Monday, December 29, 2008

Needs, Wants, and The Safe Zone for 2009

I was digging through my computer the other day and found this post. I don't think I ever posted it, but if I did, here's a repeat with some changes. I think what I wrote in June is very appropriate this December day.

I posted one time that I need a nemesis. Actually, I need some goals to strive for that will challenge me AND give me some satisfaction. Right now I feel like I'm sort of going on auto pilot and in Safe Mode. I'm making some progress, but honestly, I don't feel like I have any goals that really motivate me to make me make drastic changes to my life. The odd situation with my full time job bothers me, but not enough to motivate me to make a change. This is the time of the year when people set goals, make New Year's Resolutions, they formulate SMART plans, they formulate KISS plans. They at least make plans. I am (at the time of this writing) struggling with a needs/wants and goals list for 2009.

I've been using these past couple days to look at my true needs and wants. I have very few needs at the moment that are not met. I have several wants, but they are not big ones and I can live without most of them. I have work that pays my expenses and gives me some extra money. I have very few wants that really drive me out of my Safe Zone. I am not bouncing back as much as I think I can or should be. I should be doing more with my life and my skills.

After my discharge, my biggest want was trying to find a way to get a new to me car. It ended up being easier than, and not as, humiliating as I thought it could be. I am paying a double digit interest rate due to the bankruptcy, but I have a manageable car note and more importantly, a reliable car that works. I've been slowly working on my Emergency fund goal of $2,000. I've been close to that goal of $2,00 a few times this year, but have dipped into the fund for true emergencies and some not so true emergencies. Probably the biggest motivation I have righ now is to fully fund the Emergency Fund account.

Honestly, being in Safe Mode is very comforting. I'm not taking chances, I'm coasting and it's safe. After spending most of 2007 and part of 2008 stressing over the Bankruptcy (pre, post and during), I LIKE the Safe Mode. Safe Mode is not going to make me a better person, Safe Mode is not going to challenge me to be a better person post bankruptcy, Safe Mode is not going to let me grow. BUT IT'S SAFE.

I think a lot of people who are post Bankruptcy like the Safe Mode. Let's face it, the phone is not ringing night and day with collection agencies and credit card companies looking for you, the mail is not full of dunning letters and final demands, hopefully you still have your home. There is some semblance of peace and quiet and that is safe and comforting, but this needs to change so I can bounce back even more.

I am in Safe Mode and I need to be out of it. I don't want to be in Crisis Mode, I want to be in Positive Action Mode. I am working, no struggling with a new needs and wants list. I need a new baseline to work off of and from to get out of Safe Mode and into Postive Action Mode

So, what's next? I need to sit down this weekend and look at where I've been and where I want to go. I need to look at that list of needs and wants and find what can re-motivate me to tackle the list head on and make 2009 a much better year than 2008.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Not As Restful As I Would Like

I "took off" this weekend from the latest second job, thinking it would be good to be home to rest and get some chores done. I had an arm's length list of things to do,just did not want to trek out to the second job and feel like I had to cram my to do list into a couple hours on Friday. I wanted to stay home and Get Things Done.

In reality, not much got done. I did do my laundry (3 loads at the laundromat), I managed a run to the town dump, I re-arranged my Living Room area (it's only moving a chair and a small loveseat). I did have a second Christmas with some old friends and their family on Saturday. That was very nice, but did take up almost the entire day, when I thought we would only do a meal for a couple of hours.

I had hoped to do things like take a nap, actually several naps, sleep in, watch a lot of old DVDs, roast something for Sunday lunch....

It was way too warm to turn on the oven today and do a roast meal, I ate the last of my frozen pizza slices instead. I only managed one nap and did not get to sleep in, the dogs are on a very early schedule now a days. Non the less, I don't feel like I am as rested as I should be.I'm hoping to have a quiet week so I can feel rested and ready and able to take on the new year!

Hope you all had a great weekend!

Friday, December 26, 2008

A Holiday Recap

It was a good day yesterday. I like a low keyed holiday, I really do. I had a great dinner with friends and best of all, NO INSANE EXCHANGE OF GIFTS!. There is something to be said about having a meal with friends and it being a no present type of thing. The two friends who were supposedly giving gifts did, but they were very small items (the scarf) and some soap I like. Nor did said friends seem upset that I did not have anything to give back to them.

I did end up with a couple nice presents, the new scarf, a calender, a couple bottle of cheer, a gift card and an unexpected $50 check from my uncle. I deposited the check to my account and promptly sent him a thank you note.

I decided that my holiday presents to myself this year will be

1) A new DVD player

2) A new feather bed (provided I can find one under $85).

3) A $30 Shopping Spree at IKEA.

I usually meet up with some friends at IKEA on New Years day to wander the store and we have lunch in their cafe. I need a few little things for the kitchen and I can probably find them at IKEA.

My DVD player has been on it's last legs for over a year and I cross my fingers and pray each time I put a DVD in that the machine will "boot up" and play. For $30 I can find a suitable replacement. Since my TV/DVD watching season has arrived, I would really like to have a DVD player that works.

