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Archive for March, 2012

cable bills, debt chips, and pay-off squeaks from the deadbeat

March 29th, 2012 at 12:12 pm

Nothing too big and exciting has happened lately-- except hubby's friend who borrowed that $5,000 from us two years ago and then proceeded to go on a bunch of exotic vacations sent us an email talking about setting up the "big payoff". We'll see if the money materializes. I'd had some fantasies about paying off the car loan with it if it does show up, but I'm trying not to get my hopes up.

On that note, I'm chipping away slowly at our car loan and mortgage. I just wish I could pay them off faster! Today, I got paid $80 for a monthly, small freelance gig. I sent the money to the car loan. It's not much, but it will help!

I'm dreading paying the credit cards off this payday. I just feel like we are spending money left and right. Ugh.Oh well, the pain will just strengthen my resolve to clamp down on spending!

On the spending front, my cable bill has been annoying me. We signe dup for the fixed rate $129 a month for internet, phone and cable. Of course, the bill is magically $166. Um yeah. I called about a couple of annoying mystery fees that have popped up. A "turbo-charged" Internet fee of $10 a month, an HD recording service fee of $10, and a DVR service fee of $10. (No one at the cable company could tell me why we pay two fees for DVR service, one regular, and one for HD channels? Anyway, I did cancel the "turbo-charged" fee, which ironically, has not slowed my internet one bit. (scam). And, I'm going to call back and hopefully get someone else on the phone who can explain the DVR fees.

I tried to buy a regular no fee DVR but found none that didn't require a monthly service fee. So frustrating. I hate the idea of paying for TV anyway, so to pay to record tv shows? Ridiculous. I am thinking of just dumping the service, but we do record soccer games and shows like Walking Dead and Madmen. What to do....

Hubby also called to cancel an old credit card (Bank of America). We dumped it almost a year ago because the rewards went from awesome to stingy. We thought we had closed the account when we called before, but they began sending us bills for $1.50 a month to "maintain" the account. (Scam!), and insisted we hadn't cancelled, we had suspended the account. Um no. I know what I mean when I say cancelled. So, we resolved that. These corporations really anger me with this kind of crap.

We'll also soon be cancelling our Chase sapphire card and the SW rewards card we opened only for the rewards. We have reaped said rewards, and now it's time to start shopping for a more rewarding card, so to speak. I'm considering the Kroger mastercard, since we shop there a lot, it will net us an additional 25 cents off gasoline for three months, in addition to a regular 5 cents off a gallon discount in perpetuity. You also get "rewarded" in free groceries. It might be a good back-up rewards card.

And this weekend is -- blech-- taxes weekend. I'm mostly finished, I just need to go through everything and make sure nothing has been missed. Oh, and I need to add the charitable donations. Normally I'd be more on top of this, but I'm just dreading doing the city income taxes. We moved last year, so I have to file for two cities (by hand, on paper!), and our local city tax math system can be needlessly complicated considering my self-employment status and that hubby doesn't work in either of the cities we live in. Head spinning yet? Mine is-- with dread!

gas strategies

March 21st, 2012 at 12:58 pm

Looks like gas is going to stay in the 3.75 to 4 range here, so I've been thinking of trying to save by figuring out all of the ways there are to get discounts on gas.

I'm also doing a driving style mileage test. I'm tracking the mpg on my daily commute, factoring in different ways and speeds of driving. Maybe that will give me a way to shave a little more off of the expense.

I'd love to hear your ideas on how to save. Maybe we can start some sort of reference or list we can post here or in the forums.

My first thoughts were:
--my grocery store gas discount. Everyday spending isn't enough to net much of a discount, but some people I know buy gift cards at the grocery store for places they know they are going to eat/shop to get the extra gas discount. It can add up, but there's also the chance to overspend.

--gas rewards credit cards. I'm getting ready to cancel a few cards and have been looking for a rewards card that is worth it, so maybe this will be a consideration. My regualr grocery store has one that provides a modest gas discount and grocery discounts.


