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Archive for May, 2009

Finally Looking Up

May 30th, 2009 at 04:07 pm

Since the market has been so volitile, I've stopped recording our monthly balances. I could go back and update it, but why look at the bad, right?

Today, I decided to record our balances for the month of May. Things are looking up. Yes!!

Some of the increase is, of course, due to our new contributions. We didn't stop retirement contributions because of the economy. It is better to buy on sale, when prices are low. Besides, we have many years before we need the money.

So, the details...we are up by $7,233.74 since the last time I checked on April 3, 2009. Here's to more good financial news in coming months!

More Mickey Money

May 29th, 2009 at 05:54 pm

Since DH's paycheck is pending deposit for Monday, I decided to start paying some bills and saving some money!

There is enough left over to add to the Disney World savings. I have a whopping $453 to save!! But....

I actually used some of the saved money recently to buy us some new shoes for vacation. Five pairs of shoes and three pairs of socks came to $165. So....

I now have $288 to add to the ticker as new savings. The new balance is $1280 saved so far for our Disney Vacation in early July.

I only have two more pay periods to save from, but I know we will reach our goal of $2000. Amazing considering we only decided to go in April!!

I Hope They Like It

May 29th, 2009 at 03:58 pm

My neighbor gave me four large stalks of rhubarb two days ago along with a recipe for rhubarb bread. It just came out of the oven! Smells, yummy.

Now, I just hope the kids like it. It's their snack for the weekend!

Side note: The recipe called for buttermilk. I ended up using a 1/2 c. of evaporated milk, 1/2 c. water and 1 T. of vingear to make 1c. sour milk instead of the buttermilk. I've had the can of evaporated milk since Christmas and no plans for it. I'm using the rest as cream in my coffee the next few days!!

One of My Favorite Commercials

May 28th, 2009 at 09:54 pm

Oh, I'm so glad I found this on You Tube. It is one my favorite commercials. And yes, it is financial in nature!

Click here!

Is this Taboo?

May 28th, 2009 at 02:48 pm

Can we discuss our stats? I've noticed that the number of people reading my blog has increased quite a bit lately. I am writing nearly everyday, so that does keep people's interest.

Yesterday, nearly 155 people read my blog. That's quite a few. I can only imagine what size room I would need to fit you all in!! Thank you to those of you who do read my blog. It's nice to have you here.

So, how many people read your blog yesterday? No judgement...just curious!

Cheap Greetings

May 27th, 2009 at 07:00 pm

I like sending greeting cards. I don't like paying for them!! I've been known to buy cards at garage sales or make my own. In the name of saving money, I've cut back on my card sending. We make a phone call to relatives on their birthday. It seems a little more meaningful. We have unlimited long distance...so the cost is the same either way.

But, there are still cards I send. Turns out a local Hallmark store is closing on Saturday. Everything in the store was 75% off. The gift stuff was quite picked over, but plenty of cards.

I bought 33 cards for $18.38. Tax included. That's about 56 cents per card!! I picked up cards for Father's Day, anniversaries, Christmas, and birthdays. The majority of the cards were 'miss you' and 'love' cards to send to DH when he is deployed. It's true...deployment will rear is ugly head one of these days. Now, I'll be prepared in the card department!

Invested in a Pair of Pants

May 27th, 2009 at 02:03 pm

Without going into detail, my DD1 managed to get grease (and a lot of it) on her fairly new white capri pants over the weekend. Ugh!

My mom suggested bleach. I really try to avoid that stuff. It gives me a headache. Besides it's grease. Don't you have to get it out before you can whiten it? Not sure.

Normally, I use liquid soap for stains. As long as it isn't colored it works pretty well. I started with this, with a fair amount of scrubbing. I also soaked them in a non toxic cleaner. They have been washed twice now, without drying.

Yesterday, I picked up Advanced Shout for heavy duty stains. I paid $2.69. After at least three treatments and a lot of scrubbing the grease stains are a much lighter gray. I'm making progress!! I have hope I can get this grease out.

I did have an alternate plan, if the stains couldn't be removed. Make bermuda shorts!! The stains are low on the inside pant legs, so I would have just cut the stained part off and hemmed.

