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What Would You Do, and a general update

November 24th, 2007 at 08:06 pm

It's been almost two months since I've written anything here. We've just been rocking along okay, more or less. I was not able to find a seasonal job, though I applied for four, and interviewed for one. The interview was at Michael's, during a job fair there. I thought I hit it off pretty well with the manager, but either I really didn't, or I failed their "loss prevention" quiz somehow, or else, more likely, she really wanted someone to work permanent part-time, and I wanted to work through New Years only.

As it turns out, I might have had to quit anyway, since my husband has been preparing for a huge trial that starts on Monday and has only had Thanksgiving Day off for the last three weeks, with two more weeks of the same ahead. Someone had to stay with the kids, you know? So my faith that things always work out the way that they are supposed to is affirmed, even though the way things work out might not be the way we want them to.

In other financial news, I paid off my Parisian/Belk card this month. It's really not a huge deal, because when I got the card ten years ago, they offered a special "pay a larger payment and pay no interest" option, and I never paid any interest on that card. I would pay it off, not shop there for a while, then I'd go shop again, take a few months to pay it off, and so on. Anyway, I guess the last time I bought stuff there was before spring break, and I had been paying the "interest free" amount, and just went ahead and paid the balance this month. So that card is done, and I doubt I'll use it again. In fact, I should probably close the account.

So a small victory, but a victory nonetheless. It's one less payment to make.

In other credit card news, my husband got a credit card offer from AARP (yes, we're members, even though I'm only 40! He's 52.) I think I am coming to love AARP. For one thing, they have an auto club like AAA that is almost half the price. We signed up for that last month, after paying $65 for towing when I had a blowout. Then I was studying the credit card offer from AARP - no annual fee, 9.99 APR (my Wachovia Visa, which I've had for years, is ten-something, and our American Express Blue is 11.75) and 0% APR for balance transfers until March '09. AND the balance transfer fee is only 3% of the transferred amount, as opposed to the 5% I usually pay. I stuck the offer in my bill folder, thinking I'd get around to sending it in, when a few days later another offer came, this one with an 8.99 APR! It too had the 0% APR balance transfer offer. So I applied online, and the card came in the mail the other day. I set up our online account, and it wouldn't let me do a balance transfer online, but the card came with one balance transfer check, which I am going to use to pay a big chunk of the AMEX balance. Husband is also under strict instructions not to use the AMEX anymore.

I'm not even going to say what our AMEX balance is - it's too horrifying. I looked at the account online to see what our interest rate is, and it showed a breakdown of balances - about $2500 of it is from balance transfers, but the bulk of it is "purchases". The horror. A lot of the "purchases" are from when my husband would charge work expenses, and then when he got reimbursed I would usually need that money for other bills, and so would not pay off his expenses.

To give at least small props to AMEX, I did cash out a bunch of our AMEX Rewards points for $75 in Barnes & Noble gift cards, which I am going to use for Christmas shopping.

There are a bunch of other things I wanted to blog about, like how the movies are a total ripoff, and how food prices are obscene, and how I laugh when I think about how I used to buy all organic food. However. I really want input from any readers, so on to the What Would You Do:

Our city property taxes are due on December 20. We paid the first half in June (from our income tax refund). I have been trying, honestly, to save for it, but I have only managed to save about $650. We need $2300. My husband might be getting a percentage check next week (which is a perecentage of his profits) but even if I knew he was, there's no way to know how much. In any event, it is unlikely to be more than a thousand dollars.

So as much as it makes me want to hurl, my options for paying that bill are as follows:

1. Withdraw the money from a retirement account, paying an early withdrawal penalty and taxes on the amount, but not incurring any more debt, or

2. Paying it from our home equity line of credit, with an APR of 7.8, and which already has a $29,000 balance from adding on a room & other home improvements.

It's also possible that I could have my husband call and request additional balance transfer checks from our new Visa, and pay it with one of those.

I really am tempted to take it from our retirement account, just so I know it's paid and gone, not sitting as a balance we have to pay later. However, it's highly unlikely that money would make it back into the account, and we're not adding anything to our retirement at the time anyway.

I welcome any opinions on this issue....

Discover Card: Ugh.

October 5th, 2007 at 03:33 am

I have been getting calls almost daily from a 800- or 866- number. If I type them into my Google search box, I almost always get one of those "who called me" pages and a bit of searching reveals that the numbers are usually from Discover. I don't pick up, but the other day my kids were watching PBS and the phone started ringing, and I picked up so they wouldn't have to listen to the five rings, then the answering machine. I also figured I'd tell whoever it was to quit calling.

This perky woman asks for me, I say "this is she" and she launches right into her spiel. Did I know that identity theft is a ten billion dollar problem? An account review revealed some concerns about my account. Right here I knew this was complete bull, because the only thing I've used my Discover for is a balance transfer. The card has never even left the house. She goes "so what we're going to do is send you out a copy of your credit report from all three credit bureaus and then.." but I cut her off here, figuring that next was going to come an aggressive push of some product like identity theft insurance. "I don't need them." I was about to tell her not to call me anymore unless it pertains specifically to my account, but she said "1-800-Discover" and hung up on me.

The only other time I've picked up the phone and it was them, they used similar tactics. I've forgotten what it was they were trying to get me to sign up for, credit insurance, I think. Anyway, throughout the whole spiel the woman never actually asked me if I wanted it, just basically said "We're enrolling you at the low monthly cost of x" and never allowed me a word in edgewise. She finally got to the point where she said "I just need your verbal permission to enroll you in this program" and I said "NO! I do not want it. Do not enroll me." She acted all disgruntled, thanked me, and hung up.

I can't imagine how many people get stuck signed up for these types of useless things, because they fall for the "there's a problem with your account" line or they're pushovers. These ladies were really aggressive. Just typing this has strengthened my resolve to pick up the next time I get one of those number on my caller ID and right away tell them to take me off their list unless it is an actual problem with my account, not just a sales pitch.

It's the end of the month and we have money!

September 25th, 2007 at 01:50 pm

I'm not really sure how it happened, but it's true. I've paid almost all the bills that I had that were due around the first of the month, that normally I would have paid with the first of the month paycheck. I have the usual ones due, the mortgage, the car payment...but the utility bills, the BP card bill, and our equity loan payment are all paid. I even paid an extra $50 on my credit card and on our home equity line balance. I've also paid two medical bills, AND I've already deducted our life insurance premium (which is withdrawn Thursday).

Maybe it's because school is in and and we're not going to movies or using eating out as a diversion. But something is different. We are even splurging and eating out tonight (at our neighborhood cheap Mexican place, where kids eat free during the week) AND I got a pedicure today, the first one in months (on Tuesdays, all services are 20% off!)

I also transferred $25 out of my paypal account to checking, from two recent sales. I left about $15 in there to cover my eBay fees.

So though it still feels like summer right now (last week it was lovely and cool, and I didn't need the air all week!) it sure is nice to not be living paycheck to paycheck. I'm definitely going to enjoy it while it lasts.

