Sunday, March 30, 2008

When Friends Are Clients

I have not written much about my "second job"in real estate mainly because not much is happening. New England, like many section's of the country is in a bit of a real estate slump. I have two clients, one client is a couple that I have known for a number of years. They are a bit older than I am and have lived in their current home for almost 40 years. They have dogs, chickens, and two goats. At one time they also had horses and sheep, but have given up the other animals. It's a lovely old Colonial home (built in the late 1700's), 3 fireplaces, lots of original woodwork, three barns, a kennel, etc. They want to move. Maintaining an old home is costly, it is drafty, it has a dirt floor basement, real plaster and lathe walls, and next to no insulation. Very charming and authentic, but very old.

We have been looking for a potential new home, the chickens and goats will go to a neighbor, but the dogs will come with my friends. The criteria will be a home that has enough land so the dogs won't be a bother to the neighbors, it must have room for a kennel for the dogs (either a kennel or a building to be converted to kennels), 3-4 bedrooms, a real basement with a walkout, and updated mechanicals and not require a lot of work (no extensive renovations). And oh yes, it must be at a certain price point.

A couple months ago, I showed them a house close to their current home that my office has listed for sale. This house is listed through my office and as per state law, I work for the seller. I also represent the buyers, but for the initial showing, I represent the seller. The house in question was built by the owner for he and his wife. Since he was/is a builder, they customized parts of the house to their personal taste. They had planned to stay there for at least ten years. The wife passed away about a year ago and the husband put the house up for sale. It is about 90% finished, there are still some things to be done, decks and walkways built, some trim work to be finished, landscaping to be completed, but it shows OK and we preface each showing by saying these things will be completed as part of the sale of the home. The owner has just lost the desire to finish the house while he is still in the last stages of grieving.

On first glance, this house would be perfect for my friends, it's a large house, 4 bedrooms, 3.5 bathrooms, study, living room, large eat in kitchen, large dining room with french doors leading to the outside, very energy efficient mechanicals, 3 car garage with a plumbed in approved guest/in law/rental apartment over it and it does have an amazing sunset view on about 5 acres of almost all flat lawn. I also know that since this home was built by the builder that as I said, they tweaked it for their personal tastes. Instead of a vinyl,tile, or hardwood floor, they used Pergo in the kitchen. They liked dark colors, so the granite counters where almost black, the furniture is over sized and of a very specific taste (lots of people have a hard time getting past furniture and personal possessions when they look at houses), french doors that lead from the lower level guest/master bedroom to a crushed stone patio, the proposed wrap around deck and walkway connecting the house to the garage has footing poured, but is not complete.

Part of what makes a real estate agent successful is knowing your client and their needs and wants and how to match house to buyer. I know my friends/clients well enough to know that at first blush, this sounds like the perfect home for them, it really was not. They don't like Pergo floors, prefer lighter counter tops, etc and I knew the land would not suit them for a potential outbuilding. They have three cars, a tractor and a very large riding mower, the garage would be kind of small. I've been sending them information sheets on a number of houses for a number of months and have been tracking whats for sale based on their criteria and price range. There is currently not a lot in their price range. The house I do think would be great for them is about $150,000 over their budget. I know the sellers won't reduce their price and the buyers won't raise thier price point enough for them to meet in the middle. Ah well....

I warned my friends a head of time that this house was built by the owner to be his semi-retirement home and thus customized for he and his wife. They had planned it to suite their tastes. The owner had given us permission to say all of the above and that he could and would be happy to finish what was unfinished or make a reduction in price based on the unfinished work. The seller does not have to sell, he would like to sell and move on to a new chapter of his life. I would not NOT show the property to a prospective client, but did not want to get either the sellers or my buyers over excited.

Needless to say, while the showing went OK, my friends/clients were bitterly disappointed. They had a hard time getting past the furniture, did not like the Pergo floor in the kitchen, thought the proposed deck would be too small, did not like the detached garage, the basement although large, did not have an exterior door, they did not like the view off the deck to the back of the house that was just trees (the back yard view was NOT important to the sellers), did not like the orientation of the house, etc. All they kept saying after we left the house was how disappointed they were in the house. All I wanted to do was retort back "You were the ones who built up the house in your mind as your "perfect"home and I told you it was not", but I did not. For the next two months, they would ask what was the status of the house for sale, had it been show, any offers, etc and always end the conversation with the statement how disappointed they were in the house.

OK, I get it, you did not like the house. I knew they would not like the house, they wanted to see it, so I showed it to them. That is my job, I show houses. They did not like the house I showed them in town A-it was too close to the village center (actually it sits in back of one of our small town shopping centers-which is a small grocery store, post office and another small business), they did not like the house in town B-wrong style of house (then why did you ask to see it if you don't like Gambrel Style houses), the house in town C had no land, the house in town D only had one bathroom, second house in town B was out of price range,.........

It's tough keeping that balance of freind and real estate agent. It's even tougher when your clients keep harping back to that one home that they were "disappointed in". I really want to say, just get freaking over it. No one made you see it and you were the ones who built it up as the "pefect" home, I did not. Just give it up and move on for crying out loud. I'm not sure why they keep asking about the house, they made it very clear they are not interested in it, yet they want to know the status of it. I asked at one point if they were considering an offer if the price was lowered (known in the business as bottom fishing) and they said no, they were not. It's not my place to say more than it is still for sale and what the current price is. I just keep sending them the updated listings and hope they find something is a town that they want to live in.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Thinking About April Goals and Getting Over the Stonewalls of March

I really wish spring would arrive. Here in New England we are expecting snow tomorrow. I barely tolerate snow in January, the thought of snow so close to April 1st just makes me want to go to bed and pull the covers over my head until May 1st.

Don't mind me, I've had a hectic and crazy couple days~and my eye is twitching which means I'm stressing. I broke my lunch challenge today and just walked into the pizzeria and got a sub to go. Ugh.....

March has been a frustrating month. I've gotten a couple things done, but I feel a distinct lack of satisfaction in what has been done. Plus all I want to do is go home, sit on the couch and watch TV (the upside is I'm really loving my new TV). I'm not liking these depressive feelings, and it's cloudy and cold here. I'd never be able to live in Seattle.

But on a more positive note, I have a couple things/goals planned for April.

DIY Projects in the House

1) Sand, Prime and Paint kitchen cupboards.
2) Redo my closet-take all things out, paint the walls, redo the organization system.
3) Scope out Craigs List/Freecycle for a small bookshelf to use a food cupboard in the kitchen.

I only have one closet in my small house and as I've been thinning my clothes, I need to redo the closet and will probably purge more of my wardrobe that does not fit me anymore.

DIY around the yard

1) Clean out the flower beds.
2) Empty the compost pile of the good compost (black gold for the plants).
3) Fix the clothesline.
4) Reseed the lawn in the fenced in part of the yard
5) If enough energy, make a small flower/veggie garden in unfenced part of the yard.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A little more to the Snowflake Fund

I opened a savings account at the local credit union to

1) Take advantage of it's car loan rates (and now it will be to refinance the loan).
2) Set up a "snowflake" account.

