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Archive for January, 2012

Tax Software Advice Wanted

January 30th, 2012 at 02:51 pm

DH wants to buy tax software because this year is going to have the most complicated return we've ever had and he wants to make sure he doesn't miss anything. It's not really complicated enough to take to a tax professional, but he feels some kind of software might be necessary. He has always done our taxes by hand and then gone through it step by step with me so I would know how to do them, too if I ever had to. (I used to do my own when I was single).

So I've heard of TurboTax and Quicken, but which is better, more user friendly? I am also curious as to whether there was anything else out there. Possibly something that didn't cost anything at all? From what I understand you have to buy new software every year with the two name brands, you can't just update it. Is that true?

I Don't Get It

January 28th, 2012 at 07:45 pm

As I often do on Saturdays, I spent a good portion of the day looking for frugal blogs to read. And I keep running up against things that seem frugal until you actually read the blogs. Like people who are only spending $50 a week on their groceries, but then when you actually read it, it's $50 per person in their household (less for non-teenage eaters, though my eleven-year-old frequently out eats me on a daily basis and has done for a couple of years so I don't consider that very realistic). Well, if I go based on their numbers, I'd be spending $180 to $200 a week on groceries or about $750 to $800 a month for a family of four. And this is supposed to be frugal? In what universe?

I easily keep my grocery budget to $600 a month and if I wanted to give up meat, which I don't, I'd probably drop off another $150. If I wanted to buy cheap processed foods, which I don't, I could probably drop it another $100. But I like my meat and my healthy, unprocessed foods, so $600 it is.

I guess I just don't get why these people seem to think they are doing something spectacular. They aren't. Maybe amongst their friends and families, if they are spending $1000 on groceries beforehand, but in the real world? No.

Now if they were feeding a family of four decently for $50 a week total, that would be something spectacular. That would be something I would love to read. Wish I could find something like that.

Little Bit of a Payday Update

January 27th, 2012 at 09:41 pm

I haven't sat down and done all the bills yet. Physical therapy really wiped me out today and then I had to go to Walgreens and two different grocery stores, so I mailed off the one bill due on the 31st (just going to elsewhere in the county so will get there in plenty of time). That was the $100 for half year dues for the HoA of our old house's development.

I did have enough coins in the coin jar to roll both nickels and pennies, and I had another $1 in my purse, so with that I ended up depositing $35.50 into the Safety Net portion of the Emergency Fund.

$708.63 Beginning Safety Net Amount
+_35.50 Amount of Deposit
--------------------
$744.13 Ending Safety Net Amount

That brings the total EF to $3895.78, which means I only need to transfer $104.22 to ING to hit $4000 and not the few dollars more I thought it would be. I will figure out the ING money tomorrow as I have to put some other amounts in from what needs to go into the holding tank.

I also paid out the kids allowances today. DS got $7 and DD got $36 (I was a bit behind on hers and had to fill her envelope for 3 weeks worth of allowance). I also gave her $10 as she is spending the day at the mall tomorrow with her friends and will need to buy something to eat. She likes to go to one of the stir-fry places where they actually have real food, but they are a bit more expensive than the rest of the food court.

I also bought an extra large specialty pizza tonight for $28.17. I was in the mood for a bit of a splurge. And I spent $2.16 on a prescription. And $169 and some odd cents on groceries and OTC meds as well, refilling my cold medicine stockpile for DS (the dye free stuff he needs to have because of his allergies). I think that's it for today.

Extra January Money Update and Revising Some Goals

January 26th, 2012 at 06:39 pm

Okay, so I had $2306.05 left over from the money that I saved up to cover the 4 week period with no paycheck in January. I finally decided what to do with it today.

I set $1000 aside for future medical expenses. I will use $1000 of it to go towards debt repayment. $23.05 went into the propane portion of the holding tank, and I added the final $283 to the Emergency Fund. I also added 10 cents in interest from the Safety Net account at the CU, that I forgot to add at the end of the year.

So that brings the grand total of the Emergency Fund to $3860.28. My goal for the EF was to hit $4000 by the end of March. I think I will revise that goal to hitting it by the end of February. Actually I might have to revise it more, since I will be depositing $31 to the Safety Net and $100 to the EF at ING out of the paycheck.

