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Archive for April, 2006

Putting the Dream into Action

May 1st, 2006 at 06:06 am

So April is over and I finally feel like I am one step beyond chaos. I started this blog on April 9th with $105 in my long term savings account, and today there is $185 in it. My only goal was to add $10 a week to it, but somewhere along the way I put in $50 that I didn't need. Maybe that won't happen every month, but I at least know that its a possibility. It all seems very strange.

I feel like the dream of finacial stability is reachable. Seems odd with such a small amount in savings, but it will get better and I will get better at putting money in. I don't feel helpless. I know its still a pretty steep hill I'm climbing, but at least I'm climbing.

I had to talk to my daughter tonight about using electricity. She had got it into her head that she couldn't turn the lights on at all, so she and her brother were sitting in the dark playing games from the light of the tv. I told her that we were trying to turn lights off in rooms we weren't using, not the ones we were in and that they didn't have to sit in the dark. I think she understands now. At least she turned on the light.

Maybe I've been a little overzealous about saving money, but I don't think I ever said she coudn't turn the lights on in a room she was in. Well, we'll see how it goes now that she understands the difference between wasting electricity and using electricity.

Frugal things I did today:
Hung 2 loads of laundry on the clothesline.
Baked a loaf of bread while the potroast was in the oven.
Cooked from my pantry and freezer.
Earned $8 for signing up for a free trial with gamefly, and 50 cents for signing up for another survey company, this one supposedly pays a minimum of $4 per survey, but we will see.

I did turn down one survey invitation today. It was paying $34.95 to evaluate and survey a dating site. Now I filled out a big profile on this survey site and one of the things it asks is marital status, so I don't know why the heck they are sending that offer to a married woman. I talked to DH about it and he said sign up for it, you don't have to do anything about it, but I just don't think it is ethical to do that. So I didn't. Sure wish I could have done it if I'd been single, though.

I've been thinking about what kind of goals I should have for May. Not quite sure exactly, but I probably should try to keep a complete accounting of all spending for a month. I have a pretty good idea of where we waste money, but I'm sure there are things that just slip by, as well. So I'll keep a little notebook in my purse and jot down everything I spend and for what and see where I might improve things.

Tomorrow I will have to buy some pole bean seeds. I don't know where they got to, and I know I had 2 packages of them but they aren't with my other seeds, so bummer. I did manage to weed the strawberry bed and cut down and weed half the herb bed. Managed to dig up a few starts of oregano, it likes to make babies in the walkways so I always dig them out and offer them on freecycle. We are going to have a garage sale this summer though, so maybe I'll sell them for a quarter each. Way cheaper than at a nursery, and not too expensive for garage sale pricing.

Gambling

April 30th, 2006 at 06:31 am

Gambling scares the living daylights out of me. I think if I were ever to start I'd never find my way back out again. I don't even like stopping at the reservation casino to use the facilities when the kids can't make it all the way home. I see all these people that seem like they are chained to slot machines and card tables. I don't even buy lotto tickets. Never have in my life.

DH has bought lotto tickets a couple of times but he pretty much avoids it, too. Well, today in the newspaper they had a coupon page for 2 free scratch tickets and 2 free lotto tickets, no strings attatched, unless you count the possibility of a gambling addiction rearing its ugly head.

Okay, maybe I am a little overboard about this whole fear of gambling, but I'm not even sure if I shoud try to use these tickets. It seems irrational not to use free coupons for free tickets. Then again, since my uncle was shot to death for cheating in a poker game when I was 3, maybe its just as well that I am irrational about it. I suppose I can just hand them to DH and have him decide what to do with them when he gets home, take the whole thing out of my hands.

Today didn't go as planned

April 30th, 2006 at 01:56 am

My alarm clock did not go off this morning. I have no idea why. It is still set properly and was on, it just didn't go. I suppose I may have to get a new one. This one is 15 years old, and it is just possible that it is not working. Anyway, we all slept through Tobias's soccer game. He never sleeps in, he is usually up before everyone else, but today he did. He must have needed it. I know I did.

I suppose it is just as well that we didn't go to the game because it was raining something awful. Watching soccer in the rain is not my favorite pasttime, and either I or Rose come down with a cold if we do.

So we stayed home today. The kids have cabin fever, though and are picking at each other. I considered at one point going out to eat with them, but I didn't really want to inflict them on anybody else, and that would be spending money that was unplanned and waste gas.

Later on I considered going to the grocery store, just to get out of the house, but again, I don't really need anything at the closest grocery store and even that is 10 miles away. My car averages 20.1 MPG, so that is a whole gallon of gas just to drive the round trip. I chose not to do that.

Then I wanted to go down to the little convenience store a mile away and buy ice cream, as we are out of ice cream. I really had to talk myself out of that one. I didn't need to waste the gas, I was going to be near the store that had ice cream on sale on Monday, I didn't need the ice cream, I just wanted it so I could stress eat, because the kids were driving me batty.

The rain finally stopped and the sun is out, so I could walk it, but the ice cream would be all melted by the time I got home with it. But no. So no wasted gas and no money spent.

We are going to make brownies tonight from stuff on hand and maybe that will get rid of my sweet tooth without me driving down to get ice cream, that I just want and certainly don't need.

I'm a little stir crazy, too. DH gets back Monday at midnight, so I can relax a bit then and get away from the kids a little. They are great kids but there are days when I just really want them to go be great kids at someone else's house.

Payday Stuff

April 28th, 2006 at 10:21 pm

Today I paid the mortgage my parents took out on their house to pay my medical bills. It is $935 a month and I paid $1000. Then I went to the courthouse and paid the property tax, $364.69. I'm just glad I don't have to pay my parents property tax. Even with their senior exemption, its a few thousand dollars, ouch. One of the benefits of living in the boonies on a 1/3 of an acre piece of land.

I went to the grocery store and bought milk, tomato plants and tidal wave and easy wave petunias, a planned purchase. I didn't make it over to the credit union to deposit the freezer money, but I've put it in a sealed envelope so I have to tear it open to spend it. The extra step will make it easier to not just blindly grab it, I think. Also, I forgot to grab the aluminum cans this morning so didn't do that either. Well, maybe on Monday.

Filled up the car, at $3.05 per gallon, coming to $43, in an 18 gallon tank that had 3 to start with. Still an ouch. I've set aside an extra $10 to put into long-term savings, also.

I cashed out my first survey check, so that will be issued June 1 and will be $49.84. So cool, for just a few hours work. It's all good. Now I best get those tomato plants into the ground and hang some more laundry. It is 75 degrees right now and I can probably dry another load by tonight, maybe two.

Oops, forgot

April 28th, 2006 at 06:44 am

I forgot to mention I also did an evaluation survey this morning and earned $15.