DD1 is thrilled that she will still have capris. I'm thrilled too. These are lightweight enough to wear in the hot humid weather of Florida!

Thanks Shout! Thanks to me, too! That is a lot of scrubbing. Smile

I Want To Use This Coupon!

May 26th, 2009 at 09:07 pm

I printed two coupons off the internet for a sporting goods store in our area. I can get $10 off $50, and $25 off $100.

Okay, I do have a legitimate reason to spend the money. Several of us need new shoes for our Disney Vacation. Shoes can be expensive, right? Right.

So, I went advance shopping today for my family members. They have sandals for the girls, as well as sneakers, running shoes and sandals for DH. I also looked at swimsuits for myself. Can I say that last part was NOT fun?

So, my plan is to split these purchases into 3 transactions. I will need to find one more coupon for $25 off $100. I will end up purchasing 5 pairs of shoes and a swimsuit for just over $200! Not bad, huh?

Now...I just hope they still have everyone's size!!

Gift Turned to Cash

May 25th, 2009 at 09:50 pm

On Thursday, I sewed my sister a tote bag. She loves the black/white combo, so I made her this:


I included a few Horrible Harry books that didn't sell at our garage sale. She's an elementary school teacher, so I knew they would come in handy!

It was a surprise. But after I gave it to her, I couldn't help telling her about making it and buying the fabric, since I had so much fun doing it.

The fabric cost $4.65 and took a few hours of my time. Guess what? She paid me $5 to cover the cost of the fabric. She said she almost bought a similar bag at Target for $10!

So, I broke even on that one. It really was a gift. Thanks, sis!

2009 Tax Refunds

May 23rd, 2009 at 12:58 pm

I'm such a nerd. Last night I estimated our income tax refunds for 2009.

It appears I'm finally getting us closer to zero, since the military started withholding the correct state amount from DH's paycheck. They were withholding almost more than $70/mo than the state tax tables allowed.

This is what I expect for the spring:

Federal: $300
State: $400

Not bad. But, of course, no windfall either. That's okay. I don't need a government agency borrowing too much of our money!

7% More - I Had No Idea

May 22nd, 2009 at 08:44 pm

We recently changed DH's contribution to the TSP to 7%. That is up from 4%. We also max out our roth ira's every year. I wanted to figure what percentage of our gross pay we are saving for retirement.

In order to do the calculation I needed to know the gross pay. Turns out we are saving 16.7% of our gross income towards retirement. Yea!!

Funny thing is: His gross pay is about 7% more than I thought it was. I had no idea!!

Funnier: He knew but I didn't! Crazy considering I handle most of the finances. But I guess he likes to know what he's working for!

More to Disney Fund

May 22nd, 2009 at 01:06 am

We earn points on our debit card purchases. I was able to redeem enough points to get $25 cash back.

That should show up in my account tomorrow. I will add this to the Disney World savings.

New Total = $992

We are almost halfway there!! Most of the savings for this trip won't be added until mid June and early July...just before we leave! But it will happen. Smile

Free Breakfast

May 21st, 2009 at 02:18 pm

My daughter is in sixth grade and has achieved all A's!! There was an honor awards breakfast at school this morning. Yummy rolls and juice provided free.

Of course, I'm much more excited about her achievement. The certificate was signed by the president, too! Pretty cool. I think DD was very pleased as well.

Our Memorial Day Weekend Plans

May 20th, 2009 at 07:20 pm

spending!!

I've made my DH wait to buy fertilizer and weed killer. I put off buying flower for my pots and vegetables for my garden. We need a new cover...maybe an unbrella, for our deck. It's on the south side. Trees aren't big yet. And we still have yet to buy the new kitchen sink.

The hardware stores offer 10% off for military personnel this weekend, so we can get all of our project stuff at once and on a discount. Since, I knew when and what we were going to buy I was able to budget this. Any extra cash, gets allotted to the vacation fund.

Oh, we're not just spending. We will be visiting family this weekend, too! Can't wait.

Foggy College Costs

May 19th, 2009 at 01:34 pm

We have saved for college. Just not a lot at this point. Maybe $4K each. I'm sure it's a bit less now!

