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Archive for April, 2010

Free Homemade Laundry Detergent

April 30th, 2010 at 06:18 am

My neighbor decided to make her own laundry detergent on Earth Day. She loves it! She made a kit of ingredients for me to make my own batch.

The batch will make two gallons of detergent. I think she said the cost per load is $0.07! She didn't say how much the ingredients were but they had to be fairly inexpensive.

Here's the recipe that I plan to mix up this weekend:
1/3 bar Fels Naptha soap
1/2 c. washing soda
1/2 c. borax powder

You will also need a small bucket approximately, 2 gallons in size. I purchased mine yesterday with a lid at Home Depot for about $5. I sure don't want this stuff to spill!

Grate the soap and put it in a sauce pan. Add 6 cups water and heat it until the soap melts. Add the washing soda and the borax and stir until dissolved. Remove from heat. Pour 4 cups hot water into the bucket. Add soap mixture and stir. Add 1 gallon plus 6 cups of water and stir. Let the soap sit for about 24 hours to gel. Use 1/2 cup detergent per load of laundry.

This recipe is from this website. I'll let you know how I like it soon!

Mother's Day Gifts

April 29th, 2010 at 08:26 am

Mother's Day is just over a week away. It is on Sunday, May 9. Time to start thinking about how to acknowledge your mother.

Personally, I'm not a huge fan of this Hallmark invented holiday. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate my mom. But why do we all have to thank and appreciate them on the same day? I'm a mom myself, and I'm still not a fan of the holiday!!

I do usually get my mom a card and a small gift. This year she will be receiving 4 handmade (by me) coasters and some loose leaf tea. I'm guessing this will cost me less than $15.

As I write this, I realize I bought her coasters about three years ago that have pictures of my daughters in them. I think she uses them as small framed pictures instead of coasters.

This year, the coasters are the right thing. She was eyeing the ones I made for myself. So I think she will enjoy that I made some for her, too. I hope she likes the fabric. If not, more can be made. And she loves tea, so I can't go wrong there!

Are you buying or making a gift for your mom to celebrate the day of mothers?

$200 Allowance

April 28th, 2010 at 03:20 pm

My husband will be getting an allowance of $200 each pay period for the next year. We are paid twice per month. His need for cash is very minimal while overseas.

Secretly,(Unless he's reading this blog today. Hi, honey!) I hope that he will not spend it all. Last time his expenses included some pop, lots of cigars and Subway sandwiches (one does get tired of DFAC food), haircuts and occasional postage for packages.
Two hundred dollars seems like plenty don't you think?

Right now my plan is to take this allowance from our regular spending. I think this is possible because of all the things that we won't be spending money on. Less will be spent on fuel and groceries here at home for sure!

Reimbursed

April 27th, 2010 at 01:54 pm

My husband's travel expenditures from his last trip were finally paid today. If I didn't harp on him about someone approving it about 10 days ago, we would still be waiting.

Half the money went to pay the balance on his government credit card and the rest into our checking account. It doesn't feel like a windfall, considering how much over the reimbursed travel expenses he spent.

It is what it is!

Don't Spend, Sew

April 26th, 2010 at 12:45 pm

In an effort to keep our spending down this week, I have stayed home today except for my trip to the gym.

I have spent my time cutting out pieces to make four placemats and four coasters. The coasters are a gift for Mother's Day! The fabric is pressed and pinned together. I will actually sew tomorrow afternoon.

Looking Forward to Payday

April 25th, 2010 at 01:39 pm

It's been a spendy month.

There is something about wanting your about to be deployed husband to get whatever he wants, even if it isn't in the budget! I've been out to lunch three times in the last two weeks and bought too much wine, beer and coffee. Oh, and the family went out to dinner and ice cream, too.

I only regret it from a financial standpoint. We did enjoy ourselves. It also isn't going to hurt us in the long run. Too much! Smile

I'm really looking forward to payday on Friday to get back on track. I hope to keep the spending to a minimum this week so it doesn't get worse! Unfortunately, the Army has already made a paycheck error in their favor by at least $70, maybe more. Someone is looking into it, so I hope to have that money back by mid May.

