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Archive for February, 2011

BoA Posted

February 28th, 2011 at 03:01 pm

I really don't know why BoA takes forever to post payments. They didn't used to, but the last few months have been a lot longer than in the past.

Regardless, it finally shows the amount and so I can put up new numbers. The whole payment went to principle this time so actual noticable progress was made.

$20,895.77 BoA VISA starting amount
$-1.000.00 Payment
$19,895.77 BoA VISA ending amount

$19,895.77 BoA VISA
$+4,342.92 BoA MC
$24,238.69 Total still owed to the Evil Empire

Slowly but surely we are paying it down.

My physical therapist rescheduled for tomorrow, because she said she had so much snow where she lives she couldn't get out of her driveway. That really surprised me since it is 45 degrees and sunny here and she only lives 30 minutes south of me. This is the third appointment in a row she has cancelled. I'm starting to think about finding a new one, one who actually lives here in town and doesn't just work here. But I really like her. We're rescheduled for tomorrow. I hope she can make it. My leg is seriously starting to ache.

Money Out Today--Medical

February 28th, 2011 at 09:47 am

I slept seven hours straight last night. I haven't done that since October. It was nice not to wake myself up hacking. Now if I can shake off the rest of this I'll be a happy camper. I'm still tired though. I can't make up for weeks of not sleeping well in one night, though.

I'll be picking up prescriptions today so not sure how much will go out on that. Probably around $20 since they are both generics. I have my physical therapy today, so that will be $90. She cancelled on me twice last week, once when her truck broke down and then again when it snowed really bad. So it's been two weeks since I've gone and I am really feeling it.

Both kids are back in school today, albeit the younger one with a pocketful of cough drops and a note saying he is not to go outside for recess or PE this week because it's too cold and I don't want him getting a relapse when he's still not 100%. He's just not contagious anymore.

We Need It, but do We Need It Now?

February 27th, 2011 at 01:37 pm

I don't know why I keep torturing myself by looking at used Toyota Sienna's online at the two local delearships near us. I've found two that would be perfect for what we want. Well, other than color, and when you're buying used, you don't get much of a choice in the matter. They are both around the same price, just under $28,000. They both have leather seats and FWD. One is a 2006 LTD with 54,000 miles on it. One is an XLE 2008 with 34,000 miles on it.

What we own right now is a 2009 Toyota Matrix with about 33,000 miles on it which we actually bought in April of 2008 (they had a very early model year. So in April we'll have had it for 3 years. It still has 2 years left in the car loan and we owe $16,236.70 on it. Because of the stupid brake recall thing, the Matrix hasn't held it's value like it would have done without it. So for a private sale it would be worth $15,500 or so, and for a trade in value it's worth $13,600. That's a difference of $2,636.70.

Everything I've ever read about finance says don't roll over an upside down car loan into a new car loan. I know we could come up with about $1500 of that money, but that would still leave us $1136.70 upside down. I could temporarily slow our debt payback to come up with that, too, but I really don't want to do that.

I wouldn't even be thinking about a new (to us) car right now if my children would stop growing! My daughter (who sits behind me when DH is home) and I are constantly jockeying for leg room in this little car. Because of my bad knee, I can't go too long without being able to stretch it out. It makes longer car trips unbearable. DD is taller than I am now, and she feels like she's always squashed into the space allowed her. And so do I.

So far my son isn't having too many problems, he sits behind his dad who has to have the seat even further back than I do. But he's about to turn eleven and he's going to grow. He's already past my chin. We're running out of space and there's also very little space in the back for shopping. One large case of toilet paper and you're lucky if you can fit anything else back there.

The plan was (and likely still is) to get through this year of debt repayment and then use the money that was going for that to finish paying off the car and then trade it in. And also to sell the Crown Victoria which KBB says is worth about $2000 in a private sale. It's a 1992 and in excellent running condition, just needs a lot of cleaning in the interior. If we could get $2000 that would go towards paying down the car loan and getting us close to having the value of what we owe left.

But my mind keeps saying that we ought to just go for it. Used Sienna's in such good shape are really hard to find. The fact that there are two at two different dealerships (so we might be able to use that against each salesman to lower the price) is even more rare. Our payments would be slightly less than what we're paying now and the loan would be for four years instead of the two we have left. We should qualify for the 2.9% loan since we've paid off $50,000 worth of debt since the last time we applied. But even if our interest rate stayed the same as it is now we'd still have payments around the same (about $10 difference) and a four year loan.

Why is this pulling at me so hard? This is the reason I won't go and look at houses yet. I'm afraid I'd fall in love with something before we were ready.

I guess it's just a question of comfort, really. Are we prepared to continue being squished every time we go somewhere? To take rental cars whenever we go on a road trip? To make smaller, more frequent grocery runs because of a lack of storage space? To never be able to haul the kids' friends around?

Am I being short-sighted in sticking to our plan? Or is this an investment worth making since it'll really cause no difference to our bottom line of how much money goes out to debt each month?

Why I Buy in Bulk and Have a Costco Membership

February 26th, 2011 at 04:37 pm

I was reading an old thread in the forums about whether or not it pays to buy in bulk and whether or not it pays to have a membership to a warehouse club. For the majority of the posters they didn't find having a membership was worth the price. I don't know about places like Sam's or BJ's, we don't have them here, but for me Costco has been well worth the membership price. And since we bumped up to the Executive level, we will more than get back the cost of membership when we get our yearly cash back from the club. In fact, we've already spent enough this year to have earned back most of it.

So what do I buy at Costco? My number one purchase would be gasoline. And with the Costco AMEX I'm also getting 1% cash back on every gas purchase. In our town Costco and the other cheapest gas station (cash only one) have the same price on gas. I do check some of the other less expensive places, but I've never found any place to be cheaper here.

Toilet paper. Because of my son's allergies there are only three brands of toilet paper he can use. One of them is available at Costco, and often the Costco booklet that comes out each month will have a $3 off coupon for it. I have, on very rare occasions found a sale, that combined with a coupon will cost less, but it is usually only if I buy the 4-pk. I'll get it, but then I'll still turn around and buy the 36 roll case from Costco. I'd rather not be shopping more than once a month for toiletries and the 36 roll pack lasts six weeks.

Flour, yeast, and sugar. We bake. A lot. Again, because of my son's allergies it is almost impossible to find bread products that don't have one of the ingredients he is allergic to. So we buy the 25 pound bag of flour and the 10 pound bag of sugar and the 2 pound bag of yeast. I've never found yeast cheaper. Flour and sugar I only find cheaper at Christmas time and shop accordingly. We have a large, plastic, airtight bulk bin that holds 20 pounds of flour and one that holds 10 pound of sugar. The extra five pounds of flour goes into a canister for my mother to use.

Butter. My son cannot have margarine and the health risks they've found related to it makes me unwilling to buy it. Butter, while a fat, is a natural fat and tastes so much better. Buying the bulk one pound cubes tends to be cheaper than even the best sales on butter, with coupons. Even at Christmas. And unsalted cubed butter for baking is also far cheaper than in regular stores.

Extra virgin olive oil. No contest.

Cheese. If cheese is on a really good sale at the regular grocery stores, it might be cheaper, but it seldom is. I keep an eye on the sales, but it's rare to find a better deal. At best I can find the same deal. Also Costco sells shredded cheese at the same price as unshredded cheese, which seems to be rare in the grocery stores around here. Because we make our own pizzas and casseroles that use cheese, and use it on sandwiches a lot, I don't mind getting five pounds at a time to save money, but I do make sure I freeze the excess (shred before freezing or cheese will just crumble).

Oranges and lemons. We go through oranges by the case in the winter and for lemons we use them year round and make our own lemonade from scratch. Although I will buy them elsewhere on good sales, I find that the quality of the ones at Costco tend to be far superior and the size of the fruit is consitent (so four lemons will equal one batch of lemonade every time). That doesn't mean I won't open up the box and check every single orange for mold spots. One bad one will ruin the ones around it and then you are wasting money.

Potato products. Hashbrowns, french fries, and organic mashed potato flakes. Costco happens to carry brands that don't interfere with my son's allergies and at prices that beat the regular stores on sale with coupons. I will buy actual potatoes there at times, but only when I can't find a sale elsewhere. If I get the 20 pound bag I make my own french fries out of it.

Peanut butter. There are only a few brands it is safe for my son to use. We don't like the oily ones, they are too much of a mess to deal with so this leaves us with Jif. We go through a lot of peanut butter so we often buy it from Costco, but on really good sales it can be cheaper elsewhere so I do pay attention to the sale ads.

Cashews. Even from the bulk bins at the grocery store I cannot find these cheaper and these ones don't have anything added to them that I have to worry about. It's just cashews, peanut oil, and salt. No additives, no preservatives, no coating.

Boneless, skinless chicken thighs. Unless it is marked down for quick sale, the price on these is hard to beat. And they come in a six pack of meal sized portions for our family of four. We make our own chicken nuggets so one of these tends to be perfect for us, with a bit left over to throw in the stir-fry bag in the freezer because of uneven sizes. Most other meats I can find cheaper elsewhere on good sales, even seafood. I used to buy the organic eggs there, too, but that was before we had chickens.

Aluminum foil, wax paper, plastic wrap, garbage bags, and Ziploc bags. Sometimes I can find the Ziploc bags and the garbage bags on sale for cheaper with a coupon, but it is really rare. I won't buy the cheapy garbage bags because they break too easily so if I do get a non-Costco brand of garbage bags it will be Glad or Hefty, not a store brand. Store brand is not worth it if it shreds on the way out to the rubbish bin.

