Monday, December 29, 2008

A New (To Us) Car

Ok, before you get excited, I'll be straight with you - the new car is actually a downgrade.

If you've read this blog for awhile, you know that one of our 2008 financial goals was saving in our "New Car Fund". My husband and I have been discussing our car situation for quite awhile now, and here's what we've come up with.

My husband doesn't like driving my Mustang (I know, isn't he crazy?!?), but since he works so close to home, he ends up driving it a lot in the winter. Also, we won't know what kind of vehicle I will want to drive next until after we have kids (if we have kids). If/When the little one arrives, I'd like to try using a four-door car first and only buy a minivan/SUV if the car doesn't work well. But, I don't want to buy a newer four-door car only to sell it again a few months later.

The answer we came up with was to buy a cheap car to replace the Mustang. Then, once we know what we want to upgrade to, it will be pretty easy (and inexpensive) to sell the cheap car.

Our original thought was to sell the Mustang and buy the cheap car next summer/fall. My sister-in-law just had a baby, though, and bought an SUV to replace her 1998 Mazda Protege. She bought the Mazda new and has taken great care of it. We couldn't pass it up!

So, we are now the proud (sort of!) owners of a 1998 Mazda - paid cash, of course!

Since winter is not the prime time to sell a rear-wheel drive Mustang, we're going to park it out at my parents' house until spring (thanks, Dad and Mom!). We should get more for the Mustang than what we paid for the Mazda, so hopefully we'll be able to make a nice boost to our car fund at that time.

Below is a picture I found online of a similar-year Mazda Protege. This isn't the actual car, though our car is blue (darker than the one in the picture, though).

As you might guess, I am pretty sad at the thought of selling the Mustang. I've owned it for 9 years and loved every minute of it! I always knew, though, that someday I'd want to have kids and that the Mustang just wasn't going to fit in with that lifestyle. *sigh* I'm going to miss you, Eleanor!

Monday, December 15, 2008

The One Where a Bonus Saves the Day

In my last post, I mentioned that my husband and I were going to try to max out our Roth IRA's at $5,000 each by April 15th. Well, my husband received a nice bonus and we decided to put it all toward our Roths, so we will be maxed out by December 22nd! I'm really happy about that.

My plan is to take some time before the first of the year and discuss Financial Goals 2009 with my husband. I thought I'd be throwing any extra money for the first couple of months toward the Roths, but that's obviously changed :)

Some options will be: getting a jump start on 2009 Roth contributions, beefing up the emergency fund, putting extra money towards the mortgage, and/or working on the car fund. I'll let you know what we decide!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Financial Goals 2008: Where Did the Year Go?

I can't believe how quickly 2008 slipped by me! Less than two months left! I am way overdue for an update on our financial goals.

1. ROTH IRA's. My goal for 2008 was to contribute $4,000 into both my husband's and my Roth IRA. We are currently at $7,050 contributed. We've been putting most of our "extra" money toward this goal, so it's growing quickly. My husband and I have also decided that we're going to put emphasis on this goal and try to get to $5,000 in each Roth by the deadline on April 15th.

2. New Car Fund. I don't even want to look at the balance in this account! It's invested in the stock market, so I'm sure you can guess what that means. Yuck! We have been continuing to put money in this fund, so at least we are now buying low (I hope!). We've hit our goal of adding $3,900 to this account. We have actually added $4,025 so far this year. I doubt we'll meet our stretch goal of $4,500, though, since we're really concentrating on the Roth's right now.

3. Emergency Fund. Our goal for this fund was to increase it by $2,600 this year. This goal has been met and then some! We have currently added $2,900 to our emergency fund this year! So far, $500 of this has been moved to a cd. I'm going to continue to do this in $500 increments about every other month (called a cd ladder) since we should never need all of this money all at once. At least some of it can earn a little bit more interest!

4. New Siding Fund. This is another completed goal... sort of. My husband and I ended up hiring to have the house painted instead of getting new siding. It turned out fairly well, but I'm guessing we'll go with vinyl siding next time. At any rate, the paint job should last 5-10 years and we can make a decision at that time. Hubby recently informed me that new shingles will be next on the list!

I'm pretty happy with the progress we've made this year. We will have met all of our 2008 goals and some of the stretch goals! I'm thinking of making some income-related changes next year (more on that later!), so I'm glad we've been able to accomplish a lot this year. Pretty soon I'll start working on some 2009 goals!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Favorite Blog Posts: 11/21/2008

I haven't done a "favorite blog posts" article in awhile, but I came across some stories recently that I really liked.

Glblguy over at Gather Little By Little shared a thought-provoking tax story he received in an email. Interesting way to look at things!

I recently started reading a cute, fun blog written by Big Mama. She just came back from a trip to the Dominican Republic with Compassion International and had one last story to share. This one is a real tear-jerker!

Lastly, Rocket Finance is starting a new series on Finances and Freedom. He leans right, so you may or may not want to keep up with this one ;) I'm really enjoying it so far.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Recipe Websites and 100th Post!

I'm a picky eater and usually just buy the same couple of things to eat for dinner all the time (namely, potatoes!). My husband, on the other hand, likes everything (except beets and sauerkraut). I have been spending some time over this past year and four months of marriage locating recipes that are easy to make and that my husband will love. I've found quite a few winners. The problem is that a lot of recipes call for just a little bit of a fresh produce or dairy item that I buy and then most of it goes to waste.

I'm going to try to get better at locating different recipes that use some of the same vegetables. For example, last week I made a chicken rice casserole dish for my husband that called for fresh celery and onions. Of course, I had to buy a whole bunch of celery even though I only needed 1/4 cup of it!

Determined to not let all of that celery go to waste, on Sunday night I went internet searching for an easy recipe that had celery as an ingredient. I ended up at All Recipes, which seems to be one of the largest databases of free recipes out there (this is not a paid advertisement, by the way!). I was able to do a search by ingredient. I found another casserole dish that looked easy, but it also had chicken in it, so I thought it might be too much like the original dish I had made.

Searching around some more, I came across this Golden Potato Soup recipe. It looked pretty easy, and I definitely already had the potatoes on hand ;) It even calls for onion, so I was able to use more of that up!

I made it tonight, and it was a definite hit. From now on, whenever I make the chicken rice casserole, my husband will know that potato soup will be for dinner a few nights later :)

I really love the idea of grouping recipes together to keep food (and money!) from going to waste. The next time I make a dish that calls for a produce or dairy item that we won't use up, I'm going to go looking for a matching recipe to make later the same week.

Does anyone else do this? Do you have some favorite recipes that you like to "lump" together? I'd love to hear about them (with links if they're online!!!).

ps- Wow! This is my 100th post on Family and Finances. Craziness :)

Monday, October 13, 2008

Best Financial Advice I've Received

Peter at Bible Money Matters posted on Friday about the best financial advice he's received. Peter says:

So the advice I got from my parents by observing them growing up:

  1. Be content in life by focusing on important things like faith and family.
  2. Live frugally, spend less than you earn and pay cash.

I thought I'd share the best financial advice that I've received!

When I was in high school, I took an accounting class. In it, the teacher taught a little about IRA's and other retirement accounts. I don't remember any of the details, but I do remember coming away from that class knowing that you should start investing when you're young and compound interest will work in your favor.

Because of this lesson, when I turned 18, I decided to put a little bit of money in an IRA. I didn't know anything about investing, so I just went to my credit union. Here's some advice for you: credit unions are not the best place to go for investing advice!