Rose Broke Her Finger

April 28th, 2006 at 06:39 am

Or more accurately had her finger broken by a boy at school. Not on purpose or anything, just horseplay at recess. We were able to get a late night appointment at the after hours pediatric clinic her pediatrician's group has, and the x-rays confirm it is broken. She has to keep a splint on it for two weeks and can't play soccer during those two weeks, and then has to have it checked and if it has healed well can play in the last game. And no P.E., either so she is really bummed.

She's worried that she won't be able to do her school work, she's in the middle of what the kids call W-Awful testing, which is actually WASL testing, our state's No Child Left Behind thing. Next week is the third and final week, and I don't know how she is going to write properly with her hand all splinted and wrapped. I suppose I shouldn't worry too much, she's only in 4th grade.

So, anyway, had to make 2 trips to town today, once for Tobias to work with his dance instructor for his recital solo and then again to the doctor's office. Had to make a co-pay of $15 and did end up having to use my roll of quarters to put gas in the gas tank, for the unexpected trip, but I am putting ten dollars in to the freezer money account tomorrow to replace it. I think I will take my aluminum cans in tomorrow when I do my banking and shopping, so I can deposit that money, too.

Tomorrow is payday and it can't come too soon for me. Today was the electronic funds transfer of $10 into long term savings, bringing that to the $185 I mentioned last night.

I am going to be able to send for a survey check tomorrow, too as everything I've done so far has now come through and I have hit the $40 mark it requires for a check. If I read their thing right, it should come the first week of June.

Today was 60, not much wind, but I hung a load of laundry anyway and the towels that were in the rain yesterday where almost dry by night. I think they ended up wetter then when I hung them up in the first place. But tomorrow is supposed to be like today so I can hang more.

I signed up for a freebie today and that is about it on the frugal zone.

Didn't spend today

April 27th, 2006 at 03:20 am

I like these no spend days. Not that I wasn't challenged to spend. The kids had early dismissal from school and of course, they wanted to go somewhere and do something. Not going to happen. I have exactly 2 gallons of gas in the car and $12 to buy gas until Friday and I have to go to town tomorrow so Tobias can meet with his dance teacher, he has a solo in the recital and she wants some extra time with him, and then soccer practice tomorrow night. I will have enough gas for the trip, the half trip and then to get to town on Friday which is payday and I can fill it up again.

I do have a roll of quarters for back up but I do not want to touch that, its supposed to go into my freezer money account on Friday. But I will have it just in case. I already owe the freezer money account the $35 I was supposed to put in and ended up using for gas money. I've tweaked my budget around again so I don't think I'll run out of gas money next time.

I have to pay property tax on Friday, yuck. It is so inconvenient right now to go to the courthouse, there is a big case and there is no parking, but at least I'll be making a town run anyway, so it won't be extra gas wasted.

Last night the weatherman claimed it would just be overcast until early afternoon and then there would be sun, so I hung laundry out this morning and of course, it rained. So I had stuff on my drying rack, stuff on hangers hanging from my shower curtain rod, stuff hanging from the treadmill, stuff on the gazelle and shirts on the backs of all the kitchen chairs. Well, it is drying. I got spoiled by 3 beautiful, sunny days. There's actually still a load of towels hanging on the clothesline but since there is nowhere to dry them, they are staying there until tomorrow and then I will spin them in the washer and hang them in the house. My goal of not using the dryer for the rest of the month has almost made it and I don't want to give in on it yet.

Tomorrow there will be an electronic funds transfer to my long-term savings account of $10, bringing my total to $185. $65 more to go and I can open an ING account and get the free $25 for doing so. I know it seems like such a small amount compared to what some people are saving, but this is still so new for me, and I am proud of myself for doing this much.

I earned $2 for a survey I took today. I am going to sign up for a couple more trial offers tonight after the kids have gone to sleep. One pays $20 and the other $10, so my nice little balance is growing and I will be able to request a check once it hits $40. Unfortunatey its a net30 payoff, so I'll have to wait a bit over a month to get it, but that's okay, it'll be coming and when it does it goes straight into short term savings, which I haven't created yet, but will.

I am actually starting to enjoy this whole saving money thing. I feel like I've gone from passive acceptance to proactive fighting to save and get out of debt.

Another Gorgeous Day to Make a Little Money

April 25th, 2006 at 09:39 pm

It is so nice out today. It's not quite as hot as yesterday, but there is a bigger breeze so the laundry is drying just as fast. I am starting to think I will get through this huge backlog of laundry without having to use the dryer once, and thus cut that expense out of our electric bill altogether.

Just a general recommendation, don't have all four family members down with food poisoning the same week or you will be doing laundry for the rest of the month. Looking on the bright side of things, if it hadn't been for the food poisoning, I never would have been laying in bed surfing the net and found this site and started getting our finances back on track, so silver lining time.

I was hoping for a no spend day today, but ended up spending $5.00, ($1.99 for milk, the rest for a fifteen pound bag of potatoes and a 62 cent bag of chic-o-stik candies, sigh). It would have been $5.02 but the girl at the convenience store didn't want to give me 98 cents in change, so she took the 2 cents out of the need a penny, leave a penny container on the counter. This brings my running total to 87 cents this week. 13 more to go and I will have a dollar I did not have to earn in any way, shape, or form. Q: What's a few pennies here and there? A: A dollar. I wonder if anyone would just hand me a dollar with the same attitude? Well, a few somebodies have almost gotten me that dollar. And as soon as it is a dollar, I will add a dollar to my change jar.

I spent an hour doing surveys this morning and earned $6 at one site and $3.50 at another. I sure had to wade through a lot of dogs to get to some decent survey companies, and of course, the balance has to be a certain amount in each account before they mail a check out, but $8.50 isn't a bad hourly wage for pointing and clicking.

I was bummed last night when I missed out on a $5 survey invitation that had filled up by the time I tried it. This kind of makes up for that.

Another $18.32

April 25th, 2006 at 06:02 am

I almost forgot. I was in town this morning because of Tobias's dance class and I ran over to Penney's to buy a new purse because the strap on my old one, which I have mended several times, broke again and is now completely unfixable, plus there was a bad spot in the leather. I was very upset that I could not fix this purse again as I love this purse. It is perfect, because it is part organizer and it has the slots for all my cards (insurance, library cards for me and both kids, Costco, license, etc.) so I didn't have to have a wallet, too.

I knew I'd have to buy a wallet because there was no way I was ever going to find a purse this good again. I thought I'd try Penney's anyway because that is where I bought the purse 4 years ago. You can imagine my delight when I found the exact same purse. Well, instead of burgandy it was red, but other than that it was identical. They also had brown, black, blue, and white but the red was prettiest. I wish they'd had turquoise, I would have really gone for that. But I was very happy to get this same purse and I will use it until it falls apart.