Are you having a good month financially?

400 Days

April 24th, 2010 at 08:14 am

Deployment begins today. He's still in town for a couple more days, but the Army is in charge of his days now. We are counting down 400 days until he is back home.

Small Money Mistake

April 23rd, 2010 at 01:31 pm

I wanted to buy a used Apple USB wall charger for my daughter's ipod. I went to ebay. I was the only bidder, so I won the auction. I spent $10.

It arrived on time. However, it isn't a USB wall charger. It is a firewire adapter/charger. It will not work with a 5th Generation Ipod. I knew this and was looking specifically for a USB wall charger.

Buyer does not accept returns. I'm okay with this because I knew this upfront. The model number in the auction is correct. I should have checked it though and I would have known this wouldn't work. The description was wrong. It should not have stated USB in the title. Ugh!

I'm out $10, until I can sell this on ebay. Disappointing. But it can be corrected.

If you think you need gutters repaired...

April 22nd, 2010 at 01:45 pm

listen to this story.

We are having our house painted in about 3 weeks. One of our gutters was seperating away from the house enough to allow water to run between the house and the gutter. This caused water damage to the paint and over time would cause damage to the siding.

Gutters are attached to the facia with some sort of long bolt. It seemed like something specialized, so I hired a gutter company to repair it. Turns out it is a very easy repair and didn't really require any special skill.

Our repair involved three new nails placed under the gutter to attach the facia to the soffit. The gutter is attached to the facia and since the facia was pulling away so was the gutter! (I think I have my terms right. Sorry if I'm off a bit.) They also added a bolt to the end of the gutter where it meets the another side wall of our house. I think this was just an extra safety measure to hold it in place.

Honestly, I don't even want to tell you what this cost me because I am disappointed that it only took three nails to fix the problem. Nails that I could have probably installed myself.

When I called the contractor, I said I wanted it repaired and replaced, if necessary. I did ask for a quote over the phone. I ended up paying the quoted price. The disappointing thing is I thought the quote was my maximum if I had the whole piece replaced. Nope. It was my minimum.

I will take it as a lesson learned, which is also why I'm mentioning it to the rest of you. I probably should have had the contractor out to give an estimate in person, rather than over the phone. A trip out probably would have told me that it would have been an easy repair. Next time my gutters are pulling away from the house, I will nail the facia back to the soffit by myself!

Second Paint Estimate - Yikes!

April 21st, 2010 at 11:13 am

We received our second paint estimate today. Not exactly the nice figure of the first. $3,900. Nearly double the first. The second estimate does offer a second coat of paint, but no repair work included. Strange. We asked for a small repair to be included.

Two coats of paint seems like a good idea, but we are moving in about two years (or less). The main problem is the bottom edges of the lap siding, which will be scraped, primed, spray painted and then back brushed. I think this proceedure will correct that problem. We are also staying with the same colors.

Final decision: first estimate hands down.
Savings: $1,825


Let's Make A Deal

April 20th, 2010 at 07:20 pm

We made a deal tonight with our out of town relatives. We will sell them our Ford Taurus for $2500 in October of this year. I think we would get less as a trade in, but more if we sold it privately to a stranger. So we met in the middle! Good for us. Good for them.

I will still have it sitting in the driveway for the next 6 months, but at least we have a plan. I guess they would probably like it if I drove it around once in awhile! I should make a weekly date to drive it for ice cream. Smile

Hmm...can I put this towards my Ebay Challenge money? If so, I don't have to sell one more thing to meet my $100 per month average. No. I will continue the challenge and keep the car sale out of it!

The money will definitely go towards the emergency fund goal. That will help quite a bit considering I'm about to dip into the 'new' emergency money to fund part of the house painting.

Our Spending is in the Gutter

April 20th, 2010 at 10:26 am

My post was lost. My first time ever. I wrote it pretty quickly too. I went to an area I don't think I've been before...maybe the forum login? Not sure.

