31 December 2008

Health is Wealth

I'm attempting to get into better shape for this new year, but I've started already. I'm a big fan of Self magazine and their Self Challenge exercises, and I'm doing those, plus not eating junk and trying to get in some extra aerobic exercise, which is never easy. I've recently gained some weight, and although I don't think I look bad, I certainly don't FEEL good, and my clothes are a little tight.

Part of this getting in better shape resolution will include visits to the chiropractor and the acupuncturist, to see what it's like. Luckily, it's mostly covered by my health insurance, so it won't cost me too much, and I think after the insane amounts of stress I've been under for the last couple of years, plus my terrible sleeping habits, and the total absence of water in my diet (I embarrassingly live on coffee and tea), I need to sort of cleanse myself. I'll definitely keep updating on how this goes, because I've never done either before and I'm really curious!

I also need to schedule my yearly check ups and a visit to the dentist, which I'm not looking forward to, but is obviously necessary. Yesterday I went on the website for my health insurance and found a list of all the "health" discounts I get with my plan, which included gyms, acupuncture and other good stuff, so I really recommend checking that out. You might be paying for great benefits you didn't know you had!

29 December 2008

ticker change

I changed the ticker to remove my student loan, the money I saved for the lawyer, and my savings account. As of now it reflects my credit cards, auto loan and another random debt. My student loans will take me a long time to pay off and I really want to focus on getting rid of the "bad debt" so that I can buy a house, so I'm going to use this new number for 2009.

grocery shopping day

I try to have a devoted "grocery shopping day"- Thursday. I have found that the less often I go to the grocery store over the course of the week, the less food I end up buying and inevitably wasting.

Another reason I like to go on a specific day is that it causes me to be a little creative about making it to the next grocery shopping day. For example, by Tuesday or Wednesday I might be out of half and half or bread. Instead of running to the store to pick up those couple of things, I try to get creative and use up what else I have in the house. This is also great because it makes me use up little bits of leftovers in creative ways, instead of letting them go bad and throwing them out.

One last thing that I find works well is to buy twice the amount of meat I typically use, and freeze half. I always have some frozen veggies (which are actually really healthy, because they are flash frozen at their prime freshness and therefore retain a lot of their vitamins) and boxes of rice and couscous in the pantry. Then, no matter how bare the fridge is, there is always something for dinner!

28 December 2008

Organize me, please

I'm in desparate need of a home organization makeover. There are things everywhere! I live in a small house without a lot of storage. We have a decent amount of closets, but few usable shelves and a galley kitchen that's more than problematic. Frankly, there's stuff EVERYWHERE.

In an effort to find a solution to this problem, I went to Target (I know) and bought two square bins- the kind that are thick cardboard covered with a tweedy fabric. I measured the spot under my coffee table and they fit under perfectly, so now I can sort of shove all the toys and books in them if I need to clean up, and they slide under and out of sight enough to just look nice. Plus, the kids can help put things in them, so that is an added bonus. They were 17.99 a piece, which is more than I'd typically spend, but I did it because a) I really needed something to deal with the clutter and b) I wanted something that would look decent and not dorm roomish.

Over the course of the year, I've thought a lot about when it's a good idea to spend money- and this is a good example. Spending 36 dollars on something that will make my life easier to manage is a good investment, and I could have easily blown 36 dollars on a sweater I didn't need or a crappy dinner at Friendly's.

I also scoped out what I want when the Target Christmas stuff goes to 75 or 90%. Fun!

27 December 2008

What's next?

I removed the Christmas Challenge from the "Current Projects" list and frankly, there isn't much left! The Paper Towel Challenge was to get to the end of the year without buying any more paper towels, and unless my cats eat alkaseltzer between now and then, we're going to make it to next Thursday with about 3 rolls.

I'll be working on "Step Two" of the payoff plan for like 3 more years, unless I win the lottery or get swept off my feet by a millionaire, so that's not going anywhere.

So, what's next? I have a bunch of goals for 2009, but many of them are not very financial in nature at this point. For example, I haven't been working out at ALL, and you can tell, so that's a goal. Also, I am Russian/Czech on my mom's side and I want to learn to make pirohi by heart so that I can make them for my children. My mom gave me my grandmother's Russian cookbook, so I'll have fun experimenting with that this year.

I want (need) to potty train my 2 year old, and get my 4 year old bunk beds (my inlaws are helping me with that one, so no saving required there). I also want to start chores with him, and am planning on checking out that book LauraC recommended (see comments for this post).

As for the financial goals, the garden and the tag sale are really for the summer. There will be some great clearance sales over the next couple of weeks, so I'll probably be spending more than I'll be paying off during January, but that helped me get the clothes and things we needed last year without spending too much.

So, January might be the Month of Frugal Spending, but that works, too!

26 December 2008

the haul

I'm so happy with how Christmas went. It was certainly full of presents, but by no means a "carnival Christmas." I only ended up buying the automoblox cars (awesome!!), the bilibos (very fun), the drum set (both boys said that was their fave gift), bathtub instruments, and some random stocking stuffers like funny glasses and coloring books from the dollar store.

I got two vacuum cleaners, I guess my mom and mother in law were on the same page, lol.

But the saddest, and funniest, present I got was a very sweet card from my ex husband about how he misses us and is glad we're getting along- with a 10 dollar gift card to Dunkin Donuts in it. Weird, right? It's been cracking me up so much. I mean, why? What would compel him to buy that for me? It's just so weird. It's like saying, "Sorry I ruined our marriage, but maybe an egg and cheese on a croissant will help ease the pain." :o If I know him at all, and I think that I do, he HAD to do it to be funny. It's just too random and weird any other way!

So, Christmas is over, and I'm frankly relieved. Ready for a new year, big time!!

24 December 2008

dreaming of bears

I'm not really the prophetic-dream type of girl, my occult tastes lean more towards astrology or the occasional weird deja-vu moment. And honestly, I'm not a big dreamer, either. If I dream, then 99% of the time I forget what I dreamed.

But last night, I had a vivid and memorable dream about a bear. I wasn't nervous or scared, mostly exited to see it. Bears in dreams mean a new begining- a new phase of life.

Merry Christmas to you. We made it, through the holidays, nearly through the year, ready for a new begining. Through a divorce, a crash in the economy, the election of a new president. I got the permanent position at my job, was picked for a nationwide leadership program, and potty trained my child. It's like a dream, only it's true, and better for that.

23 December 2008

like a Survivor contestant at a food reward challenge

I finished my Christmas shopping tonight, and I went to Target to do it. It was the funniest thing- because I was shopping without real restraint for the first time in so long, I practically lost my mind! I kept seeing things I wanted for myself and ended up buying jeans and sheets (though I have to say they were both on sale). I could barely control myself! It was really like I was blind to all the things I liked, I wanted, for so long that once I saw some I couldn't stop seeing them!

So, once again, STAY OUT OF TARGET!!! lol

22 December 2008

FICO Score!

Get it? lol

I checked my FICO score last night using the FICO website (www.myfico.com). They have a 30 day free trial that allows you to not only check your score, but monitor any changes in it during that time. The site emails you any time your score changes, which is a great thing if you are trying to attain a certain score to get a lower interest rate, or if you lose your wallet and want to be sure your identity hasn't been stolen.

So, the last time I checked my score (not my report, which I do yearly) was several years ago- I think maybe 2006. I know I was married and living in my old apartment, so it was obviously a while ago. Anyway, my score has gone up 50 points since then! I was shocked, and very happy. I know that the more debt I pay off, the higher it will go, which will be very helpful when it does come time to buy a house. And now I can check it again at the end of 2009, and see how far I've come.

Score! (just had to get that in there one more time)

21 December 2008

Starting to think about next year

Now that I have a little bit of closure about this year, I'm starting to think about next year. This is the first time I have felt so hopeful and so motivated about a new year in a long, long time- I really have that "new beginning" feeling. So far, these are the goals I've come up with for 2009:
  • Pay off another 20% of my debt
  • Continue with the vegetable garden for another year
  • Have a tag sale!!!!!
  • Start my four year old on an allowance with a chore chart, to begin teaching him about money

I'm sure there will be more to come, but that is what I've come up with so far. If you have a great goal for 2009, I'd love to hear it!

20 December 2008

The Christmas Challenge isn't as easy as I had thought

So, I've spent 80% of my Christmas budget (leaving me with 60 bucks), and still have a bunch of presents to buy. Sucks! At this point, I am sure I'll go over, but it's a question of how much. Part of that is because when I budgeted for presents, I missed some things I bought last year that didn't come through on my accounts until January (I don't really know why, but that's okay). Part of it is because I spent too much on my kids, because I love them and like to buy them things and haven't bought them anything all year. And the last part is I forgot to budget for my Christmas tree, which was 40 bucks, and I cut it down all by myself, and it looks like this:
Did I mention I cut it down myself? Yeah, I'm really proud of that. It's one of those things that when I separated from my ex, I thought "OMG, how will I do this by myself?" But I did, just like I learned how to cook chicken (I have an excuse, I was a vegetarian for 13 years!) and shovel my own driveway and kill (or liberate) spiders.

