Friday, May 30, 2008


My husband brought home his check today. Usually it's direct deposited but they switched payroll companies and the information hasn't been put in their system for that yet. Included is a completely unexpected $500 under "bonus".


Straight into the Orange savings until we decide exactly where to apply it.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

$110, 2 days

Day 1: I sold the twin bed that was in our garage. Compared to other items, it wasn't taking up much space. Since it is no longer needed, however, I didn't see a point in keeping it. I put an ad on craigslist for $60 and sold it by that evening. (Awesome thing too... I only paid $50. So I "made" $10 after using it for a year and a half!)

Day 2: I sold a table cart I had bought when I was doing many many housecalls. Our business used to be housecalls exclusively. I don't do many now and I've learned that the table cart is a bigger PINTB than it is a time-saver so it's been getting in the way for the last two years. I paid about $90 after tax. I sold it to a student for $50 last night.

Total: $110 towards our "stuff" fund.

What will we be using said fund for first? A friend of ours is selling an almost-new pillow-top queen bed for $200 (OBO). I've told them we want it. I know that I can get $175 out of the double that we are now using, especially if I throw in the two sets of 400 thread count sheets and the waterproof mattress protector. (BTW - I paid $150 for it.) I should be able to buy the bed as soon as they are ready to move, sell ours rather quickly, and possibly even come out ahead.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

We found a solution!

We love our house. My parents started renting this house in 95. My husband and I moved in with my mom in 05 after dad died. I spent most of high school here, a few years after college, and now over two years with my lovely husband.

It's a 3 bed/2 bath house. It's like this: the three bedrooms are pretty much in a row on one side of the house. The one on the end has the bathroom attached and big closet. This is mom's room. Then the larger bedroom which is now an office and the nursery. Then the small bedroom which is where we sleep. On the other side is the livingroom. Then the kitchen. The garage is on the "back" of the third bedroom.

It has worked fine so far. Having stuff from four people (now five) has been a bit of a challenge, but we're managing. Now that we have a kid, however...

We'll be okay until she needs her own space. When does a kid "need" her own space? When she's old enough that she needs one room we can put her in and know that no matter what she gets into, she is going to be relatively unhurt. So basically by the time she starts walking, which will be within the next six months.

We originally decided that we'll "make due" and renew our lease in August. This means we'll have at least six months of a rough time while we figure out how to manage all the things we have in the house and create a space where we can put her, even if that means using fifteen baby gates. There's no other choice... we can't go through the rest of the attic and pare down our belongings enough in the next three months. We've worked at least eight hours on the weekends and an hour or two almost every night and it's just too large of a project. Also, finances to move right now aren't where we want them to be. And, on top of that, our rent is hundreds below what we'd pay for a similar house, let alone a larger one.

It would be impossible, as things are, to give her her own room in this house. Equally impossible to get a four-bedroom house within six-hundred of what we're paying for rent now.

However, I found a solution.

The biggest issue is what to do with the computers that are currently in the office. The paper and labels and CDs can be put somewhere to keep them out of the way. It won't be great, but they aren't the problem. These giant honkin' computer desks with the laser printer, printer/scanner/copier, and everything else are the big issues.

If we get rid of one of the computers (we'll give the slower one to my mom who will be getting a massive upgrade by switching over) and get rid of one desk entirely. Hopefully we can sell it. Then we'll have enough room in the larger bedroom (currently bedroom/office) for our bed as well as the other officey-type stuff. We'll move the nursery into the smaller bedroom.

Alternatively, if it's only one desk, we might be able to find room somewhere in the living room. We'd likely have to get rid of something, but it's do-able. This would mean a computer-free bedroom.

One of the reasons we wanted to keep an office was so that the computers are completely out of the way and we don't have to worry about baby getting into things. We simply close the door and viola! So chances are this option will not come about; we'll have to deal with a bedroom/office which is much safer than a nursery/office.

Now, that means that we've gone from three computers in the house to two. This may or may not work. The plan is to keep "stuff" money and put it towards a replacement for the one computer in the form of a laptop. Yes, yes, electronics are expensive wasteful junk. However, in order to get a promotion at my evening teaching job I will need a laptop anyway. Plus I will be much more productive with my writing. (More writing=more "extra" income for debt.) My mom has agreed to pay for 1/2 laptop in exchange for the upgraded computer. Another space-saver is to take the money from selling one of the desks plus the money that I will hopefully get from selling all our old computer games (great games, just beat them or played them to death) and get a flat-panel monitor.

That's a lot of IFs... but it will keep us in this house for years to come.

Selling "Stuff"

I've been on a stuff-selling spree. Just today I (think I) sold the twin bed and boxspring that's sitting out in the garage for $60. The lady is coming tonight around 6. She says she is pretty sure she wants it; I want her to inspect it and make sure that she's entirely happy before she drives away.

I have a debate about what to do with this "found" money from selling our items.

Smart Thing To Do 1: Put this money towards debt.
Smart Thing To Do 2: Put this money in our Orange account and use it to buy other stuff.

Okay, 2 doesn't sound all that smart when phrased that way. I just reread it and went, "oh my." Here's what I really mean: There are certain things that we need or will need to buy. Whether it's for an individual, the adults, the baby, or the household in general, it's almost impossible to get buy without buying more stuff at some point.

An example would be new straps for my husband's knee brace. The VA will pay a thousand dollars towards replacing the whole thing but refuses to pay a hundred dollars to replace the straps when they wear out, which is once every few years. It's not something that happens on a regular basis and it's hard to find money each month to save towards. We feel it's not right to waste money like that so we pay the $100.

