Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Can this be the answer to my weekly menu doldrums?

I went grocery shopping yesterday. You've heard me moan and complain about how my shopping trips just aren't as lucrative as they once were. I know the food prices are going up everywhere and it's the truth. I'm not store loyal. I bounce between store to store for whatever deals I can muster. I plan my weekly menu and try to use items I currently have. Frankly, I'm in a rut. I'm eating the same meals over and over (because I know they work into the budget) and I'm BORED .... and BROKE!

There's been a lot of talk about these Meal Planning services. I've been hesitant to join any because I don't see why I would pay someone to do what I already do. HOWEVER, I did find this one that kind of intrigues me. It's inexpensive. It comes with a grocery list and recipe instructions. They say that the shopping list is around $75. which is about what I spend every week. New recipes? Stays within the budget? Shopping List? I can go to any store? I may actually sign up for this one. My Weekly Menu will be a little more interesting .. THAT'S FOR SURE!

$15 every three months = $1.25 a week. I think I may be able to fit that into the grocery budget.

E-MEALZ Easy Meals for Busy and Frugal Families

The Almighty Change Jar

Who would have thought that you could seriously rack up that kind of money by putting coins in a jar (or in my case - a metal pail) ??

Right now, the change jar has $187.00 since July. I'm about to roll another $5. and should be able to tackle the whole cost by just cashing in my coins! How wild is that?

I thought that since we've been working really hard at our Total Money Makeover that we would empty the change jar and take a mini get-away. A re juice. A "cookie" for a job well done. I had no problem convincing dh and ds to go hit the water park for a couple of days with it. I really could use a break.

Refi Update:
Looks as if we may have solved our refi problem. Not with a huge savings - but MORE security. We're going to refi our HELOC and LOCK it in at the same rate we have now. At least I know that it's not in a variable that's going to go through the roof at some point. It's a LOAN. It's FIXED. NO Closing Costs, NO Appraisal Fees. Same payments as I'm currently making. I think I'm more than okay with that. You may see a huge chunk of pie coming off my little chart to the right. I'm okay with that! If this goes through - the goal date changes to September of 2009. That's because the HELOC is actually a portion of our original mortgage and the only reason I added it to BS2 was because of the variable. Now, I can skip that until BS6. I'm okay with that too!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Another One Bites the Dust

Okay, it's not "Officially" February yet for my big payoff session, however the funds were there so I paid off the little ding dong card. This one is especially sweet because it was never put into the snowball list of payoffs plus this is the card that we "used".

What does that mean?

Most of my credit card debt is "stored" on low APR cards that we don't use it just keeps the balance at a low rate for payoff. This card is the one we tortured ourselves with. This is the one I earned all the rewards points for Christmas with. This is the one that I never thought I could live without. Guess what. Not only could I live without it -- It's PAID OFF!


Friday, January 25, 2008

Update on an Update

No Car for You!
Looks like my Lumina stays in my good hands for awhile longer. The car from work didn't pan out. It winds up it needed work that we wouldn't have been able to afford anyway.

Thank you President Bush
I was able to plan a little extra cash for the snowball in June. IF I'm reading all the rumor mills and speculations correctly our family will receive $1500. ($1200 for working couple plus $300 for each child)

Looking at the web yesterday and saw that the mortgage rates dropped. I'm wondering if it would be worth the re-fi to put the mortgage and HELOC back into one loan -- even if I get hit with the PMI because we don't have the 20% equity yet. The HELOC originally had 5.25% when we closed on it -- it went up as high as 10.5% and is now down to 9.5%. The mortgage is at 5.9% and if I could refi and get 5.9% or lower for both loans combined, I THINK I would be okay. I really want to get rid of this variable loan!

The problem is I have to trust a snake (banker) to help me work through the logistics of this. I got snaked into the "creative financing" in the first place because it was a "good idea to lose the PMI"

I found that IF I could get this loan refinanced that I could be officially out of debt except for the house by summer of 09. NEXT YEAR! Seeing that the HELOC actually is part of our mortgage, I don't feel I was cheating the DR System by consolidating.