It's incredible how you think that you CAN'T do something just because someone has always done it for you- but you can. And I have.

19 December 2008

Done deal

It's all over. We made it to the courthouse, despite the totally random and untimely pink eye I seem to have contracted. The kids went to their grandparents house, and since I didn't really want to drive because my eye hurt so much, my ex picked me up. Yup, we carpooled to our own divorce. It went fairly quickly, especially since the courthouse was closing at 12 for the snowstorm, and it was very emotional and sad and hard. I even had a moment when I was testifying that I thought "Do I really want to do this?" Of course, I don't really want to do this, but it's the right decision, and just because we're getting along today doesn't mean he won't do something awful tomorrow.

So it's done. Financially things are good, he's going to continue giving me money until our debt is paid off, and then I'll just get child support, which is fine with me.

I'm ready for 2009.

D Day

Today's the day of my divorce. The even more thrilling news is the hearing is scheduled for 10, and there is an impending snowstorm coming at roughly the same time. Everything is closed, all the schools are cancelled, and yet court is still on. I'm figuring it will be my luck to finally get divorced, only to be killed in a weather related car accident on the way home.

Please, please let me (and my children, who will be at their grandparents') get home okay.

I need this to be over. 2009 needs to be a new beginning.

18 December 2008

the year in six words

I read about this book today that asked authors to summarize their lives in 6 words. It's called Not Quite What I Was Planning (one of the entries). So, if I was to summarize this year in 6 words, I think it might be:

I spent less but learned more.

Anyone else? (It's fun!)

16 December 2008

Where did the time go?

It must have been because I'm sick, or the holidays, or because I'm so busy, or all of the above but I have been letting things get away from me! I haven't posted here, I haven't updated my Christmas spending percentage- I almost forgot to pay a bill! Here's a quick rundown of what's going on:
  • My divorce is set for Friday. I'm not sure if its going to happen because I don't know if my ex has all his paperwork in order, and its supposed to snow. Yikes.
  • I'm not done Christmas shopping, and I did end up getting the kids a couple of other little things.
  • I bought myself some clothes on clearance from J.Crew. I really needed new work clothes and I had a lot of guilt about it, but things have been going really well at work and I really need to look professional. Some of my work pants are frayed on the bottom, they're so old! That's not good!

But, I'm hanging in there. The Year of Frugal Living Part One is almost over and it's been amazing. I'm very, very excited to see how much of a dent I put in my debts over the last year. I'm even more excited to put a bigger dent in them next year!

07 December 2008

FICO scores

One thing that I wish I had done is gotten my credit score when I started the Year of Frugal Living. Then I could have seen how much it improved over the year. One time I signed up for this free trial on Fico.com that emailed you any time your score went up or down and it was really cool. I'd actually really like to try that again.

If you don't want to pay for your Fico score, you can use a score calculator that will give you the range your score is in. For me, this was sort of motivational because I did it a few times with different debt to available credit ratios, and saw what a big difference it made.

Right now a few years to being credit card debt-free (my student loans are a whole other story) seems like a long time, but seing as I'm only 30, in the grand scheme of things its nothing. Even if it takes 5 years, my kids will still be in elementary school. That's really exciting!

06 December 2008

Can you believe it's December?

It's been nearly a year now since I started this challenge and this blog. It certainly doesn't feel like it! Even though I'm not close to being debt free yet, I still feel like I made some major changes in my life and in my bank account balances. It's really awesome!

I have been doing some Christmas shopping. I used my Pampers points to get some free Shutterfly photo calendars and prints, and even Christmas cards which I don't typically send. Every year I make a calendar of my kids for my ex's parents, and one of all the grandkids for my ex's grandfather (aren't I the best ex-daughter in law ever? :) ) This is a great, cheap way of making grandparents happy, so keep an eye out for free shipping offers from Shutterfly or Snapfish.

I just had a total heart attack because I thought the box with one of the Automoblox and the drum set in it didn't get delivered, but then I remember I stashed it because the kids were here when it came. I literally started crying! What a relief.

I also got my Nine West shoes- and I have to return them both! I don't like the boots and the shoes are a half size too small. I'm a little relieved to return them because of the buyer's remorse. I found out there's a store near me and I'm going to return/exchange them there so I don't have to pay for shipping. I have to go to that mall anyway so it's not a waste of gas.

Sometimes I feel like Doogie Houser MD when I write these... did anyone see the repeat of How I Met Your Mother last week, where they had a Doogie scene at the end? Too funny.

03 December 2008

Opt out and coupons

Sorry for the lapse in posting, between the birthday party and us all being sick, I've been a busy bee.

I received a letter in the mail from Citibank stating that they were changing their terms, and that I could opt out. I did a little research on the change in terms and the impact of opting out and decided to do it. What this means is when my card expires next year, they will close my account and I will pay off the balance at the terms I have now, rather than the new terms. They keep emphasizing that my rate could still go up because its based on prime, but frankly, who does Citibank think they are kidding? Like they will really raise interest rates now! Anyway, this is sort of a relief, because this is my one card with a very high balance, and I love the idea of not having it anymore.

I also realized that now that I have a working printer again, I can get back into couponing. It got a little overwhelming there for a while, but I think I can handle it again. So that will be a good YOFL 2009 project.

I also nearly spent a bunch of money at Old Navy on Cyber Monday, but luckily got it together and didn't do it. Last year after Christmas I cleaned up at that 50% off the 50% off clearance, and I hope to do that again this year!

29 November 2008

ever so slight buyers remorse

Yeah, I have it. :) I didn't NEED the shoes (as in I can't walk outside because I have nothing to put on my feet). I just needed some nice work shoes, and I saw that deal, which I had seen before and was disappointed when I didn't get them last time... luckily my mom offered to buy them for me for Christmas. I told her no, but she's going to get me some work clothes instead, and that will help with my budget.

So, I probably shouldn't have gotten new shoes, but they will be well utilized. All of a sudden I feel like most of my clothes need to be replaced. My black boots have a hole in the sole, 3 out of my 5 pairs of jeans have holes in the knees and one pair is too tight (I gained a few pounds). I only own 3 bras and two of them aren't looking so hot from being washed all the time, and most of my socks have holes in them too. I guess what I'm saying is it's probably time to invest a little money in work clothes, seeing as I have a job where I'm expected to look decent and professional. After Christmas I'll assess my presents/money and see what I can do.

28 November 2008

Nine West shoes sale

Remember those shoes I wanted? They are on sale at ninewest.com, and they have an additional 30% off sale items, plus free shipping right now. In addition, there's a coupon code for an additional 10$ off any purchase over 65$. It's NWFALLV8 if you want to use it! I got two pairs of shoes, the mocs I wanted plus a pair of nice brown boots for work, for 67.00 shippjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjed. (thanks to Mikey for "helping me with the j's"). Here's the boots:

Not a bad deal, if you need shoes really bad like I do!

25 November 2008

Birthday Party Logistics

So here's where I'm at with the birthday party planning:

Budget = $100.00

Gift and motorcycles for cake 18.00
ingredients for 2 lasagnas ~20.00
ingredients for baked macaroni and cheese ~ 10.00
crescent rolls with cream cheese and bacon (so gross, yet so good) ~ 8.00
soda ~2.00
salad FREE (thanks mom)
spinach dip FREE (thanks laura)
rolls ~ 10.00
cake mix, icing and candle ~ 8.00

TOTAL = 76.00

That leaves about 25.00 for balloons and goodie bag stuff, some of which I already have because I got those cheap Crayola crayons at the Walmart back to school sale. Thank god for the dollar store!

That seems really cheap. I think it's because I'm not buying alcohol this time. Sorry everyone! Lunchtime party. Maybe I'll get some juice boxes to splurge!

23 November 2008

blood from a stone

I'm feeling a little discouraged, mainly because my ex is swearing that he can't afford to give me what he's been giving me already, and I think that even if the court orders him to pay that much, he still won't do it.

So, where can I get some more money from? I had some ideas:

1. Seeing if I can put off paying on my student loans for a while. That wpould free up about 250 dollars a month, but then I wouldn't be making any progress on those loans. Oh please, Obama, forgive our loans!!

2. Cancelling my cable and/or phone. This one seems complicated and depressing. I'll call at&t and see what they can do.

3. Changing my tax allowances so I won't get a refund. That way I can use the money now, instead of letting the government borrow it from me interst free, while I pay interest on credit cards.

4. Transfer another balance back to the card I just transferred off, because they sent me a 0 percent until Oct 09 offer. That would save me about 85 dollars a month in interest.

5. Pay off this very small loan I owe to my old credit union. It's almost done, and that would free up another 94 dollars a month for debt payments.

Figuring the phone company change saved me about 50 bucks (a total guess), if I did all of these things I should be able to come up with an extra 400 dollars a month for credit card payments, which will make up what my ex won't give me.

