Sunday, December 30, 2012

The week's happenings

It's been a pretty relaxing and enjoyable week off.  DD and I got out of the house fairly early the morning after Christmas to see what we could find on Christmas clearance. We were in need of bows, bags and tags. Two of my "wants" was a Christmas throw blanket for the sofa and a set of Christmas dishes (I've been wanting this for a few years). We found some bows and bags at one store that already had everything marked down to 75% off. Got our good friends annual snow globe gift for next year at Kohl's 70% off (plus I had a $10 off any purchase coupon) and some wrapping paper at Target for 50% off. I found a cute blanket at Walmart for $2.48 and found a dishes set at RiteAid that was 50% off and I had a $5 UP Reward to use so it ended up costing me $5 for the 12 piece set.It's a 4 place setting and I thought about buying 2 sets, but didn't really want the extra mugs, so if I need more than a 4 place setting down the road I think I'll just pick up some white plates at the dollar store to alternate the place settings.

I received some nice gifts. 2 sweaters, a new kitchen and steak knives set in a butcher block, Starbucks gift card, pj's, some super soft wash cloths, a candle DD made in a tea cup with a saucer (picked up at Goodwill).DD got me the best gift - a nice black North Face jacket. I've been wanting one for quite some time, but of course way out of what I've ever been willing to spend. She actually found it second hand! There is a local community facebook page where people in our town list things for sale and she spotted it listed for $75. Turns out she goes to school with the girl and since it had been listed for quite awhile she offered her $50. DD has the frugal gene :-)

Apparently my mom has been working on a surprise birthday present for my birthday next month. DD has known what it is and then my mom asked me to go with her "someplace" on Thursday to look at "something". I figured it had to do with the birthday gift but had no idea what it could be. But, I figured whatever it was it must be on sale now, haha!. We ended up at Sears and walked into the appliance department. My gift is a new refrigerator!! Boy, was I surprised. I picked out one with french doors on top and freezer on bottom. It will be delivered on Wednesday. I can't wait. Our refrigerator is about 23 years old and sure to die any time now. I got a stainless steel one and it will match our oven we had to purchase a few years ago.

Friday DD and I went and walked around the campus's of a couple of local private universities. One was about half hour drive with about 2500 students - beautiful old campus and they've kept the integrity of the brick architecture with the newer buildings. The other was just a 15 minute drive with about 3500 students. A good school too, but we just didn't get the same "feel" as the first one. I doubt she will go to either one, as she seems to really want to attend (and live) at one of the state universities that is about 2 hours away. We will go take a guided tour of that campus in the spring. All my stepbrothers went to this university. Whatever her choice ends up being, it was just good for her to see them and get a feel for what they are like. She still has over a year to decide. Then we stopped at the sporting goods store and she bought a new tennis racquet with her giftcard and Christmas money.

I was a bit sick during the night Friday and yesterday I slept a good long nap in the afternoon. I'm feeling better now, just some stomach bug, I guess. No big plans on New Year's Eve, as usual. We will stay up late waiting for updates on DS's race down under that night. He's had very bad luck so far - they keep having engine problems so he hasn't even been able to finish a race. The last race he was 3rd quick out of all the cars and then the engine went bad. Very disappointing to say the least. They can't get the motor fixed in time for the next race, but luckily he will be able to drive a different car that is available. We're keeping our fingers crossed the next night goes well and he actually gets to race without problems.

Wishing you all a Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Last minute shopping

Of course I still have shopping to do! It's always that way. A last minute thing I think of for a gift and it seems like I'm always getting the final stocking stuffers at the last minute. I'll be heading out soon to the mall to try and avoid the crowds. One of DD's items on her wish list was a gift card to a sporting goods store (to put towards an expensive new tennis racquet she wants). I thought I would probably be able to find it when I was out yesterday morning at one of the nearby stores I visited - seems they have every store gift card but that store. By then it was 11 am and the roads and stores were getting very crowded and taking the trip to the mall was not something I wanted to attempt. The 6 mile drive would literally have taken me close to a half hour each way, plus trying to even find a parking spot.

I did get her a couple of free stocking stuffers yesterday! I had $10 in RiteAid UP Rewards to use up, so along with a couple of other things to get to the $10 total I picked up 2 comsetic kits (one nail polish and one eye shadow) for $2.99 ea - buy one get one 50% off and if you buy 2 you get back a $5 UP Reward. Who doesn't like free? and she loves make-up. I had very little to pay out of pocket since I had the $10 coupon and then I got back a $5 one to use later. Her stocking includes 2 other free items - a compact/mirror I got free months ago at RiteAid and a $10 Starbucks gift card I got free with MyPoints.

I *think* the only things left I have to buy is the gift card and some scratch off lottery tickets and candy to add to the stockings. But, most likely I'll remember something tomorrow morning and have to make one last run shopping.........

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Trying to get a post out

I've been in a bit of a distraction the past week or so and haven't felt like posting. We got DS off on his big trip last week, which kept me busy the day before and the day of his departure. We had a family Christmas party to attend over the weekend, started puppy obedience classes, and I've also been extremely busy (or maybe it just seems that way because I can't focus well right now) at work. This past week we've been dealing with an issue with DS's girlfriend that isn't taking a very good turn and it just has me very stressed out. It's not allowning me to focus very well on anything else that really needs to get done - work, finishing Christmas shopping, managing my money, etc.

Not going into extreme details but it's a very scary and sad realization that his GF has no problem putting herself first and no apparent qualms about trying to cause a rif between DS and us. Her immaturity and attention seeking behavior has reached an all time high - most likely spurred on by the fact that her boyfriend just left her for 2 months. We personally asked her not to do something that we felt was a distraction to his focus while he is away and she went and did what she wanted, as usual. We have let DS know it happened and are not happy with her, which caused her to react even worse. Ugh! This is not what I need to deal with right now at all. I'm not sleeping well, getting headaches, which of course just add to making it hard to focus on tasks that need to be done. I have a ton of stuff at work that needs to get done by the end of this week, since I will be off on vacation until January 2nd.

If I don't get back to posting until after Christmas, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Is that a light I see?

I think I might finally be starting to see the light at the end of this tunnel named "crappy economy". Yesterday was my company's Christmas lunch and year end meeting. While they didn't go extra on the Christmas bonus, as I had hoped (got $1500 net after taxes, which is still awesome) they did offer some potential good news for next year and the following year. They are going to start re-implementing our sales incentive bonus program. We haven't had this since the end of 2008.  At that point we were all making an extra 20% of our salary each month. For me, that was an extra $930, so you can imagine how nice that was for the 2 years it happened. All employees get this, whether you are a salesperson or a receptionist.

Starting in January - if we make the sales goal they have set we will all get an extra 10% of our salary as a bonus - paid out mid-year and the end of next year. WoooHoooo!!!! That is potentially an extra $6600 to me next year.  The owners and management seem confident that we will not have any trouble making the sales goal, so that is very happy, encouraging news.  They also said that if that goal is met, it will put the company in a great position, to put back into place our 20% bonus program starting in 2014.  So, all I have to say is "go get 'em salespeople" :-)

As I did last year, I told DH the Christmas bonus was $500. I debated all the way home on whether to tell him about the whole $1500 or not. Just with telling him it was $500 I could see his brain start to spin on what things he could spend it on before he said "I suppose you already have it budgeted for stuff....". I just laughed and said yes, of course.  The extra $1000 is going straight into savings for those emergencies that, without fail, pop up. Setting aside that extra $1000 last year, without telling him, so he could spend it, was one of the smartest things I have done. It gave me the extra money I needed to help pay for all his doctor bills and prescriptions. It gave me some peace of mind, knowing it was there, if I needed it, and it kept me from being more stressed out about all the medical bills than I already was. So in the end, that is what made my decision to not tell him and just put away the extra $1000.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Working on a Target coupon deal

I'm trying to figure out a Target deal that I hope will work out as planned. I just printed an offer from Target's facebook page for $10 off a $50 purchase. I also have a catalina Target coupon for $5 off a $25 purchase of frozen foods and a $5 off Target coupon for 2 bags of Purina cat or dog food.  If I can get $25 in frozen food items (great for my new freezer stock up!) and $25 in the pet food (though 2 bags of cat food might be more than $25) here's my plan:

I'm pretty sure if I hand them the $10 off $50 coupon to ring through first it will take off the $10, since I have spent $50. I don't want to hand over the other coupons first, as that will then show my total below $50 and the $10 off coupon might not work. Then I can hand over the 2 $5 off coupons and any other coupons I have for the frozen foods (still looking for coupons).  $50, less $10, less $5, less $5 will be $30 and then for using my Target red debit card I will get another $1.50 (5% ) off that. I should be able to get $50 worth of product for $28.50 less any other manufacturer coupons I can come up with to use. A pretty good deal, in my book.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Rebuilding credit post bankruptcy

Rebuilding credit after a bankruptcy seems to be a necessary evil. While on the one hand I have really come to like our "no credit card lifestyle" we have led for the past several years on the other hand there are some benefits to a higher credit score.  Auto insurances look at your score to assess what kind of risk you might be. There are even some employers who will look at your credit score/history to assess what type of employee you might be.

