Home > Archive: August, 2008

Archive for August, 2008

Gardeners: Plant a row for the hungry

September 1st, 2008 at 12:43 am

I had never heard of this program until today. Basically, you donate extra produce from your garden to local food banks, who are happy to have fresh produce. What a great idea! I will definitely participate next year, and may even try to persuade the neighborhood association to go along with it!

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New Orleans North

August 31st, 2008 at 03:05 am

Well, several adults, 3 cats and one dog are on their way to our house, evacuating Hurricane Gustav. We were expecting two more adults and a six-month-old baby, but they are hunkering down in Memphis instead.

I am sad for New Orleans, my former home, and sad for my friends who just finished all of their Katrina repairs. Here we go again.

Today I hugged the Bean and I told him how thankful I was that we were safe and happy and didn't have to evacuate and start all over again.

It was hard enough once. We didn't want to do it again. (FYI, I was driven out of Nola by Katrina and had to start life over again in Ohio, and spent 9 grueling months battling insurance companies and trying against all odds to sell our house.)

That said, I cleaned the house tonight, went to the farm market for some sweet corn today, and am about to go set up a queen size futon bed in the basement. Our basement is gigantic, all finished and the same size as the upstairs. This way, everyone will have their own bathroom and their own space and no one will have to listen to my Bean scream at night!

I pray it doesn't hit New Orleans again.

Won $5 at the Sweet Corn Festival!

August 30th, 2008 at 03:57 pm

I won $5 in quarters at the Sweet Corn Fest last night. I was playing the game where you pick a color and if the ball lands on that color, you win. It's like I couldn't lose. $5 one quarter at a time, isn't easy! So, that's going to the tiki fund.

The stealth garden plan

August 28th, 2008 at 05:26 pm

I have ambitious plans to beautify the outside of our house. Part of this is to eliminate grass,because I hate mowing, and since all of the full sun on our property is in the front, build beds large enough that I can secretly grow vegetables behind the flowers without raising the ire of the neighbors.

And then there's covering up those glamorous sink holes that showed up last year!
Here is the plan. The dark areas are the new beds. Now that the roof is finished, my goal is to dig the beds during the month of September. If all goes well, I will be able to buy stone and lay the stone retaining walls around the beds as well.

The dark parts of the diagram are the new flower beds. There should be enough room to plant some perennials for a butterfly garden, and then a hidden strawberry patch, herb garden, and watermelon patch, and some zucchini plants. From the street, all you will be able to see are flowers, if all goes according to plan.

It's like a stealth agriculture plan! I'm such an anarchist...

Grocery challenge update

August 27th, 2008 at 07:30 pm

So far, the grocery challenge is going well. Of course, it's only been a week! but hey, baby steps, right?

Today I went to the grocery store. I bought ONLY what was on my list. And the list was basics. My total was $28.16.

Much better than the $60-70 I usually drop at the grocery.

Today I am making vegetarian chili so we have something quick, healthy, and easy to eat.

Removing that shelf from the fridge is also working. Now that we can see the food, it's actually getting eaten.

I never would have guessed taking away storage in the fridge would actually work out better. I guess it was the more is always better American attitude that was holding me back.

Also, I checked out a bunch of cookbooks from the library. I plan to photocopy the recipes I really like and put them in a plastic sleeve in a new binder. It will become my unofficial cookbook.

I have found an interesting recipe for veggie burgers that will solve two problems. First, using all of the darn zucchini from the garden and giving me a cheaper option than store-bought veggie burgers. They are about $5 a pack, which is way too much for 4 patties!

My house is officially worth less...

August 27th, 2008 at 03:39 pm

I got a notice from the county auditor this morning. My house is officially worth $5,000 less than I paid for it 2 and a half years ago. I guess, in a way, this is good, because this value means less I'll have to pay in property taxes.

But it still hurts a bit, especially considering we've put almost $25,000 in work into the house in that time. (All cash, thank you.)

A new roof, A geothermal heating and cooling system, new Marmoleum kitchen floor, new Energy Star windows. I guess I can't complain too much. Two of those projects have saved me a ton on my energy bills already.

Trying generic formula

August 26th, 2008 at 06:50 pm

Well, I took the plunge and bought a can of the generic Target bean formula. My mom talked me into it. It's $11 cheaper than what we use, per can, and has the same ingredients as Enfamil. I don't think twice about generics for myself, but for some reason I am uncomfortable with unbrand formula for baby bean. Maybe because his brain is growing so fast right now? Maybe because formula isn't regulated by the FDA. Not sure, but I am going to try it and see how it goes.

Grocery Challenge part 1: The bill. Brace yourself.

August 23rd, 2008 at 01:47 pm

We put all of our expenses on the credit card. (Calm down,we pay it off every month.)