Another example would be tires on the older car. (PS: I LOVE my new car! So does mom!) We shouldn't need them for awhile, but it's very easy to hit the edge of a curb or run over a nail here in FL and end up needing repairs to the tires or entirely new tires. I'd prefer to have money set aside rather than draining our fabulous emergency fund. You know?

So I'm thinking that having a "stuff fund" would be a neat idea. If we have something we really want or need we have to raise money by getting rid of stuff we aren't using. This helps to manage both our pile of stuff as well as our budget.

Where do you apply your "stuff" money?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

I done gone and screwed up

I have an explanation, but not an excuse.

My explanation is this:

I've been using two new spreadsheets to try and track our money and create budgets. One uses a zero-based budget, which I really like, and the other uses an electronic envelope system. Since one is more of a budget and by the way how much did you actually pay and the other is what did you pay, towards what, and when, I figured I could use both to create a good system. It's been driving me nuts!

For one thing I've "lost" three hundred dollars somewhere according to spreadsheet number two. My account balance is $300 more than it should be and I cannot figure out wherein the error lies. In the first spreadsheet, however, I am short by quite a bit when I add up with my real numbers. I cannot figure it out. So I'm frustrated and sicking hubby on building me a new spreadsheet with the modifications I want. This will allow me to budget with a zero-based system and "fund" certain items with each paycheck very much like an envelope system. This is important because I need to use certain funds to pay certain things. Otherwise I don't have the money until later in the month and the bill is due in the first part. I need to be precise or we're a little screwed.

Then there's the business account. I hate hate hate the online system that the business account uses. I love online banking, but this bank's system drives me nuts. It shows all credits, all deposits, and what you have available. (I just got an email back from the bank manager with a "no problem" and instructions on how to display the running balance... why isn't this "on" by default?) So up until two seconds ago I had to figure things out on paper and apparently I screwed up.

Ladies and gentlemen, yours truly who brags about never overdrafting accounts, bouncing checks, and so forth made a big boo-boo worth $211.05 overdrawn.


I was so proud of us for doing so well... and you know what? I still am! So what if I made one very minor correctable mistake? Accidents and mistakes happen. They are a part of life and a part of learning.

I formally forgive myself.


Monday, May 19, 2008

Stockpiling this Weekend

The cash system for our grocery and household expenses has really been working. The envelope has instilled a lot of stress, however. We rarely went over our budget before, though I have to admit, we did once a month on average by $20-$30. That's a hefty amount considering the new car payment. It's really interesting to be walking around, adding up numbers in my head (which I used to do anyway), and knowing that, "I only have $16 left" at a certain point.

Yesterday we did really well. I had $5.00 left over for the produce stand, even! I stocked up on Cottonelle flushable wipes. Target had them on sale and with my $1.00 coupon I got eight 84 packs for just over $2.00 each. They also had our cat food on sale. I was going to get the larger bag and realized that I could get two smaller bags, which were $0.50 more than the big bag if you added them together for the same size, and use two $1.50 coupons instead of just one. The other items, a Diaper Genie Refill and a small toy for the baby, were priced competitively.

We stopped by Richard's for the bulk items that we get. We both eat oatmeal in the mornings so we get a great big bag of rolled oats at $0.59/lb. I also like to eat nuts. (I'm allergic to peanuts but treenuts are fabulous.) I also picked up some almond milk. (I can't do regular milk, except in cooking, or soymilk.)

At Publix we spent the rest of our money and even including baby's brand-name formula brought our total to $115.00 for the day out of $120.00. Not bad! $120.00-$130.00 used to be what we spent each week just on food, plus several last minute trips, plus eating out, and if it was a household need week (paper towels, cat food, etc.) we'd spend $150.00 easily. Now it's $120.00 no matter what--and if we want to eat out it comes out of the entertainment envelope or we save money from the food envelope for it. No borrowing from the following week, either!

I was very excited last week because Publix formula is $10.00 less and has the equivalent nutritional structure of Enfamil Lipil, which we usually use. We gave it a whole week and are going to finish off the can. However, we're switching back. She's been throwing up worse than ever. This is an issue for her anyway, but it's been steadily improving. The Publix formula has put things back on "fountain mode" again. We've also had a few really rough patches of gas, which hasn't happened for a really long time.

Two days later

I was terribly afraid that I would wake up yesterday, Sunday, with buyer's remorse. The thoughts in my head, this fear I was carrying around, would be that I would feel a large sense of letdown. After all, we're trying to get out of debt. So what do we do? Rack up $9500 more.

Yet Sunday I woke up and was very happy to see my shiny new car in the driveway. I enjoyed driving it as we ran errands.

Today I let hubby take it to work and traded cars with him when he came home for lunch. I saw Mortimer (my car--yes, I named it) outside and got a big grin.

I'm very happy that all three of us now have reliable, safe cars, with working air conditioning, no fumes, that start each time, and that don't make funny noises. I'm thrilled that we were able to purchase the two cars rather than do a lease because our deal was so good the payments were even better.


Saturday, May 17, 2008

New Cars - Official!

Both mom and the two of us have new cars! 2007 PT Cruisers both.

Amount financed: $9508 at 7.14%

Not the best, but not too bad either.

You'll notice I'm not going to add that to my debt pie chart. That's only for credit card debt. Once that's complete I'll add another for the car, then for student loans.

I'm so excited!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Finally -- Resolution

I was on break last night and checked my phone messages. My husband left me a very nice message and it was obvious he was both proud of himself and extremely excited. His message would have left a smile on my face even if it had been, "we're out of pickles!"

