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Archive for December, 2008

Final 2008 Payment

December 31st, 2008 at 02:34 am

In my previous post, I mentioned that we have $100 left in our checking account. Payday is tomorrow.

I have just made a $100 principal payment to the home equity loan. This brings the beginning balance for 2009 to $13,899.

Once we are paid tomorrow, I will pay all bills and schedule another principal payment to the HEL. I expect this to be about $600!

We have decided to accelerate the home equity loan payoff by using money we previously had allotted for college funding. This doesn't mean we won't save for college this year. We will simply do it later in the year!

All extra money from surveys, interest, cash back from the debit card and ebay sales will also go to paying this debt off!!

$100 Saved

December 30th, 2008 at 10:06 pm

Tomorrow is payday and we seem to have made it though the pay period with $100 left in the checking account! I think it will go to the HEL, but I'll report that when it actually gets done!

We went to a movie yesterday on a $30 Visa gift card we received from friends. We still spent an additional $12.50 out of our own pocket at the concession stand for the four of us! I don't usually do this, but we splurged since the tickets were paid for!

While we were at the mall, I found some candle pillar holders and a large picture for our family room. I used my birthday money to puchase these. The candle holders I've been looking for and I got three for $15. The picture is large,about 3' x 3'. According to the tag it was marked down to $50 from $70. It rang up for $39.98!! We have already put it on the wall and it looks great. Now I need a new couch!! Smile

Last Chance Donations

December 30th, 2008 at 02:07 am

As we put away the Christmas gifts, I have found several things to donate to charity. I have several books, a couple shirts, a pair of shoes, ornaments and lights. It sure doesn't hurt to lighten the load this time of year!

I keep track of what I donate with a list and generally take a picture. I always ask for a receipt as well. I then use a It's Deductible book to value our donations. One year my donations valued over $1500!! Saved us a few dollars in taxes. Too bad it's not dollar for dollar. Smile

This year my donations of goods were minimal, because I have participated in two garage sales and sold plenty on ebay.

Tomorrow, I expect to make a final sweep through the house for donations and then drive the 5 blocks to drop them off!

Do you have a bag or two that you could donate in the next couple days? It's a great time to help others and also get a tax deduction.

2009 Financial Goals

December 27th, 2008 at 05:41 pm

So, maybe you have already sneaked a peak at our 2009 financial goals on the sidebar...but here's the official blog entry of our goals!

1) Save 15% of gross income for retirement.
We max out our Roths at $5000 each, in addition to 4% to my husbands TSP.

2) Save $2000 x 2 for college
We send in $166 for each daughter monthly.

3) Pay down HEL loan by $7000. Beginning balance $13,999.
This will require an average of $533/mo in extra principal payments. Regular payments are $118.01. Total per month $651.

4) Take a vacation with cash, location and amount to be determined.
Approximately $1500-$2000. May use tax refund towards this goal.

We will need to be the most disciplined with the last two. I plan to send in $266 on the 1st and $267 on the 15th of each month to the HE loan to get the $533 extra accomplished. Since we will most likely use tax refund money for vacation, we will need to pick our destination and spending according to the available cash!

The first two are already part of our financial goals from this past those will simply be continued. How are your goals coming along?

Merry Christmas!

December 23rd, 2008 at 10:33 pm

I'm taking a few days off from blogging to celebrate Christmas with my family. I wish each of you peace filled days!

Merry Christmas!

Less Interest

December 23rd, 2008 at 03:32 pm

I opened an email from the online bank that has our emergency fund money. The interet rate is going down from 3.25% to 2.80%. I'm not happy about this, but what can I expect in this economy.

I can say that we are still earning more than we were by having it sit in a traditional savings account. So, I will stay focused on that.

The account has about $10K in it and it is our emergency fund money. I haven't had to touch that money in over a year...maybe more. I'm wondering if I should put half in a CD to try to offset some of these falling interest rates. The same bank has 12 month CD's at 3.25%.

Any thoughts on whether that is wise? Since we are military our job is chance of a layoff!

Results of Hope Goals

December 22nd, 2008 at 04:25 pm

At the beginning of the 2008, I just had hopes of sending some additional funds in to our home equity loan. Read that again: I didn't have a plan...just hopes!