The woman I spoke with didn't tell me the difference between a Roth and a Traditional IRA, she didn't mention anything about mutual funds, she seemed to have no opinion at all. She just took my money and put it in a cd in a Traditional IRA. Looking back, this was about the dumbest thing she could have done. I was 18! I belonged in a good growth mutual fund in a Roth IRA! *sigh* (ps- that IRA has since been moved out of the credit union. I love banking with credit unions, but I don't keep my investments there!)

A few years later, I was working in an insurance office in the same building as an Edward Jones office. My bosses were friends with the Edward Jones adviser, so he'd come over and chat with me sometimes. He kept telling me that I should start doing a monthly investment, no matter how small, into a Roth IRA. He said that since I was young, time and compounding would work in my favor (hmmm, starting to sound familiar!). I eventually headed his advice and opened up a Roth, putting in just $25 a month, which was all I could afford at the time.

Fast forward another year or so, and I came across the book "Smart Women Finish Rich" by David Bach. In it, there is a really neat graph showing how investing when you're young pays off.

The message has stuck, and it's one I've passed onto my brothers and anyone else who will listen: Start investing when you're young because time and compound interest will work in your favor!

What's the best financial advice you've ever received?

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Hope Chest Legacy

Just a quick note:

I just read a post on MoneySavingMom's website today about Hope Chest Legacy. There are a group of women collecting items right now to send to orphans in the Ukraine. Items are due by October 15th to be included in the shipment going to the Urkaine. If anyone who knows me personally would like to send something, I'm planning on mailing a box out early next week. There is a page discussing the clothing needs and a page discussing the medical needs.

Remember the New Balance shoes I won? Well, I don't really care for how they fit, so I'm going to donate them! Fun!!!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

A Little Bit Mad At Myself

I rear-ended a lady in an SUV on Monday. I feel pretty stupid because it's a weird intersection and I've almost done that exact same thing once before. *sigh*

Luckily, it was at a very low speed, so there definitely wasn't any damage to her SUV, and there wasn't even any damage to my puny Mustang! We pulled into a nearby parking lot and exchanged names. The lady said she didn't think she got whiplash, but that she'd see how she felt in the morning.

This is where I got worried. You see, I've worked in the auto insurance industry, and I know how people love to go to the doctor or chiropracter right after an auto accident. Any excuse for a free back adjustment, right? It happened all the time. So far, I haven't heard from her. I'm hoping I won't!

My husband and I have really cheap auto insurance right now. We've both been accident- and claim-free for over 5 years, so we get some pretty good discounts. I'd hate to lose that!

Anybody have a funny/interesting/frustrating auto accident story? Share in the comments!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Did You Vote?

Yesterday was the Fall Primary Elections. Did you know that? Did you vote?

I walked down to the neighborhood school where I vote after work yesterday. I entered the gym, and the ladies in charge looked surprised! They said I was the first person there to vote in an hour and a half. They then told me that I was only the 88th person in to vote ALL DAY!

I told the ladies that I didn't think the elections were very well "advertised" and they agreed. In fact, I just went on my local newspaper's website to see if they had any results, and there was absolutely NO information on the home page. How weird is that? Primary elections aren't news?

As I think about this some more, I'm realizing that, of all 46 blogs that I subscribe to, not a single one mentioned voting today. I wish I had thought of it earlier - I would have reminded you!

As I left the gym last night, one of the elderly ladies said to me, "Don't forget to come back in November!" I thought that was funny. If I can remember this election, I'm pretty sure I won't forget the November one :)

Monday, August 25, 2008

Meeting Davy Jones

Pete at BibleMoneyMatters recently posted about his opportunity to meet Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty. He stated that the governor seemed really nice and asked if anyone else had met someone famous and what their opinion of the famous person was.

I thought for awhile and then smiled, remembering the time that I met Davy Jones (of the Monkees). It's kind of a fun story, so I thought I'd share!

I think it was in 2002 that two of my best friends and I decided to go to Kentucky on vacation. One of the girls and I had gone the summer before and had so much fun that we talked our other friend into joining us on a second trip. You hadn't realized Kentucky was such a fun place, had you?!?

Anyway, I think we were in Lexington when we decided to stop at a mall. I don't remember why we stopped, maybe one of us had forgotten something? At any rate, we were walking through the mall and, coming to the center, saw a huge line of people. Wondering what was going on, we looked around and eventually saw a sign stating that Davy Jones was going to be making an appearance to sign autographs and do the picture thing with fans.

My girlfriends and I didn't really have an agenda for the vacation, so we decided to get in line! Once we got to the front, we realized that Davy Jones is a pretty short guy! I'm 5', so I was shorter than him, but I was the only one. :) We got our picture taken and cracked a few jokes. It was fun listening to his British accent (whenever I say the name Davy Jones, I have to say it with a British accent!). He was a very nice guy, and I'm really glad we decided to hop into that line. Pretty crazy, huh?!

How about you? Have you met anyone famous? What were they like?

ps - The picture of Davy Jones above is the one that was taken with my girlfriends and me. I cut us out to protect the guilty!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

$72 Saved On Our Mortgage

About a year ago, I created an Excel spreadsheet that I enter our mortgage payments into every month. I used directions in this post from Trent at The Simple Dollar to create the spreadsheet. There are instructions in the comments on adding an "Additional Principal" column, which I also did.

I have really enjoyed using this spreadsheet over the past year. My husband and I round up when we pay our mortgage each month, and I get immense satisfaction in putting that $7.xx in the "Additional Principal" column (I know, I'm a geek!). The spreadsheet automatically adjusts our final payment (which is about 10 years from now) with each additional $7 I enter.

Since my husband and I both get paid bi-weekly, we end up with two months each year that contain an "extra" paycheck. This month happens to be one of those months, so we decided to apply an additional $100 to our September 1st mortgage payment, just for fun.

I went into my spreadsheet the other night and typed $107.xx into the "Additional Principal" column. I then checked our final payment to see how much it was affected. Our final payment went down by $179.xx! How fun is that?!?

That, my friends, is $72 our mortgage company will never see. :)

*sigh* It's the small things in life!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

I Love Fresh Tomatoes!

I grew up out in the country, and we always had a large garden in the summer. I have now lived in town for five years, and I sure miss that monstrous country garden!

Though I will probably never have a garden as big as the ones I had growing up, I am growing edibles at my house. A very nice raspberry patch came with our house when my husband bought it three years ago:

The raspberries have just finished up, but it's an ever-bearing raspberry patch, so we should have more berries this fall. Mmmm, mmmm!

This spring, I planted two "large tomato" plants and one "cherry tomato" plant. I love cherry tomatoes and have been enjoying them for about two weeks now.

My husband really likes the larger tomatoes. We just took the first two off the plant last weekend (in the picture below) and my husband had them in tacos. He was very happy.

At my first "city" house, I tried cucumber plants, which are another of my favorites. Between the deer and the rabbits (I had a wooded ravine in my backyard, so I had deer in the middle of the city), I could NOT keep the cucumber plants alive. I haven't tried them at my new house, but I think I'll give it another go next spring. We don't have deer here, just the rascally rabbits. I plan on having my husband build a wire mesh cage around the plants to protect them from the rabbits. I have no idea if that will work. Any tips?

Thursday, August 7, 2008

New Countertops Equal Happy???

