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Archive for March, 2010

Inexpensive Cleaning

March 31st, 2010 at 11:54 am

One of my favorite cleaning tools is the microfiber cloth. They pick up dirt and grime with little effort and they are reusable. You can use them with your favorite cleaner, or water or just dry! Think about how many sponges, and paper towels you will save.

I just used mine the other day on my mini blinds. I did several of them by just dusting with a dry mircofiber cloth. A few of them needed more work, so I used a damp end of the cloth. When I was done, they were tossed in the washer.

To keep the microfiber cloths looking their best it is important to keep them out of your dryer. I honestly, have forgotten this step and they still work pretty well. It is important to avoid fabric softener too.

I have about six cloths in six different colors. While I don't personally do this, you could identify a color to be for a specific job. Orange for sink cleaning, blue for windows and green for dusting. I bought mine from a catalog company called Solutions. You can find them online. These seem to be heavier in weight then ones that you can find at discount stores.

The first time you use a microfiber cloth you will be amazed at how much dirt your other sponges and cloths have been missing. Everything will be extra sparkly!!

Even though I already have six, I'm ready to invest in some more. One cloth was used by my husband to clean his hands of caulk. And let's just say caulk doesn't come out of a microfiber cloth!! They do lose some of their kick over time, but I've been using them for years.

Do you have a favorite cleaning tool? Is is eco friendly? Is it inexpensive?

Not Spending = Cleaning

March 30th, 2010 at 12:54 pm

Yesterday was a no spend day. I like those. This is good news too, because I have quite a few things I'd like to buy right now. I will get some of them eventually, but they can wait. At least until payday!

I've made pretty good progress on the cleaning. I have only two more window blinds and windows to clean. I did get all the intake vents dusted. I even pulled down the vents from the bathroom ceiling fans. My bathroom was the worst. I think I might not have cleaned it after we moved in three years ago. Yuck! They are shiny and dust free now.

While I was cleaning, I watched (okay more like listened) an episode of Hoarder's online. That is motivation! Today, I might tune into Suze Orman or Dave Ramsey online. It helps to keep my mind entertained while I do some of the mundane cleaning tasks.

My daughter raked the front yard last night. I agreed to give her a dollar. It only took her 10 minutes. The grass had really become matted down from the 65 inches of snow that sat on it all winter!!

Today, I must finish those blinds. I will also clean the insides of the kitchen cupboards. Luckily about half of them don't need to be done. Smile

I think my reward for all this cleaning will be to buy fabric for a kitchen window valance. I have the rod and I think I will only need about half a yard or less. Do you reward yourself for big tasks completed, financial or otherwise? Or is the completion enough?

So Proud

March 29th, 2010 at 12:45 pm

I am so happy for my sister and her husband. They are really on the right track financially. The emergency fund is established. They are paying more than the minimums on their debt. In fact, I received an email stating they have 20 months until they are debt free except the mortgage! Just a little over a year and a half.

I have given advice here and there over the years. It is nice to see some of it is finally paying off. My sister is very bright, so I'm not saying that I'm the only one to help them on their journey. It is just nice to see things work out for people, especially your own sister!

I'm also proud of each of you and the progress you have made in your financial journey. It seems that is what we should call it: a journey. A journey because it is not just one stop, or one destination but a series of them. Many of us are at different stops on the journey and the scenery is different too. Take time to make sure the path you are on is the journey you want to take!!

Let the Spring Cleaning Begin!

March 28th, 2010 at 05:37 pm

It feels like spring more and more each day. Yipee!!

Today, I've made our grocery run and done a little picking up around the house. I started a cleaning cycle on our washer, that includes hot water and bleach. I added an additional 5 gallons of water to get the water to the top of the washer. Unfortunately, I put a little too much in and it overflowed from the tub onto the floor underneath! Opps. I have to let it sit for half an hour to clean out the lint/soap buildup and then run it through the cycle. I tried vinegar last week and it didn't go as well as the bleach method.

I'm going to dust some blinds later and wash the insides of the windows. That will take some time, so it probably is my last project for the day.

I will tackle some other spring cleaning projects this week primarily because they need to be done and to keep myself from going shopping. I seem to have a big desire to add a few things to my wardrobe, buy a purse, a new wallet, get a better haircut, as well as invest in some home accessories. I'm sure eventually I will break down on some of those, but for now I need to stay out of the stores.

