User Real IP - 18.205.60.226
Array
(
    [0] => Array
        (
            [0] => 182.68.68.92
        )

    [1] => Array
        (
            [0] => 101.0.41.201
        )

    [2] => Array
        (
            [0] => 43.225.98.123
        )

    [3] => Array
        (
            [0] => 2.58.194.139
        )

    [4] => Array
        (
            [0] => 46.119.197.104
        )

    [5] => Array
        (
            [0] => 45.249.8.93
        )

    [6] => Array
        (
            [0] => 103.12.135.72
        )

    [7] => Array
        (
            [0] => 157.35.243.216
        )

    [8] => Array
        (
            [0] => 209.107.214.176
        )

    [9] => Array
        (
            [0] => 5.181.233.166
        )

    [10] => Array
        (
            [0] => 106.201.10.100
        )

    [11] => Array
        (
            [0] => 36.90.55.39
        )

    [12] => Array
        (
            [0] => 119.154.138.47
        )

    [13] => Array
        (
            [0] => 51.91.31.157
        )

    [14] => Array
        (
            [0] => 182.182.65.216
        )

    [15] => Array
        (
            [0] => 157.35.252.63
        )

    [16] => Array
        (
            [0] => 14.142.34.163
        )

    [17] => Array
        (
            [0] => 178.62.43.135
        )

    [18] => Array
        (
            [0] => 43.248.152.148
        )

    [19] => Array
        (
            [0] => 222.252.104.114
        )

    [20] => Array
        (
            [0] => 209.107.214.168
        )

    [21] => Array
        (
            [0] => 103.99.199.250
        )

)
Archive for September, 2012: Ceejay74's Personal Finance Blog
<< Back to all Blogs
Login or Create your own free blog
Layout:
Home > Archive: September, 2012
 

Archive for September, 2012

September results, October goals

October 1st, 2012 at 04:05 am

Sept. 30: success on no eating out. 25 out of 30 days were completely successful, and the fails were minor things like buying a drink or two. No full restaurant or delivery meals in September.

Not like we do that a ton anyway, but a whole month without it was kind of unusual.

I'm cutting it a bit close on this week's pedometer challenge -- I'm nearly 4K short of having 10K per day. But the walk to daycare is over 2K, and then I can walk part or all of the way to work. They take our numbers once we get to work, so the commute in counts as part of the previous week. I should be able to just barely get to 70K before it's time to report numbers! (It's honor system, but I'm fairly honorable about things like this, so I wouldn't lie.)

I once again kind of blew it on eating this weekend after having a pretty good week. But I walked to and from the party we went to last night; I think it was about 4,000 steps each way! I weighed in another fraction of a pound lighter -- still just over 132, so I'm not counting it as 132 until I'm officially there. But unofficially, I'm very close to that number! Smile

We had friends over tonight and NT and I split the cooking (he did an entree and I did a dessert). It was delicious and fairly healthy, but all the little parts of the meal added up calorie-wise. Doesn't matter because my weigh-in afterward was good. Smile One of the friends we saw is interested in doing a raw-foods cleanse with me sometime in October. That'll be good for me and should hopefully help me knock off the last few pounds if necessary.

Anyhoo, I should get to my October goals, shouldn't I?

September debt payoff was really good, $2230. I don't have as much money to put toward it in October, so I'm going to shoot for $1790.

My fitness goals for October: I'm not going to shoot for any specific workouts, but the raw foods cleanse will probably start in mid-October and go for two weeks, so that's a healthy thing I'll be doing. Counting calories on Sparkpeople will continue for sure; that's been really useful and eye-opening. I'm going to try to work out in some fashion, but other than a couple yoga sessions at work I don't have anything specific lined up. Hopefully inspiration will strike! Actually, AS and I were talking about taking up running together, but I don't know if we'll get that going this month (or this year). I'll just have to wing it this month.