Oh, and it was on sale, too. Normally $26, it was marked down to something that was $18.32 with the tax. Interesting that my two main purchases today were identical amounts.

I also spent $1.25 for the five red romaine starts from the organic place and $3.83 to get deli ham for Rose's sandwiches for school lunches (also from the organic place).

Okay, I think that's really it this time.

Spending to Save

April 25th, 2006 at 05:49 am

I spent money today: $18.00. Well, it would have been $18.32, but I was dealing with my mother who thought it was easier to give me $2.00 back from my $20 bill, than $1.68 (I said people keep giving me money, this brings it to $0.85 this week). She went to the organic supply place and picked up a truckload of compost for my garden. Much more frugal than the $5 bags of compost that you'd need a ton of to do the same job.

I only had enough of my own homemade compost to add to one garden bed and one flower bed, so I needed the extra, especially since a couple of my beds have dropped about 4 inches over the last two years. With what she brought out I built up the 3 most depleted garden beds and have enough to do about 36 X 1 feet of flowerbeds. Once I finish spreading it around she will bring me out another load which should cover the remaining 36 X 1.5 foot driveway flowerbed and the 36 X 4 foot roadside flowerbed. Yes, I have a lot of flowerbeds.

Last year we tore down the old ramshackle green house (well it was made with that heavy duty plastic) that was on the property when we moved here and was rotting badly. But that has expanded the food garden space significantly. I doubt I will use it this year, I need to tack down a tarp and kill off all the weeds that are there. But if I get ambitious I might weed it. There is just so much else I need to do first, like get to all the dandelions before they turn into seed heads and my kids are tempted to make wishing stars by blowing them all over the place.

I planted some more lettuce and put up my eight bean teepees and will plant green bean seeds tomorrow. We are well past the date of last frost and it was 76 today! Very breezy, too. The laundry dried fast. I dried four loads today. But I digress. I will be planting kohlrabi and radish seeds tomorrow and maybe more if I don't get lazy. Both kids are in school tomorrow and DH is in Alaska, so I have the option of being lazy. Though I seldom am. I like being in the garden too much to stay inside for long on a beautiful day.

Anyway, spending money on the compost will pay off substantially this summer as we eat all of our organic produce. Things grow better with good compost. And a little fish emulsion doesn't hurt either. I may even trek to the bay this year and get a couple garbage bags full of seaweed to add to my own compost. Nature's perfect fertilizer. Although, I should probably find out if there are any regulations on that. There didn't used to be, but better safe than sorry.

Goodness, that got rambly. Oh, well. It's no surprise by now that I tend to write a good bit, is it?

People Keep Giving Me Money

April 24th, 2006 at 05:12 am

This weekend has been very interesting in regards to people giving me money. It is tiny little amounts but over the course of 2 days I have been given inexact change 3 times. In one instance I was given a dime in change instead of the six cents I was owed because they were out of nickles and were running low on pennies. I was only owed 4 cents. Then I was given a nickle instead of 4 cents, so I was up one more penny. Then a lady asked me if I had change for a dollar. I only had 90 cents in change on me and she said that was okay and gave me a dollar for my 90 cents. So all in all I was up 17 cents and I count it as extra income that will eventually end up in my freezer money account. I know it isn't much, but its free money.

It seems so odd to me why people are not concerned with the little amounts. I always pick up a penny if I see it on the ground, but I have seen people drop quarters and not retrieve them because its "just a little" change. I pick them up because that one penny may be the difference between being able to roll up a packet of pennies this week or waiting until next week to do it. I think that kind of mentality must come into play on the bigger amounts too, if you get in the habit of throwing your money away because it isn't that much.

I feel like I've been guilty of this a little bit. I kind of had the thinking of why save $10 a week, it won't add up to much, but I'm over it. As I watch it start adding up, I get such a feeling of glee. It feels like I am accomplishing something, making steps forward to free myself from the tyranny of debt and no emergency backup savings.

Anyway, the extra money went into my coin jar, including the dollar bill I got for 90 cents. That's ten percent interest. Wow. I wonder if anyone would give me $100 in exchange for change of $90. I don't think so. I think they would think it was ridiculous. But I bet they would think the .90 cents for 1.00 was nothing.

Power Bill Came

April 23rd, 2006 at 10:42 pm

Our power bill came last night and I just went over it. We are on the budget plan and do not use electricity to heat. Our usage for the month of February was at an average of 52 KWH per day and our usage for the month of March was at an average of 32 KWH per day. Our usage for the February-March period this year from last year was a change of 30, that's 30 less than last year.

We did start making some changes in March, like making sure that the lights were always off when not in use, and we replaced the last incandescent light bulb left in the house with a compact fluorescent bulb. That's all we did for March.

Our actual usage was $62.12 and our budget amount is $110. We have caught up and passed our actual usage and now have a credit of $24.50 with the power company. That usually doesn't happen until June.

I am now really looking forward to the next bill. Because the changes we have made for April have been much more extensive. We wash everything in cold water now except germy kitchen towels and wash cloths, and bedding which I still wash in hot. I have used the dryer twice, once when the kids ran out of underwear and it had to be ready for the next morning and once when Tobias barfed on a bedspread and it needed to be dry for bedtime a few hours later.

The furnace has been off almost every day so that the pilot light has not had to remain at the ready. I unplugged all of the kitchen appliances I usually keep plugged in. I started turning my laptop off when not in use. And the big one is turning off the fans during the day. We all use fans at night to circulate the air and to help block the highway sounds. My son also plays music all night. The kids had a habit of not turning off the fans or the CD player in the morning that I have now broken them of and I have started turning my fan off too, which I also left on. I also turned off the ceiling fan except when it was needed.

I'm sure the next bill won't be as low as it could be. My son had a bad bout of illness that lasted two weeks (and he never gets sick) and the thing that helped him the most was steamy showers, so he was taking 5 or 6 five minute showers a day to help his breathing. I have finally for the last week gotten him down to one shower a day again.

I hope they will change my budget amount soon. They usually reevaluate it every quarter. Winter would'nt even be so bad if it weren't for December. Since we don't do much inside the house besides a tree, we go all out on the Christmas lights. We do have them on a timer but we had them coming on at 3:30 so the kids coming home on the bus could see them lit, and they went off at midnight. So there was a lot of usage, even if most of the lights drew very little. When you have as much stuff as we do, it still sucks it up.

This is one thing we don't want to give up, so we have decided that next year the lights will not come on until 6 and that they will go off at 10. The bill will still be higher but it will be less than this year. I'd sure love it if I could get it to $80 year round for the budget amount.

