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Archive for December, 2012

spendy day, of course!

December 28th, 2012 at 03:29 pm

Best laid plans, always derailed, right?

We had a giant snowstorm on Wednesday, and hubby made the mistake of taking the car out to go sledding with the kids. Well, it got stuck on ice and snow in the bottom of the driveway. No biggie in the grand scheme, but I went out to check on it, and noticed the front tires were both completely bald. I couldn't believe it. I guess I didn't notice because it's always in the garage, which is dim.

So, I had to track down two new tires yesterday. It's a Honda Fit, and it's the only car that uses a particularly weird small tire size. But it worked out all right, as a place down the road from us keeps them in stock. It took an hour, and cost $213. Unexpected, but much better than being broken down on the side of the road with a carload of kids.

Yesterday was very spendy. After the tire shop, I went to Target to pick up a wire rack on which I will be starting all of my garden seeds ($40), then noticed a lot of things I use throughout the year were on big clearance so I stocked up.

I got three pairs of my favorite slippers for half off, two new pairs of converse for about 30 percent off (my main shoe...), two pairs of great thermal undies for the kids (half off, $5 a set), some socks for the kids, a set of santa christmas lights, and three rolls of wrapping paper-- one of which is superheroes, that I can use to wrap all the boys' friends birthday presents.

After I was finished, I'd spent $155. Eek. But hey. Better to spend that much getting half off on things you use all the time than waiting and paying full price. At least, that is what I am telling myself. I suppose. Still stung,though!

Hubby also hurt me on the grocery budget. Last night was his parents' last night in town, so he bought $25 for three measly ribeye steaks for dinner. Spendy.

****
In other news, my pre-new year's taking care of business streak has continued.

I contacted my mortgage guy about possibly refinancing our mortgage into a lower interest rate.

I got a quote for life insurance for hubby.

I opened a new high-interest online savings account, and got that all activated and set up. Now I will begin transferring the money from my old account which now pays crap in interest.

I canceled one of our extra credit cards. We had opened it for rewards last year.

We called the cable company and got our bill knocked down $20 a month, and if we cancel cable TV next month, we won't have to pay a $75 penalty fee.

And, I changed the auto insurance coverage on the Fit to reflect that it is now paid in full, so that will save us a few hundred dollars a year.

Not too bad, considering it's only Dec. 28.


TCB Wednesday, and ALLY Bank advice?

December 26th, 2012 at 05:09 pm

I'm snowed and iced in today, so I'm getting a jump on all of my new year's financial housekeeping.

** Hubby called the cable company to see how much they'd charge us to either downgrade or cancel the cable tv. It would be a $75 fee, but would cut our monthly bill from $160 (with fees) to about 90. We didn't want to pay the fee, so hubby had them switch us to the month-to-month plan, which is $20 cheaper (that makes me mad, as a long-time customer, but that is another story), then we could cancel at the end of next month and pay no fee. So, that will be revisited at the end of next month. Hubby is on the fence about ditching cable, because he watches a lot of soccer games on it, and we are stuck at home a lot due to kids.

** I called the car insurance company. We paid off the car and no longer needed full coverage, so I called to downgrade to collision, plus uninsured drivers. It all seems to be fine, although they freaked out and called me back twice saying Honda never sent them the title saying we paid off the car, so I needed to send that. Until they get it, no changes can be made. I had a copy, so I sent them a pdf. Hopefully that will be the end of it. Our bill will go from $760.70/year to $597.46/year for both cars.

** I also called and cancelled one of the credit cards we opened last year for the rewards. I'm trying to slim down the number of credit cards. It was surprisingly fast and easy, maybe because we have another card with that company, and they seemed satisfied that they weren't losing us, we were just slimming down.

** I also emailed our mortgage guy at our bank about options for refinancing or lowering our interest rate. I'm determined, now that I realized our rate is higher than I thought, at 4.875 percent, and 30 year loans are now at 3.25 around here. I'm feeling ripped off.

**On the higher interest online savings account front. I have online savings at two banks, one is earning .50 percent, the other .70. Ally is paying .90 I think. I have been trying to read up on Ally. I like to use subaccounts to save for specific goals, and I know my two current banks allow you to do that. Not sure about ALLY. Does anyone have any experience with them on that front? Anyway, most of your money is in the .50 bank, so I will be transferring it to a bank with a higher rate, the question is what bank?

** I adjusted the amount we send immediately to savings every paycheck, so we could 'automatically' meet our savings account goal. It was a question of saving about $10 more per pay period, if we don't miss any. So, that will hopefully be on track.

** also, on a weird note, I thought I still needed to about about 1700 to my IRA for 2012 to max it out. I tried to deposit $300 today, and my account wouldn't let me because it said I was over the limit. I went back and added up the contributions and it turns out I did max it out at $5000 this year and didn't realize it. Go me!