So, for the last two statements the average we spent on food was

Grocery: $567.30
Restaurants: $386.84

A total of $954 a month. For two people and a baby, and this doesn't include formula. This does include things like shampoo and TP, and it will continue to. I obviously need to spend less on those as well.

Jeepers. If we can't cut that down. We're out of control. I know we aren't eating it all, because I threw out a big bag of spoiled food last night!

So, goal number one is to reduce these amounts by 25 percent for the next two months. That means a total of

Groceries: $425.47 ($141.83 less)
Restaurants: $290.13 ($96.71 less)
Total food bill: $715.47 ($238.53 less)

The long-term goal is to cut those amounts by 50 percent, by December, for a total of
Groceries: $283.65
Restaurants: $193.42
Total food budget: $477.07

The first goal is to cook at home more, reducing restaurant expenses. The second is to reduce grocery expenses by cooking more from scratch and from shopping at Aldi's and other discounters, and by using sale flyers and coupons to plan menus. I should have been doing this already. I guess I didn't know how bad it had gotten.

A new grocery challenge. Fed up of wasting food and money.

August 23rd, 2008 at 02:32 am

I picked 12 pounds or roma tomatoes today and made them into sauce tonight. It was fantastic.

So good, it inspired me to clean out the fridge. I couldn't find a spot for the sauce leftovers.

When I threw away an entire grocery bag of spoiled food, I realized something had to change.

We spend A LOT on food. I don't even know how much. It's a category where we have no spending limits.

Well, that's going to change. We're obviously wasting a lot, and that is unacceptable, for many reasons.

So, I am going to institute a grocery challenge. I'm not sure exactly how it will work but I have a rough outline.

Step 1. Tally up how much we spend each month on dinners out and groceries.

Step 2. Reduce both of those amounts by 25 percent for Sept. and October, with the ultimate goal of reducing it to 50 percent of current spending within 6 months.

Step 3. A cook at home challenge. This may help accomplish step 2, and help us eat healthier. I have been wanting to make more home-cooked meals and have lately, but I can do better. I will start looking for healthy, possibly vegetarian cookbooks at the library.

Step 4. Plant a wonderful garden next spring. My plans were derailed this year due to being too pregnant to bend over. Hard to plant seedlings that way. I will focus on foods we eat often and items that we use that are expensive. Third, specialty varieties and items we can freeze for winter.

I do most of the grocery shopping, so I shouldn't need to enlist the hubby's help in this. Plus, he loves home-cooked food, so he'll be on board.

The money we save (compared to our current average monthly food expenditures) will go into our savings account, which frankly could use a boost because we just spent $7200 on a new roof.

New Operating System: $16. 97. And second saving goal met. Yay!

August 22nd, 2008 at 07:56 pm

Well, I had to buy a new operating system for my Mac so I can run my new Adobe CS3. It retails for $129. I shopped around and found the best price on $109. Then, I used $5o worth of Gift cards I earned from my rewards credit card. Then, I took in all the loose change I have accumulated since January. It was $43 plus worth!

I just ordered the OS, got free shipping. I'm very happy. I was really upset when I thought I would have to spend $129!

Also, I met my second savings goal today: $2,000 into the hubby's Roth IRA. I am going to stop the auto drafts into that account and snowball the savings to the other goals. Once those are met, I will stash more in, hopefully by the end of the year.

What happened to Pennywise Meanderings?

August 22nd, 2008 at 02:37 am

She is the lady who got me to really like this site and yet I haven't seen a post or anything for months. Any of you know what's up?

This was her blog. Took a lot of work to find it!

Is my sister FINALLY catching the budget bug

August 21st, 2008 at 02:25 pm

Most of you know I have posted about my financially oblivious sister. Her money management skills leave much to be desired, to say the least. But 2 recent developments now have me thinking maybe, just MAYBE she has had a change of heart.

First, she joined a vanpool. So her commuting costs have gone from $300 a month to $9 a month. Yes. $9! What a deal!

And yesterday she sent me an email saying she called Time Warner to negotiate a lower price on her cable bill. When they said no, she actually cancelled and went with another company. So, she's saving $27 a month on that.

This is VERY out of character for her. But I hope it sticks.

$37.50 to the tiki bar

August 20th, 2008 at 03:52 am

Yay eBay. I finally made more than $5 profit on something. The 1950s prom dress was a decent seller. It feels good to add so much at one time.

I have also decided to pay for my computer OS upgrade with rewards certificates from Amazon (form my credit card. I have to wait another week for my $50 GC to come) and change I have lying around the house. I'm going to cash it in at a Coinstar machine for another Amazon GC. You don't pay fees if you turn your change into a gift certificate. This should get the cost of the software I need down to $50 or so...

Feeling defeated. And sad.

