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Archive for May, 2012

A realization

May 30th, 2012 at 05:59 am


I came to the realization that I no longer need to blog about money. When I came here I was a mess; no clear plan, a lot more debt than I have now, feeling that I was alone in a boat worrying about our long-term financial success and well-being.

My situation really wasn't that dire, but it felt that way. Over the years I worked on a budget and have definite spending limits. I have a plan B and C for different events. My family has been generous and shared financially with me in many instances.

Things here are on auto-pilot, with money going to retirement and education. My concern about high school tuition has decreased greatly with daughter's scholarships, etc.

That said, I don't feel the need to write about money anymore. Been there? I'm blogging elsewhere about life, and don't feel like tending this garden, too.

I've learned a lot here, and I hope everyone continues to grow and prosper. Smile

Update: Some Money-Related, Mostly Not

May 29th, 2012 at 02:05 pm


Still living off the prepaid Scripps/Manna cards. Spending within normal limits Smile Though I have forgotten about the annoying little balances that can be left on cards: $5.46 on Jewel/Albertsons, $8.61 on Dominick's/Safeway, $16.54 on Walgreens. I have a trip to Sam's Club planned for Thursday and should be fine with the balances on the cards I have, getting gas and most of the items for DD's graduation party on Sunday (Italian beef sandwiches and baked ravioli).

Today was the last day of school for my 8th grader. Where did the time go? She started at her school in 3rd grade, in her plaid jumper and French braids. The kids all looked so grown up today at the Cap and Gown Mass, very nice ceremony. Things are changing at our school with eight teachers leaving for various reasons, some drama involved in some situations. Still, it will be interesting to see what changes for the better, and what does not.

I have come to the place where I am questioning the amount of time and talents that I volunteer, and a considering part-time employment in the Fall when the kids go back to school. DH and I fall into the 10% of the people who do 90% of the volunteer work. This month alone he was asked to become a Parish Board Member which is a three-year commitment, and was asked if he would consider becoming the Chairperson for our school's Cub Scout Pack and turn over his leadership of the Wolf Den. He declined both of them. My counterpart for VBS has/had a kidney stone and hasn't surfaced, not that I can blame her, but a phone call to discuss some up in the air things would be nice. I am defnitely learning not to sweat the small stuff.

I did something radical and am in the process of fixing my brother up with a single mother at our school. She's the parent of one of my 7th grader's classmates, and I think they'd really like each other. I talked to her today and she said she always likes to meet new people and if a romance happens, that is wonderful. Brother has agreed to go our with her. They'd make a nice couple. Here is to hoping that my match-making efforts turn out. Smile

Well, since my grandmother is here from CA it seems to me that I'm only able to catch up on a little at a time. Today was three loads of laundry (while running in and out), a dishwasher load of dishes, and some general cleaning and upkeep. We can get very untidy very quickly here at my house.

But it is a glorious day and my spirits and productivity are up. Hope all is well with all!

New spending period starts today

May 25th, 2012 at 06:00 am


Paycheck and rent all in one day! This will be a rather tight two-week period as I am paying the property taxes on 6/1 and we are having DD's graduation party on 6/3. We don't have a lot of extraneous funds for the next four weeks (taxes and the mortgage payment are putting on the squeeze).

The prepaid gift cards for Scripps from the school worked out fairly well the last two-week period. I underestimated on gas usage and only being able to buy groceries at Walmart or Sams Club wasn't wise use of grocery funds (for most things, except fresh produce which we go through so fast is only available at Sam's Club at the average price of $6.50 - we go through lots of blueberries/strawberries/bananas/etc).

Today is 1/2 day for the kids with two Spring Sing performances. My grandma likes to see all the kids perform and sing and dance, so she'll get her fill of excitement with my crew. We're doing lunch at Steak N Shake and I've got my coupon.

So our extraneous funds have been depleted by $22 since DH bought a huge bag of weed and feed at Ace. He was able to get a $12 rebate, so I've got to take care of the paperwork.

I need to get re-interested in a re-finance, but the thought of paperwork for an additional "thing" makes me very tired. I'm dealing with low enrollment numbers for VBS and am now trying to actively recruit on top of everything else. Bah!

Anyhow for the limited fund until 6/22's payday, I do have $30 gift card for our town which can be used at the discount theatre and bowling alley. DH got a $25 gift card as a thank you for being the scout leader so that can defray the cost of a date. We've got VBS from 6/18-6/22. There is the library for DVDs and books. I think my best approach will be to be somewhat organized and have a plan for our days and activities. And yes, the pool opens so we do have a place to go!

