Saturday, December 29, 2007

January 2008 Budget

January Budget

What's wrong with the budget?

Whew! December is a L E A N month for income! I had to make some adjustments to make it work. For one, our taxes are more than I have allowed (but there will be time to make them up before July). We're going to have to float this month for doctor visits on what's left over from previous months. There's an extra grocery trip day this month so I had to pop a few more dollars into that fund too. Mike uses his Blow Money to pay for off the wall stuff so it's kind of an entertainment, household misc and Mike's blow fund in actuality.

January is a 5/3 paycheck month!

That makes February extra special! The extra income plus a CD maturing will look really good for my payoff totals!!

Realistic Goals for 2008

Oh sure, I can wish that I could lose 30 pounds by my birthday or to become completely debt free -- but those aren't goals -- those are WISHES. Looking at me - looking at my debt totals you would know that I couldn't REALISTICALLY do either! LOL So I had to sit down and come up with a list of "Realistic Goals" of what I want to accomplish for 2008.

1. Little Bit of Payoff! Ding 1, 2 & 3 on my debt list should be erased by mid February with a CD that matures. These are the first debts that I placed into my snowball spreadsheet, so this will be the first time I will actually see a snowball roll to the tune of $450 a month. NICE!

2. Cash Please! We've tried this before to go COLD TURKEY on credit card using. Thank God, because the debt to be paid off would probably be about 10k more than it is now! Anyhow, we've been living within our means since JULY 2007. My goal is to keep on the plan and to not slack off with my using my envelopes!

3. EMERGENCY! If you've been reading my blogs you will know that I have 3 senior cats. 2 of which are miracles living to 20 years old. Stupidly I never really budgeted vet bills because I've been quite lucky and haven't been plagued with a lot of vet bills until THIS YEAR! I want to get a separate EF for those guys! I think 2008 may be a bumpy road for me.

4. Give me a Break! Okay, so there won't be a full fledged VACATION planned for a while as we lop off more and more of our debt for the big payday - HOWEVER - we will need a little break - maybe a weekend or even an overnight someplace fun. That is what we plan to do with the "Change Jar" funds.

5. Supplemental Income! My grocery store recently changed their coupon policies which USED to be that they would take expired coupons up to 6 months out. No more. I had a perfect strategy for organizing my coupons and would save HUGE every week because I had coupons for just about everything that I needed to buy - and if there was a SALE...LOOKOUT! Well, I have to work on a new strategy for my couponing and hope for the best! I also dibble in rebates - but I think I should pay more attention to rebating. Online surveys and paid email things I usually go crazy close to Christmas to try to earn spending money, but I'm going to try to get the most of everything I can get there too. Come April - August, my job picks up so I won't struggle so much.

6. Go Surfing! I have to double check, but I think one of my debts teaser rates ends this year -- so once that happens I will surf balances onto a card with a low "for life" APR. The last two credit cards are pretty up there and I won't be paying them off in the next 12 months.

That's it. My Realistic Goals. In a nutshell -- KEEP IT UP!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Planning 08 Goals - Implimenting Ideas

It's been a week of bonuses for me! First I was accepted to Pinecone Research and today I have been accepted by PayPerPost! I'm very excited to start this new opportunity!

What am I hoping for from PayPerPost?

As you know, I have been looking for ways to suppliment my income to help pay our debt down. I do work outside of the house roughly 33 hours a week, and although the possibility exsists of getting a second job - the family requires me to be home. Long story short - I'd like to find a way to keep some money coming in from online sources. That's the goal.

Why PayPerPost?

I saw a link to PayPerPost on another blog that I read quite often. The site owner was profiting from PayPerPost - so I decided to join. I enjoy writing and as my friends know I have opinions about everything. Some opinions go against the grain, but I think that is what makes the opinions even more worth while reading!

What am I planning on doing with my earnings?

You'll see a list of my debts off to the right. See the one on top that's not paid for? Bingo! That's the one! Honestly, my budget is in place and that's maintaining my living expenses okay for now so that my extra money that I make can go directly to my debts.

So what about after your debts are paid?

Oh, so I finally get to yell -- "I'M DEBT FREE!!!" then what? I'm figuring that even when that happens I'll be having so much fun maintaining my blog, chatting with my blog friends, and writing for PayPerPost - I'll probably keep it up long after I make that call to Dave Ramsey! You will then see a VACATION COUNTER to the right instead of a debt counter and I will "Post" my way to Walt Disney World -- or maybe a beach someplace beautiful!

drive traffic

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas 2007

I wanted to drop a quick note to wish everyone a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS! We had a fabulous day! If my prime rib would have been a little more done the first time out -- it would have been A PERFECT DAY ... and even with that ... it wasn't THAT bad! I'm stuffed beyond stuffed -- and I'm in my brand new comfy cozy bathrobe and slippers and I'm ready to curl up for the night.

Are you SURE I have to go back to work tommorow? Doesn't it seem like you should always get the day off the day after Christmas? I'm itching to go hunting for sales tommorow to get a head start for next year! Speaking of next year -- I'm working on my goals for 2008. Do you know what yours are?

You've got a week to think about it :)

Monday, December 24, 2007

Pinecone Research

Okay, you know I'm a hopeless nerd when I'm writing about a survey place on Christmas Eve! I'm excited to announce that after 6 or 7 years of trying, I have finally been accepted to Pinecone Research!

What's the big deal, Wendy?

For One: You cannot just go to Pinecone and sign up like every other survey place online. You have to find a banner on a random website and sign up through that link that you somehow found. I have attempted to sign up several times over - and have never heard back. Today, I heard back. I don't know if it was the thrill of the chase or if it's because I hear the payouts are very good on Pinecone Research - either way - I'm thrilled!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Well, partially because my mom dropped off all the presents already so our front room is STACKED! Looks as if I spent a fortune - and didn't.

Last night, we entertained ourselves by our annual "laugh until you cry fest" with Chevy Chase's Christmas Vacation! No matter how many times I see that movie I crack myself up!

Last night also, I finished wrapping presents that I had to do. Finally - done!

