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Home > Archive: May, 2008

Archive for May, 2008

Home from Vacation!

May 31st, 2008 at 12:09 pm

We returned last night from our road trip to Disney! It was the first major trip we have taken with all of the kids. The ride from the Midwest to FL was fine - did it in a 1-1/2 days - saw a lot of intereseting things.

We did four days at Disney - I was surprised by how well everything went, no really long waits thanks to FastPass. Kids made wise choices with souvenirs and in the end I spent about $80 from the left over Disney dollars to get everyone T-shirts. Got some shopping done with coffee mugs for grandfathers for fathers day. Did manage to stop at a Citrus World and buy tacky coconut monkey banks as gag gift and $.99 key chains for kids friends (it was buy five get one free - 12 keychains cost $9.90).

Good news is I over budgeted in every category and came home with $700 (though we did put the stroller rental charge on the credit card and did have to purchase an extra pair of sunglasses for DD 10).

I'm looking forward to June!

Can he ride if he has a ticket?

May 19th, 2008 at 01:21 pm

Well, I'm in the midst of planning for the trip - I have two suitcases in my living room, as well as a bin for shoes, a bin of food, a bin of picnic supplies, a bin of DVDs/books/etc. I have limited "friends" (dolls and stuffed animals) to one per person. I am assuming that my children will buy at least a stuffed animal as one of their souvenirs.

My five year old comes down with a bin with his five favorite friends. Two are Build a Bears, three are webkinz. I said he could bring one. He went away sadly saying to them, "But you are all my favorites."

The three year old comes down with a laundry basket filled to the brim with every last stuffed animal from the room (a dusty Elmo, a Bob the Builder with bad batteries that scares them when it talks, etc. etc.) He smiles and says, "My friends."

I said "No - no way - there will be no room for you. Nope!"

Five year old to three year old, "I have my allowance. How much is a ticket to ride?"

I might let them bring two.

Countdown to Disney has begun

May 18th, 2008 at 04:32 pm

Well, we are on the brink of the big family vacation - driving from the Midwest to Disney (one additional day on the Gulf of Mexico- Homosassa Beach and Weeki wachee) four days at Disney proper, then another day in Bowling Green (vette museum and DinoWorld park) Soooo looking forward to this ...

I researched hotels on priceline.com and stayed within my budget for those rooms for the four nights. My parents/in laws are taking care of the furry animals saving lots of money on a kennel stay. I have the gift cards for Disney souvenirs and snacks purchased. I've followed the advice from all on a previous post and have plenty of bottled water and will have snacks to bring in.

I did take advice from one of the blog entries about buying souvenirs (disney) at target or walmart. I did find a 750 piece panoramic puzzle for $7.50 at Target - good for me. DH just rolled his eyes at that. I laughed heartily and said he'd thank me when he saw the price of puzzles there.

We will hit the Disney outlet store in Orlando and hopefully make progress there. But then again, my children have their own gift cards and will make their own purchases. I'll have to bite my tongue on that one.

I'm working on the food situation - trying to avoid eating fast food driving down - I'm taking grilled chicken for dinner on the first day - some pasta salad - cheese and cut ham for the picky eaters - lunch on the second day (PB&J muffins and some fruit/veggies). breakfast is simple - I have bagged cereal and will travel with 1/2 gallons of milk in the cooler. I have microwaveable popcorn for the hotel rooms and chips with dip/salsa. I'm feeling OK about that ...

So now it is a matter of laundry and packing! We leave on Thursday.

Observation: Grocery shopping more often actually saves money and time

May 15th, 2008 at 05:45 pm

I am pleased to report that in the past week (since Monday) I have grocery shopped twice. I lacked a lot of enthusiasm for big menu plans, plus I'm rather tired of couponing (unless it is something I use regularly in a brand I prefer).

On Monday I had to get milk and produce and a few odd staples for dinner. I spent $24.00.

Today I shopped again, getting two more gallons of milk, fresh fruit, ground sirloin/ground turkey for tonight's meatloaf muffins (planned for earlier in the week), tomorrow's chili, and dinner on Saturday. Aside from the fact that I paid $3 for furniture polish and would be cheaper at Walmart, I spent $36.

I am doing far better cooking from scratch as far as snacks for the kids and by having a juice alternative I am saving money on milk.

I also hit Michael's and Joanne's using coupons (40% and 50% off) I am still stock-piling travel items for the car trip down to Florida which is a week away.

If I keep this up, I might actually have a budget for groceries that I am proud of.

I do plan to try to geton a system where I go to Sam's Club once a month for stocking up on thigns like vitamins and Zyrtec.

And I'm able to zip in and out in about 1/2 the time. And I'm grouping my errands and outing to economize on the gas.

