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Archive for September, 2011

Money out out out out out....

September 28th, 2011 at 02:39 am

It's been an expensive week. I'm almost dizzy just thinking about it. It all started with the broken glass on the convection range. Instead of paying $355 to repair the stove we were planning to replace, we went to the scratch and dent appliance place and bought a really nice 5-burner gas range for $599. Plus delivery, plus tax actually equals $715. Ugh.

And, of course, because the new one is gas, we have to have the gas line run by a plumber. Who knows how much that will cost.

I had an energy audit today. Scheduled it forever ago, but still cost $50. Usually they are in the hundreds, but the utility subsidizes them. The bonus: I'll getmy $50 back, plus I'll be getting a rebate of about 40 percent off the cost of insulating the house. A project we planned to do in summer, but held off when we found out about this program. So glad we waited!

Then, like a sucker, I bought two used playmobil sets off of craigslist. For the kids for Christmas. They set me back $70 total, but new would have cost me $220. I hate spending money even if it means I'm saving it!

Then on the way home from the Craigslist pick up I noticed our favorite thrift store was having 50 percent off of everything today. I practically blacked out I stopped the car so fast. I bought two winter coats for the kids, three pairs of designer jeans for me, four kids sweaters, and some other odds and ends for about $26. Score, but still.

Then to add to my week, the keyboard on my laptop went on the fritz. Luckily, it's under warranty, but the new one doesn't arrive for another day or two, and I have work deadlines, so I had to buy a USB keyboard as a very awkward temporary fix, for $10.

Seems like everything is breaking!

$355 accident.

September 22nd, 2011 at 04:06 pm

DH is a little bit clumsy. Last night he knocked a bottle of vinegar off of the shelf and it hit the range. The glass completely shattered. In huge, sharp chunks. Seriously. Ironically, the $5 botte of vinegar escaped unharmed. So now we need to replace the glass top of our electric convection range. The cheapest estimate is $355. Ugh. Not how I want to be spending money right now!

What do you guys think....

September 19th, 2011 at 09:54 pm

I have a monthly personal finance column in one of the local papers. I need your advice. My next article is the first in a series on how to free up money in your monthly budget to save. This first one is the hard one, because it's kind of an intro of the basics. Then, I'm hoping to do more specific articles after, like on no spend months, debt snowflaking, etc.

I guess I don't know where to start. Any ideas?

And, I have a column coming up about Christmas and Holiday gifts on a budget. I really don't know where to start with that/. HELP!

Hoping for junk mail! and toddler drama

September 16th, 2011 at 02:06 pm

You do get second chances-- at credit cards.

That Southwest CC deal worth $800 in free flights just arrived in my mailbox again. I had thrown it out and then regretted it when I found out my fav credit card reward was being cut next month.

Now I wish I would have been saving all of the offers that have been coming in. But alas,I hope I get some good repeats. I fee a little weird HOPING to get what I would otherwise consider junk mail!

I really don't think an airline miles card will be that useful for a long term card, but we are planning to go to New Orleans for a wedding in March and Las Vegas for a friend's 40th birthday party weekend next summer. Given those two upcoming events, I'm willing to open the card.

I do want another good cash-back one, though. I was earning 2 percent cash back on everything, deposited directly into a brokerage account for the kid's college from my current card, but as of Nov. 1, it's switching to a 1 percent rebate generic card attached to a card-sponsored shopping mall. I think we can do better than that. But it's been 3 or 4 years since we've opened a card and I haven't really been paying attention to what's out there.

Now I also wish I would have been paying attention to Monkey Mama's credit card money-making scheme!

Otherwise, our financial life is moving along smoothly. We're paying $500 extra a month on the mortgage, and if we keep that up, will have it paid off in five years.

I'm putting $100 per paycheck into savings, still putting $200 per kid into the 529s, and some of my freelance checks to the IRA. So, it feels like life and money are normalizing a little bit after the buying and selling a house debacle of spring and summer.

Hopefully some utility bill savings will be on the horizon soon. We signed up for a $50 energy audit from our utility. It's a great program. We get a thorough 4 hour energy audit, they give us a report about how we can be more efficient and what we can do, improve, etc., then they offer rebates of from 10 to 40 percent for the projects you do.

I'm excited about the audit, but amped about the rebates, because we already know our house has only 1 inch of insulation in the attic (Go 1957!). We have estimates of about 2800 to get it up snuff. We were just going to go ahead and do it, but when we heard how much the rebates might be, we decided to wait. Hey, even if it's 10 percent that's $280!

Our baby life has not been moving along smoothly. DS1, age 3.5, has been having serious attachment issues since he started his new school. He went from seeking adventure away from his parents to now being very clingy and screaming and crying every time we leave him anywhere-- grandma's, aunt S's , etc. Places he's been going for years with no problems. Every since school-- and he throws screaming tantrums there every time we drop him off. We try to be encouraging to him, but it makes me very sad and after I drop him off, it casts a sad or bad feeling over the rest of my day. I'm sure it's normal, but still. On the way to spend the night at grandma's last night he kept saying "Why do you always leave me?"
Heart break. : (

On the upside, we hit a turning point. The kids were in the playroom. I made myself a cup of coffee, and came back and they had gotten out a board game, set it up and were playing it together. I teared up! Finally. I felt like I reached a turning point. They're playing together, and they did it all by themselves. I've waited so long!!

Oh, and some of you might remember how infuriated I was last summer when hubby's best friend popped out of nowhere to borrow $5,000 to finish house repairs and pay property taxes so he could sell it. He said he'd give it back to us in 90 days. Uh huh. Well, it's been a year. And no money. He's still in the house, so he hasn't lost it, but now hubby is telling me the friend was planning to move to Peru to be with some girl. ARGH. If he sells that house, I want my money back! I didn't say that, but I'm thinking it.