It is a gorgeous day here, and 68 degrees F with a light breeze. Perfect clothes line weather. Speaking of which, the washer just finished its second spin, so I'm off to hang another load of towels.

Game Day, Spendy Day

April 22nd, 2006 at 11:39 pm

Some Saturdays it feels like we live at the soccer park, this one wasn't too bad. Had a mid-morning game for Rose so spent .50 for popcorn and $1.00 for hot chocolate for my son and $1.50 for an Aquafina for me. It is very cold there and windy in the mornings, so I usually get Tobias a hot chocolate and it will keep his hands warm during his sister's game. He's a slow drinker.

After the game we went to Round Table and got takeout pizza, spent $22.47 after the $3.00 coupon and there is enough left over for 2 more meals. We took it over to my mother's house and she had plenty of stuff to drink, so no cost on that.

Then after lunch it was time to go back to the soccer park for Tobias's game and I bought 2 more Aquafinas at $3.00. Sigh. I really need to start pitching water into a cooler first thing in the morning on game days. My daughter always remembers to grab her water bottle, but I never do. So total spent was $28.47.

My goal for next Saturday is to remember to bring water bottles from home and to see if I can find my thermos so I can fill it with hot chocolate. I don't mind the .50 for popcorn, its a really big bag and keeps Tobias from getting totally bored. If I do that I will save $6.00. We don't do pizza every week either, but that was a planned expense.

My first freebie came in the mail today. It was just the RV travel DVD I sent for, not anything I can really use, except for information. But it was neat to have something show up already. That means the good stuff should start showing up soon.

It's very windy and sunny and 62 degrees F, so I should go hang another load on the clothesline, it might actually get dry or most of the way dry by tonight. Then I have to do some more garden work. I bought some herbs yesterday, strawberries, and blackberries that I want to get planted. There's a good 3 to 4 hours of sun left today so I should be able to get a lot done. Especially since my mother borrowed my kids for overnight, so they won't be in the way and asking for stuff every five minutes.

Put Money in Savings

April 21st, 2006 at 10:16 pm

Well, I took care of the Allstate problem and the credit union took their check and then they cashed it into my account. I was under the impression that they were just going to refund my money and keep the Allstate check. They said no, because they were at fault for letting the insurance take the automatic payment too early and since this is not the first time I've talked to the CU about it, and since it is flagged on my account to not let that happen, they were going to give me the $14 for my troubles. This is why I love this place. I wish it had been this easy for the other poster who has been trying to get their money from a bank error.

Anyway, I put the $50 from earlier in this week into long term savings at CU #2, which brings the total there up to $175. I didn't deposit the $19 into the freezer money account yet, since it was on a different side of town and I'll be over there on Monday. I am also going to take the $14 and add it, along with $2 more to deposit a total of $35 into the freezer money account at CU #3.

I did the rest of my usual payday stuff, including fill up the gas tank. I still had 4 gallons left, so filling it the remaining 14 gallons took $40. Almost all the stations are at or above $3.00 a gallon, but I checked that gas buddy website someone posted the other day and there was one just a mile from the CU I was at, that had it for $2.83 a gallon, so it wasn't as bad as it could have been but it was still completely awful.

I went to sprawlmart, and bought 30 strawberry plants (they were $2.42 for ten) in 3 different varieties and 2 thornless blackberry plants ($4.95 each), some more lettuce and about $30 worth of flowers (one being a dark purple rhodie that I have wanted for 3 years and had finally budgeted for a small one at $10.94. I could have gotten two smaller ones for $9, but the larger plants don't take as long to establish themselves and the spread on these things is pretty large, I'm not sure what I'd do with two.

All but one of the flowers I got are perrenials, the other one is an annual but it spreads like crazy. I will be getting wave petunias next payday. They are usually the only annuals I ever bother with, as the payoff is big. Well, and lobelia and allysum, but I plant those from seed.

Then I stopped and bought some more chenille yarn for knitting, making scarves for possible future income. I had a bit of insomnia last night so I stayed up watching court tv and knitting and I'm over halfway through with the new scarf.

It was raining all morning but the sun is out now and it is beautiful so I finally get to hang laundry outside today, instead of inside. Oh, shoot, I knew I forgot something. I was going to get another drying rack for inside. Well, maybe while Rose is at dance and Tobias is at my mother's I can zip over to Kmart and get one. Then we will stop at the grocery on the way home and get a gallon of organic milk.

The only spending I will do the rest of the weekend is a pizza after soccer since I promised the kids we would do that once a month and this is the week they have chosen. I have a coupon though and its even to the place that doesn't use stuff that Rose is allergic to, so that works out.

Angry at Allstate

April 21st, 2006 at 04:57 pm

I am very annoyed with my term life insurance company right now. They are supposed to take an automatic payment out of my checking account on the 24th of the month. If the payment day falls on a weekend they can take it the preceding Friday. Which would be today. If it fell on the weekend. Last time I checked the 24th was on Monday. I always make sure there is money in there on the 21st though, because they have been known to do this before. Only this time they took it on the 19th!

So I called them up and yelled at my agent. Long story short, they are reimbursing me for the $14 overdraft fee, but only if I come in to the office today and pick up the check. Thank heavens my CU is reasonable, too. They agreed to not list the overdraft on my record and as long as I brought in the check from Allstate today, they'd put the amount they charged me back into my account and keep the money from Allstate. So I do have to go to town twice today after all. An extra nine bucks in gas, but I'll do some things in town that I have been putting off because I don't want to do them when I have the kids with me.

I wouldn't be so upset if this were the first time Allstate had pulled a fast one. It happens at least twice a year. It just is really annoying. I have worked hard to retain a good credit report and I don't need to have these things messing stuff up. We want our credit in tip top shape so that we can buy a new (to us) car in 3 years and not get taken on the interest rate.

Another no spend day

April 21st, 2006 at 04:01 am

Two days in a row without spending anything, that is pretty good. Things I did today to be frugal:
1. Hung a load of clothes inside the house as it still is randomly sprinkling outside.
2. Finished knitting a scarf I hope to be able to sell (probably not until fall, though).
3. Sent for a freebie.
4. Decided that earning a few cents for taking a survey that never ends is not worth my time or sanity and is time better spent knitting.
5. Baked a loaf of bread and a batch of pretzels (at the same time).
6. Baked 3 meatloaves (2 for the freezer), and a crustless quiche for quick breakfasts so am not tempted to get takeout breakfast this weekend.

Baby steps.

