Friday, December 28, 2007

Tale of the Tape to Be Posted Later and January Goals and Budget

I've down loaded my bank statement for the month and will be cross referencing it with my receipts over the weekend and will post my Tale of the Tape then.

I do already have a few January Goals as I've already stated, but here is a new one for me

Plan a zero based budget for February.

Since I've started this blog, I've put myself back on a budget, but while I was easing myself into it, I did not have a zero based budget. I needed a few months to figure out what my expenses were and where I could, can and must cut back. Like I've stated before, I'm in a huge re-learning curve with my personal finances.

Having a zero based budget will make me more accountable for those things I'm currently marking "miscellaneous" and should not be.

If I am serious about saving for a new to me car (and darn it I am), I need to be serious about doing a zero based budget. I know I can afford a new car, now to budget for it and be accountable for all my income.

No Spend Day #6

Yesterday was no spend day #6 and I had hoped to make today no spend #7, but I just realized I left my lunch at home on the kitchen table, so out to buy my lunch!

It's the little things that are killing the no spend days......

The Need to Purge Possessions

Like so many folks, I read my horoscope on a daily basis. For a number of years, I have been a fan of Yasmin Boland. I just really like her site and her 'scopes. The following message was on her home page this morning:

Friday December 28 – Moon into Virgo
As we cruise through “Christmas Week” the skies are quiet, in readiness for New Year.
This is a good time to start to work out your New Year’s Resolutions, as the next major astro link is between Mercury and Saturn – the planet of the mind and the planet who makes this stick. It’s also an excellent time to do any end of year decluttering that you want to get done pre-2008. The quick rule of thumb is to go through your pile of stuff, hold each item and ask “Do I love it?” and if the answer is no, throw it in the bin before you change your mind! Decluttering is very good for raising the energy in your home
.

Last night I took a good look around my small little space and decided I really needed a good declutter. I'm feeling a little claustrophobic in my space and I know I have a bunch of possessions that just need to go. Plus I'm running out of room in what limited storage I do have! This part of my life is getting out of control. What really bothers me is my desk is becoming a repository for all sorts of things. I'm not using my lap top on a regular basis, so I find I'm just dumping stuff on the desk top and not filing, puttting away, etc.

I'm hoping to spend an exciting Saturday Night purging possessions so I can take them to the dump or Goodwill on Sunday or post on Freecycle or Craig's list. The stuff just needs to go.

I've given myself a goal this weekend to be fairly ruthless in picking out the things that can stay and the things that can go. And if I'm really good about this, it will help clean out space in my kitchen so I can paint it on New Years Day and start 2008 with a freshly painted kitchen.

Books are selling

I listed a bunch of books on Half.com just before Christmas and they are slowly selling. Which is good. Slow is ok for the new ones. I've earmarked any funds from those sales to my DVD purchase allowance. I still have a number of books in my inventory that have not sold. I'm going to bunch them in a bag as see if I can sell them on Craig's List. If not, as part of my decluttering plan, I'll take them to Goodwill or the local library as a donation.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Doing My Part To Be a Bit Greener

Not only will I be more "green", but I'm hoping I will reduce my energy consumption. My electric bill came the other day and I was more than a little surprised to see my energy consumption rose (almost doubled) November 2007 vs. November 2006. Thus my electric bill was higher than I anticipated. My local utility company has had two rate hikes this year and I am planning for larger bills than last year, but I was surprised to see that I supposedly used more electric this year than last for that time frame. I have this memory of being home more in November 2006 and using the electric heat, more lights, etc. I guess not!

Since it was part of my plan, I changed as many light bulbs as I could to CFL bulbs, I have the ceiling fixture in my bedroom to go. I don't have that many items that are plugged in and are sucking energy, but I did unplug my hardly ever used VCR and the USB hub for my home computer.

I did notice that I've been in the bad habit of leaving a lot of lights on when I'm home that I don't need. For example, I had four lights on last night, I only needed one. Why I had all four on is beyond me, my house is not that big and with only me in it, it's not like someone else will be stuck in a dark room. Off the lights went and I just have to remind myself I don't need all those lights on!

Sent in the Paperwork And I'm on My Way.

I spend this morning mailing out the appropriate forms for my real estate license. Between the reactivation and professional fees, I shelled out $610. YIKES. And in a down market, but something says, give it a go non the less.

I have a meeting on Monday with the real estate folks, (I get the day off from my regular job). So we shall see what's expected and whats happening.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

What I Got for Christmas

Here be the list:

1) A bottle of Irish Whiskey.
2) Assorted Gift Cards (most to be used for my new TV) to various stores and some that are visa/mc/AE types.
3) A new dog toy storage bin, plus some toys for the dogs.
4) A 6 pack of new dish towels.
5) A set of holiday themed napkins (I actually can use these).
4) A new Indoor/Outdoor Thermometer.
5) A mini crate of oranges (Yummy!)
6) Two loaves of date nut bread (Yummy again).
7) A box of decent chocolates (already split up and part in the freezer for later consumption).
8) A new lunch sack.
9) A Black Watch plaid throw.
10) A travel set of body wash, conditioner, body scrub and shampoo-all in my favorite scents.

All in all, not too bad and I'm very happy with everything I got and the dogs were pleased with their new toys as well.

No Spend Day # 5

Because all I had to do was drive to and from Christmas lunch, no money was spent and I had no spend day #5. Half way there to that goal. That is a good thing.

Overall, A Good Couple Days

The weekend was full of those last minute chores that needed to be done before Christmas, cleaning the house, wrapping the last few gifts, double checking and making sure I was all set on presents. I kept it very low keyed this year and I'll post the tale of the tape later this week.

My holiday was lovely and low keyed, had a fabulous meal with friends, the weather co-operated, I was able to get some quality work done around the house, my desk tidied up, all my clothes ironed, folded and put away. I was able to make my space a bit more clutter free.

I was lucky enough by careful saving and the receiving of several gift cards to be able to afford my new LCD Flat Screen TV that I have been wanting for a while. I have decided to go for a serious look-see at a couple stores this weekend as well as comparison shop on line for the best price.

Part of me is very excited to finally have a real TV (my current TV has a small 12 screen). I'm in my TV/DVD watching season and the thought of having a larger screen is exciting. Part of me is dreading spending the money, I'm feeling reluctant to spend any money on myself, even for something that I have budgeted and saved for. Total price for the TV I want is $490. I got $185 in gift cards from various folks and I had saved $225 in my TV fund. That comes out to $410 and I think I can swing the extra $80 to cover the difference and get the TV sooner rather than at the end of January. This of course, goes completely against my belief that you should enjoy your money. A new TV will bring me hours of enjoyment. Why all of a sudden I am feeling like I can't spend the money is beyond me. All my bills are current, I have even paid in advance my first quarter of my homeowners insurance, I have a ton of food in my cupboards and I don't have anything due until after January 15th.

I feel that this month marks a turning point for me, I am getting comfortable using and staying within my budget (something that fell to the way side for a number of years) and I am starting to make some headway in my projected savings plans. Even though I have saved the money for the TV a part of me says DON'T BUY IT. Another part says BUY THE TV, YOU KNOW YOU WANT IT AND CAN AFFORD IT.

Ah well, we shall see, who knows, maybe the TV will go on sale and I'll be able to get a real deal over the weekend.

Friday, December 21, 2007

December Goal Update and Plans for 2008

Since I've got some time before I head out for the weekend, I wanted to review my December Goal Progress.

Here they be

1) Work towards finding a second job or alternative source of income that will net me at least $300 a month. Well I did get a tentative job offer in an animal related field, but that does not start until March and I decided to re-activate my Real Estate License, no money in yet, but a start. I'm still going to look for an income producing job in January Percentage of Goal Met: 50%

2) Work on personal web site and other personal blog (something I have been neglecting) at least three times a week. I've been blogging about once a week. Percentage of Goal Met ; 33%

3) Continue with the meal planning. Done every week but the very first. Percentage of Goal Met: 75%

4) Decrease the number of animals I own. Two of my animals now have loving new homes. And that is a good thing. Percentage of Goal Met: 100%

5) Continue to scale back unnecessary possessions (Craigs list, E-bay, Goodwill, Freecycle). I listed and sold 4 books on half.com, I need to really do a possession purge! Percentage of Goal Met:20%

6) Paint Kitchen-Well, I picked out a color and bought the paint. Percentage of Goal Met: 50%

7) Get more quality content in this blog relating to Personal Finance. Not going as well as I would like, but I am finding more interesting links. Percentage of Goal Met: 40%

8) Have at least 10 no spend anything days. (not even my lotto ticket purchases!). Oh not going as well as I would like, it's the little things that stop me (soda for lunch at work, postage for outgoing packages) Percentage of Goal Met, only 50% as of this point.

I'm not a big believer in Resolutions per say, but I do like goals and goal setting. A couple of my goals for the upcoming year are:

1) Try to go as green as possible at home and at work. I already use (and have used for a number of years) my own reusable shopping bags, I recycle everything I can (town dump mandated), I have a compost pile for my food scraps, etc. I'll be following the Green Boot Camp Blog for more ideas that I can incorporate into my home and work life.

2) Continue to work on my re-installed budget.

