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Approved! and other tidbits

January 12th, 2010 at 01:43 pm

We've been approved for our refinance! Yippee! Wahoo! Smile Smile Smile

It should make things a little easier to handle financially. I think I mentioned before, but some of the cc debt will get rolled into this. Not nearly as exciting as if we were paying it OFF, but not having to juggle that many payments each month will be fantastic. We're going to attack any remaining debt to see if we can't get rid of it all.

I haven't made much progress on goals yet. I did walk for the first time yesterday in a long time. I mean, I do some physical activity mostly on the weekends, but I had been walking on my lunch hour frequently last spring & summer and just got out of the habit. I just went for 15 minutes yesterday. I'll aim for 20 minutes today.

Oprah had a show on yesterday about decluttering and tuning out of electronics in order to tune in to the family. I have been trying for a long time to spend some solid time on that, but it just gets pushed aside. Maybe the show will motivate me a little.

I've had a great week with mini-shopping trips. So far, I've gotten 5 Healthy Choice frozen meals, 3 cans Rotel tomatoes, and 2 packages of Halls cough drops completely free with coupons. It seems like there might have been something else too, but I can't remember now. I've also gotten some nice freebies in the mail. Yesterday it was 3 Atkins snack bars. A few days ago, it was 2 packets of Hellman's mayo, a 2-pack of poptarts, and the year started off with a full-size bottle of Suave shampoo in the mail. I sign up for these freebies, but don't keep track of what I'm "supposed to" get, so when it comes it's always a nice surprise!

My report card for 2009

January 3rd, 2010 at 06:11 pm

I'm not at all proud of it, but here it is.

Goal #1 was to increase money paid to credit cards. My grade is an F. Instead of paying down credit card balances, our overall total is up by $4,035!!
Goal #2 was to lose weight. My grade is a D-. I didn't lose and I didn't gain. Well, more accurately, I lost a little and gained it back. Hmmph!
Goal #3 was to declutter. My grade is a C. There was at least some effort here, even if there wasn't much improvement. This is totally subjective, of course, but my instructor (me!) is tough and expects a lot.
Goal #4 (although it wasn't written) was to decrease grocery spending down to $100 per week. My grade is an A-. This one I am very proud of. I REALLY tried, but maybe that amount is too low for us. DH is frequently saying "We've been out of (fill-in-the-blank) for a few days now. When are you going to get more?" It's usually something that I knew we were out of but skipped it for a day just to stretch the budget. Things like milk or bacon. Other times, it's something that is over my personal max that I'll pay. Cheese goes on sale so often, and many times I'll have coupons, so I just wait....LOL. Anyhow, back to the report card. Although I didn't get us down to $100 per week, I did drop our overall grocery spending from $6,974 in 2008 to $5,820 in 2009. Coupon savings went from 31% in 2008 to just 26% in 2009, but the average per week dropped from $134.11 to $111.92. That is definitely something to be proud of!

The report card may be bad, but I'm not a quitter! I updated the sidebar with some 2010 goals that are a little more specific. #1 may be accomplished when we wrap up the refinancing process we're in the middle of, since part of the refinance is to lower our interest and payment, but some of the credit card debt will be part of the refi. So, technically, the debt will be reduced, but if it just increases our secured debt we haven't gained much. I'll worry about that when the time comes.

Just for fun, and for something for reference, my 2009 totals for odd things I track were:
Found on the ground: $2.34 and 11 forever stamps = total of $7.18 for 8 months
Rebates: $871.27, plus another $60 pending. This is a little misleading since it doesn't include the many gift cards I got from credit card rewards, and used for gift-giving. But it's still a nice chunk of change.

I haven't yet decided how I'll track the grocery & coupon savings. It's a little time-consuming how I do it now in Excel, so I may come up with another way by adding a category in Money since I already record everything there. I've been double entering, in effect, and that's not really efficient.

Wish me luck!!!

My accomplishment for today so far (other than organizing info for this recap) has been entering 22 codes in mycokerewards, bringing my total points to 1566. Now if only I could find something I actually wanted from there!

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.

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.

It's not your fault! Really?!? How so?

July 11th, 2009 at 06:24 pm

I'm gonna scream if I hear that commercial one more time!! It's a radio ad for some American something-or-other credit card counseling place that promises to help you with your debt. They actually say the words "It's not your fault". Hellllooooooo! Whose fault is it then? Did someone make you spend all that money on plastic?

Now, believe me, we have a whopper of credit card debt. So I'm not talking "down" to people that do. But it IS our fault, 100%. I hope to be able to take care of it a little at a time, but never once in all the time that it took to accumulate it or the time that it will take to pay it back will I EVER think that it was not our fault.

I get steaming mad every time I hear the ad. Responsibility for one's own actions just seem to be a thing of the past.


Updates du jour

May 30th, 2009 at 05:06 am

I added $10 to my rebate total on the sidebar. Love those high-dollar rebates!

