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Archive for January, 2008

January totals - First Honest Attempt at Budgeting/Tracking

January 31st, 2008 at 08:50 am


I just responded to the post right before this one listing a positive balance of $3.44 at month end. We did not incur any credit card debt.

Groceries for month for family of seven/two dogs/turtle $534.99 (food, personal care, household products all included). High because on the 29th I shopped for ten days. Feb will be lower.

Auto: Gasoline $160 (had hoped this would be lower given amount I didn't drive, but there is still a 1/2 tank in the surviving car) Repairs to burned out car $470.16 (may be recoverable in small claims court if fire was result of botched brake job)

Bills (utilities and student loan repayment)was $651.39.

I did contribute $550 to 401(k) and IRA, $135 to education, and $200 to Health Savings Account. All on automatic deposits.

Interest paid to mortgage: $1,350, amount to principle $380.

All in all, I'm hopeful about contributing to the savings account next month. I did also pay $200 deposit for our trip in May.

Okay, found out credit score ... is this good or bad?

January 30th, 2008 at 02:34 pm


well, it has been awhile (probably three years since we bought our house) since I've known our credit scores. I was curious what they were, so I had State Farm run a preliminary credit approval for financing a portion of the car with them (we paid cash for our last few cars and I was wondering what an additional $5K toward purchase would do.)

anyhow, the scores are 686 for me and 653 for DH. Is this good or bad?

we qualify for Tier 4 financing at 8.74 for 48 month of 9.04 for 60 months. Prepayment penalty is $130 if in the first year ...

I thought our scores would have been higher, but maybe not. The girl at SF did say they were strictly a bank so they had higher criteria. Does this sound right?

State Farm Insurance Investigator called ...

January 30th, 2008 at 07:44 am


I've been waiting (since Monday) for the call from the insurance adjustor about DH's burnt out Grand Prix (1997 with 138K miles)

I should explain that 4 hours prior to the car going up in flames, we had the front brakes taken care of - new pads and rotors to the tune of $250. DH only drove the car less than two miles from the shop to my parents and we only had it in our possession for 35 minutes. I called the mechanic and said hysterically, "What did you do my car? It is up in flames" The mechanic said, "All I did was the brake job in the wheel well, nothing by the engine!" I then needed to go because my daughter was afraid the tree would go up in flames (didn't, but what does a ten year old know).

Well, the insurance investigator said hes seen botched brake jobs which run so hot that wheels have caught on fire within three miles of the shop. Got me to thinking that it might have been something like that, or as DH's boss pointed out - a rag left there with oil or something (surgeons do leave sponges in people in rare cases, so this doesn't sound so odd anymore). So the report on the car (which was towed to a shop) won't be in until the end of the week or Monday.

The good news is my deductible was at $250 (not $500 or $1000 like I was going to raise it to - savings would only have been a few dollars a month). And if the brake job did cause the fire I can sue in small claims for the $250 deductible and the $250 brake job (my dad is a lawyer and knew all about negligence, etc, etc). The only negative thing is that within the offer of settlement, they only cover a car rental for another five days (not the total of $600 that I initially thought).

Anyhow, I should have a check in hand soon and be the proud owner of a new-to-me car (as DH is taking my minivan) ...

Some definite goals for 1st Quarter 08

January 29th, 2008 at 02:01 pm


Since I've been able to squelch some of the unnecessary spending and now have a better grasp on planning and buying what we need, I realize the eed to some up with some conrete goals/plans.

(1) Replace DH's car with reliable minivan for me. Use the replacement money from the insurance company and the gift money from F to make the best purchase possible. Do homework and comparison shop.

(2) Use tax refund and tax rebate for real estate taxes.

(3) $3000 for replacement roof - March or April

(4) $2,300 to travel agent for vacation in June

Next step will be to come up with rank/order of importance - and how to allocate extra cash.

Making some progress ...

Update on Burnt Car

January 28th, 2008 at 10:04 am


Well, I spoke to the gal at the State Farm office a few minutes ago. I needed to get the claim number for the car rental (we will have rental reimbursement for 24 days - in order to not be rushed into the purchase of the replacement car, we plan on renting the car Monday 5:00PM to Friday 5:00 PM (four days) and then being a one-car family on the weekends - which is do-able).

