Thursday, January 31, 2008

Starting Off The Month With Some Bill Paying and Electricty Woes

After having a great string of No Spend Days, it's being broken today. I paid my electric bill ($149), my car insurance ($86), a balance due to my MD ($74) and my phone bill ($31.00). I also need to gas up the car ($35) and do a food shop ($50).

My electric bill is high and each year seems to get higher. I have electric heat (cheap to install, not cheap to run) and an electric hot water heater. Plus my utility company has raised it's rates something like 30-40% in the past year. Ouch. Even with prudent use of electricity, my bill is high. I have unplugged the vampire appliances, upgrading the TV means only two units plugged in (TV and DVD player) instead of four (TV, DVD, VCR and RF Modulator). I only plug in the cell phone charger when I need to charge the phone. The power strip for the computer and printer is turned off. I've been getting better about not having on tons of lights (there is only me in the house most of the time, why do I need three lights on?) and switched a majority of my bulbs to CFL's.

My house is a converted summer cottage with minimal insulation (in the attic crawl space, and in most of the basement crawl space, not sure what's in the walls). I have electric baseboard heating, one strip in my bedroom, one in the bath, one in the kitchen and one in the living room. The only strip that is on full time is the one in the kitchen and I keep it at a bracing 52F. The bathroom gets turned on before I go to bed and then turned off after my morning shower. Sorry folks, I don't like a cold toilet! I keep the bathroom at a balmy 68F. The exception to the rule is when we get frigid and windy weather, then I crank the heat up to 60-65 so my pipes don't freeze. A gift to myself was a heated bedpad. I got this baby in early December with an unexpected $50 win from the Lotto. I turn the bedpad on about half an hour before I go to bed and it gently heats up the bed, no need for the bedroom electric heat. That plus an extra blanket, I feel like I'm sleeping in a cocoon of warmth.

Options to reduce my electric bill are limited. I have an Energy Star hot water heater (replaced three years ago), I'm looking into switching energy retailers (but they all want a year committement-kind of like your cell phone provider), I've put up plastic insulation on the windows, I've put extra insulation in the attic crawl space and in the spring, I will replace some of the basement crawl space insulation with higher R-Value insulation. I do have an auxillary gas heater that runs off of propane, but it's an older model with no thermostat and has three temperatures, low, high and off. It's not the best for keeping the house at a moderate temperature and I use it only when it's really cold or if I need a quick warm up. I'm on the lookout for a replacement one with a thermostat, I have this feeling they will go on sale once the DIY stores start putting out lawn mowers and barbeques.

I guess all I can do at this point is wear sweatshirts in the house and pray that Puxatwaney Phil forecasts an early spring!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Tax Man Cometh

It's tax season. As Benjamin Franklin once said, the only two certain things in life were death and taxes. I'm hoping to avoid the former for a very long time, but the latter is coming up soon.

Part of Bankrupt Betty's discharge involves the Court Trustee getting most of my return. I called my attorney's office the other day to let them know I was still waiting on some tax forms and probably would do my taxes in Mid February. The paralegal told me that when they amended my BK petition, I get to keep part of my tax return. $400-not much, but better than nothing. That is already earmarked for my Emergency Fund

My previous couple returns netted me a decent return, mainly because I had a lot of non reimbursed employee expenses and costs that I got to write off. Not the case with my new job. A lot of my expenses are employer paid and therefore I can't write them off. Ah well.

MSN Money has a 15 Point Tax Return Check List that is worth looking at, written by MSN Contributor, Jeff Schnepper . Even if you are organized about your taxes, it can't hurt to read the article just to make sure no stone is left unturned!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

No Spend Day Again and Pricing Out Gyms

Yesterday was a no spend day and if I play my cards right, today will be a no spend day as well. Easy to do IF I plan my spending carefully and not forget things like lunch, stamps, etc.

I looked in to a couple local gyms, the closest one to me is a bit pricey, but close to home and work. The less expensive gym and the closest YMCA are not close to either home or work and I can't see myself driving 10 miles to use the gym 3-4 x a week. I'm going to ask for a week or two week guest pass and see if I like the place close to home. Bankrupt Betty's doctor has mandated weight loss and an exercise program. Since my favorite clothes are getting a bit tight, I see a need for the new exercise regime. I have been enjoying my new stretching program (lots of stretching some Yoga,etc). at home, but I know I need the use of cardio machines. It's still too dark when I get home from work to walk and the roads are not safe at night in my area. I belonged to a gym a number of years ago and I liked the gym atmosphere, despite adding this to my budget, I am looking forward to going back to the gym.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Needs and Wants-Winter List

We all have needs and wants, and one thing I did this weekend when I did my budget was think about my needs and wants. In general, I really don't need or want that much, but there are a few things. I'm putting my list out there, I will be doing my best to budget for the needs and wants and will search Craig's list and freecycle!


1) A new to me car (yes I covet the Ford Escape in 4WD with sunroof or the Toyota Highlander in 4WD with sunroof and both with working A/C!)
2) Slippers (i just trash my slippers during the winter.)
3) Two new pairs of pants (something in the wash stained my two pairs of good khaki colored work pants, and did not find anything worth getting at my two favorite consignment shops).
4) A second paying job to help pay for Item #1.


1) New bamboo floors in the house to replace ratty old linoleum.
2) New DVD player (might be able to find one on sale).
3) New toaster oven.
4) New set of high thread count sheets.
5) New food cupboard ( kitchen island or jelly cupboard). My current "cabinet" is literally falling apart.
6) Some lovely bottles of wine or champagne.-You can never have enough vino!
7) Complete series of Ab Fab and Chef!

February Zero Based Budget

As I posted a few days ago, one goal for February was a zero based budget. I worked on it over the weekend. A couple categories may need to be tweaked at some point.

Variable Expenses: Utilities, Medical, Transportation, miscellaneous, food
Fixed Expenses: Mortgage, Student Loan, Emergency Fund, Savings are fixed.