I took $60 I made on property photographs and deposited it to the account. Not a heck of a lot, but at least something. I need to add to that account, I'll probably go back to pay per post. I'd been avoiding it because I'm L-A-Z-Y, but time to take advantage of every monetizing opportunity I can.

In the next day or two, I'll update my sidebars and post my April Goals and budget.

Teaching Kids to Manage Money

I am a big watcher of breakfast TV, usually Good Morning America. This morning, there was an excellent piece done by Mellody Hobson on teaching your kids how to handle money. Since I am writing a series of blog posts about my past and how my parents NEVER taught me about money management, I poured an extra cup of tea and watched the segment.


Discussing money with their children is something many parents dislike greatly, according to Charles Schwab & Co.'s latest online survey. While they were eager to teach their offspring about other milestones, they were sheepish about handling money and budgeting issues.

In fact, 70 percent had taught their children how to do laundry, but only 34 percent had showed them how to balance a checkbook. The gap is more curious because many parents wished they had learned more about budgeting, saving and investing when they were young. Fifty-seven percent said they wished they had learned more about money as teenagers.

This is a scary statistic, only 34% of parents surveyed have taught their kids how to balance a checkbook. I know my parents did not teach me, I learned how to do it by reading the back of my bank statement for my first checking account. No one every sat me down and taught me about credit cards and credit card debt either.

You can read the whole article here. To see what others have said about the segment and the article, you can click here.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Tell All Tuesday~Who The Heck Am I-Part 2

A couple weeks ago, I gave you my dissertation on the first part of my life, how I grew up and what I did and did not learn about money. Here is the second part.

I graduated from college with a respectable gpa, a ton of student loans, a car, a dog, and still not a heck of a lot of common sense about real money management. I could balance my checkbook, I shopped for clothes on sale, I was sensible, but not terribly informed. My grandmother surprised me during my junior year and bought me a car. It was not an expensive or fancy car, but it was a car. This was my grandmother who never seemed to enjoy her money, but she turned around and bought me a car. I remember my mother being really angry. Angry because she was not the one who bought the car. Angry because my grandmother made it very clear the car was bought for me and needed to be in my name and my name only, angry because I took the car, and even angrier that I quickly agreed to pay for the insurance and all repair bills so I could have the car at school. She called it my multiple birthday, Christmas, graduation present. My mother muttered that she never had a new car, only used ones. To put it mildly, things were a bit tense at my house for a while.

What I was discovering as I grew up was that my mother was a money manipulator. As I stated before, she made a lot of promises to me about money that she never followed up on or changed her terms and conditions with money. I know now a lot of her anger about my car was due to the fact that my grandmother had taken part of her control over me away from her. In retrospect, I have to give my grandmother a lot of credit. She knew I was a responsible person and I would live up to the agreement of valid insurance, no friends driving the car, no drinking and driving, pay for my own gas, etc. I lived up to my end and my mother was very bitter about it. She liked and still likes failure in other people. She did not like losing her control over me.

After working for a year, I went graduate school. Based on my undergraduate experience, I was determined to put myself through graduate school all on my own, and I did. I went to the local State University and did it again on grants, loans and scholarships. My mother's offers of financial help were taken with a grain of salt. I did not count on them and when they came, she would have her usual terms and conditions attached to them. I was getting tired of having conditions attached to money. I stopped asking for it, even for birthdays and Christmas. In fact, one Christmas I asked for a vacuum cleaner. It was easier to ask for things than for money. The money I could have used for things like food and car insurance, but even gift money had conditions. The fact I was putting myself through grad school without any parental help seemed to really make her mad. I took any money I was given, but I just stopped asking for any help. It was easy this way. I did not have to deal with what ever condition was being given with the check. A good dose of guilt and manipulation with each check, I did not need it anymore.

Graduate school wasn't easy. I can remember being really poor in graduate school, eating oatmeal for breakfast and lunch and ramen noodles with frozen vegetables for dinner. My boyfriend would occasionally come up to visit with a bag of real food, I'd ask him to bring food with color, most of my meals were beige or white. My university had an Ag school and at the Ag School Diary Bar for $5 I could buy half gallon of milk, a block of cream cheese, a half gallon of ice cream, and a pound of butter and occasionally a dozen eggs if they were in stock. Twice a month I shopped at the Dairy store, I ate a lot of dairy and I drank milk, I don't even really like milk, but milk was cheaper than soda and OJ. I can remember coming home from classes one morning all excited to have my oatmeal for lunch. I opened the sugar bowl to put a spoonful of sugar on my oatmeal, only to find it full of ants. I dumped the sugar out and cried. That was my last cup of sugar until the weekend when I would get my small paycheck from my part time job. I spent the next three days eating plain oatmeal, tea with no sugar, and plain ramen noodles. The only upside to this all was I was really skinny, my hair was falling out because of poor nutrition, but I was skinny!

During this time I had and used credit cards. When I realized that I could not afford credit cards, I just stopped using them and slowly paid them off-I had a couple gas cards, a couple store cards, and a Master Card. Some months I paid the minimum, some months I was able to pay more, I did use my Master Card sometimes-like when I was desperate for a tank of gas to get to and from class and my job, but I did pretty much stop using credit while I was being a student. I just did not have the money, it was hard enough to make ends meet as it was. I also was an expert in getting the most out of a tank of gas. I am proud to say the only time I ran out of gas was when I literally was pulling into the gas station one day. I pushed the car the last few feet.

After Graduate School I started to applying for jobs in New England and just not getting a job, a bunch of job interviews, but no job offers. I packed up my life in a small U-Haul and moved to Northern Virginia with my boyfriend. He had moved down about 6 months earlier, I followed. Life was pretty good. We had a small, but OK apartment that took dogs (I supported myself and my dogs while in grad school). He had a job, I had a couple job interviews and somehow I managed to find a job on my second interview and in my field as well. I started to earn money and put money away. My boyfriend and I opened a joint checking account and we each had our own separate checking account as well. We used the joint account for household expenses and our separate account for our own fun expenses. Somehow it evolved that my boyfriend became the one who managed our money, he paid the bills, he gave us each an allowance, we both worked on the budget, it was pretty easy for me to allow him to just take control of the money. Plus I think his ego was a bit bruised. It ended up that I was the one in the relationship that earned a better salary and had better benefits. He kept saying it did not matter, but I think it did matter, nay, no later on it really mattered when I eventually moved up to a better job with more money and he did not. Since I never learned how to really manage my money, it was also easier for me to let him take care of our finances. He was actually very good at it. It was at this time that my mother started getting really weird about money. This in and of itself is a whole other serious of posts that can be lumped in with families and money.

We were doing well. I picked up a part time job that required some travel (and subsequently got me re-hooked on travel), I used the money from the part time job to pay for additional part time study for an advanced certification. I worked a full time job, a part time job and was studying for an advanced certificate. I got a new job and I learned a bunch of new skills, one of them was budgeting and money management for my department. I found out I was really good at budgeting and money management. I was able to increase income, decrease expenses and turn a profit. I got a couple credit cards. We used the cards for everything from gas for the car to school books, to family presents, to clothes shopping. We usually carried a balance, not a high one, eventually, I paid off the cards, but kept them. I liked having my plastic, I was able to shop without having to answer to my boyfriend for each debit on our debit card.