I have to work tonight, and tommorow I cook (set myself up for Christmas). It's amazing that things always take shape on time even when I get so behind. I love it!

I wanted to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and hope your holiday is spectacular.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Our Weekly Menu w/ recipes

This week again will be a little weird because of the holidays. My mother always hosts Thanksgiving Dinner and our family hosts Christmas. Last year, I decided to get a little crazy and made Rib eye steaks and lobster tails for dinner. Mind you, I'm only feeding 5 for Christmas. My husband and I were so incredibly sick on Christmas, that neither one of us could enjoy or even recall our feast so I decided that we would do it again this year. Of course, budgetted into our annual Christmas account - we are having Prime Rib and Lobster Tails for dinner . Our only splurge of this year (and probably next)

Tuesday: Taco Soup (recipe from my mentor Pam! -- was quick and delicious!!)
Wednesday: Pork Chops, Stuffing and homemade applesauce.
Thursday: Spaghetti Bake (feeds for two days - easy and yummy!)
Friday: Free Buffet at my work on Friday for Christmas
Saturday: Chicken Pasta
Sunday: Pizza (boys on their own)
Monday: Corned Beef and Cabbage
Tuesday: Prime Rib and Lobster Tails

Grocery Budget
Christmas Dinner: $114 - made it (barely)
Regular Groceries: $70 plus $35 from next week's envelope seeing that I won't be able to go shopping until late next week.


Spaghetti Pie:
You may need to alter the amount of pasta and sauce if you don't have the 11x13 pan. It will bubble over (been there, done that)
I also cut down on the cheeses a touch because my son isn't a huge fan of cheese. Adjust cooking time if you have premade this and put in the fridge.

1 pound Italian Sauasage (I use gr beef and add italian seasonings while browning)
1 large onion chopped
2 jars spaghetti sauce
1 lb spaghetti cooked and rinsed
1/2 stick butter or marg.
3 eggs beaten
16 oz shredded motz cheese
8 oz grated parmesan cheese
16 oz sm curd cottage cheese

Brown sausage and onion and drain. Add spaghetti sauce along with some basil, oregano and minced garlic to taste. Simmer up to 2 hours (my mom's recipe - she's retired, I don't have time to wait 2 hours!)

Toss cooked spaghetti with butter - add eggs, parm cheese and half of the motz cheese until well mixed. Spoon mixture into buttered 11 x 13 casserole. Press down. Cover evenly with a layer of cottage cheese. Spoon sauce on top. When smooth, poke holes with a wooden spoon randomly over the entire surface.

Bake for 20 minutes at 350. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top and bake 10-15 min or until golden and bubbly. Cool 10 minutes before serving.

Taco Soup*:
1 lb of gr beef (browned)
2 cans diced tomatoes with juice,
2 small cans of tomato sauce (or 1 large can),
2 cans of pinto beans that have been rinsed and drained, (I used northern beans - all I had)
about a half diced white onion,
3-4 cups of water
2 pkg taco seasoning.

"Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer. The longer you simmer the better it will be. We waited about 30 minutes cause it just smelled so darn good, but it's like pasta, it's even better the next day. We pour a bowl, top with some cheese, and usually will eat it with a flour tortilla. But it's good with crackers, by itself, with chips, just whatever. Takes about 10 minutes to throw together, it's cheap (tomato stuff is always on sale, beans are cheap, taco seasoning is fairly inexpensive), and makes a huge pot. I make this when I have company, everyong loves it."

*This recipe came from my mentor, Pam. She was awesome enough to share a bunch of recipes for gr beef and frozen chicken breasts. You'll see me refer to Pam's recipes often.


Friday, December 14, 2007

Murphy must HATE cats! - plus end of week blurb.

Ahhh boy am I thankful tomorrow is Saturday and I can sleep in! This morning we were awakened at 2am, by our youngest cat (age 10) moaning and rolling, growling and pacing. I'd never seen her do anything like that before. Her nose and face were burning up and she just kept dropping on her side and rolling while making this horrible moaning sound. Needless to say, by 2:45 I was in the parking lot of the vet waiting for the doctor to show up.

Did you know that cats can have asthma? I knew she had a skin irritation by her neck - assumed dry skin that she's been scratching. I guess, it's common for cats with allergies. (I wonder if she's allergic to cats?) But they said that the irritation was actually hives due to allergies which lead to an acute asthma attack. She was hot because her blood pressure went up because of the discomfort she was in.

I never heard of such a thing. They gave her a cortisone shot which is supposed to help the hives as well as the asthma. A cat with asthma. Honestly - I've now heard everything.

Welp, I had to hit my emergency fund on this one. $140 for an emergency office visit and a sleepless night. She seems to be more comfortable, however, DEFINITELY not herself.

Remember the Puss in Boots from Shrek? Stormy's eyes looks just like that sad face Puss makes in the video. It's heartbreaking.

So that's all three cats:

Chelsie (20) Blind in one eye - suffers from Primal Glaucoma
Cahoots (19) Lost a lot of weight - suffers from hyper thyroidism
Storm (10) Gets Hives -- suffers from allergies and asthma


I noticed that I need to come up with a new survey question for the week.

I can't post a Weekly Menu because we've just been diving into the freezer and pantry reserves because I now finally went to the grocery store for the week. (Shopping days are Monday or Tuesday typically) I'll have to catch up with you next week on that.

The boys are going out - so I have the day (and night) to bake and wrap presents and hit a few cookbooks to plan our Christmas dinner. Yep, I'm THAT behind!

Anyway, I'm going to bed. If you hear my snoring - ask me to roll over!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Party is Over

The Tastefully Simple party is over and with pretty decent results. I was able to pick up some goodies to prepare for Christmas and New Years (plus a dip bowl and a spreader! BONUS)

My hostess freebies I selected:
Sun-dried tomato and Feta Cheese Ball Mix
Spinach and Herb Mix
Italian Romano Cheese Ball Mix
Go Go Asiago Dip Mix

I did look online and found a copy-cat recipe for Tastefully Simple's yummy Bountiful Beer Bread so I didn't have to pay $6 a box for this. Are you ready? You're going to want to try this!