Our spending is up! It was up last month. Now this month. And I expect in May as well. It's beginning to effect my ability to add to our 'new' emergency fund.

We are literally getting a gutter repaired or replaced this week. Ballpark estimate $150. This is preventive maintenence for the new paint job. I would hate to ruin it because of a bad gutter.

Turns out I will have to dip into the new EF for some of the paint costs. Darn. Once we sell the car, I can instantly replace the money. Yipee!!

First Paint Estimate

April 19th, 2010 at 02:41 pm

We have our first home painting estimate in our hands. Including tax and a small siding repair, the first estimate came in at $2,075.82. My husband guessed $2,500 and I was really hoping for less, so I win!! No just kidding. I'm just really pleased.

The salesman said that we don't NEED to paint this year, but it is definitely showing signs of wear and would definitely need it in two years. We are positive in two years we will be moving, thus the need for a nice paint job! He also said that if we waited even another year to paint, it would require more labor because the areas that are already beginning to peel away would be worse. More labor, more money. Likely an additional $300-400.

We are scheduled to get one more estimate tomorrow. Once we compare, we will decide and get it scheduled. Before this man arrived, I was starting to think we should just wait to paint. However, I think it is in our best interest to stay ahead of the problems that are developing.

Good Purchase?

April 19th, 2010 at 08:02 am

Our van needed an alignment because it was pulling to one side and three out of four tires were showing wear on the sides. I was notified of this about a month ago at the Honda dealership. At the time, I declined the work.

We decided to take the van to another auto store for the alignment since it would be less expensive than the quote from the dealership. We bought a lifetime alignment for double their normal charge. Out of pocket cost: $151.

I would have spent just a little more at the dealership for the tire rotation and alignment. That would have been a one time charge.

Do you think it was a good idea to get the lifetime alignment service? It is a national chain. We expect to have the van for quite some time.

Selling A Car

April 18th, 2010 at 09:07 am

We are going to sell our paid for car. A 2002 Ford Taurus with nearly 120,000 miles. We bought it used in 2006 for $8K. In the last 4.5 years, we have spent nearly $4K in repairs. It has been pretty reliable, but it seems every time we turn around that something needs to be fixed or addressed. Yes, some of it is maintenence, but much of it is failure of the original design. I'm not even going to get into the problems here.

The deployment is prompting our desire to sell it. It is really hard for one person to drive two cars! As a stay at home mom, I'm not driving that much. We will save on car insurance and registration for a short period of time. The sale will also bring in some cash. Oh, and DH has been salivating over getting a truck for over a year now. He will get one when he returns.

We are pretty sure we will sell it to an out of state relative. They have a Taurus and love it. They will have a 16 year old in October. We are going to take it to a dealer to see what their offer would be and use that as our spring board for negotiations with them. Yes, we have checked a couple online sites, but the prices are a bit varied. We also want an opinion from someone who actually sees and drives the vehicle.

If we come to an agreement on price, I will actually have to hold the vehicle for the relatives until October. They don't need it until then. They are also still saving the cash for it. Of course, I'm pleased with that, since they will not have a loan.

10 Ways to Find Cash for Your Emergency Fund

April 17th, 2010 at 07:27 am

An emergency fund is an important financial building block. It may be hard to know where to find the money when you are living paycheck to paycheck. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

1) Stop a service, such as cable, caller id, lawn servicce and save the money you would have spent.

2) Save all your coins, or a specific type of bill. Several on this site save $1 bills.

3) Sell your used cds, books and cell phones online for cash.

4) Have a garage sale!

5) Save birthday or holiday cash gifts you recieve.

6) Get a part time job or make cash providing services to others, such as lawn mowing or babysitting.

7) Sell something 'big'! Your motorcycle, boat, camper, car or collectibles.

8) Simply pick a dollar amount to save each pay period and have it automatically deposited into your savings account.

9) Save your tax refund!

