Sunday, September 30, 2012

If more bad luck comes our way...

If anyone has experience dealing with job loss due to economy and job loss due to health it is me.  I'm living it every day of my life.  Because of this I am not naive enough to think it couldn't happen to me, just as it did to DH.  Though to be honest I'm hoping since we are already dealing with it with DH, it won't happen to me too....I mean c'mon what are the odds?  So what would I do if I were to get laid off from my job or I got ill and couldn't work?

If I got laid off, of course, the first thing I'd do is file for unemployment benefits. I'd hopefully still have my 2 side jobs for extra income. I'd start looking for other small side jobs to supplement. I'd take a full time temp agency accounting job while I looked for work.  Other than when I voluntarily left work to be a SAHM, the longest I ever have gone being unemployed in my life is 2 1/2 weeks. The handful of times I've had to search for a job over my adult life, I usually only went on 2-3 interviews before I was offered a job. I didn't even search for the position I have now - they searched me out. While it would probably be harder in this current economic times to find work, I'm pretty confident I'd be able to find something.  With my profession (accounting) and experience, I can easily work in any industry out there, so I am not limited to a certain industry. My friend, who was a college financial aid administrator and got laid off, is having a dickens of a time finding that kind of work - there are only so many colleges and universities in her area, so job openings are extremely limited. She is probably going to have to take a lower paying job and get trained in something new.  I also have a good friend (who worked where I work now and hired me, originally) who is now an independent financial consultant. One call out to him and I'm confident I would find work quickly. I don't know how many times he tells me if I ever want to leave where I am just call him. Worse case scenario and it was long term unemployment, I'd suspend my monthly car payments to my mom while I was unemployed, we'd have to sell DH's truck, etc.

If I was physically unable to work anymore due to health problems, we'd of course have to make some drastic changes in our lifestyle. I know my company offers some short term disability coverage that I think covers 60% of salary. I work for an amazing small company owned by 3 gentlemen who I'm pretty sure would make sure my salary was covered if I were to be on short term disability. They did this for a person who hadn't even worked for our company too long and found out she had cancer. They covered more of her salary than they were required to do and I think she is forever an employee now, because of their generosity. She just couldn't believe that they would do that for someone who had hardly worked for the company.

If I was permanently disabled I'd qualify for Social Security disability, which according to the last report I got, my monthly benefit would be about $1675 a month. I'm not sure how it would work or if we'd also get some extra for dependents, something to check into.  I'd also most likely have to take some of my 401k/pension each year to live on and the sale of our assets.  Obviously, if both of us couldn't work we couldn't continue to live in this house. I'd try to move somewhere as close as possible, but with lower cost of living/housing and we'd just have to really downsize into a small rental. In our town a one bedroom apartment goes for around $700/mo.  If that's what happens, that's what happens, I guess. We'd be down to one car, if one of us could still drive and just be living very very frugally and obviously not supporting 2 kids.

If I'm lucky enough to reach retirement age, at age 67 my estimated Social Security will be $1957 a month, if I can work until 70 it will be $2457.  DH will be able to draw half of my benefit amount. At age 67 our annual SS income would be about $35,000 plus we will have whatever my 401k is by then.  I think with just the 2 of us and a paid off home, we can certainly live on that a year and it would be even more if I can wait until age 70 ($44k a year).  Odds are somewhat in my favor as far as a healthy and long life - my grandma is 94, my mom is 71 and still very healthy.  So far I seem to have inherited their genes.  Though unfortunately I got my grandpa's genes for early premature gray (actually it's white) hair! hah! I started going white at 24, so that's why the $5 a month home color job. I'm just not going to look like some gray haired 65 year old lady when I'm 48! Both my kids appear to have this too....DS has quite a few white hairs and DD just recently (to her horror!) found a couple of pure white hairs in her long hair.

The other "retirement" that I will most likely have is the inheritance from my mom's estate. I'm an only child and at this point she has about a million dollars in savings and investments and with her SS and she lives pretty frugally, she barely touches this nest egg yet and it just keeps earning more. It's not something I'm putting in my future planning for later retirement, but in all reality it's pretty likely I will inherit a nice sum at some point in the next 20 years or so, when I am about to retire.

No one can predict the future and mine sure isn't what I ever expected it would be, but we are doing our best to get by.  Like Sluggy said - sometimes you just gotta tread water for awhile. We've been treading and now have a little more to start putting in savings with my raise and the kids starting to pay for some of their expenses. I'm just glad I had the EF fund I did have built up in order to pay for the medical that came up this year.  Basically, I'll be treading for 4  more years and then I will just be supporting Dh and myself.  My plan at that point is to really be able to save a lot more. Our house will be paid for in 14 years, so I should also have several years of working after that and having no house payment anymore.  That house payment money will go towards retirement savings at that point. It's all by far from an ideal situation, but life just doesn't work out that way for too many people.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Reality as I know it

A recent comment on one of my posts has me thinking and trying to figure.  While the commenter had definite valid points that there are usually cheaper ways to get things done, I'm still trying to wrap my head around trying to accomplish a couple other of  his/her opinions regarding my finances.  I'm always trying to figure out a better way to get where I want to be financially, so am trying to see if this opinion is viable and how I would go about achieving it.

Based on my income I should have tons of savings and paid for assets.

A little more history: I was a SAHM mom until my youngest (now 16) was almost 6. DH was self employed in a seasonal type construction industry and monthly income was very up and down. We got by with our personal expenses but running your own business with construction equipment is costly and everything he made extra went into trying to grow the business, rather than buying ourselves personal assets. At this same time I went back to work (10 years ago) DH started having his health problems, which  made running his business and also working much harder. He struggled with it for years, cutting back to a size he could manage and trying to do the labor (as he'd always done) himself when he could. As he went through 2 years of doctor visits, every test there was and even a trip to Dallas to see a specialist, anything we had saved up went toward paying those expenses even though we had (and still do) insurance there was always a deductible and co-insurance costs out of pocket along with the travel expenses to Dallas.

