Saturday, May 31, 2008

The ALDI Shop- I've been impressed

I got paid yesterday and went out for a small food shop. I went to my local Aldi, which I am liking better and better. I never shopped at Aldi until this past year and I've been really impressed with the quality and, most importantly, the prices. I've been bringing my own shopping bags to the grocery store for years (before it was the 'cool' thing to do), I did purchase two of their insulated cooler bags, I don't pack a cooler in my car. For $14, I walked out with a boat load of food.

I have found is that a majority of items are the same quality and much less expensive than the grocery store. I'm getting most of my staple items from Aldi-sugar, flour, most dairy, basic pasta, rice, cereal, baking supplies, frozen veggies, french fries, ice cream, chips, salsa, canned soups, etc. A couple things I prefer a store brand or name brand (Aldi brand Triscuts just don't cut it, sorry tried twice, they don't carry unsalted butter, and I don't like their low fat yogurt). They don't have a extensive dried bean section, but I tend to buy my dried beans at the ethnic market every couple months.

The cleaning supplies and toiletries are not name brand, but I know folks who swear they are just fine (and probably no different than getting the Target or Wal Mart brand). The do carry some amazing ultra dark chocolate bars. I even gave them out as Christmas presents and one recipient asked for a couple more bars as a birthday present this month. Best $4 I ever spent.

I have found an Aldi, Job Lot Store, Target, the great ethnic market and Costco all within 15 minutes of each other (actually the Aldi, Job Lot Store and Target are in side by side shopping centers). I'm now planning my shopping around these five stores so I can save time, money and gas. For me, this is great, because I actually dislike shopping unless I have to. This works out well for me.

The moral of this story is sometimes you have to just try out the non chain grocery store, weather it be an Aldi or some other chain.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Note to Self-It's a SUN ROOF, Not a RAIN ROOF

and when the forecast is for thunderstorms and heavy rain showers, make sure the SUNROOF is closed, so the seats remain dry............

Second Job Blues and First Job Worries~Sort Of

I've blogged before about my hunt for a second job (the good and the bad of it and my laziness with it). I do have an occasional part time position as a 'road groom" for a horse trainer. My first weekend out went well in early May, I did one day of home barn coverage and made enough money to cover my car payment in full for May. Which was my goal, cover the car payment. Real Estate has been dead dead dead.

I did get a message and an e-mail yesterday. I'm not going to be scheduled for any road groom work until the end of June. Grrrr I had hoped to work NEXT weekend-fairly local show, can sleep in my own bed, minimal travel since I'd drive my own car, etc. But for the reason it is a fairly local show, they don't need two road grooms, one will do it and as of now, there is no home barn coverage either. The person I was to originally replace has changed her mind and is staying on at the barn. She is very good at what she does, which is great for the facility and clients, not good for me. This means the chance for working part time at this barn on a regular basis has gone out the door. Ah well.

Plus my full time job is a little hectic at the moment. In the winter we lost a couple people to retirement and one person moved to another company. We have not replaced them. My boss originally wanted to wait for a good candidate, but has now decided NOT to replace them until the economy bounces back. My position is a mixed one, I do everything from answer the phone to work with clients, BUT I am worried. For the first time in months, I am worried. I think I'm OK for now, our business is slowly picking up, but there is always that nagging fear that the company may have to economize and my job could be something that is economized. My boss has approved some time off in July and is letting me take a day to go to an industry conference, so I take that as a good sign for now. I just wish I had more of an emergency fund (damn the wind ripping my door off it's hinges and damn me for trowing a post through the neighbors car window), but I actually feel better equipped to handle what may be thrown at me.

Like I said, I think I'm OK, I don't to dwell on the maybes but I'd rather be cautious than caught unawares....

The May Round Up, the June Goals and a Realization About Myself

I did a quick peak at my May financials. In a nutshell, they stunk. I went way over budget (not that there was a budget, but you get the idea) on a couple items-home improvement (which includes the garden supplies,plants, lumber, paint, tools), gas, alcohol and laundry. And I spent $57 on some magazine subscriptions-I've not subscribed to more than one magazine in over three years, I broke down and bought three subscriptions. Honestly guys, I wanted to try one month where I did not "care" about my finances. And it was a failure all the way around. I am just not good at winging it by the seat of my pants with my money. I can't trust myself unless I have a written plan!

WTF?!! I spent $65 on laundry!!. Granted I washed, dried, fluffed and folded almost every piece of clothing and blankets that I own, but wow, $65-there is not a cheaper laundromat around and sometimes my little portable machine just can't handle what needs to be washed (blankets, pillows, etc all). I did go a little crazy go nuts on gas traveling a couple weekends and to places that I did not need to go to (and at $55 a pop to fill the tank-ugh). I also bought a fair amount of wine and beer, both as belated Holiday and Birthday presents and for my own personal consumption. As I said in an early post, the wine and beer purchases stop-mainly for the waistline and health issues, but now for the pocketbook as well.