I even have college funding on hold for this year because of the home equity loan payoff. Of course, we probably shouldn't be doing a Disney vacation instead of funding college. But we are. Dave Ramsey would be soooo mad at me!

College saving is just a bit foggy to me. The costs are increasing so fast. How do I keep up? How do I know they will go to college or even where? We'll be moving a couple times before college starts for our oldest. Should I save a set percentage? Do I come up with a dollar figure to shoot for and hopefully exceed?

Retirement saving seems easier. Save as much as you can or pick a percentage. When you get to retirement...spend less than you have. Isn't the recommended amount to spend about 4% of your accumulated balance?

Of couse, my kids do well in school, so I think some scholarships will be available. I'm not opposed to them having jobs. I'm also willing to use cash available at the time to pay to assist them.

And now, with the market the way it is...do I even save in the stock market? My oldest only has 6 more years of schooling before college.

Hmm...as I write this I realize that because college is closer than retirement, I'm feeling the inadequacy of my planning and saving. I hope I don't get this feeling in retirment.

Next years plan WILL include college. I just need to decide if the amount we were saving last year is enough and where it should go. Wish me luck!

Not Bad....Until I Realized

May 18th, 2009 at 07:54 pm

I did end up going to the grocery store today. I just needed to get it off my list. I spent $61.01 on our groceries through next Monday. It helps that I am using quite a few things from the pantry.

Of course, I'm looking back at my grocery list and realize...I forgot to buy the fish and the marinade!! Ugh. I was trying to shop too fast.

I'm sure those remaining items won't cost more than $10, but now I need to make another trip. Don't ya just hate when that happens?

From the Pantry

May 18th, 2009 at 01:39 am

I've been doing better at making my grocery list based on what we have in the freezer and pantry. I skipped going to the store today because I realized I had chicken, lettuce, cantalope and flour. I made salads with chicken, cantalope and homemade cloverleaf rolls. It's the first time I've made the rolls and they turned our really well. The whole family loved them!!

Later in the week I will make a homemade sausage pizza, since I have all the ingredients. We are also having a breakfast night. The girls will probably have waffles or pancakes, while DH and I will have eggs. So, three nights of dinner withoug going shopping!! Hmm...just realizing I should make these earlier in the week and I can avoid going to the store until Wednesday. I was going to go tomorrow. I'll decide that tomorrow. Sometimes it is nice just to get that errand out of the way!!

I've planned dinners all the way through Monday, which is Memorial Day. After that, I will only need six more meals through the end of the month.

Summer with kids....

May 17th, 2009 at 03:21 pm

requires some extra planning and a little more spending. At least at our house!

Our oldest daughter plays the flute. She is just about to finish her second year. School lessons are free and we are renting to own the flute. It will finally be ours in 4 months. I'm going to shell out $90 to pay for 4 weeks of lessons in June. It will be good for her. She'll keep practicing and have 'fun' music to work on.

DD2 needs to take some more swimming lessons. At a minimum I will need to pay $35, unless I pick a private teacher. In that case, it might be more. I think the private teacher may be worth it since the school programs don't quite ever seem to get her to enjoy going under the water!! She's almost 9!

Every year, I say I want to plan our summer out with activities, but I don't really seem to get it done. We wing it. I don't want it overscheduled, but a few things to look forward to are important, too!

What activities are you paying for this summer?

More to Vacation Fund

May 15th, 2009 at 04:15 pm

Today is pay day. I have some more money to add to our Disney Vacation fund.

I added $328.

Yipee!!

New vacation total = $965.75.

The goal is to have $2K by the time we leave, but I think I'll exceed that. Whatever we don't spend on vacation goes to the home equity loan!! As a result, I have an incentive to save as much as possible.

P.S. I found $1.25 in my purse. I've now added it to my vacation savings!

Home Equity Loan Progress

May 15th, 2009 at 02:18 pm

This is the first month in several that I'm only making the regular payment on our home equity loan.

Regular payment is $118.01.
Principal portion was $75.72.

New HEL balance = $6,923.28

Hey, I'll take it!

We're in a much better place than we were at the beginning of the year AND I get to go to Disney World on CASH!!

