Monday, December 31, 2012

Fashionably Late to Carla's January Challenge

I'm biting the bullet and putting myself out there on this one.  I pondered, hesitated, rationalized my way out since I know life is going to get super busy in just a couple more days once the kids are back in school and the extra-curriculars start up after the holidays.  I know work is going to be nuts. But I also know I could say this EVERY.SINGLE.MONTH!!!

So I'm joining Carla's challenge, and I will just do what I can do.  It will be more than I would get done if I didn't even try, right?

For the decluttering part of this challenge, I am going to tackle the large room that functions as a home office, crafting studio, kids' video gaming room.  The paperwork is out of control as well as all the crafting supplies.  It's a big room....about 13x20.  And it is right beside our front door, so I would feel much better when people show up if it looked a little nicer.

For the financial part of this challenge, I am going to get back to my couponing ways for the entire month.  I have really fallen off the wagon on this one, and our grocery budget has gotten out of hand.  I'm not going to limit myself to a specific dollar amount because I don't want to hold back if I find a really good deal I need to add to the stockpile.  But I will coupon every week, try to take advantage of the good sales, and track my savings.  I will consider it a success if we can keep our grocery spending at or under the SNAP level of $668 for a family of four.  This will not include paper goods or personal toiletries since those would not be covered under the food stamp program anyway.  And I promise we won't eat out every night either. LOL

Thanks Carla!  I'm anxious to get started! 

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Ready for a New Year!

2012 has not been a very productive year.  I feel like I've been back pedaling all the way.  My father's illness and death set me back financially (FOUR unplanned and unbudgeted trips) and emotionally more than I could count.

But 2013 is just around the corner.  I always try to come up with a motto for what I want the new year to bring.  And my totally corny, highly ambitious motto for what I want to do?????

Be a Lean, Mean, Counter-of-Bean, Queen-of-Clean, Getting-Things-Done Machine in 2013!

Lean:  Yep.  Lots of stuff to purge.  A little body fat, lots of excess clutter.  Less is more.

Mean:  I'm not talking mean in the hateful way.  Mean as in disciplined.  I've given myself way too much slack in 2012 - some of it was needed to help me get through the bad months, but it's time to get back on track.

Counter-of-Bean:  Whew!  The finances have really been the last thing on my mind.  I honestly have no idea where things stand on this front.

Queen-of-Clean:  Another area things have fallen by the wayside.  Things have improved just trying to get ready for the holidays, but there is always more to be done.

Getting-Things-Done:  Over the year, I developed a great deal of apathy whether things actually were finished or not.  Deadlines didn't even matter. But it's time to get back to making lists and marking stuff off!

If you're reading this, thanks for sticking around while I festered in my funk.  But 2013 will be a turn-around year.  I can just feel it!  Hope you'll hang out while I post the progress.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Long Shot

Anyone reading know anything about exercise/fitness games made for the Xbox Kinect?  The kids got an XBox 360 for Christmas....and I'm wanting to buy one of their video games to help me get in shape.  Remember....I have 50-year old knees and a bad back so it can't be TOO much impact.  But I'm thinking anything will be better than nothing.  Any ideas?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Still Swimming

Yep!  I'm still alive although much of 2012 has felt more like drowning than swimming.  I want to get back in the blog habit, just need to make the time to do it.  More to come....

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Tag, You're It!

Mysti was such a sweetie to tag me in her post.  I just haven't had an extra second all weekend to get on the blog....and I'm typing in a hurry since I still need to get a few more things done before Monday morning rolls around and we start the craziness all over again!

 Here are the rules...

#1 - Post these rules.
#2 - Answer the 11 questions from the person who tagged you.
#3 - Create 11 new questions for the people you tag.
#4 - Tag 11 people and link them to your post.
#5 - Let them know that you tagged them.

Mysti's questions:
  • What financial decision would you still do, knowing what you know now? Even though it has been such a stretch financially, I would still buy the house we're living in now.  The schools are excellent, the neighborhood is wonderful, we love our huge yard.  I just can't imagine letting my kids grow up anywhere else.
  • First car?   The first one was a '72 Pontiac Catalina...handed down to me by the parents.  I think it got about 8 mpg.  LOL
  • Favorite meal?   Mexican
  • Pancakes or Waffles?   Pancakes
  • If you could change your real name, what would you pick?  I don't know that I've ever given this much thought.  I really like my given name. :)
  • How did you meet your significant other?   Believe it or not, he sold me a car.  He was my salesman, we started dating 2 months later and yes...20 years later we still have the Jeep he sold me!
  • How do you take your coffee?  Often!  With sweet & low and flavored creamer.
  • What color do you have the most of in your wardrobe?   Black
  • If you had $10,000 to spend on a vacation (and only on a vacation!!!), where would you go?  Definitely back to Disney.  The service is exceptional, and it is just so much fun!!!
  • If you have kids...biggest parenting mistake.  If you don't, what one thing do you hope you never do?  Oh goodness.... I hate to think what they'll tell their therapist(s).  Probably that I'm not as consistent with Sunday School attendance as I wish I's too easy for me to wimp out 'cause I'm exhausted from the week.  KWIM?  FYI-we skipped today.  :( 
  • What one thing do you not like to admit about yourself?  That I'm not 29 anymore???

