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Archive for February, 2011

Ready to march into March ...

February 28th, 2011 at 03:33 pm

February, while short, was expensive. We stayed on budget for groceries and household, but went way over on extraneous:

$40 for dog grooming (two visits purchased at
$57 for dog shots
$30 for oil change on car that will be replaced soon
$50 for rotating and balancing tires, good ones from old van put onto new van
$120 for soccer for two kids
$330 for Cub Scout overnight camp 4 days/3 nites for DH and oldes son (doing it this month saved us $50)

I feel that all I am doing is watching the money flow out! The good news is that I've been able to maintain our savings goals and the tax return was deposited. Things are OK, but tight.

I would like for March to be ... easy. No major expenses, etc. I'd like to cook more from scratch, drive less, get some serious de-cluttering done around here. I'm seeing a correlation to my motivation and the sun that is streaming into the sliding doors here.

We have Spring Break at the end of the month, so I'll be tracking coupons and try to come up with some cheap outings (kids love bowling and a movie - at the discount place - plus my parents have a membership to the local Arboretum and we have a membership to the Museum of Science & Industry).

Remember merch? His "plan the work, work the plan" mentality is finally working for us!

Hon, does this tax refund make our savings account look fat?

February 25th, 2011 at 02:44 pm

The income tax refund was deposited to the checking account overnight, and first thing I transferred the funds to our savings account, which looks really big and fat right now!


#1) $4,900 toward property tax payment ($1,900 to go)(By 6/1)
#2) $500 toward 2010 IRA Contribution ($1,000 to go)(By 4/18)
#3) $6,253 toward new-to-us car
#4) $10,010.05 EF portion
#5) $1,800 for mortgage payment due on 3/15 (includes $50 additional)(Payment goes into this account for interest earning potential)

$23,463.05 BALANCE

We add $1,150 biweekly to this, so we'll see how fast we can grow this and take care of #1 and #2, plus I'm waiting on a $900 state refund.

(1) Closing in on the sale and (2) Presents from Grandma

February 23rd, 2011 at 05:16 pm

(1) Closing in on the sale

of a new-to-us car as DH's has been declared unfit for driving. Our plan for Saturday AM is to have his new tires replace my old tires, and then we'll donate the minivan.

The replacement appears to be an 06 PT Cruiser with low miles that we can pay cash for. Hopefully DH will get the final number and I can pay for it tomorrow.

And then on Friday the federal income tax refund should be credited to the savings account. I'm still trying to squirrel away as much as I can into the savings account, but this month's expenses that I hadn't factored in were:

$1,450 balance for speech therapy (worked out payment plan and just paid the $228 evaluation)
$290 for Boy Scout Camp in June 4 Days/3 Nights

(2) Presents from Grandma and pa

My parents have disposible income, how much, I don't know. I do know that they are very wonderful when it comes to giving their grandchildren experiences. They paid for a drama camp last summer for my girls, and tennis lessons and baseball camp for my boys. Most recently they paid for my daughter Irish dance wigs, and now they are funding my oldest son's art class for quite a bit of money. I should add that my mom found this class for *M*, the sensitive, creative, artistic son who is challenged with dyslexia

He is quite excited about this and I went to Michael's today with my coupon (40% off) to puchase 30 soft pastels. Tomorrow and Friday I head back to get the other items. My mom offered to get his supplies, but I'm trying to fund that portion myself.

Have to love grandparents. Mine paid for piano lessons and car insurance and special outfits, too. Gives me hope that once I move past this day-to-day money struggle to keep afloat, I'll be able to be that type of grandma. And I should also add that my grandma (who is 91 and values teeth) is taking care of my older daughter's braces.

I am very blessed, as are my children.

Home decorating splurge

February 22nd, 2011 at 02:19 pm

Kohl's credit card and I are a bad thing ... especially when there are sales like Spend $50 get $10 or a 30% off if you use your charge card. I have a balance (the last one) that I'm paying down and will be happy when it is gone and done and closed (not concerned about how it looks on my credit report since I'm not planning on buying property or financing a car in the near future).