Just a reminder: Normally, I wouldn't even condone a vacation, especially one of Disney proportions while in debt. However, DH may be deployed overseas in the next year, so I feel that an exception can be made.

Happy memories and family time: priceless.

I Cancelled Disney

May 14th, 2009 at 03:02 pm

Don't worry...we're still going!!

While we got a great military rate for the Disney properties, we decided to stay off site this time. I cancelled our reservation with them this morning. We're saving $116 in actual room cost.

The new reservation is with Marriott Courtyard at $99/night and we get free hot breakfast. We also get queen size beds. The double beds on the Disney property we stayed at last time were so small, DH and I split up and each slept with a child just to have room!! Oh, and we get a $25/night credit towards the on site food court. We would have easily spent $20-$25 on breakfast at the Disney property. Yikes!!

I could get an even lower rate at Marriott, but then the breakfast and evening food credits go away. I figure the credits are worth at least $45-50/day and the lower rate is $26 less...so better to keep the higher rate with what is included. Time is valuable when you are at Disney, too. Breakfast on site is very convenient.

I expect to have some money to add to our savings tomorrow...payday!

Are You Just Beginning?

May 13th, 2009 at 04:05 pm

Today, I started thinking of some of you lurkers out there. I don't know who you are, or what your situation is. I'm guessing you are here for some reason. If you are struggling and looking for answers this is a great site, with plenty of opinions and advice.

I have to tell you that starting an emergency fund was one of our first steps as a married couple. We had our $1000 in gifts from our wedding. Sure we could have spent it, but we saved it. I guess after getting so many gifts, it didn't seem that we needed to buy anything!!

We weren't big credit card users, since my husband had just ended a business started on credit cards. We had plenty to pay off let alone adding money to it! And, boy did I want to get that debt paid off as quick as possible!! It wasn't even mine...well, until the 'I do's', but I wanted it gone.

So, if you are struggling where to start here's my simple advice since it worked for us.

1)Establish a small emergency fund.
2)Stop using credit cards.
3)Pay off debt

Okay, there are some things you need to do to be able to even make those three things work. It's really important to save small amounts of money. Did you get $20 from your mom as a gift? Save it. Did you get a tax refund? Save it. Did you get rebate in the mail? Save it. Get the point?

You also need to go through your spending. Everything you spend money on. Magazines. Caller id. Newspapers. Coffee. Insurance deductibles. Beer. Wine. Cable TV. Do you buy your clothes at the mall? Stop. And stop going to the mall for entertainment. Look at EVERYTHING! Maybe there's an alternative. Maybe you stop an expense for a period of time, until you reach a financial goal. Maybe you need to call your credit card, phone or insuance company for a new rate? Maybe. You won't know unless you call. Lower your spending and save it.

So, you went through your expenses. You have made some changes. Great!! But now, do it again. Really. Keep looking at what you can change. You can change more than you think you can. Think outside the box.
But, remember, SAVE the money from these changes. This money is your safety net in hard times. You have to have it.

Once this money is saved up from your emergency fund you can start applying this new found money towards debt. Yes, even that birthday money...the credit card company gets that too.

Start saving, make a plan, and tweak it. You can do this. You can save money for an emergency fund. You can pay off debt. The feeling of paying off debt is freeing. Really freeing. Just how bad do you want it?

Good luck!! I'm rooting for you.

Expensive Keepsake

May 12th, 2009 at 01:51 pm

My daughters have their dance/tumbling recital this Saturday. DVD's are available to purchase. Last year I bought one for $28. It was worth it. They have watched it numerous times.

This year...another story. The studio has hired another company to produce the show. The quality is suppose to be significantly better. Each DVD is now $45!
Okay, not terrible, but not great. Here's where it get's crazy for us: our daughters are in two different shows, we need 2 DVD's. Each DVD will be approximately 1.5 hours long and will feature my daughter for 3 minutes!

I will get a $20 discount for buying two DVD's, making my total $70! I absolutely realize this isn't a necessity. If I didn't have the money I would refuse to buy one.

I suppose if I had skipped the DVD last year, I might not be buying these this year!!