While I don't feel a strong desire to have credit cards in my wallet and no desire to pay any interest on making credit card payments, on some levels I do want to rebuild my credit score. The first reason is just plain basic. A good credit score means you are doing it right. I like to feel like I am doing things the right way. A good credit score makes me feel like I am a responsible person. A second reason is that maybe at some point down the road we will want to buy a new home. I hope we get to buy a new home someday in the future. This isn't where I envision living the rest of my days - neither this house nor this overly congested traffic filled area. We'll need to rebuild our credit score to someday qualify for a new home loan (and by "new" I don't mean a brand new home - just "new" to us), Even if we don't ever move, there is very likely a time when we'd like to refinance to a lower interest rate (like now! wish I could!) or combine the home equity loan with our regular mortgage.

I recently got approved for a Target credit card with a $300 limit. I used it, got the bill, and paid it off. I have used it again and will do the same next month. I had also read that a good tool for rebuilding credit was a gas credit card, so I applied for a Shell card and was approved on that, too. I charged $90 in gas my first statement and paid that off yesterday (9 days before the due date). Last week I applied for a Kohl's card and was instantly approved. I charged a little over $50 for some xmas gifts and a comforter for myself. Once I get the statement I'll pay that off in full. 22% or so interest is not in the monthly budget. I don't EVER want to be making monthly payments on credit cards again! I don't see myself using that card too often though. I just don't buy myself much in the way of clothes and such. Mostly I shop there for gifts and DD might do a little school clothes shopping there every summer.

I feel these cards, with their low credit limits, are a good start to rebuilding my credit over the next few years. I'm "good" now - nothing else I want to apply for. I used to have a JC Penney card - had it since I was 18. Rarely used it and didn't owe anything on it when we filed bankruptcy, yet they cancelled me. I'd had a Macy's card that long too yet they did not cancel me. I used to shop at JCP for most all my clothes, bedding, gifts, etc (though I rarely charged my purchases) but don't feel the need to reapply for their store credit card. I really don't care for the changes to their stores they've made, anyway.  I have no desire to apply for a bank credit card that I can use anywhere - that would just be a bit too tempting. DH has no willpower and I have a hard time saying no when he gets into one of his instant gratification moods. Not having any credit cards available these past few years has been great for curbing his whims to buy something right now (usually a race car part) and he now is good about saving and waiting for what he wants, but I know that with a credit card he'd fall into the old way instantly. I shop and get prescriptions at Target on a regular basis, I get gas every week and when I do occasionally shop at a clothing/home decor type store I usually go to Kohl's because it is only a mile away and I don't have to trek through the traffic to the mall. I feel satisfied now that I'm on a better path to rebuilding my credit, rather than just going along with no credit cards.  Hopefully it will help with insurance rates and at some point down the road if we get a chance, either refinance or sell our home and downsize a bit to a more desirable area we will be able to get a home loan at a decent rate.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Pay Day

Pay day = bill paying day. I love putting little red check marks next to my list of bills due on my handwritten budget. Two doctor bills I have been paying on the past 2-3 months are done with, finally. The last 2 months I paid $100 each. This month I paid them off - one was a $54 balance and the other was $104. It will be really nice not having those payments going out again next month. Now I can concentrate on the last big bill - the one for the MRI that DH had done and went to deductible. I have paid $150 towards it so far. When I called to ask to set up monthly payments of $75 (to start, until I got these other 2 paid off) the lady was so kind and said they will take $25 payments and she would set it up that way, in case I ever had a month I couldn't make the $75, I wouldn't have to worry about calling and letting them know. So, I called this morning and made a $75 payment and next month I should be able to start doing $150 per month.

Now I can finish my Christmas shopping, too. I've already gotten some of it done last week, but probably still have about $300 to go. Other than a dvd, I haven't gotten anything for DH yet (though we are just doing stocking stuffer's this year for each other) or DS. Since DS won't be here I'm just going to get him some more shorts and t-shirts for his trip. I'm not sure what else for him yet. I had originally planned to just give him cash for his trip, but he hasn't been very responsible with his money as we would like, lately, so instead of cash he can just waste on stupid stuff, we decided to get him things he can use. He did well to work and save for his plane ticket, but other than that he has been wasting a lot of money eating out and doing fun/expensive things with his GF. We had a sit down with him last weekend that we are not going to keep going without and sacrifice while we are still supporting him quite a bit, while he can go out and blow his money on absolutely unnecessary things. GF spends like money grows on trees (but it's all borrowed!) and he's just getting caught up in her lifestyle of eating out every day and buying "stuff". Now that she's living on her own while at college, it's gotten even worse. Meanwhile, I'm sitting here having to tell DD that if she wants to take a few private tennis lessons this winter, she'll have to pay for them herself. The money I'm putting out for DS to live here, provide him with a car, health and dental insurance, food (when he's home), etc could be used for the rest of us to have a little fun. I think he got the message somewhat, but it's still going to be an uphill battle since his GF has no parental restrictions on her life or what she spends her money on, even thought they still mostly support her. When he gets back from his trip, we'll be working on cutting the bank of mom and dad off even more.  Time to grow up and take on those responsibilities himself. If he was scrimping and saving, like we have to, then I would have no problem to continue to help him out as we are, but he's not at all. I've really reached the point, now that he's 21 years old, where I now have no guilt feelings about cutting him off.

I spent $137 and ordered more of the little trees (50) and once those are planted should eventually give us a very nice privacy screen along the front and one side of our property. Hopefully in 2-3 years they will be getting alot bigger. DH is working on getting the Christmas lights put up outside today and has brought the tree (artificial) in, so I can finish my inside decorating this weekend. I'm really scared of putting the tree up with this 4 month old puppy! He's just so clumsy and playful and hasn't really learned all his boundaries yet. Everything is fun to him.

DS texted me this morning that the window tinting company next door to where he works has a new guy they need to train, so he offered to do DS's (our) car for free. DS wanted to know if it was ok to do, so we said sure! It sounds like the owner does it himself and the new guy just watches to learn, so I feel safe that it will be a decent job done on it, plus it does have a lifetime warranty. I don't know what a window tinting costs, but I'm sure it's not cheap.

Next Friday is the employee Christmas lunch/meeting at work. This is where they gave us our bonus checks last year. I'm so hoping we get a bonus like we did last year ($1500 net). That would be so nice to put in the bank, like I did last year. It helped get us though all the doctor and prescription bills we've had come up this year. Being the accountant, I do know that as this year is coming to a close, the owners/management are actually trying to spend some of the money - it was a very good year and they don't want to owe a huge tax bill. I'm hoping that with this "problem" they are really feeling generous in the bonus department :-)

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Target trip

DD was at Target the other day buying a sports top to wear to the tennis lessons she started this week. I guess I have her trained good because she actually looked at the catalina coupon that printed out with her receipt and it was a $5 off $50 purchase, so she left it on my desk.  I probably spend that much a month (not counting prescriptions) at Target in household supplies and some groceries, so I got a list together and went shopping yesterday afternoon.

I did get a few good deals combining their sales with Target coupons and manufacturer coupons.  These are my prices after coupons and 5% Red card discount:

Crystal Light On the Go - $1.46 per box
Up and Up Eye Drops - $ .21
Pepperidge Farm Milano Cookies - $1.43

I've also really been wanting some Christmas Throw pillows for the couch. I looked last year on clearance after Christmas but didn't find anything. They had their $15 pillows on sale for $12.00.  There were 2 Target coupons I printed. One for buy one get one 50% off a throw pillow and one for $2.00 off a throw pillow. I wasn't sure if I could use both, but I gave it a shot and it worked, so I got both pillows for $16. Since this purchase was what brought me to the $50 I need to spend, with the $5 off coupon and 5% off they really came to $10.45 for both! And they look really cute on my couch.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Dreams really can come true

I've been waiting to post this until it became "official". I didn't want to jinx the dream come true for DS if something changed in the last few weeks.  It just seemed too good to be true and it's now just seeming more real to me. You might have noticed I haven't posted the past month or so that he's had any big job interviews for that full time job he's been searching for quite a few months now.........That is because he got a call a several weeks ago.....

A call from a guy he met when he was in Australia for 2 months a year and a half ago. He asked DS to come back to Australia to be the driver for the race car he owns!!!  He wants to put DS in the car for about 8 or so races over a 6 week period.  DS is beyond excited! We are all so thrilled for him.  He absolutely loved Australia when he stayed there before.  It was the opportunity of a lifetime then to just visit and experience Australia and to get a second chance to visit AND race is a dream come true.

DS has to pay for his plane ticket there (about $1600), but once he is there all his expenses will be paid for.  He is staying with the car owner and his family.  He has been working hard with his contract type job he's been doing for the computer repair shop and was able to purchase his plane ticket, so it's official now.  He leaves in 2 weeks and thought he'd have a about a week to settle in before his first race, but the schedule got changed and he will be strapping those seatbelts 24 hours after he gets there! Sadly he will be gone for Christmas, but we'll all survive, even though it will be strange to not have him with us.

This is a fantastic opportunity for DS's driving career. He's never had the chance to drive someone else's car or be crew chiefed by someone other than his dad.  It will be a great learning experience for him to drive a different car and communicate with a different crew.  This is a smaller type of car and motor than he drives here in the States, but still the same general type.  I think he is gong to do really well in the smaller car and it sounds like it is good, safe equipment.  I can't imagine what it's going to feel like to me knowing he is in a race car and 7,000 miles from home. I'll be on pins and needles waiting for updates each time he races. I guess we'll have to be on Australia time during the races - after midnight our time, but no one's going to be able to sleep when we know he is out on a race track!