22 November 2008

museum passes

I'm at the children's museum with the kids and we just got a year long museum pass for 100 dollars- as a gift! My mother in law bought it for us for Christmas. That's awesome because a) we don't have to pay 27 dollars to come here anymore, b) we can bring friends, c)it works at other museums, too and d) that's 100 dollars that didn't get spent on toys we don't need and don't have room for.

Excellent gift idea!

17 November 2008

Birthday parties

Mikey is turning 4 on Thanksgiving Day, which means it's time for another birthday party. My budget is pretty small, and I am hoping that this year is the year that I don't make a big deal out of it and actually sit and have fun!

I made invitations using pictures I took of him and the online photo editing website picnik, which is *freaking awesome* and totally free. I use it all the time. Then I bought some cardstock in the scrapbooking section and found 4x6 invitation envelopes in the mailing section of Walmart. I had to buy printer ink, which was FIFTY SEVEN FREAKING DOLLARS but at least I can print coupons now, too. It's been months since I had printer ink and I have to say, it's nice. Lame frugal luxuries.

I emailed some of the invitations, to save paper and stamps but mostly because they look a lot better online than printed. Hey, I tried. Usually I order Shutterfly invites for way too much, or buy store bought ones and then people complain that they didn't get a picture. Hopefully they won't complain too much about this!

Next up, the menu. I'm planning on making some trays of food- baked mac and cheese, lasagna, chicken parmigiana. It's a lunch party so we won't be starving, and there will be appetizers and cake. Speaking of the cake, after the monster truck cake I'm going to have a hard time living up to that standard, but I'll try.

15 November 2008

And just like that, half my Christmas money is spent...

When I was looking for a good deal on the drums, I came across this toystore website that I really like- it's called Star Bright Kids Company. They had the drums, plus two other things I had seen in catalogs like Chasing Fireflies and Uncommon Goods (my most favorite store), that I wanted to get the kids. They use Amazon for their billing/shipping, and they are running a spend $25, get free shipping deal. Then, I signed up for their newsletter, and they emailed me a 10% off your next purchase coupon code, which was STAR2008, in case you want to use it.

So, I got them the drum set, and the two other awesome things I have been eyeing for months:

And Automoblox:

Now, these toys are all expensive. They are also really, really cool, award-winning, super high quality toys that get awesome reviews and win awards and stuff.

Soooo.... my total came to 161 dollars.

Kids? Done.

Christmas gift #1, plus a cool website

So, I decided to go for one or two quality items and some smaller stocking stuffers. So far, I have decided on one thing:

How cute is this? It's made from renewable rubber wood, so it's green, and it's about $45-50.00. I saw it in the Uncommon Goods and Chasing Fireflies catalogs, and I did a google search for it and found it on this website called Sprig: Your Daily Green Style Guide that makes toy recommendations. Awesome!

I also want to say how much I loved the Victorian Poem Krista posted in the comments on the last post: Something they want, something they need, something to play with, something to read. I have never heard that, and I'm doing it! I think this qualifies as something to play with.

14 November 2008

quality vs quantity

It's time to start Christmas shopping, and I have a dilemma. Basically, my children have TONS of toys- two houses full! They are the only grandchildren on both sides and really have every toy you can imagine. So here's where the dilemma comes in.

They really just want trucks for Christmas. They have a MILLION trucks, matchbox cars, trains, etc. But, if you ask them, they want trucks. We don't have a big house or a playroom, and we don't have much room for something big, so that's out. Everything they don't have here they have at their grandparents house.

So what I'm thinking is this: I may just.buy them each one awesome, pricey car or truck, and then if I can score any cheap toys with all the sales, I can get a few smaller things.

What are you doing about this too-many-toys/ not-enough-money issue?

10 November 2008

track track track

I have to say, now that it's november, that the number one hardest thing about paying off debt is getting on track, staying on track, and getting back on track. It's really hard to figure out a debt pay-off plan that works for you- there's always a bill you forgot about, an unforseen expense, a last minute invitation to something expensive that you just can't miss. Once you manage to get it mostly figured out, it's hard to keep that momentum going. You know you have 500 dollars for a credit card payment but those pants are so cool... and 400 dollars is still a lot to pay to debt... but you have to remind yourself of your goal, day in and day out. It's exhausting. It's difficult. People don't understand. Sometimes people laugh at you or criticize you. But still, you perservere.

Until, one day, you don't. You buy the pants, or treat your mom to dinner. Or both. You forget about your car tax bill, or you talk too much on your cell phone, and poof! you're off track. Then you avoid your budget, because you know you'll have to do some finagling, and it sounds hard, and boring, and depressing. Days turn to a week. All of a sudden, your bills are due. You have to get back on track.

And if you do, if you can still push yourself through all of these trials, you will succeed. The numbers will start to go down. You'll see a difference, and it will feel so, so good. Much better than the pants you haven't worn because they turned out to be dry clean only, or that long forgotten meal. You're in control, and one day you'll be out of this mess.

Out of all that I have learned, the perserverance is the best attribute I have attained. I won't give up, even if this goal (and this blog) reach into years three, four, five. One day, it will be done, and I will be a better person for it.

06 November 2008

oh, those ups and downs of life

Obama! I'm just so thrilled, elated, motivated, moved... it's so, so good. I really feel like he'll be a great unifier, and a true force for change. Young people turned out in record numbers to elect him, and he's our president. So many of our friends worked for him, contributed to his campaign, and supported him. I'm so proud to be an American.

I'm also proud because Rahm Emanuel went to my alma mater. :)

Okay, so the downs. My husband and I are fighting again, this time its because my nearly four year old is giving me a lot of grief in the morning when its time to go, and I told him he wasn't allowed to watch a movie (The Nightmare Before Christmas, which I didn't think was appropriate for him to be watching anyway!!) at their house. It snowballed from there, and now his mom wants to pick them up at lunch time on the days they go to their house and have them come at 1 instead of 5. I'm not okay with this for a number of reasons that I won't get into, but frankly, I don't see why you would reward a child's bad behavior with extra time at grandma's, instead of leaving him in his regular schedule. It sucks that I don't get to make the rules. The whole thing just sucks. I want it to be over with, I want the judge to just tell us what to do so I don't have to be the bad guy all the time.


Hope, right? Yes we can?

03 November 2008

so far, so good

So, he did come through with the full amount on Friday, which is awesome. We had a nice talk and he gets how hard I'm working on this. Good stuff.

So, please, please vote tomorrow. Seriously. Tomorrow is a day that will go down in history and you have one chance to be a part of it, to tell your children and your grandchildren that you were a part of it. I won't tell you who to vote for, but I will say that I'm anxiously waiting to vote for the candidate who shares my views of environmental responsibility and who I believe will actually represent me and my views and beliefs.

Better get some sleep- tomorrow is going to be a long day.

31 October 2008

it's Friday

Shall we bet on whether or not he actually gives me the last 100 dollars?

30 October 2008

near miss

When I went to court, I didn't know where to park. I chose a spot at the public library, figuring I was on home turf there. I had 3 quarters, which bought me 45 minutes, obviously not enough time. I put them in, looked one more time for quarters, and walked away, checking each meter on the way, to see if any were expired, and each time I saw a red flag in the window, I felt slightly more confident that it would be okay.

I walked into the courthouse and placed my bag and the contents of my pockets in the metal detector basket and walked through the gateway. I beeped, and the guard told me to open my jacket, and I started to remove it. He stopped me and repeated, "just open it" and I mumbled something about having flown before, which I instantly realized was a stupid thing to say. He said "What's that?" coarsely, and I repeated it, blushing and wishing I could keep my damn mouth shut for a moment of my damn life. He let me through.

I waited, pretending to read while I scoped out the people in the courthouse waiting area. Lots of lawyers, most of them good looking, and I checked their ring fingers, because fate might have brought me to that courthouse, you know. I saw an awkward attorney hit on an attractive law clerk, who barely seemed to notice that he was totally into her. She smiled at me and I smiled back, thinking "I could be you, too. We all make dumb mistakes."

Then the lawyer came, and the law things happened. There was a lot of walking around, checking in here, checking in there. Watching my husband remove his boots and wondering why he did that, hoping he didn't pick today to have a knife in his pocket like the day we got on the plane to get married. Feeling mad and sad and sorry. And then we left, and I walked back to the library.

I walked up, and the meter guy was looking at my car, pen on the ticket form. I shuffled up, saying, "That's me, sorry, sorry. Am I too late?" He laughed, and said "yeah"- sarcastically, like I was stupid for asking. I stammered, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I had to go to court and I didn't know where to park..." and he looked up, and looked me over in my little blue court dress and my matronly nude hose and put his pen down. "It's okay. Just go." and I thanked him, and I left.

29 October 2008

good news?

The court thing went okay- my husband "threw out" his financial paperwork and so we had to get a continuance. However, we had a nice talk in the courthouse and he agreed to start giving me the 100 dollars again! We'll see if it happens, but he said he would, and I think he understood why I need it so badly.