I had a boyfriend who called me a control freak. And he was right, I was a control freak at one point in time. Being this control freak made me good at a previous job, it got me two promotions and a couple decent raises, as well as it made me very one dimensional. I worked really hard to stop being a control freak. You know what~ it was around that time that I also fell into a big fiscal slide in my life. Are the two events related? Maybe, maybe not. I think they might have been.

Someone commented in my last post that I doing well re-organizing my life and they are right, I AM re-organizing my life, thanks for noticing! I do know that as a part of my "fiscal recovery", I need to "re-organizing" my life and if that means I have to become a control freak again, then I will. Part of the BK recovery is also about finding balance, balance in finances, balance in relationships, balance in life, and now a balance between being a control freak and not being a control freak. You know what, it's an amazing concept for me right now, it really is.

The June Goals

1) Really limit the grocery shopping-do only the bare necessities-fresh fruit, veg, milk
2) Continue the purge of the wardrobe and un-needed items-Goodwill here I come!
3) Pull the last credit report and get FICO score (truth time!)
4) Finally paint the kitchen cabinets now that I picked out the paint!
5) Continue on the second job hunt-nothing is scheduled for the part time grooms job until the END of June. I'd like to be able to have enough extra cash to cover my car payment by mid June-might not happen, but I'm gonna try.
6) Sketch out a tentative zero based budget for July based on April and May's spending.
7) Keep working on my gardens-free therapy and the grass is growing quite nicely now!
8) Seek out at least $150 in alternative income-pay per post, photo shoots, referrals, anything,anything.
9) Seriously investigate ways to monetize this blog. At least get some of those links up and running.
10). Post at least 2x week on personal blog (averaging about 1x a week now).

Hope you met your May goals and good luck setting your June ones!

Monday, May 26, 2008

The Holiday Weekend Was A Good One

I got sooo much done this past weekend. I did another bunch of laundry at the Laundromat, but think I'm all caught up on the big stuff (sheets, blankets, pillows), managed to redo a couple of the flower beds (moving plants around), repotted some of the house plants, moved the lawn (both the 'old' and 'new' grass), cleaned the patio furniture (I am typing this on my patio on my old laptop!), re-organized my garden shed (again), got a trash run in, had a nice pizza dinner with some friends on Saturday, re-read two books I wanted to re-read, organized my bookshelves, did a mini closet purge, the list goes on and I feel pretty darned good about it. And the weather here was and is just FABULOUS-perfect Holiday weekend weather.

Lots of the stuff I did was all piddly little stuff, but things that I kept putting off and putting off, so my to do list just got longer and longer. I feel sooo much better getting a lot of the small chores done and out of the way. Something as simple as re-hanging a couple pictures and tidying my bookshelves make me feel really good. I did a long overdue purge of my skirt collection. Since my consignment shop sales have been painfully low, I packed it all in a bag and took the skirts I no longer fit into to Goodwill. I'll take the tax write off. I can't be bothered to wait for someone to buy my clothes at the consignment shop. My goal was to purge the skirts this weekend and purge I did. I did donate some nice skirts, but I've gotten so heavy that I don't fit into them. Instead of having them sit in my closet and REMIND me just how chunky I've become, off they go to Goodwill!

To counteract the chunky feeling, I bought a new bathroom scale and will go back to weekly weigh ins. The nice (read expensive) health club is running a summer special-12 weeks for $150. As I've said before, it's a doctors order that I lose weight. I was not liking the number I saw on the scale. I've gone back to walking about 1.5 to 2 miles a day with the dogs, but I need some sustained cardio (spinning, elliptical trainer, Stairmaster) and weights to jumpstart my metabolism. I'm not thrilled to spend the $150 for the twelve weeks, but this is a medical necessity. Just go check out Jennsylvania and Such a Pretty Fat and you will see where I'm coming from. I will also publicly declare that I will not be buying beer and wine~well at least, I won't be buying it to have with meals while I do the summer special. I finished the last of some really bad box wine this week (given to me, I did not buy it) and if I'm going to drink, it's diet tonic and all that gin and vodka sitting in my cupboard.

My cupboards are bursting with a lot of foodstuff. I have about 6 pounds of pasta, lots of dried beans, 8 pounds of rice (I bought a ten pound bag a while back) a bunch of stuff in the freezer and other assorted canned items. I'm hoping to do a few weeks of 'eat up the pantry staples' before I have to do a serious food shop. The month of April showed me I could survive on a food budget of $100 and I think I spent $105 total. Five bucks was for food for a forgotten pot lock. If I planned properly, I probably would have come in well under the $100. My "plan" is to really only buy things like fresh fruit and veg and some milk if I need it.

