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Sidebar updates

December 7th, 2009 at 04:24 am

I've updated several things on the sidebar today. I was tired of seeing old numbers (from May in some cases!), even if they looked better than they do now.

Credit cards are way up. Weight is back up. Ugh!

Rebates are up a little though too, so that IS a bright spot.

My coupon savings isn't as good as I thought it would be. About a month ago, I decided I was REALLY going to buckle down and try spending $40 or less on groceries, and that's it! Hah! I knew it would be hard, but it turned out to be nearly impossible. There were stockpile-worthy sales too good to pass up, and many times I find that we run out of several higher dollar items each week. That's something I wasn't considering. I was just thinking of the 2 gallons of milk, 5 loaves of bread, 1 box cereal, 1 lb. cheese, etc items that added up to almost $40 each week -- not the $8 coffee, $5 bacon, $5 tp, $7 meat that popped up in week 1. The $40 quickly turned to $60, and it's stayed closer to that each week. I think I did better when I didn't try to set a strict limit!

Or, maybe my strict limit was too low. I thought that we were averaging $45/week on groceries, and $60/week on dog food. When I look back over the records, it's more like $60/week on groceries and $50/week on dog food. Maybe I'll try again with a $50 limit and see how that works.

I just noticed today that our BOA savings account incurred a $5 monthly maintenance fee for the first time. I wasn't sure why until I went and read the rules again. The balance has to stay above $300 each month, or there has to be an automatic transfer set up. I'd forgotten totally about the minimum, and transferred some money out last month, dropping it way down. Dumb! I set up an automated transfer in from our checking a/c each month, so hopefully that fee will never be seen again.

One step closer

December 6th, 2009 at 12:07 am

We have "preliminary approval" on our refinancing. One step closer, but it's turning out to be a long drawn-out process. The reason is that it's an agricultural finance, and going to be sold to Farmer Mac. I'd never heard of them, but found all the information online, and then checked the company we are going thru out online.

It will give us a little breathing room in our finances, at least.

I haven't started shopping for gifts. We thought we weren't going to do much, but then I realized that other people are still going to get something, so we'll be prepared to reciprocate. I might do "goodie baskets" with baked goods and fruit and other tasty treats. Those are great for people you don't know what to get. Everyone likes food!

I found a dime on the floor at McD's today. Shouldn't have been in there in the first place, but I might as well find money when I'm in there!

Bank overdraft charge

October 28th, 2009 at 03:02 pm

We hit a new low, and were overdrawn in our checking account yesterday. $30 in charges. Yuck! Fortunately, hubby happened to check before he went somewhere and wrote a check because we were expecting his social security deposit to go thru around the 23rd to 25th, like it always does. Nope! It just went in there last night. He added some cash to get us back in the black, but it was a sick moment. We haven't had money run that close in a long time.

It made me feel extra guilty because I am on a short mini-vacation visiting friends and family. My only cost out of pocket for this trip has been a few dinners out and gas for which I scrimped together cash from my change collected over the past few months and some rebate checks. It's a well-deserved cheap vacation, but it kind of puts a damper on things when you know you're blowing money that really could have been put to better use. I was even ok with the dinner money spent, but mortified at the $14 it cost me to park in a parking garage for 4 hours. I'm sure I could have found a cheaper alternative if I had done a little research ahead of time.

Reading Jennifer's post on the value of "only" $40 got me thinking that for this short vacation I really have gotten a lot of value for the money I spent, so I have to go forward with no regrets and not beat myself up over it. I can't change the past but I can change the future, and the big challenge is figuring out how to proceed to do that. All my ideas are small. Maybe I could cut diet soda and impulse snacks from my grocery list altogether, and possibly save $10 a week. Maybe I could really go on a diet and lose weight, which would make me feel better, which would make me feel more like excercising, which would improve my energy level and my self-esteem and my heart and countless other things. I can't possibly think how that would bring in more money or help cut expenses, but maybe just having more energy will give me the oomph to get selling on ebay again. The possibilities are endless, and I know I just have to take those baby steps.

Thank you all for your kindness

October 24th, 2009 at 04:31 pm

You guys really are the best! I was pretty down in my last post, and you are all so nice, luring me back in.

