The in-laws are in town, so I managed to sneak out Saturday and have a mostly me day.
I shopped for a new cell plan, and got one, so that is one big thing off the to-do list.
I was paying about $600 a year for plan, and we hardly used it. So, I ended up going with prepaid. I bought the phone for $100, then bought 1000 minutes for $100. So, $200 and the minutes will likely last at least 6 months. At the most, I anticipate we'd pay $300 for a years' worth of service, so in effect, I've cut my bill by about 50 percent and got a much more functional phone.
The rest of the day I actually went shopping and out to dinner and drinks with my sister (it was her b-day.) I dropped a bunch of my clothes off at the consignment store. They only took three things, but paid me $27. Not bad. The rest is going to the thrift store.
Right now I'm in a hotel room with the honey. The in-laws say they can't handle the kids for more than 2 days without us (which ruins any chance of a real vacation, ever.), so we just drove 2 hours away to a ski resort. Hubby snowboarded last night while I sat in the lodge and worked on my novel (once again, back to that list of important to-dos!)
I was planning to ski today, but once again the urge to work on my novel is trumping all desire to ski. It's weird, because I like to ski. I suppose it's good I'm drawn back to the novel. Revising is almost the hardest part, and I never have a big chunk of time like this to concentrate on it. Now is the time!
I was also thinking about what some of the other moms on here have said about to-do lists. You are right. I need to just let it go and not be so stressed out when things don't get done. From now on, I think only very important and timely things are going on the list (like filing income tax...). Little things, like dropping the box off at goodwill, will not be on the list. If it happens, fine. If it doesn't, nothing bad will happen.
So yeah, I'm resolving to keep little things off the list. And only put big things on there that really really need attention-- at some point.
I did finally get two tax forms, and they were handy enough to be the most important. I plugged them in to turbotax, and it looks like we will be able to meet our house saving goal out of the refund. That is great news. I also forgot that hubby sometimes gets a bonus at work. It posts at the end of February.
I haven't decided how to spread that money around. I may just take the money we need to hire the lawyer to do our wills and trusts out of it, then put the rest in savings. We really really need to get those wills done, and this would be a kick in the pants to take care of it. I may also take the $800 or so needed to upgrade our home's electric box-- something we need to do before we sell.
Archive for January, 2011
The in-laws are in town, so I managed to sneak out Saturday and have a mostly me day.
Geesh. Easy peasy!
Ever since I've had children I'm exhausted, stressed-out, and angry. All the time. I used to be very relaxed and easy going, level-headed and fun. I don't like who I've turned into. I want to be my old self again.
Take better care of myself. I haven't had any time for my appearance since having kids 3 years ago. I look terrible. It's shameful really. I don't buy clothes because I haven't lost the baby weight and I don't want to spend the money when I'm hoping to lose it.
I'd have a real relationship with hubby. I miss how close we were before kids, and all the fun we used to have. Now, it's all work work work, kids kids kids.
Our friends tell us it will get better, but that seems so far away.
As you can tell, life has gone downhill in many ways since we had children. I adore my kids. and I love them very much, but let's be realistic. They change everything, and in ways you can't ever imagine before you have them. I want to get back to where I was in these areas.
I took a giant box of very nice things to the baby resale store today. It was so not worth it. They gave me $8.34. Seriously????
I've decided I am finished with baby resale. Either the stuff goes on craigslist or straight to the goodwill.
I always have to wait around forever to get my buy offer from the resale shop, it's an out of the way drive, and they always give me a pittance, yet the stuff in the store is expensive.
I made $7 today without much work at all. I had forgotten that I still have a few things-- mostly vintage sewing patterns-- for sale in my etsy store. One of them sold and shipped today, so I made $7 after expenses. Not too shabby.
I am hoping to have a craft night with a friend in February. We have some ideas of things we want to make, and maybe I can make them well enough to sell them on Etsy.
I really need to take better advantage of Etsy. It's just been a time thing. So many goals, so few hours in the day. Alas, I will just have to set aside some time to post more to the store, and to design a few new things. It really is nice to make the money, even if it is a little at a time.
The $7 is going to my $20 challenge.