My main "goals" need to get done this month, so I don't need to set them down here. I NEED to get UK taxes out within the next week, and we really want to get our tickets to the UK booked for next May so our family there can plan their time off. I have a bunch of other to-do's that have been languishing, but those are the only two time-sensitive ones.

The no eating out challenge

September 29th, 2012 at 10:20 pm

Sept. 27: success.
Sept. 28: success.
Sept. 29: small fail. We were getting haircuts and NT asked if he could grab me anything from the international grocery store across the street. Absentmindedly I said yeah, bring me some unusual soda. It was only later I realized that counted as eating out.

That makes 24 of 29 successful days. I don't foresee any eating out tonight or tomorrow; today I have a party to go to and tomorrow we're having friends over.

So my cheats have been:
Wine
State Fair food
Whiskey & coffee
Whiskey, coffee & brownie
Soda

No full-fledged eating out or getting restaurant food delivered.

Next month I'll still probably try to take it easy on eating out, because I do still have a couple of winter clothing items to get. But I'll probably indulge a bit more than I did this month!

Good money news! plus other ramblings

September 28th, 2012 at 09:14 pm

AS checked my Google AdSense account (I hadn't thought about it since I linked this blog to it) and said I've made over $2 since Jeffrey's announcement! If you haven't done so already, I recommend setting yours up. A small amount of effort and then the snowflakes will start to come in. Smile

We got an itemized statement from our lawyer regarding the adoption. Apparently we did the right thing taking the flat-fee route, because fees would have been about a thousand more bucks if we hadn't! The option we chose also included a $1000 "refundable" trust, and it looks like they only used about $875 of that for court costs. I wonder if we'll get a refund of the rest eventually? If the two sides of the bill are handled separately, as it seems, then we probably will. That will go into little SL's savings, since we haven't put aside very much for her yet!

I got my 30K bonus miles from my Delta Amex, so now we can combine them all and basically shave $1200 off our airfare if we book using one of the Delta cards. And we'll need it, with prices to England looking the way they do. Ouch!

In recent weeks I applied us all for the BoA Visa card, spend $500 get $100 back. AS and I got approved but NT was turned down. They gave us our credit scores in the letters, which I appreciated. AS and I are at 800+ and NT is in the high 700s. Then I applied all three of us for a USBank Visa that offered a $150 statement credit for spending $500. NT got accepted, AS got turned down and I haven't heard back (assuming I got rejected due to it being SO close to the BoA application).

Anyway, I'm happy about our credit scores, and we did get three out of the six cards we tried for. So we'll spend $1500 and get $350 back. Not too shabby! I immediately put $500 of NT's medical bill on his new card and $500 on AS's and the last $12 on mine. I also paid a few more bills with mine, and paid for my trivia treats with it, and bought snacks for work ($75 that I'll get reimbursed, so it's not even my money really!).

I had to pretty much drain the medical fund to be able to pay these cards off. I knew it was coming, but it's not a pretty sight to see my medical fund at less than $50, and not entirely sure the bills have stopped coming in. But I still haven't touched my EF, so that's still there if we absolutely need it. Maybe I'll use the $350 of CC rewards to cashflow any medical expenses that come in this year, and then put it in savings if I don't need it. We'll see.

I can't remember if I mentioned this, but AS's cellphone got ruined (along with the SIM card). We're a bit behind where I want us to be in prepaid costs, so I looked around for the cheapest way to get her up and running. I bought a SIM card for 99 cents (got one for NT as well, since I'm going to switch him to T-Mobile in a couple months), and I tried several eBay auctions for dirt-cheap unlocked T-Mobile phones. Finally I got one for $5.50 with free shipping. It's bulky by today's standards with an antenna! AS had said she wasn't picky about what phone I got her, but she wasn't happy with that at all. So I switched my SIM card over to it and gave her my slightly more modern flip phone. Problem solved for $6.49! It's scratched up and the sound effects are hilariously old-timey, but it works so I'm happy.