What do YOU think?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Financial Update

The countdown is underway:
February 16th, the CD matures and gets transfered into my checking account. This will pay off the dh's car and one of the Credit Cards. I've been talking up this occasion for awhile now, but it's getting so close I can TASTE IT!

Don't you just love those extra paycheck months? February's 5/3 will pay for the smallest of our credit card debts. Again, itching at the bit! Can't wait! Can't wait! Can't wait!!

We're how short?
In the last 6 months since we started The Total Money Makeover, I decided along with saving the $1000. for BS1 that I would save up enough income so that we can go a month ahead. Paying for next month's expenses with this month's income. It's helped with budgeting because you always knew how much you had to work with? OR DID WE? I found a problem with the theory. You have to REALLY pay attention to the deposits and when they were deposited. I'm not sure when the error was made - and going a month ahead we might not have noticed it. (until some mondo payment was ready to be made and there wasn't enough funds in the account) Well, thankfully - dh came home with a bonus check, so it helped pay for that short fall.

A new car?
Well, maybe not NEW per say, but new to me. Dh was in conversation with the guys at work about my son's needing to buy a car. One guy had a decent car (and knowing this guy it was well maintained) with decent miles for a real DECENT price!! I got to thinking .... Maybe *I* should buy this car and give ds MY as his first car and he can keep saving for another car.
It's not a done deal... but the idea is promising.

The Vet
Welp, we had our $104.00 check up last week and both cats seem to be doing okay. My glaucoma patient's eye pressure counts have gone down so incredibly. It's been a blessing. You have no idea how close I was to putting this cat down because I didn't want to see her suffer. She's great, but will be on those costly eye drops for the rest of her life. Our other gal was doing pretty good too - but should remain on her thyroid meds too. I found out if I buy them more than a month at a time - they're cheaper. Whhoooo Hooo. So I'm getting 2 months of those.

School Expenses
Dropped the ball on this one. (you'll see the pun coming) I forgot with the change of semester that my ds starts Team Sports (PhyEd) and needs new gym shoes and gym shorts. Remember Danny Zucco in Grease when he showed up in his leather T-Birds jacket? Well picture that in 2008 gear and you've got a picture to behold. LOL

Supplemental Income
Slow month for surveys and stuff. I've taken some, but nothing spectacular as I've been seeing. Still waiting on my first Pinecone Research survey to arrive - and hoping that this isn't the frequency I should expect.

Talent for Talent
I'm helping a friend get her housecleaning service going by working on marketing stuff for her. She's not very computer savvy so I designed business cards and worked on her Myspace (free website for now) and in return .... you guessed it! I get a clean house!! Ahh, let me rephrase that. I get a dust free house!! The house is clean -- it's those darn dust bunnies that I don't keep with. This house (even after getting the ducts cleaned) is a far more dusty house than our last house. Not sure why.

Our Weekly Menu

Looks like it may be a "clear out the pantry" dinner week. Nothing spectacular on sale this week at any of my regular shop grocery stores. I'm going to have to wing it again, I guess. I'm going to hit the SuperWalmart and see if anything strikes me there. I don't really have a taste for a couple things on the weekly line-up. This may get edited. :)

Monday: Shrimp Scampi (b1g2 free on shrimp)
Tuesday: Tangy Pork Chops with Stuffing (didn't make it last week)
Wednesday: Kielbasa Stir Fry (B1g2 free on sausages)
Thursday: Manicotti
Friday: French Toast Bake (have a couple cans of Cinn Rolls in the fridge)
Saturday: Pork Chops with Cherries (bake with a can of cherry pie filling)
Sunday: Boys on their own

Sunday, January 20, 2008

You Need A Budget - helped me find an error in my budget

I went in to view my budget and a pop up screen came up that told me there was an update available. I usually hate updates. They change something that I like, and I get frustrated trying to figure it out. I'm a little resistant to change.
Well, I downloaded the update and sure enough, things were different and I was getting frustrated trying to figure it out. Of course, if I would have read the material that went with the update, I probably would have done a little better. I think I must have been male in a past life (not reading directions).
I had never figured out how the "IMPORT TRANSACTIONS" worked before, because when I tried downloading them they'd save my Quicken files as Money files and I don't have Money. (AAHHHAAA -- "I don't have Money!!") Anyway, I figured that out yesterday with the update and all hell broke loose in my budget. After fixing things and deleting things from LAST YEAR that got imported because I forgot to set the dates - I found that my budget was messed up by the tune of $190. To the bad as it looks. I went into my Quicken program to see that, yes - I was short. Because I had been going a month ahead, it never caught up with me.
Guess we will have to revise where that earlier bonus is going. Oops!
At least I can start the year with a CORRECT budget.