I finally got cracking on one of my 2011 goals: shop for a new, cheaper cell plan. I got my most recent bill and I literally only used 34 minutes. I pay $60 a month for 1000 minutes. Geesh.
My current plans costs us about $624 a year. The deal below, would cost us about $516. (After taxes) I'm looking for an even better deal.
I use T-mobile. I have always been happy with them. My contract is expired, so I am month to month now, which gives me flexibility. I talked to a rep and he was willing to give me $29.99 a month for 350 minutes plus $4.99 for texts, and a free phone with a keyboard so I could actually text. (Can't really on my current model). But, I would be locked in to another2 year contract.
It's a better deal and closer to what I want, but I am still going to go into the T-mobile store and play around with some prepaid phones to see if that might be better. I think prepaid is about $100 for 1000 minutes, which at my rate of use, might last 6 months. I also want a phone with a keyboard for texting, as most of my friends prefer to communicate that way.
I'll probably go in Saturday and see what they've got, then I'll crunch the numbers and see what's a better deal.
Oh yes, and the spendy babies. Enrollment for toddler 1's next preschool school year is Feb. 7, which means another $200 deposit. We have decided to skip summer camp because we just can't afford it, so at least for July and August, we'll be spending about $240 less a month on childcare.
I added $12 to the $20 challenge today, as I sold a book on Amazon. I had forgotten how those little amounts add up.
Otherwise, not much to report. We just spent the weekend with some friends in Maryland. It was a serious baby party. All the kids running around all crazy. A house with three toddlers and one infant is not a house where anyone gets a good night's sleep.
We had fun, but are happy to be back in our own beds and on our own schedule.
I paid the bills yesterday, and the checking account is pretty slim. I only managed to send $35 to savings this pay check. It's always like that this time of year. Lots of big bills come in January-- property tax, homeowners' insurance, etc.
I still haven't gotten a single tax form. I'm anxious to get the return done so we can get our refund!!
I can tell you I am working hard, not hardly working.
Since I took on my extra regular freelance gig, I am up to my eyeballs in work. It's been a little frustrating, considering it's not a high-paying gig.
Over the weekend, as I was once again bumping up against deadline, I said to myself that I'll give it six months, and if the work doesn't become more manageable, I'm going to have to give it up.
Life is hard right now-- two kids under 3, freelance work that must be done after bedtime, ergo mommy doesn't even get 10 minutes of down me-time. Ever.
I think my boss on this project must have been zoning in on my brainwaves. Out of the blue today, she sent me an email saying she was bumping up the pay, from $300 a month to $400 base. Some months, it will be $500. (Some months, due to the calendar, require a little more work every month, because there are 5 Sundays.)
Just enough to reel me back in. In this economy, I can't turn down $400 a month, to help my family reach its ambitious goals. So, looks like I am going to have to find a way to get this workload under control, because the project isn't going away...
The week is finally back on track. Okay, I'm playing catch up, but the kids are no longer sick, I am no longer sick, and I have a couple of hours free to catch up on work.
My freelance check landed in my account (delay posting due to MLK day), so I sent $300 to my IRA, $210 to the kids' 529 and $90 extra to the car loan. It feels good to inch ever so slightly closer to the goals.
Payday is Friday. Woo-hoo! Hopefully I'll be able to stash something in savings and still pay all the bills.
I also sold a book on Amazon. I bought it for 25 cents at a yard sale and sold it for $13. Must ship today. It's very exciting to make that much. It doesn't happen often.
I'm still anxious to get started on our taxes. Not a single 1099 or tax form has arrived yet. What is taking so long???
I am now convinced it's useless to make a to-do list and actually plant to cross anything off of it once you have children.
I had a ton to do today, both work and otherwise. I was JUST about to put my head on the pillow last night when kid 1 walks in the room. I pick him up to put him to bed and he barfs everywhere. Projectile. Great.
I had to change his sheets, clean his floor, change his clothes. Everything. So we sit up together for a while, he says he's okay, I put him to bed. Five minutes later, he's up again, barfing. And on it went. Didn't get to bed until 2:30 a.m. Decided to keep him and his brother home from the sitters. Had to cancel all of my meetings today, and pray like heck I can reschedule them for Wednesday.