This is a non-fluid post as I'm doing sort of a brain dump. Well, my list of neglected household activities is growing and I've got to unload the dishwasher and fold a load of laundry before heading to the 10:30 performance to videotape.

Life is full, got to love it.

Keep on keeping on

May 23rd, 2012 at 02:07 pm


For the first time in a month, I needed to use the credit card. American Express, so no long-term debt incurred, but a credit card nonetheless. Frown Seems that I ran out of money about two days early (money comes in on Friday). Totally unexpected expense of "buddy" gifts for my 1st and 8th graders to exchange with their respective buddies ($20) and a sick child necessitated more ibuprofin to which DH bought the biggest bottle at $13.99.

Spring Sing is upcoming: parent show tomorrow, then two performances on Friday for the VIPs in the kids' lives. I like this better than the Christmas show.

Volunteer work is draining me, making me very weary on top of the already chaotic busyness of this time of year. I have to chair a meeting tonight because my counterpart is in the ER with kidney stones. Obviously not her fault, but the timing is bad. So I have to dash off an agenda and ... I'm making some major decisions on some things. I've upgraded my title from co-coordinator to Director, in my mind only. Smile

Remember my "friend" who attacked all of my parenting decisions several months back? Well, we're past the animosity, and being very civil dealing with the Field Day, year end picnic. She is at her wits end with her oldest (in 7th grade) who made a poor decision and badly handled helping her 4th grade sister with volleyball practice. "Friend" made her daughter walk home 3.8 miles. My daughter is concerned with this and while the girls haven't socialized in months (since the tirade of the mother), I'm feeling like it might be a good idea, but then again I'm not sure about it. Apparently, "friend's husband" said he feared someone might call DCFS after hearing this. I don't know what to do.

Looking forward to a quiet 3-day weekend thought the girls have a school competition on Sunday and my mom is having a cookout on Monday. Time to relax before the hubub of all the graduation activities.

Off to catch up on posts!

Updates :D

May 22nd, 2012 at 06:16 am

* Spent $12 yesterday on cupcakes, ice cream and candles for DH's impromptu birthday celebration. He wanted a T-shirt from the school DD will be attending in the Fall. The store didn't have hours on Mondays, but the teacher who runs it asked what I needed, and offered to meet me at the school and let me purchase the shirt. Love the smallness and cheerfulness of that place!

* Volunteer work is making me weary. Why is it that 10% do 90% of the work? That is probably an exaggeration and is really 20% doing 80%, but I'm feeling a bit disgruntled by the whole atmosphere of people complaining and not quite realizing the bigger picture.

* Daughter had her Mass and Reception last Thursday for the scholarship she was one ofeight recipients of. At that point, I realized that we are blessed. Our school prinipal and her husband (who had a traumatic brain injury four years ago) drove the 30 minutes and were there. Principal's husband was a professional photographer pre-accident, and he took some wonderful pictures of DD and the Bishop. Our CCW chapter's President is a family friend and she and her husband turned up. A very wonderful evening Smile

* My grandmother is here from CA. She's enjoying the frenzy of activities, I had everyoe over for a campfire and smores on Saturday, an Italian dinner (baked ravioli) on Sunday, birthday party and America's Got Talent last night.

* Today I've got to catch up on grocery shopping, laundry, some more registration work for VBS, quick trip to mall for needed clothing items for kids, hair cuts for boys, and the girls have dance.

Should definitely take my cue to go be productive. Smile

Applying the organized/simplified approach to communication

May 17th, 2012 at 07:07 am


Suprise, suprise. I am reaping the (obvious) benefits of striving for organized simplicity. Aside from feeling that my surroundings are more harmonious and less chaotic (I'm a confessed piler, organzied piles make sense to me, don't appeal visually) I've purchased nothing new, but resurrected some pretty file holders for my counter. I'm bring out things I really love and displaying them in my new breakfront. It's just more appealing Smile

Anyhow, I am also finding that I have more energy to do fun things before they become drudgery (running to the Dollar Tree to get daughter's paper products for her graduation party/running to Michael's for her scrapbook pages, etc. And this is 2.5 weeks before the event.

This brings me to the point of my post. Instead of waiting for people to bring things up, I've taken the iniative on two things this morning:

(1) My grandmother is coming on Saturday. She is staying with my mother. I have the trundle unit from the daybed that my grandmother sleeps on (it is actually one of my child's bed). I simply said, "When do you want the bed for Grandma?" because I'm ready to move it out and ride the continued wave of productivity. My mother then starts in on how busy my stepdad is with school work and year end stuff. This annoys me to no end because everyone is busy and has stuff to do, there isn't exactly a claim on that. Rather than let it get to me, I said (as respectfully as possible), "When would you like the bed? Just let me know when will work for you. We're all busy." Seemed to diffuse the situation, though my mother appeared miffed, but no sense allowing myself to become annoyed.

