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Archive for November, 2010

A stress-free Christmas?

November 30th, 2010 at 04:38 pm

During my lunch hour yesterday I handily spent $276 cyber-shopping from Amazon. That bought gifts for my two sons, one of my DIL’s, and my two grandsons. Tonight I plan to spend another $50-60 at BB&B for my other DIL. The Groupon I bought to use at Nordstrom Rack, I will use for myself, since my DILs had specific requests that I am pleased to fulfill. Have to remember to use that by December 31! The $50 Macy’s card from MyPoints I will give to my ex and his wife, since (first of all) they will be at the gift opening, and (second of all) they have been very kind to me this year and deserve some recognition. I already have my gifts for my DIL’s mother and my BFF. On Christmas Day I will transfer some cash into my sister’s account, since that is what she always needs. I still want to put together some stockings for Christmas Day (our actual family gift opening will be December 18).

So I’m almost done. Cyber-shopping sure makes it fast. Now I’m just waiting for it all to come in the mail.

I have reached the point where my Discover card is “full” – that is, the total is as much as I can pay off in one month. So from now on – until this billing cycle is over -- I am going on a cash basis for everything. I have $145 tucked away for Christmas, plus $32 in my purse and $238 in checking, so I should be just fine. All the bills are paid. The only “bill” yet to come is my booth rental, and I never know what that will be until it comes, since sales are subtracted from it.

Is this a stress-free Christmas? Maybe so!

Back in business!

November 29th, 2010 at 04:13 pm

Seems like I’ve been gone forever! Just a few days in a totally different environment can do that to you. I spent Thanksgiving at my brother’s house in Michigan. A great event – fabulous dinner (he is a former chef) and lots of visiting with my nieces and nephews and their children. I also did some thrift store shopping with my SIL.

Financially, it was not too bad. Hotel: $189; Groceries: $56; Gas: $34; Eating out: $15. My thrift store shopping amounted to $26, and for that I got a fabulous Jones New York trench coat, a cardigan, a trendy long-sleeved tee and a couple of stocking stuffers for my kids.

Also spent $48 for my son’s birthday present, one of those Rio Grande games that he loves.

Now I have to do some serious Christmas shopping. Planning to check the Amazon lists this noon. I also have a Groupon for Nordstrom Rack, which I hope to use for something for the girls, and a $50 Macy’s gift card is on the way thanks to MyPoints. I haven’t yet tapped into my “Christmas Club” – the five dollar bills I’ve been saving. I think I have about $140 there.

The big gift exchange will be on December 18, so I don’t have much time. Plus, this weekend will be a wipeout, because I am babysitting Friday night, taking my grandson to a play & breakfast with Santa on Saturday, and on Sunday I am working at our big Christmas event. Tired already just thinking about it!

15 Items or Less

November 24th, 2010 at 02:31 pm

Here is my update on my 15-items-or-less project. On Sunday I went to Jewel and bought 12 items.

They were:

Three birthday cards with a $2 off coupon.
One jug of cat litter, $1 off.
Two bags of cat food (one free).
Generic allergy medicine, $1 off.
A dozen eggs, $.10 off.
One package of English muffins, $.50 off.
One loaf of whole wheat bread, $1.90 off.
4-pack of Activia yogurt, $1.10 off
“Soup mix” produce package (potatoes, carrots, celery, onion, turnip)

Total was $43.78; savings, $7.60.

I’m taking the soup vegetables up north to make turkey soup after the feast. That will be part of my contribution. When I get there, I will buy some snacks and drinks. But no more than 15 items!

What a weekend!

November 23rd, 2010 at 02:48 pm

I'm still reeling from this weekend. It was one of those "from the ridiculous to the sublime" experiences. Except it started out sublime and ended up ridiculous.

The sublime part: I went to see "Billy Elliot" and it was wonderful! It was on the spur of the moment -- some old friends were in town -- not visiting me, but I met up with them -- and they invited me to go with them to the theater if I could get a ticket. I did, for $111. Whew! But every once in a while you have to just do something you really want to do, and it was worth it.

Afterwards we went out to dinner at a downtown restaurant, and it was wonderful, too. And my friends treated, so no expense to me. (They are quite a bit wealthier than I am).

After that wonderful day, I went to my car, and -- uh oh, window smashed, GPS gone. Ugh.

I got the window fixed yesterday, but not before a powerful rain storm passed through -- and I have no sheltered place to park. Suffice to say I was out in a downpour with a garbage bag and tape, trying to head off the damage. I got soaked, but my car is okay.