His message wasn't about pickles. It was about the cars. After a lot of role-playing and discussion on Tuesday evening hubby had the confidence to call last night and talk to the manager.

He explained that we are going to buy two cars. Whether we buy them from that dealer remains to be seen; there are many other dealerships that would love to sell two cars. He said, "the deal is only hinging on one thing." As you can imagine the sales manager was practically drooling all over that little tid bit.

Happy story short, because little bit is going to wake up from her doze soon, is that they are honoring the original really-awesome deal.

Car 1: 2007 PT Cruiser, Touring Edition, Rim Upgrades (which I could care less about, honestly), 9,400 miles (rounded up)
Car 2: 2007 PT Cruiser, Touring Edition, Slightly over 20,000 miles so we'll call it 20,500.

Basically 2 almost brand-new cars. Our walk-out price (tax, etc.) is right around $10,800 each.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Extra Income: Wish me luck

I've put several things in motion to bring in more abundance in my life. One of them has been selling items on ebay; so far things are going well. I'm getting my feet wet and learning the easiest way to list and ship items so that I can commit to selling more.

The second project, the big one, is to focus on my writing. I have two books in progress, a children's book completed and ready to shop around, and many articles in varying stages of production.

Three minutes ago I sent out my first magazine submission. I should hear in 8-10 weeks. I expect rejection, however I'm picturing that check coming in the mail. I'm opening it, smiling, and running inside to show it to my mom and my husband. I'm picking up my daughter, twirling her around, and then sitting right down with a deposit slip. I'm putting on my shoes, grabbing my purse, and heading to the bank. I'm home again, at my computer, and I've just put the entire amount of the check towards a debt payment. I feel great.

Wish me luck!

My ebay stuff

I've sold a maternity support belt, leftover boxed disposable cameras, and two tee-shirts. I've made about thirty dollars. Not bad considering that paypal makes it so darn easy to print off shipping and USPS delivers free boxes for the asking. I'm certainly getting more for these things than I would at a garage sale.

Another reason why I hate credit cards

They are almost impossible to pay off!

I don't mean as in making payments and slowly decreasing balances over time. Yes, the willpower involved with that is hard. Yes, for many people it's almost impossible. But that's not what I refer to.

The payoff amount at anyone time changes because of how the interest compounds. And then, at the end of the billing cycle, you get even more interest based on your balance over the course of the month. My husband and I both got statements from cards that we "paid" off. One was for less than five dollars, the other less than ten.

It's so frustrating!

I even payed more than I knew was due for one of the cards. They had to send me a check for the difference. And yet, somehow, I owe them $4.50. And of course since the payment won't go through until tomorrow, what about the interest that's going to be added.

I want to call and really bitch someone in the CSR field out. Right now I just don't have the energy or the time. Maybe next week.

More on the car deal

The flip side of the standing on principle coin is the "I feel like I'm cutting off my nose" coin.
  • The price we were given on each car is a fantastic price, even with 20k miles.
  • 20k miles on a 2007 car isn't that big of a deal; it's just that we were expecting one of them to have under 10k.
  • We didn't "lose" anything because we never "had" the cars. Therefore this is like complaining that we only won $200,000 on the suitcase game when we could have walked away with $450,000 but turned it down. We still have a great offer on the cars.
  • I put a LOT of research into different cars, companies, dealerships. I've exchanged quite a few emails. I've made dozens of phone calls. If we pass on the cars then I now need to start all over again and choose a different set.

However, if we walk away from this deal, which we probably will if they don't give us what they agreed to:
  • There are MANY dealerships who would love to sell two cars. We live an easy drive from Tampa and St. Petersburg where many many car dealers live and, if needed, could even drive down to Orlando. Worst case scenario is we invest a bit in gas to go pick up our cars.
  • I'm sure we can get close to the same deal for two cars in this economy.
  • We should be considering cars with better gas mileage anyway. This will be a major expense--actually, it already is--so there's no point in buying a new to us car unless it is one we really love or one that will save us money on gas.
Also, I realized something.

I've wanted a PT Cruiser since they came out. Drooled over them. This is, in fact, my third attempt to buy one. I wasn't able to make a great deal the other two times so I walked away. Every time I see one I make a comment, even if it's in my head, that "that's the car I'll be driving some day!"

Now that the reality of ownership is but a few details away, I find myself less than excited. I don't know if it's the effect of all the stress that goes along with the car buying process accumulating or if it's because I've realized that the kind of car I drive doesn't really matter.

It's weird. I'm so close to something I've wanted for a long time and I'm ready to turn my back and start all over. I really thought I'd be jumping up and down and calling everyone I know to tell them. Not really. I don't feel good about the deal. And if I don't feel good about something, I don't do it. I've learned to listen to that internal voice that says, "not right now."

Also, now that I know we can get a 2007 car of several different kinds for an affordable price, we don't have to lease. This has made me realize how much I don't want to lease. This is weird, considering I was gung-ho about it. But for us it's financially stupid and if we can own a car and keep our payments roughly the same, we're good. (I am NOT a payment buyer, however I am conscious about what our payments will be and how much I can spend on a car. I am negotiating overall price, not payment. No way I'm financing for more than 60 months and even that I'd prefer not to do.)

If my mother had air conditioning that worked, I wouldn't worry about this right now. If my husband was comfortable driving his car (btw--airbag light has not come back on since first day) and I knew I would be okay with him putting the kid in it fume-wise, then I would rest for a few months and then start to look for other cars. I've worn grooves into my current car. I don't even have to think about driving it anymore than I think about walking. It's very comfortable and I have no issues with it.

