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Spending and the Escaping Dog

January 29th, 2009 at 08:30 pm

This week is looking to end on a good note. I have cooked dinner every night this week and haven't spent much money. What I have spent has been on necessities and nothing else. Some of you might not think the cooking thing is a big deal but for me it is since dining out is our biggest budget buster. I am excited about the money we have saved by eating at home. I've already got next week's meals planned and will grocery shop this weekend.

On a different spending note, I think we are going to need to buy an electric fence to keep our dog from digging and escaping the yard. We've tried putting things where he digs but he is somehow able to move them out of the way. He is using his snout to do this and has rubbed the top of his nose raw. He has been chewing away at the fence posts and boards and I can envision a new fence/gate or vet bills to remove slivers in his mouth or stomach in the near future Frown I've been looking online at different electric fences and am a little overwhelemed at the variety and options. Do any of you have an electric fence? If so can you tell me what you like/dislike about it.

We are waiting for my husband's W-2 so we can get our taxes done. We will probably use Turbo Tax again this year. I had hoped to use TaxAct because the federal is free and state is only $13.95 compared to the approx $60 cost of Turbo Tax, but I read that TaxAct is for people who kinda know what they are doing. We will stick with Turbo Tax. 'Nuff said. I don't anticipate a state refund as we always seem to have to pay, besides CA is giving IOU's now. We generally get a federal refund so our plan is to do the taxes and if we are getting a refund, file those first and depending on how much state taxes are, use the fed refund to pay the state. Oh joy!

Random Thoughts

January 27th, 2009 at 05:30 am

Well I went to the bank today to deposit my paycheck and was going to ask about locking in a rate on our HELOC but the lady I needed to speak with was helping another customer and I couldn't wait any longer as I needed to pick up the kids at school. I did leave my phone number so hopefully she will call tomorrow.

No interest rate reduction by the Fed today. I thought they were meeting but I guess I was wrong. But with the news of ALL the job losses today, I would think another rate reduction is coming. We shall see.

I was giddy today because I had to buy my son some toothpaste and I used a .75 coupon on Colgate that was already on sale and got a $2 Register Reward at Walgreens. I plan on using it to buy a box of valentines and candy for my daughter. I have never been a coupon person but since I am trying to save all I can I was excited for this little savings lol. CVS will be coming to my city soon and I am looking forward to their reward program.

I started this whole budget process (again) about two weeks ago and have been faithfully updating Quicken as I spend money. If I don't spend any more money through the end of this month we will have spent $55 more than we took in. That's pathetic but the good news is that I know EXACTLY what the culprit is and I am working on fixing it. It has to do with going out to dinner too much Frown

Yes, I'm embarassed to admit that we spend more on dining out than we do on groceries but that is no more. I've got a plan in place and I feel good about it. February will allow me to implement this plan and see the results over an entire four weeks instead of just two. I'm excited to actually do this and to see my budget report at month-end.

I am also working on finding ways to cut other expenses. Little things like using Tupperware instead of Ziploc bags, making sure lights are turned out etc. I've always been of the mindset, "well its only a few dollars" but now that I am looking at what we earn in a different light, I feel like "hey I worked hard to earn that dollar and I want to spend it wisely". I've also decided to do the bulk of my grocery shopping on the weekends and only make mid-week trips to the store for fresh produce and milk. We ran out of cream cheese today and my son was disappointed that he wouldn't be able to have a bagel tomorrow morning but he will just have to have cereal or something else. Cream cheese can wait until Saturday or Sunday.

January has turned out to be a productive month financially for us. I got our budget in place, I signed up my husband for his 403b plan, I've got a plan in place to pay off our car more than one year early, I reduced our auto insurance premiums, we've stuck to our cash allowance so far, and I'm look for more ways to reduce expenses.

I hope that this success continues into February and beyond.

Car Loan Payoff Quandry

January 26th, 2009 at 05:30 pm

I am in a quandary right now. One of my goals is to pay our car loan off by summer of 2010, which would be 1 year early. I called Capital One today to make a principal payment and was told that they no longer accept payments toward the principal -- huh? I was told that I had to pay more than our normal monthly payment and the difference would be put towards the principal. Problem is, the payment is automatically deducted from our checking account so there isn't any way I could pay the monthly payment amount and the extra payment together. I was told I could either call Capital One and make a payment over the phone which would cost met $15 every time I did that or mail in a payment. I'm not paying $15 every month in order to pay my car off early and I'm not comfortable mailing in the payment and when I tried last week to make a payment online it would not allow me to pay less than our normal monthly payment. Frustrating! So, I think I will pay the loan off with our HELOC. The interest rate on our HELOC is tied to the prime rate, which currently stands at 3.25%. I think the fed may be cutting interest rates again, possibly today, and if they do prime rate will likely be 3%. I'm going to my bank today to inquire about locking in the rate. Our car loan is at 6% interest, HELOC interest is tax deductible and the car loan interest is not. My quandary is that if I do this we will have an $11,000 second mortgage. I am not worried about job security for my husband or myself, so our ability to make the payments is not an issue, just the thought of having a 2nd mortgage is a little scary. I think I pretty much have my mind made up about paying the loan off with the HELOC, and DH is ok with it too, I'm just nervous.