As we went into the end of 2008 and into our usual slow season for work/income the recession also hit. When spring came and it was time to get busy again there was no work at all. The large construction company he had done most of his subcontractor work for had laid off 90 of it's 100 or so construction workers! They sure weren't going to use a subcontractor anymore and neither were any of the other 20 or so smaller companies DH worked for. We tried to keep it going, hoping it would pick up - and yep, you guessed it - there went any other savings we had and up went his business credit cards. By that summer he realized his business was over, along with the fact that his health was getting even worse.

Fast forward to 2 years ago and we had to file for bankruptcy. He was a self employed sole proprietor so we had to file personal bankruptcy. Of the debt discharged only $500 of it was from a personal credit card, the rest was business loans and credit cards.  I think it's common when most people file for personal bankruptcy they of course get to stop making payments on all their debt and their personal monthly income available to save goes up. This wasn't our case.  The bankruptcy did nothing to help our personal monthly outgo of money, except for the small payment on the $500 credit card. The rest that got discharged had been coming out of DH's business account and when the money stopped coming in his business had to stop paying the debt.

Our bankruptcy was discharged a little over a year and a half ago. We didn't have any savings and our personal assets were basically our house (which was now underwater after the real estate meltdown), 3 older paid for cars, our racing equipment for DS and our personal household belongings, along with a 401k/profit sharing plan I have through my employer.

So we basically started over less than 2 years ago.  Up until last month (when I got a $280 net raise) our monthly net income was about $5330.  While salaries are higher in this area compared to a less populated area, we also have the expenses to go with living here. We live in a very high cost of living area - housing is not cheap anywhere around here and it takes gas and lots of time to get anywhere. Just to get out of the city I live in from our house to the freeway (6 miles) usually takes 20-25 minutes because of the traffic.   In order to make the salary I do I had to find a job in the main city. The job I had in my own suburban town prior to this job only paid $40k a year. I knew we couldn't live on that so I took the job I have now, 7 years ago.

Here's the breakdown of our expenses. Since some expenses aren't monthly I just averaged them to a monthly amount:

Mortgage                      $1397
Home Equity Loan       $400
Gas  (cars)                    $250  (DD is now paying her own gas since she got her job last month, so about $70 less now)
Car payment                 $250
Auto insurance             $295 (DS is now paying $50 of this)
Car maintenance/tabs   $65 (annual registrations, oil changes, tires)
Health/Dental insur.     $477 (this is the cheapest most cost effective plan I could find for DH and kids)
Chiropactor copays      $20
Medicines                    $364 (this is what we have been averaging, but it keeps changing and was alot higher for the past 2 months)
Electric                         $175
Cell phones                  $45 (this will go down to about $15 a month soon as I switch DH to pay as you go plan)
Pest control                  $44 (spraying for ants - this is the only way that has worked to keep them away)
Food/cleaning supplies/pets/health and beauty  $950
Comcast                       $138 (phone, tv and internet)
DH "allowance"           $60
DD allowance              $30 ($0 now that she has a job)
Garbage and water       $37
Hair cut                        $12 (averaging mine and Dd's cuts)
Hair color                     $5 (I color my own hair)
Home maint/repairs     $30
Gifts                             $80
Clothing                       $40 (most goes to DD's annual school clothes shopping)
Lawn maint                  $20 (weed and feed, gas for lawnmower, etc)
   Total                          $5184/mo

Not to mention all the other little one time expenses that come up. DD's ASB and school parking, etc. That has only been leaving me about $1750 a year to save. Between a bonus, a tax return, and other scrimping and saving I managed to save $5700 since our bankruptcy was finalized 23 months ago. $2200 was used to paint our 20+ year old house that had never been re-painted, $1500 was use for a the retaining wall and the rest hs gone to the deductible and prescriptions for DH's medical expenses that we have had so far this year.  Not much I can do about the medical and it's hard to anticipate year to year how much it will be. The past few years he had been in a mode of just living with it and we didn't really have any medical expenses, but when a year ago the pain got so bad he had to start going back to doctors and also added the prescription costs, which have increased last month when his health insurance dropped generic prescription coverage.

Sure, I can put a set amount into savings each month, but if something unexpected comes up (like the dr. switching him to Lyrica and that being $202 out of pocket two weeks after I had just spent the same for a different medicine) it's just has to come back out.  That is why I just usually wait to see what I have left over at the end of the month and that becomes savings.  As of now, with the salary increase, and the kids starting to pay some of their expenses I will start seeing a nice increase in what I will have available to add to savings. Whether my money is sitting in savings or checking, I don't worry about spending any of it on unnecessary things. It's just not in my nature to spend money on things I don't need. I hate spending on things I do need!

Other than the car I drive (which gets almost 10 mpgs more than the other car I was driving) and our home, we own everything else we have free and clear. We haven't financed furniture or appliances. Any furniture we've bought the past 2-3 years came from money DH got from gradually selling off tools and equipment he no longer needed. We had to replace the couch - the old one was literally falling apart.  The recliner came out of our Christmas gift budget  for each other. We had to replace the range - the 20 year old one died. I went for 3 months without one (luckily it was summer and I could bbq, stove top cook and microwave) until I could save to pay for a new range with cash.

Compared to most people I know, I hardly spend anything on myself at all. I don't get fake nails or tanned (neither does DD), I color my own hair, cut every 2 months for $15 (with tip), if I get Starbucks it's from giftcards I got as a gift or from Mypoints. My clothing budget is pathetic.  My "treat" to myself is a monthly chiropractic adjustment ($20 copay) to keep myself aligned and feeling well after a car accident 5 years ago. Entertainment is books and movies from the library. We go out to a restaurant (low to mid priced) about every 2 months. We watch tv at home and enjoy the internet.  All my magazine subscriptions are free from mycoke rewards points. None of us smoke or drink alcohol. Neither DH or I have fancy smart phones (the kids pay for their own phones).

So, there you have it. I'm still trying to figure out how to support 4 people AND add to savings and little by little I am finding ways.  I don't feel I have my head buried in the sand or not facing reality when it comes to our finances nor am I out there trying to get credit cards again to charge up. If there are better ways I could be doing this I'm certainly open to suggestions, but I'm not going to live on rice and beans and I'm not going to cut out cable and internet, that is our entertainment budget and I need internet in order to work from home and do my side jobs, as well as DS, who does website work. I have been trying to get the food bill down, but it's been a gradual process as DH is a very picky eater. DS is on his way to soon being able to support himself and DD is about 4 years away. Her getting her AA degree while in high school will shorten her time of financial dependance on us by 2 years. At that point I should really have expenses cut down and be able to really amp up the savings. That's my hope anyway........barring anything like me losing my job or health issues..........that's the next post!