Hopefully, you had a nice day with family and friends!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Festivus

The Festivus Pole

The tradition begins with a bare aluminum pole, which Frank praises for its "very high strength-to-weight ratio." During Festivus, an unadorned aluminum pole is displayed, apparently in opposition to the commercialization of highly decorated Christmas trees, and because the holiday's creator, Frank Costanza, "find[s] tinsel distracting." Local customs vary and you may be able to decorate your pole with non-threatening plain decorations, or ordinary green garland.

The Airing of Grievances

At the Festivus dinner -- a meal featuring non-holiday comfort food -- each participant tells friends and family all of the instances where they disappointed him or her that year.

The Feats of Strength

The head of the family tests his or her strength against one participant of the head's choosing. Festivus is not considered over until the head of the family has been pinned to the ground. A participant is allowed to decline to attempt to pin the head of the family only if they have something better to do instead.


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

What I Did At Work Day 2

Installed our new fax machine.

Restocked the copier with paper.

Vacuumed the break room.

Continued to listen to corny Holiday music.

Balanced our petty cash account.

Used my "lunch break" to pick up my second to last holiday gift, some jewlery that was repaired, stopped at the bank for work, stopped and topped off my car with gas.

My Christmas Cactus is Blooming-for Christmas

Last year it bloomed in November, this year just in time for Christmas!

Monday, December 22, 2008

What I'm Doing At Work Today

Dragged out the furniture polish and really cleaned and polished my desk
Restocked the other two satellite desks in the office with new pens,pencils, post its, etc (mainly to prevent people from nicking my things)
Dumped all the old magazines out of the lobby/waiting area and into the recycle bin
Shamlessly surfed the web to find my Chrismas Present to myself (a little comparison shopping now for purchase after Christmas).
Shamelessly read a bunch of blogs
Am listening to corny holiday tunes

Oh yeah, my boss left yesterday for a week's vacation and EVERYONE is out of the office today, except for me. 

I did do a bunch of small work related chores, it's not been a total abuse of company time.

The Temptation to Shop Was Removed

I posted the other day that I was feeling pressure (all mine, all internal) to shop for additional gifts to give to some people I'm having Christmas lunch with. They were not on my list and I was starting to put myself in a small panic about what to get and how much to spend.  Part of me just could not show up at dinner without "something" in hand.  This is a habit I have to break.

I left the second job yesterday afternoon and left my briefcase/bag sitting in the house.  I did not realize I left my "life" at the second job. Thank goodness a projected quiet week at the office means I won't be missing my work files all that much.  I had my wallet in the car and had stopped to gas up the Escape.  At some point during the drive home, I realized my briefcase was sitting on a chair in the dining room. I keep my bag on a bench in the front hall and from the hall items go into the car.  I had not put the bag in it's usual spot(I am such a creature of habit) and when I did my last walk thru, probably assumed the bag was in the car, with my suitcase and laundry-WRONG!

How did this remove the temptation to shop? Simply by the fact the bag with my lists of potential presents(and the last of my holiday cards to be mailed), my checkbook, and credit card wallet  is not in my possession makes me less inclined to shop.  I have enough cash in my wallet to make it until Thursday (I'll pick up my briefcase on my way to Christmas lunch), I can't spent the cash on extra presents and I have absolutely no plans to run to the bank to get extra cash either. 

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Feeling Better About the Second Job Situation

Last week at this time I was sitting in the same spot almost in tears about a comment made to me.   This week, I'm feeling a lot better and have put some things into perspective. I do want to thank everyone who commented on that particular post, your words were a great help.

I have to keep reminding myself that I am doing what needs to be done to pay my bills and make money.  I have to remind myself that I am fortunate that I have a two jobs that allow me to pay these bills.  There are folks that don't even have one job.  I have to remind myself that the comment made to me was a bit spiteful and yes hurtful, but WHO CARES what the reason was that precipitated the job offer.  I  have a job that allows me to make up the lost wages at my "full time" job. 

The trainer in question was here at the barn this weekend, is happy with the arrangement and is happy with me and my work. He is obviously not at a show, clinic or workshop this weekend or next, but home and still employing me to do this work.  I ran into my other trainer at the coffee shop this week who said, "So I guess I've lost you to Trainer X from now on, I hear it's all working out for you."  I told my first trainer (my original second job boss) that when show season came back in full force if he wanted me to work for him, I would do it, he was closer to home (just the next town over and trainer X knows that is a possibility, but for the time being, yes I'm working for Trainer X.  

My thanks to everyone who took the time to read that long post and to comment.  I appreciate the support!

The Upcoming Week's Schedule and How It Affects My Budget

This week is a bit crazy for me, both in terms of a schedule and what I now am going to be spending.  I was  pretty strict with my present budget this year. I did give myself a small budget for "overages and unexpected purchases", and the operative word is small. I narrowed my list down to the few folks I truly want to spend money on and my plans for the upcoming week are all falling together.