As I look back, I know why I just had hopes. First, our income was lower at this time last year, we didn't get a raise until March. I put specifics on other goals that were more of a priority to us. Those priorities were investing for college and retirement. So, my mind set was to meet the priorities first and hope to do something about that HEL I want to pay off.

We met those priority goals with flying colors. We funded our Roth IRA to the max at $5K each. My husband had 4% withdrawn automatically to his TSP. This resulted in a savings of 15% of our gross income. We also consistently sent in $167 to each daughters college fund to meet our goal of $2000 invested for each of them.

The hope goal of sending in additional money to the home equity loan was less than stellar, in my opinion. In 2008, we paid an additional $1,456.44 to our home equity loan.

Why do I think it is less than stellar? It is less than 10% of the original balance. That is just not going to cut it if I want this thing paid off two years from now. The math just doesn't add up. I think I also know that we could have done better with how we spent some of our money. It could have gone to the HEL!

Okay, I'm not going to get too upset about my hope goal. I do realize that the additional money I paid averages out to over $121 per month extra. That is a whole extra payment per month! I actually didn't start sending in additional funds until June of 2008. That would bring my average per month quite a bit higher.

So, my "hope" goal did get me somewhere. I did get ahead, but it didn't get me where I thought I would get. My goal wasn't as flushed out as it could have been.

Next year will be better. I will define the end result I want to attain in as much detail as possible. More on those details later!! Really.

How did your "hope" goals work out this year? Are you going to improve those goals for next year?

More Shopping Done! And an Update!

December 21st, 2008 at 05:37 pm

I did get out yesterday to buy gifts for DD's with my MIL gift money. I picked up two $10 items for each from Build a Bear. I used the rest of the money to purchase each of them a pair of pajamas, and a long sleeve shirt from Old Navy.

I will spend today inside because of the very cold temperatures! I will wrap the newly purchased gifts, clean, exercise and hang out with the family. It looks to be a no spend day!!
We have an amazing $320 in our checking account after purchasing a weeks worth of groceries. Prior to Christmas I can think of only $15-$20 in items that will need to be purchased. Not sure where DH stands on gas for his car, so that is a possible purchase.

On Christmas we will travel two hours away, so we will need fuel for that trip. By the 29th, I will need to purchase more groceries. It sure would be nice to have some cash leftover at the end of the month. Does anyone hear home equity payoff bells ringing? I think I do!!

Stocking Up for the Blizzard

December 20th, 2008 at 08:40 pm

We are about to be hit with blizzard like winds. Tomorrow's high will be 1 degree. That doesn't even cover the wind chill. Can you see why I might want to stay in?

I just sent DH to the grocery store to get our groceries for the next week. I have a list that even includes what we need for our Christmas gatherings. I'm in charge of pumpkin pie, a sausage & egg casserole and cresent rolls.

I'm going to run out after he is back to finish Christmas shopping. Yes, I said I was done, but mother in law sent money for me to buy gifts for the girls. Lucky for me I know what I want to get. There will be two stops...Build a Bear and Old Navy.

After those errands...I'm inside for at least the next 24-48 hours! Time to spend some time playing games and watching movies!!

Check Arrives in the Mail

December 19th, 2008 at 03:21 pm

Yesterday, we received our Christmas card from my mother in law. It contained a check for $50 to buy the girls gifts. This is the second year in a row that she has done this, although last year it was $100.

She is on a fixed income and has 11 grandchildren. I think it is great that she is willing to pass the shopping duties on to me. As she said in the card, I will do a better job shopping. I actually forgot that she might do this. So, now I'm back to buying more gifts!!

Once the gifts are bought and wrapped we will take them with us so the girls can open them in front of their grandma.

Home Equity Loan Goal Met!!

December 18th, 2008 at 02:42 pm

We made a payment of $186.32 yesterday to our home equity loan. That brings the new balance to $13,999!

The goal was to bring the loan balance to under $14K by the end of December. We did it.

For anyone else paying off debt, I think it is incredibly important to look for baby steps to meet while getting your balance to zero. Your baby steps may come in increments of $10, $50, $100 or even $1000. Pick a reasonable amount you think you can meet and go for it. Then see if you can exceed it!