Now, we're all home. I'm exhausted. He's lower energy, but still high energy because he's a toddler. No naps in my future. Lots of laundry. And I'm just praying me and brother don't get sick, too.
Oh well. Always a wrench in the plans, right?
Monday is officially a holiday, except in our house We still have to work and meet deadlines, it's just now we have to wait an extra day for our checks to deposit!
Oh well. I just hate waiting. When I deposit my freelance checks, I like to transfer the money to all the different goals so I can see some progress on the sidebar. I'm addicted to results, I suppose, so it can be hard to be patient!
I have a bit of work to do tomorrow while the kids are at the sitters, but I am hoping I will also have time to take some baby toys to the resale shop and get a little bit of money for them. Probably not much, but still.
And if I'm feeling extra ambitious, I may drop off another box at the goodwill. Always so much to do!!
We picked up the enrollment forms for summer camp at kid 1's preschool. We pay $200 or so a month for two half days of preschool. Summer camp, for the same days and basically the same activities with the addition of swimming, is $520 a month. I was shocked. Why does it cost so much more?
I think these places realize parents are desperate and need child care so they can work, especially in summer. Schools let kids out but jobs don't let parents out.
So, hubby and I talked about it and it's going to be a rough summer. I'll have to find some other way to keep him occupied so I can do my freelance jobs, because $520 in addition to what I already pay someone else to watch him 8 hours a week is just too much.
The coupons are coming along. Got 3 toothbrushes and 4 tubes of toothpaste-- 1 free- for deep discounts, loaded up on BOGO rump roast and pork loins for the freezer.
I also got a free box of Cheerios (buy 3, get 1 free promo). The three I bought were also on sale 75 cents off, plus I used 3.25 more in coupons, so I paid about 25 percent of the normal cost for all of them. It felt great!
I bought a new cheap printer that I'm going to use for coupons. (My fancy printer ink it too expensive for this. The new printer cost half as much as a refurb ink refill for the other printer!!).
Also cleaned up the laundry room. It isn't scrubbed or painted yet, but it is organized. Still a couple of boxes to go through, but most of the work is done.
Habitat for Humanity Restore picked up the big stuff from the laundry room-- the vanity and the lamp table--after hubby and I lugged it upstairs.
Here is the before:
Here is the after:
It's almost embarrassing that it was so bad for so long, considering it only took about 45 minutes to clear it out.
The checking balance is razor thin this week, due to property taxes, preschool bills, 529 deductions, and all the other things we have to pay for out of this check. But, we'll manage. It happens every January.
I'm itching to get started on our tax return, but not a single tax form has arrived. Argh.
I also made the mistake of filling out an online form requesting homeowners insurance quotes. I specifically requested email contact only, but my cell has been ringing off the hook with insurance agents. It really annoys me. Email is much better when you're a mom. (Form wouldn't submit without a phone number.)
Also, for some reason, none of the agents are in my city. They are all at least 100 miles away. It makes no sense. I'm dedicated to shopping for new insurance, but I want a local agent and don't want to be harassed.
Got a collection call for hubby's crazy ex from 11 years ago. Apparently, she has been putting our phone number on credit applications. Hubby has had at least 4 phone numbers since they broke up, and has lived in two other states, so this is crazy and really annoying. Nothing fishy on the credit report, though.
I got a freelance check for $600 today. I will deposit it and send
50 percent to IRA = $300
35 percent to kids college = $210
15 percent to car loan = $90
We also met with our realtor today, to get an assessment of what we could sell our house for.
149,000 if we want to sell fast
169,000 if we want what we should get out of it.
We paid 155,000 five years ago, and have put 40,000 into upgrades. We knew we would be taking a loss. Frankly, the numbers are better than we thought.
I've been sneaking around clipping and filing coupons. Hubby didn't know about it until he caught me printing some off the internet last night.
I didn't want to deal with his eye rolling, and I do most of the shopping, so I kept it on the down low. Anyway, I was shocked, because now he's totally into it. This morning, he was rattling off a list of name brands we really like and asking if I could go on their web sites and look for coupons.
No more sneaking around!
