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Archive for July, 2007

Some good barbecue and a great open house

July 30th, 2007 at 10:14 am

Blew the budget yesterday when we went to Jack Stack for lunch. I picked up the bill, which was $68+ including tip. I felt compelled to do the treating, since we went at my request. It's the last time I'll be in Kansas City, and I wanted some good barbecue. It WAS good barbecue.

My son's open house went very well, according to the realtor. At least four parties who were "very, very interested." However, no word yet of an offer. The realtor wants to do another open house next Saturday. I won't be here to help out -- I'm heading back to North Carolina tomorrow. But with any luck, an offer will come before then.

I did a little pre-calculation of my spending this month. It's been a very high-spending month. Most of that is due to transition expenses -- paying off last utility bills, paying the annual premium on my health insurance, transferring services. I've also bought quite a few things to set up my new space. It won't be till next month that I'll get a true picture of my normal spending.

KC "vacation"

July 29th, 2007 at 06:26 am

I'm spending a week in Kansas City with my son's family. Naturally, there is some spending involved, but I feel like I'm keeping it under control.

On my first night here, I used a gift card and treated the family to dinner at Outback Steakhouse. Actually came away with $$ left on the card, only $7 out of pocket for the tip.

The next day, we all had to vacate the house at lunchtime so that potential buyers could look at the house. My DIL and I went to McDonald's, and I treated, for $10.25. That evening the kids treated at a pizza place, while more lookers trekked through the house.

The following day I spent about $45 on groceries, planning to eat in -- but yet again, we had lookers at dinnertime! So we ate at Culver's, going Dutch. My portion was $7.50.

We also went to Babies R Us, so we could pick out a gift from the baby's aunt. My DIL did a great job selecting three outfits and a "tiny diner" (a plastic mat to cover the table edge at restaurants). I chipped in about $3, the amount over the $40 Auntie contributed.

Last night I babysat while Mom & Dad went out for dinner and a movie. That was a nice, frugal way to give them a real treat.

The kids are moving to Chicago, and facing the prospect of having to sell their house for no more than they paid -- which means they will need to bring a check to closing. Today is the open house. Please let there be an offer today! They are so stressed.

Shadow Shopper

July 27th, 2007 at 07:50 am

Anybody know the deal with Shadow Shopper? I am getting emails saying they are desperate for mystery shoppers in my area and they're offering a free membership. I'm kind of interested, but afraid of a scam. Has anyone dealt with them before?

A trip to the vet

July 23rd, 2007 at 11:38 am

Had an awful night with my cat last night. He sneezed and snorted all night long. I was so concerned I closed his kitty door so I could take him to the vet this morning.

The vet wasn't too concerned about his sneezing (which had subsided by daylight), but found a tooth that was causing him pain and needed pulling. While he was under, I had him microchipped as well. So that was $310 I wasn't planning on spending. I do hope the little bugger is feeling better, though.

Tomorrow I am catching a plane for Kansas City to spend a week with my son, daughter-in-law and grandson. I'm sure that visit won't be cheap, either! So it is a big-ticket month for me. At least I have the money, and it's not going on credit cards! I still revel in my debt-free status!


July 22nd, 2007 at 11:45 am

My cousin, sister and I went rug shopping yesterday. My cousin wanted to put two area rugs in her L-shaped breakfast room. We pretty quickly found the 6 X 8, but we also had to find a coordinating round rug with a 5' diameter. We spent hours (it seemed) and were on the point of choosing something only so-so when, TA-DA! One of the salesmen plopped down a round rug for someone else to view, and it was perfect! What a laugh we had! Luckily, the people who had asked to see it didn't want it!

I think we did pretty well price-wise -- for the two rugs and pads it was about $800 -- and they were a very nice quality.

Afterward we went to McDonald's for dinner and ate in the car. My cousin paid for it all.

