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Archive for September, 2013

Mortgage options

September 30th, 2013 at 09:08 pm

We got a call from our mortgage banker. They must be trying to drum up business!

We had contacted him earlier this year about refinancing our loan to a lower rate, but none of the deals made sense with the closing costs. We're planning to have the loan paid off within 5 years, so the math wasn't really worth the hassle.

Anyway, they came up with a new round of potential offers.

Here is what he sent.
Mortgages:
7 YEAR FIXED @ 4.29 %
Monthly payment $813.02
$389.00 closing costs.

5 YEAR FIXED @ 4.29 %
Monthly payment $1,092.51

Interest-only HOME EQUITY LINE OF CREDIT
@3.24% (variable rate)
with interest payment of $159.04

None of these seem great to me or worth the hassle. I'm hazy on the details. Any thoughts?

We owe about $58k, our rate is 4.85 percent, and our payment with escrow is about $1700, with about $1200 o f that to interest and principal.











Gearing up for a frugal week. Best freezer pizzas?

September 30th, 2013 at 12:12 am

This is a low/no spend week, in an attempt to get us back on track with the budget and saving/meeting all the goals.

In preparation, I did this week's menu around many items we already have in the pantry. The grocery list seems pretty slim, which I guess is good!

Tonight we had a small ham, which will be remade into Tuesday's red beans and rice (yes, New Orleans style). Tomorrow, a brisket, Wednesday a pork loin with some of the applesauce I canned, Thurs. shrimp from a local prawn farm, and friday is pizza and (free library) movie night.

I'm open to suggestions on the best tasting brands of freezer pizzas. The kids don't seem to go for my homemade ones, no matter what I try, so maybe there is a decent frozen one they'll go for!

I also cleaned and organized the pantry while the kids were playing after dinner, just to get my head back in the game, see what I had, and make making food less frustrating due to disorganization. It took less than an hour and is so so so so much better.

This week, I foresee spending money on the groceries, and probably some gas later in the week. I might also have to spend $20 on garbage stickers. We have to put a sticker on each can each week we put it at the curb. Recycling is free. I'm almost out.

Other than that, we aren't buying anything. Nada. Time to re-embrace my inner cheapskate!

Oh, before I go, I took an awesome from scratch bread-making class. I was wondering if there was a way to make dough ahead of time and freeze it in one-loaf portions that I could then take out, thaw, let rise, then bake. It seems like it'd be a time saver to bake a bunch at once rather than several times a week. Any thoughts?

Sold a toy, paid some mortgage

September 28th, 2013 at 08:19 pm

It's that simple. I sold the kids' Brio train table on craigslist. I paid $60 (on Craigslist) for it 4 years ago, and sold it for 45. We got great use out of it, but the kids have outgrown it.

The mortgage payment also posted, so the new balance is tah-dah, $58,903. We paid $265,000 for the house 2.5 years ago, then paid $125,000 of that off with the proceeds from selling our other house.

So, in reality, we had about $85,000 to pay off after the down payment and the money from our other house. and we've paid off close to $30,000 since April 2011. I'm happy with that.

I'd love the balance to be zero, but it's still going down, right?

Wood stove?

September 25th, 2013 at 03:26 pm

Hubby and I have been toying with the idea of getting a wood stove insert for the upstairs fireplace. It basically looks just like a fireplace with doors, except it's a wood stove you can use to heat your house.

Apparently, some of the new ones are more than 90 percent efficient.

We have just removed the gas logs from our upstairs fireplace. They started leaking. It was a sign. We have a gigantic pile of free wood from a tree we took down, and from neighbors who took down trees, so the wood would be free.

We're thinking we could use this to partially heat our home in winter, and as emergency back up heat in our many power outages. The up front cost would be about $3,000 installed.

I think we have decided to go for it. We have money in savings that would pay for most of it, and we could use cash flow for part of it.

Any thoughts on wood heating and wood stoves? Any of you have any experience with it?

No Spend Week

September 24th, 2013 at 02:34 pm

I'm declaring next week a no spend week. We're not spending a penny on anything that isn't groceries or a bill that comes in the mail.

We did a no spend month a few years back and it was awesome. It really hit the reset button on our money. Unfortunately, as with all things, it didn't last. Life got more complicated !

So, it's time. Hubby is on board with a week. I can't talk him into a month these days, probably because we are so busy and occupied with the little kids. Oh well. A week: I'll take it!

Hopefully it will reduce some of our unnecessary expenditures and kick start us to back on track with savings and mortgage payoff.

We've already made a few long-term changes that should help, like cancelling the cable TV, which cut the phone/internet bill by $70 a month, and cancelling the newspaper, which will save us $200 a year. That isn't enough, but we're on the right track.

On another positive note, today was a no spend day. Looks like I need to do more of those too.

Canning food, cutting grocery bills, cleaning house

September 23rd, 2013 at 10:13 pm

I might as well be chained to my stove in September. It's been a busy month of canning! And to think when my MIL gave me a canning pot for my wedding, I thought she was crazy and old fashioned. I guess she's having the last laugh now.

I've canned 56 applesauces, and about two dozen pizza, pasta, and diced tomato cans, and maybe 24 half pints of peach jam. I'm gearing up to preserve diced jalapeno peppers in vinegar, blackberry jam, and some chocolate-raspberry ice cream topping.

