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Archive for March, 2007

A call from my son

March 27th, 2007 at 03:31 pm

My son called me today to let me know his dad's aunt had passed away. She was someone who was very kind to me, so I want to go to her funeral. The problem is, it's a three-hour drive away, and since it appears it will be scheduled fairly early on Thursday morning, I'll have to go Wednesday night and stay in a hotel room. So much for saving money. At least I will probably share the ride with my son, so we can split the gas.

My son also had news about his work life. He has taken a new part-time job because, once again, it is looking like the restaurant where he is working full time will close. He hasn't quit the first job, so he'll have two jobs for a while. If the restaurant closes he'll try to go full-time at the new job. The new job is at a brew pub; he'll probably enjoy that.

Today I spent $11 on dry cleaning. Oh, and the rolls still haven't been delivered. That kid is not much of a salesman!

I bought some rolls

March 26th, 2007 at 06:05 pm

I bought some rolls -- some time ago, from a little boy who came to the door. They are from a local restaurant, famous around here for their wonderful homemade rolls. The little boy has called a several times over the last few months to collect his money. He always gets me at work, and I tell him to come and collect after five. He doesn't come. I don't get my rolls. I'm waiting for him again tonight. I'm not out any money and it's not a matter of national security whether I get my rolls or not, but I would like closure!

That's just what's on my mind tonight. Financial news -- I called a realtor today and she will come and look at the house this Saturday. I'm not near ready to put it on the market, but I'd like to get a professional opinion.

I spent nothing today (unless I get my rolls!) and I think I've racked up quite a few no spend days this month.

Next month, I plan to pay off a couple of credit cards (all new debt, from the remodeling). That will leave me an impressive $27 a week to spend! (After bills, of course.) Should be interesting.

Picky, picky, picky

March 24th, 2007 at 03:08 pm

That's me. Picky, picky, picky. I asked my handyman to caulk the top of the tile baseboard, hoping it would look better. It looks different, not better. I brought up the idea of adding a border of smaller tiles, and he agreed it would look good, but it would be expensive. Then he offered the idea of wood trim, which would be cheaper but would still finish it off. I will think it over while he is off on another job this coming week.

I also returned the knobs I bought for the kitchen cabinets. They were the wrong color, too brassy. The knobs I exchanged them for are more of a brushed nickel, which will look good with the stainless appliances. Unfortunately, they cost me $25 more, which I didn't even realize until I got to the checkout. Again, picky, picky, picky.

In other spending today I fared better. I used a gift coupon at Kroger and got $15 worth of groceries for .22. Then I got my hair cut, using a $1 off coupon, so the total with tip was $13. I bought a book of stamps for $7.02. And I also bought some screws and a bucket at Menard's for $3.66. At the same time I returned a threshold I won't use for $5.28.

I am doing well on my diet, too. Today I went a little over 1700 calories, but I'm stuffed. Two bean wraps with salsa and a little bit of cheese did that. Whew!

Two diet savers -- and money savers: I pop popcorn in a paper bag in the microwave -- two tablespoons of kernels makes about four cups. Spray with fake butter and sprinkle with salt and it's a great, filling, cheap snack. Also, I love Fruit 2-O, the bottled water flavored with fruit juice. I stopped buying it and just make my own. Pour a little bit of juice over a full glass of cubes and ice water and it tastes just the same.

And the debt grows

March 23rd, 2007 at 05:48 pm

Well, I haven't wanted to admit it to myself, but no matter how much I move this lump of debt around, it is still debt. I'm talking about $1400 that I've spent on my remodeling projects. I thought I was going to pay it off in a couple of big payments, but it isn't happening, so today I shifted it to a low-interest card and added the sum to my debt total. Sigh. I'll cross my fingers and hope that the investment will be worth it when I sell the house.

