Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Gas at $3.75

OUCH, I went to fill up today and it was $3.75 per gallon at the local and probably cheapest gas station in the area. I stopped pumping at $33.00. I'll be heading off to an area with less expensive gas for the weekend, so I'll fill up/top off there.

I may love my new to me vehicle, but I'm sure not loving these new gas prices.....

Oh well.

Consumers Aren't The Only Ones Feeling The Pinch

Last week I had some time to kill and went to the local mall. The last time I was there was at the holiday season. I was very surprised to see a lot of vacant store fronts, some of them national chains. I could have sworn the mall had more stores at Christmas time. I do know this particular mall has been slowly losing upscale retailers, the anchor stores are Macy's, JC Penney's, and Sears, but the shops in the mall are becoming more discount (and not even good discount).

NPR is running a week long series on Debt in America. Today's feature focused on retail stores. Stores such as Wilson Leather, Bombay and Co., CompUSA, Talbots, etc are all closing stores. You can click here to read the story, but I also suggest you click on the link for the pod cast and listen as well. Consumers are not the only ones feeling the credit crunch, even retail chains are having difficulties. Check it out.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Drowning In Debt

National Public Radio is running a 5 part series on Americans and Debt, called Drowning in Debt. Part two was this morning, the story of a woman, her husband, 11 credit cards, rising interest rates, and then the loss of job income. These folks were lucky, they got into credit counseling and were able to make some lifestyle changes.

I will post the link to tomorow's story tomorrow!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Less Than One Half of One Percent...

of ones yearly salary is what the average America saves nowadays. In the late 1970's, early 1980's, the average American saved 11% of it's yearly salary. Less than one of half of one percent-that is a very scary statistic.

National Public Radio is running a week long series on money,debt, and finances. Click here for the link to the first installment of the series. There is also a link on that page to the podcast.

Tomorrow, NPR will be interviewing and speaking with a woman is who struggling to get out of credit card debt. I am a fan of NPR and it's reporting, and I am curious to hear their series on Americans, debt, finance and the what not. Should be interesting!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Snowflake Update

Just so you all realize I'm not totally blowing off personal finance during my bout of Spring Fever...

I got a notice that will be depositing to my account $9.03 from recent sales (not a lot,but hey, better than nothing!) I also got $60 in house photo money today. The Half.Com cash goes into my E-fund account, the $60 goes in to the Credit Union Savings Account. That will bring the amount in the Credit Union Account up to $255.

As Ive posted before, I have a couple accounts, ING, Credit Union and my E-Fund checking account. If push comes to shove, they are all E-Fund Accounts. Total in all three accounts is about $800 ( I don't have exact totals handy). That makes me almost halfway to my year goal of a $2,000 E-fund. My tax stimulus check will put me at $1,400 and I'm still funding my E fund $200 a month. Had I not had to replace my broken storm door and the neighbors car window, and a couple not so emergency emergencies, I'd be "fully funded". Even though I had been taking property photos for a while, my plan to deposit the checks to my main account then transfer to the ING account just never got rolling. More so due to laziness on my part to log on and do a funds transfer (at times I am such a slug). With the credit union, I just make the deposit when I swing by once a week. Much better and I'm not "tempted" to budget out that money for some other treat or project.

Ah well, it is what it is.... The snowflaking continues.....

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Taking Advantage of the Good Weather......

that has arrived here in New England. I'm spending the better part of this week preparing my lawn for a feed and what was my lawn (and now a dirt patch) for a serious re-seed. I spent the money and got the high traffic grass seed.

The Escape goes in for an oil change on Saturday and I'm planning on stopping at my favorite nursey for some herbs for my kitchen garden. Spring has finally arrived!

More soon, hope you are also having some grand weather......

Sunday, April 20, 2008

We Can't Do This Alone

No we can't and that is one reason why we blog about this. What is this, this is debt reduction, increasing savings, or bouncing back from bankruptcy.

It's hard to do this. It's easy to stray back to bad or old habits. It's hard to do this alone, it's hard (and in some cases) even harder to do this when your partner is not on the same page as you.

