Monday, June 30, 2008

Happy Canada Day!

To all my Canadian readers!

I know it's tomorrow, but I figured I'd be early rather than late.


Sunday, June 29, 2008

I'm Dreaming of Food Shopping..

True to my word, for this month, I've been doing most of my meal planning from what I have in the cupboards and in the fridge, with very few visits to the grocery store, except for some fresh veg and fruit. Yesterday I made a refried bean soup I got off of a year of crockpotting blog. I made the recipe before and liked it and decided to make it again. I used up 5 cans from my cupboard (beans, refried beans, tomato chunks, broth, and canned corn) and I had all the spices. The soup is yummy, I spiced it up with some extra dried hot peppers and I also made some tortilla strips from left over corn tortillas. I have enough left over for one more lunch and one dinner.

BUT I am craving a food shop. I've been making lists, I am getting low on staple items, I am losing some of my creativity, I am down to one onion and three cloves of garlic. I have 1/2 pound of angle hair pasta and 1 pound of elbow macaroni, I still have pounds of rice (I bought a 10 pound bag a in late April), I've used up the frozen meat, most of the frozen veg and the most of the canned items. I even went a little OCD and washed the cupboard shelves since the larder is getting bare.

Things I've used up, pesto made last year from my garden, 4 chicken thighs, 4 boneless chicken breast, 2 small steaks, 1 quart of chicken stock, I replaced the stock by boiling up a carcass I had from the last time I roasted a chicken, lots of pasta, two hunks of frozen mozzarella I forgot I had, ate one full package of Hebrew National Hot Dogs, finished off a bag of frozen tater tots, various grains, dried beans, canned tomatoes, canned beans, onions, peppers, various and assorted jars of condiments and sauces (Indian, Oriental and some salad dressing) used up the onions, potatoes, garlic and ginger root, sour cream, yogurt, salsa, a lot of pasta and bag of noodles called Singapore noodles (A type of egg noodle from Singapore), you get the picture. I don't think I can really make a meal out of brown sugar, baking soda and malt vinegar, but I did replace the old boxes of baking soda in the fridge and freezer and poured one box down the kitchen drain (followed by a hefty dose of white vinegar) and used the other box on the tub instead of using Ajax cleanser. That also kept me in line with my goal for being as green as I can and not using toxic chemicals and cleaners.

I'll be at my second job for the upcoming holiday and my meals will be taken care of, so there is no reason for me to do a serious food shop until at least next Tuesday. I'll be a "big girl" do some meal planning and then plan my shop around the menu. But between now and then, I can betcha I'll be dreaming of wandering up and down the food aisles at Trader Joes,Aldi and Costco.

Bouncing Back is Becoming a Tool Belt Diva.

I am not a Toolbelt Diva. In fact, I fully admit, my DIY skills are lacking, mainly due to the fact I never seemed to have the time to learn decent DIY skills, other than painting. Plus I'm afraid of power tools, especially things that cut. BUT I have a list of home projects that need to get done, so it's time to learn new skills, especially since the quotes I've been getting for various home improvement projects are outrageous. I dragged out the circular saw and cut some landscaping ties to size for some planned raised garden beds, I figured out how to divert water from a storm damaged gutter from flooding into my bedroom every time it rains, I put up new brackets in my bedroom for curtain rods (I can use a drill and a screw driver) and the big project was to finally install my new bathroom vanity. I had hoped to convince, bribe, pay my neighbor to re tile my bathroom floor (total square footage is only 27 SF, easy peasy for someone else), when he does his mudroom, but that project is on the books for July 4th weekend and I will be at my part time job that entire weekend, I wanted the sink OUT of my living space today.

I started at 4 PM, and finally gave up at 7:30 PM. I was able to remove the old vanity, disconnect the faucet (I'm using the faucet on the new sink), got the faucet installed on the new vanity top, got the vanity bottom into the bathroom and leveled and then spent the next 90 minutes trying to connect all the plumbing.

Mind you, before I started this project I made a list of all the bits and pieces I would need (new supply lines, drain pipe extensions, washers, caulk, etc) and then went out and bought said supplies. I'm just not getting the drain pipes connected as they should be and I can't get the stopper hooked up to the stopper plunger thing (is that a real phrase, stopper plunger thing?). I can and have installed several sinks and toilets in my life, I'm actually pretty good at it, but for some reason, it's just not happening today.

The good part is I no longer have the vanity sitting in my living room and I really like the way it looks in my bathroom. The bad part is I'm going to spend tomorrow after dinner fixing what I started today. I just have to remember to brush my teeth in the kitchen sink and not in the bathroom. I'll be happy when it's done, because the next project is flooring for my bedroom. I did a little on line research and found flooring I would love to have in my bedroom for less than $225. Remember, I live in a small space, so the cost for the flooring is not that much and if I can get over my fear of things that cut, I can install some pretty awesome bamboo or engineered wood flooring. I did help a friend one time install some Pergo (they did the cutting), so this shouldn't be too bad?

