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Archive for February, 2008

A no spend/no fresh air day

February 28th, 2008 at 04:22 pm

Mini Me is home sick so I went no place and spent nothing today. In fact, aside from a mad dash to the mailbox, I can't say that sunlight ever touched me.

I did get a workout on the treadmill this afternoon. As I've said before, I hate running on the treadmill, but there is one good thing about it -- an excuse to watch TV.

We don't have cable and don't really get television reception where we live. But we do have free access to DVDs from the library. I rarely even watch those, though, because I can usually find a bunch of other ways to fill my time. However, I've been curious about the show Lost, so I got the first season from the library and have been watching it whenever I find myself on the treadmill. It's great for making one want to jump out of their skin every now and then.

People tend to find it surprising that we don't have cable and/or watch TV on a regular basis. Initially, when we got rid of it, it was very much a money-saving decision. Now it's more a lifestyle choice.

1, 2, 3, 4....

February 27th, 2008 at 12:43 pm

Kim was right! Dieting and budgeting are a lot alike. I'm sitting here counting out nuts so I don't go over in the calorie department like I'm counting pennies....

Speaking of calories, yesterday was a total bust on that front thanks to an impromptu Chinese dinner out. (NOTE TO SELF: Must STOP impromptu dinners out!) But today is looking better.

I have been working out like a mad woman when I'm not working on making money. I used to work out religiously 6 days a week, but haven't been as good about it the last two years due to some health issues and plain ol' laziness. The last week has been a good reminder of how much I enjoy it.

On to other things...

Today would have been a no spend day if not for Mini Me having an evaluation with the eye doctor. That set us back $101, which is in addition to the $97 a week we pay out of pocket for actual vision therapy. Personally, I'm ready for a little "check book therapy," so I'll be glad to see vision therapy come to an end sometime in the next three months.

The plan is to temporarily put the bulk of the vision therapy money toward the new car fund. I say "temporarily" because Mini Me is one costly kid. She's got some serious learning differences that we're still working on getting diagnosed, so we're always paying for something related to that. Right now it's vision therapy and OT. This summer it'll be a private tutor, who thankfully isn't as expensive as the vision therapist. God only knows what it'll be in the fall.

A Housekeeper's Cheaper than Divorce or Death

February 26th, 2008 at 02:17 pm

Today was Hazel the Housekeepers' day to come work her magic on the hovel we call home.

It's been suggested that I drop Hazel the Housekeeper and put the $80 I spend on her every two weeks toward debt payoff. In the end, I don't think it's worth losing my marriage or life over, so Hazel stays.

My husband has a very demanding full-time job and is working on another degree in his "free time." As I've whined about here numerous times, I work two jobs, which equate to more than 40 hours a week -- plus I have a 7 year old and two dogs to pick up after, not to mention the countless hours of volunteer work I do.

If my husband and I were to clean the house, it would take a full day, which is something neither of us has available to give up at this point in our lives. In the days when we did have a day to give up for cleaning, we would bicker over who was going to clean the bathtub. Now, it's a no brainer. Plus -- and here's the big clincher -- I have issues with chemical smells and asthma, so it's better to leave the cleaning to a professional and skip the whole gasping and wheezing part of the experience.

Hazel is not the greatest of maids, but she's better than the alternative -- living in filth or lying dead from an asthma attack. (Plus, I love walking into the bathroom after she has left to find the perfectly folded towels....)

Stepped on the scale and a challenge addition

February 25th, 2008 at 01:10 pm

I got the glass grinder shipped today, so I'm adding $75.57 to the challenge for a total of $3,603.83.

I also weighed myself this morning as promised and was pleasantly surprised to find I weigh 145 pounds instead of the 150 I thought based on my last encounter with the scale.

The weight times 10 formula isn't going to work for me since I am fairly active, so I figured out my calorie requirements using an online calculator. This is what I came up with:

To maintain my weight, I need to consume: 1730 calories on sedentary days, 1799 on light activity days, 2076 on moderate activity days and 2352 for very active days.

To lose weight, the numbers are: 1230 calories for sedentary, 1299 for light activity, 1576 for moderate activity, 1,852 for very active days.

Now my problem is figuring out what qualifies as moderately active and very active. My guess is most days I fall in the moderately active category. I alternate running with swimming. And the duration varies from 3 to 6 miles on the running, and a half mile to 1 mile on the swimming. And, I'm not always consistent about working out every day. (Any trainers or dieticians out there want to chime in here, feel free....)

The good news is I'm never sedentary and only "lightly active" a couple times a week when I do little more than walk from here to the corner to meet the school bus.

Gosh, this weight management stuff is almost as confusing as financial matters....

Will I starve to death?

February 24th, 2008 at 09:07 pm

After reading Kim's blog and finding myself in awe of her incredible weight loss, I've decided to start counting calories again.

I should probably preface this by saying I'm not really over weight. I just want to clean up my eating habits while shedding a few inches here and there so even at my ripe ol' age I can still wear a bikini this summer. I'm 5 foot 7 and the last time I checked I weighed 150 pounds, so tomorrow I'm going to weigh myself again and then multiply that weight by 10 and try to keep my daily calorie intake at that amount.