Tasty Beer Bread

12oz beer (not light or corona)
3 C. self rising flour
1/3 C. sugar
3 Tbsp. butter, melted.

1. Preheat oven to 350. Spray a 9" x 5" loaf pan with baker's cooking spray.
2. Combine flour and sugar; stir in beer (you might have to use your hands to get it mixed thoroughly). Dough will be sticky.
3. Pour into prepared loaf pan; brush top with melted butter.
4. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until top is golden brown. Cool slightly; remove from pan and finish cooling.

Since I bought beer for the party (and we don't drink beer) I guess I'll be making this recipe quite often until we run out! LOL

The day after the party we had an ice storm so I wasn't able to get to the grocery store! So, we've been eating party left overs and some pantry reserves for dinner until I can get there.

Did you realize Christmas is like RIGHT AROUND THE CORNER? Am I the only idiot FAR from ready for this? Can someone check my calendar? I could swear it was just November!!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Weekend Update

Christmas Decorating
Welp, the house is coming along. Just a few more boxes to drag up from the basement and get set out.

Meal Planning
So, it's not very Ramsey-ish, but we are having an elaborate spread for Christmas. We did last year too - but because the family and I were SO INCREDIBLY SICK last Christmas, I can't hardly recall the holiday - or the flavors of dinner. We're putting it in rewind and trying it again this year.

Also cookies. I have to thumb through my recipes and find a few (because I'm only making a few) cookie recipes.

Grocery store didn't have a lot of great deals this week. I like being able to plan my weekly meals around what's on sale. Saying that -- I have to be pretty inventive this week!

Tastefully Simple
I'm having a Tastefully Simple Party tomorrow. Why? I was hoping to get enough free goodies to use for the Holidays and New Years. I'm not much of house party type person - so it should be interesting. The stuff sells itself, so I'm not worried about that. I am usually worried of how many people will show up! LOL

Change of Schedule
A lot of whispering at work behind the closed doors of the bosses this week. It looks as if we are all getting schedule changes for winter. Mine, basically the same as it's always been - I'm probably the only one who didn't LOSE hours in this new schedule shifting. Thank goodness. Plus, I was given more productive time. Another bonus. I guess it all washes in the end.

Mentor to walk with me
One of my favorite websites - came up with a great idea of a MENTOR/MENTOREE program. I've been involved in my Total Money Makeover since July, and have a good grip on the logistics of the program. This is the first time though, that I feel like I have a comrade in the fight! We are similar in age and have an incredible amount in common which just makes the whole thing more comfortable. She's out of BS2*, and thankfully has decided to help ME get through it as well.

(*BS2= Baby Step 2 - Pay off your Debts)

It all adds up ...

So it's tedious taking online surveys for a couple bucks here and there - but you know what? It all adds up. I had taken some surveys that paid out in Amazon Bucks - I'd been banking them until there was something I needed. Actually, I thought I would probably wind up saving them for Christmas next year. How about THAT for a jumpstart on the holiday??

Instead, I used the bucks - filled out the rebate form and will get off paying only $3.99 for my Tax Cut 2007 Federal+State software! It's the program I used last year so all the info will get imported. I love easy! More than that... I LOVE A DEAL!

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Lessons learned the hard way

If you've been reading my blog you will know that I started my "Total Money Makeover" in July. It's not that I was ignorant regarding personal finance prior to July, but I sure wasn't fully educated either.

My maternal grandmother, God rest her soul, was the most frugal person I ever knew. She was brilliant - and knew exactly the money game and how it played. I'd make fun of some of her shopping habits - most of which I now do myself. Unfortunately gram died while I was early in my high school career so I was in my arrogant, rebellious teen angst years and didn't really pay attentions to the lessons taught. Hind sight..... Gram was WEIRD! Now I'm wanting to be just as WEIRD as she!

Okay... here's a few of the lessons I have learned.

1. No matter how you phrase it - you can not pay off credit cards when you are still using them.

2. Surfing a balance from one card to another is NOT the same thing as making a payment.

3. Rewards Points on credit card purchases gives you an excuse to over use your credit card. You may have the intentions of paying it off -- but you can wind up with more in interest charges than you do in cashed out rewards points.

4. (and also my favorite saying) "____% off of too much is STILL too much!"

5. Even if it's a great deal ... if it's going to sit in a closet, drawer, in the basement, or otherwise unused ... it wasn't money well spent.

6. Go to the grocery store with a list, your coupons, a plan and an envelope of CASH! No credit debit cards!

7. Quit listening to how your friends handle their finances - because your friends are just as clueless as you are (or lucky as the case would be... WERE)

8. Don't EVER watch QVC or the Home Shopping Club or any late night infomercials if you want to save money!

9. When your insurance agent tries to scare you into UNIVERSAL LIFE insurance - run the other way. I can't tell you how close I was to buying into this myth.

10. Budget everything. This is major for me. I have always budgeting my monthly bills. Have great credit and haven't been late on a payment. Kudos, pat me on the back...... but not so fast because the rest of life was charged on a credit card. And if that doesn't sound bad enough, refer back to #1.

11. Use cash. Even when you've thrown all your credit card in a drawer, an ice block or have cut them up into millions of pieces - you haven't really changed the habit if you are still using your debit card. I never believed it until I started using cash. Spending cash hurts. You really start thinking... " Do I really NEED that?" That's when you know you have become weird.

12. Quit being lazy. What do you mean I have to cook? I worked all day! It's so much easier to stop at Mickey D's on the way home than cook. The fact that I work in a restaurant doesn't help much either. We have saved so much money, by having a weekly game plan and not hitting the sit down restaurants all the time. You have cookbooks - you have ingredients - COOK!

13. Read! Teach yourself something! Although I was pleased to know that some of what Dave Ramsey was talking about in Total Money Makeover and Financial Peace Revisited was things I already knew or did - I learned so much more than I could have hoped for. It's been forever since I read a book.

14. Admit there's a problem. Denial is what got me through the 90's. As long as the payments are being made - what's the problem? The problem is, I'm almost 40 and I'm broke. End of story!