I fell for it again, the 30% off coupon made it my way in the flyer they mailed out.

So, I bought new bedding for our master bedroom which is going to be painted and get new carpeting in the mid spring. I've pined away for this bedding for awhile, the price was $249.99 regular, on sale for $149.99, and with 30% discount and tax I spent $113.39, and I went home and made an online payment to cover the purchase.

I may be under budget for this rennovation! Big Grin

Time for another car

February 21st, 2011 at 03:54 pm

DH's primary vehicle is a 1998 Ford Windstar which we've owned since 2000. We put a new transmission in it in 2003 and it has 127,000. It is unfortunately on its last leg and is no longer safe to drive.

We had it in for an oil change on Saturday and had our mechanic look it over. It has several exhaust leaks, is in need of break work, and the tie rods are very bad (read as: UNSAFE). So we're going to do our best to share the one good vehicle we have (a 2007 Grand Caravan) but it is difficult with the schedule we maintain.

Time for another car, a used one obviously. We've managed to save $6,253 and the cars do seem nicer than the $4K range. Not looking forward much to the process of finding one. I've looked on line at the local used car dealers and they seem to have nothing under $8,995.

Wish us luck during this process. We've already decided to donate our car to someplace that might be able to do something with it.

Not fun, but at least we're prepared.

Spring has Sprung!

February 17th, 2011 at 02:29 pm

Well, at least for the day, and at least in Chicagoland. We actually stand a chance of breaking the record for the warmest day in February. Last one was 60 in 1880. Today we will either meet or surpass that, either way I can say good-bye to dirty snow mounds and hello to brown dead grass, but GRASS nonetheless. And I'm not naive enough to think that this will last, but I am smart enough to get on the boat and enjoy it.

I'll take my dog for a long walk after my shower. Poor Eleanor won't know what to do without snow to frolic in! I'm trying to stay motivated to accomplish things around the house and get a few fun things done, too.

I am going to revisit the money principles we learned when DH and I attended the Financial Freedom 20 months ago (wow, has it been that long?) Things are still going well, but I think we need a tune-up.

If you're residing in a warm weather area, ENJOY!

Am I gonna let a mere $1,450 bill get me down?

February 15th, 2011 at 07:19 pm

Nah ... (said half-convincingly) Ha!

Backstory: The agency that provides my youngest son with speech services updated their billing/coding program a few months ago and encountered multiple problems. My DH who receives electronic notification of the EOBs assumed he was secondary rather than primary contact. So no bill and no EOBs showing that payments haven't been made for services rendered to the tune of $1,450 was quite a shock.

A call to BC/BS cleared up the situation as to why they didn't cover services (a $2,400 gap in deductibles already paid and the cap) so now I have a whopping bill for one evaluation and thirteen sessions and this $1,450.

I was proactive and contacted the agency's billing department about a payment plan. I was told to talk to the Clinic Director because I can't pay in three months. So for the next seven months, I'll be paying $200 a month. I am suprised that the Director thanked me for being proactive about the bill. It also helped that the new year bought a fully funded Heath Savings Account and the services they are presently providing are being covered, so we're not inucurring any more new debt. That is a good thing.

So back to the budget drawing board to cover this bill.


Father-Daughter Dance Tonight

February 13th, 2011 at 12:36 am

If a was a techno-savy whiz, I'd share a snapshot of the attendees of the annual Father-Daughter Dance at the kids' school. I think this was just a flash forward of what life will be with teen girls: my bathroom which has a double sink vanity was taken over with teen girl deodorants, lip glosses, hair crimper, hair straightener, eye shadow, etc.

Anyhow, cost of the event:

$42 for tickets ($14 per person)
$13 clearance dress for younger daughter (80% off)
$27 clearance dress for older daughter (50% off)
$40 for shoes at Payless for both (buy one get 50% off)
$30 for black velvet shrugs - quantity 2 - which I found on clearance and happened to have less desireable patterned dresses included in the two piece (we'll donate those and hopefully make someone happy)
$13 for haircut for younger daughter ($2 was tip)
$4 for nylons at Walmart
$4 for nail polish at CVS

$173 total - probably what we spent last year (though the outfits were more, but we only needed one pair of shoes)

My evening is now consisting of wii games (Mario seems to be the game of choice latelY) and mac & cheese - my boys are pretty easy to please.