And I'm definitely moving NT over to T-Mobile, now that I know how cheap it will be to get him a "new" phone if his Net10 one isn't compatible. Of course, he's not going to want the type I got either, but hopefully I can find a relatively cheap flip phone. Or maybe his Net10 device will work; I don't see why it shouldn't. I'm beginning to think they just act like you need one of their phones so you'll have to pay more.

This week has flown by and somehow I haven't made a menu plan yet. We need to get that done tonight so we can do grocery shopping tomorrow! We're a bit behind so will need to be careful making a grocery list (what else is new these days?).

No eating out plus more debt progress

September 27th, 2012 at 06:58 pm

Sept. 24: success
Sept. 25: "planned cheat" at trivia. I had a whiskey, a coffee and a brownie. Smile
Sept. 26: success

So far, 22 of 26 days have been successful. Just 3.5 more days to go! I haven't had that many temptations, but I am starting to dream about pizza delivery a bit. So I might plan that into the menu in early October. Wink

AS's student loan hit; $126 went to principal. I also thought to check NT's smaller loan; interest payments come out of our bank account automatically, but a few cents goes to principal sometimes as well. I guess I hadn't checked in a while, because the principal was $3 lower. Not a huge dent, but I'll take it!

That means we paid $2230 of debt in September! October will be lower, because I had to take some money from that month's debt line item to cover NT's tuition. BUT, I do know that I'll finally hit one of the 2012 goals! Student loan debt is at $40,362, so by mid-October, it'll be under $40K!

My work had a free yoga class yesterday. It was so great! Made me realize I should try to work more relaxation into my weeks. They're going to have one or two sessions per month now.

No eating out

September 24th, 2012 at 07:45 pm

Sept. 21: success.
Sept. 22: success.
Sept. 23: success.

20 out of 23 successful days so far! I may have a drink at trivia tomorrow, but that should be it for the month. This weekend was busy but it was all free/cheap activities. Saturday I went on a long walk with a friend, Sunday we went to a kid's birthday party (who didn't need prezzies so we just gave him a card we already had on hand), and Sunday night AS & NT went to a show and I stayed home (the kids went to bed before they left, so it was super mellow alone time!).

I hit my 8,000-steps-per-day goal for the work challenge; now I just need to do 10,000 steps per day for two more weeks, and I get a $50 Zappos card!

I was really good with calories all week until Saturday and Sunday, and really good with doing a lot of walking until Sunday. Still, I knew a couple bad eating/exercising days could set me back on the scale. So I was relieved that I lost a fraction of a pound at my Sunday weigh-in! Not enough to register on my sidebar, but enough so I didn't feel like an idiot for ruining all my hard work with two bad days.

Winter clothes shopping went well on Friday. I'd budgeted about $135, and I spent $76 on two pairs of slacks and a skirt. (The pants need adjusting, but AS will do this for free, bless her.) This is good because I stocked up on herbal teas (which I don't use grocery money for unless we're doing really well in that category), and I want to buy myself some treats at the Asian grocery store today (definitely some black bean & mochi cakes, Malaysian instant coffee-tea and maybe a few other things). So I may need to save up again before I can get more clothes.

I really only need some work shoes and some new bras now, and that should get me through the winter. Oh, and I should check my winter gear to see if anything needs replacing. I think I'll just need gloves. I do have shoes, bras and gloves, but the first are worn out (soles feel uneven and may not be completely watertight anymore), the second are too big to be comfortable/flattering/supportive, and the third are fine for early winter but not really insulating enough for super-cold days. So I can wait indefinitely, but these are eventual needs (or at least strong wants).

I guess that's all my news. I have some things I keep meaning to do, like trying to sell and/or donate some books, and donate some clothes and a crib bumper. Week after week I keep putting them off; seems like all my free time is taken up with everyday stuff. Oh, and I MUST do the UK taxes this week! I can do some prep at work if I get down time. (Come to think of it, should've used the half hour I just spent writing this! Oops!) I guess life will slow down at some point and I'll be able to catch up on extra tasks like that.