GO PACK GO -- Football Sunday

Okay, so this couldn't be any MORE off topic, however -- today is the game that could put Green Bay back into the Super Bowl.

Yesterday, I don't even think we hit single digits - today no better. (of course a snow storm scheduled again for this pm into Monday)

I'm not a real football fan - and lately I haven't really cared because I've been steering clear of football pools and strip cards, but you HAVE to root for the home team!

So to Brett Farve and The Pack --- let the Giants Fall!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Resistant People

Personal Truth
I'm a very multi-faceted person. I usually like keeping things separate from each other. Sometimes when two facets of my life bump heads it's hard to pick which personality should handle the situation. This situation involves work and finances. Just about as ugly as work and politics. I know.

Are you going to talk about work ... HERE, Wendy?
Yes, you'll hear it here and now.
I work in a very high traffic family owned restaurant. We seat over 500 guests which puts us in the top 5 largest restaurants in the state. The only downside to this monstrosity of a restaurant is that it only fills those 500+ seats about half of the year. We are in a tourist town that lives for it's summer and early fall traffic. Winter? Not so much - but what are you looking for? I will say this - I am not a part of the 50 year round servers or the 95 +/- combined summer serving staff. What I am is the one who has to listen to their grievances etc.

Okay, so you have the background of the restaurant. Super busy in the summer - not so much in the winter time - not so much AT ALL if the weather is really bad.

Here's where the story starts ---

More Money Than God
Before I really start - how much you be happy making in 6 hours? Not even always 6 hours of HARD work because the server's shift has it's highs and it's lows EVEN when it's a busy day.

Well, our servers in the summer make More Money Than God! Honestly all said and done - there are NO servers that make less than $20 an hour during a full 6 hour shift in the summer. I'd venture to say that they make more on the lines of close to $30. And I'm not really talking what's made on Saturday night alone. That could be any day or any night basically. The servers are RICH in WEALTH during the summer. In fact, if we were to match up W2s half way through the year, the servers make a BOAT LOAD more money than I do - and I'm THEIR BOSS!

Servers will PLAY HARD in the summer as well. Daily bar trips, fancy purses, clothes etc. Some even go to restaurants that are pretty posh posh. They buy their hot cell phones. They stop at Starbucks before their shift every day or to the corner deli for an early meal. We're talking CASH FLOWING HERE! You're catching my drift here right?

Does it get COLD in Wisconsin?
Hmmm, I pretty much think that as sure as the Packer's take the field in Lambau every year, that it is expected that it might get a little nippy here in Wisconsin. Needless to say, winter isn't a surprise. It does come every year. The tourists go back to their localities and only venture out on those days where it accidentally hits 60 in December or something. Now, guess who doesn't have money? Guess who is getting their cell phones turned off? Guess who is having collection agencies calling their workplace looking for payments? Guess who STILL goes to Starbucks though? Guess who complains that they aren't making any money? Guess who says they should find another job until summer? Guess who complains they don't have money to put in their gas tanks? Guess who gets eviction letters because they haven't paid their rent? Guess who stands at the office window daily asking if W2's are ready because they NEED the refund check to SURVIVE!?? It's not me. I've got money in savings.

So which personality do you put on?
The optimistic manager, who says - "You know, it's winter. Spring Break is coming and we'll get really busy again then. We'll all be fine."

The mother who wants to help, who says - "Maybe I can help find you figure out how this can work."