Hope all have a good night!

50% Savings

February 11th, 2011 at 02:38 pm

I just used (capital DTD) for the first time. I found it advertised in my town's promotional flyer that comes out a few times a year. Local vendors advertise for 50% off of their services. I was surprised to see both our dog groomer and our favorite local restaurant in there.

I paid $40 for two groomings for my dog (a shih tzu who is in need of some help despite her weekkly baths she looks a bit sheep-dogish). That is the price I'd usually pay for one. Plus our favorite breakfast place has $20 gift cards for $10, and we're heading there for our Valentine's Day Brunch on Sunday morning (rather than candy and trinkets, we're heading out for a nice meal). So all in all, I'm feeling as though I am stretching our dollars until they scream!

Nice feeling to have, indeed!

Another one of those days ...

February 10th, 2011 at 02:19 pm

Boy, winter is getting to me. It is difficult to raise spirits that sort of just downward spiral for no apparent reason. Things are good: DH has a job, the kids are healthy and reasonably happy (though being cooped up in the house has them grating on one another's nerves more than usual), blogger friend is making progress after massive coma, another blogger friend is apparently winning her battle against anorexia and has hopes for her marriage, my own brother is recovering from another failed relationship with the outlook that he *will* find love eventually, my bff is much less needy and I actually enjoy talking to her (though it only needs to be once or twice a week - not the daily dump sessions).

I'm still finding no motivation to get stuff done. I was really good a bit ago and now all of the sudden I'm back to doing what needs to be done the day before or the day of. I'm looking forward to two weeks when my girls' basketball experience winds down (this has added four practices and a minimum of two, average three games a week). It's too cold to go out after dark or before 9:00 AM to get to games, and neither girl really seems to enjoy the sport. They are dancers at heart.

Don't really know where this ramble is going. I'm actually going to put on the first episode of the old Poldark, and get under my blanket. Yesterday I watched Hitchcock's "Marnie" while my kids were at school. Am I'm indulging myself in more entertainment, at least there aren't many snacks in the house or I'd be gaining weight!

Learning to say "NO" and being OK with it

February 9th, 2011 at 04:29 pm

I have struggled in this area of being a people pleaser, wanting people to like me, and saying "Yes" when I really didn't want to.

I am co-room parent for Kindergarten. Not my first choice, I wanted 3rd Grade, but I said OK when asked. My partner is a Type A over achieving mother and this is her oldest child's first school experience (by the time you've done Kindergarten for the 5th time it is like "yeah, whatever ...")

Our annual budget is $200 for the entire year of events: Halloween, Christmas, Valentine's Day, Field Day (which is year end picnic). Back at the first meeting to plan Halloween I kept saying to this mother "We only have $200, should we be spending $35 on plastic crap from Oriental Trading Company?" (not in those words, but that was the idea behind the queestion). She went ahead with the Oriental Trading Company order.

Well, with V-Day rolling around next Monday she left a message, "I am in need of "x" items" and since I've already shopped and am not planning on being reimbursed, can you just pick these items up? I did send out an email for suppliers, but people haven't gotten back to me."

I said "No, sorry, can't pick those items up. I'm cash-strapped at the moment with many school-related expenses - the Father Daughter Dance's $42 tickets, the Cub Scout Blue and Gold Dinner for $20, etc. I'm more than happy to call the people who offered to provide supplies but haven't returned your emails. I can let them know what we need."

Her response: "Well, I looked at the list of supply contributors and didn't see your name on it and just *thought* you might be happy to contribute. But if you can't, well ... no problem."

I dislike this woman immensely, but managed to be pleasant the entire way through the conversation.

I said "No" and I'm learning to be OK with it.

