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Archive for July, 2009

Actually GOT cable TV!!

July 31st, 2009 at 03:02 pm

I still can't believe it. I have NEVER had cable TV since I moved out of my parents' house at 18. So for 16 years, no cable, and for 5 of those, no TV at all.

I'm still a little dizzy thinking about it. So what happened?

Hubby LOVES soccer. Unfortunately, he couldn't see the games he wants to see. He had to go to a bar or to someone else's house to watch games. He began lobbying for cable TV, with the Fox Soccer Channel, a month or so ago.

I finally caved and we had cable installed yesterday. It will be costing us about $50 a month extra on our phone/internet bill.

Hubby says it's fine, we can afford it.

We can. We have zero debt now, and we don't go out much because we have a bean and a second one on the way. (it's just too hard to get a sitter to go to the movies!)

We'll see how it goes. I am still skeptical. Mostly, because I don't want to be that guy who sits and surfs channels when nothing is on, which usually nothing IS on. I also don't want to raise TV addicted children. I want them to be out actually in the world, not sitting watching a virtual world.

Bean, at 16 months, has still seen NO television. He won't until 3, when we will start DVDs of Sesame Street.

student loan PAID off

July 30th, 2009 at 02:54 pm

My final payment hit today. My $40,000 in student loan debt is officially PAID IN FULL. I am now transferring my monthly payment to my savings account instead.

I graduated in 2001, and have been whittling away at that loan ever since.

When I got my first office job out of college, I vowed to keep freelancing and use all of my freelance money to pay down the loan. Some months, I was sending $1000 extra. When times were slim, I sent $50 extra. But as long as I had work, I always sent a little extra with the payment.

If I hadn't done that, I'd still be paying down that stupid debt 10 years from now.

My advice to those of you with loans-- always send a little bit more than you have to, even if it's $5. It does shave time off the loan.

garden goal and odds and ends

July 29th, 2009 at 05:05 pm

So I'm just shy of 19 pounds of produce so far this year. My goal is to grow 100 pounds of my own food from my very small urban garden.

I was planning to pick and process the beets today, but it is pouring down rain. Again. I'm happy to have the free water, but Bean and I don't like being stuck in the house.

I'm happy to report that the zucchini plants have finally given up and died. Thanks god. Bless them for being such good producers, but my freezer is packed with zucchini, and it got so bad that every time I picked one I would be angry, because I didn't want to have to come up with something ELSE to do with a zucchini.

I did try an awesome veggie chowder recipe (with zucchini, of course) yesterday. It was quite good. I will have to thank mom for the cookbook.

In other news, I am waiting for my student loan pay-off payment to clear the Dept. of Ed. It left my bank account this morning, but there is always a couple of days lag until it is processed by the Dept. of Ed. I hate waiting!

Once that clears, I will shuffle things about so the money I would have spent on a payment will go to the savings account instead.

I also have to get back on the wagon and rebuild the tiki bar fund. I liquidated $3000 of it to pay off the student loan. I haven't been very good at building it up this year. I'm also not so sure how much money is really to be made in eBay. etc. this year. I think everyone is cutting back on discretionary purchases, and I think that will make it harder to earn extra dollars.

Last student loan payment

July 28th, 2009 at 05:49 pm

Thanks for sharing all of your thoughts on my student loan. The money from savings hit my checking account today, so I scheduled my LAST payment. It should take another day or two to process on the lender's end.

When it does, I will cancel my monthly payment debit, and then have the $300 I would have sent for the loan transferred to savings once a month.

I think it will be a great weight off of me. Many times I've thought of taking enrichment classes at community college but have talked myself out of it because I still had my loan payment. Maybe now I will be more free.

Thinking about paying off the student loan

July 25th, 2009 at 05:16 pm

I have about $8100 left to pay on a student loan. Between the vacation fund and the tiki fund (yes, that one...), I have enough to pay it off. Right now, the payment on that loan is about $300 a month. We are expecting another baby in November, which means another college fund.

We'd still have a decent-sized emergency fund. As long as hubby and I can stay at least partially employed, we will be in good shape.

The loan has really started bothering me recently. I paid too much for a virtually worthless degree. Journalism is no longer a profession. No one is hiring, the industry is in shambles, and the jobs I had had have never once paid as much as I made working as a Bourbon Street bartender before I got the degree. How sad is it that a bartender can make more than a reporter at a major daily newspaper??

So, I guess I am mad that I spent so much on a degree. and I'm ready to put it all behind me.

So, should I just go ahead and pay it off?
My savings accounts are paying about 1.3 percent, and I am paying 4 percent interest on the loan. We get virtually no tax deduction for it. I would automatically redirect the $300 I was spending back into savings, which would eventually replenish the money I am taking out.

Any thoughts?

credit card rewards for college savings?

July 24th, 2009 at 02:21 pm

A while back I did something I never do: I applied for new credit cards for me and the hubby. After some serious hard thinking, I decided we could do better with our rewards. We switched from an Amazon card to a Schwab rewards card.

We liked the Amazon card, but really, did we need Amazon gift certificates? we used them, but CDs, DVDs, and books are fun but not really getting us ahead. (It had 1 percent rewards)

The Schwab card pays 2 percent rewards, in cash, into a Schwab brokerage account each month. So, instead of a CD we'd actually be getting an investable asset as a reward. Much more our speed.

Caveat:This wouldn't have made sense for us if we didn't already have all of our investment accounts at Schwab. We do.

