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Archive for November, 2009

Holiday ruminations

November 30th, 2009 at 01:46 pm

I've re-entered my world after a great Thanksgiving trip up in Michigan. Lots of games, food, and general merriment -- a wonderful trip and family gathering.

This morning I'm calculating the financial damage. Looks like I spent $76 on gas & parking, $28 on groceries, $67 on eating out & takeout, $11 at the thrift store. Also, I broke a wiper and had to replace it for $13.

Just before I left, I paid $23 to various people at work for charities, group gifts etc.

So the bottom line is, I spent way more than I should have, and it will show up on my Discover card next month.

The good news is I brought home a cooler full of food that should last me a long time with careful management.

My sister is still with me -- tomorrow morning I will take her to the airport, and then the holiday is officially OVER!!

I'll be spending Christmas at home this year -- first time in a long time. The airline prices were just too high to consider travel. But I'm looking forward to a little down time.

I'm debating whether to get a tree. I shouldn't -- since I'm already over budget. But I am really in the Christmas mood, and I want one! I haven't been able to use my own decorations for several years, and I want to see them again. Well, I won't decide today. I'll see how I feel tomorrow.

I just got renter's insurance

November 25th, 2009 at 02:15 pm

My apartment complex has informed me (and everyone else) that renter's insurance is now a requirement. Well, I meant to get it somewhere along the line and then just sort of forgot about it. So I guess I should appreciate this reminder.

I called Allstate, because they insure my car, and set it up. It's not expensive -- less than $90 a year -- and I will certainly be happy to have it if the place burns down. Just didn't need the extra expense right NOW! I had to charge the first payment.

My Discover bill is $317 so far (before the $25 insurance charge). I think the $317 covers all expenses for the SC-NC trip, so I will be reimbursed more than $100 extra next month. If I can keep extra charges under $75 till payday (Dec.15) I should be okay. Of course, included in those charges will be the drive from Chicago to Michigan and back this weekend.

I usually contribute something for Thanksgiving, but this year I will just take whatever is in my cupboard. I have a nice bottle of wine, some cheese & crackers, some fancy hot chocolate packets, and quite a few packages of frozen welsh rarebit which will make a nice breakfast.

Heavy sigh.

Between trips

November 24th, 2009 at 01:37 pm

I'm back from my trip to the east coast -- three days in Charleston, SC (conference) and three days in Hendersonville, NC (vacation). I brought my sister back with me, and we will go up to Michigan for Thanksgiving on Wednesday night.

I know that I will get a reimbursement of $425 for the conference leg of the trip. Whether that will cover my expenses I'm not sure. The hotel & registration were already paid for, so this is for gas, food and one night at a hotel on the way. I think I came in under but I haven't done the totals yet.

I knew it would be a lean month, and I am already out of cash, so I will have to use the CC for necessities and pay it off next month. All the bills are paid, anyway.

I AM pleased with the progress on my savings goals.

The trip was great -- though tiring! I'm really looking forward to seeing my brother and all my nieces and nephews (as well as my own kids and grandkids) at this week's feast!

While in NC, my sister and I cleaned out and restocked our antiques booth. We've already sold a large Chinese fishbowl which will cover the rent, so everything else that sells this month is gravy. Hoping for lots of shoppers.

Retirement account -- and a big trip!

November 13th, 2009 at 01:48 pm

Had my session with the TIAA-CREF counselor yesterday. No penalty if I cash out my CREF account after age 60 (though I will pay taxes -- must pay taxes either way). So I decided not to take systematic withdrawals and just let the pot grow there.

Got paid today, so I'm updating my sidebar. Wish I could just wipe out my debt, but I'm getting there.

This will be a lean month, especially since there will be travel. Part of it will be paid by the college -- I'm going to Charleston for a conference. Driving, so I can stop on the way back to see my cousin and pick up my sister for Thanksgiving. (Thanksgiving will be held up in Michigan at my brother's house.)