My final snafu was to pay the glass man, only to find out that I have 0 deductible on glass replacement, so I had to fax in my info to Allstate, and hope I will get a reimbursement.

As for my GPS, it was not worth filing a claim. However, one of my SIL's offered to give me her old one, so I won't be out any for that.

In other news, I bought a Groupon for 50% off $50 at Nordstrom Rack. It is one of my favorite places. I may use it for gifts, or I may use it on myself.

Getting my teeth and my hair done.

November 18th, 2010 at 10:03 pm

Went to the dentist this morning, and it was amazingly cheap. I got x-rays, a fluoride treatment and a cleaning, and all I had to pay was $23 for the fluoride. Gotta love dental insurance!

Good news, too. He's been watching a molar that may eventually need a crown. He says at this point he wouldn't do anything as long as it's not bothering me -- it isn't. It has a chip but it's no big deal.

This evening I'll get my hair cut, which will cost more. I've been struggling with what to do about my hair. It would be a lot cheaper to let the layers grow out and just get the ends trimmed once in a while at a Great Clips, or something. But I get so many compliments on my layered bob, and I think it makes me look younger than a blunt cut would. I watched my son's wedding video last night and I liked the way my hair looked. I don't want to give up this talented haircutter, even though she's expensive! Not yet, anyway.

This morning I read a good article on maximizing Social Security benefits -- I don't have the link, but it's on Yahoo Finance. Certainly convinced me I need to work till I'm 66. Of course, the day before yesterday work was so frustrating I felt like quitting on the spot -- but today all is well. So 66 it is!

Just some updates

November 15th, 2010 at 07:57 pm

It's pay day. I paid my rent and Discover, and transferred $200 into savings. YAY! Finally, I'm not stealing FROM savings! Everything else will get paid automatically.

This weekend's big event was my grandson's fourth birthday party -- what a great event it was! The invitees were his preschool and play group friends, his aunt/uncle and cousins, and his grandparents, so we were a very diverse group, but everyone had fun and behaved well. My DIL did a great job planning and executing. She is one creative gal. My gift -- two battery-powered walking dinosaurs -- were a smashing hit. His new outfit -- not so much, but his mom & dad were appreciative.Smile

On Sunday I was laid low by a headache (which I still have today). The weather turned cool again after some beautiful Indian summer days, so, since I was feeling awful, I gave up the challenge and turned on the heat. But doing the challenge was worth it, because my last gas bill was $19. Really low!!

I am trying something new at the grocery store. I have decided to never buy more than 15 items at one time. That's what I did when my ankle was healing (because I couldn't walk around very long), and my grocery bill was the lowest it's ever been -- and I actually had plenty to eat. It's all about making choices and setting priorities. In fact, this weekend I only bought 11 items. And I will continue to shop only ONCE a week. Should be interesting.

There are several advantages here. I don't spend a lot of time in the store, I get to check out in the "quick line," unloading the groceries is easier, and my limited storage space is not overburdened. Plus it's just cheaper! I spent $16 on groceries, $5 on household supplies, and $5 on cat food.

I had a $3 off coupon for meat, so I bought ground beef and made chili. That alone will last me a week! I rarely buy meat any more -- I'm almost a vegetarian -- but this really hit the spot.

$25 from Pine Cone

November 11th, 2010 at 02:13 pm

Last night I did an online consumer forum via Pine Cone. It was fun, and I will get paid $25.

Makes me ruminate about what $25 is in my budget....

A tank of gas
Half a haircut
Two sacks of cat food
A bra if I get it at Nordstrom's Rack
Maybe 5 or 6 items from Goodwill
Two prescriptions
Two months of Netflix
One-fifth of my monthly booth rental
About a half a week's groceries
Four or five bottles of wine (yes, I like cheap wine)

Definitely worth the hour and a half I put into it!

Resisting

November 10th, 2010 at 02:05 pm

Yesterday I walked to the post office to mail the book I sold on half.com. I wanted to treat myself to a lunch downtown, but I didn't. I walked back to work and ate my Lean Cuisine.

Every night I drive past a KFC/Pizza Hut on my way home from work, and I always have an urge to drive through and get a snacker. I don't.

In the not-too-recent past I got a McDonald's Happy Meal every Saturday while doing errands. No more.

I am not so good at resisting food I shouldn't have when it is lying around, however. And I am terrible about raiding the break room whenever free treats are out.

I don't want my pounds to creep back on, so I am stepping up my resisting as of today. If I can resist food I have to pay for, I can also resist free food, or food that's already paid for. I know I have to go a little bit hungry, and that's just the way it is. I don't have the kind of metabolism that allows me to eat what I want. So. I'm going hungry, for the ultimate goal of feeling better and feeling proud of myself.