I can't wait for spring-- just so I can let the boys run off some energy outside. I used to love winter--fires, catching up on reading-- but being cooped up in the cold with two toddlers is enough to warrant sainthood. That, and we went cold turkey on binkies for both kids this week. What was I thinking???
We've had about 6 inches in the last two days. Not much compared to a lot of people. I'd send the oldest out, but it's just so bitterly cold it'd be too risky. He hates hats and gloves, so I could see that ending poorly. I did let him go out to shovel the sidewalk and driveway with dad, and he seemed to enjoy that.
He'll be 3 in April, which means it's "potty" time. Before I was a mom the thought of having to teach some irrational human to use the bathroom revolted me. Didn't sound like much fun. Well, it's not any more fun now that I am a mom!
I've been bribing him with stickers. He goes potty, he gets a sticker. I made a chart, and when it's filled up, the whole family gets to go out for ice cream. This seems to be working. That and the occasional lollipop for no accidents. What can I say. We're making this up as we go along, but isn't that how most parents do it?
I bought a cheap $30 HP printer today. I'm from the generation whose first ever computer cost $2500, so when I see how cheap technology has become, I am always shocked. It is a great little machine for the money, and perfect for my needs-- printing coupons and mapquest directions. Ink is cheap.
I already have a printer, but it's an expensive graphics thing that requires VERY expensive ink. It'd cost me a billion to print coupons, so the $30 Hp seemed to make sense.
The new freelance job is crazy, and really too much work for the money. I'm hoping it will tone down after I've been doing it a while and am in the groove. If it doesn't I may have to make a tough decision and either drop it, in favor or less frequent but higher-paying work. But we aren't there yet. I'm going to stick it out.
Thanks for listening to me ramble!
So, I was all set to buy Quicken Starter 2011. I just want something to help me track spending in categories, so I know where I can do better. Goal tracking is also nice. I was all set to buy Quicken, then I started reading the reviews. It doesn't sound like a particularly elegant or well-designed piece of software.
Then I started reading up on Mint.com, and it sounded like it offered the same things for free. I had started a Mint.com account six months ago, but got uncomfortable handing out my account numbers and passwords to some random web company.
Now I feel paralyzed with indecision. Who knew finding budgeting software would be so hard?
I guess I don't want to spend money on a program that may be a dud.
In other news, it's probably snowed 3 inches here today. Half the town is shut down due to bad roads. I got groceries last night in preparation.
Also, the charity truck came today to pick up some of the stuff that had been living in my cluttered and disastrous laundry room.
I've been testing my coupon skills (I'm a total newbie) on the low-hanging fruit this week: toothpaste. It's always on sale, I'm not brand loyal, and there is always a coupon.
Today was my first ever free tube of toothpaste. Colgate, on sale for $1, I had a 50 cent coupon, and the store doubled it. I should frame that tube of toothpaste and refer to it every time I need some inspiration!!
Earlier this week, I got a tube of colgate for 29 cents at Target, using a manf. coupon plus a store coupon. That also felt good.
I wanted to test out the BOGO plus using two coupons thing at Walgreens. I was skeptical. But, it worked. I paid more than I ever will again for two giant tubes of toothpaste. Reg 4.29, BOGO, plus I had two 75 cent off coupons. Final price: $3.08 for two tubes.
Also, I had hoped to get some free toothbrushes, but alas the coupon was not good for the ones that were on sale. Using the double coupon policy, I did get two $2.23 toothbrushes, used two 75 cents ($1.50 each doubled coupons) so paid about 73 cents each for the brushes. Fair enough.
I think I'm starting to get the hang of it, although I have yet to figure out when to use the coupons and when to hold on and look for a better deal. I don't want to get so excited that I just go all will-nilly buying things we don't need or using up good coupons when I'm not getting the best deal. Alas, it takes time.
Well, I did have a couple of exciting coupon success stories today.
I got a tube of colgate for 29 cents, after stacking two coupons. My goal is super cheap toothpaste. There always seem to be coupons out there
And, I got two cans of cat food for free-- actually I made money on them. I had a coupon for $1.50 off any size, and they only cost 77 cents each, but the store gave me the full $1.50 off each. I bought two, had two coupons. So they in effect lowered my bill on the other things I was buying. (I feel a little bad about this. I expected them to be free, but not to get value beyond their retail price.)