Canned green beans, pineapple, organic tomato sauce, organic diced tomatoes, and orgainic tomato paste. Unless someone is having a case sale, it's hard to beat these for price anymore. I will have to find another source for green beans though as they have switched from S&W to Kirkland (store brand) and green beans are something we are very finicky about, since we eat a can almost every day. I have a few cases left, but when that runs out I'll have to get them at the grocery store (either S&W or the Haggen store brand).

Sea salt, peppercorns, chili powder, minced garlic, basil and oregano. Most other spices I get at the reglar grocery store where they have a larger selection and smaller bottles. But for the things I use most in cooking, the bigger, cheaper bottles (one pound) are the way to go.

Vitamins, Ibuprofen, and cold medicine. I don't quite pay as much attention here on prices as I should. In this case I want them in bulk so I don't have to buy them every month. Sometimes they run cheaper, but not if there is a good sale on. I stick to Naturemade on the vitamins because they have a rewards program.

Krusteaz pancake mix in the 10 pound bag. I have tried to make my own baking mix but it honestly doesn't save me any money and isn't worth the hassle. We can't use Bisquick because of my son's allergies. We make pancakes and waffles and biscuits out of this and it is definitely well worth it. Pretty much anything you can make with Bisquick you can make with Krusteaz, which is great because there are a ton of Bisquick recipes out there and very few Krusteaz ones.

By picking and choosing what I buy there, I save money, more than make back the price of membership, and seldom run out of anything so meal planning is a breeze.

Mortgage and Houses

February 26th, 2011 at 02:37 pm

The mortgage payment posted to my account. Last month's balance was $22,053.10. This month's balance is $21778.32. Our payments are now over 2/3 to principle and less than 1/3 to interest. I like being at this end of the mortgage where progress is made so visibly with each payment. I just wish it were going to a new house and not the old one.

We should be able to finish up the last few loads of stuff and move the piano out of the old house when DH comes home this time. Then we can get it cleaned from top to bottom. There's a lot that needs to be done. The carpets have to come out and be replaced by something. The walls need to be painted. The toilets need to be replaced. The shower needs to finish being put together in the master bathroom. Four bedroom/bathroom doors need to be replaced, including new frames.

The yard needs to be cleaned up and a few loads hauled to the dump. When the weather is warm enough there are a few spots that need paint touch ups on the outside of the house and the trim needs to be painted. We need to replace part of the guttering and bring in a new load of gravel for the driveway. We might even need to put a new front porch on.

After that, the house will be sold "as is." I'm not going to put anymore effort into it than that. We will be happy if we get enough to finish paying off the mortgage, $50,000 for a downpayment on a new house, and enough to cover closing costs. Yes, I'd love it to be more, but we only paid $65,000 for it and though it is supposedly worth $110,000 now according to the tax assessors, I don't really care. We are just so tired of it all and $75,000 would cover our needs. We will likely price it at $100,000 and then will entertain any offers.

It's a big, single floor house, 1800 square feet, 4 bedrooms, 2 baths, living room, great room, huge kitchen, laundry room. It's got a large side yard with a garden, and large backyard that is fenced and has fruit trees, a tiny front yard, a shed and a carport. If it weren't for the location we would have likely stayed in it forever, but I hated being so far from the city and I needed to be closer to my mother after she fell.

We are not going to be like the idiots in the neighborhood who are still trying to get the prices they were told it was worth at the height of the bubble (which were much higher than when we moved there, and they were honestly never worth that much, but people refinanced anyway.) There are houses that have sat there for years trying to get prices that you would have trouble getting in town right now. I just want it gone.

I have been driving by this beautiful old house about once a week on the way to the chiropractor. It's been completely remodeled and rewired and it has everything we could want in a house. The kitchen (according to the flyers and website virtual tour) is gorgeous. It makes me covetous. For me a kitchen will make or break a house when it is time for us to actually start looking.

It's way overpriced for the neighborhood. They're asking $419,000 (and this is a new price, not their original asking price). The median house price for that neighborhood is $250,000. This house is bigger, but not by too much, is on a corner lot, and has a smaller yard than other houses on the block. We don't want a big yard to maintain. I think it will have to come down in price before it will sell and I kind of hope it sits on the market for a year until we are ready to start looking. It would need to come down $75,000 to even put it in the top of the price range we are willing to pay.

It's in our school district and about six or seven blocks from my mother's house. It's on a bus route. It's five blocks from the hospital. It would be perfect if we were ready now. We're not and we won't even go look insdie because of that. We don't want to get caught up in some frenzy to buy before we are ready and have BoA paid off, but it's nice to dream. And I know that when we are ready there will be a perfect house for us out there somewhere.

Payday--Money Out

February 25th, 2011 at 05:31 pm

Today is payday and Iím really happy with how things shaped up.

$1000 to BoA VISA. This is the second payment this month and this one goes completely to principle since the one I made last week was to cover all of DHís work travel expenses and the monthly interest charge.

$1000 to Momís 0% interest loan, dropping the amount we now owe her to $91,000.00. We have 7 years and 8 monthsí worth of payments to go. We have paid off $19,000.00 so far. This was originally all medical debt.

$300 to Mom to help her with utilities.

$34 to the EF and $1 to the holding tank since the electric bill for the old house was $1 less than Iíd budgeted for. That brings the holding tank to $204.30 and the EF to $7468.65, with $1000 of that in the safety net at the local CU and the rest in ING.

$20 for the electric bill at the old house

$212.66 for term life insurance for me and DH, house insurance on old house, and car insurance

$39.37 security system on old house

$131 to storage

$200 to AMEX

$375.86 to mortgage on old house

$407.75 on propane

I have a couple hundred left for groceries and miscellaneous items for the week. I doubt I will spend it all. Any extra will go to the laptop fund. I did spend $60.11 on Chinese food from the no MSG place. I got enough to have several meals out of it so I donít have to cook while I am still so sick. I really wish this cold would leave. I am just too out of it to cook like normal. I hate spending that much money but itís good food with lots of veg so I donít feel too bad about it.

Out of next weekís payday I will pay an additional $500 to AMEX, $500 to the holding tank for medical, $124 to renew AAA, $1000 to the EF and $1000 to the holding tank for the two week period of no paycheck. There should be about $600 left and $300 of that will go to the property tax portion of the holding tank, $100 to the laptop fund, $100 for groceries and $100 for miscellaneous. If there is anything beyond that it will go to the laptop fund. The payday after that, which is only two and a half dayís pay will also be for stretching across the two week period of no paycheck.

I took back the 3 cans of chicken and rice soup I bought on Tuesday by accident and got 3 cans of chicken and stars soup in exchange. The price had dropped 10 cents a can on the new sale week, so I got 30 cents back in change. Also at the Chinese place the lady didnít want to use so many pennies by giving me back the 14 cents she owed me so she gave me 15 cents instead, so thatís a total of 45 cents to the coin jar today. I also grabbed some penny wrappers while I was at the CU paying the mortgage, so I can roll coins today and add that to next weekís laptop fund deposit.

All in all a satisfying payday and I canít wait until next week when everything posts and I can update my numbers again and see some real progress this time.

Oh, and DH has heard from three different people, one his direct supervisor that heíll be getting a raise in April at the six month mark. It will add $525 to his gross income for a six week pay cycle if the amount he was told is correct, so Iím thinking we will at least get $400 of it and that can go to debt repayment probably. If Iíve done the numbers right, with that extra amount we should hit the end of the year no problem with having BoA paid off completely. Iím not counting it yet, though, in my budget. Itís one of those things where Iíll believe it when I see it.

The BoA VISA should now have a little over $3000 between what we owe and what the limit is on it, so with that cushion there I am going to now switch to paying only $1500 on the BoA VISA each month (expenses, plus interest, plus about $100 to principle) and take the extra $1000 and add it to the $400 payment we make on the BoA Master Card. That will pay it off by the end of May and then weíll be able to pay $2900 to the VISA each month until it is paid off. I may try to scrape up an extra $100 each time to make it $3000. Weíll see whatís available.

Once that is done the money will then go to finish paying off the car, unless DH talks me into trading in the Matrix for a Sienna sooner than we planned.
If we stick to the plan, we should be out of debt, except what we owe to Mom, by the middle of 2012, possibly sooner if he gets the raise.

Mom doesnít want us paying her back any faster than $1000 a month because she is using that to supplement her income from social security (and saving as much of it as she can for the future). She likes having it come in steadily and our system seems to be working for everyone.

Edited to add: I was cleaning out an old purse and found $1.95 in coins. I then rolled coins and I have $7.50 to add to the laptop fund.

$467.94 beginning laptop fund balance
$=07.50 amount added
$475.44 ending laptop fund balance

Comcast is on My List Again

February 24th, 2011 at 07:10 pm

Comcast needs to get it's act together. I paid for both the phone for the old house and the internet for where we are living now on the 17th. The checks have still not been cashed. Seriously, Comcast, it takes you more than a week to cash a check now? As greedy and as grasping of an entity as you are and you haven't deposited the money yet?

It's annoying. I want my checkbook to be up to date and these two checks are the only things I am waiting on. They better cash them before the end of the month. I hate carrying stuff over from month to month (and generally avoid writing checks the last week of the month so I don't have to and everything will have cleared). I took them there in person so they couldn't have gotten lost in the mail. I should dig up my statements and at least make sure they were credited to my accounts. If they try to pull late fee garbage over this I am going to go down there and make a scene.

