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Clothing swap.

September 13th, 2007 at 01:57 pm

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.

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!

The dog days.

July 25th, 2007 at 02:38 pm

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.

Payday!

June 29th, 2007 at 07:02 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...

Paycheck withholding revisited

June 26th, 2007 at 09:21 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.

Easy come, easy go....

June 19th, 2007 at 09:45 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.