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Archive for March, 2011

End of March Update

March 29th, 2011 at 02:10 am

So spending for March has gone pretty well.

I made a major decision this month to pull money out of my emergency fund and pay off most of the credit card debt. I just donít want it hanging over my head any longer and it will be faster to recoup the money into my emergency fund than it would be to pay off the debt. I would still have about $7k in savings and that is a little less than three months emergency money. I am working up to having 1 year in the bank of all expenses then I will begin saving for a down payment again.

I will be paying off the Eldo card, the Chase card, the Amex that has about $500 and about $3500 of the PNC card. All together I am paying off $7876 in debt and will have the rest of it paid off by February 2012 at the latest.

I am so glad to be paying off the debt. It has been weighing on my mind for the past few years and I just decided that I want it gone.

I am still saving for the vacation in November or December. We have finally decided on Singapore and Bali for about 11 days. I am excited for the trip but really excited because I will get to see my friend Mina in Singapore who I have not seen in 6 years. So exciting! I have not traveled for the past few years and I am looking forward to the trip.

Our union vote regarding the proposed contract between the state and our union is out in the mail. We should find out the first week of April if it has passed or not. This contract means 3% more paid by me to my retirement and a personal furlough day each month meaning I am giving up 4.6% each month. They also upped the maximum pay at the top step by 3%. There are a few other provisions of course but that is the bulk of the changes. I am glad that I will get money back into my paycheck with Aprilís time period.

I have money left in my grocery spending for March and if I need nothing at the store in the next couple of days I will use part of it for emergency food build up and part for picking up a couple of items at CVS that are on sale.

Emergency Kit Preparations, blog one

March 24th, 2011 at 09:43 pm

This is the first in a series of blog posts as I prepare my tiny apartment and myself for a disaster.

The recent events in Japan have made it clear to me that my reserve food stores are very, very low. I could last a couple of days but not for long if an event prevented me from shopping.

I went to the dollar store this week armed with $15 to see what my money could provide me. I bought:
8 cans of Campbellís soup
2 cans of Del Monte crushed pineapple
2 50 foot Reynolds aluminum foil (great for cooking on BBQ if needed.)

I spent a total of $12 plus tax for the foil.

I plan to take $10 per week from the grocery budget to the dollar type store and see what I can find for my emergency food supplies. Yes, I am a name brand snob. These are products I know and use all the time, some of the off label brands are brands of which I have never heard. So I will start trying one a week to see it I like it, I can add it to the emergency kit the next time. I am also trying to make three nutritious meals and a snack a day.

Now I have come up with a creative solution to the storage of these products, I think. If I move the couch in my living room for ward two feet I can place totes there for storage. Two totes on top of each other reach the height of the couch back and I can place four totes total behind the couch. I plan to put a board (stained to look like a table) on top of the totes and place a couple nick knacks there. Well, at least it is an idea for storage, letís see if it will work.

I live in 700 square feet of space with only one closet (in the bedroom) which is currently holding items I am moving from my small storage locker. I am slowly going through the storage stuff and I plan to get rid of the locker by the end of June, at the latest. The locker is 5x5 so really it is just a closet and I have had a deal of $10 a month because my mom had a locker there, too. Of the 13 boxes I have sorted so far I have kept only 4 (repacked) boxes. Most of the stuff I kept are items from my grandmothers estate. If I have not used the stuff in the locker in 5 years, then I know most of it will be donated, recycled or tossed. I believe there are 4 boxes of books that I will take to the book store for credit as soon as they are brought down.

The $2 plus change I did not use for this challenge: the two dollar bills will go to my emergency fund of $1 bills and the change went to my change challenge. I counted the change over the weekend and I have almost $80 in change. In May, I will take the change to the branch of my bank that has the free coin star machine and make a deposit into my emergency fund. I usually save about $330 a year in coins so this is less than normal.

I made a list over the weekend of items I need as part of my emergency kit that I currently do not have so I will begin looking at the dollar type stores and sales to slowly grow my kit.

...little bit of saving, little bit of spending.

March 19th, 2011 at 08:56 pm

I have wanted a popcorn popper and a new toaster for the past year or so. I was given a toaster for Christmas when I moved into the apartment but it stopped staying down when depressed about six months in. I stand at the counter and hold the switch down to toast bread and I am tired of it. The original cost of the toaster (because the giver told me) was $5 from target. I ran there Friday after work hoping I could find the same one or similar for the same cost. I found a similar one for $6.25 and bought that. This morning I discovered that the bread I buy (high fiber bread from orowheat) does not fit. The holes are to small to fit a regular piece of bread so I am taking it back today and buying the next cheapest which I believe was $10.

I also have wanted a popcorn popper for years. I donít like the microwave popcorn with all the additives. And when I have been making it on the stove top with a little oil I keep burning it and am frustrated so I want a popper. I like just plain popcorn with a little butter and salt or other flavoring depending upon a craving. SoÖI went looking for one and found it for $20. I will try it out today for a snack. I love popcorn as a snack in the weekends, and even when I am at work. So I am very happy to have found the only popper in the store.