15. Watch your statements, store receipts, or anything that goes through a computer. I scan for errors all the time. I make calls to customer service and I get things fixed. All those little errors add up to BIG $$. If you don't care about your $$ who does?

I'm sure there's more.

What are some of your Lessons learned the hard way?
Add your comments here.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

I finally watched "MaxedOut" a documentary on credit card use, abuse and the unscrupulous and sometimes fraudulent practices of the big named banks. Although, common sense would tell you that if you are buying things you can't pay for, the story will get bad quickly, some stories told were just plain jaw dropping.
We have Netflix and I found out in our subscription, we are able to view a certain amount of movies online -- instant view. Who knew?
I recommend the title. Get ready to hear a few off the wall and unbelievable things! No wonder the middle class struggles to survive. Notice I didn't say "live" -- I said SURVIVE!

Our Weekly Menu

There's a little Italian grocery store that I go to. Usually, I just pick up meat and produce there. The prices are amazing. Typically their grocery items are marked up a bit more than my regular grocery store, but I wound up finding a bunch of great finds there this week!

Budget: $70

Monday: McDonalds (I know, I know)
Tuesday: Country Ribs, Green Beans, Mashed Potatoes and Applesauce
Wednesday: Steak Fajitas
Thursday: Stuffed Peppers
Friday: Pesto Chicken with Tortellinis
Saturday: Dijon Pork Chops
Sunday: Boys on their own

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Birthday Weekend - Tribute to my 16 year old

Can you remember your 16th birthday?

It was a big year. My father officially allowed me to date, wear SOME makeup although I was supposed to wait until 17. Sense? I got my first car and my first taste of freedom. Well, as much freedom as my family allowed -- which wasn't a lot!

Tommorow is my kid's 16th birthday! Today we're having his party with friends. We're going to the movie theatre to play video games on their big screen. Not the actual movie screen (how cool would THAT be) but their wide screen TV in their entertainment area. Should be fun.

You have so many hopes and dreams for your kids as they get older. Some are your dreams for yourself unfullfilled. Some are lessons that you've had to learn the hard way. I have a lot of hopes for this kid - but most of all, I hope that he grows up to be happy! Everything else is just icing on the cake!

Speaking of cake - I made a DOUBLE CHOCOLATE GOOEY BUTTER CAKE for tonight!

Happy Birthday Nick! I love you!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Elbow Grease Saves Money

Despite recommendations from the area Carpet Cleaner, I rolled out my carpet cleaner that has sit new in the box for the past 4 years and cleaned the whole house! Cost out of pocket? $2.96 for new belts!

I picked up the Bissell as we were building our new home. It was after the purchase, and after the decision to use light colored berber that our local carpet cleaner told us that "Berber carpet should ONLY be cleaned by professionals." When asked "Why?" he responded, "1. You will get huge yellow stains that cannot be removed. 2. Think of it as shampooing your hair and after rinsing you still don't get all the shampoo out. 3.Don't clean Berber more than you need to. It's actually bad for the Berber." Long story short - I beleived him and have paid hundreds of dollars over the last few years having HIM come clean it and left the Bissell in the box in the basement.

I figured I had been sharked by so many people claiming to have my best interest at heart lately, I decided to break the puppy out and see what the worst was going to happen. After all, the carpet was filthy - and I didn't have funds to pay him! Well, the worst thing that happened was the pump belt broke right after I got started - but good old Walmart had replacements for those. All the cleaners I had already.

I saved over $100.00 and have clean carpets for the holidays! Now I can set up the tree!

Monday, November 26, 2007

December's Budget

From our YNAB program: (click on pic to enlarge)

December Oddities: A little more personal money going out because of the holidays & both cats need to go to the vet.
Keep in Mind: DS pays $50 into this budget because of his phone and subscription.

Our Weekly Menu

Boring week for menu planning. Very little left in the budget for groceries so I have to be inventive on the days I do have to cook. I didn't realize how many meals out we had this week. What a treat!

Monday: Italian Breakfast Casserole
Tuesday: Meatloaf and Potatoes
Wednesday: Hot and Spicy Tacos (got my free seasoning packet from Old El Paso)
Thursday: Mom's taking us out for Pizza for DS's birthday
Friday: Burgers on the grill (weather permitting)
Saturday: My DS's 16th birthday party - eating on the fly.
Sunday: Ravioli Shrimp Scampi (ds's favorite meal)

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Weekly Update

So call me a hypocrite:
So, I WASN'T going to go. But I did wind up leaving the house at about 8:30. That's pretty early for me to do anything, really. Well, maybe drink coffee and read email. I hit a few stores and basically walked in and out -- except Kohls. Kohl's checkout lines were to the back of the store. Other than that, I braved: Best Buy, JCPenney, Yankee Candles and got in and out. We went out for our monthly dining out experience - no wait for a table. I guess all the hub-bub was at the wee hours in the morning because the trash outside Best Buy would lead me to believe that had line sleepers prior to opening.

Christmas Shopping:
My Shopping is done! UNDER BUDGET - and even played Santa's helper for my mom who is usually at a loss for shopping for my dh and son.

Not too bad!

December Budget:
Will be posted soon. I have to tweak a couple of things and rework a couple of ideas.

Busy Busy:
Looking ahead to next week - work, my son's birthday, My Tastefully Simple Party, Work X-Mas Exchange, and grocery shopping. Whew! Busy Busy!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Black Friday??

You know, I've only done it a couple of times -- each time I vow that I would never do it again. Are the sales THAT incredible that you would risk putting yourselves in harm's way, wait for store openings in the cold, and wait in those LONG check out lines?? Thankfully, my shopping is about done already. I may head out tommorow, but it definately will be when those early birds are back at their nests! I like shopping online better. My coffee. My jammies. My hair in a .... hmmm.. I don't know how you'd describe MY morning hair! LOL

But if you plan to go out -- and want a heads up:
Good luck! Let me know what deals I missed!

Happy Thanksgiving!

You know, we had such an unusually warm fall that I think it really messed with my annual timing. Although working in the restaurant industry - especially one that promoted and sold complete turkey dinner packages to go, that the concept that today is Thanksgiving shouldn't astound me. But it does!