Saturday and Sunday: Work at Barn, try to go to friends Hanukkah party on Sunday night on my way home if the weather co-operates. We are getting a weekend of snow here in New England-Think Bing Crosby's White Christmas!  I'll try to post a photo of my view.
Monday and Tuesday: Work a normal schedule.
Wednesday: Work a half day, pick up dessert from fancy pastry shop for Christmas, go home, put feet up and relax.  Supposed to go have Christmas Eve dinner with friends, may just stay home and watch Love, Actually, may head off to a mid-day matinee at the local movie theater (they traditionally have a Christmas eve matinee). The weather will dictate what I do. 
Thursday: Hopefully sleep in, but probably up early anyway, open a few presents, get dressed and head off to a mid-afternoon Christmas lunch/dinner. I'm thinking about making a nice spicy Bloody Mary to have with my Christmas breakfast.
Friday: Work (yuck!), maybe meet up with a relative who is unexpectedly coming in from out of state. My boss at my regular job is out of town and I'm stuck being in the office. 
Saturday and Sunday: ?

I have the option of working next weekend at the barn sitting job, but I may pass and pass on the cash for the sole reason I'm tired! Right now, at this point, I'm just not feeling motivated in any way, shape or form to drive back to the barn next weekend. I think I'd like to stay at  my house. I've not been home for a weekend since the middle of November.  I'll happily work the weekend after New Years, but I'm leaning towards taking this weekend off.

I'm having my Christmas meal with a group of friends, I know everyone except one person who is coming and I found out via the ever (and this time, very) reliable grapevine that two of the guests are bringing presents for me.  This was not supposed to be a present exchanging kind of a party.  I do have a small gift for the host and hostess and one other person that I know well (I'm recycling a gift for them). Sigh, I'm feeling like I need to go out and shop for the other two or more guests.  I really don't want to and I'm hoping the "moment will pass".  I have no desire to go and shop for 8 other people. They were not on my list!

Ah well, it is what it is. 

An Unexpected Surprise

I have been posting about my job and the reduction of hours that has occurred. I've not posted about some of the other issues that have cropped up with the reduction in hours, other than the payroll schedule change. My reduction in hours also meant (unknown to me and my fault for not asking up front) that I no longer get paid for holidays (like Thanksgiving, Christmas, Christmas Eve and New Years Eve day) that I had in the past and there is also going to be a change in how I earn vacation time.  I found out the unhappy way, when I opened my paycheck last week and did not see my "holiday" pay.  At least for now I still have my medical benefits.

I did, however, get a very unexpected surprised. I got a call from our finance department and I am getting a holiday bonus, it's $900.  I am going to use part of that to  buy myself a holiday present and put the remainder in my E-fund.  I'll get that bonus on my month end check, due to a mix up at the payroll department, it did not make my pre-Christmas check.

It's the little things that can really make my day!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Working This Weekend! That's A Good Thing!

I'm scheduled to work this weekend. Yea  actually! I finish my work week tomorrow at my "full time job" and I will have a some time to clean my house, wrap the few holiday presents, you know, get some "stuff" done around the house. I won't be rushing around like a crazed woman, trying to cram in a lengthy to do list of projects and chores before I head out the door. 

My bank book/E Fund will be grateful as well.  I do have to have a conversation with both jobs after the new year to figure out what's happening with them.  This schedule is good for now, but I'm craving an extended stretch of me time (can you save overdue vacation). I don't want to burn completely out.

I am getting ready to head out to a Holiday Party. My office is not having one this year (again no surprise there!).  One of my friends has asked me to be her "date" to her office party. Her boyfriend is out of town this week.   We decided that we will go and have a great time, eat some good food, have a few drinks and enjoy her employers hospitality!

Got the New Credit Card Bill, Paid the New Credit Card Bill

I got a notice in my e-mail-Your Credit Card Statement is Ready. I logged in to my account, checked out the purchases to make sure everything was as it should be, then made a payment for the full balance. The choice was $15 minimum payment or pay in full $170. I paid in full the $170. I had budgeted out the funds, I had been treating my new credit card as a debit card. There was only one $14 purchase I had forgotten I made, but I had thought I made that particular purchase with my debit card. No biggie, the funds had been allocated. I now have my new credit card paid in full. That is a good thing!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Trying to Support A Local Business Can Be Tough

I try to shop as locally as possible and support our local small businesses. Today was my restock the kitchen at work day. Seems food shopping is my theme for yesterday and today. I needed about 5 items and figured I'd pick them up at our local market instead of hitting the grocery store on my way to work tomorrow.

Yesterday I bought a jar of mayo for $2.79. I saw the same jar-brand and size- at our local market for $7.99, yup $7.99. We don't need mayo at work, I just happened to be doing a little comparison shopping. I was more than a bit surprised to see the dramatic mark up between the chain store and the small local market. That's a $5.20 difference!