However, hubby's car needs to be replaced soon. It would make a great commuter car for someone without kids. My mom either needs to put $1500 into her car to fix the a/c or she needs a car that has a/c. (She has some health problems and gets overheated very easily.)

I don't know what to do.

In the meantime I'm going to wait until next week, I think, to start the process over again. So I'm going to sit and be still and listen. When something feels right, I'll know that's what we're going to do.

The importance of principle

I worked out an awesome deal on the car front Saturday when my hubby and I went to the dealership. Their initial offer surprised me; it was $600 ($300/each car) lower than what I wanted. That never happens!

Sunday the dealership was closed so we checked out the Toyotas. I wrote about that in another post. Long story short, my husband cannot fit in the cars and I barely can.

Monday I took my mother to the dealership so she could drive the car that would be hers. She was okay with it. There were a few things she didn't like. As we talked, however, we both admitted that things like the headrests would feel weird. We've both driven our cars for 10 years now. That's a serious case of "being used to" our current cars!

We sat down. I had a check in my pocket for the deposit. It was unlikely we'd get the cars that night since my mom hadn't gotten her Capital One packet in the mail and we weren't sure what financing the dealer could offer. So the check was part "hey, we're serious--don't sell these cars" and part down-payment.

Then the salesguy started talking about the cars we had just driven. My mom had driven the one that we had talked about; I had not. I was very confused. We had been talking about mileage under 10k and rims; I had even joked that if he'd seen my car he'd know they weren't a huge selling point for me. I had written down the exact mileage. Well, if we wanted the lower mileage car he'd get us the best price possible.

We went home instead of putting down a deposit. I was confused but I had an appointment. The rest of the afternoon was spent on the phone with the salesguy trying to get him to understand that we wanted the cars we had talked about for the price we had talked about. We got some hemming and hawing about the stock numbers and I told him straight out that it would be a matter of principle with my husband. Even if it's, "only $700 difference for 10,000 miles--what a deal!" the fact is that we were quoted the price on the lower-mileage car.

He didn't get it. He supposedly talked to his manager and the big boss. Sorry, couldn't do it. But for his money, he knows what he'd do.

We went in later to have them appraise our cars. I figured maybe since he'd backed himself into a corner about the price of the cars he'd be able to offer us more for the trade-ins.

Nope. $800 trade-in value on two cars. (I didn't expect much; they both have close to 100k on them and they are in "fair" condition.) $200 was for my hubby's, $600 was for mom's. I know I could sell either car for over a grand. (Guess which we'll be doing?)

Yesterday we didn't talk with them at all. The store manager called and left a message with mom--he wanted to thank us for coming in and see if he could do anything for us. Hubby and I spent a long time talking strategy about what he should say and how.

We also called my best friend Brian. He's the son of the mechanic that works at the dealership and one of the reasons why we were given a damn good price to begin with. I asked if we were being crazy for standing on one part of principle. But, like he said. It's not the $700. It's not the 10k miles. It's the fact that it's not what we originally agreed to.

So hubby will call today and we'll find out what's going on.

Monday, May 12, 2008


We'll be changing from Geico to Allstate here in August.

I found out we can save over $110/6 months by switching.

Also, for the sake of simplicity, I'm going to put us on the six-month plan if they offer it. Right now at Geico we have a 4-month plan. I want simplicity. Absolute simplicity. One even payment a month is a lot easier to deal with than four unequal payments and two months "off". Drives me nuts. So, if they offer it, we're going to take advantage of it.

Yay, I've got some opinions!

I've read about six books from front to back now on the topic of personal finance.

I'm surprised how infrequently the experts have anything close to the same opinion. They really are divided on a number of issues. I was surprised to see that I had formed some of my own. I normally have quite a few, you see, but I wait to form anything strong until I've educated myself some more.

The Emergency Fund

Suze Ormand says no emergency fund until all credit card debt has been paid off. I disagree. I feel that I have a good reason to disagree; my husband has been laid of twice in the last year. He was working in leasing and estimating for the construction industry and down here many people have lost their jobs. Both times we had enough money saved that we were able to pay our bills until he found another job. Unemployment helped a lot, too. Without that savings we would have been screwed and even deeper in debt.

Credit Cards

Ms. Ormand also says that your emergency fund can temporarily be credit cards. She also suggests that once all your debt is paid off, you apply for as many cards as you can until you have about eight month's worth of income available as your limit. Then you don't use them unless you need them. This would be a recipe for disaster in our family. I would imagine that most people would be the same way. Like telling an alcoholic, "Hey, I know you aren't going to use this alcohol unless it's a real emergency--maybe a buddy loses a leg and you need to cleanse the wound--but you should have enough laying around anyway." My name is Lizz and I have a problem with credit cards. Therefore I have a bare minimum. And some would argue that you don't truly need any.

Bulk Buying

One of the authors, I think it might have been in the Automatic Millionaire but I'm not sure (I returned the books I had read as soon as I read them--I'm awful about late fees and am trying to change that), suggests that you should not stock up on things that you use. You should instead use the money you would have spent on these items and save it. Then, when you need it, you buy one of the items.

I never used coupons or anything like that until I came across The Grocery Game. It's been an inexpensive education that has really changed the way that I shop. We get razors, shaving cream, body wash, toothpaste, feminine products... you name it and we have gotten it for free or very very cheap. Name brand items that we use. At first I was so excited about getting free stuff that I "bought" a lot of things we wouldn't use. It didn't go to waste, however. My best friends have five kids so I cleaned out my stockpile and gave them lots of goodies.