In other news, I spent $35.92 for $11.022 gallons of gas. It's at $3.25 a gallon at the cheapest place. It's better than in some states, but it still is a ridiculous amount to be paying.

I also spent $5 on soup for my poor sick kiddo (because I'm too sick to make another batch myself). They were on sale and of course I grabbed the cans right over the sign that said Chicken and Stars. And then of course I get home and see that they are Chicken with Rice, which nobody likes. Why can't they put the sale sign with the proper item? Most of the time I check, but I wasn't feeling good and from a distance it looked like the right kind. They were on sale, too, so I should just be able to exchange them. I'll do it tomorrow. Kiddo will just have to deal.

Numbers Update and New Laptop

February 24th, 2011 at 02:08 pm

I am getting so frustrated with my blog entries disappearing into cyberspace. This will be my fourth attempt. I made two last night and one this morning before giving up and banging my head against the wall. But I am writing this one in Word and will try to copy it into the box and hopefully this time it will work.

Iíve got new numbers after all of last weekís payments finally posted to their accounts after the holiday.

$20895.77 New amount owed to BoA VISA.
$4342.92 New amount owed to BoA MC
$25,238.69 Total still owed to the Evil Empire

This is only a small change of $322.95, despite paying $1500 between the two. The VISA (which is an air miles reward card) has over $400 of interest each month because the balance is so high. DH spends about $1000 each month on that card for travel expenses to and from work (airline ticket, hotel overnight, food), so most of that payment is used up between interest and travel. However the $1000 payment I will be making tomorrow will more or less all go towards principle so after it posts we will see actual progress there.

The mortgage is down to $21,778.32 after the last payment posted and the car loan is down to $16,236.70.

My computer pretty much completely died on me. Or maybe itís more like it went into a coma. Itís still alive but doesnít respond to any outside stimuli. I was able to get off all my documents, videos and music before it did that, but not all of my pictures. I have copies of all the family photos and vacation photos on my portable hard drive and DH has them on his computer, too. But all of my fandom photos and icons that werenít saved in other places are still on there, along with all my favorite wallpapers for the desktop. Itís not the end of the world, but I still hate to lose them. I am hoping DH can manage to get them off for me by taking out the hard drive and using a portable hard drive adapter to transfer it off.

Anyway, so even though I hadnít saved up the full replacement cost of a new computer I bought one yesterday anyway. It was almost like the one I had been planning on, but it has a number keypad and was $81 less. Itís black, but I can get a skin for it if I get tired of black for just a little bit of money. Anyway, they had 18 months same as cash and I qualified for it based on household income even though I donít have my own outside the house job.

Regardless I am going to continue adding to my computer fund. When the first payment is due I will subtract it from the fund and continue saving money towards it. That way I can earn my paltry 1% interest. I will do that until I have the full payoff amount saved and then just pay the rest of it off well before the 18 months no interest are up. And yes, I will be sure to check my statements each month and make sure they arenít playing games with the minimum amount owed, like others have caught them doing. Iíll pay over that amount anyway each month. To that end I added $9 to the laptop fund and 46 cents to the coin jar.

$458.94 Beginning laptop fund balance
$+09.00 Amount added
$467.94 Ending laptop fund balance

I am glad payday is tomorrow. I have $17 left in checking which I will add to the EF safety net tomorrow since I donít need to buy anything today.

Might Have to Buy a New Computer Sooner Than I Thought

February 22nd, 2011 at 01:01 pm

My laptop has about had it. I was hoping to wait until after April to get a new one, but now I'm not so sure it's going to make it. The last couple of times I've shut it down, it's taken numerous restarts to get it past the opening sign-in page. The desktop simply doesn't appear. All I get is the black screen of death. If it was a screen problem I wouldn't be getting the opening sign on screen. So it's got to be a glitch somewhere internally.

I am in the process of transferring everything important off it and onto my portable hard drive, but it is long and tedious work.

I know what computer I want to get next. It's a Sony Vaio. Of the laptops I've had before this one, it was the only one that never broke down. If it weren't so obsolete I could still be using it, but it's Windows 3.1 and has no CD/DVD drive and has very little memory, most of which was taken up by Office and IE. It also only has a phone modem in it and I don't think it even has a slot for plugging in a network card. Still, it was the best computer of any I've owned.

I did like the first Toshiba I had, but not the second, and I will never buy an HP laptop again (that's what this one is, but they are far better on desktops than laptops). The Sony Vaio that I want is $799.99 and with tax will come to $868. With the service contract, which I only ever buy for computers and failed to do last time in the mistaken thought it wasn't worth the money, will probably bring it to $1000 or a little over. I've kicked myself countless times for not getting it with all the problems I've had these last two years with the HP.

I've tried the keyboard out several times over the past few months and it's really comfortable and easy to type quickly on and the keys aren't annyoingly loud. That may seem like a silly thing to some of you, but I type about four hours a day most days and if it isn't a good fit under my fingers I will be miserable. It tends to be my first priority, finding a keyboard that works best for me and then out of those that do, finding one that fits all my other needs.

I am almost to the halfway mark of saving up that $1000. I really want to get there before this laptop fails me but I am afraid that won't happen. They do have 90 days same as cash and 18 months same as cash available though. I just hate to finance anything that isn't a car or a house. Even with 0% interest, it is the principle of the thing. Though I imagine I'd get over that pretty fast if this laptop dies completely before I'm ready to buy.

I added $23 to the laptop fund today and $0.36 to the coin jar.

$435.94 beginning laptop fund balance
$+23.00 amounted added
$458.94 ending laptop fund balance

I Hate Waiting and a Recipe for Mini Breakfast Casseroles

February 21st, 2011 at 01:22 pm

Long weekends are the hardest thing when you are waiting for payments to post to your accounts so that you can run the new figures of where you stand and what's left to pay off on your way to being debt free. I'm sure nothing will post until tomorrow. I'm waiting for the new balance on the BoA VISA and the car payment to come through and no amount of account stalking is going to make it happen any faster than tomorrow. I want to know my progress on bringing down the evil empire. *sighs*

Meanwhile I did the baking today. Two loaves of bread and since the kids are home on holiday from school, soft pretzels. I don't like rolling out the ropes for pretzels but the kids do so I only make them when they are home to help me.

I put the ham bone in the crockpot last night with all of the ham drippings and 5 quarts of water. It is still going for a little while longer and then I am going to add the ingredients to make one of the soups that Tightwad Kitty posted the other day. Yummy. There's nothing like a ham (or ham bone) cooking away to make your house smell divine.

For breakfast this morning I made mini egg casseroles. I love eating them and I had some stuff that needed using up so thought today would be a good morning for it.

12 eggs, whipped
1 cup leftover meat, diced (I used ham, but sometimes I use bacon or crumbled sausage)
4 scallions
1/2 a red bell pepper
Large handful of cheese (extra sharp cheddar or parmesan is what I normally use, but any highly flavored cheese would do)

If veggies are uncooked saute them until soft.

Grease a muffin tin and divide the meat, vegetables and cheese evenly between each cup. Pour 1/12 of egg mixture into each cup. Bake at 350 degrees F for about 10-12 minutes or until egg is set in the center of each cup. These freeze well, but we usually have them gone before that is necessary.

I will use up pretty much any veggie I have on hand, just dice it and throw it in. A lot of times that's leftover broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus or zucchini.

If you want a creamier result you can add 1/2 cup of cream, sour cream, or milk, but I like it better without the extra richness.

House and Car Talk and a Ham for Dinner

February 20th, 2011 at 04:56 pm

I spent a good portion of the day looking at houses online yesterday. We're a good two years from being able to buy, but I wanted to get an idea of what was out there in our price range. I was kind of flabbergasted by the number of short sales and foreclosures I kept finding though. Our price range is going to be a maximum of $350,000. We plan to have a downpayment of at least $100,000 so we won't be crippled by the mortgage.

But just because $350,000 is our max (not the max which the bank would loan us, which is closer to $600,000), doesn't mean I want to have to spend that much. So I was looking at houses under $300,000 to see what was out there. We want 4 bedrooms, 2 baths, or 3 bedrooms, 2 baths and an office or extra great room or a dining room that can be converted to an office if the kitchen table can fit in the kitchen. And we want at least 1800 square feet.

I was shocked at what was available. I thought it would be a really impossible ask. But I was finding houses under $200,000 with hardwood floors and new roofs and remodeled kitchens in nice, if older, neighborhoods. One place I found was just gorgeous. It had everything I wanted except for just having one bathroom and it was $175,000. For that price we could add a second bathroom.

I don't know what the market will be like in two more years, but it was encouraging to see that there are good possibilities in decent neighborhoods.

I blue booked our 1992 Ford Crown Victoria, which is in really good condition, and has around 132,000 miles I think, just to see what the growing rate is for it. It's almost $2,000 for good condition. I kind of fell over. I figured it was only worth about $500 or something. It might be worth a little bit more because we put in a nice digital MP3/CD player (it originally came with a casette deck). Anyway, it's definitely worth getting it detailed and trying to sell it. It needs some cleaning work. Normally I'd clean it myself but since the knee surgery I can't get down on my knees and get to all those hard to reach places and I've been waiting at least a year for DH to do it.