Budget Tweaking & Goal Completed!

January 26th, 2009 at 05:38 am

I finished my grocery shopping for the week today. I did forgot to get charcoal so I will have to get that tomorrow, but overall, I hope to not spend any more money on groceries this month. I don't believe I will need anything else expect possibly milk. I am at $374 in my $400/mo grocery budget as of today. Hmm, would you consider charcoal a grocery item??? Probably is. Shoot, that puts me closer to $400.

I FINALLY signed my husband up for his 403b plan at work. OMG, it was soooo easy, who knew?!?! I originally filled out the paper work but then went online to check a fund code and saw that you could enroll there. After about 5 minutes, it was complete. He still needs to complete a beneficiary form but the process is complete and beginning with the next paycheck (hopefully) he will now be contributing 10% of his salary. His employer will match 50% up to 6% so I'm looking forward to seeing the balance grow. For the time being, the money will be put in a money market account until the market stabilizes. I'm going to look into opening a Roth IRA for him next.

I think I figured out a way to monitor my budget surplus. I am going to estimate our paychecks and enter them into Quicken, (post dated of course) so they will appear in my budget report. That way I have the numbers for the month and can then deduct expenses and spending and see what is left (budget surplus) throughout the month. I already enter my bills post dated so I thought why not enter our pay that way too and adjust as needed when we are actually paid. In theory it sounds good but we shall see how it works in reality.

August wrap-up and looking ahead

September 2nd, 2008 at 05:45 pm

Well letís see, this past weekend was extremely productive. We cleaned out my daughterís closet and removed a bookcase that was in there and a shelf that was intended for my desk but somehow landed in her closet when we moved in, rearranged my sonís room, cleaned out the garage, took a carload of stuff to Goodwill, and washed and vacuumed my car.

I received two gift cards to Trader Joeís. Someone gave them to my mom and she doesnít shop there so she gave them to me.

I opened an ING account for my daughter last Thursday and have been waiting for the small deposits they make to the linked account to post. I havenít opened my sonís account yet since he doesnít have the $250 opening balance required to get the $25 credit. I am debating on just crediting his allowance to bring him to $250 so he can get the $25. I also am going to have my daughter ďreferĒ him so that she gets $10 and then my son can ďreferĒ us so that he gets $10.

August was an interesting month budget-wise. We are getting used to having spending money as opposed to using our credit card. I donít think my husband has used his allowance yet. I have $30 left - we each started with $50. My plan is to replenish the money every time my husband gets paid which will be this Friday, but depending on how much we have left, I may revise the allowance number down. Our dining out category is over budget but is still less than other months so that is a good sign. I am cooking more at home - baby steps. I do need to work on not going to the grocery store more than two times per week. The ďlittleĒ shopping trips mid-week are whatís causing me to go over my grocery budget.

I do need to come up with a few hundred dollars to register my daughter for competitive soccer. This will impact our budget as I had not planned for this. I also need to do my September budget in Quicken; most of it is done, just need to input income and double-check the other entries. Our income will be less than normal since DH is now signed up for his 403b plan. I can check that off as completed. I completed all my August goals!

I sent my resume for a job last week. I hope they call - I need a new job badly. My current job just doesnít challenge me or keep me busy anymore. I am quite literally bored most of the time.

Iím adding some goals for September to the sidebar. As I think of more I will update.

Bump in the road

August 27th, 2008 at 05:51 pm

I made our first extra principal payment yesterday on our car loan. Felt good to do it and Iíll be glad to pay it off one year early.

Hit a snafu of sorts today. My daughter has been invited to play on a competitive soccer team. She currently plays house but subbed on 2 different competitive teams recently due to a shortage of players. One of the teams has asked her to join them. Problem is we would have to come up with $370 in order to register her. We are saving for competitive fees for next year and I am not sure where this $370 will come from. I will need to look at our budget tonight. Iím not sure why the fees are so low because if we had registered her earlier this year the fees would have been double.

I am over my grocery budget for the month but that is partly due to groceries I bought at Costco. Other than that, things are going well.

Just saved $42/mo

August 26th, 2008 at 09:12 pm

I finally called my cable/internet company and asked what they could do to keep me as their customer. The customer service rep punched a bunch of keys on her keyboard and was able to save me $42/month for the next year. Thats 1/3 of what I was paying before. Not bad for 10 minutes on the phone. The rates are only good for one year so next August I will have to switch providers or call back and get another special.