I think since he's already been to Australia it will help with any "nerves" he might experience - he's already experienced the flight, customs, being on his own for a big trip, etc. This time he actually knows the people he is staying with, since he met them in person the first trip. Last time he only knew the guy/family he stayed with from talking with him over the internet via his online gaming headset and emails.  We will miss him "heaps", as they say in Australia, but we are so happy for him!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Mystery box

I guess the old saying "one person's junk is another person's treasure" is true.  While getting out some Christmas decorations from our built in china cabinet cupboards I decided to do a little digging in the far back corners and see what is hiding back there. First I found an old baby wipes tub. Opened it up and there was a bunch of change, keys, batteries and screws. I counted up the coins (2 silver dollars and a Susan B Anthony dollar among the high dollar coins) and got $4.20.  Threw away the rest.  Then there was this brown box about 4"x6". Inside it appeared to be a cup holder for a car. Since the box had to have been down there probably 15 years I knew it wasn't to any car we still owned. I was going to throw it away, but thought I'd show it to DH first. He was almost going to toss it out too, but just out of curiosity he wanted to know which vehicle we owned at one point that it came from.  He googled the part # on the cup and was lead to these selling on ebay. Listed anywhere from $35 to $50!  Apparently these are no longer made so people are willing to pay a good price for them, especially new in the box.

He listed it and it is now up to $42. We are sure having a laugh that the piece of plastic we almost tossed in the garbage can is making us money!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Puppy cuteness!

Puppy had his last visit for shots yesterday. He heard the vet's voice coming from behind that door and ran over to sit and wait for the lady who always gives him lots of treats! He's so stinking cute. 37 pounds now.  We are having an "itchiness" problem, still. We've been giving him fish oil tablets, but those take about 6 weeks to start working. It's only been 3 weeks but his itching seems to have gotten worse. Vet suggested trying to give him some benadryl. So, when I went to Target to pick up DH's meds and a few misc things I of course forgot the benadryl. After I get the bird in the oven a bit later this morning I will see if Rite Aid is open and run over and get some. If, after the 6 weeks or so on the fish oil, he doesn't seem to get any better I'll probably try a different dog food and see if that helps.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A few gifts off the list and other savings

Work was just a half day for me today. When I first got up this morning I did some Black Friday shopping! Yes, on Wednesday, at home, in my jammies. Kohl's is offering their Black Friday deals online, starting today.  There was a couple of things DD had on her wish list from Kohl's and I was so pleased to get good deals. If I spent $50 I get $15 in Kohl's cash back and free shipping. I also had a 20% off coupon, so I really needed to spend $62.50 to be at the $50 level after the discount.

My prices after discount:
3 piece PJ set (she wants some that have shorts, too) - reg. $40 for $15.99 (gift for DD)
Simply Vera slippers - reg. $34.00 for $7.99  (gift for DD)
Picture Frame - reg. 15.99 for $5.13 (gift for son's GF)
King sized alternative down comforter - reg. $119.99 for $21.59

The comforter is for ME! I've been looking for something new for our bed to replace the old, dirty (too big for washing machine and I hate going to laundry mat) comforter. The reviews on it were very good and the price was awesome. I'm still going to look for a duvet cover that I can remove and wash easier than a heavy bulky comforter, though from the sounds of the reviews, those with king size were able to fit it in their washer since it's not real thick and heavy.

I'm waiting for DH's doctor office to call back. Since being on this 2 week trial of another fibromyalgia medicine he is really having trouble urinating. Nothing much will come out and what little does takes forever. Seems to be getting worse every day and especially since he upped the dosage for this past week. From looking online it can be a side effect, apparently. This mornings dose was the last of the 2 week trial pack and I dropped the actual prescription off at the pharmacy yesterday (not knowing about this problem). They were out and will have it in today, but now I'm not sure what to do about it. Wait to hear back from Dr.'s office I guess. It's $128 so I don't want to go pick it up if the Dr. is going to say stop taking it. If I don't hear back by this afternoon, I think I'll call the pharmacist and see what he thinks.

Other savings this week:
$30 off the prescription with savings card (if I actually end up refilling it)
Jimmy Dean Delights breakfast bowl - .22 after coupon
GE Reveal 4 pack lightbulbs - .19 after coupons (I got 2)
UP an UP Alum foil (2) .79 each

Monday, November 19, 2012

No end in sight

When does the skyrocketing health insurance costs end? Will it just eventually be that people start going without because they just can't afford it anymore?  Last year the health insurance premiums on the private insurance I have DH and the kids on went up 58%.  This January it will go up another 25%. It keeps going up and I keep upping the deductible and lowering the benefits to try and keep a plan that is within our budget.

Let's talk actual dollars here. Two years ago I was paying $188 a month - for all three of them! Then it took a jump to $266 a month. Last year it went from $266 to $422. Then this past summer the insurance company dropped prescription coverage on the plan (it basically only covered generics with a copay of $15 and a small discount on brand name drugs). With the drop in prescription coverage they lowered the monthly premium down to $408 (big whoop). If I wanted the one plan they now offer with prescription coverage (and not even as much coverage as the old plan) it would cost over $200 more per month than I was paying. Now, effective Jan 1st the plan goes up to $503 per month. So, in 2 years time our health insurance premiums have gone up a total of 167%.  There is something seriously wrong with our health care system and the insurance companies.

As of right now I basically have 3 companies to choose from in my state for individual/private health insurance options. I'm looking into the other 2 (again!) to see what plans they are offering this year and see if I can either get something cheaper or at least more benefits for the same cost.

Currently, I'm spending about $283 a month for Dh's prescriptions (but this keeps changing every 2-3 months as DH keeps trying to find a drug that will help, so it's hard to budget). Three of these prescriptions are generic, yet one costs $83, one cost $66 and one is on the $4 formulary. The name brand drug he is currently on is $130 (for a few months, then I lose the $30 copay discount that is offered by the drug company for the first 3 refills).  So, I need to take that monthly cost into figuring out which is the most cost effective plan and give him the benefits he needs.

I think I found a plan combination today that will cost $506 per month. $3 more than what our current plan will be Jan 1 but, with some key benefits that will bring my other out of pocket costs down. Generics will be $10 copay and brand name drugs will be 50% covered after a $500 prescription deductible.  The plan also has a vision benefit of $150 per year, which we have never had and DH is much in need of an eye exam and glasses. The deductible is very high at $7500 but the first 4 office visits are not subject to the deductible, just a $25 copay. This year was probably one of his highest in medical costs and we still didn't quite hit our $3500 deductible with our current plan.  Knock on wood, but I don't foresee next year being quite as costly as this year. The doctor is about out of options for him to try and I don't see him having to have an MRI (the bulk our our cost this year) again. So, I might as well take the high deductible that has much lower monthly premiums. If I can get those 2 higher priced generic prescriptions DH takes for $10 ea, then I will be saving $129 per month just on those.

I'm going to send in the application for this plan but I'm also now concerned because now DH is probably considered to have a pre-existing condition. The info wasn't real clear on whether that would cause a 9 month delay for the plan to cover pre-existing conditions. The info I could find said "may" be a 9 month wait. I think I'd have to stay stuck with the plan he has, if that is the case, or do some serious thinking of what my out of pocket costs for his fibromyalgia might be if it's not covered.

I'm so tired of paying a $100 or more a month increase every damn year!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Out of sight - out of mind

This is what we want along our property line to define the property line better AND to block our view of the neighbor's junk yard. He also now has a woodpile that is literally almost as tall and big as a small house, covered with blue tarps. Yep,  nice to look at every day.

Ya - that's what we WANT.  But that is not in our budget at all, so this is what we got instead:

We got 25 of them to start with. Hard to tell in the picture but they are about 10-12" high.  Tiny little guys that supposedly will grow up to 3 feet per year. If they are 5-6 feet high in a couple of years we will have a nice screen.  I actually purchased these on Amazon! $60 ($2.40 per tree) but I used $10 in amazon gift card codes I had from Swagbucks, so that covered shipping and a little more. Planting these 5 feet apart got us 75 feet along our property line......only 200 feet more to go!  I'm hoping to have enough in my budget from my paychecks at the end of the month to order some more.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Turkey and crab

I did some "2 week" grocery shopping yesterday in order to get a free turkey.  The grocery store offered up to a 24 pound turkey for free if you spent $150.00. I figured I might as well just shop for more than a week and get a free one. Picked out a 19 pounder. It was probably more like "12 day" shopping since when trying to plan out 2 weeks of dinners I got stuck and still needed something on the menu plan for 2 of the days. Nothing was sounding good...or we just had it recently...and I think I'm just getting tired of the same meals all the time.

Anyhow - my total came to $185. Gulp. The register was showing $230 before the checker hit the magic button and my store card savings and coupons came off. That was scary for a minute!  But I did add to my stockpile. Lots of soup, canned veggies and 24 packs of soda for $5 ea. It was so nice to be able to put the extra Thanksgiving refrigerated items out in the extra fridge.

And I totally splurged on a very rare purchase - Alaskan King Crab Legs for $13.99 a pound. I think the last time (like a year ago) I bought some it was closer to $25/lb. I spent $42 for 12 King crab legs and we are having a feast on this for tonight's dinner! Yum. My absolute favorite food, besides cheesecake...oooh I should make a cheesecake :)  All 4 of us love crab, which is saying a lot as DS is so picky. Much cheaper than going out to eat (and I'd never order that at a restaurant -way too expensive!) and the last time we had dinner out at a restaurant was almost 2 months ago. So, I guess this is our little family dinner get together. One of the few meals we will all get together, as soon DS won't be able to have any dinners with us for many weeks.....More on that news to come!

