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Archive for October, 2007

Vacation Update

October 30th, 2007 at 09:15 am

Iím on Day 3 of my 9 day vacation and I can honestly say that I donít know what to do with all this downtime. Iím used to working 6 day weeks, 10+ hour days and trying to fit a social life in between. Iím not going anywhere for my vacation, just hoping to veg a little, spend some time with my family and get some stuff done around the house.

Sunday, I ran some errands with my mom. Stocked up on groceries and went to Borders.

Yesterday, I hung around the house. I was set to watch a few scary movies, but I just couldnít seem to sit down. So I did some cooking instead. I baked blueberry muffins, peanut butter cookies and banana bread. I made chicken taco filling, meatloaf muffins and hash brown casserole. All of which will be frozen for future meals and snacks.

Last night, I weighed in a weight watchers last night. Iíve lost a total of 20.8 pounds!!!! I still have a while to go, but man, does it feel good! This is a plan that really works for me.

I also started a migraine last night. So now Iím on meds and trying to relax. Iím finding it very hard to do so. So today, I am really going to try to veg on the couch. Iíll be doing a little cleaning here and there. I feel better when my house is organized.

Iíve set myself a strict budget for the time off. And Iím keeping track of my vacation spending. I want to come in under budget if I can.

So far Iíve spent:
$8.00 on dinner out with friends
$12.58 on 2 books from borders (the library doesnít have this series)
$17.73 for movie rentals
$15.00 for lunch for Mom & me

Total: $53.31

New Job Means Being MORE Frugal

October 26th, 2007 at 11:23 am

I got that job that I interviewed for on October 2nd! There was a lot of internal back and forth before I applied and accepted the position. In the long run, this position is going to greatly benefit me, but there are going to be some short-term financial impacts.

Hereís the run down:

PRO - Iím going from non-Exempt to Exempt status
PRO - I move from an 11am-8pm schedule with Saturday hours to Mon-Fri 8am to 5pm
CON - I lose overtime eligibility
PRO - I gain 2 more weeks of paid vacation
CON - I lose my 10% shift differential for working nights and weekends
PRO - I gain a 7.5% raise in base salary, with another review coming up in the Spring.
PRO - I have a much greater opportunity for advancement from this position, plus I am more attractive to outside companies given the new job title.

This last one was the most important. Currently, I work in a department of 80 people or so. Yearly, maybe 2 or 3 promotions open up a year. The new department has about 15 people and there are several opportunities for advancement in that department as well as several other departments. Also, I now have a much more attractive position to put on my resume. This will give me management and quality experience, which will make me eligible for more experienced positions in the future.

Overall, I am losing overtime and essentially taking a 2.5% pay cut. But given that I just had an annual review that went into effect in September, I am about 3.5% ahead of what I was making 3 months ago.

Since I've been doing so much overtime, I've become pretty lax with some spending catagories, just using overtime to pay for it. Well, that stops NOW.

I need to buckle down with ALL spending. I am going into what I call Super Frugal Mode. That means curbing spending, lowering non-essential expenses, being more rigid with eating out and grocery spending.

It also means looking into alternative ways to get extra income. I am thinking of taking up a second job for the holidays. And I am looking into the possible roommate situation again. I am just so scared of opening my home to a stranger. And I got burned with Craigslist. But I am putting out a LOT of word of mouth through friends and coworkers, hoping that Iíll hear of someone needing a place to stay for a while.

In the end, I am VERY happy with the new position. I think I'll really enjoy it! And I am good at, but bored by my current position. This is also give me more time to work with other aspects of my life, such as losing weight, exercising and being social! This was definately the right decision for me!

I track my spending... now what?

October 26th, 2007 at 06:26 am

In January, one of my financial goals was to track ALL of my spending on a daily basis for all of 2007. I am currently on track with that goal. At the end of the month, I total up categories, look at areas that Iíve under and overspent. Then I move on to the next month. But now Iím asking myself, what am I doing with that information.

Well, first of all, I used that data, to determine the amount of money that Iíve spent on medical expenses this year and used that information to get an estimate on how much I probably will spend in 2008. I used that info to make a decision on the amount I would like in my Health Savings account.

