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Archive for November, 2008

Why are retailers crying?

November 30th, 2008 at 10:41 pm

I just found a chart from the National Retail Federation.

Retailers and Wall Street have been boo-hooing about what a terrible year it's going to be for holiday shopping. I don't get it.

Sales are projected to rise 2 percent this year.So why are retailers acting like it's the end of the world if sales are still higher than last year???

Grocery Challenge update!

November 25th, 2008 at 03:47 am

I am THRILLED to write the grocery challenge update. If you remember, we were spending about $900 a month to eat out and get groceries for me, hubby, and the baby.

I hoped to cut that to $600 or less a month by December. Well, I tallied up what we spent in November, and it's a grand total of $176.50, and that includes Turkey and food we're cooking for family Thanksgiving.

I didn't think it was possible. I do need to buy butter and milk this week, but that won't cost me $400!

Next year, I may fail spectacularly

November 23rd, 2008 at 07:12 pm

As is clear from my last post, I'm thinking ahead to 2009 and what I and we as a family want to accomplish.

The great news is we met our savings goals for this year. We made a person (who is now trying to chew on everything in the living room), I made money even though I don't have a full-time job anymore. I dealt with yet another tragedy when my dad died in July.

It's been action packed.

In 2009 we might not do as well. I sat down to write out some concrete savings goals-- like I have on the sidebar right now. And it occurred to me that we will be making less money next year. Mostly because I have zero work lined up, and it appears that many media companies have laid off workers AND slashed their freelance budgets, so there is just less work out there.

So, we will have to make due with less. And hope that my career and self-esteem make it out of this financial crisis. I'm not even sure if I will make enough to fully fund my IRA.

As such, our goals have changed. They are more and less ambitious.

Savings-wise, they are less ambitious. Only the basics will get money in 2009. Our high-priority goals are to put as much into our EF as possible, fund the 529, and to pay off as much of our one debt-my student loan- as possible.

We've worked hard to lower our monthly committed expenses and have done well. The student loan is the stumbling block. It alone accounts for 45 percent of our must-pay bills every month.

Having this loan makes my lack of work all the more frustrating, since this degree was supposed to help me make money and yet again in a way it's an obstacle.

Also, I mentioned before that I want to write a novel (my first) in 30 days next year. I have decided not to wait for National Write a Novel Month in November and to start Jan 1. I think this will make me feel better about my work life and help me accomplish one of my life goals.

I may fail spectacularly on all fronts, but I figure it helps to aim high.

Time to look ahead to 2009 goals: What are yours?

November 19th, 2008 at 04:17 pm

Well y'all, I know the holidays are right around the corner, but it's time we all start thinking about what we want to accomplish next year. I'm not saying you need to know anything concrete yet, but better to toy around with some ideas now than wake up Jan. 1 thinking "Wait. What am I doing?"

Not just money goals, either. We can't forget that we are whole people, not just bank accounts!

That said, I need to think. I don't have anything set in stone yet, but the hubby has been really bummed out and scared to death by the financial crisis. I told him we can't control the world, we can only control what we do.

He's afraid, and as such, wants us to buckle down and try to stash away as much cash as possible. I can't argue with that. It's a sound thing to do anyway.

So, I worked out a budget for us. It would allow us to live on 38 percent of our take-home pay and save the rest.

It may not sound like it, but there is a lot of leeway in there. We would each get a set amount of fun money and there is still something for eating out and going out occasionally as well, which would make it easier to stick to.

I haven't accounted for home improvements. I think we will just budget a set amount for the year for projects, put together a list from most to least important and start going through the list. When we run out of money, we're done for the year.

**

We've also made a list of energy improvements we want to make, so this would save us money over the long-term. (We're thinking of getting solar panels next year, so step one is to reduce usage).

I'm hoping to reduce our electricity use by 20-30 percent. I guess we'll just go room by room and try to improve efficiency one socket at a time.