We had been talking about just taking it to salvage, but I hated to do that considering the fact that there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. We just don't drive it anymore and my mother is getting sick of seeing it parked in her driveway when no one uses it. It's such a good, safe reliable car, it would make a great first car for a high school kid. I keep thinking, too, about the fact that in 18 months my daughter will be sixteen and then we might actually want to have two cars. I'm not a big fan of driving her to school at 7 a.m.

Still, if we did sell it, that $2000 could go on the car loan and we'd be one step closer to having it paid off. I really wish we'd traded it in when we got the Toyota. I can't even remember why we didn't do that. Probably because we didn't think it was worth anything. If we do sell it then we will probably end up keeping the Matrix (which will be paid off) when we buy the Sienna. It would be good for DD to drive, but it's just gotten uncomfortably small for our growing children to be in back on long trips.

Part of me just says trade in the Matrix. The Sienna is going to be expensive even if we'll be getting a 2011 in 2013 so it'll be used and not quite so much as a new one. We can always find a second much more inexpensive car for DD to use. Or a Vespa or iScooter. I'm probably overthinking it. I tend to do that.

The house smells delicious right now. I've got a picnic ham in the crockpot and it's almost done. And I've got a nice recipe via Tightwad Kitty for making soup with the ham bone tomorrow and I'll make a breakfast casserole and be able to make sandwiches off the leftover meat. An $18 ham is not as economical to stretch as a $5 chicken, but it's still going to go a long ways.

BoA Refund Finally and Ham Soup (no beans) Recipe Wanted

February 19th, 2011 at 05:34 pm

I forgot to mention that the $218.18 refund finally showed up from BoA yesterday. It was part of the payment I made to the VISA yesterday of $1500. I can't wait until next Friday when I can send them an additional $1000. I wish they'd hurry up and post the payment I made at the bank yesterday. It probably won't post until Monday. It was after 3 p.m. when I paid it and if it's after 3 p.m. they don't post it that day, though they do credit it that day. With everything online, I don't get why they don't, same as I don't get why online banks really "need" that three day transfer between banks. It disappears from your account right away and then it's just in limbo. I think it's just an excuse to get out of paying a few days' worth of interest. They can certainly accept and add to your account a credit card purchase instantly. To me it should all be the same thing.

I went grocery shopping today and bought milk and produce. I also got a pound of sundrops. They are like M&M's only made without artifical ingredients or food dyes. They are colored naturally. My son was happy. I was happy to find them. They have them in the bulk bins at Fred Meyer. That pound should last a few months.

I spent $19.41 at one store and got a reciept that had a coupon for $4 off a car wash. It's normally a ten dollar car wash so that is a good price. I also could have my choice of very cheap pizzas, half off at the pita place, and half off at the pho place. Not that I'd use any of those, but I'll use the car wash coupon. In warm weather we wash the car ourselves but it's been in the thirties with whipping wind for months and the car is filthy so I'll definitely take it in. I'll probably wait until DH comes home. I really hate matching up the tires with those automated tracks.

I went to a second store and paid $18.43 for a large picnic ham. Does anyone have a good soup recipe made with a ham bone? I don't want anything with beans, though. My kids have textural issues and I don't like them. Pretty much any veg except parsnips, turnips, and rutabagas are a go, though. I'd like to be able to stretch the ham as far as I did the chicken. I know I can use diced ham in omelettes or breakfast casserole and the kids will eat it in sandwiches, too, but soup goes over really well here when it's this cold.

I can't find what I did with the receipt, I might have dropped it, to the other store, but it was $21 and something. I bought cans of organic chili and beef stew there. Everyone is feeling under the weather. I have plenty of food made/planned for the next two days for dinners. But if the kids get sick of them they'll have another option and I can freeze the other stuff for next week sometime.

I added $3 in ones to the laptop fund today and $2.16 in change to the coin jar. I found a quarter on the floor at the check out of one of the stores.

$432.94 beginning laptop fund balance
$+03.00 amount added
$435.94 ending laptop fund balance

Stretching that Chicken

February 18th, 2011 at 09:12 pm

I seriously am having a hard time believing how much food I got out of one 5.78 pound chicken. Last night for dinner I roasted it and it fed four. I then picked off all the remaining chicken and ended up with four and a half cups worth of shredded meat.

I put the carcass in the crockpot overnight with a couple of chopped onions, a head of garlic, minced, a couple of chopped carrots, 2 stalks of chopped celery and all the leaves from the inner bits, 1 bunch of parsley, chopped, 1 teaspoon of ground ginger, 1 tsp of salt and a TBSP of black peppercorns. This morning I had stock. I drained the liquid into another container and threw out the veg (into the compost, I have issues giving the chickens veg cooked in chicken stock.

There was enough stock to make two batches of soup plus have one cup leftover, so I made egg flower (or egg drop) soup and chicken noodle soup. The egg flower soup was made with this recipe: http://blogchef.net/egg-drop-soup-recipe/ and it was so delicious. It actually tasted like the stuff from the Chinese restaurant we love. I've tried making it before with other recipes but this is the best it's ever turned out. I did add some finely chopped carrots and some peas because the kids like it that way. I sauteed the carrots first to make sure they were soft and the peas came from a can (1/4 of it) so they were soft anyway. We had that for lunch today.

The chicken noodle soup I made by putting the extra stock (minus one cup I was saving) back in the crockpot and chopped up two fresh carrots, 2 stalks of celery, one small onion, 1/2 can of peas. I cooked that for a couple hours in the crock until the veggies were soft and then added half a one pound bag of egg noodles and cooked until soft (about a half hour). I added salt and pepper to taste and 1/4 cup of leftover chicken. That soup is currently sitting in the fridge for tomorrow's lunch.

For dinner tonight I took 2 cups of the cooked chicken and made TexMex Chicken and Rice. This is a very simple recipe. I made up a double batch of brown rice (you can use white) and it yielded 8 cups finished rice. I sauteed a chopped, yellow onion in a bit of olive oil with a 4 ounce can of mild green chiles. I then took half of the rice, stirred it into the onions, added 2 cups of homemade salsa (but you can just get the large jar from the store), and then added two cups of leftover chicken. I stirred it all together until the salsa and chicken were hot, about five minutes.

For lunch tomorrow we are making chicken quesadillas with two cups of the leftover chicken. Take four whole grain tortillas, spread 1/2 cup of chicken on each one, sprinkle with cheese, top each one with another tortilla. You can then nuke in the mircowave until the cheese is melted or you can do them one at a time in a dry skillet over medium heat until the cheese melts. Flip it so both sides get lightly browned. Cut into wedges with a pizza cutter. (I'll add some kind of veg and fruit.

That leaves us 1/4 cup of chicken. So I will make this for dinner tomorrow as a side dish. Heat a wok or skillet with some peanut or sunflower oil in it. Throw in peas (I had 1/4 can left from making the soups) and some diced carrots, and a little fresh, peeled ginger if you have it (maybe a diced tsp) cook until soft. Throw in a handful of bean shoots. Add leftover quarter cup of chicken that remains. Stir for a minute or so. Add leftover rice and the last cup of chicken broth. (If you didn't have fresh ginger, here would be a good place to add a tsp of ground ginger if you have it). Stir until chicken broth is absorbed by the rice. Variation: If you are out of leftover chicken or just want more protein, scramble two eggs into veggies before adding rice.

There will be leftovers of both the rice dishes so some of that will go into something else, probably eaten in rolled up tortillas for breakfast or lunch.

Who knew you could stretch a chicken so far?

Payday, EF, Holding Tank and Safety Net, and Money Out

February 18th, 2011 at 06:45 pm

I love it when the first payday of the pay cycle gets here and I still have money left in the account. That isn't always easy because that final paycheck of the cycle stretches across three weeks instead of the normal one. I had $100 left so I transferred that to ING to be added to the Emergency Fund. That makes $6,231.35 in the EF at ING. I also transferred some money to be held there that isn't part of the EF. It's part of what I call my holding tank.

The holding tank is for short term savings. I just started it. It will have things in there that are paid bimonthly or every six months. I transferred $100 in there for property tax. I'm not sure what my property tax for the year on the old house is, because they still haven't sent out the paper work, but last year it was just over $1000, so I decided to go with $1200 and put $100 a month aside. I didn't do it in January, but I'm not worried about it. We'll catch it up one way or the other. Maybe from the safety net if we have to. That's what it is there for. But more likely we'll just pay less on the VISA in April.

Also in the holding tank is $6.30 for garbage (I budget $50 a month and the bill is bimonthly and was less than that, but I pay garbage pick up for the old house (that will end soon) as well as garbage pickup here. So I'll save the extra and add it to when the bill for here comes due. Any extra will carry over and just build a cushion for garbage when we have to make dump runs from the old house.

I also put $80 in the holding tank for water/sewer at the old house. It's paid bimonthly and I think it's only $72 per month, but I can't remember, it might be $76 so I built in some cushion. And I put in $17 to go towards the HOA dues that will be due in July. So altogether the ING holding tank has $203.30 in it and the total amount of money in ING is $6,434.65.

As for the safety net, it has $1,068.65 in it. We used $1000 of it to pay some medical bills off.

Other than all that out of today's paycheck I paid:

$1500.00 to the BoA VISA (will pay more next week)

$400.00 to put back in the safety net that I used yesterday to pay on the Master Card

$51.91 for phone out at the old house (still hating on Comcast for that amount)

$65.55 for cable internet

$43.70 for garbage

$490.75 for the car payment

$60 for DD six week allowance ($10 a week)

$36 for DS six week allowance ($6 a week)

$100 for groceries

I will pay out $90 for physical therapy Monday and that will leave me with $116.56 in the checking account until next payday.