That's it. I did have to buy paper towels and toilet paper at retail-- but store brands. And, I bought kid 1's first set of big boy underpants. Trying to get out of diapers.
Anyway, it felt good to finally get something for basically nothing via coupons. Gotta stretch that budget!
Here is the weekly update.
-Hubby managed to get a statement for his 401k, and there is more than 2 times in it than I thought there was. You don't get good news like that very often! His company match is also 100 percent up to 6 percent, so we are getting all of that.
-I sold one of the kids' toy racks (we don't use it) on craigslist for $20
It was also s good week for conquering clutter:
-I dropped off another box at the Goodwill
-Organized bookmarks on my computer
-Cleaned out my office and rearranged it to make it a more comfy work space.
-Cleaned out my bedroom closet. Toddler 1 was standing in it yelling "I'm standing in the garbage!!!" earlier this week, so that was a clear sign it needed to be organized
-I saved a little bit of $$ using coupons and sales
-I set up a coupons only email account
-Updated our Upromise account, discovered we have $10 in it.
-Then, I signed up for email coupons/alerts for all of the products for which I am brand loyal. I have no idea why I never did this before. I could have been saving a mint!
-Also registered so I can load digital coupons onto my store cards.
- I stocked the pantry at Aldi this week, and only spent $65. It kind of showed me what is and isn't the best deal, versus the coupon price at the regular store.
I can't wait to get the hang of the coupon thing. There is so much you can do to save here and there, I feel almost foolish for not doing it sooner.
-I sent the regular payment to the car loan, and all of it went to principal. It hit the same day as my extra payment from the freelance check, so I saved a little in interest.
-Spent $546 in the last two weeks, well under our $800 spending cap. Woo-hoo!! The property tax bill has arrived, so I have only been buying absolute essentials.
-Most of the bad was work. The holidays are always hard in my business. Everyone is on vacation, but I still have deadlines. I was way behind for the week, totally stressed, and took it out on the kids. I had to call in grandma and hit the reset button.
-The homeowners insurance bill came. Up AGAIN. When we bought this house 5 years ago, our annual insurance bill was $436. Now it's $774. It's time to start shopping around. The company hasn't given me any good explanation as to why it's doubled in price.
-I'm not going to be able to put anything in savings this payday, because we're paying our property tax bill out of cash flow. Oh well. Next time for sure.
The laundry room. Brace yourself. These photos are gory.
It's become a catch-all for things we don't have space or energy to deal with when raising two toddlers. It's the next big organization/cleaning/painting project. I have also made no effort to paint or improve it since we moved in.
I have already scheduled a charity pick-up for the vanity, sink, and lamp table. And, I have some more bins so I can finally organize all of the holiday decor, computer parts, and party supplies.
I hope these are enough to at least tame the beast.
I'm looking to buy one or two really really good crock pot cook books. Not something where every recipe involves a can of cream of chicken soup. But recipes that me and my toddlers can all eat. I'm all ears.
Hubby has been a nervous wreck the last couple of days. When I told him we hadn't received a statement for his 401k in two years, he automatically began to think the worst. Symptom of our generation, I suppose. We Gen Xers lost money in the dot.com bust, the housing bust AND the great recession. Doesn't make you optimistic about the future.
Anyway, I told him just to call HR and ask how we can get a statement. He avoided it all day out of fear and dread. He just came up with the password, etc. for me to look at the digital statement and make changes to our allocations, etc.
The good news? I had estimated we had $66,000 for our net worth statement. We have a little more than $151,000. And, his company match is more generous than I thought, matching 100 percent up to the first 6 percent. (We exceed that, so we're getting all of our match).
That was a huge pleasant surprise.
Also, I sold one of the kids' unused toy storage racks on Craigslist today for $20. That went into the $20 challenge piggy bank.
I'm halfway through week one of my attempts to coupon and cut my grocery bill. I'm wondering if I'm in over my head. It's so much to think about!
My goal is to save 30 percent or more on the items we use frequently.
The highlights of this week:
I bought two large packs of boneless chicken breasts. They were on sale for $1.99, down from $3.29 a pound. I saved $13.54. I divided the packages into small, serving size bags in the freezer. I also used a $1 off Catalina that I found at the self-checkout.