Hope you guys are all safe, snug, and sound!

**UPDATE**
I applied for the new higher-interest account. I'm considering shutting the other two down and consolidating. We'll see how the subaccounts go!



Merry Christmas and year end review!

December 26th, 2012 at 02:47 am

Merry Christmas, Y'all. Ours was very long and action packed but it overall went well. I hope yours was equally jolly.

Right now, we're hunkering down waiting for a giant snowstorm to blow in tonight. It's calm now, but they're calling for up to 10 inches overnight. I'm praying the electricity stays on. If it does, everything will work out okay.

The in-laws are still in town. (Ugh), but I'm trying to grit my teeth and make the best of it.

Anyway, I thought tonight was a good a night as any to do a year end review.

My goals mostly went well. We started last year with a car loan at $7,510.48, and we paid that off this year. That feels great. We also knocked $13,411.62 off the mortgage balance.

So far, I've only paid $3130 into my ira, but I will max that out before tax time. We also fell short of our goal to put $4000 for each kid into college savings, but we did save $2400/ kid. It's just hard with the preschool bills.

Overall, not too shabby on the goals, but not 100 percent achievement either. I guess I have to accept that our situation financially as changed so much that it's not going to be guaranteed success every year. (Kids and preschool are expensive)!

My goals for my freelance work were all met. I branched out to new markets and new publications, and that went well. I'm thinking I may have overdone it, because I was sooooo busy. This year, maybe the goal should be to work smarter not harder?? I also accidentally picked up another regular gig to the tune of $150 a month/ for 1 article from the newspaper. It's not too onerous, and that's another $1800 a year with relatively little hassle on my part. That's one step closer to the goal!

I'm also thinking for this year, I'm going to take Monkey Mama's advice and just stash a bunch of cash away in a dedicated account, then use it to pay larger chunks to each goal all at once, instead of the slow, steady slog of putting tiny bits to lots of goals and not knocking them off the list until the end of the year.

***
Our financial lives will go through yet another change in fall, as our oldest is going off to kindergarten (!!!!) which is only 3 hours a day, but is free (!!!!!!!!!!!). So, we'll only have one preschool bill at that point. Maybe more can go to other goals after that.

****
In the next two weeks, I'm also going to do a check-up on bills. I have a credit card to cancel, and I need to alter my cable plan and my car insurance for the now-paid off car. Hopefully that might save us some money. And, I need to search for a new high-interest online savings account. Mine is only paying .60 percent interest, and I noticed Ally bank was higher than that. I plan to investigate.

***
Hubby got me a dough hook and a bread cookbook for Christmas, so I'm excited to try baking our own bread. And, I've been doing a better job of sticking to a tight weekly budget for food and whatnot. Things should be looking up in 2013!

You guys are awesome. Just sayin'.

December 13th, 2012 at 01:24 am

I just wanted to let you guys know how awesome you all are and how much I value being part of this site.

After a while you can get into a lull thinking you're doing everything you can, then people here give advice that opens your eyes.

Thanks to all of you! I hope we all have lovely, and prosperous holidays and new years!

Best soup ever.

December 11th, 2012 at 09:07 pm

I accidentally made the best soup ever last night when I was 'cleaning out' the fridge.

I used one head of broccoli, four potatoes, one onion, four pieces of bacon, chopped, four carrots, a bag of frozen corn, a 16 ounce tub of sour cream, a cup of milk, two chickn bouillion cubes, and about eight cups of water. I boiled it all until it was nice and creamy. Then topped it with cheddar cheese before serving. It was sooooo good. I couldn't believe it.

I made banana bread to serve with it. What a meal, and to think that was from the cast offs. Two cheers for cooking at home.

***
Thanks to all of you for the advice on my last post, about the best way to approach financial goals. It's given me a lot to think about.

***
Tonight should be fun. I'm taking my mom on her annual holiday out. Tonight it's dinner with all of the family, then me and the kids are taking her to a drive-thru christmas light display at the state park. She loves that kind of thing. Hopefully she will have fun!

Solid plan. Scaling back. Advice?

December 10th, 2012 at 03:55 pm

I stayed up a little late last night to work on a 'solid' plan for 2013.

I posted my goals on the sidebar. I hate to say I've scaled back some goals, like the kids college fund annual goal and hubby's roth goal. In reality, we just don't bring in enough money to do EVERYTHING right now. Sigh. It's sad to admit it.

Our old life of no mortgage and no preschool bills was smooth sailing, but now with those two items eating up a good part of one check every month, something has to give!!

Hubby and I talked about it and agreed paying off the mortgage is still a huge priority, so be it. We need to make an additional $5200 in extra principal payments this year to reach our goal of paying down $15,325 next year.