Here's what I need to accomplish:
clean inside kitchen cabinets
clean outside kitchen cabinets
touch up paint kitchen cabinets
dust intake vents
wash out large trash can
wash van (I'll probably go to a car wash)
vacuum van floor & scrub floor mats
hose out the garage floor

Whoa! That is a lot. So, if you don't see me around here much that's what I'm doing! Tell me about your spring cleaning projects. It just might get me motivated to know others are doing the same.


March 27th, 2010 at 03:15 pm

Wow! I was quite surprised to see the blog changes this morning when I logged on. What does everyone else think about them? I already miss the long list of all the recent blog entries.

The truth is change is good. It can be uncomfortable at first, but we adapt. We come to a new normal. As a family, we are going through change right now as we get used my husband/the girls dad not being at home as much. We miss him greatly, but we learn to look forward to his phone calls by skype and cell phone. (He's still in the states, but is out training)And skype is pretty fun!

Change applies to finances, too. Sometimes we have big goals we desire to attain, that require change and sacrifice. I remember a time when we didn't have cell phones, caller id, or newspaper delivery because we need that money to pay bills and debt. It was a minor change for us, but it was worth it! Other times, the financial change is a loss of a job. That can feel devastating and overwhelming, but after you grieve you move on, looking for work, and/or adapting your lifestyle to fit into the income available.

Change actually is a constant. If you look back on your life, you can point to numerous thngs that have changed. For example, I no longer live with my parents! I've married and had two children. Those are big changes. And more will continue to come as my children grow and move on with their lives. It makes for an interesting journey at the very least!

How do you respond to change?

Month is Winding Down

March 26th, 2010 at 04:22 pm

I'm now the mother of a teenager. Who bought an ipod. That won't stay charged! Ugh. Of course, she's big time disappointed and frustrated. Target says I can exchange for the same thing. I hope that is the case when I show up at the store.

My sister was in town for a couple days. Spending was minimal. I bought her a coffee and a snack. Otherwise we ate the food on hand, watched a netflix video that arrived, used my gym without a guest fee. She bought fabric, with a 40% off coupon I had, and we made a curtain for her bathroom. She only spent $13. It will look great!

We have $165 left in the checking account to last through the end of the month. I will need to buy groceries on Sunday. One daughter wants to her hair cut shorter again. I was just a month ago she had five inches cut off!! I think we can make it.

Netflix is sending a disk that should allow us to stream instant watch movies directly through our Wii system. That will open up easier viewing of movies for us. I'm looking forward to that.

Retirement Accounts are Rockin'

March 24th, 2010 at 12:46 pm

I randomly log in and track our retirement accounts. I especially like to log in on a day when the markets are up!

With market appreciation and three months of regular investments our accounts are up nearly $8500 since the end of 2009! And come to think of it less than half of that is contributions. It seems once you hit 6 figures the money is amplified. Fun to watch.

My husband is 40 and has been contributing to retirement accounts since he was 21. I have always contributed when I worked outside the home. We also now are able to fund a Roth IRA in my name and have for several years. Regular investing does add up, markets do bounce back, income generally increases over time leading to increased contributions. It has definitely been worth it to watch those accounts rise...and fall and rise again!

If you aren't contributing to retirement in anyway, I would highly encourage you to start doing so on a regular basis. Find an amount you can set aside and in time increase it. The habit of doing it regularly is hard to beat!!

Adding to the Emergency Fund

March 23rd, 2010 at 06:18 pm

I have $37 to add to the emergency fund. The money is a combination of a store return, survey payment and ebay proceeds. The little amounts add up!

Old Balance: $820
Add Funds: $37
New Balance: $857

The next paycheck will be smaller because we were overpaid last time. However, I think I can find some money to add to the emergency fund. Enough to get us to $1000? I hope so!

Little Bits

March 22nd, 2010 at 08:35 pm

Today, I turned in our cans and bottles to get our deposits refunded. That cleared some space in my garage and put $5.30 back in my wallet.

I also returned a pair of snowpants I bought on clearance. I wanted an extra pair on hand in case one was lost or outgrown. The winter was so long! I believe spring is finally here. I could have saved them for next winter, but they were an odd design and won't match next years back they go! That returned $12.59 to us.

