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Archive for November, 2011

Got some stuff done

November 30th, 2011 at 02:39 pm

You know, there are always those little financial chores to be done -- and so easy to put off. But today I took care of a few things.

I sent in the paperwork for my final reimbursement from FlexPro, my flexible spending account.

I made an appointment to take my car to the shop tomorrow to be checked over -- the check engine light is on. (Have my fingers crossed on that one!)

I arranged to have my friend pay the booth rental tomorrow and let me know the cost. I hate to have to ask her to do it, but the mail thing just isn't working. And they've decided to charge a $5 a day late fee. Well, it's a three-hour trip. I can hardly run down there the first of every month. Anyway....

I called Allstate and asked them to stop the monthly automatic withdrawal and make it yearly. I was getting charged a $1 fee each month -- for each policy! (I have auto and renter's).

Tonight I will get my hair cut.

Tomorrow, if I have a car, I will make a library run. I hope they can show me how to use my Kindle to borrow "books."

This weekend I will go to the box office to buy tickets for "A Christmas Carol" for my grandson and me. We won't go till the 17th but I want to be sure we have seats.

Next weekend I have my girls' weekend downtown.

Busy, busy, busy! It's not even December yet, but I already feel it rushing by.

Birthday dinner and a Goodwill trip

November 30th, 2011 at 05:07 am

On Monday night I met my son at an upscale pizza place for his birthday dinner. After the tip and everything it was $43. I take out each of my kids (two sons and two DIL's) for their birthday, but I think it's time to stop. Next year I will offer to cook dinner instead. As much fun as it is to go out, it adds up, and I need to be saving more.

On the way home I stopped at Goodwill just to see if they had any tissue paper or gift tags. Of course, not. What was I thinking? I need to go to the dollar store for that. But I did find two Santa's for my collection and a lovely old crock, as well as an insulated knit hat (new). Altogether $9. Funny how I ALWAYS find something at Goodwill. Sometimes I go with my sister-in-law and she often buys nothing at all. I don't know if she is more disciplined, more picky, or more well-stocked!

The spending

November 28th, 2011 at 10:57 am

My Thanksgiving weekend was not as bad as I thought, financially. I spent $59 on food donated to the dinner/hosts, $43 on gas & road food, and $22 on entertainment (Puss in Boots movie with grandkids). Also that $9 I spent on clothes at the thrift shop, and I'm going to guess $5 on that fancy coffee -- didn't save the receipt. I also spent $54 on groceries for myself. (That includes the stuff I brought home that was not used at Thanksgiving). I used a lot of coupons, but only saved $14.

Tonight I'm meeting my son in Morton Grove for his birthday dinner. (This is always an expensive time of year.) I'm bringing his gifts -- a board game, a cribbage board (needless to say, he LOVES games), some fancy hair wax and pancake molds. Pancake molds, you say? He is the official pancake maker at his home and I found some Christmas shapes that will be fun on Christmas morning. The big gift is the board game. It is one of those expensive European ones. I do hope he hasn't figured out this blog and is spoiling his surprise right now!

Home from Thanksgiving

November 27th, 2011 at 07:05 pm

I got home from my Thanksgiving trip last night. I haven't logged the cost of the trip yet; I'll do that tomorrow.

It was mostly a good time, but at one point my sister really hurt my feelings with a cruel "joking" comment, and it kind of ruined the weekend for me. I think she is very angry because I have tried so hard to enlighten her on the dangers of her spendthrift ways. She comes to the point of absolute financial ruin and then gets bailed out by money from her husband's family, so she decides there is no problem and she is doing fine. I can't even describe how bad she is with money. But anyway, she really skewers me with a verbal barb now and then and sometimes it really hurts. I just have to learn how to disconnect.

Today I set up and trimmed the new Christmas tree and wrapped some presents. It was nice to have a bigger tree and be able to use all my ornaments. Then I did some laundry and unpacked. I also read a lot (The Balland of Tom Dooley) and took a nap. It's been good to have a whole day at home before going back to work.

While on vacation, I went to a thrift store that was selling clothes for $1 per item (with a few exceptions). I found a really nice classic pantsuit, for which I think they charged me $2, since it was two pieces. I also bought a sweater, a sweatshirt, a turtleneck and a sleeveless top. Then I found a necklace for $2.50; it was my high-priced item. Smile
I also supported Small Business Saturday by having fancy coffee at a local coffeehouse. I did NOT go to any Black Friday sales.

