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What Would You Do, and a general update

November 25th, 2007 at 04:06 am

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....

I paid myself first.

August 15th, 2007 at 09:51 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 10:18 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 08:58 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!

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

July 15th, 2007 at 05:32 pm

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".

Doggone it.

July 7th, 2007 at 08:47 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.