Ebay Sales Update

March 22nd, 2010 at 12:11 am

I just sold an item on ebay for $12.50!

2010 Ebay Challenge Total
January: $201.89
February: $46.40
March: $68.00

My monthly average is now: $105.43

The girls and I finally got back to doing a little sorting in their rooms and a basement storage area. We found quite a few things to toss, recycle and sell! In fact some of the toys they chose to get rid of surprised me a bit. But I'm okay with it since it feels so freeing to move this stuff on. Smile

The Friend With 401K Loan

March 21st, 2010 at 04:28 pm

Several months ago, my friend and her husband took out a loan from his 401K. She called to ask my opinion on how to make ends meet. It was getting difficult to manage the minimum payments on several debts.

The 401K loan was their idea. Mine was to look at expenses they could cut back on or sell something. Both would give them some wiggle room. They already have a home equity loan. I highly advised against the 401K loan, obviously.

They are living beyond their means and have for quite some time. It is catching up with them. I never heard how the 401k loan was working out for them financially. Until a few days ago.

They have bats in their attic! Not the first time either. This time there seems to be more bats. The minimum to have someone remove them is $150. Which may or may not work since they are attacted to bat droppings. Most likely they will be back. Just find a new crevice and their back in. To really get rid of them, they need to remove the attic isulation, have the attic cleaned and all the crevices sealed and add additional insulation. Only $2000!

They are going to check with their homeowner's insurance. I hope that works. She said she can't afford either amount. She can't afford $150. So, I guess the 401k loan didn't bring the financial peace she was looking for. I wonder where the deductible will come from if the insurance pays.

I really hate to say I told you so. And I won't because she is a good friend. But it is getting frustrating to watch a friend make so many mistakes with money. One of the first being a lack of an emergency fund. It would be easy to find $150 or $2000 if they had an emergency fund.


Ebay Challenge: On Track Again!

March 20th, 2010 at 01:42 am

I finally sold the item I had on craigslist for $15. I shouldn't complain. It only took 3 days. That is actually pretty quick. My ebay listing is taking longer!

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

Monthly average: $101.26

I am exceeding the $100/mo average goal I set for myself again. Yipee!!

Van Loan Ticker Added

March 19th, 2010 at 02:57 pm

I guess it's time. Time to track the van loan. It is one of our 2010 goals, to pay it off. Or at least get much closer to zero!

The current balance is $18,137.47. I'm going to start the ticker there, even though the original loan was larger. We bought the van in May 2008. If we pay it off this year, that makes the borrowing time only 2.5 years. Not bad!

I expect we will pick up the payoff pace in June or July. For now, just expect regular payment updates each month beginning in April!

Update on survey cash out mentioned yesterday: it was deposited yesterday in my paypal account. Only one day after the request. Yipee!

Party On!!

March 18th, 2010 at 01:37 pm

It's a party day at our house. Actually, the party is at an pizza arcade. We are celebrating my daughter's 13th birthday which is next week. I'm taking the girls and a couple friends for the lunch buffet for $5.99 per person. I will need to buy game cards, too. I have a $10 gift certificate to apply to transaction. It should be a fun time!

I'm still waiting to sell my one item on craigslist. My buyer didn't show last night, but said I could sell to someone else. I have emailed the next person on the list. I hope to sell it soon!! I had plenty of interest.

I requested a $16 cash out from a survey site yesterday. I was pleased to find out that they will be able to deposit the money into my paypal account! For some reason, it still takes two weeks before it hits my account. It took me over a year to meet the minimum of $10, so I think I'm done with them. American Consumer Opinion Poll, if you want to know.

Craigslist and Sales

March 17th, 2010 at 01:27 pm

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

I did a little cleaning up in our basement yesterday. I found two things to give away for free. One to sell. I posted them on craiglist. And the responses? Geez, I've never had so many emails arrive in my inbox at once!!

The free items were a non working printer and garage door opener. One has been picked up, the other is sitting outside now waiting pickup. I have four other people to email if it doesn't go soon. People love free non working things apparently. Smile

The one item I have up for sale should be sold tonight. I had the most responses for this item, which makes me think I may have underpriced it. I will make $15.

