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Archive for March, 2008

Making some adjustments

March 31st, 2008 at 07:04 am

I made an update to my goals. Added $25 to the dental fund; it's an automatic transfer from checking that B of A does each month. I'll soon add a little more when I get my second pension payment.

I also added $95 to the emergency fund. That is the amount I have in my old credit union savings account; might as well call it emergency money! It is not particularly accessible since it's in Indiana, but I might as well count it.

Today I am starting a liquid diet. I get a colonoscopy on Thursday. By rights I don't have to start the liquid diet till Wednesday, but I think the (ahem) purging process might be easier if I've been on liquids a few days.

Anyway, it will be fun to see the scale go down for a change!

Setting out my goals

March 30th, 2008 at 10:55 am

I added some goals on the sideline, hoping the disclosure will help me to save.

My biggest goal is met, which is my medical premium for next year. It may seem strange to want to do that first, since it is so far away, but I just want to not have to worry about it.

Then comes all my dental work, which will get done in bits and pieces.

I don't have a true emergency fund right now, as all the extra is earmarked for the medical and dental. But if I have an emergency, I can borrow from those funds.

I thought about starting a new car fund, but then I got to thinking I might not even replace my car when it wears out. My cousin has a car which she rarely drives. Actually, with her condition, she shouldn't drive. It would be easy for us to share a car. The only disadvantage for me would be that I'd have to rent a car for trips, but I think that would be cheaper than buying and maintaining a car. Something to think about. My car is still in great shape, so I'm not thinking it will go in the near future.

Coupons

March 28th, 2008 at 04:47 pm

I'm trying to get into coupons again. I used them years ago and was quite organized about it, but gradually I came to feel that I did just as well or better buying house brands.

Now that I live with my cousin, who has pickier tastes, I thought I would try coupons again. My criteria for using them are: they have to be for something I was already planning to buy, OR for something that is already marked down, OR they give me something free.

On my last grocery trip, I managed to use only three. I took more with me, but it turned out that some were for the wrong size, the product wasn't really marked down, etc.

So I got $1 off a frozen dinner, and I got a free container of nasal spray and a free bag of cat food.

It seemed like a lot of work, and I didn't really need the nasal spray or cat food (though I will eventually).

So I'm going to give it a few more tries, but I'm not sure if this is a strategy I'll keep.

Today I spent $15 on a haircut at Great Clips -- $12 for the cut and $3 for the cutter, whom I like very much. I FORGOT to use a $2 coupon! Coupons really don't work when you don't use them!Smile

Got some frugality business done

March 25th, 2008 at 09:38 am

This morning I took care of a few things I've been meaning to do for some time. First of all, I wrote a letter to my old credit union officially closing my checking account. I received a note that they would start charging fees if I didn't make direct deposits or keep a $2500 balance in checking. Since I don't need it, anyway, I closed it, but kept my savings account open. I have been a customer there for a long time, and I want to keep the relationship going in case I ever need a loan.

Secondly, I sent a copy of our family's deed to a cemetery lot back in Indiana, inquiring if they have any (ahem) extra beds left? Just need to know, even if I don't decide to plant my mortal remains there.

Third, I called Liberty Mutual and got a quote for auto insurance. It turned out that they couldn't give me a better deal than my current State Farm policy, but I will get a $25 Target gift card for making the call.

I've also taken several surveys and ordered a Cracker Barrel gift card from MyPoints, so I feel like I've put in a day's work! Whew! Time to get back to reading and watching movies!

Financial update and a surprise retirement check

March 24th, 2008 at 12:46 pm

Update on spending since my last entry --

OTC drugs: $11
Prescription: $5
Groceries: $21
Movie: $6
Stamps: $7
Radiology bill: $143
Photo development: $8

Upcoming expenses (next month):
Dog's annual: ~$200
Dentist (cleaning): $80
Dentist (filling): $125

I also have a colonoscopy scheduled but I assume I won't be billed till the following month.

After that I'm going to have to start putting money aside for the two crowns I need.

Way back in the day, when I was a clerical worker, my employer placed $10 in a pension fund for me. It was only $10 because I transferred to an administrative job soon after and no more funds were ever put into that particular account. Well, they realized I retired and I just got a check for $34!
Would have been $40 but they kept out $6 for taxes. Now, if that had been $100,000, I would have gotten $340,000!

Update on medical stuff

March 19th, 2008 at 10:36 am

Just got back from the dentist, where I plunked down $400 for my second periodontal treatment. SO glad it's over! Next month I'll go back for a re-check and cleaning -- another $80.

I also just transferred $1000 into savings for my medical premium (not due till next January, but I want that account fully funded and off my mind).