I was amazed at how fast State Farm said we could get a loan through them with rates anywhere from 5.9% up to 17.9%. I had to say that the last few cars we've had were hand-me-downs from parens or we paid cash for. The gal then pointed out IF we bought a new car for $20K and the minute we drove it off the lot it was totalled and had depreciated to $15K, they would pay off the $20K loan as a favor to us. Does that seem like a good deal to anyone? I'm hoping my bad luck of the parked car bursting into flames was enough for awhile!

Car up in flames!

January 27th, 2008 at 08:01 pm

I haven't posted in awhile, as it has been a lot of No Spend days and I've been very diligent about adhering to the budget.

My DH's car went up in flames yesterday. He was not in it (thankfully) and we expect that it had been burning for awhile before DD9 noticed. DH's car a 98 Grand Prix with 151K had just been picked up from our friendly mechanic for brake work (front brakes $248.61) The car had its share of oil leaks and issues, but nothing major Just had a 10 point inspection of 1/12 and it had a clean bill of health (just the recommended brake job) and had two new front tires. Anyhow, I dropped DH to pick the car up and then went to my parents for a birthday dinner with my children. We sat down to the meal at 1:30. At 2:00 DD9 went to the bathroom and happened to look out the front window (DH thankfully parked on the street). She came back a bit bewildered and said, "There is a car on fire"

We all said, "Whose care?"

She said, "Our car". And sure enough the front was engulfed in flames. Tall orange flames with billowing smoke. 911 got there in two minutes and it took awhile to extinguish the flames.

Now we have to deal with the insurance company. State Farm took the claim info over the phone. I guess the adjuster will contact me tomorrow. I will be happy with replacement value, though it shouldn't be more than $3,500 (based on blue book value for age and condition). We at least have car rental coverage $25/day up to $300 (I think that's what the insurance person said) until we figure out what to do.

Yikes!

Some interesting observations ...

January 18th, 2008 at 06:52 am



Since I have joined the Forum at the end 2007, I have been honest with myself about our money situation (basically how to handle the debt we accumulated while saving for big upcoming expenses). I have learned that I need to look at the bigger picture and all of the puzzle pieces and how the choices we make with the small things DO add up to affect the bigger picture (English teacher, please know I wasn't sure it was affect or effect)

I also realized that for me coming up with a budget and making better plans and decisions would free me from thinking about money everyday. I initially thought I would be one of those bloggers with a winsome personality who had thoughts and ideas to share on a daily basiss, however I find that I have NOTHING monentary to write about at this time on a daily basis. This is a good thing.

I have had nine no spend days in the last two 5-day week periods on M-F. My weekend spending is planned on groceries and gas purchases. I have gone through our many of our possessions and made $5.25 on kids cnsignment, donated two big bags to a charity resale shop, put away Christmas decorations in already-owned bins (I resisted the temptation to buy red/green lidded ones that I didn't need). I have gone through the toys and the kids have renewed interest in old items and/or are age-appropriate for new items that were stored and forgotten. I have located several items to sell on ebay (my goal for next month).

For our spending I did find a credit card associated with our bank that offers 5 points for every $1 spent compared to the 2 points for every $1 spent on the debit card. This is a way we wrack up points to use on gift cards at Christmas. I got two separate cards in my name and DHs name and we got bonus points to the tune of a $25 card. I am not concerned about this as "debt" because I immediately transfer the funds from the checking to the credit card (ease of having everything linked at one bank, as opposed to have two different instituions responsible).

I am still tackling the HELOC which has a remaining $600 balance. I forgot about an insignificant $290 we have with Hodges in a fund and I have in a request to have it liquidated and will apply that to the debt.

I am being more diligent about car maintenance and had the $250 budgeted for tires/oil change/new wipers and bulb for one of our vehicles. It came to $220 and the $30 shall remain in the car repair allotment. I am now applying the principles of Mary Hunt.

DH and I were initially in a quandry about mortgage prepayment versus debt paydown. I solicited advise and in the end we decided to put it into the education fund. We are looking at college expeses for five (at least) maybe six or seven. We've decided that we will at least provide a two-year education at the community college level where core courses for an AA or technical skills for a certificate are the goal. Our children have varying interests and academic talents and some may not be Ivy-league college-bound. We are at least planning for our goal. It is a concrete one and more important to us than debt erradication or a paid off house.

I realize that this is a long entry, but the seriousness which I have thought about things has brought some clarity for our finance and freedom of a sort.

Thought I'd share this. Anyone else have a similar experience when taking on their finances?