Ah well, I look at it this way, I've just saved myself $125 (the quoted price from the plumber) on sink installation and when it's done, at least I can say I did it myself.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Another One Gone from the Blogsphere

One reason many of us start blogs and personal finance ones is because we need an outlet for our worries and concerns about our finances. Personal finance is pretty much a taboo subject in American culture. In general, most folks don't go to parties and discuss their VISA debt or any debt at all. It just makes people uncomfortable to talk about. Discussing personal bankruptcy, heck you may as well put a big fat black B on your chest and watch yourself be really shunned, it just makes folks uncomfortable.

In my case, I started this blog after spending about 8 months reading other PF blogs. I was in the middle of my Bankruptcy filing and dealing with those issues and all the conflicting emotions and feelings I was having about becoming Bankrupt. The blog gave me a place to vent and to share. I've gotten some excellent advice both in my comments and in my e-mail from my readers and for that I am very grateful. I did this Bankruptcy all on my own. I'm not married, not currently in a steady relationship and of course, did not tell my family or friends (save for 2 friends). I used this blog as a place to vent, get support, and get information and I still do use it for that reason. I may be discharged, but I have a long way to go before I really "bounce back from bankruptcy". I'm in a huge learning curve and will be for a long time.

Along the way I have collected a number of blogs I read on a regular basis. I have the "baby bloggers", those single folks in their 20's and early 30's who are paying off student loans, credit card debt while trying to balance having a social life and a work life. The families working towards debt reduction or the goal of buying a home and I'm slowing finding the "boomer bloggers"-people closer to my age that blog about personal finance and life. What I love about the blogsphere is the diversity of the authors of each blog.

I have one blog I've been reading for a while that has gone very quiet. It's a woman who has written about her (and her husbands) struggle with debt and personal finance. They are struggling, they have car, boat, mortgage, loan and credit card payments. She was making progress each month towards her debt reduction. A few weeks ago she stopped posting. I figured she was taking a break, she did say she wanted a little break from blogging to just relax a bit. I clicked onto her link today and got the message that the author deleted the blog. I've had a couple links where I've gotten the same message, blog unavailable, blog only open to invited readers, blog deleted.

I worry about some of those blog authors. The common theme prior to deletion was that of more pain and despair, you could read the struggle they were having with managing their money. The other common theme was they almost without exception where the ones shouldering the responsibility of the debt, even if they were in a relationship, it seems they were the one person coordinating the debt reduction and taking on all the responsibility. Since they were blogging (anonymously) about it, I had hoped that maybe they were taking some of the advice under consideration (the good, the bad, the kind and the not so kind.).

For any of you who may read this blog and would like to start your own, please do!. Ask for reciprocal links, put yourselves out there, make the time a couple times a week to post. I've gotten tons of support from people and even more ideas, hints, help, suggestions and resources than I can ever list here. Just don't go "silent" and leave us all wondering 'what happened"/

Thursday, June 26, 2008

What's Up T-Mobile

I have T- Mobile as my mobile phone carrier. I'm fairly happy with the service, I get better coverage outside of my immediate geographic area, not so great in my immediate area, but I can cope with it. When I switched carriers a few years ago, T-Mobile "accepted" my old plan at the old rate, which was just fine by me, it's low and I hardly ever use up my minutes.

When my young dog decided to use my old phone as a chew toy a few months ago, I upgraded to a spiffy Motorola phone. T-Mobile did not send a battery with the phone to me. They did however, credit me the cost of the phone since I went out and had to buy my own battery-thus I got my nice upgraded phone for free!

BUT and there is always a BUT. Why is T-Mobile checking my credit report every other month. When I pulled my credit report and scores last week, I looked at the section that lists who has peeked at my report. The bank that holds my mortgage checks a couple times a year (and has done so on a regular basis), there was the bank that I got the car loan from (just the one time), but T-Mobile has checked the report 5 times in the past 7 months.

Things that make you go hum. I've had one payment in the past 3 years that was not auto debited and that was last July. I transferred my auto pay bank information too late in the month. T-Mobile customer service said they would just double bill me the next month and I said fine.

Sooo why the repeated checks on the credit report? What's up T- Mobile?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Welcome to the MSN Readers!

My thanks to Karen Datko over at MSN money for the mention of my blog and my post on the late George Carlin and welcome to all the MSN readers who have dropped on by. Of course, my thanks to all my current readers as well.