My food budget also includes eating out and alcohol purchases. My utilities are dependent upon the weather (cold weather= higher electric bills, I have electric heat). Transportation is gas, and gas prices for the car vary depending on what I do during the month and the price of gas. I've got a couple doctor appointments that won't be fully covered under my health insurance, so I've budgeted for those. The remaining $425 will be earmarked for my emergency fund. I'll take $212 at the beginning of the month and add it to my EF and the $213 will be deposited at the end of the month. I just want to make sure I've not missed something my first zero budget month.

Now to really stick to my zero based budget.....

Cash Flow worksheet
Monthly income

Monthly wages/salary $2,300.00
Dividends/interest $0.00
Other $50.00

Total monthly income $2,350.00

Monthly Expenses

Mortgage/rent $555.00
Utilities $170.00
Transportation/gas $110.00
Food $200.00
Phones $60.00
Internet $15.00
Miscellaneous $100.00
Student Loans $175.00
Emergency Fund $200.00
Medical $200.00
Insurance $90.00
Other $0.00
Total monthly expenses $1,875.00

Monthly income $2,350.00
Minus monthly expenses $1,875.00
Minus monthly savings $50.00

your surplus/deficit $425.00-earmarked for emergency fund.

Surplus/Deficit: 0

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Some Goals for February

Some Goals that are a Work in Progress

Kitchen painted-done
Search for a second job-trying, need to try harder, need to be more creative.
Work on personal web site and personal blog-need to blog more on personal blog, web site does not need too much more work for now.
No Spend Days: Need to plan better for lunches, etc but getting better!

February Goals

Set a zero based budget;
Make an effort again to reduce un-needed possessions in home.
Start on spring Garden plans!-Seed catalogs are starting to arrive.
** Must find a gym*** MD follow up appointment is end of February and I'd better have some results or my doctor will have to go to her Plan B with me!
10 No Spend Days: Sometimes I wonder why this is so hard to do. It's the little things that get me.

Old Goals, New Goals, Budgets and Looking Forward to February

I realized as I was looking over this blog that I never posted my budget for January or my Budget results for December. Shame on me. January's budget was pretty much the same as Decembers Budget, and I expect February to be similar except that I need to make a few changes to utilities and insurance/medical based on costs the past few months.

I can truly only say, my dog ate most of my receipts for December. I pulled all my December receipts out on my table to go through them. I bought a lot of food stuffs as gifts. I left them on my table and my young dog decided it was a good day to learn to climb on the table, grabbed the stack and half chewed them. The dog loves to chew paper (tissues, magazines, letters, she's a bit odd) SOOO, I know I went over in my food category, but lots of that actually needed to be re categorized as gifts (wine, food, treats).

One of my goals for February was to do a Zero based budget. And it scares the hell out of me. For the first time in a very long time I am going to hold myself accountable for every penny I earn. I did a quick look at a proposed budget last night and if my budgeting figures work out, I'll be able to have almost $500 leftover. That money is earmarked for my ING account/EF account. $500 is a lot of money and my plans for it at this point are to go right into savings or my Roth IRA.

Friday, January 25, 2008

You've Filed Bankruptcy~Let Us Help You "Bounce Back"- for a fee

As has been stated before, filing Bankruptcy is pretty stressful. No matter where you live, the US or the UK (sorry I don't have any information on Canadian Bankruptcy practices), you stand to lose a lot of things, your home, your car, savings, bank accounts, certain assets, your self esteem. Part of my reasoning for starting this blog was to have a place to vent and to have a place where folks could find information and links that helped me and may be a reference for them.

I consider myself very lucky. I got to keep my house, my old car was already paid off and not worth much so that stayed, I almost lost inherited jewelry, but in the end, the Trustee said I could keep it and I'll have to turn over any income tax refund. I had to take two on line courses, one on credit counseling and one on budgeting and debt management as part of the BK Filing. That was all the debt management education I got.

Even before I was discharged and literally the day I was discharged, I started getting
credit card and car loan offers. Seems these rather aggressive lenders knew about the discharge before I did.

One mailing I got was an "invitation" to attend an on line seminar on life after bankruptcy. The seminar promoter was a post BK filer and now had wonderful credit, fabulous home, fancy cars, etc. I was curious, I wanted to see what the information was. Since it was "free" I signed up. I never participated (you needed high speed Internet and I'm on dial up at home), but now I am on a mailing list for this company. I have been getting weekly e-newsletters that are touting, "Download our PDF on how to apply for a new credit card", OR "Download our PDF on how to search for an automotive lender", OR any number of other credit rebuilding practices.

The hitch-you had to have purchased the mini course of rebuilding your life after Bankruptcy from these folks BEFORE you can download these pearls of wisdom. What I find interesting, is with a little on line research, this SAME EXACT INFORMATION is available FREE. See my other posts from today. has some excellent information (I'm using their site to source out a secured credit card as part of my Bouncing Back stage) and I also am finding good information on MSN Money Web Site and the Women in the Red forum.

For people in the UK, I strongly recommend
Ladies in the Red. Katie is a UK post BK survivor and her site has tons of excellent information on IVA's, BK, Agencies to help you, a forum to post on, and my new favorite, Ask Auntie Annie. And guess what, It's FREE. No need to pay a fee.

I am just amazed what is out there and how some folks can prey on the desperate.

DISCLAIMER: All posts are my own observations. Please if you have ANY questions about your money, finances, etc, please consult with a financial professional and your own attorney if you are in any sort of Bankruptcy filing or Debt Management Program. What works and worked for me might not work for you.

Misconceptions About Bankruptcy

In an earlier post, I mentioned a friend of mine wrongly assumed that since I was discharged from Bankruptcy that I would have unlimited funds to spend on his birthday present (update-he called last night to tell me the best time to mail his present as he was going on vacation around his birthday and wanted his gift BEFORE he traveled.-Yes he's a bit self centered).

Here is a link to an article on some bankruptcy myths. My thanks to Hope for the Bankrupt for redirecting me to the website. I have a link to in on my blog. is an excellent web site with lots of quality information on bank rates, loans, debt management, personal finance and more.

I'd also suggest folks with questions about bankruptcy read their primer on it. You can link that section of their web site here. It answers a lot of questions folks have about filing bankruptcy and what happens during and after the process.

