Thursday, July 31, 2008

Back to the Blog, Rested and Refreshed!

I'm BACK!. The trip was fun, interesting in parts, trying one or two times, but overall, I was very happy to get away for a few days. The drive was long (9 hours), made longer by the torrential rain most of New England saw last Thursday. I was perfectly happy to drive 45-50 miles per hour when I could not see more than 50 feet in front of me.

Budget wise, I was just at/just over my budget. My "fun money" of $150 included two lunches out for my host, some miscellaneous spending money for me, my contribution to the party and I still have some pocket change left over. Gas was the biggest item. Cost to fill up in Maine, $57US. Cost to fill up in New Brunswick $74CN. Gas was $1.29 per liter in New Brunswick. Total gas expenditure for the round trip was $236, I came in under budget for that. Nice to see that when I returned home, the cost per gallon dropped from $4.26 to $4.06-sweet!

The weather did not co-operate much on Friday, rain and more rain, but Saturday was sunny and muggy (New Brunswick has some large mosquito's) and Sunday was sunny and dry. It was the perfect day for the family party.

I will say that this was one of the first weekends in a very long time that I did not think of my bankruptcy. Really, it never crossed my mind, which is completely refreshing.

This is not to say that I obsess about the Bankruptcy, but it's still in my head and I think about it at the most odd times during the day. I see this as really letting myself move onward and upward and getting on to the next stage of life.

Now that I've cleaned out my inbox on my e-mail and my inbox on my desk, I'll finish catching up on my Google reader and start posting again.

Hope you all had a great week!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

It's Vacation Time

I'm off for my weekend mini break. The packing and re-packing of the Escape is a story in it's self. I'm having visions of Chevy Chase and family......

Anyway, since I've not figured out how to schedule posts (I've gotta find out how Saving Diva did it), I won't be posting for the next few days. To follow is a guest post from Tisha Kulak.

Have a great weekend, stay dry (it's raining cats and dogs here in the NE part of the US) and I"ll catch up when I'm back!

Rent is Due – Grab the… Credit Card?

Consumers can pretty much rely on using a credit card for anything they want or need to buy. Credit cards are now accepted at most stores, gas stations, online vendors, and so many more places we visit in our daily lives that we consumers are often only surprised when a place does not accept our plastic.

However, there are still some solid examples of instances where you can not use a credit card. One prime example is when paying rent. For many who pay a monthly rent to a landlord or property owner, it may be the one time a month consumers actually write out a personal check. Consumers have no doubt become accustomed to the convenience of paying bills online and even automatically. Up until recently, landlords and property management companies were almost always paid by check, cash, or money order but now it seems that more and more consumers are getting the option to pay their monthly rent and fees by credit card. Property managers are realizing the effectiveness of offer such options to tenants who have grown used to online credit transactions and it seems it is becoming a more popular way for landlords to conduct business.

Property managers and landlords have access to more software and technology that has been created specifically for their industry so accepting credit cards seems to get less complicated. There are also several third-party vendors on the market who provide contract services to landlords. These vendors are contracted to accept credit card payments from tenants and in many cases, the transactions can be done over the internet. Many more tenants are also enjoying the option and flexibility of paying their rent conveniently with a credit card, especially tenant who can make their monthly payments online.

As convenient and great as this all sounds, the reality is that many consumers should not travel this route. With the increasing costs of rental fees, just one month’s worth of rent can put many consumers in danger of going over their credit limits fairly quickly. While having the option to pay rent with plastic may be a lifesaver in times of emergencies, it should not be considered a way of making ends meet. Essentially what drives people into deep debt is making purchases on a credit card you know you can not afford to pay off at the end of each month. Going over your credit card’s limit will also add the possibility of incurring over the limit fees, increased interest rates, and other penalty charges.

While it may be good for a select few to have the ability to pay rent with credit, most consumers should just chalk it up to a valuable piece of information should they need it and just keep on using the old check book to pay for living expenses.

