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A Wonderful Evening Out

May 8th, 2008 at 01:38 pm


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 02:58 pm


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 6th, 2008 at 12:21 am

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 01:05 pm

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 01:45 pm


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 03:57 pm

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 ...

New attitude emerges with the new month

April 30th, 2008 at 02:14 am


I had a quirky post written by my alter-ego Nem (a debt lover living for instant gratification in the pursuit of material happiness) I have again fallen off of the bandwagon and been careless - or actually NOT caring which is worse about the budget. Several things came up and for the first time I was in the red.

I tripled paid my AT&T bill and am now fighting to get back $250. That didn't help matters and there were new tires and repairs to the dryer, etc. etc.

Anyhow - I have now broken my budget down for the next two months (including tax refund and stimulus check) I have a major expense of putting a new roof on a rental property for $2800 (cheaper though than I had anticipated) Our trip to Disney is fully funded and I think I have enough budgeted for gas and food, etc. I have accounted for all bills and the third check in May will help out with things.

I think with due diligence I am back on track. The last three days of the month have been rolled over to be included with the first week of May. I am being careful to stay within my allotment.

So I might have to post daily for accountability. But I'm back (again) and have overcome the shame of losing the money war (with myself).


Attn DisneySteve and any other Disney Goers

April 28th, 2008 at 10:16 pm

I was reading somoe blogs and saw that miclason is going to be going to FL soon, as my family is. This is our first major trip (ten days) with the kids. The trip is booked and paid for with four nights on-site and a four day Park Hopper pass.

I am looking for practical advice to keep the price down while we are there.

Is there a Disney outlet for souvenirs in the area?

Any and all advice from frugal folks are appreciated!

New here, you can call me NEM

April 28th, 2008 at 04:38 pm


Allow me to introduce myself ... I tam he nemesis of Mom-sense (presently referred to as Mom-sense-less), call me Nem.

I have always been lurking close to the surface - call me the one of the shoulder in the horns, wielding the pitchfork while twirling my tail. I was first a barely audible whisper, but I have been gaining momentum. I have not become a full-grown monkey on the back - but I may appear red somewhere else - like on the budget.

Mom-sense-less has tried her best to be prudent, but she hasn't planned very well for obvious things - like clothing for the children (and there are many of them to clothe). She has been through a lazy spurt and the family has had to dine out (and not in a fun - "Let's go eat" because it is a treat - but begrudginly ...)

There is a trip for the family planned (already paid for) and the spending money has had to leave the house and go to stay at her mother's so it won't be touched.

For the first time Sense-less' budget was negative. It probably would have been in the black had she planned better what items needed to be purchased, rather than buying MORE than what was needed. She justified this because of 30% off using her Kohl's charge. Sadly she doesn't have the money to pay it off and is paying interest.

She uttered to herself, I will use the rebate check and income from part-time job to pay this. Did she forget she had planned on using those funds for thing like real estate taxes, a roof for the rental property, and some funds to go to retirement? Once she starts rediverting those funds, I will win. It is kinks in her thought process that have allowed me get a strong-hold in the past. Sadly enough it isn't extreme frivolity that has caused this - rather STUFF that really wasn't needed.

She had to use the credit card to pay for a repair to the dryer. She justified it and said, "it is better than having to buy a new one." The pink pig from Feedthepig.org on her corner couldn't oink loud enough for her to hear - I think he said something like "How would you have afforded a new one?"

Sense-less did up her contribution to her IRA by $10 per month and her DH's 401(k) by 1% (this is covered by a small salary increase which will only take $30 from the budget)

She has squandered gas to do recreational shopping. Her aunt is coming to visit in the summer and they are going to sew. Thankfully she just purchased a pattern ($1.99) but her aunt isn't actually here and there isn't actually any certainty she will become friends with the sewing machine.

She has squandered food money to buy prepackaged c**p cookies when she has prided herself on the fact that she bakes from scratch and avoids preservatives and chemicals.

So anyhow, I am here. You can call me Nem. Hell with frugality, spend those rebate checks before they come in. Big screen TVs and pedicures are waiting. Expensive dinners out and rounds of golf. Brand new Hanna Andersson clogs for all your daughters. New soccer balls for your sons!

Upped retirement savings contributions

April 9th, 2008 at 03:51 pm

Well, since there has been some irresponsible spending in the budget - sad about those frivolous and thoughtless purchases that were whims rather than real needs, or wants, for that matter ...

I increased my contributions to my Vanguard IRA by $10 per month (not a lot, but hey, I am increasing)

And I upped DH's contribution rate by 1% to 7% (employer matches up to 6%) but it is a simplified way of adding funds.

I'm hoping to do this once a quarter to slowly accumulate wealth.

This is my responsible money making decision for the month.