Lots of housecleaning plans for this weekend on tap. I need to get it "guest ready" for our family coming over on Thanksgiving. I hate housecleaning and for some reason I hate doing it even more when everyone else is in the house. I don't know why it bugs me. If I'm alone I can seem to get a lot done and don't mind it so much.  DD is at work this morning and I think once DH and DS get up they will probably be doing stuff in the shop or outside, so maybe I will actually get something accomplished.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Stop being a mommy

I'm sitting here this morning trying not to be "mom".  Trying to just let my 21 year old take care of himself and his life. This isn't even anything serious, really. But, it's totally nagging at me and driving me crazy!  He's been working for the computer repair shop just about every day. It's in the town where his GF goes to school - about a 45 minute drive from here. So, he stays at her apartment all week and comes home on the weekends.

He came home last night because GF was leaving on vacation with her family, but he told me last night he is working today, so he will have to drive back down there this morning. I asked what time he had to be at work and he said 8:30am. Well, here it is 7:40 and he's still sleeping! I can't stand it. Drive me absolutely nuts and he's always doing this. Usually, if I wake him up it's plenty of time before he has to leave and he most likely would have gotten up and given himself 20 minutes to shower, dress and walk out the door. So...I decided to wait and give him that time - just in case he really is going to get himself up. He should be walking out the door right now.............How do I start letting go and just let him do his own thing? I know as soon as I finish this post I'm going to get up and go ask him if he's supposed to be up or what....

Ok, I couldn't even wait for that. I just HATE being late and if he's going to live here he's not going to be late for important stuff like work.  Geez.  I just said to him - aren't you supposed to be down at work in 45 minutes? He looked at his phone and said "yes". So, then I said "didn't you set your alarm?" and his reply was "I think it's set for 7:45". Huh? How does that work? I gave up and just walked out and of course now wished I had just let him sleep and deal with it himself.  I have never once had to worry his sister - she has never been late a day in her life. How can they be so different?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Easy diet

I never would have thought the 2 words "easy" and "diet" would go together. I think I mentioned awhile back that DH had started that daily shake diet (Visalus) that a couple we are friends with sell.  And boy do they sell it! She has been able to quit her full time job and sells this as her job now, making more than she did at her job. It seemed worth a shot and the $55 a month (with shipping) would be some what offset by the daily cost of the meal he has been replacing with the shake. For someone who can't exercise this seemed worth a try.

It couldn't be an easier diet! I fix him one banana shake a day (he won't get creative and try different flavors). In the first 30 days he lost 12 pounds. 5 more pounds and he will be under 200 pounds for the first time in years. His pants are getting a bit baggy and he is mentally just happier now that he is loosing some weight and hasn't really had to give up anything else he normally eats.  We don't have to count calories or try to figure out what to make him each day, like when he's tried to diet in the past. There's no whining that he isn't getting enough to eat or that he doesn't like the diet type food (you know, the good stuff - salads, veggies and fruit!) he's made himself eat in the past to try and lose weight. Nope, just a shake instead of his normal lunch of a lunchmeat and cheese sandwich, chips and a pop or lemonade.

It gets even better - now it will be free for DH! If you get 3 people to sign up under you and order the same (or higher) kit, your kit is free each month that they order. Without even trying (DH is NOT a salesman at all) by the end of the first month DH had 3 people sign up. Next month's shake kit will be free, free, free! My mom needs to loose weight and was impressed with DH's weight loss, so she signed up.  He had made a weekly post on his facebook page about how much weight he's lost (not trying to sell the stuff, just excited that it was working at he was losing) and a friend saw it (she has fibromyalgia, also) and she signed up.  Then DS's girlfriend decided to do it.  She really only needs to lose about 10 pounds, but the shakes are so nutritional that she thought it would be a much better (and quick) meal for her for either breakfast or lunch than what she has been eating lately while living on her own now while at college. She has been eating total junk food every day and has gained weight and of course is not eating healthy while she tries to juggle a full load of classes, a part time job, and studying. I'm sure it won't be hard for her to get 3 people to sign up, either and hers will be free soon. She has a huge family and network of friends that would probably try it.

So, all in all this has been a great and now free diet plan for DH!  Can't wait until he can see that scale show under 200 pounds.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Gift shopping

I have a list started of what gifts I want to buy for Christmas. That's a start, at least. I realized a couple of years ago that I stress myself over finding the best price for each gift. I might be out shopping and see something that would make a good gift but I won't buy it because in the back of my mind I might find it or something similar cheaper. Even if it's just a couple of dollars I would potentially save. I do that with just about everything, year round, but at Christmas it puts extra stress because of the time limit.  Consequently, I'm always trying to buy the bulk of my gifts close to Christmas.

Stocking stuffers are usually purchased a day or two before Christmas. I told myself last year I was going to start shopping year round for them. I found a cute purse sized makeup mirror almost free for DD last Jan or Feb and was all gung-ho to find little stuff all year. That's the only thing I got! I'm surprised I even remember now that I got it or where I hid it.

Since my Christmas budget is pretty small to begin with, other than maybe the few larger priced items I might have on my yearly list for DH and the kids, I'd probably only save a few dollars here and there, overall. Seems like my time would be much better spent just buying it when I find it now (and it's still on sale and a good price!) rather than waiting, thinking I'll find it cheaper if I keep looking.  Then I might have more time in the week leading up to Christmas to make cookies or something.

I won't have the money to buy all the gifts until the paychecks from the end of this month, but I can start on a few things.  That is my goal this year - to try and get past the "but you can probably find it cheaper" annoying little voice in my head and get the gift shopping done somewhat ahead of normal.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Stocking up

The great stock up of food and supplies has begun.  We got my mom's old fridge squeezed into the shop last week.  Not much to put in there yet as I'm having to go slow as budget allows and as I find good sales.  Today I was able to add to the freezer 2 packs of hamburger and 2 packs of lunch meat. We drink lots of milk and I can never buy what we drink at one trip because it won't all fit in the fridge so I'm always making a trip for milk later in the week. Smartypants DD reminded me I can put the extra milk out in the shop fridge. Duh!

Last week I stocked up on 3 extra jars of Jif Peanut butter that were on sale for $5 ea. and 10 cans of Del Monte vegetables for .69 ea. and a few jars of Mayo that I got for $1.49 ea. Today I stocked up on 4 jars of Welch's grape jam for $1.27 a jar.

Not much yet, and I still need to start getting a bit more organized on where I'm putting it.  Last night we had a pretty cheap dinner. I hadn't made chicken fried steak in years! The package for 4 pieces was only $5, made up some mashed potatoes with gravy, slices of bread w/butter and some jello and fed the 4 of us for probably $7 total.

Today I have to get over to Target for a few things. I have a $5 giftcard I forgot I had in my wallet, plus I just received a 5% off your shopping day from pharmacy rewards. I need puppy food and treats and a few other items that are on sale and I have coupons. Speaking of store rewards - we recently had .90 cents off per gallon of gas from grocery shopping. DD was thrilled to fill up her tank and even printed out the receipt to show me how much she saved!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Gobble Gobble!

Just got a call from DS wanting to know if we are having turkey or ham for Thanksgiving. "Turkey", I say, "why?".  The guy he has been working for is buying DS and the other guy who works for him a turkey or a ham for Thanksgiving.  Very nice!  He sure gives DS lots of nice little perks.  He bought him a new iPhone case that was like $55, when DS's old one wore out. He buys lunch all the time.  It's  nice to know there are employers out there who value their employees.  I think little perks make such a difference. My employer just decided to re-institute the perk of free pop and bottled water.  They stopped doing it a few years ago and put in a pop machine, but for some reason decided to start offering it free to the employees again.We also get free coffee, tea and hot chocolate and lots of lunches brought in for everybody quite often. Yesterday was delicious fried chicken, mashed potatoes and rolls. We also have a kitchen where I work and there's always pre-made cookie dough in the freezer....every once in awhile someone will bake a batch. Makes the whole office smell yummy and warm chocolate chip cookies are the best!

What kind of perks does your employer give?

Car troubles

It's been getting cold in the mornings this week- almost frost on the car windows. DD left to go to school Wednesday morning and texted me when she got there that her heater and defroster were blowing out cold air. Not good.  DH did the great "google" search for her make and model and the problem and came up with a couple of things to check.  First (which he already knew) was for her to see if she had water pressure.  Thankfully she did so she was able to drive back home after classes.  Then he checked her fuses and those were ok.  Then he sent her off to Walmart for an antifreeze tester and some new antifreeze.  That did the trick so she was only out about $15-$20 for the fix and has heat again. Good thing because the last 2 morning have been below freezing!  Puppy always takes a run at going outside the front door and did a slip and slide across the porch to the sidewalk!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

One present done!

Got a Christmas present out of the way! Only it wasn't one I am giving - darn!  DD has been wanting to get DH a new Carhartt jacket for Christmas. His is quite old and finally wearing out. I told her they are going to be at least $100 in any store around here and maybe find something a bit cheaper online. She was going to see if her brother wanted to go in half since they are so expensive.