For most of my office shopping, I'd rather support the local business and purchase our snack food and misc coffee break items there, but the costs have gone through the roof. Our office has a budget too. I can understand that the market's costs have gone up, but wow, what a difference in price between the two stores.

Monday, December 15, 2008

I Spent $58.66 on What?

Today was payday (and nope, no holiday bonus as I suspected might happen this year), but it was also time to go grocery shopping. I made my list and checked it not twice, but three times. I had some cash in hand and my meal planning from the cupboards has been pitiful. It was time to restock so I could meal plan from the cupboards and not wander aimlessly around the grocery store as I am apt to do.

I won't bore you with the entire list of things I bought, but I pretty much stuck to my list-actually, I did stick to my list except for three items. 1) a bouquet of flowers 2) Frozen Turnip Chunks (I love turnips, just hate to peel and cook them) and 3) some Ellios Frozen pizza slices(dinner). I did shop the specials, but since my pantry has been low on a number of staples, I had to restock. Peanut butter, mayo, red wine vinegar, pasta, paper goods, etc. I was very happy to find that the store had an ample supply of loose bulk onions. I was able to pick up a couple pounds of onions in assorted sizes, which is good. It's been a pet peeve of mine that I'm forced to buy bagged produce. I like to pick and choose! I did get a $3 off my next purchase coupon. I may have spent close to $60, but I feel well stocked up. I do have to pick up a few more items but I can probably pick most of those up at Aldi.

I got some inspiration shopping the reduce produce isle. I picked up enough veg to feed 4 people for about $3. The reduced produce isle can be hit or miss, but it was a hit today. The veg will be chopped up and made into either a root vegetable stew or a vegetable curry to simmer happily away in the crock pot.

For the past month, I've been shopping as needed when I've been planning my meals and using up most of my cupboard staples. I've not done a food shop of any great size since, um October?. While I did spend $58.66, I think I'll end up cutting back my grocery bill. When I 'shop per meal" I end up buying items I don't necessarily need, but I pick them up anyway. I'll walk into the grocery store to buy some veg and fruit, then wander the isles looking for whatever. Not good.

Oh well, it may have been $58.66, but now I have a cupboard of food and can plan some meals that are actually exciting and fun to eat!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

This Is When The Insecurity Sets In...Or It Could Be The Full Moon Again

I really wanted to write a post on how I'm going to try to work on some creative visualization techniques in my life and give you an example of how I've successfully used them in the past. Instead I'm almost in tears because of a phone call I made earlier today.

This is the third (or fourth) time I've re-written this post.

It's hard to bounce back from Bankruptcy, from lots of debt, and from many other things. It's hard to do it when you have a supportive spouse/significant other,  even harder if you are "doing this alone".  As I've posted before, as far as I know, my BK filing is not common knowledge to almost all my friends. I've only told two people and I just don't discuss it outside of this blog. I don't.  I still carry a lot of BK issues with me, I'm working on getting over them.  Honestly, I'm no longer bankrupt, I'm post bankrupt.  I just have a BK on my credit report. Onward and upward as they say.

I try to look on the positive side of things. I really do.  Yet today, one comment from one person almost brought me to tears.  This whole BK, job, relearning how to be a fiscally responsible adult again, getting credit again, my work hours getting temporarily cut, the feeling better about myself, the year has had it's ups and downs to say the least.   That plus the fact I've had some issues with how I'm handling my relationships with my various friends has been a new learning curve as well. To put it mildly, it's been a real eye opener for me.

A call today to my friend K just to say hello and catch up resulted in a comment that left me so upset.  It was the tone, context and the way it was said.  Pretty much I was told I should be grateful I had a second job, and that the second job was given to me based solely on this persons personal recommendation and that the trainer who offered me the job pities me.

The conversation that prefaced this comment had almost nothing to do with me or this job.   I called K to find out how she was, I wanted to leave me and my issues out of it.  My work, lack of work, second jobs, issues with elderly friend, etc were not germaine to the conversation. I dislike being called by someone and having the entire conversation be about them and their issues. In fact, I've made a point this year to NOT make those types of phone calls.   K asked me about the second job and I said it's going OK for now, the trainer has barn coverage, he has told me he is happy it's working out for both of us, I have work, he has coverage and we are taking it from there.  

K then says in this tone of voice that is supposed to be supportive, but really comes across as condescending, the above statement.  K has had a run of "good luck" as they say. Actually, really good luck.   A great promotion at her job, a new boyfriend, her parents have offered to help her purchase a new house, she was selected to fill a prestigous position in our hobby club (over me and one other person I might add), plus some other good things.  Which, when she said the above statement to me, really made me wonder why she said it.  I really don't think I took her comment out of context.  I thought about what she said and it was just spiteful. It was not supportive or helpful.

I'm not happy that I'm forty some odd years old with a MA doing the work a responsible 17 year old kid could do.  The biggest difference between me and the 17 year old kids that work here is I can stay overnight, they have to go home to mom and dad. But I'm doing what I have to do to make ends meet.  Part of me is terrified that I will get laid off from my full time job and I'm still behind on an E-Fund that should have been well funded by this time of the year.  I still have a lot of money issues I'm working through. And I don't have a "support" system as she does to fall back upon.