3) Start to contribute to my Roth IRA again and see if I can reach my personal goal of $5000

4) Continue to fund my Emergency Fund.

5) Find a second paying job.

6) Remodel my sorely outdated bathroom either by a little (or a lot) sweat equity or with minimal cost from outside labor (perhaps a trade in kind).

7) Get on a regular exercise program again.

Well that's what's planned for me for 2008 as of now. I'm hoping to meet these goals so I can go on to bigger and better ones! good luck to all in planning yours.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

A Couple New Blogs and Links

Check out Penelope Trunk, I just found her blog and I think it's great.

And one of my 2008 goals (I hate the word resolution) is to "go greener" and here is a link to Green Boot Camp. This is Leah Ingrams blog on how to become greener in the upcoming year.

At some point, I'll upload the Blogroll me link, but for the time being, this is what I got.

Feel free to contact me for a link exchange!

Thank Goodness the Present Madness is Over

As I posted earlier, I really had no idea who I was buying holiday gifts for, I knew not a lot of people, but some. I specifically opted out of the holidays this year for a variety of reasons, but I still have a few folks to send to. I am having a hard time getting into the holiday vibe, and that makes shopping for even my few gifts tough.

I did want to get my lovely neighbors a present, but was stuck on what to get. I ended up buying a laundry basket, a fleece jacket from Old Navy (on sale 50% off) , gift cards for the two girls, some warm fuzzy socks, assorted snacks (they love salty snacks), a dog toy for the dog, and I'm going to have my local liquor store arrange it all in the laundry basket with a six pack of the adults favorite beverages. My local liquor store does great gift baskets and will customize and pretty up the laundry basket for me and the service charge to do this is minimal (the joys of being a regular customer!)

I got a small Starbucks coffee gift pack and a gift card to give to someone who was very helpful to me earlier in the year. I am also going to Christmas dinner at an old friends house so a couple bottle of cheer will come with me and I'm bringing dessert from the local fancy pastry shop. Another mutual friend will be at dinner and I got her a microfiber couch throw (on sale for $13.99 ), she is always cold and this was one of those impulse buys that actually works out (and being on sale helps). Plus she gave me a present last year and I did not give her one.

I have to go through my receipts as I send my friend James a food goodie box and a lot of that food was tacked on to my grocery bill. I think I went over my $25 limit, but his birthday is in February and the overpriced candles I got at the Candle Party will be his main gift. They did not make it to his Christmas Box this time around.

I did send out a ton of Holiday cards and I actually had over half of them written, addresses and mailed the Saturday after Thanksgiving. The last batch went out last week. That's better than last year when I barely sent out any at all.

My Christmas present to myself was a heated mattress pad (bought on sale at Linens and Things, plus a 20% off coupon). This by far, has got to be one of the best presents I have ever gotten myself. I feel like I'm sleeping in a warm cocoon. I have no desire to get out of bed in the mornings, I will also get myself a nice bottle of bubbly, a gourmet pizza, and a DVD for Christmas eve. Yup a pizza and a DVD. (My DVD player sort of works, I thought it was dead, but it is in fact just dying I'm planning for a replacement in January).

Last year I cooked a full roast meal for the now exBF(Roast Beef, Yorkshire Pudding, Gravy, Two Veg, cheese, crackers and fruit for desert) for Christmas Eve which was nice, but a lot of work.

Right now I can't think of a better way to spend the night. Feet up, fuzzy pajamas, good drink, good pizza and a movie.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Sometimes When You Least Expect it, Help Arrives

As I posted earlier, I've decided to re-activate my dormant Real Estate License. One of my big concerns are the fees involved in this process, totalling just over $600, money I have, but earmarked for other things like my emergency fund.

Over the weekend, my ex boyfriend stopped by to return some DVDs of mine he found on his book shelf and to say happy holidays, and we got to chatting. I've not told him about the bankruptcy, but he knew I was struggling fiscally. I mentioned to him that things were getting better slowly and I had made the decision to try real estate but was concerned over the initial outlay of cash and told him I'd figure it out. He commiserated with me, wished me luck, happy holidays and went on his way.

Today he stopped by my office with an envelope and a plant, gave the envelope to me and said, "Consider this a no interest loan, pay me back when you sell your first million dollar property and not until then". And he walked out before I could say much more than Hi.

In the envelope was $650 cash and a note that said, Good Luck, I know you can do this.

Wow. My ex is a nice person, he can afford this, but we are no longer an item, our relationship just did not work out, he has been seeing someone else, we rarely run into each other (we have different social circles), but when we see each other it's always a very pleasant exchange of greetings. This is something totally out of left field.

It's nice to know that someone has faith in my abilities and I'm very lucky to have a such a generous gift to start my real estate career.

My Christmas List

I thought I'd post what I wanted for Christmas, I'm not giving much, and I am not expecting much, but I thought I'd post a couple five things I want (as compared to what I need). I can supply a ship to address for anyone who would care to purchase one of these items for me :)


1) A new flat screen HDTV with DVD player.

2) A gift card to Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks (gotta have my coffee when I travel).

3) 3 Pairs of Smart Wool Socks.

4) A new blade for my Felco Pruners.

5) A new wooden cutting board for my kitchen (mine fell apart over the weekend).

6) A new tube of L'Occitane Hand and Body Cream with 20% Shea butter.

7) A GPS for my car (I used one a couple weekends ago while traveling with a friend and it was great). That little Magellen would be so handy and useful in my auto.

8) UNSCENTED pillar candles.


Just throwing it out there.!

A Wasted $25 Last Night

Yesterday was just one of those days, we all have them. Sometime around 4 PM a friend called me at work and we decided to split a Chinese Take Out and some wine and do a bit of a gossip catch up session. I would have rather had a pizza, but she said she was craving Chinese and I offered to pick up the food on my way over to her house. She kindly called in the order for both the food and the wine, all I had to do was pick them up and she paid for her half when I got to her house.

Let me preface this by saying where I live, the quality of the ethnic food is fair to middling at best, but usually edible and acceptable. This particular Chinese restaurant has a few dishes that are above acceptable. I've gotten a number of items from them and tend to stick some some basics that I know are OK. But not last night. We ordered our usual, soup, appetizer and an entree to split. We bought a bottle of wine. It was by far one of the most disappointing meals I have had in ages. The hot and sour soup was not hot and almost sweet, the lo mien totally lacking the vegetables, not enough mustard packets and far too many soy sauce packets in the take out bag. Plus the bottle of wine we got was nothing to write home about either.

I don't mind spending money on food as long as it tickle my palate and is pleasing, but this particular meal was not good. All I can say was the company was great even if the food was not. Oh well, live and learn, but boy do I feel like I wasted my money last night and I ended up with a case of indigestion as well.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Forms, More Forms and a small update

It's been a form filling day. I had to redo one of the court forms (thankfully, it was done via e-mail as a pdf), I had to fill out the forms to reactivate my real estate license and I had to fill out forms for work.

Ugh, I'm tired of filling out forms.

I did do a small update to my money progress bar. Not great, but some progress.

I had hoped to have a no spend day, but I really feel like I need a bottle of wine with my dinner tonight.

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Ring Is Back...........

As I previously posted, the Trustee in my Bankruptcy Case had asked (no demanded via a court order) my mothers wedding band~my only piece of real jewelery that I own worth much of anything. I had it re-appraised as asked, and since I truly believe the ring has bad ju ju (anytime I have ever worn it, something weird, odd, bad, has happened, the last time was after the hearing and my transmission blew on my car), I decided for my own peace of mind to turn it over. And I was happy to do so.

As I reported here, the Trustee sent it back to my attorney. I picked up the ring today while I was running errands. It will sit in my jewelry box forever and ever. The letter enclosed said "I have no further interest in this case and have filed a Report of No Distribution."

No further interest in this case. Boy does that MAKE me feel good!

Going Back to Meal Planning

Even though there is no meal planning contest this month, I've gone back to planning my meals because being the lazy git I am, I'm being bad about not packing my lunch to take to work. My meal choices are limited and expensive at work, so it just makes more sense to pack lunch, either from leftovers or from fresh fixings.

I was too lazy to even make a pot of soup yesterday, but probably will this evening. Plans for food for the week are :

Lunch: Soup,Salad and Sandwiches-I need to pick up a few salad fixings this evening to supplement the lettuce.
Dinners: Pasta, chicken, soup and burgers. I picked up some ground beef last week, made a meatloaf with part of it and some pre-made burgers that I froze. I'll pick up a couple burger buns and use my little George Foreman Grill.

I do have some ready made Asian meals in my cupboard as well that I'll bring to the office for those days I am too lazy or forget to pack my lunch. Since we have a real kitchen (complete with a stove, but no one uses the stove), I should have a little food stash here, but I don't.

And the Credit Offers Keep Coming In

A few weeks ago I posted about getting credit card offers in the mail for those who have "Challenged Credit". Now in this weekends mail were two letters from Car Dealerships offering to speak to me about getting new car loans for those who are post Bankruptcy Discharge. All I need to do is show up with 1) My discharge statement 2) My pay stub 3) Proof of residency via a phone bill and 4) A valid driver's license. Both promise to be able to put me in "the car of my dreams" that day. Either without or with a very low down payment. Yikes !

