Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Some Random Updates

I'm still having internet problems at home and not able to blog that much at work.  Here are a few random updates while I percolate on a couple posts.

1) My elderly friend is not getting any better, and in fact is getting worse.  She still thinks she can live on her own and has spent 3 out of the last 5.5 weeks in either respit care or the hospital. 

2) I am no closer to finding a permanet home for her dog either. Said dog known as Poochie is very sweet, a little needy, but very sweet and needs to go to a "forever home" as they say.  I am working with the breed resuce to find her a permanent home. I just can not keep her, I have my own pets, one of which does not like Poochie at all. 

3) I have been able to stick to my cash budget for food shopping. I have a whopping $6 left until Friday and I have enough food hanging around the kitchen to last. I sure as shite won't starve, maybe get bored with the food choices, but I won't starve.

4)I have been half heartedly looking for a new full time job, but nothing has cropped up.  My "full time" job is not changing my hours, nor am I picking up any additional weekends at my weekend job. In fact, next month, I'll loose a weekend because I decided to do some traveling and planned a weekend that I was supposed to work at. I'm feeling the need for a little escape time.

5) My boss still does not get the concept of Social Media, it is getting on my nerves to re-explain the concept behind Twitter vs a blog every week.

6) The one real estate client I thought I had a good chance to sell a house to has been giving the listing updates she requested from me to a friend of hers. Who ended up buying a house from another Realtor!  To say I was a bit peeved is an understatement.  I thought it was funny they had changed their "home buying criteria". Now I know why.  And I'm not pleased. I think I showed this client about 15 homes. They were thinking about an investment property and I was happy to help them out.  Now I'm not so sure. I could sure use a commission or two to push me towards my fiscal goals.

7) My house is in need of dire work.  Top of the list, new gutters, new window in my bedroom, the bathroom needs to be re-tiled and I could do with some new flooring as well.  I found a list of "to do" projects from when I bought the house and all of the above were on that list from 9 Years Ago. 

8) I am not getting any TV reception at home and this irks me. I only watch about 4 shows, plus breakfast TV.  After the switch to digital, I lost all my stations, save one and that does not come in all the time, even the digitial ones I had gotten before. I think I can get basic cable for $15/month and if that is the case, I'm going to get it.  I miss the few shows I watch on a regular basis and it will be worth the $15 to have them.

9) I found a house that would be almost perfect for me, maybe even perfect.  Problem~ I don't have the money, salary or the ability to get a mortgage right now. Even if I sold my current home, I'd still need some serious cash (serious to me) to be able to afford this house.  It is in the same town I live in, has 3 br, 2 ba, a garage, hardwood floors, fireplace and some land.  As far as I can tell, it only needs cosmetic work and I'd want to update the cooker in the kitchen. It also has A WASHER/DRYER HOOK UP!  My research has told me that IF someone has been extra special good post BK, some lenders will lend 2 years after the discharge date. I'm only 18 months post discharge.....

10) It has rained something like 14 inches in the past 5 days.   Are we ever gonna get summer here!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Posting back soon!

Sorry for the lack of posts.  I had planned a couple posts for the weekend, but my internet connection was funky.  Grr.

Hope you had a good weekend non the less!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Still Not Giving In, But Still Can't Ask for Money

My neighbor pulled the money plug on her daughter a few weeks ago. She has stopped giving her almost 20 year old daughter rent and paying for all her apartment expenses. You can read about that in my previous post.

I have to give my neighbor credit, she is still dealing with a sulking child and still not forking over the additional cash. Said child is not a bad kid, just used to getting a lot of things paid for by mom who feels the need to "compensate with cash".

The good news is said child is sulking less, but at least talking to her parents. The second bit of good news is my neighbor is keeping up with the utility repayment plan (yup, she the mom is still paying back February's utility bill), the third bit of good news is said child has a full time job until December-She is doing work for the State and it's a "seasonal" position.

I did make the rash suggestion that my neighbor ask her daughter for rent or food money-like $25 a week towards rent or food. The look on my neighbors face was priceless. I don't think she expected me to come out with that. She claims she "can't ask" her daughter for rent or food money. Why, she never said. I simply told her that if she was still paying back utilities, the money could be used towards those utilities.

I do have to say, it was a rough few weeks, but I am still proud of my neighbor for not giving in. Now if her daughter would contribute towards her own upkeep.........

Small steps...
I had a great time at my volunteer project this weekend. Great project, great weather and great people!