After a long time together and divergent interests, the long time boyfriend and I split up. We were having issues and part of the issues were money issues. That too is another set of posts, relationships and money. The issue was I was trying to take control of my money and it did not go over too well with my boyfriend. I had for a number of years (almost nine), let him handle our money, how it was budgeted, how it was spent, what it was spent on. Now I was taking control of my own fiscal life. I had a 401K, I wanted to donate to charities more than we were doing, I wanted us to buy property (we lived in a nice and inexpensive rental), he did not.

After I left my boyfriend, I lived happily in the WDC metro area for about 2 years until an internal transfer in my company came up and I had the desire and urge to move back to New England. After 11 years, it was time to go 'home". As Yogi Berra said, it was Déjà vu al over again. I packed up my life in a U-Haul and moved to NE. I bought a very small house and worked at my company for about another year. The company was changing and I did not like the direction the company was taking. My new boss was a very difficult person (and in hindsight, I should have realized something was wrong when she went through 12 managers in her division in less than one year), I was hating the commute from my house to work (about 40 minutes on a good day, the work did not have regular hours, a lot of long time employees at the main office were leaving and I wanted out.

I read the local paper and saw a job announcement for an office manager in a local business. I interview and took the job despite a cut in salary and benefits. It had regular 9-5 hours and I figured I'd be able to get a part time job. I had a couple part time seasonal jobs, I had money in the bank, I had no great demands on my time or life, or my bank account. I was slowly paying down my credit cards and enjoying the change of pace while I tried to figure out my life. I thought I would just have an epiphany and get a new life and go back to my slightly workaholic way of life. 'Twas not to be. 9-11 happened and as we all know, the world changed.

In retrospect, I made several mistakes. I changed jobs and took a salary and benefits cut. I made the mistake of not having a decent emergency fund. I made the mistake of not realizing until it was really too late that I was pretty much underemployed, but at least employed and did nothing to change my situation until it was too late. I still used my credit cards, but not as much as I had. I did not plan for or anticipate various house expenses-new roof, new exterior paint job, the various DIY projects that always crop up that occur with home ownership and life expenses. I had a semi serious long distance relationship that started to drain me not only monetary, but emotionally as well. I made a bunch of pretty stupid decisions, many of them financial. I made the decision at one point to stop using my credit cards and just starting paying them off. I literally just stopped using them, lived on cash and made the effort to pay of the cards. Even with good advice and careful research, I was having money issues. I needed a better paying job and I needed to get my act together.

But what really got me in trouble was my lack of understanding of the
Universal Default. It was Universal Default that eventually pushed me over the edge. I will admit I made some bad choices with my money, I had one car payment go missing, I made a double payment the next month and a couple months later I missed a payment. This was all it took for the Universal Default to kick in and that was all I needed to go into fiscal hell.

The next installment

How the Universal Default kicked my butt, how my family still managed to make me crazy, how my very fragile fiscal life fell apart, how I ended up Bankrupt and how I am "Bouncing Back".

Why Emergency Funds Are A Good Thing-Part 2

A couple months ago I posted that I had to use my emergency fund to pay for a broken window on my neighbors car. I had thrown an old fence post through his back truck window and he did not have glass coverage on his insurance. At least I was able to pay for the new window as soon as it was installed. It was my own fault, I tossed the pole and damaged the rear window.

In all the fuss about the car, I forgot to post that I need a new storm door. We had a lot of very windy weather here in New England last week and one day I just did not latch the door properly. One of those gusts of wind (one day gusts up to 40 MPH) "grabbed" the door and somehow it came unhinged and got badly damaged. I'm lucky I did not have glass everywhere, but I did have a door that was unhinged, warped and frankly, only good for the scrap metal pile. My first thought when I pulled up to the house was that someone had broken into my house, but I realized that my front door was locked and the screen door was just "unhinged".

I was able to get a new door and someone to put it on the house today (and fix the damaged trim as well) for the whopping fee of $275. It's times like this I wish I was a little more DIY savvy. Hanging new doors is just not my thing.

I love owning my own home, but when I have to shell out unplanned money, ouch, it hurts. What it means is my plan to paint my kitchen cupboards is put off a month (need new paint) and I'll focus on re-seeding my lawn when (if, or ever) it warms up. Right now I have a huge patch of dirt where I should have lawn.....

The New Car is Great!

And I am really happy with it. Plus a couple of my various friends and relatives have been very supportive about the new vehicle, a couple saying it was long overdue (hey-I went Bankrupt~ a new or new to me car was NOT in the picture until NOW). I just said I was happy that I was finally able to get the vehicle.

I've posted on a couple on line sites the old car for sale. I've had some interest (just posted yesterday afternoon) and I will see if anyone would want to buy it. The dealer said he could only give me about $200 for the car (too much mileage, too old, etc) and he was right, I could probably sell it for more. If I can sell it, I'll put the money in the old "car fund". If no one wants the car, I will donated it to a local charity for parts or to be refurbished for a needy family. I can get some sort of a tax write off next year. We shall see.

Right now, I'm having fun with the sun roof, all the gadgets, and putting all my junk, ah, stuff, neatly in the new car. I am such a child at times.........:)

Monday, March 24, 2008

The New to Me Car Has Been Purchased

After negotiating and looking, I have found a car that suits all my needs. In a much earlier post on this blog, I posted how I had hoped to be able to buy a new to me car/SUV (or the Ford Escape in blue!) I have now done that. Due to the demise of my 8 year old car, I jumped back into the credit market and got a new to me used car. It's a couple years old and has things I would normally not get in a car (power drivers seat, cruise control, 6 CD changer~but maybe some of this stuff is now standard?). It has a sunroof, which is something I've always wanted in a car :). It has 37,000 miles on it. I had actually been looking at Toyota Highlander, but the dealer was not moving on the price, it had much higher mileage and my mechanic thought he "knew" the truck from a previous client and was not 100% about this particular vehicle. In general, he's not had an issue with a Toyota, but he was fairly certain this was an exception to the rule. Since the salesman was also looking a little uncomfortable when my mechanic was looking at the car, I have this feeling the Highlander was a trade in from my mechanics client.

My mechanic looked at the Escape and said it was in excellent shape, and the car comes with a 2 month 6,000 mile limited warranty. The dealership also threw in three free oil changes (no expiration date). I paid $16,500 once the dust was settled (taxes, dealer prep fee). The private sale value for this particular car was about $14, 500 and the dealer cost $17,900 and I got the car closed to the private sale value. I talked to my insurance company and my premium is only increasing about $8.50 a month. Not bad at all for an SUV.

I get to pick up the car tonight and I'll post a picture of it later this week. While I am not 100% thrilled with a car payment, I am very relieved to have a reliable vehicle once more and so are my family and friends.

Hosting My First Carnival

I'll be hosting my first carnival the week of April 14th. It will be the Carnival of Credit Report Stories. If you have a post you would like to contribute, please e-mail me at with your post or link. Deadline is April 12th!

Hope you all had a great Holiday weekend.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Why I'm Jumping Back into the Credit Market

I had a comment on one of my blog posts about the new to me car purchase, and since I was planning on blogging about this very comment this weekend, I'll just jump in and post now.