As I've whinged on before, I do need a new car, but I'd rather scrimp and save and get a substantial down payment to help lower my monthly costs. I'm more than a little leery of these no money down offers. Would I be stuck with a 6 year car payment? Would I need a co-signer? Is there a pre-payment penalty? Lots more questions and I need answers. I know folks say don't buy a new car because of the depreciation factor, but my last car was purchased new and it has lasted 8 years, over 226,000 miles, and except for this past fall, very few repairs other than regular maintenance. I think I have gotten my monies worth out of it.

I've decided to start a file on all these offers that are coming to me in the mail. I'm curious to see what I get over the next few months. I will keep you informed.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

No Spend Day 3 & 4~Six More to Go

Just an update, Thursday was another no spend day (helped out by the fact I went home from work early because of the snow storm). Today is another no spend day as well.

It's frightful weather outside and the animals and I are all enjoying a quiet day by the gas fire, reading, doing a little on line surfing, and listening to the wind howl outside.

I could have had a couple more no spend days earlier this week, but I was too lazy in the bring my lunch to work department and bought some soup both Monday and Tuesday. I'll see if I can get enough energy later this afternoon to put a pot of soup on the stove. Probably after my nap.

A Wasted Trip to The Mall

I am down to the last few gifts I am purchasing for holiday presents. Last night I realized I had to venture to a shopping mall for the last couple items. I was looking for a specific gift (being given to three people) and it was not available locally. I found a store that carried these items and decided to brave the holiday shoppers and go out for these items.

I was dead certain a particular mall had a particular store, so after an early dinner, I hopped in my car and off I went. I should have gone to the mall web site, the store I was looking for was not in this mall, or the other shopping center close to it, nor was there a comparable store in either mall. I did check the store web site and saw it had a location in the same town as this particular mall. I made the wrong assumption that since the store was listed in the same town, it would be in the big mall. It was not. In fact, for all the hype this mall has about it's great stores, (except for one of the anchor stores) I was not overly impressed at all. The prices where the same as my local stores and I wasted 40 minutes each way of travel time.

I was annoyed at myself for wasting the trip and the time it took to get there. The only highlight was finding a great parking spot close to a store entrance. Lesson learned, I should have double checked the mall web site 1st and the store web site more carefully before heading out the door.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Some of My Best PF Tips for 2008-Part 1

Part of the purpose of this blog was to see if I could give out some PF advice, based on me making my own bad decisions, so that others don't have to go through the same process I am going through. Learn from my mistakes so you don't have to.

Some of these tips are tried and true, and almost all are borrowed from others.

1) Pay yourself first. I set up an auto debit to my HSA, my Emergency Fund and to my ING account. Every pay period, a set amount comes out of my base pay and goes directly to these accounts. I am slowly increasing the amount of my EF and my ING fund (new to me car fund) without having to even think about it. Also do this for your 401K or Roth IRA. This was something that I did not do for a number of years.

2) Make a budget and stick to it. I'm back to a budget and it's been tricky these first few months, I have been tracking my expenses, figuring out where I can cut back, etc. My suggestion is to track your expenses for a month, then review where you spend your money, then sit down and create a budget and see where and how you can economize. I have several set budget items, but some categories change each month(Utilities, Misc) depending on what is happening in my life. If you are very disciplined, you can start this from the get go, others may need to ease into it. You may have to do the envelope method, you may have to use another system, BUT DO IT!

3) Snowflake your debt: I Paid Twice for This has an excellent primer on Snowflaking. One of those lucky folks without debt, use the snowflake technique to increase your Emergency Fund or meet another financial goal.

4) Get rid of your excess credit cards. In this day and age, there is almost NO reason to have (in my mind) store specific credit cards. They tend to carry a higher interest rate and if you are trying to reduce your debt or use credit responsibly, you don't need them. Pay them off, freeze the account, cut up the cards, close the account.

5) Remember to enjoy your money. If you reach a specific financial goal, treat yourself! Save for and buy that flat screen TV, enjoy it! Take yourself out to a nice meal when you pay off a debt. This is not about cashing out your emergency fund, but to give yourself a treat when you reach a specific goal. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Being debt free is completely liberating, but it is a long process. You did not gather all this debt overnight, it will take more than overnight to get rid of it, but a little treat here and there makes the process more palatable.

6) Remember to give to charity: I know there is a lot of debate about donating to charity or tithing when folks are in debt, but I am a big believer that even some charitable donations can be done even on the tightest of budgets and folks should support the charity of thier choice with a donation, no matter how small it may be. I have drastically cut back, but I have two charities that I give to each year, one is a local food bank and one is animal related. This year my givng allowance is very limited but I still made a small donation to each charity. I buy a bag of food every couple months and donate it to the food pantry. I shop the specials and get the items on their needed list. The animal related charity got a very small check this year. A little good Karma does not hurt!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Going on Instinct This Time...

I spent the better part of the past couple days mulling over do I or don't I re-activate my dormant real estate license. I talked to a couple brokers, I went through the pros and cons, the biggest con was the initial outlay of cash to switch the license to an active broker, total cost $608 (various fees, board dues, etc). It's money I do have, but have earmarked for my new to me car fund,Emergency Fund and Health Savings Account Fund.

I found two brokers who are willing to let me hang my license with their office and are willing to work around my full time work schedule and my weekend limitations and understands what my weaknesses are in the real estate field. Both offices are also willing to work with me to develop the skills I feel less than proficient in. That's good, my biggest concern was my lack of certain skills pertaining to real estate and how I could work on those skills. I like both brokers and my gut says to do this!

The rational part of me says "Why are you activating your license and spending the money better earmarked for other items in a down market?'

The other part of me says "Remember you have made sooo many bad decisions over analysing situations, your gut says go for it!

Truly, most, if not almost all, of my bad fiscal decisions these past couple years have come from me over thinking my money decisions. For someone who prides themselves on making sound rational decisions, I've made a bunch of bad ones these past few years and yes, those decisions have come from overthinking, reading too much into things, taking the "safe" way. That has just NOT worked for me.

I'm going to go with my gut and re-activate the license.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Laundry Saga


I've written about spending a lot of money at the laundromat. I live in a small house and I don't have a regular sized washer or dryer. I do have a small portable Haier washer that I use as much as I can. It hooks up to my sink and has been a great little workhorse for me. It does have it's limits. It has a very small capacity and I can only wash one set of sheets at a time, one pair of jeans plus a couple shirts, you know, small loads of stuff. If I load it incorrectly and try to shove too large of a load, nothing gets really clean. It also then oversuds and I end up with spillage on my floors. If I'm really good and do a couple loads during the week, I can keep up with my clothes. Sometimes.


The machine works OK for the most part, but it can not handle the animal laundry (too much of it and too bulky) nor can it wash or wash well the large bath towels, bath mats, jackets, etc. For these items, it's off to the laundromat I go.


What I do like about the laundromat is that in less than two hours I can wash, dry, fluff, and fold a bunch of laundry. It's one of the few times I multi-task and multi-task well. I go to the laundromat put my clothes in the washer and then take off for a quick grocery shop or other such shop. I get back to the laundromat in time to put everything in the dyers and usually I read a magazine or book while the clothes tumble dry. In good weather, I do hang as many clothes as I can out on the clothes line. Tough to do in the winter, clothes will freeze before they will dry.


I have two nice laundromats I use, both are clean, and safe (safe meaning it's OK to leave my things in the washer and not worry about my clothes getting stolen). One location has these great triple loaders that are perfect for the animal laundry. I can put all the animal laundry in the machine, turn on the hot wash and my stuff comes nice and clean and without animal hair all over it (and yes the laundromat is OK with me doing animal laundry there).


The downside to this is IT IS NOT CHEAP. I can easily spend $20 a weekend on washing and drying all those clothes and items. A washing machine runs anywhere from $1.75 to $6.00 depending on the size of the machine and 25c only gets you 7 minutes of drying time. When the dog decided it would be fun to pee on my blanket, the whole blanket had to get washed. I have this one dog that likes to stealth pee on and in my bed. It's gross, it's disgusting and it's costly. Every once in a while he manages to sneak in to my room and does this almost under my nose. I scream, I yell, I yell at myself for leaving my bedroom door open, I strip the bed and then I go to the laundromat, again.


As they say, it's wash, rinse and repeat.

Sleeping Better

This is a Sponsored Post .

I don't know about you, but I'm really fussy about my bed, the linens, the pillows and especially the mattress. I'd like to update my mattress this year to a memory foam or Tempur-pedic mattress. Since I am on budget, I need to find a source that carries these mattresses that won't break my budget. When I go to source out a new mattress, I will be looking closely at A tempurpedic mattress, sold by Angel Beds.

Angel Beds sells tempurpedic mattress offers a 90 day risk free trial, the lowest prices, fast shipping, and the strongest warranty in the business on all of their products.

A Tempur-Pedic mattress is a high-density, memory foam mattress that is comfortable and therapeutic, contouring to your body and providing support where it is needed. Your body is perfectly supported on a Tempur-pedic mattress, no matter what position you sleep in. You get a great nights sleep and wake up refreshed and feeling great. Even better, AngelBeds offers these sleep systems at discount prices.