(2) Remember the difficulties I had with "friend" back in February, the one who totally turned on me and attacked all of my parenting decisions that she didn't agree with. I've had to deal with her because we are co-room parents. We've got Field Day coming up and we have to plan the activities/menu. "Friend" is busy spear-heading the good-bye gift for our beloved teacher who is leaving. I'm up to my ears in registration for VBS and I have to come up with the agenda for our planning meeting next Wednesday etc. I called "Friend" this morning and acknowledged that we are both very busy going about our business, but would she like me to contact the Cub Scout leader about the four-way tug-of-war rope for the 4th grade event? Very simple and to the point. She said "Yes, delightful idea" and then was going to start in complaining about some other aspect of our school. To which I said, "You know what, I think I'd like to make the call to arrange for getting the equipment. We'll touch base soon."

Stripping away all the layers of drama certainly do make it all easy.

Organizing and simplifying

May 16th, 2012 at 06:44 am


I spent most of Monday and Tuesday taking major steps and effort to organize and simplify. I've tackled the two most anxiety-prodcuing places (the basement and the "middle room" which is catch-phrase for drop all and hide things room).

My inlaws (when they visit) sleep in my unfinished basement, though it is nice with a carpet and a couch, etc. It had gotten really bad down there, especially since we didn't really put Christmas away, rather we put it in piles. I organized things neatly, purged unwanted and unused items. It looks very nice down there now, and I feel no guilt about having that be our guest room.

I did a huge dumpster run getting rid of odd, broken, unusable things. My father owns an apartment building and I routinely use his dumpsters, so no cost there.

I had DH move some of the things to the garage (his Corvette car cover was down there for some reason) - a California car bag with zippers, etc. I also dealt with a tent that was down there drying since last summer? (Let's you know how tardy we are in completing some tasks).

I did a decent size run past the Amvets drop off in the Walmart parking lot - parting with VHS tapes and some toddler toys.

Today I am:

Giving a bunch of kid things to the family friends we regularly pass things down to.

Another run past the dumpster

Another medium run past Amvets

A huge sigh of relief ...

I'm also stream-lining efforts in the kitchen and spent most of Monday doing major cooking. I'm also finding that the kids aren't missing their processed snacks as much as I thought they were. They seem to gravitate towards the fruit and cheese snacks better than I remember.

Must continue of my efforts for organized simplicity. Smile

Giving thought to roots and wings

May 15th, 2012 at 06:01 am


"Wings" being that my girls are growing up and flying. At going into 8th and 9th grade, we're well past the American Girl phase and even looking at pictures they've changed so much this past year. I suppose puberty has a way of doing that. Smile

Both girls feel that their opportunities for earning money at home are limited. They receive a nominal allowance from great-grandma and they walk the dog, unload the dishwasher, fold towel, put away their own laundry, vacuum and do general cleaning. Let's fact it, I'm a SAHM and I do most everything (as I should Smile ) They are too young for legal employment and the sporadic opportunities for earning money (walking my brother's dogs or weeding my mother's yard) are far and few between.

They put out an email to all the parents of first graders offering they're services. They tandem babysit for large families (4+ kids) and they heard back from the three largest families that they'll be calling. Then last night came an email from a mother I know from the Mother's Bible Study. She had a 9 and 6 year old and is looking for reliable babysitting from 8-2:30 two days a week throughout the summer. The girls' rate is $8. She was fine with them together or alone or whatever works for them. So my girls will be each earning $52 a week for the summer. They are so happy and have some financial goals. I am very proud of them!

DH is not happy at his present situation at work. He has some difficulties with his boss who he has had for ten years (moved with him from the old job to this job). This where the roots come into play.

The biggest impediment to our finances is our rental property. If we were to sell that, we could essentially wipe out our mortgage on our primary ($263,000) and reduce our expenses. The issue is we did a bridge loan to get into this house and have a lein against the rental property for more than it is worth. To get ourselves out of this situation, we have to do a refinance on the primary. Then we can sell the rental property outright. We've concluded that our timeframe for this is ten months. We'll need to work on the budget to determine how much we will need to set aside to cover expenses while it is unoccupied and on the market. I'm hoping to make some major progress on the bills and will have a better grasp after we see the finanical aid offer from the high school DD is going to in the fall.