Meals I can make just off the top of my head from my staples

1) Pasta-with pesto, with tomato sauce, with a cheese sauce, with butter and cheese, -you get the picture
2) Beans: burritos, beans and rice, bean soup, enchiladas, baked beans
3) Chicken stock: can make chicken soup-regular, rice or vegetable
4) Veggie Burgers and Hot dogs-slap those babies on the grill, make a salad, use up the frozen French fries-quick easy dinner.
5) Eggs: Breakfast for dinner-pancakes, omelets, egg salad
6) Chicken Breast: Grilled, poached, with BBQ sauce, stir fried,
7) Chicken thighs: I love these on the grill period
8) 3 small Steaks: grill them for supper, slice up for steak sandwich, cube into a mini beef stew
9) Pizza dough- make pizzas regular and mini sized (take a mini to lunch), make a calzone (use up leftover veg and cheese).
10) Guava paste: on crackers with cream cheese is a great after dinner sweet treat.
11) Crackers: I have a boat load of crackers, I can eat them plain, have them with soup, put some peanut butter and jelly on them, eat them with cheese.
12) Curry Sauces: bean curry, chicken curry, beef curry, vegetarian curry

The list goes on…

I can plan at least two weeks worth of meals with just what I have in the pantry and fridge. As far as I know, I have no pot lucks planned that will require me shopping for additional food items, I can start on the food purge this week (I already made a really great macaroni salad for my lunches and sandwiches).

As weird as it sounds, having the extra time off gave me the time to just sit and "look" at my cupboards. No Costco shopping for at least two weeks!

Public Record Vs. Public Knowledge

When you file for Bankruptcy, your case is assigned to a district of the US Bankrutcy Court (each state has at least one district). Your case or your filing is now Public Record. The US Bankruptcy Court even has a web site that lists the case, case number, creditors name, court date, Trustee and your attorney information. Ah yes, the entire world with a few key strokes is privy to your filing and any motions that may or may not be filed along with your case. Your Bankruptcy becomes Public Record.

Public Knowledge is a different kettle of chips. My Bankruptcy may be Public Record, but how many people really have Public Knowledge of the filing and its outcome. My guess is not too many unless you choose to tell them (I'm only talking about personal Bankruptcy, not business for farm), or if they choose to really pursue the information. In my case, I only told three people, my friend James (who probably told all my old friends and acquaintances, he can be very indiscreet) and my very nice neighbors, who probably told a few other folks, but hey I can't control them. No one has come up to me and said, "Oh, Sorry to hear about your Bankruptcy". Why I told James, well I needed to tell SOMEONE, it was after my 341 hearing and I was just going through a low point. I told my neighbor because it was just two days after my 341 hearing when my transmission decided to die on my old car and I had another teary eyed, snotty nosed breakdown.

Who also knows, ~my Town Clerk, I'm pretty positive about that. Probably my postman if he reads the return address on the envelopes I got from the Bankrtutcy Court (in LARGE PRINT-US BANKRUPTCY COURT). In Southern New England (Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut), there is an industry paper called the Commercial Record. It lists real estate transactions and credit reports. They have an entire section dedicated to Credit Reports. By Credit Reports, they report by town, Bankruptcies, foreclosures, liens (judgment, tax, contractor, and other). Most Town Clerks get a complimentary subscription. My Real Estate office gets the Commercial Record and I do read it, not only for the sales reports, but also for the credit section, I will admit, I troll the paper to see who has filed BK. I know you can purchase a mailing list of all Bankruptcy filers. I still get credit card and car loan offers for folks "with challenged credit". It is a sick obsession that I have now. When I lived in Northern Virginia, the Washington Post has a section of the weekly business section that not only listed the Bankruptcy, but the liability and assets of each filer. Thankfully my local paper does not print the Bankruptcy Court Calendars. None of my employers know, none of my family knows, most all of my close friends don't know, I have not told them and as far as I know, they don't know that I have filed. As far as I can tell, Public Knowledge of my Bankruptcy filing is very small.

I know I've said it before, a lot of folks think filing a Bankruptcy is the easy way out. It's not for reasons discussed in prior posts. When I said in my last post it was almost easy to do the filing, it was not because I wanted a way out of my financial responsibilities, it was because I had no way out and things were just going to get even uglier. But the question is "Do I want the entire world to know I filed Bankruptcy?" No, I don't, but the information gets out and gets out to a variety of people. Go for new car or homeowners insurance, they ask if you have a Bankruptcy and you get charged a higher rate (even if you have an excellent driving record!).So now your insurance agent knows, you might not even switch companies, but many insurance companies will check your credit report once a year "just in case". You may have never had a claim, but all of a sudden your rates increase. You hear about and find out about this fantastic job that you would be perfect for, they tell you as they need to run a credit report and you still have the BK on your report. The fact you have outstanding job skills has no bearing, the BK could tip the ball in another candidate's court. Who knows now about your BK, the company you just applied to and the entire interview team.

