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I saw a great concert last night - FREE!!

July 15th, 2008 at 03:00 am



I have enjoyed George Michael's music for many years, and I got to go see him perform in concert last night in Dallas! My employer has a suite at the American Airlines Center, and if no one has customers they want to take to an event, employees are able to request tickets for their own use. (Doesn't mean they will get them, but they can request them!) Smile So I was able to go and take a friend of mine, and sit in the suite and enjoy a great concert, for free!! It was an awesome concert, and I had SO MUCH FUN!! Big Grin

As an update to my "refrigerator replacement challenge," my fridge finally kicked the bucket late on Thursday night. Luckily I knew it was coming, so I didn't lose very much ... just condiments, etc., most of which had been in there for way too long anyway! I will replace those items as we need them. I was able to find a used fridge on Craigslist for $150 that is actually bigger than our old fridge, which is nice. No ice maker, which we did have in the old fridge, but that's something I can live with. The important thing is that it works well and I was able to scrape up enough cash to pay for it! I ended up taking the $150 out of my challenge money because I needed it sooner than I was able to get the money transferred from my EF (which is in an ING account). I still need to update my sidebar to reflect that.

And, last but certainly not least, I've already had 6 no-spend days so far this month!! Smile

Murphy came to visit me - how rude!

July 10th, 2008 at 02:59 am

He KNOWS he was uninvited and is NOT welcome here!!

I posted last week about my refrigerator making a noise and not cooling well, following a power outage we experienced. Well, the noise has gotten worse ... it's just awful! And now we've noticed that the drinks in the fridge are not as cold as they should be, so it's not just the freezer. The strange thing is that the ice maker is still making ice, but it isn't making very much so I guess that just indicates it's taking the cubes a long time to freeze. So I have to buy a refrigerator. I've been looking on Craigslist for a few days, so hopefully I will find something soon. The money will have to come from my emergency fund, unfortunately. I'm trying to find something for $150 or less, so hopefully the fund won't take too hard a hit.

I was told an hour or so ago (by my daughter, via text message) that my ex lost his job today. I don't have any details yet, but she is supposed to call me later. She was riding in the car with him and my son at the time, on their way to drop her off for a visit at her grandparents ... from there, my son and ex are going to a new student conference at Texas A&M, where my son will be attending college. It's disappointing news about my ex's job; he hasn't had it very long, so I can't imagine what happened unless his company is suffering from the effects of the economy like so many others are. Obviously this worries me as far as getting my child support payments on time, since they were coming direct deposit from his company when he got paid every two weeks. He's never not paid me, though, so I need to not worry about it. I just hope he can find something else really soon.

Speaking of jobs, I've been giving a lot of serious thought lately to getting a second job. I think it would be fun to work at Starbuck's ... what do they pay, does anyone know? I'm assuming it's minimum wage. Of course, with them having to close stores now, I probably can't get hired on there. Well, it's a thought. I have nothing to lose by filling out an application!

Did some decluttering today, finally!

July 7th, 2008 at 04:22 am

I decided to start my decluttering process with my closet, so that was my project for today. I recently lost 37 lbs., so most of my clothes do not fit me anymore ... and I don't ever want them to fit me again, so I am giving them all to Goodwill! I now have 6 large trash bags full of clothes and shoes to donate, and my closet looks mahvelous!

I also found some old purses that I'm getting rid of, but first ... I had to go through them and make sure all the bits and pieces were cleaned out. In that process, I came up with $2.39 in change, woo-hoo! I'm going to add that to my challenge money.

Now that I've gotten started on the decluttering/purging, I think I can continue. I'm going to tackle another area next weekend.

One more note: the first three days of July were no-spenders!! Smile

A no-spender to start the month

July 2nd, 2008 at 01:09 am

Not only did I have a NSD today, I had a total of 8 of them in June, yay me!! Smile

I updated my savings account totals to reflect interest earned in June, and updated my CC debt amount. The savings accounts are slowly inching their way up, and the CC balances are slowly inching their way down.

It's mid-year review time at work, and I have completed my self-assessment. I'm eager to see if my supervisor concurs with how I rated myself. I asked her today if there's any chance I will get an increase with this review, and she is going to look into it. As a review, I started w/the company last Oct. 8, and Oct. 1 was the cut-off date to be eligible for merit increases at the beginning of this year ... so I did not get one. I will, however, get one at the beginning of 2009, which is when everyone gets increases across the board (unless they had a bad review). I'm not optimistic that I will get an increase now, but I figured it couldn't hurt to ask!

I'm nervous that my refrigerator is about to croak! We had a big storm about a week ago, and we lost our power for 3.5 hours. That in itself is highly unusual; in fact, I think it's the first time we've lost power for more than a couple of minutes in the five years we've lived here. Anyway, since that time the freezer has not been as cold. The ice maker is still making ice, but the ice cream and popsicles I have in there are still very soft. The coldness setting was already up to 6, so I put it on 7 (which is the highest setting) and it seemed somewhat better the first day after I did that but now the ice cream is soft again. It's also making a really loud noise when the freezer is running. Thankfully I don't have much in there, so I'm not worried about losing a lot of meat, etc. ... but I really don't want the expense of having to replace the refrigerator. Time will tell .......