Craft fair & bargain books

July 21st, 2007 at 08:26 am

Yesterday my sister took me out for breakfast. I paid the tip, $4.00. Then we went to a craft fair at the mall. I bought only one item, a tile memo board, so that I can leave messages for my cousin. My sister bought only a footstool, which was very restrained on her part.

While I was at the mall I went through the bargain books at Waldenbooks and found a book I've wanted to read -- "Stealing Buddha's Dinner" -- and a book about Wrigley Field to give to my son. About $12 for both.

Today my cousin wanted to go rug shopping. She woke up feeling well, but then started to feel woozy and went back to bed. She has NCS and has frequent spells of dizziness. So until she gets up again, I'm going to continue reading "The Road" by Cormac McCarthy (?) What a fascinating book! Read it if you want to appreciate your own life!

Woo-hoo! Got my mouse back!

July 19th, 2007 at 08:50 am

The computer type, not the gray fuzzy type. This morning I finally got my laptop set up on a desk and attached to a mouse and printer. I have been doing computer work on my lap since I moved, and while that is not bad, I am glad to have the mouse back!

Also this morning I arranged to have my pension payments directly deposited into my new bank account. I am slowly getting there. Soon I will be a true NC resident!

My cousin and I did make the trip to Best Buy yesterday, and the customer service rep couldn't have been nicer. We were able to get store credit for the doodads we didn't need, even though they were purchased more than 30 days ago, because they had not been opened. Store credit isn't cash, but I am sure we will need stuff at Best Buy again, and it will be used. Now we just have to be more informed about what we really need when we make a purchase.

We also stopped at a furniture warehouse that was going out of business, and found four chairs -- one for my desk (I'm sitting on it now!) and three for the table in the sunroom. (Because of the way the table is situated in the corner, it looks better with three chairs than four. When we need a fourth, we can pull in an extra from the study.) The three chairs do not match in style but they are all oak and look good together. The cost for all four chairs -- $280!

No plans for today other than doing laundry and a game of cards this afternoon with my sister and her husband. Retirement is great!

This 'n' that

July 18th, 2007 at 05:07 am

Got a couple more chores done yesterday. I got my oil changed (at JiffyLube) for about $30. Next time I will try Wal-Mart -- I thought JiffyLube would be fast, but they weren't -- about 45 minutes. Advertised time was 10 minutes.

I also got my prescription transferred. It occurred to me that I should try to transfer to CVS, because that prescription was formerly filled at Osco (which was acquired by CVS). Well, try telling that to the pharmacist. She kept telling me she never heard of Osco and almost wouldn't look it up. When she did, and found my name, she said, "Oh! You ARE there!" Duh. After that it took a LONG time to get it filled, but I'm starting to realize that's just the way things are around here. Everything that involves service takes a long time. The prescription was about $25.

Today I have two things to do: I need to arrange to get my pension payments deposited to my new bank account, and I have to return some things to Best Buy. Some things were purchased more than 30 days ago by my cousin, so I don't think they will take them back, but they were sold to her with the assurance she would need them to set up her new TV, and they weren't. I'm not too happy with Best Buy; I think they prey upon the ignorance of the un-techies.

Stylish new phone

July 17th, 2007 at 05:28 am

I finally got my cell phone switched over to a North Carolina number. I can't believe how much trouble it took, but it's done. I ended up getting a new phone, which after rebates cost about $27 (and a new contract). I could have kept my current phone, so I feel a little frivolous, but it was a very old phone and I was afraid it might soon become obsolete. My new phone is a red slim-line and does all kinds of things I will probably never figure out how to do.

I got a $20 cashback from Discover, and I sent $9.60 to my doctor.

I noticed yesterday that my car is way overdue for an oil change, so today I will try to find a place to do that. I also need to fill a prescription, which means I need to find a new pharmacy. Does anyone know if there is a pharmacy chain offering a great deal for a new account? I've been looking in the papers, but haven't seen an ad. I guess if I don't get a deal, I'll go with Wal-Mart. It's the closest place, and it's also everywhere!

