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Archive for December, 2006

Coin Jar and Kitchen

December 31st, 2006 at 11:28 pm

I added $7 in ones to my coin jar today. We have enough organic milk to get through until payday, DH comes home Wednesday and he can just go without until Friday. We have apple juice so he will deal. I also found two quarters and three pennies while I was cleaning.

Yes, I know I said I was going to be Mrs. Lazy Pants today since all of my closets are organized, but I decided I was tired of only being able to enter the kitchen from one direction. Our kitchen is laid out where it has an entry to the laundry room and entry to the living room and an entry to the playroom/exercise room.

The hall leading off the kitchen to the laundry room is filled with "stuff" either kitchen or laundry related and needs to be organized. I can't get through that way to the laundry room at all. I have to go through my room, through the masterbath and out to the laundry room that way. Which isn't that big a deal but has to be dealt with before we get the dryer fixed.

Usually we can only get into the kitchen from the living room because there is so much "stuff" in the doorway to the exercise/playroom. You can get into it from the living room so its just a major pain to always have to go around.

Most of the stuff was recycling stuff. A lot of cardboard boxes that needed to be broken down, cans and plastic bottles that needed to be taken outside and put in the appropriate bins. Pop bottles that needed to have the labels removed. Now we haven't bought pop since Labor Day, so this should tell you how long they've been sitting there. A bunch of plastic grocery sacks that needed to be shoved in one bag and put under the sink for use as garbage can liners.

Well, I finally tackled all that. It took me 2 hours, but everything is outside and in its appropriate bin, ready to go out Monday night for Tuesday morning pick-up. And I can walk through my kitchen in two directions and it makes me very happy.

Mortgage Stuff

December 31st, 2006 at 05:51 pm

It has really been bothering me that I wasn't able to send in extra principle on the medical mortgage this month. The regular payment is $910 and change but I always, since the beginning have sent in $1000. So after the tough month of January is over, I am going to make mortgage payments of $1010 for the next year. Not just for the next 9 months which would be the $90, but for twelve, because I imagine not paying the $90 extra this month makes more damage than replacing it $10 at a time can make up for. I wish I could make up for it next month by adding an additional $100 but that's not an option.

I will have to make the straight payment on my house mortgage, too this month I think. But that is only a difference of almost $25. If I can, I will squeak it out, if I can't, I will add it onto the next payment.

Financial Improvements--Food Management

December 30th, 2006 at 11:39 pm

I tend to track my leftovers pretty well. That habit is getting well-established. But trying to keep menu plans going, well, it works for a week or two and then I let it go. But during the weeks it works, it works really well. I want it to work all the time. Not working leads to meals out and way too much money spent.

I think what I need is six weeks of weekly menues that I can put into rotation. I also need to make enough at meals to provide for leftovers for other meals. Like tacos one night and taco salads for lunch the next day, spaghetti and meatballs followed by meatball sandwiches. Macaroni followed by macaroni pie, that sort of thing.

I want to have in place a working system by the time February starts. In the beginning menues should draw on what I have on hand in the pantry and the freezer. I have a lot of sauces that I picked up for cheap at Sunshine Liquidators, our local overstock and scratch and dent place. And they are all free of allergens or additives that we are allergic to or can't eat. So I need to figure out how to use them. A lot of them have recipes on the back of the bottle so I can play around with those and make sure they are financially feasible recipes.

I'd also like to do some OAMC, well maybe some shorter sessions that can bank some freezer meals for the nights were I am exhausted or sick. Just to make life easier and us not so prone to go out. That going out to eat is really what kills the budget. That and school hot lunches. Have to get those things under control.

Financial Bad Habits--Managing the Checkbook

December 30th, 2006 at 09:46 pm

One thing that I really need to get better at is balancing my checkbook. I tend to go for days with a general idea of where I am in the checking account, but I don't actually sit down and do the actual math. This makes it really easy to burn through money that probably should have been spent on other things or put into savings.

So I'd really like to break that bad habit. I need to try to keep it up to date and balanced daily, and if not daily then every other day. I also need to enter it into some kind of tracking software at least once a week.

Tracking software goes hand in hand with another thing I'd like to begin. I want to start tracking all expenses. Ultimately I'd like to do it all year, every year, but I think for now I'd like to do it starting with January and try it for a month and then re-evaluate after I get through the month. I'd like to keep a little notebook in my purse so I can write down everything and then transfer it over into a spreadsheet or something like that.

If I can manage to keep a spending journal and balance my checkbook daily, I think the miscellaneous money that gets frittered away would stop frittering and things would be easier for us.