I do run and swim regularly, but I also spend a lot of time sitting in front of a computer and a little time noshing on Doritos and Ding Dongs (if the mood should hit me).

What does this have to do with finance? Well, by cleaning up my eating habits, I will be saving money by not buying things like Ding Dongs and -- ultimately -- saving money on health care costs.

My big concern, though, is that even when I was trying to keep my calorie intake at 1,700 calories a day (just a random number that I came up with based on some article I read) I felt like I was always hungry. Anything less than that and I may start gnawing on my nails....






A little more for the challenge

February 24th, 2008 at 12:01 pm

Sold one of Mini Me's dresses on eBay and made $6.86 for the challenge. My new total is $3,528.26.

I'm also waiting for a rather large auction to close later today and with any luck the winning bidder will come through with the cabbage fast so I'll be adding that as well. That auction is for my glass grinder, which someone is going to get a really good deal on.

I still need to sell my light table and the sheets of glass I have stored in the basement. My guess is it's best to just sell it locally and have the person pick the glass up since it'll be a pain to ship. I know stained glass supply companies ship glass all the time, but I'm not a stained glass supply company. ...

A new house isn't in my future but 'dunch' is

February 23rd, 2008 at 08:09 pm

Today while killing time until lunch, my husband and I decided to look at model homes. This little outing reinforced my belief that we're not moving until they back the hearse up to the front door and wheel us away to the morgue.

At 3,000 square feet (including the finished basement), our house is the perfect size for our family of 3 humans and two dogs. Best of all, it's perfect for when we're old and decrepit, and the kid has abandoned us. It's a ranch that is set up so one can live on the main floor if need be (i.e. two laundry rooms -- one upstairs and one down).

Also, the rooms are all really big (better to maneuver in the wheelchairs and walkers when the time comes for that); and while we have great neighbors, we can't reach out and touch their homes -- or even see their homes in most cases.

This is huge with me. I just can't justify buying a home for a half million dollars only to find that the neighbors can see into the whole house.

So, we're staying put until death comes knocking....

As for lunch, we budget for one meal out a week so we usually make it Saturday lunch. My husband has this thing about lunches out on Saturdays. He thinks they're "decadent." Personally, I just know lunch is cheaper than dinner and Saturday is as good a day as any to eat out. We usually eat a little later lunch (Mini Me refers to it as "dunch") and then we skip dinner, so in our own sick, twisted way we're saving money.

(And before you get on me about dining out with all that debt over there on the left, remember my goal is to still live my life while paying my debt off so this is one luxury I'm not giving up.)

Speaking of debt, I made an extra $400 payment to one of the credit cards today with the challenge money I got in the mail. I also put $96 into my tax savings account. And I put the rest into our travel account.

Too busy to post more than a challenge addition

February 23rd, 2008 at 02:31 pm

The booming business is just overflowing these days, but I did get an extra $960 check to add to the challenge. The new total is now $3,521.40.

I'll post more later when I have a moment to come up for air.

Extreme Home Makeover ... kind of

February 20th, 2008 at 08:12 am

Since Hazel the Housekeeper didn't come last week, I decided I couldn't live with the filth so in between the two jobs and the kid I've been doing some serious power cleaning. In the process, I started compiling a list of things that needed replacing or fixing.

Tops on the list were a couple of table lamps from the master bedroom. We've had these lamps since we bought our first house way back in the early '90s. Over the years, the lampshades got ripped, the paint became chipped and the bases became wobbly. Yet, we never got around to replacing them.

Then, yesterday, while running on the treadmill in the basement family room, I found myself staring at two lamps that are rarely used and look brand new. The basement family room has become Mini Me's toy emporium. We rarely hang out down there as a family and the overhead lights are the only ones that are ever turned on.

When I was done with the run, I hauled the two lamps upstairs and replaced the bedroom ones with them. Surprisingly, they really looked nice; and I was even more pleased last night when I got home from the office job and my husband had them turned on. It's amazing what some not-so-new light can do for a room. Best of all, I didn't have to spend a dime for my little makeover....

No Spend Day

February 19th, 2008 at 08:35 pm

I feel like I got absolutely nothing done today, but I also had a no spend day so I guess that's good. ...

What constitutes an emergency?

February 18th, 2008 at 07:40 pm

Another blogger here asked: "Do you consider your emergency fund to cover serious emergencies or 'life happens' type of things?"

Good question and the answer would be ... both.

We actually have two emergency funds. The first one is stashed away in hard-to-access places and contains about $18,000 (depending on what the stock market is doing). It is for true emergencies, which in my book is something like the loss of a job.

The second one is much smaller (but growing) and resides in a money market account that we can access easily. This account is for not-so-dire emergencies, such as the hot water heater breaking or plumbing backing up.

My husband and I often have debated dipping into the big emergency fund. He thinks the need for an oil change for his car constitutes an emergency, while I think you better be bleeding and near death or financial ruin before touching the emergency fund.