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A Little Unexpected Surprise

I forgot to post and say that I won $54 in the lottery last week. Not a ton of money by any stretch of the imagination, but for a $1 investment, I got back $53.

I used the money to do the ubiquitous laundry at the laundromat, treated myself to a Latte at Starbucks while Target Shopping, and put the remainder in my wallet as fun money.

Yes I probably should have stuck the remainder in my EF or my Car Fund, both looking rather drab at the moment, but I wanted to be able to have a little unexpected discretionary cash to blow on whatever in my wallet. I've used it for a small shop at the grocery store, to pick up a container of soup (I felt the need for soup for lunch on Monday and did not pack soup). I bid on and won a small print on E-bay ($4.99) as a Christmas present to myself. The seller actually lives local to me so I will pay cash and do a local pick up.

My Horoscope Today

Thought I'd share my Horoscope with you today, courtesy of Yasmin Boland.

LEO

So have you bounced back yet? Or are you still reeling from all the tough times and hardships? Are you back on top of the world in a Leo-style way? Or are you still in self-doubt and at least partial misery? The sooner you start to revitalise yourself, the better. The sooner you remind yourself of who you really are, the better. It's still crucial for you to focus on having some fun. So stop with the negativity if you can, and look around to see who looks like they could give you a laugh.

Since I know I've been focusing on the negative in my life recently, this is a nice little reminder to go out and have a laugh.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

I Want a Dog for Christmas Charlie Brown


OK- I already have a dog, but playing on the radio right now is Vince Guaradli (he wrote the Charlie Brown themes) and last night on TV was I Want a Dog for Christmas Charlie Brown. I am a bit Bah Humbug about the Holidays, but I love Charlie Brown! Just could not resist the post!

Present Update

Since my last post on presents, I've made my list and gone over it more than twice. I made the decision that those folks who are getting gifts from me will get one of three things:

1) A toiletries basket with a gift card to either a Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks gift card.

2) A little Starbucks gift pack (coffee, travel mug) and a Starbucks gift card.

3) Some sort of bottle of wine or liquor tastefully wrapped with a small chocolate treat.

The exceptions to the above are my friend James and my wonderful neighbors two kids. Since James does not cook (and spends more eating out in one month than most folks do in five) I have spent about $25 on various food items-packets of side dishes, a small hickory farms gift basket, some chocolates, jellies and jams, crackers. Thank you Aldi,Target, and the grocery store for allowing me to do this well in my budget.

The neighbors two kids will get a gift card for either Borders or for gas. Not a ton of money, but a little bit. The neighbors have been good to me, and a small gift for the kids (both teen aged girls who now drive) is in order.

I'll go gift card shopping on Friday and right now, this is a huge load off my mind. Not meaing to sound like the Grinch or Ebenzer Scrooge, but I just can't get into the Holiday frame of mind while going Bankrupt.

Friday, December 7, 2007

The Second Job Hunt Continues

One of my goals this month was to find a second part time job and or find a way to earn additional income (both earmarked for the new to me car fund).

As I have said before, I live in a section of my state that is not overabundant in evening work and I'm just that much too far from the larger towns/small cities that would enable me to work in a store in the mall or something like that. My local stores tend to close at 5 or 6 PM, just when I would be gearing up to do some night time hours.

Needless to say, it's a challenge and I have to think creatively to get around this.

What I have done so far.

1) I have told most everyone I know that I am looking for some part time work, evenings or weekends. I am trying to find something that will at least use some of my skills.

2) I've been searching the local paper and any and every bulletin board in the area for any kind of a lead.

3) I have a potential lead to work in an animal related field on weekends, but that would not start until late winter and I need to find something sooner. It would be two to three weekends a month and would give me the perfect amount of extra money I need for the car fund. But it is POTENTIAL and not definite.

4) I run into the problem of businesses saying I am overqualified for a lot of the positions. Which in reality, I am, most jobs don't require a post secondary school education, which I have, even with dumbing down my resume and my past work experience. Heck, I just want a part time job to supplement my income. At times I feel penalized for spending all those years getting a Masters Degree (for a field I no longer work in-can you say major burn out at age 36 and now still trying to figure out my next career path).

5) I have been toying with the idea of re-activating my real estate license. I took and passed the test for a real estate salesperson a few years ago, had a Broker who would hold my license, but he went into semi-retirement soon afterwards and my license is in limbo. Still active, but in limbo. You can't hang your shingle out as an independant agent unless you are a Broker. Salespeople need to work for a Broker. The downside to this is the real estate market is very soft, supposedly gets dead quiet in the early winter (like now) and while I think I have some transferrable skills that would work in Real Estate, I know I don't have a lot of other skills that are needed to be successful. The upside is the money, selling a house can net anywhere from $2,000 to $50,000 in commission depending on sale price of house, commission split, etc.

I'm thinking about re-activating and transferring my license to an active broker, but I need to find out what expectations they would have. Lots of the local brokers don't need or want part-time agents, especially part time inexperienced agents. At this point I'm just feeling out a few folks to see if it would be a good investment of my time (and money).

And the job hunt goes on......

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Already New Credit Card Offers

I don't even have the official from the Court discharge papers. What was in my mail box this am? A pre-approved credit card offer for "those who have challenged credit". With an APR of 16%. I did not read all the fine print, there's gotta be a catch. This was not a secured credit card I shook my head and put the offer in the shredder.

Honestly, my credit at this point is more than challenged. AND my discharge is not official yet. AND I'm getting credit card offers in the mail.

Prior to my couple years of really bad fiscal decisions and bankruptcy I had decent credit. I had figured that between the bad fiscal decisions being on my record and the bankruptcy, it was going to be next to dammed impossible to get credit. I plan on getting a secured credit card in the upcoming months, when I am ready to cross that bridge. Yet the offers are coming in and it's not even "official". Heck for all these folks know, I could be one of those multiple bankruptcy repeaters!

Christmas Presents~It's OK to Give Contact Lens Solution!

I’ve been reading various posts about what folks are buying as Christmas presents. Lots of homemade items (cookies, cakes, sweets, knitted wear, scrapbooks, coco mixes), lots of planning for special gifts (I Pods, TV’s) and the usual selection of candles, fragrance, clothes, DVDS, CDs, Etc.

I’ve misplaced the link, but one PF blogger is getting a relative contact lens solution as a present. At first glance, this might seem odd, but when you think about it, it’s not. I use contact lens solution on a daily basis, it does not go bad, so why not give someone a couple bottles as part of their present? My ExBF and I used to pack our stockings with what some folks would consider the mundane items of life, toothpaste, moisturizer, toothbrushes, bar soap, emery boards, etc. Each item was nicely wrapped in festive paper (scraps from the previous years gifts). I have a friend who lives in the UK and each year for Christmas I get a bottle of Lemon Scented Fairy Liquid, a box of PG Tips Tea, and a tin of Cadbury Drinking Chocolate. Cost to her, about 10 USD, priceless to me. I can’t get these items easily in the States and I love the smell of Fairy Liquid.

Personally, I can’t bake well enough to give food items away, I’m not creative enough to knit or sew, I don’t draw or paint, I'd forget that I offered someone a coupon for a service (babysitting, lawn mowing, etc) and if one of my relatives will be happy with toiletries, I’m all for it. I don’t need a lot of “things” in my life, what I need are big ticket items and no one in my circle will be buying me a flat screen HDTV this Christmas, nor do I expect them to. Nor do I really enjoy sweets (and that includes Christmas cookies) to have more than one small tin. I’ve put on my “present list” items I would like to have, most of which are less than $8 each.

I’d be happy with a couple new good quality screwdrivers for my tool box ($3-4 each). I’d be happy with a nice bottle of real balsamic vinegar (not the wine vinegar stuff with caramel coloring)$6 for a small bottle at my local organic grocer, a new paring knife would be helpful ($5), as would a new set of kitchen towels ($3.99). Since I tossed all the various open jars of condiments from my fridge a couple months ago, I know a visit to Pearl River Mart and $15 will give me hours of cooking happiness and about 5 jars of sauces and spices, a three pack of Chocolate Cover Altoids would make me very happy and satisfy my occasional sweet tooth, the list goes on.

So folks, proudly wrap up those bottle of contact lens solution and happy holidays!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

No Spend Day #2

8 More to go, but the streak was broken today, I bought a soda at lunchtime.!

Monday, December 3, 2007

No Spend Day #1

Sunday was my first no spend any money day-easy enough to do when I was home in bed most of the day feeling sick. I never even got out of my PJ's........

9 more to go.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Identity Theft Keeping Your Identity Safe this Holiday Season and Every Season

At one point in my life I was the victim of Identity Theft. A family member used my personal information to obtain a credit card in her name. I did not know about it because I never checked my credit report. ( I did not think to, I was very young). Up until I got a message from the credit card company looking for an overdue payment on a card I had no knowledge about. With a lot of legwork (and a call back to Visa), I was able to find out who this person was and really shocked to find out it was a family member who had been using this card for almost two years. Had I checked my credit report on a regular basis, I could have stopped this.

There are simple ways to protect yourself, the information below is from MSN Money.