This was the shot in the arm my depressive mood needed this week. :)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

I Need a New Nemesis

I've been struggling with some issues the past few weeks, the big one has been a lack of motivation and desire to do things with my life. I blame part of this on my own laziness, I blame part of this on a wave of incoming un-seasonal depression, I blame it on not having a nemesis. Not having a nemesis sounds better than floundering around life and not being able to set concrete goals for my self even though I am an adult.

The laziness is part in parcel with the un-seasonal depression and the lack of a nemesis. It's been easy (almost too easy) to just go with the flow. I've admitted before that I do better with some competition in my life. I need measurable goals, I need yard sticks, I need prizes, rosettes, awards and first place ribbons. I want to be better than someone or many someones. I want the freaking recognition of a job well done.

Jenn at Jennsylvania says her nemesis is "a person who's achieved what I want and then I watch and emulate her every move, all the while despising her with the fire of 10,000 angry (immature) suns."

My problem-the two areas that I would like to ah, improve, in my life in both can offer me a nemesis, but the two people I would use as a yard stick are very very nice. They don't fit the Jennsylvannia description of a nemesis. And I find it hard to despise these two folks whom I like a lot as people and have great respect for. In one area, I probably could find a new nemesis to use as a yard stick, but honestly, the folks I could despise don't have anything I want nor have they achieved anything I desire. Humm, predicament.

So what's a Betty to do. I am off to the MD tomorrow for a yearly check up and will discuss the unseasonal depression with her and see if it needs to be addressed on a more advanced level (I'm almost happily wallowing in my own self pity right now). I will have to take some time to sit down this upcoming weekend and re-do my goal list. It's been too easy to keep the monthly goals things like-paint the cabinets, weed the flower beds, at this point, those just become seasonal chores and not goals. I will look at the two area's in my life that can have a potential nemesis and see if I can find new ones.

What has this got to do with personal finance. It's actually about not getting complacent, not losing site of what your goal is, it's about maybe taking a step back and re-evaluting your financial picture and seeing what needs to be modified, adapted, or changed. Sometimes I think we lose motivation in our financial endeavours because we lose site of our goals, or our goals see so far away and out of reach. And I think we need to find a nemesis to give us a little more inspiration to tackle our debt and work towards our goals.

Monday, June 23, 2008

George Carlin and Stuff

The comedian George Carlin died yesterday. One of my favorite routines was On Stuff. George, we will miss you!

Click here to go to You Tube and Stuff.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

A Good Day Visiting

As posted previously, I spent yesterday catching up with some of my college friends. The day started out with breakfast out (thanks to me not checking my breakfast supplies, sour milk and no eggs...) and a short trip to my friend G's house. G drove down to Litchfield to our other college friends home. We had a happy morning going to a couple thrift shops, one amazing church fair, a couple tag sales and the White Flower Farm tent sale. I stuck to my self imposed budget and only spent $30, actually $31.80 with tax, but was able to get some presents for some upcoming birthdays and a two items for ME. We did also stop at a regular womens clothing store and I picked up two fun summer skirts on sale. I had re-evaluated my wardrobe last month and a some new clothing was in "the grand plan." I was happy about the prudent purchases both at the tent sale and out shopping. Plus I treated G to lunch and she paid for the gas to and from Litchfield, I think I got the better deal.

Both G and I did discuss that as much as we love making the drive to Litchfield a couple times a year to see our mutual friend and having a girls day out, we noticed that in the past three years she does not make a reciprocal trip up to see us and the last two times we organized events by us, our mutal freind did not make the trip. We may live in a rural area, but there are things to do locally and in neighboring towns. I think G was more put out by this than I was and I'm not sure why. I pointed out to G that we always drove to see our mutual friend, or we always went to her dorm room to study or watch TV, she never came to either one of our apartments or dorm rooms when we were in college. Old habits die hard? G said she was going to organize an early fall day out up in our area instead of us driving to Litchfield.

While I was happy to see my friends and I have been pleased with my plan to get out and about a bit more now that I'm feeling better about my fiscal situation, I am very happy to have next weekend be a stay at home weekend. I'm not planning any DIY projects, I have no plans to see anyone (family or friends), I think the highlight of my weekend will be mowing my lawn and I'm going to see if I can have one day where I don't get in my car and drive anywhere-town dump, laundromat, grocery store-just a truly stay at home day.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Stupid Purchases

I was feeling a little peckish on my errand run today. I brought my lunch to work, ate it, but still wanted SOMETHING when I was out. I stopped at Dunkin Donuts and bought~a Pizza. Yes a pizza at a place that is known for it's coffee and donuts. AND the pizza was barely edible. Why did I buy a pizza at a donut shop? I have no idea other than I was hungry, not in the mood for a breakfast sandwich and thought I'd try the pizza.