Still, why would you pay $9.99 for a razor when you can get it for free? Or pay $3.59 for a cleaning solution when you can wait until they are B1G1 and then use coupons to get two for $0.27 each?

Yes, we're spending money each month on things we'll use in the future. It's not a "necessary item" right this second. And yes, we could be earning interest on that money. However, by doing things this way we've done amazing things to our grocery bill and we've saved thousands of dollars on things we needed anyway. (I kept a spreadsheet for a long time. I hit a thousand about four months into The Game.) I still have some items left that I bought last summer when they were dirt cheap. Do razors spoil? No.

The author suggested that having a closet full of toilet paper isn't the best use of money. I suggest that the author has never found their favorite uber-expensive TP on sale of twelve cents a roll. (The one brand loyalty we have is to Charmin.) It's a definite "need" item and paying the normal price is crazy.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Car Options

My posts make more sense when the first posts are actually posted...

Option 1:

48-Month Lease
2009 Toyota Corolla
About $2000 due at signing

Gets excellent gas mileage
Lease = tax write off (part of it)

Big OOP cost
Insurance goes up over $50
The lease is for four years
12,000 miles/year

(Note: "due at signing" is very likely going to end up changing as part of the negotiations since we're buying 2 cars... one for us and one by my mom)

Option 2:

36-Month Lease
2008 PT Cruiser
$1995 due at signing

I've wanted a PT Cruiser since the first time I saw one, about three months after they came out.
Much more interior room; hubby is 6'4", I'm 5'10"
Easier for business to carry equipment
Lease is only for 3 years
Insurance goes up less than $20
Lease = tax write off (part of it)

Big OOP cost
Gas mileage sucks
(Note: The $2.99 gas card for three years only is a better deal than the Corolla if gas goes over $5.50/gallon)

Option 3:

5 year finance
2007 PT Cruiser
under 10,000 miles

Excellent price - under 11k drive-out price
Financing is same monthly payment as lease
Lifetime Powertrain Warranty
Own vehicle at the end
"New" used vehicle
Can trade in
No mileage worries

Monthly payments for five years
Not sure if we get the gas card or not

When to throw in the towel?

(My Husband and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (PART 2))

The value of my husband's car, based on age, mileage, and condition is under $800. Add in some of the things that need to be fixed and you'd have to be a real sucker. It runs and has A/C, so it has that going for it. It also has fumes so bad that 1) my child is not allowed in it and 2) if it's parked in the garage the door needs to be cracked for a few hours because the whole house will stink. On top of that something is wrong with the airbag. It starts... almost... every time he drives it though sometimes he needs to try a few times. Those are the basic issues, anyway.

But again, it runs. And he only needs it to go to work. However, in order for us to feel safe with that we need to:
  • Pay the dealer $110 for a diagnostic of the airbag system.
  • Pay to either repair the system (the least expensive option according to one mechanic is the clock spring which is $300ish. Since the horn works, this is probably not the case. However, my research on the internet says it could be a few other things in the $60-$80 range.)
  • Or pay to disconnect the system (and no, he does not have an airbag on/off switch as some cars do)
If the work that had to be done to make it drivable was $1500 on a $600 (or so) car, then I feel like the better choice would be more clear. (He is driving it right now as his bike is in the shop for about a week. He may decide he's okay with the conflicting advice, but I don't think it's likely.)

At what point do we throw in the towel? When do we say, "You know, I don't want to put half the value or all the value of this car back into it when we know it needs at least another thousand dollars of other repairs within the next year,"?

We have $400. It's sitting in our account. Heck, I saved $125 this month towards automobile repairs, so we'd only have to dent the rest of our savings.

I hate his car. I really really hate it. I haven't ridden it in several years. It stinks, it's noisy, and I'm always terrified that we'll be somewhere and then can't leave because it won't start.

Mother's Day

My hubby did good. It's amazing how a $3.00 bag of a woman's favorite chocolate, a card from the husband, and a card "from" the baby can feel like a diamond necklace. (Of course, I've never really gotten a diamond necklace, so I might be totally off base. If anyone wants to educate me on this matter by giving me one, I'd be willing to revise my opinion!)

My mom hates her digital camera. It's a Sony Mavica that takes pictures on a floppy disk. It's heavy, bulky, has a longggg shutter lag that always frustrates her, a preview screen that cannot be seen outside, and takes very low resolution pictures (compared to today's models).

We decided that with the money we budgeted for mother's day and her birthday that we were going to get her a new digital camera. We went to two stores today and found what we wanted at Circuit City. We were also able to get her a 2 GB memory card for only $17. She loves her new Kodak Easy Share camera.

The easiest decision ever

We arrived at the Toyota dealership and after a brief recap of our needs (the internet rep I was dealing with had the day off) we were on our way towards the Corolla. I got inside and was instructed how to move the seat down and back, change the tilt, and maneuver the steering wheel. Right off I could tell I was in trouble. I would be able to drive the car--barely. And that was with everything set optimally.

I looked at my husband and said, "before I even put the key in this car, you need to see if you'll fit."

With his knee brace on, there was no way that he'd be able to drive the car. Without it he could drive it, but only if he really had to.

We also tried out the Matrix which had the same lease. They tried to get us to try a Scion, only $30 a month more. No, thanks.

I called mom on the way home. All of us were cracking up about it. When we got back she admitted that's why she didn't want to go with us. I asked why she hadn't told us about it. She said we needed to see for ourselves. I assume she meant that she really wanted us to feel like we had done due diligence in looking into other cars so we could get our PT Cruiser with a clear conscious.