Why do we blog about personal finance? We blog because we need someone (or many someones) to hear us, help us, commiserate with us, congratulate us on our successes. We blog because many of us are so afraid to discuss this with family and friends. I know I blog because I really don't have anyone to discuss my bankruptcy with. I blog because I need to hold myself responsible for my new actions and to help me avoid my past mistakes. I currently don't have anyone in my life that I am 100% comfortable discussing my finances with. That is OK, as we all know, finances are a taboo subject and not many people are comfortable having frank open discussions about personal finance, discussing bankruptcy really makes folks uncomfortable. I can tell you that from personal experience.

I did spend part of today catching up on a bunch of blogs. I can see the frustration in some folks blogs when only one in the relationship is committed to the debt reduction plan. You can read the tiredness and frustration they must have being the one who is trying to shoulder the debt reduction load and you can sense the bitterness/apathy/ emotional distance of the other partner.

I also want to reach through the Internet and give some of these bloggers a good shake. I read one blog where the blogger wants to reduce a $5,000 debt. Yet all I read about in the blog is their E-bay sales stink (they stink for many of us), and this blogger just HAD to go out four times in the past two weeks for drinks, dinner, take out,.. just HAD too. You get the picture. In just over one year of blogging, they have paid off $3,000 of their debt. By my calculations and reading their archives, if they cut their supposed mandatory social obligations in half, they would be debt free by now. Debt free, but I guess eating take out with the roommates three times a week is more important than paying off the debt. I also read a blog where the blogger paid off his credit card debt but pretty much exists on frozen burritos and ramen noodles because it's cheap (and loaded with sodium), gives in to food cravings for things like McDonalds or KFC, and then wonders why he has health issues and complains how much a three piece chicken meal costs. Two ends of the spectrum. What ever happened to moderation? There are some blogs that have not been updated in weeks, or months, and some blogs that have totally gone away. I wonder about some of those folks, especially the ones who were obviously in a bad place, we want to try and be there for them and they have gone to blog heaven so to speak. They have taken themselves off line to deal with their issues.

Yes, it is not my place to dictate how and when folks pay off their debt, but to whine on about having no money, no e-bay sales and all these mandatory social obligations is tiring to read. But it is inspiring and enlightening to read about folks struggling with the real issues we all face, funding emergency funds, adjusting budgets to take into account the every growing price increases we have no control over (gas, food, utilities). I like hearing that folks still get promotions, are able to meet savings goals, and yes there are folks who do really pay down their debt without surviving on sodium loaded junk food.

Pretty much most of us blog for the additional support we get from the blogsphere, we like being a part of the Snowflake Revolution, Blogher, Frugal Hackers, you name it. We like hearing what worked and did not work from Dave Ramsey, Suze Orman, the Broke Because You Want to Be Guy, we like the links we find in carnivals, we like the spreadsheets people come up with, we like the referrals to all sorts of things that make our lives easier and hopefully bring us back some much needed cash. We like the unexpected comments of support we get when we write those gut wrenching posts because we feel like our world is falling apart.

For me, finding Ladies in the Red came at a time when I was just beside myself with the Bankruptcy filing. I was having hot flashes, eating tons of food, obsessing over everything and spent far too much time in bed with the covers pulled over my head bitching to myself about getting grey hair and zits at the same time. Katie's honesty about her bankruptcy and money issues made me laugh at me-someone else had my exact same problems and they managed to survive. Katie even got a featured magazine article about her site and her bankruptcy. I still find her site and her forum inspiring.

And yes, we can't do this alone. Keep writing, blogging and supporting each other. We can't do this alone, but we can do this with help and support.

Less Clutter, Better Mindset

True to my word, I did a small de-cluttering of the house. I set up the new to me computer, tidied my desk and made it usable, filed some papers, organized some tax receipts (gasp-getting ready for NEXT tax season so soon!), reclaimed my kitchen table as a place to sit down and eat at instead of it being an additional desk, did a dump, laundry, returnable run, got the propane tank refilled for the grill, did a small grocery shop, cleaned the garbage pails I use for returnables and recycleables, did the ironing, put the clean clothes away and managed to get a hair cut fit in. All that on Saturday and I naturally spent Sunday being a lazy slob watching a coup DVD's and some re-runs on Fox. I think I deserved a day of doing nothing, osrting through my clothes to see what can go to Goodwill or the consignment shop can wait a few days.

