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Archive for December, 2011

Toluna?

December 31st, 2011 at 04:52 pm

I signed up for Toluna and just did a survey worth 12,000 points. I'm always skeptical of these kinds of sites. Do any of you have any experience with them? Is it worth bothering?

Big idea for forcing savings?

December 30th, 2011 at 11:37 pm

For a long time I've been playing around with a money "Game" that can at the same time boost savings and significantly reduce non-essential spending.

Here it is and let me know if you think it could work. I call it "double or nothing" literally!

If you buy something non-essential-- a splurge, whether it costs a dollar or $300-- if you buy it, you have to put an equal amount immediately into a savings or investment account, or pay it toward debt. It would essentially **double** the cost of any non-essential item. So you'd really have to think about how much you could actually afford it. Or, if you valued it enough to "pay" double.

In the past, DH and I have also played a "game" where we have to donate an amount equal to the purchase to a charity we absolutely hate-- something that completely disagrees with our social and political morals. That has worked. Just thinking the above would still leave room for purchases, while spurring thought about them, and benefitting ourselves.

Any thoughts?

Quick debt update

December 30th, 2011 at 03:22 pm

I have an ING saving account that I kind of ignore, but I do auto transfer $35 to $70 a month into. I just checked it and it was at $553. To get a jump on the new year car pay-off, I sent $550 to the car loan balance. I'm amped to wipe out that debt!

I also sold an extra story to a wire service this month, will get paid in early January, to the tune of $525. Yay!

Peer pressure to save?

December 29th, 2011 at 10:53 pm

I read this article and thought it kind of reminded me of what we have going on here. A special support group and community that helps us save! Gee, aren't we lucky?

http://www.smartmoney.com/spend/family-money/will-peer-press...

2012 goals and resolutions

December 28th, 2011 at 05:23 pm



I cannot believe it is going to be 2012 soon. Where have this year and all the years before it gone??? I feel like it's the year 2000 and not 2012!

The New Year is sneaking up on me, but I thought I better put some thought into some goals or else I'll just be floating-- which is never good financially.

So, it's pretty much the same as last year, only maybe not as ambitious. I'm not giving up, I'm just being more realistic. Last year we had a paid off house, this year we have a mortgage of about $1700 a month (thanks public schools!), and this year's goals reflect that. Plus, I have a lot of personal goals this year, that will I think impact our financial lives, but also my mental life, which needs some tending.

I posted the financial goals in the sidebar.

On the other goals front, I REALLY REALLY need to free up time to finish my novel. It just needs a rewrite. I think this is a top priority.

I am also going to do at least one more serious Weight Loss Club at the Y (starts Jan. 7) , in an effort to lose 15 pounds this year. I may do the cheaper option, which is $35 vs $190. It doesn't include personal training, but I still have 3 unused training sessions from last time, so I may use those instead of paying for more. I did lose 14 pounds this year, one short of the goal, but I'm not crying over that last pound! I'm thrilled!

Here are some of my other goals. I hope they don't seem weird.

-Write thank you notes. Kind of gotten away from doing it consistently since the kids were born.

-Socialize more often. Hubby and I dropped off the earth when we had kids, and it's time to give all the people we never see a call. I'm thinking occasional girls' nights, poker nights in the basement, and reviving stitch n bitch craft nights. We used to do all of those, and now we don't.

-Lose 15 more pounds. This would put me in the super thin and healthy zone!

-Cook healthier and more economical meals at home, for us and the kids. And, more variety of food. I'm in a rut.

-Stop buying stupid stuff. If it isn't planned or on the list, skip it. And, don't go to the grocery store without coupons. I frequently pay too much because I lack the time to plan.

-Make fewer trips to the store. I'm putting my foot down. I end up going to the store too frequently because we forgot this or that. Better planning!

-Organize coupons better- to take advantage of unadvertised sales and so I can find what I need even if I don't plan.

- Try to buy used before automatically buying new.

Pouring!

December 21st, 2011 at 04:53 pm

When it rains, it pours.... I feel like I'm making an effort not to spend money, but life is spending it for me!

The bathroom still isn't finished. I'm out of emotional steam. The plumber had to come back twice to redo the stems for the faucet, and after visit number two, it still isn't right! Come on people!

The good news is the tile is up, grouted and caulked. Even if I had a faucet I wouldn't be able to use it, as I opted for epoxy grout which is supposed to be easier to clean. So yeah. Shared shower with the in-laws. Plumber was supposed to come back yesterday to fix stuff and install fixtures, but he was a no call no show. Argh.

So far, the shower has set me back $950. Not including the plumber. Haven't gotten a bill for that fiasco yet.

And, we are trying to get our house insulated, to the tune of another $2000. We are getting a fat rebate from the utility, so we're going to be able to do the attic and the exterior walls plus air sealing for that price. We're getting a 1500 discount up front and will qualify for another 638 dollars when it's done.

We were on the schedule for that but then I heard a scratching in the wall. MICE!! The exterminator is coming next week to set traps and seal up the area where they are getting in. Hooray. Another $250, plus two weeks at least to get the little guys out. So, I don't know when the insulation is going in.