CUTTING back ..... yep, it hurts!!!

June 25th, 2008 at 02:06 am

Man oh man, this is the first month I've gotten the new (reduced) child support, and I can sure feel it! I got myself in a funk this past weekend, just poring over the budget numbers again and again, trying to figure out more places to cut ... while still trying to pay down my debt and save too. It is hard, and that word "cutting" describes how it feels, LOL!! But then I reminded myself that I am in a much better place today than I was a year ago:

1. My current salary is significantly higher than it was at my previous job, and I am able to contribute 6% of that to a 401K (with a 3% match). Before, I didn't have a 401K. Oh, and I also contribute to a health spending plan, and my health insurance is great.

2. A year ago I had NO savings at all. Today I have almost $2,000 in various accounts (see sidebar), to which I have been able to contribute regularly.

3. A year ago I had to use my credit cards every month to make ends meet. Today they are in a block of ice in my freezer, and I have not touched them in months. (Granted, most of them are maxed out because of all the charging I did until I froze them, LOL!) Not only am I not adding to my CC debt, I am able to pay the minimums on all the cards ON TIME, which is slowly but surely whittling down the debt. As soon as the dust settles on this latest financial change, I hope to start snowflaking, too!

So I can see that I am making tiny steps now, and as long as I can continue to keep moving forward, no matter how tiny the steps, eventually this process will get a little easier. I should get a salary increase (as well as some sort of bonus) early next year, too. So I just have to be patient, and this will gradually get easier. As long as Murphy stays away and I can avoid touching my EF, I'll be okay. Looking at things that way, it seems like where I am right now is probably the most challenging (painful) point ... at least, I hope so!

There was a comment made to my last entry about starting a savings account for the purpose of Christmas shopping this year, and I think I've about decided that's what I'm going to use my Smarty Pig account for. The $25/month automatic deposits won't add up to the amount I'll need by year-end, but it will give me a start. I also just remembered that I will get the $100 bonus in my "Save Yourself" account in October/November, so maybe I will earmark that $100 to add to my Christmas fund in Smarty Pig.

So now I feel somewhat better ... actually, I feel immensely better than I did this past weekend! Now I just have to figure out where the money is going to come from to buy my son the things he needs to go off to college and live in the dorm come the fall semester (which will be here in the blink of an eye)! Well, his dad will definitely have to help out ... especially since his monthly income has gone up by the same amount mine has gone down!! Big Grin

I hate credit cards!!

June 15th, 2008 at 05:13 am

Okay, we probably all hate credit cards. But I had finally reached a point of acceptance and I have been taking action by paying down my old debt while not incurring any new debt. I have even made some progress ... so I'd started to feel encouraged, and maybe even begun to see a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. Then I got a couple of my CC bills this month and noticed the balances had gone UP instead of DOWN ... and I knew I had not charged anything (my cards are still in a block of ice in my freezer)!

Upon closer examination of the bill from the first card, I saw that it has an annual fee of $39 which was charged to me this month ... which I am sure I knew before I got the card (obviously about a year ago) but have forgotten. In fact, I am sure I not only knew about the annual fee but I didn't care about it at the time; however, I sure care a LOT now!! Ugh. To make matters worse, when I originally got this card it had a 0% APR, which went up to 14.9% in February. That same month I was also late paying my bill ... so in March the APR went up to 29.49%!!! Dang!!

As if all that weren't bad enough, the closer look at the second card (to see why my monthly minimum payment went up) revealed that this company also raised my APR this month, from 15.99% to 24.99%. I emailed to inquire about that and got the standard reply about how they can raise the APR if I pay late and/or go over my limit ... but I've not gone over my limit at all this year (quite the opposite, in fact) and I have only had one late payment, also back in February (Christmas killed me). So why is my APR just being raised NOW for a late payment back in February?!! ARGH!!

It's just SO frustrating to finally be making noticeable progress, then have a couple whammies like that come from out of the blue. And of course these things have to happen the same month my child support is reduced!! It's discouraging.

But I do have a couple of positive things to report! So far this month I have four no-spend days, which is awesome for me! I also opened up an account with Smarty Pig, and I'm doing once-a-month auto transfers of $25 into that!! So I need to concentrate on my positive actions and not the negative circumstances that have developed this month. I know if I can persevere through this rough patch and continue to pay my minimums plus whatever small amounts I can manage to scrape up, soon I will have another card paid and I'll be able to apply that amount to another card, and my snowball will gain some momentum!!

I got my first Pinecone check!