Now to get back to reality!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Food Progress

I am looking forward to my volunteering project this up coming weekend. I also am happy to report I'm doing pretty darned good on the grocery money in the envelope system. It's mid month and I have just under half my grocery money still in the envelope. AND the good part it, I'm fairly well set for food.

Except that I ran out of breakfast fixings and the past two days I've gotten a muffin or a bagel at the local market. I will stop at the store today and pick up a 6 pack of English muffins or some bagels. Just not feeling motivated to make a loaf of bread.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Maybe The Conversations Finally Sunk In?

I've posted before about my neighbor and her money issues.  She has told me more than I want to know about her finances, and has asked for my opinion on a variety of issues.I  try not to preach, I try to educate and inform. The biggest money drain she has had the past few months has been to support her college aged daughter by paying for her apartment, utilities, as well as paying a chunk of change towards her tuition and related expenses.  Not a big deal IF you have the money, but my neighbor does not. My biggest gripe (and I've told her since she asked) is that her daughter had done next to nothing to contribute to the upkeep of the apartment. She was not going to school full time, nor was she working even close to part time.  The daughter is a nice kid, but seems to spend an awful lot of time hanging out with friends and not doing much. 

My neighbor finally told her that the checks were stopping as of the middle of June.  She was not going to pay the utilities and would only fork over 1/3rd the rent for July and none for August.  She told her daughter that if she wanted to keep the apartment, she would have to pay for it herself, utilities included!  Getting a $500 electric bill for ONE month of service (did I mention the daughter left the electric heat on 73F even when she was not home so she could keep her lizard warm?) My neighbor's kid was shocked and angry. I know she was very happy to accept the money and happy to not have to work.  Getting a wake up call was not in her plans.  Neighbors daughter has her boyfriend sort of living with her too and he is not paying anything towards the rent and utilities. He still "lives" at home, but spends most of his nights at the apartment and contributes nothing toward the apartment, from what I've been told, he does not even buy food. Oh dear....

My conversation with my neighbor was that IF she could afford it and IF her daughter was contributing to the costs an IF her daughter was going to school full time and IF she was making a valiant effort to find work, then support away. BUT none of the IF's were happening.  My neighbor can't afford it, her daughter was not making an effort to find work (she told us her last job interfered with her boyfriends band practice......) and she was not going to school  full time. In fact, she was going to take a semester off and fully expected her parents to pay for her living expenses while she "took a break".   My neighbor wants to help her daughters, yet her own finances were greatly suffering.  I know she paid her own mortgage late, she is on a repayment plan for all her utilities, she pays the cable bill weekly to keep it from getting cut off,  I know she maxed our her credit cards, and please don't get me started on the Plasma TV they bought on credit...........

My last money conversation with my neighbor revolved around me reworking my budget for my reduced weekend job. No additional weekend job hours, a complete rethinking of how to spend my money and how to allocate funds.  My neighbor was shocked when I told her that I pretty much live on a cash only basis.  I use my credit card and within two weeks, I pay off the balance. Mind you my credit limit is only $500, but still, I use the card because I'm thrilled I have a credit card again, but I'm not going to go down that slipperly slope of huge credit card balances again.  I told her if I don't have the cash, I don't buy the product.  My neighbor was wondering how she was going to make it though July since she had maxed out her credit card.  Sigh, I had no answer.  I could have told her that all those months of paying for her daughters apartment would have made a huge dent in the credit card balance reduction, but I did not.

I know it was a hard thing for my neighbor to cut the funds. I think it was the right thing to do. I know her daughter was upset, I could see her storming around the house. She has decided to move back home and stops by to drop of her stuff and is looking pretty bitter about it.  If her daughter truly wanted to live on her own, she could have gotten a roommate or asked her boyfriend to contribute to the rent (but wait a real job would interfer with band practice...). 

I am proud of my neighbor for making the tough decision about her money.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Mystery Shopping

I did my secret shopping yesterday for the vet clinic. While I went over my allotted reimbursement, I'm glad I went. Poochie needed a complete exam, her elderly owner was never able to give me her vet records and supposedly the vet that had been treating her "retired" and I could not track down her records. Total cost of the visit was $180, total reimbursement including my shop fee was $125. I've shopped this clinic before, but did not spend $180. Oh well, paying $55 out of pocket for the visit is far less than what I would normally pay and I know she is current on her vaccinations, et all.