Let me just say that doing the Year of Frugal Living and being so on top of my finances really served me well today, because I was able to succinctly explain exactly why I need that money, where it is going, and spout off all the numbers of what I've paid off and how much progress I've made right off the top of my head. When he left, I had 5 credit cards, now I have three, and I have paid off 10 percent of the debt, plus consolidated over 30 percent of it at 0 to 3.99 percent interest, which means less money paid to interest and more to the principle. I felt proud to say it, and it was impressive (I think) to hear.

So, good news (I hope!)

28 October 2008

Gearing up for stocks

Tonight I opened an ING Direct Sharebuilder account, so I can buy and sell stocks. I got a promotional card in the mail that said if I opened an account and made one trade, they would deposit 25.00 in my account 4-6 weeks later. (The code was BONUS25 if you want to use it). So I did that, and I linked my ING Savings account to the account, and transferred 50.00 for the trading fees for the "instant" trades. I don't have enough money to invest to set up the automatic option, which doesn't charge the fees, so I wanted to be able to buy stock a few times without committing to the automatic plan. (The automatic plan has free trades, but charges a monthly fee, whereas the instant trade option charges transaction fees, but no monthly fee- that one is called the "Basic" plan).

I also added a debt ticker to the sidebar, I got the idea from Manda's blog, which is in my blogroll. I had no idea I had paid off 13% of my debt! I even double checked the numbers. I counted the money for the lawyer because it's an accomplishment, all the same.

Speaking of the lawyer, I'm going to court tomorrow at 10 am, so wish me luck. It's a "status hearing" and I don't think much will come out of it. Nevertheless, I'd prefer not to go. Oh well.

27 October 2008

The weirdest problem

I can't get oil- because I don't need enough. The oil company won't deliver less than 100 gallons and my 275 gallon tank is 5/8 full- so they won't deliver it until I am at 1/2 full! I want to get oil now because its 2.939 a gallon, which is down nearly 1.50 from where it was in August.

They have oil plans to lock in rates, but I (luckily) don't go through much oil and don't really want to commit to automatic delivery. Last winter I got oil twice, both times less than the full tank, and I still have 5/8 of the tank left now, nearly 6 months later. My furnace only heats the house- every thing else is heated with electricity- and my house is a small, well-insulated, south facing ranch. I have a programmable thermostat that I keep at 63 when we're not home, 66 when we are, and 64 when we're sleeping (I think). I know that it's at 66 when we're home, but it might be less during the day.

Anyway, no oil for me!

26 October 2008

The Christmas Challenge

Oh, so annoying. Spell check just deleted my whole post!

Okay, so this won't be as verbose. I decided to start with the Christmas Challenge. In August, I started an automatic savings plan with my ING Direct account that took 30 dollars every payday for Christmas. As of today, it has 180 dollars, and by December 18th, I'll have 300 dollars.

I wanted to point out that I have *never* saved in advance for Christmas. Last year I paid cash, but there have been Christmases past where I charged presents. I am probably still making payments on those presents. :(

My goal is to use my 300 dollars for Christmas without going over. I know this number is small- I don't have a lot of people to buy for and we're not huge present givers (for example, I don't have any nieces or nephews and only have one sibling- and I obviously don't need to buy for my husband anymore...). When I spend something, I'll post how much on the blog- but not what, just in case someone is reading!

Sound good?

25 October 2008

your turn!

Now that gardening season is basically over, and it's going to be too cold for the clothesline, I want to try out a new challenge.

So, any ideas? I was thinking about some sort of a menu game- like we would all post links for recipes that use a certain ingredient, so if, say, pork roast is on sale at your grocery store, you could potentially get like 4 meals out of it.

Any other ideas?

23 October 2008

People's Exhibit A

So, I did it. I gave my lawyer's clerk the address to my blog so she could see it. So, if you're reading this, "G" and Attorney J, hi. This is a little surreal, but maybe it will give you a better sense of how hard I have been working to pay off these credit cards.

I don't know what else to say! (For once...)

22 October 2008

another good gift idea

I asked my inlaws to get us memberships to the zoo and the children's museum for Christmas. We don't need any more toys (does anyone?) and we like to do things like that on Saturdays and days off. Plus, when you have a membership, sometimes it comes with extra guest passes or discounts at the store or restaurant.

It's the gift that keeps on giving (for a year, anyway).

Speaking of the gift that keeps on giving, did anyone else see the new e-cards they have to help you tell people you "may" have given them an STD? That's the internetz at its finest...

21 October 2008

so seriously not okay, in any way, shape or form

So, I talked to my ex, and he reiterated his intention to completely screw me over by giving me 100 dollars less each week. I told him we won't be able to pay our bills, I told him the kids will need things, he says "I can't afford it." He said "tell me when they need something." Seriously?

I hate hate hate him right now.

Our court date is October 29th. I called the lawyer and told them what he's doing. I guess it's in their hands now.

If this really happens, if he really gets away with this, 2009 is going to be the Year of Really Really Frugal Living. Like, posting to the blog from the public library because we shut off the cable/phone/internet kind of frugal living.

Did I mention I hate him?

Do you think I could submit this blog as evidence that I'm paying things off and he's screwing me every chance he gets?

18 October 2008

the best frugal idea I had yet

I asked my mom to buy me the shoes for Christmas.

For the last few months, every time I thought of something I wanted but didn't need, for me or for the kids, I wrote it down in my phone (where I keep track of my spending). So, right now my Christmas list (for myself) looks like this:

  • the shoes

or these

and I wouldn't mind these, either:

  • an "under the counter" radio for my kitchen, so I can listen to the news while I cook
  • these cool prints from IKEA from my kitchen

Yup. Even virtual shopping makes you feel better.

putting things off that shouldn't be put off

For those who asked, there's no court order. Our court date is Oct 29, and I've been dragging my feet on it because a) I don't want to "rock the boat" with him, and b) everytime I go to get the paperwork together, I panic, big time.

I'm scared of all of this. I'm scared they are going to let him have unsupervised visitation, even though I know and my lawyers knows (and everyone else agrees) that the court won't give a confirmed drug addict unsupervised visitation with a 2 and a 3 year old. But nevertheless, it freaks me out.

This apartment freaks me out. The last time he lived alone he was involved in some really bad stuff. It was a long time ago, before we were even together, but he's not that different now, obviously.

Yuck.yuck yuck yuck.

I'm going to Target today to get Halloween costumes (my MIL offered to pay, I love her). If I see those shoes I wanted, I'm freaking buying them. The last time I bought new shoes was when I started working full time again! Seriously! I'll be freaking damned if I let him screw up everything for us. Freaking damned.

(Deep breath).

17 October 2008

just livid

My soon-to-be-ex-husband just told me that he's giving me 100 dollars less a week so he can get an apartment. Um, oh my god. If he does that, there goes my hope of ever getting out of debt. Every penny I have would go to minimum payments, not paying off debt.

I may throw up.


I really, really want new shoes. 2 pairs- suede mocs, and some sexy heels. I didn't buy them, but I reallllllllllly, really want to.

14 October 2008


I just read an article on cnn.com about the people who have killed themselves and their families (and pets) because of financial problems.


I can't even imagine things being that hopeless. Things have been pretty bad for me, I'm sure many people who took a look at my debts would say things are pretty bad for me right now, but I still have a place to live and I have a job, so things could be worse.

It's really sad how much money tears peoples lives apart.

13 October 2008

401k and the stock club

Have you looked at your 401k balance? I did. I have two accounts (one is a rollover IRA) and I'm down about 30% in both. Ouch.

Good thing I'm 30, though. In theory, I have 35 years to make up that money, and I will. I feel okay about the fact that the market will recover- between what is happening across the world now, and th new president, things will get better.

My friend suggested that we start a ladies' stock club since we can actually afford stocks right now. I love this idea and I'm going to open an account today during naptime. This morning on the news one of the financial advisors quoted Warren Buffett, saying "Have greed when others have caution, have caution when others have greed" (That isn't the right quote because my kids are shreiking and I can't think, but that was the jist of it.) The point is, prices are lower than they've been in 25 years and most of us are young enough to wait it out. So, I'm in.

12 October 2008

that's a lot of money for a yard

I'm watching "Landscapers challenge" on HGTV and I'm sort of perplexed by the amount of money people have for their landscape projects. The first couple had 5 grand, and I thought "that's a lot of money, but they really made a change in their lives by spending that." The next couple had 30,000 dollars and wanted a baseball field... okay... and now this last family has 75,000 dollars and wants a putting green?

That's just weird. I think its one thing to fix up your yard for optimal usage, but another to take a 1/2 acre lot and cram in 400 different "areas" that cost 10 grand a piece.

Last night I went to a "green" expo where I learned about biofuels (so cool) and I saw a bumper sticker that said "The earth can no longer afford the rich." That sounded about right to me.

11 October 2008


I spent 54 dollars at ikea. I admit it, it was fun. I bought max a rug for his room (its one of those "road rugs" but since its from ikea, it looks like the backdrop from Yo Gabba Gabba and is so weird and cute and cool) for 14 bucks, curtains, a curtain "wire" and an over the door coat hook for my office, an aloe plant, two ceramic plant pots, a plastic salad bowl and a glass water pitcher. That's a lot of things for 54 dollars, don't you think?

