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Archive for April, 2007

Reading List

April 30th, 2007 at 04:54 pm

Here's what I'm reading this week:

Black Monday by R. Scott Reiss.
A hold over from last week's list. ... When a plague attacks the world's oil supply, life as we know it comes to a screeching halt. CDC epidemiologist Gregory Gillette is on the case to save the universe.

Blood Makes the Grass Grow by Johnny Rico.
The raw, uncensored story of Johnny Rico's time fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan with just a touch of dark humor thrown in for good measure.

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah
Just started it, so all I can say is that it's the story of a boy soldier in Sierra Leone

and, now, for the financial-related part of the post...

Green with Envy: Why Keeping Up with the Jonses Is Keeping Us in Debt
by Shira Boss
A not-so-in-depth look at how our neighbors and their luxury lives are keeping us in debt; and what you can do to avoid this ugly little trap. It's a fast read, but feels scattered and superficial at times. Yet, Boss dishes the dirt on her neighbors, which is always worth a listen.

As always, save your money and take advantage of the FREE resources available at your local library. Otherwise, you'll end up broke and in debt like me!

Look to your left....

April 29th, 2007 at 06:42 pm

You'll notice I updated my debt and savings figures. Fortunately, the debt did go down ever so slightly and the savings did go up.

In my vagueness, I still haven't figured out all the pension account balances and such. But, it is on my "to do" list -- along with 100 other things.

How I carved $300 from my grocery budget.....

April 27th, 2007 at 11:16 am

As I tally my spending plan up for the last four weeks, I've noticed a huge drop in spending for groceries -- to the tune of $300 saved.

How did I accomplish this?

Well, primarily by not going to the grocery store.

Yes, you heard me right. I QUIT going to the grocery store to shop. Instead, I'm having the groceries delivered from my local store. The $9.95 delivery fee and $5 in tips to the delivery person each week is nothing compared to the money I used to spend on impulse purchases.

Not to mention, I also find myself buying more store brands now because I actually see the huge difference in price between the generic stuff and the name-brand items. The grocery store's online shopping feature lists items from cheapest to most expensive, so I can easily see what's going to be the best deal. And, guess what? The generic stuff really does taste the same.

What I'm reading....

April 23rd, 2007 at 08:50 pm

Two of my many jobs involve reading books for pay. Some of the books are new releases, some are upcoming releases and some are long-ago releases.

Even though this is a financial blog, I thought I would start a regular feature listing the books I'm currently reading -- as if any of you care. However, to keep this in the financial realm, I recommend that you borrow these books from your local library or go to someplace like Paperbackswap.com instead of rushing over to Amazon.com or some other for-profit business to buy them.

So, without further ado, here are the books I'm currently reading:

Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic by John De Graaf, David Wann and Thomas H. Naylor

Black Monday by R. Scott Reiss


Deception Point by Dan Brown

How to make a man happy

April 23rd, 2007 at 09:15 am

Yeah, well, I know that would make him happy too, but we're talking about something else here....

We're talking CAFFEINE!!!

Yes, in addition to his little alcohol fetish, my husband has become a coffee freak of late. He says it's my fault because I "made" him go to Starbucks in Times Square last fall and I "made" him get a grande mocha -- even though I personally don't drink mocha or any type of coffee for that matter. Now he has to have a coffee or two every day.

As we all know, though, that can get expensive and we are trying to pay off the debt here so Starbucks twice a day is just not going to happen.

Instead, my husband has been scoring his caffeine from the free dispenser at work. (At least he says it's free. For all I know, he's been stealing it in a fit of caffeine-induced insanity.)

But what to do on the weekends? Ummmm.... Perhaps make coffee at home????

The problem is that we don't have a coffee maker -- at least my husband didn't think we did. So last night he asked me to find a used coffee maker when our neighborhood holds its community garage sale in June. (An annual rite of passage each summer in the suburbs, followed immediately thereafter by "Big Trash Pick-Up Day.")

I, however, did one better than that. I climbed up to the tallest shelf in the kitchen and dug way back behind all the unused kitchen gadgets. Lo and behold what did I find but a two-cup coffee maker that I have owned since my days as a single girl living large in the big city.

Oh, but wait, we have no coffee filters for the cute little coffee maker.... Once again, I did some digging around where no woman dared to tread in at least a decade or two and found the filters as well. (OK, actually, I made my husband dig those up, but I did tell him where to find them....)

So you think all this would have landed me a big kiss or at least a "Thank you, honey, you're GREAT!"

Not even!

Instead, the caffeine fiend ran out the door as fast as he could and sprinted to the nearest grocery store in search of coffee beans.

This morning I walked in the front door after my run and was greeted by the smell of freshly made coffee. And, oh yeah, a very happy husband. To think I didn't even have to put out.....

Confession

April 23rd, 2007 at 08:47 am

Forgive me father for I have sinned. It has been 9 days since my last blog posting...