June 2nd, 2008 at 01:03 am

I received my very first Pinecone check on Friday! That will bump up my challenge fund balance to $225.09. It's so funny how excited I am over a $3 check. Big Grin

The kids have two days of school left; well, my son is actually finished because he is exempt from all of his finals. So he will be working more, and it remains to be seen if he eats at home more often or less often (I'm thinking about food expenses here!). Hopefully the food bill will stay about the same; I will have to buy more, but I won't have to give the kids lunch money. We'll see.

My son's graduation is coming up on Saturday, and family is coming in. It was decided that my ex and his wife will host a cookout at their house afterwards for both sides of the family, which is a relief to me financially. It will be the first time my dad/stepmom have seen my ex's parents in 10+ years (the dads used to be the best of fishing buddies), so I think it will be a good gathering. I'm grateful we are all on such good terms and able to do this type of thing, for my kids' sake.

I updated my credit card debt total for the end of May, and I have shaved off just over $1,000 from my total debt since the beginning of this year, woo-hoo! Now THAT excites me! Now the real challenge begins ... trying to keep everything paid up on my lower income, since my child support has now gone down. I am seriously thinking about getting a second job. It would be great to get a big raise at work ... but I don't think I can expect one quite THAT big!

BIG Income Cut Approaching

May 17th, 2008 at 08:47 pm

My son graduates from high school in 3 weeks. According to the terms of my divorce decree, that is the point at which my child support will decrease. That means this is the last month I will get the amount of child support I have been used to receiving for 9 years ... $1,319. Beginning next month, I will be receiving $795, or a decrease of around 40%. Since I have only just begun to get a grip on my financial situation this year, I have not planned for this event. I'm starting to feel some fear!

I did get my car air conditioning problem repaired, although it might just be a temporary fix. I went with the mechanic who gave me the third opinion on the problem, because he actually took the time to LOOK for the real problem, his estimate was reasonable, and he actually seemed to be leveling with me honestly. The first mechanic told me to take the car to a dealership because he thought there was a problem with the car's computer and he did not have the proper equipment to diagnose/repair it. (I heard "computer" and equated that to $$$.) The second mechanic told me I needed a new evaporator core, which would necessitate removing the entire dash of the car, which would mean a charge of over $900 in labor alone! I decided to get a third opinion because the first two were different, and I couldn't see spending my entire baby EF only to find the evaporator core or computer was not the problem to begin with! The third mechanic, after spending a LOT of time looking, found a wire that wasn't connecting to the compressor, or to something else connected to the compressor. He also added freon because it was low. Why do I say this might be a temporary fix? Because I might have a leak somewhere in the system, since the freon level was low ... it might be a slooooow leak, or I might find myself back in the shop in a couple of weeks with no A/C again. So far, so good (it's been just over a week), so I am hopeful that IF I do have a leak, it will be one of those slooooow ones.

It just seems like it's always something, you know? At least I had my stimulus money this time, so I was able to use that for my repair bill and I didn't have to dip in to my baby EF!

Stimulus payment appeared ON TIME

May 3rd, 2008 at 01:26 am

NOT early ... but on time, as originally promised. I can certainly live with that ... I just wish it had never come out in the media that payments would start going out early, because then I had that expectation! Big Grin

I got $600 -- $300 as a single parent, and $300 for my daughter. I wish I could throw the whole thing at my credit card debt, but I'm still driving around with no A/C in my car ... and, trust me, it's a miracle I've lasted this long without air! (It's been about 4 weeks since it went out.) I *hate* to sweat, and I live in Texas so A/C is a necessity as far as I am concerned. But the temps have been pretty mild still (highs in the low to mid-80s) and I have covered parking at work, so when I get in my car to drive home at 5:00 it's not too hot, and I can get home in 20 minutes. But the temps will be climbing higher now, and I need to get the air fixed. I just need to get a third opinion to try and figure out which of the first two opinions I got is accurate! Either way, the repair will be costly, and the $600 stimulus payment will only take care of about half, at most. Frown But, I'm very grateful to have that $600 to help out!

Early stimulus rebate?? What a TEASE!!

May 2nd, 2008 at 12:23 am

Okay, well MAYBE I did get my hopes up just a little bit, but I really thought I'd get my payment a little bit early! The last two digits of my SSN are 15, I filed my return super early (as soon as I got both of my W-2s), and I e-filed and got my refund deposited directly into my account. So ... when all the talk of payments being made earlier than first announced (May 2) began, I expected to get mine at least by today ... but nooooooo!!!! Poop. Frown

Car repairs, and a bad habit crept back in!

April 27th, 2008 at 11:58 pm

I haven't posted since the end of March, and now it's almost the end of April and time to tally up how much (or, more to the point, how little) I've paid down my credit cards! I still read the blogs here almost every day, but I just don't seem to have much to post on a daily basis.

