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Archive for March, 2009

a new 7 lb reason to save

March 30th, 2009 at 04:31 pm

Well, there is a 90 percent chance hubby and I have another Bean on the way. I still have to go to my first doctor visit to make sure it's developing OK.

But, talk about motivation to meet those savings goals. I just hope we have enough money to save for two college educations, and all the other things that come along with childhood. Supporting two kids seems so adult. And scary.

We did originally plan to have two kids. This one is just coming along sooner than expected. I guess it's good, because I still have all of the Bean's old clothes, swings, toys, etc. so I won't have to spend money on supplies!

But, I have no idea how I will manage two tiny, needy people at home. I hope that at some point the beans will be able to play with and entertain each other, so I can have some peace, but that might just be another lie grandparents tell you to get you to have more!

My favorite money article

March 25th, 2009 at 02:28 pm

This is my favorite personal finance article I have ever written. A year ago, I could have never gotten a story like this past any financial editors, but now that the crisis is in full swing and savings is finally hip, well, you know the rest of the story. I think the people on this site will appreciate the topic as well.

It's about No Spend Month. Here is a link:
http://www.bankrate.com/brm/news/pf/20090324-crash-spending-...

Aldi closed: NOOOOOO!!!

March 25th, 2009 at 12:11 am

I just became a dedicated Aldi shopped in November. I am still amazed at how little I spend even when the cart is filled to the brim.

I drive to Aldi today only to discover than it had closed: the signs were down , the shelves were empty and there was only a sign on the door telling you to go to another location. NNOOOOOOOO!!!!

I am so sad. This Aldi was a mile from my house and on my regular shopping area. The next closest is 8 miles away and near nothing I normally go to. Now what do I do? Just go every once in a while to stock up? Or is it even worth the time and gas?

I am totally bummed.

April is THE month for New Year's Resolutions

March 23rd, 2009 at 02:45 pm

I think April will be THE month that I knock a huge resolution off of my list-- to write a novel in a month (even if it's terrible!) I think I could use that kind of self-esteem and accomplishment boost. I've wanted to write a book for, well, ever, so I think April will be the month I will dedicate to it. If it goes well, I may try it again later in the year.

I am going to turn down all freelance assignments for the month (they haven't been that great or lucrative, so I don't feel like I'm missing much). Plus, all of the articles I have to write at the moment are due on or before April 1, so it will work out nicely.

As far as other resolutions, as you can tell by my sidebar, the financial ones aren't moving along too quickly. I talked about our trouble saving in an earlier post.

I have met my goal of hosting a stitch n bitch twice a month at my house, so I have some non-baby social interaction. I've also joined the gym and so far have been reasonably consistent in going, even though I find gyms incredibly boring. Hopefully, this will get me close to losing 10 pounds by the end of the year.

So, it appears the stage has been set and the foundation laid for the goals, so hopefully they will come to fruition by the end of the year.

Reducing home energy use 201

March 20th, 2009 at 01:32 am

One of my New Year's resolutions is to reduce our home electricity use by 10 to 20 percent by the end of the year. In a house already filled with compact fluorescent bulbs, this will be no easy task.

My most recent electricity bill arrived in the mail this week, so I now have my benchmark kilowatt numbers. It's enough to make me queasy.

We used a total of 19,405 KwH in the past 12 months. The average U.S. family uses 10,656 kilowatt-hours of electricity each year, or about 888 kwh per month. Our electricity usage has skyrocketed in the past year. I know what the culprit is.

We were well below average before we installed our new furnace.

In September 2007, we replaced our 1957 gas furnace with a geothermal electric heat pump.

Electricity is not my first choice for home heating and cooling. But, we really wanted a geothermal system, which is supposed to be earth-friendly. Even our lowest use month is still twice what it was before we installed the new furnace.