August 19th, 2008 at 03:40 am

It's been a bad day. I feel like my bank account is hemmoraghing money, and like the world is designed to get you coming and going.

I wrote earlier about the hot tub being a money pit. Sure, I accept responsibility for that. I will have repair visit No. 3 in the past month this week.

Then, when I went to install some very important new software on my mac, software I use to run all of my web businesses and multimedia and freelance graphic design, it turns out I need to buy a new operating system to run it on my computer. I bought my Mac 2 months before the new operating system came out,and the new software needs the new operating system. Ugh. I can't do anything without it, so that's another $130 out the door.

A friend is also in the hospital, at risk of having her baby 2 months early. She doesn't have anything for the baby yet. So, we're all running around trying to make sure she has the basics should the baby come out soon. We know her hubby will not have the time or energy to shop and set up a nursery. I don't mind that so much, but that is money out earlier than I expected.

I feel like I am swimming against the current. I guess everyone who's trying to save feels like that eventually, right?

I guess I'm not taking all of this in stride as I normally do, because I'm already feeling really down. I missed dad a lot today and the exhaustion of not sleeping and taking care of baby, and trying to keep my career together really got to me today.

My personal money pit

August 18th, 2008 at 06:51 pm

Overall, I'm pretty thrifty. But the hubby and I decided to afford ourselves on luxury when we moved to Ohio-- a hot tub.

There isn't much to do in Ohio, so people have a lot of house parties. So, we figured, we'll invite lots of friends over and make margaritas, grill out, and sit in the hot tub.

It started out thrifty enough. we bought a used tub on Craigslist for $1,000. About $8,000 less than the same one new. It worked when we bought it. But something must have happened to it when we moved it because it hasn't worked since.

We've put $2800 into it so far in repairs and installed the electricity. It's just one thing after another. The repair guy came last week, a $432 bill, and yes, we fixed one problem, but the problem we had last summer when it went on the fritz is still there, so I have to convince the guy to come back for yet another god knows how expensive repair.

That hot tub is my albatross. After I filled it this weekend and it didn't work despite the latest repair, I was so mad I couldn't talk about it for days. Then I had to tell the hubby we wasted more money on it. He said call the guy, we're stuck with it, I want a working hot tub.

So here we are still, 18 months later, with a tub that doesn't work and eats money like it's at a buffet. It's frustrating. Something will definitely remember next time I think something that requires maintenance is a good idea....

Hired a roofer-- finally. it's like I couldn't give my money away.

August 15th, 2008 at 02:21 pm

I finally hired a roofer yesterday. I like them a lot (so far)!. For a while, I felt like I couldn't even give my money away. I've had 4 estimates. Of course, I called more roofers than that and many didn't even show up to do an estimate. I thought the housing downturn meant more contractors looking for work. I guess not!

Three weeks ago I had actually hired a roofer, the one recommended by my neighbor, and he never came by to pick up the deposit. Geesh. Is there something wrong with my cold hard cash?

I have two other projects that are on hold waiting for the roof, so my entire summer project list has been on hold. I keep promising the neighbors that yes, I do have a plan for making the front of the house presentable, nay, even look fabulous, but they are starting to not believe me!

I can't put my landscape plan into place until the roofers are done, because i can't have old shingles falling all over my flowerbeds.

Maybe this will get the show on the road.

Tah-dah! The new item for the tiki challenge

August 15th, 2008 at 03:37 am

This is what I have been working on. It is a set of Hula girl magnets.(This photo is only half of the set) They are very big, almost 8 inches tall, and hopefully will help me pad the tiki fund.

I made them out of vintage advertisements, I hand-laminated them, hand cut and hand magnetized them. It was a new project for me. It's fun.

A new project for the $20 challenge

August 13th, 2008 at 08:42 pm

I came up with what I think is a cool new project to raise money for the $20 challenge. I am going to try making a new craft item that I can sell, and which will put to good use my extensive (and I mean extensive) collection of vintage books, magazines, and advertisements.

I bought $17 worth of supplies today. That money will come out of the Google Adsense money I will be adding to the challenge at the end of the month.

I am not going to say what the project is yet, because I am not sure if it will turn out. But if it does, it will be great, I am sure!

Thanks to all of you for your great suggestions on how to make more money for the tiki fund. I appreciate your input.

The funny thing is, just concentrating on wanting to add more to the fund has really kicked me into high gear. I've spent a lot of time crafting and thinking of ways to make money this week. It's been very productive. I even got the ball rolling on some projects that had been on hold. Thanks for the inspiration, y'all!

We aren't rich, so shut up... a rant

August 12th, 2008 at 02:18 pm

I met with a friend last night for dinner. She, like me, has new baby and has started working part time as a freelancer to save on daycare. She was bemoaning how she and her husband are broke and can't make it on one salary alone. They also aren't saving anything for their baby's college.