I drive past a cabinet and countertop store on my way home from work every day. They have an electronic billboard out front that they seem to like to change regularly. It's very nice of them to change it up often, but I found their last two messages to be fairly annoying.

A couple of weeks ago, the billboard proclaimed "Be The Joneses". Oh, brother. Give me a break! Does anyone really fall for that? Check this article out before you run out for new cabinets if you fight with wanting to "be the Joneses".

This past week, the store had a new message for commuters. "New Countertops Equal Happy" the sign declared when I drove past on my way home last night. Are you serious? Do they really expect me to believe that? An inspiring article I read this week demonstrates that there are those out there that really know what does equal happiness.

Have you read any billboards lately that made you roll your eyes? I'd love to hear about them in the comments!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Favorite Blog Post: 8/1/08

I was going through my Google reader today and came across this post over at Gather Little By Little.

Glblguy is letting his readers know about bump keys. Bump keys are a special key readily available on the internet that allows anyone to open just about any lock, including the one on your front door. Pretty scary. Check out Glblguy's post and the link to a website that would like to ban the sale of these "skeleton" keys.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

My Gold's Gym Fiasco

This past spring, my husband and I decided that we didn't like the long drive to get to our local Gold's Gym, where we were members. Our town's YMCA is much closer, plus they have a lot more basketball options, which is VERY important to my husband.

Knowing that gyms tend to be a little ridiculous in their cancellation policies, we went into our Gold's over two months before our renewal dates to find out what we needed to do to cancel our memberships. We were handed a form to sign and mail to their corporate headquarters.

Fast forward to the beginning of June this year. My renewal date was June 1st, so I should have been done with my membership. On June 5th, I noticed my credit card had been charged for my monthly gym membership fee. What? I called my local gym and was told I had to call their billing company, ABC Financial. I called ABC Financial four times in June trying to straighten things out. Let's just say that I will never again do business with any company that uses ABC Financial for their billing.

I thought everything was straightened out when on July 1st I get billed yet again! Completely fed up, I finally managed to talk to a supervisor at ABC Financial who is semi-helpful. At the same time, I left messages at my local gym, trying to get a solution from both ends. After being told by multiple people that I couldn't have the phone number to the Gold's Gym corporate office (since my request supposedly never got to ABC Financial, I figured it must have gotten lost between corporate and ABC), someone at my local gym relented and handed the phone number over (it's 540-825-5994 if anyone else wants to know!).

I called Gold's Gym corporate and spoke with a super-nice lady named Donna. Donna looked through all of the computer files and couldn't find my cancellation request. Finally, she said, "Well, we had a new person start about the time you sent your form. Let me check our paper files in case the paperwork got filed without being processed."

A minute later, Donna got back on the phone, "You're in luck!" she said, "I found it!"

So that's my Gold's Gym fiasco. My cancellation was back-dated to my renewal date like it should have been. It only took me about TEN phone calls to about FOUR different phone numbers to get things straightened out. Even though things turned out in the end, both Gold's Gym and ABC Financial have lost my business for life because of their poor handling of my situation.

Some Lessons Learned
1. Always mail cancellation requests via certified mail. I was asked on at least five occasions if I had mailed my request by certified mail. Each time I had to answer, "No. I wish someone had TOLD me it needed to be mailed by certified mail."

2. Always make a follow up call making sure your cancellation request was received. I was mad at myself for waiting until I got billed to realize that my request never got processed.

3. Check companies out on the Better Business Bureau's website BEFORE doing business with them! This really wouldn't have helped me since I signed up when my Gold's was brand new, but I'm not surprised that they've had over 100 complaints even though they've only been open for one year!

4. Be wary of gyms. So many people have had problems with gym memberships. I've realized you have to be very diligent in making sure things get handled properly. Avoid letting them charge your credit card monthly if you can. Be prepared to spend hours on the phone once you need to cancel!

Does anyone have a YMCA membership? Anything I should know about dealing with them?!?

Monday, July 21, 2008

And the Winner Is...


Congrats! I sent you an email to verify you want the codes. Reply back and they are all yours! Thanks, everyone, for entering. :)

ps- I picked the winner by assigning all of the commentors a number and then using to generate a winning number.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Coke Rewards Giveaway!

I'm giving away two Coke Rewards codes!

I'm a Mountain Dew girl myself. My mom drinks Pepsi and saves her codes for me for the Pepsi Stuff rewards program. My husband and I are working are way through Season 3 of House thanks to my mom's Pepsi addiction ;)

Anyway, my boss occasionally brings 12-packs of Coke into the office. He doesn't use the codes, so I swiped them off of the last 2 cases of soda he brought in. Since I don't drink Coca-Cola products, I'm going to give the codes away!

To enter, just leave a comment with your email address. It is a really good idea to "munge" your email address so that it doesn't get harvested by spammers. For example, you might write, "janedoe at gmail dot com". The giveaway ends on Monday, July 21st at 4pm CST. I will then randomly pick a winner and email you the codes! Sounds like fun, yes?!?

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Financial Goals 2008: Halfway Point!

Can you believe we're already halfway through 2008? It's flown by for me! Here's a belated update of our 2008 financial goals.

1. Roth IRA's. I did throw an extra $200 in since my last update. This is above and beyond our automatic contributions. This brings our total contributed to $3200 so far this year.

2. New Car Fund. This account is also set up with an automatic contribution. It comes automatically out of my paycheck every two weeks. In June, I received a bonus and the $150 automatic withdrawal came from the bonus, as well. Without the bonus, we would have added $1606 to the balance of this account. The bonus brings us to a $1756 increase in the balance of this account for 2008. Our New Car Fund is invested in mutual funds, so there has been some market loss :( The good thing is that we're buying low!

3. Emergency Fund. Nothing too exciting with this account. I have added $1425 to this account so far this year. That puts us on track to easily surpass our goal of $2600 added by year end.

4. New Siding Fund. Things just keep getting more uncertain with this account. We're still not sure if we'll be painting the house or re-siding it. We did get started on other projects, though, so money will be coming OUT of this account over the next couple of months. Don't worry, money will continue to go in, as well (at least I hope so!). We have increased our balance by $2798 since the beginning of the year. We did withdraw $275 for a tree we had removed, so our gross amount added was $3073. $3000 would put us at halfway to our stretch goal of $6000.

I'm a little worried about being able to keep up this savings pace over the next couple of months. 2008 seems to be the year of gift-giving for my husband and I. This is a huge year for baby showers, bridal showers, larger-than-usual family gifts, weddings (at least nine!), and house warming presents. Since gift giving/receiving is not my love language, this has been pretty stressful for me. Luckily, I have a generous husband to help keep me from being too stingy of a gift-giver! :)

Friday, July 4, 2008

Favorite Blog Post 7/4/08

I watch very little, if any, television, but I still seem to get bombarded by society's and the media's opinions on what my life should look like. I read two excellent articles this week, both focusing on determining what actually makes you happy, not on what our society or the media tells us should make us happy (or unhappy, as the case may be).

On Simplicity is a great blog I just stumbled upon recently. Sara wrote a great article this week titled Redefining the American Dream. What is YOUR American Dream? Mine doesn't look anything like Desperate Housewives or Friends, that's for sure!

On a similar note, Frugal Dad discusses how media outlets seem to enjoy telling us that we are miserable and that buying more stuff will fix that.