Part of me now wonders if I got this job because of the pity factor, let's face it, this trainer and I don't cross paths very often, I'm not in his backyard, and he probably could have found someone closer to home. Part of me wonders if I was just in the right place at the right time and this has worked out for the both of us. No matter what, the comment really upset me.  I may need a job, but I don't need someone's pity. And I sure don't need K's.

Cash In Hand

When I got to the second job this weekend,  a paycheck was waiting for me on the kitchen table.  This is a good thing! I went to the bank yesterday, cashed it and immediately  put the bulk of it in an envelope to be deposited to my E-fund.  I grabbed $60 for me and the rest will go to my checking account.

I've made it to the next payday (with not a lot left over) and this upcoming check from my "full time job"  will cover the mortgage, student loan, car insurance and phone bill will some left over.  So far I've not had to dip into my E-fund.  So Far.  Last year I got a small holiday bonus.  It came on the paycheck that will be in my account on Monday.  Honestly, I am not expecting ANYTHING this year.  For a while I had sort of hoped that I would get a small bonus, but once my hours got cut, I figured-There goes the bonus!

I had a couple hours off this afternoon, I'm getting a routine down (which is good!) and I ran some errands.  One errand took me past a local mall where the off ramp from the highway was backed up a good 1/2 from the mall exit.  Even with a wad of cash burning in my pocket and the knowledge that my checking account had enough cash in it, I had NO desire to go out and spend money, on my self, on presents, or on anything.  I did get gas in my car.  Price at the local pump, $1.53 a gallon.  It was nice to fill up the Escape and not pay $60!

The trainer I am working for called to check in.  This area of New England had a "wicked bad" rain and ice storm.  Where I'm staying was just south of the rain/snow line and it was all rain here.  Cold, raw, miserable rain, but rain.  Not too far north, lots of ice, downed power lines, and broken tree branches.  A friend of mine in Southern New Hampshire is still without power and it might not come back on until Monday or Tuesday.   He's living in front of his fireplace for the time being and hoping the pipes don't freeze.  I called home and the lovely neighbors said we only got rain in our town and all was well.  Which is a good thing!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A Few Updates And Some Random Thoughts

Just a few updates here.

I had a no spend day! Yeah! My first in ages-no grocery store, no gas station, no post office, no coffee/tea stops.  It's the things like needing two onions or postage because I ran out of stamps that breaks the no spend day cycle.

My elderly friend is in deep denial about her medical condition, she has been in and out of hospital and a rehab facility for just over two months.  She can not live on her own and has tried (unsuccessfully) to live with other friends. She got upset with our mutual friend D and myself when we suggested that we all look for an assisted living facility. She now refuses to move back in with D because D and I (and to a certain point elderly friends MD) agree she may be better off in assisted living, at the minimum, she needs a professional caregiver around for most of the day. The situation is not good.

I think I have a permanent home for one of elderly friends dogs.  Poochie 2 has found a new home, it's a family with two children around the ages of 8-10. So far, so good, keep your fingers crossed and keep happy thoughts for this Poochie.  Just having one dog out of the house has changed the dynamic and the others are happier. Poochie 1 and Poochie 2 really don't like each other and it was interesting setting up a feeding/walking schedule to keep everyone safe and me sane.  Plus Poochie 2 needs a family to love her, she was just not getting all the love she so deserves at my house.

I've decided that even with my job situation I am way overdue for a vacation to the UK to visit my friends.  I am going to find a frugal and sensible way to make a trip happen in either March or April.  I am going to really focus my energy and thoughts on making sure this happens. I've usally been very lucky finding decent airfares to the UK.  More on this in another post.

My effort to sell a bunch of books and CDs on went well. It was not so much about the money as it was for me to work on a little decluttering.  I probably would have left those items on my shelf, but my reduction in hours spurred me to spend the 10 minutes it took to update my inventory. I only have a few items left to sell and if they don't sell by Christmas, I'm packing them up and donating them to a charity shop.

I will finish my 90% of my Christmas shopping on Tuesday.  I have a couple small things to pick up, but can do that a few days before the holiday itself.

The whole wheat pasta must be growing on me. I ate it for dinner last night and it was not so bad. OR it could be that I was hungry and just ate the food anyway.