I used my grocery discount card to save 30 cents a gallon on 10 gallons of gas. ($3.03 to 2.73/gallon)
I signed up for a CVS card, and used it to get BOGO cocoa roasted almonds. Reg price: $6.49 a can. Got one free, plus used $1 coupon, so $5.49 for 2. I eat these when I am in fat club, so I'm happy to have some on hand.
I was not able to get any of the items couponmom.com marked as "free" or really great deals at my local grocery and drug stores. I was mad at first, but realize I'm not going to score every time.
I also missed out on coupons for Horizon organic milk and seventh generation because the coupons were no longer online by the time I got around to hooking up the printer and installing the coupon software. I clearly have to jump on these things when I see them.
I realize it is going to take time. I need to build up a cache of coupons, pay attention to sales flyers, etc.
I am going to start simple:
Buy loss leaders
Buy on sale, and match sale items with a coupon
Look for catalinas
I signed up for Couponmom.com, to get me started. I also began saving all of my Sunday coupon inserts (as per coupon mom system) and am now looking at the mid-week grocery ads and the CVS and Walgreens ads.
I realize I am not going to be able to save big all at once. I hope to slowly build a stockpile of the items we use frequently, so then we can start only shopping sales.
So, I have repurposed the built in cabinets in the basement bathroom. They are mostly empty, so it will become our pantry stockpile.
I hit the reset button on my terrible two days. I did manage to get myself in a decent place work-wise by about 4:30 today, so that was a huge relief. Then, I called in reinforcements (read: Grandma) to help with the kids so I could go to spinning class at the Y. I don't know why, but a good workout always takes the edge off.
I still feel bad for being short-tempered with the babies. Poor kids. Just being toddlers. I was just so stressed today I was really short with them. But, I tucked them into bed (which means back to work..) and all seems to be well.
It also seems clear that I am going to have to change my work strategies (again) to deal with the constantly changing developmental stages.
I have been completely stressed-out, irritated, and way angry the last two days.
It all started Sunday. Hubby was supposed to take the kids for a couple of hours so I could get work done on my new freelance gig. he didn't. Plus I got stuck alone with them for 5 hours at my family holiday gathering. Hubby had a cold, and decided to stay home. Uh huh. You can't hang because you've got a cold?
SO, no time to work on my project until the kids went to bed, so I had to stay up until 2 a.m. to get it finished.
Hubby then woke me up at 7:30 by putting the kids on the bed. They jumped up and down on me and scratched at my face (two huge pet peeves first thing in the morning).
I was exhausted all day. I had to start on two more freelance projects that are due Thursday. I made calls and sent emails but as of yet, have had zero response.
Kid 2 didn't take his usual nap while kid 1 was at preschool, and he was in the "I'm going to cry unless you're carrying me around mode." I am so angry and stressed right now. People are counting on me to get things done and I have had zero response. The kids are not giving me five minutes to do anything.
I feel like the world isn't cutting me a break.
I'm feeling emboldened by my recent sign up at couponmom.com and my desire to coupon, coupon, coupon.
Tomorrow, I am going to try my hand at a couple of CVS deals.
Namely, $1 marcal paper towels with $1 coupon = free
Buy 2 revlon tools (the ones I want are less than $3.50 and I need them--toenail clippers!), get $7 in ECB back= free
And, buy one get one on my favorite nuts. I have a coupon for the one I "buy" ,and plan to pay for the rest with the ECB.
We'll see how it goes. I'm skeptical and nervous!!
Y'all inspired me with your net worth calculations.
After adding up all of our IRAs, Roth IRAs, the equity in our house (we have no mortgage, but the value is hard to determine), savings accounts, etc. And deducting our liability-- the car loan our net worth as of 12/31/2010 is:
Ages: Me, 35, hubby, 37.
This includes $66,000 in hubby's 401k. I have no idea what the actual balance is, so I just used the figure for what we personally contributed to it in the last 4 years. No company match, gains or loss etc. I know, not very scientific, but it's the best I could do right now.
We did not include the balances in the 529s, as that is the kids' money.
I'm hoping I can boost this number by 12/31/2011.