Financial Improvements--Managing the Grocery Budget

December 30th, 2006 at 09:38 pm

I've been thinking a lot lately about things I can do to stay the course, or improve it. Some may call them goals or resolutions or steps and put them along with the new year, but I don't. Because I don't really like anything that starts with the new year or in any way smacks of a promise to do something better or different in the coming year, because take a wild guess what happens when I do do that? Anyone? Yeah, I don't do them.

So these are just things that I'd like to learn to do so that things go better for me as I go.

I'd like to keep my grocery budget to $200 a month, or rather $200 every 4 weeks. We have four people in this house. DH, who can usually eat a horse and drink a cow in one week's time. But he is only home 12 days out of every 28, and he is fed by work when he is up there. Me, and I eat maybe 2200 calories a day but I exercise vigorously five days a week and on my off days tend to only eat 1800 calories. My daughter, who has 1.5 hour basketball practice 3 nights a week and 2 1 hour long games on Saturdays, who tends to eat 2000 calories on work out days and 1400 on non-workout days. And my son, who is currently going through a growth spurt and eating about 1200 to 1400 calories a day depending on physical activity.

I think we should easily be able to stay within this amount if we completely stop buying convenience foods and eating out. I am wanting to eliminate all not from scratch foods anyway, as they have so many unhealthy ingredients. This should leave us with about $100 for meat protein, $30 for dairy and $70 for 100% whole wheat bread items, fresh fruits and vegetables each period.

We eat a lot of protein due to postprandial hyperinsulinemia (all of us have it except the youngest one and we feed him the same as us as he is showing signs of it, just hasn't been tested) and we don't like vegetarian meat substitues or beans of the non-string or green variety. Cutting back on protein is not an option for us to save money.

I think $100 a month should be adequate. We can usually get 10 pounds of hamburger @ $1.48 per pound, 10 pounds of chicken hindquarters @ $0.39 to $0.59 per pound, whole chickens at $0.59 per pound, beef roasts @ $2.49 per pound, tuna fish $0.99 (label must read tuna, water or tuna, olive oil, salt is okay--no autolyzed vegetable broth or any other additives), turkey legs or necks for $.0.69 per pound. We get 4 18 packs of organic omega-3 eggs a month at $2.19 per pack. If there is a good sale I will buy salmon or other seafood like shrimp or crab, but that is rare. All meat must be free of added ingredients, like a "10% solution added to enchance flavors," non-genetically modified, wild caught and not farmed in the case of seafood, no growth hormones, and free range. We prefer grass-fed and kosher, but sometimes there is a limit to what we can expect from our local grocery stores and most organic meat is out of our price range.

The most expensive thing is the sliced sandwich meats from Applegate Farms that have no additives, preservatives or in the case of ham has not been cured. The kids take that for lunches. Once it is opened it must be used within 4 days. I really need to divide these packages up and freeze the excess because the kids won't go through a whole one in a week's time. And also the organic milk is very pricey, too. DH drinks regular milk but the rest of us drink organic. DH can go through one gallon in 2 to 3 days by himself while we go through 1 in about 5 days. I can get coupons from Organic Valley dairy and I use my reward coupons from Fred Meyer as well.

I also need to start making my own bread products again. I have the bread machine, the ingredients and the recipes, but I never quite get around to it. I need to get around to it. Bread is pretty much my last convenience product but since we buy organic bread and 100% whole wheat bread, it is pricey. I can do this. I just have to want to.

This is all doable. It just needs to be done-able. Okay, making up words now. But I think my point is clear here. Just do it. I'll very grudgingly let this be categorized under goals, but I consider it more of a plan.

What Saving Advice Means to Me

December 29th, 2006 at 09:56 pm

When I first came on the boards and started blogging here, I felt like I was drowning. With a debt load rapidly approaching $250,000 I could not see a way out. Not a way that didn't involve bankruptcy anyway. But then one night I was suffering with a horrible bout of food poisoning following my neice's wedding and I was googling money and debt reduction and savings and I stumbled across this site.

And I started to read the blogs. And read, and read, and read, between runs to the bathroom. Not like I could sleep with those stomach cramps. I think I read blogs for 16 hours straight until I finally fell asleep exhausted and woke up thinking there was a way. I continued reading for about 5 days and then I started my own blog. And something miraculous happened.

I was drowning. But the people here threw me a life jacket. And then...then they taught me how to swim. And how to climb up onto the dock and walk away from the edge. Oh, I'm a far cry from the shore yet. But I'll get there. I know I will. Because I have you guys, you are my lifeline, you gave me back hope, you have been there since my very first blog entry and those who joined later as well, with welcoming arms and helpful advice and encouragement when I needed it and even when I didn't. So thank you to everyone. I can't even express what this place means to me or what it has done for me. But I am grateful every single day that I found it that day back in April. And that I found all of you.