I'm traveling and visiting relatives this week, and stuck with a s-l-o-w dial-up connection. My connection at home isn't lightning fast, but it seems like it now!
While I'm away, I hope to get some rest and get some motivation to change some things. At the least, I've brought some "homework" with me. We're supposedly close to refinancing, but need to come up with a few more items for the lender. I'm keeping my fingers crossed on this one - we need it very much. Also, just before I left, I asked my current bank for a printout of our loan payments, showing the amount applied to principal & interest each month. What prompted it is I had come up with an amortization schedule by plugging the amount, interest rate & number of years into some online amortization calculator. When I asked the bank what the current balance was, they differed from the calculation I had by over $1,000. Mine might not be 100% accurate because I had to fudge some things to come up with the monthly payment the bank says. So, that's one question - why the difference. But I have never seen anything like their printout. The amount applied to principle is all over the place, not a steadily increasing amount applied to principal. One month it'll be $200+, then up to $300+, then $20+, then $100+, then $500+. I don't understand it at all, so while I'm away I'm going to call and ask them to explain it to me, even if it takes hours! It's crazy!!

So, I'm going to try to be back here more. I really do miss it when I'm not posting. I find it helps me to clear my head and think things out when I do post. One step at a time....

3 weeks since I posted

October 19th, 2009 at 12:47 am

I don't know what happened. I'm almost at my 1 year anniversary for blogging, and I just haven't been in the mood. Ok, even after I wrote that I "don't know what happened", I realized that wasn't exactly the truth. I really DO know what's happened. Our finances are a mess right now, and I am so depressed about it that I have no urge to document anything. I guess I've been hiding my head in the sand.

We're not able to pay extra on anything, and I know we are still spending more than we bring in. I haven't updated the sidebar debt because it's too ugly.

On the bright side, I did manage to finally catch up on documenting our spending and coupon savings and all that, hoping it would provide something positive to write about. The summary is:
Found on the ground - added a penny! woohoo!
Rebates & coupon savings came out quite nice. Since I had last updated those months ago, I was worried that we might have fallen off the track on the goal of keeping the grocery/household/dog food spending around $100 per week ($60 for dog food, $40 for food, etc). While we're above the $100 mark, the average per week has actually gone down from just over $110. That's some tiny progress, at least.

Also, I think I remember getting some Purina rebate coupons in the mail yesterday, but now I can't find them. I hope I didn't really lose them! It's 10 $7 coupons. They're really checks but they are used like coupons. That would be a really bad move on my part if I actually did lose them!

I haven't been doing as much with coupons as I used to. I had to get brake pads for my car today, so I stopped in the grocery store and flipped thru the coupons in the Sunday paper. There were some dog food ones, so I could make my money back on the paper plus some extra, but I just didn't see anything else that thrilled me. I didn't buy it, and I probably won't tomorrow either. I find myself doing that a lot lately. I just don't want to be bothered clipping.

I've got $20 in rebates to mail in on some antifreeze we bought, and I'll be trying to get that in the mail this week. I've had quite a few bigger rebates like that lately. When they are $5 or $10 each, they add up fast.

I've also been trying for weeks to list things on eBay & CL. It never becomes important enough for me to set aside time to get it done. DH gets mad already at the amount of time I spend on the computer, most of which is checking my emails, printing coupons from various sites, and reading some blogs. The minute I open up eBay or CL, he wants me to look up some obscure things for him or read him some of the items in the categories. Within 30 minutes, I'm about to fall asleep from the monotony of it, and I never get around to the SELLING!

~~~

After reading back thru this, it fits how I've been feeling lately. Up, down, up, down. There is no logical flow of thoughts, and it seems like things are very disjointed. I can focus on small details and spend hours tracking dollars & cents, and then feel like I accomplished something. But in the grand scheme of our life, it doesn't amount to a hill of beans. We have bigger things to resolve, and can't seem to come up with a real plan for solving them. Ugh!

I think I'll quit for now before I become a whiner. Oh....too late? Sorry!!!!

Widgets & tax calculators

September 13th, 2009 at 03:21 pm

I noticed my debt ticker had vanished. I guess I hadn't updated in several months (I didn't know tickerfactory would get rid of them after a certain period of time). Oh well, I didn't update it for the same reason I haven't updated the list on the sidebar since May. Things have swung in the opposite direction and I can't handle seeing the reality of it.

Instead, I put my weight loss ticker. I've at least made progress (small progress) with it.

I also had fun on the H&R Block website the other day. There are all sorts of nifty calculators to estimate taxes, etc. Plus, I saw some cool widgets so I added one of those to my sidebar. I really didn't want it to take up such a large amount of space so I may not leave it there forever, but for now enjoy!

If you are interested in the tax calculators, they are at: http://hrblock.com/taxes/tax_calculators/index.html#


Where does the time go?

August 1st, 2009 at 04:11 am

I haven't been on here almost all week, and I haven't posted in FOREVER! Hopefully before the weekend is up, I'll have some updates on coupon savings etc for the last month or two. I've been trying to catch things up.

I'm intentionally avoiding posting updates to our debt. It's totally disgusting and depressing. We haven't figured out a real solution to come up with sizable chunks of cash on a regular basis. Ugh! I went for a health risk assessment, and they said my blood pressure was up a little. No wonder!! Stressing over money will do that to you.

Actually, though, when he told me the reading, I thought it was good. 123/70. That used to be ok, but apparently anything over 120 on top is now considered pre-hypertension. oh, swell.