I used the grocery data to realize that I have grossly underestimated my grocery expenses, so I am doing 2 things. I am working harder to make my grocery money work for me. AND I have increased my budgeted amount to a more realistic number.

I am looking at house expenses to get an average of money put toward the house, so now I can create a more accurate number in my budget for house stuff/repairs.

I have seen that I grossly overspend on entertainment and need to adjust accordingly. This is going to be my focus for the next few months.

Its great that I have been keeping track of my spending, but unless I use the information, the time and effort that Iíve put into this project has been wasted. So in the upcoming week, I am planning on reviewing all the data to get a better idea

Electric bill and electric deposit

October 25th, 2007 at 06:55 am

When I got my house, the electric company made me put a $180.00 deposit on the account. They told me that after a year of on-time payments that I would get the amount credited to the account. So since last month, Iíve been literally begging them to send me a check for my money.

Iíve never even had an electric bill over $100.00, so why should they get to keep my money for an extra couple of months. They said it would take about 6-8 weeks to get a check out to me, which is ridiculous, but even with some excessive begging, I couldnít get them to commit to doing anything quicker.

Anyway, today is the day that the electric company bills me. Normally, I just go online, where they will show the balance due. But of course it was $0.00, since I now have that large credit on the account. So I called them and I found out that I had my best electric bill so far!!! $50.58!!!! And that in the next 2-3 weeks, I should be receiving a check for the difference of $129.42.

So Iíll be waiting for that check, which will go towards my student loan. And the $120.00 that Iíve budgeted for electric & gas for this month is going towards a birthday gift for my nephew. I wanted to give my sister some money towards his Karate Lessons. The kid has WAY too many toys, but loves his Karate. And my sister just had a big financial setback in that my nephewís father is no longer willing (not able, but willing) to pay child support even though the courts ordered him to. So I know $120.00 will go a long way to help her and my nephew

No Credit Card Usage for October!

October 23rd, 2007 at 02:06 pm

I made it my goal to stop using credit cards altogether this month. I realized that I have a tendancy to use my credit cards between paychecks and then use my hard earned overtime to pay them off. So I never carry a balance, but I spend more than my budget allows.

So its the 23rd day of the month & I haven't used the cards since before I started this self-challange. Its starting to get 'tough' now (at least mentally). Because I won't be paid again until the 31st.

I have 2 checking accounts: My main checking and my "House" checking.

The balance in my main checking is $189.95. I have budgeted:
$10.52 to groceries
$27.11 to medical expenses
$20.00 to entertainment
$40.00 to Weight Watchers membership (I pay ahead)
$10.00 to Netflix
$72.32 to Vacation
$10.00 to Cat expenses

The House checking has $227.65:
$47.65 to Trash (paid quarterly)
$80.00 to Water (paid quarterly)
$100.00 to Vacation Savings (to be used next week)

I have slush money in a savings account attached to my primary checking of $106.10, but I never touch that money if I can help it.

To make it til next Wednesday without major spending will be tough.
Wednesday: I have a work outing tomorrow night at TGI Fridays.
Friday: Halloween party at firehall with cash bar
Saturday night: Hanging out with friends. I just have to convince them that cooking is better than ordering out.
Sunday will be the first day of vacation & I don't plan on leaving the house Smile
Monday and Tuesday entertainment will come out of my 'Vacation Budget'.

So I can do it, but it might be tight.

Final numbers for Halloween Party

October 23rd, 2007 at 09:52 am

I budgeted $100.00 for the party. I spent $124.87. I WAY overspent on alcohol. BUT the leftovers will be put to good use. I plan to use the beer and Smirnoff Ices when hosting future, smaller get togethers. I have a bottle of wine that I plan on gifting to a friend tomorrow for his birthday. I have a large amount of Captain Morgan, which is my preferred drink (since watching my weight) and this will last me a LONG time.

I stuck to snack stuff for the food, picking up pretzels and cheese curls at the dollar store. I got chips and dip, carrots, halloween candy and soda from the grocery store.

My friends were nice enough to bring food too. We had meatballs and rolls, a cake, pita chips in the shape of bats and dip. Stuffed mushrooms and shrimp. My friends were very generous!

The food was pretty much gone by the end of the night, the leftovers were eaten over the rest of the weekend or given to my family.

I was able to borrow a dress for my costume (I was a Stepford Wife). I used my own pair of heels, jewelry and make up. I did buy fake eyelashes.