It's a 900-mile trip, one way. It will take two days. The catch is my grandson's birthday is tomorrow, and I have to be in Charleston at 6 pm on Sunday. I will miss his 5pm party. I am planning, right now, to go up to the kids' house early in the day, help them get ready and leave before the party. But I don't like this tickle in my throat. I might not go the kids' house at all. We'll see how the day plays out.

Bills and retirement and all that

November 12th, 2009 at 12:29 pm

A couple of finance-related things....

I got a bill from the oral surgeon who did some minor surgery this summer -- it was for a little more than $300 after insurance. I called the office because it was my understanding the procedure would be totally covered. They said they are still waiting for another insurer to kick in -- probably the dental. The odd thing was, I was little disappointed, because my immediate thought was -- something to use my FSA for!

I got my credit card bill, and sure enough, 0% interest has ended, and the rate is now 11.9%. I have the option of transferring to a 3.9% deal, but with a 3% transfer charge, it's all a wash. Especially since I will be paying it off soon. Having this interest tacked on will encourage me to pay it off especially soon!

I'm seeing a counselor from TIAA-CREF today. That is where my retirement account from my previous job is. I'm not invested currently, because I was out of the job market for two years. That's one of the things I'm going to discuss today. It seems to me that since I was in it for 20+ years that they could waive the rule. We'll see.

I also want to see how much of a penalty I would have to pay for withdrawing a large sum (say, to buy a house) and if it would be better to withdraw small sums without penalty and invest it myself.

Tomorrow is pay day!!! Can't wait to attack my bills!

Pepe le Pew

November 10th, 2009 at 01:58 pm

Pepe le Pew visited last night.

I've been setting out food for stray cats who tug at my heartstrings. Last night I heard the bowl scrape on my patio and checked it out. Came face to face with a skunk!

I quickly backed away and gave him his space. But I watched through the window as he chowed down. I have to say skunks are handsome animals.

But I don't want to feed him -- and I'm sure my neighbors would be upset if they spotted him dining on my patio.

On the other hand, I don't want to cut off my cats.

I'm going to try just setting up a small dish in the morning and bringing it in when I come home. Hopefully, Pepe only roams after sunset.

I know this isn't finance-related, except for the fact that I was going through a lot of cat food -- now I know why!

Working on my sideline business

November 9th, 2009 at 02:17 pm

My intention this weekend was to label and package all the stuff I bought for my antiques booth this summer. I'm going to the Carolinas next week, so this is my chance to get that stuff on the shelves. What I DIDN'T intend to do was buy more -- but the weather was beautiful and people were having garage sales. I ran into one I thought was pretty good -- several boxes of 25c and 10c items. I found figurines, little pictures, a rosewood cross, a snack tray -- all kinds of stuff. Plus a wonderful iron wall hanging which I will keep (that was $4). Flushed with success, I hit another. This family was getting rid of their parents' stuff. OMIGOSH, what good deals. I bought a crystal decanter, crystal glasses, wooden peppermill, Delft ware, a Schnapps bottle, all for only $6. The decanter alone will sell for $60.

Then I went to Goodwill to donate some things, and I thought -- I'll just take a peek. Oh, great things. A Gorham plate (worth $50) a very cool wooden bill sorter, a Meakin calendar plate -- and a pink T-shirt for moi.

So I had even more stuff to process, and it took me a big chunk of the day on Sunday. I also had to polish some silver I had bought before, so I worked hard. It is mostly done -- a few things yet to be identified before I can label and box them.

I added about $1000 to the inventory. The booth will have a whole new look when I get in there next weekend!

Insurance, FSA, and ice on the windshield

November 6th, 2009 at 02:06 pm

Got a letter from Allstate telling me my car insurance premium has been reduced by $33 every six months. I recently had to file a claim (not my fault -- my parked car was back-swiped) so I am pleased to get reduction, however small.

It is coming toward the end of the year and I still have more than $350 in my medical flexible spending account. There are still a few bills out there waiting for insurance approval, but at this point I have no idea how much I will have to pay out of pocket. Or when they will bill me. My plan is that if I'm still hearing nothing in mid-December, I'm going to stock up on OTC supplies with the remainder of the account. No way am I letting that money go!!