On the job front, well, there is no job front. I applied online for temp/holiday job at Borders. Probably hundreds of people apply for those, and since it is all done online, there's no way to know whether you have any chance at all. At any rate, I've got a volunteer opportunity lined up which can probably keep me busy from now through November: our town sponsors something called "A Season of Giving" in which people "adopt" a child or senior for Christmas. I have worked on this project in various capacities for the last two years, and this year the woman who runs it (who is Volunteer Coordinator for the city) needs office help , and I told her I'd do it. So I may start on Friday, a couple hours a day, a few days a week. Even though it's volunteer, it would be a great thing to add to my resume, and she, a great person to act as a reference.

It feels nice not to be so desperate to earn money. I need to hold on to the feeling I had this summer, though, to get me through those times when all I wanna do is indulge in some retail therapy!

Clothing swap.

September 13th, 2007 at 06:57 am

One of my girlfriends had a bunch of us over last night for a clothing swap. Two other friends had unloaded bags and bags of clothes on her recently, and there was so much left over that she had one herself. I didn't have much to contribute, because I lost weight a year ago and had already donated or consigned most everything, but I took a few things I rarely wear. I brought home way more than I took - a couple of Chico's things, two Michael Stars tops, a sparkly silver H&M choker, a pair of Ann Taylor capri pants, an embroidered hoodie jacket, a black ribbed turtleneck with funky flared sleeves, a Gap yoga top, a cool winter chenille scarf, a couple of girly going-out type shirts, and, my favorite, a Buffalo denim skirt that the former owner had distressed and embellished herself (she is very arty and creative). How lucky am I to have friends with boutique-y tastes in clothes?? We drank a couple bottles of wine as well and I didn't get home until midnight. I'm feeling it today!

In a few minutes I am going to a kids' consignment sale. I dropped off a bunch of clothes at the sale yesterday, plus all our old Duplo Legos, the Thomas the Tank Engine roundhouse, and assorted other stuff. I am working a shift at the sale tomorrow, which meant that I could shop the presale tonight, but DH has something to do for work and won't be home. I told another friend who is working two shifts at the sale that I wouldn't be able to shop the presale, and she gave me one of her two free passes to shop this morning. So I'm headed there in a few. I don't usually find much, but it's worth checking out.

Payday is tomorrow. I've got a list of what'll be due between now and the end of the month, and it accounts for about $1100 of DH's check, leaving not quite $2100. I hope this will be the month I can get finally get ahead of some of these bills and breathe a little easier.

I also applied for a job with Borders for temporary holiday work. The application is done strictly online, so I have no clue if I even have a chance, since you don't ever interact with a human. If I don't get a holiday job, it won't be the end of the world, but if I do, it'll be great.

Part-time jobs.

August 30th, 2007 at 06:54 pm

I have been checking craigslist.org several times a week for possible part-time/temporary jobs. Nothing has really turned up....nothing that wouldn't require me to take some computer courses, anyway. That's always a possibility, but more down the road. Anyway, I was really hoping to find a seasonal/holiday job, though it may be too soon. I went to the newspaper's job website and searched for part-time temp/seasonal jobs. Macy's is already hiring, so I filled out an online application for a retail support type job - not selling, but stocking, moving merchandise, etcetera. I have done the retail thing before and I don't really want to do it again.

I am also going to think about the stores nearby where I'd like to work, make a list of them, and poke around their websites to see if I can apply online. There's a Borders a few miles away, and they have an online job application system. I'd love to work there over the holidays.

I probably need to get a few references lined up, though. I'm feeling really out of touch with this whole job thing - I haven't worked at a REAL job since, well, almost exactly nine years ago (my son turns nine on Monday!). There are at least two people at Michael's school (where I am PTA president) that I know will give me good references if I ask.

I hate to sound superior, and I really don't mean to, but in places like Macy's, I'm amazed that some of those folks have managed to apply for and get jobs. I keep thinking, if some of those clerks can get hired, surely I can. I am reliable, organized, reasonably intelligent and articulate, hardworking and detail-oriented. My resume, though, may make me look both seriously underqualified (not having had paid employment, other than eBay sales, in nine years) AND overqualified (all my work experience is in a professional office).

I just want to work a couple days a week, and on the weekends, through the holidays. I NEED to feel like I have some control over our family finances. I have had enough with living paycheck to paycheck, putting groceries on the credit card, and facing the fact that I am going to have to dip into our retirement fund in order to pay our property taxes in December.

Face it, DH is never going to be a go-getter, aggressive, money-earner. When I hear jokes about rich lawyers, I just want to laugh. Or throw up.

He wants to stay in the realm of the intellectual...he has zero interest in the business side. Court arguments? Loves it. Schmoozing clients? Hates it. Unfortuately, the latter is what gets you money in his field. He does it only reluctantly, and I think it shows. He hasn't gotten a new client in several years, and his ONE fairly big client happens to owe him $10,000 right now. Even when they do pay up, he only gets 15% of that, under the terms of the agreement with the person he works for. As I've said before, his salary pays the bills and his percentage pays for the extras, and there have been very few extras in the last several months. He also has a guy he's doing something for and not charging. I guess he kind of HAS to...he's a guy who's done a bunch of work on our house before, and he's a decent guy. Lee also did another paid legal matter for him recently, but way undercharged him.

Things are tight, getting tighter, and it SUCKS.

He tends to get grumpy when there's nothing exciting to eat...or when I tell him he needs to make his six pack of beer last...dude, it's not exactly fun for me either to have to be imaginative with basic groceries every single night. I know we can't afford the nicer, wider variety of food I used to buy and cook with. And no, we can't afford to eat out either. But taking on yet more FREE legal work isn't putting those groceries back on the table. It's like he's not even trying to do anything about it.....just moping around feeling defeated, snapping at the kids, sitting by himself reading a book. NOT spending more time working. NOT out trying to get clients.

It's not that he's lazy. It's that he's not in the least motivated to be successful, monetarily speaking, at his career. He does a good job. He's smart and likeable and has a lot of experience. He just wants to do his legal thing, have someone else take care of all of the details, and have a nice comfortable paycheck direct-deposited.

And I gotta say, being at the mercy, so to speak, of his funk about developing business, is getting very old. Here I am, out of the workforce for nine years, and my skills are obsolete. I don't regret staying home with my kids at all. DH never "made" me, or tried to control what I did at all. It was our choice, and I wanted to stay home. If money were no object, I'd not be looking for a job at all. But I can't keep on feeling like we are barely keeping ourselves afloat and not do anything about it. I have to have some control over this situation. I feel like there is a very thin financial line we could easily cross over, with one push from a disaster, illness, or major domestic catastrophe.

For all I know, thousands of people apply for these kinds of retail jobs and I may never hear back. But I have to try....I have to do something....I am the kind of worker that employers want. I am willing to learn, I love to learn, I will go the extra mile to help people. I've multitasked, run a household for nine years, volunteered in numerous capacities, served on our neighborhood board for three years, organized & ran the preschool library for three years, and am serving a second term as PTA president. I promise I am a person worth considering for a job.

Keep your fingers crossed for me.

Bad and good.

August 23rd, 2007 at 10:44 am

Bad: I took DH's car today. On the way home from the Farmer's Market, I hit a curb (or something), heard a really loud BANG! and two seconds later, knew I had a flat. On a busy residential street.

Good: I managed to pull over in the shade and I was only half a mile from DH's office.

Bad: I was supposed to join some friends today for lunch, to celebrate a birthday and I missed it, dealing with the car.