Friday, September 28, 2012


I'm so glad it's payday and Friday - double bonus! I paid my bills online this morning. They are doing some IT maintenance where I work and had to boot me off remote access, so I'm taking a little break from work for 10-15 minutes.  I started at 6:30 this morning so I could be off by 2:30 in order for DD and I to go get our haircut. I usually get it trimmed every 2 months (DD about every 3-4 months).  The lady we go to has a little shop in her house and only charges $12 per cut, including a wash and blow dry.  Thank goodness a few years ago DH and DS started using home clippers to cut their own hair. That saves $ too.  I'm able to put $400 in savings this month to start getting that built back up.

I took our big dog to get his nails trimmed last night at PetSmart for $11, so one other "maintenance" expense out of the way for another couple of months. I tried to trim myself when he was a puppy but I'm awful at it and drew blood, poor thing. Other maintenance coming out of this paycheck is for lawn and garden. We need to apply some weed and feed and also spray some blackberry bush killer.
I also have in the budget for DS's upcoming 21st birthday. We are taking him out to dinner to the Mexican restaurant we all like, which will cost about $60 (for 5 of us - DS and his girlfriend always share a meal), making him 21 cupcakes, and giving him 21 $5 bills as a gift.

Tonight's dinner is going to be an enchilada bake recipe I found in a magazine a couple of months ago. Easy to make and everyone really likes it. This will probably be the 4th time I've made it now.  I've got the dinner menu planned out for the week and we will go grocery shopping after we get our hair cut. The rest of the week's menu will be a  cheesy/bacon/hashbrown casserole, beef tips and noodles, ravioli's, soup and sandwiches and trying a recipe DD found on Pinterest for a casserole that sounds good.  The past week was nice at work as we had lunch provided 2 of the days.  Love those days! I get real tired of my brownbag lunch every day, that's for sure.

I emailed DH's doctor last night about how the last 3 weeks have been going (DH has been keeping a journal on how he's been feeling, per dr's request) since we upped the Lyrica and discontinued the other pain med he'd been taking for about the past 10 months. Not going well at all. He's probably felt the worst he ever has, so obviously the Lyrica is not helping at all and the med he had been taking was at least helping some. We feel like we are back to square one with trying to manage his pain and find something that will help give him some quality of life back.  I also found out we didn't qualify for the free Lyrica through the manufacturer. I read the income criteria wrong. If he stays on this (though I really see no reason to) it will cost $155/month with the savings card I discovered last month.  I'm sure his doctor will discontinue it at our next appointment. The cost of it would certainly be worth it if it helped even a little, but can't see spending that kind of money each month for absolutely no help.  I am thankful that the income criteria for the Crestor medication manufacturer was more generous and that is saving $82 a month now.

Weekend plans are to just stay home and work on things around here.  The puppy is, of course, taking a lot of our time for training, but he's coming along. He's figured out "sit" real fast (for a treat) and has actually gone to the door to go out a couple of times, but we still have a long way to go :)

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Grocery store does good

The grocery store that had the club card coupon issues last week came through! When I logged into their website yesterday to see what new coupons they had to offer there was a $5 off your order coupon for "sorry for our recent technical difficulties".  Nice!

I realized this morning that though my regular payday is tomorrow I actually get paid my small side job today ($112) so I'll be able to get that deposited and not feel the pain quite so bad of only having $72 left in my bank account.  My regular paycheck tomorrow will be $2507 and then Monday I can get paid for my other side job - about $700.  Then life will be better again.  I'm paid hourly at my regular job and the last paycheck and tomorrows both only had 80 hours on it, a short month for paydays! I don't like those coming 2 in a row - that's like being short about $400 for the month, when most pay periods are 88 hours.  I know it all evens out, but I just hate it when there are 2 80 hours pay periods in a row.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Drawing the line

We are thinking of borrowing some money from my mom (adding it to the car loan I'm already paying on) to have a chain link fence put up on one side of our property and the front (there is a wood fence on the other side put in by our other neighbor when he built his place).  She offered the loan (interest free) and it's something we plan to put money toward in the future anyway - it was just going to take us awhile to save up for it.

The main reason is peace of mind and to get distinct separation from our neighbor who is constantly encroaching bit by bit, year by year, on to our property. We just spent $1200 putting in the block retaining wall because several years ago he dug into the hill between our properties and cut into our side, which caused even more problems as the bank has sloughed off more and more and we've probably lost several feet of our property on that area over the years.  He actually now has a car that is partially parked over the property line near the front by our garage. Some friends car he is storing for him and can't seem to find room on his 1.5 acres to park it. The second reason is it would be very helpful to have a fenced in place since we have 2 dogs now.

While we were putting in the retaining wall, discussion, of course, came up about where exactly the property line between us is. He, of course, thinks it's several feet or more into our side. This guy took out the property markers years ago - so nothing there to go by. BUT, we have them still in place on the other side and we clearly have a piece of property that is registered with the county at 152' in width (320' in length down between us) so when DH measured and showed him he was supposedly surprised. It didn't convince him to move the car, though.  DH mentioned to him we will be putting a fence in one of these days - all the way down the length of the property. He didn't seem much to care for the idea. Years ago we put in a little gravel driveway on the back of his property from the road to his shop for him, and then continued it into the back of our property so we could access it that way. This arrangement was fine for several years but eventually all his "stuff" (think junkyard) was overflowing into his little roadway and we couldn't get though if we wanted to. No big deal - we weren't needing that access too often anymore anyway. But now, for some reason, he doesn't want us to block it off (but he doesn't want to move his stuff, either). Not sure why he cares, as he doesn't drive onto our property and we couldn't get though from the main road now anyway, with all his junk in the way.

