Love 'em or hate 'em, we are probably all familiar with them. Each year, within the first month or so of the new school year, the order form comes home. Complete with pictures of bright, smiling children, tugging on a parent's heartstrings and wallet to buy, buy, buy this precious rememberance of your child. I actually do like to get school photos of my kids each year becuase I think they will enjoy showing their children what they looked like at certain ages. However, I do not enjoy paying the ever increasing prices for school photos. I think this year I am even more sensitive to it because I have kids in three different schools and have seen three different order forms. All are using the same photography studio and I have ordered similar packages for all but the prices have varied widely. My two oldest DD's (one in 11th gr. and 1 in 8th) go to our local public schools and their packages varied by about $2.00 for the same thing. Not really a big deal but it still made me wonder why? Then this week my youngest two (DS10 and DD8) came home with their picture order forms. They go to a local charter school. Their price for a similar package (from the same photography studio) was $12.00 more. I called the studio to ask them to explain the price difference. The best answer I got out of the customer service girl was "Different schools are priced differently". Gee! really! I told her I doubted any of the schools really asked to have their photos cost more so I wanted to speak to someone who could offer me a better explanation. Much to my shock (sarcasm here) no one was available. I then asked her what they meant on the order form "Ask about our family plan". (Mind you this was buried in almost microscopic print). She told me that the first two kids are full price but any child after that is 1/2 price on the same or lower priced package. I was also told I could still use the discount even though all 4 were not at the same school. I just have to note on the order form the other kids names, schools etc. Put this in the category of "Boy I am glad I asked". Now I am off to e-mail my kids teachers so they can let other parents know. I am not impressed by a company that offers such a policy but does not really seem to want people to know about it. Not to worry, I will take care of that job for them! They can thank me later!
Archive for September, 2007
Wednesday is my usual day to hit the grocery store to stock up and take advantage of whatever is on sale that week. I am working on buying what is on sale and stocking up rather than buying as needed for most non-perisables. I do feel like this is saving me some money but it is hard to quantify. Anyway, this week my regular store had several great coupons $5.00 off $40, free 6 pack of water, and free can of coffee. A new competitor opened up down the road and they are trying to maintain customer loyalty. Works for me cause I like them better anyway, just don't tell. Let em keep guessing and giving away extra freebies. In addition to those deals they would triple up to 4 coupons (under 99cents each). I got a free Suave deoderant (1.79 less a tripled 60cent coupon) free Quaker oatmeal (on sale for $1.50 less 50 cent tripled coupon) and two more such deals that I forget right now. All in all, my total before discounts and coupons came to $111 and after, $57.00 I was very pleased. Add to this the fact that I earned a 10% discount certificate off next shopping order and another $1.00 off coupon - a great shopping/savings day. Too bad I can't seem to do that well every week but I love it when it does happen. It also reminded me why it pays me to clip all coupons for things I might use but I will blog about that later.
One of my goals this summer was to paint my oldest 2 DD's rooms (after all, I had bought the paint 2 years ago!). I can finally report that I am in the home stretch - finished the oldest's room (DD16) and just have a bit more sponging to do on DD14's. Her walls are totally painted and all the woodwork but we are sponging it about 1/3 up (like to chair rail height) and finishing with a 2" wide stripe of one of the sponged colors. I have just one part of a wall left to sponge but it is currently behind her new (from a garage sale) desk. I need to get someone to help me move the desk to its final spot (now that it has been painted) but DH is out of commission for the moment. He pulled something in his arm/shoulder last week and it is still bothering him. I really don't want him to make it worse - it is bad enough that he refuses to take the doctors advice to rest it and ice it. Anyway, the desk is solid oak and came in three pieces. None of which I am capable of moving myself. Luckily, I have great neighbors on either side. Both of them better hide today cause I will probably ask whichever one I see first to help me out with this. Actually, I am sure that they won't mind. Both were willing to tromp thru the woods in the freezing weather with me when our dog was lost back in March. What is moving a bit of furniture compared to spending hours freezing your behind off in the woods? Boy do I count myself lucky to have such great neighbors.