Trying to Cut Back on Driving

April 20th, 2006 at 05:18 pm

Well, gas prices have hit over $3.00 a gallon here so I will not be making any extra trips to town. I wanted to go in today, but I cannot justify it when I have to make a half trip today for soccer practice, a trip tomorrow and one on Saturday. Used to be I would make two runs on the first Friday of DH's pay cycle, one in the morning to do all the banking and a Costco run while the kids are in school, and then back in again in the evening for Rose's dance class.

I have set up an automatic funds transfer to send $10 to my long term savings account every Thursday, so that brings that account up to $125 as of today. I will have to pick the kids up from school tomorrow instead of waiting for the school bus to come so I can get into town early enough to do the banking. So I won't be able to deposit the $50 in my wallet into long term savings until tomorrow, or the $19 into the freezer money until Monday. These credit unions are on opposite sides of town and both close at 5. I can only get there as soon as 4:30. At least my checking account CU has a drive-thru that stays open until 7, so no worries there.

Fortunately the school is on the route between my house and town so there is no backtracking or wasting of gas. And on Monday the freezer money CU is on the way to Tobias's dance class, so again, no backtracking or wasting of gas.

I will save my Costco run for Saturday after the soccer games. I hate, hate, hate going to Costco on Saturday. On Friday I can do all my shopping, wait in line, and get out to the parking lot in the same amount of time it takes me just to wait in line for the cash register on Saturday.

Come to think of it, though, I'm not really out of anything I need from Costco. Maybe I can just skip the run this month. I think it has just gotten to be a habit to go once a month. My freezer is full, now that the produce market is open it beats Costco prices, and I'm trying to eat down my pantry, and I still have plenty of Omega 3 eggs, Kleenex tissue or T.P., so there isn't a real reason for me to go, other than entertainment value (which can get expensive).

Hmm, maybe I should challenge myself to get through this pay cycle without going to Costco at all. That could definitely save me some money. Okay, so that will be my goal for this pay cycle, along with cutting out extra town runs to save gas.

My First No Spend Day and Ebay ?

April 20th, 2006 at 01:28 am

Today was my first no spend day since joining this site. Didn't pay a bill, use a stamp, drive anywhere, or spend money in any way. That feels pretty good. Especially knowing there probably won't be another one until Sunday. But that is all right.

I did a couple of surveys today and signed up for a couple of freebies. Hung a load of laundry (inside). I am hoping that tomorrow will be sunny. It kept sprinkling off and on all day, but with gorgeous sun breaks. I can only do one load in the house, but outside I can do 3. Maybe I should get a second drying rack from Kmart.

I read somewhere on here about having the washing machine do a second spin and I cannot believe how much faster the clothes dry. This is something that simply never occurred to me before, but makes so much sense.

I have decided that any cash I have leftover in my purse on Friday (payday) will be deposited into my freezer money savings. Right now that is $19, but I may have to buy milk tomorrow. I am going to try to stretch it out. I have enough for Rose for tomorrow, but that is it. Well, I have plenty of yogurt and cheese in the fridge, so I guess the rest of us can do without until grocery shopping in two days.

I did some more knitting on my scarf. I've got an idea in my head of somewhere down the road being able to sell these. I don't know how practical it is, but it might be something to bring in a little income. Everyone who ever sees one loves it. Everyone I've given one to for Christmas said how incredibly warm they are and love the vivid colors. And they wore them all the time.

I had a lot of fun doing them, and made them his and hers, so they played off the spouse's scarf, but were not identical. I wouldn't even know where to begin though in trying to sell them. Maybe one of the seasonal craft bizarres they have in the fall.

I've been considering selling stuff on ebay. Not the scarves necessarily, although I suppose that is an option, but I have a ton of dance shoes (tap, ballet, jazz) that my kids have outgrown and most of them are in excellent shape, seeing as how fast their feet grow they aren't in them long and that dance shoes are only worn inside the studio. I've got several fancy leotards my daughter has outgrown and some really fancy recital costumes.

Those of you who sell on ebay, how do you figure out shipping costs? Do you have a postal scale in your home or do you have something worked out where you go down to the post office or shipping place, weigh it and then wait for someone to buy it before having postage put on, or what? I'm sure this is pretty silly of a question but I tend to get nervous when I start something new and don't have all the info first, so I can work out ahead of time what I will say when I get there.

Bills and Weeds

April 18th, 2006 at 11:59 pm

Seems like there are two things that are constants in my life, bills and weeds. I spent a good portion of my morning getting rid of weeds, but you pull one out and there will be another one there tomorrow in its place. Bills, of course, you can see the anaology, right?

Recieved a bill today from my husband's dentist for some extensive dental work done in February. I'm not really complaining about it, because after insurance we only owe $29.60. Our medical insurance improved greatly at the start of the year, but since our pretax amount out of paycheck went from $175 to $550 to pay for the premiums, I will complain about that. Just a little. Fortunately it coincided with a raise that was completely eaten up by the increase. But we do have vision, better dental, and orthodontist now, which if you'd seen my daughter's teeth, you'd know it was needed. Unfortunately we started her treatment last June so we are out all the money we already put into her mouth. Still she will have stuff going on for three years or so, so it is still a positive when it all comes out in the wash. Just sometimes doesn't seem that way.

I worked on knitting my scarf for an hour today, signed up for a freebie, signed up for fatwallet and quickreturns, hung a load of towels, and baked a loaf of bread and some cookies. Where do you all find surveys that pay money? Most of the places seem a bit shady.

Now I'm off to take Rose to soccer practice. Tobias and I will lap the soccer park twice to get in some exercise today. It is gorgous out, but it will be breezy there by the river, so definitely taking jackets.

I Don't Think the Same Anymore

April 18th, 2006 at 06:18 am

Today my mother paid me back some money that she owed me for picking up a flat of flowers she wanted from a nursery that is on the way from my house to town. I did it a couple of weeks ago and between one thing and another, we both forgot about it. But today she gave me $50. The purchase was $48.69 and I was going to make change and she said not to be silly, and to keep it.

So the first thing that comes into my head is, "Cool, I can deposit $1.31 into one of my savings accounts." But then, and this is the big step in how this last little while has turned me around, I thought, "Why not put in the whole $50?" Because it wasn't something I needed to just stick back into my spending. I have enough to get me through until payday Friday. I shouldn't just blow this $50. I should save it.

Wow, where'd that come from? I remember thinking when I posted my goal of saving $10 a week how huge that seemed to me. Then someone said, just wait until you can scrape up $20. Well, rather uncharitably I thought, "Yeah, right. I'm not even sure about making the $10." But you know what? They were right. All of a sudden I have this found money. And I want to save it. Want to. Weird.