2012 goals progress report

March 18th, 2012 at 07:48 am

Now is usually the time people start to give up on their New Years resolutions. Not the fabulous people of SA!

In a personal bid to stay focused and on track, I'm tallying up the year's progress. So far, we've:

Knocked $1661.56 off the car loan balance. Very exciting. Hope to pay if off by the end of the year. We may get a tax refund, and if so, 50 percent will go to the car loan balance.

Knocked $2647.83 off the mortgage balance. Good, but I sure do wish it was more. I miss being mortgage free. Each monthly payment knocks about $800 off the principal, and while I'm focusing on eliminating the car loan, I am trying to send some tiny extra bits to the mortgage as well.

We've logged $1200 in credit card signing bonuses. $625 went to savings, and the rest to Amazon.com gift cards, and a Home Depot card we used to buy a chest freezer. Not too shabby!

We've saved $8450, although most of this was from an annual bonus, rather than thourgh tried and true effort. We are putting $150 per paycheck into savings, but lately money has been moving in and out of savings to cover big expenses. I'm trying to keep the balance going up, even if it's just by a small amount, it's just been hard! I think I have also been so zealous on debt repayment that I've made the checking account razor thin.

The kids 529 contributions are on auto pilot, $200 per month per kid. No changes there. It's slow and steady wins the race. I want to put away more for them, but with the giant childcare bills so I can work, it's been hard. BY next year, when DS1 starts kindergarten, we should have more to dedicate to college savings.

In other goals,
I've lost two pounds, put myself out there to new freelance clients (won 1, lost 1), and we've been socializing more. All that is good. A lot of areas still need work (like I need to try to shop smarter and keep a lid on everyday spending--and NEVER let hubby do the grocery shopping!). Overall though, not too bad for mid-March.

How are you guys doing??

Bizarre day!

March 17th, 2012 at 11:53 am

DH took the kids out so I could get some work done. I hear the doorbell, and find a tiny Japanese woman at the door who barely speaks English. Turns out, she is the former owner of our house! She was back from Japan to pick up some of her work papers. She came in and I gave her a tour. She was so excited to see the house and was very nice, and very friendly. It was strange, but nice!

I did get one freelance assignment done so far today, which is a relief. The kids are still gone, so I swept out the garage, put some organic pre-emergent weed inhibitor on the lawn, and posted three items on craigslist-- two free (kids soccer goals and extra piece of tile backerboard from the shower incident), and the kids IKEA high chair for sale for $10. Hopefully I can get rid of all of that.

There was a pile of bricks in the garage as well. I moved them out by the front garden bed, as I plan to use them to build a very short wall/ledge around one side of it. That way, I can add more and better soil for the butterfly garden, and it will stay put.

Dusted myself off...and big garden plans!

March 16th, 2012 at 12:41 pm

Well, I was pretty down in the dumps all day about not getting that awesome freelance gig. Today, I'm trying to get over it. I don't feel AS bad, just a little bad. Anyway, I still have a story to write this weekend for a new client, so that's good. Plus, the editor for the missed gig sent me a nice note, so I know it's not that they think I'm a hack.

And, trying to get back to normal. so...

-Mom gave me $40 for my birthday. I know she wants me to buy something "fun" with it, so don't tell her I sent it as an extra payment toward the mortgage today. Hey, to me that's fun! Our little secret.

And, it's March so time to plant the spring cold season crops, although it's 78 today, so not sure how they'll do with this crazy spring weather. The boys and I planted six potato plants, and seeds for spinach, lettuce, mixed salad greens, purple dragon carrots, beets, and broccoli in our cold season garden containers. The pic is them helping me fill them with dirt. Messy fun, huh?




This weekend, the kids and I are going to plant the seedlings of broccoli and red carrots we planted a few weeks ago. Then, fingers crossed!