The mice caught me off guard because I've never had anything like that in my house before.


Oh well, right? There's not much I can do except go with the flow and do my best. And hope the bills don't get to be too big.

bathtub repair saga

December 15th, 2011 at 08:26 pm

I'm a snowball of doom rolling down the hill, picking up more craziness along the way!

Y'all know hubby broke the soap dish off the shower wall Sunday night, causing a huge chunk of the wall to collapse. Instead of going to be dearly I had to scour angie's list looking for someone to fix it. I was lucky enough to find a reputable tile company that had had a cancellation. That's about where the good luck stopped.

I spent all my babysitting hours on Monday at the tile store trying to find an in stock tile I could live with. ANd it took forever for the sales people to ring me up and get everything taken care of.

On Tuesday, they started work but discovered that my old plumbing fixtures were corroded to the pipes, and barring a plumber intervention, they'd break the pipes taking them off, and even then the new fixtures won't fit on the old stems. So, I had to scramble to find the one plumber in town who isn't booked, and beg him to squeeze me in.

Plumber shows up, takes off the old fixtures and installs the new stems. He discovers a plumbing leak in the wall, right above an ill-placed working electrical outlet. In the tub wall. Hurray.

Tile people come back Wednesday and do two of the three shower walls, then discover the fixture stems aren't long enough because the plumber did not check to see if they would actually stick out of the wall far enough to connect once the backerboard and tile was on.

Work stops, have to call the plumber again. He can't show up until this morning. He comes, fixes it right this time (presumably, at least as far as I can tell), but while he's here the tile guy calls to tell me he is passing a kidney stone and isn't coming today.

This is turning into a very expensive and drawn out nightmare. Two day job on day four, no end in site, and the in-laws are coming next week. The epoxy grout probably won't even be dry. Meaning I have to share a bathroom with the in-laws. Ugh.

My whole week has been derailed. Two weeks in a row-- first no babystitters, now this. I'm supposed to be getting ahead on all of my freelance work so I can make it through the holidays, but nothing is working out!!!!

It's always something!

December 13th, 2011 at 12:38 am

Last night I took my mom and sister out for a holiday dinner. I toasted that this week HAD to be better than last! Then I came home to a worried looking hubby.

And he showed me this.



Apparently, he leaned on the soap holder when he was picking up toys, it broke off and a giant chasm broke out of the wall. The soap dish is still in there somewhere! Ugh. So, instead of going to bed early and getting a good night's sleep, I spent the rest of the night trying to find a tiling person who wasn't booked until February. I managed to find a good one on Angie's list who had just had a cancellation.

And today, instead of getting ahead on work, I was meeting contractors and spending an hour in the tile shop picking out new tile (from a very limited supply of in-stock things.). Ugh. It's always something!

I'll be out another $1000 because of this.

Help me prioritize

December 8th, 2011 at 05:17 pm

I can't believe 2012 is right around the corner. Now that it's time to think about next year's financial goals, I wonder if you guys might help me think some things through.

My old plans don't really work anymore, because now we have a car loan and a mortgage, as opposed to being debt free for the five years before 2011.

Right now, I send $500 extra each month to the mortgage, with the goal of having it paid off in about 5 years. This isn't too big of a burden, but...

--We're putting $200/ month into savings now. I was thinking of bumping that amount up. And, although I don't like to count chickens, so to speak, hubby usually gets a bonus of about $10,000 every February, which usually goes to savings or some other investment goal.

Anyway, we do have a car loan, at .9 percent interest. It's not a burden, but it's a waste. So, I was wondering what you thought about temporarily stopping paying extra on the mortgage and send that to the car loan. I pay about $40 extra a month on it now. If I used the mortgage extra, I could have it paid off in about 10 months, freeing us of both a $250 monthly payment AND the added expense of full-coverage insurance. (savings of another $200 a year?)

I'd actually save more in the long term paying down the mortgage, which ash a 4.678 interest rate than the car, but it's always nice to eliminate monthly payments.

Any thoughts?

$120 to savings!

December 7th, 2011 at 04:31 pm

This has been hell week. My sitter had to go out of town because her dad--who we love and the kids call grandpa-- was admitted to the hospital. THEN my mom and back-up sitter was sick this week, which never happens. She has an immune system of steel. Anyway, absolutely no sitters, scrambling to do my freelance work by deadline, and it's rainy and cold so the kids and I can't go out to play. The upside? The $120 I would have paid the sitter went right into savings! Yay!

Every little bit helps, right? I hadn't even thought of it until today, when it occurred to me to immediately move it into savings. I was going to spend it anyway, right? Might as well save it rather than let it dribble out of checking. So yeah. All of this used to be automatic, but now it takes thought. Geesh. I need to get back on track!

My plan, part 1

December 6th, 2011 at 05:23 pm

As y'all know I have two kids under 3.5 and I'm struggling with exhaustion, deadlines,a nd getting everything done. I've given my routine some thoughts.

Some initial thoughts
Maybe I can relieve some stress by laying the foundation to do more in less time, and get more out of the time I already so spend on everything. But how?