It was overcooked on top, barely cooked on the bottom crust and very very small. I label this a "Stupid Purchase". Come on, this is not rocket science, pizza from a donut place? Plus by the time I got the pizza and an Extra Large Ice Tea it was $6. For a dollar more I could have gotten a really yummy sandwich with the works, chips and pickles at the local restaurant and that probably would have sufficed for lunch AND dinner.

This lead me to think about other stupid purchases I have made- the Shop Vac when my Hoover died last fall, the really inadequate canister vac I got at Christmas, the shorts I bought because they were on sale (and literally lasted three washings before they fell apart), the bike messenger bag I used as a briefcase that also could not stand up to travel...... the list goes on and on. Admit it folks, we have all made and still make stupid purchases.

I know those above items are not the only stupid purchases I've made, but they are the most recent ones I can remember. I won't admit some of the other stupid purchases I've made, they were pretty dumb. I know it was easy for me to make "stupid purchases" when I used credit cards way back when. What did Karyn Bosnak say, 'Swipe, Sign and it was Mine'....

This goes back to a post I had previously about planning out your purchases and doing your homework when you buy something-even something inexpensive and even your lunch. The canister vac was on sale and it was sooo easy to justify the purchase at that moment in time. Again, had I read the reviews (and almost all of them are bad), I would not have purchased this particular model. Had I used more than 5 seconds of brain power, I would have realized Pizza from a Donut Shop is not the best use of my money. I mean, I've stopped into DD in the middle of the day to get a coffee and really did not see anyone snacking on the pizza-I should have REMEMBERED that.

Oh well, next time I'm feeling a bit hungry at Dunkin Donuts, I'll opt for a muffin.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Summer Arrives

In just a few short hours. In someways it's my favorite time of year-Summer, warm weather, blue skies, swimming in the Lake, picnics, BBQ's, shorts, tee shirts, fruity frosty drinks with umbrellas in them, Coppertone Suntan Lotion.. It also means is that the days are starting to get shorter. Yuck, I hate that dicotomy...

But I fully plan on enjoying Summer while it is here. And if by some reason you are down in Oz, and it's winter for you, spring is just around the corner!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

And the Score is...

651 from Trans Union.

At least I have a baseline to go forward on.

One thing off my To Do list.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

OK I Just Checked My Blog......

Sorry folks, I thougth I was setting up auto posting, but looks like you got a bunch of posts all at once.

Yikes, I'm such a technology idiot at times...

Happy reading anyway-I'm off to bed!

Why I Don't Automate My Fiscal Life

Lots of people in the PF world are big into auto payments and auto debits. I'm not. Maybe it's my generation, maybe it's me, but I'm not really into auto payments that I don't have control over. The one time I set up an auto payment, it was a disaster. I did it with my old mortgage company and one month they triple debited me. Let's just say the chain reaction of bounced checks was insane. My bank was good enough to realize the error was the fault of the mortgage company and paid a number of checks without increasing my overdraft, it took three days for the mortgage company to refund the extra debits. Actually if I remember, they just asked if I wanted the extra debits credited for the next two months. I remember shrieking NOOOOOO. They did pay the overdraft fees as well, but needless to say the whole experience left me a little jaded on the auto debit feature.

I auto debit on two payments, one is my EZ Pass ($25 at a time and maybe once every couple months depending on my travel) and my mobile phone bill. Everything else is either paid by check or with me having control over processing the payment from my checking account to the merchant.

I am very leery about giving any one my bank information, even another bank. I make the time twice a month to sit down, look at my bills write out the checks, and mail them. It gives me a sense of satisfaction to write out the checks and send them off. Lest you say "Betty aren't you afraid that you mail might get lost and not make it on time?" Yes that is always a real possibility, but anything of great importance (like my car note right now), I send with a tracking number. I'm a little leery of my car loan bank, they don't have the best reputation, so I'd rather be safe than sorry. I've had freakier things happen with auto debits than with the US Mail.

The Credit Offers Continue

In my mail this past month, a total of 5 credit offers, 2 for a credit card and 3 for car loans. I have dutifully shredded all of them. The interest rates and terms were insane. Once I get the guts to pull my FICO score (I swear I'll do it soon, I have to get a "baseline" post BK and I will share with all of you), I'll go back and research secured credit cards.

What I still find insane is that banks and lending instutions, even in this economy are offerieng credit to people with bad credit histories. Lets face it, I'm bankrupt, discharged, but bankrupt and I still get credit offers on a weekly basis. These folks knew about the discharge before I did, someone must troll the court records on a daily basis to gather names and addresses.

My grand plan is to put my cell phone on auto debit to the secured card. I don't use my cell phone all that much (I don't have great reception in my area so I don't use my phone all that much).

Everyone,well the financial bloggers and writers that I think have some serious street cred, all say the best way to inprove your FICO post BK is with a credit card that reports to the credit bureaus and an installment loan. I got the installment loan with the car, now to get a credit card.