I realize I have no money, I realize I have debt. But its been so long, and I was down the street from ikea with 2 hours to kill. And I didn't "need" those things like I need food and shelter, but they are all practical items that I have been wanting. I feel okay about it.

Excuses, excuses. :)

08 October 2008

old hat

So, I'm out of money. That's nothing new! My husband gave me a 100.00 less this week "so he could get an apartment" which meant I had to use my debt money for food. Ughh. I also had to drive to some meetings last week so I had to fill up my car an extra time. It all adds up! It's amazing how fast the money goes.

I don't really have any tips for this, but it's a bummer. Every time I hear the politicians talk about people tightening their belts, I know what they mean, and I realize how lucky I am that I'm taking money out of debt repayment to make up the difference instead of paying bills with credit cards and stuff like that. I was there once, and I don't want to be there again!

Luckily, tomorrow's pay day... I'd just love to have one, just ONE payday where the money wasn't already allotted to bills right down to the last dime. Could you imagine?

05 October 2008

The Year-To-Date Numbers

In the last nine months, I have:

  • paid off 3362.00 worth of credit card debt
  • saved 1379.00 for emergencies, oil and Christmas presents (1000 for emergencies, 250 for oil and 120 for Christmas)
  • paid 2798.00 off on my car loan/personal loan from the credit union
  • paid off 1126.00 off of my student loans
  • saved 2500.00 for a lawyer

For a grand total of... 11,165.00. Boo-yah. High fives all around.

I'd also like to mention that I have not visited my old flame Target since September 5th (I think- I could have paid cash since then but it's been a while. The point is, I can't even remember.) I'm thinking of putting up one of those "30 days since our last accident" counters on the blog, but I haven't figured it out yet.

yayayayayayayay. yay.

04 October 2008

david sedaris

Last night I went to hear David Sedaris read some stories. If you're unfamiliar with his writing, I highly recommend him (unless you're uncomfortable with swearing, homosexuality, and talking about drugs- being a librarian, I just need to make you aware of what your getting yourself into). But if you're like the several hundred gays, freaks, sinners and liberals who packed the sold out theatre last night, prepare to laugh until you cry- my face hurt after about 45 minutes.

David Sedaris tells funny, but sometimes depressing stories about his family. So when the Q and A period began, an audience member asked a question about his family, and referred to them as "dysfuntional." Before answering the question, Sedaris addressed the use of the word dysfunctional. 'I wouldn't say my family was dysfuntional' he said (and I'm paraphrasing) 'I'd actually say we functioned quite well.' He went on to describe a dinner table where the father would have one eye on the tv in the other room, and the children had to be quiet so he could hear the news- but when he left to go watch tv, the children (I think there are 4 of them) would sit around the table for hours with their mother, laughing and talking. In high school, he said, no one wanted to date or go out with friends because it would mean missing homemade pizza night or other family time.

I loved this, because he didn't speak of fancy vacations, of huge houses, of things- he spoke of time, and laughter, and things easily afforded and enjoyed. Children just want to be with you, to have your attention and love, and that's free to give.

And now I'll go pay attention to mine.

02 October 2008


I just wanted to quickly remind everyone to watch the VP debate tonight!

I also wanted to thank everyone who posted about the third quarters numbers. Your support means so much to me.

I'll try to post those year to dates as soon as possible, but with tonight's debate and tomorrow night I'm going to see David Sedaris (!!!!) I might not have time until Saturday.

Have fun watching!

01 October 2008

Third Quarter Report

Here we go...

In the last three months, I have:
  • paid off 974.00 worth of credit card debt
  • saved 1279.00 for emergencies, oil and Christmas presents (900 for emergencies, 250 for oil and 120 for Christmas)
  • paid 964.00 off on my car loan/personal loan from the credit union
  • paid off 322.00 off of my student loans

While this isn't great, it's not bad either. If you add it all up, I'm 3,539.00 better off than I was on July 1st. Okay, that makes me feel better. The credit card and student loans numbers really bummed me out, because let me tell you, I paid a lot more than that, these are after interest numbers. And for the credit cards, I actually paid off 1394.00, but I had to put a few work expenses on a card, and I should be getting reimbursed for those. Just in case I don't, though, I included that debt in the totals.

This post is my 181st post on this blog, and that counts for something, too. My hit counter is at about 13,000, and I get roughly 60 visits a day. That's incredible, and keeps me very motivated.

All in all, not bad.

last quarter

It's October 1st, which means the last quarter of the Year of Frugal Living has begun. I'll be working on the 3rd quarterly report tonight, and I'm looking forward to seeing what it says. I don't think this quarter will be as impressive as the others, mainly because of the fact that I didn't get any "extra" money (tax returns, gifts, retroactive raises) like I did in the first two quarters. However, I still think I made some good progress, and I'm excited to see what the numbers are!

29 September 2008

not sure what to say

So, as you can imagine, I've been thinking a lot about the economy and the (now failed) bailout. I think that this is a situation where no one really knows what to think. First of all, it's confusing. Secondly, how you feel about it depends on your socioeconomic class, political leanings, and personal history. And thirdly, the people who are supposed to be telling you what it means aren't telling you much. All of this results in mass confusion, to be sure.

Basically, the government would take a whole lot of your money and use it to back financial institutions, pump some liquid back in the illiquid assets of the housing market (love those weird, probably made up financial terms) and fund a bunch of other programs that will help people get back on their feet. If it went through (and maybe it still will, in another incarnation), you might get all of your money back, some of your money back, or maybe even make money on the deal.

But today, no such luck. I heard on the radio some congress men and women didn't want to vote for it because they are up for reelection, and the thought in Washington is that a vote for this pretty much means you're out in November. Then they blamed Nancy Pelosi, for making a partisan speech referring to Bush's failed economic policies, which I'm sorry, but no matter what party you belong to, you have to agree is a fact at this point. And finally, Republicans don't like when the government controls their money with taxes, so some of them voted no for that reason too.

Now, at risk of showing my party affiliation, I don't have any problem with paying taxes, if they go to a good project/program/result. Being an unpaid mom on maternity leave really drove that home for me. The street near my neighborhood recently got new sidewalks, I'm sure my taxes helped paid for that, and I'm glad. And while I don't think that execs should be getting these ridiculous salaries at the risk of the rest of the country, I live in a state where many of the residents make a LOT of money in finance and real estate, and I work for that state, and I have already seen budgets being cut at my work due to the loss in revenue from the state income tax. It's complicated, and I'm sure glad I'm a frugal living blogger and not Henry Paulson.

If there is one thing I have learned through all of this, it is that I am not ready to buy a house. If I had a mortgage right now, and winter was coming with the home heating costs rising exponentially, and I thought I could lose my job- man, I'd be freaking out right now. I'm so sorry for those who are in that situation because if your house gets foreclosed on, you're screwed. I'm sorry to say it, but it's true. Even though I have all this debt, and I don't own a home or really have any equity to claim for myself, I'm still okay, and I'm lucky in that regard (among many others).

We'll see what tomorrow brings.

27 September 2008

unintended bargain

I haven't paid my newspaper bill because I was considering cancelling it because it was like 20 dollars for 13 weeks. Well, I got a "we want you back" letter from them today offering me 26 weeks for the same price, which is 50 percent off. This also happens if you cancel Netflix, or put photos in Shutterfly but don't order anything.

So keep that in mind. It's like a lazy man's bargain. :)

dreams instead of nightmares

I wasn't writing this blog when things were really bad, I started it about 6 months after I went back to work and my husband moved out (which happened less than a month apart). But things used to be really bad. I had to pay bills with credit cards sometimes, and if I managed to get ahead and get some money into savings, my husband would take it. I would lay awake at nights worrying, running different scenarios through my head, and spent countless hours working on pay-off plans with my Microsoft Money software.

While I'm not debt free (yet),now I sleep at night. I have back up plans, savings that are safe, and enough income to pay more than the minimum balance. Instead of worrying about how to make it through, when I lay in bed I dream of what I will do when the credit cards are gone. Student loans will get paid off, too. A downpayment for a house, perhaps. I imagine what it would be like to pay cash for a car, or a nice vacation. I dream of putting money in IRAs, 503b's and donating to charity.

I realize that all those things cost money, too, and I'll probably never have "enough"- but I also know how far I've come.

25 September 2008

just your typical slightly disasterous bill paying evening

I really should know better than to say things are fine- because, of course, something always comes up. In the past two weeks, I've had a lot of little somethings, and hadn't really added them all up since I've been so busy and tired. Tonight I *think* I got everything squared away, and I'm 200 dollars short of where I was supposed to be for the last two weeks of spending.

This really irritates me because a) it's not like I bought myself anything b) it's for dumb stuff like co-pays and cat food and c) I barely made any progress this month on my overall debt total because of this.