Facing and having a Bankruptcy in your file is akin to the Scarlet Letter-instead of an A, we wear a BK.

Someone asked in my previous post how to deal with the Public Knowledge of the BK. I honestly don't have an answer. I really wish I did. I'm still dealing with the aftermath of the BK myself. It is hard for me at this point. I have not really developed any great coping skills other than to remind myself I was given a second chance. When I'm having a crummy day (week or month) I try to remain optimistic and upbeat, I try to remind myself that this is a second chance I've been given. What I can do is remind myself that I am lucky that I was given this second chance, that I was able to keep my house, that even with the very recent discharge I was able to get a car loan (albeit with a two digit loan rate-for now at least). I am not a bad person, I volunteer, I was a Girl Scout, I donate to local Charities, I help old ladies across the street, I give up my seat on public transportation, I just happen to be Bankrupt.

I don't think about it too much because if I did, I'd be in bed, covers over my head, wondering why you can just put an IV of pasta and beer in my arm so I would never have to get out and face the world. I really don't want the world or heck, even my small village, to know my fiscal failure. I struggle with the fact I filed Bankruptcy. In the eyes of America, I was a personal fiscal failure. I filed Bankruptcy. It is the public perception in America that if you have filed Bankruptcy, you are less of a person. Not only do we have to have this mark on our credit reports for 7-10 years, the perception is you/we are a failure and America does not like failures. And American's (and almost every other culture) does not like to talk about money and personal fiscal failure.

Anonymous, I wish I had a better answer, I really wish I did. I'd be happy to share it with everyone. All I can say to you is if at least you have learned from your fiscal mistakes and have moved on and on for the better, that is pretty darned good.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

It's My "Anniversary"-Sort Of

I have an anniversary today and it is one I have very mixed feelings about. On this day in 2007, I met with my attorney who looked over my paperwork and told me that my only option was to file bankruptcy, Yup, file bankruptcy, the big BK. One of the most stressful life events someone could have.

The attorney I used is a partner in a law firm I have used in the past. I have used the "Real Estate" specialist for not only my work in real estate, but for my own personal real estate transactions as well. I had a good working relationship with the real estate attorney and ended up (after months and months) having a good relationship with the bankruptcy attorney. It did not start out that way, and until I had my 341 hearing, he was positive that I was also facing foreclosure on my house. Cheery thoughts I had for 5 months, I may lose my house!

I can remember the initial meeting oh so well. I spent a large portion of my time prior to the appointment dodging phone calls from creditors and collection agencies. I had papers served on me for a judgment lien I could not negotiate my way out of with a collection agency. I was way too late in trying to set up re-payment plans, way too late. I spent a large portion of my time crying, no sobbing, wondering why and how this miserable experience happened to me. I spent a lot of time on and in my bed with the covers over my head just shutting out the world. I spent a lot of time just wondering how the freak this ALL HAPPENED TO ME. How did I let my whole world crash down on my head? How did I let this happen……..I was living a nightmare-it was holy hell in New England.

Pretty much the shortest and simplest explanation is I really had no concept of the Universal Default, then made (and repeatedly made) some stupid, stupid mistakes, and that all just snowballed into the mess I called my fiscal life at that point.

One year ago I was given this two inch stack of papers and sat down with the Paralegal to go over what needed to be done. Don't kid yourself folks, the administrative assistants, secretaries and paralegals are the ones who get most of the work done for the people they work for. I was forced to open all those envelopes and face my worst financial fears. I owed thousands of dollars (damm that universal default and ever growing interest rate) and just could not make the minimum payments on all my bills, no matter how hard I tried and I tried.

The decision to file the bankruptcy was almost easy, despite the fact that I had no guarantee that the court would entertain my petition. There is always the possibility that the court could dismiss your case, then you are back to square one. Bankruptcy dismissals happen just as often as bankruptcy discharges. I had to really distance myself from me. I looked at my own paperwork and saw what a mess I was in. This was a low point in my life. I was facing financial ruin, my on again off again boyfriend was OFF, my car was barely functioning, my work turning stressful (we were in the midst of a tough company restructure), I was getting the most annoying hot flashes (and they went away once the BK was well into the system~can you say stress taking over my body?), I was eating a ton of food (Pasta and cold beer are the ultimate comfort foods). I remember waking up one morning and going to myself "BB you have a couple choices, swallow your pride, fill out the paperwork and file the BK or jump in the lake and not come out." I swallowed my pride, filled out the paperwork and turned it in.

My BK paralegal is named Mary Ann and she has shown herself to be a gem. I know in some of my previous posts I was less than kind, but in retrospect, it was not her fault. She was dealing with not only me as a client, but the Attorney, the Court and the Trustee. She had to balance all four parties at once. I think she did a dammed fine job now that I have some time and emotional distance from the process. We actually have laughed through parts of this painful process.