There's no ironclad protection that guarantees that you ll never fall victim to some form of identity theft. But there are steps you can take to protect yourself, many of which are rather simple:

1. Destroy private records and statements. Tear up -- or, if you prefer, shred -- credit card statements, solicitations and other documents that contain private financial information.

2. Secure your mail. Empty your mailbox quickly, lock it or get a P.O. box so criminals don't have a chance to snatch credit card pitches. Never mail outgoing bill payments and checks from home. They can be stolen from your mailbox and the payee's name erased with solvents. Mail them from the post office or another secure location.

3. Safeguard your Social Security number. Never carry your card with you, or any other card that may have your number, like a health insurance card. And don't put your number on your checks. It's the primary target for identity thieves because it gives them access to your credit report and bank accounts. (For more on protecting your Social Security number, see "Safeguard your Social Security number.")

4. Don't leave a paper trail. Never leave ATM, credit card or gas station receipts behind.

5. Never let your credit card out of your sight. Worried about credit card skimming? Always keep an eye on your card or, when that's not possible, pay with cash.

6. Know who you're dealing with. Whenever anyone contacts you asking for private identity or financial information, make no response other than to find out who they are, what company they represent and the reason for the call. If you think the request is legitimate, contact the company yourself and confirm what you were told before revealing any of your personal data.

7. Take your name off marketers' hit lists. In addition to the national Do-Not-Call registry (1-888-382-1222), you can also cut down on junk mail and opt out of credit card solicitations. For details, see Liz Weston's article, "Free at last from telemarketing invasions."

8. Be more defensive with personal information. Ask salespeople and others if information such as a Social Security or drivers license number is absolutely necessary. Ask anyone who does require your Social Security number -- for instance, your insurance company -- what their privacy policy is and whether you can arrange for the organization not to share your information with anyone else.

9. Monitor your credit report. Obtain and thoroughly review your credit report (now available for free at Annualcreditreport.com or by calling 877-322-8228) at least once a year to look for suspicious activity. If you spot something, alert your card company or the creditor immediately. You may also want to subscribe to a credit protection service, like Experian's CreditCheck, which alerts you any time a change takes place with your credit report.

10. Review your credit card statements carefully. Make sure you recognize the merchants, locations and purchases listed before paying the bill. If you don't need or use department-store or bank-issued credit cards, consider closing the accounts. For more on when and how to close credit card accounts, see "Cancel a credit card -- the right way."

If something goes wrong Again, protecting yourself from identity theft is no sure thing. But there is plenty you can do if you uncover some wrongdoing:

First, contact the fraud departments of each of the three major credit bureaus. Tell them that you're an identity theft victim. Request that a "fraud alert" be placed in your file, along with a victim's statement asking that creditors call you before opening any new accounts or changing your existing accounts.

EquifaxTo report fraud: 1-800-525-6285 and write: P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241

ExperianTo report fraud: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742) and write: P.O. Box 9532, Allen, TX 75013

TransUnionTo report fraud: 1-800-680-7289 and write: Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92634

Contact the creditors for any accounts that have been tampered with or opened fraudulently. Speak with someone in the security or fraud department of each creditor, and follow up with a letter.

File a report with your local police or the police in the community where the identity theft took place. Get a copy of the police report in case the bank, credit-card company or others need proof of the crime.

Keep records of everything involved in your efforts to clear up fraud, including copies of written correspondence and records of telephone calls.

Pay Day Loan and Quote Information

Lets face it, we all have faced a time when we were short on cash or some sort of unexpected emergency comes up. It's a week until pay day and what do you do? For some, the answer might be a Payday loans quote. A payday loan or cash advance is a quick and easy way to bridge your cash needs between pay days without a credit check. It is a small short-term loan that can range from $100 up to $1,500. The money can be electronically deposited and repaid from your checking account on mutually agreed upon dates. The site has links and answers to many of hte questions you might have on a pay day loan. How to apply, how funds are transferred, the rules and regulations. The site also includes an application form for a pay day loan. It's a very complete site that explains all about Pay Day Loans and Quotes.

Payday loans quote is a site that will help you find a loan and give you the payment terms so you won’t over extended yourself or your budget.

Sponsored Post

The Cost of Twelve Days of Christmas $72,608.02






The December Budget

Decembers Budget

Mortgage: $553 (fixed)
Car Insurance: $87 (fixed)
Food/Alcohol:$200 (includes dog food)
Student Loan: $175 (fixed)
Utilities: $150
Gas-Auto:$120
Emergency Fund: $200 (fixed until I reach my goal)
ING contribution: $25 (fixed-forced savings)
Phones:$65
Health Insurance:$100 (fixed)
Misc:$150

Total: $1,620


I upped my budget on a couple categories, gas for the car since gas prices seem to be increasing and I have some out of area travel, miscellaneous in case I have to do any more massive expeditions to the laundromat and my health insurance as that is actually a contribution to my HSA account and I use those funds to pay my portion of the Health Insurance Premium.

I have not budgeted for Christmas because, honestly, I don't know what I am going to for Christmas or who I'm going to buy gifts for. The only ones on my list are the dear neighbors because they have been such great people and great friends. I think their kids might enjoy some gas cards or gift cards to Starbucks. The girls are of that age. Me personally, I'd just be happy with a great Christmas lunch and a bunch of thoughtful cards. But we shall see!

I may have to go over on my utilities, I got a propane delivery and only paid half last month, will pay the other half this month, and the rest is contingent upon my electric bill.

December Goals

1) Work towards finding a second job or alternative source of income that will net me at least $300 a month.

2) Work on personal web site and other personal blog (something I have been neglecting) at least three times a week.

3) Continue with the meal planning.

4) Decrease the number of animals I own.

5) Continue to scale back unnecessary possessions (Craigs list, E-bay, Goodwill, Freecycle).

6) Paint Kitchen

7) Get more quality content in this blog relating to Personal Finance.

8) Have at least 10 no spend anything days. (not even my lotto ticket purchases!)


If you look at these goals, not many of them are finance related, but there are sections of my life that need some improvement and care and attention and it's time to address them.

I have a too many animals in my life. I have to find homes for at least two of them for a variety of reasons. 1) I don't have the time to spend with them, quality or otherwise 2) Not everyone gets along and it's not a "happy family". Managing them has become a chore, which it should not. Plus with the onset of winter it means less time outside and more time in my small home.

My kitchen has not been painted for 5 years and it's time for a bit of a change. $25 of paint and about 4 hours of painting time will do me a world of good. I'm thinking a very pale yellow.

My personal web site and personal blog has been sorely neglected while I've been pre-occupied with the Bankruptcy filing. It has also affected some of my personal relationships as I have not told anyone and since I've not been the best of company this fall, I've avoided a bunch of social situations until this is totally over.

Tale of The Tape for November-

I ran my numbers last night and some things made me happy, some things did not.

Budget

Mortgage Budget and Actual $553
Car Insurance Budget and Actual $87
Student Loan: Budget and Actual $175
Emergency Fund: Budget and Actual $200
Heath Insurance: Budget and Actual $90
ING Savings: Budget and Actual: $25
Utilities: Budget $150 Actual $199.39
Gas: Budget: $100 Actual $92.89
Phones: Budget $65, Actual $65
Misc: Budget $100 Actual $343.32

Difference between Budget and Actual: $499.63

Not planned for and over budget expenses

$60 Laundry at Laundromat
$111. 26 Dog Emergency
$41.89-Items bought at Candle Party-will use as Holiday Presents
$42.00-Shop Vac to replace dead vacuum
$44.00 Carpets for house
$90 for Jewelery Appraisal

Total: $347.15

Un categorized $152.48. The non categorized can be attributed to Target and split between clothes (some socks and underwear), cleaning supplies (new mop, new bucket, Method Cleaners), some kitchen items (new rubbermaid containers) and the remainder is probably food. I could not find my Target receipts to categorize the items.

I had to replace my dead Hoover this month, the dogs had a Vet Emergency, I spent WAY you much money at the laundromat doing laundry (all the dog blankets and taking my blankets out of storage, I spent $21 one day doing about 9 loads of laundry.) and I let myself be suckered into a Candle Party where I overpaid for 4 candles that I could probably find for half the price If I put forth a little effort. I bought a carpet for my kitchen and a new bathmat. Bankrupt Betty's Kitchen floor is cold and the dogs tramp all over the floor, this will at least keep my feet warm and will be easier to vacuum the carpet and not have to mop the floor every night . I hate mopping, I like vacuming.

I'm not happy with going over budget at all. Plus any savings I had all went to pay for my transmission repair. But I am happy that I did not give into temptation and buy lunch after the first three days of the month, I am happy I stuck to my meal plan for almost the month, I've been preparing meals from items I have in my cupboards and the last of the leftovers are sitting in my lunch sack for my lunch today.

I feel like I am making progress, I have not lived by a strict budget in a very long time, I know I can improve. Sometime later today I'll post my December Budget.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

How I Spent My Wednesday Night

Watching the Christmas TV Specials of my childhood. Last night was the Grinch Who Stole Christmas, Tuesday was a Charlie Brown Christmas.



Wednesday, November 28, 2007

A Few More New Links

I also have been posting some new blog links as I read them.