Weekend Update and Some Attitude Progress

January 14th, 2008 at 01:11 pm


I did the grocery shopping (at Aldi's) and spent $103.00. My goal was $90, but one of my children loves Oatmeal on the Go Bars (which cost $3.79 at our big grocery store chain). Aldi's had them for $1.99 (bought five boxes to stock up). I shopped with a menu plan/list and didn't buy any prepared or convenience food (my goal is to keep it as pure as possible). I did, however, buy a bag of individual pizzas, paired at with salad greens and the cost of the meal was roughly $7.00 (compared with $25 for pizza that we've spent in the past).

I'm still conserving gas and money. Did a ride-along with my mom today to TJ Maxx. Left my purse in the car just to be sure that I didn't have any money to spend. I did walk up and down aisles and appreciate looking at some items. My mother did buy leather chairs for her kitchen set and I had to laugh. I'm in the process of buying my household a new kitchen set (badly needed). I got the table 54" round on clearance ($244 down from $699) I've purchased some individual benches $39.99 each, and am buying the straight back chairs $139 each one chair at a time. These are solid wood piece, naked, and we stain them ourselves. I did splurge too on a 8' octagon carpet from JCPenney's. While my transformations aren't instantaneous, I'm able to upgrade on a slower timeline. Glad about that.

My intentions foiled by early school bus

January 11th, 2008 at 12:54 pm


My goal was to drive one day this week (and I did on Wed when I volunteer at kids' school).

Well, today DS who is pm kindergarten had a bus that came early (it NEVER does). We were out there at our normal time and the small ones were having a race, playing tag, etc. Far too much fun for the normal ten to twelve minute wait. Finally I rounded 'em up, walked home, called the school to find out that the bus had indeed arrived early, so I herded everyone into the van and drove DS to school. Came right home so it was only 4 miles round trip.

I suffer from an all-or-nothing mentality and was actually somewhat disappointed that I had to drive (Where did that woman who wasted gas go?). I even enlisted my mom to pick up the Girl Scout at school so I wouldn't have to drive (not a big deal as she is three minutes from school)

All in all, please with the amount that I did drive this week and the amount of money I spent (-$7.25) ($2.00 refund on returned spatula and $5.25 resale shop income).

Now to get through a weekend in a frugal manner - we're all heading off to the YMCA for rock climbing and kiddie gym tonight. Tomorrow night it will be a movie in and popcorn!

Happy weekend all ...

Question for you all ...

January 10th, 2008 at 06:52 am


3.99% AmEx Blue vs 5.75% mortgage interest

DH and I are on a stringent budget for now. We do allocate 10% to retirement and are trying to juggle paying down debt while saving for the expenses(property taxes and Catholic school tuition) which put us in debt during a bout of unemployment and COBRA insurance)

Would you put funds above the additional minimum payment on the AmEx Blue (which is $200) toward the mortgage which has the higher interest rate?

It is our ultimate goal to pay off the house. I know that by paying off the AmEx Blue I'd have an additional $200 to pay toward the mortgage. But that won't be paid off for awhile and nothing is being paid toward the bigger goal.

Ideas, please?

Progress on my No Spend Month

January 9th, 2008 at 02:12 pm

Just checking in to stay accountable -

Nothing special, but sticking to my plan to conserve money and gas...

I have managed to stay out of the car two of the three days; DKs took the bus to and from school and I walked with the stroller to the bus stop. Beautiful weather here in the midwest (global warming?), or should I say "nice temps, lots of mud". Had the heat off two days and on at 65 at night. So saving some there ...

Today was my one day of the week I am using the car. I volunteer for lunch duty (supervision) one day per week at DKs school. I went to the bank, returned a plastic spatula for $4.99 plus tax to the store (DH has a utensil thing when he cooks things like pancakes and french toast) and then spent $3.00 on groceries (two items needed for remainder of week), went to kids consignment with six items (getting back $5.25), one bag donation to resale store, returned videos on day due back. I also went to two pet stores looking for replacement lightbulb for turtle's tank ($44 at one store! different brand but same wattage). Found exact item on ebay for $7.50 plus shipping. (Original one came from Petsmart for $16.00). Will buy item from $80 monthly miscellaeous household budgeted amount.

So I plod on through closets and bins and drawers coming up with an ebay bin (goal for next month).

So several days into my quest, I am up $2.00 from grocery store return and $5.25 from consignment. Also a HUGE deal: no shopping at the resale store when I made the donation!