Oh, I have big plans for paying off much more of this loan in 2009! I can't wait to tell you about it.

Donations - Check

December 18th, 2008 at 12:05 am

I've been trying to do a few things here and there to help others while out shopping.

I've dropped several handfuls of coins in Salvation Army Buckets.

We gave 5 cans of food to our neighbor boy who is collecting food for charity as a class project.

Today, I bought two packages of girls underwear to donate to our local clothes closet. My youngest daughter's school is collecting these.

Here's the great deal I got on the panties. Regular price, at JC Penney's, was $7.99 for 5 pairs. I bought two packages. The second package was 50% off! I also had a $10 coupon for a purchase of $10 or more. Out of pocket, I spent $2.10 with tax.

I'm thrilled to have helped out, without too much out of my pocket!

Cards & Package Mailed - Check

December 17th, 2008 at 05:58 pm

I mailed all the cards today at the post office. Normally, I would just drop in the mailbox, but I needed to mail a package.

Now, I should have just paid online for the package postage at, but I would still have to drop it off. I don't want it sitting on my porch in the snow waiting on the mailman.

The post office was BUSY. Okay, I wasn't surprised. There were at least 14 people in line with only two employess waiting on them. At the automated postal center inside there was only one person in line...the man using it. Now he did have two packages and it seemed to take a little while, but waiting for him was much much faster than waiting behind 14 other people.

So, I didn't save any money, but I sure saved some time!!

HEL Balance is Falling

December 16th, 2008 at 03:31 pm

We made our regular Home Equity loan payment yesterday of $118.01. The principal portion was $32.11, bringing our principal balance down to $14,185.32!

The goal before the end of the year is to get the balance under $14K. That leaves me a little over $185 to go.

I expect to make a payment that will help us meet this goal sometime this week. Stay tuned for an update! Smile

Attention Military! 2009 BAH Rates

December 16th, 2008 at 02:09 am

The 2009 BAH rates were added today. Here is the

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For those non-military, BAH stands for Basic Allowance for Housing. Those of us who don't live on a base or fort qualify. This money is not taxable income.

For my family, our housing allowance is increasing by $100 per month. I was expecting around $60...but we will take the extra $40.

I hope to allocate this money to our home equity loan! I will have an update on my plans for payoff/paydown later in the month.

My Furnace Won't Stop

December 15th, 2008 at 01:43 pm

We are in the negative temps today! The windchills are like -25 degrees. So, it seems the furnace is running non stop!

Our front door has a draft too! This fall I put more weatherstripping up, and it looked like it was going to work. However, it almost seems to have made it worse. It may even be keeping the door from closing all the way. Yikes!!

Last night we came up with a very clever way to hold the door closed tight. We used an old shower curtain tension rod between the door and a short wall across from it. Of course, we can't go in and out unless we move the rod!! I'm sure it helped some.

Today, I'm heading to the warmth of our local botanical garden!! I'll feel like I'm in the tropics. I can't wait.

Book Lover Gift Idea

December 14th, 2008 at 11:41 pm

Make your own bookmarks!I found this idea in the Family Fun magazine for December.

Use 12-14 inches of ribbon. Attach buttons on each end with hot glue...front and back. Add another on the top of the front side if desired. Easy!!

My daughter and I just made three in about 5 minutes! She will give two to friends and keep one for herself.

We did buy our materials, but if you are a crafter, you may have ribbon and buttons laying around.
I'll try to upload a picture documents are being transferred from one computer to another! Yikes...looks like that will take awhile, too. Oh, and if you are wondering, we did not get a new computer. My older and slower HP is starting to really annoy moving all items to our laptop!!

Quality isn't the greatest,but here's the picture of two of them:

A Reuse

December 13th, 2008 at 04:51 pm

My daughters have a holiday dance/tumbling recital today. They are to wear black pants, capris or shorts with their dance t shirt.

My oldest daughter specifically wanted capris...those are kind of hard to find in the middle of winter!! Youngest daughter wanted to do the same thing. Ugh!

So, yesterday I spent 45 minutes hemming the both pairs of black pants they wore to last years holiday recital into capris!! Free dance wear...can't beat that!!

