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Archive for September, 2008

Calm During the Storm

September 30th, 2008 at 05:49 pm

Somehow I cannot seem to find it in me to get all worked up about the current financial mess this country is in. I guess it is because I feel like we have been in our own personal financial mess for the past 2 years (DH underemployed and no real job stability) and yet we are still hanging in there, paying our bills and not incurring any more real debt. We are still 20+ years from retirement so I don't worry like crazy if our retirement accounts go up, go down etc. I figure things will have gone thru at least a couple more cycles between now and then. I get that this is more than just a down cycle, but I cannot control it and on some level I refuse to worry about things I cannot control. I can only control my own little financial world by maximizing how we use every dollar we do earn and minimizing debt. Even that is not always under control as expenses like my DD's fender bender pop-up. That's why I think it is so important to spend less than you earn, and do it consistently. I have not gotten a statement from our 401K showing the current down market. I make it a point not to log on and check on a daily or even weekly basis. Again, my attitude is why worry about what I cannot change. We are invested in a fund that I believe in so I also believe it will go back up when the market goes back up eventually. I guess my only great regret right now is that I don't have any real excess cash to buy at a bargain price. So, I may be stressed about other things but I am not stressing about what is going on in the financial markets. Call me crazy, but at least I am sleeping well at night.

Take that Wrinkles! (With thanks to CVS)

September 24th, 2008 at 04:58 pm

My new favorite word is going to be "raincheck". I went to CVS on Sunday to take advantage of the current weeks deals. One was a Loreal anti-wrinkle serum on sale for $11.99 with $11.99 back in bonus bucks - basically free. Definitely worth trying for free. Of course, they were out. I usually would not think to ask but there was a sales girl right in the aisle so I asked her if there was any more in back. She checked, no luck. But she did offer me a rain check, even though the sale was only good for Sunday and Monday. So, I went back today with my raincheck. Sure enough, they had plenty, for the full price of $16.99 and no bucks back. I figured it would be a problem to get them to honor the raincheck but to my surprise (and delight) they just scanned it, rang it up as no cost ($11.99 - the $11.99 bonus bucks I would have gotten) and I walked out with it for FREE!!!! Yes, that's right, no money changed hands, no hassle, nothing. I almost felt like I was stealing something from them but I sure was happy. So, my new favorite word will be raincheck. And anytime I go to CVS and they are out I will ask for a ..... you guessed - RAINCHECK!

Busy, Busy, Busy

September 22nd, 2008 at 06:00 pm

I feel like I am always playing catch up. I have the best of intentions but them I get so busy that I realize it has been weeks since I blogged, so, playing catch up again.

We went to a wedding last Friday night and had a very nice time. It was my neighbor's youngest daughter and she babysat a lot for us when our youngest two were little. It was nice to see her so happy and her new husband seems like such a nice guy. I nudged my husband during the reception and said "10 years from now, it could be one of ours". (Our oldest is 17, soon to be 18). I thought he was going to choke on his food!

The same night as the wedding, our oldest DD17 got into a slight fender bender with a guard rail. No one was hurt but she managed to mangle the front end of her car and some of the lights. It is still drivable but the lights need to be fixed and the panel replaced for safety. Fortunately we have a family friend who does body work on the side. I have seen the cars her has fixed up for himself and his kids and he does great work. So, he will be doing the repairs for us this next weekend. All in all it will cost about $800 for the parts and labor, and DD17 will be paying for half of that. My DH says I am being mean about this but I want her to learn a lesson and she definitely feels pain when the lesson is financial. Plus, with his current job, it is not like we have tons of extra cash sitting around. If I can swing the full $800, I will still make her pay the $400 and just add it to her college fund (without telling her - I still want it to be a lesson to her).

Speaking of jobs, DH had an interview this morning with a company, doing something that he has great experience in, selling moulding/millwork. They have been in business for years and sell other products but now they want someone to focus exclusively on the millwork sales. This this is his area of expertise, I am hoping it could be a win-win situation for us and for them. Keeping my fingers crossed here cause he hates his current job (with good reason).

September was an expensive month here - paid homeowners, umbrella policy, car insurance and had both cars inspected. I feel like I am bleeding money. Fortunately, most of this was budgeted for and only a small bit had to come out of savings.

I took the kids to a local park on Saturday for our townships annual celebration. It is a fun, frugal day. The township gets various businesses to donate so they offer free rides on moon bounce, giant slide, rock wall, pony rides and a free petting zoo. There is a band, a business expo and a craft sale. The kids scored free pens, tee shirts, books, magnets etc. at the business expo. Last year my son entered a drawing and won an I-pod! Anyway, we had fun and only spent $7.50 total for some water ice.

I received a check in the mail last week for $75.00 from an on-line focus group that I had been selected to participate in. I am not sure how I got the invite but I had decided, what the heck, not really believing that I would earn the $75.00. I had to log on 4 days in a row and answer about 10 - 15 questions each day. I could also read the other participants answers and comment. It took me no more than 15 minutes a day, so probably a total of 1 hour. I was convinced that they would find some technicallity to not pay, that it was a scam of some sort so I was very pleasantly surprised to get the check in the mail on Friday. Now, if I could only figure out how to qualify for more of these. I keep getting invitations for in person focus groups but they are always at inconvenient times and far from home. This was great since it was on-line.