Good: I saved the money I would have spent on lunch.

Bad: DH was wearing a suit today, and I was stopped half on the curb, half off, so we called a tow truck instead of having DH change it (or taking DH home to change, then coming back so he could change the tire). That cost $60.

Good: He only had to tow us half a mile to the Goodyear place.

Bad: Two new tires aren't cheap.

Good: But the Goodyear place is having a special - free oil change with two tires, and DH's car was overdue for an oil change.

We were getting back in my car at the Goodyear place, and I, trying to be all chipper about it, say "When life hands you lemons...." and DH, all grumpy, goes "...pucker up."

I paid myself first.

August 15th, 2007 at 02:51 pm

DH got paid today. I deposited his check in the bank, and when I got home, I went online to ING direct and scheduled $100 to be transferred from my bank account to ING.

Now let's hope I don't wind up having to take that money back out before the end of the month.

I've paid a medical bill, our county property tax bill (the balance is due in November), renewed the paper, deducted our life insurance premium, and picked up DH's shirts from the laundry.

On the topic of DH and his clothes, he took all his suits to the alterations lady today because he has lost 20 pounds since February and they're all too big. So I should probably count on that costing at least $100. It's cheaper than a whole new suit, at any rate.

I also went to Wal-Mart today. I know millions of people shop there regularly, but I hate that place. I went there because my younger son's radio/CD player bit the dust. It was a cheapo I got several years ago with points I earned from doing surveys with Harris Poll. I'm suprised it lasted as long as it did. Anyway, both kids use their CD players on a daily basis for audio books and music, so it needed replacing ASAP. I did a little online research and found that I could get one that was not a complete piece of junk at Wal-Mart for a reasonable amount. I looked at Best Buy's website too, but for what I wanted, I'd wind up spending more than fifty dollars. My older son's cheapo stereo (purchased at Big Lots two years ago) is going to need to be replaced soon too, as the CD player only works intermittently. ANYWAY, long story short, I went to see what Wal-Mart had. They had a reasonable selection of stuff, some off-brand stuff that I wouldn't buy but I found a Memorex CD/radio/cassette player for under $30. I also spotted a kind of nice Sony CD player with remote for $68 that I might buy my older son for his birthday (September 3).

While I was there I needed to pick up a few other things, milk, something for dinner, ibuprofen. I decided to stroll through the grocery aisles to see what their stuff looked like and how the prices were compared to Kroger & Publix.

I don't know if all Wal-Marts carry the same stuff or if it varies by neighborhood, but I thought a lot of the stuff here looked kind of....scary. Some of the meats and processed foods looked incredibly cheap and crappy, full of disgusting chemical ingredients. In fact, the place was loaded with nutritionally void processed junk.

I did find a half-gallon of Horizon Organic milk for a dollar less than Kroger, a package of Nature's Own "double fiber wheat" bread for twenty cents less than Kroger, two pounds of all-natural ground beef marked for quick sale (I'm cooking it tonight), plus a can of mixed nuts and a bag of spinach. And a two-pack of Advil for cheap.

Otherwise, I can't see that I will be doing much shopping for groceries there.

There is supposed to be a Wal-Mart supercenter opening early next year in a neighborhood not too far away. The Wal-Mart I went to today is in a neighborhood that is kind of scary, so it's possible that the new Wal-Mart will carry higher-quality groceries.

I'm not sure that would change my opinion of Wal-Mart, though...the aisles are always filled with displays of crap, making it hard to get through....there are always shopping carts of random stuff everywhere...there are a hundred checkout stations, but only two of them will be open...Target is by FAR the nicer shopping experience.

School started on Monday, so I am hopeful that I can get my eBay business going again, at least a little bit. I have three things up now, plus two more set to launch tonight.

Just because they're so handsome and the light of my life (and I'm glad they're back in school), here's a picture of my kids:


I'll report again once I've dealt with all the bills.

Seeking some clarity.

August 9th, 2007 at 03:18 pm

In an effort to find out WHERE THE HELL IT IS ALL GOING (money, that is) I pulled up our bank account online, had it show all purchases only for the past sixty days, and then printed it out.

Normally, we're not rich or anything, but we can pay our bills with no problems, put a little away in savings, and go out to eat or shop once in a while. That has not been the case this summer.

We started off nearly cleaning out our savings with a $2500 city property tax bill. That might have been part of the problem - no savings to dip into for unexpected bills.

I suspected that a lot of our money was going to summer-related expenses, what with summer camp (though several of those were paid for in the spring) and other recreation. I'm not necessarily regretting any of it, but it does make me feel better to know that it's not going to be situation every month.

Anyway, looking just at where we used the ATM card, not cash or credit card (though ATM would be what we used the most), we have spent $885.48 since June 11 on the following:

- Movies (6 times, all matinees) $19.75 each trip, except for one where all four of us went, for about $27
- Lunches out with the kids (Moe's, Chick-Fil-A, Coldstone Creamery)
- Other kid activities/recreation (Bounce 'n' Bob's, Sun Valley Beach waterpark, a trip to the Lego Store, a weekend camping trip to a state park in Alabama)
- Two trips to the used book store for used DVD movies (about $25 a pop)
- Only a little bit of shopping (once to an antique store, to Old Navy, and to DSW Shoe Warehouse, totalling about $100 altogether; once to REI for something Michael needed for camp)
- Two trips to the liquor store (about $28 each time)
- DH spent $209.60 at various local pubs either with the boys or with "the guys"
- $279.20 spent at either of the local Ace Hardware stores or at Lowe's; most of what I spent at Lowe's was on paint/paint supplies for the kitchen & living room; I know I bought a bunch of plants in June, too.
- $193.92 spent at Target (though I frequently get $20 cash back, so that's not entirely accurate).

This helps explain why we are in the predicament we're in.

It's not like I can eliminate all these expenses and voila! We're flush. However, we won't be going to the movies six times in the next three months, or eating out lunch, or going to Sun Valley Beach. I am also going to mention to DH about what he's spent; he takes the boys to the neighborhood watering hole to let them play pinball, and three beers later, he's spent $25 just like *that*.

I hope I am not just kidding myself thinking that we'll be in better shape once the summer is over (three days!!!). I hope I don't just replace all those summertime expenses with other "stuff".

In other bill news, I was looking at our cell phone bill and saw that when DH was out of town right before the 4th of July with the boys, he called home four times for a grand total of $42 for non-network roaming calls. Part of the time he was camping and part of the time he was calling from a hotel where he said the house phone cost a fortune. Jeez louise! I about crapped a brick when I saw the bill. This is the first bill we've gotten since we switched to a family plan with my provider and got DH a phone, so I was going to be seriously depressed if that was what I was facing every month...however, it's going to be closer to $80. There sure are a lot of damn taxes tacked onto the bill.

In some GOOD bills news for a change, I looked at my BP bill on line and saw it has a zero balance. No one's used the card since I paid the bill last. Huzzah!

School starts on Monday and we have a whopping $64 to last until Wednesday. However, I have food for lunchboxes (we went to Trader Joe's today), the boys are set for clothes, I have half a tank of gas and food for dinner until then. I have to pick up two or three things at Kroger on Monday, but that's it. Fingers crossed there's no crises in the making.