The misconception out there is that Bankruptcy is the 'easy out'. Take my word, it is not. It's on my credit report for 10 years, it's part of the public record, there is the stigma that is attached to BK, there are the emotional issues I still face because of it. I am one of the lucky ones, I got to keep my house, most folks in a Chapter 7 have to sell their house and other assets. For some reason, the Trustee decided I could keep my house. I think the fact my mortgage payment is less than the going rate for rent in my area may have had something to do with it, but non the less I am dammed lucky to have the house. I was willing to give up almost everything else except my house. I had to re-affirm my debt on the house and the bank could do a couple things. 1) They could have decided not to accept the affirmation and called in the note-meaning I would have to have paid up the mortgage or sell the house. 2) If I fail to make payments in the future, they can call in the mortgage note because of the bankruptcy. I have been current on my mortgage payments for over 18 months. I do admit I went through a period prior to the BK where I was late on my mortgage; I got my act together and got current on my payments prior to the filing. I NEED a roof over my head (especially since my dog count seems to increase monthly). I've not been late since then; I've been on time and current as I should be.

This is not a happy anniversary in the typical sense. But it is an anniversary in that it was a painful wake up call in my life. A wake up call that made me re-evaluate my entire life. A wake up call that showed me I've been given a second chance to repair my fiscal life and repairing it I am. Onward and Upward.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Checking the Credit Reports

As part of my bankruptcy, I have been checking my credit reports to at least make sure the information contained in them is correct. As I've said before, it may not be perfect, but it needs to be correct.

I will this week, pull my last credit report. I've pulled from two of the three reporting agencies, now it is time to do the last one. This time I'm also going to get my FICO score. I can't remember the last time I got a FICO score, so I'm curious to see what it is now that I'm post BK and have a new installment loan for the car. I've been making my student loan and mortgage payments early for the past year, so I'm hoping the score is not totally dismal.

I really should have pulled the score with the first credit report, but I am such a chicken I did not. Time to put those fears aside and find out what the score is. I will keep you informed!

My First Give A Way

I love Method products. I really do. I am a Method Advocate. I love their cucumber all purpose spray, a close second is the pink grapefruit. I use their Fresh Air Fabric Softener when I am stuck using the dryers at the laundromat. My clothes smell great.

A couple weeks ago, I got a the new book Squeaky Green, that was just published by the Method folks. One of my goals for 2008 was to become more green in my life and I'm doing really well with that goal. The Squeaky Green book is great, but I need to move it on to a home that will really appreciate it and I can also help to spread the Method Product Love!

I am offering the book to my readers in a contest.


1) Between May 20th and May 30th, 2008, link to this post in your blog. Send me an e-mail or leave a comment on this post with the link.

2) I will input your "name" into a spreadsheet and on June 1st, I will randomly select one winner to get the book.

3) I will announce the winner on Monday June 2nd.

Thanks !


Monday, May 19, 2008

The E-Fund Slowly Creeps UP

Like most PF bloggers, I'm working on establishing an Emergency Fund. I never really had an emergency fund to speak of, all my money sat in my checking account and at times I spent it all. Not good as they say.

As I have embarked on this new fiscal chapter in my life, I have for the first time, established an emergency fund. This fund is at my local credit union and it is a straight statement savings account, no debit card access to it at all. I have been faithfully snowflaking the money I earn photographing houses for a title company to this account. I have also deposited the drips and drabs of income that I get from a bunch of side projects. Previously, the money I got from photograping houses ($15-$25 per house) would have gotten spent without me knowing where or what I spent the money on. I'd put the checks in my account and then forgot to transfer that money to my ING account, or I'd cash the check and fritter the money away (laundry, coffee out, god knows what!)

I took my first "paycheck" from my occassional part time job and put it in my E-Fund today. That money was "bookmarked" for my car note, but since I had already paid the car note for the month, I took the money and dropped it into the Credit Union. I have managed to save $822.95 in less than 3 months to the Credit Union Account. $822.95 is a lot of money for me to have saved since the middle of March.

Dave Ramsey and his followers talk about Gazelle intensity in terms of debt reduction. I'm using some medium Gazelle intensity in bolstering my savings account. I'm doing what I need to do to bolster my savings account.

I will admit, it does feel good to have that money in my credit union account. If you told me a year ago, or even 6 months ago that I would have almost $1,000 saved (and not pre-spent or "earmarked" for something) I would have asked you what drugs you were taking. Seriously, I would have wondered if you accidentally ingested something. Me, save $1,000? PLUEZZE. But you know what, I did manage to save almost $1,000 and have managed to do it in less than 5 months. How sweet that is!

What a Difference a Few Days Can Make...

and the grass is much greener!. As you can see by the photo taken over the weekend, my re-seeding project is working!. I am pretty happy about that, even a couple sections that I thought would need a touch up are starting to green out.