Just out of curiosity, but why are you looking to get back into a high interest loan for a car, as opposed to purchasing a small, cash-only used car from a private party?

Very valid and a great comment and I'm sure others are wondering the same. I have decided to go with a car loan for a decent vehicle for a number of reasons.

1) I need to re-establish credit to start boosting my FICO score (which is currently really low.......). I had planned on getting a secured credit card and using it for things like my gas purchases and pay off in full each month and hope to qualify for lower interest rate loan later this year. Instead, it's a car loan about 5 months earlier than planned. Frankly, you have to start somewhere. It might as well be a car loan.

2) The current car repair was not expected, I figured an oil change, yearly tune up, and front end alignment ($250) would get me through to the summer. The projected repairs on the car push the bill over $1,000, and that is without further investigation as to why the car seems to be drinking oil. It was "in my grand plan" to save up for a decent down payment for a new to me car. This current repair bill just changed my plans. I don't want to sink $1,000 in a car that is only worth about $700-$950. Up until this past year, I had little to no repair cost in my current car, just regular maintenance (oil change, the occasional brake job, new tires, etc).

3) I had hoped to already have a real second job in place to offset the car payment. The prospective job has been put off until late April/early May, but I've been looking at alternative sources of income if this job is not to be (Virtual Assistant work, I am a Notary Public and can do loan signings for title companies, doing some back office work for a couple other real estate agents in the agency that hold my real estate license, etc). I've had second jobs on and off most of my adult working life and have usually used them to pay for "extras"-hobbies, vacations, and now it's a car. Arse backwards yes, I have a car loan, now I will get a second job. There are a number of local businesses that have started to advertise for summer help, the hours (and probably the salary) are not as good as the job at the horse farm if that does not come to fruition, but hey, it's a job! I totally admit, I've been sitting on heels waiting to see what happens at the horse farm. I could have gotten my act in gear earlier for a second job and this would not be as much of an issue, but I did not and only have myself to blame. I need to stop being sooo fussy.

4) I talked to both my credit union and my bank and both said the same thing, they could refinance me in as little as 6-9 months if all my installment payments are current (mortgage, student loan and car) and the rate would be competitive for the market. They did say I would not qualify for the "red carpet lease and loan terms" (less than 5% interest rate), but at a much better rate than 14.9%. My bank is a small local bank and they could not even offer me a car loan at any rate until my FICO gets above 600. One advantage to a local bank and credit union is the personal touch and the fact they know me as a person and not just a credit report. While I may be spending my raise on a car, I will still be able to keep to my projected savings plan. A second job or alternative income source will be snowflaked to the car fund account. I hope to be able to accelerate loan payments. Depending on the final price, the additional interest I pay may not be that much.

5) And simply, I do not have enough money saved to do a cash purchase on a used car that fits my criteria (age, mileage reliability, space requirements), I've been looking at that option as well for a motivated seller. The last two cars I bought from private parties both ended up costing me a lot (even with my mechanic looking at them prior to sale) in repairs and aggrivation. One repair hit 5 weeks after I bought the used car and was $700 to fix. This makes me a little leary of a private purchase, once bitten, twice shy as they say. The two cars I've bought through a dealership have had minimal upkeep and cost. At least with a dealer, I have some sort of a warrenty for the next couple months.

I did a test drive last night of the two vehicles that made my final cut. I did my Kelly Blue Book and Edmunds research on both (both private party and dealer price) and I started the bid process on one of them. I'm not interested in a dealership extended warrenty (you can actually find warrenties on line at less than half the dealer price) if one is needed or wanted. Plus I was surprised at how much wiggle room there was, especially on one vehicle. I think in this current economy, even car dealers want to move inventory and are willing to negogiate on price.

So we shall see! Thanks for the feedback!


Thursday, March 20, 2008

Time for a Revolution? Excellent Article by Liz Pulliam Weston.

This blog does not always need to be able me having a hyperventilating fit, it should also be educational.

For those of you who don't read the MSN Money page, check out this article by Liz Pulliam Weston on credit card fees and due dates.

Time for a Revolution? I think it's long overdue-death to the Universal Default !

Loan Investigations Continue

The other dealership called, I have been approved for a loan with similar terms and conditions (15% instead of 14.5% and a max of $19,000 instead of $18,000). I called the credit union I just joined and since the account is so new (like two weeks), and I have the BK, they could only approve me with similar terms and conditions as the dealerships. It was not worth pursuing with them at this point in time,

They did say if I did on time payments for my three loans (mortgage, student and now car) they could do a refinance in about 9 months at a much more competitive rate, 6-7% because of the BK. Except for a couple blips when my fiscal life fell apart, I've always paid my mortgage on time and the same with my student loan. That is a good thing. I did not know you could refinance a car loan, this is all news to me. I'm learning a lot about my new adventures into automotive financing.

I spoke to one finance manager and she said I was approved for the following reasons:

1) I had all my documents that they required~being organized and following directions helps!
2) I have longevity in my job (2 years with this employer, 5 with my previous and 7 with the one prior to that).
3) I meet a minimum salary level.
4) I own my own home and have lived there for almost 8 years.
5) I had a car loan in the past, it is marked paid in full and in good standing (even with a couple late payments) with a reputable lender.
6) No car repossession or turn in and no mortgage foreclosure or preforeclosure marks on my credit report.
7) I don't owe anything on my current car.
8) My budget falls within their guidelines for granting credit.
9) Depending on what vehicle I select and length of loan, my payment will be between $300 and $375 each month. High, but doable, especially if I can re-finance later this year to a lower rate.

I am still amazed that less than four hours after my application for credit was submitted, I've been approved by two lenders. I am just floored.

I will do a test drive at each dealership this evening and make my decision after I drive the cars and sleep on it.

Now I really have to pursue a second job-no freaking excuses anymore. I still feel like I should go home and have a whiskey.

Loan Approval in Less than 2 Hours

I just got a call from one of the dealerships, I was pre-approved for a loan maximum of $18,000 at a rate of 14.5%. Christmas Crackers, they only submitted the information at 9:00 AM and it's about two hours later.

For someone with a fresk BK discharge, 14.5% is a great rate. From what I'v read, I was girding my loins for an interest rate of around 20%.

Lets see what the other dealership comes up with.

Splutter, Splutter, Cough, Cough, Shudder,Shudder-Part 3 or how Bankrupt Betty has to Brave the Credit Market

I called my mechanic after pouting for an hour and said, just do the oil change, hold off on the other repairs, I guess I'm going to have to look for a car. I could hear a loud sigh of relief on his end of the phone. Well thank God he said, I was going to feel guilty repairing it for ya if that is what you really wanted (this is the same mechanic who told me the car was not worth the transmission repair last October-he was right, but the timing was wrong). You need to put this baby to rest. Yikes, even my mechanic is recommending getting rid of the car. I think it is in the stars, I need to get a new to me car.

The gist of it is the car is not worth fixing. It has 232, 000 miles on it (and no that is not a typo), I put on all the mileage except for the original 41 that was on the car when I got it. The AC is shot ($800 plus to repair that, I spent a lot of long hot drives last summer cooling myself down with cold wet rags from my cooler), plus the long list of the latest and the greatest. AND he said, the oil level was kinda low, maybe too low indicating some sort of impending engine issue that they have not even looked for or addressed.

