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Archive for January, 2007

My Do One Thing Different Challenge

January 25th, 2007 at 03:46 pm

I am having a hard time doing daily updates on my "Do One Thing Different Challenge" so I guess I am just going to have to keep on catching up. The only problem with that is I have to remember what I did several days ago. Maybe I should try writing it down!!!
Mon. 1/22 Does in look like socks??? This is what I kept asking DD16 every time she looked at something in Kohls. She told me she needed new socks (yes, she did) and I told her we were only going for socks. She nodded her head in the way that teenagers do to make you think they are agreeing when you know they are really trying to figure out how to get their way. Once we got to Kohls she kept trying to look at shirts, jeans etc. on the way back to the sock dept. I kept saying loudly "That does not look like socks to me" and continued walking. She finally gave up (perhaps out of embarrassment but I am just fine with that) and we ended up buying just socks. (DD13 did not believe it when we got home and insisted on checking the bags. She kept saying, what else did you buy?)
Tues. 1/23 Refrigerator Magic. I had put a whole, frozen chicken in the refridgerator to defrost for dinner. Still a frozen lump. I realized I had all the ingredients sitting disquized as leftovers to make a ham casserole. Yummy, easy and did not involve any extra trips anywhere or any significant prep time. Yeah!
Weds. 1/24 I took my coupons to the grocery outlet store. It is right by my regular grocery store and I use it to buy snack stuff for kids. They accept some manufacturers coupons but I always forget to bring them in. I remembered them finally and got 2 boxes of Quaker Chewy Granola bars (I only use them for school snacks) for $0.98 total ($0.99 each + $1.00 off two) Their products are already really cheap so I guess it never occurs to me to bring the coupons, plus they don't accept certain manufacturers (cause they are an authorized outlet for those manufacturers). I will definitely remember to bring them in the future. I got a bag full of snack type foods for school lunch boxes for $4.46. (Less than the price of two school lunches)

I FreeCycled for the first time

January 23rd, 2007 at 01:43 pm

I subscribed to our local FreeCycle group a month or two ago but had not had really posted anything, just sort of interested in what was being offered and asked for. Anyway, over the weekend someone posted a wanted for dog crates etc. She was looking for old dog crates or even parts to build a small enclosure in her barn for poultry that she raises and wanted to get in out of the cold. I just so happened to have two unused crates in my living room. I had ordered one on-line last summer when I got my younger mastiff and the first was damaged in shipping and the second had a some broken welds (manufacturing defect). The third time was the charm and I did not have to pay anything for the first two. I offered them and she picked them up yesterday and was thrilled to have them. It made me feel so nice to be able to give away something to someone who could use it and also get it out of my house at the same time. I am not sure who was happier between the two of us. I will definitely have to post more things that I can get rid of as I attempt to declutter my house.

I also wanted to post about my treadmill goal that I had mentioned in another post. I have used it 9 times this month so far and missed only two days this past week. If I want to make my goal this month I will have to double up on two days but I am going to at least try. Even if I come up short, it will still be an improvement in my general health. I am determined to stick with this and get in better shape this year.

I Owe My Son a Dollar

January 22nd, 2007 at 02:29 pm

My kids (DD7 and DS9)were goofing around last night at bed time and talking about their superstition that you could make it snow by wearing your pajamas inside out. My DD7 told her brother that he also had to run into each room in the house including closets and dance around and yell in order to ensure snow. (I think she was just trying to get rid of him for a few minutes cause when he did it she said "that ought to keep him busy for a while".) Anyway, I bet him a dollar that it still would not snow even if he did it. He took the bet and lo and behold, we had a coating of snow on the ground this morning. That's what I get for not checking the forcast first before agreeing to his bet.

Sales Tax Bullet Dodged

January 22nd, 2007 at 04:36 am

My DH has a small side business/hobby selling things at a flea market in NJ. He is responsible for reporting sales tax quarterly. Since this business is new, this is all new to me. I new the quarterly tax was due but thought it was due the end of Jan. Someone told him that it was due the 20th of Jan. I logged on the the state website to try to find out. It was due the 20th but since the 20th was Sat, it is not due until Mon. 1/22. I was able to file and pay electronically and not have to pay the penalty for late filing (I think $100.00). I also made sure to mark my calendar so I don't make that mistake again.