Tisha Kulak is a writer for, where she writes about offers, finances, credit cards, and responsible credit card use.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Fluffy and Fido

One of my favorite financial writers, Liz Pulliam Weston, writes a column for MSN Money. Her articles are well thought out and very timely. As some of my readers know, I have animals. I own several dogs and they are not only my pets, but my family as well. A recent column deals with the cost of pet ownership . My local NPR station had a broadcast on the cost of pet ownership as well.

A friend of mine breeds dogs. She has been breeding dogs for 20 years, breeds maybe 1-2 litters a year, usually has a waiting list, does her best to screen her puppy buyers and has had very few dogs returned back to her. As a responsible breeder, she has a contract of sale and says she will take back a dog she bred for any reason . Up until this past month, in the past ten years, she had 2 dogs sent back to her, one was due to an unexpected job relocation overseas, the other because the owner died.

This month she has gotten back 2 more dogs, the reason, the buyers could not afford the animals anymore. One person is filing bankruptcy, losing their home and going to live in a non pet apartment, the other family suffered a job loss and a job downsized and simply can not afford to keep the pet. The money spent on food and vet care needs to go towards the family.

I looked at Liz's article, I read her figures and for my area, the costs are higher than what she has in her table. I feed a premium food, which costs me more than $150 a year, I spend about $35 a bag and that lasts not quite a month, I spend about $60 a year on toys, I use a wholesale pet supply company for the toys, and I also buy old children plush toys at tag sales and thrift stores (cutting off any choking hazard or dangerous parts-no squishy beads either, just plush), one my dogs favorite toys is the cardboard roll from the empty paper towel roll. I take advantage of sales at the farmers co-op to buy food, I get a "bulk" discount at my vet by bringing everyone in at the same time for their yearly check up (I only pay one DVM fee of $35 instead of $35 for each pet), I go to the local rabies clinic and pay cash instead of getting the rabies jab at the vet (savings about $3 per dog). I practice good animal husbandry to keep my pets healthy. I have a kennel license (saving about $60 a year). I still spend a fair chunk of change on my pets.

I consider myself lucky, I was able to keep my house after the Bankruptcy which enabled me to keep my pets. Honestly, if I did not have my pets to keep me company during the filing, I'd be on some serious anti-depression meds. If the bank wanted me to sell my house, I would have been hard pressed to find a rental that takes pets, much less the number I have and that would have been devistating to me to have to decide who to give up or sell.

As pointed out in the article, it's important to be realistic about the expenses involved with pet ownership so you can budget appropriately for your pet. Your pet expenses need to be budgeted in like any other budget item. I know what month the license is due, the annual vet check up is to be scheduled for, I can space out the food purchases and I plan my budget with that timeline in place.

Pets are a wonder addition to any family and in tight financial times, we need to plan for their needs as well.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Single Step

For those of you who read PF blogs on a regular basis, may have already read Mrs. Micah and her challenge to do one thing to change your fiscal life for the better.

I did my one thing a couple weeks ago, I called an insurance agent affiliated with the local chamber of commerce and I got a small reduction in my policy. That was for July.

My goal for August is to set up an auto payment to my Roth IRA. It's been an ongoing goal of mine to refund my retirement account and I've done squat all nothing about it. I can set up an auto payment to pay in a set fee each pay period. As I've posted before, I'm not a big fan of auto payments, but I'm only transfering money from one account I own to another and I won't be on a payment deadline. I'm OK with that.

What can you do?

Dear Grocery Store

Dear Grocery Stores (all three of you!)

Why is it that you insist on offering an overwhelming amount of your root vegetables for sale in bags and not loose. I really only needed three small onions for two dishes on Saturday and two small white potatoes, yet it cost me an extra 30c per pound to get loose onions and I had to substitute a baking potato for an all purpose white one? Parsnips-heck those babies only come in a two pound bag and I only needed one singular parsnip.
You all had me over a barrel. I had no desire to drive to the "big city" to do my shopping this week, where at the ethnic market I can get my veg loose, bagged, and in bulk and I missed the local farmers market. I leave in three days for vacation and just needed a few small items. Given my recent "house guest" the less food I have around when I'm not there, the better.