I just did my enrollment package for next year's benefits, and this time I only allocated $200 to flexible spending. I have received much better medical coverage at this job than I did with my previous employment, so a big FSA isn't necessary, and maybe wasteful.

I had to scrape ice from my windshield for the first time, which brings me to the question -- does anyone know of a really good way to do this? I will have to park outside all winter, so I am willing to buy a really good tool. Maybe something that heats up? Anybody have any ideas?

Rule of Three

November 5th, 2009 at 01:55 pm

Yesterday I got a call telling me I had won a prize from the raffle at the Health Fair. It was a small travel thermos, very nice. Then I went to a supervisors' meeting and won a bag of candy.

Well, don't things always happen in threes? I bought a lottery ticket on the way home -- the scratch-off kind. No winnings there. I guess you can't force the rule of three. Smile

I've updated my sidebar. Some automatic deposits went into two of the accounts. The housing fund dipped, since it is stock-based. I made my ING account, which also isn't doing much right now, my car fund. I won't really get the car fund going until the debt is paid off and the wedding gift is fully funded.

Today my chore is to go through the enrollment papers for next year's medical plan. I'm told that the cost of premiums will jump 13%. To offset it, we got a 1% raise recently. Rather humorous, but it beats a freeze, or a cut, or being laid off!

Free Lunch

November 4th, 2009 at 12:23 pm

Yesterday I got a free lunch, which I almost declined!

Some of my co-workers were heading out the door and asked me if I was going to the health fair.

Health fair -- nah. I didn't think I was interested.

Then they said the magic words -- "free lunch."

The fair did indeed offer sub sandwiches, low-fat chips and apples to every person who came in. I also got some hand sanitizer, band-aids, and a lot of pens. I was really glad I changed my mind!

I already had a lunch packed, which I left in the refrigerator and will eat today. I would say I eat a packed lunch at work at least 95% of the time. I am really out of the norm. Most of my co-workers go out for lunch regularly. What a drain on the budget!

I am also dieting, so a packed lunch helps me there. I am on what I call my "lifetime" diet -- just trying to keep calorie count under 1800. I am hoping for a slow, steady and permanent loss. I am finding that 1800 calories is not at all uncomfortable, you just have to make some reasonable choices.

A Shoe Story

November 3rd, 2009 at 12:39 pm

I did my monthly recap of my spending last month, and it was a very expensive one -- not that I'm surprised. I had a car repair, had company, bought a mattress and box spring, went downtown for a day (which cost $45 in parking alone)... oh, the list goes on. Here's to a more frugal November.

I started out November by buying two pairs of shoes -- actually a pair of boots and a pair of sandals. I almost hated buying them, I am feeling so penny-pinching right now, but I really needed the boots (getting ready for that blast of winter) and the deal was so good. First of all, I have a hard time even finding boots. They have to be flat, and the upper part has to be larger than normal. I found a pair that is actually VERY wide at the top, and you wrap and buckle them to fit your calf. Perfect solution. And they are flat, a good color (dark brown) and I like the way they look. Here's the best part -- they were marked down from $95 to $25. At the same time, I got a pair of navy sandals from the clearance rack for $5. I looked for navy sandals all summer, and how can you beat $5? So why do I feel splurgy? I guess it's because I wish I could just put EVERYTHING toward my debt right now. Yet I know if I pass up good deals I will have to pay more later.

I had a great weekend. Trick or treating with my grandsons was a real treat for me. They live in a "vintage" area of a northern suburb, so the houses around their condo are all turn-of-the-century. They were all decked out for Halloween. I felt like I was in a movie! The kids were over the top with excitement, and all of them so cute. Such fun.

On Sunday I went to a choral concert at the college where I work. They performed the music from "Beauty and the Beast." It was so professionally done -- really wonderful. And as I bought a "group" ticket, it was only $5. A reminder that frugal entertainment is always available if you seek it out.