Some ideas:
1. Make fewer car trips, fewer trips to the store each week. This will require better planning, but can hopefully cut down on a lot of the "Oh we need this," store trips.

I have already "cut" some of the childcare trips. My sitter now lives 30 minutes each way (up from 10 since the move.) We won't give her up, but instead of driving home and back after pick ups and drop offs, I've begun working from the library by her house, and using that time to go to the gym, work, run errands, etc.

2. Check email and use the Internet fewer times each day. I'm thinking I might be able to check my mail in the morning, in the afternoon, and again before dinner and manage all of my work obligations. Except maybe the day before my story runs and my editor is blasting me with questions. But the rest of the week, yeah. And no surfing because I'm bored. If I'm on the computer, it's for work or something specific. Not just wasting time.

With that time, maybe I can redirect it into cooking, cleaning, vegging out, catching up reading while the kids are playing, etc.

3. Change the kids' TV time. We don't let the kids run rampant with the TV, but it is kind of random. I'm thinking it might be better to stop the random TV, and save it for only when I need to take a little break and get a little bit of work done. Maybe for 15 to 45 minutes?

4. Clean up my upstairs and downstairs workspaces. Upstairs is a catch all for bills and such to the point where I don't have a place for the computer sometimes.

Also, my office in the basement is still packed in boxes since the move. I need to set it up, as when my mom comes to watch the kids on Tuesdays, I'd at least have a quiet uninterrupted place to make calls and work. Right now, I'm upstairs, and they are always climbing all over me while I make calls and tugging on my arms begging me to hang out with them. It's impossible.

5.Get more out of my time with the kids. I'm often juggling so many things I'm not really there at all for the kids, even though I am there. Make sense? I'm trying to make an effort to read to them more, sit down on the floor with them more to build things and play with things, so that maybe when I do actually have to sneak off to make dinner or work, they won't be as desperate for my attention. We'll see. But it is exhausting!

6. Have designated nights for work projects, leisure, and personal projects. I have an informal system already, but it doesn't always play out in practice. Maybe I can be more motivated if I know working on X night, means I can work on my novel or watch a movie on Y night.

7. Plan meals and get a regular schedule so I have one less thing to think or worry about. I'd like to put as many of the mundane daily tasks on autopilot as possible. Not sure where to start, but I'm thinking.

Conflicted...

December 4th, 2011 at 09:10 pm

I've been struggling a lot lately with my freelance work, both with the lack of free time I have because I can only work when the kids are asleep, and with the low pay.

My first thought was to give up one of my weekly gigs, but realistically I probably won't. I really like it when the check comes, and now that we have a mortgage, we kind of need it to get where I think we need to be financially.

But, I am going to try to put my head to it and instead figure out how I can be more efficient in getting things done, and maybe free up more me-time as a result.

Anyway, on top of this. One of my friends owns a small marketing/ pr company and she called yesterday wanting to know if I'd help her write press releases for $22 an hour. At first I was dead set against it, but as usual, I let her talk me into it. I have one due on Wednesday. It's probably not going to be strenuous work, but it is more work at a time when I feel like I'm already not doing what I really want to-- which is finish my novel! Plus, it will probably only take an hour to 1.5 to write, so it isn't much money.

Not sure what to do about it. Not sure if having to squeeze one more thing into my schedule is worth the $25 or $30 I'd get out of it. It won't be a steady thing, just helping out another working mom for a little bit of extra cash. But still. That novel is gathering dust, and I really would like to go to bed early SOMEDAY! But alas, I have a hard time saying no, because in the freelance world you just never know if project will come back to you if you do.

It's the freelancer's curse. Usually, it's a once-shot opportunity, and if you don't say yes, it's gone.

I don't know. What do you think? Any ideas on how I can better manage work when I have to do most of it when the kids are in bed? I'm maxed out on childcare.

I'll post more thoughts on making better use of my time later.

Free loot! and missed car payment!

December 1st, 2011 at 04:55 pm

Kroger ran a promotion in Oct. and Nov. where you get 10 percent of your grocery spending as a credit to spend today in their marketplace stores, which are kind of like department stores. I had a $70 credit, which is great-- except it means I spent way too much on groceries the last two months!

Anyway, I debated going up there to use it. The closest one to me is at least a 30 minute drive with traffic. But, I talked myself into going. It was a madhouse. I think the toy aisle was about to get violent.

I didn't just want to get a bunch of junk we won't use just because it was free, so hubby and I talked about it last night. I hit the bakeware aisle and got two more cupcake pans (I make tons... sometimes dozens at a time for parties and such), three more cookie sheets for the holiday baking, a pizza pan so we can make homemade pizza, a small crockpot for appetizers and smaller batches, a green ball for my youngest, some watercolor paints for the kids, and a set of four stemless wine glasses. Not a bad haul, and even though I only did casual math in my head I didn't spend one single dollar over my total.

In other news, I did something totally dumb that I never have before. I forgot to make the car payment in November. I don't know how that happened. Luckily I'd made so many overpayments that I didn't technically have one due until this month. Geesh!