I really don't have any use for 10 pounds of potatoes, heck, I really don't have any use for 5 pounds of potatoes, yet that seems to be the only way to by nice basic small all purpose potatoes. My craving on Saturday was for a root vegetable soup. I needed two small AP potatoes, one small onion, one parsnip, I had the garlic, carrots, ginger and squash, but you made it so difficult to make my soup for two.

I miss those days living in Washington DC and shopping at Eastern Market where you could buy two onions, three potatoes, one small squash and the produce guy would give you a banana for free.

Please grocery stores, put back your sections where you can pick and choose your own onions and potatoes. Those of us who live alone,don't cook that often,or don't have the space, really miss the bulk bins.

A Preview of My Monthly Horoscope

The bold is mine and oh how true this week!

You have endured a long night which has tested your strength, your endurance and moreover, your faith in yourself. You have come through not only alive, but liberated of a sense of burden that you carried around for an unthinkably long time. I suggest you take not a moment but rather every moment you remember to thank yourself for having passed through this series of rather incredible trials. I'm sure that you sense your life has plenty of room for improvement, so you might not want to soak too deeply in gratitude. You may also find yourself in a new state of crisis at this very moment, but it's more like an aftershock than an earthquake. Having completely rearranged the landscape of your life during the past three years, the ground is taking some time to settle. The improvements you are seeking will arrive; not by accident, not by luck, but rather as a result of your willingness to do what is so often considered the least desirable thing in the world: and that is change. One of the reasons for this reluctance, on a structural level, is that it can seem to threaten our relationships. But your relationships are also changing. Someone close to you is maturing, growing and evolving in ways that you would not believe at first, if you could see them clearly. Soon enough, you will, though remember: part of what is implied by growth is independence.

Friday, July 18, 2008

No Budget Done for July, Hope Springs Eternal for August

One goal I had was to do a zero based budget for July. It did not happen for two reasons.

1) With the ever increasing cost of gas, I had no idea what I would spend on transportation.

2) I was a lazy git.

I don't think I'll have a zero based budget for August, but I'm going to work on a more strict one than I've had the past few months. I like the structure of a budget. Keeps me honest and I need to start thinking about Christmas presents (yes, Christmas presents).

It's OK to Say No To Your Friends

I'm T minus 6 days and counting for my little mini break. YEAH FOR ME! My lists are made, road snacks purchased yesterday, trip programmed into the GPS, we are on track. Because I was happy go lucky with my IRS stimulus check, I've been banking my pennies so I can have some cash on hand for the trip. I am being responsible about this!

Part of my "bouncing back" plan has been to re-establish a social life that includes going out for dinner, drinks, the movies, etc. I've been able to do that with modifications to my budget and by carefully picking and choosing my outings. These past two months, I've been a bit of a social butterfly, caught up in summer and opportunities to be with friends and family. Bringing dessert or a bottle of wine or a dish for the pot luck can add up.

Since I want to spend some money guilt free on my trip, I've said "No Thanks, or I'm Sorry, I can't" to 4 invitations in the past 14 days. This has ranged to seeing a play at the local theater to drinks out to dinner at friends. Why, because each event would cost me about $20 to $25-tickets, drinks, snacks, wine or dessert for dinner and I'd prefer to spend that money on my trip right now. I'm thrilled that my company is requested, but right now I'm declining my invites.

When you are in a fiscal management plan (debt reduction, bankruptcy, etc) socializing and going out are not always on the top of the list. From what I read in a lot of blogs, some folks have trouble saying no when it comes to socializing. Some folks seem to have a lot of supposed social obligations and they have to spend $60 on whatever and then complain about no in roads into debt reduction or savings. I realize people make individual choices on how to and on what to spend their money, but then don't complain of a lack of progress (and yes I've done EXACTLY that on many occassions).

I've made the choice to by-pass a couple neat dinners and social opportunities so that I can enjoy my mini break without stress. One or two of my freinds have been a bit taken aback when I turned down their invite, but I've smoothed it over by saying I'm trying to get over this summer cold.

