Thursday, January 31, 2008

More Ways to Save Money

Is it easier to save money or to spend money? When I was younger, I enjoyed saving money. If I rec. a gift of money, the money went into my bank account. At some point, when someone gave me money I felt that it was neccessary to explain what I used the money for. Not sure when this happened. I know my Uncle got tired of hearing that I put the money into the bank. He started getting me gift certificates for a particular clothes store.

There is a huge amount of gift cards that went unredeemed last year. This year, I tried not to contribute to that by giving people cash or checks rather than gift cards.

1) Gifts of cash -put the money into the bank rather than spending it right away.
The problem that I have had with giving cash in the past is that I figured that it would not be used for something special. Ladies and gentlemen, I am now over that concern. If someone needs the cash to buy dinner for the next night that is great. I don't care if they bought gas or used it to go out to dinner.

2) Don't save gift cards for special things
In the past I have saved gift cards for that perfect thing. Now if I make a purchase at a store and have a gift card, I use it for the purchase even if it is for something as simple as socks or a DVD for my kids.

3) Why do we need to justify that we bought this great thing with our giftcards? It would be nice but in reality we need trash bags and cat food.

4) My husband and I both rec. universal type gift cards this year. I used mine towards buying groceries. I had the gift card and our next purchase was food. Yes, I could have saved it for something great but that is not what I needed.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Challenge: 10 Things to do for $10 or less

(each item cost $10 or less)

1) Have a movie night at home
or Go to a movie at the AMC theater on Sat or Sun before noon for $5 a ticket

2) Have a picnic at the park

3) Go out for ice cream
Go to the playground
Take a walk

4) Site seeing
Watch a parade

5) Jump rope / exercise

6) Go to the library
Bring home a magazine, a book, a CD or a DVD

7) Have a pot luck picnic

8) Do a puzzle, play a boardgame, learn a new card game

9) Buy a craft kit

10) Visit a friend

What are your top 10 ideas?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Are Outlets Worth It?

The problem I see with outlets is that they are too far away. I end up buying more than I plan because I don't know when I will make it back. We used to regularly go to the Osh Kosh Outlet for clothes for our boys. This time, we went for my daughter with one goal in mind, long sleeve dresses in size 12 months.

Well, there were no long sleeve dresses in size 12 months or 9 months. Apparently, they don't sell any or I should have shopped in November. Of course, other sales were possible but if I bought the dresses I probably would have skipped the other items.

Leaving the Osh Kosh store, I thought it would not be a wasted trip because there was probably another children's clothes store. On the way to The Children's Place, I saw a shoe store. I did purchase a pair of shoes but I didn't give the store more money buying the 2nd pair of shoes for half price. In reality, I would have saved $10 for each pair of shoes, so I saved my extra $20 by not buying a 2nd pair, which I really did not need.

Next, skipping The Children's Place because I forgot, I went into the Kitchen Store and then the toy store. By the time I got back to the car I realized that I skipped the other clothes store. The store was still open but I decided to skip it. Again I thought I would have skipped the Kitchen Store and the toy store if I went to the children's store, probably not, right.

This is an example of a simple shopping trip going into disarray. I had two thoughts before going to the outlets. 1)Dresses for my daughter and 2) take out cash so we could limit our spending. End result we used the charge rather then cash and we bought several extra items.

Outlets are a place to get good deals but how many good deals should you get at a time? Answer, just what you need. I would argue that yes, I did want shoes, I did want kitchen items and I did want birthday gifts for my son. When we buy things we do not intend to purchase is where we get into trouble. So while needing or just really wanting these things, they were not items that I needed that day.

I do enjoy impulse buying. My solution is to stay out of the stores when possible.

Anyone care to share their needs vs. wants stories or their outlet experiences?

My $2,000 Cat

If you went to a pet store to buy a cat you would probably pass by the cat that cost $2,000. Advance 4 years, you already have adopted the cat and the cat gets sick. Now what? You take the cat to the veterinary. My almost four year old cat starting getting sick in the house multiple times. A visit to the vet turned out that she was now dehydrated from getting sick. In addition, she was no longer getting fluids and in a few days would need IVs and hospitalization. Now my inexpensive cat was in need of tests and hospitalization.

This is an example of the need for an emergency fund that would have been very hard to plan for in advance. First visit on 6/20/07, the cat had an exam, blood tests, hydration and x rays.($273.05) Second visit on 6/21/07, the cat just rec. hydration. ($15.38) Next visit (6/22-6/26/07), the cat stayed for hospitalization. ($880.61) Then the cat needed to be transported on 6/25/07 to another place for an ultrasound to rule out any problems. ($285 -cost of test, we transported the cat)

My sister recommended capping the expenses at a certain amount. The cap in my head was $2,000. But how do you explain to your children that for the price of blank we were not able to save the cat. What if it happens again, has the cat already reached its medical limit or would it be $2,000 for another occurrence?

I can say that if we knew up front how much the cost would be it would have been better. Next time x rays are suggested, I would probably skip the x rays and just opt for an ultrasound.

Our cat has survived its ordeal. We are grateful our cat is okay and thankful that it did not bankrupt us to get there.

Do you have any experiences where the unexpected costs got out of hand very quickly?

Friday, January 18, 2008

Upromise Withdrawals

I really have to thank No Credit Needed for his info regarding Upromise Accounts. I have not seen anyone actually get any money to pay for college from the Upromise Accounts so I have not been to focused on using this loyalty program. As mentioned by No Credit Needed, you can obtain a check from Upromise rather then putting the money into a 529 Account.