I have another shop scheduled for today. It's for a local chain store and I'm happy to have the opportunity to do it. I'm going to be around the store running some errands. I just wish there were more shops available. Even though there is a delay in reimbursement, getting paid to eat out on the occasional basis or getting "paid" to shop in one of my regular shops would be nice. Ah well, it is what it is!

Buy The Flowers Now

I used to live in the Washington DC metro area in my previous life. One thing I would do on a regular basis was go to Eastern Market. Listening to NPR this morning was a feature on the re-opening of Eastern Market. I've been sadly out of touch with local DC happenings. Most of my friends who lived and worked in Washington have either moved away or we have lost touch.

While it was sad to hear the Market had a devastating fire a few years ago, I'm not surprised. The building was old, very old and while the merchants,vendors and folks worked hard to keep it up, it did have it's issues.

One thing my friends and I used to love to do was to meet in the Market area. We would take the Metro, ride our bikes, some would drive to the area. We'd meet for coffee, go for a beer at Tunnicliffs Tavern (is it still in exsistence?), wander around the vendors, look at the art work, grab a bite to eat (I remember this great stand that sold homemade empanada-yum). One thing I did each time I was at the Market was to get a large bouquet of flowers. There was a flower vendor that was always out on the sidewalk on the 7th St side and sold these great bouquets of flowers. You could get the small bunch for $6 or $7 or the large bunch for $10 or $12. I honestly don't remember the exact price, but what I do remember is that each boquet had a nice variety of flowers, always had a star gazer lilly, some lovely greens and lasted at least a week and the cost was not much more than a cup of coffee and a pastry at one of the local coffee shops. I would bring the flowers home and put them in a vase on a table in my apartment. I would get a great sense of satisfaction looking at the flowers.

Saving Veronica has a post here where she says that when she gets out of debt she is going to buy herself flowers. My advice to her, buy them now! Even when I was at my lowest point in my finances, I would scrape up a buck or two at maybe get even one stem of a flower. Just having something lovely to look at would lift my spirits. I'm not advocating large bunches of rare orchids, but if you feel the need for a flower or two, treat yourself!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Two Secret Shopping Assignments!

Funds are low this month and options for additional income sparse. I did log into both Mystery Shopping company sites and signed up for two shops. One is for a vet visit. The Poochie that needs a home (like last month) needs a check up. This shop will pay for her check up and my gas. Since I’m not getting any funds for her care from her elderly co-owner, a free check up is just my cup of tea! The other shop is to a retail store with a low spending limit. The store is on my way to my weekend job, stopping by to do the shop will not be a challenge at all!

I also e-mailed both companies and told them that due to weekend work, I was available to shop in the areas other than my immediate area. I'm hoping SOMETHING crops up. Being fairly rural, there are just not a lot of mystery shopping opportunities in my area. I’ll take what I can get. Money is money!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Now I Need a New Lawn Mower

I was mowing the lawn last night and all of sudden, one of the rear wheels wobbled and fell off. My first thought was it came unscrewed, easy enough to fix. Nope-review of the mower showed that somehow the metal around the screw sheared off. I had a gaping hole where the screw went in.  Somewhere on the lawn is a large shard of metal. 

The guy at the local hardware store told me that the body of the mower is rusting out and any patch would be very temporary.  He did say that it probably would not be worth my time and money to repair the mower body. I'd have to get someone to weld on a huge metal patch, if they could weld metal onto the rusting body. He's right too. I got the mower at Wal Mart of $89 when I first moved into my house. It was the second least expensive mower they had.  Plus it's had 9 years of hard use and a bit of abuse by me. 

Oh well, I'll keep my eyes open on Craigslist and at the box stores. I'm hoping lawm mowers will go on sale like soon! 

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

What Comes Around....

A couple weeks ago I blogged about my frustrations trying to get a co-worker to cover a shift for me at the barn. We finally got it sorted out, but I was annoyed by the extra-ordinary (to me) time it took to get back to me with yes I can work or no I could not. Oh well.

I got home last night to a message on my home phone. Said co-worker needs to have a shift covered-like this Friday, she has a not-to-be missed MD's appointment for her old injury and wanted to know if I could work for her. BUT what I found funny was her offer-I could work her entire day or I could just work the half day. Just the half day-I don't think so.

Co-worker knows I don't live close by, she only lives 30 minutes away and to make it fiscally worth my while, I'd have to work one day. I'd prefer two, but one on the odd occasion I'll do one day (like when I went to my conference, I worked just one day that weekend).