And I'll be able to reuse the costume for another party next friday Smile

I have to say that the party was pretty sucessful and worth every penny. But I've learned my lesson to plan better with the alcohol.

Yodlee? Opinions Please

October 18th, 2007 at 07:10 am

I current have my homemade Excel Spreadsheets to track my finances. But Iíve been hearing a lot of good things about Yodlee. Anyone have any experience with this? Let me know your opinions. Thanks!

brought my lunch but spent some anyway

October 17th, 2007 at 10:16 am

I packed my breakfast, lunch and dinner for work today since I'm working 8am to 8pm. But I spent some money on a soda and some pretzels from the vending machine to settle an upset tummy this morning. I'm fine with it, since the funds come from my entertainment spending. And I'll still be eating the rest of my meals today.

For lunch I have a tuna wrap with shredded lettuce and a salad. For dinner, I have pasta salad with more veggies than pasta. I have a banana for snack. I was in the mood for ligher fare when I planned my food for today.

Tomorrow will be a large salad for lunch and meatloaf muffins with baked fries for dinner. Very yummy Smile

Credit Card Challange to myself

October 17th, 2007 at 05:56 am

The way I run my budget is this. When I get paid, I have every dollar allocated to a category. I put all extra money into either savings or towards my student loan. Once Iíve paid my bills, Iím usually left with money for gas, groceries and incidentals in my checking. Once that amount is used up, then Iím Ďbrokeí. Lately, Iíve noticed that what I do, once the funds have run out, is I use my credit card (which I pay off monthly) to Ďcoverí myself until the next paycheck. Then Iím using money that would be going to the student loan to pay the credit card.

So this month, Iím challenging myself to completely stick to my budget and not use the credit cards. I last used a credit card on October 1st. I havenít used the card since. I have money set aside for my party and for my vacation. So there really is no need to use the cards at all. Iíll keep you all updated of my progress.

PSA about CFL bulbs

October 15th, 2007 at 12:37 pm

I dropped a CFL bulb this weekend and I remembered someone saying that you needed to open a window before cleaning it up. So I opened the window and googled CFL bulb clean up to find out what I needed to do.

CFL bulbs contain mercury, so the clean up is pretty specific. You want to open an window and keep everyone out of the room for at least 15 minutes while airing it out. Don't touch the bulb directly. Wear rubber gloves. Don't use a broom. Double bag the broken pieces.

For more info check out this link:

http://www.energystar.gov/ia/partners/promotions/change_light/downloads/Fact_Sheet_Mercury.pdf

Little things I do

October 13th, 2007 at 08:35 am

I just wanted to share a few tips that I use to save me money.

-I try to drink at least 64 oz of water a day. Instead of buying bottled water, I went out and bought some Sports bottles like this one:



I got them in the clearance aisle of my pharmacy. I now have 4 or 5 of them that I cart around and keep at work. Many of my coworkers bring in bottled water or buy it from the vending machine. I fill these bottles up with the free filtered water that my work offers.

-I preplan my meals. It helps me stay on track with spending on eating out. Although I do eat out occassionally.

-Now that its FINALLY getting colder, I've started breaking out the blankets. I like to layer up with clothes and with blankets. I keep extra blankets on each of my couches and in my bedroom.

-And I know this is completely girlie, but with the layering up clothes, I like to layer a bright colored tank top under a bright long sleeve tee and then with a button down sweater. I do make sure I match Smile But seeing all the different fun colors while I'm vegging around the house makes me happy. And it makes it easy for me to WANT to layer up instead of just turning up the heat.

I also have fun looking socks in bright colors and patterns like these for the same reason.



For an added bonus, knee socks really keep my feet warm!

-I utilize my programmable thermostat. This was really the best purchase I made for the house last year!

-I buy 2 liter bottles of soda to use at home and 12 oz cans to take to work. I'm trying to limit my soda intake, but I still drink it. What can I say, I'm only human Smile

-I buy my non-aspirin and ibuprofin at the dollar store. As long as you keep an eye on the expiration date for the meds, they work just fine.