Commitment to tackling $4k debt by December08

April 7th, 2008 at 02:31 pm


Well, I have been faithfully paying the minumum + finance charge to the American Express Blue which has 3.99% interest for life of balance transfer repayment. The balance is presently at $9,315.00.

I want to pay off half of the debt by December. I got a balance transfer check (0% through December 08 and no transfer fee). I moved $4,000.00. I plan on NOT paying ANY interest on this and have reworked by budget for June to meet my goal.

This is definitely a commitment to debt reduction. Scary, but now I've got regular credit card interest if I don't reach my goal!

Free Cereal? Almost ...

March 29th, 2008 at 03:52 pm


My children love to eat cereal for breakfast (you know, the crappy sugary stuff) and I limit them to one box a week (rest of the time its English muffins, fruit, yogurt, etc). Well, this week our grocery store chain Jewel (that I frequent usually for their buy one-get one deals only) has cereal 3/$5(these are the small boxes that will give us exactly one generous serving per person for seven). There is also a sale going on if you buy 7 boxes in one trip you get $10 coupon off of next purchase. I am going to go buy ten boxe for $11.65 and I'm applying my $3 coupon from Thursday's purchase. My cereal stash will be fully funded for the next two months.

New Quarter - Improved Performance?

March 28th, 2008 at 03:31 pm


Haven't blogged in awhile, somewhat discouraged by money plan's performance here. January was so good! Shopped once a week at Aldi's and conserved gas by not driving a lot. Also little to extraneous spending ...

Not realistic for the long haul - Feb and March included $65 for soccer, extra money for Easter donation and ham dinner for extended family, $700 car repair to older minivan, $250 deductible for car that was a total loss. We didn't incur any new debt, but only paid the minimum on AmEx Blue and the student loan payment.

Got the income tax refund today in the checking account - transferred that to Vanguard right away to use to pay the real estate taxes. Economic stimulus package check will be used to pay real estate taxes on the rental property. The tenant has not paid the rent due on March 15th. Not happy about that ...

Well, this is a ramble, isn't it?

My goal for April:
(1) Come up with a realistic spending plan (I did read Mary Hunt again and Howard Dayton's Money Map)
(2) Continue with contributions to IRA and HSA
(3) Come up with reasonable goal for debt eradication for second half of 2008

All for now -

Purchased YNAB Pro - Anticipating good things

February 28th, 2008 at 11:04 pm


Well, I bit the bullet and purchased YNAB Pro. I, however, am going to wait to use it until June 08. Why? you ask.

valid question. I like the idea of stepping away from living paycheck to paycheck and want to begin the program with the money upfront. May has three paychecks (1/2 of the problem there) and I'll have March and April to tighten the belt and come up with the other 1/2 months salary to start June with. I also have stupid little things to take care of like $150 balance on DD10's nebulizer and allery testing bloodwork. I still owe a measly $450 on HELOC and $290 to Kohls. I am getting pretty regular with my estimates for upcoming things like lie insurance premiums, etc. We also have a trip to Disney in May (YAY) that is paid for, so its just a matter of coming up with spending money (which I am frittering away a little at a time). Our tax return plus stimulus rebate will cover all of our property taxes for 08 and something toward Catholic school tuition. I'm excited about getting all this little stuff taken care of and starting out with a clear vision and new set of goals.

I am liking what I see though playing with the budget template and learning more about the Rules to apply.

And I picked up the new minivan from the dealer and am really enjoying all the doors and space and places for backpacks, etc.!

Picking Up New Car Tomorrow

February 27th, 2008 at 06:51 pm


I'm picking up my new-to-me 2007 Dodge Grand Caravan (used, 22K miles but three year warranty) I am SO excited. With the insurance settlement from State Farm plus a gift from my dear ole' dad we are able to do it without financing anything. I had my last minivan for eight years (several children ago) and am so excited for things like double doors on driver's side and stow-and-go seating and two benches (this is probably a down grade from the four capt. seats I have, but there will be more room for kids to spread out). It is blue with a grey interior! So excited

Oprah's Show Today - Dumpster Divers

February 27th, 2008 at 03:23 pm


Hey all, it's 19 minutes into the Oprah Show (Chicago time) and she has show-cased some NYC Dumpster Divers/Freegans who are "purusing" garbage cans by grocery stores and bakeries for groceries. Some of it does indeed look wasteful - but in all conscience I couldn't "shop" for food from a dumpster.

They also showcased a doctor and engineer who regularly shop this way and have an apt filled with "finds".

Next it looks like an exotic dancer is going to say she does this to take care of her family financially.

what's your opinion? I'm intrigued yet replused ... and I'm not sure why ...