I just could not take the mess anymore. As I said before, having all the clutter around and on my counters made it so I was tempted just to pack it in and buy my meals. I have lots of food in the cupboards and I want to get rid of the freezer reserves. I also like the fact that I can sit down at my table for dinner. I feel more in control of my life.

The weather is improving here in New England and my mindset is getting better as well. I plan on using the nice weather to do some spring chores that are not inside ones. Sweet.

Friday, April 18, 2008

My Horoscope for Today

this resonates with my struggles pre, during and post BK.....

Don't let the odd unexpected encounter throw you off track now. Many a Leo is feeling like they're finally in recovery after a long, hard slog with the Universe. And if you feel like that, guess what - you're right. There are several astro reasons why you've had to sort of "rebuild" yourself. What's most important to remind yourself now is that you don't need to test yourself all the time, to see if you're as tough as you want to be or used to be. Nor do you need to hang out with people who test you too much, either.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

My House is a Disaster Zone~But Can I Go Clutter Free

It's official, I have crossed the point of no sane return. I've had a couple busy days as work, a couple busy things to do after work and in the interim, my very small house looks like a disaster zone.

I bought a new toaster oven at Target the other day, my old one caught fire and had to be laid to rest. I still have the box for the new toaster oven sitting in my small space because I wanted to use the oven two or three times to make sure it worked. I still have the old toaster oven as well. Of course I walked into the grocery store to buy a frozen pizza to try out in this oven (the oven says it can hold a 12 inch pizza). $20 later (what the heck did I buy?) I waltzed home to cook said frozen pizza. Yup, the oven does hold the 12 inch pie and it actually toasts bread products. I'm hoping to get rid of the box and the old toaster oven ver soon.

My desk looks like I tipped a couple bags of papers on it and I have been given use of a desktop computer since my laptop is slowly dying. My small desk is awash in computers (2), papers, and DVD's (I have a stack on the desk that I keep meaning to put on I have to rip apart my desk to redo all those dammed electrical cords.

My bedroom is a mini disaster. My neighbor found a scratch and dent bathroom vanity and sink at Home Depot for me and right now, the unit is in a box in my bedroom, along with my laundry basket of clean laundry to be ironed and my basket of dirty laundry, and my small mini vacuum. My bedside table has two empty water bottles and a pile of books on it. Redoing the bathroom is not a project I planned on doing until late June.

Plus I pulled out all the heavy winter blankets, I am planning a trip to the laundromat to use the big washer and dryers to wash and dry the winter blankets and store them for the spring summer. Those are sitting on top of the storage hassock, I was too lazy to put them back in to hassock. In my defense I had planned to go to the laundromat on Monday, but spent the time in the ER with my bleeding forehead.

I live in a rural area, I have to take my garbage to the town dump, the dump is open on the weekends. Guess what I am doing on Friday night and Saturday-

1) Bagging up the trash and recyclables for a Saturday AM dump run
2) Bagging up the returnables for a run to the redemption center (at least I'll get some $$ back, enough for my weekly lotto fix!)
3) Putting the laundry in the car and driving to the laundromat with the ultra big $6 a load washers.
4) Hitting the Target, Wal Mart or K-Mart for those storage bags that you suck air out of to store the cleaned blankets in for the summer.
5) Cleaning the kitchen and living room and probably make another dump run to get rid of the trash.

The rest of my weekend will also be spent fixing my fence (the dogs found a new way to escape this morning), putting together the computer to see if it still works, cleaning the house and giving some serious consideration to trimming down my closet and my clothes that I don't fit into.

What has this got to do with personal finance. A lot. Since my small kitchen looks like a disaster zone (counters are full up, kitchen table is serving as desk #2), my inclination this AM was to just skip packing my lunch and buy it. I bought dinner last night (the mediocre frozen pizza), I was thinking about Chinese for dinner tonight and I almost hit the local coffee shop for breakfast this am. I'm sort of wondering what I will do for dinner this evening since my kitchen is not 'user friendly" at this moment. Just eating out for one day could set me back $25.