I live by the motto that a car should last a long time as long as you let it breathe (change air filters regularly-especially in the country where we drive on dirt roads) and don't let it boil (regular oil changes, proper fluids in the radiator). And look, that philosophy got me 232,000 on my car. I think I can safely say I have run out the useful life on this car.

I spent part of the afternoon doing my on line research for available cars in my price range. I found four dealerships that met my criteria and have narrowed my choices to two for the following reasons.

1) They have the cars I am looking for that fall within my (now totally revamped) budget.
2) They clam they can work with folks who have bad credit (or as one finance manager said, sub-prime credit).
3) They have been recommend to me by folks who use the dealership either for service or vehicle purchase.

I did some phone calls and some Internet communication and eliminated one dealership solely on the fact the e-mail I got from the Internet sales manager was just obnoxious. I inquired on two specific cars (both used) and I get back this e-mail full of irritating graphics, large print is a variety of colors and sizes and he was trying to push a car I had no interest in. I thanked him for his time and said in my return e-mail, you obviously did not read my e-mail to you as to what I was looking for and why I was inquiring about two specific vehicles, I have no interest in the one you have tried, in the past three e-mails, to "sell" to me. My feeling was he felt he could take advantage of a woman looking for a car-that vibe came through loud and clear in his e-mails to me. Plus the fact he said "This car is very popular with women" in one of his e-mails to me. I felt I was dealing with some misogynistic idiot. Sorry not this woman. Find someone else to brow beat.

The other dealership, although local and I'd prefer to keep my business local, I eliminated because they had a lot of management turnover and they seem to be in a bit of a transition. I don't need a dealership in transition at this point.

I have credit applications into the two remaining dealerships, both know about the Bankruptcy (one is a dealership that sent me one of those post BK letters), both say "The BK is not an issue" and I have already given them all the information they have requested (pay stub, W2, utility bill, mortgage statement, budget, promise of first born child or a couple pounds of flesh). I'm going to see who approves me and then go for a test drive. I'm also doing a kelly blue book and edmunds search on each vehichle make, model and year so I can go in prepared as well.

As I posted earlier, I got a raise and it has come out to be an additional $300 a month. I really would have preferred to take that money and use it to fund my emergency fund and my car down payment fund. Plus I had planned on a part time job to help specifically with a car payment. All I can say right now is we will see what happens.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Splutter, Splutter, Cough, Cough, Shudder Part 2

Oh I am not in a happy mood. I touched base with the mechanic and my poor car needs the following

1) Oil Change-
2) Tune Up-causing the cough
3) Two new sensors
4) New exhaust system, including throttle plates and catalytic converter.-That is making splutter noise.
5) Front End Alignment-causing the shudder

Quoted repair price is: $1,000

Oh the things I'd like to say that are not really fit to print....................... I really wish I could head home for a very large whiskey right now.

Splutter, Splutter, Cough, Cough, Shudder, Shudder

Or so sounds the car this week. I dropped it off this morning for an oil change and a "look see". The noises are new noises, not the usual noises it makes. It' s been temperamental to start first thing in the AM (and sometimes after work as well) and I'm hoping it's only making them because it's close to spring tune up time. My mechanic said he'd call me around lunch time.

The good news is I have paid all my bills for the month of March! I have nothing on my desk that has to be paid. I paid my phone bill twice in February, and had a credit on the bill. Kinda nice to know that I have met all my fiscal obligations for the month of March with ten plus days to go. My plan for my first April pay check is to pay the electric bill (should be arriving in the next few days, due by April 10th), my car insurance, my health insurance, and my student loan. I'd like to re-adjust my payments by May so I'm also paying my Mortgage during the first week of the month. It currently is not due until the 16th, with the grace period going until the 25th. I usually pay it around the 15th of the month. I'd like to get as many bills paid at the beginning of the month as possible.

After having such a fiscal mess for the past couple years, it's kinda nice to be able to have my "house in order". What a nice feeling. I need to keep it up.

Monday, March 17, 2008

99.25 or 96.25 % Loan

No I'm not kidding folks. I was watching TV last night on one of the local channels and a thirty second ad popped up for a loan company. You could borrow a max of around $5000 dollars with no collateral. The ad gave an 800 number and a quick blurb of "make sure you can pay this loan back" with really small fine print. It was on two or three times and I jumped up off the couch at one point to catch the fine print. I kid you not, an interest rate of either 99.25% of 96.25% on an "average" loan of $2,600. I'm going to watch that channel again tonight and see if I can actually READ the fine print. I wonder who will call or who is desperate enough to call......

This Weeks Meal Plan and Meal Planning in General

Since I made little to no progress in sticking to last weeks Meal Plans, I'm giving it another go this week. Most of my lunches this week will be leftovers based on what I'm planning to cook.
I made this amazing pork roast in my crock pot yesterday and will be using that this week.

Part of my "problem" is I go to the grocery store to pick up a container of milk or some other mundane staple. I see something that gives me inspiration and my meal planning goes out the door. Saturday was a perfect example. I went to the grocery store looking for chicken (my local market will do a selection of chicken pieces, usually on special, perfect for the grill or as I had planned as a baked rice and chicken dish). No chicken to be had, but I did find a pork roast for $1.46 per pound. That is a great deal.

I grabbed the smallest roast they had (5.4 pounds) had the butcher cut it in half. I stuck half in the freezer and the other half ended up in my crock pot, simmered all day with onions, apples, carrots, herbs, some wine and a chipolata pepper in adobe sauce. It was really good and I have a bunch of food I can use as leftovers. It's nice when the inspiration hits, but I find I tend to go 'off my menu" frequently. Which I find funny, because I really don't enjoy grocery shopping all that much. Yet a hunk of pork makes me change my whole weeks menu.

Ah, well. I have lunch packed for today, dinner planned out and will make a loaf of bread in the bread maker this evening and hopefully I won't have to go near a grocery store until the weekend! I may dye some Easter eggs and then be eating a lot of egg salad next week.

Here's the tentative plan.

Dinners: Beans and Rice, enchiladas using left over beans, rice and pork, pork BBQ sandwiches, pasta with either pesto or tomato sauce, butternut squash stuffed with wild rice.

Lunches: Leftovers from dinner a couple days, salads (using the last of my Romain lettuce I bought at Costco) and using up the frozen containers of soup I made last week.

The April Challenge

Krystal at Give Me Back My Five Bucks is doing another challenge for the month of April. I like challenges, they give me motivation and I like the "competition" aspect of them. I've thought about the April Challenge and have decided that I need to seriously cut back on my food budget. It's been out of control.

I lump all grocery store, alcohol and animal food purchases under food. This month I know I will probably go over budget and a large part is due to alcohol purchases. I've been invited out a couple times for dinner (Me: What Can I Bring? Host: Oh Nothing. Me: Are you sure? : Host: Well, how about a bottle of wine or a six pack?) A decent bottle of wine is not cheap, and my little local liquor store does not carry a huge selection of good, yet inexpensive wines. They range from very cheap and cheerful to exquisite and expensive. Not a lot in the middle range suitable as a present.