What has this got to do with Personal Finance? Well, it's about patience and waiting. I did my prep work, I planted the seeds and I just had to wait for the results to appear. I still have some improvements to make, but things are starting to come together. I've been reading some new to blogging blogs and some folks are wondering why they are not having instant results with their new budgets. If you are new to budgeting, it takes time (one month, three months) to get used to a budget and to find a budget that works for you. I condsider my budgets a work in progress. Now having a car that sucks down gas compared to my old one that sipped gas, means I have to re-evaluate how I'm spending and budgeting my money. I did my prep work on my budget, I planted the seeds, and slowly but surely, things are coming together with my budgets and my money. But all that is fodder for another post.
Enjoy your Monday.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The New To Me Car

I had, in a much earlier post, complained that Personal Finance bloggers don't often post photos of things they bought, they only seemed to complain about their debt. I had made a promise to post a photo of anything spiffy I managed to budget and buy. I'd post photos of my new tea kettle bought at Christmas time, but it's really just a very nice yellow tea kettle.
Just to brag a bit, here is a photo of my new to me car. It is in sore need of a wash, and this weekend it will get a bath and a good interior scrubbing. This baby has to last a while with me, it needs to be treated with care. I worked hard post BK to be able to get a car loan, so I am very happy to have a new to me and very reliable vehicle.

2008 Goal Update

Just thought I'd take a moment to review my 2008 goals~ I need to update my goal list and that is one of my "To Do's" for the weekend, but here is the update so far:

1) Try to go as green as possible at home and at work. I already use (and have used for a number of years) my own reusable shopping bags, I recycle everything I can (town dump mandated), I have a compost pile for my food scraps, etc. I'll be following the Green Boot Camp Blog for more ideas that I can incorporate into my home and work life.~ A work in progress, I'm slowly working on making my work environment greener . At home, the compost pile has provided me with some great compost for the flower beds and my kitchen herb garden. Now that the warmer weather has arrived, I'm hanging up my laundry instead of using the dryers at the laundromat. My clothes smell great! Who needs Downy, when I have sunshine and fresh air?

2) Continue to work on my re-installed budget.: The Budget concept is always a work in progress. I'm getting a lot better about sticking to parameters and I've really stopped a lot of unnecessary spending and the unnecessary justification to spend. I want to go back to a zero based budget for July.

3) Start to contribute to my Roth IRA again and see if I can reach my personal goal of $5000-Not even close on this one-I am one bad bouncing betty.

4) Continue to fund my Emergency Fund. ~ The fund continues to grow thanks to my part time job and very small income streams. I still add in $200 a month to the fund, I've had to use the fund a couple times, but I'm getting close to my yearly goal of $2,000

5) Find a second paying job. ~ Well I have two very part time jobs, but at least a small income stream. I'd be much happier with a permanent part time job, so lets say 50% on this one.

6) Remodel my sorely outdated bathroom either by a little (or a lot) sweat equity or with minimal cost from outside labor (perhaps a trade in kind). ~ I've decided to paint and re-floor my bedroom first, I can handle painting, I can't handle tile work. I do have a new sink I can and will install in the next few weeks. I'm still looking for someone to help me install the new wall and floor tile.

7) Get on a regular exercise program again. 50%, I'm stretching and walking, but my doctor wants me to get back to the gym and yes, I've been putting this off for months. This could become a health issue if I let it slide.....

New and updated goals will be posted next week! Hope you are making progress on your goals for 2008.

Just Like Watching Grass Grow..........

OK, you have heard me complain about my lawn or lack of it. One spring project has been to re-seed the lawn and try to get back some nice green grass. I spent the money on some good Scott's Lawn Seed and a few weeks ago, I set about to re-do the lawn. I turned over the soil, leveled out the holes dug by the dogs, got rid of the rocks that seem to grow in New England dirt, mixed in the seed and the fertilizer, re-raked it in, watered faithfully and now have my fingers crossed.

The weather was supposed to be good for re-seeding, re-establishing lawns. The forecast was for coolish nights, warm sunny days, and a couple days of rain. We had very cold nights, torrential rain, minimal sun and the weather is JUST warming up. You can see where the lawn is still not coming in as fast as I would like. I took this photo last week, you can see my lake just through my fence. Regretfully, my neighbor has the direct lakefront, I just get the lake view, which does not stink either (I don't have to pay her taxes :) )

The lawn is a little greener this week, but I still have bare patches that will need some re-seeding. When I run my errands this weekend, I'll get another bag of seed and hit the bare spots. I'm slowly working on my to do/goal list not only for the month, but for the year, slowly, just like watching grass grow!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Settling In and Planning for the Future

As I mentioned yesterday, I have a new dog in my household. Poochie is a wire fox terrier. At first I was worried that she would not blend into my pack of puppies, but she is settling in rather well. She spent some quality time with me last night on the couch watching House. I think she will settle down just fine in another day or two. All the dogs like being on my small couch. We just have to establish a new routine that works for all, I was off my normal routine last week, so things did not go as smoothly as I would have liked. Life is settling back down.