Still can't seem to get ahead.

July 30th, 2007 at 01:58 pm

Are we ever going to get anywhere?

Lee got paid today. He kept out $100 cash (which will be gone before I know it). I have either scheduled or will schedule the following bills:

Mortgage $1070
Car pmt. $410
Car ins. $145
AMEX $250
Power co. $160
BP $140
Health ins. $422 automatically deducted
Discover $95

I also have a medical bill to pay, the newspaper subscription renewal, a few back-to-school things to buy, not to mention groceries, gas, etcetera.

He is all hyped about a notebook computer but I have already told him that even if he does get a percentage check - which he's not sure about because the woman who does them is out for part of the week - we can't afford one this month. We'll need that money for expenses and I refuse to put a computer on the credit card (or, if I do, I need to have the money in the bank to cover that charge right away).

For crying out loud. It doesn't seem like the regular bills used to get on top of us so much, even before we had his withholding adjusted. I think maybe I used to pay some of the bills with the previous month's paycheck (ie, car payment is due on the 4th, so I'd pay it with the paycheck received on the 15th of the previous month) but we've not had the money for that for the last few months.

I decided to do a $1000 balance transfer from my Wachovia card (12%) to Discover, which has a promotional rate of 2.99% through December, then 11.99. It probably won't save me a whole lot, but every little bit helps.

I swear I am tempted to withdraw a couple thousand dollars from a retirement account and throw it at a bill, but I know that is probably not a good idea. Besides, I need to save that option for our city property tax bill due in December, since we haven't been able to save a damn dime for that yet!

The dog days.

July 25th, 2007 at 07:38 am

Nothing really new to report....I'm in a bit of a funk which is mostly related to the monotony of our days. It happens every year at this time....I'm completely sick of summer. Mercifully, it hasn't been as hot as usually gets. I even turned the a/c off and had the windows open for two days earlier this week, which is unheard of in July in Georgia.

As far as money goes, well, for the first time in about three months we're approaching payday and there's actually money in the checking account. Only a couple hundred bucks, but certainly enough to get us through to Monday. I've been spending a little bit, not too much: I took Will to a water park called Sun Valley Beack on Monday with some friends; it cost $34 for the two of us but it was worth every penny. He had such a good time swimming and playing all day. I'm planning to go back week after next with Michael, since he was in camp that day.

Yesterday we went to lunch at Moe's ($9) and to an indoor playground ($18). Weekend before last all of us went to a matinee of "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" ($27).

Planned for the rest of the time before school starts are matinees of "Ratatouille" and "Silver Surfer"; a trip to the science museum to see a lizards and snakes exhibit; a trip to the Lego store at Discover Mills; a little bit of back-to-school clothes shopping at Old Navy and Target (Will needs shorts and Michael needs shirts; both are set for shoes); a pediatrician's appointment next week, and three days next week at a friend's house at Lake Hartwell.

I got a $25 REI gift card from MyPoints so the other day I went to REI and bought myself a new prAna yoga top; I spent about $19 of my own money. I also got a $20 check from another survey company, mysurvey.com, I think, and am expecting a $28 deposit from NFOInteractive this week.

I'm also trying to get motivated to start listing on eBay again; I went through my inventory bins and pulled out a few things to put up. I have already listed a Chico's shirt and a pair of Dansko mary janes. In past experience, this is the earliest I can start listing fallish stuff and have it do well, so I'm really kind of waiting until August to put more stuff up.

I told Lee we had to hold off on the notebook computer until we got a big percentage check. Don't know if that's going to happen this month or at the end of next month. One of his McClients is behind on several months of McBills, so once they pony up, we should be able to pay cash for a notebook computer.

Billpay/savings recap, plus advice needed re: notebook computer

July 15th, 2007 at 10:32 am

After a couple of lean, lean weeks, I am trying to be smarter with our money. Payday was Friday, and I have paid the following:
Working Assets wireless & long distance, BellSouth, Discover, Arrow pest control, Gas South, and our home equity loan.

I also renewed our Sierra Club membership and made an additional donation ($59), got my hair cut ($47), made a deposit into our ING account ($75) and paid on my Wachovia credit card to cover recent purchases ($335).

I also paid Will back $10 I had to borrow from his bank (how pathetic am I?) I still owe Michael $20, which I will pay back next time I get cash.

Still to pay before the end of the month is our life insurance ($335), newspaper subscription renewal ($113 for six months) and a medical bill ($100) for my annual in May, which went toward our deductible.

Also, I'm planning to go to the chiropractor tomorrow ($40) as well as Trader Joe's.

After all those paid bills, though, I've got $2157.82. My impulse is to slap a bunch of it on a credit card, but I'm resisting that urge lest I wind up with no money in my checking account and having to use the credit card for everyday expenses.

Now, here is an expense that I'd love some advice on. My DH has asked if he could buy a notebook computer, because he travels occasionally for work and sometimes works at home. He is not a gadget guy in the least, so I know that if he's asking for a computer, he really needs it and probably has for some time.

He doesn't need anything fancy; he won't be watching movies, playing games or downloading music or any graphics-heavy stuff like that. He needs to be able to connect to the internet to do legal research, needs to be able to check his email, and needs Microsoft Word.

There is a tax-free weekend coming up, I think the first weekend of August, so we'd love to buy one then. Or if there's some other place online that has fantastic deals on computers, we'd consider that. However, my DH says that he'd really like to look at it before buying, because he's used his partner's notebook before and he hates her style of keyboard, so we'll probably be buying it at a store like Office Depot.

I assume that if we go with an HP or Dell we'll be fine as far as quality goes, but beyond that, I don't know what we need.

Does anyone have any advice about buying one? What does it need in order to connect to the internet at home, at the office, or somewhere like a wireless hot spot?

I am completely ignorant on this matter, so what I really need is "Notebook Computers for Dummies".

A waste of money.

July 13th, 2007 at 11:30 am

Yesterday my parents and my nieces came to town and took me and the boys to the Georgia Aquarium in the afternoon.

I'd been once before, not long after it opened and I have to say, I wasn't impressed.

I thought it wasn't set up well, it was extremely crowded, the viewing areas too small, and ridiculously overpriced.

My opinion hasn't changed.

Dad paid for the tickets ($18 each for the boys, $24 for me), parking ($10, we tried parking at a cheaper lot but they were all full so we parked in the aquarium's deck), and lunch ($29 for me & the boys, all of which was pretty mediocre).

It was as crowded as it was the first time I went, and here's what I just do not get: all the people who didn't really seem interested in actually LOOKING at the exhibits - instead, they just positioned themselves where they could take a picture of it will their cell phones, then, without actually looking at what they photographed but instead looking at the phone, they walk away.

What the heck is wrong with people?

Anyway. I was grateful to dad for footing the bill for the afternoon, because the boys really enjoyed it and that's what matters. If I could just go when it's not jam-packed with people, I'd enjoy it more, I know.

However, I'll take the Chattanooga Aquarium any day over the Georgia Aquarium.