What we didn't know is that our furnace was not operating correctly for the first year. It ran constantly, due to some miscommunication with the thermostat. We had this fixed in mid-January. I am hopeful this will help, as I already notice that even in cold weather the furnace no longer runs constantly.

So, numbers in hand, our goal is to reduce our usage by 1,940 to 3,881 kilowatt hours a year. Our monthly average use is 1,617 kilowatt hours. Our monthly goal is to reduce usage by 161 to 323 kilowatt hours a month.

These are big numbers. We are planning to tackle this with a combination of upgrades large and small.

This month, We have already managed to implement part of our plan to reduce our kilowatt addiction.

* We installed the final three Energy Star windows in our house. We began this project last year, but because we are old fashioned, we only do what we can pay for out of pocket. We couldn't afford to do all of the windows at once, so we put off the last three (which we deemed to have less impact on our home's leakiness). Now, all of the windows are finished.This was our most expensive project, at $1,633.

* We hope to replace our washer with a front-loading energy star model. Our current washer is not energy star. I guess I was more concerned with price, as I had to buy a dryer, washer and fridge all at one time when I bought this house. We are still shopping around. Once we find a really efficient model, we'll start combing the scratch and dent stores for one.I think this will really reduce our KWH, as we do a lot of laundry now that we have a little one, and we use cloth diapers.

* I bought a Smart Strip for the computer, playstation, and entertainment center in the basement. I have a feeling this area is a huge user of vampire electricity. The strip cost about $35 with shipping. It turns off appliances and computer peripherals automatically when they have been idle more than 30 minutes. For other areas, I may just buy a plain old strip, plug everything in and then just flip off the strip when we aren't using what's plugged into it.

It's really hard to figure out where to cut when you've already plucked most of the low-hanging fruit. But, I'm determined.

Small triumphs

March 17th, 2009 at 04:06 am

I am trying to concentrate on the small triumphs lately, as things have been difficult at casa de thriftorama.

The good stuff: I am so far meeting my new year's goal to have stitch n bitch at my house. Everyone has been coming over twice a month since January, so that is nice.

Almost all of the seeds have sprouted, so my garden is off to a good start. I am pretty excited about that.

On to the other stuff:

I had no idea how profoundly having Beaner would change my life. I love him so much. But he is so exhausting. And, hubby and I have almost zero time together anymore. It's really changed our relationship, and frankly, we both liked the way it was before Beaner was around a lot more. Quality time is out the window, and I see no end in sight.

I'm still pretty sad and miss my dad, who died in July. The Bean just makes the pain more intense, because I wish so badly that dad could have held on longer to see how cool of a person his only grandbaby is turning in to. He ever looks likes my dad. (besides being bald and toothless).

I've made no headway on the Tiki fund goal. I am having trouble getting motivated. But, I mentioned before that I am having trouble being motivated and staying on track for all of my savings goal. The malaise has just spread to the tiki fund.

For some reason, this year I am seriously annoyed by my remaining student loan balance and am considering making getting rid of that the No.1 priority. I have yet to shift any money around or rearrange any automatic deposits, but I am still mulling it over.

I'm 34 today. Not exactly a landmark

March 13th, 2009 at 01:12 pm

34. Not too exciting a birthday. I can already legally drink, vote,and rent a car. Now I'm just waiting for my golden buckeye discount card, but I don't get that for another 21 years!

Hubby woke me up this morning with him and the Bean trying to sing me happy birthday. Neear-one year olds really just say "bwaaaaa!" and "dadadadadada" But it was a nice thought.

We might go out to dinner later. Other than that, no big plans.

Me, with pedometer

March 10th, 2009 at 10:35 pm

I "splurged" and bought a cheapo $5 pedometer. I figure it might help me lose the bay weight and give me some insight into my daily habits.

Just chasing the bean all day takes between 3500 and 4500 steps. Interesting. our usual walk adds about 1500-200 steps.

Today, I walked to the gym/ community center in my neighborhood to get added to my hubby's membership. That walk alone was 5200 steps.