-I turn making a meal at night into making a few. That way I can either stock up the freezer by making a bigger batch of food. Or I can stock up the fridge with food to take to work during the week. Then maybe I can skip cooking the next night Smile

-I watch the free movies from Comcast On Demand. I don't have digital cable, but they gave me a box for free to use the On Demand options. I use their free exercise videos and free movies. They have a big horror section called FearNet. Its not the mainstream blockbuster stuff, but its still good. I also can watch some of the Network tv shows that I missed during the week, like CSI.

- I utilize the library for lots of things. Movies, books, cookbooks, decorating books. I also utilize my computer and the internet for entertainment a lot.



Making Decisions

October 10th, 2007 at 03:56 pm

Since Iíve been tracking every cent of spending this year from January 1st on, I was able to easily track how much Iíve spent in Medical expenses this year. Then I estimated what Iíd be spending now through December. I came up with an obscene (at least to me) amountÖÖ. $968.99 !!

I need to not be so expensive. Geeze. I know a majority of the expense is my main prescription, which is $132.00 quarterly. But still. What have I been doing? Well, thereís been dentist appointments, sick visits, prescriptions, eye doctor appointment, gyno appointment and over the counter meds. But geeze! I canít imagine what itíd be without insurance.

Anyway, Iíve decided to go ahead with the Health Savings Account through my work. They take the money out of my account pre-tax. I get a debit card to use from the account. All of which seems easy to use.

Now to figure the amount out. Now I know what Iíve spent this year, with nothing out of the ordinary. Iím set on contacts, but in the upcoming year, Iíll need new glasses. Actually, I need them now, but I want to wait until my annual appointment before investing in a new pair. Just in case my prescription changes. Which it better not, or those contacts will be useless.

I also donít want to put too much into the account & then have a lot leftover in my account. At least the IRS allows us to go 3 months into the next year to use up any balance left in the account. So Iím figured that Iím going to estimate that Iíll be spending about 1000.00 next year. Well, really Iím figuring that itíll probably be closure to $1100.00 with the glasses, but I want a little wiggle room until Iím comfortable with the account.

I currently have budget 82.00/month for medical. And the out of paycheck would be roughly 82/month. According to my benefits website estimator, Iíll be saving $326.50 in Federal & FICA tax savings. Which sounds good to me.

So Iíll be enrolling tomorrow. Whew. That was tough.



In other news,I had a no spend day on Monday and today. Also, the Breast Cancer benefit went really well. I had a few drinks, got a bit generous and ended up spending/donating $38.00 total instead of my planned $15-20 amount. But hey, it went to a great cause.

I have several things coming up in the next few weeks. On Sunday, Iím treating my sister & my nephew to the Pennsylvania Renaissance Fair. Tickets for the 3 of us will cost roughly $90.00. Then Iíll need some spending money. But itíll be worth it. I really liked the PA Ren Fair as a kid and I know that my nephew will LOVE it.

I have set aside $100.00 towards my Halloween party. And roughly $200.00 towards my vacation week. I want to set aside a few extra bucks, but Iíll be waiting until my 10/30 pay check to use those funds. Which is halfway through my vacation, but works out just fine.

I get paid on the 15th and Iíll be sending 413.00 towards my Student loan. Itís a bit lower than the $500.00 per paycheck than I wanted, but I actually ended up doing a little less overtime than I expected and Iíve recognized that Iím getting a little burnt out on the overtime. So now Iíve rethought my goal and Iíve lowered it to $400.00 per paycheck. Which is still a VERY substantial amount.

So in conclusion, today Iíve made a couple of big decisions. And I feel good about them Smile

October but feels like August

October 9th, 2007 at 03:50 pm

Yesterday was almost 90, today was in the 80s. I was in shorts and tee shirts all weekend. This crazy weather is making me sick too. My allergies have been going crazy.

Its benefits enrollment week this week. I haven't taken advantage of our company's Health Savings Account since they just started offering it last year. Since I"m on 3 different daily meds, I am going to sign up to at the very least take that much out for the year. But I have a lot of questions about the plan and the company provides the information in a manner that is very hard to understand. I'm putting a call into HR tomorrow.

I am working on the plans for my Halloween party. I think my costume is going to be a Stepford Wife. I have a coworker thats going to lend me a dress. I already have shoes and a purse and all I'll have to do is buy some white gloves to complete the outfit.

