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Archive for January, 2012

Other People's Money, and is it appropriate to gift this?

January 27th, 2012 at 06:14 am

I haven't necessarily came to place of "peace of mind" over my finances. I am aware that we should be putting more into retirement and education, and it seems that there are always those extraneous expenses despite being the pro-active in planning. I try to take the least expensive route someplace before taking the more expensive. I'm trying to educate myself about different scenarios in our future and figuring out the monetary upside and downside of these options. But overall, I am satisfied. I give myself (and DH) the grade of a solid B for of efforts and achievement and planning.

But, other people's money ... I can't let it get to me. I haven't quite figured out how to safety distance myself from OTHER PEOPLE'S chaos about THEIR MONEY. The amount of time I can listen isn't open-ended. My advice isn't worth much, because I've tried to offer it in the past. I'm thinking this is going to my strategy and I'm interested in feedback.

I want to go to the used bookstore and pick up Mary Hunt's Debt Proof Living book - two of them. And I want to give them to the two people in my inner circle who need them. BF who makes continued bad choices and is on the brink of disaster herself (hates her job, is probably facing being fired, and her option for employment - in a traveling worker capacity - and key to this is the option of renting her condo out, and that isn't an option for a year as indicated in her refinance papers). Brother will be unemployed in two weeks and the details of his practical life need to be settled, given he has a company car, a company cell phone, a company computer, insurance through the company, and his house was put up as collateral to the business. Quite a complicated endeavor to have himself extrapolated from his employment situation.

So, do I give these books now? Or later? Or never? And I should add that I no longer give unsolicited advice, and both of these people regard me as a good money manager and planner and have asked for money advice in the calendar year of 2012.

It's a duck

January 26th, 2012 at 10:39 am


If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it most likely, probably, is a duck.

Seems that financial unrest and monetary chaos abounds in my inner circle. Brother and unemployment around the corner, and best friend's poor financial decisions, yikes!

Best friend just refinanced her mortgage (this is a good thing) to escrow in her real estate taxes and insurance into the payment. She's another poor, poor money manager, single, no dependents. Her first mortgage payment isn't due for another month, so she went out and bought a new couch from Pottery Barn because they offered her both the regular sale and the moving sale. I just saw her place and there was nothing wrong with her old sofa, looked nice and went well with her new lazy boy. So anoyhow, she bought the totally unneeded, but wanted sofa for a smidge under $1K. (Did I mention her student loans are in deferment because she can't pay them and she makes $80K a year? And she can't pay down her credit card detb because she doesn't make enough.)

Couldn't help biting my tongue and saying that with the career change that DH is considering we'll be faced with significantly less in the monteary realm. To that she laughed and said, "You'll be fine. You're a planner. And if DH has keys to the food pantry, none of us will go hungry."

Me, oh my! Spend $.17 OOP at Walgreens for two 12.5 ounce boxes of Honey Nut Cheerios and a 2L of soda (one is first item for brother's stockpile).

Sad for me I won't be able to sit on my brand new pottery barn sofa pondering my financial concerns!

This is really all in humor this post, making me glad of my mindset and my money management skills, though always room for improvement. I did drop off all the completed paperwork for the $20K scholarship my daughter is applying for. I've got a good feeling that she is a definite for one of the 27, given our commitment to all things Catholic and the glowing letters of recommendation she got.

Done with ramble. Quack!

Fear for the poor planners

January 25th, 2012 at 06:53 am

I talked to my mom this morning and found out that my brother will be unemployed in three weeks. He's a partner is a small law firm and while there's a contract in place, he won't be receiving much/if any compensation. He's lived high on the hog in many years past, but this working for himself has brought in not nearly enough money in the past. I feel sorry for him that he is a poor planner. Of course my father won't let him lose his house (nor would my father let me lose my house if I were in a similar situation), but I'm worried about how much stress this will cause him. As small as my EF is, it is at least in existence and could cover bare bones living expenses for four months. And I have plans, versions A and B, for different scenarios. I'm hoping that he's able to land on his feet soon and I'm going to look through my coupons to see about helping him build a small stockpile of convenience foods (spaghettio's and cereal).

