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Archive for August, 2006

First Day of School

August 28th, 2006 at 05:36 pm

and that means that a paycheck, at long last, will not be far behind. My full-time teaching job pays monthly and I won't get that check until Sept. 20th--but the good news there is that they gave me a 3.6% raise (as a temporary faculty member, one is never sure what the raises will be). I have a part-time one-night-a-week evening job as well, and that one pays biweekly. I'm hoping the first check comes Sept. 8th--if not, it will arrive the 15th. There's just over $1000 sitting on the credit card bill right now, and groceries still to be bought, so I'm looking forward to getting cash in, paying off debts, and starting to save again after draining my liquid funds this summer.

Oh, today was a no-spend day, too.

A tasty birthday gift

August 25th, 2006 at 07:45 pm

One of my favorite grocery stores--one that I grew up with in L.A.--is Trader Joe's. But TJ's has yet to arrive in my hometown, although there are 3 stores in and around Philadelphia (55 miles south). For the past year I've been making a TJ's run once every 3-4 months--*that* was the reason I finally plugged in and started using my basement freezer. A friend who lives near TJ's offered to do a grocery run for me and bring the groceries up, since she had yet to see my new house and meet my new dog. I gave her a limited grocery order (4 packages of burritos, 4 of enchilladas, and 2 of the Two Hearts Bruschetta) and she picked up items and drove them up. I was all prepared to write her a check for them but she insisted on giving them to me as a birthday gift (since yesterday was my birthday).

DBF came over in the evening and his gift to me was edible as well: a Ghiradelli Dark Chocolate bar.

Nice to have gifts that I'll use with pleasure that don't require storage space (other than temporarily). I think that consumables make great gifts, and often (but not always) give some sort of consumbale as well--ideally something a person would like but wouldn't buy for themselves.

Even though I've grown to hate my birthdays (now that I'm middle-aged), yesterday was a pleasant one.

Slippery Slope

August 20th, 2006 at 04:59 am

I've not been terribly good during this so-called no-unplanned spending week. School is about to start, which has a number of concerns (and related purchases) bubbling up. Those total about $30, plus I had a library overdue fine of $4 and had to contribute to a wedding gift for my boss for $25. So only 3 true no-spending days this week. I think this next week will go better.

Two no-spending days in a row

August 14th, 2006 at 04:51 pm

Loaded up my prepaid cards for gas and food on Friday, spent my $10 on festival food on Saturday, no money going out Sunday or Monday....and hopefully not for the rest of the month. I *did* get asked at the office to put in for a wedding gift for my boss (there's a party for her & her new husband on Saturday), so that's going to be a bit going out that I didn't plan on later this week.

Checking Credit & Insurance History Reports

August 12th, 2006 at 05:20 pm

I sat down and did a little bit of checking on my public records today. I haven't seen my credit report since I bought the house 9 months ago, so I thought it was time for a look-see at that. Also I've been considering changing auto insurance, so I checked my claims history there to see if it was what I expected it to be.

Here's info about the sites that I used for future reference and in case anyone else finds the info helpful.

You all know about http://www.annualcreditreport.com, I'm sure--the source to get your credit report once a year from each of the three major credit reporting agencies. You can opt either to get all three at once, or space them out and get one report every 4 months from a different agency. The downside is that you don't get your actual FICO score.

You *can* get those for free, but it involves signing up for a 30-day free trial at one of the services who offer monthly monitoring, and then remembering to cancel before your 30 days is up! More info at http://www.cardratings.com/creditratert.html

Another helpful site is http://www.choicepoint.com. This one has info on how to get your employment history, tenant history, insurance claims history, how to get copies of your birth, marriage, & divorce certificates, also applying for a passport or visa, and also info on screening workers who come to your home and doctors for suits filed against them. Most of these reports cost a nominal fee, but you can get the record of your insurance claims for free.

Pantry Challenge Check-In

August 12th, 2006 at 04:15 pm

Almost a month ago, I gave myself a pantry challenge--trying to live as much as possible off what was already in the pantry.

It was only modestly successful; one thing I learned is how much I prefer "fresh" foods to foods that are dried, canned, or frozen. During the month, I bought a lot of the following: soymilk, yogurt, deli-turkey, "lite" cheese, hummus, fruit, carrots, celery, and lettuce. Oh, and sherbet (so much for the diet).

I did use up all the frozen chicken breasts and ground beef from my store, and had a couple of times where I cooked beans from my dried stores. The frozen burritos and veggie enchiladas from Trader Joe's got used up pretty early, too, as did the veggie chicken patties. But I guess I don't like the Indian meals as much as I *think* I do--a month later, I've only used one from my "stash." And I ate hardly any pasta at all, other than half a pound of egg noodles for making tuna noodle casserole.

Here's what's left from the original pantry list I started almost a month ago (July 14):
3 4 oz frozen salmon patties
3 various bags of frozen
1 frozen pad thai entree from Trader Joe's
3 ready-made Indian meals from TJ's
two small boxes butternut squash soup from TJ's
can of cranberry sauce
can of turkey gravy
one can of chili w/meat & beans
6 oz canned crab meat
1 6 oz cans tuna
1 can mandarin oranges
1/4th a box of dried felafel mix
3 #s pound of pasta (2 spaghetti, 1 macaroni, 1 # egg noodles)
1.5 pounds of brown rice
3/4 pound of red lentils
3/4 pound of brown lentils
a pound of split peas
1.5 boxes of cereal
.75 packages whole wheat pitas
4 apples

Since this is a no-spend month, I'll see what I can do to work away at these stores. I really should use those apples right away--maybe a baked apple crisp or something. They're in Evert-fresh bags so they're still good, but I guess apples are just more appealing to me in the fall (same for butternut squash soup and cranberry sauce!)