Have a great Independence Day, everyone! And turn off that stinking idiot box! ;)

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Hugs, Kisses, and All That Mushy Stuff

Today is my one year wedding anniversary! I love you, Hubby!

It's been a very busy spring for us, so we both took the day off of work. We plan to take a leisurely walk down to a local park and have a picnic lunch today. Ah, relaxation!

(yep, the picture is of us - one year ago!)

Photo by Tammy Muller

Monday, June 30, 2008

Winning Things Is Fun!

A big thanks to Ron at The Wisdom Journal for the book, Smart Couples Finish Rich. I've started on it, but haven't had much time to read this summer. I'll have to bring it to work, I seem to have more down time there than I do at home!

As made obvious by the shoes, the email I received was in fact a legitimate one! Thanks, Old Orchard! The shoes are New Balance. Everyone I know LOVES New Balance, but they never seem to fit me right. I'm still deciding if I like these enough to keep them. I'm thinking they might work well as gym shoes this winter. For now, I love my Merrell's too much to even break in the New Balance shoes!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Favorite Blog Post 6/27/08

I turned the central air on for the first time last night. Living in Wisconsin, we usually only need to turn it on a few times a year. It went back off this morning. I might keep track of the days and nights we run the AC this year and put something up on the right-hand column. We'll see if I can find the time!

My favorite blog post this week was from Stop the Ride!. I really enjoyed her article about things to do in North Carolina since my husband and I frequently visit our friend who moved there. We now have tons of fun ideas for our next trip!

I hope everyone has a great weekend. I get to go bouldering at my favorite place in the whole world tomorrow. Yah!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Favorite Blog Post 6/20/08

If you enjoy the Drugstore Game, you have to check this out (and even if you don't, you still need to check this out!).

Money, Love, and Change wrote a post this week about a website called AnySoldier. It's a way to send items to our troops that they are requesting. You can search for what you want to give (ie. shampoo, toothpaste) and it will list troops that are requesting these items! I had no idea that our troops needed things like toothbrushes, deoderant, tons of little things I get free quite often!

I love that I can help our troops in such a tangible way. I hope to send my first package out next week!

Monday, June 16, 2008

One Word Meme

This isn't personal finance related, but Bible Money Matters recently answered the One Word Meme to allow his readers to get to know him a little better. It sounded like fun, so I thought I'd do it, too!

This meme is a list of questions that have to be answered in one word. Here are my answers!

1. Where is your cell phone? purse
2. Your significant other? work
3. Your hair? red
4. Your mother? home
5. Your father? van
6. Your favorite thing? hugs
7. Your dream last night? nothing
8 Your favorite drink? Dew
9. Your dream/goal? Mom
10. The room you’re in? spare
11. Your hobby? hiking
12. Your fear? anger
13. Where do you want to be in 6 years? family
14. What you’re not? tall!
15. Muffins? chocolate
16. One of your wish list items? refrigerator
17. Where you grew up? Wisconsin
18. The last thing you did? groceries
19. What are you wearing? jeans
20. Favorite Gadget? computer
21. Your pets? cats
22. Your computer? Dell
23. Your mood? excited
24. Missing someone? No
25. Your car? Mustang
26. Something you’re not wearing? boxers
27. Favorite store? CVS
28. Like someone? Yes
29. Your favorite color? Green
30. When is the last time you laughed? Today
31. Last time you cried? movie

Consider yourself tagged! Leave a comment to let me know if you post this meme. I'd love to read it. :)

Monday, June 9, 2008

I Won a Pair of Shoes!

If you're like me, you are pretty skeptical of sweepstakes. I like to sign up for sweepstakes online (as long as I know I'm on a legitimate website), anyway, since I enjoy taking a minute to dream about winning that "$20,ooo kitchen remodel" or whatever it is I'm signing up for! I always figure, though, that my chances of winning are not very good.

I just might have to change my attitude!

I recently signed up to have Old Orchard send me some coupons for a new product line called Healthy Balance. I got my coupons about a week ago, and the link is still there, so go order yourself some free coupons! Anyway, I don't even remember reading anything about a sweepstakes, but I was obviously entered when I signed up for the coupons.

I checked my "junk" email on Friday night and saw an email titled " Promotion Winner". I figured it was spam, but the website sounded familiar so I decided to open it. We all know what spam email looks like, and this email didn't read like spam. It was a simple letter letting me know I had won a pair of cross-trainers in the most recent Healthy Balance sweepstakes and that they just needed me to verify my address and let them know what size shoes I wear. There was even a link back to the Healthy Balance website and a phone number.

I emailed the woman back with the information she requested. I'll let you know if I get the shoes!

What's the coolest thing you've ever won?

Monday, June 2, 2008

Things I Do That Aren't So Frugal and/or Green

In my last post, I listed a couple of things that I do that are green and/or frugal. Now that I've tooted my horn, it's time to confess. Here are some things I do that are NOT so frugal and/or green. I'm open to suggestions for improvement!

-I make microwave popcorn many mornings to take to work for lunch. After the popcorn is popped, I put the bag in a plastic gallon-sized bag, twist-tie it, and bring it to work. I do this so that a) the popcorn stays fresh and b) I can dump the popcorn into the baggie and not get my hands as buttery as if I was sticking my hand into the greasy popping bag. I'm using a lot of single-use items in this process, so it's not very green or frugal, just convenient.

-I buy boxed potatoes. I absolutely love Betty Crocker's herb mashed potatoes and scalloped potatoes. They are quick, easy, and so delicious! I try to stock up when they are on sale and I use coupons (feel free to pass on any coupons you have!), but these are still not very frugal dinner choices. On top of that, the excessive packaging makes them not very green. (I know, I know, they're not particularly healthy, either)

-I take long showers. I blame this on my hair. When I occasionally shower with a shower cap and am not washing my hair, I can be done in 5 minutes. I wash my hair during almost every shower, though, so it takes me a good 15 minutes. I guess I could fix this by getting my hair chopped, but my husband loves my hair longer and I enjoy wearing it in a ponytail, so long it remains. That reminds me, I am definitely due for a trim!

-I own a sports car. I love my 2000 Ford Mustang, but it's a bit of a gas hog for it's size. I get about 19 mpg city and 23 mpg highway. This isn't horrible, but my brother-in-law gets 45 mpg in his Prius! With gas prices what they are right now, I'm pretty envious. My Mustang has been paid for since 2003 and it's given me very few problems, so it doesn't pay to replace it at this point. When it gets replaced in about 3 more years, though, my husband and I will be taking gas mileage into consideration.

I'd love to hear your confessions in the comments or write your own post, let me know, and I'll link to it!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Frugal/Green Things I Do

I made a list of a few things that I do in my everyday life that are frugal and/or green. Then, for my next post, I'll make a list of some things that I do that are NOT frugal and/or green. If you want to join me in this, feel free to leave a link in the comments and I'll post your link in these articles! On to the list!

-I love chocolate pudding. I used to buy those convenient individual serving cups (which aren't recyclable in my neck of the woods). Now I mix up a batch and separate it into little tupperware containers to take to work for lunch. Cheaper and greener!

-My husband and I use our bath towels and hand towels for about a week before throwing them in the wash. We're already clean when we use these items, anyway, and we hang them up so that they are dry on time for their next use. Cheaper and greener!