Hopefully the lesson taken away from this situation is "It is best to put something away for a rainy day." You never know when it will rain!

Weekly Money Maximizing Strategy

January 23rd, 2012 at 12:30 pm


OK, now that the bills and budget seemed to have taken care of themselves and fallen into a logical rhythm (and we're not paycheck to paycheck and a full month ahead on things) and money is on auto-pilot, I'm deciding to be more proactive on steps to maximize the money (and make those dollars scream as I stretch them).

Here are the plans for the week to maximize the money:
(1) Check Goodwill and the resale store for jeans for the youngest child, hoping to spend no more than $5
(2) Transfer Rx from Jewel to Dominick's to take advantage of a $25 coupon off of a $50 shopping trip. There are three Rxs I can transfer prior to the 3/31 end of offer.
(3) Take advantage of Walgreen's Triaminic offer 2/$10 with a future $5 offer (using $3 off) and then using that for cereal. I will do this once and only buy as needed.
(4) Limit local driving to save on gas usage.

I plan on posting Mondays on what I can do to stretch the budget. Any ideas on things for you to do?

Monday, Monday, Can't trust that day

January 23rd, 2012 at 06:16 am


That is the only title I could come up with at this moment. It is indeed Monday and dreary, with rain, I think, predicted for the day. Depressing clouds block the non-existent sun and all of the freshly fallen snow from Friday has melted to show patches of brown dead grass. Frown Can you tell that I'm ready for spring?!

In my last post I shared that the federal taxes are filed and accepted and the refund of $4,583 should be direct deposited on 2/1. I'm using those funds to get the property tax monkey off my/our back. This is the first year that our state or county is offering a prepayment option, so I'm exercising that and with my accumulated $1,600, I should be able to pay off $6,000 of the $6,800 by 2/2. While I'm still in paperwork mode my goals for the next two days are to finish up state taxes and scholarship applications/financial aid paperwork, which is really just sitting down and re-entering all the numbers. I'll hopefully have that done and finished by tomorrow with DH faxing the supporting documentation to the Facts Tuition folks on Wednesday morning.

Our weekend was low-key, but we did have our first monthly family outing. I'm one of those people who has recently figured out that the calendar isn't really something to live by. It can be totally overwhelming by activities and things. This Saturday upcoming is an example of great schedule chaos: the Cub Scouts Pinewood Derby is 12:30-3:00. Set up is prior and our den is in charge. I have another child with a basketball game one suburb north at 11:00 and another child with a baskeball game TBD. So that means that I rush from one activitiy to another and worry about being late and/or worry about coordinating with other parents.

Yesterday was one of those rare days with NOTHING on the calendar, a whole blissful Sunday to ourselves. We opted for early Mass at 8:45, came home and spent 1.5 hours on quiet work (homework, projects, reading). After lunch we went to see "The Muppet Movie" - DH and I loved it a lot more than the kids because of its recollections from our youth, but I think they liked it. Cost for outing: $8.37 on movie theatre candy at CVS, and $24 admission. It seems to me that is about what I spend locally for outings with the kids, to bowl for an hour is $32. So anyhow, family time is now on the calendar and I've got a clue to re-aligning our outings so they're in line with priorities (faith/family/friends).

I created a major excel spreadsheet that I think will work for us. No more different sheets with different categories; it is now one long sheet with each of our major umbrellas of expenses: Discretionary (Living), Fixed (Utilities and Mortgage) and Reserve (short-term expenses we call Extraneous). I've increased the % to 401K back to 10, after lowing it to 4 back in Sept when we ran out of HSA funds and had to pay $250 a month for asthma meds.

Passive Income Challenge has $350 in it, and I'm not including the pending $283.

All in all, things are fine, despite the depressing weather!

Federal taxes filed :)

January 21st, 2012 at 06:57 am


And refund of $4,583 is expected to be direct deposited on 2/1.

