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.