I came home from work today to find that the tile baseboard has been grouted, but I am somewhat disappointed at the way the edge looks. I didn't get the bullnose (?) tile for the baseboard -- I should have. My handyman obviously did the best he could but the edge looks a little rough and unfinished. Now I'm wondering if I could make it look better by adding a row of skinny little tiles on top that would have the proper finished edge. More money, of course. I don't know if I'm being finicky or if it really does look bad.

Yesterday was a friend's birthday, and she treated ME to lunch! Bad me, I didn't even know it was her birthday. She had a gift certificate that she wanted to use, and insisted upon treating me. I wanted to pay the tip, but I only had a ten and a one. She wouldn't take the ten, so I gave her the one. So I had a $1 lunch, but feel a bit bad about it, especially after she told me it was her birthday. She is very low-key about her birthday, and we're not in the habit of celebrating, but still. I was the one who came out ahead.

Well, even though I'm not doing great money-wise now, I have gotten back on my diet. (Can I only do one or the other?) I am counting calories and trying to stay below 1700 a day -- it has been going well for almost a week now, and that counts the time I spent with my son's family on vacation. They were an inspiration, in fact. My daughter-in-law wants to lose her post-pregnancy weight, and my son -- well, he's just very disciplined in his eating habits. I'm proud of him -- he didn't get it from me!

Thanks & update on the homeless custodian

March 22nd, 2007 at 05:15 am

Thank you for your kind comments on my homecoming frustration. I'm feeling better today, more philosophical.

My building collected cash yesterday for the custodian who lost her home. I didn't have any, but this morning I took out a bit from savings. I started to give it to the woman who is collecting, but she said they got quite a bit yesterday and it's already been delivered. She asked if I would wait, because she has enough to tide her over now but will need more in the future. I said OK! I'm really glad there has been such a good response.

Financial frustrations

March 21st, 2007 at 03:13 pm

Home again from vacation at my son's house. It was a nice respite from my real life. As soon as I got near my home turf, the money starting falling out of my pockets.

To pick up my car from the airport parking lot was $40. Then I picked up my dog at the vet. Boarding costs were $67.50, and medical costs were $232.50! That covered his annual exam, blood work, toenail clipping, vaccinations, flea & heartworm medication for the next six months, and antibiotics for the infection in his toe that has been hanging on for a year. Since it is very unlikely that the latest round of antibiotics will do any good, I am probably looking at surgery to remove the nail and part of the toe. That will be $400. At least.

Then I went home to find that my tile floor will cost $125 more than estimated. I don't even want to talk about that!

I'm frustrated. It seems I never get ahead; in fact, I can't keep from falling behind.

One of the custodians in my building lost her home in a fire yesterday. She was in an apartment. Now she has nothing -- just the clothes on her back. She is staying in a motel free of charge, but she will need help getting on her feet. This is a time when I would love to have extra money to give away, but I am socked in with all these extra expenses. It really makes me mad when I can't afford to help someone!

Vacation, continued

March 18th, 2007 at 03:54 pm

On Saturday I made a breakfast casserole with leftover ground pork, eggs, torn-up bread, cheese, milk and asparagus. It was delicious! It was actually a brunch casserole, since we didn't get around to eating breakfast till pretty late in the day.

When grandson was rested and fed, we bundled him up and went to Burlington Coat Factory, so I could look for a warm rain jacket. It was not that easy to find -- it seems that even with a huge selection, a rainproof coat with a little bulk is a rarity. My son did find one, however, and it is also fully reversible -- mauve on one side and light beige on the other. It was only $37 including tax, definitely a good find.

Since it was St. Patrick's Day, we stopped for Shamrock shakes at McDonald's. Then we came home, and in the evening, the kids went out for their anniversary while I babysat. It was the first time I ever got to babysit for my grandson, and he was a jewel!

Today I took my son grocery-shopping ($51) and in the afternoon we watched the Purdue-Florida game. The full game was not carried on TV here, so we also watched on the internet. It was funny, because the TV showed the running score at the top of the screen, and it was ahead of the game we were watching on the internet. So we always knew when a score was coming up! The score would change, and then we would watch for the play. Too weird.