So when I deposit my $10 on Thursday, I will also deposit the $50. I had to think about which savings I wanted to put it in, the regular one or the freezer money one. Well, I have decided that one of my goals wil be that as soon as I can save up enough in the regular account to equal $250, then I will open this ING account that everyone is talking about, and get the free $25.

If I put it in the freezer money fund it will take 13 weeks after this one for me of deposting $10 to the regular account before I can open an ING. If I put the $50 in there, it will take me eight more weeks to have enough to open an ING. Plus, I may run into more found money that I can put in there and make it faster.

2 weeks ago, this wouldn't even have occurred to me. Now, it already feels like second nature. It is still hard for me to believe this is me making these decisions and liking them!

Freezer Money

April 17th, 2006 at 09:50 pm

Today I rolled up the change in my change jar and deposited it in credit union #3. It came to $33.50 and it goes into my new freezer fund, bringing my total to $54.50. Goodness, it is ridiculous how utterly thrilled with myself I am about saving money. It used to be more thrilling to spend it. I still have to make my $10 deposit to credit union #2 this week, but won't do that until Thursday.

I transplanted my snow peas, spinach, chard (bright lights), lettuce and garlic and I have homemade cloches (okay, they are green Sprite bottles with the bottoms cut off and the lids left off, but they work) available if the weather swings too cold again. Today is a balmy 55 degrees F, so I hope this cold business is over now.

I'll wait until the beginning of May to plant my green beans. I don't have enough cloches for those since I try to plant enough green beans to can for at least a six month supply and to eat fresh all summer. I lost some once by planting to soon in April before and then getting hit with a hard freeze. I do learn from my mistakes. I'll plant kohlrabi seeds in another week as they can stand a bit of cold. I adore them and they are so incredibly expensive in the grocery. And they taste much better from my organic garden.

I try to keep my produce budget as low as possible once my garden is producing. I have strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, bush cherries, sweet tree cherries, an apple tree, 2 pear trees and an Italian plum tree, so something is usually bearing fruit all summer and I freeze the excess. Veggies vary yearly, based on what I learned from the year before. It helps a lot, but I am going to be even more aggressive this year and see if I can't can or freeze enough for a whole year. I don't like being at the mercy of store prices.



401K Stuff

April 16th, 2006 at 09:01 pm

Our 401K statement came yesterday and I couldn't be more thrilled. When the economy tanked after the tragedy of 9/11 our 401K dropped from $18,000 to $10,000. We deterimined to hold the road and continue to have an aggressive fund and today our total is at $35,802.11. The last couple of years have really rebounded, but this last 12 months has been really zooming.

For the quarter we contributed $592.68, work contributed $475.24, dividends were $123.05, unrealized gain was a whopping $1702.18, minus a fee of $42.83. That is a total increase of $2850.32! In three months. Wow. Long term thinking can pay off and realy make things better.

My mood has improved immeasureably when I realized that our $401 K is almost $5000 more than our credit card debt. It makes paying off the credit card seem that much more possible.

First Trial Membership

April 16th, 2006 at 06:46 am

I signed up for my first trial membership today through MyPoints and should get $40 in gas gift certificates. Gas is my biggest non-fixed expense so this should help a great deal. I've been a member of MyPoints for years, back when it was Bonus Mail and you got 50 points for each offer instead of 5. But I've never worked it the way you folks do around here, so this should be an interesting adventure.

My goal for my MyPoints points (ugh, that's a mouthful) is to get enough saved up to eventually be able to get gift cards to Office Depot to use to buy a new laptop. Mine is falling apart on the outside and I feel like its held together with rubberbands and bubble gum.

I was able to get into the toothpaste freebies last night, yay! And signed up for a couple more today.

Woke up to more snow but its gone now. Went to Rose's soccer game and very unfrugally purchased 2 hot chocolates for a total of $3.00. Justified it because it was 39 degrees and I needed it to warm my hands up, and so did Rose. Tobias didn't play in his game today as he decided this morning was a good time to upchuck all over the back of the car, so he got dropped off with grandma. Thankfully I had plenty of time to clean up the car and get Rose to her game on time.

My mother decided to have both kids spend the night so I am getting some much needed rest, not having slept well two nights running. Of course, if I didn't stay up late reading old blogs...

Oh, I finished knitting my Dad a chenille scarf that he wanted for his birthday and gave it to him this morning and this afternoon picked up some new Chenille yarn (on coupon) in a rust/orange (more rust than orange) and then some black with multi-colored flecks. So far I only know how to make scarves and hats, but I enjoy that. It is very soothing after a stressful day. It's either that or play solitaire and at least knitting has a useful end product.

I went shopping today after leaving the kids off. I went to Terra Organica, our local organic food store and bought veggies (but not the horribly overpriced ones), sliced turkey breast ($10), honey spelt bread loaf ($5) for Rose's school lunch (I bake for everyone else, Rose has allergies) and chicken broth. I spent a total of $30.98 there, but had two full bags of veggies.

Then I went to a covered farm stand. Or open air produce market? It's state products only and tends to be cheaper than the grocery store. It's only been open for a week or so, it closes down right after Christmas. So I picked up the rest of the veggies I wouldn't pay for at the organic foods store. Spent $14.12 there, but $1.29 of that was for a pineapple sage start for my garden. It smells wonderful. Then I stopped at the fish shop (pescaderio? I think, it's Spanish) and got some salmon, so spent $8.02 there. I won't go shopping again for at least a week.

I made out 2 weeks of menu plans to use the veggies I got and the fruit I had on hand and the meat I have in the freezer. So all should turn out pretty well this week. Grocery budget is on track. Budget is $70 and that puts me around $56, so there is wiggle room if we run out of milk.

I guess that's about it for today.

Used the Furnace

April 15th, 2006 at 03:26 am

Last night I had to turn on the furnace. I was not a happy camper. The weather has been in the 50's for a couple weeks now and I had shut it off at the end of March. We don't use it much anyway unless we're sick, we usually use the wood stove, with the thermostat programmed to kick the furnace in if the house temp drops below 60, which it only did twice this winter, once when it got to 9 degrees outside and once at 17. Gotta protect the water pipes.

But with the sleet storm last night it just got too cold in the house. I didn't have any kindling or small wood in the house to start a fire with and I was not going to traipse all the way out to the woodshed at midnight in a sleet storm. Needless to say I've rectified that today.

I am really glad I took the time to zip up my greenhouse door though. It's just a little greenhouse, 3 feet tall by two feet wide and one foot deep. But it has my snow peas and spinach, chard, and lettuce starts in it. I had been hardening them off in preperation to transplant in a couple of weeks, but the weather had been so mild I'd left the flap raised a few nights running. Checked on them today and they are doing just fine, despite the bizarre weather.