-We have a programmable thermostat and actually have it programmed. In the winter, we have our thermostat set at 69 degrees when we're home and 63 degrees when we're gone or sleeping. We also set it to hold at 63 when we're on vacation. In the summer, we mostly just leave the air conditioning off (remember, we're in Wisconsin!). We'll only turn it on when it gets really hot and humid, and even then usually only for sleeping comfort. For the most part, the AC doesn't run. Cheaper and greener!

-I use reusable grocery bags. I used to have trouble remembering them, even though they were in plain sight in the backseat of my car. Just a few weeks ago, a friend showed me her awesome ChicoBag. I found a local retailer and picked one up. The ChicoBag fits into a tiny sack and stays in my purse. I still need to remember my other bags when I'm on a big grocery shopping trip, but the ChicoBag works for most of my shopping. This isn't necessarily frugal, but it's definitely green!

What do you do that's frugal or green? Leave a comment or do your own post about it!

Monday, May 19, 2008

A Reason to Declutter

A couple of months ago I lamented about having a lack of ambition to declutter my house. Well, I've found something that works really well at giving me some ambition to tackle my house clutter - a rummage sale!

My husband's brother and sister-in-law are planning on selling their home, so they are cleaning house and wanted to have a rummage sale. Since they live out in the country and we live in town, they asked to have the sale at our house. We agreed, of course, and thought of a couple of things that we wanted to sell, as well. Then, a couple of nights before the rummage sale, I decided to clean out my closets of unused clothing and go through a few boxes that hadn't been gone through since I got married and moved in almost a year ago. I couldn't believe how much I found!

The rummage sale was this past Saturday. My brother-in-law and sister-in-law did quite well. Since my husband and I didn't have nearly as much stuff, we only made $45. Still, it was well worth it for the decluttering I accomplished (all of the unsold items were boxed immediately and taken to Goodwill). There's so much room in my closet now!

So, if anyone else out there needs a "push" to get some decluttering done, have a rummage sale!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Favorite Blog Post 5/16/08

This weekend's going to be pretty busy. On Saturday morning, my husband and I are helping a friend move, and my husband's mom is having a rummage sale at our house at the same time! I'm hoping to catch the Preakness Stakes late Saturday afternoon - go Big Brown! Then, I'm going to be grocery shopping on Sunday afternoon with some friends for an upcoming backpacking trip while my husband and a friend take a little pine tree out of our front yard. Like I said, we'll be busy :)

At any rate, my favorite blog post this week came from Mrs. Micah. She wrote a great post to get her readers thinking about what they would do with a million dollars. Her excellent point was that we should actually start doing those things now with the money we have! Definitely check it out - it's inspiring :)

Lastly, in honor of the upcoming horse race, I'm including a picture of my old girl, Silky. She's a 22-year-old quarter horse whom I've owned since I was 11. Isn't she a beaut?!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Warm Delights and Pine Trees

How's that for a blog post title?! I better explain.

Warm Delights
I got the most awesome "freebie" in the mail yesterday: Betty Crocker Warm Delights minis! Mmmmm, chocolate :) Check it out:

Unfortunately, the offer is no longer available. If you enjoy getting free stuff in the mail, though, my favorite blogs that list freebies are Mommy Gets PAID and My Good Cents. Check them out and maybe you can get free chocolate in the mail, too!

Pine Trees
A guy came to our house today and took out a large pine tree in our backyard. He had to do it by hand since you can't get machinery back there. Pricetag: $275. The other estimate we got was for almost $1000, so we were pretty happy to pay $275.

The money came out of our New Siding/Home Maintenance Fund. It wasn't really a necessary expense, but the tree was oversized for our yard and I really want to plant some lilac bushes back there!

Bonus Material
A friend of mine sent me this really neat article titled All In A Days Work. Definitely a must read! I've always felt that we Americans are getting the short end of the stick when it comes to work/play balance. I thought this article made a good argument for a shorter work week. What do you think? Does anyone have a plan for getting American employers to implement this? Do we all threaten to move to France or Norway? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Got Milk?

Photo by muffet

I posted a couple of weeks ago wondering if I should switch at least partly to powdered milk. I got some great comments and someone said that powdered milk prices vary by region, so I decided to price it at my local store (ok, it was Walmart).

What I found out was that powdered milk is actually more expensive than "real" milk in Wisconsin! I guess it makes sense since I live in the Dairy State, but I was pretty surprised. A gallon of milk here costs $2.79. A box of powdered milk is $6.98 and makes 8 quarts (2 gallons, per my husband!). That means that powdered milk would be $3.49/gallon.

I guess that decides that!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Financial Goals 2008: May Update

I'm afraid my posting is going to be a little erratic this summer. Life's been really busy lately, especially with going on two vacations in three weeks! My husband and I have our weekends booked almost every weekend from now until July. At any rate, I'm definitely going to keep blogging, just at a slower rate through the summer. I hope you'll stick around :)

Anyway, on to the goals update. You can read about my 2008 goals here if you missed it. Here's where we're at as of May 1st:

1. ROTH IRA's. We're pretty well on track with funding our ROTHs. As you can see from the progress bar on the right, we have $2000 out of $8000 contributed. We're funding $250 each month into each ROTH automatically now, and I'll fund extra toward the end of the year.

2. New Car Fund. This one is also on auto-pilot. I just increased the contribution from $125 per paycheck to $150 per paycheck with my recent raise. Now if only the stock market would help us out! We have $1098 added to this account so far this year with a goal of $3900 added by the end of the year.

3. Emergency Fund. We have 36% of our goal completed on this one, so I guess we're a little ahead of schedule! We have increased our balance by $950 so far this year. Our goal is to have an increase of $2600 by year end.

4. New Siding Fund. This one has been interesting. My husband has decided he might want to paint the house instead of putting vinyl siding on. It's still very much up in the air, so I'm still hitting this fund pretty hard with extra money. We have a lot of other home improvement projects we want to do, so if the money doesn't get used for vinyl siding, it will get used for carpeting and bathroom cupboards and paint and a new refrigerator... the list could go on for quite some time! :)
At any rate, we've increased this fund by $2150 with a bare minimum goal of $4000 by the end of the year. Hey! I hadn't realized I was so far ahead of schedule! We've funded over half of our goal and we're only 33% into the year! Awesome :)

How are you doing on your 2008 goals?

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Favorite Blog Post 5/2/08

My favorite blog post this week was from That One Caveman and is titled The Key to a Successful Financial Plan: Flexibility. I really liked it because I tend to get frustrated with changes to my financial plans and feel like I have failed. I needed to be reminded that changing your plan is not a failure, it's flexibility!

My story about How NOT to Handle an Inheritance was included in the Carnival of Money Stories this week. Make sure you check out all of the money stories!

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Best College Moves

There's another meme going around. This time, bloggers are sharing their best financial moves in college. Here's my story!

When I was a child, I wanted to be a veterinarian when I "grew up". Once the high school teen years hit, so did the hormones and some reality. I realized two things: 1) I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom someday and 2) veterinarians have about 8 years of schooling! Because of a love of organizing things, I settled on becoming an administrative assistant.

