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!