We are snowed in and there wasn't much to do last night, so I sat down and finished the federal. I got a bit bored and will continue with the state in the near future.

Germs, germs, go away! Passive Income Challenge, Tier 2

January 17th, 2012 at 10:41 am


The last child was sick with a low-grade temperature of 100.6 on Saturday and Sunday. This allowed us to skip her two basketball games those afternoons in several suburbs over. Nice not to travel, but poor thing was just miserable.

I think that the post-Holiday lull and the snow and cold has set most of the people I know on "blah". I've unfortunately become the sound board to most of these people complaints, and now that I've got some complaints of my own (nothing major, just some gripes over volunteer work and some bad grown-up behavior) the dynamics of some of these relationships is changing, and I'm leaning toward that place of really wanting to be anti-social for the remainder of the month. Smile

Anyhow, today all the kids went back to school and I'm on my own, but feeling somewhat lethargic (seasonal affective disorder most likely.) Trudging on through the day - cleaning, laundry, cooking and then homework and projects galore.

Passive Income Challenge has developed a sub-category of "Gift Card Challenge". I redeemed a $10 Target Gift Card through my regular debit card account at PNC. DH was jsut approved the American Express Gold which will yield us $250 in gift cards with $1000 in charges in three months. I think we'll use that for the living expenses for the next two months and will be able to wrack that up pretty fast (paid off of course). I'm not really counting that as a Monetary Contribution to the Passive Income Challenge, although I can always just make a contribution of that amount, I suppose. Still figuring it out.

Yet another one ...

January 13th, 2012 at 06:22 am


another day with a sickling, same sickling as yesterday. He had a temp of 99.9 and had a nose bleed last night, so he's not going to school. This means that I'm housebound again.

Money-wise, not much is going on. By being judicious with the spending, I'm finding that I'll be able to take care of things (small and medium sized expenses) sooner than expected. My inlaws left DH with a $100 check to be deposited on 1/26 (after their next direct deposit) and my grandma sent me a $100 check, too. I'm expecting reimbursement of $69.99 for expenses outlaid for Cub Scouts and the Knights of Columbus. Also still haven't submitted $11 worth of receipts for Room Parent expenses. I did mail in the paperwork for the collection of the found $81.33, so the passive income challenge is alive and well. I also forgot about the $100 that I moved from savings to open the Sharebuilder Account with, so I'm including that in the Passive Income Challenge as well.

Busy weekend around here with high school Entrance Exams and basketball games, plus a sleepover and a small list of To Dos. Hope that healthy days are right around the corner.

Same old, same old

January 12th, 2012 at 07:01 am


Well, not exactly. Same situation, different sick child. This one loves school and when he says "I don't think I feel well enough to go", it means he feels rotten. The thermometer is teetering at 99.3, so something is abuzz. This is the St. Francis reincarnate whose love for animals is endless. I made a comfy bed on the couch and he dragged his blankets down on the floor to lay with our dog. It will be another day of cartoons. Which translates to more stitching time for me. I'm cranking out my small free project, using on hand fabric and floss. It inspired me to clear out and organize my stitching bin and come up with other projects to do that I might have on hand. Thankfully, my pile of unfinished projects isn't that vast. Due to the price of framing (which is high), I am sticking to standard sized frames of 5" x 5" or 6" x 6" or 5" x 7".

I checked the status of my oddities that I have on consignment at the store featured on TLC's "What the Sell". No interest in my partridge lamps or guilded mirror to date. Frown THere is a second consignment store that I am willing to try and the proceeds of the sale are donated to charity. Perhaps some rich person with eccelctic taste woule interested in my items at the next place. I am learning that individual taste for these items is definitely rare.

Worked the budget for the first quarter of 2012 and looks like I can accomplish quite a bit with discipline and determination. Staying out of stores has helped, also having a running excel spreadsheet that I look at DAILY has also helped be a better spender of the funds.

Why is it that ...

January 11th, 2012 at 06:10 am


I completely stocked up on Triaminic cold medication for the kids, forgetting the random chance that I, or DH, grown-ups, might get sick along the way, too?