I'm debating how to approach each goal. I usually plunk away slowly at all of them all year long and then at the end it's 'hey, we made it!'

For some reason, I'm not finding that as satisfying as going all-in on one goal, achieving it, then moving on to the next. Maybe I'm not as good of a multi-tasker as I used to be.

So... with that in mind, I'm thinking of going down the list, concentrating on one goal at a time, as far as snowflakes, applying (little) windfalls, extra income, etc. Then moving on to the next.

The exceptions are our savings account and the 529s.

The 529s: we auto-deduct $200/month per kid, for a total of $2400 each per year.

Savings: We automatically have some transferred to savings every check. If I up that amount by $30/ check, we'll reach our goal for the year. Which now has me wondering if that is a good plan. We have a decent sized savings account , but it earns sad interest rates, and technically that money would be better spent killing the mortgage at 4.6 percent(as far as return on money).

So, what do I do? Stick with the savings plan or divert some of that money to the mortgage payoff? What to do....

**************
We also have some bigger planned expenses this year.
1. bunk beds, new mattresses, and dressers for the kids. Our old stuff is falling apart, and the youngest is way too big for his toddler bed.
2. a trip to Phoenix for the family reunion. Of course hub's family chose to do this during spring training, when it's most expensive to fly and stay there. I'm trying to bite my tongue. It makes me mad.
3. a new backyard patio. I really want this, but we'll see how it goes.
4. A winter weekend at an indoor water park resort for me, grandma, and the boys. They would love this, and it would give hub a weekend alone.

Ideally, I'd like to pay for as much of each of these things out of regular cash flow instead of dipping in to savings.

*****************

I've crunched and crunched the numbers and I think the only way to be ambitious and meet the goals is to keep closer tabs on the everyday money that just kind of dribbles away, like too much spent on groceries, meals out, buying clothes, toys, housewares, or whatever else.

That will require better time management on my part, as I often spend too much because I'm busy and in a hurry. Ugh.

I'm still tinkering with the plan, but any input would be greatly appreciated!

2013 goals, and rethinking work-life balance.

December 8th, 2012 at 08:25 pm

Oh boy. Time is flying by! I can't believe it's Dec. 8 already!

We're going to have to kick it into high gear this week, as far as Christmas crafts with the kids (and gifts), and getting started on the cookies and goodies for the gift baskets we give to our friends. It's going to be a busy week. Then, on Thursday we'll have to hit the mall to go see Santa.

It's also time to start thinking about 2013. I fell short on a lot of my goals this year. Many others went very well. (like having a paid off car. Woot!)

I just think that now that we have a mortgage and giant preschool bills, we can't be as ambitious as we once were about all of our many goals.

So, as I consider next year's plan and goals, I think I am going to be ambitious, but more focused on fewer areas, where I think I can make the biggest positive impact in our lives long and short term.

I'm also going to have to revisit my professional goals. for the last few years, I have been focused on making more as a freelancer. I'm blessed that my regular income has steadily increased for the past three years. (So blessed), but I think I finally have reached the point where I can't really take on much more because I only have 12 hours a week to make calls and work, because that is when the kids are in school, and I also have to squeeze in groceries and errands, drs appointments, and the mundane business of every day life during that time. It's getting to be too hectic. I'm going to contemplate some ways that I could possibly work smarter, rather than harder. I spend more money because I am stressed out and thin on time, especially for dinners out.

Maybe I can tweak my time management or schedule, or let loose some more cumbersome projects, etc. I don't know yet. The long-term plan has been to build up my freelance business so that whent he kids are in school full-time I'm earning close to a full-time income while working at home. Maybe my plan is working too soon, I still have two years til the oldest and two more after that before the the youngest are in (free!) school for full days.

I pull my hair out thinking of my crazy schedule lasting for that much longer. So yeah, I have to replan. We can't really afford any more preschool, so yeah.

But, I also have to factor in, as far as finance and career, that things are always changing. Meaning, my oldest goes to (free!) kindergarten five days a week starting in September, and that will change a lot of dynamics as far as schedule and the preschool bills, and schedule issues such as swim lessons and enrichment activities for the two of them.

That is the thing with kids. Jut when you get everything figured out, it suddenly changes again!

Week's menu and an easy $30

December 3rd, 2012 at 01:58 am

I'm inspired by everyone else posting their menus. I'm trying really hard to plan meals using sales and whatever is on hand, so here goes.

Mon: turkey stew with dumplings
Tues: baked ham, broccoli, apple crisp,
Wed. spaghetti w homemade sauce, yogurt with berries for kids
thurs leftovers
fri: red beans and rice (w leftover ham)

Also, I made an easy $30 this week, selling six awesome "ninja" gingerbread kits at a mark up on Amazon. Yay!