It rained all morning, then around five it started snowing. Twelve miles away at the soccer practice fields it was only sprinkling and then after ten minutes the sun came out. Still cold, but at least the girls weren't getting drenched.

On the drive home the tops of Black Mountain and Sumas Mountain (which are really only foothills to Mt. Baker)were just blanketed with snow, but the valley was completely clear. Weird. it's gorgeous now, well, it was, the sun just set.

Things I did to be frugal today:
Hung a load of laundry on my drying rack, which I positioned over the hottest furnace vent last night.
Brought a load of kindling and small wood up onto the porch.
Folded newspaper into kindling sticks until I had a grocery sack full.
Resisted my son's attempts to convince me to run over to the IGA and get him a corndog during Rose's soccer practice. I made him one when we got home instead.
Didn't have to drive all the way to town because it is spring break and there were no dance classes this week.
Signed up for 2 more samples.
Started a fire, but left furnace able to kick in if the temps drop too low.
Baked a loaf of bread when I was baking chicken (in a covered casserole so the smell doesn't get into the bread) instead of using the oven two separate times.

Pretty good, so far.


First Savings Deposit Made

April 14th, 2006 at 06:23 am

Well, I did it. I made my first on purpose deposit of a predetermined weekly amount into my savings account. Ten dollars. For a grand total of $115. I think there is some odd amount of cents in there as well, but its little and I left the deposit receipt in the car. Since it is pouring sleet it will just have to remain there until it stops, hopefully sometime tomorrow. The money in this account is at a different credit union from where I do my actual banking from. That makes it harder for me to get at it. I have to really think about what I'm doing to go take it out.

I signed up for two more freebies and tried the two toothpaste ones again today but they still don't like me, so no go on those. Oh, well.

We had to go to town today as DH had to fly to work, so I drove him to the airport. I won't see him again for a couple of weeks, but on the plus side all his meals are free and he won't be eating up our grocery budget until he gets back. Oh, I don't think I've mentioned, he works 2 weeks on, 2 weeks off up in Kuparuk, Alaska, so he comes and goes all the time.

Since we were in town I also paid the credit card bill and stopped at the grocery store. All I needed was a gallon of organic milk (Rose needs hormone free milk, the rest of us just like it better), six pounds of apples, 4 oranges, parmesan cheese (hard block instead of preshredded, Rose can't handle the silicon dioxide in the canned or preshredded, the rest of us just like it better) and a picnic ham for Sunday. And that is all I bought, too. That took some doing, being confronted with the Easter stuff. But I already have Easter stuff, so I just had to firmly remind myself of that.

16 of the 22 small apples will go for soccer snack on Saturday for Rose's team, along with granola bars from the pantry and juice pouches, also from the pantry.

DH and I have decided to save up for a new freezer, but this is going to be a different account in a 3rd credit union that is also in a place I would really have to think about going to to take the money out. That account has $21 in it. We have decided to use our coin jar money and our aluminum can recycling money to save up for the new freezer. The one we have used to belong to my parents and I remember having it as far back as age 4, so I'm sure its no energy saver. We have room to get one that is a foot taller and the one I want is $534 + 8.3% sales tax + $35 delivery fee. So our goal is to save $620 for it.

We also stopped by the library on the way home and picked up some books and movies we had on hold. Tobias has his favorite Thomas the Tank Engine out again, I swear he will wear a hole in that dvd (besides the one in the middle already), he gets it so often. But MIL has it on her to buy for Christmas list, so if he does wear out their copy, he'll eventually have one of his own. I got a cookbook and a cooking magazine, looking for some good, cheap, new to us meals.

I think that covers it all. Didn't call the two auto ship memberships I need to call. I'll try to do that tomorrow.

More DVD Stuff and Discovering Freebies

April 13th, 2006 at 12:08 am

So I adore Netflix, about the greatest creation for those of us who live in the boonies. At various times I have been on different levels, but have for some time been on what I thought was the lowest level of 3 out at a time, unlimited. Well, it had been so long since I had checked the options that I decided to go and look and see if anything had changed. I was very happy to see quite a few new levels. We've been with Netflix from the beginning and it should have occurred to me to check sooner, but oh, well. Anyway, I reduced it to one movie out at a time, unlimited, so am now at $9.99 a month there instead of $17.99. So that auto charge will drop by 8 bucks. I am not quite ready to give it up altogether.

I spent a good amount of time going over the Freebies lists this morning and signed up for 12 samples. It would have been more but some of them just wouldn't load. I started a notebook that lists the sample sent for, the date I sent for it, and how long it should take to show up, so I can try to track them down if they don't get sent. I fully expect at least half of them to not show up, though.

I thought I'd better be organized about it after reading (from start to finish) someone's blog that had major couponing, rebating, and sample acquiring. Mine is on paper after reading her computer went wonky and she lost quite a bit of info. I will never be that deep into it, though. It's hard to be that organized with the kids around.

I have read about 5 blogs now (archives, too) and am amazed at all the different approaches to this savings thing. All sorts of interesting terminology that I had to look up, like ING accounts and such.

DH and I are discussing other cuts we can make. The big sticker is cable. I'd like to drop down to the most basic program they have. He doesn't want to because he doesn't want to lose SciFi channel. I think that since the two shows he wants to watch (the new Dr. Who and the new Battlestar Galactica) come out on DVD soon or are out on DVD already, we can get them from Netflix. He doesn't want to wait the extra couple months for the DVD's.

For now I will let it go, but I'll take it back up next month and see if sitting with the idea for awhile has made a difference. Could be I'll even manage to get him to suggest it and think it is his idea which I can then agree with. It's been known to happen. My parents have a dish, so maybe we can record those two shows and then he wouldn't have to wait at all. Hmm. Maybe. Mom's a bit uptight about subject matter. We are in there every Friday anyway for Rose's dance class so I could tape it and retrieve it on the same day, even. That might make a good compromise.



2 Memberships Cancelled Today

April 12th, 2006 at 05:27 am

Today I cancelled our membership to Columbia House dvd club. We had long ago met our membership requirements and truth be told, I didn't really use it because any dvds we wanted usually went on a really good sale the issue week, much less than the club's price with shipping. The last time I bought a dvd set from the store I had a newspaper coupon for it for 10% off and a store rewards coupon for $4 off any electronics purchase, which they said was good for dvds. All told, it would have cost about $15 more from Columbia House.

I didn't think they were ever going to let me cancel. Why did I want to quit? Half the time I would forget to send the slip in to not get the movie and end up with movies I didn't want. And they were too expensive. Even with their deals? Yes. Every time I said I want to cancel my membership, they came back with some other offer. No, I don't want to switch to just buying when I want to and not worrying about the member's selection card, I just want to cancel. No I don't want to spend the $15 in fun cash I had accrued, I just want to cancel. No, I am not interested in joining your sister club BMG to be sent CD's in the mail, I just want to cancel. I think I said that about 15 times.