Having a clutter free zone will enable me to cook my dinner, plan my lunch for tomorrow and not just waste money when I have a cabinet full of food to be cooked and eaten.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Letter I Sent Out Today at Lunch~Need I Say More?

Dear X Bank

I am writing to follow up on my phone request to be taken off your marketing call list. I recently purchased a car and X Bank is the lender. I have received between April 3, 2008 and April 15, 2008 twenty six phone calls on my caller ID and not one phone message. Six of which were on my Caller ID on April 15th alone. This is after I had asked twice to have my phone number removed from the call list.

The first time the young lady said she needed to verify my information, but proceeded to try and give me a marketing speech. When I asked what information she needed verified, she asked if I had a pen and paper handy to jot down some information. I told her I already had a letter from X Bank outlining the terms and conditions of my loan and again what information she wanted verified. She never told me what information she wanted verified. I then told her to please remove me from the call list and that X Bank was welcome to mail me any information about their products and services. The young lady who called last week wanted to know if there was an alternative phone number that I could be called at. I told her no, no phone calls period, home or work. I had this same phone conversation three times, the most recent this evening when I received a phone call from someone named Marjorie. Marjorie even started the conversation by saying I see in our records you have refused phone calls.

I did not refuse phone calls, I asked to be taken off the marketing list, especially since no one was able to tell me what information they wanted verified, not even the manager I spoke with this evening, Alan M....... In fact, Mr. M....... told me that it is policy to ignore the first request to be put on a no call list. I believe that is illegal and against both state and federal law to ignore the request to be taken off of a call list if a customer so wishes. Mr. M....... supposedly assured me that after this evening, I would not be bothered again.

Not once in the 23 times that I did not answer the phone did X Bank leave a message informing me that they needed any information verified, not once. If it was so important that information needed to be verified, then XBank should have been able to leave me a message at least once.

I am sending a copy of this letter to my States Attorney General's Office.

The call list (all numbers start with xxx-xxx)
April 15th 7:48 PM 3508
5:24 PM 4033
4:26 PM 5011
2:54 PM 3533
1:24 PM 3508
10:51 AM 5011

April 14th 1:48 PM 3508
12:23 PM 3533

April 12th 3:24 PM 4003
9:29AM 5011

April 11th 7:56 PM 3533
1:49 PM 3508

April 10th 8:42 AM 5011
1:42 PM 5011

April 9th 12:22 PM 3508
8:38 AM 4003

April 8th 6:14 PM: 4003
1:43 PM 3508

April 7th 8:28 AM 3508

April 6th 11:28 AM 5011

April 5th 4:40 PM 4003

April 4th 9:28 AM 4003

April 3rd 4:55 PM 4003
1:13 PM 4003
9:07 AM 5011

The Second Job Update-Part 500

I've blabbered on in a number of posts about my quest to find a second job. Part of my dilemma is location, part is fussiness and part is money. My prospective job at a local horse farm has not panned out as I had hoped. I had hoped to be well into my second month of part time work. Twas not to be.

BUT-I did pick up a part time position working for the same horse trainer as a" road groom". It involves some travel, lots of getting up early to be on the road, lots of Dunkin Donuts coffee, and working outside in all sorts of weather, but most of the upcoming events are within a two hour drive of home. The pay is pretty good, the hours are long and I have to work with young ladies and gentlemen way younger than I. It makes me feel old, I did this type of work when I was 17 years old.

It is a temporary solution to my second job hunt, working two to three weekends will give me enough cash to cover the car note. I will have gas expense (I have this thing I need to use my own car if possible) and probably end up packing my own lunch (one can only eat so much road food). That's OK by me. It's a job.

Actually, now that the weather is getting better, this won't be such a bad second job. I'll still be looking for a steadier position close to home (or hope and pray for a couple house sales!).

Tag, I'm it

Ok, I got tagged. Here is my six word memoir!

Well behaved women rarely make history.