**

This isn't really finance related but I want to write a novel in 2009. But I want to do it in one month. National Novel Writing Month is in November. The challenge is to write a 50,000 word novel in one month, even if it sucks. I want to do this this year.

**
Also, I don't know what my work life will be like next year. I did well freelancing last year, despite taking time off for Baby Bean, but my big contract has expired and I don't have anything else lined up. I haven't even had any bites, so I don't know what to expect.

I will commit everything I earn to my IRA, and just hope I can max it out at $5,000. If I make more than that, I am pretty sure it will all go to paying off the student loan. I'm tired of carrying that burden around.

While I don't have any work lined up, I've decided to track down some affordable classes so I can add to my skills and retrain in multimedia, which is the future of my industry. I think the local college offers weekend crash courses in the software I would need for about $200 each. It's not cheap, but it's cheaper than college tuition!

**

I may take an art class as well. The cultural arts center has inexpensive, interesting classes in things like precious metal clay sculpture. It could help my craft business, which helps my Tiki goal, so yeah, it may be worth it.

**
And, I think I'm old enough (33) that I need to start focusing on health and wellness. I may join the gym/community center down the street. It's within walking distance, they have yoga classes,and FREE babysitting while you work out. It would be some much-needed me time, and I am carrying around 10 pounds of baby weight that I am sick of.

**
I'd also like to take my mom to San Francisco. She has always dreamed of visiting there. It's in the U.S. and totally doable, the Bean will be able to travel by then, so why not? My hubby's best friend lives there too, so we could get a two-fer.

We are also planning to travel internationally in 2009, either to France or Mexico. We have almost $5,000 in the vacation fund. It would go farther in Mexico, due to cheaper airfare and better exchange rate, but we'll see. If I play my budget cards right, we could maybe make the money stretch enough for two trips.

**
And finally, I want a better social life. The bean has really shaken things up. I may host a monthly "art night" at my house, and maybe a biweekly "Stitch and B*tch". For those who don't know, that's when your friends sit around, drink wine and knit.

So yeah, get your thinking caps on! What kinds of goals are you thinking about for next year?

$46.63 left . AAAHHHHH!!

November 18th, 2008 at 04:30 pm

I'm only $46.63 away from meeting my savings goals for the year.

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

That's my way of saying I am very excited.
My last freelance check put me $251 over the tiki fund goal (with more to come, I'm sure), and all of my other accounts are either fully funded or overfunded.

The only thing left is to round out the car fund, and I have some auto-debits scheduled that should take care of that.

I never would have dreamed that hubby and I could save this much. I was inspired by Automatic Millionaire (the book), and it really has worked. So simple. Why haven't I been doing this for years?????

What's your favorite second-hand purchase?

November 13th, 2008 at 01:09 am

What is the best thing(s) you have ever bought used, either from a thrift store, a garage sale, etc.

Right now, mine is the air popcorn popper that I bought from my neighbor's yard sale for 50 cents. 50 cents well spent. We use it several times a week, the popcorn is healthier because we don't have to use oil to cook it AND there's no icky pan to clean up. I love my popcorn popper.

My second choice is the vintage 1950s L sofa with ottoman I bought at a used furniture store for $100 about 10 years ago. It is by far the best looking and most comfortable couch I have ever owned.

Trying to lower monthly bills

November 11th, 2008 at 03:05 pm

I'm going through all of our bills today. I'm trying to see if I can lower or eliminate my bills.

So far, I switched to digital phone with our Internet provider. We'll be saving $14.34 a month, and we will be getting free unlimited long distance with that. (We had no long distance on our other phone, and paid more.)

I am at a loss about what else to cut, though. We do pay $11 a month for curbside recycling, but I don't think the hubby will give that up. we could just drop off our recyclables once a week at the Home Depot, but it is convenient to just drop stuff in the bin and put it out once a week.

Any thoughts?