Everyone came over for dinner last night and we had burgers, dogs and chicken on the grill. I made some homemade baked beans which were exceptional, I have to say. I had half a bag of pinto beans languishing in the pantry, so I cooked those yesterday morning. Then I chopped a green bell pepper, a clove of garlic and an onion in the food processor (so as not to hear any complaints about large pieces of vegetables from kids) and browned it in a skillet. I mixed it with the cooked beans, then I mixed up a cup of chicken broth, roughly a half cup of ketchup, about a third of a can of cane syrup (leftover from a batch of gingerbread a few months ago), some molasses, and a generous amount of salt and pepper, poured it over the beans, then baked for about 45 minutes at 350. I usually don't make my beans very sweet, but I was trying to cater to my nieces, who wouldn't touch them. They apparently have extremely limited diets, ie, hotdogs, chee-tos, and cokes (that would be because my brother and his wife are major hillbillies, but his family is another story). Anyway, everyone else, including my kids, loved the beans.

Today was payday. When the paycheck hits the account, then I can get caught up AGAIN on bills and see where we are financially.

One thing we are doing this weekend: we are going as a family to see Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix at a matinee tomorrow. We are all shameless Harry Potter fans in our family (much bigger fans of the books than the movies, but we enjoy the movies all the same), and we're all very much looking forward to the movie tomorrow.

Doggone it.

July 7th, 2007 at 01:47 pm

I got a message on my answering machine from Dish Network that there was "a problem with my payment." I called them back and it turns out it was returned because I put in a wrong number somewhere when I made my online payment. I've been paying them online for a few months now and I don't remember having to input my bank account and routing number every time, but I had to this month, and obviously I got something wrong. And it cost me $10. I asked the customer service guy to switch me back to a paper bill.

Money is tight AGAIN. I'm trying not to stress out about it, because payday is either Friday or Monday (with any luck, it'll be Friday). I have very few bills due after the 15th, so I'll (hopefully) be able to do the catching up I've wanted to do. Right now all that's due is Bellsouth ($40), Working Assets Wireless ($41) and our life insurance ($335). I'll also try to pay a few bills that I typically pay after the 1st of the month, so that I don't find myself in a bind again.

I had forgotten that I had car insurance due, and I had to put the payment on my credit card, which made me want to hurl. I have never done that before. But if I'd paid it from our bank account, that would have left ZERO for groceries or anything for the week. I have one of my handy sticky notes right here, listing the things I charged on Visa to be paid off as soon as we get paid again.

It also occurred to me that I need to start socking away money for the city property tax bill in December, which'll be $2000 and some-odd dollars.

I need to buy lottery tickets or something. ;-)

My parents will be here next week with my nieces to take us to the aquarium, and I'm going to need to feed them on Thursday night. I've just been through the pantry and freezer and I think I have most everything I need - we'll grill burgers and hot dogs (both of which I stocked up on within the last two weeks), homemade baked beans (I have a bag of pinto beans to use up) a big salad (I'll need to pick up a few things, but we have a garden full of tomatoes), and a peach cobbler. The grocery and market are loaded with awesome, sweet, juicy peaches, and I have all the other stuff I'd need for cobbler.

Happy 4th, and props to the USPS....

July 4th, 2007 at 10:55 am

As previously blogged, I spaced out and put 39 cent stamps on several bills that I mailed out last week, one of which was a past due bill to Cingular/AT&T.

Well, to my great relief, all but one of the checks has cleared the bank. The postal service delivered them anyway - I don't know if they charged the recipient for the two cents postage due, but I don't care. They made it. The only one still outstanding is the water bill, which I'm not worried about. They'll send me another bill if it doesn't make it in a week or two.

In other good news, I got a check for $59.17 from the consignment store for items sold in June. Unfortunately, I've got to put that in the checking account for money to live off for the next ten days.

In yet more good news, my dad called and said he's bringing my nieces up to Atlanta to take them to the zoo and aquarium and wanted to know if we would like to come along to the aquarium as well. I'd been planning to take the boys anyway and it's a bonus that I don't have to pay for the tickets. I'm sure that's saving me at least sixty bucks.

On the non-saving end, the carpet cleaning didn't work so well. I did the landing at the top of the stairs and after much effort, got it marginally cleaner. This carpet cleaner doesn't have a hand-held thing, just a long nozzle, and I thought the stairs would be impossible to do with the long nozzle, so I just gave up. Yeah, I know. But it really wasn't worth the effort. I'll wait until the boys are back in school and then call Stanley Steemer.

Tonight we are getting together with a bunch of friends at another house, potluck style with burgers, dogs & beer. I went to Family Dollar yesterday and bought several packages of glow stick bracelets to hand out to all the kids. At 9:00, we'll walk down to the end of the street to watch the city's fireworks display.

This morning I went to a hot yoga class and the teacher read us two great quotes during savasana:

"The only sure bulwark of continuing liberty is a government strong enough to protect the interests of the people, and a people strong enough and well enough informed to maintain its sovereign control over the government." - Franklin D. Roosevelt

"We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms -- to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way." - Viktor Frankl

Good and Bad

July 2nd, 2007 at 09:03 am

THE GOOD:

Yesterday I went to the thrift store. I bought a few things for me (a few tank tops, a pair of shorts, an awesome Gap skirt which I have on) but I found a few good things for resale: a girls Lilly Pulitzer dress (to be saved for next spring), a girls Hanna Andersson dress (to be listed at the end of this month), a beautiful Chico's tunic tank shirt, an embellished Chico's tee, and a St. John gray wool vest.

I also went to Old Navy to get the boys some desperately needed clothes. I had a $25 gift card from MyPoints and a 10% off coupon from filling out a post-shopping trip survey, so I bought a pile of stuff for them (shorts, t-shirts, swimsuit) and spent less than $25 of my own money. With my receipt, I also got another survey form, which I'm going to fill out for another 10% off the next time I go there.

This morning I had a dermatologists appointment and she took off a couple of spots with her nitrogen blow torch. She said they were probably fine, but asked if I'd feel better if she took them off, and I said yes, so she did. One on each leg and one on my right forearm. I expected to have a co-pay, but I didn't.

After my appointment I went to Kroger. They had Tide liquid laundry detergent for $4.99 a jug, and I had a 35 cent coupon (which they doubled), so I bought two jugs. I also had a $2 off $8 meat department coupon, so I bought a package of "manager's special" butterfly pork shops, which I put in the freezer, a pork loin which I'm probably going to roast today, even though DH & the boys won't be home until Wednesday, a box of Angus chuck patties (on sale), some boxes of frozen turkey sausage (10 for $10), and a few other things. I also bought a big jug of white vinegar, because my friend Beth loaned me her Rainbow vacuum/carpet cleaner. She says all she uses is vinegar in the soap chamber of the cleaner. I think I have figured out how to work the thing; now I have to haul it upstairs and hook it to the sink. I really need to do the stairs, the upstairs landing, and our bedroom. If it gets the carpet clean, I will have saved us about $150, which is what I usually spend to have Stanley Steemer come out once a year.

I also called our bank and closed our pitiful cash investment account, the one which paid next to no interest and cost $6 a month.

While I was on the phone, I asked the guy how much it cost to stop payment on a check, and this is THE BAD: it costs $30. UGH. I am worrying about that darned check to AT&T.

I wish it would hurry up and get returned to me by the post office already!

Uh-oh.....

June 30th, 2007 at 08:24 am

I just realized I made a boo-boo....