I took a lot of snacky-type food but ended up bringing a lot of it home. There was just so much food, we didn't even get to the snacks. I asked my brother to please tell me how to help, since I never seem to bring anything that gets used. He said, "Oh, just bring yourself," or something like that, but I really hate it that he takes the whole burden of the dinner on himself. I want to help, but I don't want to bring coals to Newcastle. I think next year I'll just bring a simple side dish and add it to the groaning board and just not stress out about it.

Fun weekend

November 22nd, 2011 at 05:53 am

I had a fun weekend with my BFF, and got some work done in my booth, too. We ate out (Red Lobster, IHOP, McAlister's Deli) and shopped TWO Goodwill Stores (quite thoroughly, I might add). And we labeled and set out about 20 more items in the booth, and rearranged it. I checked in with the owner and found that I DID make sales the last two months, and they cut me a check. They just can't seem to handle the long-distance aspect, so I will have my friend check in personally at the beginning of each month -- or I will go myself.

Spending -- $51 on gas, $58 on food, $32 on gifts, $10 on stuff for my house, $8 on clothes and $9 on things to go into the booth.

I found some good gifts -- a bocce set for my son, new and in the box, ankle weights for my DIL, also in the box. For only .99 each I found two pairs of pants for my grandsons. My clothing finds were a long-sleeved striped t-shirt, a short-sleeved sweater and a pair of blue jean capris -- all for $8. Yay!

Tomorrow I head up north for Thanksgiving at my brother's house. I will stay with my nephew, so no hotel cost this year. I'm going to bring them some new Glad containers -- kind of joke -- I took a bunch last year taking home leftovers, so I'm replacing them with new. I will also get some snack food for the game-playing. My brother always provides way too much food, so it doesn't ever seem practical to bring more for the dinner. Maybe I'll get some sparkling cider.

I'm starting to really look forward to the family get-together. Hope all of you have a joyous Thanksgiving as well!

Half my worries gone

November 17th, 2011 at 05:25 am

I had the second round of pictures taken in Radiology yesterday and I was declared just fine. That still doesn't address the tumor on my adrenal gland, but that won't be checked again till February (they are usually benign, and slow-growing). So if they're not worried, I'm not worried.

Yesterday I went into the city to see a webinar for work. We were in the building with the Marilyn Monroe statue in front. I took some pictures of one of my colleagues standing between her legs. I didn't care about having a picture of myself, but it was fun to see the statue up close and personal.

I spent $10 on lunch.

In the evening I watched a DVD from the library, The Conspirator. It's about the trial of Mary Surratt, a woman accused of complicity in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. For any history buffs out there, it's highly recommended!

Our library charges $2 for DVD rental, but you can keep them 3 days. More costly but more convenient for me than Redbox, and I would rather give the library a little more and support their services. I would sure hate to see it close, as others have.

I had an awful night's sleep -- too much coffee, perhaps? I do love my Joe, but it's not worth that. I had some Midnite on hand, which I haven't tried yet, but for some reason I didn't get up to take it, just tossed and turned. I don't know why I do that.

This weekend I'm going to see my BFF and will also visit my booth. Tonight I have to start packing the new stuff I have bought to put in it. I know it's pretty much a lost cause, but I will stick in out till spring, when I can have a big yard sale. Then I will eBay the rest.

Christmas tree saga continues

November 15th, 2011 at 07:29 am

Well, I bought my Christmas tree, paying 5 times what I thought I would (ouch!) but I think it will prove a good investment.

Michael's new "item of the week" was their 7-ft. pre-lighted tree for $99.99, marked down from $250. It is a lovely tree, and I should never have to replace it. Well, never say never! Let me just say I think it will serve me for many years. And I like the size. A bigger tree says CHRISTMAS to me, and I need some CHRISTMAS this year.

I will share with you what I am not telling others yet -- I have to go back to the radiologist tomorrow because the mammogram showed an "area of concern." I am not too worried; I have been through this before because I am prone to cysts. However, I also have a growth on one of my adrenal glands (showed up in one of my cat scans). They assure me that it is probably benign, but they are watching it. I feel a little nervous with "areas of concern" on two fronts.

Anyway, for some reason it is making me feel very sentimental about Christmas. I can hardly wait to get that tree up. I've already been wrapping gifts, and I'm listening to Christmas music on the radio. If it snowed a little, I wouldn't mind!

Today was payday. I transferred $200 into savings, on top of the $125 which is automatic.