Other than that I added $2 to the laptop fund and $1.06 to the coin jar.

$430.94 beginning laptop fund balance
+002.00 amount added
$432.94 ending laptop fund balance

I finished reading America's Cheapest Family by Annette and Steve Economides. It was interesing enough, but the book is pretty dated at this point and a lot of the ideas won't work for our particular situation. A few of them will, so I walked away with something. I think for the beginner, new to trying to be frugal it would be a good book to read. (Not as fun or entertaining as Amy Dacyzn's Tightwad Gazette, though). I also started and finished reading Live Well for Less than You Think by Fred Brock. It was okay. Again, for anyone living the frugal lifestyle for a while it didn't really have all that much to offer, but it was a bit more current than the other book. And the newly frugal would learn a lot for it.

I'm about a third of the way through Jean Chaztky's From Debt to Wealth on $10 a Day: Pay it Down. This one is a bit more relevant to me, but even so, it's got several things I've heard before. Still, I really like the writing style and the way she presents things, so I think I'll definitley get something out of this book by the time I am finished.

Found Money

February 17th, 2011 at 04:59 pm

I found a dollar bill and a penny in the high school parking lot today. This is the third time I've found money in the school parking lot this month. What do these kids do, just throw it around? The dollar I added to the laptop fund and the penny went into the coin jar.

$429.94 laptop fund beginning balance
$+01.00 found money
$430.94 laptop fund ending balance

I will take my envelope of money for that fund over to the CU tomorrow. It's payday so I will be banking anyway and that CU is near my regular one. I usually just slip ones into the envelope as I accumulate them, so it's not like there is a hefty amount sitting in it or anything, but I'm not going to run over there every time I accumulate a dollar or two. It's a waste of gas.

I need to remember to get coin wrappers as well. I've got over 200 pennies that need rolling and nothing to roll them in. Hmm...if I get the wrappers at CU#1 and roll them in the car I can deposit them to the laptop fund at CU#2. It's only a couple of dollars, but I think I am proving that a few dollars here and a few dollars there is adding up quite rapidly.

Subscribing for Food Delivery and Budget

February 17th, 2011 at 10:22 am

Thanks to Laura I learned about a food program that amazon.com has for shipping you food and if you take out a subscription for it, you get 15% off the purchase price. And if you buy more than $25 worth you can get the free shipping. Of course they then wanted me to apply for their credit card and get $30 off as well, but I'm not at the point in my life where I have any intention of adding another credit card into the mix.

Anyway the choices of subscribing had a six month option and could be cancelled at any time so I went ahead and clicked the six month option. I will be getting 12 boxes of a gluten-free, organic, hamburger helper type (but healthier) lasanga dinner. They stopped carrying this particular brand around here. I figure if we go through it faster than six months we can switch to three months and if we don't go through it as fast as I think we will, I can just drop the subscription.

Anyway, I paid $34 for it, which is $2.83 a box. This stuff cost $4 a box when the stores around here still carried it. So, add in the cost of a pound of hamburger (2.29 usually here on sale) and I've got a filling dinner for 4 for $5.12. Add a veg and it goes up a buck. Not bad for something super fast and easy to make. It's good to have back up items like this when I don't feel like making a real effort to cook.

I also ordered a cookbook as a birthday present for me. B&N didn't have it when I went in there before my birthday. Just as well. The price from amazon was $18.79. When I bought it at Christmas as a gift for my neice it was $30. It would have been worth paying that, though. It's a really excellent book that tells all about the ingredients and covers dozens of proteins and hundreds of fruits and veg, as well as having recipes for the items. It's a real learning tool for a cook and the pictures are amazing. I got free shipping on that as well.

Then I ordered a replacement copy of a novel of mine that DH took on an airplane two years ago and left behind. It's out of print now, but I was able to find it new on half.com for $9 plus $3.99 shipping from someone with 100% positive feedback. I'm considering that my b'day present, too, even though it's technically not.

I'll need to set aside the extra money for the AMEX when it comes due. I put a notation in the budget. I've been working slowly to get the budget set up so that it covers extras like this, and put on two columns as holding tank in and holding tank out, to keep track of any extra money in each category and when it's paid out. The holding tank will be saved in the same savings account as the safety net. For now, anyway. I may switch it over to the laptop fund account once I reach my goal there, just to keep it away from the easily accessible portion of our EF money.

I was running numbers last night and once the credit card debt is gone, we will have $4000 a month just to put to saving up for a downpayment on a house. That's $96,000 after two years, assuming all goes well. Add that to whatever we sell the house for and we'll have a pretty substantial downpayment. As much as I'm going to want to rush to get out of here once the debt is gone, after running the numbers it makes so much more finanacial sense to wait two more years. We're probably looking in a price range of $350,000 max and I'd like to not carry more than a $150,000 mortgage. I know it might be closer to $200,000, but hopefully we'll find something closer to the lower end of our price range and not the higher one.

We also want to buy a mini-van in 2013. Hopefully a 2011 Toyota Sienna because they meet all of our needs and are so nice. They are too expensive brand new, but the price drops substantially on two year old vehicles. We definitely want the new redesign though, so a 2011 car in 2013 will be just right. We'll have $10,000 saved by then for a downpayment and we'll have a decent trade in and we're used to paying almost $500 a month on the car anyway, so if we can get around that on financing the rest (probably 15 to 20,000 depending on mileage), we'll be in a good place for it. By then our FICO should be back over 800, which makes low interest rates our friend.

After that there will be at least $2000 a month going into a college fund. Her school of choice is the local U and it, at the moment, costs about $7000 a year (including books and fees) for a local student living at home. After a year of saving we'll have $24,000 set aside right as our daughter is starting college. I'll keep adding to it. Fortunately our children are four grades apart so she will graduate college in the summer that my son will start in the fall. Hopefully they can both get scholarships, too. DD is on honor role as a freshman and DS is testing well above fifth grade level despite his behavioral issues. So it's a possibility. I want nothing to do with student loans or having my kids start out their lives with the debt they cause.

BoA Again, Medical, and Library

February 17th, 2011 at 12:29 am

DH finally called BoA again tonight and they had no record of the previous phone call asking for the refund. Yes, BoA, your customer service leaves a lot to be desired. This time he wrote down the name of the person he was dealing with so we know who to complain about if the refund isn't actually processed this time around either. Supposedly it will be here in 2 to 5 buisness days, but I am so not holding my breath. It should not be this hard to get my own money back.

He also looked up the names of therapists on our medical plan. There are quite a few, thankfully, and one of them seems quite specifically tailored to my son's problems and he is within walking distance of where we live. Of course we will wait and see what the pediatrician has to say, but he won't be seeing her until March 17 because he also needs to get his shots for turning 11 which he doesn't do until the 13th and we didn't want to do two medical appointments.

I really don't much care for the new insurance program we have. When DH started this job it was a $500 deductible per person and $1500 per family. Now starting in March it's $1250 per person and $2500 for family. That's a lot of appointments before they even kick in anything. Even if I do end up having to get that surgery this year, I doubt we'll have enough in medical expenses to itemize. We'll certainly hit the deductible, but we won't get the 7.5 percent.

And I'm pretty sure that the deductible we've been paying since he started working there is going to start over in March with the new health plan and not put in anything we've paid up to then, which really bothers me. It's going to put our debt repayment back by months. I wonder if it's too late to do the COBRA plan from his job that ended in October. It's actually be cheaper and cover more.

My mother says if necessary we can stop paying her the $1000 a month we are repaying her on our loan to her, and just do the $300 a month we give her for utilities if we need to to pay our medical. That's the last thing I want to do, but I guess it's a good thing to at least have it as an option.

I took my daughter to the library after picking her up from school and we checked out some books today. I got the one mjrube94 was talking about yesterday by Jean Chatzky about paying your debt down $10 a day and another one by her, America's Cheapest Family and Live Well on Less Than You Think. These are for what I call "furthering my financial education." I also picked up a couple of novels. I rarely read novels anymore unless I steal them from daughter's library pile (the last few have been werewolf and zombie books for some reason, but turned out to be excellent).

This time I got a future apocalypse set in 2017 London and what I'm suspecting is a vampire book (rare blood disorder, yeah, right). They're both teen books, but I find I can usually avoid all the hard swearing in adult books and still read a good yarn that way, so I don't mind. Plus they stick all the adult paperbacks in with the adult hardbacks on the shelves and in the teen section the books are displayed so you can see the covers. I know they say don't judge a book by its cover but I always do. If I can't even see the cover and be grabbed by it I probably won't bother pulling it from the shelf unless I'm in a specific area like cookbooks or finance. I'm certainly not going to do it in fiction.

Anyway I'm halfway through America's Cheapest Family. It's not as good as Tightwad Gazette but so far it's at least interesting. Not particularly practical in my living situation at the moment, but will be someday when we're in our own house again.

Money to Debt and Counselor Meeting

February 16th, 2011 at 04:23 pm

I scheduled a payment last night of $400 to the BoA Master Card for today. I had to take the money out of savings, but I will replace it on Friday, which is payday. It was due tomorrow and I wanted to send a decent chunk, not just the little scrapings that were left in checking. It didn't come out of the EF, it came out of the money we set aside for property tax, so that has to be replaced no matter what. If the due date had fallen one day later I just would have gone to the bank on Friday and paid it in person, but this way works, even if I am temporarily juggling a bit of money.