Tomorrow mom and I are going back to Chrysler so she can test drive. If she likes them I'm going to work on negotiating the price lower and seeing if I can get us gas cards. I think they're only for the 2008. Since these two are 2007 they don't apply. Cross your fingers and wish me luck!

If things work out favorably I'll make a small deposit so that when our Capital One checks come in the mail we can complete the deal. I can't apply for financing without my hubby so there's no point in doing that tomorrow. Mom is undecided.

The last thing we're going to do, when we go back to write the actual check and check their financing, is to say, "by the way, what would you give us for our cars?"

Friday, May 9, 2008

My Husband and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (PART 1)

The warning light for the airbag system turned on in hubby's Tuesday. I've talked to five different people--all who know things about cars--and I've gotten some conflicting advice... even from the same person!  

The Tool at the local dealership (the same one, by the way, that missed a cracked axle in three visits which our non-dealership mechanic found on the first visit!) told me that we needed to make an appointment immediately. The airbag "could go off" if we hit a pothole or the curb. It might even go off randomly. And, he added, since it's a 1995 car the "airbag isn't nice and soft like the ones they have today; it's like burlap and will cut your husband's face up".

Yes, he really said that.

Hubby took this as an opportunity to call said service manager and chew him out. The "cut your face up" comment was incredibly inappropriate. Anyway, the same service manager gave us two other answers including that the airbag is disabled and shouldn't deploy. *sighs*

Four other people all said the same thing. 1) The airbag shouldn't deploy. 2) But since it's a Ford, you never know.


Needless to say, he's a little nervous about driving his car!

(More on the issue later.)

Hubby woke up and told me he was taking his bike to work. No problem; it was a nice day outside. (For Florida nice day = "no hurricane heading our way, clear skies, and a slight wind so that 100 degrees only feels like 97.") I got the kid and had time to walk her into the nursery, open her diaper, and start cleaning her bum before the garage door went up again.

"What's up, love?"

"My bike... is broken."

At that point I had to crack up. It really sucked but both of us have gained a lot of perspective since our daughter was born. It was just a thing. (A thing that can be fixed for little money.) I had him finish snapping her onsie and put her in the car seat while I threw on some clothes and brushed my hair and teeth.

Off we went to his office. He wasn't even late. In fact, he was the first one to arrive.

He put the key in the lock and found out that his boss had given him the wrong one!

At that point I had pulled out of my parking space and was alongside the curb to the entryway of the office. I reparked the car, rolled down the windows, and waited with him until his coworker showed up.

That's how the day started. Luckily, thankfully, the rest of it was pretty good.

Monday, May 5, 2008

April and Early May Successes

In the three weeks since I've taken control of our finances we:

- Have gone from no emergency savings to having $2500 in an interest bearing account.
- Have switched to a zero-based budgeting system which has curtailed our spending a great deal.
- In addition to the zero-based budgeting we're also using a cash-envelope system for some things and an electronic-envelope system for others.
- Have money saved towards several goals that are very important to us.
- Have changed the way we deal with non-monthly expenses.
- Have consolidated our debt and reduced our interest rate by half.
- Have acquired liability insurance for myself personally and for our company.
- Have canceled over $670/year in unnecessary monthly services.
- Have switched our phone service over to our cable provider and in turn saved over $380/year.
- May have an additional $500-$1000 at the end of the month to put towards something (I haven't decided what yet).
- Have come in under-budget for food and household items the last two weeks.

I think I'm going to post my successes on a regular basis. It's easy to start feeling badly about our previous choices and to get discouraged. I think we've made a terrific amount of progress. So that's what I'm going to focus on. We're building wealth, one day at a time.


It's fairly easy to write a preachy "I would never do that" post, and it's fairly common to find those types of posts lurking around personal finance blogs. A lot of them are amusing, some are thought provoking, and some prove that everyone is their own person.

One of the things that I don't "get" is why people buy dressings for their salad.

(Confession: I do buy blue cheese in a bottle. This is because T. Marzetti is the best ever and I find that blue cheese costs enough that it's just as efficient for me to buy the dressing on sale.)

It is SO easy to make an absolutely delicious dressing that exceeds anything I've found over the counter. Believe me, I've tried quite a few in my time. Why? Because I hadn't yet learned how easy it was.

Sure, I had made my own dressing, but I didn't learn this one trick...

Mix in olive oil!

I had always put some herbs and spices on the salad and threw some vinegar, usually balsamic, over it. It worked but it certainly wasn't great.

One day when I was musing out loud I received some insight from my mom. I love caprese salads (tomato/mozzarella/basil/balsamic dressing) and it's one of the only salads I've actually purchased when eating out. We make it at home all the time but the dressing just wasn't the same, and that's a big deal breaker with this salad. "Oh, just add some EVOO in the blender. You have to add it slowly."

So guess what I've made fresh just about every day since then? You got it--homemade salad dressings.

My favorite is balsamic vinegar but we use all kinds. Tarragon white is also pretty good. I put my herbs and spices into the blender, dump a bunch of vinegar in, add a tad bit of sugar, and then put the lid on. "Blend" then slowly raise the center part and drizzle the oil in slowly. It ends up being absolutely delicious and far better than anything you can get at the store.

Now that I know the trick I wouldn't even consider buying it. Why bother? I can have a different type every day. One day I might have a tarragon/oregano dressing. The next I might have basil and garlic. The following day might be a rosemary/sage. It never gets old and it sure costs a lot less!


