Compared to US Averages (info from BLS, based on CPI)
US averages: 40% on housing & utilities, 18% on transportation, 16% on food & drink, 6% each on medical care, recretion, education & communication, & other, 4% on clothing.
Mine: 30% on housing & utilities, 13% on transportation, 18% on food & drink, 5% on medical, 3% on recreation, 6% on education & communication, 1% on clothing, and 24% on other (my biggest "other" categories are pet expenses and unreimbursed business expenses, which are books and films I use in teaching).
Barely present in mine in the current year (but to change with the resumption of paychecks in September) and absent in the US averages are SAVINGS (where the U.S. average is now in negative territory...can you believe that on average, people now spend more than they earn? Not just the occasional spendthrift, but on average!!!!
Archive for July, 2006
Compared to US Averages (info from BLS, based on CPI)
I think (hope) I have this mostly resolved. So far it's taken an hour and 4 phone calls, with one more phone call I'd like to complete but I'm getting a busy signal at the moment.
I finally traced the charge to Agora Solutions, a (purported) voicemail service, which claims I signed up for their service via an internet click on an ad for coupons. Now first of all, how dishonest is THAT?! Second of all, I'm not much of a couponer because I limit the amount of prepared products I buy and get more coupons than I need from the Sunday paper, so it's pretty unlikely I clicked on that coupon site anyway. But even if I did, it was with no intention of signing up for internet voicemail!!!
If you google Agora Solutions, you find that they pull this scam all the time. (There is also a UK company by the same name which appears legitimate, but the US company shows up mostly under "Rip-Offs."
When I was on the phone with Agora, they "cancelled" the service and said they would credit my account and that it would show up on my phone bill. They did send me a confirmation email, which says that the charge may not be removed for *2 to 3 billing cycles*. Hah. So I'm going to call Verizon and ask them to remove it immediately. The Verizon employee whom I spoke to earlier was helpful and told me that I should ask for the Toll Billing Department and have them do a "recourse adjustment." So I'll be doing that once I stop getting the busy signal from Verizon!
Followup Followup Got in contact with Verizon, got their assurance they're taking the charge off my bill so I won't be charged finance charges. Good! But they did try to sell me (a) wireless phone service; (b) DSL; and (c) DirectTV while I was online with them!
Check your phone bill for charges from "The Billing Resource," "Integretel," and "Agora Solutions." These are the names that are associated with this scam.
My monthly phone bill for August arrived and it was bigger than expected. I see a new unknown $9.19 charge from "The Billing Resource" and a notation that "new services were added this month." I didn't authorize any new services!! Looking around on the web, I find both indications that this "Billing Resource" is a legitimate company, part of whose function is--get this--fraud prevention, but is also listed as involved in a scam.
Of course since it's the weekend, no one answers the phone numbers when I call to inquire. I don't see much hope/information about how to get out of this in my web browsing, either. Lots of the people say that the phone company representatives tell them that they can't help them.
What are my legal rights? If I don't pay that part of my bill but pay the rest, do I get hit with late fees? Any one have any ideas about where to start looking to resolve this?
I'll be on the phone to this purported "Billing Resource" 8 am tomorrow!!!
First there's my list of what's gone/what I added, then some comments if you scroll to the bottom of this entry.