That being said, there is one thing that has worked out swimmingly (to use the term of Mikey's 3 year old teacher). The balance transfer thing turned out to be doubly beneficial- not only am I spending less on interest because of switching it, but the minimum payment for the one card is less than the minimum payment was for the two cards combined, so I have more to put towards the card I'm paying off aggressively. So I'm saving in two places- the interest on card one, and the principle on aggressive-pay-off-card. Sweet.

I think part of the reason this month has been rough is because I made that overly aggressive payment last month, which left me with practically nothing to get through the next few weeks. I think now for October I'll be back on track, but we'll see.

And thanks to everyone who voted on my blog, I really appreciate your input, and I'm glad to know you want me to keep it up- I want to keep it up!

the realization

It just occured to me that if I wasn't doing this, I'd probably never pay off all of my debt.

That's terrifying, and makes my progress that much more meaningful.

I'm so glad I'm doing this.

24 September 2008

attempt #3

I keep trying to post and someone (read: children or library patrons) keeps interrupting me. Things are going well. I've been sticking to the Blackberry budget, and buying as many organic things as I can. Work has been really, very busy but I'm hanging in there.

It's tough getting a 2 and a 3 year old fed, dressed, lunchboxed and out the door by 7 am by yourself. It's wearing on me. I'm grumpy and my back hurts. Sometimes I feel like its not fair, and other times I think its not so bad after all, the difference being directly related to the amount of crying that morning.

I had one brief moment of panic where I thought I hadn't planned for Christmas, only to realize I have been socking money away for weeks. I guess that shows how little you notice automatic savings- I've been putting away 30 dollars every other week for Christmas and 250 a month for oil, and hadn't really noticed.

I also got picked for a leadership program for librarians, and it means I'll get to travel to conferences in Denver and Chicago next year, so I'm really excited about that!

For those who commented on the exchange with the high school classmate, a lot more went on (me "educating" resulted in me being called an "instigator") so I'm just gonna let it go. I'll put it this way- I think I really am a bitch. Oh well.

21 September 2008

I'm just not into it

I went over to a friend's house tonight and saw a guy I went to high school with. He's never been someone I had anything in common with, but we're both close with the friend whose house we were at, and we actually live in the same town. While we were talking, he was telling me about all the home improvement projects he was working on.

I like to think of myself as a pleasant person, but honestly, I think I might have evolved into a bitch. I just couldn't listen to him talk. All I heard was the cash register sound and thought of all the money he was spending. I thought about all the old housing materials getting thrown in the dumpster, and the new hardwood floors made out of trees that take 50-100 years to reach full size, and I didn't want to listen to him. So I told him, "I'm just not into that stuff." It was strange to hear it come out of my mouth, but there it was, falling out of me and onto the floor, undeniable. I'm just not into that stuff. It was true, and it felt great.

18 September 2008

status report

I went grocery shopping last night with the whole healthful-eating thing in mind. I did spend more than I usually do, but it was still within my weekly grocery budget, with under a dollar left. It was good, though, because I really bought quite a bit of food- I think enough to even make it through the week, with a stop for fruit after the weekend.

I also paid off the remaining balance on that card that I transferred, so I no longer have to deal with them or that baloney attempt to raise my interest rate. I won't close this card yet because it would negatively affect my credit score to do so- my debt to total credit ratio is quite high, and if I cancel that card it would be even higher. So until I pay off the next card, that one stays open.

Tomorrow I'm having some friends over for a cookout, the last of the season, so that will be fun. Potlucks are the best, frugally and fun-wise. I can't wait.

its going to be okay

So, things are crazy right now- even if you aren't paying attention to the financial news or don't really understand what's going on, you know things are terribly screwed up. Other countries are even putting money into circulation because of our shitty economy.

But, its going to be okay.

How do I know? I know because of you. I know that I, one girl who is trying to pay off some credit cards, somehow ended up with support from close friends and perfect strangers, all looking for something better in their lives than a couple of stainless steel appliances and a Honda Odyssey in their driveway. No, we want things that no pricetag can be placed upon- time with our families, a sense of community, the freedom to give to those who need and not be those who want. We're different, and we're changing things.

Its going to be okay, because we're going to make it happen ourselves.

17 September 2008

Yes In My Own Backyard

Clive Thompson on Urban Gardens and Growing Your Own Food (from Wired.com):

A bit:

Urban farming tackles all three issues. It could relieve strain on the worldwide
food supply, potentially driving down prices. The influx of fresh vegetables
would help combat obesity. And when you "shop" for dinner ingredients in and
around your home, the carbon footprint nearly disappears. Screw the 100-mile
diet — consuming only what's grown within your immediate foodshed — this is the
100-yard diet.

Yeah, that's what I'm sayin. Just plant it.

15 September 2008

food spending

I know lots of people who read my blog are somehow affiliated with BC or the BHB, so you'll know what I mean when I talk about the now-infamous high fructose corn syrup commercial. On MDU, I read some comments about moms saying that they couldn't afford organic/healthy foods that don't contain HFCS or food dyes.

Now, in Michael Pollan's "In Defense of Food" (I know, again with that book), he compares the average grocery spending of Americans versus Europeans. Here's the quote:

Compared to the 9.9 percent of their income Americans spend on food, the
Italians spend 14.9 percent, the French 14.9 percent, and the Spanish 17.1

So, imagine you spend 100.00 a week on groceries for your family of four, which is tight. If that were roughly 10% of your take home pay, you'd make 52,000 a year. (Yay, math!) If you were to increase your budget to 15%, to match up with the French (sorry, Republicans. You can match up with the Italians.), your weekly grocery budget would be 150.00. Easy, I know. What would you do with 50 extra dollars per week? You could buy organic ketchup, organic apples, and Van's waffles.

Now why would I, the self-proclaimed frugalista, be encouraging people to spend MORE on groceries? The reason is that I truly feel that food is fuel, and there is obviously something terribly wrong with the way our country eats. And if you knew that the extra 50 dollars a week would decrease your, your spouse's and your children's risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes, wouldn't it become priceless?

I'm really encouraging you, and me too- for I am guilty of this as well- to redistribute our spending. I think there must be other places that this money could come from, to make up for the good food.

I was going to write more, but this is getting really long, and if I start getting long winded and preachy and boring, you guys won't read my blog anymore.

13 September 2008


I checked my balance for that card I'm transferring and it went through, so the balance shows as 300 bucks, which will be paid off this week. Yippee! Even though I just moved it around, I still feel like I'm making progress (which I am, if you consider the interest I'm about to save).

Tonight's goals: donate to my friend jenny's walk for the liver foundation: http://go.liverfoundation.org/site/TR/LiverLifeWalk2008/General?px=1042626&pg=personal&fr_id=1075&et=Rgyo9qeT_6b90lu1KV9IoA..&s_tafId=1115 and reallocate the money in my alternatative retirement plan (ARP). More on that tomorrow.

12 September 2008

off track

I'm feeling a little off track. While I have been keeping track of my spending in my Blackberry, I am consistantly spending next week's money this week, so I always feel behind/ deprived.

I also spent some extra money on weird things, like donating to the police fundraiser, paying random bills, and the gas it cost to go to the Cape. So, I'm probably 100- 150 dollars off budget.

Plus, I'm exhausted. Work has been really busy and its only going to get busier. Sometimes I worry that I take on too much at work. In addition, I've been putting off the things I need to do for the divorce, because I just don't feel like dealing with it.

The balance transfer did go through, so that's awesome. ;)

11 September 2008

Dermatologist Love Letter

Dr. Noonan,

I love you. I really do. Not only are you cute and funny, and my kids love you, but when you wrote me those 2 prescriptions for the weird dry skin I have on my chin, I took them to Rite Aid and they gave me a 30 dollar gift card for EACH of them. Then I bought myself new makeup, and diapers and wipes for my little Max, for free. So not only did you save me mucho dinero, but I'll be looking pretty good the next time you see me.

So, if you ever get divorced, just let me know. I'll schedule myself for something.


OMG, I wish. I love him! I wonder if he's a wonderful husband, too, or if he leaves towels on the floor and watches Spike TV and doesn't change diapers. I doubt it, though.

So, the Rite Aid thing is awesome. Basically, they will give you a 30 dollar gift card if you transfer a prescription. However, I had 2 new prescriptions that had refills, and they accepted them. The coupons are right on the pick up counter at the pharmacy, and it said limit 4 per customer, so you could technically make 120 bucks off this without even stretching the rules.

09 September 2008

Mary's right

I didn't really explain that I re-did the same balance transfer request, making it slightly less to make sure it would go through, and readjusted my debt payments to make sure that card is paid off this month. Sorry, Mare!

08 September 2008

Oh no you didn't.

Remember the credit card I tried to transfer and for some reason it got declined? Well, turns out they must have charged my interest the same day that I did the balance transfer request, so when it went in, I didn't have enough available credit (by 2 dollars). Whatever.