I would have spent at least $18 on two new pairs from Children's Place. I guess I even saved a trip to the mall!

Good Deals

December 13th, 2008 at 02:34 am

I bought all of this for $9.92 out of pocket. I also received a free $5 gift card to Target and a $2 Walgreen's register rewards. So, $7 to buy more stuff!!

Pop was $10 at Walgreen's and I had a gift card. The crackers and cookies were on sale at Target. With the purchase of 5 items, I received the gift card. I had $4 in coupons to use towards those.


On another note, I did finish wrapping all my Christmas presents today. Yep...all done!

Free Starter

December 12th, 2008 at 04:04 pm

My neighbor brought me Amish friendship bread. Well, the starter, anyway. It's the first time I've received any or even heard of it.

It takes 10 days to ferment the starter, so you can add more items at the end and make two loaves of bread. I'm up for trying it. I just have to watch the bag of starter to keep air out and mix it up occassionally.

I should have bread baking on 19th!! I think I'll freeze one for our Christmas morning.

Part of the deal with this bread is that you create four more starters just before you mix in the other ingredients. Those other starters are to be given to friends. Hmmm...except for my neighbors, all my friends live out of state. I hope I don't get over run by bread!!

Wrapping Station

December 12th, 2008 at 12:04 am

Since all the gifts are bought it is now time to set up for wrapping. I brought all my items for wrapping up to my living room and set it up on a folding table. The basement is unfinished and a bit too cold. In fact, I even need new light bulbs down there!

Here's my wrapping station:

I was able to get all of the girls presents wrapped today in about an hour. I like how they are all coordinated in red and green.

Here's the pile before I put it under the tree:

I hope to finish all the other wrapping by tomorrow. The wrapping station needs to come down before my parents arrive on Saturday! Oh, and I have to clean too. Tomorrow will be busy!!

Presents Bought - Check

December 10th, 2008 at 10:13 pm

Amazingly, for the first time, I have finished my holiday shopping by the 10th of December! I just can't believe it. Everything has fallen into place beautifully.

Next on the list is wrapping!! That part I really like. I bought 6 rolls of wrapping paper for $3.98 at Walgreen's earlier in the season. Actually, these may have been free, I might have used my rebate money!


My great deal today was on snow globes. Each daughter wanted one. At Kohl's I found two. Original prices were $19.99 and $24.99. They were marked down to $5.99 and $7.49 respectively. So, guess that makes them 70% off. Subtotal was $13.48...and I had a $10 off coupon!! With tax, I paid $3.69 out of pocket for these two beautiful snow globes. I am, of course, thrilled!!

Christmas Cards - Check

December 9th, 2008 at 03:08 pm

Yes, I have finished getting my Christmas cards ready for mailing. Just so you know, I don't think everyone needs to send cards. It is optional. It can also get expensive! There have been several years where I have not sent any...just to be a bit frugal! Of course, I kind of missed doing them.

This year I decided to make the Christmas cards an art project with my daughters. I bought 50 plain cards with envelopes for $5. I also bought 6 pieces of holiday scrapbook type paper for about $1.50.

Last Friday night, we sat down to watch the Grinch and decorated each card with the paper! It took longer than I thought it would. We only made 15, but my daughter thought it was fun. We only need about 25 total and I will supplement the ones we made with leftovers from previous years.

Monday, I wrote a Christmas letter. I kept it to one page and just gave a general update of our adventures this year. It has been a few years since I've written a letter and we have moved since I last wrote one!

Now the envelopes are stuffed, addressed, and stamped for mailing!! Christmas cards, check!!

Here are a couple ideas, if you are looking for an afforable way to reach out with your holiday greetings:

1) Email on online card or a letter
2) An index card/postcard(postage is less)
3) Letter printed in red or green ink on computer paper and mail in a regular envelope!

Get creative and use what you have at home to come up with something original. If you chose to forgo the greetings...that's okay too because the season is about much more than cards and gifts!!

Paying it Down

December 8th, 2008 at 03:24 pm

The goal for December is to pay our home equity loan down to under $14K. I have scheduled a payment of $561 for today!!

The $61 is from the recent ebay sales. The other $500 is from our regular income. I normally wouldn't have this much extra in December, but by coming up with holiday funds outside our regular income it's there! What better way to use it right?