Just an interesting observation I had to share ...

Two NSDs in a row? Menu options for kids!

May 13th, 2008 at 05:48 am

Yesterday was a NSD for me (yay! I like those) and I think if I scrounge my cabinets and a batch or two of muffins (PB&J as lunch or the kids) and blueberry for breakfast I can make it two NSDs. This AM it was toast, bananas, and apple sauce for the school age kids and bagels/cream cheese for lunch. I have definitely worked on my bread and lunchmeat sandwich philosophy, as well as trying to do away with crap cereal for breakfast. And I'm noticing it is cheaper!

And tonight it is House Hopeful's meatloaf muffins - which my kids LOVE!

Recap of Weekend Spending (5/9-5/10)

May 12th, 2008 at 06:50 am

Well, weekends have previously meant over- and frivolous spending - I am tracking diligently and here is the breakdown:

$35 oil change ($15 air filter was not included in my $23 budgeting, but it needed to be replaced)
$30 gas
$10 rental property repair (2nd go around at leaky toilet repair)
$10 misc (more coupons to spend at Michaels and Joannes - got tissue paper for wrapping Mother's Day gifts for grandmas - and a Hannah Montana iron on decal and a solid color T shirt for one of my daughters)
$30 donation to church
$20 groceries (for our Sunday breakfast, this included paper)

TOTAL $135 - All of this was budgeted for with the exception of the $10 rental repairs and $10 misc.

All in all, I'm pleased that I'm staying on track - plus I am realizing that I will need "x" amout of money for school shopping in August - so I'm going to resort to the envelope method - I'm acquiring some discipline and enjoying the freedom that it brings.

Three cheers for DH - my DIY Plumber Man

May 10th, 2008 at 06:41 pm

My DH has a desk job - he analyzes corporate finance. He has never been one to DIY - he has scoffed at my suggestion that we tile the bathroom ourselves. He did sand and stain our kitchen set that we purchased piece by piece from Naked Furniture (real wood unfinished furniture). It was tedious but turned out nice.

Fast forward to our rental property - last weekend under the tuteledge of my stepfather - he tackled a leaky toilet. Well, the toilet was leaking again and my stepfather wasn't able to help him out. Today DH went and purchased another wax seal, disassembled, then reassembled the toilet Plus the pipe was leaking and he fixed that too. I am sure that in and of itself, toilet repair/removal isn't brain surgery. But for DH it is.

So he saved us a plumber's trip out - at least $80 to get them in the door. AND he had left over parts to be returned to the tune of $9. He has the receipts! These items can go back!!

The old version of DH would have said, "Well, call the plumber." I don't know where the new version came from, but he can stick around for awhile!

Stimulus Money In .... Stimulus Money Out

May 9th, 2008 at 08:02 am

Well, as promised, the money was there in my checking account this morning. My, what a high balance! I am pleased to report that I have accomplished two of my short term money goals;

(1) Paying installment #1 on real estate taxes on rental property - CHECK

(2) Having enough money to put new tear-off roof on rental property - CHECK

and with the rent check for May and the additional paycheck, I will be able to pay installmetn #1 on real estate taxes on primary residence!

I am feeling so much better about having an honest working budget (realistic, as well!) I shopped at Ultra Food yesterday (for those of you outside of the midwest, it is a chain similar to Cub Foods where everything is discounted and you have to bag your groceries yourself), stayed to my list and spent $70 on meals for the next five days (Sunday we will be guests out - so I just needed to buy fixins for taffy apple salad) and I allowed one day for leftovers. I found gas at the cheapest place and filled up for two weeks. I have had the Mother's Day gifts for the grandma purchased a month in advance. DH will take the kids shopping using gift cards we have. I am able to pay some additional on our contribution to the Church. I will have enough to cover fees for my daughter's sports for 08-09 school year. I am paying $37.50 per week to our three credit cards and will tackle that more aggressively upon our return from Disney in June. (The trip is paid for, I have cash saved, and I purchased Disney gift cards for souvenirs for the kids).

I am hoping that I am able to sustain this! Thanks to all the inspiring folks here.

A Wonderful Evening Out

May 8th, 2008 at 06:38 am

I have had a bad bout of comparing myself to others (seeing myself both better and worse off than I am) as well as a general lack of discipline. I've decided to stop being speculative about this, and I'm moving on!

I did well yesterday with my spending - stuck to the list for groceries (regular menu things plus snacks and things for our road trip in two weeks). I got haircuts for the boys and one dog groomed, going only $3 over budget (forgot the two coupons or $1.01 off each cut). I got the dog groomed as well. Doing pretty good with this new budget (allowing funds for these things I need to get done). I think my head was in the sand when I first worked the numbers back in Jan.