More than likely he'll just use his side of the fence to prop up all the junk he brings to his property (he actually told DH this or that he would just put stuff on top of the retaining wall!). Not sure what we could do about that, but I guess it's better than actually having his junk on our property. I know the fence will be probably a foot onto the inside of our property line so technically we could tell him to remove his stuff from leaning on the fence, but then we are just dealing with a new problem with hm.  At that point I'd probably just have to get the county or a lawyer involved, as it would most likely damage the structure of the fencing to have stuff leaning on it. We hope to put in tall privacy trees next spring to block seeing all his junk.  Now that his son has pretty much chopped down every tree on their property - you can see it all even more now. We used to have more trees and natural brush separating us and keeping our view of their crap blocked.

DH is in the process of getting several quotes to have the fence put in.  Hopefully we'll find one cheaper than the first quote!  Because of our bankruptcy and finances we are pretty much stuck living here and getting this project done would go a long way to making it nicer and not have the junkyard (DH calls them "Sanford and Son") staring us in the face every time we step outside.  DH has many times tried to nicely tell this neighbor we don't want his stuff on our property! Before we even moved here 20+ years ago we got a call from another neighbor that he had parked a 40' container on our property and just left it there. When DH told him to move it off - he was like "well, you aren't living here, what difference does it make?" This is the mentality we have to deal with.

It sucks living next door to slobs. There are a few, like us, in the neighborhood who have yards and some landscaping. Most don't, but at least they don't look like a junkyard.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Pre-payday blues

Payday is not until Friday and looks like I will be down to my last $75 until then. EEEK! Looking back at my blog posts, it appears that hasn't happened in almost a year, so at least I have made improvements in that area.  Just too many doctor's bills and prescription bills the past couple of months totally drained my savings. I do NOT like this feeling at all!

Lots of bills still to pay coming out of this next paycheck.  A $136 doctor bill, a $304 doctor bill and an $892 MRI bill (darn deductible!). Out of this check I'm going to pay the $136 bill in full and half of the $304 bill and call the Radiology office and see about splitting the $892 bill into 3 or 4 payments. I actually haven't even gotten the bill from the Radiology yet - just saw what I will owe from looking at the insurance EOB. I probably won't even have to worry about that bill until next month.

I'll just be glad when Friday gets here and my bank account is looking back to normal.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Back to the grocery store

GRRR! I went grocery shopping yesterday.  Earlier that morning I had loaded my store card with all the coupons and special prices for "extra savings". I had quite a few items that had these coupons associated with them.  As we are driving home, and I'm deciphering my receipt, I realize I did not get any of the extra savings from the coupons I had loaded onto my store card!

I got home and wrote down everything I bought and the prices I was expecting to get. I tried to log onto the store website and it was down, so probably related to the reason I did not get my extra discounts. My bill was $12.12 higher than it should have been.  So, back to the store I will head later this morning and see what I can do about getting my money back!  When I got online this morning all those coupons I added to my card are showing as added.  I hate my time wasted like that and hopefully it won't be too much of a hassle to get the money back.

Friday, September 21, 2012

To catch a thief

It's been an eventful past couple of days. My mom's home was broken into Wednesday afternoon while she was out for about an hour and 45 minutes. Front door broken into in broad daylight in a gated community where the homes are 8 feet apart. We're thinking it was not a random choice of house as hers is one of the few homes (manufactured homes) where the front door is on the front side of the house, right by the street and where it would be pretty obvious to break into - why not choose one of the other 40 homes with side doors set back and not so visible?  Especially since this is a retirement community and lots of people are home all the time.

All her jewelry (and some nice stuff, of course) and $800 cash out of a locked (key was in a different place, so it was picked) safe. A talk with neighbors discovered one of them seeing a guy walking by about 4pm that didn't look like he belonged - tall guy about 6ft, long hair, hoodie and basketball shorts.  Other than the door, nothing else in her home was damaged at all. Seemed to know exactly what he was looking for - though he didn't find her 3 gold coins (at current gold rates of $1750 or so each!)

Really only one piece of jewelry had sentimental value, the rest was worth some money (gold, diamonds, etc) but she was most upset about the pendant my dad had given her. It is very unusual piece and would be easily identified. Yesterday she and DD went to some nearby pawn shops to let them know to watch for the stuff. Today DD was just looking on craigslist and ebay to see if anyone was trying to sell any jewelry that matched hers. She found a diamond tennis bracelet that was for sale from our town and from the 3 pictures looked exactly like her bracelet. DH called the guy and he and DS met up with him at a store parking lot.  My mom has a tiny wrist so the bracelet had been sized for her and was small.  They also wanted to see if this guy matched the description of who the neighbor saw.  The guy shows up in a expensive BMW, but he had a full beard. He just seemed a bit sketchy to my guys, but of course they'd be suspicious no matter what I guess.  The bracelet was small sized and the clasp was just like my mom described.

DS got his car license plate number and the guy had given his full name when he introduced himself. Not sure if DH did the right thing or not but he said "well, to tell you the truth - my MIL was robbed, etc...and we just wanted to see the bracelet and see if you matched the description". They guy was like "oh man, really? that's not cool".  As they were pulling out of the parking lot the guy texts my DH and says he just called his lawyer (ya right - you are going to get a hold of your lawyer at 5pm on a Friday?) and he was going to sue for harassment!

DH talked to my mom on the phone and told her to ask the neighbor if the guy had a beard, maybe she just forgot to mention it...sure enough he did! We're pretty sure it's her bracelet and not sure about the long hair description - could have had a wig on or cut his hair in last 2 days. She gave all the info to the police, so not sure if anything will come of it, but will be interesting if it does.  Mom had a security system installed today, so that brings her a bit of piece of mind for her safety.

UPDATE: DH had the guys full name (he gave it when they met at the parking lot) and found him on Facebook - my mom showed that to her 2 neighbors that saw the guy walking down their street and they said that is the guy! C'mom cops - go get him! DH is so mad right now because he called the cops right after meeting with the guy and they wouldn't come.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Puppy kisses and what-not

Lack of sleep means lack of posting....courtesy of this little guy!

So, not much sleep going around at this house for awhile.  We've all kind of wanted another dog for quite awhile as a companion for our yellow lab mix (though he's not too happy about it yet) and we love our yellow lab so much, so we found this little monster. Fortunately with DH home all the time and the kids home quite a bit, he gets lots of attention and training should go pretty quickly. His feet are huge!