I did check with my credit union and they don't offer a secured credit card. I would have liked to use them as I want to use them to refinance my car loan later this year. I'm doing my research and almost all the secured credit cards have a "set up fee", yearly fee, kinda high interest rates, fees for increasing your credit limit, etc.

Since I'm doing OK on a cash only basis (and had been on a cash only basis for a couple years prior to the BK, I'm not looking to use a credit card to get back into the situation I was in. Which was way over my head and out of control when life interviened and my rates sky rocketed. I would like to see my FICO score make some upward progress.

Before E-Bay and Craig's List, There was the Garage Sale

Or Tag Sale, or Car Boot sale or what ever you want to call it. My neighbors have been using E-Bay to sell items, sometimes with success sometimes without. Lots of folks are selling on E-Bay to earn extra money. My neighbors like many folks in the blogsphere are not having tons of success on E-Bay. My suggestion, have a tag sale.

In my case as I’ve stated before, I just want to get rid of stuff. Right now I’m too lazy to keep on top of E-Bay Auctions and the consignment shop sales have been slow (I did however pick up some great stuff animals for the dogs to tear up, a nice small Faberware frying pan with a lid and a little covered dish perfect for the toaster over or microwave and one person portions all for $3).

My neighbors and I are planning a tag sale for mid July. We both have weekend events and the only weekend we are both free is the weekend AFTER July 4th. This gives us both time to sort through our possessions, give E-bay one last chance, then we are trying a Tag Sale. A Tag Sale obviously works best if you live in an area conducive to hosting one, folks that live in apartments may not have the luxury of a location for a tag sale.

As I posted previously, my goal is to declutter. I am looking forward to a tag sale not only for the chance to get a little extra cash, but to get rid of some STUFF.

The Decluttering Continues With Modifications

I’m on the slow but steady path to decluttering my life. I got back from the consignment shop my clothes that did not sell. I trucked them right to the Goodwill donation center. I have a load of books on that are not selling, so I pulled them out of my inventory and dropped them off at the library donation center for their book sale, I’m still working on meal planning from my cupboards, I’ve purged the sock and underwear drawer, I’ve still got a way to go. I’ve listed a small pile of stuff on Freecycle and folks are coming to pick it up. I like a certain amount of clutter around me, I can never go totally Zen in my house and decorations, I like some “stuff”, but I am getting better about getting rid of “stuff”.

I am also working on my paper clutter. One goal for this year is to scan my paper documents and keep e-files instead of paper files. While going through the wads of paper I have, I found an envelope from Dell. I financed my laptop through Dell and I sort of remember that I was supposed to get some sort of a discount that was never applied to my account. My Dell account was paid in full and closed out way before the BK, so I think that was one reason why I never really read the contents of the envelope. I should have. Dell was offering to customers who financed computers during the time I did, a $75 credit to your account or a $75 check if you had closed your account. Since my account was closed, all I had to do was fill out this from and drop it back in the mail. BUT IT HAD TO BE INTO DELL IN MID 2007, NOT 2008. Crickets, practically “free” money, but I did not read my freaking mail and have lost out on $75.

I read all my junk mail. I shred most of it, especially the credit offers I’m still getting in the mail (yet another one today for a car loan). Point to this, even though you may think you are getting junk mail, it could very well be money coming to you. Just take a few minutes to READ instead of just to STUFF the envelopes in a drawer or in the trash.

I Don't Want To Grow Up

I spent this past Saturday visiting my elderly friend, L who lost her husband in April. She is living with a mutual friend, Dee of ours who fortunately has the space, time and income to take her in. Visits to the doctor confirmed what we both suspected; our elderly friend just can not live alone at this point or probably at all any more. She just physically can not handle a house or even an apartment. I ended up with one of her dogs and may end up with another~oh that is going to make my life oh so interesting………

Dee bought a house a couple years ago that had a handicapped accessible bedroom suite (bedroom, bathroom, and living room) on the first floor. Dee figured it was just a nice first floor guest bedroom suite, she never thought it would be needed, in fact, using the extra living room as her office for her home based business. Our friend L has a multitude of health issues that she has been living with for a number of years, With the death of her husband, she just had a total and complete mental and physical breakdown. She is slowly getting better mentally. She had dinner with us, interacted with us and was coherent. When I first visited her when she arrived in Southern New England, she was barely functioning, mentally or physically. The depression was overwhelming and we both had concerns that she would not “snap out of it.” She is making slow progress, but progress non the less.

Dee had extended conversations with L and the decision was made to sell L’s house and have her live permanently with Dee. L has no other family. Dee, myself and two other good friends are her family. She does have an adult step daughter, but she has her own life and while she is fond of L, she is not the appropriate person to take care of her step mother.