Interesting Article

From Hope for the Bankrupt blog. This is from Family Business Magazine . Click here for the article.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

One More No Spend Day, Using Up Food Staples, and the Job Hunt Continues

Yesterday was another no spend day (thank goodness these are becoming habits!) and I'm in the middle of a pantry clean out.

I've gone back to cooking my meals and instead of aimlessly wandering the grocery store with no set menu in mind, I've been planning meals from what's in the cupboards. I keep thinking I'll use up what I have in the cupboards, but it does not always happen. Many of us talk about using up the food in the cupboard, but how many of us really do? This month, I am. I wanted to make black bean soup last night only to find I was out of canned (and dried) black beans. Quick menu change, I made Tuscan White Bean Soup, as I had two cans of white beans. Improvisation is key. I looked at my supply of potatoes and they are starting to look a little under the weather. Plan for those is either scalloped potatoes, or potato and corn chowder (I have a can of corn in the cupboard, I prefer fresh or frozen). I'm just not quite sure what to do with the can of cream of something unusual soup I have no memory of buying (not mushroom, or chicken, or celery). Some sort of a creamy casserole? I will have to figure that out for one of my weekend meals. I'm almost out of all my frozen veg, just have a few burgers left in the freezer (which may become some sort of ground beef casserole), soup sized pasta, assortment of dried beans, etc.

I can honestly say that my stress eating has decreased dramatically in the past few weeks. I feel like I'm getting back to normal eating patterns. Since I don't have to stress eat, I'm not stress food shopping and I'm saving some money. I don't have this complusion to run to the grocery store every day. I envy those folks when stressed they lose weight, I eat and gain weight :(

I've gotten a couple second job ideas from folks and I'm looking into them. I never connected with my friend who will be looking for extra help starting in March, our paths just did not cross. So it's on my agenda to touch base with him in the next few weeks and see if that is still available. Job pickings in the local papers are small this time of year.
Something will turn up, I'm sure of that. Now that I have my new TV, I'm focusing my energy on a new to me car.

A Vacation Idea

Vacations, we all need them. While cleaning out some files, I came across a clipping and an article I saved from an unknown magazine. I don't know what magazine, so I can't credit it. The clipping and article referenced a book, Stumbling Towards Enlightenment, and I think the author is Geraldine Larkin. I Googled the book references. I'm giving you the highlights of the clipping and article. This clipping accompanied an article about someone who did exactly what is outlined below. She ended up having a great time, found a beauty school where she got a manicure/pedicure for $20, found a reasonable B&B, ate simply, toured and visited some local sites and came home rested and refreshed and ready for her next assignment.

"Kids need them, parents need them; singles need them; partners need them. We need them after harsh winters and long school terms, after relationships end, after year-long job hunts. If you know this, the great Zen question becomes-What if I need a vacation and all I have is $350?

Here is my rousing method for getting that much needed vacation. I call it the "random road trip". A random road trip is not a planned-to-the-max-trip-to-Boston-since-I've-never-been-there vacation. Instead, it's a wake up-get-dressed-and-fill-your-gas-tank-vacation. The requirements are minimal

1) A car that works.
2) A valid driver's license (preferably your own).
3) Maps for the four directions (east, west, north, south)
4) $350 dollars in cash or on a VISA card
5) Three days, one day to get there (where ever you end up), one day to be there, and one day to drive home.

What makes a random road trip memorable is that you can't decide which direction to head in until the day you go or the day before. When you wake up, all you will feel is excitement. "

I like this philosophy. I were to drive South or East longer than a couple hours, I would end up in the ocean, but the premise is, you don't need a planned out to the max weekend escape and have a little R and R time. And if you did not have access to a car, I bet you could probably take a train or a bus someplace off the beaten path. I'm thinking about driving West in a few months and trying this out myself.

Think about it.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Yet Another Reason To Check Your Credit Reports

Today at lunch I ran over to the Real Estate office where I have my "second job". I was helping out the Broker on a prospective rental. The renters in question needed a credit report and rental application pulled and hand delivered to another agency. I was "volunteered" to run the package between the two offices on my lunch break.

The prospective tenants were sitting at the table and were quite upset. Seems they too are Bankruptcy filers. The filed a C13 and were just about 6 weeks post discharge date. Their credit report was a mess and full of mistakes. Loans that were paid were not marked paid, their house which they sold was marked as being foreclosed upon (foreclosure had started, but they sold it in a short sale). Bills not marked as paid or discharged in the Bankruptcy. In brief, their credit report was a mess and according to them, lots of old, outdated and inaccurate information. I will say that they had one Bankrutpcy dismissed about 6 months ago and then got discharged in the beginning of December, maybe there was a confusion with the debts. I really don't know. I was just the unpaid messenger in this case.


This made me pick up the phone and give a controlled shriek to my attorney's office. His paralegal said all my creditors where notified, the Bankruptcy should be on my credit report by now, but best to wait another couple weeks and then pull a report and look for mistakes. I am just one month post discharge and the paralegal said to give it at least 30 days for everything to make it's way through the systems and that I can "correct" any mistakes.

No Spend Day and How to Have More

Yee Ha, another no spend day. It's the little things that get me (postage for a letter because I forgot my stamps, an extra drink at lunch, a craving for potato chips/crisps).

I've taken over the snack buying for the office. I am now in charge of ordering coffee and tea making supplies (I volunteered for this, my boss was doing it and not doing it well, he's not a shopper). I also picked up some salty and savoury snacks for our kitchen and ice tea mix. My office is small, but we do like to have a small assortment of drinks and snacks and now that this is one of my weekly chores, I'm buying a few treats that I like and won't be tempted to buy each time I run out. My fellow office mates are happy (we seem to have similar snack tastes), my boss is happy (he does not have to deal with the grocery store ) and best of all, it's no money out of my budget.

The New TV Has Arrived

And boy is it great!. Easy to set up and even with my rabbit ears, I'm getting two extra Over The Air TV stations. I watched one of my DVD's again and all I can say is wow, the picture quality was great, even with my dying DVD player.