Of course, right now, I'm going "what was I thinking?!!".  DS used his money to pay for him ($100) and also is taking him and paying for the shots. I kind of thought I'd be doing that, so I was happy when he said he wanted to do it.  I did buy the puppy food, bowls and a couple of toys and DD bought some training treats and a toy.  We still have our big crate (not used anymore because our older dog is a big spoiled baby and sleeps with us) and also a smaller pet crate. We've been trying the big crate (with the inside partition set up to make it a small area) for putting him in at night, but not much success yet, so tonight we are going to try putting him in the small crate (I had forgotten we had purchased it years ago to take our cat to the vet in) and putting it next to DD's bed tonight. She said she'll be on puppy duty so we all can get some sleep.  We've been putting some little treats inside the small crate all day so he will crawl in and get used to it and see this as a "good" place to be.

DS has another (gosh it's getting old saying that!) job interview today. He's averaged one, sometimes 2 a week the past month or more. Nothing offered yet. They either tell him they are hiring someone with experience or someone very low pay.  I guess with the competition around here for these jobs, we should just be thankful he's even getting to the interview stage. I know he's getting very discouraged going on all these interviews and then not getting the job, but I keep telling him the more he goes on the better chance to find one, and one of them will go his way at some point!  It also looks like he will be picking up a pretty big website side-job that will pay him around $2000-$2500. He's waiting to hear on that.

We've decided that the new floor for DD's bedroom will be a surprise for her birthday, so I have an extra month to save up for it, which will work out good. I can put aside half of it out of the end of September paycheck and half out of end of October. And since it will be her birthday present, I can move those "present" funds towards the floor cost, too.  DH found out our neighbor has the type of saw he needs to do this project, so we can borrow that. 

She starts her college classes next week and is excited about that. The past few weeks she's just been attending her one class at the high school and is ready to get started with school! Pre-Calc, Political Science and English 101. She'll be a busy girl, with working on weekends, too.  She's liking her job and especially when the servers share tips. Most days she averages about $14/hour with tips and she's already put her first 2 weeks of tips ($104) all into savings and gets paid again tomorrow.

Plus, I've been feeling sick since last night - upset stomach and such, so that even made me get less sleep last night. I'm working from home today, but I think I might call it a day early and just use some sick time.  Glad I am home and close to the bathroom and not at the office today!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Another project finished

Here is what our shed looks like after all the trim was added.  DH got done and said why didn't I do this 20 years ago when I built it?! I told him he was so busy working back then I'm surprised he even found time to build it in the first place.  It doesn't look like much of a job to just add the trim, but it was pretty much an all day job. The cedar boards were given to us free (yay!) by a neighbor back a year ago when we painted our house and had to replace some of the trim that had rotted.  The boards are all different sizes and width's so it took some work to match pieces and then get them all cut to fit and tack them up to make sure.  Then took them all back down and DS and DD painted them all.  We had the paint left over from painting the house.  And then they had to nail it all back up. DS filled in areas with caulking and today he is going to paint over the nails to finish it up.  I like the barn style look that the trim added to it and I like that the open doorway was encased with trim, instead of just on the outside. Best of all - this project only cost us a few tubes of caulking!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Squished, decluttered and reimbursed

It's been a busy Saturday so far.  I Went in first thing this morning and got my annual boob-squishing mammogram out of the way for another year.  Then I stopped at Walmart and returned a couple of things that have been sitting in my car awhile - I just haven't been to Walmart much lately to get the returns done.  I bought a small basket of items and it came to $72! Geez, I need to stay out of there more.  Vitamin supplments for DH's cholesterol management at $20 (but 80 pills, so we are good for over 2 1/2 months now), Rid-X septic treatment, cans of compressed air to clean the computers, and a few grocery items.  My grocery bill yesterday at my new regular grocery store was only $93, so I was really happy with that total.  I've got the crockpot going today with a pork roast and will also make some bread in my bread machine.  Last night we got treated to a family dinner by my mom. Yummy Mexican restaurant with 8 of us having a good time.

I've got everything around the house dusted and the old red metal file cabinet cleaned out. Yes, RED! A gift from my mother in law years and years ago. She seriously has no taste in decor and this red thing has never matched anything in our desk/office areas over the years. It's always stuck out like a sore thumb. I threw away about half of the junk in there (who needs old phone bills from 1989?) and filed the rest in one of the file drawers in DH's new desk. Then getting rid of it somehow - Craigslist or maybe DH can use it for storage out in the shop.  One less item in our family room.  We sold DD's old computer desk yesterday for $20 and a couple of days before that we sold the old ugly hide-a-bed sofa for $30. Just one more thing to get ride of - the old oak entertainment center.

The neighbor guy finally reimbursed us for his share of the block retaining wall we put in a few weeks ago, so $400 back into our home improvement fund. Hey - maybe just enough to do DD's floor??! 

Now, on to vacuuming the house and I'll probably be done in for the day after that.  DH and DS are going to paint and put the trim on our shed, so that it matches the house and garage better.  All in all, a pretty productive day around the OneFamily house.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

More home improvements coming?

DH just seems to be turning into a DIY-er around the place lately. I am LIKING this! So far, he's been focusing his attentions on the outside and landscaping, where he seems more comfortable taking on projects.  But, I've secretly been hoping some of the confidence he's gotten from doing these outside projects will flow over into getting some confidence to try some indoor projects. He's never been a handy-man at all.

DD has wanted wood laminate flooring in her bedroom for quite awhile. But, of course when she mentioned it a year or two ago, DH said no. I've mentioned that people I know that have done it themselves say it's pretty easy.  The other day he was over at a friends house who recently just converted her garage into a room to expand her small home. She did the laminate flooring herself.  Last night he said "I think DS and I are ready to tackle putting in laminate in DD's bedroom"! I again mentioned that everyone I have talked to said it's easy. He said he didn't think our friend did that great of job putting it in (he's the type that see's every little flaw) but I told him he's a perfectionist, so DS's room will be done right, right?!  He wants to surprise her and do it when she's not here.  Not sure how we are going to pull that one off yet as usually the longest she is gone is about 6 hours, but maybe I can secretly call her best friend and have her invite DD overnight and we'd have a weekend to do it.  She will freak out if we get this done!