The bad habit I refer to in the title of this entry is not writing down what I spend each day. I did great for the first 3.5 months of the year, but I looked at my expense notebook earlier and noticed it's been two weeks since I wrote anything down! Shame on me! I've had to do quite a bit of spending in that two weeks, too; mainly for clothes. I officially reached my goal weight today at my Weight Watchers weigh-in, and I have had to buy some new clothes for myself (still have more I need to buy also, but that will have to happen slowly). I also had to buy some new clothes for my 18-year-old son; not only did he need some shorts and T-shirts for summer, but he needed some khaki slacks and dress shirts for the national DECA competition he's participating in right now in Atlanta.

I've also had to shell out some cash (from my emergency fund) for repairs to my son's car, and am going to need to shell out a LOT more in the very near future to get the air conditioner in my car fixed. I'm putting that off as long as I can, but it's amazing I've gone almost 3 weeks without A/C at this time of year here in North Texas! We even got a cool front last night, so it's been quite pleasant driving my car today. It helps that I park in a large parking garage at work, so I don't have to get into a HOT car at the end of the day, and my drive home is only about 8 miles. In the morning it hasn't been an issue. I don't normally go out at lunch since I bring my lunch pretty much every day. But there's no way I'm going without A/C through the 100+ degree temps we get here quite regularly every summer! When the A/C first stopped working (it blows hot air) I hoped I just needed some freon, so I took it to the place I take it for oil changes. The mechanic there checked it out and told me he thought it was a computer issue and I'd need to take it to a GM dealership. (Sounds very expensive!) A week later I decided to drop it off at a garage across the street from my office; they get a lot of business from people that work where I do, so they told me they wouldn't charge me a diagnostic fee ... what did I have to lose? Well, the mechanic there told me I'd need a new evaporator core (I think?) and gave me an estimate of almost $1300 ... OUCH!! After they told me that, they took $100 off the estimate, so it's now ONLY $1200. Still more than I want to spend and pretty much wipes out my emergency fund!! Having gotten two different diagnoses of the problem doesn't bring me great comfort, either ... so now I'm looking to get a third opinion! I absolutely despise dealing with car issues.

The deal with my son's car is even more frustrating. My ex-husband and I are going to be taking the mechanics that worked on my son's car to small claims court in the very near future. I have to get all the paperwork done and filed, since the car is in my name (my old car), and then we'll get a court date. Hopefully we (me, my son, and my ex) will get some of the thousands of dollars we've poured into that car back!

The good news is that I've gotten a $10 gift card from MyPoints, so I put $10 into my challenge for that. I also got a $10 award check from Opinion Outpost, which went into the challenge. There have also been some grocery savings I added, so my total to date is $172.07. I need to update the amounts in my sidebar now! Smile

Slow Going

March 31st, 2008 at 04:53 am

I haven't posted much lately, but I am here reading pretty much every day! I am still taking my lunches to work, and still writing down everything I spend money on daily.

Like a lot of others here, I'm looking back at the past month's spending and seeing how I did. I'm happy to report 7 no-spend days in March! I'm encouraged when I look at my savings totals slowly going up, and when I look at the balance in my newly-established Vanguard account after only two pay periods of contributing. But the debt is going down SO slowly! I got popped with some overlimit fees last month that showed up on this month's statements, and that really discouraged me. I've made several very large payments on my cards this year, and it doesn't seem like it when you look at what I still owe ... because the interest just keeps building and it seems like I am taking 10 steps forward and 9 steps backward. It's going to be a long trek at this pace!! But I know slow and steady progress will get me where I want to be.

I know that as I get a couple of the smaller cards paid off and start putting those monthly amounts towards other cards, I will be able to see more of a difference. It's just discouraging right now. At least the weight loss is going well ... only a little over 4 lbs. to go until I reach my goal, woo-hoo!!

What Our Government Spends on INTEREST

March 29th, 2008 at 02:59 pm

Thanks to rduell for posting the link to Maxed Out yesterday. I just finished watching it, and WOW! I imagine it has a profound effect on anyone who sees it. I think I will send the link to my son (who is going off to college in the fall). It was so sad to see the loved ones of the several people who saw no other way out of debt but to kill themselves. Just heartbreaking. And so preventable!!

One statement in the film made my jaw drop to the ground: The U.S. Government spends more on interest than on homeland security, education, and healthcare combined. Absolutely staggering. And it scares me to death!

Very powerful film.

My Credit is Frozen!!!

March 6th, 2008 at 03:37 am

Because I put my credit cards in a ziplock bag of water and froze them!! Smile It's something I've been meaning to do for awhile, actually ... finally just DID IT.

Thank you, Ima Saver, for sending me the $25 bonus certificate for opening an account at ING!! I got it last week and opened the account with $500 of my EF; there's another week to go before those funds are available for withdrawal, so I will wait until that time to transfer the remaining $1,000 and close the account at my brick & mortar bank. (I felt nervous opening the account w/the entire amount, just in case I needed to get to the cash.)

Last but not least, I already have two no-spend days this month, woo-hoo!!

Only 2 no-spend days this month??

February 27th, 2008 at 06:03 am

That's not very good, I must definitely do better in March! Of course, this month isn't quite over yet, so I still might manage one more. I rather doubt it, but we'll see.