The Brighter Side of Debt

The Simple Dollar

Mrs. Micah

It's Like A Bad Penny~It Keeps Turning Up

I got a phone call from my attorney's paralegal on my lunch break, she said "I don't know how to tell you this, but.." Seems the Trustee does not want the wedding jewelry he mandated (by court order) to be turned over for sale by his office. I signed a bunch of forms saying I was willing and knowingly giving up the ring, we mailed it off (certified, insured, return reciept requested) to his office last week and now

HE SENT BACK THE RING TO MY ATTORNEY.

To give back to me. I gave it up, I did not want it. He could sell it. I wanted that part of this whole procedure done and dusted as they say.

The jewelery was one question the Trustee had during my hearing and I did my due diligence, new appraisal, decided it was not worth keeping (all that bad ju ju on it) and decided the cost to "buy" it back from the Trustee could be better spent on a new to me car fund. Plus after spending $1200 on transmission repair (and depleting my newly set up car and emergency fund) I was not willing to buy back the ring at the appraised price. Oh well, it will just sit in my jewlery box.

Go figure as they say.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Accepted at Pay Per Post-YEE HA

I’m very excited! My Blog was accepted by Pay Per Post, and now I can start accepting sponsored posts on this Blog. I found about about Pay Per Post by

word of mouth ethics

My interests are varied, even more than what I have listed in my profile (which is also getting updated this week), and I'm hoping to use my Pay Per Post income to meet my financial goals and to be able to start donating to my favorite charities again, something that has been on the back burner this year. Nice to see Pay Per Post supporting these worthy causes (Habitat for Humanity, The Red Cross just to name two).

What is really interesting about Pay Per Post is the variety of topics you can write about, personal finance, money, legal representation, self help courses, travel options, the possibilities are pretty endless, it all depends on what you like to write about. Plus you can do Pay Per Post Direct where someone hires you to write about their product (and you get to set your price) or you can search out a topic/product to write about based on the criteria given in the opportunities section. I’ve seen many of my fellow Bloggers writing on a variety of topics and I’ve been introduced to some new and exciting web sites from their sponsored posts.

If you have not signed up for Pay Per Post, check it out and submit your blog for consideration! I think it has been worth the wait.



Looking for a Second Job has hit a Snag

Even with my resolution this past month to find a second job, it has been harder than anticipated. Part of it is due to my full time work schedule. I don't get out of work early enough to go home, deal with my animals and make the drive to the nearest mall or shopping center to work an evening shift. I can do weekends, but almost exclusively, the places I have spoken to or dropped off applications need both weekday and weekend. I live just that bit too far in the sticks to be able to make that type of work work for me. Most local businesses close at 5 or 6 PM, I get out of work at 5PM. I don't have the flexibility to change my work schedule either. Frustrating.

I did pick up a very part time position photographing homes for a title search company, but it only pays $15/$20 per photograph and it is not steady work. If I could do at least 5 to 6 properties per week, that would be a big help. It's my understanding that the real estate market it slow and gets even slower between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

I have not given up the ship yet. I just have to be a bit more creative and see what I can find that will work with my schedule or see what other options are out there.

Financial Goal for 2008

Patrick at Cash Money for Life is running a contest or carnival for the Best Financial Resolution of 2008. Bouncing Betty has decided to enter.

My Financial Goal for 2008 is to save $4000 to use as a down payment for a new (or new to me car) no later than May 15th 2008. I will do this by finding a second job and earmarking that income towards my car fund and being even more diligent in sticking to my new and improved budget. This will mean saving/earning $800 per month to achieve this goal. Between a second job and budgeting, I know it can be done.

Lofty goals, but it has to be done!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Just to Really Make My Weekend

My DVD player decided last night to die. I was trying to watch a DVD and it kept getting stuck at one chapter. Thought it was the DVD, so I switched to a different movie, same thing happened except then the DVD player decided to make all these noises, I could not activate any of the menus, and it would not open the DVD slot. Since I don't have cable or get great TV reception, I watch a lot of movies, especially in the winter when I am home and the weather is not condusive to sitting outside and listening to music.

Verdict, dead as a doornail. Great and ugh. Another thing to add to my list of household items that have died (hoover, toaster oven, and now DVD player). I'm going to start a wish list of things I need and want. The timing on having to replace these items, well, stinks, to say the least.

I'm hoping I'll win the Lottery.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Are the Weatherproofing Improvements Worth it?

I live in a part of the country that gets cold, for a number of months, where the temperature can dip into the single digits F and stay there for days. I also live in a small not well insulated house with electric baseboard heat. Probably the house started out as a summer vacation cottage and morphed into a year round residence. Each baseboard unit has an on off switch, so I pretty much keep the heat off in each room unless it is needed (off in the bedroom and bathroom during the day, etc). That helps, at least the heat can be turned on and off as needed.

I keep the heat at 50-55F at night and no more than 65F when I am home. It's a bit chilly, but I wear sweatshirts and fleeces and have an extra blanket on the bed. I do have one section of the house that I keep the animals in. It started out as the front porch to the cottage and developed into a storage room. It does not have an exterior door, but it does have a number of windows (uninsulated) and it drafty. The winter north wind does like to come through the cracks.

This year as I did in previous years, I bought some plastic film to go over the windows. I usually bought the interior film and would do the 4 windows that seemed to get the most breeze. You can see and hear the wind come through that part of the house. The plastic would move as the wind blew. This year I bought the exterior window plastic, applied it as directed (temps over 25, clean dry siding, etc) and it lasted for about two weeks, then fell off. Of course, we are starting to hit a spell of cold and windy weather and the ambient temperature is below the manufacturers installation range. I was kind of annoyed to have my work fall apart so soon. It's too cold to redo the exterior window, so I think what I will do is put the exterior film up inside and see if that stays.

A couple years ago I bought this insulation that you can put behind your wall outlets to prevent heat loss and I put some insulation on my pipes. The house does need new windows, I had one window in the kitchen replaced with a very basic insulated one and it really cut down on the draftiness.

What I would really like to do is to replace the insulation in my crawl space. Half of it is on the correct way, half of it on the wrong way. (The people I bought the house from were horrible at all the supposed home improvements they did and that was one of them.) Buying the insulation is not the hard part, getting someone to go into the crawl space, take out the old and install the new stuff is the difficult part.

The other thing I would like to do is replace my gas fire. I have an old propane gas fire that I use as auxiliary heat. I only keep it on when I'm home. It has three temperatures, off, lo and high and no thermostat. It would work best in a garage or workshop, not having a thermostat means it cranks out heat. The house can go from 55 to 75 if I have the gas fire on and then drop back to 55 in a very short period of time when I turn it off. I kinda wonder if I'm wasting a lot of propane turning it on and off like that. I tend to use it in the middle of winter when it's really cold outside and I want instant warmth. It does give off heat and I find the hissing noise of the fire soothing. The animals tend to want to sleep in front of it and fry their brains. I found similar units that have thermostats, but they cost between $160-$185 (depending on the model) and then I would have to have my gas company install it ($75 just to show up to do it). It's a fairly simple connection, kinda like screwing in a new propane tank line for your gas grill, but I'm not that adventurous and would rather have a professional do the work. I'm wondering with the spike in oil prices (and thus the spike in my gas price) would it be worth the investment to have an updated unit? Or do I just wear an extra fleece, drink more tea and gut it out until next year?

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Next Weeks Food Plan

Breakfast: Bread product with egg or cream cheese

Lunch and Dinners: Leftovers, leftovers and more leftovers. I have a fridge full of leftovers. I do have some salad fixings, but not alot. I am soo tired of food.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Some New Links and Work on the Page

Having yesterday off and the holiday meal planned for the end of the day gave me some time to fiddle with the blog. I added some new links and new blogs. I also figured out how to work the RSS feed and subscriber stuff! It's amazing when you can sit down for a couple hours, read the instructions and get things done! My thanks to those of you who have started to subscribe in your readers!

I'm one of those weird people who likes to clean. A couple of my links (Flylady, Real Simple) have great cleaning, organization and decluttering tips. My new favorite way to really clean a sink comes from Flylady. I also highly recommend Method cleaning products for your home. I love the Pink Grapefruit and Cucumber All Purpose Spray and use the Sea Mineral hand wash.

I will also admit, I am a Cricket fan. I spent one full day of my vacation watching the test matches between England and Australia (known as The Ashes) in a pub, indoors, when the UK was having glorious sunny warm weather and I could have been out and about enjoying a great summer day. I'm not from a Cricket loving people by birth, nationality or marriage. I just think Cricket is a neat game. I read a variety of Cricket blogs depending on what countries are playing (Indian/Pakistan, England/Australia).

I also neatly sorted through my reciepts that have been collecting in my reciept wallet, worked a bit on my Christmas present list, actually addressed almost 3/4 of my Holiday cards (to go to the Post Office tomorrow), and started to think about my December to January Budgets.

Overall, I'd say it was a good day off and the meal with friends was pretty darn tasty as well. The evening was topped off by a nice glass of wine and watching Grey's Anatomy and Ugly Betty.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

A Couple Blogs/Sites of Note

Part in parcel with my whole bouncing back learning curve is researching and reading all sorts of personal finance and finance related blogs and web sites. One site is MortgageFit.com This particular site has a number of discussion forums on things like credit repair, budgeting, mortgage companies, loan knowhow for first time home buyers and other forums.