I might try canning fresh apple juice this weekend as well, as this is the last week of our seasonal farm share, and the farmer is gracious enough to give me a full bushel of No. 2 apples (the ones that are great, but not pretty enough for retail) rather than two small bags of pretty apples each week. I don't care if they're pretty if I can make a whole winter of juice or sauce out of them!

I was just reading a great article in Mother Earth News called "Cut your grocery bills in half". It was no gimmicks, straightforward, you have to cook from scratch, grow your own, and preserve your own to really really cut the bills.

It really hit home. Maybe we are on the right track. I do know we need to cut down on eating out, and a lot of that is a function of me being tired and not always planning the best way I can, or not feeling like cooking.

Ideally, I'd like to have my kitchen freezer full of quicky prepared foods that I can just reheat on those days, but that has yet to happen. I did get a good book to inspire me, though, called "Not your mother's make ahead and freeze cookbook." It's got a lot of good stuff in it!

Do you guys have any recommendations as far as cookbooks and foods along those lines?

On other news, we paid our friend's 13 year old $40 to play with our kids all day Sunday so we could clean out the garage. It was worth every penny. We went through eveyr box and every bin down there-- some from when we moved in 2 years ago-- and separated it all into garbage, recycling, and keeps. Things actually have a home now. The canned goods and the extra food pantry are better organized, and all of my kitchen gadgets like juicers and ice cream makers, all have a dedicated home. It's a relief to have a frustrating part of the house organized finally!

Here is the canned stuff. It's a different feeling of accomplishment when you look at it. Much more satisfying than meeting a work deadline on a computer!
I also picked my first titan sunflowers today. They are grown for their edible seeds, and produce pretty giant seedheads. The photo is below!


Motivation malfunction

September 10th, 2013 at 01:38 pm

I am having a lot of trouble getting motivated. Ever since I've decided to slow down at work and concentrate more on my 'real' life, I really dread and feel like it's pulling teeth to finish the work I already do have.

It's clear that I am just over journalism. All I want to do is work on my novel, but alas, in the two hours a day I have without children, the journalism has to come first. Always a deadline.

Is this a temporary slump or is my heart trying to tell me something?

Cut Cut Cut...

September 5th, 2013 at 02:18 pm

Cable that is.

Hubby and I have finally agreed to go back to our cable tv-free life. We tried it once our second son was born because we knew we'd be at home more!

Now, three years later, yeah it's okay, but it's not really adding anything to our lives. And the bill just keeps going up up up.

Our current phone/internet/tv provider is Time Warner and I want to out them for being ridiculous. When I called to see about a package that was only phone and internet they told me it would cost the SAME AMOUNT per month as the package with TV, except we wouldn't have to pay $15 a month to rent a DVR. Seriously? The same price!

I was pretty steamed, so I shopped around. We're switching to WOW. We're getting faster internet, plus phone for about $60 less each month than Time Warner wanted to charge us for the same services.

Sold! They install monday and told me not to cancel Time Warner until after they came because they've had some trouble with TW not releasing people's phone numbers (who want to keep their current number, and who doesn't?).

Anyway. I'm on a mission to cut our bills back without reducing our quality of life. So starting soon, we're looking at

- $230 less per month for preschool
-$60 less per month for phone and internet services, although no cable TV, but who needs it anyway?

I will miss movies like Sharknado, but for $60 a month, I could rent them!

Now, where else can I cut??

Whirlwind weekend

September 4th, 2013 at 02:40 pm

I keep hoping life will settle down but it never does. I'm starting to think we are not settle down type people!

As an example: We got the kids started in school last week. Thursday night we drove an hour to our favorite festival-- the Sweet Corn festival, for rides and corn. Yes, the corn is that good. They literally pull it out of the field right next to the booth where they cook it. We didn't get home until 9.

Then Friday, we decided to go visit our friends in Maryland for the long weekend. We drove there, hung out and let all the kids play, then came back Monday. I'm recovering from a bad cold right now, so I was wiped out yesterday.

Oh, and Friday while we were packing up I was also canning a batch of tomato sauce. Something is just always happening here.

My friend likes to joke that I take on too much. She said my life is like "oh yeah, this weekend I'm going to take the kids to the pool, re-roof the house, and plant 300 perennials. Where does the time go?"

It's kind of true.

Anyway, all of this is relevant because in all this busy rush the money situation is out of control. Thanks to travel and the patio taking longer and costing more than I had budgeted, we've taken money out out out of savings way too much and too often. I have to figure out how to get back on track.

It seems like every time we turn around there is a giant bill to pay. Preschool, school fees, patio stone, etc. It's getting to be all too much! I'm hoping some belt tightening will get us back on track. Maybe a two or three week stabilization period, so to speak.

Next month our preschool bill will be lower as well, and my hope is we will have the glitches ironed out and be able to put that extra 225 a month into savings. HOPING, at least.

On the garden front, I thought this year would be a total bust because I made the mistake of using dirt from our excavated patio in the garden beds, and no matter how much compost I added, it was just too heavy , too clay. I had some plants that were real troopers and will have put up 3 dozen jars of organic tomatoes, pulled out 10 zucchinis and a few pounds of hot peppers by the end of the season. It's not the bumper crop I was hoping for, but it's pretty good considering I thought we would get nothing.