I spent this evening trying to figure out how much I will need to pay each month, minimum, on each of my credit cards in order to pay off all my CC debt by the end of 2010. Very sobering exercise. It's going to require about $550/month, which I am not at all sure I can do consistently and still stash money away each month for periodic expenses such as car repair, clothing, gifts, etc. Well, at least I have a solid guideline now; if it doesn't work, I will just have to tweak it! And I plan on calling some of the CC companies several months from now and asking them to lower my interest rate; I'm waiting until then because I want to establish a better payment pattern. Hopefully I will be successful, which will definitely help me get this debt paid off sooner! I seriously don't even want to think about how much money I have paid credit card companies in interest and fees over the years. Sickening. Frown

Not happy ... ING, here I come!

February 23rd, 2008 at 06:59 pm

I just checked out my bank balances, and the $4.00 came out of both of my savings accounts yesterday ... so now I have $1,496.00 in my EF and $124.18 in my Challenge account. ARGH!! Knowing that I can keep my money at ING for free makes me that much more irritated to pay $8.00 to keep it in my brick & mortar bank. I don't mind keeping my checking account there, since it is no-fee because I have my salary direct deposited.

So, does anyone know of any special deals for opening an account at ING? I am ready!!

ING: What are the Pros/Cons?

February 22nd, 2008 at 12:48 am

I have been pondering putting my savings in an ING account. I have read on this forum that you can have subaccounts w/ING? How does that work? Do they charge monthly fees? My bank charges me $4/month, and I just hate that! What is Electric Orange? Is that their checking account?

I'd love to hear from all who have accounts with ING. Pros and cons, any and all feedback welcome!!

Retirement Plan is now set up!

February 21st, 2008 at 12:12 am

Finally!! One more step in the right direction, woo-hoo!! Smile

Oh, I guess I should add that I went with the 100% target allocation for now. Maybe one day later on down the road I will feel like I know enough to play around with it, but that day is a ways off just yet. Thanks to all of you for your input, you helped me out a LOT!!

Time to set up my 401k -- HELP!!

February 14th, 2008 at 04:00 am

I have decided it's time to start building a retirement account. I know I need to concentrate on paying off debt, but I really feel like I need to get started on retirement at the same time. I really should have started long ago, but that wasn't possible with the way I'd ruined my finances. Now I work for a company who will match 50 cents for each dollar I contribute, up to 6% of my base pay. I think I'd be crazy not to get started!

Where I stand right now: I got my tax refund, and immediately put $1,500 into an emergency fund. I paid the remainder of my February bills today, and I still had over $1,000 left. I received half of my Feb. child support today and deposited that, and the other half will come at the end of the month. I also have one more paycheck still coming this month. So I am in a great position to set up my monthly budget so that I can put away set amounts monthly in categories such as gifts, car repairs, things that always totally knocked me off course in the past. At the same time, I have started my debt snowball! I paid off my first (smallest) debt, and I am getting close to paying off the next one!

I spent some time today reading all the 401k literature I was given when I started my job last October, and I am SO confused! All this financial stuff seems like Greek to me. I thought I would turn to all of you to get some advice and input. I know there are some real financial wizards in this group!

I have decided to contribute 6% of my salary. There are 10 different core funds in which I can invest: Fixed Fund, Vanguard Total Bond Market Index Fund, Vanguard Wellington Fund, Vanguard Windsor II Fund, Vanguard 500 Index Fund, Vanguard Growth Index Fund, Pacific Capital Small Cap Fund - Class Y, Wells Fargo Advantage Small Company Growth Fund - Administrator Shares, Vanguard International Growth Fund, and our company stock. I do have fact sheets on each of these funds, including their overall risk level rating (1-5), so I can answer questions (but reading them all just confuses me further)! Big Grin

All suggestions welcome!!

Got my tax refund!!

February 9th, 2008 at 04:57 pm

I used Turbo Tax and e-filed, and got my refund directly into my account yesterday, exactly when they said it would show up! So, take notice of my emergency fund total to the left ... it is now $1,500 instead of $0!! I also was able to update my challenge fund, since I got a $10 check this week from Opinion Outpost. The "Save Yourself" account is at TD Ameritrade, and it's the Suze Orman deal where if you put at least $50/month into the account for 12 consecutive months, they will add $100. I set that up when I started my job back in October. So, I am feeling pretty excited! Smile Now I can really focus more on paying down the debt. I will update that total at the end of each month.

As it turns out, I was not eligible for a merit increase at work after all, based on my start date of October 8 and missing the Oct. 1 cutoff, etc. (basically the same reason I did not get a bonus). The person who told me I would be eligible for a merit increase is actually in H.R., and she felt really bad about her mistake the next day, when I told her that I'd learned that morning I would not be receiving an increase and why! I was a little resentful initially, but it was just a mistake on her part (and heaven knows I have made plenty of those!), and I decided I just need to concentrate on the positive, which is that if I had not gotten this job, I'd still be working in my old job at less than half the salary I now receive!! I really am fortunate now to have the job I do, and I want to make the most of this opportunity. I am excited about what this year holds for me, and it's up to me to make it the best it can be! Smile (Thanks to baselle for telling me how to get the smileys!)