Or my true feelings of - "Are you kidding me? You make MORE money than me most of the year and you didn't think of SAVING anything for winter? You should do automatic withdrawal from your checking to savings in the summer. Guess what? YOU WON'T MISS IT. But you'll really love having money in the winter when you KNOW IT'S GOING TO BE SLOW!

I can't.. I need the money
But again....those in debt have attraction to the drama of debt. I've talked to more than a dozen of them throughout my career there. Even when I served there I used to do the same thing. Automatic savings. Save for a rainy day - save for when you will need it more. Nope. Nothing. Even the smart ones.

Tell your story walking
God helps those who helps themselves.
The debt that surrounds my place is incredible.
Most everyone lives for July, August, September, October, and Tax Refund Day.
Most everyone is resistant to changing their spending and saving habits.
Most everyone will still complain about how they have no money.
How many days until July 1st?

Click here to start saving with ING DIRECT!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


Ahhh, after The December Of Lean Income THIS came at a good time. DH came home yesterday with a bonus check! Now, I've heard some stories of people receiving insane sized bonus checks, so before you start thinking we came into thousands - please help me dream a little harder! LOL!

Here's my plan for the bonus:

  • $95.00 Glaucoma meds (2 + months) for Cat 1
  • $32.00 Thyroid meds (2 months) for Cat 2
  • $40.00 Valentine's Day
  • $20.00 Extra blow money for me - my work's X-mas Bowling Party is tommorow
  • $70.00 Entertainment fund (on hold for when Milwaukee Brewer's Tickets go on sale)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Mail Call: Would the unemployed 16 year old please stand up

"Discover"ing Debt 101
Holy beans! This is great! My son, who is currently unemployed and while employed probably cleared a whopping $4k last year got his first application for a Discover card today!

"Only a select group receives this special 0%APR." Really? Would that be the Minor group or the Unemployed Group? Up to a $25,000 limit. You know, I'm almost curious to see what kind of limit he would get on a card by only working extreme part time. What do you think?

Standard APR of 9.99% - HEY!! that's better than some of my cards! Doesn't it figure. The kid can't even make his own bed and he deserves a better rate than I do? Or could it be that they were planning on his defaulting because THAT rate is 28.99% Yeah, that's what I thought too.

Can you honestly see how this could play out? A 16 year old boy who wants a CAR so badly now has HOW MUCH MONEY at his disposal? Eeeegads! I think I'm keeping this one under wraps!!

What's next?

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Our Weekly Menu

In case you hadn't already noticed - I've added a section on Menu Planning on the right side of my blog. I have an ongoing feed to Menus4Moms which gives ideas for weekly menu planning. I wanted to make sure everyone knew it was there and to take a peek at it.

As for my menu planning looks like the Meat Lover will be happy! Pork Loin is on sale and I always have a TON of recipes for Pork Loin! The boys don't mind eating it so often because each recipe tastes totally different from the other one. I have a lot of ingredients already in the pantry so my shopping this week will be a few things I need for my menu and the rest will be staple replacement for the pantry. Hello Aldi! Here I come!!

Monday: Taco Soup
Tuesday: Honey Mustard Pork Chops
Wednesday: Stuffed Peppers
Thursday: Pork Casserole
Friday: Italian Style Meatloaf
Saturday: Tangy Pork Chops with Stuffing
Sunday: Boys on their own

Friday, January 11, 2008

Mindless Fun on the Internet

Sometimes I just need to vegetate. Time for myself. Non productive wasted time. When I'm done with email, blog updates, message boards & blogs , take a survey, window shop for things I can't buy -- I need just dumb fun thing. My favorite thing? Play BUNCO on Netwinner.

What's so cool about BUNCO?

It's like playing BINGO without having to keep up with the bingo caller that moonlights as one of those auctioneer guys! And you don't even need a dauber because it automatically fills itself in! It's like BINGO for dingbats and because of that ... I'm addicted!

Netwinner also has a Prize Wheel which is like picking out Powerball numbers and you have to match the numbers. I'm lazy. I do the QUICK PICK and let the balls fall where they are.

Soon, I'll have enough points for a $25 gift card. I'll probably bank it until Christmas shopping time rolls around again.