So, after today's payment the new balance will be $14,217.43!! At a minimum, we only have $217.44 to go before the end of the month.

In all honesty, I do expect to meet this goal...DH gets paid again on December 15th. Unless, something unexpected comes up, we will make it.

Free...but painful!

December 7th, 2008 at 04:24 pm

Yesterday, I took our van in for a scheduled oil change at the Honda dealership. We had an appointment at 10:30am. The girls went with me. When I dropped it off the service advisor said he had me on the list and we went to wait.

It's a nice waiting area and it was pretty busy. The girls got a donut and hot chocolate. We brought books to read.

After 45 minutes, I see people there before me leaving. I figure we'll be told soon that our van is ready. At just under an hour, I see someone who came after me leave. So after 65 minutes, I inquire with the original service advisor how much longer I will have to wait. He gets my name and says is that your Odyssey over there...I look and yes it is mine. It has been moved, but not out of the entrance bay!!

He says he didn't realize I was here...what? I spoke to him and he had my name on his list. I guess the list showed I had a red Odyssey...rather than a gray one! When he realizes the error, he tells me he'll get it in right away and there will be no charge. Good news!

Good news follows better news...I get three free car washes, too! They finish the van 20 minutes from my initial inquiry. An hour and 25 minutes later, I'm on my way! It was free, but quite a painful wait!!

Did I Finish Yet?

December 6th, 2008 at 10:51 pm

My goal this week was to finish our Christmas shopping. I didn't make it...but I was close.

I finished for everyone on the list except our two daughters. Of course, we are buying the most for them. The main reason I didn't finish is because I need to add up how much I have spent on each of them.

I really want to stay within the budget, so I had to take a break for the weekend to evaluate where I am. Maybe I'm done, maybe I'm not.

$1 Gas?

December 6th, 2008 at 02:13 pm

Looks like $1/gallon gas could be coming. I saw $1.49/gallon last night while I was out and about.

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Here's the article that was on the front page of my paper this morning.

Any predictions on when?

Holiday Decor Entry

December 5th, 2008 at 10:53 pm

Here's my entry into the Holiday Decorating Contest. I'm sure hoping for first prize! Hey, what is the prize?

Here's the tree...I made the tree skirt when I was a newlywed. It's like a quilt and the cats like to lay under the tree until the presents arrive.

Here's the stocking hung with care. Oops, forgot that DD2 added her sock to the holder! That is for her hamster Melanie.

Top of the piano holds vintage ornaments from my grandparents. The two figurines were also handed down by them. They are collector's items...could be sold on ebay for several pennies if I ever so desired.

Finally, the outdoor decor. Not sure if one can tell how good it looks in the picture. Hey, who turned off the lights on the railing!! At least the snow is right...thank you mother nature!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

White Elephants

December 4th, 2008 at 09:35 pm

I'm supposing most people know what a white elephant gift is. It is an item that is no longer useful to the owner, but could still be useful to someone else. It comes from your own do not buy it. At least this is my definition of a white elephant.

Edit: Actually refers to a white elephant as a possession unwanted by the owner but difficult to dispose of

My in laws have decided that the adults will do a white elephant exchange this year rather than drawing names for new store bought gifts. This saves me about $30!

However, I have a little problem. I have sold almost everything on ebay that I don't use on a regular basis! What do I give? How about helping me out, what would you give from your home if you had to give a white elephant gift? Maybe your ideas will help me find something...two somethings actually. My husband and I each have to give a gift.


Vet Bill Greater Than License

December 3rd, 2008 at 10:09 pm

I took my oldest cat to the vet today for her distemper and rabies vaccines. Total vet bill $40! Each vaccine was $15 and the exam was $10.

Turns out my cat is overweight by about 3 pounds. I wonder if this has anything to do with the table scraps my husband feeds the cats? Yes, the vet thinks so. He said it would be okay to trim the dry cat food back.

I needed to get the rabies vaccine in order to have her licensed for 2009. The license is $3 for one year. I will pay these this week for both cats...just $6 in all.

On a side note, my cat meowed very loudly all the way there and back. I think she HATES the car. I'm so glad the vet is only one mile away!

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