Hope all are having a good week.

Second Job Income - Went to Vacation Fund

January 7th, 2008 at 04:10 pm


My DH has a second job under the table managing some apartment buildings for my father. We live closer in proximity and there are a total of sixteen units (two buildings) the DH does general cleaning, painting and showings. The pay for cleaning the one is $75 (usually a total of four hours a month) plus we get the perk of the profits from the coin operated washer and dryer. My father is in no need of this extraneous income and lives quite well and grand in a huge house by himself. Any how, the change from the washer/dryer came to $47 and my dad paid my DH $100 ($75 for Dec cleaning plus $25 to serve a 5-Day notice). With the new budget in place and everything allocated or prepaid, I was able to put that money into a Ball Canning jar on the fridge. This is "VACATION" money for our big trip to Disney coming up in the summer. My children love the fact that the money is there and at the end of the month we'll be able to add it to the savings account with the big vacation money. I'm so glad I was able to plan things out and show DH that he is truly working for something special - a great vacation for his family.

I've decided to earmark my $20 Challenge Money for a small vacation in Nov/Dec for an overnight to an indoor water park hotel.

Anyhow, I'm somewhat please by the positive direction we're moving in as far as planning/budgeting. Thanks!

Drastic Declaration: It is a No Spend Month here

January 6th, 2008 at 08:19 pm


I see that some people do a detox before starting a new diet. I think that I am in need of a sort of detox of the financial sort ... I read an interesting book called The Shrewd Christian by Neil Atkinson (a biblically-based finanical self help book kind of off the beaten path). It did challenge people to Institutionalized Poverty - living off of our surplus, etc.

No trips to Michael just because I have a coupon, no running into the video store to rent anything (has to come from the library), etc. etc. This party stems from my overwhelming desire to start a major declutter.

The only exception to this is the family outing on MLK day - DH has the day off and we are using a gift card for AMC to see "Alvin and the Chipmunks" and lunch out at Pizza Hut (though my school age readers have coupons for free personal pan pizzas) so it will be three pizzas for the non-readers plus salad for mom and dad. This is a newly institued family outing per month, so I won't go cheap on that as it will be funded mostly by gift card/coupons.

I will grocery shop at Aldi's two more times in the month of January (estimated dates the 16th & the 26th). I will put gas in the cars as needed (though I will not be driving needlessly and randomly). There are no birthdays in January that I need to shop for.

I am posting this publicly so I am accountable.

More Observation about the Home of Mom-Sense

January 6th, 2008 at 01:29 pm

I referred to my house as Land of Plenty in a recent post - everywhere I look there is stuff stuff and more stuff. We use maybe 20% of the stuff 80% of the time - is that right? I've heard that somewhere.

My children have their favorites - one is a reader and has a ton of books waiting to be read, one loves dolls and has her favorites, the sons - one loves trains, another blocks, etc. You get the picture ... I am going to go through every closet, nook and cranny and bin in the basement in 2008.

Every child will get a memory bin (a big one, big enough to hold schoolwork, Christening cards, etc.) and it will be big enough to grow into. I am saving the obvious heirloom items (christening gowns and Communion dresses). Because I plan on having more children, I am going to limit one bin per size and sex to baby clothes. As far as the maternity clothes go, I'll be going through it as well and some of the old stuff (like ten years old) is going going gone. Lets face it, I usually where DH's shirts and legging in those last few months. My non-pregnancy clothes are going to be scrutinized to the same degree.

Old VHS tapes, gone. The plastic toys from China which are of marginal quality, gone. Odd serving pieces in the cabinets, gone. Chipped Correll dishes, gone (on the underside, nothing to make us sick). Bad tupperware, gone. Things people have forgotten here - returned.

I've already found several collectible quality items in the basement which i am going to part with via e-bay. And three Sam's Club gifts which weren't given and can go back for $40+ dollars cash.

What does all this have to do with financials? Think of all the money that i've wasted (done a lot analyzing of that).

I went to Aldi's today and spent $100. That is about normal to feed my large family. What is unordinary about it is I am going to try two weeks without grocery shopping - ration the amount of milk and get creative about dinners (like scrambled eggs and bacon and waffles and such at least one night a week), etc.

Just some observations ...