Dreaded credit cards have also been reduced. We dropped under $29K this month, which makes me very happy, but I'm afraid that money is getting so tight that we might not be able to pay off the full balance on the card we use for gas, parts, internet purchases, etc. It's been faithfully paid every month in full since I set the money aside as we charge to it, but this month we ran short enough that I had to use that money that was set aside for other expenses. Ugh! Something's gotta give! I don't want to see that credit card balance going back up, no matter what!

I glanced at a few blouses today at the big box store. I really need a few more summer tops for work. I didn't like anything I saw on the clearance racks, and since I've been shopping at the thrift store lately, even the clearance prices on the cheap clothes seemed high! I've found much better, nicer items for just a dollar or two at the thrift store, so I guess I'll be going back there instead.

The only drawback is that I might not be wearing up-to-date styles, but since I don't pay that much attention to the "current look", it doesn't phase me much. One thing I think I think I did miss in fashion, though, is the idea of ladies having pants/slacks so long that they touch the ground. I've noticed several women at work with dress pants and high heels, and their pants are absolutely dragging the ground. (I'm constantly amazed that they don't catch their heel in the hem and fall down.) Is this really the style? Or do we just have a lot of ladies at our company that don't know how to hem their pants?

Dear customer

May 29th, 2009 at 01:52 am

I opened my mail Tuesday to find this notice from one of my credit card companies.

Dear Customer,
Your xxxx Business Card account is funded by an independent trust which owns the balances you owe on your account and provides funding for new transactions. We expect the trust to stop funding activity on our accounts. The trust also restricts our flexibility to fund activity on your account. Unfortunately, as a result, effective May 30th all xxxx Business Credit Card accounts, including your account, will be closed.

This means that you will not be able to use your card or account for new transactions, including purchases, checks, and balance transfers beginning on May 30th. We understand that you may have written checks on your account before May 30th and we will make every effort to honor those checks that are presented to us for payment by June 3rd. If you use your card to make automatic recurring bill payments, you will need to make alternative arrangements for those payment promptly.

It's not a big deal on the surface for me since I have just one recurring bill charged to this account, and I was able to catch it (just barely) and switch it to another card. It was for a business that I have more or less shut down anyhow, so it doesn't really have an impact in that regard. They are honoring the cash back balance that has accumulated, which is minor for me. But, how bad will the elimination of the $12,500 credit limit hurt me?!

Plus, all I can think of is the what ifs. What if I had just set the letter aside for a week or so? (Something I do often when it's a "notice about your credit card", since it's usually just a privacy notice or something minor) What if I had been out of town for the week? I'm sure some people are. It sure wasn't much notice!

In other news, I planted a little more in the garden tonight - turnips. Yuck for me but DH loves them raw. Radishes and lettuce are starting to poke thru the ground also. That was quick! We just planted them last Saturday.

I found a penny at the auto parts store. It was about 6" back under a movable display rack. I'm ashamed to say I moved the rack to get it, but I really thought it was a nickel when I did it. LOL!

Excitement is building!!

April 26th, 2009 at 02:48 pm

I feel a little excitement building for May! I just updated the sidebar to show credit card debt as of May 1, and we're so close to going under $29,000! By the end of May we will be. I can remember posting just a few months ago when we went under 30K, and now we're almost under 29K. It's coming, it's coming!!

I wish there was more stretch in the budget to get this gone quicker, since right now I'm just paying a little over minimum due on these 3 cards. But, with this economy, and trying to readjust to a much-reduced income, we'll just keep going the way we are. I've been trying to add any found money, rebates, and a few dollars here and there to our savings which is pretty low right now. I can't really call it an emergency fund, since it wouldn't cover much of a true emergency, and I'm using the little extras to build it up rather than pay off debt. There is some cash set aside for specific yearly expenses such as property taxes, gifts, etc. If needed, we could rob from those, but I'd rather keep them separately identified so that the cash in those doesn't get used up and leave us hanging when those times come.

This, by the way, drives DH batty! When he wants to know where we are at, he doesn't want to hear we have $X in the checking, plus $A set aside for this, and $B set aside for that, and $C set aside for emergencies. He wants to know the total. I'm afraid that if I tell him the total, he will think that's available for expenses NOW, and it will leave us short later! Then we dissolve into the "discussion" (i.e., argument) about me not trusting him with the money. Agh! On the surface, that's probably what it feels like, and I don't mean it to, but I just have to explain that it is my way of feeling more secure and if I'm going to handle the finances, I HAVE to feel secure. We calm down after awhile, and life goes on.

Where was I before that little subconcious diversion? Oh, yes! I was happy to hear on one of the Suze Orman sessions on Oprah that she advised a caller to do exactly the same thing - in this economy, put aside her advice to pay down debt, and make sure to have a sizeable emergency fund established just in case. Her recession strategy is different than what she's always preached. I don't know why that makes me happy to hear that I thought of that on my own. I didn't really need her validation! For me, it just makes plain common sense. But, I have to admit, that the caller's circumstances were a little different. She was trying to decide what to do with a large tax refund that was roughly equal to her debt, and she had little to no savings. While it was tempting to pay off the debt, it would take her quite awhile to build up the savings by using the monthly credit card payment amount, and if she were to lose her job within just a few months, she wouldn't have enough accumulated to live off. I might have wondered the same thing in that situation.