Getting Ready for a New No (Unplanned-) Spending Challenge

August 11th, 2006 at 07:34 am

I just got online and made sure that all my bills are set up to be automatically paid when due for the next month, and I set up automatic transfers from savings to ensure that the money is in the checking account when it needs to be.

I'm on my way out of the house and I will stop and buy a $50 gift card for the local convenience store which usually has the cheapest gas and is on my way to work, and a $125 gift card for the grocery store, and then when I get home tonight, I'm taking my ATM card out of my wallet.

So I'll be able to get gas and groceries with the cards--and I have enough cash in my wallet to pay my $4 library fine (oops!!) and dine out one night at Musikfest--and that's it for the month.

Staying within those limits really will be a challenge.

Money is really tight right now--haven't had a paycheck since May 20, don't get another until Sept 20 (41 more days--almost 6 weeks!), so I really had to struggle over a couple of expenditures when I was setting up the automatic billpay. I decided to cancel Netflix just before my next billing cycle on the 20th; I'll start it up again around Thanksgiving. I should be too busy this fall semester to watch many movies anyway! I *was* going to cancel the newspaper, too--but I decided to keep it for a few reasons. In particular, there's a big decision coming down locally this fall about whether or not my town is getting a casino; that news will only be in the local paper and not in my beloved online NYTimes, and not all of the relevant stuff (notices about community groups, etc) even gets into the online edition of the local paper. Plus after an event like yesterday's thwarted terrorist attack, I do get more news hungry. Thirdly, I'm on a special plan where I get the paper for half price; if I stop it now, there's no guarantee that I'll be eligible for the special rate again. I figure I'm just going to have to use at least $21 worth of coupons in the next 13 weeks so that the subscription will pay for itself!

Another no-spend day

August 9th, 2006 at 05:54 pm

I've only had two since breaking the no-spend challenge last Friday. Back to the typical pattern. I think of myself as "hating" shopping, but what I mean by that is mall-shopping. The kind of shopping I get sucked up into is at the grocery store, the hardware store....and the bookstore. (At least when I go to the bookstore, I usually just buy a cup of coffee and browse. When I go to the grocery store and usually when I go to the hardware store, money gets spent.

Not today, though!

August Budgeting

August 6th, 2006 at 11:49 am

This month will be a real challenge for me. I was told at the beginning of the year that I'd receive my winter semester paychecks from Feb thru May (rather than through the summer) because I worked part-time at this school last fall, and thus was not a full-time employee for the entire year. I'm a teacher and I'm used to having my 9-month salary paid to me over 12 months, but they only do that for full-time employees for the entire academic year (which I am again now). I planned ahead and managed to save $7250 in my savings during that time, and have been living off the savings since.

However, it's still 45 days until my next paycheck, and the savings account only has $640 left in it. Summer tends to be my most spendy time of year, and this year was no exception. I took a trip out to L.A. to visit my mom, am taking 3 summer school classes, adopted a dog and made purchases to accommodate his needs, took care of some minor home repairs, and had one large car repair bill during this time, in addition to the usual monthly expenditures.

Thank goodness my mother still has the means to lend me $1200 (which I will repay in full by December) to enable me to pay my August bills (the September paycheck arrives just in time to pay the September bills).

So I've got to be good about adhering to the budget this month--I've got $967 on the credit card at the moment, and I *usually* pay in full every month.

So here's the budget for the month, which will all but exhaust the savings and the loan from mom, leaving just $100 in the savings accounts to keep them open and as a wee bit of buffer.

Budget
Mortgage/escrow 723
Gas (budget plan, spreading payments equally over the year) 150
Electricity 70 (guessing)
Water/Sewer 73 (quarterly bill due)
Phone 50
Health Insurance 95
Disability etc Insurance 40
Groceries 300
Gasoline 50
Pet Needs 20
Gym 29
Entertainment (including dining out) 50
Household supplies/goods/repairs 23
Credit Card payment 67 (leaves 900 balance)

Total 1740

I'll so look forward again to having money coming in! I've got the rest of the year planned out to pay off the credit card and the loan from mom by year's end, and to start rebuilding the emergency fund. I've concentrated my savings the past several years on building my retirement fund, but this experience (plus the fact that I am a relatively new homeowner) makes me realize that this year's savings needs to be addressed to establishing more liquidity in my accounts.

Phew!

August 3rd, 2006 at 07:19 am

I was originally told by my HR department that I would have to pay my full health insurance contribution ($360) this month rather than my usual $95/month contribution because of an oddity in my contract situation. They told me that back in January so I've been expecting it for months. Yesterday before sending the payment in, I asked one more time why that was, and finally got told that I'd just have to pay the monthly contribution. So that's $265 I don't have to pay out this month--a real relief as I try to make it four months without a paycheck.

$10 in free grocery money!

August 1st, 2006 at 02:56 pm

I was invited by email invitation a few weeks ago to take part in an online panel for my local grocery chain (Giant). Once a week they send me a message, and as long as I have one participation a week (complete one survey or have at least one entry on the discussion board), I get a $10 reward credit to use for groceries the next month. Just got the notice confirming my first $10 reward!