~~~

In cheerier news, I'm down another 1/2 pound. That's not really something worth celebrating by itself, but it puts me down 11.5 pounds, so I'm happy with it. I also found a penny both yesterday and today.

It's supposed to rain here tomorrow. Hopefully after I get done with outdoor chores and running errands, I'll have a chunk of time left to do some organizing. My office is a mess, and I have some things I'd like to list on Ebay or CL.

Not in a blogging mood lately

July 5th, 2009 at 02:28 pm

This is my first entry in a few weeks, and I can't decide if I've just been too busy or if that's an excuse for not wanting to own up to some "failures". (Mind you, I don't personally feel like a failure because of these, since I know that it wasn't some luxury spending that caused it, but they are still failures to keep on track with everything.)

#1: Inability to pay the one credit card that we ALWAYS pay in full each month. I don't even want to look at what this added to the totals on the sidebar, so I didn't update it yet. It will be ugly. I was so happy to see the totals drop under $29K, and now I'm sure we're back over $30K. What caused it? Repairs and maintenance to equipment, lack of a crystal ball, and poor planning. Ugh!

#2: Purchase of a new refrigerator on credit! I fought this for 2 - 3 weeks, as we tried to revive the one we had. We got it working sort of, but knew it was doomed and it would be just a matter of time. I called about several used ones, but none were as cheap as I wanted to pay for used. I have to admit that we were being picky here - we didn't just want any old fridge, it "had" to be one with ice & water in the door. (*hanging head in shame here*) Anyhow, I shopped around, and did end up with a great deal on a brand spanking new one, and I love it. I bargained hard with the sales crew, and got free delivery 40+ miles from the store. And the happy ending is that it's a 3-year 0% interest credit. That sucker will be paid off well in advance of the 3 years, mark my words!

DH & I had some good discussions about how to handle our growing money crisis. Without farm expenses, we could make it just fine. Adding in the labor and other expenses to keep things going, the farm income doesn't pay for itself. We may limp along through the hay season, since that brings in some money. Most of what we cut we end up using. We'll try to sell more critters, though, and will let some of the hired help go. I don't think we solved anything, but we at least had a decent discussion. This is a big plus as most of our money discussions are chaotic, with him saying he doesn't understand where it all goes (but at the same time he doesn't want to hear the details of where it all goes). It's been a struggle to discuss things like this for many years, so maybe we made a little teeny headway.

I have to update my coupons and spending and all that jazz, but have been putting it off. I got burned out on finding great deals, mostly because money has been so tight. A great deal is great only if you really need the item or will absolutely use it. I have razors and toothpaste and deoderant in stock for the next year, so I don't need any more of those deals. I have been shopping more at a discount grocery store, and they don't take coupons, but I still consider those great deals. When I tally it all up, I'm hoping our overall spending per week will be down because of it.

My last gripe for the day is that I haven't found any money on the ground in a long time!! I used to always find coins, sometimes daily. It's so weird, like all of a sudden everybody ahead of me started looking at the ground and finding the coins, or everyone got more careful and quit dropping it!

Well, this was quite long and depressing, but at least I got it out in the open. I feel somewhat better!

I'm loving this long weekend!