It's OK to say no, just say it nicely!

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Feedburner Count Goes Up, The Feedburner Count Goes Down

and such is life in the blogsphere. But again, thanks to all my readers and lurkers! I'm glad you are around. I will be updating my blog roll later this week to include some new blogs.

Dispatched and Cleaned Up,I'm Still Sniffling & Thank Goodness for Health Insurance

My thrilling and exciting Friday night adventure gave way to a me begging my neighbor to help me solve the "new house guest" issue on Saturday AM, which he did. Yet another reason I just adore my neighbors! I spent Saturday night at a friends house and when I came home on Sunday, to my rodent free home, I scrubbed every inch of my kitchen with soap and bleach, scrubbed and vacuumed my floors, I also put the oven on self clean and proceeded to spend the next two hours outside on a lounge chair resting and reading. The dogs have not shown any interest in the two aforementioned corners of the house and kitchen, I'll take that as a sign it's just us in residence now.

Having this summer cold has been more than a bit of a pain. The only upside is my appetite has gone down and I have no desire in most food. I wandered around the grocery store for 20 minutes yesterday and walked out with one orange. I'll save money on my shopping bills and maybe lose some weight?

The downside is I have been to the doctor three times in the past month for "illness". I think I went to my doctor three times in the past 24 months and most of that was for routine stuff. I have become her new best patient. I have a pretty decent health insurance policy at this job, I have a much more manageable deductible than my old policy which was $3000 for one person and I've been able to use my HSA for medical costs that are not covered by the insurance. I am lucky, for the most part I am healthy and have no on going health issues.

What I did realize when I went to the MD last month, that while I was dealing with the Bankruptcy, I totally missed a year plus of regular preventative medical care-no dentist, no GP visit, no OB/GYN, no eye doctor. I missed them all. One reason was I did not even have the money at times for the co-pay and I was way to proud to say that at check in. Stupid of me in retrospect, you don't mess with your health, but I did. I've never had dental coverage and even a visit to the dentist was $150 for a check up and a cleaning. Last year I did not have the funds to go to the dentist and thus I did not. I'm hoping I won't have to "pay" for it this year when I go in for my check up. I made it a priority for me to go in for those regular check ups this year, you can't mess with your health.

I don't think I was any different than some other folks who are struggling financially. If you have to cut out things, a trip to the dentist for a routine check up can be put off, you wait and see how long the tooth aches before you schedule a visit, you buy extra soft tissues at the store and hope the bad cold does not get worse, you check Web MD, you drink a lot of chicken soup, you take a lot of cough medicine for your cough and hope you don't need an anti-biotic,you do what you can at home. I've read in some blogs where an unexpected trip to the doctor or the need for prescription meds has thrown off someones debt repayment plan and money has to be taken out of the emergency fund to cover those costs.

That is a scary concept. Really scary concept. I wonder how many Americans are either uninsured or under insured and not getting regular medical care because of crushing loads of debt. I know one reason I had fiscal issues is because I had a lot of medical bills for a bunch of tests that ultimately showed I was very healthy, but were not covered by my high deductible plan. I struggled to pay those bills and my other bills for months. I would make $10 payments to the hospital and still have several hundred dollars left in lab fees to pay. I know the statistics for people filing Bankruptcy due in part to crushing medical bills is very high.

My lovely neighbor now has a job with "real health insurance". She is in her late 30's and has not been to the OB/GYN since her last child was born, that was 17 years ago. I almost fell off my chair when I heard this news. She has not had regular preventative medical care in 16.5 years. I, being more than a bit bossy at times, asked when she had her last Pap smear (sorry guys, TMI, I know) and she could not remember. Her response to me was that since she was in a monogamous relationship and she had no reason to believe she needed any continued OB/GYN care. She also stated, she did not have the money to go to the MD for something like that every year, she spent the money on things like pediatrician visits for her children, dentist visits for the kids, putting her family first before her own health. I totally get that, but you still don't mess with your health.