A ticket to fly, and more

July 15th, 2007 at 04:53 pm

Big spender today -- I bought a ticket to fly to Kansas City on the 24th, to see my son's family. They are moving to Chicago in August, so I wanted to visit one last time in KC. The ticket was ~$270. I'll have to drive to Charlotte (about two hours away) to catch the flight, as everything out of Asheville and Greenville were way too expensive.

I also bought a few things at Wal-Mart -- a wastebasket, laundry sorter, more hangers. About $20. I wish I could say my room is more organized, but it isn't. I think I need to have another garage sale -- but not this summer.

I signed up for MyPoints today and did a little clicking. I don't imagine I will rack up the points very fast, but every little bit helps!

Shopping trip

July 14th, 2007 at 04:08 pm

Today I spent $19.55 on drawer organizers and $2.50 for bottles of water from a vending machine.

My cousin, on the other hand, bought a set of towels, a set of blinds, some garbage bags and sponges -- and a NEW RANGE!

I know she has money, but it really floors me how a casual shopping trip can result in a major purchase for her. Granted, her current stove is not in great shape -- but we didn't set out to buy a stove, just a few things. It wasn't even on sale.

We are so different. She is not wasteful, but she is certainly ready to spend. I have to squeeze every nickel. I just hope we continue to get along!

Update on COBRA

July 13th, 2007 at 02:29 pm

Sometimes I am just too darn efficient! After receiving the letter from COBRA yesterday, I quickly filled out the form and sent a check. In today's mail I received an insurance bill from the university (my former employer). A call to them finally made it all clear. The letter from COBRA was a mistake -- as a retiree I should not have received it. So I had to call COBRA and stop the process. They were all very nice, said it happens a lot, and that I will have my form and check returned to me. WHEW! Now I am sending a $2,316 check to the university, which will cover me to the end of the year.

I spent $6.19 today to see "Ratatouille" with my sister. A very fun movie, especially if you're into cooking!

Two shocks to the system

July 13th, 2007 at 05:54 am

Yesterday I got my first communication about my medical benefits post-retirement. After reading and re-reading the almost incomprehensible document, I figured out that I need to apply for COBRA, that it will be $394 a month, and that -- I was cut off on 6/30/2007? So I'm not insured now and nobody told me? Man, I hate bureaucracy.

I also learned that my TV was too old to be properly hooked up to DirecTV, the VCR AND the DVD. My system used to work in Indiana, but I didn't have DirecTV, just cable. So I went TV-shopping. After a brief flirtation on the skinny-screen aisle, I decided to get an old-fashioned big-tube TV and DVD combo (my DVD was old, too, a reject from my son). With a $20 rebate for opening a Wal-Mart card, I got it for $168. Plus, my cousin, who felt bad that I couldn't make my system work with DirecTV, chipped in $50. She said to consider it a housewarming gift. So I did resolve the situation pretty cheaply, and I am very pleased with the picture on the new TV.


July 11th, 2007 at 06:21 pm

I spent about $9 today on an extension cord and a shower curtain liner. I have extension cords packed somewhere, but I can't wait to find them, the TV gets hooked up tomorrow.

As for the shower curtain liner, I am hoping the heavy-duty variety I bought will make showers less annoying. My new tub is very narrow, and I have a very lightweight liner in there now. A vent keeps blowing it inward, so every time I shower, the liner sticks to me and it gets all soapy. I hope a liner with a little more gumption will stay put.

I transferred my emergency fund to a money market account -- it had been in checking because I felt I needed it readily available during the move. Now that I am pretty much settled, I can let it go into a higher-earning account. I can only write $250+ checks from that account so it will truly be for emergencies and big ticket items.

I am feeling somewhat at sea in my new surroundings with only my cousins and my sister for company. They are all so un-frugal. I feel so different, even like I am missing a part of myself. I enjoy stretching my money, but they are subtly critical of my habits. I suppose, to be fair, I am also critical of them. I wish I had someone (in my real life) who felt the same way. Are we frugals really so odd? What could be more sensible than living within your means?