Anyhow, back to the Other Half Living - DH and I had our anniversary on Monday. My mom babysat and we went out to dinner (haven't done that in ages). There is a new Lettuce Entertain You - French restaurant in an upscale outdoor mall in the area. (I don't usually do French, and I don't usually do that mall). I was enticed by a flyer offering $25 off any meal and we have accumulated $125 in gift cards from DH's boss at Christmas, gift from brother, etc. So I made the reservations figuring I'd be spending all the gift cards.

I usually am in a quandry about what to wear outside of my usual "mom" clothes. I did finally go to two resale stores without my children and purchased clothing that I tried on, that fit, that were almost brand new and cost less than one item from a Macy's, Bloomingdales, Nordstroms (get the idea?) Anyhow, there I was casual, but "cute". I had on a pink Ralph Lauren knit shirt that cost $4 and a Gap khaki skirt that cost $4. I did have on new shoes (clearance Kohl's $6) DH complimented me (which was nice) DH looked nice too based on contributions from my brother's hand-me-downs (a trendy print shirt requiring cuff links) etc.

As fas as dinner, it was wonderful - I had a steak roquefort and DH had bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin. We didn't drink alcohol, but had a lemon shrimp scampi appetizer and split a bowl of the best French onion soup. It was SO nice - and after a 20% tip we still have money left for another trip! We had a nice conversation about anything and everything and I was so into the experience, rather than the materialism of other people.

When we got home, we listened to our oldest daughter read outloud from Marly:A Dog like no other and we all had quite a few laughs. What a wonderful day!

How much do you budget for "regular" irregular expenses?

May 6th, 2008 at 07:58 am

I have reworked the May budget adding funds for all categories (gifts/dining out/clothing/etc). This month I am allowing $100 for "regular" irregular expenses with a breakdown like this:
$40 grooming for dog #1
$20 hair cuts for DS5 and DS3 (coupons = tip)
$23 oil change for car

Leaving Misc $17 in fund.

My budget has always been narrow (food/utilities/mortgage, etc) and I'm feeling that was one of my obstacle. Now I am afraid to branch out too vastly using some of the tracking categories I've seen. And while I understand that budgeting is a very personal and unique thing, I was just wondering how others out there budget for these things?

I already budget for life insurance and am trying to keep the necessary funds for property taxes.

I've also been bad on figuring in money for kids activities - like sports.

I always end up being able to pay and fund things without borrowing - but the savings contributions for that month are non-existent. I'm figuring how to bring harmony, yet sanity to my system.

All I wanted to do was cancel Credit Protector -

May 5th, 2008 at 05:21 pm

How many times must one request to cancel a membership in one phone call?

In an ealier post I mentioned commiting to eradicating $4K of my debt by November of this year. I used a balance transfer for 0% for six months. I have been paying online weekly, but got my statement today. There was a $31.95 charge for Credit Protector. I apparently had this option years ago, and it was reactivated with the balance transfer (this card had $0 balance for quite some time).

My first attempt to cancel was met with, "We have a more economical option which will only cost you "x".

At this point, I said no please cancel. The response, "If you have had any of these life changing events in the past six months we will pay two monthly payments". There have been no divorces, births, death, moving, unemployment.

I said, no please cancel. At this point I am eligible for a $50 Visa Card should I continue. She will mail out the information and I can review it, and make up my mind before I am billed again on the 24th of May.

At this point I have regressed to the point of my whining three year old, "Please just cancel me. That is all I want to do. I don't want to pay $400 a year for this option. I want to use that to pay the principle. Please JUST CANCEL me."

I understand that this customer service representative is only doing her job, but come on, folks! Gimme a break ... after the second time, go to final rebuttal on the last page!

She then curtly said, "Give me a moment while I process your request. Fine, your membership is terminated." Then she hung up.

Accountability Update - So far, so good

May 5th, 2008 at 06:05 am

Note: Nothing exciting here, except a financial accountability of the weekend. One of my goals was to track expenses with better regularity to keep on the right track. Here it is:

Total $71.89

Dining out/fast food $10.59
Gas $14.50
Spirits (DH wine) $ 9.69
Misc (Joanne fabric) $ 8.54
Gifts given $ 6.99
Groceries $11.97
Rental property repair $ 9.60

Thoughts on this: Overall, fairly decent.

Dining out was in leiu of Dippin Dots (and I do believe in rewarding the kids good behavior),

Gas could have been more but the midwest had horrible wind and I was a wimp and will have to put more in soon)

Spirits At some point in the future I'd like to have DH purchase his wine and alcohol at Sam's Club - add to short-term goal: Have enough to fund massive stock-up trip to Sam's Club. We shop along with my parents and pay cash for our purchases.

