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Archive for December, 2008

The grand finale!

December 31st, 2008 at 10:08 am

Well, here we all are at the end of 2008. Like it or not, a new year starts tomorrow. I think I'm ready! 2008 is not ending so wonderfully, so I'm ready to start fresh.

The Amish tradition for today, at least around here, is to race up and down the road from house to house. There are many buggies flying past our house, first in one direction and then in another. It looks neat and quaint and all that, but I just had to go run an errand and swap cars with BIL that lives about 5 miles away, and it was awful for about a mile of that. There were 5 or 6 in a row, and then they start passing each other and pulling back in line. Well, I'm never sure if they can hear the car coming behind them, especially with that many steel wheels making racket, so it was tricky trying to pass. Then, I'd come up on the next bunch of 5 or 6, and then more in the next bunch. Crazy! I'm sure they were having fun though.

As for us, we have no big plans to ring in the new year. We might take a few lingering Christmas gifts to people we haven't seen yet, and that's about it.



How about you? Any interesting traditions?

Sad day

December 29th, 2008 at 09:47 am

I'm very sad. Doctors gave the official diagnosis for my MIL yesterday, and she has cancer as we all thought. They couldn't say for certainty where without surgery but she doesn't want that. It's somewhere in the stomach, intestines, etc. She's opted not to do chemo, as it was just a 50/50 chance it would help anything. So far, she is not in pain, just nauseous (and has been for some time). I know some MILs are monsters-in-law, but not this woman. She is very sweet, very pleasant, and doesn't deserve this. (Not that anyone does, for that matter). But the nice people should not have to suffer.

52 week grocery, etc recap

December 27th, 2008 at 03:08 pm

I know the year isn't technically over yet, but my 52-week period of tracking grocery, dog food, & household supplies ended today, and I did a recap. Before coupons, our spending for the year would have been $10,173.39. We saved $3,199.51, or 31%, so the after-coupon spending was $6,973.88. Average per week is down to $134.11. As I mentioned in last week's recap, that's down from $177.95 the first month. I'm quite proud, even if I do say so myself! I've mentioned this before, but that's for two people and nine big dogs, so I think it's pretty good.

Horrified! Any helpful ideas?

December 27th, 2008 at 02:18 pm

The good news is that I am not horrified at anything monetary. The bad news is that it is my weight! OMG!!! What have I done?! I had about 50 lbs to lose a few months ago and somehow now it's closer to 60 lbs. I can blame it on depression regarding the loss of my job, or winter, or holidays, or whatever I want, but really I know I can only blame it on eating a lot more. I seem to have been on a big binge lately, and have been feeling powerless to stop. I knew my clothes were getting tighter, and I feel worse, but I just kept avoiding the scale. But, today, I took the brave (or dumb!) step of hopping on the scale and I REALLY am disgusted.

So, along with my financial goals that I'm still working on for 2009, I have some major goals to set regarding weight loss. I feel like if I can control impulse spending, I ought to be able to control impulse eating, but for some reason I have a much harder time doing that. I've come up with a few ideas that should help both in terms of the budget and weight. I am planning to quit my awful diet coke habit. I easily drink about 2/3 of a 2 liter bottle ever day. Assuming 5 bottles a week, that ought to trim anywhere from $5-$10 a week off the budget, assuming that I don't replace it with other diet-type drinks like Crystal Light or flavored water. I also plan to cut out the sweets. My downfall is the junky, cheap, treats that are probably the worst of the worst. Maybe that will trim another few bucks. But, what I struggle with is how I can get this awful weight off, and not break the grocery budget buying healthier food. Any helpful ideas?