We got a little snow last night - again confirming the fact that fall is indeed over and I really need to get myself geared for winter.

We head to my mom's for Thanksgiving Dinner in a few hours - and I look so forward to it. It's only 5 of us for dinner, but my mom lays down a spread for 20.

So... to you and yours from me and mine --- HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!!

Monday, November 19, 2007

A New Look aka Wow THAT took all day!

Messing around looking for a more appropriate template for my blog. What could have been simple --- turned out to be a lesson in HTML that I wasn't prepared for!

Welp, off to the medicine cabinet for some Advil!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Good Week for Surveys - plus other favorites!

You know, some weeks are just dead. Or I receive surveys that I don't qualify for. I guess it doesn't help that I am a spoiled brat because I rarely fill out any that don't offer CASH rewards anymore. I've got so many entries into the BIG prize, but I just don't win.

Here's a few of the survey sites I have been banking with lately. - I started out with them when I was an AOL member, I have since moved onto PAYPAL payments rather than AOL credits. You have to remember to check up with them because they don't send many invites to you. You can only do one survey every week (unless you don't qualify - then they give you a new "come back" date)
My rating: A- - I've earned $29.oo with them so far. They seem to be slim on their surveys, but when they have one - the payout is pretty good.
My rating: C+ - I've been with TestSpin for awhile. It was one of those places that you could cash out for certificates. I've noticed SO many more survey opportunities lately than I ever have. I cashed out $10 in October, and I'm about to do it again. I might hold off because they are switching to allow payment in PAYPAL! You do get a lot of surveys -- I notice that I can actually qualify for about half of them....however if you are in the IT field, you will BANK! I get a TON of those I don't qualify for.
My rating: B+ - This used to be an old favorite of mine! I had forgotten about it when I dumped AOL. I recently signed up for a $20 product testing (no problems here) and a $5.00 survey. I'm glad to have found this one again!! The only drawback is they offer a lot of sweepstakes surveys, but if I sift through a few of them - there are good amount of paying surveys.
My rating: A- - This one is new to me. I've already made $18.oo since September. You have to wait for check, but they arrive pretty quickly. The surveys were pretty easy. My son just did one for beverages and made $11.! I'm still new to this program to really give a great feel for it.
My rating: B+ - I joined this - and the only "surveys" you get - are ones you have to pay for a product and they will reimburse you. I never did a survey and didn't seem to be worth my time. If you like trial offers - then you may like this program. If not, I'd avoid it.
My rating: N/A

Send - This is a new to me program also. Seems similar to MyPoints (see below)but the downfall I noticed is that the payout is set to $30. But I recently signed up and have only done surveys and opened emails and I have a bit over $8.00 (granted some of that is by help of a referral) I'd like to see more surveys.
My Rating: C

My Favorite Online $ Makers: - At it's most boring - it's a pay per click program. You read their emails - they give you points. And they add up pretty quickly! I've been around with this company for moons! I've cashed out COUNTLESS times and have used earnings to help pay for gifts or just as a perk for me. You also get good points for shopping your favorite stores through them. NOTE: Keep your confirmation emails until you see your points credited. They will need a copy if you are going to dispute a purchase. Good choice of rewards to pick from and pretty quick to ship.
My Rating: A+ - This is a NO BRAINER for online holiday shopping! You shop as you normally would and you get paid a % back on your purchases! A very reliable program. I've made $143 with them so far! Most during the holiday season. NOTE: They offer a downloadable "reminder tool", but I never downloaded it. I just always remember to look at Ebates before I shop ANYWHERE online! Cash out in either "Big Fat Check" or PAYPAL.
My Rating: A+

Annual Budget 2008

I haven't started working on it yet. I felt that I could roll over each months budget to the next month - but I have a couple of hurdles to jump. Into my budget I have to re-insert homeowners insurance and taxes. I don't escrow mine with the bank and because I had a suplus in the account to pay for those, I had stopped funding those in order to work on Baby Step One and Two. Come January, I will have to fit those into the budget. I'm curious on how that's going to pan out.

A Year of Thanks

First and foremost - I am thankful for my family and our health.

I'm thankful that even though I've had some pretty big vet bills lately, that all of my kitties are still with me!

I'm thankful to be able to afford my house, taxes and utilities in a time where people are losing their houses because of the mortgage they signed.

I'm thankful my aging car still loves me enough to get me back and forth. I love that car!

I'm thankful for Dave Ramsey that I stumbled on in July. He helped me establish a full fledged plan which was better than the plan I had adopted to get out of debt.

I'm thankful for my husband's overtime and willingness to pick up a second job when he wasn't working overtime to help with our new plan.

I'm thankful for budgets and envelopes and YNAB!

I'm thankful for new friends I have made at LLNOE! What a blessing those folks are. I can't even express it enough!!!

I'm thankful for printable coupon sources and the for getting my grocery savings plan in check!

I'm thankful for a fully budgetted Christmas, so I don't have to stress out about blowing the plan.

Ending with the thing I started with: I'm thankful for my family - their love, support and strength can see me through anything!

The Tale of 2 Grocery Stores and then 2 More

From the Beginning:
Once we moved here, you had two choices of grocery stores in town. Sentry and Pick n Save. Both decent stores. Decent prices. Decent sales. Sentry won my business because Tuesday was DOUBLE COUPON DAY! Their expired coupon policy varied by checker. Pick n Save was a little further down the street, but I would shop there occasionally too - depending on the deals.

Beginning of the End:
Walmart was to become a SUPER Walmart soon - so Sentry (seeing this as a threat, I would guess) decided to update their store. Once the update .. higher prices. Even on double coupon day. Our local PicknSave decided to take the cheaper route and stopped putting their sales fliers online. What's worse is that you couldn't compare the next town's sales flyer and assume that you would get the same sales - because they weren't there.

The End:
I stopped going to PicknSave because I couldn't get their sales flyer ahead of time to "plan my attack" and after the Super Walmart went up, it didn't take long and they ran our hometown Sentry out of business.