My 11 questions:
1.   What's the number one TV show you have to watch or record?
2.   Sweet? or Salty?
3.    Weekly grocery budget?
4.    Laptop or desktop?
5.    How many hours of sleep do you average?
6.   Did you watch the Grammys?
7.   Knowing what you know now, which career path would you have pursued?
8.   What's the mileage on your car?
9.   What is the last movie you saw in a theater?
10.  Favorite sport team (either college or pro)?
11.   Give me your favorite time management tip!

I'm far behind on my blog reader (what else is new?), so if you've already been tagged....please forgive me.  But I'm tagging:

Mortgaged Life
Four Dollar Gas
Beachgirl's Budget Blog
Making Sense of Cents
Graceful Retirement
Won't Go Down Without a Fight
Digging out (Sarah or Jenny)
All Doors Considered

Saturday, January 28, 2012

You Gotta Celebrate the Little Things!

Day after day, in this journey that seems more snail-like than gazelle-intense, you gotta celebrate the small victories. And today, I'm happy because the Chase #1 has fallen below the $4K mark!!

The account is closed so the only place it can keep going is down.  It's closed because I didn't want to accept a  change in terms so closing the account locked in a 6.99% fixed rate.

Total debt reduction for January was $935.71 which isn't too far off my goal of $12K for the year.  I do need to pick up the pace a little bit.  But January was tight ----then again, which month isn't tight? I'll be content in knowing that I've reached another milestone with the Chase #1 card and keep plugging toward the finish line.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Feeling too Lazy to Save a Few Pennies

Yes...I know the cost of first class mail goes up to $0.45 tomorrow.

Yes...I also have a package I need to mail to my parents.

Why am I having so much trouble convincing myself to get to the post office this morning to stock up on Forever stamps???

I don't use nearly as much postage as I used to.  I guess we're all contributing to the demise of the Postal Service with online bill pay.  But I still could save a few pennies if I would just go buy some stamps today!!!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Big Gamble, Big Payoff!

I'm not one normally to belly up to the roulette wheel, but that's how I felt when I signed up for the new high-deductible health insurance plan and Health Savings Account last September.

The facts changed a little bit after I wrote that post, but here is how it played out.  Our family switched to a high-deductible ($6,000 per year) health insurance on September 1.  We had already met $1,500 of our deductible during the first 8 months of 2011, so we essentially had a $4,500 deductible for the remainder of the year.  My employer puts $87 a month in a Health Savings Account for us, and because of a glitch, I was putting in $1,025 per month for those last four months.  Switching to the new plan reduced my expense for family coverage by $225 per month, and I was able to remove the line for "medical expenses" from my budget since everything can come out of the Health Savings Account now.  It makes an even greater difference in the bottom line since it's all paid with pre-tax dollars now.

Honestly, I had to take a lot of deep breaths.  It was hard switching from the traditional co-pay for office visits and prescriptions to paying the whole bill (up to the deductible).  But I also knew that if I could pull this off, it would go a long way toward an orthodontist bill looming in my future.

The 10-year old and I went for an initial consultation back in October.  The orthodontist wanted her to lose at least four more baby teeth and said we could start the whole process within 1-3 years.  He quoted us a range of $4,800-$5,300.  Our dental insurance will cover $1,000 of that. But the thought of adding another $300-$350 monthly payment to our already tight cash flow was enough to give me heart palpitations.

As it all turned out, NO ONE had any emergencies during those four months.  We were able to pay for my husband's monthly prescriptions and a couple of office visits out of pocket.....and yes, we searched the internet and found an awesome discount for 12 months on his ADD medicine.  He was "encouraged" to get a CT Scan when he went in for a sinus infection, but decided against it knowing that we would be footing the bill for the entire procedure.  As it turned out, antibiotics took care of the sinus infection and the CT was really not necessary.  (Don't get me wrong.....I totally understand why physicians practice defensive medicine....I see their liability insurance premiums eat up a third or more of their collections).  But putting the choice to purchase medicine back in the consumer's hand puts an end to unnecessary tests ---- or at least it will in this house! my soapbox....end of the story is that my Health Savings Account now has a balance of $4,450.06. (Yes, it earns a few pennies of interest --- also totally tax free).  We started over with a brand new $6,000 deductible on January 1, and we will be contributing the maximum of $6,250 to the account during 2012!  I feel like I'm Home Free!!!

And that $4,450?  When the 10-year old gets the metal on her teeth, I can stroke a check for the whole thing!!  Is that awesome or what?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Final Update - 2011 Net Worth Funding Goals

Finally got this spreadsheet updated for everything!!  This is just my spreadsheet for items I consider to be long-term net worth. It does not includes money set aside for future expenses (like house repairs) or money I had to spend out of those expense accounts (like that $2,100 transmission that came out of the car fund).  It also does not include changes in market values of stocks or real estate that I have no control over.  This is just a snapshot of money I chose to contribute to "long-term wealth."