No Bonus for Me!

February 1st, 2008 at 03:15 am

Well, today was the day that everyone got their bonus deposits ... but nothing showed up in my account??? I asked a girl I know who started exactly one week before me if she got anything, and she said she did. Turns out if you started working for the company after Oct. 1, you were not eligible for a bonus. I started on Oct. 8 ... yes, that means my friend started ON Oct. 1, therefore she was eligible! Oh well, that's the way it goes. It was even in my offer letter that I would not be eligible, I had just forgotten that! It would only have been 25% anyway, for the last 3 months of 2007, so next year at this time I will get 100% of the award for 2008. I also found out today that I am eligible for a merit increase, so that's pretty cool! I won't find out until next week or the week after that how much, but it will be effective from tomorrow and will show up on mid-February's paycheck. I'm sure it won't be much, but I will take it whatever it is!!

I looked at my totals for January tonight. I had 7 no-spend days, woo-hoo!! And I was totally shocked to see the amount I spent at the grocery store in one month ... terrible! I just struggle so much with feeding all of us. First of all, I am doing Weight Watchers, and I find it easiest to eat the frozen Smart Ones or Lean Cuisine meals every night, usually with a salad that I make. But boy does that get expensive!! Secondly, I am really NOT a fan of cooking anyway, so I do use a lot of other convenience foods as well. I don't know what I'm going to do about that ... I am going to pay a price either way, with my money or with my time (which I also have very little of).

Hey, how do I get those smiley faces that so many of you use?

No Spend Day!

January 29th, 2008 at 04:19 am

First, thanks for the comments of support, they really help me feel like I CAN do this!!

I had my 5th no-spender of the month today, so that is pretty cool. There were also two days this month where my only expense was the $3 admission to my daughter's basketball game, so those are *almost* no-spenders! Most weeks I also have a day or two where I have to either stop for a gallon of milk or ask my son to bring home something from the store where he works (and I pay him back). I wish I had an extra refrigerator/freezer so I could buy enough to last an entire week without having to make mini-trips, but oh well.

I should be able to eke at least one more no-spender out of this month ... since I really am BROKE right now!!

Seriously Derailed

January 27th, 2008 at 03:30 am

I am still around, but have just been lurking. I can't stay away from this site, I read everything! I dream of being able to post about MY success, but I haven't made any strides yet, so I have not posted. I need to get myself on track.

Christmas buying really put me in a bigger hole than I either planned or realized. I couldn't pay all the minimums on my credit cards in December, so I incurred some late charges ... which, of course, has just gotten me further into the hole. Trying to get caught up this month has left me flat broke! Add to that the fact that my ex got a new job, so he's going from paying me child support in full at the beginning of each month to paying half of it twice a month, when he gets paid. So I have some adjustments to make to get used to that new set-up. It will all work out, it will just take a little time ... and I am impatient, especially when I'm waiting for $$$ because I currently have none!

I have to amend the rules I made for my own challenge. The PayPal funds I transferred into my challenge account at the beginning of the month had to go towards bills. I figure that ANY substantial amount needs to go towards building my EF, then to paying down my debt. Given that, the larger amounts I get from eBay sales as well as the garage sale I plan to have in the spring will go towards savings and debt reduction. My challenge fund will consist of smaller amounts that come from coupon use when buying groceries, as well as awards from doing surveys and completing rebates, things like that. Following those guidelines, my challenge fund currently stands at $87.22!! This comes from a couple of rebates, coupon use, and my first check from Cash Crate. Oh, also a check I got from my insurance company last week in the amount of 8 CENTS!! Please.

I still don't have my bonus, but I think that is paid this coming week (end of month). I don't anticipate much, and I am struggling so to get caught up with my bills, I will probably use it towards those. I am also waiting to receive the W-2 from my last job (which should arrive this week as well), so that I can do my taxes. I already estimated I will get several thousand back (due to the EIC), which will be great. I plan to use it to fund my baby EF first, and the rest will go towards the CCs. I also need to buy a few clothes, since I have lost enough weight now to make a big difference in how my current clothing fits! But I am going to stick to resale shops for that, especially since I still want to lose enough weight to make a difference of another size.

I have been doing really well as far as recording and tracking my spending, and I've taken my lunch to work every day, so I am proud of myself in those areas. Between budgeting and dieting, taking lunch to work is a necessity!

My first deposit into my very first Challenge fund!!

January 2nd, 2008 at 03:26 am

I transferred $150 from PayPal into my checking account yesterday; it will take few days to show up in the account, so I went ahead and transferred $150 from my checking account into my Challenge acct. Since I started with $20, I now have $170 in my challenge fund! Woo-hoo!!