L is lucky, the money from the sale of her house will be put into some prudent investments and will be used for her medical care. Dee has already said the basic living expenses, heat, electricity, cable, phone, food, are going to be absorbed by her. If L wants a private phone line, that will be set up for her when that time comes. L and Dee have been friends for a number of years and as Dee said, I’m only treating L the way I would like to be treated if this ever happens to me.

This scares me. I’m a bit like L in that I don’t have any close immediate family. I do have the family I have made, a circle of friends that are closer to me than many of my relatives. I’m a good twenty five years younger than L, but the thought of being totally alone and unable to care for myself really freaked me out this weekend. Really freaked me out. Who will take care of me and my animals in my old age. On my To Do list is to look into Long Term Care Insurance. Sometimes I wish I could have stayed 36 forever.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Actually Sticking to The Plan

Part of my plan for this month was to spend as little money as possible in the grocery store and plan my meals from whats in my cupboard. I've been pretty good about it. I've been thawing food to eat, making bread, cooking pasta, making soup, soaking beans~pretty much making an in roads to the food and staples I have in my pantry. I used up a bunch of chicken, a packet of hot dogs, some chicken stock, two bags of frozen veg, miscellaneous half boxes of pasta, bits and pieces of cheese for a know, making due and improvising for my meals. I'm trying to stay OUT of the grocery store unless there is something I really really need. I was buying food products for the heck of it. I have this bad habit of checking out the dented can section and buying cans I did not necessarily need, but got them because they were there. How many cans of refried beans does ONE person need in their house.

I also put myself on a new shopping routine. I don't use a cart unless it's for a big shop. I get a hand basket so I am less likely to toss things in my basket (too heavy too carry) and I don't over shop. Seems to be working for me. I'm buying only what I need. I'm tempted sometimes by something I see (eggplants on sale, four kinds of mushrooms in the reduced produce bin would make a great mushroom soup, a beef shin bone, perfect for making beef stock for onion soup) but my plan for this month is to use UP what I have and not become Julia Child. I do have to figure out what to do with what is either Couscous or very fine baby pastina in a jar.

I've also been really good about not buying beer or wine this month. I did have a couple beers over the weekend, I went out for pizza and had a couple drinks. I'm getting old, I got home and crashed after dinner. Maybe it was not the beer and the 90 degree plus heat?

As I had stated in an earlier post, I do much better with a plan, weather it's monetary or food planning!

Upcoming Weekend Plans

I've been chatting with some friends and we have made plans for next weekend. I will be car pooling with an old college classmate to visit another old college classmate who lives in the town of Litchfield, Connecticut. We try to meet once or twice a year and I am long overdue for a visit with the girls. We have a packed day planned. We are going to do some thrift store shopping, head down to Woodbury for some antique shopping. Woodbury is known as the antique capitol of Connecticut.

We are going to go to White Flower Farm for their open house and tent sale. White Flower Farm is an upscale nursery and I really can't afford their plants. You can get some neat things in the tent sale and I'll be budgeting a very small amount of cash for that. In another life, I bought a lot of plants from White Flower. I just shop at Home Depot now. The gardens are to die for and I just enjoy walking around the property. I wish my gardens could look that nice. After that we are heading into the town of Litchfield for lunch.

What I love about the part of Litchfield is the diversity on Route 63. Just up from White Flower Farm is Bees Fleas and Trees tree farm. It is the childhood home of Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat, Pray, Love. I never knew the movie Coyote Ugly was based on a short story of hers as well. Did you? Check the above Link and look at Trivia. Just up from Bees Fleas and Trees is Arethusa Farm. Arethusa Farm is home to world champion diary cattle. Don't laugh, Litchfield County takes it's dairy farms seriously and as we know, farming is slowly but surely is dying out in New England. Take it from someone who proudly maintains a Farm Bureau membership to help support farming in her state. What I really love about Arethusa Farm is that it is owned by the two gentlemen who have the licensing rights for Manolo Blahnik shoes in the USA. That's right, the shoes made famous by Carrie and Company in Sex and The City help support a world class dairy farm. The farm is not open to the public, but I've driven by it before and it is beautiful.

I'm actually looking forward to the trip!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

I Need To Change My Outlook

I reported yesterday that I picked up enough hours on the "second" job to cover July's car payment. I'm thrilled about that as one of my on going goals is to cover the car payment. I also realized I looking at this whole second job thing the wrong way. Instead of being bitter about no shifts for June, I am thankful I have shifts for July and that I could "budget" half of my July shift income towards Augusts car payment in case I don't pick up additional shifts in July and who knows what will happen for August.

Look at the glass half full instead of half empty. Novel concept isn't it?

Monday, June 9, 2008

Good Second Job News~for once!