I was scanning my usual online sites this morning and had a 40% off coupon for the Carhartt outlet. They had a jacket DH would like that was regularly $100 on sale for $75, so with the additional 40% off and free shipping it was only $45! I texted DD real quick and made sure she still wanted to get that as a gift and snagged it up. They were going quick.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Catching up on the week

I was up at my usual Saturday morning 7:15am time (thanks to puppy!). I spent about 45 minutes getting some work done for my side job.  Third quarter financials and info sent off to their CPA for a meeting the owners have with him next week. Feels good to have all that out of the way and not have to worry about for another quarter.

Later my mom, grandma and I are going to go over to eat where DD works - haven't seen her in action yet! It's a pretty pricey place for breakfast food so we haven't eaten there in a long time, but mom is paying so I wasn't turning down the invitation.

I didn't get to see DS all week. He's been working quite a bit for the computer repair shop that is about a 40 minute drive from our house, so he's been staying at his girlfriend's apartment during the week to save on gas. I miss him so much when he's gone! He got home last night but I only got to see him for a few minutes before I went to bed. DD and I had gone over to her school to watch a play that one of her best friends had a lead role in and we didn't get home until 10:30 last night. I really enjoy watching the high school plays and musicals they put on and this was the first time her friend had a lead role. She did great and so did the male lead. DD took her some flowers to give after the performance.

The puppy is doing well and we are all adjusting to him and he is adjusting to our home. His vet visit earlier in the week showed his weight has doubled to 30 pounds since we got him! He does have dry skin, which explains why he's been scratching so much. We're adding a fish oil pill to his food daily now, but probably won't see the benefits of it for about 4 weeks. He hasn't had an accident in the house for over a week so I think we've rounded the corner on that issue. He's figured out how to jump up on furniture and beds now - eek!

DH has still been feeling extra crappy all week, so we haven't started him on his new med yet.  The doctor said to wait until he was feeling his usual crappy self so we'd know if he was feeling better from the meds and not because his overdoing it last weekend was finally wearing off.

Well, the kitchen is a disaster and I'd better go clean up. DD didn't get time to empty the dishwasher yesterday afternoon and we had to leave for the play right after dinner and neither of us felt like cleaning at 10:30 last night, especially when she had to be up and out for work early this morning.

Enjoy your weekend!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

back on the medication merry-go-round

Today is payday - thank goodness!  Bills are paid and some money is back in savings.

This morning I went with DH to his doctor's appointment. The doctor wanted to see how he's doing the past couple of weeks,  now that he's off the Lyrica and back with his other med he's taken for pain the past year.  He has been much better off the Lyrica, that's for sure, though the 2 days of putting in DD's floor took it's toll and he's been feeling like crap the past 3 days. Once he gets back to "normal" (probably 2-3 days of more rest) the dr. wants him to start trying another fibromyalgia med - Savella.  I'd already looked up some pricing on the medicine when the dr. mentioned it at last visit. It's as pricey as Lyrica, so you can imagine how relieved I was to see the doctor walk back into the exam room with a starter pack of samples! This medicine has to be gradually increased over 2 weeks, so this is a packet already made up for that. Plus he gave me a co-pay assistance card that will save $30 on each of the next 3 prescriptions (if he ends up staying on this med). Every little bit helps but getting this 2 week trial pack is awesome - gives me a little more breathing room in my budget for this pay period.  We are keeping our fingers crossed again that this one will help.

DH has been drinking one of those weight loss shakes for lunch every day the past 3 weeks. So far he has lost 10.5 pounds and is down to 206 pounds. His goal is 190, but I know he will just be happy to see his weight get below 200 for the first time in years.

Puppy has another vet appointment this afternoon - more shots. I'm kind of relieved I won't be out another $100 right now, since I signed up for that wellness plan at the last visit - just $35 on the 12th for the monthly amount and DS is going to be paying me back for it.

Can you believe it's November tomorrow? Since I don't have to think about DD's upcoming birthday present (the new floor was her present) I actually was able to focus my brain towards thinking about Christmas presents! I was looking online for some fleece fabric with a tennis theme, so I could make her a tie blanket for Christmas. I found some for about $7 for a yard, plus I'd need to spend about the same for the back side in a plain fleece. But then I saw on Amazon a large sized blanket already pre-made (sewn, not the tie kind) for only about $6 more. I think I will just order that with my amazon gift cards I have saved up from Swagbucks. She will love it! It's still really cold around here in the spring while they are sitting around waiting for their match to start - the girls are always wrapped up in blankets trying to keep warm.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Scared myself

Yesterday, while I was taking a quick lunch break, I finally wrote out all my bills due when I get paid on Wednesday. I have quite a few extra due to doctor bills and the list was quite long.  When I added it all up and subtracted from my income I really wasn't going to have ANY left over, but with all the extra bills I wasn't totally surprised.  I was really bummed and didn't want to go another whole month most likely ending up short.

Last night I decided to re-write the income and expenses in a new notebook I got and I re-added it all. This time showed I had an extra $336! I must have added wrong. I re did the math 2 more times and the $336 was correct. - Whew! I felt so much better when I went to bed last night.

Monday, October 29, 2012

It's Monday already

Boy, did this weekend fly by fast. I'm very proud of myself that with all the busy-ness of putting in DD's floor I didn't go get fast food! Saturday night I made french dip sandwiches.  Some sliced thin roast beef from the deli counter heated up, some au jus and swiss cheese melted on the meat made for a very quick meal.  Yesterday I popped in a Stouffer's frozen lasagne to the oven with some french bread and jello. I was just too tired for a lot of prep work for something from scratch, but at least there was no money spent on take out.

Hmm, black dogs shed black fur? Imagine that! I vacuumed twice yesterday (and I am NOT a neat freak!) and there's more black fur this morning.  

Everyone is driving me nuts this morning. The dogs are playing (usually the older dog is still asleep in our bedroom), the cat keeps wanting back and forth over the puppy gate. DH is really feeling the effects of all the work he did this weekend, so is having a hard time sleeping so keeps calling for me to tell me something or ask me something.  I put the dogs outside, put the cat in DS's room and told DH to go back to bed!

Issues with our water well again. We are having lots of air coming through our pipes all day yesterday. None of our neighbors were home to ask if they were having same problem so I had to call the well owner lady. They are having the same problem so she is supposed to call the repair guy today to come out and take a look. At least we still have water, but we filled up the bathtub and our 5 gallon jugs just in case it goes out or has to be turned off for repairing. I wish I could think of some character on TV to compare her to - to describe how totally annoying it is to try and talk to her. Trying to talk to her reminds me of some Carol Burnett/Tim Conway skit!  She always thinks we are going to run out of water. I don't know how many times we and our other neighbor have explained to her that our water well is tapped into a glacier fed aqueduct - pretty much guaranteed the well will never go dry. I had to explain that to her again yesterday as she thought maybe there is air in the water because the well is going dry from our very dry summer. Hopefully it will all be resolved quickly today and we won't have to deal with her for another 6 months, when something else goes wrong.

Time to get moving and get to work. Have a great day!

Sunday, October 28, 2012


DD and I came home yesterday around noon to find this:

All her bedding piled on the dining room table and everything else from her bedroom stacked out in the family room. Surprise! Happy early Birthday - we are putting wood flooring in your bedroom!! While we were gone DH decided (unknown to me!) to get started on the floor. He had originally wanted to try and get it all done when she was at school or work one day, but figured it was most likely going to take longer (and it did) than the average 6 hours or so she is gone at a time.

She was so surprised! We tore out the carpeting and got to work

Nine hours later it is all done except for the trim and transition pieces. Never having done this before, DH made a couple of goofs in the very beginning but once it was figured out it overall went pretty well. All the prep work to just get started and the cutting and measuring sure takes time, but it was so worth it!

Today we will finish it off and restore her room back.  It was so funny as we were driving home yesterday she said to me she thought she'd rearrange her room that afternoon (she's always doing that) and now she can start with a clean slate.  I'm ready to do the whole house with this (wink wink!).

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The weekend is here

Last night for dinner we tried something new - commenter Susie Q's Zatarain rice and beans in tortillas. We added some shredded cheese, lettuce and sour cream. Very Good! Everyone liked it and when DH has 2nd's of something new that makes it an official new meal I can add to my menu planning.

I rocked with coupons yesterday for my weekly shopping. I used $24 in paper coupons, saved another $5.45 with coupons added to my store card and got a $5 Target gift card. I saved the most at Target. They had a sale of Clairol hair color products buy 3 get a $5 Target gift card. I've had this Target catalina coupon in my purse for $4 off a Root Touch-Up kit (it expired yesterday). I also had (2) $2 off any Clairol haircolor, so I bought the Root Touch-Up kit ($5.89) and 2 of the Foam hair color ($7.99 ea). Total was $21.87, less $8 in coupons brought the price down to $13.87 for all 3 and then I got a $5 gift card, making $8.87 for all 3! Almost the price of just one foam color box.

DH loves the Crystal Light individual ice tea packets - seriously - we go through like 3 boxes a week. He drinks the stuff all day. Target always has them for about $2 a box and I recently purchased some $1 off 2 coupons from ebay (I paid $2.60 total with shipping for $10 in coupons, so still will save over $7). Target had a sale of buy 3 get one free, and I bought 8 boxes, got 2 free and was able to use 4 of my $1 off coupons. With my additional 5% discount for using Red card, that made each box .95 cents. I probably should have bought more and just used up all my coupons!