So today, I got my statement from that card I was planning on paying off, and in the envelope is a little piece of paper that says this:

We are increasing Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) on your account, unless you reject these changes as described on the reverse side. These APRs will vary each month with changes in the prime rate. The prime rate we select at the end of each month will be the highest prime rate published during the preceding three months, and will be applied to all balances in the same billing cycle as when selected. The balances include transactions made before the new prime rate is selected.

Now, I don't usually swear on this blog, even though I'm sort of a potty mouth, because I feel like I have nice, respectable readers who like or have kids, and want to pay off some credit cards. But seriously, are they fucking KIDDING ME? I especially love the part where they actually just come out and say they will randomly pick the highest prime rate possible. Why the preceding three months, MBNA? Why not all prime rates in the history of the world? And at this level of ridiculousness, why even bother with the prime rate? Why not my age times my weight, or something equally ridiculous?

And to top it off, they give me the "option" of getting out, as follows: We must receive your rejection by your statement Closing Date in October 2008 or your rejection will not be effective. So, it doesn't matter when it was postmarked, as is the way normal business is done, I just have to hope they get it by the date that I don't actually know yet, because it's in October. Sweet.

Whatever. I transfer you, MBNA! I hate credit cards.

07 September 2008

wedding bells

This weekend I went to Cape Cod for the wedding of a close friend. Weddings are always expensive, for the people getting married and the attendees. Luckily, I was able to keep my costs down, with the help of my friends.

My in-laws watched my kids, so that was fantastic. I drove there the morning of the wedding, and I packed a lunch for the car so I wouldn't have to stop and pay for food. The bride's amazing parents let me stay at their house (thank you, Cyndee and Jeff!), so that was free, too. I had bought a dress way back at that great Gap sale, on clearance. I had a great time, saw a lot of old friends, and even met a reader (hi Robin!). We had a bit of a hurricane, but it was awesome, and watching the flower girl play in the mud in her dress was priceless.

Congratulations, Hils and Josh!!

04 September 2008

Jaime: 1 Stop and Shop: 0

I went grocery shopping today and used the handheld scanner thing for the first time. While I was shopping, I noticed that the frozern pizza I was buying rang up wrong, so when I checked out, this is what happened:

Me: this pizza scanned wrong- it was supposed to be 6.99 but it came up 7.49.
Cashier motions to manager, who comes over and I tell him.
Manager: okay, I can adjust the price.
Me: is this one of those commodity items that you get for free if it scans wrong?
Manager: sure, I can give it to you for free.
Me: thanks!

Score! As usual, it never hurts to ask!

02 September 2008

the never-ending struggle

As usual, just when I thought I was doing really well, things have snuck up on me. For some unknown reason, my balance transfer didn't go through, even though I definitely had enough available credit. I am totally out of food and money. I'm just about out of gas. Mikey starts preschool tomorrow, which means my daycare expenses are about to go up, and saving up for oil has pretty much killed my raise. I had to cut down on my debt payments just to make it work, which means the rest of the third and probably all of the fourth quarter of the Year of Frugal Living won't be as exciting or impressive as quarters one and two. Oh, and my garden is sort of dying. I neglected it and it was hot, and things don't look so great.

But hey. At least I HAVE money for oil, and Christmas presents, thanks to the Automatic Savings Plans I signed up for. And while I'm not paying off as much debt, I'm still hacking away at it. I have a feeling that the balance transfer thing is a mistake. And finally, my little fall lettuce and beets and peas are fine, so maybe it's just the end of the season. And Mikey is going to LOVE preschool. And honestly, we're happy, we're healthy, and we're safe.

Could be better, could be worse.

31 August 2008

making the unfrugal frugal

Tonight I went out to dinner to a fancy restaurant with a friend. She had a gift certificate she wanted to use, so we got to treat purselves to a fancy girls night out. After dinner, we were planning on heading home, but joking about going to one of the casinos in my state. Then we decided we should go! My kids are spending the night at their grandparents' house, so I was a free agent. Awesome!

I had 20 dollars when we got there. I played slots for about an hour, until I was up to 56 bucks. Then I stopped for a while, then I played with those 6 dollars, and I quit when I got to 50. So, we stayed for 2 hours, and I made 30 dollars (or 27 couting the THREE dollar ATM fee!). So now I have money for hot dogs and beer for the cookout.

How awesome is that?

Oh, and by the way, I realize how often I use the word awesome. I'm enthusiatic, so sue me. ;)

30 August 2008

where things get a bit hairy

I'm pretty much out of lunch foods, and its only Sunday, and I have 8 dollars left for the week. I'm thinking a half lb of american cheese, 3 nectarines, a box of mac and cheese and a loaf of bread from the bread store should cost roughly 10 dollars, but I have a wayward 5 in my wallet, so should be okay.

But here's where it gets hairy. Mikey's very first day of preschool is wednesday, and he wants a ham and cheese sandwich and an apple (how Leave it to Beaver of him) so I need to work that in... Although, I bet I can order a few slices of ham at the deli for cheap, plus one apple shouldn't be too bad... But then we're supposed to be cooking out with friends on monday, and my kids want hot dogs. Hmm.

Okay, I don't need to work out this whole process on the blog, but you get the idea. There's always Something. It's a constant juggle, and it can be demoralizing at times, but when you figure it out, it's motivating instead. With anything, the satisfaction is in the job well done. I'll let you know what I figure out!

29 August 2008

another notch in my belt, or jumping the gun

I got paid yesterday, and before I had too much time to question it I quickly sent off a large payment to the credit card I'm aggressively paying off (I'd like to point out here that in order to spell aggressive correctly, I said the cheer in my head- you know: a-g-g-r-e-ss-i-v-e-aggressive! LOL). That payment knocked me down a number in the thousands column of the total, and abolished the remnants of any old balance transfer offers I had kicking around. Good stuff.

Only problem is, I forgot something. Two somethings, to be more specific: my first preschool payment (47 dollars) plus my therapist appointment (65). So, 112 dollars I totally didn't pland to spend, and all my extra money just went to monetarily flipping off Citibank. Crap.

I guess I'll have to juggle, borrow from Peter to pay Paul, and I'm sure it will be fine, but its not great. I'm still psyched about that big bill payment, though.


28 August 2008

Seriously, is this how frugal people have been living all along?

(With regard to this whole "keeping track of how much I spend each week" thing)

Why didn't anyone tell me how easy this was? Why didn't I do this before? Did I do this before and let it slip? I have no idea- all I know is, all of a sudden, sticking to my budget is insanely easy. Case in point- the Cabbage Patch Baby.

I have been promising my 3 y/o a Cabbage Patch Baby since the day he started potty training. Well, the day had finally come when he was really, truly potty trained, and that meant it was time to visit the toy store. So we went to Toys R Us, and then Target, and finally found the perfect baby, who looks like this:

Except he's a boy. His Cabbage Patch Kid name is "Andreas Reynaldo" but Mikey named him "Bussy" as a tribute to buses, I suppose. He's very cute and pees in his diaper, much to the grotesque delight of my two little boys.

Anyway, Bussy ran us 15 bucks, along with the 5 more I spent on "supportive little brother Matchbox cars" for Max. This whole adventure took up 95% of dinner time, so we went through the drive through on the way home (12 bucks). The whole day cost 34 dollars, including tax.

Typically, I would have ignored this day and gone on to spend my allotted 75 dollars at the grocery store, but now that I was able to quickly jot this all down, I did, and I subtracted it from my grocery budget. When I went grocery shopping last night, I was aware of this, and only bought the bare essentials (milk, bread, fruit) and spent 24 dollars. I got gas (63 dollars out of the allotted 75), so I still have money left for the week. This is good. Real good. Plus, all this math. I love it!

Today is payday, so tonight I will be paying down some more credit card debt. One more month and this year is 3/4 of the way finished! I can hardly believe it.

25 August 2008

this is awesome!

Ever since I did that balance transfer, I have been feeling so awesome about things. That feeling that I'm DOING this, that it WILL be over one day is back. It's great! Very inspirational!

I also managed to go the whole day without spending any money, which is awesome, and that means I'm still sticking to my budget. So, yeah. Good stuff.

24 August 2008

Not bad!

I stuck to my "keeping track of spending in my Blackberry" plan and I think it went well! I'm officially out of money for the week, but the fridge is stocked and my gas tank is full, plus I have 8 dollars in cash for the farmer's market, so I think I was pretty successful.

Yesterday we spent a wonderful day at the beach with some friends, and today I am tired and a bit burnt but happy. I've been slacking off a bit in the garden and really need to get out there, but I'm trying to get some serious vacuuming done before the kids come home from their day with dad. I also have lots of pictures to post so I'll get on that in a bit.

Next payday (Thursday) is a big bill pay off day, so I'm getting excited for that!

I also want to share that I decided to do a balance transfer on one of my credit cards. I got an offer from another card for 0% until June 2009, with a 99$ balance transfer fee. I transferred the entire balance of another card I had, that I was paying about 90-100 a month in interest, so I'll make that $99 fee back after one month. In addition, after June 09, the interest rate will switch back to the regular rate, which is the same as I was already paying, so even if I don't touch that debt between now and then (this is not the card I'm aggressively paying off right now), I'll save 900 dollars in interest by doing this (100 a month times 9 months). Finally, this particular card changes the minimum payment and due date each month for some reason, and that makes me nervous because I'm always afraid I'll accidentally underpay or miss a payment, and now I won't have to worry about that.