10) Change your tax withholding and save the increase in your paycheck.

There are many more ways to find extra cash to fund an emergency fund. Take a look at your own situation and see how much you can come up with these ideas as well as your own and get started today!

I Lied

April 16th, 2010 at 09:09 am

Remember my post from a couple days ago, where I didn't have any listings on ebay and didn't expect to make any sales during the month of April? I lied. Not on purpose of course!

I sold a book on half.com!! I have over 30 books and cds listed. Someone (a public library) bought one. Yipee!

Small sale, though. Net proceeds $4.74

2010 Ebay Challenge Total
January: $201.89
February: $46.40
March: $55.50
April: $4.74

This sale really pulls the average down. Or maybe its April the fourth month that pulls the average down. Smile I'm now at $77.13 per month. I am going to rely on the garage sale to pull me back up!

Van Loan Under $18K

April 15th, 2010 at 03:19 pm

Today our regular van payment posted with $435.92 going to pay down principal. Yep, we have a large payment, but we actually should get pretty close to paying the loan off this year!

It will be a couple more months before additional principal payments are made, so the progress will be a bit slow in the beginning. But this is where we are now!

New Balance: $17,701.55

Emergency Fund Additions

April 15th, 2010 at 10:32 am

I've paid the bills and have $345 to add to our emergency fund goal! It was a bit difficult to find the funds, but round them up I did.

The money comes from DH's travel reimbursement, an anniversary gift, extra funds in our general escrow account, a couple small rebates and survey checks.

There has been quite a bit of spending here primarily for my husband's deployment needs as well as a few small home projects we are finishing up. I'm looking forward to the finances getting back in order soon, so I can really get things moving forward!

Emergency Fund Goal Balance: $1,408

Financial Literacy Quiz

April 14th, 2010 at 06:21 pm

I took the financial literacy quiz that can be found in the Tools Tab of this website. A link can be found here.

I scored $27 out of $30! That's a 90%. I honestly didn't know two out of the three and the third one I missed was just a misunderstanding of the question. The average score is just above 50%.

Take the quiz and at least learn what you don't know!

P.S. If you are still working on filing your taxes that are due tomorrow...get back to it. The quiz can wait. Smile

Ebay: Zero Sales

April 14th, 2010 at 08:02 am

This is a busy month at our house and I honestly don't have the time for ebay sales. I do have one item on craigslist, but after a week, no inquiries. Frown

I will be back up and running in May. We have a garage sale scheduled mid month. I'm hoping the proceeds from that will help offset my lack of sales in April.

April is a great month to be selling jackets, shorts, spring and summer clothing and outdoor items. I have already gone through my girls closets and had them try on last years clothes. The outgrown items are in the garage sale pile!!

Keep Your Emergency Fund Seperate

April 13th, 2010 at 12:39 pm

I've written several times recently about emergency funds and how critical one is to a financial plan. So, if you have decided to get one started you might wonder where to put it, right?

My biggest tip in this area: keep the money seperate. Do not comingle it with your regular checking account or with the paycheck funds you just cashed. Why? Because you will spend it, especially, if this is a new thing for you.

Keeping the money seperate makes dipping into the money a conscious choice and decision. You have to think about withdrawing it, or writing a check on the account. So often in our society we spend without thinking. The time it takes to locate your emergency fund stash, the checkbook for it or even the account's ATM card will provide a little space to decide if this is a purchase for you.

If you don't even have $1 for your emergency fund, I highly suggest accumlating your first several hundred in cash. Then keep the cash in a locked box, under the mattress, frozen in ice, or give it to a trusted friend to hold. This may be a little risky to keep it in cash, but I feel it is riskier not to have an emergency fund.

Once you get a good sum (at least $500) together, consider opening a simple savings account at your local bank. There are also banks online which you can link to your local checking account. Don't worry about the interest rate in the beginning. Rates are really low right now. Once you get used to holding an emergency fund you can shop around for better rates.

Don't forget! Keep your emergency funds seperate.