Fortunately for me, most of the emergency fund is in the form of my personal stocks and bonds, so my husband can't access it without my consent or a judge's authorization....

Karma

February 18th, 2008 at 01:08 pm



Despite being an overly educated, rational, fact-based person, I'm also a strong believer in karma -- what goes around comes around and all that other stuff about good and bad juju.

So the other day when Mini Me fed 50 cents of her own money into a snack machine for a pack of Lifesavers at the rec center and the machine proceeded to then spit out about $10 in quarters, I talked to her about how the right thing to do was to take the money to the rec center cashier and explain what happened since the money wasn't hers.

We had this conversation while about 5 boys who were slightly older than Mini Me surrounded us in awe of all the quarters we were holding. I'm pretty sure I heard one of the boys sigh and say "Oh, man...." when I started in about "doing the right thing."

So Mini Me took the money to the cashier and left with her pack of Lifesavers as the gaggle of boys took their turns trying to hit their own snack machine jackpot. As we left, I told Mini Me, one day your good deed is going to come back to you in the way of good karma.

I was reminded of this today when I went to the automated postal machine to mail some sea glass that I sold on eBay. I actually had two bags for sale and only one went. Instead of relisting the second bag or just hanging onto it, I decided just to combine the two bags and give the winning bidder all of it -- even though the person hadn't asked for it or even know I was sending it.

Of course, I didn't think about the weight difference, so shipping was more than I had listed on my auction. If I sent the package with the extra seaglass, shipping alone was going to cost all the proceeds the buyer had sent -- plus a big 50 cents out of my own pocket.

I was standing at the postal machine lamenting this and decided "what the hell." I've made some decent money on eBay over the last month -- about $300 -- so giving someone a freebie seemed like the right thing to do. Now, here's hoping some good karma comes my way.....

A trip to the mini mart

February 17th, 2008 at 03:09 pm

A while ago, I started seriously clipping coupons to make the most of my grocery money each month. A friend referred me to the Grocery Game and I've been hooked ever since.

Each Saturday afternoon, a new list of my local sale items is posted along with detailed instructions on the quantity to buy using which coupons. I print out the list and based on what's on sale and what I already have, I make up a weekly menu. Then I go shopping. (In my case, I shop from home and pay $10 extra to have my groceries delivered since this virtually eliminates impulse shopping, which is huge with me; plus there's the time factor, which is also huge with me.)

For our family of three humans, two dogs and a fish, I try to keep my spending at about $100 a week (including food, cleaning products, and personal care items). Most weeks I come in way under that amount. (Just to give you some idea of the savings, in my pre-couponing days,I could easily blow $200+ a week at the grocery store.)

A lot of serious couponers will buy multiple papers just for the coupons and they'll make multiple shopping trips to multiple stores to buy large quantities of sale items.

Sorry, but I'm not that much of a savings freak. I get one paper each Sunday and I make one shopping "trip" a week to one store, plus an additional stop every two weeks at Whole Foods for dog food and tea. And one stop a month at Costco for things like soymilk and Starbucks coffee for the caffeine fiend. (By the way, after I started shopping with coupons elsewhere, the Costco bill went from $300 a month to about $100 a month.)

Also, when I first started using coupons, I was buying a bunch of crap that I normally wouldn't have. This happened once or twice and then I realized the money I was saving on junk food wasn't worth the resulting heart attack that was sure to happen if we ate it all. So instead, I started stocking up on healthy things that I knew we would use.

For instance, the last two weeks my grocery store has had a sale on beans -- kidney beans, great northern beans, black beans -- they were all on sale for 44 cents a can. Since we eat a lot of beans, I bought 24 cans of them over the last two weeks. I then stored them in the basement Mini Mart (or as my daughter calls it, "the snack aisle"). They joined a case of soup, which my daughter loves; a bunch of tuna; cereal; fat-free popcorn; and various varieties of canned tomatoes -- all bought at drastic discounts or even free in some cases. (And, yes, I still buy the occasional box of Pop Tarts. Man, woman and child can not live on healthy food alone. ...)

In addition to the basement Mini Mart, we have the upstairs drug store. At last count, I had 20 bottles of shampoo, 12 tubes of toothpaste, and enough deodorant and feminine hygiene products to last a lifetime.

So that none of the food stuff goes bad, I make sure to rotate the older stuff to the front of the shelves each week. I won't buy sale stuff even if I know we'll use it if my shelves are already full. And, at least once every month or two, I try to skip grocery shopping entirely and plan our meals based solely on what we already have in the house.

The system isn't perfect. I know there are others out there spending a lot less on grocery shopping (like this woman). But it works for us....

More for the challenge

February 16th, 2008 at 05:52 pm

I got a check from Pinecone today, plus some money from an eBay sale so I'm adding $5.97 to my challenge. My new total is $2,561.40.

The eBay money was NOT from the woman who said she was going to pay me yesterday (weeks after the auction closed). This was for something else. I still haven't received payment from that lady, so I relisted the item today. She apprently has a history of winning items and then not paying.