Yesterday I hit CVS and RiteAid to take advantage or their weekly sales. I have decided to make a more concerted effort to maximize my savings on personal care products by taking advantage of their deals. I spent $18.01 at CVS and got 4 12 packs of soda, 1 large bottle of Nivea mens shower gel (for my DS11 who does not want to smell like his sisters) and got $7.99 back in bonus bucks. I wanted to get a Loreal wrinkle serum ($11.99 with $11.99 back in bonus bucks) but they were out. I asked and was told I could get a rain check for it. I am planning to go in later this week and purchase it, using some of the bonus bucks I already received. At RiteAid I got 2 bottles of the shampoo my girls use for $4.00 (2 for $6 but I had 2 $1 coupons). I will get $3.00 back from their rebate program so I paid $1.00 a bottle (normal retail is around $3.50 a bottle). All in all, I was pleased. I am going to try to keep a record of spends, bonus bucks and rebates to see how I stand on this by the end of the year.

New Suit for DH

September 9th, 2008 at 02:42 pm

Why do men's suits have to be so expensive? We are going to a wedding this weekend and have another one coming up in November. I have been telling my DH for weeks to please try on his suit and sport coats. He gained more than a bit of weight in the past year and I was afraid he would need to get something new to wear to the weddings. He finally tried them on Sunday night and none fit. He could get into them but it looked really bad. So, off to the store yesterday to get a new suit. He could have gotten away with a sport coat for Fridays wedding but the one in November will be very dressy and he needs a suit for that. Plus, he is still looking for a new job so he really needs a nice suit for interviews. He has never been in a position to need to wear suits daily but he should still have a nice suit or two for weddings, funerals and interviews. Anyway, it was about $300, just for the suit. I warned him in advance not to get any shirts or ties. He has plenty of those and I really did not want to be spending even more. Argh! He needed it but that is $300 that I will be taking out of savings. I am glad we have it but September is really pricey around here. It is the month we have both cars due for inspection (have to schedule that still) our homeowners insurance is due, as well as our car insurance. I have the money to cover all of this in savings, it is just that with DH's job right now, I don't really know when we will be able to replace the savings. Hopefully, he will be able to get a better paying job soon and I'll be able to bank more into savings each month. In the meantime, he will look nice for the wedding.

I was lucky enough to find a black velvet, semi-dressy dress on sale at Ross for $19.99. I will wear that to the wedding (it is short sleeve and a light stretchy velvet like material) and maybe even to the November wedding. I already have shoes so I am good to go. DH mentioned something about shoes to me last night. If he tells me he doesn't have any, I may just polish his feet with shoe polish. (Just kidding!)

Weekend Review and Ramblings

September 8th, 2008 at 02:04 pm

Saturday was Rain, Rain and more Rain. I ran some errands in the morning to take advantage of sales at 2 grocery stores. Both are not stores I normally shop, but I do peruse their flyers for their sales. The first had top round London Broil for $1.99 lb which is a very good price (at least in this area). I bought several pounds for the freezer and will probably hit them again later this week for a few more. I would rather buy it on sale and freeze it than pay full price. The second had bone-in chicken breast for $1.00 lb (also a great price in this area). I bought 3 packs, each about 3 lbs. I will de-bone it, freeze the meat as boneless breasts and use the remaining bones to make chicken stock. My normal grocery store has whole chickens on sale this week so I will probably buy a few and freeze them also. I love having a big freezer. It allows me to take advantage of sales on meat and then have a stock purchased at sale prices, rather than having to buy it full price. I often wonder if the sales clerks think I am nuts when all I am buying is several pounds of meat or if they realize I am taking advantage of the sale. Not that it really matters to me anyway, sometimes I just wonder.

Sunday the weather was absolutely beautiful. My youngest DD(9) had her first field hockey game of the season. She played her best friends team and they tied 1-1. I love the league she is in for field hockey. It is a small local rec league and they do not charge a fee to play. It is a great program. They try as much as possible to make it accessible for all income levels. They do a small bit of fund raising, ask for donations if you want when you sign up, and do go around with a donation basket at games. This bothers some people, but it doesn't bother me. If I have a dollar, I will donate at the game, if not, no big deal. All in all, it costs me way less to do this sport than any other. I usually donate $20 when I sign her up, then a dollar or so at each game. Since she only has 7 or 8 games a season, no big deal. Finally, they do ask each family to sell 4 raffle tickets of $5.00 each but we usually buy 2 and sell 2 so not a huge expense. When compared to other leagues like softball that charge close to $100 for registration and still ask you to fund raise/buy raffle tickets, I much prefer the low cost/low key field hockey league.