A Ray of Hope:
We moved again, a little closer to the state line, which opened up more opportunities for shopping. Meijers: God love them. Nice store with good selection and good prices. Their coupon policy - you never really knew. Depended on the cashier, I guess. I honestly have heard all of these lines coming from a Meijer checker at one point or another.

"Yes, we take expired coupons."
"No, we don't take expired coupons."
"Yes we take expired coupons but only Store coupons, not manufacturer's coupons."
"Yes, we take expired coupons, but NOT store coupons, only manufacturer's coupons."
"Yes, we take expired coupons 6 months out."
"We won't take expired coupons from 2006" (this was in January)
"We can take expired coupons, but it's at the discretion of the cashier."
"We no longer take expired coupons." (this was the most recent)

Frankly checking out of Meijers is like playing Russian Roulette. You never know when you are going to hit the one checker who doesn't know the policies and you have to explain yourself like you as to let them know you aren't a common thief and trying to rip the store off.

Backtrack a few months -- the store remodeled. (OH NO! Remember what happened to Sentry after the remodel?) Ahhh, indeed. The prices went up and their coupon policies changed again. Now a good portion of Meijers have a double coupon policy in place. Ours decided to take the expired coupon route instead of adopting the double coupon policy. Now they choose neither. And guess what - THEY LOST MY BUSINESS.

Last Resort:
I hate shopping here, and the check out lines are insane - but I found myself at SuperWalmart the other day jotting down the prices and being completely flabbergasted by the low prices. Their everyday prices beat the sales prices at Meijers on a bunch of things. SO, I think I have to change my December envelopes to have a grocery and meat envelope - I will go elsewhere for meat, but I guess Walmart wins my grocery business. I never thought I would go there for groceries - but when you are on a limited budget you have to go where the deals are. Don't you?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Week in Review

More Vet Bills
Our other senior citizen went to the vet this week. Can you say - "When it rains, it pours?" Or is this officially a visit from Murphy? Either way, Cahoots needed to go in because her lower lip look like she went through the worst boxing match you could imagine. Her lower lip swollen and infected. Of course, she's old (19) and hasn't needed to get her "senior citizen blood work" done. Total Bill: $147.00

Christmas Shopping:
I've done a little bit of shopping this week. Now, I just have to keep reminding myself that some of this stash is also for my son's birthday that falls BEFORE Christmas AND the fact that I do the shopping for my mom too. But I hit some clearance racks at Hot Topic and the annual dvd sale at with code DVDTALK for an additional 20% off! I've been waiting MONTHS for that one! I also hit up the Veteran's Day sale at Yankee Candle and picked my mom up a couple of things.

Plans for my Blog:
Does anyone really want to hear about my week to week struggles and triumphs? Are they more interested on what I'm doing to get myself OUT of this mess? Of course, I think starting this blog has been theraputic for me -- however I think I can do so much more to make my struggle more valuable to the readers. Stay tuned - I'm learning quickly.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Cash Crate?

Is it me or did I jump onto this program a little late? I've heard stories of wealth with this company, but I'm not seeing it. Sign up for spam sites - and I've signed up for every survey site I could find. Maybe it's another case of referral wealth. I'm not buying into it. I'll probably cash out at my $10.00 and dedicate my time elsewhere.

Monday, November 05, 2007

The Week in Review

In our tourist town, November first signifies that summer is truly over. The locals come out from their hiding places and enjoy their town. The weather has cooled off and the leaves had long but changed colors and have fallen off the trees. This year has been different. It's November - the weather has been mild, some trees still have their fall colored leaves, and the tourists are still running amok though our town. Tomorrow starts the cold snap, so we'll see how quickly this all changes.

I made my envelopes for the month. It's so fun divvying out the money, I wish it didn't go by so quickly. I actually had to make more envelopes!

Budget is in place for November. Since I am on the pay this month's bills with last month's income -- I knew what I had available to budget. This has been the second month on THAT plan. I'm learning so much about debt and budgets -- it's been very rewarding!

Supplemental Income
So, I've been reading blogs lately. Trying to figure out what I'm doing ... what I should be doing ... and come up with what I'm going to be doing. It's a learning experience. I've signed up for a lot of different programs, surveys and commission sites. Most of which may just work if I had more traffic to my blog. But then again, how many people are interested in MY debt? LOL
I'll update you more about what programs are working for me in a later entry. I'd really like to come up with an extra $800 before the end of the year.

We go back to the vet on Tuesday. This cat - she's going to use all 9 lives. A couple of weeks ago, my blood pressure was through the roof because I was tortured by the notion of putting this cat down. You'd have to understand the nature of this cat, the story that resulted in her being our cat, and all she's done for this family in the 20 years we've had her - to fully grasp what a devastating decision it would have been. She's definitely blind in the one eye. There's no doubt about that. Her arthritis is settling in on her hind legs ... but she's more active than she's been int he last two weeks! She's not hiding in her favorite spot all day and all night. She's even battled with the evil younger cat who likes to antagonize the elders whenever she gets a chance. It's great to have her back. But I know, I'll go through the heartbreak again. I just don't know when. If it's true that a cat has 9 lives - I do believe Chelsie has gone through 3-4 of them that I'm aware of.

My favorite message board: has just started a Christmas Accountability thread. I've always budgeted Christmas, so I'm not too panicked by the thought of being held accountable for my Christmas spending - but I am trying to sneak by on a dime so I can have a sinking fund set up for next year plus sneak Christmas dinner and my son's birthday into that budgeted money = $750. My husband and I are planning on getting our wedding rings re sized as our gift to each other. It's been three years since I wore mine (and I believe I can still see the "groove" in my finger where the ring once was) and my dh was able to extract his ring from his finger...with lots of help from dish soap! Besides that, I have a few gifts left to buy.

Tastefully Simple Party:
I've been really good about staying away from the at home party scene. It's basically meant to be a budget buster. Tastefully Simple sells spices, dip mixes, bread and dessert mixes, sauces etc. After going to a party a couple of weeks ago and only being able to afford a couple of things: Warm Savory Cheese Dip and Sun dried Tomato and Feta Cheese Ball Mix -- but having a huge "I WANT MORE..." list - I decided to have a party of my own. If you happen to need a couple nibble nabs for the holidays email me at sbchat101 at yahoo dot com. Tastefully Simple ships direct!