Great news! Here is the link for a withdrawal request of at least $200.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Debt Free

Debt free. No. But in some people's minds we are because we don't carry a credit card balance and we don't have a car payment. In addition, we don't have a cable bill. But we do have two tuition bills and we belong to a pool each summer. So how do we do it living on one income?

I believe that we as a family tend to spend what we make so we need to lock the money away and make it work for us. Prior to stopping working, I started investing in 529 plans and a Roth IRA for myself. I wanted to save money while we had two incomes.

In May 05, we leased and purchased two new cars. At this point, both cars are paid off, the lease and the financed car. We did a snowball payment to pay down both debts. Now we are paying down the mortgage the same way. I continue to need encouragement in this endeavor because I hear negative things about paying off my mortgage. The comments don't make a lot of sense to me because 1) it can't be that much of a tax break having a mortgage and 2) I would like to own more than just one brick of my house.

My Financial Plan Part I
1. Cut out cable? Not really, we never had it in the first place.
2. Buy lottery tickets? No, that did not seem to be a good option if we were trying to save money.
3. Invest more? Nope. Not that either.
4. We looked at all our debt and decided to do a debt paydown or a debt snowball.We had three main debts.
A) leased minivan
B) financed minivan
C) mortgage on our home.

I. Each month we applied extra payments to our leased minivan until it was paid off.

II. When the lease was paid off, we took the extra payment, the leased minivan payment and the financed minivan payment and paid off the financed minivan.

III. Next we applied the extra payment, the leased minivan payment and the financed minivan payment to our mortgage.

Part 4 was not the hard part. The hard part was getting the money together for the extra payment.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Friday, January 11, 2008

Utilities under $300

I just saw an interesting older post at Boston Gal's Open Wallet.
She had a spreadsheet where she was trying to keep her utilities under $300 per month.
That is not a bad goal.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Menu Planning

Here are some meals that our family are having this week.

Chicken, vegetables and salad; dessert strawberries or apples
Spagghetti and meatballs with Garlic Toast; dessert graham crackers or pears
Hamburgers with rolls and salad; dessert mandarin oranges or Jello
Grilled Chicken Salad; dessert Dole Frozen Fruit or Frozen Yogurt

With the help of coupon mom and our local grocery store website I was able to plan these meals at an inexpensive price.

For example
Chicken (boneless, no skin) 1.99 a pound
Strawberries on sale 2.99
Apples (not available but on sale)
Garlic Toast (never tried but only 1.19 on sale)
Pears 99 cents a pound
Mandarin Oranges container for $2
Dole Frozen Fruit bought two with $1.50 coupon
Frozen Yogurt -still working on

Friday, January 4, 2008

Free Calls to Directory Assistance

Are you still paying for Directory Assistance calls from your land line and your cell phone? Stop. Call 1 800 FREE 411 to obtain the phones listings that you desire. These calls are free. The catch is that you need to listen to a short advertisement. The ad is no big deal. It sure beats the $1 or so that you will be charged by your service provider. This service is made available from Jingle Networks.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Credit Cards -Grace Period

I have an urge to discuss credit cards since the holidays are passing and the UPS truck will be now be delivering the credit card statements. Did you ever notice that those bills get bigger? Too bad it is just not the type got bigger. My husband suggests that we try to keep the spending under $1,000. He would rather not see the commas on the credit card statements.

But here is my real message. Pay off the credit card statements each month and don't finance. It is a very big hole to dig out off. The credit card company will put on an extra charge every time you purchase an item when you are carrying a balance. While this does not seem fair that is what is done. So if your credit card is not paid off in full each month start paying cash and pay more than the minimum to pay it down each month. With the finance charge percentages in the double digits it is really really hard to pay off the credit cards.

This is the fine print on the back of one of the credit card statements regarding Grace Periods.
"You get a grace period of 20 days if you pay the New Balance in full by the due date every billing period. If you do not, you will not get a grace period until you pay the New Balance in full for two billing periods in a row."
Bottom line, please don't finance. Start paying cash for things until you can pay down the balance.

A thirty dollar belt is going to get thrown away before you pay it off.

Credit cards are for convenience. Don't let them become a burden. If you don't finance on credit cards congratulations but it is easy to fall into the trap. I was surprised reading the fine print that you need to pay the full balance on time twice in a row to not be charged finance charges on current purchases.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Annual credit reports

Check out this site to obtain your annual free credit report from all three companies. You can request the reports at the same time or go back throughout the year and order one from the next company.

Wordless Wednesday -January 2, 2008

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

2008 -Saving Money

Gee. Wouldn't that be nice. Start 2008 by saving money. Hum. Let see. Oh I know, don't spend any money. Okay, that worked for today. We were all home but eventually we need to leave our happy home and be innudated by consumerism. Well I almost bought a blender the other day or was it a toaster oven. Either way for $5 it appeared like a pretty good deal. Until I found out that I would have to wait 6-8 weeks to regain my original $25 that I paid to begin with. Next. How about a Christmas gift for my father-in-law. A calendar that will work. They suckered me there for an extra $2 because they said it would be printed faster. Oh well. I wouldn't make the same mistake on my next photo purchase. I will just have to explain to my nephew that even if I paid the extra money it still would not have arrived on time. My birthday card to him came early though.
Okay back to the reason I decided to blog. It looked like fun and maybe it will help with my memory in the future.