I have a new notebook to write down my daily expenses in, so I can keep track of everything I spend. I tracked expenses for December in You Need A Budget, and I'm going to continue that. I've set up a new spreadsheet to begin this year, and I am going to break down my grocery expenses even further to reflect spending in the categories of cleaning products, pet food/supplies, etc. (anything that is not food). I think there are things I could cut back on, but I want to get a clear idea of what I am spending in each area.

I also got a couple of ideas from reading others' blogs here. One is to make a resolution that I will not incur any late fees at the library! I am notoriously bad for that, and there's no excuse for it ... especially considering we can keep items for 3 weeks AND renew online if we won't be returning items on time. Same resolution for video rentals! I go with the intention of renting ONE video, and I inevitably leave with 2 or 3. Of course, I don't have time to watch 2 or 3, so I have to keep them longer. You see where THAT goes!! Another thing is to really try this year to wean myself off soda, specifically Diet Coke. I drink waaaaay too much of it, and I know it's bad for me. And there's no telling how much I spend on it! (Maybe I'll track that as well!) It's my coffee ... I go for it first thing in the morning, and drink it most of the day at work. Bad, bad, bad! Maybe seeing how much I'm spending on it will help me on the road to cutting back ... WAY back!!

Anyway, here's to a great 2008 for everyone! I know it will be quite a financially eye-opening learning experience for me!

$20 Challenge, etc.

December 31st, 2007 at 04:02 am

Lots of activity here on the board, in preparation for a new year! I've noticed several of you talking about your net worth. This is probably a dumb question, but how exactly do I figure that out? (I'm not sure I really want to know my net worth, LOL!)

I have decided to start my own $20 Challenge for this year. I opened up a second savings account awhile back with a purpose in mind for it, but I never really did anything with it so it was just sitting there pretty much empty. So I upped the balance in it to $20, and that's my starting point. Into it I will deposit any rebates I receive, money from online surveys (which I have started doing since joining this board), and any funds from eBay and garage sales or Craigslist sales. I have a rebate coming soon from AT&T (for my daughter's cell phone) in the form of a Visa debit card, so I will put the cash equivalent into the account and use the card for groceries. Same plan will apply for any survey proceeds which come in the form of cards of any type. As far as garage sales, well, I need to have one. I have lived in my current rental home for 4.5 years (following divorce and major downsizing in living quarters), and I have boxes out in the garage that I have never unpacked. I hate having garage sales, but I know the time will come that I have to get rid of all that stuff, and I might as well profit from it. So I'm going to plan to have a sale, probably in the spring (unless I get a wild hair sooner than that!). In the meantime, I can list small items here and there on eBay. I currently have a bit over $80 sitting in my PayPal account for items I've sold over the past week. I have another auction ending tomorrow, so when the funds from that come in I'll transfer that $100 or so into my challenge account. I'm sure I'll make up other rules and guidelines for challenge money as I go, but that's my starting point. And I'm not sure yet what I'll do with the money, but I'll probably put it towards paying down my debt ... which increased almost $300 over Christmas (yikes, I'm going the wrong way)!!

Not sure if I mentioned that I started a new job at the beginning of October, so I'm fairly new with a very large company (with great benefits!). I'm supposed to be receiving a bonus at the end of January, which everyone receives; know that it won't be much because I started w/the company so late in the year, but whatever I get will be great! Depending on how much it is, I will probably use it for my Emergency Fund (which I still do not have in place yet). At least, it will be the starting point for my EF, something to build on! Then I hope to be able to file my tax return fairly early as well. My taxes are pretty simple since I don't own a home or property, don't have investments, etc. Not to mention the fact that I made hardly any money last year! The past couple of years I've gotten pretty good refunds (several thousand dollars), thanks to the EIC, and I anticipate the same this year. Whenever I receive my refund, that's going to be thrown directly at my debt!

Next thing I need to look at is starting my 401(k); my company will match 3% so I'd be crazy not to do it. I just find all the information so confusing. Can't I just say "I want X amount deducted from my check each pay period, y'all take it and make it grow"?!!

A little of this, a little of that ...

December 20th, 2007 at 06:26 am

I am here every night, reading the blogs, but gosh, I didn't realize it had been so long since I posted an entry in my own! I've joined a few of those pay-survey sites, and actually qualified to take a survey tonight for the first time. I also joined CashCrate and have already become eligible for my first $10 payout, woo hoo! I've got a few things listed on eBay, as well. I guess I need to start my own challenge with these sorts of things.

I've been tracking my spending for almost a month now, so I'm interested to see what my totals are. I'll probably do that next week when I have more time to devote to it. I've done surprisingly well at taking my lunch to work every day, which has been great for my budget as well as my diet! I'm really surprised that I've already noticed how quickly small amounts add up ... such a basic principle should be easily understood (or so one might think), but I seriously have only just begun to see it! This is pretty big stuff for me!!