I'm thinking for the size of her room it shouldn't cost much more than $300? DH has all the tools needed and we don't need super expensive laminate, either. I want to get this done sooner than later (strike while he's in the mood!) and I am hoping that it will lead to re-doing our kitchen floor!!  I emailed him some video's on "how to install" this morning. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Sick days

My company is going to be making a change soon regarding our sick leave benefit.  Currently we get 7 days per year. Any days left at the end of the year are paid out in a bonus at $100 per day and sick leave is zero'd out and none carried forward.  I'm not much of a sick time user, so the bonus every January is nice, but I've always rather that we were allowed to accrue unused sick time and not get a bonus.  I'd rather build up that time if a big emergency or sickness were to hit. I'd have to say that is about the only negative thing I have about my job and it's benefits.

The company is either going to start allowing sick leave to accrue each year (and thus no more bonus payout of unused time at the end of each year) or put all vacation and sick time into one bucket of "PTO" - to use however we want and I think my boss said we can accrue up to 6 weeks, but after that use it or lose it.  In my case, since I'm at 3 weeks vacation a year plus the 7 sick days, it would be 28 days of PTO each year.

Either way they decide, there is going to be no more sick leave bonus for unused time and we are going to be given the option of taking the $100 per day bonus for whatever we have left up to Sept. 1st and then starting over accruing sick time (or PTO) or we can roll over any sick time still unused as of Sept. 1st into what we will start accruing now (and not get the bonus).

I have about 38 hours through Sept 1st, so that would be a bonus of $475 (the $100 per day is prorated out per hour) or I can roll the 38 hours into the new plan.  I'm still trying to decide what to do. I'm kind of thinking this money would be really nice right now, since I still have some large doctor bills coming in the mail soon and it would really help get those out of the way, since my savings is pretty much depleted.  Since I rarely use sick time (I've probably used less than 10 days total in the 7 years I've worked there, I'm not to concerned with having to start over at zero as of this month. Under our old plan I would have had to do that in January anyway.  But, if we go the PTO route, that is potentially 38 more hours of vacation time available to take! What to do....what to do...

Monday, September 10, 2012

Found a desk

DH has been looking on craigslist for a desk for quite some time. His criteria was something quality, under $200 and something very nearby so he didn't have to drive too far to get it.  I've had the money set aside, because I knew eventually he'd find something.  This is what he found:

(this is the picture from the ad - not at our house). The ad was quite misleading as to the condition. Said it had one minor scuff but other than that in really good condition and had been well taken care of. Umm. no....there are minor scratches all over (I think the left desk condition is from the camera lens - it's not that bad). I kept looking at the desk once they got it home and said "how could someone treat such a nice desk like this?" I would have been so careful with it!  Apparently it originally belonged to a company that went out of business and then these people have had it since, but still.....

But, other than that this is a very quality cherry wood executive desk unit. The guy said it cost over $5000 when purchased new 10 years ago. I believe it.  Dh offered him $150 and they agreed on $175. DH only used $100 of "my" money, as he had $75 from his monthly "allowances" he hadn't used yet. Plus, it came with the floor mat, which we need, so at least another $30 saved there.

Dd and I cleaned it up as best as possible and I'm going to work on repairing the scratches with some crayons or repair kit and then re-polish it. Eventually I think it would be worth it to have it totally refinished, since it's such a nice quality piece of furniture and the wood is beautiful. I'm not sure refinishing it is something I know how to do, but I think it would be worth it to pay to have it done at some point.

Aside from it being freaking HUGE, I am pleased with it. DH is going to have to do some major changes in the family room to get this to fit, but maybe we'll finally get rid of some excess stuff that currently resides in this room that is never used and taking up space (like DS's weight bench he never uses, an old oak entertainment center no one wants and a small hide-a-bed couch I hate). It's a pretty large room, 14x20, but my good sized desk is already in one corner of the room.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Saved $47 today!

I filled DH's Lyrica prescription this morning (hopefully for the last time it will cost me out of pocket).  A couple of weeks ago or so when I was checking into trying to find a discount I came across a pharmacy discount card through the Lyica/Pfizer websites called "Together Rx Access program" card. Said it would help give a 25-40% discount on brand name drugs from certain pharmaceutical companies, with Lyrica being one of the drugs. I signed up for it and printed out the card. Put it in my purse, but then forgot about it when a couple of days later I discovered the income based free prescription assistance.

As I was driving over to Target this morning I remembered I still had that card. I figured I might as well try to use it on today's refill - any little bit of savings can help.  The pharmacy ran it through and instead of having to pay $250 total retail price (the amount I pay with Dh's insurance "pharmacy discount plan" would have been $202) I only had to pay $155!  What a nice discount that was.

Once all our medicine costs are under control (within the next month) I'm going to take a look at my overall income and expenses again, as so much has been changing the past month.  I still need to cancel DH's cell phone plan with Sprint and get him on T-Mobile, but to do that I want to purchase the $100/1000 minutes card and I will have to wait until the end of this month to have the funds to do that.  I was hoping to do that the first of September, but with all the doctor bills and medicines I just don't have the extra right now to make that investment of a new phone and plan.  I went through his cell bills the last 6 months to see his total call minutes used and his total number of texts.  Total was 718, which are .10 per minute or text with the T-Mobile prepaid card, so a total of $71.80 cost for 6 month on the T-Mobile plan.  vs. $256.56 I have paid Sprint for 6 months - a savings of $30 per month. 