I did a little on line research this morning on HD antennas and came up with this video on a homemade HD indoor antenna. It's about 7 minutes, but kinda funny.

Hum, I have almost all those supplies in my home, (I think I even have a Balum as well) maybe if I get really bored this weekend, I'll give it a try. A store bought HD antenna runs around $25-$30.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

You Look Marvelous

OK folks, Bankrupt Betty is here to tell you, It's OK to spend some money on personal care and clothes. Reading a number of blogs the past couple days I have this sense that those of us in the PF blog sphere are feeling less than marvelous this month. Dare I say we are feeling a bit Frumpy? But you are afraid that by purchasing some new clothes or treating yourself to a decent haircut, your budget will be blown to bits or your goals set back months, no years, gasp horror!

And you want to replace parts of your outdated, outgrown, shabby wardrobe and you don't want to shop at Goodwill. I don't want to get cranky with you all, but if your jeans are too small or threadbare and your undergarments have lost all elastic, PLEASE TREAT YOURSELF TO SOME NEW CLOTHES, GET A DECENT HAIRCUT**

Folks, it's ok to want a new pair of pants, get a decent haircut, get some new shoes.-GO SHOPPING * I'm giving you permission to buy a new pair of pants or shirt or two. It's really OK, you will look better and then you will feel better.

To quote Billy Crystal as Fernando, "It's not how you feel, it's how you look". Enjoy the Video.

*Just do it in moderation :), there are some decent sales on at the shops and you can find good stuff at TJ Maxx, Marshalls and Macy's.

** A good haircut can make you feel like a millon bucks

Monday, January 21, 2008

Bankruptcy Misconceptions

One of the few people in my life that know I am bankrupt is my friend James (though I do get this feeling he's told everyone in my former circle of friends......). James has a milestone birthday the end of this month. He turns 50. I had planned on getting him a nice card, a small present (part of his Christmas present that never made it to his Christmas box) or two tastefully wrapped and sent to him. He does not live locally to me and we only see each other once or twice a year, but talk on the phone and via e-mail a lot.

Being bankrupt has not given me unlimited access to funds. I still have next to no savings (slowly working on that), I'm feeling better and better able to budget and take back control of my life, my self esteem is on the rise, but what I don't have is a lot of money to spend on presents, milestone birthdays or not. I just don't have it. Christmas was lean in terms of giving, I was lucky to get some very nice gifts, but by no means a present fest. Buying my new TV was a stretch, but I'm not going to be spending hundreds of dollars each month on new electronics, gifts or toys.

I spoke to James over the weekend and he said he was expecting a lavish gift for his 50th. He's not kidding either. I know that for a fact. I told him I was working on a budget and would find him something nice, his response "You don't have any debt, you can spend your money on me". There are many things I love about James, but his attitude on gifts is not one. And right now his gift attitude is grating on my last nerve.

I did have a few choice responses to that, but they are not polite and won't be posted. My actual response to him was I am trying to get my savings back in order, presents for folks are not a priority. He would get a present but don't expect a lavish one. ( and now that I think about it, he never sent me a birthday gift or card this year tisk, tisk).

James (and I'm sure others) have the misconception that once your bankruptcy is discharged, you have tons of money. Not the case in a C13 where you have to pay back your creditors and not my case in this C7. I have some money leftover once I pay my bills, but it's not a lot of money. And I had no savings to speak of. What little money I was able to save up went towards things like new transmissions, car repairs, and unexpected vet bill, medical bills and doctors visits not covered by insurance, etc.

I just wonder what other misconceptions are out there........

Friday, January 18, 2008

Still Waiting on That TV

As I posted earlier this week, I ordered a new TV from (and thanks to Saving Diva for telling me about e-bates). The only downside to all of this is the shipping time. I ordered the TV on Tuesday and it is not scheduled to be delivered until January 22 (about a week after I ordered it). I've been tracking the shipment and the UPS website says it's in transit (somewhere between California and the East Coast). I had hoped to veg out on my couch on Sunday happily watching some of my DVDs (but on my new 26" TV), but tis not to be.

Oh well, maybe I'll get a jump on my tax preparations instead.....

Getting Back To A More Normal Routine~Next Weeks Meal Planning

The kitchen has been repainted, the shelves put up, a majority of the clutter gone, things put back neatly, and I'm back to cooking my own meals again. One more goal for this month done!

While I was in the middle of the kitchen painting, I stopped cooking. It was too difficult to do food prep and cook amongst all my debris (I'm not the tidiest of painters). If it wasn't microwaveable, it was not being cooked. Plus I ate lunch out a lot since I had no leftovers to bring to work. Laziness on my part as well, I don't deny that at all.

I did a mini food shop yesterday, cooked dinner last night, have leftovers for tomorrows lunch, made a quiche for dinner tonight (unless I end up going out with freinds) and spent some time getting my mindset back into a make your food mood. Over coffee break this morning I read the store circulars and it looks like it's going to be a soup, salad, pasta and pork week. The local grocery store has pork tenderloin on sale and one of those babies will make three meals.

Right now there is something very soothing getting back into a domestice routine.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Low Down on The Credit Card Offer

Since filing for Bankruptcy I have had three credit card offers (all from the same bank). Since establishing new credit is something I will be doing, I was curious to see what this offer was for an unsecured credit card.

0% APR for 12 months, then 9.9%
Cash advance fee and default fee 19.9%

Fees charged to you for getting the card (this is where it gets interesting)

Account set up fee: $29.00 (one time fee)
Program Fee: $95.00 (one time fee)
Annual Fee: $48
Monthly Servicing fee $84 (on going fee) charged $7.00 per month
Credit Line Increase$ 25(each time you want a credit line increase)
Internet Access fee: $3.95 (not sure what this is)
Autodraft fee: $11.00 for each payment

Plus from what I can read, your initial credit limit is $250 and they bill the first 4 charges to your account with the first bill. You can not request a credit increase for 6 months.