Ebay Challenge Update

May 11th, 2009 at 02:24 pm

I'm adding my garage sale proceeds to the ebay challenge. So far, I have not even listed anything on ebay this month. I do have a few things I could sell, so I will try to get those up this week.

May Total = $197.75
April Total = $22.22
March Total = $83.13
February Total = $66.50
January Total = $4.95

My monthly average is now $74.91. I'm still not to my goal of $100/month. However, I have plenty of time to work on it!!

Bike Shopping

May 9th, 2009 at 07:24 pm

DH is on his way home from working on a Saturday morning just to catch up on things. I think we will go bike shopping for our oldest daughter. We sold her bike at the garage sale on Thursday and have promised her an upgrade.

By upgrade, I mean, quality. The last $50 bike was not quality. The chain shouldn't keep falling off. We had BIL look at since he know a lot about bikes. He said you get what you pay for.

DH and I bought bikes that were over $400 a piece last year. They are perfect. So, our oldest daughter may just be getting a matching bike. I'm hoping to spend a little less, if possible.

I have the cash set aside for this purpose, I hope we can find a nice one that will be under my budgeted amount of $400.

All Sales are Final

May 8th, 2009 at 10:41 pm

The garage sale is officially over. Thank goodness. Two days gets to be long!!

Today I only brought in $31.75...

Total for two days $197.75!!

I'm thrilled. I didn't think I had enough to clear $100, but I made it close to $200.

I'm putting all the money to the Disney Vacation Fund! The new total there will be $637.75.

The garage is cleaned up, but now I have bins to go through. I still have a few possible ebay items, the rest will be donated to charity.

You want to know, right?

May 8th, 2009 at 01:00 am

Day one garage sale results: $166.00

I'm very pleased. I almost wrote last night that I hoped to clear $100, but I just wasn't sure about my stuff. But, as it turns out, I did clear that and then some!!

Guess what we have one more day tomorrow, too!! Three of us neighbors are doing this together. This is actually our forth sale together in the last two years. We have quite a good system down and we love to chat while we work. The three of us pulled in $575 in one day...WOW!!

Tune in tomorrow evening for the final installment of creditcardfree's garage sale report!

Garage Sale Fairies Unite

May 7th, 2009 at 02:54 am

Tomorrow is the first day of our sale. Everything is set out in my garage, marked and organized. Signs are up, and ads are placed.

May the garage sale fairies shine down on us, with excellent sales and great weather!! It's been raining on and off all week.

One neighbor has been ill, so her stuff will arrive when and if she feels better. Sometimes one just has to go with the flow, right!

I'll let you know how much I net after its over.

Energized About Energy

May 6th, 2009 at 12:52 pm

We received our bill today for our gas and electric usage for April. It's all good news!!

Our budget billing is $127/month, but we came in under budget at $79.07! Comparing the usage to last year, we are even using less per day. It sure helps when the prices drop, too.

Last year, electric was an average of $1.62/day compared to $1.25/day this year. Gas was so much higher last year at $3.33/day versus the $1.29 we are paying this year!

The extra funds get set aside for the summer months, it would be nice not to need them, but it does get hot & humid here in the midwest!

Attacking From All Angles

May 5th, 2009 at 04:17 pm

Sometimes the money stuff seems to come from all directions.

Today, I had to call FedEx about a charge on one of our checking accounts. A charge that was not legitimate for $17.80. I saw this charge pending late last week, however, our bank couldn't do anything about it until I spoke with the merchant. FedEx was helpful and is in the process of crediting our account. Seems that a hotel we stayed out a few weeks ago, sent a package to another guest with a similar last name...charged our debit card rather than theirs. Oops!

I mentioned yesterday that I was entertaining changing our hotel reservation. Well, I went ahead and made the reservation. We will be off Disney property, saving money on the room, breakfast and dinner. Yes, we'll have to pay to park at the theme parks ($12/day), but the savings offset this significantly. I will cancel the other one later in the month, once I positive that I'm sticking with this new reservation.

Today, I'm preparing for a garage sale with a couple neighbors. I need to price all my stuff. The lower the better...so as to move it all out of my basement!


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