Menu plan

September 23rd, 2012 at 10:24 pm

Jumping on the bandwagon, even though I haven't been very regular about posting my menus & grocery lists.

I've tinkered with our format and now put prep work for future meals/lunches on the menu as a reminder; I also put who is responsible for cooking (or at least project-managing) the meal.

Our meal plan starts from last Friday, because that's our CSA delivery day.

Friday dinner
Kale & quinoa stuffed acorn squash; salad (N&C)

Saturday lunch
C&A fend for selves; N eat at work
soak black beans

Saturday dinner
Tofu turkey cutlets, roasted beets & carrots, gravy (C)
Make dill pasta salad for C lunches

Sunday lunch
Spaghetti w/ cherry tomatoes (A)
cook black beans

Sunday dinner
black bean-tomatillo tacos, chips & salsa verde (C)

Monday
Veggie burgers, beans & fries (N)

Tuesday
Eggplant lasagna (A & N)

Wednesday
Mac & cheese topped w/avocado, tomato, red onion pico (A & C)

Thursday
hoisin glazed tofu, rice, kimchi, edamame (C & N)


We went about $35 over our grocery budget goal, but I'm expecting $25 statement credit from our grocery credit card next week, so we should end up only about $10 over. One reason is that AS requested groceries to make lunches vs. eating out, a venture I definitely support!

Then we're going to stock up on staples at the Asian grocery store Monday, so we'll go over budget even more, but we can cut back the next week and make it up. I'm going to take a hard look at what we buy at the Asian store; anything that won't contribute directly to family dinners will have to be paid for with our fun money.

Long blabby post

September 21st, 2012 at 05:27 pm

No eating out challenge:
Sept. 18: as predicted, a small fail. I had one drink while out at trivia.
Sept. 19: success.
Sept. 20: success.

So far I've had 17 out of 20 successful days.

It's made a major impact on my available spending money! I believe I've got about $70 at home, and of my $80 I get to withdraw today, $20 will go into the theater ticket fund, I should try to keep about $10 for a drink next Tuesday, I may keep $20 to buy treats at an Asian grocery store our friend is taking us to Monday, and the remaining $30 can be for clothes. That means I have $100 cash to spend for clothes! I'm going to hit up Marshall's and Target with AS today and see if I can cross a few winter-wardrobe needs off my list; the temps are dropping quickly here.

NT also reminded me I have some Amazon bux (about $30) in my account, and we have a discount code for shoes, so I may try to get my work shoes there.

Hopefully I can find enough to get me through using just the $100 cash and $30 Amazon credit. Then I can continue to try and save up money and buy other pieces gradually throughout the fall.

In other news, my walking is going well; I'm averaging about 8,000 steps per day this week, which is what I need to meet the challenge. The next two weeks will be harder, needing an average of 10K steps per day, so I'll need to work at it more. (Hope the weather holds out because I can add up a lot of steps just walking to and from work and daycare.)

I'm doing pretty well with calories, not perfect, but I think with the walking too, I should see a weight loss on Sunday. Fingers crossed!

We got our monthly statement from the rental management company in the UK, and they apparently got us new renters and are charging about US$90 more per month! A small percentage of the raise goes to the management company, but we pocket most of it. That's good news for our savings goals this year and next!

We have a longish grocery list this week, and need to get diapers, wipes and formula too, but I'm hoping we can at least come close to staying under our spending limit. AA is using the potty more, so hopefully we'll be able to eliminate the expensive compostable pull-ups soon! (We are dedicated to not using disposables if at all possible, but man! is it a pricy endeavor.)

AS accidentally put her cell phone through the wash, and now the SIM and the phone are both nonfunctioning. We tried the rice trick to no avail. I'm trying to find the cheapest solution possible; I ordered her a new SIM on T-Mobile for $1, and I'm trying to win a phone on eBay for $7. If that doesn't work, I'll bid on another one for $8 or $9, and keep trying until I get a cheap phone. The cheapest prepaid device that T-Mobile offers on their website now is $50! I know I can do better than that.