Once I simmered down, I told her that there were places like Planned Parenthood that could provide the annual check up she needed and it was sliding scale. I also told her, monogamous relationship or not, things like a Pap smear need to be done every year. Cervical cancer does not care if you have one partner or multiple partners. I told her Planned Parenthood was not just a place for teenagers to get check ups, lots of adult women go to (myself included). I went as far as to give her web address of Planned Parenthood and strongly suggested she look into an appointment. Her new health insurance should cover a yearly check up and I told her, she should set a positive example for her daughters as well by taking care of herself.

There are resources out there if you are having fiscal problems. Planned parenthood does a sliding fee scale, the local heath department can be a resource for health clinics. If you live near a university town that has a dental school, they may have a student clinic where you can get your teeth done at a low cost under the supervision of a dentist (my dentist has his hygienist do the major teething cleaning anyway, he just pokes for cavities!), many hospitals offer free and reduced cost mammograms, many hopsitals offer assistance based on income as well (my local hospital does), see if you can get a discount if you pay in cash, work out a repayment plan if you must, the list goes on.

Some of these resources may be more readily available if you live in a city or a suburban center, harder to find in the less suburban and rural areas, but I know these resources exist. For those of us with good health insurance or those who live in countries like Canada and the UK where you don't have these worries, consider yourselves blessed. For those of you who are uninsured or under insured (like I was), there are resources out there and please don't take your health for granted.

Saturday, July 12, 2008


And I mean that literally, well, at least one Rat. Gross and disgusting. I was hoping the critter in the house was a baby raccoon or a squirrel, I have access to a have a heart trap and my local animal control officer when I looked in the crawl space, I did not see any signs of raccoon in residence.

Last night around 9 PM, I was doing one last check of my e-mail and the terrier was very interested in my book case which sits just to the right of my desk, almost if not more interested in the corner of the bookcase than she had been at the exterior of the house. A quick look showed me nothing, but the dog would not stop sniffing. I trust her instincts more than I trust my eyes.

I pulled off the fragile items from the book case and pulled it a bit away from the wall. I saw the very long disgusting tail of, not a raccoon or squirrel, but a very large brown rat, sitting on top of my electric baseboard unit and tucked up against the bookcase, not easily accessible. I'm also in the middle of a nasty summer cold and all I wanted to puke. I'm already in my jammies and I'm ready for a hot whiskey and early bedtime. I ran to find my tall heavy duty rubber rain boots, no rat was gonna run across my feet! I could not pull the bookcase far enough away from the wall for the terrier to do it's job. I got the terrier mix and hoped that between the two of them, they might "dispatch the quarry". All I can say is I'm glad no one was there to take a photo, me in my old glasses, hair a mess, long nightshirt and old green wellies.

No such luck, the rat managed to evade the two dogs (despite me trying to get one to work one side of the book case, and one to work the other side) and it ended up under and eventually in my stove. Yup that's right IN my stove. How do I know, because one terrier sat fixated, panting and trying to gnaw off the end of the cupboard and stove. I pulled out the lower storage drawer and stuck my flash light in the bottom of the stove- I could see the rat securely ensconced between the interior and exterior wall of the stove. This channel is not used for much, the interior panel hold the hardware for the storage drawer and the space is the perfect size for rodents to hide. I could hear the rat crawling around the stove. Stoves have lots of empty spaces I found out, perfect for mice and other creatures to hang out.

I ended up moving the stove away from the wall, I could see the freaking rat hiding in the stove. I could not get it nor could the dogs. I had nothing to encourage it to move, all I had was a bottle of Method Cucumber spray. So I sprayed the rat with the Method spray (Method is non toxic, I was more concerned about my dogs than the rat). The rat did move, but to another in accessable section of the stove. I did this dance for about 90 minutes, seriously, I had my stove in the middle of my kitchen and I'm trying to dislodge a rat with Method Cucumber Spray. I finally gave up, I was soo tired and just not functioning.