I mailed a couple of bills with old postage stamps, ie, 39 cent stamps, on them!

One was the power bill...one was the water bill...one was the termite bond....none of them I'm particularly worried about....but I also mailed that at&t payment with an old stamp on it.

Yikes!

I didn't realize because the stamps I used said "first class" on them, not 39 cents. When I went looking for more stamps, I found the new stamps, the ones that say "forever" on them, and then realized what I'd done.

I hope they all come back to me ASAP, or else I hope some of the good karma I've got out there in the universe will kick in and the at&t payment will make it.

Bill pay time...

June 29th, 2007 at 04:49 pm

I went ahead & scheduled a bunch of online bills to be paid, since they won't go through until next week.

Dish Network: $32.99
AMEX: $275 (leaves a balance of $11,884)
BP - $175.05 (pays the "statement balance" in full)
Termite bond - $318
Home equity loan - $169.69
Water - $73.44
Mortgage - $1070.21
Car - $410.17

So that leaves about $1400 until the next payday, but I have not paid my VISA bill yet - that comes instantly from our checking account, so I have to wait until tomorrow. Also, our health insurance premium, which is automatically deducted on the 10th, and car insurance, due on the 8th, which is $145.

Geez, it seems like the paycheck is just GONE, like *that*.

How depressing. And I thought that extra $194 was going to make a difference. Imagine if we didn't get that or a percentage check.

I have to remind myself, we're still in catch-up mode....

Payday!

June 29th, 2007 at 12:02 pm

So today DH got his paycheck with adjusted withholding - an extra $194. Plus a percentage check for $950 and an expense check of $237.

We kept out $350 cash - $150 for me to buy groceries with and $200 for him to take camping (he's leaving tomorrow, coming back Wednesday morning, with the boys - one night in a hotel because the campground they want is full, but hopefully will open up on Sunday night).

I have a whole pile of bills to pay, but I can't do anything until the deposit shows up in the bank after midnight.

I looked at my VISA bill and there is no payment due for July. I'm not sure why? Anyway, I'm planning to give them at least $300, for the stuff I charged in the last few weeks plus some toward the balance I already had.

I called today to make a dermatologist appointment, thinking it would be late July, if not August, before I could get in with the physician's assistant that I like. To my surprise they said I could come in Monday morning. I am glad; I have a spot on my left leg that I worry about and I want her to look at it and take it off if she thinks it's at all necessary. Since we have a high-deductible plan, I'll have to pay for the visit, but probably not until August after they've filed the insurance.

AT&T/Cingular continues to call us, even though we mailed their payment already. Yesterday DH said they called to try to get him to reactivate his phone. He told them NO. We've already got his new phone from Working Assets, activated and charged and ready to go. NOW if AT&T would just receive his payment and we can be done with them.

I'll update again after I've paid the bills tomorrow...

Wireless phone issue....

June 27th, 2007 at 07:31 am

..turned out to be a good thing.

DH has had a wireless phone with Cingular for almost two years. He had a Razr phone that has been unable to hold a charge for more than a day, even after replacing the battery. However, when we called a few months ago to try and get a replacement phone, Cingular told him he wasn't eligible for one until this May. That made no sense to me - what if it had been lost? Anyway, at that point we decided that in August, when his contract was up, we'd cancel his Cingular account and add a phone onto my wireless account with Working Assets. That would also save us ten dollars a month, since his service was $39.99 a month and mine is only $29.99 a month.

Well, I didn't realize it, but when Cingular got bought by, or merged with, AT&T, the bills stopped coming via email. It occurred to me the other day that I hadn't seen a bill from them lately, but I forgot about it and didn't check.

This morning the phone rang right as I was getting out of the shower, and when I looked at caller ID, it was an 800 number, which I never answer, and because I was upstairs, I didn't hear the message.

About ten minutes later, the phone rang again and it was the same number, so again I didn't answer. As soon as I listened to the first message that basically said "this is AT&T with an important message about your account", DH called and asked if I talked to them. I said no, I didn't pick up either time, and I had just heard the message. He said "they called me at work, said I owed $136 for the past three months, and if we didn't pay immediately they're cutting off the phone and we have to pay $36 to reconnect. I told the guy to call home and talk to you, and he said that if he didn't reach you he was cutting the phone off."

Since I didn't pick up, the phone was cut off. I told DH to call back, find out where to send payment, and tell them that we do NOT want the phone cut back on.

This got us out of the two remaining months on the contract! I've written out a check for the past due bills we owe, and gone ahead and ordered him a new phone & service with Working Assets that is ten dollars a month cheaper than with Cingular. He barely used his phone anyway, since the battery died so often. Also, the new phone was free, and there was no shipping or activation charge.

So, getting called about a past due bill really stressed me out, but it turned out to be in our favor.

The only drawback is that he will be without a phone when get takes the boys camping next week, but I told him he could take my phone. I'll be staying here alone, and I really won't need it.

Paycheck withholding revisited

June 26th, 2007 at 02:21 pm

Finally, DH got an answer from the accountant about changing the withholding on his paycheck. We took the number to 8 from what the w-4 calculator had told me, which was 16. I feel pretty confident that this should be okay. If not, we'll adjust it again at the beginning of next year.

Changing the withholding gives us an extra $158 per paycheck, plus more of his percentage checks. So, an extra $316 a month, at least!

I'm not sure where to start with that extra money. There are a number of things I need to catch up on first, having gotten sidetracked this month - my BP card, which I have always paid in full, is carrying a balance right now which I'm going to pay off. I've also charged some stuff on my VISA that I normally wouldn't charge, so I want to pay those purchases off. We also used $500 from our equity line at the beginning of the month, which I definitely want to pay off. I have the usual bills, in addition. I also need to order filters for our air conditioner system; car insurance is due again on the 8th; county property taxes are due on August 15 and termite bond is due on the 30th of this month.

It feels good to be getting back on track, though. The trick is not to let our expenses expand to fill that extra income!
Maybe I need to look into automatic weekly transfers from our checking account onto my VISA card.

For once, I resisted.

June 24th, 2007 at 02:30 pm

So I needed to go to Target today. Yesterday my older son's swim mask (which I bought two weeks ago at Big Lots - obviously, that was false economy) broke yesterday, and he hates to swim without one. I also needed a bunch of other stuff - tampons, ibuprofen, sunscreen, stuff like that. As well, when I washed our bathroom curtains yesterday, they came out of the washing machine in shreds. It wasn't that big of a loss - they were old curtain panels that we used to have in our bedroom years ago, hemmed to fit our bathroom windows. They were nothing special, but they did block some of the afternoon sun that comes through. So, I was going to look for some inexpensive curtain panels to replace them.

So at Target I was lured by the siren call of the clothes right inside the front door. I found some cute Mossimo low-rise cropped pants in a washed brown that I really liked. I put them in my cart thinking "I know I don't need these" and....before I checked out, I hung them back.

It's a first. ;-P

I got what I needed at Target, in addition to a cute headwrap/hairband thing on clearance for four bucks. I'm letting my hair grow out, it's very thick and wavy/curly, and I'm at the point where I need to keep it out of my face. Since I'm not spending $46 every three weeks to get it cut like I used to, I felt entirely justified in buying this cute thing.