I did grocery shopping while I was at target instead of heading to Winco after class Monday night. Winco is about 12 miles from my house so I shop there when I am in the area. I didnít have plans to go to that area until Monday for class so just picked up some stuff at Target instead. I actually found some great deals on things on my list (I always shop with a list and only buy those items) so I stocked up on a couple favorite granola bar type things and a couple other items. I was a little over on the spending money I had for groceries so I put a little on my AMEX card. I transferred money to pay it off today and will make the payment on Tuesday. I save money each month (about $20) for things I need for the apartment (cleaning supplies, sponges, swiffer pads for cleaning the floors, small appliances like my toaster) so there was plenty of money to cover the cost or the purchase in my household account.

The weather here is very windy and very rainy today and will be for the next 10 or so days. There are some concerns about flooding in the area. Tomorrow is supposed to be the worst day wind wise. I need to go to CVS which is just a about a mile from my apartment so I will walk over and pick up a couple things that are on sale. And I have a coupon for 20% off the whole order so I am very happy. It also gets me a little exercise today when I am not feeling like going to the gym or doing anything else today.

No Spend days, emergency planning

March 13th, 2011 at 05:00 am

In the past I sometimes struggled not to spend money every day: parking, gas, food, whatever.

Since I moved out 18 months ago from the house I shared with two horrible housemates I have changed so much, and have so much less stress in my life. I bring my lunch to work about 95% of the time. If I don't I go home for lunch as I live less than two miles away. No spending there.

I have class at the college for two fitness courses four nights a week so I pack a dinner most days as well to eat before going to work out for 90 minutes. No spending there as there is no time!

Most Fridays I come home from work exhausted from a long work/class week and don't go out with friends much. Sometimes I do, but if I do I meet them for a drink, (usually at a place with free appetizers) and leave when they begin talking about ordering dinner. I just choose not to spend money on food when I have full cabinets, can cook well, eat healthier, lower sodium, higher nutrient food at home.

Saturdays is homework/house cleaning/running errands day. So planned spending is the only spending on that day.

I do my grocery shopping on Sunday. I pay cash for everything that is not a fixed expense (my weekly allowance/gas/groceries) so I always go off a list. I shop at the grocery store, target, the grocery outlet occassionally.

On a whole other topic related to our wallets:

I work in emergency management and used to teach disaster preparedness courses. This earthquake and resulting tsunami has reminded me that my emergency kit is not up to snuff since I moved. Not even close. I don't even have water anymore! This weekend I am going to be shopping for the few emergency supplies that I absolutely need. I sorted out what I do have today when cleaning out the closet and know what I need.

Reader poll:

How many of you have at least 3 days of easily prepared food and water for your families?

How many people know that with careful planning you could build an emergency kit for your families without spending extra money to do so? (another blog post coming.)

Do you know what you need for your family?

Do you know what you would grab if you had 15 minutes to evacuate? A list prepared of the items to take and where they are located that is easy to get to?

Saved $40 a month!!

March 11th, 2011 at 05:49 am

I have been contemplating cancelling my cable service for several months as most of the shows I watch I can see online.

I called today to cancel and AT&T offered me such a good deal, for the tv service and the internet, that I decided to keep it for a while longer. I did discover that with the new package a couple of channels I watch are not allowed but they are found online, and so are their shows, so it works for me.

The internet service is faster and cheaper by $5 a month. The total cost is now half of what it was prior to me calling. Why did I not do this months ago? I may still cancel over the summer and save the $39 a month, but we will see how this goes for now.

Yay!

Also, our union has reached a tentative deal with the state. The union board is voting on it tomorrow. If they approve, members vote. If members approve then it is done once the assembly approves it. The union says it would be affectie April 1. That means my paycheck will increase ever so slightly. Every penny helps since they have been taking almost $1000 a paycheck for two years with three furloughs a month.

In July my step increase comes through. I can get rid of one CC by November and the other by this time next year. No more debt!! (Well student loans will be around for a long time.) Good timing as I need to start saving for a newer car/down payment. I hope my car lasts for another 4 years. That would be the best scenario.

I forgot how much I love the dollar store!

March 8th, 2011 at 05:20 am

I needed/wanted a couple of things for my apartment. One was something to hold all the plastic tupper ware type bowls and lids that have been floating around my apartment since I moved in. I have been watching the dollar aisle at target but not seen anything that would be large enough to warrant spending a dollar. And I go there only once a month, if that, so I was probably missing something.

So Sunday I made my grocery list and decided to stop by the dollar store to see it they had what I was looking for. And they did! I got two collapsible cloth boxes for a dollar and they fit perfectly! I also found the dish soap I like for a dollar (usually around 350 per at taret) so I bought four. Those will last quite a while. I also found cocoa mix, nestle, and a couple other things all for under 10.00! I forgot how great it can be to shop there! Must remember in the future!

Then I went grocecry shopping for just a couple of items I needed for the week, and for the freezer. I am so stoked about the dollar finds!

Wow it has been a while...

March 6th, 2011 at 05:42 am

It has been over a year since I updated this blog. life got the best of me and I began working a lot, working out to lose some weight (down 55 pounds!), doing some consulting work, and using another website for health stuff that this one got pushed to the back burner. I hope to try and update it once a week as I work toward a goal of saving 2500 for a trip with a friend in November.

And I hope to get some more consulting work this year, too.

All the best to all of you!