Observations about my Purchase Habits and Personal Goals

January 4th, 2008 at 11:14 am


The money I have spent at the resale store on my clothing has been not a success. I don't try things on (not reasonable with little kids)and I am drawn to things that say Ralph Lauren and Ann Taylor.

I don't try things on - I vary between sizes 6 stretch in Ann Taylor to 10 non-stretch GAP. Out of eight bottom purchased at an average of $4 only two are keepers. $32 - $8 = $24 waste (though all proceeds of the resale store benefit the county's domestic violence program)

Same with tops - what says is a M might have shrunk to a S. Or not fit right. So out of another ten shirts/sweaters at $4.00 three are keepers. $40 - $12 = $28 waste (above rationale).

I have passed these items on to my mother (who looks good in several of the items) and my best friend.

I am in need of some upkeep - I'd like to take 15 pounds off with diet/exercise/good food choices. Once I reach 120 I will buy myself a versatile set of clothing from Hanna Andersson (pants and skirt with matching jacket) and I will color my hair or get a perm or something to spruce myself up. My DH shared that by BMI at 24.87 in close to overweight. Sad. I started out at 115 and each child added some weight to my 5'3" frame.

Bargains at resale arent the way to go for me. More thoughts on shopping later...

Farewell Flex Spend Account - Last Reimbursement faxed in today

January 3rd, 2008 at 02:57 pm


Well, in 2008 we (mostly me) decided to give the High Deductible Insurance and Health Savings Account a try. I have set up the HSA with State Farm and have check writing privilages ($25 annual fee for maintenance) once we go through the $3000 that DH's employer fronts. All maintenance is covered (so things like annual exams for kids and ob/gyn pap/mammograms are covered) We will continue Rx through medco and I'm starting the year with 2.5 month supply.

Anyhow, the FSA had $120 left in it. I put through $71.50 for dental deductible on DDs sealants and $14.97 in OTC from CVS (they give a handy-dandy receipt showing FSA 's health care eligible total) so I am going to have to kiss the remaining $34 good-bye. I was just too lazy to make it out on the 31st for a second trip to CVS!

While I am somewhat trepidacious about this new High Deductible & HSA stuff, if it doesn't work out, we can always return to our FSA and traditional plan.

The new me says, "I can't wait for that $86 to apply to the HELOC."

Anyone else doing HSAs?

January Goal - MAJOR dent in HELOC

January 3rd, 2008 at 09:29 am


Well, the money for the sale of the Vanguad mid-cap index fund and the $256 over $15K in the money market fund appeared in the checking account today and I applies $4,253 to the HELOC (8%) and that leaves a remainder of $755.06 which I will pay off by 1/31/2008.

What a great feeling! I was one content to see that $4100 in the midcap sitting there in the asset column, sticking my head in the sand about the HELOC (actually saying "It is ONLY $56 a month). I am glad that people were candid and frank about it costing me money in the long-run. I am glad I could be honest about the situation (I do tend to sugar-cost things) With the extra money, I will apply it to the AmEx Blue ($9,900 at 3.99%)

To celebrate this success, I am transferring another $8.00 from my living expense account to my E*Trade - representing my coupon savings from yesterdays shopping!

Thanks to this great forum!

Inexpensive and Simple Menu Planning-Help!

January 2nd, 2008 at 08:36 am


Hello, one of the on-going goals for 2008 is better menu planning (nutritonally speaking, as well as financially speaking). I am not a chef and I don't like cooking (with the exception of baking and jell-O molds)

My goal is to cut down on red meat consumption (though I do 50-50 ground turkeyand 90-10 sirloin) and increase chicken and fish (once a week for each).

I am good with the crockpot (actually do OK with that) and I do buy what is on sale (lots of buy one, get one)

Are there any site or recipes that you guys could share? Thanks in advance!

Happy New Year!

January 1st, 2008 at 12:34 pm

Well, rang in the new year with the kids, but did have a grown up outing with DH.

Budgeted amount $100 (Cash from bank ATM)

$40 to sitter
$40 dinner (1/2 price appetizers on Mon, split an entree, two pints) $33 dinner, $7 tip
$10 cover to bar where brother's band played
$0 to cover two pints at bar (our $11 returned to us because my parents covered tab)

$90 SPENT, $10 UNDER BUDGET!

Yay! Had to laugh remembering how much we'd spend (pre kids) to go to Chicago's cool hip places, rent a hotel room, etc. etc. Glad I'm a grown up!
That $10 is staying in Entertainment category for more fun