What I Have Been Up To

January 22nd, 2007 at 04:32 am

My kids have been keeping me very busy this week. Went on a field trip to Phila. with DD13 and her class on Wednes. Thursday and Friday the three younger kids had off for school conferences so no days at home for me without kids. (My usual days off are Weds. and Fri.) This means my house and routines were really suffering. Then, my oldest DD16 had a school formal on Sat. so she had nail appt., hair appt. etc. on Friday and Sat. I bought her the dress (on a budget of course) but the nails and hair were on her dollar since she turned down my offers to help her with them. Anyway, the things I have been doing each day are...
Tues. 1/16 Made hamburgers for dinner. I realized I was out of bread crumbs. Improvised by adding oatmeal instead of going out to store to buy breadcrumbs.
Weds. 1/17 Went on the field trip and brought no money with me so no temptation to buy souvineers for younger kids, snacks etc.
Thurs. 1/18 Did my normal grocery shop but since I only had $50.00 left in the account til DH got paid Friday, I only spent $50.00 instead of pulling out the credit card etc. Anything over the limit that was not absolutely needed did not get bought.
Fri. 1/19 Realized that I could measure my dogs food more carefully. The scoop I use holds a bit more than a cup if filled to the brim. Usually I am lazy and just give them full or heaping cups which they do not mind but is not good for them in the long run. I am more carefully measuring what they are supposed to be fed.
Sat. 1/20 My DD16 had her formal and told me she did not have any pantyhose. She tried to convince me to go out an buy some. I told her to check her room first. I was told, "No mom, I don't have any" but I was sure she did. Sure enough, after looking only a minute or two they turned up. Yeah! money and gas saved.
Sun 1/21 I want to buy a thermostat with a timer but til I can, I am going to start turning the heat down at night and back up when I get up in the am. I get up about 30 - 45 minutes before anyone else so it will warm back up before the kiddies and DH get up.

My Boss Rocks!!!

January 22nd, 2007 at 04:21 am

I work part time for a small business man - he is a manufacturers rep for a furniture co. He is usually out in the field and I run the office. Monday was payday and he snuck in a $1.00 an hour raise. Did not tell me, just gave me my check in an envelope like he usually does. I did not realize until I went to the bank and looked at the check. It was for more than I thought it should be. When I did the math, I figured that he had given me a raise. He has done that before but usually tells me. I thanked him the next day and he just laughed. It was definitely a nice way to start the week.

Catching Up

January 16th, 2007 at 01:56 pm

I've still been working at my goal of one new thing a day but just haven't had the time to post so here goes...
Thurs. 1/11 After all that veggie talk last week, bought some frugal cabbage at the produce outlet. I made some coleslaw (without mayo) and loved it. DH tried it said it was okay but was missing something. I finally realized I should have added some dried mustard to my seasoning so I will probably make more today.
Fri. 1/12 Made a turkey casserole that I usually make but instead of 45 minutes in the oven, nuked it for 10. Still tasted great and 10 min. of mircrowave has got to be less expensive than heating up the oven for 45.
Sat. 1/13 Bought dog food at the local per store and joined their buy 10/get 1 club. I had never thought to join cause the brand I buy has a "frequent customer" program but theirs requires 11 UPC's instead of 10. This may not sound like alot of difference but at 18 or so bags a year at $35+ per bag, every bit will help. (Mastiffs do eat alot after all)
Sun. 1/14 Decided to carefully fill the dishwasher detergent "thingies" instead of just dumping it in and overfilling. Worked just as well as overfilling and wasting more detergent.
Mon. 1/15 Had to do 2 loads of laundry requiring different water temps but since both were small, I waited til second one was done and threw both in the dryer together. One less load in the dryer = less money out.