The good news is I picked up some shifts for the road groom work the beginning of July-at least 3 if not 4 days!. Woo Hoo! That means my goal of extra income to cover the car payment will be met. I don't think I'll make my June goal, but I'm not giving up the ghost yet, I may get to work the last full weekend in June, that is TBD, but July is confirmed.

The other good news is I actually have a serious real estate client. They want to buy a small house as an investment, have a decent amount of money to put as a down payment and have already been working with a reputable lender. They have done this before, purchase a second home as an income producing property, so they know the ropes. We looked at some properties on Saturday and will look again this upcoming week or weekend. Keep your fingers crossed on this one, it could be a quick sale and a quick close and I'll earmark those funds earned for the Efund and Car Note fund.

Hot Enough to Fry an Egg

It was in the high 90's in my section of New England this weekend. As much as I love summer and the heat, it was wayyyyy to early for this type of weather, and it's official, we are in a heat wave with the temperatures not expected to drop until Wednesday.

I spent most of yesterday afternoon in the cool of the living room with the shades drawn, a large glass of ice tea and watched old DVD's. My Air Con unit (3,000 or 5,000 BTUs) is one I broke down and bought last year at Target. It's designed for a small bedroom, even my small house is almost too much house for it to cool completely. It does make a dent into the heat, sucks out the humidity and keeps the dogs and myself comfortable. I much prefer fans and a breeze, but no air was moving yesterday-None, on went the AC.

When I bought the AC last year, I was starting to doubt my purchase judgement skills, remember I was in the middle of filing bankruptcy and doubting every purchase I had ever made (I was seriously stressed). A spell of hot and humid weather and after 5 very sleepless nights, I broke down one afternoon in the Target. This AC got very mixed reviews (of course I read them AFTER the purchase), and could have made it to the "stupid purchase classification". It was on sale, I was hot, tired and cranky. The unit was "on special sale". I dragged out my debit card and bought the unit. I was lucky, the little $79 A/C works just well enough to keep the house (and more importantly, the dogs) comfortable. It does not fall into the "stupid purchase" category.

Why did I write this? It's about planning and research. Pre-bankruptcy, post bankruptcy, debt reduction, increasing savings, what ever. If you are planning on making a major purchase or almost any purchase, you have to do your research. IF I had been smarter, I would have taken the time to research small window A/C units. I MAY have opted for a different brand than the one I got based on the reviews. I know the Target return policy, the unit was on sale, and for the reasons above, I jumped on it and bought the unit. I was lucky, this until turned out to be OK and does the job I need it to do.

Moral of the story, you have to do your home work, whether it's buying a car or buying an Air Con unit. Hope you are staying cool where ever you are.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Just to Make Myself More Insane

I pulled the bill from the accountant for this years company taxes, the CPA charge $70/hr to input all the information from the "unbalanced" account into Quicken and to the Excel spreadsheet, total time spent doing this BEFORE they could work on the Income Taxes, 8.5 hours, or $637.50 of company dollars spent to do work that should have been done by someone else.

Why does this piss me off? Well, it's because someone did not do their job and complained about all the extra work this new to them task was taking. We are not talking rocket science or complex financial dealings, we are talking recording deposits, writing checks out, inputting some data into a spreadsheet and filing papers. There were no complex fiscal calculations that require great financial decisions, on the simplest terms, money in, same amount of money out, less a few expenses. Something that should take a couple hours a week if that. I know this former employee got decent compensation, she was good at most of her job, but the fact she complained how much time this additional task took when in fact it's not that much time at all irks me. I'm also irked because my boss never followed up with her, he trusted her to do her job, all facets of her job. To be honest, he does not follow up with me either on most projects, so I'm not complaining about unfair treatment. Had I been aware that the information was not being inputted into the databases, I may have found a way to correct that. But I did not and the past is the past, no use crying over spilled milk as they say.

The upside is my boss has realized that our next employee needs to be someone who can handle both the customers and the spreadsheets. I did tell him that I thought it was a waste of the accountants time and company dollars to input the data when we can do it in house. As long as we had the paper copy back ups for them to see (or the IRS), we should be ok. He agreed.

All right, I'll get off my soapbox. I just had to vent.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

It's Been a Heck of A Couple Days

At my real, full time job, I wear many hats. I answer phones, work on projects, go shopping for office snacks, deal with clients, etc. It is the nature of my job. We have a couple bank accounts, I take care of the petty cash one. Quicken and I are best friends forever. My petty cash account has not been "off" or "wrong" or whatever since I arrived. In fact, our company accountant is very happy with the Quicken files. My boss is happy the accountant is happy.

I was given the task of doing almost 18 months of account reconciling on one of our other bank account, 18 months. It had been in the custody of my now long departed boss, one of her best work buddies took over her some of responsibilities and the account, she then left in February. My boss asked me to assume the duties of keeper of that checkbook a couple weeks ago, so I did.