I think she was taken aback and or surprised when I returned the call about 10 minutes after I got home and stated I could work for her, but would have to take the full day, a half day is not good for me and I'd sent our boss a reminder e-mail. Her reply was "Oh, you don't have to e-mail him" and my reply was "yup I do, just to let him know it's covered." I can use the extra funds given the fact that I'm giving up a weekend to do a volunteer project. Ah well. I hope co-worker appreciates the prompt response. And I can get my laundry done for free!

Easy Weekend.

My weekend work was drama free this past weekend.  Good I needed a drama free weekend!  The barn schedule is hopping with shows, clinics, summer camps, all sorts of things.  It is oddly quiet on Saturdays. Most of the borders at this barn show horses, so they have been away the past few weekends. 

The only down side is I have one weekend this month that I won't be working, I forgot I agreed to do a volunteer thing, which falls on a Saturday.  I think when I agreed to the volunteer thing I thougth it was on a Sunday so I could have the best of both worlds.  No such luck. Oh well.  Jill said she can cover the barn for me and my boss said he may be home that weekend and is not worried.  I'm just missing out on the weekend of pay. 

I've cut way back on my volunteer activites and I do want to do this function, so I'm out a little cash.  I'm not thrilled about it, but it is what it is and I'll manage somehow!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Grocery Challenge Is Working!

So far I've spent about $50 on food and groceries. Not bad considering I needed some pantry staples, which accounted for $20 of the money spent. Using the money envelope kept me from shopping needlessly at the store. I went "Ohhhh if I buy X by the end of the month I won't have enough cash! Plus it motivated me to use up a couple items from the pantry and freezer.

As of today, I have meals planned out through the end of the week, lunches and dinners. I'll do a small shop over the weekend to round out the pantry items.

I did stop in the local grocery store to the weekend job and by habit pulled out my debit card. I had already swiped and signed, but took the money out of my cash envelope and dropped it in the bank today at lunch.

I am not including cleaning and laundry supplies in my $125 budget. So we shall see how it goes. May was a disaster, June a bit better (I am eating the last of the car snacks from the cousin trip) and I'm hoping July will be a turning point!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Enabler or Enablee? That is the question!

Are you an enabler or an enablee? After the drama of last weekend, I put some thought to this. For a number of years, I was an enabler to my mother. I've posted way back in my archives, my history and fiscal education. My mother was and still is a first class money manipulator, and not in a good way. She would use money to get her way with me and others in the family. She taught my brother well too! Fortunately for me, I woke up one day and realized it was very unhealthy to live under someones fiscal thumb.

I've read some blogs were PF bloggers are helping family members. I think there is a fine line between helping someone because they need help and giving them money or bailing them out of fiscal jam time and time again. That includes parents too. My mother used to use the promise of helping me pay for college and related expenses as a way for me to come home for a visit, do what she wanted,etc. I realized one day that she just did not follow through on her promises and decided that my education could and would be footed by me. I had no problem working the second and third jobs, taking out the student loans, etc. The BS mother was playing got really old, especially when she did not deliver as promised. To say my maternal parent went a bit bonkers when I was able to pull off my own education funding is a bit of an understatement. She like the power she had over me while I was in school by "writing the checks. I took that power away, or a better phrase, would be got my own power by paying for my own schooling. Had my mother been more truthful with me about her own fiscal situation (which was not good and still two decades later is not good) we may have avoided a lot of situations and circumstances.

Flash forward a couple years, I'm earning a decent salary and my mother starts asking for some money, which I gave to her on numerous occasions. I'm not totally heartless and truthfully, she knew what buttons to push with me to get the money. Needless to say, the sums went from a couple hundred a couple times a year to a couple thousand multiple times a year with no real explanation why she needed it or where it all went. I do know now that she gave my brother loads of cash, loads, hers and then mine. When she could not pay her bills, she would ask me for the money or a "loan". After the third or forth time asking me for "just a couple thousand", I asked for the bills that supposedly needed to be repaid. I never got them. The kicker was when she told me she had a $3,500 American Express bill to pay. When I asked what she spend $3,500 (car repair, home repair, what), I was told, she got depressed and went shopping. Shopping? At this point in time, my mother was retired, had a working car, and living in a full amenities included in the rent apartment complex, and working part time in a casual office environment. I could not understand the need for shopping. I knew for a fact she had clothes to spare at her apartment. When I pressed for further details,I got a long winded phone call calling me an ungrateful child, unwilling to support her mother and spending the money on myself.