Sometimes when I think about this challenge of mine, the individual things seem silly to me. However, in total, they will save us money and force me to think about what I am doing as I go thru my day, rather than just automatically using things without thinking. I am finding that when I am on "autopilot" I am generally using more of something than necessary or doing things the same way as always just because that is always they way I have done them. Sometimes it is really helpful to take that step back and think before doing.

The other thing I have decided to do this month is challenge myself to work out a minimum of 20 days per month on our treadmill. I will pay myself $1.00 for each time I do and have made a deal with myself. The money can only be spent on me - no stuff for the kids - and I cannot treat myself with food. Clothes, Bath & Body, etc. are fine but food treats are off limits. My goal is to slowly get back in shape but I am fine with a little bit at a time.

Surprise Money in the Mail

January 11th, 2007 at 03:20 pm

I got a check in the mail on Tuesday, reimbursement for a dental appointment. I pay the dentist and get a discount for paying in cash and then they submit to insurance and insurance reimburses me. This saves me since insurance does not cover 100%. Anyway, I had been to the dentist over the holidays and somehow forgot I had this reimbursement coming to me. Since I already paid the dentist, I will put it back into the almost non-existent savings account to try to help it wheeze its way back to life.

My "one thing a day" for Tuesday was to make homemade croutons. The younger two kids DS9 and DD7 said they liked them. The two teens DD16 and DD13 said they were "okay" which is sometimes as high as the praise gets with teens so I will definitely make them again. Even if they are not too much cheaper than ones bought on sale, they are definitely healthier - can use whole grain bread etc. and no trans-fats etc. I almost always prefer to make foods when I can so I can control what goes into it. Yesterday (1/10) I installed a nightlight in the kids bathroom and am working on training them to turn off the main light at night. It has got to use way less electricity to run a tiny LED nightlight than a light bar w. three bulbs (even if they are fluorescent). I bought one of those nightlights with the light sensor so it is supposed to turn off during the day. I now realize that the kids bathroom gets almost no outside light - it has no window and faces an interior hallway. So, I may have to move the nightlight out into the hallway so that it will go off by itself during the day. Either way, it still has to save something over the kids leaving the light on all night. I think my new thing for today will be to try cabbage. I have never been a fan but I love most veggies and the post with the cabbage recipes got my mouth watering. We are having company this weekend for dinner and I may just try the coleslaw out on them also.

Homemade Croutons

January 9th, 2007 at 06:08 pm

My idea for today is to make homemade croutons. My kids are okay about eating salad but switch to "salad is yummy" simply with the addition of croutons. So I go back and forth between buying them so the kids will eat salads and not buying them cause we go thru a box so fast and they are not so great for you. So, my idea of the day, which I have been meaning to do for a while, is to make homemade croutons using whole wheat bread and my own seasonings. I will have the oven on anyway cause I am making homemade pizza tonight so I figure I can throw them in while the oven is still hot. If anyone has any really great crouton recipes, I would love to hear them (think healthy and taste great).

Does My Face Really Look That Green?

January 9th, 2007 at 05:18 am

No, it does not. I just put those new "curly" (for lack of a better term) fluorescent (spelling???) bulbs in the kids bathroom lightbar. My kids leave the bathroom light on all night as a nightlight of sorts. I switched the bulbs out today figuring at least it would save some money over regular bulbs. My only complaint is that they cast a weird color - sort of greenish but since nobody uses that bathroom for makeupt etc, who really cares. I am also going to get one of those nightlights with a light sensor next time I am out running errands and see if I cannot convince them to turn the lights off at night and just use the nightlight. One can hope (and worse case, one can sneak in an turn off the regular lights after they are asleep. Shhhh - don't tell!)

My Savings Ideas

January 8th, 2007 at 05:20 am

I set a goal to try something new each day that saves money, is frugal etc. They won't all work and they may not all turn into new habits but my goal is really to force myself to reconsider how I do things and reasses how I am spending my money and resources.
1/5 Use half as much toothpaste each time I brush my teeth. I don't really need to cover the whole brush with a thick strip of toothpaste. Half as much works just as well and will make it last much longer meaning less money spent on toothpaste.
1/6 Use half as much mousse when I style my hair in the morning. I always seem to have to wash extra off my hands - why am I paying for something just to wash it down the drain? I am consciously using less and my hair still holds as well.
1/7 Hung all our towels out on the deck since the weather is so nice. I don't have a clothes line but the weather was so nice that I hung the clean towels from our chairs. They dried in no time and I just fluffed them in the drier to soften. Saved me a load in the drier.