How We Started Our Emergency Fund

April 12th, 2010 at 05:58 am

I seem to be on emergency fund kick lately. Yes, we are working on adding to ours! I also want to keep the topic in the forefront for new readers as well since I strongly feel it is an important foundation.

Technically, we didn't have emergency funds before we were married. Our first one began from cash wedding gifts. My parents gave us $1000. Truth be told we didn't really need anything after all the other gifts. So we saved it. Initially, we didn't even call it an emergency fund. Smile

It seems that we didn't have lots of wants starting out. We worked a lot. We paid off failed business debt and student loans. When we would get a cash gift, tax refund or other unexpected money, we saved it. I mean just because someone gives you $25 doesn't mean you have to buy something, right?

We also used to save all of our change. DH had lots of change. We would collect it in a cottage cheese container and take it to the bank for deposit in our savings account. Often the total was $25 to $30. This was nearly every month. Truth be told we use our debit card now and have an online bank, so coin collecting is in our past.

Our emergency fund did receive an inheritence windfall 5 years into our marriage after my father in law died. Yes, we did spend some of the money for a new furnace and carpet. The rest is still sitting in our emergency fund.

Actually, many of the emergency fund details are a bit fuzzy now. We have had one for 14 years and almost take it for granted. It has saved the day a few times: car repairs and deductible for a roof. Since I know several people without one, I know we are better financially for having saved that first $1000 gift.

Oh, by the way, it is our 14th Anniversary today!!

Good News on Friend

April 11th, 2010 at 08:54 am

My friend called last night with good news. They sold their camper for $6500. This was $3500 more than what she was hoping. I don't think she knew what it was worth. That money will pay for the bats, the recent car repair and various other debts.

Her husband also traded in his two year old truck (don't need it anymore without the camper). They are now leasing a Honda Civic. I'm not a fan of leases, but this lowers their monthly payment and reduces the amount that will be spent on fuel. They now have an extra $200 in their pocket each month.

Overall, good news. Not perfect news, but good news. She had told her husband to sell the camper or get a part time job. So, I said, I guess he didn't want to get another job. Yep, he didn't want to work any extra, so he sold the items off. I think it is a good decision.

I did mention she should keep $1000 of the camper proceeds for an emergency fund. She says: 'Nope, it will just get spent. It needs to pay off debt.' While I'm not against paying off debt, I do think there is value in knowing how to maintain an emergency fun. One doesn't know this is true until they try. I just want her to try!!

Large Refund: Check Your Withholding

April 10th, 2010 at 06:55 am

My friend with the bats is charging the bat removal fees to a credit card. She doesn't know if she can make the payments. However, she mentioned she could pay it off NEXT year with her tax refund. I'm aware that they often get large tax refunds, so I suggested they increase their withholding to get some of that money in their pocket NOW to pay those credit card bills. I wrote her an email, and no response yet.

Most people in the US love their large tax refunds. It is like winning a small lottery. Unfortunately, that is your money that the government has their hand on all year long and they aren't even paying you interest! You can change this, so that the money is in your pocket now.

Last year, our refund was $399 from the federal government. I think if the Making Work Pay was not in place we would have nearly broke even on taxes. It has taken a few years for me to get it that close, but it nice to see the government doesn't have access to so much of our hard earned money.

First go to the IRS website, and use their withholding calculator to determine their suggested number of withholding allowances for your income. Compare this to what you already withhold. It generally will be a higher number than what you are already claiming. Some people only claim allowances based on the number of people in their family. We have four members, but we claim 9 allowances.

If the witholding calculator on the IRS website is confusing, you might consider looking at an actual copy of a Form W-4. It has written instructions, that tell you based on your situation what number of allowances to claim. This is the same form you will fill out at your employer to change the number of allowances want to claim.