Nothing handmade after all

December 25th, 2008 at 08:21 pm

I've been reading so many stories about people baking goodies and making crafty gifts, so I came up with 2 ideas in the fall. I was going to "make" DH a book from winkflash. They have a special from time to time where you can make a hardcover book with up to 100 pages or photos for around $20. I started it a few months ago, and then we agreed to not exchange gifts, so I just stopped loading pictures to the site. I also started playing with some of our sisal twine from hay bales, and made a few lead ropes for our horses. I tested different methods of braiding and decided I should try to turn some of it into a small throw rug. I thought if it came out half way decent looking, I would give it to my mom to use in her entryway from the garage to her house. Well, the idea sounded better than the project actually started looking, so I quit that too. I may continue one or the other project at some point in the future, but I decided that my dedication to "making" a gift rather than "buying" it isn't as great as I thought it was. I highly commend anyone that creates homemade gifts...They take a LOT of time!!!

We had a very low-key holiday. I cooked plenty for a small gathering. We were expecting 3, in addition to DH and me, but one went to the hospital to spend time with MIL instead, one didn't show up at all, and the third was a misunderstanding. I thought he'd said he was coming, but we saw him leave earlier this morning to go somewhere else. (It's a neighbor with a very difficult speech impediment, so I'm sure I just didn't understand him.) Oh, well, plenty of leftovers.

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday and enjoyed whatever your celebrations were, or at least survived them. Judging by some of the horror stories trying to plan get-togethers and coordinating "to give or not to give" decisions, it may just have been a day to survive.

Weekly grocery update and 51-week recap

December 21st, 2008 at 01:24 pm

I had very low coupon savings this week, just 8% overall. I don't mind at all because the overall dollar amount spent was low for us, just $84.

That brings my average for the past 51 weeks down to $134.67 per week. As I look back at the beginning of the year, my average the first month was $177.95. HOLY COW!!! I think I've done quite well knocking that average down. Of course, that makes me wonder, what did I do with the additional $2,200+ savings. It's actually in a savings account, in a round-about way. I didn't just add the money that I saved in coupons each week to the fund, but I stuck to a fairly routine method of saving all my coins, rebates, ebay sales, and automatic transfers to sock away a decent sized amount of money. So, I know it wasn't wasted on frivolous things, and I feel pretty good about it.

I haven't yet decided if I'll continue the same tracking method for 2009. The method I have set up is quite tedious, but I might keep going just to see if I can drop it even further. I'd like to get down to $120 or $125 a week. Even lower would be great, but our doggies eat a lot and I can't see the cost on food for humans or dogs going down.

I love my local discount grocery store

December 21st, 2008 at 10:10 am

I made a quick trip to my local discount grocery store yesterday. It's not a chain like Aldi's, just an independent store. It might not be entirely independent, as I believe it's somehow affiliated with 2 others further away, but I digress.

Along with some other items, I was able to stock up on:
bacon, Wrights, 3lb package, $5.19
bread, Pepperidge Farms, 99c each
pigs in a blanket, no name, 2 or 3 lb package frozen, $1.59
snack sized ice cream bars, Blue Bunny, 15ct, $1

Now, I would not have bought some of these items at a regular grocery store, since I'm sure they would have been much higher, but if I were to compare prices just on these 4 items, I believe I saved at least $10 to $15 since I bought 4 loaves of bread and just one of each of the other items.

There are quite a few of these independent discount-type grocery stores around, but this one has the best prices. You do have to watch dates on some items too. The bacon is fine - sell by date isn't until next month. The bread is fresh, or at least fresh enough for me. I know their bread truck comes several times a week. The ice cream bars had a sell-by date from a year ago, but they taste just fine. since they are individual chocolate covered pieces, I'm sure I could tell by taste and appearance if they'd been thawed and refrozen. And, I didn't see a date on the pigs-in-a-blanket, but we cooked them last night and they were pretty good!

They sell dented canned items also. I am VERY careful about those, but I have bought things like soup for 25c a can. I know to avoid dented cans and obviously anything leaking, but I haven't really seen any like that since they are definitely not in business to put anyone in danger.

Milk and eggs are just as cheap, if not cheaper than other stores. Produce, while not a huge selection, is also cheaper than most others. In the summer, it's often locally grown produce.

I also know, from being told during prior purchases, that you can return something if it isn't "good". I've never had to do that.