Plus I have a bunch of staples in my house that I'm not using. I bought canned black beans when I could have just as easily used dried beans. But going through the process of soaking and cooking the beans, not difficult at all, just takes time, and I tend not to take the time. I just need to use up the staples, I can clean out my cupboards for a proper shop come May as I would like to do and it's cheaper as well. I have some Roman beans soaking at home as I write this. Beans and Rice are on the menu for tomorrow.

To motivate myself, I'll join in the challenge and dare I say, only spend $125 on groceries (me and the animals) for the month of April. Wish me luck! :)

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

It's sort of a gardening tradition that on St. Patrick's day, you plant your first crop of peas. Well not in my area of New England. Most of the ground is still pretty frozen and I think any peas I would have planted might not make it to maturity.

I am planning to do a small square foot vegetable garden this year. I still have some extra lumber leftover that can make the boundaries of a small raised bed. I have not done a vegetable bed in a couple years. I'm planning on just one or two squash plants, a couple heirloom tomato plants, maybe a pumpkin plant, a cucumber plant, a variety of herbs~ just enough for one and probably enough to give away as well. I have two amazing compost piles that I'm planning on incorporating into the raised bed. I think I've spent too much time this past winter reading my seed catalogs!

Trying to Get Re-Motivated

My motivation to do parts of my "To Do" list keeps diminishing for some reason. I spent far too much time this past weekend doing nothing, did not even make it to the local library for another armload of books. I did visit some friends (which was nice, I feel like I'm getting a social circle again) and did manage to cross off a couple things from my To Do list, but they were all the things that did not require a great amount of effort or thought on my part.

I keep a running To Do list of projects and goals, as I finish each To Do or reach a goal, it gets ticked off the list, every couple weeks I write up a fresh list and star things that MUST be done. What bothers me is I could get some of the smaller projects out of the way, but I just don't do them and get them done. I know I would feel a lot better to do things like rehang pictures in my bedroom, but I just feel too lazy to pick up a hammer and some picture hooks. Pathetic.

On an up note, I did take some old dishes and clothes to Goodwill, put a couple more unwatched DVD's on Half. com and did open a new savings account at the Credit Union and deposited a couple of the picutre taking checks. I passed on the extra gift cards that I had planned on buying, I'm only going to get one, either for Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks. That money went towards the new credit union account. That is a good thing. Fiscal restraint.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Using Part of my Return to Make My Living Space Better

I'm taking part of my tax return and getting a couple things I need for the house that I have been putting off. It's nothing major, but it's things like new window shades for the windows, and and new door handle for the screen door. I got a new set of drapes (on sale at Bed Bath and Beyond) last week and a new curtain rod is needed. I also had a handyman come in to do about two hours worth of work on some little home repairs that I don't have the tools or skill to do (fixing some exterior trim, fixing the screen door, repairing the outdoor front door light).

I'm giving myself $50 to either spend on a couple Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts or Panera Bread Gift Cards (for use for travel later this summer).

The remainder will go into my emergency fund.

The Last Requirement from the Trustee

I E-Filed my taxes this year for the main reason, I have to give the Court Trustee all but $390 of my refund. I am getting back total, about $1,000 from my state and federal returns. It's more than I thought, but less than last year. The cost of Turbo Tax, the E-File and Direct Deposit fee is around $80, but well worth it to me. According to the E-File timeline, I should get my direct deposit tomorrow. The check to the Trustee gets written on Saturday and mailed to his office with the other information he needs (copy of tax return for proof of refund). I'm really happy that I can truly file all my Bankruptcy paperwork and put the very large file someplace other than the top of my desk. I do have copies of my discharge notice, but the entire file and all court correspondence will be tucked in a nice safe spot.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Tell All Tuesday~ Who The Heck Am I and How Did I End Up This Way

As promised in an earlier post, part 1 of my life story and how it relates to personal finance and money. Part 2 will be next week.

I grew up in a New York City Suburb in a middle class family. My grandparents arrived in America in the 1920's like so many other immigrant families in search of a better life than what was in the Old Country and to provide better opportunities for their family. The town I grew up in was full of hard working folks, a fairly progressive school system and close enough to NYC that many folks took the train into Queens and Manhattan for work.

My family was distinctly solid blue collar middle class, probably leaning towards the lower middle class in terms of family income, but money or lack of it was not a big topic in my family. We always had a roof over our heads, food on our table, new clothes for school; we took vacations, and had nice Holidays. A lot of this was made possible by the fact I lived in a two family house with my grandparents on the first floor (they owned the house) we lived on the second floor and I don't think my parents paid much, if any rent. Their rent was helping to take care of my grandparents and household expenses. My father was self employed and worked full time, my mother worked part time until I was in junior high school, then she worked full time at a local business. I was not that different than many of my school friends, this sort of living arrangement was very common. Almost all of my friends had multiple generations living at home and English was usually a second language in these homes.

My local public high school and park and rec department offered things like free swimming, tennis, golf, music, and drama lessons. We also had friends who had horses and like most young horse crazy girls, I rode and worked in the local stable to help pay for lessons. We had family members who lived in Florida, on the Connecticut Shore, on the Eastern End of Long Island (think great beaches) and in Canada-our vacations were usually to visit these family members in these exotic locations.

Money was something that we really never discussed (either having or not having it). I don't think either of my parents were great savers, I know my mother to this day can not save, she excessively spends. Money was never a topic of conversation until high school and my father was diagnosed with a cancer that eventually took his life.

I have a some distinct memories about money growing up. One grandmother scrimped and saved and enjoyed her money. She enjoyed saving her money and buying nice clothes for church, presents for her grandchildren and children and getting her hair done a couple times a month at the beauty parlor. She opened my first savings account and always encouraged me to put half my gift money into the savings account and use the other half as "pin money". My other grandmother was similar in her line of thinking, but I remember her NOT enjoying her money. I can remember her going on vacation, coming home and just complaining on how much money she spent. I never remember her saying she had a good time on vacation, just that it was expensive. My third distinct memory was my parents never really teaching me about money, savings, or planning for tomorrow.

What I do remember about my teen aged years was getting a lot of mixed messages about money. A lot. As I said earlier, I never really thought about money. I got money for Christmas and birthdays and it got put into a savings account. I had part time baby sitting jobs as soon as I was old enough, they helped to pay for my riding lessons and other things. Money gotten as presents was put into my "savings account". Growing up I got either jewelry or money as a presents, it was what my family did. I never really wanted for anything, I had what I needed and if I really wanted something extravagant, I worked and saved for it.

My first mixed money messages that I can remember was applying to colleges. Finances got very tight as my father became more ill and could not work. Senior class picture time came and my family could not afford the picture package that had the 8x10 and 5 x7's, we got one sheet of wallet sized photos. I'd go to friend’s houses and proudly sitting on the mantle or sideboard was the obligatory senior picture, not in my house. That was probably the first time I realized my family had a money issue. My father was very ill, yet my mother insisted that I apply for schools and encouraged me to apply to private colleges and not really focus on the State University System. I got into 4 of my 5 colleges. I ended up taking a position at a school about 4 hours from home that at the time cost a whopping $11,000 for tuition, room and board. The biggest factor in deciding to go to this school was the financial aid package. My parents would only have to come up with about $2,000 out of pocket; the rest was covered by loans, grants and scholarships. My mother was insistent that I go to my very expensive private four year college. I remember many of my cousins being surprised for two reasons. One reason was my cousins did not go away to college, if they went to school, they stayed local. I was bucking the family trend by going away to school. The other was the cost. I'm sure my family’s financial situation was discussed at my various cousins’ homes, families talk. I can remember one of my cousins asking if I was going to be able to stay in school once I got there.