We made chicken tacos for dinner, and soon grandson will experiment with cereal for the first time. The video camera is ready!

This is the best kind of vacation. Family, good food, no schedule and time to relax.

First day of vacation

March 17th, 2007 at 07:17 am

Here I am in Kansas City! Grandson and his mom & dad are peacefully sleeping. I had lots of quality time with grandson yesterday and got some nice smiles. He's five months old and cute as the dickens.

I stayed to the resolutions I made about my trip here. I drove & parked at the airport, bought nothing at the airport, and packed light. I do have a confession to make; when I considered whether to drive & park or take the shuttle, I forgot to factor in the gas! Duh. So actually, the shuttle would have been cheaper, but, in fact, I couldn't take it because my flight left so early in the morning. The first shuttle run would have got me there only a half-hour before takeoff, so it was never really an option.

After arriving in Kansas City, I went with my son to the library (he's a big reader like me, and is totally converted to the library now). Grandson came along in his "bucket" and seemed to enjoy the library as well!

Soon it was time for lunch, so we met my daughter-in-law at Wendy's (she was working and I hadn't seen her yet). I treated them; it was $16 for some pretty healthy salads and a sandwich; a pretty good deal, I thought.

Then I asked them what the baby needed, and the answer was pants! He has been going through a spell of ruining his pants with -- well, you know what. So we went to Old Navy and I got three pairs and a cute little jacket as well for $31. I applied for a credit card to get a 10% discount -- in hindsight probably not worth the hassle -- but I also got some coupons which I gave to my daughter-in-law, as she is an Old Navy fan.

Then we stopped at Border's because it was nearby and I wanted to get pick up a bag of coffee. My kids don't drink coffee, so didn't have it on hand. Border's was switching from one brand to another so I was able to get a bag of premium beans for half-price, and they ground it, too! $4.83 all told.

Then we came home for some down-time and naps. My son ran an anti-spyware program on my computer, and it is running much better. Soon my daughter-in-law came home and we had a very frugal and tasty dinner of dirty rice. After the baby went to bed we watched "North Country," snacking on popcorn, then all went to bed.

I have a totally unrelated question. Did anyone else make the online purchase through PayPal which promised a $15 rebate? I never got the $15. I wonder if I did something wrong....

Wednesday night ramblings

March 14th, 2007 at 07:41 pm

I finally did my state taxes and will send the forms off tomorrow. I'll be getting $114 back. Not bad. I'm glad I didn't Turbo Tax it.

I guess I'm going to keep my Netflix subscription. I signed up for the $5 a month version -- 2 movies a month. That's about all I really have time to watch. I would get a better deal with the $1 machine in the grocery store, but I like the option of getting older movies -- and I like getting them delivered.

Other than my Netflix indulgence, I am trying hard to keep everyday spending down so I can funnel everything to my home improvement expenses. I have to be extra mindful. Today I forgot to take a lunch to work, and I was debating whether to eat out or drive home. I did neither. I ate what was available at work. Someone had brought in cookies and donuts. I had some yogurt in the fridge, and some microwave popcorn in my drawer. Yes, I know, terrible, terrible nutrition, but I didn't spend anything, not even gasoline.

I've been thinking ahead about how I can save a little on my trip. I researched whether it would cost more to drive and park, or take the shuttle to the airport. Driving & parking is a little less, so that's what I'll do. That means I will pack light, because it's such a hassle carrying bags on those airport buses. Also -- I usually buy a book at the airport -- it's been a way I treated myself in the past. Not this time. This morning I thought I might go to Goodwill to pick up a book there, but then I decided -- no, I'm not spending anything! I went to the library instead, and checked out some small paperbacks that I can carry on the plane. I am planning to buy no food in the airport. I'll make a sandwich that I'll eat in the car on the way. I'll drink water from the fountains -- if I can find them!

Another expense is boarding my dog. No way to save on that, except to cut down the time. So I asked my son if he would pick him up Monday morning (he'll be out of town until then). While my dog is at the vet, which is where I board him, he'll get his shots and his nail trim, so at least those expenses will be combined.