Well, I'm out to enjoy the nice weather outside. Enjoy the rest of the weekend!

Under $30K

March 7th, 2009 at 05:02 am

Our credit card debt is now under $30,000! Still unbearably high, but it's a milestone worth mentioning.

I haven't had a chance to post all week, but I've been commenting on several blogs here.

I haven't updated my spending totals here lately for groceries, household & dog food, but I'm still keeping track. Maybe I'm avoiding posting it, because it's going in the wrong direction. My past two weeks I've spent $120 and $140 respectively, with measly coupon savings of 10% and 15%.

I think this week the total may be somewhere close as well, but the coupon savings should be better. So much for keeping each week around $100! Part of it is due to our puppies. There are just 3 of them, but they are big puppies, so between canned food and puppy chow, we're spending an extra $20-$30 per week. When we sell them, we'll recoup the cash though. I think the rest of it is due to me relaxing my rules, and grabbing little snacks here and there. Must stop that!

Free $50 gift card...advice?

February 20th, 2009 at 03:46 pm

I received an invitation in my email addressed to "Dear Fellow Sportsman" to apply now for a Bass Pro Shops Outdoor Rewards Visa credit card, and I'll get a free $50 gift card after my first purchase.

These things always tempt me, but I'm not really a fellow sportsman, or sportswoman, for that matter. I signed up for their rewards card a few years ago when I bought a gift card for a friend and DH bought a rifle scope. I used some of the rewards for another gift purchase once. But, still, I find it hard to turn down these offers. Why?

So, I'm trying to talk myself out of it. I don't really need a Bass Pro credit card. I didn't read the fine print to see how much the purchase with the card has to be in order to get the $50 gift card. But what if there is no minimum? I could go get a gift card for a birthday that's coming up next month, charge it, and then get my $50 gift card. NOw it's making sense. What to do, what to do....advice?

P.S. If you've never been to their headquarters and are ever in that area, it's a fun place to go. Huge aquarium inside, taxidermy galore, snake and spider exhibit, etc. Even if you don't spend any money, it's a neat place to go.

Evil, evil credit cards - public TV show

January 4th, 2009 at 07:40 pm

The tv is on and there is a show about credit card companies, and how they reserve the right to change the terms of the "agreement" at any time, for any reason, and for no reason at all.

One of the consumers said their minimum payment jumped from $90 to $280 in one month, and the interest went from 7+% to 30%. They had paid on time for the past 8 years. Another one (or maybe the same one) dropped their limit from $20,000 to $13,000 one month, and they already had close to $18,000 charged on the card, so then they were hit with over-the-limit fees.

Yikes!! If that isn't incentive to get those evil cards paid off, I don't know what is!

They cancelled me! Credit score question

December 13th, 2008 at 05:20 am

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?

I Christmas shopped with my credit card!

December 5th, 2008 at 08:14 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.

One desperate phone call

December 3rd, 2008 at 07:51 pm

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!!

Late by 2 hours

November 17th, 2008 at 10:50 pm

I was outside doing some chores Friday night when all of a sudden it hit me that I had 2 credit cards due soon....very soon. I rushed inside and checked. Sure enough, Amex was due on the 15th, but the AT&T card was due that day - BY 5PM! Ugh! Late by 2 hours, which of course shows as if I just waited until today to pay it because anything with an after 5:00 timestamp goes on the next business day.

I am so mad at myself!! I know it's due around the 15th of the month, but for some reason I didn't realize how fast the 15th was approaching. I can schedule it online ahead of time, but for some bizarre stupid reason I never think to do that. I hope that if a late fee does show up, they will be kind enough to reverse it for me.

I can't bring myself to tell DH about it either. I think he'd "lecture" about how stupid it is to (a) wait until the last minute, and (b) pay anything online anyhow. At least I agree with (a). So, keep your fingers crossed for me that I can get them to waive any late fees, and that they don't raise the interest rate because of it. I know they just wait for a reason to do that sometimes.

Glad I didn't wait!

November 5th, 2008 at 08:42 pm

I went online to pay my business credit card today, and it wouldn't let me due to some system maintenance or upgrade. It was acting very wacky - one time I got as far as seeing my card summary and the 2nd time I didn't even get that far. So I quit trying. It is expected to be available by 6AM....but did they say which day? Of course not. I'll assume that the notice is correct and they expect it back up by 6AM Thursday, but how do I really know if it was supposed to be 6AM today and they are still having issues?

Oh, well, it's not my problem to fix, and I'm glad I didn't wait until the due date. For once!! I have a bad habit of doing that, even though I don't earn interest on the money in the checking account and even though I could schedule it in advance. It's just this strange thing I do.

I'll try again tomorrow. It's actually not due until the 10th.

This isn't one of the cards in my info, since I don't carry a balance on it. It's just business expenses that I would ordinarily write a check for, but I earn cash back on the purchases so I use it instead.