By doing so, we'll definitely be setting roots down and keeping this as our long-term residence. DH is slowly moving forward on a diaconite and I think that a seismic shift in our financial life will help him make the move a bit quicker.

Oh, the things to think about. Sometimes makes me tired.

Time is a-flyin

May 14th, 2012 at 07:38 am


Hard to believe that May is almost half over! We're in a whirlwind of activity (all of them fun) and my volunteer work (which I do at home coordinating the registration for our parish's VBS) is at its most time-requiring, so in my quest to get through the day to day stuff, I'm quickly surprised to see that the weeks are going by fast!

My 8th grader's last days of school are wrapping up. She has an outing to the White Sox game tonight, Great America in two weeks, the Dinner Dance on 6/1, Graduation at 5:00 PM Mass on 6/2, and her party on 6/3. The menu looks like it will be Italian beef sandwiches and salads. She'd like an ice cream cake from Dairy Queen and an edible fruit arrangement. All within budget Smile

My grandmother is coming next Saturday. She's 92 and decided she didn't want to miss my daughter's Graduation. We've got some low-key fun stuff on the calendar: Morton Arboretum and Brookfield Zoo for tram rides, leisurely walk around my grandma's favorite local park, ride to the old neighborhood in Chicago to see where they used to live, etc.

Today I'm doing a major cooking blitz: making chili, meatloaf muffins, taco fillings, etc. I'd also like to make some cookies and waffles to freeze for breakfasts.

Hope everyone had a nice weekend. Smile

Raising up the next generation of savy spenders :)

May 12th, 2012 at 09:43 am


Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there!

DH just left with the gaggle of gift-buyers. I have to share with you the conversations in hushed whispers that I was able to hear. "Let's check out the coupons!" was what younger daughter said.

I group the coupons according to specifc stores in the front of my coupon holder that everyone knows where it is (my older one regularly checks for Subway coupons when she's heading out with her bff). Anyhow,
missing from the coupons are:

(1) 40% off of Michael's
(2) Buy one, get one free at Yankee Candle (small size)
(3) My $10 Kohl's cash which expires tomorrow
(4) $10 off of $20 purchase at Fannie Mae

It will be interesting to see what treasures I receive tomorrow. All I can say is at least the spenders are trying to save while spending. Smile

Hope everyone has a wonderful day with sweetness and love.

Duh, I forgot that it costs more

May 11th, 2012 at 02:14 pm


to feed your family better. Apparently we've been eating too much crap food lately and not enough fresh produce. I say that because I spent a small fortune in fresh produce today at Sam's Club:

Blueberries $6.98
Avocados $5.98
Red grapes $6.98
Mini cucumbers $3.98
Carrots $2.98
Apples $6.48

Definitely time to pay attention to grocery budget percentages! My goal: For each $1 on crap food, $2 on healthy food. (I think in my estimations I may be close to that based on roughly $33 for produce/and $22 for snacks)

I did also revamp the snack options at our house. For the next two week our choices for snacks and lunch extras are (all also purchased at Sam's)

Vanilla wafers $5.98
Veggie Chips $4.18
Pretzels $6.98
Brownies (4 batches from mix) $7.44

I'll supplement the above with Pepperidge Farm goldfish crackers after I hit the outlet store next week.

I know that I definitely need to look into cheaper snack alternatives (like baking brownies from scratch, and even rice crispie treats). I suppose I'll start checking out some cook books from the library.

Just a reminder to self: there is nothing more important the health and well-being of your children. Shut your mouth and fork over your money for healthy food.

New spending period begins tomorrow

May 10th, 2012 at 06:57 am


Yesterday and today are NSDs. Made it with $4.00 in the black. No credit card usage at all this past two-week spending period.

Tomorrow is payday and rental property imcome day which means money in. We have to pay the mortgage. All other utilities for the month are paid. Our spending plan for 5/11-5/25 looks like this:

$375 for gas/groceries/household. I was bold and made a scrip purchase of $375 Sam's Club/Walmart gift cards. We've been buying our gas at Sam's Club where it is usually about $.15 cheaper per gallon than elsewhere. I've been frequenting Walmart because their milk remains at $1.78 a gallon. I'm being practical and diligent in my menu planning and have lists for both Walmart and Sam's Club for my shopping tomorrow.

I purchased a $25 Ace Hardware card for DH to purchase a flat of flowers (on sale Sat at $9.99 a flat) and some weed and feed.