The guy was good, but not good enough. I stayed polite but firm and got away with what I wanted and was sent an email with a confirmation number saying it was cancelled. We shall see what shows up in my mailbox. Oh, yes, and I also told the guy to have a nice day before he could say it to me. It felt just a tiny bit wicked. But I meant it, too. He was perfectly well behaved, just pushy.

After I finally got off the phone with them I called Proactiv to cancel that. I use the product, but only a couple times a week now and I have a huge backlog in my cupboard, probably a three year supply. When it runs out, well we'll see. Since I quit eating high fructose corn syrup my skin has been clear.

They were much more accepting of me cancelling there, probably because I loved the product and simply explained the situation and the lady agreed with me that getting them every two months was silly, but in the future if I came back they could send it every six months instead, which is nice to know. I came away feeling a lot happier with them than Columbia House.

So anyway, that takes off a charge of $40 every 2 months from the credit card, and random CH charges as well. I've got a couple more places to call to cancel more auto ship items, but I really did not want to deal with it today, the other two kind of wore me out. I'll try to get to those tomorrow.

But I feel good about what I did do. I might not be saving money with these steps, but I don't feel like I'm wasting it anymore, either.

Just $10

April 10th, 2006 at 11:45 pm

DH and I made a decision last night. We are going to try, no we are going to start, saving $10 a week. We have a small savings account of $105. So the goal is to deposit $10 a week into this account for the rest of the year. Is that too ambitious? Maybe I should just set it for the end of the month? No, that seems like giving us an outlet to stop saving, which is kind of what got us here to begin with. Well, that and a bad health insurance.

It's just $10, that isn't so much. We spend about that on pop each week and we have both been drinking more than we think it is healthy to be drinking. Although, there really is no health benefit to soda pop, now is there? The kids really don't care for it all that much, well, Rose can't drink anything with caramel coloring or caffeine in it anyway, and Tobias would just as soon drink milk or water, usually water.

It seems a manageable enough goal. So for the rest of the year, it is our goal. And writing it down makes it real, putting it out there makes it harder to go back on. Accountability, as some of you have mentioned, should make this easier. Although, sometimes it seems nothing about money ever really is.

My day for depositing will not be set as it will depend on which days I drive to town. I don't want to make an extra trip as it takes about 2.8 gallons of gas to get to town and back. We go to town at least 3 days a week for lessons and soccer games so as long as it gets done before the next banking week, I'll call it good.

$10 doesn't seem like much, but at this point its the habit I'm trying to establish. If I don't start at ten, then where? So $10 it is. And that's $520 a year, still small, but something.

Thanks again, for all the support you have thrown my way since starting this blog. I can't begin to say how much I appreciate it.

Robin

Debt on Overload

April 9th, 2006 at 09:52 pm

Blogging is new to me, but journaling sure isn't, so bear with me as I figure out the odds and ends of the system. I found this site about a week ago and completely fell in love with it. I have been in denial of our debt situation for a long time but for the past two weeks I have been searching around for good websites to help us get a handle on things and this one has been simply wonderful.

So, massive debt. We sure have it. It is hard to believe that only seven years ago we were debt free, bought a house paying in cash. We owned both of our cars (still do) outright. But that was before my last pregnancy that turned high risk at week 32 and required more hospitalization than the insurance company wanted to pay for and incurring a $30,000 unsecured debt.

Still, we managed to get along pretty well, but starting in 2002, I have had 3 major surgeries in 3 consecutive years, all with benign (hence the lucky), but too large to leave alone tumors that might endanger other organs and after losing both the appendix and gall bladder, I was glad to get rid of the last one without losing something else. This last year has been tumor free and we hope it stays that way.

Needless to say, our insurance wasn't too forthcoming and we ended up with a massive debt of $150,000 for hospital bills. My parents let us put a 30 year mortgage on their big house, so we pay $935 plus $65 extra each month on that. Fortunately they will leave us the house in their will so they do not mind doing this for us. I'm sure we would have declared bankruptcy without them and I did not want to have to do that.

Beyond that we still have $37,800 left on our own 15 year mortgage we took out to cover expenses while I was sick, so we pay $375 a month on that, plus $25 extra. We had gotten our unsecured debt down to $25,000, but it is at $31,000 now, due to orthodontist work to correct our daughter's messed up bite, and being overextended beyond our budget and DH's pay.

So good news, our insurance changed at the beginning of January and now covers orthodontist and vision and more dental than it did before, but it also is taking out more than double what it took out of DH's paycheck before. Fortunately he got a raise at the same time which leaves us with $50 extra a month than he was bringing home before (again lucky).

We have finally as of the start of this year, stopped using credit completely. I have been slowly cutting stuff out. My son has lost interest in tae kwon do so we took him out of that, freeing up $65 a month. My daughter still has a year on her contract and is still motivated to go so for now she stays in. Both kids have been taking dance lessons, which are paid up through June. It breaks for the summer and then they will not be taking them next year, which together frees up $85 a month. Between those they just about cover our gas for the month which is running $2.79 a gallon here.

After a propane bill in January of $272 we turned off the furnance and switched to using our woodstove full time. We had free wood from family from fallen trees on their properties that had been sitting in our carport for 3 years and was nice and dry. The stove gets hot enough that I can warm up a pot of soup or chili or other meals in a can, can warm up canned veggies or boil eggs or water for tea, so we do that some to save on using the oven (which is electric, not propane). Once our pantry stock runs out I will be making chili and soup instead of opening cans.

When I do cook, I make everything from scratch now. We have maybe a six month stock of canned goods in the pantry, but when its gone, its gone. I bake a loaf of bread pretty much daily, but I had already been doing that because my DH is allergic to high fructose corn syrup and that is in almost all bread these days.

So, we are definitely trying now. Ready to face this debt situation head on. It is scary to not be hiding my head in the sand, and I think DH still wants to a bit, but he has agreed with me that we have to take some measures now and more as we find places to cut.

I am hoping to save on the grocery budget as we have a lot of meat in the freezer so really all we need are fresh vegetables, fruit, milk, and eggs on a weekly basis. I am hoping that we have eliminated the propane bill. Our electric is coming down with the longer days, though we don't see it as we are on budget pay year round.

There are other steps I plan to take in the next few weeks, but just getting to this point has been kind of freeing. Or at least as freeing as it can be with a slightly over $200,000 total debt load. It's just a little, but baby steps still take you forward and I'd rather be going forward than backwards.

Wow, I wrote a novel. Well, they won't be this long in future.

Robin