Misc will be avoidable in the future once I set kids up with own allowance as this was for a Girl Scout project, I did use a coupon and saved $4.00 less than last year's fabric purchase,

Gifts given - today is my 18th anniversary and DH bought me 1/2 dozen roses in my favorite color (I told him I needed/wanted nothing, but he didn't listen - gotta love him that his thoughtful gesture didn't break the bank),

Groceries - every Sunday AM it is donuts from the grocery store bakery and chocolate milk (plus Sunday paper) Routine and tradition we won't deviate from

Rental property - the toilet was leaking and required a new seal. Thank goodness my dear step dad is knowledgeable and guided DH through the process - otherwise would have cost at least $100 to get plumber in. This was for the new seal.

Mean Old Mom said "No" to Dippin Dots

May 4th, 2008 at 06:45 am

I'm being far more aware of how I am spending the money that DH brings into the house. I have had a folly with frivolity and purchased things at random simply because I thought we/I might need them. This was after a spurt of not buying anything and then having all the kids need things at the same time, coinciding with a 30% off total purchase at Kohls. Kohl's is a fine store for the basics and clearance things, but I do try to shop at sales at the higher end stores for better quality and longevity of most items. In the end of that shopping fiasco, I returned quite a few items and had a better perspective of my spending.

Fast forward to yesterday, my DD10 and DD9 were at a dance competition - for those of you unaware of how chaotic and hectic and jam packed they are - not to mention my dancers were on two separate stages on opposite ends of the area. Ok, we've done enough of these for me to know that the younger kids are recreational eaters. I through a bag of cookies into the bag along with a bag of Cheezits. I always pack bottled water and drinks. Well, their dear old uncle mentioned something about buying dippin dots for all of them (neice was there as well). Dippin dots cost $4.50 for a small little cup of freeze dried ice cream. I keboshed that one real quick and said I didn't approve the food order so it was cancelled.

But because everyone was well behaved, we did swing through the drive-thru at McDonald's and got five cchocolate shakes for $10.50 - and that seemed high to me, too. I'd far rather buy snacks for my own five for $10 than put my brother out $22.50 for snacks for mine!

So chalk one up for making wise economic choices! I am on the road to redemption!

Chronic "starter over" - any encouragement appreciated -

May 2nd, 2008 at 08:57 am

There is no method to my madness ... sadly enough, DH looked at the memory on the computer and came across an obscene amount of files pertaining to my failed attempts at making money tracking files (whether it be excel, quicken, microsoft money) I have tried mvelopes and presently have YNAB. I think my lack of success isn't the tool, rather the mindset, lack of discipline, all or nothing attitude - obviously my obstacles are of the mental sort.

I have allowed myself one final "start over" month - I overplan for too far in advance and too am stringent with my spending of money until everyone needs everything at the same time - then I shudder at having to spend a lot of money. Anyhow, there is a whole laundry list of my cognitive defects in this area, I could go on and on, but why?

So, I have started one last file in Microsoft money and have only done this present month. I have accounted for the stimulus rebate check, the third paycheck of the month, as well as my state income tax refund - and I will accomplish a new roof and the first installment of the real estate property taxes ($4,850 in and $4,750 out).

My goals for the month of May:

(1) Worry only about the weekly expenses of groceries and gas (I know how much the utilities are and when they are due)
(2) I will only shop for one weeks worth of meals at a time and allow $25 additional for "stock piling" option (this has gotten me into trouble in the past) I will do away with prepackaged snacks and go back to baking twice a week (bar cookies and muffins)
(3) I will set the kids up with a working allowance - the third grader just finished a budgeting in social studies - this will allow them the funds necessary to buy their hot lunches on Fridays and buy the necessary items for things like Girl Scout projects, etc.
(4) I will start a list of things that everyone needs - none of my kids are running around barefoot - but the 3rd grader gets the 4th graders hand-me-downs and has three pairs of like new gym shoes while the 4th grader shuffles one pair from home to gym (they're in the parochial school and in uniforms) dance

I didn't know that the school that my kids go to wants a commitment for extracurricular sports by May 15th. My DD10 wanted to play both volleyball and basketball (she is a competitive dancer who has classes twice a week) I was so glad that i read through everything and realized that volleyball is a shorter season requiring less practices and games. I was able to have an honest discussion with her that to do it all is to do too much (there are four others in additiion to her) Not to mention the money aspect. I was glad she agreed and appreciated her good attitude about making choices. And I will easily have the funds to pay for this as well as the kindergartener's soccer for the fall.

The weather here in the midwest is rainy and it sucks and I think that accounts for my dismalm, but honest self appraisal. Thanks for reading ...