I also listed another collection of toys my girls have decided to part with on ebay. I started it last night as a five day listing, so it would still end on Sunday. I like Sunday endings, so I can get the item in the mail on Monday. That is if they pay promptly!

In my basement cleaning, I put all my garage sale items in boxes. I have about 10!! They are on a table and ready to be marked with prices. I need to go get labels before I can start. It's still two months away and I expect to find some more things to sell!

Goal Update, Garage Sale

March 16th, 2010 at 02:38 pm

I'm adding $41 to the emergency fund goal. This is from ebay sales primarily.

Old Balance: $779
Add Funds: $41
New Balance: $820

Right now this money is sitting in a checking account. I intend to move the money to our money market account each time we have $1000 saved.

Only $6,180 to go to the goal!

I definitely found some things to sell at the garage sale in the spring when going through the girls closets yesterday. We still need to go through their dresser drawers. Maybe today? I have a cold virus that is wearing me out. Frown

Two Sold at Auction

March 15th, 2010 at 01:06 pm

I had two auctions end last night on Ebay. The sales were $40.50! I'm pretty happy with that. One item is a collection of toys from my girls younger days. Now I have a whole empty bin to use elsewhere in the house!

2010 Ebay Challenge Total
January: $201.89
February: $46.40
March: $40.50

I need at least $11.21 in sales before the end of the month to meet my challenge goal. The challenge goal is to average $100 a month in sales. I'd say three months into the year, I'm doing pretty well.

The girls are on spring break this week, so today's task is to clean their rooms. I'm sure we'll find some things they have outgrown. Many of which can be sold.

When they go back to school, I'm going to dive in with some deeper cleaning. I think the dirt and sand in the garage will be the first to go!

Didn't See That Coming

March 14th, 2010 at 03:18 pm

In our household, I handle all the finances. Yes. My DH does get a debit card to buy things, but I pay all the bills, make investments and so forth.

He asked to see where our finances stand. No problem. I pulled out spreadsheets with balances and cashflow charts. We spent about 15 minutes looking it all over. He didn't remember how large our van payment was. $496. Yes, a big number. He is on board to start paying this off.

Prior to this discussion, he has been talking about buying a new to him truck when he returns from deployment. But now? He thinks we should keep his car a little longer so we can invest more for college.

Whoa! I so did not see that coming. It's a good thing. We'll see what happens next year when we have to make a final decision.

First Deposit

March 13th, 2010 at 03:17 pm

I'm adding $779 to the emergency fund today. The advance from the Army sure helps!

Old Balance: $0
New Funds: $779
New Balance: $779

Only $6221 left to meet this goal! I hope to find myself adding little amounts from time to time as well. As I write that, I realize I can add the interest the emergency fund earns each month too. Cool.

Ebay update: both auctions have bids!

A New Focus

March 12th, 2010 at 04:24 pm

It does feel weird to not be so focused on the home equity loan. It's just gone. Ashes to ashes. Poof!

Now, it is time to refocus. At least I have other goals and know where to go. I'm not lost. Part of refocusing will be updating the blog sidebar with a new ticker, maybe two. It's like a reinvention on the Creditcardfree Personal Finance Blog!

The next stop on the journey is savings. Emergencies and college. And that college one is hard to look at. I'm not entirely sure what the goal is, but we are just going to save what we can. We only have about 5 years until our oldest daughter graduates high school. In savings terms, that really isn't long.

We do have an emergency fund, but we just feel the need to add to it. The job is stable, but the location changes. A larger EF helps cushion the move. Like bubble wrap!

The college savings will be automated. We will put $167 per month into each daughter's Educational Savings Account (ESA). These are already established and previously funded. I won't talk much about this goal, because like retirement they will be on autopilot starting this month. I like autopilot!!

I will keep you updated with the amounts that I add to our emergency fund over the remainder of the year. Our 2010 goal is to add $7000. Expect to see a ticker soon.

It's Paid Off!!

March 11th, 2010 at 01:41 pm

The home equity loan is PAID OFF!!

I have tried to log into our account with the mortgage company and it seems not to exist any I'm taking that as the official sign!!

The loan was taken out 3 years 5 months ago when we purchased our current home. We made a plan January 2009 to get it completely paid off. And now here we are!

Only debt now: the mortgage and our van loan...which we will start working on this year. Smile

Thanks for cheering us(me) on along the way!!