As you can see from the two negative totals (Rental E-fund withdrawals and the HELOC), this sure would have been alot prettier without that $5,300 assessment from the rental property's HOA!  But it is what it is, and we can only hope for more positive progress in 2012.

Now I need to get ready for dd10's party!  There's no school tomorrow, so she's having 5 girls sleep over tonight.  Maybe I should just load up on caffeine, and wait to clean after they leave???  

Saturday, January 14, 2012

ING's IRA Offer - might be just the boost I need!

Remember when I started listing my 2012 goals?  I really never finished the list, but I know that my retirement savings needs to be pushed to the top of the list despite the debt levels.  The debt will pay itself off...eventually. But you can never go back and make up those years you missed contributing to a retirement account.

Yesterday in the mail, I received a postcard from ING with a little sweet offer attached.  Open an IRA (Savings or CD) and make a $500 minimum deposit before January 31, 2012 and they'll add a $50 2012 contribution to your account just a couple of weeks later.  Now I'm the first to admit that keeping money in a savings account earning 0.80% or a CD earning 0.50% is not going to go far towards funding retirement.  But, I do have a Sharebuilder Roth IRA (it's SO easy to transfer between my ING and Sharebuilder accounts!).  And since my gut feeling is that the market is heading for a correction, I'm happy to keep my money in cash until some of those stock valuations get a little more reasonable.  And to get a 10% bonus on top of the money I put in?  Sweet deal in my book!

Check it out!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Where do you save for college?

I'm the first to admit that the college savings accounts for my kids (ages 10 and 6) are kind of pitiful.  The 10 year old has barely $8K, and the 6 yr. old around $2,400.  Since they were started they've been in an equity income mutual fund which has pretty much stayed flat the past 5 years.  I was also informed a couple of months ago that the mutual fund company is no longer accepting new contributions into the ESAs (Education Savings Accounts).  With a maximum contribution of $2,000 per year scheduled to go back down to $500 per year at the beginning of 2013, I guess it's not worth the hassle for the mutual fund company to service these types of accounts.

So what do I do with the $200 or $300 of (birthday/Christmas/extra) money?   Believe me I know it's not nearly as much as it should be.  But I don't want to squander what little bit they have either!!

I'm just starting to research ETF's --- specifically dividend-paying ETF's ---- ones that focus on solid companies that have a track record of increasing their dividend payout year after year.  I know nothing about ETF's .... really don't know if I'll like them better than mutual funds (I'll spare you my rant on my distate of mutual funds and their annual fees wiping out all your profits year after year).

So I'm just wondering.....where do you save for college?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

One (almost) crossed off before I could even post it!

I still haven't set all my goals for 2012 (I was trying to come up with 12 of 'em just to be cool like the rest of you *wink*). But I had scratched a few down:

1. Shave $12,000 off the total debt.
2. Add $6,000 to the Roth.'s sad, but I will be eligible for a catch-up contribution by the end of 2012. I remember when catch-up contributions were first introduced and thinking they were for OLD people!!!
3. Get through the year without any additional borrowing.
4. Save up enough cash to pay for a new computer.
5. Get (and keep) caught up on paperwork.
6. Continue to coupon to keep the grocery budget in check.
7. Write down my menu plans (instead of keeping them in my head). If I write down each night's dinner on a calendar, this time next year I can just pull out the calendar pages for an instant menu plan!
8. Continue to declutter the house. Think seriously about a yard sale in the Spring.

And that's as far as I got....

But today I received news that I might be able to knock one of these off my list sooner rather than later!

Our office administrator came in this morning and reminded me that this Thursday marks the 25th anniversary of my date of hire. 25 years!! Unbelievable!

Anyway, our firm always gives a length of service award for each 5 years. I've gotten pearl earrings, a gorgeous sapphire necklace, a set of antique ruby-glassware dishes, and a Movado watch for my other gifts. With the exception of the earrings (my 5-year gift), I was always consulted and allowed to pick what I wanted. Anyway...for the 25 year mark, my spending limit is $1,250. And I'm not allowed to take it in cash - which is fine because if it's given for service it's a non-taxable gift.

She asked me what I wanted, and it didn't take me long to figure out that I could probably get a really nice new computer for $1,250.

So, she talked to our I.T. guy and he's going to help me order a brand new Dell machine --- we'll probably order it through the business account which is fine since that will probably mean I can just order it to include all the Microsoft Office software. Even though I knew this milestone was approaching, I hadn't given it more than a passing thought before today. Usually the service awards are given at the summer picnic, so thinking I might be picking out a gift anytime soon hadn't crossed my mind. But we have a firm meeting Friday, and the office administrator said they would like to acknowledge it during the meeting. I am so excited! My pitiful little computer will be 8 years old in May! Bless her soul, she's been a little workhorse. But she's tired and loaded down. She needs a break (I'll probably give her to the kids).

This also means that I really need to get cracking on #5. I need to get all the Money software, spreadsheets, etc. updated since I'm pretty sure that Microsoft Money 2004 will not be available on my new machine. LOL