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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.