Oops! Bigger Paycheck

March 10th, 2010 at 06:13 pm

Payday is just around the corner! My husband's paycheck is larger than usual by over $400. It is a mistake.

The Army didn't realize he left the combat zone and kept paying some special pays! They are aware of it now, so the following check at the beginning of April will be $400 less than usual. In the end, it really is an advance!!

I will just add some money to the emergency fund early. No complaints here!

Payoff Check in the Mail

March 9th, 2010 at 01:51 pm

The certified check that I ordered for our home equity loan payoff arrived in the mail yesterday. Today it is going back out in the mail to the mortgage company!! The processing center is less than two miles down the road from my house, so I expect they will receive it tomorrow. Maybe by Thursday I can log on and see a zero balance. Smile

Start Your Engines!

March 8th, 2010 at 02:40 pm

I'm back listing on ebay this week. Only two listings. My goal is an average of $100 per month. Since January was a good month, I was able to slack off a bit in February. I need at least $52 in sales this month to keep pace with the goal.

Wish me luck!!

2010 Ebay Challenge Totals
January: $201.89
February: $46.40

Travel = Money

March 7th, 2010 at 02:43 pm

My husband traveled quite a bit this last month for the Army. He spent less than his per diem for both trips. We are now expecting about $235 next week.

The money will be saved since we are using the next few months to add to our emergency fund. Yipee!!

Waiting on Certified Check

March 6th, 2010 at 03:22 pm

We are still waiting to receive the certified check we ordered earlier this week. Maybe today in the mail? Please.

The check is to pay off the final amount on our home equity loan. So, we are still in waiting mode. Wait. Wait. Wait.

Update: No check in the mail.

Paid Our Own Real Estate Taxes

March 5th, 2010 at 01:58 pm

About 5 months ago, I inquired with our mortgage company about deleting our escrow account. We were eligible!

I have been saving money on a monthly basis towards our real estate tax bill ever since. They are due this month, and I just made the payment without the mortgage middleman for the first time. It feels great!!

Since it was the first time I made the payment with the county I was given the option to be notified by email when taxes are due. I signed up. I had marked the dates on my electronic calendar, but it doesn't hurt to have another reminder. I don't want to lose the house because of an unpaid tax bill!

If your eligible, I would highly recommend paying your own taxes! You pay your other bills on time, right? Why can't you pay this one?

Just Organizing

March 4th, 2010 at 10:07 pm

Spring cleaning gets me into organizing! Although, I didn't plan this one.

Yesterday, I went looking for a specific photo of my daughters that I would like to get up on the wall. I found it! In the process, I realized I should get the photos from 2003-2006 a little better organized. Luckily for me, most of them were dated.

I have pulled the pictures from their processing envelopes, seperated the double prints, thrown out the negatives, and stacked them by year. Next step, was to organize the year from January through December. Once I have them by year, I keep them in archival photo boxes. I'm realizing I may eventually want to pull some pictures for some type of album. I've seen some VERY cute pictures of my kids in the last few hours!

This was a free activity for me and as a result I had another no spend day. Third day in a row!

Other Updates

March 3rd, 2010 at 10:04 pm

I typed an entry and lost it. Here's the condensed version:

1) Pinecone survey payment $3.00. Paid by Paypal. Love how quick it is.
2) Shopped for shoes. Bought nothing. Now two no spend days in a row.
3) As part of my spring cleaning: cleaned my washer with bleach and washed out garbage can.
4) Not motivated to do ebay right now. Have lots of items. Deciding on date with neighbors for garage sale. Need snow to melt and warmer temperatures.

Update: Home Equity Loan Payoff

March 2nd, 2010 at 04:09 pm

Our regular payment did go through with the mortgage company yesterday and our new balance is $82.19. Yipee.

Um...not sure why the ticker on my sidebar is not cooperating. I even tried making a new one and it did the same thing. Ugh!!

I called for our payoff amount which is now $82.69. Wow! Interest of $0.50. I ordered our certified check for that amount and it will be sent out tomorrow. We bank online so I don't have a bank to walk into and request the funds. I'm hoping the mail is super fast!

Once the check arrives, I'll get it sent down the street to the processing center about a mile from my house. I'm looking forward to logging in to our account and seeing that big fat zero.

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