Switching services, and today's agenda

July 11th, 2007 at 04:56 am

Yesterday I got my car insurance switched over to NC. Looks like the cost will be similar to Indiana, slightly higher. I'm expecting a bill for the first six months for about $330.

I started the process to get a new number for my cell phone. Since I'm not near an AT&T dealer, I'm having them mail the "sim" (?) card. Then I'll picke out a new phone, since my current one is an antique. I'll have to renew my contract to get the free phone, but I've been happy with the service.

I found the library in this town (pretty nice!)and got my library card. Already checked out two books.

Today I'm going to help my cousin take her dogs to the groomer. Also, the "Clean Team" is coming to clean the house. I told my cousin I was fine with cleaning my own area (two rooms and a bathroom), and she said they would only charge $5 more. I'm not sure where we left it.

One thing I'm looking forward to is having the Clean Team (two young men, not women) move some furniture for me!

The book is in the mail

July 10th, 2007 at 05:19 am

I mailed my library book back at at place called Box & Mail. It cost $5.86 to send it via media mail. I could have done better if I had packaged it myself, but I am still in such disarray, I couldn't find any padded envelopes.

I got my hair cut at a place that advertised $9 cuts. I am not real thrilled with the cut, so I will look elsewhere next time. Also, I had to wait a long time, even though it didn't look like anyone was busy.

I just got my first upgraded Netflix charge, and I have three movies to watch (though no TV hookup yet)! None of the three are of particular interest to my cousin, so I will be sure to get her to add some items to my queue.

My mission today: to find a State Farm agent and switch over my insurance, and to get my cell phone switched to a NC number.

Assembly required

July 9th, 2007 at 07:27 am

Yesterday I made a trip to Target and Best Buy. At Target I bought a TV stand. It was $53 after using my $50 gift card. At Best Buy I bought a DVD player for HDTV and and cable. My cousin paid for that.

We spent most of the afternoon trying to assemble the TV stand, and finally succeeded. It wasn't easy, though! I think it may be worth my while to stick to furniture stores for furniture. When they have good sales, the cost is not much more, the quality higher, and you don't have to put them together!

In the evening we had steaks out on the grill. It was the first time I've ever used a gas grill; I've always had a charcoal grill. It sure was easy. Afterward I had a glass of wine on the patio. I felt more relaxed and settled in than I have since I got here.

Today I have to find a place to get my hair cut. My cousin recommends her stylist -- $40 a cut! No way! My hair is very manageable and has a lot of body, so I don't need a special stylist. I just need a nice, no-frills cut.

I also have to mail back a library book that got packed with my stuff! I was able to renew it online, so I only owe a .30 fine on it (which I'll pay when I visit in August). Hopefully, the shipping won't be too much.

Bed & board

July 7th, 2007 at 03:36 pm

I have a bed. I've been sleeping on the box spring and mattress on the floor, but today my headboard and frame arrived. It is so beautiful. And it feels really good to be up high again.

Some of the furniture for the breakfast room arrived as well. Two recliners and an occasional chair. We are still expecting four chairs for the table. (My cousin bought all that furniture; I only bought the headboard.) So the breakfast room is shaping up really nicely. It has a big window with a moutain view, as well as a plasma screen TV! I'm not used to such luxury, and sometimes it feels strange.

The other odd thing is that people keep bringing food. Today my cousin's sister brought all the makings for a filet mignon dinner, and my sister brought a whole dinner from KFC, and a box of chocolate-covered strawberries. Don't get me wrong, I'm appreciative, but we already have almost too much food to handle. I am used to stretching food, not managing an overload. But I am the odd one out; everyone else seems to think having too much food is normal.