A few good deals at the grocery store - Comet cleanser with bleach (I think that's about all we used to clean the kitchen and bathrooms when I was a kid!) was on sale .88 each. They had some cans that were 20% more and stuck on top of them were .65 off each coupons. I picked up 2 cans for .23 each. Some good cheap cleaner. I stocked up on 2 Best Foods Mayo for $1.49 each by combining store sale, an additional store coupon and a mfg coupon. Also got some Eggland's Best eggs (I use these to help with DH's cholesterol) regularly $3.29 for $1.49 after sale and coupon.

On tap for today - a visit to see my grandma. I try to get over to see her at least every couple of weeks. Last time I went DD was working, but she's off today so we are both going. It's really hard to visit with her because she is so hard of hearing and won't wear her hearing aids (says they bug her!) and after a visit I feel like I just spent 40 minutes or so screaming at the top of my lungs.

After that we were going to go drive over to a private university that is really close and just check out the campus, but it's pouring rain today, so I think we'll save that for another day.  I think DD has kind of narrowed her choices down to 3. This private university, which is less than 10 miles away and she could live at home, or 2 of the state colleges. One is about an hour a way and the other is about 2 hours away. I'm hoping she either picks the one where she can live at home or the one that is 2 hours away. It's in a smaller town, smaller campus and I'd feel safer for her than the one in the big city with the huge campus. We've still got about a year to decide but will visit them all so she can get a feel for what each is like. Since she'll have her AA degree when she graduates high school she will be able to transfer in to her college of choice as a junior.

Enjoy your weekend!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Using whats on hand and little freebies and savings here and there

DH has been outside putting covers on our crawl space vents to see if that will help keep some extra heat in the house this winter. We have never tried this before and I am curious to see if it will cut down our heating costs a bit this winter. DH has never cared one whit about saving money as far as heating goes (or much else, for that matter) and I really don't think saving money is really his intended goal in this project, as much as it is just to maybe keep the house warmer (he's always cold). He said he was outside standing near the vent the other day and could feel the warm air coming out of it. So, if it benefits both ways I'll be happy.  Though I will grant him props that he is using some old pieces of boards he had laying around to cut to fit over the vents, so we are saving by not going and buying some foam or some type of pre-made cover.  He's even going to paint them to match the house with some leftover house paint. If nothing else, it's keeping him busy with a little project today that isn't costing me any money!

A free sample of dog food came in the mail today. We train our puppy with kibble and sometimes packaged treats, so why not use free kibble?! I had received a free sample bag of one brand right when we got the puppy and when I ran out I looked online at a freebie site and found a different brand offering a free sample bag.  Works great for training. Whenever the puppy goes and does his business outside I give him a treat. And he's learned "sit" so well, I give him another one :)

I was going through the mail yesterday while sitting at my desk and DD was in her bedroom. I hollered over to her there was something in the mail from JC Penney for her. She hollered back something like "just throw it away" and I have a feeling she thought it was just some advertisement. It was actually like a letter in an envelope so I opened it up and hollered back "well, if you don't want this $10 off $10...". She was out of her room and had that snatched out of my hand before I could finish my sentence!

Abigail over at I Pick Up Pennies had a post today about InboxDollars. I had signed up for them sometime back (probably a couple of years ago now) but at .02 cents per email read, it just seemed like it was gong to take forever to earn the $30 required for them to send a check, so I gave up. It appears they have updated their site and now also offer payment for doing searches - doing them daily could earn you up to $57 a year. So, I re-signed up (my account had lapsed and been closed), earned a $5 bonus for signing up and already have over $6 in the account. I'm sure I could use $50 or so come this time next year!

My Women's Day magazine that I got free last year from MyCokeRewards is about due to expire, so I used some of my 600 points to order another free subscription. I love just reading magazines as a way to sit and relax and all the ones I subscribe to have been free (Woman's Day, Family Circle, All You, GoodHousekeeping). with the rewards points each year. DH loves to drink the MinuteMaid light lemonade in cans, so I might as well take advantage of the freebies from the points codes on the boxes.

I've done awesome keeping to my dinner plans this week and have done NO takeouts! I'm already working on my dinner menu for next week (starts Friday for me). The grocery store ad and store coupons have some good deals to stock up on, along with some mfg. coupons I can stack.

Bar-S meat franks will be .62 each. Definite for a stock up and freeze them!
Mission Tortillas - .99.  I just googled and found out you can freeze these too. We never seem to go through a whole bag before I have to throw them out
Best Foods Mayo - This appears they are going to end up .99 a jar! The store has an special for $2.49 plus an added coupon loaded to my card bring it down to $1.99. I just printed off 2 $1 off coupons from the internet to stack on this deal.

Lindt chocolates (Yum!) recently had a Facebook promotion for a coupon for a free bag by liking their page. I printed one out and so did DD. We went to Walgreens the other day to get our free bags. She got dark chocolate and I got regular - figured we share with each other. We got home and she opened her bag and it was all messy and melted inside. She stopped a different Walgreen's on her way home from school today to return it and get a new bag. Got home with the new bag and it was even worse inside than the first bag! This is getting a bit annoying and I'm not really sure it's worth it to make another trip and time inside the store. I did send a message to Lindt on their facebook page about the problem. Maybe they'll send another free coupon and we can try getting a bag at some other store than Walgreens.

That's all I got!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


I've mentioned before I have a side job (well, 2 actually).  I've been doing this one about 2 1/2 years now. I don't even get to see the company owners as they are in another state, about a 2 1/2 hours drive from us. We just communicate via email and phone calls. It's a satellite office that the company I work for used to own, but we sold it off and the new owners wanted me to do their books remotely. It has worked great for both parties.

I always bill them the first of the month for the hours I worked the prior month. Usually around 24 hours. I was already down to the wire this month with my money and then with our unexpected furnace repair I'm going to be in the negative before the end of the month.

I emailed the company owner and asked if I could have a favor....could I bill him now for the hours I have put in this month so far and cut myself a check (I'm their bookkeeper, so I have checks too) as our furnace had stopped working and I had an unexpected bill come up.  He emailed back and asked how much the furnace was. I emailed back and explained luckily we didn't have to replace the whole furnace, just a bill for $183.

He emailed back that he is sending me a check overnight for $300 and it is not coming out of my regular invoice to them nor do I have to pay it back! He just wanted to do this for me, for one less thing to worry about! I almost started crying! That is so amazing of him and I totally was not expecting that at all! I just wanted to bill him for what I had worked so far.  I sent him back a HUGE thank you email. 

I am so blessed to work for 2 great companies. I was sick yesterday (sore throat and headache) for my regular job and this morning my boss emailed me to ask how I was feeling and if I had planned to come in to work today, to just work from home instead.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Ready to freeze!

As I begin my quest to start a food and supplies stockpile a nice unexpected surprise has come our way! My mom has decided to get new appliances and offered us her old refrigerator, if we could use it out in our garage.  I'd really like a freezer, but even this would be great to have! It's a side by side and I think one whole side is freezer section, if I recall.

But first we have to FIND room in our garage. It is packed to the ceiling! And not in a messy hoarders way. No....DH is a bit OCD remember? It is organized down to the labeled bolt trays in the bolt bin (he went a bit nuts when we gave him a labeler one year for Christmas!). He has everything so organized and packed in the garage/shop, shelving units, etc, that I really didn't think there would be room at all. But, I should have known, if anyone could find a way to make it fit, DH could.

So, we will be getting a 2nd refrigerator/freezer later this week. It will be so nice to have some more freezer space, especially when meat or poultry goes on sale. I have always wanted to buy an extra turkey to freeze and have a few months later. Now I will be able to! If meat goes on a good sale, I can stock up. I'm not sure I'll use the refrigerator side much, but I probably need to have some things in there so that it will work efficiently as possible, right? Guess I can put extra pop and water in there.

Sunday, October 21, 2012


Well, I was pretty darn close to my $50 goal for yesterday's grocery shopping trip. The total came to $51.45. I'm blaming the excess on DD :).  She ended up not having to work yesterday - a big miscommunication on her bosses part.  So, of course she wanted to go with me. I had to explain that this was a bare bones trip because I AM BROKE. She was actually quite helpful in throwing out cheap dinner ideas and we did add a couple of items to my list so we could make our own snacks.  Yesterday she made some banana nut muffins and a salmon dip that we eat with Ritz crackers (we already had the muffin mix in the cupboard and the stuff to make the salmon dip)  and I made some brownies. She took a look through the freezer and pulled out a bag that had a few quesadillas left in it, so that was what we had for lunch. I pulled out the lone frozen OJ and made that for another beverage choice to put in the fridge. Dinner was supposed to be chili and corn bread, but I totally messed up on pouring in the milk - I poured in 1 2/3 cups instead of 1 1/3 cup. I had to throw it out - Boo!.  I could have kept the total under $50, but 24 pack of soda was on sale for $5 each, limit three and this is an awesome stock up price that will save me more over the next few weeks, by not having to pay $7.50 or $8 per pack.