The rules of the meme are:
1. Write your own six word memoir
2. Post it on your blog and include a visual illustration if you want
3. Link to the person who tagged you in your post
4. Tag at least 3 more blogs (I cut the number down not everyone likes to "play")
5. Leave a comment on the tagged blogs with an invitation to play

I'm tagging-

Apples and Telephones
The Tough Broad
Iowahippie chick

Have a great day!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

My Local ER is Not Seattle Grace

I had an unexpected trip to the ER yesterday. I had planned a half day at the office and the rest of the day was a work at home day-which I was looking forward to hanging out and working from home. I don't normally get a work from home day.

Before I started my project, I decided to do a mini yard clean up. I stacked a bunch of metal fence posts in a pile (at shoulder height-can you see where this is leading.......). I started to rake up some old leaves, and leaned down to pick up a rock. No problem, raked a bit more, went to lean down again and this time I whacked my head in the end of fence post. Not quite impaling the post in the middle of my forehead, but hitting my head hard enough to see stars (blue and white ones). DAMMM I staggered back, clamped my hand to my head and swore. Alot and loud. Some how one post slipped or I did not push it back all the way, or something.

I managed to get myself into the house, looked in the bathroom mirror and decided that the rapidly growing bleeding bump needed medical attention. I could not tell if I needed stitches or not, but the gash was a good three inches long. Off to the ER I went (mind you now, since this was the middle of the day, no one was home in the area to drive me to the ER). I walked into the ER holding a bag of ice and a slightly bloody washcloth to my head.

Drat, no Dr. McDreamy or Dr. McSteamy in my local ER. Just some very nice and very competent folks who checked me in and got me seen fairly quickly by the PA on call. We all agreed that it was nothing but a stupid accident (hum, lets deliberately slam ones head into a metal fence post) The Verdict, no concussion, too much of a scrape to use stitches (they glued my cut together), and a lovely bruise on my forehead the size of a Cadbury Chocolate Easter Egg. It's still tender to the touch and I look oh so fabulous this am.

I spent the afternoon on the couch with a bag of ice on my head.

My First Carnival~Credit Report Stories

I am a day late in putting up this Carnival, but that is the subject for another post. Here are some interesting posts on Credit Scores.

Money Blue Book: Some Tips to Improve your FICO Score and how to get a free Fico Score

Even though she did not submit it, Cindy at Oh My Aching Debts offers some good advice on how to clean up your credit report to improve your FICO. I'm going to use some of these tips to clean up some of the old information on the account.

And my own post on checking my credit scores post Bankruptcy.

Monday, April 14, 2008

It's Official, It's Harrassement

Yup, the marketing calls from the car loan folks keep coming! I spent Friday night out with friends, Saturday ALL day visiting family and my aged Auntie who was sick in February. I had a good time, albeit, spent a fortune in gas, but it was worth every gallon and penny.

For giggles, I did scroll through the caller ID and saw that the car loan folks have called a total of 9 times between Thursday night and Sunday AM. It's official, I'm calling this harassment. As I said before, if they desperately needed to verify information, they could have left a message. This is nothing but a new form of telemarketing at it's worst.

I jotted down each phone number with date and time and I have a very nice list written out. I even went as far as to call each number back (I did it this morning at work) and got a message saying "This is ______ bank, if you know your parties exentsion, please dial it now." I'm going to be sending a letter to the car loan folks saying STOP THE FREAKING PHONE CALLS. This is just outta hand.

Friday, April 11, 2008

They Still Keep Calling.......

My phone rang again last night and this time instead of just picking it up, I looked at the caller ID. Which was good, it was the car loan folks, I jotted down their number and posted it by the phone (yes at times I have NO life) probably wanting to waste my time again selling me a product I have no interest in. Since they did not leave a message, I can only guess it's a marketing call and not to "verify my information" as they keep saying.