Oh, wait. I just did the math on that. I only need an additional $8.72 to hit $4000 then. Umm...okay, I'll deposit $108.72 tomorrow instead of $100 to ING. So that's that goal met. Okay, then. Let's see if I can hit $4250 by the end of February then.

I finished writing my February Budget Spreadsheet and updated my January one. Everything should be pretty straight-forward now, so long as I can keep my head on straight.

Coin Jar/EF Update

January 26th, 2012 at 05:18 pm

I added $4.28 to the coin jar, which is what was left in my purse at the end of the day. I also found a $10 bill in my sock drawer, so I added that to the coin jar as well. I have $31 in bills so I will make a deposit in to the EF tomorrow. I just need to count up my coins and see if I have enough to roll anything. I'll probably have at least one roll of pennies and I think I was getting pretty close on nickels last time I counted them, so maybe those as well.

This is the first time I've added to the EF in quite some time. I should be able to send at least $100 out of tomorrow's paycheck as well.

I need to sit down and figure out how much of the leftover money I saved for the four weeks no paycheck time period should still be allocated for medical and how much should go to either debt repayment or the EF. Today's the first day I've even felt like looking at my spreadsheets so I should probably take advantage of that as who knows how I will be feeling tomorrow, especially after physical therapy.

I will make up the February Budget spreadsheet as well, and finish recording the Januray one.

I am so Tired

January 25th, 2012 at 02:41 pm

Is it normal to feel exhausted after losing a parent? I am barely doing anything. Just the bare minimum to keep the kids going to school and fed and throwing in a batch of laundry. Otherwise all I really want to do is sleep. I am getting plenty of sleep, but I still just feel like I need more. I'm not even particularly sad anymore the majority of the time, just sort of bland. I have to force myself to eat, because it'll be two in the afternoon and I'll realize I've not eaten anything all day.

I was never like this when my grandparents died. I was sad, but I wasn't useless. Dad and I weren't even that close for most of my life. I feel like I should be bouncing back faster than I am. Grief can be so strange. My mother seems to be handling things so much better than me and they were married for 54 years. She always has been very strong.

My son has his first orchestra concert tonight so I have to force myself to go out and be the proud mother. I would never disappoint him by not going. Maybe being around other people, happy people, will help.

I am so glad finances are on autopilot right now. I will have to do some stuff on payday Friday (or at least on Monday), and I think I can pull out of my funk long enough to do so. Life goes on and bills must be paid.

Forcing Myself Together

January 25th, 2012 at 12:42 am

I keep telling myself life goes on and I have to go with it. And that I can't let the finances slide just because I'm stuck in this feeling of unreality. So I balanced the checkbook. I have $34 left until Friday, which is payday. I made it without spending even half of the money that I saved for the four weeks no paycheck period.

I emptied my coin purse into the coin jar. It had $1.54. I haven't done too much shopping lately, first because of being snowed in for a week and then just being generally lethargic and not wanting to go out anymore than necessary.

The gas tank on the van is still almost full and we've got what we need in groceries to get through the week. And part of next week because I bought a lot of oranges and apples and carrots and celery. I did not like going down to empty on my produce during the snow. I may have canned pineapple and pears, but believe me, there is only so much of that you can take.

There are no bills coming due until the first of the month and those are on autopay, so I don't have to worry about anything until the 3rd. That gives me a bit more time of walking around in this fog without worrying I'm going to miss paying something.

DH will be home in another week and that will help me settle and start feeling normal again.

My Dad Died

January 22nd, 2012 at 02:45 pm

Last night at midnight my father died. Even though my head knows it is for the best, he had Alzheimer's, MS, was blind, and was mostly deaf, it still hurts. We knew it was coming. We weren't blind-sided. I was prepared for it. But it still hurts.

It's Green Again!

January 21st, 2012 at 05:14 pm

A foot of snow melted overnight. It's hard to believe it could be gone so fast. There has been some flooding, but surprisingly nothing major. There are a few wet basements being pumped out and some creeks that went over their banks, but the rivers seem to be holding it in.

I never thought 45 degrees F would feel warm! But it does. I hope this is the last of the winter stuff. I could easily go without anymore snow this year.