Catching up here

December 20th, 2008 at 10:43 pm

Whew! It's been a busy few days and I'm just catching up here. Let's see, since some of my last entries, what have I accomplished?

1) tried to go on my trip but the weather was not cooperative. I might have a whole bunch more frequent flyer miles racked up since I flew to 4 different airports trying to get rerouted to where I was going, but it just didn't happen, so I flew back home.

2) wrote to customer relations to see if they would reimburse or issue a travel voucher for my uncompleted trip.

3) found 55 cents in the airport

4) charged things I needed to buy on 2 inactive credit cards so they wouldn't cancel them on me like another card did. http://lizajane.savingadvice.com/2008/12/12/they-cancelled-m...

5) paid a bunch of bills that were going to be due right after I got back from my trip, so now they are out of the way

6) emailed and sent out christmas cards (if only I would finish my shopping!)

7) gathered up a few items I need to return to Walmart and a farm supply store

8) sold a few more things on ebay

I need to give some serious thought to setting new goals for 2009 and make them more SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and I forgot what the T stands for). Mine are big and vague right now, so since I set them up when I started the blog a few months ago, I have nothing that I can check off as being done. There is progress, but nothing substantial enough that I can cross it off the list.



Weekly grocery update

December 17th, 2008 at 09:47 pm

I'm happy to report 51% coupon savings last week, which is HUGE. I've only beat that 3 other times during the year.

The dollar value was also HUGE too, though. Before coupons, total was $334.21. Coupon savings was $170.09, and the total after coupons was $164.12. Groceries & household totaled $76.64 ($191.48 - $114.84 coupons). Dog food totaled $87.48 ($142.73 - $55.25 coupons).

Some of my coupons are CVS extra bucks and Walgreens register rewards, where I paid for items in previous weeks (and included the cost those weeks), so when I spent the rewards or bucks this week to reduce my spending, I count them as coupons.

Some of the excessive spending was to stock up on dog food for two weeks instead of one, and then there were just a lot of good deals. Ironically, when there are good deals, I spend a lot. Either that means they aren't as good as I thought they were, or I've fallen prey to the marketing ploys behind having these fantastic sales. Hmmm...I'll have to think about that more.

yukky day and expensive day

December 17th, 2008 at 02:42 pm

It's a yukky (yucky?) day outside. Gray, dull, and cold. I'm not a big fan of winter weather at all, but at least if it's a pretty snowfall and the sun is shining, I can live with it. It's just icy and dreary instead.

I'll be traveling for a few days, so I'm trying to get ready for that. I'm looking forward to the trip itself (part work and part fun to see family), but the getting ready part is crazy. Get the laundry done, get food for people and animals, get Rx ready for hubby, make sure any bills due within the next week are paid and mailed, figure out what clothes to bring, clean house so it doesn't overwhelm me when I get back, on and on. Sometimes, I dream how nice it would be to go away like this for a few days and come back to have all that stuff done while I was away, but I know better.

On the expensive side of things, I haven't even looked at paying the bills that came in the mail and need to be paid before I go, but so far today we've spent $136 on horse feed and $250 on shavings for the barn just running errands. I also ordered $425 of propane yesterday, but that doesn't have to get paid until I get back.

The big kicker is a piece of property near ours is up for sale and DH wants, wants, wants it. He's already spoken to the bank and thinks we can handle the extra money it will take, and hoping they will refinance what we have now to a lower rate also to have it end up costing us the same money or just slightly more in the long run. I need to pull together papers tonight for him to proceed with that while I'm away. I'm not so sure we can handle it money wise, since we're already going to be in a precarious position. Ugh! We just don't see eye-to-eye on money sometimes....ok, MOST of the time!! I'll stop now before I rant myself into a horrible mood and say things I can't take back. Just wish us luck working this all out.

I'm normally much more Pollyana-ish than this, but she's apparently taken the day off. Sorry for all the griping!