I'm just wondering what part of please-don't-call-me,-just-mail-me they don't understand.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Grocery Budget Challenge

I added up my grocery shopping bills and to date I have spent $58.21 on food for me. I did buy a case of seltzer water, the expensive organic greens and a large box of crackers at Costco. The water and crackers should last me until next week, the crackers probably until the end of the month. I drink the seltzer water instead of soda, my well water sometimes tastes off and honestly, I like the bubbles! I did a fruit and veg shop at the really cool ethnic market. They had a ten pound bag of onions for $2.00, but I really don't have the space or plans for ten pounds of onions, I got two pounds for 79c.

I can't complain that I am lacking in the food department. I have lots of things in my larder and freezer and I'm making enough food at dinner time to get me at least one, if not two lunches and one extra dinner. And I have not even tackled half of my planned menu ideas.

This is good. I just don't go to the grocery store to "see what might be good for dinner". That's OK every so often, but my food purchases were out of control for a while. I'm getting better at controlling the urge to stress shop as well. Plus it's good to do a cupboard clean out and restock with fresh items. Even dried pasta has a shelf life! I think I can do this $100 april food bill.

I ran out of gas for my gas grill, I do have to refill the propane tank, and it will be good to get back into the grilling mode now that the weather is getting better!

Phone Calls and More Credit Offers

I have posted in the past about the credit card and car loan offers that came in the mail to me just after my bankruptcy was discharged. Seems these folks knew about it before I did. To date I have gotten 7 car loan offers (some with really ridiculous rates, 23.9% on one in the fine fine print), and 5 credit card offers.

Last night the phone rang and I picked it up before I read the caller ID. It was the car loan company wanting to do two things 1) verify my information and 2) tell me about their great products and services.

I really hate telephone solicitations of any kind. I am on the do not call list pretty much for that purpose. But since I now have an existing relationship with these folks, they can call.

I politely asked the car loan folks what information they wanted verified. They wanted to tell me about their additional products and services first and did I have a pen. I politely declined, said they could mail me information so I could read it at my leisure and again asked what information they wanted verified. Again, they wanted to tell me about their products and services first.

So I changed tactics and said, Look, it's 8:15 PM, I am tired, I have already verified my information twice with your company, I've already gotten two letters from you about the loan outlining payment dates, etc, I don't want a marketing speech, I don't want phone calls to work or home, what information do you need verified again? The rep asked if there was another number she could call me at. I said, no, I don't want to be called period, what information do you want verified, you now have 30 seconds more of my time?

I never got an answer as to what information they wanted verified. Never. I asked to be taken off their phone telemarketing list, I did tell them they could mail me their offers so I could read them when I had the time and inclination. I told the rep that this was quickly becoming a waste of my time and I would have to terminate the conversation unless she cold tell me what information they wanted verified. Since it was obvious she had no information to verify, the call ended.

I did scroll through the caller ID and saw that the loan company had called 8 times in the past 3 days. 8 times and no messages. If the information verification was soo important, they would have left a message.

I've got to remember to check the Caller ID.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

My Old Car Has A New Home-Just Across the Street

When I got my new car, the dealership was not going to give me much of anything as a trade in, so I posted it in the classifieds and on line. Since it had high mileage and needed some work, I was not asking for a lot of money. I figured if it did not sell, I'd give it to Goodwill or some other charity for a tax write off.

My neighbors daughter jumped at the chance to "buy" the car from me. The kid is 19, never thought she would want my frumpy 1999 station wagon, but she does. We wrote up a payment contract (three equal installments, she is still in college for another month) and the car now happily sits in their driveway instead of in front of my house.

I did warn her that the car is 1) old 2) needs work, I disclosed all the things my mechanic told me at my last two visits and gave them copies of the repair bill 3) should not be taken on huge road trips and 4) that being said, it was being sold as is. She just wants a vehicle that can take her to and from work and to and from her boyfriends house. She's happy, I'm happy and her parents are happy.

Funny how things work out...

Monday, April 7, 2008

Delaying the Inevitable....

I've been posting my fiscal history on this blog. I have the last section to post and I will admit that I have been putting it off for a couple of reasons.

The biggest reason is each time I open that file I see MY mistakes staring ME in the face. I see where I have failed, I see where I made some really stupid money decisions and just stupid decisions period. And I don't like seeing me as a fiscal failure.