We've mentioned once in awhile getting rid of our home land line phone and just having cell phones, but it's not sounding like that is really a savings. I was just talking to my boss about that the other day. She recently moved into a new home and was just planning to not get a land line anymore. She also uses Comcast bundled plan with phone, TV and internet. It would have actually cost her more per month to drop the land line and just have TV and internet, so she kept the land line on her bill...but they don't have a land line phone in their new house! Too funny. No one ever calls that number but sales and surveys, so she just didn't plug one in.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Medicine costs going down

The prescription costs for DH should be going down even more now, at least for the short term future.  We went to DH's follow up doctor visit today.  He has been on the increased Lyrica dosage for one week now. While there hasn't been any change one way or the other yet, the doctor would like him to continue trying the Lyrica and also eliminating (gradually) his 2 other pain medications completely.  I haven't filled the new prescription yet (now it will be 150 mg capsules, instead of 75 mg), but according to the online price comparison I can do with his health insurance company, the 150mg capsules will cost about the same as the 75mg.  So, one more prescription to shell out $200 and hopefully by the next month's refill my assistance paperwork will be approved and we will be getting it free from then on.  Once that takes place, my only prescription costs will be a $4 generic medicine he takes for inflammation.  Whew!  Now, we just gotta hope the Lyrica starts working like it's supposed to!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Hacked again

Not too long ago my debit card got hacked.  Today my Comcast account got hacked.  I got an email this morning that a "secondary" email had been updated and now had full access and could pay my bill.  If I did not authorize this, to contact Comcast.  We have Comcast for our internet, phone and tv. I have a Comcast email that is my main email. I can access my account and do quite a bit with all our Comcast services with our online account. I can change things related to our phone, listen to voicemails, send texts, order pay per view, etc.  I did have 2 secondary accounts, one for DH and one for DS that I had set up in the beginning, but neither of them used it.

After getting this strange email, I got on my account and noticed a new email account with unrestricted access had been added! I deleted it and then went in to try and change my security question/answer and password. It let me change my security question, but I kept getting error messages when trying to change my password. I decided to wait and try later.  Later in the afternoon our phone started ringing just once (almost a partial ring) and then nothing. It got so it was doing it repeatedly, about every minute.  I got online so I could get Comcast's phone number to call and see if they could tell me what was going on and noticed our phone number was now being forwarded to some number in South Carolina and there were now 6 new email accounts added! EEK! I unforwarded the phone and the one ring calls stopped. (I tried calling the number it was forwarded to a couple of times and got busy signal).

I got on the phone with Comcast and they changed my password for me, then had me log in and delete the added accounts and change my password to something else. The customer service guy said a similar thing happened to him and he was told it was compromised by hackers either using a program that takes known email addresses and searches each possible combination (this could take months or longer) until it hits on the right password - or my computer had been infected with a "key logger" virus where the hacker can see as I'm typing the password. He said his email was used to send out spam to his contacts. He recommended running a couple of programs to check for this - which DS did and they came up clean. I'm hoping it's just a case of the first example, where a program lucked into finding this one password, rather than a hacker seeing me enter all my online passwords.

I am impressed that Comcast's security system was on top of the changes being made and notifying me so I could check into it quickly.  Hopefully, no other damage was done.

Happy Wednesday

I received DH's Crestor medication from the manufacturer in the mail yesterday. I wasn't sure exactly how it would be sent or how many pills. The application info said it may be sent to your home or doctor's office for pick up, but it was mailed to our home. A bottle of 90 pills! DH takes half a pill per day, so this will last 6 months.  At $82 a month that is almost $500 savings.  I was so excited - quite the frugal coup for me. Dh goes back to the doctor on Friday to follow up on the week of increased Lyrica dosage. It doesn't seem to be making much difference in how he feels at all.  I'm disappointed on 2 aspects. Mainly, of course, that it hasn't made a difference in how he feels and also because it's been such an expensive trial. Over $600 in cost out of pocket. Disappointing all around.

We purchased a larger cage for our parakeet last week.  We looked on craigslist off and on for a used cage, but nothing caught or eye or it was too far a drive and still at least $50 for larger size.  We found one at Petsmart for $55 that is quite a good size.  We were hoping this would make birdie happier than being in that tiny size cage. Maybe he wouldn't be so annoying and bored - banging on his cage and driving us nuts.  It has seemed to help quite a bit but he now he seemed so small and lonely in that big cage! So, last night we went and bought another parakeet ($20) so he (actually I think he's a she) can have a pal, which (s)he should have anyway since they do better in pairs or groups. They are getting used to each other and I think it will be a good thing to have two.  But, ask me in a few weeks, when they are both probably driving us nuts.

Someone (usually one of the owner's) brought in Egg McMuffin's for everyone into work yesterday. I don't get in until later morning, so the few that were left were cold by then, but I've been craving one since.  I had to fast for 12 hours last night because off getting my blood drawn for cholesterol, etc check. There's a McD's right by my doctor's office and I was so hungry, but I resisted the urge, rather then spend the money on it and ate my granola bar instead - blah!

I also spent $5 last night and got a $10 Starbuck's gift e-certificate.  Got sucked into one of those social living deals, but it's pretty much a given that I'll stop at Starbucks once a month or so, so $5 for free is worth it to me.  I also had to pick up a prescription for myself at Target yesterday and was able to use the "get a $5 Target giftcard with your next prescription" coupon I had (it pays to look at those catalina coupons that print out with your receipts). I now have 2 $5 Target giftcards to use, plus a 5% off your next shopping trip (from pharmacy rewards) to use.

For quite some time I've been meaning to get a homeowner's insurance quote from our auto insurance carrier. We've had our homeowner's insurance through Allstate for years. I just got the renewal notice and it's $1018 per year (a $106 increase from last year).  I was hoping Progressive would be cheaper, but it came out at over $1100, so guess I'll just stick with what we have.  Just seems so darn expensive, but I'm sure it's because we aren't near a fire hydrant being back on private road.  At least I got getting a new quote off my to-do checklist, finally.

Dd just texted me after she picked up her very first paycheck. Net was $205.  They still owe her for tips, too, but they hadn't sorted those out yet. She'll probably get another $50-ish for that. She already picked up an extra shift for Sunday, as she wasn't scheduled to work but someone needed the day off. I think she thought the co-worker boy was asking for her phone number because he liked her (they go to same school and both are on the tennis teams) but apparently it was just to ask her to take his shift;) 

Monday, September 3, 2012

Change of grocery shopping venue

The past month or so I have made a change in where I do my bulk of grocery shopping. I have been shopping at Walmart for probably 8-10  years - ever since they came to town and then added a grocery section. First I had to drive about 5 miles (which where I live takes a ridiculous 20 minutes), but then a few years ago they built another one a mile from my house. Comparing prices to the regular grocery stores I had been shopping at Walmart's prices were quite a bit cheaper on most things and I estimated I was saving 20% off my weekly grocery shopping trip. Occasionally I would shop at the other big grocery stores for specific items, if they were having a good sale on items that would be cheaper than at Walmart.