Imagine my horror when I went to her files only to discover, opened, but unbalanced statements going back to December 2006. She kept a check register but never balanced the account. I think she did it all in her head. She never even wrote down a running balance in the check register. She had Quicken on her computer, she never inputted any information into it (and neither did my former immediate boss a supposed computer savvy person). She also did not enter any of the financials in the Excel spreadsheets that are set up either. I have no idea what information went to the accountant, probably all of it in a paper format. I remember we specifically bought Quicken to streamline our banking work and the transfer of information to our accountant. it was time for our small company to go beyond paper. I was hired because I can navigate around a spreadsheet (don't ask me to make a complicated one, but I can work with them.) My boss went through the roof when I told him that nothing was in the computer, nothing.

Since the accountant never raised a red flag, I can only guess they inputted all the information and did a reconciliation at tax time (costing the company $55/hour) when all they needed to do was download some files and see any back up they asked for. That account does not get used that often, so maybe it takes two hours a month to maintain, maybe? I know she got paid a lot less than $55/hour. I did find her lazy at times and would always complain that she had "so much work" (no more and at times a lot less than the rest of us). My company has used the same accounting firm for a number of years, sends it's financials out every few years to an independant auditor to make sure all is good (and our accountant encourages that, it's a double check thing) has been slow to computerize it's finances, but is slowly getting there as my boss realizes the savings by becoming automated. I know our accounting firm probably regrets the loss of income, but probably is not happy having to do all the company's accounting the old fashioned way, on paper.

It took me four days to input all the information, reconcile the accounts, find my errors (I would get tired and input numbers wrong) as I was doing my other work. I'm happy to say we are "off" by $15 and I found out where that error is. I'm really glad it was not $15,000. And I'm really glad I won't have to be on the computer as much. My eyes hurt. I've just sent the accountant an e-mail to expect our 1st and 2nd quarter bank reports no later than July 15th (earlier if I get all my bank information) and I've already told him I will have as much as I can on Quicken and in Excel for him. I'm going to pull the statement from the accountant on Monday and see just how much work we paid his office to do at $55/hr that could of, and should of been done in house.

The Grass is Greener

And just to keep you all in the loop (I know you are all so fascinated by my lawn growing adventures). The grass is growing quite nicely now that we have had some prolonged warmer weather. Time to reseed the last section of yard before it gets too hot.

What's In Your Food Cupboard?

I made a decision a couple weeks ago to cut back on my food shopping. The amount of food in my cupboards was insane and I've been in the bad habit of going to the grocery store and buying things I don't really need, but might need in the future when I have a perfectly good and well stocked pantry. In the past few days I have made the following meals:

1) Chicken and Vegetable stir fry with Hoisin Sauce-the leftovers made into a second meal with the addition of some Singapore Noodles I had in the cabinet.

2) Nachos-using up some salsa, really bad fake cheese sauce, sour cream, pickled jalapenos I made last month, refried beans, enchilada sauce, onions and tomatoes. I did buy the Nacho chips at Aldi, that I will admit, but I had a HUGE craving for them. I still have half a bag at home, the craving passed after I made the nachos.

3) African Peanut Stew/Soup-made entirely with items from my cupboard and I got to use some of the extra veg I had sitting around. I got the recipe for this dish from A Year of Crockpotting (I have really become enamoured of my old crock pot this year-mainly because I've been lazy, this is the easy way to cook a bunch of meals). I've made a similar dish in the past, but thought I'd try this one. It was really good!

I did a small shop for fresh fruit and veg last week, got a load of vegetables from the reduced produce section of the store on the premise I was going to roast or grill them and use them for sandwiches or on pasta. I just did not feel like dicing, slicing, marinating, and grilling on Sunday and instead of letting the vegetable become part of my mulch pile, I used my brain, did five minutes of on line research (ie- I read a couple blogs) and voila`, a ton of meals with very little effort.
I still have a ton of food (and yes that is my freezer) that can be re-purposed into meals. All it takes is being a bit creative and I've made some pretty darned good meals with just the items I have on hand. Granted this is a bit easier if you have a well stocked pantry with the basics, not so easy if you are not in the habit of cooking or really don't like to cook. My friends who don't like to cook don't understand why I have both sweet and hot paprika or the difference between chili powder and cayenne pepper.
I am looking forward to my next adventure in cooking based on what's in the pantry, fridge and freezer.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Contest Winners

I did my first contest this month and the winner of the Method book is

First Place winner: Anonymous1-GEvans

I also have a gift card for SewCreative as well, courtsey of a friend of mine, I'm doing a little pay it forward.

Please send me an e-mail with mailing information and I will get things posted this week.

Congrats to everyone who participated. I am going to do an end of June, early July contest-prize to be determined.