Affording college was difficult. Like many students, I got through school on student loans, grants, scholarships, work study jobs, side jobs, summer jobs and the occasional cash present from family members.

I remember trying to talk to my mother about money as a college student and she just switching the conversation or totally ignoring me. She was not going to talk about money, especially hers, she loved getting information on my money. I needed to work on my financial aid, I needed books and supplies, I needed to know what support I was going to get. Her message to me was that school was important and she would support me, but when I would send a bill or ask for the money to pay a school bill, it always got pushed off, or sent in late. What I did find odd was that I would be told my promised payments would be late for a variety of pressing financial reasons, yet I would go home for a weekend at home (and to raid the pantry, do laundry, sleep in my own bed, eat some decent food, see friends), I'd find things like a new large screen TV, bags of new clothes, upgraded cable, a new VCR (in the early 80’s VCR’s were expensive), tales of going out to lunch and dinner almost every night of the week, yet my promised and very much needed $300 book allowance was always late.

The message I got from my mother through college and later through graduate school was a great example of a mixed signal. I was told I had to support myself and live independently and my attempts to do so were met with anything from resistance to sabotage. Harsh words, but in retrospect that is what happened.

Part 11-Graduate School and beyond.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Blog Updates and Thanks

I managed to add in the blog roll for the Snowflake Revolution and will be adding in updates on my progress bars as well as a few new blogs that I have found out there. If you want to do a link exchange, please let me know! I really need to work on my blog roll account, that would make things soooo much easier.

I also just wanted to say thanks to those of you have dropped on by and read my blog! I love hearing from you.

Today's Snowflake Update and Account Changes

I have earned a whopping $5.19 from selling a couple really cheap paperbacks on this past two weeks. I'm opening up a savings account at the local credit union to do the following two things

1) Put any money I earn from, photo shoots, and any money I consider snowflake money into this account, now called the Snowflake account.

2) Use this account as the car fund account.

I am keeping my ING account, but I'm not disciplined enough (read LAZY) to deposit money to my main checking account and then transfer it to the ING account. It means I to remember to bring my log in information to work to check my ING account. I can drop these checks off to the credit union at on my way to work.

The ING account is going to become my emergency account and I have already set up the direct debit from my main account. My old emergency account is going to be "frozen" as of this Friday's payday. I currently have a debit card on this account and it's been too easy to borrow from this account. I can't readily borrow against the ING account. No debit card access. :)

Plus, I have been told by a number of folks the credit union has favorable terms for car loans, even to folks with bad credit like myself. So I'm trying to plan a head for once!

Friday, March 7, 2008

The Lunch Challenge Week 1

Did not spend one thin dime on food for lunches or snacks this week. Yea Ha!. I am actually looking forward to doing some cooking this weekend and planning next weeks meals.

Sometimes it's the small things that really make you feel good! Not only packing my lunch, but remembering to pack snacks has been a big help.

My basic plan for next week's meals include using up a bag of wild rice I got as a present last fall. I love rice of all types and I've someplace, a recipe for wild rice and squash. I have a recipe for red lentil and ginger soup and I do have a small pork loin that is screaming to be marinated in an adobe and honey sauce. Now just to figure out what days would be good to do this!


Interesting Post

For those of us who feel like we lack a purpose in life, (ME-ME!) Here is a link to an excellent post by Brip Blap. Kind of sums up my life a lot right now. And I'm a big fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. My old roomies and I used to watch it every Tuesday night over nachos and beer. I had more than a bit of a crush on Angel myself.

Check it out.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

The Second Job Woes

As I've posted earlier, I have a tentative job offer to work 2-3 weekend a month at a horse farm local to me. This job would be ideal, it would pay enough to cover most of a new to me car payment, it's fairly close to home, the hours work out well for me, there is some flexibility if I need it for a weekend errand or three and I like the people I would be working with. I would be replacing a current employee who has made plans to leave the area. She was supposed to leave this month, but has pushed back her leaving until some time in late April if not early May.

Sigh, not good for me at all. I was starting to count on that job. It really would have been perfect for me on many levels and since a new to me car is a priority, I'm having a hard time justifying putting off a second job search much longer. The biggest drawback is weekend only second jobs are not easy to come by or the pay is dismal to the point of I'd have to give serious consideration to work in a place that the pay was so bad AND to give up my weekends as well. Yes, I need and want the additional money, but I know from past experience I need to at least like the place I work at if the pay is going to be low.

The real estate market is still painfully slow, as expected. I'm hoping the spring season may bring out a buyer or two and the commission could be put to good use (car, E fund, etc).

What I really need to do is just get my butt in gear, stop whinging and find a second job so I can get my new to me car.

The March Budget and Goals

Looking towards March with a more positive outlook, here is the budget I've come up with. I've not included my income, I have to see how my little raise figures in to the whole equation, but here goes with what I can foresee at this point. Fixed Expenses are in blue.

I know I've been really bad the past two months about adding up my cash receipts (miscellaneous money) and those should be budgeted to each category, but I don't. Last night I stopped at the grocery store and spend a whopping $5.50 on groceries, but paid cash out of my miscellaneous money. I just need to use my debit card for any and all food purchases so I can track it better.

I got my new student loan booklet two weeks ago and my student loan for dropped from $174 to $171.50, I'm keeping it at $174 so the additional $2.50 can snowflake off the total amount due to the loan. I do the same for my mortgage, my payment is $553, but I pay $555. Not a ton of money, but every little bit helps.

My goals for March are:

1) Continue to work on second job prospect (see other post about that).
2) Find more things to sell on E-bay/
3) Talk to neighbors about holding a block yard sale in Mid April
4) Get my act together and join a gym (I don't have a choice in this one, MD's orders,I;ve been putting it off and stretching at home is not a work out).
5) Start on yard clean up and garden planning. Spring IS supposed to arrive in about 15 days!
6) Stop dipping into EFund!-this is a biggie, I should have almost $500 in my Efund, but I've dipped into it to cover some expenses when I should not. BIG shame on me.

Expense Budget
Mortgage $555
Health Insurance $120
Utilities $200
Food $175
Phones $60
Internet $15
Misc $100
E fund $200
Car Insurance $90
Student Loan $174
Transportation/Gas $110
Continuing Education $100
Clothes $50
Laundry $40
ING Savings $25

February Tale of The Tape

I printed out my statement for February and here is my Tale of the Tape. The Zero Based budget did not work out well at all for the first go around and it most definitely needs work. A couple things were out of my control, escalating utility costs, missed medical payment, rising cost of gas and yup, just some un needed spending on my part. BB was a bad girl.