Garage saling and hot dogs

July 6th, 2007 at 11:28 am

My cousin and I went garage-saling today. She has never done it before, and she liked it! Our first stop was an estate sale. I bought a little crystal bowl to use as a gift for $6. She bought a juicer, two matching mixing bowls, a relish dish, and two decorative Christmas pillows for $21. We stopped at a few more and bought nothing; then we stopped at the Habitat for Humanity Re:Store, but nothing caught our eye there either.

Next stop was a sinfully non-healthy lunch at Hot Dog World -- hot dogs, onion rings, and malts. MMMmmmmm. And only $3.20 apiece.

The meatloaf that wasn't

July 5th, 2007 at 02:21 pm

This is a no-spend day. In fact, I haven't even gone out of the house.

I had a interesting struggle trying to make meatloaf today. I decided to use my cousin's recipe, since I like it so well, but I didn't read it carefully. I ended up with three loaves that were very wet and loose. I thought they would firm up in cooking, but they didn't. I checked them at 35 minutes, when I was planning to top them with cheese and sauce. They disintegrated.

I wanted to save all that meat, so I tried to turn it into chili, but the texture was all wrong. So I made corn pone pie. That's a casserole with a thick chili base, with corn bread cooked on top. It turned out great! My cousin said I could make it every day. That's good, because there was so much meat I froze half of it!

My sister and her husband came over for cards -- free entertainment. They brought steamed clams and fruit salad. But we were so stocked with food -- and not big seafood fans -- they took back the clams. But the fruit salad was great with the corn pone pie.

Furniture shopping

July 4th, 2007 at 04:06 pm

Today I continued furniture shopping with my cousin. She is making a lot of changes, furnishing a newly-added room and rehabbing another. I was only interested in finding a bed. Which I did!

I have the mattress and box spring already. I wanted to find a wooden headboard, footboard and frame, but the prices were more than I could handle. Today I found a beautiful headboard for $199. There was no footboard, and I had to buy a wire frame, but I'm happy. I decided that a footboard would be too bulky, anyway, and the bed would be hard to make.

I had planned all along to pay for it out of my money market fund, so without thinking, I wrote a check for $239. After I got home (and after the store was closed) it dawned on me that I am supposed to write those checks for at least $250 -- it says right on the checks "$250 minimum." Since I never imagined I would get a headboard so cheaply, I didn't even think about it. Well, I assume the check will not be honored, even though I have plenty of money in the account. I decided I would call the furniture store first thing in the morning and ask them to tear up the check and give them a credit card number. I hate to make another trip all the way out there.

Has anybody else ever written a check lower than the minimum required? What happens? Does it bounce?

The bank, the grocer, the furniture maker

July 4th, 2007 at 04:35 am

Yesterday I opened a local bank account. I chose Bank of America, because I had a coupon for $75 to be deposited into my account if I opened a new account. I deposited the $950 check I received as a retirement benefit toward insurance. $25 was transferred into savings, and that will occur every month. That way I can avoid a fee. Bank of America also does that "keep the change" program. I've always rounded up the numbers in my check register, so this will be a way to do what I'm used to doing and corral the extra in savings. Overall, I was very pleased. Eventually I will have my pension deposited there, but I'm going to keep my Indiana account the major one for a few months while I transition.

I also did a bit more grocery shopping. I made a "secret" trip to Aldi -- which I'm sure my cousin would not approve of. She is a bit of a food snob. Only a bit -- my sister and her sister are much worse, and they have rubbed off on her. So I didn't tell her anything came from Aldi. I also made a trip to Ingle's to get some special things she requested. Altogether I have spent about $100 on groceries for the two of us.

We went furniture shopping, along with my sister. Didn't buy anything, but found two recliners that my cousin probably will buy today. She also wants to buy some kitchen chairs, but not wood. She wants them to be comfortable, and for at least one of them to have arms. That is is bit more difficult to find. The store we visited was having a 50% off sale, so the prices were good.