We already have one brokerage account but decided to open one specifically for this card. It is now the auxillary college savings account for our Beans. Any money we save for college that is above the $2,000 a year per kid we can deduct from our state taxes in our state 529 goes into this account.

After some serious math, we decided we could reach our goal by socking away $4600 a year per kid total in all accounts.

Anyway, I just want to say that after several months the rewards card is working out nicely. It took more than a month for the first deposit to show up, but since then it has shown up regularly.

We charge our day to day expenses and then pay them off every pay day. So far, the card has put about $100 into that account. I deem that a $100 bonus for money we would have spent anyway.

Hopefully I can figure out a way to grow that money for my Beans' college.

Save me from pregnancy-driven home projects!

July 22nd, 2009 at 03:20 am

I don't know what it is about pregnancy. I feel literally deep down compelled and driven to fix up the house.

My main project has been clearing out the last guest room to transform it into a guest room/ nursery/ play room for the beans.

It had turned into the room where we moved everything that we no longer had room for somewhere else in the house. It's been a lot to go through.

I freecycled the full-size bed ( I have a futon in there instead), the old dresser from our master suite, and a 1960s telephone chair that had been sitting in the closet. I emptied the closets of almost everything-- a few odds and ends left. Tomorrow, I need to go through the cedar chest I inherited from my grandparents and decide what to keep, and where to put it.

I've also been cleaning out the garage and most of the closets trying to get rid of clutter. My new goal is to give what we don't use to the organizations and people who can most benefit, but that is a lot of work!

After this weekend, I am hoping to have the flooring replaced in our upstairs powder room (it is water damaged, from improper seating of the toilet). And, after I paint the new play room in an ocean theme, call the electrician to get a quote for some ceiling fans.

I don't know what's gotten into me. I haven't really felt the desire to fix the house since my last big project binge in February. Hubby took Bean on a week-long trip, so I redid our master bedroom and completely remodeled the bathroom that week and I was home -improvemented out.

But, these last few weeks I feel agitated and bothered if I'm not making progress. I suppose this is normal!

Tackled the basil today

July 20th, 2009 at 05:23 pm

I noticed the basil plants were large and happy, so I decided today was the day to process it. I figured I would get something done before the next round of zucchini take over my life. So, Bean and I trimmed the plants (he supervised...) and then turned them into 2 batches of walnut pesto. Mmmm. It should be enough for a couple of pasta meals this winter. I still have some leaves left, but not enough for another batch of pesto. My sister is loaning me her seal a meal tonight so I can pack the extras and freeze them.

Am I finally back on the horse?

July 19th, 2009 at 01:49 am

It seems like forever since we've actually been able to put any money in the savings account. It seems like every month we had a big expense that just wiped out all of the extra.

I had ambitious savings goals for this year, but let's face it. Thanks to the economy, our income has dropped off. My freelance income has dropped by 75 percent. My husband's side income has almost completely dried up, leaving us one pay check and not a lot of side work pay to meet the goals. We are treading water as a result.

We have a second baby on the way. That isn't helping. The Bean was such a difficult infant that we have been taking a lot of short trips and going out to dinner a lot, in anticipation of having absolutely NO life once the second baby arrives. I know that's kind of terrible, but we also know how hard it's going to be to have two boys under 2.

Maybe when Bean Too is born, we will be able to save because we won't be doing ANYTHING for 6 months or more!

Anyway, it's time to be more careful and to prioritize again. I think we managed to sock way $450 this month because I was more deliberate. We also didn't go anywhere.

I'm hoping to keep that up. I am currently doing a lot of cleaning and decluttering around the house. I guess my maternal nesting instinct is kicking in. I feel compelled to get rid of extraneous belongings and to empty out closets to make room for another person. Luckily, cleaning and donating are free.

I do have some house projects that I would like to have finished before the new bean arrives, namely repairing our half bath in the kitchen. the toilet wasn't seated correctly, so the floor needs to be replaced and the toilet redone so it doesn't leak. And, I'd like to have ceiling fans installed in both of the kids' rooms and in the kitchen. More of a nice upgrade and a comfort thing than a necessity. I have no idea how much the fan electrical work will cost. They would be replacing recessed light fixtures. Is that a big deal? I really need to call the electrician!!

100 pound produce challenge update

July 16th, 2009 at 04:19 pm

One ofy new year's goals was to grow 100 pounds of produce in my home garden. It's still early in the season for the things I'm growing, namely tomatoes, potatoes and butternut squash, but here are the numbers so far:

14.6 lbs zucchini-- all from 2 plants
1.35 lbs. beets
.18 lbs hot wax and banana peppers (8 peppers)

16.13 lbs. total A long way to go to hit 100!

The second part of the challenge is to not let anything go to waste. We have turned the zucchini into 6 loaves of bread plus 12-2 cup bags of frozen for later addition to bread or soup. (We also roasted and ate some and made casseroles).


zucchini taking over

July 14th, 2009 at 02:59 pm

One of my goals this year was to grow 100 lbs of food in my garden. So far, I am up to about 13 pounds. As you probably guessed, mot of it is zucchini so far, although I did pull 1.5 pounds of beets yesterday.

I have tried everything in the book to get rid of those zucchinis. I made bread, then shredded most of it and froze it in 2 cup bags (for more bread...). Last night, I made a casserole. It wasn't bad, but hubby was like "is this another clever way to hide zucchini?" Um... yes.