Oh, the best part - besides the fact that I can be half awake and playing? It's FREE. There's some ads on the side that you can click or not -- which is how they get their money to give away, I'd guess.

My other insane fascination is ROCKSTAR GAME. Again, free. You make a band, practice, tour the country, write songs, release singles and albums. Of course, in the most generic fashion - but it's been keeping me occupied. My album was ranked number 2 in the WORLD (for a day... but STILL) You get 7 points every 3 hours and you use those points to either tour, practice or save up to write songs and release albums and singles.

Hint while playing ROCKSTAR GAME: Ingore the ads. They'll frusterate you!

My band's name is: Metal Angel
(the same as the dream band I used to write about during high school in the 80's)

What are your guilty pleasures on the internet?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The boy wants a car ...

What a conversation my son and I had yesterday regarding my parental responsibilities and financially helping him get his first car. I took the stance I have always taken.


BACK STORY: Well, originally (pre-Dave) I was going to give him my car and buy a new car for myself. I let him know last summer that I was keeping the car until it died and he would have to continue saving for his car. I told him if I was in a place where I could help - I would match what he saved. That also was PRE-DAVE. He was also made aware of that change.

CURRENT SCENARIO: He has a job (temporarily on hold) - he works more in the summer than during school - but up until recently his urgency to fund his car has been slim while XBOX 360, Snack Foods and recently... Caitlin has taken priority for his money. The only BILLS he currently has is $15 for his cellphone and $24 for video game rental (he's since cancelled because he hasn't been working) and 10% of his paycheck, no matter how small, to his college account. Also has been renamed his "apartment fund" since he has decided he is not going to college.

I admit, I did bribe him with money for good grades. That didn't work. His grades will not be earning him any money. "I'm PASSING, mom!" That should sum up the school dilemma in one sentence for you. Now that the day of getting the official license photo is upon us his eagerness has now clicked in. He's now decided that although he hasn't saved enough money, that he should still be getting a car.


1. He tells me that it is my parental responsibility to HELP him. I told him it was HIS responsibility to help himself. My parental requirements included: clothes, food, shelter, education and medical.

2. My Italian temper started flaring up at this point. From out of my mouth I blurted, "Why should I work harder to pay my bills AND help you pay for your car when YOU aren't willing to work harder to pay for your car!"

3. He basically demanded that his college money that I have mandatorily made him pay from his paychecks (10%) be turned over to him to be used for his car. I refused.

4. He asked for the money that his grandmother has given to him at his birthday and Christmas over the years to go into his college account. I told him I talked to grandma and she said she didn't want the money that she specifically wrote COLLEGE FUND on the checks getting blown on a car. So I told him that. He has many savings accounts - plus a lot of the money my mom has "given to him" sits in a 529 plan - that I'm still trying to figure out what to do with!

5. Cars cost money. Does he plan on working more hours so he can pay for his insurance, gas and maintenance? "Well, HOW MANY more hours will I have to work?"

Now you see, this is coming from a boy who lives with two parents that are workers -- and HAVE been hard workers.

I also knew this time was coming. I told him months ago that this argument was coming. Every time he wanted to take money out his car account for things like a skateboard, roller blades, clothes, xbox live etc I'd tell him he couldn't have it because you couldn't drive roller blades etc. He was angry then...and he's angry now. He's probably be even more angry if I had allowed him to take money out for every little thing.

Next problem in the foreseeable future.... Miss Caitlin!
Whoever said raising a teenager was going to be easy??
Not a single person I have ever known...that's who!
Somebody pass the hair color.. I feel a new grey hair forming!

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Our Weekly Menu (revised copy)

UPDATE: I love Meijer's 10 for $10 sales, but I sure wish they'd stock themselves appropriately. Ad comes out on Sunday - and things are out of stock on Monday. Really??
What I did get on the $10/10 for my Weekly Menu was the cinnamon rolls, mac and cheese (both generic versions, but taste the same!) and portebella mushrooms!

On the Cellphone: While shopping - about 15 miles from home I get a phone call. It's my husband who is basically freaking out because there is a TORNADO by our house! Well, that's what he heard. He was at work about 15 miles from home in the opposite direction. We were quite lucky. A tornado did touch down, but skipped over our area and went east.