In Search Of:
One of the people left on my Christmas list is my mom's husband who LOVES Yosemite Sam. If anybody knows of anywhere that I can find cool YS things - please let me know. I've done the EBay route - so anything but that!

Are you reading?
If you are there and reading. Please drop a comment and say hi. I'd like to know someone is out there.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Weekend Update

Where is the World Headed?
Man, the media sure knows how to spread panic- don't they.

  • The cost per barrel went up to the highest it's been.
  • Predicted gas price increases make you want to cry!
  • We've got states that want to defect from the US Consitution and form there own goverment.
  • The crashing dollar.
  • MexiMeriCanada?
  • Neuros?
  • Should we be buying gold?
  • Credit card companies rumored to call cardholders for their balances because they are heading into dire staits.

The stress is amazing!!!! What to do? Who to believe?

This is Halloween.... This is Halloween!
Ahh, Tim Burton. I just love that movie Nightmare Before Christmas. They re-released it in 3-D. It was much more pleasant than a haunted house this year. I've got enough around to scare the daylights out of me!

Chelsie cashes in on another of her 9 lives:
Someone stepped in and saved our precious cat again! We had her pressures checked in her eyes and they are dropping!!! Of course, wrestling with her isn't getting a whole lot easier -- but the drops are working!!!! The vet is working on getting us a cheaper eye drop because we'll be using them LONG TERM! He said, "Long Term"!!! Looks like we eluded the reaper!

November Budget:
No major changes from before -- except adding a monthly VET envelope and making an extra payment to Citibank 1. We get an extra paycheck this month - however the trick is we have to keep everyone HEALTHY enough to WORK the hours to make it an extra paycheck rather than making up for partial paychecks because someone was sick.

Christmas Shopping & Nick's Birthday
Ahhh, well at least there won't be any stress for shopping this Christmas. In fact, I'd say I'm about half finished already. Nick's birthday is another story. It will be his Sweet 16. And no, he won't be getting a car! Tough to be going through a TMMO and give this kid the moon for his birthday. Anybody have any ideas??

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

I guess I needed a new budget line - aka Poor Chelsie Part 2

With a 20 year old cat, a 19 year old cat and a 10 year old cat -- I should have already started a sinking fund for vet bills.
Shoulda, coulda, woulda....
My 20 year old cat went to vet yesterday:
She had a white film going across a good portion of her eye. I assumed she went blind in that eye, but the fact that it was weeping was bothering me so we took her in. Well they did a few tests including a glucoma puff/pressure test and what should be around 15 and danger level being 27 --- her bad eye was at 69-75 which caused her lens to "blow out" and move foward (that's the film we are seeing) and her other eye is at 36-37. Tried to do a blood pressure test on her, but the machine wasn't registering. We COULD remove the bad eye, however if the good eye is already this bad...the same thing could happen to it also. That's what the vet said. He gave me a prescription for glucoma eye drops:
that I have put in her eyes twice a day to bring down the pressure counts so that she can be comfortable in the bad eye and hopefully reverse the glucoma in the good eye. We go back again at the end of the week. Now giving the blind eye a drop is's in. However, try wrangling a cat who sees something SO close to their eye. There is a delay before the drip...and she has it timed to wait to freak right before the drop comes out! Smart cat!

Needless to say, we had to jack funds from the medical sinking funds envelope (and hope nobody needs to go to the doctor until Feb 1st), the remaining from our blow money, and some extra cash that I was supposed to deposit into the bank -- I'll rearrange next month's budget.

I have to prepare myself for the inevitable -- and although our plans for remains isn't frugal and doesn't fit into the Dave Ramsey plan we have, we will be cremating her and keeping her ashes (as we will all of our cats)I'm not sure you'd call this Murphy knocking or God calling for her. Either way, the family is devistated.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Weekend Update

Cell Phone Issues: Resolved. Nick paid to have his replacement phone relisted to him.

FPU: I just completed my Financial Peace University online course. It was worth everything they ask for it. There is tons of information on there.

  • Worksheets, budgets, calculators
  • message boards and journals
  • Down loadable MP3 in the lesson categories
  • Lessons are broken into 3 so you can view them more leisurely.
  • FPU workbook in either answered or unanswered so you can fill out as you go along.
  • End of lesson quizzes -- see what you retained.

Grocery Shopping: Yeah, I whined. I'm sorry. You caught me at a less than Gazelle moment at the time. It's Sunday... and I can say that although I shopped my brains out and spent 2 weeks budget at the store.... it was justifiably spent. I still have a lot of meals to prepare this week and I think my only stop at the store will be for 1. milk 2. pop 3. coffee creamers (with coupons!) Long story short. I did good!

Debts: I'm using this month's income to pay for next month's budget. This is a new thing I've been trying and with Mike working crazy amounts of overtime lately, it's been easy to get that ball rolling. He also got a bonus this week which goes into the debt payoff pool. It's fun watching the numbers drop like flies!! We are hoping to be debt free (except for the house) early enough that we can save up for a full tilt vacation to celebrate that and our 20 year anniversary! Watch the side bar for those numbers to drop next week. (end of month)

Random Ramblings: I finished reading Nikki Sixx's Heroin Diaries this week. What an intense read! No doubt that I love that man -- but I'm telling you it broke my heart to read that story. Note to self: Before you think you have problems in life - try taking a walk in another man's shoes. Second note to self: Thank Mom for being a good role model!