Christmas shopping is almost done, but I'll be out on Friday night to finish up. My daughter and I are driving about 4 hours to see family this weekend, and we'll celebrate our Christmas then. My son is staying home because he agreed to work a couple of shifts for a friend before he realized it was when we were supposed to go away; I agreed to let him stay and work because he's got a big down payment due on his car insurance renewal in a few weeks, and he really needs the money! It will be strange celebrating Christmas without him there, though. My daughter and I will drive back home on Christmas Eve, then both kids will go to their dad's. I plan to spend Christmas day looking at my expenses, budgeting for January, and researching financial aid options for my son (who was accepted last week into Texas A&M, his first choice). Merry Ho-Ho!!

Read Any Good Budgeting Books Lately?

December 9th, 2007 at 06:11 am

I could swear I have read in a couple of blogs here that there is one particularly good book (and I know it's not a Dave Ramsey book) ... and I was going to look to see if my library had it. The other night I got online to look, and I couldn't remember my PIN for my library account. Today I remembered the PIN, and I can't remember the title of the book! Anyone have any ideas?

Pathetic

December 4th, 2007 at 05:00 am

My son is filling out applications for financial aid for next year, so he was asking me some questions tonight. One of the questions was how much I have saved. It's pretty pathetic when the 46-year-old mom has to tell the 17-year-old son she has $100 in her savings account! Geez, my son has more money in his savings than I have in mine (not much, but STILL)!! I don't think he believed me at first. I can hardly believe it myself, actually ... it's such a depressing feeling.

Kinda Bummed

December 3rd, 2007 at 05:44 am

I sat down yesterday to pay some bills and do some budgeting, and at that point realized that I really can't start my gung-ho plan of action for saving and paying off bills until next month ... because I haven't bought any Christmas gifts yet and I have no money set aside for doing so! What was I thinking? I have no idea! Anyway, I spent quite a bit of time trying to "find" money in other areas of my budget, and it's really going to be tight. I still don't know how I'm going to manage, but I will figure it out. On top of that, my son's car (which used to be mine, and it's been a money sponge since I bought it) went in the shop before Thanksgiving, and it's probably going to cost $800 or $900 to repair (more than half of that is labor). My ex-husband proposed splitting the cost 3 ways, which I agree is fair, but could it have come at a worse time?? Ugh.

On a brighter note, I am really proud of myself because not only did I take my lunch to work EVERY DAY last week, I prepared dinner EVERY NIGHT -- NO take-out food at all, period! Woo-hoo!! I wrote down everything I spent money on, every day, and even in just the short time I have been doing so I can see how much money I've been wasting up until this point, on insignificant things and fast food! It's really quite an eye-opener!! So, even though I have this setback in my plan, I am still excited about it!

I have seen the "$20 Challenge" referenced in many blogs here, but can someone explain to me exactly what it is? It seems like there are several different ways to do it. I'd like to know more!

Organizers and iPods

November 25th, 2007 at 12:37 am

Thanks to those of you who left encouraging comments! I'm really pumped for this, and I am so glad I found this site so I can compare notes with all of you!

It was a cold, rainy day here, so it was a lazy one for me. My son's car is in the shop, so I did have to take him to/from work (about 15 miles round trip). Besides that, I took my daughter to Blockbuster to buy a used PS2 game. She has some birthday money, and she found a game she wanted that only cost $5, so she was happy (and when she's happy, I'm happy). Then we went across the street to Staples so I could pick up a medium-sized notebook (to carry in my purse) so that I can write down everything I spend money on each day. They only carry the one I wanted in a 3-pack, so I wandered over to the aisle with the calendars and organizers to see if anything else would work better ... I should have known better! I have such a weakness for things like organizers, and I already have a calendar that is perfect for me which I carry around in my purse, so of course I did not NEED a new one. But I found this really nice zippered cover to hold an agenda and a pad of paper, and I thought it would be so perfect ... but my current agenda was too big for it and I'd need to buy a new one ... and they were $20, and the cover was $14, and the agenda doesn't even start until January so I'd have a whole month ahead of not really being able to use it, etc. After 30 minutes of going back and forth over it (seriously!), I was proud of myself for walking out of there with the 3-pack of notebooks, one of which is in my purse right now! I spent $3.58 (as opposed to $35-$40). Woo-hoo!

I need to start Christmas shopping. I try to do as much as possible online, and have used eBay a lot in past years. I'm lucky in that I really only have to get gifts for my kids. My family quit exchanging gifts years ago, which is fine by me! I have no significant other to buy for, and none of my friends and I really exchange gifts anymore. I started a new job 6 weeks ago, and I'm not sure what (if anything) is done there about gift-giving. The one thing I do know my son wants is an iPod, the "classic," 80 GB. (I've already told him it's probably the only thing he's going to get, IF he gets it!) The cheapest I've seen it advertised for is $249.99. Has anyone out there seen it any cheaper? I'd love to know where, if so!


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