Today, I am making some banana bread with the 2 over ripe bananas I have left.  I'm still using up the fresh farm eggs my mom gave me awhile back, but with all the baking they are almost gone now. Makes me want chickens :) 

The puppy is on my $#&! list today. I thought he was laying behind me while I was at my desk this morning, chewing on this dinosaur sized chew bone. I turned around to make sure that was what he was still doing. Nope, he had moved on to chew on my tote bag I carry back and forth to work. Chewed up the handle and a hole in the bottom corner. Sigh.....It's not like it was some super expensive leather bag, but still! Maybe me and DD will stop by Goodwill and see if I can find something cheap to replace it. I do have a canvas bag I used to use, so I guess I will use that again for now.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Murphy dropped by

Murphy dropped by - a couple of times today, in fact! First was when our furnace would not turn on this morning. Ugh! DH did his best (not knowing anything about heating) to check out the thermostat (that's 23 years old now) and clean the inside of it a bit to see if that helped. Checked to make sure the wires were getting juice. So, I had to call a repairman. Luckily he came right out within an hour. Took one quick look and said it's a bad "sequencer". Apparently they usually only last about 10 years. According to his records  he put one in for us 17 years ago! 10 minutes and $183 later he was done.  He did say that BigName heating company in our area charges $800 to fix this!

Then Murphy came in the mail. A bill from when DD had her wisdom teeth out for $104. Guess the insurance didn't pay as much as they expected. Guess I'll add that to the other stack of doctor bills I have to pay.  I think I should just crawl back in bed - it's nice and warm now, at least!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Scouring the cupboards and freezer

Money is super tight right now until the end of the month.  So much so that I'm really really going to have to keep the next grocery shopping trip to a bare minimum. I made a menu plan of  as low cost meals as possible, but then decided I'd better take a good look in the freezer and actually see what is hiding in there that could be dinners for next week.  Found 3 things! Some chicken breasts I can use to add to a rice and veggies recipe I have, a bag of Gorton's fish fillets (dinner tonight) and a frozen skillet pre-made meal stuffed in the back of the freezer. Whew! I already knew the beef tips and gravy Hormel meal was in the freezer. I stocked up on a couple of these earlier when I got them on sale and with coupon for $2.99. That will help the grocery bill this week a lot.  I also found a coupon online for $3 off Fresh Express salad, so that should make it free and help fill out a couple of meals.

Fortunately I'm already pretty much stocked up on pantry basics and things for side dishes with the meals. I have enough in the cupboards for my work day lunches brown bag. We are completely out of laundry detergent, but DH has mentioned he wanted to try something different than what we have used the past umpteen years. He doesn't feel like the clothes smell very fresh anymore.  Instead of forking over $11 for a box of our usual, I'm going to try Gain - the grocery store has it on sale for $4.99 plus I have a $1 off coupon and another .40 off with a store coupon. I was so surprised DH wanted to try something new. Once he finds something he likes or it's just what he's always been used to, he's impossible to try anything new (I think this goes along with his OCD tendencies), so I'm happy to get some cheaper laundry detergent. It's a smaller size (I usually get the biggest) but still a good price to try something new out.

I'm also going to wait and go shopping tomorrow morning while DD is at work, so I'm not tempted to buy anything that is NOT on my list! Especially snacks.  We can make cookies or cake from scratch this weekend with ingredients we already have.  DS has not been home all week, so I still have milk, peanut butter, pop and chips left from last week. My goal is to spend less than $50.

DH has been trying the weight loss shake for his lunches the past week and a half.  This was paid for a couple of weeks ago for the next 30 days, so I don't need to add his usual lunch stuff of bread, lunch meat, cheese, and chips to my grocery list. Guess what? He was down 5.5 pounds the first week! Overall, since he last went to the doctor and was weighed 5 weeks ago he has lost 12 pounds. I know this will help him feel better, at least as much as he can, by getting some of this excess weight off.  The Lyrica medicine was the cause of the last 10 pounds or so he gained so quickly. Glad it's gone!

Here's the dinner menu for the next week:
Fish fillets
Club sandwiches
Chicken/rice/mixed veggies
Tuna Casserole
Chicken w/rice skillet meal
Beef tips and noodles

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Rebuilding credit

I'm still trying to decide if what I did last night is a good thing or a bad thing! I was opening my mail and had received a 5% off your next shopping trip coupon for Target (from their pharmacy rewards program). I have a Target Red Debit card, which also gives me 5% off. I've been getting all our prescriptions there the past several months rather than Walmart, who I had always used in the past.

I was online on Target's website looking at my pharmacy rewards account info and decided to apply for the Target credit card. I really didn't think I'd get approved at all, but figur if I at least try for something every 6 months or so, maybe eventually we'd get approved for credit and be able to start rebuilding our credit score. I was approved instantly for a $300 limit!  Sounds like a reasonable amount, nothing I could get in over my head about, that's for sure.

So, just a little over 2 years past our bankruptcy filing, I was approved for something. Part of it made me feel good, that I'm now considered responsible enough again and part of me said "oh crap, you do not need a credit card". But, I think it might come in handy for these hard to plan for costly prescription changes DH keeps going through, if I am in a pinch until payday.

He went back to the doctor on Monday, after an extended wait to get back in to see him (doc was on vacation). The Lyrica was NOT working, in fact we were pretty sure it was causing him more problems. Over the few weeks he kept feeling worse and his hands got so tight and clenched up he was having a hard time opening them, especially in the morning.  Last Thursday morning it was so bad and painful for him he just wanted to cry. I said let's stop the Lyrica. We decided to just stop the morning dose (rather than quit cold turkey) until we could get back in to see the doctor.  Within a couple of days one of his hands was doing a lot better. Monday the doctor said to stop taking it and put him back on the other medicine he'd been taking for the past year (that did help some). By yesterday his hands were back to normal (well, as normal as they can be for him). We have to go back in a couple of weeks and then it sounds like the doctor wants to try another fibromyalgia medication. I looked this one up for cost and it's as expensive as Lyrica!

If we keep having to try these meds and I never know when I'm going to have a huge prescription bill (makes it hard to budget) at least I'll have the Target credit card as something I can use if I absolutely need to. I'll also be improving my credit score over time, too.  The meds expenses are a given, so I might as well use them to help rebuild our credit to better standing.

Monday, October 15, 2012

It's getting harder

Gosh it's so hard to keep a secret! So many times in the past few weeks I've almost blurted out about doing DD's bedroom floor.  Then Saturday, when I went and got the flooring and my mom went with me, DD asked what I did while she was at work. I didn't want to tell her I saw Grandma, because then she'd have more questions and I'd just have to make up more lies! So, I just said I didn't do much, went to Walmart and cleaned house.  I don't know how many times over the weekend I almost mentioned something me and my mom talked about.

This morning I ordered some knee pads for DH on Amazon. I logged in with DD's Amazon Student prime account because of the free 2 day shipping. As soon as I hit submit on the order I realized she will now get an email about it!  Ooops.  DH said to make up some story about he needs them for out in the shop or something. Sure enough 15 minutes later DD texts me "what did you just order from Amazon?".

I'll be glad when these floors are in and I don't have to keep telling fibs! I suck at it!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Sunday - general update

Things have just been kind of status quo the past couple of weeks. DS has not found a full time position yet, but he has been doing quite a bit of side jobs.  He's been taking whatever work the computer repair shop throws his way, which last week was 3 full days. The guy is just paying him cash, and he's paying pretty well and DS made $540 from those 3 days. He's also working again for him on a job site on Tuesday, which will pay DS $35/hr with a 4 hour minimum.  The shop owner also has several companies who want websites done and he is just waiting for them to make the down payments before DS can start working on those.  He made $175 working on a website for a guy he had created for him last year. Just needed some updates and changes. Then he just finished a "hero card" for a fellow racer and set him up a very basic one page website (to start) and will get paid for that today.

DD has been very busy with her 3 college classes and 1 high school class and then working every Saturday and Sunday for about 6 hours each day. No more sleeping in for her! She has to be at college by 7am, but is done by 10am. She had her first tests this past week. A's in Political Science and English and a C in Pre-Calc (that will be her hardest class!). She is liking her job and the other people she works with and has so far, with tips, been making a little over $600 a month, which is great for her. She's putting most of it in savings, though she did help chip in $200 for the new tires that were needed for her car.  She's also enjoying having some spending money for clothes and an ice cream or a coffee out with friends. The early mornings 7 days a week have her in bed by 9 or 9:30 every night!

I finally spoke with a disability attorney and found out (just as I thought) that DH is not eligible for disability. Not working much the past 10 years and no diagnosis or proof that he was totally disabled way back when he was considered eligible with enough credits would make it about impossible to go back and get any back pay. So, I think this news really brought DH down.  Unfortunately he made some poor decisions years ago that led to this. First off (and this was just ignorance on our part) we should have had his company set up as a corporation and gave him a salary that would have been taxed with Social security. Instead he was a sole proprietor, that had so many write off's most  years that he either had a loss or very little income, so not much put into SS.  Then 8 years or so ago when he did apply for disability and was turned down, he did appeal. He was then denied, saying he could work 2 hours a day. I spoke with an attorney then (not a disability one) who said DH should definitely get a lawyer and fight that one. Instead he just got angry at the whole situation and just decided to do nothing.  Now, he has no more credits and it's too late.  I did explain to him that when we reach retirement age he will get Social Security, as he will be able to get half of my monthly amount.  On the to-do list for me this month is to get that additional term life insurance policy taken care of.