May 25th, 2009 at 04:05 am

We've got our garden about 1/2 planted this weekend, in between rain showers. Lettuce, radishes, spinach, onions, pole beans, broccoli, yellow squash, zucchini, spaghetti squash, tomatoes, peppers and cantaloupe so far. Still need to do cucumbers, watermelon, and turnips. I'm not sure what else. There is still a lot of room left! I think the area DH designated as the garden area is too big, but maybe he'll come up with something to put there.

The funny thing is we usually don't lack for any veges during the summer. Between family members and our neighbor, we've always had all we needed given to us, at least of most things. But, we decided it was time to do our own (again), and maybe we'll have things to trade. My legs are killing me from all the up & down action. I guess I don't use some of those muscles very often!

I found another penny on Saturday. It was in my car, but I don't remember dropping it, so I counted it in my Found on the Ground tally.

I also (finally) finished updating my grocery spending and my total is now up to date on the side bar. $1,078+ saved with coupons for the year! I thought some of my big coupon-filled trips lately would bring my savings percent up some, but it actually dropped down 1% to just 31%. I'm not complaining, though!

The average spent per week is back down to $113.45, and that's after a HUGE total this past week of over $217. I can't imagine that we should need to spend ANY money the next few weeks on groceries, but there are always the basics that we don't stock up on like milk & bread. If I can keep the spending way down, I should be able to inch the weekly average down little by little.

I'm loving that this is a 3-day weekend for me. Usually by this time on Sunday, I'm so bummed thinking of all the things I didn't get done over the weekend, and I have another whole day to get them done this time! Yippee!!

If I sound giddy over all these little things, it's because I'm trying desperately to find things to be happy about and take my mind off big worries. We keep having to dip into savings to keep up with bills and payroll. When I say "dip", I don't really mean little dips, either. We HAVE to find some way to increase income, and soon. I'm considering a part-time job, even though I know it would wipe me out physically. Hubby and I talked quite a bit about the state of things today, but didn't really resolve anything. I'm trying not to get sick to my stomach just thinking about it all. I hope to list a few things on eBay or CL tomorrow. They sure won't bail us out of the mess, but at least we'll be making an effort.

Bills, bills and more bills

April 14th, 2009 at 01:06 am

I am dreading paying our bills, but I've got to get to it today or tomorrow. Two credit cards, payroll tax deposit, vet bill, lawyer, life insurance, telephone, electricity, VA prescriptions, and I'm sure I'm forgetting something.

We should have enough to cover them all, that's not the problem. I just hate to part with the hard-earned money. It just seems like it comes in one day, and goes out the next..and the next...and the next. And I think the money that goes out is going to outweigh the money coming in, but I put it off because I hate to look. I know it's dumb, but that's the way I look at it.

28.8 more acres

February 7th, 2009 at 04:26 am

Well, it's done! In some of the worst timing imaginable (not long after I lost my job), a piece of property right next to a piece we own and next to a large area we are leasing came up for sale. DH really, REALLY wanted it and could not rest until we bought it. So, today we did.

Now, I shouldn't make it sound like he forced me to buy into it. I wasn't really "against" buying it since I know the price is fantastic and land is never a bad investment in my opinion. It just wasn't the greatest timing. Our bank wouldn't loan the money, so we put $5k down and got the owner to finance the rest for 15 years, at least on paper. In reality, we told her we will work to get financing elsewhere when the economy improves.

So, the job hunt is still in full force, and with even more incentive than before, if that's possible! I do have a 2nd interview on Monday, so things might be looking up. Plus, I've been told that the company checked my references, and at least one of the referrals gave a glowing reference, so I'm keeping fingers crossed!!

In other financial news, I ran into the same credit card situation as nomorecredit (http://nomorecredit.savingadvice.com/2009/02/05/victory-is-m...). My card with a $20K balance on it suddenly jumped from 5.4% to 14.99%, and my minimum payment went to almost $500 a month. I called, and sure enough, I had missed opting out of something they sent. So I went ahead and opted out, to get my lower rate back, and to have the card cancel at the expiration date. I don't want to do business with a company that works that way anyhow. I just wish I could have some nice windfall and pay off the card in one big chunk. Once I get a job, it will be my #1 focus, that's for sure.

And, last but not least, I found a penny today at a store, but I put it in the penny cup. My reward? Later, I found a dime on the ground at the gas station. LOL

Diesel bill

December 14th, 2008 at 02:23 am

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.

Refill now...

December 8th, 2008 at 05:01 pm

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.