As I was writing the post, I started to wonder how much of my upbringing and non fiscal education had a part to play in my fiscal meltdown. I'm sure part of it contributed to my "fiscal hell" as I call the period before the BK. But what I see that slaps me upside my head are my own bad decisions. I don't think any of us want to admit to failure and in some cases, utter stupidity on our own parts.

I see those errors and I just want to crawl into bed with a bottle of wine. I really do. That being said, I will post the next chapter of my fiscal life. I am trying to consider it an exercise in how not to repeat my past.

The Second Job Prospect Looks More Promising

As I've posted before, I have a potential second job working at a horse farm near my house about 2-3 weekends a month. It would be the ideal part time job for me in terms of time, energy, income, location, etc. But I am to replace someone who is going to be moving and her moving plans have been pushed back, twice. As much as I would really like that job, my other obligations (car payment time) make it so that I can't wait much longer at all. My friend who owns that farm and is the head trainer knows that I can't hold out forever.

I did touch base with another friend of a friend who is looking for occassional weekend help in the equine field as well. We have agreed to talk this week about some weekend work depending on their travel schedule and my needs. I think this may work out.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Seeing Some Light at The End of The Tunnel Even on This Gloomy Day

I sat down last night and paid my first batch of April monthly bills and I feel pretty good about it! Last month I had a bunch of unplanned expenses-mainly things I forgot I had to pay for and budget for. Vet visit for dogs $168, three membership renewals in various organizations $110, replacing my damaged storm door, $300 (ouchy on that one), and in one swoop that was $578 of unplanned for expenses. My electric bill was insane ($249) and I had a partial propane payment that I thought was due in April ($75). Part of the storm door came from my emergency fund, but it was still money out of pocket. I did use a small part of my tax refund to buy some new curtains for my bedroom and some new shades (which will be appreciated come mid summer to block out the really hot rays in that room). I had to give to the Court Trustee a huge majority of my tax refund as part of my BK. March was an expensive month. Oh yeah and the new vehicle......

BUT I am actually very pleased with a couple of things. Even though going back to a budget has been a learning experience (and my attempt at a zero based budget was pitiful). I am much more conscious of what I'm spending my money on. More than I have been in years. For those of you who are working on a budget and have this personal finance thing down pat, you may think-yeah so? But for me,working through this bankruptcy and the fiscal hell that was my life for so long this is a REALLY BIG THING. REALLY BIG.

I still have the second job hurdle to jump over, (this is one of the few times I dislike the rural area I live in). I want to go back to a more aggressive savings program (which will be possible with a second job to offset the car payment.) I'm in desperate need of a real vacation, or at least a 3-4 day weekend at home doing nothing being accountable to no one. Pay Per Post opps have dropped to nothing and I sell a few items on (which gets snowflaked to my emergency fund and every once in a while, I buy myself a new to me DVD). I still have some items that are reaching the end of their working life and need to be replaced (laptop 6 years old, toaster oven-10 years old, lawn mower-8 years old, clock radio-just seems to be dying), but I'm checking out the sales, circulars and freecycle and craigs list.

Overall, I feel pretty optimistic as I enter April, more so than I have in previous months. I know I'm still in a huge relearning curve, but I'm feeling better and more confident about my future than I have in a long time. And that is a good thing.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Pay Per Post?

I don't do that many Pay Per Posts, mainly because my internet connection at home is slooow. I decided that I needed to do some PPP to crank up the extra income. I logged onto the PPP site and found out that my blog has dropped from a 2 to a 0. WTF? I know a bunch of folks have dropped down, but this is just crazy. I barely even participated in PPP and now I'm a ZERO.

Maybe I'll start taking ads on the blog...........

Sew What?

In February, I had a breakdown day. Plus I was feeling fat and unloved (sniff, sniff) and then felt even fatter when I went shopping for a couple new pairs of pants (it's a chick thing). I was really happy to get the pants on sale, not happy with the new waist size, but hey, I liked the pants and I needed a couple new pairs. I dealt with the new waist size (albeit quite badly).