I'm almost "caught up" on all my laundry. I have a bunch of jackets and blankets that are coming wth me to the second job this weekend. I am going to get everything washed and dried.  I will also probably donate a couple of the jackets I'm no longer using/wearing to a Charity shop as well. It's part of the decluttering process. These are not trendy or stylish coats, but they are warm and practical and if someone else can use them, great. They get a new life with someone else and I get space on my limited hanging rack.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Holiday Present List

My Present List 2009

Friend K: A novelty tee shirt-already purchased and given last month. Cost $13
Friends R and S: I'm having Christmas lunch with R and S and their family. My contribution/present is a dessert from a gourmet local bakery, plus two jars of gourmet mustard I found at a local store (these folks love mustard). Cost $45
Friends P and L: One bottle of Whiskey, one bottle of  acceptable Port, some other small treats: Cost $60
Friend T: A bottle of gin. $25
Friend D: Two small Yankee Candles $20
Lovely Neighbors: Don't want to do a present exchange this year, they are having money problems, but I am going to get them something not to exceed $30. They have been great watching my house and helping me with the animals. It will be a present from the poochies and not from me.

My total budget for holiday presents is just under $200. This does not include my present to myself, yet to be decided, but most likely not to exceed $60.  I've pared down the list to the nearest and dearest to me. I am getting presents only for those friends who have been "good' and "there" for me this year-no questions asked, especially when I was having a meltdown about something!  I would be very remiss not to do something for them.

The easy and nice part is that 90% of this shopping can be done at my local liquor store, in and out in 15 minutes. It's easy to do when the few I'm buying for are quite happy with a "liquid" present. Plus I get to support a local business.  I'm not doing presents for many of the others I've done presents for in the past, I just don't have the budget. I've limited the number of acceptances to the various holiday get togethers this year as well.  One because I've been barn sitting on weekends and two because it also gets me out of the obligatory bottle of cheer I always feel compelled to bring to the party.  Part of me does miss the parties, getting dressed up, eating good food, seeing people, I like a good party!

How goes your list and shopping?

How Far Can $10 Go?

I cashed my $10 check and went traipsing off to the grocery store last night. I spent $3.13 on one bottle of tonic water, one bottle of ginger ale and a bottle of grated horseradish sauce. I have $6.87 left to spend on food between now and Monday morning.

My biggest complaint about my local grocery store is it is next to impossible to purchase things like onions, all purpose potatoes and some other basic veg unless they are pre-packaged in bags of 3,5 and 10 pounds or four to five peppers to a shrink wrapped carton.  This seriously irks me. I'm trying to be a good, thrifty person and all I needed was two very small onions. I could buy a 3lb bag of onions for $2.69 or a big sweet onion for 99c per pound. I've blogged about this before. I like selecting my own produce, I like getting the tactile sensation of going through a pile of peppers to find the "right ones". I really wish my local grocery store would have more bulk bins. I left the grocery store without the onions, knowing I had one big one at home I was planning on bringing with me this weekend but decided to use it up instead.
I switched up my meal planning for the week. I had my veggie burgers and fries last night and made a pasta sauce for tonight’s dinner. The purpose of this meal planning is to clean out my cupboards of the odds and ends that are sitting in there that are perfectly edible and not to spend money at the grocery store because I'm to flipping lazy to use my brain to cook out of the cupboard. A couple months ago, I bought some whole wheat pasta. I really don't like it, could be the brand, could be that my palate just does not like whole wheat pasta, but I still have 4 pounds sitting in my pantry (I bought  8 boxes of Barilla Whole Wheat Pasta at Costco thinking it would be "good for me and my diet"-WRONG).  I'll cook it up tonight and have that as my dinner.
The upside to all this meal planning from the pantry is that I am using up food in the pantry and not spending money at the store. I'm trying to see what I can make with the variety of interesting and odd canned and dried goods I have in my cupboard if I decide to swap out my meal plan for the week.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Meal Planning and Shopping When You Are Not Home

One thing I am struggling with this month is meal planning and shopping since I am not at home three weekends (if not more) out of the five weekends that are December.

When I work as a groom, we eat out at restaurants or get take out. Nothing fancy, we don't eat at expensive restaurants~ I'm not bothered about food, it's taken care of as part of the job. The barn sitting is a different story. I am stationary in one place and food is not provided. I have access to a full kitchen and shelf space to leave groceries. I still have to shop. Last weekend I brought some leftovers, bought some food and pre-made a couple items to cook. This is sort of working out. I loaded up a cooler with food and a grocery bag with items I needed. The biggest problem is the kitchen is not very well stocked with spices, condiments, oil, vinegar, etc. The other sitter said she just eats out most of her meals when she is there. I needed to saute an onion and there was no oil of any sort in the house. I ended up using a tiny dab of butter, but some olive oil is what I really needed. I did an inventory of the common items and for this weekend, I'm meal planning based on what I have in my cupboard that I can bring to cook and based on what is at the house. I have a "lunch date" planned with a friend, so at least one meal does not have to be accounted for.

My meal planning has been all over the place. I did an inventory of my food cupboards in preparation for next week's food shop and to see what I needed for my meals and take into account that this upcoming weekend I will be gone from my home from Thursday night until Sunday night. I'm also using up what has been sitting in my fridge and freezer. I just feel like I'm shopping twice as much to cover my food needs and I feel like I still need to shop more!

Monday Dinner: Boneless pork ribs baked in the oven in the remains of leftover jar of ginger/teriyaki marinade, egg noodles and peas (I have opened bags of noodles and peas that need to be used up).