To put this in perspective, most fitness people say to lose weight you need a minimum of 10,000 and ideally 12,000 or more steps each day.

So I guess this little thing is telling me I need to get off my butt. I paid an extra $150 to be added toy hubby's gym membership for the year.

I admit procrastinating. I didn't really want to spend the money, and I hate gyms. I also hate the fact that I am four days away from 34, and now I have to work out. My metabolism and my lifestyle are not as effective at keeping me slim as they were even five years ago.

After some thought I decided to do it, because I may be getting a better value than the dues imply. The center has free babysitting while you are anywhere in the building. They have wireless internet. Ergo, I can go there, drop off the bean and actually do some of my freelance work without having to pay a sitter. I want to try this. It could be the solution to work-bean balance I have been looking for.

I often stay up until midnight working, because I usually can't do anything until he's asleep at night. This may give me some much needed, highly productive work time, as well as a place to work out. We'll see.

I heart growing things...

March 10th, 2009 at 01:24 am

The first of my seedlings sprouted today. Maybe I am a geek, but it is so exciting and satisfying when those little green shoots push through the soil. It's like "come on little guys, you can make it!"

Little do they know we still have a long journey before they (hopefully) make it to the garden and then to our table as food, but it all starts with those two tiny leaves.

I am starting two kinds of green beans, luffa (for sponges, as gifts next Christmas), butternut squash, four kinds of exotic hot peppers, beets, butterfly bush, oregano, basil, dill, cilantro, cosmo flowers and a few other things, I think.

Some of these aren't traditionally started indoors, but I had enough seeds that I though what the heck, I'll give myself a homegrown insurance policy and see if I can grow them inside.

These little guys are going to help me meet my goal of growing 100 pounds of veggies in my own yard this year. Considering I have few spots of full sun, this homegrown food challenge is forcing me to be really creative in a new way. I highly recommend it.

I wish I had 10 acres or more, but I figure I need to use what I've got. Why wait for the acres when I have a lawn?

Getting a new credit card for college savings...

March 6th, 2009 at 02:20 am

I have decided to get a new rewards credit card. We currently have an Amazon card, and yes, all the free DVDs and stuff we get off of the site is great. But, change of plans. We have applied for the new Schwab rewards card, because it puts 2 percent of whatever your spending total is for the month in an investment account. No minimum purchase amount, not limits. We carry no debt and want to save more for Beaner's college, so we are going to use the rewards to supplement our additional college savings.
I figure we may as well get a reward that has a longer-term value than what we are getting from Amazon.

March priorities

March 4th, 2009 at 01:43 am

I will be the first to admit we have spent money like water since December. Christmas, then in January we bought two new sofas. We had been shopping for a while, and finally found a great deal. We also have taken several expensive weekend trips and a week long ski trip.

I have a spending hangover, and the fear has finally set in. Given the tanking stock market, the insecure job market, and that I haven't done very well making headway on my savings goals this year. It is really easy to see we need to get serious. We need to seriously start socking the money away.

So, no more indulgence. At least not the big ones we have been partaking in. Back to shopping at Aldi and making do on a $40 a week fun allowance. Back to trying to make more money and save as much as possible.

We did so well on our savings goals last year it was easy to take for granted that it would happen again this year. It took work to make them in 2008, and it will take work to make them in 2009.

We got complacent. No more.

45 layoffs at my old job

March 3rd, 2009 at 09:23 pm

My last full-time newspaper just laid off 45 people, many of them my friends. I am particularly miffed because it appears that the people cut were not chosen by talent or by output. A lot of useless people got to keep their jobs. A lot of the people who were outspoken toward management lost theirs, including one of my friends, who just had a baby a month ago.

What good does a layoff do if you just keep the people who don't pull their weight and cut people who do?

It's aggravating. It also means there will be more local competition for the few freelancing jobs that remain. That affects my bottom line, so I am a bit concerned.