The only good to come of this was that the floor under my stove got a long overdue mopping. Both terriers spent the night loose and I'm off to the hardware store to get rat sized traps. And I get to mop my floors really really well today. There is a little (nay large) odor of rat remaining. I am spending tonight at a friends house and hoping the traps do their job.

Edit: I just talked to my neighbor-she uses her house only on the weekends and has come up to a mouse and fly infestation. Equally gross.

What has this got to do with personal finance, not much, but hey hopefully the mental picture of someone trying to get a rat dressed in a pink night shirt, green wellies and only armed with a broom and Method Cucumber Spray gives you a laugh this morning.

Friday, July 11, 2008

A Creature is Stirring and I Don't Think It's a Mouse

I live in a fairly rural area. This means sometimes mice take up residence in the house, usually in the fall when the weather turns, sometimes in the summer, they like to live in my crawl space. I sometimes get moles in the yard, the dogs make enough of a ruckus so squirrels steer clear of my house. It all goes with "Country Living".

This year is no exception, but I think I have a bigger critter problem. My dogs, the terriers especially, have been expressing an interest in one exterior corner of my house and they would like to get behind my hot water heater with far too much attention than I would like. The other day I opened my food cupboard to put away a jar and noticed that the three unopened bags of grains had chew marks and holes. The bags were fine on Tuesday. Plus something is trying to get into my garbage can, the lip of the trash bag also has some holes. Mice can jump, but not that high.

Last night I set out a couple mouse traps and at one point in the evening I heard a SNAP, so I figured I'd have some cleaning to do in the morning and went back to sleep. Around 4 AM the dogs started to put up a ruckus and I also heard my veggie basket take a tumble. I went into the kitchen and sure enough, a couple spice jars on the lower spice shelf (I have some open shelving)had been knocked over and one mouse trap closed, but no varmint (yet the dog biscuit I put out as a lure was gone). The terriers were a bit frantic, what ever had been in the kitchen was gone (or has gone back to my basement crawl space).

Soooo, I will have to take this to a new level. I'm really hoping that whatever is in my house will beat feet. The noisy terriers will spend this evening sleeping loose, I'll take a flashlight and look in the crawl space. I don't mind sharing my outdoor space with natures creatures, I do mind them helping themselves to my hard to find french lentils......

A Discount Just for Asking

My office belongs to our local Chamber of Commerce. I actually read the Chamber newsletter last week, and lo and behold, there was a blurb about getting a discount if you insured your house and or car through a particular agency.

This agency recently "took over" the insurance office that writes my car insurance policy. I called, left a message, and found out yesterday that since I work for a business that is a member of the Chamber of Commerce, I am eligible for a 10% discount on my car insurance. Yea Ha! A little less money I have to fork over. Plus my policy comes up for renewal and the one claim I had (I backed into a co-workers car and dented her side panel-on her husbands very expensive BMW-Ouch), rolls off too. Since I have no other accidents or tickets (knock wood), I'm looking at a premium drop of at least 15% if not closer to 20%. Sweet as they say.

I maintain a membership in the Farm Bureau of my state so I can take advantage of the discount they offer on a variety of businesses, I got a Triple A membership because I do travel a lot on weekends and various places give Triple A discounts (hotels especially) plusI like the peace of mind, and now as a fringe benefit, I get the Chamber of Commerce discount as well. Triple A and Farm Bureau "dues" cost me about $100 year and I've already gotten about $200 in various discounts.

If you work in a small business (and even a larger one) that is a member of your local Chamber of Commerce, call them up and see what benefits and discounts you may be eligible for. The entire process took less than 10 minutes of my time and I will be saving close to $175 if not more on my car insurance alone this year. It doesn' t hurt to ask!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Mini Break Planned And That Is A Good Thing!

With some things going on in my life, money aside, I've not really had a great opportunity this past year and a half to take a vacation that is not combined with a work trip or some other obligation to my time other than to be on vacation.