Lost wallet

December 14th, 2008 at 10:19 pm

DH, SS and I went to run errands this evening in the pickup. It just has one bench seat, and SS put his movies and wallet up on the dash since there wasn't much room to put them anywhere else. SS then opened his window a little bit and I jokingly said "you'd better watch that wallet so it doesn't go flying out the window when we go around a corner."

Well, it didn't go out the window, but everything did fall off the dash before we got very far. He was able to pick up the movies, but couldn't quite grab the wallet as there wasn't much room to reach to the floor.

Twenty minutes later at town, we stopped at the tobacco store, Dollar General, the movie store and then Walmart. Apparently Walmart was the first place he needed to use the wallet because he realized it was no longer on the floor of the pickup!! DH and SS retraced the errands and looked in the parking lots and asked about a recovered wallet, but no one had it. I guess he forgot all about it, and kicked it out when he got out one of the first places. $80 gone in a flash.

The really sad part is both sS and I got out at the tobacco store and DH drove over to Dollar General in the same plaza. When I came out of the store, I was more focused on seeing where DH had parked than I was looking at the ground, which is what I usually do just out of habit. (Yesterday, I found a nice shiny penny somewhere.) To think that I might have spotted the wallet if I hadn't been looking across the way just kills me! The other sad thing is that I thought of the wallet when we got to the stores, but I didn't say out loud "be sure to get your wallet". I never dreamed he wouldn't remember it was on the floor!

Diesel bill

December 13th, 2008 at 06:23 pm

We got a statement in the mail from the company we order our diesel from. The statement date is 12/9. I checked back through our records and I show that we paid this on 11/2! I would be alarmed, but I'm not really because this isn't the first time this has happened. The owner of this business seems to have a touch of Alzheimer's - some days he knows exactly who you are, and other days he has to ask. I think his son works in the business too, and for the life of me, I don't understand why the son doesn't try to take over the finances. I mean, I do understand that if his dad has always been the boss, he can't just take over, but it's scary to think what a mess they could be in. The check has cleared already, but they show that we still owe?!

Earlier this year, they sent a statement with some amount on it that wasn't anything we'd ordered and the name on it looked like a cross between my hubby and his brother who lives about 5 miles from us. I asked when I stopped by the office one day what it was and the dad didn't have anything to match the statement showing we owed money so I just threw it out.

Last year, we had a statement they sent us for a delivery we didn't remember getting. They only deliver when we request it, but since the statement came at the end of the summer for a delivery back in the midst of hay season a few months earlier when things were crazy, we couldn't be sure that we DIDN'T order it and the driver left a ticket somewhere that we didn't find. We remembered and paid for the delivery both before & after that one. I questioned the driver and he showed me his notebook where he records deliveries and it had us listed on that date with other farms in the same area, so that more or less confirmed that it must have been us. It was an ugly $2500 surprise though, so ever since we've been very careful to keep track.

Unfortunately for them, these poor business practices are going to lead us to order from anyother company in the future. I'm not knocking them for the forgotten bill that was apparently our fault (although we're not 100% convinced), but for the other issues. We sometimes have to call more than once to get a delivery, and never know if they were just slow and hadn't gotten around to it, or if the request vanished into thin air before it was written down anywhere. Very sad.

They cancelled me! Credit score question

December 12th, 2008 at 09:20 pm

I got a letter from a credit card company today, one that I'd forgotten I even had. Since I haven't used my card in 2 years, they decided I didn't need it and cancelled me. My first thought was "Oh no, that one had a really high balance. What if I get into trouble and need to use it to get by until I get another permanent job?". Then I realized that would have had to be really desperate before (a) I even realized the card was there to use, and (b) I went into credit card debt on another card. The three I have are bad enough.

Reading Missy's blog about how closing a credit card account might affect her credit score, I was wondering the same thing. I checked ours a month or so ago when there was some free deal to check, but don't you normally have to pay to check it? And, each time you check it, does it record it as an inquiry?

Too much to do! Minor ranting.