Oh, wait! I'm not Catholic! But I am repentent for the delay in postings.

I've just been crazy busy with work (yes, I do have a job or two or three or more depending on the week....)

The biggest change in the last 9 days is that I have migrated to Windows Vista thanks to the arrival of my new computer.

A needless expense you say? Not in my line of work and considering my laptop fried itself beyond repair a month ago.

Fortunately, I had been saving for a new computer for my business, so I paid cash for it. A first! I'm sure the credit card gods are not happy.

They probably also aren't happy because my husband and I have started to live within our means. We're contacting our CC companies and are explaining to them that they are all getting paid the full amount owed, but on our terms. Then we're sending them their monthly payments -- but based on what we can afford, not what they say they want. We (well, mainly, I) give them the whole DA spiel and they seem to be OK with it as long as we send them something each month.

Now before you start telling me how that's just going to ruin my credit score and blah, blah, blah, let me explain that I am not my credit score so I don't really care if my credit score is zippo. I already own a house and two perfectly good cars (although I am saving for a new one and hope to pay cash), and I really don't want or need anymore credit.

As long as I keep paying the credit card gods something, I have to believe they will keep playing nice.

FREE ALCOHOL!!!!

April 14th, 2007 at 06:28 am

(I just need to preface this post by saying that I do not drink unless I'm sitting on a beach and I'm having a frou-frou drink with an umbrella sticking out of it.....)

Last night my family attended a birthday dinner for my husband's brother, who will be moving to the Pacific Northwest soon. As my brother-in-law prepares for his move, he is cleaning out his condo in order to sell it. He decided that my husband should be the recipient of his entire bar collection.

When my husband told me this on the way over to the party, I envisioned bringing home a few bottles of whatever. What I forgot was that said brother-in-law used to be a bartender and had been collecting a vast range of alcohol for years.

As a result, we came home with three huge -- and overflowing -- boxes of alcohol, most of which has barely been open.

My husband enjoys a glass of wine or two with dinner, but he essentially now has the makings of his own neighborhood bar. We're talking BIG bar here, folks.

If I were doing the $20 challenge, I'd say we just saved at least $500 -- if not more -- on alcohol. But since I'm not doing the challenge, all I have to say is:

CHEERS!

HEY YOU!!!

April 11th, 2007 at 08:31 am

Yeah, YOU! Look to your bottom left (at least it's on your bottom left today). I've posted some of my fav financial/debting links.

I'm too busy making money to post much today, but in the meantime check out some equally entertaining and enlightening sites.

Finally ... a no spend day

April 9th, 2007 at 07:01 pm

I've discovered the key to not spending money -- don't leave your basement all day.

Yes, I hibernated in the basement office working and as a result have my first no-spend day since starting my blog.

I should be jumping for joy, but tomorrow I have to pay $20 for Mini Me's OT appointment; plus the housekeeper is coming so that's $80; and the dog is going to the groomer, which will cost $50.

Maybe I should just barricade myself in the basement for the rest of the month...

R.I.P.

April 9th, 2007 at 02:29 pm

My beloved laptop has finally passed on. After months of being on life support and three weeks of drastic measures by the computer geeks down the road, I agreed this morning to pull the plug.

Yes, I'm a tad sad. That laptop and I got through grad school together. ...

Alas, I must get over my grief and decide what to do about a new computer. I have been using my husband's computer for the last three weeks, but we don't play well together when it comes to computers so we both agree it's time to invest in a new computer for me.

Fortunately, my business account has all but $300 in it to put toward buying a new desktop computer. But I'm kind of leaning toward evoking my squatter's rights in the basement office until fall when I should have enough saved for a laptop and docking station set-up.

My husband won't be happy to hear this, but what's he going to do? Evict me? (I don't think so....)

Meanwhile, I'm struggling with essentially emptying my business account to buy a new computer. The old me would have charged a new computer on my Visa card as soon as the laptop started showing signs of distress, but the new me is having a hard time with the thought of actually spending money I have set aside for just such an occasion as this.

Because half of my income comes from my home-based business, I truly need to spend a little money here to make money. But I'm just not ready to -- at least for today.

Selling out to the Man????

April 9th, 2007 at 09:14 am

I'm relatively new to the blogging world -- just started goofing around with it a couple weeks ago to show my husband I could. Now I've discovered one can actually make money blogging.

I'm not sure what all this entails. Do I have to upload naked photos of myself (some of you might get a cheap thrill...) or just agree to have some big ol' ad for Viagra displayed across my blog's banner? Of course, I could just include a link to Paypal and have some dumb sucker send me money to pay off my debt "just because." However, this seems a bit too much like begging so I won't go there.

I have to admit, the idea of making money by blogging sort of intrigues me. Yet, at the same time, would I be selling out to the corporate jungle and consumerism?

Ummmm ... something to ponder....