Because our cash is limited at the moment, I charged my Target purchase, but my receipt is taped to my desk and come payday, I'm going to transfer the amount I charged from my checking onto my credit card account.

They had no curtains, though, so I went to Pier One to look; they didn't have any either.

On my way home I stopped by what used to be my favorite thrift store. I don't know if my standards or theirs have changed, but it seemed like everything was junk. Crappy, worn out clothes, broken household stuff, dirty, grimy looking baby equipment, ratty old shoes...I did, however, score four things: a pair of new with tags Mossimo cargo shorts for my older son; a new-looking, blue plaid Ralph Lauren Polo short-sleeve button down for my DH to wear to work; a pair of brand-new Beth Bath & Beyond light blue king-size jersey pillowcases, and for me, a very cool Hollister poncho/wrap kind of thing; it's semi sheer, a lightweight wool blend, in a camel color; it's the kind of thing I'd wear in the fall over a camisole if I were out at night.

Grand total: $21 (paid cash)

That thrift store has a weekly half-off day on Monday, and I think they pretty much price all their stuff for that day. I used to shop half-off day regularly, but it was just too crazy and it got to not be worth it. So their prices are otherwise a bit high for me, but I'm happy with what I got.

Tomorrow my younger son is in art and music camp, so I think my older son and I are going to go to Ikea and look at curtains. I looked at their website, and they seem to have a good selection that is as cheap as, if not cheaper than, Target.

Nothing new to report...

June 22nd, 2007 at 06:34 pm

I'm kind of hanging out, financially speaking, until next payday when I see if DH's withholding has been adjusted per the w-4 I prepared and emailed to him. He's emailed it to the accountant, but if he's heard back from him, he hasn't told me.

Also, he did tell me that his main client has paid one of their bills, but there are several others up to three months old. I know they will be paid eventually, but it's tiresome to keep having to worry about it. Since one got paid, he'll get a percentage check on Friday, but it may not be for much.

I resisted going to Target this week and buying myself some cute shorts that a friend bought there recently.

Next week my younger son is in half day art camp, so my older son and I are going to see an exhibit at the historic courthouse in our town called "Anne Frank in the World 1929 - 1945": The largest of its kind in the world, this exhibit is a presentation of over 600 photographs and 8,000 words reminding visitors about the Holocaust through Anne Frank’s story. The exhibit chronicles the life of Anne Frank as told through her famous diary as the Nazis rise to power was unfolding around her. Combating bigotry, prejudice and hatred in today’s society are just some of the goals of this truly unique and moving exhibition.

In addition to being an awesome educational exhibit, it's also free.

So in contrast to all that debt...

June 19th, 2007 at 07:11 pm

...what do we do to save?

Well, at the moment, our savings are pretty pitiful.

I have a savings account at ING direct that I've had for several years. When we got our tax refund this year, after we paid a few bills, paid for a few summer camps, and paid CASH for our spring break trip, I put the rest in the ING account. It earned good interest for several months, but then I had to pull almost all of it out for our city taxes ($2500) and a home repair ($420) and some living expenses.

In the past I've had automatic deposits from our checking account scheduled, but when money was tight I cancelled them. If we can ever get this withholding issue settled, I'd like to start them again.

Both of my kids also have accounts with ING each with a hundred or so dollars.

We also have a crappy money market account with our main bank. It pays next to nothing and it also costs $6 a month. The ONLY reason I keep it is because I like to transfer money out of my checking into there, so I kind of forget about it and am not tempted to spend it. If I need it transferred back, the transfer is instantaneous....if I transfer it to ING, it takes two days to make it back into my checking account. I wish there were a better alternative...hell, a mason jar under the bed would be better. I'm certainly not earning anywhere near $6 a month.

Huh. Maybe I WILL put aside cash in a mason jar and close that account. That would be like finding an extra $6 a month...

We also have three retirement accounts, two at T. Rowe Price and one with the American Bar Association. One of them is mine, leftover from a previous job. I haven't checked the balance lately - I think I'll go do that right now.

My retirement account has $9600 in it; DH's T. Rowe Price has $16,400. His is invested solely in a science and technology fund, so the balance goes up and down. At one time, around 1999, it had a balance of over 40K. Of course, most of that disappeared within a year or two of that. His ABA account has $41,599 in it. We have never made deposits into those T. Rowe Price accounts on our own; the money in it is solely from employer contributions and what they've earned. DH was required to make a yearly deposit into his ABA account when he worked at the other firm, but has not since he left. In other words, we are not actively saving for retirement at all. And DH is 51, so we really need to get a move on.

I'm glad I checked them - they're doing better than I thought.

Here's a question I hope someone can answer ...in the past when I've had opportunities to put money into our retirement funds, I've always hesitated, because I think I would feel absolutely sick if I looked at the statement and saw that it had LOST money. Is there some way to minimize this risk - transferring my money to a super-conservative fund? A CD maybe? I am such a dummy when it comes to investing, I have no idea what to do, but while I'm paralyzed with indecision, time is wasting!

Easy come, easy go....

June 19th, 2007 at 02:45 pm

So here are our expenses and income....

Income: $2954 net 2x/month
Percentage: anywhere between $200 and $2000 most months (paid at the end of the month, and I never know if we're getting anything or how much, so I don't usually count on it).

About our income: I have been bugging my DH to get his withholding adjusted since we received our (very large) tax refund in February. There's not a dedicated accounting person in his tiny firm, so one of the paralegals who writes the check was supposed to be working on it. Well, it was the busy season for the firm's accountant, so it didn't happen, and then in late April that paralegal went out on maternity leave. Needless to say, it still hasn't happened. All I wanted them to do was look at the number of allowances he was claiming on his w-4 and then adjust it up a little. Apparently no one can find his w-4 and the accountant wasn't too helpful. So I found the 2007 withholding calculator at irs.gov, used it, then filled out another w-4 (also from irs.gov) and emailed it to him with instructions to get it to the accountant to see what his net would be using it. We shall see. Probably what will happen when I ask him about it is, I'll get some attitude and be treated like I'm a big nag. Whatever!!

Monthly expenses:

Mortgage: $1070 (we don't pay into escrow, so this is just principal & interest).

HELOC: Our balance is 29K and our monthly payment varies - it's usually in the neighborhood of $200. I usually pay the minimum, but I"ve had to dip into it in order to cover expenses.

Home Equity loan: this was originally part of our HELOC; we rolled part of the balance over into a fixed rate loan (the HELOC is variable rate). The interest rate on the fixed loan is five point something; at the time, I though that was outrageously high because the variable rate HELOC was at four point something. OH, if I'd only known...I don't know what the balance is, but our monthly payments are $169.69. I know we have several years left to go.

Car payment: $410 (we have just under two years left on this, a 2004 Honda CRV)

AMEX: Balance is $12,115. The bulk of this was balance transfers from higher interest cards. This is the only credit card my DH carries. When he needs stuff for work, like plane tickets and whatnot, he uses this. He only gets reimbursed at the end of the month for expenses, so though I TRY to pay all the work related charges off, sometimes I wind up using some of the reimbursement money for something else. I have a card on this account also, but rarely use it.

BP: This card is almost always paid in full, except for last month, when I didn't have the funds to do it. Usually the charges are between $20 - $120 a month.