My husband and I decided we were actually going to be more aggressive on the BoA VISA for the next few months instead of paying off the MC. The BoA VISA is an airmiles reward card and it's only got about $1000 of available credit left. We need to get it down so that there is about $3000 worth of available credit so it's further away from that upper wall. We've never gone overlimit, but I would just have more peace of mind this way. This is because this is the card DH uses to pay for his airfare to work and back every six weeks.

Once we get some breathing room, then we will take the extra money and get that MC paid off. We will also then be able to move the last autopay off the MC and onto the VISA. The goal for the VISA will then be to pay the autopay, the airfare, and the interest and about $50 more than that each month, while we throw the rest of our debt repayment money at the MC. The MC should then be paid off in three months time. The interest rates are the same so it doesn't matter too much how we do it, except once the MC is paid off it'll be one less payment and one bigger snowball.

Actually I should check with the health club. If we can take the monthly fee out of checking instead of having it on a card, then I wouldn't have to worry about moving it from MC to VISA. Most of our autopays are out of checking, but I have Netflix on the AMEX, because that is paid off without fail every month. We usually only buy gas on that one. Health club might do AMEX. I'll have to check. I don't want to be charging anything on the the VISA or MC that I don't have to, since the goal there is to pay them off, cancel that MC as it's the non-rewards one, and then only use the airmiles VISA for DH's work travel expenses.

I met with my son's school counselor today. We talked for over an hour. She wants to Vanderbuilt him. I called the doctor today and they'll be sending out the paperwork for that. I don't think he's ADHD, but I know he's OCD and there's other things the evaluation looks for. Bi-polar runs in the family on both sides and though I haven't really seen signs of depression in him, I've definitely seen signs of mania. Combined with his food allergies and his difficulties with peers, she thinks he probably needs therapy regardless of what the test says. I agree. I've suspected for a long time that this is the road we were headed down with him. I put a call into DH to see what our new medical insurance covers in the form of counseling. I can't find where he put the medical booklet.

The local grocery store had whole chickens on sale so I went ahead and picked one up today. It cost $5.15 and is between five and six pounds. We will roast it tonight, make chicken quesadillas and chicken fried rice with the leftover meat, and make soup stock with the carcass. I love getting 3 or 4 meals out of one base item. It's a pretty large chicken. Without DH here, I might have enough leftover meat to make enchiladas or Tex-Mex chicken and rice as well.

I love making roast chicken. I have a very simple recipe for it. Rub it with extra virgin olive oil, then sprinkle it heavily with basil, oregano, salt and pepper. Simple, but so good! For variation I will rub it with crushed garlic before rubbing it with olive oil, but I only do that when I'm not planning on making Mexican based dishes off the leftovers. I don't like the way garlic clashes with Mexican spices.

Sometimes I Really Hate Comcast

February 15th, 2011 at 02:52 pm

Comcast has a monopoly on phone service in the part of the county my old house is located in. Because we have an alarm system on the house (which has protected us three times from break-ins in the past six months), we have to have a phone hookup, because the alarm system has to be able to dial out to the monitoring company if someone trips it. That is the only thing we have a phone line there for. No one ever calls it, no one ever calls out from it. We don't even have a physical phone hooked up in the house, just the alarm system hooked into the phone line.

Well, it was bad enough when it cost $45 just for that most basic service, but the bill I just got today raised it to $51.91. $7 more! And it doesn't even say why. Are you kidding me? I am going to go over there Friday and complain yet again about the fact that it costs so much for basically no real service at all. I have to pay the same amount as people with caller ID, call waiting, and long distance. They keep telling me they don't have anything cheaper, but I just have such a hard time believing them when other companies can offer it for so much less in other parts of the county.

The phone service my mother has here in town costs less than $30 a month. It's a different company because there's actually competition in town. This company just drives me crazy when it comes to phone service. I like their internet, more or less, though it gets boggy from time to time, but when we buy our new house in town, we will definitely not be going with them for phone service (and we don't have cable television (an arm and a leg!) and won't get it or any other kind of television then, either).

Back from the Specialist

February 15th, 2011 at 12:52 pm

The good news is I really, really liked this doctor. Great bedside manner, mild-mannered, funny and attentive. I was instantly at ease with him. The bad news is he wants to send me to another doctor at Virginia Mason in Seattle. Because of all the scar tissue from the two previous surgeries he wants to send me to a lady who specializes in this type of surgery when there is scar tissue. He doesn't think there's anyone closer who is good enough. He said she's who he'd send his own wife to if she needed the same thing.

He did give me three weeks worth of free samples of three different medications that might help manage some of the symptoms, but not all of them, and definitely won't make them go away, just improve them hopefully. At this point any improvement is something I'll take.

I was pretty sure surgery was going to be the outcome of this, but I was really hoping I wouldn't need it. I never dreamed I might have to go outside my own city for it, though. The expense of going to Seattle, at least three times, once for initial consult and testing, once for surgery and once for follow up (unless that can be done here) is going to add an extra $120 in gas from the three round trips. Then there will likely be food eaten out, probably two meals. Can you get reimbursed from an HSA for travel expenses to and from a doctor's appointment?

I better start setting money aside in the budget for surgery. Seriously, I'm about to change my user name to SurgeryRobin instead of LuckyRobin. This will be my seventh surgery since 2003. I'm really tired of it. I keep telling myself that I am alive and happy and that nothing has ever been cancerous even if a couple things were still life-threatening because of locations and size of tumors. And this isn't even a case of tumorous growths, it's a case of scar tissue interfering with stuff.

And the last surgery wasn't even related to all this, it was knee surgery for a torn miniscus (and even though I'm still going through PT to walk right, I'm almost there.) So really, I am lucky. But I'm also just so tired of my medical issues getting in the way of me having a real life and being so expensive. At least this time around the insurance is decent. I have to count myself lucky there as well.


February 15th, 2011 at 09:54 am

I'm going to see the specialist today and I'm feeling sort of nervous. I get like this with doctors I've never met before. It usually goes away within the first few seconds of meeting the doctor (unless he's a jerk with no bedside manner). From all accounts this is one of the good doctors, but still I'm nervous.

Money out will be a $20 co-pay right off the bat, and then eventually I'll be charged for the whole visit since I'm still meeting my deductible. Best case scenario is that this is a problem that can be managed with medication that hopefully isn't too expensive. Worst case scenario is that it is a problem that can't be managed at all and I'll just have to live with it for the rest of my life. Somewhere in the middle is the prospect of more surgery and at least $2000 spent out of pocket to pay for it. I'm really hoping there is an inexpensive prescription option and I can just add it to the list of daily meds.

Still Waiting on BoA

February 14th, 2011 at 04:47 pm

Monday of last week DH called BoA about getting a refund on the amount we overpaid when paying off the loan balance of our Gold Star Option loan (which happened, mind you, because of an error on their part). They said it would be in our account no later than Friday. Friday came and went and nothing. Today there is still nothing.

I called DH at work, which I hate to do because his office is always so ridiculously noisy and he is always so busy. He's going to call them again. I can't do it because my name is not on the loan and they won't talk to me. They'll probably say another five business days and then it will probably still not be there. This is making me grumbly because I wanted to use that money on the MC bill that is due on Thursday. Now I won't be able to add that in. Oh, I can do it when it finally shows up, but I wanted to do it on this one.

I wish we could fine the credit card companies when they are late doing something like they do when people are late making payments. A lovely $15 to $30 surcharge every time they didn't follow through on their commitments would be nice. Or charge them the same amount of interest they charged on the loan (6.9% in this case) compounded daily. Might make them less tight-fisted when paying back the people they owe. Or at least get them to do it when they say they will.

I paid out $90 to the physical therapist today. My session went really well and I am almost walking normally again.

I noticed that Verizon did not take out the autopay today. It is supposed to come out on the 12th but when it falls on a weekend it usually comes out the following Monday. If it still hasn't come out by tomorrow that'll be another call for DH to make. He needs to put me on the Verizon account.

I have to go to the store for milk and DD is going to need cough drops, too, (I'll spend around $15 instead of the planned $12) so a bit of that $103 reserve is going to have to be used for that. Not too much of it, though. I should have at least $99 or $100 leftover still by payday Friday for savings.

I added $0.78 to the coin jar today and have five ones to add to the laptop fund.

$424.94 laptop fund beginning balance
$+05.00 amount added
$429.94 ending laptop fund balance

I broke my no eating out rule today. I made it 15 days, so not too bad. I got a double cheeseburger and drink from DQ for $4.71. It was actually very good. I was afraid I'd be disappointed because usually when I stay away from fast food for a long time it doesn't taste that great, but this did. Not great enough that I'll be tempted back into eating fast food several times a week, though. I'm probaly good for another couple weeks.

So far this month my ING savings account has made $2.37 in interest. I don't add that in of course until the end of the month when they actually add it to the bank account, but I like watching it accumulate, so I tend to check it once a week. I'm not sure what the interest rate is there right now, somewhere just under 1% I think, but it's a heck of a lot better than any of the CU's I bank at which are .4 to .1 percent.

The wind is blowing hard today. I've got flashlights located and lots of blankets ready in case of a power failure tonight. The temp is 45 degrees outside right now. Not too bad, but still, the house will get cold after a couple hours if it does go out, so best to be prepared.