While I was at it, I ordered a SIM for NT. When his 60 days are nearing the end with Net10, I'll have him start a T-Mobile plan instead of re-upping with Net10. I'm hoping his SIM will work with his Net10 phone, but if not, we'll try to get a cheap unlocked T-Mobile phone on eBay like I'm trying to get for AS.

I can already tell this is not going to be a relaxing weekend (can't remember the last time I really had one of those, to be honest). NT has to work pretty much a full day Saturday (no OT, but he can try to take the hours off in dribs and drabs elsewhere I believe). Sunday afternoon we have a friends' kid's b-day party and Sunday night NT and AS are going to a music show. In between all that we have to get grocery shopping done, fit meals around the other events, and AS still has a ton of proofing to do for her new freelance project.

The social calendar is filling up for the rest of the year. It's a blessing and a curse; I'm so glad we're not losing touch with our friends even though we have young kids, but it can be a little daunting because none of your down time feels like actual down time, between taking care of the kids and the extra household work they incur, and then going to all these events to make sure we still have friends when we get out of this hectic part of parenting! Smile

We are thinking about hosting a party sometime in December, since it's been a while. But we'll see how many of our friends also host events that month; we may not feel the need.

Haven't thought much about Halloween yet; I do want to at least dress AA up and take her trick-or-treating; she didn't understand it at all last year and ended up bawling because she couldn't chase a "meow" that she saw run behind one of the houses we went to. This year we'll be able to explain beforehand what to expect, and she knows what candy is now, so that'll be exciting. Smile

I wonder if we'll even get invited to any grown-up Halloween parties. We used to host them, so I suppose we could again, but the last one we did a few years ago (before the kids were born) had fewer attendees than usual, so we kind of lost steam after that. But if no one else steps up, maybe that can be our cool-weather party instead of December.

No eating out challenge, bit of good money news, etc.

September 18th, 2012 at 02:15 am

Sept. 16: success.
Sept. 17: success.

So far, 15 out of 17 have been successes. Tomorrow I might have a drink out, and possibly the next Tuesday. Other than that, I don't really have any plans to eat out, so it's just a matter of resisting laziness and temptation. Smile

The pedometer challenge went well the first week; I logged about 44,000 steps and only needed 42K (6K per day). That was with my pedometer not working some of the time, so I probably did a bit more than that.

I can probably thank the pedometer challenge, and not eating out, and counting calories, for my weigh-in yesterday. Back down to 133! I'm fighting a terrible sweet tooth/snack monster this month. (I don't know if "snack monster" is a thing, but it ought to be!) Tonight I'm desperate for a snack again. I've been doing well at picking something sane; one piece of cinnamon toast, or a spoonful of chocolate flavored peanut butter, or two or three Hershey's kisses. I think that's the best way to get through this and hopefully it won't just prolong my time of having a sweet tooth! But, I lost weight, so I must be managing it well.

This week, the pedometer challenge is 8K steps per day, so I'll have to step it up. I walked from work to daycare and daycare to home this evening, and that pushed me over my daily goal. Did I mention that I get a $50 gift card if I hit the step goals for the whole month? That's motivation!

***

Anyhoo, on to money news. AS got a freelance project from a company she's done regular work for, but hasn't gotten an offer she could take since she had SL. This one is higher-paying than most; $1000! She said it would be long but not too involved.

It occurred to me that we should send part of it to the IRS for taxes. Then I remembered: I need to do the UK taxes this month.

Ugh!

I hate the UK taxes because I barely know what I'm doing. But we never owe anything, and this year we made less than usual because of a bunch of repairs and things. And, it's gotten easier now that we get statements emailed to us; I just plug the numbers into my spreadsheet I made up, look at last year's taxes to copy which fields I need to fill in this year, and mail it off before Oct. 7. Really, just an hour or two of work. But I treasure every hour of free time, dangit!

