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Archive for August, 2008

A Little Disappointed & Money to CCs

August 29th, 2008 at 02:05 pm

Well, my husband's paycheck was direct deposited into our bank account today and it didn't contain his new raise. I'm disappointed; we thought it would start this pay period, but I guess we'll have to wait two more weeks. It would have been nice to have it start today since my mom is coming to visit tomorrow and I'm having baby #2 next week. Actually, perhaps those things will help us save a little bit of money since we won't be going out too much once the baby comes. I'll keep my fingers crossed.

I know I can't really complain, a raise is a raise and I'm grateful. I'm just excited to send more money to pay down our debt. As it is the following is set to go out on the 2nd of Sept.:

Bank of America: $200 (min. $184)
Bank of America: $200 (min. $183, this will get it below $10k balance!)
Chase: $12 (this will pay it off)
Car Payment: $334 (min. only)

Freelance Check Came

August 27th, 2008 at 12:17 am

We just got an extra $150 check in the mail (from my husband's freelance work). I just deposited it today to cushion our account more this pay period since we've have more surprises this pay period. I hate "surprises".

Saving Money on Food w/ Angel Food Ministries

August 24th, 2008 at 02:46 am

I don't know if you've heard of Angel Food Ministries before, but basically it's a nationwide co-op that orders a set menu once a month (the menu varies each month though). The order retails for an average of $65, but you get it for $30. There are no qualifications or applications, anyone can order. You can order as much as or as little as you want each month or even every few months, there isn't any commitment or membership to join. It was actually started as a way to help people get a "hand up" during financially stressful times, but anyone can use it and according to the article below, even doctors and lawyers are.

I tried it for the first time in June and figured that whatever I don't use right away will just go into my food storage and so it will help that slowly build too. Anyway, I won't go into it all since all the info is on their website (www.angelfoodministries.com), but I thought others might be interested since we all seem to like finding good deals.

Here's the link to the article: http://fredericksburg.com/News/FLS/2008/052008/05312008/3837...

Oh, in my food storage research I also came upon this site that actually will give you menus with recipes based on the Angel Food Network's food distribution for the month(http://www.hillbillyhousewife.com/angelfood/).

Here's a review that I sent to some friends after my first month:

Going in and paying for the food was easy, just take a money order or cash. I got a receipt and took that with me when I picked it up a few weeks later. I had about an hour window in which to pick it up and went with a friend who had also ordered for the first time. Everything was already organized into orders and all the frozen/refrigerated items were put together in a trash bag. We got our orders loaded in our car in a matter of about 5 minutes of arriving, all we had to do was give them our receipt.

All of us have been pleased with the food we got. My son, husband and I ate the pizza that same day and hamburger patties that night. We liked everything. We had run out of milk so I used the shelf stable milk that came with the order (it's not powdered milk as I'd guess, but fresh liquid milk in a carton and it didn't expire until March 2009 - yeah for food storage!). I have mixed it with reconsituted powdered milk and put it in the frig. No one had noticed a difference yet and I think it's tasted fine on cereal, etc. We are making two of the steaks tonight and they look good.



All the meat, except for the chicken tenders and chicken legs/thighs, were vaccum packed. The dessert item was a 4 pack of Boston Cream Pudding. I am attaching a photo of everything we got, except the pizza and milk (already used) and the pudding and eggs (I forgot to take them out of the frig).

In a nutshell, I'm happy and so were my two friends. We are ordering again this month. I plan to order for the next two months at least and stockpile a little before the baby comes. If we don't use all the meat each month, I may go to every other month, but three months in a row should give me a good feel as to what we're using. The menu is supposed to feed a family of four for a week.

UPDATE: I have now ordered three months in a row and have only gotten one or two things I didn't really care for or felt like I just couldn't use. Overall, I think it's a great deal and plan on continuing to buy from them.

Have any others used them and if so, what did you think of the food?

How We Save Money by Taking Snacks to Work & Ready-Made Breakfast Smoothie

August 23rd, 2008 at 03:53 pm

I was talking to a friend yesterday about how I make smoothie "kits" for my husband's breakfast in the morning. He is usually rushing and this is a very fast and easy to carry breakfast that he likes. It doesn't cost much and I have made them up to a few days in advance.

I put everything, but the ice cubes, in a large empty yogurt container that I've labeled "Smoothie". I usually put it together in the order that I have written the recipe down, if you put the sugar in first, it will stay at the bottom of the container, etc.