I am planning on some food & booze for the party, but I encouraged guests to bring their own bottle as well.

I am SO looking forward to my week off at the end of the month. I plan on visiting a family friend with my Mom one day. I want to spend the day at the hair salon and I am going to splurge and get a pedicure done. I know a classy, but cheap place. I plan on spending at least 1 or 2 days just lazing around. And the rest of the week is up on the air.

Well, back to work. I'm here til 8pm. Then I'm heading off to an Breast Cancer Benefit that my friend is having at a local bar. $5.00 cover and 50% of the drinks go straight to the charity. I have $15.00 to spend and thats it. But all of it will go to the cause!

Also, in Weight Watchers news I lost another 1.4 pounds this week for a total of 16.6 pounds! Slow but steady! And I FEEL so much better. And I noticed that I'm enjoying food so much more Smile

Back on track

October 9th, 2007 at 05:28 am

I've been eating out a lot lately and packing my food, but still buying some stuff at work. But my goal this week was to refocus and I've been doing well. I packed all my food yesterday. It ended up being a no spend day.

Today will likely be the same Smile I packed my food, staying on my meal plan.

I worked 4.5 hours of OT yesterday and I'll be doing 3.5 hours today. I have to rethink my $1,000.00/mo towards my student loans goal because I completely forgot to calculate a few things into my spending/overtime earning for the end of the year. For example, I forgot that since I have a week off at the end of the month, I won't be earning any overtime that week.

So I'm going to re-evaluate and reset my goal. I'll post more once I've done that.

Lasted 20 minutes into Maxed Out

October 8th, 2007 at 06:58 am

I tried watching Maxed out yesterday. I lasted 20 minutes before I had to turn it off. I understand that credit card companies are out to make money and that their practices aren't always ethical or in the consumers' best interest. What they were talking about was interesting, but there was a big, glaring gap in the film.... where was personal responsibility? If you can't afford it and you chose to buy it with credit, then you have played a part in the 'evils' of credit cards. It really made me mad and I had to turn it off.

Ok, rant over Smile

Day off & Meal Plan

October 7th, 2007 at 06:33 pm

Today is my only day off this week. I worked about 10 hours of OT last week. Not a lot, but I really needed the break last week. I could feel myself getting run down. So tomorrow Iíll be working 9am to 4pm (7 hours) and my goal is to get 3.5 hours of overtime Tuesday through Friday. Weíll see how it goes.

I interviewed for that Quality job on Tuesday. I donít know how many people Iím up against, but I think it went well. Weíll see. And if I donít get it, Iím content where I am and as long as thereís overtime, Iím financially comfortable. Iíll be keeping an eye out for jobs though, either in or outside of the company.

Today, the temp was in the high 80s. I kept the A/C off and the fan running. I organized my pantry to take stock of what I had in there. Then I did laundry, cleaned the basement and started putting out some fall decorations. It was pretty funny to be putting out Fall & Halloween stuff while in a tank top and shorts 

I called Comcast today because my promo rate was ending and the rep told me that it was actually not ending until December. I thought I had a 12 month promo, but apparently its 14 months. So my whole speech that I had prepared was for nothing. Iíll shelve it for later.

I made a meal plan for the week and prepped some food for tomorrow & Tuesday. Hereís the Meal plan (which can be switched around as needed).

Monday:
Lunch: Salad with chicken, Tuna on honey wheat wrap
Dinner: Barilla Plus pasta with hunts mushroom sauce, sautťed veggies & ground beef

Tuesday:
Lunch: Pasta salad with Turkey Pepperoni
Dinner: Meatloaf Muffin and baked fries

Wednesday:
Lunch: Tuna on honey wheat wrap
Dinner: Sloppy joe over no-yolk egg noodles

Thursday:
Lunch: Chicken strips and Honey mustard Pita
Dinner: Turkey bacon BLT

Friday:
Lunch: Peanut butter sandwich
Dinner: Shake n bake chicken

Saturday:
Lunch: Pasta salad
Dinner: Taco Salad

Sunday: To be determined


Student Loan numbers to cheer myself up

October 3rd, 2007 at 08:21 pm

Things have been pretty crazy lately. And stressful. Work, family, friends, health all seeming to be stressful lately. So, to cheer myself up, I decided to see how much the balance on my student loan has changed. I know, totally PF nerdy of me, but hey, if it works!