But anyway, should be able to put most of that freelance check into the moving fund!

***

I was looking at my goals this year, and even though I haven't hit any of them yet, I'm on track to hit the student loan one next month. Hopefully some of the other goals will follow soon!

***

We finished spending up the three Amex Delta SkyMiles cards. NT and AS have gotten their 30K mile bonuses, and mine should hit by the end of the month. Together with miles we've accumulated gradually over the years, we'll have about 120K miles. I found that if we reserve our tickets using one of the Amex cards, we can just use 10,000 points for $100, as many increments as we can.

That's pretty incredible. We'll be able to shave $900-plus off our airfare just for spending $1500 to earn the points. That's an unbelievable return.

***

OK, I'm losing focus. Gotta go find a (reasonable) snack to quell my crazy snack monster, and then relax.

September 2012 net worth update

September 17th, 2012 at 05:32 pm

Assets:
NT's UK pensions:
#1: 13,884 pounds ($27,768)
#2: 16,005 pounds ($32,010)
#3: 3,709 pounds ($7,418)
NT's 401(k): $18,283
NT's Roth IRA: $4,629
AS's 401(k): $7,910
AS's trad. IRA: $1,682
AS's Roth IRA: $8,411
CJ's 401(k): $47,212
CJ's Roth IRA: $4,629
NT's flat: 130,000 pounds ($260,000)
CJ & AS's condo: $160,000
Emergency fund (shared asset): $15,725
House down payment/moving fund: $1,134
---
Total Assets: $596,811

Total Debt: $304,539

Current Estimated Net Worth: $292,272

August 2012 estimate: $285,087

Change in net worth: +$7,185

Summary: Might as well leave my comments from last month, since it was a similar one: The market smiled on us the same month I was able to put more extra money to debt again. I feel pretty good about our chances of meeting our 2012 goal of $300,000 net worth!

I will update my "Individual Net Worth" page shortly so you can see how it breaks out per person.

Notes on the numbers above: House value estimates are very approximate. I don't have a way to check NT's UK pensions or flat value, so their values stay static for the purpose of this update (unless I happen to get some info by chance). UK asset values and debt amounts are calculated figuring $2 for every British pound, which was the exchange rate when I started keeping track. I maintain that ratio for the purpose of tracking progress, even though the exchange rate is now closer to $1.60 per British pound.

Big tuition payment = less future debt! plus no eating out and grocery challenge

September 16th, 2012 at 01:12 am

I paid the portion of NT's tuition that we didn't take out a loan for. As many of you already know, when I started my journey out of debt, I added $40,000 of "estimated future debt" to our debt load. I knew NT needed to get a college degree, so I picked that as the max we would borrow. I didn't want it to hurt our debt progress when we took out loans, so I added it in before we'd actually borrowed it.

By cashflowing part of this semester, we saved having to take out that amount as a student loan, so I subtract that from our "estimated future debt."

We paid $1278, so that makes it $2,101 toward the September debt repayment goal, or $20 more than our month's goal!

Looking ahead, I can see that this degree is going to cost us more than $40,000. So at a certain point, the "estimated future debt" category will be gone, and we'll just have to cashflow it all to make sure we don't borrow, but it will mean slower reduction of our total household debt. But I'm confident we'll be in a good place to do so.

I'm going to lay out a long-term strategy at the end of this year for how I'm going to try and reach all my financial goals listed in the sidebar by 2016. I'll be sure to add the extra money I think I'll need for NT to complete his degree.

***

Doing well on the no-eating-out challenge! I haven't even bought extra treats while grocery shopping, which is tempting when I know I'm not allowed. Smile

Sept. 14: success.
Sept. 15: success.

That takes me to 13 out of 15 successful days. Not like I eat out a ton regularly anyway, but this is a pretty good record for me! Tuesday I'll get drinks out, but I'll try to keep it to one. Other than that, I don't see too many strong temptations ahead of me this month. So hopefully I'll be able to buy a few key items for my winter wardrobe soon!