December 11th, 2008 at 12:10 pm

My list of things to do today keeps growing. Between work and class tonight, I need to:
* go to the bank & deposit money from one a/c to another. Can't do it automated because one is a bus a/c and the other is personal. Tax id number doesn't match ssn, so they won't allow it. They are both just DH & me on the account, but still can't allow it!
* go to Dept of Revenue to get license on a car that has been sitting for over a year with engine problems. Glad it's fixed, but not thrilled with this trip!
* go to auto parts store to get new battery & windshield wipers for same car, plus ignition switch and I forgot what else for one of our pickups.
* go to Petsmart for dog food. I have some coupons to save $10 off $20 purchase, and they expire tomorrow. It's just down the road from class so I want to make SURE to get there.

By my calculations, these errands should take me over an hour, possibly 1.25 hours. I'm an hour drive from class, so if I need to be at class by 6pm, I need to leave here by 3:45 at the very latest and pray there isn't a line at the license bureau. I usually leave work early on the nights I have class, but not that early. The other thing that annoys me is that I know we don't need these parts TODAY, since I'll be right back in the same area TOMORROW running other errands. But DH is insisting we have to have them here tomorrow morning, and I KNOW better! I don't need to drive the car that needs the license any sooner than Saturday, and neither does he. Chances are that the parts for the pickup will sit on the table until next week too! But, to keep the peace, I agreed to go. And, I always do "give in", because I'd rather live in harmony rather than fight over stupid stuff. The sad part is that the Petmart trip is the one closest to my class, so if I run out of time, I'll miss out on the big savings, which is what we need the worst out of all of this.