Managed to cut expenses a lot this month

November 11th, 2008 at 02:21 pm

I just looked at our credit card bill (we put everything on the card and pay it off at month's end). we're doing REALLY well at cutting our expenses. The bill is about 1/4 what it usually is. Yay! I wanted to sock some money away before Christmas, and cut back so we can boost the EF in case the hubby loses his job.

We have been eating at home most nights, bunching errands into one car trip to save gas, and just overall not buying anything that isn't a necessity.

I don't know if we can go on like this forever, but this is a good start.

Do you pay for lawn service??

November 6th, 2008 at 05:08 pm

Looking out the window today it seems like every house on the block but mine has paid a lawn service to come in and rake, mow, and leaf blow. It's like this all summer long all through my neighborhood.

We make a decent living, but I still feel too poor to pay for lawn service. Then again, if I had a million bucks I'd still rake my own leaves and mow my own grass.

It seems wasteful to me to pay someone to do something you are perfectly capable of doing yourself.

Am I missing something?

$147 freelance check came today

November 5th, 2008 at 07:49 pm

A $147 freelance check came today. Yay. No haggling to get paid on this one. Half will go to savings ($73.50), $36.75 will go to extra payment on the student loan, and $36.75 will go to the tiki fund.

I also sold a Monster bag on etsy, so that's another $15.99 in profit for the tiki fund.

Finally, a goal met

November 5th, 2008 at 03:54 pm

With the end of the year fast approaching I wondered if I was going to meet this year's ambitious savings goals. Thanks to a windfall (well, money from work we did during Hurricane Gustav),we made our last BIG goal, and topped off the savings account with another $1628.

The only things left for this year:
$100 more for the 529 plan
$47 more for the car fund
and of course
$216 or so for the tiki fund.

Here's to hoping we make it!

Election Party supplies

November 4th, 2008 at 05:33 pm

Every presidential election, we host an election party. We print out maps of the U.S. with the electoral votes for each state and each guest makes their prediction using red and blue crayons. As we watch the returns, we fill in the "actual" map. Whoever's guess map is the closest to actual wins a tacky trophy and fake gold medal. It's fun. Tonight we are cooking on the grill, then popping popcorn for return watching. I'm expecting maybe 10 people. It should be fun. Happy voting everyone!

Cleaning the house is a wake-up call

November 3rd, 2008 at 06:30 pm

Well, I am "fall" cleaning. It's my new entertainment since I am trying not to spend any money this month. I was so inspired by of all things, an interior design book where a homeowner said to "Buy less, buy better, and buy only what you love."

And surprisingly it's been a wake-up call. I think anyone who wants to go on a spending diet should first be forced to face all the demons lurking in their closets.

I have found so much stuff that I wasted money on, just sitting in my closets. I think I am going to be posting a lot on Craigslist and eBay this week.

Most of it doesn't fit the above criteria. I don't love it, it isn't nice, and it isn't improving my life. I have a collection or two I love: tiki mugs, surprise, and signed pop-art lithographs, which I framed last night. Everything else can go.

For you HGTV fans out there, I will be redecorating my house with things I already own this month, inspired by what I've found in my closets. Everything that isn't used, useful, or loved is leaving the house.

That same homeowner in the book said to consider everything you own, and if one of your friends would be better served by it than you, pass it on. Christmas may come early for my friends!

Sorry for the rambling. I am overwhelmed by closets.

first day of "unemployment"

November 1st, 2008 at 06:11 pm

As I mentioned earlier, my last big freelance project for the year ended yesterday and I don't have anything lined up. At first, I was freaking out, but now that I've decided to just be zen about it, I had a nice day. The MIL left this morning (she was watching the Bean so I could work) and I've spent the day cleaning and doing laundry and puttering around the house in my jammies. The hubby took the bean out hiking in the nice weather.

My friend did sucker me into being a jewelry model at an art gallery during an open house from 4 to 7 (not looking forward to it. I don't like people staring at me!), but other than that, it's been a good day.

I know it's only cleaning, but it feels nice, like I'm getting my house (in my brain and my physical house) in order after a month of chaos.