What has this got to do with personal finance or bankruptcy? Not a lot, but it also has to do with planning. My elderly friend who really owns Poochie has no extended or immediate family. She has adult step children she gets along with well, but no family of her own. The scary part is she can not stay by herself at the moment, so another mutual friend of ours has driven down to NJ (like yesterday morning) and picked up our elderly friend and her remaining dogs. They are all settled in their new living quarters in Southern New England. Our mutual friend has the space for both our elderly friend and her few remaining dogs.

Planning-my elderly friend is in no shape at the moment to lucidly tell us what provisions she has made for the rest of her life. I'm sure there is paperwork (house, personal, financial, business) at her home, but she was so out of it when she was picked up that the decision made by family and mutual friend was to just get her out of the house. Her step daughter will go back to the house in the next day or two to search for paperwork so we can all figure out what the next steps need to be. We think she made plans, we ( step daughter included) are pretty certain, but we can not find paperwork that outlines her plans.

As much as none of us want to think about it, we need to have our ducks in a row. Someone or several someones need to know where your records are. It should be your spouse, a trusted friend, a legal advisor, a family member, someone. You need to have your records all in one place, a lockbox, a file cabinet, etc. You need to plan for a Power Of Attorney and a Medical Power of Attorney. In my friends case, plans need to be made and known for the animals. My friend is lucky, she has someone (and in this case several folks) who can take her animals. Worst case scenario, her beloved pets could end up in a shelter or a rescue situation.

I've got a file in my file cabinet that has my important papers. I thought about it last night, most of my 'important papers" reflect a different time in my life (my will, my POA, etc) and they are in dire need of updating. I don't think my very long ago ex-boyfriend wants the responsibility of handling my estate and affairs. I also have my animals, I don't have any clear written directions on what is to happen to them should something happen to me. I think my friends would come to bat for me like we have for our elderly friend and assist my animals.

Sorry for the rather depressing post, but when you have it sort of "dropped" in your lap, you think about it.......

Monday, May 12, 2008

Upping the Animal Count at My House

I have a couple dogs that I love and adore. They are my cherished pets. That's the good side of them, the bad side is one of the dogs really doesn't tolerate too many other animals very much. In fact, he can be down right obnoxious about other animals. He is a brat of the first caliber.

An older friend of mine recently had her husband pass away and she's had sort of a breakdown. She asked me to come and get one of her dogs (she is an old time dog breeder and has cut back her kennel to the very minimum due to her age 70 years old). I made the trek to New Jersey last week to pick up the dog and check in on my friend. She has no family, save for her two step daughters who are not animal people at all. "Poochie" is very sweet. I'm just not sure how my guys are taking to her. I am slowly working on the socialization between my dogs and Poochie. It's slow going. My guys look at Poochie wondering who the heck she is and Poochie is not quite sure why she is at my house now. I really don't need or want another dog, but in this particular case I could not say no. I'll have to wait and see what happens with my friend, in the meantime, Poochie is now part of my "family".

The Second Job Is Tiring

And not just as tedious = tiring,, but I am really tired. As I've posted before, my "second job" on a very part time basis is to help a local horse trainer when he goes on the road. I'm one of two people designated as a cross between a groom and a road manager for his clients. The clients range from teenaged kids to adults. The way this trainer has his barn set up, the "clients" do a lot of the work preparing their own horses for the show, the "road crew" helps and assists and makes sure the clients keep to the schedule for warm ups, ring time, and all that jazz. With several rings going on at once, you have to juggle who goes where and when.

This past weekend was my first full working weekend and I am tired. Physically tired. I had forgotten just how much physical work was involved in this type of job. I got home last night, fed my dogs, put my feet up long enough to catch part of the news, took a couple Advil for my aches and pains, and I slept up until the alarm went off this am. I'm usually up before the alarm, not today. I happily slept in. The good news is between this past weekend, covering some time at his barn (yeah local!) this upcoming weekend, and the property photo shoot work, I've made enough money to cover my car payment for the month of May.

I just wish I could count on this work as a regular income source, it's still going to be more of an on call thing and the next working weekend won't be until sometime in Mid June. It is what it is. Now to get all my laundry done.......

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Sidebar Update

I really must learn how to do spiffy sidebars, some folks have great ones. I did update my "sidebars". I added in the money I got from some freelance real estate work (ie-helping the computer challenged agents in my office) to my credit union account and I added in the auto deposit to the ING account. What I need to do is add in the car loan to the side bar. I need to sit down and figure out how much of my payment is principle and how much is interest.