4 4 oz frozen salmon patties-NOW 2
5 frozen chicken breasts--3 left cooking them today
2 boxes of veggie burgers (4/box)-NOW 1.5
5 various bags of frozen veggies-NOW 3
6 frozen burritos-NOW 2
1 frozen pad thai entree from Trader Joe's
1 chinese citrus ch*icken entree from TJ's
3 ready-made Indian meals from TJ's
one jar of hot & sour soup from TJs-GONE
one can ready-made Campbell's tomato soup
1 can Campbell's cream of celery soup
two small boxes butternut squash soup from TJ's
one can of chili w/meat & beans
6 oz canned crab meat
3 6 oz cans tuna-NOW 2
1 jar roasted red peppers
1 can mandarin oranges
1 can pineapple
half a box of dried felafel mix
4 #s pound of pasta (2 spaghetti, 1 macaroni, 1 # egg noodles)
two pounds of brown rice-USED .5 #
a pound of red lentils-USED .5 #
a pound of brown lentils
a pound of split peas
3 boxes of cereal-NOW 1.5
1.5 packages whole wheat pitas-NOW 1
1/2 jar pizza sauce
13 oz mozzerella-NOW ~8 oz
2 #s sliced deli turkey-gone, bought another #
1 cup frozen strawberries--3 left for the next smoothie
1 cup frozen peaches--half gone
1 pint lime sherbet-GONE
3 small heads romaine lettuce-NOW 1
3 tomatoes-NOW 1
2 #s carrots-NOW 1.5
1 bunch celery -NOW ~.5
1 quart soymilk-GONE
2 quarts kefir-NOW 1
tomato juice (2 big cans V8)-NOW 1 CAN
orange juice (1/2 gallon)
1 cup plain yogurt-GONE
5 4-oz cups fruit flavored yogurt (Initial ones gone, as are the 8 I bought week 1; bought more week 2)
2/3 loaf of 12-grain bread-ALMOST GONE
4 slices rye bread-GONE
5 hamburger buns-NOW 4
WEEK 1 ADDITIONS
another half gallon of soy milk (GONE)
yogurt (mentioned above)
carton of eggs (8 left)
bananas (2 left, frozen for smoothies)
bought nectarines (GONE ALREADY)
can of turnip greens (GONE)
sweet potato fries (GONE)
half gallon sherbet (GONE)
WEEK 2 ADDITIONS
2 half gallons soy milk
20 yogurt cups (16 left)
2 pkgs Laughing Cow cheese
2 more packages of sliced turkey breast
popsicles (2/3s GONE)
4 plums (3 GONE)
4 red potatoes to cook with chicken & onion today
16 nectarines (bought in sets of 8, 8 left)
bag of carrots (GONE)
1 vidalia onion
2 cans black beans (GONE)
2 cans mushrooms
loaf of rye bread (2/3 GONE)
loaf of French bread (GONE)
12 each: club soda, diet peach soda, diet coke (store brand) (2/3 GONE)
pkg of pretzels (1/3 GONE)
Stockpile at the Entemann's outlet: 2 packages Thomas's English muffins; bag of hamburger buns; bag of Thomas's mini-bagels; loaf of rye bread; 6 bags of low-fat New York Bagel party-mix; 2 packages Pizzelle wafers.
EATING OUT DURING WEEK: 5 meals. Saturday breakfast at new diner (10% off grand opening special); two mornings where I grabbed an egg & cheese on an English muffin sandwich on my way to class; early bird special at Chinese restaurantWed after taking two exams; lunch Thurs (retirement party for co-worker; so didn't cost me except the gift contribution). Stopped at Rita's Italian Ices and treated myself to one on Friday. Total Dining Out Cost: 22.41 (would have been about $38 if the department hadn't picked up the retirement party tab).
NO SPENDING WEEK THIS COMING WEEK PLANS. See if I can get past the dining out scourge. One weakness is grabbing breakfast out on my way to my 3 hour morning class. Make the time to make eggs those mornings and bring a snack. I'll be making a crockpot chicken meal today which will last 3 meals (2 if my boyfriend dines with me tonight), and I also need to make tuna noodle casserole probably tomorrow since I bought the ingredients and haven't used them yet. Also I should make felafels one day to add variety since I have the mix just sitting there--the new toaster oven will be good for that. Also on the menu for today: gazpacho to use up the summer veggies. Fortunately the cherry tomatoes I planted have started ripening so I have lots of those coming in!
I can not recall on whose blog I read the reference, but I signed up for Pinecone Research, apparently met their criterion, completed my first survey for them last week, and received a $5 check in the mail today!
OK, the car is gassed up; I stopped at the grocery store for yogurt, turkey, soymilk, cheese, and fruit; I bought another big sack of dog food since I only had about two days worth left...so I am commencing with my no-spend week. Of course, I realized when I got home from the grocery that I had forgotten (a) coffee filters; (b) herbal tea; (c) a bag of ice; (d) a frozen treat, but none of those are essentials, so I am going ahead. If I had forgotten the *coffee* itself, as opposed to the filters, it would be a different story! I am addicted to my caffeine. I do have a plastic *tea* filter that fits in my teapot, so that will just have to serve for coffee for the week. I have ice cube trays somewhere (probably in the basement freezer) and can just make ice. I have some powdered ice tea that I will use for the week instead of Apple Cranberry Zinger or whatever it is I have been using for iced tea this summer. And the 5 popsicles sitting in the fridge are just going to have to last. I will stick a couple of yogurt cups in the freezer in case I get really desperate, and I can always try making my own popsicles from the orange juice I have sitting in the fridge.