Not sure I really want to pursue this option at this time. I think I can probably get a secured credit card with the credit limit of my choice and less associated fees.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Secret Debate~I Have a Secret

If you read The Simple Dollar you have read Trent's post on accepting advertising from Jack Canfield (Chicken Soup for the Soul Author) and contributor to The Secret and Trent's view on The Secret.

The Secret is a hotly debated book and movie. Nancy Zimmerman in her blog calls it hogwash. click here to read her post on The Secret. Actually she calls it appalling, offensive and narcissistic.

I have a link to The Secret on this blog and have had one since the beginning. I also have The Secret DVD and watch it on occasion. Why, because I believe in PART of the message of the Secret. I think that with hard work, positive thinking, goal setting you can achieve your goals. I have a background and multiple degrees in Sports Psychology and Alternative Health. I have worked in very traditional and non traditional settings. I've participated in studies on using a variety Creative Visualisation Techniques. I have successfully used a number of the same techniques in my life. I have positive affirmations posted around my house, I have created collages (called Vision Boards in The Secret) of things I'd like to become, have, or achieve.

The Secret also talks about The Universe, which you can interpret as The Universe, God, Jesus, Buddha, Allah, Deva's, Angels, any form of Higher Power that you believe in, and that The Universe loves you and will take care of you. I'm not an overly religious person, but I do believe that there is a Higher Power out there that looks over us all and does love us, it just might not be the traditional God you believe in, but it is what I believe in.

I personally have a hard time seeing The Universe as my own private department store, if that were the case, I would have had my new car 6 months ago and a perfectly professionally landscaped yard/garden with just a request thrown out to The Universe. I sure as heck never visualized becoming Bankrupt and that happened to me.

I do see the Universe as a place where I can do anything I have set my mind to (with hard work, lots of positive thinking, and goal setting.) I see The Secret as an offshoot of Self Help movement. And you can take from The Secret a lot or a little depending on your views, needs and wants. I'm not saying you have to embrace the Secret, it's teachers and all it's messages, I am saying there is some merit to parts of the video and the book, take from it what you need. What I've gotten from The Secret that has been very important to me is to be very specific with my goals and to really work on visualizing them. It's been a good exercise for me these past few months to set goals and work towards them. I don't feel so scattered and all over the place with my thoughts and actions. I have an action plan.

I'm a strong believer in writing down and visualizing your goals. That is one reason why I blog, I see my goals on a daily basis and I write about them. I've been posting pictures on my blog of things (gasp Material Things) I'd like to have in my life.

And I am slowly achieving them with a lot of hard work, positive thinking and the support of The Secret as well.

No Spend Day #3

Yesterday was a no spend day #3, which is good. I'd like to make today no spend day #4, but forgot to pack my lunch again this am. My kitchen repainting is just about complete (and I really like the way it all turned out). I will be putting my shelves back up this evening, getting everything back in it's proper place and reclaiming my counter space. The disarray in my kitchen is my, ah hem, excuse, (no just utter laziness) for slacking off on the home packed lunch. I normally keep a couple cans of soup or a frozen ready meal or two in the office kitchen, but I'm out of those as well both here and at home. The lunch selections around the office are limited and a bit pricey ($4 for a container of soup, $5.25 for a sandwich, $4.95 for a medium garden salad) and there is no one around the office today who wants to split a pizza.

Oh well, I'm planning a medium sized grocery shop this week and I will make sure these items are on my list and in the office because to keep spending money on lunches is silly when I have the food at home.

Bad Credit Loans

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

FINALLY Buying My New TV

As I've posted a couple times, I've been in the market for a new TV. I had saved my pennies and through the generosity of friends and family at the holidays, I have enough $$$ to buy a new TV. You can read about my silly post Christmas shopping expedition here.

I logged onto and found a most suitable replacement TV (26 inches, HD LCD). And the cool part is it is below my budget threshold AND I will be able to use the additional money to replace the very generic DVD player that is almost dead.
The best part is that Overstock has free shipping on Electronics this week, double yeah. I'm still in my TV watching season and I sure do hope to be able to hook up my new TV and watch my favorite DVD's in full living color. Now if my hope for a second paying part time job comes through this week, I'll be more than thrilled.

Some New Blogs

I've posted some new links in my blog roll, they come from a variety of sources , have a variety of views and I'm finding them all to be great reads.

1) Chica with Issues: She is young, she is coping with debt, she makes her own iced tea at work and has some very interesting insights on work place culture and money.

2) Carrie at Hope for the Bankrupt: Carrie and her husband are also post Bankrupt folks. She writes from a Christian perspective and I admire her willingness to share her family's story out in the blogsphere. Read her first post here on why she started her blog.

3) Brip Blap: He is on a number of blogs and you may already read his posts, if you have not checked out his site, do so.

4) On my way to Financial Security: Another female BK filer who is currently in the process of filing bankruptcy and dealing with the process.

5)I'm Grace: Grace is a single mom coming late to the retirement savings game. Her blog chronicles her journey as she works on paying down her debt and planning for her retirement. I'm having a blast reading her archives.

Monday, January 14, 2008

A Quick Update on Why We All Need an E-Fund and Thanks

Before I tell you all about my stupidity, I just wanted to say thanks to all you folks who have added me to your readers or stop on by and read my rantings and ravings. I appreciate you all. Especially this past weekend while I kept starting at my discharge paperwork scratching my head going OK, what's next.....

As we are all trying to do, I have been diligently working on a Emergency Fund. This weekend I needed it.

My neighbor and I used the moderately nice weather on Saturday to do a little yard clean up and split the cost of a bulky waste dump run. Things were going great, I had my fair share of large dump items and was looking forward to cleaning up my yard before the next snow fall. Getting a jump on yard spring cleaning, always a good thing.

Until I tossed a 4 x4 rotted fence pole into the truck and through his back window. Yup, I was doing my own version of the javelin toss and this pole just shattered the back window.

Now mind you, if I TRIED to do this, it would never happen, I don't have that great hand eye coordination, I'm not that strong, and I have no idea how I managed to throw the pole in the back of the truck and then smack dab into the middle of the rear window.