The first thing I did right in college was to go to the local technical college instead of a traditional 4-year college. I was near the top of my high school class, so many people thought I should go to a 4-year school and get a degree, even though I just wanted to be a secretary. I stuck to my guns and went into the administrative assistant program at the tech. I'm confident I would have ended up getting a job as a secretary in the end, anyway, so I'm glad I didn't waste my time and money on a college degree. Lesson #1: Go With Your Gut

The second thing I did right was to switch from a 2-year associates degree program to a 1-year technical diploma program after my first semester. At the time I was in college, the economy was booming. Jobs were easy to come by, and I already had a part time secretarial job in the evenings while I was in school. I quickly noticed that secretarial job postings cared just as much, if not more, about experience as education. My evening job was interested in taking me on full time, so I'd have no problem getting experience under my belt. I realized I could do just one year of schooling and very quickly have the 2-year minimum of experience that most employers wanted. That's what I did, and it has worked very well for me. Lesson #2: More schooling doesn't always mean more money and better jobs.

Obviously, a path of little post-high school education doesn't work for everyone. If your career interest only requires a technical school education, though, don't feel like you have to go to a 4-year college. Do what's right for you!

Also check out:
Mrs. Micah's meme
Cash Money Life's meme

Monday, April 28, 2008

Washington DC Trip: The Finances

My husband and I went on a whirlwind tour of our country's capital last weekend. We left late on Thursday for Raleigh, NC, drove to DC on Friday morning, drove back to Raleigh Sunday night, and left Monday morning! We had a blast!

As far as the financial aspect of things, I was actually pretty surprised.

Breakfast was either provided by the friend we were staying with or free at the hotel, but for various reasons, we ate out every single lunch and dinner. I knew that was going to get expensive, but I wasn't sure exactly how it would all come out.

We ended up spending a lot eating out, but almost nothing for entertainment (since all of the DC museums are FREE!). I think it came out as a pretty decent wash. Here's the breakdown:

Food: $175
Entertainment: $39
Parking: $44
Lodging: $100
Transportation: $415

The transportation costs were just the plane tickets. Our friend graciously paid all of the gasoline costs. We tried to make up for it by paying for some of his meals, but I think we got the better end of that deal :) (Thanks, Tom!)

I highly recommend vacationing in Washington DC. A lot of the awesome things to do there are free, and you could have a very frugal vacation if you were to buy your food at a grocery store instead of eating out like we did.

What's your favorite frugal vacation spot?

Friday, April 25, 2008

Favorite Blog Post 4/25/08

Since I took a little vacation to Washington DC last weekend, it's been tough getting caught up around here. I haven't been able to read and comment on as many blogs as I usually do. I did come across a few good articles this week, including a post from Cash Money Life about improving your computer's performance. It's not directing related to finances, but if you can keep your current computer longer, you will definitely save money!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Milk and Miscellaneous

I wrote a post last week mentioning how much milk my husband and I go through. I received a couple of good comments about it. I thought I would mention that I do drink water, as well, though not as much as I should. I tend to drink more water in the summer when I often have an actual craving for it. In the winter, I crave the creaminess of milk. Still, I should work on this one!

Also, someone mentioned mixing half real milk with half powdered milk. I'm a little leery of liking that since skim milk is already so watered down. The comment did make me think, though, about mixing up powdered milk for baking. Does anyone do this? Can you taste the difference? Is powdered milk a lot less expensive than real milk?

The CVS and Walgreens rebates are finally paying off. I felt like I was spending a lot of money during the first month, but now I'm reaping the rewards by paying for everything with Extra Care Bucks and my Walgreens gift card. Check out the stuff I got today! I paid about $1 out of pocket, the rest was paid for with coupons, ECB and my gift card!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

How NOT to Handle an Inheritance

After four years, she's finally done it. She's spent her entire inheritance.

Let me explain. I work at a financial services firm. A client of ours, let's call her Eunice, managed her finances well and left an inheritance of about $272,000 to her two children when she passed away four years ago. Both children were in their 40's and each received $136,000 when Eunice died. Both children also immediately began taking distributions from their inheritance.

The son started spending his inheritance money like it was going out of style. He passed away about a year after Eunice died. His wife received the inheritance and hasn't spent a dime more of it. She's saving it for her own retirement (very smart woman!).

Eunice's daughter, let's call her Jane, also began spending her inheritance immediately upon receiving it. About once a month, Jane calls us and says that she needs $2,000 (it varies every time she called, but probably averages out to monthly and $2,000 each time).

Jane also declares each time she calls that she needs the money "as soon as possible" for some bill or another that's due in 4 days. Because she needs the money so quickly, we have to wire it to her (costing her an extra $15 wire fee each time), and the process starts all over again in about a month. Jane never would agree to an automatic monthly withdrawal, which would have saved her the $15 wire fees.

Some of the inheritance money was in an IRA, so Jane has also had to pay taxes and early withdrawal penalties to the government on her withdrawals.

Well, Jane made her last withdrawal last week, just under four years after her first withdrawal. She's managed to blow through about $136,000 in four years, which averages out to $34,000 per year. Since Jane makes about $40,000 per year in her career, she has almost doubled her spending each of these past 4 years. And now it is gone. I have no idea how she plans on continuing her spendy lifestyle with the extra money.

Every time Jane has called "needing" more money over these last four years, I've wanted to grab her by the shoulders and shake her. Didn't she realize that if she kept the money untouched, she'd have a really nice addition to her (probably nonexistent) retirement funds ($633,000 at age 65 with an 8% return)? Didn't she ever think that Eunice would be rolling over in her grave if she knew how fast her daughter went through Eunice's life savings?

I was actually glad when Jane called last week to take that last distribution (wired to her, of course). I'll no longer feel that frustration every month at her poor management skills, knowing what "might have been".

I don't know what the message in this post is, besides encouraging people to think about the future and not be idiots ;)

Do you know people like this, people whom you want to scream at for their stupid money decisions? I'd love to hear about them!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Favorite Blog Post 4/18/08

I have a favorite blog post and a favorite blog quote this week!

Gather Little By Little told a great fact-turned-fiction story this week about two friends and the power of peer pressure. I thought it was well-written and thought-provoking. Go check it out!

I read an article this week at Frugal Dad in which he coined a new phrase that I really liked: “Sure, the grass is greener on the other side, but the water bill is higher, too.” I thought it was a neat way to be reminded that the "Joneses" don't always have it as good as we think they do!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Budget-Busting Meme

I've noticed that there's a meme going around asking people to list their top 5 budget busters, so I thought I should join in the fun!

1. Vacations
Being newlyweds, my husband and I are still working on "frugalizing" our vacations (I think I just made up a word!). So far, our biggest issue seems to be that we vacation where friends are living and then take them out to eat. This is going to be our big expense with the vacation we're taking this weekend to Raleigh, NC and Washington DC. We'll be staying with a friend for two of the nights (which saves money), but we'll be going out to eat a lot more because of that. We're going to try to be a little more frugal than the last time we visited this friend. I'll let you know how it turns out!
Also at issue has been the number of vacations we've taken. We're working on that one, too. :)

2. Milk
My husband and I love milk, and we drink a lot of it. I buy about 4 gallons of milk a week just for the two of us! The good thing is that we drink less soda because of our love of milk. The bad thing is that milk is more expensive than soda. This is a budget buster I can live with since I'm pretty sure we'd drink more sugary drinks if we didn't give ourselves free rein with the milk.

3. Bath and Body Products
This one is all me. I like the Bath and Body Works shower gels, lotions, and hand soap that have the same scent, and Bath and Body Works isn't exactly the cheapest option out there! I combat this budget buster by trying to only buy what I need when I need it, and to watch for sales and coupons. I also add some water to the products when they near the empty mark to help them last longer.