In other news, my cousin emailed me today to let me know that the addition on her house has not been started due to permit problems with the septic system. That made me wonder why I am purshing so hard to get my house ready to sell, when my living space at the other end isn't even started! I know she really wants me there, but it seems like the timing is off. I emailed her with my concerns, but she hasn't answered yet. I would really feel better if I didn't feel so pressured to get my house on the market this spring. It is much harder than I thought it would be, and more expensive.

They may grow up, but they're always your kids...

March 13th, 2007 at 06:50 pm

No spending yesterday or today.

No more work done on the house.

My son called today and told me he may soon be out of a job -- the restaurant where he works may close. So he's considering a move to Chicago where he can stay with his dad and perhaps find a better job in a better market.

This does not thrill me, but I want him to get on his feet. He has always struggled. He didn't finish school; he's had some bad jobs and bad roommates. He's his own worst enemy but he's had bad luck, too. Sigh. I want things to get better!

On Friday I'll fly to Kansas City to see my other son. He is married with a baby and much more settled, but he is struggling financially, too.

Could this be hereditary?

Anyway, I'm looking forward to bouncing my grandson on my knee, and only wish I could just snap my fingers and be there. Unfortunately, I have to pack, drive to the airport, park the car, yada yada yada....

More home repair woes

March 11th, 2007 at 08:12 am

Well, the bathroom tile was laid yesterday but not grouted. It was 11:30 p.m. by the time the tile got in so I sent my handyman home. There were several problems -- the room is not square and the tub is not straight, so the job required a lot of cutting. Then we ran out of tile and had to go get more. Also, my handyman was working with a quick-dry product that ended up making things more difficult for him. I felt so sorry for him that I bought him dinner. ($3.89 at Wendy's)

Also, when he tried to reinstall the toilet, we found that we did not have the right size bolts. (The old ones couldn't be reused). So the toilet is standing, but I can't use it till it is bolted. (That's okay, I have another!) My handyman had to fly to Houston today for a week to do a job there -- a previous commitment -- and I'm leaving on Friday for Kansas City -- so this won't get finished for a while. The good news is, since the job isn't finished, I didn't have to pay him yet!

Other good news -- while I did have to buy more tiles, at the same time I returned extra tiles from the backsplash, and I actually came out $13.40 ahead!

Trying not to spend money -- but spending money

March 10th, 2007 at 07:15 am

As much as I am trying to stockpile no-spend days, a few dollars keep trickling out. I went out for lunch twice this week, both standing "dates" I have -- and I do enjoy them. On Wednesday I went out with my boss and yesterday with my old friends from library school days. Lunch was pretty reasonable yesterday -- soup, roll, cookie and drink for $6.00, counting tip. Then I owed my handyman $34.96 for supplies. I also picked up some new pictures of my grandson for $2.42.

My home projects are coming along. The new tile backsplash in the kitchen is installed, and it is beautiful. I still have to seal it and add one strip of trim. This morning I painted my laundry room and took down the old wire shelf. I was going to try to keep it, but once I got up close to it, I could see that it is in pretty bad shape -- bent and corroded -- so I will have to replace it. A wall-to-wall "wood" shelf would be a big impovement and probably, hopefully, not too expensive.

Sadly, there is an area of carpet that does have to be replaced despite all my efforts to clean it. There are two spots where my departed cat, who had diabetes, used as a potty. I have cleaned them with every product known to man, but the smell always returns. I am sure it is in the pad, and maybe even the floor. The good news is that I can replace the little hallway with a "L" going into one room and take care of both areas, and it's not a big area. The bad news is that there will be a visible seam in the bedroom entryway. It's the best I can do. I can't replace the whole room, and I don't want to, the carpet is only a couple of years old.

Today my handyman will lay the tile in the bathroom and I will pay him the $250 we agreed upon. So even if I stay home all day, this will still not be a no-spend day.