Anyway, once I get the furniture moved I can finish her room. I am taking the concept of summer literally - so that gives me a few more days to reach my goal of being done before summer is over (ie. by Sept. 20th) (or is that actually the first day of fall?) All this painting has got me wanting to get more done. We have bathrooms that have not been painted since we moved in 8 years ago. I am going to hit those next (cause they are relatively small and don't involve moving furniture) and then move on to the two other kids rooms. My goal is to accomplish the painting of the bathrooms without spending a lot more money on paint. I want to paint them both some shade of blue so I can do at least one with leftover paint from my son's room (a sort of soft baby blue) or my DH's office in the basement (a darker blue with a touch of grey or slate in it.) I can also combine if needed to create my own shade. I have done this before with much success. So much so that someone asked me what color I had used cause they wanted to duplicate it. I laughed first and then told them good luck with that and explained. I also saw yesterday that a local t-shirt/sweatshirt outlet has a room where they sell partially used cans of paint for around $2.50 or so a can. This could also be a great source for any other small room if they have a color I like. It seems to be stuff people have either used a bit of or did not like or was mixed wrong for what someone wanted. I will definitely have to check into this further. It could be an interesting frugal source for small projects.
Boy was last week an expensive week around our house. I took our dog to get spayed on Thursday - $609.00. It was more expensive than usual because she was over 1 yr and over 100 lbs. (We had been advised by both breeder and vet to not to get her spayed at the usual 6 months of age.) I new this would be an upcoming expense so I have the money already sitting in the savings account to pay for it. I put it on my cc (no balance carried on this) to get the reward points but it will be paid in full when the bill comes in. Then our car insurance, homeowners insurance and additional liability policy were all due to be paid this week. We do not have the bank escrow for taxes and homeowners - I prefer to pay ourselves - makes me more aware of what we are spending on it and work to keep costs down. Anyway, that added up to at least an additional $1500. Actually would be more if I paid the entire car insurance bill at one pop but I pay it quarterly right now because I do not want to totally deplete our emergency fund just for this. Again, I new these expenses were coming up so I had worked hard to set aside the money in advance. While I hate paying large bills, it feels so much better knowing that we have the money to pay them and are not depleting savings to do so. This time last year DH was still unemployed and these bills all had to be paid out of savings. This year our savings is lower (it was depleted by the unemployment period) but I am working hard to get it back up there. Progress seems slow at times but it is steadily inching up and I am working extra hard to make sure to set the money aside for all new expenses rather than having to pay out of savings. Oh, I almost forgot. We took DH's truck in for inspection last week also. That plus an oil change and a few minor things on the car cost $191.00. I put that on the credit card also but I will be getting paid before this bill is due and will also have the money set aside. Now my goal is to somehow set aside, or even better, earn extra for 4 new tires for my car and 2 new for DH. All of our tires passed inspection but we will both be needing new ones in the next 3-4 months. So, my goal will be to have the money ahead of time. I am going to try to re-energize myself to sell more of DH's car care accessories (that he sells at the flea market) on E-bay and earn enough for at least a portion of the tires. I figure if I blog about this goal, I am way more likely to seriously work to make it happen.
I took my oldest DD to the dentist today. She just got her braces off her top teeth a few weeks ago and we had some discoloration issues to deal with. These were issues she had before the braces went on - staining and white areas due to too much fluoride in the water when she was really young. We knew beforehand that we would have to deal with it when the braces came off. She went two weeks ago and the dentist tried some microabrasion to with success. At the time he was only able to do her 6 front teeth due to time constraints so this was the second appointment to finish the other top teeth. I was under the impression that I would owe another $90 for todays visit but he told me we had already paid in full for all the top teeth at the last appointment. The check I had written then was for all the top teeth, not just the 6 he did. That made me very happy - $90 in our pocket rather than back out like I was expecting. I will have to make a point to transfer it to the emergency fund, otherwise it will just vanish into regular spending. It is amazing how money seems to have a way of doing that if you are not careful.
After taking last week off to get things done around the house, I am back to work this week. I am 85% done the painting on my daughter's rooms and will make myself finish by this coming weekend. This week will be a busy week at my house - we have family coming to dinner for the Jewish New Year and lots of straightening up and cooking to do. My less than frugal DH's response is just order something but I am not going to spend $50 - $100 on ordering food when I can make it myself for way less. Sometimes I feel like his response to any difficulty is spend money, rather than being creative and finding another way. I really do think that without me he would be like his two brothers - 1 always in debt and broke with nothing to show for it, the other with a huge house and many trips, fancy clothes etc. but with huge debt to match. Their father was not this way at all but their mother sure was. Boy did she teach them well the lesson of instant gratification - too bad she didn't teach them about delayed gratification and saving. Sorry for the rant, just the thought of seeing them this week gets me started. I hate being judged (and found lacking) by people like this. Yes, my house is smaller, my clothes are plainer but my debt is also way smaller - like not even in the same zip code.