Even though we live in a nice suburban type town and this Walmart is new and nicer than most Walmart's I've been in (I've been in quite a few traveling across the country a couple of times) it's still big, and crowded and long lines and you always see quite the odd assortment of people.  I always try to shop at less crowded times, but it really helps me to have Dd shop with me and she can't always go with me during their uncrowded times. I love her company and she helps carry the heavy stuff that my back doesn't like to lift. Also, at Walmart you have to put the bags into your own cart as they get filled up by the cashier and for some reason it seems so much easier for me when Dd is along to do that while I get my coupons together and pay.

We were both kind of getting tired of Walmart's atmosphere. With trying to find the best deals every week, I found myself shopping more and more at another store, picking up their sale items.  When they have stuff on sale it's usually ends up better than Walmart, which rarely puts items on a sale price. So, we have been making the bulk of our weekly shopping trip at this other grocery store and I'm really trying to plan my weekly grocery list around what they have on sale, along with coupons I have and I've also noticed a trend of when the items I use go on sale. For example they have Pepsi products 24 packs for $5 about every 4 weeks, so I buy the limit, which gets me through to the next $5 sale. No more paying $8 each, which is Walmart's price, almost always.  They also have our laundry detergent on sale for $9.99 ($2-$3 cheaper that Walmart) every couple of months, plus I had a $1 off coupon.  I buy steak for dinner, probably every other week or so, and it's about the same price, BUT oh so much better and tastier than Walmart's steaks! Not even close to quality and taste.

This store also offers a store savings/coupon card. I just go online before I shop and add coupons to my card on things I buy. Sometimes they have a specific sale price I can add and also a coupon to add on top of the sale price. If I have a manufacturer's coupon on it, they take that, too! I'm getting some items pretty darn cheap. For the past month I've been getting gallons of milk for $2.29 and cases of water for $2.69. I've also received some other rewards this past month. $.10 cents off a gallon of gas per $100 spent (this is where I usually buy gas anyway). Last week it was an extra $.30 a gallon when you spent $75, so I got $.40 cents off per gallon last fill up. The week or so before it was a $10 off your next order for spending $75.  This week I got another $10 off your next order coupon plus a $2 off your next order coupon to use next time.

Other benefits this store has that we are liking is that they have grocery baggers to help the cashier and put the bags in the cart. I went shopping by myself Friday morning and when he asked if I needed help out with my groceries I said yes! It was so nice not having to lift the cases of water and pop into my car, as I would have if I went to Walmart.  I actually think I am saving money shopping at this store.  Minimum, we like the atmosphere better (you just don't see all those "strange" people you see at Walmart, LOL.  I'm not a snob who won't even set foot in there, like some people I know), the quality of their meats and produce is better, and I like the extra help they have.  Oh....and they have a Starbucks :)  (our very occasional, favorite treat)  It's a little farther to drive to - about 3 1/2 miles away. Which seems like nothing, but 7 street lights in between on very congested road kind of gets on my nerves. Walmart is still cheaper for most non-food items and the closest to me for a quick trip for milk or bread, but I think I'll stick with my new plan for awhile and see how it goes.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Mid weekend update

I took Thursday and Friday off to make it a nice long weekend. I'm so excited that I still have today and tomorrow left! I've spent most of the days off laboring, but oh well.  The kitchen floor cleaning project is finally complete.  Boy, ammonia is nasty smelling stuff, but it sure works.  I got the house vacuumed and several spots on the carpet spayed and cleaned up.  All the inside windows are clean now.

We went and purchased a larger bird cage for our parakeet, so he seems a lot happier now, not banging on his cage anymore, which was driving us crazy. But, it's quite large - I think he needs a buddy now :)

Friday I got my annual physical out of the way for another year. My only issue was a small patch of dry scaly skin on my back shoulder area.  The doctor prescribed some type of cream or ointment and she said she would send the prescription over to my pharmacy, along with the refill of my heart medicine. I got over to the pharmacy that evening and they only had the heart medicine prescription, no skin medicine. Oh brother.  It was too late to call the doctor's office, so now I'll have to wait until Tuesday.

I saved myself from spending $50.  When we got our new bed and mattress set a few years ago I bought new sheets to go with it. Nice cream colored soft sheets. Well, somehow it got a hole in the fitted sheet on Dh's side and him moving his legs around just kept making it bigger, before I had a chance to try and sew it up so it would last a little while longer. I had only bought one set - as on wash day I just take them off and wash and then remake my bed. I don't alternate sheet sets (probably because after spending all the money on the bed and mattress set I didn't have money for 2 sets!). I thought I was going to have to buy another set or at least a fitted sheet because I was thinking that the reason I had bought this set in the first place was because this mattress was thicker and my old king size set wouldn't fit.  It's hard to find just a fitted sheet for sale and the one's I did find were almost as much money as the whole set.  The cheapest set I could find, in what I wanted, was $50 with tax. I really didn't want to spend $50 right now, what with all the prescription and doctor bills expenses I have right now.  I decided to take a look at the 2 old sets in my linen closet and see if one of them would work. Yep, no problem. The mattress isn't the really deep kind, so these work fine. I  remember now the reason I bought the new set was because I just plain hated the old set! White with blue stripes and not very soft. Oh well, they will make do fine for at least a few months, until I can afford a new set that I want.

Dd is liking her new hostess job and gets her first paycheck on Wednesday. She also gets some tips from the servers for helping and she is really liking that. She has decided that all tip money will be saved, so I think that is a good plan.  She will probably average about $40 a weekend in tips.  The only thing I don't like about this job is that they don't do the week's schedule in advance, so she won't even find out until later this evening if she is supposed to work tomorrow morning! Very stupid, in my opinion. How hard would it be to do up a schedule a week in advance, so employees have a little notice of when they are working? I haven't gotten used to her being gone so much yet on the weekends. I miss my shopping buddy! But, I must admit yesterday morning having the house all to myself was so nice. She was at work and the guys were off to watch a race.  I haven't had the house to myself for quite awhile.  I turned on some old classic rock and cleaned house.