Ah HELLO! It's my money to be spent on me! IF you need the help, tell me exactly what for and I can see what I can do. The requests for cash become, in my opinion, far too frequent, and for far too much. IF my semi retired mother was going to have her electricity turned off, I would pay the power company myself, not send her a check, but send the power company a check directly. I knew at this point that she was just turning around and giving cash to my brother who spent it on drugs, beer, takeout, cigarettes, and video games. He had a couple kids and would ask my mother for money if she did not fork it over, he would not bring the kids over to visit. He used the kids as a pawn to get money from her, time and time again. I had to stop the cycle by stopping the cash. It was hard to do. I was raised with the cultural understanding that family members help each other. Helping in one thing, going just short of blackmail is another. I'd rather take my mother grocery shopping than give her $50 for groceries. At least this way I know she has food in the cupboard instead of spending the $50 on god knows what.

The situation was not much different with my cousin Sam. He knew that when push came to shove, his mother would cave in, and by default, his sister since she did not want to see her mother suffer. He was perfectly happy being the enablee, my brother is perfectly happy being the enablee (I told you the men in my family are great at this), my mother and my aunt are caught up in the cycle. My cousin and I are too, to a point. We both gave up our weekends to clean up the mess left by Sam and his ah, actions, forging my aunts signature on the lease and abandoning her furniture. We did not give Sam any money or pay his bills, or give him any support, but by helping my aunt we helped Sam.

Sometimes we become unwitting enablees as well. I know for a while I fell into the pattern of behaviour that was not good and while I was not given cash, I was given goods and services for free or very highly discounted because I was playing my own silly stupid game. I stopped when I realized that behaviour was unattractive in an adult fully capable of taking care of herself. Sometimes we become enablees without knowing it.

What's the moral of this post? Hum, maybe the next time you are asked to help out a family member or need to be helped out, think about the situation and see if it's a one of type situation or something that has a habitual pattern about it. Enabler or enbalee?

The AIO Saga Part 2

I spent some time this weekend trying to find the needed driver for the AIO I have.  Guess what? They don't have a driver for Windows Vista! Seriously, they don't! I could not find a driver for Vista anywhere and the one I downloaded for XP does not work. 

Since this sucker was a freebie, it's going on either Freecycle, Craigslist or into the yard sale my neighbor wants to have this summer (the one we never had last summer).

Oh well.  Just because it's free...

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The AIO saga...

A couple weeks ago I got a free All In One (AOI) . The fax and copy part work, but I can't get it to scan or print from my computer as it is missing a needed driver.  Problem 1), I can't seem to find a driver on line.  Problem 2) I have no instruction book either so I can't trouble shoot. Problem 3) The people who gave me the unit don't have it either. 

The AIO is an Imagistics, made by Oce` and I can't find the make and model of my unit on their web site.  Frustrating.  The unit appears to be in a good shape and I'd really love to have a scan a thon one weekend. Right now it is sitting on a chair in my living room gathering dust. I'm working this weekend, but will be home on Sunday and will give it one last try.  If I can't find the drivers, this baby is outta the house. I don't have the space to "hang on" to it. 

In the mean time, I keep surfing the web for refurbished AIO's.  I did find one that I really wanted a couple months ago at a great discount price, but I waited too long and it got snapped up by someone else.  All Well, Snooze you Lose.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Check Those Receipts

I mailed off my car payment, car insurance payment, phone bill and put the leftover money from the weekend back in my credit union account. I did not stop at the bank yesterday to get my food shopping cash, I got busy doing some errands on my lunch break and just by-passed the bank.

One of the dogs has to be on a special diet and thus her food is a little more expensive than what I feed the other animals. I noticed the past few months that my local feed store put on sale that specific brand of dog food the last ten days of the month. I was getting low on her food, I had enough to last a few more days, but figured I'd take advantage of the sale NOW. I trucked over to pick up a bag, total savings on the bag of food was about $11. I chatted with the clerk and got back into my car. I took another look at the receipt. I was charged the full price for the food. I thought the total seemed high, but I had purchased a couple other small items and did not question it at check out. I trotted back into the store, pointed out the error and got a refund to my account. Her explanation, "Oh the computer recognizes this as the last day of the sale and that the food goes back to full price". Humm that makes no sense to me. If the sale goes through to June 30th, would the computers not automatically charge the full price on July 1 not on June 30th?

Moral of the story, check your receipts, check the sale flyer and question the difference if you need to!