Of course, my biggest impulse right now is to go and get takeout after more or less being trapped for so many days. I'm not going to, but why is that my biggest impulse? Why is my head screaming pizza, or burgers, or Mexican food? I've gone longer than a week without getting takeout before. Why is it such a big deal to me now? I don't think I'll ever understand how my mind works.

Anyway, we are having breakfast for dinner. Pancakes and and ham, with green beans on the side. Fast and easy and no need to spend money at all.

Snow Starting to Melt

January 20th, 2012 at 04:37 pm

The weather warmed up a trifle today and we had a tiny amount of rain, so the white stuff thawed a little. We're in for a bunch of rain over the next five days so hopefully that'll take care of it and we'll be snow free again soon.

I spent $3.35 on a perscription today, one I've had to do without since Monday. Mostly because I ended up not sleeping for 56 hours and that was one of the most miserable experiences of my life. My brain just would not shut down. I was so glad the doctor was finally in today.

We did end up getting out to the chiropractor yesterday, and then stopped by the grocery store. It is nice to have oranges, apples, bananas, and green stuff again, as well as bread and milk. I don't think my fridge had ever been this empty before. We ate up everything that was in there and some stuff from the freezer. So this is what a no leftovers left behind week looks like.

I bought some vitamins as well which made things pricey and I walked out of the store having spent $186.42. But I was getting some staples as well, since I really wan't trusting the weather forecast at that point. I will have to go to TJ's on Sunday, but other than that I should not have to grocery shop again until February.

Cabin Fever

January 19th, 2012 at 04:17 pm

At least the snow has stopped falling. That doesn't do anything to get rid of the heaps of snow already on the ground but at least it isn't being added to. Today is another snow day from school, the third one this week, and of course, the fourth day off from school since Monday was a holiday. The kids are bouncing off the walls. They did make snow ice cream, but that took all of five minutes.

In case anyone wants to know how to make snow ice cream, take eight cups of clean snow, and mix it with one can of sweetened condensed milk and some pure vanilla extract. The recipe called for a tbsp, but that was too much. I think a teaspoon or even 1/2 a teaspoon would suffice. Tastes a bit like and has the consistency of the ice milk they used to have when I was kid.

I do want to try to get to the store today. We are almost out of bread and milk. I suppose I could make bread if I had to, but I'm really not up for it. Mostly, I'd just like to see a new set of human beings. They've plowed the roads, so it's just a question of driving very carefully on the ice that's left.

Weather enforced frugality is not nearly as much fun as frugality by choice, I'm noticing. We haven't had mail delivery for a few days either so no enticing seed catalogues to look through while I dream of spring. Oh, well, we have power and plenty to read or watch as long as Netflix streaming doesn't go down.

I imagine there is going to be massive flooding again this year when the rain comes and this stuff begins to melt off. At least we are uphill from any bodies of water near us, though I imagine the basement pump is going to be running non-stop anyway.

Another Enforced No Spend Day

January 18th, 2012 at 03:39 pm

The snow is great for my finances. It's really hard to spend money if you can't even get out of the driveway! Not impossible, of course, there is always the internet, but I am well-disciplined when it comes to internet shopping and never shop just to shop.

I am so sick of the snow already and there is just no sign of it stopping. Last night they said we were supposed to get 15 more inches and it is well on it's way there.

There probably will be no school at all this week. This is the second snow day, and it's been really nice to lounge around in pajamas all week and not even worry about getting up, shoveling off the car, clearing the driveway and trying to drive on snow with ice underneath it.

Speaking of pajamas, I am so glad I made the investment in three pairs of full length PJs. They have made such a difference this winter in helping me to stay warm without having to turn the bedroom space heater on much.

I probably won't get to have any physical therapy this week. I've already had one session cancelled and I doubt very much that my next scheduled one will happen since the weather has only gotten worse. In fact, I may cancel it if they don't.

I did slack off on my exercises on Monday, but I did them all yesterday and then I went on the internet and found a couple of stretches for the psoas muscle, because I have suspected for a few weeks that it might be part of the problem. There were two I could do that didn't involve getting on the floor or on my knee. After I did them, I felt so much better! I've been in misery for weeks and these simple stretches relieved so much pain. All I can say is God bless the people who put stuff up on youtube and here's hoping SOPA and PIPA don't pass on the 24th and censor the heck out of it.