2007 Budget in Place

December 29th, 2006 at 08:12 pm

I put together a new budget for the new year. It is pre-raise as the January raises obviously have not come through yet. DH is "supposed" to get a big one this year but it was "supposed" to come last summer and just keeps getting put off, so I'll change the new budget if and when it happens.

So far, it looks like we have $100 worth of wiggle room. Not exactly great but we'll manage. I want to try to split that $100 each month between raising the EF back up and saving for vacation.

Today's Financial Tasks are Done

December 29th, 2006 at 07:46 pm

Today has been a good day. I got all of my errands accomplished, though I think I must have hit the slowest drive-thru bank tellers in the history of the universe. And all I was doing was making a deposit! I didn't even need cash back. The easiest task for them to perform and despite being there first (it was a 3 lane drive thru) I was fifth out of six cars served because I chose the lane with the drawer and not the ones with the tubes. So I had to wait for the girl to press the button to open the door for me to get my deposit slip and check in it, despite having pressed the teller call button twice. Which she might have done earlier if she hadn't run off three times. The other teller seemed preoccupied with filling up the candy basket. Hello, last banking night before a big holiday weekend, get your act together. End rant.

But I got all the various monies transferred to my checking account and I mailed off the check for the Medical Mortgage. This is the first time ever that I have not paid extra towards the principle. I hate that, but this month couldn't be helped. When I pay the house mortgage next week it'll be the same thing. Ugh. But after that it'll go back to normal.

I was going to drop off my house insurance payment at the local office today, but the lazy bums closed at four instead of five today for the holiday weekend, so I had to mail it. I'm not happy about that, I prefer to do as many bills in person as possible but oh, well, what can you do?

I received a check from Your2Cents and deposited that into the vacation savings account, along with the ones and rolled coin. So the total deposit was $41.50, bringing the amount in that account to $61.50.

I can't remember if I wrote about his before or not. I have the opportunity to go to a convention for my support group for my disease in May and it is a tight knit group so it is going to be fun. Some of us will be arriving a day early to go to Disneyland for one day and I am hoping to be one of them.

I do not have to pay for airfare as DH has plenty of miles, so I just have to come up with the hotel fee and the park pass money. I can have a roommate to cut the costs and I may do so. DH's schedule works out so that he will be home to watch the kids. So if I can get the money saved it will all fall into place.

Plans for Today

December 29th, 2006 at 01:28 pm

I am taking my kids in to spend the night with my parents, so after I drop them off I am going to the CU to deposit my ones and rolled coin.

$26 in ones
$10 in quarters
$.50 in pennies

Total deposit: $36.50.

Hopefully, I won't have to use it for anything else and it can stay in savings where it belongs. This is not to build up the EF, this is the start of a vacation fund, along with $20 already in that account, bringing it up to:

Vacation Fund: $56.50

We plan to take part of our income tax return to build the EF back up and the rest of it will go to debt.

New Credit Limit

December 29th, 2006 at 01:20 pm

One of our oldest credit cards just raised our credit limit by $5000. So now instead of it having a limit of $20,000 it has a limit of $25,000. Are these people nuts? Who in their right mind allows someone to borrow that much money without it being secured? Oh, that's right, Bank of America.

Our other two cards with them, which used to be MBNA, have also raised significantly since BOA took over. One has a limit of $19,000 and the other of $16,000. Ridiculous. They really, really want to lure people into debt.

I think the reason they are so high is that we are finally starting to make headway in getting our debt down and they want to tempt us back into spending to get out balances up higher and making more profit for them. Greedy.

Savings Will Take a Hit

December 28th, 2006 at 11:32 pm

I decided to quit putting my head in the sand and hoping I wouldn't have to tap savings to make up for the generator money and sit down and crunch the numbers. So I did. And there is no way around using the money in savings. There just isn't.

So I will be left with $600 in savings. I'm a little bummed, but you know what? That means I still have $600 in savings, which is $490 more than I had when I started this blog and $600 more than I started 2006 with. My glass is still half full.

I probably won't be able to throw too much at savings until March. I've got homeowner's dues to pay of $125 at the end of this month, the second half of my 6 months car insurance to pay of $180.50 by February 22, and then I still owe $200 on homeowner's insurance between now and July and Property tax comes due April 30th for the half year of just under $400.

Medical is caught up for the year and hopefully no one gets sick between now and April as our per person deductible is $250 or $750 per family. I will have some dental to pay I think as I have a January appointment. I should be getting a check from the orthodontist in the next couple of weeks. They are usually around $250. Probably use half of that to pay the dues and the other half plus $30.50 to pay the rest of the car insurance.

I am dreading the propane bill. That may wipe out the rest of my savings account. Now that I am well and my wood pile is thawed out, I really need to go back to using the woodstove again. 2 months on propane heat, oh, I don't even want to know.