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.

10 August 2008

Vacation Time

Well, I'll be going off to Long Island tomorrow morning, and I'll be back Wednesday evening.

I promise when I get back I'll do the book review. I promise!! It was a good book. In 10 words or less, read-it-because-your-happiness-is-your-biggest-asset.

Stay frugal, sisters.

09 August 2008

One other thing

I looked through my three year old's closet today to see what clothes he needed for fall/ preschool. Miraculously, the only thing he really needs is sneakers! I bought a lot of things when Old Navy had their 75% off sale last January, and Children's Place had their sale shortly thereafter.

How cool is that?! Now I just need to find him the boys' purple sneakers he has requested...

Absent but not shopping

I haven't been posting much lately, mainly because I've been feeling really down and haven't much felt like talking in real life, and also here. Things with my husband have been very bad and very stressful, and my level of happiness, which is usually about an 8 out of 10, is probably at a 3. Luckily, my family has noticed, and have all offered to help me out with take out dinners and babysitting until we leave for our vacation on Monday.

Speaking of vacation, I'm actually going away for a few days. You may be thinking, vacation is not frugal, but fortunately I have a wonderful friend with a house near the beach who graciously invited us for a few days. I'll pay for the gas to get there, food, and anything extra we want to do, which works out nicely since a) I'd already be paying for gas to get to and from work and the babysitter, b) I'd already be paying for food at home, and since this is a house we can cook instead of going out (which I prefer- I'm like the only person on the planet that hates restaurant food) and c) I don't have to pay the babysitter while I'm gone, but I still get paid because I'm using vacation time. So, in the end, this trip won't cost us much extra.

I'm almost done with that book and I really love it, I have lots to say about it. I also got my copy of The Total Money Makeover from the library, so that's ready for when I finish the happiness book.

07 August 2008

stormy weather

I'm watching the news right now and they are saying there is a tornado in my hometown (not where I am right now). It's been CRAZY weather all day- I drove right around one of the storm cells and could see it right out one window, but the other side of the highway is bright and sunny! It's insane!

I haven't posted because my phone wouldn't load Blogger yesterday and I really shouldn't post from work. Things have been stressful lately due to some issues with my husband, but I'm trying to deal with that. I'm really enjoying the book I'm reading, so I'll have a good review for that soon. Other than that, we're hanging in there, hoping for a rainbow.

05 August 2008

Quickity Quick

I'm at work, and therefore shouldn't be blogging, but I didn't write last night because I was terribly exhausted. Things are good, I set up another ASP for the oil money, $250 a month from August to March (totaling $2000). Gas prices in my area, among the highest in the country, have dipped below 4.00 (3.99) so I'm going to start calling around for locked in oil prices. It's a gamble, but I think now is a good time. I'm lucky in Vegas (at gambling, not at marriages- yes, I got married in Vegas).

If you ever want to see why people are broke, watch an episode of House Hunters on HGTV. No, you don't need 3 walk in closets, and you don't need 3 bathrooms, and you don't need all chrome appliances. I don't have any of those things, and as you all know, I'm a pretty happy girl. And, as you all know, I have plenty to be unhappy about.

Here's a funny blog for some fun reading: http://lovelylisting.blogspot.com/

Happy Tuesday!

03 August 2008

A little (okay, big) mistake and fickle finance plans

I screwed up. I forgot to budget for oil! This is the first house I've ever had to pay for heat in, and well, I forgot. So.. that will obviously impact my debt plan, but at least I know I'll be able to afford it. My plan is to budget a set amount for now through next winter, divide it by the number of paydays between now and then, and put that much away each payday. Fortunately, by using a program like Microsoft Money, I know how much I spent last year (I just run a report, it's so fancy and great), so I should be okay. A do-able plan, thank goodness.

As for my debt payment plan, after taking a long, hard look at my balances and interest rates last night, I decided not to stick to the Dave Ramsey plan. I'm still paying off the lowest balance next month, but after that I'm paying off a higher balance with the highest interest rate, mainly because the next lowest balance has a really low interest rate. I just can't justify it, especially since it's not like I don't have the motivation to stick to it. I have readers now- I can't slack off! I really think I'll be fine. But, I'm calling that card tomorrow to beg for a lower rate. I'll just start telling them I write about them on the netz and scare them into it.

Minor crisis averted.

02 August 2008

Step Two and an ASP

It's done! 1000 dollars into the ING savings account. I also set up an ASP (Automatic Savings Plan) for 30 bucks every other week (the day after I get paid) to take care of the Christmas money automatically.

The ASP is something I have read/heard about 800,000 times and never actually did. I was always too afraid to do it in case I needed the money, and it was probably a good thing that I didn't when I was with my husband, but not any more. So that is done. I'm really excited about the prospect of checking my savings account balance monthly and seeing the number just go up, up, up. It will be even more awesome to go Christmas shopping in December and know I already have the cash put away!

I also want to try my hand in making some things for Christmas this year. If there is one thing this economy has done for most people I know, it's make us realize we don't need *things*. I started reading that book that I requested through ILL last night (that's Inter Library Loan for you non-librarians or serious library users) and it's really interesting. I write book reviews in my real life, so I'll review it for the blog when I'm done. In case you want to read along with me, this is it (the link will take you to worldcat, where you can see what libraries near you own it):

Let me know if you're reading it too!

01 August 2008

Cheating on Dave with Suze

The number one reason I have never read or tried the Dave Ramsey Debt Snowball method is that mathematically speaking, it doesn't make that much sense. Common sense would dictate that you pay the debt with the highest interest rate first, which is what I have been doing these past seven months. Then, today, I read a comparison on the Simple Dollar between the Total Money Makeover and Suze Orman's The Road to Wealth, and now I'm even more confused. What all of this confusion amounts to is, what kind of debt payer-offer are you?

Me, I'm a numbers girl. I love me some Excel files with complex, multi-sheet equations. When my husband and I were together, he would tell me that I would "run numbers" in my sleep. Like I would dream math. (I know, weirdo.) But even a numbers girl has some heart, which is why I went looking for Dave Ramsey and his psychological motivation. After seven months of paying on the highest interest rate card, I was still in a lot of debt. I needed some inspiration.

So, now I read about Suze's plan. I know I have mentioned this before, but I *love* Suze Orman. I love her show- especially the "can I afford it?" segment when people call in and say things like:

Hi, Suze! I want to buy a flat screen tv.
It costs 2000.00. I have 3500
dollars in credit card debt and I owe 10,000
on my Hummer/Escalade/whatever.
I make 75,000 a year and I
live at home with my parents.

Somewhere around the 3500 dollars in credit card debt Suze will start laughing hysterically. Then she'll say something like "Are you kidding me, boyfriend? There's no WAY you can afford that!" and the hopes and dreams of this poor guy are crushed forever. :)

Anyway, now I sort of want to do Suze's plan! But I'm gonna stick with Dave. I made a commitment to him, and I want to see how it pans out. So, I figure it took me 6 months to become disillusioned with my numbers plan, if after 6 months I need another change, it's Suze's turn.