Smoothie Recipe
1 whole fruit (I usually do a banana cut in 2 pieces or some pieces of canned peaches.)
1/2 cup of milk (I sometimes use reconstituted powdered milk, but you don't notice because of all the other ingredients.)
1 cup yogurt (I use flavored yogurt, either strawberry or peach usually.)
2 tablespoons sugar

Put 4 ice cubes and the smoothie "kit" into the blender. Blend on high until smooth (perhaps 30 seconds). You're good to go.

Enjoy!

I have also gotten into making snacks for my husband to take to work so that he won't visit the snack machine as often. It saves money and is good for his health. Here are some of the things I have done:

*Cut up an entire stalk of celery ($1.36) and put into snack-sized tupperware containers, sometimes with baby carrots. He takes another small container of ranch dressing.
*Make brownies, cut into pieces, wrap in syranwrap and freeze. He can take one and it'll thaw at work.
*Cut a cake into pieces and put into small tupperware containers.
*Put almost anything such as jello, pudding, applesauce, etc. into small tupperware containers, it's much cheaper than buying it already done!
*Chips and homemade salsa
*He also keeps a large box of microwave popcorn at his desk. He's become known as the "popcorn guy" because he eats quite a bit of this. Smile

I hope this might help gives ideas to others. I'd love to hear any of your suggestions! My husband has a microwave and refrigerator available to him at work.

Thanks!

Important Life Documents - DONE

August 22nd, 2008 at 05:44 pm

I just got back from my husband's office where we got our wills, advanced directive and durable power of attorney for health care documents notarized. YEAH - I can now check off one of my goals on the sidebar. I'm glad we've gotten that done; it brings such peace of mind.

We also have most of the paperwork for a living revocable trust done, but we need to ask someone to be the successor trustee (we have a person in mind, just need to talk to them). We also need to take it to an attorney and have it looked over. Once all that is done, we will feel completely set (for now) with having those important life documents in order.

FSA Consumer Accounts Card - Good Idea?

August 21st, 2008 at 02:51 pm

$49.29 was just reimbursed to our bank account from our flexible spending account (FSA). It took about a month for this to happen so I'm wondering it getting a Consumer Accounts Card would be a good idea. We're about to have a baby (in 1.5 weeks or so) and are funding our FSA accordingly, but don't want to have that hospital bill taken from our bank account for any amount of time. The card seems like a good idea since it is a debit card for the FSA account and can only be used for approved things or it's declined.

Does anyone else use a card to access their FSA? Has it worked well? Is there anything I should know? I'd really appreciate any feedback!

Just upped our 401k contribution

August 21st, 2008 at 02:24 pm

I just changed our 401k contribution to 6% of my husband's salary (that's the max. his company will match) so that it will go into effect on this next paycheck. We expect this paycheck to be the first to show his raise and want this to already be in place, that way we'll still see an increase in our take home, but we won't see it all, which is probably good.

I just got my CafePress.com check in the mail, $40.15. That will be deposited tomorrow and will help cover the things I have gotten for my toddler son. I just visited the back-to-school sales last night to get crayons, shapes/colors bingo, alphabet bingo, markers, paint, etc. The rest will add a little more cushion to this pay period.

August 2008 Financial Overview

August 19th, 2008 at 07:08 pm

Here's our current status for August; not the best. We had a few unexpected expenses that threw off our budget and left us with about $1500 more debt. Luckily yesterday we got our homeowner's insurance refund check in the mail and I have sent a third payment to Target this month ($165) and an extra $100 payment to overdraft.

I'm also bummed to see that my husband's 401k lost approximately $257 this month. I know this is one area that I need to learn more about; I sure don't like to see it going down!

Current Debt: August 2008

Student Loan #1
% V, Outstanding: $2,435

Student Loan #2
4.3% V, Outstanding: $1,575

Bank of America
10.24% V, Outstanding: $10,390

Bank of America
9.90% V, Outstanding: $10,211

Bank of America
0% to 03/2009, Outstanding: $4,635

Chase
15.43% V, Outstanding: $261

Chase
10.99%, Outstanding: $10

Citi
0% to 07/2009, Outstanding: $2,060

Target
22%, Outstanding: $445

Overdraft
18.00% V, Outstanding: $1,365

401K
Loan 1, Outstanding: $937 (Pay off 07/31/2009)
Loan 2, Outstanding: $4,233 (Pay off 07/16/2011)

Car Loan
9.90%, Outstanding: $15,944



DEBT TOTALS
Credit cards & Overdraft: $29,377
Student Loans: $4,010
401K Loans: $5,170
Car Loan: $15,944


THE BIG DEBT TOTAL: $54,501

Total Savings: $0
Total Retirement: $46,750

Raise! New Budget!