I'm leaving this Friday for a 5-day weekend in Kansas City with my son and his family. I'm really excited about it, but haven't yet done a thing to get ready. Oh, I did make arrangements for my dog to stay at the vet. Besides being boarded, he will get his annual checkup and his manicure. So that won't be cheap, but it's one of those necessary things. I also have to reserve a seat in the "limo," (really a bus) to the airport. That will be cheaper than parking my car at the airport -- not much, but every penny counts right now. And always!

Speaking of pennies, I found .11 this week! And a friend gave me two .50 coffee coupons. I don't use coupons much -- I would rather just get store brands or shop at Aldi -- but I will use these. I like good coffee.

Retirement discussion and more

March 7th, 2007 at 04:58 pm

I had another meeting with a retirement counselor and learned quite a bit. He recommended that I shift my portfolio so that I have 10% invested in real estate, just to help even out the ups and downs of the market. He also recommended that when I retire I should designate part of my income to a lifelong annuity and put part into an account from which I can make systematic withdrawals myself. That way if I need a chunk of money I'll have it.

I spent nothing at all on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. Today I went out to lunch with my boss. I used a 2-for-one coupon at a Mexican place, and we each got an entree and drink for less than $5. I got a big plate of loaded nachos with tofu, pinto beans and queso sauce. Yum!

I came home today to see that my new handyman has started work. The new kitchen lights were installed (they look GREAT!), and the baseboard in the bathroom was pulled off. And he has a mobile workshop set up in my garage. I can hardly wait to see what happens tomorrow.

Saturday spending frenzy

March 5th, 2007 at 05:17 pm

So far in the month of March I've only spent money one day -- but it was a doozy! On Saturday I filled the tank ($25), bought groceries ($41), filled a prescription ($24), bought four new light fixtures ($116), bought tile & grout for my bathroom floor and kitchen backsplash ($127) and bought wood putty to fix a kitchen drawer ($3).

My son's friend was planning to start work today on installing the tile, but when I came home from work, nothing had been done. I see he did leave some supplies in the garage, so he did at least make an appearance. I assume he was called away to work, because he works for a contractor on call.

I went to the new and improved Aldi's, and was I impressed! Not only have all the fixtures been replaced, but their stock was much improved! Many more upscale items than they had before -- not that I bought any, but it's nice to know I can get smoked salmon if I want it.... I had a coupon for $5 off a $30 order -- I tried to hit $30 on the nose (even used a calculator as I shopped), but I must have missed a few items, because the total was $31.99 after the $5 was subtracted. Oh well. Then I had to go to Kroger to get my Activia yogurt -- that is one thing Aldi is not carrying yet.

I went to Menard's for my house stuff. The tile I ended up buying was not on sale, but was reasonably priced, and it's purty! I got my best deal on two of the light fixtures, however -- only $10 apiece. They'll go in the bathrooms. The other two were more expensive, ~$45 apiece, but they will be much more visible since they'll go in the kitchen.

I meant to paint the laundry room and pantry this weekend, but I couldn't make myself do it. Nor did I do the state tax, but that was because I simply forgot. Must not let that slip by!

A no-spend day record!

March 1st, 2007 at 03:26 pm

Yesterday I forgot to report that I had 13 no-spend days in February. All those snow days were good for something!

Today I sent $459 more to credit cards. I took it from savings -- basically, it is my emergency fund, but I am so determined to get these cards paid off. Once I get back to where I was before the kitchen remodel I'll feel better.

Of course, the bathroom remodel is coming up. Not a remodel, but I am replacing the vinyl floor with tile. It is a small room and I think I can do it without too great a cost. A friend of my son's will do the labor -- but I will pay him a fair price, he needs the money.

I checked my retirement fund, and I have already regained some of the money I lost in the market dip. That makes me feel better, too.

I was reimbursed today for my prescription sunglasses -- sort of. They cost $156 but I only got $98. That's what was left in my 2006 flexible spending account. I assumed they would take the rest from my 2007 account, which has $300. I'll call them tomorrow to ask about it.