The broken glass is not covered by my homeowners or my car insurance (and I was at fault) and the neighbors did not have glass coverage on their policy. Since this happened early on Saturday, we were able to find an auto glass place open and get the window replaced. Cost $274 for the window, installation, etc. A quick call to the local junk yards did not turn up a used window we could have tried to fit in. That just about wipes out my E-Fund. Time to rebuild it, but at least the neighbor has a functioning window and our old debris is out of our yards.

I guess I just don't know my own strength.....

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Discharge Was In The Mail

I was running some errands for work today and not to far from home, so I stopped off at the house for lunch and to pick up my mail.

There, in an envelope, was my discharge from the court.

It feels so, well, so, I don't know. I don't know if I'm supposed to feel elated, overjoyed, grateful, mad, or sad.

I am very grateful that I was able to keep my house (thank you bank and Trustee for not making me sell it). But over all my emotions are mixed. I still have so much fiscal repair to do to my life and I'm just figuring out where to start or where to start over.

And also in the mail was a credit card offer and two letters from local car dealerships offering financing to folks post Bankruptcy. Seems they knew about the discharge before I did.

The Search For A Real Second Job Continues (still)

Even though I have re-activated my Real Estate License, one of my goals has been to find a second job that pays on a regular basis. I have the potential for a job that begins in March and I will be meeting with those folks this weekend to see if it is still an option.

I had hoped to make some additional funds by photographing properties for a title company, but that work has been sporadic at best (two houses in the past two weeks).

Living in a rural area has it's advantages, but it's biggest disadvantage is employment. Employment options are not overly abundant and many stores around here close at 5 or 6PM, which is when I get out of work and could do a couple hours at night after my full time job. If my other potential job does not come through, I'm on the lookout for an other job (any job). Ideally, I'd like to bring home at least an additional $300 a month. I'm doing on line surveys, some pay per post (options are few and far between), the photo taking, but I need a regular part time job. In and ideal world, that money would be earmarked for my new to me car fund.

As I've said before, I just have to get creative to figure this out. And I will.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Finding Blogs and Websites That Are In Line With My Goals

On the Bright Side of Debt, Ms. Bright has a post (click here for it) where she discusses looking for blogs to read that resonate with her goals at this time in her life. There are a lot of blogs out there on Personal Finance and Frugal Living. I'm not finding a lot of blogs for women (or men) of my age in my position. Katie at Ladies in the Red is one of the few that I've found and she is based in the United Kingdom.

I see lots of blogs of twentysomethings, thirtysomethings, families, Christian based blogs, etc, but I have yet to find any that are written by anyone with a situation similar to mine (Ladies in the Red aside). The Debt forums I've found all deal with the pre-Bankruptcy process and folks struggling with Chapter 13's now having to do Chapter 7's.

Don't get me wrong, I love reading the blogs I've put on my blog roll and others that are in my Google reader. I'm amazed at what some of these folks are doing at such a young age. I wish I had access to this material 20 years ago, perhaps I would not be in the place I am now.

I'm always looking for good sites and blogs to link to. Contact me here or by e-mail if you want to do a link exchange.

An Interesting Article

Here is a link to an article by Liz Pulliam Weston on Bouncing Back from Bankruptcy. Nope, I did not "steal" the name of this blog from her article, but some how we both ended up with the same title (it's the alliteration thing of the B's) .

Since one of my goals is to rebuild my credit, I found this article very interesting. As I'm doing on line research, I'm not finding a lot of information on post bankruptcy credit repair techniques people can use. This is one and as soon as I get my discharge, I'll start on the process.

I've just started to read MSN money web site and the Women in The Red forum. I'll post more about it as I read about it.

What I'm Reading Now

Also purchased during the shopping meltdown (at Borders I forgot to mention this in my previous post). Click here to go to Elizabeth's web site, her parents run a tree farm in Litchfield, Connecticut. I have a friend who lives near there and two years ago I bought my Christmas tree from Bees, fleas and trees .

If you get a chance, read the book, it's great.

And Just to Add to My List-I Need to Lose Weight

One more thing to add to my list, I had my yearly check up on Friday and my doctor has told me that I need to lose weight, about 25-30 lbs and you know what, I agree with her. I have totally slacked off on any forms of exercise these past couple years while I had dealt with my deteriorating financial life. As I have posted before, I stress eat (a lot). And I'm getting to that age where weight matters.

This medical decree will force me to join a gym. Living rural means lots of country roads with no street lights and in the winter it is not safe to be out walking on the rural roads with fairly crazy drivers. I'm just not enough of a morning person to get up and walk the roads. I know this for a fact, I've tried it before. Plus my home is too small to have any sort of home gym equipment.

My plan is as follows. Use the next couple weeks to get into a home stretching program and to research my area gym options (we have a YMCA and two health clubs in the immediate area). I've used gyms before (and successfully when I lived in another area, I like the social aspect of a gym and the variety of classes.). Plus my old roommate worked for a health club chain in management and I'm fairly enlightened on the sales techniques of commission health club sales people. Health clubs make money on folks who never use their memberships and lose money on folks who do.

I may need to save money, increase the E-fund, etc, but my health is far more important to me than saving for a vacation. Plus the upside to this is that I'll be doing something other than sitting at home after work 5 days a week brooding on my life.

My First Day at my "Second Job"

As I posted before, I've decided to re-activate my real estate license. You can read about it here.

Last week I went to my "second job" to get a run down on the office and fill out the paperwork. I will say almost everyone in the office was very nice, the Broker and I had a nice talk. I did tell him I was comfortable doing all the real estate paperwork, good with customer follow up, etc, but I felt my weak points were negotiating deals and selling myself and the company to get listings. Honestly, the last time my license was active, I worked for someone who did those two parts of the job and my exposure to those skills were limited. He told me part of his job as a Broker was to work with his new agents on these skills and he would be happy to help when the time came (noticed he said when and not if).

Which is good and makes me feel a lot better. We have the understanding that since this is a very part-time position for me, that I won't take Floor Time on weekends (this is where agents sit in the office and take clients who walk in or call in), but that I can have clients that I get on my own, both buyers and sellers. I like this arrangement because I won't be stepping on the toes of any current agents full or part time in this down market and I can ease into the job. A couple folks I spoke to think I'm crazy to enter real estate in a down market, but my intuition says to go for it any way. I also now have two clients, both friends who have been looking on and off for a new home for sometime, so at least I start this new adventure with two potential clients.