***

I challenged us to stay within $100 for the week's groceries. With diapers and formula, we'll be about $19 over that. And we have a couple bucks' worth of items that we didn't realize we needed. But, if we hadn't had to stock up on those, we'd be about $30 under budget! So I'm still proud of us. We can look forward to a time when we don't have to buy diapers or formula, and we'll be used to constraining our grocery shopping, so it'll hopefully be easy to stay within budget.

***

Some random good money news:

AS was working remotely at a coffee shop downtown on Friday. I overheard a project manager saying we could use an editor with Chicago style knowledge for a few hours. So I asked AS if she could put off some of her regular work and do it over the weekend, and she said yes! She ended up working 4.5 hours at $55 per hour! This will go straight into the moving fund when we get it, nearly $250. I'm proud of her for stepping in with no notice to contribute to the fund.

Our healthcare situation straightened out, faster than I thought it would! SL's healthcare was taken out of my paycheck and NT's check was back to normal. So that was about $40 I wasn't anticipating, PLUS my paycheck was nearly $10 more than I'd estimated, so that's about $20 per month more that we can put toward our goals.

NT is finding his Net10 phone plan doesn't work because he has tons of minutes left over each month, but he has to add more every 2 months to keep his number active. So I contacted T-Mobile to see if I could start a third prepaid plan for our household (I'd read somewhere there was a limit of 2) and they said it was OK.

NT just refilled, so we'll use his phone as much as possible for the next 2 months and then switch him to T-Mobile. There will be an initial outlay to buy a T-Mobile phone and 1000 minutes, but in the long run this should lower our monthly costs. And he'll have more flexibility and not have to refill at a certain time (1000 minutes with T-Mobile buys you a year of activation).

Various ramblings

September 14th, 2012 at 02:23 am

The no-eating-out challenge:
Sept. 12: success.
Sept. 13: success. (I'm currently stuffing my face with my favorite pasta comfort dish, so I definitely won't be eating out!)
So far: 11 out of 13 days.

Our daycare lady reported that she needs formula, diapers, pull-ups AND baby cereal Monday. So, yikes! That's at least $40 out of the grocery/household budget. I was going to have us aim for $100 or less of spending; now I want us to go for $60. I'll take a look at the shopping list before we go Saturday and see if there are things we can eliminate or put off until next week.

Since I got through the week with no eating out and minimal fun-money spending, I had over $30 to put in my clothing envelope! That's easily a bra or a pair of shoes. I tried on my winter slacks and they were baggy and not very professional looking, so I'm definitely going to have to get more. I do have one pair of slacks that fit me, plus jeans for Fridays, and it's not cold yet. So I have a bit of time. I think my main priorities are: 2 bras (one strapless and one with straps), 2 pairs of flats for work and 2 pairs of slacks. I have other nice-to-haves, but that would tide me over for the winter.

NT got out this week's spending money a day early because we might not have time for a break tomorrow. I put $20 in my theater-tickets envelope, leaving $60. I'm thinking I'll spend $20 on wine since it's my turn to buy, and I might spend $10 on drinks at trivia on Tuesday. With luck (and some restraint) I'll have $30 left over next Friday to put in my clothes envelope!

I applied for another credit card, a USBank FlexPerks Visa. You can get $150 statement credit for spending $500, and the annual fee is waived the first year. Then I went ahead and applied for NT and AS (shrug). If NT gets denied again, I'll take that as a sign that he needs to stop having applications and just build his credit for a while.

My fitness is going pretty well. I've got my regular bike rides on Saturdays to get groceries, and with my job's pedometer challenge, I've made sure to get more walking in. The first week's challenge is 6,000 steps a day, and it goes up throughout the month. So far I'm easily staying ahead of it.

Hmm. I think that's all. Oh, I wanted to talk about a "fall-back career option" thought process I've been having, but I'll save that for another entry when I'm less frazzled. Smile

No-eating-out results, plus other ramblings

September 12th, 2012 at 03:17 am

Sept. 10: success
Sept. 11: success

It's my turn to stay home with the kids for trivia night, so a bonus is that I won't be spending on drinks out!