Here are my choices for the $500 we'll have "extra" this month if no more of my appointments cancel. Since I'm trying out the zero-based budget system, this has to go towards something.

  • Open a new ING account for the baby's educational expenses. This is for opportunities such as field trips, considering private schools, etc., not college. Right now this is not factored into my FSA accounts.
  • Open a new ING account for a house down payment. This is a goal we need to start saving for now. Right now this is not factored into my FSA accounts.
  • Put it in our FSA ING account in the "car emergency fund" which is for car repairs or replacement. Right now I'm putting in $3000/24, or about $125/month.
  • Put it in my Roth IRA, which I have not contributed to since 7/07 due to upcoming maternity leave and knowing my business would fall back. This would almost make up for not putting in my $60/month in the meantime.
  • Pay off $500 more towards Capital One which would reduce my monthly payment by another $15. I mentioned before that I realize at 0% APR this is not the loan to pay off first, however lowering my monthly payment frees up monthly cash and gives us some breathing room if we need it. We are still going to have the full amount we planned on paying automatically deducted each month and only change it if something happens. (I know, good intentions, right? That's why it's automatic.)
  • Pay off $500 towards the BOA Gold Loan which has an APR of 15.99%. This will reduce the term by about a month and a half but not reduce the amount we pay each month.
  • Put it into our FSA for next month, see if we need it, and then apply it to an above option if we don't.
  • Put it into our FSA in the "unexpected expense" category.
This scenario may need to be for $1000; I haven't gotten my first due date for the Bank of America Gold Loan yet. The counselor on the phone said it would very likely be the beginning of June. If it's at the beginning of June, it's covered with next month's pay. If it's at the end of May, it's covered with this month's.

What is an FSA? Something new to me. It's a Freedom Savings Account. Basically instead of having my life insurance, which is $44 every three months, come out in one lump sum that we plan for four times a year, we're taking a third of that and putting it into our FSA account each month. Then when the $44 "hits" I withdraw the amount from FSA (which has meanwhile been earning 3% interest) and put it into the account the expense comes out of. We have this set up for all our expenses that happen every two years, annually, and several times a year.

I also have set up a vacation fund and emergency car fund. I want to have these fully funded in a certain amount of time. The down payment for a house should be automatic, as should the educational expenses, but in our zero-based budgeting system we don't have it every month. It depends on how many appointments I have (and cancellations), and whether or not the school renews my faculty option in August after this round of classes ends. It also depends on student loans that come due. Since my husband is due for a raise, possibly, this month, that will also affect it as well as the amount of payments that he needs to make.

We have our FSA through ING. It's just a savings account that we named "FSA". We also have one named "Emergency Savings".

Great conversation

Hubby and I had a really good conversation last night about the issues that have been popping up. He was in a receptive mood, we were both relaxed, and I managed to present it in a way that finally made sense to him.

What's more, I think I found the root cause of our issues. Obviously his will power is not the issue. But something keeps happening that causes issues to repeat themselves. Big issues.

Remember the chicken I mentioned? An example of this issue would be that he refused to ask the butcher to take a package of chicken that was far larger than what we needed and cut it to the size we did need. This is one of the reasons I decided not to buy it. (Besides the fact that it was over four dollars a pound!) His response was that he could easily vacuum seal it and then store the excess in the fridge.

My hubby "gets" stockpiling. He understands buying on sale and then storing for later. In fact he does some of this on his own now and I'm proud of him for it. But if it requires "bothering" someone then he won't do it. So, in his mind, he'd rather take a $12 loss over a receipt or pay too much for too much chicken.

This reminds me of one of our first dates; we went to the county fair with a bunch of friends. The group of us were walking and I suddenly noticed we were missing someone! I had to go back to the area we had just come through--the game booths--and extract him from them. He was standing there, politely listening to the booth-worker's attempt to get him to play the game. He didn't want to be rude!

He's not nearly that bad now, and there's nothing wrong with being polite, but I don't get it! He's received numerous bonuses and kudos at his jobs for his negotiating skills. He just wouldn't use them in his personal life! He's the type of guy that would pay $4,000 too much for a car because he doesn't want to be a jerk customer. (This hasn't happened, but it wouldn't surprise me if it did at some point in the future if he continued his current mindset.)

After our conversation he now things of himself as the CEO of his own life. I said, "Honey, if you don't want to go through the trouble for you, then think of it as working for me and the baby. You might be willing to eat that $12. How about you instead go and get the receipt and put the rebate money in her savings account. I know you don't care, but that money can go a long way towards a goal for the family."

That's a very short version of a very long conversation, of course, but it worked. He gets it now. You will not get what you don't ask for.

Sunday, May 4, 2008


I decided that even though our money arguments, while very few and very far between, are educational and I feel like others might get value out of them, I'm not going to share them.

I am, however, going to talk about one thing that happened last night.

We were given a rebate for a type of Whiskey through a program called bzzagent. Hubby decided last night to go to the store and pick some up. We looked at the form, discussed what we needed and what size qualified, and off he went.

When he got home we noticed that we weren't given a receipt. I looked twice in the bag, checked out the floor area surrounding the kitchen, and even checked the bottom of the bottle. Nope, no receipt. Not in the car or in his wallet, either.

He absolutely refused to go to the store and ask for his receipt. I couldn't believe it. We live just over a mile away from the store and there was no traffic.

This actually sparked a big argument.

His thought: I paid for this with money from "my" envelope which you said I could do anything I wanted with. So, I can buy a $13 bottle of whiskey if I want.