They have credit card debt. Two SUVs and two SUV car payments. Mortgage, etc. student loans too.

I know for a fact that her husband makes just as much as mine.

She thinks my family making it on one salary must only be possible because we don't have a mortgage. (we don't have one because after a long grueling Hurricane Katrina recovery, we sold our house for enough profit to buy a house in Ohio , because it's much cheaper to live here).

Well, it isn't true. Even when we lived in New Orleans, and had an exorbitant $2,000 a month mortgage and made less money than we do now, we still saved and had no debt. In Ohio, if we hadn't paid it off, our mortgage would only be about $750 a month.

I'm telling you, it isn't the mortgage. It's the other things: the car notes, the credit card debt. We don't have that. And sure, it isn't easy all the time to live with one beat up 11 year old car for two people and a baby, but we do it, because we don't like debt.

And yes, I'd like to have cable television and maybe some fancy clothes every once in a while, but when it comes time to shop, it just doesn't seem as important as putting money away for bean's college.

It's all the choices you make. Not how much you earn. Even when I was young and broke working as a waitress in the French Quarter, I managed to eventually save $10,000 in a ceramic piggy bank in my apartment. It's choices!

With this friend, it's like it's falling on deaf ears.

I guess it frustrates me. You really have more control than you think you do.

We chose to live in a smaller house in a less expensive neighborhood than they chose, we choose not to have two car payments. Why can't anyone see that?

I rue the day they found out our house was paid for!

Some sacrifices for the $20 challenge

August 12th, 2008 at 12:04 am

Well, depressed by my lack of growth in the tiki fund, I decided to put one of my all-time favorite dresses on eBay. It's a red prom dress from the 1950s. I used to wear it out a lot, but now it doesn't fit me anymore . Darn babies! They ruin your figure. Well, or in my case, give you a little too much up top. Ahem

So, on ebay it has gone. I hope it goes to a good home. I also posted a new monster purse on Etsy. He is very cute as well. I always get so attached to them when I make them!

How can I make more money?

August 11th, 2008 at 03:04 am

I feel like I've hit a wall with the $20 challenge. I do eBay, sell this and that online, etc.

I need some new ideas on ways to make more money. It doesn't have to be a million dollars at a time, just something to get the tiki fund padded!

How do you all make money for your $20 challenge.

I'm interested in new ideas for NEW income. I choose not to count money I save from coupons, etc. So if you have any ideas, I'm all ears...

Earned half an airfare today

August 7th, 2008 at 02:53 am

I earned half an airfare for our Mexico trip today. It felt nice to work. This is my first project since Baby Bean came along. It was so nice to do brainy adult things rather than baby sit all day. I love Beaner but he wears me out! A change of pace was nice.

The fact that it was a lucrative change of pace that will get me and the hubby one step closer to travel is even better.

I am working tomorrow and Friday as well, which means I will earn about one and a quarter airfares this week. It's fun to think of it like that!

Also, I just finished reading a very helpful book. "How to Raise a Family on less than two incomes."

I read a lot of personal finance books so it takes something good to keep my attention. This one spoke to me because it's for people in my situation. Not full timers, but earning something, just not something steady. It was so helpful I may actually buy a copy for reference.

Fun is just as important as saving: The vacation plan

August 2nd, 2008 at 03:14 am

I wrote a while back about the hubby and I finally moving one of our international dream vacations on to the to do list. I sat down last night to go over some numbers.

For two weeks in Mexico, including a 8 day tour of 10 or so Mayan ruin sites,we'll need about:
$1300 RT airfare for two
$2500 for 8 night 9 day guided tour of Mayan ruins, for two
$1400 for extra week at beachfront cabins at Tulum ( estimating high at $200 a night)
$300 for 1 or 2 nights in a hotel in Cancun, one at the beginning and one at the end.

Total: $5500

Plus unknown:
$$ ? souvenirs
and travel to and from Cancun to Tulum (rumour has it there is a bus for 24 pesos...)
Day trip to Islas Mujeres.
Food and drinks

So far, there is $3862 in the vacation fund. Not too shabby, but still isn't enough. At least $1638 left to save, before spending money.

Here is the plan. I may have two more freelance gigs lined up for this year. The first is a two-day stint this week, which should net enough profit to cover half of the airfare. If the second project works out, it should cover the rest of the tab, and then enough to pay off more on the student loans. But if the second one doesn't work out, I plan to get on the ball and sell enough articles by the end of the year to round out the fund.

I'm also hoping to go on this trip in the off season, which should shave some of the costs off of the airfare, tour and hotels. April 2009 at the earliest.

Life is short. It's time to put fun on equal footing with saving for the future.