Financial ups and downs

July 3rd, 2007 at 06:38 am

Yesterday I needed cat food. My cat has eaten ProPlan from PetSmart for quite a while, but PetSmart is a good drive away from here. My cousin recommended Animal Supply House. I went, but they didn't carry ProPlan. However, they had a brand called Nutra that was $3 off a 4# bag. There was a rebate pad close by offering $6 off for the same product. Then I found a trial bag for $1.99 that had a $2 coupon in it. The clerk then informed me that I could sign up to get a free bag after ten purchases. They keep the record. All in all, I got 5# of cat food for 1.49., with a free bag in the future. And he likes it!

I also had to get some Frontline, since he is spending so much time in the woods. That was $40.99 -- no deals on that.

I am still dealing with settle-up bills from my former residence. My internet/cable provider, Insight, never withdrew the usual $83 from my checking account, so I sent them a check. The very same day I received a new bill that was only $32. I called them to make sure that they would cut a check and not credit an account I'm no longer using!

I also got my last water bill and last gas bill. I got a bill from State Farm for $480. That was to settle up my home insurance, which I paid through my mortgage. I knew that was coming, but I had forgotten.

Today, if my cousin feels up to it, we are going furniture shopping. I need a bed, and she wants to furnish the breakfast/TV room she added onto the house.

June recap

July 2nd, 2007 at 05:08 am

Just realized I didn't post my June recap.

It has, of course, been a very unusual month.

I spent $15,362 on loan repayments (not counting paying off the mortgage). That got me out of debt.

I also paid off the car for $4993.

I spent $311 on home repairs stemming from the house inspection prior to selling.

Utilities were the typical $324.

Moving expenses were $1050. That included renting a Penske truck, gas, motel bill, a plane ticket for my son to go home, and $50 for help unloading. Not bad.

I only spent $3 on pet supplies.

I spent $98 on gifts. That includes a monthly gift to my alma mater, as well as a birthday gift to my daughter-in-law, and various contributions at work.

Only $58 on groceries. That's because I spent $207 on eating out. I wasn't using my kitchen because of selling the house.

I spent $112 on medical -- $110 of it being the dentist. I guess I must have spent $2 on bandaids or something.

I spent $88 on gas not included in the move.

Nothing for vacation.

My usual car insurance payment of $47.

Miscellaneous -- $11

I spent $39 on clothing -- all underwear.

$20 on household supplies.

$5 on personal items.

$23 on entertainment -- my Netflix and a couple of movie excursions. Also a book.

$35 on car repair -- replacing my remote.

$10 on fees -- $9 to AAA and $1 library fine.

Snacks -- I spent a whole dollar somewhere!

Grand total was $23,790. As I said, unusual. This month will be more telling.

First grocery trip

July 1st, 2007 at 03:13 pm

Well, today was my first grocery shopping day as food manager for my household. I spent $39.60 of my cousin's money at Ingles, and $45.75 of my own at Wal-Mart. Actually, about $20 of the Wal-Mart money should have been charged to my cousin, but I was distracted at checkout and failed to divide the goods. Oh well, I will improve. She says that she would like to spend about $400 for our household, so that is what I'll aim for -- or lower. It will be a challenge -- prices are higher here than they were in Indiana.

I made blueberry-banana muffins this morning out of leftover pancake batter. While not wonderful, they were edible. I also started making a casserole out of leftovers in the fridge and pantry items. I didn't get it done, because my sister came and took me for a scenic drive -- then we went out to eat at Ruby Tuesday's (she paid). I will finish the casserole tomorrow. It's a sort of layered lasagna -- meat/sauce, cheeses, egg noodles.

I also filled up my tank this morning at Wal-Mart ($26.22) and learned that I would have saved .05 a gallon if I'd had my cousin's Sam's Club card. I'll make sure I do in the future!

As a sort of thank-you to my cousin for covering the food bill, I offered to upgrade my Netflix subscription to 3 at a time. ($17.99) Since she is so house-bound, I think she will enjoy having movies available any time.