My argument: It will take three minutes to go back to the store and get the receipt and get $12 of that money back.

This is a common issue and I don't know how to bring it up in a way that I can make him understand.

Whenever there is an issue that involves asking for something that would monetarily benefit him in some way, he closes up, gets extremely defensive, and will throw up issues that are related but have nothing to do with the one we are discussing. This is the only topic he does this with.

He won't call clients a day or two after he's given them a massage to check in; nor will he call clients he hasn't seen in a few months. He doesn't want to "bother" them.

Last night he didn't want to be a jerk by going back. They probably had dozens of receipts in the trash and he didn't want anyone to dig through the trash. There were eight people there when he was there and he didn't want to wait in line, make a fuss, and then have people waiting and getting impatient.

It was better, to him, to let go of $12 than call someone on their mistake of not giving a receipt.

We didn't get anywhere in our conversation. I couldn't get him to see that it wasn't about how he spends his money. We both get an amount to spend however we want, but once it's gone, it's gone. He can buy quarter-dispenser-rings and gummy worms for all I care.

Finally I called the store. I apologized for bothering them on a Saturday night and acknowledge that I appreciated their time and help. She laughed. Apparently, other than one rush, it's been dead due to the Kentucky Derby.

I told her about the receipt and she asked me a few questions. What was purchased? What size? Was anything else on the ticket? How did he pay for it? Which cashier was it?

I asked when a good time would be to come by and she said anytime. So I told her I was on my way.

The two clerks were extremely nice and apologized for my having to drive back there. I thanked them for their help. One other customer left when I walked in the door. Otherwise I was the only one.

It took me five minutes, less than ten cents worth of gas, and I made $12. If he doesn't want it, I figure, then I'll take it!

I need to find a way to have this conversation with him, however. Suggestions?

Some of my favorite cheap meals

I love to cook at home and we've found lots of excellent meals that cost very little to make. Here are two of our favorites:


Friends of ours had a quesadilla maker that they absolutely adore. We got to try it one night when we were over for dinner. It creates six "pockets" that can easily be cut apart. They hold heat like crazy. One day when I was pregnant and determined I drove to seven stores and called three more looking for it. We ended up getting it through (See below.)

It only takes the larger tortillas, I think 10". One pack of those has 10 tortillas which is enough for 5 quesadillas. We usually have a salad and split a quesadilla. It ends up being more than enough for the two of us. One quesadilla (no salad) is enough for a meal and "sticks" for 4-5 hours.

The best part is that you can customize every single one and that each uses very few ingredients. A large pack of cheese (about $7 at Publix for 2 lbs) lasts for a long time.

Our two favorite recipes:

Mexican - Use blended mexican cheese and whatever additives you'd like. We've found that chives, onions, olives, red peppers, and tomatoes are all really good. (I'd say 1-2 inside ingredients max.) Serve with sour cream and salsa. Yum!

Italian - Put about three spoonfuls of your favorite tomato sauce (a big jar will last you for weeks; freeze what you don't use the first two days into a day's worth of sauce), mozzarella or mixed Italian cheese, some herbs, and pepperoni. Yum! Other ingredients are great as well. This easily substitutes for pizza when we have a craving for it.


We love sushi and we've spent a lot of money on sushi in the past. This is a "quick fix" that is very cheap, nutritious, and that will soothe those evil cravings.

Make tuna fish salad however you like it. We do canned tuna, chopped onions, and a little bit of miracle whip. Roll this up with your sushi rice and nori. Serve with soy sauce. (There are numerous and excellent websites that have step-by-step directions.)

Vegetable sushi can be made with any ingredients you like. Avocado, cucumber, carrot, onion... the list goes on and on.

Make sure you buy both your sushi rice and nori in bulk at a chinese grocery store to save the most. Richard's (a local health food store) sold 7 sheets of nori for $4.99. We bought 40 sheets for $5.99 at the Chinese grocery. Richard's had one pound of sushi rice for almost five dollars. We bought 5 lbs. at the grocery for under six dollars.

Wow. $4.59/lb?

I'm not a big fan of poultry. It has to be in something for me to enjoy it and a lot of the times we will plan a few chicken meals to give ourselves a break from red meat. (The great majority of our meals are vegetarian; out of 90 meals and 30 snacks, 7-12/month have beef, 2-3/chicken. We eat fish, but I don't count that the same.)

Every week before we go to the grocery store I try to plan as many meals as possible out of ingredients we have on hand. Hubby and I discuss what we're really hungry for. Then I go through sales flyers (usually online) and determine what's on sale. This ends up being the remainder of our meals.

I used The Grocery Game for almost a year. It was my first experience using coupons, shopping lists, and matching up sales to get things for almost free. I learned a lot. Now I use those concepts on my own. We save at least $50 every week by doing it this way.

This week we decided that we wanted fajitas as one of our "hungry for it" choices. Usually this is a low cost meal for us. It's also one of the few ways that I enjoy chicken. I had the tortillas and salsa in my cart, ready to go. We headed towards the meat. I was horrified; chicken was $4.59/lb! Scratch that off the list. I'm really kicking myself for not stocking up with a local store had it for $1.29/lb a few weeks ago. We have a vacuum sealer and hopefully will be getting a chest freezer soon.

We did score big on the bacon this week. I usually avoid center cut bacon. Even at 2/$6 on sale it's only 12 ounces. I wait until the 16 ounce packages are 2/$6 and then stock up. Today, however, they had installed a coupon dispenser ("blinkie") right next to the display with $1.00 coupons! I ended up getting four 12-ounce center-cut bacons for $8!