Back to Normal and $50 Passive Income, plus $4.77 saved

February 4th, 2011 at 02:36 pm

After Wednesday and Thursday off, the kids are all back to school today. It is Catholic Schools Week and each day had a wacky theme to it: mismatch socks, PJ bottoms, spirit wear - which was all rolled into one. So I quite the odd looking assortment of vagabonds heading out the door today, but they were happy to face the day and return for the remaining day of school.

I opened a IRA-Savings with $750 and will be credited an additional $50 (regarded as 2011 contribution) by 2/28. Free money is free money. If anyone is interested it is or call 1-877-464-0292.

Since today is payday, I sat down to pay bills and I entered the water bill + late penalty into Quicken, only to realize that I am paying two weeks prior to due date and saving myself $4.77.

Busy weekend ahead: DH and Cub Scout are camping out at the Adler Planetarium in downtown Chicago tonight (I am jealous that I am not going), we have three basketball games, one soccer game, the Fun Fair and our own Superbowl party to plan and execute (we're rooting for the Green Bay Packers here due to loyalty to the FIL).

Off to catch up on all the posts (it has been difficult to get on either computer yesterday given there was a major research paper on Helen Keller written and a smaller expository essay on Amelia Earhart - both WOW women!)

Short-term Future Financial Plans

February 3rd, 2011 at 04:10 pm

With taxes done, we will yield $5,800 between the federal and state refunds. We use that for our primary residence real estate taxes, of which I am predicting we will be about $900 short.

I also took advantage of a $1,500 contribution to my retirement and I've only made a partial payment of $750 to that. I will need to make up that shortfall as well.

In looking at the payday schedule and April will yield us the first additional pay check, those funds will cover our $1,650 shortfall within the timeline of due dates.

Since I've reworked the budget and "pay ourselves first" we're keeping to the savings goal and have $6,000 for the replacement vehicle when DH's dies. Seems to me that the year and mileage of used vehicles improves tremendously between the $4K (where we were orignally looking) and $6K. Nice to know that when the time comes, we will be prepared.

The next pay period is tight for extraneous money. Extraneous-major and Extraneous-minor and both taking some serious hits. Looks something like: $105 for dance competition fees for 3/5 feis, $20 for Cub Scout Blue and Gold Dinner, $42 for Father-Daughter Dance, $40 for dog grooming (this is two cuts since I'm purchasing it through a deal for our area). Oldest daughter needs a dress for the dance, youngest daughter got a very cute dress on clearance at Kohl's for $13. I have a $36 return for Kohl's that I am hoping to use toward that, but my girl is becoming paritcular about things and at 13 she is model tall and model thin and it is hard to find anything to fit her (5'6" and 90 pounds, BMI of 13). Oh the joy of the hunt for the dress (NOT!)

The kids are having to fund their own outing to the school Fun Fair on Saturday. They have an allowance of $10 a piece from their great-grandma and they can use it all, some or none. I just hope they all don't chose to bring home coupons for goldfish like last year!

All for now. Stay warm and safe if you're in a snow-ridden area!

Yet another NSD (both kinds)

February 2nd, 2011 at 11:53 pm

We in the suburban Chicagoland got 19" of snow dumped on us. DH's work was closed, there was no school, and we've all been housebound.

Got the call at 2:30 that there is no school tomorrow too. I love a house full of kids, plus DH is a bonus. Today they played outside, got some fun pictures. DH shoveled twice and was on the roof once. We live off a small cul-de-sac that won't be plowed until tomorrow or Friday.

So glad that I made it to Sam's Club on Monday! We've got stew in the crockpot for dinner tonight, and we had brownie and hot chocolate earlier.

And I should add that the surprise benefit of this NSD was that no one woke me up -- and I slept in until 10:00!

Officially a NSD (No School Day) tomorrow

February 1st, 2011 at 07:42 pm

As a co-room parent for the Kindergarten class, I just the call that it is officially a no school day for tomorrow. It is windy and snowy and cold right now! I can just imagine how bad it is gonna get!

I've got the cupboards stocked with soup and I think we'll declare it pajama day and watch movies and play the wii. Soup and sandwiches are on the menu for tonight and I'm planning on making stew in the crockpot.

I hope everyone stays warm and safe!