I have, however, made arrangements to go to Canada the end of July for a long weekend, specifically for 5 days total, two days will be travel days. I am loading up the car and a friend and I are splitting the gas and heading North of the Border to New Brunswick. We are staying with some of her family members (this is a family related trip for her) so our housing costs are null. My friend's husband will be on a two week work trip that he can not get out of, I'm the substitute driver! We are going to split the gas and we plan on doing next to nothing, canoeing, BBQing, swimming, drinking, and resting pretty much is what is on the agenda. While my friend is off on family obligations (specifically a christening for a niece on the "other side" of the family), I'll have most of the day for R and R.

I'm budgeting $150 for gas, which may be on the low side, $150 in miscellaneous expenses and I have to figure out some sort of a hostess gift and double check about our food contribution to the Saturday night BBQ. The original plan was for her husband to buy a bunch of food for the BBQ but I made it clear I can not afford to cover a Surf and Turf BBQ, I'll contribute something (case of beer, couple bottles of wine, buy some BBQ fixings), but I'm not going to go overboard. Had I not blown through my stimulus check, I'd only have $150 to apportion out. I'll make it work, I have some money in my ING account that I can tap into (and I'm only talking about an additional $100). I am so looking forward to this and it's T minus 15 days until departure.

Spending Triggers

My economic stimulus check is here and spent. And that is NOT a good thing. My original plan was to put $300 in savings/EFund, use $150 for clothes and save $150 for a weekend trip at the end of the month. Instead, I've pretty much blown through the whole check.

What did I spend money on?

$180 on clothes.
$200 to repay back a friend who loaned me some money for my real estate fees.
$60 out of the ATM spent on crap.
$125 on hobby expenses.

That comes to $565 meaning I have $35 left to go into my E Fund. Pathetic, really pathetic. I had budgeted the clothes, so I'm not too torqued over that, I went a little over budget but got some much needed new clothes that will last a long time. I was not finding clothes at my local consignment and thrift shops and said to myself, just buy what you need. Sometimes you have to buy retail! The money spent on clothes was done guilt free.

I was loaned $600 by a friend to get my real estate fees covered way back in January. Since the market has been so slow and I have no upcoming sales (or any real estate related income). I wanted to start to repay the money. This money was a loan/gift, it came from an old friend who out of the blue gave me the money with no set repayment date until I sell my first house (and that is in writing from him to me). I wanted the "bill" gone, so I sent him a check, which, I might add, he cashed pretty quickly, like the day he got it.

I have no explanation as to why I felt the need to spend $185 on hobby expense and misc. I just went out and bought crap with money from this check instead of budgeting into my monthly expenses, which would have been the smart thing to do. I have some upcoming medical bills that need to be paid from my last round of doctor visits (things not covered by my insurance), I need to do an oil change in the Escape before I take off on a mini break the end of the month and I will need some additional cash for the trip as well.

Part of why this outflow of cash happened is because of the following reasons.

1) I got my economic stimulus check.
2) I covered my car payment with my extra work and did not have that payment hanging over my head.
3) I've picked up some mortgage photo work (like 6 properties in the past week alone, that's two tanks of gas).
4) I deposited the check to my E Fund checking account instead of my credit union because that bank was closer to me than the credit union.

I was feeling flush with cash and I spent it. What would have been the smarter thing was to stick it into my credit union savings account instead of my "so-easy-to-use-the-debit-card-emergency fund-checking account". I had that debit card in my wallet for some reason and I used it. I usually only carry it when I have to travel long distances and may need access to that account, that was not the case this weekend. I was fairly local. Had I put the check directly into my credit union account, I doubt I would have blown through $385. I would have split the deposit and still made the $200 payment back to my friend.

I guess I did exactly what the government intended to do with the stimulus check, which was to spend it on consumer goods. My plan was to save it. I HAVE to get over that I've got cash flush feeling and remember I have upcoming bills to pay. Had I not gone crazy go nuts, I would have met my goal of $2000 for my Emergency Fund like today.

Yes I am kicking myself, I know better. I know that I have flush with cash feeling and I need to get better about recognizing it and I need to think three times before spending my moola. So close, yet so far, I feel like I sabotaged myself and undid a lot of fiscal re-training I've been working on.