Back on half.com, and weekend errands

November 8th, 2010 at 05:59 pm

This weekend I put my half.com "bookstore" back online. I had put it on vacation when I broke my ankle and never went back to it till now. There was a lot of updating to do, as some books I had given away, and I had quite a few to add, too.

This morning I see I already have a sale. Only .99, but part of the reason I do this is to get the right book to the right person. More satisfying than just donating them en masse, and a little income, too.

On Saturday I did my usual errands - spent about $19 on cat food and $42 on groceries. I went to Kohl's especially to use the $10 coupon I got in the mail -- when I was checking out, I found out that I had jumped the gun and the card wasn't good until November 10. I bought the items anyway, as I had got them all half-price. Four pairs of socks and a pretty snowman pin to give away for Christmas. I'll go back to Kohl's when the card is good.

(I also have a set of $10 off cards for Carson Pirie Scott, but those I have to use on a $25 purchase. The Kohl's card doesn't require a purchase over $10.)

On Sunday I went to Wal-Mart, intending to buy an emergency blanket to cloak my feral cat "house." I couldn't find one -- I'll have to check on line. But when I saw the toys, I was reminded that I needed to shop for my grandson's birthday. I did a lot of wandering around, picking stuff up and putting it back, but I finally decided on two battery-powered Fischer-Price dinosaurs, and a shirt-and-pant set. I bought some cards, too. All told, a little over $50 -- not the greatest bargain in the world, but a nice blend of child-pleasing and parent-pleasing, I hope.

The raise that wasn't

November 5th, 2010 at 07:19 pm

The good news is ... my boss told me I will get a 2-3% raise in January. This was unexpected, as I already got a raise at the beginning of the fiscal year.

The bad news is, I probably won't see it in my paycheck. I officially switched to the PPO from the HMO and so will pay a bigger premium (and premiums went up 15% anyway). But I'm happy to leave the HMO behind. HMO's are great if you don't get sick or hurt yourself. Smile

Also, I agreed to raise my monthly payroll deduction into the Annual Fund from $10 to $25. Since I am in the business of raising money, one of the easiest ways is to be a donor myself. Wish I could do more, but as you all know, I don't have a lot to spare.

So my guess is that my paycheck will actually be lower. But I am okay with that. I feel good about my choices.

Heat Challenge

November 3rd, 2010 at 07:20 pm

I am still in the heat challenge -- I haven't turned it on yet. But I have been cold, and I find I am very unproductive in the cold -- tend to just stay wrapped up in a blanket in front of the TV. I AM warm at night under two comforters, but I even find it hard to read in bed -- my hands get cold outside of the covers.

However, I heard on the news this morning that a cold front is coming in tomorrow, so I think my challenge is coming to an end. I don't think I can take it any colder than it is already.

Tomorrow I go to a day-long conference in the city. I dread the trip in and the parking, but I should get a free lunch! Then I'll come home and see just how cold it is!

October expenses, insurance and a new lamp

November 2nd, 2010 at 12:25 pm

I totaled up my October expenses, and some were surprising. For instance, I spent $104 on eating out -- and it was all burgers, pizza, snacks -- nothing memorable. I spent $209 on groceries, which is double my goal, but I did have a lot of stocking up to do. My utilities were high ($254) but I had to pay the phone bill twice (it's pre-paid, and I did a lot of talking last month). And my gas was $149, but it did include an impromptu trip to Kentucky.

It looks like I will not be able to reimburse my emergency fund with the $300 I took out. But I will have SOMETHING to put in, come payday, so at least I'm reversing the trend.

It's time to enroll for medical insurance again, and I am switching from BC/BS HMO to the PPO plan. I will have to meet a deductible, which I hate, but I have learned my lesson. I am still fighting with the HMO to get them to pay for my second surgery. In the PPO plan, my surgeon is included, so if there are any followups I won't have to move heaven and earth to be able to see the doctor who did the work on me.

It seems I have taken up trash-picking. On Saturday I saw a lamp sitting on top of the garbage in the dumpster. It looked new -- the shade almost perfect, and there was still a light bulb in it (which works). It was tossed because one of its legs is broken off. I can see why they threw it out now, because I can't remove the damaged part without severing the cord. However, it's easy to replace the plug, right? I've never done it actually.

Anyway, I don't even really want the lamp, it was just too good to throw away. Once I get it repaired, I will probably give it to Goodwill.

And I did get a free bulb!