Budget Doing Great

February 13th, 2011 at 05:21 pm

Well, I budgeted really well for this pay cycle. Because of how DH works, 3 weeks on (well 22 days straight), 3 weeks off (20 days, really), he ends up getting paid 4 weeks in a row, followed by two weeks of no pay. In the past it has been a challenge to run a monthly budget this way, but I've finally got it sorted as to how much money needs to be left over at the end of the four paid weeks to go through the unpaid two weeks.

There are five days until payday and I have $345 left. There are two things that will come due, one a cell bill of $140 (family plan, we have no landline, and this company is the only one that has reliable service in the arctic circle so we're kind of stuck with it being that high. Well, we could drop unlimited texting, but we have a teenager, and it's made my life easier, so, no, as long as we can afford it), and the other a payment for physical therapy tomorrow of $90.

I will need to buy 2 gallons of organic milk tomorrow, so that will be $12 (or $11 if I remember to print out the coupon). That leaves me with $103 left over, so barring any unforeseen money things cropping up, that money is extra for the pay cycle. I'm going to put it into the EF fund on Friday when we get paid.

We all slept in really late today. We're all dealing with the tale end of colds, and no one really wanted breakfast. I made taco salad for lunch. I used the whole pound of hamburger (the cheap sale stuff!) and there is extra leftover.

Homemade taco seasoning (.50)
Ground beef ($1.73)
Lettuce (.50)
Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese ($1)
Kids had tortilla chips, but I didn't. (.50)
Milk for kids ($1)
Total: $5.23

Snack for kids:
Air popped popcorn with all natural cheese powder (.25)
Apple (.30) (from fruit sale)
Orange (.30)(from fruit sale)
Total: $0.85

Beef pot roast($5.89)(there will be leftovers)
Leftover baked potatoes (free)
Homemade gravy made with milk (.50)
Broccoli ($1)
Leftover green beans (free)
Milk ($1.50)
Banana (me only)(.50)
Total $9.39

Food Total: $15.47

Luxury or Money Saver?

February 12th, 2011 at 08:14 pm

I am seriously debating spending $63 on a gallon of shampoo. Shipping would be free. I have seriously oily hair. Seriously. It only turned that way about a year ago. It used to be frizzy and dry. Hormones are weird. Anyway, I finally found this incredibly awesome stuff, that is pretty expensive in the small bottle form, $13.99 plus tax for 10.14 fluid ounces. This is $63 for 128 fluid ounces.

This is such good shampoo that I use about 1/4 of an ounce per shampoo even though my hair is well past my shoulders, and I only need to shampoo once. It lathers like crazy, you just have to work it a little longer than normal to get it to that point. Anyway, my usage works out to about 12 cents per use if I get the gallon. The smaller bottle works out to about .75 an ounce, or 18 cents a use.

It's only a savings of 6 cents a use, but I'd not have to buy it for a long, long, long time. I've never seen a coupon for this brand so I doubt I could lower the cost that way. The only place that sells it is a twenty minute drive away, so I'd use at least a gallon of gas round trip, and it is not a store I frequent at all. In fact I've gone there once (just a couple weeks ago) in the five years it has been open in our area and that was because I had a free $40 gift card. It is an overpriced store so I was really not liking the idea of having to make a special trip there just for the shampoo, even if I think the shampoo is worth it. If I had known it would be so good I'd have bought several bottles at the time.

I think I'm just balking at the idea of paying $63 for shampoo, even though it works out to over a year's supply. I'm the sort of person who gets professional haircuts twice a year and cuts my own bangs the rest of the time. I got by for years on shampoo that was usually 99 cents a bottle after coupons or on sale. It really works. It is the only stuff that does now. It shouldn't be this hard to part with my money!

Another Year Older but Far Less in Debt

February 12th, 2011 at 05:22 pm

Well, turning 41 doesn't really feel all that different from turning 40. But then I guess most birthdays for the last decade or so have really just been marking off another year more than anything else. Another year with less debt under our belts, so it's all good. I keep having that old, old song Sixteen Tons going through my head. The one that goes, "You load sixteen tons, and what do you get? Another year older and deeper in debt. St. Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go, I owe my soul to the company store." Only we have less debt after another year, but I still sometimes feel like I owe my soul to the company store (i.e. credit card companies). Just less of it now, you know? And less every month.

DD made me brownies because I didn't want birthday cake. A small batch of brownies doesn't linger in the house for a week tempting me to eat it. The kids made me a joint card, let me sleep in late, and cleaned up the house, and there has been no squabbling. That's the perfect present for me, really. Later we are going to play scrabble.

DH called and we got to talk for fifteen minutes. It's rare for him to be able to call during the work day so it was nice. He told me that he might have to temporarily start working 3 and 2's instead of 3 and 3's, so less time home and an extra $3500 or so net per pay cycle, and it would then be a five week pay cycle instead of a six week one. That would mean only one week with no pay check out of five weeks instead of two weeks with no paycheck out of six weeks. Part of me is not thrilled that he'd be home less, but the other part is going "WooHoo," because we'd be able to pay our debt down that much faster. But it's still up in the air right now. They are just swamped with work.

There is also a possibility of his day rate going up in April. That's the six month mark in this new job. I think I'd find it rather astounding if it did. Not because he doesn't deserve it, because he does, but he's already making money hand over fist. If we weren't in so much debt from all the medical spending over the last eight years, if we were completely out of debt, we'd be able to live on 25% of his current income and save the rest. At least right now 50% is finally going to debt repayment and the other 25% is going to maintain our old house and to savings. Once we are out of debt I am going to feel rich! Even though technically we will qualify as being middle class. To me, middle class without debt and living below your means is rich. Especially if you have the savings to back it up.

I am going to save as much as possible then. I never want to live in fear of what happens if layoffs loom on the horizon again. I want enough money to live on for a couple of years if it takes that long. I also want to have plenty set aside for college. Our local state university is running about $7500 a year with books if you live at home and don't live on campus. I never want my kids to have student loan debt. It'll probably go up before my fourteen year old and ten year old are ready to go, but I want to be as prepared for it as I can be. Fortunately I shouldn't have two kids in college at the same time. Because of how their birthdays fall, my son will start college the fall after my daughter graduates.

Money In Today

February 11th, 2011 at 07:27 pm

The $50 from the Verizon refund hit the account today. I had thought they were going to send a check, but apparently because we autopay out of our bank account each month they were simply able to deposit it back to our checking account. We weren't supposed to see that until next week sometime.

The $218.18 refund from overpaying the interest on the BoA Gold Star Loan however, which was supposed to be in our account "no later than Friday," did not arrive. Stupid Evil Empire. It will probably show up on Monday. I won't be withdrawing the $50 until Monday anyway so it's not that big a deal. Hopefully it will be there then.

I got my Costco AMEX rewards check today and took it to Costco to cash since I had to run out that way anyway and buy butter. This is the first time I've done this. I've only had the card for a little over a year. It was for $143.61. I threw the 61 cents into the coin jar along with a dime I found on the floor at Costco. The $143 will go into my laptop fund along with the $50 on Monday. I rolled the coins in my coin jar and have $13 for deposit to the laptop fund as well. I need to remember to get penny wrappers because I have a few dollars in pennies but nothing to roll them in.

$218.94 laptop fund balance
$050.00 Verizon refund
$143.00 AMEX cash back
$+13.00 rolled coin
$424.94 new laptop fund balance

I am halfway there, just have to put the money in the proper CU on Monday.

I had originally planned to put the BoA refund into the laptop fund as well, but have decided to use it on the MC instead because it was originally allocated for paying debt and it should go back to that. It's not like I'm going to buy the laptop before we pay our taxes in April anyway.

I am waiting for the rest of my World Points to hit my account at the end of February and then I will have enough points to cash out for a $250 refund. We have had this card for years and I had never really looked at our points balance before. I didn't even know it had a cash back system, I thought you could just get "stuff." But you can get cash, and we have 25,000 points so I will do that as soon as we can. That money will go to pay on a credit card also, so an extra $468.18 will go towards paying off the Evil Empire between this month and next.

Now for today's meal planning (I think I am going to stop listing prices at the end of February. I pretty much have a handle on the grocery budget now).

Homemade sausage patties ($1)
Cucumber slices ($1)
Milk (just the kids)($1)
Total: $4

Organic deli meat sandwich on homemade bun ($1.75)
Apple (.50)
Homemade cookies (.25)

DS (was sick, ate with grandma)

Roast beef panini with tomato, lettuce, onions, mayo ($3.99) I bought it premade from the store. I was being lazy. Still it is better than McD's
Homemade coleslaw (.25)
Total Lunch $6.74

1 can green beans ($1)
Leftover Meat (me)(free)
Leftover baked potato soup (kids)(free)
Quesadillas made with leftover chicken (free), tortillas, and cheddar cheese (just for the kids) (.80)
Mozzarella (me)(.50)
Milk (kids)($1)
Total Dinner: $2.30

Total food: $11.54

My stomach was rebelling against milk today so I just drank water and had a string cheese for calcium.

Odds and Ends

February 10th, 2011 at 10:56 am

Yesterday after school I stopped at a different grocery store to pick up scallions because I needed them for the two types of soup I am making this week. Well, something prompted me to go back to the meat department and check for any sales. They had 2 pound chubs on for $2.49 a pound and five of them had $1.50 off stickers on them with a sell by date of today and they still smelled good. That made them $1.73 a pound which was such an excellent price I went ahead and bought them.