It's raining cats and dogs today, but that makes me happy -- good for the sod!

Medical expenses

March 18th, 2008 at 05:07 am

I just paid a bill to the hospital for a mammogram and bone density test I had a month ago. It was $88.

Tomorrow I have the second periodontal treatment, which will be $400.

In April I have to get a colonoscopy. Don't know how much that will cost me.

I figure I need to put $1500 more into savings for my medical premium next January.

It's time for my dog's annual, which will probably top $200.

I also have to get two crowns and a filling some time this year, as well 3 more cleanings, and that will be more than $2000.

I am a little depressed about all these medical expenses. So much money and so little fun.

Back home again

March 17th, 2008 at 03:42 pm

Finally got home from my trip to Florida last night at 10. I drove straight through. I was on the road for 14 hours, including stops.

I spent less going home than I intended to -- for one thing, I was planning to stop for the night, but since I felt awake and alert, and since my dog is very uncomfortable in motels, I just kept on plugging. Also, I intended to have a "real" dinner to refresh myself for the last haul, but at the junction where I stopped, everything was too busy. I ended up buying snacks at the gas station, and getting back on the road. Altogether I spent about $97 on gas and $14 on food.

When I got home, I of course had a lot of mail to go through. The nice thing is I had about $184 in checks -- both of my state tax returns, some rebate checks, a property tax refund -- nice surprise. Bills, too, of course, but I'll deal with those tomorrow.

Today I went to the library and paid a 90c fine, then grocery-shopped. Bascially I bought $27 in groceries and also spent $23 for coffee which I will give as gifts to my sister and cousin, who were looking in on my cat while I was gone.

It's good to be home. I slept like a rock last night, and I hope I do tonight, too!

What a Road Trip Can Teach You About Money

March 15th, 2008 at 08:36 am

I've been on a lot of road trips lately, and there are a lot of financial lessons in a good, long road trip.

First of all, it is LONG. You're not going to get there instantly, no matter what you do. Speeding is only a temporary fix. (And could result in a ticket!) Building wealth is also a long journey with no quick fix. You're in there for the long haul, and trying to shorten the trip is likely to be dangerous.

On a road trip, there are many temptations along the way. Oooh, let's stop for a latte -- oh, look, Prime Outlets! So many opportunities to spend, and lengthen your journey. On a road trip, as in life, you have to practice restraint if you are going to meet your goal.

A good road tripper packs carefully. Good packing will ensure an easier stay at hotels, no last-minute emergency purchases, and will provide sustenance along the way. Likewise, a good financial planner will "pack" his/her life with the right tools; high-yield savings accounts, financial software, retirements funds, professional advice, etc.

There is no replacement for a good map -- or navigation system. If you know where you're going, you'll sure get there sooner! And with a map, you can check your progress along the way, as well as keep yourself from straying off the path. So, in our financial lives, we must have a plan and a roadmap to avoid those detours into oblivion. A worthy goal, written down, and a way to monitor progress.

On the road you MUST spend a little just to keep going. Without those pit stops for gas, you're not getting anywhere. So we must use our resources wisely. Don't use premium gas when regular will do! On the other had, don't scrimp on what you really need -- like an oil change or new tires. Spend wisely to keep your goal attainable.

And remember there may be a few toll roads, or heavy traffic, or construction, or a torrential downpour. Your trip is not guaranteed to proceed smoothly, because life happens. That's how it is financially, too. There will be setbacks. The trick is to handle them and move on.

The key is, MOVE ON! And while you are, enjoy the journey!

A few updates

March 14th, 2008 at 02:00 pm

Well, it's been a few days. I'll just review the financial highlights since my last blog.

First of all, my cousin cleaned out her closet and gave me enough tops to fill two shopping bags. One bag is what I will keep for myself -- the other I will offer to my sister, and then consign whatever she doesn't want. (This is with my cousin's blessing, of course. She would never consign anything herself.) Most of them are really nice, good brands and not worn very much.

Second, I've spent a lot (for me) on eating out in the last few days. And I did the treating in all cases. I took my cousin to IHOP for breakfast ($23). I took my DIL and grandson to Chick Fil-A for lunch ($9) -- we had coupons, and didn't eat very much. Then I took my DIL, grandson and a niece to Olive Garden for dinner ($46). I also bought gas for $29, only filling up half the tank. It was $3.49 a gallon! Hope to find a better deal before I hit the road to go back to NC on Sunday.

Oh, and I took back the dog ramp, so was reimbursed $128. I will revisit the problem after I get back home.

This evening I will make my second attempt at creating a new chicken recipe to submit in a contest. The first one was kind of a flop, but I have some ideas for improvement. First prize is $50,000, so it's worth a shot!