Pay Check, Pay Check, Where is the Paycheck???

January 5th, 2007 at 02:48 pm

Arrgghhh! My DH's new employer was supposed to set him up for automatic deposit of his checks when he started work (end of November). I just called the bank to check and no deposit. Two weeks ago (his last pay period, also the first time they paid him) they told me that it takes "a long time" to set up automatic deposit. What!!! Since they have had the paper work for over 5 weeks and automatic deposit is something they insist on, all it should really take is someone getting off their butt and filing the necessary paperwork with the banks. We have had paychecks done this way before and never had it take longer than one pay period. Of course, today is DH's day off so now he won't get his check til tomorrow and won't be able to actually get it deposited til Monday. Yeah, banks are open Sat. and Sun. but those are not "business days" so nothing goes in until Monday anyway. Very frustrating!!!

On a brighter note, I did change our Netflix subscription last night to 1 out at a time (unlimited per month) for 9.99 a month. We will re-assess in another month or so to see if we are using this. If not, out it goes completely. I tried to do a price comparison with Blockbuster but all I could find on their site was heavy promotion of their 3 at a time unlimited w. returns to the store etc. Sounded gooded since there is a Blockbuster 10 minutes away but at $17.99 a month, not going to save anything. I was trying to get info on their other programs but was unable to find it. Sorry Blockbuster but you just made it too darn hard for me, so Netflix it stays for now. Not sure what my idea will be for today. There's still lots of day left for me to figure something out.

Do One Thing Different Each Day

January 4th, 2007 at 02:16 pm

I read a book several years ago (cannot remember the author) about the power of just doing one thing different each day. One of my resolutions this year is to do one new frugal thing each day. It can be learning a new frugal skill, making something new from scratch, finding a new way to do without something or make something last longer etc. but my goal is to do one thing each day. I may have to be pretty loose on my definition of new as I increase my repetoire of frugal skills/ideas but I will stick with the goal of one thing each day. Today my frugal thing will be to cut back on our net flix subscription. We cut our cable down to basic over the summer (we get almost no reception without basic) and added NetFlix. It was less than we had been paying for just one premium cable channel so I thought it would be worth a try. I find that we are not using it as much as I had hoped and I am paying to just have movies sitting around unwatched. We are currently on the 3 at a time plan for $18.99 a month. I am going to mail all movies back today and change us to the lower priced 1 at a time plan, or look into Blockbusters plan to see if there 1 at a time plan is even cheaper. Either way, it should save me about $7 - $8 a month and every little bit helps. If I find we still aren't watching the movies, it will go altogether.

What Was I Waiting For???

January 4th, 2007 at 05:07 am

Do you ever put off doing things that you know you should do cause they would directly benefit you but you just keep putting them off cause they seem too difficult, annoying, time consuming etc? And then once you actually force yourself to do them, you find it was really easy and want to kick yourself for not doing them sooner? Thats me today. I have been meaning to send in out of pocket vision expenses to our insurance co. for reimbursement but kept putting it off, just cause it is boring and annoying. Also needed to send in a rebate for a free bag of dog food ($35.00 value) but kept putting that off too. I did both yesterday and accomplished both in less than 20 minutes. They got mailed today and now I find that I can't wait to get my hot little hands on the money/rebate. What was I waiting for??? Now it will be the checks!!! I have no one to blame but myself but am really glad that I finally got around to doing it.