Weekly Expense Summary for 2/16 to 2/23 and YNAB v YNAB PRO

February 25th, 2008 at 03:08 pm



Well, I fell off the frugal bandwagon for Feb and had to return to tracking expenses in 7-day increments - don't know why this seems like a good span of tracking for me.

As expected, things were high as I spent $360 last week OOP (had a $40 purchase at JCP using gift card, so didn't include that in totals - did get 10 items of summer clothes for kids)

OK, here is a summary:

Groceries $176.02

Gas $50

Dining out $26 (trip to McD's for kids lunch on Monday, then Shamrock shakes on Fri for $16!)

Entertainment $42 for Father-Daughter Dance at school/church - also needed $13 dress for DD10 at Once Upon a Child, $40 to Great Clips for three hair cuts, gratuity and leave-in detangler that I was a sucker for buying.
That event total $95

The miscellaneous amount was donation to church, misc Easter gifts from $1 bin at Michaels, etc.

Here is hoping to a lesser week as I spent a lot on groceries last week, but need milk and fresh produce.

I'm also contemplating buying YNAB but am wondering if it is worth it to upgrade to PRO? I have looked over some of the expenses like life insurance and upcoming utilities and know how much is required to prepay for these and I'm thinking it is time to ditch Quicken and Microsoft (don't really like either of those)

Squandered $4.02 on Late Payment - UGH! Demoralizing...

February 21st, 2008 at 02:02 pm


Well, I will confess that I lack an organized and efficient manner of paying paper bills (lots of them are automated-but not our water and sewer which are billed every two months staggered - one month water, one month sewer, etc.)

Yesterday I got in the mail "You forgot to pay your sewer notice" Sure enough after not a lot of digging it was there in the un-used wine rack above where my laptop is. Had I paid it prior to the 15th it would have been $40.20. Now it is $44.22. A 10% penalty ... could have been $39 as in a credit card payment, but I am wasting money ...

And to think I actually thought about paying my insurance non-monthly (just doing the quarterly premiums and saving the $1 per month fee - like $12.00 a year savings)

I need to get organized and watch things better ... and get over the $4 wasted dollars ... I am a work in progress

Money for Life - Mvelopes - Users what do you think?

February 20th, 2008 at 02:53 pm


I've concluded that I need to be able to work smarter, not harder - pertaining to finances. I heard on Money Matters/Crown Money Map site about Mvelopes which puts all assets/liabilities in one place and allows for funding pots and budget categories.

It sounds smart and simple, but set-up for free trial looked complicated. Does anyone use this or has anyone tried it? Also, has anyone read the book "Money for life"?

I've looked at Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover and I can't seem to get past all the testimonials - I need something with more information. It seems like an infomercial to me ...

not looking forward to minivan shopping ...

February 19th, 2008 at 11:09 pm


well the insurance company (State Farm) settled for the total loss of DH's car ('98 Grand Prix) and couldn't determine conclusively whether or not it was the brake job or the faulty fuel line (March 07 recall we were never notified of). So now it is time to replace the car.

Both of our cars were ten/eleven years old. We have decided to get a newer minivan for me and DH will take my minivan (102K miles, and looks okay less a small amount of rust).

So now it begins ... test driving cars, talking kelley Blue Book values, calls from salesmen, etc. etc. Wish me luck that i'm able to find something in my price range ...

Winter blahs ... need encouragement

February 15th, 2008 at 04:01 pm


i started 08 with a zest and zeal for "taming the money monster". I solicited advice and made some good moves (putting 4% of DH's salary into my IRA as his employed matches up to 6% inn 401k, setting up HSA to go with HDHP, payig down HELOC, tracking expenses)

I shopped only at ALdi's once a week and conserved gas. Well, Walgreens has had some great grocery deals this month (Progresso soup for $1.00 can (after in store and manufacturers coupons) and DH's Fiber One cereal for under $2. There have been some birtday parties for kids and my supply of gifts was depleted, so expense there. I've had school activities that I vounteer for - so no conserving energy. Our budget bill or gas jumped from $82 to $160 (I guess it was grossly underestimated.

I'm still waiting to hear from the insurance company on settlement on DH's car, so we'll have to buy the replacement one soon.

I am very uninterested in tracking my expenses. I know I'll have some sort of credit on the insurance bill next month of at lelast the $40 to insure DH's car. I am watching my balance in the checking account on-line, but that is about it (I automated a lot of stuff)

I am an ALL OR NOTHING person and I need to find a way to compromise this total interest OR lack of interest in finances. Any words?

January totals - First Honest Attempt at Budgeting/Tracking

January 31st, 2008 at 04:50 pm


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 10:34 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 03:44 pm


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 10:01 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 06:04 pm


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 28th, 2008 at 04:01 am

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 02:52 pm



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 09:11 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 08:54 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 ...


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