We could really reallreally really sue that money now that our financial situation has changed so dramatically. It'd almost be enough to pay off my car. Still so mad. And yeah, we have barely heard anything from the guy since we gave him the check. If you put your ear to your monitor, you can probably hear my blood boiling.

my fav cc is now defunct

September 13th, 2011 at 08:41 pm

I just got notice that the rewards program on my favorite credit card is being axed, and the company (BofA) is replacing it with a much crappier, stingier program. Oh well. I knew it was too good to last.

It was a Schwab card, and it put 2 percent cash back every month into a brokerage account. That was bonus money for the kid's college funds. It was the perfect reward for us.

I guess I will have to spend some time cruising the offers that are out there. The sad thing is I've been throwing away a ton of credit card offers lately because we had no plans to open any new accounts. Now I'm kicking myself for throwing them away.

Here's to hoping some good offers show up either online or by mail before October 31!

ruminations on parenting. Plus mortgage refinance?

September 8th, 2011 at 09:03 pm

I was looking at mortgage rates today, and even though we are trying to pay off our mortgage in 5 years, I think we might be able to save a substantial amount of interest during that time if we refinance into a lower rate. Our current rate is 4.8756, and today, rates on the loans we were interested in are about 3.125- 3.5 percent. I haven't done the math yet, but if it might save us more than 10k, I might just talk hubby into going for it.

We are finally settling into our new mortgage, income, and monthly groove with the preschool bills and such. So far, everything is fine. I am socking away $100 per paycheck to savings, $10 a week to the vacation fund for me and hubby, still sending $200 per kid per month to the 529 plans, and saving at least some of my freelance money in my IRA.

I'm hoping to bump up the monthly freelance work again, but things, as always, have been crazy. I'm about to start another round of the 6-week weight loss challenge at the gym, and it is very time and energy intensive. I might wait until that's over to take on anything new.

Although, I do have an extra project worth $250 this month, and it's an offshoot of a topic I write about every week, so it shouldn't be too stressful or labor intensive. That is always very nice!

My 3 year old started his new preschool last week. (we moved, hence new school) and he absolutely hates it. Granted it's not as deluxe as his last school, but it's good, and the teachers are nice. He even has a man teacher who looks like one of those 1900s old-timey strong men-- bald with the handle-bar moustache. He has a black belt in karate and is awesome. Still, every day he screams and cries and grabs my leg when I drop him off. He did this for a few weeks at his other school last year, and eventually became such a social butterfly that they nicknamed him "the mayor". Still, it just makes me feel terrible.

I also won parent of the year today. Well, kind of. I took my youngest, just shy of two, to his first gym and swim class at the Y. Of course they start with a song, and what is it? Finger popping. Seriously. They play that stupid song at every event with two or more toddlers in it. I had a very deep, personal revelation as it played, and all the other moms joyously (and some really belted it out) sang along.

My son hated it. I hate it. I'll just never be like those other moms. I'm just not programmed that way. I love my kids, but seriously. Am I the only one who thinks toddler stuff is so mind-numbingly boring. At least my toddler agreed. The last thing he wanted to do was finger pop. There was basketball to be played. Oh well, apple fell off my tree, right?

So yeah, it occurred to me once again that I'm just not like other people. I never have been and I never ever will be. I'm just tired of trying to fake it, especially in the kinds of awkward forced social situations I find myself in due to the kids.

Am I crazy????

weight loss club, raised gardens, plus new vacation fund

September 6th, 2011 at 01:35 pm

I start a second round of "fat club" on Saturday-- that's the intense, six week weight loss and exercise program at my gym. It isn't really called that, that is just the nickname some of us have given it.

The good news is the cost has gone down, from $190 to $35 for the six weeks. So that's nice! Last time, I lost 11 pounds. I'm hoping to meet or beat that again. (I gained it all back during the marathon house sale and buying in spring, due to being away from home and eating out...)

In other news, I also revived the vacation fund. I used to have $6,000 in it, but then I used that to pay off my student loan. Since then, it's literally had a balance of two cents.

I thought that was pretty pathetic, so I figured I could probably transfer $10 a week into that account without really noticing too much. I'm also planning to use any rebate money to fund that account. Right now, I have a Staples rebate for $14.98 to deposit, and another $30 in rebates on the way.

We were hoping to go somewhere for our 10th anniversary next year. But, we'll probably use some of the money to fly to Las Vegas next summer for my friend's 40th birthday weekend. (I am considering getting a Southwest credit card to pay for the flights, because they have a deal now that would cover two of us round trip, just for signing up and using it.)

Other than that, no big news. I spent $38.38 for lumber to supplies to build a 4 foot by 8 foot raised garden bed. I spent some money for broccoli, carrots, spinach and cauliflower seeds so the kids and I can plant something in the next week or so. It drove me crazy to not have a garden this summer, so I thought I would at least try to sneak in a cold-season crop of something before winter. I also designed the bed so it's easy to turn into a cold frame, so maybe we can even harvest into winter. We'll see.

I know I'll be spending at least $60 on good dirt and compost to get started, so it'll take a while to pay for itself-- but probably only until the end of next summer, if I can turn it into a tomato patch.

I bought a bushel of tomatoes from my CSA farmer for $10 last week and turned that into 26 pints of homemade pasta and spaghetti sauce. I only needed to make about 6 to break even for supplies.

That's about it. I guess no news is good news.