A few weeks ago, I applied all three of us for Bank of America Visa cards with a "spend $500, get $100" deal. It was one of the few companies I hadn't scammed ... er, uh, taken advantage of an offer with. Wink

AS and I got approved, and we also got our credit scores. I didn't keep them, but I believe hers was 800 and mine was 812! Even with all the opening and closing of credit cards, our scores are higher than ever.

NT got denied, and he got his score. It was a crushingly low ... 776. LOL. This must have been a picky credit card offer! Actually that's about as high as his score has ever been; he has a short credit history for his age, since they only track credit usage from his 6-7 years of living in the U.S. And for two out of those years, I've been opening and closing cards like crazy in his name.

So I won't say this busts the myth that it will harm your credit score, but here are three examples of scores staying stable or actually getting higher during a lot of credit card activity.

Anyway, we'll use the two new BoA visas to pay most of NT's $1000+ medical bill, and we'll get $200 back. Not bad! I haven't decided where to put that money; into the EF or back into the medical fund, probably. Meanwhile I'll start looking for other offers for us to apply to.

We finished charging up the three Delta Amex cards, so we'll soon have 90,000 miles plus whatever we already have in our frequent flyer accounts. We'll transfer them all into one account and try to pay for one of the UK trip plane tickets with them. Prices for the time period we want to go are staying pretty stable; $1050-$1011 for a one-stop flight; $1310-$1315 for a nonstop. I'm thinking even if we mostly pay for one ticket with miles, we'll still need to take a one-stop option to keep our airfare under $4000.

Today I had to dip a bit more into groceries to buy formula; it just wasn't going to last the week. I went ahead and got AA some shoes the next size up while I was at Target; I knew it was going to happen soon. Feels WEIRD to buy clothing for either of the kids; they both have massive wardrobes of clothing given to us. But shoes are one thing we don't get handed down very much, and doting friends and family prefer to buy cute little dresses and such.

I found a pair of sneakers for $14 and a pair of mary janes (that also have good grip on the soles and seem pretty comfortable) for $13. They're a bit big for her, so they should last a long time. And we do have a pair of snowboots we got as a hand-me-down, so we should be set for her for the winter.

That's all for now; I'm feeling very sleepy.

Prepaid phone costs update

September 10th, 2012 at 07:27 pm

FY2012 Spending:
AS's April T-Mobile fillup (500 minutes): $53.90
NT's May Net10 fillup (300 minutes): $33.36
CJ's May T-Mobile fillup (1000 minutes): $107.78
AS's June T-Mobile fillup (1000 minutes): $107.78
NT's July Net10 fillup (300 minutes): $33.36
NT's Sept Net10 fillup (300 minutes): $33.36

FY2012 total so far: $369.54

Since we're in the sixth month of the "fiscal year," that means our average is $61.59 per month. Down quite a bit from a few months ago; if AS and I can limit use of our phones, it should go down even more. (NT has way too many minutes left over each 60-day period and they just keep stacking up, so I'm debating seeing if T-Mobile will do a third prepaid plan for our household instead. The reason I did this is they said there was a limit two per household, but I'm not sure how strict that is.)

Anyway, we're netting out at a good average so far this fiscal year, though I'd like to see it go a bit lower.

RECAP: I switched to prepaid in late March 2009, so our phone "fiscal year" begins each April. We have 2 phones on T-Mobile prepaid and 1 on Net10 prepaid. AS and I refill in 1000-minute increments and only need to refill when we run out or when it's been a year since our last fillup to stay active. NT needs to buy 300 more minutes every 60 days to keep his phone activated.

Our cellphone bill, for three phones on a family plan, used to range from $80-$95, depending on texts, calls to 411, etc. Usually it was close to $85. My ideal goal is to get my average cost to $50 per month, but any average number below $85 is a savings.