Whew! Glad I got that off my chest. I feel better already just ranting into cyberspace.

~~~~~
I decided I should edit this to add on that this is a small to do list compared to most of them I end up with, it's just that it's all coming on a day when I have little time to spare. I don't want anyone laughing at me whining over this little amount of stuff to do, when their list is huge. Mine is too, but it's just trying to cram it all it to a short block of time that gets me riled. I plan my time well, but when someone else tries to throw more into the pile it gets annoying.

Another one bites the dust!

December 10th, 2008 at 12:29 pm

I refilled a prescription yesterday, but not at the old independently-owned pharmacy that I used to go to. Why? Because they closed last month and all the staff is working at a new Walgreens pharmacy in our town. Still the same nice people, but not the same nice price. Instead of $17.57, I paid $25.99. This is an out of pocket price, with a discount Rx card. I don't have insurance for prescriptions, and this isn't one that could be a $4 generic at Walmart. I thought it might be a little higher just because it was Walgreens, but that's quite a price hike.

I did get a $25 gift card for transferring the prescription, even if it wasn't my choice to transfer. So that makes me feel a little better. I guess they decided there was too much at stake to try to compete against Wags, so if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. With higher prices, I don't think they would have had much to worry about!

So...a lesson for all. Don't assume a national chain can beat an independent store's pricing.

Happy anniversary to us!

December 9th, 2008 at 06:51 am

Today marks 19 years of marriage for me and my wonderful hubby! We'll celebrate by....doing nothing special. We don't usually exchange gifts or cards, and I have to work and go to class today, so it's really just business as usual. I know a lot of people go to a fancy dinner or trip to celebrate anniversaries, but we just don't do it. Some of my friends think that's odd, but I think some of the things they do are odd also, so it doesn't bother me in the least.

What about all my SA friends? Do you celebrate lean? or extreme? or somewhere in between?

Refill now...

December 8th, 2008 at 09:01 am

One of my prescriptions expires this week on the 11th. I have notes all over the place to remind me to refill it before that date. Then next month I can call for a refill and it will be expired, but I know the doc will ok it if I make an appt. So that will give me one more month before I have to face an office visit bill. I sure wish I had insurance with a copay, instead of a nice big fat deductible. I'm nowhere close to reaching the deductible this year, or I'd go ahead & have the appointment. I'm fine, I know I'm fine, it's just medication I take every day, I hate that I have to pay $100+ for the office visit just to get an Rx refilled!

On the bright side, the pharmacy where I refill was an independent locally-owned place. A Walgreens opened in our town and they wisely (?) closed their pharmacy and all moved into the Walgreens pharmacy. I don't know how that will affect the services they used to have or what that will do to my price (they were cheaper than Wags before), but I will earn a $25 gift card for switching my prescription over to them, even if the switching was forced.

Weekly grocery update

December 7th, 2008 at 10:19 pm

No great progress or savings to report this week. I think I'm in a rut, although I did manage a 22% savings due to coupons.

Before coupons, total was $162.34. Coupon savings was $35.69, and the total after coupons was $126.65. Groceries & household totaled $57.32 ($93.01 - $35.69 coupons). Dog food totaled $69.33, with no coupons.

The average per week is now $135.10, down from $135.27.

I spent awhile last night and this morning scanning the sales flyers and organizing my coupons to see if I can do better this week matching them up. I had to chauffer SS to the store tonight, so I stopped in one of the stores on my list to score some deals and another one to get some basics. Between the two I saved 21% using coupons, but I've already started the week spending almost $33! I hope I can do better the rest of the week.

I Christmas shopped with my credit card!

December 5th, 2008 at 12:14 pm

I did, but it was in a GOOD way. For the past several months, I've been charging regular everyday purchases on this credit card and recording the purchase in my checkbook register just as if I had written a check. When the bill comes, I pay it, knowing that I have set the money aside. My rule is that is has to be something I would have had to buy anyway. This might not work for everyone, but I'm quite disciplined this way so it's not a problem for me. The purpose was to rack up rewards money so I could turn them into gift cards for Christmas gifts, and that's exactly what I did today.

I cashed in $80 worth of rewards to buy $100 worth of gift cards, and took care of my four nieces & nephews gifts. I would much prefer to buy something for them rather than just a gift card because it seems more Christmas-y, but we don't live near each other so I would have to deal with the whole shipping situation. Plus, it's just too hard to know what to get them. I give up after the age of 12 and go with the gift cards. They haven't complained yet!!

This is the start of my shopping, although it may be close to the end as well. Hubby and I aren't exchanging, a friend who knows I lost my job told me to skip her kids this year (how sweet!), and there are some other extended family members I may be skipping as well. That just leaves 3 or 4 more people, so that shouldn't be too hard to do.

Tangerines and FFA

December 4th, 2008 at 08:36 am

My 10 lb box of Tangerines came in yesterday. I bought them for a school FFA fundraiser, for $15. Expensive! But pretty and tasty. I was running a little low in the fruit department, so I guess I know now what I'll be eating for the next several weeks. All that vitamin C will be good during cold and flu season too!



I'll share the load with my MIL and a good friend, so maybe they won't ruin before their time (the fruit, not the people!)

One desperate phone call

December 3rd, 2008 at 11:51 am

I didn't realize it has been so long since I'd had something to write about! Here it is...

Back in mid-November, I wrote that I had forgotten one of my credit card payments until 2 hours after the cutoff to get the payment in (online). I was so mad at myself, but I went ahead with the payment hoping some system glitch would put it through on time. Of course not. I checked my statement on Monday, and was sickened to find a $39 late fee, plus an interest rate jacked up to 20%. I actually felt physically ill. I put off calling until yesterday to plead for mercy, but finally did it. As a one time courtesy, they did remove the late fee, plus reinstated the non-penalty rate. Phew! I know it was a horrible mistake, and it actually looked worse, because the payment didn't show on the account until Monday morning 11/17, and it was due by 5pm on the Friday before. Never again!!

In other news, Walgreens corrected my gift card snafu. I had them put $42+ rebates on a gift card I threw out, so I had to have them transfer it to my current gift card.

I think I keep making these expensive mistakes because I'm trying to do too many things at the same time and I'm not paying enough attention to what I'm doing, always thinking ahead to what I have to do next. Between a full-time job, and classes some evenings for my part-time job, and looking for a full-time job for after the 1st of the year - plus household and farm chores - I'm a little distracted!!