I also opt out of the snack option offered to team members. For $2.00 a game they can get a soda/water and hot dog/pretzel from the snack bar. I personally would rather bring a bottle of water from home and keep it cold in the car. If my daughter wants a snack, we will bring something, or occasionally buy something from the snack bar. I would just rather see what she wants each time than pre-order and end up having her waste food/eat food I don't really want her having anyway. It amazes me that usually I am the only one to choose this option. Most other moms act like a snack is an absolute necessity and wouldn't dream of not signing up for it. Seriously, if she ate dinner before a game, I wouldn't want her (nor would she want to) eating a hot dog when the game is over at 8:00 or drinking soda. Sure, she could have water and pretzel, but I could also just as easily (and more inexpensively) bring things from home. I guess it is more about peoples willingness to pre-plan rather than just paying for convenience. Personally, I will opt for the conveniece of having emergency savings, (no matter how small at the moment).

This makes me think of my friend/neighbor who always seems to be disorganized and in debt. She will tell me how she has to buy convenience foods some nights because she doesn't have time to cook. Honestly, she doesn't really want to spend any time planning so everything ends up being last minute and thus, the time crunch. For example, if her kids have a birthday party to go to, it is not unusual for her to be shopping for the present the day of the party. By that time, she is pressed for time and just wants to get something, never mind the cost. Plus, this often involves a separate, extra trip to the store, the same store that she told me she was already in earlier in the week. Yet, she is always complaining about gas prices. I just don't get it.

She just told me the other week that she has started reading more because she would rather wait at things like her kids sports practices than spend the gas money dropping them off and driving back less than a hour later. This makes perfect sense to me until you throw in the part where she buys the books that she is reading. Hello, library! Any gas savings is more than lost if she is buying new books to read!

Actually, what I do to most of this is just bite my tongue and change the subject or move on. She obviously does not want my advice so I try not to obnoxiously offer more than what she really wants. She is actually a very nice person and has some wonderful qualities so I don't want to lose the friendship, it just makes me crazy to see the inconsistencies that she herself cannot.

My Financial Boat (Warning - Rant!)

September 4th, 2008 at 04:20 pm

Lately it feels like my financial boat has been in an endless storm. I keep waiting for the clouds to clear and the sun to come out yet the storm clouds don't seem to diminsh. I know that I will someday be in a period of clear weather and smooth sailing but right now I am feeling tired of rowing and rowing and getting nowhere. I feel like the waves keeps putting water into the boat and it is all we can do to bail it fast enough to keep afloat. Anyone have an extra bilge pump?

When I do get to feeling this way, it does help to realize that my boat is still afloat and does not have any major leaks. I guess sometimes in life, all you can do is keep on rowing. It is just that my arms are feeling tired of all this rowing (figuratively) and I just want to throw an old fashioned temper tantrum.

My DH hates his current job but knows that he has no choice but to keep working there til he gets another job or gets fired. I am personally voting for the "gets another job" choice. He has been looking but his industry (building/construction) is still in the midst of a huge econmic slow down. He is trying to find something in another industry but is constantly told "you are overqualified" (ie. we think we would have to pay you more than we want to pay) or "you need industry specific experience". Seriously, if you can sell and have 20 years of sales experience, shouldn't you be able to apply those same skills to another industry? It is very frustrating. When he took his current job he was promised a certain level of support but that has yet to materialize. The office staff seem good at only two things (1) screwing up orders and deliveries and (2) complaining about having to work to get orders and deliveries out. His supervisor on the other hand wants to know why he cannot get more customers. Its like, um, see complaints about the office staff maybe?

Okay, enough rant for now. Feeling much better and I did not even need to lay of the floor and kick and scream. Guess I just needed a rant rather than full blown tantrum. Just goes to show how mature I can be!

I Am Getting Too Old For This

September 2nd, 2008 at 01:03 pm

This weekend (Sunday) we took the kids to Hershey Park for the day. We have been doing this for the past 4 years. My DH has a cousin that lives about as far as we do from there and his son is great friends with my oldest daughter so we try to meet up there once each summer. We also invite DH's niece so it is a nice time for the cousins to get together. In the past years we have been going on Labor Day. The only problem was my kids usually had school the next day so we always had to leave by about 6:00. I lobbied for Sunday this year so we could stay til the park closed. Well, we did just that and I am definitely getting too old for that. All day yesterday I felt like I was hung over. Without the benefit of any alchohol! I guess it was the combination of too much sun, not enough water to drink and too much walking. I woke up with a headache and by the time it went away (late afternoon) my stomach was bothering me! No fair!

Anyway, we did have a great time and even better, it was budgeted for so when the CC bill comes rolling in, I already have most of the money put away to cover it. I spent a bit more on food than planned so I will have to make that up out of the next paychecks but the tickets etc. were bought with my credit card and I already have the money set aside to pay for them. I have been trying to use my CC to make purchases only when I already have the money set aside. I just make a note in my checkbook, instead of writing a check number, I just note CC and the amount and subtract it. This way, I can still use the card to get reward points but I know that I already have the money set aside to pay when the bill comes in. My next step is to open up an ING or other on-line checking account to earn interest. This way, while the money is sitting in the account, I will at least be earning interest on it.