Wachovia: This is my credit card. The balance is $9100. Some of this is from a balance transfer, but some not. It's linked to our bank account, so what I try to do is if I use it online, I immediately log on to my account online and transfer the money from our checking account to the Visa account. Obviously I don't do it enough. The minimum payment is quite low, last month it was $63, but generally I pay at least $200 a month plus any additional post-purchase transfers from my checking account.

Parisian: This is my card. I've had it for about twelve years and what they offered at the time I got it was an "interest free option" where if you paid a certain percentage of the balance each month, there was no interest on your balance. I have never paid interest on that account. I have not always carried a balance on that card, but I'm carrying one now, about $350. Parisian has been sold to Belk, and they are eliminating the interest-free option, as well as closing the store closest to me, so once it's paid off I won't be using it again.

Discover: This card is strictly for a low interest rate balance transfer I did a few months ago. I've never made a purchase with the card. Right now the balance is $4700. The interest rate is something like 2.99 for the life of my balance transfer, so I've only been paying the minimum.

That's our consumer debt.

Other monthly expenses:
Health insurance: $422 automatically deducted monthly. This is a high-deductible plan. We've already switched once from BC/BS to this less costly plan.
Life insurance for both me & DH: $335, also automatically deducted
Dish satellite: $23.99
Working Assets wireless & long distance (mine): $35 (I never use all my minutes and we rarely call long distance)
Cingular wireless (DH): $39.99 (his contract is up in August, then we are kicking Cingular to the curb and switching him to Working Assets)
Georgia Power: budget billing of $160 monthly
Natural gas: about $40 in the summer, $100 in the winter
Internet: $50/month
Water: between $60-$80 every other month
Car insurance for two cars: $545 twice a year, divided into monthly payments of $140 for four months, twice a year. I switched to Geico (you could save fifteen percent or more on your car insurance by switching to Geico!! ;-)) about a year ago from a more expensive company.
Bellsouth local phone line with caller ID: $36
Arrow pest control: $40/month (we live in the deep South...palmetto bugs...'nuff said!!)
Netflix: $19/month. This is automatically billed to the AMEX.

Those are our monthly expenses. Here are others that pop up during the year:

Homeowner's insurance: $700 every April
City taxes: we pay this ourselves, every June & December. It's usually between $2200 - $2500 each time - the June one is higher because it includes the sanitation fee.
County taxes: about $600, divided & paid in July and November
Homeowner's association fees: $400, divided & paid in April and November. This includes use of a pool & tennis courts.
Termite bond: $320 yearly (this is due at the end of this month)
HVAC service contract: $275 (this was due for renewal at the end of April but I haven't paid it yet)
Newspaper subscription: not sure...maybe $115 every four or five months?
Yoga classes - this varies. I buy a bunch of classes at one time to lower the cost per class. Now that my kids are home, it will take me longer to use my classes, but during the school year, I usually go 3 or 4 times a week. I just bought a five class card at one studio for $65; at another studio, I bought a 12 class card last month for $149.

I think that's it. My next entry will be about our other spending (groceries, extracurricular activities, etc.) and entertainment/shopping.

A little background info.

June 19th, 2007 at 09:53 am

I'm 40-year-old mom of two boys, one of whom will start kindy in the fall and the other of whom will start 3rd grade. I have been a stay-at-home-mom for about nine years. I stay busy by volunteering at school - I'll be PTA president for the 2nd year in a row this year - by selling part-time on eBay - though PTA duties have cut into my selling - by running our household, and practicing yoga.

My husband is a lawyer at a two-person firm in our town. As lawyers go, he's not that well paid, but he's not much motivated by money, which is a blessing and a curse. It's a blessing because he would rather be with us than working, but a curse because it pretty much reflects his overall attitude toward money. He was a partner at a much larger firm at one time, and he was making good money, but he was expected to get out and develop more business, which would have meant more time away from home. He was offered an opportunity to work with someone he knew about a mile from our house. It was about a $20K pay cut, but we decided that we could handle it if he would be happier there. He draws a salary and then gets a certain percentage of billings that are his exclusively.

Some things have been better and others not; he really needs to be more aggressive about work-related money matters (getting paid timely, etc.) but he's not. In a large firm, he got paid reliably because there were enough other people getting paid on time, but in this firm, if his clients don't pay timely, he only draws his salary, not his percentage. The salary pays the bills; the percentage pays for the extras. He hates dealing with anything money related, so he's terrible about calling his clients to remind them to pay up. Then his partner gets on his case about it, which makes him grumpy and resentful.

To his credit, he never, ever says anything about what I spend, he never questions anything about the family finances, never doubts that I am doing the right thing, and is not a shopper; he doesn't care about gadgets, cars, power tools, clothes, or sports...his main vice is buying books (with his credit card, of course).

His in-denial attitude makes me nervous at times, because finances at his firm have been shaky at times in the past year. I feel very vulnerable sometimes because the rest of us are completely dependent upon his salary, and we don't have a lot of savings to fall back on.

I have been putting feelers out about a part-time job, but my volunteer commitments take up a lot of time, and to be honest, things are not to the point where I have to get one. In my former life, I was a paralegal, but my skills are seriously out of date. I wouldn't mind doing something like running an office, but the few times I've seen a part-time office job, it usually requires proficiency in some software I'm not familiar with.

I've had good luck selling on eBay in the past couple of years; I shop thrift stores for clothing to resell. However, the increases in eBay fees and postage have made it not so much worth it anymore. I limit myself to sure-sellers, but again my volunteer commitments have cut into my inventory shopping opportunities. Once my kids go back to school, I plan to sell again, at least a little bit, during September and October, which are usually good months for clothing sales.

We live in an area where the quality of life is excellent, including public schools, but it is also pretty expensive. Our house is not that expensive, but property taxes are quite high.

So, our debt consists of a mortgage, a HELOC (used for some home improvements a few years ago, plus some emergency expenses), one car note, an AMEX with a high balance, a VISA with a high balance, one store credit card with an interest-free option, and one gas credit card paid in full every month.

Additional monthly expenses include health insurance and life insurance premiums (neither is offered by Lee's job), a basic satellite dish subscription, internet, basic cell phone service for each of us, homeowner's assocation fees, utilities, and Netflix.

Of course that doesn't include groceries, other house or car related expensese, extracurricular activies for the boys or entertainment.

We have a few retirement plans to which we have not contributed to since Lee left his other firm two year ago.

I've read a bunch of personal finance books, the most recent of which was Jean Chatzky's "Pay It Down - From Debt to Wealth on $10 a Day", so I feel like I know what I need to know, but I can't seem to make any great strides with savings or debt reduction.

We don't eat out a lot, I'm not the avid shopper that I used to be (though I still have a hard time getting out of Target without finding something that I can't live without) but if I'm honest with myself, I do spend with the mindset of, "we work hard, we have a certain level of lifestyle, I should be able to buy this" whether or not it's really a wise purchase.

In a later entry, I will list all our debt and then detail what I've done lately to reduce expenses. Then I hope to use this blog to brainstorm more ideas for maximizing our money and keep tabs on our spending.

How do I....

June 19th, 2007 at 08:24 am

create the thing on the side where I can list my debt?