Finally, I'd like to add that the card I transferred this to had sent me an offer in the mail, but the one on the website was MUCH better than the one they mailed me, so keep that in mind when shopping for balance transfer offers. Good luck!

21 August 2008

the weekly budget

In an effort to keep better tabs on my weekly spending budget, I came up with this plan:

I have a Blackberry that I always have with me, so I made a note for this week, from Thursday to Wednesday, 8/21 to 8/27, since I usually go grocery shopping on Thursday nights. Then I wrote what I spent, for example today's entry said:

Stop and shop: 25
Lunch with a friend: 12
Total: 27- no, 37. Obvious math!

So now I know how much I have left for the week. I think this should work!

20 August 2008

Something to make me feel a little better

I added up all the totals of everything I owed January 1st, and everything I owe today to see how much progress I have made so far. Counting the 2500 dollars I spent on the lawyer and my 1000 dollar emergency savings, I have paid off $9,870.00 worth of debt. Nine THOUSAND eight hundred. Even without the lawyer, that's still over seven thousand dollars, in 8 months.

That's awesome.

(big grin).

19 August 2008

the harsh reality of having debt, or this freaking sucks

The reality of debt is that you can't afford to have the things you want even though your technically making enough money to have them. Right now, things should be okay for me. I make decent money and my husband comes through with his child support every week. But since we have all this debt, I spend most of my money on debt payments. Money I could be saving, putting towards goals, and enjoying my life with.

The job I have now is my first "professional" position. I have my own office, and I have my own house (even if I rent). Ideally right now I'd be gearing up to buy this house, perhaps living on a similar budget but socking that debt money away for a nice downpayment. As for my office, I really want to decorate it. I bought a flowerpot for the windowsill today to do so, and all I could think was a) that 9 dollars should have gone to my debt, and b) if I didn't have debt, I could be buying this pot, and whatever else I wanted, guilt free. In short- this sucks.

I'm starting to get frustrated. I don't feel like I'm making progress lately because I took some time off to save up that emergency fund. And I got a raise, but its all going towards oil for the winter. I, like many people, am feeling like I just can't get ahead. I don't know how much more I can pare down before its too much and I lose heart entirely.

Maybe I'm just hormonal right now, or I just need that next big bill payoff to rev me up again. Luckily, I think that is at the end of this month. So, yeah. Up yours, citibank.

18 August 2008

budget issues

It's becoming increasingly clear lately that my budget isn't cutting it. Basically, I never really added in things like diapers and toilet paper, I just grouped them in with the grocery budget, but I don't buy diapers and toilet paper at the grocery store, I buy them at target or CVS, so I would spend my grocery budget at the grocery store and then go over later on in the week.

I ran out of diapers, so I had to go to target. I ended up getting a pan on clearance that I knew I probably didn't need, but it was on my wishlist for a while because the one I have now is so warped parts of it don't touch the burner! So I used a little of my birthday money to get it.

I also went to IKEA to get something for the children's area at work, and I managed to get in and out of IKEA only spending 20 bucks, so I felt pretty good about that!

Wins and losses, wins and losses. I just want to get on with my life already. It's hard to keep the motivation every moment of every day, even knowing I have to come and fess up here.

17 August 2008


Remember how in old movies/ books people with pneumonia and stuff went to mountaintop sanitariums, to breathe the mountain air?

I'm sitting in a plastic adirondack chair in my backyard with a glass side table from kmart holding a cup of tea, a bowl of chicken noodle soup, a water bottle, cough drops, the phone, and a book.


Wait, was that what it was called?

ETA: okay, I looked it up. That was the right word, its like a health retreat. But it was used to treat tuberculosis, not pneumonia, I guess they thought the high altitude helped. Regardless, I bet my neighbors are wondering what the hell I'm doing out here in my jammies.

on vacation in your own backyard

I have a nice backyard. It's big (3/4 of an acre) and has some regular and fruit trees, a couple of different gardens, even grapevines. I'm lucky. So when I got up off my couch and looked out the window today, I thought, "why am I inside?"

Well, for one, I have a cold. But a little fresh air never killed anyone, so that's no excuse. And my kids are with their dad (finally! I guess his new girlfriend takes priority now- its been 2 weeks since he saw them), but taking them outside isn't the only reason I go out. And when I was on vacation, we sat outside- in the same exact chairs I have in my backyard, and we read books, and I loved it. Now granted, I'm not sitting looking at the ocean, but my yard isn't too bad to look at either. There's a cardinal about 10 yards away from me, and a butterfly just flew by. I'd bet at least a few city people would kill for this.

I finished In Defense of Food, and it was awesome. The best part was the last part, where Michael Pollan talks about how having a garden and eating what you grow is the best thing you can do for your health. Done! Yesterday and today I picked: 4 regular tomatoes, handfuls of pear and cherry tomatoes, 3 cucumbers, a zucchini, 2 peppers, some broccoli, some parsley and some basil (and two slugs, ew). Most of it is gone already! If I had to pick one thing to keep from this blog, I'd have to pick the garden, even though I've learned so much more. It's been amazing.

16 August 2008

what i don't like about bargain shopping

Right now I'm reading Michael Pollan's "In Defense of Food," which talks about the general decline in the health of western civilization ever since the advent of processed food. I read 102 pages of it today, I can't put it down. In fact, it's on my lap right now, waiting for me to finish blogging. Hang on, dear, I'm almost done.

So, I don't like to buy processed foods. For 13 years, from 10 until 23, I was a vegetarian and later vegan, and I actually started eating meat again because most vegetarian protein sources are processed foods. Its actually insane how many chemicals go into making meat free stuff. So my problem is, most coupons are for processed foods. Every once in a while I'll get one for bagged lettuce, but that's about it. It really bothers me because even though pop tarts may be on sale with a coupon, I don't really want to eat pop tarts.

In addition, a lot of times when there is a deal on something, its not very environmentally friendly. For example, in my kitchen I have a bunch of the littlest bottles of Palmolive dishwashing liquid. Not only is that the kind of thing that doesn't break down when its washed into the water system, but that's a lot of packaging. I bought them because they were practically free during a CVS deal, but the other side of it still nags me every time I pull one out.

What to do? I don't know. I'd love to spend more on quality things I feel good about, but I also want my debt gone. So, I really don't know. Priorities, priorities...

15 August 2008

Book Review, Part One

This book, Money Can Buy You Happiness by MP Dunleavey, is really written for women, regardless of the fact that the author doesn't say that anywhere. The author herself is a woman, she talks about things that women worry about, and how women generally feel about money (a hormone-induced emotional tossed salad of fear, sadness and appetite).

What this works out to is chapters called things like "Buy Yourself More Time." Sure, men can do that too, but the number one thing we moms (working and staying home) need is TIME. And, says Dunleavey, you can go ahead and buy that back for yourself. You just need to prioritize- cutting your expensive cable to pay for a weekly cleaning service, for example. Brown bagging it and using the money to get your groceries delivered. You get the idea.

I like this. This is what I was sort of working out in my own mind, how I might have $100, and I want something that costs $100, but for whatever reason I feel like I can't get/don't deserve that $100 thing, so I end up blowing that money on stupid things.

I'm going to buy myself some time right now and go watch Project Runway, but I've been a slacker lately and I promised the book review. Part Two- fun, or flow- tomorrow!

14 August 2008

I'm back!!!

I'm back from vacation. We had a great time. We went on boats and kayaks, over bridges, played in playgrounds, swam in the ocean, and ate ice cream. It was great, and the kids had a great time. I'm really, really glad I went, and I'm even more grateful to my friend Mary for inviting me.

As for the frugal side of things, I did okay! I had budgeted 200 dollars, and I spent 312.24. That counts almost one tank of gas, one ferry boat trip, a bag of groceries, 2 souvenir t shirts, one souvenir hat, 2 "souvenir" cars from the toy store, and $100 spending money. Considering I would have spent 150 dollars on childcare those three days, that would mean the whole trip cost me 162.24.

Now, I have to admit I was hoping that my total would be like 8 dollars, but I ended up needing to get gas and buy food when I got home, so that made it higher. I might even be wrong about this, because I guess I would be buying food and gas today anyway, but the point is, it wasn't that expensive, and a vacation for 58 dollars a day (or 32.30 if you take out the souvenirs) is pretty awesome.

Enough math now.

So, things are okay. They are bad with the husband, but good with the inlaws. My great aunt died, so that's sad. My three year old has been acting out a lot, which is stressful, but work is good and I know things could be worse. I got a raise today, which will unfortunately just go to paying for oil for the winter, but it's still good. I guess I'm taking the good with the bad, which is all you can ever do. As I always say (in real life I always say this), you win some, you lose some.