Tuesday Lunch: Left over curry from weekend on the last of the egg noodles from last night.

Tuesday Dinner: Pasta with tomato sauce-must make the tomato sauce when I get home from work.

Wednesday Lunch: Left over ribs and brown rice.

Wednesday Dinner: Veggie burgers and the last of the frozen french fries.

Thursday Lunch: Leftover pasta.

Thursday dinner and Friday lunch ?

Friday dinner: Beef curry or beef stew-depends on what mood I'm in when it's time to prepare the beef. Some sort of veg or salad (I miss my salads!)

I have nary a clue for Saturday and Sunday in terms of meal planning ......

The good thing about the barn sitting is it's in a small town that does not have a ton of restaurants so I am not tempted to go out buy prepared. So far I've resisted the 5 pizza/grinder shops. The local diner did get my business one weekend and that food was enough to keep me full and happy well past dinner time. I may sneak out for a late breakfast on Sunday so it can suffice for breakfast and lunch...may....

I'll find out this weekend if I need to work the weekend of the 20th and I can base my food shopping and meal planning for next week on that.

Ask and It Will Come

Yesterday I posted that I needed to spend about $10 on grocery items for my upcoming meal planning. $10 is not a lot of money, but still it's $10.

I opened the mail yesterday afternoon and I was the recipient of a $10 check! Seems my accounting office did not pay correctly for a travel expense and I got an unexpected check!

Sooo-that $10 is going towards the items I need to do my meal planning through next week!

Now, lets see if my other request to be fed a couple meals comes through as well!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Do You "Buy" Yourself Holiday and Birthday Presents?

I'm finalizing my (thankfully) small list of holiday presents for this year. I have in past years, purchased a gift for myself, some have been large (signed a contract on my house on my birthday, bought a car on my birthday, got myself a new TV last year), some have been small,~ nice bottle of wine, fancy soaps, a good piece of something to put on the grill.

So do you get yourself a "treat" or a gift?

The Account is Low, Decisions Have To Be Made

Because of my pay roll schedule change, my bank account balance is low. I have money in my E-fund, but my bill paying account is low. No bills are due this week, a couple are due next week and I'm supposed to get a check for the newest part time job (5 days of work) this week. I only need about $10 of groceries to last until the 15th. I'm also putting it out to the universe that it would be really helpful to me if two lunches or dinners this week could just "appear" for me.

The second job is going better. Now that I'm getting into a routine and familiar with my duties, I'm a happier camper. The down side is I really have no days off for me. I've been working straight since Thanksgiving at one job or the other. The good part about the second job is I have access to a washer and dryer, so my laundry is done, but I would like a day to just hang out, lazy around and do nothing or at this time of the year, do my holiday cards, clean my house and dream about maybe actually getting a new herb garden planned for next year. Ah well, we have to do what we have to do.

I've not done any December goals or November recaps, it was too depressing for me to do so. Pretty much my December goal is to make up the lost income from the reduction of hours. I think I'll come close, it depends if I'm asked to work the end of the month.

My boss is away on a business trip this week. I'm pretty grateful about that. His hovering in the office and questioning every phone call that comes in is getting on my nerves,as well as the other staff as well. He is not handling this reduction in business well at all. One reason I took a job at this company was because they had been in business for over 30 years, were stable, and I had heard very good things about the owners/managers. I'm hoping this is a glitch.

I have decided to see what happens after the first of the year. If I still have to take a reduction in hours, I'm going to probably have to look for a new job. I really can't have a long term reduction in hours, a couple months, yes, more than that, nope, just can't do it. Not since I don't have a steady second job income. I may be spending my Christmas Holiday working on my resume.....

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A Week Behind Each Payroll~

I spoke with our payroll person yesterday and yes, the fact I moved from salary to hourly has meant that my pay cycle changes. I'm not sure I understand why-previously, I got paid on the 1st of the month (covering the 16th-31st) and on the 15th (covering the 1st-15th). When I was salaried I got paid that week for that week. Now that I'm hourly, I will be a week in arrears due to the date they transmit payroll to ADP. I'll get paid this 15th for last week and this week, they transmit payroll the middle of next week and that week won't be on that check. I'm trying to remember if my payroll person had this conversation with me and I forgot it (or more likely blocked it out) or if we did not. I've got to pay better attention to these things. I've got to ask questions, I've got to take better care of myself.

What I don't get is why I can't get paid as hourly the same as I did salary in terms of what should be in my paycheck. I'm just not seeing the reasoning behind it. All it means is right now I have less money in my account than I would like and some bills will have to wait until the 15th to get paid (thank goodness they are not due until well after the 15th). I don't want to dip into my E-Fund to "make up" the difference because I'm not feeling disciplined enough at the moment to "restock" the E-Fund from my new payroll schedule. I will just do without.

The only bummer to all of this is I really needed to go grocery shopping to get food for my weekend job. I was "assigned" a food cupboard so I can keep a stash of food at the farm and not have to eat out. I'll shop out of my own pantry for now and just pick up the minimal amount of other food. Ah well....