Sad Note: Poor Chelsie. Our 20 year old cat, bless her little heart, went blind in one eye over the weekend. I know it's probably from the cataracts and hopefully the other eye is fine. We move from a ranch house to a 2 story house with basement just in time for our cat to go blind. Nice family, huh? I've been reading things on this over the weekend, and will be bringing her to the vet to see what she says.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Disabled Cell Phone = End of the World

Well, Nick has officially killed his cell phone. It put up a heck of a fight, God knows --- but it the end the teenager was named the victor. So a 15 year old, months away from a drivers license, out with friends and NO CELL PHONE! Now, I have to wonder what MY mom thought 23 years ago when it was ME out there....and there was no such thing as a cell phone. We are so connected these days. My son didn't really put up to much of a stink about not having a cell phone. (one less thing he has to pay for) but it was ME who flipped out about his being "out there" and no way to be contacted. How backwards is that? How backwards is it that it was ME that was making FUN of people who were obviously ADDICTED to their cell phone about4 years ago (before I got mine). How backward is it that I used to say my mom was too over protective with me ... yet I feel the need to stay in communication with my kid like I do?

Needless to say, I used blow money to pay for a cheap $20 (shipped) used phone off of eBay. So my withdrawl will be short lived.

The Grocery Store - Meals Planned

What used to be a pleasant experience hasn't been so lately.

I'm used to saving a 50-54% at the store with sales, coupons and catalinas, but lately I have been saving only 35-45% at the store. Don't get me wrong, I realize this is still pretty good -- but I 'm just not getting the huge hauls like I'm used to. I think Meijer's little remodel really killed the prices. And stupid me, didn't make a price book so the price changes eluded me.

I spent $80 yesterday (which is $10 over budget as it was) but I still forgot items I needed - so I'm heading back today with next week's budget money and shopping ahead for next week. Good news. I can stay away from the stores next week.

Two Weeks Planned Meals: (in no particular order)

Chicken Bruchetta
Chicken Ala King
Chicken Kievs
Chicken & Mushroom Casserole
Chicken Pesto with Ravioli*
Honey Dijon Pork Chops
Salsa Pork Chops
BBQ Pork Chops*
Spaghetti and Garlic Bread
Baked Ziti
French Toast Bake
Italian Breakfast Bake
Sausage Casserole

*Why yes, pork loin and chicken WERE on sale! LOL

Monday, October 15, 2007

November's Monthly Budget (Draft One)

FOOD: 400.00
Groceries - 300.00
Dining Out - 50.00
School Lunches - 50.00

AUTOS: 333.00
Gasoline - 260.00
Insurance - 63.00
Registrations - 10.00

Elantra *
B of A

OTHER DEBT: 607.00
Citibank Card with smallest balance (not in snowball)

HOUSEHOLD: 804.00*
Mortgage - 791.00
Master Plumbers Club Membership - 12.00
*we escrow our own taxes - have enough in the savings account for the rest of the year to cover January's bill

MEDICAL/HEALTH: 70.00 (sinking funds)
Dentist - 25.00
Co Pays - 20.00
Prescriptions - 20.00

Cable/Internet/Phone - 123.00
Cell Phones x 3 - 117.00 (actual OOP is 91.00)
Electric - 89.00 (budget billing)
Gas - 63.00 (budget billing)
Water 92.00 (yes, we know... it's HIGH -- it's the town, not just US)

PERSONAL: 237.00
Family Blow Money - 20.00 (not typical)
Wendy Blow Money - 60.00 (not typical)
Life Insurance (2 monthly - 1 annual premium) 82.00
Subscriptions (son pays for 24.00) 43.00
Misc Household Stops - 32.00

May or may not need. Still have funds left in the envelope from August!

Christmas is already fully budgetted for. Now all I have to do is go SHOPPING.

Damages ...

We've done good actually paying off debts. Problem is I transfered debts from one card to another it was like a merry-go-round from hell. Looking at some of the following balances, I'm sure SOME of it was in the midst of rotation and I didn't actually OWE this much at once. The merry go round was a quick moving thing.

** Now remember - these numbers from 1/06 - 1/07 are a little sketchy. **

January 2006
Chase - 4100.00
Chase - 5000.00
MBNA -8400.00
AMEX - 12,269.00
Citibank - 890.00
Elantra - 9423.00
Citibank - 14,576.00
HELOC - 21,000.00

January 2007
Chase - 0.00 (transfered to new Chase card)
Chase - 1832.00
Chase - 9,900.00
MBNA- 0.00
AMEX - 0.00 (valiant effort remaining transfered to HELOC)
Citibank- 5,920 (the card we USED to be transfered in part to BofA)
Elantra - 6,885
Bank of America - 17,575.00 (tranfered $ plus a bit of stupid tax)
Citibank - 12,160.00
HELOC 30,000.00 (+/-)
Discover - 1031.00 (oh GREAT! Another new card!)

Introduce Dave Ramsey into our home July 2007
The Plan Begins.
The Budget is in Place.
The Envelope System Works.
Gazelle Intensity Starts.

Here's where we CURRENTLY stand:
October 2007
Chase - 0
Chase - 0
Chase - 8085.00
MBNA - 0
AMEX - 0
Citibank - 1730.00
Elantra - 3200.00
Bank of America - 16,311.00
Citibank - 10,492.00
HELOC - 30,000.00 (+/-)
Discover - 0

Sunday, October 14, 2007

How did we get so far behind?

I guess part of solving the problem is identifying the problem. You would look at our debt and figure we drive expensive cars, dress in the latest fashions and have a big house with luxury appliances and the latest sound system. Truth is, we don't. I have always cut coupons, used a budget, shopped clearance racks, driven used cars and just recently moved into a modest sized house. So where did all this debt come from? CREDIT CARDS! Hey, Wendy -- if you don't have the luxuries -- what do you have to show for the credit card debt?

I used a budget -- FOR BILLS. That's what our paychecks paid for. The rest of our LIFE was funded by the temptation of CREDIT CARDS. Ala groceries, dentist bills, entertainment, dining out, medical bills, prescriptions, school lunches, clothes, car repairs etc. etc. etc.

I had been paying our debts using the snowball plan, however never really getting anyplace because once I paid one off ... I'd need to replace it with a new card that I had racked up a balance on while paying off the other one.

The key was to teach myself to budget for LIFE as well as the BILLS.
The key was to figure out where my MONEY was GOING.
The key was to QUIT being a SLAVE to the LENDER (and quit using those darn cards!)

The answer to my prayers? Dave Ramsey!