A couple of the recipes are linked below. I'll have to go type up the last one.... and figure out what I am going to make for dinner TONIGHT!


When making my grocery list, I first scan the sales flyers of my favorite stores.
The best deals are found accidentally by going to that little Italian grocery store
that I told you about last month. I then scan my coupons for deals that match the sales. THEN I hit my cookbooks for ideas of what to make with what's on sale (and hit the coupons again if the case may be) A lot of work? Yep. But it's worth it to get a week's worth of menus on the cheap! We have hearty appetites in this house -- well the ds eats like a bird but the dh and I like to eat so we don't do well on itty bitty recipes.

I stumbled across a place online today that has weekly menu ideas with a shopping list! I just signed up for their newsletter and added a widget off to the right side ----> for you guys to have access to it as well. It's called Menus4Moms

Note: Here's a start to my weekly list.
I'll have to finish it up and post recipes tommorow after I see what Angelos has on sale.

Monday: Italian Sausage/Portebella Mushroom Stirfry w/ pasta
Tuesday: TBA
Wednesday: Cinnamon French Toast Bake
Thursday: Cheesy Enchiladas / Fajitas
Friday: Mac N Cheese Taco Bake
Saturday: Homemade Pizza - for the Green Bay Game
Sunday: Boys on their own

Extras: Homemade Bread (in the bread machine) and a couple of desserts.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Happy New Year!!!

The New Year is Looking Good!
Okay, so it may be to early to tell - but this is starting off to be a great year!
My dh and I are beginning to connect on a new level and it's a very positive thing. Becoming a stronger unit can only help on all aspects of life. Less stress and more apt to be on the same playing field for a change!

Email Subscriptions:
I'm new to the blogger realm. Starting this puppy in October. Did you know you can Subscribe to Blogs? I usually "favorite" my places ... and oh you should see my favorites folders. I really should get in there and clean house too!

You can subscribe to my blog by clicking:
---> Subscribe to Debt Free-dom Fighters by Email

New Poll:

The new poll has been posted and will run a little longer than they have been. You can pick more than one answer if it suits you. One of my worries is being able to live within my means. DH has been assured there will be overtime in our future and should remain there for awhile. I know you aren't supposed to rely on overtime - but it's sure hard not to! Thankfully we've had enough raises that 40 hour paychecks don't KILL us ... but the overtime ones sure make me dance!

I'm being featured:
How about that? I've become a celebrity! Oh, come on! You know I'm more modest than THAT! The truth is, I was asked to fill out a questionaire/interview so I can be featured on: ---> A Momma and the Boys Living on A Budget as one of Theresa's "Frugal Five". I'm not sure when my interview goes "live", but you'll have to watch for it.

No Ebay Listings Yet
Off to the right you will see my FOR SALE sign with things I'm trying to sell in order to make the last bit of money I need to fully pay off my $900 credit card. The ebay listings haven't happened yet, however, if you are new to the game and are starting a budget and want to use envelopes as a way to organize your cash - let me know. I have been printing off my own envelopes since July and if you'd like some made for you, I can do that. You'll have to let me know how many you'll need. There's no set cost on them - Make a donation to "the cause" and figure in shipping costs. Sound Fair?

Found a New Recipe:
We went to our neighbor's for a little while on New Year's Eve and although she's not classically the chef amongst our "group" she had one heck of a yummy and EASY appetizer that I have to share!!!

Kelly's Bacon Wrapped Smokies
1 pack of Hillshire Farm Smokies
1 pound of bacon
Brown Sugar (she didn't give measurements, but I'd say 1/2 cup)
Ziplock Storage Bag

Cut the bacon into thirds and toss into storage bag. Toss smokies into storage bag.
Toss brown sugar into the bag. Seal bag. Mix contents of the bag around until everything has been coated in the brown sugar. Place in refidge overnight. Brown sugar will caramelize. Take bacon and wrap around smokie. Bake until bacon is fully cooked. Serve with toothpicks.

Super Easy! Super Yummy!