The site has quality content and looks like it updates the site frequently to keep up to date as to what is happening in the world of mortgages and banking. I would recommend that if you are planning on buying a home that you look at all your mortgage options, visit this site and take some time to look at the various forums.

Check it out.

Happy Thanksgiving

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

More Forms......

I had a call from my attorney's office on Monday. I had to stop by and fill out MORE forms for the court. This time it was :

1) A form stating I was willingly and knowingly giving up my jewelery.

2) A form stating I had taken my post filing budgeting course verifying the certificate I had e-mailed to my attorney was indeed, my actual certificate.

3) A form stating I understood the Trustee wanted my 2007 income tax refund (if there was one, if there is going to be one, it will be small).

I keep telling my attorney that I don't think I'll be getting back a huge refund. I used to work a job that had a lot of un-reimbursed employee expenses. Those expenses I had to declare and write off on my income tax. My current job pays for almost all of those expenses. I won't have that much to declare. I get the feeling the court Trustee and my attorney don't quite believe me.

Believe me, it won't be that much and if the court wants it, they can have it. I really don't have a say in that matter at all. I just feel like I keep making some forward progess, then have to take these backwards steps.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Week in Review-Part 2

I think the week went well. I did a cupboard clean out, dumping old containers, re-assessing what food I had, cleaned out a couple drawers. I did a mini Target shop, (I bought 6 pairs of much needed socks and the new containers for food storage.)

I think I might be under budget on a few categories. My question to you all is, If you are under budget, do you take the difference and put it in your EF or savings account or do you leave it in your general account? What do you do with the difference at the end of the month?

Since I am needing a new or new to me car and know how difficult it will be to get a loan, I'm tentatively earmarking extra funds to that account.

The Week in Review-Food review

Overall, (except for the overdraft) it was a better week than the week before. My meal planning went well, actually had left overs from the planned out meals, and have planned out the meals for the upcoming week.

I was asked to bring a casserole to the Thursday Thanksgiving, and I had ready purchased a number of the ingredients as part of my food shop. I am also going to a post Thanksgiving Thanksgiving meal and was asked to bring a dish. The only bummer part is I don't have all the ingredients for this dish, so off (again) to the grocery store for the items I need. Have I told you I really don't like to grocery shop? (yup, a couple times). I have tried to plan out my meals using things I currently have in my food cupboard and refridgerator. Time to use up stuff!

I did a bit of a clean out this week. I had a bunch of containers that I had been using as leftover storage and to bring my meals to work. With all those scares on plastics leaching toxins, I tossed these containers. I know they are at least a year old and I have no idea if they are safe to be used for multiple microwaving sessions. They are left over containers from pre-made meals (one of my old co-workers would buy his lunch every day at the gourmet deli and would put the container in the kitchen to be recycle, I swiped them to use as storage containers, they were a good size). I'd rather be safe than sorry.

I did go to Target and picked up a set of Rubbermaid containers (plus a spiff rack to store the containers and lids on) for $19.99. I have some organization in my cupboards and these containers are microwave safe. It also will help me with portion control for my meals.

The upcoming week should be a good one food wise,

Breakfast: The usual, bread product with cream cheese or an egg, Pancakes and Sausage brunch on Thanksgiving.

Lunches:
Black beans and rice-1 day
Soup and salad=1 day
Sandwich-1 day
Leftovers!-1 day

Dinner:
Business Dinner-1 day
Bean and rice burritos-1 day
Grilled Cheese-1 Day
Thanksgiving Feast-1 day
Pasta-1 day


I have to do a budget check tomorrow, but I think I'm ok on the food budget, any left over $$ I want to earmark for me emergency fund.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Upcoming Holiday

Next Thursday is the American Thanksgiving. Meal wise, I'm having my meal with my great neighbors. I'll bring over a casserole (a variation on the traditional green bean casserole) and a bottle of wine or 6 pack of something. The great part is all I have to do is walk about 50 feet from my front door to their dining room table. Plus the meal will be towards the end of the afternoon. Perfect actually, I can have a large breakfast (I'm thinking pancakes, I never make pancakes anymore) and then take the dogs for a long walk (as long as it's not pissing down rain) and come home ready for a big meal.

I actually do have a lot of things to be thankful for. I'm thankful for my neighbors who have been great friends to me,~loaning me cars and a shoulder to whinge on, I'm thankful I have a job, I'm thankful I have my dogs (as much as they make me crazy right now), I'm thankful I have my house, and I'm thankful that I'm surviving this bankruptcy process with most of my dignity in tact, albeit with acne and grey hair coming in from the stress of it all. Onward and upward as they say!

Nobody's Fault But My Own

I logged back on to my bank account last night and took a closer look. Can't blame any one but me for the overdraft. I had pre-written out a couple checks (to be mailed today) and somehow I dropped them in the post early. They hit my account early, thus the overdraft. Sigh :(

I remember now the envelopes were in my bag, stamped and ready to go and being far too efficient last weekend, I mailed them 5 days early.

STILL-lesson learned, should have had a better cushion in my account.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

First Bounced Check in over a Year

I logged on to my bank account last night to see if my direct deposit hit early (some times it does, sometimes it does not). Only to find my account was in the red. WTF? I did a quick scroll and saw a check I had written for a donation in July was finally cashed in November. Since I am pretty good about monitoring my account balance,balancing my checking account and noting what checks are outstanding, I'm not sure how this slipped by me. I was pretty sure it had cleared in August.

I've not had an overdraft in over a year. I knew my account would be low until payday,I paid all my utility bills, car insurance, those small bills we tend to forget with the last paycheck, but was not expecting an overdraft. The bank honored the check, but I got hit with a $29 overdraft fee. GRR. Live and learn, and the lesson is to keep a better cushion in the account so this does not happen again.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Colors

Ok, so I've been a little bored at work today and instead of a post, I fiddled with the colors on the blog.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A Couple Half.com Sales

I listed about 13 books on Half.com last week and three have sold. WOO HOO. Not tons of money, but enough where I can treat myself to a DVD later this month. I did not list the books for much (the minimum or a few cents above) and am happy that they sold to someone else who will enjoy them like I did.

I'm going to try posting a collection of books by the same author on E-bay and see if that will generate any interest. Ya never know!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Pay Per Post

I have a couple more days then I'll be eligible for Pay Per Post. My blog was initially rejected because it was not active for at least 90 days, I hit that mile stone on Thursday. I'm curious to see who asks me to write about them on this blog. Should be fun!


The Food Theme Continues!

After reeling from the amount of money I spent at the grocery store, I also jumped on the bandwagon on being better about planning my weekly meals. Last week I did really well both lunches and dinner. The weekend was OK, I only bought a sandwich and a drink on the run on Saturday, $5.49, much better from previous week when I spent $24 on lunch alone in three days. I ate the last of my leftovers for lunch and dinner on Sunday (I went to a dinner party on Saturday) . I did spend $30 at the grocery store, but 1/3 of that was dog food and I did a stock up on more canned staples from the damage can bin.

I made a pot of split pea soup last night (using some of the chicken soup I had frozen as stock as a base) for part of my meals this week and took a good look at the food cupboard as well.

My shopping for this week is minimal (dog bones for the dogs, some veg and milk, some fruit for snacks). I've half planned out my meals for the week. My goal for the week is to pretty much make my meals with what I have on hand in the cupboard and in the fridge/freezer. Not much left in the freezer except for some frozen chicken. I don't want to spend a ton of money at the grocery store. I'm tired of the grocery store! I want to work on using what I have for my meals. I also noticed I'm collecting lots of staples (canned beans, dried beans tomatoes, simmer sauces) but not using them. Time to use what I have!

Breakfast: The usual, bread product with cream cheese and a topping (tomato, avocado, fresh bell pepper) or an egg. Tea and or juice.

Lunches:
Homemade Soup and Salad: 2 days
Fake Indian Left overs: 1 day
Sandwich: 1 day
Left Over Beans and Rice: 1 day

Dinners:
Soup and Salad-1 day
Fake Indian-1 day (Thank you Trader Joe's simmer sauces)
Pasta-1 day
Beans and Rice-1 day
Quesadillas or Grilled chicken-1 day

My grand plan is to use up as many things from my cupboards as possible and do one large re-stocking food shop on December 1st.

A Few More Things off The To Do List

1) Took and finished post filing on-line course. Also sent certificate to Attorney's office for the Trustee.
2) Made sure I called/e-mailed three folks I have not been in contact with in over a month just to say Hi and tell them I was thinking about them.
3) Moved some furniture around the house for a "fresh, new look" (and actually the living room area looks better!)
4) Made the decision to give the family heirloom jewelry to the Trustee. The appraisal came back low (as I thought it would) but I still have to "buy back" my own jewelry. After thinking about it, I can ear mark that money towards my new car fund. I need to fund the car fund more than I need jewelry (even a family heirloom). It was a surprisingly easy decision to make when I looked at it in dollars and cents. Plus I still think the ring has bad ju ju and I don't need any more bad vibes in my life at this point.

A Little Treat to Myself

Taking the advice of others, I booked a hair appointment for Saturday and splurged on a decent haircut. I did not get my hair colored (instead I used nail scissors to clip the grey strands-ugh), maybe next month when I'm feeling better about the budget.