On another note, I was thinking today how funny it is that sometimes the universe seems to provide you with just what you are looking for when you least expect it. Over the holidays I noticed that my DS (9) and DD (7) needed some new pants. They wear uniforms to school so usually only need weekends worth of non-uniform clothes. But with the long holiday, I noticed that they could each really use another pair or two of pants. I had intended to take them to the local outlets the day after Christmas but my DD was sick so no go. In the meantime, cleaning out closets (since I was stuck at home with her sick) I found several pairs of pants from her older sister/family friends that fit her now and several that will fit when she outgrows what she currently has. I also happened to mention my sons need for pants to a friend who told me she had been given a bag of clothes for her son but there were several pairs of pants that would not fit him. Voila, three new pairs of very nice jeans for DS and no longer any need to go shopping for pants. (At least for those two - DD (16) needed new jeans but we were able to find 2 pairs for under $30.00 total so not too bad.) Now, if the universe would just provide her with a nice formal dress for her winter formal later this month... (Actually, I may just drag out the sewing machine and get to work.)

Sshhh...Don't Tell My Son

January 3rd, 2007 at 07:24 pm

...that the white unisex socks he is now wearing used to be his sisters. My nine year old DS goes through socks like crazy. If I did not know better, I would swear that he sat is school chewing on his socks. He is constantly wearing holes in the heels. He is in need of some new socks. When I was cleaning out a closet over the holiday I came across a bag of white ankle height crew socks (definitely unisex type) but I know that they belonged to one of his older sisters. I had him try them on and they fit perfectly, voila - new socks for him, no money spent for me. A win-win situation unless someone tells him that they used to belong to one of his sisters. Then he won't be willing to wear them. So I'm not telling. Besides, he'll wear these out soon enought too!

Hello 2007

January 2nd, 2007 at 04:22 pm

I cannot believe that the last time I blogged was 12/12/06. In my ideal world (ie. not reality) I would have time every day. Instead, I think I'll just settle for a January goal of a minimum of 2 entries a week and then we will take it from there. Part of my issue was feeling that I had nothing financial to say, then I just got too busy with the holidays. My highlights from the last half of Dec.
1) Yeah to my boss for a $500.00 bonus. Very generous and very much appreciated
2) Boo to DH's new employer for making us play "Where is the paycheck?" He started working there immediately after Thanksgiving and did not get his first paycheck til 12/22/06 and even then they had his start date wrong and shorted it by a week. This week is a pay week so lets see if they can redeem themselves.
3) Yeah for me - no Christmas debt that is not covered so I was able to pull this off even on a greatly reduced income.

Goals for 2007

I feel torn about setting goals for this year. On the one hand I really need to set goals and really want to. On the other hand, DH's current job situation does not even pay all the bills and probably won't for several more months so I feel frustrated and unable to prevent us from going into debt. This means using our home equity line to cover certain bills until his income rises at the current job or he gets a different (ie. better paying) job. After 20 years of marriage and almost as many of trying to live frugally, having to incur debt just to pay the basic bills feels like a failure to me. On the plus side, hopefully it will be just for the short term. Either way, I guess I have no choice but to keep plugging along and doing our best. In that light, my current goals for 2007 are:
1)DH increase income to be able to cover all basic bills - accomplish this by June of this year.
2) Add no new debt other than home equity to pay mortage and COBRA ($2200 total a mos. and COBRA should disappear once he is covered by company insurance - after 90 days).
3) Add minimum of 2 new sources of income myself by June - currently thinking of additional part time work and selling items on E-bay/Craig's list. I'm not going to totally kill myself but even a few hundred extra a month would help.
4) Re-assess all current fixed expenses to see where we can cut additional spending. (Insurance, cell phone contracts, cable etc.) Even cutting $50.00 to $100.00 total a month would help. Right off the bat I will probably temporarily cancel our YMCA membership - it is $80.00 a month and we almost never use it during the winter. We can always rejoin when we are more financially sound.
5) Have anything on equity line of credit paid off by end of Dec. 2007 -ie. increase income to point where we can pay off any of this debt.
6) Rebuild savings to minimum of $2500.00

This sounds like a lot to me right now but I know that it is all do-able once I find additional sources of income and DH's job situation gets more settled.

That said, I am really glad that 2007 is here. I am determined to make this a better year for myself, both financially, physically and mentally. I took off the week between Christmas and New Years but with a sick child, sick husband and the need for a guinea pig funeral, I was certainly ready for the return to "reality".