I also opened a new account. I was toying with the idea of an ING account, but when I got online to do research, I found that a credit union in my area has even better rates. And I was eligible, because of the city in which I work. The CU was begun for United Airlines employees but is also open to residents/employees in certain suburbs. I transferred $2000 from my money market account, which is earning nothing. I just got the email telling me to look for the welcome packet. Looking forward to earning some interest!

The Christmas tree sale at Michaels

November 13th, 2011 at 08:55 pm

It was a journey for naught. I wasted a lot of gas, too, because the traffic was heavy and I took some longcuts.

There was no Christmas tree at Michaels priced at 19.99. The sale ended Thursday and I arrived on Friday. What they had was way more expensive. So with a sigh, I decided to tolerate my tiny tree another year.

I said I was going to call first, but I didn't. I went to a birthday party after work and left for Michael's from there. I didn't have the number, so I decided to just go for it.

At least I talked myself out of stopping for fast food.

On Saturday I grocery shopped at Jewel and Aldi. At Jewel I maximized coupons and at Aldi I picked up staples. Spent $92 at Jewel (saved $22) and $21 at Aldi. High, for me. I'm thinking that coupons encourage me to buy more than I really want. I am beginning to see that I am more comfortable as a minimalist than as a stockpiler. (Especially with my little pantry and top-of-the fridge freezer).

I went up north for my grandson's birthday today. I gave him some Lego kits I had bought at Goodwill -- brand new, apparently donated by a retailer. They were a hit. Then I treated for dinner with a Papa John's gift card I won at a health fair. So today I reaped the rewards of being very frugal!

Signed up for Swagbucks

November 11th, 2011 at 09:39 am

I thought I should investigate new sources of revenue, so, since some of you here are fans of Swagbuck I thought I'd check it out.

I was a little dismayed last night, because it seemed I wasn't earning anything after the initial bucks for the toolbar download, etc. This morning I realized I hadn't confirmed my registration -- didn't open my email till this morning. I'll try it again this evening.

I'm supposed to go to a Trustee's birthday party today. It started at 11:11 and will go to 11:11 tonight. He is the Trustee whose dog I sometimes care for when they are on vacation. That said, I don't really know him; I have always dealt with his wife. But I was invited to the party. I will drop in sometime today. I know he would enjoy a big turnout.

Going to buy a Christmas tree

November 9th, 2011 at 05:31 pm

Last year my grandson looked at my tiny Christmas tree and said, "I think you need a bigger tree." So today I see on the Michael's flyer that they are selling 4-foot pre-lit artificial trees for $19.99, marked down from $69.99. Plus, they have a 25% off coupon that can be used on sale items. The coupon isn't good until Friday, so I'll go down then, hoping that they still have the Christmas trees. well, I'll call first.

If I get the bigger tree, I'll bring my tiny tree into work; it'll cheer me up.

Not much other financial news. I paid a whopping $2.68 medical bill today, putting it on my FlexPro card. The medical bills are definitely tapering off. Since I put a lot of them on Discover, I still have a lean month ahead, but it's good to know the end is in sight.

I got a coupon for free milk at Aldi, so I'll get a few things there this weekend. I like Aldi, but I don't shop there often because I like to use my credit card. They only take cash or a debit card, which kind of messes up my routine.

I also have a bunch of coupons for Jewel that will expire soon. I hope that some of the items will also be on sale -- that's when I really like to use coupons!

Interesting Financial Talk

November 8th, 2011 at 01:14 pm

Today the entire faculty and staff convened to talk about the College's budget. The College had a balanced budget this year only by withdrawing funds from the endowment. (Which is what it's for, but it's not a long-term solution). While we are okay this year, we need to make some changes. Admissions are down, especially in the graduate programs, and the amount we net from tuition after financial aid is subtracted is decreasing. Meanwhile, expenses continue to go up.

While the news was bad, it was really interesting to hear the VP of Finance explain it all, since I love things financial. She is trying to balance a great big budget, much as I am, only on a smaller scale. But so much is out of the College's control. You can't increase admissions just like that. You can raise tuition, but that can also discourage new admissions. You can cut salaries, but that can lead to attrition of experienced staff.

We are going to focus on new programs, more online programming, student retention and, of course, fund raising. Since I am a fund raiser, I feel the onus of responsibility. But I am not an solicitor; I do the research for the solicitors, so my ability to make a difference depends on whether they will respond to my work. That's been a problem here. They don't trust the research. Sometimes I wonder why they even have this position, but that's a dangerous thought in these times!