An already-scheduled service repairman comes tomorrow and needs to be paid; I will not count that against the "no spend" rule.
Ever since I got the dog in March, I've worked downstairs because the dog cannot go upstairs (he gets up but cannot get down by himself, and it's quite the project to carry a squirming 70 pound Basset Hound down the stairs, so I simply gated them off). I've been sitting on either the sofa or at the dining room table, but neither option is really good for long working hours: the sofa is awkward and hot when I have the laptop actually on my lap, and the dining room chairs are fine to sit in for for a meal, but not for hours at a time. So I decided that creating a small downstairs study was an essential task before the new academic year begins. I found the desk at a thrift store for $25, brought my office chair downstairs, and the only thing I bought new was the rug ($39 at a local discount outlet). So for $59 I'm set up to work much more functionally than I have been!
I took a detour on my way home and stopped by a couple of bargain places. I've decided that I really need a small desk for my living room before the academic year begins. Since the new dog is not allowed upstairs, when I work at home, I've been sitting either on the sofa or at the dining room table and have not made any use of my more comfortable office chair since he arrived. I think I found a desk for $25--I left it there to think about overnight and so I can measure and clear out the area where I will put it. But I did walk away with two used Breuer chairs in good condition for $30 apiece. . Replacing the 4 that I once had that were destroyed by my last dog has been a long-term intention. I can't believe I threw out the frames for the old ones eight years ago since I didn't know then they can be recaned. I'll definitely recane these when worn as long as the frames are still good.
Across the street from the thrift store is an Entemann's bread outlet. I've never gone in before because I'm not a pastry eater. But it turned out that they had not only Entemann's baked goods, but also Thomas's bagels and English Muffins and Arnold's breads and lots of other familiar brands. Most but not all of the goods are near their expiration dates and sell for 50% off. Plus the store has a "freezer special" of 10% off if you purchased $20 or more worth of goods. I ended up spending $27 after the 10% reduction for eight packages of bread, buns, bagels, and English muffins (mostly near expiration date so I put them in the freezer), six packages of New York Bagels low-fat party mix (expiration date 9 months from now), two packages of Pizzelle wafers, and two packs of fruit snacks to take for lunch. *And* they threw in a free box of Entemann's donuts, which I'll take to work.
I *should* put another $27 in my $20 savings account for the savings, but I have no income this month so that will have to wait until paychecks resume.
Once I get to the fall and paychecks resume, I'll set an amount (5? 10?) and put it in my special $20 challenge account every time I have a no-spending day, but for now since the money is tight until the next paycheck Sept 20th (8.5 weeks away!), the money stays where it can help pay the bills.
Today was an entirely at-home day. Did some homework, did some housecleaning, cooked a meal with leftovers for later this week, unpacked some of my books now that my big bookcase has been resurrected, mowed the lawn, and spent too much time on the internet.
Browsing around on some personal finance blogs this morning, I came across this entryhttp://www.mdmproofing.com/iym/weblog/2005/11/more-on-househ... , which in turn led me to this site with comparison information from the government about recommended food budgets--see http://www.usda.gov/cnpp/FoodPlans/Updates/foodoct05.pdf.
The liberal plan suggests that a "moderate" food budget for a person of my age & sex (female, 20-50) would be 46/week, and a "liberal" food budget would be 60/week, with a 20% increase for being single, bringing the total to 55 to 72 a week. Since I'm having trouble bringing the food budget down anyways, I'll use the more moderate figure as my goal. With 4.3 weeks in the month, and $72/week, that leads to a budget of $310 per month for food. I'm setting that up as a goal for August, and I've also revised my budget files to keep track separately of food and household supplies (paper goods, toiletries, etc). I also need to separate out pet food (treats for the dog and food for the cats) that I buy at the grocery. *Including* the toiletries and pet food, my monthly average grocery bill this year has been $422; assuming $8/week ($32/month) for pets and $12/week for household items ($48/month), that's a "real" grocery bill of 362. So my first challenge is to get it down to $310, and then I'll see if it's reasonable to move down to the more "moderate" budget level, which would be $237/month.
It's interesting to note the "single surcharge" of 20%; I'm actually a little surprised that the loss due to no "efficiencies of scale" is that high. I know that, as a single, one definitely ends up paying a lot more for some things--my boyfriend and I often do talk about the inefficiency of havig two houses, two sets of utility bills, etc--but I would have though the inefficiences would be a little lower in the food category, since, after all, one doesn't eat any more as a single than as a married person.