I will say that it is nice to see my credit union account growing. It's been soooo long since my accounts moved up instead of moving down. Small steps, but I'm getting there!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

A Little Annoyed~Mainly at Myself

This past weekend I had to do some traveling and part of it was in New Jersey. For those of you who may not know, New Jersey is a state where there is no pump your own gas, gas stations. It's all done by attendants.

The good thing about NJ is the gas is about 40c per gallon cheaper than it is in my area of New England. $3.40 instead of $3.78. I pulled into a station to fill up my tank and asked for the cheap unleaded, handed over my credit card, got the top off on the tank and I left. Silly me, I did not look to see what button on the pump he pushed. I had my credit card, I had a full tank of gas, I whizzed off to home. I wanted to get to my house and my bed.

Imagine my unhappy surprise when I looked at the gas receipt on Monday to see that the kind attendant filled up my tank with the stuff that was $3.47 gallon instead of the $3.40 a gallon. I only got 7 gallons, so I was only out 49c, but hey, it's the ethics of the thing. Next time I'm in Jersey (which will be in about 3-4 weeks), I'll make sure I get out of the car and WATCH what button they push. Either it was an "accident" or a way for unsuspecting out of state drivers to get bilked for anywhere from 50c to a couple dollars per fill up. Argh.

Pennies (Snowflakes) From Above

I opened my mail yesterday and instead of a bill there was a refund check from the car dealership for $45. Not a heck of a lot of money,but still money. Seems they overcharged me to do the car registration.

$25 goes into the Credit Union E-fund and $20 gets put on a Dunkin Donuts card for some treats to me during the next month..

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Welcome to My New Readers

I just wanted to say hello and welcome to my new readers! And thank you to all my current readers. I'm still in a bit of a Spring Fever mode, so posting has been a bit off and of course, life intervened and I will get back to a regular posting schedule, probably by the end of the week. I am having a lot of fun reading everyone else's blogs right now and working on some long neglected personal and household chores.

Stick with me folks and thanks for stopping by! I appreciate you all!


Nope, it's not a countdown to anything, but the number of new clothes I need. As I stated earlier, I'm doing a de-cluttering of my closet and clothes. Plus since I've gained weight, some of my clothes just don't fit. Off to the consignment shop, Goodwill, or trash. Some clothes are stained or so old/frayed they have to be dumped. I can't hang on to them to see if I'll be able to fit back into them. I have 21 skirts in my closet. 21 skirts of which 6 fit comfortably, 3 others I can squeeze into for short periods of time. I don't need 21 skirts. How the heck did I accumulate 21 skirts? Easy~as I got heavier, I bought clothes I could fit into and my local consignment shop has some great buys, $3 or $4 for a new to me skirt, in the closet it went,the old ones just never left. This just has to STOP. Here is what I figured out I need:

4- summer shirts (polos, blouses, etc)
3-skirts or pants that fit
2-pairs of nice shorts that I can wear to work (my work dress code allows shorts)
1-pair of decent shoes for summer.

I did buy one skirt and one polo shirt at the mall last week and I'll be doing some serious comparison shopping for the other items. I did do an amazing shop last fall, my last serious new clothes shop. I'm hoping I can match that shopping spree in terms of prices and bargins. Now to figure out how much to budget for the shop.

21 skirts-yikes, and truthfully folks, I am not a skirt person. When I get home, I'm racing to the bedroom to get out of the skirt and into a comfy pair of sweats, jeans or shorts. I need to have my head examined........

Thursday, May 1, 2008

The May Goals

The lawn is seeded, I've decluttered a bit (not as much as I would like), I got sort of a second job to help offset the cost of the new to me car for the month of May, listed some stuff on E-Bay, Craig's list, Freecycle, donated a bunch of stuff to Goodwill. My plans to do some home DIY of course, were just that just plans, but I'm hoping to get some of it done THIS month.

The May Plan:

1) Finish the garden beds.
2) Paint the kitchen cupboards, OK, at least pick out the paint for the cupboards.
3) Organize a couple paid work weekends for June.
4) Redo the closet.
5) Re-examine budget and finances and make the July goal to be as close to a zero based budget as possible.
6) Plan a mini vacation/mini-break. I am really feeling the need for some time away and time for me only that does not involve animals, family, or obligations to others. Really feeling the need.

What I've alread done.

1) Paid the car note.
2) Paid my car insurance.
3) Paid my student loan.
4) Decided to increase my food budget from $100 to $120. I think I managed to stay around $100 for April, I have to look at the last few receipts. I still have a lot of staples in my cupboards, I'm just out of fresh veg, fruit and meat.

Part of me wonders why I have not done more, and part of me still feels overwhelmed by what I have done. Part of me is just so thankful that I really feel like I'm getting my fiscal life back on track. Part of me wonders why this miraculous transformation did not happen the instant I got my discharge. I know that it will take time to undo the fiscal mistakes of my past. There really is no miraculous transformation is there? All I can do is move forward from here and make the best of what I have. And I will! I hope you do the same.