Despite everything, the College is budgeting for a 2% raise for faculty and staff. I believe they can do that because, with higher-paid people retiring, the increase is actually a wash.

Anyway, with any luck, I will see $68 more a paycheck in January. That's before taxes. Woo-hoo! (I'm not being sarcastic. I would have to do 22 Pine Cone surveys a month to make that.)

On the private front, I haven't spent anything since Saturday. Got notice today that half.com put $4 in my checking account. And I went to a neighboring college library last night and got a library card -- specifically so I can use their superior online databases. I'm going to use a service at work that would otherwise cost several hundred a year. See, I AM saving the College money!

Spendy Saturday

November 6th, 2011 at 06:49 am

I, too, had a Spendy Saturday!

It was the first time I grocery-shopped in three weeks, so I didn't try to stick to fifteen items (though I bought only 24). I decided to make this a targeted trip -- buying only items that I had a coupon for or that were on my needs list. I spent $92 and "saved" $22. I thought the savings would be better, because I had some nice coupons, but I guess there is only so much you can do.

Here is how it broke down:

Wheat bread - house brand
Honey nut cheerios- house brand
2 I Can't Believe It's Not Butter - $1 off coupon
Strawberry preserves
Pizza pan - on sale & $1 off coupon
2 lbs. ground beef
Frozen pie shells - $1 off coupon
2 packages chicken breasts, thin-sliced - BOGO
Dishwasher detergent - house brand, on sale
Cat litter - house brand, on sale
Sandwich bags - house brand, on sale
Creamer - house brand
Laundry detergent - house brand, on sale
Cocoa - house brand
Canned tomatoes - house brand, on sale
Wine, on sale
Ice cream, on sale - $1 off coupon
5 lbs. flour - free (for spending $10)
Cat chow - $1 off coupon
Bag of walnut pieces - on sale
Garbage can liners
"Eraser" cleaner
Cranberry sauce - house brand, on sale
2 14-oz. boxes raspberries - BOGO

Also got $1 off for buying 3 house brand canned goods and $1 off for buying $10 worth of house brand cleaning supplies.

I also earned 17 playing pieces for the store's promotional game. I had a lot of fun setting up the board; however no wins yet. Each piece comes with a .25 coupon for the store's house brand items, so that was nice. Some I will use, some not.

I also bought gas - $33 - and I went to the Hallmark store and bought an ornament with a $5 off coupon -- so it was $15. Last year I bought ornaments representing the outfits my grandsons wore for Halloween and it was a big hit. So I'm doing the same this year. Captain America was pretty easy. I had to go to eBay for The Flash. That was a little cheaper, though, $11, free shipping.

As if I hadn't spent enough, I went to Goodwill. Still looking for corduroy pants; still not finding them. I DID find a beautiful Lands End ski sweater for $5, two new frames for $4, 2 super-cute Portugese cups for $1, a new Legos canister for $3 and a necklace for $1. All together it was $16. I can't fault that. The sweater alone would retail for at least $50 -- I think. I'm out of touch with retail. It would probably be more.

Came home and made chili, and this morning I'm making spaghetti sauce. I have yet to decide what to do with the chicken -- I will probably freeze it, since there is already so much to eat.

My son's wedding pictures finally came. I had ordered three copies of a good picture of me, my sister, and my best friend. I put two of them in the frames I got at Goodwill and I will give them as birthday presents. I already had frames for the big wedding pictures (and they are already on display), and the small ones are going in a book.

I am so glad to have all these things done. It was a productive day.



October spending

November 2nd, 2011 at 05:05 am

In October, my total was average despite high medical bills and a vet bill. Here is how it went:

Rent: 1132
Medical/Health: 539
Utilities: 171
Vet/Pet Supplies: 148
Business: 98
Groceries: 97
Gifts/Charity: 70
Insurance: 66
Gas: 56
Eating Out: 37
Furnishings/Equipment: 34
Household Supplies: 22
Entertainment: 8

Total: 2480

Last night I met my son and his family in Des Plaines to pick up my phone. I contributed $20 to the meal at a Hungarian restaurant.

Yesterday we had a health fair at work. Not only did I get a free lunch (sub sandwich, banana, Sun Chips), but I also won a stadium blanket!

Last night I did a second-round Pinecone survey that paid $10.

I'm considering opening an ING savings account, though I am old enough that the idea of an online savings account kind of freaks me. But now that I have a decent chunk of money, I'd like for it to earn SOME interest, however small. But it has to be accessible, too. It is my emergency fund.

Gotta run to work!