It was nice to have a bit of "me time".

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Ok it's fixed

No more menstrual cell ads (at least for now)

Whats Up with Ad Sense

Most definitely not my type of ad that is currently running. Not at all. Google is doing something to us all!

Just To Make My Self More Insane

As I was driving by the local Ford dealer, out in front was my "new" car. The Ford Escape, in blue, with A/C, a sunroof and a hitch receiver. Oh to be the winner of Powerball................

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Feeling The Early Winter Blues

I don't think it is just me, a couple other folks who blog have also said they are feeling a bit blue.

I found this past weekend to be hard on the soul. All I wanted to do was curl up on the couch with a book, a mug of tea and read. Which I did for part of the weekend. Part of the problem was I was so engrossed in two books that I did not get to sleep until way past my bedtime, but the animals were still up at their usual time, plus with the time change, it was an early Sunday.

I still have this urge to just go to bed, pull the covers over my head and hope it all goes away...

Monday, November 5, 2007

What The Hell Did I Spent $84.81 On?

Groceries/Food: $84.81
Gas: $37.82
Eating Out: $24 (not good)
Laundry: $16

Total $162.09

I added up my grocery receipts and it looks like I spent almost half my monthly food allotment in the first four days. $84.81. My first reaction was "On What?" That's almost half my freaking budget. I looked down the list, I got a supply of chicken breast for the freezer that I can cook on the grill or on the stove top, bough a medium sized fryer to make soup with and use the boiled chicken for sandwiches, a couple weeks supply of drinks, re-stocked my pantry with various and assorted staples (flour, yeast, pasta,beans, salt, etc) and items to make my lunch with. Plus I'm pretty well stocked in the Pantry, so hopefully the rest of the month won't be so bad.

I made the soup yesterday, it was yummy, had it for supper last night and lunch this am. Will make chicken salad with part of the leftover chicken and some sort of a casserole with the rest (one of my favorites is to make cream sauce and add in the chicken, a bunch of veg, some pasta and top it off with either breadcrumbs or biscuits). I'll probably freeze the leftover soup and use it as a base for other soups or meals.

I am going to drag out my bread machine tonight and make a fresh loaf of whole wheat bread, that should make my sandwich days more appealing, plus I did not make any bread last week (the whole wheat flour I had was buggy, tells you the last time I used that container-gross).

With the leftovers I won't be ordering in any meals. I can't, to spend $24 on 3 meals is a bit crazy. AND to top it off, the Chinese was not that spicey and I really wanted spicey food, it left me a bit unsatisfied.

Stealing someone Wooly Woman's Theme, The Meals for the Week are as Follows:

Breakfast

Bread Product with cream cheese or one egg (my usual!)

Lunch

Soup and Salad: 1 Meals
Chicken Salad Sandwich: 1 Meal
Salad with toppings: 1 Meal
Leftover Casserole: 1 Meal
Office Pizza Party: 1 Meal (we are celebrating someones Birthday, free meal!)

Supper

Casserole: 2 Meals
Pasta with Red Sauce: 1 meal
Soup and Salad: 1 Meal
Grilled Chicken: 1 Meal
Fake Quesadilla's: 1 Meal

That should take me through the weekend. I am supposed to go to a party on Saturday night and how I feel on Sunday will dictate what additional shopping I do for my meals for the next week. When I'm home in the winter on the weekends, I usually cook up a pot of something (soup, stew, a roast meal, gravy for pasta). House smells good and I can usually get some great leftovers out of the meal.

Like I said earlier, not a lot of freezer space means I'm eating a lot of chicken these next few weeks.

I'll let you know how I fare.

The Weekend Wrap Up.

Without looking at my receipts, I can tell it was NOT a bad weekend money wise. I did my food shopping, both at Costco and the grocery store. I got a lot of staples for the cupboard that I had run out on and some "regular" food as well. I really don't enjoy grocery shopping. Even with a carefully planned out list, I tend to get that glazed, deer in headlights feeling and wander around the store wondering if I got everything I needed. My cupboards are full for the next few weeks (with just the occasional jaunt to the store for fresh veg as needed), so I should be ok. I planned out a week of meals and that is a good thing, I'll have some leftovers for my lunches.

The downside was I bought my lunch Friday ($9.50) Saturday ($8.50) and Sunday ($6.25). Friday a couple of us from work got take out, Saturday I was craving Chinese food, specifically spicy Chinese food and Sunday I was out and about and feeling too lazy to cook when I got back to the house. Plus I spent a good portion of Saturday morning and then another 1.5 hours on Sunday at the laundromat. The last thing I wanted to do was come home and make lunch.

I don't have a full sized washer or a dryer at home. So when the pile of clothes gets out of hand (like it did this week) and the animal laundry too much, off to the laundromat I go. I will admit the animal bedding gets washed in the big super sized $5.50 per load machine on the hot cycle with lots of soap. The bedding comes out really clean, doesn't smell and after a run in the tumble dryer, also without animal hair. I had forgotten some of the bedding and decided to just get it done on Sunday. Plus I was by the other laundromat that morning, I did a grocery shop and returned my returnables while the clothes were being washed.

Hope your weekend was just as exciting as mine!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Is a Costco or BJ's Membership Worth The Price?

As I look at my shopping list for the upcoming month, I have a list that is marked Costco. This is the list of items I buy at Costco. For me it's seltzer water, lettuce, dog food, drinks for my cooler if I am in travel mode, laundry detergent, and depending on what I need, meat and veggies.

I got a Costco (then Price Club) membership years ago when you had to prove you belonged to a credit union, worked for a school district, the government, etc. The cost of the membership has risen from $30 to $50 per year. I recently got a free two months trial at a BJ's (I'm going to "comparison shop" the two chains), they are $45 a year.

My recent problem with Costco is I don't have enough room at my home for buying too many things in bulk or the large super size items. Years ago I lived in a house with a spacious kitchen and spare bedroom with a closet that was the repository of the paper goods and extra cleaning supplies. Plus I drove by the Costco on my way to and from work and it became our subsitute grocery store (this Costco also sold wine and beer). Now I live in just under 500 sf of space with nary an extra closet to be had. I also have a small fridge with a small freezer, storing extra food items is hard as well. Buying chicken pieces in bulk means I'm eating a lot of chicken and nothing else. I don't have room at the house for even a small freestanding freezer to use for storage, space is tight!

I've done my comparison shopping to know almost without exception, the items that are less expensive at Costco than at the local grocery store or chain store. Most of the meats are less expensive, pasta about the same (cheaper at the grocery store when it's on offer), drinks less expensive, basamti rice much less expensive, paper goods, laundry detergent, super size of certain health and beauty aids pretty much the same depending on store sales. I have also gotten some great CDs (one time a fantastic 5 CD jazz compilation rivaling the Smithsonian one, only a lot less cheaper), DVD's, kids books, a suitcase, etc. The Grey Poupon Dijon Mustard in the two pack is a great deal :)

The particular Costco I go to has a gas station and an optical department. I try to fill up my car with gas each time I am there, they price per gallon is at least 3-4 cents cheaper than most gas stations. The Optician is covered under my health insurance so not only can I get a discount on my glasses and contacts, but the visit is covered as well.

The one draw back is the large size of the things I buy, because large is all they offer. Somethings like the large jar of artichoke hearts take up space, but I do put them on my salads and use for cooking and they don't go bad if I miss a few days. Lettuce can sometimes turn to mush only fit for the compost bin in a few days (and sometimes my fridge "freezes" the lettuce-yuck). Meat and chicken is tough, I don't eat those protein products everyday and as I stated above, my freezer space is limited. There is a lot of rice in a ten pound bag.

For me, the savings I get (and just for the gas alone) are worth the membership fee.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

I Love Free or Almost Free Stuff

Being bankrupt means you have to find creative ways to get the things you need and want. I still can't believe how much money I spent last month (and used up any excess in my checking account).

Trying to remain optimistic I have taken to re-reading my two Freecycle lists and Craig's List under the free section. Freecycle is a Yahoo group where folks offer for free, items that they no longer want or need, or they post for items they might need. I see all kinds of items on the list from old cars good for parts to clothes, books, toys, etc.

I have given away a bunch of miscellaneous kitchen equipment, miscellaneous dog equipment, an old mink coat, my old mountain bike that sat outside for 3 years and needed a major tune up I did not have the time or energy to do, divided up perennials flowers from my garden that originally came from a very upscale local nursery, wire garden fencing and posts (recycled from someone else, I had too many, used what I needed and offered the rest stating they were used from another project), extra lawn chairs, and books that did not sell on Craig's list, E-Bay or Half.com.

I have gotten a really nice dog house, a really nice bread machine that I use weekly, and a Thule rack with locks for my car (I only needed to order a new set of keys from Thule, cost $8). The search for the Thule rack was done in a moment of desperation, I needed a rack for my car, could not find one for less than $350 that would fit my older model Saturn and I needed it fast. That was my best item received and it has worked out great for me.

I tend to post items offered more than items wanted, but now that my expendable income is almost nill, time to go back to items wanted!

Depending on where you live, freecycle is a great way to get used items you need.