And just to be safe, I did tell my full time employer that I would be reactivating my license. I live in an area where everyone knows everyone else (and their business) just so he would not be surprised. He supports my decision to have this as a potential second income, which is a good thing!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

No Spend Day #2 and Grocery Shopping

Yesterday was No Spend Day #2, I brought lunch to work, had enough gas in the car, and had no reason to buy anything. Life is good!

I find I tend to blow my no spend days by grocery shopping or forgetting my lunch. The grocery store is on my way home and I usually get to the traffic light, decide I need something and then turn in and end up buying more than I need.

I will say I did my first shop of the New Year on Saturday and only spent $21. Most of this was due to the fact I have enough groceries in my cupboard (lots of staples left over from last month and all my re-stocking of various and assorted goods). I have a bunch of food in the freezer that can be eaten, so it's going to be a thaw-out-the-food-in-the-freezer week. I have burger, chicken, frozen veg, a couple containers of soup, some great pesto and pasta sauce. I've not been thrilled with my soups recently, so time to search a couple cookbooks for new soup recipes.

I'll plan a Costco shop for mid-month and figure out the protein product of the month (chicken, beef, pork), shop for the bulk items I'll need and plan an ALDI shopping for my frozen veg and other items. Even though I have not posted my January budget (I know, lazy of me), I'm planning on a budget of $150 (including alcohol) and making better use of the food stuffs I have in the house.

I will say I love my bread machine. I use it at least once a week. I just have to remember to start it as soon as I come home, it can take up to 4 hours to make a loaf of bread. I am also going to budget and search for a variety of flours so I can make something other than a typical white bread loaf.

Becoming More Automated

Most of my 2008 goals involve using my money more wisely and setting my self up with an E-Fund and a savings account.

My E-fund is currently a small checking account that I have at a bank that is NOT my primary bank. I opened an account at this bank when I moved back to the Northeast. That particular bank was then bought out by a bigger, less customer friendly bank (although the staff is still the same and very nice and helpful).

I have money deducted from my pay check directly to my E-fund account. I have also taken the debit card to this account OUT of my wallet so I am not tempted to use it. I have also discontinued any direct debits to this account (my mobile phone) as I kept forgetting to transfer funds over.

My savings account is an ING account and I transfer money once a month from my checking account to the ING account. Any funds I got from taking photos for a mortgage company also are transferred to the ING account. I deposit the payment to my account and then make an on line transfer. I have asked payroll to do an auto pay to my HSA account as well. I have to pay part of my Health Insurance premium.

By setting up these auto transfers I am painlessly working towards my savings goals. I just deducted the amount auto transferred from my working capital. I know from past experience that I can't trust myself to do the transfers myself and this system seems to be working for me. I'm slowly feeling more in control of my finances. And that is a good thing!

Falling off the Wagon~So To Speak

Last week I wrote that I had a bit of a shopping meltdown-Post Christmas. I'm the first to admit, I'm feeling the stress of the Bankruptcy filing in many ways, (eat too much, drink too much when I'm lucky to get a bottle of wine, just obsess too much in general when I have too much time on my hands). I'm still waiting for the final discharge so I can plan the Post Bankruptcy part of my life with more finality.

I made the decision to go buy my new TV after the holidays-partly due to the generosity of friends and family who gave me gift cards and cash which covered about one half the cost of the TV. I decided to splurge and buy the new TV that I've been coveting and wanting.

In retrospect, how silly or stupid was it of me to go shopping the weekend AFTER Christmas and look for a new TV. Really stupid and silly. I had done my homework and had picked out the model I wanted. I then went to a total of 5 stores looking for said TV. I had even called a couple stores to check inventory and was told at my first two choices, the TV was in stock. All 5 stores were out of stock, a few tried to sell me an upgrade (at the upgrade price) and I politely declined saying I was on a budget and sticking to it. Nor was I going to purchase a unknown to me brand TV, a few places tried to sell me these unknown brands ( and when I did look them up on line, the reviews were terrible to lukewarm at best). Each time I declined, I got a look of confusion or something else. Folks, these flat screen TVs were THE item to purchase at the Holidays. And the model I wanted (and the back up model) were both out of stock. I don't have $700 to spend on a new TV, nor do I want to spend $700 on a new TV. I'm very satisfied with the budget I set and I intend to stick with it. I think most of the sales people were wondering why I did not buy the darn TV before the holidays.

Here is the problem. I also got a number of store specific gift cards as presents. I was getting more annoyed as I left each store (lack of availability, salespeople just out of high school trying to sell me a TV I did not want or could not afford and not hearing me say so), the post holiday shopping crowds. You know, everyone spending those gift cards and doing the return exchange routine. And truthfully, I hate shopping just to shop. I shop with a specific purpose in mind, get in the store, get out of the store.

I ended up taking my frustrations out on these gift cards, I started to buy things. Granted it was stuff I needed-new tea kettle, new cutting board, new robe, new slippers, new paring knife, etc. But I could have waited, instead, I sashayed into Bed, Bath and Beyond and Target and had a grand time shopping,using the gifts cards and cash as well. As well as I frittered away most of the cash I had taken out of my account for the TV (gas, two lunches out, small grocery shop, dog food, car wash, couple bottles of wine for hostess gifts for post Christmas, pre new years parties).

Yikes. Not a good way to start the New Year at all. I can only blame my lack of self control and allowing the stress of the Bankruptcy to get to me. And I have this feeling that will only be satiated with a new TV. Which will have to wait a few weeks until the stores are re-stocked with the brand I want at the price I have budgeted for. And until then, I will continue to watch TV on my small 13 inch screen with a lot of snow on the picture.

Monday, January 7, 2008

The Purge of Items Continues

As part of my goal to de-clutter, I've been taking a number of items to my local consignment shop. Not only am I able to sell clothes, but furniture, books, etc. I just don't have it in me right now to list items for sale on E-Bay or Craig's list. I can barely keep up with the few items I've listed on Freecycle.