I am also devising my plans for my summer garden. I have a weed-infested bed surrounded by red brick by the walkway to the front door. I've already solarized the weeds away, under layers of mulch, newspaper and cardboard, so my plan is to add some good soil, build it up, and plant a new butterfly garden there. I had an awesome one at the last house (of course), but I'm starting new here. I think the last owner was clueless about lawn, garden, and tree maintenance, and now I'm paying the price. Anyway, in will go echinacea, bee balm, and one other yet-to-be-determined species.

I got a great book about vertical vegetable and fruit gardening yesterday as well. It gave me some ideas for trellising watermelons so they don't take up as much room. My oldest (soon to be 4), really wants to plant watermelons, so this may be a solution.

Other than that, I don't think I'm going to be able to avoid building at least one more 4 x 8 ft raised bed. I'll need it for the zucchini, peppers, and tomatoes. We have plenty of sunny spots, it's just that DH and I argue about them-- he doesn't want gardens there because he likes to kick soccer balls and run with the kids. We're going to have to work something out. Girl has to grow some food!

Didn't get it.

March 15th, 2012 at 10:40 am

Well, I didn't land the gig writing the restaurant guide. They said I was super qualified, but they went with someone else. Needless to say, I am increibdly disappointed, and feeling very trapped in a cycle of never-ending low-paying freelance gigs that are kind of going nowhere bigger and better. I guess that's middle-age! The realization that bigger and better isn't around the corner.

Weird dream!

March 13th, 2012 at 06:43 am

I had the worst weird dream last night. I dreamt I was at the hospital, in labor for my third child (no plans for more than two, so anxiety No.1). I was in the birthing room and they wheeled in an in-labor Sarah Palin. I had to share a birthing room with Sarah Palin (Anxiety No.2), and then, the room was full of TV cameras and media people when all I wanted was to be left alone. It was terrible!! I woke up thinking. What the heck?? Normally my anxiety dreams are more like zombie horror movies. This was a big departure.

Maybe it's heralding in 37. Yep. Today I am 37. Doesn't seem so monumental a birthday-- just means I might have to pluck more facial hair! ; )

Other than the weird dreams, I filed my writing test for the restaurant guide job, and am waiting to hear back. I managed to file all my regular columns. I have one extra story to write this week, for a new publication that is very technical. I'm nervous about that, but will do as much research as I can before typing and interviewing. Only bad part: no reply from one of the essential sources. It's stressful. But, by next week, all should be back to normal.

Back to real life

March 8th, 2012 at 10:51 am

Our trip to New Orleans for the wedding was fabulous. Saw lots of our friends, ate lots of Louisiana seafood, and stayed up too late. Loved it.

Now back to real life! My youngest had surgery this morning, correcting some incorrect healing from his circumcision. It only took 5 minutes and now he acts like nothing happened. And I was scared to death. Guess that's just being a mom.

I just paid a bunch of credit card bills, mostly for the trip and the rest of hubby's ridiculous $1700 computer. Ugh. Oh well. It renewed my cheapness, and my fortitude to keep the credit card bills low and pay off some debt.

On that front, I sent $400 extra to the car loan this month, and I might actually have a little bit extra to send to the mortgage as well. That feels good at least!

I'm also back to the gym for fat club #4. Ran 2 miles and did abs yesterday. I caved in and committed to running a 10k with a friend in 2013 as well. Paid the entry fee already, so talk about motivation. I've never run 6 miles, but if nothing else, it will be character building.

Remember last year when I said this site was magic? Seemed like every time I put a work-related money goal in the sidebar it magically came true. Well, it happened again! Note the sidebar: It says write more for wire service, and get new clients. Well, as of Monday I will have written my third story in 2012 alone for a wire service, more than all of last year. And, I landed a new client that pays $250 for an 800 word story, and it has the potential to turn into a regular gig. (The newspaper pays me $100 to $150 per story).

AND... the big news. I got a call from one of the internationally-known restaurant guidebooks. They are looking for a restaurant writer for my area, and it pays $5,400. For not too onerous a work load. I have to do a tryout, so keep your fingers crossed that I get it. It's huge!

I feel super busy and overwhelmed, but in a good way. Things seem to be moving along.