I can check off that goal as completed. Woo hoo!

August goals

August 26th, 2008 at 04:10 pm

I am making progress on my August goals. Iíve been procrastinating about calling to find out about switching cable and internet. I received a promotional flyer in the mail yesterday and figured now was as good a time as any to make the call. It is so confusing trying to figure out what is the best plan for your needs. Ultimately I decided to not go with AT&T and will call my current provider and let them know about all the offers I am receiving to switch and ask what they can do to retain me as their customer. I know they have ďcustomer retentionĒ departments so hopefully they can give me a good deal.

I made 3 deposits to my emergency fund yesterday. One was a refund from an overpayment to a credit card, another was money my girlfriend owed me for baseball tickets I purchased for her and the other was a check but I canít remember for what. All in all, I deposited about $60.

I also decided to withdraw cash for my husband and me to use as our spending money. I ran a Quicken report and found that my husband has spent $36 since the beginning of August on lunches, coffee, etc. Each of us gets $50. I was thinking $50 per pay period but based on his spending, $50 might be enough for the entire month. We will see how that goes since this is the first time we have ever had an ďallowanceĒ.

I am leaning towards opening ING accounts for the kids simply because of the interest. I need to get their cash and deposit to my checking so I can link it to their ING accounts.

My goal is to have all of my goals completed by this weekend so I don't have to carry them over to September.

Weekend Wrap-up

August 18th, 2008 at 06:08 pm

Iíve been trying real hard to not spend money on non-necessities but apparently my husband didnít get the memo. Itís partly my fault because I wasnít real clear about the plan. He is the main breadwinner so I feel a little weird telling him to not spend the money HE earns. He generally is good about money but he has a habit of late of going out to lunch instead of coming home or bringing it to work. Anyways, he went to Subway this weekend and got sandwiches for himself and the kids. I havenít entered the receipt in Quicken yet but it was probably around $15. I later told him that I was trying to not spend money on things we donít need or else we wonít have enough to pay down our car loan. He got the message as he made his lunch on Sunday.

One of my goals, although it isnít posted in the sidebar, is to make and eat more meals at home and Iíve been doing well on this so far. As Iíve mentioned before, dining out is by far our biggest budget buster. Iíve resolved to plan meals ahead of time and grocery shop on the weekends. I have this weeks meals planned and went grocery shopping yesterday. I even bought and prepped some of the goodies that Subway puts on their sandwiches so that my husband can make them at home. Iíve prepped as much as I could last night so meal preparation during the week will be more streamlined. I spent $52 at the grocery store and another $80 at Costco but that was to stock up on some groceries and household things.

I decided to revise my allowance plan for my son. Going to give him $1 for every year of age he is and pay that weekly. The catch is he will have to save half of his allowance. I think he will be pleased with that as he will come out $4 ahead of what I told him I would previously pay him. I figure that is a fair and equitable way to pay him as my daughter is asking to get paid an allowance too. This way they each will get a ďraiseĒ every year.

We pay our credit card bill in full each month. Since we overspent last month and since I have recently paid for those charges, I am finding myself short this month for my savings. Even if I save for just the bare minimum (i.e. half the mortgage, property taxes, emergency fund and half the car payment) I am left with about $110 in our checking. I will need gas this week and a tank costs me in the range of $75-$80! DH does get paid Friday so I may hang on to the money in our checking until Thursday and then transfer to savings. DHís paycheck is direct deposited so by midnight it will hit our account. Hopefully then I can also pay the $200 extra on our car payment. I expect to see better results next month as a result of our reduced spending.

I am getting a $21 refund from an overpayment on my Macyís account. I also have another $20 check refund coming to me for a birthday gift I received by didnít want. I plan on putting that towards our extra car payment or into our emergency fund. Iíll probably wait and see how things fare next month.

This saving money thing is almost becomming a game for me and I am liking it!

Goals completed and in progress

August 15th, 2008 at 07:56 pm

I spent a few hours last night trying to reconcile a savings report to my savings account. Sometimes I HATE Quicken. The report said I had saved more money than I actually have in my savings account. I finally figured it out but what a waste of time. I'm seriously considering moving that money to ING so I can have an account for each savings category.

I did call my stockbroker yesterday where my IRA is held and inquired about converting my traditional IRA to a ROTH IRA. Turns out I would owe tons of money in taxes so needless to say, I won't be converting. I can mark that goal as completed.

I also am in the process of signing up my husband for his 401k, or rather a 403b. We have the paperwork, need to get it notarized (another unanticipated expense) and send it off. His net pay will be reduced by several hundred dollars so I will need to make adjustments to our budget.

I looked online at for deals to bundle my phone/cable/internet services but geez, they are so confusing. No wonder why I've been procrastinating about changing carriers.