Our extraneous funds sit at $275. Of that I'm planning on spending: $20 for an oil change, $40 for dog grooming, $65 for oldest's 8th grade trip to Great America. DH and I are planning a date (it has been eons and ages since we've done anything just the two of us Frown ) and I have money from my parents from our anniversary gift so that is already funded. I am also waiting on $50 reimbursement from volunteer activities that I'll use towards daughter's graduation party food list.

I think that with the spending plan in place, we'll be just fine.

Mid-week Update

May 9th, 2012 at 11:52 am


(1) Finances are on autopilot. This financial spending period ends tomorrow. I've had several NSDs in this fourteen day time period. I am finishing in the black with $4. Smile Not a lot, but it is black.

(2) I had absolutely no credit card spending. It was a bit odd to pay for our hotel room ($196) with the debit card. A foreign, but nice feeling. Debt stands at $6,500. Won't be adding to that even in the name of rewards or points or etc.

(3) I made progress staying within the spending period I am in. The old me would over inflate what I could pay on upcoming things and then I'd be left wondering what to do, or using the credit card. Not this time. I had hoped to pay $20 for an oil change and $40 for dog grooming from this funding pot, but alas I paid $105 for basketball for the 2012-2013 school year for M and E, and I also paid $35 for oldest's White Sox Game outing. I will have extraneous funds to cover those expenses when the money pot is replenished on Friday (payday and rent collection).

(4) Discretionary spending on consumables (gas and groceries) for the next two week period will be limited to $375, all things to be purchased at Sam's Club (gas is the cheapest there) or Walmart. I purchased the spending through our school's Manna Program/Script (prepaid gift cards).

Everything's coming up roses. Smile
And I'm taking the time to smell them.

Life's Updates

May 6th, 2012 at 09:13 am


Life here has taken on that busy, chaotic, frenzied flurry of activities. Not only is the school year winding down, but planning for VBS has started up and I'm the co-ordinator and in charge of registration. I made some small changes from last year's protocol, and things are running with greater ease than last year.

We've had the Spring Concert for my 4th grade trumpet players, which was very fun to see how much progress he's made. He's the youngest in the grade and on the small side and has opted not to play football next year which is a big thing for the new 5th graders. I am glad that he has enough insight not to do something he doesn't want to. He did ask about a summer camp for band which will be a "yes" since I don't need to pay $125 for him to play football.

We have two field trips for the boys, my oldest daughter in 8th grade has an outing to a White Sox Game and the trip to Great America. She's successfully transfered from glasses to contacts and is looking like such a mature young lady, rather than a gawky adolescent. We found out that the second scholarship were waiting on daughter was #28 out of 170, and the $5K scholarships annually went to the 1-27. A bit disappointing, but she received an additional $1K grant from our Diocese and the school hasn't put together their financial aid offer which should be substantial based on how close she was to being a scholarship recipient (they use the same criteria for determining both: academic success and financial need). We should be fine after all. I've decided to postpone the prepaid college tuition payments (taking about a $180 late fee if it takes me the longest amount of time projected to pay), and I'll use those funds to pay her tuition bill all at once.

Daughter went to State for the Science Fair this past Friday-Saturday. She and her best friend/partner got a Gold (meaning their paper and presentation earned them somewhere between 95-115). We were incredibly proud of them. I was fortunate enough to be a judge and my partner was best friend's father and it was a lot of fun. Interesting to see the caliber of talent out there. There were 1100 exhibits from junior and senior high school students in the state. Cost: $196 for room and $75 dinner out at Chili's. I used the debit card. No more credit card usage even in the name of rewards.

Our credit card debt stands at $6,500. The only way it will go away is by not adding to it, thus the old card in either of our wallets is the American Express which if we needed to use, we'd still have to pay off in the same month. I'm able to make a payment and a half on my dental bill ($300 rather than $200), and I'll be able to pay our present tuition bill by 5/25 (earlier than anticipate). I've given up couponing for a short time, opting for Walmart and Aldi's. Definitely saves time and money overall.

I have had to spend some money lately. Oldest daughter needed a dress for May crowning and 8th Grade Dinner Dance with parents. She's a size 1 and it is difficult to find things for her to wear. I hit the jackpot and found a size 1 at Kohl's - a cute sun dress with floral print that she liked, and the sweater/shrugs were on sale. I had a 20% off coupon and a $20 gift card so my OOP was $19. Youngest son needs a new pair of jeans (he is a 7 Slim) and I have $10 Kohl's cash and also 20% off, so that should be an affordable expenditure too.

My grandmother is coming from CA on the 18th. I have to plan daughter's menu for her graduation party and get the invitations sent. So life continues be good, but busy.

Hope all is well with everyone!