Change, the Easter Bunny and Why are You Throwing that Away?

April 6th, 2007 at 09:36 am

The one bad thing about depositing all my change at the bank: NO pennies for poker tonight. Fortunately, though, between my husband, Mini Me and the coin cup in the car I've come up with $3 to join the ladies for poker tonight. All is not lost (although the $3 probably will be before the night is over...)

In the "sometimes I amaze myself" category: I was determined not to overindulge Mini Me for Easter this year. I budgeted $20 on the Easter basket (not including eggs and a bit of chocolate, which came out of the grocery fund). I managed to load up on a bunch of little do-dads for her (lip gloss, watercolor paint, a 99 cent kite, etc.) and MADE a beautiful Easter basket. Yes, MADE!!!

OK, maybe not "MADE" as in "weaved," but I took a white florist basket I was going to toss in the Goodwill bin, two ribbons salvaged from gifts that someone had given us and some glue that's been taking up shelf space in the garage; stuck them all together; and just like that have a beautiful Easter basket that didn't cost me a dime!

Speaking of tossing stuff, as I took Mini Me to school today (they don't let 6 year olds drive yet in my town), I noticed a number of everyday household items sitting out by the curb awaiting the trash man. On my street alone, I could have picked up:

1. A lawn chair
2. A patio table
3. A garden hose
4. A shovel
5. A barbecue grill

Basically the beginnings of a complete outdoor patio set and garden supplies.

Yes, as my husband will tell you, I'm guilty of throwing away my share of perfectly good stuff too (i.e.: his entire wardrobe from our pre-dating days). However, I'm beginning to see the light -- and the landfill issues.

Recycle this stuff, folks! Give it away, sell it, turn it into decorative lawn ornaments. Just don't toss it in the landfill to go to waste!

To spend or save...

April 6th, 2007 at 07:44 am

I've noticed numerous postings on emergency funds lately and I have to say that for all of you building up those EFs one dollar at a time "Good for you!"

I have a lot of debt (look to your right if you don't believe me), but I also have a lot of savings (look to the right again...)

So why don't you just use some of that savings to pay off your debt, you may be wondering?

Ummm ... well, let's see:

1. I'd like to be able to keep paying my bills and feeding my family should my husband or I ever lose our jobs or get too sick to work.
2. I'm old (but not as old as my husband) and would like to some day retire and not be eatin' Alpo.

So whether it's an emergency you're saving for or retirement or a new fence, keep up the good work on the savings front. (And, no, I'm not laughing at those of you with $40 in your emergency funds!)

Me and my crap

April 3rd, 2007 at 06:07 am

I'm up early because I've been obsessing about compost all night. More specifically, composting bins.

I'm all about "simple living" these days and one of the things I'd like to do is re-use more stuff instead of throwing it out. Plus, in an effort to beautify the swamp on the east side of my yard, I thought I'd actually try sticking something in the ground and watch it grow this summer (I'm also all about cheap thrills.)

I've been reading up on turning waste into composte and pricing composting bins. I'd like to get one used, but haven't seen any being offered on Freecycle or via my neighbors' trash heaps; and I'm not the handiest of girls with a hammer -- if you know what I mean...

So, after careful consideration, I've decided to purchase one. (Yes, I know it goes against the whole goal here, but I've got a lot of crap I need to turn into black gold as quickly as possible....)

This alone is a stay-up-all-night-to-obsess kind of endeavor. Because of the little problem I have with compulsive shopping and debting, I have to plan out each trip to the store carefully or it gets ugly.

So over the course of the last 8 hours, I have mapped out exactly where I'm going to buy my composting bin, how much I'm willing to spend (no more than $40, which I have in my hot little hands all ready to throw at the first sales clerk who will take it), how I will not be tempted to buy anything more than the bin, and what I will do if I feel myself beginning to slip.

Wish me luck -- and time leftover for a nap this morning....

Change is a wonderful thing!

April 2nd, 2007 at 10:33 am

I hauled two GIGANTIC Tupperware containers full of change to the bank this morning -- almost throwing out my back in the process -- and was delighted to find that I had amassed $348.02 in pennies, quarters, nickles and dimes. It's currently all residing in my checking account, but I'm debating between putting it in the new car fund or the new fence fund.

Meanwhile, here are some other things I found in the coin jar:

$11.50 in Pesos
$1.10 in Euros
500 Yen
2 safety pins
2 buttons
1 flimsy metal ring that looked like it held a key at some point
1 gold circle that's the size of an eraser head
1 McDonald's Monopoly piece good for a free small drink (expired in 1996)
Enough lint to fill two or three belly buttons

All but the foreign money now resides in the trash.



When bad design happens to good people....

April 1st, 2007 at 10:15 am

I have a passing fancy in information overload and design. I can honestly say that the new look is an information design disaster. Hopefully it is just a bad April Fool's Day joke.