4. Scrapbooking Supplies
Another one that is completely my fault! If I could own every scrapbooking sticker that Hobby Lobby sells, I probably would :) I try to keep this one under control by only going to Hobby Lobby when I need something in particular. I also try to go when the scrapbooking supplies are on sale.

5. Tools
Like many men, my husband loves his tools. We're working on a bathroom remodel, so we've bought quite a few tools since we've been married. The nice thing about tools is that once you have them, they should last a long time. I feel like we're in the "acquiring" stage now. I'm hoping we'll soon move to the "maintenance" stage of tool ownership. Considering the look of awe and wonder on my husband's face every time we walk past the tool section at Home Depot, that might be wishful thinking. ;)
I'm a very strong proponent of quality when it comes to tools, though. I always encourage my husband to buy the high quality tool once he's informed me that he can't possibly live without *insert tool here*. We also agree to have a large tool purchase (like a power tool) become his birthday or Christmas present to save some money (and frustration on my part). It works for us!

Here are some other answers to the budget-buster meme:
What Busts Mrs. Micah's Budget
Mommy Gets PAID's Budget Busters

Now it's your turn!

Monday, April 14, 2008

...Ok, So I Lied

It's confession time! I told you two weeks ago that I was giving up on CVS Pharmacy. That was before I read about this deal at Money Saving Mom. I couldn't help myself, I had to check it out!

I stopped by CVS on my way to the grocery store and, what do you know, they actually had the deals I was looking for!

Here's what I got:

This is how it worked:

2 Covergirl Foundations: $18.98
1 Pepcid EZ Chews: $7.99
-$1.00 Covergirl coupon
-$9.49 Buy one, Get one free Covergirl coupon
-$2.00 Pepcid coupon
-$5.00 CVS $5 off $15 coupon
=$10.58 with sales tax

In return I got $17 in Extra Care Bucks plus I have a mail in rebate for the Pepcid EZ Chews that will net me $5.09 after postage. I spent $10.50 and have $22 to spend later.

I couldn't resist!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Favorite Blog Post 4/11/08

My favorite blog post this week was from Mrs. Micah. I really need to get a little more organized with an "alien abduction manual". This is a fun way of saying that you (and I) should have our financial paperwork organized in case something should happen to us. That way, our spouse (or whoever will take over our finances if something happens to us) isn't at a complete loss during a difficult time.

I'm off on another vacation next week. I'm heading to Washington DC (which, ironically enough, is where Mrs. Micah lives)!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

A Gambling Lesson

No, I'm not going to teach you how to gamble!

As I mentioned last week, Dave Ramsey was interviewed by Dr. Dobson on the Focus on the Family radio show last Thursday. Toward the end of that broadcast, Dr. Dobson and Dave went off on a little tangent about how gambling in the US, specifically the lottery, is an exploitation of the poor. They had a lot of neat statistics and stories to back this up, but one statistic really stood out to me.

The Claim

The average lottery player spends $35.84 per month on the lottery. Dave went on to say that if you invest that $35.84 in a decent growth stock mutual fund from age 22 to age 72, you'd be a millionaire.

How funny is that? People are willing to spend $35 a month trying to become a millionaire via the lottery and only one in about a billion will succeed. If you take that same $35 a month and invest it instead, you're practically guaranteed to be a millionaire!

Checking It Out

I was a little skeptical of Dave's math, so I decided to look into his claim. Since I work for a financial services firm, I randomly chose two funds I knew had been around for 50 years, which is the number of years Dave's calculation of ages 22-72 would work out to.

I entered two American Funds into my calculator, Investment Company of America (AIVSX) and the Washington Mutual Fund (AWSHX). I tried to enter in everyone's favorite, the Vanguard 500 Index, but it's only been around for about 30 years. Also noteworthy is that AIVSX and AWSHX are actually growth and income funds, so a growth fund like Dave mentioned should perform even better!

$35/month invested for 50 years with dividends and capital gains reinvested brought AIVSX to a value of $1,079,117. Investing into AWSHX would also make you a millionaire at $1,078,581.

The Conclusion

It works! I found it to be completely amazing that a mere $35 can get you to a million dollars eventually. This information should be posted at all locations that sell lottery tickets. Do you think it would make a difference?

Monday, April 7, 2008

Saving Money on Your Wedding: Wrap-up

I've come to the end of my "Saving Money on Your Wedding" series. Today I'll mention a couple of miscellaneous ideas that I didn't cover in previous posts. I'll also link to each article in the series so that it's all in one spot.

Miscellaneous Ideas
-Keep the guest list small.
-Skip the party favors.
-Involve relatives and friends who have skills in needed areas (cake making, photography, decorating, etc.). Either pay them or let it be their wedding gift to you.
-Have your wedding on a Friday evening or Sunday afternoon.
-Make sure you get the negatives and/or the rights to your photos.
-Elope ;)

Check out this post at Unclutterer for more ideas. There are tons of them in the comments!

Do you have additional "miscellaneous" wedding-saving ideas? Leave them in the comments :)

Saving Money on Your Wedding Series
Bridal Gowns
Bridal Accessories
Hair & Make-up
Groom's Attire
Invitations and Stationary
Flowers and Decorations
Attendant Gifts

Friday, April 4, 2008

Favorite Blog Post 4/4/08

This week, I'd like to bring your attention to a blog I always check out when I need a good laugh. Nick at Punny Money writes some really funny stuff about personal finance and the world we live in. So if you want to know about the kind of crap people are buying on Amazon or if you'd like to find out what Nick is willing to do for a bored millionaire, you really need to check him out!

To see a little more serious side of Nick, read about how you can ignore homeless people and not feel guilty about it. This post was very timely since I'll be going to Washington DC in two weeks on vacation. I've already donated to the Salvation Army, so I'll be sure to leave the cash at home :)

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Attention Dave Ramsey Fans!

I know there are plenty of fans of Christian personal finance guru Dave Ramsey out there. I thought I'd let you all know that Focus on the Family is doing a two-part interview with Dave Ramsey that is airing today and tomorrow. If none of your local stations carry Focus on the Family programming, you can also listen to the interview as a podcast.

According to the website, Dave is going to be discussing how listeners can avoid impulse spending and unnecessary debt. The title of his discussion is Let the Buyer Beware.

I've never read his books, so I'm looking forward to hearing him speak!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

I'm Giving Up On CVS

For the past couple of weeks, I've been checking out a lot of blogs on saving money and getting good deals on my household shopping. I've discovered that drug stores like CVS, Rite-Aid, and Walgreens can provide some nice free-after-rebate items and other good deals if you do it right.

There are a ton of Walgreens in my area, so I've been having a lot of fun finding all the freebies and other good deals at Walgreens. There are, however, no Rite-Aids in my area and only one CVS.

After reading sites like Be Thrifty Like Us, I *heart* CVS, and Money Saving Mom, I decided last month to check the local CVS out. It's on the other side of town and not very convenient for me, so I went there when I was in the area for other errands. I went in the middle of March and noticed that all of the "freebies" were gone. Not too surprising, I guess.

I went back to CVS this past Saturday because I had found out that Extra Care Bucks on Softsoap were printing early. I was able to find and buy some Softsoap and got $9.98 in Extra Care Bucks! I was pretty excited.