Triaminic was $1 a bottle after all coupons and ECBs (Walgreens equivalent) were applied. My kids have all returned to school and I now have the plugged nose, the sinus head-ache, the odd ear squeal and pop, a sore-sore throat. Frown My grown-up options for medications are limited. I think I'll take an aspirin and tea to begin with.

I did make progress on my thrifty craft project yesterday, so I suppose I'll make major progress today not having to nurse sick people.

Younger daughter is off of crutches and is using a walking cast after her spill last Thursday. We watched the movie "Jig" on Lifetime on Sunday and she's been air dancing since then. I'm not looking forward to her returning to class and possible reinjuring her ankle. Thankfully we've been able to use friends' crutches and air casts.

All the bills for January were paid with the last of December's paycheck and I used monetary gifts to make the mortgage payment, too. So we're starting to pay February's bills as they are coming in. We are skipping taking the girls to the January competition (savings of $120), and we've suprisingly paid cash for some reimbursible expenses ($29.99 for the Cub Scout's Pinewood Derby Scale and $40 for gift certificates for prizes for an essay contest sponsored my DH's fraternal organization) rather than using the credit card. Things are looking fine for the time being. I am enjoying the lull of crazy spending prior to Christmas. I do see the benefit of organizing your finances and To-Do's on paper.

Time to go catch up on everyone's blogs.

Thrify alternative to expensive hobby found

January 10th, 2012 at 07:57 am


Well, sickness has befallen the house of M. I'm home with a sick 8th grader and a sick 1st grader. The younger one responded better to his medication, is fever-free presently sitting on the floor humming and playing with Legos. The 8th grader has not rallied, and is wrapped in a comforter on the couch simply resting. Science Fair presentation is tomorrow and the high school entrance exam is on Saturday so I've decided to dose her with amoxycillan (we keep it on hand and tend to give if she runs a high fever for 24 hours since she can get to pneumonia quickly - or I should say "has" in the past prior to the pneumovax). So I'm housebound, but the cupboards are full.

Only thing I'm missing is a current craft project. I am a cross-stitcher with no current projects in place. I started looking at patterns which are rather expensive, online that cost $7 + shipping for a 5" x 5" pattern. After a little bit of time on line, I found free patterns that I liked every bit as much as the expensive ones. I printed out four (trees during each season) (FREE) and I checked my stash and had fabric and floss. This might be my year of thrifty hobbying! I should add that I am a basic DMC color floss person as opposed to the new hand-dyed silk floss which is available nowadays in brilliant hues and tones. The cost of the DMC is $.39 as opposed to $2.00 for the new ones. I suppose I could argue that I'd be supporting local artisans purchasing the $2 ones rather than the most-likely made in China $.49 ones, but money IS money at this point.

Onto the Passive Income Challenge, I have received (again) the offer of $100 for the TCF Bank Checking Account. I like this one as it doesn't require any driect deposits, only 12 transactions in three months. DH has been offered American Express Gold which rewards $1000 in three months with $250 in gift cards. Considering that one as well.

Off to start my thrifty cross stitch project while listening to science fair project presentation AND playing Clara Barton/Florence Nightingale. Smile

January has officially Begun!

January 7th, 2012 at 08:04 am


Well, 2012's fiscal year began yesterday with the first paycheck of the year. I'm a bit excited by the whole thing.

My first goal is to track my grocery spending (all items and coupons) to determine which approach offers me the best savings: (1) ads and coupons weekly, (2) Aldi's bare basic necessities budget with other needed items purchased at different stores, (3) Sam's Club. My first go around for month one is: (1) Ads and coupons. I spent an hour on Thursday mapping out coupons with store ads and I think I did fairly well. I spent $130 for the week and will actually probably be able to stretch it ten days, only adding milk and fresh produce. I'm contemplating powdered milk for all the baking I do (muffins, waffles, etc). Trying to cut corners where-ever I can.