This particular store will give me a flat fee on books, movies, kitchen items, and a regular consignment account for clothes, furniture, linens, etc. Once a quarter you get an inventory update and a check.

Here is a partial list of things that have either been Freecycled, Goodwilled, Consigned, since the middle of the summer:

Numerous books on, an older model women's mountain bike, a fur coat, new sheets (still in wrapper), old sheets and towels, a rope hammock, a bunch of DVDs and old VHS tapes, plates, dishes, serving bowls, mixing bowls, extra old dog crates and gates, an old VCR, a picnic basket for two, plants split from my garden, a new small garbage can (I got a small can as part of a set), extra 4x4 posts for fencing, extra mesh fencing, an old 35MM film camera and lots of clothes I no longer fit into or want.

I'm being pretty good (ie-ruthless) about my possessions. Last week it was 4 or 5 bags of items that left the house. This weekend it's two boxes of items to be freecycled and consigned.

As I emptied one kitchen shelf, I realized I have these very four pretty bowls that I never use. Granted, I don't entertain like I used to, but these bowls have been sitting on my shelf gathering a lot of dust. I washed the bowls, picked out two that I liked best and put the others in the to be removed from the house box. I also did the same with some baking pans. Why do I need two loaf pans? I can't even remember the last time I used a loaf pan. If I need more than one loaf pan, I can buy some disposable pans at the grocery store.

I'm still finding it hard to part with certain possessions (my books for one) and I have to go through old photos and cards and toss the ones that I don't even remember where those places are or who gave me the card. Don't remember, can't remember, out it goes.

I still have a couple boxes of items from my move to the North East from 7.5 years ago that I've not fully gone through. Yikes, I'm sure at this point ANYTHING in those boxes can be taken straight to Goodwill.

This is actually turning into a good winter project......

Just a Few More Updates

I've been busy doing a bunch of little things and posting has taken a back seat to me getting my self and life back in order for the New Year.

1) I had my first no spend day of 2008! Yesterday was no spend day #1-I stayed home and started to paint my kitchen(tada-a start on one of my goals for January).

2) I've been getting organized for my income tax preparation-remember the Trustee wants my income tax statement for 2007 and any refunds I might get. So I started on organizing myself to get my taxes done as soon as I get my w-2. The sooner this is done and processed, the better. I just want to move on with my life and this is the last hurdle.

3) Painting the kitchen: In December I bought a gallon of paint (Desert Lily) to paint my kitchen. I got my self organized over the weekend and started to paint. For such a small kitchen, it's going to take three days. Why, because I have no room in my house to rip apart the kitchen, spackle, sand, clean walls, then paint without it becoming a total disaster zone. Right now, it's only half a disaster zone. I've taken a two shelves off my wall, did all of the above and got two coats of paint on the wall. I will touch up the trim work this evening and then figure out, try to decide if I want to put up the same shelving or change it around. My storage options are limited, but I'm working with what I have. I did gather up another small load of items to go on freecycle and to the local consignment shop. I'm really pleased with the color and the kitchen already looks lighter, brighter and much more peaceful. And the other upside is I'm really being diligent about decluttering my possessions (it's getting easier as I convince myself to just let go of stuff, I mean, so I really need 5 Pyrex mixing bowls?).

4) I organized a section of my desk and files for real estate only. More on my "first day" in another post.

5) I made a bunch of corrections/updates to my personal web site. I just have to upload them and that will be a good thing. Lots of my information is old and out of date, and I've been able to spend some time updating the site.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Cleaning Out Clutter and Cleaning Up

I've been absent from this blog for a few days as I've been de-cluttering, cleaning, enjoying the company of friends, etc.

Just an update.

I filled up 5 large black contractor bags of garbage Friday night, yup five bags. One bag was nothing but paper (and yes I dumped the paper in the paper recycling bin at the town transfer station). One was old rags,towels, etc (gave those to my mechanic he uses them as dip stick rags), one was clothes to go to Goodwill, one medium sized bag of clothes to go to the consignment shop and one was trash.

It barely made a dent in my possessions, barely, Not Good. I have to go back through my things again this weekend. I'm having separation anxiety with some of my possessions.

The upside is my desk is back to being a desk and not a level flat surface in which to place papers. I did spend some time sorting out receipts and tax information and filed all the piles of paper that had accumulated on my desk.

I started a new and easier filing system. I have a small file cabinet that holds the major files such as all my insurance files (home, car, medical), anything relating to the house, etc. I used to have a file for each credit card, each utility, etc. And I used to color code the files by type and year. Sick I know. I have consolidated all my files into 4 folders 1) Utilities-gas, electric, phones 2) Mortgage and Bank Statements 3) Insurance-home, car, medical 4) Anything else-student loan and misc. Yup 4 folders instead of the multitudes I had before. I will probably add one more file for any recipe ts I need for tax purposes. All in one file box sitting under my desk. I'm going to look into a scanner this year and will seriously consider scanning all my paper statements quarterly and filing on a disc. I don't do well with e-statements. I need to have a piece of paper in my hand to pay my bills, the problem is what to do with the paper once it's no longer needed. I have to find the link to the post, I stole this idea from another blogger and modified it for my own use.

I bought a new small canister vacuum cleaner at K-Mart (more on my major slip in shopping habits later), the Shop Vac I bought as a new vacuum cleaner spews just as much dust as it takes in, not a good or smart purchase. I spent early New Years Eve vacuuming my house and washing my floors. I do have to say, ringing in the New Year with really clean floors was kinda nice. I ran over to the neighbors house for a celebratory drink at 9:30 PM, and I was home and in bed by 11:30 PM (I'm such a lightweight now a days, ).

I will post later or tomorrow about my major slip up in shopping. Lets just say that the clouds of depression, too much snow, not finding my TV, not enough sun, doubts in myself, etc really got to me late on Monday and I started to spend money and giving half arsed reasons to myself to justify the spending. Yikes, I don't need a slip up/regression at this point. What a way to start the New Year.