I am lucky if I can find it on sale for $2.29 a pound and have grudgingly began to think $2.49 was a good price. But $1.73 had me practically doing cartwheels. I still miss .99/lb hamburger though. But anyway, $17.30 for ten pounds of meat is awesome and that will be anywhere from 10 to 18 meals worth of protein, depending on whether or not DH is home or away at the time.

DH finally got around to taking care of the Verizon refund. They sent us a $50 debit card instead of a check a while back and in order to get a check you have to then call the number on the card and ask them to send it to you. I don't know why they can't just do it in the first place. Debit cards are no good to me if I want to put the money in a savings account, which I do, my laptop fund one. Anyway, they said 3 to 5 business days so I should see it by Tuesday or Wednesday.

The refund from the loan should hit our account tomorrow. They said no later than Friday, but I was hoping maybe it would be there today so I could send it to the MC. Oh, well, I can wait another day. I just get impatient sometimes.

I entered both refunds into my spreadsheet that tracks those things. I also updated my freezer inventory spreadsheet with the meat I bought. I love that thing. It was quite a bit of work when I made it, but now that I have it and can just add or subtract from it and automatically know what I have in the freezers at all times with out looking, is an awesome meal planning tool.

I am in a weird mood today, craving lettuce like it is going out of business so my meal planning (at least for my meals, not the kids) reflects this. Also DS is home sick again.

(Everyone) Homemade beef sausage patties ($1)
(Just me) Lettuce dressed with E.V. olive oil and salt (.30)
(Just kids) Hashbrowns (.50)
(Just kids) Milk ($1)
(Me) Water
Total: $2.80

Leftover pizza (free)
apple (.50)
baggy potato chips (.50)

Half a chicken quesadilla
--3 ounces leftover chicken (free)
--1 tortilla (.30)
--1.5 ounces of cheese (.30)
Pineapple Juice (.50)

Ribeye steak (4 ounces, I cut up a big one, on sale for $3.99/lb over a holiday weekend) $1
Lettuce dressed with e.v.o.o. and salt (.30)

Total Lunch: $3.40

Dinner (for 4):
Baked potato soup
--potatoes (.80)
--8 ounces extra sharp cheddar ($2)
--Half a package of bacon ($2)
--8 cups whole milk ($2)
--16 ounces sour cream ($2)
--Half bunch scallions (.40)
Salmon (was on sale for $5.99/lb)--$4.50
Broccoli/Cauliflower/Asparagus ($2)
(Just Me) Yogurt ($1)

Total Dinner: $17.70

All meals $23.90

Dinner is very expensive tonight but there will be several servings of soup leftover (we'll eat about 1/3 of it tonight) and lots of veggies leftover for future meals this week. So I'm making planned overs which will bring the cost of the rest of the week down quite a lot. It's more about the average for the month than the daily average anyway.

I Saved $8.92

February 9th, 2011 at 01:35 pm

So I'm not much of a couponer. It's just plain hard to find coupons for the sorts of foods I buy, which are generally unprocessed whole foods. Not impossible, but hard. I can download and print two milk coupons a month from Organic Valley for their organic milk, but considering it's still $5 a gallon after you take off the $1 coupon, it's still not much in the way of coupon savings for the month. But with the great store coupons on produce at Cost Cutter this week, I suddenly found myself with a whole lot of coupons I could use.

I'm not just thrilled with how much I saved, but on how much I spent overall, which was $17.75. I got 15 pounds of potatoes, 2 pounds of strawberries, 5.25 pounds of oranges, 1.66 pounds of tomatoes, 1.5 pounds of lettuce, and a 4 ounce generic saline nasal spray for my son for $1.99 + .17 tax. Take out the $2.18 for the spray and I paid $15.57 for 30.41 pounds of food. My average food cost for this visit is 51 cents per pound! 51 cents! How often does that happen? Never, that's how often.

I seriously considered getting another 15 pound bag of potatoes and 5 pound bag of onions since you could get 2 each on their limit and those things will keep for a couple months, but it's a question of storage space, so I didn't. Oh, well, I did great and I'm very happy with it.

Feeling Better this Morning

February 9th, 2011 at 09:44 am

Last night when I was trying to figure out what to do about the taxes, whether to take it out of debt repayment or the EF, I went over the budget again. I was letting myself get a little panicky. I kept looking and looking for places to cut and then I realized I'd allocated $1000 for savings each month. I thought I'd allocated $100 for savings each month.

I am not used to this new pay grade yet and in my head I'd fixated on $100, but obviously when I set the budget up with the actual numbers, I'd put in what we could scrape up each month. So I'll have $2000 from that before the April 15th deadline and can take the rest ($4000) out of the EF and then immediately pay back $1000 of it to the EF at the end of April when there is a payday. Then I'll only have $3000 to payback to the EF, and with an allocation of $1000 to put in each month it'll be back up to where it is now pretty soon.

Although I didn't sleep great last night it was better than the night before and I think I have definitely turned the corner on this cold. Of course DS decided to come down with it instead. He's all fever, snot, and cough and walking around like a zombie. I've covered him with Vick's vaporub and have the vaporizer going with the inhalant poured into the litte cup thingy and he's taken two steamy showers this morning to help him breathe. Poor boy. So no school today for him.

Mom is going to watch him while I go to the produce sale later and I will pick up some saline mist for his nose. He won't use regular nasal spray or I'd be able to clear him right up. Fortunately I still have plenty of the dye free cold and allergy medicine. Walgreen's has their own house brand and even though it is dye free it cost less than non-generic cold and allergy medicine. But I stocked up on it several months ago and have a couple bottles of each on hand.

As for meal planning:

Breakfast for 3:
Soft-boiled eggs (free from chickens)
Toast and free jelly from aunt (.50)
Milk ($1.50)
Total Breakfast: $4

Lunch for DD
Leftover slice of pizza (so free, accounted for cost last night)
baggy potato chips (.50)
orange (.50)

Lunch for Me and DS
TJ's chicken noodle soup ($1.29)
Crackers for DS (.20)
Grilled ham and cheese sandwich (split between us) ($2)
Oranges ($1)

Total Lunch: $5.40

Dinner for 4 (Mom is eating with us):
Whole Roasted chicken (free, bought with gift card)
Olive oil and herbs (.50)
Baked potatoes (with the sale price this will be about .13 for a pound) so (.20)
Butter (.50)
Green beans ($1)
Milk ($2)
Total dinner: $4.20

Total daily food: $13.60

Grocery Ads and Coupons

February 8th, 2011 at 09:35 pm

Well, apparently I am in a very talky mood today. This is my third entry and I guess I am doing a lot of thought organization as I go. Anywho the grocery flyers came out today. Their Valentine's savings are actually pretty incredible, way, way better than their super bowl ads last week, except on beef.

I don't tend to use coupons often on groceries as we don't buy too much in the way of processed foods because of my son's allergies to additives, preservative, stabilizers, food colorings, grapes, raisins, and apples. It's shocking how much that is healthy is sweetened with apple juice or raisin juice, unfortunately.

But there are a few things we buy like Healthy Choice chicken noodle soup if there is a good coupon or sale. I like to have canned soup on hand for those times when I just feel too sick to cook or have an interminable case of the lazies. I won't pay more than a dollar a can for HC (but up to $1.29 for TJ's). Usually it's too expensive. This week they have a special on that if you buy any ten of certain items you get $3 off produce. Well, the soup is on special 10 cans for $10 and it qualifies for the ten items. And since broccoli and cauliflower prices finally fell to $1 a pound I can get three pounds for free. My kids love both of these things, but since they've been hovering near the $2 per pound mark I haven't bought them for a while. They also have cameo apples on sale for .59 a pound. It is so rare to find apples anymore for less than a dollar a pound (even in an apple state like this one). Even if my son can't eat them my daughter can. Also organic chili powder for 3.99 for 6 ounces. I don't use it enough to buy it in bulk, but I use it enough to keep a bottle around and I'm out. The sale is on the 11th through the 14th so I will go first thing Friday morning after dropping my son off at school.

Another store is having a sale Wednesday through Sunday with a bunch of produce coupons. 5 pound bags of yellow onions for $1.48, 15 pound bags of russet potatoes for $1.98 (ten pound is almost $4 on a non sale price lately), .68/lb for navel oranges, 1 lb of fresh strawberries for $1.98 a pound (limit 2, and that's rare to find even in season from the local farms), salad blends for .98 (limit 2, but cheaper than two heads of lettuce at the moment), and .98 cents a pound for fresh tomatoes (cheaper than what I can find canned for at the moment which will mean club sandwiches sometime this week for me for lunch, yay).

They have 4 ounce lobster tails on for $3.98 per pound. Per pound not per tail. $3.98 for four servings of sea food is an awesome price. I can make lobster tails for my birthday without breaking the bank! It's a nice surprise. I certainly wouldn't have thought to get them otherwise. Valentine's Day, I guess you are good for something after all!

They also have a store coupon for Bryer's ice cream for $2.87 (limit 2) and since my son can have the Black Label vanilla I'm going to get some. That's cheaper than the ingredients (and the time effort) to make homemade. It's on for $2.49 at another store but it would require a fifteen minute drive there and then a fifteen minute drive back and I don't think it's worth the gallon of gas to go clear over there for one item to save 56 cents when gas is over $3 a gallon. That's penny wise, but pound foolish.

I'm pretty excited about the produce sale. I should be able to have enough produce in general for the next two weeks and the potatoes and onions should last a month. I'm definitely going to be under the $500 grocery budget goal this month!

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