I finally got around to taking the pants to be altered (on a good day I am 5'2'', almost all my pants are altered). I picked them up after work today and the cost of the alterations was almost on as much as the two pairs of pants. My sewing skills don't go as far as hemming pants. I really have to learn some more DIY skills.....

The April Challenge~Trim The Food Budget

Because I like contests and challenges, I joined a Krystal's April challenge to trim one part of my budget. I choose my food budget. I decided to only spend $100 on my food for the month of April. My food budget in the past has included all alcohol purchases and animal food as well. This month, I'm tracking what food I buy. I have taken out of the budget things like cleaning supplies and animal food, because I really want to see how much I spend on food for me alone. One reason I picked this category is that I stress shop. I get stressed and I shop, then I cook and eat way more than my fair share of food or I toss it because it goes bad.

I live alone, I occasionally have folks over for dinner, I do participate in the odd pot luck meal and will contribute to that. I usually pack my own lunch for work (only one meal out of three weeks in March was a purchased meal). I should not be spending $200 in food for me.

Here is the breakdown of my first April Grocery Shop

Dried Cranberries $1.39
Bamboo Shoots: .69c
Spaghetti Os .59c
Diced Tomatoes 3 cans $1.35
Beef broth 2 cans .78c
Re fried Beans .59c
Oyster Crackers .69c
Crinkle Cut Potatoes $1.39
Cream Cheese .99c
Eggs $1.59
Sharp Cheddar $1.79
Jar of Salsa $1.49
Butter $1.79
Total: 15.12

Stop and Shop

Can of Baked Beans (B&M) $1.67
Corn Meal $1.99
Carrots 2 lb $1.79
Canned Crushed Tomatoes :$1.34
White Vinegar $1.19
Imported Crushed tomatoes: $1.00
2 boxes of Mac/Cheese $1.00
Can of Baby Corn :56c
Green Cabbage: .82c
Garlic: .27c
Olive Bar :$2.45

Total Spent: $29.86

To be purchased at Costco this weekend: Lettuce or Spinach, Seltzer Water, maybe cold cereal
To be purchased at the ethnic market: onions, potatoes, fruit, peppers, celery, parsley and fresh tomatoes. I like to shop at the Ethnic Market when I am able to go to it. I can buy just what I need and not have to buy 5 lbs of potatoes when I only need two.

Part of my purchases was geared to pantry restocking (cornmeal, white vinegar, canned tomatoes, emergency mac and cheese, butter). I took a good hard look at my food cupboard and freezer over the weekend. I still have a whole chicken that I can turn into soup or roast. I have a pork loin roast (that is currently marinating in honey and chipolata sauce), I have two packs of Hebrew National Beef Hot dogs, a couple containers of soup and chicken stock, bacon and a variety of frozen veg. I have an assortment of dried beans, some grains, whole wheat and AP flour, pasta, rice~ I'm in pretty good shape. I'm test marketing some of the Aldi products. A couple Aldi products I've used haven't thrilled me, so before I stock my pantry with things I don't like, I'm test buying a couple at a time.

What I need to do is a pantry clean out. I need to plan my meals from my pantry. Tonight will be the pork loin done in the oven or on the grill (but I think I need more propane, I have to check the tank), frozen veg and a baked potato. I'm going to thaw the chicken and debate soup or roast-probably a roast, I can turn the bones into stock and use the leftover meat for sandwiches. I made a pretty good batch of chili soup from 365 days of Crockpotting over the weekend. I had all the ingredients, except for the re fried beans and was able to grab a can in the dented can section for 67c. I've got plans for home made pizza (and I'll make the dough in my bread maker) and a pasta dish or two. I like to make things that I can take to work as a lunchover. I don't like having things sit in my fridge or freezer for days on end.

I need to be more creative and cook with what I have in the cupboard and not feel this compulsion to go to the store every day after work. What ends up happening is I buy what I need, then a little extra. This has to stop.

Meals planned for this week are

Pork Loin w sweet spicy sauce, beef curry and rice, baked rice and vegetables, roasted herb chicken, pasta with assorted sauces. All this made from what is currently in my cupboard and in my fridge. I can do this.

Wish me luck.... :)