Expense Budget Actual Difference
Mortgage $555 $555 $0
Health Insurance $200 $317.43 $117.43
Utilities $170 $398.51 $228.51
Food $200 $205 $5
Phones $60 $31.20 $28.80
Internet $15 $15 $0
Misc $100 $213 $103
E fund $200 $200 $0
Car Insurance $90 $187 $97
Student Loan $174 $174 $0
Additional Income $0 $70 $70
Transportation/Gas $110 $173.84 $63.84

What killed my budget was the following:

Gas: A trip to the Jersey Shore and two trips to the NY metro area to see the aged relative in the hospital.

Food: I forgot to renew my Costco membership in January and it was an additional $50 unplanned for. plus I shopped for road snacks for my drives to and from NY/NJ. I probably would have been closer to $150. Giving up beer for lent has been a good thing! No little trips to the store for a quick six pack! Food included all animal food and liquor purchases for the month.

Misc: Money needed for parking, tolls, meals in the city, a long overdue hair cut, and yup, a couple cups of Starbucks. How fast that all added up.

Utilities: I just did not bank on my extra ordinary high electric bills, and that really took a chunk of money.

Medical: My share of my Health Insurance payment for January went missing, so I had to double pay for February and I had my share to pay of a doctors visit. I have the HSA and I keep forgetting to put money in it so I can deduct from that account instead of my main account.

Car Insurance: Found out my car insurance payment never made it to the company either, I'm begining to wonder if someone pilfered the mail. I had a late fee as well as the regular payment to make.

The excess was money designated for my E-fund and the little extra I made photographing houses. Last month was a mess. This has to improve. Has to.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Two No Spend Days and The Lunch Plan is Working

Because I actually PLANNED my lunches and dinners this week, I've had two no spend days and have packed my lunch three days in a row. Actually, the boss surprised us with pizza today, today's soup will be tomorrows lunch.

I'm very excited to go home and make a meatloaf and a stir fry for my dinner tonight! Doesn't my evening sound exciting? But in a way it is. I'm not spending money. I'm using food out of my cupboard and I'm not fighting the urge to go out at lunch and grab a soda or a snack. I'm looking forward to putting my feet up on the couch and watching one of my $5.50 DVD's tongiht on my TV. Another good start to the month!

A Paper Clean Out

One of my goals for 2008 is to put my files in a pdf format and save them to either a disc or hard drive. I want to eliminate as much paper as I can.

I went through my files and shredded old and unneeded credit card statements, really old tax returns (from the 1990's), old insurance policies (cancelled, no longer use that company,no claims to that company) that were more than 5 years old. Piles of old household receipts for things like potting soil (I kept any receipt for a large repair), home improvement quotes etc. I borrowed a paper shredder from work and spent a happy couple of hours shredding the paper.

It then went neatly bagged to the neighbors who will use it as bedding for their pet ferrets and the soiled bedding will eventually make it's way to their compost pile. They have a compost pile that is just used animal bedding (shredded paper, sawdust), leaves and grass. At some point all those old papers will come to some good use as mulch for the garden.

I then re-organized my files and took the first two months of 2008 papers and sorted them. I had previously set up a file box with about 4 sections for different items, but until I can find an inexpensive scanner, I'm still feelig the urge to file everything in it's own file. It was nice to have a bit of a paper purge AND to be able to see the top of my desk and the bottom of my in box. Yes a little obsessive, but I can see my desk top!

Some Really Good News!

I've been a bit absent from blogging as I deal with a family issue and some "things" at work. Work has been interesting the past few weeks, we lost one employee to early retirement and one fairly new employee "jumped ship" to another company. My boss decided in this current economy NOT to replace them right away and really do a job search to find a suitable candidate. Since we rely on these employees to bring in revenue, I was a little nervous, could my job be on the line. My E-fund is sorely lacking and I'm just getting my act back together.

I work as a cross between a project manager, office manager and a bit of a personal assistant for a small company in New England. Pretty much we all wear many hats and do what has to be done to get the work done. My boss takes out the trash, I shop for office snacks, we both do filing, answering of the phones, computer work and lots of customer care and contacts.

The good news is my job is OK and the even better news is I got a small raise! My boss is not a man of many words and I was surprised and pleased about the raise. He said it was in recognition of the additional work I've been doing and the way I've redefined my position at the company making things run smoothly and enabling him to do what he does best.

Wow, it's probably the best news I've had in the past few weeks. Now to focus on the second job

Monday, March 3, 2008

Some Extra Income

I'm starting off the month with three property photo requests. $45 to be added to my new to me car fund. I just have to remember to transfer the money from my main checking account and put it into my ING account.

While I don't have any real estate clients, at least I can pick up a little money on these property shoots.

Meal Planning Week one of March

To go along with my monster food shop, I've done a tentative meal plan for the week so I don't lose focus and let all that food go bad in my fridge. I'v done that before and it's not good as they say.

Breakfasts: Cereal or bread product with egg or cream cheese and veggies.
Dinners: Meatloaf, Soup, Stir Fry, Rice and Vegetable Pilaf, Pasta.
Lunch: Dinner leftovers, interspersed with Salads.
Snacks: Fruit.

I did re-organize my food cupboards on Saturday so I could get a sense of what I had in them and to give me some inspiration in my meals. I have a lot of staples that I need to start using up. Even dried beans have a shelf life!

Starting Off The Month With A More Optimistic Look and a Lot of Shopping

Not having reliable Internet access at home means I'm way behind in my posts. Even though Friday was still February, I did start on my March food shopping. On my way home I stopped at the Aldi and spent $23.33 on a lot of staples (sugar, flour, eggs, pasta, canned beans, dairy items, tortillas) that I needed for my food cupboards.

I also went to Target, I needed my Method cleaning products and some toiletries. I found two great airtight storage containers for my flour and sugar. The old fashioned metal sugar container is not airtight and my sugar has been getting damp. I got two nice sized containers for $4.99 each and each holds 5 lbs of flour and at least 5lbs of sugar. I like being able to see what's in the containers in my cupboards. I did give myself a little treat, I spent $5.50 on a DVD-actually two DVD's for $5.50. Not a bad purchase! Total spent at Target $40.46

Grocery Shop for fruits, salad items, meats, grains, at Ethnic Grocery Stores: $35.72 (includes some laundry detergent as well)

Costco Shop: $83.31-Includes new car charger and blue tooth headset for phone ($30.00), I'm just not getting the hang of the new phone with the speakerphone option, I keep disconnecting callers.

I've spent $122.36 of my food budget ($175) and the month is three days old. I did however, get a ton of things I can use for my lunches (Part of Costco shop, meats, fruit and veg) and I have meats in the freezer that I can use for my meal planning.

I made a huge pot of chicken soup yesterday, some to be eaten, most to be frozen for soup and stock. The actual chicken itself will be turned into chicken salad tonight and some chicken kept aside to make a chicken pot pie. I restocked my flour and grain supply and have plans to make more interesting breads in the bread maker, make some pizza dough for pizza or calzones, make some Indian and Chinese inspired meals. I'm thinking about a noodle stir fry tonight!

Part of my shopping was geared towards having alternative foods for my lunches. By alternative foods, I mean pre-made/ready made food that if I forget to pack my lunch, I will have at work or be able to grab and toss in my lunch sack on my way out the door. Some of these pre-made meals are high in sodium and I've been searching for ones that are not 30% of my daily requirement.