Our extranous expenses are high this two week pay period: $35 for high school entrance exam fee, $107 feis registration fee, and $280 for DH's three month exercise session. Had to transfer $150 from small savings account to cover that category, but don't expect major expenses in this category again for awhile.

I upped the 401K from 6% to 10%, I changed it downward when we ran out of HSA funds and needed to cover my daughter's asthma meds. Now that it is a new year, new funds are available.

OK, all for now!

No, thank you. No recreational spending for me!

January 4th, 2012 at 06:40 am


In an effort to be more productive with my time and being a more efficient user of fuel, I turned down an outing today with my mother. We usually travel around town once or twice a week, mostly after Mass, going to the library, local errands, etc. We spent a lot of time together before Christmas and today is the first day my step-dad is back to school (his vacation time started later than ours).

My mom called to see if I wanted to go to Macy's and Ikea. Macy's because I have a $25 gift card that I've had forever and probably should just spend. Also my oldest daughter's new favorite meal is the meatballs out of IKEA. Payday is Friday and I have NO money left. I spent wisely yesterday on sale items and used coupons (biggest savings was NEEDED robe for son (MSRP $38, at 80% off at Kohls, was $8.08 with tax). So that's it for me.

I had to say that I'm tapped out til Friday and I'm not feeling the NEED to get out of the house and kill time. So today I stay home and finish up the laundry, start making some headway in the organization department, and stay warm.

So, the IKEA meatball will still be waiting for me, and I'll use the Macy's giftcard at some point in the future. Discipline and purpose, two things I'm striving towards.

Back to School; Hello 2012!

January 3rd, 2012 at 06:19 am


All the kids (including the 5th Grade Science Class' Box Turtle that we hosted this Christmas Vacation) went back to school today. DH should probably be included in this count since he's been home since 12/23, but he did have two days at work last week. It was a delightful time and I'm sad to see it end. Definitely makes me realize the importance of building family time into the schedule just like any other activity. We spent the afternoon at the Museum of Science and Industry, and had a really fun time. Only expense: $14 for discounted parking (savings of $6 due to membership). I packed snacks and drinks from home, so after a late full breakfast and an early big dinner we eliminated the need to lunching out.

We did a major sort of sort and purge in the kids' rooms, and I've got two big bags for donations, another bag of garbage, and a box of things for our friends we "donate" regularly too. I was going to declare January a no-spend month, seeing we're coming off of Christmas where most needs and wants were fulfilled. HOWEVER, I am in need of a pair of winter boots for oldest son, and next son is in need of a robe. Probably Kohl's or Walmart for those should yield some sort of discounted savings. (I will not abandon the pursuit of "saving while spending")

Financial To-Do Tasks:
(1) Make copy of drivers license to mail in paperwork for claiming lost money ($81.33)
(2) Start getting numbers for tax purposes
(3) Submit $11 worth receipts for Room Parent expenses

I'm still working of concrete goals for life in 2012. I hope to earn $1200 (10% of present EF total) in a Passive Income Challenge. I have earned $100 on the Citibank Dividend Credit Card Promotion (spend $500 get $100), I "found" $81.33 in lost money from the state of IL, and I opened the Sharebuilder Account and expect the $75 in 4-6 weeks (I think), I also opened a PerkStreet Debit card Account and made $25. So all in all, the wheels of accomplishment are turning in that direction regarding that concrete goal. Smile

Happy 2012!

January 1st, 2012 at 09:15 am


Just popping in to say HAPPY NEW YEAR to you! Wishing you all the best for the upcoming year.

I sadly fizzled somewhere on actual goals and tracking progress. Frown So I have nothing to report as far as accomplishments achieved, aside from keeping track of a large generally happy, healthy family and not making majorly poor financial choices along the way.

I'll be giving some thought to concrete goals and will be looking for some serious accountability - any wanna-be accountability buddies out there for the taking? Maybe weekly individual emails? All along the lines of annonymity, of course Smile.

Hope that you all have a wonderful first day to the New Year, relaxing and enjoying family and friends!!

Wishing everyonen all the best!