Today, the April freebies started. I went to CVS after work and they were completely out of everything that was a really good deal. I was pretty bummed. I guess that's what happens when you have one CVS for about 150,000 people. I used up my $9.98 in Extra Care Bucks on some groceries and went home dejected.

So, that's my story and that is why I'm giving up on CVS, for now at least. If I find out about any more good deals that are printing out before being advertised, I'll still probably head over there to pick them up. I'll stick to Walgreens, though, for my monthly fix of freebies :)

Monday, March 31, 2008

A Coupon Code Saved Us $500

Before I get into my story, I want to assure you that this is not a paid post. I am not affiliated in any way with the website I will tell you about. I'm just sharing about how I saved some cash!

I love to save money, whether it's 10 cents at the grocery store or $500 on a laptop :)

My husband has been pushing his employer for quite awhile now to get him a laptop for his work as an engineer. A few weeks ago, he was finally informed that a laptop wouldn't be supplied to him for at least a year. We discussed it and decided to buy one ourselves for my husband to use at work.

We did some research (ok, my husband did some research while I blogged on our other computer!) and decided on a Dell laptop. By the time he customized the laptop for his engineering needs, we were looking at a cost of over $1300. It was definitely more than we had planned on spending, so we decided to take a couple of days to think about it.

The following Sunday, we visited my husband's family and mentioned the laptop we were thinking about buying. My brother-in-law asked if we had checked out Got Apex?. My husband looked the website up as soon as we got home and found a deal for $500 off a Dell Vostro laptop purchase over $1249. We immediately ordered the laptop. Final price: $850!

Got Apex? is set up like a blog (does that mean it is a blog?) with each deal being it's own blog post. This makes it easy to check the site every couple of days to see what the latest deals are, as the most recent are always at the top of the page. Of course, if you do that, you run the risk of finding deals on things you don't really need :) Still, I'm very happy about saving $500 and will definitely check this site out before our next computer or electronics purchase.

Do you have a website that you always check for deals before you make a big purchase?

Friday, March 28, 2008

Favorite Blog Post 3/28/08

My favorite blog post this week is from Lynnae at She had a really neat way of cleaning her daughter's bedroom over spring break. It sounds like her method worked really well and she even got her daughter to get rid of some clutter!

My post about removing our escrow account was a pretty big success in the blogosphere (for me, at least!). It was included in the Carnival of Money Stories at Dividend Growth. Paidtwice read the article through that carnival and included it in her carnival round-up post. Thanks, guys :)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Goals Mini-Update

I've had some recent successes and frustrations, so I thought it would be a good time for a 2008 goals mini-update! I'll just update on the areas that have had recent changes.

2007 Roth's are fully funded! I made the last contribution this week. I have updated the progress bar on the side to show the progress on funding our 2008 Roth's now.

We received our escrow check! Removing our escrow wasn't a 2008 goal, but I had $500 that I was able to put into our new siding fund as a result of closing the escrow account. That was an awesome unexpected bonus.

Our state tax refund hasn't shown up. This is the frustration mentioned at the beginning of this post. I was hoping that our state tax refund would show up in time to cover most of the federal taxes that we need to pay in. I've been checking the status of the state tax refund on our state's website, and it doesn't even show that they've received our return, even though I sent it in the middle of February. The State of Wisconsin did this to me last year, too, when I received my refund at the end of June! I think it's because of my HSA. At any rate, it looks like I'll probably have to take money out of our emergency fund to cover the federal taxes and pay the emergency fund back once the state refund shows up. Grrrr!

Things are going to be a little tight for the next few months because of two trips my husband and I are taking within three weeks of each other (one's a wedding). After that, no more expensive vacations for the rest of 2008. We need a break!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Saving Money on Your Wedding: Attendant Gifts

I am doing a series of posts on saving money while planning a wedding. Today I will talk about buying your attendant gifts. My total amount spent in this area was $70.

Attendant gifts is an area of weddings that I really just don't "get". Don't get me wrong, I totally understand the idea of thanking your attendants for being willing to stand up in your wedding (and spend lots of their own money doing it, in many cases). What I don't understand is who decided that all men need numerous personalized flasks and all women need multiple necklaces that they may not even like ;)

My number one recommendation for buying attendant gifts is to purchase something that you would otherwise ask them to buy/pay for as part of your wedding. For example, I paid for my bridesmaids' pedicures the day before the wedding. If we hadn't gone out together to get pedicures, I would have paid for their hair or their ($35) dresses. My husband and I decided the best gift we could give our attendants was to keep our wedding inexpensive for them to be a part of.

Another good idea is to buy them something they'll actually enjoy, the gift being different for each person (along the same lines as a birthday or Christmas gift). One of my friends gave me a lightweight backpack I'd been eying up. It was an excellent gift!

The previous two ideas focused more on getting good gifts than on saving money (though the first one will save your attendants some money). Some ideas that would save you some cash include making something personal for your attendants or giving your time as a gift. Giving time might include a day at the disc golf course or some quality time on the beach. I would suggest making a homemade certificate to give the night before the wedding and do the quality time after the wedding. This lets your attendants know that you're not planning on disappearing into the land of newlyweds after the wedding day!

I hope these ideas get your creative juices flowing :)

What is the best gift you've received for standing up in a friend's/relative's wedding? The worst?

Friday, March 21, 2008

Favorite Blog Post 3/21/08

My favorite blog post this week was from Frugal Dad. He wrote about lessons he's learned from living on one income. I thought it was a fitting article for me since I plan to stay home once my husband and I have children. From what Frugal Dad wrote, I think my husband and I will be ready!

I hope everyone has a very blessed Good Friday and gets to spend quality time with family and/or friends this weekend for Easter!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

We Got Rid of Our Escrow Account!

My husband and I are not big fans of giving companies free loans. For example, we keep our tax withholding low so that we're not giving the federal government a free loan every year. Along the same lines, our escrow account on our mortgage has always bugged us because our mortgage company gets to earn interest on our property tax money all year long instead of us. Not anymore!

For quite awhile, I had been considering refinancing to get rid of our escrow account, but our fixed interest rate is as low as, if not lower than, any current rates out there. I wasn't convinced it would make sense financially to refinance.

Then, about a month ago, I read Prime Time Money's article about Saving For and Paying Your Own Property Taxes. PT suggested that his readers try calling their current mortgage company and asking them to remove the escrow account. It sounds silly, but I had never thought of that!

I was a little skeptical about my mortgage company, Wells Fargo, being willing to give up what was for them an easy money-maker. Nonetheless, I sent them an email asking about removing our escrow account. They sent a message back saying that we could do it if we qualified and that they would only close it out via a phone call.

About two days later, I received a letter in the mail stating that we qualified to have our escrow removed! My husband called Wells Fargo and asked them to remove the account. They said we should received a check for the balance in the escrow account within a week.

A week passed and our online information still showed the escrow account. Hmmm. I sent Wells Fargo another email, to which they replied that it was "processing". I'm pretty sure that meant that they had forgotten about it because the very next day our account showed that the escrow had been removed. Woo-hoo!

I did some math on the check we should be receiving this week, and the mortgage company was keeping about a $500 "reserve" in the escrow account. The amount I need to have saved for our property taxes (and insurance) at this point in the year is about $500 less than the amount of the check we're getting. That $500 will be going right into our new siding fund.

Thanks for the idea, PT. I owe you one :)

Has the personal finance blogosphere given you an idea that was able to save you money? I'd love to hear about it in the comments or, better yet, write a blog post about it!