It was hard to keep track of the exact balance since the loan is technically in my parents name & I wasn't able to log in like I am other accounts to get accurate balances. But here's what I have:

December 31, 2005: $15,694.69 balance

February 28, 2006: $15,100.52 balance

January 31, 2007: $12,512.40 balance

April 30, 2007: $12,312.40

And drumroll please..............
Todays Balance: $8813.28 (give or take a few dollars estimated)

Well that makes me happy anyway Smile And on that note... Goodnight to All.

Credit card commercial & other things

October 3rd, 2007 at 07:11 am

Ok, so last night I was at home, fixing a problem with my computer and half listening to House on tv. A credit card commercial came one. I didnít catch which one it was, but the slogan registered in my head. I missed the beginning, but the ending went ďÖ for when you want it NOWĒ. Can we all say SHAMELESS?? Credit card companies have cajones, if youíll excuse my language. They have no shame in plugging the want it now mentality of America. I am guilty of having that feeling from time to time, but its pretty bad when the credit card companies arenít even subtle about it. Ok, rant done. I just had to share.

In other news, I packed food for work today, but my team is having an outing. Free lunch, YAY! It was rescheduled from last week. Weíre going to Bennigans and Iím having the Kilkenny Country Chicken Salad with grilled chicken instead of fried and with fat free honey mustard (in keeping with the Weight Watchers). Anyway, the salad is HUGE. So Iíll be taking the other Ĺ home for lunch tomorrow. Or dinner tonight if I canít wait Wink

The air has been off in my house and the windows open. I love this time of year. I have to put together a list of things to do to winterize my house. I also need to get some dry cleaning done. I have 2 pea coats that I like to get cleaned before winter starts.

Iíll be updating my numbers soon. I also want to compare where my balances stand today compared to January. I think itíll be pretty morale boosting.

Also, its that time of the year for health insurance selection. My work offers several different plans. I really like the one that Iím on. The price is going up $3.90 per paycheck $(93.60 a year), which sucks, but I some of the other plans jumped up even more. And the smokers went up VERY much. Thank goodness I donít smoke. It costs just to buy those things and then you have to pay for the probable effects on your health. Iím also looking into an H.S.A this year. I have to make my decision by the 12th, so Iíll be doing a little research over the weekend.

Spending guilt and possible new job

October 2nd, 2007 at 07:38 am

Well, Iím feeling regret over all my purchases, but still Iím going to be using everything that I bought. So now Iím in Buckle-down mode. I am making a meal plan for this week. I already packed all my food for today: Breakfast is a banana and Rice Chex. Lunch is more snacky, than a real lunch, but Iím having strawberries, a banana, a hardboiled egg and one hard boiled egg white. Snack is popcorn. Dinner is Turkey Sloppy Joe over whole wheat no yolk egg noodles. This is one of my favorite meals, so YUMMY J If I get hungry at any point after dinner, I have instant oatmeal to snack on.

Iím working on Christmas stuff. Some of my friends/family are hard to shop for, but I want to get it all done by the end of this month. I have a $25.00 amazon gift certificate to put towards it and Iím requesting another $25.00 gift card from my points. I have $400.00 in my Christmas fund budget and I am planning to add another $100.00 towards it for a tree and outdoor decorations, which I didnít have much of last year.

This month marks my 1 year anniversary in the house and I have to say Iím still loving it !!! I am looking forward to the winter. I love bundling up under a mound of covers J

In other news, Iím going to have to be making some big decisions soon about work. I love what Iím doing, but the job itself is getting tedious. I love the unlimited overtime, but I really donít know how long thatís going to last. Anyway, a quality position opened up with means going to an Exempt status (which means no OT). There are some trade offs, such as 4 weeks of vacation. I think it comes with a raise, but now sure of the dollar amount. I would need it to at least match the 10% shift differential that Iím currently getting, plus a bit more. The main benefit would be the possibility for further advancement. Hopefully itíll lead me to higher positions.

My manager asked me to apply, and I did. I have an interview today. If I get the position, Iím really going to have to punch down my budget. Iíve gotten a bit sloppy, knowing the overtime will carry me if I go over budget in some categories, like groceries and eating out. Weíll see how it goes.