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

At Times Like This I Love My E-Fund

The reduction in hours for my full time job means a reduction in my paycheck. Somewhere in the past couple weeks, I've had a mis communication with our payroll processor. Let me tell you I was UNHAPPY to open my pay stub this AM and see I got less than half of my usual pay. I was only paid for one week of work instead of two. SURPRISE SURPRISE-of the unhappy sort. I was expecting to get paid for the last two weeks in November on the check that was deposited to my account yesterday. I only got paid for one week. I was expecting almost twice as much money as I got. I was not expecting to be a week behind on pay. Not only did my hours get cut, but I got moved from salary to hourly (same rate, but I think that may have something to do with the mix up).

I'm not sure where the mix up is, or how it happened, but it did. I have money in my checking account, I have money in my E-fund that can be used in case of an emergency, I have money coming in next week for the yet another part time job, but boy, was I glad that I did not have any large bills to pay today. I have the checks written out, the bills stamped, but they are staying on my desk until I get this sorted. I would have been SOL as they say, if I posted them today. I wrote bills for exactly the missing amount I was expecting in my check.

I have a call and an e-mail into the person who processes our payroll. I need to figure out where and how we mis communicated. I know they won't cut me a check if it was an error, I'll have to wait until the next paydate, which is the 15th. This just adds to my work frustrations, it really does. Grr.

Monday, December 1, 2008

One Of my Goals Achieved

One of my goals post Bankruptucy was to get a credit card again. Yes I know some of you are gasping in horror~ a credit card?! But yes, one way to help kick up that FICO score is to get a credit card.

Before I even knew I had my discharge, I was getting "pre-approved" credit card offers for people with challenged credit. Most all of these offers were, to say the least, more than a bit ridiculous with their fees-application fee, yearly fee, monthly fee, credit review fee, to say the least. To top it off, you would be "offered" a credit amount of $500, of which over $250 would be "fees" payable to this particular bank. Needless to say, did not jump at the offers. I read the fine print, laughed and then shredded the "applications".

One of my personal goals was to get a credit card that was not a secured credit card or one with these outrageous fees. It's been 10 months since I had to get my new to me car, almost a year since my discharge and I've been paying the car note early and an extra $10 a month to boot. I did some web surfing on and narrowed my choices down to two banks for people with "challenged credit". I ultimately ended up choosing one bank over another (and no it's not Capitol One, the bank everyone loves to hate) because of the card design. Well, that was part of it, the other part was the interest rate, the credit limit, you know, the fine print,those things you should read before signing on the dotted line. I did do my homework and research on that aspect. But yes the card design choice was the kicker. It tipped the bank in my favor. :)

I am now the proud (yes proud) recipient of a credit card with a $500 limit and a yearly fee of $39 with an annual interest rate of 14.9 %. I feel like I have come full circle. I remember my very first credit card had a limit of $500. That was a long time ago, a very long time ago.

I guess the point of this post is that even in these tough economic times, with a discharged bankruptcy, you can qualify for consumer credit again. You have to be good, pay your bills on time, not go into collections on any account, and keep trying.

Don't kid yourselves, it's not like I'm going or went out and splurged with that new found credit card. Here is what I bought, $35 worth of special dog food for a finicky dog and $29 on a bottle of whiskey to make hot toddy's to help fight this cold. I also signed up for instant bill paying and paid $75 to the account today (forgetting that I had an annual fee, I'll make another payment tomorrow).

The Weekend Update

Other than fighting a miserable cold, the weekend went OK. Not great, but OK. I had my Thanksgiving meal with my lovely neighbors (good company, good food, good time) and I was able to organize my small space-yeah for me.

This past weekend was my first weekend at yet another job to supplement my income. That too went OK, not great, but OK. I don't have a routine down yet, (I like routines) it was a new situation for me and I forgot to take into account my meal situation. When I work as a groom, my meals are paid for as part of my work. The barn sitting gig does not offer meal reimbursement. I ate a huge diner breakfast on Sunday that was sufficient for my lunch and breakfast, but I'm going to have to remember to pack food for my other meals or be spending $40 a weekend on meals out.

I have to get my head into a schedule and my new routine. Not feeling all that well on Saturday afternoon, I spent far too much time in between work duties drinking tea and stewing over my situation. When I don't feel well, I get very down on myself, my life, my past choices, my current choices, my circumstances-in other words-I kick myself when I'm down and get depressed about life and finances.

This mentality is not good and can lead to self destructive behavior. I don't know the area very well, so at least I did not go shopping (less a trip to the CVS for cold medicine and the Dunkin Donuts for Coffee on Saturday). I watched a lot of HGTV and TLC and also got into the DIY/Home Improvement show envy. Not good. I did get my laundry done without having to spend $10-$20 at the laundromat as I usually do. Sigh, I'm just glad today starts a new month, so I can start off a new foot with a better frame of mind.