I bet now you are worried or curious about how those increased allowances will change your paycheck, right? I've used this website at paycheckcity.com for years, to calculate our net paycheck. (I noticed this website also has a W-4 assistant, or another calculator to determine your allowances.) Play with it a bit. Try the witholding the IRS suggested. Look at how much extra you will get added to your paycheck each pay period! Nice, huh? That's your money the government was going to hold on to for you until the next tax filing period. You want that money don't you?

If you still want a bit of a refund, consider lowering the suggested withholding by 1. Also remember to go back to the calculator at the very beginning of 2011. Your withholdings may need to change because this year you are adjusting mid year. The number may be higher to make up for claiming less allowances earlier in the year.

Just messing with the calculators will give you lots of information. Remember to actually fill out the new Form W-4 with your employer to make it happen.

Cash Flow

April 9th, 2010 at 08:17 am

I can just feel it. Spending is about to begin. And I don't want to do it. I prefer to save money. I'm not good at the buying. Oh sure, I can buy groceries, gas, and other normal stuff here and there. But I'm seeing signs of large purchases.

Want to know what I see in my future?

Family pictures
An airline ticket
Battery operated lawn trimmer
Tire rotation and alignment
House painting
New gutters

I'm sure that is a couple thousand dollars! We have the money but I wanted to save it. I guess I'm pouting about it today. This too shall pass.

Boost to College Funding Plan

April 8th, 2010 at 05:51 am

I'm feeling pretty confident that we have a plan to pay for at least four out of eight years of college. I researched the new Post 911 GI Bill. It appears that my husband is eligible. I will have him call to confirm.

The Post 911 GI Bill provides 36 months (I'm guessing this is equal to 4 years at 9 months each) of tuition and fees at any college or university up to the in state maximum. It also provides $1000 annually for books. And housing in some cases. If my husband were to get his master's degree, the housing wouldn't apply since we already receive it.

The cool thing about the bill is that the service member can transfer any number of months to their spouse and dependent children up to the 36 months. In our case divide them evenly to our girls with 18 months each! Or one thought that pops into my mind, use the benefits for our older daughter and save only for our youngest daughter since we have more time. Or the opposite, pay for the first since tuition may be lower than for the second. Hmm.

I'm not clear if the housing would apply to the girls, but I think that it might. Wow! I'm blown away at how much easier this makes paying for college seem. Instead of trying to pay half of their college, we might luck out and be able to pay for most of it, with the help of this new bill of course.

It's nice to think the girls will see benefit from their dad's hard work and service in a very tangible way. A college education. Smile

Estimates

April 7th, 2010 at 01:14 pm

We are going to spend the next week getting some home improvement estimates. We need to have the exterior of our home painted. It is very faded. I think the previous owners painted quickly and cheaply.

We may need new gutters. Anyone had this done? How much did you pay for yours? I realized we may not be comparing the same size house. It seems these wouldn't be too expensive.

Before anything gets painted there are at least two fairly small pieces of siding that should be replaced, too. We'll be looking for an estimate on that repair also.

The house will most likely need to be sold in the next two years, so it would be nice to get these taken care of in plenty of time. Of course, we prevent further damage, too.

What is the Smallest Refund You've Received?

April 6th, 2010 at 08:19 am

Yesterday was a day of refunds. I returned a Land's End shirt to Sears, it was bigger than the marked tagged. I received $10.18 back.

I had a refund, rebate really, from an item I purchased over the holidays. This resulted in $5.00!

And the smallest refund, I've ever received by check arrived yesterday from the lender of our home equity loan. A big whopping $0.35! A stamp costs more. Smile

All of this money ($15.53) will be part of our next emergency fund deposit, since we all know little amounts add up.

Have you received a very small refund? What do you do with money like this?

An Investment in...

April 5th, 2010 at 11:55 am

fabric!



I'm going to make a valance for my kitchen window out of one fabric and some placemats out of at least one of the others. Reversible placemats maybe? I have yet to figure it all out. The fabrics only set me back about $8! This has got to be less expensive than buying new from the store and maybe even equal to a thrift store for used.

My sewing machine has been a great tool for us. Do you have a sewing machine you use or another great tool worth its investment?


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