The puppy is doing great and even starting to go to the door to go outside now. We take him out so often he hasn't gone in the house in almost a week. He's kind of starting to get on a schedule so it's getting easier. He even went to bed in his crate on his own last night :)

I got the laminate flooring for DD's bedroom yesterday! It's kind of a warm honey oak color.  All the boxes are hidden under my bed and the long wall trim pieces are out in our garage.  It's been so hard to keep this a secret - I'm so used to just talking to her about everything that I almost blurt it out in conversation every once in awhile.  DS is the worst secret keeper, so wouldn't surprise me if he already told her - haha!

Friday, October 12, 2012

How I plan my grocery shopping trip

I'm getting ready to take a lunch break and go do my grocery shopping.  First I looked through the store's weekly ad to see what is on sale.  I make out a meal plan for dinners for the next week, add to my list what I need for the meals and then also add all the other miscellaneous items we need.  Then I get online with my grocery store and add any coupons or sale prices to my store card. I look through my coupons on hand (though most times I just know in my head if I have a coupon for something) and then I go online to one of my favorite coupon websites and use their coupon database search and go through my list and see if I can find any additional coupons I can use.

Here's are the coupons and discounts I have come up with for this trip, just by taking an extra 10 minutes or so to look:

Campbells Tomato and Chx noodle soup         -.40/4 (I have 2 of these so stocking up on 8)
Margarine                                                          -.75 (catalina coupon from last trip)
Lunchables - club card price 1.49 ea                -1.25/6 (catalina coupon)
Yakisoba                                                            -.50 (I have 2, makes for a cheap work lunch)
Miralax 30ct                                                      -4.00 (part of Dh's medicine needed)
canned chicken breast                                       -.75/2
Del Monte canned vegetable or fruit                 -.75/1 (wish I had more of these! this came in a             mailer)
Soup at hand                                                      -.75/2 (again good for work lunches)
Quaker chewy granola bars (4)                           store card special 1.88 ea (usually at least 2.50 ea)
dryer sheets                                                         -1.00
Crystal Light tea packets                                    -2.00/4 (Target catalina)
Plus I added some store club sale prices to my card for buns ($1.09 ea), bananas (.49/lb), and bath tissue ($5.00)

Just the coupons I have total $13.80, plus there will be additional savings with the adding the store club prices to my card.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Thursday This 'n That

The missing check finally cleared my bank. I don't know how I didn't remember writing it! It was written on pay day for DD and myself to get our haircut! $30.  I'm really loosing my memory in my old age.  At least it was for a relatively small amount.

Speaking of writing checks. One of the few I usually write each month is for our pest control service. As I was starting to write it out and get a stamp to mail it, I suddenly thought to myself - why am I not paying this through my free online banking? I don't have to pay .45 for the stamp!  Duh, that's a no brainer.

We took the puppy in for his 2nd round of shots yesterday and he's gained 6 pounds. The vet staff just go silly over him, he's so cute. I went ahead and did the wellness plan - not sure that it will actually save any money (unless we need extra visits for problems) but, since DS is paying for these visits, it will be easier for him to spread it out over 12 months at $35 rather than big lump sums. The visit yesterday would have been $140, we have another one in 3 weeks, that will probably be $100 and then there is the visit for when we neuter him and a couple of other tests for worms, etc. We will also get a 10% discount on having the microchip put in when they neuter him. I only want to have this plan for the one year, so I have put a reminder on my Outlook calendar to call and cancel it after the last payment next September, otherwise it will automatically renew.

My mom is going with me on Saturday morning to look at laminate flooring for DD's bedroom. I need to get that figured out as to what I want to put in there, so we can get this done in the next month and surprise her for her birthday.

I've been doing some planning and research on starting my emergency food stockpile. I've found some neat websites and will probably write a post about this over the weekend. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Another budget reduction

Have I mentioned before how glad I am that I switched to Progressive Insurance a year and a half ago? My 6 month policy renews next month and I just got my new payment schedule - it went DOWN $24 a month! Wooo! So far, each 6 month renewal it has gone down since I first got the insurance (last time was only $5 a month, but still better than an increase).  My old insurance always went up each term, always.  Plus, who doesn't love Flo?!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Murphy tried to get me

Why is it that when something good happens or I get a break something bad just swoops right in to take it's place?

My boss handed me another employee's expense report yesterday and said she is adding 1/2 of this employee's internet bill per month since she works from home quite often (or rather, she works at the office full time and then also puts in more time at home). Then my boss said "if you want we can start reimbursing you for 1/2 of your internet since you work from home"!!  Thank you thank you thank you!

So, I'm sitting in my chair doing the happy dance and since my internet is bundled with my phone and tv, I'm not sure what the breakdown of cost is. I got online with Comcast to look at my bill to see if it breaks it down and what do I see?  My new bill for October is up and it's $43 higher than what it has been! Seriously? 33% increase? Seriously?

I just got off the phone with Comcast and apparently the "promotion" plan I was on for the past 2 years ended. She checked and was able to offer me the same plan at the same cost as I had been paying (for one year). Whew! 

I'm glad I got on the phone (I hate talking on the phone) and called and asked for a reduction.  Now, I really do get to feel the benefit of an extra $25 a month,  with my employer paying half.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

What's cookin?

It's a beautiful Fall day here in my neck of the woods. Sunny, crisp air, and crunchy leaves on the ground.  A perfect day for Taco Soup

Here's the recipe:

1 lb cooked hamburger, drained
1 large can tomato sauce
1 can white beans
1 can kidney beans
1 can pinto beans
1 can garbanzo beans
1 can corn
1 can black beans
1 can chili beans
1 can Rotel
1 packet of taco seasoning

Mix all together and heat up.  Top with whatever you like. We like shredded cheese, sour cream and eat it with Frito's scoops! It's a huge favorite meal of ours and one of the few things DH will eat leftovers.

Saturday snippets

I thought the dishes in the dishwasher were clean when I got up early this morning. In my sleepy haze I grabbed a coffee cup and made my cup and drank it.  I realized later the dishwasher never got turned on.  I could have sworn I turned the dishwasher on last night! Yuck!

I forgot to uncover the birds until after 10am.  At least someone got to sleep in.

I took the puppy outside shortly after he ate his breakfast - he puked it up in 3 spots on the front lawn - and then tried to eat it again.  Better there than on the carpet, I guess.

My missing check still has not shown up or cleared the bank.

I didn't realize there were no refills left on a prescription DH takes regularly (kind of like an advil type medicine) so he'll have to go a couple of days without it. Nothing serious by not taking it, but guess I will give him some of the leftover 800mg advil he has to take the place of it tomorrow and Monday, until I can get the refill called in.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Planning ahead for not so great times

This isn't meant to be a post about politics. I'm not a political debater and I think everyone has the right to support whichever candidate or issues they believe in (that's what makes this America!) but I told DH the other night, after watching some of the debate, that if our current president gets re-elected for another 4 years I am going to start seriously stocking up on food and supplies. Empty me a section of shelving in the garage because I'm going to be filling it up.

This is, of course, going to have to be a gradual process, as money allows. I'm going to have to get serious about getting back into coupon and deal shopping to stock up on what I can get free or for cheap and stock up on the rest during good sales.  I'm going to start doing some research on the best way to store certain foods, especially bulk type items.  Our one neighbor we are pretty good friends with (a single guy in his 50's) probably seriously has enough emergency food stored in his shop to feed us all in the event of some type of disaster (natural or economic). He has purchased pallets of Emergency foods and supplies.

Maybe other families have seen an improvement in their lives the past 4 years, but ours has continued to decline after the recession hit. Before the recession hit (not Obama's fault at all) I was making 20% more a year in annual income then I do now. That bonus was gone January of 2009.  Thankfully it was never any money I planned in my monthly budget (but that extra $11k a year was SO nice to have and was really starting to make a difference in our lives!). But since then, for us anyway, it has just gotten worse.  The healthcare insurance premiums for DH and the kids went from $188 a month to $422 a month. In one year! (I constantly compare rates with companies - they all went up) Then 2 months ago, thanks to the new healthcare laws, the insurance company dropped the generic prescription coverage that came with the plan, so I went from paying $15 on 2 of DH's meds to now paying over $200 for these meds a month.  Overall, my family has seen an increase of $436 a month in out of pocket healthcare costs - a month. I thought this new plan was supposed to cost less and help us?!! I could switch to a plan that covers the prescription (though at higher than $15 a month copay) but would cost me an additional $300 per month (and that was just for DH!)

I just don't see it all getting any better and personally feel it's going to get worse. I'm not going to be a "doomsday prepper" but I am going to get serious about having several months supply for us (and the pets).  At least if I lost my job we'd still be able to eat.  If a natural disaster causes the electricity out we have a generator that can run our well, so we'd still have water. We purchased quite a few 5 gallon water jugs last year. We need to get some type of camping stove or propane bbq, I guess. Our "doomsday prepper" neighbor has a HUGE generator (seriously the size of a small car), so that is good too.

So, occasionally I will be posting about my progress in getting stocked up. I'll be interested to see how long it takes me. I imagine a couple of years before I could get it all done, cost-wise. I'm going to get a supply going no matter who is elected, but I'm much more scared for our future if we have another 4 years like we have had the past 4 years. If the past 4 years has worked for you, that is great - then that is who you should support, no question, but for me personally, it's costing me more and more.

Off to start reading the coupon blogs........(gotta start somewhere!).  If anyone has tips on stocking up and also how to keep it organized (that will be my main challenge!) please let me know. I'm all ears.