My friend whose home was up for sheriffs sale has still not mentioned it but I know (again by checking the county web sites) that they have had the proceedings stayed. I am not sure if that is a permanent fix for them of just temporary but I am happy for her that they will not be faced with eviction soon. Her DH will be starting a new job next week making at least $10,000 more a year and she just found a part time job. All this is good news in terms of paying their bills but I wonder if they have learned anything. She is already talking about being able to take a real vacation and getting a cleaning lady since she won't be home as much. What!!! How about paying all your bills and then starting an emergency fund, a college fund for your three kids, retirement accounts!!! She is truly a good friend and has been through a lot with me but her attitude toward money just makes me crazy. We are definitely not on the same wavelength when it comes to finances.
I took one of my dogs to the vet today for her annual check-up and shots. She needed two bosters, had a cut on her shoulder that requires antibiotics (she scratched it and got it infected) and her "glands" needed attention (if you are a dog owner who has ever had to deal with this, you know what I mean. If not, remain blissfully unaware - you do not want to know!) The whole visit lasted less than 30 minutes and cost me $271.00. Wow! $100 of this was for a years supply of heartworm medication and at least $40.00 was for medications for the infection but still! On top of this, I have been needing to schedule to get her spayed. This will be done next week to the tune of at least $500.00 (she is more expensive due to her size). I already have the money put aside for the spay but still, I was not expecting to have to pay over $800 this month just in vet bills. My other dog needs to go for a check up but I think I will put it off a week or two and have a chance to set the money aside. I may even check out another vet. I like two of the vets in our current practice but I still have some bad feelings from when my dog got away from them back in March. I have been told by other neighbors who used them that they switched and have found several other vets they like who were less expensive. I am having the current vet do the spay (with one of the two vets I really like doing the surgery) but after this I think it is time to look to other options. I love my dogs and they are like children to me but if I can get them equal or better care for less money than I am going to.
I took this week off from work and am trying to finish my painting project from this summer. I still have a bit to do in each of my DD's rooms and then on to some sewing of curtains, duvet covers etc. to finish up. There is no way I will be able to get to the sewing this week but I am trying my hardest to be finished with all of the painting by Sunday. I have been working on it each day but I also have a lot of things scheduled this week like Dr's appts. for the kids, orthodontist, vet etc. I had two kids to the doctor yesterday for well checks. I told them they were lucky I did not bring them to the vet or show up at the pediatrician with the dogs. Thats the way I have been feeling this week - too much to do that it is hard to keep it all straight. But, so far, so good - all the right people have been to the right places at the right times! My youngest two DD8 and DS10 had back to school night last night. My DD8 has the same teacher my son had and I really like him so she should have a good year. My DS10 has two teachers that my older DD's have had and I like them both, plus a new science/social studies teacher who seems really good with the kids so I think he will also have a very good year. Both do well in school anyway but it really helps motivate them when they really like the teachers. On a financial front, we are slowly moving along, paying off the home equity line of credit from when DH was out of work. It is still over $11,000 but I am trying to chip away at it each month. I am also working to rebuild our emergency fund back to a point where I feel comfortable (minium $5000). It was over that but I knew this would be temporary - had to pay close to $4000 in school/property taxes in late August and I had the money sitting in the account for that bill. I currently have a bit over $3000 left in the emergency fund but both my car and DH's are due for inspection this month and I am not sure what they will need. We are pretty sure DH's will need new tires. We also have our homeowners insurance and auto insurance due this month. I will have the money to cover all but it will cause a hit (hopefully not too seriously) to the emergency fund balance. Once all this spendy stuff is over I will re-evaluate the balance and see how far we need to go to reach the $5000 mark. It seems like slow going but I am making steady progress. Each pay period for DH I round his pay down to the nearest $100 and that leaves an extra $36.00 which I immediately transfer to the emergency fund. Plus, if I feel we are doing really well with spending during a week (as in not having a lot of expenses) I will transfer another $25 to $50 that week. So, I am saving at least $100 a month to the e-fund. Just wish it could be more.
I am still wondering what is going on with my friend whose house is up for sheriffs sale. She still has not mentioned it and talks like all is fine. She even called me to ask for recommendations on where to have her daughters party - again! I told her I was not the one to ask as I have all parties at home but I would be happy to help with ideas if she wanted to do an at home party. She said no, just thought I might have some input based on parties my kids had attended. I don't know if she is in denial, really clueless or what. If I were her, I would be totally freaked out! If she is, she hides it really well. I still feel really bad for her but on the other hand, I keep wanting to shake her and ask what she is doing to fix the situation. She has a part-time job working nights at a local dept. store. The kids are back in school now - surely she could take on some more day hours to at least have a bit of extra money to throw at the situation. I just don't get it!