Monday, July 7, 2008

A Contest at Almost Frugal

Almost Frugal is giving away some gift cards. Here is the link!

Surf by the blog and enter for your chance to win a $10 gift card!

It's Official, I am a Technology Inept-At Least On Blogger

OK, so I was correct, trying to schedule the Auto Posts did not work. I do have some nice posts in the drafts folder that I will re-upload later today.

I will say the weekend was busy. I love this second job, it gets stressful at times, but there is great satisfaction seeing a job well done. The folks I work with are very nice, we had a very nice hotel (and I made great use of the hot tub to soothe my sore back and feet) and I was happy to get home last night. I am going to have to invest in some good supportive boots for this job. The pair I have are old and have lost foot support-or maybe I'm getting old :).

Hope everyone had a safe and happy holiday weekend.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Month Starts Off on A Good Foot

It's only July 2nd, but some good things have been happening, so I am pleased. I entered a raffle last month at a local kitchen supply store and TA DA, I won one of the prizes. I also got a message on my mobile phone from someone who is looking for some help in organizing their home office.

Organization, I do it very well and I will talk to this person about re-organizing her office and files. I don't know if she wants a one time flat fee job or a stop in a couple times a month and help to organize. Either way, this is a good thing. I'll earmark the money towards next months car payment.

Plus, I have this weekend of work at my "second job" and the folks I'll be working with are a good group. The weather won't be beastly hot, we have nice accommodations, my own animals are taken care of.

I did try to schedule a couple posts to "auto post" this weekend. Not sure if it will work, the last time I did that, I posted all on the same day and not on the scheduled days. Sometimes I am such a technology dork. If there is no posting during the holiday weekend, it's because I can't AUTO SCHEDULE.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Grocery Store Clerk Just Made Me Feel OLD

I grew up in the late 1970's and early 1980's. I'm in my early 40's. When I was a teenager the only diet drinks were Fresca and TaB. I, to this day, love TaB. I love the girly pink and silver can, I love the fact that it is made with saccharine instead of all NutraSweet. I get a 12 pack of TaB as a present each year on my birthday from a friend. I usually only take it with me on road trips and as an occasional treat for home and work. It's hard to find in most places of America, Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi have taken over the soda aisle. My grocery store still sells it in 6 packs, sometimes I can find it in a 2 liter bottle, occasionally in a 12 can fridge pack. I don't "do" TaB energy drink, it's not TaB at all.

I stopped at the grocery store this am to pick up some "road snacks" for my upcoming weekend work (carrot sticks, bottled water and a 6 pack of TaB). The check out clerk looked to be about 16 and he said, "What is TaB?" I explained to him the brief history of TaB as I know it. He said the first time he ever saw the product was when he got his clerk job and of course, he said, "All these older ladies buy it". Yes in the eyes of the 16 year old clerk, I am an older lady.

Ah yes young man, all these ladies do buy it and I can tell you from experience, lots of men my age snitch it out my cooler as well. But boy, I did feel old for a few minutes this AM.

Christmas In July

I have three charities that I contribute money to on a yearly basis. I have a tradition of donating to "my" charities in July.This is especially true of the local food bank/pantry that gets flooded with food donations and contributions in November and December. People need to eat in the summer as well and I think lots of times we forget that fact in the pressure to make sure everyone one has a turkey for their Thanksgiving table.

Many times the grocery store will have a box by the front door for donations of canned and non perishable items, but I've noticed that box seems to be MIA in the summer.

For the past couple of years I've been buying a gift card to the local grocery store and mailing it to my local food bank. I buy what amount I am able to give (some years it's only $10 some years its $50, one year it was 5 cans of beans, that was all I could afford), but I try to make sure that I give in the summer. I actually bought the card this am on my way to work and posted it in the noon mail drop. One GOOD thing off my list for July.

While we are all caught up in our debt reduction, savings and bankruptcy proceedings, please take a few minutes to donate what you can to the charity of your choice. I realize that for some folks, you may not have any money to spare, but if your grocery store has a food donation box, please take the time to at least buy some items to donate.