August 18th, 2008 at 11:38 pm

Well, we finally got word of the raise and it'll add a good $10k to my husband's salary. This is going to make a BIG difference in our debt repayment plan. I'm so excited! We talked today about funding his 401k up to the match (6%), putting $100/month in savings and then putting the rest of the raise completely to debt. We also talked about not changing our lifestyle expectations with the raise so we're on the same page. This is so exciting and such a relief. They'll officially announce his promotion to the department on Wednesday. His yearly bonus is due to come on Sept. 15th and we find out tomorrow if it'll be based on his old or new salary. (Keeping our fingers crossed that it'll be based on the new salary!)

So...here's a breakdown of the new anticipated budget. I expect to see $2550 each pay period (bi-monthly) after taxes and other deductions. I think it'll start on August 31st.

BUDGET

$5100 take home

$850 rent
$40 water
$80 charitable offering
$300 food
$334 car payment
$300 gas
$100 fun money (the money we don't have to be held accountable for, $50 each)
$40 haircuts (we'll rotate in getting this, I need to learn to cut my husband's hair and save a bundle!)
$150 car insurance
$70 student loan #1 payment
$54 student loan #2 payment
$55 cable/internet
$120 cell phones (no home phone)
$200 electric
$515 tithing (charitable offering)
$100 cushion/misc.
$100 savings
$1692 DEBT REPAYMENT ($538 in minimums)

I don't have any special accounts or withholdings to pay for special things when they come up (such as car registration, etc.) but expect to use the cushion or take it from the extra debt money when they come due.

Debt Payments

August 16th, 2008 at 06:39 pm

Yesterday I paid the following:

Bank of America: $210 (min. $190)
Chase: $65 (min. $42)
Chase: $60 (min. $41)
0% Bank of America: $56 (min. $46)
0% Citi: $40 (min $30)

We got a credit from Verizon and changed our car insurance coverage so we were under budget for both of these expenses. I'm putting the difference towards a second Target card payment on Monday.

Target: $189 (second payment this month)

I've heard that paying an extra $10-20 above the minimum can make a big difference in paying off credit cards so this is the strategy I'm taking. I'm focusing on the highest interest to pay off first, but everything else will get an additional $10-20 as well.

Happy Weekend Everyone!

Debt Yo-Yo

August 14th, 2008 at 10:21 pm

It feels like whenever we get ahead a little bit on our debtload, we accumulate more. Thankfully, it is not usually quite as much as what was paid off, but it's still so frustrating! We have my husband's bonus coming up in September and I had hoped to have no overdraft or any new debts that would claim the bonus so it could all go to credit cards, but in August alone we have accumulated about $1500 in new debt. Although we expect the bonus to be quite a bit more than this, it's still incredibly frustrating.

Looking at what we owed in Dec. 2007 (in terms of credit cards only) we were at $33,472. In May 2008, we were at $28,757. Now in August we are at about $29,622! It just seems we always take two steps forward and one step back; I just wish we could keep going forward.

I guess I have to look at the bright side and see that we DO owe less than we did in December and just not think of all the money that we've paid, but has been canceled out due to new debt.

On a good note, we have had some good news on unexpected money coming our way. My husband has done some freelance work and has a check in the mail (not sure how much). I have a check coming from CafePress (about $40) AND we have a homeowner's insurance policy refund check ($492) coming in the mail. Here's to hoping no more debt will creep in so we can put all of this and the bonus to our current load. Oh, best news of all is my husband is getting a promotion...they will probably be negotiating the new salary tomorrow, wish us luck!

Flaxseed Egg Substitute = .04 cents per egg

August 11th, 2008 at 04:37 pm

I just made up another batch of flaxseed egg substitutes since I want to make muffins later today. Did you know you can use ground flaxseed and water as an egg substitute? I learned this while doing research for my food storage and ways to lower my food costs. I have used it in cakes, muffins, bread, etc. for the last couple of months and have been happy with the results.

Here's the basic recipe to replace one egg:
1 tablespoon ground flaxseeds
3 tablespoons water (or other liquid)
Stir together until thick and gelatinous.

