents, I have just stopped letting him know that I do. Then I just have to act surprised when I open them. Don't tell!

DH has a second job interview today with a car dealership. Not what he is really looking for but at this point, a job with benefits would be nice. I don't mean to be snobby about it, I just have a hard time seeing car sales as a great career move for him. I know good car salespeople can make good money, it is just that car salespeople (really used care sales people) have such a negative stereotype in movies etc. that I am worried. I just don't want him to take his focus off finding a better long term career and I think car sales fluctuate too much depending on the economy. Then again, so does the housing market and he was selling to builders so maybe I am just being crazy. Anyway, only time will tell.

How Come My Down Time Is All Up Time

November 15th, 2006 at 06:17 pm

I saw this in a cartoon over the weekend and felt it fits me perfectly. The mom and dad had some "down time" with the kids all out of the house and the mom spent it running around cleaning, doing laundry etc. In other words, "up" on her feet. Today is one of my two days "off" from work but I think I will be glad to go back to work tomorrow so I can get some rest. It it 1:00 pm and I have already done the grocery shopping for the week and put all away, emptied the dishwasher, done three loads of laundry, walked the dog 1 mile, cleaned the yard (from the dogs), and changed the sheets on 5 beds plus all towels. I am not even close to being finished with all that I want/need/am supposed to get done today.

On a financial note, I feel like I did well at the grocery store today. I spent $82.88 for the weeks groceries but that includes a lot of stockpiled items that we will not use right away. Out of 60 items I bought, only 8 were not on sale. My before coupon/bonus buy total was $136.00. So, not too bad I feel. I even got DH two free deodorants (they were on sale for $1.01 each and I had $.75 coupons which they doubled up to the price, so, 2 for totally free. It would have been even nicer if they doubled them in full - then they would have been paying me to buy them. Oh well, you can't have everything.

I always thought I was a very frugal grocery shopper but I have become even more so lately. I read Mary Hunt's book "Live Your Life for Half the Price" (not sure if that is the exact title). She talks about needs shopping vs. shopping to "restock". She called it something else but I cannot remember what. Her point was that if you buy to restock only when things are on sale and buy enough to last you, you can spend way less on groceries or spend the same but get way more for your money. I used to think that I was doing this but after reading her book I see that I was not doing it as well as I could. I have started going thru the weekly flyer at my local favorite store, as well as at two others that I pass several times each week (so not really going out of my way). I also cut all coupons for stuff we would use (but not necessarily buy). You never know when something will be a great deal that you would not ordinarily buy but would use. For example, I had a coupon for a new brand of Panasonic batteries specifically for digital cameras. I would not ordinarily shop for batteries at the grocery store but I cut out the coupon cause it is something I would use if the right deal came along. I was very pleased today to see the same batteries on sale today, $2.99 for a 4 pack, down from 3.99 I think. Not such a great deal yet, but combined with my $2.00 off coupon, 4 high tech batteries for my digital camera for $.99 is a very good deal. Wish I had more coupons.

Okay, my "down" time at the computer is all up. Time to get rolling and mop all the doggy footprints off my floors.

By the way, thanks to everyone who commented on my first entry. I am not too down about our situation. I know that my DH will find a job soon, it just can't come soon enough for me. I guess it is teaching me patience and gratitude for what I do have. I am just impatient to get our financial train back on the right track (okay, so I still have to work on the patience thing!)

Today is the Tomorrow I Worried About Yesterday!

November 14th, 2006 at 07:39 pm

I am starting this blog more for myself than anything else but if it entertains/enlightens others, so much the better. I am a mom to 4, wife of 20 years and part time administrative assistant. I was raised by frugal parents and have pretty much always been frugal by nature. When I was in high school I banked the majority of my paychecks and prided myself on never having made a withdrawal from my savings account. Oh - those were the days. My DH is pretty much the opposite but over the past 20 years I am slowly converting him to my way of thinking. Not as much a conversion as I would like but he has definitely seen the method to my madness. He still has his small splurges on things that drive me crazy (why does he need to stop to buy a soday for $1.29 at a convenience store 5 minutes from home where there is cold soda in the fridge???0 but after 20 years, you just learn to look the other way at silly little things like this. I am sure I have my share of money saving things I do that drive him equally crazy but he is turning the other way also.

Lately (past 5 months) I have been feeling more obsessed by money/finances than usual. I am somewhat of a finance geek in that I read personal finance books, budget books, etc. for enjoyment. Of course, I do not run right out to buy them, I get them from the library and then if I feel they would be a good reference book, I buy them used on Amazon etc. Anyway, I was a stay at home mom until 2 years ago when my youngest started kindergarten. I always worked part time but it was flexible and usually evenings etc. after the kids were in bed. DH was always the primary breadwinner and did a nice job at it. Our only debt is our mortgage and payments on his truck, which were being covered by his employer. 5 months ago, (one day before our 20th anniversary I might add - can you say bad timing!) his employer called him into a meeting and laid him off. He was a sales rep and they told him he did not understand their approach of "valued added" selling ie. he should have been able to talk his customers into the higher prices his company wanted based on his superior service. Too bad but his customers are builders who are looking to squeeze every last dollar and are totally not willing to pay extra for service. Anyway, 5 months later with the housing market in a total slump in our area, he is stil out of work. We have been living off my small part-time income (which used to go straight to college funds), unemployment and our emergency fund. Back in June I thought he would have no problem getting another good job and we might even be ahead since they paid him back vacation pay thru July. Ha ha! At this point I am just taking everything one day at a time and trying not to sweat it too much. It is just so frustrating to see the money we worked so many years to save slowly (and sometimes quickly) draining out of our savings. But, back to my title, I keep telling myself, today is the tomorrow I worried about yesterday and we are still plugging away, trying to stay out of debt and find him a job. Can't come soon enough for me!!! Okay, enough ranting for today. On the positive side, I have a job, we have a home equity line of credit we could tap if all else failed and we have managed to go 5 months without increasing our debt! Yeah!