No spender & a near miss for Uncle

March 10th, 2008 at 08:40 am

Had a no-spend day yesterday. My cousin and I were planning to go to the movies, but she didn't feel well enough, so she ordered "Michael Clayton" on PPV. It was good, but I was glad it was on PPV because I had to watch it twice to catch everything!

I also helped my uncle avoid a scam. He is so gullible -- it's really because he is trusting and just can't believe people would lie to him. Anyway, he was all set to get involved with Russ Dalbey's Cash Flow program. I suggested he look up comments about it on the internet first (which never occurred to him). He did, and called my cousin to say, "Why, it's a SCAM!" Thank goodness, he will not be throwing his money away on that.

He feels bad that his daughters have to help him out financially, but it is clearly their pleasure to be able to do it. We all reminded him that he did all the giving when he was raising them, and now it is his turn to receive.

He has not been wasteful with his money, but he is living in a retirement home that is pretty pricey. However, it is so good for him (and my aunt) for both health and social reasons, that we all think it is a priority for them to stay there, despite the cost.

A dog ramp flop

March 8th, 2008 at 12:50 pm

Went to Petco yesterday to buy a ramp for my arthritic dog. He is struggling with the steps on the back stoop here at the Florida house -- and I know the day is coming when he will need a ramp to get in the car. Well, I bought one for about $130, brought it home and set it up. It is so rickety, and it is texturized with something my dog doesn't like. He won't use it. So it's back to Petco for a refund. Sigh.

This morning I grocery-shopped ($127). I was pleased to find at the grocery store a cute soft dinosaur and a set of stacking toy boats, all for under $6. I will see my grandson next week and wanted to have a little something to break the ice. These are perfect, fun but not expensive.

I also succumbed to some cute brownie scouts and bought two boxes of cookies ($7).

Tonight my aunt & uncle are coming over for steaks on the grill and game of cards. I do so enjoy these simple good times!

Good luck at a new-to-me Goodwill

March 7th, 2008 at 06:17 am

Yesterday I visited the Goodwill here in SW Florida for the first time. It was only so-so, but I found two brand-new items -- a Faded Glory top for $5.99 (tag on it for $16), and a Coldwater Creek sweater for $3.99 (tag on it for $54). So my savings were over $60. Unfortunately, I failed to notice that the sweater is "dry clean only." Oh well, I will hand wash it; I'm sure it will be all right.

I went with my aunt & uncle to the memory clinic, which is a totally free service. They had taken a little test and got an evaluation on their memory problems. They were both in the "mild" category, which is good, considering their ages (mid-80's). From here, they can go to a neurologist if they want, but I feel that their mental functioning is pretty darn good.

I also did their taxes for them, so right now I am a very favored niece!

I think I will stay in Florida for another week. Although I am anxious to get back home, I found out that my daughter-in-law will be visiting her cousins in a town about 45 minutes away. She will be bringing my one and only grandson. I haven't seen him since January. I hate to miss any opportunity to see both of them. So I will stay a little longer.

My dumbest purchase ever

March 6th, 2008 at 05:22 am

Was a membership in a cassette tape club. I spent lots of $$$ when I didn't have it on music that I didn't listen to, in a format that became practically obsolete. I ended up giving away those cassettes at a garage sale to anyone who would take them.

New shoes and fancy toes

March 5th, 2008 at 01:44 pm

I have spent very little while staying in Florida, but yesterday I splurged and bought some shoes at DSW. I got a pair of Clark sandals and some Saucony athletic shoes, both for $77. Seems pretty pricey to me, but my sales slip tells me I saved $63. Oh well, I really need to wear quality shoes, I have difficult feet.

Speaking of feet, I also got a pedicure, my first, but my cousin paid for that. Not sure how often I'll have it done, but my toes are dazzling. I can hardly keep my head up; I keep looking at my toes!

February spending

March 1st, 2008 at 02:43 pm

I spent $1245 in February.

$686 - Medical/Health. Included a periodontal treatment, doctor's visit, blood draw and prescriptions.

$184 - Vacation/Travel. Trip to Florida, one-way. I'm still in Florida, so more cost on next month's budget.

$86 - Groceries.

$11 - Gifts.

$45 - Phone bill.

$86 - Furniture/Equipment. Two ink cartridges and a wireless mouse.

$9 - Clothing. Underwear.

$43 - Fees/Services. Most of it for tax preparation.

$18 - Entertainment. Two movies & Netflix rental.

$38 - Household supplies.

$16 - Personal. Included a haircut.

$13 - Vet/Pet Supplies. Cat food & dog treats.

$10 - Gas (not counting gas used on vacation)

Pretty good month, except for the medical expenses. Racked up 12 no-spend days.