I like to do 1/4 cup ground flaxseeds and 3/4 cups water and let it thicken in the frig. I use 1/4 cup of the mixture for each egg I need when baking. It's good for 2 weeks.

Here is the cost breakdown:
Hodson’s Mill Milled Flaxseed at Wal-Mart
Retail Price: $1.84
2 Tblsp*26 servings/1lb bag = 52 Tblsp
1 egg sub = 1 Tblsp
$1.84/52 = .035 cents/egg sub
.035 cents * 12 = .42 cents per DOZEN

More Important Info to Know
Once you open the flaxseed you should keep it in your frig or freezer. It's also really good for your health; it helps lower cholesterol! Look for the flaxseed in the baking aisle. I found mine right by the flour and baking soda.

Enjoy!

2008 Goals

August 11th, 2008 at 01:11 pm

I figured that even though I just started blogging about our finances, I'd post the goals for the rest of 2008. I think goals that you can measure progress against are important so here we go...

1. Pay off overdraft.
2. Get our CC debt to under $26K.
3. Start the $20 Challenge.
4. Be consistent in living our budget - no more overdraft!
5. Get our important life documents in order (will, advanced directive, etc.).
6. Have baby #2. This is one goal I know I'll achieve since I only have 3 weeks left! Smile

I think I'll add these to the sidebar so I see them everytime I get on. I need to post them around the house too for my husband and I to see all the time.

Frugal Christmas Gifts from Restaurant.com

August 9th, 2008 at 06:44 pm

Thanks to MariRDH's Personal Finance Blog for this tip! She posted this information:

80% off at Restaurant.com thru 8/10/08

In honor of 08/08/08, Restaurant.com is running this special.

$25 gift certificates for $2...Sale expires Aug 10 at 11:59pm -
Enter Discount Code: FIRST At Checkout and Hit "APPLY"

SO....

I have just ordered 3 $100 gift certificates and 5 $50 gift certificates to Restaurant.com for only $44! I'll use these for Christmas, birthday and wedding gifts. This way the recipient can choose the restaurant AND there is no expiration date! The people that I'll be giving these to like to eat out and travel so even if there are not a ton of restaurants in their home area; I feel confident that they'll enjoy this while on vacation.

This is so great! Thanks again MariRDH's Personal Finance Blog!

*No expiration date applies to Restaurant.com Store Credit Certificates only. See comments.

July 2008 Overview - The Starting Point

August 9th, 2008 at 05:21 pm

OK, down to the nitty gritty. I have been keeping a personal record of our debt status for a while now. Here is the last one I did for July. Since I did this, we have transferred a some CC balances to 0% cards, but have also charged about $200 to our Target card and have about $700 in overdraft (UGH), but hey 8-8-08 is our turn-around day and things are going to get better from here on out!

Current Debt: July 2008

Student Loan #1
% V, Outstanding: $2,567

Student Loan #2
4.3% V, Outstanding: $1,623

Chase
15.43% V, Outstanding: $4,664

Bank of America
10.24% V, Outstanding: $10,502

Bank of America
9.90% V, Outstanding: $10,315

Chase
10.99%, Outstanding: $2,102

Target
22%, Outstanding: $0

Lowe’s
22%, Outstanding: $0

Home Depot
Outstanding: $0

Overdraft
18.00% V, Outstanding: $0

401K
Loan 1, Outstanding: $1,012 (Pay off 07/31/2009)
Loan 1, Outstanding: $4,336 (Pay off 07/16/2011)

Car Loan
9.90%, Outstanding: $15,944


DEBT TOTALS
Credit cards: $27,583
Student Loans: $4,190
401K Loans: $5,348
Car Loan: $15,944

THE BIG DEBT TOTAL: $53,065

8-8-08 A New Anniversary of Sorts

August 9th, 2008 at 02:44 pm

Well, I have been lurking among your personal finance blogs for a while and have really enjoyed seeing the sense of community and encouragement shared. I am like some others here; I am in debt, but desparately wanting to get out and build my financial resources. I hope this blog will help keep me on track as I share our financial details with others. I have been too embarrassed to share these with anyone other than my husband.

My husband and I feel like yesterday, 8-8-08, is the "new beginning" to our personal financial story. We are both finally on the same page, we have the same goals and agree on what we need to do to get there. We are both committed and 8-8-08 will go down in our personal financial history as a day of great importance.

I'll be posting more information soon as we get down to the nitty gritty.

Thanks for everyone who's shared their stories. I have enjoyed reading your blogs and have now found the courage to share mine!